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

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Drinking from Pods - Red Dice Diaries

Lately, I have listening to a bunch of different podcasts, new and old stuff. One 'cast that stands out to me is The Red Dice Diaries. John Alan Large has been hosting the show for a while now, and he has many interesting titles. This week I picked four: Potions (new), Magic Items (also new), DMing Rough Spot and Setting Agnostic vs Setting Specific. The first 3 I listened to really made me think of all the games I've played, to extent of not listening (yet) to the last.

Back when AD&D was the big boy game for TSR, we had about 12 regular players but only 3 of us would GM. Mark had an excellent style that was deeply planned out, but he rarely branched out into improvising anything. If it wasn't in the book, it didn't happen. Doug had an excellent game plan, but improv'd his way through everything. The rule book was something for the dice to fall on. My style was someplace between the two, very well planned out but using almost improvisational style comedy to make a point.

Doug was my best friend, so we argued. But it was a strange sort of arguing. If I didn't like something he did, I'd say so, but didn't expect this to change anything at the table. Usually, it didn't matter much. But for one campaign, Doug switched up his style and went entirely by the book. I couldn't get a sense of what he was doing and tried to play characters as smash mouth, in your face sort of people.

It didn't work out at all. My characters would level up the fastest and get the best equipment, but I died six times. My last character was "Reg". That wasn't his name. Doug asked me what kind of character I had rolled up and I answered, "Aw, just one of the regulars." Man, did that make him laugh. And the tag stuck. Reg the Magic User.

As a player, I understood the REASON for the change in style. The issue was Doug wanted to tell a complete story, therefore he needed to drop the goofy, light-hearted improv. My characters kept dying because I didn't know what story they were in.

Reg the Magic User broke out of that by being dangerously wrong genre savvy. He was also help by some incredible luck. I am not much of a magic user type, so I advanced by wit and cunning rather than magic. Usually by the end of the session, I had expended most of my 1st level spells, but nothing higher.

One bit of luck I had was a couple of magical items meant for the party cleric who expired before they could claim them. I could heal. An old man gave all of the characters magic weapons, except me, who received a black rock and a bag of holding. We battle a witch, killed a massive pack of wild animals and generally hunted for loot. We chased a unicorn and bought a ship.

One player found a green ring of regeneration, which I identified for them. At the time, I asked if there were any other magic rings in the treasure.

Doug said, "Yes."
I asked, "What kind is it?"
"What kind do you think it is?" Doug answered.
"Flying!"
Doug rolls some dice and says, "It is a yellow ring of flying!"

You totally know where this is going right? For the next year or so, my ring of delusion provided endless humorous to horrifying scenarios.

Doug decided that if my character had time, then he would cast fly on himself while attributing the magic to the ring. Unsurprisingly, my character would discover they forgot to study that third level spell. However, if my character ever tried to fly spontaneously or with no prep time, the ring would fail.

This went on for over a year, the player tagging off the DM to create interesting stories. Suddenly, the campaign ended, as we had completed the story, whatever that was. I had though the whole thing was lost on me due to my style of play. I couldn't figure out what the point was, or what the ending meant, but I did have a lot of fun. That seemed to be the message sent.

Fast forward 25+ years. I was watching a movie with my kids. There was a scene that left me dumbfounded. I picked up the phone and called Doug. "Reg was in Narnia!"

"Yes!"

I got it. Being a good DM goes beyond storytelling and being a good player doesn't have to follow expectations.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Assassin's Doom - Worldbuilding for a Campaign

I've been using detailed maps for this campaign and for the last 10 days or so have been trying to create a map for the city of Nace.

Nace is laid out as a typical Roman city, a north-south road, an east-west road, a forum in the center and walls and towers all the way around. All neighborhoods are inside insulas or regular shaped areas on a grid like map.

So what do you get when you fuse a Roman city with a classic D&D campaign?

Strange things.

First, what do I need for the campaign?

A town or city with a hefty population. 15-20,000 people are in Nace.

Who is in charge? An aedile is in charge of the city proper. At this time, this character is unnamed.

Do they have temples and churches? Yes, in the forum. If there isn't place for a given sect, it is in the planning. These people have no problem with negative/evil sects so long as laws aren't broken.

Do they have guilds? Yes, for all character classes except fighters and assassins. These people would be in the military. The Assassin Guild is defunct, all members were killed. There is also a combination religious and magical guild, necessary for the production of the Empire's magical crops. Production of useful material require both magic and religion. The thieves guild is rather small time, very low level members who usually move on to bigger and better things rather than advance as thieves. The city has a problem with brigand raiding, which puts thieving in perspective.

Is there a town guard? Yes. Made up of legionaries. There used to be a secret police unit, but it was wiped out with the Assassin's Guild.

So, what is the Assassin's Doom? It will be the first City Adventure my players will engage in. In the next couple of posts, I will detail what happened to the Assassin's guild and secret police, and explain why they haven't been replaced.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Peninsula of Plenty Campaign - Background Information

My Peninsula of Plenty campaign kicked off the other night. Things are still being worked out with the players, but I would like to give a brief game report in my next post. This post, I would like to focus on background.

First, The Peninsula of Plenty is based on Roman history and mythology. My game map is still in pro-type mode and has a scale of six miles per hex. It is roughly the same size as Italy.


The capital is located on the west coast of the Peninsula. It extends eastward for approximately 2/3 of the landmass and southwards a good ways. The Empire started off as a small town, expanded to a Republic and then to an Empire just like them Roman. This culture has existed in some form or another for 1,200 years. It has fallen into stagnation.

What is different about this culture? Well, there are elves, dwarves, gnomes, halflings plus a whole cast of monsters. In this setting, the dwarves occupy a couple of hundred miles around an ancient volcano on the eastern lobe of the Peninsula. They represent the various hill tribes that engaged the Romans. Halflings are invaders/refugees from over the northern mountains, gnomes are friendly towards all and the half-elves are trusted by none. On the far east coast is the Capital of the Elves and their clients the half-orcs. The elves arrived from over the sea, and represent Hannibal and the Carthaginians. For a long time, it looked as if Roman would never be free of Hannibal. Just imagine if Hannibal had magic.

Half-elves are the most prevalent race on the Peninsula, They are viewed as monsters or misbegotten children by humans and deformed but still loved creatures by the elves. The elven Kingdom believes that they have magically devolved from true elves, while the humans believe they they are the offspring of evil, horrible elves and the innocent human victims they prey upon. While neither humans or elves will treat with them as a political power, they are free to move throughout the Peninsula. Other races like them just fine.

The human Empire clashed with the elves and dwarves over slavery. The Elves forced the Empire to give up non-human slaves. This was devastating to the human economy. In just one generation, the Emperor realized he couldn't defeat the elves and in an effort to save face, presented the idea that the legendary culture which the empire was founded upon never really endorsed slavery. He was a manumissions, as opposed to an out and out abolitionist. In this way, he prevented the general public from lashing out at non-humans in a way that would create an unwinnable war. For the Emperor, it was not merely lip service, but for general public, the reception of freedom for all was not established. Debates and outright war over slavery has racked the human Empire for centuries, keeping them from dominating the Peninsula.

The human Empire, (which I have not named yet) needs to secure it's southern flank from sea raiders. They would very much like to believe that it is the elves, but it isn't the elves. To this end, they will be deploying the 55th Legion to the area. The Fighting Five-Five, will take the role of sailors, based out of the city of Tabletop*.

Since the loyalist town of Tabletop is outside of the controlled border of the Empire, the Emperor's Council has employed the PC to blaze a trail of exploration to the town. The characters are also charged with checking on the Compass Rose Inn, a former Keep on the southern border. This was done in the spirit of the module X-1 Isle of Dread.

In the very next post, I will detail the PC's adventures so far.

*Why did I name a major city Tabletop? As a child I used to fish and swim off of some submerged, tabletop like slabs of concrete on the shores of Lake Ontario. It became a part of most of my campaigns and neither I, nor my players every made the connection between "Tabletop Games" and "The Town of Tabletop" since all of us have been to this real life location which appears in most of my campaigns.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Campaign Kick Off

I am kicking off a new campaign on The Peninsula of Plenty. Before I detail any of the events of play, I want to cover some general background and house rules.

First, Elves, Half-Orcs, and Dwarves are not allowed as character classes at the start. Humans, Elves, Half-Orcs and Dwarves are at war and the players are starting in the Human Empire's Capital. Half-Orcs are clients of the Elves and both are aligned with the Dwarves against the Human Empire. Halflings are a problem in the human realms, as they are fleeing south, over the mountains. They are at best, politically unreliable.

Below is the racial preference table we are using, which is revised from the last posting of this chart.

Peninsula of Plenty - Racial Preference Table
Race Dwarves Elves Gnomes Gnolls Half-Elves Halfling Half-Orc Human Kobold
Dwarves Preferred Neutral Neutral Apathy Apathy Goodwill Preferred Hatred Hatred
Elves Neutral Preferred Tolerated Apathy Apathy Goodwill Preferred Apathy Apathy
Gnomes Goodwill Goodwill Preferred Tolerated Goodwill Preferred Preferred Preferred Goodwill
Gnolls Apathy Apathy Tolerated Tolerated Apathy Tolerated Goodwill Tolerated Goodwill
Half-Elves Goodwill Apathy Apathy Goodwill Preferred Goodwill Goodwill Apathy Apathy
Halfling Goodwill Preferred Goodwill Goodwill Goodwill Preferred Tolerated Hatred Apathy
Half-Orc Hatred Preferred Goodwill Apathy Apathy Goodwill Preferred Neutral Apathy
Human Apathy Hatred Goodwill Apathy Hatred Neutral Neutral Preferred Apathy
Kobold Tolerated Tolerated Goodwill Neutral Goodwill Preferred Goodwill Preferred Tolerated

As a consequence, virtually all player characters are human, although that was not the intent. I was expecting some half elves, gnomes, and kobolds. We are playing D&D, with an overlay of AD&D. It is possible to be a generic elf which is the straight D&D class, or to pick a class as per AD&D. Only one character did this, the magic user is a halfling.

Next, we are using my rules for the Swashbuckler character class and Uncommon Commoners.

I have two house rules regarding magic: Clerics get spells at 1st level and every Magic User can cast Read Magic once per day in addition to any other spells.

I have a couple house rules regarding combat: Anyone can use a shield to protect themselves, two handed. They can't cast or attack, except for a rough attempt at knocking someone back with the shield. It isn't a good idea if you are a magic user. This rule appears in Uncommon Commoners.

If a magic user or cleric is has a weapon skill due to a professional background, they can replace one weapons with that profession's weapon. For clerics who are also chefs, they can use knives, but generally don't in combat. If a magic user has a skill that allows for a different weapon, say a hammer because they are a mason, they can use that instead of a staff, dagger or dart. These rules also appear in Uncommon Commoners.

Some rule sets state that once a person has been downed, they can be revived by another player. The mechanism for this in my campaigns are either a prayer to Saint Elam or a vial of Elamium. This is a reference to anesthesiologist, James Elam, who performed experimental mouth to mouth resuscitation here in Buffalo, NY at Roswell Park. It's an anachronism owning to my hometown.

There is the expectation that a lot of combat will do subduing damage, but the players can do as they wish. If NPCs are doing this, I will not announce it, but will describe it. This circles back to the Swashbuckler class which engages in this type of combat all the time. Swashbucklers are very far from fighters or thieves. They tend to kill only by a run-through attack after offering a chance to escape. It doesn't work on animals, because they can't be disarmed. 

The first session was pretty eventful and I will detail that in another post.

Monday, July 29, 2019

The Kobold Warren Folly

Update - This post has been expanded into a short book with 4 maps on DriveThruRPG. It's priced at PWYW, with a suggested price of $1.99.  

Like the Compass Rose Inn Mini-Setting, this set of maps and descriptions are rule set agnostic. 

And now on to the original post from my birthday, Jan. 17th, 2016. 

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 kobolds 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.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

The Battle of the Compass Rose Inn – The Naming of Two Wills

Welcome, to the blog. I can also be found on MeWe in addition to Blogger. Back in 2015, I created a quick battle for a D&D game and ended up writing a relatively useless background piece on the scenario. Since that time, many of the details have been re-concocted for my D&D campaign and I had no idea what to do with this series of posts.

Today, I was invited in a MeWe Group called Vault of Imaginings and now I have a target audience for these three posts.

Please enjoy! 

When Willy the Scribe and William of Northmost were 12 and 16, a horrible disaster struck the Inn. A herd of boar piglets ran through the yard behind the Inn. Moments later, they were followed by a massive boar sow and a wolf, riding the sow’s back.
As the animals disappeared down the hill, the guests and family stood on the porch, shocked. The sow was cut off by a pack of wolves and ran back up the hill towards the Inn. Guests and family members took cover as best the could. Willy, Edwyna and Elma locked themselves in the barn. William dove for cover in an empty Lodge room. The rest took cover in the greatroom of the Inn.
Soon, wolves converged every point of the compass. They tore down the sow and her piglets in short order. Then they took a horse and pony. The pigs in the pen didn’t stand a chance. As the day wore on, the wolves picked the corpses clean and circled the Inn seeking more prey. Fighting among the different packs cause confusion. 
By afternoon, the children trapped in the barn grew thirsty. In the early evening, Willy decided to make a break for the Inn. The family and guests were trapped in the greatroom and couldn’t warn Willy and the girls that the wolves had penetrated the kitchen, the closest door to the barn.
When Willy and the girls opened the kitchen door, the wolves sprang. Willy shoved Edwyna out of the way and pulled Elma to safety. William of Northmost heard the ruckus and charged to their rescue with a spear and axe. The four of them fought their way to the Lodge steps and were forced up the stairs. William of Northmost was savaged at the foot of the stairs, he was left for dead in the scrub-like bushes in front of the Inn.
Willy managed to get the girls to the top of stairs where huntsmen knocked the wolves back long enough for the children to escape. Willy used his own body to protect Elma and Edwyna from serious harm. His backside and legs were horribly bitten.
By morning, the wolves were gone and William of Northmost was discovered in the shrubs. The hunters nicknamed him “Scrubs”, a name he detests as it sounded rough, rude and cowardly in his ears.
Willy was more seriously wounded and had a long period of convalescence. He spent most of his time writing. As he ran out of stories to put to paper, he took to etching stones from the garden.
In the place that Scrubs fell are three stones inscribed with the words: “Hope”, “Courage”, and “Strength”. This scratching of words on stones gain one William the nickname of “Scribs”.
If Scrubs could read, he would not be so sour about his nickname. There is a rubbing of these stones in Scrub's bedroom. It was placed there by the maid, Delia.

Navigation in order:
Post one, first meeting of these characters. (You are here.) Post two, William Scrubs. Post three, William Scribs.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

World Building with Worldographer

I'm working on a new map for the Peninsula of Plenty campaign using Inkwell Idea's Worldographer. The software is remarkably easy to use and makes the whole experience of world building a wonder rather than a pain. I went whole hog on this purchase and selected the $99.00 bundle plus Hexographer 1E World Style Icon Set. 

Right now I am tinkering with the different icon sets and have a mishmash of icons. I hope to correct this and work entirely with the 1E World Style set for everything. 

One of the nicest parts of the software is that once you have your geography set, where towns, rivers and road go make more sense. I've blogged about the 'Potamus Bay area before, but didn't realize how much was missing from the region. I detailed just a handful of settlements, but I envisioned an area that was both old and wild. That means more, but smaller settlements. The map now displays six settlements around the lake. A navigable river cause most people to refer to the lake as a bay, it actually is a lake next to a bay. 

The southern most ruins is actually a double ruin. There was massive wooden manor house that had been burned to the ground, but a smaller stone folly remains largely intact. It has been settled by kobolds. They call themselves Tribe of Minwan after their king. Thirty-six miles to the west is the largest settlement in the area ruled by a Gerent. The area is nominally controlled by the Empire, but due to the lack of luxury, the local ruler is permitted to rule as he see's fit. Along the western edge of the lake are two manors, one which supports a town and the other which is a fortified house. On the eastern side, the north-most habitation is a small village which has sprung up around a miller and blacksmith family. The tiny house on the southeast of the lake is an ancient fortified house made of stone. It is tiny but well populated. 




All this information basically wrote it's self as I used the software to make improvements to ideas I had kicking around in my head.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

52 Weeks of Magic - 11 of 52 - Armilla Carna

My campaign setting is based off of the Roman Empire. The common tongue is spoken by all cultures and is the true lingua franca of the Peninsula of Plenty. It is rendered as modern English. Demi-humans each have their own language and humans speak Latin.

This week's Magic item is reflective of this. The Armilla Carna is a magic charm carried by followers of the goddess Carna, the embodiment of health and heart. These charms are not magical in and of themselves, but contain a magical concoctions prepared on the feast day of Carna. Most people will call them "heart lockets" or "Carna's Charms" in common. Priest of Carna always refer to them as "Armilla".  

The most common style of charm is a locket containing a tiny amount of beans and pork prepared on the feast day. This small portion of food imbues the charm with the ability to heal the wearer when their hit points are at 1 or less. When a character hits one hit point via any kind of damage, the charm will heal one point per hour to a maximum of 4 hit points. 

If, by some chance, a person dies while wearing one of these charms it will char. Not only won't it work again, it is considered to be very bad omen. Typically, this occurs when someone dies by murder, drowning and poison. The small charm is not able to overcome the damage done by these kinds of incidents. It is a tradition to create a new charm as a burial gift. Taking one of these gifts from a grave is common law crime and the punishment is stoning or exile.  

The discharge of magic from the locket's consumption of the food stuffs will cause the device to warm and glow faintly while working. When the healing is complete, the wearer will find the locket has been completely cleaned and appears new.  

Anyone can create one of these lockets, however it must be blessed by a priest or priestess of Carna. Once blessed, it can be filled by anyone on the feast day of Carna to regain it's power. A priest of Carna can recharge the items if they have preserved foodstuffs from the feast day. Temples to Carna will do this for a small donation, usually an amount necessary to put on a small, simple feast on the holy day. 

The charms tend to be very rustic and primitive in nature, being made of string and large hollowed out beans. Traditionally, family member will make one for their children, cousins, parents, etc. to celebrate their first attendance of the feast. 

These items are very popular with soldiers. Their lockets tend to be more ornate and sometimes very valuable. Manufactured charms tend to be metal copies of the simple string and bean construction of commoners, despite being made of higher quality materials.  

Navigation:
Week 1 of 52 - Magic Lamps
Week 2 of 52 - The Rat Bag
Week 3 of 52 - Emulous Cursed Sword
Week 4 of 52 - The Cloak of Peaceful Repose
Week 5 of 52  - The Cowl of Death
Week 6 of 52 - Scimitar of Smiting
Week 7 of 52 - The Symbol of Sol Invictus
Week 8 of 52 - The Equi Phalera
Week 9 of 52 - Libertatem
Week 10 of 52 - Sorrow
Week 11 of 52 - Aemilla Carna
Week 12 of 52 - The Obice Cardeam
Week 13 of 52 - The Gnollish Rattlebone

Now, the commercial. I have a little book called Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners, over at DrivethruRPG. I am obviously thinking of writing another and Gnolls might be the subject. Please let me know what you think in the comments. 

Thursday, January 31, 2019

52 Weeks of Magic - 6 of 52 - Scimitar of Smiting

The Scimitar of Smiting is a dangerous weapon. It does not have a bonus to either the to hit roll or damage, but it does grant one additional attack. The sword does count as +1 magical weapon for the purposes of striking targets immune to mundane weapons.

On each successful melee strike, the blade begins to crackle with energy, slowly charging. If a natural 6 is rolled for damage, the sword is fully charged. On the very next round, the wielder can unleash a bolt of lightning for 1d6+1 points of damage. The holder will have this information transmitted to them as a vague instinct, no words, just the idea.

The bolt has a maximum range of 50 feet and comes from the sharp edge of the blade. The weapon has the following range modifiers:

Short: 0-15 feet +1
Medium: 16-20 feet 0
Long: 21-30 -1
Very long: 31-50 -2

Lightning blasts are so random, the user cannot add their Dexterity bonus for ranged attacks. The weapon can be used as a melee weapon or as a range weapon while it is charged. The weapon will fire lightning at the same rate as the users normal attacks, plus one. It can alternate between swings and bolts in any chosen pattern.

The weapon will lose its charge if sheathed, touches the ground or if a miss is rolled. This means as long as the wielder strikes a target, they have another chance to strike another target. Swings and bolts can be targeted on the same or different creatures in the same round.

Wiley characters may attempt to charge weapon by deliberately striking objects or the ground. This never works. The weapon will unleash an electrical burst on the holder for 1d6 hp damage if they state they are attempting this. There is no saving throw.

If the holder contrives some situation where they cannot be shocked by this burst of energy, such as a spell, the scimitar will smite them later. The sword will wait until it is good and ready, rather the earliest opportunity. If the sword decides to wait, it will often select a time when the wielder is well away from others or when the strike would most deadly or embarrassing. For example, shocking a swimmer or when entering a church or temple. The delayed damage is 2d6, with no saving throw.

The sword is vaguely intelligent, but does not speak or communicate often. Most communicated information is emotional in nature.

Navigation
WeekItemWeekItemWeekItemWeekItem
1 2 3Emulous Cursed Sword4
5 6 7The Symbol of Sol Invictus8
9 10 11Aemilla Carna12
13 14 15Shape of Memory16
17 18 19Staff of Eyes20
21 22 23Whispering Wings24
25 26
Coming Soon
27Coming Soon28
Coming Soon



Now, the commercial. I have a little book called Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners, over at DrivethruRPG. I am obviously thinking of writing another and Gnolls might be the subject. Please let me know what you think in the comments. 

Sunday, January 27, 2019

52 Weeks of Magic - 5 of 52 - The Cowl of Death

The Cowl of Death is a magical monk's habit with hood. The cowl is imbued with the spell Feign Death like last week's Cloak of Peaceful Repose. It will immediately affect the wearer under one of two conditions:

1) the wearer is rendered unconscious by any means other than normal or magical sleep,
2) the user pulls up the hood and invokes the words, "memento mori".

If either of these two conditions are met, the wearer will collapse to the ground, seemingly dead as per the spell description.

The cowl has two other features. Over a period of an hour, the wearer will seem to rot while actually regaining one hit point (if any had been lost). Normally, the spell would prevent the recovery of hit points, but this item is designed to protect the wearer. The illusion of rot will prevent all but the most hungry scavengers from attacking the wearer. Intelligent creatures are allowed a saving throw vs. magic to ignore the illusion and the resulting implication that something was horribly wrong with the person before being struck down.

The Cowl of Death normally has 20 charges, but charges are only used when the command word is used. Invocation of the command can be verbal or mental. Being knocked unconscious does not use a charge.

Navigation
WeekItemWeekItemWeekItemWeekItem
1 2 3Emulous Cursed Sword4
5 6 7The Symbol of Sol Invictus8
9 10 11Aemilla Carna12
13 14 15Shape of Memory16
17 18 19Staff of Eyes20
21 22 23Whispering Wings24
25 26
Coming Soon
27Coming Soon28
Coming Soon



Now, the commercial. I have a little book called Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners, over at DrivethruRPG. I am obviously thinking of writing another and Gnolls might be the subject. Please let me know what you think in the comments. 

Saturday, January 26, 2019

52 Weeks of Magic - 4 of 52 - The Cloak of Peaceful Repose

Last week, we saw an evil weapon. This week, a more pleasant items is available.

The Cloak of Peaceful Repose will cast Feign Death on the wearer under two conditions:

1) the wearer is rendered unconscious by any mechanism except natural or magical sleep,
2) the wearer invokes the command, "Pardon" or "mihi pace".

In the case of being rendered unconscious, this cloak operates differently. The spell lasts 24 hours and the wearer is given the illusion that they've been laid out in a loving fashion. Scavengers will not interpret the wearer as food and intelligent creatures will be loathe to disturb the body. If invoked by the command words, the spell lasts but a single hour. In both cases, the wearer will have one hit point restored.

If the character is moved to a location that would cause actual death, The Cloak of Peaceful Repose sacrifices itself to rouse the wearer. The wearer will be granted all of the hit points they would naturally regain in 24 hours and they will rouse before they are buried, burned, etc. The cloak will disintegrate into a glowing white dust cloud, which will seem miraculous. The risk of death must be eminent, such as being placed in grave or set on on pyre mound.

Being buried at sea or in water provokes a violent response. The wearer will wake immediately and break for the surface with no hesitation. If the wearer loses a hit point to drowning damage, the cloak sacrifices itself by encasing the person in a glowing sphere which pushes them to the surface in a single round while also restoring a number of hit points equal to 48 hours of healing. Any weights, rope or chain wrapped around the character will fall off, undamaged. In this case, the cloak loses all magic but is not destroyed completely. The cloak changes to the color of wet slate and will remain so permanently. It will it will not accept dyes and is not affected by any normal bleaching agents or processes. It is subject to all other forms of damage.

The cloak has 20 charges if invoked by the keywords but functions any number of times unbidden. Obviously, if the cloak turns to dust, it is gone.

Navigation
WeekItemWeekItemWeekItemWeekItem
1 2 3Emulous Cursed Sword4
5 6 7The Symbol of Sol Invictus8
9 10 11Aemilla Carna12
13 14 15Shape of Memory16
17 18 19Staff of Eyes20
21 22 23Whispering Wings24
25 26
Coming Soon
27Coming Soon28
Coming Soon



Now, the commercial. I have a little book called Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners, over at DrivethruRPG. I am obviously thinking of writing another and Gnolls might be the subject. Please let me know what you think in the comments. 

Sunday, January 13, 2019

World Building Vignette #2: 'potamus Tarn (renamed 'Potamus bay)

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 (now Bay). 

The area's main feature is not a tarn (or bay) 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. I'm looking to redo them with Worldographer.

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.

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Now, the commercial. I have a little book called Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners, over at DrivethruRPG. I am obviously thinking of writing another and Gnolls might be the subject. Please let me know what you think in the comments. 

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.