Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Hammersong's Legacy: Status Update...

Good Morning, All:

I've been hard at work on the Hammersong's Legacy Campaign Setting, and have managed to close the gap on a few outstanding issues. I'm currently sitting at 46,809 words and 80 pages of text, a definite improvement from my last report. The following remains to be completed, before we can move forward with layout and publishing:

  • Locales and Landmarks: Need to complete paragraph descriptions of some locales.
  • Organizations: Need to complete descriptions of some organizations and secret societies.
  • Way of Life: Need to complete calendar write-up.
  • Encounters: Need to complete Patron Encounter-style write-ups for three remaining encounter types.
  • Rumors: Need to complete rumors table for the setting.
  • Rynoc's Reach: Need to complete the cast of characters, common encounters and local rumor sections for this base of operations.

That's a hard week or two to finish this off, but so far, things are going along according to schedule. While I could just whip out some minor stuff to cover these outstanding topics, or simply remove some of them from the overall outline. However, I don't like to create sloppy work. I'd rather take the time to do it and do it right, simply because that's what I would want if I were picking this up from someone else. (While I know that others may not always like what I present, I can feel proud that I put my best into it.) Right now, the goal is to bring this book in at around 88 to 96 pages. Overall, that means I'll probably ask for $6.99 for the PDF and $13.99 for the print version in perfect bound softcover.

Hope This Helps,

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Old School Gaming With Savage Worlds...

Good Morning, All:

Old School is an elusive term, that obviously means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. For some, it means using only a certain subset of rules systems, such as OD&D or AD&D First Edition (although even that may be pushing it for some people). For others, such as myself, Old School has little to do with a specific game system, and everything to do with a particular feel to your gaming experience. I have been running a Savage Worlds fantasy campaign for over two years now, and I would classify it as an Old School game, simply because of the feel of the gaming experience.

The campaign has many of the classic organizational elements most people associate with Old School games. Savage Worlds is a great gaming system, a concise yet complete rules set that empowers great roleplay. (You can't beat a $10 rulebook that gives you everything you need to run a campaign of multiple genres in 160 pages.) My homebrew setting of Kintara was set up in a sandbox fashion. The monsters encountered by the PCs are fairly classic, and the players are playing fairly standard archetypes. Adventures are modular and somewhat episodic. Creative thought and alternate solutions are rewarded, and there's a decent balance between combat and non-combat encounters. There's strong character development that stems more from the roleplay than the character's stats, although the stats do help nudge the players in certain directions (as you define a few select hindrances for your character that provides for roleplay opportunities that grow and evolve as the character gains depth.) We've explored dungeons, ruins, political intrigue, sieges, mass battles, quests, planar exploration, retrieving a soul from the depths of the Infernus, saving temples and villages, destroying unholy artifacts, and all kinds of wondrous and fantastic adventures over the course of the campaign.

I looked at the campaign as a chance to stop worrying and return to the kind of gaming I used to do back in late high school and in college. Sure, this time around, I'm a bit more polished as a Gamemaster, and I have better resources at my disposal, including previous work from other campaigns I could build on conceptually. I took inspiration from classic modules, but I also built on stories told in classic literature, filing off the serial numbers, changing the names and then letting the players direct the story once I presented the basic setup to them. I intentionally looked at adventures in a new light for me, making them modular and short instead of the long, extended story arcs that I used to follow. I related my adventures by backstory, and let the players' comments, interests and actions direct their future moreso than a railroaded plot. It was a great experience for me, and I will use the lessons I've learned here to inform my future GMing efforts. Simply put, I loved the experience I've had with this game, and I look forward to continuing it with future campaigns.

The rules light nature of Savage Worlds aided me a lot in these endeavours. The mechanics are simple enough to collect on one page and explain in five minutes. The task resolution mechanic that governs the game made it easy to handle any scenario that came up, even if there wasn't a rule already written for a given circumstance. Given that I ran over 400 sessions of 3E/D20 System before burning out, I can't help but use some of the thought processes I developed with that to resolve some of the situations. However, I have found myself rolling back to my early AD&D years (I came in too late for OD&D), and that opened up some doors I'd closed on adventure design and scenario creation.

In the end, it doesn't matter to me whether someone would call my current campaign an Old School game or simply a fun fantasy campaign. Either way, my players and I have had a blast with the game, and it brought me to the community of Old School gamers where I feel I belong. I call it Old School, by my own experiential definition, and I think that's good enough for me.


Monday, March 29, 2010

Hammersong's Legacy: Languages of Cameria...

Good Morning, All:

The following is an excerpt from the Hammersong's Legacy Campaign Setting. Most of these are fairly mundane and common for most fantasy games, simply renamed to fit the setting. I did pack a few fun elements into the language section, though.

For example, the humans have their own native tongue ,Umani. I felt that this was in keeping with the fact that the Duar are the predominate race of the setting.

Trade replaces the common tongue of most games, and has been handed down by the goddess of knowledge and mysteries to replace the varied and disparate languages of the region. I felt that this touch did a decent job of explaining why there was a common language in the first place, and added a little to the setting itself.

Finally, I couldn't resist adding one of my favorite twists to the language of the fey. High Sylvan, the courtly language spoken by nobles of the Seelie and Unseelie Courts, must be spoken in rhyme. Otherwise, it is considered a rudeness and an offense, and the more malicious Unseelie do not take kindly to insults. My players have long groaned at meeting fey in my games, simply because they've had to speak in rhyme in order to communicate. I've even had players go so far as to look up rhyming sheets online to get ideas of how to speak. It's a challenge to me as the Referee, as well, but it definitely gives flavor to fey encounters.

And now, without further adieu, here's the section on languages in the Shattered Territories.

Languages of Cameria
As a majority of us speak the Trade language in addition to those languages spoken locally, the following is a brief overview of the languages commonly spoken by the denizens that dwell in or frequent the Shattered Territories.

Aquan: The trade language of the plane of Everysea, Aquan is spoken by most aquatic creatures with ties to the elemental plane of water.

Auran: The trade language of the Chorus of the Four Winds, Auran is spoken by the majority of flying and aerial creatures with ties to the elemental plane of air.

Celestial: The common language of the Seven Heavens and the Manors Divine, Celestial is a holy language brimming with divine power, used by servitors of the Gods of the New Order.

Draconic: The tongue of dragons and other reptilian races (including the Manasan serpentfolk), Draconic is an ancient language that contains many magical terms, making it a natural choice for discussing arcane matters in depth.

Duaran: The language of the Duar Protectorate, Duaran has become the de facto common tongue for the region, although it is slowly being replaced by Lorae's gift of the Trade tongue as it spreads across the continent of Cameria.

Hesperian: The language of the Elde people, Hesperian is now a dying tongue, given that its primary speakers are no longer capable of bearing live children.

Ignan: The trade language of the Emberrealms, Ignan is spoken by the majority of creatures with ties to the elemental plane of fire.

Infernal: The trade language of the Shadowlands and the Ten Thousand Hells, Infernal is a dark tongue laden with magical power, used by demons and other beings under the rule of Sandamos, the Grand Tyrant, including the Kelshan.

Knoff: The language of the goblinoid races, Knoff is spoken by goblins, hobgoblins, hyrknoff and other similar races.

Ordathi: The native language of the Ordath clans, this language is rarely heard outside the Isle of Patranos or the company of the reclusive Ordathi people.

Sylvan: The tongue of Arborea, Sylvan is spoken in two dialects. Low Sylvan (commonly referred to simply as Sylvan) is the dialect spoken by the non-noble faerie, while High Sylvan is the courtly tongue of the Faerie Courts. An odd eccentricity noted by scholars and sages, speakers must rhyme when speaking in High Sylvan, lest they appear rude and most inconsiderate. It is said that during certain reigns of the Unseelie Court, mortals that refused to speak High Sylvan in rhyme were imprisoned and tormented by the fey to the point of being driven insane.

Teranthan: Formerly a priestly language devoted to the worship of Terantha, Teranthan is now commonly spoken among giants, trolls and other children of Terantha.

Terran: The trade language of the realm of Deepmantle, Terran is spoken by the majority of creatures with ties to the elemental plane of earth.

Trade: Common across Cameria, Trade is a pidgin tongue mixing idioms from various languages in order to allow disparate people to communicate in basic terms. Given as a divine gift by Lorae, Mistress of Mysteries and spread extensively by traders, almost all travelers within the Shattered Territories know enough Trade to operate within civilized lands.

Umani: The native language of humans, this language is frequently heard in the human-oriented districts of Protectorate settlements.

Vaelic: The language of the Vaelan people, Vaelic is rarely heard outside the Shirelands.


Sunday, March 28, 2010

The (Campaign's) End Is Near: Observations On My Personal Campaigning Style...

Good Afternoon, All:

I am currently running an Old School fantasy campaign using the "new school" rules system, Savage Worlds. The campaign started in the first week of December, 2007, and so has been running now almost weekly for two years and three months. I'd say I've probably run something like 105 to 110 sessions, and there's plenty of room left in the setting to run for another two years, at least. However, given the fact that my wife is pregnant and we are due in late May/early June, I am choosing to wrap up the campaign early. Our goal is to wrap up by the end of April, which gives me five more sessions to run.

Thinking about the end of the current campaign makes me think about my gaming style in general. It seems that many of the Old School gamers tend to run campaigns that last for decades, or at least so they describe. However, in practice, what I hear from the descriptions of these "ultimate campaigners" falls into what I would describe as a tendency to run different campaigns in the same setting, so the setting's history and evolution is decades long, but individual parties and campaign/major story arcs only run for a few years. There are exceptions, of course, but realistically, I doubt there's a gaming group that's been running the same characters for twenty-plus years in the same setting under the same rules on a consistent basis for the entire duration. And if there are, my hat is off to them.

I suspect that most long-term Referees run games much like I do. They gather a group together, create a party in a particular setting, and play them from their humble beginnings to a nice stopping place over the course of two to four years of regularly scheduled sessions. Unlike myself, though, most of these Referees stick with the same group of gamers and the same setting, and simply run consecutive campaigns that build on the same world, and occasionally on the actions of a previous campaign set in the same milieu.

Why am I not that way? Truth be told, I've never found a world that held my interests with a depth that continued to offer me opportunities to explore and adventure for more than one or two extended campaigns. My longest campaign ran for a little over seven years, and I have yet to return to that setting after wrapping up that campaign. I like to try out different gamers, as my old gamers sometimes grow apart over the years, and so each campaign is set in a new world with a new mix of gamers, some old and some new. If the game isn't working, we wrap it up early within the first year; otherwise, I take it until we find a nice place to stop, and the level of challenge for the players or for myself is gone.

As I get older, though, I find myself starting to settle into a setting that offers more opportunities for growth and adventure beyond the current campaign. In the span of the last few months, I accidentally laid the groundwork for an entire new campaign in the same world that I and some of my players would like to explore after the baby has come and life returns to a point where I can run games again. Could it be that perhaps, after some 23 years of gaming, I've finally found a setting that I can stick with for a while?

Maybe so. There are things that I would probably alter with the next game, some areas that grew organically and so are a little rough around the edges. Cleaning those up would be nice, so long as it didn't destroy the flavor of what I'd built. I would like to build a better map for the setting, one that is more properly detailed. I'd like to put in the same level of effort toward defining parts of it as I am for the Hammersong's Legacy Campaign Setting I'm writing for Swords & Wizardry. I've grown enough as a Referee to know that I don't have to write the campaign for any given system, but I do think that I need to clean up my house rules if we decide to run the next campaign in Savage Worlds. (I'm still hoping for either MyD20 Lite or Swords & Wizardry, but such things are often a group decision.) It gives me something to work on, anyway, between the end of the current campaign and the beginning of the next one.

I realize that this isn't one of my usual game-mechanic heavy posts, but given my current frame of mind, I thought I would simply let the words flow and see where they take me. So, what kind of campaigning style do you follow? Do you have a single setting you enjoy, or do you change settings with each new campaign? Do you game for 4-6 months at a lick, as WOTC used to believe, or do you pursue a much longer adventuring career per campaign? I'm curious.

With Regards,

Friday, March 26, 2010

Hammersong's Legacy: Telireth Swordsong, Elde Sorcerer...

Good Afternoon, All:

Here's another playtest character, an Elde Sorcerer by the name of Telireth Swordsong. Please feel free to review the character and let me know your thoughts. Obviously, given his age, he was one of the last Elde to be born before the race was rendered infertile.

Character Name: Telireth Swordsong
Race: Elde
Class: Sorcerer
Level: 3rd
Experience: 5501 (+10% due to Charisma, Prime Attribute)
Patron Deity: Lorae, Mistress of Mysteries
Gender: Male
Age: 123
Distinctive Traits: brawny, clueless sorcerer
Languages: Duar, Elde, Fey, Hyrknoff, Ordath, Trade, Vaelan
Attribute Scores
Saving Throw: 13
Speed: 12
Attack Bonus: +1 (melee +2, ranged +1)
Hit Points: 18
Armor Class: 6 [13] (leather, shield)
Weapons: long sword (1d8+1 damage)
Special Abilities: arcane lore, athletics, perception, spell casting (can cast two 1st-level spells), greater alertness, infertile, low-light vision, +4 on saving throws to resist paralysis, sleep and charm magics
Spellbook: detect magic, read magic, protection from evil, sleep
Equipment: adventurer's pack, leather armor, long sword, shield, spellbook, 25 gold

With Regards,

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Hammersong's Legacy: A Rough Map...

Good Evening, All:

Below is a rough map of the area covered by the Hammersong's Legacy Campaign Setting. I haven't labeled anything, as this is simply a rough draft for the final version. Created using the wonderful Hexographer program, this helps me keep track of the cities, townships, ruins and lairs that have been detailed to some extent in the book itself. The final version will likely change a little here and there, but this is roughly what the setting will look like.

Please let me know your thoughts on the overall topography. Does it offer enough variety? Just from the looks of it, do you think you could adventure there?

With Regards,

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Hammersong's Legacy: The Divinely Warped Creature Template...

Good Afternoon, All:

One of the things I really liked about 3E in terms of monsters were the new templates. With those, you could modify an existing monster into something a little different than what the players were expecting, and have some new fun with old monsters.

I have been considering the addition of a simple template to the Hammersong's Legacy Campaign Setting, inspired in some ways by the simple templates provided in the Pathfinder SRD. This template would be watered down from the usual 3E approach, of course, since it would be for Swords & Wizardry, but I'm not sure how it would be received. After all, if simple templates were well-received by the Old School crew, then someone would have created a bunch of them and published them already. Still, I guess I could post my thoughts here and see what kind of feedback I get from my readers.

With that in mind, here's my suggestion:

Template: Divinely Warped Creatures
Divinely warped creatures have absorbed some of the chaotic divine power released when a god dies . Although commonly encountered near sites of a deity's passing, they can be found anywhere where such energies have been released. A divinely warped creature appears much as a normal creature of its type appears, with an additional feature of obvious supernatural origin, such as an aura of light, glowing eyes, or some similar feature. Divinely warped creatures effectively cease to age, as the divine energy coursing within them grants them an extremely extended lifespan.

You can add the “divinely warped” template to any living creature. A divinely warped creature has of the base creature's statistics and special abilities except for the following:
  • Bonus Hit Dice: A divinely warped creature gains two bonus hit dice.
  • Elemental Resistance: A divinely warped creature takes half damage from elemental energies, such as acid, cold, fire and electricity.
  • Hit Only By Magical Weapons: An attacker requires a magical weapon of a particular bonus in order to deal damage to a divinely warped creature. The minimum bonus of the magical weapon is based on the base creature's original Hit Dice.
  • Magic Resistance: A divinely warped creature has innate magic resistance, as determined by the base creature's original Hit Dice.

Base HDBonus RequiredMagic Resistance

Okay, here are my questions:

1. What is your overall opinion of the idea?

2. In this example, how do you feel about the special abilities themselves?

3. Should I include this in the sourcebook? And if so, should I include other templates in the sourcebook beyond the divinely warped template?

Thanks In Advance For Your Time,

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Hammersong's Legacy: The Gods of Cameria...

Good Afternoon, All:

Today, I completed detailing the two warring pantheons of the Hammersong's Legacy Campaign Setting. I have divided the selection into three parts. The Gods of the New Order are those that survived and won their fight. (Using Greek mythology as an analogy, these are essentially the Olympians of the setting.) The Fallen Sisters are the two goddess-siblings of the New Order that fell during the War of All Gods. The Gods of the Elder Courts were the inattentive and destructive gods who fell in battle to their divine children. (In Greek mythology, these would be the Titans of the setting, although I use the phrase Elder God throughout the text to refer to them.)

The Gods of the New Order are the current, active divine patrons; the victors of the War of All Gods. In the text, I've described them briefly, providing some details on how they are worshipped and the doctrines they teach, as well as list their favored weapon.

  • 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

Here's an example of a god's write-up:

Verdantis, the Green Lord
Verdantis is the god of flora, fauna and the elements. Those who honor the wild creatures of the world and the raw energies of the elements revere the Green Lord. He is typically honored within stone circles and simple shrines in the wilderness or near large sources of elemental energy. The lessons that Verdantis teaches his followers include:
  • All living creatures should strive to live in harmony with the natural world. Respect for all life is a sacred responsibility.
  • The devout should support works and deeds that promote and preserve harmony with the natural world. In fact, one must take action against those who harm or destroy nature, or otherwise upset the harmony of the wilderness.
  • Suffer not the existence of undeath, for they are accursed and defile the world.
Verdantis's favored weapon is the quarterstaff.

The Fallen Sisters represent a conundrum for the Referees to have fun with. There are isolated groups of followers of these two goddesses that desperately want to see them return to their ascended state. However, anything they discover that could work to restore their goddess may also be used to return an Elder God to the world as well, should it fall into the wrong hands. There's plenty of adventuring opportunity here to be exploited by the enterprising Referee.

  • The Fallen Sisters
    • Sheranea, Lady of Woes
    • Vaeleria, the Shieldmatron

The Gods of the Elder Courts are more primordial and ancient. I went with a lot of elemental and emotional foundations with this pantheon, and simply described the types of creatures they created, as well as the type of followers they typically had. The descriptions of followers can inform adventure creation for tales involving the agents of the Elder Gods that seek to restore their divine patron to a position of power in the world once again.

  • 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

And I'll close with an example of a write-up on an Elder God:

Meranoth, Lord of Lords
The eldest of the Gods of the Elder Courts, the Great Kinslayer was the one to rise up and slay his father, the First God, Celestus. God of kings, sovereignty and murder, Meranoth's creations were often noble creatures filled with pride and deadly talent. Followers of the Lord of Lords were often tyrants, warlords or assassins, and generally braggarts as well.


Monday, March 22, 2010

Random Game Design Thought: "Players Roll All The Dice" for 4E...

Good Afternoon:

Over lunch today, I was talking to a friend who runs and plays 4E. He mentioned a problem that he finds often occurs in his 4E games - sometimes, his players aren't as attentive as they should be, and at the beginning of their turn, they have to review the battlefield and then run through their options multiple times, each and every turn. As he plays in a game with five players, and runs a game with seven players, this phenomenon can really slow down play.

When I used to have this problem with 3E, I used what people call the "Players Roll All The Dice" optional rule from Unearthed Arcana. It originally appeared in a Dragon magazine article back in 2nd Edition, and I used it back then, too. The core of this optional rule is that the players make all the die rolls. For example, instead of a monster rolling to attack the character, the character gets to roll to defend themselves. As the GM, you essentially assume that the monster rolls an 11 on their attack roll, which gives them an attack score of 11+attack mods, and the player has to defend the attack by rolling a d20+(Ascending AC-10) instead. The same thing applies with saving throws and the like. Instead of the target rolling a save against the DC of your magical ability, you make a magical attack by rolling d20+(DC-10) against their save score (11+saving throw mods).

For those that may not be aware, 4E takes that concept and alters it into a new form: "Attackers Roll All The Dice". The attacker makes a standard attack against the AC of the target, much like early editions of D&D. For powers/special abilities, the attack makes a magical attack against the target's save score. This means that, on the attacker's turn, he's pretty much the only one rolling any dice. If you already know what you are doing, that can be a short time; if you don't know what you're going to do, you eat up a lot of time when noone else gets to roll. All in all, that's not very satisfying for those waiting their turn.

In my discussions with my 4E friend, I proposed a variant of "Players Roll All The Dice" for his 4E game. In essence, whenever you are the attacker, you handle things like normal: you roll your attack against the defender's defense score, be it AC, Fortitude, Reflex or Will. When you are the defender, however, you follow the process outlined under the aforementioned rule with defense rolls.

Defense Rolls: You defend against an attack targeting your Armor Class by rolling a d20, and adding (your AC-10) to the roll. Your target is 11 plus your attacker's attack bonus. You defend against an attack targeting your Fortitude Defense by rolling a d20, and adding (your Fortitude Defense score-10) to the roll. Your target is 11 plus your attacker's attack bonus. And so on...

When you roll a natural one on your defense roll, you fumble your defense and the attacker gets the benefit of a critical hit against you. When you roll a natural twenty on your defense roll, you critical on your defense and the attacker misses you.

The goal of this approach, of course, is to provide player-characters with dice to roll when it isn't their turn, which keeps them more alert and attentive on the game. While I found that some players didn't like "Players Roll All The Dice" in the past, preferring that I be the one to roll the nasty attacks against them rather than have their own dice "betray" them, I found it was a great way to keep combat moving and keep attention focused on the game instead of on the GameBoy between their turns.

What do you think?

With Regards,

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Hammersong's Legacy: Brother Janemon

Good Morning, All:

This post is mostly an experiment to see how easily it is to present a Swords & Wizardry character in a tabular format here in the blog. I imagine that, from time to time, particularly with the playtest characters, it will be useful to present characters here, and I just want to make sure I've got a good format down for doing so.

With that said, I present to you Brother Janemon, a human cleric of Verdantis, the Green Lord. Please feel free to review the character here, and let me know if I've forgotten anything in the process of creating him.

Character Name: Brother Janemon
Race: Human
Class: Cleric
Level: 3rd
Experience: 5751 (+15% due to Charisma, Wisdom, Prime Attribute)
Patron Deity: Verdantis, the Green Lord
Gender: Male
Age: 23
Distinctive Traits: fumbling, pious healer
Languages: Trade
Attribute Scores
Saving Throw: 13
Speed: 12
Attack Bonus: +1 (melee +2, ranged +0)
Hit Points: 17
Armor Class: 5 [14] (chain armor, shield, Dexterity)
Weapons: heavy mace (1d6+2 damage)
Special Abilities: banish undead, spell casting (can cast three 1st-level spells due to high Wisdom), +2 bonus on saving throws versus paralysis or poison
Spells: cure light wounds, detect magic, protection from evil
Equipment: adventurer's pack, chain armor, heavy mace, shield, silver holy symbol, 25 gold

With Regards,

Friday, March 19, 2010

Hammersong's Legacy: Thoughts On Playtest Characters?

Good Afternoon, All:

I am beginning to contemplate a free playtest adventure for the Hammersong's Legacy Campaign Setting. Of course, I'd like to start with pregenerated characters. As the setting is built for Swords & Wizardry, I'm looking at creating characters that demonstrate the new rules that are included within the sourcebook. I have a total of ten races and eight classes to choose from. If I create a character for each class present in the setting, I'll simply need to choose eight of the ten races for these character types, and I'll have a wide range of available options that demonstrate the variety of character concepts available in the setting. The problem, of course, is what to choose. With that in mind, I figure I should turn to the readers and get their input, as they will likely be the ones that will want to run this adventure once it's written and ready.

The ten common races of the Hammersong's Legacy Campaign Setting are:

  • Duar: A short, stocky race with a strong connection to the Earth Mother, Terantha, the Duar are known for their ability to see in the dark, to resist magic and for their innate knowledge of stonework.
  • Elde: A slender race native to the forests of Hesperia, the Elde are known for their ability to see in the dark, their perceptive talents and their innate resistance to sleep and charm.
  • Eldeblooded: Half human, half Elde, the talents of the Eldeblooded are more limited than their infertile Elde parentage, but are still formidable nonetheless.
  • Feytouched: The offspring of mortal and fey parents, the Feytouched possess a number of unusual talents: the ability to see in all but total darkness, an innate talent for stealth, a resistance to charm and enchantment magics, and the magical ability to cross between the mortal and fey realms with relative ease.
  • Human: Humans follow the standard rules for their race as found in the Core Rules.
  • Hyrknoff: Born of mixed goblinoid and human parentage, the Hyrknoff are a hybrid race that has since bred true, possessing both an innate battle rage and a natural resistance to disease and poison.
  • Kelshan: Bearing a strong resemblance to devils, these red-skinned humanoids are known for their sadistic reputation and their innate resistance to enchantment and charm magics.
  • Ordath: Forged in the image of the Duar, these small humanoids have a powerful sense of smell and an innate resistance to illusions and mind-affecting magics.
  • Vaelan: Appearing as miniature humans, the Vaelan are a very stealthy race, known for their uncanny accuracy with missile weapons and their resistance to magical effects.
  • Wyrmblooded: The result of magical experimentation on dragons to create a docile slave race, the Wyrmblooded still retain some of their draconic heritage, including vicious claws, an intimidating presence, and a resistance to paralysis and magical sleep.
The races of this setting are separate from the common classes: Fighting Man, Cleric and Magic-User. Joining the core three classes are five new classes:
  • Crusader: The Crusader is a warrior-priest that serves as a holy soldier in service to his religion.
  • Dungeoneer: The Dungeoneer is an accomplished explorer of ruins and dungeons, combining a limited magical aptitude with a high degree of manual dexterity to achieve success as an adventurer.
  • Ranger: The Ranger is a talented wilderness warrior and outdoorsman with an aptitude towards tracking and slaying giants.
  • Sorcerer: The Sorcerer is a warrior-mage trained in both spellcraft and swordplay, tempering his limited arcane power with martial prowess on the battlefield.
  • Thief: The Thief is a rogue and vagabond talented in clandestine matters, criminal undertakings and devastating surprise attacks.
Given the above, what kind of pregenerated characters would you suggest for the playtest adventure? Personally, I think I'd like to see the following:
  1. Duar Fighting Man
  2. Elde Sorcerer
  3. Eldeblooded Dungeoneer
  4. Feytouched Magic-User
  5. Human Cleric
  6. Hyrknoff Ranger
  7. Wyrmblooded Crusader
  8. Vaelan Thief

I think this captures a lot of the classic flavor emulated by certain races, and helps cast some of the new races in the kind of light I associate with them in terms of the setting.

Note that I have not included the Kelshan or the Ordath in my playtest characters selections. The Ordathi as a race have restrictions on the spells they can learn, and include some new spells that I don't feel would help as much in a playtest scenario. The Kelshan are not as widespread within the setting itself, and besides, I want to play up the Good Guys instead of the darker "almost Bad Guys" that the Kelshan represent. However, I'm open to discussion on other points of view in these regards.

Once I settle on what characters I want to use, I'll start pregenerating them and placing some of them here for your review and input.

Thanks In Advance,

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Hammersong's Legacy: Three New Winged Creatures for S&W...

Good Morning, All:

As the last monstrous preview for the bestiary section of the Hammersong's Legacy Campaign Setting, I offer the following three winged creatures common to the forests and jungles of Cameria. There are currently 49 new monsters described in the bestiary section, as well as random encounter tables designed to help Referees implement them. If I were so inclined, this section would probably make a nice stand-alone supplement in its own right. Hmmmm.... I'll have to give that idea some thought, if only to get some of this information out there for others to use right now.

Anyway, without any further adieu, here are three winged creatures for your Swords & Wizardry campaigns: the canker hound, the winged cat and the winged serpent.

Canker Hound
Pestilent bearers of plague and disease, the canker hound resembles a large wolf with black, leathery bat wings, its hide spotty with mange, blemishes and pustules. Twisted by the blood of gods, the canker hound is a ferocious predator. Indeed, the bite of a canker hound is highly infectious with canker fever. Those foes that are wounded by the canker hound's bite must make a successful saving throw or suffer 2d4 points of damage as canker fever takes hold. Every morning thereafter, infected victim must make another saving throw or suffer an additional 2d4 points of damage from canker fever. Infected victims no longer suffer damage from canker fever when they have succeeded in their saving throws for two days in a row. Canker hounds are immune to disease.

Canker Hound: AC 4 [15]; HD 5; Atk: bite (1d8 + disease); ST: 12; SP: diseased bite, immune to disease; MV: 15, fly 21; CL 8; XP 800.

Winged Cat
Winged cats resemble common housecats with two bat-like wings coming from their shoulders. Commonly encountered in the canopy of great forests, winged cats are vicious hunters of squirrels and small birds, and are in turn hunted by larger aerial predators, such as winged serpents and canker hounds. Winged cats are often kept as pets by wizards and the affluent.

Winged Cat: AC 6 [13]; HD 2; Atk: bite (1d4); ST: 16; SP: none; MV: 6, fly 15; CL 3; XP 60.

Winged Serpent
Common to the jungle and forest canopies of Cameria, the winged serpent is a small snake with a pair of rainbow-feathered wings that give it the ability to fly. Winged serpents average about three feet in length, with a wingspan of up to five feet. The bite of the winged serpent is highly toxic, inflicting 2d6 points of damage, which is halved by a successful saving throw. In addition, the winged serpent possesses the ability to generate an electric arc that targets a single victim within twenty feet, inflicting 1d8 points of electricity damage (save for half damage). Flocks of winged serpents will often work together against larger prey, delivering multiple electric arcs against a single target before closing in to deliver their poisonous bite. Winged serpents are immune to electricity and poison.

Winged Serpent: AC 4 [15]; HD 3; Atk: bite (1d4 + poison); ST: 14; SP: electric arc (1d8, save for half damage), immune to electricity and poison, poison (2d6, save for half damage); MV: 12, fly 18; CL 7; XP 600.


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Hammersong's Legacy: The Serpentfolk of the Drakon Empire...

Good Morning, All:

As a continuation of the updates regarding the content of the bestiary section of the Hammersong's Legacy Campaign Setting, here is the write-up for the serpentfolk, the ruling race of the Drakon Empire. These may also look familiar: the serpentfolk are a Swords & Wizardry conversion of the ophiduan from The Iconic Bestiary: Classics of Fantasy, by Ari Marmell of Lion's Den Press. The ophiduan were created as a replacement for the yuan-ti, which has been considered Product Identity by Wizards of the Coast and thus cannot be used for publishing purposes.

As an aside, I'm not entirely thrilled with the caste names, and am open to suggestions, if anyone wants to offer any thoughts on the matter.

The serpentfolk are an ancient race of serpentine humanoids, whom legend states have walked the earth since before the rise of mammals. Even now, they rule the Drakon Empire of the Western Shores. Before and during the War of All Gods, the serpentfolk mystically crossbred with humans and other humanoids, mixing their blood and abilities, the better to infiltrate and eventually destroy those that opposed their territorial expansion. Although largely humanoid in form, the serpentfolk still have the mentality of reptiles. Concepts such as mercy and compromise are unknown to them. They are utterly ruthless, and have little concept of honor. Survival and victory are their only goals, though they are fully capable of employing subtle or deceptive methods to obtain them.

Through their crossbreeding and mystical experiments, serpentfolk have evolved into three distinct types, or castes: the hominis caste (mostly humanoid), the semiferum caste (half snake/half man), and the anguineum (mostly serpentine). All serpentfolk have the following abilities, regardless of caste: they are immune to poison, have darkvision up to 60 feet, and possess the ability to speak with snakes at will.

Hominis Caste Serpentfolk
The hominis caste are bipedal humanoids with serpentine features. This caste might even pass for human, were it not for the supple scales that make up their skin. Their eyes are dark and unblinking, their features gaunt, their teeth unusually sharp. A dark shock of hair begins at a widow’s peak at their forehead, and flows down their neck and back. Many hominis caste serpentfolk can move through human and humanoid communities without arousing even the slightest suspicion. They serve the Drakon Empire as leaders of both a secular and spiritual nature, as well as act as diplomats when interacting with humanoid races.

Hominis caste serpentfolk have a magic resistance of 40%, the ability to control serpents of 3 HD or less, and alter its form to that of another humanoid of comparable size and weight. In addition, once per round, a hominis caste serpentfolk can induce ophidiaphobia, an insurmountable fear of snakes, in a single target within thirty feet, assuming that the target fails a saving throw. An affected subject will flee any serpent or snake that approaches within 20 feet for up to 3d6 rounds, or cower helplessly if they cannot flee. Finally, all hominis caste serpentfolk have the following spell-like abilities: charm monster (1/day), darkness 15 ft. radius (1/day), sleep (3/day), suggestion (3/day).

Hominis Caste Serpentfolk: AC 1 [18]; HD 7; Atk: long sword (1d8) or long bow (1d6); ST: 9; SP: alter form, control snakes, darkvision 60 ft, immune to poison, ophidiaphobia, speak with snakes, spell-like abilities; MV: 12; CL 12; XP 2,000.

Semiferum Caste Serpentfolk
The semiferum caste serpentfolk appear as a hideous, yet somehow pathetic, cross of man and snake. A vaguely humanoid torso, covered in reptilian scales, melds into an enormous serpentine tail at the waist. A gaunt humanoid face, also covered in scales, bulges in odd spots as fangs far too large for the mouth push at the thin lips from within. Sporadic tufts of hair just from the top of the head, giving the creature almost a sickly appearance. The semiferum caste serpentfolk serve as manual laborers, foot soldiers, and gladiators. In combat, they are straightforward combatants, and are used as frontline soldiers by their more powerful and intelligent brethren. The semiferum caste serpentfolk are culturally predisposed to consider themselves worthless and expendable, so they often continue to fight against odds that would send other creatures into retreat.

Semiferum caste serpentfolk have a magic resistance of 20%, and a poisonous bite that inflicts 2d4 points of damage unless the victim succeeds in a saving throw to resist its effects. In addition, all semiferum caste serpentfolk have the following spell-like abilities: charm person (1/day), darkness 15 ft. radius (1/day), and suggestion (1/day).

Semiferum Caste Serpentfolk: AC 3 [16]; HD 4; Atk: bite (1d4+poison) and long sword (1d8) or long bow (1d6); ST: 13; SP: darkvision 60 ft, immune to poison, poisonous bite, speak with snakes, spell-like abilities; MV: 12; CL 9; XP 1,100.

Anguineum Caste Serpentfolk
The anguineum caste serpentfolk look like great serpents with humanoid features. A serpentine torso boasts a pair of slender arms, each of which is abnormally long and possessed of two elbow joints. The torso splits into two long, writhing tails. A cobra-like hood flares open behind its head, which boasts an oversized face that — despite its scales and unhinged jaw — appears as much human as snake. The oldest of the serpentfolk castes, the anguineum caste are the true progenitors of the race, and the creators of the other serpentfolk. They are merciless, predatory, and despise the fact that mammals are currently the dominant civilized species. Overthrown by the hominis caste, the anguineum caste serpentfolk now occupy the roles of low-level politicians, military officers, elite soldiers, bodyguards and craftsmen.

Anguineum caste serpentfolk have a magic resistance of 50%, a poisonous bite that inflicts 2d6 points of damage unless the victim succeeds in a saving throw to resist its effects, and a blinding poisonous spit that, if the anguineum caste serpentfolk successfully hits with a ranged attack, inflicts 2d4 points of damage and blinds the target unless the victim succeeds in a saving throw to resist its effects. In addition, all anguineum caste serpentfolk have the following spell-like abilities: charm monster (3/day), darkness 15 ft. radius (3/day), sleep (at will), and suggestion (at will).

Anguineum Caste Serpentfolk: AC -2 [21]; HD 9; Atk: bite (1d6+poison) and long sword (1d8) or long bow (1d6); ST: 6; SP: darkvision 60 ft, immune to poison, ophidiaphobia, poisonous bite, speak with snakes, spell-like abilities, spit; MV: 12; CL 15; XP 2,900.


Monday, March 15, 2010

Hammersong's Legacy: The Greymalkin and Scavenger Worm for S&W...

Good Morning, All:

Here are a few more monsters for the Hammersong's Legacy Campaign Setting. As I have mentioned before, we know that certain monsters are declared Product Identity and are thus considered closed content, including the following: beholder, carrion crawler, displacer beast, umber hulk, and yuan-ti. Since these are Product Identity, I can't use them as is. However, The Iconic Bestiary: Classics of Fantasy, by Ari Marmell of Lion's Den Press, provides 3E statistics for several new monsters. Each one of these creatures correlates to one of the iconic monsters not included in the SRD, including these. They are not the same creatures in disguise, but rather occupy the same niche, and possess comparable though not identical abilities. Given that these stats are Open Content, and because I'd like to use these creatures in some form or fashion in my games, I have elected to include those listed above in Hammersong's Legacy Campaign Setting.

Below are stats for the greymalkin (a replacement for the displacer beast) and the scavenger worm (instead of the carrion crawler), converted to Swords & Wizardry.

The greymalkin is a predator cat that exists just slightly out of phase with the Plane Prime. The mystical energies surrounding the greymalkin cause the beast to appear in multiple locations at once, as if under a permanent mirror image spell. Greymalkins are fierce hunters, and prefer the challenge of hunting sentient creatures where possible. An average greymalkin exceeds 8 feet in length, and weighs over 400 pounds. Greymalkin attack much like other great cats, preferring to strike from ambush or the advantage of height. They are smart enough to take advantage of their special abilities to attack swiftly and withstand counter-attacks.

Greymalkin: AC 1 [18]; HD 6; Atk: bite (1d8), two claws (1d6); ST: 11; SP: mirror image; MV: 15; CL 7; XP 600.

Scavenger Worm
Scavenger worms roam the many underground caverns and cave systems, feeding on any and every living being they overpower, and any carrion they are fortunate enough to find. They are exceptionally territorial, attacking even on those rare occasions they might not be hungry. Still, they are just barely smart enough to flee from battle if they are badly losing. Most scavenger worms strongly resemble giant centipedes with a circular, moray-like maw. They average 9 to 11 feet in length, and weigh roughly 600 pounds. Once every 1d4 rounds, scavenger worms can spit a 20 foot long cone of tranquilizing spray that forces all within the cone to make a saving throw or fall asleep for 1d8+1 rounds, and thus become easy prey for the ever-hungry scavenger worms.

Scavenger Worm: AC 4 [15]; HD 3; Atk: bite (1d6); ST: 14; SP: tranquilizing spray; MV: 12, climb 9; CL 5; XP 240.


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Three New Spells From Hammersong's Legacy...

Good Morning, All:

I've been writing up a few new Swords & Wizardy spells for Hammersong's Legacy, as part of the alternate spell list for the "psychic mages". While these spells are only usable by Mind-Mages within the setting itself, others may find them useful for their own Swords & Wizardry campaigns. Please review them at your leisure, and let me know your thoughts.

Detect Thoughts
Spell Level: Magic-user (Mind-Mage), 2nd Level
Range: 60 ft
Duration: 10 minutes

You can perceive the surface thoughts of any mind in the area, simply by spending a round focusing on your target. The target can prevent you from reading his thoughts with a successful saving throw. Creatures of animalistic intelligence have simple, instinctual thoughts that you can pick up. The spell can penetrate barriers, but 1 foot of stone, 1 inch of common metal, a thin sheet of lead, or 3 feet of wood or dirt blocks it.

Discern Lies
Spell Level: Magic-user (Mind-Mage), 3rd Level
Range: 30 ft
Duration: 10 minutes

Each round, you concentrate on one subject, who must be within range. If the target fails a saving throw, you know if the subject deliberately and knowingly speaks a lie by discerning disturbances in its aura caused by lying. The spell does not reveal the truth, uncover unintentional inaccuracies, or necessarily reveal evasions.

Telepathic Bond, Lesser
Spell Level: Magic-user (Mind-Mage), 1st Level
Range: 30 ft
Duration: One hour

Upon casting this spell, you forge a telepathic bond with another intelligent, willing creature of your choice within range. You can communicate telepathically through the bond regardless of language. No special power or influence is established as a result of the bond. Once the bond is formed, it works over any distance (although not from one plane to another).
Hope You Enjoy,

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Hammersong's Legacy: Dragons of Terantha...

Good Morning, All:

Dragons are wondrous creatures of myth and legend, the kind of monster that should really create a challenge for those that encounter one. Towards that end, I've taken my own approach to dragons in the Hammersong's Legacy Campaign Setting. I've started with the basic assumption that size is the primary designator of a dragon's age, starting with a man-size Young Dragon, proceeding through a large Adult Dragon and a huge Old Dragon to the gargantuan Great Wyrm. Each age category has its own HD, etc., and builds sequentially on the abilities of the age categories that came before. I prefer this approach for a number of reasons:

1. It creates attack values, saving throw values, hit points and natural attack damage values that are in keeping with the way other monsters work. (i.e. advancement in ability is based on adding more hit dice, not adding more hit points per hit die).

1b. This in turn lets me make young dragons with differing amounts of hitpoints, so I can have a sickly young dragon and a very brawny, robust young dragon, without having to stick with the static numbers required by the official method. I can roll the Hit Dice to determine hitpoints, instead of using the static number.

2. I can have different stats for miniatures of different sizes. The official S&W dragon stats don't offer me that flexibility as easily.

I also avoided the classic metallic and chromatic tropes with dragons in this setting, instead basing their type on their breath weapon. Death dragons breathe necromantic energy, fire dragons breathe fire, and so forth. Other than that, it is assumed that all dragons have very similar abilities. I chose this path because I wanted a different flavor to dragons than the classic metallic and chromatic types. I thought it would be more evocative and perhaps more primal, which is the kind of flavor I'm wanting for the setting as a whole. Only time will tell, of course, if I captured that primal essence or not.

In the interests of gaining feedback, I am posting my dragon write-up here for your review. Please check them out and let me know what you think.

Dragon, Teranthan
Dragons on Terantha are ancient reptilian creatures with leathery wings, four legs and a long muscular tail. Dragons from different regions have a variety of distinctive features, such as feathered wings, crests, fiery manes, ivory spikes running down its spine and various exotic colorations, but most such distinctions are simply cosmetic differences. Dragons are known and feared for their size, physical prowess, and magical abilities. The oldest surviving dragons are among the most powerful mortal creatures native to the Plane Prime. Extremely intelligent, dragons can communicate through speech, and practice powerful magic. Dragons are renowned as much for their wisdom and knowledge as for their accumulated hordes of treasure.

A dragon attacks with its powerful claws and bite, and can also use a breath weapon and special physical attacks, depending on its size. Dragons typically prefer to fight on the wing, staying out of reach until it has worn down the enemy with ranged attacks. Older, more intelligent dragons are adept at sizing up the opposition and eliminating the most dangerous foes first (or avoiding them while picking off weaker enemies).

Dragons of Terantha are distinguished by size into four basic age categories, gaining more abilities and greater power as they age. In addition, Teranthan dragons are also categorized by the type of breath weapon they possess, as is shown in the Dragon Type table.

Table: Dragon Type
Death: Line of necromantic energy
Fire: Cone of flame
Ice: Cone of frost
Storm: Line of electricity
Swamp: Line of acid
Venom: Cone of poison

Cones are often thirty feet wide per age category, originating from the mouth of the dragon and expanding to a base of thirty feet wide per age category. Lines are five feet wide, originating from the mouth of the dragon and extending out thirty feet per age category. Targets caught within a dragon's breath weapon may attempt a saving throw for half damage. When a dragon uses its breath weapon in a round, it may not cast spells or make physical attacks. Once the dragon has used its breath weapon, it may not do so again for another 1d4 rounds.

In addition, all dragons (even young dragons) possess exceptional perception, including the ability to detect all invisible objects and creatures, and are immune to sleep and paralysis effects, as well as effects related to their breath weapon type. A dragon diving from above gain a +2 attack bonus on its attacks against its foes, and may attack with its wings, but doing so requires the dragon to land.

Young Dragons
Young dragons are roughly the size of a large human warrior. They possess the general abilities listed above that are common to all dragons.

Young Dragon: AC 0 [19]; HD 8; Atk: breath weapon (4d6) or bite (1d8), two claws (1d6); ST: 8; SP: common dragon abilities; MV: 15, fly 21; CL 11; XP 1,700.

Adult Dragons
Adult dragons are roughly the size of a large horse, tiger or rhinoceros. In addition to the abilities possessed by all dragons, adult dragons have a magic resistance of 35%, a frightful presence that requires all creatures with less Hit Dice than that of the dragon to make a saving throw or flee in terror for 4d6 rounds (if 1 HD or less) or suffer -2 on all attack rolls and saving throws (if higher than 1 HD), and can cast spells as a 3rd level magic-user. The adult dragon gains additional attacks based on its size: two wing buffets and a tail attack (in addition to damage, the target must make a saving throw or be knocked prone). Finally, given its size, an adult dragon can snatch a single creature up to the size of a human child in a claw as it flies by. Any creature that has been snatched up by a dragon automatically suffers claw damage each round, and have a 50% chance of being pinned in the dragon's grasp. Victims can be transferred to the mouth with a successful attack roll, whereupon it suffers automatic bite damage each round. Creatures trapped in a dragon's mouth cannot attempt a saving throw to half the damage of a dragon's breath weapon.

Adult Dragon: AC -3 [24]; HD 14; Atk: breath weapon (6d6) or bite (2d6), two claws (1d8), two wing buffets (1d6), tail slap (1d8 + save or be knocked prone); ST: 3; SP: adult dragon abilities; MV: 15, fly 24; CL 21; XP 4,700.

Old Dragons
Old dragons are roughly the size of a large elephant or a tyrannosaurus rex. In addition to the abilities of adult dragons, old dragons have a magic resistance of 50%, suffer only half damage from non-magical weapons, and can cast spells as a 6th level magic-user. In addition, an old dragon can snatch up a single creature up to the size of a large human in its claw.

Old Dragon: AC -6 [25]; HD 22; Atk: breath weapon (8d6) or bite (2d8), two claws (2d6), two wing buffets (1d8), tail slap (2d6 + save or be knocked prone); ST: 3; SP: old dragon abilities; MV: 15, fly 27; CL 31; XP 7,700.

Great Wyrms
Great wyrms are roughly the size of a large whale. In addition to the abilities possessed by old dragons, great wyrms have a magic resistance of 65%, and can cast spells as a 9th level magic-user. A great wyrm can snatch up a single creature up to the size of an ogre or troll in its claw as it flies by.

Great Wyrm: AC -9 [28]; HD 30; Atk: breath weapon (10d6) or bite (4d6), two claws (2d8), two wing buffets (2d6), tail slap (2d8 + save or be knocked prone); ST: 3; SP: great wyrm abilities; MV: 15, fly 30; CL 40; XP 10,400.

With Regards,

Friday, March 12, 2010

Four Monsters From Hammersong's Legacy: Banth, Barghest, Boalisk & Cyclops...

Good Morning, All:

I've been working on statistics for some of the monsters I'm using in the Hammersong's Legacy Campaign Setting, and I thought I would offer up some of these monsters for your review. You will find that some of them may look familiar. In some cases, the monsters I'm creating exist in other D20-based fantasy games, but have not yet been statted up in Swords & Wizardry. One of the following is based on a planetary romance novel now in the Public Domain. Please feel free to check out the following and let me know your thoughts on these monsters.

The banth is a ferocious leonine carnivore that prowls hills in search of prey, its protruding green eyes ever attentive to its environment as it hunts. Roughly the size of a horse, this ten-legged beast’s long lithe body is powerfully muscled and almost hairless, save for a great bristly mane about its thick neck. The beast’s head is predominately mouth, with jaws which can open to a point far back of its tiny ears, revealing several rows of long needle-like fangs.

Banth: AC 0 [19]; HD 10; Atk: bite (2d6), four claws (1d8); ST: 5; SP: none; MV: 15; CL 11; XP 1,700.

A barghest is a lupine fiend that can take the shape of a wolf or a goblin. In its natural form, it resembles a goblin-wolf hybrid with terrible jaws and sharp claws. As whelps, barghests are nearly indistinguishable from wolves, except for their size and claws. As they grow larger and stronger, their skin darkens to bluish-red and eventually becomes blue altogether. A full-grown barghest is about six feet long and weighs 180 pounds. A barghest’s eyes glow orange when the creature becomes excited. Once per day, a barghest can choose to emanate an aura of crushing despair, forcing all within thirty feet to make a saving throw or suffer a -1 on all attack rolls and saving throws for the next ten minutes. In addition, a barghest can cast charm monster and dimension door, each once per day, and only takes half damage from non-magical weapons. When a barghest feeds on the corpse of a recently slain humanoid, it devours both flesh and life force, preventing mortal magic from restoring life to the victim. For every three corpses devoured, the barghest gains one additional Hit Die, and improves its Armor Class by one.

Barghest: AC 2 [17]; HD 6; Atk: bite (1d6), two claws (1d4); ST: 11; SP: change shape, crushing despair, charm monster, dimension door, feed on life force, half damage from non-magical weapons; MV: 12; CL 10; XP 1,400.

The boalisk resembles a normal constrictor snake measuring about 25 feet in length. The results of crossbreeding large constrictors with basilisks, these giant snakes possess the basilisk's petrifying gaze, which turns anyone meeting its eye into stone, unless they make a success saving throw. A boalisk hunts by grabbing prey with its mouth and then squeezing with its powerful body, inflicting 2d6 damage each round.

Boalisk: AC 4 [15]; HD 5; Atk: bite (1d8); ST: 12; SP: constrict, petrifying gaze; MV: 9, climb 9, swim 9; CL 8; XP 800.

The cyclopses are a primordial race of giants, each with a single eye in the middle of its forehead. The average cyclops stands 9 feet tall, weighs 600 pounds and often fights with a giant greataxe or club. Every cyclops possesses the ability to gain glimpses of possible future events. Once per day, the cyclops may act on this insight and elect to reroll an attack roll or a saving throw, taking the better of the two results.

Cyclops: AC 0 [19]; HD 10; Atk: giant greataxe or club (3d6); ST: 5; SP: insight; MV: 12; CL 11; XP 1,700.

With Regards,

Thursday, March 11, 2010

GM Mentoring: Thirteen In-Combat Goals...

Good Morning, All:

Recently, I had a conversation with a friend of mine in regards to improving his 4E combat experience as a GM. He wanted to enhance the sense of risk that his players experienced when their characters entered into combat, but also wanted to avoid taking them out in the process. Over the course of our discussion, I offered him the suggestion of using in-combat goals to heighten the players' investment in the combat. He asked for some suggestions. I provided him with a small list and we went on to explore another thread of the same conversation. However, the idea of in-combat goals struck me as a good topic for a post, and so I thought I'd take the opportunity to bring it up here and share my thoughts with you.

Most of us share the common experience of engaging in RPG combat scenes with at least the one goal of "kill all the monsters." Done in excess, this can lead to a sense of blandness in regards to combat scenarios, as they become a simple series of attrition-based encounters, with only the special abilities of a particular monster giving any significant flavor to an encounter. Let's face it: that can get boring fast.

One way to move beyond the attrition-based "kill them all" encounters is to make use of in-combat goals. These are goals that the party is attempting to perform over the course of the encounter, which gives them something to focus on besides simply killing their foes. As a GM, I would encourage you to implement at least one in-combat goal per three encounters, if not more frequently, simply to challenge both yourself and your players. Here are some examples of in-combat goals for your consideration:
  1. The party must rescue a prisoner from the midst of the enemy.
  2. The party must obtain an item currently in possession of the enemy, without damaging the item.
  3. The party must reach an item before their enemy does.
  4. The party must reach an incapacitated NPC before their enemy does.
  5. The party comes upon a battle between two different factions, and must either choose sides or suffer from assaults by both factions.
  6. The party must rescue a prisoner trapped in the midst of a fight between two warring factions.
  7. The party must obtain an item currently located in the midst of a fight between two warring factions.
  8. The party must traverse hazardous terrain while fighting off their enemy.
  9. The party must complete some action (such as a ritual, etc.) while fighting off their enemy.
  10. The party must traverse hazardous terrain to reach their enemy and prevent them from completing some action.
  11. The party must defeat their enemy without killing them. The enemy may or may not be limited in the same manner.
  12. Early in the combat, the party becomes separated into smaller groups (by collapsing floors, closing doors, solid fog, lava flows, mudslides, etc.) and must find a way to deal with their immediate threats and then reunite.
  13. A more powerful (or more numerous) enemy enters the combat midway through, prompting the party and their enemy to work together to take down the new combatant before turning their attention back to one another.

These suggested in-combat goals are purposefully left in general terms, so that it is easier for GMs to implement them. So, having read these, what others would you add, that aren't covered by the above suggestions?

Hope This Helps,

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Inspired By 4E: Some Rogue Talents...

Good Evening, All:

In continuing my series of "Inspired By 4E" articles, I'm now going to look at the Rogue, and see what kind of talents are suggested by the At-Will and Encounter powers for a 1st Level Rogue under the 4E rules. As always, I look forward to your thoughts and input.

Dazing Blow: As a Standard Action, the Rogue may attack a foe with a light one-handed weapon, and if the attack is successful, render the foe dazed and unable to act until the end of the Rogue's next turn. This action is exhausting, and once it has been attempted, the Rogue cannot attempt it again until he has rested uninterrupted for ten minutes.

Devastating Blow: As a Standard Action, the Rogue may attack a foe with a light one-handed weapon, and if the attack is successful, deal double weapon damage with the attack from the force of the blow. This action is exhausting, and once it has been attempted, the Rogue cannot attempt it again until he has rested uninterrupted for ten minutes.

Exchanging Blows: If the Rogue successfully attacks a foe with a light one-handed weapon, then he has positioned himself to exchange blows with the enemy. Should the foe attempt to strike the Rogue before the Rogue's next turn begins, the Rogue may interrupt the foe's turn and attempt to strike him first. If the foe is still standing after the Rogue interrupts his action, he may complete his attack as normal. The Rogue may only attempt to interrupt this foe once before the beginning of his next turn.

Lunging Blow: As a Standard Action, the Rogue can lunge forward two additional squares (as free movement) before making an attack with a light one-handed weapon. In addition, when making a lunging attack, the Rogue uses his Dexterity bonus on his melee attack rolls instead of his Strength bonus.

The rest of the powers don't translate very well at all, to me. Some of these are kind of tricky, and may not add much to a MyD20 Lite game, but I offer them for consideration and possible inspiration of ideas that will work.


Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Inspired By 4E: Some Warrior Talents...

Good Morning, All:

Looking at D&D 4E, I once again dive into the covers of my PHB for inspiration for possible talents for use with MyD20 Lite. While there are few fans of 4E in the OSR, I myself am ambivalent toward it. From my gaming experiences with the system, I can say that I'm not a big fan of the system, simply because it doesn't fix the biggest issue I had with 3E (and I ran over 400 sessions of 3E over eight years, so I feel well-grounded in this evaluation): I don't like combats that take most of a 3-4 hour session to resolve. I have a strong need for forward motion with my sessions; I want to feel that I've accomplished something story-wise between the start of the session and the end of the session. One long combat just doesn't do it for me. However, I can easily see its appeal to those that do not share my particular desire. There are elements of 4E I enjoy from a game design perspective. If I could fix the combat duration problem, I'd be more prone to actually trying to play or run a long-term 4E campaign. As it is, though, I have purchased these books a few years back and would like to get some use out of them. Hence, I'm writing this series of "Inspired By 4E" posts...

This time around, I'd like to focus on Warrior talents, so I will be looking at Fighter At-Will and Encounter powers. Bear in mind that what I write here isn't official or anything. It's just a translation of game mechanics, with a little bit of my own tastes mixed in. I really appreciate your comments, and they help me as a game designer and as a Referee. Thank you in advance for your time and consideration in reading these posts and the comments you choose to share.

And now, without any further adieu, here are some new talents for consideration:

Cleaving Blow: As a Standard Action, a Warrior may cleave into a target with a melee attack. If the melee attack successfully delivers damage, the Warrior may then inflict additional damage to an enemy adjacent to both the Warrior and the original target equal to half the damage of the original attack, as the blow cleaves through the first target to strike the second.

Ferocious Flurry: As a Standard Action, a Warrior can launch into a ferocious flurry of attacks, drawing the attention of an enemy as the Warrior presses him with zeal. If the Warrior succeeds with a melee attack, he does double damage against his foe. In addition, he draws enough attention from his enemy that an ally adjacent to the foe can move one square away from the enemy as a Free Action, avoiding any attacks based on disengaging from the enemy as part of the process. This action is exhausting, and once it has been attempted, the Warrior cannot attempt it again until he has rested uninterrupted for ten minutes.

Knockdown Blow: As a Standard Action, a Warrior may attack a foe, and if the attack is successful, knock the foe prone through the force of the blow. This action is exhausting, and once it has been attempted, the Warrior cannot attempt it again until he has rested uninterrupted for ten minutes.

Hindering Blow: As a Standard Action, a Warrior may attack a foe, and if the attack is successful, the attack does double damage and numbs the leg(s) of the target sufficiently that his movement is halved until the end of the Warrior's next turn. This action is exhausting, and once it has been attempted, the Warrior cannot attempt it again until he has rested uninterrupted for ten minutes.

Run-By Attack: As a Standard Action, a Warrior can attack a single foe with a melee attack, and if successful, move one square and attack a second foe with a +2 bonus on the attack roll. The movement between the two attacks does not draw any attacks based on disengaging from the enemy. This action is exhausting, and once it has been attempted, the Warrior cannot attempt it again until he has rested uninterrupted for ten minutes.

Shield Push: As a Standard Action, a Warrior may strike an enemy with a melee attack, and then follow up the attack by pushing the enemy back one square. The Warrior moves into the square vacated by the enemy, in essence following the foe as he pushes forward with his shield. The Warrior, of course, must be using a shield, and the target cannot be bigger than one size larger than the Warrior.

Hope This Helps,

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Buying Up My Constitution, AKA My First 5K Run...

Good Morning, All:

As a personal note, I thought I would share the fact that I ran my first 5K race yesterday, after only nine weeks of training using the Couch to 5K running plan. I completed the 3.1 mile track in 44 minutes, 4.5 seconds. It's not a fast time, I admit, but it's a success. I couldn't have done this at the beginning of the year. Last year, I lost almost 70 pounds. This year, I'm running races. I can't wait to see what next year brings me, in terms of personal successes. :)

All of this is part of an overall goal: I'm trying to build a healthier me. The men in my family have traditionally died from heart-rated complications in their mid-50s. I don't want to be one of those numbers. I have a new baby coming in June, and since I turn 41 tomorrow, following in my father's footsteps means that I won't live to see her graduate high school, much less go to college or walk her down the aisle on her wedding day. I started losing the weight last year before my wife got pregnant simply to insure that I'll be around as long as I can for her and for my 12-year-old son. Our baby girl's arrival simply adds more impetus to that desire. Also, I remember tales of a group that attended Gen Con one year promoting Gamers For Health, and I think it would be cool to stand out from the crowd as a healthy gamer, as sadly, most of us are a bit overweight. (At least, that's my assessment after nine years of Gen Con attendance, based on a purely anecdotal perception of the gamers I've seen in attendance there. It's a large sample space, but such an evaluation could scarcely be called scientific by any stretch of the imagination.) As I passed the half-way point to my ultimate goal weight, I formulated the plan to run a 5K this year as the next step in improving my physical health. That's where the Couch To 5K program came into the equation, and now I've done it only nine weeks after starting the program.

I'd say I feel as if I'm spending points on my Constitution/Vigor stat, and it's a great feeling.

With that in mind, I have to ask my readers the following question: What do you do to either improve or maintain your health, given that gaming is mostly a sedentary activity? If you don't, what would you like to do in those regards, assuming you were interested in doing so?

Working Towards A Goal,

Friday, March 05, 2010

Inspired By 4E: More Priest Talents...

Good Evening, All:

In response to a comment from James, I'm going to try translating a few of the cleric's encounter powers in 4E over to talents for use with MyD20 Lite, just to see how they would fair in comparison to my previous efforts in these regards with At-Will powers. With that in mind, please feel free to check these out and offer your thoughts on the following, simply from a game mechanics point of view:

Aura of Divine Light: As a Standard Action, the Priest may call forth a holy aura of light that inspires his allies as it harms his foes. Any enemies within fifteen feet must succeed in a Reflex save to avoid suffering 1d8 plus the Priest's Wisdom modifier damage. All allies within that same range are inspired, and gain a +2 bonus to attack rolls until the end of the Priest's next turn. Using this ability is physically draining, and the Priest must rest uninterrupted for ten minutes before attempting this ability again.

Fearsome Presence: As a Standard Action, the Priest may call upon their patron deity to strike fear into the hear of a single target within thirty feet. If the target fails a Will save, then it immediately moves away from the Priest at twice its normal speed, provoking attacks for retreating if applicable. Serving as the conduit for their deity's divine presence is physically draining, and the Priest must rest uninterrupted for ten minutes before attempting this ability again.

Healing Blow: As a Standard Action, the Priest may dedicate a melee attack in the name of his patron deity. If the melee attack succeeds, the Priest inflicts double damage against his foe and is also able to heal either himself or an ally within thirty feet of a number of hitpoints equal to 1d6 plus the Priest's Wisdom level modifier. The use of this ability is physically draining, and the Priest must rest uninterrupted for ten minutes before attempting this ability again.

Staggering Blow: As a Standard Action, the Priest may call upon the power of his patron deity to stagger the target of his next melee attack. The Priest may then attack his enemy, and if the attack is successful, the target suffers normal damage and is staggered and unable to act until the end of the Priest's next turn. The use of this ability is physically draining, and the Priest must rest uninterrupted for ten minutes before attempting this ability again.

Okay, so what do you think? Personally, Healing Blow looks pretty sweet to me, although so does Aura of Divine Light.

Hope This Helps,

Hammersong's Legacy: Blood of the Gods...

Good Morning, All:

Below is the initial section on the Blood of the Gods to be included in the Hammersong's Legacy Campaign Sourcebook. Inspired by the Open Content from the SRD referenced in Malhavoc Press's Requiem for a God, I have had to change a few terms and rewrite the non-mechanics portions of this text due to a Product Identity clause regarding the term "godsblood". Now I use the terms "blood of the Gods", "Gods' Blood" and "ichor" interchangably in the document.

Please let me know your thoughts.

Blood of the Gods

With the death of so many gods on the lands, in the seas and in the skies of Terantha, the world has suffered from its over-exposure to the flesh and blood of these dying divinities. Suffused with the divine essence of slain gods, this rarefied fluid, sometimes referred to as "ichor" or "Gods' Blood", possesses wildly chaotic and corruptive magical power. The Agents of the Elder Courts, as well as those devoted to the Fallen, collect what Gods' Blood they can in holy receptacles which are then stored in reliquaries, awaiting its use in obscure rituals or the creation of potent artifacts.

The nature of Gods' Blood varies with the divine traits of the slain god. Blood of the Gods can range in appearance from a crystal-clear fluid or green glowing ooze to a thick, cold pitch-like substance. Blood of the Gods is typically harvested from small pools, barely larger than a bowl in size, where it has oozed out of Gods' Flesh. By its very nature, adventurers should expect to find such pools within close proximity of a sizable mass of Gods’ Flesh, although it may not reveal its presence save under specific circumstances related to the portfolio of the slain deity.

Any who imbibe the blood of the Gods from the source, or bathe in the fluid should there be enough present, for the first time are affected as though by a heal spell, and may gain additional benefits as befits the divinity from which it sprang. However, once a creature has been exposed to a particular deity's divine ichor, the creature no longer gains any curative benefit from further exposure. The more Gods' Blood that a character is exposed to at any one time, the greater the chance that the character may gain a temporary supernatural ability. These abilities range from a small spell effect to an extended lifespan or a temporary immunity to a specific type of damage. The closer a creature follows the tenets of the fallen deity, the more powerful the temporary ability. The details of such are left to the discretion of the Referee, although the table below provides some suggestions based on the god from whom the blood originated.

Once Gods' Blood is removed from its source, it loses some of its vitality. Those who drink it or bathe in it after it has been removed only gain the benefit of a cure serious wounds spell. As with fresh blood of the Gods, the curative effects do not occur with subsequent exposure.

Any creature that exposes himself to the blood of the Gods too frequently can lead to Gods' Blood poisoning. If the creature bathes twice in Gods' Blood or imbibes more than a pint of the substance in any six month period, he must make a saving throw or suffer an energy drain of four experience levels (for class-based characters) or hit dice (for monsters). If the saving throw succeeds, the creature gains a temporary ability as normal.
With Regards,

Thursday, March 04, 2010

My Current Projects: A Brief Update...

Good Afternoon, All:

Today, I thought I'd provide a brief update on my current projects.

Stellar Reaches Issue #10
I've been sitting on some material for the next release of my Traveller fanzine, Stellar Reaches. I'm going to be putting that together and putting that out before the end of March, in keeping with my New Year's Resolution.

Hammersong's Legacy
So far, this campaign setting for Swords & Wizardry is coming along very well. I've compiled my work together, and found it so far to cover 50 letter-size pages and 28,000 words. I have also identified the elements that still need to be written, which include the following:
* Fleshing out some details on various locales.
* Finish detailing the Gods of the Elder Courts, those that lost the War of All Gods.
* Flesh out the cosmology of the setting.
* Finish detailing some of the organizations and secret societies for the setting.
* Write up the calendar of the setting.
* Complete the racial write-ups under the new game mechanics section.
* Finish some of the encounter write-ups.
* Create the stat blocks for the bestiary section.
* Finish the cast of characters for Rynoc's Reach.
* Write up the rumors for the setting.

I estimate that the above will add a considerable number of pages, so my previous rough estimate of being three-quarters done is off by a little bit. Still, I may be able to wrap this up at 80 pages, and get this setting out for your enjoyment. My personal goal here is to get this out before the end of April, and the sooner the better.

MyD20 Lite Referee's Guide
The Referee's Guide is still a work in progress. I'm sitting at 84 pages and 35,750 words, and I know that there are still major sections that must be completed before it can be considered ready to go. I'm hopeful about getting this one out before wife delivers our new baby in early June, but who knows? I will post the most recent draft shortly, so please check out my gaming files website for your chance to peruse the work and see if you have any suggestions to offer.

Of course, all of this could change if I end up being distracted by another small project. Sometimes I feel like a cat or a pseudodragon, easily led astray by bright shiny objects and laser pointers. It must be the coming of Spring.

More Later,

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Inspired By 4E: New Priest Talents for MyD20 Lite...

Good Morning:

While I do not play the latest edition of D&D, that does not mean I can't take some inspiration from it. Indeed, I've already added a number of small details to MyD20 Lite that were inspired by both Star Wars Saga Edition and 4E, albeit as seen through the lens of an Old School RPG. The Priest's Healing Word talent was one of those inspirations. In that spirit, I offer the following Priest talents from conversions of certain At-Will powers.

Divine Defender: So long as the Priest has at least one spellpoint, his role as defender, guardian and protector is enhanced in combat. When the Priest successfully lands a melee attack against a foe, his ability to defend himself and an adjacent ally improves through divine inspiration, granting both a +1 bonus to Armor Class. This bonus lasts until the end of the Priest's next turn.

Fortune's Flame: So long as the Priest has at least one spellpoint, he is capable of calling upon a sacred flame to harm an enemy and aid a foe. The Priest may use a Standard Action to target a single target within 30 feet with a magical bolt of sacred flame. The target must succeed in a Reflex save or suffer 1d6 + Wisdom modifier in holy damage. In addition, an ally within 30 feet of both the Priest and the target gains a bonus of the Priest's choice: the ally either heals a number of hitpoints equal to the Priest's Wisdom modifier; or gains a bonus on the next saving throw he must make, so long as the save occurs before the end of the Priest's next turn.

Inspire Retribution: So long as the Priest has at least one spellpoint, he possesses the ability to inspire combat prowess in his comrades. When the Priest successfully lands a melee attack against a foe, he may choose an ally within 30 feet, who gains a magical bonus on melee attacks made against the same foe equal to the Priest's Wisdom modifier. This melee attack bonus lasts until the end of the Priest's next turn.

Ray of Enlightenment: So long as the Priest has at least one spellpoint, he is capable of temporarily blinding his foes through a ray of divine light. The Priest may use a Standard Action to target a single target within 30 feet with a ray of divine light. The target must succeed in a Reflex save or suffer 1d8 + Wisdom modifier in holy damage, and is rendered flat-footed by the magical nature of the attack until the end of the Priest's next turn.

That was kind of fun and a little challenging. I'm not sure how these talents would stand up in an Old School game, but it would be interesting to try them out. If anyone else wants to test these talents themselves and let me know their experiences, I would appreciate the insight into your experience.

With Regards,

Monday, March 01, 2010

Divination Magic...

Good Afternoon, All:

The topic of today's post is divination magic. The use of divination magic is a common element in many fantasy campaigns. As a Referee, you will likely find yourself challenged in how you deal with such power. It's a common issue for many Referees, so if you've been hear, you are not alone. Many Referees try to find ways to limit the use of divination in order to preserve a sense of wonder and uncertainty. However, if that happens all the time, you are effectively removing part of a character's power and ability to contribute to the success of the adventure or campaign. No one wants that, particularly if you want to encourage your gamers to have fun.

My first suggestion here is that for every instance in which you limit divination magic, you should also create another instance where divination is one of the three paths to success for a given scenario either in this adventure or the next. This allows you to reward a character focused on divination magic, and maintain that as an element in your overall gaming experience. It is hard for players to accept prophecies and visions of the future if their own efforts never work out for them. In fact, under those circumstances, prophecies and visions could drive home their inability to contribute to the party's success, and bring down your group's morale.

On the other side of the coin, you may also find player characters that become too dependent on their divination magic. While it is important to allow them to have success with their abilities, bear in mind that the non-player characters are also aware of the existence of divination magic, its strengths and its weaknesses. Most divinations only focus on specific requests for information, so a well-rounded and multi-faceted challenge can often provide suspense because of the diversity of the impact of the challenge. In addition, when the non-player characters are able to avoid the effects of divination magic, that very event should present clues to the player characters that point them in the direction they might need to go. (If necessary, you may need to point that out to them through an NPC.) For example, if only a lead-lined room can prevent detection through divination, then the player characters may need to track down who has recently purchased a lot of lead or hired an expert in circumventing magical detections. Be open to such efforts, and you will be rewarded for supporting your players' creativity, enriching their gaming experience and adding a depth to your games that could prove very satisfying for all involved.

Finally, even if the party successfully uses divination magic, being forewarned does not mean that the party is automatically going to succeed at overcoming the challenges that lie between them and their goal. The use of divination magic may change a murder mystery into an action adventure, but there's still plenty of great gaming to be had, even with the foreknowledge granted through the use of divination.

Hope This Helps,