Tuesday, October 31, 2017

A free Harn Kingdom sampler.

Columbia Games has released a free 60 page page article about one of the larger kingdoms of Harn, Kaldor. If you want to see what all the hoopla is about concerning Harn. You can go here to download a free copy. The only downside is that you will have to create a Columbia Games account. This is handled during checkout.

The PDF has the following excerpts

Kingdom of Kaldor, City of Tashal (the capital of Kaldor), The Town of  Kiban, Manor (a set of rules for running a medieval manor, similar in complexity to running a Mongoose Traveller starship), and the Manor of Roganter.

Monday, October 30, 2017

James Shields Fantasy Art Kickstarter

James Shield Fantasy Art Kickstarter has entered into it last 48 hours. He is a great artist with a strong black and white style that I like. For commercial use, he offering 50 images for $50 which is a great deal. And for lower pledge levels this kickstarter is a great way to get illustrations for paper standup miniatures.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Building a better thief (for me at least)

So over at Tenkar's Tavern, Erik wrote a thoughtful post on why he made the thief the way it is in Swords and Wizardry, Continual Light. I have a contrary view and figured the reasons why I hold it could be of use to others.

In the original game a 1st level fighter was considered a veteran a seasoned warrior. Not exceptional but not a just a newly made squire or somebody just out of training camp either. This stems from Chainmail man to man rules.

Judges Guild and Bob Bledsaw were a huge influence on how I conceived character levels. In the City-State of the Invincible Overlord and the Wilderlands of High Fantasy, leveled characters were a dime a dozen.

I evolved to consider level 1-2 to be apprentice level. Level 3 a full fledged professional. Level 6 a professional with responsibilities. Level 9 a leader among peers. Level 12 a renowned expert. And level 15 legendary. Level 1 meant that the character was trained and ready to do things on their own. Somebody just out of the academy so to speak. The other popular conception, and probably more common, is that anything beyond 1st level is special.

When I was using ADnD, the fact the thief only had 15% chance to Move Silently, 10% to Hide in Shadows, 30% to Pick Pocket seem very inconsistent with not only my view but view that leveled characters were special.

Think about it. In a setting where leveled characters are special that means the rest of the world is handled by zero level characters living out there lives. This means competent military and city guards doing their jobs, craftsmen working at their trade, and criminal types going about their business.

A good fix for this conundrum is consider the thief abilities to for special circumstances that allow a thief to go beyond what a ordinary person can do. But it is a fix as the none of the classic editions made this distinction. Starting with the Dungeoneer Survival Guide, the fix was to introduce proficiency as a skill system.

Then flashforward 30+ years and after reading the past decade worth of books about the DnD histories. I find that it that the original thief appears to be an afterthought. Something thrown into the Greyhawk supplement that made Gygax go "Neat!". Or equally likely thrown in to stop the folks who were bombarding him about why there were no burglars (Bilbo) or thieves (Grey Mouser) in the game.

So when it came to writing the Majestic Wilderlands supplement, I jettisoned the thief found in Swords and Wizardry as it was based on the original thief. But an important part of my setting that there were character types who where better at non-combat abilities than other characters types. So rather than come up with a unique set of mechanics for each class I opted to come up with a list of things that characters can do out of combat (abilities) and each of the Rogue classes would start off and process with different bonuses to these abilities.

When it came to the core books of the original roleplaying game it is apparent to me that outside of combat and spell any character to could attempt to do anything. So any character class could attempt to use these abilities. The various rogue classes were better.

I figured that at 1st level it was reasonable that the odds of success should be the same as a 1st level fighter hitting a moderately armored opponent, 30%.

There weren't really good example to draw from various classic editions. The various methods were either too stingy or too generous. Some of the one I read are:

  • Roll 1d100 under your attribute (too stingy)
  • Multiply your attribute by 5 and roll under with 1d100 (too generous)
  • Roll 1d20 under your attributes (too generous).
  • Roll 3d6 under your attributes (again too generous)

In Moldavy's Basic Dungeons and Dragons we have this. Which is too generous for me.

Page B60 Moldavy Basic
There's always a chance. The DM may want to base a character's chance of doing something on his or her ability scores (Strength, Dexterity, and so forth). To perform a difficult task (such as climbing up a rope or thinking of a forgotten clue), the player should roll the ability score or less on ld20. The DM may give a bonus or penalty to the roll, depending on the difficulty of the action (-4 for a simple task to +4 for a difficult one). A roll of 1 should always succeed, and a roll of 20 should always fail. 
I opted to make it a 1d20 roll high with the base chance being 15+ or 30%. Attributes could give a bonus ranging from -3 to +3.  A starting burglar could easily get a +6 to his stealth ability check. However keep in mind, that stealth is generally an opposed roll to the guard perception (wisdom based). That the base 15+ applies to ordinary circumstances, otherwise it would be 20+ or more recently the roll being made at a disadvantage.

Hopefully you find this useful in deciding how you will be dealing with this in your campaign.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Observations on what is Dungeons and Dragons

 After working with this stuff for a decade I observed that there are common elements in the RPGs that are consider compatible with one or more editions of DnD. I found it useful while working on my Majestic Fantasy Rules to keep these in mind as I develop various subsystem.  There is no right or wrong way of doing this but it is helpful to have a starting point. 

My view of what constitutes a minimum set of mechanic for a DnD related RPG are:
  • Six attributes: Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma generated on a 3 to 18 scale with 10 being human normal average.
  • Saving throws to avoid bad things.
  • Armor Class as a target or an index to a chart to see if damage is scored.
  • A d20 to-hit roll
  • Difference races/cultures that offer a package of attributes bonuses and abilities.
  • Experience is represented by higher levels. 
  • Classes that are a package of abilities arranged by levels.
  • A character's health is represented by Hit Point when brought to zero incapacitates or kills the character.
  • Creatures can have hit dice instead of levels.
  • Creatures at a minimum have hit dice, hit points, movement, armor class, and a list of special abilities including attacks.

Beyond this anything is fair game. As long the above list is implemented it will be highly likely that the game will be seen as DnD compatible.

The Numbers
The interplay of the numbers used for the to-hit roll, armor class, hit points, and damage is a large part of what gives a specific edition their flavor.

You need to keep this in mind because the numbers work out differently for ODnD, ODnD+Greyhawk, ADnD, ADnD+Unearthed Arcana, Holmes Basic DnD, B/X DnD, BECMI DnD, ADnD 2e, ADnD 2e + Skill n Powers, DnD 3.0, DnD 3.5, PathfinderDnD 4e, and DnD 5e.  The good news it is not rocket science. Just need to figure out what edition you want it to be like and go from there.

Simplifying things even further the above can be grouped into broad categories:

  • Classic DnD (ODnD to ADnD 2e)
  • DnD 3.X (DnD 3.0 to Pathfinder)
  • DnD 4e
  • DnD 5e

The Stuff
If you noticed I didn't mention anything about specific classes, spells, magic items, lists of monsters, etc. To me these are setting details, either specific settings like my Majestic Wilderlands, Tekumel, Blackmoor, or Forgotten Realms. Or the generic fantasy that the core books of most editions of DnD assume.

With stuff like Dark Sun, Spelljammer, Eberron, Lamentations of the Flame Princess, Arrows of Indra, Spears at Dawn, and other worthy works, I think it been established a RPG can be considered DnD even if it depicts a radically different setting or different vision of the fantasy genre.

For most of these games this was accomplished by having a different set of class, items, monsters, and even different systems of magic.

The point of this post is to offer a useful starting point from which to develop your own take on the world's most popular roleplaying game.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

D&D is back in the mainstream.

Well looks like D&D is back in the mainstream. An interesting article in the New Yorker.

Having grown up with the first video games like Pong, Space Invaders, and Atari. Then moving on to PC Gaming, then MMORPGs, etc, etc. It satisfying to see people balancing out things with a healthy does of face to face gaming. I have two sons, one is 20 and one is 13. There is a marked difference between the attitudes of how kids treated gaming when my eldest was 13 compared to what my youngest is experiencing now that he is 13. I am involved in Scouting and over the past five years there is a definite uptick in face to face gaming of all type including tabletop roleplaying.

Although to be fair, the people we owe the biggest thanks too are the euro-game companies who figured out first how to make face to face work in the internet era.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

A project I am working on

I was thinking of something I could do for Swords and Wizardry Continual Light. Then this came to me as an idea for a setting.

Far beyond the Borderlands,
Beneath the shadowed eaves,
The sighing wind blows,
And the elf maiden grieves.

In the sun, bright steel glints
War drums echos amid the dells.
The land stained red
Orc and Men alike fell.

In darkling fens
And vast caverns deep,
Shadows come alive
and death creeps.

Far beyond the Borderlands
There is no peace.
Will heroes march?
Will the maiden cease to weep?

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Google maps arrives for the Solar System

Google Maps now covers many planets and moons in the Solar System. Before they had Mars and the Moon and now it been greatly expanded. Pretty good especially for those who run near future Expanse style science fiction campaigns.

They even have the International Space Station.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Is your D&D 5e Character Rare?

Five Thirty Eight niche is using statistics to analyze sports and politics. But occasionally they turn their attention other topics. This time was the different type of DnD 5e character made with DnD Beyond, the online tool officially licensed by Wizards of the Coast. Recently Curse, the company beyond DnD Beyond supplied Gus Wezerek of FiveThirtyEight with a breakdown of the combination of class and race people were making on the service.

Looks like there quite a few folks using the tool numbering in the tens of thousands. Below is the data presented in chart form. It look like the winner is the good old Human Fighter followed by the Elven Ranger.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

How much is having Initiative worth?

So here is an interesting combat question how much initiative is worth to the side having it in various editions of Dungeons and Dragons?

When I was mucking around with Fudge, I wrote a program that simulated two guys whacking the other with swords. I did this to see how the number worked out over thousands of fight. I coded up GURPS Basic Combat and classic DnD Combat to use as comparison.

One of the things I did was randomized starting initiative at the beginning of combat. Then alternated sides from that point on. So I was playing around with it today and I noticed something interesting. When two combatant have equal stats with random starting imitative the odds look like this for 10,000 fights.

Alex Wins 5060
Brian Wins 4940
Average Rds 4.1268

So when I gave Alex starting Initiative all the time. The result was this

Alex Wins 5575
Brian Wins 4425
Average Rds 4.08065
Then switched to Brian

Alex Wins 4512
Brian Wins 5488
Average Rds 4.0986

The implication is that having initiative all the time increases your odds of winning combat by 4.5%. This is especially relevant to DnD 5th edition where the default is to roll initiative once.

Note: Both Alex and Brian had AC 12, +1 to Hit, 1d8 damage, and had 10 hit points.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Lost Hall of Tyr

People who write and create RPG material have varied interests. One +Douglas Cole of Gaming Ballistic is focused a wee bit on grappling. First he came out with Dungeon Grappling a supplement to add easy to use grappling rules to various editions of Dungeons and Dragons. Now he has started a kickstarter to fund the art and final production of the Lost Hall of Tyr, an adventure showing off his setting and focused on, you guessed it, grappling.

The Kickstarter page is here.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

City State of the World Emperor

Right now I am running two campaigns, the first is on Wednesdays and is using Adventures in Middle Earth with +Tim Shorts and +Chris C.. The second is on Thursday nights and involves several friends I made back when I running boffer LARP events; Josh, Mark, Adam, and Jeremy. The second campaign is using Swords and Wizardry and my Majestic Wilderlands Rules.

It centered around the City State of the World Emperor or the City of Spices or Viridistan. Currently the year 4475 BCCC, (Judges Guild stuff was set in 4433 BCCC) the last Viridian Emperor is long dead, the civil war that broke out in the wake of his death had wound down a decade ago (in game time) thanks to the decisive action of the PCs in an earlier campaign. Viridistan is ruled by a council (formed by yet another PC group back in the mid 80s) and is basically a powerful merchant republic.

Our cast of character for the current campaign is

  • Tamaril Lenore - an aspiring merchant (Merchant Adventurer from the MW Supplement) and gifted singer and player of the lute. 
  • Alexander Hexation - one of the few surviving full Viridians (in hiding) and trained as a Artificer (can only cast ritual but can make magic items like scrolls for battle magic). 
  • Valgard Neuroth - a cleric of Hamakhis the god and judge of the dead. The party is damn lucky to have this guy as one of the possible adventure sites I seeded was +Greg Gillespie excellent Barrowmaze. The party just managed to shut down the Pit of Chaos so he even more potent in the megadungeon.
  • Rodney a Halfling trained as a knight and uses his stable of warboars as his steeds.
Right now the party averages about 5th level and just aquired a small merchant ship. It is because of this that I adapted the trade rules from Adventurer Conqueror King for the particulars of my Majestic Wilderlands. Once I get the kinks out I will be posting them for people to use. 

One of the prep I did for the campaign is started work on the Majestic Wilderlands version of Viridistan. 

The original map.

In the early 90s just before I started using CorelDRAW I worked on a hand drawn map of the above. The below is as far as I got.

One of the main differences is that due to how I presented the Viridian as a demonic race there were no temples in Viridistan when it was under control of the Emperor. The various temple in the present of 4475 are basically the equivalent of a storefront church that you see in the downtown of various communities.

Currently this is the status of the new map I been working.

Now that all the city blocks are in place next is to draw in the coastlines and transfer the numbered buildings from my original. Unlike many RPG cities, CSWE had the referee place all the building themselves. There was a little underscore where the assigned number could be written.

Once I transfer the number, I can start dividing up the various city blocks into individual buildings. The main difference between my take on the City State Invincible Overlord and the original CSIO is how each CSIO city block is divided up. The building sizes are more realistic and there are lot more alleys.

Hope you enjoy this little peek into what I do to run my campaigns.