Thursday, 28 July 2016

Random Table - Goblins!!!

Artwork from the Pathfinder SRD
Goblins are a staple of every low-level adventurer's murder-diet. But they can get a little stale after a while. So, here's a random table to help determine exactly what kind of goblins are inhabiting your next dungeon...

Roll 1d10The Goblins Are Actually...
1Backwoods little cavemen. Their weapons are crafted from bone, any armour is leather and bone, and they train various dire and prehistoric animals as guard animals and attack beasts. Their chief rides an odd rat-sabertooth hybrid (stats as a sabertooth/lion with a disease bite)
2Masters of alchemy, in a trailer-park meth lab kind of way. They sling alchemical bombs and weapons, some have been modified by their masters (stats as anything else, like Ogres, Otyugh etc. visually horribly mutated goblin-beasts), plenty of drugs as loot. Some even have weapons of crystallized poison (one-use, does damage and make a Save vs Poison at a -4 penalty).
3More than a little fey-tainted. They aspire to be more than their nature, but instead find themselves organised into grotesque mockeries of the Fey Courts, wearing mismatched clothes robbed from well-to do Halflings and Gnomes, and fighting with rusted rapiers and Elven weapons. Their speech patterns are filled with weirdly flowery prose mixed with base insults and filth.
4Ruled over by a Demon-descended goblin, head and shoulders taller than the others, with a cruel smile, all the immunities and one special ability from its parent demon. His followers paint their faces with blood, sacrifice captives, and worship him as a God. May have some least demons in his service as well.
5Infected with spores from a weird fungus in the dungeon. At night they are placid - you could even just walk right past them. But during the day, they wander the dungeon aimlessly, until the find a source of light brighter than ambient - then they suicidally rush it, hoping to infect more organisms until someone carries their spores outside of the dungeon to be carried away on the winds to another dungeon. More advanced infectees sprout hideous growths and have blind, lifeless eyes.
6Have become strangely well-adapted to their dungeon environment - pale and hairless, bulbous blank eyes, lanky limbs with claws and oddly sticky hands - stats as Kobolds, plus perfect darkvision, permanent Spider Climb, and a severe aversion to light (they flee from light, and if forced to fight fight at -3 to all rolls). They go out of their way to remove or extinguish torches.
7Cargo cultists who worship ancient Dwarven machines within their dungeon. Many wear brass armour and jewelery, and any with standing in the tribe (lieutenants, the chieftain) have Dwarven weapons (+1 damage), and may have constructed the ever-feared Goblin Tank from inexpertly-welded shields and scraps.
8Brutal little cannibals. They wear demi-human skin-masks, carry cleavers and rusty kitchen tools, and don't kill their victims, instead capturing them to keep them fresh. There is a 25% chance that any given goblin is afflicted with a prion disease from eating brains (permanent berserker state, foaming, unable to tell friend from foe). Their areas always smell of cooking pork, and their loot often contains some pretty tasty jerky. 
9Oddly in touch with nature. They only use wooden weapons, wear leather armour, and their senior members (lieutenants,etc) have the abilities of a Ranger of their HD. The Chieftain has abilities as a Druid of her HD. Their areas are full of Assassin Vines and Shriekers which don't react to the goblins, and many animals (both regular and Dire) wander with them.
10Seem pretty nice. They're converts to the local religion, they trade with the locals, and are well-groomed and respectable. This is a front - they're all thralls of a powerful psionic creature, who uses them to allow him to trade for valuable components for a great machine it's building, to allow it to control hundreds of beings at a time.

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

What's The Deal With The Guy In The Corner Of The Tavern?

So, like I said - it's been a while since I posted here on the regular, and I'm still finding my feet with what to write about. Maybe some random tables will help get me in the groove again...

What’s With That Guy in the Corner?

Every tavern has That One Guy who sits in a darkened corner, mysteriously brooding or brooding mysteriously. What the hell is his deal?

He’s Actually…
Recruiting for a Chaotic cult. Might be a good way to gain access to some unusual abilities… or end up chained to a sacrificial altar.
A thickly-accented peddler from some unheard-of foreign land. His goods are of fine quality, but unusual – odd tinctures and alchemical mixes, drugs, black powder weapons – whatever just slightly breaks the feeling of your current location.
Offering quests, surprise surprise. There’s a 10% chance he’s working with local bandits, who will attempt to rob the players when they reach their destination.
Attempting to sell phony magical trinkets to drunken patrons, preying on local fears. 1% chance that it actually works!
A member of the Thieves Guild, watching out for thieves of particular talent for a job, or eyeing up drunken adventurers with gold burning a hole in their coin purse…
A sorcerer, offering money for willing participants in various experiments. He pays well, but there’s always the chance something might go wrong… (Roll 1d4: 1 – random stat reduced by 1d4 2 – random stat increased by 1d4 3 – Minor physical change 4 – Roll on mutation table!)
A randomly generated Hireling, who simply wants to try and con for better prices through being so mysterious.
An actor hired by the tavern owner to add atmosphere. He’ll angrily shoo people away who try to break his mystique.
A Murder-Brother of the Assassin’s Guild, looking out for a particular target – he’ll happily give gold for information… just pray he's not looking for you.
The Small God of Loose Lips – will ply patrons with drinks in the hope of them letting loose some valuable little tidbit as tribute… Save vs Magic at -4 to resist.
A Paladin of Nemesis, Goddess of Revenge. He's keeping an eye out for the wronged and helpless, to aid them in finding their retribution.
Awaiting the arrival of a band of Halfling adventurers. They owe him some money, and he’s looking for some leg-breakers to help deal with his little problem…

5e's Unearthed Arcana - My Thoughts

So, in an effort to stave off the splat-treadmill of 3rd edition D&D (a tradition still alive in Paizo's ridiculous amount of books for sale and more on the horizon), WotC has been keeping releases to a minimum - one Adventure Path every 6 months or so, and so far only a single actual sourcebook.

There's also the fact that the D&D team has been downsized dramatically - leading to a lack of people to work on new products.

This lack of "official" content has led to an interesting experiment - the "Unearthed Arcana" articles posted monthly. These are short little documents detailing a variety of new rules - new races, class options, some hints to help set a 5e game in a classic setting, or in-depth looks at alternatives for current rules. These are all marked as "early" content - they might not be fully balanced, might show up in a different form in later books. As they say in the intro, "they're written in pencil, not ink." But they do what they set out to do pretty well - give some examples of how to adapt content, and to encourage others to try and make their own content.

Indeed, one can see the recent launch of the DM's Guild as a way to have their cake and eat it. The service allows users to post their own homebrewed ideas, and even get charge for it! Players now have all the content they could want, without having to use vital resources or to stretch their staff even thinner.

But let's focus on the Unearthed Arcana articles. Are they good for the game?

Well, yes and no.

For the good; it's a nice way of releasing small loads of content to fans, while keeping it all optional - if its not in a book, GMs don't necessarily feel forced to include it in their campaigns. It also allows the GMs who want a little more of an example how to alter existing material, to give an unofficial "okay" to those who want to homebrew content. (Of course, this aspect has been supplanted by the DM's Guild). It's also nice to see some love for setting that have't been fully updated yet (the Eberron and Dragonlance mini-bits were surprisingly decent), and lets WotC gauge interest in what content to release next. It's a nice way to maintain interaction with the community, especially now that the Wizards forums have been removed.

But, we come to the bad.

First off, the actual content of these articles varies... wildly. From the awesomely in-depth look at Feats, which picks apart what makes a good Feat and why they only included a few in the core rules, to the most recent - a series of tables to quickly roll up a character. Which honestly takes about as much time as just... making a character. While this is to be expected of what amounts to random doodles from the developers, it does mean that a decent amount of the material released is not going to be any use to your audience - and that's pretty crap when it's the only extra material they get.

Second, it can have something of the opposite effect to what was stated above - instead of encouraging people to go ahead and make their own stuff, people coming from more restrictive systems find themselves having to use these articles as a source of extra options - after all, it comes straight from the developer's pen, so it must be official (wording to the contrary be damned).

And thirdly for the bad stuff - why haven't they done a Dark Sun one yet, dammit!?

All in all, it's an interesting experiment, combining standard practices with the random releases of a developer's blog. I'd like to see more companies follow suit, but a little more creative control wouldn't go amiss.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

The Generic Fantasy Skirmish Game - Now Available!

So, after many years of struggle (and forgetting about the project), I finally got around to finishing my conversion of In The Emperor's Name to a fantasy milieu.

I even gave it a proper name! CLASH. Sounds nice and skirmishy, without being too over-blown.

This game is designed to allow players to use any miniatures they have to hand, and to make sure games are relatively quick. At most, you'll need 3-15 miniatures, some random gubbins for terrain, a D6 per side, and maybe some scatter dice and templates.

The first draft is split into two sections - one with the main rules (like how to price up models, combat and spellcasting, and some sample scenarios), and the second one is given over to the Warband listings. Of course, if you find something that isn't covered, feel free to use the rules in the first part to make your own!

The next releases will probably be either specific scenarios, maybe some bonus rules for Campaigns, or just random extra Warbands that pop into my head.

The CORE RULES are here.

The WARBANDS are here.

As this is the first real draft, please feel free to leave comments, criticisms, hate mail and death threats. But please - go try the game, and let me know what you think!

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Thoughts on a 5e Sandbox

So, over the past few months, I've been running 5e. And, much to my surprise, I've come to really enjoy the system.

When I first tried the playtest packet (way back when it was D&D Next) I wasn't a massive fan. Some of the mechanics were a little too clunky, and WotC couldn't seem to agree on which bits to keep at each change of the playtest rules, jumping from one good idea to a bunch of really terrible ones.

During development, they constantly claimed they were building a "modular" game, sort of like GURPS, which would please everyone - you could use the basic rules for a simple dungeon crawl game, then add the precise rules expansions you wanted to make the game exactly to your liking.

While that never panned out exactly, they did manage to make a system that seems to act as a nice common ground for many people - 3rd Edition fans like the simplified character building minigame, as well as the tactical opportunities presented by the game, while old-school fans like the reduced power level and simplified mechanics. Combined with the few "optional rules" in the DMG, and one gets the sense that this is an edition designed not so much as "modular", but simply very robust when it comes to house rules - one could easily use the bits and bobs they enjoyed from previous editions, combined with parts from others, without the whole thing toppling down in a horrific Franken-Heap.

And to me, that's pretty cool. Is it a perfect system? No, of course not. There's no such thing. But it's a good baseline to start on.

So, the game I've been running has been pretty awesome - most of the playtime has come from the consequences of running a 5e-ified (i.e. less randomly deadly and more tied-together) Death Frost Doom, along with hints of Vornheim and a few other sources.

However, the group is currently struggling to get together as regularly as they once managed, meaning most weeks anywhere between one and three players can't make it. This makes it pretty hard to keep any sort of long-term plot running smoothly.

So, once the last of the DFD game is done (a few more sessions should do it), I need a new plan.

Enter The West Marches.

For those of you who don't know, the West Marches game was set up in such a way as to be easy for players to drop in and out - every session was a self-contained adventure, with the group/groups varying in number, composition, even level depending on who can attend that day. Each game was arranged beforehand, with the players in attendance deciding beforehand where they will go, what their objective was for that session, etc. An entirely player-driven experience, with the DM acting solely as a neutral referee for the setting - the "plot" derives solely from the player's actions and decisions.

This means that the fact that some players are only able to make a handful of sessions isn't a huge deal - everyone who can make a session plans it out beforehand, and the players decide exactly what they are going to do, instead of having to catch up and figure out exactly where in the story they are.

As a DM, that means I will be preparing a whole bunch of dungeons, hexes with interesting contents, and fun things to do. I'll be posting things up as I go, looking at how 5e handles a player-driven hexcrawl, and the various synergies and pitfalls that come along with it.

Should be fun.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Back Again

Another bout of health issues, depression and personal shake ups, another absence from the blog.

Hopefully, this should be the last one for a while.

I've been working on various projects which I can share on here, as well as some plans for future games and thoughts on the one I'm currently running.

But this is me dipping my toe back into the waters - let's see if it's as cold as I remember...

Friday, 13 March 2015

I Got My Name In A Thing!

I just wanted to share the joys of Expanded Petty Gods, a crowd sourced project of at Save vs Dragon, which takes the original Petty Gods book and adds divine servants, new spells and other stuff to help you run any of these lesser deities in a campaign.

I submitted a few spells, and it looks like they all got published!

Go check it out!