Thursday, December 15, 2011

Carcosa: Initial Thoughts

I picked up Carcosa from Jim LotFP's webstore last night and as I wait for my hard copies of it and Isle of the Unknown to appear, I'm looking through the PDF and I'm thinking:

Carcosa is Thundarr the Barbarian reimagined by Lovecraft, Moorcock, and R.E. Howard, drawn by the 1970s staff of Heavy Metal, and put to motion by Ralph Bakshi.

I have absolutely NO idea who I might play this with, but it's certainly intriguing.

And beautiful.  Jim can put together a good looking book, that's for sure.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Blackmarsh and S&W White Box

So, I was talking to a local friend of mine who, along with his wife, is an artist about his daughter.  I guess she was interested in Dungeons and Dragons and was interested in trying it out.  She went to a game sponsored by a local meetup group and didn't get a very warm reception.  I'm thinking it was the stereotypical D&D-geek-arrogance that I am all too familiar with, but still shake my head at in sadness.  Anyway, it kind of put her off the game.  I heard this and gave a quick little spiel to defend the game and explain how some of the less socially adept members of our hobby can be, especially to young, female newcomers.  He got it, and I eventually offered to run a game for the three of them and Mrs. Higgipedia (who is also friends with them) will round out the group of four.

I've been tapering off my game with that same meetup group (mostly because Wednesday nights aren't all that great this semester) and this group looks like it might be a good fit.  My wife has played (mostly 2e and a little bit of 4e with some of our other friends), but the rest are going to be blank slates.  I am kind of excited to be bringing some people INTO the hobby for the first time.

I gave it some though about what I'd be running.  I thought that since both parents are artists and their daughter is a smart 14-year-old girl, something very rules-light would be in order.  It also has to be thematically appropriate for a 14-year old.  That meant that my two go-to systems, Adventures Dark & Deep and Lamentations of the Flame Princess were out.  I looked through my books and decided on Swords & Wizardry White Box.  It's as rules-light as it gets and it will give my very creative group of players and I a lot of leeway to tweak stuff without re-writing rules or gaming the system.

I know from my previous LotFP game that I don't have THAT much time to write for a game right now, so I am using a pre-made setting... Rob Conley's Blackmarsh.  I've known Rob since 1993, although I reckon he wouldn't remember me from PRO (although he knew my old roommate at Penn State), and I've been a big fan of his stuff at Bat in the Attic.  Blackmarsh was small, simple, and perfect for my needs.

So, I've been poring over it (as much as you can pore over 24 pages) coming up with notes from the book as written and then looking into what I'm going to do with it in this particular game.  I'm excited.  I'll try to post game reports this time.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Fall Semester Blues

I'm not really blue that the fall semester is here, it's a good group of classes--Experimental Psychology, Psychological Testing, Abnormal Psychology, and Advanced Linear Statistical Modeling.  Can you tell what I want to do after college?

What is disappointing is that gaming will take a back seat for the next few months.  In addition to the classes I'm taking as a student, I'm also an Undergrad Assistant for a Childhood Development Psych class, president of the local chapter of the Student Veterans of America, and I'm going to be fairly active in the Psych Association and two honor societies.  The things we do to get into good grad schools...

I would LOVE to get a regular game going, but I'm just not sure I'll have consistent time to do so.  Maybe I'll just read up on all of the City State of the Invincible Overlord and Empire of the Petal Throne stuff I've picked up this summer, bringing me back to the times when D&D was incredibly wondrous, but I never had the money to buy all of the things I saw in the Mail Order Hobby Shop catalog and were out of print by the time I had some bread to throw around.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Cube: Far from done, but...

I am far from done with The Cube, but I'm at the point where I kind of want to start playing with it and see if I'm even barking up the right tree.

Is anyone interested in a G+ sandboxy campaign set within The Cube?  If so, answer what system you'd prefer on the poll to the right and I'll get back to you guys.

Monday, August 8, 2011

London Calling

Just got an email alert letting me know the West Ham v. Aldershot Carling Cup match is postponed due to the turmoil in London.  Serious stuff going on in the capital.  If any of the three people who read this are in London, stay safe and you're in my thoughts.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Dividing the Loot: Sealed Bids

So, I'm currently taking Math 101 in the Summer Post-Session at East Stroudsburg University.  It's called "Excursions in Mathmatics," and it's every bit as easy for a 36-year old geek as you might think it is.  Unlike a lot of fluff classes, however, I'm actually learning a lot from a math perspective.  Already this week, we talked about voting methods and measurements of voting power.  That part was a lot of game theory basics that might actually be useful in an "end-game" scenario where there are a finite and known power blocs.  Having a relative understanding of who controls what degree of power is interesting, but relies heavily on intelligence (in the military/political sense, not the cognitive) and in our particular paradigm, the individual system used.  That's not why we're here today.  By looking at what we will be talking about tomorrow in class, I've determined we're here to talk about something much more concrete to the every-day adventurers: dividing the loot.  Here's a fable:
The Lion, the Fox, and the Ass entered into an aggreement to assist each other in the hunt.  Having secured a large booty, the Lion on their return to the forest asked the Ass to allot its due portion to each of the three partners in the treaty.  The Ass carefully divided the spoil into three equal shares and modestly requested the two others to make the first choice.  The Lion, bursting out into a great rage, devoured the Ass.  Then he requested the Fox to do him the favor to make the division.  The Fox accumulated all that they had killed into one large heap and left himself the smallest possible morsel.  The Lion said, "Who has taught you, my very excellent fellow, the art of division?  You are perfect to the fraction," to which the Fox replied, "I learned it from the Ass, by witnessing his fate.
 You can thank Aesop for that one.   "Happy is the man who learns from the misfortunes of others," he says.  Dividing treasure can sometimes be a contentious issue, particularly when it involves things like gems or magic items which are not as mathematically divisible as coinage.  My math textbook, Excursions in Modern Mathematics, gives many options for fair-division games.  The one I'd like to examine is the method of sealed bids, where players bid on objects secretly, and everyone either gets the objects they desire or a sum of money that is fair.

After a trip into the Church of Environmental Ambivalence, our intrepid adventurers (Ace, Bob, Sue, and Zed) returned with naught but boots of the elvenkind, a rope of climbing, and a wand of fire.  Three objects, four people.  Someone is getting left out, right?  Not with the sealed-bid method.  Our quartet has previously agreed to use this method and have Ostler Gundigoot (of the Inn of the Welcome Wench fame) be the arbiter.

First, each player makes a bid.  Ace, a fighter, doesn't have a whole lot of use for each item, but could handle selling them for some bread.  He bids 22,500gp for the wand, 4,000gp for the boots, and 8,000gp for the rope.  Bob is a thief, so he could use both the rope and the boots, and while he can use the wand, it's not AS valuable to him.  13,000gp for the wand, 7,500gp for the boots, and 15,000gp for the rope.  Sue, a magic-user, wants the wand and has little use for anything else.  She bids 30,000gp for the wand, 2,500gp for the boots, and 5,000 or the rope.  Zed, a fighter, thinks he could use the rope, but doesn't put much stock in the other items.  He bids 10,000gp for the rope, the boots 3,000gp, and the wand 20,000gp.  These bids are made on a sheet of paper and handed to Ostler (the DM).

Now the items are divided.  Sue gets the wand of fire, while Bob gets both the boots of the elvenkind and the rope of climbing, as the highest bidder.  Are the other members of the party going to get screwed?  No.  Here's why.

The next step is the first settlement.  Each adventurer will either owe the group or be owed by the group some money.  This comes from each character's fair-dollar share  of the loot.  Basically, what they claimed the loot was worth, divided by the number of adventurers.  Ace thought everything was worth a combined 34,500gp, Bob 35,500, Sue 37,500, and Zed 33,000.  So each character ends up with a fair-dollar share of 8,625, 8,875, 9,375, and 8,250 gold pieces, respectively.  If the character's items are worth more than the fair-dollar share they bid, they owe the group the difference.  If they received items of lesser value (or no items at all), they receive the balance of the share.  So Ace and Zed can expect a respective amount of 8,625gp and 8,250gp, while Bob owes 3125gp and Sue owes 20,625gp (daaaang!).

We're not quite done, though.  Because everyone placed different values on the items, the money in doesn't match the money out.  There is a surplus of 6,875gp!  Divide that surplus by the number of adventurers and either tack it on to their refund or deduct it from what they owe the group.  In this case, they get the credit of 1,719gp (I rounded).

In the final account, Ace gets 10,344gp, Bob gets boots of the elvenkind and rope of climbing, but owes the group 1,406gp, Sue gets her wand of fire but is on the hook to the sum of 18,906gp, and Zed gets 9,969gp.

This is probably more complex work than most players are willing to undertake, but it is the most equitable if people evaluate the objects honestly.  Let's say that Zed and Sue, for whatever reasons, swapped bids.  Now this would result in  Zed the fighter with a magic item he can't use and enough debt to bankrupt a small town.  Well, assuming Zed can get face value for the wand.  He'd sell it for 25,000gp, profiting 6094gp.  Not as much profit as he made low-balling the rest of the party.

If you look at it in terms of net profit/loss using the gold piece value of the magic items, Ace profited 10,344gp, Bob profited 13,594gp, Sue profits 6,094gp, and Zed 9,969gp.  Is it fair to Zed that Ace gets 500gp more for no reason?  Actually, yes.  By having a lower value attached to each of the items, he increased his chances of a payout, but at the cost of a reduced payout.  Is it fair that Bob profited twice as much as Sue?  Yes, again.  Sue really wanted that wand, so by overbidding its value, she was able to get it at a much higher cost, but she was able to get it.

Any thoughts?

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Cube: Corporate Scumbags of Atlantis

So, I'm working on the Atlantis system for The Cube.  What started out as a rather nice tropical ocean world has turned into a pretty crappy system to live in.

First, the Atlantis planet itself is nice enough weather-wise, but lacks a lot of resources.  It's got a fairly high control rating (8) and a pretty low per-capita income (one of the more interesting things that GURPS Space generates that Traveller doesn't) thanks to a relatively low tech level.  Atlantis is, to this point, the only TL 9 planet in The Cube (I'm only halfway through the generation, mind you).  Some of the outlying colonies in the system have TL 8!!!  This relative economic depression and high control coming from a corporate state with little resources at its immediate disposal makes me think that the corporation controlling Atlantis are a bunch of folks who force their employees to live in relative squalor, refusing to upgrade necessary technologies and the like.  Small wonder Atlantis has a sizable terrorist base on it.

Atlantis (332-I) A88A618-9 (Ri Wa)

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Cube: 25% Solution

Alright folks, allow me to introduce you to the first few systems in the Imperial Remnant section of The Cube.  There will be two more IR sections, then a final Independent Worlds section.

The format for the mini-gazetteer of the planets generated is as follows:
System Name (Location) (Stars) (# Gas Giants)
Planet Name (Orbit) UWP (Trade Codes)
A quick note about locations: The format for the locations is ZYX.  So the first system, Ajacan, is located at X=4, Y=3, Z=3.

Ajacan (334) (G6V/G6V) (0 GG)
Ajacan (334-I) A675937-A (Ga Hi In)
Forlorn (234) (K0V/M5V) (0 GG)
Forlorn (234-I) C300419-A (Ni Va)
Monte Cristo (244) (M4V) (5 GG)
Inner Monte Cristo (244-IV) C000500-A (As Ni Va)
Monte Cristo Naval Base (244-VIIIa) D300200-B (Lo Va)
Outer Monte Cristo (244-X) B000600-A (As Na Va)
Nyerere (342) (G2V) (0 GG)
Nyerere (342-V) A467939-A (Hi)
Songhai (342-IX) C100468-A (Ni Va)
Nok (342-X) C600368-B (Lo Va)
Ostia (242) (G1V/M1V) (0 GG)
Ostia (242-I) C420217-A (De Lo Po)
Paradise (241) (K8III/M2V) (0 GG)
Severin (241-IV) CA00461-C (Ht Ni Va)
Zaschka (241-V) BA00662-B (Na Ni Va)
Hotrock (241-VI) C500462-B (Ni Va)
Paradise (241-VII) B857744-B (Ag Ga)
Redmayne (241-VIII) B000661-A (As Na Ni Va)
Stakhanov (134) (M0V/M0V) (3 GG)
 Stakhanov Naval Base (134-VId) C2A43B8-A (Fl Lo)
Tashkent (134-VIe) C425468-B (Ni)
Benedict (134-VIIe) D000468-A (As Ni Va)
Stakhanov (134-VIIIa) B400619-A (Na Va)
Virginia Dale (341) (K6V/M2V) (0 GG)
Virginia Dale (341-I) C400484-B (Ni Va)

Selected World Descriptions
As Ajacan is the birthplace and spiritual center of the Machine Faith, there is little wonder why it is one of the few truly industrialized planets in The Cube.  Technical ability dictates where within the social culture a citizen of Ajacan lies.  The most technically astute ascend to the ruling party of the planet, the Machine Priests of Ajacan.  Conspiracy theorists suspect that the Machine Priests have either a cache of pre-Cutoff technology or the means to produce high-tech materials, but are withholding them to keep the people of Ajacan under their control.  Proof has not been forthcoming.
Although it is too small to be considered a true garden world, Nyerere is a beautiful world which is very accommodating to humans who dress warmly.  While popular with the tourists who are required to stay strictly within the confines of the resort they are staying in, life among the Nyererians is less than ideal.  The ruling party controls the planet with an iron fist, which has spawned several smuggling operations and even a small insurgent population.  The party ruthlessly suppresses them, taking pains to ensure that the tourists do not see the draconian measures.
Outer Monte Cristo:
Monte Cristo's asteroid belts are a chaotic mass of competing miners without anything resembling a government holding them together.  While the need for profit keeps the bloodshed to a manageable level, the same need for profit will also drive parties to violence.  As long as the money is there, the Imperial Remnant and other systems don't seem to mind.  In the middle of all of this is a surprising number of research facilities, many of them taking advantage of the lax circumstances to engage in some questionable research practices.
Warm, peaceful, and free--the words best used to describe the garden world which dominates the Paradise system.  Of course, that freedom has its drawbacks.  Criminals, terrorists, and even pirates take advantage of the civil liberties granted to Paradisians to operate discreetly.  The commitment to individual freedom, even with the security risks involved, lies deep in the heart of the citizens of Paradise.
A collection of Paradisian mining interests, the asteroid belt of Redmayne is the home of the Paradise Development Corporation, one of the more powerful megacorporations in The Cube.  While an important economic player in the belt, the free-wheeling frontier spirit of Redmayne still manages to dominate everyday life there.  Even more so than on Paradise, individual freedom and responsibility are paramount. 
A large ball of boiling rock, Severin is home to the most cutting edge technological research in The Cube.  A joint effort between the government of Paradise, the Scout Corps, and private industry are working to develop a Jump-3 drive which will allow expansion beyond The Cube.
Nestled in one of the more remote systems of The Cube, the system as a whole is where a large amount of research interests test and finalize experimental designs.  While much of the theoretical work is done in more central locations, the practical nature of the research in Stakhanov has made it a home for espionage, both corporate and government.  While the Stakhanov Corporation controls many of the planets in the system, they are not the ones usually conducting the research.
Another of the Paradise system's hot rock planets, Zaschka is a vibrant colony known for it's abnormally large population of Imperial Vargr.  Many of them end up joining the Zaschka Free Army, a mercenary brigade, which opens the door for the ZFA's "Dogs of War" moniker.

A few things I've learned so far:

There is certainly a greater homogeneity to systems generated with GURPS Space.  With 8 systems generated, we've got a ton of non-industrial or vacuum worlds and only two planets which are habitable by humans without any extra gear.  That last one might be pretty realistic, but it means that there is an awful lot of pale skin and indoor action in my Traveller Universe.  I haven't started to get a feel for The Cube as a whole, to see where its tensions and metaplots lurk.  There are an awful lot of totalitarian governments out there (with the notable exceptions of the Wild West that's Monte Cristo and the democratic Paradise system), which means that there will likely be a lot of paranoia when people leave the Starports.

Anyway, that's what I've got for now.  I look forward to any comments or advice.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Cube: First System

So, I have System 134 pretty much done, maybe a few outposts, but that's it.  Anyway, I ended up with one substantial colony world in the system, in the form of a tiny sulfur moon orbiting a gas giant at the edge of the system.

134-VIIIa        Tiny (Sulfur)
No Atmosphere/Hydrosphere
Surface Temperature 47K (Frozen)
Density .6
Diameter .5
Surface Gravity .30
Mass .08
Heavy Volcanic Activity
No Tectonic Activity
Resources +2 (Very Abundant)
Habitability -1
Affinity +1

Tech Level 10
Carrying Capacity 10m
Population 1.5m (PR 6)
Corporate Meritocracy (CR 6)
Per Capita Income 53,600 (Average)
Economic Volume $80B
Class B Star Port
Corporate Headquarters (PR 3)
Criminal Base (PR 1)
Espionage Facilities (1 Civilian (PR 1), 2 Enemy (PR 3, PR 1)
Private Research Centers (2) (PR 2, PR 1)
Rebel/Terrorist Base (PR 1)
Scout Base (PR 3)

For the most part, it seemed to start out as a simple mining colony on a resource-rich, but dangerous, moon.  When I did the random rolls for installations on the planet, that's when things got interesting.

It's a Corporate Headquarters for a seemingly huge company (the headquarters has a population in the thousands, after all) with a decent research base and a sizable Scout Service presence.  The criminal, espionage, and terrorist bases are the ones that raised my eyebrow.  An enemy government literally has THOUSANDS of agents on the system.

One of the technological themes I was debating was the lack of Jump-2 in the hands of the civilian sector.  While this is a TL10 world (giving them a mere Jump-1), what if this is the main locus of FTL research in the imperial portion of The Cube?  That would explain quite a bit of why so many people are interested in it.  One of the reasons the authority of the Imperial Remnant can be maintained is the monopoly they hold on Jump-2 starships.  Terrorists or criminals with Jump-2 would be game-changers.

I'm thinking that the large espionage contingent will be from whoever the most ambitious (and hostile) system I end up generating among the remaining 21 imperial systems.  The rest of them will be taking advantage of the meritocratic system, figuring out ways to crack the tests to get their people in key positions.  I'm seeing the strict control as a very flimsy house of cards, riddled with interlopers who are undermining it for their own factions' benefit.  Things could go south here in a hurry.

Fun Times in the Cube, folks.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Cube: Reboot

Just as I was ready to post my 10% solution (a mini-gazetteer of the first 10 systems generated for my Traveller sandbox), I leave my thumb drive in the computer at a lab at school.  When I returned an hour later (after I realized I did it), it was gone.  I checked again this morning and no one had turned it in.  *le sigh*

While I can replace all of the PDFs on it, all of the work I did on the Cube was there, and a somewhat substantial chunk of my LotFP sandbox as well.  Grrr.  I haven't been putting as much work into that as I should, but the players are having fun, and that's what's important.  I'm running a lot of prefab adventures for them, anyway.  This week, "A Stranger Storm."

So, I'm starting over on The Cube.  I'm taking the lessons learned from the original effort and using that to shape out and better have something ready to share sooner, rather than later. 

I shrunk the size of the Cube from 6pc on a side to 4pc.  What I realized that while the number of stars is comparable to two subsectors, that GURPS Space generates so many habitations for each system, I'd have waaaaaay more than I needed, so 4pc it is.  As it stands, I'll be generating 30 star systems, 22 of which are in a cluster reachable by Jump-1, the remaining 8 systems (2 two-system pairs and 4 wholly isolated systems) are reachable by Jump-2.

So, instead of posting a 10% solution every time I get 3 systems done, I'll probably break the main cluster up into two parts and then do the independent systems in a third update.

See you in a few weeks!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

LotFP Sandbox: Conversions and Building

You'll find all kinds of solid adventures within.

One of the nice things about having a game every three weeks is that it gives me adequate time to work on it between sessions.  As much as I long for the days where I used to devote 100% of my time to gaming, I'm a full-time, year-round college student who is getting married in short order.  I just don't have that kind of time (or maybe I lack time-management skills--you decide).  One of the things that makes life a little easier is that there are number of outstanding adventures out there for me to use with little or no work.

One of those adventures is "Night of Blood" from Games Workshop's The Restless Dead for the first edition of Warhammer Fantasy Role Play.  It's thematically perfect for the sandbox I'm working on, and all I need to do is stat it for Lamentations of the Flame Princess.

There are actually quite a few old Warhammer FRP adventures that would work well with LotFP.  Shadows over Bogenhafen and Death on the Reik wouldn't need much work, mostly setting changes in my case, but there will certainly be similarities between Imperial Dagordoria and the early editions of Warhammer FRP's Empire: the relative weakness of the central imperial government compared to the power of the landowners and electors, the overall lawlessness of the land, and the steady creep of chaos.

Anyway, in two weeks, I'll run my Night of Blood conversion and let you know how it goes.  Here's a peek at the mutants from the first scene:
Scaly Bull Man
HD 2, hp 9, AC 16, move 40’/round, +2 to hit, 1d8 (sword), 50xp
Frenzy: When reduced to 4 hp or less, Scaly Bull Man will let out a thunderous roar, forcing all within earshot to make a save v. paralysis or suffer a -2 on all to hit rolls for the remainder of the round.  At that point, until he charges the nearest opponent, pressing (+2 to hit, -4 AC) all attacks, doing an additional point of damage on each hit and suffering one less point of damage when hit.  This lasts until he (or the PCs) dies.
Dog ManHD 2, hp 9, AC 12, move 60’/round, +2 to hit, 1d4 (bite), 25xp
Black FurHD 1, hp 4, AC 14, move 40’/round, 1d6 damage (club), 5xp
Eye-StalksHD 1, hp 4, AC 12, move 40’/round, 1d6 damage (club), 5xp
Eye-stalks: Eye-Stalks cannot be sneak attacked.
Red FurHD 1, hp 4, AC 14, move 40’/round, 1d4 damage (dagger), 5xp
Tentacle ArmsHD 1, hp 4, AC 12, move 40’/round, 1d2 damage (tentacle slap), 5xp
Tentacles: +2 to hit in wrestling contests; wins all ties.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

LotFP Sandbox: First Game Down!

The cover generated a lot of positive buzz...
Well, last night I was happy to start my new sandbox with the crew at the School of Visual Arts in Stroudsburg, PA.  The response was spectacular.  The Grindhouse Edition's art was an immediate hit. As the Rules and Magic books sat on the table as I ran, the players both made constant remarks about how cool the cover was and how it evoked a very different feel than any other game they've played.  And as cool as snake-tits is, I am in agreement with my table that the image on my right rocks.

I only had two players show up, but more assure me they will move over when the other game that night hits a good stopping point.  So, taking Zak's advice to write the world after the first adventure and make that adventure POP, I had our dynamic duo wake up in a dungeon.  We had a fighter and a magic-user.  The guy who was playing the magic-user loved the fact that the spell list avoids the cliches of fireball and lightning bolt.  The lady playing the fighter loved the fact that she will kick more ass at combat than any other non-fighter in the game.  They both loved that I gave them the skill points as if they were Specialists.

Yeah, so, they woke up in a dungeon.  A dungeon whose owners have dabbled in things which should not be dabbled with and something has gone wrong.  In a manic escape filled with zombies, skeletons, insane cultists, and a desperate search for clothes and equipment, the PCs managed to get out shortly before the manor house of the decadent noble who hosted such abominations collapsed upon itself.  They made their way to a village where they were able to heal up and the session ended there.

What they loved the most was the simplicity of the system that comes from being a B/X clone, but the extra tweaks to make things so different.  The two players went over to the other table to eagerly talk up the game.  While that can make it look like I did a pretty good job, I'm going to give most of the credit to Raggi for his rules modifications to B/X.

One a side note, I took advantage of his sale of leftover Rules and Magic books and picked up two more.  The receipt I was emailed was very... well, just look at the picture above.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

LotFP Sandbox: Genesis

After my TPK at the last Adventures Dark & Deep game I ran, I'm ready to start over.  This time, I'm doing things differently.  For the most part, while I enjoy reading Zak's blogs, there wasn't a whole lot other than entertainment that I took away from it.  Then Vornheim came out.  I used it for the adventure that resulted in the TPK (a result of poor decision making on the players part, partly forced by a lack of obvious options given on mine) and it was awesome.  It gave me a whole lot of flexibility that I've never really experienced in a game before.  Seriously, if you haven't bought Vornheim yet, you really need to.  Even if Zak's game isn't your style, use the format and concepts and fill in the tables with things that meet your style.  It's that useful.

Hard at work on a week off from school.
Since I was one of the first pre-orders for Vornheim and the Grindhouse Edition of Lamentations of the Flame Princess, I got an extra Rules & Magic book.  It is a beautifully illustrated and very well constructed book.  If you don't think that the paper and the binding make a difference, well, we will agree to disagree.  The digest size is portable enough to throw in a jacket pocket when you go to Borders with your fiancee (as I did Sunday) and the feel of it almost reminds me of how I felt with my first AD&D hardcovers.  Since I've got such a beautiful product to show off (As I write this at Greenberry's Coffee in Morristown, NJ, I've got it out on the table, daring people to ask me about it) and I have clean break at the gaming table, I think I'm going to give LotFP Grindhouse a whirl.

I really liked the vibe of Vornheim, so when Zak posted his alternate idea for generating a sandbox, I took notice.  Previously, I had used the Bat in the Attic model, but that was an awful lot of work for a lot of stuff the players never seemed to bite on anyway.  With a wedding in less than a month and a full-time year-round school schedule, I don't have the time I'd like to write for a game.  Zak's method isn't lazier, but it's better targeted towards the players.  They generate the leads that I'll follow up on.  It works much better with my schedule, I think.

So, before my game tomorrow, I've got to finish my first adventure.  Something rather unwholesome stirs in the basement of a degenerate noble's manor... down the hall from a cell occupied by the PCs.

When something goes wrong, the PCs must escape and find themselves alone in an unfamiliar world... the yet-to-be-named sandbox.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Cube: What it looks like.

A highly scientific map of The Cube
So, I am skipping over the trade information while I generate the systems.  Still, I've been curious about how The Cube is "shaped."  While parked at my FLCS (Friendly Local Coffee Shop), I drew up a little map of The Cube.

I found some interesting things by doing this:
  1. There is a "core" of 70 worlds that are within Jump-1 of each other.  I reckon that will be my main imperial remnant.  I'll have to explore the "arms" of it as time permits and the systems themselves get generated.
  2. There are seven other distinct entities which are separated by a larger than one parsec gap.  One is an isolated world, three are pairs of systems, and two are smaller pockets of nine and eight systems, respectively.
  3. The baseline tech level for the game is TL10--Jump-1--but with some TL11 systems out there.  I intend to have Jump-2 completely in the hands of the government.  This means trade and contact between the eight separate entities will be wholly through government means.
  4. Jump-2 opens up the whole cube, so all of the systems I rolled are available for play.  It is probably also the most strategically important technology in the game.  I imagine a considerable chunk of the espionage in the game will be geared toward securing Jump-2 for corporate or other government agencies.  
  5. What this tells me is that I should focus on the main remnant first, generating those 70 systems (6% complete-woo hoo!) before even thinking about the remaining 28.
  6. The "Alien Enclave" options I roll can alternately be "Other Entity Enclaves" as well.  With the limited travel between the entities, it's likely that enclaves will need to be set up within other entities.
The more I develop, the more I enjoy about this.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Cube: A "Realistic" Space Environment

BeRKA over at The Zhodani Base pointed me to a pretty funny comic about generating worlds using the semi-realistic tables found in GURPS Space.  It's funny because it's true.  Fours systems down and not a single habitable planet among the lot.  ALMOST got one with system 122, but the Standard-sized planet was 10 degrees too cold and became an Ice World.  Bummer.

For full context, check out Irregular Webcomic! (Linked above)
The nice part is that it is Traveller, so I don't need a Garden world to have a good time.  In those four systems, we've got civilization on over ten planets, moons, or asteroid belts.  One of them is a high-population world, some of them exceed the average tech level.

It's interesting to see how this plays out.  I could see the realistic system generation being kind of dull if the game was exploration based, but that is one aspect of the game I plan on ignoring completely.  The Scout/Survey organization won't have a whole lot of pure exploration to do.  I'll have to think of the right angle to play with them.

The rather large number of rebel/terrorist bases on the planet are kind of interesting as well.  I think the underlying theme of dissent might permeate the game.

Anyway, more to follow.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Cube: Results and Thoughts

Using a semi-realistic world generation system like GURPS Space is an awful lot of work and math.  I will likely not be done with this sandbox until the end of the year and that's no joke.  I've been working at it a few hours each day since Thursday and I've ALMOST got my second system done.  I might be getting myself into the weeds and I'm trying to figure out the most efficient path.

Until I come up with a decent way to package the full system write-ups, I won't go into too much detail regarding the systems I am generating.  However, here are some aspects of The Cube which depart from what traditional Traveller does:
  1. The Universe is three-dimensional, which is a vast departure from the 2D subsector maps.  I attempted to have the same number of systems as the two subsectors suggested by Rob Conley in his "How to Make a Traveller Sandbox" article.  That's why The Cube is 6x6.  I ended up with 100 systems to work with, compared to 80 given a 50% chance and 160 hexes in two subsectors.
  2. With GURPS Space as my world-generation method, I end up creating many more viable worlds in each solar system.  I haven't thought about system names yet, but in "System 114," there are three inhabited worlds, each with their own UWP, a full colony and two outposts.  "System 115" has A very large asteroid colony, a smaller asteroid colony, and an outpost on the moon of a gas giant.  I don't know if three systems will be the mean, but if it is, there will be 300 UWPs to work with.
  3. There will likely be fewer "low-tech/high-tech" worlds in The Cube.  There will be worlds with lower TLs, some with slightly higher than normal, but most worlds will be TL10.
In case you were wondering, here are the UWPs for System 114.  I'm still working on 115.

Ice World    114-1        B420676-A    De Na Ni Po
Ice Dwarf    114-2        E2D5344-A    Fl Lo
Ice Dwarf    114-5        D2D5356-A    Fl Lo

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Traveller Sandbox: The Cube

Last year, when I worked on a sandbox for Traveller, I got quite a bit done and some pretty good feedback.  I wasn't happy with it and how it was too tied to the OTU for me to do anything with it.  I decided that I would attempt it again, but from a decidedly non-Traveller direction.  I just finished an Astronomy class that I really enjoyed, although I had to ignore it in the face of the three Psychology and one English classes I took in addition to Astro this semester.  Psych's my major and English is my minor, so Astro was the one that had to give.

Anyway, I thought I'd like to work on another stab at a setting for Traveller.  I don't like the RAW when it comes to sector/system/world generation at all, but I love what GURPS Space does with it.  GURPS Space is awesome, and a lot more realistic than anything I've seen in any of the editions of Traveller that I'm privy to.

The Premise
The sandbox will be a small, densely packed "cube" in space.  6pc x 6pc x 6pc, to be exact. The Cube started getting filled with explorers traveling via wormhole from a much larger Galactic Empire approximately 500 years ago.  Two hundred years ago, the wormhole suddenly collapsed, cutting off The Cube from the Empire.  A New Empire, founded on the shell of the Imperial bureaucracy of the Galactic Empire, rose in its place.

Where I Am At Right Now
I don't have much else, right now.  I generated one of the 100 systems.  When I decide on a format, I'll collect the notes together in some kind of format to display.  Interesting things that I came up with...
  1. There are rebel/terrorist bases two of the three inhabited worlds in the system.  One of which is the more highly populated colony world, the other holding a prison.
  2. When there are no Garden worlds generated, I reckon that I'll just take the planet with the highest Affinity of 0 or greater and make that a colony.  It might not be super realistic to establish a colony that will eventually grow to 5.4 million people on an icy world with half the gravity of Earth and has an average temperature of negative 200 degrees Fahrenheit, but it would be keeping with Traveller traditions.
  3. There is an alien enclave on the technocratic outpost at the rim of the first system.  Also on this planet is a military espionage facility and a government research center.  It's pretty awesome when the random rolls all make sense like this.  I'm debating if I want to insert analogs for the Aslan, Vargr, or Darrians, of I want to go with 2300-esque aliens that are more alien.  I haven't decided if that is where the aliens are from (unlikely, it's a small little ball of ice, but you never know) or if they just established something there because they dig the fact that it's a worthless little ball of ice, nitrogen, and methane.
I'll keep you all posted on what I come up with.  If anyone has any potential directions to send me for easy to use formatting for the systems, I'd love that.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


I am bowing out of the A to Z challenge.  I thought I could balance it with school, but school wins.

See you all in May.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A to Z Blogging Challenge: H is for Humanoids

I've established Orcs exist in my game (by allowing Half-Orcs), but I kind of want to mess around with the concept of the humanoid threat to the island of Greatholm.  I've got an idea for how to handle the threat facing the Elves of the Elshaw, but I wanted to have something different for the rest of the island.  I may have found my solution when I was thinking of F words to use for the Challenge.  It took me longer to write this than anticipated, so I bumped it to H...

According to Wikipedia, the Fir Bolg were the inhabitants of Ireland before the Tuatha De Danann showed up.  Well, the Fir Bolg will be the original inhabitants of Greatholm (in keeping with my tradition of bastardizing different parts of Britain for Greatholm).  The Firbolg in the Monster Manual II (since we're still waiting on Joe to finish the Adventures Dark & Deep Bestiary) are what I have to work with.  At 13+ HD, that's a bit much to have them running around too much.  So, the purest and greatest of the Fir Bolg will match the stats in Monster Manual II, but they aren't the only Fir Bolg running around.

From time immemorial, the Fir Bolg ruled Greatholm.  The many tribes of Moroilean (the Fir Bolg name for the Island) lived and fought amongst each other until the Men of the West and the Men of the North began to appear on the shores of the island.  At first, they proved no serious threat.  As time passed, the humans would not stop coming.  More and more would land upon the island, eventually establishing footholds.  The scourge of humanity would prove as virulent to the Moroilean tribes as they were to other parts of the world, eventually driving them out of the rich plains into the southern hills and mountains and the forests of the northwest.  Their numbers waned to the point of desperation.  The tribes that survived were the ones that decided that if they can't beat humanity, they should join them.  Using their alter self abilities, the Fir Bolg bred with the humans they captured in raids.  The resulting children, while weaker than their parents, bolstered the tribal numbers.

As the blood thinned, so did the understanding that the creatures were Fir Bolg.  Creatures decended from the Fir Bolg eventually were unable to use the alter self abilities and began to be known as "Orcs" due to the regular swine/warthog imagery on their banners and such (Orc is the Fir Bolg word for swine).

Fir Bolg and Orcs (greater and lesser) will appear as large copper-colored humans with dark brown or black hair.  The biggest thing differentiating the different strains is their size.  As they continue to breed with humans, they get more and more human blood in them.

Morale  +8
Number Appearing  1 (5% 1d4 will appear together)
Hit Dice  11d8
Armor Class  2
Move  15"
Magic Resistance  20%
Damage  by weapon type +10 (strength modifier)
Attacks per weapon (Attack Rank L, +4 (strength modifier)
Size L (12')
Intelligence Average to Genius
Alignment Chaotic Neutral (Can also tend towards Neutral and the Evil alignments)
Treasure Type VI
Treasure Value 2500 g.p.
Magic Treasure 15% Weapon; 10% Armor
X.P. Value 2000+16/h.p.

Greater Fir Bolg can alter self at will as 11th-level casters.

Morale  +6
Number Appearing  1d4 (5% 4d4 will appear together)
Hit Dice  7d8
Armor Class  4
Move  15"
Magic Resistance  10%
Damage  by weapon type +8 (strength modifier)
Attacks per weapon (Attack Rank H, +3 (strength modifier)
Size L (10')
Intelligence Average to Genius
Alignment Chaotic Neutral (Can also tend towards Neutral and the Evil alignments)
Treasure Type VI
Treasure Value 1500 g.p.
Magic Treasure 10% Weapon; 5% Armor
X.P. Value 350+8/h.p.

Lesser Fir Bolg can alter self once per day as 7th-level casters.  


Morale  +4
Number Appearing  1d8 (5% 4d8 will appear together)
Hit Dice  4d8
Armor Class  6
Move  12"
Magic Resistance  5%
Damage  by weapon type +6 (strength modifier)
Attacks per weapon (Attack Rank G, +3 (strength modifier)
Size L (8')
Intelligence Average to Genius
Alignment Chaotic Neutral (Can also tend towards Neutral and the Evil alignments)
Treasure Type VI
Treasure Value 500 g.p.
Magic Treasure 5% Weapon
X.P. Value 60+4/h.p.


Morale  +2
Number Appearing  1d8 (5% 4d8 will appear together)
Hit Dice  1d8
Armor Class  6
Move  12"
Magic Resistance  none
Damage  by weapon type
Attacks per weapon (Attack Rank C)
Size M (6')
Intelligence Average to Genius
Alignment Chaotic Neutral (Can also tend towards Neutral and the Evil alignments)
Treasure Type VI
Treasure Value 100 g.p.
Magic Treasure none
X.P. Value 10+1/h.p.

A to Z Blogging Challenge: I is for Illusionists

I never quite got the feel for Illusionists.  They always seemed to be pale shadows of Magic-Users.  I can't say there have been many versions of D&D (and by extension, the clones thereof) who give me a character class I can really sink my teeth into.

G is for Great Landowners

When I created Greatholm, I used a lot of different sources.  I used a bit of Medieval Demographics Made Easy, by S. John Ross.  The work that I made the most extensive use of, though, was A Magical Medieval Society: Western Europe by Expeditious Retreat Press.  One of the things that it discusses is a breakdown of the land of a particular kingdom and who owns the land.  They introduce the concept of Great Landowning Families.  There are four Great Landowners in Greatholm:  The Royal Family, The Church of the All-Father, and the two Dukes of the Realm, the Dudleys (The Duke of Avonlea and his family) and the Stanleys (Aberfirth).

The House of Neville, the current royal house, controls the vast majority of the land in Greatholm, about 11.8 million of the 13.8 million acres of land on the island.  However, they only have 31 manors concentrated mostly in Astleyham.

While the Church of the All-Father has two rather large segments of alloidal land (The Westleigh Diocese and the Starfall Protectorate), most of their more than 600,000 acres is spread throughout the realm as individual churches, abbeys, monasteries, priories, and other church facilities.  Church land is not royal land (as much as anyone can have their own land in Greatholm), being exempt from taxes.  About a third of their 82 manors are within Westleigh and Starfall, the rest being scattered across the island in the form of different abbeys, monasteries, and priories.

The House of Dudley maintains all of their 150,000+ acres within the Duchy of Avonlea.  Within this fertile land are 47 manors.  The Dudleys are closely allied to the Nevilles via marriage.

The House of Stanley, on the other hand, regularly feud with the other great landowning families from their vast (almost half a million acre) holdings in the west of Greatholm.  Most of the feuds are political, not military, although there have been random conflicts between the different nobles of the "Wild West." The land is very rough, so even though they cover considerable acreage, they only have 57 manors.

Where are my posts?

I'd like to know that as well.  I'm not pleased to have to recreate them...

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A to Z Blogging Challenge: F is for Friggin' Awesome...

So, last night, I continued my Adventures Dark & Deep game, but this time I used a lot of the tables from the Zak S.'s Vornheim to help flesh out Wickster.

Wow.  Got an awful lot of mileage out of that supplement.  It's ingenious and easy to use.  Sure, some of it will need to be tweaked a bit to reflect the different setting (most notably the encounter table), but as a framework, it's awesome and vital for anyone running urban adventures.

More on this to follow.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A to Z Blogging Challenge: E is for Elves

The Elshaw Wood is a place where humans fear to tread.  It is filled with mysteries arcane and fey.  The Church and Kingdom vigorously patrol the outskirts, making sure creatures do not come out (or are they making sure citizens don't go in?) and threaten the good order.

Within the wood is an elven kingdom perfectly content to not deal with the humans to the west.  They have their own problem.  Recently (the last fifty years--recent for elves), the catacombs beneath their city, Calatirion, have been broken through by humanoids from some heretofore unknown land.  The elves are only concerned with encroaching men who may or may not be working with the humanoids.

In order to keep this encroachment down, the elves have instituted the Tauritirno, the Forest Watchers.  They serve two purposes: defense/reconnaissance of the periphery of the Elshaw and acquisition of human slaves.  Elves are majestically beautiful creatures of great power and magic.  However, they are as cruel and egotistical as they are attractive.  Feeling the world outside the Elshaw unworthy of their affairs, they often breed their lower caste males with female slaves.  The resultant half-elves (which actually qualify as Elves for PC race purposes) are then raised to be the ambassadors and other public representatives to the outside world.  As those half-elves breed with humans, the resultant "elf-bloods" (which are the PC race Half-Elves), are the result.  The diluted blood will typically last for about three generations before the offspring are, for game mechanics purposes, human.

There is a lot more to the Elshaw Elves, but those are mysteries to be uncovered in-game.

Implications for Player Characters:
Elves are much more powerful in Greatholm than most D&D settings.  As a result, the PC race known as an "Elf" is technically a half-elf.  The "Half-Elf" race is more appropriately an Elf-Blood, even more diluted.  

No. Appearing 1
Hit Dice 9d8
Armor Class -1 (Elfin Mail +2, Halberd of the Elvenkind,  plus Dexterity bonus)
Move 120’
Magic Resistance Immune to sleep and charm spells.  40% resistance to spells cast by non-elves.  20% Half-Elves, 10% Elves (PC Race)
Damage Halberd of the Elvenkind  (1d10+2/2d6+2 damage)
Defenses none
Attacks Halberd of the Elvenkind (2 attacks/round; Attack Rank J, +2)
Size M
Intelligence Highly Intelligent
Alignment Lawful Neutral
X.P. Value 1700+(12/h.p.)
Individual Treasure 5-40 p.p., Boots of the Elvenkind, 3 Cage Arrows (see below), Cloak of the Elvenkind, and Halberd of the Elvenkind (see below)

The beauty of the elves is such that characters with a wisdom of less than 14 will be subject to the effects of a fascinate spell.  PC-race elves and half-elves with wisdom scores in the 10-13 range are unaffected.  Ture elves also have the following spell-like abilities what can be used at will:
  • charm person against any of non-elven blood.  Elves have no limit to the number of  non-elves they can use this ability on.  However, if the target makes a saving throw, the elf cannot attempt to charm that target again for another 24 hours.
  • entangle (3 times/day)
  • speak with plants (2 times/day)
  • transport via plants (2 time/day)  This only works within the Elshaw Wood
Cage Arrows (New Magic Item)Bat over at Ancient Vaults & Eldritch Secrets posted these on Sunday and they totally fit with the Tauritirno.

Halberd of the Elvenkind (New Magic Item)
This powerful weapon is found only in the hands of full-blooded elves.  Even PC-Race Elves are not permitted to wield them.  Any non-elf known to be in possession of a Halberd of the Elvenkind will, under no uncertain circumstances, be hunted until the offender is dead and the Halberd is back in the hands of the Elves.  This is one of the few circumstances when a party of Elves will leave the Elshaw.  Many of the villages (and certainly all nobles) near the Elshaw are aware of this and if they realize that someone has a Halberd, that person will, at best, be sent on their way.  At worst, the person will be slain and the Halberd will be returned at once.

For all wielders, the Halberd of the Elvenkind acts as a halberd +2  in all respects, with additional powers.  The wielder also receives a bonus of +2 to armor class and all saving throws.

It also contains enchantments similar to an enchanted staff.  If the wielder is of elven blood (an Elf, a PC-Race Elf, or a Half-Elf), a successful hit can do double damage a the expenditure of one charge, at the wielder's option.

If the wielder has the ability to cast arcane (Mage and its subclasses) spells, the wielder can also use the following abilities at will (as per the spell of the same name if applicable; the number in parenthesis is the number of charges used when the power is activated.  This cost is double if the wielder is an Elf (PC Race), triple if a Half-Elf, and quadruple if of any other race):
  • cone of cold (50% have fireball instead) (2)
  • continual light (1)
  • magic missile (1)
  • minor globe of invulnerability (1)

When found, the Halberd of the Elvenkind will have a number of charges equal to 26 minus 1d6.  It can be recharged by any spell whose effect the staff can create, plus any charm spells.  It is worth 
9,000 x.p.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A to Z Blogging Challenge: D is for Druids

After giving the Church of the All-Father the once over yesterday, today we take on the other side of faith in Greatholm--The Old Faith.

I had never really looked too much into the historical roots of Druidism until just now and I realized that a whole lot of what is out there is just speculation.  The nice thing about this is that there is very little to get "wrong."

It isn't just because the Church of the All-Father is the state religion of Greatholm, that the Old Faith has been suppressed.  Even under the Sterling Potentate's polytheistic faith, the Old Faith represented a spiritual place for those who dissented.  If the spiritual solace were taken away, the task of oppression could be made easier.  Active promotion of the Old Faith would represent a threat to the power of the Potentate's Priests and now represents a threat to the Church of the All-Father.

The thing is with magic, the question isn't if there is one god, it's who has the right god.  Currently, the Old Faith is suppressed.  It hasn't gone away, however.  In the western part of the island, particularly, the Old Faith thrives, albeit in secrecy.

The fact that the Old Faith has been forced underground for the last 300 years has given it a flexibility that most religions lack.  The Druidic Tongue is only spoken, with all written records of it extinguished.  This was part the doing of the other religions and in part the actions of the Old Faithful themselves.  By relying on an oral tradition, there is no written proof of heresy.  As each practitioner needs to exercise discretion when practicing the faith, there are numerous unique approaches to the faith, compared to the one axiomatic approach taken by the Church.  (On a side note, I'm not entirely sure how to reconcile this lack of structure with the Druidic hierarchy from the Adventures Dark & Deep Player's Manual.  I'll worry about that when I get a 12th-level Druid in my game.)

Druids play the role of spiritual advisers to the members of the Old Faith.  Most practitioners of the Old Faith do so in small groups, which may or may not be led by a classed Druid.  Druids will frequently travel to meet with these groups from time to time, under the guise of a scholar or merchant, to answer questions of faith or perform important ceremonies.

Members of the Old Faith swear by the "Three Realms" -- The Sky, the land, and the sea -- tied together by the fire of inspiration or freedom (depending on who you ask).  They respect and revere the elements and the spirits inherent in everything around them.  This can manifest itself in gentle thanks to objects or animals who benefit them.  Speaking to inanimate objects or animals is often seen by the more suspicious members of the Church of the All-Father as signs of heresy.

All classed Druids will speak Druidic.  Non-druids can also learn it, but the language is rare even among the faithful.  Usually only devout members of the Old Faith who lead the prayers of their peers learn the language.  It is also possible for some outsiders to learn it.  Many of the more inquisitional members of the Church have pieced together enough Druidic to identify its speakers as heretics.
Players who chose to have their PCs be members of the Old Faith would be able to come up with their own tenets of faith, but should still maintain the spirit of what has been written before.  Druids and Rangers, particularly must be more rigorous with their observations of the various changes of season.

Monday, April 4, 2011

A to Z Blogging Challenge: C is for Church

Under the hood:  There is more than a passing resemblance between the Church of the All-Father and the Medieval Catholic Church.  This is somewhat intentional, as I wanted a recognizable face of the faith to give the players something concrete to relate to.  Outside of superficial conventions, the resemblance stops there.  My portrayal of the Church of the All-Father has nothing to do with any thoughts I have or comments I might make about religion.

Oh, and just because I have to give credit where credit is due, the genesis of the Church came from some of Raggi's Church of All from the No Dignity in Death module.  I like to think I've taken it in a different direction, but the initial seed was planted by our favorite metalhead from Finland.

The Church of the All-Father is the all-pervasive religion in the Kingdom of Greatholm.  Its hand touches every aspect of life in the kingdom, having ascended to primacy after the Sterling Potentate's polytheistic faith fled them during the great and noble rebellion led by King Simon I, which re-established the Kingdom four generations ago.  Under the watchful guidance of the Archbishop of Westleigh, the Church of the All-Father is the single largest landowner in the kingdom after the Royal Family, with all church land exempt from tax and feudal obligation.  For the most part, this means that various monasteries operate as independent estates and that churches are separate from the land they minister.  In some cases, like the Westleigh Archdiocese and the Starfall Protectorate, there are huge areas of land under church control.

The head of the Church of the All-Father, based at Warwick Abbey, which is near Whitehaven.  The Patriarch also serves as the spiritual adviser to the King.  The Patriarch serves until death, when the Secretary of State ascends to the Patriarchy.  The current Patriarch is His Holiness Industry II, who has served for 18 years.
Title: His Holiness <<Apostolic Name>>.  The Apostolic Name is chosen from the list of the seven Virtues: Charity, Chastity, Humility, Industry, Kindness, Patience, Temperance, followed by a numeric title.  You would refer to the Patriarch as "Your Holiness."

There are six Archbishops of the All-Father--The Secretary of State (the Patriarch's minister of affairs), the Archbishop Penitentiary (responsible for matters of Canonical Law), and the Archbishops of Ballykin, Beckby, Westleigh, and Whitehaven.  Then the Secretary of State ascends to the Patriarchy, the remaining five choose the new Secretary of State and then the new Archbishop to replace the vacancy.
Title: His Eminence <<name>> and either the title (in the case os the Secreatry or Penitentiary) or the location they are in charge of.
Example: His Eminence, Thomas Penitentiary.  You would refer to him as "Your Eminence."
Bishops serve many different roles in the Church, most notably heading up various dioceses across the Kingdom.  When an area is either too populous or distant for the Archbishops to effectively control, they will establish a Diocese, with a Bishop in charge.  There are also numerous Bishops serving the Archbishops and Patriarchs in differing capacities.  Many Apostolic and Archepiscopal Vicars are promoted to Bishop after considerable service.  Most promoted in that way are given a Diocese, but others remain on as elite agents.
Title: His Excellency, the Most Reverend <<Name>> of <<Area of Service>> agents and staff members will refer to either the Apostolic Court or their Diocese as their area of service.
Example: The Bishop of Wickster would be referred to as His Excellency, the Most Reverend Henry of Wickster, and addressed as Your Excellency.
Abbots and Abbesses are the heads of the different Abbeys throughout the kingdom.  There is only one Abbot or Abbess per Abbey.
Title: The Right Reverend <<name>> of <<abbey>>, addressed as Father/Mother
Example: The Right Reverent Simon of Houndswick Abbey.  Addressed as "Father Simon."
Vicars serve as representatives of higher powers within the Church.  An Apostolic Vicar is a personal servant of the Patriarch, Archiepiscopal Vicars serve Archbishops and Episcopal Vicars serve Bishops.  Agents of other Church officials do not merit a vicarage.
Title: The Very Reverend <<name>> of <<who they serve>>
Example: A servant of the Archbishop of Beckby would be known as The Very Reverend Geoffrey Long of the Beckby Archdiocese and you would call him "Father" or "Father Geoffrey."
Canons are the heads of the non-monastic or militant orders of the Church, as well as senior (non-episcopal) functionaries within the Apostolic Court.  The heads of seminaries, senior episcopal staff, etc. serve as Canons. 
Title: The Reverend Canon <<name>>
Example:  The head of Beckby Seminary is The Reverend Canon Roger Cooper.  He is referred to as either "Canon" or "Canon Roger."
Most Priests are Parish Priests, administering the faithful in a village.  Others serve as junior ministers in the larger cathedrals in the towns or cities.  Fewer still make up the Itinerant Order, traveling the land in the All-Father's name.
Title: The Reverend Father <<name>>
Example: The church in Sodbury is led by The Reverend Father Robert Evelyn, referred to as "Father Robert."
Brothers and Sisters are members of the church who are not formally ordained, but live under vows.  All members of the religious classes begin play at this level.  PCs of other classes can also take the religious vows and be in this caste.  If one of the PCs is a Cleric serving as a Vicar, it is likely that the Church would want the rest of his party to be Brothers and Sisters.  They are addressed as "Mister" or "Madam."
Seminarians are the students at the Seminaries around the Kingdom.  They are referred to as either "Mister" or "Madam."

What does this mean for the characters?  Well, what follows are road maps for Clerics in Greatholm.  Mystics and Paladins will get the same treatment in future articles, which will detail the Monastic and Militant Orders.

CLERICS (Itinerant Path)
Level 1-2: Most PC Clerics who begin play at Level 1 will be Brothers or Sisters of the Itinerant Order of the All-Father.    They are charged to travel the Kingdom and do the All-Father's work.  They may ask for meager food and lodging at Church facilities, typically no more than a mat on the floor and a servant's portion of gruel, in return for service (cleaning and the like, although it could serve as a hook for adventures).  This courtesy does not apply to the Cleric's fellows unless the head of the facility is interested in using all of the PC's fellows as agents of the church.
Levels 3-7: At 3rd Level, the PC will be frocked as a Priest of the Itinerant Order.  He would have the option of taking a Domestic Parish, but that would then change the character to the Domestic Path.  As an Itinerant Priest, the Cleric gains better treatment when asking for food and lodging.  Within reasonable limits, the rest of the Priest's associates will be granted the food and lodging as a Brother with minimal questions asked.  Also, this stage is the soonest that a Cleric could be made a Vicar.  If the PC is made a Vicar, they will gain a powerful patron at the cost of the obligations inherent in the role.
Level 8+:  At 8th Level, the PC gains the ability to found a church (Actually, an abbey) and gains all of the benefits noted in the Adventures Dark & Deep Player's Manual.  The Priest is given the title of Abbott and gains an estate and followers.  Any abbeys founded will be in the wilderness, far from the bulk of civilization.  Once founded, the abbey and its estate will be considered Church Land (and not that of the King), which is another reason why you will not be able to establish a stronghold in any of the existing civilized areas.  A possible exception to this outcome is to allow a PC to take over an existing abbey or even a Diocese.

CLERICS (Domestic Path)
Level 1-2:  PC Clerics who are tied to a particular Church begin play as Brothers of the Domestic Order of the All-Father.  They are servants of the Priest of the local church (or possibly a Bishop or Archbishop), which limits their adventuring possibilities considerably.  If this path is taken, then the campaign will likely be focused on the PCs service to the church.
Levels 3-7:  At this stage, PC Clerics will be ordained as Priests, granting them either their own church or an increased role in one of the cathedrals.  This will tie the Priest to his church or cathedral, again limiting the range of adventure.
Levels 8+:  Any PCs that achieve 8th Level as a Domestic Priest will be strong contenders for a Diocese.  If using the stronghold rules, the newly-frocked Bishop can establish a new Diocese in an expanding part of the Kingdom.  As the head of a Diocese, the Bishop will be incredibly busy with his subordinate churches.

Note: The further political advancement of Clerics to Archbishop or higher is outside the scope of this article and should be handled as a case-by-case basis by the GM.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

A to Z Blogging Challenge: B is for Brigands

A wide, open land waiting to be exploited-by men both sinister and just.
Greatholm is not a densely populated island.  Huge swaths of land are wilderness.  When you look at one of the maps, you'll see that the majority of the towns and settlements are surrounded by miles of wilderness.  While you will find many estates in the plains of Avonlea and Astleyham, large chunks of the Norcott and Astonwold are wild.  The Elshaw, with its fey inhabitants, is untouched by man.

Few of Greatholm's inhabitants venture far from their homes at any point in their lives.  Those brave souls travel with trepidation, for the way is often wrought with brigands.

As the campaign will begin in Wickster, we will focus on the brigands who inhabit the Astonwold Hills.  Many of them are descendants of the remnants of the Sterling Potentate (from Stonehell Dungeon), who took to the hills and forests after their rule was overthrown.  While the generations have erased any political motivations the brigands might have, many of them have developed a culture of hatred for the nobles of the island and seek to live outside of the boundaries of their rule.  Naturally, the powers that be frown upon this behavior.

Preying on travelers through the Astonwold (and occasionally venturing into the Norcott), the brigands operate in smallish, itinerant gangs.  Unable to settle in any of the land, they are forced to range far and wide, living off of the land and what they can gain by force.  The brigands are a loosely clannish folk, with the different clans composed of many different gangs related by blood.  When a gang grows too large to operate effectively, they separate into smaller gangs.  Intermarriage is rare within a clan, but interclan relations are often kept civil through political marriages.  Slavery is common, particularly women taken as forced wives.  Male slaves are usually hostages for ransom or skilled craftsmen.  The nomadic life of the brigands is not adapted for easy child-rearing, so the mortality rate is very high (increasing the value of child-bearing women).

Given the heavily forested terrain in question, most of the brigands operate as footpads.  The few highwaymen that do exist are well-known through the region and actively hunted by the Royal Road Wardens as well as the Ranger Brotherhood (who, outlawed themselves, are often blamed for brigand activity).

So here is a sample gang of Astonwold Brigands: The Teague McPhees

Led by Teague McPhee (of Clan McPhee), the Teague McPhees are one of the smaller brigand gangs roaming the lower Astonwold Hills.  They are quite notorious for their brutality and fearlessness.  Teague himself wears the magical armor of Sir Gilbert Warwick, a knight of the kingdom, whose death earned Teague a bounty of 5,000 g.p. on his head for murder of a noble.  Teague's younger brother Bayne wears the magic armor of an unnamed household knight who came after the band in retribution.

For the most part, I haven't described the non-combatant slaves and camp followers or the "important prisoners."  Maybe they could be Gilbert's family members or some merchants.  More on that if I end up using the band in my game.  Anyway, here are the stats for the brigands.

Morale +5
No. Appearing 1
Hit Dice 9d10+3 (53 h.p.)
Armor Class 2 (Plated Mail +1 & Shield)
Move 120’
Magic Resistance none
Damage Long sword 1d8+2, Dagger 1d4+1
Defenses none
Attacks Long sword (2 attacks/round, Attack Rank K, +1 to hit), 10 attacks/round vs. creatures with 1d8 hit dice or less.; Dagger +1 (3 attacks/2 rounds), Attack Rank K, +1 to hit), 10 attacks/round vs. creatures with 1d8 hit dice or less.
Size M
Intelligence Highly Intelligent
Alignment Neutral Evil
X.P. Value 1,642
Individual Treasure 10 g.p.

BAYNE MCPHEE (Teague's Lieutenant)
Morale +4
No. Appearing 1
Hit Dice 7d10 (24 h.p.)
Armor Class 4 (Steel Scale Mail +1 & Shield)
Move 120’
Magic Resistance none
Damage 1d8+2
Defenses none
Attacks Long sword (2 attacks/round, Attack Rank H, +1 to hit), 7 attacks/round vs. creatures with 1d8 hit dice or less.
Size M
Intelligence Very Intelligent
Alignment Chaotic Evil
X.P. Value 615
Individual treasure 8 g.p.

TEAGUE’S GUARDS (Alf, Cooley, Lee, Roarke, Siobhan, and Vincent)
No. Appearing 6
Hit Dice 2d10 (18, 13, 9, 10, 11, and 10 h.p.)
Armor Class 8 or 7 (Leather Lamellar (2 w/shield))
Move 90’
Magic Resistance none
Damage Long Sword (1d8+2); Light Crossbow (Point Blank (6’-60) 2d4+2, Short (61-120’) 1d4+2, Medium (180’)-Long (240’) 1d4+1)
Defenses none
Attacks 2x Long sword (3 attacks/2 round, Attack Rank C, +1 to hit), 2 attacks/round vs. creatures with 1d8 hit dice or less.; 4x Light Crossbow (1 attack/round, Attack Rank C, +1 to hit if target             is within point blank-medium range)
Size M
Intelligence Average
Alignment Chaotic Evil
X.P. Value 89, 74, 62, 65, 68, 65
Individual treasure 9, 6, 10, 2, 3, 9 g.p.

Morale -1
No. Appearing 20
Hit Dice 1d6 (6, 2, 6, 3, 3, 3, 2, 4, 1, 3, 2, 2, 4, 2, 1, 6, 1, 1, 3, 3 h.p.)
Armor Class 8 or 7 (Leather Lamellar (11 w/shield))
Move 90’
Magic Resistance none
Damage Light Crossbow (1d4+1), Long sword (1d8), Pike (1d6), Short bow (1d6)
Defenses none
Attacks 3x Light Crossbow (1 attack/2 rounds, Attack Rank B); 11x Long Sword (Attack Rank B); 3x Pike (Attack Rank B); 3x Short Bow (Attack Rank B)
Size M
Intelligence Average
Alignment Neutral
X.P. Value 11, 7, 11, 8, 8, 8, 7, 9, 6, 8, 7, 7, 9, 7, 6, 11, 6, 6, 8, 8
Individual treasure 7, 10, 8, 8, 8, 10, 8, 8, 7, 10, 7, 3, 4, 7, 8, 10, 8, 6, 8, 6 g.p.

10 Camp Followers (non-combatant)
10 Slaves (non-combatant)
2 Important Prisoners (non-combatant)

In the provisions and storage tent:
Ale, barrel (12 g.p., 250lb.)
Food, dried vegetables/fruit (2 g.p., 10 lb.)
Iron ore (10 g.p., 100 lb.)
Lumber (2 g.p., 25 lb.)
2x Livestock, fowl (in cage) (10 s.p., 7 lb.)
Livestock, goat (1 g.p.)
Silk, bolt (85 g.p., 9 lb.)

In Teague's tent:
Book, illuminated (small), entitled The Five Potentates of Sterling (100 g.p., 6 lb.)
Clothing, fine (1 set) (30 g.p., 4 lb.)
Ewer, glass (30 g.p., 5 lb.)
Incense (20 g.p., 1 lb)
Mirror, large (20 g.p., 12 lb.)
2x Box, engraved (medium) (50 g.p., 4 lb.)
The first contains 81 g.p., the second contains the following gems & jewelery:
Beaded electrum pin (13 g.p.) with a small star peridot (flawless) pip (50 g.p.)
Brass pin with 2 cloisonné spirals (1 g.p., 12 s.p.)
Copper beaded necklace with large, stamped, nude female figure (3 g.p.) and six very large moss opal (very poor) studs (10 g.p. each)
Plain copper ring (1 g.p.) with large jade (good) pip (10 g.p.)
Thick silver bracelet stamped with five flowers (15 g.p.) surrounding small blue spinel (flawless) pip (50 g.p.)
Medium Glass Bead (flawless) (1 g.p.)
Small Pale Aquamarine (good) (10 g.p.)
Tiny Opal (flawless) (25 g.p.)

In Bayne's tent:
Ewer, silver (18 g.p., 2 lb.)
In the Guards' tent:
Cup, copper (2 g.p., 1 lb.)
Ewer, copper (6 g.p., 2 lb.)
Fur pelt, ermine (4 g.p., 1 lb.)
Fur pelt, marten (4 g.p., 1 lb.)
Fur pelt, mink (3 g.p., 1 lb.)
Perfume, rare (10 g.p., 1 lb.)