Sunday, 28 April 2013

Generic Fantasy Skirmish: High Elves Warband

"We are immortal. Unstoppable. We have trained in the art of swordplay for a hundred years, and have forgot more than you will ever know. You should bow before your superiors, mortal."
   -Khalesa Mensha Aurin, in peace talks before the Battle of Elevan

So, after the low-cost horde of Kobolds, we now have the "heavy hitters" - the expensive, elite army (much like In The Emperor's Name's take on Eldar Harlequins). These guys will be pretty hard to field in any great numbers, but they more than make up for it in personal power and survivability.

The High Elves are an ancient race, allegedly the first true beings to step foot into the World. They have made many great civilisations, and watched them fall, all before the first Human took breath. Their long lives lead to a sense of apathy towards life - in order to stave off such ennui, the High Elves will master several arts, ranging from the martial, to the arcane, the philosophical and poetic, all edged to perfection over the course of a hundred years or so. Once they have reached the natural limit of their talent, they will begin a new craft from scratch - more for something to do than any great desire to be the greatest.

Unit TypeHeroismFVSVSpeedSpecial
Bladesinger2++5+3+2Leader, can buy Spells @ 10 points from the Arcane and Nature lists, Combat Master, Defensive Master, Grace. Max 1 per Warband.
Archmage3++3+4+2Leader, can buy spells @ 5pts from any spell list, Lore, Grace. Max 1 per Warband.
Master Ranger3++4+5+2Multishot, Bounty Hunter, Inhuman Climber, Grace
Ancient Warrior3++4+3+2Can buy one spell @ 10 pts from the Arcane and Nature lists, Grace

ArmourNotesRestricted To
NoneJust clothing [5+ to hit]
LightLeather Armour, Ranger Cloth [6+ to hit]
MediumChainmail [7+ to hit]
HeavyFull Plate [8+ to hit]Bladesinger

Warding Seal [8+ to hit]Archmage
ShieldLight [+1 Armour Value]

Heavy [+2 Armour Value]Bladesinger

Grace [8pts] - this unit can move through cover or difficult terrain at no penalty, and may move through enemy models without having to engage in base-to-base combat. All High Elf models must take this ability.

Multishot [5pts] - A figure with this ability may take a second shot with a ranged weapon if they have knocked down or killed an enemy figure with their normal shot. They may only do this once per turn.

Once again, these guys are a first-draft. Any issues or problems, let me know!

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

OSR D&D - Guns

So, guns have always had a weird place in D&D. Lots of the "Appendix N" inspirational materials had them, whether as one-off, almost magical items, or a regular feature of their setting (John Carter of Mars, frex, wouldn't be seen dead without his pistol). But, when looking for ways to implement them into D&D, options are limited.

And I can kinda see why - D&D has always ostensibly been more of a "Swords and Sorcery" kinda deal (until 3rd Ed pushed the whole thing into full-on High Fantasy), and a default part of that is, well, swords. Guns feel too modern, and for some people, seeing an Elf with a gun brngs back unfortunate Shadowrun flashbacks. But, due to D&D's tried-and-tested melting pot approach to its sources, the level of technology presented (like full plate armour) means that guns are pretty feasible. But you mention it in th wrong circles, and you'll be strung up by your dicebag before they have a two-hour long conversation about whether or not shuriken should exist in the Ancient Greek campaign setting, or whether Dwarves could build a spacerocket.

Gamers are like that.

There are plenty of D20 supplements with rules for guns (D20 Modern, for a start), but for genre imitation, guns feel like they should be a little more powerful than the "does 1d8 damage, is about as easy to dodge as a punch" model supported by these games.

As it's the most appropriate (and closest to D&D at its heart), let's take a gander at the Pathfinder SRD. It has rules for three levels of technology - emerging guns, advanced guns, and guns everywhere. I don't fancy changing up the entire face of the game, so we'll stick with Emerging - guns are rare, having just started moving out of the realm of cannon and arbuesque.  Maybe there's a secretive guild of alchemists and engineers who have fiddled up the first production line, or maybe they're a new Dwarven invention. Regardless, the first examples are starting to become publicly available, and are filtering down to the "adventuring" classes.

So, our basic, archaic guns are the pistol, blunderbuss, and musket. There are a few variations on these which I won't be including (the sword cane gun, for example), but these are your "standard" guns for this time period.

Your basic pistol stats for Pathfinder: costs 1000gp (!), 1d8 damage, x4 damage on a critical, 20 foot range increment (guns get 5 range increments, with a -2 penalty to the attack after the first), targets Touch AC in the first range increment and resolve normally after that, misfires (breaking the weapon) on a one.

Now, one of the things that a lot of people have commented on is that the misfire rate of even the earliest firearms wasn't as bad as rated here, and the guns would rarely explode on a bad shot. You ran the risk of powder burns, but that was about it - if your gun exploded, you were doing something terribly wrong. Pathfinder has a misfire rate for each weapon (normally 1 in 20), and on a misfire, a weapon gains the Broken Condition (which ups the misfire rate by 4, making it normally a roll of 1-5 on the D20). That seems a little harsh, cause once it's broken, another misfire means the gun goes boom, hitting you and anyone next to you for the damage value of the weapon.

That doesn't mix with the reality too well, but helps keep the guns "balanced" with bows and other ranged weapons. But it's such an artifact of these kind of games, I might need to include it. Well, in keeping with the idea that the OSR is less about balance and more about fun, I propose the following stats (for OSRIC, but pretty adaptable):

Weapon TypeDamage vs Small/Medium Damage vs LargeRate of Fire (Shots per Round)Range (-2 to hit per
Bullet + Powder----3 per dozen1gp

Here's some rulings (as I'll be using them) which might prove useful for guns:
  • The blunderbuss can be loaded with a bullet or shot, which fires as a 15ft cone, range increment 15ft - the user can make an attack roll against all targets within that range, at a -2 penalty. This can either be pre-made (same cost and encumbrance as bullets) or improvised, scraps of metal, nails, etc. which is free, if you can find it, but gives a -2 penalty to-hit and damage. Repeated use of such materials can cause damage to the weapon.
  • All firearms require a full round to reload, limiting them to one shot per round (regardless of any bonuses to Rate of Fire).
  • At point-blank range (i.e. melee combat range), a pistol may be used with a penalty of -1 to attack rolls, while the longer, less maneuverable blunderbuss and musket suffer a -4 penalty.
  • If the opponent is unaware, bound, or unconscious, (where "coup de grace" rules would be appropriate) they make a Save vs. Death Magic - should they fail, they are dying (should you use those rules) or dead. If they pass, they take double damage from the attack.
  • Misfires occur on a natural roll of 1 on an attack roll. Roll 1d10 on the Misfire chart below:
    • 1 - Backfire - you must have overpacked the gun, or just straight-up done goofed. The weapon explodes, dealing its damage to you, and one die-step less to those in melee range of you (so a pistol would damage you for 1d6 damage, and everyone else for 1d4).
    • 2-4 - Powder Burn - you weren't as careful as you should have been when loading the weapon - the shot goes off as normal, but you suffer 1d3 damage from the powder on your clothes and skin igniting.
    • 5-6 - Dud - the powder doesn't light. It will take a full-round action to clear the weapon, and another to reload it.
    • 7-8 - Jam - some delicate part of the weapon's mechanisms isn't working as intended. The weapon is unable to fire until someone with the skills to repair it can take a look and fix the problem.
    • 9 - Hang Fire - the powder doesn't catch as quickly as you thought - perhaps it's a little wet in parts, or there's a slow-burning clump in it. Nothing happens - DMs, describe it much like a jam or a dud shot. In the next round (in the Fast segment, or at the highest initiative, or whenever), or the end of the current round, whichever seems more fun, the gun goes off as normal. Pray you hadn't started clearing the "jam"...
    • 10 - Burnout - too much powder, methinks. The weapon lets out a massive gout of flame, burning out some delicate mechanism and making the weapon useless until repaired. However, anyone within melee range (including you) must make a Save vs Breath Weapon or catch fire.
I'll probably come back and review these rules soon - let me know what you think!

EDIT: First edit thanks to Butch, adding Hang Fire as a result... that's gonna fuck with my players something awful. I love it!

Thursday, 18 April 2013

The Triumphant Return! With Artwork By Tony DiTerlizzi!

So, I've been a little waylaid with illness, work, and hospital trips, so I've fell behind on the blog.

This will not stand!

So, to start us off - some Tony DiTerlizzi artwork, and some art-critique from a man who couldn't get into art school, and so became a scientist.

"Yess, my good gentledwarf, finest Salarian Mind-Wyrms. I ssqueezzed them mysself jusst thiss afternoon. Ffive jink. Or perhhapss the Yithhian crystal is more to Ssirs liking, eh? Only 20 sstingers."
Did you ever need a truly pimpin' Mind Flayer for your Planescape game? Simply add fez. Seriously though, this Ulithard looks like the most perfect trader in the more unusual of magical artifacts in any Planescape/Spelljammer game. DiTerrlizi adds little touches and artifacts of a character who does stuff outside their image (the fez, the useful-looking pouches), that creates a real sense of character - not just some unrealistically-proportioned model in barely-there armour sneering menacingly and swinging the most impractical-looking sword you ever laid eyes on (Wayne Reynolds, I am looking at you so fucking hard right now)... I mean, compare the above with this:
I smoulder with generic rage.
I mean, just fucking look at it. It shares more than a few things with the DiTerlizzi piece, things I applauded not but a few lines ago. For example, those "little touches" that spruce up a piece of artwork, and add character - this guy here has a billion of them. The little rings on his clothes, the weird "many-belts" wrist guards, the dagger and potion on his belt, and the wands at his hip, and his little fire-bird-bat-thing, and his awesome, cool, impractical-looking sword, and...
There's just way too much stuff going on. It distracts from any one of thee elements, making a mish-mash of half-formed ideas about what this character does.

Also, his right hand. Look at it. Look real hard. Hands do not work that way. Like... is that a pinky or a thumb at the right-hand side there? The artist certainly doesn't know. And, for that matter, do pecs or chests ever look like that, barring shit like Marfan's Syndrome? Also, why does he have little clip-clop cloven feet? Dude's ostensibly human, but look how tiny his little feet are!

Now what would a Halfling want with a massive, hungry-looking cobra? I have no idea, but I can think of a ton of suggestions. Firstly, he's clearly in discourse with it - not the feared expression of someone trying to convince it not to eat him. He seems open, relaxed, even - like he's attempting to barter with it. What would a sentient cobra want to buy? Or what could it be selling?
The main reason that I like this is that I plan on introducing a Stygia-equivalent into the next old-school game I run, with full rules for snake-clerics and weird magics based off human sacrifice. Part of that would be the massive snakes rumoured to lurk in the depths of the land - ancient, intelligent creatures, favoured as pets to dark sorcerers. The idea of a race of intelligent snakes has always been pretty cool to me, especially filling the role of creepy conduits to the dark Gods of a forbidding continent. This pic just gives me ideas about how to make them more "humanised".

Apparently, this is a Tasked Genie from the Al-Quadim setting, but to me she looks far too human. Not a bad thing - she demonstrates DiTerlizzi's fantastic fashion sense. Each element of the outfit flows with the rest, and makes for a great Thief-type, "street smart" character. The style fits surprisingly well with the artwork DiTerlizzi would produce for Planescape, one of the most fantastically-illustrated fantasy settings of all time. The mix of neo-Victorian, Renaissance, and a more modern eye towards composition make the DiTerlizzi fashion choices a little dated, but in a charmingly retro way.
 When DiTerlizzi was pulled to illustrate the 2e Monster Manual, it was a breath of fresh air from the somewhat lacking quality of 1st Ed/AD&D's artwork. While they got across more character than later artists, the less than professional quality of the art made the whole game feel a little... gonzo
DiTerlizzi, however, brought both character and great technical talent together, to create an almost fairytale feeling to the game. Take, for example, this Helmed Horror - a classic D&D "trap" monster.

"The room is bare, aside from several suits of armour, all alike."
"I try and see if the suit of armour will fit me, or if I can scavenge some parts of it for myself."
"As you lay hands on it, it turns and takes a swing at you. Roll initiative!"

Now, modern artists will go down the root of an obviously evil suit of ridiculously spiky armour with evil fire pouring out the eyeholes and a gnarly-looking weapon. But DiTerlizzi's take on it has a whole lot of charm. It looks like a suit of armour you might find lying around - and that's the point of the monster. It's not something that looks obviously evil, because then it would be entirely pointless. It's designed to catch you out. A nicely understated piece. It does, however, highlight one of the issues I do have with DiTerlizzi's style - all his weapons are so thin. That sword looks like a rapier/foil, and not a particularly sturdy one at that. Go check more of his art, and count how many of the weapons look like they'll break at a strong breeze.

 This guy is a Sandman. He's a man, made of sand. Yeah. However, Al-Quadim being the weird, Arabian Nights-type place it is, he's also an evil slaver who puts people to sleep before kidnapping them. It saddens me to say that Ive seen weirder monsters, but there you go.
What I like about this guy is that he's pretty much a perfect fit for the Dust Genasi race - from the awkward angles of his head, down to his dour expression and slightly "gritty" texture (DiTerlizzi love him some good linework), he looks pretty awesome.

Now we get to one of my favourite pieces - a linnorm (a massive, dragon-like wyrm from Norse mythology). Where other artists have made them just look like big, ratty, extra-evil dragons, DiTerlizzi's linnorm looks positively ancient, a true ancestor to the great Dragons - something different, yet recognisable. The shaggy hair and almost root-like tail help to add to the sense of age, and the mottled skin looks really good in DiTerlizzi's ink-and-wash style.While they are not as intelligent as dragons, this specimen seems to at least hold a sense of cunning - the hint of a smile and the extended finger make it look like it's just caught some unwary adventurers in a lie, or perhaps is about to reveal some less-than-wanted news. All in, a pretty cool piece.

So yeah - I advise you go check out Tony DiTerlizzi's website, or, if you can get a hold of them, dig out some of his 2nd Ed work. It's awesome and you won't regret it!