Friday, April 15, 2011

M is for My Pretty Lady

Me and my pretty lady have been dating now for over 4 years. She is pretty, and smart and cool and a big nerd like me.  After we started dating she started playing d&d  with my group, it was a little wierd at first having a girl at the table.  Not because we didn't want her there or anything but just cuz we never had a girl player before. My pals say I stopped doing my weird voices when she started playing.

Anyway, the pretty lady has since then blossomed into a hardcore nerd, shes better than me at a lot of video games, shes a way better warhammer painter than me and shes ruthless as all hell during D&D sessions. Now my guy players aren't exactly squeamish when it comes to "doing what has to be done", but my NPCs live in dread of the day they might stand in the way of the pretty lady and her goals.

The pretty lady has had a variety of characters since we started playing; an assassin, a vampire assassin, a witch (pathfinder), and an oracle (also pathfinder), most recently she has started playing barbarians.  Shes stating out a level 10 evil barbarian named Miley Cyrus for my summer evil villain campaign.  Her favored weapon is the earthbreaker- a massive spiked hammer found in pathfinder.

Anyway, I'm hoping that some day she will take over DMing duties for me. She is cool, I like her a bunch. Theres a link to her blog on the right. Shes pretty sporadic with posts cause she is really focusing on school but has some interesting stuff.

L is for Lairs

I never get these out on time.

Lairs- this would more accurately describe dungeons, but I already used the 'd' post.

I recently had a revelation about dungeon design. Now, previously pretty much every so called dungeon I've run has been a ruined underground structure, that's cool I guess, but most creatures and traps and thing were pretty much random. Its hard sometimes to come up with a reason why the various creatures living in the dungeon are even there, never mind trying to explain why they haven't killed each other.

My idea was to make living, functional dungeons, instead of always just random ruins type dungeons.  My idea calls for a dungeon like Minas Morgul - the "Tower of Black Sorcery" where the Witch King dwells.  Here it isn't abandoned, there are hundreds of orcs or more living in it at any time. The orcs are fairly disorganized though, and dwell only on the mid levels and guarding the battlements. the depths are home to to fearsome forgotten beasts and shadows, and in the tallest towers the Nazgul work their dark magic.

A stealthy band could slip in through a drain pipe and move carefully through the lower levels without drawing too much attention, perhaps even sneaking all the way up to the tallest towers without the alarm being sounded.

So thats kinda the example I thought of, but on a smaller scale it could work with any number of things. Dungeons can actually represent real dungeons beneath the evil overloard's keep and not be dungeons in name alone. Monsters could actually make sense in their placement, and heroes would be wise to actually try being stealthy and fast for once so as to not alert the entire castle. Finding hidden enterences suddenly becomes super important, and so does the crazy drunk in town who is always raving about how he escaped from the Dark Keep. I bet most people already play like this and I'm preaching to the choir, but it was a pretty mind blowing idea for me.  I'm going to include more evil overlords and their strongholds from now on in my games.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

K is for Kingdoms

Ok, another late and short post.

World building is a hobby of mine, I'm sure many DMs would agree it is one of the highlights of our job.  I have over the years built a pretty stable campaign world  that I feel like I would be comfortable DMing games in for along time to come, one of the best parts is that it is constantly growing and expanding. There are sizeable kingdoms with well defined borders- most landmasses are least partially explored. This is the world I have been playing in for several years now, my current Pathfinder games are set there, and overall it is just a pretty cool place.

Once you get that specific, and the world is that detailed something is lost though.  I can't simply have the characters roll through an area of wilderness and roll up a random castle, I just can't. It wouldn't make sense; who built the castle and why?- something like a castle can't be random. And thus my world has alot less room for me to improvise and let the chips fall.

As I work on my B/X thinginy I have been thinking alot about the setting and the world I plan for it to be played in.

I'm picturing a vast wilderness, like points of light taken to a level I have never used before. There are all these tiny pocket kingdoms or civilizations lost among a sea of wilderness. The kingdoms have little to no knowledge of, or contact with, the neighboring kingdoms. Each kingdom is maybe a small city,a town or two and a few outlying villages, and totally self sufficient.  isolated pockets of civilization and culture.  There could be virtually anything anywhere out in the wilderness.  Once they pass the last village and start off roading I can random table stuff as much as I want until I decide they get to another pocket kingdom.  The pocket kingdoms themselves could have any makeup or type of culture I want.

I got the idea for this type of approach from fantasy adventure tv shows like Xena Warrior Princess, Herclues the Legendary Journeys, and my favourite animated show Conan the Adventuerer.  In these shows the heroes travel pretty much randomly across the land and in every episode come across a new kingdom where there is trouble afoot.  Sometimes they make allies, sometimes the kingdom is in ruins by the time they leave. I'm working towards making a world where adventure of the week type gaming and long term deep story gaming are both equally valid ways to play.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

J is for Jabberwocky

Really short post. Got a big exam tomorrow. Don't know who did the top picture but the bottom one is by Alex CF , he has got some really crazy cool art. It will be possible to make a Jabberwocky using my legendary creatures rules, they will most likely be built under the dragon entry. Night.

Monday, April 11, 2011

I is for Inventory

I am a big fan of tracking character inventory and encumbrance in game. I think its really important, like critically important, and yet I have found it hard to implement in the past. I'm sure most of my players just hope that I forget about it, especially because I hate "portable holes" and "bags of holding"- yuck, such a cop out.  Encumbrance is hard to deal with, I hate using gold coins like in B/X.  Computer games like Diablo really have a leg up on pen a paper games in terms of inventory menus.

For my B/X project I will assign pretty much every item an ENR (encumbrance rating) - a bag of 100 gold coins will be 1 ENR, a dagger is 1 ENR, a great sword might be 4 ENR, etc.. each character with have a carrying limit based on their strength score.  There will also be a distinction between items that are carried "on belt" which are basically ready to draw or have in hand at a moments notice, and items which are "in pack" and would take a moment to recover. There would be much less room for "on belt" items so characters will need to choose carefully what they carry and where it is.

Also any sum of coins which amounts to less than 100 coins total will not count as an ENR, its only when characters start carrying around loads of treasure that I will start getting serious about tracking it.

Kind of a shitty post I know but I have been really busy, its finals.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

H is for Heroes

Alright this post is a bit late but whatever im doing it.

From my understanding 4th edition using something called 'Tiers', which -feel free to correct me if I'm wrong- delineate certain character lvl groups, so for example lvls 15-20 are the epic tier. I like the idea of having those certain lvls and the portion of your characters story be clearly represented along those lines. After all in B/X becoming 'Name Level' is kind of like ascending into a new tier, the character is now expected to settle down a bit, or at least build a stronghold of some type. So in keeping with this philosophy I plan to break my character progression rules into 3 distinct tiers, which represent different phases of a heroes' journey.

Champion: Levels 1-5
The Champion is a crusader for their particular cause or profession. Though certainly not the most skilled members of their class they stand tall above the regular folk of the realm. They are considered to have at least some minimal contacts with other members of their class or possibly a higher lvl patron. They may purchase the services of hirelings.
A Viking Champion

Hero Levels 6-10
The Hero is likely to be renown throughout the lands and will certainly command a fair measure of respect- if not for their profession at least for their skill. The Hero embodies the true nature of the class and will be considered a peer to other hero lvl characters despite conflicts of race,gender, or alignment.  A hero may attract followers.
A Viking Hero
Lord Levels 11+
The Lord is truly one of the most powerful members of the class and will often take an active role in the fate of the kingdom they inhabit.  Lords are likely to establish Strongholds and attract many lower lvl members of their class. Lords have access to very powerful abilities and represent the very pinnacle of achievement in their chosen profession.

A Viking Lord

I think in my B/X thing there will be certain rules and more indepth guidelines following this system which will be class specific. Also I want to include rules for starting a character at the certain tiers instead of always just starting at lvl 1 every time. I might call these things chapters instead of tiers in my stuff, to go along with the Hero Story kind of theme.

Friday, April 8, 2011

G is for Guard- Mouse Guard

Mouse Guard is an Eisner Award winning bi-monthly comic book series by David Petersen.  An excellent official Mouse Guard rpg game was created by Luke Crane- it uses a simpler version of the Burning Wheel system. Oh yeah; It won Best Role-Playing Game at the 2009 Origins Awards (beating D&D 4th ed!).

As I've said before, Mouse Guard is pimp as hell.  It's like Lord of the Rings meets Stewart Little.  Its about tiny medieval mice living in a properly scaled world.  Its not like Redwall where badgers and mice hangout together in castles- in Mouse Guard a badger could eat a whole mouse town in less than half an hour.  Mice are pretty much the most advanced species, the bigger an animal gets the more it acts like a real animal, thus a wolf or bear is probably scarier to your Mouse Guard character than a red Dragon would be to your D&D character.  The only other creature to use tools is weasels, they are about three times bigger than a mouse and are essentially bloodthirsty barbarians.  I really love Mouse Guard, the comics and the rpg.

Mouse Guard rpg features diceless character generation, instead you sit down as a group and each answer a lengthy questioniare.  Its an d6 system, 1-3 being failures, 4-6 being sucesses, the better you are at something the more dice you roll.  Evey part of the game just drips with atmosphere, you feel 100% like you are in the Mouse Guard world, its very immersive.

Probably the best thing though is the adventure layout.  You are given a clear mission,and the GM puts a few obstacles in the way - if you successfully overcome all the obstacles than you can complete the mission, good job. -Heres where it gets good, if the party fails the game doesnt stop- the GM can impose ethier a twist or a condition on the party. Heres an example:

The Mission - take a road that got washed out during the spring rains and deliver mail to the town of Barkstone.

The Challenge - take a pathfinder check to find your way safely to Barkstone. (Success: you get to Barkstone safe with mail. Failure: GM chooses one of the options below.)

  • Twist - a curious Raven spots the shiny buckle on the mail bag and swoops in to try to steal it, -combat. 
  • Twist -you drop the mailbag in a fast flowing creek swollen with snow thaw. The bag is sealed with wax and it should be possible to recover it, but the creek runs close to the weasel kingdom downstream.
  • Condition- the party makes it to Barkstone with the mail but they had to trail blaze through wet spring mud most of the way, the party has the tired condition for the rest of the adventure.
  This works great, failure = adventure in Mouse Guard. Its a very interesting approach and really fun to play, actually I think it works particularly well as a family game. I played it with my family and had a really good time, its a bit lighter theme wise than games like D&D, and yet still totally badass and heroic.
Yeah, Mouse dueling Owl. Hardcore...

Thursday, April 7, 2011

F is for Formation

The above image is titled The Fellowship, by AinuLaire, its pastel. (some slightly NSFW in there).

 I've been thinking about my B/X inspired adaptation thingy. None of my players have any intrest in it at all but I really like what I have so far.  I have been trying to think of a better name than "B/X inspired thingy" and so far have got two possible names: "Hero Story" and "Swords & Serpents", Hero Story is ok because I want it to be kind of narrative and play like a heroes life in a book. Swords & Serpents is stolen from an old Intellivision game me and my dad have been trying to beat for years. Maybe I will set up a poll and let you guys decide. 

Anyway, formation-marching order, whatever you want to call it. It is a big deal in oldschool games, its an even bigger deal in 3.5+ with the advent of grided tactical combat movement. Grided combat is cool, but it has alot of limitations and I argue it doesnt work in oldschool gameplay very well, you need a grided map of everywhere a fight could breakout,and grided combat is so slow and many times clunky. I think I have a fix.

In my B/X thingy party formation is going to be a huge part of the game. I will use it in place of tactical grid style combat, a more abstract way of tracking character movement that still alows character choice.  When I was younger we used something like this but it was never really cemented into the rules. Basically a character will be in a formation position at all times. Each role in each formation has different advantages and disadvantages and is more susceptible to certain threats.  Here are some formation types:

rear guard


on guard

on guard

Here is a breakdown for a formation:

Door Procedure
Focused - checks the door, if nothing noted joins center.
Vanguard-opens door, ready to face any forward threat.
Center- ready to act.
Rear Guard- not focused on door is alert to other surroundings.

More on this later as I work on it.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

E is for Evil PCs

My group and I started playing D&D when we were still in elementary school, we haven't grown up much since  then. Over the years there has been alot of party infighting, in fact the only TPKs have resulted from player vrs player combats.  Even when they aren't killing each other player pride and dickishness has shone through and made it difficult for the party to work together, (the party had a particular fondness for chaotic neutral..gah!)

Right at the end of high school the players decided they wanted to start a new game up, but with evil characters. There were a few evil wizards, a dark knight, and an evil ranger, one or two players were vampires. Funnily enough the party worked together during those sessions more than any other time we played. It was kind of creepy how well they all came together and razed a peasant village, they were genuinely going out of their way to be helpful to one another.

This summer when I head home the old group is going to get back together and start a party of lvl 10 evil heroes.  They have some plans in the works for becoming liches, raising armies, and toppling the kingdom of Taldor from the Pathfinder setting.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

D is for Dragon's Hoard

"Behind him where the walls were nearest could dimly be seen coats of mail, helms and axes, swords and spears hanging; and there in rows stood great jars and vessels filled with a wealth that could not be guessed." - The Hobbit

The above quote is from The Hobbit, and part of the description of Smaug's treasure. Here are two pictures of a Lego diorama I found online. It's called Smaug's Chamber and its by a fellow named Richard.

Here are some things that should be included in a treasure hoard:

Arms and armor (heavily ornamented)
Flawless gems,
Exceptional jewelery.
A special grand gem ( like the Arkenstone)
Grand crown of a dead king.
Precious statue.
Golden throne.
Magical staff, weapon, or armor.
Gold and silver plates bowls and cups,
Gold laced tapestry,
Mountain of coins,

When a party of lowly heroes slay a dragon and take the treasure hoard, they pretty much have it made. Seriously, why even try to total up that kind of wealth? buying a sword isnt ever going to be a problem again. Moreover that kind of money is enough to create more wealth if invested in the construction of a Keep, cuz then the heroes can start collecting taxes. I would certainly not go though the process of figuring out an exact gp figure for the hoard, I'd just tell the players "you each have a pile of treasure about as big as a house". At this point you can stop tracking gp scale wealth for the PCs, since they should be name lvl now that they own a treasure hoard and they should build their own strongholds. I will get to my complete thoughts on strongholds in a later post.  PCs now will have a treasure hoard supplemented by further income, so at this point PC wealth is measured in terms of special and magical items.  The problem with having a treasure hoard though, is that everyone will want it: every thief and adventurer in the land,  the brother of the Wyrm you just killed,  even the exiled king the dragon stole the hoard from in the first place.  The party will soon learn that slaying the dragon will have been the least of their worries.

Monday, April 4, 2011

C is for Cookie Golem

I mentioned the Cookie Golem in an earlier post. Although the Cookie Golem is one of the easiest constructs to build, their creation is not taken lightly, even foolhardy young Mages think twice before creating the dreaded Cookie Golem.  Cookie Golems are never loyal to any master and are fiercely independent as soon as they emerge from the oven, in fact most Cookie Golems attempt to kill their creator imediately. Fast ,deadly, and smart all Cookie Golems are expert escape artists. It is rumoured that escaped Cookie Golems form communites out in the wilderness.

A Cookie Golem if eaten alive gives some kind of really cool bonus... I donno, too sleepy.

Night gang.

Edit - So my intention with the Cookie Golem was to have a little creature that nearly any Animator could make, and there would be some kind of pretty good bonus for eating one, (I`m not sure what exactly, maybe fully heal the eater.)  On the flip side though Cookie Golems are tough little customers and don`t appreciate their master wanting to eat them.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

B is for Bard

Ah, the Bard. Commonly regarded as the worst class ever. I like the Bard however, and I think there is a place for them in my B/X inspired adaptation (need a good, short catchy name). In my B/X thing I want there to be a class which pairs directly with each ability score. For Charisma the class will be the lowly Bard.

I don't want my Bard having any real arcane spell ability, instead they gotta use their pure Charisma and musical talents to bring them victory. To this end, the Bard will be fairly combat capable but also needs more abilities to balance not having spells. I'm thinking they can try to charm and distract opponents with their music, inspire their friends and confuse their enemies. The Bard can also use their music to cancel certain charm and magical type effects which could harm the party. A bards music can cause some spells to fail. Additionally the bard will be very likeable because of their hopefully high Charisma, able to open doors for the party in town that would normally need to be kicked in by the fighter.

I know what I'm describing sounds alot like the 3.5 bard sans spells but I think in an Oldschool game those powers jump up a bit in terms of utility. Individually each little power I describe may be fairly insignificant, but when put all together it should create a class that is almost always useful to have around.

A is for Animator

Ok, so I realise its actually 5:00AM April 2nd.
But I haven't been asleep yet so I'm still going to post my A topic. I'll do the B topic later in the day.

I like Magic Users in theory, but on the table I have alot of problems with them. But anyway, I think there should be some dedicated sub classes for things like Necromancers, Alchemists, Illusionists, RuneSmiths, and Animators. I see the Animator class as the primary builders of magical constructs, in fact that's their main ability, with much less access to traditional spells then other Wizard types.

Animators start with the basic spell -'Animate Object' and the ability to animate two types of basic Golems: the Doll Golem and the dreaded Cookie Golem. At lvl 1 the Animator can create one lesser Golem as well, the Staw Golem, a very weak and flammable man shaped bundle of straw.

At lvl 2 the Animator gains the abilty to construct Rope Golems, they are very weak as well but are good at entangling and strangling opponents. Rope Golems are made of a single rope looped and tied several times to make a humanoid shape.

At lvl 3 the Animator can create Leather Golems, again they are fairly weak but are resistant to bludgeoning damage, the slap of their leathery arms can pack quite a sting. They are created from thick strips of leather stitched together.

At lvl 4 the Animator learns how to build Wood Golems. The Wood Golem's punch is quite powerful, but it is quite slow and ungraceful compared to the other lesser Golems.

At lvl 5 the Animator can build the ScareCrow Golem. The ScareCrow is a decently fast and powerful construct, built from an amalgamation of the materials used for the other lesser Golems. The ScareCrow is fairly intelligent and devious for a construct, they have a reputation for being disobedient to their masters.

Lvl 6 Clay Golem

Lvl 7 Flesh Golem

Lvl 8 StoneGolem

Lvl 9 Iron Golem

There are also rumors of other types of Golems which Animators can create.

I actually ran this class once several years ago, it was a big hit. Not sure if I like how the Golem building progression  works, I will get back to this class and Wizards in general at some point.