Showing posts with label Campaigns. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Campaigns. Show all posts

Saturday, January 6, 2024

Sometimes... I think of murder...

Like every DM, I devise some very deadly things to throw at players. And sometimes, the players come up with absolutely deadly scenarios to throw themselves into. My favorite story is about the characters who cut the bridge before they crossed. Usually, the players tell themselves a story that doesn't jib with reality or logic and then they die. 

I won't change a die roll, but if the players engineer a TPK sometimes I don't tell them. This is the source of the idea SES-001 The One with the Killer Hook, a post I made in 2020. 

The party was in a small town, in the shadow of a large castle. The castle fell into enemy hands and the party took it upon themselves to recon the castle for the King's Army. However, instead of communicating with the Good King's siege force, they began hit-and-run raids in and around the castle. They had a secret way into the castle and used it to incredible effect. They managed to take out the water supply, start fires, steal the royal seals from enemy hands, and even take a very powerful artifact before they goofed. 

The goof was one of their own making. The artifact was a ring of wishes that they hung onto "in case something bad happened", like a death. The second bit was taking out the water sources and setting fires. The castle was on the verge of surrender due to the water issue when the characters went after the last well. They got cornered by a pair of magic users and when the first fireball went off, they jumped into the well.

The empty well...  

This should have been a horrifying TPK, but I decided not to tell the party. The next session, they escaped the well and went on to be a very effective team, reaching 6th level before they finally had "something bad happen". 

They used the ring to wish a dead character back to life. Except, they were already all dead. 

They found themselves back in the well and later replaying the events of their first couple of sessions. It seemed poetic. And fun. 

Over the next couple of sessions, I used my notes from the campaign to create a montage of the party's greatest hits. We spent whole evenings throwing dice, reliving the events that led the party to such highs. 

It was a fun ride. 

Thursday, January 4, 2024

Star Frontiers - Example Characters and House Rules

For my upcoming Star Frontiers Campaign, I was going to produce my own custom, 2-sided character sheets with a tent. This would help some of my first-time players quickly produce a character. And to save time, I changed my mind and decided to use the one on Polyhedral Nonsense

I find this massively amusing. I was ready to invest a ridiculous amount of time making my own sheet and found an amazing sheet on website labeled "nonsense". Each area is neatly designed with large areas suitable for either computer text or handwriting. It corrects the one-side flaw of the original and ups the game with a useful tent. 

This is the opposite of nonsense, it's fabulous! I use a 1-5 star system for ratings, so this sheet gets 5 stars. 

Sorry, I didn't mean to do a review. But since Polyhedral Nonsense saved me so much time and effort, I had to do it. 

Back to your article, already in progress. 

The characters... 

I assume the characters have lived through the Crash on Volturnus modules. The group lives on the planet Typhon, a water world whose colony supports the post-war effort of decommissioning and preserving warships on the planet Dust. This endeavor requires nearly every skill in known space, of which the characters have a bit. The players will find it easy to fit in and have opportunities to improve their career skills, whatever they might be. They are learning to operate and maintain spaceships. 

I have a couple house rules that will be in effect. Spaceship skills are available from the get-go, but this is slightly modified as we are creating higher-level characters. The players will be granted 30 experience points to select any skill from the Alpha Dawn rules and 10 experience points to select spaceship skills from Knight Hawks. 

That isn't too unusual. That places the characters with a non-combat PSA plus a couple of Military skills, and one spaceship skill. 

What is unusual is the characters all have professions, meaning they draw a salary. At generation, the players can buy a monthly salary of 1000 credits for one experience point, 2000 for 3 experience points, and so on. In addition to this, they get their normal roll for credits plus one month's salary cash. Star Frontiers has a lot of cool gear but hobbles the players and the characters with a lack of credits. I hate that. Each character also has a place to stay, which means they have far more than the typical adventurer. 

The players also start with a standard equipment pack plus a laser pistol, coveralls, and a backpack, mementos of their time on Vulturnus. Each one has a professional tool kit. Anyone who has a Military skill will have one appropriate personal weapon assigned to them. If they want more, they need to spend their savings.  

The players will discover that Typhon and Dust isn't really a place for weapons, but the moment they get moving on their adventure, they will need them. I need to build a bestiary and make maps for both planets. Life is not especially dangerous, more of a point of interest for the curious player. 

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Something New, Something Old

I've been following a few other bloggers, mostly for game ideas but sometimes for blogging inspiration. Over on The Other Side blog by Tim Brannan, he is looking to do a Character-A-Day in January 2021. I love his set of books on B/X witches. 

Obviously, I love pre-genned characters. I have over 75 characters for AD&D and B/X on the tab above. 

If you like making characters, I put together a list of blank character sheets I have used over the years. The first is a Google Doc created by Benjamin Connell for D&D 3.5. It is the most searched for item on my site. It's really good. 

The next is a very basic sheet in Google Docs I use for my AD&D and B/X campaigns. It's based on the 3 per page pregenerated character sheets from Ghost of Lion Castle. If you need a bunch of characters, but intend for the player to make it their own, these a good starting place. 

An example of the stat block. 
There is room for Equipment, spells and languages, too.

The last one is my personal sheet for AD&D. It's a scan of a document from back in the 80's, plus a newer version from the 90s. They are not editable, but they print nicely. They are aligned to AD&D with Unearthed Arcana with the seven stat block. 

If planning for 2021 isn't new, I don't know what new is. Up til now, I was just trying to survive 2020. :) 

Now for "old". Over on The 3 Toadstool blog, Shane wrote an excellent piece on how to populate your D&D campaign back in 2019. He worked with Chris Hall to refine the method. By selecting monsters and creatures from 10 different categories, it's super easy to populate your setting with creatures which match the themes you wish to cover. Just 10 monsters makes each setting feel very unique. 

This method is meant for D&D, but I am using it to come up with creatures in my Star Wars campaign. It works that well. 

Monday, October 12, 2020

The Inside Out Fortification

This month, I am doing castles as the theme of my Inktober sketches. I've always been amused by the bit in So Long and Thanks for All the Fish where Wonko the Sane builds the Asylum, an inside out building to contain the world gone mad. 

This is probably my first contact with this concept of an inside out structure. 

However, real life shows that Wonko the Sane's Asylum isn't nuts. Apparently Julius Caesar did this in his siege craft. In a particularly interesting conflict, Caesar attacked fortification of Alesia. 

Muriel Gottrop in December 2004 from Wikipedia

The Gallic leader, Vercingetorix took refuge in the oppidum (an Iron Age Fortified town) with his 80,000 men. Caesar decided it was more prudent to siege the town rather than storm it. However, this required building a 10 mile long wall around Alesia. It wasn't perfect, but it was effective. 

When the Gallic relief force showed up, Caesar built a second wall around his own forces and the Roman's world collapsed into a one half mile strip of land between his walls.  

As the siege progressed, Vercingetorix turned out many of the civilians in the hopes that they would be captured by the Romans and fed. Caesar refused this option and didn't attempt to capture or kill any of them. A siege requires people to consume the food, so in turning them away, he didn't weaken his own position by wasting energy on killing or capturing them. As you can see from the map, neither of Caesar's walls were perfect and probably some people simply walked away. 

The Romans never broke into the walls of Alesia, but Vercingetorix was forced to surrender. He and the chieftains were killed and the Roman Legions took 40,000 captives as slaves. 

Most of this account was written by Caesar himself, so many of the numbers are probably inflated. It is fairly reasonable to assume that Caesar reported accurate numbers for his own forces but magnified the Gallic forces to look better. He said that there were 80,000 following Vercingetorix and the Gallic relief force numbered 250,000. This is pretty unlikely. 

But what we can take from this is, Caesar only took half of the people involved captive as slaves and he literally built 2 walls at least 10 miles long. 

From the prospective of gaming, we can see that a lot of historical figures do incredible things while not resorting to a scorched earth policy or glassing event. Caesar really played himself as a benevolent leader and ran a policy of forgiving his enemies. This probably explains why Vercingetorix surrendered himself. Either he though that was the best option for his followers to survive and there was a slight chance he, himself, would survive. Many of Caesar opponents killed themselves to spite him when they lost. 

These sorts of examples highlight why people surrender in battles and I would totally make that concept a thing in my games if it ever came to the party surrendering. I posted about that almost a year ago. If more games incorporated an honor mechanic, it would probably happen more often. 

One further tieback to game is my frustration of the lack of realistic scales for fortifications. Alesia was not a particularly massive fortified position, but if Caesar stood back a couple of miles, it's far larger than what is shown in modules like Keep on the Borderlands. My players in our B2 sessions were completely stymied by the huge area and I figure the area represented on the map is too small by a good margin. 

I'll be posting maps and drawings of my ideas soon. Stay tuned. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

I... We Still Hate Read Magic

I hate read magic as spell. Its... well, let me tell you, it's everything Dragons Gonna Drag said it was. Justin says everything I thought about this useless spell and more. With poetry, actual poetry. He doesn't just hate this spell, he has all kinds of tips, tricks and mechanics to get rid of it in a comprehensive fashion.

Someone once told me, "Criticism without an action item is... assholish." Justin Stewart names the issue and gives the reader many, many good ideas on alleviating the problem. It isn't just criticism, is valid criticism with a viable solution. Love it!

Why not add him to your reading list? Go check him out. 

By the way, feel free to add your blog or your favorite blog to my reading list by mentioning it in the comments. I can't wait to add it to my blog roll.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Legion of Assassins

Earlier this week, I posted 3 assassins, which I intend to use as Romanesque Legionaries. Why not fighters? Well, with a theoretical background as Citizen Soldiers, legionaries should have some atypical skills for a soldier because they are citizens first. Right within the AD&D description are examples of soft skills: disguise, poisoning, spying, plus a couple of others. In order to do these things, the assassin needs to have people skills. They also need to have other non-combat skills which support this.

Ideally, assassins should always have some sort of secondary professional skill. AD&D assumes that the assassin will take out the wizard, the lord or the high level cleric, but those people are surrounded by eyes. The ability to pass one's self off as a cook, a herald, a guard is paramount. It doesn't mean the assassin can actually do those tasks, they merely need to make someone else think that they can.

This is one of the reasons I wrote Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners. The players need a host of reasonable skills to get into the head of their characters so it is beneficial to have NPC's which operate in that mundane capacity. Zero to Hero gives mechanical statistics to these characters, which might not always be necessary, but can be helpful to everyone. The players are acting out the adventures of a fantastic person which is hard enough, the addition of relatively common folk gives them a scaffold to get there. Plus all of the classes in Zero to Hero have relatively few combat abilities which doesn't increase the mechanical risk to players, it levels the playing field so a small handful of heroes can deal with a huge ensemble of characters on a basic level.

Assassins aren't all about assassination. They break into the sausage factory to make extra special sausage.

This was the operational method of the Romans. They could hand anyone their butt on the battlefield, but after that, then what? Soft skills to get the defeated to continue to defeat themselves. Assassins as soldiers make a lot of sense. Someone needs to collect information and do dastardly things. If you think about it, a legionary was probably eyeing up his compatriots and leaders as much as the enemy. Sometimes, they were looking homeward for any news about family or politics which often ingratiated them to the very people they were looking to take advantage of or wipe out. Assassins make a lot of sense as fighting men.

Even if you don't want to introduce the complexity of a class of classes like Zero to Hero, I hope this changes how you consider placement of assassins in your world.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Gotta love a sale! Rules Cyclopedia on DriveThru

Rules Cyclopedia is on sale at DriveThruRPG. This game was published back in 1991, long after I had abandoned my Basic D&D campaign. This set of rules brought me back to Basic.

Being a player from way back, perhaps 1977 or so, the concept of "edition" was not real clear. I had started with D&D and moved on to AD&D as it seemed like the expected direction. Transitioning from D&D to AD&D seemed expected, but felt unnatural. When second Edition appeared, I had little concept of what it was. It didn't feel like AD&D that I knew, so I did my best to ignore it.

I had difficulties ignoring 2.0 as Unearthed Arcana seemed to be the first indication that a new edition was coming. Back in the 1990s, it was possible to see all of the various sets, in pieces, on a store shelf and it was very unclear as to what was happening.

My campaign had evolved from D&D to AD&D without regard to the change in setting. Our band of adventurers absorbed new materials and tossed others aside. While I said I was playing in Greyhawk, our shared world was a mishmash of Blackmoor, Greyhawk, Mystara and Hollow World, with Mystara taking the lead place.

When I found Cyclopedia on the shelves of my local Waldenbooks, I was entranced. It expanded on classes and levels while adding a few new spells and most importantly, weapon mastery and character skills. It was exactly what I was looking for. Gone was the one paragraph explanation of skills.

I immediately incorporated it into my hodgepodge campaign with only a few tweaks to make it fit the AD&D rule set. All abilities were generated as per the AD&D methods while character classes of race could either be played as described in AD&D or per Cyclopedia's rules.

Technically, that combo of classes and races vs classes should have been very broken, but as players, we made it work. The RC Druid was a subclass of Druid from AD&D, Mystics became a subclass of Monk. The Racial Classes became the "default class" of those races, as if someone didn't pick a specific class to play.

And we loved it.