Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Firearm Mechanics And Statistics

Let's build some mechanics around the previous post.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Firearms

Yes, this EMP campaign will include firearms; it's the 17th century after all. They will be available for PCs and NPCs alike, with no vague prohibitions. Anyone who can afford one, can be trained in its use, and take care of a firearm can employ them as they see fit. I don't see any problem with having this piece of technology (or any time appropriate technology) enter into a fantasy game.

What follows is descriptions of firearms as they were known in 1618, consolidated so as to be usable for gaming without the minutiae. We'll get into mechanics in a follow up post.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Elven Game Lore

I've established Elves in the EMP campaign as a mostly nomadic people. If we take a lesson from Farm, Forge, and Steam to heart, we learn that "population dense agriculture trump[s] population diffuse nomadism (hunter-gatherer/herding). Always." So we create a little contradiction here, how have Elves remained a nomadic people through antiquity to the early modern period while sharing the continent with humans?

Farm, Forge, and Steam

I've been doing many posts on rules building lately, but that can get rather dry especially from the spectator's point of view. So let's go back to world building.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Statistic Tables

As the rules begin to slowly coalesce, I can create the stat tables to better communicate some of these changes.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Further Roll To Advance Considerations

Even if this system is off the table for now, I will finish specifying it in case it gets reworked.

Roll to Fail

In the comment section of a previous Roll to Advance post, I left a little sentence hanging at the end that spurred some further thought on this system.

"I hope it reaps rewards regardless of decoupling individual successes and rewards"

I guess I didn't think through this particular implication. This system effectively removes the link between risk and reward since experience rewards are static. I can't believe I missed this before. Why take on any risks if the experience rewards are the same for smacking some goblins or taking on a frost giant? Penniless squatters would be worth as much experience as the richest bandits.

Just completely wrong.

So for now, roll to advance experience is out. If I can reconcile this issue, maybe it can make a comeback. Until then, it's back to regular experience awards for hit dice and gold pieces.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Roll To Advance

As previously discussed, levels are obtained in a Roll to Advance scheme. Essentially, everyone earns one experience point per session and then rolls against a target number in order to level. Earned experience points modify the roll, as does race and class.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Experience and Character Advancement

Design Goal: Implement an experience system that rewards more than just killing monsters and earning money.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Skill Use For Any Character

Design Goal: Create a mechanic for character skills that allows for any class to attempt any skill while still giving Thieves the best chance to succeed.

Skills are a common sticking point when it comes to D&D. Most DMs have tried to tackle the problem of what happens when a fighter wants to move silently or a magic user wants to find traps. The goal here will be to give everyone a baseline chance to attempt a skill, generate some modifiers so that a character with exceptional abilities has that fact reflected in their skills, and still have Thieves be the best at what their class does. We will specifically focus on Thief skills here, but can expand this to other skills as well.

Skills

Every skill starts with a base 1 in 6 chance for success. Ability modifiers can be applied at a maximum of +/-1. Racial modifiers apply as detailed in each race's description. Let's develop each skill from there.

Pick Locks. Modified by Dexterity. Any character can attempt if he has lock picks.
Find And Remove Traps*. Modified by Wisdom. This skill is also a catch-all for detection skills. Elves would have a bonus here only if searching for hidden doors, Dwarves only if searching stonework, etc.
Move Silently**: Modified by Dexterity. Penalties due to armor worn apply: light armor -1, medium armor -3, heavy armor -5.
Climb Walls**: Modified by Strength. Penalties due to armor worn apply: light armor -1, medium armor -3, heavy armor -5.
Hide In Shadows: Modified by Dexterity.
Hear Noise: Modified by Wisdom.

For all of the above skills, Thieves receive a +1 bonus every third level. Thieves also have no penalty to their skills when wearing light armor.

We've achieved our Design Goal here, every character now has a chance to perform any skill, there is room for exceptional abilities to play a small role, and Thieves will always be better at these skills in the long run. The choice to add +1 every third thief level is to mimic and linearize the actual wacky %s listed in the Advanced Edition Companion. We sacrifice some granularity to gain some simplicity.

In addition, we roll a mechanic for armor modifiers into skill use. We also open up thieves with an added option to forgo their skills to wear armor, giving them a slightly better chance to survive combat. Of course, that choice still entails throwing away any decent chance at a move silently for a backstab in combat. A very high level thief would be able to even wear medium armor and still have a decent shot at their skills.

* These skills primarily work through character action. For example, if a character uses a pole or staff to prod the ground in front of him, he WILL detect a hole in the ground directly in front of him that is covered by a thin blanket of leaves and twigs. Using a roll is a catch all method for "I look for traps." Similarly, if an object is hidden under a bed, for example, anyone who says "I look under the bed" finds it. A roll for finding hidden items/doors is the catch all for "I search the whole room."

** These skills are modified by common sense. A guard who is napping is easier to sneak past and a rough wall with many hand holds is easier to climb.

Design Goals

So as I've been working through these rule changes in my head and then trying to transcribe them into words, I inevitably get halfway through a post and ask myself "Why?" I am having a hard time giving myself a really good answer.

Some ideas would make for nice alternative rules or just as thought experiments, but when it comes down to actually improving the game, they are minor tweaks at best and just unneeded complication at worst. I am seeing this come about from my methodology of meticulously going through the rule sections. It just seems I am finding areas to change that don't really NEED it.

So in order to get myself on track with changing rules to improve the game rather than to just change rules, I am going to go with a new design methodology. I am going to start with a Design Goal and proceed towards what rules changes would best fulfill that goal. Here's an example:

Design Goal: Allow greater freedom for players to create the type of characters that they want.

This goal comes from the frustration of level limits, restrictions on class and race combination, and ultimately having people settle on what character to play. I like how 3e really opened up character generation options. While they quickly went overboard with prestige classes, splat books, and an overall emphasis on 'character builds,' I prefer to open options rather than to restrict them.

So that is why I threw out all level limits, restrictions on race/class combination, and allow any combination of classes to be used in multi-classing.

Design Goal: Giant monsters and animals are too easy to kill.
Design Goal: 1st level characters are especially fragile.

Ok, so this is post facto reasoning for the mass within hit points system. Either way, it gives 1st level characters more durability and helps to separate PCs from average people without creating "NPC classes" or "0 level" NPCs. In addition, big monsters have more hit points without hurting all the mechanics that are built around Hit Dice.

Moving forward, I am going to actually put the design goal ahead of the rule changes whereas previously I have been putting the rule changes ahead of the design goal.

The little fiddly rule changes are best made as rulings on the fly and then slowly incorporated into the rules in general rather than front loading the system before play even begins.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Saints of Bohemia

Something I came across, these patron saints of Bohemia will probably come in handy while developing the EMP campaign. I plan on having the game world open in this area in the times leading up to the Defenestration of Prague and eventual rebellion.

Placed here so I don't lose it!

St. Wenceslaus

(Also Vaclav, Vaceslav.)

Duke, martyr, and patron of Bohemia, born probably 903; died at Alt-Bunzlau, 28 September, 935.

His parents were Duke Wratislaw, a Christian, and Dragomir, a heathen. He received a good Christian education from his grandmother (St. Ludmilla) and at Budweis. After the death of Wratislaw, Dragomir, acting as regent, opposed Christianity, and Wenceslaus, being urged by the people, took the reins of government. He placed his duchy under the protection of Germany, introduced German priests, and favoured the Latin rite instead of the old Slavic, which had gone into disuse in many places for want of priests. Wenceslaus had taken the vow of virginity and was known for his virtues. The Emperor Otto I conferred on him the regal dignity and title. For religious and national motives, and at the instigation of Dragomir, Wenceslaus was murdered by his brother Boleslaw. The body, hacked to pieces, was buried at the place of murder, but three years later Boleslaw, having repented of his deed, ordered its translation to the Church of St. Vitus in Prague. The gathering of his relics is noted in the calendars on 27 June, their translation on 4 March; his feast is celebrated on 28 September.

Mershman, F. (1912). St. Wenceslaus. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved November 18, 2010 from New Advent: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15587b.htm

St. John Nepomucene

In his early childhood, John Nepomucene was cured of a disease through the prayers of his good parents. In thanksgiving, they consecrated him to the service of God. After he was ordained, he was sent to a parish  in the city of Prague. He became a great preacher, and thousands of those who listened to him changed their way of life. Father John was invited to the court of Wenceslaus IV. He settled arguments and did many kind deeds for the needy people of the city. He also became the queen's confessor. When the king was cruel to the queen, Father John  taught her to bear her cross patiently. One day, about 1393, the king asked him to tell what the queen had said in confession. When Father John  refused, he was thrown into prison. A second time, he was asked to reveal the queen's confession. "If you do not tell me," said the king, "you shall die. But if you obey my commands, riches and honor will be yours." Again Father John  refused. He was tortured. The king ordered to be thrown into the river. Where he drowned, a strange brightness appeared upon the water. He is known as the "martyr of the confessional." He is patron of Czechoslovakia, where he is invoked against floods and against slander. His feast day is May 16.

 http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=690

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Ontological Consequences of No Raise Dead

My position on no Raise Dead does create some interesting questions as to the nature of the campaign setting. Rather than trying to stress myself with definitive and logical answers, I'll just explore the ideas and then leave them be. Ultimately, the answer is of little importance so long as Clerics are casting spells.

Since Jesus is the only person to have ever resurrected, the monotheistic God of Abraham is definitely the supreme power in the universe. There's no doubt that he is the big man. But I also want to have Clerics of pagan religions, Druids, and spell casters who follow all of the world's religions.

Can they coexist? Is it that only the mortal followers of God who insist all other beliefs are false? Or maybe all other divine powers are actually derived from Satan, channeled through and disguised so as to lead souls away from the path to God?

From a game mechanics point of view, Druids and Clerics can choose any religion and still cast spells. Ultimately, the answer to this question isn't really necessary. Maybe it will come up one day in play, but until I actually start a campaign, I can't even begin to start on the way to reaching that need.

So just food for thought.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The One True Resurrection

In my previous post on Clerics and magic in the EMP, I didn't pick out any spells in particular to focus on. When I get back on track and start going through the rule book in order again, I will address spells at that time. However, there is one issue that would fit better here and now.

Raise Dead

Without the Resurrection, Christianity doesn't really exist. If anyone could be raised from the dead, than Christianity doesn't really exist either. I hope this is obvious.

So there has only been 1 resurrection, THE Resurrection. The ability to raise the dead is explicitly off limits, unless you are the Son of God.

This will have implications for this campaign as a game setting. Without the ability to raise a high level character, the game has taken on a distinctly new feel. I will come back to this theme throughout constructing both the world and the rule set in order to make some tweaks.

But for now, it stands at NO Raise Dead.

Friday, November 12, 2010

S&W White Box: Session 17, 11/8/10

Schedules have gotten pretty bad all around. Donovan has been MIA for almost a month due to work, Bill is down to bi-weekly due to his new job, and I am truant as always. Either way, we did find time to meet up this past Monday.

I'm playing a Cleric now, Frederick Bartholomew, after the passing of Gloin so there's a shift in perspective. Oscar is the other Cleric and Drew is the magic-user. Bill is DM and Donovan is MIA, but would be playing a Dwarf were he here.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Divine Magic and Clerics in the Early Modern Period Campaign

At some point, magic has to be reconciled with reality when creating a campaign based on some semblance of Earth. It is a common topic among DM's who go the stimulationist or historical route and it often manifests itself in Clerics, divine magic, and healing spells.

The Catholic Church held great power through most of its history due to its position as the mortal connection between man and God. The reckoning comes into play when you try to imagine a Catholic Church that could also demonstratively show its divine favor by healing wounds, curing sickness, and being able to perform multiple miracles a day. So let's reconcile this issue.

Look back to the hobby's roots in Chainmail and OD&D. A first level Fighting-man (or Fighter in AD&D parlance) was considered a veteran. This was a man who had fought in battles, faced his own death, and presumably killed a man. He was a trained warrior, not a neophyte facing battle for his first time. The precedent here is that even a first level character is a cut above the average person. Secondly, Clerics did not receive their first spell until second level. This was often justified as a requirement that a Cleric had to demonstrate his faith before his deity would deign to grant him divine power.

So let's extrapolate this a little. Most clergy in the EMP are not capable of channeling God's power into spells. Practically every manor had a chapel and every village a church of some sorts. The main spiritual requirement for this type of priest would be the ability to perform the sacraments (baptism and last rights at an absolute minimum) and lead prayer or conduct mass through some sort of missal or spiritual tract. Even after Gutenberg's printing press, Bibles were still not widespread and definitely still expensive. They were also still in Latin for the most part; vernacular was just beginning to enter into religion due to the efforts of reformers and 'heretics' in general.

A priest of this caliber is not going to be casting any spells. The majority of peasants and serfs would not be living in a community with a divine leader with the ability to perform miracles. You can see where this is going, the reconciliation here will be via scarcity. The potential to heal wounds miraculously and perform miracles will still be existent, but not common place. This feeling can be forced into a kind of anachronistic reality if you take the perception of a common man in that miracles really can be performed, but they usually manifest themselves as stories of how a man was saved over in another town by a traveling healer. We should only be so lucky, or faithful, or penitent, or flagellant, to experience one ourselves.

So who can cast divine spells? Mechanically, all Clerics can, as well as Druids and the other classes that gain spell casting at higher levels. In terms of lore, only someone particularly dedicated to God would have this ability:
  • Traveling Friars. Friars were typically better educated and traveled than priests in a rural church. Historically, they preached directly to and lived among peasants, were invited by a local priest, and were required to give a portion of all offerings to the inviting Church. This could still lead to problems as a friar would be more liked than the local priest. For a fantasy setting, it makes for an excellent idea for a Player Character. While a PC won't be role-playing traveling and preaching, it does provide the context for why a Cleric would be adventuring.
  • Monks And Monastic Orders: Monastic orders can represent people of particular faith and dedication so as to be able to cast spells. The long litany of orders, both Catholic and even some Reformed, provide plenty of room to create Divine casters that are still removed from every day concerns, preserving scarcity.
  • Pardoners and Inquisitors: Pardoners offered indulgences to allow people to literally pay for their sins to be forgiven. They could have the ability to call upon miracles or could just be charlatans looking to fleece the flock. Inquisitions still occurred in the EMP, just none so infamous and widespread as the Spanish and Portuguese versions. In general, an inquisition was used to rout out heresy, and with the Reformation, there was plenty of heresy to be found. Inquisitors could have been granted spell casting ability due to their dedication to orthodoxy.
  • Heretics And Reformers: Basically one in the same, depending on which side of the conflict you were on. A dedication to reforming religion, getting close to God, or a deep idealism could all be grounds for earning the right to cast spells.
In the end, I'm attempting to preserve some sense of sanity in a world with divine magic. History doesn't really make any sense if every community had priests to cure wounds and save lives. From the gaming perspective, we can have a huge clergy without having Clerical magic become trivial either.

That does leave one loose end, the raising of the dead. That will be covered in a post unto itself.

    Sunday, November 7, 2010

    Historical Resources - Fief: A Look at Medieval Society from Its Lower Rungs

    Fief: A Look at Medieval Society from Its Lower Rungs by Lisa J. Steele provides an excellent overview of historical Norman manorial society in the Middle Ages. The material covers England and northern France, and mentions Norman Sicily as well, from roughly the 10th to 14th centuries. The author touches upon nearly every subject from defining the Three Orders to agriculture and architecture through governance, society, the parish, and even warfare.

    Where Ms. Steele hits her material with appreciable breadth, she doesn't penetrate too deeply into any one subject. The introduction states the book is a "primer on medieval life for fantasy gamers, SCA enthusiasts, and others interested in knowing what made society tick in the days of crusading knights and the Black Plague." That accurately describes the content of the book. For those who have never shown an interest in looking at the actual historical framework that D&D assumes, this is an amazing introduction to the material. For those looking for deep analysis, usable figures, and concrete game material, this book would require further research and work.

    For example, there are price lists for common items, fines and fees for transgressions of manorial laws, and even upkeep fees for knights attending tournaments. However, the numbers are mostly presented as is, without explanation as to why prices can widely vary (up to a factor of 10) between certain years. It is certainly good fodder to work with, but nothing that can be used as is.

    Personally, the material provides good reinforcement for what I already know. The time period and location depicted are outside of the scope of my Early Modern Period campaign. Yet, manorialism was still strong in the Holy Roman Empire at the time my campaign is set. So the material is still pertinent.

    Monday, November 1, 2010

    World Building Resources: Grain Into Gold

    I just finished reading Board Enterprise's Grain into Gold: A Fantasy World Economy. It is a well thought out explanation of agricultural industry for a pseudo-realistic Middle Ages setting. The author, John Josten, uses a sound methodology; he bases his calculations on the "gold standard" of wheat. Seeing as how wheat is a fundamental food for survival and nearly all rural industry (of the time) goes towards its production, this makes for a very realistic and logical economic construction. From there, an entire rural economy is crafted with considerations for transportation to market towns and beyond.

    Overall, this pdf provides insight into how each product is created and what would influence its price. The author presents a fast and simple methodology for incorporating a wealth of variables into a working economic model. For example, take growing wheat. A farmer starts off with a certain acreage of crop, then accounts for a certain % yield and then a required % that has to be set as seed for the next year. Then, the wheat has to be milled with a certain efficiency, minus the cut a miller takes. Then consider taxes and fees, and you have a logical yield and price for wheat that a farmer would see.

    Yet, the wheat doesn't stop there. The miller has a portion of flour and, hopefully, the farmer has some excess. So how does that move through a pseudo-historical economy? Well, the miller prices his flour in order to secure a certain profit or daily wage. From there, the flour can be made into a wide array of food products, with each craftsman boosting the price according to the profit or wage they want to make and the complexity of their trade. So there are price points for wheat and its derivatives at nearly every point of production, whether you would want to buy wheat from a farmer, flour from a miller, bread from a baker, pastry from a chef, or a meal at a tavern. Of course, taxes and transportation sit over all of these price points, simulating common sense demands for moving goods to markets and beyond.

    So iterate on that basic idea for other products and you get the cost of meat, cloth, beer, and even metals and precious gems. The finished product of this system creates an enormously helpful baseline of prices all relative to grain. With a spreadsheet, all of these prices can be instantly flexible according to how a harvest runs in a year, or based off of different products, or tweaked according to varying effects of each factor or refining step.

    At the end of the book, a table of prices is presented along with standard yields of different crops and food animals. This supplement is valuable for introducing a methodology to establish a credible economy, rather than just using the fiat and arbitrary numbers that most games incorporate into their item lists. This will be a great resource when I get to the economic sections of this Early Modern Campaign.

    Thursday, October 28, 2010

    Gamer ADD?

    So I've been working on developing a historical town for the beginning of an Early Modern Campaign setting. I was creating a town in Bohemia where the first events of what would turn into the 30 Year's War first started to brew. After a significant amount of research, I realized that many of my assumptions I had made at the beginning were just wrong. Essentially, I had 'wasted' my time and the town I was creating never existed.

    So it got me thinking, why am I holding myself to a rigorous historical standard? So what if the town I made was not even close to what it was in 1618? I can still use what I have created and just drop the pretentiousness of a rigorous historical representation.

    So I followed this line of thought and have been considering dropping the whole "earth" geography. I still want to create a D&D campaign based on the actual time period. Yet, I am still ambivalent.

    So on one hand, I can either use real world geography and just rework it to my needs (Oh, there's no major town here? There is now!) or grab a supplement like Greyhawk or HarnWorld and just similarly rework it to my needs. Does it make much of a difference? In the micro-sense, it doesn't really make a difference. Only in the big picture, if the PCs care, is there a difference, such as, would you rather crusade for Pelor or the Counter-Reformation?

    So I'm torn if I just don't want to go back to a fantasy setting that is already "spec'ed" out for use in an RPG or adapt history/earth to a fantasy game...

    Or is this just gamer ADD and I need to stick to one course of action until completion?

    Saturday, October 23, 2010

    S&W White Box: Recap; Session 16, 10/11/10

    Been a while since we've had a recap, so let's go with...

    Monday, October 11, 2010

    EMP: Section 1 Characters - Human

    Well, no inspiration has struck me lately regarding my racial issues, so I will go ahead and move on to Humans.

    Wednesday, October 6, 2010

    S&W White Box: Recap; Session 15, 10/4/10 SUPER SECRET PART 2

    There's more! You might want to read the first part before going further...

    S&W White Box: Recap; Session 15, 10/4/10

    Well, this is session 15 and the last report I have up is from #12. That's how long I've been absent from the weekly gaming sessions... Plus our usual recap writers have either been busy with work or missed a session here or there. Read on, this recap is a big one. I'm sorry I missed it!

    Wednesday, September 29, 2010

    Questions...

    and as usual, not enough answers. I'm still stuck on how I want to treat Half-Elves and Half-Orcs, and if/how I want to tweak Gnomes to differentiate them from Dwarves, mechanically speaking. So here's a quick brainstorming session with no resolution.

    1) Change nothing. Leave the mechanics the same and integrate bi-racial characters into the lore.

    2) Throw out half races all together.

    3) Doing a little thievery from 3e, have Gnomes be able to cast a cantrip per day and remove their magic saving throw bonus. I am on the fence about this for a few reasons. Originality for one. More importantly, what does a race of people who are all (or nearly all) capable of casting a cantrip per day look like? What if each of us could perform some minor feat of magic every day? I sure as hell wouldn't have to go to Goodyear if my damn tire runs flat. Regardless, it does give 'flexibility' to a Gnome. Meaning, it easily explains them as a 'tinkering' race that can use magic in their crafts and other pursuits.

    4) Re-imagine. Change any or all of the races in question into a new trope. Think fey "lawn gnomes," changelings, some sort of lycanthrope (Human by day, Orc/Elf by night or some other cycle), maybe mimic OD&D's Elf race/class and have a Half-Elf/Orc choose to "be" a Human/Elf/Orc per day or adventuring session. Basically, a total overhaul.

    So what option is best? My ultimate goal is to help differentiate these races. Gnomes and Dwarves have very similar mechanics, Half-Elves are watered down versions of Elves, and the same with Half-Orcs. So is a chance necessary to introduce meaningful choices, or is it a moot point?

    Friday, September 24, 2010

    Bi-racial Characters

    It is odd to think of Half-Elves, Half-Orcs, etc, as bi-racial. It is such a loaded term in our PC real world, but no one bats an eye at it when playing RPGs. Either way, that is not the main topic for this post.

    I was getting ready to do a write up for Half-Elves and Half-Orcs when I realized that they both suck. What is a Half-Elf really? It is a lame concept both mechanically and stylistically. Mechanically, you get a watered down version of Elf bonuses with a slightly wider selection of classes. In the EMP campaign, they are further reduced to just sucky Elves since there are no class/race/level restrictions.

    As far as style goes, the popular conception is that "they seldom fit into either society." So I guess this is the emo generation version of a role playing character despite its assumed accuracy according to what some bi-racial people probably face in their lifetimes. Regardless, it ultimately feels like fodder for campy dramatics, grandstanding, and look-at-me RPing.

    Half-Orcs are actually significantly better than the hippy light Half-Elf, but they still fall down in both categories. Mechanically, they work almost the same as Elves and Half-Elves with infravision and enhanced detection rolls while only missing paralysis resistance. Their ability modifiers do differentiate them while at the same time shoehorning them into fighter roles (bonus to STR and CON, malus to CHA). So you get a "combat" version of an Elf or Half-Elf.

    For style, they do get points for at least being a crossbreed with an evil humanoid. It is much easier to create something unique by smashing together two dissimilar things rather than two similar races. It takes some effort, but they can be more than just "ugly humans" or brutish warriors. Granted, you can say the same thing for Half-Elves (or any race/stereotype/trope), yet, Half-Orcs at least have a better perceived conflict between a human and orcish ancestry.

    So I am left with a few decisions here. As far as mechanics go, I can leave them be and just have the roles stay the same or I can work to create a meaningful choice here. As far as style and game lore, I can work with both but the Half-Elves especially would need a solid re-imagining. Or I could just tank both races all together and get much closer to the  roots of the game.

    EDIT: Looking back at the rest of the races, Gnomes and Dwarves kind of fall into this sameness trap. The major difference is their class selection, again gone with this EMP campaign. Perhaps I will have to revisit these races and help differnetiate the Gnome, perhaps by taking their ability to be Illusionists from the standard rule set and converting that into something for the EMP rule set. 

    Tuesday, September 21, 2010

    Inspiration From Microprose

    Inspiration can strike from odd places. One particular source of ideas for creating this Early Modern Campaign setting and general feeling is the 1992 Microprose game Darklands, a contemporary in the great era of games like X-Com and Civilization.

    Darklands is a sandbox RPG set in the Holy Roman Empire in the 15th century. The setting concept is unique and very enjoyable. Essentially, you are playing in 15th century Germany as imagined by the people of the time. In effect, superstitions, rumors, myths, and legends are all real. So pagans really do meet in Covens to sacrifice the un-Baptized to summon demons, Gnomes live in deep mines, and Dragons roam the countryside along with all the other things that go bump in the night. More interesting, 'magic' is performed through the intercession of Saints and alchemists can create wondrous potions with a philosopher's stone.

    The mundane is covered as well, from encounters with pilgrims and traveling clergy to corrupt Raubritters (robber barons of Medieval Germany) and a well presented, historical social structure. Travel on foot by road or overland is long and perilous, whereas the best way to make a long trip is on river transportation. Cities are named historically and linked by the actual rivers in Germany, making for a good representation of actual geography. Other touches go a long way to making a fun, believable setting, such as how camping in the woods on an estate owned by a local noble runs the risk of a confrontation or the fact that not every village is friendly (and might house witches preparing for a coven!).

    The game is also emblematic of sandbox play. There is no hackneyed plot development right in the introduction, no call to arms or quest to complete soon as you press Play. You can go a good while playing around before you even find the first thread of the overall plot. Plus, the game doesn't end after the final confrontation, allowing further play.

    It's amazing that the game captures so many aspects that I want to have in this EMP game. A marriage of the realistic with fantasy, a strong nod to actual history (all the Saints are the real, Catholic ones), and open ended game play. A strong tone is set that parallels low level play in D&D, namely, at the beginning of the game, you are very mortal. However, there is nothing stopping players from tackling any challenge and even having a chance at success right at the game's start. For example, dealing with a Raubritter by challenging him and his retinue of men in their own keep is suicide until your characters gain in strength. However, you can still attempt and succeed at assassination and sabotage, either sneaking in to fight the Raubritter in his bedchamber or setting fire to his keep. Darklands is a great representation of many of the tenants of D&D in video game form.


    The game itself can be found at your local abandonware site, like Abandonia.com. I don't think Microprose will mind anymore.

    Sunday, September 19, 2010

    EMP: Section 1 Characters - Halfling

    Gnome

    Requirements, Ability Modifiers, and Ability Min/Max are all by the book.

    Racial Characteristics are the same as the LL version, with the following changes:

    * Halflings may disappear in the wilderness and Hide in Shadows on a 5-in-6 chance with suitable outdoor cover. Halflings receive a +1 to Hide in Shadows when underground. There are no further modifications to Skills.

    * Halflings receive no modification to initiative rolls (initiative will be covered in a future section).

    * Halflings recieve +1 to attack with missile weapons

    * Halflings gain a 2 point advantage to Armor Class when facing creatures greater than human sized. [We can incorporate the hit point rule to define these creatures as anything with a HD type greater than a D8.] [The decisions about ascending or descending armor class has not been made yet, so the wording on the AC bonus remains vague. But the absolute value is set].

    * Halflings may only speak their native tongue unless they have exceptional intelligence or are taught another language.

    * Halflings receive +2 to DEX saves, +4 to CON saves, and +4 against any magical effect (not cumulative with the prior two saves).

    Game Lore

    Halfling civilization took form in Iberia and they are believed to be the first creatures living there even before Human migration. These diminutive people quickly spread out from their homelands and established themselves as wanderers, explorers, traders, and travelers. Filled with a sense of wanderlust, they feel equally at home enjoying good times in their hillside homes or enjoying all that the world offers.

    Halflings have been pervasive in Human history. Halfling traders brought first brought grain from Egypt into Rome, were a economic and cultural link between the Moslem and Christian worlds, traveled the Silk Road with Marco Polo, sailed with Columbus to the New World, and are keen on penetrating the interior of Africa. Their influence is so far and wide that the Halfling language is practically the lingua franca for traders, explorers, and diplomats far from home.

    Halflings are found in nearly any profession that offers them the opportunity for good riches or a good adventure. Despite being small in stature, they have been known to show great strength and ingenuity when underestimated.

    Thursday, September 16, 2010

    EMP: Section 1 Characters - Gnome

    Gnome

    Requirements, Ability Modifiers, and Ability Min/Max are all by the book.

    Racial Characteristics are the same as the LL version, with the following changes:

    * Gnomes retain their enhanced detection abilities as per LL rules, but there are no modifiers to Skills.

    * Gnomes may only speak their native tongue unless they have exceptional intelligence or are taught another language.

    * Gnomes receive +2 to DEX saves, +4 to CON saves, and +2 against any magical effect (not cumulative with the prior two saves).

    Game Lore

    Gnomes are a cousin species to Dwarves and share some of their characteristics but are still a unique people. Where Dwarves would ply their arts for practical purposes, Gnomes would tends towards the fantastic. Their homelands exist in the Alps and Pyrenees along with the hills and lowlands that connect them. Living in these mountainous regions and spending much of their time underground, Gnomes developed a different relationship with ancient Human civilizations.

    Gnomes enjoyed relative peace and quiet with their neighbors in Hispania, Gaul, and Cisalpine Gaul through much of the Republic years of Rome. They were accused, at various times, of supporting both 'sides' through history, such as Hannibal over the Alps and Julius Caesar in Gaul. Regardless, Gnomes traded extensively with their Human neighbors but were able to resist Romanization and Christianization by virtue of their mountainous homelands.

    Some people, and many Gnomes, say that these stout people were the true Renaissance men who brought about Europe's rebirth instead of the artisans of northern Italy. In modern times, Gnomes share dominion of the Alps with the Swiss, helping to reform the Swiss Confederacy's army and technology, and are associated with the Basque peoples of the Pyrenees, much to the chagrin of both Spain and France.  Gnome adventurers and tinkerers are found throughout Europe and are appreciated for their talents with less prejudice than many people have of the Dwarven race.

    Monday, September 13, 2010

    EMP: Section 1 Characters - Elf

    Elves

    Requirements, Ability Modifiers, and Ability Min/Max are all by the book.

    Racial Characteristics are the same as the LL version, with the following changes:

    * Elves receive their +1 to Hear Noise and can detect secret doors on 1-2 on a D6, but there are no other modifiers for skills.

    * Elves may only speak the Elven language unless they have exceptional intelligence or are taught another language.

    Game Lore

    The Elves as a people developed as hunter gatherers, ranging out into the forested fringes of Europe from Ireland through northern Germany to the steppes of Russia. There are even rumors of Elves who migrated beyond the great Asian land mass and into the jungles of the Orient and Far East. Rumors from the New World even place Elf-like beings across the Atlantic as well.

    Elves developed their civilization and society in relative proximity to early, pre-Roman humans, with a mixed history of competition, cooperation, and warfare that characterizes the typical clash of civilizations. The Romans viewed the Elves as 'barbarians' just as much as native humans in the ever expanding frontiers of the Empire. The Elves varied in their response to the Romans, with integration, extinction, and migration all being common.

    Over time, Elven people began to more closely resemble their human neighbors, even to go so far as to cross-breed in enough numbers that Half-Elves were recognized as a race unto itself. However, a backlash was in the making.

    The Dark Ages was just as trying for Elves as it was for humans, with the upheaval of Muslim conquests, the Migration Period, and the changes in society since the decline of the Roman Empire. With the Black Plague and recurring famines of the 14th century, Elven society took a dramatic step.

    Blaming the seemingly irreversible tide of civilization, Elves sought to retreat from the strife and suffering that seemed common in a period of ever more frequent peasant revolts, the Hundred Years' War, and recurring epidemics and famine. This retreat was literal, with the majority of Elves picking up and moving farther away from cities and feudal lords and back into the wilderness of their ancestors.

    Today, Elves have struggled to re-integrate into a semi-nomadic, hunter-gatherer society. A heavy reliance on Druidism and nature magic has helped them adjust, but it remains to be seen how this experiment will ultimately impact the race as a whole.

    Elves who take up the life of an adventurer will find many opportunities to exploit their keen senses, talent for martial arts and magic use, as well as their connection with nature.

    Thursday, September 9, 2010

    Scope And Perspective

    When I write lore for the campaign setting, my main goal is to NOT over specify everything. I have to fight back the urge to write tomes upon tomes of flavor and history. In the end, I want the game to be open ended for the players to decide their place. I don't want to have races or ethnicity or classes railroaded into my Vision. I'd rather keep it vague and poorly defined and let it become more concrete through actual play.

    The lore will be written from a "human" perspective. What I wrote in the entry for the Dwarf race is a good example, I hope. It covers a period of over 2000 years (~1000 BC to 1600 AD) very briefly and is limited in perspective. Ultimately, there would be nothing written and very little myth from farther back than that outside of the ancient cultures in Egypt, Mesopotamia, and China.


    I'm also writing with the assumption that there is a certain level of general knowledge of our shared, actual history and geography. While I know that is not the case, I will try my best to make it transparent during game play.

    EMP: Section 1 Characters - Dwarf

    Dwarf 

    Requirements, Ability Modifiers, and Ability Min/Max are all by the book.

    Overall, I am not going to change races much from their fantasy norms and established LL rule set. The only flavor changes will be to incorporate and locate them with the pseudo historical Early Modern Period.

    Racial Characteristics are the same as the LL version, with the following changes:

    *Dwarves retain their "2 in 6 (1-2 on 1d6) chance of detecting traps, false walls, hidden construction, or noticing if passages are sloped." This ability is only applicable in dungeons, castles, and other buildings and constructions. There are no other adjustment to skills.

    *Dwarves may only speak the Dwarven language unless they have exceptional intelligence or are taught another language.

    *There are only going to be 3 saving throws, based on Constitution, Dexterity, and Wisdom. [I am throwing around names for them in my head, for now I will just refer to them as CON DEX and WIS saves.] Dwarves receive +2 to DEX saves, +4 to CON saves, and +4 against any magical effect (not cumulative with the prior two saves).

    Game Lore

    In ancient times, Dwarves lived around most of the Mediterranean world outside of the early Human empires in Egypt and Mesopotamia. With the rise of Etruscan, Carthaginian, and Grecian tribes, some Dwarves integrated with the emerging human civilizations and others migrated through northern Europe and into Eurasia and over the Ural Mountains.

    Those who stayed enjoyed good relations with their human neighbors, engaging in commerce and trade. Many early engineering feats accomplished at this time were with the help of Dwarven knowledge. As the Human Mediterranean peoples grew and clashed, Dwarves were eventually pushed out and away. The final blow came with the end of the Roman Republic and the dominance of the Roman Empire and its eventual acceptance of the Christian faith, over 1000 years ago.

    Dwarven people are a tough and adaptable folk and find pride in making their homes in inhospitable lands to call their own. Most major Dwarven settlements today are found in the Atlas Mountains and escarpments of North Africa, the cold northern mountain climes of Scandinavia, the Caucasus region around the Black Sea, and the Ural and trans-Ural areas. While old enmities have died down, most Dwarves are still apt to live in their close knit, isolated communities.

    The adventurous types are found scattered across Europe, Asia, and Africa, plying their respective trades. While a gruff and surly people in general, their skills are appreciated by many.

    Tuesday, September 7, 2010

    EMP: Section 1 Characters - Races

    Character Races

    Racial requirements for stats remains by the book, except there will be no difference for male and female characters. The requirements have to be met both BEFORE and AFTER stats have been modified for race.

    All character races have every class available to them with no level limits. 

    That is a pretty radical departure from LL and 1st edition. Ultimately, I want players to have lots of options. I'm not overly concerned with the 'balance' achieved with level limits nor the fantasy styling that says Dwarves don't cast spells or only Gnomes and Humans can be Illusionists. I will give something back to Humans since they now share the formerly unique quality to be any class and achieve any level.

    'Balance' is arbitrary and over-rated. What exactly are we balancing? One of D&D's core features is that every class offers a significantly different play experience. Balance is one of those concepts that is mostly useless for D&D. You can't run any kind of statistical analysis or use objective criteria in a game that is open to player and DM interpretation and collaboration. Ok, my Fighter variant is unbeatable in situation A, but a well run game should have nearly infinite situations. The obvious cases, like a class that has D20 for HD, casts spells, and can fly at will, are just that, obvious.

    Realistically, if someone can pull off amazing rolls and be an Assassin/Paladin, all the more power to them. According to their abilities, that type of character would be 'better' than a plain Fighter. Yet, a sandbox game is, ultimately, more based on player skill rather than character skill. Let the Assassin/Paladin be stronger than a Fighter; the players are pulling the strings and the game world reacts to the player's decisions, not the character's stats.

    Perhaps not every person is mature enough to see this. Maybe they have played in games where the play is mostly tactical and consists of miniatures and fights in hard coded rules and situations. Well, then they are not really playing D&D, at least, not the type on which I would want to base a campaign.

    As for style goes, that is an easy one. Each game world has its own style. If the DM chooses to mimic Tolkien fantasy or any established D&D setting, so be it. I'm creating my own style here, just as every DM should. Once you are in the realm of fantasy and fiction, the rules are all malleable. Sure, you sacrifice some of the familiarity and commonly held conceptions that transcend gaming tables, but you gain variety.

    Monday, September 6, 2010

    S&W White Box: Recap; Session 13, 8/30/10

    Here's a session I did make. It's been two delves now that the party has come up short on EXP and gold while facing heavy fighting. Hopefully, that big haul is just around the corner...

    SESSION THIRTEEN (08.31.10)
    Sunday the 2nd of Flocktime, CY 576

    Cast of Characters
    Galathos the Swordsman (3rd level Fighting-Man)
    Gloin the Dwarven Warrior (2nd level Fighting-Man)
    Old Man Halgron the Priest of St. Cuthbert (3rd level Cleric)
    “Willim” the hired lantern-bearer/porter
    Unnamed hobgoblin brave
    Unnamed hobgoblin brave
    MIA: Brother Samuel the Adept of St. Cuthbert (2nd level Cleric) 

    Readying themselves for conflict the party stepped past the southernmost pit and…peered down the southern corridor. Not detecting any orcish presence they decided to head west down a long corridor that doubled back east. As they marched along Gloin realized that the corridor they were following was set at a slight but steady and prolonged incline. With Galathos mapping their progress they quickly realized that something odd had happened. The corridor they were following should have brought them back to where they had been, but instead was leading them to foreign territory. Confused, they re-traced their steps and decided to investigate the sloping passageway at a later time. After all, they were charged with attacking the Bloody Axe orc tribe in exchange for the favor of the Flesh Render hobgoblins.

    At this point they headed east, stopping to investigate a room in which they found nothing of value and then continued north. After passing a set of stairs descending into the darkness they came to what one of their hobgoblin companions described as the territory of “bull men”. Their guides told them that the area was very dangerous and that the tribe kept away from the “bull men”. Realizing that their companions would not continue on in that direction they turned back and went east back at the room they had explored. They discovered that once again their path took them to the “bull men” where they turned back towards the intersection with the pit traps.

    Apparently, their presence had been noted and by this time the Bloody Axe orcs were waiting for the party. As the adventurers turned the corner of the corridor they were following they were ambushed by five orcs. In the confines of the corridor the melee was quick and deadly, with the adventurers besting the orcs but losing one of the hobgoblin braves in the process to friendly fire (taking Galathos’ ranseur in the neck brought about an end to his short career). After regrouping, the party continued into the adjacent room which contained a series of brass levers and bells and a second door. Leaving the odd items alone they focused on the other door exiting the room. Listening at the door, Galathos and Gloin were able to hear the sound of footsteps echoing in a corridor.

    Busting through the doorway they came to a split corridor with a group of orcs facing them from each side. A prolonged battle ensued, with Galathos and Old Man Halgron taking on the first group of orcs and Gloin and the remaining hobgoblin taking on the second group, with Willim the porter trying to stay out of harm’s way.  Eventually the battle came to an end, with the bruised and bloodied adventurers defeating the eight Bloody Axe warriors. Noting the courage and skill that the hobgoblin brave had demonstrated in battle, and in recognition of a particularly lucky and brutal strike that turned the tide of the battle the party christened the hobgoblin “Kritiquar”, a name that the humanoid seemed to greatly enjoy.

    As the party was licking its wounds, the porter came under fire by an orcish archer from the room they had cleared. Pulling the unnarmed servant safely out of the line of fire, the party met the orcs in the doorway where they eventually managed to bring them down. After looting the bodies of their meager possessions and bundling up weapons to sell back in town the party returned to the main staircase. Sending Kritiquar on his way back to the territory of the Flesh Renders, the party ascended to the surface.

    Coin: 8 gold orbs, 20 silver nobles, 50 copper commons
    KIA: 16 orcs
    Treasure: 30 gp worth of sundry orcish equipment
    Experience: 86 each (258 total)

    Friday, September 3, 2010

    EMP: Section 1 Characters - Hit Points

    Hit Points

    Hit Points will remain the same as specified per class in the LL book.

    The big change will be the consideration of mass into Hit Points. Essentially, by adding mass as a factor into determining hit points, we can make giant monsters truly dangerous without having to touch Hit Dice and all the mechanics based off of that. The design change here is made to the dice value of Hit Dice.

    For example, an Elephant is listed as 9HD in the LL book, meaning 40 hit points on average. I find it disturbing that you can kill a 6 ton beast so easily. I know hit points are an abstraction, but I want an army that fields elephants to be fearsome, rather than having a mobile target that takes 10 arrows or bolts then dies.

    So we start with the assumption that something with roughly the same mass as a human uses d8 hit dice and work from there. As a tentative working system, we can increase the die used every time mass doubles. So, d8 is for an 80kg human, d10 for a 160kg monster, d12 for 320kg, etc. This will create odd dice after this point, but that just means we use a digital random number generator to create D14 or D34. The elephant example (full sized African males weigh in around 5,500kgs) above would have 9HD at D20 for an average hit points of 95. Now we are talking about something fierce! Of course, this monster's to-hit, damage, saving throws versus effects, and susceptibility to effects by HD are all unchanged.

    This affects monsters mostly and will require some hand waving for monsters that don't have real life analogues in which to base their mass. In addition, it does have one major impact on PCs.

    All characters Hit Points are determined by summing HPs gained from chosen class and race. Bonuses from exceptional Constitution are only added once. Hit points from race never change during play.

    Upon reaching a new level, only class hit points are added to the total.

    Hit Points Due to Mass by Race


                     Race Hit Points
    Gnomes, Halflings     1D4
    Elves, Dwarves, Half-Elves     1D6
    Humans, Half-Orcs     1D8

    There is a little fudging here since the weights are pretty close to each other, but it works well enough and helps differentiate the player races.

    By giving players 2 dice worth of hit points at first level, there is no need to have a house rule for max HPs at first level or for re-rolling results of 1 or 2. With the use of 2 dice and the mini-bell curve, the majority of players will have the same amount of hit points as if they were given one full hit dice worth of HPs with the potential to have much more. A Half-Orc or Human Fighter could, with a little luck, have more than 10 hit points at first level.


    This system for hit points satisfies a number of design goals. It integrates the concept of mass into hit points, allowing for a more 'realistic' treatment of large monsters. In addition, it gives players more survivability at first level without resorting to simply giving away maximum hit points for everyone. It also helps differentiate races and offer more meaningful choices.

    Thursday, September 2, 2010

    EMP: Section 1 Characters - Stats

    So in an effort to develop this EMP campaign, I am going to go straight through the rule book. Here at the beginning, it will be more rules focused. Once I progress to the classes, equipment, spells, etc, more world building will come into play.

    Characters

    Ah, character generation. I am going to go mostly by the book here. The main difference will be breaking up bonus structures. For instance, Strength will help with weapon damage, but Dexterity will help with to-hit. I mostly want to get around the concept of dump stats by having each stat offer some bonus to every character class, even in small ways.

    Players roll 3d6 6 times and may arrange according to taste. I will use a general chart for stat bonuses and penalties, with a few exceptions for Skills since they will be based on a D6:


     3 = -3
    4 - 5 = -2
    6 - 8 = -1
    9 -12 = +0
    13-15 = +1
    16-17 = +2
      18 = +3
     
    STRENGTH modifies weapon damage as well as feats of strength, such as forcing doors. This score will also assist in climbing walls. (Note: Thief skills are going to be heavily reworked. They will be generalized for use by all characters, but then Thieves will have the best chance of succeeding on their rolls, especially in iconic Thief skills.)
     
    DEXTERITY modifies Armor class, to-hit, saving throws for avoiding effects, along with Picking Locks, Picking Pockets, Moving Silently, and Hiding in Shadows.

    CONSTITUTION confers a hit point modifier per hit die and modifies saving throws against effects against the character's body. It also determines resurrection and system shock survival.

    INTELLIGENCE governs the number of languages a character may speak and their ability to read and write. For Magic-users, this will also govern their spell learning probability and Magic-users of exceptional intelligence may also memorize an additional spell per day.

    WISDOM offers a saving throw modifier to effects against a character's willpower along with modifying their ability to Find and Remove Traps and Hear Noises. Clerics and Druids with exceptional Wisdom may also cast more spells per day, while those with below average Wisdom may find that they are not always successful when attempting to do so.

    CHARISMA confers a reaction adjustment during an encounter while determining the number and morale of retainers and henchmen. Characters with high Charisma scores also start play with more money due to their force of personality granting them additional resources through inheritance, patronage, or a well perpetrated scam.

    Experience Bonuses for Ability Prime Requisites remains by the book.

    Overall, the design goal here was to offer something for everyone in every stat and offer meaningful choices for the distribution of stats. This does have a downside though. For example, a thief would need a good Dexterity AND Wisdom score to gain bonuses to all of their skills or a Fighter would need Dexterity AND Strength for the full bonuses to hit and damage.
     
    One important factor here that is not yet apparent is the role that number of languages will play into World Building. As mentioned before, the EMP campaign will be human-centric. This will mostly manifest itself during game play, but one concession is made in the rules themselves. Non-humans do not start off speaking Common; therefore, players who choose a non-human race will at least require an Intelligence high enough to gain 1 additional language.

    Other effects of these statistics will show up in the sections on Skills, Saving Throws, and Spells.

    Wednesday, September 1, 2010

    Early Modern Period: Introduction and Required Reading

    I've decided to develop a historical fantasy campaign set in the early 17th century. Not like I have any plans to run this thing any time soon, but researching and building are fun in itself. The Early Modern Period (EMP) campaign will be a blend of historical realism and D&D fantasy. My "source books" will be scholarly, consisting of research into the time period. The creative side will be implementing the fantasy elements into a (hopefully) coherent and fun setting.

    For reference, my primary sources are the Seventeenth-Cen​tury Europe, Second Edition: State, Conflict and Social Order in Europe 1598-1700 (Palgrave History of Europe) by Thomas Munck, The Thirty Years War: Europe's Tragedy by Peter H. Wilson, and Pike and Shot Tactics: 1590-1660 by Keith Roberts. I'm sure that body of work will expand over time. There are also plenty of other resources sprinkled throughout the net, but the authoritative research will only be in published scholarly works.

    I plan on using Labyrinth Lord (LL) with the Advanced Edition Characters (AEC), so essentially 1st edition rules. I'll get started with world building and rule building by going through the LL books section by section and develop the rules and setting holistically. That should provide a strong framework going forward.

    Feel free to leave any comments or ask any questions!

    My Stack Is Bigger Than Yours

    We moved our game night to Tuesday to accommodate changing work schedules and as a result we are sharing Games HQ with 3 (!) other groups. I will only make 1 comment when comparing tables:

    On our table, we each have a little 25 page digest sized booklet of Swords and Wizardry and the DM has 3 hardcover AD&D books. Each PLAYER at the other tables had more than our entire group, including 2-3 different players handbooks and source books. One person walked in with his hands cupped at his waist and books stacked up to his chin.

    It's definitely not the size of the stack, but how you use it!

    Tuesday, August 24, 2010

    S&W White Box: Recap; Session 12, 8/23/10 PART 2

    Here's the session recap from our DM Bill, covering the parts after Fen Sen left the party. Now the events that I missed make sense:

    SESSION TWELVE (08.23.10)
    Starday the 1st of Flocktime, CY 576
    “The Dungeons”
    Level three of the dungeons below
     The Castle of the Mad Archmage

    Cast of Characters
    Dantry the Elven Warrior/Seer (2nd level Fighting-Man, 2nd level Magic-User)
    Fen Sen the Conjurer (3rd level Magic-User)
    Galathos the Swordsman (3rd level Fighting-Man)
    Old Man Halgron the Priest of St. Cuthbert (3rd level Cleric)
    “Harolde” hired lantern-bearer/porter
    “Karhle” hired lantern-bearer/porter
    “Willim” hired lantern-bearer/porter
    MIA: Gloin the Dwarven Warrior (2nd level Fighting-Man)


    Turning to the prisoners the party… dispatched one and slapped the other awake.

    Now that he had calmed down from the battle, Old Man Halgron realized that the creatures were hobgoblins and that he had some familiarity with their language. Informing the party of this they began questioning the creature. Deciding to take a slightly different tact with this prisoner than the last several they struck a deal: the party agreed to let the hobgoblin go after he escorted them out of the territory claimed by his tribe (the Flesh Renders) and directed them to the territory of the Bloody Axe orcs.

    Dutifully, the hobgoblin led them through the winding passageways past a room he referred to as the Flesh Renders’ shrine and a second room that he said held more carnivorous apes. After showing the party a hidden leg-catching pit trap he opened the door onto a long corridor, instructed the party to follow it, and gave them the number of paces between turns. His end of the bargain completed the hobgoblin began moving back to his tribe’s territory.

    At this Galathos became angry; he apparently had misunderstood the deal, quite possibly due to an error in the translation (handled by Old Man Halgron) from the Common tongue to the hobgoblin dialect of goblinoid. After some deliberation the party allowed the hobgoblin to depart. Once the creature was gone Galathos informed the party that he was headed back to the hobgoblin shrine to desecrate it. Arguing against him, Fen Sen was worried that angering the hobgoblin tribe would decrease their chance of leaving the Dungeons safely. Losing the argument the Conjurer began casting an enchantment on the Swordsman, who upon hearing Fen Sen’s chanting turned back and threw his club. Fen Sen managed to get his spell off first and Galathos’ club erringly hit the wall beside his head. The Fighting-Man dropped to the floor of the corridor in a loud metallic crash that echoed down the corridor and was fast asleep before his helmeted head hit the ground.

    Apparently roused by the sound of a nearly seven foot tall muscle bound warrior in full plate armor dropping to the ground the party was surprised by another floating pearlescent bubble. Not knowing what else to do the party hugged the walls of the corridor and hoped that the bubble would pass them by as it bounced in the air down the corridor towards them at an incredibly slow pace. Declining to walk away from the bubble they held their ground as it approached. As the bubble neared the Magic-User and Halgron (the first pair) it changed trajectory and bounced towards Halgron’s head. Perhaps slowed by his fascination of the mystical object he did not manage to duck and throw his shield up in time and took the brunt of the explosion which also caught Fen Sen and one of the porters (the next pair). Halgron and Fen Sen were seriously wounded and the poor hireling’s scorched corpse dropped to the ground.

    With the threat apparently over and the Fighting-Man still slumbering in his ensorcelled sleep, Fen Sen took Galathos’ maps and copied the corridors back to the surface down on a piece of his own parchment. Taking his remaining porter with him and barely speaking to the stunned party he departed off into the darkness. As the light from Fen Sen’s porter’s lamp retreated in the darkness the party collected their senses. Awakening Galathos, they followed Fen Sen’s path but he had already vanished. Deciding to rest up before progressing they holed themselves up in the secret rooms they had previously found and sealed the only entrance. With the Priest of St. Cuthbert sleeping, resting, and praying Dantry, Galathos, and his porter, Willim, took turns keeping watch. When the party was fully rested and one of the Cleric’s new spells cast to aid in their healing the party began pulling the stone blocking the secret entrance away. Hearing the crash of metal on stone immediately outside their resting place the Fighting-Man stopped. The sound of snarling and chest-thumping apes quickly began a chorus in the room outside.

    As the party waited trying to figure out how they were going to get out of their predicament, a guttural voice called out in hobgoblin. Again handling the translation for the party, Halgron brokered a deal with the hobgoblin chief (a fine specimen of a hobgoblin named Klvdart). Two of the Flesh Renders would accompany the party and in exchange for battling their rivals, the Bloody Axes, they would be allowed free passage through the Flesh Render territory. Not in much of a position of arguing, and finding the deal agreeable the party accepted the chief’s terms.

    The remaining members of the party followed the hobgoblin braves (for they soon learned that the two creatures were un-tested and un-bloodied youths) quickly and quietly through the winding passages. Spotting a set of double-doors halfway through their trip they were informed by their un-named hobgoblin guides (who would not be given names until after they were tested in battle) that beyond the doors was a staircase defended by dwarves that led to the surface. As the party progressed they were met up by Brother Samuel, another Cleric of St. Cuthbert. After exchanging pleasantries with Halgron, they continued on until they arrived at the trapped intersection before the orcish territory. As adventurers are wont to do, they did pause momentarily to inspect the pit traps. Thinking that two of the four traps seemed interesting, the party sent Brother Samuel down into the pit containing the skeletal remains of an adventurer. After claiming the coins and sword that the adventurer had left behind, the party pulled Brother Samuel back out. Climbing down into the pit with the orcish corpse and smoke the Cleric discovered that the smoke was noxious and had to cough off the sleepiness that was hitting him. Managing to stay awake he found that the orc was still alive, just deep in slumber. Clubbing the orc to death, Samuel claimed the orc’s possessions and was again pulled up out of the pit. Readying themselves for conflict the party stepped past the southernmost pit and…


    Coin: 10 gold orbs, 20 silver nobles, 20 copper commons
    KIA: 1 sleeping orc
    Treasure: used, rusty sword
    Experience: 8 each (32 total)

    S&W White Box: Recap; Session 12, 8/23/10 PART 1

    Odd session, which I missed of course. Here's Fen Sen's take on the expedition:

    "After slaying one of the orange things, Old Man Halgron recovered from his senior moment and told us they were hobgoblins and from his earlier adventures he had some custom with their speak. Moments after that revelation we heard the clattering of maille upon the stone steps. Into the light strode Dantry who after greating us all coordially by name then handed Kor a sealed parchment roll. Kor opened the note and told us he had urgent business in town and had to leave now. After a knowing look towards Galathos he quickly sprinted the way Dantry had come ignoring our offers to escort him to the main staircase.

    We returned to the task at hand with Halgron slapping the hobgoblin awake. After some amount of gibbering back and forth our cleric told us that his name was Spleensnarfer and he was of the Fleshrenders Clan in whose territory we now found ourselves. They warred with two orc clans, the Blood Axes and the Grinning Skulls and after some further gibbering we agreed to a truce. In exchange for his freedom he would escort us through their territory and show us the way to the Blood Axes. When returning to their territory on our way to the surface we would turn over orc scalps as proof of our actions in the Clan's favor and be granted safe passage.

    I thought it was a good arrangement for the time being as it potentially gave us a safe way to return to the surface when necessary, let us slay evil orcs, and potentially gain valuable information upon our erstwhile allies that we may put to good use when it came time to give them the eternal rest their evil so vastly craved.

    Spleensnarfer lead us south down the sloping passage past their shrine and their pet cage with three more giant apes to a door making sure we avoided the nasty pit trap near the door. While it was only five foot deep, it was spiked both on floor and walls. The wall spikes were angled downwards to further maim a victim when they attempted to remove their bleeding leg.

    At that point he told us, through Halgron of course, that the door marked the edge of their territory and then gave directions in paces to the territory claimed by the Blood Axes. It took a few minutes, with him demonstrating a pace for us to determine we needed to travel 260 feet west, turn south and travel another 90 feet, then head west for another ten feet, before finally turning south for another 90.

    With the first part of the bargain fulfilled we untied his hands and I attempted to return his weapon only to have Galathos snach it from my hands. He refused to hear reason, ignoring the fact that the hobgoblin named Spleensnarfer's word had been true and thus we should give him his weapon as a sign of our good intentions. I think the red of his hair seeped into his brain for he refused to give the creature its weapon.

    We sent him on his way and because I was unarmored and thus quieter, I was sent to make sure he went around the corner and returned to their main areas. With the big man acting more beastly than our former guide I decided it was in my interest to obey. The vociferousness of his voice and the forceful nature of his movements made it impossible not to do so else surrender to the brute's new field plate gauntlets. I admit I truly feared for my life then more than at any other time.

    Again the hobgoblin fulfilled his word, and seeing I had attempted to return his weapon he spoke to me in broken common telling me there was a pit trap at the end of his direction and to be careful as it was right at the edge of orc territory.

    I returned to the party expecting Galathos to have returned to his usual brusque self. I was wrong, he had descended further into madness insisting upon us going and defacing the shrine to the hobgoblin's god. The man would not see sense and my various attempts to bring Halgron and Dantry into the discussion fell flat. Dantry as his wont refused to utter more than he cared not either way and Halgron only halfheartedly stood at my side. Foolishly I still believed this would be enough as in previous cases of argument we had always followed the will of the majority. It occured to me only later that we had never settled any argument in the past against the big bully's wishes.

    Galathos told us he was going to deface the shrine and off he went. After further attempts to bring him to see reason I had no choice but to put him into a deep slumber to the utter consternation of the others and our porters. Even Halgron was looking askance at me. Clearly things had changed and now I was the villian instead of the hero. I knew I had only mere moments to act before Halgron went to awaken our warrior or asked Wilim to do it. I moved over to the big man and took the maps from his pack and began scrawling the directions back to the exit. I just finished when one of those bubbles appeared.

    I told Dantry to shoot it with his bow well before the thing reached our slumbering brute. I wanted neither the brute awakening nor being burnt to death, I owed him that much even in his utter madness. Our Elf failed and the thing passed over the brute before heading towards the rest of us. I didn't want to move beyond the area we'd already explored nor did I want the path open for someone to attempt to awaken the madman before I had made good my escape. So I told everyone to press themselves against the walls and let the bubble pass harmlessly.

    It was on its way towards clearing us when Halgron's loud flatulence attracted it. Before he could raise his shield or duck out of the way the thing exploded burning him and I severely and killing my porter Karlhe. Halgron made to awaken Galathos, so I distracted him by handing him the healing kit off Karhle's belt and then summoning Harolde to my side proceeded to flee with more than a little alacrity. I was fully expecting to soon hear the brute stamping after me with blood in his eyes and murder upon his mind, so we didn't stop running and jogging all the way to the main staircase.

    We returned to the surface and rang the bell. As usual the brothers soon came and opened the door, however that time almost seemed interminable and I managed to chew my none too clean nails down to the quick. It wasn't until I heard the deep meaty thunk of the heavy door closing behind me that I finally collapsed to my knees and released a great sigh of relief.

    After sending Harolde to hitch up my mule cart, I told the brothers of Galathos's descent into insanity and that I'd had to flee for my life for he'd caused the murder of Karlhe and my grave wounds. I told them I had no coin to donate for Galanthor's healing only a single gem worth 75 gold coins. It was the ruby I'd obtained from the proceeds of my last adventure almost two weeks prior. They granted me a minor spell. We had only returned to the surface less than a quarter hour and we were already heading back to the city riding upon my otherwise empty cart.

    During our ride I discharged Harolde from my service gifting him the leather armor previously lent him. It was a very good gratuity and we were both quite happy. He told me he would no longer accept porterage from adventurers. He had saved most of his salaries and all of his gratuities over his weeks of service to me and he now almost had enough to reopen his shop. Knowing he'd been a carter and confirming he was to continue in that line of work, I offered him a high quality garnet worth 25 gold coins to prepare a traveling crate for me as I was leaving the city no later than the following day.

    Leaving him after obtaining directions to his shop where he already had several travelling crates ready, I returned to the Green Dragon obtaining the key to Halgron's room without difficulty. I left him the party's items in my care which were the four clear gems, the potion of reduction(?), and the doll along with a note advising that I would be keeping the dagger as it had been given to me by the group and not just in my care. I thanked him for the adventure and good times before madness befell the brute and wished him and Gloin the best in their futures. That I never see them again would be soon enough and that were I to see the brute Galathos again fearing for my life I would be taking action and forgetting to ask questions.

    With my duty to the group discharged I made my way to the jeweler on way to the harbormaster's office. With 75 gold and one less gem in my pocket I soon discovered that several ships and caravans were to set sail or otherwise depart the Free City of Greyhawk within the next two days. I quickly spread some coin buying passage with a caravan leaving in the morning to Hardby on the Woolly Bay. There was a fairly good school of the arcane there and thus it was a very likely destination. A while later I obtained passage up the river to the Nyr Dyv and across to Leukish in the Palantate of Urnst as there were several smaller schools of the arcane there giving me better likelyhood of a suitable situation. That ship was to sail before midnight on the morrow.

    With my arrangements in place it was time to collect my things from the Inn and call upon my lady for one final evening of excitement. I do wish I could recall her name now these many years later."

    Wednesday, August 18, 2010

    S&W White Box: Recap; Session 11, 8/16/10

    True to form, I missed this session. Looks like trying to put back to back appearances together is not as easy as it seems. The school year starts next week for Kathy both as a teacher and a grad student, so I don't know how that will change my attendance.

    Either way, the party descended down to the 2nd (presumably) level and faced a higher caliber of challenges...

    SESSION ELEVEN (08.16.10)
    Godsday the 18th of Planting, CY 576
    “The Dungeons”
    Level three of the dungeons below
     The Castle of the Mad Archmage

    Cast of Characters
    Fen Sen the Conjurer (3rd level Magic-User)
    Galathos the Swordsman (3rd level Fighting-Man)
    Kor the Dwarven Footpad (2nd level roguish Fighting-Man)
    Old Man Halgron the Priest of St. Cuthbert (3rd level Cleric)
    “Harolde” hired lantern-bearer/porter
    “Karhle” hired lantern-bearer/porter
    “Willim” hired lantern-bearer/porter
    MIA: Dantry the Elven Warrior/Seer (2nd level Fighting-Man, 2nd level Magic-User); Gloin the Dwarven Warrior (2nd level Fighting-Man)


    Apparently the wenches at the Green Dragon Inn were serving up plates of courage the evening prior to our band of adventurers’ latest expedition. Although missing the services of the Dwarf Gloin (who quite possibly had imbibed too much of the liquid courage the wenches had also been serving) and the Elf Dantry (who had travelled to the Gnarley Forest on a fey mission) they were joined by an acquaintance of Galathos’, the Dwarven Warrior named Kor. Kor and Galathos neglected to explain the particulars of their relationship or why the Dwarf eschewed armor and was very proficient in sneaking around. Glad for another arm, they steeled themselves against the expected danger and they wound their way through the Storage Rooms and descended down deep into the darkness, all the way down to the Dungeons. Galathos seemed extremely eager to put the magical warhammer found in the previous exploration which he had claimed to the test.

    The foursome and their hirelings came to a portcullis that they proceeded to open noisily; once into the room beyond they were startled to find two large carnivorous apes charging them. The seven foot tall and extremely broad beasts loped towards the party as Old Man Halgron and Galathos stepped to the front in order to protect Fen Sen and the hirelings. Unnoticed, Kor crept into the shadows of the room and began to circle around behind the aggressive apes. Trading blows with the unbelievably strong apes, the Fighting-Man and the Cleric suffered hefty damage from the bludgeoning fists of the primates. Fen Sen attempted to ensorcell the apes into slumber, but was dismayed when his spell failed to have the desired effect. Halfway around the room, Kor spied some humanoids peeking around the corner of an unexplored corridor. The humanoids’ hairy hides were dark reddish-brown in color, their faces were bright red-orange, their noses blue-red, and their yellowish eyes reflected the torchlight. The creatures were armed with shields and swords and armored in a type of scale with breastplates. As the creatures backed away from the fracas, the Dwarf continued on behind the unsuspecting apes.

    Beginning to second-guess their decision to descend so deep, Galathos and Halgron began to fall backwards while Fen Sen readied his newly learned spell and Kor studied the apes for a moment of weakness. Again the apes and the men traded blows, forcing Halgron to retreat behind Galathos to send a quick prayer to St. Cuthbert for magical healing. The Magic-User succeeded in summoning up his magical energies to craft an illusory warrior to aid the party in battle as the Dwarf failed in his roguish attack from the rear. The next moments of the melee sped by in a blur, with a confused turmoil of action. One ape was brought down, the party fell back into the corridor, and four of the humanoids marched out of the far corridor and towards the melee. With the one remaining ape held off by the Old Man and Fen Sen again calling on his Art to force the approaching humanoids into slumber, this time successfully. Galathos struggled to release the piton holding the portcullis up as the four closing creatures collapsed to the floor. The Fighting-Man finally knocked the piton free, causing the portcullis to crash down on the ape and trapping it on the other side. After dispatching the wounded beast the party re-entered the room, finished off the slumbering monsters and began searching for the loot that they clearly were owed.

    Finding nothing and fearing that their struggles had been for naught, they began to closely inspect their surroundings. Eventually Kor discovered something odd about the stonework in the north-eastern portion of the room. Realizing that a section of the wall was movable, he began pushing that section down a newly found secret passage. As the party wondered where the sneaky dwarf had gotten off to, Kor found himself in a hidden armory stocked with an amazing collection of armaments. Another room held shackles, a cold brazier, and what appeared to be implements of torture. Relaying his findings back to the party, Galathos stood guard as the rest of the group bundled up as much of the weaponry as they could and set fire to the rest. As they were preparing to head back to the surface to drop off their loot a mysterious pearlescent floating bubble began bobbing down a diagonal corridor towards the Fighting-Man. Perhaps nervous from his last encounter with a mysterious orb, Galathos called out to the others and they hustled back up the stairs with Galathos knocking the portcullis back down in a rear-guard action. Seeing that the bubble had stopped on the far side of the gate, he fired off a couple of arrows with the second hitting the bubble causing it to erupt in a fiery explosion.

    Thinking that that was enough for one day, they headed back up to the surface and returned to town. The party was able to sell the acquired weaponry for a decent amount of gold orbs and while at the shop the armorer informed Galathos that his commissioned suit of plate was almost finished. As excited as a schoolboy, the warrior convinced the rest of the group to wait on the armor before heading back down on another expedition.

    Again, they headed down to the Dungeons- this time discovering that the stairs had been blocked with wrecked furniture that needed to be cleared out. Once down close to the portcullis they kept hearing the sound of breaking glass. Fearing a trap, they backed up and were none too surprised when the gated corridor was lit in the oily flames. Waiting until the furniture had burned down to smoldering embers they again forced the gate open and threw a torch into the room to provide illumination. As the torch flew out into the room two arrows spun through the air from the right. Peeking into the room they were confronted with five more of the humanoids, these armed with bows. Between the magical talent of Fen Sen, the martial skills of Galathos and Old Man Halgron, and the deft quickness of the lightly equipped Kor they gradually overcame the humanoids, taking two prisoners and managing to kill the rest with few injuries of their own. Turning to the prisoners the party…


    Coin: 0
    KIA: 2 carnivorous apes, 7 hobgoblins
    POW: 2 hobgoblins
    Treasure: various and sundry arms and armor (338 gp worth)
    Rooms Explored: 4
    Experience: 255 each (1020 total)