Thursday, January 26, 2012

John Barleycorn's Glen

John Barleycorn’s Glen, a narrow vale between low moors, famed for its beers and whiskeys. In recent days, the spirits of this small land have begun to become strange and dark…

The Kingdom of Dust

The Kingdom of Dust was a green, pleasant land, until the coming of the Master of the Desert Wind, who coveted its gentle breezes. It is now a parched wasteland of merciless dust storms.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Blighted Rift

One thing we're doing with the current campaign is that everyone is encouraged to create wilderness mini-regions of their own, and anyone can propose an expedition into one of those regions. If it's one of my regions, I GM. If it's one of your regions, you GM and I play. 

The Blighted Rift is the first of what I expect will be many mini-regions from other members of my gaming circle. Credit goes to Andrew Devenney for this one. (He also has a column some folks might find interesting at Play the Past.) 

The Blighted Rift, once a dwarven homeland of great wealth, this rift valley is now overrun with poisonous blight gas and undead rotters. The few dwarves remaining fight a hopeless battle to reclaim their homeland from the shambling dead, grimin scavengers, and a new evil emerging in the Frostfells.

There's just something special about D&D

So this is completely obvious. But I'm going to say it anyway.

Generally speaking, D&D is the hobby. It is damned easy to find players. Also, in my experience, it is damned easy to find good players (by which I mean, people who are fun to game with). There are a lot of people to choose from, so a lot of them are fun to game with. It's the numbers.  

I run an open table, and I use an email list with about a dozen names on it to announce weekly games. For about eight months last year, I ran a Mage: The Ascension game as the main campaign. One time we had eight players (I'm not counting myself in these counts). A number of times, we had five to six. Fairly often, we had four. But most weeks we had three players. Over the last few months of that campaign, we were consistently seeing the same three players making it to each session. They were the Mage audience.

Once Mage wrapped up, I pitched D&D. The email list lit up. Last week, we had eight. This week, having announced the game mere minutes ago, I'm already seeing the confirmation emails pouring in. I expect a good-sized group again.

One more thing to love about D&D.

Using the Wilderness Mini-Region Encounter Tables

So, my 1-12 encounter tables on the one page region geomorphs (Example 1, Example 2, Example 3) work like this:
  • If the hex is a safe haven or civilized outpost or otherwise relatively safe place, roll 3d4 for encounters; 
  • if it's borderlands, roll 2d6; 
  • if it's dangerous wilderness, roll 1d12. 
This can be modified for (e.g.) day versus night instead of civilized verses wilderness, or it could be used for levels of alertness of the local enemies or guards (3d4 if they're not paying attention, 2d6 if they're alert, and 1d12 if they are on high alert).

Then you just use your knowledge of where the peaks and impossible results are on the 3d4 and 2d6 rolls to your advantage when designing the table.

The 1-12 range is there for two reasons. One, it fits on the page without cramming things in; and two, it allows you to have some kind of coherent theme for the region. You have twelve entries to work with, so there will be repetition if the players spend much time in the region. This repetition is desirable. It sets a consistent backdrop for what the region is like.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Slaughter at the Ruin Sea

First, a litany of the dead.

This is the roll of adventurers who were cut down on the shores of the Ruin Sea by viking raven men with cold axes and no mercy for the dying. 
  • Merrik, Ranger Prince of Dark Helm
  • Blimm Hollylock, Gnomish Necromancer
  • Rigorous Prawn, Weird-scarred Warrior
  • Solcoras Shaan Severin, Beast Triune of the Vaettir
  • Jari Scaleheart, Dwarven Paladin of the Coil
Why did the party provoke the raven men, though they were outnumbered two-to-one? 

They needed a boat.

This did not deter the three survivors. 
  • Reginald Tenement, Adventuring Consultant (inquire at 112 Baker's District)
  • Iqbal. AKA, Doctor Iqbal, Gnome Magician
  • Torg, Half-Orc Priest of the Sun (whose body Reginald Tenement dragged for some six hours until Torg awoke to consciousness and was able to heal himself)
The survivors went on to recruit five new allies, to venture into a dungeon on a cold, barren isle near the dragon's mountain (but not too near). 

And so it was that the thief Lynn, the brawler Friar Monk, the mystery man Hideous Gleam, the half-orc soldier Uruz, and the warrior maiden Red Ailsa the Harlot joined the party. 

And they all might have lived through the first few rooms of the dungeon, too, if Reginald Tenement had not insisted on walking into a black portal upon which he himself had read the words "The Door of Death." He had time to scream as the rot grubs devoured his body. 

Also, there was: 

cold-blooded murder, 
the throwing of a large rock at an animated statue, 
something gaunt, with sharp fingers and fangs, waiting in a pit,
skeletons caught by surprise, 
a door of life,
a wolf, 
a lying boat captain. 

And the paying of taxes.

Dungeons & Dragons -- that game where you never know what is going to happen. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Spider Swamp

The Spider Swamp was formerly a goblin hold, but the spiders rose up and cast off their former masters. Now the world belongs to the spiders, and the goblins are their slaves.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Ruin Sea

The Ruin Sea, formerly a wizard nation, inadvertently destroyed when a magical super weapon was detonated against the elves. Now inhabited by Ravenmen with Viking style culture.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Dominion of the Snow Elves

The Snow Elf Homeland, frozen tundra homeland of the expansionistic snow elves with their wolf and frost giant allies and orc soldiers and servants.

Wilderness Mini-Regions

Campaign prep continues. We've broadened our horizons a bit, giving us a world with a lot of wilderness organized into small-ish (7x7 hex) regions that are basically wilderness geomorphs. The world is an eclectically magical one, so it's not a problem if you have the winter elves and their associated enemies and allies not too far from a desert full of Egyptian style gnomes (for example).

In any case, the upshot of this is that I've started developing wilderness mini-regions. Each is a more or less self contained unit that can be plopped down just about anywhere. I'll pre-assign them relative to each other as the game goes forward and we hear rumors. The players have been invited to develop their own home mini-regions using a template I've provided, so I'll be posting a few example templates over the next couple days.

These should be useful to folks beyond just my gaming group, as well. They need some tailoring for play. I have not included any secrets of the regions or pinned everything down. The first one is on its way.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Fantasy Trip / GURPS Compatibility

Anyone savvy with both The Fantasy Trip and GURPS?

I have a question, and it's probably better for a web forum but I'll ask it here first anyway. I like The Fantasy Trip quite a bit, and its Advanced Melee + Advanced Wizard + In the Labyrinth version is something of a sweet spot for me in terms of system-level complexity. I like a little complexity but not too much, and it's just about right for me. 

Now, I know it's GURPS's ancestor, and I've looked at GURPS a bit, but I don't like GURPS's character creation, which is way too fiddly for my taste, and I also think TFT has a more flavorful magic system. I prefer it more or less in every way. 

Anyway, I was talking with a friend about how interesting/desirable it would be to be able to associate certain magical traditions, uh, idioms let's say, to certain cultures, groups, even sects. I know GURPS has a lot of alternative ways to do magic, especially if you dig into GURPS Thaumatology

How much work would it be to dip into Thaumatology for alternate magic systems, and (more importantly, actually) what would be the tricky bits, things to watch out for, things you could easily go horribly wrong with because they may appear analogous but aren't as analogous as one might expect? 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The war in the north -- elves, dwarves, orcs, and men

There is a war in the north.

No sudden, shocking invasion, nor great decisive battle that won a great empires. Not glorious war with renown to be gained. No, the slow grim march of decades of lost territories. Border skirmishes. Siege. Fallen forts. And always the growing cold. 

For the invaders have time. They can afford to wait.

Elves are the shadow in the north. They first began taking our lands in my grandfather's time, bringing war with their servants and allies, the wolves and the frost giants. 

Orcs are their soldiers. Using foul magics, they created orcs by combining goblins and men. Orcs are unnatural things, not of this world. They appear as men during the dark of night, walking among us with their wicked knives. The sun reveals them for what they truly are. 

Goblins hate them as abominations and hate the elves for making them. Cruel, wanton, and often unpredictable, goblins are still man's greatest ally in the fight against the elves. 

Halflings love comfort. They are collaborators, gladly trading with the elves and living in their newly conquered lands as good citizens. Not volunteers, mustering in the armies -- just quiet, simple folk. Good citizens who don't want trouble and are willing to look the other way when life gets uncomfortable for those who choose not to play along. 

Dwarves wander through any land they must in pursuit of their obsessions -- gold and dragons. Dwarves emulate the dragons, worshipping them as gods and gathering hoards for their kingdoms. A great enough hoard will bring a dragon. It is said that in the greatest of dwarf halls, dragon kings sprawl on great glittering hoards, ruling as god kings under the mountain. Dwarf heroes who find dragons risk death stealing into their hoards to draw them to their own kingdoms. 

Dragons are forces of nature -- powerful, ancient, and cunning. They do not speak. They do not think as men do. They are fiercely greedy. 

This is a start. The idea for this campaign is not to stray too far from the classic D&D building blocks. Elves are still elves, dwarves are still dwarves, halflings are still hobbits. The blocks are just arranged in a slightly different way. These descriptions above are very brief and suggest monolithic groups, but in fact I'll be adding a lot of factions within each group as I develop the setting. Some lands conquered by the elves have adopted their ways. Human rulers and warlords may be in open war against the elves, may be acting as stewards of elf controlled lands, may be quietly plotting to retake their territories, and so on. Others have learned from the elves and are taking new lands of their own, without the elves' blessings, while some human warlords are simply taking advantage of the disorder to carve out territories of their own. Some have learned from the elves only to turn against them, fighting them back and taking back land once ruled by the elves themselves. Similarly, some elves work to oppose the conquest. Even some halflings have chosen to fight back. 

There will be room for PCs to align themselves as they see fit. 

Monday, January 2, 2012

Things to get lost in

Happy New Year.

Like many other folks in my gaming circle, I've been swallowed whole by Skyrim. I only just got it a week ago, but it is... compelling. I agree with those who praise it for its ambition, which is impressive. I enjoy just walking the world, and the emergent quirkiness that sometimes develops from the random generation can be charming, funny, or just dangerous. I was in the middle of playing the new Zelda game when my brother gave me Skyrim as a gift. I'm a longtime Zelda fanatic who had never played an Elder Scrolls or Fallout game (I know, I know), but since Skyrim's arrival in my home, I have completely dropped Skyward Sword. I'll get back to it, of course. But I'm not sure when. 

This post isn't really about Skyrim, but about what it inspires (to the extent that the post is about anything at all). What Skyrim inspires is interest in a hex crawl, somewhat west marches style game. We've had about a 6-8 month break from fantasy roleplay as our group has been engaged in a regular Mage: The Ascension campaign, albeit with a few one shots of other things mixed in -- a dash of rainy city D&D, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (2nd edition), Street Fighter: The Storytelling Game, and perhaps something else here or there. But it has been mostly a world changing Mage campaign in which everything appears to be coming to a head. It looks like the Mage game will wrap up in the near future. 

A hex crawl, sandbox, pick-your-favorite-descriptor fantasy campaign is a likely follow up, and time permitting, when I can pull myself away from Skyrim, I'll be posting my thoughts on the initial setting ideas as well as the approach I'm taking to putting it all together. 

Also, I assume you have seen Secret Santicore 2011. You have read it? It may be my favorite thing the OSR-osphere spun out in 2011. Having one person request something and another person produce it -- that really worked. 

So, kudos to everyone involved in making that wonderful thing.