Excited about D&D. It’s been a long time.

I seem to have failed to mention, previously, that I’m very happy with D&D 5th Edition. After getting hold of the Player’s Handbook, I really liked what I saw in it. It was like a return to AD&D 2nd Edition, with the most glaring issues fixed and a few decent newer additions. It has it’s downsides, but I can overlook most of them since most involve classes and races I don’t particularly feel are appropriate. Those I can forbid in private games I run, and mostly ignore in games I play in.

The last time I really enjoyed playing D&D was in the very early 90s. And in the six months since I was able to acquire a copy of the Player’s Handbook for 5e, I have purchased the Dungeon Master’s Guide, Monster Manual, Hoard of the Dragon Queen, Rise of Tiamat, Starter Set, and as of today Princes of the Apocalypse. I’ve ordered the DM Screen, and hopefully will have it in my hands by the end of the week.

I honestly can’t recall the last time I was excited about D&D enough to do that. However, sadly, I can’t see it continuing with my buying everything. There are some game books I just don’t buy for some games, and D&D is the one I’m most picky about.

At this rate, as long as I can budget them, I’ll probably pick up the next few seasonal campaign books (especially if I’m running them as DM at the store for D&D Encounters). I’ll most likely buy the Forgotten Realms book when it comes out (or shortly after). If they release a Greyhawk book that will be on my to buy list. But that’s about it.

I’ve never been big on D&D splatbooks. I’ve had a few that I thought would be interesting, such as AD&D2’s Catacomb Guide, the AD&D2 Castle Guide, the AD&D1 Dungeoneer’s and Wilderness Survival Guides.

Setting books don’t qualify as splatbooks to me, and those have a higher likelihood that I’ll get, if I’m interested in the setting.

However, books that start with such words as Complete… I don’t really  have any interest in those. To me, those break the game. Sure, they add options, but usually those options break the feel and wonder of the game.

But to sum it all up, while I will by no means buy every D&D 5e book, that does not mean I won’t be playing more of it, hopefully for years to come.

Return of the FLGS, or mostly F anyway.

So it’s been an interesting few months. And yes, I forgot I had this again, but I’m back so that may bode well for the future of this blog.

About bit over a month ago, late February if I’m remembering correctly, I ran across the store owner at the grocery store. He asked me to stop by the game store to talk, because things had changed.

A few days later, when I had the time to stop by, I discovered that there had been some, unfortunately not over, drama involving the store and some now former employees. I won’t go into the drama as that has nothing to do with me beyond making things… interesting.

Anyhow, I was also informed that if I wanted to run any games there, I was welcome to do so. I was also informed that they would start holding in store D&D Adventurer’s League games soon. So I signed up to play in that, and started working on a GURPS Traveller game to run.

More later.

 

Posted in RPG

FLGS turns ULGS rapidly.

Yeah, I don’t remember I even have this that often. Anyhow, about a month ago, a new game store opens up almost directly across the street. Wonderful thing. Even the really horribly bad D&D 5 game I got involved in was fun, mostly (it was a horribly bad D&D game after all, nothing but miniatures fights and no roleplaying and what miniscule amount there was was between the DM’s best friend and the DMPC (basically a setting god in disguise).

Then a new employee came on board… well, more like just showed up one day, sat there open to close for a couple of weeks, and somehow finagled a paycheck… Okay, at first that was just a bit strange, nothing major. I’m scheduled to run GURPS on saturdays, this kid wants to join, having played before (no clue how well, but he feels that the DM for the D&D game is a fantastic DM, so… My hopes weren’t that high). This was great news to me, one less player to teach how to play.

We had a character creation session, he built a character that was designed to cause the party problems.  An anti-social con artist to run at a medieval style tournament in the GURPS Classic Fantasy: Harkwood adventure.  This was the second character he tried to build, the first being a senile combat mage, specifically designed to not remember what spell he was casting (yeah… real original, people really need to stop building bleeping Fizban, he’s almost as bad as Drizz’t.)

Anyhow, the combination of that and the lack of being able to build any high powered kitchen sink character – because if it’s in the book it should be allowed, right? – I show up to the first play session, and had to cancel, they were painting the store. Nothing I could do about that, the store is less than a month old, and while I’d have had all of that taken care of before opening, it’s understandable. I show up the next day and get informed that I’ve been replaced running GURPS. Because this same idiot kid has convinced the owner that he, at less than two full decades of life, has more experience with GURPS than someone who has been running it at least once a month, and frequently weekly, since 1988.

I’m not bitter… really.

Anyhow, I guess I’ll just shop there a bit, maybe run a board game or two there… and then, probably, just let the store die the normally scheduled death it would have in this area. Which, given the last 30 years history, suggests six to ten months.

 

That’s life.

Distractions

As it may be apparent, I’ve not updated in some time. Life does that sometimes. I’ll try to remember to do so more often in the future.

The fantasy setting I’ve named Legends of the Return has been back pushed to a back burner for the time being. It is still being worked on, and I should have the occasional update.

However, for the time being, I’m now working on a Fallout inspired (but heavily modified to the point where it’s actually more of a slightly High Tech generic Post Nuclear Apocalypse game. After all, beyond the retrotech trappings, Fallout is about 90% a generic adventure game.

I’m hoping to capture more of the dark and gritty feel of the original two Fallout games, but with more modern and even some slightly SF views for technology. And horses will have survived.

That’s all for now.

Holidays

This was supposed to be a Thanksgiving post, but life happened. I started it on November 27, and then holiday guests arrived in the middle of writing it.

I haven’t posted much lately due to the approaching Thanksgiving holiday here in the US.  I have a bit more house cleaning to do, and if I can succeed in not destroying the washing machine this year, it should be a rousing success.

The cleaning and prep for this event however has made me ponder a bit on holidays in Roleplaying Games.

My experience is that holidays are usually treated as footnotes when it comes to tabletop rpgs. Every setting, either purchased or homegrown, always has them, but in play, they either never show up, or are mere excuses to have someone out of the house while you plunder it.

In MMORPGs, they turn into a rush to get the new shiny. But at least they seem to be more than a mention.

The rare occasions in tabletop games when this is not the case is usually the result of a specific theme for a one shot game. The zombie apocalypse games so many people run on or near Halloween, or as I’ve seen more commonly the last decade, around Christmas.

I am now setting a goal to have holidays in my games from now on that matter to the players. That are important to the setting, in more than a simple “And the harvest festival had passed a fortnight gone.” in the description for whatever is happening.

<Returns to the post a week later after the house is empty of guests again>

Anyhow, were was I? Oh yes…

I keep trying to include holidays in my settings that are important to the PCs. This is more likely to happen if they are heavily invested in the setting, having friends, contacts, enemies that they can’t just walk in and kill without penalty, or concern.

Enter the Festival of the Ancestors.

This festival varies in length depending on location, no less than one day, usually no more than a week. During this festival special rites are performed to keep deceased relatives content. This usually involves offerings of food or other sacrifices. If someone with necromantic (in the original information gathering meaning) abilities is available they will be sought out and consulted as to what the dead desire. While some treat this as a solemn occasion, others treat it as an opportunity to party. And the dead, if they can be questioned, are just as diverse. Some want to see their relatives having a good time, and others want reverential treatment.

This is also the most common time for quests for vengeance to be started, though nobody is foolish enough to actually finish such a quest during this holiday.

Rumor Tables

I love the concept of a rumor table. What better way to come up with something on the fly when your players take an unexpected turn? Or perhaps there is a slow bit in town where they are looking for something to do that isn’t related to the main story elements.

Personally, I like to have several tables weighted for different locations. They’ll all have 75-80% the same content, but will have those bits that are of more interest to the general population of those locations be the most common to come up.

Then there is issue of the reliability of the rumors themselves. I use the following categories for reliability:

  • The True Rumor – These rumors are almost entirely accurate, perhaps only incorrect in some fairly minor details.
  • The True at Core Rumor – Some central aspect of these rumors are correct, but much of the surrounding details are incorrect in some way.
  • The Marginal Rumor – The vast majority of these rumors are flat out wrong, but there are nuggets that could pay off if noticed.
  • The Gossip Rumor – Nothing about these rumors are true, but if followed up on, nothing more than embarrassment or short lived ridicule.
  • The False Rumor – These rumors are wrong, names, locations, nothing turns out to be true.
  • The Dangerously False Rumor – These rumors are not only incorrect, but are incorrect in such a way that following up on them could lead to unexpected, and unprepared for dangers.

I’ll expand on these in a moment.

I’ll vary the ratio of each type of rumor in my tables, and update them fairly regularly. I like to have a living world, so rumors don’t stick around forever.

The True Rumor:  The frequency of this type of rumor can vary greatly, depending on the nature of the rumor. Wars and nearby battles tend to be common, as are other fairly major political issues that are simply unverified in the current area. A more specific, but potentially doubtful rumor; The bandits preying on trade along the north highway are actually in the employ of a neighboring Baron according to one survivor; will be less common. In that example, the rumor is essentially correct, but instead of the neighboring Baron, they’re actually in the employ of a different neighboring Baron.

True at the Core Rumor: This type will be slightly more common. Using the previous example, instead of having the bandits being employed by the neighboring Baron, they’re in the employ of a Duke from a neighboring Kingdom… Or so it seems after some digging, but how deep or shallow might this be?

Marginal Rumors: These rumors are usually wrong, but are among the most common. Someone heard a story from someone else, who heard it from someone else. There are however sometimes nuggets of truth to them, but usually nowhere near the scale of the rumor. A rumor of a town being invaded by the restless dead is investigated, only to find that the invasion was a deceased pet raised by a village kid who had access to some necromantic artifact. This could lead to a nasty event, or just be a one time thing that scared people.

Gossip Rumors tend to make up at least 50% of the table. Most of the time I’ve found that these are simply ignored. When they are investigated it turns out that the raid by bandits or monsters was someone stealing a pie. Or, more often, just tales of the blacksmith two streets over having a big fight with his eldest son.

False Rumors are just that. A boy who cried wolf type situation that someone passing through took as real. If followed up on, there is nothing found amiss, possibly not even a hint of what caused the rumor.

Dangerous Rumors: These are rumors that seem like a fairly simple thing to look into. Perhaps a merchant two towns over is hiring guards. When the characters arrive, they discover that this was a rumor intentionally passed to lure new victims to become food for a vampire.

 

Anyhow, I’ll make up varation tables for what might be discovered at taverns vs temples, markets vs bathhouses.  The vast majority will be false or gossip types, a handful of true or core types, with marginal rumors filling out what extra space is on the table. Dangerous Rumors only show up rarely, perhaps only one in every ten tables. They should be used for special occasions, or outright traps.

 

Lost Magics

One of the nice things that having a cataclysmic event in a world’s history, one sufficiently disastrous enough to all but wipe out all intelligent life, is that it leaves behind plenty of ruins and artifacts to find, explore, and discover.

Fortunately for me, it just so happens (by design) that there was such a cataclysmic event.

Of the many possible lost secrets to be discovered (I’ll only mentioning those that are sort of well known secrets) are fragments of lost lore, mysterious artifacts of both mundane and supernatural nature, and, perhaps most sought after, fabled magics only hinted at in the very small surviving magical tradition.

One such artifact, currently in the possession of the Cult Archpriestess of Lanbere (I’ll be detailing this region in a later post), is an ornate wooden staff, inlaid with filigree of gold and topped with an octagonally cut crystal of pale blue. Anyone with Magery who touches it can tell it has power, but so far, that power is undiscovered beyond the fact that touching the staff to water causes several yards of water to become glassy smooth and fogged to opacity.

Another, commonly encountered item that, seemingly at random, is detected as having power, is the traditional Settlement Stone. This is an obelisk on a large hexagonal pedestal that is always, by long lost tradition, built at the center of any settlement. Small villages may not have more than a wooden post where this may someday be built, but will always be constructed of stone. For unexplained reasons, sometimes these will start to exhibit power (to those who are sensitive to such things). Traditionally all of these obelisks have the same carvings. They are written in the standard runes, but in a language nobody knows.

Perhaps someday these writings and the purpose of the stones will become known?

Bestiary 1: Grobbs

Grobbs are a variation on a more or less standard RPG Goblin, somewhat customized for my setting and given a name that I’m not entirely happy with. Anyhow:

Grobbs average 4 feet tall, have coal or oil black skin. Their hands feature three fingers and one opposable thumb each, with thick, but not particularly sharp claws. Facial structure is similar to that of a vampire bat, ears included.

They prefer dim lighting, but are not comfortable in total darkness. As such they tend to be most commonly about their business during the twilight hours.

They prefer small nomadic tribal groups, averaging 50-80 members. They survive by being hunter-gatherers or by raiding small settlements.

Grobbs mature very quickly, reaching adulthood about 60 days after birth. All are born female, and will metamorphose into males between sometime between 12 and 18 months old. This metamorphoses takes about a week. Gestation for Grobbs lasts roughly six weeks and result in a littler of 2-4 young.

If a tribe finds itself without any females for more than a month, one or more of the weaker males will shift back to female. An all male Grobb tribe will sometimes try to raid other tribes or even human communities to find females.

Grobbs have only a rudimentary language. Their society, such as it is, consists of Rule of the Strong.

They are able to craft crude tools and weapons, usually wood, stone or low quality metals. These weapons will be Cheap Quality. However, they will often use better quality weapons and tools if they can find them, but they don’t take very good care of their equipment.

 

Average Grobb Warrior:

ST 7, DX 10, IQ 8, HT 10. Shortsword -12, Spear-12.

 

A campaign assumption note: For the game I will be running, I will be using the Mook optional rules. The vast majority of Grobbs they encounter will fall like leaves in autumn as a result.

Welcome to the Kingdom of Anstenar

As I may have mentioned before, I’m terrible at coming up decent sounding names on my own. Anstenar was the result of fiddling with a random name generator till something promising showed up, then fiddling with adding, removing, and substituting letters till I was happy with it.

 

Actually, this isn’t the entire kingdom. The main campaign setting deals primarily with only the newest frontier region, on a new landmass. The main part of the kingdom is a couple of weeks across the sea (in good weather) from the new acquisitions.

However, some things hold true everywhere in the kingdom. The fuedal system holds sway. There is one monarch, but several princes. The standard sub grouping is the Duchy. Most princes who are not the royal heir are ranked as Dukes. Below that are Barons. Barons rarely owe fealty to the King directly, but usually rather to a Duke.

Below the Barons are the petty nobles. These may be granted control over a portion of a higher noble’s lands to administer. Knights are a special case. They are not hereditary titles, but are restricted to those who are noble born. Think the samurai class post Oda Nobunaga. Rarely, a peasant can be granted noble status, but in general the classes are fairly strictly separated.

However, society is fairly egalitarian when it comes to the role of the sexes. While there is a strong traditional trend for women to remain at home, and most do so, they are not looked down upon for following their own path. The only exception is when it would cross class lines upwards. Nobles can slum all they want as a peasant, but peasants, and especially slaves, could face severe punishments if they pretend up and are caught.

The social order is as follows:

  • Monarch
  • Royal Family
  • Princes
  • Dukes
  • Barons
  • Hereditary Nobles
  • Knights
  • Free Peasants
  • Serfs
  • Slaves

There are of course, sub rankings within all of these groups, but that is for another post.

The religion of the Kingdom of Anstenar is overseen by the Cult of the Ancestors. This is an ancestor worship based religion, with the main practices based on keeping the dead content. Special emphasis is given to one’s personal ancestors or other family members who have passed on, and also to previous monarchs. After all, the dead need rulers as well.

The Cult will be detailed further in a future post.

As that’s all that I can bring to mind at the moment (I have other things distracting me right now) I’ll continue another time.

On Elves.

Ask my wife, or most regular players and they’ll probably tell you that I hate elves. This isn’t exactly true. I rather like elves in general, but they have problems.

The biggest problem I have with elves as most gamers know them is the lifespan. I can’t count how many games I’ve played in or have read about in published modules, settings, or actual play logs that ignore the lifespan of elves (and to a lesser extent other long lived races).

I’m talking about when a GM or published adventure has, somewhere in their notes or description for the players something along the lines of:

“Roughly 200 years ago, longer than anyone now alive can remember, a great war was fought. There are none old enough to remember the reason for this war…”

And yet, the group of PCs will usually include no less than 2 characters, almost always elves or dwarves, who are currently at least 50 years older than the time frame given. And they’ll always have someone, usually quite a few someones, in the local community much older than that who would reasonably have information on something that, for them, is not that long ago.

An comparison would be to have an adventure taking place today, in 2013, and having some of the narative include

“Long ago, in 1995, there was a war in Bosnia. So long ago that there are none left alive who had even heard of it…”

I don’t know about everyone who may read this, but that was a rather important event in my life, having been in the military at the time. Just a few years previously, I’d seen classmates on the news as US Marines in Somalia, and was wondering if this would be the big event in my life.

Even if it were long enough ago, such as the 7 Years War, that truely nobody is alive who was there or heard about it as it was happening, there will always be those people who pass on the stories.

That, in a nutshell is my problem with long lived races in games. Most GMs and players cannot comprehend the lengths of time involved, so they can’t comprehend that a race that can live for thousands of years would be any different from the humans in the setting.

I also don’t really accept the concept of  an entire race (I’m going to use that term, incorrect though it may be, because it is the one most gamers will be familiar with.) that tries to hold themselves aloof from any others, no matter how new they may be. Individual groupings within a race, sure. Happens all the time in the real world. But an entirerace, every single one of them that isn’t somehow considered a social deviant doing so? No, I don’t think so.  It’s sort of like the space opera thing with having The Desert Planet, or The Jungle Planet. Even when playing space opera games I try to avoid those.

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Now we get to the game I’m currently working on. I have a tendency to reduce the age of such long lived races to not more than about 50% longer than that of humans. This would put elves in my fantasy games as topping out at 150 to 200 years old. I’ve found this to be sufficient to allow for the exotic nature of the long lived races, and yet still have it in the realm of comprehension.

The setting I’m currently working on has several humanoid races. Of these, most are monsters, barbaric, tribal, and not suitable for player characters.

The only known playable races are Humans and Half-Elves. True elves having long ago interbred with humans to the point that the only way it is known that they ever existed is the occasional “throwback”. These are like recessive genes, the occasional child will be born with pointed ears, the distinctive hair colors of their elven ancestors, and perhaps some game statistic benefits for those who inherit stronger traits.

In game terms, this doesn’t actually mean much. It’s almost entirely cosmetic. Elves, if they were still around in pure form, have brightly colored hair, like what are common in anime (which partially inspired this setting’s flavor and feel). Ears are slightly pointed, but absolutely not the parasails anime elves tend to sport.

However, I have not left out the possibility of that True Elves, or even other, playable races exist somewhere in the world. What is known about geography of the world is very little at the point play begins.