Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Personalities of the Rainy City -- Part II

Persons of note from our last Rainy City game, some new, some returning.
  • Jaelin the Charmer: Having recently promoted himself to the rank of Swordmaster Conjuror, Jaelin the Charmer finds his grimoire unacceptably lacking in spells of the second level. This is a deficiency that needs immediate attention.
  • Hyperion the Hated: Master of Pyromancy, this entrepeneur has opened his own steam bath business now that Pizarro's have closed. His condolences go out to Pizarro for his misfortune! Hyperion's Hot Baths lack the grandeur of Pizarro's place, it is true, but for an hour each day they are the only place in town for the die hard steam bath aficionado to enjoy his hobby.
  • The Troglodytes: No longer in employ beneath Pizarro's Steam Baths, they have moved into the Sump. Some gather waterroots from the wooden supports beneath the stilt shacks of the district. Others have gone to work as enforcers for Mad Dog Konstantinos. All cower in fear when Jaelin the Charmer passes by.
  • Mad Dog Konstantinos: Sump gang lord and killer, a violent man who has become even more dangerous now that he no longer can visit Pizarro's to calm his nerves. He has put out a bounty for the capture of anyone involved in the mysterious events that led to the closing of his beloved steam baths.
  • Habitus Helveticus: Wizard whose messenger service is the best in the city. His couriers run through the rain slick streets twice as fast as normal men, if not faster!
  • Vassili, a Wizard of No Small Renown: A man of fashionable tastes, he wears his tall, pointy wizard's hat at a jaunty angle. The boatmen usually act very busy when he and his companions try to book passage for a night on the town, for Vassili's violent temper is well known. It is said that he recently called forth a a shimmering, whirling blade of energy and threatened the innkeeper, the wait-staff, the bouncers, and the customers of the Salted Leech when a bar wench failed to respond quite positively to his attempts to woo her. Now "Vassili's Whirling Blade" is the talk of the town. It is a spell that is surely at least of the second level.
  • Thevin Goon: Refugee from the end of another world, he recently washed up in the Rainy City and has taken up residence in the Sump. He witnessed Vassili's Whirling Blade that night, and slipped out quietly into the rain from his customary table near the door. As a refugee, he has no coin nor lodging. But he has certain larcenous expertise which he would be willing to put to good use for the right employer or partner. If you're looking for a good story, buy him a drink and ask him about the time he struck the decisive blow in a battle with a room full of trolls and ogres throwing things, in a ruined slum long ago in his home world.
  • The Drunk from the next table: He wasn't listening to your whispered conversation. He just happened to overhear, that's all. He was there the night Vassili conjured that glittering blade! It was a fearsome thing, indeed, and he'll happily tell you the tale of that night. Well, what he remembers of it.
  • Your waitress, who was also there the night of the event: But since no one asked, she didn't have anything to add.
  • Emil: The night overseer in Banthus's Elite Coachyard, his thick black beard has not been tended to in some time. Are you looking for work? The coach lizards need a good wiping down and feeding when they come in from the rain. Oh, I'm sorry your lordship, if you'd like to order a coach, you can speak with Yanko upstairs. Oh, you're not a lordship, are you good sir... ah, does your master need a coach? We can arrange for that.
  • Yanko: Night dispatcher at Banthus's Elite Coaches. His office is at the top of the stairs, overlooking the coachyard. Skinny, balding, wearing a half a pair of spectacles. With his left eye open, he can peer through the spectacles and read. With his right eye open, he can peer out his window into the courtyard. Of course he is a good friend of Jaelin the Charmer, but he's really too busy tonight to join Jaelin and Thevin Goon for a drink at the Leech. Maybe next time?
  • Jesper: Gangly youth, coach driver. Earnest. Not much of a creative thinker.
  • The fat young conjurer in Vassili's social circle: One of Vassili's friends, joining him and his party for a night on the town. He has a slightly smaller hat to Vassili's, but it is tilted at nearly as jaunty an angle.
  • The pretty lady thaumaturge in Vassili's social circle: Another of Vassili's companions, with a scarf on her pointy hat and a fine umbrella.
  • The paintings of wizards in Vassili's townhouse: They must have been asleep on the job, for none spoke up or called out any alarm when burglars walked down their hall. Twice!
  • The shimmering thing in the central hall: Floating in the middle of the room that leads to the mansion's central rooms and basement. Prudent burglars may decide it is best avoided.
  • Lucius Sol: According to Vassili's ledgers, one "Lucius Sol" has recently paid Vassili many hundreds of gold coins to employ his whirling blade. The ends to which it was put? The ledgers are vague.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Legendary Villains: The Warlock

Sometimes, bad guys just break the rules. Like Sauron, they're badass warriors and powerful wizards both, dangerous no matter how you approach them. Their capabilities are legendary. 

And they can be made very easily in either D&D or The Fantasy Trip, with a little judicious house ruling. 

This idea came to me when playing around with a megadungeon concept for The Fantasy Trip (by the way, megadungeons don't actually work well in TFT, but that's another issue). I wanted to create a "vault of the warlocks," where powerful evil wizard-kings were entombed, and I thought it would be nice if they were more than just high attribute wizards. The basic idea I came up with is simple enough. In TFT, you have two types of characters: heroes (who have quite a few talents) and wizards (who have all the spells). But what if warlocks are occasionally born into the world -- characters who are (in game terms) both heroes and wizards. In TFT, this means you let them spend thier IQ pool on talents as a hero and then "double dip," also spending the pool of IQ points on spells as a wizard. All other rules apply. This creates a dangerous foe without adding too much paperwork or prep.  

You can do the same thing in D&D, and the combinations are even more fun. You simply say that once in a century, a man or woman is born who walks two paths. In 3rd edition, there are already rules available for this: the rules for building gestalt characters. In classic D&D, you do the same. Create the warlock using a "best of" approach when combining two classes. Take the better hit die, the better attack progression, the better spell progression, and so on, and you have your epic villain. 

In B/X or BECM/RC D&D, this gives you villains like: 
  • The Dark Lord: fighter and magic-user
  • The Necromancer: magic-user and cleric
  • The Grandfather of Assassions: cleric and thief
  • The Ninja Master: magic-user and thief
  • The Crime Lord: Fighter and thief
  • The Anti-Paladin: fighter and cleric
These aren't just multi-class characters. They're powerful foes who can draw on the best of two domains, and they will stand apart. If you want to give them a little lasting power, you can even steal a page from 4th edition and inflate their hit points: instead of giving them the "best of" hit dice, give them the total of the hit dice from both classes. Sure, that's nasty, but let's face it -- your dark lord is eventually going to die at the hands of a PCs regardless.

But he'll also be a foe to remember.