Showing posts with label Characters. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Characters. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Additional Force Feats for my Star Wars Campaign

Based off the new Star Wars movies, the Rebels series and The Mandalorian I have a couple of Force Feats I want to add to my campaign. Strangely, not all of the original force feats displayed by Luke, Leia and Vader are a part of the original WotC Star Wars book. This book was for The Phantom Menace, but oddly didn't include anything from the original 3 movies.

These Feats are more dangerous and useful than the last set I posted. While I spell them out as all being telekinesis in some form or another, they are under the Alter feat. 

Almost all of these are based off the Force Lighting feat, with the DC adjusted for lower levels. 

Telekinesis: 
Telekinesis allows the force user to grab, throw and manipulate items at a distance. Within this group there are 4 feats. 

Grab: 
The force user can grab a loose object and pull it to themselves. This requires one level of force use. At low levels, this is a full round action. At higher levels, it is a move action. The object will end up in their hand or in a desired landing place near them. If two force users are contesting the control of an object, the one with higher die roll wins, no matter the DC requirement or level difference.

This will usually result in a tug of war, where the lower level character has the exact same chance of winning as the higher level character. The primary problem for the lower level character is the higher level character may be able to make more than one attempt per round, the second of which is uncontested. This seriously antagonizes Dark Side characters and they may needless continue the tug of war with the lesser Force user until some other event prevents them from continuing the war. 

Dark Side users gain a Dark Side point each time they repeat this action against another user. 

Use the script, Hayden.
Force User's Level     DC
1-3                              15  (Full Round Action)
4-6                              14  (Full Round Action) 
7-12                            13  (Move Action)
13-20                          12  (Move Action)
+21+                           10  (Move Action)

There is only one modifier to this DC roll, ownership. If the object in question belongs to the character, the DC drops by 2. 

This feat has a cost of 1 vitality per object per round. Characters are limited to one object per 3 levels. 

Examples: Ankin levitating fruit, Luke recovering his saber. 


Lift: 
Sometimes this feat is used as Jedi drinking game.
A force user can lift an item into the air or pin it to the ground. It requires one level of force use and the Grab feat. 

Dark Side users can inflict damage at the same rate as falling a given distance, while Light Side users will tend not damage the item. Like the Grab ability, it has a DC score to succeed against inanimate objects and there is a limit to the number of times they can do this per round. This power only works against inanimate objects. 

Force User's Level     DC
4-6                              15  (Full Round Action) 
7-12                            14  (Move Action)
13-20                          12  (Move Action)
+21+                           10  (Move Action)

The vitality cost is identical to Grab, one per round per object. There is no upper limit to how many things they may lift except the cost. The cost is based on when the objects are moving, not the fact that they have moved. As a consequence, a force user may lift dozens of objects and hold them stationary for a long time. Gracefully returning the object to a resting place will cost more vitality and have its own required DC roll.  

Examples: Rey vs. the rocks, Luke entertaining Yoda. 

Forceful Impact: 

This power is more aggressive than the last two. The force user violently pushes an object or person either out of their way or into a fixed object for damage. Being lifted into the air or slammed to the ground is one of the Force effects that cannot be contested or counter acted by another Force feat. It requires both the alter Feat and the Lift feat. 

This power does have a number of different uses. First, it can be used to hurl an item at a target or hurl a target into another object. There is a DC roll: 

Force User's Level     DC
4-6                              15  (Full Round Action) 
7-12                            14  (Full Round Action)
13-20                          12  (Move Action)
+21+                           10  (Move Action) 

Dark Side users can inflict falling damage on a victim. A Light Side user will can knock someone down, but generally won't hurt living beings. A victim can resist this damage if they can make a reflect save. If pinned to a surface, the victim must make a Fortitude save in the next round to begin moving again. 

One unusual use of this power is to safely propel a target to a destination, as if they lept the distance. When used against a friendly target, the DC is reduced by one. 

When used against a friendly force user, that person can use Forceful Impact to guide themselves to a perfect landing along their flight path. This is a separate roll and will not modify the other character's DC roll. Failure indicates they land where the other person intended, not their choice of landing spots. 

The cost of this power is two vitality points per round per object or target. If pinning a target, the cost must be paid, successful or not. If the force user is adept enough, they can push back and absorb energy. The cost of this is 4 vitality point per unit of damage absorbed, plus a second DC check for Dissipate energy. If both rolls are successful AND the force user dies, there will be a one round delay in the blast to allow people to escape. 

Examples: Obi Wan in every fight in the Prequels, Kanan saving his friends, Kanan and Ezra escaping various fights. 

HR is not involved with the Imperial
Field Promotion Program.
Clutch: 

Clutch is completely surrounds a target, prevents movement and can cause damage. It may incidentally lift a target from the ground. It requires the Grab feat and 7 levels of force experience. 

Force User's Level     DC
7-12                            15  (Full Round Action)
13-20                          14  (Move Action)
+21+                           13  (Move Action) 

The force user may inflict 1d6 points of damage per round at a cost of 2 vitality per damage die rolled. The user may choose how many damage dice to roll up to their current level. They may be required to do this for multiple rounds for the desired effect if they guess wrong. When used against a living being, the user receives Dark Side Points equal to the damage done. Light Side users will be inclined to use this power against droids or other non-living targets, while Dark Side users will attack anyone with this ability. 

If the force user has both the sense and alter feats, they may subdue a target for as long as desired, with or without inflicting damage so long as they succeed their DC roll. The sense feat also allows the force practitioner the ability to attack targets at vast distances so long as they can sense the target in some way. For example, they could use a camera to view the target or may hear foot steps at the target approaches from behind. 

Examples: Vader's force choke, Luke crushing the Dark Trooper. 

It wasn't a person, so it wasn't that Dark.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Additional Force Feats for my Star Wars Campaign

Based off the new Star Wars movies, the Rebels series and The Mandalorian I have a couple of Force Feats I want to add to my campaign. Strangely, not all of the original force feats displayed by Luke, Leia and Vader are a part of the original WotC Star Wars book. This book was for The Phantom Menace, but oddly didn't include anything from the original 3 movies. These are not all that incredibly overpowered feats, I merely want more options for my players. 

From the movies, the Rebel TV series, and the Mandalorian, I created 4 more Sense Feats: Whisper, Audience, Intrusion and Affinity, with examples. None of these powers have a cost. 

Whisper
You can make your thoughts known over a distance, mind to mind. Communication is one way unless two force users have this feat or are somehow related (family or close friends). 
Prerequisites: Sense, Force level 2. 

Benefit: This is silent, mind to mind communication between two characters. It is initiated the force user and the target does not need to respond in anyway. In cases where there is a language barrier, simple thoughts are translated. If a target of this feat is a force user, the communication is two-way. It can be used to form a special link between two force users, like the secret language created by twins, useable over a distance. If the connection is strong, then the location or director of a character can be transmitted. 

Examples: Luke and Leia in The Empire Strikes Back and Grogu and Ahsoka in the Mandalorian. 

Luke calls to Leia

Audience
This force feat allows a force user to present themselves to another person. An image of the one requesting an audience appears in the mind of the other. This can be alarming to the target. If two force users engage in this feat, the effect is two-way. Note, the target and user cannot see where the other is. 

Benefits: The target and the projector can see each other in real time and communicate without threat of contact. The illusion is very complete, perhaps causing the practitioners the fight and quarrel as if they were really there. No damage can be inflicted in this way, however people may damage their own environment. Attempting to discern a hostile target's location is a DC 20 and must be derived from clues.  
Prerequisites: Sense and force level 5.
Examples: Kylo Ren and Rey in The Last Jedi. 

Swinging a lightsaber at an illusion is bad.

Intrusion
A force Intrusion has one of two effects, depending on the number of targets. Against multiple targets, the force user can project an image of themselves great distances. Against a single foe, it can be used to compel them reveal information and tell the truth. 

Benefits: An Intrusion can trick opponents into believing the force user is present or even in their head. With extreme concentration, the person can manipulate small items as if they were really present. When used against a single target, a DC check equal to the targets Wisdom will prevent the target from lying for a single round. The target will know they cannot lie for the round and can try to deflect the conversation. This second type of Intrusion is a dark side power. Most people know this is ineffective as a means of interrogation. 

Examples: Luke appearing on Crait, Kylo's interrogation Rey and Poe. A notable except is Vader, who could use this power but does not. It's easier to choke people. People who are flexible in their morality find deflection of questions easy, while more trusting people have harder time. Compare Han and Poe to Rey. 

Better than being there.

Affinity
Force Affinity can make a victim or group of victims more disposed to leave the user alone or be more friendly. It only works on living creatures, not droids. While not generally a dark side feat, over reliance can have a side effect where the user believes they can charm anyone resulting in instant failure. For example, Kylo and everyone he orders around, Anakin trying to command droids, and the young Obi Wan. 

Benefits: on a DC roll equal to the target's Wisdom, the creature will ignore the force user. On a DC equal to the target's combined Wisdom and Intelligence, the creature will treat the practitioner as a friendly. This will work better on single animals better than intelligent creatures. Pack dynamics can be a hassle for the force user as it could trigger attacks by other members of the pack. Predators are an additional DC 5 because this doesn't change the basic nature of the creature. 

Offering an attractive, different option, choice or making a successful animal handling skill check will provide a longer lasting affinity lasting more than a round. A GM may allow multiple rolls to allow an earnest character to actually befriend the target.  

Attacks on the victim instantly end the affinity. An attack of any kind will cause animals to flee, even if the attack is not on them or even to their benefit. 

Prerequisites: Sense and force level 1. 

Examples: Leia communicating with the Ewoks, Luke trying to calm the Ranor (and failing) and Ezra's ability to commune with every animal. 

This could also be the "Jedi Mind Trick", which seems to make people predisposed to an idea go along with it rather than have a whole new idea. The Stormtroopers were not surprised that those weren't the droids they were looking for, it already happened 80 times that day. Watto on the other hand, had no plan to give stuff away ever, so it couldn't work on him. Luke flat out appeals Bib's greed and desire for praise to turn him to his will. 

Ezra uses this ability on nearly every animal he encounters.

I hope you enjoy these and add them to you game. 

Saturday, January 2, 2021

#31daychallenge, Part 2

Get those dice warmed up. It's time for the #31daychalllenge. Roll a character a day. 

Yesterday, I declined the challenge myself, but offered 20 sets of die rolls to create your own character. I want to spend my time reading a blog a day in January. 

Today, I'm reading blogs. Games in Libraries is up to the challenge, as is Spodding

Now for the plug. I wrote a book called "Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners" specifically designed to roll up NPCs and to give Player Characters professional skills. It's meant for B/X and AD&D e1. It's available at DriveThruRPG for PWYW. I also have a handy dandy character sheet for AD&D e1 and Unearthed Arcana. It's a scan of a sheet I created in the 80's in PDF format. Suitable for printing. 

And with that, I am off to read some blogs. 



Friday, January 1, 2021

31 Day Character Challenge

A few days or weeks ago, I saw Tim Brannan's post on a 31 day challenge. The goal is to post 31 characters in the month of January. See his first right here.* I thought that was awesome, I love rolling characters. 

But... I do this all the time. Click the Pregenerated tab to see over 100 characters. It would be better for me to not play along, go read other people's blogs and instead do something else for myself this year. I don't know what that is yet, but I've decided to post links to others doing this challenge as I come across them. 

I have to be honest, it took me 30 seconds to find Tim's post not counting the 30 minutes of reading his other recent posts. Follow those links above and subscribe. 

I can't leave you high and dry on New Year's Day. I do have a small contribution to this 31 day endeavor. Here is a list of 20 4d6 rolls with the lowest roll dropped. 


 Here they are typed out in order:

A) 15, 12, 12, 9, 16, 10
B) 10, 14, 14, 9, 12, 11
C) 13, 16, 17, 13, 13, 12
D) 11, 14, 15, 12, 12, 13
E) 9, 13, 12, 15, 12, 14
F) 14, 10, 10, 11, 10, 11
G) 14, 13, 10, 14, 16, 12
H) 13, 15, 14, 13. 14, 14
I) 14, 17, 16, 6, 9, 11 
J) 11, 13, 11, 12, 15, 14
K) 10, 15, 11, 13, 14, 14
L) 11, 8, 12, 13, 9, 17
M) 10, 16, 3, 11, 15, 18
N) 13, 14, 17, 14, 11, 15
O) 12, 17, 15, 14, 12, 12
P) 17, 10, 14, 13, 13, 15
Q) 10, 7, 13, 17, 12, 15
R) 12, 14, 10, 9, 17, 16
S) 13, 10, 12, 13, 15, 16
T) 14, 12, 16, 14, 15, 15

I hand rolled these numbers on my lunch breaks last week when I thought I would be participating. What I find interesting is, I don't ever recall rolling a 3 as a stat. I'd like to say I must cheat a lot when rolling dice, but in this exercise, I didn't roll a single 4 or 5 and the one 3 I rolled was actually four 1 in a roll. By the same standard, I only rolled one 18, 7 and 8. That is weird, but thems the dice for you. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Stat-ing up the Neimoidian Bounty Hunter

I've picked a name for my Neimoidian bounty hunter, La'ow Houd. I have also modified some rules to allow him to be a bounty hunter. According the rule book, they need to 1d10 vitality per level. That means only soldiers become bounty hunters. Judging by The Mandalorian, any boob with a weapon and drive can call themselves a bounty hunter. 

As a Neimoidian, he doesn't have a long tradition of bounty hunting. La'ow is a hunter of data which sometimes involves people. He observed the Mandalorians at home as a trade representative and spy. He has collected many items from Mandalor, but most of it is the not equipment of a hunter. He appreciates their arts and beliefs but doesn't try to emulate their combat style. 

Not all bounty hunters look like this. 
He does have some tricky items that the Mandalorians perfected, the whipcord, a smallish jetpack and the flame thrower. The whipcord and flame thrower are stock Mandalorian weapons in his gauntlets. The jetpack is a modified Tankerenian hoverpack for picking fruit. It can't exactly fly, but it can allow swift jumps and can save him from a short fall. 

He wears light armor which is similar to Rebel combat suits, although customized to his liking. He often wears a short cape and high riding boots in and out of armor. 

He has a light repeating blaster rifle and a heavy stunner. The heavy stunner is specifically designed to shoot like the LR blaster, but with no damage just the stun effect. He also carries a stun baton and sometimes uses electro-nets.   

La'ow has a variety of tools for breaking into systems without a droid. He also has a couple of holographic projectors which stick to surfaces. One of them will project a distortion over his body, so he can appear as a holograph. He must set this up first, it doesn't work on the fly as it requires specific viewing angles to work convincingly. 

At great expense, he managed to get his hands on two lightsabers which he had on display in his sailboat. No, he did not kill Jedi or Sith. He bought them from some really dangerous people. He does not use them as he is unskilled. He has a variety of trinkets from Mandalor, Jedha, and Coruscant which are made of kyber crystals. La'ow thinks they are object de art and it has not occurred to him that they could have any other value or purposes. 

Statistically, I have decided that Neimoidian's have a +1 Dexterity and Charisma, and a -1 to Strength and Constitution. They receive a bonus rank of swimming and the bonus feat Cautious. La'ow is an 8th level Noble and 4th level Bounty Hunter. As an isolated Noble, he can only call in favors from Bergel and Green-5. He is not well known on this planet. 

His ship, the Gallant, is a heavily modified YT-1300 transport. It is not fast, stealthy or very combat-effective. It does have great hover and low speed maneuverability so he is able to deploy his cargo from the starship to the water.   

The cockpit is located between the mandibles and the dish is located on the bottom, in place of one of the guns. The top of the ship has a gun turret and a 12 meter tall sail like cargo bay in the rear. The turret cannot shoot backwards because of the cargo bay. There is a nasty surprise at the top of the sail, a mine launcher with 5 mines.   

The ship is much slower than other YT-1300's as a quarter of the engines are missing to allow the Gallant to carry the large sail shaped cargo bay. La'ow owns a staysail ketch and needed the modified design to carry it. The cargo bay is large enough to enclose the whole boat with the masts and 4 sails deployed. The whole boat is 12 meters long and is crew by light droids. While the ship does have crew quarters, La'ow often sleeps on his sailboat.  

Here is a test image from my phone of his ship. Sorry about the lightness, it's a photo of a pencil drawing taken under fluorescent light at night. 

Like I said, this bounty hunter is non-standard. 

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. 

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Encumbrance and Campaigning with ads from Gander Outdoors.

I love my characters, but a lot of times they come up with some odd choices. Backpacks are one of my favorite sources of amusement.

I haven't done an ad in a while, so I've plugged some backpacks from Gander Outdoors here. Clicking the pictures will take to their site to buy.  

On the left we have a 70 liter bag while on the right, we have about a 30 liter bag. They are very approximately in scale.

Guess which one my players think they have?  

I really don't mind overburdened players, but somethings are beyond the pale. The people walking around with stakes and hammers and a small fry pan aren't the problem.

I have a very ad hoc encumbrance rule, one which secretly hides one of those never named zeroth laws. My ad hoc encumbrance rule is armor OR a backpack plus two items in your hands means you are totally encumbered. It may or may not slow you down, but you certainly can't carry more. You can also be encumbered by having stuff (or an opponent) wrapped around your legs.

Romans would pack a lot of stuff on their soldiers. Gaius Marius demanded that the soldiers carry most of the load themselves. That earned them the nickname Marius' Mules. The Romans didn't wear backpacks, but carried a sacrina.

Not a link to Gander Outdoors

The sacrina held a cloak bag, a pot, a satchel, a Patera or mess tin, food, a waterskin and a net for loose items, all on a big forked stick. Notice the rectangular satchel on the back and the net on the front. When they dropped these, they landed on that satchel with the stick projecting upwards for easy recovery and unpacking. The bonus of the sacrina was that it made armor a benefit to carrying one as the armor distributed the weight of the stick on their shoulder. This is probably a better tool for carrying stuff than a backpack over armor or a backpack full of armor.

Here is where my zeroth law comes in. You drop your stuff and I will almost never have someone mess with it. If you leave it behind, that is one thing, but I really don't want to annoy my players with cheap shots like stealing all of their gear. Stealing money, sure. But not a backpack.

In my most recent campaign, my players have made an art of being unencumbered at all times. They have 2 wagons, oxen and a bunch of NPCs in tow. When they say they have a pack, it's pretty much a purse: a snack, some useful items and some water. I'm vaguely annoyed because they should have purchased a boat, but instead got the wagons because I left that word, "ship" out by accident.

Oh, well.

How do you handle encumbrance in your campaign? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

The One About Star Smuggler Characters

Alright. Tomorrow I want to look at the combat that I just went through. In order to do that, we need to look at a character sheets. And because I am doing that, I need to reintroduce an old cheat that I implemented on day one, and a new one that I will implement tomorrow.

First, let's look at Duke and Emily. Duke is the player's avatar and has some extra abilities no other character has, such as a last name.

Duke has the ability to fly the ship or fire the guns. No other character should be able to do that. He can also use heavy and standard side arms, which is not typical for a pilot. He can also trick people with his cunning skill.

On day one, I wasn't sure how long this game would last, so I declared that Emily would have all of Duke's abilities except cunning. If she had taken over for Duke due to death, she would have been given an Cunning of 4.

Next, I want to talk about the medics. They can keep a character at zero hit points alive until rescue. They will attempt to avoid hand to hand combat, but do have a score.

Medics can assist Duke in certain events in the book, which is hinted at in their introduction, so they are good to have around.

Additionally, they can stop a bullet or tie up a person in melee. It's a bad idea, but they can.

As another limitation, they cannot use the ship's radio.

The next 3 characters are the starship's gunners. They can use heavy hand weapons, the ship's guns, boat's guns and skimmer guns. They cannot drive a skimmer, fly a boat or operate the ship for movement. They can use the ship's radio. This is interesting as the rules seem to delineate characters by those who work on a ship vs. those who happen to be on a ship.

What is interesting about this type of character is, they are better than bodyguards. Bodyguards do have skill to interpose themselves between Duke and a shot, but can't operate the ship's equipment like the gunners can.

Next in the crew are the Engineers. They fix and maintain things. They can use a side arm in self-defense. Oddly, they are one of the few characters that can drive a skimmer. I am not sure why this is.

Engineers can repair the ship, the hopper, robots and other vehicles at a rate of one hit per day in RRR.

One thing that I did over the course of this series was limit the Engineers ability to repair. Technically, you can take a crewman out of service so they can perform RRR while the ship is in motion or while other crewmen do something else. I didn't allow this for clarity.

As you can see, I have been keeping a running tab on how much money each character has. What you are not seeing is an accurate count of hits. Hits reduce endurance and I have been using pen and paper for that. Lucy has a hit of damage, Duke has two and Emily has one.

From this point on, I will be doing a second cheat in regards to crew equipment. If it is on the character sheet, it doesn't count against my CU space on the ship. This is a slight bending of the rules, as a character can wear a suit, carry a heavy side arm and be attended to by a PS bot but that takes up 4 CU's of space. I am ignoring that for simplicity's sake. Someone may have to strip off a suit and drop their weapons to get into a 1 CU space, like a Status unit but other than that, I am no longer counting carried personal equipment as taking up cargo space.

Tomorrow, the adventure will continue and I will do a breakdown of the combat from today.




Thursday, January 9, 2020

#TBT - The One About Character Sheets

Originally published on Jul 15, 2015. It is a #TBT post for Jan 9, 2020. Hard to believe it's been this long since I went to convention.

I played Savage Worlds at a convention a few years ago. The game was adapted to the World of Flash Gordon, you can pick up a copy at DriveThruRPG. Each player chose a pregenerated character from a selection available. There was Flash, Dale, Barin (me), Zarkov, Vultan, Thun plus many others. Having picked our characters, we waited for our eighth player to arrive.
Within a few minutes, we were all chatting and joking. A lot of the humor revolved around radio shows and Flash Gordon in general. Our last player was so late, we started playing without him. We had a good time, playing and making in-character comments all through out. The guy who had Vultan did a pretty good BRAIN BLESSED impersonation. Zarkov’s player used a styrofoam coffee cup to read like a radio announcer.
It was all fine and well until the eighth player showed up. He made some funny faces at the remaining character sheets and eventually picked Dale Arden. He did not engage in any of the humor at the table, even when our “Flash” threw some cheesy lines from the movie at him. After one particularly funny “Flash ‘n Dale” comment, Dale froze for a second and rounded on “Flash”.
“What the f— is your problem?” he demanded.
The table went quiet. It was a bit before we got back to the serious business of playing the game.
After a while, I spoke to our eighth player. He was sort of shy. He stuck to the basics of who he was and what he did for a living. He knew nothing of Flash Gordon. As I explained the story to him, he actually warmed up and was a decent sort of guy. He and I chatted for the whole game. It turns out he wasn’t able to play a game he wanted and just picked anything at random. He was kind of disappointed.
But this wasn’t why he snapped. Oh, lord no.
When were we done, he apologized briefly to “Flash” and left. I chuckled when he was out of earshot. Everyone wanted details. What was his issue with our “Flash”?
Our eighth player’s real name was Dale. He had picked the character sheet with his name on it.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Update for Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners!

Send out the criers and the messengers. Have the herald hoist the flag. Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners has been updated with several new classes, some campaign notes from history, and many rewritten sections for clarity.

Ever wonder what the difference was between a papermaker and a parchminer? How about a leather worker, a lorimer and a tanner? What is ostracon? What is the difference between amate and papyrus? All updated to answer your questions.

I was thinking of holding off on this until November, but had the chance to get things done this week.

Everyone who purchased the old product can download the new product from their Library on DriveThruRPG.

If you haven't looked at Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners, let me tell you what it is and is not. In B/X and AD&D, characters were permitted professional skills to supplement their backgrounds, with nary a word on what those skills would be or how they would work. After decades of play and having my players want to have useful and memorable NPCs or codified professional skills, I wrote a set of rules to outline many common professions in historical times.

This expands in the information from D&D and AD&D, in a way that is very different than "skills" or "feats". Each commoner class member can advance up to 5 levels, from apprentice to master with hard work. Level determines the ease of success when operating as a professional class. Each class has distinct tools and skills, and where crossover exists, I have explained how these characters would work, while leaving the rules open to interpretation so they can fit into any D&D or AD&D campaign. 

There is commentary on economies, hiring, firing and all other aspects of gaining skilled tradesmen. Make no mistake, these are not alternate adventurer classes, they supplement the player characters, not replace them. It is not a sieve or character filter. In fact, this rule set can rescue hopeless characters and save you time at character generation.

It also answers some age old dilemmas about who can do what and why.

Price at PWYW, this rule set can enhance your campaign. Go ahead, give it a try.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

AD&D to 3.5 and Beyond. What Alignment to Be When You Can't Decide?

Picking an alignment can be difficult if you game style revolves around roleplay. Many of the alignments have a certain give and take within them which causes ethical dilemmas... except one.

Neutral Evil, by the definitions in the book, doesn't really contemplate ethics. The Neutral Evil character doesn't really debate ethics, they debate outcomes. They want what they want and they know how to get it.

Neutral Evil people are evil because they are selfish and see the world as an evil place. Why not do what you like?

Most well adjusted people look at evil characters with trepidation. Evil for the sake of evil is bad. However, when it comes to party dynamics, the Neutral Evil character seems to be the most stable. They are always up to the same old crap, only the prizes changing. What is interesting about this is they want stuff for themselves, they are not necessarily there to cause problems. Especially when a problem interferes with obtaining an objective.

The classic Neutral Evil move is to cause conflict in others. "Am I really going along with this?" Why, yes. You are.  Neutral Evil characters are somewhat the core of the parties ethics. They see an objective, they get the objective. But by causing these ethical conundrums within the party, they do some arm twisting while also turning their own tactics on their head.

If a Neutral Evil character knew that they could have an amazing, priceless tool they would want to have it. If it meant donating a 100, 1,000 or even 10,000 gold pieces to a lawful good temple, they'd weigh the cost of killing everyone in their way, then fork over the money. Who cares if they just funded an orphanage, they got some great out of the bargain. Neutral Evil characters believe the world is evil, so backing a good cause is a meaningless thing to do because they believe it will end poorly. It's aligned with what they believe. They don't have to try to pay evil unto evil, because they really think everything is evil, all choices are selfish in the long run. 

Neutral Evils are sort of suckers, while they imagine that everyone else is the fool. Within the group, they have a tendency of currying favor to get what they want. They might be the person healing every day or handing out potions of healing to make sure they, themselves, don't die. They might forego some immediate benefit because it serves the cause of getting something better later. And they tend to drag the party with them.

By picking the path of Neutral Evil, you have reduced your character's complexity and dropped that dynamic in someone else's lap. The paladin, ooo, he hates you for being right so often.

Remember, people want to believe things are relative. Sometimes they are not. You don't have to be some axe-crazed killer to be evil. You can be an affable, kind person with some really bad habits and goals. This is the role of Neutral Evil. They think, plot and plan to get the most out of any situation, which is oddly exactly what the rest of the party, regardless of alignment are probably doing.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

The First Game Session for Peninsula of Plenty - Beyond the Pale

Fits and starts. I planned this campaign in the spirit of X1 Isle of Dread. The players were gathered together, given the premise, then selected from a series of pre-generated characters (which are all available in the tab above). The goal was to travel from the Capital on the west coast, to a town on the south coast. The Emperor's Council needs intelligence, and sending a party down there was the best option. Simple.
Here is the party at the start:

Melvin the Wise - Magic User, Halfling, 1st level
Matilda the Knife - Swashbuckler, Human, 1st level
Megen the Ruffian - Swashbuckler, Human, 2nd level
Jaime the Fearsome - Fighter, Human, 2nd Level

Not a cleric to be seen. The party wasn't done provisioning themselves, they hired a cook, a hunter as a scout, and a laborer. Then we got to the part where they were to hire a ship. Or so I thought.

It turns out, that in reflecting on the Council's directions to head south, no one mentioned a ship. Not me, not the characters. So the characters used all of their Council provided funds to buy two wagons, hired some NPCs and a bunch of horses. We've gone from Isle of Dread, to Oregon Trail.

Well, I am nothing but adaptable.

The characters decided to proceed south as quick as they could. I mentioned that an inn at the edge of town would be a great place to rest up, have a few drinks and maybe try to pick up a few more party members or NPCs.

No.

Out the gate they went. 5 miles outside the palisades, they made camp. This is exactly what "beyond the pale" means.

The players are sort of wily. It turns out that the wagons have small stoves, tons of rope and wood,  bedrolls and a supply of fuel. They parked the wagons 30 feet from each other, drove in some posts and corralled the horses between them. Water bags and feed bags were hung off the side of wagons for the horses. And decided to sleep in the wagons. Efficient as heck.

Since they lost the opportunity to hire more people, I decided that two of the other candidates were making the same journey and would catch up shortly. In the morning, the party spotted them on the road, and decided to wait.

That when the evil random encounter started. Uninhabited/Wilderness Table, die roll of 02, brown bears. Two brown bears.

Game on.

Jaime and the scout were making their way back towards town to round up the stragglers, on horseback. Melvin, the cook and the laborer were in one wagon, while Matilda and Megen were harnessing the other horses to the wagons.

The bears bushedwacked the first two horses as Matilda leapt into Melvin's wagon and Megen hopped into the other wagon. Matilda stabbed one in the head. As the first bear mauled both horses to death, the second tried to get Matilda. She stabbed him again, while Melvin missed. The wizard got a good bite for his effort and collapsed, seeming dead. The cook went down, next.

Matilda and the laborer went for the other wagon as the bears milled around. For several rounds, the bears milled about deciding to eat the dead horses rather than chase the characters to the other wagon.
 
Jaime came thundering on his horse and began to accost the bears. Megen jumped on the other horse and joined him. Two rounds later, Jaime's horse was dead and he had taken a good hit. Jaime and Megen took refuge under Matilda's wagon. It was beginning to look like a total party kill was in the works.

Thankfully, Jaime's foresight saved the day. He sent the scout ahead to get the two trailing NPC's: Rona and Gurwinder. He dropped Gurwinder off some distance away and went back for Rona without provoking the bears.

Before Jim the Scout could get back with the cleric, Gurwinder and the rest of the party trapped the bears between long range missile fire and rear attacks. Since the party had the cover of the wagon, Gurwinder could shoot the bears in the back with little chance of hitting friendlies. The repeating flanking attacks melted the bears AC away and they were done in just three rounds. 

Click to enlarge. Blue crossed
swords indicate party position.  
At the end of the day, the party lost 1 laborer, 3 horses, Chef and Melvin. Melvin didn't die, he just wants to go home. His player now wants to play Gurwinder, instead.

Ok, fine by me.

Under Gurwinder's direction, the party took one wagon back to town, sold the bear and horse meat along with their pelts. They paid burial expenses for the cook and laborer. With the additional funds from the kills, they obtained two drovers to drive the wagons and care for the horses. They are a husband and wife team, Felix and Felice. They also bought 2 horses, one for Jaime and one Megen, and four oxen to pull the wagons. Matilda, Rona and Gurwinder don't ride (by choice), so Jim the Scout has the last horse.

The party has now agreed to head to the next town with the intention of picking up a healer or another cleric and missile weaponry for everyone. They also desire either a pair of ponies or smaller horses for the shorter characters (Gurwinder and Melvin), plus more oxen. The next settlement is 18-20 miles away, the next small town is a little more than 30 miles away.

Here is the party as of now:

Melvin the Wise - Magic User, Halfling, 1st level, NPC
Matilda the Knife - Swashbuckler, Human, 1st level
Megen the Ruffian - Swashbuckler, Human, 2nd level
Jaime the Fearsome - Fighter, Human, 2nd Level
Rona the wisewoman - Cleric, Human, 1st Level, NPC
Gurwinder A’flumine - Fighter, Human, 2nd Level
Jim the Scout - Human, 0 level NPC
Felix and Felice - Humans, 0 level NPC

Marching order is:

Jaime and Jim on horses, leading.
Wagon 1 with Felice driving and Melvin and Gurwinder riding.
Wagon 2 with Felix, Matilda and Rona.
Megen trailing Wagon 2.

More next week.

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.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Stealing Monsters

Some of the best monsters are people. And some of the most intriguing people are villains.

Jon Wilson, of Appendix M put the bug in my head to steal a villain with his post on The Rival Party. These characters are decidedly different, with incredibly cool powers and abilities. I love the idea of a rival party as adversaries.

I immediately thought of a character I want to steal for a campaign. He is the Monomach from Stephen R. Donaldson's Mordant's Need series.



The Monomach is the villain's right hand man, the most skilled swordsman in the lands. As a villain, he is totally one dimensional. He's given a target and then the target dies. Or at least that is how he should work.

He is actually simple enough to build an AD&D character class with little adaption. First, he is a fightman so he has all of the abilities of a Fighter. Second, he has the disguise abilities of an Assassin. Third, he has some ability to heal himself like a Paladin. Finally, he will gain the damage bonus of a Monk. His prime requisites are Strength, Constitution and Intelligence. To get a +5% bonus to exp, he must have at least a 12 in each of those skills. To get a 10% bonus, he must have a 15 in each.

In framing the villain as a character with a class, he can scale with the Player Characters. He can start relatively weak with the PCs and grow from there.

Let's assign those abilities by level.

On creation - +1 to Strength or Constitution regardless of race.
Level 1 - Disguise as an equal level Assassin.
Level 3 - Laying has as Paladin of equal level.
Level 5 - Damage adjustment as per Monks +1 per 2 levels.

What is the Monomach characters limitations?

They are limited to two magic items plus one magic weapon and one magical piece of armor. They are limited to only equipment they can carry, even at home. They cannot backstab as Assassins do. They do not fight weaponless as Monks do. They do not have the variety of weapons of a fighter, they tend to stick to one main weapon and one back up. They don't often use bows. They can ride horses, but can not care for them. They work alone and are likely to strike a "friendlies" as they get in the way like a berserker. This berserker tendency is not a special skill or ability, it is just a ruthless and bloody methodology. They are relatively poor in day to day skills, unable to cook, care for animals or hunt making them reliant on their master's staff for self-care.

This lack of people and daily living skills prevents them from having followers, retainers or constructing a keep, tower or other base of operation. When assigned to retainers by their master, they tend to follow the retainer until a target presents itself.

What would make this type of character too overpowered? A crystal ball and a ring of teleportation. Yeah, I would totally give my evil Monomach a ring and crystal ball.

The United States of the 1980s

I'm watching Stranger Things, Season Three. The Russian characters kill me for all of their 1980s styling. They were right there in the beginning of season, but as tangential characters. Just enough was known about them to build a tense story which really had nothing to do with the Soviets. They were a McGuffin for season 1, left out of season 2, but in season 3, they are a major plot point.

I'm not going to spoil Stranger Things for you, but American TV used to portray Evil Soviet Citizens in a particularly goofy way.

One of the things that stands out to me is, as the Evil Characters, they always had some tiny amount of easily understood motivation. Usually it was played to show their humanity. And where those motive forces most came into play was a deeply subversive scenario.

Said Soviet Super Citizen was always physically stronger than the American opponent, often smarter in very technical ways, but total out of their element when not dealing with brute force or when the operation deviated from the characters background knowledge.

Where the subversion comes in is not in the fact that once the Super Soviet Citizen is free of home influence do they show some heroic, sane and pure traits, but the fact that nearly every aspect of Western European and American culture is designed to somehow subvert them. They want a hamburger, a Coke, a convertible, a nice house, etc. All the things common people like.

While I am sure that many times the intended message was "America is just better", the actual message was cultural perversion. Basically, the good guys end up bribing the Soviets with good ol' American Scooby Snacks.

"Did you just bribe Cthulhu with ice cream?"
"Not any old ice cream. Häagen-Dazs* is the shit."

Let that one sink in.

While we can't go back to the 80's, I think this is an excellent method of designing better villains. Most of the time villains are rather one dimensional, but being evil, they should succumb to perversion of a bigger evil.

*There is some deep irony that Häagen-Dazs came into being to save an American ice cream company from bad sales and lack luster marketing. Make it look different, and poof!, profit.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

The Difference Between Zero and Hero

The difference between zero and hero is good PR and support. When most parties go looking for NPC or henchmen, they tend to pick up another sword or a healer, when what they need is a Herald or Lawyer.

Heralds are much more than criers, they announce the party with style. They are made of moxie, poise and flair. They improve the standing of a party and positively affect morale and reactions. Lawyers often do the same. Since both speak on the behalf of the party first, each can provide a "fail safe" or "cutout" should the random dice go wrong. Players can counter their pronouncements with fairness and humility, gaining another reaction or morale roll. An uppity lawyer of herald can speak quietly with the lady or master on the behalf other henchmen to prevent walkouts.

Where lawyers differ from heralds is lawyers must not tell a falsehood. They do not have to tell the thruth, but good ones are poor liars. When things go wrong, lawyers tend to go formal. They dress and speak formally, which enables a fair amount of bluffing. Lawyers are apt judges of both character and situations, which can be a second set of eyes and ears for a party adventuring in a foreign land. The can guess the underlying reasons for most traditions, laws and policies which should help the party.

Heralds tend to dress and speak as needed by the goals of the party. They can wear any armor, including none at all. They may carry any weapon, but usage is limited to the lightest arms: daggers, foils, etc. Lawyers are limited to knives and daggers, and will resist all suggestions of wearing armor. They will fall back on their official robes and poise for protection. Sometimes, that can work.

These NPC types exploit their social status, portraying themselves as sacrosanct. Enemies wishing to have good standing with the general public or to hide evil plots for the future often perpetuate this idea. However, if chaos and evil ever reign, lawyers and heralds will be the second against the wall, right after the PCs.

For most campaigns, lawyers and heralds are well versed in oration, history, and tradition besides the more expected talents for showmanship and legal proweness. Should the party become imprisioned, the captor may view locking the lawyer or herald up as bad press or form.

You can read all about these NPC character classes and more than 50 more in my book, Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners, available at DriveThruRPG.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Character Buffs - Zero to Hero

D&D and AD&D had a system of allowing characters to be buffed by adding some sort of skill to one of the regular classes via professional skills. Noticeably short on details, it encouraged DMs and players to think outside of the box. AD&D had the ranger and monk classes which featured two hit dice at first level while clerics were buffed with not just first level spells, but bonus spells based on Wisdom scores.

With the release of Unearthed Arcane, players received a model for having a character start below 1st level in the form of the cavaliers. Magic users received cantrips which hinted at powers before first level. Weapon mastery made fighting classes much stronger while pushing other classes into the non-combat skills.

Obviously, the cavalier and thief acrobat were nods to the cartoon. Clearly TSR wanted to change and update their product long before 2.0.

At the time, 2.0 wasn't available to me and by the time it was, I was already too invested in AD&D. Basically, I was unwilling to change. I had a large group of players, between 5 to 12 players per session, a few of them running 2 character at the same time.

What made this possible was an embryonic idea to codify low-level, non-combat oriented characters. While much of this was roleplay for my players, a bit of it dove into the skills possessed by these secondary characters.

Fast forward 33 years to 2018. That stack of notes, rules of thumb and memories of the fun were transformed into an actual pamphlet so that others could implement these types of secondary characters into their campaigns. Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners was born.

It started with a list of 50 professions from the middle ages. In January 2019, the list increased by 9 and later reached 61 in October of the same year. The professions are broken into 3 groups: Sedentary, Active and Laboring which determines their hit points. The characters are average people, so they have ability scores generated by average dice, numbers 2-5 weight towards 3 and 4 or collectively as 9 to 12. Combat skills were limited to using the tools of the trade, which are poor cousins of real weapons. Each new "class" has its own abilities, which are flexible and sometimes overlapping. The classes feature their own levels, from 1-5 which have nothing to do with combat or treasure hunting.

These rules were meant to flesh out NPC classes and includes a table of modifiers for hiring them. But I also wanted to make rules for converting a non-player character to one the main classes in D&D and AD&D.

Once a professional becomes a fully fleshed out player character, I needed to include rules for the tools of the trade. Can a mason turned magic user use a hammer? Sure, why not. Within limits. Stats for mauls, hammers, woodworking axes, zaxes and various other implements were created. These improvised or unusual weapons were define in such a way so as to delineate them from traditional weapons of war. In the right hands, they are powerful tools, in the wrong hands they are poor cousins of their martial variants.

Due to the use of average dice for these characters, a path to "rescuing" a hopeless character was created. All of these rules were designed with the existing D&D and AD&D classes in mind. While not entirely balanced, because the regular classes are not balanced, they are not overpowering. The intent was to flesh out bit part NPC and color player characters with a background.

I hope you will take the time to read Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners and incorporate it into your game. I also have a character sheet for use with characters designed with Unearthed Arcana. Both are available at DriveThruRPG at a suggest price of $0.99 or PWYW.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Scribs – Will Two’s Story

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.

William the Scribe does not have a mysterious background like his friend William of Northmost. His family is overly large and he was apprenticed to Jordan the Money Changer in Tabletop. He was to learn math and writing.
William and Jordan hated each other. The Money Changer had foolish agreed to a 7 year contract for William’s apprenticeship thinking that the funds from his family would be worth the investment. William showed himself to be very adept at math and writing and had reached anyone’s expectations for an apprentice in just 9 months.
Some suspect that William had annoyed Jordan by second guessing him. Other guessed that Jordan was threaten by him. Both are actually true. William had noticed someone short changing the Money Changer and alerted him. It turns out that Jordan was running some sort of tax scheme and later lost his head when the Council of Tabletop found out.
By his tenth birthday, he had annoyed Jordan so much that he apprenticed him to Otto Lanskeep for a princely sum.
Otto and his wife liked William very much. He was very curious, had a great memory and wonderful wit. From the start, he was able to charm guests and anticipate their needs. Even the rough and rude hunters who frequented the Lodge.
William the Scribe was almost part of the family. He wouldn’t claim that right until he earned his nickname in The Battle of the Compass Rose.

Navigation in order: 

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