Tuesday, December 6, 2016

First Edition Woodgrain OD&D boxed set

If folks want to take a look at a First printing OD&D Woodgrain Box there is a ebay sale going on with detailed pictures.

Has a interesting back story to go along with it.

This set is in Very Fine condition with one small stain on the front label and very minor scuffing on the corners of the box. Note that the Reference Sheets are not stapled, but loose sheets folded together. This was the original condition.
It was acquired by the present owner in an interesting way.
In 1974 I worked in a project offering supplemental educational materials to four school districts in Northwestern Wisconsin. I met Bill, an elementary school librarian, who was very excited about working with his students using role playing games. He had a friend in Minneapolis whom he had met through their shared interest in war gaming. This friend, “Lance,” was involved with creating a new project, a fantasy-style wargame in a box that could be played by anyone.
My librarian friend was working with a sixth-grade class to create a book based on playing the game. Included in this set is a copy of the booklet that his students created using the game.
Bill also used a 20-sided die that he had hand-colored to differentiate scoring. Adding to the charm of this set, the die is included, as is a hand-written note from Bill, the librarian, explaining the use of the die. He added that there was currently a shortage of these dice, but they were available in England. He was going to England for a vacation, and would be bringing some back with him.
I hope the new owner of this game enjoys owning this piece of gaming history.
Please do not hesitate to contact me with questions. I will try to reply to all inquiries within 24 hours.

The seller appears legit and is answering questions on the Acaeum Forum[/URL].

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Dungeon Grappling Kickstarter

Douglas Cole of Gaming Ballistic has started a Dungeon Grappling Kickstarter. He was a great player in my DnD 5e Majestic Wilderlands campaigns, and the author of several GURPS Supplements including Technical Grappling for GURPS.

The basic idea is that there a better way of dealing with grappling. Doug developed a set of mechanics that takes the same basic mechanics of rolling to hit and inflicting damage and turns the result into something meaningful when it comes to grappling. He did this for GURPS and now he doing this for classic DnD, Pathfinder, and DnD 5e with the kickstarter.

Doug's project already funded however further support will allow him to pay for a ebook layout and full color art. I hope you will support him.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Ten days left to get onto Operation Unfathomable.

+Jason Sholtis and his team are putting together Operation Unfathomable. A adventure/setting setting set in a weird fantasy underworld. I only had the pleasure of playing once in his setting but it was a pretty cool experience. I found myself enjoying it a lot which was surprising as weird is really not my thing as a referee or a player.

So you know I am biased when it comes to Jason and his team work. I did some maps for one of his products as well as he did the art for Scourge of the Demon Wolf.

Even if you don't think this is a thing for you, you owe yourself to check out their intro video. Definitely one of the best I seen for RPG Kickstarters.

Just read the below and just ask yourself whether this is something you can pass up.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

More Treasure Tables and Inspiration Pad Pro Tutorial

So for my lunch hour project I been working on Random Treasure Generation for my Majestic Fantasy RPG. First as I stated earlier, making a decent random treasure generation is surprisingly a lot of work. And that it is critical to code it up using software like NBos's Inspiration Pad Pro to see if what you expected happens over 100 to 1000 rolls.

I was surprised to find that Matt Finches Swords and Wizardry  random treasure generation to be very stingy. An solitary Adult Red Dragon with a CR 15 is going to have a treasure horde worth between 4,600 gp to 9,600 gp. According to the Sword and Wizardry treasure rules this will on average result in 1 roll on the major treasure tradeout, 5 to 9 rolls on the medium treasure tradeout and 46 to 96 rolls on the minor treasure tradeout.

There only a 10% chance of getting a trade out over the cash value. When you do roll a tradeout there only a 1 in 20 chance of rolling magic items. This means only 1 in 200 dragon hoards will have a major magic item. Roughly 1 in 30 dragon hoards will have a medium magic item. And finally roughly 1 in 3 even having a minor magic item like a healing potion.

I realize I sound critical, but I do know that for many referee an extremely low number of magic items is what they prefer for this campaign. However this does not fit how I been running my Majestic Wilderlands for the last decade. I been using the ODnD treasure tables and Gygax's monster and treasure assortments. Magic items are not plentiful in either but they do appear about 20% of time with the type of item appropriate to the power of the creature.

The general idea behind the Swords and Wizardry treasure generation system is sound so what I been doing is adjusting the odds in Nbos's Inspiration Pad Pro until it product what I expected over a 100, and even 1,000 rolls.

Before I was getting stuff like this for the CR 15 Dragon

Orb Brass 14 oz. (14 sp), Scroll of Speak with Animals, 400 sp

now I am getting stuff like

Potion of Dragon Control, Potion of Heroism, +1 One Handed Spear, Lapis Lazuli Gem (5 sp), Bronze Necklace (7 sp), +1 Broadsword, 1 crown (320 sp), 1,163 sp

Much better for how I run my campaigns. Again the lesson, if you going to do an elaborate system of random tables, code it up to see if it does what you expect it too.

Now for the second half of my post. How do you code this up with Inspiration Pad Pro. Today I will cover the basics.

The first thing to remember is that Inspiration Pad Pro random table are just text files that can be edited in notepad. The newest version has a built in editor as well. The file is saved with a ipt extension instead of a txt extension. You will need to place your file in a folder in the generators folder where you installed IPP. 

Inside the you will start off like this.

Header: Random Cursed Magic Items for the Majestic Fantasy RPG

Next you define the table like this


1-2:Bag of Devouring
3-4:Censer of Hostile Elementals
5-6:Cloak of Poison
7-8:Crystal Ball of Suggestion
9-10:Dancing Boots
11-12:Flask of Stoppered Curses
13-14:Horn of Collapse
15-16:Medallion of Projecting Thoughts
17-18:Mirror of Opposition
19-20:Robe of Feeblemindedness

Table:(name) is used to name the table which is not important for a file that has single table. However if you have sub tables then it become important.

Next Roll:(dice roll convention) defines what type of dice I will be rolling.

The entries are formatted like:
(dice range):(result)>

The dice range can be a single number '5' or a range '5-6'. The result can be any piece of text you want.

Finally you terminate the table with EndTable:

You also can do random lists like this


With each item having equal odds of appearing.

With this you can define one table per file and save them in a folder underneath the generator folder. When you fire up IPP then you will see them appear.

Is there is more? Yup, and I will cover that in another post. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Old School Is Too Cool: The Dungeon Fantasy RPG

It not often I get asked to help out with another company's promotion. But SJ Games reached out to me and asked to post this article by Christopher Rice about the Dungeon Fantasy RPG.  The only benefit I am receiving from this is a link to my blog from SJ Games; social media. After Mr. Rice's article I will link to some things that may be of interest to fans of GURPS that I have written about.

Old School Is Too Cool: The Dungeon Fantasy RPG

The first ever GURPS Kickstarter ends September 30, and has funded. While that’s incredible news for fans, it’s absolutely amazing news for those not yet acquainted with the Generic Universal RolePlaying System or GURPS.

The Dungeon Fantasy RPG is based on the excellent GURPS Dungeon Fantasy series. Dungeon Fantasy is old-school roleplaying (go on a quest, kill some monsters, get some treasure) that uses the flexible and potent GURPS engine. I like to tell my new players that GURPS is like a smartphone: There’s an app for everything! Except in this case, there’s a rule for everything. The beauty of the system is that you don’t have to use those rules. You can pare it down to the bare bones if you want – and that’s exactly what Sean Punch does in this new game. The Dungeon Fantasy RPG starts with the GURPS rules set, takes only what it needs, and ignores everything else. This boxed set is broken down into a multiple books: Adventurers, Exploits, Spells, Monsters, and Dungeon.

Adventurers streamlines the front-loaded character-creation process for GURPS, making it quick and manageable. All the details you need are right there and ready to go.

Exploits gives players and GMs clear and concise rules for Doing Stuff. The task scaling modifiers using narrative descriptors alone is amazing, but everything in this book is downright useful to old hands as well as new. Exploits takes the rules from the GURPS Basic Set: Campaigns, boils them down to their essence, and then adds more, while somehow speeding up game play.

Spells uses the GURPS Magic system, with several tweaks to turn spells into more playable (and streamlined) traits.

Monsters has every sort of creature you can shake a stick at and then some. From your humble orc all the way to the exotic six-armed peshkali, and of course everyone’s favorite: the leaping leech.
The provided adventure, I Smell a Rat, harkens back to the old All in a Night’s Work (though it’s a group adventure, not a solo one).

Sean Punch provides an action-packed boxed set with things newcomers to GURPS can enjoy – and enough novel rules and approaches to game mechanics that old hands will enjoy it just as much.

The design obviously incorporates solutions to problems gamers had with the standard Dungeon Fantasy series, while remaining true to spirit of GURPS and Dungeon Fantasy. If I can use a metaphor: The Dungeon Fantasy RPG is the recipe handed down to your children after years of perfecting the original so it’s “just right.”

This is in my opinion the best work Sean Punch has written to date. What he does with established material turns Dungeon Fantasy on its head – in a good way. So if you haven’t seen the Kickstarter yet, head on over, buy a copy of the new boxed set (or two or three!) and be welcomed into the world of Dungeon Fantasy and the larger world of GURPS.

The biggest concern people often have about this is what I call the Munchkin factor. Munchkin is a game that in part as a parody of various genres including dungeon crawling. I have the Dungeon Fantasy line and for the most part it is a straight forward well designed distillation of GURPS for the type of campaigns that most people use the various DnD core books. It is not GURPS Dungeon Munchkins or GURPS Hackmaster 4e. And the Dungeon Fantasy RPG look to be similar in tone. And as you saw from the preview of the Bard I posted, it will support all types of roleplaying encounter as least as well as any edition of DnD does.

So why GURPS and not just stick with DnD. Well even at the 250 pt level that the DF line targets GURPS is a deadly game. Character survive because of their skill not because they can sit there and absorb blow after blow. If you caught under the wrong circumstance or somebody has better tactics, you are going to go down quickly. Combined with character customization it makes for a different kind of challenge than your average DnD campaign. 

Now the promised links. 

Here is the link to my Majestic Wilderlands website containing some of the house rules I used when running a GURPS Majestic Wilderlands campaign.

The Myrmidon of Set template reflecting how I would write templates for GURPS
A session roster from the last GURPS campaign I ran.
The original Scourge of the Demon Wolf when I ran it using GURPS. Note much in the way of notes. I used the basic wolf and just made the quantity of the wolves such they were a serious threat.
Paltar the Spearman a 100 point GURPS Character. 
No GURPS stats but a handout with rumors for the last GURPS campaign I ran.

Last I want to say that my Majestic Wilderlands is a translation of the templates and stuff I used in my GURPS into DnD classes and items. When the DF RPG is in hand I plan on taking my original notes updating them and releasing them as a free document/ For example the Myrmidon template above. The Knight Killer Crossbow, etc.

Armor as Reduction

+Joshua Macy shared a post from Tales of the Rambling Bumblers about Armor as reduction.

The advantage of armor is that is distributes the force of a blow over a larger surface area than the weapon itself. The result that the force experienced by any one part of the target's body is considerably less despite the total amount of force being the same. Also note it points out why even the plate armor is not 100% effective in all cases. Not because of gaps but rather there are times when distributing the blow is not enough. A lot of time this will result in some form of blunt trauma.

Armed with this knowledge, it makes sense to represent armor as reducing damage right? That classic DnD got it horribly wrong with the Armor Class system. Well it turns out that classic DnD had a very good reason for using Armor Class in combat. It also goes hand in hand with levels and hit points.

It has to do with the game Chainmail. In Chainmail, you had man to man combat. You cross indexed the weapon you were using against the armor being worn by the target. You roll 2d6 if it equal to the target number or higher the defender is dead. In the fantasy supplement of Chainmail, a Hero could fight as four figures, and you had to deal four hit in mass combat OR man to man to take out a Hero. A Super Hero fought as 8 figures and took 8 hits to take out.

When Dave Arneson started up the Blackmoor campaign focusing on player playing individual rather than armies, his starting point for man to man combat was the Chainmail rules.
One hit = one kill was boring to Dave Arneson, so he expanded it to 1 hit = 1d6 damage and 1 hit to kill = 1d6 hit points. In addition instead having just three ranks of experience (Veteran, Hero, and Super Hero) he allowed character to be in-between those rank. A veteran+1 that could take 2d6 hit points of damage. This led to the concept of levels with the Veteran being 1st level, the Hero 4th, and the Super Hero 8th. Gygax used this as the foundation for his draft of Dungeon & Dragons. And it was carried over the final version released in 1974. In the Greyhawk supplement weapons damage was varied in the number and kind of dice used, and each class was changed to use a different dice for hit points. (MUs and thieves: 1d4, Clerics: 1d6, Fighters: 1d8) That what the abstraction of armor class, hit dice, and hit points means in D&D. Everything else is after the fact justification for how it evolved from Chainmail. The more interesting question is why did it stick around for so long? There are lot of examples where trail blazer in a field is supplanted later by another that finally gets it right. But the classic D&D abstractions persist to this day and enjoy widespread popularity.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Working on Treasure Tables

I been working on random treasure generation for my Majestic Fantasy RPG and just got done a few days ago with the first pass on the tables. On paper it seems reasonable but when I coded them up and looked how they worked. It was not entirely what I expected. So I been playing with the odds to get it more in line with what I expected and then I will edit the rules to match it. The Details

In this day and age if you going to make a detailed set of random tables take the time to code them in for Inspiration Pad Pro or tablesmith and generate a 1000 results.
A while ago I coded up the OD&D treasure tables for my own use and generated several rather large locales off of it like the Wild North. So I developed a sense of how much magic items there are versus the monetary value of a treasure. Later I started using Gygax's monster and treasure assortment which generally produces similar results to the treasure type system.

I developed my take on Treasure Tables off of what +Matt Finch wrote for Swords & Wizardry. It is a system where you calculate the value of the hoard then roll for "tradout" in 100 gp, 1000 gp and 5000 gp blocks. If you roll a 19-20 than the gold is traded out for jewelry or magic items. But only magic items if you roll a nat 20.

The result is nothing like the treasure type system of ODnD or ADnD. It doesn't generate any where near the number of jewelry or magic items the original system does.

I like the general algorithm of Matt's scheme so I am tweaking the odds of the tradeouts to get something closer to what I been using. The lesson here is that it pays to spend the time getting into a computer utility to see what it does over 1000s of rolls.

I am going to honest and say that while I plan to include random treasure tables into the books that I am writing, The part you will be using will probably be the assortments. I am defining the assortment as a random table where each entry is the result of using the random treasure generation. It way easier to use as there is just a single table with a 100 or so precalculated entries. Note you can't just roll a 100 entries for the 2nd dungeon level and be done with it. You have to look the result and make sure that there are not too many repeated result. If there are, reroll until the assortment reflects the variety of that available with the full blown random treasure generation.
I still use random treasure generation but only wnen I need something different for a specific encounter or area.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

A sneak preview of a GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Character

Over on the kickstarter, the SJ Games crew released a preview of a Dungeon Fantasy Character.

Lyndon Glibtongue

First off kudos for releasing a Bard character first. There been considerable debate over the fact the project is oriented towards Dungeon Fantasy and that all that it will support is hack and slash gameplay. Looking over the Bard character you can see that the character has plenty of skills (Carousing, Savoir Faire. Merchant) that could be used in pure roleplaying encounters. 

Also as far as being a GURPS character it looks pretty standard which should make using the rest of the GURP line pretty easy to use if you want too. Of course compared to a OD&D character there is a lot more there, but I think people will know that when they try this game. 

The key will be how easy it is to make this character? With the 4th edition core books it is a matter of going through voluminous lists which takes considerable time and very confusing to a novice. With the Dungeon Fantasy RPG hopefully it is as easy as going through the 2nd edition boxed set with its 72 pages of character rules. 

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Dungeon Fantasy is Funded!

The Dungeon Fantasy RPG powered by GURPS is Funded! It is getting to be a nice package and the add-ons seem pretty sensible like a pregenerated PCs to be included with the GM Screen.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Adventures in Middle Earth, a review

I bought Adventures in Middle Earth, the D&D 5th edition sourcebook for Tolkien's Middle Earth produced by Cubicle 7. Cublicle early published The One Ring RPG after securing the Middle Earth license. I have PDFs of the first two books of The One Ring. It OK but not really my style as it has to much narrative/metagaming mechanics in it and abstract in other eras like combat. It seem to me more focused on creating stories set in Middle Earth than experiencing what it is like to do things in Middle Earth. Which is what I want out of an RPG I referee.

So I was eager to get a crack at a D&D 5th edition sourcebook because if they make a honest effort at being a sourcebook there only so much storytelling metagame they can try to jam in. And the good news overall, they do a good job. It is a solid 5th edition sourcebook.

So lets get that out of the way. Adventure of Middle Earth isn't a clone it is a source book. You will need the D&D 5e core book, the 5e SRD, or the 5e basic rules on hand to run this. The Loremaster supplement looks like it will extend the Dungeon Master side rather act as a replacement.

The Wilderlands

The default setting of The One Ring and Adventures in Middle Earth is set in the Wilderlands (the area in which Tolkien's Hobbit took place) after the death of Smaug and before the events of the Lord of the Ring. Now that Smaug is dead, people are resettling and reclaiming old homes and building new ones. But evil still lurks and Sauron's hand still reaches out from the darkness of Mordor.

But Cubicle includes enough of the rest of Middle Earth that you could pretty much set your campaign anytime after the downfall of Numenor in the 2nd Age. Perhaps even back to the end of the first age if you know your Tolkien lore and proficient in D&D 5e. The only major thing that is omitted are the high elves like Elrond and those who live at Rivendell.

The first section is devoted to fleshing out the Wilderlands and its inhabitant. It is a travelogue full of high level details. You will have to work at fleshing a specific area in order to start a campaign. If your know your Tolkien already it serve as a useful summary of what they are planning to cover.

Adventures in Middle Earth is not focused on race but rather cultures. Races are wrapped up in this sections so you can play a Dwarf of the Lonely Mountain, or an Elf of Mirkwood. Men of Bree are treated a little different than Men of the Lake which are not the same as the Dunedain. The full list is Bardings,Beornings, Dúnedain, Dwarves of the Lonely Mountain, Elves of Mirkwood, Hobbits of the Shire, Men of Bree, Men of the Lake, Men of Minas Tirith, Riders of Rohan, Woodmen of Wilderland. Like I said before the only major omission are the Elves of Rivendell.

I am all for the culture based presentation as when I run my own Majestic Wilderlands, I focus on the adventure that rises out of the clash of culture, religion, and politics. However I am little disappointed in the write up of the elves. My own version is largely taken from Tolkien's writings. Here they are pretty D&D 5e elves with a few changes to make them into Middle Earth woodland elves. I think they were afraid to present an "unbalanced culture" even though that would better reflect Tolkien's source material.

But this a minor nitpick in otherwise good job in this section.

I have to say that classes and how they all mesh together is pretty sweet. In my view this is the definitive low fantasy presentation of D&D. There is still magic but it is very low key. Here an example of a 17th level Scholar ability
Words Unspoken
At 17th level, you may convey your thoughts without speaking aloud. When dealing with high-level Scholars, Elves, Dúnedain or other folk of power, you may hold a full conversation, speaking mind to mind. Others have a sense or intuition of your words, but cannot reply, and may misinterpret your thoughts as their own. You cannot read the minds of others with this ability. Once per long rest, you may send brief snatches of your thought over great distances, conveying a single word or short message in dreams.
Here the list of classes and their specialties Scholar (Master Healer, Master Scholar), Slayer(The Rider, Foe-Hammer), Treasure Hunter(Agent, Burglar),  Wanderer(Hunter of Beasts, Hunter of Shadows), Warden(Counsellor, Herald, Bounder), Warrior(Knight, Weaponmaster).

The downside, none really. I didn't spot any obvious mistake and they all convey the flavor of Middle Earth. I can them seeing working with the traditional 5e classes in another setting. Even they are "weaker" than standard 5e classes when it comes to combat, they will probably do quite well in terms of the life of campaign setting. Probably better than most of the standard classes as they feel more organic.

Now this is a clever use of feats. On one hand Virtues are nothing more than 5e feats with the additional provision that some are limited to specific cultures. Just like feats you acquire them in lieu of an increase in ability scores. (4th, 8th, 12th, 16th, and 19th level).

They work for Adventures in Middle Earth as they all been rewritten to fit in the Middle Earth setting. For example this for Dunedain
Endurance of the Dúnedain
"Hardy is the race of Elendil!"
The Dúnedain have long endured war against Mordor and the forces of the Great Enemy. They are slow to weary and endure burdens stoically. In battle they are fearsome foes, often able to fight on against overwhelming odds and in spite of grievous wounds.
When a blow reduces you to 0 hit points, but does not kill you outright, you may spend Inspiration to automatically stabilise, remain conscious and continue to take actions.
I read one interesting suggestion by a fan that all characters of a given culture should automatically get their cultural virtues. That might something you want to try.

All specific to Middle Earth and pretty much have the same effect as they are in the D&D 5e core books. Of course this specific character mechanic was meant by Mearls and crew to be customized for ones campaign.

The backgrounds are Loyal Servant, Doomed to Die, Driven from Home, Emissary of your People, Fallen Scion, The Harrowed, Hunted by the Shadow, Lure of the Road, The Magician, Oathsworn, Reluctant Adventurer, Seeker of the Lost, and World Weary.

The D&D 5e equipment list modified and rewritten to fit Middle Earth. The most interesting thing are culture heirlooms which function as roleplaying macguffins and minor magic items. You get them either by taking the Cultural Heirloom virtue, maybe as treasure, and perhaps as a result of a successful audience
Númenórean ArrowsFor many long centuries, the “Men of the Sea” sent cohorts of archers to deluge their enemies under a rain of steel. Their long, black-feathered arrows can still be discovered inside burial mounds, among the tall grass of Eriador or where long-forgotten battles were fought across Gondor.
You start each Adventuring phase (see pg. 198) with a number of Númenórean Arrows equal to half your proficiency bonus (round up). When you attack using a great bow, you may declare that you are using one of them. If you succeed on your attack roll, the arrow does additional damage equal to your Wisdom bonus; moreover, your target’s next attack is made with disadvantage.
At the end of the battle you can recover your used arrows if circumstances allow it, unless you rolled a 1, in which case, that arrow is lost or broken beyond recovery.
I want to note that I like the section on Middle Earth herbs. It fits well with the low fantasy feel of the product.

Now here is an interesting section where they give you some mechanics for making journeys interesting. If you read the book, you know the character travel a lot. This is their way of fitting that into a Middle Earth campaign. It is consist of three main things. First, the conditions at the start of the journey, a way of generating what your encounter on the journey. And then your condition at the end of the journey.

It is the latter that will probably get ignore by traditional 5e gamers because it requires you to roleplay how your character feels. Many if not most players react poorly to mechanics that dictate how they must roleplaying. It one thing to read a cultural or race description to use as a starting point, it is another to have a specific mechanics that says
3. Arrival in Poor Spirits
They are beset by foul moods and short tempers that they must work hard to throw off. They are considered disadvantaged on all rolls pertaining to social interaction, until such time as they succeed in one of these rolls. This penalty will apply if they seek an Audience at the destination. If there is a single upside to this dark mood, it is that they are so spoiling for a fight that each member of the company receives advantage to their Initiative rolls should they find themselves in combat at the destination.
It not that that this can't work in a campaign, but it will have limited appeal. While success at overcoming the various challenge during the journey has an impact on the final rolls. I will have to try it and see how it works but it may be too random. The system for generating encounters however is solid.

Keep the roleplaying aspect in mind as move forward. Aside from the occasional use of 5e' Inspiration mechanics there is little in the way of anything involving metagaming or narrative mechanics. There however a whole lot of what I would call roleplaying mechanics. Think how people play being charmed, under the effects of a confusion problem, suggestion, etc. Some groups roleplay it quite well, others don't.

There is no alignment in Adventures in Middle Earth. There is however corruption. The basic idea is the more evil acts you commit, the more evil you experience, the more open you are to the corruption of the shadow that is Sauron. This is basically Call of Cthulu sanity mechanics adapted to Middle Earth and crafted to fit with D&D 5e. Like Coc insanity mechanic, successfully using this require player willing to roleplay. The part with the least appeal will be where even exposure to evil cause corruption. While true to Tolkien's presentation of Middle Earth, many players will not find this appealing. Particularly as it runs up against the player's tendency to thrust themselves into danger in pursuit of their goals.

Another feature of Tolkien's stories is that the adventurers will occasionally encounter the great and mighty of Middle Earth mostly in the form of audience where they either have to explain themselves, or ask for a favor. This short section gives some rules and guideline for making this work during the course of a Middle Earth campaign.

The Fellowship Phase
Ars Magica was an RPG released around 1989 that focused on players roleplaying mages living in a secret magical society within the confines of otherwise medieval Europe. Pendragon is another RPG focused on roleplaying in the setting of of the legend of King Arthur and features, among other things, playing characters across generation of a family. Both of these games devote a portion of their rules to laying out system of time keeping to reflect how character live their lives within each setting. Unlike many D&D campaign, the time adventuring is the exception not the norm. Both RPGs have rules that flesh out the other parts of the character's lives.

The Fellowship rules does this for Adventures in Middle Earth. The idea is that at the conclusion of an adventure the fellowship disbands for a time and the character return to their lives to recover, heal, or to undertake long term projects. Then the fellowship is reformed when the course of events require everybody to adventure again. An important use of the Fellowship phase to recover from corruption.

Adventures in Middle Earth pretty glosses over the details and references the upcoming Loremaster book. It also mention sanctuaries which I assume are places like Rivendell where players find safety. It also mentioned that it not totally devoid of action or important events. For example Elrond's Council in LoTR, Lothlorien, or Elrond helping Thorin and Company in the Hobbit.

Overall I am pretty happy with this product and eager to see the Loremaster book. I hope to run a campaign provided my players are interested in the roleplaying aspects.

Addendum - Inspiration. 
+Douglas Cole asked what they have to say on acquiring inspiration which has a brief mention in the core rules of DnD 5e. Inspiration plays a major part in various specific abilities. And they do give more specifics on how to earn inspiration. Although at its heart it remains a judgment call on the quality of roleplaying done by the player.
From the General Overview
Roleplaying your character in accordance with your background grants Inspiration. Inspiration not only allows Adventures in Middle-earth a roll with advantage, it can also be spent to trigger certain special abilities, representing an effort of will or the use of an innate power. Finally, while a character has Inspiration, they may avoid the worst effects of being Miserable.
From Backgrounds - Distinctive Quality
Distinctive qualities define a Player-hero’s personality traits and physical peculiarities, whether inborn or developed during their upbringing. Highlighting one’s most distinctive quality is generally worth the awarding of Inspiration.

Distinctive Qualities are one of the four tables for  each background and have entries like
2 Fair-spoken. You have a pleasant speaking voice that puts your listeners at ease.
3 Honourable. You are the consummate diplomat and have garnered a reputation for being respectful with your foreign peers.
While they don't say it outright I get the feeling that the Loremaster Guide will be covering the awarding of Inspiration.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Basics of GURPS (again)

In light of the Dungeon Fantasy RPG kickstarter, here is a post from 2010 outlining the basics of GURPS.

GURPS has a reputation of being overly complex. The problem is due to the core books being organized as a toolkit.  This makes it difficult for novices or gamers coming over from other system to figure out how to use the game. With GURPS 2nd Edition (which I started) it was easy for ADnD players see how the system will work for them. The core set + GURPS Magic was a inexpensive investment for a near complete Fantasy RPG. However starting with 3rd Edition and continuing the 4th edition, the product line doubled down on the toolkit format. The result is a very flexible roleplayng game but one that take some work pulling the bits and pieces together for a campaign.

However underlying all this is a very solid system that makes sense for a lot of genres. Whatever issue I have about the presentation, in the art of rule design the folks at SJ Games are top notch. And GURPS 4th edition is the best designed version to date.

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 comparable to a 5th level character in various editions of DnD. If you want to start a true beginning character then 75 to 100 points will do it. GURPS Dungeon Fantasy starts out at 250 pts  that allows character to have more endurance when exploring dungeons. Basically the increased number of points give each type of character more ways to avoid, deal with, or mitigate danger. However combat and injury are still a deadly affair and nothing like high level DnD combat.

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. There are advantages, and disadvantage that allow you vary aspect of these attribute, for example lifting Strength.

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. You use them to define err... 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. Dungeon Fantasy is more straight forward with its use of template. This is also make easier for you those who are starting with GURPS so see what goes with what for different types of characters.

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 DnD style adventures. GURPS Fantasy has more still oriented towards more toward a low Fantasy Realism.

GURPS resolves actions by rolling under or equal to a skill level using 3d6. Skill is computer as a base attribute plus your skill modifier. For example Stealth can be bought so that it is at Dex+1. For a character with a 13 Dexterity this means they would have a Stealth skill of 14. Note that it is very expensive to buy up attributes after a certain point than it is to buy skills.

A roll of a 3, or 4 is generally a critical success, while a roll of 17, 18 is a critical failure. There are exceptions for bad skill or high skills.

Combat works with one second combat round. You can do one thing and one thing only. For action other than a move there is a possibility of taking a one yard hex.

You roll equal to or under your skill to hit. If you hit, the target will likely get a defense roll. If the defense roll succeeds then the attack was a miss. Otherwise roll damage and subtract the damage resistance of the target. The result is applied to your hit point which is generally equal to your strength. If you go below zero you start rolling to stay conscious every round. If you go below negative your original HP then you start making death checks. You generally have between 10 and 15 hit point during a campaign. Slightly higher for Dungeon Fantasy.

Extraordinary abilities are either a self-contained subsystem (like magic, psionics), or they are completely explained in the description (like super powers).

In general you can expect for a given genre (realistic or not) a one for one correspondence between what you want to try and the rule you use to resolve it. However there are way to abstract GURPS especially combat. There is an option to resolve combat as a series of contest of skills where the two side roll and the higher roll wins the exchange. Or in some cases you could rule that it wins the fight if you really don't want to fuss around with the details. The skill system likewise has option for a higher level of abstraction.

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.

What Dungeon Fantasy is going to accomplish is take all the options and list I mentioned above and implement it in a way that is ready to run out of the box. For example the skill Electronics is found in the core book, but is not going to be described in Dungeon Fantasy as it not part of that genre. The math behind what used in DF will be available so it 100% compatible with the core books.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

A Fantasy Sandbox in Detail Part XXI

Part XX
This is the twentieth first in a series detailing the 34 steps I recommended for making a Fantasy Sandbox Campaign. Today's post will cover some clean up of the details of step 27. First I forgot to link in the generator files files for the names I created for the description. The post been updated and you can download them from here. Remember they are for NBos' Inspiration Pad Pro 3.
Pick or create 6 or 12 important buildings. Write a paragraph each
The final step once you detailed everything is place the businesses in the town.
First a numbered index

1) Chandler
2) Finesmith
3) Finesmith
4) Herbalist
5) Jeweler, Quality
6) Jeweler, Quality
7) The Leathercrafters of Piall*
8) King’s Sheriff
9) Mikva Trading Hall
10) Ostler
11) Temple of Veritas
12) Sea Brethren Hall
13) Resident Mage
14) Potion Shop
15) Tailor’s Guild*
16) The Red Wench (tavern)
17) The House of Fish (tavern)
18) The Oaken House (inn)
19) Weaponsmith
20) Weavers*
*These three business have multiple locations in Mikva.

1) Chandler
Since chandlers more or less function as general stores I will place this in the market.

2) Finesmith
Ecgric sounds like he would be in a better section of town.

3) Finesmith
Leudast would want to be near the wharves for his business and his connection to Piall's Thieves Guild.

4) Herbalist
Morath and Bernira seems like they would be in the common section of town but in a nice building.

5) Jeweler, Quality
6) Jeweler, Quality
Both jewelers would be in the heart of Mikva off of the main market square.

7) The Leathercrafters of Piall*
All but two are on the south side of Mikva near the swamp to keep the odor of the tanning process away from town. The two are located near the market square as they specialized solely on finished leather goods.

8) King’s Sheriff
The sheriff has his quarter in the building in the back of the Trading Hall.

9) Mikva Trading Hall
One of the more prominent building in Mikva and on the Market square.

10) Ostler
I placed near one of the larger buildings that has access to an large open space where they let the horses graze.

11) Temple of Veritas
The biggest building in Mikva outside of the Baron's castle.

12) Sea Brethren Hall
Next to the Wharf.

13) Resident Mage
Occupies one of the finer buildings.

14) Potion Shop
Occupies one of the building in the common quarter of Mikva.

15) Tailor’s Guild*
The tailors congrete in teh northwest corner of Mikva, except for one who does most of his trade with sailors and boat owners.

16) The Red Wench (tavern)
In the center of the commoner's quarter.

17) The House of Fish (tavern)
At the south end of the Wharf.

18) The Oaken House (inn)
And Mikva's high end estabilshment is off of the Market Square.

19) Weaponsmith
As a high end profession, Fikki has his shop next to the Market Square.

20) Weavers*
Four of the weavers live in the southeast corner of Mikva. Two are near the wharf and mostly produce canvas for the sea trade.

And now the finished map for Mikva

That it for part XXI next is Part XXII where we start fleshing out NPCs and monsters.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Taking a hard look at the Dungeon Fantasy RPG

So the Dungeon Fantasy Kickstarter is now live. And yes I pledged.

I also quickly joined in the choir asking "Where are the PDFs?". True to form SJ Games responded by incorporating PDFs as an option for pledging. Although there will confusion because apparently Kickstarter allow pledge levels descriptions to change after the campaign started.

It a bit gratifying to see this project because I been advocating this for a long time. I have to admit my tone got more critical over the years as GURPS market presence dwindled over the last decade. Probably annoying the SJ Games staff . In the end I was hammering on the fact if the OSR can revive older games on a shoestring budget what is SJ Games excuse? Even with the OSR success, market wise we are at the SAME level as GURPS and other 2nd tier RPG publishers. And that is only if you pool what everybody does in the OSR together. SJ Games and GURPS alway has the fanbase, they need to give them the product.

And boy they really went all in on this with a boxed and physical components. And it looks like they really took the lesson learned from the Ogre Kickstarter to heart and are proceeding very modestly in what the kickstarter will be offering. The prices of $50+shipping is not too bad for a boxed set that includes token and maps.

Some will wonder at the $100,000 goal, you have to remember that SJ Game bread and butter are Munchkin, board games, and then GURPS a very distant third. In the stakeholder report you can see how Munchkin just grew and grew and grew, knocking GURPS down on the company's priorities. So in order for them justify the labor spent they have to get a return equal to at least to the other board games they released. Steve Jackson and their staff love GURPS but that has to bend in light of the fact that there is a company that needs to be run.

Looking through my forum posts I found this from 2008.

In it said a Complete GURPS Dungeons Fantasy RPG needs to have.

  • Introduction - check since is a given that they will have some type of intro.
  • Character Creation - check
  • Combat, Basic - Looks like it will be tweaked condensed version of the core book combat rules which is fine because even the core book combat rules have options to vary the complexity and detail. As long as they keep the defense roll (there is an opposed roll option), I will give this a check. Also it points out a flaw with my original idea in that they accounted for everything else and lumping it all together as Exploits.
  • Combat, Advanced - going to to rely on the core books and the DF PDF line for this. That OK especially in light that this project is going to a lead-in to the GURPS product line.
  • Magic - check, right in the kickstarter description one of the books will be about spells.
  • Monsters - check, again in the kickstarter description there is a book called Monsters
  • Treasure - check, covered in the Exploits book.
  • Starting Setting, - They are including a 24 page adventure with a inn where they start out at. I will give this a partial check. Plus I am going to be pessimistic about this because SJ Games is not really known for having good adventures for GURPS. Fortunately one of the few good adventures was made for the DF Line.  Mirror of the Fire Demon.
Last I said 
Do this in 256 pages. Sell it along side the other GURPS Books. Have three 32 to 64 pages adventures available as well. This is not a replacement but rather the entry point to the larger GURPS line.
The total of all five books comes 408 pages. Frankly 256 pages is a wild ass guess. What important that you got the basic list covered in spells, monsters, magic items, and other stuff. If that takes 408 pages with the rules then so be it. DnD 5e has 1,002 pages scattered across three book so I give this a check. As for the adventures, obviously those will only come if the line is a success so that one is pushed to the future. Finally, yes it is indeed being marketed as a intro to the GURPS line, the physical component should make it that much more attractive, so a definite check there.

So with all these checks, yeah I pledged.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

A Fantasy Sandbox in Detail Part XX

Part XIX
This is the twentieth in a series detailing the 34 steps I recommended for making a Fantasy Sandbox Campaign. Today's post will cover the rest of step 27.

Pick or create 6 or 12 important buildings. Write a paragraph each

In the last post, I did some preliminary work and used random tables in various ways to generate ideas. Now I am going to take this random information and pick out what I feel to be interesting elements. Then write a couple of sentences about the place. I use an old name table out of Dragon Magazine as the basis for my names. There are only 20 male and female entries for each type so I split them into a prefix and a suffix which gives me nearly 400 combinations. You can download this table from here.

I also try to include the age of the NPCs which is a useful aide to roleplaying. Another thing I do is try to interconnect characters with each other and places I already described. In general it enough to start off with one or two of these and leave it at that. Also remember that the amount of local interconnection is going to outnumber connections outside of the regions especially for fantasy medieval settings like the Island of Piall.

I also add notes on quality and prices. Harn from Columbia Games does this in their description of shops and I found it to be useful a general guide when price and service aggregations come into play.


Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Big GURPS Dungeon Fantasy News

Well hot damn, SJ Games is doing a kickstarter to release a powered by GURPS Dungeon Fantasy RPG. And it is a boxed set no less with five books inside.

While I wasn't expecting a boxed set, this is something that I been advocating for a long time over on the GURPS forum. There are posts from me from as early as 2008 saying that this should be done. As well as the equivalents for the other major genres like Science Fiction and Horror. If this is successful we may see similar Powered by GURPS RPGS from SJGames.

Also note they are stressing the Ready to Run aspect which was a point I kept hammering to point where I was probably very annoying to a lot of the GURPS staff.

Back in the early 2000s after a few campaign of GURPS 4e under my belt I wished for three things from SJ Games

  • Better support for the fantasy genre. Which I got in the Dungeon Fantasy
  • Ready to run out of box GURPS RPG. Which is now happening.
  • A Third party content program.
Dare I hope for a triple? Probably will have to wait a while considering how long it took for the first two.

I keep everybody posted on further developments.

An update on the Majestic Stars and other things

First off, I will posting part 20 of the Fantasy Sandbox series tomorrow. I plan to update the sandbox series every Tuesday and Thursday until it done. Here to hoping that plans don't go awry.

Some bad news on the Majestic Star front, the campaign fell apart due to real life circumstances so that is done for now.  Plus I contacted Green Ronin and they are not interested in any type of third party development for the AGE system right now. 

However luckily half of the work I did on the Majestic Star is pulled out of the d20 Modern SRD so I will able to reuse a lot of it for a similar game. Right now I am pulling together DnD 5e, d20 Modern, and the Mongoose Traveller SRD and seeing what I get. 

Hopefully I get enough done to inflict it on the J Squad at Gold Star Anime on the 10th.

So everybody knows Jason Kemp of Samardan Press pulled together an excellent retro-clone of Traveller with the Cepheus Engine System. What happened is that Mongoose Publishing went ahead and released a 2nd edition of Mongoose Traveller. The problem is that they decided to drop OGL support and the Logo program in favor using the Community Content program over on the various OBS web sites. Well that problem is fine if you want to publish Third Imperium related material. But for publishers with original setting it totally screwed them.

And just like DnD 4e, they don't have to wait for Mongoose to fix the situation, they returned using the 1st edition SRD and now using a variety of euphemism to indicate that they are still supporting traveller (2d6, etc).  This situation leads to people, like Jason Kemp, to create full rule sets to serve as a reference and play aid for these publishers.

The lesson to be learned from all this, is the if you are a publisher with a long established product line and you decide to break compatibility either totally or partially. Your customers won't view this as a favor. So you better have a damn good reason other than you want to "improve" it.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

A Fantasy Sandbox in Detail Part XIX

After a long hiatus the How to Make a Fantasy Sandbox series is going to be finished.

This is the nineteenth in a series detailing the 34 steps I recommended for making a Fantasy Sandbox Campaign. Today's post will cover part of step 27.
Pick or create 6 or 12 important buildings. Write a paragraph each
One reason for the long gap in time is that my original advice boiled down to “make something up”.  I wanted to write something more concrete than that. So over the next couple of projects and campaigns, I experimented with a variety of methods that helped me to make stuff up.

One thing I found is just how useful random tables are. I said in previous posts that the amount of ideas what we have for a project is a dozen or two, the rest we have to make it up on the fly as we write. A random table can very useful as it is far easier to explain something than it is to make something up out of whole cloth.

So let’s get started. In the last post we came up with a list of 75 buildings for the castle town of Mikva. Out of that list I am going to pick the following.


The ones I marked with an asterisk I am going to make notes on the guild as well as individual NPCs. There are 10 leathercrafters, 8 tailors, and 6 weavers so those will be probably the most important and powerful of the Mikva Guilds.

Next I refine the list with what I know from the description of Mikva
0403 Mikva (castle, town) HumanThis is a small castle town of 800 humans with several dozen Dwarves and Halflings. The castle itself sits on a bluff overlooking the bay. It is the seat of the current Baron of Piall, Argus Gervon. A several trading vessels stop here every week to pick up ingots from Southpoint. Before the fall monsoon season dozens of traders put in at Mikva to attend the Piall Fair. Here the island’s grain, and more importantly wool is traded for goods and supplies needed for the next year.
Currently the King’s Sheriff Tomar Revan is staying at the one of the wealthiest merchants in Mikva; the Honorable Orlon Beras. The Sheriff is currently using offices at the Mikva Trading Hall to conduct his investigation and any other Royal business. There is considerable tension between Baron Argus and the Sheriff.

Finally I will use NBos’ Inspiration Pad Pro 3 to generate some Tavern names.

Revised List
King’s Sheriff
Mikva Trading Hall
Temple of Veritas
The Red Wench (tavern)
The House of Fish (tavern)
The Oaken House (inn)

Now for some inspiration from random tables.

Next random table time, I am going to randomly roll the NPC Personality of each of the shops. The tables I found to be the most useful is a combination of the ADnD's NPC personality traits and a table on NPC personality and motivations from Paizo Gamemastery Guide. I coded up both for use with Inspiration Pad Pro which you can download from here.

Raw Results for the NPC Personalities
Alignment: chaotic good, Possessions: above average
Age: mature, General: imposing, Sanity: normal
General Tendencies: malevolent, Personality: Average: friendly, Disposition: morose,
Nature: hard-hearted, Honesty: scrupulous, Energy: energetic, Morals: immoral, Intellect: average,
Materialism: aesthetic, Bravery: cowardly, Thrift: wastrel, Piety: martyr/zealot, Interests: wines 8 spirits
Background: Military Veteran, Goal: Achieve a higher social rank, Physical: Calloused hands,
Personality: Tosses a coin to make decisions.,
Secrets: Has a secret illness, Reward: Loan you property

Alignment: neutral, Possessions: scant
Age: youthful, General: rough, Sanity: normal
General Tendencies: opinionated/contrary, Personality: Average: well-spoken, Disposition: unfeeling/insensitive,
Nature: forgiving, Honesty: deceitful, Energy: normal, Morals: lustful, Intellect: anti-intellectual,
Materialism: greedy, Bravery: craven, Thrift: mean, Piety: reverent, Interests: drugs
Background: Killed someone in self-defense, Goal: Marry a prince/princess, Physical: Homely,
Personality: Polite bus calls attention to it with elaborate bows or other gestures.,
Secrets: Is the bastard child of a noble, Reward: Offer the hand of a relative in marriage

Alignment: neutral evil, Possessions: average
Age: ancient, General: immaculate, Sanity: normal
General Tendencies: moody, Personality: Introverted: rude, Disposition: unfeeling/insensitive,
Nature: vengeful, Honesty: average, Energy: normal, Morals: virtuous, Intellect: average,
Materialism: greedy, Bravery: fearless, Thrift: average, Piety: reverent, Interests: politics
Background: Criminal who retired after betraying rest of gang, Goal: Find a better job, Physical: Very hairy,
Personality: Ask rude question without realizing they cause offense,
Secrets: Is a member of a secret local cult, Reward: Sabotage a bridge, road, or something equally important

Alignment: neutral, Possessions: scant
Age: youthful, General: imposing, Sanity: unstable
General Tendencies: malevolent, Personality: Average  Disposition: compassionate/sensitive,
Nature: vengeful, Honesty: very honorable, Energy: normal, Morals: virtuous, Intellect: dull,
Materialism: covetous, Bravery: normal, Thrift: mean, Piety: reverent, Interests: athletics
Background: Pious member of a notorious family, Goal: Find a better job, Physical: Scarred from pox,
Personality: Compulsively wipes or cleans things.,
Secrets: Is secretly related to another NPC, Reward: Take the blame (and punishment) for a minor crime

Alignment: neutral, Possessions: scant
Age: mature, General: dirty, Sanity: normal
General Tendencies: altruist, Personality: Extroverted: blustering, Disposition: morose,
Nature: forgiving, Honesty: liar, Energy: energetic, Morals: lustful, Intellect: scheming,
Materialism: avaricious, Bravery: normal, Thrift: spendthrift, Piety: average, Interests: none
Background: Criminal who retired after betraying rest of gang, Goal: Become the recipient of a actual miracle, Physical: Different colored eyes,
Personality: Blames trolls for every trouble he encounters,
Secrets: Has some orc blood in their family, Reward: Look after your home while you are away

Alignment: chaotic good, Possessions: above average
Age: ancient, General: rough, Sanity: unstable
General Tendencies: helpful/kindly, Personality: Extroverted: blustering, Disposition: proudlhaughty,
Nature: soft-hearted, Honesty: deceitful, Energy: lazy, Morals: amoral, Intellect: average,
Materialism: avaricious, Bravery: normal, Thrift: miserly, Piety: average, Interests: gambling
Background: Refugee from land overrun by evil, Goal: Move out of parents' house, Physical: Crack knuckles,
Personality: Give people nicknames or uses terms of endearment,
Secrets: Is an assassin, Reward: Offer the hand of a relative in marriage

Alignment: chaotic neutral, Possessions: scant
Age: young, General: rough, Sanity: normal
General Tendencies: precise/exacting, Personality: Average: well-spoken, Disposition: even tempered,
Nature: vengeful, Honesty: very honorable, Energy: lazy, Morals: virtuous, Intellect: active,
Materialism: intellectualist, Bravery: normal, Thrift: wastrel, Piety: average, Interests: handicrafts
Background: Outwitted a powerful monster, Goal: Become a hero, Physical: Jolly looking,
Personality: Acts like someone from a lower social class as a sing of solidarity but comes across offensive instead.,
Secrets: Knows how to placate an angry ghost, Reward: Follow someone for you

King’s Sheriff
Alignment: neutral evil, Possessions: superabundant
Age: young, General: dandyish, Sanity: normal
General Tendencies: altruist, Personality: Average: friendly, Disposition: even tempered,
Nature: jealous, Honesty: deceitful, Energy: lazy, Morals: aesthetic, Intellect: active,
Materialism: intellectualist, Bravery: fearless, Thrift: mean, Piety: average, Interests: none
Background: Practiced magic before a traumatizing accident, Goal: Find a new home for a mistreated animal, Physical: Double chinned,
Personality: Asks for advice or opinions about very unlikely situations,
Secrets: Is being blackmailed, Reward: Pay for your lodgings

Mikva Trading Hall
Alignment: neutral evil, Possessions: exceptional
Age: mature, General: foppish, Sanity: normal
General Tendencies: trusting, Personality: Average: aloof, Disposition: easy going,
Nature: hard-hearted, Honesty: average, Energy: energetic, Morals: normal, Intellect: active,
Materialism: avaricious, Bravery: cowardly, Thrift: wastrel, Piety: average, Interests: armor
Background: Criminal who retired after betraying rest of gang, Goal: Get cured of a disease of affliction, Physical: Pierced ears,
Personality: Delighted by puns and other sorts of work games,
Secrets: Has a secret stash of funds, Reward: Loan you property

Alignment: lawful evil, Possessions: scant
Age: mature, General: immaculate, Sanity: unstable
General Tendencies: helpful/kindly, Personality: Average: diplomatic, Disposition: humble,
Nature: jealous, Honesty: very honorable, Energy: energetic, Morals: immoral, Intellect: ponderous,
Materialism: greedy, Bravery: brave, Thrift: spendthrift, Piety: reverent, Interests: athletics
Background: Left at the altar, Goal: Erase past failure with a single dramatic act, Physical: Sneezes a lot,
Personality: Question others about their background in order to determine if they are "suitable",
Secrets: Is a member of a secret local cult, Reward: Organize a festival or other public event

Temple of Veritas
Alignment: neutral, Possessions: average
Age: youthful, General: ragged, Sanity: normal
General Tendencies: optimist, Personality: Extroverted: overbearing, Disposition: morose,
Nature: soft-hearted, Honesty: truthful, Energy: normal, Morals: aesthetic, Intellect: brilliant,
Materialism: covetous, Bravery: foolhardy, Thrift: wastrel, Piety: martyr/zealot, Interests: husbandry
Background: Ran for office and suffered a humiliating defeat, Goal: Earn enough money to retire, Physical: Covered in tattoos,
Personality: Name drops constantly,
Secrets: Knows how to get the oracle to answer truthfully, Reward: Boycott one of you rivals or enemies

Alignment: lawful evil, Possessions: average
Age: young, General: imposing, Sanity: normal
General Tendencies: fanatical/obsessive, Personality: Average: abrasive, Disposition: humble,
Nature: vengeful, Honesty: average, Energy: normal, Morals: lustful, Intellect: average,
Materialism: intellectualist, Bravery: normal, Thrift: spendthrift, Piety: impious, Interests: hunting
Background: Killed someone in self-defense, Goal: Solve a mystery no one else really cares about, Physical: Tall,
Personality: Ask a kobold glove puppet it's opinion at inopportune moments.,
Secrets: Murdered spouse, Reward: Call in an important favor and use it one your behalf

Alignment: neutral good, Possessions: superabundant
Age: mature, General: imposing, Sanity: maniacal
General Tendencies: studious, Personality: Introverted: taciturn, Disposition: even tempered,
Nature: forgiving, Honesty: average, Energy: slothful, Morals: normal, Intellect: active,
Materialism: greedy, Bravery: craven, Thrift: wastrel, Piety: iconoclastic, Interests: handicrafts
Background: Once owned an inn that was burnt down by bandits, Goal: Impress a disapproving parent, Physical: Many tattoos,
Personality: Always has a reason why something won't work,
Secrets: has a secret identity, Reward: Pay for your meals
Alignment: neutral good, Possessions: superabundant
Age: young, General: ragged, Sanity: normal
General Tendencies: careless, Personality: Average: hostile, Disposition: compassionate/sensitive,
Nature: hard-hearted, Honesty: truthful, Energy: normal, Morals: virtuous, Intellect: scheming,
Materialism: covetous, Bravery: cowardly, Thrift: miserly, Piety: average, Interests: history
Background: Ran away as a youth and joined the circus., Goal: Travel, Physical: Terrible facial disease,
Personality: Always has a reason why something won't work,
Secrets: Has some orc blood in their family, Reward: Wash or mend your clothes and equipment
Alignment: neutral good, Possessions: none
Age: mature, General: dandyish, Sanity: normal
General Tendencies: foul/barbaric, Personality: Average: abrasive, Disposition: humble,
Nature: soft-hearted, Honesty: scrupulous, Energy: driven, Morals: immoral, Intellect: ponderous,
Materialism: avaricious, Bravery: brave, Thrift: miserly, Piety: average, Interests: legends
Background: Comes from a long line of tanners, Goal: Become a monster, Physical: Winks a lot,
Personality: Refers to self in third person,
Secrets: Knows why no one in the village eats meat anymore., Reward: Sell you goods at a discount

The Red Wench (tavern)
Alignment: lawful neutral, Possessions: average
Age: mature, General: foppish, Sanity: unstable
General Tendencies: precise/exacting, Personality: Average: diplomatic, Disposition: compassionate/sensitive,
Nature: vengeful, Honesty: average, Energy: lazy, Morals: normal, Intellect: average,
Materialism: avaricious, Bravery: brave, Thrift: average, Piety: average, Interests: none
Background: Falsely convicted and escaped from jail., Goal: Get in better shape and learn to fight, Physical: Twitches,
Personality: Give people nicknames or uses terms of endearment,
Secrets: Is an obsessive collector hoarder, Reward: Bury or high something dangerous
The House of Fish (tavern)
Alignment: lawful neutral, Possessions: average
Age: mature, General: imposing, Sanity: normal
General Tendencies: malevolent, Personality: Average: friendly, Disposition: morose,
Nature: hard-hearted, Honesty: average, Energy: normal, Morals: amoral, Intellect: anti-intellectual,
Materialism: intellectualist, Bravery: normal, Thrift: average, Piety: impious, Interests: books & scrolls
Background: Wanted for serious crime, Goal: Visit the next village, Physical: Covered in pustules,
Personality: Collects small, relatively worthless objects like spoons, salt shaker, or win corks; enthusiastically inspects any encountered and extols their "unique" qualities,
Secrets: Knows command word for a magic item, Reward: Follow someone for you
The Oaken House (tavern)
Alignment: lawful good, Possessions: above average
Age: mature, General: non-descript, Sanity: normal
General Tendencies: pessimist, Personality: Average: , Disposition: ,
Nature: hard-hearted, Honesty: deceitful, Energy: normal, Morals: lustful, Intellect: scheming,
Materialism: average, Bravery: normal, Thrift: spendthrift, Piety: pious, Interests: community service
Background: Left at the altar, Goal: Solve a murder, Physical: Moustache,
Personality: Says everything in a profound way,
Secrets: Knows why no one in the village eats meat anymore., Reward: Spy on your behalf

Alignment: neutral, Possessions: none
Age: young, General: clean, Sanity: unstable
General Tendencies: trusting, Personality: Extroverted: friendly, Disposition: proud/haughty,
Nature: jealous, Honesty: scrupulous, Energy: slothful, Morals: lusty, Intellect: dull,
Materialism: covetous, Bravery: brave, Thrift: miserly, Piety: irreverent, Interests: husbandry
Background: Pledged to keep a fantastic secret, Goal: Learn to gamble, Physical: Bald,
Personality: Complains about smells no one else notices,
Secrets: Knows where a magic item is buried, Reward: Tend your mount

Alignment: neutral, Possessions: scant
Age: ancient, General: ragged, Sanity: normal
General Tendencies: sober, Personality: Average: aloof, Disposition: hot tempered,
Nature: forgiving, Honesty: deceitful, Energy: slothful, Morals: aesthetic, Intellect: anti-intellectual,
Materialism: avaricious, Bravery: fearless, Thrift: mean, Piety: saintly, Interests: none
Background: Killed someone in self-defense, Goal: Find a better job, Physical: One eye,
Personality: Makes up seemingly arbitrary rules etiquette.,
Secrets: Is a paladin working undercover, Reward: Compose a poem praising your prowess

That it for part XIX next is Part XX where I translate the raw work above into actual details.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Majestic Stars Update

Back in the early 90's I would hand out updates before each session. Updates were one page documents covering various aspect of the Majestic Wilderlands. They were meant as easily digestible chunks of the back story of the setting. Some were pretty broad while other were specific.

So I am going to revive the tradition for the Majestic Stars.

Majestic Stars Update #1

What year it is?
The year is 2425.

Where is the campaign located at?
The Artemis Space Station located in the HiP 38392 system. The main star classification is G7V, slightly cooler than Earth’ Sun which is G2V.

What is the Artemis Station?
It is a commercial station built by the Selene Republic with aid from all of the major powers to handle trade and culture exchange with the Saurian Commonwealth. It is in the L5 point between the planet Selene and its Sun. There is small but rich asteroid field at the L5 point that is known as the Outback. It is actively mined by Belters to provide the station with resources.

The station can support a permanent population of up to 35,000 sentient beings. There are currently 30,000 humans, 2,000 Saurians, and 1,000 Kang’rits resident on the station. The station has been in operation for two years.

Who runs the Station?
The Astroguard handles the day to day administration of the station. The Selene Republic supplies magistrates and ombudsmen to handle judicial affairs. Overall station policy and contact with the Saurian Commonwealth is handled by a United Colony advisory council with representatives from all the major human powers and headed by a governor appointed by the Selene Republic.

The current governor is Rosette Alcantar who works with the Station’s commander, Captain Anton Pikova of the Astroguard.

What is the Outback?
It is a small asteroid field circling the L5 point between Selene and its sun. It is home to one thousand belters mining volatiles and metals for processing at the station. The main station is buried in the asteroid Perth with 200 permanent residents and up to 300 transits at any one time.

What are the United Colonies?
The United Colonies are a loose association of major and minor powers. It is similar to the 20th/21st century United Nations however it is more focused on managing certain interstellar organizations than being a diplomatic forum.

The two most important organizations it manages are the Astroguard and the Interstellar Astronomical Union (IAU). The Astroguard are a multi-national military dedicated to exploration, search & rescue, and anti-piracy patrols. They function as an interstellar Coast Guard. The Interstellar Astronomical Union registers space claims and acts as investigation agency of human right abuses.

Who are the major powers?
They are the Earth Union, the United States centered on Alpha Centauri. The United Kingdom, the French Union, and the German Federation centered on Epsilon Eridani. And the People’s Republic of the Chinese centered on Epsilon Indi.

There are numerous smaller independent powers as result of the human diaspora. It is not uncommon for worlds and star systems to be divided into multiple independent nations, colonies, etc.

Who are the Saurians?
The Saurians are not the ancient race sentient dinosaurs but more recently evolved. First contact was 50 years ago and it was with a group of Saurians calling themselves the Commonwealth. It appears that the dominant Saurian culture is a single empire ruled by an immortal emperor. The Commonwealth are comprised of dissidents and refugees who have fled beyond the borders of imperial space. The Saurians appears to be a century ahead of humanity in technology.

Current News, January 3rd 2425

The Barron Consulate has petitioned the United Colonies for a seat on the Artemis Station’s advisory council.

Ellena Bucanan dies in from an illegal firework display occurring during the New Year Festival held by the Mesic Dockworkers Coop.

Protein output triples in 2424 over 2423. Agriculture Commissioner Arios Koviria is to receive this year’s Disheva Award of Excellence.

Newton Kader is to be sentenced next Friday, the 10th, after being found guilty of embezzling funds from the Four Stars Credit Union.

Arguments continues after last week’s heated exchange at the Station Round Table over the rising transport fees to the Outback and Selene.

New stationwide update to fabricators is being posted on the 4th to censor the manufacture of Strokon and Waxet, two drugs that were found to be highly addictive to Saurians.

The Station Maintenance schedule has been posted. Click to find scheduled shutdowns and service reductions.

Diturisaurs were found to be the cause of the power outage on Level 4’s Block E-4. Residents are advised to call 811 to report any sightings.

On Monday the 6th, the Commonwealth-Selene Cultural Exchange will make the works of K’Sudai, A’Morko, and K’Tipa available on the Omninet. The three are noted historical fiction authors in Saurian literature. February’s drop will be focused on the romance genre.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Majestic Stars Session 1

The quote of the evening
Who was your boss?
The husband of the women I slept with.
Was your boss the Iguana guy?
No I don't sleep with Iguanas.
I am not judging.
We had our first session of the Majestic Stars campaign. I am using a modified Fantasy AGE ruleset. There are no classes just a single level progression chart. Everybody starts off with 10 points to spend on attributes. The attributes are Charisma, Constitution, Dexterity, Intelligence, Perception, Psi, Strength, and Willpower.

Instead of focuses we have skills. If you don't have the skill, you can use it but you are at -2 on the roll. One point will get it at +0, another at +1,  and so on. Every character starts with 3 points to spend on skills.

The races are Belter, Human, Kang'rits, and Saurian. Each character picks a race and gets two rolls on the benefit table for that race.

The talents are pretty the same but been reworked to reflect the science fiction genre of the campaign. There is now a pistol and rifleman style. As there are no classes the prerequisites have been adjusted so that you have to focus on the same attributes as you had too when there was classes. During character generation you get 3 points to spend on talents or skills.

I created a system of Psionics that I will present in a later post. It has five areas; Augment, Control, Empathy, Healing, and Telepathy. Each has four specific discipline that are learned the same way talents are.

January 5th 2425
The Crew
Luc Fer - a man with connection who has arrived on the Artemis Station to make his own mark. He also a psionic.
Carl LeRoche - a belter and a corrupt cop working as station security. 
Mikael Sharp - a human medic yearning for adventure.

Luc Fer has one last job to do, to hand deliver a data wafer that is the one half of a one use code pad. Each time a message is exchange the encryption key is discarded and the next one is used. Both data wafers have to be synced so they both start at the same key. It is one the few pieces of data in the 25th century that is moved by hand.

Luc Fer was met at the gate by Carl LeRoche. LeRoche was given an off the book job by his boss to escort Luc Fer to his contact, Thaddeus Vanlith. While heading to the lifts, LeRoche was accosted by a drunk Astroguard medic who want to use the security as a demonstration of the effect of living in low gravity. LeRoche was having none of it and hit him once with the stunstick and left him quivering on the ground.

When they arrived at Vanlith's office to deliver the wafer a thug stepped out with a shotgun. Both Luc Fur and LeRoche won initiative. The ensuing fight was short and brutal between Luc Fer psionic and LeRoche's aim. 

Inside they found Thaddeus Vanlith battered and beaten. LeRoche calls his boss who dispatches medical assistance. Luc Fer decides his job is done, drops the data wafer, and leaves.

Mikael Sharp arrives and starts stabilizing the surviving thugs. LeRoches is looking through Vanlith's files and find that he was working on a deal to trade a lot of colony supplies and 100,000 credits (a hefty sum) in exchange for genetic information. Mikael happens to see the genetic reports and manages to download a copy for himself. He explains that the genetic information is about the NPTN gene which is the primary gene that controls psionic ability in humans. Only that this gene is definitely non-human. Also found was a calling card for C'Treni a Saurian visiting the station on a six month cultural exchange.

The everybody splits, Luc Fer secures an apartment, LeRoches reports back at the office working on the paperwork and also planning what to do next with the information. Mikael gets everybody to the trauma center and does some research and finds out where C'Treni has been staying. Also fine some files that are meant to be turned over to Luc Fer.

Sharp goes the police station and meets up with LeRoche, together they decide to find Luc Fer at his new apartment. After talking about what been found  they all decided to head back to the apartment to look at what else they can find.

And that where the session ended with 300 xp awarded.

The Good
Well I am finally managing to run a campaign with my own original science fiction setting that I have been working on forever. It started with me using the Universe RPG map and plotting out a future history. Universe didn't have a firm background and I decided to make one. Later I used the stellar data from 2300AD (which went out to 60 light years vs. 30 light years of Universe) to expand my work. However compared to Traveller, Babylon 5, and Star Trek, I never got a sense of what I was going to do with the setting.

I felt in all but one important aspect my Fantasy Age science fiction adaption worked rather well. There are some gaps and weak points, but I can smooth them out with enough actual play. The combat wasn't as DnDish as I thought it would be. 

The OK
Well I got the party together in a semi-plausible way, but it was weak really weak. Next time I will have everybody work together to come up with the reason of why they are a time.

The Bad
The first level ability of Control is a +2 bonus to Charisma skills for the next ten minutes. That is probably a bit weak compared to the other psi abilities. I will probably change it to a one sentence command that takes place if the target fails a willpower test. I will need to get some feedback on this.

For all the work I put into everything, the players didn't get a good feel of the setting. One thing that was a bit "out there" is the fact that advances in fabrication technology has made many material goods effectively free. However, the good stuff still costs money. Anything involving any type of service still costs money. And that didn't come across well. So the players were wondering why people did anything at all?

The above was directly related to me running out of time to make all the things I normally do for the Majestic Wilderlands. One of which is a half to one page briefing on various bits of setting information.

The Future
Next time I should have more background info prepared and with the latest fixes for the rules. I am still weak on equipment and working on coming up with items. The big challenge here is that I am doing essentially an urban campaign, in a brand new setting, using the science fiction genre which I don't often run.