Showing posts with label AD&D. Show all posts
Showing posts with label AD&D. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

"Passion is inversely proportional to information had."

The above quote is from Gregory Benford. And it's a truism for RPGs. While I build beautiful worlds in my notes, very little of that makes it through to the players. I might know precisely why a gang of whatevers are doing whatever they are doing, but the players are satisfied with the idea that they are merely jerks. 

It works. Players like to have that room to grow, and they can't grow if smothered with too much B.S. 

There is nothing better than the party discovering some sort of detail that just works for them, but there are many cases where they have no opportunity to gain such information without a data dump. Some things just go to the grave with the player's antagonists. It's fine. 

But sometimes, I like to give information. For example, I hope that every player knows how to use the to-hit tables and can calculate their own bonuses or minuses. It makes my game easier. In fact, I often have the players throw dice for even the monsters. It cuts down on paperwork, but sometimes it is an opportunity to give them a hint about something outside of combat. 

For example, if two equal-level fighters are side by side, shooting arrows at a target and both roll the same number, both should hit or miss the target. However, this is a good place to drop a hint about other stuff. Obviously, two great fighting men should know how good they are. For example, someone might have a cursed weapon or a magic weapon. The target may have some magical device that only applies under certain circumstances like once per round. Once the party is aware of some weirdness, they can start ruling stuff out by logic, just like the real world. 

It's probably magic. 
It saves on the "+1 magic sword" crap. 

There are times to hide some rolls, such as surprise or hiding in shadows. But even those rolls can give information. 

One of my favorite tricks is when the party is surprised, I'll drop a die out of sight and say, "You hear a noise." Surprise is a surprise, there is very little you can do to mitigate it due to the mechanics. However, it isn't very fun to be surprised. By making that announcement and letting the party act accordingly, I am cranking up the pressure AND pushing agency to the party. It creates an environment of anxiety while allowing for possible (slight) mitigation PLUS it allows the players to set a standard of expectation that can easily be read. 

For example, if a party thinks they are in an ambush situation, they may try to arrange themselves in such a way as to defend high-value players like Clerics and Magic-Users with meatshield Fighters and Rangers. On the other hand, if they never do this, you can set a different dynamic where those players are captured or incapacitated and the party is looking at a hostage situation rather than a TPK. It's up to the DM to receive the party's intentions or style and react accordingly. 

One of my favorite experiences was a Thief who decided to sneak up to the walls of a fortification for a little recon. The whole party seemed to support the idea. I rolled for his hide in the shadows and move silently attempts. Each time, I rolled amazingly well. No one saw or heard anything. They were such good rolls that I showed the player her the results. Obviously, these should have been secret, but they were so perfect so I decided to show her. 

Then, disaster. The player of the Barbarian was having a little sidebar with another player when he suddenly realized stuff was happening and asked, "What's happening?" 

Once the party explained the plan, the Barbarian nodded sagely and bellowed, "Look out! I can see you!" 

Well of course you can see him. He isn't hiding from you, you twit. 

The sneaking Thief got this "Oh, shit" look on her face. I leaned over and showed her that the dice indicated she was still not visible to the people on the castle wall. 

To add to the merriment, I decided that the Barbarian's actions would be taken literally. The lookout on the wall answered: "Oh geez," and stepped back out of sight. 

"How about now?" asked the lookout. 

The party was gobsmacked. I gave them a few minutes to work out a plan. The Barbarian was drooling dumb and for once, his actual ability score matched the player's actions. The party adapted to the situation and everyone climbed the wall while the Barbarian offered unhelpful tips to the lookouts. No one intended this possibility, but damn it was fun. 

You can't hide everything all of the time, but you also can't data dump on the players too much. Even if it is mechanical in nature. Also, you shouldn't try too hard to hide certain bits of data. 

As a DM, you build a scenario, a story if you will, but you can't know how it will be received and interpreted. Information from the DM to the players is a fluid thing. You are effectively trying to merge the player's fictional actions with the player's visceral need for information. The DM needs to decide from the get-go what information is worth hiding and what is not. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Ghouls

Several postings I read today hit me like a blast from the past. I used to write more often and post stories to my blog. Before that, way back in 2010, I launched my blog about a game called Myst. Oh, so long ago.

Larry Hamilton's post about a short story, named "Call to March", and Reverend Fox shared a link about Myst. Clicking those links will get you MeWe, Larry's Blog, and Youtube. 

Tonight, I realized that all of my stories fell off the blog and are hanging around in draft mode. I figured I'd bring one back. This one doesn't have a title. It's a little Advanced Dungeons and Dragons with a smidgen of horror. I suppose I should do more, but I am short on time. I could spend somewhat little time I have restricting these old posts and stories. 

Even if you don't like the story, I hope you enjoy the embedded document from Google Drive. It was a fancy trick I accidentally learned from Mike and Shell "Presto" from their superhero website. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

How Ability Rolls Came to My Table

Even dusty old thieves   
are cool.
It's been a bit since I posted, so let's have an update. The counter to the right displays 25 days or 209 if you jumped into Old School Essentials' Kickstarter. I find myself putting stuff away lately rather than reading or gaming, which obviously decreases my post count. 

In my last post, I talked about table trouble. This one could have been called "Theif Envy", but the concepts are one and the same and tie back to OSE. 

I used to alternate between D&D and Star Frontiers campaigns (links go to DriveThruRPG). The idea of rolling against a skill is baked into Star Frontiers but is an add-on to D&D. Thieves have an array of skills that no one else has. Sure races have percentage skills for detecting doors and sloped passages, but a dwarven Thief character is like no other. 

It makes other class players envy those skills. 

Now I actually remember when the idea of rolling for certain actions came to my table. The party was at the last door in the dungeon and had plenty of warnings that the exit door would be trapped. The Thief took the lead and easily detected the dart trap in the oversized, dragon-shaped door handle. Then THE PLAYER got cocky. 

"I'll detect for poison!" he shouted. 

"You found some!" I shouted back. 

It was too good to pass up. I made him roll against his constitution score. He failed and was paralyzed. The party escaped, dragging the butt hurt Thief behind them, but as they closed the door on the dungeon, I could not close the door on "ability rolls". 

Oh, man. What a can of worms. Not because it's hard, but because it's so easy. Like being pelted with dice. 

Perversion is too many die rolls
in a role-playing game.

"I'll roll for this..."

"And I'll roll for that..." 

The one thing that could have stopped this from happening was a simple and clear acknowledgment of the player's humor vs. the character's intent. There was no way that character was that stupid. Or funny for that matter. Every other social encounter this character and player had was decidedly taciturn or even sour. 

I shouldn't have let it happen, but I happen to like this style of play... To a degree.

If a character needs to do something that can be described easily and doesn't invoke any sort of fantastic ability, the die roll itself is suspect. As much as some people can be funny like the aforementioned thief, some people's reactions to situations can be just as good. 

When the player of the Fighter hears a threat from an opponent and puts on their game face, the perfect, bone-crushing game face, he or she shouldn't roll for anything. They are not intimidated and perhaps turnabout happens where the mouthy NPC has all of his buddies fail a morale check right from the start, leaving the Fighter and the Mouth to work it out. 

You see how that's different, right? A morale check is hardcoded into the rules. But an ability check isn't. What would I have a Fighter roll against for bone-crushing aggressiveness? 

No idea. 

In all cases, I believe the characters should be able to do whatever they want when they want. It might not work out, but you know, I let them try. Unless someone proposes a task that maps directly to an ability score, I don't want the roll. 

A trivial example is leaping on or off horses. I'm not rolling for that because 99.99999% of the time, the action is merely flashy and not necessary. The times when it's necessary, eating a face full of dirt is better than what would happen. 

A not-so-trivial example is when the party or player comes up with the perfect plan, one that seems to have no flaws or problems and is delivered with confidence and flair? So long as all of their assumptions are correct, what is a roll going to do to improve the situation? 

Nothing at all. 

I can give a hysterical example of not rolling. I had a Magic User with a fly spell that he used all of the time. He got his hands on a ring of delusion, which he believed was a ring of flying. 

"Oh, shit," muttered the rest of the party. 

In talking this out with the DM, we decided that it was really a ring of double delusion. Not only did my character believe it was a ring of flying he would also be deluded into forgetting that he cast a fly spell to make it work. So the ring appeared to be a ring of inconsistent flying. 

This was preferable to making a saving throw against the ring's influence. We kept track with a token, when I cast my one and only fly spell or invoked the ring's power, I handed over the token to the DM. Without the token, any attempt to fly would fail, usually with disastrous results. 

My character would suggest ariel solutions to every problem even if it wasn't reasonable to fly at all. Again, this is a ring of delusion after all. 

In Old School Essentials, you generally have a 1 or 2 in 6 chance of pulling some random activity for a skill that isn't quantified. That's a great compromise because usually, these events don't map at all to a skill. 

Sunday, March 20, 2022

AD&D e1, Dealing with Trouble at the Table - Part 1

Today, we go behind the 
curtain on my style of play.   
   
I ran e1 AD&D for as many as 12 players back in the day. 

Needless to say, a lot of trouble popped up at the table due to a large number of players. The obvious and primary problem was attendance. My way of dealing with this was not to run dungeons all the time and encourage the party to exit a dungeon whenever possible.  That at least opened the possibility of missing players' characters being left behind in a place of safety. It didn't always work out, but it significantly reduced the possibility of myself or someone else running an extra character. Wilderness and town settings are best for depositing a PC in a safe place. 

My "solution" was less than ideal. I would run the character in the background as an NPC and adjusted threats accordingly. It was rarely a good idea, but its what I did. 

The next major issue was the introduction of Unearthed Arcana to our campaign. I personally love the book, but I can count on one hand the number of times someone decided to be a Barbarian, Cavalier, or Theif-Acrobat. My players were far more interested in the new racial subtypes, spells, and weapons that were never a problem. The details in this tome are far more helpful than the mechanical changes. 

One thing I flat-out ignored was Fighter, Ranger, or Paladin as a subtype of Cavalier. No character class was a subtype of any other class in my campaigns. What helped in this regard is that I used to play B/X and let players use B/X characters in AD&D. You could be an Elf, a Fighter who was an elf, or whatever else was described in either set of rules. B/X characters tend to have lower stats, but when you're the DM who imposed the rule, you know that already and adjust accordingly. 

Cavaliers have so many new mechanics that are horrible for gameplay. Abilities or new mechanics based on alignment suck because that is the domain of Paladins or Assassins. It is too wild and inconsistent for players to remember. Starting at level 0 for one specific class is stupid. Tacking on a paragraph to the Cantrip descriptions kind of implies that Magic-Users and maybe Illusionists also start at level 0. 

Why not every character? Because it's stupid and adds nothing. Just weaken the party with a disease at level one if you want that. Worse, this book also lead to the idea that Magic-Users might have had three levels of level 0. It wasn't all that clear. 

What the hell? All I wanted from this book was to have Eric, Bobby, and Diana from the cartoon, not a tax audit form and root canal.  

To get around this, I completely eliminated the concept of level zero. In discussing this with the players, they all wanted that little bit of padding for their Hit Points at level 1. Ok, sure. What I wanted was a simple ruleset and a Cavalier that behaved more like a non-lawful good Paladin. 

I created a collection of "professional classes" which imparted a backstory, a field of special knowledge, and 1d6 HP to any player character class. There was also a slight chance that someone received a +1 with a tool-like weapon or the ability to wield a different type of weapon in lieu of a single weapon normally assigned by the main character class description. For example, a mason-turned Cleric received a +1 to hit with a hammer or a hunter-turned Magic-User knew how to use a lasso or perhaps a light spear instead of a quarterstaff. 

I even wrote a book about it called Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners. The "Zero" in the title secretly refers to my "no zero-level characters" edict. This is a trivia-like spoiler. No place in this title do I suggest to the reader not to use zero-level characters. Since I want to rewrite this book, you might want to wait to download it. 

My campaigns tended to be high magic, so tacking on a few extra HP to every character did nothing special, except weaken spell casters. The deal for spell casters was also more power, I permitted first-level characters access to their bonus spells right out of the gate. In my campaigns, a super wise Cleric could unleash an extra, higher-level spell at first level. I also used the same chart for Magic-Users, Illusionists, and Druids. 

Who cares? 

I gave every PC Fighting man an extra 1d6 HP. Let the power rush to everyone's head while guiding the squishy magic-using types away from florentine style dagger fights which ends them so quickly. 

One tale of woe stands out in my head. A case of pigheadedly ignoring mechanics. A player was having a difficult real-life and decided to burden me with his troubles by lashing out with a Paladin that wouldn't stick to his alignment. The rule on this is pretty simple. The Paladin loses their abilities and some experience until they conform to the class requirements or changes class and/or alignment. 

The reason for this rule is simple, to prevent mechanical abuse. 

As you can see, I play pretty fast and loose with mechanics anyway. I couldn't let the abuse continue but I didn't feel like removing powers from someone who was already suffering from a real-life loss. It was the wrong answer. 

When the first couple of abuses happened, I merely told the player that his character felt different about his chosen class. I didn't have an instant solution on the spot. When it happened in the next session, I addressed it in the same way. By the third session of abuse, I was ready to unload on him. 

And boy, did I. 

Instead of striping the Paladin of their powers, I assigned him an invisible angel NPC. Only his character

Cavaliers are dicks... and awesome.
saw it and heard it. I had a series of notes preplanned to handle many eventualities. The angel was not much of a burden, but was not especially helpful. 

The other player and characters glommed on to the fact that either the player or the Paladin was going nuts or really did have an invisible friend, but what it was exactly was a mystery. 

At first, I dealt with things by having him read sections of the gamebooks. Deities and Demigods - about his chosen god in particular. This seemed to reduce the amount of abuse by a good bit. Rather than engaging me in a challenging fashion, he was engaging with an NPC who operated under very strange rules that he didn't know. It's hard to violate rules you don't know. 

One huge problem was when the Paladin lost his warhorse. It was shot right out from under him and died. The hostile behaviors came right back until the player realized I already had a plan for this possibility. Initially, I provided a regular horse and a few strange, mystical events to set the player back and stand the character back up for the win. A Paladin without a steed is at a disadvantage. The rest of the party either had to accept these mystical events or guard him against himself. 

At various points, a stag, a dog, a cat appeared to assist him when needed. The angel confirmed that this was his God softening the blow and putting him on the right course to find a new warhorse. 

Amusingly, the player tried to suss out the exact rules I was using for providing animal guardians. He entered a cattle pen during combat, only to have the angel proclaim: 

"These are normal cows, son. This isn't how we should end." 

Ironically, the warhorse problem resolved itself when the Paladin had it resurrected via a wish spell meant to rescue a different party member. Amazingly, the Paladin wrote out a wish that fulfilled both issues, that was also not abusive and seemed very sincere. As a Paladian would, the player ascribed the wish to his diety and pleaded for his horse and teammate's lives.   

Some of these ideas I cribbed from Infocom games. Not the details, but the humorous tone the games used to get the player off the wrong track. Other times they inspired spur-of-the-moment gambits. More than a few scenarios came from fantasy novels, like the Damiano series. But the best one was preplanned from the get-go of deciding how to deal with this troublesome player. 

For example, lot of people play AD&D with the idea players don't die at 0 HP, they slowly fall to -10 before expiring. I decided to mess with this idea. When the Paladin, who already had a lot of HP to begin with, dropped to 9 or fewer hit points, his guardian angel intervened. The angel would envelop the Paladin with his wings and at the end of the round, would physically merge with him. The Paladin would have access to flight and two flaming scimitars, but his hit points were still at 9 or less and dropping one point per round like a character at 0 HP. 

Tick-tick-tick...

It took a year for this eventuality to happen. That's 52 weekly sessions where I needed "A PLAN". Real-life losses hang around for a good bit, so having "A PLAN" for the table is helpful. Hopefully, it doesn't involve kicking someone out of the game. 

(Although, that can be a plan, too. You should approach this like ending a marriage, with or without children. Because other players may act like children. Don't do it lightly. ) 

After dozens of sessions, most of the party realized that there was something strange about the situation.  When the angel finally revealed itself, the party cheered. There were half a dozen mock, "I knew it!" exclamations and applause. They really enjoyed the reveal. 

The important bit here is creating a bit of mystery and investment for the other people at the table. Otherwise, it smacks favoritism and Mary-Sue'ing. One portion of this was explaining the mechanic, not the consequences of the mechanic. 

No one, not even the Paladin's player knew what would happen if the combat lasted long enough for him to drop to 0 HP. I didn't state what would happen so as to drag the party into the event. They all needed the combat to end in less than 9 rounds. I didn't say that, but that's how life works. I honestly had no idea what would happen and luckily, the party rose to the challenge and now we'll never know. 

While I loved the experience of dealing with this troublesome player in a creative way, I only wish to bring the inspired magic (and maybe an invisible angel) back to my table. Troublesome players are often not fun.  

Jeeze. I didn't mean to burn through 2000 words on one tale of table trouble. I have appended the words, "Part 1" to this title as I can see I will be back to discuss other problems another day. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Antiquity Tuesday - Coinage and Brilliant Minds - February 13th

I've always wanted to write about the subject of coinage in D&D, but haven't had time to do the research until recently. And not half the research I wanted to do. 

But from what I have, I can lead with the chart from the e1 PHB:


If you are playing a game based on D&D, this chart should be familiar to you in some form or another. Two weeks ago, I wrote about what a Roman soldier would carry and got into the coin-based encumbrance system. That led to a follow-up post from Ian Borchardt on Mewe that he graciously allowed me to post here. And this morning, I spotted a post from Stephen Wendell about "Holmes on a Coin’s Weight", which covers a realistic treatment of the mass of coins. 

OSR style games really went out of their way to make a system that while idealized, is actually excellent enough to hold up for decades and decades. It's actually amazing. 

But what about Antiquity Tuesday?

One of my favorite historical personages is Diocletian. He lived from 242ish to 311ish and brought about the Crisis of the Third Century. Yes, the 3rd Century was chaotic enough that we don't know the exact years. Whole books exist about the Crisis of the Third Century, but one of the crises was the triple problems of coins, inflation, and prices. And Diocletian actually failed to fix it. But he tried. And it was a hell of a try. 

Just like in AD&D, he decided the issue could be resolved with a simplified system of just 5 coins. The system was based on a silver coin worth 100 denarii. There is some variability in these values and please forgive me, but I don't trust this table in name or values. Take it as a guideline: 

aureus 1,200 denarii 
argenteus  100 denarii
nummus (a silver-washed coin) 25 denarii 
bronze radiate 4 or 5 denarii 
copper laureate 2 denarii 

What is interesting about this order or valuation is that bronze appears as a valuable metal. Both brass and bronze are alloys of copper, and that meant that bronze age implements had an innate value due to the material that they were made of. 

When compared to the AD&D valuation, we still have five coins, but electrum and platinum appear on Mr. Gygax's list. Electrum is an alloy of silver and gold which would have been more valuable than just silver and platinum wasn't discovered by Europeans before the 1600s. They may have known about it but it wasn't described until it was discovered in the New World. 

What I find wonderful about these two lists is that both are meant to be simply used. And they are perfectly logical for the system each is attached to. 

Unfortunately, Diocletian was unable to resolve Roman's economic problems, which were many. After he reformed the coinage, he call back tons, literally tons of old coins and replaced them with new ones. The Romans understood market forces, a lack drove up prices, and a dearth dropped them. What they didn't get was the variable value of coins themselves. To a Roman, a coin was a coin, was a coin. 

I bought my first PBH for $9. Used. 
This replacement was priced $15 and
I actually paid $50ish. Uhh. Inflation.

Parallel to this, Romans understood the dangers of debasement which is why Diocletian replaced so many coins. And this was also the very reason that other emperors debased coins in secret. They knew it was playing with fire. And Diocletian believed he fixed it but he didn't call back nearly enough coins to fix a centuries-old problem. 

But this was not lost on Mr. Gygax, debased coins or washed coins show up a couple of times in modules like B2 Keep on the Borderlands

A possible explanation for this lack of vision on Diocletian and every other emperor who monkeyed with the coin system was the hands-off nature of minor transactions. Roman grew in both space and time. Diocletian was trying to fix hundreds of years of bad coins on top of not seeing the effects of how Romans used coins on a day-to-day basis. As regions were absorbed into the Empire, so was their coinage. Who cared if people bought bread with denarii-based coins or some old copper from a defeated enemy? A coin was a coin. Fixed and constant. 

He had no idea what a battle he was fighting. But Diocletian didn't accept the failure of logic or reason. He decided that the actual problem was the merchants. Those evil little price gougers were running up the prices. So he tried to put a stop to it. He penned the "Edictum de Pretiis Rerum Venalium" or "Edict Concerning the Sale Price of Goods" or when we are placing blame, "The Edict of Diocletian". 

This is one of those seminal works, like the Domesday Book. It is a list of maximum prices allowed for 1200 goods or services in denarii communes or "common coins". Unsurprisingly, it looks suspiciously similar to a gamer: 


Brilliant minds work alike. This is a totally workable system... except Diocletian had to abandon his because it simply didn't work in his world, unlike Mr. Gygax who built from the ground up. If only Diocletian could have wiped the slate clean, I bet his system would have worked as well as Mr. Gygax's. 

What is awesome about Diocletian's cataloging of items is it reveals how people in antiquity thought. We know the Romans like to have 8 soldiers together carrying 3 pilums or 3 caltrops. But when it came to quills, they wanted to have a set of 4 in a leather box. We also know that most wines were of the same value when fresh, but worth somewhat less as they age. What is notably missing from Diocletian's list is weapons. No one bought a weapon, they paid for the services of an armorer who made weapons. Oddly, sharpening a sword, an axe, and a spear appears under several different categories of services. There is a difference in the task depending on the object. 

It really is amazing that someone would think of such a system several different times for completely different purposes. For the Romans, it was life and death. For us, it's a game. 

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Antiquity Tuesday - Guest Post by IAN BORCHARDT

This week, I would like to welcome my first guest poster, Ian Borchardt. I have annotated this post with some images for clarity. Also, my thoughts are in italics. I managed to keep my commentary to a minimum, which is also for clarity. This post came about as a MeWe response to last week's Antiquity Tuesday and Ian has graciously allowed me to use his response for the Blog. 

Thank you, Ian. And thank you readers. 

A legionary conturbium after the Marian reforms consists of eight soldiers, two slaves, and a mule. The items required to set up the camp were shared amongst the conturbium, which was the lowest indivisible group of Roman troops for that reason. Thus they were often assigned duties together. The two slaves and mule stayed at camp, so were often ignored in accounting for the components of a century. Thus you have the strange situation of a "100" only having 80 soldiers. The military slaves/servants (servus) made up the other 20 since they also had to be fed. Camp and the baggage therein was a pretty important part of military life, hopefully, kept separate from battles. Until you lost.

Tents highlighted in yellow, 1 per conturbium.
Image from http://www.trajans-column.org. 

Unlike D&D the legionary didn't fight whilst carrying this load. The two advantages of the furca, or carrying pole, was that you could wear armour whilst using it to carry goods and that it could easily be dropped if you were ambushed en route so that you were unencumbered in a fight. And you could carry the three pilums along with it fairly easily.

Ian's Icon

The furca continued to be a very convenient way to carry baggage for a long time (cf my icon, for example). The alternatives tended to be large wicker baskets and porter's trunks, which are not readily shed and more often used for carrying heavy loads. Slinging loads were poles was pretty common.

Wonderful inventions, poles. Although not very useful in a dungeon, but then any sensible legionary would have left the bulk of his gear back in the camp before they went exploring a dungeon.

The loculus, or goatskin satchel, was made from a single goatskin because that was the only way to keep it pretty watertight (as far as the rain was concerned). They were not particularly large as a result. It generally held the few personal possessions of the legionary. This and the other gear of the sarcina were carried in baskets or nets slung from the furca. Including food supplies and tools. All readily discardable in an ambush.

Loculus details from Trajan's column. 
Image from Wikipedia.

Most legionary food was prepared normally, and locally sourced. Again supplies were delivered to the conturbium as a whole to be prepared for all of its members by its members. This was fairly standard for most armies up to the 18th Century. technically the locals, if neutral or friendly, were given scrip for any supplies that were "requisitioned," but the ability to redeem that scrip depended on the local tracators. Iron rations were never really a thing until the 17th Century when you could determine an army was thinking of going to war because cheese and sausage were suddenly impossible to get for love and money (food that could easily be eaten cold). Most military preserved rations still needed cooking, even if they had a longish shelf-life and could be easily be transported. For example, salted food needs to be soaked to remove a lot of the brine before being prepared.

Next week, I will be trying out a recipe for Roman Hardtack from Pass the Garum, a food history website. As the recipe only has 4 ingredients, hardtack was probably invented and reinvented a zillion times over as a way to preserve the wheat harvest for lean times. (Edit - this has been canceled due to my daughter's Birthday Party. We will properly have cake instead.)

I also base my encumbrance rules on the Roman legionary but tend to consider armour as the primary encumbering item for determining movement rate. The next question is asking what you are doing with your hands, which I often find to be a more useful question to ask when you are carrying stuff than the weight of a thing. 

In many regards this is similar to RQ1/2 method of measuring encumbrance in the amount of things. The last question is the weight of what is being carried, which is the strength requirement. Usually such loads are self-encumbering from step two: what is he doing with his hands? Strength really only comes into it when they are trying to lift a specific load.

And I much prefer using Constitution in these matters, not least because it is the characteristic most associated in my game with the Peasant Caste.

Ian has saved me a post on Old School Essentials encumbrance rules. OSE has an item based encumbrance system which trades mass and weight for an item/bundle system which is intuitive and easy to use.

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Antiquity Tuesday - The Sarcina Revisited

Back in September of 2021, I wrote about the sarcina as an alternative to a backpack. It's a stick carried over the shoulder by a Roman legionary. The sarcina came into its own around 107 BC, when the statesman Gaius Marius pushed for a professional paid army for the Republic. And it's been around ever since. 

Marius's goal was to eliminate the dependency of the army on a baggage train. To this end, all carts, and wagons were eschewed except when absolutely necessary. The average Roman soldier didn't travel by horse, they walked and carried everything they needed on their backs. While the Marian Reforms meant to eliminate the baggage train, it did not eliminate horses and sometimes the troops used donkeys or mules for support. 

Being that every rule has an exception, there was the Legio X Equestris, or 10th Mounted Legion which did travel by horse. In a strange case of history rhyming without repeating, there exists the 10th Mountain Division. Based out of New York, the 10th specializes in mountain warfare and makes limited use of vehicles and equipment like artillery. Being specialized in moving troops and equipment without support places the 10th at the forefront of humanitarian deployments. 

While I'm revisiting the sarcina, I want to compare what a Roman soldier would carry to what a D&D character would have. 

A soldier would have his sandal-like boots, leg wraps, a tunic, a cloak, a scarf, lorica type armor, a gladius or short sword, a dagger, a shield, and a bag to carry it, a helmet, and possibly some darts or pilums or caltrops, plus his sarcina. For some reason, when it came to darts, pilums, wolves, and caltrops, they were carried in threes.  

From that list, we can remove all of the clothing which is normal and customary. That leaves the following list (with weights) for soldiers in combat: 

Shield 100 cns or 10 lbs
Lorica 200 cns or 20 lbs
Gladius 30 cns or 3 lbs
Dagger 10 cns or 1 lbs
Helmet 0 probably counted with the armor
Darts 10 each or 1 lbs
or Pilum 20 each or 2 lbs

D&D seems to get these weights correct most of the time. No one thing would have a standard weight as they would scale to the wearer. A lorica is typically 11 kg or 22 lbs, which almost matches the list. So a Roman soldier would be carrying about 37 or so pounds in a combat setting. Where D&D slides is in the armor types slowing the base rate of movement down. The Romans ability to move and to maneuver was pretty much the gold standard in antiquity until they met eastern forces like the Huns and Seleucids. Armor wasn't much of a factor in speed of movement. 

But this essay is about the carrying capacity of a sarcina. So what is in one? A lot: 

satchel 20 cns or 2 lbs
cloak bag 20 cns or 2 lbs
shield bag 30 cns or 3 lbs
spare tunic 10 cns or 1 lbs
a pot 10 cns or 1 lbs
a mess kit (called patera) 10 cns or 1 lbs
a bag with 3 days of food 60 cns or 6 lbs.
iron rations 
a bedroll 70 cns or 7 lbs
a pickaxe 100 cns or 10 lbs
a turf cutter 70 cns or 7 lbs
a saw 50 cns or 5 lbs
a sickle 10 cns or 1 lbs
3 wolves (a type of spike) 15 cns or 1.5 lbs
a basket 
a water container 20 cns or 2 lbs
tinder kit 10 cns or 1 lbs
toiletries 
personal effects 

Some of these items have an unclear weight or mass. A basket would have been wicker and those weigh next to nothing. Toiletries and personal effects were probably less than 50 cns or 5 lbs all combined.  It's attested that those with too many toiletries or personal effects were roundly mocked by hardcore soldiers. Before Marius, some soldiers had a slave (or if you prefer, a worker with a job and no pay) in tow just to rub, perfume and oil a soldier before and after combat.  

The iron rations were a lamentable and dubious item. Bucellatum, as the Romans called it was hardly edible. Losing a tooth to the biscuit was a common war wound. Soldiers were actually called bucellarii or "biscuit eaters". Let's call it 2 lbs. or 20 cns.  

There are a couple of standout items on that list. The bags were made of leather or hide and heavy. They provided some structure to the sarcina so they were also necessary. 

All told, without the mysterious items without weights, the average Legionary was packing 50 lbs or 500 cns in the sarcina plus the 37 pounds of weapons and armor. Surprisingly, that is in the realm of what modern soldier carries on a good to a great day. 

What is interesting about that list is what is missing. The Romans had a great road system with mile markers. They also knew the lay of their own land. This meant that they didn't remotely carry as much water as a modern soldier. So long as they weren't going the wrong direction, they knew where the next stream, spring or well was. In foreign lands, they would have scouts looking for such things. 

The other thing that is missing from the list is a tent. The Romans had 8 or 10 man tents called a contubernium. There is no way for a man to carry one. Basically, they would set up camp with what they had and if necessary move the tents to the camp later. 

That sounds pretty poor, but if you think about what the sarcina is, it provides a solution. It's a pole with 3 different bags, a tunic, and a cloak. Two of them put together could be cobbled into a makeshift tent using the cloaks, shields, and bags. A Roman shield at its smallest is 2 feet by 3 feet and could be as big as 3 by 4 feet. The bag is bigger than that so the shield fits. While I wouldn't want to sleep in the snow with such a ramshackle tent, it's doable in three seasons. 

Now looking at a typical D&D character, they should be carrying just as much as a Roman soldier, but in a backpack. And judging by my players, they often don't carry that much by half. The players never think to bring a pickaxe, a turf cutter, a shield bag, or any of the other stuff a real person would need. Some of them think a 10-foot pole is ungainly. 

What I find amusing is, a lump of 1600 cns worth of gold is only about the size of a couple of two-liter bottles of pop. "Soda", to you demi-humans. That would totally fit in a backpack, but your spine would scream. This is another case of needing some other method to move something. Neither a sarcina nor backpack would help much in moving that much coin. 

This isn't to drag down the idea of coins to pounds for encumbrance, it actually proves the system works. And reasonably well. The flaw is in the idea that treasures would be limited to gold coins. I think everyone has had that campaign where the party ignores copper pieces because they aren't worth enough to pick up. 

The other thing is the dubious nature of iron rations.

But those are essays for another day. 

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Trip Hop By The Light of the Silver Cords

I have some idea of what I'll be doing in 2022. It all starts with a theme and some tunes. This is a playlist for my next campaign, "Trip Hop By The Light of the Silver Cords". 


  1. Nuits Sonores - Floating Points
  2. Wandering Star - Portishead
  3. Feel Life - POLIÇA
  4. Trip & Glide - Love And Rockets
  5. 6 Underground - Sneaker Pimps
  6. Rocking Horse (Acoustic Version) - Kelli Ali
  7. The Gaudy Side of Town - Gayngs
  8. Zero 7 - Destiny ft Sia and Sophie Barker (2002) - Sia Argentina
  9. Back To Front (Circular Logic) - DJ Shadow
  10. Diet Mountain Dew - Lana Del Rey
  11. Blue - MARINA
  12. Limerence (Orchestral Mix) - Dmitriy Kuznetsov
  13. Stay The Course - DJ Shadow
  14. Roads - Portishead
  15. Blood Moon - POLIÇA
  16. Sonic Boom - Venus Hum
I haven't even started writing a premise yet, but judging by the soundtrack, "Gonzo" should cover it. Normally, I start with an idea but this time I have a sensation. My players need to grab their guns and gasoline to save the world. This promises to be no holds barred insanity.  

Monday, December 6, 2021

Software Review - Pool of Radiance (1988)


Title: Pool of Radiance
Rule Set: AD&D
Designers: Jim Ward, David Cook, Steve Winter, and Mike Breault
Year: 1989
Publisher: SSI
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars 

Pool of Radiance by SSI was the first AD&D released on computer. SSI brought to Macintoshh in 1989. It was a great and faithful rendition of AD&D as it was at the time and used the Forgotten Realms setting. 

Game play involves running a custom built party of 6 PCs. Your goal is to drive off the monsters inhabiting the ruins around the city of Phlan. It will take some hacking, slashing and puzzle solving to complete. One of the features of the overworld is open game play, meaning you aren't on the clock and can goof around for a good long time before actually tackling the problems at hand. 

To complete the game, you need to complete a couple of quests. On the way you'll knock out a few (ok, a lot) of creatures in combat. 

One of the oddities of this game is the mix of color and black and white graphics. The black and white graphics are great while most of color graphics are ugly. The layout is your standard 80s RPG layout: Picture in the upper left, info on the right and text/controls at the bottom. 


Clicking a character pulls up their character sheet. Characters are created on the fly as the user selects options. One word of caution, the rules are exactly as they are in AD&D with level limits for demi-humans in full effect. Having said that, this software is a great way to quickly create characters for AD&D. 


The combat window, a place you will be a lot is pushed perspective. Your party is arrayed in the order you selected previously. 

What order? You didn't pick an order? Me, too. You can have multiple saves, so you can go back and fix this if you saved. 

Melee attacks are initiated by selecting MOVE and moving into an enemy. Missile attacks have their own AIM button. One important thing to never... NEVER! do is allow the computer to automatically control your characters. The AI is not bright. And the screaming 25 mHz processor is about 9 million times faster than you can hit "stop" with the mouse. It's not fun. 

The other thing that should be avoided is moving away from melee. Every creature in contact with you gets a free attack. It is an efficient way to die. 

The system is so faithful to AD&D, there should be some sort of warning on things that can happen. AD&D doesn't have clear healing rules, so in Pools, the only way to heal is camp and burn healing spells. If you want more spells, you have to spend hours studying. Characters are generated by the computer but actually use the ruleset for allowable scores. 

One thing to keep in mind is encumbrance. It controls how many moves you get in combat. If you are loaded with coins, you will have problems. 

Another thing to keep in mind is death can be permanent. Once a character goes down, you can bandage them before they reach -10 HP. This allows you to get them back with only healing spells.

The instruction manual is in three ingenious documents, a manual which explains the rules of AD&D, a journal to be read and a translation wheel which is the copy protection. The wheel is used to start the game, you compare two symbols to translate them to English. This "code" is entered to activate the game at every start up. As annoying as this is, I've brought the wheel to my game table to create puzzles for the players to solve. 

After 33 years, the game shows it age but is an excellent reminder for what AD&D and Forgotten Realms is like. I give it 4 of 5 stars. 

Postscipt: The game does have a couple of cheats. Why else would you read a review of a 33 year old game? 

First, you can mug players for cash and prizes. The most basic iteration of this is to create 7 characters, one you keep and 6 you delete. Load the party and transfer off everything you want from the sacrificial characters, save then delete them. This covers money and items, so it is two cheats in one. 

The second cheat is a classic duplication of items, say a +5 vorpal sword. This one takes a little effort. Once you have a desirable item, save and quit the game. Duplucate the entire party folder. Twice! Name one folder "Delete" the second "Back Up". Move them elsewhere on your hard drive. DO NOT LEAVE THEM IN THE PARTY FOLDER! 

You will be working with the Delete folder and the regular party folder. Launch the game and move the desired item from one player to another. Save and quit. Now move that player from the "Delete" folder and overwrite the character file in the party folder. Relauch the game and two characters will have that item. You can repeat this over and over again. 

A third cheat is a variation on the first two. You actually have slots for up to 8 characters, the two extra are for NPCs. It's pretty rare to have one NPC and extremely rare to have two. You cannot simply move an item from an NPC to a PC. But if the NPC dies, you can take their stuff. In order to do this cheat, you have to ensure the NPC dies but also ensure that you have a save where they are still alive.

Once you have the NPC in the party, save the game twice under two different slots, A and B. Quit and reload slot B. Get the NPC killed in combat. You can attack them yourself in case you are having trouble killing them. They can run off, so make sure you attack with everything you have at the start of the round. Take their stuff at the end of combat and save as B. Now go back to the duplication trick and copy the item a couple of times. Reload the game under save A. The NPC will be back in your party alive while a PC has the duplicated item. 

The next cheat is the J training cheat. When you are in the training hall, if you press J, the selected character gains a level. And ages. You can serious destroy your fun with this cheat. This cheat is always active in the Mac version of the game. To use it under DOS, you need to launch the game as "start STING" or "st STING"

One final cheat monkeys around with the death mechanics. If you have a character die in combat, meaning they dropped to -10 HP or below, you normally need a resurection or raise dead spell after combat. This can permanently kill your character. In the case of Elves, neither spell works. 

To get around this, let the character die in combat, but don't leave the combat window. Target the dead character with a spell that does less than 10 points of damage and hit them. A dead character is treated by the system to have 0 HP and the damage you do restarts the death process so you can bandage them before quitting combat. This only works with spells like cause light wounds or burning hands, and never works with swords or arrows. 

I hope you enjoyed this review. 

Monday, November 8, 2021

Chaotic Good Fun - A True Lie

Ever have one of those players that creates a character that just doesn't make sense? You know the kind. The person who shows up with a Chaotic Good Assassin. 

Actually, this story is not about me. Well, sort of. 

I did create a Chaotic Good Assassin as a part of a party tasked with killing off the evil overlord of the land. I can't remember the lord's name but let's call him Lord Farquaad. 

Now for the setup. I was late for the session that night and missed the bit about killing the lord "someday". Since I was late, the DM handed me a set of pre-generated stats. I was only allowed to shift scores around or swap points for prime requisites so I didn't have the stats to be anything interesting. 

The DM looked mulled over my sheet while describing the villain and prompted me to fill out a character description. You know, the boring eye color, hair color, skin color, etc. Since he just described the lord, I simply wrote down what DM said. Since I just pulled a fast one with the alignment, I didn't wait to draw attention to myself by flat out stating that my assassin character looked just like his quarry, Lord Farquaad.  

Right off the bat, I had a humorous way of wrecking this campaign and went for it. My character infiltrated the castle and promptly failed to kill the lord. The only person to see my assassin was Lord Farquaad and the would-be assassin managed to escape by a dangerous and inexplicably lucky leap into the moat. 

Rather than getting upset by my shenanigans, the DM ran with it. Since Lord Farquaad was hunting just one obvious assassin, it gave the party all kinds of opportunities to bushwhack him. Ultimately, the lord survived all of these attacks and went on a crazy, bloodthirsty hunt for the party. He used my foolishness to really make this lord despicable. 

That's where my rouse kicked into high gear. The party fled to the silver mines. We infiltrated the lord's own most secure outpost posing as guards. At this point, my character's secondary gambit was discovered by the DM. A Magic-User was detecting alignments on new guards and the DM was non-plussed to discover my assassin wasn't evil. 

Where it became laughable was when my character got his hands on some forged paperwork that said his name imperfectly matched Lord Farquaad's. His cover story was his mother had a tryst with Lord Farquaad and she had high hopes for becoming the legitimate Lady of the Kingdom, to the point of naming her son "Lord Farquaad". His first name was actually "Lord". This got snickers all the way around the table. 

Suddenly, the whole theme of the game shifted to a ridiculous, fantasy version of the film, "Catch Me If You Can". 

Now here is the really funny part. I didn't come up with this on my own. 

There was a family friend that had a name that matched a landed person in England from the 1700s. In the early 80's, the UK did something that I can only equate with an "estate last call". They wanted people to claim abandoned estates so that they could get back to collecting taxes or clearing their records for sale or perseveration as needed. 

This family friend was big into genealogy and laid a claim to an estate back in England. It was kind of a big deal. He managed to provide all of the documents necessary to back up his claim as his family had the same name and this particular Englishmen did visit Western New York. 

It turns out that this landed gentry from England came to New York in search of a criminal. The criminal escaped all attempts at capture by taking the name of the Lord pursuing him. Annoyed, Lord went back to his estate empty-handed. 

Here is where the story goes south and where the U. S. Government got involved. It turns out that this family friend was not related to the Lord, but the criminal quarry. Which he was fully aware of, it's is kind of illegal in rather surprising ways when you seem to have documentation that says one thing, but the reality is another. Forgery isn't always required to produce "correct" documentation, sometimes hiding contradicting documentation is better than an outright fictional document. 

I'm not sure where the B.S. starts and ends with this story as this story is about the 1700s criminal leading to a land claim in England in the early 80s. I would have been about 8-11 years old myself. While I was aware of what was happening, I didn't really understand. While it's funny enough for people to retell, it's the sort of story that gets changed with every telling. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Review - Dyson's Delves (Part 1)

Today I am taking a look at an older book called Dyson's Delves by Dyson Logos. From the moment I hit buy on DrivethruRPG, I had remorse about not ordering this title in print. It's a good thing I didn't because not many things made their saving throw. C'est la feu. 

DriveThruRPG's excellent library app saved my bacon as I wouldn't be able to keep doing these reviews with quick access to the hundreds of titles I've purchased there. 

Title: Dyson's Delves I 
Rule Set: Any OSR 
Year: 2012
Author: Dyson Logos
Pages: 153 pages
Rating: 5 gold stars of 5 stars

This is one of those titles that shatters my rating scale. I love art and this book has 60+ pages of Dyson's excellent maps, arranged into 5 delve adventures plus 44 blank maps for you to key. Each unkeyed map has a key page for you to fill out and the keys themselves are stylish and match the maps.  

The delves are prekeyed and all of the monsters are thematically grouped like the beasts in Keep on the Borderlands. Dyson doesn't spell it out in the text, but even a cursory look at the critters provides connections that the DM can weave together to fit their own campaign. If you wanted to repeat a particular delve, I suggest rekeying the dungeon using Shane Ward's 10 Monsters idea from the blog, The 3 Toadstools. These delves are cool and repeatable. 

I'm not sure what I like more, the stylish maps or the way this title was put together so that the reader can adapt the work to be their own table. Dyson gives permission to photocopy pages so you can write on them, but if I had this title in print, I would take the other path and write in the book. Yes, it destroys the ability to "start over" but with 5 complete delve adventures plus 44 single-page maps, exactly when will I have the time to just "start over"? 

I'm in full-on heretical mode. The author is wrong, go ahead 'n write in this book. This is basically more than a year of content if you run 1 or 2 maps a week. Date each map as you run through it. When you're all done, either print a new copy from DriveThruRPG or order another book from Lulu. I get nothing for pitching a $20.00 book from Lulu, except the reward of knowing you will have a keepsake worth far more than the multiple purchases or reams of paper you burn to reprint the pdf. It's a kind of a keepsake journal.  

As I mentioned before, I have a copy from DriveThruRPG which is all fine and dandy, but as soon as my house is in order again, I will be ordering a print copy. 

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Ode-No! to the 10 Page Character Background

A picture shares 1000 words. 

Everyone has had that 10-page character background story show up at the table. I don’t mind, but there are limits. When I go into a campaign, I have less than a 10-page setting outline and there is an excellent chance that I can tag off of a player’s writings and interject some of those things into the game. 

So, I am looking at this whole process of ideation for a completely different reason. At the moment, I have limited access to rule sets and want to make sure I have everything I need to play a campaign. This is a solo venture, I have no players because I don’t know if I have items I need. 


Funny that I don’t know what items I need. 


One of my anonymous readers, whom I shall call “Blackrazor” because his mom did not name him that, gave me a boatload of stuff to get started. The Basic and Expert rule set and dice. Technically, that’s all I need. The links will take you to DriveThruRPG.


Last year, I backed Todd Leback’s Into the Wild. I really want to use that book, too. 


Just before this adventure began, I ordered a hard copy of Rules Cyclopedia, which strongly mirrors what I was trying to do with e1 back in 1980. Between the stuff from Blackrazor, my luck, and ordering habits, I think I have all I need. But I will test that by engaging in some solo play. 


I want 6 adventurers. That gives me an Elf, a Dwarf, a Magic User, a Fighter, and two Clerics. I feel pretty good with this creeping capitalization. Today is a new start, and I am not sure how I was blogging class titles before. So, caps for classes. 


Now, who is the “hero” of this story? The party, all 6 of them. So they need a reason to be together or character background. How many pages does that take? I don't know. Let us see. 


When I rolled these characters, I threw an additional 1d6 for level:


1-3 is first level, 

4-5 is second, and

6 is 3rd level. 


So I have a first-level Elf, Magic-User and Cleric. I have a 2nd level elf and fighter and a 3rd level cleric. I’ve decided that no one has magical equipment at this point, but they do have transportation, which is sometimes better than magical items. 


Why are they together and where?


Let’s start with the young Magic-User. He is really smart and very young, say 16 years old. He is the 9th child of a well-to-do stationer. 


What’s a stationer? It used to be that people came to town on market day and threw their wares out and had people buy off a blanket, wagon, cart, etc. A stationer was a person who sold goods that were not easily transportable or too fragile to handle the weather, therefore they needed an actual shop. Back in the day, the first of these were scribes, they provided goods and were “stationary” by definition. Think of them as the mall’s anchor stores. That definition solidified into the definition of their trade goods, “stationary”. 


As the 9th child of this stationer, I need to tell you a bit about this family. The Magic-User is named Charles, whom everyone calls “Chuckie”. Charles Sr. hates this and wants his son to leave home and name “Chuckie” behind to get a proper education. 


So, we have a bit of the story. Young Chuck is going places. Let’s circle back to Charles Sr. for a moment. He didn’t start out as a bookseller, he was conscripted into the army. After a single campaign, he lucked out and was granted a small but rich plot of land. He got married and had 2 boys with his first wife. His first wife died of the plague. 


When he remarried, he granted his oldest boys the farm while Dad started milling. One of the boys enjoyed farming, while the other was interested in seed stock and seedlings. They tagged off of each other’s skills to become successful. Dad was still doing good work of the land as a miller, which allows his boys to capitalize off of super cheap milling prices. 


Charles Senior’s second wife produced a trio of girls, plus one more son. The son got into cattle ranching, while 2 of the two of the girls married well and the third daughter became a priestess. 


Unfortunately, the second wife died giving birth and poor Charles senior had to remarry again. This time it worked out fine. Chuckie is the youngest of the children, he has two older sisters plus the brood of much older siblings.  


Charles Sr.'s current wife is an illuminator, an artist specializing in books. This was Charles Sr.'s final career change, to stationer. He buys skins and papyrus from his children’s farms or ranches and provides these materials to his daughter’s convent. It's a good deal for all.

Chuckie has a best friend in similar shoes. His name is Avfin, and he aspires to be a Bishop. His dad works for Charles Sr. The two young men will be traveling to a larger town for schooling. 


I am nowhere near 10 pages at this point, so let’s throw Alice into the mix. Alice is an elf who lives at the edge of town. She is friends with Avfin and Chuckie despite being wildly older than them. As if being an elf in a human town isn’t odd enough, she is a free spirit who runs wild all over the surrounding countryside, much to the consternation of her family. Think hippy-chick. 


Her parents have done backflips to make sure she gets in with Avfin and/or Chuckie in the hopes that she will learn to read and wear shoes. When they heard that Avfin and Chuckie were leaving, they encouraged Alice to tag along, as the boys will need someone with animal and wilderness knowledge with them. Hopefully, she’ll grow up on this adventure. Surprisingly, she threw herself into the adventure with gusto despite her parent’s blessing. Alice also stole her mother’s boots and sword, plus her dad’s chainmail suit. 


This is just one page, and I still have 3 more characters to describe: 

Nicholas, a 3rd level cleric,
his second-level fighter bodyguard, Gaelin, 

and a second-level dwarf named Wralin. 


Nicholas is one of Charles Sr.’s war buddies. Army life wasn’t for either of them, but Nick has made his way as a chaplain and researcher for the army. He is currently transporting religious relics and magical writings to a large monastery. Since he was passing through anyway, he agreed to keep an eye on Chuck and his friends on their journey. 


Gaelin, Nick’s bodyguard, doesn't like his job. It takes him away from the glorious, but also a non-existent battlefield. He is thankful to have Chuck, Alice, and Avfin along as the kiddos are happy to gather firewood, start fires and take care of the animals. 


Wralin the Dwarf is unusual. Like all dwarves, he has an eye for construction and mining. But he has a greater passion, horses. He can assess an equine just as well as other dwarves can spot a good diamond. Oddly, he rides a mule named Sneer instead of a horse. Sneer thinks she is a warhorse. She is very comfortable on the battlefield and when dealing with monsters.  


At this point, I have roughly covered more than a dozen different characters. Their backgrounds are pretty cool, and if I went 1 by 1, each character could have one handwritten index card of biographical information. 


So in getting these 6 characters ready, I have a lot of campaign information at my fingertips. 


The kingdom is at peace, but there was a war in the recent past. There are many villages and cities to see, some of which have schools and monasteries. A network of roads and probably caravans exists. The army is forced to do non-combat tasks because the Lord or Lady of the land is doing some sort of recon and resource exploitation. In peacetime, the leadership is getting ready to engage in warfare or negotiate a peace. Humans and demi-humans work together. We’ve mentioned that monsters roam and some characters have encountered them. 


Rather than a 10-page character background, I have a 2-page campaign primer, which includes much of the character backgrounds that I would need as a DM. The players could refine these starting points to make the characters their own. 


So much for the 10-page background. Two is more than sufficient.