Thursday, 20 December 2012

Rogue Trader - Alternate/Expanded Navigator Mutations Table

So, after seeing the huge list of other mutations, and Black Crusade's Gifts system, I felt a little underwhelmed by the Navigator Mutations Table. I understand that Navigators are meant to be a more stable mutation (almost Abhumans), but I feel that they should have a little bit more variety.

They're ripped off from inspired by Dune's Navigators, who are a pretty varied lot, mutated in various horrific ways by exposure to the Spice melange - I would assume that the Warp should have a far worse effect.

After all, many of the Navigator Houses are into genetic modification, and perform in-vitro gene therapy on their scions to enhance their abilities, so some oddness might not be too out of order. Plus, the current table means that many Navigators pick up the same mutations as they increase in power - but really, why would fucking about with The Warp result in anything being similar?

Roll 1d100!

01-09 Unusual Skin - your flesh takes on an unusual hue, reflective of your unnatural origins.
Roll  1d5:
1-3 Deathly Pale - much like a corpse that has been left in water, translucent and almost blue. A surprisingly common mutation for Navigators.
4 Yellowish Hue - like someone suffering terrible jaundice, you have an almost bruised appearance.
5 Black as Night - like polished obsidian, pure dark and menacing.

09-13 Slender Frame - you grow dramatically in height, your limbs lengthening to eerie proportions. You lose 1d10 Toughness, but gain 1d10 Agility. You also gain the penalties of the Size (Hulking) Trait.

14-18 Inhuman Visage - the Empyrean changes your features, leaving you looking less than human - perhaps your nose is little more than a pair of slits, your mouth seamless enough to look non-existent, or your eyes are unblinking and a shade no natural being could achieve, shimmering with the roiling chaos of the Warp. You gain the Fear (1) Trait.

19-23 Teeth As Sharp As Needles -over the course of a few days, you teeth begin to fall out, replaced by hundreds of needle-like extrusions. These teeth regularly shed, but are replaced within a day or so. You gain the Natural Weapons Trait (1d5 Rending, Pen 1).

24-28 Marbled Veins - underneath your skin, your veins are a very obvious black - the seething corruption of your twisted birthright making itself known. You suffer -5 to all Fellowship tests.

29-33 Nictitating Membranes - you develop extra eyelids, that closes horizontally underneath your regular trio. You gain a +10 bonus to Toughness tests to resist being Blinded, and a +5 to any attempts to resist Warp-related phenomena (by slamming your Third Eye shut).
34-38 Disturbing Grace - your movements seem less real - as you see the winding paths of possibility unfolding before you, your body chooses its own path before the real world can catch up. You gain the Unnatural Agility (x2) Trait.

39-43 Warp-Fed - the energies of the Empyrean surge within you, providing sustenance where food cannot, and your physiology has been altered to the point where you need some small connection to the Warp to survive. You no longer need to eat or breathe - however, in the presence of a Null Rod or other anti-Warp phenomena, you must start taking Toughness tests to resist suffocation (as per the rules for drowning).
44-48 Unnatural Aura - you exude an aura of ill-feeling - animals are wary (as are people), you smell like ancient places best forgotten, or your sheer presence causes people to taste nought but ashes in their mouth - whatever the reason, all Fellowship rolls are made at -10, except those to intimidate or frighten - those gain +10.

49-53 Clawed Fingers - your nails become long, and shine dully like some ashen metal, or the bones of your fingers protrude past your skin. You gain the Natural Weapons Trait (1d5 Rending, Pen 1). If your roll this mutation twice, the claws become longer (Pen 2) but you suffer a -10 to any Characteristic Tests involving fine dexterity.
54-58 Gaunt Frame - you are little but flesh and bone. -1d10 Strength or Toughness, whichever is lowest. If you roll this mutation a second time, you lose another 5 points of Strength or Toughness.

59-63 Strange Vitality - your body is flushed with strange energies that help wounds heal, bones knit back together, and barely leave a trace of their passing. You gain the Regeneration (1) Trait.
64-68 Hairless -  you are unable to grow any form of bodily hair, and any you may have will fall out almost overnight - no eyebrows, eyelashes, or even protective nasal hairs. You suffer a -5 to Toughness Tests to resist inhaled toxins.
69-73 Unusual Pupils - whether square, like a goat, slitted like a reptile, or a widely variant colour (such as red, yellow, or blue), your pupils reflect the corruption of your soul. You gain a -5 penalty to any Perception checks.
74-78 Stout Frame - you become obese, almost overnight, and exercise shifts little of the flab. Gain +5 Toughness. If you roll this mutation twice, you gain another +5 Toughness, but lose the ability to Run. If you roll a third time, you can only move at your slowest speed increment without assistance, lose -2d10 Agility and gain the Size (Hulking) Trait. 
79-83 Warpsight - more and more, you rely on your Third Eye to guide you, until eventually, the Sight that the Navigator Gene grants you starts to leak over into your view of realspace. The souls of those around you shine like beacons, psykers are miniature infernos, and the creatures of the Warp linger around, sharks sniffing at the blood of those around you. You can see the souls of those around you - all Awareness Tests gain a +10 bonus; however, any Scrutiny Tests suffer a –10 penalty - you are less able to see such mundane things as facial expressions.

84-88 Weakness of The Flesh - your flesh is barely held on at the best of times, but under duress it seems to slough from you like wet paper. You lose one Wound permanently, and all Critical Damage rolls are treated as though they had rolled one higher. If you roll this mutation again, the effects stack up to three times (so, lose up to three wounds and treat Critical Damage as up to three points higher).
89-93 Twisted Frame - your flesh twists back on itself, and your bones curve in all the wrong places. You cannot Run and lose 1d10 Ag. If you roll this mutation twice, you cannot move unassisted, and lose another 1d10 Ag.

94-98 Disturbing Voice - screeching like nails down a chalkboard, or so low as to make bowels loosen, your voice is a horror to behold. You suffer a -10 penalty to any Fellowship tests involving speech, but gain +10 to any Intimidate tests involving speech.

99-00 Maddening Clarity - your senses have been altered by the Warp, extending out from your body and sensing things man was not meant to know - colours hold dark shades not fit for mortal eyes, sounds echo with the laughter of thirsting Gods, and every taste echoes with a thousand forbidden pleasures. When you open your Third Eye, the Warp seems even stranger than before... almost inviting. You gain the Unnatural Perception (x2) Trait, but also immediately gain 2d10 permanent Insanity Points, and 2d10 Corruption Points.
Should you roll the same mutation twice, reroll - unless otherwise stated in the mutation's description.

You are, of course, free to work any of these as you wish - like Unusual Pupils representing cat-like eyes, or milky cataracts, or just a strange colouration (even albinism). Some might work out kinda weirdly - like granting mutually exclusive bonuses or extras. A good example would be Stout Frame and Weakness of the Flesh - extra Toughness, but also a lot more vulnerable. GMs and players should discuss the best way to integrate both mutations (so, your physiology is tough, you resist poisons well, and your bodily integrity is sound - but some Empyrean rot has settled underneath your skin, letting it slough away at any opportunity, and once it gets past that outer layer of fat, there's nothing there), or, in the case of ones which are totally at odds with existing ones, re-roll - but don't let this be an excuse to get rid on undesirable rolls! Navigators must suffer the fruits of their cursed bloodline - it's all part of the GrimDark.

Legal Note: I have reproduced, without permission, items from a property owned by Fantasy Flight Games. I do not own any of the terms used (including Navigator, Mutation Table, any of the Characteristics, and the word "The"). I'm doing this as a non-profit gig, so please don't sue me. To be fair, FFG aren't  The Evil Empire sorry, Games Workshop, so I'm sure I'll be fine. Just saying.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Hidden Weapons: Some Ideas for D&D

So, I caught a recent thread somewhere about weird and wonderful weapons, and something that came up was that many Indian weapons had sections that could "break off" to provide a backup weapon. For example, most polearms were built with a removable dagger in the handle, presumably to allow for close-quarters fighting in a pinch. Another was the mace with a sword hidden in the handle and shaft - great if your weapon gets stuck, or you need a sharp implement fast.

It's something that isn't well represented on the tabletop, so I had a few ideas about how to implement such things:

  • Polearms with hidden blades allow you to switch from a reach weapon to a close-combat dagger as a Free Action (instead of a Free Action to drop the weapon, and a move action to draw another one). Useful for swarms of small enemies who can get right on top of you.
  • Maces (I'd also allow clubs, greatclubs, morningstars and most other blunt weapons) with blades hidden within the handle allow you to switch from Blunt/Bashing damage to Slashing damage as a free action once per encounter - useful if you get swallowed whole by some huge beastie and need to cut your way out. Should you roll a Critical Failure in combat, causing you to lose or damage your weapon, you can negate the failure by switching to the other weapon (though the attack is still considered a miss).
I might throw together a few more ideas shortly...

Monday, 10 December 2012

RIP Sir Patrick Moore

It's been a tough year for astronomers (even amateur ones like myself), with the passing of two great heroes - Neil Armstrong, and now Sir Patrick Moore.

Moore got himself into astronomy at the age of 6 - he chanced upon a book about the solar system, and kick-started a life-long passion.

I used to present shows in the Glasgow Science Centre's Planetarium - and Moore was a massive influence on those shows. His jovial, excited manner about all aspects of the field was infectious - he knew that he wasn't just looking at pretty, twinkling lights, but at primal forces of nature - huge explosions, beyond all human scope, the building blocks of the entire universe (all matter, from the lowliest hydrogen atom to the most complicated elements, was at some point passed through a star; without them, complex life couldn't exist), givers of life and destroyers of worlds.

Fair enough, he was also a xenophobic, un-PC, crotchety old bastard (quoted as saying "the only good Kraut is a dead Kraut" not but a few years ago), but his work in the science of astronomy, and ensuring it was passed on the the masses (The Sky At Night ran for 55 years, and he only missed presenting one show, because he had food poisoning) was worth more than a few poorly-chosen world views.

One again this year, I'm going out to look at the stars. I hope you'll join me.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Hunter: The Vigil - Why "The Code" Is An Awesome Idea

I've always had some issues with games which have a Morality stat/Alignment/whatever. Human morality is such a flexible thing, and so many terrible actions can be justified in so many ways that really, there's no way to measure or codify them without forcing your views on the subject onto other people.

As an example (and a great way to start a dinner table fight), is rape worse than murder? What "numbers" do you put on either of those? Remember, killing is not the same as murder - the premeditation, the lack of mitigating factors...

It's a slippery slope to get started on, and not one I want to get drawn into today. What I wanted to look at is the World Of Darkness Morality track, and why Hunter: The Vigil introduces one of the best ways to run it.

You see, Morality is ranked on a scale of 1-10, as are certain severity of acts. Should you commit an act that is at the same severity as your current Morality, you need to roll dice - if you fail, your outlook on life is irrevocably changed, and your Morality falls by one. After that, you need to check to see if you gain a Derangement - a mental illness, phobia, etc. It's a slightly clunky system, which suffers from a somewhat arbitrary list of crimes (burning down a building is almost as bad as killing someone, Grand Theft isn't as bad as burning down a building), as well as the fact that shoplifting once can net you a minor mental illness due to the Derangement system.

For a game of dark, personal horror, where you are expected to go mad and plump the depths of depravity to achieve your goals, to push your characters (and players) to see what they are really capable of, then go for it. See you on the other side, as you push your way out through the filth and despair to find your true self. But I want to run a game of Hunter where it's okay to kill a monster. Where the biggest problem with burning down a building is someone catching you doing it. Where you know these things are necessary, and don't want to go crazy from doing what's right.

So, I'll be using a couple of the suggestions from the Hunter book, but most prominently - The Code. Using The Code allows you to "swap out" Sins on your Humanity meter with others you define, making the Morality track that little bit more relevant to you, and re-enforcing one of the game's central themes - that The Vigil is an incredibly personal quest; that everyone might come to the same path from very different perspectives. However, each time you move away from this "standard" Morality, you find it a little bit harder to understand why people do the things they do, and why they can't see that what you are doing is okay.

To steal an example right out of the book - say you're a Hunter to has to scrape together the last of your paycheck to pay your bills, your healthcare, your kid's private tuition, and you need to eat on top of that... that doesn't leave a lot of cash to buy supplies for the Vigil. So, you might need to shoplift some stuff from the local DIY store, to build a zip-gun to stake a bloodsucker from a distance.

Under the normal system, if you were at Morality 7 (the average for a starting character), you would need to make a test to see if your Morality drops, and possibly acquire a Derangement. Under The Code, however, you could use this as a Trigger Point - a time when you use The Vigil to justify acts that separate you from regular humanity. You could substitute "Minor Theft" with "Not Sharing Resources With Team-mates" at this point, or even "Letting My Family Go Hungry" - whatever the ST agrees to. From that point on, shoplifting isn't a concern for you - but not feeding your children, or leaving your Cell without proper support, is.

For taking a Trigger Point, you gain a Tell - pretty much a Vigil-specific Derangement (like Paranoia, Hypochondria, or starting to find the Vigil to be a little too... arousing). Each one of these you accrue nets you -1 die to all your Social rolls.

... what? So, I shoplift to feed my family, I gain a specific problem, and that affects all my attempts at interacting with the world? What about people I don't know - do they know that I need to jack off after I beat a monster to death? Am I incapable of hiding my hypochondria about catching supernatural cooties when I'm chatting with my friends? There are well-documented reports of people who seem "like such a nice guy", then they find all the bodies stuffed into his fridge.

People lie all the time, but they can hide it. Why can't a Hunter? Are they that far removed from the human condition, just because they can take an objective view of what they do?

I call shenanigans.

For my campaign, you will get Tells from Morality 5 Sins and lower, for breaking one of your new Morality Sins, or for repeatedly breaking a level 6 Sin.

At least, that's the plan at the moment - we'll see how it pans out in-game.

Props to Subject to Stupidity for the awesome picture!

Friday, 30 November 2012

Microlite20: Skyrim's Nords

So, I have a friend who's never played D&D before coming home from a placement out in Canada, and I've managed to convince her to play a game when she gets here.

When chatting about character concepts, she said she wanted to play her Skyrim character - a brutal Nord warrior-woman.

Well, the Fighter (or one of the Barbarian homebrews) will fit perfectly for the Class, and I'll maybe work up a nice Advance scheme for her, but the Race is a little different from your baseline Human.

So, here's my first draft:

+1 STR, Resist Cold 5

Nord Advances
Battle Cry - you can Cause Fear as a Mage of your level once per day, with no HP cost
Warrior Culture - you gain +1 to-hit and damage with greatswords, battleaxes, and clubs.
Legendary Endurance - your Resist Cold increases to Resist 7
Hardy - you gain a +1 Natural Armour bonus
Rough Demeanour - you gain a +2 bonus to any rolls to Intimidate.

Looks good so far, but I might tweak it later. I'm also considering converting a few more Races from Skyrim to M20, and there's a sick little part of me that wants to work up a Dovahkin Class...

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

My Gaming Shelves...

Are surprisingly light due to the fact that I mostly use PDFs and borrow other people's books.

Disappointing, I know, but I will post my girlfriend's shelf this weekend.

You will marvel at it, in awe, and wonder how many books one needs to pretend to be a vampire.

Planar Undead: The Heroic Dead of Ysgard

Ysgard is a plane of the joy of battle - great heroes from all over the Multiverse come here, either when they die, or make it here still living to join the never-ending battles that take place here. It is a place of glory, honourable combat, and great heroes, both living and dead.

Sometimes, this never-ending battle can have strange effects on those who fall. The Plane has a slight bias towards Positive Energy - even the direst injuries are healed with great speed, and those who die are simply reconstituted the morning after their death (as if under the effects of a True Ressurection spell). Those who die many, many times may find themselves returning as one of the Heroic Dead - a strange form of Undeath, bestowed by the Plane to those who have proved their valour and glory time and time again.

They appear as themselves, wearing the armour and weapons they used in life (and still just as skilled, too), though they posess a shining, radiant quality. They appear "more" - they are taller, faster, more muscular, a shining example of their species. Their voices echo with power, and their will is unbreakable.

Consider this a "template", to apply to any humanoid (and a few distinctly less so), though other creatures like Dragons might also qualify, if they have proved themselves worthy.

AC - 18, regardless of armour
HD/HP - 8HD/Max HP per die (or more, if the base creature posesses more HD)
Attacks - 2, Favoured Weapon, +4 to hit
Alignment - CG
Special Attacks - the Heroic Dead can exude Positive Energy to Turn Undead as a Cleric of their HD. The Heroic Dead are also resistant to the level draining effects of other Undead, though other Negative Energy attacks may harm them as normal. Heroic Undead also have all other Undead qualities (immune to Charm and Illusion spells, etc).

Sunday, 18 November 2012

What I Want To Run

I'm getting a hankering for GMing once again, so I'll post up what I fancy running in case I can direct a few people here to choose what they want to play.

Also, should anyone in the Glasgow area fancy one of these games... well, leave a comment and we'll see what we can do!

The Sacred Art of Stealing
This city is rotten. The Noble Families have wrought nothing but nepotism and corruption here - how often do the streets run red with the blood of innocents due to their personal, petty struggles?

The Guard has either fallen or joined their cause. They become more brash - practically criminals themselves, bar a dedicated few. There's no guilds, unions, or organisations left that haven't had the taint of their hand in their ranks.

Well, there is one... The Thieves Guild.

Players take the role of members of the Valerian's Reach Thieves Guild, the only organisation not infiltrated by the local Noble Families to be used in their wars over territory and personal squabbles. It's time they learned their lesson - the hard way.
  • Mission-based, with sandbox elements (so, the players will receive specific orders from their superiors, but are free to pursue them as they see fit, as well as "downtime" between missions where they can follow personal plots and side-quests).
  • Gritty, low-powered game - players should be able to think their way out of trouble, rather than rely on their combat abilities.
  • Low Magic - magic items are rare (as in unpurchasable, for the most part), and access to spellcasting will be limited. There might be simple firearms (black powder weapons), depending on interest.
  • Either 3.5 or Pathfinder, using the E6 variant and a few other tweaks.
What You Are In The Dark
Let me tell you something. The world isn't what it seems. Behind closed doors, under the cover of night... things stir and toil against humanity. Witches who cloud the minds of men. Beasts who take human form, to better prey on us. Creatures of the night who survive by killing us, devouring our souls to reproduce. Ancient entities that walked the Earth before life was truly born.

And we won't stand for it. Each of us... a candle against the unending night. We won't ever "win" - no one candle can light up the darkness. But enough of us together, we can push it back, even just a little.

And if we're lucky... well, it only takes one candle to start a wildfire.

Tool up. We're going hunting.

Players take the role of Hunters in the World of Darkness version of Glasgow - a bright, striving city by day, which hides a seedy underbelly of corruption, death, and the occult. Can you defend your homes, your families, the innocents of the city, with little more than your bare hands, your wits, and sheer determination?
  • Hunter: The Vigil Chronicle (nWoD system) with a few of the Hacks from various sources.
  • Somewhat more "heroic" than normal, but still deadly and grim.
  • Sandbox - choose how and where you wish to protect, and be prepared for assaults from all sides.
  • Players should expect a lot of investment in the setting - they'll be setting up relationships, creating NPCs and locales, maybe even helping to dictate the enemies they face.
The Fall of House VanDemarr
It is the 41st Millennium. For more than a hundred centuries the Emperor has sat immobile on the Golden Throne of Earth. He is the Master of Mankind, and master of a million worlds by the might of his inexhaustible armies. He is a rotting carcass writhing invisibly with power from the Dark Age of Technology. He is the Carrion Lord of the Imperium for whom a thousand souls are sacrificed every day, so that he may never truly die.

To be a man in such times is to be one amongst untold billions. Fortunately, you are not just a man - you're one of the richest men that humanity has ever seen. You are a Rogue Trader, and the uncharted depths of the galaxy are your playground. You and your closest advisors plumb the darkness, find lost human civilisations, dread xenos, The Witch, The Mutant, and The Heretic. And, most importantly,

There is no peace amongst the stars, only an eternity of carnage and slaughter, and the laughter of thirsting gods. 

Strap on your most expensive hat, and wolf down this white truffle and caviar sandwich, Lord-Captain - we're going to Hell and back.

Players take the role of a Rogue Trader and his crew, plundering the stars for fame and profit. You'll face problems, enemies old and new, invasions, and the results of your own
  • Total sandbox - I'll throw out a few plot hooks, but this is a game driven by the crew's thirst for profit.
  • The tone will be skewed towards "grimdark" - an incredibly serious game, so serious it's totally ridiculous. Mainly though, it's pulpy action and adventure/investigation/whatever you get up to.
  • I have a few systems in mind for this one. First, Risus - I laid the groundwork for such a game here. And, again, MiniSix40k has passed through my mind, too.
  • There's an awesome Apocalypse World Hack here which is the most likely system.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Planning a Delve: Themeing Your Dungeon

How awesome is this!

So - you want to make a dungeon. You've got some cool ideas, an awesome map, even found something horrible from the Monster Manual for a great boss-fight for the end.

But what is your dungeon?

The theme of your dungeon helps to figure out why it's there, what's in it, and what the players will do once they get there.

Location-based dungeons can be easy to theme. Say it's a Wizard's Tower - you need some weird magic-based monsters (Living Spells, unusual Undead, Owlbears, Animated Objects), unusual traps (either traps explicitly made using magic, or "natural" hazards like pools of pure elemental matter, doorknobs that have been supercharged with electricity, etc), and some cool set-pieces (like a battle that occurs in a room with no gravity, or an area that continually shifts between the different Elemental Planes, or a series of rooms hooked up via teleportation gates).

Another easy way to work out your dungeon's theme is to think what type of creatures might inhabit it. For a classic example, The Crypt Full of Undead. You've seen it so many times, the ideas practically roll onto the page unbidden (creepy surroundings, no light sources, a few cursed items, skeletons, zombies, a couple of souped-up versions like Ogre Zombies or something such, weird encounters, spirits, bugs, ancient yet still functional traps, etc). While it might seem cliche, you can mix it up a little with underused monster types - an all Aberration dungeon (maybe a cave system with a link to the Underdark or Far Realms) could be really interesting, as could the legendary Ooze-based dungeon (you don't want to know where they all came from...).

Picking a theme, however, should mean more than picking monsters out of the books. If you do take Aberrations as your theme - did you pick them because they're weird? If so, make sure the dungeon reflects that. Non-Euclidean geography, maps that lie (or areas that constantly change shape), the chance of madness for PCs, a few mind-screw elements here and there... really amp up the theme of weird. If it's a tomb full of Undead, is your theme Horror? If so, make sure the descriptions of the Undead are terrible to behold, that there are hints of their past lives (or perhaps the suffering they are/were going through before becoming shambling horrors).
Even try and add a little fright into the metagame, by using Undead the players are not familiar with - whether from more obscure books, or made up yourself (and because I love to plug his awesome work, Dyson Logos has a great table for Unusual Undead Abilities) - when your players face off against a horde of zombies, only to find out each of them can teleport, or throw lightening bolts into the group.

Similarly, if you want to take things down a Cliche route for laughs, then ensure that everything's been done before - there's snakes (why did it have to be snakes?), mummies, trapped sarcophagi, legions of skeletal warriors, and dark wizard at the end... you know the drill. Try and add some light-hearted elements, like an Obviously Evil Bystander who turns out to be the villain, some comical mid-dungeon NPCs, whatever you want to reinforce the idea of humour.

My theme for this dungeon will be "Magic and Illusion" - as such, I'll be making a (not-so) Abandoned Wizard's Tower, which allows me quite a lot of leeway in how I go about it!

Monday, 12 November 2012

200th Post!

Well, I meant to get this up over the weekend, but due to an awesome time of noisy neighbours, unexpected guests, helping with moving, crippling migranes and the cat taking a massive adventure (hiding in the noisy neighbour's flat for 24 hours), I was a little busy.

So, another milestone achieved. I think I've got quite a bit of useful stuff up here, and I'm hoing to continue that for the next 200 posts.

The Dungeon Generation posts are coming along swimmingly, assuming I can find the time to get them finished up and posted.

The Unnamed Generic Fantasy Skirmish Game is still in the planning stages - I'm reading through both In The Emperor's Name and Mordheim for inspiration. I'm currently draftin rules for the following warbands/factions:
  • Dwarves - slow, tough, maybe with a bit of steam-punk machinery and rune magic
  • Elves - quick, weak, powerful magic-users and stealth options
  • Humans - the perfect average, but needs an extra "incentive"
  • Orcs - tough, brutal, but shoddy equipment and not much magic
  • Goblins - stealth and numbers are key!
  • Hobgoblins - militaristic, coordinated, maybe an "elite" faction (i.e. models are better but more expensive, so fewer total models than average)
  • Lizardmen - a mix of stealth and hard-hitting
And maybe a few more, as they come to me.

And, once again, thanks to everyone for following me for so long!

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Planning a Delve: Dungeon Generation

So, as either a useful introduction for newcomers to the RPG scene, or a fun exercise for the more experienced, I'm going to run through the creation of a dungeon, from start to finish, with commentary about each step and the pitfalls that I personally face.

While making dungeons for a campaign is a deep, involved process, I didn't want to add more trouble (and limit the usefulness) of the dungeon by tying it to a particular game, so I plan on making it a stand-alone dungeon, perhaps for a sandbox-style game I might run at some point. I'll include some tips on campaigns and such as I go, no doubt.

The first part should be up tonight or tomorrow, focusing on the first thing you have to decide on when making a dungeon: theme. Whether it's a Wizard's Tower, a pit of unfathomable abominations from beyond time and space, or a natural cave system overrun with bandits, the theme of the dungeon needs to be established early on!

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Necromunda or Bust...

Well, mainly bust.

We never got around to the Necromunda game this weekend, due to fatigue, illness, and a fateful Saturday morning delivery from LoveFilm:


I should settle my affairs now, to prevent the shame of dieing in front of the screen with no will ready...

Monday, 5 November 2012

Unformed Idea: Generic Fantasy Skirmish

So, I've noticed that many fantasy skirmish games are somewhat mired in their settings - Confrontation, Mordheim, Shadowsea... I'd like something that could conceivably use any fantasy mini, from Warhammer to the D&D pre-paints. I've heard Song of Blade and Heroes is also generic enough to use just about anything, but I've also heard that it's incredibly simple - too "light" for some.

So here's some ideas as they come to me:
  • I like the idea of a simple system, with flexibility and depth. In The Emperor's Name seems to have just the right balance of both - I'll maybe use it as a base, or use a similar "Grit" system.
  • Although I'd rename it "Heroism", or something more fantasy-appropriate.
  • In keeping with that theme, units and abilities will have a set points value, to allow for easier balancing of forces. 
  • The idea of WYSISWG for models is pretty cool - it allows you to use just about any fantasy mini, and make a quick judgement call based on how it is armed.
  • Melee should dominate - arrows or bolts could take enemies out easily in large numbers, but one-on-one it would take a pretty lucky (or skilled) shot.
  • Classic fantasy races are classic for a reason - I'll keep things generic by making them as close to the standard as possible.
  • However, I'll take a leaf out of Fantasy Craft's book, with a selection of special purchases or "perks" that allow players to customise their teams to closer reflect various famous interpretations of these races. (For a points cost, or replacing other special abilities).
  • While there will be standard, more powerful Leader units for each Race, there will also be recruitable mercenaries - Adventurers. I'll keep them somewhat cliche (like the Elven Ranger, Halfling Thief, etc). They'll have some unique abilities, be a little tougher and cost a little more because of it.
  • I might even include a way to create your own Adventurers, a list of special qualities and abilities along with points costs, to allow players to run a whole adventuring party through some classic "dungeon crawl" scenarios.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Preparing The Underhive...

So - I'm planning on playing a friendly game of Necromunda this weekend. I'm currently in the process of creating some terrain, or at least prepping it for quick-building once I get to my location.

I have a lot of sketches done for large-ish structures, to act as the main terrain pieces, and I plan on making some simple barricades/shipping containers to help supplement it. To prevent the "shooty" gangs from holding too much power (my opponent is thinking of taking Van Saar), I'm trying to make a balance between cluttered, LoS-blocking pieces for the ground level, and exposed "sniper perches" and other high-level areas for those who can claim them first.

I'm also going to make up a few Objective markers, using scrap, sprue and bitz - either placed on a miniature bases or done on similar-sized cardboard.

As I am skint, and this is a friendly one-off, we're not sinking too much money into it. Hell, we're not sinking any money into it - our scenery will be cardboard and household items, and our miniatures will be plastic Army Men. It will be great.

I'll provide some photos (and maybe a battle report) over the weekend.

Random Table: You Find Some... Meat

Yes, I'm in a weird Random Table mood.

Many humanoid creatures are known for not being too choosy what they eat. They can survive on the barest of rations, heartily supplemented by scraps of meat they find or take from kills and dry in their lairs.

Should your players locate such a lair, and such a food supply, roll on the table!

1. Dog/Wolf - stringy, tough, tasteless
2. Horse - succulent, tough, smells good
3. Rat - not as bad as you'd think, brownish, chewy
4. Small Bird (pigeon, chicken) - white meat, gamey
5. Large Bird (ostrich, roc) - strong taste, white meat, soft
6. Snake - white, fishy, 25% chance of being poisonous
7. Boar - strong-smelling, tasty, sweet, dark red meat
8. Cow - you know beef!
9. Rabbit - gamey, tough, tasty
10. Monstrous Humanoid - tough, smells terrible, full of protein
11. Human/Demi-Human - roll on table below
12. Magical Creature - varies, roll on table below

Sub-Table: Human/Demi-Human Meat
1. Human - tastes just like pork
2. Elf - light, almost white meat, delicious
3. Dwarf - tough, dark, chewy, tastes faintly of alcohol
4. Gnome - tough, salty, gives off a mild magical aura
5. Halfling - light, tender, soft
6. Half-Orc - tough, tastes weird, full of protein

Sub-Table: Magical Creature
These meats have not only been dried, but preserved with various magical reagents to keep some of the animal's natural magical properties. If you roll these while stocking a dungeon, try having some of the smarter monsters eat these before battle.
1. Salamander - slimy, chewy, grants Fire Resistance 5 for 30 minutes
2. Displacer Beast - tasteless, stringy, grants +2 dodge bonus to AC for 30 minutes
3. Blink Dog - stringy, tangy, grants Dimension Door 3 times within 30 minutes
4. Darkmantle - rank, slimy, overpowering, grants +3 bonus to Hide and Move Silently for 30 minutes
5. Phase Spider - white, gritty, grants See Ethereal for 30 minutes
6. Remorhaz - gritty, always warm, slimy, grants Burning Hands 3 times within 30 minutes
7. Frost Wurm - crunchy, always freezing cold, grants Cone of Cold 3 times within 30 minutes
8. Gorgon - very tough, crunchy, grants a +3 bonus to Fortitude saves/Save vs. Paralysis for 30 minutes
9. Lesser Demon/Tiefling - grants a +1 profane bonus to-hit for 30 minutes
10. Lesser Celestial/Aasimar - grants a +3 bonus to all saving throws for 30 minutes
11. Chaos Beast - grants 1 random mutation (make yourself a table, or borrow one from somewhere)
12. Doppelganger - grants Alter Self 3 times within 30 minutes

Remember - many of these creatures are sentient, and knowingly devouring their flesh is considered an Evil act.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Random Table: Weird Spell Components

Say you have an eeeevil Wizard as your next bad guy. You want to make him pretty powerful, so you give him a few weird and wonderful spells from a few weird and wonderful splatbooks. But, your players want to take the or their own, and they've bypassed the magic puzzle-lock to get to his spellbook, disarmed the traps that surround it, and dispelled the Explosive Runes on every page.

They want magical power like the Big Guys? Then they need to make a little sacrifice... literally. This table also makes a great resource for those raiding the potion cabinets of a variety of evil necromancers, mad scientists, etc.

Each ingredient here gives some sample spell-types it will be useful in. Capitals denote specific spells, domains or spell schools.

Where a specific class or race is mentioned, the higher the HD, the more powerful the effect.

1. The blood of an innocent, sentient creature, bathed in the light of the moon (lycanthropy, Divination, sympathetic magic)
2. The heart of a freshly-fallen Paladin (courage, strength, corruption)
3. The eyes of a Wizard who specialises in Divination, torn out while they were in a Seer's trance (True Seeing, Divination, sight, Metamagic)
4. The tongue of a Bard, preserved in oil from a poisonous plant (lies, deception, poison, Glibness)
5. The severed member of an Incubus (or similar 'male' sexual demon), preserved in Abyssal fluids (Evil, seduction, Charm, corruption)
6. Dwarf blood, permeated with the wyrd energies of the Underdark (transformation, strength, Earth, Evil)
7. Scales taken from a Metallic Dragon (Scalykind, appropriate elements, courage)
8. The bones of a true King (Charm, royalty, binding)
9. Hair (at least 5 foot in length), taken from a corpse (Necromancy, beauty, Death)
10. The powdered spikes of a Spinagon, bathed in the energies of Limbo (pain, damage, Evil, transformation)
11. The pickled tentacles of some Far Realm beast (insanity, Chaos, planar magics)
12. Water exposed to the Negative Energy Plane for a year and a day (water, Evil, chaos, Time)

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Another Technical Delay...

This time, self-imposed - I have updated the old Notebook O' Doom to Linux.

I now have it up and operational, which will mean that regular posting should be resumed shortly.

What I've got in the pipeline:

  • A few mini-dungeon maps I've been doodling
  • A short adventure for Microlite20, which I've ran with a couple of groups
  • Some more Microlite20 House Rules and Advances
  • A few reviews
  • Possibly the start of a series of adventures for the Kobold Ascension Fight campaign (system still undecided)
  • Some more MiniSix40k stuff
  • The Warrior's Guide To Being a Fighter
And many, many more!

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Microlite20: Hireling Advancement

Well, PCs get to advance as they face challenges and defeat their enemies - what about Hirelings?

Mircolite20's advancement system relies on the average level of your group - but Hirelings can make you somewhat more effective than would be expected. Torchbearers and Sages might not really assisst too much, but having a cadre of ten Men-at-Arms could really throw those numbers out.

If the players are using loads of Hencemen, consider not levelling any of them up - they're working as a large group of "mooks", and probably won't be learning anything they don't already know. But, if they only hire 1 Man-at-Arms, and he survives to the point that the players level up, consider adding a level of Fighter to the stat-block provided. If that seems a little too generous, maybe add +1 to-hit and +1 to one skill. Similarly, for other Hirelings, make them just a little bit better at what they do - a +1 here or there can show some advancement, while not allowing them to overshadow the players. As Sages don't come along with the party, I wouldn't go about leveling them up - unless the players bring them tomes of arcane lore, or something similar. Then, sure, give them a little +1 or +2, maybe even just to specific areas of research, to let the players feel a little bit more of a part of the setting as well as the game. Then, you open up more adventures, to find more books, and before you know it, the PCs are choosing to go raiding the lair of an Elder Dragon, just so their friendly local Sage can get himself a +1 t his Knowledge (Basket Weaving) skill... the game writes itself!

Or, you could take it as a "story-based" thing - say the PCs have three henchmen - a young torchbearer, a scribe, and a warrior. Which one do they seem to like the best?

Maybe the scribe takes maps, and has little other interaction with the group, and the warrior is pretty much a nameless meatshield for the party - they're not going to get a level-up. But maybe the young torchbearer saved the Fighter's life, and he wants to take him on as a squire. That warrants a level of Fighter, in my book, especially if the players are already a few levels above 1st. It helps that character to be more effective, and also allows the players to keep around a favoured NPC.

Just do what seems cool and appropriate to the character and the story, and you should be fine!

Chaos of The Warp Podcast

As you know, I like to support my friends and fellow Scotsmen. I find that friendship and helping each other out is the basis of forming a strong gaming community - and also gives me the chance to get a free promotion.

*nudge nudge*

Chaos of The Warp is a general wargaming podcast, with an obvious focus on Warhammer 40k. Reviews, upcoming events in Scotland, rumours, and GW announcements all fall under their radar. It helps that one of my close friends and DMs, Brian of Lead Legion, is a contributor.

Check them out!

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Happy Ava Lovelace Day!

Today is Ava Lovelace Day, which celebrates the achievements of women in scientific and technological fields.

To celebrate, I'm going to write about one of my favourites: Hedy Lamarr.

One of the most beautiful Hollywood actresses of her generation, Lamarr shot to fame with some pretty risque roles (including being one of the first women to portray the female orgasm in a "serious" Hollywood movie), and one of the few famous stars to do full-frontal nudity (something normally reserved for "stag" movies). She was a symbol of proud womanhood for all of the film industry, a powerful, sensual woman who wasn't afraid of the socially conservative attitudes of her time.

She also invented Wi-Fi.

Yep, you read that right - she created spread-spectrum technology, which would allow data to be transmitted via waves through the air instead of on wires. Bear in mind, at this point, people still used vacuum tubes; this technology was so advanced, it would be 1962 before people could start to produce it in any serious and reliable way. To cut down on interference that might cause issues with the transmission, she also came up with the idea "frequency hopping" - presumably casually, over lunch and a cigarette. Her and George Antheil (who helped her figure out a way to implement this frequency hop) laid the foundation for all the wireless networking we have today (including mobile phones!), despite being an early softcore-starlet and a famous musical composer respectively.

Bra-fucking-vo, my dear.

Good News - The Return of Dyson Logos!

Yep, Dyson's back with another geomorph, and apparently 60 more waiting to be scanned and uploaded!

The only problem is, the poor guy doesn't have any internet...

I'm looking forward to seeing the rest of these - Veratheth's Retreat looks pretty swish, so swish in fact I'm currently planning on running a little Risus Dungeon Crawl with it soon...

He's also inspired me to try my hand at some mapping - watch this space!

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Microlite20: Hirelings: Dogs In The Dungeon

Another old-school element that has been lost to the wayside - the use of trained animals in dungeon crawling. I mean, sure, the Druid has their Animal Companion, and the Ranger can no doubt train up a few animals in his spare time, but back in the day, animals were prized as extra luggage handlers (and loot-carriers), and as valuable parts of tactical combat - as well as being capable of a few other tricks.

These animals follow the same rules for my previous Hireling stat-blocks. Here, cost reflects the purchasing of an animal already trained for a life of dungeoneering. They normally consume either half-rations (for smaller breeds), a full count of rations, or twice that for larger or unusual breeds.

Mundane Breeds

These animals are clever, but not intelligent - if needed, consider them to have a MIND score of 2. They can be trained to perform specific actions using a series of MIND+Survival rolls, over as long as the GM sees fit, with bonuses (and a shorter timespan) for clever techniques.

Small But Vicious Dog
The Small But Vicious Dog has been a staple of fantasy gaming since WFRP. Now you too can own a psychotic pet who might be more capable in a fight than you are!
STR -2 DEX +1
Skills - Survival +2, Subterfuge +1
Bite +1 - 1d3-1
HP - 3   AC - 14
Special - the SBVD is particularly effective against Small opponents - it can latch onto them (+2 to-hit) and begin tearing at them, causing 1d3 damage every round it remains attached (STR+Phys vs the attack roll to break free).
Cost - 2gp
Breeds - Dungeon Terrier, Halfling Harrier, Goblin Shaker, Kurathi Rustler

Hunting Dog
These animals are of a variety of breeds, but they have one thing in common - an exceptional sense of smell. They are bred to hunt smaller animals, and to find those who wish to escape - city guards the land over use these dogs when searching for escaped convicts.
Skills - Survival +5, Subterfuge +2
Bite +1 - 1d4
HP - 5 AC - 10
Special - while they are great at tracking just about anything, some are bred and specially trained to locate certain types of creatures (like Orcs) or specific plants (like truffles or medicinal herbs). These Hunting Dogs get an extra +2 bonus to any rolls to locate the target of their training.
Cost - 5gp
Breeds - Setter, Bloodhound, Tracker, Watchman's Friend

These large animals are bred for battle - they are a mix of wild wolves and large tamed dogs. This lends them a temper to be feared, and a ferocity that strikes fear into even the hardest of men.
STR +1 DEX +1
Skills - Survival +1, Physical +3
Bite +3 - 1d4+2
HP - 6   AC - 12
Special - the Wolfhound can Trip opponents (-2 to hit), and once down, can pin them down (STR+Phys vs STR+Phys each round) and attack their vitals, causing 1d4+2 damage every round they are attached.
Cost - 10gp
Breeds - Varag, Krynnish Warhound, Snarling Marshdog

Mountain Dog
Sometimes referred to as "Bearhounds", these huge dogs were originally bred as guardians for mountain temples. Now, they are mainly used for their prowess as watchdogs, and their skill in battle.
STR +2 DEX -1
Skills - Survival +3, Physical +3
Bite +3 - 1d6+3
HP - 10   AC - 12
Special - the Mountain Dog is adept as sensing trouble, and can hear opponents from 100ft away (adjust as conditions change). It will inform its master through a low growl when it senses trouble.
Cost - 20gp
Breeds - Chi-Tzu, Chow Chow, Guardian, Cata

Exotic Breeds

These animals might have strange parentage, unusual abilities, or might just be outright supernatural. Expect to pay top dollar for these pets, but they can more than make that money back.

The Goblinhound is a strange creature - many theorise they are dogs which have been bred with Worgs (or perhaps Barghest), creating a lithe, cruel-looking creature with a startling intelligence, and an insatiable hunger for the flesh on intelligent creatures.
STR +1 DEX +1 MIND +1
Skills - Survival +2, Subterfuge +3, Physical +1
Bite +2 - 1d6+1, Claw +2 - 1d4+2
HP - 20   AC - 16
Special - the Goblinhound can understand spoken language, though it cannot communicate or read. These animals do not need as much training as others (though they will not tolerate abuse) and can carry out incredibly complex orders - they are almost as intelligent as most people. Additionally, for every 2HD of flesh the Goblinhound consumes, it gains a +1 bonus to its STR and DEX scores (to a max of +3) for 1 hour/2HD eaten.
(For the purposes of the Goblinhound's Special Ability, regular rats and small birds count as 1/4HD, and larger animals like chickens 1/2HD. The GM is the arbirtrator of what HD value non-statted animals have.)
Cost - 100gp on the open market, 50gp straight from a Goblin breeder.

Possibly the result of some weird cross of dragon and dog, these animals are great companions for dungeon adventurers. They have markedly scaly skin, and sleek, almost feline features, as well as a few features from their ancestor (spiked plates for Red, large, curved horns for Black, etc). Some are seen in the employ of Kobolds and Dragons, as watchdogs and guardians.
STR +2 MIND +1
Skills - Survival +3, Subterfuge +2, Physical +2
Bite +3 - 1d6+2 Claw +2 - 1d4+2
HP - 20   AC - 16
Special - Drakes are bred to show traits from certain breeds of dragon, and all have a breath weapon (+3, 1d8) which they can use a number of times a day equal to their STR bonus. The damage caused by this matches the breed of dragon they most resemble (so, Fire for Red/Gold, Acid for Black, etc.) They can also cause Fear (as the spell) with their bark 3/day.
Cost - 200gp on the open market, or possibly worth a favour for a Dragon. Kobolds see these animals as sacred, and will not sell them.

Monday, 8 October 2012

These Look Awesome! Otherworld Miniatures Dungeon Adventurers on IndieGoGo

Wow. Just... Wow.

These look amazing!

"Since 2006, Otherworld Miniatures has been producing 28mm fantasy miniatures for gamers, painters and collectors, inspired by the iconic imagery of the early roleplaying games. So far, we have just made the monsters, and with a range of nearly 400 creatures in our catalogue, we think that the time has come to introduce some player character models.
We could grow the range slowly, making a couple of figures a month for a few years, but we’d really like to be able to release a substantial range into the marketplace from the start. Unfortunately, the costs of such a project are significant, so we’re asking for your help. With the aid of our backers, we plan to release this range, initially with a boxed set of 12 Human adventurers, quickly followed by sets of demi-humans, female adventurers and hirelings and henchmen, over the course of the next few months. The range of boxed sets will be complemented by individual blister-packs featuring variant models with different armour, weapon and equipment options.
The figures will be sculpted by a variety of talented sculptors, including Kevin Adams and Patrick Keith, with others joining the project later. The miniatures will depict archetypal fantasy adventurers, human and demi-human, male and female, wearing practical clothing and armour and carrying realistic weapons and equipment. They will be posed for exploration, not combat. And these characters won’t be muscle-bound superheroes waving Vorpal Swords in the air - they’ll be grim-faced dungeoneers, a little bit down on their luck, and ready for action on your table-top!"

Now how awesome does that sound? I'm really looking forward to the Female Adventurers - the female Dwarf Fighter should be pretty sweet!

Those are the only greens available at the moment, but looking at how closely they hew to the concept art:
I'd say we're in for a treat.

TSR 2019 - The Dungeoneer's Survival Guide: A Review

While searching for some good OSR references, specifically for writing a dungeon, I stumbled across TSR2019 - Dungeoneers Survival Guide. This book is a veritable treasure trove (no pun intended) of info for writing a dungeon, or indeed any type of game with a focus on being underground.

The first couple of chapters talk about the book, including introductions by the two main writers - who show a lot of enthusiasm for the project. Not just the "Hey, isn't this a great idea?" kind of self-aggrandising enthusiasm, but a love of what they're writing and a clear joy at getting to write it. It's something that's not seen to often in big-company games now, which is a real shame.

The next chapter is pretty awesome - "Overview of the Underdark". Here, you'll find a brief (yet surprisingly full) description of the processes that occur underground, and the various ways these form into dungeon features, and ways to use them. Form the simple stalagmites and stalactites, through underground lakes and lava pockets, deadly gas build-up, and cave-ins, these descriptions paint a vivid picture of the dangers one might face from the environment alone, never mind monsters! A lot of these features will be going into the next dungeon I write...

Next is a couple of chapters dedicated to new rules covering the ins and outs of dungeoneering, from movement rates for various conditions, fighting in enclosed spaces, using ropes as levers and walkways, and a whole host of Non-Weapon Proficiencies to round things out. These are great, ranging from hunting and creating weapons, to things like Fungus Identification and Blind-Fighting. To me, these add an extra layer of specialisation for characters who intend to spend most of their time underground - sure, not too useful in a city-based campaign, say, but if you're about to head through a full-campaign megadungeon, these little tricks could save your life.

(Interesting Trivia Time: Did you know that non-weapon proficiencies were only introduced to the game by Oriental Adventures? I didn't.)

The new rules also help to add a little layer of vermilisitude to quite a few common dungeon-crawl activities - so much so, I'm already thinking of ways to implement some of them in other games (like Microlite20). They do suffer the usual AD&D problem of varying from elegantly simple to byzantine (sometimes, within the same ruling!), but they make for a pretty thorough groundwork to make your own rules from, or to act as examples and guidelines rather than proper rules. It also has a lot of information about non-Thieves performing actions normally covered by Thief Skills, and info on how to adjust those skills up or down depending on the circumstances. Again, very in-depth, with enough info to allow you to make an educated guess whenever you may need to. A personal favourite of mine are new rules for Hirelings and "cabin fever" - while one might expect PCs to be fine with spending months underground, crawling through ancient catacombs and deadly traps with the only emergence to go and spend their hard-earned cash, the average Henchman just wants to go home. The rules cover everything from them becoming suicidal/homicidal, to charming them into staying, to how much extra cash you might need to convince them!

The equipment section is where this book really stands out. It has everything you could think of taking into a dungeon with you, and quite a few more that I wouldn't have expected (who expects to need a fold-away canoe in a given adventure?!). Each piece of equipment adds some extra rulings, or adds to existing ones in interesting ways. While these are mainly useful to dungeon crawlers, most of the equipment could easily find another use to clever PCs (especially Thieves, as a lot of the stuff here covers stealth, mobility, and bypassing problematic obstacles).

The section covering monsters is interesting - it's got some information about the various humanoid races that live under the earth, from the classic Drow, to the little-used Duegar and Derro, the aquatic Kuo-Toa, and the abominable Illithids and Aboleths. Each of these only gets a bout half a page, but they make a great overview of the objectives of each of these races, and a great resource for new GMs.

Finally, the book contains a whole setting, a nice mapped-out chunk of the Underdark for the taking.

(Again, interesting fact time - this book is the first official use of the phrase "Underdark" in D&D literature. Neat! Next, to the Shadowdark!)

The maps are fabulously detailed, but still leave a lot of areas relatively free to interpretation. Some of the set-ups (like the massive "drain", controlled by Kuo-Toa who can change the flow of water into the lower levels) are fantastic, and even without set encounters, can provide a wealth of cool things to do in the setting.

The maps are done in a strong, isometric style - it take some getting used to, but the effect is great for conveying a truly multilevel area, rather than a "staircase down to the next level" type deal. They can, however, be a little bit cluttered, and the isometric view doesn't help any there.

As a final point, I should note the artwork - it's fantastic. Yes, it's all black-and-white, and not of the finest Photoshopped-half-to-death-with-titties-and-lens-flare-everywhere quality that modern D&D artwork is - but it's some of the most inspiring artwork I've seen in a long time. It really captures some of the feel of the classic dungeon crawl, even the faintly ridiculous Valkyrie-esque helmets the women wear (and, for a game frequently lamented as sexist, there's a lot of women here, being active, contributing to the group dynamic in each photo - not too bad!), the classic Fighter with the handlebar moustache and an outfit straight out of Golden Axe (see above illustration). The artwork presents a less-heroic feeling, that death and disaster could be right around the corner, but perversely, that the rewards could be so much greater... it really tickles a desire to write up a mega-dungeon, run it in OSRIC, and let my players taste some old-school beatdown - none of this "storygame" bullshit...
All in all, a very strong book, even to modern eyes. There are one or two little niggles with the rules, however... but I'm still planning to use it when I finally get around to writing that mega-dungeon...

Microlite20: Bard Specialist Advances

Keeping a roll on... here's The Houri, the first Bard Specialist Advance, inspired by a post my good friend Dangerous Brian made, updating the class from an old White Dwarf issue for OSRIC.

The Houri is an entertainer, first and foremost, and a concubine second. She uses her charm and natural grace to enthrall any onlookers, and finds that many are taken by her looks as well. Many have been trained by high-society madames, moulded into the very image of what the rich and powerful want to see in a woman.

Note that, in this case, men can qualify for the Houri Advance - simply change its name to "Courtesan", or something suitably exotic.

Bard Specialist Advance
Enchantress - you gain a +2 bonus to your Communication skill when used for seduction.
Presence - you gain Charm Person as a spell-like ability, cast as a Signatue Spell.
Flexible - you gain a +2 bonus to any Skill check which requires flexibilty (say, dancing, escaping bonds, or particularly exotic bedroom moves).
Exotic - you gain +1 to-hit and damage with whips, chains, daggers (stilletos and the like), and bows.
High Class - you gain a +2 to any rolls involving nobility (whether charming them, or remembering facts about specific Royal lines and history, etc).

Sunday, 7 October 2012

The Lowlife's Guide To Being A Thief

 "There's only two types of thief, boy - the good ones, and the dead ones."
-Ari Blackhand, Head of the Valerian's Reach Thieves Guild

After the success of The Gentleman's Guide To Being A Bard, I thought I'd try my hand at another little "D&D general" guide, this time focusing on one of my personal favourite Classes - The Thief/Rogue/Expert/Whatever.

Thievery has been around since the first man who looked to his brother, and thought "His rock looks better than mine!" - most agree it's the second oldest profession (and, indeed, members of the oldest profession frequently use such methods as well!). The Thief fills a certain societal niche - lower than the common man, for cutpurses and muggers, but somewhat more upwardly-mobile than the beggars that fill their streets.

There are a dozen archetypes of the Thief - the black-clad assassin, the dashing rogue, even the jack-of-all-trades Bard started out life as a Thief sub-class. But the main points are being light of feet and fingers, stealthy, and quick-thinking.

1. Know Your Role
You're not tough enough to be a front-line fighter, even though you might be good with a sword - your role in combat is to assist - set up flanking manuvers (for your tasty Sneak Attack bonus), pelting foes with ranged weapons, and acting as a "backup" when the Fighter goes down. As a player, you should be maximising the amount of times you can use your Sneak Attack - so, set up ambushes, adjust the lighting, set or re-set traps, get yourself and others into flanking positions, and generally think like a sneaky bastard.

Outside of combat, you are the skills guy - you check for (and disarm, hopefully) traps, you pick locks, you charm your way past guards, and generally make yourself as useful as possible. Again, play to your strengths - know which skills you can use more reliably than others, and know which party members are better than you (and defer to them when needed). You're also the best Scout in most parties - your stealth and perceptive abilities are second to none, so make sure you go ahead of the group to get the lay of the land, and report back with a multitude of ways in which you can turn the fight in your favour.

For Old-School games, the Thief is also one of the few Classes that most demi-humans have unlimited advancement in (depending on the game) - while not useful for most games (which never reach past the 10th-level mark), anyone planning on playing a demi-human in a long-running campaign could do worse than to dual-class with the Thief. Those Thief Skills can be put to great effect by most Classes, and it's always good to have a back-up trapfinder! Plus, once you hit the level cap for your other class, you still have somewhere to put (half) your XP, instead of it going to waste.

2. Play To Your Strengths
Goddamn stupid sexy midget...
Your stats play a vital role in ensuring you are the best Thief you can be.

Whatever system you're using, Dexterity is key. For older systems, it affects your Thief skills percentages, making it a vital component of being a great Thief - but, random generation might screw you over. For the more modern ones, it can affect your key skills which revolve around mobility and balance - and trust me, you're going to need them! Dexterity can also affect your ability with ranged weapons - something we'll get on to later.

Intelligence isn't too big a deal in older systems - it can affect how many languages you can learn (and a good Thief should have ways to communicate privately!), and might be used when determining traps or lies (both pretty useful), but these can also be covered with good role-play and thinking like a Thief - trust no-one, everything's trapped, and remember, it's not paranoia if they are out to get you. In newer editions, it can affect how many extra skill points you get - though Rogues do get a huge amount, so it's not essential. Then again, more skills is never a bad thing, so a decent Int score is always a good investment.
Charisma can go either way - depending on whether you're a skulking ruffian, or a smooth-tongued trickster. If you plan on spending all your time hiding in the shadows, leaping out only to delicately plant a knife between someones shoulder blades, forget it. Otherwise, it lets you lie, bluff, cheat, and seduce your way past obstacles you couldn't hope to fight otherwise - and makes the Thief all the more pragmatic for it.

OSR gamer, remember - while you have stat minimums for Dexterity (and various others, for various products), low Dex isn't a total killer. With planning, proper equipment, and the support of your party (and a good line in GM bribery) you can be just as effective as any other Thief. OSR games expect a lot more creative thinking and less system mastery than modern games - so be careful, be paranoid, and you should be just fine.

3. Vital Skills
Again, this one comes down to what kind of Thief you plan to be. Make sure you try and spread a few points amongst all of your skills, even a few ranks here or there - the Skills you get are some of the most useful in the game.

Disable Device and Open Lock are the archetypal Rogue Skills - traps and locks are your forte.You want to make sure they're bought up ASAP - this is where your first skill points of each level should go. It's also a little bit harder

Hide, Move Silently and Sleight of Hand are almost as archetypal - though a bit easier to get through items and other means. Pop a few points into these, more if they fit your character concept (say, a stealthy assassin over an adventuring locksmith). Each of these will see some use, regardless of what type of Rogue you make.

Balance/Climb/Jump are good for the acrobatic cat-burglar type, but can be something of a trap choice - they hold limited utility, and can be easily increased with magic and items. Don't spend too much on these (unless you have skill points to spare, somehow).

Bluff and Diplomacy can be absolute game-changers, if you play your cards right. Even non-Charisma-based Rogues will find a use for these skills in everything but the most hack-and-slash game. Even then, Bluff can be used to Feint, to allow for more Sneak Attack goodness! And, with enough Diplomacy, you can turn enemies from hating you to being your best friend with a Standard Action - not too shabby!

Use Magic Device is a godsend in "Caster Edition" 3.5 - use your ill-gotten gains to pick up a few wands or scrolls to enhance your stealth and combat abilities (Cat's Grace, (Improved) Invisibility, True Strike for Sneak Attacks, the list goes on!) - you won't be as flexible as a full-caster, but you'll be amazed at what you can pull off with the right wands in your belt.

The OSR Thief has his skills all set out on a table - and get very little say in how they advance. But, pick your strongest skill, from racial and other modifiers, and try and use it as much as possible. Climb Walls is an invaluable skill in dungeons - while anyone can climb, you can tackle sheer surfaces that would make lesser men weep. Racial bonuses and Dexterity modifiers can only net you a few extra percent - your main concern should be gear to help you with whatever you may need to do.

Bad Guys Wear Black
 4. The Clothes Make The Man
One of the things which defines you more than any other character is your equipment. I mean, sure, the Fighter is all about his armour and his weapon, but your gear is far more variable.

First things first, an old chestnut - daggers are a trap. Yes, they're small, easily concealable, and can be thrown, but their damage is pitiful, and they're not as adaptable as a good short sword. Unless your campaign is set under martial law, most places will allow you to carry a sword on your hip, so there's less concern regarding hiding a weapon. Daggers do, however, make a decent emergency back-up, climbing tool, spare tent-peg, useful trap detector/trap setting tool, improvised lockpick/Slim Jim, shaving kit, and cutlery. Carry a few just in case, just don't rely on them.

Thieves should also have a good way with ranged weapons - that Dexterity score affects how well you can use them, and you might as well play to your strengths of stealth, scouting, and not being in the front lines. Crossbows are a classic old chestnut for a reason - they are easy to use, hide, and need less room to use than a bow. They also complete the classic "Thief" look well.

Second, armour. You need something that will not give you a penalty to your Dexterity (this includes Medium and Heavy Armour). Even with the appropriate Armour Training Feats, the penalties are still present - thus preventing you from fulfilling your role for the party. Now, if you're about to enter a full-scale battle, where your stealth and agility means next to nothing, then sure -strap on the heaviest armour you can wear and hope for the best. But until then, stay loose and flexible - it's better to never be hit than to be able to shrug off the blow. Light, leather armour (studded leather, preferably) is your best bet.

Third - if you plan on sneaking, go the whole hog. Blackened armour, weapon-black, padded shoes - anything to eak out an extra little bonus or two. You don't need to wear these all the time, but when you are planning to sneak, they can be a godsend!

Finally, the little extras. As I've said before, Complete Scoundrel for 3.5 has a great equipment section for Thieves - with everything from hollow weapon-pommels and wand bracers to shoe-knives and grappling arrows. A quick read through should get some ideas flowing...

For OSR gamers, The Complete Thief's Handbook is an awesome resource, covering equipment from climbing pinons to silenced armour and even more!

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Microlite20: Rogue Specialist Advances

So, inspired by a few requests, and digging through some old-school materials, I present The Pirate and the Thief-Acrobat!

Pirates are dashing scoundrels of the seas - always on the lookout for profit, adventure, and aiming to misbehave. They fit well into the Errol Flynn School of Pirating - swashbuckling charmers.

Rogue Specialist Advance

Swashbuckler - you gain a +2 bonus to your AC when fighting with a rapier (or short sword) in one hand, and a dagger (whether a main-gauche, parry dagger, or otherwise) in the other.
Dashing - you gain a +2 bonus to your Physical skill when performing dashing acts of derring-do (swinging from chandeliers, sliding down curtains using a dagger, etc.) The GM has the final say in whether an act counts.
Skilled Swordsman - you gain a +1 bonus to-hit and damage with rapiers, daggers, and cutlasses.
Sea Farer - you gain a +2 to any checks involved in sailing (or commanding) a boat.
Delicate Swordplay - you gain a +2 bonus to any attempts to disarm an opponent.

The Thief-Acrobat is a top-story man - cat burglars, wirewalkers, and assassins who strike when their target is asleep. They have trained themselves to maintain their balance at all costs, for a single foot out of place could spell an ignomious end on the cobblestones below.

Rogue Specialist Advance

Slow Fall - you only take half damage (rounded up) from falls of any height.
Acrobatic - you gain a +2 bonus to your Physical skill when performing acrobatic maneuvers.
Exotic Weapon Training - you gain a +1 bonus to-hit and damage with any 2 of whips, chains, shuriken, daggers, and the quarterstaff.
Finesse - you may apply your DEX bonus to attack rolls with any non-two-handed melee weapon (so, longswords, quarterstaff, etc.) The GM has the final say in what weapons can be used in this manner.
Killer Reflexes - you gain a +2 bonus to any Reflex save (normally, DEX+Phys).


Another milestone reached!

Thank you to everyone who follows, and to those who just "pop in" of occasion.

Without your support, well, I'd probably still be doing this, it just makes it feel a bit more awesome as that little ticker keeps going up day by day.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Microlite20: Henchmen and Hirelings

As I like to run my M20 games as old-school dungeon crawls, here's some old-school style rules for Hirelings.

A character may retain the services of a number of hirelings equal to his Charisma bonus. He may (at the GM's discretion) have more, but chances are they would need to pay over the odds for them (or treat them exceptionally well).

The stat-block are read as follows:
Stats - instead of full stats, I've listed the appropriate Stat Bonus - if there isn't one listed, the stat is considered to have a +0 bonus (i.e. completely average).
Skills - many people will not be as skilled as the PCs, and as such will normally only have one or two skill bonuses (the rest are considered +0, as with stats.)
HP and AC - as per usual.
Gear - anything they might bring with them into your employ. This can vary at the GM's discretion.
Cost - this represents who much money the Hireling will need to be paid per day to stay with you. If you do not pay them three days in a row, they will leave (and may try to take their money by force). They can also be paid on a monthly or weekly basis, normally with a small decrease to the total (so, a Torchbearer might accept 1sp per week, instead of the expected 14cp).

In the rare case that you are hiring non-human Hirelings (to keep the old-school feel, demihumans should normally be built as slightly weaker-than-average PCs), then use these profiles and add any racial bonuses to the stats and skills.

Your standard, run-of-the-mill peasant. Most are unskilled labourers or young teens, who will take the chance to earn a few extra coins (so long as the risks aren't too great). They might hold their own in a fist-fight, but most won't be too happy when the blades start being drawn. 
Skills - one at +1 (normally Physical, but others may vary)
HP - 4 AC - 10
Cost - 2cp/day

These are your "standard" labourers, guards, or thugs. Many are willing to wield a weapon, though few (if any) will fight to the death for you.
STR +1
Skills - Physical +1, 1 other at +1 (normally Subterfuge).
HP - 6 AC - 12
Gear - Either a short sword and shield or a polearm, leather armour.
Cost - 2sp/day

Should you find yourself unable to locate the services of a Ranger,perhaps the humble Woodsman may be of some use.While they will be fine wit loosing arrows from afar, some might balk at the idea of entering close combat.
DEX +1
Skills - Physical +1, Survival +2, Subterfuge +1
HP - 6 AC - 12
Gear - Longbow and arrows, twin hatchets, leather armour.
Cost - 4sp/day

This could represent the village medicine-man, or a trainee wizard (before gaining full 1st-level privileges). Or maybe even a clergyman of some God, or a cultist. Few are particularly capable in combat, though their knowledge of the arcane might come in useful (and, as magic items cost HP, PC Wizards may hire them to assist in their creation).
Skills - Knowledge +1, Communication +1
HP - 5 AC - 10
Spells Known - 0-level - Detect Magic, Mending, Prestidigitation, Dancing Lights, 1st-level - one spell from either the Wizard or Cleric spell list
Gear - Robes, various material components, spellbook
Cost - 5sp/spell required, or 1gp+5sp/days work.

The Sage is a learned character, a student of one of many different areas of expertise (or perhaps a more "jack-of-all-trades"). These character will not leave their studies to go and adventure, but can be hired to research particularly complicated problems for the players.
Skills - Knowledge +3
HP - 5 AC - 10

Cost - depends on the service required. Mostly 1gp/day, make the MIND+Knowledge roll against a DC, and the difference between the result and the DC is the number of days it takes to find the fact. If the roll is a success, then the fact is either instantly known,or found in a book in next to no time.