Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Never forget your roots

For those who don't know Wil Wheaton, of Star Trek Next Generation fame, is a gamer and blogs about it regularly. From time to time he writes some thing that really hits the mark. Never forget your roots is one of those posts.

And there is a nifty t-shirt involved that I think everybody will like.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Help with a Dragon Article

I need help locating the issue of Dragon Magazine with article of how to build your own class for BECMI D&D. I am having no lucking finding it (again :( )

Thanks it Dragon 109 Customizing Classes.

Prophecy and the skill of the player.

So I decided to put the player skill tenet of Old School to the test last night. With this bit of prophecy in an ancient elven tongue.

Alates tuhka draakon tulekahju poeg puud kasvamas. Ta läheb välja ja tulevad omal.

Poja lõvi ei kummardame isand madu ja loosungi lohe saab unfurled ja hobune peab olema poolaastaga.

Lääne-ja Ida peavad häda ees, kord ja tulevaste kuningas on hammustatud poolt madu ja silma pistrik hakkab himustama läände, langevad mõlemad jättes draakon koos kaheks osaks vähem.

Uroboros rullitakse pikast pimedas ja kuristikku ja impeerium kasvas. Viimati sundered ja impeerium langes. Pistrik levib ta tiivad ja tarbib kõik.

Võimas tamm varjupaikadele all oma lehte. Poeg puud peidab paljusid augustamine silmis jahi pistrik.

Lõpe Salakarit kohta bosum kohta Tiethoir tuleb ehitud banner iga koos Falcon silma kunagi magada.

Tema nimi tuleb Syrivald

Ja üks kannab nime järgi poeg puu ja tõde peab olema tema poolel.

Üle saali tõe ja ringid maailma tähtsaim sõna hävimatu.

Of course they google translated it in a heart beat. But that just made an already cryptic prophecy more jibberish. Part of the adventures in the upcoming weeks will be to find the books needed to translate this "ancient" dialect of elvish into something that make more sense.

The best comment of the evening was by Tim of Gothridge's character Ashling when the mages of Syrivald's Conclave offered to help translate it.
I translated it just fine, whoever wrote this just wrote jibberish.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Main Campaign Area progress report

My main focus right now is getting the Scourge of the Demon wolf finished plus a mapping job done. But from time to time I work on stuff for projects two or three slots down the line. One of them will be a full sourcebook for the Main Campaign Area of the Majestic Wilderlands. In the middle of May I finished detailing the mountains and hills and thought you might like a sneak peek.

First is a low res shot of the entire map. Right now I am in the process of adding vegetation. You can see a few light blue areas which are the first step in making swamp terrain. I then turn it into a "swampy green" and add the swamp fill on top of that. This is a harn style map so the hills and mountains are transparent so you can see the vegetation underneath. This allows for say forested mountains, snowy mountains, desert mountains to easily be distinguished.

If you look just east of Viridstan you see a fully detailed island. When I make one of these maps I detail on the larger islands to try out my current mapping scheme before committing to it for the entire map.

This is what it will look like a full resolution.

My main focus right now is getting the Scourge of the Demon wolf finished plus a mapping job done. But from time to time I work on stuff for projects two or three slots down the line. One of them will be a full sourcebook for the Main Campaign Area of the Majestic Wilderlands. In the middle of May I finished detailing the mountains and hills and thought you might like a sneak peek.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Combating Gamer ADD for 30 years.

James over at Grognardia has a good post titled Gamer ADD and the Campaign. In it he has a comment.
None of this is to say that I plan to run Dwimmermount forever.
Why not? I answered.

Look. One of the big gripes I see over and over again it lack of time to do everything you want. I roll my eyes at some of friends who run games that they put a lot of effort into only to ditch everything and start over for the next one.

I am not talking only about the hours before a game; writing up an entire key for a adventure or a 2,000 year history. I know not everybody does or likes doing that. Some do everything by the seat of their pants. What I am including are the hours you spent refereeing.

There are mountains of gold in the stuff that you and your players come up with each session. Stuff there is no way you will get to in the current campaign. Stuff that would make for some great adventure for the NEXT campaign.

That the secret to having a setting with depth. That when you play a genre you stick with the same setting you used before. That you use what you did the LAST campaign as the foundation for the current campaign even if the current campaign is has a completely different focus. And you get the added benefit of happy players who see their actions have an impact on the setting.

You see the secret is that a setting is an entire world. Look at the diversity our planet has in a sphere of roughly 8,000 miles diameter and 75% water. The setting you create can have the same level of diversity. In some distant corner there lurks the place where you can run the sub-genre you want.

And if you can't find a good physical place what about a different time? If you want to use 2nd edition Runequest with it's emphasis on Mythic Heroes then set it in the dawn ages of your world. Use what the player did then as the history of that time. Dragon Pass and the Plains of Prax are not big places as regions go.

For example James Dwimmermount campaign has a backstory about the Thulians (sp?) an ancient powerful magic using race/culture. If he wants to run Runequest 2nd edition then he can hone Dragon Pass/Plains of Prax to fit during a time of their rise. Or perhaps take Stormbringer and set it during their fall.

If all you do is play one shots campaign then make more work for yourself and you miss out one of the most compelling aspects of Roleplaying Games. Their ability to immerse your character in another place and time.

Old Judges Guild Items for sale

There are two new Judges Guild items for sale at RPG Now.

The first is Booklet K. Unfortunately this is only the initial form of what became the Wilderlands of High Fantasy and doesn't provide much new information.

However Judges Guild Journal (Jun-Jul 1977) is pure gold and provides an interesting snapshot into the hobby circa 1977. It goes along with Booklet K as Mr. Bledsaw talks about how he came up with the demographics rules in Booklet K. Thanks to my Google Fu I am tracking down the sources he mentioned and I will update you when I read them.

Friday, June 25, 2010

A sneak preview

Getting closer to the finish line for this Swords & Wizardry/Majestic Wilderlands adventure & sourcebook.

Some art for the adventure drawn by a pair of talented local (NW PA) artists, Jason Sholtis and John Larrey.

Of course my maps

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Wandering through the Woods at the Gold Star Anime Part II

The party quickly found the only inn, the Laughing Rabbit. Unfortunately it was crowded so only one room was available as well as the common room. The party found Sir Padrin and delivered the Baron's message. During the conversation they found that a new governor have recently arrived and he was a Myrmidon of Set! Something that Sir Padrin, a devotee of Mitra, found to be unsettling. The party did not know what to make of this development either.

While settling in at the Laughing Rabbit they heard a ruckus outside their door. As it turned out Marcion was being ejected from his room for being several days behind on his rent. Taking pity the party paid for his room for several days.

Ashling didn't like the looks of one of the onlookers down the hall. He appeared to take way too much interest. The party went into Marcion's room and talked with him. They found out he was a treasure hunter and spent nearly his last silver penny trying to find a lost elven settlement he has a map too. He successfully got everybody to join with him on his next attempt with equal shares for everybody.

After this the party went shopping. First they looked around for a magic shop only finding a stall run by a creepy merchant. Thin wiry, with lank hair, he unsettled everybody with his high pitched voice. None the less just about everybody found a few useful items mostly healing potions, +1 bolts and +1 arrows. Hazzar went to a hideworker and was able to buy a pair of boots with inserts to hold daggers. Apparently the Hideworker is a Brotherhood of the Lion wanna-be (the local Thieves Guild) because was buttering up Hazzar to the point of him being uncomfortable. During all this Ashling spotted the man from the Laughing Rabbit shadowing them. He quickly walked away when Ashling waved at him.

After the shopping was done it was nightfall and the party retired to the Inn to east. During the meal Ashling spotted the man deep in conversation with some friends. After they finished eating the man when upstairs and his friends left the end. Ashling successfully shadowed them, over hearing that the "Newcomers look to be an easy mark for the ambush tommorrow.". He was able to followed them to a hut. After listening to their preparations Ashling cast hold portal on the door and proceeded calmly to tell them that he will burn them alive. After a few moments of confused babble, Ashling cut in. Telling them that being on the ambush tomorrow was not a good idea if they knew what good for them. And he then left.

When he came back to the Laughing Rabbit he gathered the rest of the party and knocked on the man's door. After a few "I will be there" they hear him ripping the parchment off the window. The party busted the door down only to see him drop down from the window running into the darkness of an alley. Ashling then pulled out his dagger, a Pakim Gingwatzim, and had it changed to it's free form. A green glowing orb. Ashling sent the Gingwatzim after the man. When the party reached the street they heard his screams from the alley.

Searching the area they found the Gingwatzim surrounding the man who was writhing on the ground. Ashling called off the Ginwatzim and knelled down. He quietly told him that he should pick somebody else for his target. The next day the party woke up with Maricon, equipped themselves and headed into Dearthwood without further incident.

(I got a good laugh when I looked at my notes and said "Well there goes that encounter.")

The party followed Marcion's map but to no avail. The closest they could find the old settlement was this large tangle of briars choking the entrance to a valley. Hazzar climbed a tree and confirmed that he could see the top of some ruins

Janus once again communed with Silvanus and attuned herself to the forest. The briars spoke in soft whispers asking her to "Come closer." warned by a kindly old oak and the general creepiness of the briar's request she elected not too. However to her surprise it turned out that not only she could talk to plants but command them as well. The reluctant briars formed a path getting in a few jabs here and there.

The path emerged in the midst of a ruined elven settlement. After looking around they get an eerie feeling of being watch when a shrill cry broke out. Two displacer beasts attacked the party. Tearing into the party with their tentacles they killed Marcion, bad luck to the end.

A hail of arrows and bolts grievously hurt one of the beast and a tremendous shot by Ashling firing his Knight Killer Crossbow killed it. After a few minutes of chasing down the other beast they finally corner it and killed it as well.

Hazzar and Hunter decided to explore the Southeast building. Upon entering they were beset by orcs. The fight was going well until a huge orc burst out into the narrow hallway. His blow send Hazzar hurling down to the end of the hall, knocking him down prone. Hunter was holding his own after having the misfortune of throwing his bow not his arrows at the orcs.

The rest of the party scrambled to help Hazzar and Hunter. After both the big and little orcs fell Hazzar decided to take a chance and explore the building. Opening the door at the end he was smacked on the chest with a spike trap. Luckily his armor absorbed most of the damage. While the rest of the party was examining the orc he continue to explore the room. Spying a ornate casket he decided to use his Legerdamin to open the lock.

He knew he fail when he felt the prick of a needle into his skin. With cold sensation of paralysis spreading across his body, Hazzar fell the ground. Janus examined Hazzar and found that he was under an elven poison that would leave him paralyzed for several hours. Janus put the casket in his sack but Hunter promptly removed it. After a tug of war that Hunter won, the halfling smashes the lock and the bright sheen of silver spreads across the floor.

More next month.

P.S. The second map is a very old map. I have a No. 983 Computation Book that is filled with graph paper and a sturdy pasteboard cover. It huge about 1 1/2 times the size of a normal piece of paper. (Not quite 11 by 17) and has over 144 numbered sheet. Most of my earliest maps are on this book. Including the one above. Unfortunately the keys are long lost. I decided for my next adventure after Scourge of the Demon Wolf to reuse these maps and breath new life into them.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Wandering through the Woods at the Gold Star Anime Part I

After a circle sweep of Games Stores along the southern shore of Lake Erie (recounted here by Tim of Gothridge Manor). I arrived at the Gold Star Anime for an evening of gaming. Big Jerry showed up his display of old school products. Jon at Black Blade Publishing set up with a nice selection of various S&W products including the S&W Core Rulebook and Knockspell. Also there are copies of my Majestic Wilderlands avaliable. So if you are in the region (Cleveland, Erie, Buffalo down to Butler) there some old school goodness avaliable in a retail store.

Tonight's session had Big Jerry as Janus the Elf Priestess of Silvanus, Little Jerry, the mighty Hafling Fighter Hunter, Josh who played Hazzar, a human Thug, and finally Tim of Gothridge Manor playing Ashling Anubis an elven Montebank.

They started out in the village of Westtower just after a night of revelry for their victory over the Demon Wolf at Kensla. The good Baron of Westower sent his seneschal, the dour Cardin, to hire the party to deliver a message to his man, Sir Padrin, at OakWatch Keep in the dark forest of Dearthwood. With the Seneschal was Ashling Anubis a guest at his court. Ashling was leaving that direction and asked if there was anybody he could travel with.

Janus, Nazim, and Hunter agreed and went about gathering supplies for the journey. Unfortunately, despite being a baronial seath, Westtower had no horse for sale but there was an Ostler in town around Dearthmead Castle that party could by from. Deathmead was were the road from Westtower intersected the Old South Road which lead to Oakwatch Keep.

They had an uneventful journey that take day and they arrived at Dearthmead Castle. Checking at the nice Red Fox Inn they esquired about local ostlers and were recommended to goto Tarvis'. Ashling stepped and bluntly asked what his kickback was. The innkeeper blushed red and scurried away clearly spooked by the uncanny elf. The party went to Navise the ostler recommended by the Seneschal . Navise was a bit rough both in looks and speech. But he sold the party 2 good quality horses and a pony at a fair price. The next day the party woke up and headed north along the Old South Road.

After staying for a night in Goodnap they descended to the valley of the Roglaroon to the ferry. The Roglaroon is 5 miles wide where the Old South Road intersects. The ferries are large barges capable of transporting whole caravans.

Beyond the Roglaroon was the dark eaves of the orc haunted Dearthwood. The learned from travellers heading south that there was no troubles along the 5 leagues from the ferry to OakWatch. But Janus concentrated and with the blessing of Silvanus she could now hear the whispering of the plants and trees along the road. (Cleric of Silvanus at 3rd Level can cast Speak with Plant 1/day that lasts 1 hour).

About 1/2 hour Janus starts hearing talk of Orcs shadowing the party along the ridge to the north. Warning the party everybody look and spotted the war party through the trees about 300 yards away uphill. They spurred their horses, intending to outrace the Orcs to Oakwatch. However Hunter the Halfling and Janus were unfamiliar with riding caused the party to slow down to a fast canter. Then the road started curving north, climbing the ridge. Continuing to talk with the flora, Janus found there was an ambush ahead. However a sleep spell by Ashling made short work of the Orcs. When examined the Orcs were found to be of the Purple Claw Tribe.

After several more hours without incident they arrived at Oakwatch Keep. Note the map isn't finished yet. Oakwatch Keep is a classic Motte and Bailey keep built nearly 20 years ago as part of the Overlord's expansion plans to conquer Dearthwood.

More Tommorrow

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Best Pre 1990 beginner module?

Jim at Flame Princess asks which is the best Beginner Module. In his rules he asks for only one and just as important why.

I don't know if there really just one. The comments show most of the results congregate around four modules

B1 Search into the Unknown
B2 Keep on the Borderland
T1 Village of Hommlet
U1 Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh

I think all four are equally good in different ways.
Jeff has an excellent summary in this comment. I especially like the Scoody Doo reference.

Jeff Rient said...
Young or adult players? New or experienced DM? I see at least 4 possible ideal starter modules.

young players, new DM = Search for the Unknown (great advice for DMs)

young players, experienced DM = Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh (every kid needs to learn the lessons taught by Scooby Doo)

adult players, new DM = Hommlet (superior social environ, simple but challenging dungeon)

adult players, experienced DM = Keep (multidimensional, open-form social, dungeon and wilderness)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Today is Harn Day!

The latest Harnquest arrived today. It is a light issue two hefty articles and a map.

The first is the keep of Bedenes in Rethem. It is an illegal keep constructed hastily by the Warrior of Mameka, a fighting order of the Church of Agrik (lawful evil fire god) to be used as a based in their holy crusade into Peran the home of the fierce Kubora barbarians.

However things are catching up with the evil order as two years ago several dozen men (which is a lot for Harn) were wiped out by the Kubora while exploring Peran. This along with the enmity of the nearby Earl Tormau means things don't bode well for the order.

The article details the village and keep of Bedenes along with it's attached monastery belonging to the clerical order Mamaka, Master of Steel. Like most recent Harn articles it expands to include notes on the people and politics of the settlement and region. It does a good job of portraying an "evil" organization and it's grip on a region. The material ties into the previous Harnquest with it's focus on Peran and the Kubora.

The next article is about birds, lots and lost of bird. The Harnic Bestiary is being released in bits and pieces and this is it's latest installment. It covers bird hunting as well as falconry. In addition to eagles, hawks, falcons, owls, and ravens, it covers the Northern Eagle, a giant bird with a 20 feet wingspan! And the Dreadwalker which is a giant flightless bird similar to the Terror Birds of the Paleocene.

The map begins the expansion of the detail maps of Harn into Rethem. It details the area around Tormau the home of a rebellious earl that threatens to plunge Rethem into civil war.

As usual Columbia Games does a good job and I am looking forward to the next installment.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Basic GURPS Combat

Now that I explained what a character is like now combat!

GURPS 3rd Edition has a pretty good setup where they explained basic combat and then had a chapter where they added movement, the hex grid, and other advanced combat rules. This made a lot of people happy as the roleplaying folks got a solid simple system to use and the grognards could drink deeply from the realism cup.

GURPS 4th edition doesn't present it in quite the same way. But it can still be played the same way as it was in 3rd edition.

The Basic combat system is fairly simple.

Combat Round are 1 second, you can do one thing a round. If you don't do a full move you can generally take a step and do your one thing.

You roll 3d6 less than or equal to your skill.
If you hit, the defender most of the time get to make a defense roll picking either a parry, a block, or a dodge.
If the defender succeeds that it for the attack.
If the defender fails you roll damage and subtract the Damage Resistance of the armor the defender is wearing. Any damage that get through may be multiplied if you do cutting (1.5x) or impaling damage (2x)

The defender has a number of hit points based on his Strength. If he take more than 1/2 HP in one shot he could wind up stunned. If he below 1/3 HP then his dodge and movement are cut. If he below zero then he must roll his Health or below or fall unconscious. If he is below -HP then a failed Health roll could mean death.

I will get into the other options in a later post. But this is the guts of GURPS Combat.

So what is like? What pitfalls are there?

The biggest thing people have trouble with is the one second combat round. In most other combat system you can two or more things in a round. Like move and attack, quaff a potion and attack, quaff a potion and run like hell. In GURPS you do one thing and one thing only.

For example

Round 1: I move up to the orc (and dodges the Orc's blow)
Round 2: I step to the right and swing at the Orc (and fails to defend)
(Bob get knocked down by the Orc)
Round 3: I get up (Fails to defend and gets hit again)
Round 4: I pull out my potion and step away (Orc steps and attack, Bob Dodges)
Round 5: I drink my potion and step away (Orc steps and attack, Bod dodges again)
Round 5: I attack the Orc (The orc fails and falls to the ground stunned)
Round 6: I attack the Orc on the ground (Orc is stunned and utterly fails his parry)
(Orc dies before he could get up)

Unlike other systems every roll represent a single physical actions which makes visualization of combat easy. The 3d6 bell curve keeps the probabilities of defenses reasonable so that combat doesn't turn into a game of who misses their roll first. GURPS 4th edition redid the combat numbers a bit make it flow better. Too often in earlier edition characters could get super high defenses making combat bog down.

Still if you if you are facing a guy with a 15 parry he is not missing his defense often. Unsurprisingly the designer of GURPS handles this in several ways. In the next post I will explain maneuvers in more detail but there are a couple that can result in you disarming your opponent or fake him out so he has a minus on his next defense roll. Also you can apply real world tactics and take your opponent out that way. Most of the time just having multiple party members swinging at the high defense guy solves the problem as you only get so many defenses per round. Other solutions can work well with GURPS like throwing sand in your opponent's face.

I am not going to say that GURPS has the best all time RPG Combat system. As a referee and player you do have to remember more than D&D or other abstract combat systems. Not everybody likes the detail or gritty combat. But SJ Games is really good at game design and it shows in the GURPS Combat system.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Solving Jeff's Armor Problem

Jeff in this post has a problem of finding an iconic image of Leather armor. His plate is spot on being an image from Excalibur, and while his Monty Python Holy Grail pic seems like a goofy choice for chain. Their costuming has always been spot on for a period look.

For leather (and even chain) I need to look no further than Robin of Sherwood. This British series remains for me the iconic Robin Hood on the screen. And there is leather armor galore. As well as chain if you look at the nobles and the sheriff's men.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

More on GURPS

GURPS Skills are fairly straight forward. You start by paying 1 point which gets a skill level of your Attribute minus something. If it is an easy skill then it is minus 0, a Average skill is -1, Hard is -2, and Very Hard -3. For example Knife skill is DX/Easy, A boardsword is DX/Average, Karate is DX/Hard, and Blind Fighting is Per/Very Hard.

Subsquent skill levels have an increasing cost. You pay a total of 2 points for +1, 4 points for +2, a total of 8 points for +3 and +4 points for each +1 skill afterwards. The scale works out so that at normal points levels you can have a bunch of skills at average level and be specialized in a few.

The reasoning behind difficulty levels is spelled out in a short section of skill chapter. It basically boils down to challenging skills like Biology, Alchemy, etc being rated Very High and ordinary everyday skills like Knife, Area Knowledge, and Bicycling Easy.

This brings up another point about GURPS. It's adherence to realism. In the absence of a specific genre reason the designer GURPS justify their rule decision in terms of gamable realism. The skills difficulty is based on real world consideration not internal game balance. Alchemy is difficult to learn because it requires a lot of time and study. They don't have any thing complicated just a single chart with each level of difficulty as a column. You can see this in GURPS Lite.

Skills also have defaults. So if you never learned Broadsword as a wizard and decide to pick one up in the middle of a fight then you either default to DX-4 or if you have another weapons skill then you get a better default like Shortsword -2.

The Skill list is extensive but not excessively so. Few skills overlap and for Fantasy or Modren it is obvious which ones to pick out. It get more complicated with Sci-Fi but the genre books like GURPS Space and GURPS Traveller give you template that help greatly.

Template are a great innovation in late 3rd Edition and are implemented Fully in 4th edition. They don't give you any benefits but organize skills, advantages, disadvantages, perks and quirks in a coherent way. For example in GURPS Traveller the Starship Engineer Template give you clear choices to make up that type of characters.

Campaigns with detailed background can use them to allow players to make characters that are part of specific Organizations. You can see an example here. It is a template I use for making characters that are Myrmidons of Set. It predates the one in the Majestic Wilderlands supplement by several years so it differs a little.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Majestic Wilderlands Elves can't die

In the Majestic Wilderlands the Elves never die. Even if "killed" by a sword or by massive physical trauma. What happens is their spirit taken to the court of Silvanus where they rest. centuries or millenia later they return to the Wilderlands physically healed.

They are tied to the Wilderlands and will live as long as the Wilderland exist. This means they can't go to other planes of existence. Luckily for them, the court of Silvanus, the courts of the other gods, and even the Abyss are actually part of the Wilderlands although separated by various magical barriers where they connect.

Note the centuries or millennia before return. From the point of view of player characters it takes them out of the game. Although it would make for an interesting game if the party is all-elven and there is a TPK.

This scheme can also explain why Raise Dead doesn't work on Elves (if you use that rule) better than the spirit/soul thing. You can't use it because the Elves are not really dead they are just elsewhere.

I don't play with this rule figuring the reformation process take a while in human terms and the elf's soul can be summoned back with a Raise Dead as easily as a human.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Basics of GURPS

GURPS has a reputation of being overly complex. The problem mostly due to the core books becoming more of a toolkit making it difficult for novices or gamers coming over from other system to figure out how to use the game. GURPS 2nd Edition (which I started) it was easy for AD&D players to understand how the system worked for them. The core set + GURPS Magic was a inexpensive investment for a near complete Fantasy RPG. GURPS 4th edition is actually a better system. Whatever issues I have about the presentation in the art of rule design the folks at SJ Games are top notch.

Anyway enough of the complaints.

GURPS is a point based system. Most GURPS 4th edition campaign start out around 150 total points. This produces a competent character compared to a 5th level character in various editions of D&D. If you want to start a true beginner then 75 to 100 points will do it.

A GURPS characters has four attributes Strength, Dexterity, IQ, and Health. There are four sub attributes based off of the four. Perception, Fatigue, Will, and Hit Points. It is rare to vary these from their base attribute.

You also have Advantage, Disadvantages, Quirks and Perks.

Advantages are things like Combat Reflexes, Magery (needed to cast spells), Social Level, etc. Disadvantage are mental or physical limtations of your character. They included positive disadvantage like Honesty, Code of Honor, as well as the more obvious hindering ones like one handed etc. A typical GURPS fantasy campaign will allow you take up 40 points worth of disadvantages. Disadvantages give you bonus points to spend.

Quirks are 1 point disadvantage. They you use them to define well ... quirks about your character. Like "Always sit with his back to the wall.", "Doesn't like the color red." You typically five of these. Most GURPS GM I know only ask to define 3 and letting the other 2 be defined during the first few sessions.

Perks are 1 points advantages. Little benefits you can buy. Like Alcohol Tolerance, Deep Sleeper, Honest Face, etc.

Typically you wind up spending around 195 points as a starting character.

The reason I and my group like the system is that we have control over the characters we create. My point of view is that the uncertainty of the campaign is good enough for me and I like having control over where I start out.

GURPS 4th edition deals with the diversity of choices by offering templates to use for character creation. These are packages of Attributes, Advantages, etc that allow you to make a character of that type. Some are professions, other represent classic roles like Fighter and Thief. GURPS Dungeon Fantasy has a bunch of these for D&D style adventures. GURPS Fantasy has more still oriented towards more toward a low Fantasy Realism.

GURPS Lite is free and provides a good overview of the system. You can find it here.

The 3rd edition version has a small taste of the magic system and you can find it here.

Friday, June 11, 2010

War System or Battle Machine? Along with a Chart

So which you folks like better "War System" or "Battle Machine" as a title for a retro mass combat system?

At lunch today I did some digging into probability math. I wanted to answer the question "If I had 10 guys rolling a d20 with the same chance of hitting something what are the odds that none of them will hit, all of them hitting and in between.
While the raw machine is a bit hairy luckily Microsoft Excel has the function I needed built in. It is called a Binomial Distribution and I can use it to estimate the odds of the number of X successes in Y trials with Z probability of success.

In Swords & Wizardry it is all or nothing for each figure of 10 men and you have to roll for each . I feel this is unsatisfying for a full blown mass combat system. It would be easier just to make one roll for entire unit of figures. You roll and multiply the result by the number of Figures in the unit.

So drew up some charts and found that a Binomial Distribution follows a bell curves. If you have 10 men per figures this means there are 11 possible results from 0 to 10. A 2d6 roll is also has a bell curve and has 11 possible results. Shades of an older game!

I am still not sure how BattleSystem 1st put together their chart mathwise. However I did quickly run up 2d6 charts for 10 men figures rolling a d20 to hit.If you unit has 10 figures (100 men total) needing a 15 or better to hit a group of marauding orcs and you rolled a 8 you find that 3 men per figure hit the orcs for a total of 30 hits. If you are using the mass combat system from Swords & Wizardry you roll damage. For this example lets say it is 1d6 spears. I roll a 4 which means I inflict 120 points of damage on the spear.

This is just a starting point and I when I get the time I will refine it further. I figure those using the Swords & Wizardry Mass Combat could use this chart right away.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Neolithic Culture & D&D

Jeff Rients is talking about his Imperishable Flame campaign setting over on his blog. Among other things it takes place at the dawn of written history. This is was a time when the earliest civilization in the Nile River Valley, the Fertile Crescent and Indus River Valley were beginning to develop. The world outside these realms were mostly in the midst of the Neolithic Era or new stone age.

This was not a time of cavemen and spear. It was a landscape of villages, and the first pastoral tribes. Yes their weapons and tools were still made of flint but by this point it was supplemented by pottery, and weaving. With the occasional metal ornament made of copper, silver, or gold (all mallable metals easily handled over an open fire). In Europe the first megalithic structures were being built and a Venus cult of the Earth Mother dominated much of the continent.

In my Majestic Wilderlands Campaign I have several additional classes that would work in this settling. And some thoughts on existing classes.

Clerics/Magic User
These would be a product of the growing literacy and religious sophistication of the cities and would not be suited for the Neolithic instead

This is similar to a cleric but able only to cast spells through rituals.

This is similar to a magic user but only able to cast spells through rituals.

Neolithic Rituals
You can cast any spells you memorized it takes 10 minutes plus 1 gp times the spell level squared. Not that the gold piece is an abstract unit in this case. Perhaps something like hide, shells or some other suitable unit in it's place. Anyway the intent is that these guys spend a lot of time gather the stuff they need to cast spells.

The technological progression of magic would go like this.

Memorization of Rituals the number of which is the same as the normal spell chart.

Able to cast rituals from a ritual book with the max level of ritual allowed the same as the max spell level if the character was a normal spell using class.

Able to cast any spells normally but only a vary small number and a limited choice (like D20's sorcerer class)

Finally the normal spellcasting of D&D magic

The later on the addition of the Shield of Magic

A couple of my Rogue classes would work as well.

The tribal bullies using brute strength and not skill to get their way

Merchant Adventurers
Wandering the Neolithic landscape bartering between tribes. Plus important in forging alliances and peace between tribes with deals involving goats, sheep, or cattle.

If you back further to around 5,000 BC you still have the Neolithic landscape but the regions of the early civilizations are places that are very prosperous and densely populated compared to more other regions.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Battlesystem vs the Retro Clones

I was reading up on Battlesystem and when I noticed that they talk how it works with BECMI D&D. Playing around with it I see it working with Swords & Wizardry, Labyrinth Lord, and of course OSRIC. Can work with the D20 as long as you realize that THACO means whatever you need to hit a 20 AC.

If I can figure out the math behind the damage chart I bet I can make a retro clone out of it.

Monday, June 7, 2010

A full dose of AD&D Combat (more than the doctor's recommended daily allowance)

If you want to get the full dose of what Gygax wrote for the 1st edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons look at A.D.D.I.C.T. It explains the AD&D combat system in full. It is 20 pages, the first 10 pages goes rule by rule through the entire system and the rest is a detailed combat example. David M. Prata put this together and went the extra mile by footnoting everything so you can go back to the rulebook and see if he got it right in your opinion.

While you are at Dragonsfoot you may want to browse around. They have many excellent downloads for older editions of D&D.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

From the Attic: A fantasy Rome

After reading McCullough's First Man in Rome, I created a fantasy version of Rome called Ramos to use in a plot I was running in NERO Live Action Roleplaying. I tried to simplify the confusing aspect of the historical Rome into something understandable, gamable, and fun.


Along the shores of the mighty Middle Sea lies the Republic of Ramos. Founded over 600 years ago by the Valernos and his sister Vendera, Ramos has stretched her hand to dominate all of the lands surrounding the Middle Sea. From the deep forests of Sylvania to the west to dreaming Myrr of the two kings to the east, Ramos is destined control the world.

The City of Ramos was founded 652 years ago. It expanded and overcome all of it's enemies to dominate the Middle Sea. The triumph of Ramos came with their defeat of Delenda 123 years ago. Ramos and Delenda fought four wars for control of the western Middle Sea and the fourth war ended with Delenda totally destroyed and it's fields sown with salt. Only three areas remain outside of Ramos control: the barbarian plains to the north. The forest of Sylvania to the east dominated by the Elves, and the mystical realm of Myrr to the east dominated by the Kzin.

Ramos is a Republic, it's populace are divided into thirteen tribes which vote as a tribe for the offices of the Republic. The tribe used to be based on the thirteen villages that joined to form the city of Ramos. But now the tribes are based mostly on wealth. Men and women of Ramos who become wealthy pay one of the existing tribes to be adopted. Today the wealthiest 10% of Ramos control nine of the thirteen tribes. This ensures that their candidates are the ones elected to office.

The highest offices of Ramos are the two Consuls elected yearly. Their power comes from the ancient power of Ramos' old kings. When the tribes revolted against King Septimus Servus, they started electing two Consuls to exercise the power of the old kings. However the tribes drew the Saecerum around Ramos. The power of consuls extended only outside the Saecerum. Once they cross the Saecerum are treated as any citizen of Ramos and their powers are severely limited. The duties of the Consuls are to protect Ramos and lead her wars. They are to ensure the flow of tribute to Ramos from the provinces and to make treaties with Ramos enemies and allies. They are also expected to heed the advice and council of the Senate of Ramos.

The next offices are that of the Praetors. The Praetor have the same powers as Consuls except that they are limited to a specific geographical area such as a province. The Consuls can overrule any action of a Praetor and take command of the Praetor’s forces at any time. There are two special Praetors that operate within the city of Ramos. The first oversee all judicial matter and is the second-highest judicial office in Ramos. The second oversee the finances of the city and the administration of public works and the distribution of the public grain to the poor.

The last office is the Aediles which work under the Consuls and Praetors to perform numerous administrative and military duties.

All offices are elected by a majority vote of the thirteen tribes at the yearly tribal assembly.

In addition to the these offices there are three other institutions of the Republic.

The Tribal Assembly is comprised of all thirteen tribes. They generally meet only once a year and have three main functions. The first is to elect the year's Consuls, Praetors, and Aediles. The Second is to hear any cases of High Treason or Impeachment. High Treason and impeachment are the only reasons that the Tribal Assembly may meet outside of the yearly meeting. Third they may pass decrees that effect the entire city. Since the founding of the Republic this has evolved to rubber-stamping the decisions of the Senate.

The Wealthiest 1% of Ramos dominate the first five tribes. The next wealthiest 10% dominate the next four tribes. And 80% of Ramos are in one of the remaining four tribes.

The Senate of Ramos is perhaps Ramos important institution. Any former Consul, or Praetor is automatically inducted into this body. Also Senate may vote in worthy citizens of Ramos in by a two thirds vote. The Senate requires that it's members hold a substantial fortune or property. This is verified every five years by two Censors appointed by the Senate.

The Senate started a council of the respected elders of Ramos whoes recommendations and suggestion carried great weight. Over the years as the wealthiest families consolidated their control. The proclamations of the Senate evolved to have the force of law. The Tribal Assembly was reduced to little more than a rubber-stamp for the Senate.

Over seventy-five years ago Ramos was ripped apart by a class war. The Patricians versus the Plebs, in the resolution of the war the lowest four tribes won the right to hold a separate assembly. This became the Plebian Assembly, they can pass plebiscites which can overrule any decree of the Tribal Assembly or proclamation of the Senate.

They elect five tribunes who can veto any action of any official or assembly of the Republic including the Plebian Assembly itself. The ruling families still remained in power as they used their great wealth to bride Plebeians to elect tribunes of their choice. These Tribunes then veto any action of the Plebian Assembly that threatened the power of the oligarches. Along with the public dole of Grain the great families of Ramos were able to keep control of the plebeians.

The Celestial Guild of Ramos
One of the main institutions supporting the might of Ramos is the Celestial Guild. When the ancient city-states of Archea were conquered thousand of Archeans scholars were enslaved to teach the Ramons of their arts. The Senate voted for funds to establish many colleges and schools for the Celestial arts and stipulated that any Celestial mage must be ready to aid the senate and people of Ramos. With the conquest of the ancient land of Goshen fifty years ago the Celestial Mages had access to all the known lore of Celestial Magic.

Chirugeons Guild
In Ramos, all Earth Magic is feared and hated . The Ramons believe that all magic power is drawn from somewhere and the caster taking and transform the magical energy for his own use. With Earth Magic being tied to the earth, every time a Earth Magic spell is cast a little of the vital energy of the Earth is taken and the natural flow of earth magic in the world is disturbed. This occurs whether the spell is necromantic or healing. With enough casting of Earth spells the land become barren and desolate due the tremendous disruption of the flow of the magic of the earth. Ramos was one of the first cultures to proclaim this and banned the use of Earth magic throughout it's territories and provinces. One of the main causes of the wars with Delenda is the that they continued to use Healing magic. Also this is cause of the Ramos fanaticism against the Elven and human tribes of Sylvania.

In response to the loss of the healers, the alchemist of Ramos came into the forefront. Soon a new guild was formed from the Alchemist Guild and they named themselves the Chirugeon's Guild. They dedicated themselves to the brewing and use of healing elixirs and salves. They also undertook the study of the body and improved their skills in the healing arts. They incorporated many of the ideals and goals of the old healing guilds and now they are widely respected as paragons of good and healing.

Unfortunately the plot wasn't that popular as I made the Ramosian Legions a little too effective. I made sure that the NPC player work as a team and tactics I used were highly effective given the NERO rules.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Using History in your game

In the beginning ... hmm... perhaps not that far back. I got started on my history kick after reading the appendixes to the Return the King. In addition I had a big three inch thick book called the Timeline of World History. Many of my friends were bored to tears by the format but I could see the ebb and flow as I read the various timelines and king's list. When I starting writing setting background I naturally made my own timelines and kings list.

And my friend were still bored to tears by it all although they like playing in my campaigns.

As time went by my GMing and writing improved and what I realized that it isn't about history but about the people who make up history and the more importantly the people in the "present" where the adventuring is at.

The choices people make now are made in the context that is created by the choices of people in the past. Because it is impossible to detail every person's past for a game I instead focus on the cultures. Then make each NPC a variation on that culture. So the histories I write today are the history of the cultures that make up the Majestic Wilderlands.

The reason for each aspect of a culture can be found in it's history. Much of this will be pure color but here and there are nuggets that can be exploited for adventures in the present. And it serves as a good guideline for creating NPCs of that culture.

The complexity comes from the fact in real life people are not of "one" cultures. Instead a multitude make up the context in which a person makes their choices. Social, Religious, Nationality, etc.

To me the best use of writing histories is to explain why the people of your setting are the way they are. The NPCs won't know everything you now. Some facts will be lost despite being part of the chain that leads to the present. Doing this will help make your setting come alive and that the people have their own lives and agendas that didn't come out of nowhere. By having a history the player can discover what underlies the people of the lands in which they travel and use that knowledge for weal or woe.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Runequest 2nd edition questions

Does Runequest really cause this amount of amputations? There were over a half dozen plus one PC getting a leg smashed. Luckily the PC had Healing 6 but still. The rule states that if a limb take more than 6 over the amount of hit point it is severed or irrevocably crippled. For example arm with 4 hit points will be severed if it takes 10 points of damage. Part of this was due that one of the players had a pole ax doing 3d6 or so damage.

My second question is that when you fire a missle weapons what defense the target gets? I know that if the target moves the skill is reduced by 1/4 and if the target is actively dodging the skill is reduced by a further 1/2. So moving and doding mens 1/4 skill.

Also I am not getting how movement and strike ranks work. I guess is boils down to what determines who moves when when they are not engaged. Plus how do you get out of melee if you want to run away? Rather are their any penalities for moving out of melee. Or moving from one melee to another (provided you only move half your move).


Thursday, June 3, 2010

Runequest Nights and oh the body parts flew,

Dwayne of Gamer's Closet came into town on vacation and we decided to do some gaming with Tim of Gothridge Manor. Being my usual self I suggested we try Runequest ... 2nd edition not II not Mongoose I. At first character generation went fairly quickly. Rather too quickly. My reaction was "That all there was?" There was a pair of lame 16 years old characters. I dug into the rules and found that you can get loans from three different guilds/cults/organizations. In addition there were prior experience rules that allowed to you age to 21.

So Loans were taken out and the characters shaped up much better. Tim plowed everything into his healing spell and wound up with a Healing 6. He bought a grain flail as it was one of the cheapest weapons in the book. I don't think he was supposed to use his thief and fighter funds to do this but hey it was a one night game. Dwayne rolled really well on his attributes and elected to do take shimmer, detect magic, and a really big ass pole axe.

So off they went to Apple Lane and were promptly ambushed by two goblins. I typically run a short combat before the game to give me and everyone else a feel for how it work. It was short. One goblin died with a smashed head and the other died nearly severed at the abdomen.

They went to the Tin Inn in Apple Lane where they were accosted by Gringle the proprietor of Gringle's Pawn Shop. After buying their character a meal and a drink he told them of his problem. Apparently an adventurer stole a magical crystal from a local goblin tribe and sold it to him. A couple of members of the tribe came into the shop and wanted it back. When they balked at the price (20,000 Lunars) they attacked and when beaten off by Little John his halfling bodyguard they threatened vengeance.

He received a vision of his pawnshop being attacked by the 8 goblins and it was defended by Tim and Dwayne characters. He has important rituals to perform tonight so needs to hire the two to defend his shop and the crystal. After some haggling they agreed on a price.

Now at this point some of you who are familiar with Apple Lane are going mmm what is Rob talking about. Sorry folks I just can't take Baboons tribesmen, and ducks, that seriously. So I waved my DM Pen and turned them into Goblins and Halflings. The stats remained the same.

So as Gringle and Little John went off to do their Ritual. Tim and Dwayne tried to setup some traps but only succeeded at the front door.

Then late at night the attack game. The goblins busted though the front door. Using the bars of the public area as a shield the Dwayne successfully mauls the goblins coming through the front. Every time that pole axe hit a body part or two flew off. Meanwhile more goblins tore through the roof and dropped into the whirling flail of Tim's Character. Alas the fight didn't go so well when Tim's Legs was crushed by a luckly mace hit and was attached only by a few shreds of meat. However Tim managed to pull himself together (literally) and with the aid of his Healing 6 ,and a miss by the goblin, reattached his leg and heal most of the damage.

Tim got the upper hand after that, the remaining goblins on the roof ran away, and he killed the two that were in the building. At this point Xarban's Gang busted through the back door. The two parties raced through the building to meet in the Temple. Dwayne stepped behind a doorway and Tim kept healing them.

However the bandit gang was more skilled than the baboons err goblins. Dwayne and Tim were pushed back taking minor hits here and there. The turning point game when they managed to sever the arm of Xarban a Beaked Dragonnewt, the gang's leader. In the gang's retreat, a crested dragonnewt went down with a crushed skull, and the centaur, Big Laugh, got cut off. As Xarban and Pinfeather escaped, Tim and Dwayne hacked down Big Laugh. First by severing an arm, then the killing blow by Dwayne in the hindquarters.

After sunrise Gringle was impressed and paid the party the agreed fee plus a bonus for the bandit gang. Dwayne was shrewd enough to have as part of the term the right to all the goblin's and bandit's equipment. So they sold that to Gringle for a tidy sum as well.
My impression of Runequest 2nd edition is that like all older games it has some really fiddly bits. Don't get me wrong it was interesting and fun in many ways. With roughly the same stat range and probability range as GURPS it is a far bloodier game. Especially with the big ass pole axe.

The Magic System has some useful bits and has a different feel. I can't say I like it. But I can see how it work in terms of the Glorantha setting.

The importance of paying for training was very different than most games I am used too.

I am glad refereed this. After getting some current projects done I plan to do some work on what I call Majestic Quests a d20 version of Runequest % system. This session showed me some of the strengths and pitfalls of the original game.

I will say that first scenario for Apple Lane is rather lame. The raid on Gringle's Pawnshop has a lot of plot holes in it. But as an introduction to Glorantha, the cast of Baboons, Ducks, Dragonnewts, Centaurs, and Rune Lord or two certainly a good example of the setting.

Still don't really got a grip on how Strike Ranks and movement interact. I can see why BRP got away from it. Plus what do you defend with against missile attacks?

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Canoes, Organic Gardening, and Games Oh My!

What does Canoes, Organic Gardening, and Gaming have in common? Most of the time nothing; but at Outback Adventure Games in Tionesta, Pennsylvania. You will find all three.

On the gaming side, they have a good selection of 4th edition D&D, and several popular euro style board games. Plus they have a smaller selection of Call of Cthulu, GURPS and other RPGs. Coupled with a couple of minatures, Axis & Allies, Star Wars, etc. And dice lots of dice. It is a small game store but has a full range of modern product lines. Interestingly it appears to be the only Game Store in that region of Pennsylvania. From Warren to Clarion, Oil City to the east.

Kelly Anne, my wife, was pleased to find gardening supplies and picked up a bag of bird poop err sea bird guano plus a bag of organic fertilizer.

The owner Steven is a nice guy and enthusiastic about the hobby. He has been operating the store for a year as a sideline to his internet business and of course the canoe rental, organic and indoor gardening supplies. Don't let the store front fool you. When you walk you will see that much of the back half of the place is filled with gaming goodness. If you live in the area give him a call and see if he has what you are looking for. He just may have it.