Friday, August 25, 2017

Pathfinder Themed Gestalt (draft)

As I mentioned in a recent post I'm looking to break out of my gaming group's usual Pathfinder comfort zone and do something different--either a little different or a lot different.  More specifically I'd like to do things we've never done before.  So if we stick with Pathfinder that may be tough because we've played most of the usual classes, archetypes, races, prestige classes etc.  I see two good alternatives; well, easy alternatives.  One is to use the new hybrid classes--just the hybrid classes.  I haven't seen anyone play one of these in our games.  However, I'm not super excited about them and, apparently, neither is the rest of my group.  The other path is gestalt multi-classing, probably with just the core classes because they seem the best balanced.

Okay, but how about taking that a step farther and doing what I'll call "themed gestalt" play.  In themed gestalt all players will share one class (or a choice from a limited group of at most three classes) and add another to that one to individualize.  The shared class(es) creates the theme and provides a background tying the group together.  I played with this idea earlier as a basis for a fantasy oriental game "Righteous Cloud Temple" where all the characters are monk+something dual classed.

So here is a set of themed gestalt ideas using the core classes as a base.

⦁    Barbarian Based - a dream-quest called you all here to meet your ultimate fate as a hero; the druid and/or ranger could be alternate bases

⦁    Bard Based - Hey, Hey it's the Monkees!/Josie and the Pussycats/This is Spinal Tap; came out here to play to the adventurers--hopefully as the only act in town--and wacky hijinks ensue; the sorcerer (with maestro bloodline) could be an alternative base

⦁    Cleric Based - clerics of one deity or small set of compatible deities; could have the paladin as alternate base if that works for the particular deity

⦁    Druid Based - members of a druidic circle are drawn to commune with and heal the tainted wilderness; could have the ranger as alternate base

⦁    Fighter Based - former military or mercenary comrades-in-arms carve out a kingdom for glory and riches

⦁    Monk Based - members of the same temple or --better--all rival temples, seeking the fabled First Temple where the noble study of the martial arts first began

⦁    Paladin Based - paladins of a Lawful Good deity; the paladin theme class could have the cleric, of the same deity or any compatible deity, as alternate base

⦁    Ranger Based - drawn to explore and investigate the tainted wilderness; the ranger theme class here could have the druid and/or barbarian as alternates

⦁    Rogue Based - a gang of "explorers" or  "archaeologists" seek the biggest heist ever

⦁    Sorcerer Based - your inner natures called you together, and now you must find out why

⦁    Wizard Based - find ancient spells and magic to bring back with power and knowledge; the wizard theme class could have the sorceror and/or bard as alternates

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Forest of Fiends: Simple Jungle Weather Tables

I did an earlier post with simple weather tables for a generally temperate climate.  Now, for the new sandbox campaign idea I'm developing, I need jungle weather.

Monsoon Season (November ~ February)
1~4 = Hot; constant torrential rains sweeping in from the sea; overcast; flash-flooding
5~8 = Hot; frequent thunderstorms sweeping in from the sea
9~10 = Hot; frequent light showers
11~12 = Hot; clear

Summer Season (March ~ July)
1~2 = Brutally hot; thunderstorms
3~6 = Brutally hot; clear and sunny
7~10 = Hot; clear and sunny
11~12 = Hot; occasional light showers

Harmattan Season (August ~ October)
1~4 = Hot; blustery winds from the interior
5~8 = Warm; blustery, bringing thin clouds of chaotic fey pollen from the interior
9~12 = Warm; blustery, bringing heavy clouds of chaotic fey pollen from the interior

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Campaign Idea - Forest of Fiends

Okay, so I'm still playing around with ideas for my campaign after this one.  I'd like to do something different.  Different not only from what I've done before but also what my gaming group comrades have run for us.  One type we haven't done is the classic sandbox: the GM draws up a map, populates it with locations and encounters, and unleashes the players on it.

A little while back I read a great sandbox idea over at The Wandering Gamist meant to be done in the Adventurer, Conqueror, King System (ACKS).  It's a take on the idea of a "lost continent" ripe for exploration.  I liked that general concept so I'm doing some prototyping with ideas to see if I can make something come together.  The rules set is as yet undecided, partly so as to not limit my thinking, but also because I'd like to offer the players a couple options and let them choose.  I'm generally thinking "not Pathfinder"--because that's our go-to set and this campaign is meant to be a break from the usual--but I'll leave it up to them.  I'm grabbing the deities from the old Forgotten Realms setting because I've always liked them and because I'm not motivated to do an entire pantheon from scratch.  The working title is "Forest of Fiends" because it will feature a lot of chaos, demons, and jungle.


A thousand years ago the Empire of Pra-Kryush ruled a mighty continent and made war to conquer lands far across the sea.  Their power rested on a blood-soaked alliance with the vile Marilith Queens.  With the aid of demon generals and titanic warbeasts supplied by the queens, the armies of the empire conquered lands far and wide. There they built temples to the Queens where the blood of victims filled the sacrificial basins and all knelt before the abyss.

But there came a time when the Queens' lust for conquest and blood could not be sated and they turned on their allies in Pra-Kryush.  Ravenous demonic things poured from the temples and the empire fell into chaos and fire.  The conquered lands seized the opportunity and  rose up with the help of their True Gods and threw off the yoke of the empire. These liberated lands renamed themselves the Holy Realms.  But the heartland of Pra-Kryush, across the wide ocean, was declared anathema: travel there was forbidden and any who delved into knowledge of summonings, demonology, necromancy, and other hell-arts were burnt at the stake.

Seven years ago Warpriest Chazan, the greatest priest of the god Torm, proclaimed a vision from his god: that the time had come to cleanse Pra-Kryush and establish the light of the True Gods there.  The temples of Tyr and Ilmater, the other two members of The Radiant Triad, joined their ally immediately.  The kings and queens of the Holy Realms quickly responded, both from religious fervor and an unparalleled opportunity to acquire land and treasure.  The kingdoms and temples sent various expeditions but almost all failed for one reason or another.  Pra-Kryush is still a place of doom.

The adventure begins in the town of Tymoris on the riverine island of Light of Fortune, where a sprawling temple-casino of Tymora anchors a ramshackle boomtown awash in fortune-seekers of every stripe.  Crusaders, exiles, colonists, pilgrims, pirates, and desperados all rub elbows in the streets and taverns.   Light of Fortune is located in the delta of a massive river dubbed the Hellflow.  All manner of fiendish creatures swim in it, just waiting for prey.  Rumors say the waters boil up from a cave in a fire-mountain, bringing the creatures up from the depths.  Luckily they generally avoid salt water so ships from the Holy Realms can usually get to and from the seaward side of the island unmolested.

 A forgotten people built a town on the island which scholars claim was called Tymoris.  The island is rocky, with only scrubby grass and stunted trees on the upper surfaces.   Fortunately, the original inhabitants built a reservoir and equipped it with a magical fountain to provide drinking water.  Channels and piping, now restored, carry water to several other small fountains throughout the town.  Despite the inflow of colonists and fortune seekers there are still a number of empty houses on the island, although all buildings legally belong to the Council of the Triad who act on behalf of the monarchs of the Holy Realms.   The days are warm and sunny with occasional light showers sweeping in from the sea, but in a few weeks the monsoon rains will arrive.

The game begins as the ship on which the party took passage approaches the town docks.  The captain of the Brightwave, an elder human named Tio Manzzada, has made the long passage seven times already and regaled the characters during the trip with rumors and stories--some of which may actually be true.

Features of the Campaign

The adventures will include much adventuring in the wild jungles, but also many "dungeon" type locations.  Encounters with demonic creatures, fey abominations, and natural creatures of the jungle will be frequent.  There will be significant political interactions with factions from the Holy Realms, particularly the temples.  There may be some travel by sea along the coast (this is a sandbox type campaign).  Travel back to the Holy Lands is not expected as the focus will be on exploration of Pra-Kryush--and dying a lot.

Pra-Kryush is a tropical jungle land.  Few maps remain from the old days, as most were burnt with their heretic owners to protect the faithful.  Even now there are only partial maps and navigators logs providing any information and even them mostly only what lies on the coast.  Old songs tell of a grand Cloud Plateau far inland, homeland of the inscrutable fey, who are as evil as the demons who presumably still prowl the lowland jungles.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Getting Started with Campaign Cartographer 3+

I've dabbled a bit with hand drawn style already for dungeon maps, as posted a few times here on the blog.  But there are a lot of great maps out there done with art programs or specialized mapping programs.  After looking around a bit I decided to try Campaign Cartographer by ProFantasy Software, now up to version 3+.  This is a very complex program but luckily there are some great tutorials on YouTube to get started.  On a recent Sunday afternoon I went through some of the tutorial videos on the Crawford Cartography channel.  I'm very much a visual learner so watching someone use the program while they discuss what they're doing is extremely helpful for me.  I basically just followed along and came up with this map, done with the Mike Schley style library of objects.  The sizing and placement of things is a bit clunky but I'm pleased with it as a first effort.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Review: Beyond the Wall

Herewith a review, or at least a set of impressions, on Beyond the Wall by Flatland Games.  So I dropped in at my FLGS a little while back and picked up a copy of this rather nice little game.  I had read a couple reviews and it sounded worth checking out as another approach to Old School Revival gaming.

First off, this game has a definite setting.  Beyond the Wall (BtW) is low magic, and set in a fantasy version of early middle ages Britain, with definite Celtic and "northmen" bits.  So, no kung-fu monks or ninjas here.  Also, the only player races are humans and elves.  Dwarves, gnomes, and hobbits appear in expansion material.  (On the publisher's web site there is also a fun free download for intelligent bear characters.)  The monsters/creatures in the short bestiary are also European themed and scoped mostly to traditional types.  No weird aboleths, cloakers, etc. to spoil your afternoon fantasy medieval jaunt.  You could also drop it into a Tolkienesque Middle Earth--Bree would make a great starting village, for instance.  The implied setting reminded me a lot of the one for the historically-based fantasy rules I started with: Chivalry & Sorcery.  Like C&S it is also an all-in-one book which allows you to play without assembling a small library first (although there are several supplements).  And at $7.99 for the pdf (I bought the dead-tree version for slightly more), it's easy on the budget.

Now for the core of the rules.  For comparison with OSR games:
  • you have the classic six attributes but rolled on 4d6 and drop the lowest
  • there are three basic classes: warrior, rogue, and mage (plus an optional warrior-mage, the Elven Highborn)
  • there are the classic five saving throws
  • you get Fortune Points 
  • initiative is done according to set initiative scores, no rolling needed
  • magic is a bit different, with cantrips which require an attribute check and can go wrong, spells which are cast much the same as in D&D, and rituals which take hours to cast and may also go wrong; also, compared with AD&D and later editions there are very few spells here, which is in keeping with the low-magic setting.
After rolling up the characters as you would in any D&D game, the next step is to build the village.  BtW features collaborative world building to create the characters' home village.  The GM and players take turns adding features to a map which starts with only the village inn at the center.  Everyone gets to add locations and NPCs.  Additional locations and NPC are added during use of the Character Playbooks (see below).

What makes BtW different from most OSR rules sets is the Character Playbooks.  These are tables which the players use to build the background story for their characters and also to link those characters to those of the other players.  The playbooks have names like "The Self-Taught Mage" and "The Village Hero".  They have tables on topics like "How did you earn your name" and "What first caused the witch to choose you".  You roll randomly  and get a bit of background with stat and/or skill bonuses--and other characters can also get a bonus with a shared story.  One example is: "For years you worked for her [the witch] calmly and patiently, and never questioned her wisdom or authority.  The friend to your right often calmed you when you grew frustrated with your lot, and gains +1WIS" and the character gains +2 WIS and the spell "Sanctuary of Peace".  I liked these playbooks because they help bind the group together with a shared history.  They also make building a character background easy for those who aren't into it or aren't good at it.

The book finishes up with two scenario playbooks.  I liked these a lot because they have a core concept which you detail with random roll tables.  The tables make for good replay value, allowing you to re-skin them for re-use later.

Bottom Line: This is a great little book, packing rules, world building, a bestiary, and scenarios into an easy to read, easy to use package.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

"Shut up and take my money" (Reaper Bones 4 Kickstarter)

Alas, now that I have drunk from the enchanted well of gaming miniatures goodness that is Reaper Miniatures' "Bones" kickstarters I can't actually stop any time I want to.  So, yes, I'm in for this one too.  Bones 4 is still happily unlocking away and will probably hit ridiculously high levels of funding due to the hordes of fanatics (hi!) who are already descending on the Kickstarter site.   I'm a little worried because I'm in very early this time, before the core unlocks are all revealed.  But the minis already unlocked are very cool so how bad can it be.  Just as long as they don't throw in any superhero minis...

Friday, August 4, 2017

Review: Slumbering Ursine Dunes

Okay, so decided to take the plunge and buy some game products I've been eyeing for a while now.  One of them was Slumbering Ursine Dunes by Chris Kutalik. This is a fun point crawl adventure for Labyrinth Lord (but usable with most any old school D&D rules) set in Chris' Hill Cantons campaign world. I wasn't sure whether I'd enjoy it, given that a lot of OSR stuff comes across to me as rather cheesy, but this is a really fun adventure.
(image from DriveThruRPG)

Actually, I was surprised that it felt a lot like the games I first ran back in high school.  I didn't start with D&D as such and had absolutely no campaign books so I totally made up my own game world and added in a lot of my own monsters.  Chris' game world is not your classic high fantasy D&D world: there are bear-people and elves from outer space (well, another dimension, but you see what I mean).  In this adventure you point-crawl across a small area of the world warped a bit by chaos, as various areas are, encountering unusual places and things.  There are also two small "dungeon" locations with their own bits of oddness.  The area could be attached to an existing campaign world as a side adventure or you could use it as an introduction to Chris' larger world.

There is also a cool Chaos Index.  As explained in the rules it's "a dynamic events system for modeling the mythic weirdness of the Dunes. Actions of the players in the sandbox will escalate or de-escalate the levels of events
from blood-rain thunderstorms to an aerial invasion of magictech bubble cars."  I've always used the PC's actions to create ripple effects that come back to them.  This book adds a specific mechanic to help you out.  I'm planning to adapt this idea for my next campaign.

Bottom Line: I really like this book.  It's very imaginative, links to other books (if you so desire), and is reasonable priced.