Saturday, January 29, 2011

Greatholm: A World Without Stars.

In Greatholm, the night sky is barren.  The Heavenly Aegis of The All-Father protects the good people of The World from the fell creatures that would come from the stars.  Only The All-Father's four sentinels -Byrdlung, Guthfugel, Lyftfloga, and Paloer - watch over us from the dark while the All-Father tends to his other children.
I was in my Astronomy class on Wednesday and we were talking about the basics of orbits and such and how the constellations appear to shift in the night sky due to the movement of the Earth on it's axis as well as its rotation around the Sun.  The professor mentioned some stars and it got me thinking of Raggi's interpretation of the Contact Other Plane spell in Lamentations of the Flame Princess.  Then I started thinking, "What would happen if there were something blocking the stars?" From there, the Aegis of The All-Father was born.  And just for fun, no moon.  Night is DARK.  The years are longer (almost twice as long as our years) and the seasons are harsher.  The summers are hot and the winters are FRIGID.  I'm excited about the direction Greatholm is taking.

Friday, January 21, 2011

What It Is: All the Treasures of the World by Faster Monkey Games

Did I say I wouldn't have time to review the first two entries in the All the Treasures of the World series by Joel Sparks and published by Faster Monkey Games?  Well, you can thank Mother Nature for giving me the time.  Thanks to about two or three inches of snow, East Stroudsburg University cancelled classes for the second time in a week.  Mrs. Higgipedia and I got to spend another snow day together and, while she works, I'll write up a more comprehensive review.

Now I know what some of this stuff is!
All the Treasures of the World Part I: Gems is a twelve page supplement which serves many purposes: random treasure generator, introduction to gemology, and rules supplement for the evaluation and sale of gems.  With it, you can generate a gem the size of a grain of rice up to one as big as a cantaloupe, which could be worth anywhere from a measly silver penny to 100,000 gold pieces.

The first section allows to to randomly generate gems.  You can either roll for value on the table provided or, if you know the value of the gem (which is more likely from my experience), you can roll on the charts based upon value to find out what type of gem you've found.  For example, a 1d20 roll on the 10gp Base Value chart gives you a Moss Opal if you roll a 12.  I wouldn't know a Moss Opal from a Moss Agate, so I look at the descriptions in the back and see that Moss Opals are green and white with a sparkle to them.  You polish them (as opposed to cutting them) and they are medium sized.  One of the nice things about Gems is that they have two scales for size: real-world and fantasy.  If you want gems the size of fists and melons (keep in mind the Hope Diamond is like an inch around and a half inch thick), go with the fantasy rules.  If you are bit more realistic, go with the Real-World size chart.

Are we done with gems?  Heck no!  While it's a no-brainer to move up and down a chart to reflect the changes in value based on size and quality, Gems includes charts to make it a lot easier to randomly generate the sizes and quality based on final value.  You find a gem worth 500gp?  Well, on a 3d6, I roll an 8 and find that find that it's a Larger (one step) 250gp Base Value gem of Good (average) quality.  Rolling a d6 on the 250gp table, we get a Flame Pearl (and after checking the description) the size of a pea (or a marble, if you are using the fantasy sizing).  They also explain how some gems can have stars and cat's eyes and some other distinctions that most of us unversed in gemology might not know.

The last section gives some rules for identifying gems as well as detecting (and trying to pass on) fakes.  They show how jewelers, merchants, fences, and PCs will all have different abilities to detect certain things.  PCs are not very good at it, comparatively, so be wary if you plan on ripping off the pros.  I'll probably bump Dwarves up to the Merchant level of identifying things in my game (as well as any who have a merchant or mining background).

All the Treasures of the World Part II: Jewels is a little trickier to work with, since the nature of jewelry means that you have to manage a few more moving parts.  Jewels breaks down each piece of jewelry based upon what type it is, what it is made of, any kind of style or motif, and gems added.  I think the easiest way to show what the supplement is capable of is to walk you through the creation of a few bits of jewelry.

Let's say you want to buy your mother some nice, simple copper earrings.  Looking at the item chart and cross-referencing the materials chart, you come up with 5 sp.  Happy birthday, mom.

Something a little crazier?  Well, let's see what the King's Crown would be like?  Well, it's made of platinum, which makes it's frame along worth 300gp.  It's masterfully engraved with 12 images of past Kings' triumphs, upping the value to 2880gp.  We're going to go with the nonpareil level of gemstoning, since it's a sovereign's gaudy headgear.  The glory on it is a 2500gp gem (A flawless blue diamond the size of a pea), surrounded by 30 100gp gems (Lesser sapphire chips),  with 66 10gp gems (Flawless star garnet chips) in the setting.  The King's Crown is worth about 9,000gp.  Good luck fencing THAT.

Gems and Jewels  are a wonderful investment of four dollars (two bucks each).  I plan on using them extensively in my sandbox.  If you are a fan of flavor and detail in your treasure, these are indispensable.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Random Treasure Generation Spawning Adventure Hooks

So, I picked up the Gems and Jewels treasure supplements from Faster Monkey Games today.  Great supplements.  I'm heading off to Colorado for the weekend for a wedding, so between that and schoolwork, I doubt I'll have time to write a review for the blog.  Still, they are a combined $4 and provide some neat flavor for the game.  What I didn't expect was it can also generate some plot hooks!

I really dig Swords & Wizardry's random treasure system, so I used it for this experiment.  I just picked an Ogre Mage at random from the monster list, which gives a 600gp base.  I got one 100gp trade out that ended up being 142gp worth of gems and jewelry.  I picked a 100gp gem and 42gp worth of jewelry.

Before I share the results, I'm using the alternate currency system from an issue of Footprints which will have my Sovereign Crowns (the gold piece) worth 250 Silver Pennies, so the final numbers might look a little strange.  Anyway, here is what we've got:
  • 20 Sovereign Crowns
  • A huge (egg-sized) Blue Spinel, with a Star of poor quality (4 Crowns)
  • Man’s Heraldic Banded Copper Ring with a Shield Pattern with an 8-point Coronet  (Size 2) (30 Pennies)
  • Woman’s Plain Silver Signet Ring (40 Pennies) with a channel of 20 Flawless Pea-Sized Onyxes (10 Pennies each)  (Size 2) (1 Crown, 40 Pennies)
An 8-point Coronet on a ring is significant, since the system can only generate up to 9-point coronets.  This is likely the ring of a Prince.  Why would a prince have such a ring of such low value?  I have two thoughts:

1.) It's really old--before the Kingdom had really nice things.
2.) It's simple because of modesty/piety of the prince OR it was his "war ring," since he wouldn't take his really nice things on campaign with him.

Either way, it'll be very difficult to pawn the Prince's jewelry.  How the Ogre Mage came into possession of the ring is curious and can generate stories.  The woman's ring, on the other hand, could very well be the ghetto fabulous accoutrement of a wealthy merchant's wife.  Would the merchant want the ring back?  Is his wife alive?  Did he feed her to the Ogre Mage?

Or, you could reverse engineer the adventure from these--Maybe the prince or wife commissioned the PCs to look for the items.  Maybe their families were concerned about their absence.  What did the Ogre Mage DO with the bodies?  Are they dungeon dressing?  Slaves somewhere?  Willing co-conspirators?

Anyway, check out the treasure generators.  I love them.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Props: Adventures and Zines I plan on using in my Greatholm Campaign.

Well, it's Martin Luther King Day and I can't get squat done.  The problem with living off the government teat (My income streams are pretty much the State of Pennsylvania and the Veterans Administration right now) is that you have to deal with government hours.  So, what is there to do but head on down to the Cheeky Monkey Coffee House and try to read and write some stuff.  Last night, Mrs. Higgipedia and I sat at the local Perkins so she could get some of her reading done while I went through a lot of my PDFs to see what I might use for my Greatholm Sandbox.  It gave me a great chance to look through a lot of wonderful things made by the OSR Community.

Skull Mountain, by Faster Monkey Games.  I plan on having two megadungeons on the island.  Skull Mountain will be one of them (The other one might end up being The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth).  I'll have to tweak it a bit to make it a little more "weird," but that shouldn't be too much of a problem.  I must confess, I never went to their website before.  I'm glad I did, because it turned me on to the $2 PDFs they put out covering Gems and Jewelery, which I plan on snapping up as soon as I get paid.

Blood Moon Rising, by Small Niche Games.  I talked about this one briefly when I talked about folk festivals.  It's nice because it allows the PCs to participate while the events unfold.  A lot of open choices there and hooks to bite on.  I might try to work The Inn of Lost Heroes into my game as well. 

Death Frost Doom, Hammers of the God, Three Brides: No Dignity in Death, and Tower of the Stargazer, all by Lamentations of the Flame Princess.  These are the ones I own.  I'll likely pick up The Grinding Gear when I get paid and A Stranger Storm when it becomes available.  I get pretty brand loyal when I find something I really like.  I've liked the reviews and play journals for Death Frost Doom.  Seeing Beedo's write-ups about his game has me thinking that Greatholm would likely be toast if 13,000 undead started coming down the mountain.  What I've read of Three Brides looks wonderful.  Tower of the Stargazer was a fun time with my brother back in October.  I loved the playtest of A Stranger Storm.  I am a geek for James's stuff, as it fits exactly what I want out of my game.  Of course, finding players who fit that mold might be more difficult...

I also went through a bunch of zines for things to use.  I'm trying to keep house-rules to a minimum, what with my existing Arcane Magic idea and plans for some tweaks to Alignment and Psychology and two potential new classes I've been mulling about in my head.

Encounters, Jesse Walker's zine from Australia, is quite possibly the best LOOKING D&D fanzine on the internet.  The content is as great as the layout.  There are three issues available for download and the fourth should be out shortly.  It would certainly behoove you to check out Encounters.  Footprints and OD&Dities continue to put out some good stuff in them as well.

Anyway, it's given me some stuff to think about and work on.  If you aren't already checking some of these out, I recommend you do so.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Random Musings

Nothing like this happened on Wednesday.
On Wednesday night, I had a wonderful time playing an online game with Zak and Mandy (of Playing D&D with Porn Stars and I Hit It With My Axe fame), Paul from Quickly, Quietly, Carefully, and Aberrant Hive Mind (who writes Symptoms of Radness), run by Mr. Lamentations of the Flame Princess himself, James Edward Raggi IV.  We were playtesting one of the new LotFP modules James will be releasing soon.  It's a good one.  Had me thinking of the old Warhammer Fantasy adventure Night of Blood, but it's nothing like it plotwise--the mood was there though.  Some of the old WFRP modules are totally in the vein of Weird Fantasy Role Playing (at least the old 1st Edition ones are...).

Anyway, it was a blast and I hope I can game with them again.  It definitely got me thinking about my own game and some of the things I want to work into it.

I picked up my books for next semester today.  In addition to Scott McCloud's great work, Understanding Comics, for my Graphic Novel class, I flipped through the book for my Social Psychology class and it looks like it'll have a lot of good stuff to work with over the long term for my game.  Psychology is one of those things I'm totally a geek over, so it makes sense that I'd work it into one of the other things I am totally a geek over--gaming.  Between Social Psychology and Theories of Personality this semester, expect a big rewrite of the Psychology rules I keep putting off finishing.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Starting Off in Greatholm

You want to play a demi-human or a spellcaster?

Those are for earners, bucko, and you ain't earned squat yet.

One of the things I've wondered how to handle in my Lamentations of the Flame Princess game is how to handle the potential conflict between a Lawful Cleric and a Chaotic Magic-User/Elf.  I decided not to handle it and instead let the players handle it themselves.

The campaign will start off with the PCs making Neutral Fighters and Specialists.  As the game moves on, they can encounter various groups that could, for lack of a better term, "unlock" the demi-human and spell-casting classes.  And there may be some other options out there to compete with Clerics and Magic-Users.  Just sayin'.

I want my sandbox to be a sandbox where exploration is rewarded in many different ways: treasure, experience points, and even character options.  With my method of multiclassing, you'll be able to eventually play a magic-user or a cleric if you can be initiated into their mysteries, you'll just be paying your dues as a fighter or a specialist to begin.  Now, once the party unlocks the different options, you'll be good to bring in these new classes and races as henchmen, or start new 1st level characters in the unlocked race/class.

The only thing I'm wondering is how to reconcile the multiclassing with demi-humans.  Something to work on over the next month.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Human Multiclassing

The Lamentations of the Flame Princess game I am working on will largely be focused on humanity.  I'd like the characters to be drawn exclusively from Clerics, Fighters, Magic-Users, and Specialists.  However, I'd like to keep the game in line with a bit of the Swords & Sorcery paradigm of the heroes being good at many things.  What does this mean?  Multiclassing.

Each one a Fighter/Thief... and Human
I know that the B/X rules didn't have any type of multiclassing in them (unless you are an Elf, of course), but here are my initial thoughts on the deal:

  • Characters do not begin the game multi-classed.  I'm not 100% tied to this one.  Maybe work multi-classing at the beginning in with the character's background.
  • To be eligible to learn a class, they must study under a teacher for an as-yet-undetermined time (with an as-yet undetermined cost) which grants them level 1 in the class studied (I think I'll tie this in with some of the rules from the Hill Cantons Compendium, found over at... Hill Cantons).
  • When you have multiple classes, your experience points are spread equally among the classes you use in an adventure.  This means that if a Fighter/Specialist goes a whole session never getting in a fight, but uses his Specialist skills, all of the XP gained go into Specialist.  With the ubiquity of Fighter and Specialist skill usage, there won't be the question of what happens in a role-play only session (not with anyone *I* have DM'd for, at least).
  • Of course, since I have aligned Clerical magic with Law and Arcane magic with Chaos, there will be no Cleric/Magic-Users in the game.
Since all of the players will be humans, they will all be on the same page for these, and there shouldn't be much of a competitive edge.

Any thoughts on this?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Hobbit Wizards, Norwegian or Otherwise

Who knew the Shire was in Norway?
The Rangers won the game I went to on Wednesday, thanks to an overtime goal by Mats "The Norwegian Hobbit Wizard" Zuccarello.  Standing in at a "mere" 5'7" and bearing a passing resemblance to Elijah Wood, Zuccarello has previously led the Swedish Elite League in scoring and looks to have a pretty good future, despite his relatively diminutive size for an NHL forward.

The thought of a Hobbit Wizard is kind of curious.  It was expressly forbidden in earlier versions of the game and is just not that efficient in the 4th Edition.  Plus, it kind of takes away from the "aw-shucks" quality of Hobbits.

I confess that I haven't read the books since just before Fellowship of the Ring came out in film.  I saw the movies in the theaters but only once.  I'm not expert on Tolkien or the stories.  I have, however, played a metric ton of Dungeons and Dragons and can say that Halflings are not Hobbits.  I'm not sure if there is an exact reason, but the longer I play D&D, the less I like D&D Halflings.  This isn't because of the changes in appearance.  It's because they are pretty much as pointless as gnomes.  Anyone who has played D&D with me knows that I just don't see the point of gnomes and I'm starting to get that way with Halflings as well.

I received the Blu-Ray edition of the Lord of the Rings trilogy for Christmas and I was watching them with my fiancee a week or so ago. One of the things I noticed about the four hobbits is that they are not pure adventurers.  This isn't something that translates too well into a role-playing game, since you want to play a pure adventurer.  The only hobbit with a real responsibility is Frodo.  Look what it does to him.  The other three hobbits, Samwise, Merry, and Pippin, all serve a very different purpose--they are the consciences of their charges.

I don't see any of these guys making it in the NHL.
Hobbits were innocence.  Halflings are mischief.  Hobbits resort to trickery to overcome the fact that they are not fighters, sorcerers, or powerful in any material way.  Halflings  seem to enjoy trickery for the sake of it.  Hobbits are the heart and soul of any group they are part of, while Halflings just seem like little douchebags.

I'm thinking of not allowing Halflings into my Lamentations of the Flame Princess game.  If a player insisted, I guess I'd relent as long as he played it more like a Hobbit than a Halfling.  Instead of any kind of thieving bonuses, I'd give them some kind of ability to influence opinions, but only if they were on behalf of "the right thing to do."  The penalties for not being a fundamentally good person and wearing your heart on your sleeve would be steep.  Really bad saving throws and absolutely no abilities of suggestion.

What do you think?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Third Time's The Charm: Royalty, Peerage, and Orders of Chivalry

FINALLY, a place in Morristown, NJ with outlets.
So, the fiancee and I have a partial season tickets for the New York Rangers and on game days, if she can't work from home, I'll head into New Jersey with her and chill out while she works.  We'll have to find a new system when I start school in two weeks, but it's better these ways than her coming all of the way back to PA for us to go all the way back across New Jersey to go to Manhattan and it's better than taking two vehicles (especially when my vehicle is a 20mpg pickup).  ANYWAY, so I planned on parking it in a Barnes & Noble or a Borders and working on the blog while Mrs. Higgipedia earns the mortgage payment.  I drop her off at the office and order some tea and realize there is nowhere to plug my almost drained MacBook Pro into.  I didn't really feel like trucking around Central New Jersey, so I just parked it there and took advantage of the book selection to pick up The Rough Guide to Cult Football, a wonderful purchase if you are into the beautiful game.  After meeting Mrs. Higgipedia for lunch, I tried ANOTHER coffee establishment, which turned out not to have outlets either.  I continued to read my book and moved on after finishing some coffee.  I went to the Morristown Greenberry's Coffee, checked for outlets first (I might not learn quickly and without pain but I do learn), and ordered some tea.  And here we are.  I've been working on the background on my sandbox.  I felt like fleshing out the nobility for Greatholm, patterning it after Great Britain's royalty, since the island is clearly my sandbox's GBR analogue.  Anyway, here is what I'm working with.

The Three Classes of Nobility in Greatholm
I wanted to make the system of nobility something that was a little different than what I usually see published.  One of the only games that really deals with nobility that I have experience with is Pendragon, and I'm looking at taking a different tack then that.

Royalty is defined as the Sovereign of Greatholm (the King), his wife (the Queen Consort), the surviving wives of Sovereigns past (the Queen Mother or Queen Dowager), the Sovereign's children (Princes and Princesses), and the children of the Sovereign's sons (also Princes and Princesses).  This constitutes the strict definition of the Royal Family and the line of succession.  If, through some happenstance, the entire Royal Family were to be slain, then it would come down to everyone else proving lineage to Sovereigns past to determine the new Sovereign.  Expect a civil war to break out.

Peerage are the hereditary nobles given title by the Sovereign.  In descending order, the Peers of Greatholm are: Dukes, Marquesses, Earls, Viscounts, and Barons.  Some of the peerages are tied to areas (the Duke of Avonlea) and some are tied to families (Earl Lovegood).  Once granted, the title can only be revoked by the Sovereign.  The children of those holding a peerage are considered to be nobles, but do not transfer nobility to their offspring.  The children of the heir to the peerage become enobled when their father inherits the peerage.  I've written a list of the Peerages of Greatholm but I don't really see the need to include it here.  If I ever put out a full-blown Guide to Greatholm, it'll be in there.  If you want to see it, just let me know and I'll send you a copy.

Orders of Chivalry are chartered by the Sovereign, some of whose members comprise the lowest level of nobility in Greatholm.  They are various orders of merit and knighthood which honor those who serve the crown in many different capacity.  The Most Venerable Order of Hawkshead is the highest of the chivalric orders, limited to a membership of twenty-four--The Sovereign, the Duke of Avonlea, four officers, and 18 members selected from the Peerage and Orders of Chivalry.  The Valorous Order of the Falling Star is a military order based in several castles surrounding Starfall Gorge.  Some of the higher orders (such as Hawkshead) require a noble title to join, while others allow for commoners to enter them (Falling Star is such an order).  Members of an order are not automatically ennobled, becoming nobles only when they reach the rank of Knight within the order.

PCs and Nobility
Since you have to be born into Royalty, it is highly unlikely that I will allow my PCs to be royals.  Nobility, however, can be earned and it isn't transferred to all descendants.  This makes it a bit more palatable for a PC to be the child of a Lord/Lady (a non-heir child of a peer), close to nobility, but not actually able to dispense justice by virtue of birth.  Since the Sovereign can create peerages, outstanding service to the Crown can result in the creation of a new title to be given to a PC as well.

Chivalric orders are a much better route to nobility for PCs.  I plan on creating some orders that are not as specific as the Falling Stars, which will offer a bit more flexibility to the PCs.  As they do more for that order, they can be made Knights of the order, thereby ennobling them.

As always, I welcome your feedback.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Sandbox: Here we go.

So, as part of my new year plans for actually finishing a sandbox project, I picked up Inkwell Ideas' Hexographer program and started working on my sandbox.  I made a pretty big map, but turned to a particular island to focus on.  What evolved was the island of Greatholm.

Greatholm, after a day of work.
Clearly, I still have a lot of work to do, but it's giving me some ideas for the game.  Having three cities is nice, because it gives me some versatility in character.

I used S. John Ross's Medieval Demographics Made Easy to figure out what the island has going on with it.  The capital, Whitehaven, is home to a little over 12,000 of the island kingdom's 750,000+ citizens.  The second and third cities, Ballykin and Beckby, respectively, clock in at 9900 and 8400.  With thirteen other towns floating around, as well as a few castles, it gives me a lot of opportunities for local flair and roleplaying while keeping a lot of room open for exploring and adventure!

I've got some ideas on what to do with the different parts of the island and some of it might end up on here.  What I need to do is get a group settled into a game and pick a system, though.  I can do flavor text all day long, but where the rubber meets the road is the actual game itself.