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
Chivalry & Sorcery
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, 3rd Edition
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, 2nd Edition
Call of Cthulhu


Games Run
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, 1st Edition
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, 3rd Edition
Chivalry & Sorcery
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.

      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


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
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
Hit Dice8 + 2
% in Lair25%
Treasure TypeNil
No of Attacks3
Special AttacksRear Claws for 2-12/2-12
Special DefenseSurprised only on a 1
Magic ResistanceStandard
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


Weight 800
% Hit40
% Dodge-30
Attack Mode
5xWDFMLC   6   Claws(+1 blow)
3xWDFMLC 3 Bite

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
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.


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:

9Senator - NobleImperium
8SenatorSenator - 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 


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.


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.


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.

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
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,
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,
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,
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,
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,
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,
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,
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.