Thursday, April 29, 2010

Ending The Campaign On A Good Note...

Good Evening, All:

Tonight, I want to write about the end of a campaign. My current Savage Worlds fantasy campaign has been running for two and a half years now. With the baby coming, I knew I needed to wrap it up and do so on a high note. Although I easily had enough material to cover another year or two of adventuring opportunities, including political intrigue, a demon war, an epic battle with kaiju and a host of other exciting options, I chose to wrap the game up with the main character's ascension to the role of Emperor of the Northern Lands. In order to do so, the player had established that he had to accomplish certain tasks in-game based on background elements that I had unveiled over the course of the campaign. The last one was the slaying of a Blue Dragon Great Wyrm that had taken over a city and declared the land his own. Having removed the false king at the end of last week's campaign, the characters were perfectly set for last night's events.

I started the session by throwing a storm at the party, along with refugees from a great battle against Cornelius, the great dragon to the south. Word came that Cornelius' forces were pushing north towards the township, so they hurried about preparing for the upcoming battle. I whipped out the mass battle rules from the Savage Worlds core rules for the climactic fight, which the players loved, and they made quick waste of the incoming forces. That set up the final conflict between Cornelius and his son against the party itself.

This beast was the worst thing they'd fought the entire campaign. By tooth and claw, wing and tail, the beasts beat upon the party. Magic flew about with intensity. Three of the characters came very close to falling, saved only by the skin of their teeth (and the use of bennies to reroll their Incapacitation checks). I saw cinematic strikes and excellent team work. The players pulled out all the stops, cursing my name all the while for giving them what they thought was too great a challenge. In the end, though, they brought the two dragons low, slaying them completely without a single loss of life. Only one player had one bennie on the entire table, and it sure wasn't me as the GM. It was a glorious game!

When everything was over, I thanked them one and all for playing, and for making this one of the top three campaigns I've ever run. (For the curious, the other two are a 7-year AD&D 2nd Edition campaign and a 3.5-year D&D 3E campaign, with two honorable mentioned being about two years long each, one in Fantasy HERO and the other in Vampire: The Masquerade.) As a GM and Referee, I really feel blessed to have the pleasure of running a game for that crew, and when I can start gaming again, I hope they all decide to come back and play again in the next campaign.

I love campaigns that end on a good note, with a strong sense of closure. While there were other stories that could have been told, and likely will be told in the future, this was a very appropriate place to wrap up the game. The players were happy, the excitement was high, and it felt good. You can't beat that, in terms of personal satisfaction. Okay, at least in terms of personal gaming satisfaction. I've both played in and run games that ended on a sour note, or simply just petered out. I'm pleased to see I avoided that here.

So, what kind of experiences have you had with ending a campaign? Focusing on the good stuff, can you tell me about your favorite experience? I'd definitely love to know, as sharing the Good Things (tm) is one way we can improve as GMs and as gamers.

With Regards,

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Random Chart: 36 Challenges for One Shot Adventures...

Good Morning, All:

As a companion to my post on One Shot Adventure Creation: The Challenge, I would like to provide the following random chart of thirty-six different challenges that the Referee could consider. The essence of this chart can be summed up with the following sentence:

The party must [Challenge] before they can proceed with the rest of the adventure.

To create the following table, I looked at the six primary ability scores for D20 System-based games, and created six challenges each that emphasized a particular ability score. The end result of that exercise follows.

Table: Random Challenge Chart

d66Challenge Result
11remove an obstacle of significant size and weight
12carry an object of significant size and weight over a significant distant
13scale a significant height
14swim a significant distance
15survive a duel or combat
16engage in a martial competition such as a joust or tournament
21perform a delicate or intricate operation or repair
22perform some sleight-of-hand or other act of manual acuity
23navigate through a dangerous moving environment while dodging
24navigate along narrow or slippery surfaces to avoid danger
25engage an enemy at range
26engage in a ranged competition such as an archery tournament or thrown weapon contest
31survive an extremely hot or cold environment while travelling some distance
32withstand a poisonous or diseased environment
33perform a marathon task or forced march
34survive severe weather or a natural disaster
35endure an extended and torturous drudgery
36endure a short but painful experience
41engage in an intellectual competition such as a chess match
42solve a challenging riddle or logic problem
43outwit, outsmart or similarly overcome an opponent's defenses
44translate something in a foreign language
45investigate and research a solution
46seek out the assistance of a skilled professional
51locate an exploitable weakness in an opponent's defenses
52obtain the blessing of a spiritual advisor or clergy
53aid an unfortunate stranger in overcoming his immediate predicament
54overcome a significant distraction
55resist a significant temptation
56face an extremely fearsome situation
61lead a larger group to victory in an encounter against great odds
62negotiate an exchange of services or items
63soothe and becalm a savage creature or crowd
64interrogate or seduce a member of an opposing force
65persuade an authority figure to offer support
66entertain a large crowd through performance

If you have any thoughts, comments or suggestions, it would be greatly appreciated.

With Regards,

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Hammersong's Legacy: Table of Contents...

Good Morning, All:

As I near completion on the text of Hammersong's Legacy, a campaign setting for Swords & Wizardry, I felt it was time to provide a sample of the extent of the content to be found within the book. What follows are the major headings from the Table of Contents. There may be a few more added, particularly under the Encounters section, but that's only if the muse strike during these final days. After that, I will edit the completed work and then put it into layout. Please let me know if you like what you see, or if you have any questions or concerns.



The Continent of Cameria
* The Eastern Shores
Hesperia, the Twisted Timberlands
The Shirelands
White Wall of Vaeleria
* The Madlands
* The Western Shores
The Manasan Empire
The Isle of Patranos
The Shattered Territories


Before The Great War
A Most Divine Conflict
More Recent Times

Gods of the New Order
* Cerberos, the Vile Crusader
* Entropea, Mistress of Chaos and Corruption
* Herea, Mother of the Hearth
* Lorae, Mistress of Mysteries
* Oceanus, the Sea Warden
* Sandamos, the Grand Tyrant
* Soleron, the Sun Lord
* Terantha, the Earth Mother
* Verdantis, the Green Lord
The Fallen Sisters
* Sheranea, Lady of Woes
* Vaeleria, the Shieldmatron
The Gods of the Elder Courts
* Aqualea, Lady of the Eversea
* Bibanos, the Devourer of Life
* Cardeus, Lord of Strength
* Fuerios, Lord of the Emberrealms
* Khorethia, Lady of Song and Wind
* Kuro, the Rage Lord
* Meranoth, Lord of Lords
* Ostarea, Goddess-Queen of Arborea
* Psyche, Mistress of Dreams
* Serpentea, Queen of Serpents
* Teranos, Lord of the Deepmantle
* Tortura, Maiden of Torment
On Gods and Mortals
* Death and the Mortal Soul
* On Changing One's God
Blood of the Gods
Flesh of the Gods

The Plane Prime
Alternate Primes
The Veil
Arborea, the Faerie Courts
Chorus of the Four Winds
The Seven Heavens
The Shadowlands

The Argent Isles
Liberty Bay
Dagon Bog
The Cliffs of the Northern Winds
The Carrion Hills
The Drakewood
The Daggerback Mountains
The Great River Ith
The Zertashan Badlands
The Hearthwood
The Black Hills
Mount Kugerack
The Ashalon Desert
The Feral Barrens
Sovereign Chasm

Balmordak, the City of Cliffs (Duar Protectorate)
Fellgorge, the Edge of Sanity (Independent City-State)
Port Salvation, City of Freedom (Independent City-State)
Sylethia, Jewel of the Bloody Sands (Manasan Empire)
Thorjak, City of the Sun and Sky (Duar Protectorate)
Regional Townships and Villages
* Dracanthes (Independent Township)
* Kutner’s Bend (Independent Village)
* Mordenholt (Duar Protectorate)
* Oxbridge (Independent Township)
* Ralmandor (Duar Protectorate)
* Rynoc’s Reach (Duar Protectorate)
* Trollglen (Independent Village)
* Zertasha (Manasan Empire)

0227 The Prison-Pyramid of Bhadasura
0304 The Tower of Archmagus Suzerain
0616 Hall of the Great Medusa
0914 The Sewers of Greyfawn
1132 The Clockwork Citadel
1226 Catacombs of the Lost Temple
1823 Sicarius, City of Death
1904 The Hanging Gardens of Shandaris
2124 The Vaults of Celebrus
2927 The Copper Mines of Kaldorthes
3039 The Eldritch Maze of Merleus the Mad

0237 The Oracle of Thraxius
0315 Grond's Cave
0424 The Blood Manticore
0605 Giant Squid Spawning Grounds
0936 Behirs' Nest
1102 Eramir the Destructor
1317 Hephaetia of the Iron Tusks
1526 The Coils of Entropea
1736 Galatura, the Fire Dracolisk
1813 Quillback, the Beast of Highmeadow
2028 Ol' Snagtooth, the White Terror of the Black Hills
2207 Great Surakkos, Blessed of Terantha
2505 The Scalemouth
2624 Lycia the Gorgimera
2803 The Crystal Spire of High Avea
2937 The Hydra Thessal
3018 The Great Web of Mother Ahrak’nea

Ancient Order of War Sages
The Censors of Patranos
Circle of Mithril
Covenant of the Wild
Cult of the Black Court
Fangs of Manasa
House Dorinth
House Jedfaril
Lesser Wardens of Oceanus
Mage-Librarians of Lorak
Order Elysia
Order of Genadros
Raging Bloodhawks
Seekers of Truth
Servants of Freedom
Shadow Syndicate
Sunblade Order

Calendar of Cameria
Coinage of Cameria
Languages of Cameria
Slavery in Cameria
* Reasons for Slavery
* Types of Slaves
* A Slave's Market Value

Ability Checks
Examples of Ability Checks
New Races
* Duar
* Elde
* Eldeblooded
* Feytouched
* Human
* Hyrknoff
* Kelshan
* Ordath
* Vaelan
* Wyrmblooded
Original Class Updates
* Cleric
* Fighting-Man
* Magic-User
New Classes
* Crusader
* Dungeoneer
* Ranger
* Sorcerer
* Thief
Mind-Mage Spell List
* Level 1
* Level 2
* Level 3
* Level 4
* Level 5
* Level 6
* Level 7
* Level 8
* Level 9
New Spells
* Detect Thoughts
* Discern Lies
* Ego Whip
* Mind Thrust
* Precognitive Insight
* Probe Thoughts
* Psionic Blast
* Psychic Crush
* Telepathic Bond, Lesser
* Telepathic Bond


The Hunt for the Lost Heir
The Return of Psyche’s Children
Agents of the Elder Courts
Infiltrators from the Manasa
Beyond the Shattered Territories
* The Curse of the Elde
* The Great Expedition to Wyrmanthis
Common Regional Encounters
* Agent of the Elder Courts
* Wyrmblooded Family
* Expedition Leaders
* Bandits (Profiteers)
* Refugees
* Protectorate Rangers
* Bounty Hunter
* Duar Mercenaries
* Manasan Infiltrator
* Ordathi Wanderer
* Censor of Patranos
Rumors of the Shattered Territories

From The Monster Compendium: 0e
New Creatures
Reading Monster Descriptions
* Banth
* Banth, Giant
* Barghest
* Bison
* Boalisk
* Canker Hound
* Common Animal, Small
* Common Animal, Tiny
* Cyclops
* Dinosaur, Velociraptor
* Dragon, Teranthan
* Young Dragons
* Adult Dragons
* Old Dragons
* Great Wyrms
* Duar
* Elde
* Eldeblooded
* Feytouched
* Flail Snail
* Ghost
* Giant, Camerian
* Gorgimera
* Grell
* Greymalkin
* Grey Render
* Hunting Bird, Man-Sized
* Hunting Bird, Small
* Hunting Bird, Tiny
* Hyrknoff
* Kelshan
* Krenshar
* Leviathan
* Locathah
* Mountain Drake
* Narwhale
* Ordath
* Osquip
* Porcupine, Giant
* Pyrolisk
* Scavenger Worm
* Serpentfolk (Manasa)
* Hominis Caste Serpentfolk
* Semiferum Caste Serpentfolk
* Anguineum Caste Serpentfolk
* Sovereign Orb
* Tunnel Brute
* Vaelan
* White Ape
* Winged Cat
* Winged Serpent
* Wyrmblooded
Template: Divinely Warped Creatures
General Random Encounter Tables
* Random Encounters
* Common Regional Encounters
* Mountains Terrain Table
* Hills Terrain Table
* Forest Terrain Table
* Marsh Terrain Table
* Plains Terrain Table
* Desert Terrain Table
* Animal Table
* Aquatic Creature Table
* Dragon Table
* Giantkin Table
* Humanoid Table
* Monster Table
* Shapeshifter Table
* Undead Table
* Winged Animal Table

Rynoc's Reach (Duar Protectorate)
Important Locations
* Black Hills Mill
* Circle of the Seven Stones
* The Golden Ogre
* Greymeadow Point
* Hearthhold of the Healing Hand
* Ravenwolf Hall
* The Tower of Archmagus Damianos
* Van Thurion's Emporium
Cast of Characters
* Warlord Buri Ravenwolf
* Eliah Inman
* Hudra Greenheart
* Miller Khurarn
* Mother Nandra the Blessed
* High Magus Theodoseus
* Bailiff Thorvald Shieldson
* Baron Ulric Bloodstone
* Van Thurion
Common Encounters
Local Rumors


With Regards,

Monday, April 26, 2010

A Tidbit From The Demons Campaign Setting...

Good Morning, All:

Back in the early 90s, I discovered Mayfair Games' Role-Aids supplements on their Demon Campaign Setting. I really enjoyed their fluff, as well as the great development they provided for the use of demons as foes in an AD&D campaign. The flavor of their setting was awesome. I think the following tidbit from the Demons II introduction really encapsulates the essence of their approach:

The chapters which follow introduce a great number of Adventure Seeds, hints, settings and inspiration for GMs to expand into full adventures. Above all, this book is a resource pack, containing thousands of ideas that GMs can weave into their own adventures. However, there are certain key rules which GMs should always remember when using demons in their campaigns:

- Demons want to gain souls above all else. This is usually done by inspiring mortals to sin, but pacts and tricks are also common. Demons rarely take an interest in events on the mortal plane which do not gain them souls.

- Mortals are always a demon's prey. The mortal plane is merely a source of sustenance for demons, a place where they may hunt. Mortals are never truly befriended by demons. If the creatures cooperate with mortals, it is merely because they believe that mortal can help them to gain more sustenance - more souls.

- Demons are destructive and corrupting, wholly evil. They do not create anything that does not in turn corrupt or destroy.

- Demons are not like mortals, and do not think like mortals. Often, their survival is dependent on understanding their prey, as a fox hunter must understand a fox, but their minds are ultimately alien to the mortal plane.

- Though lesser demons can be slain on the mortal plane, demon lords are immortal. They cannot simply be killed, because they can always come back again and again. To destroy a demon, a mortal must journey to the Infernus itself and slay the creature there, a quest which would challenge the greatest of heroes.

I really like that. Demons are not good guys, nor should they ever be considered as such. It's very easy to see who the bad guy is in a Demons-based campaign. While people can argue for hours on alignment issues and the slaying of orcish infants, ad nauseum, there is no such ambiguity with these extraplanar fiends. Furthermore, they have a specific style, expressed in terms of their motivations and their interactions with the mortal world. Finally, I find a lot of adventure potential in the books and supplements for this setting, and more inspired by the material presented therein. These works have impacted and improved the quality of my games in the last sixteen or so years since I first discovered them, and in rereading them this weekend, I thought I'd share some of that essence with you.


Friday, April 23, 2010

One Shot Adventure Creation: The Challenge

Good Afternoon, All:

This article continues the One Shot Adventure Creation Series, which I began more than a hundred posts ago. I was thinking about it this morning, and realized that I never did wrap up that series, so this is the first of a few posts to give some closure on the creation of One Shot adventures.

To this point, we've addressed the basics, the plot (including a random chart for those in need, and the story hook. The first scene of your One Shot adventure was built around action. It's purpose was to introduce the goal of the adventure and get your characters involved in the story you are telling. Now that you've met the needs of your more action-oriented players, you should create a roleplaying scene or puzzle challenge that further escalates the plot.

The Challenge scene is intended to provide non-combat characters with an opportunity to shine. In addition, it builds on providing a full roleplaying experience to the players, emphasizing why the group is playing an RPG instead of a board game. Commonly, this is a challenge that is most easily resolved through wits and roleplay, as opposed to skill challenges or combat solutions. It could be a magical trap inspired by the game of chess, or a riddle posed by a powerful guardian or a pair of magical doors. Maybe it's a trap involving scything blades or rolling boulders activated by pressure plates and trip wires. Perhaps the challenge is simply a roleplayed negotiation with a sage-like figure, such as a hermit or a sphinx. Whatever you decide to make this scene, you will know that you've done it right when you look at your write-up for it, and can see that the solution doesn't require game mechanics (such as die rolls or spells), but rather player ingenuity or character interaction.

Of course, that being said, don't penalize a group that uses their character abilities to gain an edge or even an alternate solution to the challenge you pose. Ultimately, it's all about everyone in the group having fun, not about being a jerk to a captive audience. Reward creative thought, and encourage a sense of involvement and investment in the outcome of the scenario. If the problem could have been solved with character abilities, an NPC would have done it, so the PCs need to feel like they are making a difference.

Hope This Helps,

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Madlands Campaign: Thoughts on Class Concepts...

Good Evening, All:

When building a new campaign setting, I like to consider the roles of the various classes within the setting. Even with class-less systems such as Savage Worlds or Traveller, I tend to think of classes as archetypal concepts for my fantasy campaigns, particularly since my audience will tend to, based on their experiences with D&D and similar class-based games. Swords & Wizardry presents the basic warrior, divine caster and arcane caster as class concepts, while later games introduce stealthy skill-masters and other, lesser followed roles. For a campaign setting, it helps to consider the role of each class concept within the context of your milieu, so that you can offer suggestions for players as they build their characters.

For the role of the warrior, I almost automatically assume that at least one example of each of the following exist:
  1. Mercenary (great for military-oriented warriors)
  2. Weapon Master/Specialized Order (for those monks or sword masters)
  3. Slayers (such as monster hunters or giant-killing rangers)

When considering divine casters, I presume that there's an order or priesthood for each major religion, which I usually base off of individual deities within an overarching pantheon. (I have occasionally used churches and similar organizations to good effect, but for the most part, I use deities following the Greyhawk model.) Aside from these priesthoods, I also assume the following:
  1. Holy Warriors (for paladins and anti-paladins both)
  2. Wilderness Priests (to cover tribal priests, druids and/or other shamanic types)

With arcane casters, my views on different concepts may seem to be a bit more limited. I often provide something in my campaigns to cover the following, though:
  1. Artificers (for those that like magic items)
  2. War Mages or Battle Sorcerers (for those that enjoy combat and fireballs)
  3. High Mages (to provide for an elite brotherhood of mages that seek magical lore above all else)

Finally, I like to provide some basic concepts for sneaky guys and skill-master types. My small list of must-have concepts often include:
  1. Treasure Hunters (those thieves who use their skills for dungeoneering and other adventure-worthy purposes)
  2. Experts (for sages, scholars and highly skilled craftsmen)
  3. Spies (often portrayed as secret societies devoted to the common good)

Note that I may only have one class to support multiple roles in terms of game mechanics, but here I'm talking about different groups in the campaign setting itself to reflect each of the different concepts. The mercenary and duelist may both be Fighting Men, for example, but the Circle of Mithril represents all officially sanctioned mercenary bands within the Duar Protectorate, whereas the Rakes of Port Salvation are a recent cultural movement among young nobles and their retainers in that port city who practice the code duello and refine their skills with the blade between encounters. Same class, different flavor, and in my opinion, a richer feel to the campaign in terms of background and gaming experience.

What kind of concepts do you feel are core to your milieu or gaming experience? What kind of character class concepts and roles do you prefer to pursue?

With Regards,

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Madlands Campaign: Thoughts on Races...

Good Afternoon, All:

As I've mentioned in the past, the Hammersong's Legacy Campaign Setting is based on elements from my current and past campaigns, integrated along a central storyline. While the Madlands Campaign will take place in my current campaign setting, I intend to create elements that can be used in Hammersong's Legacy campaigns as well, changing names and references as needed. What I present here on the blog will be the Hammersong's Legacy versions of any items I create for the Madlands Campaign. I am doing this for two primary reasons: 1) as support for those seeking to run a campaign in the setting I'm wrapping up for publishing (probably in early May, given my current workload); and 2) to maintain an air of separation between the two versions, for those that may participate in the actual campaign itself. Whatever rules system we decide to use for that future campaign, the material I post here will be for Swords & Wizardry (and maybe MyD20 Lite).

One of the first elements I like to consider in creating a new campaign are character options. For me, given my upbringing on D&D, that pretty much breaks down into considerations for race and class/occupation. With the Madlands Campaign setting, I have already introduced humans and orcs as being prevalent in this region, so these should be two of the available character races. Any race that I've introduced in the world previously that they'd like to play, but which are not native to this area, could be available as escaped slaves from the Malnoth Tyranny, the orcish homeland as it were. However, I want to create a unique feeling for this region, and so I want to have some different options here.

Players seem to prefer at least three or four races to choose from (I know I do), so I need to come up with two more archetypal races. I've got the stout warrior covered with the orc (although I suppose that I could offer the dwarf as an option as well, as the Daggerbacks aren't that far away). Elves are usually the choice for mystical characters, but they are not native to the area. If I wanted to go for a darker campaign, I'd probably use the Kelshan here. None of the standard humanoids really come across to me as mystics, except for the drow (which I dislike and thus will not include) and kobolds (who only gained that rep with 3E and the introduction of the sorcerer class). Looking at non-standard races, I immediately think of the Pevishan from Fantasy Flight Games's Mythic Races, a humanoid race that is innately magical. I'll have to dig around for a few other options to consider, but if all else fails, I'll create a Mageborn race that combines elements of the various mystical races together to create a fun racial concept.

The third common racial archetype is that of the dimunitive sneak. Since the Vaelan/halflings are not native to the area, I am once again left to consider other options. Immediately, I think of kobolds and goblins. Of course, going that route pretty much guarantees a darker game, simply because of the perceptions that players already have about these two races. If I wanted to run an evil game, then I'd go with the kelshan earlier and probably the kobold here. However, I want a heroic game, so I need an option that's better suited to such. Gnomes are out, because in my home game, gnomes do not exist. I have yet to meet a player that could portray a gnome in a manner that I'd enjoy over a long period of time. Ratmen are an option, but rats have a negative connotation, so probably not. I could try the Vanara, a race of monkey-like humanoids found in the Hindu epic Ramayana, who are brave and inquisitive in nature. Finding miniatures for them would be difficult, but all in all, the Vanara are currently my favorite for this role.

If I introduce any other races for consideration, I'll think about making one of them a large brute, based on the half-ogre or half-giant racial concept. However, seeing as how the orcs are a part of the selection process here, I'm not likely to follow up on that one, lest the giantkin overshadow the orc's role as a stout warrior. While I admit that such efforts are two-dimensional, sometimes these stereotypes are all that separate one race from another in the eyes of the players, at least until I can breathe some life into them over the course of the game. Besides, as Swords & Wizardry is a class-based system, distinct archetypes lend themselves well toward the class concept, for those that want to use "race as class" rules for their own version of the Madlands Campaign.

More Tomorrow,

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

GM Mentoring: Vanilla Fantasy vs Distinct Flavor...

Good Afternoon, All:

I was talking to a friend of mine today, discussing cool campaign worlds and the like. One of the disturbing trends I noticed is that, while I like a lot of the different settings that have been published, I often add the caveat "when they are run correctly." In thinking about my tendencies here, I realized that what I really meant with that statement is that, all too often, I find that a world's specific flavor tends to get lost too easily with casual gamers.

Vanilla fantasy is vanilla fantasy for a reason. It's the easiest type of fantasy campaign for players to imagine, it builds on shared experiences and common connotations to create a strong foundation upon which to run adventures and build campaigns, and it requires minimal investment and minimal work on the part of the players to enjoy the game. That makes it perfect for casual gamers, as well as more dedicated gamers that occasionally have a bad day and are simply unable to make the effort they normally do during play.

On the other hand, worlds with a distinct flavor create a unique and enjoyable gaming experience that differs significantly from vanilla fantasy. However, playing in such a campaign requires a degree of dedication from both the Referee and the players to promote and preserve the unique flavor of the setting. Dark Sun, a highly psionic desert setting from TSR/WOTC, has a distinct flavor that's very cool, but if anyone slacks on maintaining the distinct nature of the setting, the flavor is lost and you simply end up with a high-powered fantasy game with sand and loincloths. The World of Darkness by White Wolf has similar problems, in that the flavor of the world gets lost in the powers and characters built without an understanding of the milieu. A well-run World of Darkness game can be like a magnum opus, a great symphony, of roleplaying, but if the group loses the sense of the world, it becomes a slugfest of teeth with 'tude, and little else. In both of these cases, as with most distinct game worlds, the further you get from vanilla fantasy, the more powerful the game tends to be, in order to make up for the loss of interest caused by the distinctive changes themselves by replacing the lost interest with that garnered by "kewl powerz". (Publishers have to sell books, or they don't stay in business long, and power sells.)

The problem as a Referee with this observation is that, as a Referee and a world-builder, I want to create a campaign that isn't entirely vanilla fantasy, but isn't so different that you can't keep the world's flavor going as you bring in new characters and/or new players. Restricting your campaign to a particular style or flavor can often limit the pool of available gamers you have to choose from. The differences in your campaign world must be easy enough to grasp that those new to the setting can be up and running with minimal effort, while still providing you with the distinct flavor you need to make your game stand out amongst the others they will be considering.

As a Referee, I typically look for a few areas where I can make changes to the setting to make it stand out, and leave the rest pretty close to vanilla fantasy. This gives me a few areas to concentrate on to make the game stand out in terms of flavor, but for the most part, new players can come in and start playing without needing a three week orientation course in order to properly "get it" in regards to the world I've created. Most of my players are casual gamers. They love to game, and it's a great pasttime for them, but only one of many such interests. I want the game to be enjoyable for them, and so I don't want it to feel like taking a college course or work. The small areas of distinct flavor lets me build up the world for myself and those like me, who are seeking those distinctive elements, without losing my casual gamers in the process.

For example, aside from some naming conventions, the use of some non-standard monsters and possibly races, a few cultural elements in isolated locations and the history and background surrounding the death of a god, my Madlands Campaign is intended to remain close to vanilla fantasy. That way, it remains easy for me to integrate new characters and players into the campaign as we go along. Since my average campaigns tend to run two-three years in length, turnover is to be expected, and I need to plan for it. But the distinct flavor is what I hope will sell the game during my pitch to prospective players.

Now it's your turn. How do you feel about worlds with distinct flavors? Do you find them as difficult to maintain as I do, particularly as new players come and go? What are your suggestions on how to handle the balance between vanilla and uniqueness?

With Regards,

I Am A D10...

Good Morning, All:

This meme quiz has been going around the blogosphere, and I am no different in my curiosity, at least for this particular one:

I am a d10

You are a d10: You are analytical, rational, and logical. You see the world around you as a succession of problems that can only be navigated via insightful and elegant solutions. You insist on precision are often forced to waste valuable time correcting others. Your attention to detail is extraordinary, and will sometimes focus all your attention on details that others consider unimportant. You are not so interested in doing the right thing, as you are in finding the best way to do it.

Take the quiz at

Special thanks to Jeff Rients for this one.

With Regards,

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Madlands Campaign: Some Story Elements...

Good Afternoon, All:

As I contemplate the next campaign I intend to run (assuming I don't shift my focus between now and then), I am looking forward to exploring a number of themes over the course of that campaign. The Madlands campaign will tackle some of the issues presented in Hammersong's Legacy, and build on them to create adventure opportunities.

My first focus will lie on the resurrection of a dead god, and their subsequent restoration to the pantheon. I ended my longest 3E campaign with such a feat (at 24th level), but truly, it was not a part of the campaign from the beginning. In this case, I'm looking to develop the background for this story element from the beginning. Of course, the actions of the PCs could easily change the outcome of this particular story element. The PCs could choose to become involved on either side of the conflict, seeking to bring the god back to life or prevent others from doing so. Alternately, the PCs may not pursue that story element at all, in which case the events of that element may simply unfold in the background, and catch the PCs up in related events indirectly as a result of the actions of others. This story element is intended to appeal to those that enjoy magical events and being involved in epic changes to the campaign world.

My second focus will lie in the infiltration and overthrow of an existing government by unknown forces. This story element should offer plenty of opportunity for espionage, political maneuvering, mass battles and that kind of thing. This is a more low-key story element aimed at those that enjoy humanoid opponents, urban adventuring, and more military and stealth-oriented campaigning.

Both of these first two campaign foci offer me opportunities to explore the background and history of the setting, and grow as the players grow. Both offer great opportunities for combat, negotiations, puzzles and a well-rounded gaming experience. However, two foci are not enough. A good GM should always have at least three avenues for characters to pursue, and I don't want make an exception here. So far, I've done what I could here to appeal to martial characters, as well as divine characters. I've also aimed at an epic story element and a heroic story element. I suppose that I should look at a more arcane story element, or a mixture of arcane and martial, and perhaps a less than heroic venture here.

Depending on the nature of the party and the players in the next gaming group, it might be very interesting to explore the growth of a Band of Brigands, a mobile Thieves' Guild, if you will, looking to recruit characters for various larcenous acts. Such forces could easily become involved with the other two story elements, or look towards its own growing pains, both internally and externally. Being as these are bandits, the PCs could either become defenders of the land or members of the band.

I'm still trying to decide. I'm sure the right ideas will come, as the thoughts percolate. Who knows? Maybe reading some other blogs will give me some ideas to work with.

More Tomorrow,

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Hammersong's Legacy: Calendar of Cameria...

Good Morning, All:

Here's another little tidbit from the Hammersong's Legacy Campaign Setting, the world's calendar. I admit that here, I took the easy way out. I chose 360 as the number of days in the year, because it is easily divisible by twelve months of thirty days each. I selected these basic values because these are common assumptions for most players, having grown up with the Gregorian calendar or some close proximity. The names of the months derive from the major gods of the setting, and the names of the days of the week come from the classic four Western elements and the average man's duties to god and liege. The eight holidays mentioned below derive from solar observations and the midpoints between each, giving a period of forty-five days between each major celebration. Assuming that the average adventure takes 2-3 weeks, you can use a different holiday every two adventures to help the players identify the passage of time and the changing of the seasons.

Calendar of Cameria
The world of Terantha possesses only a single moon, named Selena in the common parlance, which goes through her cycle from new moon to full and back again over the course of thirty days. This divides the Teranthan year of 360 days neatly into twelve months. The middle day of a new moon marks the first day of each month, and thus Selena is full from the 15th through the 17th of each month, although some powerful lycanthropes transform on the 14th and 18th as well. Although different cultures make reference to the months by different names, the following are the most frequently used in northern Cameria.

Table: Camerian Months
MonthSeasonImportant Days
SheranethWinterMidwinter (16th)
CelestethLate Winter 
VaelerethEarly SpringOathday (1st)
HereathSpringSpring Equinox (16th)
OceanethLate Spring 
VerdantethEarly SummerBondday (1st)
SolerethSummerMidsummer (16th)
CerberethLate Summer 
EntropethEarly AutumnFirst Harvest (1st)
TeranethAutumnAutumnal Equinox (16th)
LorathLate Autumn 
SandamethEarly WinterLast Harvest (1st)

Camerians, in general, denote the passing of a day by counting from one sunrise to the next. Given that there are thirty days in a month, the people of Cameria are given to dividing each month into five weeks, which in turn are comprised of six days apiece. The days of the week bear the following common names:

Table: Camerian Days of the Week
DayCommon Activities
AltardayWorship, rest
EarthdayWork, gardening
WindsdayWork, visiting elders
LordsdayWork, pay taxes, market
FiredayWork, cleaning
WaterdayWork, bathing


Friday, April 16, 2010

Swords & Wizardry: Suggested House Rules for Saving Throws...

Good Afternoon, All:

It seems to me that it would be pretty easy to house rule saving throws in Swords & Wizardry to reflect other retroclone and D20 System gaming experiences. I offer the following as a quick rule of thumb for doing so, in case it serves your interests. The key to this approach is simply the use of situational modifiers to the Swords & Wizardry saving throw, based on the circumstances surrounding the saving throw itself.

Labyrinth Lord Style Saves
The first type of saving throws I'll chat about here focus on the old-style saving throw categories from Labyrinth Lord. For this, I'd take a look at Delta's Original Edition Delta rules. Inspired by his suggestions, I would note that you gain the following bonuses, should the circumstances of the saving throw require it:

Spells +1
Breath Attacks +0
Petrify or Paralysis +2
Wands +4
Poison or Death +5

Spells +0
Breath Attacks +1
Petrify or Paralysis +2
Wands +3
Poison or Death +4

Spells +2
Breath Attacks +0
Petrify or Paralysis +3
Wands +3
Poison or Death +3

D20 System Style Saves
The second type of saving throws I'll mention here derive from the D20 System. Following the example above, I would note that you gain the following bonuses, should the circumstances of the saving throw require it:

Fortitude +2
Will +2

Fortitude +2

Will +2

MyD20 Lite/Fantasy Concepts Style Saves
The last type of saving throws I'll mention here derive from MyD20 Lite and Fantasy Concepts, which in turn were inspired by Star Wars Saga Edition. These use the same categories as the D20 System above, but with a few changes that might be more fitting to your game style:

Fortitude +1
Will +2

Fortitude +2
Reflex +1

Reflex +1
Will +2

Hope This Helps,

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Future Campaign: The Madlands...

Good Evening:

As I've mentioned before, my current campaign is ending this month. After two years, five months, I am bringing the game to a close. We have probably two more sessions before we're done, and the final climactic battle is likely to involve my big blue dragon mini, because it's too cool not to use it in some game. This final adventure is a direct extension of the players' efforts in the game, and in many ways, I consider it practically written by them, leaving me the wonderfully fantastic job of simply presenting the scenarios to my players and watching them continue their character growth and development.

Already, I'm thinking about the next game. Inspired by my work on Hammersong's Legacy and events from my current campaign, I look forward to exploring a new portion of the game world I've created, covering the possibilities of restoring a dead god back to life while exploring chaotic dungeons and the twisted lairs of tainted monsters. There's definitely enough interest in exploring this concept among my current players that the next campaign should have no shortage of volunteers when I am ready to run. Of course, taking care of a newborn will have my highest priority, and so I won't be ready to play again until everything in our lives has settled once again.

With that in mind, you should expect to see more here in the future on the Madlands themselves, and the unusual adventures that are to come. I'm not particularly good at developing full-fledged dungeons, but I feel that this next campaign should give me the chance to grow in that, particularly as I learn more from the Old School movement. They say that you get better with practice, so I may as well start practicing, right?

More Tomorrow,

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Random Chart: Quick Barsoomian Name Generator...

Good Afternoon, All:

Here's another random chart, this time to allow for quick Barsoomian Name generation. Barsoom-style games are becoming more and more popular, making a little generator like this one a nice addition for those who are running them, or even for players seeking names appropriate for their characters within that setting.

Using this chart is pretty easy. First, roll 1d6 to determine the format of the name itself. After that, roll on the appropriate table(s) as called for. The Prefix and Suffix table are both d66 tables. Those familiar with this blog already know how to create a d66 roll. For those that aren't, roll two d6s and read them similar to percentile dice. The first d6 represents the tens digit, and the second d6 represents the ones digit. For example, rolling a 2 on the first d6 and a 6 on the second d6 would create a result of 26.

So, by way of demonstration, let's create a Barsoomian Name. To determine the format of the name, I rolled a 3 on my d6. That indicates that the name should be formatted thus: "[Prefix] [Prefix][Suffix]". My three d66 rolls are, in order, 64, 26 and 51. That gives us a Barsoomian name of: Yerst Kantolian. Not bad, not bad. It's definitely not a name you'll see in a bog-standard fantasy game. (Okay, maybe Kantolian might make a good wizard's name, but I digress.)

This table was generated by parsing a list of names from the Barsoom series by Edgar Rice Burroughs, and pairing down the resulting list of prefixes and suffixes by frequency and by flavor.

Table: Name Format
1[Prefix] [Prefix][Suffix]
2[Prefix] [Prefix][Suffix]
3[Prefix] [Prefix][Suffix]

Table: Barsoomian Name Prefix

Table: Barsoomian Name Suffix


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Swords & Wizardry: Six New Spells...

Good Afternoon, All:

Today, I came up with what I felt was an interesting thought experiment. I have noticed that many of the Old School spells and monster abilities reference the fear spell to reflect the game mechanics of the general fear condition. From my days of playing 3E and the D20 System, I recalled that there were a number of other conditions that 3E codified. It occurred to me that one could easily go through that list and come up with a series of spells using those conditions. The following spells for Swords & Wizardry came from that thought experiment.

Black Beam of Exhaustion
Spell Level: Magic-user, 3rd Level
Range: 30 ft
Duration: 1 round/level
A black ray projects from your pointing finger, striking a single target within range. That creature must succeed at a saving throw or become exhausted, only able to move at half speed for the duration of the spell. In addition, the creature cannot run or charge, and suffers a -2 penalty on attack rolls.

Cowering Glare
Spell Level: Magic-user, 3rd Level
Range: 60 ft
Duration: 10 minutes (1 turn)
This spell causes the creatures in its cone-shaped path that fail their saving throw to become frozen in fear and unable to take any actions. While unable to act, an affected creature's AC is treated as two worse than normal. The cone extends 60 ft to a base width of 30 ft across.

Spell Level: Magic-user, 1st Level
Range: 30 ft
Duration: Immediate
This spell creates a burst of light. If you cause the light to burst directly in front of a single creature, that creature must succeed at a saving throw or suffer a -1 penalty on attack rolls for the next ten rounds.

Fatiguing Touch
Spell Level: Magic-user, 1st Level
Range: Touch
Duration: Immediate
Your touch channels necromantic forces. The creature you touch must succeed at a saving throw or become fatigued. The creature cannot run or charge, and suffers a -1 penalty on attack rolls.

Spell Level: Magic-user, 3rd Level
Range: 30 ft
Duration: 1 round/level
Your touch causes extreme stomach distress. The creature you touch must succeed at a saving throw or become nauseated. The creature will be unable to attack, cast spells, concentrate on spells, or do anything else requiring attention. The only action such a character can take is to move.

Windblown Strike
Spell Level: Magic-user, 2nd Level
Range: 60 ft
Duration: 1 Round
This spell creates a severe blast of air that projects from you in a line 60 feet long. Creatures caught in the blast must succeed in a saving throw or be knocked prone. Windblown creatures are blown back 1d6 x 10 feet instead.


Monday, April 12, 2010

Lessons Learned From Savage Worlds: The Plot Point Campaign...

Good Afternoon, All:

One of the things I learned from Savage Worlds is the concept of the Plot Point Campaign. In essence, the Plot Point Campaign takes the concept of a central campaign-based story arc, and breaks it down into site-based (and somewhat partially time-based) adventure components. As each plot element is connected to a location, and players may explore the campaign setting at their own initiative, the characters can encounter these plot elements in whatever order they wish, and the pieces eventually fold together to point the party in the direction of the final scenes that mark the climax of the campaign.

The average Plot Point Campaign covers a range of nine to twelve core adventure scenarios that define the basis of the campaign itself. The first scenario is often the one used to introduce the campaign to the players, and the last two or so represent the culmination of the campaign's efforts. In addition to the core scenarios, many Plot Point Campaigns contain twenty to thirty unrelated scenarios that develop other aspects of the setting and even focus on smaller subplots that may last two or even three scenarios before being resolved.

In some ways, the Plot Point Campaign design is halfway between a story-oriented campaign and a sandbox style campaign. In the 1E AD&D Wilderness Survival Guide, IIRC, they call this a matrix-style campaign. Every adventure is silo'd based primarily by location, much like a sandbox campaign, but build to an overall story, much like a story-oriented campaign. The concept of setpieces, or small adventure scenarios and elements, really shines in such a setup, as the added emphasis placed by a larger-scale storyline adds to the usual sandbox experience. However, the story is not railroaded forwarded as many tend to experience with linear story-oriented campaigns.

Although there are a number of different formulas that one can come up with for a Plot Point Campaign, the best tend to resemble a diamond or a football when graphed out. You start from the initial scenario that introduces the hook for the adventure. This can be the group's first adventure, or perhaps the first one after they get used to one another. If they are interested, that adventure plants the seeds for the second scenario. In the second scenario, you typically present two to four elements that need to be accomplished before you can resolve the overarching issue. At least half of the elements that the PCs will need to accomplish will have a complication that requires them to undertake a second adventure scenario to complete. This brings us up to 5-8 adventure scenarios. Once the elements have been gathered, the final piece of the puzzle, which unites all the elements and/or reveals the final plan, must be undertaken as an adventure scenario. Then the Plot Point Campaign wraps up with its climactic one or two adventure scenarios, sometimes followed by a denoument.

It's a pretty interesting experience to try and write your own Plot Point Campaign, even if only as a guideline for a direction for your campaign should your players feel the need for such. Assuming ten adventure scenarios to make up the core path, as a GM you can intermix other non-related scenarios with that core path, such that you can assume you've got 19-20 different scenarios in the overall campaign, at a minimum. You should never assume that two adventure scenarios will be run right next to each other (except perhaps at the end), so whatever you create should be able to stand alone. If a particular adventure cannot stand on its own, then it's a smaller part of another scenario, and should be written that way. In this way, you can spend about half of your time (or less, even) on the core adventure, and the rest of your gaming time on smaller scenarios that build your characters, flesh out the world, create smaller subplots, and provide different adventuring opportunities as a change of pace.

As you collect your notes on these short adventure scenarios (which are rarely intended to run more than one or two sessions, if that), you will find that you are building up your world and filling your repertoire with information that can be used when improvising and running your game "on the fly". The adventure write-ups are portable, so you can adapt them to other campaigns in the future. The monsters and NPCs you'll create are even easier to recycle, and can be reused easily even in your current campaign. The same goes for new spells, unique magic items and other campaign elements that you develop along the way.

Ultimately, this approach lends itself well to one of the greatest pieces of GM advice on adventure prep I've read in a long time: always create your campaign elements with an eye towards recycling. Build it once, and you can then use it multiple times. That conserves your effort, and gives you more to work with as you move forward and grow as a GM.

Hope This Helps,

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Hammersong's Legacy: The Circle of Mithril and the Covenant of the Wild...

Good Afternoon, All:

For those interested in another taste of Hammersong's Legacy, here are two more organizations from the campaign setting.

The first, the Circle of Mithril, is intended to provide an overarching organization for mercenaries to join. The Circle could be used as a patron (particularly if the campaign takes on a military bent) by providing sources for adventure. They could also provide training or serve as the only available resource for some particular piece of military equipment. The inner politics, given its loose structure, could also provide some interesting adventure material for the enterprising Referee. Finally, I wanted to provide a nice background piece for martial characters, and the Circle of Mithril offers a nice possibility for that.

In contrast, the Covenant of the Wild is essentially a druidic organization. Although a majority of its members perform good works in the name of the Green Lord, I took a cue from today's world and introduced the concept of militant environmental zealots as one of the factions within this particular group. I can see a number of adventure possibilities, ranging from a simple negotiation between loggers and Covenant members to a more complex scenario where the work of Covenant members is being undermined by the almost terroristic activities of the zealous eco-terrorist faction. Almost any late Stephen Segal film could be converted to an adventure using this group, as well as many of the B Grade monster movies on SyFy.

Circle of Mithril
Within the Duar Protectorate, the Circle of Mithril serves as a guild that unites many respected mercenary bands under a single banner. While other mercenary bands exist in the Protectorate that are not members of the guild, employers are guaranteed of an exceptional level of service from members of the Circle.
Headquarters: The Circle of Mithril is based out of Balmordak, the City of Cliffs. The guild does maintain training facilities and guildhalls in other major cities and townships under the Duar Protectorate as well.
Members: The Circle of Mithril boasts a membership of over three thousand mercenaries from more than a hundred different mercenary bands. In order to join the Circle of Mithril, a mercenary band must contain at least twenty members and provide a petition for acceptance that contains letters of recommendation from two different employers.
Organization: Within the Circle of Mithril, all bands are considered equal. Only the guild's representatives have higher status within the Circle itself. The Circle of Mithril maintains public records of its membership, which are kept in the main halls in Balmordak itself. Regional offices maintain localized lists for potential employers.
Goals: The goals of the Circle of Mithril are to provide minimum standards for service, maintain competitive rates and provide for arbitration between members in dispute. In addition, the Circle of Mithril provides access to equipment and training for its members at reasonable rates, as well as other services intended to support mercenary bands in the pursuit of their goals.
Symbol: The symbol of the guild is a silver circle on a black background, which is displayed at guildhalls throughout the Duar Protectorate. Mercenary captains that are members of the guild wear silver signet rings bearing this symbol. A few recognized and exceptional members bear mithril rings with the guild's device upon them, a symbol of their exalted status.

Covenant of the Wild
The Covenant of the Wild is a religious order of priests, warriors and others devoted to protecting the creatures of the Plane Prime from the encroachment of civilization, in honor of Verdantis, the Green Lord. While a majority of its membership are active defenders of the local environment, a fanatical minority has earned a dour reputation for their zealous stance against the intrusion of civilization on the wilderness that has reclaimed the land in the aftermath of the War of All Gods.
Headquarters: There is no one single location that boasts itself as the headquarters for the Covenant of the Wild. Each year, on Midwinter's Eve, representatives from various membership chapters meet as a Conclave of the Covenant in a location determined through divination, where matters of great importance to the society are discussed and debated.
Members: It is difficult to determine an exact number of members within the Covenant of the Wild, but it is estimated that over five hundred devotees of Verdantis are members to this society. Those who perform exceptional service in protection of the local fauna in the name of Verdantis are often approached for membership.
Organization: The Council of Nine, consisting of nine high priests of Verdantis, provide direction for the Covenant of the Wild. Individual chapters are lead by High Shepherds, who watch over their congregations and the lands of their region much as sheepherders protect their flocks.
Goals: The Covenant of the Wild sees its role as the shield that stands between the uncontrolled and devastating expansion of civilization and the unsuspecting and natural world that Verdantis, the Green Lord, himself has asked his followers to protect. Some have taken that sacred duty too far, and have taken the offensive against those people that have transgressed against nature. The actions of these zealous few have tainted other efforts the order has attempted to achieve, and still continues to cause conflict as matters continue to escalate.
Symbol: The symbol of the Covenant of the Wild is a golden sickle on a green background, a reminder that those who cross Verdantis, the Green Lord, will reap what they sow.


Saturday, April 10, 2010

MyD20 Lite: Some Rogue Subclasses...

Good Afternoon, All:

This is the last in my series of posts regarding subclasses in MyD20 Lite. The first three focused on the Warrior, Mage and Priest core classes. This post focuses on subclass concepts for the Rogue core class. In MyD20 Lite, a character receives a talent at first level, and even three levels thereafter. These "subclass" concepts provide a list of preselected talents covering the first five talents a character may choose (at 1st, 4th, 7th, 10th and 13th levels, specifically), creating these concepts within the existing MyD20 Lite rules.

The Assassin subclass describes adventuring rogues, and are commonly found in many sword & sorcery campaigns.
1st Level: Trap Sense
4th Level: Evasion
7th Level: Uncanny Dodge
10th Level: Skill Focus
13th Level: Skill Mastery

The Assassin subclass is useful for rogues that kill others for profit, and are commonly found in many classic fantasy campaigns.
1st Level: Death Attack
4th Level: Quick Draw
7th Level: Uncanny Dodge
10th Level: Improved Reaction
13th Level: Crippling Strike

The Expert subclass is useful for skill-focused rogues, and are frequently encountered in urban campaigns.
1st Level: Skill Focus
4th Level: Skill Mastery
7th Level: Skill Training
10th Level: Skill Focus
13th Level: Skill Mastery

The Expert subclass reflect rogues in the wilderness or rural environments, and commonly occur in exploration or military campaigns.
1st Level: Sure-Footed
4th Level: Trackless Step
7th Level: Hide in Plain Sight
10th Level: Increased Speed
13th Level: Improved Reaction

The Thief subclass provides a path for guild-oriented thieves, and are frequently encountered in classic fantasy campaigns.
1st Level: Trap Sense
4th Level: Evasion
7th Level: Uncanny Dodge
10th Level: Followers
13th Level: Stronghold


Swords & Wizardry: Four Low-Level Magical Beasts....

Good Evening, All:

A few days ago, I recall reading on a blog about how there are limited monsters for low level adventurers to fight. With that in mind, I started looking over the lower Challenge Levels (A-4) from the Swords & Wizardry, and discovered the following numbers associated with common creature types:

  • Animals: 6
  • Fey: 2
  • Fungus: 1
  • Giants: 1
  • Humanoids: 16 (humans 4, other pc races 2)
  • Magical Beasts: 3
  • Planar Monsters: 1
  • Undead: 4
  • Vermin: 9 (giant insects 8)

In essence, that indicates that low-level adventurers are most frequently challenged by other humanoids, giant insects, animals, and undead. Aside from a few magical beasts (specifically blink dogs, hippogriffs and pegasi), there's not much else to choose from. With that in mind, I thought I would offer a few low-level monsters to add challenge to your 1st and 2nd level games.

This offering of low-level monsters focuses on magical beasts. These are the monsters that haunt the dreams of little children, the creatures of the night that the townfolk stand a chance of defending their loved ones against, the little beasties that make for some different encounters than the party has encountered before. Please feel free to use them and abuse them as you see fit.

The fyrcat is a man-sized feline predator with an innate supernatural ability to cause fear and inspire terror. When the fyrcat uses this ability, anyone within a cone that extends to 60 feet and a width of 30 feet that fails a saving throw flees in fear, and has a 60% chance of dropping anything they are holding.

Fyrcat: AC 7 [12]; HD 3; Atk: bite (1d6); ST: 14; SP: cause fear; MV: 18; CL 4; XP 120.

The sirenbird resembles a small hawk with azure feathers, and has a remarkably melodic call. Those that hear the song of the sirenbird and fail a saving throw are charmed and drawn to the magical bird, who may attack its mesmerized prey with surprise, inflicting double damage with a successful attack.

Sirenbird: AC 7 [12]; HD 1; Atk: two talons (1d3) and one bite (1d4); ST: 17; SP: mesmerizing call (save negates); MV: 3, fly 18; CL 3; XP 60.

Shard Serpent
The shard serpent looks much like a cobra made entirely of crystal. This small beast can burrow through the earth as fast as it can slither upon its surface, and once every 1d4 rounds, it may spray a single target within thirty feet with a shower of crystalline slithers, inflicting 2d4 damage (halved with a successful save).

Shard Serpent: AC 5 [14]; HD 1; Atk: bite (1d4); ST: 17; SP: crystalline spray (2d4, save for half damage); MV: 12, burrow 12; CL 3; XP 60.

Troll Mastiff
The troll mastiff resembles a two-headed wolf covered with warts and stiff, wiry hair. This beast is named as much for its appearance as it is for its regenerative ability, as any damage inflicted upon a troll mastiff regenerates at a rate of one hit point per round, unless caused by fire or acid.

Troll Mastiff: AC 6 [13]; HD 2; Atk: two bites (1d4); ST: 16; SP: regeneration (1 hit point/round); MV: 18; CL 3; XP 60.


Thursday, April 08, 2010

Hammersong's Legacy: A Task Resolution System...

Good Morning, All:

First, I have made some changes with the RSS Feeds, by redoing a few settings in the Blogger controls, so hopefully any issues you might have with RSS feeds to this blog will be addressed. You may have to resubscribe to get the updated behavior, but it's there for you, in case you're interested.

Second, the following represents a suggested Task Resolution system for Swords & Wizardry that I am going to put into Hammersong's Legacy. It is basically an S&W version of MyD20 Lite's task resolution mechanic, without formal skills and some slightly changed target numbers. The Difficulties here are inspired by the 1-in-6 and 2-in-6 chances, setting difficulties of 15 and 18, respectively. Certain classes gain a +4 bonus on certain ability checks, which will be noted in the appropriate section of the Hammersong's Legacy Campaign Setting.

Ability Checks

Most of the time, the Referee will simply assume that you can accomplish the tasks that you describe your character as performing. Unless there are unusual circumstances, your character should be able to walk down a path, pack a tent into a backpack, drink unassisted, that kind of thing. If the average 18–year–old human can perform a task without special training or natural aptitude, the Referee can logically assume that your character can perform it.

If there is ever a question of success, your Referee may request that your character attempt an ability check against a specific target number, called a Difficulty. In order to attempt an ability check, you simply roll a D20, and add half your character level, rounded down, and any appropriate ability score modifier to the roll. If you equal or exceed the stated Difficulty (usually 15 for average checks or 18 or higher for difficult ones), then you succeed at the ability check.

Examples of Ability Checks
The following are few rules of thumb when engaged in an adventure; these rules are guidelines for the average or normal situation and can (and often should) be altered to fit the circumstances.

Beast-handling: Characters may attempt to calm a wild beast by not acting aggressively and succeeding at a Charisma-based ability check against a Difficulty of 15.

Climbing: Characters may attempt to climb a roughhewn wall by succeeding at a Strength-based ability check against a Difficulty of 15.

First Aid: Characters can provide first aid in the form of 1d4 of natural healing of a wounded comrade by attempting a Wisdom-based ability check against a Difficulty of 15. This must be attempted within a minute after combat is over, and takes 1d6 minutes to complete.

Listening at Doors: Characters may listen at doors by attempting a Wisdom-based ability check against a Difficulty of 15.

Opening Doors: Stuck doors (and many doors in an ancient dungeon may be stuck closed) can be opened by attempting a Strength-based ability check against a Difficulty of 15. Normally, up to two other characters may aid the strongest character in attempting to break the door down, but they will spill into the room and should automatically lose any degree of surprise if there are monsters within.

Persuasion: Characters may attempt to shift the reaction of another by one step by attempting a Charisma-based ability check against a Difficulty of 15. If two or more characters are attempting this action at the same time, the character with the higher ability check result wins.

Picking Pockets: Characters may attempt to pick the pocket of an unsuspecting target with a Dexterity-based ability check against a Difficulty of 15. The victim may notice the attempt if he makes a Wisdom-based ability check that equals or exceeds the pickpocket’s ability check result.

Recall Lore: Characters may attempt to recall information they had once studied with an Intelligence-based ability check against a Difficulty of 15.

Secret Doors: Secret doors are not spotted by chance while passing by; they must be searched for. (Elves do not have to actively search for secret doors, however, and may spot a secret door while passing within arm's reach of it, one attempt per door.) Finding a secret door requires a successful Wisdom-based ability check against a typical Difficulty of 18, and ten minutes of searching per room or reasonably sized chamber.

Sneaking Around: Characters may attempt to avoid detection by an unsuspecting target with a Dexterity-based ability check against a Difficulty of 15. The target may notice the attempt if he makes a Wisdom-based ability check that equals or exceeds the stealthy character’s ability check result.

Surviving in the Wild: A character may keep himself and a small group of comrades safe and fed in the wild with a successful Wisdom-based ability check against a Difficulty of 18.

Tracking: A character can track creatures in the wilderness with a successful Wisdom-based ability check against a Difficulty of 15, modified by circumstances as needed.

Traps and Pits: Like secret doors, traps and pits are not spotted by chance while passing by; they must be searched for. Finding a trap or pit requires a successful Wisdom-based ability check against a typical Difficulty of 18, and searching limits movement to a crawl. Once a trap has been located, a successful Dexterity-based ability check against a typical Difficulty of 18 can disarm it. Some traps are more difficult to locate and/or disarm, depending on nature of the dungeon.

With Regards,

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

MyD20 Lite: Some Priest Subclasses...

Good Afternoon, All:

This is the third in my series of posts regarding subclasses in MyD20 Lite. The first two focused on the Warrior and Mage core classes. This post focuses on subclass concepts for the Priest core class. In MyD20 Lite, a character receives a talent at first level, and even three levels thereafter. These "subclass" concepts provide a list of preselected talents covering the first five talents a character may choose (at 1st, 4th, 7th, 10th and 13th levels, specifically), creating these subclass concepts within the existing MyD20 Lite rules.

The Artificer subclass provides for a priest that enjoys creating magic items, and are commonly found in many high fantasy campaigns.
1st Level: Craft Spell-Completion Item
4th Level: Craft Single-Use Item
7th Level: Craft Charged Item
10th Level: Craft Magic Arms and Armor
13th Level: Craft Constant Item

Battle Priest
The Battle Priest subclass describes a priest of war, and are commonly found in many epic fantasy campaigns.
1st Level: Smite Infidel
4th Level: Turn Undead Creatures
7th Level: Divine Grace
10th Level: Greater Turning
13th Level: Divine Grace

The Cultist subclass covers the concept of a dark priest of death and sin, and are commonly found in many sword & sorcery campaigns.
1st Level: Death Touch
4th Level: Command Undead Creatures
7th Level: Smite Infidel
10th Level: Followers
13th Level: Stronghold

The Druid subclass describes a priest of nature, and are commonly found in many classic fantasy campaigns.
1st Level: Animal Whisperer
4th Level: Command Animal Creatures
7th Level: Turn Elemental Creatures
10th Level: Healing Word
13th Level: Remove Disease

The Healer subclass provides for the concept of a priest of healing, and are commonly found in many classic fantasy campaigns.
1st Level: Healing Word
4th Level: Remove Disease
7th Level: Improved Healing Word
10th Level: Calm Emotions
13th Level: Protective Ward


Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Random Chart: Quick Demon Name Generator...

Good Afternoon, All:

Today's post is short and simple. I hadn't posted a random table in a while, so I thought I'd post a Quick Demon Name Generator table, just in case someone might have need of one. Simply roll d100 twice, once for the start of the demon's name, and once for the end of the demon's name. Fill free to modify the results to taste.

For example, if I needed to name a balor for my next adventure, I could simply roll two d100s on the following two tables. If I were to roll a 43, followed by a 62, that would give us "Hebin" for the beginning, and "ias" for the ending, or "Hebinias" as the demon's name.

You could also use this for any planar creature's name, but since demons make such great bad guys for PCs to kill, that's typically how I would use this table.

Table: Demonic Name Prefix

Table: Demonic Name Suffix

How did I come up with these tables? I simply took a huge list of demon names from the Master Monster Index on the Sulerin website, and parsed them into prefixes and suffixes using a simple Java app I wrote. I then shortened the list of name parts down to the fifty most frequent, and when there were ties, I took only the ones that sounded really cool. I've done the same with a number of common languages, and with various monster names, for use in my own personal campaign. Over time, I may post more of these tables here, if there's interest, of course.

At any rate, I hope this helps. If you use this, please post one of your created names in the comments section, and give me a little bit of an idea how you will be using it. Inspiration for new adventures and NPCs comes from the most interesting places.

More Tomorrow,

Monday, April 05, 2010

Swords & Wizardry: A Monster Analysis Table, By Hit Dice...

Good Morning, All:

For my 101st post on this blog, I thought I'd do something special. At the end of this post is a table I've created as part of my analysis of Swords & Wizardry in regards to suggested monster stats. I calculated the data based on the following assumptions:

  1. After a cursory review, the base number of Hit Dice for a given Challenge Rating in 3E, which indicates roughly the average party level equivalent for a given monster, appears relatively consistent with the same number of Hit Dice for an equivalent challenge in Swords & Wizardry.
  2. Using the average Hit Dice per Challenge Rating as indicated in Bad Axe Game's Trailblazer tables, I can adequately assign a basic character level to each Hit Dice.
  3. Using the Fighting-Man's attack rolls at each character level, and assuming that the average monster probably should require about a 12 on the d20 to hit it, I can determine the base AC and thus the base Ascending AC for a given Hit Die value.
  4. Save progression is given in the Swords & Wizardry rules, and is reprinted here for the sake of consistency.
  5. Using the Cleric as the median character in terms of hit points, it is possible to calculate the number of hitpoints an average character can have at each character level.
  6. A suggested minor damage value can be calculated from the base hitpoints for a character of the appropriate level such that four average uses of that damage should disable the average character. That value can be converted to a given die type (with preference towards d6s). When dealing with fractions, round down so as to favor the character.
  7. A suggested moderate damage value can be calculated as per minor damage values, save that only three average uses of that damage should disable the average character.
  8. A suggested major damage value can be calculated as per minor damage values, save that only two average uses of that damage should disable the average character.

The suggested values are simply that, suggestions. I wouldn't move the AC more than four points higher or lower than these suggested values, but that's simply my thoughts on the matter.

In regards to the Minor, Moderate and Major Damage suggested values, these are simply provided as a suggestion for gauging the relative power of a special ability. As I tend to look at the life expectancy of a monster at around three rounds, at least at lower levels, I will tend to use the Moderate Damage as my guideline. For powerful breath weapons, the Major Damage category works well for creating a nasty surprise and a deep respect for the creature. Minor damage should be reserved for things that you don't want to be incapacitating, but something that's different from the usual claw-claw-bite routine.

I don't know how useful this might be for your own monster creation efforts, but as I wanted to do it for my own monster work, I figure that I should at least share the effort in case it helps others. If you don't find it useful, it won't hurt my feelings at all.

Table: Suggested Monster Stats By Hit Dice, Swords & Wizardry
HDAC [AAC]SVMinor DmgModerate DmgMajor Dmg
18 [11]171d41d61d8
27 [12]161d41d61d8
37 [12]141d61d82d6
46 [13]131d62d63d6
56 [13]121d62d63d6
65 [14]112d63d64d6
75 [14]92d63d65d6
84 [15]83d64d67d6
93 [16]64d65d68d6
103 [16]54d65d68d6
112 [17]44d66d69d6
121 [18]35d66d610d6
130 [19]35d67d610d6
140 [19]35d67d611d6
15-1 [20]35d67d611d6
16-1 [20]35d67d611d6
17-2 [21]36d68d612d6
18-2 [21]36d68d612d6
19-3 [22]36d68d613d6
20-4 [23]36d69d613d6
21-4 [23]36d69d613d6
22-5 [24]37d69d614d6
23-5 [24]37d69d614d6
24-6 [25]37d610d615d6
25-6 [25]37d610d615d6
26-6 [25]37d610d615d6
27-7 [26]37d610d615d6
28-7 [26]38d610d616d6
29-8 [27]38d611d616d6
30-8 [27]38d611d617d6


Sunday, April 04, 2010

MyD20 Lite: Some Mage Subclasses...

Good Evening, All:

Continuing in my series of posts regarding subclasses in MyD20 Lite, this post focuses on subclass concepts for the Mage core class. In MyD20 Lite, a character receives a talent at first level, and even three levels thereafter. These "subclass" concepts provide a list of preselected talents covering the first five talents a character may choose (at 1st, 4th, 7th, 10th and 13th levels, specifically), creating these concepts within the existing MyD20 Lite rules.

The Artificer subclass provides for a mage that enjoys creating magic items, and are commonly found in many high fantasy campaigns.
1st Level: Craft Spell-Completion Item
4th Level: Craft Single-Use Item
7th Level: Craft Charged Item
10th Level: Craft Magic Arms and Armor
13th Level: Craft Constant Item

The Cabalist subclass describes a mage that makes bargains with supernatural creatures, and can be found in many dark horror or sword & sorcery campaigns.
1st Level: Eldritch Curse
4th Level: Pact of the First Order
7th Level: Pact of the Second Order
10th Level: Pact of the Third Order
13th Level: Spell Penetration

The Manashaper subclass demonstrates a mage with a gift for shaping magic and altering spells, and can be found in epic fantasy campaigns.
1st Level: Enlarge Spell
4th Level: Extend Spell
7th Level: Empower Spell
10th Level: Maximize Spell
13th Level: Widen Spell

The Scholar subclass is based on the concept of an educated mage who is, in turn, a mentor and sage, and can be found in classic fantasy campaigns.
1st Level: Mystic Sight
4th Level: School Specialization
7th Level: Skill Training
10th Level: School Specialization
13th Level: Skill Training

The Warmage subclass represents a martial spellcaster devoted to war, commonly found in military campaigns.
1st Level: Armored Caster
4th Level: Arcane Bolt
7th Level: Improved Arcane Bolt
10th Level: Improved Arcane Bolt
13th Level: Mass Spell


Saturday, April 03, 2010

Swords & Wizardry Monsters: The Crimson Mantid, the Deathgazer Orb and the Dreadstorm Leech...

Good Morning, All:

Here are three new monsters for use in your own Swords & Wizardry campaigns: the crimson mantid, the deathgazer orb, and the dreadstorm leech. These are inspired by a few concepts from some 3E monster manuals, and have been converted for use in a rules-light system. Of course, in the process, I put my own spin on the concepts, and strove for some interesting and challenging beasts here. I would definitely be interested in hearing your thoughts on these, and if you would like to continue to see more monsters like these posted here on In Like Flynn.

Crimson Mantid
Standing over eight feet tall, the crimson mantid has the appearance of a four-armed cross between a humanoid and a praying mantis. The chitinous plate of a crimson mantid is blood red, and each of its four arms end in scythe-like claws. Created by the God of Vermin to serve as shock troops in a war upon the mortal planes, the crimson mantid continue to live long after the divine war has ended, spreading fear and destruction wherever they may be found. The scythe-like claws of the crimson mantid exude a natural poison (saving throw negates); anyone poisoned by a crimson mantid suffers 1d6 points of poison damage each round until they succeed at a saving throw. If the crimson mantid strikes the same target with two or more claws in the same round, it automatically rends the target for an addition 2d8 damage.

Crimson Mantid: AC -2 [21]; HD 12; Atk: four claws (1d8+poison); ST: 3; SP: immune to poison, poison (1d6 per round until save negates), rend (2d8); MV: 15; CL 16; XP 3,200.

Deathgazer Orb
Infused with necromantic energy, the deathgazer orb inhabits large caverns and similar open areas far underground. Deathgazer orbs prefer to lie in wait, floating near the ceiling of the chamber, and attack unsuspecting creatures that pass below them. Due to their dark coloration and silent flight, the deathgazer has a 4 in 6 chance to automatically surprise unsuspecting creatures. If a deathgazer orb hits a target using one of its tentacles with a natural 20, it automatically grabs hold of its victim and begins to strangle them. Each round that the target remains conscious, as his action for the round, the target may attempt a saving throw to break free. In addition, once every 1d4 rounds, the deathgazer orb may implement a gaze attack that automatically reduces any target that fails a saving throw to 1d4 hitpoits, similar to the effects of a reversed heal spell. Finally, deathgazer orbs are immune to attacks that drain energy levels and other necromantic effects.

Deathgazer Orb: AC 3 [16]; HD 6; Atk: four tentacles (1d4); ST: 11; SP: darkvision, harmful gaze, immune (necromantic effects), strangling strike; MV: 3, fly 12; CL 10; XP 1,400.

Dreadstorm Leech
The dreadstorm leech lives in the depths of the oceans of the world, only coming to the surface of the ocean during heavy storms. Almost three foot in length, the dreadstorm leech can smell blood at incredible distances underwater, and often attack the bleeding victims of vessels destroyed by storms. After the dreadstorm leech's first hit, it automatically drains blood from its victim at the rate of 1d4 hitpoints per round.

Dreadstorm Leech: AC 4 [15]; HD 3; Atk: one bite (1d4); ST: 14; SP: blood drain, blood scent; MV: 0, swim 24; CL 4; XP 120.


Friday, April 02, 2010

MyD20 Lite: Some Warrior Subclasses...

Good Afternoon, All:

As I review my work on the MyD20 Lite Player's Guide, I find myself considering how someone might want to make things even simpler for themselves or their players in terms of creating new classes. While the use of Talents is intended to allow for class customization, some may think that their players may suffer from "option paralysis". With that in mind, you as the Referee may want to prepare a few prechosen selections for basic campaign concepts in your game. Other systems might refer to this approach as subclasses, although paragon or prestige paths could also work. For the purposes of discussion here, I am going to stick with the subclass nomenclature, even though these reflect predefined talent selection in order to emulate a given class concept.

In MyD20 Lite, a character receives a talent at first level, and even three levels thereafter. Given that most gamers prefer not to proceed beyond 10th to 15th level, I think that these suggested "subclass" options should only provide a list of the first five talents a character may choose (at 1st, 4th, 7th, 10th and 13th levels, specifically). What follows are some basic concepts for the Warrior class. The next few posts on this topic will contain concepts for each of the other three core classes found in MyD20 Lite.

The Barbarian subclass represents the classic berserker tribal warrior, commonly found in sword & sorcery campaigns.
1st Level: Rage
4th Level: Offensive Expertise
7th Level: Mettle
10th Level: Bravery
13th Level: Heightened Fortitude

The Duelist subclass represents the classic single-weapon fighter, nimble and lightly armored, common to many swashbuckling campaigns.
1st Level: Quick Draw
4th Level: Canny Defense
7th Level: Defensive Expertise
10th Level: Canny Defense
13th Level: Improved Reaction

Martial Artist
The Martial Artist subclass represents the classic unarmed combatant, commonly found in Asian-themed campaigns.
1st Level: Unarmed Combat Style
4th Level: Defensive Expertise
7th Level: Unarmed Combat Style
10th Level: Canny Defense
13th Level: Unarmed Combat Style

The Ranger subclass represents a rugged woodsman and talented hunter, commonly found in exploratory campaigns.
1st Level: Shield Specialization
4th Level: Favored Foe
7th Level: Mettle
10th Level: Offensive Expertise
13th Level: Improved Reaction

The Warlord subclass represents an inspirational leader on the battlefield, commonly found in military campaigns.
1st Level: Inspire Courage
4th Level: Inspire Greatness
7th Level: Inspire Heroics
10th Level: Men-At-Arms
13th Level: Inspire Haste