Friday, September 28, 2012

What up with GURPS?

As much of a fan of GURPS as I am, I do realize GURPS has a certain... well... reputation for complexity. And it is undeserved. That not to say that GURPS doesn't have a hurdle to overcome but complexity doesn't have to be one of them.

The heart of GURPS is found in the free GURPS Lite PDF. It 32 pages and every rule in there is used in a normal GURPS Campaign.  The devil for GURPS is in the details, literally. GURPS has a LOT of details. Coupled with that is the fact the GURPS core rulebook are a toolkit. Note if you want to get a taste of the Magic System look at the GURPS Lite 3rd Edition. And if you don't read English well, take your pick of the language of your choice.

To use GURPS you need to choose which options you are going to use to run your campaign. Most of the options are not particularly complex but SJ Games takes the Generic in GURPS very seriously and GURPS 4th edition is a system that literally can handle any type of genre. However the toolkit aspect doesn't appeal to everybody and therein is why GURPS has the reputation it does.

What SJ Games has done in recent years to mitigate this is through their e23 store offer PDFs that IMPLEMENT GURPS for various popular genres. The Dungeon Fantasy series implements GURPS for dungeon crawling. Monster Hunters allows you to play Buffy/Supernatural/Angel/Fringe style campaigns.There is a bunch of them.

If you want to learn to run a GURPS fantasy campaign having played D&D or another fantasy RPG I recommend the following

GURPS Lite 4th edition

The two GURPS Core Book

GURPS Magic 4th edition

Dungeon Fantasy 1,2, and 3.

If the toolkit nature of GURPS doesn't bother you then you can go

GURPS Lite 4th edition

The two GURPS Core Book

GURPS Magic 4th edition

GURPS Fantasy 4th edition

Beyond this you can pick up GURPS Banestorm not so much for its Yrth setting but for all the templates, creature, and character info.

The foremention Dungeon Fantasy Series

GURPS Thaumatology gives you more variant for Magic, some unique some building on GURPS Magic.

If you like detailed combat, then look no further than GURPS Martial Arts.

GURPS Low Tech has the low down on all the mundane stuff of the medieval world. The follow-on PDFs gets  into social and cultural details.

Not even you don't want to use GURPS, Low Tech is a great summary of pre-industrial technology.

Anyway I hope some of you get to try GURPS

Friday, September 21, 2012

Governments for Fantasy Realms

Here are several example from my Majestic Wilderlands that may inspire you for your own campaigns.

The Tharian Confederation
This started out as an alliance of clans of the Tharian Horselords. The clanheads, later their representives, came together as a senate to elect an Overlord to lead them in battle and adjudicate dispute between the clans. After the successful conquest of City-State and neighboring lands, they admitted some of the conquered territories as full members, their nobility allowed to sit on the senate and elect the Overlord.

In the century of its existance the Overlords have engaged in additional conquest, mostly at their own expense, that elevated the office from one of first among equals to a true ruler of the confederation. A bureaucracy has grown from what was the Overlord's household staff. Today the power of Overlord is only matched if all the member of the confederation unite. Also the whole of Tharian culture is fraying as the mores of customs of the horselords are not up to task to ruling many of the sophiscated cultures they conquered. Adoption of foreign cults and following charismatic leaders is the order of the day in the campaign's present.

The Viridstan Empire
The Viridistan Empire was founded by a race of humanoid demons who managed to escape the Abyss. There has been three Viridstan Empires. The Third Empire was founded when the number of Viridians were declining. They are noted for their perscuetion of all other religion subsituting the Imperial Cult which elevates the current Emperor to godhood. They believe greately in divide and conquer. The Empire is divided into provinces. Provinces are divided into districts. Each province and district has a Governor in charge of civil matters and a General in charge of military matters. Viridistan custom and law is very strict on the separation of military and civil authority. At the district level there are Magistrates and Sheriffs. There also a district Senate which makes local laws and control local taxation. The senators are appointed by the Emperor on advice of the Governors and Magistrates. There are several empire wide organization under the sponsorship and protection of the Emperor. The Imperial Cult is one of them as well as the College of Artificers (focused on making magic items).

The Ghinorians
The various Ghinorian successor states have the closest thing to traditional feudalism in my setting. The Ghinorians believe themselve to be the chosen people of Mitra, the Goddess of Honor and Justice. Their earliest governments were theocratic. While this no longer true of present day realms, The Church of Mitra is still highly important in Ghinorian culture. By tradition the highest Ghinorian title is the Prince. Their equivalent of King is reserved for the rulers of first state that managed to unite the Ghinor several thousand years ago. Since it fall, rulers of subsquent Ghinorian realms have decline to assume the title out of respect. During the Ghinorian Empire the head of state was known as the Imperial Prince and was considered the Prince of Princes.

Beneath the princes are dukes, counts, and barons. Like in Earth's history, Dukes and Counts were originally imperial offices that were transformed into higher noble offices after the collapse of the Ghinorian Empire. The titles of Prince and Baron were holdovers from the earliest days of Ghinorian cultures. The collapse of the Empire also caused the imperial economy to collaspe along with the widespread use of money. Land grants became the only means which the successor states could raise and maintain troops for their defense.

However despite the bleak economic times, serfdom never took hold. The Church of Mitra was firmly against anything that smelled of slavery or involuntary servitude. Instead sharecropping became the norm for feudal lords dealing with landless peasants. Manoralism did take hold as peasants needed to pool their mergre resources as well as the protection of the feudal lords. In the last two centuries before the campaign's present the money economy has re-estabilshed itself and many peasants have managed to purchase the strips of land they work. Also the various successor Princes are working to separate civil authority away from the feudal lords. This has led to violent clashes in some regions. Also the Ghinorians are divided over how catholic their faith in Mitra is. One side preaches that any who accepts Mitra as their god is a Ghinorian with all rights and oligations. The other side believes that only those who are born Ghinorians are the chosen of Mitra.

Like the Tharian Horselords the Elessarians are a clan based society. However while the Tharian clans are large groups of extended families, Elessarian clans are confined to immediate relatives. Elessarians have kings and nobles, however they serve mostly only as military officers. The source of Elessarian law are the Trehaens, a groups of scholars. Many Trehaens pursue the study of law and act as judges and mediators in disputes between clans and individuals. If need be they can issue a writ to the local nobles calling on them to enforce a judgment. Decisions o a individual Trehaen can be appeal to a regional circle. From there a final appeal can be made to the King's Circle of Trehaens. The king is an adminstrator and the supreme military commander. He has a lot of respect but little power except in times of war or emergencies. Elessarian culture is highly influenced by the Elves, and out of all the various Wilderlands cultures they are the most apt to cooperate and interact with the traditional demi-human races (elves, dwaves, halflings, etc).

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

What the OSR ought be doing.

Tenkar has a post about definitions which go me thinking about my feeling on the matter.

In general I like to focus on describing what going on and develop terms to describe what I see. For example when I look at folks who say they are part of the OSR the only common element I see is that they play an older edition of D&D and don't think it broken or outdated. Everything depends on where you are looking. Which is why I say the OSR is comprised of fans of older editions of D&D.

But some folks launch into a debate with me and say "Well, what about Traveller, Tunnels and Trolls, etc, etc. They are old school too." To which I say yes they are old school, but the OSR is foremost about playing older editions of D&D . However depending on who you talk too. You will find interest in all those games and more. The fact that the group of gamers who like playing and publishing for older edition D&D got labeled as the Old School Renaissance is one of those accidents of history.

This is not to say I don't have an opinion on what ought to be going on. I say that in the upper right corner of this blog. What ought be going on with the OSR, especially on the publishing end,  is that people should try to look at their favorite older game and say to themselves 
 What can I do different with the game that was not tried back in the day because of circumstances or the interest of folks back then.
  If are you not doing this don't sweat it. Because first and foremost the ultimate goal of what we are doing is taking these dusty old games off of the shelves and start playing them again to the enjoyment of a new generation.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Exploring Medieval Birmingham

Here is a pair of articles showing a detailed model of medieval Birmingham

Article 1
Article 2

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

From the Attic: Where are all the humans in Greyhawk?

Over on Hill Cantons,

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

So now that the Swords & Wizardry Kickstarter is done.

In celebration of the recently concluded Swords & Wizardry Kickstarter here is a potporri of Bat in the Attic material you can use.

Majestic Wilderlands which is a rules supplement for Swords & Wizardry. The Book is $12 and the PDF $7

Blackmarsh a setting which works pretty much with any Older Edition and the PDF is free so you get going right away for your campaigns if you don't have something already. The book is $7 the PDF is free to download and to reuse for your own projects.

I have a free downloads of the following
A PDF of my How to Make a Fantasy Sandbox posts on Bat In the Attic

Fantasy Demographics

Plus a PDF on creating magic items that from another S&W project I am working on The Lost Book of Magic

And very rough draft well more my notes  of a 2nd to 4th level adventure called The Elf Lord's Temple

So that should be enough to get folks started on their Swords & Wizardry campaigns.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Running a Long Term Campaign in Fantasy Earth

On Google Plus, Evan Elkins asks
+Anthony Pastores once commented that one of the things that makes homebrew settings better than pre-made ones is a sense that PC action has permanent effects on the setting.  If you make your PC king of +Uz in my game, and I run that setting for a different group either your PC one of his descendants is likely to be the king.

But what about Fantasy Earth?  Two DMs will probably make two totally different Earth's.  For example: if I ran the Roman game I described earlier, it wouldn't look very much like +Zzarchov Kowolski's version of Earth.  But can you achieve that sense of permanence?

If I later use the setting again for new people, wouldn't I have to move time forward to accommodate them?  Won't I eventually bump into a period that isn't the one that interested me in the first place if I did that?

So how do those of you who are running/have run/are planning to run fantasy Earth games handling this stuff?

I been running the Majestic Wilderlands for nearly 30 years since the campaign has progressed from the year 4433 BCCC to  4460 BCCC, 27 years of game time. In general I start the next campaign about two years further in the future from the previous campaign. From what I understand other long term multi-years home campaign settings have a similar slow rate of in-game time versus out-of-game time.

The implication for a Fantasy Earth campaign is that, this is probably something you don't to worry about as even if you play for a couple of decades you are not going to rack up that much in-game time.  Evans mentions a Roman game, he could easily set it during the period of the Five Good Emperors and I would doubt he would would get out of the time period if he started with Nerva in a couple of decades.

However with players who are willing to attempt anything, changes can and do happen. In which case is to treat subsequent history as an alternate history. The nice thing about using an earth based setting is that you have a bunch of ready made "grand plots" in the wings. For example while the period of the Five Good Emperors was the Roman Empire at it's height, the Romans never really solved the succession problem. Leaving the Principate open to anybody with the charisma or wealth to control the legions. All it took for the era to come to an end was for Marcus Aurelius to appoint his son Commodus as his successor instead of finding a truly worthy successor as his immediate predecessors did.

An underlying grand theme of a Roman campaign could easily be about resolving this issue. Successive campaign build up to determine whether the Era of Good Emperors continues or devolves into the warring general that ignited the Crisis of the Third Century. Just about any period of history could be cast with a grand theme based on foreknowledge of subsequent events.

 Note I am not talking about a multi-generational campaign like the Great Pendragon Campaign. That type of campaign deliberately invokes the sweep of history and the characters take multi-year leaps at various time. The players playing the sons and daughters of the original characters. The campaign I refering is the one where the referee simply stick to the same setting when runing a fantasy game. It can cross multiple themes and groups.