Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Accomplishments: A New Way of Awarding Experience Points

At A Paladin In Citadel, a read about Arduin's Experience Point System. The major complaint of such a complex method of awarding experience points is that it's just too much to keep track of.

Here's a new idea. Rather than awarding character's based on the gold they've collected, why not award it based on what the character has accomplished. A beginning character would have no accomplishments. Once a character completes a certain number of accomplishments, the character's level increase.

Here are some example accomplishments I thought up (most of which are class based):


Taking part in a dangerous expedition that returns without casualties
Being the sole survivor of a disastrous expedition
Recovering a magical artifact
Dying and being brought back to life
Being gaining a title and lands
Joining a specific organization related to your class
Being promoted or rising in the hierarchy of that organization
Become head of that organization
Establishing an organization related to your class


Recovering a relic of your chosen religion
Leading a pilgrimage to the holy land
Taking part in a crusade
Leading a holy crusade
Converting a follower
Converting a village
Converting a town
Converting a city
Converting a kingdom


Taking part in an organize battlefield regiment
Commanding an army of 10 or more men to victory
Commanding an army of 100 or more men to victory
Commanding an army of 1,000 or more men to victory
Commanding an army of 10,000 or more men to victory
Winning a duel or joust against a ordinary man
Winning a duel or joust against a man of arms
Winning a duel or joust against a master of arms
Winning a tournament of arms
Defeating a monster of legend


Creating a spell of 1st or 2nd level
Creating a spell of 3rd or 4th level
Creating a spell of 5th o 6th level
Brewing a potion
Creating a magic artifact


Thieving a single item worth at least 10 gold coins
Thieving a single item worth at least 100 gold coins
Thieving a single item worth at least 1,000 gold coins
Taking part in a heist
Leading a team of 3 or more thieves in a successful heist
Leading a team of 5 or more thieves in a successful heist
Leading a team of 10 or more thieves in a successful heist

Here's how I see this working. Character's go out into the work and below it to collect gold to fun their various operations that earn them fame and accomplishments.

Now, This isn't something I intend on using, but it was a fun exercise that I though someone might appreciate.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Brainstorming House Rules Sword and Sorcery Gaming

I've been brainstorming a few ideas for a sword and sorcery game based on characteristics. It turns out that 100 is just too many for my brain to up with, but it came up with some interesting ideas none the less.

Many of these ideas are stolen from various sources around the blog-o-sphere and I have lost track whose is what. So if I took something of yours and would like credit, shoot me an email.


Characters can either hail from the barbaric wilderness or the heart of civilization. Whether a character is barbaric or civilized will play an important roll in the game.


All characters begin play with a trait, replacing class and ability scores. Roll a d10 on the table below that corresponds to your character’s background.

Barbaric Traits
1. Extraordinary Size: Can wield two handed weapons in a single hand and can wield oversized weapons in one hand, but armor must resized to fit.
2. Berserk: After taking damage, make a saving throw vs. spell or go into a furious rage. While berserk, you gain a +2 bonus to hit and to damage rolls, but are compelled to engage foes in melee combat unless a save vs. spell is made (can be attempted once each round).
3. Brawler: Unarmed attacks deal 1d6 damage and can always kill rather than knock out opponents reduced to 0 or fewer hit points; can fight normally with improvised weapons.
4. Hunter: +1 to find and follow tracks; no chance of misfire when shooting into melee.
5. Sturdy: Can withstand extreme heat and cold; +1 to armor class when unarmored and saving throws vs. death and poison.
6. Cat Eyed: Can see twice as far as most men in conditions of dim light and can see normally in complete darkness.
7. Scout: Can only be surprised on a roll of a 1; +1 to surprise others when alone.
8. Fast Healer: Heal 1d2 points of damage per day of rest; heal 1d6 points of damage after each combat.
9. Animal Friend: Animals are calmed by your voice and will not attack you unless threatened.
10. Innately Magical: Roll once on the magical ability table.

Civilized Traits
1. Silver Tongued: +1 to reaction rolls and henchman loyalty
2. Shield Expert: 1 in 6 chance of to blocks attacks in melee.
3. Assassin: +1 to surprise others; +1d6 damage when backstabbing
4. Wealthy: starting coin is in gold rather than silver. Receives an allowance of 1d6 gold coins each month.
5. Thief: +1 to open locks and pick pockets.
6. Scholar: You know 1-4 additional languages and gain a +2 bonus to saving throws vs. spells.
7. Merchant: You have a 4 in 6 chance to accurately appraise the market value of any item.
8. Soldier: Gain a +1 bonus to attack rolls with swords and crossbows.
9. Tradesman: You are skilled in a trade, such as blacksmithing, glass blowing, or farming.
10. Innately Magical: Roll once on the magical ability table.

Magical Ability
1. Visions: 1d6 chance per night to have a vision of the past, present, or future.
2. Snake Tongue: You speak the language of snakes and can command them with your voice.
3. Magic Sense: You are able to detect the presence of magic within 100’.
4. Control Undead: Undead creatures must save vs. spells or obey a single command.
5. Telekinesis: You are able to move light objects that you can see with your mind.
6. Beast Shape: Save vs. spell to transform into a beast. Failure indicates the lose of 1d6 hit points.
7. Domination: You can focus your mind to control human creatures that fail a save vs. spells. If the save succeeds, the intended victim knows who you are and what you tried to do.
8. Telepathy: Direct mind-to-mind communication with intelligent beings that transcends language.
9. Touch of Corruption: Anyone you touch must save vs. spell or roll on the corruption table. Both you and the touched creature are corrupted.
10. Kiss of Death: Any human you kiss on the lips dies.

Sorcerous Corruption

When a spell fails to cast (which I will explain later if I end up continuing the project), a sorcerer must succeed a saving throw vs. spell or roll on the table below and suffer the indicated effect. The referee should make both rolls in secret and only inform the sorcerer if the effect is immediately noticeable.

1. Eyes glow red
2. Loses all of his hair
3. Loses sense of smell
4. Touch spoils wine
5. Limb becomes limp and useless
6. Develops an allergy to all food not treated with nightshade; immune to the poison of nightshade
7. Emits a terrible odor of decaying flesh
8. Touch turns food to dust; no need to eat
9. Become susceptible to sever sunburns whenever skin is briefly explored to sunlight
10. Teeth and finger nails fall out
11. Looses sight in one eye
12. Skin becomes unnaturally cold and clammy, covered with a thin film
13. Eyes become large and bulbous, always seeping and bloodshot
14. Voice becomes raspy and weak, barely above a wheezy, hoarse whisper
15. Ages 10d6 years
16. Finer nails and hair grow incredibly fast and must be trimmer at least twice a day
17. Skin on one arm develops necrosis and dies in 1d6 days; Arm is still useable, even after becoming skeletal
18. Eye develops in the palm of one hand
19. Legs fuse together and become worm-like
20. Flexible snake jaws; mouth can open wide enough to engulf a human head.
21. Skin becomes transparent
22. Hair on head becomes a mass of waving cilia
23. Tongue becomes points and snake like
24. Can only digest human flesh
25. Develop a venous bite
26. Becomes amphibious and can only survive out of water for 1-6 hours at a time; roll a saving throw vs. death ever hour thereafter.
27. Teeth become sharp like a carnivore’s
28. Wounds take twice as long to heal
29. Water is treated as a deadly poison
30. Skin becomes scared—as if severely burnt

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Characteristics, a Replacement for Ability Scores

I had this idea a couple of days ago while reading this post on B/X Blackrazor. Rather than rolling up ability scores (strength, intelligence, wisdom, constitution, dexterity, charisma) you would roll up certain traits or characteristics for your characters. I'm working on a list of 100 traits, I have about 60 so far and am slowly cranking them out.

Essentially, instead of having a high strength giving a character +1 to melee attack and damage, I might have a character that has a "Bulky Build" or a character that "Sleeps with his Eyes Open." Characters also include races, such as "Dwarf", "Goblin," and "half dragon centipede" or professions, such as "farmer", "blacksmith," or "astronaut."

A character with a Bulky Build, for example, gains a +1 bonus to damage, but must have armor resized for him (costing twice as much). A Dwarf, on the other hand, has a 2 in 6 chance to notice inconstancies in stone.

At the beginning of the game, a player would roll up a trait for his character. While traits aren't exactly balanced, there wont be any character with three 18s and anthers with all scores below 6.

When I finish up the chart, I'll post it here and say a it more. To speed things along, it would be pretty cool if you guys could post a couple characteristic ideas as comments.

By the way, I'm still looking for a few more players for my PBP Carcosa game. Just tell me if you're interested and I can reserve a spot from you. I'm planning on beginning character creation as soon as Finarvyn get's back from his surgery.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Known Worlds.

The last few days have been busy and hectic. Besides running my hinterlands game on saturday, I've mostly been working on refurbishing the house. While my landlord is chucking some good money my way, it's difficult to explain to him that yes, we do need to take out the entire wall because it's molded all the way through. The house is over 90 years old and still has the original wall paper in places and the bathroom was in desperate need of a fan. Next step: redo all of the kitchen countertops. That's be an interesting experience with 8 of us in the house needing to make dinner. I guess everyone will be eating out for the next couple of days.

When I haven't been wood- and tile-working, I've begun brainstorming a new setting. For now I'm just calling it The Known Worlds. Yes, I'm in desperate need of a better working title. It's definitely like nothing I've seen before on the blogosphere (I could be wrong though), so if you're looking for inspiration on your next weird fantasy or science fantasy setting, you've come to the right place.

The meet of campaign came from the e-mail exchange I had with Nate last week concerning deities. In a sentence, one could describe the known world as what happens when you take the disparity between Law and Chaos a little too far. Here's a brief description of the setting:

The Known Worlds

There are four Known Worlds: the World of Law, the World of Chaos, the World of Men, and the Underworld. In common speak, the World of Men in known as simply the World; the World of Chaos is often referred to the Delusion or the Nightmare; and more often than the World of Law is called the Machine or the Forge. All three worlds are collectively refereed to as the Worlds Above while the Underworld is sometimes called the World Below.

The World of Law, the World of Chaos, and the World of Men all share the same basic geography, as if each was laid over or superimposed up one another. If there is a hill in the World, that same hill will appear in the Machine and the Delusion. Likewise, where there is a city in the World, there is likely to be a castle or obelisk in the Machine and a hollow mushroom or hallucinogenic village in the Delusion.

In fact all, it can easily be said that the Worlds Above do share the same geography. It really is the exact same hill in the Nightmare, the Forge, and the World; the land itself is entirely separate from the contents of the Worlds Above. It is said that the Delusion, the Machine, and the World and merely separated by the Veil, a thin, supernatural barrier.

The Veil makes travel between the Worlds Above difficult. Only in places where the Veil is exceptionally thin or unstable can creatures move between them without assistance and even then, it is virtually impossible to travel from the Machine or the Nightmare and vice versa. It isn’t uncommon for creatures to accidently stumble into the Forge or the Nightmare with no prior warning—but they sure know it what they arrive.

The safest and more reliable way to move from one world to another is through a portal. A sprawling system of secret portals are scattered throughout the Known World. Many portals require the use of magic spells to activate and others require a keystone or password. No two portals are the same and no two portals lead to the same place. Unlike geography, where there is a portal in the Forge, there may not necessarily be one in the World or the Delusion. It is even said that some of these portals lead to completely alien realms outside of the Known World—although no one really knows for sure.

Below the Nightmare, the Forge, and the World, resides the Underworld. The Underworld is not the land of the dead, but a system of tunnels and caverns—more ancient than the first mine in the Machine and more dangerous and feared than the Nightmare. Few venture into the Underworld and even fewer crawl back out alive. What secrets the underworld may hold await the greedy or desperate hands of unfortunate dungeoneers. The easiest way to enter the Underground is through the ancient portals scattered throughout the Known Worlds, but some caves and tunnels can also lead unsuspecting adventurers into the Underworld.

The Nightmare, The Delusion

Governed by crazed and obsessive emotion, the World of Chaos is filled with hallucination, madness, terror, nostalgia, love, melancholy, innocence, and pure and uncorrupted joy. The Delusion is enough to drive any lucid mind into a spiral of unparalleled insanity.

Sprawling fields of mountainous mushrooms litter the landscape like forests. Swamps and marshes fill the air with hallucinogenic gasses and house some of the strangest and most bizarre creatures imaginable (although that could always be use fumes talking). Leathery skinned amphibians, monstrous insects, furious and sentient trees, all walk the hazy or luminous landscape of the Delusion.

Residing within the Nightmare is a being known only as the Opiate who is said to be as old as the Nightmare itself. Little is know about this mysterious figure except his existence, for he is so entirely insane that it is now impossible for him to expel coherent speech. Many believe that he is the living heart of the Delusion and the cause of its madness. Other says that the Opiate was merely the Nightmare’s first victim.

The Machine, The Forge

Where the Delusion is toppling over with crazed or obsessive emotion, in the Machine there is none. The Forge is heartless, mechanical, and unyielding. There is no art or love, only industry and progress.

Thick smog pollutes the air of the Forge. Only inside smooth metal structures can one truly breathe freely, and even then the air is sterile and void. Citizens of the machine, if they are not mechanical themselves where only armor for clothing and are in a constant state of productivity. No wildlife inhabits the barren wastelands of the Machine; it is world of men and metal and machines.

Heartless as the Machine itself, the Forge is rule by a mechanical man known only as the Overseer. He is the judge, jury, and supreme authority of the realm. Nothing gets done without his stamp of approval and nothing he commands remains incomplete for long. Without the Overseer the Machine would jitter and jam; he is the force that keeps the forge relentlessly active.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Swashbuckler! is Going Back to the Drawing Board

So I ran a short playtest of Swashbuckler! with 6 players last night. Three were completely new to roleplaying games. Turns out that Swashbuckler! is incredible deadly and badass, making the tomb of honors look like child's play. I didn't throw anything to difficult at them (or what I at first perceived as too difficult at them), but there wasn't just a TPK, no. We went through 19 PCs that night. Nineteen fucking PCs. Regardless, Swashbuckler! is just a little too deadly at this time and I need at take most everything back to the drawing board.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Passions in Swashbuckler!

I've nearly gotten Swashbuckler pieced together. I have all of the mechanical concepts worked out, now just to fill in the blanks and make sure that other human beings can understand what I'm trying to express. Because of that, posting it going to be a bit light over the weekend--so expect only one post tomorrow. I guess I'll leave you with something interesting though.

A character’s passions define his or her goals and ambitions. The seven basic swashbuckling motivations are Freedom, Honor, Power, Revenge, Romance, Status, and Wealth. Passions are more specific than these, however. Examples: Revenge on Marquis Dupree, Find True Love, Get Married to Prince Viktor, Buy Back the Family Farm, Find My Long-Lost Father, and so on.

Whenever a character a character is actively persuading one or more of his passions, he temporarily adds 1 to his dueling and skill dice. When a passion is achieved, a character’s total dueling dice predominately increases by 1. This is the only way to permanently raise a character's dueling dice.

This means that between Fortes and Passions a character can increase his dueling dice (or skill) by a total of 2.

Next time, I will talk about skills and the two methods of resolving challenges.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Fortes in Swashbuckler!

The character creation section for Swashbuckler! has been coming together quite nicely. You seen my posts on Design Goals and Dueling Dice, now check out Fortes. As with dueling dice, keep in mind that what I show you in these previews may be tweaked slightly or complete rethought by the time I release playtest rules.

My goal with fortes is to allow players to customize what their is good at other than passions and skills and to give different characters situations in which they will shine.

Fortes award a bonus skill or dueling die in specific, relevant situations. A character may only use a single forte at any given time. There are four main types of fortes, which are detailed below. Characters begin player with four fortes, one of each type.

Trait: Some fortes award a bonus die when actively expressing character defining personally traits. Examples: Loyal to the Crown, Greedy, Honorable, Masked Identity, Chaste, Always In and Out of Love.

Location/Situation: Some fortes award a bonus die in particular situations or places. Examples: Taverns & Inns, Drunk, Aboard Ships, Mounted, Under the Orders of a Superior.

Opposition: Some fortes award a bonus die against preferred foes. Examples: vs. Guards, vs. Enemies of the Crown, vs. Pirates, vs. One’s Nemesis.

Tool or Weapon: Some fortes award a bonus die when using a specific weapon or tool. Examples: Rapier, Cutlass, Saber, Silken Goods, Lockpicks, My Father’s Horses.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Dueling Dice in Swashbuckler!

I think I'm finally ready to share a few of my thoughts with the community. Keep in mind that what I show you in these previews may be tweaked slightly or complete rethought.

Dueling Dice
All player characters are accomplished swordsmen and begin play with 3 dueling dice. During each a duel round, these dice are allocated as thrusts, parries, or ripostes. As characters fulfill their passions, they will gain additional dueling dice. For each passion fulfilled, a character’s total dueling dice increases by 1.

Combat begins with each combatant splitting their dice between thrusts, parries, and ripostes. Both combatants then roll all of their thrusting dice. If any of the dice roll a 6, the thrust will land unless skillfully parried away. Each combatant then rolls his parrying dice. A parry is successful if the die rolls a 5 or a 6. A single successful thrust may only be opposed by one parrying die. For each successful party made during the round, a character can make one riposte, but no more than he has allocated dueling dice to riposting. A riposte hits if the die rolls a 4, 5, or 6. If the defender has additional parrying dice remaining, he may attempt to parry a riposte, as explained above. Should the parry succeed, the character may then repost back, as explained above. The cycle continues until the a combatant does not succeed his roll or a combatant runs out of relative dice.

If a combatant runs out of parry dice or his parry does not succeed, he is struck. Each time a character is struck, he temporarily looses one dueling die. What a character has no more dueling dice available to him, he dies. Dueling dice lost in this way return as a rate of 1 die per week.

More Thoughts on Chainmail

I'm moving away from thinking about how to use Chaimail as the OD&D combat engine. Chaimail and OD&D just have too many disparities between them to really synthesize them in a way that is true to the word of each ruleset, although the opinion of the reader may vary from my own. Instead, I've been taking aspects of Chainmail and D&D and rebuilding them from the ground up.

How did this all start? When I was working Swashbuckler! yesterday, I noticed that many of my sword fighting mechanics could be easily ported into, and were like inspired by, Chainmail. I'm not quite ready to talk too much about swashbuckler yet, so I'll discuss my Chainmail/D&D fusion experiment instead. Keep in mind, however, that I am not attempting to unitize whole (or even partial) pieces of either the Chainmail or D&D rulesets.

Basic Combat

Each character and creature fights as a number of men. Player characters, for example, fight as a number of men equal to their level. Rather than having separate attackers and defenders, creatures engaged in melee attack simultaneously. In a two person combat, each combatant rolls a number of d6s equal to his or her fighting capability (equal the number of men he or she fights as). Successful rolls are determined (depending on troop type) and the number of successes are compared. the combatant with the greater number of successful rolls is the victory and slays his or her opponent.

Depending on a combatant's troop type, he may gain certain advantages over his opponents. Take a a light footman fighting an armored footman for instance. For each single success, the light footman needs three if his attack dice to roll 6s. On the other hand, the armored footman's need to roll a 4 or higher for a roll to be considered a single success. Thus, a single light footman with a fighting capability of 1 man cannot defeat an armor footman of the fighting capability. Even three light footmen have a difficult time taking on a single armored footman.

Now, I'm considering some sort of critical hit table rather than instant death. But for the time being, this is mostly a brainstorming exercise, although it might very well turn into something more.

Fantasy Combat

The Fantasy Combat Table allows characters to take on mythical creatures with a slightly higher chance of success than when using the basic combat rules. Each combatant rolls 2d6 and compares it to the fantasy combat table. If one combatant succeeds his or her roll while the other does not, the successful combatant slays his or her foe. Otherwise the combat continues into the next round. Neither combatant's troop type is factored into the combat table. Only heroes (4th level and higher characters) may roll on the Fantasy Combat Table.

Character Classes

Fighters attack and defend as Armored. After reaching hero level, fighters always have the option of rolling on the Fantasy Combat Table.

Thieves attack and defend as Light. When attack unnoticed from behind, thieves throw 1 additional die from 1st to 3rd level. They throw 2 additional dice from 4th through 7th level, and 3 additional dice from 8th to 12th level. Only when backstabbing, does a thief have the option of rolling on the Fantasy Combat Table and only after reach hero level. (Note that thieves also possess increased chances to hide, move silently, pick locks etc.)

Wizards attack and defend as Light. Starting at 1st level, wizards are able to cast spells. The maximum [complexity or level] of a spell a wizard is able to cast is equal to half his level, rounded up. Wizards may never roll on the fantasy combat table.

Clerics attack and defend as Heavy. They are able to turn units worth of undead creatures. Starting at 2nd level, clerics are able to cast spells. The maximum [complexity or level] of a spell a cleric is able to cast is equal to half his level, rounded down. Only against undead, demons, and other unholy creatures and having reached hero level may clerics opt to roll on the fantasy combat table.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Debunking the Myth of Encounter Balance in 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons

I see a lot of people saying that New School games, specifically D&D 4th Edition, are meticulously obsessed with combat balance--that every combat encounter should be balanced to the strengths, weaknesses, and level of the characters. As far as D&D 4th edition goes, this simply isn't true. In fact, the Dungeon Master's Guide directly conflicts with this ever so popular belief.

Let me begin by quoting from the 4th Edition Dungeon Master's Guide:

"If every encounter gives a perfectly balanced challenge, the game can get stale. Once in a while, characters need an encounter that doesn't significantly tax their resources, or an encounter that makes them seriously scared for their character's survival--or even makes them flee" (104).

Let me repeat that even to the creators of 4th Edition D&D think that perfectly balanced encounters make the game stale. Now, take that with a grain of salt though. When they say "perfectly balanced challenge", they mean balanced to absolute perfection. But the Dungeon Master's Guide then goes on:

"Easy encounters are two or three levels below the party, and might include monsters as many as four levels lower than the party: these encounters allow the character's to feel powerful. If you build an encounter using monsters that were a serious threat six or seven levels ago, you'll remind them of how much they're grow in power and capabilities since the last time they fought those monsters. You might want to include an easy encounter about one per character level--don't overdo it" (104).

I like the idea and intent of easy encounters; The designers got this spot on, but with the length of 4th edition combat, they just aren't worth it. I don't want to play out the same encounter that I know the party will eventually overcome without casualties for 30+ minutes. It's just not my cup of tea. Should an easy encounter only take 10 to 15 minutes to complete, I would consider them to be a great chance of pace and depth to the campaign.

"Hard encounters are two or three levels above the party, and can include monsters that are five to seven levels above the party. These encounters really test the character's resources and may force them to take an extended rest at the end. They are bring a greater feeling of accomplishment, though, so make make sure to include about one such encounter per character level" (104).

In my year of playing 4th Edition, I can tell you all that an encounter that is two or three levels above the party isn't really very challenging. It's a little tougher, but in reality, it just takes longer to complete. I did loose a character, Sir Rodrick the Warlord of Tallina, though to a encounter only two levels higher than the party.

"Monsters that are more than either levels higher than the characters can pretty easily kill a character and have a chance of taking out the whole party. Use overpowering encounters with great care. Players should enter the encounter with a clear sense of danger" (104).

You heard it: "Use overpowering encounters." That's right, the 4th edition Dungeon Master's Guide says to use them. Make your players run an cower in fear that their precious characters will die. Even most old schoolers believe that players should be warned when they are getting into a possible TPK situation. Take a took at these posts form Planet Algol: A Picture of a Dungeon Room With Cthulhu in it..., Another Rhetorical DMing Question, and An Explanation Regarding Recent Posts & TPK!

Taking the information above, here are some basic guidelines to creating varied encounters in D&D 4th Edition.

Roll a d10 to determine the encounter difficulty:

1: Party level - 1d4
2: Party level - 1
3-5: Party level
6: Party level + 1
7: Party level + 1d4
8: Party level + 1d6
9: Party level + 1d8
10: Party level + 1d20

This all being said, I'm not a huge fan of 4th edition D&D. But if we are going to discuss something with any real level of integrity, we need to understand both sides of the issue. In this post I have taken the time to analyze and discuss combat encounter balance of 4th Edition D&D and have shown that the popular mentality is incorrect and uninformed. We all, including myself, need to do better to insure that we use logic and understanding rather than pure emotional reactions when discussing sensitive topics and differences between different aspects of this magnificent hobby.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Swashbuckler! Design Goals

A couple of days ago when I announced I was working on a Swashbuckling rpg, I recieved a comment from OdRook:

A swashbuckling rpg? Color me intrigued. I'm frequently looking for something that will convey the stylistic delights of the genre without bogging down in unnecessarily-complex rules that turn every duel and every exchange of insults into an hours-long dicefest.

So, do keep us updated, please. Combining elements of game design from older and newer styles could be just the thing.

He has a point: just about every swashbuckling game is filled with complex fencing rules and, often, character are not rewarded by acting within the confines of the genre. Not I know Savage Worlds has a swashbuckling source book, but Savage World isn't really my system of choice. Edges and Hindrances just aren't my thing.

Swashbuckler! has 2 main design goals:

1) Fencing sequences should be both colorful and complex in addition to taking less than 15 minutes, real time, to play out.

2) Swashbucklers should be rewarded for acting according the genre. Honor and Romance, in additional to jumping off chandeliers, will play a prominent roll in the game.

I'm not ready to start releasing too much information at this point, but I will do my best to provide you readers with a weekly update.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Monsters in Midgaurd

A couple of days ago, Blue Maru asked whether there would be monsters and magic in my viking campaign

Yes, there will be both magic and monsters the viking age, but neither will be as prevalent as in a normal D&D campaign. One of the reason I chose to work with Chainmail as the bases for my combat system is to de-D&Dize the mechanics and, hopefully, some of the underlying assumptions of the game. But Anyway, Blue Maru, you asked about monsters and maqgic. Well, I'll cover monsters today and magic in a day or two.

I have plans for a number of monsters appearing in the campaign. The most prominent of those are elves, dwarves, giants, ghosts, faeries, and, of course, dragons. Note that I have added my own additions and subtraction to these creatures, and these representations are not mythologically accurate accounts of Norse mythology.

Elves: The spirits men who have made exceptionally great or terrible achievements in life may rematerialize as elves after their death and endowed magical powers, which they use both for the benefit and the injury of men. There are two types of elves, light elves, who where heroes of men and live in Álfheim, and dark elves, who were the bane of men and reside in the cavernous realm of Svartalfheim, deep under the earth--fearful of the sun's rays. Elves retain their past personalities and skills as they pass

Dwarves: Dwarves are skilled craftsmen, and most of their magic involves labour, craftsmanship, and metallurgy. In their underground mountain hall, Nidavellir, dwarves make the treasures of the gods (such as Thor's hammer) and hold a repository of secret wisdom. They live under the earth, away from light, because sunlight causes them to turn to stone. As a people, dwarves are stubborn and easily offended.

Giants: Giants are characterized by their hideous size, superhuman strength, and are often act in opposition to the gods. Although most gaints appear as oversized men, some giants sport claws, fangs, and deformed features, such as having two heads. Unlike the average D&D giant, some are extremely wise and knowledgeable; others are dumber than rocks.

Ghosts: Ghosts of dead people. Some dead people, not content to lie in their grave mounds, live on after death. Usually, these are people who committed an evil deed during their life. The ghosts return to harass the living, causing illness, insanity, and death. The only way to force a ghost to move on to the afterlife, is to fulfill the dreams and desires that they had in life or to strike them with a magical sword.

Faeries: Spirits of nature, faeries reside outside the realm of good and evil; they are tricksters of the purist sort, playing games with mortals that pass into their dominion. Faeries are sometimes attached to particular families or natural landmarks and will use their menacing games to harass the families enemies or intruders of the land.

Dragons: These great, winged lizards make their homes in cavernous lairs where they amass knowledge and treasure stolen from men, elves, dwarves, and giants. It is said that the dragon's fiery breath can slay the mightiest of giants and melt the strongest metals.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Armor of the Viking World

There were three main types, pieces rather, of armor during the viking age: the shield, the helm, and mail (chainmail). Of those three pieces, only shields were cheep enough to be of any widespread use. Helms and mail where extremely expensive and offered little protection compared to shields. If you could afford a helm or shirt of mail, you would have one, but only chieftains and war leaders were likely to such funds.

Shields: Shields where circular and nearly a meter in diameter. They were made of wooden boards and had a central hole for an iron hand-grip, which was riveted to the back of the boards. The fronts of shields where reinforced with leather and pained with family and village crests. In addition, to their defensive uses, shields could be employed aggressively to knock an opponent or his weapon off balance, making to easier to strike a telling blow. Axe blows had devastating effects on shields.

Mail: Mail was a protective iron fabric made up of thousands of interlocking iron rings. During the Viking age, mail usually was worn in the form of a mail shirt that went down, past the elbows and hung past the thigh. Padded garments, such as many layers of thin linen or randier hide, where always worn underneath a mail shirt to absorb the shock of a blow, since the mail itself only really prevented against slashing. Once again, I'd like to repeat that mail was exceptionally and limitingly expensive. Anyone who could have afforded one would certainly have wanted one, but probably few people could afford one.

Helms: Helms where expensive to buy, difficult to craft, and provided protection only to the head. For that reason, helms where even more rare than shields or mail. However, very few broken or damaged helms have ever been discovered, meaning that the helmets worn during the viking age did a great job protecting the bearer's head.

As I mentioned before, I will be using a pseudo Chainmail based combat system for this campaign. All characters are assigned an attack class (unarmed, light, medium, or heavy) and an armor class (unarmed, light, medium, or heavy) based on what arms and armor the character uses. For each piece of defensive equipment (helm, mail, or shield) a character employs, increase the character's armor class by one step. Therefore, a character wearing a helm and using a shield would have medium armor.

The matrix below lists the number (rolled on a d6) necessary to hit an opponent with a certain armor class with a certain attack class. A character wielding an axe in two hands would need to roll a 4 or higher to hit an opponent wearing mail and using a shield.

Weaponry of the Viking World (Part 2)

In just about any edition of D&D, there is a plethora of weapons to choose from. In the viking age, not so much. In this campaign, I'm planning on their being five standard weapons: spears, axes, swords, saxes (singe edged daggers), and bows. With that few choices, there is the opportunity to make each weapon unique.

For this game I will be using a pseudo Chainmail based combat system. All characters are given attack class (unarmed, light, medium, or heavy) and a armor class (unarmed, light, medium, or heavy) based on what arms and armor the character uses. For each piece of defensive equipment (helm, mail, or shield) a character employs, increase the character's armor class by one step. Therefore, a character wearing a helm and using a shield would have medium armor.

All weapons deal 1d6 points of damage per hit. The attack class of a weapon, depends on its size, speed, and ability to penetrate armor.

Axe: Medium. +1 damage when wielded in two hands.

Bows: Light. 240ft range. May make one additional attack per round.

Sax: Light. Can be used even in extremely constricted location. Strikes last in the initial round of combat, but strikes first from then on.

Spear: Medium. Requires two hands. Strikes first in the initial round of combat, but strikes last from then on. 30ft range when thrown.

Sword: Heavy. Elegant and exceptionally expensive.

The matrix below lists the number (rolled on a d6) necessary to hit an opponent with a certain armor class with a certain attack class. A character wielding an axe in two hands would need to roll a 4 or higher to hit an opponent wearing mail and using a shield.

Weaponry of the Viking World (Part 1)

Laws of the late Viking period show that all free men were expected to own weapons, and magnates were expected to provide them for their men. The main offensive weapons were the spear, sword and battle-axe, although bows and arrows and other missiles were also used. Weapons were carried not just for battle, but also as symbols of their owners' status and wealth. They were therefore often finely decorated with inlays, twisted wire and other adornments in silver, copper and bronze.

Spears: The spear was most common weapon. Spears consisted of an iron blade on a wooden shaft, often of ash and 2 to 3m in length, used for both thrusting and throwing. The blades varied in shape from broad leaf shapes to long spikes. Skilled spearsmen are said to have been able to throw two spears at once using both hands, or even to catch a spear in flight and hurl it back with deadly effect. Compared to swords and axes, spears where most effective at piercing mail.

Axes: Scandinavian raiders did not wield gigantic, double-headed axes. No, viking axes were light, fast, and well balanced weapons with a cutting edge no larger than 6 inches (3-4 inches was most common). Depending on the length of the haft, axes where wielded either with a shield or with both hands, each style providing both offensive and defensive advantages. Compared to both swords and spears, axes were extremely effective at destroying enemy shields.

Swords: Swords were very costly to make, and a sign of high status. a typical sword was worth the price of 16 cows. The blades were usually double-edged and up to 90cm in length. They were worn in leather-bound wooden scabbards. Early blades were pattern-welded, a technique in which strips of wrought iron and mild steel were twisted and forged together, with the addition of a hardened edge. Thanks to their fully metal bodies, swords were stable, tough to damage, and easily reparable. It is for this fact that swords where often employed to cut through the hafts of spear and axes.

Most imformatino take directly from: BBC: Viking Weapons and Warfare

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Bloody Battles of Northern Barbarians Clashing Swords and Axes with Pious Mainlanders

Over the last six month, my thought of running a viking age campaign have been growing. Stuck in the back of my skull, festering and awaiting the day to be let out and fully realized. That day has not come, but hopefully it is on its way. With the summer coming and a couple members of our group flying off for the holiday, I have been becoming more and more hopeful that an opportunity will present itself. My imagination yearns for raging tempests, bloody battles of northern barbarians clashing swords and axes with pious mainlanders, smoke from feasts after the return of a successful raid.

In my free moments over the last couple days, I've been researching choice bits of information regarding the viking age. Thus far, I've come across two key sources that are both expansive enough to provide enough data to base my endeavor on and are concise enough not to be overwhelming: BBC: The Ancient History of Vikings and Hurstwic, a loosely affiliated group based in New England with an interest in the societies and peoples who lived in Northern Europe during the Viking age.

This doesn't mean I'm going to try and make every detail historically accurate, just that I want to have some idea about what the 8th to 12th century Scandinavian world was like. This is a game not a History Channel special feature.

I've decided to start the campaign in a mid-size viking village ruled over by a young and fervorous king (I reserve the right to make up words on my own blog). The King is demanding taxes to fun a military campaign against the mainlanders with the intention to raid, conquer, and ultimately colonize. The village that the player character live in, however, does not have the funds to pay what the king demands. The village must figure out how to raise the demanded fund (raiding the mainland, making a deal with the dwarves to work their mines), face the wrath and might of the King (fortify the town and hope for the best), or make their way to the mainland and establish a village outside of the King's domain. The decision will ultimately be in the hands of the player characters with a few choice NPCs thrown in to play devil's advocate.

The situation above will only the beginning and will, hopefully, creating a starting point for exploration of a Midguardian sandbox adventure. What do you all think?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Setting Up a Weird Fantasy Campaign

It is with regret that I admit that it has been quite a while since my last post. Real life has caught up with my, like it often does. But summer is almost here and a break from classes will provide me with additional gaming and blogging time.

Now, this post is not about Jame Raggi IV's upcoming release, but more along the lines of how to effective establish a weird fantasy campaign so that the players sit a little uneasy on their seats.

Weird fantasy is not the same as "swords and sorcery" or "swords and planets." The term weird fantasy describes a certain feel and atmosphere that is created by contrasting elements of nature and medieval culture (the norms) with the weird, the unexpected, and the knowable. What is the weird, that is for the referee to figure out. There is no precise definition for what is weird, for all individuals will certainly have three own ideas about what makes them just so slightly uneasy. The weird should also be something that contrasts itself with the norms of the setting.

To separate the weird from the normal, the normal must first be established. The easiest way to do this is to create a very stereotypical medieval world with little to no magic within it. As the campaign progresses, the situations become more and more ordinary and pass into the realm of the weird.

If you look at Lovecraft's work, it is easy to see how he uses this method in his stories. He first establishes and believable world with believable physics, character, and plot. But as the story progresses, Lovecraft begins to foreshadow and make indirect illusions to the upcoming encounters with the unknowable. When the unknowable presents itself, it is truly knowable only because the baseline of a normal world was established.

This is all very abstract, I know, but I hope it made sense to a few of you.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Thoughts on Using Chainmail in OD&D

Lately, I've been think a lot about how best to use chainmail when running OD&D. I'm thinking that each character would be assigned a troop type (light, heavy, or armored), al la the chainmail mass combat system, depending on character's arms, armor, and the situation at hand.

For example, a character wielding a longsword might be considered a "light footman" when attacking an opponent in plate mail (who would considered an "armored footman"), but a character with a mace would be considered an "Armored Footman" when attacking the same opponent. Both characters were wielding a one handed weapons and, therefore, normally attack as "heavy footman." Longswords, being almost completely useless against plate mail, become "light" while a mace, very effective against plate mail, becomes heavy. However, when attacking a opponent is leather, on the other hand, a longsword would become "armored" and a mace would become "light."

Depending on the exact situation, even a dagger could become "armored" and a two-handed sword "light." What I like about this is that all weapons have their place to shine, and , depending on the situations, different weapons will be more effective than others. There are too many circumstances to make a table or anything, so everything will have to be done on the fly, but with only three categories of troops it shouldn't really be too difficult to do.

More powerful characters and monsters would then fight as a larger number of men and would have special abilities, spells, etc. A giant, for example, would light as ten men, but because of its size would likely fight and defend as "a light footman." And, since armor would not really protect a character against the blows of a giant, all character would defend as "light footman" as well. Characters armed with spears or other long, shafted weapon would fight as "heavy" while just about anyone else would fight as "light."

Keeping in mind that I haven't quite thought everything through, What do you guys think? Does this idea have potential?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Rethinking Exploratory Skill

Telecanter of Telecanter's Receding Rules has a wonderful response to my earlier post, A New Way to Handle Exploratory Skill, and it has a couple new and interesting ideas.

Telecanter had the idea of using die pools to the determine success of exploratory tasks:
So, if you are looking for traps/secret doors 6 means success (I roll high), normal characters roll 1d6, Elves roll 2d6, Dwarves roll 2d6 if it involves stonework.
I like it. I like it a lot. I think it really slows down the advancement progression, which I felt was a little too speedy in my first write up and like how this method uses two variables instead of one (rather than having just X chance in 6, multiple dice are also rolled).

Take detect secret doors, for instance. Assume most characters roll 1 die and must roll 1 on that die to successfully discover a secret door. Thieves add one additional die to their pool at 1st, 5th, and 9th levels, increasing their chance of success. Elves, on the other hand, may roll either a 1 or 2 to discover a secret door, also increasing their chance of success. Therefore a 5th level elven thief rolls three dice and succeeds if one of those die lands with a 1 or 2 face up.

The amount of dice rolled represents increased skill, while the result(s) necessary for success represented the character’s natural skill. In that light, a character’s ability scores could be utilized. A character with a high intelligence, for example would be able to discover a secret door on a roll of a 1 or 2 (or 3 if the character is elf). Same assumption can be applied to strength for forcing in doors, dexterity for surprise, etc.

There are a couple issues, naming the amount of dice required and the additional trouble of having to reference both the party's marching order and the character's ability and chance to detect secret doors. A little more complex, yes, but a lot more detailed and mutable.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A New Way to Handle Exploratory Skills

Before diving in, I would like to discuses what exactly constitutes a skill in old school D&D. The thief, a la Supplement 1: Greyhawk, of course possess and array of skills, but what else? Is the Dwarf ability to "note slanting passages, traps, shifting walls and new construction in underground settings" (Men & Magic pg7) a skill? I would argue yes. To me, a skill, in terms of a role playing game, is any aptitude or mastery possessed by the character, rather than the player, that affects the outcome of success. In other words, for the purpose of this discussion, the dwarf ability to note new underground construction, the chance to discover a secret doors, and even to-hit rolls, are all skills. No doubt some will argue with me about this definition, but I believe it is necessary to clarify the terminology I will be using in this blog entry to establish a baseline before I begin.

Since the introduction of the thief into D&D, there has been a continual dialogue as to whether or not the thief's special skills are enough to justify the inclusion of the class. After all, most of the thief's skills can be substituted by roleplaying (finding/removing traps) or surprise rolls (stealth and slight of hand). Even hiding can be roleplayed out by having the player describe exactly where and how his or her character is doing so. But this is not a blog entry about the evils of thieves. No, this is an entry about skills and roleplay can coincide and even compliment each other I actual play.

I would like to begin with a skill possessed by all character: the ability to search for secret doors. I've always been a fan of a playing out how exactly my character is searching for traps. A couple of players in my current game, however, don't see fun in it, and I can see why; describing how you would search for a secret door takes a lot longer and is more tedious than merely saying, "I search the room for secret doors," and rolling a die. So, I decided to combine the two approaches. Here is what I came up with (and it's been working quite well): Every character in the front of the marching order (remember three characters can fit side-by-side in a 10 ft. hallway) gains a roll to automatically spot any indication of a secret door, such as an indentation in the wall and a wind current blowing from somewhere it shouldn’t. Most characters have a 1 in 6 chance of success. Elves and thieves have a 2 in 6 chance. I also gave dwarves a 2 in 6 chance if the secret door was made of and concealed by stone. Of course, I, the referee, make this roll in secret. I know this goes a little against the normal rule that state that "secret passages will be located on the roll of a 1 or a 2 (on a six-sided die) by men, dwarves or hobbits, Elves will be able to locate them on a roll of 1-4" (Underworld and Wilderness Adventures pg9), but I figure that the chance of success can be halved because the party no longer has to take a turn to search a 10ft area of wall. Also note that this roll does not allow the character to determine how exactly to open a secret door, just the presence and location of the entrance. Opening the door, once the presence of the door has been established, could be as easy as giving a bookcase a shove or as difficult as having to pull down a dozen or so levers spread throughout the dungeon level and do so in the correct order, but the party doesn’t know which. The adventurers could also take matters into their own hands, in the case of a failed roll, and just begin prodding, pocking, and smashing to the hopes of finding a secret door that may or may not exist. I would also like to note that I roll dice every time the characters enter a hallway or room despite whether or not there is actually a secret door in the area or not.

The same concept can be applied to traps as well, allowing characters in the first row of the marching to have a 1 in 6 or 2 in 6 chance to discover the trap. Thieves, should the referee be so inclined to allow thieves the ability, may use their percent chance to find traps. In the game I am running, I even allow thieves the same percent chance to discover secret doors.

Instead of having a player make a roll to hide or move silently, I allow the character a surprise roll whenever he or she comes in contact with a group of monsters. If the character succeeds his or her surprise check, the character has been quite and sneaky enough to buy himself enough time to find a good, suitable hiding spot, turn back and run away, or charge into combat and gain a free attack on the unwary opponents. The chance of the surprise check is based on the character’s armor type or, if the character is a thief, level (AKA his chance to hide in shadows or move silently—whichever applies better to the situation at hand). Once a character has found a suitable hiding place, the monsters will continue along their normal routine. Should this routine allow a monster to move into a position where he or she (or it) could possibly spot the character, another surprise roll must be made and the process repeats itself until the threat is removed (one party moves out of the area, violence, a well places sleep spell, what have you). If the character is ever found, play progress in the same manor as a thief that failed his or her hide or move silently role. I’ve found this method of stealth to be a little more time consuming than merely rolling a die, but I have also found it to be more fun and involved.

These same principles can be applied to many other types of situations, such as picking pockets and disabling traps (although in this case, I allow only thieves a roll to automatically deal with the trap). The idea is to first allow a die roll to succeed and if that fails, allow for recovery through roleplay (while at the same time keeping that old school edge of course). I find that this approach has tended to speed up play as well as keep play skill as the key to the game; it's a good balance between allowing thieves into the game, but not allowing their skills to take over.