Monday, December 21, 2015

As God and Heinlein intended.....

SpaceX launched several Orbcomm Satellites in their return to flight today. And SpaceX added a little something special.

Landing video

A rocket today landed on its tail as God and Robert Heinlein intended.

Congrats to everybody at SpaceX.

Additional Note:
One valuable thing about this is that by being able to return the first stage to land, the engineers will be able to examine the rocket without it having been dunked in seawater. Seawater is highly corrosive so this will be a big boost for SpaceX and others in improving the quality and performance of rockets.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Making GURPS more approachable.

+Douglas Cole wrote a nice post on a Introductory GURPS  over on Gaming Ballistic which is a part of larger debate on the SJ Games forum on how to grow the fanbase of GURPS. Douglas has links to the relevant threads in his post.

Since the early 2000s it was apparent that Munchkin was rapidly become way more successful than GURPS. With the number of employees that SJ Games could reasonably have it quickly became apparent that GURPS would get the short end when it came to development time.

Eventually new products started being released as a pipeline for PDFs was established. Then the success of the OGRE kickstarter happened and that was that for a while. Now the PDF product line has been re-established and release are now coming out on a regular basis.

All of this understandable and GURPS could have weathered it. However GURPS is now no longer the market leader when it come universal generic toolkit RPGs. Games like Savage Worlds and Fate have successfully taken over much of GURP's niche in the larger industry. GURPS still up there as shown by the few market surveys but Fate and Savage Worlds have performed just as well or better. Remember at one time GURPS was counted as the fourth or fifth most popular RPG in the industry.

Now some argue that the reason that GURPS suffers from being too complex and baroque. My opinion what propels Savage Worlds and Fate is not simplicity but a variety of approaches. Yes a lot of Fate and Savage World products have a minimalist approach but there are lot of products that have rules subsystems that are very detailed like Starblazer Adventures for Fate.

And because GURPS has been resource starved it doesn't enjoy that variety. There been attempts like the excellent Dungeon Fantasy line, Monster Hunters, Starships, etc. There are some very interesting alternatives buried in the issues of Pyramid. But in my view these efforts are not enough. To much of the PDF releases take the easy route and cater to the interest of the fanbase or the authors. Yes they are still uniformly of high quality but that that route leads to GURPS become a specialty product like Harn, Tekemul, or Glorantha.

The foundation of my opinion is the fact that when my group  ( +Tim Shorts +Dwayne Gillingham ) started group, we used the 2nd edition boxed set. In in the course of time we gave our original copies to other gamers in our area and got new copies. This was very successfully in roping in other GURPS players. But starting with 3rd edition this approach did not work.

Now why is this? In my view the 3rd edition were a definite improvement while keeping the game largely the same. The same with the 4th edition rules being an improvement over the 3rd edition rules. What 2nd edition had going for it was presentation.

Then as it is now the vast majority of roleplayers play D&D styles fantasy campaigns. Maybe not with the D&D rules but there are orcs, dungeons, dragons, and the lost. True alternatives are few and far between. With GURPS 2nd edition it was very clear how to run a D&D style fantasy campaign from the core rulebook. Yes you could run science fiction campaigns but the various list were obviously skewed toward the fantasy genres.

The other thing was the fact that while 2nd edition had a fantasy skew wasn't D&D with a different set of rules. It was deadlier, more realistic, and above all you could easily see how to make the exact type of fantasy character you want to play. Partly because while GURPS 2nd had all the lists that 3rd and 4th edition had there were far fewer advantages, disadvantages, and skills you had to root through to understand how to create characters and run the game.

Buried under the all the lists of GURPS 4th edition is still the same game that 2nd edition was. So it seems to me if you want have GURPS be more approachable then make a new presentation of GURPS core with similar details to that of 2nd edition.

Now GURPS 2nd edition had some flaw, you had to buy a separate book for magic. Granted it was only 64 pages and not that expensive compared to buying the three AD&D 2nd edition hardcovers, but it still didn't make for a complete fantasy RPG. Why? Because GURPS pretty much always had a problem with monster manual. Something that dozens of other game system could manage GURPS never could quite manage. Yes at the tail end of 3rd edition it a really great collection of monsters but scattered across a dozen books. The original bestairy and Fantasy Beastiary were pretty poor in my opinion especially for fantasy. Today the DF line has some excellent monsters but again they are scattered among several products. My view is that that what GURPS should is make a GURPS Complete Fantasy books with all the elements that other Fantasy RPG including a decent listing of monsters, magic, and treasure.

But it should try to ape the OSR and come out with a GURPS D&D clone like Dungeon Fantasy is. No what is should do is embrace the fantasy that was in 2nd edition. A world of 100  to 150 pt characters struggling to survive on adventures to win fame and glory. Where are monsters but their human foes are the worst enemies the adventurers face. That way GURPS Complete Fantasy will have a distinct niche to call it own. Then the DF line will then serve as support for people who want to go into a maze with monster inhabiting room filled with treasure. GURPS should not stop there but come out with GURPS Complete Space, and GURPS Complete Horror.

Now I started advocating this several years ago. Since then Sean Punch and the stable of GURPS authors still kept on producing good material. Among those material was a article in Pyramid about pointless GURPS. This article builds on the ideas of the GURPS Starship and turns into options for character creations.

GURPS Starships works by given spacecraft 20 slots and presenting list of options to fill those slots. Each of those options are built with the unpublished GURPS 4th edition Vehicles as well as the basic hull. But GURPS gamers doesn't see those points or the details. Each option is listed with how many slots it takes up so all you have to so it keep adding stuff until you fill up 20 slots. A far simpler task than what GURPS Vehicle has the gamer do with volume, and mass.

Sean Punch's article in Pyramid does the same with characters. It offer several lists for Attirbutes, Backgrounds, Occupation, etc. Pick from a handful of lists without any worry about the calculating the exact amount of points. The result is a complete GURPS character. Best of all if you have a player who wants to go the traditional point based approach you can let him do that and it work just fine. So I would based the character creation of the GURPS Complete line around this pointless system. Then offer a designer note PDF detailing the point breakdown of the options for gamers who like the traditional points based approach. Like Ascending AC for classic D&D, I view pointless + notes as a win-win for the entire fanbase. The same thing that been done in the past but presented in a more approachable form.

Last I don't see the resource shortage for GURPS easing up anytime soon for SJ Games. They are going to have to decide whether they want to have GURPS be a niche game for at least the next decade or open GURPS up and let the fan base direct the future of GURPS via a open content license. Personally what I would recommend given what we know Steve Jackson feelings is to give GURPS a license similar to the OGL but with the restriction that it can only be published at one site with SJ Game taking a royalty out of every sale.

Whether that site is Warehouse23 or a special arrangement with RPGNow/DriveThruRPG is up to SJ Games. But restricting it to one site would allow them keep control of the third party market even with a otherwise open license to produce content.

So what is the situation for my group now. Well we have turned to Green Ronin's Fantasy Age and currently exploring the possibilities of that system. We like the fact it is 3d6 roll high. The stunt die system over a nice way of handling critical. It is somewhat skill based although it does have classes. It allows for deadly combat but still give a place for D&D style monster. I will do a fuller review later on.

I really do hope SJ Games figures out a better way of making GURPS presentable.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Majestic Wilderland Monster Stat Block

So we been trying Fantasy Age by Green Ronin and have a lot of fun. When +Tim Shorts ran his adventure he liked their idea for a stat block and figured out how to make using his word processor and desktop publishing software. Then he got my draft for the monsters section of the Majestic Wilderlands RPG I am working on. A week later he suggested that I come with a stat block format for the monsters and items I was creating.


My first major publishing gig was adapting Judges Guild's Thieves of Fortress Badabaskor to DnD 3.5. And I grew to despise creating 3.5 style stat blocks. For Scourge of the Demon Wolf I came up with a one line stat block similar to how TSR formatted their stat blocks in ADnD 1st edition.

But on further reflection I realized that Tim had a point.

For example I don't think this is particularly clear.
It wasn't a major problem with Scourge because the stat blocks were mostly for NPCs and there were only a handful of monsters none of them with a complicated array of abilities.

So I mess around and finally came up with this which Tim liked.
Which I feel is a lot easier to use as a reference during play. And one of my major selling points for the Majestic Wilderlands RPG is that it focuses on usability at the table as opposed to being just a reference for prep.

And it is not without precendent in classic DnD as the first edition Monster Manual also had a multi-line stat block for each entry. So with this done, I went through the monster and did a second pass at editing along with reformatting all the stats into the above format.

In general what I did was went through the Swords and Wizardry text and turned any description of abilities into a item on a list. Most monsters are the same as how they are in the Swords and Wizardry core rules but reformatted. I also came up with new flavor text for most monster to reflect how they exist in my Majestic Wilderlands. I like Tim's idea of harvesting monsters so most monsters have something of value that can be harvested including the magical substance known as viz.

I did make some changes to how Swords and Wizardry, I turned percentages into a d20 roll with the same odds as they were all in 5% increments anyway. I did away bonuses and minuses to saves and attacks in favor of DnD 5e style favored and hindered rolls. (Favored = take the best out of 2d20, Hindered = take the worst out of 2d20). Also if a monster has memorized spells I gave them a typical list of spells. I included one of the Lich's stat blocks in the PDF as an example of that.

Sometime I had a new intrepetation of a classic monster. I included an example of that in the sample PDF for Ceiling Lurker, Piercers, and Trapper Beasts. I re-imagined them as variations of land dwelling manta-rays who can camouflage themselves as stone or natural surfaces.

So now I am back to working on NPCs using a stat block similar to the one I came up for monsters. Note also this is what I call my lunch hour project where I bust out the laptop and get in a half-hour of writing while eating lunch at work. So it will be another few weeks for the next installment to be done and a few months before it's complete. My hobby-time at home is filled with completing paid map projects like the City-State of the Invincible Overlord and others.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Computer Crash

Generally I do my own assembly of the computers I use. Starting in 1989 I had a succession of computer that I upgraded with bit and pieces over the years. One thing I learned is to do is store my creative stuff on multiple hard drives along with off-line backups. First Floppies, then CDs, USB Flash Drives and now I added a 100 GB of Google Drive into the mix.

Well last week the hard drive where I store all my programs died. I tweak my setup to work the way I want it to work so I hate when this happens. I have to reinstall everything and dig out serial numbers and passwords and so forth and so on. The only silver lining is that my working folders are on a separate hard drive and my games are on a third hard drive. And with Steam I already have everything downloaded so the first time I run a game it will install what it needs and I am off playing!

Well I decided this was a good time to do the upgrade to Windows 10. It was quick and easy. Has the fastest boot time I seen of any windows version to date. It also seems to be able to do this to the point where it actually connected to the network. Windows 7 got you to the login quickly but sometime it took a few minutes to finalize your network connection.

All my old drivers work including some off-beat one I use for my Wacom Tablet and 3D Mouse. For those who are interested the Table I use when I do maps and want to draw rivers, coasts, and roads. It has absolute positioning so it wrote more like a pen on paper than a mouse on a screen. The 3D mouse I use for when I run Orbiter Space Simulator or the Kerbal Space Program. I have a Logitech Joystic for attitude control. I use the 3D mouse for translation as it has not only up and down, left and right, but push in and pull out. (And twist, and it tilts four ways but I don't normally use those).

One thing I really liked about Windows 10 is that you can have two different images for dual monitors. I have one normal monitor. The other monitor is rotated 90 degrees into portrait mode. I can write or edit and see a full page at a time. 

Here what the new background looks like.

What you do is copy all the images you want to C:\Windows\Web\Wallpaper\Windows
Do a multi-select by selecting one of the images and then select the other while holding down the CTRL key.
Then right click and select Set as desktop Background.
Then will have multiple images for multiple monitors.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

How I made a Dungeon Part I

On October 3rd I ran a Fantasy Age adventure for my friends Tim, and Dan. Another friend unfortunately wasn't able to make it due to being sick. The general idea is that we get together about once a month to play RPGs and board games face to face. This time it was my turn and after talking about it, I agreed to run a Fantasy Age adventure.

Fantasy Age is intriguing to use as we are looking at an alternative to GURPS. Because Fantasy Age uses a 3d6 roll high system and has a moderate level of detail for combat and character, we have been giving it and Dragon Age a whirl. One nice thing about Fantasy Age/Dragon Age is how they handle "criticals". When you roll you use two dice of one color and one dice of another color. That third dice is called a stunt dice. If you roll a success and two of the three dice numbers match, then you are eligable for stunts. Stunts can do extra damage, allow for increase effects, and a number of other benefits. Stunts are prices in stunt points. The number of stunt points you get is based on the number rolled on the stunt die.

Outside of this the system has a lot of similarity with playing with 3.X/d20/Pathfinder with 3d6 and starting at 3rd level. But where d20 provides options through feats, in Fantasy Age it is the stunts that mixes things up. After playing it a couple of times, I find myself liking it. The cost in game play is limited to looking up costs on a short table. It adds a lot of unpredictability and tactics without complicating the rest of the system.

So now I have to prepare an adventure. I elect to keep it simple and run a dungeon underneath the City State of the Invincible Overlord. The hook as such is that during a recent revolt an entrance to a forgotten sanctum of a powerful mage was uncovered by the crash of a blue dragon. The plan is to start out the players at the famous Seahawk Tavern on Regal Street, subject them to a riot/tavern brawl, discover a map clue to the sanctum, have the dragon crash, and they find the entrance. A bit heavy handed but I felt since this was a one-shot, for now, it was a decent way to get the party to the entrance of the dungeon.

This series of posts is about my efforts to create the dungeon.

First off the concept. My view is that dungeons are like any other locales in having a history and a reason for being. In this case, the dungeon was the sanctum of a mage (think 16th level) from two centuries ago. That it has been looted in the past but not completely. What left is the equivalent of a 1st level dungeon for Fantasy Age.

The mage, Aldrous was a member of the Guild of Arcane Lord in City-State and an opponent of the Guild leader Salm-Lorin who eventually became an Overlord of the City-State. Salm-Lorin is known to history as the Tyrant and his reign was looked on as a dark period in City-State's history. The consequence for the dungeon that part of Aldrous' preparations for his final confrontation, which he lost, was sealing the entrance so it couldn't be found except by him.

However I decided the dungeon would have a second entrance to the sewers which was the reason it was able to be looted in the intervening years. The sewers always been a big part of my City-State campaigns so I figured they should be incorporated.

With that in mind I decided the Dungeon will be in two parts. One would be an abandoned barracks area connected to the basement entrance and that it would be mostly stocked with vermin. The back half with the sewer entrance was the actual sanctum of the mage.

Next Post will be on how I designed and drew the map.

Friday, September 25, 2015

The One where I get GUMSHOE

My friend +Tim Shorts is a big fan of GUMSHOE and used it effectively to run a fun supernatural campaign using the Esoterrorists rules.

And I never really got the point of the system. The campaign yes but not the system we were using. The who "find your clue automatically part" was throwing me off. I understood the problem caused by missed dice rolls when running campaign around solving mysteries however GUMSHOE's solution was going completely over my head.

Then I found that Pelgrane Press had a System Reference Document under the Open Game License. It is stripped of any setting or genre specific reference and lays out the system in a way that I finally got it.

The key was this sentence on page 28
Assuming that they look in the right place and apply appropriate abilities to the task, GUMSHOE ensures that the heroes get the basic clues they need to move through the story.
Now I can see how the character can still miss a clue or even only score a partial success. You still have to be in the right place with the right ability. Got it.

One thing I found useful in recent years is to learn how to play and referee systems that are out of my usual range. I find that broaden the range of techniques that I can bring to bear on the campaigns that I run with the systems that I like best (GURPS, Hero System, ODnD, Traveller, etc). One of my weakness is running procedural mysteries like the ones found in Sherlock Holmes.

GURPS Mysteries has a lot of great advice and is probably the best book on the subject in the hobby. Given that people like Robin Laws was involved I though it was important to figure it out.

And I am glad I did, as it solidifies my thoughts on the subject and reinforces what I been developing over the past decade for my sandbox campaign. Basically I assume a certain level of competency if the player has the skills or the levels and will deliberately give more information about a situation than otherwise would be called for by a strict interpretation of ability/skill rolls.

That failed rolls on an attempt doesn't mean automatic failure. There will be a negative consequence like it taking longer or something break. I reserve utter failure to critical failures like rolling a 1 in DnD or a 17, or 18 in GURPS. I use the traditional succeed/fail if the character in a time critical situation like combat.

My day job involves supporting customers using my company's metal cutting machine. I observe that utter failure to solve a problem or implement a feature are very rare. Where things differ is how long it takes to solve a problem or to implement a feature. That the best employees at where I work are able to solve things faster because of their high skill in a particular area. So for me the skill roll is more of a question of "How long does it take the character to do X." Then a utter failure.

As for GUMSHOE the system is a bit too lite for my taste, but I find the advice on structuring investigations and mysteries very useful to stand alongside what is said in GURPS Mysteries.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Blackmarsh and ACKS

Koewn over on the Crowbar and Brick blog is writing a series of post on using Blackmarsh with Adventurer, Conqueror, King.

I pointed out that I have this Map available if he needs more room. If you use Dwimmermount swap out the southland rectangle out for the Southland of Dwimmermount.

Click for full size

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

A follow up to my letter to Steve Wieck

I didn't get a direct reply but I got a letter to publishers today from OBS on the issue along with the proposed policy which I will share with you.

Looks like they are dealing with the concerns I had about automatic reporting. I like the idea of a white list where a product that flagged, been reviewed and found NOT offensive is not subject to repeated reviews. This means that the publishers that generate controversy will not get repeatably bothered about the same product over and over again. Once a publisher successfully dealt with the process it over for that product.

Also since we are dealing a handful of reviewers in what is a small company, I hope that they will do the common sense thing if a publisher entire list is targeted and they finding that it works goes on the white list.. By the umpteenth occurrence the publisher's line should be given a brief review and then everything should be white-listed as obviously that publisher being targeted.   Only new products subject to the normal process afterwards.

Of course nothing is going to change the fact that the whole thing is a highly subjective judgment. And the only way to ease concern about that is to establish a track record. So we will just have to wait and see on that. Which in my opinion would be the case regardless of how liberal or restrictive of a policy they adopted.

In the end it as much people as it is policy. The policy is what gives structure but the people involved is what defines it. In the hand of one group even the most liberal policy can be a vehicle for tyranny of a narrow view while in the hands of another used to create something that supports free expression.

What is the process for flagging offensive titles? 
Step 1: Customer reports a product.
Step 2: A human being at OneBookShelf does a cursory review to determine if the title should be temporarily suspended from sale or not. Either way the product is put in queue for review.
Step 3: A more thorough review of the product in completed. If deemed not offensive the product is whitelisted. If deemed potentially offensive then...
Step 4: We have expanded internal review and discussion with publisher possibly resulting in publisher retraction of the title or banning of the title.

Will a title be turned off automatically if it is flagged?
No, just because a title is flagged as offensive, it will not be automatically turned off. This process will send alerts to our staff for quick review. If our staff sees a product that is problematic, they will temporarily suspend it for further review.

Who will review the offensive titles list? 
Steve Wieck, C.E.O., who has the final say on titles marked as offensive.
Scott Holden, Marketing and Development
Matt McElroy, Director of Publishing and Marketing
Meredith Gerber, RPG Publisher Relations
Other OneBookShelf staff as deemed helpful for particular products.

I am concerned that a group that may not like myself, my company, or my product will report the title as offensive over and over until it gets pulled. How will this affect the process?
We understand that there are groups within the industry that may not be in favor of the other, but we will only be looking at the content of the product itself. Our only focus is what the content of the title is not what the author’s personal ideology is on their blog or what the artist’s criminal record is, or what other products the publisher has created or anything else outside of the product itself.

Will you be contacting the publisher before, during, or after a review? 
You will receive an email from us when your product is reported as offensive. The email will let you know if we have temporarily suspended the product or not while we review it. After we review the product you will get an email from us letting you know the product was whitelisted (and re-activated if it was suspended) or letting you know we would like to chat on the phone with you because there is potentially a problem with the product.

Will you be giving scrutiny to certain topics? 
We're going to give extra scrutiny to rape, real world racial violence, torture, sexism, homophobia, and crimes against children.

What is white list?
The White List refers to titles on site that have gone through the review process and determined not to offensive.

What can I do to be on the white list?
Nothing. Only titles that are reported as offensive and reviewed as not offensive are white listed. It is not a privileged status to desire for your products.

Are products grandfathered in?
With our library of thousands of products, we will not be able to go through every single title to make sure it is approved by our staff. We will, however, treat old products just like new ones when they’re marked as offensive.

How will you conduct this process with old titles? 
If a product is flagged as offensive, we will be going through the same process.

What if I don’t like another publisher’s title? 
Just as we expected publishers not to review one another's’ titles on site, we expect publishers not to flag another publisher’s title offensive on site. Customer accounts associated to publisher accounts will not be able to report titles as offensive. If you see something on site that you feel is genuinely offensive then you can email publisher service and let us know.

When will this be enforced?
We need to code the system for flagging titles. We expect it to be done by the end of October or sooner.

Should I be concerned about the new policy and how it will affect my marketplace?
At this time, we have not yet banned an RPG title.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Rural Criminals in the Majestic Wilderlands

While the population of a village is too small to sustain a criminal underworld, some villages will have the misfortune of having a faction of toughs. And a rare few will even be controlled by the toughs although this usually requires the indifference or cooperation of the liege lord.

Village Tough, Init +0; AC 8[11]; 1st level Thug; HP 4; ATK 1; HTB +1; DMG 1d4+2 (club, tool); Mv 120’; Save 15; ABL Athletics +2; Intimidation +1; Professional (Farming) +1; Special: +1 to damage to all weapons;
Attrib: Str 13 (+1); Dex 10 (+0); Con 10 (+0); Int 10 (+0); Wis 8 (-1); Cha 10 (+0);
Posses: Clothes, Club (1d4+2), Farm Tools, 8d.

The village tough is a typical member of this faction.

Village Tough Leader, Init +0; AC 8[11]; 3rd level Thug; HP 10; ATK 1; HTB +3; DMG 1d4+4 (club, tool); Mv 120’; Save 13; ABL Area Knowledge (Local Region) +1; Athletics +4; Intimidation +2; Professional (Farming) +1; Special: +2 to damage to all weapons;
Attrib: Str 15 (+2); Dex 10 (+0); Con 10 (+0); Int 10 (+0); Wis 10 (+0); Cha 12 (+1);
Posses: Clothes, Club (1d4+4), Farm Tools, 50d.

The leader of the village toughs often is the individual who is the strongest and most charismatic. He also usually has extensive knowledge of the local region and knows where local bandits, smugglers, and the rare fence are located.

Friday, September 4, 2015

My reply to Steve Wieck's Offensive Content Policy (RPGNOW, etc)

OBS the owners of RPGNow, DriveThruRPG, and other gaming related storefronts has been hit with a major controversy over a product called Tournament of Rapists that has been labeled obscene by many.  When I first saw pop up on the new products like my first thoughts were "This isn't going to end well." And it didn't. However regardless of my opinions or my dislike for the subgenre it ultimately not my problem as it is  amatter between OBS, its customers, and the publisher.

What is my problem (and everybody elses problem) is anything that OBS does from here on out. Thus when I saw this blog post by Steve Wieck, I sent my response to OBS.

To publisher's service,

The bottom line for me is that I know that OBS is not in the business to sell obscenity or pornography. I realize that it is not the business that OBS is in. I realize that eventually OBS would run into this issue and have to act.

So what critical for me is watching how OBS reacts. How they go about handling this particularly in the corner cases where something only sorta of obscene or sorta of pornographic.

Because there are no hard and fast line for what obscene or pornographic. It is pretty much boils down to the words of Potter Stewart, "I know it when I see it.". Which makes this pretty much the definition of a judgement call.

Personally I would err on the side of free expression but with the realization that there is a point where one has to say "Sorry but this product is not suitable to be sold in my store. You are going to have to sell it elsewhere."

After reading Steve Wieck's response, I don't see a problem of having a policy of

"Offensive Content: We'll know it when we see it"

I am skeptical of labeling this as Offensive Content. To me that represent too low of a barrier for removing products. I am sure that the Majestic Wilderlands is offensive to somebody who has bought it and read it. I am also sure that the Majestic Wilderlands is neither obscene or pornographic.

I would be more comfortable with a policy using the tighter meaning behind obscene or pornography. Especially in the light with the swing toward puritanism in today's (2010s) society. To many people on all sides of the political spectrum are taking too hard of a line to things they object too. Extremism in all things is not a virtue and is a form of tyranny.

Changing this to a focus on obscenity doesn't change the fact that it will be a "I know it when I see it" judgment call. But it will be a clear signal that unpopularity is not enough to warrant removal from the OBS stores.

I am very concerned that any type of automated removal system is being considered. In my experience this is a bad idea to and especially in light in how people behaviors change when interacting over the internet. This would create a whole new class of problems for OBS and publishers like myself and degrade the service that OBS provides.

I do however think it is a good idea for a button to allow for complaints to be sent about individual products. This will allow OBS to react quicker to not only to obscenity issues but copyright violations and other issues that arise from selling creative works.

I am not favor of any policy more detailed than what than "Offensive Content: We'll know it when we see it". If this would occur I would view this as OBS abdicating their responsibility of judging each dispute on the merits. Obscenity disputes are ultimately a judgment of taste and no written policy can substitute for human reasoning.

To this date, I been happy with my association with OBS and hopes it continues.

Thank You for your consideration

Robert Conley
Bat in the Attic Games

Majestic Wilderlands - Electrum Seller - RPGNow
Blackmarsh - Copper
Scourge of the Demon Wolf - Copper
Points of Light, Goodman Games, Silver
Points of Light II, Goodman Games, SIlver

Friday, August 28, 2015

And finally we are at Z for Zombies

A corpse that been animated through the use of necromantic energies.

Zombie, Init -1, AC 8[11]; HD 2; HP 7; ATK 1; HTB +1; DMG 1d8 (fists); MV 60’; Save 16; Special: Hard to Kill, Undead; Harvest: None; CL/XP 2/30;
Hard to Kill: If a zombie is brought down to zero hit points it can roll its saving throw at +2. If the saving throw is successful it will get up with 1 hit point.
Undead: As a mindless undead creature, Zombies are immune to Charm Person and Sleep.

They appear as a decayed corpse. How decayed depends on how they have been animated.

I really liked the ability of 5e Zombies to get up after they go down to zero hit points if they make a roll. So I incorporated that as a feature of the zombies found in the Majestic Wilderlands.

Despite reaching the Zs, I still have a large section to go where I detailed common NPCs. While dungeons, ruines, and monster bashing are a part of my Majestic Wilderlands, the majority of adventures in my campaigns stem from complications and conflicts caused by NPCs. So I developed a bunch of templates for common encountered NPCs that I can use on the fly

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Unicorns in the Majestic Wilderlands

Unicorn are a magical manifestation of the life of the Wilderlands. They are a reminder of the potential of life and that all are born as innocents. In general they appear in lands that are in harmony and are universally viewed as a good omen that the realm is blessed.

Only the truly innocent can approach and ride a Unicorn. Otherwise the Unicorn will use its speed and teleport ability to flee. The death of Unicorn produces a supernatural call to all paladins and other divine champions within a 100 miles that great evil is present.

Unicorn, Init +2, AC 2[17]; HD 4+5; HP 19; ATK 3; HTB +4; DMG 1d8 (hooves x2), 1d8 (horn); MV 240’; Save 13; Special: Charge, Magical Immunity, Teleport; Harvest: 5 viz (unicorn horn); CL/XP 5/240;
Charge: If a Unicorn moves 120’ or more towards a target and hits with its horn it does double damage.
Magical Immunity: Spell casters have to roll a 16 or better on a d20 in order for their spells to effect the unicorn.
Teleport: A Unicorn can teleport once a day without error within 360 ft. This ability includes any riders.

Unicorns appear as a white horse with a single ivory horn in the midst of its forehead.

In general, the idea of a lynchpin creature in a fantasy setting doesn't appeal to me. For me the classic example is the unicorn in the movie Legends. A creature so important that the realm is devastated if it is harm or dies. However unicorn are a fantasy staple what I came up with for the Majestic Wilderlands is the idea that they are basically a good omen that things are right. After evil is vanquished, justice is restored then the Unicorns return a visible sign that the good guys have done their job.

This is part of the larger idea in my campaign that magic is in part fueled by emotions and the Unicorns are a sign that the positive emotions are ascendant in a realm.

One idea for a campaign start with a party heavy with paladins and other divine champions is for them to feel the death of a unicorn. An immediate sign that something very bad has happened. Unfortunately the side effect of a Unicorn's death is not very specific as to the details or even the location. However it is enough of an alarm that most of the major bad guys don't go hunting them down unless they have firm control of a region.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Rolling your own RPG or House Rule document.

+Douglas Cole talks about tinkering with rules for his own game in this post on Gaming Ballistic. I understand where he going with this and have some experience with this with the Majestic Wilderlands.

The initial idea of the Majestic Wilderlands was to publish my setting. But I quickly realized that I needed some mechanics to support specific elements of the setting. Plus I felt the best setting books had both well written background material and useful rules and items. So the result was a book half rules and half setting information.

Since I was doing this as an independent publishers, I needed to use something that was legal to use which in our neck of the wood means something under the OGL. For various reason I settled on using Swords and Wizardry as my target rule set. Since then, 2009, I ran several campaign and kept tweaking and modifying until I got to the point where why not combine into not just a supplement but a more or less complete ruleset. So that what I am in the midst of doing now and why you see the occasionally post about spell, armor and equipment which I cherry pick out of my current draft.

Doing this gave me some insight into what would be useful, if you or anybody else wanted to do this.

For something straight forward mechanically, the best place to start is with Swords and Wizardry. Matt Finch not only placed his rule book under the OGL, he went the extra mile and made a word document that you can edit for the basis of your own.

If you want something that works with Classic DnD and has more options for characters and the game but not go all the way like D20/Pathfinder. Then I would look at something like Blood and Treasure by John Slater. He doesn't have a 100% OGL system reference document but there is a lot of material that can be used.

Of course if you want to go the whole hog there is the both the d20 SRD and the Pathfinder SRD. Even if you don't use the core concepts of either SRDs, they have the equivalent of appendices that have all kinds of extra stuff like Kingdoms rules in the Pathfinder game. Stuff that could be ported over to any of the OSR games I blog about.

Doug and I both have a lot of experience with GURPS. The game is still one of my favorite RPGs. A lot of the rules in the Majestic Wilderlands  are adaptations of templates and rules from my GURPS campaigns. However when designed them, where I could I opted to remain as DnDish as possible and only make the minimum change to incorporate the mechanic. Hence not a lot of opposed rolls or defenses but a lot of saving throws and to-hit versus AC.

But you know I still really like GURPS and RPGs that are skill based and has more mechanical detail than classic DnD normally does. So I tried to roll my own with Fudge but that didn't work out as well as I liked. So I just said to hell with it and started to write complete RPG based off of Sword and Wizardry and my stuff. So you know it floundered on the fact +1 using Fudge Dice is a huge bonus. It was proving too difficult to get the math right for the progression I wanted.

I did have an idea for a skill based system with mechanical detail that may help Doug or anybody else trying to do their own take. Especially they are a fan of GURPS. Understand I spend a lot of time on this so I don't how it would actually play.

Now this is just the starting point for a skill based RPG. To get the mechanical details, a designer need to look through the multitude of feats (the main mechanic of d20 to add extra abilities) and come up with a set that give you feel you want. Keep in mind how it will look at different points in the character's advancement.

Because all of the is under the OGL you can something back for your work beyond your home game whether it just sharing it or selling it.

Finally what funny is that I just finished reading Fantasy Age because my friend +Tim Shorts is into the Dragon Age RPG. What I didn't realize to that point was it used a variant of 3d6 roll high as it primary mechanic. So it was fun to see how they implemented it.

Hope this helps anybody wanted to roll their own system.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Gold Box series is back!

At Good Old Games.

Don't know what the Gold Box series is? It is the first computer game I played that faithfully replicated the first edition rules of ADnD. Playing out Pool of Radiance was the first time +Dwayne Gillingham+Tim Shorts and myself actually played ADnD together. Since it was turn base we could switch playing our individual characters during combat along with the deciding what the best course of action for the rest of the game.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Combat Stunts for Swords and Wizardry and 5th edition D&D

Thanks to my friend +Daniel McEntee and +Douglas Cole of Gaming Ballistic for asking tough questions that clarified my thoughts on this.

Combat Stunts
There are times where a player as his character will want to inflict on the target an adverse result other than dealing hit point damage.

The general rule is that a to-hit roll is made. Depending on the difficulty of the stunt there may at times a negative modifier of -2 or -5. If the attack succeeds the target rolls a saving throw. If the target fails his saving throw the adverse result takes effect.

If a natural 20 is rolled on the attack the adverse result takes effect with no saving throw. Furthermore the attacker can roll again to see if another critical occurs.

  • If the second roll fails then just the adverse result takes effect. 
  • If the second roll would normally hit the target then normal damage is rolled in addition to the adverse result taking effect.
  • If the second roll a critical then the maximum damage is inflicted. The attacker may continue roll for additional critical hits until he fails to roll a natural 20.
In general combats stunts not likely to affect high level characters or high hit dice creatures due to their good saving throws. This is by design and reflects the fact that Hit Dice and Level is a measure of experience and ability. Also the stunt represents not a single maneuver or swing but rather a series of moves, feints, and swings over a six second period where the attacker is deliberately trying to achieve the adverse result.

The following are rulings for the more common stunts.

Head Shot
The attacker may elect to try a head shot on helmless target. The attack is a -2. Due to the skill absorbing damage the target makes the saving at +2. If the target fails his saving throw, he falls unconscious. If the target is unaware or surprised the attack is normal.

If the target is significantly larger than the attacker then the target is +5 to his saving throw. If the target is significantly smaller than he is at -5 to his saving throw. Targets 10 times the size of the attacker are not effected by head shots.

Face Shot
The attacker may elect to try a head shot on target not wearing a Great Helm. The attack is at -5. If the target fails his saving throw, he falls unconscious. If the target is unaware or surprised the attack is normal.

If the target is significantly larger than the attacker then the target is +5 to his saving throw. If the target is significantly smaller than he is at -5 to his saving throw. Targets 10 times the size of the attacker are not effected by head shots.

The attacker may elect to disarm his opponent of a chosen weapon at a -2 to hit. If the target fails his saving throw he loses the weapon as if he fumbled it. This has no effect on natural weapons like claws.

The attack may try to knock the target prone through a combination of maneuvers by making an attack roll at -2. If the target fails his saving throw his knocked prone.

If the target is significantly larger than the attacker then the target is +5 to his saving throw. If the target is significantly smaller than he is at -5 to his saving throw. Targets ten times the size of the attacker are not effected by trips

Changes for 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons.
This can be useful if you are using 5th edition DnD especially when you confine yourself to just the basic rules. Note if you have the PHB there is the battle master option which could be adapted into a stunt system.

The main difference is how modifiers saving throws and critical hits are handled.

For 5th edition
All positive modifiers are ignored. Grant advantage instead.

All negative modifiers are ignored. Grant disadvantage instead. Yeah this makes the no difference between a head and face shot. You may opt to decide a head shot is a normal attack and a face shot is at a disadvantage.

Ignore the critical rule. If a critical hit is scored then roll normal damage in addition to the adverse result. Instead of doubling the dice of damage, the attacks gets his adverse result and normal damage.

The target must make a dexterity saving with a DC of the attacker's to hit roll. For example Marcus the Paladin is trying to head shot the poor orc that forgot his helm in his cave. Marcus rolls at a disadvantage and manages to hit the orc with a 15. The orc now has to make a dexterity save versus at DC 15.

So why bother with this at all? I think it is reasonable for players to try to attempt things that are known to be possible in real life. Disarming an opponent is difficult but we know some skilled fighters can do it. Shoving and pushing happen all the time in fights. The question for me was how to allow be consistent in my rulings and yet not turn the game into a pseudo GURPS, Harnmaster, or Runequest.

DnD has several tools to use to make a ruling in combat, the to hit roll, hit points, armor class, and saving throws are some of them. For this I elected the retain the basic to-hit roll. However I want to make sure that beating an opponent down to zero hit points was the optimal path to victory as that is a core DnD mechanic. So I elected for stunts to give the target a defense.

We know that saving throws were developed to allow character to avoid something really bad happening to them. So as a defense roll I felt Saving Throws are the way to go and still keep the game recognizably DnD. It also has the virtue of scaling as the character levels unlike something based on attributes. Also it doesn't require the addition of a skill system.

Monday, August 10, 2015

A new attack option for Swords & Wizardry

For a number of years when playing Swords and Wizardry, I been giving Fighting-Men a bonus to their initiative equal to their to-hit bonus. I felt that added a more pizazz, as well as making sense, to melee combat if Fighting Men were the ones mostly going first in a combat round.

Swords and Wizardry Core Rules doesn't have multiple melee attacks as one of the main options. And that how I been handling it since I started using it in 2008. I am not keen on adding multiple melee attacks based on levels but I was thinking. What if I make it a function of initiative?

To add this to Swords and Wizardry requires these rules.

Use Ascending AC and the to-hit bonus chart.

Fighting Men get to add their to-hit bonus to their initiative plus any other bonus they may get from dexterity.

Multiple Attacks
If a character attacks in melee and his initiative (whether individual or group) is triple, or more compared to his opponent, the attacker gets two melee attack rolls. This does not apply to spell casting or missile attacks.

So if the Party rolls a 5 for initative and Able the fighter has a +1 to hit bonus. If their orc opponents roll a 2. Then Able is able to make two attack rolls if he does a melee attack against the Orc. Now this applies to any character to if the Orcs roll a 1 and the party rolls a 6 then everybody gets two melee attacks.

In conjunction with the Initiative rule for Fighting Men this means that Fighting Men will be the class that benefits the most from this. And it will spice up combat a bit by having the player looking not just to beat the monster's initiative but beat by high enough margin to get multiple melee attacks.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Low Magic with Swords and Wizardry

+Ken H  kicks off  the discussion with a post about simplified Swords and Wizardry and   +Chris C.   follows up with his own thoughts over on the Clash of Spear on Shield. Ken is musing over  a low magic campaign where the fantastic elements are confined to a megadungeon, Monteporte in his case. Monteporte would be set in a medieval world with societies and technologies similar to own Middle Ages. Character would be limited to classes like Fighters and Thieves where their abilities make sense in such a setting. And do all this with a ruleset that is light on the mechanics.

From around 1987 to 2008, GURPS was THE system I used to run campaigns with. One of the main appeals was the ability to fine tune the character don't only to the genre (Fantasy in my case) but to the specific situations and tone of the campaign. GURPS made it easy to run a campaign where everybody with a magic-user. And each of them was different despite sharing common abilities. The same with the city-guard campaign, and the thief campaign.

GURPS made this easy for me by having tons and tons of lists for skills, advantages, powers, etc. Yeah it took a little work but I thought at the time a lot less work than if I had to roll my own stuff.

That proved not to be true.

It came together for me after I read Matt Finch's A Quick Primer on Old School Gaming. His assertion of rulings not rules made me realize an essential truth about tabletop roleplaying; that rules are tools and that they are not point of the game.  Unlike my situation in 1987, in 2008, I was married, had kids, had over 15 years of LARP experience, and written a few published RPG books. I had a lot more life experience, all of which I can bring to bear to adjudicate the crazy shit the players do like throwing milk in a barbarian's face.

 As part of the process of writing my first independent project, the Majestic Wilderlands, I had to decide what made the Majestic Wilderland, the Majestic Wilderlands. Then came the tricky part of modifying Swords & Wizardry into reflecting reality of my setting. Go too far and become a completely different game. Don't do it enough then is it really of any use as a rule supplement?

The result was a series of tweaks to the Swords & Wizardry, mostly in the form of customized classes. One major addition I made was to add an ability system that allowed characters to be better at non-combat actions over other characters. Normally they are called skills but because this is Swords & Wizardry where any character can attempt any action, I elected call them abilities as any character of any class can attempt to use them. The abilities proved to be what I needed to successfully adapt how I ran the Majestic Wilderland under GURPS to Swords and Wizardry.

So what it would take to adapt Sword and Wizardry a very low magic campaign?

The first major consideration is healing. The minimum would be that the referee needs to consider how to manage the flow of time in the campaign. Most DnD edition allow the character to be fully healed with two to four weeks of rest. If there is nothing else happening a referee could say "OK you rest for four weeks it cost the party 100 gp for upkeep and now you are fully healed". That is a little bland and it might be better to spice it up with some downtime activities. While the 5e DMG addresses this issue, it was recognized long ago, In 1980, Midkemia press had a whole section on downtime events in their Cities Book. They have a PDF available.

I strongly feel that non-combat abilities need to be quantified and distinguished. It doesn't need to elaborate like GURPS or Runequest but there needs to be something. My solutions was abilities in the MW Supplement, there are others out there that work as well. I don't feel that relying on attribute checks is enough.

Finally I found that players like variety, and choices. One easy way to do this is to have mechanically detailed characters and a straightforward setting. A lot DnD 4e adventures and setting were presented like this. DnD 4e characters had a lot of choices in how they could fight in combat but the adventures, not all but most, were just a linked series of combat encounters.

The other way is what games like Fate and Savage World do. They mechanically simplistic but try to present rich settings to adventure in. Then of course what Runequest/Glorantha, Harnmaster/Harn, and Ars Magica/Mythic Europe try to do is have a rich setting with a mechanically detailed ruleset.

If the rules are going to be detailed, then the setting needs to have the detail. At some point I am going to tire of exploring a endless monster filled maze and want to interact with something. So variety is important.

Also we are can handle dungeon exploration different if we have to take four weeks to recover from injury. A lot of focus will be on making sure we have refuges where we can hole up for weeks at a time. Another thing to consider with more realistic healing rates is that the optimal organization would be a siege expedition. Starting with a large party at the entrance, the goal would be to establish a series of base camps into the depths of the dungeon. Stocking them with supplies and securing them. From these base camps, exploring parties would be sent out, with the best or most skilled at the deepest camp.

Another observation is one from my Majestic Wilderlands, In MW the magic-users are the most advanced wielders of magic in the setting. There are other and the main limitation is how they can or can't memorize spell. For battle magic, these other magic users have to rely on scroll and magical devices.  In a campaign with low magic, the referee doesn't have to have any magic-users at all. Instead magic can only be cast from a scroll, used via potion or device. A referee that want players create magic items then you can make it as difficult or easy as he wants. Perhaps it is limited to a Scholar class with the Natural Philosophy skill.

Finally given time in a Fantasy Campaign, the character will have magic-items and there will be a point where magic is literally coming out of their ears. At that point the campaign will shift and the referee needs to be prepared for that. The only question is when does the referee wants this to occur.

To wrap this up, I think a low magic Monteport will be a neat idea. I think it will need a few new rules added to Swords & Wizardry to make it interesting over a long campaign but not to the point that you are writing a complete supplement.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Faeries of the Majestic Wilderlands Part 2

Now we get to the Sidhe the heart of what makes Faerie, Faerie along with with some notes on a few important Sidhe.

The Sidhe appear very similar to elves, however they are faeries and not one of the Children Races of Elves and Men. The Sidhe born of positive emotions (love, charity, etc.) are considered to be part of the Seelie Court and are ruled by the King and Queen of Summer. The Sidhe born of negative emotions (hate, greed, anger, etc.) are considered part of the Unseelie Court and are ruled by the King and Queen of Winter. It is a mistake to consider the Seelie as good and the Unseelie as evil. Their motivation is to recreate the emotions that gave them birth regardless of the desire and needs of those they interact.

Sidhe, Lesser, AC 7[12]; HD 5; HP 20; ATK 1; HTB +5 DMG 1d6 (shortsword), MV 120’; Save 12; Special: Magical Immunity, Innate Magic, Gift of the Muses; Harvest: 1 viz (faerie essence); CL/XP 6/400;
Magical Immunity: Spellcasters need to roll an 11 or better on 1d20 to affect them with a spell.
Innate Magic: Lesser Sidhe can cast Phantasmal Force at will.
Gift of the Muses: A Lesser Sidhe can bestow a +2 ability bonus for 1d6 months to create an artistic or literary work. However while under the influence of the gift, the target will age 1 year per month and will be obsessed with completion of his work. The immortal elves are not affected by the aging but have to make a saving throw with a +2 bonus or retire to the realm of Silvanus for 1d6 months to recuperate from its effect. The target can opt to refuse the gift allowing him to make a saving throw to avoid the effect.

These Sidhe appear as elves in rustic clothing. Lesser Sidhe focus on inspiring artists and writers as a means of acquiring novel stories in order to rise in the hierarchy of the Sidhe.

Sidhe, Greater, AC 3[16]; HD 10; HP 45; ATK 1; HTB +10 DMG 1d8 (rapier), MV 120’; Save 5; Special: Magical Immunity, Innate Magic, Gift of the Muses, Spell Casting; Harvest: 3 viz (faerie essence); CL/XP 12/2,000;
Magical Immunity: Spellcasters need to roll a 16 or better on 1d20 to affect them with a spell. They immune to the effects of any mind control spells like Charm Person or Suggestion.
Innate Magic: Greater Sidhe can cast Phantasmal Force at will. They can turn Invisible and cast Dimension Door at will. And use Polymorph at will to change their appearance. Once a day they can cast Suggestion.
Gift of the Muses: A Greater Sidhe can bestow a +4 ability bonus for 1d6 months to create an artistic or literary work. However while under the influence of the gift, the target will age 1 year per month and will be obsessed with completion of his work. The immortal elves are not affected by the aging but have to make a saving throw with a +2 bonus or retire to the realm of Silvanus for 1d6 months to recuperate from its effect. The target can opt to refuse the gift allowing him to make a saving throw to avoid the effect.
Spellcasting: Greater Sidhe can cast 4 1st level spells, 3 2nd level spells, 2 3rd level spells, and 1 4th spell as a 10th level magic user.

Typical Spell List
Magic-User spells (cast at 10th level)
1st Level: Charm Person x2, Detect Magic, Sleep
2nd Level: Darkness, Detect Thoughts, Mirror Image
3rd Level: Lightning Bolt, Dispel Magic
4th Level: Hallucinatory Terrain

These Sidhe appear as elves in extraordinary fine clothing or armor. Greater Sidhe are the chief servants of the Sidhe Lords and serve as heralds, and their champions. In exchange for their service the Sidhe Lord grant a Greater Sidhe the right to enact their stories in a small region or focused on a small group of mortal. This grant is known as the Concession, Arcane. If focused on a region there is a spot where a hidden treasure of ancient wealth is buried. If focused on a group, the individuals will be marked in some manner typically with a minor birthmark.

Ariel’s main interest is elevating scholars and magic-users to the height of their professions. To this end s/he will act as a willing servant aiding his/her master with various task and with information. To some Ariel appears as a female elf, and others as a male elf.  The chosen form depends on whatever to be whatever will inspire or aid his/her target the most.

Herne the Hunter
Herne appears as an elf wearing hunter’s garb made of head and wearing an antlered stag headdress. He works towards inspiring mortals to help the helpless and fight injustice. He often acts by teaching his targets how to survive in the forest and use it to their advantage in their fight. He is noted for his rivalry with the Erl-king and to his irritation is often mistaken for the Winter King.

Puck interest lies mostly in getting his chosen targets to reenact stories of love. He delights in creating romantic situation with complications. One of his favorite tools is a potion conocted from a flower known as heartease. When applied to the eyelids of a sleeping individual, they will fall madly in love with the first person or animal they see when awakened. (Saving throw applies). Puck appearance is little different from his days as a lesser Sidhe; he appears as an older adolescent dressed in forest clothes.

One of Mab’s favorites in the Court of Winter, Umberiel feeds off of stories involving sorrow, loss, and tragedy. He will rarely take any direct action himself. Instead he will plant items drawn from his Bag of Sighs, Sobs, and Sorrow to manipulate mortals into playing out his collection of stories. While his appearance is definitely elven, he is shorter and more gnome-like than his fellow Sidhe. He also sports a sparse beard.

Sidhe, Lord, AC -1[20]; HD 16; HP 56; ATK 1; HTB +16 DMG 2d6 (weapon), MV 180’; Save 3; Special: Magical Immunity, Innate Magic, Gift of the Muses, Spell Casting; Harvest: Viz 7 (faerie essence); CL/XP 18/3,900;
Magical Immunity: Spellcasters need to roll a 16 or better on 1d20 to affect them with a spell. They immune to the effects of any mind control spells like Charm Person or Suggestion.
Innate Magic: Sidhe Lords can cast Phantasmal Force and Hallucinatory Terrain at will. They can turn Invisible and cast Teleport at will. And use Polymorph at will to change their appearance. They can cast Suggestion at will.
Gift of the Muses: A Sidhe Lord can bestow a +4 ability bonus for 1d6 years to create an artistic or literary work. However while under the influence of the gift, the target will age 1 year per three months and will be obsessed with completion of his work. The immortal elves are not affected by the aging but have to make a saving throw or retire to the realm of Silvanus for 1d6 years to recuperate from its effect. The target can opt to refuse the gift allowing him to make a saving throw to avoid the effect.
Spellcasting: They can cast 5 spells each from 1st level to 6th level, 2 7th level spells, and 1 8th spell as a 16th level magic user.

Typical Spell List
Magic-User spells (cast at 16th level)
1st Level: Charm Person x3, Detect Magic, Sleep
2nd Level: Darkness, Detect Thoughts, Mirror Image
3rd Level: Lightning Bolt, Dispel Magic x2, Fly, Protection from Missiles 
4th Level: Charm Monster, Confusion x2, Polymorph Other, Fear
5th Level: Conjure Elemental, Feeblemind x2, Passwall, Telekinesis
6th Level: Control Weather, Geas, Project Image x2, Reincarnation
7th Level: Limited Wish, Power Word Stun
8th Level: Mass Charm

The Erl-King
The Erl-King is the ruler of the Winter Court. He appears as a giant of man dress in hunter’s grab made from the hides of his kills. His face is shrouded by the antlered stage headdress he wears. The only thing that can be seen are his red burning eyes. His stories are as merciless as a hunting wolf pack and as cold as a winter storm. He has used his mastery of stories about cruelty, terror, and unforgiving nature to become the King of Winter. It is said he is a lover of the blood goddess Kalis and sometimes asked to be the Master of the Wild Hunt when one of her vampires are not available.

Mab, the Queen of Air and Darkness
Mab has long ago mastered stories of all the great vices; Greed, Envy, Avarice, Gluttony, Lust, Wrath, and Sloth. But what made her the Queen of Winter, the Queen of Air and Darkness, is her ability to manipulate her target into not caring about the consequences of their actions. Some say she literally is able to freeze a person’s heart into ice, free of all concerns about what they do or not do. She appears as an unearthly beautiful elven maiden wearing a gown tinted with various shades of white and blue, reminiscent of the shades of ice.

The Summer King, Oberon has mastered stories about the great virtues of Charity, Love, Diligence, Patience, Kindness, Humility, and Temperance. He only takes a personal hand in those stories involving epic danger to its participants. The rest he doles out to his followers. As a consequence his attention is not always welcomed by mortals. His natural form is a dwarf with the features of a kingly elf lord. He is typically dressed in clothing of a fine make colored in earth tones. Titania is the great love of his life and he is sometime intensely jealous when she show any favor to other males.

Titania is the Queen of Summer, and like Oberon, she has mastered all the stories of the great virtues. She prefers to take a personal hand in those stories involving a great romance among its participants. Manipulating the situation so that not only love is fulfilled but exemplifies the desired virtue. Her natural form is of a beautiful elf maiden with fiery red hair wearing in a iridescent white dress.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Faeries for the Majestic Wilderlands part 1

Does anybody find roleplaying Faeries difficult? I sure did and a year ago I finally found a handle on roleplaying them that worked for me.

Now that last night session played out. I can post what I written about Faeries. It is in-game knowledge now that the gig is up largely because one of the players is Colin McDaw a Bard of the Trehaen (a Druidic organization).

Although my campaign is run with the Dungeons and Dragon Fifth Edition rules these are written up for Swords and Wizardry with a few added feature. Each creature has something that can be harvested for treasure. I also standardized how special abilities are listed to make it easier to reference during play.

The rules for Viz can be founded in the Blackmarsh SRD.

Account of Doug of Gaming Ballistic.
Account of Tim of Gothridge Manor

Magic in the Majestic Wilderlands is the force of creation made manifest. Before the creation of the Abyss and the Chromatic Crystals, the inherent level of magic was low. In order to be harassed as a spell, it has to be laboriously gathered in a ritual and infused into a scroll, charm, or magical device. After the creation of the Chromatic Crystal, it was found that a disciplined will alone could be used to cast a spell.

Over the centuries magic did not turn into a science or craft because it was highly infused by an individual emotional and mental state. What worked for one individual, often didn’t work for another. This susceptibility of magic to emotion had another consequence, the creation and evolution of faeries.

Faeries are creatures, and monsters born out of the ambient level of magic that flow throughout the Wilderlands. The emotional life of elves, men, and even plants and animals give birth to these creatures including the faeries that develop sentience. The nature of their birth has left all faeries with a singular drive to recreate the emotions that give them life. This typically manifests with the faeries using their abilities to recreate the circumstances that led to their birth. Using magic, to manipulate the environment and those around them into playing out certain stories and emotions, over and over again. This can sometimes led to dangerous situations when emotions like anger, hate, and fear are part of the faerie’s nature.

The key to dealing with the Faeries is to understand the emotions and stories that give them birth.

The Elves and the Faerie
When the Wilderlands was created there were two sentient races; Elves and Men. The Elves were born as the glory of the Wilderlands, as a shining example of the potential of life. They were given great gifts however the price was that their fate was to the Wilderlands. One reason for this is that their immortality and other gifts are sustained by the innate magic of the Wilderlands. Because of this, the elves feel kinship with the faeries, and in general will help them fulfill their nature. For the faeries that have the negative emotions as their nature the elves will still help them but try to do it in isolated locations far from the other races of the Wilderlands. Many elves realms will have a large population of faeries.

Banshee, AC 0[19]; HD 7; HP 25; ATK 1; HTB +7 DMG 1d8 (claw), MV 120’ (fly); Save 9; Special: Damage Immunity, Magic Resistance, Shriek of Death, Magical Immunity; Harvest: Ectoplasmic Residue (5d); CL/XP 11/1700;
Damage Immunity: Need Magic or Silver weapons to be hit.
Magic Resistance: Resist Magic on a roll of 20 or higher on a d20, add +9 to the roll. Forcing a banshee to cross running water will cause the creature to lose this ability for 3d6 hours.
Shriek of Death: A horrid wailing shriek requires everybody in earshot to make a saving throw or die within 2d6 round unless a remove curse is cast.
Magical Immunity: Not effected by any enchantment spells.

Banshees are horrid undead creatures that live in swamps and other desolate places.  They look like gaunt humans (male or female) with long, stringy hair and glowing yellow eyes.  They often wear hooded cloaks.

Banshees are formed when an elf or a faerie dies with an unfulfilled intense loss or obsession. Their spirit does not to accept the loss of their current life and is unable to move on to be resurrected. Instead they linger as an incorporeal undead lamenting their loss or unfulfilled goals. The banshee is the closest thing that the elves and faeries of the Majestic Wilderlands have to a concept of hell.

Dryad, AC 9[10]; HD 2; HP 7; ATK 1; HTB +2 DMG 1d4 (wooden dagger), MV 120’; Save 12; Special: Charm; Harvest: 1 viz (dryad leaves); CL/XP 3/60;
Charm: Can cast a Charm Person at will. The target has a -2 to its saving throw.

Dryads appear as a beautiful female. They are a manifestation of the life giving force of nature. When a tree sprouts in a highly fertile area with a high enough concentration of magic a dryad will manifest. It is tied to the tree’s existence and will die if its host tree dies.

It is highly attracted to humanoid males and will use its Charm ability to beguile them into staying with them for a year and a day. To the effected individual it will appear as if a single wonderful day has passed in the embrace of a beautiful woman.

Leprechaun, AC 8[11]; HD 1; HP 4; ATK 1; HTB +1 DMG 1d6 (shortsword), MV 180’; Save 15; Special: Magical Immunity, Stealthy, Innate Magic; Harvest: 1 viz (hair); CL/XP 5/400;
Magic Immunity: Spell casters need to roll 3 or better on 1d20 in order to affect them with a spell.
Stealthy: A Leprechaun gets +5 to it Stealth ability roll.
Innate Magic: Can cast Invisibility and Dimension Door at will. They can cast Phantasmal Force once per day.

Leprechauns appear as small humans about two to three feet tall (slightly smaller than halflings). Leprechauns are tricksters who delight in placing their targets in situations where confusion and misunderstanding abound. There are three broad types of Leprechauns. The first delights in humor and will orient their trickery to creating funny or absurd situations. The second delights in showing up those who are full of hubris and will orient their trickery to show how foolish these people are. The third is more malevolent and their trickery often have tragic or cruel endings.

Regardless of type, Leprechauns maintain a treasure trove of coins and other valuables gained over the years from their trickery. If captured or tricked themselves the Leprechaun has to turn over his treasure trove or obligate himself to fulfill three tasks for its captor.

Nymph, AC 9[10]; HD 3; HP 10; ATK 1; HTB +3; DMG 1d3 (fist), MV 120’; Save 14; Special: Blinding Beauty; Harvest: 1 viz (tresses); CL/XP 5/240;
Blinding Beauty: A character failing his saving throw upon seeing a nymph will forever see its beauty in its eyes forever. This is effectively the same as blindness.

Related to Dryads, Nymphs manifest as faeries of harmony and beauty. When magic concentrate in a small region of wilderness of particular beauty and calm, a Nymph will form. Regions include places like rivers, springs, mountain tops, forest glades, rocky outcroppings, windswept beaches, and geysers.

Nymphs have an innate connection to their region and can be a valuable source of information to friendly allies. They work towards enhancing and/or maintaining the natural beauty of their home. Nymphs feel the emotions of those who appreciate their work.

Harming or killing Nymph will invariably bring about a violent reaction from the animals, planets, and sometimes the weather of the region.

Pixie, AC 5[14]; HD 1; HP 4; ATK 1; HTB +1 DMG 1d4 (dagger), 1d4+1 (pixie bow), MV 60’/150’ (fly); Save 17; Special: Magical Immunity, Pixie Bow, Innate Magic, Magical Confusion; Harvest: 1 viz (pixie dust); CL/XP 5/240;
Pixie Bow: Has a range of 60’/120’. A pixie can either a) fire a +1 arrow for 1d4+1 damage, b) cause sleep for 3d6 x10 minutes if the target fails a saving throw, 3) cause total amnesia if the target fails a saving throw.
Magical Immunity. Spell casters need to roll a 6 or better on 1d20 in order to affect them with a spell.
Innate Magic: Can cast Polymorph Self, Invisible, and Light at will. Can cast Dispel Magic as a 1st level spell caster once per day.
Magical Confusion: A pixie’s dagger and arrows are coated with a magical poison that causes the target to fall under the effects of a confusion spell if they fail their saving throw.

Tomorrow Part 2 with the Sidhe.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

I don't where to put my low stat.

This is a pretty funny video and one of the best DnD related songs I ever heard.

I don't where to put my Low Stat by Dr. Mary Crowell.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Golems in the Majestic Wilderlands

Working through the Gs on my monster list. Just finished the Golems.

Golems are humanoid constructs built to serve their creature, usually powerful magi-users or clerics. Typically they are built to serve as guards or servants, however some with artistic ability create golems for other purposes like life sized dioramas, pleasure, or other forms of entertainment.

To create a golem, the spell caster needs to create or obtain a Manual of Golems. The Manual of Golem can be created at a cost of 3,500d in ritual components. This will take 35 days to complete for one spell caster at a rate of 100d per day per caster. Two spell casters working together can complete the manual in half of the time. To buy a Manual of Golem costs an average of 7,000d or double what it costs to market. As a general rule one can be found for sale in the largest cities if a 15 or better is rolled on a d20.

After the Manual of Golems is created, or obtained, the process for making the golem can begin. The cost in ritual components for each golem is listed and like the Manual of Golems the time to create is 100d per day per caster.

The following list the creation costs for various golems.

Golem Type Cost Magic Type
Clay Golem 6,000d Divine
Flesh Golem  4,000d Arcane
Stone Golem  8,000d Arcane/Divine
Iron Golem 10,000d Arcane

*1d = 1 sp it can be 1gp to make magic items more costly/rare

Control of a golem can be transferred to another individual at a cost of 1/10th of the creation cost of the golem. For example control of a stone golem can be transferred to another for 800d. The time to complete the ritual is 100d per day per caster. If multiple spell casters are involved in the creation of the golem, the different spell casters have to agree on which one is to have control. If this does not occur then the spell caster who makes the highest Thaumatology (or Theology in the case of clerics) ability check at the end of the golem creation ritual wins control.

Golems are man-shaped creatures built to serve their masters, usually powerful wizards or high priests. They are often used as guardians. Golems cannot be hit with non-magical weapons, and are immune to the sorts of spells used to create them (iron golems being immune to fire, for instance). You can find the details in the specific monster descriptions.

Golem, Clay, AC 7[12]; HD 10; HP 50; ATK 1; HTB +10; DMG 3d10 (fist); MV 80’; Save 5; Special: Berserk, Construct, Made of Clay, Magical Immunity; Harvest: 600d of Ritual Components; CL/XP 14/2,600;
Berserk: Every 5 rounds of combat roll a d20, if a 1 or lower is rolled the creator loses control of the Clay Golem who goes berserk and attacks friend and foe alike. For each subsequent 5 rounds of combat subtracts an accumulative -1 from the roll. The 10th round subtract -1, the 15th round, -2 and so on.
Made of Clay: Immune to damage from all piercing and slashing weapons (spears, sword, etc).
Magical Immunity: Immune to all magic except for the Earthquake spell which will destroy the Clay Golem. Also the Move Earth spell will deal 1d4 per level of the spell caster to the Golem, half damage on a successful save.

Clay Golems are massive clay humanoid statues that can move. They are imbued with a rudimentary intelligence and are able to follow their creator’s command. They can only be created by clerics and other casters of divine magic. Scholars theorize that this is because Clay Golems symbolizes the legend of man being created out of the dust of the earth.

Golem, Flesh, AC 9[10]; HD 8; HP 40; ATK 2; HTB +8; DMG 2d8 (fist); MV 80’; Save 8; Special: Damage Immunity, Lightning Healing, Magical Immunity; Harvest: 400d of ritual components; CL/XP 12/2,000;
Damage Immunity: Will only take damage from magical weapons with a +1 or better enchantment.
Lightning Healing: A Lightning spell will heal instead of damaging a Flesh Golem.
Magical Immunity: Fire and cold spells will act as a Slow spell on the Flesh Golem. Reducing the speed of the golem to 40 feet per round and only able to attack every other round. This will last for 30 minutes. It is immune to all other magical spells.

This magical construct is created from stitching together human limbs and other body parts. They can only be created by magic-users and other casters of arcane magic.

Golem, Iron, AC 3[16]; HD 16; HP 80; ATK 1; HTB +16; DMG 4d10 (fist or weapon); MV 60’; Save 4; Special: Damage Immunity, Fire Healing, Magical Immunity, Poison Breath; Harvest: 1,000d in ritual components; CL/XP 17/3,500;
Damage Immunity: Iron Golems can be only damaged by magical weapons that have a +2 or better enchantment.
Fire Healing: Any damage from mundane or magical fire heals the Iron Golem.
Magical Immunity: Lightning spells will act as a Slow spell on the Iron Golem. Reducing the speed of the golem to 30 feet per round and only able to attack every other round. This will last for 30 minutes. It is immune to all other magical spells.
Poison Breath: They can breathe a cloud of poison gas in lieu of attacking. This covers a 10 foot radius within 10 feet of the golem with a deadly gas. Everybody caught within must make a saving throw versus poison or die.

Iron Golems are magical constructs made out of a large 10 foot or higher statue of iron.They can only be created by magic-users and other casters of arcane magic.

Golem, Stone, AC 5[14]; HD 12; HP 60; ATK 1; HTB +12; DMG 3d8 (fist); MV 60’; Save 3; Special: Damage Immunity, Magical Immunity; Harvest: 800d of Ritual Components; CL/XP 16/3,200;
Damage Immunity: Iron Golems can be only damaged by magical weapons that have a +2 or better enchantment.
Magical Immunity: Fire spells will act as a Slow spell on the Stone Golem. Reducing the speed of the golem to 30 feet per round and only able to attack every other round. This will last for 30 minutes. Transmute Rock to Mud will do 1d6 damage per caster level. Its reverse Transmute Mud to Rock will heal a Stone Golem 1d6 per caster level.  It is immune to all other magical spells.

Stone Golems are magical construct made out of an 8 foot to 10 foot statue of stone. They can be created by magic-users, clerics, and all other spell casters.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Delving into AD&D, The 1st edition Player's Handbook in PDF

Yup! The PDF for the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Player's Handbook is now available at RPGNow. While it does have the reprint cover it has the remastered searchable text and the file size clocks in a 5.3 meg. I still have the version I bought off of Paizo and it was a series of scanned images at 23 meg. So the smaller size is appreciated.

While Wizards doesn't allow page extraction it does allow you to copy text and graphics out of the book.

This is absolutely fantastic. Now if they would just set it up for print on demand!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Awarding XP in Classic D&D and in 5th edition.

Tenkar has been talking about XP awards and I figured now is a good time to lay out how I handle XP. Early on I grew to dislike XP for gold, and somewhat later XP for treasure, never had a problem with XP for overcoming monsters.

However not awarding XP for Gold or Magic Item left a huge whole in what the players earned per session. I was and still am big on "roleplaying" i.e. acting as if you are there as your character. So in place of Gold and Magic Item XP, I had a roleplaying award.

The formula was 100 xp times the character level time a factor. If I wanted a slow campaign, I used 50 xp as the base, a faster campaign, 200 xp as the base.

At first the factor was based on my judgment on how well the played "acted" as his character. That didn't work so well. I dislike having to play pageant judge week after week and players invariably protested low awards. More importantly some players were successful in my campaign acting as themselves with a particular character abilities.

I decided that good roleplaying wasn't about being a good actor, but about acting and reacting as if you were really there in the setting. This accommodated players who developed distinct personalities for their characters, with players who played a version of themselves.

So what about the factor? I started to pay attention to what were the personal and party goals. When one of them was accomplished, I gave a bonus award that session. The base award was a factor of 1. I would use a factor of 4 for some really big noteworthy accomplishment. The rest were inbetween.

The virtue of this system that it largely stripped my campaign of preconceived notions of what it ought be about. The goals were not my goals, but what the party set for themselves. Of course I manipulated that by the various clues, hooks, and situations, I created but I always left the final choice of goals in the hands of the players. In addition I rarely try to do anything formally about what the goals are. Instead I tried to play careful attention to what they wanted to do and use that as the basis for my awards.

5th Edition DnD has an explicit options for the above in the DMG. It called milestones and it uses the Encounter XP charts as a foundation for the amount of the award. In the Monday Night campaign I use the milestone awards combined with the xp value of any creature killed as the foundation of what I hand out.

In my view the benefit of using milestone awards is immense plays directly to the strengths of tabletop roleplaying over other types of roleplaying and games. With a human referee, players have the freedom to explore anything they can explore with their characters. With milestones, they don't have to feel like they have to kill and loot to get ahead. Instead they pursue whatever they find interesting.

To be honest for most that still ends up involving killing and looting. But hey now they don't feel they have to do it. Which is a good thing right?