Showing posts with label Campaign. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Campaign. Show all posts

Sunday, January 13, 2019

World Building Vignette #2: 'potamus Tarn

The Tarnian Empire derives it name from a dozens of mountain lakes called tarns. In the north western region of the Empire is one of it's oldest settlements called 'potamus Tarn.


The area's main feature is not a tarn at all, but a massive lake. The lake is fed by many tarns to the north and give it its name. The lake supports many types of large animals, the hippopotamus being the most noticeable. Gazelle, wildebeest and lions are found on the north and south sides of the lake, the treed areas host puma, rhinoceroses and deer.

The local inhabitants have built three small walled towns. The plains are home to many fortified houses. These fortifications have solid stone first and second floors but often have ramshackle third, fourth and fifth stories. Their purpose is to protect against the larger animals in the area, especially the unpredictable hippos and rhinos.

In the Century of Chaos, many of these fortified houses were burned to the ground by Elven and Orcish warbands. A few were reconstructed as actual keeps, but most were rebuilt with sturdier but still wooden upper stories.

This map was created using an online editor called Hextml and some details were retouched in GIMP.

If you are interested, I have a small book called Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners which includes farmers and huntsmen as classes for your old school D&D campaign. Priced at pay what you want, every download no matter the price, supports me as an author.

Click this link to read Vignette #1. Later this week, Vignette #3 will be available.

Friday, January 11, 2019

World Building Vignette #1: The Town of Tabletop

The southwestern tip of the Peninsula of Plenty comes to a ragged point. The cliffs have collapsed into the sea creating a natural formation of semi-submerged, stone tables in the water, which makes for excellent fishing. The town that sprang up on the point was dubbed "Tabletop" after these formations.

Tabletop is a seagoing community, it's whole culture revolves around life at sea despite being ruled by a land based Empire. Several of the earliest Imperial magistrates were lost at sea which was predicted by the town's cults. These events created the odd situation where the one half of the town's leadership was held by a tribune appointed by the Empire and the second was often elected from and by the various priesthoods as the sacerdos.

This is not the normal state of affairs within the Tarnian Empire. Major cities are assigned 2 tribunes by either the Senate or the Emperor or Empress, with a three year service time. The Senate selects tributes in times of peace, while the Emperor or Empress acts in time of war.

The town of Tabletop is so far from the Capital, not only is it a poor backwater, the citizens are thought of as seditious, backstabbing traitors. The fact that the whole of the Empire's shipping passes through Tabletop requires a Tribune. Tribune assignments are viewed at best as a punishment and, at worst, a death sentence.

It is true that Tabletop is a relative backwater, but the citizens and townspeople are far from seditious. In times of war the town has been captured and the people have ousted these conquerors by trickery, sabotage and even murder. They are ruthlessly effective at returning to the Empire.

Because of these military threats to shipping the town is responsible for maintaining a cohort. With approximate 12,000 townspeople and most of those involved in sailing ventures, this is not possible at all times. In times of peace, the tribune has about 220 soldiers or guards at his disposal. Tabletop also has 15 regum antiquorum, or "Ancient Kings" who are required to provide approximately 100 soldiers for the cohort. The remaining soldiers are drawn from volunteer citizens, and traditionally they will provide enough men, women and even children to round out the cohort at 888 soldiers. Again, this is unique to Tabletop.

Once the cohort is on the move Tabletop is very vulnerable to capture. The cohort and the townspeople view this as a necessary evil, which explains the viciousness of the townsfolk towards invaders.

On a daily basis, the town supports a virtual cohort of sailors and marines, perhaps many more than 800. One tribune is permitted sea travel rights, while the other remains in town with the sacerdos as his or her second.

The sacerdos is responsible for the physical safety of the tribunes, his or her sailors and these tasks are a local tradition, not something found in the Imperial Tables of Laws. Tribunes are not normally assigned a bodyguard, but in Tabletop they are effectively surrounded by people who will defend them. Many public oaths involve loyalty the Tribunes as individuals, which may be the cause of the perceived seditious tendencies.

It is rare for both tribunes to show up for duty on time. Often, at least one tribune will "tag the base", showing up late and leaving early, if not immediately for home. The citizenry to elect an honorary mayor while the priesthoods to elect a sacerdos. The sacerdos would stand in as one tribune, if needed. The elected mayor has no power so long as a single tribune is working in the service of the Empire. This creates many cases where a tribune is at sea or leading the legion while the sacerdos has sole control of the town.

The role of sacerdos is unusual. All of the religious organizations can vote for a single priest or priestess from any organization. Since this job does not require any special physical or magical skill, very often the selected person is young. They typically are negotiators, book keepers and planners.

Tribunes acknowledge and respect the power of sacerdos but do not acknowledge mayoral powers. This is because a mayor only has power in the absence of both tribunes. If there are two tribunes in town, the sacerdos only has his religious duties and the duty to organize the production of goods for the protection of the sailors. A few tribunes will invite mayors and sacerdos on to their council of advisers, but never use the title "mayor".

Tribunes can forbid any public activity, except for two very specific actions by the regum antiquorum and cult activities deemed a public service. This is similar to the idea of a veto and is it is called that by the townspeople. The town hovers on the edge of martial law at all times. In the absence of one tribune, the sacerdos does not have the power of veto even when acting as a tribune's second. In the absence of both tribunes, the mayor and the sacerdos can veto each other actions, but not public activities. Basically, they can stop new laws or policies from going into effect.

When a veto by a sacerdos is in effect, the temples, churches and shrines will symbolically close, displaying a black curtain over a predominate window or door. When the mayor vetos an action, all public businesses shutter themselves with a plank over the front door. These traditions are symbolic and end once the mayor and sacerdos negotiate a solution or when a tribune arrives to set the situation right. The businesses and religious institutions still conduct operations while symbolically closed.

The current acting sacerdos cannot not leave the confines of the town, is responsible for blessing each new vessel and is able to charged the various cults to produce goods, magical and mundane to support the seafaring tribune. The sacerdos has a specific blessing for each type of ship, which is spiritual, not magical in nature. The sacerdos' symbol of office is small rudder. He or she wears a black cap with three long tassels over each ear. Former office holders wear a similar white  cap with one yellow tassel for each year of service.

In this Empire, the collective word for all religions is "cult". It is not a disparaging term. The ruling class is leery of all cults and the Empire does not have a default religion. Religions are viewed as mysterious groups, which are largely impenetrable to outsiders.

Click this link to read Vignette #0 or this one to read Vignette #2.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

World Building Vignette #0

I am working on a new D&D campaign world, largely based on the Romans. This is an interesting scenario as it is so different than the typical D&D setting which is often based in medieval times. This is wildly different than the Greyhawk setting or anything else I have encountered.

I plan on posting a series of vignettes on this process. Next Saturday, I plan to introduce a magic item unique to one town in this world: "The Rat Bag". The town has an interesting name and history, which explains the rational for this item. It is a mass produced magical device, which is strange to say the least. 

My planned schedule for posting is Friday and Saturday nights. The first post will be vignettes of this campaign world and the second will continue my 52 Weeks of Magic Series. As time permits, I may increase my posting rate. 

Please join me this weekend for world building fun.

Click the link to read Vignette #1

Saturday, January 5, 2019

52 Weeks of Magic - 1 of 52 - Magic Lamps

As a New Years resolution, I have decided to create a news column style post, entitled "52 Weeks of Magic".

These spells and items have played a prominent role in my various D&D campaigns over the years. They should be amendable to the various D&D editions available to all players, including retro games such as Labyrinth Lord and BlueHolme. I am uncertain about 4e or 5e as I do not play those sets... yet.

The first entry to the 52 Weeks of Magic is a basic magic spell employed in a way that was never really intended: Continual Light as magic item. Quite possibly, this was your first magic item. It was mine.

The spell creates a sphere of light with a 60' radius. It will move at the direction of the caster or it could be attached to a mobile or immobile object such as a rock. As an attack spell, it could be cast at a creature's eyes to cause blindness. Over the years, dispelling the globe of light was worded differently. It could be canceled by a Darkness spell, at will by the caster, Dispel Magic, and in the case of blinded creatures, Remove Curse.

Gee, that is a rather problematical spell on a couple of levels. It disappeared in 3.5e, replaced by Continual Flame which has a cost and is less effective. This was a stylistic change and probably for the better.

Down to the brass tacks. Or tube, as the case may be. Character's intelligent enough to realize the immediate benefit of the spell could cast this spell into a scroll tube. My character used a brass map tube, creating a brass lantern, ala Zork. One of my players cast the spell into a cut and blackened tube of bamboo and added a large glass bead for color and dubbed it the 'boo Torch. The color of the bead of glass was assigned to specific characters so they could identify each other over great distances. How ingenious.

This article is not about the spell, it's about the items created for the spell. The material cost can be very low in the case of the 'boo Torch. Or more likely, the spell would be cast on a high value item such as an ornate, custom-made tube or a standard votive candle.

The game breaking aspect of this spell and the items created by it are not the obvious ones. A Continual Flame spell in 3.5e carries a cost of 50 gp. Even at many times this rate, every village should have one or more lanterns powered by Continual Light. Dungeons should be lit all the time. Another consequence is lanterns should not exist at all or exist as a cheaper replacement to the magic lanterns being turned out by the player characters.

An interesting cultural twist on this type of item is whole cities being lit by these devices. Attackers would be well advised to make Dispel Magic and Darkness apart of their siege craft. Imagine the terror of having your defenses plunged into darkness the moment a besieging army arrived? Where are those lamps and torches, again? Defenders wouldn't have ready stocks of oil due to a lack of reliance on it for lighting.

Another aspect to considered for this infiltration of magic on a culture is the lack of heat by light sources. A permanently lit room is pretty chilly without a fire or stove. Some cities may require lamp and torch making materials on hand at all times after the "White Winter Death", a particular bad winter which exhausted all primary sources of fuel for heating and no reserve of burnable lighting materials existed. Sure, there was light but it was of little comfort from the cold. Other cities may not be able to handle tradition sources a light as they are walking fire hazards.

In general, if a culture has no reliance on oil for lighting, the need for oil is greatly reduced. This fact could reduce a nation's need for presses, ceramics, waxes, machines, crops like olives, the hunting for blubber bearing creatures, etc. Lighting is a critical aspect of a culture's style.

Limitations to this type of object could be simple. There is a desire to outdo other wizards, clerics and magic users by having the most ornate device imaginable. It isn't a material cost of the spell, it is the desire to have shinier kit than everyone else that drove the price.

Another limitation introduced by my characters was to voluntarily end the blinding effects after a period of time. This is an entirely different issue, but interesting because the players thought of it themselves. I liked it because I had forgotten about the poor blinded victim. He was never coming back into the story, but the good and lawful players decided that a day of blindness was more than enough "punishment". Can you say bonus role play experience?

The oddity of this was the "dispel at will" function never had a clear distance rule. This circles back to siegecraft, a wizard could be enticed to turn out the lights on an offending city.

I experimented with the "the birthday rule", where all magic spells ended on the caster's birthday if not supported by another energy source. A Resurrection spells continued past the birth date of the caster because the living person was the source of power for continuance, but poorly worded Wishes and Continual Light stopped on the caster's next birthday. I liked this story line as a one shot, as it put a single character at the center of an adventure, but it was impractical over time. This adventure corresponded to a player's birthday and I was unable to keep it going over the whole campaign.

I hope you enjoyed this essay. Next week's magic item is The Rat Bag. Please come back next Saturday evening for another unique essays on magic.

Click this link to read Week 2 of 52 Weeks of Magic.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Overpowered Spells and Obvious Consequences

Meteor Swarm is one of those that has some very obvious societal consequences, even more than teleport or fly spells. Magic users anywhere nearing the ability to cast this spell should immediately become a "priority" to anyone operating an army in the area.

I've never ran a magic user from 0 to 18, nor had anyone in any of my campaigns done so. I was unfamiliar how effective Meteor Swarm was until I played a game with a pre-generated, 21st level magic user. The DM was an old school wargamer. He loved the Chainmail rules and WRG. He intended to start the game with a prison break, but as a twist, let us play out our capture. Our party encountered what could only be described as hoplite phalanx, a seemingly overwhelming force that would easily capture our tiny party.

As the DM described the situation, I read the description for Meteor Swarm. I asked if they were in bow range. The DM advised that they were not. he smugly informed me it didn't matter because magic users use darts, not bows. As they got closer, the party loosed arrows. A few arrows hardly did anything, there were several hundred guys. At 180 yard... yards(!), I cast Meteor Swarm.

Meteor Swarm vs. Phalanx
The DM consulted the Player's Handbook as I rolled damage. He read that description back and forth, over and over again, as I rolled die after die. The zig-zag of range in yard and area of effect in feet confused him, but not me. The AoE is massive for this spell. The rolls didn't matter, there were only a few hundred guys. The DM ruled that anyone hit by the spell was dead. The overlapping pattern of damage made saving throws moot.

What happened next was even more horrifying. I cast it AGAIN! The DM walked away from the table. Even assuming the phalanx scattered to the winds, I was killing survivors by the dozens. The few that ran towards the party were running into a hail of arrows and in the very next round, I would be casting a fireball.

As it stood, the DM decided to allow this insanity to stand. The second, third and forth phalanx captured the party. Funny how they snuck up on us. My character was put to the sword. I played a 5th level thief for the remainder of the session.

If there is a smart lord or lady of the lands, they would be wise to kill any and all magic users before 18th level.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners - Update - We are live!

Update we are live!

I've been a gamer since the Fall of '77. Rules sets change, but I keep coming back to D&D. It was my first experience as role play and it made huge impression on me.

In the past 4 decades, I have come to a realization that players don't need much NPC help. I still always include a NPC as a guide, or an extra information resource but when I ask my players who the best NPC was, they always point to the character I thought was a background character. The cook who spotted the enemy approaching, the herald who cracks meta humor, the stableboy who worships them. Never the ranger I put there to absorb arrows and tie up combatants.

Well, in light of that revelation, started making 3x5 cards of every NPC. Except, they really didn't fit as a classic NPC character. No stats, no spells, no combat abilities. When my players demanded that these folks support them in the field, I started making up stats for NPCs.

Not uber stats, just average guys and gals who came along for the ride. Tiny details for people who gossip about the characters as they make their way. I decided that maybe some of these people were not NPCs at all but fully blown characters in their own right but with decidedly different points of view from the PCs. I decided that these types of characters were commoners. Not lords, not adventures, but just citizens.

One of my favorite characters was a scullion named Delia. She was taken by a first level fighter who frequented the local inn and slowly made a move on him. While everyone else understood that she had eyes for the fighter, he didn't get "it". However, if there was danger, he was the first to ask about her. If he had a need for something, she was always there. So obviously, she was important. After 3 years, the campaign ended in a wedding.

But there was no "scullion" class of character. How to represent her caused me to sketch out some guidelines for all of my commoners so they could fit the character mold.

I would like to share that guide with you. I am launching "Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners" on DriveThruRPG and it should be available shortly. Update we are live!

The pamphlet is 24 pages, lists over 50 professions, how to evolve a zero level commoner into a full blown PC, how commoners interact with those above them, etc.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it.






Saturday, August 5, 2017

The Temple of Light - Maps

This temple complex is the work of an ancient people. The first map is of a traditional family abode. In the past, the tribe dug horizontal homes, as a means of collecting flint. 


As the people transitioned to a bronze age culture, they began construction of the Temple of Light. The structure is a gleaming white, the effect was achieved with a decorative coating quartz and flint. 


The Temple was a beacon of solidarity for the people, but it also proved to be a beacon for raiders. The pirates devastated the village proper, taking valuables and prisoners. The raiders returned seasonally to plunder the people. For a time, the villagers disbursed to escape the onslaught.
One day, several young children entered the Temple and discovered a pair of holes in the central hall leading to a deep natural cavern. When the chief was informed, he ordered a return to the old ways of digging pit homes under the Temple.


In a few months, the tribe had relocated under the Temple. By concealing the upper openings with floor tiles, the villagers were able to extract revenge when they breached the Temple. The surviving pirates completed the turnabout with tales of a diamond encrusted temple protected by spirits of the earth.

Epilogue:

The children discovered the leader of instability in the rock. Future generations will tell the story of a fortress of diamond beneath the crystal blue waters of a cenote. The stone age villagers speak in hushed tones about the mighty Sea Mage sunk the fortress in anger for the king's refusal tribute payments. Adventurers may find tablets of stone that tell of the powerful shaman who levitated the entirety of the Temple to allow her people time to escape the collapse into the waters below.

This series of maps are based on a mix of real world places and cultures, Grime's Graves, Ancestral Puebloans and people of Teotihuacan in particular.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

My Favorite - Greyhawk

My favorite campaign setting for D&D is the Greyhawk. I have the 1983 set and look to it for ideas for my current campaign. Nothing brings back memories like that old gazetteer of information.

Over the years, my campaign has set itself apart from the World of Greyhawk in many ways. However, the Isle of Dread is common to both. Someplace south of the Isle is a magical anomaly that provides transit between these worlds.

I would like to do a Glossography and Guide to my world, but I guess I need a name first. The little things.

Friday, July 8, 2016

New NPC Character Sheets

I have been cranking out some characters for an upcoming campaign and decided to start with the villains and heroes around the PC's home base.

The Compass Rose Inn will allow the PC's easy access to a large town, a hunting lodge, a haunted mine and of course, the great outdoors.

The Compass Rose Inn is owned by Otto Lanskeep. He is rough and tumble former hunter, but is held on an even keel by his wife and daughters. Player characters will meet Otto's family, Hilda, Edwyna and Elma in addition to Otto's employees named William "Scribs" von Otto, Thomas and Delia.

A weekly patrol comes to the Inn to ensure the safe transport of goods and people to the border. William of Northmost (aka Scrubs), is the most frequently encountered guard and often spends the night at the Inn.

I will explain more about William aka Scribs and William aka Scrubs. William isn't such a strange name for two men to share, but Scribs and Scrubs comes from an adventure these two young men... survived.

I will be sharing their story and introducing the rest of the Lanskeep family and friends, in statistical form, in the very next post.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Kobold Warren Folly

This map is of a folly in the southwest of Potamus Bay. Who built the folly is lost to time. There is a larger ruin closer to the Lake, but it isn't as well preserved or interesting as the folly.

The tale of the folly's preservation is very odd and owes its history to the river. The river is subject seasonal flooding and one of those floods brought the kobold's to the folly.

The kobold's had their own underground village, which made them very happy. They stole the best food, killed the prettiest animals and had wild political intrigues that often ended in bloodshed. One day, the ruling clan pushed the wrong buttons and were tossed in prison to await their doom, as soon as the method could be decided.

A chance rainstorm freed the rulers, but washed them deep into the cave system. The village rejoiced at the apparent deaths. They were very kobolds happy, indeed. The ruling clan was washed away into the cavern system under the folly. They were able to squeeze and claw their way into the basement of the structure. The family rejoiced when they discovered the ring of pear and apple trees, the fresh water and rabbits.

There are no furnishing, no details inside the Folly.
The kobold keep the interior bare.
The ring of trees continues, but is obscured by the
upper two levels. 

Over the years, they have set themselves up a kings and queens of the folly. They do not understand the principle of a folly, they believe that human or elven kings hold court in an empty building. The six rulers have set themselves up as the High, Middle and Low Kings and Queens. They receive guests through the windows, as there are no doors except trapdoors between the levels. They keep the folly up, but they do not live in it. They live below in finely finished chambers. Recently, they have hung curtains in all of the windows of the folly, purple, yellow and red. 


The family plans on enlarging the chambers, but for now they are satisfied.


The lowest level is almost all natural, only the eastern side has any finished features. The western side is often flooded with fresh water and sometimes contains fish.

Folly Details:
One Square equals 5 feet.
Height: 45 feet.
Depth: 75 feet below ground, as near as anyone can tell.
Population: 17 adults, 33 children.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Feelies

I was seriously into gaming, I made feelies.


This was made in 1988 or so. It references the Castle Amber module, The Order of Light from Gemstone III, and Louise Cooper’s the Time Master Series, plus the city of Charn from my home brewed campaign.
The punchline to many of these references was that the characters AND players were aware of all of these references as works of fiction. The characters had copies of the Time Master Series and Averoigne stories. Each character has ring of wishes to enter the stories themselves.
When I was in high school, this seemed like a great hook.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Going Off the Rails – Part Three

In the last post, I described a player created assassin named Bloodless Jack. He sprang from the character’s minds fully formed and all I had to do was give him a character sheet and a band of minions. The players even gave him a very cool name. Somehow, minor details of a handful of traps inspired them to create a character out thin air. And he was so epic, I had to make him real.
I decided that he had two types of minions, one group of sword slinging fighters for security and targeted attacks and a second group of cleric-rogues for sneaky infiltration type work. Bloodless Jack would have a chief of operations, a warrior named Marcus Bastion. A nice strong name for someone who handles front line fighting and defense. It makes sense.
How these two met in my mind was very natural. They were brothers. Bloodless Jack and Marcus Bastion. Everything makes sense… Wrong?
Of course it’s wrong. Brothers would never have different last names; Jack is as stupid a last name as Bloodless is a stupid first name. I completely understood that, so Bloodless Jack was obviously a nickname. And a character/player created nickname. Obvious. Or so I thought.
Bloodless Jack, or just plain Alexander Bastion launched ambushes, targeted assassinations and finally outright treason to topple the crown prince for fame and glory.
So when the characters cornered Marcus and his brother in an attack on the crown prince, they asked:
“Which one of you is the assassin known as ‘Bloodless Jack’?”
Alex and his brother Marcus chuckled. The follow up question, “Who lead this attack?” was also met with a snort of derision as Marcus was suited in full plate and obviously leading the assault.
Marcus went down fighting… and upon his defeat was outed as the deadly assassin know to all as “Bloodless Jack”.
And thus, “Bloodless Jack” was truly born. Alex rallied his and his brother’s minions and relentlessly attacked the characters at every turn. An epic battle to the death, fought in back alleys and shadowy corners of dozens of towns, across an kingdom, all the way to the brother’s mountain top enclave.
How did it end? All in the next post.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Going Off the Rails – Part Two

Player inventions… How many times have you had a player try to invent something and complete throw a campaign into chaos?
Many years ago, I was running a campaign that had too many rogues to be well rounded. There was not much need for traps in this world, they only came in three varieties:
Noise making traps on homes,
Animal traps,
Generic fortification defenses.
Being made up of thieves, the party kept checking for traps where there were none. Since it was a point of interest for them, and one player rolled very well, I decided that a box did have a trap. I described workings in great and gory detail. The players and their thieving characters ate it up. Of course, the next door had a trap. Lacking any foresight, I described this trap as exactly as the one before.
And the seed was planted.
The next chest had the same trap as the first two, except this time it killed a character. My bad, I didn’t expect this to happen, but the players had. As the play paused to reroll a new character, of course another rouge, I overheard the strangest thing:
“Bloodless Jack got ya.”
“That was awesome.” said another player.
“What do you think he wants?”
“Don’t know. It could be that chalice.”
“Naw, we are going to give it away and a priest is a much easier target than us.”
“Fame,” added a third.
“Yes! It makes sense that someone would want fame and notoriety. Sort of like the guy in the cabin mailing bombs.”
“Ted something, right?”
“Yeah. We should nail this guy before he gets us.”
In just a 30 minute character generating session, the players had worked out that they were up against an assassin. A very detail orientated, cunning and evil assassin. A man who called himself Bloodless Jack. Bloodless as in so cold, the blood didn’t run in his veins. They had gathered all these details from the repeated description of a single trap described the exact same way, three times over.
Oops. These traps were simply on the fly details in response to the character’s expectations. At no time did I picture a mysterious assassin. I didn’t say anything that would have laid such an awesome name on him. In fact, there was no assassin except in the players minds.
Guess what? The very next session had a very fleshed out assassin bent on killing the characters. This assassin was neatly merged with the prior story, assassinating the priest who hired the players. He then took out the boat captain that hired the characters for security. As time went on, the characters were defending the crowned prince against this diabolical fiend.
And so the stuff of legends becomes real.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Going off the Rails – Part One

Have you ever had a night of gaming go off the rails?
I had a 3 hours session turn into a 6-7 hour marathon of gaming. We should have cut it off, but everyone was having too much fun. The players had reached a remote village and were trying to set up a trade agreement. They offended the villagers and the party tried an Indiana Jones style escape to a rope bridge and escape.
The one magic users who could have stopped the villagers with a spell instead flew to the bridge with axe. He was prepared to cut the bridge after his fellow adventurers made it across. This is when the game exhaustion hit.
All of the players shouted “Cut it now!” And the magic user complied, trapping everyone on the wrong side of the bridge. Note that it was the players that made the request, their characters obviously were to far away. A little meta-gaming goes a long way when injected into the story.
We ended right there with everyone high-fiving and congratulating each other. Only the player who cut the bridge looked concerned and perplexed.
At the start of the next session, everyone was sheepish. With a little sleep, they realized the implications of last session. I started the next session with the characters toweling off from their heroic leap to into the river and swim to safety.
Sometimes, you just have to end with a gag to keep the fun alive. Die rolling and tactics are great, but a story sometimes has to jump to stay alive.

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Evil Reversal Hook

The characters have proven their worth to the Horned One. They have pursued the Hand of Light to the edges of the kingdom and captured him in a epic battle.
On this day, they will assume their Mantles of Rank during the ritual of sacrifice. The Hand of Light will be extinguished forever. The Horned One will consolidate his power with the elimination of the weak, as the prophecy foretold.
One last time, before the ceremonial shackles are transferred from the hands of the followers of the Horned One to the hands of the Light One, the enemies stand face to face in the darkness of a cell.
Drums pound as the ritual has begun in the next chamber. The Hand of Light smirks and winks. A guard moves forward to strike him, but a quarrel arrests the motion. No harm can come to the Hand of Light except the final strike in the ritual chamber. The guards grumble profanities at the fate of their comrade, but step over the corpse.
The Hand of Light pushes his way into position at the head of the hooded procession, and the final sacrifice stomps away with the clinking of shackles.
Dim light, smoke and heat pour from braziers around the ceremony chamber. The Hand of Light’s robe is a smudge of white before the altar. The High Priest of the Horned One steps forward but the Hand of Light turns his back to him.
Or so it seemed. The ceremonial shackles click tight as the Hand of Light and Horned One of Chaos turn their attention to the sacrifice of the weak. Guards panic as the room erupts in cloying smoke and the characters struggle to free themselves from the shackles that have secretly held them for many years.
Madness reigns as the struggle for life and death rages in ceremony chamber of Chaos…

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Reposting Peninsula of Plenty (PoP) Maps

These two maps are my first attempt at marker colored maps, in recent memory anyway.

Thanks to the guys and gals over on G+ I received a lot of advice on markering technique.
I hope to do version two in either marker or colored pencil.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Fortress Of Potamus Lake (PoP Campaign)


 Potamus Lake is the primary ranching area on the Peninsula of Plenty.


Historically, the largest threat to citizens are hippopotami. Many ranch houses are round or square homes with very thick walls, usually 4 to 5 feet thick or more, to protect villagers from hippo attacks. The homes are overbuild as a style, hippopotami don’t really attack the walls. This animal threat precludes flooded moats as defenses.
During The Goblinoid Wars, some of these houses were transformed into veritable fortresses. The Gerent’s House was expanded to a daunting 7 story fort. All of these structures have a ramshackle look; they are not particular good forts, but representative of what was available at the time.
There are seven surviving forts around the Lake. Many ranchers have adopted a more villa-like style for building. 
Each map has the scale of one square = 5 feet. The exterior doors and tower doors are massive, very thick. Doors to the stairways are more modest, typical to a home rather than a fortress.
Typical main floor layout. Click to enlarge.
Spiral stairs are denoted on each level. Examination of the map shows the poor quality of construction.

Map suitable for second floors and higher. Click to enlarge.

No interior walls are shown, except for the entryways to the stair cases. Barred windows appear more prominently on this level to make up for the inadequate arrow loops. 

Seventh floor of Gerent's house.
The Gerent’s House uses the same layout for floors 2-6, so one map can be used several times. His home has a circular and squarish tower for the seventh floor and a large roof area over the main hall.



These two layouts can be used as either alternate rooftops or basements. The Gerent’s house has a small square root cellar and uses the third map for the seventh floor.
Alternate roof (accidentally rotated 180 degrees.)
This is an alternate rooftop, in the event that the home has a higher center hall on the floor below. There are two options for access, climbing an exterior ladder from the tower rooftops below or some sort of trapdoor an ladder from the main hall. In these fortified homes, a peaked roof may appear on this level.  
I hope you enjoy these maps and can find a home for them in your campaign.









Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Observing The Can’t of Thieves

I ran into an interesting gaming scenario and real life teaching experience with my daughter, at the laundromat of all places. Rogues, thieves and con men are pretty much all the same. They have been for centuries. Techniques never change but the goods and the goals do. The good ones are never spotted, but the bad one stand out.
In real life and in gaming, we tend to gloss over the foolish ones while imagining the dangerous ones are around every corner. The only difference between the two is a poor spot check.
Two guys came in to the laundromat and instantly set off my spidey sense. Not in a physical way, but they were clearly up to no good. I called my daughter close and asked her to observe them.
I had her text me her thoughts about them. Silent communication, whether gestures or texting works to the advantage of the user, no matter the setting or year.
  1. They were loud and swore around kids, like they wanted to be tough.
  2. The looked the same. Bald and wearing straw hats. Sneakers but no socks. Shorts and T-shirts. Sunglasses, worn on the hat by one and around the neck by the other. 
  3. They were not identically dressed, but very similar.
  4. They made eye contact while speaking everyone, except children. They ignored children.
  5. They looked in all the machines.
  6. They said not so nice things, but smiled the whole time.
  7. They went into the kids play area, the bathroom and peeked in the office.
  8. They never stopped moving or talking.
I wasn’t just me, these two stood out to my 10 year old.
They waited until the attendant hung up a sign saying “Back in 20 minutes” then loudly proclaimed that they lost $4.25 in one of the machines and wanted to speak to the owner. My daughter thought it was funny that he put 17 quarters in a machine but didn’t notice it wasn't working. It was also odd that the price was 5 bucks. I shrugged and asked her to keep watching.
When the attendant came back from break, Guy Number One asked if she was the owner and explained the problem. She offered to pull the coin box from the offending machine and refund the his money. Oddly, the coin box was empty. Guy Number Two took over and “The Owner” desperately searched for the offending machine.
What they missed was the attendant had empted the coin boxes before her break. They were not going to find any machine full of “their money”. Having failed, the men switched places and roles to create confusion.
The game continued for a while, until it was clear the tactic wasn’t working.
A loud conversation about going next door for Chinese food started. Number One suggested lunch and Number Two shouted it down since he was once refunded for receiving bad Chinese food at a restaurant.
A challenge was offered and accepted. They asked the attendant if the place next door was any good and she offered an opinion, but they hardly listened.
The two men left, but this time switching roles. Number One, the one who proposed the restaurant, loudly proclaimed he would not stand for bad food. Guess what was going to happen next door?
Pick a century, any century. Con men of every era use the same tactics. Han Solo, Sawyer from Lost and The Grey Mouser all pretty much operate the same underneath the hood.
Here are the tools of the trade:
  • Work in groups.
  • Have a cover story ready.
  • Have a backup plan, hopefully one that matches a cover story.
  • Be outwardly friendly, but forcefully offended and easily aggrieved.
  • Look tough, but back down with grace if necessary.
  • Use respect. Use more than the normal amount of respect to elevate the self-esteem of the mark.
  • Dress neatly with flash and style, but be similar to your associates so physical descriptions are easily confused.
  • Appear to trust other people, so they will extend the same level of trust.  
  • Case the joint, the whole place not just the obvious areas.
  • Look for treasure everywhere. Anything worth anything at all is treasure.
  • Never ask for the whole enchilada, ask for less. This way you can haggle with a mark to part them from their money.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Maps – The Stave Church

Last week, I did a quick drawing of a Norse themed building. Today, for the winter solstice, I knocked out a floor plan for a fantasy themed stave church.
When sketching this church, I imagined that the parishioners are followers of a river goddess and that the church is very old. From the exterior, this church would appear to be several storeys high, but the interior shows a largely, airy nave.
The church is orientated to the north, is a mirror of a river to the west of the church. Most rivers do not flow north, so this one is special.

The sacristy is in the north and is rather spartan. It features a large stone urn for the storage of offering. Next to the urn is a small trap door leading to an short under ground tunnel. This tunnel often floods, so escape by this route is in the hands of the goddess. A pair of tables, stools and two curved shelves round out the last of the furnishings of the sacristy.
A small concealed door leads from the sacristy to the sanctuary.  This is more of decorative feature as all parishioners see it in use during every service to allow access to the apse.
A large tree stump was brought into the building to serve as a small altar. When a more suitable table was found, it was dragged to the eastern side for use an ab. On the western side is a stone capped well. The water contained within is both drinkable and holy.  The well also serves as an ambo during high ceremony requiring water.
The nave contains ten smaller pews which can be moved as needed. Two larger sets of pews are affixed to the south wall. Along the southeast and southwest inner walls are leper windows, for those who cannot enter the nave.
Three sets of steps lead down to doors, a change in elevation of just four feet. This outer floor area is often covered in reeds to prevent mud from being dragged into the nave. The east and west doors swing inwards, while the south doors swing outwards. All interior doors swing inwards.
It should be noted that this church is not orientated as it would be in the real world. Churches also tend to have an ambo in the center and not to the side, there is also the issue that lectern is general not found with an ambo. This church placed the ambo to side closest to the river.

Half Baked Idea - The Demon Core

In my last post, I mention a device called the demon core. I know what it looks like, I know that it seethes with power. It is wildly dangerous. Aside from that I know nothing.
There was a real device called the demon core. It was 3.5 inch, subcritical mass of plutonium used for testing. In this capacity, it killed two scientists.
Nasty stuff. I may have to revisit this item and flesh it out for use in my campaign.