Saturday, July 13, 2024

Exploring the Wilderlands - Character Generation Home Rules

 The Wilderlands is over 90% human, human society dominates the area.  While AD&D encouraged a human-centric play with the race & class character level limits, more recent editions have stripped that away to the point that as far back as 3rd Edition I've had to abandon campaign plans because the characters didn't support the premise anymore.

    Not being a fan of level limits for the last 45 years, I turned to my other old, old RPG rule set to steal ideas. And in the end I created my own version of Chivalry & Sorcery's Character Race random table. Indeed I based much of my chargen process on C&S, creating tables to determine family background and occupation; along with my own "elaborate set of tables ...which can locate a member literally within miles of a particular town" as Simbalist & Backhaus put it in their section on designing the feudal nation. Finally achieving a goal I've been aspiring to since the late 1970s.

Using that, I rolled up a party of four humans, a half-orc and an elf. Again I borrowed a C&S chargen idea that certain races have minimum characteristic values, and having determined the character of that race, if the minimums are not rolled, then the characteristic is raised. In this case the Elf exceeded the minimums on the rolls, so Ithranel became a High Elf, or Gray Elf in AD&D parlance.

Further rolls determined that two characters came from the city of Zothay in the County of Zothiem, so that became the starting point, one the son of a Merchant and the other the son of an egg seller. Characters are assumed to be basically competent in any skills from their family occupational background.

Other rolls were made for height and weight, again based on, but simplified from C&S. And for hair/hide and eye color, these are based on the information from the WIlderlands setting itself. Additionally, based on the location, the character's cultural background was determined.

I should mention, that I've taken to starting new characters at 2nd Level, as few players enjoy grinding out 1st level in old school games.

And so, determining that the Thieves Guildmaster had commissioned them to return with copies of any writings in Auld Viridian or ๐Œ€๐Œ–๐Œ‹๐Œƒ ๐Œ…๐Œ‰๐Œ“๐Œ‰๐Œƒ๐Œ‰๐Œ€๐Œ  in the Etruscan (Marsiliana Tablet) alphabet as rendered in the 'Historic - Old Italic' font.  And the solo play began.

Friday, July 12, 2024

Exploring the Feudal Wilderlands - Assembling the Party

    In this series of posts, I'll be doing some solo play to test out my home rules for my Feudal Wilderlands setting.  Those rules cover character generation, the social structure of the setting and random encounter generation.   The format will be an initial solo play post, followed by posts exploring how the adventure developed.  As in all campaigns, the party has to come together before the adventure truly begins.  The dates use the canonical Wilderlands setting calendar of months, although day names come from classical Greek lunar calendars.  Maps refer to Rob Conley's Wilderlands Maps.

Midsummer's Eve, 2nd Waning - Rayner's Tankard, Zothay
Map 2 Hex 3611


   Walker approached the table in the tavern carrying two flagons. 

     Bictirc looked at him and remarked "If you're buying the first round you must have a job. And you need some muscle." 
     Sitting down and passing his friend one of the ales, Daniel Walker smiled and said "You're right on both. The Guildmaster gave me a commission. We're to go up to the Waste, find an old tomb and bring back anything written in Viridian, or at least make a copy of it." 
     "Which explains why you want me. The Wastes are bloody dangerous away from the road. Hell, the ROAD is dangerous, I still wake up with the sweats remembering what happened to Dankmar in the mud flats and we were within bow shot of the road then." 
     "I know, I know. And we agreed that if we ever made it big, we'd haul his statue out of the mud and get him turned back into a human. The deal is traveling money and we get to keep anything else we find. Bonus for each item we bring back written in Viridian.  And that's just anything written in a script like this." and he traced some characters out on a scrap of parchment.  ๐Œ€๐Œ›๐ŒŒ๐Œ€๐Œƒ๐Œ๐Œƒ-๐Œ๐Œ๐Œ‚
   "What's it say?  I'm not a scholar."
    "Just the name of some old god." Walker shrugged.  "Like I said, they don't care what we bring back, as long it was written in this script.  I figure we spend tomorrow putting some supplies together and leave the next morning."
Vineyard Bounty, New Moon - Zothay
    Fog rolled off the Arthiop Flats and in from Damkina Bay, making the morning chill and dreary.  Wagons queued up at the Bellystone Gate, waiting for the guards to open them for the day.  Bictirc and Walker held their horses as they talked with one of the cart drivers.
    "No, no, it's true the Ocher Spear threw what the orcs call a bridge across the Murmuring Stream, just up from where it flows into the Mageven.  It cuts a full day off the ride to the Old South Road.  But it will cost you a fair amount.  Two gold crowns a leg, man and beast is what I heard.  O'course the bridge is too rickety for a cart or wagon so I haven't used it me self." the driver passed the rumor on to them.

    Walker and Bictirc mounted their horses when the gate opened and departed with the morning wagons and the farmers returning from a night of bucolic debauchery in Zothay.
    "A day is a day,' remarked Bictirc, "but twenty four gold is twenty four gold.  Does that fall under 'traveling money'?"
    Walker frowned, "I don't know and do you think the orcs will be happy to see us after our last little excursion?"
    "None of them survived that excursion, nor did we leave anything behind that would identify us as having dispatched that group of pig faces.  It's your call, as you're the one with the commission. I'm just the hired muscle."
    "I'd rather camp out with the trade wagons, than lose twenty four gold." Walker decided.
Vineyard Bounty, 3rd Rising - The Godly Willow, Mageven village at Bellystone Ford on the Old South Road
Map 2 Hex 3308

   Improbably tall and incredibly thin, with hair like spun gold, the gray elven maiden gathered everyone's eye as she entered the common room in a rich, but travel worn cloak.  The innkeeper bustled up and bowed as she waited for her eyes to adjust to the dim interior from the afternoon sun.  Walker couldn't overhear their conversation, but the innkeeper shrugged and pointed to their table.  He kicked Bictirc under the table and they both rose as the elf approached.
    "Fey Lady", he greeted her as they gave her a half bow.
    "You are the 'expert treasure seekers' the teamsters say are looking for companions?" she asked without a preamble.
    "Uh," Bictirc stammered, "we are, but this is just a job, not a quest for a noble lady."
    "Perfect", she smiled and seated herself, gesturing for them to sit back down with her.  "I am Ithranel of Colsith, I have experience with sword, bow and spell.  My grandfather suggested that I should experience the world, even though my mother thinks of me as a child as I'm still in my second yรจn.  What is this 'job'?"
    "Simple exploration of an old tomb." Walker said.  "Even split on treasures, other than items written in Auld Viridian.  Those belong to our clients.  How are you at copying letters and such?  If there are any on the walls or other structures, we'll want to bring back a copy, an accurate copy."
    Ithranel frowned, "I have heard of the tongue, but I have not seen nor heard it spoken.  I am an accurate scribe of letter, mark and inflection.  To be otherwise, would be to risk my life when transcribing spells."
    Shifting uneasily, Bictirc interjected, "Fey Lady, we are simple adventurers and we do not want to have to share more of the riches than we have to.  How big is your escort, it may be that the reward will not be worth the additional shares?"
    "Ithranel looked puzzled, "Escort? I am traveling alone.  Why would I have an escort?"
    Walker and Bictirc exchanged glances and shrugs.  "Fey Lady, to us your race is noble and pure.  In our experience with human nobles, they never go anywhere without a train of guards and servants.  Your choice puzzles us."
    "No one else in Colisth felt like traveling for a yรจn to learn of the world.  The elders have already done so, and my peers don't feel the urge at this time."
    Walker nodded, "Very well Fey Lady Ithranel, welcome to our company.  If you would, you used a word we don't understand. What is this yรจn you refer to?"
    "A yรจn? It's a period of time, I'm not certain what the human term would be, but it's more than a hundred summers."

    At this point the door opened again, this time revealing a man in well made servant's clothes.  When his eye adjusted he headed straight for the table and bowed to Ithranel.  "Fey Lady, I am Abram Boteler, chamberlain of Castrum Venterlapis.  Count Atius Brucetus heard of your arrival and requests your presence at supper."
    Ithranel looked at her companions in surprise.  Walker responded for her, "The Fey Lady Ithranel of Colisth will be pleased to attend.  I assume her companions are also invited/"
    Boteler looked over the pair of humans and pursed his lips.  "Her servants will of course be accommodated at the lower tables."
    Ithranel stood up, and picked up her pack, "Well then let us see what the Count wishes to speak of."

    Boteler lead them up the hill to the great keep through the gatehouse, across both moats and through the outer and inner walls to the towering donjon in the center.  There he passed Walker and Bictirc off to a lesser servant with instructions to find them a bed and seat them at the lower tables.

    During the meal they could see Ithranel in a gown, instead of her traveling clothes, at the high table talking with the Count and Countess.  Later they were given straw pallets on the floor of the hall with the servants.
Vinyard's Bounty, 4th Rising.  Castrum Venterlapis
    When they went into the inner courtyard in the morning, they were met by a tough looking man with grizzled auburn hair leading a beautiful chestnut horse with a finely made saddle and bridle.  
    "You're the tomb robbers Fey Lady Ithranel met up with?" he asked.
    Walker shrugged, "Rude, but that's us.  Nice horse."
    "Yeah the Count's gift to her.  One of his gifts.  He's also giving her an escort, me and a couple of the lads.  I'm Ivo,   Get your bags and meet us outside the gatehouse.  As you know where we're going you'll lead."
    "Wait a minute, " Bictirc interjected, "We didn't agree to this, I don't know you or why I would agree to a six way split instead of a three way."
    Ivo laughed, "Take it up with the Count, he says you're doing this and he's the man with the big castle with a nice dungeon for you to wait in.  Besides he has an open hand with those who serve him well.  Tell you what, when it comes to splitting anything we find, we'll do it in the order we joined the company.  You two, the Fey Lady, then me and the lads."
    Walker caught Bictirc eye, "Less reward, but less risk too.  Besides, when we get back to Zothay...."
    After thinking for a moment, Bictirc nodded and said, "Let's get the horses." 

Friday, February 3, 2023

Real Tomb Maps for Your Gaming Enjoyment

Tomb KV08 - Pharoh Merenptah
Copyright American Research Center in Egypt
(ACRE) used with permission under Fair Use

 I came across a wonderful resource for all of you grave robbing murder hobos out there.  The Theban Mapping Project has been creating vertical and horizontal plans as well as 3D images of the tombs in the world's most famous necropolis - Egypt's Valley of the Kings!

If you need a quick tomb to explore or if you are running a Cthulhu Gaslight campaign or anything else you can think of, you can find these wonderful images here.

The Theban Mapping Project Plans

Thursday, February 2, 2023

Forced March - Accelerating Cross Country Game Play in RPGs

Feb 2023 Blog Carnival
@Plastic Polyhedra

     I spent last Saturday night rolling dice, as the party moved across the grasslands from the human kingdom to the elven forest.  Every day has the players, in order around the table, rolling dice to determine if a random encounter had occurred, morning, (after)noon and night.  Standard procedure from the beginning of gaming, right?

     True, but I've had time to wonder as I awaited my turn to roll, why?  I know that random encounters use resources and provide variety from the adventure path - but in my decades of experience I've rarely seen them be more than one more combat in the evening.  Mechanically they slow gameplay twice, once as the players roll and then again as the DM looks up the monster and stats it out.  Let's see how we can accelerate this if we stop asking the dice if an encounter has occurred and start asking them when the next encounter occurs.

     First, please raise your hand if you always follow the encounter times in the DMG, yeah that's what I thought.  Actually game play has simplified the table to using the 'Plains' distribution more often than not.  So three chances per day, at (in Wilderness) a 10% chance of an encounter occurring.  (My current DM uses 25%, but that just changes numbers within the calculations.)  So, on average we can expect 3 encounters every 10 days; but that's the same as one encounter every 3.3333 days.  Let's round that down to one encounter every three days.

     Now, when play begins have the player roll two d6/2, to give you the number of days until the next encounter and the time of day the encounter occurs.  Make sure the group has given you their standard watch rotations and marching order before they roll; and don't let them change that after the dice have fallen.  Now play is jumping from scene to scene without the repetitive dice rolling with negative results.

    Obviously, for you purists who never deviated from the DMG, you can adapt this to any encounter check frequency you need.  If you have the prep time, you can even pre-generate the encounters themselves so you don't need to stat them out during play.


Monday, January 30, 2023

Scarab of Protection - Hathor

    Igenius laid the small carving down on the table glinting blue and green in the sunlight.  

Scarab of Hathor - faience.  Image provided by Art Institute of Chicago under CC0

    The old lady on the other side, quietly studied it for a moment, then picked it up with a pair of  wooden rods and turned it over without, he noticed, ever touching it with her fingers.  

    "And how did you feel when you first picked it up?"

    "Warm", Igenius responded, "like I'd just come into my mothers kitchen on a winter's day."

    "Ah, it appears to be an amulet of the goddess Hathor, mother and protector.  It will be of use to you in your delvings, more would require me to cast a spell and you to provide me with means and further payment for my efforts."

  These small carvings were once common in Egypt, their protective properties have scattered them across the multiverse.  Consisting of a small image of a woman in a headdress, with long hair and cows ears, they provide protection against magic and disease to the wearer.

    The material of the amulet is a sure guide to it's strength.  The most common are made of ceramic, usually with a faience glaze or copper.  When worn these provide +1 on saves vs magic or disease.

Scarab of Hathor, carnelian.  Brooklyn Museum provided under CC-BY

The next types are carved from semi-precious stones or made of silver, they provide +2 protection when worn.

Gold amulets are rare, but those who wear them receive a +3 bonus to their saves vs magic and disease.

Rarest of all are the ones carved from precious gems, which provide a +4 bonus on saves vs magic and make the wearer immune to disease

    Hathor is a goddess of destruction as well as protection.  1 in 20 of these reflect the other side of her nature and act like a Sword of Cursed Berserking!  In each combat the wearer must save vs magic or go on an unstoppable rampage until slain, knocked unconscious or dead.  The only way to remove one of these cursed scarabs is for the wearer to imbibe a flagon of mixed blood and milk.

Inspiration from Dominic Perry's History of Egypt Podcast  It's well worth a listen.

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Feudal Wilderlands: Cultures V - the emigrants

       The Wilderlands around the City State of the Invincible Overlord has settlers and inhabitants from a number of external cultures drawn by trade, raids or personal avarice.   


    The Amazons are female barbarians living far south and west of the City State. Relatively rare in the Wilderlands, when they appear they are respected for their reputation as warriors. They are armed in traditional Greek manner and like their wine mixed with water and spices. Amazon characters are all female, the male members of their society are sequestered and do not adventure. If you want to make a case that yours does - call me.

    Amazon also refers the language of the southern Amazon tribe. People with this background receive Common as a free language, although if they have an Intelligence penalty or are unable to learn more than one language, they really speak a horrible patois. Amazons tend to be thinner than normal, they receive a -1 Modifier on all Weight rolls.

Amazons generally try not to laugh at the pretensions of the male 'warriors' and 'fighters' in the City State, but it's hard. Within the City State and it's environs, they are almost legendary female warriors, whose reproductive proclivities are the subject of prurient speculation.

Amazon Culture Background Physical Appearance Distribution

RollHair Color   RollSkin Color   RollEye Color
01-15Black/Sable01-10Pale White01-15Light Blue
16-20Brunette        11-25Fair11-15Blue
37-51Red61-65Light Brown41-45Green-Brown
60-66Strawberry Blonde66-70Red46-50Hazel
67-81Blonde71-75Brown51-55Dark Brown
82-96Platinum Blonde75-80Dark Brown56-70Amber
* Roll on the Exotic Hair, Skin or Eye Color Table


    Antil is the largest trade city on the Romilian Sea. The people are proud and insular, treating the citizens of both the World Empire and City State as almost the equals of the inhabitants of their small city. Their trade makes their city - and most of them - rich, that’s usually why they appear in the CIty State. They swagger like a Spanish hidalgo.

    Antillian is the trade language of the southern seas. People with this background receive Common as a free language, although if they have an Intelligence penalty or are unable to learn more than one language, they really speak a horrible patois. Antillians tend to be smaller and thinner than normal, receiving a -1 modifier on all height and weight rolls.

    Antillians know they are the Masters of the Romilian Sea and Traders Supreme, who grace these foreign lands with their presence, In the City State, you will be warned that if you count your fingers after dealing with them, they'll pick your pocket before you finish.

Antillian Culture Background Physical Appearance Distribution
RollHair Color   RollSkin Color   RollEye Color
01-10Black/Sable01-02Pale White01-05Light Blue
11-25Brunette        03-07Fair05-10Blue
61-70Red48-57Light Brown31-45Green-Brown
71-75Strawberry Blonde58-60Red46-60Hazel
76-85Blonde61-75Brown61-80Dark Brown
86-89Platinum Blonde75-85Dark Brown81-90Amber
* Roll on the Exotic Hair, Skin or Eye Color Table


    The Wilderland version of the Vikings. Their leader has recently been granted the Jarldom of Skandry on the coast of the Winedark Sea in an effort to reign in his people’s piracy - much as Rollo and his Vikings were granted Normandy in France.

    Skandik is spoken by the Overlord himself and the raiders of the Pagan Coast around Ossary. People with this background receive Common as a free language, although if they have an Intelligence penalty or are unable to learn more than one language, they really speak a horrible patois. Skandiks tend to be much taller and heavier than normal, they receive a +2 to all height and weight rolls. 

    Skandiks see themselves as unparalleled warriors, seamen and conquerors.  They walk with a swagger and are quick to take offense when they do not receive the deference due their might.  Others see them as cut throats and sea brigands, with no culture except arson, pillage and looting - Overlord Balanega Ingifastsson is obviously an exception to this whenever one of his spies might hear you.

Skandik Culture Background Physical Appearance Distribution
RollHair Color   RollSkin Color   RollEye Color
01-05Black/Sable01-10Pale White01-10Light Blue
06-10Brunette        11-30Fair11-25Blue
26-35Red61-70Light Brown71-74Green-Brown
36-45Strawberry Blonde71-80Red75-82Hazel
46-75Blonde81-85Brown83-87Dark Brown
76-85Platinum Blonde86-90Dark Brown88-91Amber
* Roll on the Exotic Hair, Skin or Eye Color Table

This concludes the series on the cultures of the Feudal Wilderlands.

Feudal Wilderlands Index

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Feudal Wilderlands: Cultures IV - the minor cultures


     The Wilderlands around the City State of the Invincible Overlord includes in the minor cultures of the Orichalan's, who claim to be the earliest humans along the Roglaroon, and the clans of Duneal Rangers in the Dearthwood.


The culture of the foresters of Dearthwood, strongly influenced by Elven culture.  They are consummate woodsmen, organized on clan lines.  Most of the clan chieftains have been granted minor titles of nobility by the Overlord.  The culture is flavored as Gaelic.

Duneal is the elven dialect spoken by the foresters of Dearthwood.  People with this background receive Common as a free language, although if they have an Intelligence penalty or are unable to learn more than one language, they really speak a horrible patois.  Duneal characters tend to be smaller and thinner than normal, receiving a -1 modifier on all height and weight rolls.

The Duneal know they are a people of great warriors, wisdom and songs. Others see them as crazy humans who choose to live next to the Orcs of the Purple Claw in the Dearthwood, and who are led by witches and druids of great power. They will agree that Duneal bards are favorites in the City State.

Duneal Culture Background Physical Appearance Distribution

RollHair Color   RollSkin Color   RollEye Color
01-10   Black/Sable01-05Pale White01-05Light Blue
11-25Brunette        06-15Fair06-15Blue
61-67Red51-65Light Brown66-75Green-Brown
68-74Strawberry Blonde66-80Red76-80Hazel
75-81Blonde81-85Brown81-85Dark Brown
82-86Platinum Blonde86-90Dark Brown86-90Amber
* Roll on the Exotic Hair, Skin or Eye Color Table


The remnants of the original human tribes living east of the Majestic Mountains and north of the Roglaroon,  They now wander the area in small family groups, hunting and gathering while trading for minor items - and are often accused of being thieves, much like Gypsies. 

Orichalan is the language of the nomads of the Moonraker Moors.  People with this background receive Common as a free language, although if they have an Intelligence penalty or are unable to learn more than one language, they really speak a horrible patois.  Orichalans tend to be smaller and thinner than normal, they receive a -2 modifier on all height and weight rolls.

Orichalans will say their ancestors saw the Tharbians sneaking in from the West and the Altanians pushing up from the South, always forcing the First People out of the Good Lands. Now they live in scattered migrant families, mostly north of the Roglaroon, travelling back to the Moonraker Moors to meet each other, exchanging news and arranging marriages every three to five years - 'when the stars are in the right places.' Others take little or notice of them, except to make sure they have left the village by nightfall, known thieves that they are.

Duneal Culture Background Physical Appearance Distribution

RollHair Color   RollSkin Color   RollEye Color
01-60   Black/Sable01-20Pale White01-10Light Blue
61-70Brunette        21-30Fair11-25Blue
89-90Red56-60Light Brown54-61Green-Brown
91-92Strawberry Blonde61-65Red62-69Hazel
93-94Blonde66-70Brown70-74Dark Brown
95-96Platinum Blonde71-80Dark Brown75-89Amber
* Roll on the Exotic Hair, Skin or Eye Color Table

Feudal Wilderlands Index