Monday, February 28, 2011

My 300th Post: My Son and Savage Dark Matter...

Good Evening, All:

This is my 300th post on this blog, and so I'm going to take this opportunity to talk about the newest regular game I'll be running. I get to start my Solo/One-Player Campaign with my son this week. We would have started this past weekend, but he had a bicycle accident that involved a trip to the Urgent Care Clinic and some recovery time thereafter. Still, I'm looking forward to beginning a modern campaign loosely based on the Dark Matter campaign setting, with a few adjustments, of course. His first adventure will involve his introduction to the world of the supernatural, and through that, his introduction to the Hoffman Institute. After that, it depends on him as to whether or not he joins an organization in dealing with the creatures of the night, or if he decides to pursue all of this on his own. As my son has an interest in cryptozoology, this is going to be a lot of fun for both of us.

One of the elements I really like about this particular campaign idea (which he chose pretty much on his own) is that it will encourage him to research the cryptids outside the game, looking for clues on the internet as to how to handle specific creatures. Not only will he gain more practice with using resources as his disposal for study and research purposes under the guise of gaming, but that is also going to challenge me to learn more about these creatures. The more I pick up about these zoological mysteries, the more I will be able to use these creatures in other campaigns, particularly my fantasy gaming.

As I may have mentioned previously, we will be running this game using the Savage Worlds rules. Again, this was my son's choice, as he prefers that rules system to the D20-based systems. I personally think it's because he gets to throw more dice. It doesn't matter to me, though, as I can still capture that Old School feel with the Savage Worlds rules, and that's what I want to teach him with this game.

Wish Me Luck,

Friday, February 25, 2011

Madlands Campaign: The Art of Random Encounter Table Creation...

Good Afternoon, All:

Today, I wanted to talk about crafting Random Encounter tables. While I have provided a number of such tables in Hammersong's Legacy, which were quite extensive and detailed, my preferences have since changed somewhat. As I play more with the use of such tables with the Madlands Campaign, I'm finding that I prefer smaller tables (or sets of tables) with a more limited selection, so as to emphasize a specific flavor for the area. This, of course, implies that the regions that fall under a given table will tend to be much smaller. This fits the sandbox concept of campaign setting design pretty well, so I think I'd like to take this post and explore some thoughts on the Art of Random Encounter Tables Creation.

Step One: Consider The Region
The first step in creating a truly flavorful Random Encounter table is simple: Consider the region that the table will cover. Think about the general terrain and the non-monstrous elements that are present in that region. If you don't have a strong mental picture of the region, then it is harder to determine what kind of creatures would be present.

For our example, I'm going to consider the mountainous regions about Kaeleth Tyr, the City of Gold, which is one of the ruins found in the Madlands Campaign. From the description, we know that "Kaeleth Tyr is guarded only by the warped and aberrant creatures that survived the spilling of divine blood and were transformed by the very same event that destroyed the surface city itself." The region is therefore likely to be rich in divine ichor, and my creature selection for this mountainous site should reflect the aberrations that are likely to be present.

Step Two: Create An Encounter List
The average Random Encounter table created under this proposed method lists eleven distinct encounters. These can be divided into three primary classes: Common (5), Uncommon (4), and Rare (2). As you create your list of potential encounters, please consider which category it falls into. I offer the following suggested advice:

  • Unique individuals without lairs (i.e. those that wander around), should be considered Rare encounters, since there's only one of them in the entire region. This category could include dragons, named NPCs or monsters that fill a "mini-boss" role in the setting.
  • If a region is well patrolled, then at least one of the Common encounters should probably be a patrol group of some form.
  • The more powerful a monster is, the less likely you are to encounter more than one of them. Therefore, when considering your list of encounters, the more powerful ones should fall into the Rare category, while the least powerful of them should be considered Common.
  • It's always good to include some animals in a wilderness region to serve as a reminder of the presence of nature, so long as such creatures could survive in the region.

Looking at my Kaeleth Tyr example again, I start looking for the creatures and encounters I want to add here. Starting with a list of aberrations from 3E (to keep a consistent flavor and because it's easy to come up with such a list via the Internet), the following immediately come to mind as appropriate:

  • Common: grick, rust monster, tentacled horror
  • Uncommon: gibbering mouther
  • Rare: destrachan

Obviously, there wasn't a lot that tickled my fancy on that list. Moving on from there, I look over the magical beast selections from 3E for ideas, and then dig into animals and plants for more suggestions. In the end, I've come up with the following list (even dropping a few aberrations to get here):

  • Common: archer bush, carrion hound, grick, osquip, stirge
  • Uncommon: gibbering mouther, greymalkin, manticore, owlbear
  • Rare: destrachan, flesh treant

That should create some interesting and memorable challenges for the players.

Step Three: Populate the Table
Once you have your list of encounters (or in my poor example above, a simple list of creatures), you can use that list to create the actual Random Encounter table, using the following as a template:


Using the Kaeleth Tyr example for my Madlands Campaign, I come up with the following table:

Table: Kaeleth Tyr Wilderness Encounters
3Gibbering mouther
5Archer bush
6Carrion hound
12Flesh treant

So, what do you think? How do you create your Random Encounter Tables?

With Regards,

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

GM Mentoring: Three New Plot Hooks Every Session...

Good Evening, All:

As my campaign continues to wind along, my players still have not yet crossed over Sovereign Chasm and into the Madlands themselves (although they should after tonight's game). They've been really focused on the little side trek plot hooks that I sprinkle in my games. I try to put three hooks out every session, just to make the world seem alive and diverse. The side effect of this, of course, is that player-characters are often distracted by the shiny new plot hook, and so we end up pursuing side quests instead of their stated main plot line. I don't mind that, as it gives me a chance to really flesh out my setting with more detail. Occasionally, though, they stand back and realize they haven't touched their original campaign goal in months.

When you find something like that happening in your games, I suggest that you provide multiple alternate paths that may lead them in the general direction they wanted to go originally as players. For example, several of the open plot hooks I’ve provided lead into the Madlands (all to different locations, of course, but they're all on the other side of Fellgorge and the Sovereign Chasm.) In addition, you might find yourself having to remind the players, directly or indirectly, that they are the ones that get to decide where they go in the game. I haven't closed a door on them yet in regards to the directions of their characters. (They may have closed a few doors themselves through their own actions, but any door they have closed, they can open again with a modicum of effort.) All I've done is provide options and distractions. It's their choice as to what they decide to pursue within the context of the game.

Note that by choosing to pursue local plot hooks rather than Madlands plot hooks, my players are showing me the kind of gaming experience they desire within the context of their characters. It's my job to take those clues and build on them, to give them a rewarding scenario that develops both the characters and the setting. If they never decide to enter the Madlands, the flavor of this aberrant land so close to the current gaming region has already added a significant element to the campaign's flavor. I'm personally good with whatever direction they decide to go.

Of course, as the player-characters become more talented and powerful, the players may feel more confident in heading off into the unknown realms known as the Madlands. It doesn't hurt that I've planted a really big seed that hopefully will draw them out in search of the City of Gold. One of the players wants his character to resurrect a dead God, and so I've given them news of a very powerful one-of-a-kind ritual (an arch-ritual, if you will) that can bend reality and reshape it once. Of course, there are consequences if you should succeed, and more horrible consequences if you should fail, but I'll let them know more about that before they actually find the ritual and have to make a hard decision. If he decides to go through with it and succeeds, he could easily bring back a Fallen God through warping reality, and change my home campaign setting dramatically.

In the past, I used to have a problem with providing only one major storyline and then railroading the game in that direction. This tendency I've developed of offering multiple story hooks each session to provide players with more world flavor and adventure options is part of my effort to overcome my previous approach to campaigns. While this is the second campaign I've run under this particular style, you can see that I'm still getting the ropes of it all, so to speak. That being said, I find that I enjoy my game all the more for presenting options, and the sandbox design approach has been a lot of fun. My players seem to like it, too.


Monday, February 21, 2011

Integrating The Worlds: Looking At Races...

Good Evening, All:

In a moment of inspiration, I started to consider what I would do if I were to follow Rob Conley's advice in blending elements from my various past campaigns into one core setting. One of the first elements that I decided to consider was to examine what races would be available for characters. Toward that end, I began by listing the various character races I've either allowed in my campaigns or that I've offered as an option, even if it wasn't taken. In addition, if I had a mini for it, I figured I needed to at least consider it. Looking at the list, I determined that an "Integrated World" could not, by virtue of sheer diversity, be limited to a small handful of character races. With that in mind, I tried to come up with a nice core list, removing the least interesting of those that duplicated a niche that had already been filled. What follows here is a "Master List of Character Races" for consideration in the "Integrated World" concept.

Races of the "Integrated World"
The following are civilized races commonly encountered among the myriad of kingdoms and nations of the "Integrated World". Not every race is common to a given area, so players should check with the GM to insure that a specific race is available as an option for a given campaign before building their character. The only exception to this rule is the Human race, which can be found in almost every region of the "Integrated World" that supports civilization.

Humans are the standard by which all others are measured. Humans do not hold this distinction because they are the oldest, wisest, or strongest of the races, but because they are the most widespread and varied. Due to their high adaptability, Humans are found in more of the various environments of the world than any other race. Human skin tones cover a wide range of coloration, depending on region, from black, tan or white to yellow, red, blue and even green.

The Artathi are a proud race of felinids who live on the vast plains. While most resemble a humanoid lion in appearance, covered with a thin tawny coat and leonine facial features, other sub-races of Artathi exist that resemble other species of large cats. As a rule, the Artathi are very close to Humans in terms of average height and weight, and possess a similar lifespan. A very proud race, the Artathi are easily insulted by others, and tend to react poorly to such efforts.

Dwarves are much like Humans, but generally living underground or in mountainous areas. They are famed miners and smiths although, like Humans, they specialize in any number of trades. Generally shorter than Humans, they are on average stockier and hairier, usually sporting full beards. In the distant history of the "Integrated World", dwarven smiths have created some of the greatest and most powerful items of power. Dwarves tend to be long-lived, living nearly four times the age of man (about 250 years), but are not prolific breeders, having children rarely and spaced far apart, and having few women among them. Dwarven children are cherished by their parents, and are defended at all costs from the dwarves' traditional enemies, which are typically giants and vile humanoids.

A long-lived people with a tremendous oral history, the Elves have tended to isolate themselves from the rest of the world, preferring the woodlands to which they once felt a strong sense of connection. Elves often appear as youthful-seeming men and women of great beauty living in forests and other natural places, underground, or in wells and springs. Elves tend to be beautiful, fair and slender, possessing unusual speed and agility, and generally prefer to fight with the bow. Tribal Elves might use a spear, while the more civilized tend to prefer blades.

A crude, uncouth humanoid, the Goblin stands a little over three feet tall and weigh 40 to 45 pounds. Its eyes are usually dull and glazed, varying in color from red to yellow. A Goblin’s skin color ranges from yellow through any shade of orange to a deep red; usually all members of a single tribe are about the same color. Being bullied by bigger, stronger creatures has taught Goblins to exploit what few advantages they have: sheer numbers and malicious ingenuity. The concept of a fair fight is meaningless in their society. They favor ambushes, overwhelming odds, dirty tricks, and any other edge they can devise. Goblins are known for their small size and stealthy nature.

A majority of the Kelshan are nothing more other than members of a vile and despicable race of the cavernous underworld, raiding the surface world for slaves and treasure to sacrifice to their patron, Sandamos, the Lord of Demons. However, there are those among the Kelshan who have come to see another path, one of Light and Redemption, and are often ostracized from their native communities for their beliefs. These red-skinned humanoids bear a strong resemblance to devils, complete with forked tails, small bony horns upon their heads and cloven hooves for feet. Along with their general tendencies towards cruelty and sadism, their physical appearance has earned the Kelshan the nickname of “devil-men.”

Reptilian humanoids standing a little over three feet in height, Kobolds are generally considered a cowardly race. The scaly hide of a Kobold ranges from a dark rusty brown to a dull black, with eyes that glow bright red in the the dark and two small horns on their temples that range from deep dun to a pale bone white in color. Kobolds are often not taken seriously due to their size and lack of physical strength, but they more than make up for these deficiencies with ferocious tenacity.

Barbaric reptilian humanoids somewhat resembling a humanoid crocodile walking upright, lizardfolk typically live a tribal existence, fishing and gathering when they can, and scavenging or raiding their neighbors when times are harsh. When full grown, lizardfolk stand a head taller than the average Human and weigh perhaps fifty pounds more. Their scaly hides range from dark green to deep brown, and their non-prehensile tails extend perhaps a yard or so behind them. Lizardfolk rarely wear clothing or armor, although they occasionally wear harnesses from which they can fasten tools, pouches and weapons.

Long considered to be the result of the magical breeding of Humans and elves by ancient draconic magelords, the mageborn are a fairly reclusive race with a strong connection to arcane magic. The exact nature of their true origins is lost in the distant past, and the mageborn no longer suffer the prejudices once given to their ancestors in the first few generations of their existence.

Roaming the deserts and savannas of the equatorial regions, the Mantids are a race of large, intelligent insects. Mature Mantids are roughly 7 feet tall at the shoulder and 11 feet long. Three pair of limbs extend from the Mantids' thorax: the lower pair is used for walking, the upper pair manipulates the environment and the middle pair can be used for either walking or handling objects. The Mantids' green, chitinous exoskeleton is extremely durable and resistant to damage. Mantids have two compound eyes similar to those of a fly or other object, two antennae pick up vibrations in the air, and vicious mandibles for the shredding and rending of their food. Mantids often wear harnesses and even some forms of clothing, but they rarely wear armor.

Minotaurs are a race of humanoids resembling a large Human with the head of a bull (or cow, for females of the species). As large as most Giantkin, Minotaurs stand well over 7 feet tall, and are quite broad and muscular. Unlike bovines, Minotaurs do not have a great diversity in their shaggy coat: their fur is brown to black while their hairless hide ranges through normal Human skin tones. For many Minotaurs, clothing is minimal, usually restricted to a loin cloth, light toga or skirt. Fierce and independent, Minotaurs are not considered bright or overly original in their thinking.

Ooloi are an aquatic race living in large bodies of water, with slick, bluish skin, webbed hands and feet and black, glassy eyes that are often considered expressionless. Two long tentacles grow from the back of their hairless scalps, and are treated with much the same reverence as Dwarves hold for their beards. Ooloi stand as tall as the typical Human and weigh around 100 pounds. Despite their frail appearance, Ooloi are deceptively strong and agile. Maturing a few years later than Humans, the Ooloi can live for over 150 years. As a species, the Ooloi are known for their religious devotion and frequent periods of contemplative meditation.

Orcs stand between six and seven feet tall and usually weigh between 180 and 250 pounds. They have greenish or jaundiced skin, jutting jaws, prominent teeth and coarse body hair. Due to their poor reputations, Orcs are often on poor terms with some of the other races. Orcs are drawn to violent careers suitable to their temperament and physical strength, such as mercenary work. They often find companionship among adventurers, many of whom are fellow wanderers and outsiders.

Small slouching humanoids bearing a coat of sharp spines upon their scalp and the back of their torso, Quillbacks stand just under four feet in height and weigh around 80 pounds. Quillback spines and their underlying hides are typically shades of brown or grey, although occasionally they may be white. Somewhat slower than larger races, Quillbacks are more than capable of using their quills and claws to defend themselves from attack, and will even take the offensive if their family or communities are endangered.

Ratkin generally look like humanoid rats, roughly the size of a Human with a rat’s head and tail. Ratkin fur exhibits the same ranges of coloration as do rats and other rodents. As a species, Ratkin tend to form small tribes or bands, living in areas that other races avoid. In the cities, Ratkin congregate in slums or sewers. While Ratkin appreciate protective laws, they are unconvinced that the authorities have their interests at heart. In the wild, Ratkin form bands that follow more aggressive tribes, picking the scraps left over from vicious raids.

Resembling muscular, broad-shouldered humanoid rhinos, the grey-skinned Rhinoc have a long history as mercenaries and soldiers. Carrying themselves with a militant demeanor, the Rhinoc possess a single horn upon their head which they use to gore their enemies on those rare occasions when they are caught without a weapon readily in hand.

The Serpentfolk of the "Integrated World" are a race of lithe snake-men representing a giant snake from the waist down and a human-like torso and upper arms that end in clawed hands. The Serpentfolk's head, however, resembles that of a snake, with a scaled hood similar to that of a cobra. Serpentfolk are completely covered with scales that are mottled green and yellow, with brown, black and red also appearing in some individuals. Their vicious bite is often poisonous.

Larger than Orcs, Tarthani are four-armed giantkin that stand between seven and eight feet tall, and weigh over 300 pounds. The range of their skin coloration covers the usual spectrum of earth tones, from a light tan to a deep grey in color. Although their thick brow ridge, broad jaws and clumsy gait suggests a primitive intellect, Giantkin are as intelligent as Humans.

In many ways, Valefolk closely resemble Humans except for being half the height. The majority of the Valefolk tends to live quiet lives in their homes within the rolling hills of temperate regions and, despite being well suited for the task of thievery, do not pursue a life of larceny. The Valefolk have a calm confidence and a surprising self-assurance that frequently causes these short humanoids to be underestimated by their foes, for they can be both quick and precise when they fight to protect those they hold as their own. Highly regarded for their compassion and innate knowledge of herbalism and midwifery, the Valefolk are widely known as healers. Those Valefolk that have become disenchanted with the sedentary ways of their people walk the earth as nomadic wanderers, traveling healers and seekers of fame and fortune.

The Vanarans are ape-like humanoids known for their bravery and inquisitive nature. Dwelling in subtropical and temperate forests, Vanarans stand about a head shorter than Humans, and weigh twenty to thirty pounds less. With a prehensile tail and nimble fingers and toes, Vanarans can climb very easily, and are at home as easily when swinging through the treetops as they are walking upon the ground.

The grey vulturine-headed humanoids known as the Vulturan can be found in many civilized ports around the world as slaves, workers, or mercenary guards. Reeking of the carrion that make up much of their diet, Vulturans are rarely welcome among polite social circles for their poor manners and even poorer hygiene; indeed, these beings are rarely welcomed by many outside of their own people.


Saturday, February 19, 2011

GM Mentoring: On Task Resolution...

Good Morning, All:

Unlike many of the GMs I know, I enjoy running games in multiple systems. While I prefer D&D (when I'm not burned out on it), Savage Worlds and Traveller, I enjoy the occasional dip into other systems as well. In the past, I've run campaigns in both HERO System and Storyteller System that ran over two years long, and I've run numerous other systems as One Shots and short-lived efforts. One of the things I discovered is that I have started thinking in more generic terms regarding task resolution. Some might call these thoughts a skill system, but for games that do not have skill systems per se, I think it is more accurate to describe this process as task resolution.

Originally, my internal system for establishing the generic nature of task resolution across multiple systems stems from my exposure to MegaTraveller's Task Resolution system developed by Digest Group Publishing back in the day. Essentially, this boils down to describing a task in two steps: 1) Identify the task's difficulty (which in turn effects how it is resolved), and 2) Identify the results as degrees of success. Once I have figured out a generic description for a given task, I can simply use my understanding of the current rules set to apply the system to my description, and I have the means by which I can implement that task within the context of a specific gaming session.

The benefits of using this approach are numerous, but the most important to me is that much of my work on adventure material (for my own personal use, at least) is usable no matter what system my players want to play. In my mind, if I've figured out a generic description for a given activity, whether it is attempting to bribe the guards, repairing a broken clockwork mechanism, diagnosing an illness, or even launching a rocket into space, then I can simply apply that knowledge to multiple gaming systems. Describe once, play multiple times.

There are other benefits as well. Using this approach creates a more consistent gaming experience across the board for the players, allowing them to develop (even if only subconsciously) better expectations on how well they may accomplish tasks. The use of degrees of success allows very skilled players the opportunity to shine and very lucky players the chance to cheer for their success. I find that this process makes it easier for me to learn new gaming systems, too, as I simply need to identify how to apply my task descriptions to the system as it currently exists, and I have an instant wealth of game lore to draw on that has been developed by decades of GMing. For me, it's a worthwhile practice, and with that in mind, I thought I would share a little of my thought process here in case it helps others out as well.

Task Difficulty
The first step in describing a task is to determine how difficult a task is. I tend to identify the difficulty of a task using one of the following descriptors, presented in order from easiest to most difficult:

  1. Simple: These tasks are so easy that they are effectively automatic. I don't even make someone roll for a task that is identified as Simple. However, because circumstances can modify the usual difficulty of a task, this serves as a starting point for those modifications.
  2. Routine: These tasks as considered routine for a person skilled at performing them, but are difficult enough that the novice making the effort has a chance of failure.
  3. Average: These tasks are the most commonly encountered tasks of the game. They are difficult enough to challenge the average character early on in the campaign, but not very difficult for characters with some experience under their belt. When in doubt, assume a task is of Average difficulty.
  4. Difficult: These tasks are considered challenging for someone that is skilled at the task, but only moderately so for a master at it.
  5. Formidable: Even masters find themselves challenged by certain tasks, and formidable tasks constitute the body of those particular efforts. Beginners may not even be able to accomplish these tasks, or if they do, it is simply by sheer luck.
  6. Staggering: When considering a staggering difficulty, bear in mind that beginners stand practically no chance of success, the skilled only succeed rarely, and even masters find such efforts to be very challenging.
  7. Impossible: Because I like to think of my players attempting the Impossible and succeeding, this is the last level of difficulty. Masters can barely accomplish these tasks, and others have no hope of success without a lot of help and beneficial circumstances.

As I've alluded to above, there are circumstances that can impact the difficulty of a task. When I describe a task to myself, I consider what it would be like under average conditions. For example, the average wainwright might want to build a new wagon wheel to replace one damaged over the course of a bandit attack outside of town. For an average wainwright with average tools and no external pressures, this is likely to be a Routine task. After all, this is what he does for a living. Now, what happens if the bandits decide to attack the shop while he's working on the wheel? Or his tools are stolen and he has to make do with inferior tools? Or alternately, the wainwright has superior tools and an abundance of resources to help him out? What if he's being rushed by an upstart band of adventurers eager to get back on the road? Any of these circumstances can impact what would ordinarily be a Routine task. Here's a small list of examples to consider.

  • Performing a task under fire: Performing a task in a dangerous situation, such as in the midst of combat, typically increases the Difficulty Level of a task by sometimes one or usually two levels, making it significantly more difficult to perform. (For example, brain surgery is considerably harder in the midst of a gunfight as opposed to in a quiet surgical theater.)
  • Inappropriate location: Performing a task in an inappropriate location, such as making repairs in the field, can increase a task's difficulty by one level.
  • Lack of proper tools: Performing a task without the proper tools can increase a task's difficulty by one level. Some tasks can be performed without tools at all, while others require at least makeshift tools.
  • Lack of spare parts: Performing a task without the proper spare parts available, forcing one to improvise using inappropriate materials, can increase a task's difficulty by one level.
  • Crossing racial lines/creature types: When performing a task that would become more difficulty when working on other races, species or creature types, such as attempting to perform a medical diagnosis on animals or monsters for which you have not been trained, increase a task's difficulty by one level.

Other significant circumstances can impact a task's difficulty, at the discretion of the GM.

Game Mechanics: Task Resolution
D20 (+1/level)152025303540
D20 (+1/2 levels)101520253035
Savage Worlds+2+0-2-4-6-8
Simple D6 (2 in 6)+1+0-1-1-2-2
Traveller (2d6)+2+0-2-4-6-8
GURPS/HERO (3d6)+3+0-3-6-9-12
Note: Negative modifiers above imply penalties, which modify either the die roll or the target number, depending on which approach makes the attempt more difficult to accomplish under a given rules system. Positive modifiers are bonuses, and act in such a way as to make the attempt easier to accomplish.

Degrees of Success
While some game systems provide details on multiple levels of success and failure, others sometimes only present a simple pass/fail mechanic, leaving it to the GM to house rule degrees of success. Based on using this approach over the course of many years, I've essentially come to recognize that it's best for me to think in terms of only four levels of results:

  1. Critical Failure: This is the most abysmal of results, typically resulting in something bad happening to the character above and beyond simply failing to resolve the task. This is the kind of failure that actually makes the situation worse, in addition to any natural consequences for failure.
  2. Failure: The character simply failed to resolve the task at hand. If there are natural consequences, then those take place.
  3. Success: The character succeeds in resolving the task.
  4. Critical Success: The character succeeds to such a high degree that he gains an additional benefit on top of the natural consequences of successfully resolving a task. This is potentially the kind of thing that makes gamers slap each other on the back and cheer when they see the results come up.

For Savage Worlds, a critical failure is rolling Snake Eyes, while a critical success is achieving a Raise. For most versions of D20, a critical failure is rolling a natural one, while a critical success is rolling a natural 20. (Alternately, you could define critical failure here as rolling 10 less than your target, while a critical success is rolling 10 above your target.) For 2d6 systems, natural 2s and 12s replace the natural 1s and 20s of the D20 System. For 3d6 systems, natural 3s and 18s replace the natural 1s and 20s.

Whether or not you decide to write down your task descriptions, using this method mentally can improve your abilities as a GM. I've found that I tend to think in world terms instead of PC-specific terms, which reduces the sense of escalating difficulties that sometimes accompanies a long-term game (the world doesn't get more difficult just because the PCs get more competent.) I can leverage my gaming skills across multiple rules sets, and I have more resources available to resolve gaming issues because I can more easily translate from one system to another. All in all, it works for me, and hopefully, it will work for you as well. Please let me know what you think.

Hope This Helps,

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Madlands Campaign: Codes of Conduct...

Good Evening, All:

Many organizations follow their own rules, their own code of conduct. While the laws of the land impact everyone, members of secret societies, trade guilds and large organizations often find themselves measured against an additional yardstick, the code of conduct for their particular organization. The following are three codes of conduct that have been adapted for use in the Madlands Campaign, and which may prove useful for other projects as well.

Code of the Frontier
Warriors dwelling along the frontier are an independent and proud lot. If there ever were a code of conduct for them, the following would likely be it.

  • I won’t be wronged.
  • I won’t be insulted.
  • I won’t be laid a hand on.
  • I don’t do these things to others, and I require the same from them.

Honor Among Thieves
Most Thieves' Guilds support a code of conduct similar to the following. In many cases, this code is referred to as "Honor Among Thieves".

  • Never steal from another member of the guild.
  • Never perform another thief’s assigned task or “steal” jobs from another thief.
  • Never let your own jobs interfere with the guild’s jobs.
  • Don’t attract attention to the guild, especially not the attention of the town fathers.
  • 10% of the take from your jobs goes to the guild; you keep the rest.
  • 100% of the take from guild-assigned thefts goes to the guild, and maybe you get a taste.
  • Don’t kill anyone in the commission of a job, except in self-defense. It attracts too much attention.

The Seven Virtues of the Living Blades
The Living Blades are a very honorable brotherhood whose sole reason for existence is to protect their sovereign and the sovereign's people who have been given over into their care. Many Living Blades follow a code of conduct known simply as the Seven Virtues.

  • Honesty and Justice: A Living Blade deals openly and honestly with others and cleaves to the ideals of justice. Moral decisions do not come in shades of gray, only right and wrong.
  • Heroic Courage: A Living Blade never fears to act, but lives life fully and wonderfully. Respect and caution replace fear.
  • Compassion: A Living Blade takes every opportunity to aid others, and creates opportunities when they do not arise. As a powerful individual, a Living Blade has a responsibility to use that power to help others.
  • Polite Courtesy: A Living Blade has no reason to be cruel, and no need to prove his strength. Courtesy distinguishes a Living Blade from an animal, and reveals one’s true strength.
  • Honor: A Living Blade’s conscience is the judge of his honor. The decisions he makes and how he carries them out are a reflection of his true nature.
  • Complete Sincerity: When a Living Blade has said that he shall perform an action, it is as good as done. He need not make promises; speaking and doing are as if the same.
  • Duty and Loyalty: A Living Blade feels responsible for his actions and their consequences, and loyal to the people in his care. A Living Blade’s loyalty to his lord is unquestionable and unquestioning.

With Regards,

Monday, February 14, 2011

MyD20 Lite: The Role of Gods...

Good Evening, All:

Here's another snippet from the MyD20 Lite Referee's Guide. In this particular case, I'm exploring the role of Gods and Pantheons from the perspective of the Referee. Please read through this and let me know if you have any questions, comments and concerns.

The role of Gods in most fantasy campaigns tends to fall into one of four basic categories: monotheism/dualism, one common pantheon, multiple regional pantheons and the use of religious organizations instead of individual gods. As the Referee, one of your decisions is to decide on which approach to take for your campaign. A great majority of campaign settings typically promote the concept of one common pantheon. For the purpose of discussion, however, the other three types are also presented in this section.

Monotheism and Dualism
Campaign settings cast in this particular model typically reflect the monolithic presence of a single church devoted to one God, much as the Roman catholic Church existed in the late Middle Ages in Europe. In such a setting, those spellcasters that do not worship the single God of the setting are arcanists, and do not have access to divine magic. The social role of arcane spellcasters is seriously impacted by this association, even if they are devoted to the single God of the setting.
As an interesting variant of this concept, two Gods vie for the souls of the mortal world, each diametrically opposed to one another. This alleviates the social pressure on arcane spellcasting characters, as now there are two sources for divine magic. Due to their opposed nature, one of these Gods is often portrayed as Good, while the other is seen as Evil.
Before making a decision to develop a campaign setting under this model, Referees should discuss the matter with their players. Some people may feel that this arrangement reflects their own personal beliefs, and may have strong feelings regarding the depiction of something resembling their own beliefs within the context of a fantasy game.

One Common Pantheon
This is the most common model used to depict deities in published campaign settings. In essence, these campaign settings describe the presence of five or more (sometimes over a hundred more) deities, all worshiped individually as part of one gestalt pantheon. Each deity in the pantheon embodies one or more archetypes or aspects of the world, and are often drawn from or inspired by historical and mythological pantheons from various Earth cultures. In some cases, archetypes unique to fantasy settings have evolved to handle the presence of races and professions that are common to fantasy literature, but did not exist historically.
As a Referee, should you decide to use one common pantheon, it is suggested that you identify ten to twenty different archetypes you wish to include in your campaign and then build from there. As mentioned previously, you could easily review historic and mythological pantheons for inspiration, and possibly even use the deities you find directly.

Multiple Regional Pantheons
Another common practice in published campaign settings is the use of multiple regional pantheons. For example, many settings have one large common pantheon, supported by smaller racial pantheons. (Frequently, fantasy races are divided into separate regions with their own cultures, which lends itself well to a regional pantheon concept.) Alternately, a setting that emulates different Earth cultures will also include regional pantheons, one for each culture, to give these regions their own unique identity.
When using multiple regional pantheons, it is recommended that each region have a fairly small pantheon, to make it easier for you as the Referee and for your players to keep things straight. Too many gods in too many separated pantheons can easily lead to confusion.

Religious Organizations
As a final note, a few published campaign settings have forgone the use of deities and pantheons, and instead used religious organizations in their place within the context of their worlds. Such organizations may be modeled after real-world religions, or may take a more fantasy-oriented bent to them. The influence of such organizations tend to be much less pervasive than a divine pantheon, extending only so far as the originating culture has spread. This particular model suggests adventures based on political intrigue within the hierarchy of an organization, as well as the interaction between various organizations. With no omnipotent, omnipresent deity actively involved in the matters of mortal men, there's a lot more room for story lines that involve the darker aspects of human nature where secular power is concerned.
Bear in mind, however, that should you, as Referee, decide to pursue such a setting, you should check first with your players to make sure that they are comfortable with the religious organizations you decide to implement in your setting. As with the One God concept above, fantasy game elements that bear too much of a similarity to strong personal beliefs may make one or more player-characters uncomfortable.


Thursday, February 10, 2011

MyD20 Lite: Guilds...

Good Evening, All:

In working on MyD20 Lite Referee's Guide, I started gathering together information regarding guilds in a fantasy setting, in the hopes that it would make for a good addition to the book. I've included the basics of what I've found below. A version of this text will likely appear in the final book. I may also include a sample stat block for use with such organizations, much like I've shown elsewhere on this blog and utilized in the Hammersong's Legacy Campaign Setting.

For more information on guilds in a fantasy setting, I've found references to the following products that might be helpful: Guilds by AEG, Guildcraft by Bastion Press and Guilds & Adventurers by Mystic Eye. If you have any other suggestions, comments or concerns, I'm open to them as always.

Much like the medieval guilds that inspire them, guilds in most fantasy settings evolve primarily to protect local and regional trade within specific occupations. Guilds are best described as exclusive, regimented organizations created to preserve the rights and privileges of their members separately and distinctly from the local government. In a world where individuals are often defined by their occupation and livelihood, the union of local craftsmen and merchants offers a degree of economic protection that the law of the land does not always provide. Thus, guilds fill an important role in urban life.

Most guilds in fantasy settings fall into one of two categories: merchant guilds and craft guilds. Traders form merchant guilds for the mutual protection of their horses, wagons, and goods when traveling. Many townships have been founded when a merchant guild obtains a charter to do so from the local sovereign or governing body, so that caravans would be protected at the end of a day's travel along trade routes between major markets.

Groups of artisans and craftsmen engaged in the same occupation associate themselves together as craft guilds for protection and mutual aid. As the craft guilds rise in power within the local government, they tend to enforce a monopoly, denying the ability to practice their craft without being a member of the guild. In this way, the craft guild could protect their local business from outside trade.

While guilds are often portrayed in fantasy settings as protecting their own members, they also provide protection for consumers (such as the average adventuring party) as well. Craft guilds often have regulations on the quality of work produced by their membership, and may even require that all works be examined and approved by the guild before they can be sold. Prices are regulated (though rarely fixed), at least within a given city or region, so that local merchants are not able to drastically under-sell one another. Guilds often promote laws and decrees that forbid foreign artisans from selling their work within the guild's domain. Secrets regarding the production processes of a guild are guarded from discovery, and those who sell such secrets or train others in forbidden techniques are often hunted down and slain for such actions. Within a guild, monopolies are maintained through the control of the number of masters, and resources are protected to avoid impacting the guild members' ability to perform their craft.

In addition to the obvious trade-related services, guilds also perform other services for its members. They provide funeral expenses for poorer members and aid to survivors of disasters, provide dowries for the daughters of poorer members, provide assistance for the care of sick or injured members, build and/or support shrines and temples dedicated to a guild's patron deities, monitor the impact of members who indulge in non-ethical behavior such as gambling or usury, and promote education among the families of their membership.

In some instances, guilds are required to perform public services, such as taking turns with one another policing the streets or constructing public buildings and walls to defend the city.

Guild Ranks
Although there are exceptions, most guilds are organized into different ranks, or levels of membership and authority. These are typically, from lowest to highest: apprentice, journeyman, master and Guildmaster.

Apprentice: Most apprentices live with a master and his family, as the apprentice's parents have paid to have their child taken on. Apprentices work for free and are subject to the whims and teachings of their master. During their apprenticeship they are often not allowed to marry. This learning period might vary from 2-7 years depending on the craft. The apprentice's training included the rudiments of the trade. When the apprentice has mastered the basics of the guild's craft, they may be promoted to journeyman.

Journeyman: Journeymen are entitle to earn a salary as they continue to work in service to the guild. In addition to their day-to-day work, a journeyman must produce a masterpiece that will satisfy the Guildmaster of their mastery of the craft and hopefully earn the rank of master. The journeyman must work on his own time to produce this masterpiece, using his own tools and raw materials he has purchased himself. Once the work is completed, the journeyman may receive a vote of acceptance, so long as the economy is sufficient to support the addition of a new master. If times are tight, a journeyman may not receive their vote of acceptance immediately.

Master: Once the masterpiece is complete, the Guildmaster has approved it, and the guild has voted to accept the journeyman as a master, he then joins the ranks of the masters and enjoys all the rights and responsibilities of that position.

Guildmaster: While a guild can have many masters, it can typically only have one Guildmaster. Often a person of political and social importance given his role in the guild, the Guildmaster often sets or guides the policies of the guild and their enforcement. While a guild is still subject to the law of the land and the decrees of the local sovereign or governing body, within those strictures, the Guildmaster often possesses great power.

With Regards,

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

The One-Player Campaign: Gaming With My Son...

Good Evening, All:

As I am planning on taking my son to Gen Con this year (he's 13 now, but he'll be 14 by then), I have decided to start running a regular One-Player Campaign for him to help him get used to the rules and to gaming in general. He's already gamed through a few scenarios with me in the past, and has some experience at the table, but I'd like to see him with a little more under his belt before we head to Indy this year. A One-Player Campaign, also called a Solo Campaign or a Duet Campaign in some circles, is simply a campaign based around two participants, one GM and one player.

With that in mind, I spent a little time today looking up information on the One-Player Campaign concept. Most of the advice I've read is pretty solid, and very similar in tone and intention. Basically, a One-Player Campaign is a great vehicle for tailoring the gaming experience to a single character. I should consider having plenty of NPCs available for him to take with him on adventures, and adventures should not be generic, but focused on his background and building his experience with the setting. Combats should be fewer and less deadly, and I should encourage more roleplaying and creative thinking in terms of resolving conflict. I should be prepared in the event of PC death with some kind of workaround, as it only takes one dead PC in a party of one to be a TPK. There's a few articles from the older Dragon magazine many moons ago (#68, #73 and #157) that talk about the One-Player Campaign and Solo games, which would probably be good to review as I dive into this process. There's also a nice column on One-Player Campaigns over on

Beyond these little nuggets of information, there's not much out there on One-Player Campaigns. And truth be told, aside from encounter balance and the shift in focus to a single character as opposed to a group of characters, the mechanics of running a One-Player Campaign aren't that much different than running a campaign for multiple players. At least, they don't appear to be. For the most part, it's all in the mindset, and I am looking forward to the challenge of integrating the One-Player Campaign mindset into my repertoire as I move forward with this particular experiment.

I've already spoken to my son about it, and gotten the ball rolling. He's excited about the possibilities. We started by discussing his preferred genre for this campaign. To my surprise, he's wanting to explore some modern fantasy, something akin to Primeval, Special Unit Two or even Resident Evil. The world of monsters lies in the shadows, just beyond the ken of the mortal world, and heroes like my son's character are all that stands in the way between the monsters and the general public on which they would otherwise prey. This sounds like it has a lot of potential for some excellent gaming.

As always, I am open to suggestions and insight. If you have experiences or comments you'd like to share, I'm definitely open to hearing them. Having read some accounts of One-Player Campaigning on some of the various blogs I try to follow, I think this could potentially be a lot of fun.

Wish Me Luck,

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Savage Worlds: Six New Demons...

Good Afternoon, All:

Recently, I've been considering revamping the typical demonic hierarchy for my campaign. I looked at a good number of possibilities, considering noble titles and such, but they just didn't appeal to me. The thought then occurred to me that demons are most often pictured as being organized as armies of infernal fiends, ready to invade the Plane Prime at the drop of a hat. With that in mind, I started looking through various medieval and ancient military ranks. I found that I really enjoyed the evocative names of the ranks of the Roman Legions. That's when I decided on the following:

Servitor < Legionnaire < Centurion < Prefect < Tribune < Legate

Assuming that the demons frequently portrayed as Demon Princes fill the roles of the Legate Demons, then the infernal armies cascade from there in terms of power. (Sandamos, King of Demons, sits above the Legates in power and position, equivalent to the position of a Roman Caesar.)

Since I'm currently running a Savage Worlds game, I am providing stats for these planar monsters under that game system. (After all, it helps me more right now in my home game.) In a later post, I'll post MyD20 Lite (and possibly Swords & Wizardry) stats for these foul villains, as fighting demons is very cut-and-dry. It's very hard to justify considering an evil extra-planar creature that feeds on sin and souls as being a Good Guy, although demons are known for trying to manipulate mortals to believing they are just that.

Demon, Servitor
Attributes: Agility d8, Smarts d4, Spirit d6, Strength d8, Vigor d8
Skills: Fighting d6, Intimidation d6, Knowledge (Arcane) d6, Notice d6, Stealth d6
Pace: 6; Parry: 5; Toughness: 8 (1)
Special Abilities:
* Demon: Demons add +2 to Toughness, and gain a +2 to recover from being Shaken. Demons do not suffer from disease or poison.
* Flight: Pace 6, Climb Rate 3
* Natural Armor: Armor +1
* Natural Attacks: Two claws (Str+d4) or one bite (Str+d6)
* Size -1
* Weakness: Demons suffer an additional +1d6 damage from the following: Holy weapons, spells and attacks.

Demon, Legionnaire
Attributes: Agility d8, Smarts d6, Spirit d8, Strength d10, Vigor d10
Skills: Fighting d8, Intimidation d8, Knowledge (Arcane) d6, Notice d6, Spellcasting d6, Stealth d6
Pace: 6; Parry: 6; Toughness: 10 (1)
Special Abilities:
* Demon: Demons add +2 to Toughness, and gain a +2 to recover from being Shaken. Demons do not suffer from disease or poison.
* Natural Armor: Armor +1
* Natural Attacks: Two claws (Str+d6) or one bite (Str+d8)
* Spells: 10 Power Points; any two Powers selected from: blast, bolt, burst, confusion, jet, lower trait, puppet, telekinesis, teleport.
* Weakness: Demons suffer an additional +1d6 damage from the following: Holy weapons, spells and attacks.

Demon, Centurion
Attributes: Agility d8, Smarts d8, Spirit d8, Strength d12+1, Vigor d12
Skills: Fighting d10, Intimidation d10, Knowledge (Arcane) d8, Knowledge (Battle) d4, Notice d8, Spellcasting d8, Stealth d8
Pace: 7; Parry: 7; Toughness: 14 (2)
Special Abilities:
* Demon: Demons add +2 to Toughness, and gain a +2 to recover from being Shaken. Demons do not suffer from disease or poison.
* Natural Armor: Armor +2
* Natural Attacks: Two claws (Str+d8) or one bite (Str+d10)
* Size +2
* Spells: 15 Power Points; any three Powers selected from: blast, bolt, burst, confusion, jet, lower trait, puppet, telekinesis, teleport.
* Weakness: Demons suffer an additional +1d6 damage from the following: Holy weapons, spells and attacks.

Demon, Prefect (WC)
Attributes: Agility d12, Smarts d8, Spirit d10, Strength d12, Vigor d12
Skills: Fighting d10, Intimidation d10, Knowledge (Arcane) d8, Knowledge (Battle) d6, Notice d8, Spellcasting d10, Stealth d8
Pace: 7; Parry: 7; Toughness: 16 (2)
Special Abilities:
* Arcane Resistance: Prefect Demons act as if they have 2 points of Armor when hit by damage-causing arcane powers, and add +2 to their Trait rolls when resisting opposed powers. This applies even to friendly arcane powers.
* Demon: Demons add +2 to Toughness, and gain a +2 to recover from being Shaken. Demons do not suffer from disease or poison.
* Flight: Pace 8, Climb Rate 4
* Large: -2 on attack rolls, attackers gain +2 on attacks due to size.
* Natural Armor: Armor +2
* Natural Attacks: Two claws (Str+d10) or one bite (Str+d12)
* Size +4
* Spells: 20 Power Points; any four Powers selected from: blast, bolt, burst, confusion, jet, lower trait, puppet, telekinesis, teleport.
* Weakness: Demons suffer an additional +1d6 damage from the following: Holy weapons, spells and attacks.

Demon, Tribune (WC)
Attributes: Agility d12, Smarts d12, Spirit d12, Strength d12+2, Vigor d12+1
Skills: Fighting d12+2, Intimidation d12, Knowledge (Arcane) d10, Knowledge (Battle) d8, Notice d10, Spellcasting d12, Stealth d10
Pace: 7; Parry: 9; Toughness: 16 (3)
Special Abilities:
* Arcane Resistance: Tribune Demons act as if they have 2 points of Armor when hit by damage-causing arcane powers, and add +2 to their Trait rolls when resisting opposed powers. This applies even to friendly arcane powers.
* Demon: Demons add +2 to Toughness, and gain a +2 to recover from being Shaken. Demons do not suffer from disease or poison.
* Flight: Pace 10, Climb Rate 5
* Natural Armor: Armor +3
* Natural Attacks: Two claws (Str+d8) or one bite (Str+d10)
* Size +3
* Spells: 30 Power Points; any six Powers selected from: blast, bolt, burst, confusion, jet, lower trait, puppet, telekinesis, teleport.
* Weakness: Demons suffer an additional +1d6 damage from the following: Holy weapons, spells and attacks.

Demon, Legate (WC)
Attributes: Agility d10, Smarts d12, Spirit d12+1, Strength d12+2, Vigor d12
Skills: Fighting d12+2, Intimidation d12, Knowledge (Arcane) d12, Knowledge (Battle) d10, Notice d12, Spellcasting d12+2, Stealth d8
Pace: 8; Parry: 9; Toughness: 18 (4)
Special Abilities:
* Arcane Resistance: Legate Demons act as if they have 2 points of Armor when hit by damage-causing arcane powers, and add +2 to their Trait rolls when resisting opposed powers. This applies even to friendly arcane powers.
* Demon: Demons add +2 to Toughness, and gain a +2 to recover from being Shaken. Demons do not suffer from disease or poison.
* Flight: Pace 12, Climb Rate 6
* Large: -2 on attack rolls, attackers gain +2 on attacks due to size.
* Natural Armor: Armor +4
* Natural Attacks: Two claws (Str+d10) or one bite (Str+d12)
* Size +4
* Spells: 40 Power Points; blast, bolt, burst, confusion, jet, lower trait, puppet, telekinesis, teleport.
* Weakness: Demons suffer an additional +1d6 damage from the following: Holy weapons, spells and attacks.


Saturday, February 05, 2011

Post-Apocalyptic Thoughts: A Simple Campaign Arc...

Good Evening, All:

As part of my gaming research into adding post-apocalyptic elements to my Madlands Campaign, I've been researching science fantasy post-apocalyptic games such as Gamma World and Darwin's World. (Some of this was inspired by the games I've played at Owl Con XXX, too.) Of course, in reading through some of that material, I came up with an idea for a post-apocalyptic campaign arc. Using the Nine Act Plot Structure that I'd blogged about previously, here's the core of that campaign arc. Other adventures could be worked into this structure with relative ease, adding to the overall length of the campaign arc and allowing you to focus on player-driven adventures as well. If you like any of the following content for either a fantasy game or a post-apocalyptic game, please feel free to use this as you see fit.

Act Zero, the campaign background, is revealed in small parts throughout the rest of the campaign. In this case, a mutant discovered a lost cache of knowledge, primarily about the medieval period of Old Europe. Using the lore found within, as well as his own powerful mind-controlling abilities, this mutant has taken over a warrior and turned him into its servant. The enslaved warrior has taken on the name of the Lord Protector, and is building up a kingdom under his iron fist, all at the direction of the mutant operating behind the scenes. The expansion of the Protectorate is approaching the characters' homeland, and if they do not do anything to stop it, their people will become slaves to the kingdom of their conqueror.

Act One is the opening adventure, which sets the status quo. In this adventure, we introduce the home village of the player-characters. The annual migration of a particular predator appears to have started early, as a few of the village's children were attacked by such predators, and two of them were carried off. The characters are pressed into the search for the lair of the beast and the missing children. The lair turns out to be an Ancient ruin, where other mutant beasts dwell.

In Act Two, we introduce humanoid raiders from a nearby realm, when the characters encounter a patrol. Shortly thereafter, a larger band of humanoids strikes at the characters' village, and the characters must take the fight to the heart of the enemy force in order to eliminate the immediate threat. Any captured enemies comment on the need to take this village as a refuge from the assault of the Protectorate's forces. Alternately, the characters may be assigned to guard the fleeing women, children and elderly while the rest of the warriors remain behind. The adventure here focuses on obstacles that must be overcome to get their wards to safety, until the enemy forces attacking the village are overcome.

After a few weeks of refugees traveling around the village, or coming to the village and more humbly asking for sanctuary as they flee the war with the Protectorate, we start Act Three with a visit from knights in service to the Lord Protector. They first demand the surrender of the village, then react with force when the villagers do not surrender. They can be chased out, but return with bigger forces and more powerful weapons. While the characters can defeat the Protectorate knights, they realize that they could not survive the full attention of the Lord Protector.

Act Four sees our heroes assigned a task by the village council to visit some Ancient ruins where lost treasures may include weapons of such destructive power that they will be able to devastate the Lord Protector's forces and render the Protectorate unable to successively continue their plan of conquest. The artifacts they uncover certainly appear to fit the bill, but will require that they deliver the weapon deep into enemy territory before it is activated.

Act Five could easily represent one to three adventures, as the party sneaks into Protectorate territory. The way gets harder and harder, and the obstacles more and more complicated. In the end, the party is betrayed by someone they've trusted, their weapon of mass destruction turned over to the Lord Protector himself and the characters are banished to a dungeon. It is in the dungeon at the end of this adventure that the party makes the acquaintance of a fellow prisoner who reveals the true solution to this dilemma: the Lord Protector himself is actually a front for a mind-controlling nemesis that is operating from the shadows.

Act Six finds the party breaking free from the dungeon and escaping into the undercity of the ruins that the Lord Protector claims as the seat of his power. Within the undercity, the party discovers the truth of their fellow prisoner's words, and reveals that the best way to strike at the Lord Protector is to slay his hidden master. It is in this adventure that the party learns the location of the hidden master, so that they can strike.

Act Seven requires the heroes to travel to the hidden master's lair and strike down the mind-controlling mutant. This adventure should require some form of heroic sacrifice at this point in order to actually succeed. Despite their loss, the ultimate destruction of the hidden master leaves the Lord Protector without the knowledge of his master in the upcoming confrontation between Protectorate forces and the villagers who would be led by the characters.

Act Eight is the final adventure, where the party faces down the Protectorate forces, slays the Lord Protector, and breaks the Protectorate's hold on their lands. This leaves behind a power vacuum that will eventually be filled by other enemies, but a divided enemy is much easier to deal with than a unified one.


Thursday, February 03, 2011

Fantasy Legal Systems: The Criminal Justice Process...

Good Evening, All:

In continuing my explorations into fantasy legal systems, I've outlined the basic criminal justice process as I understand that it would work in most campaigns. What follows are those basic notes that I put together. Please check it out and let me know if you have any thoughts or questions.

The Criminal Justice Process
When a crime is committed, this is a basic overview of the general criminal justice process that takes place. This process may vary from kingdom to kingdom, using their own rules, procedures and terms to describe the various stages of the proceedings. Generally speaking, however, the criminal justice process involves the following stages.

1. Investigation
The City Guard may investigate a crime for various reasons, from witnessing an illegal act in progress to responding to an accuser’s complaint.

2. Search
If investigating Guards believe there's evidence of a crime at a particular location, they may search the premises. Some kingdoms require approval from a court before such searches can be performed, while others only require pre-approval if the premises belongs to a noble.

3. Interrogation
The City Guard can interrogate witnesses, and even question potential suspects. In some kingdoms, interrogation can extend to threats of torture or even extensive torture sessions to arrive at confessions.

4. Arrest
Once the City Guard has identified the person that they believe (or have observed) perpetrated a particular crime, they may arrest the person under suspicion, taking them into custody. Individuals under arrest are typically transported to an appropriate holding cell, where they will remain until charged.

5. Arraignment
An arraignment is the formal presentation of charges in open court. During an arraignment, the charges are read to the accused person (defendant) by a judge, and the defendant is asked to plead guilty or not guilty to the charges. In some cases, a barrister representing the defendant may be present, but this is not mandatory (if barristers are used in the kingdom at all). At this time, a defendant may petition the judge to be heard in another court of law. If it is determined that the case will be heard in another court of law, then the defendant is transferred to the new court for arraignment and trial there.

6. Trial
The actual trial itself is simply an opportunity to attempt to convince the judge presiding over the court to rule in favor of either the defendant or the accuser. At the judge's discretion, either side may present testimony and other evidence to support their claims.

If the case is being heard within the Royal Court, nobles and others of high social standing may request the right to Trial By Combat. In a Trial By Combat, no magic is allowed, and only weapons of noble knights (typically sword and shield) may be used. The judge has the right to appoint an opponent to represent the accuser, to prevent an unfair duel. The winner is dismissed, and the defeated survivor is sentenced normally.

7. The Verdict
After the trial is concluded, the judge typically makes an immediate decision on his verdict, or he may elect to retire to contemplate the case in seclusion, for a minute, an hour, days or even weeks. When the judge reaches a verdict, their finding is announced to the defendant in open court.

A judge may find a person guilty of all, some, or none of the crimes charged. In some cases, depending on the evidence presented and the discretion of the judge, the court may convict a defendant of a lesser crime than that originally charged.

* If the verdict is guilty, the defendant may request the judge to grant an appeal to the Royal Court for a new trial (assuming the case was not heard in the Royal Court.)

* If the verdict is not guilty, the accuser may request the judge to grant an appeal to the Royal Court for a new trial (assuming the case was not heard in the Royal Court.)

8. Appeal
If an appeal is granted, the defendant is transferred to the jurisdiction of the Royal Court, and the process is repeated from Step 5, Arraignment.

9. Sentencing
Once a verdict has been given, and if an appeal has not been requested or has been denied, the court then imposes a sentence befitting its judgment of the particulars of the case. Often, a guilty defendant is given a sentence within general guidelines set by tradition, precedent and/or established law. Depending on the nature of the case, the accuser may also receive a sentence if the judge finds certain elements of the case warrant such an action. Ultimately, the sentencing of the case remains at the discretion of the judge.

With Regards,