Tabletop Gaming Feeds

Blood for Bacon - Another Ecology of the Orc For Old School Campaigns

Swords & Stitchery - Mon, 04/27/2020 - 23:32
Much of what follows in my wake is taken from the Wiki entry on orcsEver since I was growing up going up in the Seventies I've been hearing about how 'orcs are racist' & how its wrong to paint them as merely evil's cogs & parts that act as a mechanism for slaughter of PC's & the forces that commit genocide on campaign settings. To which I say, "bull shite". Orcs have been with the grand game Needles
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A walk through Harnmaster - Skills

Bat in the Attic - Mon, 04/27/2020 - 23:00
SkillsThis is a 24 page article.

In a nutshell skills are checked with a d100 rolled low. If you roll equal to or less than your skill level +/- modifiers then you succeeded. If you roll a 0 or 5 on the last die it is a critical result. Most resolution tables list four entries: Critical Failure, Failure, Success, and Critical Success.

Skill BaseWhat your skill level starts out at is based on your Skill Base. The Skill Base is an average of three attributes. This is one of the more fiddly bits of Harnmaster but like much of the other fiddly bits it is frontloaded when you create the character.

Once you calculate your skill base you add in a modifier for your sunsign.

For example the skill base for Stealth is an average of Agility, Hearing, and Will. So a character with an Agility of 12, Hearing of 15, and a Will of 9 will have a skill base of 12 (12+15+9 = 36 /3 = 12). If the character had the Hirin (Eagle), Tareal (Pentacle), or Tai (Lantern Bearer) sunsign they would get a +2 bonus for a SB of 14. Note that fractions are rounded to the nearest whole number. So a total of 35 would round to 12 (11.6667) but a total of 34 would round to 11 (11.3333).

Rob's Comment
I recommend using a printout made form a spreadsheet of triple values. A list of totals and their calculated skill base. Like the one I made for my campaign that your can download from here.

Using Skill Base
When you open a skill there is a opening mastery level modifiers under the Opening Mastery Level or OML column. So when the character starts out with stealth their initial skill level is SB x3. So using my example with a SB of 12 the character would have a Mastery Level (skill level or ML) of 36%.

When you go through character generation, the skills you get often have a higher OML. Using the Hunter Trapper from the previous post. We see the Hunter/Trapper opens stealth at SB x4 not SB x3. The above character with a SB of 12 would start out with a ML of 48%, 56% if the character had one of the three sunsigns that influences Stealth due to the SB of 14.

Note that any skill in all caps are default skills. 
The other role Skill Base plays is that it determines your max skill level (100 + SB), and higher SB makes improving skills easier.
Mastery Level (ML)Harnmaster calls skill level, Mastery Level. Unfortunately they opt for a bit of jargon.
  • OML: Opening Mastery Level, The multiplier used to determine the initial Mastery Level when the character obtains a skill.
  • EML: Effective Mastery Level, Your mastery level plus or minus any modifiers. This is what you roll against.

Your minimum EML is always 5%, your maximum EML is always 95%
Skill Index (SI)This is your Mastery Level divided by 10 (rounded down). This is used in several mechanics where you are able to do more with a higher SI. They don't give a spot for it on your character sheet as it is always the first number of your Mastery Level.
SpecialtiesAn optional rule to allow for more fine grained skills. Some skills you can have specialties and improve them separately. You can start taking specialties at ML 40+. The advantage is that you can improve a specialty twice as fast as the broad skill. An example is Musician and different instrument. Or Swords and the different sword types. I recommend using this rule. And for @TristramEvans the specialties for Lovecraft are specifically noted at the GM's discretion.
Skill TableI showed you a slice of the skill table above. It is divided into Physical, Communication, Religion, Combat, and Craft & Lore. The Craft & Lore is the longest list.
Each skill has its Name, the Skill Base attributes, Sunsign modifiers, OML, and suggested specialities.
Skill TestingHere the rules talk about how to have player test their character skills. A marginal success is rolling equal to or less than your Effective Mastery Level. Otherwise it is a marginal failure. Any roll ending in a 0 or 5 is a critical result.
Opposed Skill ChecksHarnmaster looks at relative success, Marginal Success versus Critical Failure for example. The higher success level wins with Critical Success being the highest. If both character roll the same success level then it is either a tie, or who ever rolls the lowest wins if a tie is not relevant. In practice using this is straight forward and fast with no math involved.
The Universal PenaltyCharacter get injured, or get tired, Harnmaster folds these conditions into the Universal Penalty.
The Universal Penalty that is a number from 0 to X. It applies in one of two ways.
You add the number to any save you have to roll with d6s versus one of your attributesYou multiply 5 and it reduces your EML that you roll against.
For example a Universal Penalty of 5 means that your skill levels are reduced by -25%, and your add +5 to any xd6 rolls versus your attributes.
The Universal Penalty is made up of the following.
Injury PenaltyEvery injury that the character suffer is rated from 1 to 5. Adding together all your injuries gives you your character's injury penalty.
Fatigue PenaltyIf your character exerted themselves strenuously for 5 minutes or more then they add one Fatigue level. Casting spells or using Psionics also adds Fatigue level.
Your Universal Penalty is the sum of your Injury Penalty and Fatigue Penalty.
Physical PenaltyFor physical activities like combat, climbing, or stealth. You also have to add in your Encumbrance Penalty. This total is the Physical Penalty.
The Enumberance Penalty is calculated by adding up the weight of everything you are carrying and dividing it by the character's endurance. So if the character carrying 60 lbs and their endurance is 15 then their EP is 4.
Rob's CommentEncumbrance is generally considered fiddly in most systems and this no different. However it easier than most as it is handled by dividing the weight carried by encumbrance. It fits with the gritty medieval theme of Harnmaster. Finally it why the high combat skills of characters with military skills is important. The high mastery levels represents in part the training they got with having gear on.
If you don't want to account for every item in encumbrance then just total up the weapons and armor/clothing worn and tack on 10 or 20 lbs for gear.
Skill DevelopmentWhen a character gets a development roll you roll 1d100 + Skill Base. If it exceeds your Mastery Level then the ML goes up by one. Up by 2 if it is a specialty.
Skill Development RollsCharacters get Skill Development rolls for
  • Study/Practice, HM assume that throughout a month Character practice and study their skills. There is an optional to increase this if the character has high Will
  • Employment and Instruction, bonuses are given for job related skills and for being taught by somebody with a higher ML.
  • Stressful/Bonus Experience, the referee can award bonus development rolls after adventures that test the character's skills. The author encourage to give these out for failures as well as successes.
All of this part of a subsystem using Skill Maintenance Points. It sounds fiddly but it only one page and what it amounts to is that character get three development rolls a month, one roll for 40 hours of work, or 10 hours of instruction. There is an optional rule where you have to use SMPs to maintain skills you HAVEN'T used. But I never used that option.
Rob's CommentI like this a lot. GURPS has some of this but Harnmaster's take is far cleaner and easier to use provided you don't use Skill Maintenance. I have a house rule that you double your gain if you roll a critical on your development roll. (2 for broad skills, 4 for specialties). I like that you automatically get 3 rolls a month which helps greatly with players feeling free to poke and muddle around. Otherwise they feel like they need to get into scrapes in order to advance all the time.
The SkillsPages 8 to 19 are the descriptions of the skills and their mechanics. A lot of stuff in these pages so I will highlight a couple.
JumpingJumping is an example of a skill using the Critical Failure to Critical Success scale. The numbers present the percentage of the character's height that they are able to jump.
StealthExample of a description only skill.
Stealth is tested when a character attempts to move without being detected. It can only be applied in situations where an observer would not automatically see the sneaker. The attempt presumes reasonable cover and/or poor light. EML is modified for distance to the target, available cover, etc. Rolling any failure indicates detection, although with MF it may be reasonable to test Awareness of potential observers.
Languages and ScriptsThe description for both are several paragraphs. When we get to treasure you will see that not only knowing a language matters but the script in which it written matters as well. Luckily since this focuses on Harn there isn't an overwhelming number of choices although the author does touches briefly on the rest of the world.
Craft/Lore SkillsMost of these skills can only opened after a period of training with a teacher following the instruction rules in skill development. In some way this section along with combat are the heart and soul of a Harn character. There is a fair amount of terse detail packed in here.
Combat SkillsCombat skills are easy to get, you can open them after just one combat with a relevant weapon. However after ML 70 you can only improve them through bonus development rolls gained in actual combat.
InitiativeThis skill can only be improved through bonus development rolls gained as a result of combat. This skill typically not roll but used to determine the order of initiative.
Value Enhancement
Product QualityThese three section give general mechanics for using the Craft/Lore skills focusing on items and good that you can make with these skills. It one page.
Attribute TestingThis section get into the different ways you can use your attributes. It is two pages and covers the basic in the usual detailed but terse Harn style.
Example LiftingNormal, healthy characters can lift Strength × 10 pounds, at least briefly, with little or no difficulty. When attempting to lift heavier loads, the table (below) is consulted. The table assumes loads can be conveniently gripped with both hands/arms. Awkward loads are more difficult. Lifting tests are subject to Physical Penalty

It is possible to successfully lift a weight and then find it too heavy to hold. Once a load is lifted, an immediate Carrying Test is required.
Mental ConflictI haven't used this section much. However in two pages it give a system to resolves things like psionic attacks, possession, ethereal conflicts, and control of a magical artifact. It simplified compared to Harn combat with a single table resolving attack and defense. While different things can happen the immediate result of mental conflict is gaining fatigue levels and perhaps passing out.

That it for skills, next is the big one COMBAT!Previous post is Characters, Next Post is Combat Part 1

Follow UpsStarting WealthCharles ask a question about starting wealth. On Character 17 there is this table
But there no mechanics associated with the table. Instead the section is a series of guidelines outlining things like Family Weath, Clothling & Possessions, Weapon & Armour, etc. 
The oversight here is that the original release of Harn had three things: the map, Harnview book, and the Harndex book. In Harnview there was a section called the Pre-game. It has some of the family and social class tables and information found in the first section of character but it also goes onto explain that the referee should run a mini-sessions to flesh out the character's background with the player. This was in the 1st edition of Harnmaster but the specifics was spread out among the product line in later editions and printings. 
The table above along with the income values for various occupations work with that idea. If the character was realtively successful in the Pre-game then a value from the Rich column would be warranted. If the character pre-game was neither good or bad, then use the Average column. If the pre-game didn't go so good then Poor column should be used. 
For a more specific method, Harnmaster 1st edition recommed 1d3 month of wages from the character's occupation plus some clothing, tools, weapons, etc based on their estrangment, social class, and occupation. 
For example in a recent Harn campaign I ran, two of the players were part of the Aleath City Guard. So they had quilt gambeson, spears, and daggers from their service. As well as some coins that the players used in part ot augment their equipment.

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Holmes Ref: Rolling up an Adventurer

Zenopus Archives - Mon, 04/27/2020 - 20:46

Another Holmes Ref sheet - actually a two-parter this time!

Rolling Up An Adventurer Ref. Sheet (click here to download)

The first page is shown above and gather together the six standard abilities and modifiers, as appearing in Holmes and also including the expansions I posted a few years back (...has it really been that long?).

To make things more interesting I've included six alternate old school options for generating ability scores. 

The first, which I've termed The Bullpen, reflects the habit of early Lake Geneva players of rolling up multiple characters until they got one they liked, naturally with high stats. This was eventually immortalized in the AD&D DMG as Method IV of character generation, where 12 sets of 3d6 stats are rolled up and one is picked. A variation on this practice was also seen in Alarums & Excursions #2 (July 1975), where a character generation sheet (link goes to Playing at the World) suggested rolling three sets of stats for one character, or five sets of stats for two characters. I've added a restriction I've seen suggested occasionally (here or here, for example) that the extras are to be saved as replacement characters.

The Arnesonian method was mentioned here on ODD74 by Dave Arneson himself in 2008. That's right, Dave was a member of the forum and made over a 170 posts in 2008 and 2009 before he passed away.

The Gygaxian method comes from Method I of the AD&D DMG and Gygax's houserules for running OD&D games in the '00s.

The Holmesian method comes from Holmes early A&E article, "Warrior-for-Hire". It was intended for NPC men-at-arms, but there's no reason it couldn't be generalized it to PCs.

The Ivesian method was detailed by Wesley D. Ives in Alarums & Excursions #14 (August 1976), stated to be used in his Homlas campaign.

What I've termed the Swansonian method is simply an additional roll for a bonus ability for a character rolled up RAW. The first version of this kind of table by Mark Swanson was featured in the very first issue of Alarums & Excursions in mid-1975. It was presented by Lee Gold as Mark Swanson's Special Abilities, and was popular enough with A&E contributors to become known as "Swanson Abilities" by other A&E contributers. See the character generation sheet at Playing at the World linked above for an example of such a use. Jon also discusses the "Swanson Abilities" in his commentary in that post, which was the first to bring it to my attention. The Complete Warlock in 1978 included a variation on these, called "Table of Special Abilities", but includes more defects than bonuses. Gygax eventually developed a version of these called Knacks for his Lejendary Adventures RPG in the late 90s.

Swanson's original list was actually two lists, one for clerics/fighters and one for magic-users. I've instead made a single table for all characters with 50 entries, some inspired by Swanson's list but many others simply brainstormed while perusing Holmes Basic. See the screenshot below.

If you note any typos in either page, please let me know below in the comments and I will eventually correct and repost the sheets.

As with the previous new sheet (the Equipment Reference Sheet), these will eventually be incorporated into a new version of Holmes Ref. The various existing Holmes Ref sheets and compilations can be found here.

Update 4/29: Revised version posted at the same link. Correct typos found by myself and others and clarifies some wording in places. Screenshots still reflect the original version, so check the pdf if you note a typo in the screenshot.

Click on the image for a larger view
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Beneath the Remains

Ten Foot Pole - Mon, 04/27/2020 - 11:11
By D.S. Meyers Oldegrave Adventure Company OSR Levels 1-2

What will the characters sacrifice to save the Western Wood?

Soooo … yeah.

This 54 page digest adventure details about forty locations outside and in two small fifteen-ish room dungeons. Weird bullet format and a strange … forced? Nature to it, along with some abstracted detail, make this one a miss for me.

While staying in the town an old guy shows up in a wagon, shot by goblin arrows. His kids have been kidnapped, so the party traces them back to a fey circle and then a rose petal path to a glade. The fey queen says he was abusive and they killed him and are keeping the kids. Oh, by the way, could you go clean out a bunch of undead from some ruins nearby? I’ll give you The Gift of the Forest if you do. (Amulet of +5 CHA vs Fey/woodland.) The ruins are about eleven locations, with two mini-dungeons of about fifteen locations each. One of them has this artifact. A PC has to willingly give up their life to destroy it. If they bring it back to the fey queen then she kills them all for doing so and not destroying the artifact that she has never mentioned before. So …. Yeah. Obviously more than one thing wrong there. The overall vibe is a good one, enhanced by the old timey public-domain art selected. Well, good up until the point the fey queen sends you off. Then it’s just a boring old slog. The entire tone and style of the adventure changes. It was better BEFORE the dungeon stuff started.

The encounters for the ruins and two dungeons are trying to be useful to the DM. basically, each encounter has, like, three bullet points and then some stats and maybe a small section on treasure. There might be another small section explaining something or some development in some of the rooms. GL02-Hall reads “*3 goblin skeletons approach from the bend in the hallway. * Close quarters fighting.” Well, ok. I guess maybe that’s define in OSE? GL04-Kitchen. Big Chef Goblin Skeleton and 2 other goblin skeletons. Timer for ceiling collapse as the chef swings cleavers aimlessly hitting walls. Uh …. This is minimalism, or just a hair beyond it. And minimalism is No Bueno. I can roll on the monster charts in the 1E DMG and do minimalism. 

The timer, mentioned above, is one example of them in this adventure and there are a few others. They seem … weird. I guess maybe the goblin chef one is ok. You can at least see him hitting the walls and I guess, somehow, you know they will collapse? But in another place the timer is just used to have some raven fly through a window in a few rounds. What’s the point of that? Suspense? I mean, the party doesn’t have any choice over it.

And, then, there’s the issue. The party has no choice. Not with the kidnapped kids. Not with the quest pretext. Not with the artifact that makes you have to kill yourself to destory it. Not with the fey queen who kills you if you dare bring it back to her, presumably wiser, guidance. Or with the ravens and maybe the chef. Interactivity is important in an RPG. Without it there’s this false sense of mission. You know you have no impact so you don’t buy in, or, worse, buy in to your character instead.

The town has sixteen locations. A few sentences each. None of them really doing much with the locations. They don’t overstay, except in the way that no content overstays. They just don’t really matter in any way. 

Other details are abstracted. You can’t really talk to the kidnapped kids, or, lat least, the guidance on running them doesn’t exist. Likewise a fairy shows you the way to the undead ruins … a fairy with no name, description, personality or anything other than “ a fairy,” This is not assisting the DM. Is the party really unlikely to talk to the fairy?

GL01, the first room in the first dungeon is missing. It’s on the map but just isn’t in the text. 

Look, I get what the designer is trying to do. But the bullets are just minimalism instead of interesting detail. A bullet that says “They attack when the party enters the room.” isn’t adding value. I applaud the attempt at being easy to scan, but I also want the content behind the scanning. It had an interesting thing going on with the fey queen and her no solution parley. But then it turned in to standard old minimal dungeoncrawl.

This is $4 at DriveThru. The preview is seven pages and shows you several rooms. In fact, it’s mostly the first few rooms. So, great preview! I encourage folks to take a look at it and review the format used. It’s not a bad layout, it’s just the content that is lacking.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Harnessing the Power of Grayskull

Sorcerer's Skull - Mon, 04/27/2020 - 11:00

My recent posts about the world of Masters of the Universe, had me thinking about how I would run a MOTU type game. Given the multiple canons, it's a matter of choosing and refining. This is what I've got:

Mineternia Plus. As I've discussed previously, the earlier minicomics included with the toys, before Prince Adam and before the Filmation cartoon (what fans call Mineternia or the "Savage Canon") place the action in a post-apocalyptic, science fantasy world with something of the aesthetic of 80s barbarian films, mixed with that of 70s barbarian comics. There have been a number of cool or interesting additions to MOTU since, and the world detailed in only a few abbreviated storybooks in a toyline is pretty barebones, so this canon would only be the jumping off point.

Sword & Sandal. MOTU has the mostly austere terrain and musclebound heroes of 80s barbarian films, but the world seems to call for a bit more "PG" approach, so I think another sort of musclebound hero genre is a good reference, the peplum film. Protagonists would largely be wondering do-gooders, like the Herculeses, Goliaths, Macistes, and Ursuses of these films.

A Sufficiently Advanced Technology... MOTU is science fantasy, but its tech (particularly if you discount the cartoon and some toy boxart) seems to be one-off rather than mass produced stuff. Even if we allow it's all salvage from ancient caches, it shouldn't be down to each individual with unique tech like it seems to be. I think MOTU technology is more like magic items (maybe it even runs off magic after a fashion). Individuals can only "attune" to so many items at a time.

More Henchmen, More Underbosses. The MOTU of the comics and the cartoons that follow winds up working like a superhero comics, where Skeletor and his cronies are defeated, but allowed to escape to fight another day--or in the cartoons occasionally put in jail! In keeping with a more fantasy fiction vibe, more henchmen would die. To give name villains more of a chance, Skeletor should be at something of a remove, and even his traditional underlings should command gangs. Taking out a name villain should generally be something of an accomplishment.

If you could only have one Poll

Two Hour Wargames - Mon, 04/27/2020 - 02:09

Vote here!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Poll - If you could only have one

Two Hour Wargames - Sun, 04/26/2020 - 19:47

              Sci Fi?
                                                   Or something else?
Vote here!
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Goodbye Bryan - You'll be missed, Vampifan.

Two Hour Wargames - Sun, 04/26/2020 - 19:17
One of the major influences in THW. 

Bryan was always there to bounce ideas off of and a great person as well. Rest in piece brother.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Review & Commentary The Expanded 20-Level Core Four Classes By James Mishler, & Jodi Moran-Mishler For Labyrinth Lord and Advanced Labyrinth Lord

Swords & Stitchery - Sun, 04/26/2020 - 17:07
"The Expanded 20-Level Core Four Classes provides a new, expanded version of each of the four core Labyrinth Lord classes, for use with Labyrinth Lord and Advanced Labyrinth Lord. In the vein of the original concept of the “companion rules” to the original BX series, this gives players something to look forward to at higher levels – indeed, at every level! In addition to the core class Needles
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LULU No Like Me

The Splintered Realm - Sun, 04/26/2020 - 15:08
I was in the middle of trying to format the print edition of Tales of the Splintered Realm the other night, when Lulu decided it needed 'about 2 hours' for a system update.

Two days later, I cannot log in, I get error messages when I ask for password help, and only one of my print books is live. I'm assuming that something went horribly askew at their end, and that they are still trying to get their full system up to speed. I think I have a print edition formatted and ready to go - Lulu REALLY did not like the fonts I was using - and I hope to be able to get a preview copy ordered by the middle of next week. Once I have a print copy in hand and can confirm that it looks good to my eyes, I'll be putting it live for the world.

Hope you are enjoying playing around with the new system.

Misconceptions About Sword & Sorcery Relevant to Gaming

Sorcerer's Skull - Sun, 04/26/2020 - 14:00

I had in mind maybe to write a post about the elements of the fantasy subgenre Sword & Sorcery that might be useful to think about it trying to capture that feel in gaming, but after noticing there are a number of blog/forum posts on that topic, I thought the most original thing I could do in point out where I believe they go wrong, or at least overstate things. This contains slight spoilers for a bunch of stories 30 or more years old.

Magic is Inherently Corrupting. I think this belief comes from the fact that most sorcerers/wizards that show up in Sword & Sorcery are evil, but the textual evidence evidence that magical power is more corrupting than regular old power is slim. Howard's The Hour of the Dragon features good magic-users in the form of priests of Asura (maybe they are clerics?) and a witch. Gray Mouser's original mentor Glavas Rho in "The Unholy Grail" is a "good" wizard. Pelias in "The Scarlet Citadel" and Fafhrd's and Gray Mouser's mentors Sheelba and Ningauble are at least helpful and not obviously evil.

Heroes Are Amoral. While many a Sword & Sorcery hero engages in the sort of larceny and possibly murder that D&D characters are known for and some would be aptly termed anti-heroes (Karl Edward Wagner's Kane might at times be a villain protagonist), most aren't sociopaths--or at least they are less so than a lot of D&D characters. In "Two Suns Setting," Kane not only doesn't double cross Dwassllir, but he doesn't even take the treasure when it wouldn't have mattered. He even tries to save one of his subordinates who's in anaphylactic shock in Bloodstone. Conan saves more than one damsel in distress and seems to care for the people of Aquilonia when he's its king.

The Stakes Are Small. In general, S&S isn't about the epic, but this is not always the case. The Hour of the Dragon is about the fate of kingdoms, and suggests the entire world may be imperiled if Xaltotun succeeds in resurrecting Acheron. Kane is often out to conquer the world. Imaro's saga has some epic tendencies.

The Gods Are Uncaring or Evil. Most gods showing up in person in Sword & Sorcery tend to, well, monsters--but certainly not all. In the Conan stories neither Mitra or Asura are certainly not evil, and Mitra even makes an appearance in "Black Colossus." The gods in a number of Fafhrd and Gray Mouser stories seem over-involved, if anything.

A Walk through Harnmaster - Characters

Bat in the Attic - Sun, 04/26/2020 - 13:45
CharactersThis is a 30 page article detailing how to generate characters

Generating CharactersThe steps for making a Harnmaster Character are

  1. GM tells the players which optional rules are in play for this game.
  2. Generate Birth, Appearance, Physical, and Personality attributes.
  3. Determine Parent Occupation. You may accept this occupation for your own or seek a new career.
  4. Determine Automatic, Occupational, Family, and Optional skills.
  5. Determine Equipment & Funds.
  6. Determine Contacts.
  7. Veterans (optional). The last step is to allow the players or referee to make experienced characters otherwise they are starting out around age 18 to 22.

Character ProfilesA short section explaining the Harnmaster character sheet (called a profile) and how to minimize the need to copy the information to a new sheet.

Birth AttributesDetails the circumstances the characters are born into. You either pick them or roll them randomly. They include in order
  • Species: Human, Sindarin (elf), Khuzdal (dwarf), Other (GM Discretion)
  • Sex
  • Birthdate and Sunsign (Harnic Zodiac)
  • Birthplace, either pick or use the charts in Harnworld.
  • Culture: Imperial (Tharda), Feudal, Viking (Orbaalese), Tribal, Sindarin, or Khuzan.
  • Social Class: Slave, Serf, Unguilded, Guilded, or Noble
So a fiddly bit of Harnmaster is the sunsign. Your character will have one of 24 possibilities. Either a single sunsign or a be born on a cusp and benefit from two sunsigns. The sunsign modify the starting level of certain skills. Once character gen is done it rarely comes up. I always used it something unique to Harnmaster, add flavor, and because it is only dealt with during Character Gen or getting a new skill.
Now the biggie Social Class. Most character will be from a Feudal culture and that means they will likely start off as Serfs if random rolls are used. Luckily this section is either choice or 1d100. The first few times with Harnmaster it will be fun to come up with various explanation of why your character is adventuring despite being born a serf. But it gets repetitive.

Family DevelopmentThis section develops the character's immediate family. Which could be important, just flavor or not a factor at all. It mostly focuses on the character relationship and is not a family/clan generator.
You roll for
  • Sibling Rank: Eldest to 6th Child.
  • Parental Relationship: Offspring, Fostered, Adopted, Bastard, Orphan
  • Estrangement: A 1d100 roll to see how good your relationship is with the clan or extended family.
  • Clanhead: How closely you are related to the head of the family/clan.
  • Appearance Attributes:
  • Here you generate by species some of the physical attributes of the character.
  • Height
  • Frame
  • Weight: Calculated
  • Comeliness: 3d6 roll

As an option you can roll Complexion, Hair Color, and Eye Color
Physical AttributesHarn uses 3d6 for attributes. It has more attributes but only some of are what is called a key attribute. These are attribute used most often in the rest of the system.
Rob's CommentWhat I have done is a straight 3d6 roll for non key attributes. But because of the importance of keyed attributes I have players roll 4d6 drop the lowest die. Do this seven times and arrange among the keyed attributes.
The physical attributes are
  • Strength: Key
  • Stamina: Key
  • Dexterity: Key
  • Agility: Key
  • Eyesight
  • Hearing
  • Smell
  • Voice

MedicalHere you can roll 1d100 to see what medical condition the players can have. A sample of the table is below. The rules are vague whether the roll is optional or not. There is a 30% change (71+) that the character will have no medical traits, and a 5% they will have multiple traits (66-70)
Rob's CommentI strongly recommend making this roll optional and using the optional rule in the sidebar that gives the players a reward a two points to be place in a attribute if they risk a roll on this table. The feel of gambling with the character's fate adds to the char gen process.

Personality Attributes
  • Intelligence: Key
  • Aura: Key
  • Will: Key
  • Morality: Diabolical to Exemplary
  • Aura is the character connection to the supernatural.

PyscheLike Medical this these are mental disorder the character can have.

Like Medical I recommend using the optional rule that rewards the player with attributes points if they opt to make rolls on this table. This has other optional rules to pick from as well. Again there is a 30% change of no disorders, and 5% chance of multiple disorders.

DietyA short list and explanation of the Harnic Deities and their suggested Morality ranges.
Also explains Piety Points which rolled using 5d6. Piety points measure a character standing with their deity. All players can use them to pray for divine intervention, and they are important to priests if using Harn Religion.

OccupationThis section serves two purposes, for character generation and for making NPCs. It list a set of different occupations and the skills associated with them. It comprehensive for a medieval setting and also includes monthly and yearly wage information.

For character generation the point of the section is generate the character's parent occupation. Then the player can roll (or pick) the occupation they apprentice in. Listed for the occupation is the number of years of service before the character gets all the skill listed for that occupation. For example a Hunter/Trapper requires 5 years. Character start training at age 14. The parent roll also determine if the character was born into an urban environment.

Assignment of SkillsStarting Harn Character get skills from the following.
  • Automatic Skills: Everybody has these
  • Occupational Skills: The skill listed under the occupation that the character trained for.
  • Family Skills: The character gets to add the first skill in the parent's occupation and one other skill in their occupation list. They don't start as high as the occupation skills
  • Optional Skills: The player gets 5 picks, they can be put all one new skill or spread among 5 new skills.
  • Psionic Talent: As an option the character can be born with a psionic talent. The referee is also has the option of rolling secret latent talents for the player.
I will get into how skill works in the next post.

Equipment and FundsNext we get into Equipment and Funds. Basically listing how much wealth the character start out with. Unless the character is a noble it is pretty small. A lot of Harn characters in my campaigns started with little more than a clothes, a leather vest, spear, dagger, and a helmet.

Friends and EnemiesThis section is about generating contacts among families and allies. As well as how to call on them for favors. This is often vital for characters trying to get themselves established and looking for adventure.

VeteransThis section explains how to continue character generation to produce an experienced character. Basically each year after the character finishes training give option points which can be used to improve or add skills.

AgingThis section explains about aging if the campaigns progresses along far enough.Character DesignThis section explains the point based method of character creation. All Key attributes are set to 8 and you spend 30 character point to make them whatever you want.
As an option you can add 20 more cp and include the other elements of character generation.

ClericsThis contains the rules for creating clerics of various Harnic Religions. However keep in mind the rules for divine magic is found in Harn Religion. This section also explains Ritual Invocations which are divine abilities usable by the clerics.

Shek-P'varThis section explains how to create a mage in the service of the Shek Pvar. There are six convocations of magic corresponding to the Harnic elements of Air, Fire, Metal, Earth, Water, Mind. Along with the seventh neutral convocation. Sun sign is a factor in how good a mage is with a convocation. Like clerics you need Harnmaster Magic for the explanation of the magic system.

Military CareersThis covers the various military occupations as well as provide a fair amount detail on military life. It is a great option for adventurers. Where clerics and mages get two pages each, this section get four pages full of military detail and char gen info.
Previous post was Introduction. Next Post is Skills.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Innovation in RPG-Land Part 2: The Process and the Innovator

The Disoriented Ranger - Sun, 04/26/2020 - 11:03
People actually asked for this (okay, one person ... but Part 1 received generally good and encouraging feedback). That said, I wouldn't want to force it. It's a strange and complex topic, and although I didn't go very deep into it, I think I laid out the basics okay. It's just that it all was left rather abstract (and intentionally so), so there is a lot to explore if opportunity (or inspiration) arises. Which actually happened (as I seem to be almost back to form), so here we go, building heavily on what was established earlier ...

Chuang Tze contemplating a waterfall [source]The Process (beyond craftsmanship)

I'd like to kick this of with a poem by the famous Daoist philosopher Chuang Tze. It is called The Woodcarver and it goes like this (translation seems to be by on Thomas Merten):

Khing, the master carver, made a bell stand
Of precious wood. When it was finished,
All who saw it were astounded. They said it must be
The work of spirits. The prince of Lu said to the master carver:
“What is your secret?”

Khing replied: “I am only a workman:
I have no secret. There is only this:
When I began to think about the work you commanded
I guarded my spirit, did not expend it
On trifles, that were not to the point.
I fasted in order to set my heart at rest.
After three days fasting,
I had forgotten gain or success.
After five days, I had forgotten praise or criticism.
After seven days I had forgotten my body with all its limbs.

“By this time all thought of your Highness
And of the court had faded away.
All that might distract me from the work
Had vanished.
I was collected in the single thought
Of the bell stand.

“Then I went to the forest
To see the trees in their own natural state.
When the right tree appeared before my eyes,
The bell stand also appeared in it, clearly, beyond doubt.
All I had to do was to put forth my hand
And begin.

“If I had not met this particular tree
There would have been
No bell stand at all.

“What happened?
My own collected thought
Encountered the hidden potential in the wood;
From this live encounter came the work
Which you ascribe to the spirits.”This is among the earliest descriptions of how creators push beyond craftsmanship while opening themselves for inspiration (roughly 2.100 years ago) and it is quite remarkable for several reasons.

You will find sentiments similar to this among various (if not all worth the label) artists of all kinds. Tom Waits is on record for telling inspiration to go somewhere else when he's driving a car, to name but one more famous example (just don't ask me which interview it had been ... I'm at a loss right now). Inspiration comes to the artist. They are kissed by muses, something speaks to them, they saw it in their dreams ... artists describe inspirations always as something disconnected, as something given to them.

One way to describe this would be that they tap into what Jung called the Collective Unconscious. How to get there is another matter altogether. Meditation, fasting, drinking (as many authors seem to do), other drugs, just taking a walk ... there seem to be as many individual solutions as there are artists. What they have in common is far more interesting, though: it all describes a form of disconnection from what is most commonly referred to as the "ego" (the thing in you that claims to be "I").

The brain getting flooded with impulses ... [source]It definitely also needs the tools to express those impulses artists receive, so that's craftsmanship. It's where you start, and in a sense it is a different thing altogether. Good craftsmanship needn't be inspired, it is useful and fulfilling on its own.

That's also a very important distinction to make, for the very reason that creativity is connected to the Big Five personality trait Openness as well as to intelligence (interestingly enough, using psychoactive drugs is one of the few things one can do to alter a score in Openness, and it seems to be very hard to change those personality traits at all ...). In other words: people are more or less creative, or even not creative at all (which seems to be an unpopular thing to say, although the science speaks for itself in that regard).

And yet, it doesn't matter (in that sense that it is not an universal and you don't lack anything if you don't have it), since learning a craft is all about dedication and practice, and that's only related to personality in as much as preferences go*. Although Conscientiousness might have an impact on your progress (among other factors). But still, that just determines your approach, not how good you'll get. Right?

If you need a good example for that, look at the cultural implementation of something like Martial Arts in Japan or Yoga in India. Everyone is encouraged to do it, age or social background don't matter, everyone has access to some degree or another (this is somewhat generalizing, but you get the idea).

High craftsmanship is achievable, transcending that might be something else altogether and less connected than generally assumed. Less connected, because craftsmanship has two separate functions: perfection and conservation of an established form (creation of the perfect table, for instance) and innovation beyond the established through creativity and transfer (making a better wheel, for instance).

It's also important to see all this within a spectrum, of sorts. If it's all individual journeys to express inspiration through craft, we are all at different steps in our personal development, sometimes even unsure where we are going or where we'll end (if at all aware).

And while we take our individual dips in the collective unconscious, fishing for inspiration, we are sometimes reduced to being spectators. But that's another thing that's interesting in the process (and very Dao, I might add). We, as a group of individuals, are able to recognizes art, especially over time, although the process for this almost seems as mysterious as inspiration itself. The importance of art, in that sense, can be measured as the time a culture keeps it around (or more precise: the time it carries meaning in a culture).

Within all those complex patterns emerge works of art that alter cultures permanently, and while we could debate the importance of the waves of innovation our little hobby produced so far (see Part 1), the impact of that first game on all cultures that got hands on it, is undeniable and still echoes through all aspects of many cultures as I write this. As a matter of fact, I'm pretty sure we are not in the least aware how big of an impact we are actually talking about.

As far as the process goes, we see the same pattern emerge that I described above. Simply put, a group of enthusiastic college level war game hobbyists pushed their hobby to a degree where some of them transcended the given parameters out of the necessity to allow for single character games instead of units. Looking back, it seems like a natural development. However, it took some creative minds to tackle the problem (Gygax, Arneson, and so on).

As you'll always have with things like this, many tuned in, either working together, or even being unaware of each other (again, collective unconscious describes best what exactly they tuned into). and the result was what generally is referred to as the first edition of D&D today**.

Famously, this also led to feuds that go on to this day. Who came first up with it, who's the creator, who deserves more praise, all that petty bullshit people fight about over the corpses of those who helped putting the game together. That, however, is a whole chapter on its own ...

Now, what about the innovators?

Did Tesla invent the light bulb or was it Edison? Actually, 22 inventors are listed that made attempts in that direction, and Edison's just was the most successful***. Or did they already have "light bulbs" in old Egypt? They had batteries back then (so-called Baghdad Batteries in Persia, which is mind-blowing in its own right), so what did they use them for?

Light bulbs in Egypt? Check out the Dendera Lights**** [source]Did the Americans invent Pizza, or was it the Italians. Same for noodles: China or Italy? Are hamburgers a purely American invention, or was it European immigrants inventing short-cuts to sell their fast food better? And what about the Romans? They had a thriving fast food culture, among that selling a beef patty with minced meat between two buns, so they had hamburger over 1500 years ago.

What's more, focus shifts names of inventors change to regions change to nations, and then get forgotten. How many appliances do you have at home with no idea who came up with it? Give it a couple of decades and people may reduce the origins of roleplaying games to America. Give it even more time and it just might end up being a staple like chess.

This is the usefulness and tragic of innovation, actually. The inventor is channeling and manifesting something, with craft, ingenuity and time, and with luck, it ends up resonating with enough others to have an impact. Again, a spectrum, it may be a bestseller that'll be forgotten in a couple of years, it may be penicillin, it might be the thing that inspires the guy that will invent penicillin.

There aren't high chances for success, but if a creative endeavor turns out to be successful, it has a measurable impact. High risk (because you believe in your ideas and invest into realizing them), but equally high reward (if something blows up, it blows up proper).

Sometimes you catch the fish, sometimes ... [source]Yet, this is just one side of the coin. The other side is that if a creator is channeling, it gets difficult to claim ownership. Sure, you wrote the book, you designed the game, you painted the picture, but in a sense you made the collected conscious manifest. You made it conscious in others, so it becomes a thing of it's own, in a sense.

Insert here the years old discussion about fandom and how much influence a creator has after the creation resonated with the public. Especially with huge successes (I explored that specific rabbit hole in another post not that long ago, and you can join me doing so here). Some can keep on the pulse they created, some try to send new impulses and fail (The Matrix Trilogy comes to mind as a failed example, but there are also enough successful series proofing that the opposite is possible).

It's everyone's game, and it needs to be. As I said in part 1, innovation needs a critical mass to emerge from. If a pattern gains enough interest, lots of lesser successful attempts on it allow for some to hit it out of the park in a way that also encourages others to conserve the attempt through playing with the pattern while repeating it (which, incidentally, is another reason to let go ... and also very Daoist).

There is also the small side of the coin that deserves a bit of contemplation: if creators channel ideas from something that is potentially accessible for all, and manifest those ideas through the established methods of a craft, the whole disconnect created that way between the art and the artist means you really don't have to like the artist (or know them, for that matter) to appreciate the art (or the innovation). Individual expression will always find a way to make itself known, but it is clearly distinguishable from the innovation or the artwork.

Actually, the less you find of the artist in the art, the longer it will last (if it was a success). Look at all the classics. The older they are, the purer they are in their form. Shakespeare is a perfect example for this, imo. Art so powerful, pure and innovative, its impact is felt to this day, 400 years later. Does it matter who he was? Well, of course people want to know who he was and how he lived, but does it matter? No. Not at all.

That doesn't mean artists or innovators don't deserve compensation, mind you (as some seem to think that if you are merely channeling and if what manifests isn't "yours", you didn't seem to do anything special ...). But that's like in that sad joke about the guy asking the other guy why he should pay 200 gold for something that took only ten minutes to make:

See what I mean? [source]And that's just that. Years of dedication will make you good at what you are doing, and speed is just one indicator how good someone became. You see in the example above that you'll have to remind people of this even if you are only talking craft, with art it gets even less clear cut (the high risk, high reward thing discussed above) as recognizing the possibilities of a thing is not as hard as creating it, but still very hard.

There where cultures that honored the artist for the attempt, for the way of life they chose to (possibly) create something all may benefit from. We don't seem to live in a culture like that.

The only consolidation an unsuccessful artist has, would be that their creativity keeps them entertained. Going that way is a goal worth in itself (which, again, is a very Daoist thing). However, the tragic truth is that a culture that not only ignores spiritual growth (which this all is, obviously), but actively dismisses and denounces it, will also make it a rather privileged endeavor to explore your full potential (or a hard decision).

To end this on a more positive note, though, I'd like to point out that it doesn't stop people from trying and hard decisions are made more often than not ...

And this leaves us where, exactly?

Well, I think that leaves us at a potential part 3, as I still kept this as abstract as fuck :D However, while you might say that this isn't as specific as talking about creating a roleplaying game, it very much is about that very same process. For now, you could think of this as something more like a school of thought than a concrete guide. Maybe we'll go further down that road ...

Learning any craft, being it writing or game design or carpentry, is hard work and takes years of dedication. Furthermore, exploring the outer limits of a craft can be seen as a spiritual journey and manifesting your findings needs you functioning on all the levels described above.

If you recognize this as a possible truth, you will also see where we are at in our hobby. You'll gain an awareness of what is trying to conserve and what's trying to innovate and even, what's couterproductive. To one degree or another. You'll also know one approach to go that way or at least where you are at in the great scheme of things. That's not nothing.

I know it's a struggle, and I'm barely what you'd call an artist. Spiritual, yeah, I'd claim that I dabble in that, but ask me to what end, and I'm somewhat at a loss. I read too much about it and don't live enough of it (mostly because I can't afford to, but partly because it is also very hard to let go). This blog exists for almost 9 years now. I monetize very little (I published a thing that is PWYW ...), because it's a process for me, a way to learn. I'm finally at a point now where I will try my hand at earning a bit more with this. Just a little bit.

See what I mean? 9 years of work here, with years of work before that, and now I feel like I might be in a position to actually earn a buck or two with it. Might still fail, mind you, and I somewhat dread the jump (my first rpg is almost publishable, but I hesitate, and not only because of the pandemic).

Still worth it, though. I regret nothing and I really do believe that taking the journey is worth it. Doesn't matter where it ends, it brought me here, didn't it? So I hope you enjoyed reading those musings and ramblings of mine about what makes art and what doesn't and how innovation is connected to it all. Creating something and sharing it with others at least has the chance to have some stranger leave a bit richer than they had been before, and if nothing else, there is value in that.

The Poor Poet by Spitzweg sums it up for me. [source]
*Here are some thoughts about the Big Five and what they mean for a person. It is important context, but not so important for what I'm writing above. First, we all seem to be primed the way we are from very early on. So much so, that we seem to be born with a specific set of traits (roleplaying gamers can relate: you get what you roll) and we need a big part of our life to come to terms with that (I'm going with Schopenhauer here, in that people don't change, they just change their behavior). This "coming to terms with our personality" will always be a very individual journey, and by no means successful for everyone. If someone is too open and their parents are more of the opposite, that can create conflict. The type of conflict you will see in dramas all over the world. Sometimes people get damaged, sometimes they arrange themselves with something not in sync with their nature. Sometimes extraordinary circumstances force us to be a more rudimentary version of ourselves to function ... It is a very complex subject, as one can easily see, so we think in ideals when we talk about the Big Five. Ideals, because it assumes a person is fully aware of their potential. I just wanted to point out that there are also those people that can't even begin to express themselves (or only when reacting extreme themselves, like getting drunk to write, or cutting off an ear?), because their surroundings don't allow for it. Going this way can be difficult.

**Nothing is that easy, obviously. However, in terms of patterns, we see this all the time, for instance with music genres (Grunge would be a good example, I think). 

***Again, the same pattern emerges ... Just saying. 

****Not necessarily as fact, but as an interpretation or a possibility. We are clever monkeys, after all, and it just took as a couple of 100 years to get where we are today, technologically speaking. It would just take as long to lose all that again, with almost nothing left to proof our technological sophistication. So who's to say what the ancients where capable of? It's a fascinating thought experiment, imo.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The AD&D Death Dial

Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog - Sun, 04/26/2020 - 01:00

After four sessions in a row with no player character deaths, something just did not seem right. And I am not talking about the players’ mysterious capability to roll high whenever I ask for a save versus poison and I can’t watch them roll, either!

In a real D&D game, you are typically going to have one or two character deaths every couple sessions. Zero deaths after four sessions is pretty nuts. That sure makes it seem like that AD&D is completely pathetic when compared to Moldvay Basic! What’s going on here?

Well, turns out that if you thought that AD&D was a game where ALL the player characters could drop down to -10 hit points and stay in the game, you’ve got it all wrong:

Notice that the “drop to -10” rule only applies to characters that were dropped to zero hit points exactly. That -10 rule is really more of a clock that can run out if the combat the players are in starts to drag out. Note that Gygax gives Dungeon Masters latitude to allow this special case to be extended to include hits that drop characters down to the -1 to -3 range.

So if you want to dial back the meat-grinder you get in the early levels of D&D, crank this setting up to -3. If you’d like a game where player characters die at rates comparable to those in #BasicLevel games, then leave it at zero!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

A Walk through Harnmaster - Introduction

Bat in the Attic - Sat, 04/25/2020 - 15:14
Columbia games is running a kickstarter to reprint the Harnmaster Boxed Set and improve the graphics.  There is a couple of days left and I figure it would be useful to run through the system so you have a better idea of what the system is about.

Harnmaster is divided into loose leaf articles meant to be placed in a 3-ring binder. There were a few exceptions but the whole line was published like this after the mid 80s.

Circa 2010

Circa 2020IntroductionThis is a 2 page article outlining the system and their philosophy. The basic gist is stated in this sentenceHârnMaster is a fantasy role-playing game in which players assume the identities of characters who explore and experience a fantasy world.The Gamemaster (GM)Their view of the role of the gamemaster is summarized belowThe Gamemaster (GM) is apart from the players and functions much like a referee at a sports event. Among many other things, the GM controls weather and climate, societies and institutions, and deities and religions.The GM stands between the fantasy world and the players, describing and explaining it, and operating the denizens that hinder the PCs’ lives. But the GM also operates Non-Player Characters (NPCs) who can befriend and assist PCs and should never, therefore, be viewed as the “enemy.”The introduction also includes this about the playersThe players’ challenge is to explore the fantasy world, meet it on its own terms, and succeed according to the goals they set for themselves.The sidebar explains the other products in the Harnmaster system.
General InformationThis is a short section explaining all the terms, conventions, and abbreviation used in the rules.
Rob's CommentsOne of the reason I like Harnmaster and product is that their view of how to run a campaign closely aligns with mine. Most of their products I found highly useful for my Majestic Wilderlands setting because of this.
Next Characters

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The High Moors

Ten Foot Pole - Sat, 04/25/2020 - 11:11
Stephen J. Jones Unsound Methods 5e/OSR Levels 1-9

The High Moors beckon… Little is known of the Ieldra – a race of cruel and depraved elves that once ruled the northern tableland called The High Moors – and no one has seen an elf in living memory. Their civilisation is dead, destroyed by an incursion from the Far Realm brought about by their hubris. The ruins of the High Moors have lain undisturbed for centuries. With news from a successful expedition, people have finally considered the treasures waiting to be discovered in the forgotten north.  A number of expeditions have now been dispatched to bring back magic and riches. Unfortunately, danger, horror and madness awaits most of them.

This 198 page “adventure” is actually a mini-campaign setting, taking characters from level one through about level nine by way of a hexcrawl with about seventy location of varying depth. It’s above average, as hex crawls go, in terms of the situations developed and the adventures support for it. For $10, you get an entire campaign … not a bad deal at all!

So, a campaign setting. This means gods, races, leveling, coin systems, and other details have been changed. This hex crawl makes sense in the world that it lives in and would be quite the challenge to move it, unless it’s a pocket dimension, etc. It is such a Of This Place that conversions are going to be difficult. It’s a Gold=XP system, for 5e (and easily enough older school D&D) that also has attached to it unique roles for dwarves, elves, goblins, halflings, demons, giants, and a myriad of other races. It’s going to hard to fit this in without some effort … but … it does contain enough adventure in it to handle levels one through nine. So, why fit it in at all? Just start a new campaign using this, make it the centerpiece, and off you go!

The core of the adventure are the hex locations, about sixty scattered across three maps, each of which is about 11 hexes by 15 hexes, with a 1 hex=12 mile scale. These tend to stretch out to a page or so, especially where stat blocks are involved. In spite of this, they entries are relatively well organized. Each one tends to starts with an overview, what you might see from a distance as you approach, and then additional detail as you get up closer. Finally, the individual elements of the “up close” view get their own little bolded section that describes what it going on with them in a format that is relatively easy to scan. These locations have SUBSTANTIAL mysteries to solve, things that are missing, NPC’s to interact with, and so on. There is definitely some potential energy in the vast majority of the encounters.These are not the static models of Isle of the Unknown, but rather something more akin  to the newer Wilderlands, that had more detail and the old Wilderlands. Interactive, lengthy, but generally easy to follow. There’s only so much you can do, though, via a pig-man village and the intrigue therein without running the words the top of the bowl. The same with the ruins, or mini-dungeons prevalent throughout the hex crawl. There’s just a degree of abstraction that you have to accept with a hex crawl. The hexes need to do a good job to inspire the DM because there’s just no word budget for detail. Nor should there be.

A substantial element to a hex crawl campaign is getting the players crawling and keeping them exploring. Numerous hooks are suggested, both more generic ones and then also more race-specific ones, which come off a little like secret society missions. Combined with the need to explore for coin purposes (you spend your coin, one GP to train for 1 xp) and magic then you get a nice little loop of coin, hooks, and missions you pick up out in the wilderness/hexes. It’s good. I think it more than adequately covers the pretext needed to play D&D tonight.

I’m pretty happy with this. The setting has a lot going on, factions and the like, along with some substantial “game world” mysteries to resolve. There are numerous opportunities to screw things up “Broodmother Skyfortress”/Rients style. There’s good cross-referencing, generally, and good imagery. The setup for the various sites seem interesting and more than throw-away sites. At one point there’s an invisible chain, going up in to the sky, that you can hear but not see. Climbing up it reveals a platform and a building to explore. It’s done very well. And almost everything is done well in this. There are significantly more highs than lows. 

It feels like this was done in word, or some such, with a 2-column format used. This FEELS off, in place, maybe a little amateurish? I appreciate the singular effort of a designer, but the product could have been better with good layout. Not that it’s bad. Maybe it just REMINDS me of the look of products that ARE bad?

This is $10 at DriveThru. The preview is eleven pages, but not very good. It’s just the first eleven pages, which cover a bit of the overview. A few of the hexes would have been a much better preview.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

25% Off Coupon Code Extended

Two Hour Wargames - Sat, 04/25/2020 - 01:50
Well if we have to stay home anyway...
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Check it out!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

AD&D Session 5: Altar of the Beast-women

Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog - Sat, 04/25/2020 - 01:22

In the intervening week since last session I revisited my sewer dungeon and touched it up a bit. This mostly consisted of deciding what treasure was well and the status and posture of what was guarding it. The players were quite alarmed by the dog men’s incremental improvement in coordination and tactics.last time and suggested the possibility of coming in through a different entrance in order to be less predictable, so nailing down what the sewers were like in every direction seemed like a sound use of prep time.

Game night arrives and (per Gygax’s direction) we no have a full week of game time to catch up on. This is a truly stellar rule as the monster’s have a chance to lick their wounds, injured players have time to recuperate, and players have have a chance to attend to all the stuff they don’t do when they’re own adventures. If you don’t play the “one real day = one game day” rule, then the focus of play becomes entirely and ONLY about the adventure. Flip that one switch and the campaign gains a chance to breath, everything has a chance to grow organically.

The party’s cleric that serves the hilarious proto-god Issek is, for example, spending his off time begging on The Street of the Gods. (He put a few coppers in the tin in order to make people think people are giving.) The paladin meanwhile spent the entire week praying and fasting. (When asked which the holy symbol of his faith was he immediately replied that it was a cross. Good man!) Everyone else was presumably chasing trollops.

Word on the street is that your mom is a changeling.

The ranger was a special case, though. I had a rumor I’d been sitting on for weeks because no one would talk to my NPC ranger in the tavern. (If you knew what sort of humiliations they’ve endured at the hands of new school DM’s that have stripped them utterly of any kind of agency, you would grasp how this sort of thing can happen.) Then last week, the PC ranger was wanting to buy a horse. Inspiration: why not let the player be that guy that finds out stuff? PROBLEMS SOLVED! Even better, the fact that the players literally have the reigns of the campaign shifted even further into their control. That’s how you win are rpgs right there, y’all!

One other thing we clarified here was that Keebler Khan’s mom is not part of anything like some sort of broader elf culture. There’s just not that much in the way of any kind of demi-humans in the realm. Occasionally a human child is replaced by what people believe to be changelings. Many of these freakish children end up abandoned, consumed by the streets of Trollopulous. Pretty sad! Not a whole lot of perks for the odd demi-human freak in this world.

Anyways, I start the game with the ranger’s player’s scouting run. He suspects the dog men are coming and going to the city from some other entrance. I tell him he sees the sewage pass out of the city into a swamp to the west, but that it’s covered with metal bars. The players want to know about other entrances into the sewers besides that and I say that there are other manhole covers to the west, the south and the northeast– kind of randomly, really. Almost as if the city were randomly built on top of something else.

I ask the ranger what else he sees on his scouting, hoping he would improvise some random details I could incorporate into the game. No such luck! Turns out nobody knows anything about the world outside the sewers. I tell them there are jungles to the north, which surprises them. There are wild men to the south, a sea to the southeast, and mountains to the southwest.

I tell them the ranger came across some tracks heading south. Maybe 20, 30, 40 (?) creatures… big…. Some of the players want to follow them. Others say that they are afraid to go back and tangle with the dog men. Why would they tangle with something bigger and more numerous? The players debate a while and finally decide they want go find where the tracks came from.

This is of course in a place where I have spent next to no time prepping. I surreptitiously roll on a random table in the back of the Fiend Folio while the players start planning their excursion and shopping for mules, pith helmets, etc. They travel a day to the jungle’s edge and we stop to double check that this is even according the rules. It all comes down to how much it’s rained in the past week. Like how many hours even.

Anyway, I rule that with the ranger’s help they can follow this trail. They make it to these cyclopean ruins at about five o’clock in the evening on the second game day of the session. They’re at a big outer wall. There’s places where it’s fallen in. Up above they can see a temple in amid the huge ruined pile. The paladin suggests tying the mules to the wall so that they can go up and investigate.

As the party nears the temple, they hear the sound of drumming. Inside there is a naked woman on the alter. She is surrounded by ape-men. One of them is about to sacrifice her. The party attacks with ranged weapons and takes out the guy with the knife. The ranger rushes in Errol Flynn style but there is an earthquake the rest of the party is blocked off from him.

The other players decide to disbelieve the illusion. Three of them walk through the rubble and inside the temple. Inside, everything has changed. There are two beast-women inside, each with the body of a lion and the torso, arms, and head of a woman. There is a fight and gradually the players elect to retreat back through the illusory rubble.

Moments later it dissipates and they see everything’s changed again. They hear screams for help from a passage beyond the alter, but can’t tell whether it is from the left way or the right. One of the clerics immediately declares that he is pushing the alter, because there is always a secret passage underneath them. It budges and there is a staircase down. Keebler Kahn leads the way with his predator-vision. There is one beast-woman down there with the ranger! The party rolls in and the paladin finishes her off with an epic blow while the ranger protests.

The players collect 5000 electrum from the scene, camp in the vicinity, and then head back to Trolopulous for a well earned rest.

I was thinking that one of the clerics would have enough experience to level after this game, but double checking the rules this long heralded event is going to have to be postponed. The cleric’s experience point total is frozen until he can come up with enough gold– 1875 piece– to pay for his training!

He doesn’t even have a third of the necessary funds.

This game is unreal!

Keebler Khan was knocked down to -2 hit points again. With two clerics and a paladin in the party, there was little chance of this being life-threatening. With the exception of the initial total party kill, there have been no player character deaths even with  several saves versus poison having to be made. While AD&D is absolutely punishing with its training requirements for leveling, the negative hit point rule combined with the large amount of healing spells make the player characters practically indestructible when compared to their B/X counterparts.

Still, the ranger very nearly didn’t make it out of this one!

Characters in this game:

Arthur the Gallant (7 hits) [Delves 2, 3a, 3b, 4, and 5] XP: 122 + 753 + 351 + 54 + 766 = 2046

Hans Franzen the Swoleceror (2 hits, Burning hands, Jump, Message, Read Magic) [Delves 3a, 3b, 4, and 5] XP: 753 + 351 + 54 + 766 = 1924

Torin the Runner (7 hits) [Delves 3a, 3b, 4, and 5] XP: 753 + 351 + 54 + 766 = 1924

Aulis Martel the Acolyte (8 hits) [Delves 3a, 3b, 4 and 5] XP: 753 + 351 + 54 + 766 => [Frozen at 1500 until he levels!]

Keebler Khan the Veteran/Prestidigitator (5 hits, Charm Person, Spider Climb, Write, Read Magic) [Delve 3a and 5] XP: 753 + 766 = 1519

Gregg the Acolyte (10 hits) [Delves 4 and 5] XP: 54 + 766 = 820

Note: These XP totals do not include any bonuses due to high prime requisites.

Experience and treasure:

2096 XP for killing monsters plus 5000 electrum gives a total of 4596 XP divided six ways for 766 each!


Day 1: The Hole in the Sky

Day 2: The Thing in the Sewer

Day 7: The Big Score part I

Day 8: The Big Score part II

(Day 9-14 — player characters all carousing¹; Keebler Khan fully recovered) <—- I day of real world time = one day of game time!)

Day 15: The Drums of the Dog People

(Day 16-21: More carousing, fasting, panhandling.)

Day 22-25: Altar of the Beast-women



Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Tales of the Splintered Realm Now Available

The Splintered Realm - Sat, 04/25/2020 - 00:54
Tales of the Splintered Realm, the Complete Rules has been released.
Welcome to the Splintered Realm. Don your armor, heft your weapon, and prepare your magic. Adventure awaits.
In this fantasy roleplaying game, you will play a heroic player character in a fellowship of other heroes, taking on the role of your character. You will use these rules, an assortment of dice, and your imagination to help build a shared tale of the Splintered Realm.
This game is released under the Open Game License, with original content released under a Creative Commons Share-Alike License. You are free to take, adapt, modify, and re-publish this work as you see fit.
All you need is this book, a stack of graph paper, a pencil, and some dice that you fill in with a crayon, and you’ll be ready to play.
A print edition will be available by May 15; you will receive a code to take $4.95 off the cover price when the print edition is available (getting the print edition for $10.00 instead of $14.95).


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