Monday, December 31, 2012

Refactored NPC Description Generator

Rewrote the Mannerisms and Distinguishing Marks code in the generator to produce what I find to be a more pleasing distribution. It also allows me finer grained selections from the choices. Distinguishing Marks are divided behind the UI into Major and Minor Amputations, and other Marks, this allows me to vary the incidence of missing limbs vs tattooing for example. Mannerisms have been divided into Speech, Hands, Eyes and Body in a similar manner. Both of them have received some new entries.


Oh and Happy New Year. Watching the little princess while her parents are out, she's abed, so off to Smite an Ale.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Who's got their back?

One of the (many) pieces missing from my campaigns has been the relationships between NPCs. Patrick Halter over at Renovating the Temple has a nice graphic of the relationships in the village of Hommlet, which has inspired this post in an elliptical manner.
     In my reading of classical history one of the things I've noticed is the importance of legally recognized tribal relationships in the political systems of both Athens and Rome.  Now, for whatever reason, I've always had a conception that  tribe was a social organization of blood relatives, this isn't necessarily the case in the classical world, as the Romans created brand new tribes several times during the Republic.  Layer on top of that the client-patron relationships cultivated by the Romans and you find that bilking that merchant just brought you the enmity of a whole slue of people. (By the way, this is still common in less developed {less socially mobile?} parts of the world, read about some of the troops experiences with local suppliers in Iraq.)
   Getting back to my point, along with generating an NPC's description, I'll need to generate their tribe and patron/clients.  Obviously minor NPCs don't need all the details, but I do need to have idea about who they can call on for support if the party gets out of hand.

   The diagram above lays out the relationships between the Roman hierarchy and the rulers in the area, along with other NPCs mentioned in 20 Questions.  Of importance to this discussion are the seven families who rule the city of Apollonia, where their characters will initially be based.  Most of the NPCs that the party will meet will trace a relationship to one of the seven families, or to their enemies as given in the table below.

Family Prominent Individuals Interests Allies Enemies
Paileos Aurelius, Archon of Apollonia Agriculture, Shipping Romans, Apistos, Trapezitos, Proskyntos Roz, Listeios, Emporos, Mith, Perseus Tuetella
Apistos Damon, Boule Agriculture Paileos, Proskyntos Trapezitos
Roz Aristarchus, Boule Agriculture, Shipping Listeios, Emporos, Mith, Romans Paileos
Listeios Taulus Listeios, Boule Agriculture, Ship Building Perseus Tuetella, Roz, Mith Romans, Paileos, Elos
Trapezitos Gauis Trapezitus, Boule Agriculture, Ship Building Paileos, Apistos Listeios, Elos
Proskyntos Epaphroditus, Boule Agriculture, Macedonian Trade Paileos, Apistos Roz, Emporos, Mith
Emporos Onesimus, Boule Agriculture Trapezitos, Listeios Paileos
Mith Hyllus Mith Illyrian and Macedonian Trade Romans, Listeios Paileos, Proskyntos
Geraki Asteropaios Metalwork Miraditorum, Mith, Proskyntos Perseus Teutella, Elos
Elos Cadmus Elos Asphalt, Ship Building Paileos Romans, Miraditorum, Geraki

With this back ground I can create Alcon the Smith.  A relative of the Proskyntos, when the players bring in some dwarf made armor for refitting, he'll pass the word to Epaphroditus who would like to break the Geraki monopoly on the dwarven trade.  This may lead to contact from Proskyntos or, if Asterpaios hears of it, an assassination attempt as the Geraki work to maintain their lucrative trade.

Note that all of this is invisible to the players, unless they decide that their characters would like to find out why the assassin was sent.  It however enables me, as the DM, to determine which factions will approach the players as the characters become more powerful and thus more valuable as allies, and which hold grudges against them.

Hmm, maybe I'll add a campaign customization to my NPC Generator to determine which family they are aligned with. 

Friday, December 28, 2012

NPC Description Generator

I've added a new page 'Utilities' with a on-system specific generator to determine an NPCs appearance, distinguishing marks and mannerisms.

Give it a try and let me know any issues you find or things you'ld like to see added.

I've tested in it briefly in FireFox 17, IE 7, and Chrome.  Having done my share of web development, I'm sure someone, somewhere is running an odd patch level of an obscure browser that the JavaScript will break in.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Movie - The Hobbit

  Finally went to see the Hobbit, with my bride and the squid who had seen it earlier, a very good show.  Close enough to the book that I couldn't cavil at much of it, loved the songs they included.  Christopher Lee's lines as Saruman were more bureaucratic than guileful, but my biggest gripe was the music for the end credits, where was Led Zepplin with Misty Mountain Hop?

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Building Campaign Maps 6 - Encounter Areas




 Using the techniques I've already shown, adding layers and a grid, I'm going to add Encounter Areas to my map.  This will be a separate layer for my use rather than something for the players edification.  The first step is to add another layer name 'Encounter Areas'.  The key difference is that now I'm going to change the opacity of the layer, so that previous (lower) layers can be seen through what I draw on the new layer. 




The Opacity control is located in the Layers dialogue box. Here I've set it to approximately 25%, or conversely, what ever I draw will be 75% transparent.

The next step is to add a hex grid to this level, using the same settings previously used on the Grid layer.  The only exception is that I changed the line color to blue. With the Opacity reduced, that makes the superimposed hex grids look purple.

Then I just had to choose which natural features comprised and separated the Encounter Areas, and (tediously) filled in each hex in the encounter area with the Area Fill tool.


In the end I have twenty one encounter areas, in a cool looking map.


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Book Report - Mazirian the Magician

   A big part of our canon, this is the retitled Dying Earth stories by Jack Vance, included in the original Appendix N.  Along with the titular story it contains Turjan of Miir, T'sais, Laine the Wayfarer, Ulan Dhor Ends a Dream and Guyal of Sfere.
  I have to admit this is the first time I've read it, I never found Vance's works before. When I was younger my reading turned more to Heinlein and hard science fiction, than to fantasy.
  The stories themselves share a common setting, and are loosely linked. Turjan was Mazirian's prisoner, and was freed by T'sais' sister T'sain.  In Turjan's prequel, he steals an item from Prince Kandive the Golden, uncle to Ulan Dhor. T'sais has an encounter with Laine, which sets up the reader to applaud Laine's subsequent demise.  Guyal merely passes through the landscape sketched by the previous stories on his journey to knowledge and perhaps wisdom.

  Inspirations:  It's all here Vancian magic, strange monsters, mighty wizards, devil-may-care rogues.  These stories are what Gygax and Arneson were trying to recreate when they brought role playing to life.

Read it if you haven't already.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Seven Games

Over at The Ongoing Campaign, faoladh has a list of the top seven RPGs he's played and run. So here's mine

Games Played
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, 1st Edition
Traveller
Chivalry & Sorcery
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, 3rd Edition
ShadowRun
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, 2nd Edition
Call of Cthulhu

 

Games Run
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, 1st Edition
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, 3rd Edition
Chivalry & Sorcery
Traveller
ShadowRun
Call of Cthulhu
Space 1889

I would have loved to have played RuneQuest or Empire of the Petal Throne more than the once or twice I ever was able to, but so it goes.

What's in your lists?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

In the Stars

       Driving home tonight, listening to St Augustine railing against astrologers, I was reminded how prevalent the practice of astrology was during that period.  Periodically during the empire, astrologers would be banished from all of Italy, not just Rome itself.  For that matter, divination was a major feature of Roman religious practices - one of the Claudians famously lost a sea battle after throwing the sacred chickens overboard when they failed to give him an auspicious omen. So here's a simple table to use before the players leave town on an adventure.

Result Description Outcome
2 The gods smile upon you +1 on all die rolls during one combat
3 Fortune favors you +1 on all Perception checks
4 You will receive help in your time of need Re-roll one result
5 An auspicious omen Force the DM to re-roll one result
6 The gods are not against you No effect
7 The stars are neutral No effect
8 The gods rest No effect
9 A bad omen Double the chance of random encounters
10 A malign spirit will intercede The first natural 20 the party rolls is treated as a 1
11 Ill fortune dogs you Subtract 5% from all treasure found
12 The gods are against you Delay a week before departing


  Chivalry & Sorcery mandated that most characters get a horoscope 80% of the time before departing on an expedition. That was probably as ignored as much weapon speed in 1e. I'd rather make it slightly weighted in the players favor to encourage them to use it for roleplaying rather than making it a 'rule'.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Book Report - Moving Pictures

Moving Pictures is the tenth novel in Pratchett's acclaimed Discworld series.  It's hard to categorize within the Discworld canon, it can be considered part of the Rincewind/Unseen University stories.  Yet the main characters, other than Gaspode the Wonder Dog don't recur in the later Discworld volumes.  This would also be the first time in those stories where Rincewind doesn't appear.

     The supporting cast is familiar and well loved, C.M.O.T Dibbler, the Patrician and Death appear and, in Dibbler's case, attempts to sell the show he has just stolen.  The faculty of the Unseen University is being to assume it's mature identity.  Mustrum Ridcully makes his appearance as the Archchancellor, although in a less polished incarnation.  This event ended the oft alluded to, and occasionally seen, practice of succession to that position "via the dead man's pointy shoes."  The Bursar is beginning to have his nervous breakdown and the rest of the faculty has been reduced from personal names to titles.  The wizards have also gone from devious and scheming to fat and comic.  The Patrician seems to have slimmed down from his corpulence in the Colour of Magic towards Vetinari's spare frame.

     The story hits more memes from Hollywood than I can enumerate, the downside of them is that they leave me with a vague sense that the story was pieced together to around them rather than naturally including them.

Inspirations:
      The basic plot is saving the world from creatures with out.  In Discworld reality is always under siege by "creatures from the Dungeon Dimensions", Moving Pictures has some very evocative scenes of these creatures intruding.  It's a good chance to break out the "Random Creatures from the Lower Planes" tables in the back of the 1e DMG.

     The description of the "Cthinema" under the hill, with it's screen like a pool of quicksilver turned on edge and seats full of undead would make an off beat mystery for players.

     The effects of the clicks on the local population, it's easy to stop a villain, but how do you stop an idea?  Is there a hidden mastermind behind the fad sweeping the area, or is it the fad itself that's contagious?

      The idea that an unknown force is granting sentience to individual animals, is this where familiars come from?

     Dead man's pointy shoes - the PCs must either take out a high level wizard for their patron to advance or protect their patron from assassination.

Plot: Read the book, it's Discworld, you'll enjoy it.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Appendix N

Whew!  I think I have completed cataloging the background texts I've been using over on the other page.  Now, I'll have to start on the more expected fantasy texts.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Question on Alignment

A Question on Alignment over at Greyhawk Grognard in respect to a linear alignment system asks
     Given a system where evil is defined as the belief that the powerful should be in charge, and good is defined as the belief that the strong and wealthy should help the weak and the poor, what happens in a situation where a powerful person is in charge, and wants to help the weak and the poor? Isn't that a contradiction?

    To me this is not an exclusionary definition of good and evil, for the definitions to be true we must say that (1) a good man can never become powerful and (2) an evil man should not want to help the weak and needy.

     To refute the first statement, I submit that George Washington was a powerful man, who was placed in charge because he was powerful.  He was seen as the only real choice for President, in fact to this day he is the only unanimous selection in the Electoral College.  He achieved power through a long career of service, and specifically of service intended to provide him with wealth, recognition and power.  His work as a surveyor, service in the colonial militia and even his marriage speak to this desire for power.  So the question is was he good?  While some of his land speculation can be construed as shady, and he was a slave owner; his basic goodness and heroism is, in my studies, unquestioned. He did free the slaves that he legally could upon his death (some were entailed with the property), the assistance he gave Braddock during the French and Indian War, along with his militia service on the frontier had strong elements of altruism in his motivations.  His refusal not only of a crown, but his prompting to disband the post revolutionary fraternal order of his officers, because of the perception that it was a hereditary quasi-nobility demonstrates how important he felt it was to maintain a form of government open to all.

     In refutation of the second statement, it is in an evil man's interest to help the weak and poor - when he stands to gain from providing that help. Aristotle gives several examples of demagogues riding to power on the poor.  The help in those cases was in driving out the oligarchs who were oppressing the poor.  In Republican Rome, Marius rose to power as a populare, a people's man, as opposed to the oligarchical optimates or best men; he helped the poor but also launched the civil wars that shook Rome for the rest of the century.  In more modern times, corrupt political machines like Tammany Hall in New York or the Daley machine that still runs Chicago built themselves on ward bosses who knew the people in their areas and provided help in exchange for votes.

     I'm not going to offer an alternate definition of good and evil, as it's not my game.  If works for the players involved it's good enough.  I've always been content with whatever system, if any, is provided by the game I'm playing.  Besides we're discussing good and evil in a world that rewards the life style of murder hobo?

I'll close with one of my favorite quotes "Power corrupts, absolute power is even more fun." - BOfH  

Beastiary - Nemean Lion

 Lesser sons by normal mothers of the great beast slain by Hercules in the first of his mythic labors, these big cats still partake of their sire's strength and toughness.

 Common to all  is their tough skin, which provides an increased armor class and is near impervious to impaling and edged weapons.

The Nemean lion's skin may be removed and treated to make a cloak.


Nemean Lions grow up to 16 feet long and weigh up to 1600 pounds.

Combat A Nemean Lion attacks by running at and jumping on it's prey. It uses it's claw attacks to hold and its bite to crush the throat or neck. If it successfully hits with both of it's front claws, it can rake with the back claws.


Statistics by game system.

3rd Edition / Pathfinder

 

SizeHuge
Hit Dice10d8+30 (75HP)
Initiative+4 (Dex)
Speed50 feet
AC17 (-2 Size, +4 Dex, +5 natural)
Attacks2 claws +15 melee, bite +7 melee
DamageClaw 1d6 +7, Bite1d8+3
Face/Reach5ft by 10 ft/5ft
Special AttacksPounce, Improved grab, rake 1d6+3
Special QualitiesScent, Damage Reduction
SavesF9, R8, W7
AbilitiesSt 25, Dex 18, Con 17, IQ 2,
Wis 15, Cha 10
SkillsHide +5, Jump +10, Listen +4,
Move Silently +9, Spot +4
FeatsWeapon Finesse (Claw)
Climate/TerrainWarm land
Organization1 or Pride (1 + 1 -8 standard lions)
Challenge Rating7
AlignmentNeutral
Advancement11-24 HD (Huge)
Special Qualities

Damage Reduction:  The Nemean Lion takes 1/2 damage from slashing weapons and each hit from an impaling weapon does but a single point of damage.

The skin from a Nemean Lion may be treated to form a cloak that provides 2 points of armor to the wearer.  It has no casting penalty, no maximum dexterity and no armor check penalty.


1st Edition

FrequencyVery Rare
No Appearing1 or 1 + 1-8 regular lions
Armor Class2/3
Move20"
Hit Dice8 + 2
% in Lair25%
Treasure TypeNil
No of Attacks3
Damage/Attack1-6/1-6/2-12
Special AttacksRear Claws for 2-12/2-12
Special DefenseSurprised only on a 1
Magic ResistanceStandard
IntelligenceSemi-
AlignmentNeutral
SizeHuge
Psionic AbilityNil
Special Qualities

Damage Reduction:  The Nemean Lion takes 1/2 damage from sharp/edged  weapons and each hit from an impaling weapon (arrow, bolt, dart) does but a single point of damage.

The skin from a Nemean Lion may be treated to form a cloak that provides 2 points of armor  (Equal to a suite of Leather Armor) to the wearer. 




Chivalry & Sorcery

 

Body75
Weight 800
Move100/300
Armor7
% Hit40
% Dodge-30
Attack Mode
5xWDFMLC   6   Claws(+1 blow)
3xWDFMLC 3 Bite
Experience7500


Special Qualities
Rake attacks described above, are 6xWDF  MLC 6 Claw attacks.
 
Damage Reduction:  Reduce all "L" weapon damage by 1/2 and "LH" weapon damage by 1/3.  Bows, Crossbows and Javelins do but 1 point of damage on a hit.  Throwing axes are reduced as "L" weapons, damage from slings is not reduced.

The skin from a Nemean Lion may be treated to form a cloak that provides 2 points of armor (Equal to a Hardened Leather Cuirass and a Conical Helmet) to the wearer. 



Runequest 2e


STR3d6+15 (26-27)Move12
CON 3d6+4 (15-17)Hit Point Average17
SIZ2d6+12 (19)Treasure Factor29
INT7
POW40
DEX-30
CHA3d6
ClawSR8Attack 50%Damage 1d6+1d6
BiteSR8Attack 40%Damage 1d10+1d6
5 point skin

Special Qualities

Damage Reduction:  The Nemean Lion takes 1/2 damage from cutting and thrusting weapons, and there is no chance for an Impale.

The skin from a Nemean Lion may be treated to form a cloak that provides 3 points of armor (equal to Cuirbolli) to the wearer's Head, Arms, Chest and Abdomen and has an Encumbrance of 2. 


  Warhammmer Fantasy Role Playing 1e


  M    WS    BS    S    T    W    I   A    Dex    Ld    Int    Cl    WP    Fel 
6 50 0 7 5 30 70 3 35 40 15 66 55 -



Special Qualities
Damage Reduction:  The Nemean Lion takes 1/2 damage from slashing weapons (swords, axes, etc) and each hit from an impaling (arrows, spears, etc) weapon does but a single point of damage.

The skin from a Nemean Lion may be treated to form a cloak that provides 1 Armor Point to the wearer's Head, Arms and Body.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Ignoring Mrs Grundy

Mentalfloss had a list of 12 Nutty Dungeons & Dragons Media Mentions from the 1980s yesterday.  Ironically, their list starts in 1984, the same year that marks the beginning of the Silver Age according the esteemed Mr Maliszewski.  It also marked my graduating college, getting married and joining the Navy.  In that temporal order, if not in order of importance.  Because of all three reasons my gaming opportunities were in serious decline, but I do remember the silly stories and accusations in the news at that time.  I even wrote a letter to the Virginia Pilot newspaper defending the hobby, but I don't recall it getting published.

Back to the topic of this post, I submit that when the Mrs Grundy's of the world start voicing their disapproval of the immorality of a new hobby, said hobby has moved from avant-guarde to become boringly mainstream. 

The conclusion therefore is that Mrs Grundy should be ignored. 

This applies to anyone who insists that their preferred game and version for Role Playing is the best.  Such people are unicorns in my circle of acquaintances, everyone has heard of them, but no one has ever seen them.  Mind you, I don't think there are many virgins left in my acquaintance who could theoretically capture one.
 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Building Campaign Maps 5

Having mapped the information known to the players, the next step is to flesh out the map with minor towns, villages and connecting roads.

First I create a new Layer "Minor_Features" to contain the information.  The next decision to make is how many minor towns and villages will there be?  First I'll draw a distinction between small towns and villages; small towns for this exercise are independent communities, while villages are dependent on a larger urban area for a market.  I'll site small towns, such as Claudina and Masio Scampa on the route of the Via Egnatia the same way I sited the large towns and cities. 

For villages, I'll steal an idea from Warhammer FRP, and generate a random number of villages around each of the cities and towns.  Warhammer FRP  used the rule 4d6 villages around a city, but they were looking at population centers over 10,000, whereas Apollonia and Epidamnus are in the 5,000 - 10,000 population range.  So I'll use 2d6 for them and 1d6 for Lissus and Lychnidus.

Siting the villages will be done with some random rolls, one to determine the direction on the hex grid, the next to give an approximate distance.  Then I'll look for a natural feature, such as a river or valley and choose a hex in that area.

Another random number gives me the first letter of the village name, from there I'll choose one from lists of Greek and Illyrian place names available online.

After plotting them on the Minor_Features layer, I'll use the Path tool in GIMP to draw dashed lines for trails between the villages and towns.  The final effort looks like this.


If you compare this map to the version in the previous post in this series, you'll notice that the major roads have been redrawn in black. I liked the effect of the Path tool, better than the hand drawn ones I had done earlier. Good thing I had the foresight to put them on a different level than the terrain, it made deleting them a breeze with no terrain to carefully rebuild like I did when I removed the modern infrastructure.

I still have all the villages in the southern part of the map to add and some more trails to this layer, but that's just finishing it off.  If I come up with a new technique I'll post about it.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Social Class and Influence

One of the longest screeds in the 1e DMG is about Social Class and why it's not included in the rules. Conversely, Chivalry and Sorcery devotes pages of fine print to determining your character's Social Class, Birth Rank and Influence.  RuneQuest modifies your Charisma score for learning Oratory, leading successful (or disastrous) expeditions and having "showy" magic items. I can see the point for all of these.

What does the dragon you're negotiating ransom with care that you're the third son of the Baroness of Crumpet?  Why isn't the innkeeper deferring to you because you are?  Why do you still have an 18 charisma after you led that disastrous foray against said dragon?

For Epirus Nova,  I'm leaving the basic Charisma score alone.  It reflects your force of personality that you can get across to any intelligent creature.  However I'm going to add an Influence modifier, that may be used when dealing with other members of society.  It's applicability outside of your character's society is at the DMs discretion.

The components of Influence are Citizenship, Social Status, Wealth and Success.

Citizenship 

A great differentiator in the Roman world, if I recall my Bible correctly, the Apostle Paul was able to avoid immediate execution in favor of being sent to Rome, because he was a Roman citizen.  The Grades of citizenship in descending order are  Roman - enjoying full legal protection; Latin - Full legal protection under Roman law, not allowed to marry Roman citizens; Socii - citizens of Roman allies with defined legal rights; Foederati - citizens of conquered and subsequently allied states and Provinciales - any one without defined rights, who is subject to Roman control or jurisdiction.  Now, the distinction I'm drawing between Socii and Foederati wasn't as clear cut as I have made it; but this way is easier from the standpoint of game mechanics,

Social Status 

In the Republic this was a matter of birth, wealth, family history and getting elected.  At the top of the heap was any one who who has Imperium, that is a legal power to command others with in the boundaries of their duties.  It exists in varying degrees that are not important to this discussion.  Usually it is held by an individual as a virtue of the office to which they have been elected, such as Consul.  Grants of Imperium could be tailored to the task on hand.  Pompey the Great received a grant of Imperium in all territories within 50 miles of the sea when he was tasked with suppressing piracy.  Anyone with Imperium has the power to impose capital punishment outside of Rome itself.  Usually, held by men of Senatorial rank, however Equites were occasionally elected to offices with Imperium.  Non-Roman kings and tyrants are at this level.

Below holders of Imperium, comes the Senate.  There are two classes with in this category, regular and Nobles.  Noble Senators either had held a Consulship or had an ancestor who had been a Consul.  The minimum property qualification for a Senator is 1,000,000 GP.  this is anachronism, the requirement of 1,000,000 sesterces didn't come about until the Empire and the sesterce was a small silver coin.  Again, game mechanics.  Non-Roman oligarchs, upper and lower nobility.

Below the Senate are the Equites or 'Horsemen', they have a minimum wealth of 400,000 GP.  Non-Roman knights.

Not quite at the bottom are the Plebs, or commons.  With game mechanics in mind, I'm sub dividing these into Plebs who meet wealth thresholds, then Plebs who are clients of someone higher in the social order and unaligned Plebs.  The Patron/Client relationship was very important in the Roman society.  Having a patron meant you had a friend in court, some one who could loan you money, in return for which you provided political support and attended on them in public functions.  Of course, if you had the money yourself, you could function as a patron yourself.

Below the Plebs are the Freedmen and finally the Slaves.

Throwing it into a table:


InfluenceRomanLatinSociiFoederatiProvinciales
10Imperium
9Senator - NobleImperium
8SenatorSenator - NobleImperium 
7EquitesSenatorSenator-NobleImperium
6Pleb 300K gpEquitesSenatorSenator-NobleImperium
5Pleb 200K gpPleb 300K gpEquitesSenatorSenator-Noble
4Pleb 100K gpPleb 200K gpPleb 200K gpEquitesSenator
3Pleb 40K gpPleb 100K gpPleb 100K gpPleb 200K gpEquites
2Pleb 20K gpPleb 40K gpPleb 40K gpPleb 40K gpPleb 200K gp
1Pleb - ClientPleb - ClientPleb - ClientPleb - ClientPleb - Client
0Pleb Pleb  Pleb  Pleb  Pleb 
-1FreedmanFreedmanFreedmanFreedman
-2SlaveSlaveSlaveSlaveSlave

Wealth

As discussed under Senators and Equites, there are minimum levels of wealth to join the upper classes.  Of course, it's not automatic that they'll let you join.  You'll need to convince the Censor (a politcal office held by a Senator) that they should add you to the rolls.  Within the Plebs wealth is used to determine the pecking order.

Success  

Achieving a publicly acclaimed success is good for 1 point of Influence.  From a game mechanics stand point success is recovery a treasure worth more than 1000 GP x Average Party Level x Size of Party (including NPCs) or defeating a single monster which has Hit Dice equal or greater than Avergae Party Level + 4.

Failure

The converse of Success, a notable failure will cost one or more points of Influence.  In game play, each expedition where characters or NPCs do not return will cost an Influence point for each death - unless the Expedition was a Success.  Failure to complete an assignment for a Patron, will cost a point of Influence.

Using Influence

Influence can be used to modify the initial die roll when interacting with NPCs.  In those cases where failure allows a re-try, Influence can not be used on the re-tries.  If they weren't impressed with you the first time, they they'll completely discount it subsequently.

Have they heard of me?

The check to see if a particular NPC or group of NPCs has heard of the characters is 20 - the highest Influence in the party.  Similarly, to see if a character is recognized by an individual, the check is 20 - the character's Influence.  Not a good thing for an active Rogue to be picked out of a line up.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Building Campaign Maps with Google and GIMP 4

Cities, Rivers and Mountains

   As I showed in the previous post in this series,  I've added a layer which I've added a layer named "Player_Knowledge" to the xcf file.  On this layer, I'll site the large towns and geographic features that the players will know about when they arrive.

     The first question I need to answer is - what do they know about?  For my primary source of information, I'm going to use Strabo's Geographica (See Appendix N) Book 7, Chapters 5 (Illyria and Pannonia) and Chapter 7 (Epirus).  Fortunately, the footnotes embedded in the translation give the modern names for the cities and features, well modern as of 150 years ago.  Anything that I can't google, I'll use Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (Appendix N)  to find an intermediate place name.

Throwing it into a table we end up with.

StraboModernNotes
River DriloDrin
Lissa (Lissus)LesheAlso known as Alesso.  Large town.
AcrolissaNot a town, but a reference to the citadel  at Lissus.  I'll use that piece of information and declare that it's a legionary or at least an auxiliary fort protecting the area against the Illyrian tribes.
EpidamnusDurresBy Strabo's time the Romans had started calling it 'Dyrrachium' after the promontory, as the Greek name had inauspicious overtone in Latin. Small City.
River AspusSeman
River AousVjoseApollonia is situated about a mile from it.
Apollonia DestroyedThe only remains of Apollonia are part of the Temple of Apollo on the hill. Small city.
Mons CandaviaShebenikSearching Smith's, it's located on the road from Epidamnus to Lychnidus.  The biggest mountain along the way is Shebenik.
LychnidusOhridOver the border into Macedonia. Small town.
Pylon UnknownAs this marks a Roman boundary, I'm ruling that it hasn't been determined at this point.  Determining the boundary may become part of the campaign.
Mons CeraunMal i KanalitDerived from the Greek 'Thunder Split Mountain' - sounds like an adventure location to me.
OricumOrikum Small town.
Panormus (harbor)The Pasha's HarborThe harbor for Oricum
OnchesmusSarandeHad to chase this one through Smith's to 'Forty Saints' to Sarande. Large Town
CassiopaeKassiopiActually on the coast of the island of Corfu. Looking at the map, it's just off the southern boundary, so I'll skip it.





By using the Modern names, I was able to place the cities and towns on the map.

 I had said that the names showed up as mini-layers in GIMP.  I have since found that I can 'Merge Down' the mini-layers  into the lower level, so I now have them all in the Player_Knowledge layer.

The gray line represents a known major road.
That pretty well wraps up adding the historical elements onto the basic map.  I still need to generate smaller towns and villages, as well a do overlays for encounter areas, mask the interior so I can save off a view for my players, with out them knowing which valley they need to go up to get across the mountains.  I'm also toying with laying out  the areas for the different tribes, but haven't decided on that step yet.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Funny Hats

     Stelios over at d20 Dark Ages commented that many of the players he's observed have played their non-human characters as "humans in funny hats".  Now I think that that's a fair statement, an analogous one is that many players play a stat block rather than a character, neither of which really address how you come up with a character.  Not the stats you've rolled up or ran through an Excel spreadsheet until you got a set of 3d6 rolls at the far end of the bell curve; but a personality that determines how you will react without ever rolling a die.
     Race can be a component, our current group is running as all dwarves and (mostly) playing one of the common dwarven stereotypes.
 
"You're just going to break in?" said Sacharissa.
"We'll say we were lost," said Boddony.
"Lost underground? Dwarfs?"
"All right, we'll say we're drunk.  People will believe that.  Okay, lads...."


Another is the gruff dwarven warrior stereotype, and I expect we could all come up with ones for every race.

But the problem with playing stereotypes, is that just that - they're stereotypes.  And sticking to them denies a player the chance to do what the game is about - ROLEPLAY.  That's the R in RPG after all.  I'm having fun playing Alesmiter as a slightly stunned, drunken dwarven bersek cleric, but in another campaign perhaps I'll want to try playing a Casanunda style character who goes against all the dwarven stereotypes.

I don't believe that sticking to stereotypes is what Stelios has in mind in his post, but the alternative isn't clear to me.  I'll posit an alternative theory as to why so many characters act alike regardless of their race.  To use a delightful phrase I've seen at several other RPG blogs - 'Murder hobos' have more in common with each other than with the people they sprang from.  In other words, it's not that they are played like "humans in funny hats", but that they are played like adventurers.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Twelve Levels of the Dungeon

 During Saturday's expedition, John (Hahdan) and Dave(Thunk) created the verses about the lippy elves and gloating dwarves.  Here for your cringing pleasure is the rest of the song - you know the tune.

On the first level of the dungeon
The DM gave to me
A kobold in a pit trap

On the second level of the dungeon
The DM gave to me
Two halfing rouges
And a kobold in a pit trap

On the third level of the dungeon
The DM gave to me
Three headed hydra,
Two halfing rouges
And a kobold in a pit trap


On the fourth level of the dungeon
The DM gave to me
Four cutting blades,
Three headed hydra,
Two halfing rouges
And a kobold in a pit trap

On the fifth level of the dungeon
The DM gave to me
FIVE GLOATING DWARVES!
Four cutting blades,
Three headed hydra,
Two halfing rouges
And a kobold in a pit trap

On the sixth level of the dungeon
The DM gave to me
Six lippy elves,
FIVE GLOATING DWARVES!
Four cutting blades,
Three headed hydra,
Two halfing rouges
And a kobold in a pit trap

On the seventh level of the dungeon
The DM gave to me
Seven orcs a-fighting ,
Six lippy elves,
FIVE GLOATING DWARVES!
Four cutting blades,
Three headed hydra,
Two halfing rouges
And a kobold in a pit trap

On the eighth level of the dungeon
The DM gave to me
Eight mummies marching,
Seven orcs a-fighting,
Six lippy elves,
FIVE GLOATING DWARVES!
Four cutting blades,
Three headed hydra,
Two halfing rouges
And a kobold in a pit trap

On the ninth level of the dungeon
The DM gave to me
Nine liches a-plotting,
Eight mummies marching,
Seven orcs a-fighting,
Six lippy elves,
FIVE GLOATING DWARVES!
Four cutting blades,
Three headed hydra,
Two halfing rouges
And a kobold in a pit trap

On the tenth level of the dungeon
The DM gave to me
Ten lizardmen leaping,
Nine liches a-plotting,
Eight mummies marching,
Seven orcs a-fighting,
Six lippy elves,
FIVE GLOATING DWARVES!
Four cutting blades,
Three headed hydra,
Two halfing rouges
And a kobold in a pit trap

On the eleventh level of the dungeon
The DM gave to me
Eleven trolls a-rending
Ten lizardmen leaping,
Nine liches a-plotting,
Eight mummies marching,
Seven orcs a-fighting,
Six lippy elves,
FIVE GLOATING DWARVES!
Four cutting blades,
Three headed hydra,
Two halfing rouges
And a kobold in a pit trap

On the twelfth level of the dungeon
The DM gave to me
Twelve dragons breathing,
Eleven trolls a-rending,
Ten lizardmen leaping,
Nine liches a-plotting,
Eight mummies marching,
Seven orcs a-fighting,
Six lippy elves,
FIVE GLOATING DWARVES!
Four cutting blades,
Three headed hydra,
Two halfing rouges
And a kobold in a pit trap

Monday, December 3, 2012

Fourth Expedition

Thunk was feeling better, but Flash was quiet the whole time, no riddle games or anything fun.
A new member came up on the last supply wagon, his name is Hahdan Lowbeard, the Laughing Mage.  He has a really acidic sense of humor.  At least no one appears to be chasing him, unlike Slick and Flash.

We were also told after this dungeon we can return to town for a bit.  That's good, I'm out of ale for services.

There were a lot of empty rooms in the dungeon and the halls were narrow..  The bigger the room, the emptier it was, it seemed.  Finally, after doing his rituals at one door, Slick motioned that there was bacon inside.  That made me hungry, we're out of bacon too.  When Thunk opened the door, he found six orcs in a very small room, he thinks they were having an orc-gy.  One of them hit him  hard with an axe, that made Thunk mad so he killed the orc.  Then another one hit him.  Thunk came out to be healed, while Drunk went into fight,  the orc hit him very hard.  I channeled energy to heal Thunk and Drunk, while Drunk was killing the next two.  Then another one hit Drunk so hard I had to heal him again.  It made Drunk mad too, so he killed the last two before he calmed down.

There was no bacon, I was disappointed.  Sometimes I think worshipping other gods than Hanseath makes people crazy.  This is a case in point, where's the bacon?

Slick found us another door, eventually Drunk got it open, another very small room, this time full of forteen kobolds.  Hahdan threw something in, but it didn't do anything.  Drunk smashed one into tiny pieces.  Even for a kolbold tiny pieces.   I had to kill one in order to get into the room.  Hahdan threw something again and made one of their faces melt.  That was pretty neat.  One of them hit Drunk, he chopped through it and the one next to in in one blow.  Kolbolds are wimps.Thunk came in and started killing them, and Hahdan half melted another one of them.  Then Drunk, Thunk and I killed the rest.  Thunk said he thinks this is the clown cart of dungeons, the smaller the room the more clowns there are in it.

Thunk and Drunk went into a room with two big centipedes, Drunk got bit.  Then they both killed one.

Thunk and Drunk went into a room with two big ants, Drunk and Thunk got bit.  Then they both killed one.  Getting bit like that would bug me.

We found a room with six lippy elves in it.  I got bored talking with them, so Thunk, Hahdan and I killed them.  Drunk and Slick weren't very happy about that.  But once the elves started shooting at us, thy got over it.  Hahdan and Thunk started singing a song about ...'six lippy elves, FIVE GLOAT-ING DWARVES'...

Then we found a room with goblins, hobgoblins and ale.  Drunk and Slick and Hahdan (I think) killed them.  Then I held a short service for Hahdan until we finished the ale.  I don't remember much of the fight after that.  It must have been that goblin ale.

When the service was over, Hahdan found a concealed door.  It's good to have a smart guy like him along.  This time Slick's prayers worked because the net didn't land on him when he opened the door.  Inside were four zombies, I hit them with the [revised] wrath of Hanseath and they withered before it.  Then Drunk and Thunk went in and re-killed them. 

We went out of the dungeon to rest then.  Still no bacon and no ale, this is a hard life.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Pass the Word for VetNet

A quick Public Service Announcement.  I saw this over on Engadget and with one son just out of the Navy, one with 15 months left in the Marines and a nephew back from Afghanistan and getting discharged before Christmas, I'd like pass the word about VetNet.



I remember my transition fifteen years ago and it would have been nice to have had something like this available then.  I also know that there are a lot of gamers who have served, so be a good shipmate and help pass the word.

I realize this is a US centric service Google is providing and having had the pleasure of serving with many of our allies (including a memorable afternoon drinking aboard HMCS Terra Nova off of Haiti), if you are aware of support efforts for veterans in other countries, let me know and I'll help you pass the word for them.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Building Campaign Maps with Google and GIMP 3

Ridiculously easy

In the previous post, I had finished editing out all of the roads and labels leftover from the screenshot I had taken in Google Maps.  I want a hex map, I came up when players still bounced routinely between RPGs and Avalon Hill or Strategy and Tactics' board games, all of which were overlayed with a hex grid. I 've tried generating hex grids on computers for thirty years with varying results.  Here I go again.

Start by saving the map as a GIMP *.xcf, that way even if you screw up down the line, there's a back up of all that work you put in to clean up the terrain.  With the xcf file, I'm going to add layers, that way if I put a town in the wrong place, I won't have to re-edit the terrain.  To do that, press Control-L to bring up the Layer dialog. 





I've gone into the Layer Properties and renamed the first layer as 'Terrain', and created two additional layers 'Grid' and 'Player_Knowledge'.  I'll use the latter to control what shows up on any maps I provide to the players.  The little eye icons, control visibility of the layer, 'Grid' is currently invisible.  The highlighted layer indicates which one you are currently editing.

As expected the page icon in the lower left is used to create a new layer.



So, how about that grid. I did a quick Google search in the expectation that someone, somewhere had not only wanted to use GIMP to make a hex grid, but had published direction on how to do it.  What I found was a GIMP 'Script-fu' to do it for me - Hex Grid. Follow the instructions to install the script, then select your Grid layer and Filters->Render->Pattern->Hex Grid.
Change the color to red, reduce the Line Width to 1 pixel and throw in a horizontal offset of half a pixel to avoid edge effects.  A little playing around counting hexes demonstrated that a Side length of 9 pixels gives a scale of approximately one mile center to center on the hexes. I'm not going to worry about the exact scale, (a) I'm limited by technology, I can't make it draw fractions of a pixel, (b) in the Classical world they couldn't agree on the length of measurement either, and (c) it's a play aid, close enough works.

Here's the map from Apollonia to Oricum at 1:1 scale.  I'm also showing the Player_Knowledge layer with the cities and major roads.  Oddly, to me anyway, each name is treated as a separate 'mini-layer' by GIMP, so looking in the Layer dialogue you will also see Layers for 'Apollonia' and 'Oricum'.


As I said at the beginning it's ridiculously easy to add a hex grid in GIMP for tracking overland travel.  In a subsequent post I'll cover how I sited the cities, and start generating smaller communities on a 'Small_Town' layer.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

20 Questions

My answers to Jeff Rients 20 Questions. Campaign map at the bottom.

  1. What is the deal with my cleric's religion?
    It's all politics at the top. Powerful individuals get elected to the position of high priest for the social status it brings them. They can do a few divinations, but don't ask them to raise the fighter from the dead. The heavy lifting is done by under priests, who often retired/crippled adventurers such as your character. The good news is that if you can help the high priest, he'll help you. Whether it's straightening out that little mix up that burned the tavern down or knowing where to get that rare Egyptian unguent needed for the potion, the high priest has the connections to help.

  2. Where can we go to buy standard equipment? 
    Lissus, Epidamnus, Apollonia can supply you with most of what you want. In particular, Apollonia and Epidamnus are major trading ports on the route to and from Italy and the East. Goods are periodically available in those locations that are usually only available in larger cities. Lychnidus, Oricum and Onchesmus have most standard goods for sale, rarely a single masterwork item. Smaller villages will only have provisions and mundane items.

  3. Where can we go to get platemail custom fitted for this monster I just befriended? 
    Sucks to be you. Platemail hasn't been invented yet, nor has half plate. The best you will do is Banded. I'd start with the armorers at the Cohort IXof Legion I Macedonicus in Lissus

  4. Who is the mightiest wizard in the land? 
    Pantarious, as the Egyptian Pan-Twa-Re's name has been latinized. A recent arrival with the new Legate G. Servilius Vatia in Apollonia.

  5. Who is the greatest warrior in the land? 
    Lucius Pulcio, retired Roman soldier now serving as Captain of the Guard for Perseus Tuetella, Dynast of Epidamnus. Pulcio single handedly killed an elephant charging his cohort at the battle of Zama, receiving a Civic Crown for his achievement.

  6. Who is the richest person in the land?
    The Legate G. Servilius Vatia is only here temporarily, so Perseus Tuetella, Dynast of Epidamnus is the richest local.

  7. Where can we go to get some magical healing? 
    Apollonia is your best bet, the Temple of Apollo has an attached shrine to his son Asclepius. Also, you can try the Stoa of Apollonia, a group of mages and sages who are willing to try anything to cure someone else.

  8. Where can we go to get cures for the following conditions: poison, disease, curse, level drain, lycanthropy, polymorph, alignment change, death, undeath? 
    The Stoa of Apollonia

  9. Is there a magic guild my MU belongs to or that I can join in order to get more spells? 
    No guild, but you can buy temporary library rights from the tutors at the Stoa.

  10. Where can I find an alchemist, sage or other expert NPC? 
    The Stoa of Apollonia for intellectuals.  Lissus, Epidamnus and Apollonia for skilled craftsmen.

  11. Where can I hire mercenaries? 
    Lissus, Epidamnus and Apollonia have ruffians for hire. Not really trained mercenaries, but sailors who like to fight.

  12. Is there any place on the map where swords are illegal, magic is outlawed or any other notable hassles from Johnny Law? 
    Illegal, no. But anything bigger than a shortsword and leather armor gets you marked as a barbarian within the towns. In other words, prices go up and reactions go down (-2).

  13. Which way to the nearest tavern? 
    The upper class entertain each other in their own houses. So all you'll find are neighborhood bars, where prices will go up and reactions down (-2) to strangers, or dives down by the waterfront. 

  14. What monsters are terrorizing the countryside sufficiently that if I kill them I will become famous? 
    Nothing near the cities, and anything done up in the mountains will be discounted as occurring in out in the sticks.  You might want to hire someone to write an epic poem about your feat, if fame is that important to you.

  15. Are there any wars brewing I could go fight? 
    Legion I Macedonicus Cohort IX in Lissus is hiring. It's a twenty five year hitch, roll up a new character. Tribal raids from the Illyrians are an occasional annoyance, but haven't gotten past the fortress at Lissus in over twenty years.

  16. How about gladiatorial arenas complete with hard-won glory and fabulous cash prizes? 
    Epidamnus. Minimum ten fights, hard to win - yes,  for glory and cash go to Rome.

  17. Are there any secret societies with sinister agendas I could join and/or fight? 
    Not so much secret societies, but people with agendas include Perseus Tuetella, Dynast of Epidamnus, who would like to kick the Romans out and set up the Illyrian kingdom again.  Also, the magician Pantarious is known to have his own agenda, but rumor doesn't agree on what it is.

  18. What is there to eat around here?
    Fish, Goat, Olives, Fruit, Grains.  Wine in the low lands, beer is more common in the mountains.

  19. Any legendary lost treasures I could be looking for? 
    Jason's Shield, that he used to defeat Medusa, is said to be hidden in the mountains.  It is said to be the first object made out of Bright-Steel by the Miraditorum dwarves.

  20. Where is the nearest dragon or other monster with Type H treasure?
    A large bronze dragon has been seen along the coast south of Oricum.
Here's the map with the cities shown.  How I went from the terrain to adding in cities and major roads is a subject for another post.


Building Campaign Maps with Google and GIMP 2

Removing labels, roads and borders

In my last post I had taken an image from Google maps and trimmed off the unwanted borders.  Now for a few techniques in taking the map down to just the terrain.



Here I've taken the previous image and zoomed to a 4:1 scale (400% actual size).  I've found this is the largest scale where I can still recognize the terrain while I'm editing. I'm going to remove the label "Kolonje" in this example, it will demonstrate the technique I use to rebuild land forms that were covered by labels.

Use the eyedropper tool (1) to select the lightest color from the surrounding terrain.  The use the paint brush tool (02), set on a convenient shape, such as "Circle (05)" (3) to paint over the lablel (4).


`
The next step is to use the spray gun tool to rebuild terrain features.  This time select the darkest portion of the feature being rebuilt with the eyedropper and set the spray gun tool to "Fuzzy Circle (03)", this allows the paint to fade out at  the edges.  Draw in the lines you want and then darken the intervening spaces to match the surrounding terrain.


 The last step is to use the eyedropper to select the color of the surrounding terrain and paint over the rest of the label and any roads or other symbols in the area.


Repeat for all the other labels until your map is clean.  It will take several hours, but in the end you'll end up with a map like this.  (In this map, I've stitched together the areas above and below the initial map to build a map of the campaign area).






Tuesday, November 27, 2012

My Gaming Shelf

James over at Grognardia has posted a picture of the gaming references he keeps on hand.  So here's my shelf.
The thick white binder I got at one of the very first 'Supporting Microsoft Windows 95" courses (I attended with the instructors), it contains a copy of the German RPG The Dark Eye (English language version)The Green binder next to it is my battered copy of Chivalry and Sorcery, the red cover edition.  It fell apart back in the early 80's so I transferred it into a binder using a three hole punch on the pages.  What you don't see are the PDF's I've collect on my tablet, Pathfinder and RuneQuest supplements such as Pavis and the Big Rubble, Griffin Mountain, Cult Compendium and Border Lands and Beyond.  Bless you, driveThruRPG!  Somewhere in the basement are my first edition ShadowRun and Traveller books

Building Campaign Maps with Google and Gimp

My campaign has been in hiatus for a few months now while I've been playing Alesmiter; so my batteries are recharged and I'm ready to start planning the next round of adventures.  One of the decisions I've made is to move the campaign location from North Africa to Eprius Nova, the area which we now call Albania.  It gives me adventuring areas closer to an urban center.  Time to make a new map.

I'm using a new technique to make the maps, snapshots of Google maps areas, cleaned up and stitched together using GIMP.  I'm not a GIMP expert by any means, but I've been able to figure out how to do things with it fairly easily.  I'm running a campaign set in a fantasy Roman Republic, just after the fall of Carthage and about 90 years before Gaius Julius Caesar invades Gaul.  So Google Maps can be used to build my campaign world.  Of course, any large scale (small area) fantasy setting could be mapped over piece of the real world terrain using these techniques.

Getting the image - I opened Google Maps to Albania at the 5 mile scale and took a snapshot on my tablet.
I saved the image off onto my laptop and opened it in GIMP.

I used Google Maps - Terrain mode because it gives me an effect I like better than the plain Satellite view or the Earth view.  It does have a limitation in that I can't turn labels off in this view.  So I'll have to deal with them later.  The first thing I'll do is crop the control bars on the top and bottom of the image. 

The cross hairs on the pointer (not shown) identify a point on the image, by hovering over the top of the lower control bar, the pointer location circled in the bottom corner of the screen shows that it's at pixel 752.  Similarly I used the pointer to find the bottom of the top control bar, at pixel 58.  752 -58 gives us an image height of 694.



 Using Image -> Canvas Size from the menu I reach this dialog














Click on the chain icon (1) to decouple the image Width and Height, as we don't need to trim the ends.  Set the desired image height (2).  Set your offset from the top of the image (3) - not sure why the value '58' didn't get captured here.  Select to resize All Layers (4), click Center (5) and then Resize (6).  And you have successfully trimmed your image.





In my next post I'll cover techniques for getting rid of those pesky labels, modern roads and borders from the image.





Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thoughts on Role Playing


It's fun to get together with the group, catch up and roll some dice, but I really enjoy the role playing aspect.  In particular, coming up with the role I'm going to play with this character.

The first piece of developing a role is to establish a backstory.  Different games provide the players with different requirements for the backstory, 1e has a table of professions, 2 and 3.x didn't have anything that I used.  Warhammer Fantasy Role Playing (WFRP) has you generate what the character is doing for  living; Chivalry and Sorcery started with two pages of tables laying out your birth order, standing in society and whether or not you were the Black Sheep of the family.
Now, the backstory does not need to be terribly elaborate, a single hook can be enough to for you to know how to play the character.  In one case I was playing a halfling barbarian armed with a warhammer, I came up with the hook that he had been an enforcer for the Hobbit Thieves Guild (thank you Fineous Fingers).  With that hook and class, I then decided that as a halfling, his specialty would be kneecapping the opposition, which gave me his nickname 'The Kneecapper'.   When the dice rolls showed that the character had noticed the same shadowy figure watching the party as he had seen earlier, the character's response was obvious, the pint sized Conan waked up to her and said, 'I never forget a pair of knees, what are you doing here, doll?' - or words to that effect.   Attacking the watcher, alerting the party, or any other option simply wouldn't have fit  the character's personality.  Later when the party visited a city, everyone else was running around searching for more and more powerful magic items to buy, I gave some thought to his actions.  Conan never upgrades his equipment unless it's been broken or failed him somehow, so no upgrades for the Kneecapper.  Barbarians like shiny things and blow their money on wine, wenches (a term my wife loathes) and gaudy toys.  The look on the DM's face when he asked me what the character was doing and I asked him for a price on having my armor gold plated will warm my memory forever.  Sure, I could have gone out and bought a +3 warhammer and armor of never being hit, but that would have been the player buying it and not the character.  Nor would it have been nearly as enjoyable for everyone.

Most players seem to come up with at least a sketchy backstory, but character goals seem to have disappeared since 1e.  Two of my 1e characters established territories around Lake Whyestil in the original Greyhawk campaign setting.  Since then, I haven't seen a game that addresses how these powerful characters can settle down and fit into their society.  I think of it as the WoW effect, all electronic games are heavily scripted, the more options they present to the player, the more scripts they can execute, but it's an illusion of freedom,  you can never deviate from the actions the developers have allowed.  The action the developers allow is for the player to advance his character to evermore powerful levels.  Now this makes perfect sense in electronic games, particularly MMO's where the developer or at least the host has an economic interest in keeping the player playing.  Breaking this limitation in RPGs adds to the enjoyment for the players.  Whether the character retires to NPC status or is simply referenced in the name of an inn their new characters visit on a later adventure, it adds to the sense that they have helped create the world you're sharing with them.

 And if you want the character to retire after they've earned enough gold to buy that inn, well why not?  A good DM can certainly use that as a springboard to new adventures, anything from catching a persistent burglar to dealing with an infestation of kobolds in the beer cellar.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

TSR Returns?

Both Gamers and Grognards and Grognardia are reporting that TSR has been resurrected by Tim Kask and will be publishing Gygax Magazine starting next month. Reportedly Phil Foglio and Rich Burlew are signed on to produce comics. Going to gygaxmagazine.com takes you to a sign up page for notification when the magazine is published.  Now if they can do raise dead on Fineous Fingers....

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Converting D&D 3.0 to Pathfinder - Feats, Encumbrance and Spells


The (probably) last post in the series will cover a fairly eclectic list of the pieces of the character sheet that we haven't covered to date.

Feats

Big changes here again, the first two eTools feats were granted powers of the War domain.  Those have gone away, so I spent the feat I earned at third level to take Weapon Focus again.  I do not need to retake the Martial Weapon Proficiency feat, as all Clerics now have proficiency with their deities favored weapon. Clerics of Tharizdun in the Greyhawk campaign lose out on this rule - "Spiral of decay (no equivalent weapon)".  But Orlin is back to where he started having only suffered the loss of feat slot.

Languages

Almost forgot this area of the character sheet.  No changes for the character, but the rules for learning languages have changed.  They no longer cost skill points, sort of, rather the Linguistics skill allows you to select one language for each skill point you buy in it.  Also, barbarians are no longer illiterate.  Drunk and Thunk now have a use for books other than starting fires and cleaning themselves.

Spells

eTools Spells

Pathfinder Spells

Looks like a bigger change that it really is.  And it's a change for the better to me.  Instead of three pages of spells for a second level cleric (eTools prints every Cleric spell in it's book because it treats them as all being in the cleric's 'spellbook'); Pathfinder just gives you a space to list the spells your character knows.

I've found in the past that it's easier to look up a spell in the Player's Handbook than it s to search for it in the sheaf of papers, so I'm happy to see it.

For playing purposes I just list my default spells here and use a scratch sheet or note card to track the spells the character actually has prepared and used.  It's the same way I've managed spells for magic users in the past.

0 level spells are prepared, but not used up as explained below under Special Abilities.  Cure Minor Wounds (curing 1 hp) has been replaced by Stabilize (stops character from dying).  So I can't heal the party one hp at a time under that rule.

The spells conform to the changes made between 3.0 and 3.5, so buffs have a duration of minutes, not hours.  The duration issue certainly affected my spell choice.  Why waste a slot on a one shot buff that only lasts for a single combat?

Domains have changed considerably, as I've alluded to various times in these posts.  Most of the changes I'll cover under Special Abilities, but one that I'll call out here is a revision to the Domain spell lists.  The Travel domain first level spell (which I didn't take) is new 'Longstrider' - adds 10' to your movement base.  previously it was 'Expeditious Retreat', which doubled your speed.

Special Abilities





















This is a busy section and I'll concentrate on the differences between the two.  Much of this may have been covered in previous posts, but I'll reiterate, just to make sure.

New and modified Racial Traits - 'Slow and Steady', dwarves are not slowed by armor or encumbrance penalties.
'Greed' - +2 on Appraise checks of non-magical items containing gems or precious metals.
'Hardy' - the ++2 save vs poison has been expanded to include spells and spell like abilities.
'Stability' - brand new, as the Combat Maneuver Defense statistic is brand new.  Helps defend against two of the maneuvers.

Cleric Features.  As mentioned previously, Heavy Armor Proficiency has been lost.  Also Shield Proficiency no longer includes Tower Shields.  On the plus side - every cleric is now proficient with their deity's favored weapon.
'Aura' is new, it answers the long running question - does the Evil cleric show up on a Detect Evil spell?  The answer is they do now.
'Channel Energy' - replaces (ad simplifies) turning undead.  Channeling energy directly damages undead in a 30 foot radius.  It's usable multiple times a day.  It can also be used as a mass cure.
'Orisons' - as I mentioned under spells, 0 level spells are not expended when cast; but only a fixed number of spells can be prepared per day.  In effect, 0 level spells are treated as Sorceror or Bard spells.

Domain Powers.  The domain powers have been replaced by lesser abilities.  Travel used to provide Freedom of Movement against magical obstructions.  Now you can ignore terrain restrictions.  War was great domain, it provided two free feats.  Now, although the one feat is replaced by the Favored Weapon rule above, all you get is the ability to give one ally at a time a +1 damage bonus for one round.  Pretty much a downer.

Encumbrance

eTools Encumbrance




Pathfinder Encumbrance

 Finally, the last topic I have to cover in these posts.  And it's not a very long one.  The ranges for encumbrance values have not changed.  On the other hand, it wouldn't matter for this character, as dwarves are not slowed by heavy loads.

Instead of listing every piece of armor and weapons individually, I've simply totaled the weights for what the character is actually carrying.  I believe I said earlier that the Great Axe has gone on a diet and is down to twelve pounds in weight.

One innovation I do like is Pathfinder providing the amount of weight that the character can lift over their head, lift off the ground or drag.

That wraps up this series of posts on converting to Pathfinder.  If you have any questions, please contact me by email or leave a comment.