Monday, May 30, 2011

Sandbox Preparation: Adventure Material, Basic Details...

Good Morning, All:

Continuing on with Adventure Material development, I have to take a look at the amount of material I will need to begin the campaign. In order to keep this a small project (this is, after all, about Minimal Sandbox Preparation), I elected to pursue a smaller area for development. Being a fan of Traveller, my first reaction was to go with a subsector map, a hex map that measures 8 columns across by 10 rows down. By putting Ashaba in the middle of the map, that basically gives me an area to play that covers about two-three days travel from the center (depending on direction). That should give me plenty of room for the initial explorations of the characters, and if this method turns out to be faster for me, I can easily develop adjacent subsector-sized regions as they are needed.

Despite the fact that we really only need to develop a few areas around the players' home base city of Ashaba, I used NBOS Software's free Inspiration Pad Pro to develop the contents for the hexes for the entire region. I did this to demonstrate the range and frequency of results that I got from the process, mostly as a way of field-testing the random chart I'd created. Here's my result set, replacing an Empty result in hex 0505 with Ashaba:

0102Lair: Common Animal
0103Lair: Humanoid
0107Site: Dungeon (1 level)
0108Settlement: Homestead or Plantation
0110Lair: Common Animal
0202Lair: Supernatural Creature
0205Settlement: Homestead or Plantation
0209Terrain Effect: Arcane
0307Lair: Humanoid
0401Settlement: Homestead or Plantation
0402Lair: Supernatural Creature
0406Site: Dungeon (4 levels)
0410Terrain Effect: Divine
0503Lair: Supernatural Creature
0505Ashaba (Home Base)
0508Lair: Common Animal
0605Lair: Humanoid
0606Terrain Effect: Man-made
0702Lair: Supernatural Creature
0705Settlement: Monastery or Shrine or Temple
0707Site: Tower (3 levels)
0709Lair: Humanoid
0801Lair: Supernatural Creature
0803Lair: Common Animal
0804Site: Dungeon (5 levels)
0808Terrain Effect: Natural and Arcane
0809Site: Dungeon (1 level)

This gives me a short list of 33 entries that will need to be developed over the course of the campaign, assuming characters hit all of them.

Important Regional Locations
0102 Lair: Common Animal
0103 Lair: Humanoid
0105 Color
0107 Site: Dungeon (1 level)
0108 Settlement: Homestead or Plantation
0110 Lair: Common Animal
0202 Lair: Supernatural Creature
0205 Settlement: Homestead or Plantation
0209 Terrain Effect: Arcane
0304 Color
0307 Lair: Humanoid
0401 Settlement: Homestead or Plantation
0402 Lair: Supernatural Creature
0406 Site: Dungeon (4 levels)
0410 Terrain Effect: Divine
0503 Lair: Supernatural Creature
0505 Ashaba (Home Base)
0508 Lair: Common Animal
0605 Lair: Humanoid
0606 Terrain Effect: Man-made
0608 Color
0702 Lair: Supernatural Creature
0705 Settlement: Monastery or Shrine or Temple
0707 Site: Tower (3 levels)
0708 Color
0709 Lair: Humanoid
0801 Lair: Supernatural Creature
0803 Lair: Common Animal
0804 Site: Dungeon (5 levels)
0805 Color
0806 Color
0808 Terrain Effect: Natural and Arcane
0809 Site: Dungeon (1 level)

However, the locations that require Adventure Material before we can begin playing are those within a day's travel of Ashaba. That cuts the list down significantly:

Important Starting Locations
0304 Color
0406 Site: Dungeon (4 levels)
0503 Lair: Supernatural Creature
0505 Ashaba (Home Base)
0605 Lair: Humanoid
0606 Terrain Effect: Man-made
0705 Settlement: Monastery or Shrine or Temple

Not bad. It's not quite the distribution that we designed for, but such is the nature of random generation. The nice part is that we were fortunate to a sample of every category type in this selection. (Okay, truth be told, I swapped two of them out from just outside the two hex range around 0505 with hexes within the range, so that I could include an example of each hex category in the final results, but it was only a matter of shifting the content up or down one hex.) At a minimum, these are the hex locations that we'll need to develop. I will tackle these in my next post.

With Regards,

Friday, May 27, 2011

Sandbox Preparation: Hex Content Category Templates...

Good Morning, All:

In regards to writing up the content of my sandbox, I find that having a sample template for each element really helps. However, in examining my Sandbox Preparation techniques, I find that I really don't have any minimalist templates that I can follow. With that in mind, as I begin to fill in my hexes, I wanted to stop a moment to consider developing a system of minimalist notation that will help me, and keep my notes small and concise. Thus, I have looked over each category of hex content, as discussed in my previous post, and suggested a base format that I would like to follow.

As an example of a Color description that I think works well, here's something from pg 298 of the Lenap Chapter used as a preview for Necromancer Games' Wilderlands of High Fantasy campaign setting (pg 5 of the PDF):

0804 The Lost God: The ruins of an altar to a lost god stands on a hummock. If a prayer is said at the altar, a beam of light will point to the nearest shelter, and no random encounters will occur for the night.

In further support, two pages later, you can find another example:

1623 Abandoned Cottage: A small cottage in a grove is infested with insects. A stone calendar stands on a small table of granite within.

From these two examples, you can see that the concept here is to describe a Color hex in two sentences, preferably taking up no more than two lines in the final document I create for my setting. It should be evocative, but concise. If there's a conflict, concise wins.

Suggested Color Template:
Hex Nbr Location Name: One or two sentences that describe the location.

I feel that there are two ways to handle Lairs in a sandbox write-up. You can use the traditional approach (two-three sentences that set up the encounter, define the participants and provide the treasure), or you can borrow from the One Page Dungeon format. With the One Page Dungeon, you are deliberately trying to describe an encounter (i.e. a room) in a brief sentence or series of sentence fragments that covers all the details in one simply line of text on the page, two at the most. Back in the day, as we old gaming fogies occasionally say, a paper publication called Dungeon Magazine used to define the following elements as necessary for describing an encounter:

The adventure itself consists of a series of planned encounters keyed to a map, timeline, or flowchart. Each encounter can include any or all of the following sections: Read-aloud Text, General Description, Creature(s), Tactics, Trap(s), Treasure, Development, and Ad-Hoc XP Adjustment. Do not include sections that are unnecessary for a given encounter. For instance, an area devoid of traps does not require a Trap section.

Looking at those elements, I think the list itself presents an immediate suggestion for a template to use in describing lairs. I've modified the list above somewhat, in keeping with the philosophy that we are trying to record the minimal information needed to run a campaign from these notes. Each element below is a sentence fragment (preferably less than ten words each), rather than a complete sentence, to help cut down on space and improve information density. For monster stats, I prefer to define those in a roster somewhere, and not in this particular write-up. That way, I can use the same campaign in multiple gaming systems with maximum re-usability. Here is my initial thoughts on the Lair template format:

Suggested Lair Template:
Hex Nbr Location/Lair Name: Description fragment. Creature(s). Tactics. Trap(s). Treasure.

You may find it worthwhile to develop a small table of options for tactics, so you can minimize that section to a few words. As an example, I offer the following:

Table: Encounter Tactics
AggressiveIncredibly irritable; will often attack other creatures on sight
HostileTreats others belligerently and attacks if it can reasonably succeed
CautiousAvoids contact with other creatures whenever possible
NeutralOnly attacks other creatures in defense of themselves or their own kind
FriendlyVery friendly, curious; Will seek to interact with others, if not threatened

There are almost as many ways to describe a settlement as there are gaming systems (and sometimes even those can see multiple formats for descriptions and/or stat blocks.) Toward that end, I simply perused a number of settlement descriptions for various systems with a little Google Fu, and noted the details that seemed important in each of them: Name, settlement size, population, available assets, spellcaster capacity, ruler/authority figure, government form, defenses, resources, tech level, alignment, law level, important NPCs, important locations, important organizations and so forth. Looking over that impressive array of items, I began to pick and choose only those elements that would add to my ability to portray the setting consistently. If I didn't feel it applied to the way I run my games, I dropped it from my list. Finally, I arranged the remaining elements into a simple series of sentence fragments, much like the Lair format above. My goal here is to bring it all down to as few lines as possible in my notes and still be effective. Here's my first suggestion for a Settlement template format:

Suggested Settlement Template:
Hex Nbr Settlement Name (Size, Pop. XXX): Government; Reaction to Outsiders: XXX (use reaction descriptors such as Hostile, Unfriendly, Indifferent, Friendly, Helpful); Resources: XXX (only the highest resource should be listed); Important NPCs: name (descriptor gender race profession), name (descriptor gender race profession), name (descriptor gender race profession) (Only list the top three or four). A single sentence description may follow, to increase the flavor and capture any important notes or elements that should be included here.

While the population is mostly flavor for me, I like having that number to banter around. Most of the remaining information I'd need can be determined from Settlement size and NPCs, at least in regards to assets, spellcasting capacity, etc.

Sites are often described in their own document, such as a One Page Dungeon or a stack of them. With that in mind, all we need here is a basic one sentence (or even sentence fragment) description of the site, and perhaps a sentence reminding us of where to look for detailed information. This wouldn't make it very different from the Color format, I'm sure.

Suggested Site Template:
Hex Nbr Site Name: One sentence describing the site, including number of floors and most outstanding characteristic about it. For more information, see [Name/Location of Site details document(s)].

Terrain Effects
To me, terrain effects are a lot like hazards and traps, and should contain the same type of information, even if the format is different. In essence, we should make sure that we've described the basic nature of the terrain effect, the impact on the character and what can mitigate or negate the terrain effect.

Suggested Terrain Effect Template:
Hex Nbr Location/Terrain Effect Name: One sentence describes the terrain effect. One sentence identifies character impact and possible mitigation or negation of the effect.

The Last Word... Today
My final words on today's topic is that, like all other systems used for information tracking, these suggested formats may shift and change as I use them more frequently. If I find myself not using certain pieces of information, I can drop that from my format. If I discover that I need information that I haven't recorded, I'll modify my templates to include it going forward. Of course, comments are always welcome, and shared insight might help me make changes while I'm still in the exploration phase. My goals for this project are simple, and anything that helps me improve the usability of these notes is welcome.

With Regards,

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Sandbox Preparation: The Content of Hexes...

Good Morning, All:

In order to develop Adventure Material for a sandbox setting, most people assume that we need to detail the contents of note for a variety of hexes on the map. Others, however, propose that all you have to do is prepare a small "slush pile" of lairs and dungeons, and then assign them locations as the player-characters travel about the map. As it is my personal opinion that a true sandbox assigns such details to locations before the setting even encounters player-characters, I fall in the first crowd. However, I do feel that the "slush pile" approach has its place in a sandbox setting, and I will discuss that point at the end of this post.

The elements that commonly appear in a sandbox setting fall into a few distinct categories. There are exceptions, I'm sure, but for the sake of minimal sandbox preparation, we think we can easily restrict our efforts to the following:

  • Sites: Sites are the bread-and-butter of most sandbox settings. These are the large locales calling for adventure: the dungeons, the towers and the ruins that potential provide many nights of gaming fun, and also require the most preparation.
  • Lairs: Lairs are best described as expanded encounters. Generally intended to last for one evening or less, lairs rarely contain more than three individual encounter locations, and often only describe elements that lend themselves to a single combat. The bulk of the entries found in most sandbox settings tend to be lairs, and often only require a few sentences to detail (assuming you have the monster stats elsewhere, or you play an RPG system where the stats are fairly minimal.) Only the most detailed of these examples require significant development beyond a minor paragraph.
  • Settlements: Settlements represent civilization and a degree of protection from wilderness-inspired adventuring, while opening urban and political gaming opportunities, if you are so inclined. For most sandbox settings, these notable townships, villages, shires and camps simply represent places to refill your expendable equipment, and possibly a lair-like encounter in addition. The level of detail you would want to put into your settlements depends on the importance of these elements to your overall campaign concept and the feel you want your game to have. However, I wouldn't think you'd need to do more for a minimum preparation than you've already done with your "Home Base."
  • Terrain Effects: Terrain effects cover those strange and unusual elements that don't rate as an encounter per se, but cause some impact on the characters as they pass through the hex. These could include dangerous flora, radiation, null magic zones (or wild magic zones), rifts to other dimensions or planes of existence, holy or unholy Sites, perpetual winter storms or monsoon weather, and so on. These are simply gateways to further adventure, if the PCs decide to investigate these effects, their source and potentially even their correction. For the most part, a simple paragraph should add enough definition of the situation to meet our needs of minimal preparation.
  • Color: These hex results simply exist to provide color for the campaign setting. Like terrain effects, color elements can serve as gateways to further adventure, but color elements rarely impact the characters in any way, save to promote the flavor of the setting. A simple place name, or at most, a sentence or two should cover any prep work you'd need to address the contents of such a hex.

In regards to the five categories listed above, Sites obviously require a lot of work to fully prepare, while Settlements, Lairs and Terrain Effects require very little in the way of stats to be ready for play. Hexes of the Color category require a sentence or two, and that's all. Since we're not looking at publishing this, but simply looking at making something we can use in the middle of a game, we definitely want to keep our work to a minimum and easily usable. The easiest way to do this, in terms of getting work done so we can get to gaming, is to define only the first level of any Site, and leave the rest of the work for later, should the PCs decide to come explore that Site. Anything more than that is going to waste your time and delay your ability to start gaming. You can always go back and flesh out the rest of a Site after the game has begun, as you have both time and desire. However, for the purposes of developing a sandbox setting with minimal effort and maximum benefits, you should never feel compelled to prepare more than the first level of a Site before the campaign has begun.

With the above in mind, how do we decide what goes into each hex of your sandbox, if anything? Ideally, if you have a concept that you want to fully develop, you'd hand-place all of the elements you want to see, relying on your vision of the campaign to help you in these regards. Most of us aren't that in tune with our settings in the beginning, so we often fall back on one of my favorite Old School tactics: the random chart.

In order to create a random table for filling in the contents of the hexes of your sandbox setting, you need to give some thought as to the frequency and category of the various encounters and scenes you want to see as part of your exploration. What follows is an exploration of my thought process on developing a random chart or table to determine hex content.

First, we need a standard to determine frequency. Looking at ChicagoWiz's criteria for the minimal development of his sandbox settings, he developed the first level of a dungeon and three lairs. That's a total of four encounters withing a day's travel of the PCs' home. If each hex is half a day's travel (which is the scale I now like to use, after exploring other options), then there are four planned encounters within two hexes of home (which constitutes a fifth hex with content, for purposes of this discussion.) If I count the number of hexes within that range, we're looking at a total of 19 hexes (the hex that Home is sitting in, plus six for the first ring, plus twelve for the second ring of hexes.) Five hexes with content, divided by 19 hexes total, gives us a rough percentage of 26.3%. This is very close to 1 in 4, 2 in 8, 3 in 12 and 5 in 20, which opens us up to random tables based on any of these basic dice. Since we have one Site (the dungeon) in 19 hexes, we get a rough percentage of appearance equal to 5.26%. That seems to settle the matter for me, indicating that we should use a d20 for this particular random table, as there's a 1 in 20 chance of a Site appearing per hex. (Alternately, we could use the d66 table format from Traveller, which I've utilized before in this blog, but let's use the d20 this time around.)

Players are fickle beasts, as you may well know. Whenever a Referee describes an area, they immediate begin to think that an encounter is about to occur. After all, if an area is important enough to describe, then there must be something there to fight. Given that tendency among players, and the desire to reduce their frustration as a Referee (the game is supposed to be fun for everyone, after all), I don't want to have a random table that has a higher percentage of Settlements, Terrain Effects and Color combined than we have Lairs and Sites combined. We've already determined that Sites occur 1 in 20 times, and Lairs are three times more prolific, based on our use of ChicagoWiz's values, which gives us a 3 in 20 chance for Lairs. Our final piece of information from our initial frequency analysis relates to the fact that our Home base, being a Settlement, takes up one hex out of the 19, so Settlements have a 1 in 20 chance (the same as a Site). Since Lairs plus Dungeons equals 4 out of 20, then Settlements plus Terrain Effects plus Color should also equal 4 out of 20, and by the process of elimination, empty hexes occur 12 out of 20 times. 4 in 20, minus the 1 in 20 for Settlements, leaves us with 3 in 20, to be divided between Terrain Effects and Color. Let's say that we want to have more Color elements than Terrain Effects, simply because we want to minimize the amount of prep work that needs to be done, and Color elements are easier to create (and usually require less typing) than Terrain Effects. With that in mind, we now know that Color hexes have a 2 in 20 chance of showing up, while Terrain Effects have a 1 in 20 chance of showing up.

After all that long-winded discussion, we now have the basis for a random chart for filling our hexes. The results of this table are below:

Table: Hex Contents
15Terrain Effect

You could easily develop additional tables to provide further detail for each category (aside from Empty, of course, and perhaps Color). I wouldn't do that unless you are concerned about possible writer's block or temporary paralysis of the imagination. Well, now that I mention it, seeing as how I am occasionally so inflicted (and because I like random tables), I think I'll offer the following simple set of subtables as a potential source of inspiration when needed.

Subtable: Terrain Effect Type
6Roll twice and combine results (ignoring additional 6 results

Subtable: Settlement Type
1Homestead or Plantation
2Permanent Camp or Shire
4Town or Small City
5Monastery or Shrine or Temple
6Wizard's Tower

Subtable: Lair Type
1Common Animal
2Common Animal
5Supernatural Creature
6Supernatural Creature

Subtable: Site Type
1Dungeon (5 Room Dungeon)
2Dungeon (1 level)
3Dungeon (2d4 levels)
4Tower (2d4 levels)
5Ruins (1d6 buildings)
6Ruins (2d6 buildings)

Now that I have some tables to roll on, I feel ready to prepare some adventure material for my minimal sandbox campaign setting. In my next post, I'll continue with some specific examples, and then it's on to the Map.

As always, if you have any comments or suggestions on the content of this post, please feel free to post them here.

With Regards,

Monday, May 23, 2011

Sandbox Preparation: Home (or All Your Base Are Belong To Us)...

Good Morning, All:

As I resume my series on Sandbox Preparation, my next point of attention is the player-character's Home, their base of operations at the beginning of the campaign. Using a random generator to create several Egyptian place names to peruse, I finally decided on Ashaba. As for how much detail I would need in order to start gaming in my Egyptian Great Plains setting, I turn back to my original overview on sandbox prep to see what the extremes are.

On the overly minimalist side, I simply need to know the name of the township (per Zack S, of course), and maybe some NPCs (per ChicagoWiz). On the other end of the scale (per Rob C), I need a map, 3-5 encounters, 6-12 important locations, a roster of NPCs and/or notable monsters in the area (with stats, if needed), and a list of rumors. Looking at the Settlement template I used for Hammersong's Legacy, I would need a brief description, notes on the population, government details, defense details, notes on businesses, and important groups in the city. That's a lot of options, so to determine what I need at a minimum to run a good game in Ashaba.

Taking a moment to evaluate each element listed above in turn, I feel that I absolutely need the following items, and consider the rest to be all gravy, worthy of note but not necessary to actually run a game using the data we're creating:

  • Name: Obviously, even settlement needs a name, so you know where you are.
  • Roster: I like having a small roster of important people, and maybe a little bit about them. At most, we're talking Seven Sentence NPCs, nothing more. In fact, it might be better to use Gnome Stew's Wireframe Prep Lite approach, if you are comfortable with it. As for me, I can get away with one basic sentence, so long as it gives me enough detail to work with.
  • Locales: I'd like to have three or four places of importance identified within the city, simply to give goals, add flavor and provide background.
  • Character Roles: How does each major character role within the city? By taking a moment to make some notes about that, you come up with enough background to address your basic gaming needs for a beginning campaign.

Okay, so let's put this short list to work for us in regards to the campaign's initial base of operations.

First, we need a name. As I mentioned before, using a random name generator, I came up with Ashaba. Step One is done.

Second, we need a roster of NPCs. That requires a little thought about Ashaba. Looks like we need a trip to Wikipedia, to research how the society of Ancient Egyptian cities were structured. Based on some quick reading, Ashaba is the seat of an isolated and relatively backwater "nome" or administrative region, who is governed by a "nomarch" that answers to the Pharaoh's Vizier. Temples form the backbone of the economy, so we will likely need a High Priest among our roster. Social structure in Ancient Egypt was fairly stratified, which means that most players will likely have characters that are mercenaries that come to Abasha looking for work. From my reading, I can see that I'd like to create a noble family aside from the nomarch and the High Priest mentioned earlier, who is probably into the slave trade. I may need to come up with a few more as I go through Steps Three and Four, but for the moment, I see the following:

People of Ashaba
  • Nekhba, Nomarch of Ashaba: Appointed by the Vizier of the Badari Pharoah to serve as the provincial governess of the region, Nekhba is a beautiful yet arrogant noblewoman with grandiose political aspirations.
  • Renotep, High Priest of Meritesh (Meritus): A devout follower of the Great Lord, the elderly, pious High Priest Renotep attempts to keep Nekhba's extravagances in check.
  • Gahemun, Master Slaver: Once a gladiator in the arena that had won his freedom, Gahemun is now an obese, greedy slave merchant that has bought his way into nobility with gifts and bribes to the Pharoah and Vizier.

And with five minutes of work, Step Two is through.

Third, we need to create a short list of 3-4 locales within the city. These are selected simply to create an Egyptian flavor. We already know that there's a palace or palacial estate for the nomarch, at least one temple for our High Priest and perhaps an arena. To bring in more Egyptian flavor, I think I'd like to see a pyramid as a tomb for the first nomarch (who is said to have died from poison, but it is only rumored that it was at Nekhba's hand), and a second one (reserved for Nekhba) is being built by slaves. Of course, there's always the need for market places, and Ashaba should have several, but one is more of a hot bed for adventurers and adventure potential than the rest.

Locales of Ashaba
  • Great Temple of Meritesh: The Great Temple of Meritesh is one of the largest structures in Ashaba, where High Priest Renotep and his fellow clergy minister to the needs of the Ashaban people.
  • Pyramids of the Dawn: Although this small pyramid complex only contains one completed tomb (the Pyramid of Amenses), the Nomarch has slaves hard at work building a second pyramid to be reserved for her. The rest of the grounds are laid out in accordance with traditions dictated by the priests of Thanatos.
  • Guidid Iteru Souk: Located along the banks of the great Guidid Iteru ("new big river"), this open-air market place offers native Ashabans and mercenaries the opportunity to trade with native Plainsmen and Wolfriders.

I found Google and particularly helpful in coming up with names and flavorful elements. With that, Step Three is behind me.

For Step Four, I need to consider Character Roles. In some gaming systems, that would equate to character classes. From my perspective, I agree, although I try to stick with general categories instead of specific classes, because I may use this material with a classless system such as Savage Worlds. For the most part, though, we should consider the role of the following in our newly formed city of Ashaba: Warriors, Rogues, Mages, Priests, Aristocrats and Outlanders.

Character Roles in Ashaba
  • Warriors: Several opportunities for warriors present themselves immediately within the concept of Ashaba as we've created it here. The bulk of adventurers would likely be mercenaries that have come up the Guidid Iteru in search of employment against the local natives. Fighting types could also be holy warriors (temple guards, divine champions and the like) or soldiers (Ashaban militia or personal guards for nobility). Finally, warrior characters could come from either of the two predominant native cultures, the Plainsmen or the Wolfriders.
  • Rogues: Every market place has its thieves, and the souks of Ashaba are no different. Slavers imply that there's a need for thugs. The possibility of political in-fighting indicates that assassins would be interesting. Escaped slaves and possibly freedom fighters may also make good rogue concepts, as well as explorers and tomb robbers.
  • Mages: Obviously, there's no strong precedence for mages in either Native American or Ancient Egyptian cultures, but we can easily fall back on our Sword & Sorcery roots, such as the Conan stories. Sorcerers, ritualists and necromancers would all have a place in the arcane shadows of an Ancient Egyptian setting, while spiritualists and trickster-types might be good candidates for a more native inspiration.
  • Priests: Spirituality and religion have very strong roles in both of our inspirational sources. For me, it is easy to picture priests, oracles and diviners in the great halls of Nekhba's palace, while shamans and healers wander among the tribes of the Great Plains. Secret cultists may also be found, hiding among the stones of the half-built temples or the wilderness beyond the city's reach.
  • Aristocrats: Given the role of the aristocracy in Ancient Egyptian culture, there's plenty of opportunity for political adventuring. Thus, noble characters would be welcome, as would sages and scribes, who also hold significant social positions. Retainers and slaves are much lower on the social ladder, but fit within those elements. Among the natives, the tribal chiefs and war leaders make for another avenue that aristocratic characters might pursue.
  • Outlanders: Many of the outlander concepts based on Native American tribesmen have already been mentioned. However, there's also room for lone explorers, hunters, crazy hermits, exiled oracles, bandits and others that live on the fringe of civilization or beyond. As the campaign grows, I'd likely add a few of these to the general roster, but other than making that note, I'm not developing any conceptually beyond this consideration.

Thinking about these character role concepts, I can go through my list of locales and my roster of NPCs, seeing how these match up. Of course, this is usually the point where my imagination starts to run wild and I develop more than the minimum I need. With that in mind, I'll stick with the above, despite the fact that I really want to put a few more items down on each list.

Within this particular post, I've intentionally explored the concept of a Home Base with a minimal level of development. While much more is possible, I think I could easily run a campaign using the above notes, and really flesh out Ashaba in play. So, what are your thoughts here? Would you need something more in terms of city details to empower you as a GM to run a game set in Ashaba and the surrounding area? Would you leave anything out? What would you do differently?

Next post, I'll focus on Adventure Material, saving the Regional Map for last. I find that it's easier to build a map that lends itself to your goals if you already have material gathered before you create the map and lock everything in place. Once that's done, we should have a sandbox created with minimal preparation that lends itself to play.


Friday, May 20, 2011

My 350th Post: My Top Five Wishlist of OSR Projects...

Good Morning, All:

Today is my 350th post on In Like Flynn, and I just wanted to take a minute to thank you all for reading the blog and contributing through the comments as you are so moved. I'm slowly working on wrapping up a few of my outstanding projects on this blog, and I'm looking forward to both MyD20 Referee's Guide and Stellar Quest being completed before the year is out. As I wrap up my outstanding projects, I'm sure I'll be creating a few new ones to help take up my time and lend focus to my creative energies, with a particular emphasis on items that I can use in my current and future campaigns.

There are a few projects that I'd love to see done, but alas, I lack the skill or focus to accomplish them to the degree I'd like to see them done. Below is my Top Five Wishlist of OSR Projects I'd like to see. If anyone wants to pick one of these up and run with it, I'd be a big fan of your efforts, I'm sure. If these have already been done, please feel free to point me in the right direction in the comments of this post.

My Personal Top Five Wishlist of OSR Projects
  1. City Map Geomorphs: With the tremendous amount of focus I've seen lately on dungeon geomorphs, I personally would love to see someone work up a set of City-based geomorphs for some great urban adventuring.
  2. Online Gaming Encounter Map Collection: I still want to do some online gaming, but I lack the maps to do so well. I would love to see someone put together a collection of basic maps for use in a Sandbox campaign. I have a few ideas of elements I'd like to see (basic wilderness maps for each terrain type, some basic building maps, some basic ruins, etc), but I've never found the time to put together a collection. Heck, even a blog post or three with links pointing me to examples I can download myself would be okay in these regards.
  3. Simple Treasure System: I'd love to see a simple treasure system that meets my personal needs, capturing the basic flavor of D&D without being overwhelmed by too much detail. A one-page or two-page system would be ideal, but somehow, I think that's a little unlikely. The smaller, the better, though, so long as it is complete. I'm trying to write my own, but I find it somewhat overwhelming in the amount of detail. What I've got in the current draft of the MyD20 Lite Referee's Guide works, but it's not as elegant as I'd like it to be.
  4. One-Pager Collection: Speaking of one-pagers, I'd love to see a collection of one-page systems for covering a diverse range of topics. I've really enjoyed the efforts I've seen on various blogs and websites, and I think there's room for a lot more. Ideally, I'd love to find enough out there to inspire me to rewrite MyD20 Lite as a series of one-page subsystems that work together to accomplish what I'm looking for in a D&D game with a minimalist approach that is truly "lite".
  5. Science Fiction/Traveller One-Page Adventures: There are many examples of fantasy-based One-Page Dungeons out there for Referees to use in their games, but there are very few Sci-Fi examples. I'd love to see more Sci-Fi OPDs out there. I may eventually tackle this myself, but for the moment, I'd love to see what others come up with.

So, what would be on your version of the Top Five Wishlist of OSR Projects? Maybe if you post about it, someone will read it and decide to take up the challenge. I have to admit that's what I'm hoping for. *grin*

Once again, thank you all for your continued reading and support, and we will return to my series on Sandbox Preparation with the next post.

With Regards,

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Sandbox Preparation: Some Random Encounter Tables...

Good Morning, All:

Because it will help me in filling out details in terms of lairs, details and other setting details, I'm pulling together a small list of encounter types that would be common to the Egyptian Great Plains setting. As I'm mentioned before, the common animal encounters will primarily come from Pleistocene animals that once roamed the region. That's what formed the basis of the Common Animal table below. I've also looked at animals common to the Great Plains today, to fill in a few niches that may have been left open. In some cases, I've substituted fantasy equivalents for certain creatures, just to keep the fantasy feel of the setting alive. Finally, in one case, I've replaced the common American bison (the buffalo, as we grew up calling it here) with a creature from Dougal Dixon's The New Dinosaurs: An Alternative Evolution, specifically the Monocorn (although I use the name "bovalo" to refer to the creature as a reminder of the niche it fills in the setting.) The resulting Common Animals table follows:

Table: Common Animal Encounters
2Smilodon (Sabre-toothed Tiger)
3Mastodon (Wooly Mammoth)
4Dire Bear (Grizzly Bear)
5Snake, Poisonous (50%)/Constrictor (50%)
6Osquip Swarm (day)/Bat Swarm (night)
9Dire Porcupine
10Dire Wolf
11Glyptodon (Dire Armadillo)
12Dire Lizard (50%)/Dire Crocodile (50%)

In regards to more supernatural encounters, I dug through a few websites on both Native American and Egyptian mythology (and maybe one or two borrowed from Persian mythology, just for fun), and came up with the following list of supernatural creatures. As the setting develops, this list may change, of course, but this should do for starters.

Table: Supernatural Creature Encounters
2Phoenix (50%)/Thunderbird (50%)

My third list of possibilities includes the humanoids that the player-characters are likely to encounter over the course of the campaign. These are the most common encounters, of course, and are inspired by a variety of influences. Some of the races are chosen because of their resemblance to Egyptian god images, while others are selected because they help define the type of roles that PCs are likely to find themselves in or interacting with. Given that horses pretty much came to North America with the post-Columbian European explorers, I've elected to let my nomadic tribesmen in this example ride Dire Wolves, as they are the most mount-like of the Common Animals. Thus, I call them Wolfriders. The tribesmen that dwell in villages and raise crops are called Plainsmen. I've also elected to call my pseudo-Egyptian culture the Badari Dynasty, based on the Cultures of the World Within post I made last October. At any rate, here's the basic list I came up with (and I am open to suggestions, particularly here):

Table: Common Humanoid Encounters
2Human Cultists (Various)
3Human Slaves/Refugees (Badari)
4Human Slavers/Raiders (Badari)
5Human Merchant Caravan (Badari)
6Human Patrol (Badari)
7Human Nomads (Wolfriders)
8Human Hunting/War Party (Plainsmen)
9Gnoll Mercenaries
10Vulturan Slavers (50%)/Mercenaries (50%)
11Non-Human Mercenaries, Other
12Non-Human Slaves/Refugees, Other

I would likely modify the above list to better suit the racial selections of the player-characters, once the campaign got under way. However, for the purposes of helping to generate background details, it helps to paint the right kind of picture for this particular setting.

It is important to note that encounter tables are not mandatory. These simply capture some of my thought process on figuring out what kinds of creatures and scenarios I'd envision for this campaign setting. Since I'm already doing the work of making these lists, I figured I wouldn't waste that effort and so created the random encounter tables along the way. (Otherwise, I might end up having to do the work twice, should I decide that I need encounter tables again at some later date.) For a more generic fantasy campaign setting, you could very easily just use pre-existing random encounter tables, or just put the Monster Manual on the table as the monster resource for your sandbox setting as you move through the remainder of the creative process.

At some point, I will likely need to create stats for some of the creatures listed above (such as the bovalo, the jackalope, the wendigo and so on). Alternately, I may just take the stats of existing monsters and simply "reskin" them descriptively to meet my needs. I'll burn that bridge later, as time allows. As it stands, I probably spent an hour doing research on Wikipedia and Google, and slapping the above together. It probably took me longer to organize and write this post, with interruptions and all, than it did to research what I wanted to include in the Egyptian Great Plains campaign.

Hope This Helps,

Monday, May 16, 2011

Sandbox Preparation: The Concept...

Good Morning:

To begin our little experiment in minimal sandbox preparation, I thought it would help to take a few minutes to focus on the Concept behind the setting we'll be building here. As will be common, I will likely spend more time writing these posts up than I will on the actual work performed on the task within.

I have always found inspiration from "fringe" elements of history, such as the thoughts of non-American cultures contacting America before Columbus arrived. In one such theory, ancient Egyptians (and/or the Phoenicians) had contact with America and traded regularly with the natives. These theories are based on a number of interesting tidbits of evidence, but let's face it, after three thousand years, not a lot is left to prove it one way or the other. However, as an interesting setting and one that I'd actually use, this tidbit offers a great campaign setting idea.

So, for our setting idea, let's look at a land where an Egyptian culture has settled along a large river, displacing the natives. Using the Mississippi River in our thought exercise here, we can picture large pyramids and other Egyptian elements in cities along a great river. Ancient tombs and cities of the dead provide the ruins for exploration. Tribal natives, having much in common culturally with Native Americans, would occupy some of the wilderness beyond the settled "Egyptian" lands. And for extra flavor, I could use a lot of the prehistoric animals of the Pleistocene that were common to the Great Plains region to add a savage wildness to the setting itself. (Heck, I can even throw in some dinosaurs if I wanted to.) Supernatural elements, such as monsters and the like, could derive from both Egyptian and Native American sources. Bearing in mind that this is supposed to be a game, I'm not going to spend a tremendous amount of time trying to make this an accurate portrayal, of course, but distinctive flavor makes a setting memorable. I don't know yet whether this will work or not, from a playability point of view, but for the moment, I find the idea quite intriguing.

Of course, while I'm going to pursue the Egyptian-Great Plains concept for this particular exercise, the various theories on pre-Columbian contact with the Americas presents other options for campaign setting development as well:

  • Chinese and West Coast or Mayan Native Americans
  • Japanese and Zuni Native Americans
  • Muslims and East Coast or Mayan Native Americans
  • Phoenicians and Great Plains or East Coast or Mayan Native Americans
  • Vikings and East Coast Native Americans

In the case of the Oriental cultures in contact with the local native tribesmen, this would be an excellent opportunity to use Oriental Adventures or Ruins & Ronin in a frontier setting. In all cases, you have the choice of looking at the non-native culture as just beginning to colonize these areas, as being settled and established as an extension of their own homeland, or as being an empire in their own right and potentially having broken away from the lands that originally sent the colonists to this frontier land so long ago. (You can also see other examples of this kind of setting development in Rob Conley’s Points of Light II, released by Goodman Games.)

So, what do you think of this basic concept for our example setting? Any thoughts, comments or suggestions you would like to share?

With Regards,

Friday, May 13, 2011

Sandbox Preparation: Some Building Blocks...

Good Morning, All:

As we continue to explore the art of sandbox preparation, I thought I would explore my own personal design process, as influenced by the elements listed in my previous post, and see what I could come up with. Before I get too far along here, though, I should probably list my goals for this particular thought experiment.

My Sandbox Preparation Goals
  1. Concise: I want a process that requires minimal effort to produce and is concise in its concept and details, so I can do just enough work to create a fun environment and then get to gaming. After all, if the players are waiting to game, no one (except perhaps myself) is having any fun.
  2. Improv-Friendly: I want a process that creates enough material that it is friendly to my personal improv skills. I may not be able to do a lot of work between sessions, so some of my core tasks should be front-loaded.
  3. Quick: I want something that doesn't take me long to do, so that I can feel a sense of accomplishment from the creative effort and then get to gaming! (Note a recurring theme here?)
  4. Repeatable: I want a process that can be easily reproduced and repeated by others, over a wide range of ideas, without pidgeon-holing anyone into a variation of the same campaign setting duplicated over and over again as a by-product of the creation process.
  5. Documentation: I want a process that produces usable documentation, so that I can easily use the results in-game.

The following elements appear to be common to most implementations of a sandbox-designed campaign setting:

  1. Regional Map: This map should have evocative names and notations on the sites of interesting locales.
  2. Concept: The conceptual nature of the setting should be captured to some degree. This may range from a sentence to a page or more, but without a sense of the concept behind the setting, the world loses its potential for consistent richness.
  3. Home: The Referee should have at least a little information on the PC's base of operations.
  4. Adventure Material: The campaign at start should provide at least one session's worth of adventuring in each of at least three different locations near the base of operations.
  5. Random Encounter Tables (Optional): You can always use tables designed for another source, such as those found in your favorite monster manual or rules set. However, unique encounter tables do a lot for creating a distinctive flavor for a region, and thus makes your game richer. This may, of course, require you to create a few new monsters, which means you're essentially building a roster of foes, but you can just as easily use monsters that are already available in the tomes you own.

I think anything else you come up with for your sandbox setting beyond the elements above should be considered icing on the cake, at least when developing something you are going to use at your own gaming table. Over the next few posts, I hope to create a simply setting as an example. This will not be anything nearly worthy of publication, per se, but I'll at least have something to aid in our discussions of the material.

With Regards,

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Sandbox Preparation: An Introduction...

Good Morning, All:

Today, I'd like to talk about one of Old School blogdom's favorite topics: sandbox preparation. Essentially, for those who are just now joining us, a sandbox is simply a campaign setting. The elements that define a sandbox is more a matter of the matrix-style layout of encounters based on locale, and the relative freedom of player choice that comes from this matrix of encounters, locales and adventure locations. I personally am a fan of the sandbox, and I am always on the lookout for more on the subject. Toward that end, here's some basic information I've gathered, reflecting four different opinions on what you need to start playing in a sandbox, gathered together for your enjoyment.

Rob Conley, author of the outstanding Points of Light series by Goodman Games, offers some fantastic advice on how to create a fantasy sandbox setting. You can find the details of Rob's process in his post, How to Make a Fantasy Sandbox. His blog, Bat in the Attic, even contains extended examples of his process, and I believe Rob is also working on a book that explores the process of building a sandbox in exquisite detail. (I personally can't wait to see it, myself.)

It's interesting to note that Rob's method generates a lot of detail. If you follow his process throughout, you end up with the following:

  1. World or Continent map
  2. One page of World Background
  3. Regional map with named geography, settlements, lairs and ruins
  4. Half page of regional background/history
  5. Paragraph on each named geography, settlement, lair and ruin
  6. A page on 2-4 on-going plots
  7. 3-5 encounters per settlement (a small random encounter chart, if you will)
  8. 6-12 regional encounters (another small random encounter chart)
  9. A page to one-and-a-half pages of quarter-page settlement maps
  10. For each settlement, details on 6-12 important locations
  11. Roster of NPCs and notable monsters
  12. Twelve paragraphs and stats on the most important NPCs and monsters
  13. Six paragraphs and stats on the most common encounter types
  14. Several paragraphs on regional organizations, with stats on common encounters associated with them
  15. Rumor chart of 10-20 rumors to serve as hooks into the setting
  16. Random encounter charts for major areas within region

Wow, now that's a lot. I have to admit that I tried to follow this advice in creating Hammersong's Legacy, but I was not successful in completing it all, and I still came up with a sizable document. It took me a lot longer than the twenty hours Rob posted that it would take to do all that, but I was also making it publishable. It would still take me at least forty hours to do the above, but I have to admit that when you are done, you will have a fantastic and well-detailed setting for your next campaign(s).

Now, on the other hand, we have Zac S.'s version of an extremely minimalist sandbox, in which all you need for a sandbox setting is:

  1. Regional map with interesting names
  2. Interesting random encounter charts for major areas within region

He actually goes into a bit more detail in another post, but as far as sheer minimalism goes, the above pretty much sums it up. You will need to be ready to improv, of course, but that's the nature of the beast.

I actually find that, as a Referee, I tend to work best in an approach described over at The Yaqqothl Grimoire, in the post How Much Time/Work a Sandbox Requires . As a result of following his process, you basically end up with:

  1. Regional map, randomly stocked
  2. Notes on house rules, to lend focus to the setting
  3. Some great wilderness encounter tables
  4. Notes on each hot spot, fleshed out to the point of empowered improv

Of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention ChicagoWiz's thoughts on the matter, as he actually teaches workshops on the subject. ChicagoWiz talks about sandbox prep on his blog, offering advice similar to that mentioned above in The Yaqqothl Grimoire. ChicagoWiz's more hands-on, develop-as-you-go approach works for the Referee that has time and focus to devote even minimal time on a routine basis to ongoing setting development as the campaign progresses, and really seems to create a great gaming experience for his players. Distilling his advice down, you basically start your first game with the following ready, and then develop more based on player decisions:

  1. Regional map (up to 5 days travel out)
  2. Three dungeons (only level 1 of each done)
  3. One town (no map, just a few NPCs and the town's name)
  4. One set piece (detailed encounter to be placed as needed)

What does all this mean, in the short term? I'm essentially looking at developing a process that works for me, and putting the result in the MyD20 Lite Referee's Guide. The examples I create along the way may even find themselves in the guide, as well, if I think it will help new Refs (and possibly old Refs, too) get a feel for a minimalist approach to good campaign setting development. Of course, I'll chat through my thoughts and exercises here, in hopes that I may gain input that will help make that section easier to understand and use.

With Regards,

Monday, May 09, 2011

Stellar Quest: Primitive Races...

Good Morning, All:

This weekend, I worked a little on the Stellar Quest document, as I was inspired to capture some of my monster-building energy into work on one of the many projects I still have outstanding. In this case, I tackled the bestiary section of the book devoted to primitive, non-starfaring races. I wanted this section to have six entries for the sake of variety, but only had three entries after converting lists generated from the inspirational source material. Given the need for three others, I turned to the fantasy SRD and came up with three additional creatures (after a little modification to fit the setting of course.) Please feel free to read through the entries below, and let me know your thoughts on the monsters I've built for some Old School Space Opera gaming fun.

The Stellar Quest setting is populated by a number of primitive races. These races are typically planet-bound, as they do not possess technology of sufficient level to engage in faster-than-light travel. Like most primitive cultures, members of these races tend to be frightened, uneasy or even hostile in the presence of sentients from other worlds and other star systems.

Any of a number of ape-like humanoids can be found on numerous worlds through the Stellar Quest setting. Some scientists point to the genetic similarities shared by these ape-men as further proof that the Progenitors seeded many worlds in this region of space long ago. Ape-men have a very strong olfactory sense, which makes them very good hunters and trackers.
Ape-Man: AC 7 [12]; HD 2; Atk: club or spear (1d6); ST: 16; SP: +4 on perception-based Wisdom checks based on scent; MV: 12; CL 3.

Beshan are a primitive race of short-statured, near-bestial humanoids known for their rage-filled nature. Utterly devoid of empathy with any living creature, beshan delight in inflicting pain. Completely insane by the standards of most races, beshan work well with others of their kind, forming predatory packs that attack any creature they can find. Beshan often take gruesome souvenirs of their victims, such as fingers, ears, and teeth, which they use to adorn themselves. When wounded in battle, the beshan go berserk, gaining a +2 bonus on melee attack rolls and damage, but suffering a -2 penalty to AC. This frenzied state lasts until the beshan has no one left to attack for several minutes, at which time it passes out from exhaustion.
Beshan: AC 6[13]; HD 1d6hp; Atk: 1 bite (1d6); ST: 17; SP: berserk (when wounded, gain +2 to attacks and damage, but suffer -2 penalty to AC); MV: 9; CL 1.

The hellak are hairless, grey-skinned humanoids with short tusks protruding from their mouths. Larger and bulkier than men, these beast-men dwell in remote mountain caves and forgotten archeological ruins of their native homeworld. Hellak often prey upon explorers and scientists passing through their territories, as many off-worlders come to their world to study the ruins left behind by a long-lost starfaring race. Hellak typically arm themselves with such weapons as they can take from their victims, for they are not industrious. They wear an assortment of armor, usually misused but still functional. The hellak bully, and often attempt to enslave, less aggressive races. Despite their size, the hellak are extremely stealthy on their great, flat feet, and gain a +4 bonus on stealth-based Dexterity checks.
Hellak: AC 5[14]; HD 2; Atk: by weapon (1d6); ST: 16; SP: +4 on stealth-based Dexterity checks; MV: 12; CL: 2.

Salivore (aka “Salt Eater”)
The salivore is a humanoid creature that stands slightly shorter than a Terran, with olive grey skin, white hair and a moray-like mouth. The salt eater feeds on salts, and prefers to extract salt from living beings. The salt eater attacks first with a bite, and on a successful hit it is has automatically grabbed hold of its prey and continues to inflict an additional 1d10 hit points of damage on subsequent rounds without further rolls to hit, until the target is dead or has been freed. The salivore possesses a psionic lure that allows it to appear as a friendly individual to its targets (creatures without psionic shields must succeed in a saving throw in order to see through the mental illusion.) At close range, the salivore can mentally stun its victim (an adjacent target must succeed in a saving throw or be held in place, immobile, for 1d4 rounds.)
Salivore: AC 2[17]; HD 7; Atk: 1 bite (1d10 plus grabbed); ST: 9; SP: mental stun (held for 1d4 rounds, save negates), psionic lure (illusory appearance as ally, save negates), salt drain (1d10 per round until target is dead or free); MV 12; CL 10.

Sharakans resemble fish-men with shark-like teeth. A primitive aquatic race, sharakans dwell in the depths of the shallow seas and coastal regions of their world. Wild and dangerous, the sharakan have been known to raid the surface settlements of colonists for both plunder and sport. Some sharakans may have entangling nets used to ensnare opponents.
Sharakan: AC 5[14]; HD 2; Atk: heavy spear or trident (1d8); ST: 16; SP: none; MV 12 (Swim 18); CL: 2.

Wendigans are large primitive humanoids noted for their thick furry hides and their use of Stone Age technology. The colonists that originally settled the wendigan homeworld discovered that the giant natives that dwelt in the surrounding mountains were cannibalistic headhunters. The central star of the system emits a significant amount of radio interference, making communication difficult at best and rendering teleportation technology unreliable. At least one survey mission has crashed in the mountains and had to use primitive, handmade weapons to defend themselves against the formidable threat posed by native wendigans. All but two of the survey team survived. Since then, an uneasy peace has been forged between the local natives and the colonists, but problems still arise as nomadic wendigans drift into the region of the Confederation colony.
Wendigan: AC 5[14]; HD 4; Atk: large wendigan club (2d6+2) or thrown rock/spear (1d6); ST: 13; SP: none; MV: 9; CL 4.


Friday, May 06, 2011

Madlands Campaign: Fellowship of the Flame...

Good Morning, All:

In keeping with requests for a little variety in my blog's content, I am including below a new organization that I'm going to be introducing into the Madlands Campaign. I'm hoping that it might prove useful for some of you as well. Fueras was once a character of mine, the first Fire Elementalist I'd ever gotten to play back in my 2nd Edition AD&D Tome of Magic days. Wanting to have a group of fire elementalists for my game, it was obviously time to pull out my old character and give him a place of honor in the current campaign.

Fellowship of the Flame
The Fellowship of the Flame is a mystical order devoted to the pursuit and perfection of fire-based magic. Recognized as much by their crimson cloaks as by the fiery nature of their spells, the Fellowship of the Flame is a small tradition of evokers that gather north of Fellgorge. Despite a small membership, the Fellowship has a very flashy presence and are becoming more widely known with each public event with which they become affiliated.
Headquarters: The Fellowship of the Flame is based in of a manor home outside the small community of Llanton, half a day's travel north of Fellgorge, with a spectacular view overlooking Sovereign Chasm. Given that the tradition does not yet have many adherents, the Fellowship have yet to establish any other holdings.
Members: Less than fifty mages officially belong to the Fellowship of the Flame. If there are any secret members of the order, not even the Fellowship is aware of them. Only those mages that demonstrate a marked talent for fire-based spells are approached with invitations to join. Each Fellow is branded with a stylized flame emblem on the upper right arm, and given the traditional crimson cloak that marks one officially as a member.
Organization: Founded by High Magus Fueras the Flame, the Fellowship is a fairly loose organization of members within the order. Members of the order are called Fellows, and only High Magus Fueras currently holds the title of Master within the organization. The Fellowship of the Flame is not a very secretive group, although they do not share the knowledge they gather with non-members.
Goals: The Fellowship is not secretive about the fact that they are an elite group of learned people who work together as peers in the pursuit of knowledge or practice in fire-based magic. Because of their preference for flame-based magic, members often find themselves under the watchful eye of the city guard when in Fellgorge and Genadros. High Magus Fueras the Flame has earned a number of political enemies in the past, some of whom seek to make life difficult for the Fellowship as a whole in order to hurt the Master of the Order.
Symbol: The symbol of the Fellowship of the Flame is a stylized orange flame on a black field.


Thursday, May 05, 2011

A-Z Challenge Recap: A PDF Of The Whole Pantheon...

Good Morning, All:

At James' request, I have put together a simple PDF of the contents of all 27 pantheon posts from the A-Z Challenge (the 26 core posts, plus the tables from the first recap post). This PDF can be found at the Google site for my gaming files:

Consolidated Pantheon for "Flynn's World"

Please review it at your leisure and share any comments that strike your fancy as you read through it.

Hope You Enjoy,

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Monsters of the Madlands: Five New Monsters For Swords & Wizardy...

Good Morning, All:

Recently, in trying to create some unusual monsters, I came up with the five following creatures that you might want to consider for your own campaigns or adventure material. These are examples of creatures that were initially inspired by the results of random generators. They then took on a life of their own as I played with the random concepts and sought to create something usable for my games. As a creativity tool, I definitely enjoy playing with this kind of thing. As a Referee, I get the added bonus of creating creatures that my players haven't seen before (unless they cruise by the blog occasionally). As settings go, the Madlands Campaign gives me plenty of leeway to use the results of such efforts with relative abandon.

Resembling little more than a bloated zombie, a Bludbuth was once a mortal that had poisoned a community's water supply, killing hundreds or thousands of people and in the process, becoming cursed with undead for its horrid ways. Now among the unliving, the Bludbuth possesses multiple rows of blackened teeth the drip with the poison the Bludbuth inflicted on others when it was among the world of the living. Enraged by its undead state, the Bludbuth is incredibly irritable, and will often attack other creatures on sight. As non-living undead, the Bludbuth cannot heal naturally, suffers 1d6 damage every round of direct exposure to natural sunlight, and is immune to death effects, disease and poison.
Bludbuth: AC 5 [14]; HD 6; Atk: bite (2d6, plus poison); ST: 11; SP: sunlight sensitivity (1d6 per round of exposure), immunities (death effects, disease and poison), poison (1d6 per round, save ends); MV: 6; CL/XP: 8/800.

Standing around seven and a half feet tall at the shoulder, herds of the insectile Chessan wander the depths of secluded valleys far from the influences of civilization. Many far-ranging woodsmen are familiar with the matte white carapace of these unusual herd animals, hopefully while avoiding the crushing pincers, slashing mandibles and acidic spray used by the beast when cornered. The herbivorous Chessan lives to eat, moving in small herds from food source to food source.
Chessan: AC 3 [16]; HD 10; Atk: bite (2d6), two pincers (1d8); ST: 5; SP: acidic spit (one target within 30 feet, 5d6 damage, save negates); MV: 9; CL/XP: 11/1,700.

Roughly the size of a dog, the Homuncerai as a species prefers to dwell in the foothills of volcanoes and other warm places. The Homuncerai has a light grey hide and prefer to use their horns to charge and gore its foes. Noted for its resistance to fire (taking half damage only from fire-based effects, but double damage from cold-based effects), the Homuncerai is actually very friendly and curious, and will often seek out other creatures to interact with, avoiding those that appear to be threatening.
Homuncerai: AC 7 [12]; HD 1; Atk: gore (1d6); ST: 17; SP: fire resistance (half damage from fire, double damage from cold); MV: 12; CL 2/30.

Roughly the size of a tyrannosaur, the shaggy Knightal roams its native swamp in its quest for food. The Knightal is noted for its midnight black fur, sword-like claws, sharp fangs and a particularly volatile acidic breath weapon which requires the Knightal to wait ten minutes between breaths. The omnivorous Knightal is an opportunistic predator that stalks easy prey, falling back on vegetation when meat is hard to come by.
Knightal: AC -1 [20]; HD 18; Atk: bite (2d8), two claws (1d10); ST: 3; SP: breath weapon (60-ft cone, 12d6 acid damage, save halves, once per ten minutes); MV: 9; CL/XP: 21/4,700.

Roughly half a foot taller than the average human male, the Rustaneth patrols its native underground realm of caves and caverns in an instinctive quest for seasonal lairs. The Rustaneth is a monstrous humanoid distantly related to the less intelligent tunnel brute, and is easily identifiable by its midnight blue scales, savage teeth and sensory antennae that provide a strong sense of hearing (surprised only on a 1 in 6 chance). The Rustaneth tends to mirror the actions of other creatures, and will only attack other creatures in defense of itself or its own kind.
Rustaneth: AC 6 [13]; HD 3; Atk: bite (1d8) or by weapon (usually 1d6); ST: 14; SP: surprised only on 1 in 6; MV: 15; CL/XP: 4/240.

If you have any comments or concerns, particularly in regards to the playability of the creatures described above, please feel free to share them with me.

With Regards,

Monday, May 02, 2011

A-Z Challenge Recap: The Whole Pantheon...

Good Morning, All:

As a brief recap of the consolidated pantheon that I posted last month as my contribution to the A-Z Challenge, I'd like to offer the following two tables as a synopsis of the information presented.

Table: The Pantheon of Kintara
DeityEpitaphPortfolioFavored WeaponSymbol
Alonna (f)The Wild LadyAnimals, the wilderness, the hunt and the harvestShortbowSilver unicorn horn
Celena (f)The Star MistressThe night, the moon and the stars aboveDaggerSilver crescent moon
Dworkin (m)The Stone FatherCrafts, trade and mountainsGreat axeBlack anvil
Estara (f)The Divine LoverLove, lust, family and fertilityLight maceInter-linked gold rings
Herea (f)The Hearth MotherAgriculture, community, the hearth and the homeHeavy flailGolden sheaf of grain
Joven (m)The Healing HandHealing, protection, strength and wisdomFist (unarmed)Green ouroboros
Lorae (f)The Sacred MuseArts, creativity, music and peaceClubGolden harp
Meritus (m)The Great LordHonor, justice and nobilityLong swordWhite phoenix
Oceanus (m)The Sea WardenWater, rivers and the seaTridentBlue wave’s crest
Psyche (f)The Weaver of FatesFate, secrecy, magic and knowledgeQuarterstaffGolden eye
Sandamos (m)The Demon KingDemons, darkness, shadows and vengeanceBarbed whipBlack spiraled whip
Thanatos (m)The Flame LordFire, war, death and the UnderworldGlaiveCrimson skull of flame
Vanuros (m)The Sun LordLight, the sun, the sky and weatherWarhammerGolden lightning bolt

Table: Popular Demigods
DemigodEpitaphDeityPortfolioFavored WeaponSymbol
Bakkhos (m)The Wine MasterEstaraWine, brewing and revelryClubPurple grapes bunch
Feralin (f)The Nimble MaidenCelenaFreedom, fugitives and thievesLight flailShattered silver manacles
Gram (m)The Emerald WarriorMeritusSwords, battle and martial prowessGreatswordGreen greatsword
Indra (f)Queen of StormsVanurosRain, storms and windSpearBlue tear drop
Kali’na (f)Maiden of MurderSandamosMurder, slaughter and assassinationDaggerBlack kris dagger
Nabaneth (m)The Holy WandererDworkinTravel, wanderlust and explorationQuarterstaffTwo quarter staves crossed saltire
Quanana (f)Mother of MercyLoraeCompassion, mercy and transformationQuarterstaffWhite handprint
Reverie (f)The Dream WalkerPsycheDreams, slumber and illusionsFighting cloakBlue cloak
Uthor (m)The Great ArcherAlonnaArchery, running and survivalLongbowVine-entwined golden longbow
Wodan (m)The Death BearerThanatosBerserkers, battle and gathering the souls of the fallenSpearBlack raven
Xathandra (f)The Lady of SpringHereaProsperity, renewal and vitalityLight maceRising golden sun
Yesha (f)The Daughter of WavesOceanusLakes, streams and fishingNetGolden fish
Zenjin (m)The Eternal SentryJovenDefenders, guardians and protectorsLongswordWhite helm on red shield

Using the information above (and in the posts describing each deity or demigod), I am considering whether I want to pursue this development even further from a game mechanic perspective. For MyD20 Lite, I am considering creating some appropriate Priest Talents that will be reserved for followers of specific deities, so that Priests can have special abilities with flavor specific to their deity. For Savage worlds, I'd create Patron Edges, akin to the Disciple Edges of Hellfrost or the Patron Deity Edges of Savage Suzerain. Of course, to make these write-ups a little more Savage Worlds-friendly, I may need to step in and modify the dogma portion to follow the standard implied by the Arcane Background (Miracles) Edge. In other words, I would need to re-organize the material into four sections, which covers the sacred duty, the minor sins, the major sins and the mortal sins of the priesthoods of each deity. While this would be useful for any roleplaying system, it would have particular impact in a Savage Worlds environment.

What are your thoughts, particularly since you've now had the chance to have read each entry?

With Regards,