Monday, December 31, 2012

Hooray for i heart print and play !

Okay, so several years ago I decided that I just wasn't painting any more miniatures.  It's too much work and my eyes aren't good a doing close work like that anymore.  So instead I went over to paper miniatures.  Actually I got my first paper miniatures way back in high school with the Cardboard Heroes sets from Steve Jackson Miniatures.  I still have them but the problem is that nowadays the miniatures are all bigger, 28-32mm versus the older 20mm (1/72 scale) sized ones.

So, I've been acquiring newer minis, both purchased and free on the web.  My favorite new site is Derek Weller's "i heart print and play" which has several sets available.  What's great about these is that they are done in a stick figure style like the Order of the Stick web comic.  The most recent offering is by Derek for our enjoyment is the townspeople set.  He allows sponsoring of sets as well as donations.  I definitely want to sponsor a set, I just have to decide what.

Oh yeah, Happy New Year everyone!!

My First Map!

Okay, so I'm a big fan of the charming maps over at Dyson's Dedecahedron and Lapsus Calumni.  They're simple, quite usable, and have a quiet style which I like a lot. I thoroughly recommend both sites.  I bought Matt's Moleskin Maps, Volume 1 and it's really great.  But then I was thinking that with all the maps I've made over the years, I should be able to put something up here as well.  However, the vast majority of those maps were just quick sketches with a few notes and/or a simple diagram on some graph paper.  Few were attractive enough or, in some cases, comprehensible enough to other, to warrant offering them to anyone.

So, I studied the style Dyson and Matt use for their simpler maps and last night decided to have a try.  My primary goal was to work on the various shading, texturing, and cross-hatching techniques.  Here's the simple tomb I came up with.

So, how's that?

Friday, December 28, 2012

YouTube: Dungeons and Dragons 30 Day Challenge

Okay, so I am actually something of a YouTube-aholic.  One of the channels I follow is DandDPuzzleOfTheWeek and the host recently started a "challenge" called Dungeons and Dragons 30 Day Challenge.  Basically he asks viewers to answer an RPG question, such as what is your favorite RPG setting.  I enjoy stuff like that.  Head on over if you're into it too.

More Dwarf Style Exercise - World Between Settlement Builder

Okay, so since the world didn't end as predicted I thought I'd follow up on my earlier exercise posted recently on building a stonach (dwarf) clan using Andrew's clan builder over at Fictive Hack.  This time I'll apply the companion clan settlement builder to the clan and see how it goes.  Now I set a couple parameters based on the story from the clan builder: only one settlement for the clan and size as Village.

Drakemeister Hall

Size: chosen as Village due to background story

Access: rolled off between Mingled Population and Integrated Community, again due to background story; got Integrated Community: stonach (dwarves) and shokoro (lizard people).

Results of initial rolls for the specific spaces in the settlement and the special attribute rolled for each one:

Crafting Spaces (5)
Armory (Cleverly hidden, secret doors to enter)
Jewelry (Cyclical glowing from runes/Day and night)
Armory (Cleverly hidden, secret doors to enter)
Mine (Ornamentation and carved decoration, themed on the Founder Markkus)
Mechanical Workshop (two significant restaurants)

Defense Spaces (3 spaces)
Outpost Fort (Ornamentation and carved decoration, themed on the Founder Markkus)
Gate Fort (two significant restaurants)
Outpost Fort (Cleverly hidden, secret doors to enter)

Food Spaces (1 space)
Brewery (Still water)

Public Spaces (4 spaces)
Market (Traps installed)
Market (Access to open sky)
Nexus Plaza (Still water)
Great Hall (Incomplete construction)

Residential Spaces (3 spaces)
Mansions (Ornamentation and carved decoration, themed on the Founder Markkus)
Barracks (Incomplete construction)
Garden Housing (Running Water)

Then, since the clan had the Magnificent Home attribute, I got to pick another six spaces.  I chose:
Food Space: Mushroom farm (Incomplete construction)
Food Space: Beetle farm (Cyclical glowing from lichen/Day and night)
Residential Space: Stack housing (Running Water)
Defense Space: Key defense (Cyclical glowing from runes/Day and night)
Public Space: Lore of the Ancients Reflection Hall (Traps installed)

Thus the final spaces are:
Crafting Spaces (5)
Armory (Cleverly hidden, secret doors to enter)
Armory (Cleverly hidden, secret doors to enter)
Jewelry (Cyclical glowing from runes/Day and night)
Mine (Ornamentation and carved decoration, themed on the Founder Markkus)
Mechanical Workshop (two significant restaurants)

Defense Spaces (4 spaces)
Outpost Fort (Ornamentation and carved decoration, themed on the Founder Markkus)
Gate Fort (two significant restaurants)
Outpost Fort (Cleverly hidden, secret doors to enter)
Defense Space: Key defense (Cyclical glowing from runes/Day and night)

Food Spaces (3 spaces)
Brewery (Still water)
Food Space: Mushroom farm (Incomplete construction)
Food Space: Beetle farm (Cyclical glowing from lichen/Day and night)

Public Spaces (5 spaces)
Market (Traps installed)
Market (Access to open sky)
Nexus Plaza (Still water)
Great Hall (Incomplete construction)
Public Space: Lore of the Ancients Reflection Hall (Traps installed) 

Residential Spaces (4 spaces)
Mansions (Ornamentation and carved decoration, themed on the Founder Markkus)
Barracks (Incomplete construction)
Garden Housing (Running Water)
Residential Space: Stack housing (Running Water)

With the final number of spaces determined, the population can be calculated.  For a Village sized settlement the population is [# spaces x 50], or 21 x 50 = 1,050.

The next step would be to draw up a map of Drakemeister Hall which includes all these spaces and elaborates on the special attributes ("ornamentation and carved decoration").

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Razor Coast RPG Kickstarter Begins - But Why?

Okay, so as I've mentioned before I check Kickstarter occasionally for new RPG related projects.  I am really fascinated by the whole concept of Kickstarter and may even do a project of my own in the future. It interests me from the standpoint of seeing what new things are being offered but also by what project starters think are marketable ideas.  In this latter area is the new project for the Razor Coast by Frog God Games.  It's a classic pirates RPG setting (like in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies).  They play to put the game out in two different versions, one for the Pathfinder rules system and one for the Swords & Wizardry system.

I'm glad to see that they are planning two different versions, particularly one for Pathfinder because it's currently my main system.  However I am a bit surprised they'd put up this project now, given that Paizo just finished their Skull and Shackles pirate adventure path, complete with an additional campaign setting book, item cards, player's guide, poster map folio, stand-up pawns, paper miniatures, and even pirate ship game maps.  So I would think that most people interested in a Pathfinder-based pirates campaign setting already bought Paizo's and are probably quite happy with their purchase given Paizo's well-deserved reputation for quality.  Sure, the Razor Coast will be different--but different enough that people who already have the Skull and Shackles products will buy into a second set of products?

In addition, this is apparently the second offering of the Razor Coast.  From what I've read the first time the developers took pre-orders but then cancelled the project--and kept the money.  There have been a number of angry postings on the Paizo Publishing message boards about that incident.  Now, apparently that was not a Frog God Games project, but I wouldn't be surprised if people were still leery of joining this Kickstarter project.  And even then the products in the project appear to be overpriced compared to similar products.

Well, it will be interesting to see how they fare.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Review: Edge of Space minigame by Matt Jackson

Okay, so one of the blogs I follow is Matt Jackson's Lapsus Calumni.  He's got a cool mini-game out called Edge of Space, available at (for the admittedly outrageous price of $1).  I immediately went over and bought it.  The pdf is just 8 pages long and comes in two formats: regular sized pages and a handy PocketMod version. Edge of Space is a simple military science fiction "you fight alien bugs in outer space" game, rather like in the Aliens or Starship Troopers films.

Players pick one of the six classes, then roll a d6 four times on the skill list for that class (a bit like the old Traveler) to see what your skills are.  There's an interesting "String" storytelling type mechanic where the players set up a connection with one of the other characters which they can use later in the game.  The rules are very simple and use 2d6 for everything.

It's very simple and bare-bones, but great if you want a quick action game.  The tiny PocketMod version allows you to carry it anywhere.  I can definitely see trying this one out with my gamers.  Should you buy this game?  Yes (dude, it's only a buck, buy it!).

7 RPGs, My 2 Cents

Okay, so I hope everyone had a nice Christmas.  Mine was nice and I got snow today!  Currently there is a theme bouncing around various sits about posting seven RPGs you've played and seven you've run.  So, here are mine, listed roughly in chronological order:

Seven RPGs Played
  1. Chivalry & Sorcery: introduced to the entire concept of RPGs with this game in boarding school in 1977-1978 by a fascinating fellow called Gib; for a hard-core historical wargamer only interested in "serious" games, this was like some psychedelic, mind-altering drug--and I was hooked immediately and forever.
  2. AD&D (1E): in college I finally found some gamers; I ran a C&S game and played in George's AD&D game with the monk Cressa (still one of my favorite characters of all time); bought a lot of the AD&D books to expand my knowledge of RPGs but found it awkward and clunky.
  3. AD&D (2E): played in an interesting high-level campaign for a while with my buddy Rob in England; played a monk again, but didn't like the 2E rules; didn't buy any of the books
  4. D&D 3E: joined a campaign a couple years ago run by my buddy Steve; a high-level game so I jumped in with a 14th level cleric; between this game and Rob's I've decided that I don't want to jump into high-level games anymore; the 3.5 rules are good, but very rules heavy--playing a spell caster is a pain, what with choosing spells all the darn time.
  5. Castles & Crusades: an on again/off again campaign by my buddy Kaiser; we're not sure what's going on but we're constantly running into some sort of situation; C&C is simpler than 3E/Pathfinder but not simple enough for a really clean break from them
  6. Mutants & Masterminds: my buddy Dan started a game for us; cool campaign concept of all "mutants" being sent to a new quarantine city, and then of course the real trouble starts; lots of interesting plot lines going on; M&M very complicated, too much math; also, seems like I'm the only one in our group who doesn't actually like the superhero genre.
  7. Old School Hack: my buddy Mike has run a couple games for us now and it's proving again to be a really innovative set of rules.

Seven RPGs Run
  1. Chivalry & Sorcery: when my first DM transferred to another school I was the only one with the rules and desire to DM; I quickly whipped up a simple campaign world and started a game based on the party coming into possession of a large crystal which was to be part of the villain's magical superweapon.
  2.  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (in a homebrew setting): I came across this game and was intrigued by ideas for mutant animals as player races, but didn't care for the rest of it; I tossed together a near-future setting in Neo Tokyo and ran my group into a maze of X-Files wierdness with cultists, aliens, mobsters, and a secret army of mecha.
  3. Paranoia: I picked this up with some trepidation, never having seen a good humorous game before, but immediately saw the potential; I've run several one-shot or short-run games for various groups; I love this game; still have the original boxed version.
  4. Big Eyes, Small Mouth d20: I was looking for a new set of rules, just having been burned buying the D&D 3.0 books about three weeks before 3.5 came out (which I refused to buy); very cool mix of D&D 3E and point-buy based Big Eyes, Small Mouth; made up a set of classes based on the "jobs" in Final Fantasy Tactics Advance which I was playing at the time and repopulated my old C&S game map with Final Fantasy elements.
  5. Big Eyes, Small Mouth 3E: I pre-ordered this based on my experiences with BESM d20 and reviews of earlier editions, and the publisher went bankrupt; luckily it got published; again made up a set of classes based on the "jobs" in Final Fantasy Tactics Advance and re-launched my campaign; very simple rules, but suffers from lack of source books to save DMs time designing everything (at least for fantasy campaigns).
  6. Pathfinder: Looking for something d20 with the support of D&D (but still bitter about my 3.0 experience) I finally bought Paizo's offering; love this game and using it for my current game in the Shackled City adventure path, but it's very rules heavy.
  7. Old School Hack: randomly came across this game while looking for gaming stuff and was immediately impressed; an entire game, including game aids, in 28 pages; it's the feel of old school D&D but with "modern technology" from D&D 4E and the talented author; have turned my new group onto it and will be running short (3-4 hour) scenarios with it.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Synnibarr Kickstarter...or not

Okay, so I occasionally go to Kickstarter and do a search on "rpg" to see if there are any new RPG projects available.  I just spotted one for the World of Synnibarr game.  Now, I vaguely remembered hearing about this game a year or two ago and looking it up.  My searches led me to the funniest review of a game (on I've ever read.  Check it out.  After reading that review I can't see myself ever running a campaign with this game.  However, it might make a good non-serious "off night" game--or maybe not.

Actually, I found three brutal reviews of this game, all hilarious reading:
"I tried to review it. I really did. But you can only hold your face to the blowtorch for so long"
"archers are quiet and withdrawn, that they use a bow, they have “earthpower” arrows, they they love to gamble and one once bet 10 million dollars on a wrestling match between two giants, and that they love art and have created the greatest art museum in the world which is located on the coast in a small village called Arrowville, and it takes four days to tour it...Here’s a picture of a raccoon with a bazooka."
"There are over 50 character classes, and each of them can reach 600th level."

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Nobody Plays These Either

Okay, so a while back I did a post pointing out that nobody plays gnomes and they only play halflings for the thief bonuses.  Just today over at Papers & Pencils was a post on analysis of the barbarian class in Pathfinder (hopefully the first in a series).  I'm on board with his analysis of the class, but then I realized that in 30+ years of gaming I've only seen one person play a barbarian.  Yup, just one.  Likewise the bard.  I've only seen two or three sorcerers (and even then only as a multiclass option).  Wizards are also very rare, probably about three ever.

A lot of the old school renaissance rules coming out now are pushing the idea of only having the fighter, cleric, magic user, and thief as classes.  Some even limit it to fighter, "spellcaster", and thief.  That idea puts me off immediately because it greatly limits player choice.  What's the point of having a class-based game if you only have three or four classes?  Um, well, now that I think about it, from my experience the only classes which I've really seen get played a lot are fighter, cleric, monk, paladin, ranger, and rogue.  Hmm.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Night Peoples

Okay, so for my campaign I've posited that during one major era in the past the mysterious deities of positive and negative energy (divided into the Yin Conclave and Yang Conclave) emerged from obscurity and openly struggled for control of the world.  One major artifact of this period is that the shadow influences of the Yin Conclave created three new races.  Each of these races was a sort of mirror image of the three First Peoples (humans, dwarves, and elves).  For my world these will replace the fetchlings, duergar, and drow.  They are sometimes referred to as the night people because their sensitivity to light.  This sensitivity is a major reason why they live underground and typically only come out onto the surface at night.

The three shadow cousins of the First Peoples are much like their surface dwelling cousins but with these additional attributes (for Pathfinder):

Night Peoples Template: (CR +0)

Senses: Low Light Vision (Ex) and Darkvision (Ex) to 60 feet

Weaknesses: Light Blindness (Ex) and Light Sensitivity (Ex)

Defensive Ability: Negative Energy Affinity (Ex)

Aura: Unnatural Aura (Su)

Friday, December 21, 2012

The End of the World, or Divine Planned Obsolesence

Okay, so the world didn't end today, just a cycle in the Mayan calendar.  But from a gaming perspective what if you actually built a specified date for the end of the world into your campaign world?  And what if this fact was known, either to everyone in the world or only by a learned few?  Obviously if that final date is a long way off, on the order of several centuries or more, then it doesn't affect people's daily lives much--except for creatures with a very long life span such as dragons, vampires, or liches.  A very close date, perhaps 30 days or less, means your campaign will be a rather short one.

Another major factor is whether there are any signs that the end is nearing.  Jack Vance's Dying Earth stories are set on Earth far in the future where the sun is going red and often flares or dims without warning.  Everyone is afraid that the end may come at any time: the warning signs are there, but nobody knows the actual date.  Naturally, there is a lot of speculation.  Religious cults appear trying to explain it and prescribe methods to ward it off, philosophers offer explanations, and frauds peddle various schemes to exploit the fearful.  If people already have been told that the end is coming, these portents will add to the mixture of dread and apathy in the populace.  If most people do not know, then the signs are more likely to cause panic and confusion.

So, if you wanted this End of Days to affect plot and story lines in your game you'd probably have to set the date no more than 20 years away.  Assuming that this end of the world is an event which no mortal (the PCs) can affect, then you have to plan your story arc accordingly.  But then, if the world is ending in less than a couple years who really cares about anything?  Sure, most people will have a will to survive day-to-day and so in the short term they will keep plodding on.  But why save money?  Why go to school?  Why have children?  Why take care of your long-term health?  Why not just turn to a life of wanton crime?

Really, I suspect that a game set in the actual end days would probably have to be a storytelling type game where people enjoy building the story and exploring character motivations.  The typical group probably wouldn't go for it.

But what if the "end" is really a new beginning?  Take the story of the ark in the Bible, for instance.  It was the "end" for everyone not on the ark but there was a new beginning.  Or in a more modern vein the ark ships at the end of the movie "2012".  You could arrange for the player characters to be the only survivors or among the few survivors who start the new world.  This could be a "cleansed" or devastated world now to be rebuilt or the survivors might migrate to a completely new place.

For my campaign world I have an "occulted" chaotic primordial god secretly working behind the scenes to destroy the world built by the other three lawful primordials.  Maybe I should give that occulted primordial some sort of timeline for his plan--now there's a good major plot line!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Last Post Ever

Okay, so since the world is going to end today I just thought I'd say a fond farewell to all of those who've been kind enough to read and comment on my postings on this modest blog.

Hmm, so I guess I'll just go toss some popcorn in the microwave, open a cold Monster, and watch the ultimate disaster flick happen--and in 3D.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Sorry, But We Should Not Bring Back the Straight 3d6 Roll for Abilities

Okay, so over at Dungeon,s Derek Myers did a Greatest Hits 2012 reposting of an item on "The Advantages of Using 3d6 Over Point Buy".  The post waxed lyrical about how creating characters by rolling 3d6 down the line for stats was so great.  Those of you who've read some of my earlier posts will understand why I was immediately incredulous.  "The Advantages of Using 3d6"?  What the WHAT?!  Here was my reply on the subject:
Nope, I have no idea what the hell you are talking about.  I first played D&D back with the original around 1978.  The two things that made it totally suck were rolling 3d6 down the line for stats and suicidally low HP at first level.  That's why I abandoned D&D after just a couple sessions of play.  The game sucked.  You'd almost always be forced to to play a class you didn't want and die quite quickly--forcing you to go back to rolling up yet another crappy character you didn't want to play either.  It was straight up cruel, farcical, tabletop masochism:  "Thank you sir, may I have another!"  What we ended up doing is rolling character after character on a piece of scratch paper (to stay within the 3d6 down the line rules) until we finally got scores we liked and then played that one.  Just a huge waste of time either way.  To me one of the most important choices in an RPG is picking the class you want to play.  With the 3d6 method players only rarely get to play what they envision.  That sucks.  Bringing back 3d6 is a terrible idea.  It was one of the worst parts of the older versions of D&D.  It was dragged out behind the barn and put down with prejudice for a reason: it sucked.  Don't reinvent the square wheel.
 This is a perfect example of why the old school renaissance movement completely mystifies me.  If you really like it that way, then do go on and play what you want.  I'll just never understand the attraction.

Christmas Came Early! Thanks, Secret Santicore!

Okay, so the word is out that the Secret Santicore project is probably not coming together this year (although there seems to still be some effort to put it together eventually).  In the mean time people are separately publishing their "presents".  I'll be putting mine up as soon as I can get a map done.

Anyway, Trey over at From the Sorcerer's Skull has posted my Secret Santicore present " d10 list of the legends behind epic dwarven inter-clan feuds" which Thomas Molyes created for me.  Thanks, Thomas!  I think they are excellent and actually go very well with the other dwarfy campaign stuff I've been posting about recently.  So I'm going to share my cool new toy with you all:

1. When the Doomcairn clan fought the Blackwood Goblins at the battle of Ash Ford, they did so expecting the Veinfinder clan to show up as well. The Veinfinders never did, and while they claim that the call to battle never came, both clans have bad blood over it to this day.

2. Both clans claim to have been the first to discover a particularly rich vein of gold. After some minor skirmishes, the area has been blocked off and all entrances guarded by one clan or the other. Clues as to which clan was first can be found within the tunnels, should a third party convince both clan chiefs that they should be allowed to enter.

3. King Bolli of the Honorlode clan repeatedly met with representatives of the Bronze Hill clan with his beard unbraided. After a series of these affronts, they could not bear it any longer and attacked him in his own throne room.

4. When Vahari and Gim strode forth to defeat the Bog Hag, only Vahari came back. Gim’s clan accused Vahari of cowardice which caused Gim’s death. Gim’s body has never been recovered.

5. The Anvilbreakers and the Bronzegauntlet clans both come from the same geographic area and have been involved in a feud for as long as anybody can remember. What is unknown to all but four dwarves in the world, the leader of each clan and their chief adviser, is that both clans came from a schism in the Greatforge clan. A series of deaths (deemed either unfortunate or assassinations, depending on who you talked to) created a succession crisis, with the resulting civil war leading to two separate clans, unwilling to acknowledge their shared history. Within a few generations, the truth is now only whispered in conclave rooms after the death of a previous leader/adviser.

6. To pass the long nights in the cavern halls, many dwarven clans developed a game involving the younger dwarves and a decapitated goblin head. As the sport grew in popularity, teams began to form and the betting and drinking increased. At some point, the fans of the teams known as the Reds and the Whites became such great rivals that their violence led to the creation of separate clans, now opposed to each other in all ways, not just on the stone playing field.

7. One fine day, Knorri and Giliden were boasting to each other of their drinking abilities. Each made stronger and stronger claims until the only possible result was a drinking contest. Midway through the contest, Knorri accused Giliden of watering down his ale. Giliden, in his wrath, slew Knorri.

8. When splitting the treasure from a joint expedition, dwarves from Clan Dragonbellows hid an artifact of great value and power from the other dwarves involved. All clans believe that the artifact rightfully belongs to them and are constantly scheming either to get it back or to keep its location hidden.

9. The Halls of Light were a sacred dwarven site. When they were destroyed in a fiery eruption, blame was mainly placed on the Shalehall clan, who were the guardians of the shrine. There have also been some fingers pointed at the Goodpick clan, who are rumored to have been engaging in a secret ceremony at the time of the eruption.

10. Various dwarven clans have had important items stolen by a single mysterious dwarf. Each clan suspects one of the other clans of harbouring the thief and thus the items. The person in question is actually a female human magic-user who is very good at passing as a charismatic dwarf.

Random Clan Feud Generator
If the above feuds are too specific/unsuitable for your needs/dangit you need a lot more dwarven clan feuds, use this simple generator to get a random Dwarf feud. Roll a d10 for each table -- so a result of 8, 6, 1 would get you a Vicious Feud based on Forbidden Love where one clan has been infiltrated by doppelgangers. The Flavor entries should be struck-through and replaced with something else each time they’re rolled in order to avoid repetition.

Level of Animosity
1 Amicable Disagreement - Both clans are aware that the feud is mainly for pride, although most reasonable dwarves will put up a front of being angry or upset; eventually they can be persuaded to cooperate or talk to one another, especially if a third party is involved.
2-3 Rivalry - Although both clans dislike each other intensely, the feud tends toward competition/verbal disputes rather than actual armed conflict - if two dwarves of each clan met in a bar, it’s a given that they would at least argue, fairly likely that they might have a fistfight and fairly unlikely that they would actually draw weapons.
4-7 Feud - The clans involved hate each other and are engaged in a series of reprisals for real or perceived misdeeds by the other clan. Although both clans might be convinced to meet under the auspices of a third party, any chance meeting will likely lead to blood being spill.
8-9 Vicious - Any meeting between representatives of the clans will eventually result in violence unless a third party mediates somehow. Both clans are actively scheming to attacking/weaken the other clan, with multiple dwarves having lost their lives recently.
10 Blood Feud - Dwarves who meet a dwarf from the other clan will attack on sight with intent to kill unless forcibly restrained. Dwarven honor goes out the window, such is the level of enmity.

Reason for Feud
1. Conflicting claims over a rich mining area.
2. Breach of dwarven etiquette/affront, often relating to facial hair.
3. Schism of a single clan resulting in multiple warring clans.
4. Betrayal/cowardice in battle.
5. Argument turned deadly -- i.e. there was a minor altercation between clan members that led to the death of a dwarf, with resulting reprisals.
6. Forbidden love -- a dwarf from one clan married a dwarf who was already betrothed to another. Murders ensue.
7. One of the clans allied with humans and elves in order to fight a common enemy. The other clans view them as sellouts.
8. Differing (and often trivial) interpretations of one section in the extremely lengthy and boring dwarven legal codes, often relating to dwarven brewing laws.
9. One clan is either extremely thrifty or has outright cheated the other clans when engaging in trade.
10. Historical conflict between dwarven heroes from each clan.

1. One clan is heavily infiltrated by doppelgangers who have replaced important members of the clan for their own nefarious goals.
2. The local dwarven king (or poobah, or deity) is secretly favoring one of the clans, providing support in an attempt to undermine the other.
3. The disturbance causing the initial rift between the two clans was caused by a third clan; neither of the warring clans are aware of this.
4. One of the clans has a powerful ally in a human trading syndicate.
5. One clan is suspiciously tall for dwarves.
6. There is an upcoming every-other-millennia dwarf-moot that both clans are expected to attend.
7. Both clans engage in kidnapping and then raising the children as members of their own clan. Double-agents feature prominently.
8. Sound-based weaponry is used to collapse rival clan’s mining tunnels.
9. The feud is mainly carried on by vengeful dwarven ghosts. Most of the living dwarves don’t give a fig.
10. The feuding clans both occupy the same ancient dwarven fort, creating an intense tunnel-to-tunnel subterranean urban warfare.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Pondering Souls for a New World

Okay, so I did some pondering this weekend on how I should handle souls in the campaign world I'm building.  The world is a divinely created flat world, set in a sphere (or maybe hemisphere) of divine force beyond which is the raging elemental chaos.  This means that the world is a closed system.  There are no other planets, solar systems, galaxies etc. (but there are other dimensions).  So then when it comes to souls, where do they come from and where do they go after mortal death?  I'm thinking that some main options are that:
- they recycle within the world (reincarnation);
- they go on permanently to some other divine dimension (let's call it ascension) and new souls are somehow created to replace them;
- they are dissolved and their raw energy is dispersed back into the world;
- or their previous personality is destroyed and the soul becomes a free-floating mote of divine energy.

I'm focusing for now of the first two explanations, both of which have certain ramifications.  In a recycle/reincarnation model if it is possible to destroy a soul, or for a soul to not complete reincarnation (say, in becoming a ghost), then gradually over the millennia the number of souls will decline and the living population of the world will decline.  In an ascension model the question of how new souls are created is very important.

I like the idea of souls ascending because it allows for choices made in life to influence one's eventual eternal fate.  Yes, you can have a karmic system for reincarnation where your past life choices influence your next life, but that's not quite as dramatic as ending up somewhere FOREVER after death.  Ascension of souls also allows for communication between the deceased and the living, via dreams, the services of a medium, temporary travel to that other plane, etc.  Such communication allows for great roleplay and plot building material.  With reincarnation you can only contact the recently dead or souls who are stuck outside the cycle for some reason.  With both models there is also an interesting period after death before the soul has been reborn or before it arrives at its final destination--things might happen to it during that time.

And what happens to souls which complete their ascension?  One model I'm considering, because it helps explain why large numbers of people might pledge themselves to an evil deity, is that the soul becomes a minor (or major) immortal follower of that deity.  So an evil priest can become a powerful demon/devil serving their master in the afterlife.

With both models there is also the question of alignment.  I will be using the classic D&D alignment system for this campaign.  I believe this system works well for the type of high fantasy genre games I will be running.  But are seeds of alignment "baked in" to the soul at its creation?  An interesting point, given that certain races and creatures are defined as having a typical alignment.  But at a minimum, there must be a way for player characters to change alignment over time as part of role playing in order to leave room for character development.  I'm leaving detailed exploration of alignment for later to concentrate on the fundamental reincarnation vs. ascension question.

But then, why can't both models coexist?  Good question.  For my world background I have the main First Peoples (humans, elves, dwarves) created by the ancient primal gods who originally created the world and then created its divine elemental dragon guardian deities, and its five nature deities (sun, moon, sea, sky, and earth).  The divine dragons later created immortal avatars of themselves in the world who in turn created the mortal dragons and the dragonborn.  The deities of earth, sky, and sea first created the animals of their respective realms and, much later, realm-specific intelligent races (such as merfolk in the seas).  The later-arriving Young Gods (the "Angels and Demons") created two semi-divine races, the aasimar and tielfings, through intimate interaction with members of the First Peoples.  So, some of these races could have souls which reincarnate and others souls which ascend, depending on their creators.

The existence of different creators also suggests that these various races/species could have different "flavors" of soul or different strengths of soul.  Would the soul of a dwarf, created by the primal elder gods, be of a different flavor/type and different strength than the soul of a squirrel created by the nature deities because the nature deities are of a lower power level than the elder gods?  I'm thinking that yes, there will be a difference of kind or degree.  This is where it all got even more complex and I'm busy making a lot of notes (I conceptualized best with pen on paper).  I need to work out the various ramifications of types and powers of souls to figure out the best combination which will please me intellectually and also drive cool storytelling and game play.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Paizo's RPG Superstar 2013 -- whatever

Okay, so Paizo has started it's RPG Superstar competition for 2013.  I actually submitted and entry for the first round a couple years ago but, incredibly, was rejected.  Well, I didn't actually get rejected per se, I just didn't hear back.  I'm sure it must have been a problem with the email.  Email is so unreliable, isn't it?

Anyway, what annoys be about this competition is that it always starts off with designing a wondrous item (that's a type of magic item, for the six people out there who've never played D&D/Pathfinder before).  Problem is I'm not good at designing magic items for D&D/Pathfinder--and frankly don't really care.  I don't care much about designing monsters either.  There are already tons of magic items and monsters out there from the D&D 3.x days, Pathfinder, and masses of great third party products.  What I want to design is the stuff that usually comes later in the competition, such as villains and lairs, and--most of all--the big adventure.  For me, designing adventures is the most fun part of gaming.  So, it sucks that I'd have to slog through several rounds of designing stuff I really don't care about in order to get to the stuff I care about (and am a lot better at).  Bah.  Whatever.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Playtest: The World Between for Fictive Hack

Okay, so last Wednesday I ran a session with the new and exciting "The World Between for Fictive Hack".  I came up with a short scenario loosely connected (same starting town) as my earlier Old School Hack scenarios.  The story was called "Archdruid of Charlak" and I designed it to run in one 3-4 hour evening session.  The players perused the book and chose to play:

Dan: Dea, a Hunter
Bill: Mereda, an Archer
Kaiser: Kev, a Thief
Mike: Sly, an Assassin
Kirk: Nominie, a Damsel of the Lady

Some designed their characters before arriving, some after arriving at the table.  After Kirk chose to play a Damsel of the Lady, some of the other players were surprised.  They had jumped in and chosen from the main list of templates near the front of the book, not noticing the magic/divine class templates which were mixed into later sections of the book.

The Session

The high priestess at the Church of the White Lady in their town had a dream about a fox of shadows who lived in a maze and was a druid.  There was a warning that this would spell doom for the town.  There wasn't much to go on, but the priestess charged Nominie with seeking out this druid and dealing with him.  Some likely types were recruited from the town to accompany her and off they went.  The Dea the Hunter was soon following the tracks of an unusually large fox southwest along the coast.  Two days later the tracks changed to those of probably a human male.  Searching about along the top of the sea cliff nearby they found ancient stone steps leading down into a large indentation in the cliffs.  At the bottom was a large carved open portal, clearly originally part of a temple dedicated to Father Sothak. God of the Briny Depths.

Peering in they saw a long sloping corridor carved into the rock, leading back inland away from the sea.  At the far end they could see daylight in the shape of another portal opening.  The party advanced cautiously in the shadowy darkness, taking time to look at the sea-themed carvings, odd empty niches, and dim recesses of the corridor.  Suddenly, one of the group stepped on a floor tile which shifted peculiarly.  With a crash and a rumble, a set of huge (3') stone balls dropped out of a compartment in the ceiling near the entrance and began rolling down the corridor.  The party members scrambled, two racing ahead to get to the far end, three others scrambling for places along the wall.  Luckily they survived and regrouped at the far portal.

At the end of the corridor they came out on a stone platform in a deep, narrow ravine.  Far above, through trees and hanging vines, was a long jagged slice of sky visible at the top of the ravine.  Many other trees clung to the rocky sides and vines drooped everywhere.  On the far side, across from the platform, was another tall portal with a similar platform.  A row of three tall stone pillars, apparently formerly supports for a wooden bridge, stood in a line between the two platforms.

As the party stood considering the best way across, one of them spotted (Awareness check) a fey fairy hiding in a tree above.  The fairy was the size of a small girl, in a tattered dress of black and grey which matched the black and grey of her fairy moth wings.

Dark Rose Fairy
Thorn Whip (Reach weapon)
some Thistlevine Seeds
- Fly
- Weakness Pollen ("Fairy Dust") Commitment check vs. 10 or go limp for 1d6 rounds

 Unbeknownst to the party, the fairy was set there as a lookout by the archdruid.  Like most fey, she quickly became bored with doing a job and looked on the party as a chance to relieve the boredom.  Damsel Nomine was easily able to (non-magically) charm the fairy who informed them that the druid was nearby, but then refused to answer any further questions unless they had some pie for her.  The party was perplexed.  The temple had provided them with some traveling rations and the Hunter had butchered a couple of sea birds earlier but that was all they had.  (I then suggested they make Awareness checks to thoroughly search their backpacks.)  A search of their packs for anything useful did indeed turn up a slice of apple pie included by one of the kindly little old kitchen ladies at the temple as a treat for the poor dears.  The fairy took the pie back to her tree branch and directed them to the portal across the way.  The fairy sat and slowly enjoyed her tasty pie, totally not caring about warning the smelly old druid.  (Note to evil leader types: don't rely on fey to have a work ethic.)

To get across the ravine some of the party chose to hopscotch across the stone pillars (Brawn checks), other to make use of the many hanging vines (Daring checks).  All made it without incident and they found themselves once again looking down a long sloping corridor carved with aquatic themes.  This corridor was only about half as long and soon opened into a huge cylindrical room lit with huge flames rising from the wide circular floor.  They could see that the walls were lined with row upon row of niches, clearly for holding the remains of the departed.  Some were still sealed, others gaping open.  Despite the bright flames they could not see a ceiling in the shadows above.

Then they turned their attention to the source of the flames.  There appeared to be a set of large concentric channels about six feet wide carved into the floor.  The outermost one was filled with water, the next with leaping flames, the next possibly with a hedge growing out of it, and in the center a tall, bell-shaped structure shining like polished silver.  Additional observation revealed that the channels formed a maze.  Lacking any alternative the party proceeded into the simple maze, water on one side and crackling flames on the other.  After a few moments there was movement in the water, which two members of the party totally didn't notice (Awareness checks), and something nasty surged up from below.

A mass of tentacles with hideous bulging eyes assaulted them.  One party member was slapped hard (though not over into the flames, alas) and another constricted for a while before escaping.  The creature was a bit of a shock, but the party dispatched it and moved on.

Tentacle Terror
Body: AC10, 3 wounds
Tentacles: AC8, 1 would (reach weapon)
- Pull (focus action); Brawn vs. 10 to avoid, Cunning vs. 10 to escape
- Squeeze (focus action); Brawn or Commitment vs. d10+2 or take 1 would
- Slap (constant);Daring vs. 10+2 or knocked 2d10 feet (Brawn vs. 10 or stunned)

The party wended their way past the flames and around some tall thorny magical hedges to a section where the hedges became stone walls.  Suddenly two fairies similar to the one outside flew down and covered them with their fairy dust (alas, everyone made their checks) and a weird masked figure jumped out and cast a spell.  The party attacked the mystery figure with arrows and thrown daggers causing injuries.  Damsel Nominie appealed to the fairies to depart and they did so, so charming was her personality and lovely red hair.  The spell of the druid (for that is who the mystery figure was) caused small woody creatures to leap from the hedges to attack as he threw a Thistlevine seed to make the party's surroundings "interesting".  The Damsel casually dismissed the druid's spell and the hedge creatures fell back into lifeless piles of thorny branches.  The rest of the party extricated themselves from the thistlevines and raced around the corner to confront the druid, still hoping they might take him alive.  However, the Archdruid of Charlak (for so he styled himself) had a nasty surprise waiting for them: he called out to his god and crashed his Elemental Bracers of Combustion together, causing a blast of flame to assail the heroes (who took 2 wounds).  The party engaged him in close combat and finally brought him down.  Investigating the large silver bell-shaped structure at the center of the maze, they found it to contain only a shrine to Charlak, God of Mazes.

[Thus ended the session for the evening]

So, overall everyone had a great time with the game.  I think the only real hiccups were that most of the players didn't notice the arcane/divine class templates embedded in sections back in the book and a big discussion about the wording for the Revivification talent for the Damsel for which we had a couple interpretations.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Movie Review: The Hobbit (part 1)

Okay, so I actually got to see this film today, opening day, rather than having to wait a while until the massive crowds died down a bit (it sucks to be stuck in a bad seat somewhere because they're the only ones left).  Normally I give a like/dislike statement and then ramble on about various bits, but this movie is different.

Originally, I was thrilled when they announced that they would be going ahead with The Hobbit as a movie.  Naturally I worried about how true they would stay to the book but was not too worried, given that the Lord of the Rings (LotR) trilogy came out quite well.  However, the people making The Hobbit clearly decided to take a very different approach and change quite a lot of the story.  The main plot points are there, but they have added A LOT and altered still more.Thus I found myself watching a story "based on The Hobbit" rather than a reasonably faithful screen adaptation.  I did like that they added a prologue providing background on the dwarf hold in the mountain, the lake town, and the coming of Smaug.  That will help viewers new to The Hobbit get settled in before the main story starts.

The dwarves are a mix of cool and clownish.  Since The Hobbit was meant to have a less dark and gritty atmosphere than the LotR I can understand putting in some characters for laughs.  Some of the dwarves function very much like Merry and Pippin in LotR.  However I don't really like when a serious story includes gratuitous comic relief characters, such as Jar-Jar Binks in Star Wars.  In addition several of the dwarves were visually ridiculous--while several were more "realistic" in appearance.  The difference was jarring.  Likewise the wizard Radagast the Brown is mostly played for laughs, in contrast to Ian McKellan's excellent Gandalf the Gray.  I really wish they'd picked an R-rated dark and gritty approach or a PG-13 storybook approach and stuck with it throughout.

I was also disappointed in the rather abrupt ending to the film.  Given the length of the book they really could have done it in one three-hour film.  I now feel that it is in two parts due to a deliberate business decision to add more new stuff in order to pad it out into two films.  Oh well.  I will go see the second film in the theatre, but I won't buy either part to watch at home.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Rise of the Lich Lords: A Campaign Idea

Okay, so I've been reading up on ideas for campaigns where all the characters are evil.  There are various problems with this type of campaign, the main one being that the party will usually implode due to treachery.  So I thought, what if you had a campaign where the party members were all "evil" on the outside, but their usual selves on the inside?  To paraphrase Jessica Rabbit "I'm not Evil, I'm just drawn that way".

My campaign idea (using Pathfinder) would start at high level, let's say 12th.  The party members are trusted heroes of the empire, with some reputation locally and internationally.  The empire currently is enjoying peace, justice, and prosperity due largely to their historic efforts.  One night at the palace the comrades gather in their suite to catch up with each other after reassembling for yet another tedious banquet in their honor.  Suddenly the royal high priest of <fill in appropriate deity of the afterlife, such as Pharasma, Kelemvor, Ilmater, or maybe even Asmodeus> appears and warns that he has had a vision from <appropriate deity> that a doom of immense power is imminent.  The palace and all in it, indeed the entire region will be laid waste by fel negative energies erupting from a gateway which will also bring invaders from another dimension.  They, the mightiest of heroes, are the only hope the world has of combating the invasion.  But their only hope of surviving the doom is to transfer their souls into specially prepared magical phylacteries immediately and then arise as liches after death.

Actually the heroes will gain both the (Pathfinder) Lich and Undead Lord templates, as they are being aided by the <deity of the afterlife>.  The doom does in fact kill almost all living creatures within a couple hundred miles of the palace with a storm of negative energy, mixed in places with fire, lightning, and frost.  About half of the dead rise as undead of one type or another.  In addition, many of the newly arisen undead are possessed by the invading demons (gaining the Demon-Possessed Creature template in addition to being their undead type).  Many of the party's possessions are damaged in the holocaust, but there are others to be found in the wreckage of the huge palace and surrounding temples and fortifications of the sprawling complex.

The nations surrounding the catastrophe gather forces to counter-attack.  Everyone assumes that the heroes are at best dead and at worst one of the possessed undead infesting the devastation.  The party must assess what's happening, battle the high-level undead around the palace (many former friends and even family), stem further spread of the blight pouring from the gate, deal with heroes sent on quests to kill them (once their undeath becomes known), go through the gate to deal with whoever is behind the whole thing, seal the gate, and find out if they can ever return from being liches--perhaps at a price exacted by the gods themselves.

Lich Lord of Righteous Vengeance (CR +4)
Alignment: Varies
Type: undead
Senses: darkvision 60'
Armor Class: +9
Hit Dice: change to d8
Defensive Abilities:
- channel resistance +4
- DR 15/Bludgeoning and magic
-  immunity to cold and electricity
- rejuvenation (via phylactery)

Damage: A lich's touch attack uses negative energy to deal 1d8 points of damage to living creatures + 1 point of damage per 2 Hit Dice possessed by the lich. As negative energy, this damage can be used to heal undead creatures. A lich can take a full-round action to infuse itself with this energy, healing damage as if it had used its touch attack against itself.

Special Attacks:
Fear Aura (Su)
Creatures of less than 5 HD in a 60-foot radius that look at the lich must succeed on a Will save or become frightened. Creatures with 5 HD or more must succeed at a Will save or be shaken for a number of rounds equal to the lich's Hit Dice. A creature that successfully saves cannot be affected again by the same lich's aura for 24 hours. This is a mind-affecting fear effect. [Save DC is 10 + 1/2 lich's HD + lich's Cha modifier]
Paralyzing Touch (Su)
Any living creature a lich hits with its touch attack must succeed on a Fortitude save or be permanently paralyzed. Remove paralysis or any spell that can remove a curse can free the victim (see the bestow curse spell description, with a DC equal to the lich's save DC). The effect cannot be dispelled. Anyone paralyzed by a lich seems dead, though a DC 20 Perception check or a DC 15 Heal check reveals that the victim is still alive. [Save DC is 10 + 1/2 lich's HD + lich's Cha modifier]
Aura of Desecration (Su)
Undead lords constantly project an aura in a 20–foot radius that functions as a permanent desecrate spell. The DC to resist negative channeled energy within this area gains a +3 profane bonus. Undead within the area (including the undead lord) gain a +1 profane bonus to attack rolls, damage rolls, and saves. Summoned or created undead that appear in the area gain +1 hit points per HD.
Command Undead (Su)
Undead lords command or rebuke undead creatures of the same type as itself as a cleric with the Command Undead feat equal to its current Hit Dice. If the base creature can already command or rebuke undead, this ability stacks.
Create Spawn (Su)
A creature slain by an undead lord rises in 1d4 minutes as an undead creature of the same type as the undead lord. Spawn are under control of the undead lord. This replaces any other create spawn ability the base creature possesses.
Summon Undead (Sp)
Once per day, an undead lord can summon a total number of HD worth of undead (of the same type as the undead lord) equal to its HD x 1.5. Undead lords cannot summon an undead creature that has more HD than it does.

Abilities: Str +4, Dex +2 Int +2, Wis +2, Cha +4. Being undead, a lich has no Constitution score.

Skills: Liches have a +8 racial bonus on Perception, Sense Motive, and Stealth checks. A lich always treats Climb, Disguise, Fly, Intimidate, Knowledge (arcana), Knowledge (religion), Perception, Sense Motive, Spellcraft, and Stealth as class skills. Otherwise, skills are the same as the base creature.

Undead Telepathy (Su)
Undead lords can communicate telepathically with any other undead within 100 feet, including mindless undead such as zombies and skeletons.

Undead Traits
Undead are immune to death effects, disease, mind-affecting effects (charms, compulsions, morale effects, phantasms, and patterns), paralysis, poison, sleep, stun, and any effect that requires a Fortitude save (unless the effect also works on objects or is harmless). Undead are not subject to ability drain, energy drain, or nonlethal damage. Undead are immune to damage or penalties to their physical ability scores (Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution), as well as to fatigue and exhaustion effects. Undead are not at risk of death from massive damage.

"Pacific Rim": Looks Cool, But Where's My Robotech Movie?

Okay, so I just stumbled on a trailer for the new movie Pacific Rim.  It looks like a cool action flick of giant robots vs. kaiju.  And, yes, I plan to go see it.  That's all well and good but with CGI effects at the level they are now, when are we going to get a live action Robotech movie, or Gundam movie.  I want a full-up, modern, live-action, japanese anime style mecha movie now!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Random Rolling PC Gender...Some Thoughts

Okay, so I finally took the time to explore the Sarah Darkmagic blog of Tracy Hurley (an excellent site, BTW) and one of the first posts I came across was "Why Random Roll Gender".  I immediately thought of my friend Bill, who pretty much always random rolls the gender for his characters.  As one might expect, this results in a goodly number of females.  Personally, I have no problem with people playing characters which are not their own gender.  Why can't you find a member of the opposite sex a cool person with whom you can identify and envision as a hero?

In the interest of full disclosure here, I'd say that slightly less than half of my RPG characters have been female.  My AD&D monk of Cressa who I played in college is still a favorite character of mine.  I don't randomly roll character gender.  I typically pick a couple class/job/professions I'd like to play this time and toss them into the bubbling mixture of ideas in my mental cauldron.  Then I add some diced potatoes and sliced carrots   Um, I mean I just wait for it to come to me, zen like, as the character slowly floats to the top of the brew.

However, I have noticed that one or two people in our group (all of whom are male) seem slightly uncomfortable with a male playing a female character.  One seemed to be inclined to let it pass on the basis it was determined randomly and thus not a conscious choice.  Others seem to wonder why a male would want to play a female character, not in the sense that it suggests that person subconsciously wants to be a woman or is "some kind of faggot", but in that it seems like a lesser alternative somehow.  Sort of like: why would you buy a SmartCar when you could have an Escalade?

Of course, in modern RPGs there are no arbitrary limits on characters due to gender.  I seem to recall AD&D having limits on maximum strength for female characters.  Depending on the campaign setting there might be some "cultural" limits on the roles of female characters.  Drow elf culture, for instance, puts females in the role of clerics and leaders.  But I rarely see gender discrimination built into the rules.  There is a lot of stupid cheesecake art out there, like female paladins in ridiculous bikini plate armor with garter straps, but that's not part of the mechanics.

So does anyone in your games randomly roll for character gender?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Dorky or Dynamite: Using Real World Languages for RPG Cultures

Okay, so recently as I was coming down the stairs in the dark and trying not to fall and break something I had the random thought that if I had to pick a real world language as the "common" for a game world (for place names, personal names, terms for things, etc.) it would be French.  But that got me wondering, after I made it safely down and over to the refrigerator to forage for a snack, that maybe using real-world languages for the peoples of a fantasy RPG world is a cop-out.

One of the things that made the Lord of the Rings so engaging and immersive was the use of carefully constructed fantasy languages (okay, so the Riders of Rohan were very Anglo-Saxonish).  It really gave the setting a cool yet realistic feel.  By comparison a lot of fantasy settings use lame random names which don't hang together linguistically.  (As an aside, one of my major pet peeves is GMs and players using lame names for characters.  I want a certain level of immersion and names like "Bobby-Ray the Stupid" totally trash any suspension of disbelief.  If you suck at coming up with names there are web sites with lists and random generators--find one and use it!)

An easy way to get linguistic coherence is to borrow real-world languages for particular regions or cultures in a campaign world.  One good example of this is the world of Warhammer Fantasy.  The Empire draws on German, Brettonia draws on French, etc.  However, using real world languages tends to channel people's thinking into including historical and cultural stereotypes with the language.  That may be exactly the effect you're looking for, as in Warhammer Fantasy, but it may not.

Anyway, I've always liked the sound of French and placenames in France.  It would be my go-to language for a quick off-the shelf real world language.  And so if I needed a quick off-the-shelf campaign map I could just grab the one for Brettonia.

So, what do you think?  Is using real world languages dorky or dynamite?  And what would be your first choice of language?

A Little Exercise, Dwarf Style

Okay, so I'm always complaining that I don't get enough exercise.  So I decided I'd do an exercise and use the new Stonach (Dwarf) Clan Builder for Old School Hack to make up a clan.  First, my roll results:

1. “Age and Pedigree.”
First Generation, hopeful Founders, clanless community struggling with its shame. (-2)

2. “Sacred Purpose.”
Where once all below the earth bowed to the Deep Goblins, they will revere your clan instead.

3.  “Why is your Founder Famous?”
Came to an area infested with a threat, and beat it down, establishing a guard against its return.

4. “Pride” and “Shame”.
Victorious warrior tradition (+3)
Magnificent home (+3)
Lost their detailed founding records (-3)
Mercenary culture (-3)

5. “Empowered Calling.”
 Runics. Runesmiths, mystics, scholars.

7.  “Traditional Allies” and “Traditional Enemies”
Traditional Allies: Shokoro (+1)
Traditional Enemies: Elves (-1)

8. "Wealth" Hard times. Starve, sell services, or beg. (-3)

9. "Safety" Established. Able to hold territory, respected. (+0)

10. Final background score: -5
Background disadvantage buyoff:
Hungry Beast - A big predator has settled nearby, and any time your clan steps out you are hunted by the beast and those that wish to please it. It loves the taste of you. (3)

Discrimination - The locals have marginalized your people, changing the laws so they can charge more money for less services. Everyone seems to be in on it. (2)


Some years ago a group of stonach outcasts came to this rugged valley, led by Markkus the Black.  Markkus led his small band of followers and their families here after being driven out after losing out in a major power struggle in their old clan--the the name of which they are forbidden to speak again.  The valley was the lair of the dragon lord Stonespite and his shokoro slaves.  Markkus refused to be daunted by the presence of the evil drake and he advanced towards its lair with a band of his finest.  They encountered a lone shokoro and took it captive.  The creature implored them to free its people from the domination of the dragon.  Reinforcing his warband with some shokoro he laid the beast low and became master of the valley.  Markkus named his newly established clan Drakemeister in honor of the event.  They set about renovating the dragon's lair, originally an ancient elven temple, into a masterpiece of dwarven engineering.  The primitive shokoro helped where they could, particularly in sharing ancient lore which enhanced traditional dwarf runelore and other mystical lore.

Eventually word of the fall of the dragon reached the pointy ears of the elves of the woods beyond the valley.  The elves sent a delegation to the clan and demanded they stop "defacing" their ancient temple and return it to proper elven care.   Markkus was outraged and had them stripped, bound, and whipped all the way back out of his valley.  The elves returned in force and assaulted the bearded and scaled squatters defiling their precious holy temple.  The elves were driven back by the allies but the war has simmered on for years now.  The dwarves and their shokoro allies are too well fortified to be dislodged by the elves and their patrols hold the other denizens of the nearby mountains at bay as well.

However, the elves then convinced the local human potentate that the dwarves had struck it rich in mines below the former temple and should be paying him proper tribute.  He built a fort to command the ford on the only road out of the valley and began levying a toll on all traffic in and out.  The dwarves did not actually have any mines at all.  In fact their only source of income was exports of artisan goods.  The toll bit deep and the clan was forced contract out mercenary warbands of stonach and shokoro to make ends meet.

And as if that wasn't bad enough, the dragon's sister recently returned to visit her brother and was greatly grieved to find his skull on display over the front gate of Clan Drakemeister.  Although not as large and fierce as her elder brother, Cloudspite is extremely cunning.  Her constant ambushes of anyone attempting to enter or leave have the clan trapped and desperate.

Monday, December 10, 2012

BESM Again! WoW Style Moonkin

Okay, so those of you who've played D&D/Pathfinder probably know about the creature called the owlbear.  The creative people at Blizzard took this creature and bumped it up a notch to a semi-intelligent species, calling it the Moonkin.  An intelligent "monster" or even a semi-intelligent one is much more interesting that one of mere animal intelligence.  They can have more complex motives.  The players can communicate with them, negotiate with them, befriend them, etc.

When I started my BESM 3rd Edition campaign I was still playing World of Warcraft.  I rather liked the Moonkin--especially when my Tauren druid finally gained the ability to shapechange into one.  So I made up some Moonkin using BESM for my campaign.  There are two types, the common Moonkin and the druids who guide them.  Note that the druid can cast spells using the "Power Flux (Minor--Wood)" attribute.  This allows access to the list of Wood element spells which I designed.  I'll be posting my elemental spell lists by and by to help out the five or so other people out there still playing BESM.  One thing that should be clear even from these two examples is that while you can probably design anything with BESM, you will still need to put in the design work (unless you can find a friendly blogger dude who has already done it for you).

Moonkin (common) [270 CP]
Body    10                            [100]
Mind      3                            [30]
Soul       6                            [60]

ACV          6 (10 with claws)
DCV          6 (10 with claws)
DamMult    6
HP         110 (shock 32)
EP           45

    Armour 5                                                          [10]    10 armor
    Combat Technique (Brutal 1, Hardboiled 2)        [6]
    Features                                                             [4]    antlers, talons, feathers, beak
    Melee Attack (Unarmed) 4                              [12]
    Melee Defense (Unarmed) 4                            [12]
    Superstrength 1                                                 [8]
    Tough 6                                                           [12]    +30 HP
    Weapon (Claw) 4                                             [8]
        Muscle [1]
        Incapacitating [1] Body save vs. 9 or stunned 1 round

    Area Knowledge 3                                          [3]
    Wilderness Survival 3                                       [6]

    Awkward Size 1                                             [-4]
    Impaired Manipulation                                    [-3]
    Impaired Speech                                            [-6]

Moonkin (druid) [270 CP]
Body    9                            [90]
Mind    3                            [30]
Soul     7                            [70]

ACV           6 (9 with claws)
DCV           6 (9 with claws)
DamMult     6
HP            95 (shock 24)
EP            60

    Armour 5                                                     [10]    10 armor
    Combat Technique (Brutal 1, Hardboiled 1)    [4]
    Energy Bonus 2                                             [2]    +10 EP
    Features                                                        [4]    antlers, talons, feathers, beak
    Melee Attack (Unarmed) 3                            [9]
    Melee Defense (Unarmed) 3                          [9]
Power Flux (Minor--Wood)                              [5]
    Superstrength 1                                             [8]
    Tough 3                                                        [6]    +15 HP
    Weapon (Claw) 4                                         [8]
        Muscle [1]
        Incapacitating [1]   Body save vs. 9 or stunned 1 round

    Area Knowledge 2                                      [2]
    Occult 2                                                      [6]
    Wilderness Survival 3                                   [6]

    Awkward Size 1                                        [-4]
    Impaired Manipulation                               [-3]
    Impaired Speech                                       [-6]

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The All-Dwarf Campaign?

Okay, so I've been studying the new dwarven Clan-Builder over at Fictive Fantasies.  It's a nice set of random roll (or you can also just pick stuff) lists to generate key characteristics for dwarven clans for RPGs.  It's pretty cool so check it out.  But that got me thinking: there is a persistent interest in all-dwarf games.  The TowerGuardDM channel I used to follow in YouTube (now closed) had a very cool set of videos laying the groundwork for an all-dwarf game.  Kickstarter even has the "Axes and Anvils" project where the entire game is designed from the start to support all-dwarf gaming.  The only other race I've seen a lot of interest in as a single-race campaign is drow.  Personally I'd love to do an all-drow campaign or all-elf campaign.  There is some good stuff out there for all-drow campaigns, but apparently not much for all-elf gaming.  And there is apparently even less interest in games where all players are gnomes, halflings, or half-orcs.

Is this all because dwarves are so often ignored or stereotyped in games and people want to see them get some respect?  Is it because there's a lot of cool background there to build a campaign on which is going unloved?  Are there really a lot of dwarf fans out there?  I have no idea.  I've never really been into dwarves as a player race (maybe because I'm an elf fan) but I can see the potential of an all-dwarf game with the mixture of underground/dungeon adventure, intra-clan social-political conflicts, feuds with other clans, invasions by surface-dwellers, etc.

You could almost run it so totally dwarf-centric that the inhabitants of the dwarf fortess-city are barely aware of an outside world--rather like Alpha Complex in Paranoia.  See as they venture into the Outside and have difficulty with the sunshine, the weird tall green things called trees, the freakish creatures such as birds and squirrels.  Only the inner sanctum of the clan leadership and high clerics is really aware of the overall situation.  The rest of the clan members have their assigned jobs with their guild and that's all a proper dwarf needs to know.

It would also be fun to do the races like Old School Hack and early D&D did and make humans, halflings, gnomes, and elves into stereotypes where their races are classes and only let the dwarf players pick from a range of actual classes.  How about these classes:
  • Warrior (melee fighter; dwarves only)
  • Gunner (gunpowder missile weapon fighter; dwarves only)
  • Cleric (dwarves only)
  • Delver (underground ranger; dwarves only)
  • Divine Hammer (dwarven paladin; dwarves only)
  • Scout (dwarven thief; dwarves only)
  • Skald (dwarven bard; dwarves only)
  • Alchemist (dwarves only)
  • Runemaster (rune magic wizard/; dwarves only)
  • Artificer (dwarves only)
  • Human
  • Halfling
  • Elf
  • Gnome

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Bad News for Secret Santicore!

Okay, so I jumped into the 2012 Secret Santicore project in September and got my bit of it sent off in early October.  Sadly, the project organizer has had a number of hard things happen in his life recently and he won't be able to finish it.  I understand his difficulties and fully support his decision.  A couple of the other people working on the project are interested in picking it up and finishing it up for him, which is cool.  So it may still come to fruition, but who knows.  If it really doesn't happen I plan to post my submission here for all to enjoy.  (I did a mini-dungeon under an old brewery.)

6d6 RPG Kickstarter met funding!

Okay, so I posted earlier on my support for the 6d6 RPG Kickstarter project.  It successfully met its funding goal (surpassed it, actually)!  I hope to see it soon!

Yay, my "The World Between for Fictive Hack" is here!

Okay, so I ordered the print-on-demand (POD) softcopy version from Lulu of "The World Between for Fictive Hack" by Andrew Shields a little while back.  It arrived fairly quickly, allowing for the fact that I chose the cheapest shipping option.  I've never ordered a POD product before and was a bit apprehensive about the quality.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that the quality is fully professional.  Anyway, I've been reading through it (all 315 pages) and am getting a proper full review of it together.  I also ran a one-shot session of it for my Wednesday night group recently and I'll be posting on that as well.

Quick Reactions:
- high quality print product (the softcopy, anyway)
- huge masses of fun character options
- a complete game and campaign world in one book
- cool new take on orcs
- added a lot of rules to the original Old School Hack (a plus or a minus depending on your point of view)
- needs more editing and organizing

Hmm, Midgard RPG Miniatures Kickstarter Project?

Okay, so I have been very interested in the whole concept of Kickstarter (and Indiegogo).  In particular I am very interested in its potential as a means to empower small (and even large) RPG companies.  I've put money into a couple crowd-sourcing projects now, but I'm waiting on them to finish and actually deliver their products.  Yesterday the Midgard RPG miniatures project launched on Kickstarter.  I liked the sample minis--the aboleth miniature is the first ever depiction of an aboleth which gave me the impression that it's a cool monster.  Most of the bestiary illustrations I've seen of it previously made it look pretty lame.

So, then I took a look at the pledge levels, stretch goals, etc. and was surprised by the amount of pledge per miniature.  Nowadays a 28mm humanoid mini is in the $5-6 range.  For this project they were working out to $9 per miniature.  Okay, this is a project funding site, not a retail sales site.  However it made pledging less a bit less appealing.  Compare this with the Reaper Miniatures project on Kickstarter where you would get a huge set of miniatures for a better cost per miniature.

Anyway, I'm always glad to see more cool miniatures coming out and I wish them success!