Monday, January 27, 2020

The End of Eternal Whatever

(Previously on Neon Genesis Eternal Whatever)

Content Warning: This whole thing is a shitty parody of Neon Genesis Evangelion/The End of Evangelion. This series contains depictions of violence and abuse, sometimes of a sexual nature. I tried to remove or soften what I felt was the worst of it in this little satire here, but I can't guarantee I did a perfect job, so please skip this post if you have any health concerns regarding such content.

Post 201: Fandom is Destructive
Justin didn't know where else to go. He found himself in LotFP's hospital room. The book lay comatose, as if it had killed itself and its corporeal form just hadn't gotten the news yet. Could it sense his desperation for some moment of creativity, some inspiration, some escape from the infinite minor variations of the same house rules and pregenerated characters? Justin shook the book in a futile attempt to rouse it. Its red cover flapped back and forth apathetically.

"Help me," Justin begged. "Help me, Lamentations." His tears fell freely on the tasteful and conveniently-sized A4 pages. "Help me! Tell me that fun is bad and I'm playing D&D wrong again, like you always do!"

Justin shifted the balance of the book a little too far. It fell open entirely, flat on the hospital bed. Justin's breath caught in his throat. Its character creation rules were exposed, naked and helpless.

Justin's hand seemed to reach out all by itself. He tore the pages from the book slowly. No one else was around to hear the excruciating tear of paper. The hospital, the world, might as well have been empty.

Justin crumpled up the pages. Stuffed them in his mouth. Chewed. Swallowed. He stared at his hand, covered in spittle and flecks of ruined paper, a new sense of profound clarity awakening in his mind. A profound sense of disgust.

"I'm so fucked up."

Pre-Gen Creation Notes
  • For purposes of item prices, I assumed the year was between 1630 and 1660.
  • Characters begin the game knowing English and one other language. Characters with 16+ intelligence begin with another additional language.
  • My interpretation of coin encumbrance: 0 to 99 coins = Non-Encumbering, 100 to 199 coins = 1 item slot, 200 to 299 coins = 2 item slots, 300 to 399 coins = 3 slots, etc.
Mascot Pre-Gens
Flame Princess, Level 3 Lawful Cleric
4,500 XP; Needs 7,000 XP for Level 4
CHA 18 (+3) CON 18 (+3) DEX 6 (-1)
INT 16 (+2) STR 18 (+3) WIS 18 (+3)
Saving Throws: Paralyze 14, Poison 11, Breath 16, Device 12, Magic 15
+2 Bonus for Magic Saves, +3 Bonus for Non-Magic Saves, +2 for Physical Damage Saves (due to helm)
HP 27, BAB +1, Melee AB +4, Ranged AB +0
Melee AC 16, Ranged AC 16, Without Shield AC 16, Surprised AC 15
Open Doors 4, Languages 3
Starting Languages: English, Dutch, German
Knows all standard first-level Cleric spells.
Unencumbered (1 point)
Equipment: Sword (Medium Weapon), Dagger (Minor Weapon), Buff Coat, Tassets, Lobster Tail Pot Helm, Pikeman's Armor, Silver Holy Symbol, Steel Holy Symbol, Wooden Holy Symbol, Cestus, Sling, Backpack, Sack x5, Air Bladder, Candle, Chalk, Ink, Nails, Paper, Pipe, Soap, Steel Mirror, Whistle, Bottle x2, Iron Spike x3, Wooden Spike x3, 59 silver pieces (on cart)

Alice, Level 3 Lawful Fighter
4,500 XP; Needs 8,000 XP for Level 4
CHA 11 (+0) CON 18 (+3) DEX 18 (+3)
INT 11 (+0) STR 18 (+3) WIS 18 (+3)
Saving Throws: Paralyze 14, Poison 12, Breath 15, Device 13, Magic 16
+3 Bonus for Non-Magic Saves, +2 for Physical Damage Saves (due to helm)
HP 33, BAB +4, Melee AB +7, Ranged AB +7
Melee AC 20, Ranged AC 20, Without Shield AC 20, Surprised AC 15
Open Doors 4
Starting Languages: English, French
Has Fighter Combat Options.
Lightly Encumbered (2 points)
Equipment: Mace (Medium Weapon), Dagger (Minor Weapon), Flintlock Arquebus, Shot Bag (100 Shots), Powder Horn x2 (both full, 100 shots of powder), Buff Coat, Tassets, Lobster Tail Pot Helm, Pikeman's ArmorSteel Holy SymbolCestusSlingBackpackSack x5Air BladderCandleChalkInkNailsPaperPipeSoapSteel MirrorWhistleBottle x2, Iron Spike x4, Wooden Spike, 5 silver pieces (on cart)

Selena, Level 3 Chaotic Fighter
4,500 XP; Needs 8,000 XP for Level 4
CHA 11 (+0) CON 18 (+3) DEX 18 (+3)
INT 18 (+3) STR 18 (+3) WIS 11 (+0)
Saving Throws: Paralyze 14, Poison 12, Breath 15, Device 13, Magic 16
+3 Bonus for Magic Saves, +2 for Physical Damage Saves (due to helm)
HP 33, BAB +4, Melee AB +7, Ranged AB +7
Melee AC 20, Ranged AC 20, Without Shield AC 20, Surprised AC 15
Open Doors 4, Languages 4
Starting Languages: English, Spanish, Quechua
Has Fighter Combat Options.
Lightly Encumbered (2 points)
Equipment: Sword (Medium Weapon), Dagger (Minor Weapon), Flintlock Pistol, Shot Bag (100 Shots), Powder Horn x2 (both full, 100 shots of powder), Buff Coat, Tassets, Lobster Tail Pot Helm, Pikeman's ArmorCestusSlingBackpackSack x5Air BladderCandleChalkInkNailsPaperPipeSoapSteel MirrorWhistle, Bottle x2, Iron Spike x2, Wooden Spike x2, 23 silver pieces (on cart)

Kendra, Level 3 Neutral Specialist
4,500 XP; Needs 6,000 XP for Level 4
CHA 11 (+0) CON 11 (+0) DEX 18 (+3)
INT 18 (+3) STR 18 (+3) WIS 18 (+3)
Saving Throws: Paralyze 14, Poison 16, Breath 15, Device 14, Magic 14
+3 Bonus for Magic Saves, +3 Bonus for Non-Magic Saves, +2 for Physical Damage Saves (due to helm)
HP 18, BAB +1, Melee AB +4, Ranged AB +4
Melee AC 17, Ranged AC 17, Without Shield AC 17, Surprised AC 12
Open Doors 4, Languages 4, Architecture 2, Search 3, Sleight of Hand 2, Stealth 3, Tinker 3
Starting Languages: English, French, Swedish
Unencumbered (1 point)
Equipment: Specialist's Tools, Sword (Medium Weapon), Dagger (Minor Weapon), Buff Coat, Lobster Tail Pot Helm, Wooden Holy SymbolGarrote, SlingBackpackSack x5Air BladderCandleChalkInkNailsPaperPipeSoapSteel MirrorWhistle, Bottle x4, Iron Spike x5, Wooden Spike x7, 122 silver pieces (in cart)

Rhona, Level 3 Neutral Specialist
4,500 XP; Needs 6,000 XP for Level 4
CHA 11 (+0) CON 18 (+3) DEX 18 (+3)
INT 18 (+3) STR 18 (+3) WIS 11 (+0)
Saving Throws: Paralyze 14, Poison 16, Breath 15, Device 14, Magic 14
+3 Bonus for Magic Saves, +2 for Physical Damage Saves (due to helm)
HP 27, BAB +1, Melee AB +4, Ranged AB +4
Melee AC 17, Ranged AC 17, Without Shield AC 17, Surprised AC 12
Open Doors 4, Languages 4, Bushcraft 3, Climbing 3, Sneak Attack 3, Stealth 3
Starting Languages: English, Scottish Gaelic, Powhatan (Virginia Algonquian)
Unencumbered (1 point)
Equipment: Specialist's Tools, Axe (Medium Weapon), Light Crossbow, Quiver & Bolt x20, Buff Coat, Lobster Tail Pot Helm, GarroteSlingBackpackSack x5Air BladderCandleChalkInkNailsPaperPipeSoapSteel MirrorWhistleBottle x4Iron Spike x5Wooden Spike x8, 87 silver pieces (in cart)

Melissa, Level 3 Chaotic Magic-User
4,500 XP; Needs 9,000 XP for Level 4
CHA 11 (+0) CON 18 (+3) DEX 18 (+3)
INT 18 (+3) STR 11 (+0) WIS 18 (+3)
Saving Throws: Paralyze 13, Poison 13, Breath 16, Device 13, Magic 14
+3 Bonus for Magic Saves, +3 Bonus for Non-Magic Saves, +2 for Physical Damage Saves (due to helm)
HP 23, BAB +1, Melee AB +1, Ranged AB +4
Melee AC 17, Ranged AC 17, Without Shield AC 17, Surprised AC 12
Languages 4
Starting Languages: English, German, Greek
Spells Known: Read Magic, Identify, Magic Missile, Summon, Unseen Servant, Knock
Unencumbered (1 point)
Equipment: Spellbook, Dagger (Minor Weapon), Flintlock Pistol x2, Shot Bag (100 shots), Powder Horn x2 (both full, 100 shots of powder), Buff Coat, Lobster Tail Pot Helm, Wooden Holy SymbolSlingBackpackSack x5Air BladderCandleChalkInkNailsPaperPipeSoapSteel MirrorWhistleBottle x4Iron Spike x5Wooden Spike x6, 88 silver pieces (in cart)

Étaín, Level 3 Chaotic Magic-User
4,500 XP; Needs 9,000 XP for Level 4
CHA 18 (+3) CON 18 (+3) DEX 18 (+3)
INT 18 (+3) STR 11 (+0) WIS 11 (+0)
Saving Throws: Paralyze 13, Poison 13, Breath 16, Device 13, Magic 14
+3 Bonus for Magic Saves, +2 for Physical Damage Saves (due to helm)
HP 23, BAB +1, Melee AB +1, Ranged AB +4
Melee AC 17, Ranged AC 17, Without Shield AC 17, Surprised AC 12
Languages 4
Starting Languages: English, Irish, Latin
Spells Known: Read Magic, Charm Person, Comprehend Languages, Sleep, Summon, Mirror Image
Unencumbered (1 point)
Equipment: Spellbook, Dagger (Minor Weapon), Flintlock Pistol x2, Shot Bag (100 shots), Powder Horn x2 (both full, 100 shots of powder), Buff Coat, Lobster Tail Pot Helm, SlingBackpackSack x5Air BladderCandleChalkInkNailsPaperPipeSoapSteel MirrorWhistleBottle x4Iron Spike x5Wooden Spike x7, 88 silver pieces (in cart)

Group Gear (Total cost of 2,009 sp)
Mule x2
Riding Gear x2
Animal Feed x46
Bedroll x7
Regular Tent x7
Extra Set of Normal Clothing x7
Extravagant Clothing x7
Winter Clothing x7
Crampons x7
Iron Ration x154
Waterskin x8
Cooking Pots
Fishing Gear
Lard x10
Garlic x10
Wolvesbane x4
Tinderbox x8
Torch x100
Lantern x7
Flask of Lantern Oil x50
Sling Bullets x140 (inside Sack x7)
Short Bow x7
Arrow x140 (inside Quiver x7)
Spear x7
10' Pole x6
50' Rope x7
Grappling Hook x7
Block and Tackle
50' Chain
Lock x2
Crowbar x7
Drill x2
Miner's Pick x5
Shovel x7
Mallet x7
Wooden Spike x16
Chest & Lock containing Money (see characters above)

Bonus Pre-Gens
Isaac Helwing, Level 3 Lawful Cleric
4,500 XP; Needs 7,000 XP for Level 4
CHA 13 (+1) CON 13 (+1) DEX 17 (+2)
INT 13 (+1) STR 17 (+2) WIS 17 (+2)
Saving Throws: Paralyze 14, Poison 11, Breath 16, Device 12, Magic 15
+1 Bonus for Magic Saves, +2 Bonus for Non-Magic Saves, +2 for Physical Damage Saves (due to helm)
HP 21, BAB +1, Melee AB +3, Ranged AB +3
Melee AC 16, Ranged AC 16, Without Shield AC 16, Surprised AC 12
Open Doors 3, Languages 2
Starting Languages: English, Dutch
Knows all standard first-level Cleric spells.
Unencumbered (1 point)
Equipment: Sword (Medium Weapon), Dagger (Minor Weapon), Buff Coat, Lobster Tail Pot Helm, Iron Ration x7, Waterskin, Tinderbox, Lantern, Flask of Lantern Oil x4, Silver Holy SymbolSteel Holy SymbolWooden Holy SymbolCestusSlingBackpackSack x5Air BladderCandleChalkInkNailsPaperPipeSoapSteel MirrorWhistleBottle x2Iron Spike x2Wooden Spike x6
Horse carrying Riding Gear, Saddlebag x4, Animal Feed x14, 288 silver pieces

Jeanne de Sombre, Level 3 Lawful Fighter
4,500 XP; Needs 8,000 XP for Level 4
CHA 12 (+0) CON 18 (+3) DEX 18 (+3)
INT 12 (+0) STR 18 (+3) WIS 12 (+0)
Saving Throws: Paralyze 14, Poison 12, Breath 15, Device 13, Magic 16
+2 for Physical Damage Saves (due to helm)
HP 33, BAB +4, Melee AB +7, Ranged AB +7
Melee AC 20, Ranged AC 20, Without Shield AC 20, Surprised AC 15
Open Doors 4
Starting Languages: English, French
Has Fighter Combat Options.
Lightly Encumbered (2 points)
Equipment: Sword (Medium Weapon), Short Bow, Quiver & Arrow x20, Buff Coat, Tassets, Lobster Tail Pot Helm, Iron Ration x7, Waterskin, Tinderbox, Torch x10, Pikeman's ArmorCestusSlingBackpackSack x5Air BladderCandleChalkInkNailsPaperPipeSoapSteel MirrorWhistleBottle x2Iron Spike
Horse carrying Riding GearSaddlebag x4, Animal Feed x14, 218 silver pieces

Tolliver Richrom, Level 3 Chaotic Specialist
4,500 XP; Needs 6,000 XP for Level 4
CHA 15 (+1) CON 15 (+1) DEX 15 (+1)
INT 15 (+1) STR 15 (+1) WIS 15 (+1)
Saving Throws: Paralyze 14, Poison 16, Breath 15, Device 14, Magic 14
+1 Bonus for Magic Saves, +1 Bonus for Non-Magic Saves, +2 for Physical Damage Saves (due to helm)
HP 21, BAB +1, Melee AB +2, Ranged AB +2
Melee AC 15, Ranged AC 15, Without Shield AC 15, Surprised AC 12
Open Doors 2, Languages 2, Architecture 2, Bushcraft 2, Climbing 2, Search 2, Sleight of Hand 2, Sneak Attack 2, Stealth 2, Tinker 2
Starting Languages: English, Spanish
Unencumbered (1 point)
Equipment: Specialist's Tools, Sword (Medium Weapon), Sack & Sling Bullet x20, Buff Coat, Lobster Tail Pot Helm, Iron Ration x7, Waterskin, Tinderbox, Lantern, Flask of Lantern Oil x4, GarroteSlingBackpackSack x5Air BladderCandleChalkInkNailsPaperPipeSoapSteel MirrorWhistleBottle x2Iron Spike x3Wooden Spike x2
Horse carrying Riding GearSaddlebag x4, Animal Feed x14, 279 silver pieces

Iri-Khan, Level 3 Chaotic Magic-User
4,500 XP; Needs 9,000 XP for Level 4
CHA 13 (+1) CON 14 (+1) DEX 18 (+3)
INT 18 (+3) STR 13 (+1) WIS 14 (+1)
Saving Throws: Paralyze 13, Poison 13, Breath 16, Device 13, Magic 14
+3 Bonus for Magic Saves, +1 Bonus for Non-Magic Saves, +2 for Physical Damage Saves (due to helm)
HP 17, BAB +1, Melee AB +2, Ranged AB +4
Melee AC 17, Ranged AC 17, Without Shield AC 17, Surprised AC 12
Open Doors 2, Languages 4
Starting Languages: English, Chinese, Arabic
Spells Known: Read Magic, Charm Person, Identify, Magic Missile, Summon, Invisibility
Unencumbered (1 point)
Equipment: Spellbook, Dagger (Minor Weapon), Sack & Sling Bullet x20, Buff Coat, Lobster Tail Pot Helm, Iron Ration x7, Waterskin, Tinderbox, Torch x10, GarroteSlingBackpackSack x5Air BladderCandleChalkInkNailsPaperPipeSoapSteel MirrorWhistleBottle x2Iron Spike x3Wooden Spike x2
Horse carrying Riding GearSaddlebag x4, Animal Feed x14, 348 silver pieces

One More Final: I Need a Life
The colossal lifeless head of Google+ smiled senselessly amidst the lapping crimson waves. At some point, Justin must have roused himself, for his character sheets were nailed to a nearby post, a mute memorial. But now he lay in the sand as if he had always lain there, exhausted, dreamless. Crucified hardbacks jutted from the shallows. A trail of dice hung motionlessly in front of the moon.

His head listed to the side of its own volition, pointing his eyes toward the wine-dark sea. A familiar figure stood lightly, ghost-like, on the blogosphere's surface. An anthropomorphic shadow. A PC from a past campaign. She had survived to the very end, whereupon she'd sacrificed her mortal life to preserve the world. The campaign setting had been revealed as the dream of a sleeping god, and it was falling apart as the god awoke. So she made him a deal: she swapped their places. This meant becoming a living computer for this simulated world, all of her memory occupied with preserving its existence, with no room left in her own mind for herself. Her ascension to godhood was a living death, the destruction of her personality, yet it saved countless lives.

She was not his, not a direct creation of his own. Yet...she was a happy memory, a work of imagination, that existed because of him. He was proud he'd helped inspire his friend to breathe life into her. He'd taken such joy in seeing her develop from a chaotic murderhobo to a real hero.

He couldn't read her expression, but he hoped she regarded him with some remaining warmth, some common understanding. She was a living coda.

Justin blinked. She was gone. She'd escaped into the waves.

Justin shared the beach with another. He sat up and turned to her.

The Flame Princess herself lay insensate in the sand, as her rulebook had once lain in the hospital bed. Her hair was the color of the sea. Her hand and leg were bandaged; Justin couldn't remember if he'd patched her up or if she had simply reformed herself from the primordial ooze in this state. Wait, no...she was not unconscious. There was awareness there; she simply refused to move. No, not for him. He just wanted her to do something, to spring forth and inspire him again.

Justin dug into his pocket until he found an old orange d20 with white numbers: the die used for attack roles. He held it up in front of the Flame Princess' face. Nothing. Not even a twitch of motion toward her sword.

He regarded his oldest weapon, crouched expectantly in the palm of his hand. He pondered it for an uncomfortably long time.

Seriously, it went on for over a minute.

His hand closed on the die. The Flame Princess was perfectly still. He squeezed the d20 with all his might. For a long moment, nothing.

Just as he was about to roll, her hand rose to his face. She gently caressed his cheek.

His grip loosened. He drew a long, shuddering breath, as if released from strangulation. His tears fell and darkened her sleeve as he awaited her revelation.

"Free speech," was all she said.

Justin sighed heavily and flung the d20 into the ocean.

"Aw hell. Does the bus run through here?" said Justin. He climbed to his feet and trudged off across the sand. "Guess I've got some catching up to do. Maybe there's a copy of Mothership around here somewhere..."


Friday, January 24, 2020

Thieves' World - LotFP House Rules

I'm still clearing out my backlog of unfinished posts and old ideas. I've become a bit of an amateur fan of the Thieves' World fantasy setting recently, and I've been thinking about running a campaign using the old Chaosium Box Set at some point. I plan to write a more extensive and enthusiastic post about this in the future.

I was originally planning to use the Lamentations of the Flame Princess rules to run this campaign. However, I'm starting to drift away from that line of products, in part because I am no longer as satisfied with their response to certain recent controversies as I once was. I'm not going to rehash the whole thing right here and now; I'm probably going to write another post soon addressing my changing attitude toward LotFP. For now, suffice it to say that I'm most likely going to use a different game to run Thieves' World, assuming I ever get around to it at all.

In the meantime, I had these LotFP house rules sitting around that I'd written up specifically for Thieves' World. Maybe there are some good ideas here that could be ported to another system - I don't know. It's not like James Raggi owns the concept of 1 in 6 skill checks. One could theoretically pull out some of the best bits of LotFP and use them in another system without violating any copyright laws or whatever. Or maybe some folks out there don't plan on supporting future LotFP releases, but they already bought the core rules or some other books, and they figure it doesn't harm anyone to privately make use of what they already own and paid for. It's not like I've thrown my books in the garbage or anything. Or heck, maybe Mr. Raggi will change his mind about certain things in the future and try to undo any harm he may have caused, and I'll feel comfortable supporting his business again. Who knows?

Anyway, do with these as you will, I guess. I still posted them, after all.

"New" Class: Blue Star Adept
Replaces the Cleric class. Works just like the Cleric, with the following exceptions:
  • The Adept sports a blue star tattoo on their forehead, which is used in lieu of a holy symbol for channeling magic. The Adept does not need to obtain or brandish a holy symbol in order to cast spells. Instead, the Adept must either have one hand free (as per the Elf class), or have one hand occupied by no more than a relatively light object - no larger or heavier than a small weapon.
  • The tattoo tends to make the Adept an impressive and imposing figure among the common rabble, but it also makes it difficult for the Adept to hide their identity or blend in with a crowd. Commoners tend to treat Adepts with a mixture of respect, awe, desire, fear, and superstitious hatred or prejudice, in wildly-varying proportions. They stand out.
  • The Adept is immortal and is not subject to magical aging, as per the Elf class.
  • The Adept does not need to memorize multiple copies of one spell at the same time; see "Other Tentative House Rules" below.
  • The Adept must keep a Secret and obey a Taboo. Failure to do so results in the loss of all spell-casting abilities and immortality.
Other Tentative House Rules
  • 784,000 XP Limit - Blue Star Adept level 14, Fighter level 13, Magic-User level 12, Specialist level 15
  • Critical hits (natural 20 on attack rolls) do maximum weapon damage.
  • At level 10, Fighters do double their maximum weapon damage on critical hits. This increases to 3x at level 11, 4x at level 12, and 5x at level 13.
  • Per VAM: "The Magic-User can cast any number of prepared spells in any combination up to their casting limit before they must prepare spells again." In other words, there is no need to memorize multiple copies of the same spell at once. Magic-Users (and Blue Star Adepts) can memorize one spell per slot, but can cast any spell memorized that day as long as they have a remaining spell slot of the appropriate level.*
  • Magic-Users (and not Blue Star Adepts) can perform "Risky Casting" as per VAM. For the purposes of modifiers to the requisite saving throw vs. magic, "Casting a spell after the usual level-based casting limit has been reached," is replaced with two separate conditions: "Casting a spell without expending a spell slot of the appropriate level" and "Casting a spell without expending a spell slot at all."
  • The spell Read Magic is removed, as per VAM and EC.
  • Specialists start with 8 skill points at level 1 (instead of 4 skill points).
  • The Sleight of Hand skill is now modified by Dexterity.
  • Combine Climbing and Open Doors (and the Swim skill from Veins of the Earth) into one skill called Athletics (modified by Strength) as per We've Got No Class version 2.5.
  • Replace Search skill with Medicine skill (see Playtest Document and EC).
  • Add Luck skill from the Playtest Document with the following modifications: Only Specialists have access to the Luck skill. This skill cannot be increased by spending skill points the way other skills can. Instead, Specialists start with 1 point in Luck at first level, and gain an additional point in Luck at levels 3, 6, 9, 12, and 15.
  • Human classes only. (This could change if the players gain access to another world.)
*Note that I am still using spell levels, unlike VAM and EC.

Generic OSR Thieves' World Takeaways?
  1. Blue Star Adepts could actually work pretty well as the setting's Cleric class. Lawful magic warriors that still get up to murderhobo shenanigans.
  2. It's Thieve's World, so it's pretty darn important that the Thief class not suck.
  3. There are a lot of healers and medical "professionals" in the setting, but not necessarily a lot of explicitly magical healing (outside of Tempus' regeneration). Some kind of healing or medicinal skill is probably called for.
  4. To keep the proper amount of grit in the game, it probably wouldn't hurt to keep things rather low-level in classic OSR fasion - hence the possibility of level limits. That said, there are some pretty powerful beings in the setting, so what do I know?
  5. It wouldn't hurt to loosen up on the typical OSR game's "Vancian" nature of magic in this setting. Magic is weird in Thieves' World, and it comes in a lot of varieties and is hard to pin down with one single system of spellcasting. Not that it shouldn't be systemized at all, but I don't think the typical D&D approach meshes too well with this setting.

Monday, January 13, 2020

LotFP Armor - Combining Classic and Early Modern Types

In Lamentations of the Flame Princess, the armor system is very simple if you stick to the default D&D-style equipment. If you switch entirely to the early modern armor system in the Firearms Appendix, then it becomes a little more complex, but it's still not too bad. However, when I try to combine both groups of armor into the same game - which is an explicit possibility outlined in the rules, as per the increased cost of medieval armor explained on page 162 - I start to get a bit confused. I decided to list out the possible armor combinations below for the sake of comparison.

When two values are presented, the first is the Melee AC, and the second is the Ranged AC. All Helms are assumed here to be Morion or Lobster Tail Pot in style, since a Secrete adds no AC bonus.

No Armor 12
Buff Coat 13
Helm 13*
Shield 13/14
^Leather Armor 14
Pikeman's Armor 14
^Buff Coat + Helm 14*
Buff Coat + Shield 14/15
Helm + Shield 14/15*
Pikeman's Armor + Buff Coat 15
Pikeman's Armor + Tassets 15
Pikeman's Armor + Helm 15*
Leather Armor + Shield 15/16
Pikeman's Armor + Shield 15/16
Buff Coat + Helm + Shield 15/16*
^Chain Armor 16
Pikeman's Armor + Buff Coat + Tassets 16
^Pikeman's Armor + Buff Coat + Helm 16*
Pikeman's Armor + Helm + Tassets 16*
Pikeman's Armor + Buff Coat + Shield 16/17
Pikeman's Armor + Tassets + Shield 16/17
Pikeman's Armor + Helm + Shield 16/17*
^Pikeman's Armor + Buff Coat + Helm + Tassets 17*
Chain Armor + Shield 17/18
Pikeman's Armor + Buff Coat + Tassets + Shield 17/18
Pikeman's Armor + Buff Coat + Helm + Shield 17/18*
Pikeman's Armor + Helm + Tassets + Shield 17/18*
^Plate/Full Armor 18
^Pikeman's Armor + Buff Coat + Helm + Tassets + Shield 18/19*
^Plate/Full Armor + Shield 19/20

*Includes bonus to physical damage saving throws.
^Armor combinations that I think are the most efficient in terms of AC/saving throw bonus per unit of encumbrance. (This mostly ignores cost; efficient equipment isn't necessarily cheap.)

Can you wear Tassets without Pikeman's Armor? I assume the answer is "No, because the Tassets would have no breastplate to hang from." In case I'm wrong, here are the combinations that include Tassets without Pikeman's Armor (or classic/medieval armor):
Tassets 13
Buff Coat + Tassets 14
Helm + Tassets 14*
Tassets + Shield 14/15
Buff Coat + Helm + Tassets 15*
Buff Coat + Tassets + Shield 15/16
Helm + Tassets + Shield 15/16*
Buff Coat + Helm + Tassets + Shield 16/17*

Can you "stack" Leather or Chain Armor with a Helm or Tassets? I would bet the answer is "No, because Leather and Chain Armor are assumed to already include head and thigh protection," but I'm not sure. In case I'm wrong, here are the combinations that include both Leather/Chain Armor and a Helm or Tassets:
Leather Armor + Tassets 15
Leather Armor + Helm 15*
Leather Armor + Helm + Tassets 16*
Leather Armor + Tassets + Shield 16/17
Leather Armor + Helm + Shield 16/17*
Chain Armor + Tassets 17
Chain Armor + Helm 17*
Leather Armor + Helm + Tassets + Shield 17/18*
Chain Armor + Helm + Tassets 18*
Chain Armor + Tassets + Shield 18/19
Chain Armor + Helm + Shield 18/19*
Chain Armor + Helm + Tassets + Shield 19/20*

†If you wish to allow helms, but not tassets, to be used with classic/medieval armor, then these are the relevant combinations.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

The Coorhagen Family

This is one last post from my cancelled Seven Firmaments campaign based on Phantasy Star III. While the campaign was running, the PCs got mixed up with a rather nasty noble family living in the city of Fillmore. This is a brief and unfinished outline of the Coorhagen family's whole situation. I just took the van Kaus family from Zzarchov Kowolski's Scenic Dunnsmouth and altered a bunch of details to make them a desperate, out-of-favor, and increasingly impoverished family of metropolitan aristocrats.

I just realized that the timeline about when the worlds are or are not sealed off from each other is inconsistent between this post and the one about religion. Oh well; I can make sense of all this in the future if I ever resurrect this setting, but I guess it doesn't matter for now.

The World-Kingdom of Elysium
Elysium is generally a pretty nice place to live compared to the other six kingdoms. Not that anyone necessarily knows that at the moment, what with access between the Kingdoms of the Seven Firmaments being sealed for 200 years and all. But the climate here tends to be mild, resources are plentiful, much of the wilderness has been tamed, crime is down, most people are pretty friendly, and the land isn't being nuked by dragons and wizards.

Elysium is honestly kind of boring compared to the other six world-kingdoms, because I'm hoping to create a huge contrast and sense of shock and disorientation for the players when/if they decide to leave (or get cast out).

Elysian Politics
The Kingdom of Elysium is shifting from a feudal nation to a capitalist one. Casualties from the mysterious war 200 years ago led to a temporary breakdown of cohesive national and aristocratic authority, in turn allowing a not-so-temporary decline in the obligations of serfdom and an increase in the formation of private businesses. While the title of nobility is technically hereditary, it can be granted or removed from a family at the will of the Queen (albeit within the bounds set by Parliament and the Constitution), and Queen Rhadamanthia III tends to promote rich merchant families to the aristocracy and strip the titles of families that become too poor (or adversely affect her own profits in too bold a fashion), so Elysium is essentially ruled by a class of merchants and business owners rather than traditional feudal aristocrats.

This does arguably allow more upward mobility than before the war, but only at the whims of the Queen and the noble families already in power. It also leads to noble families becoming terrified whenever they end up in the red, because they risk losing their seats in Parliament. Such is the case with House Coorhagen.

Coorhagen Family Overview
Businesses (other than politics): Masonry (mostly Bricks), Pottery, Lumber, Carpentry (especially furniture), Fishing, Shipbuilding, Shipping (mostly transporting goods between Fillmore and Northwall)
Former Businesses: Construction, Tannery and Leatherworking, Animal Husbandry (especially Dog Breeding), Mercenaries, Agriculture (they are nobility, after all)

Everyone who follows Fillmore politics has a pet theory about why House Coorhagen has fallen out of favor with the Queen and the other big families. Is it merely because business is bad lately, or are their fiscal problems the result of their disfavor? Did Erik blow all of their money on another pet project? Did Bernard give one of his patented mustache rides to the wrong man's wife? Is the curse of the Brahnwick family contagious?

Some even whisper that the family took the wrong side in the old war. How does that make any sense when the war was so long ago and no one seems to be able to even remember it at all let alone who the sides were? Maybe it doesn't, but some folks whisper it anyway.

Whatever the reason, Coorhagen profits are down, and their peers have turned a cold shoulder. They went from one of the most influential noble families to one of the weakest and least popular over the course of a year or so - practically overnight, considering how far they fell. They've been forced to sell about half of their businesses and much of their land, including virtually all of their farmland. They've had to cut back on the gold leaf topping for the foie gras. It's awful.

That Brahnwick curse I mentioned earlier? Dietyr Coorhagen hatched an underhanded plan to take advantage of that curse and seize some new assets from the practically extinct House Brahnwick. Maybe even another seat in Parliament, if he plays his cards right, but even just a new source of cash would be handy. Through an intermediary (Tommy Two-Teeth), Dietyr hired the players to bring him the Brahnwick signet ring so he could "inherit" the title and property of Imogen Brahnwick. Heinrich, his father and head of the family, didn't know about this plan until it was set in motion, but he begrudging approves of Dietyr's craftiness and ambition if nothing else. Since the players haven't brought Dietyr the ring in the allotted time, or even kept in contact, he's quietly panicking.

Major Family Members and Associates
Heinrich, Ludmilla (wife)
Dietyr, Maxine (wife), Lenore (daughter), Clara (daughter)
Johann, Adelgunde (wife), Jaeger (son), Ulric (son), Brunhilde (daughter)
Bernard, Gertrude (wife), Frederik (son), Margaritt (daughter)
Klaus, Klaus Junior (son)
Diana, Matthias (husband), Otto (son), Claire (daughter)
Olivia, Frank (husband), Mica (daughter), three other sons?
Adolph, Sheila (wife), Kaylee (daughter)
Niklas, Katrina (wife)
Wolfgang Coorhagen, Anastasia Nachtholm (wife), unborn child
Hilda Coorhagen, Jacob Ziegsturhl (husband)
Herman Coorhagen
Karl Coorhagen, Robert Nachtholm (husband)
Tommy Two-Teeth

(Here are some old posts related to the Seven Firmaments campaign from before it was cancelled.)

Fragment from an Audio Log from 200 Years Ago


As per Laya's wishes, I've implemented the following procedures:

The passages between the domes have been put under a complete security lockdown, as have the teleportation network and the shuttle bays. I've found numerous glitches in the lockdown systems, but we can only hope and pray that they hold.

Likewise, the ansible network has been shut down.

The satellites Azura and Dahlia have been moved to their farthest possible orbits.

I've altered the course of the Alisa. In two hundred and ten years, we will crash directly into Rigel, a blue hypergiant. God, I hope that's enough to destroy that...that damn thing.

Maybe Elsydeon will be found in time. Maybe someone will make our self-destruction unnecessary, and we can correct our course. Maybe. But Laya was right: we cannot take that chance. We can't risk the rest of mankind.

I wonder...

I wonder
what the people will see
in the final days?

This is Acting Captain Orakio, signing off.

Religions Beneath the Seven Firmaments

This was another post languishing in the unfinished pile: just a quick sketch of the major religions in a prematurely-ended LotFP campaign. It took place on a generation ship blatantly stolen from Phantasy Star III. I haven't played it yet, but maybe it's a lot like Metamorphosis Alpha? My wife Jess actually drew some awesome hex maps for the setting, so hopefully I'll get around to recycling this idea some day and actually put them to good use. Jess also helped me come up with the concept for the Grand Monument.

(Here are some old posts related to the Seven Firmaments campaign from before it was cancelled.)

As you can see, I didn't stick to Phantasy Star canon at all, but rather used the basic premise and "world" maps and place names and a few other details while trying to put my own spin on the concept. By which I mean that I mashed it up with a bunch of other borrowed ideas. Anyway, this is a rough draft of a thing I might not even finish, but I hope someone at least finds it amusing.

General info: All of the following religions are represented in each of the seven "worlds" (habitats) at the point when travel and communication was cut off between them. Neo-Termaxianism, Layanism, and the Grand Monument are the mainstream religions, while the other four are marginalized to different degrees - unfairly in most cases, but when it comes to the Druids and the most radical Militant Atheists, it's more of a matter of self-defense. In most cases, larger communities are more religiously diverse than smaller ones, but even villages tend to have some degree of variety. This diversity is not reflected in government. None of the worlds have an official state-sponsored religion on paper, but local governments are almost universally ruled de facto by a single religious faction, and world governments are at best split between a Neo-Termaxian majority and a minority party of Layanists and/or Monumentalists.

1A. Neo-Termaxianism, a.k.a. The Holy Latter Day Termaxian Church
I'm borrowing this from James Young's excellent posts found at Ten Foot Polemic HERE and HERE.

Neo-Termaxianism is by far the single most popular religion among humans, and the most politically powerful church in general. Elf and dwarf adherents are rare but not unheard of. Among halflings, there's pretty much a three-way tie for first place between standard Neo-Termaxianism, Muggletonianism, and Layanism.

The church was formerly ruled by the Papal Posse, a panel of the seven Popes - one for each world-kingdom. But now that the kingdoms are cut off from one another, each Pope is trying to hold down the fort individually until connection can be reestablished. It's probably all a test of people's faith, conducted either by Termax or that pesky Queen Satan.

Presumably there was an original group of Termaxians lacking the "Neo" prefix and the whole "Latter Day" thing, but apparently no one remembers them (or the original Nonanists they spun off from, which you can read about in the posts linked above). But if someone did remember the originals, they would note that the Neo-Termaxians tend to be a lot more stoic and sober, and less focused on partying and not giving a shit. They still believe in the particulars: "the Apocalypse" and "Termax/Maximum Godhead Hyper-Jesus defeating Eris/Queen Satan and launching the faithful from the Holy Mountain in a silver rocket to enjoy salvation beyond the firmaments" and all that good stuff. But their demeanor, their everyday philosophy of life, is closer to Roman Nonanism, what with the guilt and the systematically impenetrable jargon and the boring sermons every week and whatnot. This is a real bummer for the Muggletonians, who want to keep the spirit of Termaxianism alive (see below).

Neo-Termaxian doctrine used to go so far as to state that Queen Satan and Laya are one and the same, but this has been rolled back somewhat recently as part of the efforts to keep the peace with the Layanists.

1B. Quintessential Gnosticism
Some consider this a spin-off sect of Neo-Termaxianism, others posit in turn that Neo-Termaxianism may have branched off from it, or that both religions might stem from a common, earlier source. The followers of this faith are few in number but tend to be very dedicated. Basically, it's Neo-Termaxianism plus Gnosticism, possibly with some aspects of Marcionism and Catharism.

Their single most radical tenant, and arguably the core of their whole theological system, is the idea that the known physical world beneath the seven firmaments is an illusion or artificial construct of some sort, designed by an evil being or force - the Demiurge - to imprison and deceive people so that they cannot reunite with God (or the Monad) out in the real universe beyond the firmaments. Neo-Termaxianism doesn't get along with them very well because they sometimes claim that Maximum Godhead Hyper-Jesus is actually the Demiurge (essentially a Devil figure), and their Monad is the true God.

Gnostics have a history of studying esoteric texts, split between a tiny secret "canon" and a sprawling "quasi-canon" or "pseudo-canon" - they don't always mind sharing with outsiders the contents of the texts they study, but they tend to be very cagey about confirming which specific texts they actually believe to be truly canonical. Gnostics tend toward pacifism, vegetarianism, and antinatalism, although these are not universally agreed upon. Their concept of "Hell" is simply being reincarnated in the worlds beneath the firmaments. Folk tales often associate Quintessential Gnosticism with magical potions, alchemy, and supernatural transformations.

1C. Muggletonianism
I'm borrowing this from real life and from Barry Blatt's England Upturn'd. Just replace all of the Christian references with Termaxian ones. Even though they consider themselves a denomination of Neo-Termaxianism, they get along much better with Layanists and Militant Atheists than they do mainstream Neo-Termaxians. They do agree with the Neo-Termaxians that the worlds were made specifically for the use and pleasure of the humanoid races, but they see this less as an excuse to lord their superiority over other lifeforms and more as an excuse to party all the time. They believe that Termax lives on one or both of the moons, just above the firmament and some six or so miles over their heads.

2A. Layanism
This is the mainstream elf religion. Layanists worship Nature as a god (or goddess - they're not picky about the pronouns), but direct devotion to Nature as an individual entity is a relatively minor aspect of their beliefs. Layanism is primarily a form of Animism; they believe that everything in existence has a soul or spirit, and at least some level of awareness - not only animals, but plants and other lifeforms, inanimate objects, and natural phenomena as well. Most of their worship centers around venerating these spirits, especially the ones most directly involved in their lives, like the spirits of their food, homes, tools, and ancestors. Laya is a messianic figure believed to be the ur-ancestor of the elves, and through them, dwarfs and halflings. She is revered as being the first to make peace with Nature, turning the relationship between people and Nature from an adversarial one to one of mutual benefit. Nature, Laya, and all the spirits of the world are collectively referred to as the Triad of Order and represented by an equilateral triangle pointing to the right.

Layanists believe that Laya was wounded in an ancient battle with her nemesis Orakio, the ur-ancestor of all humans. Layanist doctrine used to go so far as to state that Orakio and Termax are one and the same, but this has been rolled back somewhat recently as part of the efforts to keep the peace with the Neo-Termaxians. Laya is now believed to sleep under a hollow hill until her injuries are healed and/or she is needed to return and save the Layanists from some dark fate that they are reluctant to discuss with outsiders.

2B. The Howling Church a.k.a. Druidry
I'm borrowing this from Arnold K.'s excellent posts Goblin Punch about Druids (1 2 3 4 5 6), and to a lesser extent, about Satanism and other topics (1 2 3 4 5). If given half a chance to make it even slightly theologically coherent, I'd probably combine the Druidic and Satanic material from Goblin Punch into one religion, for Maximum Folk Horror. These people want to tear down civilization and make everyone operate on animal instinct. If they ever discovered the truth about their artificial environment, they would lose their shit.

3. The Grand Monument
This is the mainstream dwarf religion. Outsiders regard them as the all-work-no-play religion, even more so than the Neo-Termaxians, which is really saying something. Adherents believe that dwarfs were created by one or more now-deceased gods for the express purpose of maintaining the physical well-being of the worlds, which are also collectively the sleeping, unborn body or bodies of one or more new gods who will someday awaken and be born. The worlds are the corpses of the old gods, the tombstones or memorials for those gods, and the raw materials of the gods-to-be, all at once; they are a Grand Monument to the eternal persistence of creation. Grand Monumentalists believe that it is their job to build and/or repair their godhead, which is also their home, essentially making them holy construction and maintenance workers.

Many dwarfs live and work underground to be close to the machine superstructures they supervise. They tend to agree wholeheartedly with Layanists about the importance of preserving the ecosystems of the above-ground worlds, even if they do regard the Layanists as deluded fools who don't see the big picture. They are generally indifferent to other religions except Muggletonians (whose care-free attitude rubs them the wrong way) and Druids (who are hated by just about everyone for their indiscriminate murder).

Monumentalists tend to obsess over work and isolate themselves from the political and cultural goings-on of the surface worlds except when they perceive a threat to the integrity of the environment, in which case they carefully and methodically go absolutely ballistic until the problem is solved. Monumentalist Troubleshooters are among the most effective hunters of rampaging monsters.

4. Militant Atheism
I'm borrowing this from Gus L.'s characters in Beloch Shrike's Dungeon Moon. They're essentially straw atheists. Their level of Militancy varies wildly among individuals, from merely enjoying a good argument at every opportunity, to a belief in staying armed and vigilant for the purposes of self-defense, to engaging in guerrilla warfare or even outright crusades when they feel persecuted.

Mysteriously, their ranks do include the occasional cleric, complete with magic powers. This could mean that there really are gods who bless them despite their unfaithfulness...or it could mean that clerical spells don't really come from a divine source, or that the magic was inside you all along, or Termax-knows-what.

Atheist Paladins - fighters who declare themselves champions of reason and wander the worlds in search of wrongs to right - are actually widely trusted and very begrudginly respected among the lower classes in most worlds, because even though they're completely insufferable, they've proven themselves again and again to be champions of the common people, as well as brave and effective monster hunters right up there with the Monumentalist Troubleshooters. Still, they do eventually get run out of any normal community they stick around too long once people get sick of them nitpicking every "superstition" they come across. To a lesser extent, this goes for Militant Atheists in general, so they usually live in their own isolated communities.

Random Religion by Race - Roll d100 to determine the religion of a PC or NPC as desired.

  • 01-75 The Grand Monument (75%)
  • 76-87 Militant Atheist (12%)
  • 88-95 Layanist (8%)
  • 96-97 Muggletonian (2%)
  • 98-99 Gnostic (2%)
  • 00 Neo-Termaxian (1%)
  • 01-75 Layanist (75%)
  • 76-85 Muggletonian (10%)
  • 86-95 Gnostic (10%)
  • 96-97 Neo-Termaxian (2%)
  • 98-99 Militant Atheist (2%)
  • 00 Druid (1%)
  • 01-30 Neo-Termaxian (30%)
  • 31-60 Muggletonian (30%)
  • 61-90 Layanist (30%)
  • 91-97 Militant Atheist (7%)
  • 98-99 Gnostic (2%)
  • 00 Druid (1%)
  • 01-80 Neo-Termaxian (80%)
  • 81-89 Militant Atheist (9%)
  • 90-95 Muggletonian (6%)
  • 96-97 Gnostic (2%)
  • 98-99 Layanist (2%)
  • 00 Druid (1%)
Approximate Religious Demographics Overall*
  • Layanism 28.75%
  • Neo-Termaxianism 28.25%
  • Grand Monument 18.75%
  • Muggletonianism 12%
  • Militant Atheism 7.5%
  • Gnosticism 4%
  • Druidry 0.75%
*This is assuming that dwarfs, elves, halfings, and humans all have roughly equal populations. Since reliable survey information is unavailable, this is not a safe bet. Humans widely appear to be the most numerous of the humanoid races, so it would be unsurprising if Neo-Termaxians actually have a slight majority over Layanists. These demographics can be safely assumed to be roughly the same across all seven worlds for the first few decades after communication and travel is cut off, but the proportions will naturally tend to differ more over time due to the individual political situations and conflicts in each world unless contact is reestablished.

WHFRP 1E - 20 "High-Level" Career Paths

I'm trying to clean out my unfinished blog posts and get my writing habits back on track and all that. I don't even know exactly where I was going with this one, or if it even had much of a point besides "Wow, the character advancement rules in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 1st Edition sure get wacky beyond a certain point, huh?"

Anyway, I know that WFRP 1E characters are supposed to advance slowly, and that they don't tend to have very long life expectancy - or at least I guess that's the common consensus online - but assuming you do have a character who lives long enough to acquire and spend a bunch of XP, it looks like you're pretty much bound to wind up taking a long, circuitous, unorthodox career path with lots of strange detours. Unless you're a magic-focused character, I guess, in which case your career is probably going to be fairly linear as you try to just get all of the spells you want and eventually reach Level 4.

So...yeah. Here are some examples of career progression you could theoretically pursue. I just thought they seemed fun, I guess. Or maybe I was trying to see how many different careers I could include on a list of somewhat "sensible" career paths with as little overlap as possible. Who knows?

I don't remember for sure, but I think I used the same amount of XP for all of these, for the sake of comparison. (Then again, maybe I just slapped five careers together for each example; I really don't remember.) At any rate, if any of these require dice rolls, I probably assumed success on the first try so as to avoid wasted XP; some of these might actually be hard to follow due to random chances of failure. I probably also assumed that all of the skills were obtained in each career before moving on.

Roll a d20 or whatever.
  1. Bodyguard > Bounty Hunter > Protagonist > Duelist > Assassin
  2. Tunnel Fighter > Sapper > Mercenary > Troll Slayer > Giant Slayer
  3. Herdsman > Militiaman > Mercenary > Mercenary Sergeant > Mercenary Captain
  4. Prospector > Soldier > Squire > Free Lance > Templar
  5. Tomb Robber > Tunnel Fighter > Pit Fighter > Judicial Champion > Witch Hunter
  6. Boatman > Smuggler > Pilot > Navigator > Sea Captain
  7. Entertainer (Tight Rope Walker) > Thief (General) > Outlaw > Highwayman > Outlaw Chief
  8. Servant > Scribe > Engineer > Sapper > Gunner
  9. Hunter > Coachman > Scout > Bounty Hunter > Targeteer
  10. Grave Robber > Physician's Student > Herbalist > Pharmacist > Physician
  11. Bawd > Gambler > Raconteur > Charlatan > Spy
  12. Fisherman > Trader > Exciseman > Merchant > Explorer
  13. Servant > Scribe > Forger > Counterfeiter > Fence
  14. Exciseman > Scribe > Student > Lawyer > Demagogue
  15. Alchemist's Apprentice > Alchemist Level 1Alchemist Level 2Alchemist Level 3Alchemist Level 4
  16. Wizard's Apprentice > Wizard Level 1 > Wizard Level 2 > Wizard Level 3 > Wizard Level 4
  17. Wizard's Apprentice > Elementalist Level 1 > Elementalist Level 2 > Elementalist Level 3 > Elementalist Level 4
  18. Wizard's Apprentice > Illusionist Level 1 > Illusionist Level 2 > Illusionist Level 3 > Illusionist Level 4
  19. Initiate > Cleric Level 1 > Cleric Level 2 > Cleric Level 3 > Cleric Level 4
  20. Druid > Druidic Priest Level 1 > Druidic Priest Level 2 > Druidic Priest Level 3 > Druidic Priest Level 4
Bold = Advanced Career, Underlined = Current Career, > = Non-Standard Career Exit

Monday, December 30, 2019

Super-Casual Pulp Campaign

Bird #1: I want to try out my B/X/RC bridge rules.
Bird #2: I want to play a bunch of old D&D adventures that I've been curious about.
Bird #3: I want to start a second campaign so that more of my friends can play RPGs with me, and so I can get some new acquaintances into RPGs, and so I can just play more games, for Crom's sake!
The Killing Stone: I'm going to run a super chill, laid back, extra casual game of Basic D&D every other week, and it's going to be pulpier than an orange juice spill in a paper factory, and it's going to have more modules than the ISS, and it's gonna make me Professor Karate Dragon because I'll be teaching folks how to kick it old school. Here's the syllabus:

Adventures at Sane Levels
MSOLO1 Blizzard Pass - Levels 1-3
B4 The Lost City - Levels 1-3
B7 Rahasia - Levels 2-3
JG0102 The Caverns of Thracia - Levels 2-6 (or maybe 2-4?)
B10 Night's Dark Terror - Levels 2-4
X2 Castle Amber - Levels 3-6
MSOLO2 Maze of the Riddling Minotaur - Levels 1-10
X1 The Isle of Dread - Levels 3-7
I1 Dwellers of the Forbidden City* - Levels 4-7
ST1 Up the Garden Path - Levels 4-7**
C1 The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan* - Levels 5-7
X8 Drums on Fire Mountain - Levels 5-8
X4 Master of the Desert Nomads - Levels 6-9
X5 Temple of Death - Levels 6-10
S2 White Plume Mountain* - Levels 5-10
WG4 The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun* - Levels 5-10
S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth* - Levels 6-10
I8 Ravager of Time* - Levels 8-10
JG0088 Dark Tower* - Levels 7-11
S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks* - Levels 8-12
X7 The War Rafts of Kron - Levels 9-12
DA1 Adventures in Blackmoor - Levels 10-14
DA2 Temple of the Frog - Levels 10-14
DA3 City of the Gods - Levels 10-14
DA4 The Duchy of Ten - Levels 10-14
S1 Tomb of Horrors* - Levels 10-14

New Game + (AKA "They've Gone to Plaid!")
CM2 Death's Ride - Levels 15-20
CM8 The Endless Stair - Levels 15-20
CM6 Where Chaos Reigns - Levels 17-19
CM4 Earthshaker! - Levels 18-20
WG6 Isle of the Ape* - Levels 18+
M5 Talons of Night - Levels 20-25
M1 Into the Maelstrom - Levels 25-30
M2 Vengeance of Alphaks - Levels 28-32
M4 Five Coins for a Kingdom - Levels 28-32
M3 Twilight Calling - Levels 30-35
And then on to immortality?

*AD&D Module
**This one is super rare, so if I can't find a PDF, I might run a UK-series AD&D module here instead.

Potential House Rules
I'm not 100% sold on all of these yet, so I'll talk with my players about it when the campaign starts.
  • I'm definitely using my B/X + RC Reference Sheet.
  • I'm definitely ignoring the optional rule that wielders of two-handed weapons always lose initiative.
  • Players don't have to roll for HP. They can just take the maximum possible amount each level.
  • I might combine the Fighter and Thief classes into a single class, as I've discussed before. If I do this, then for the sake of simplicity I'll probably still just call them Fighters, and they'll have the same HD and experience table and saving throws and such. They'll just be able to use Thief skills and special abilities as a Thief of the same level, provided they don't have any armor equipped that a Thief couldn't use (including shields) and that they're not greatly encumbered. (And I'm flexible on encumbrance - see below.) As for name-level antics, each Fighter can choose either to build a castle and attract the usual followers, or to build a hideout and attract followers as a Thief. Finally, this pseudo-multiclass thing will probably only apply to PCs and retainers. Most NPCs with Fighter or Thief levels can behave as usual. "Monsters" don't have to follow the same rules as PCs.
  • Isn't encumbrance listed as optional in B/X? This is a Super Casual (TM) campaign, so I'll probably ignore encumbrance. Feel free to leave angry comments below.
  • For generating ability scores, I'm probably going to use one of the two methods listed on page 130 of the Rules Cyclopedia. Yes, for all PCs, even at first level. Angry comments below.
  • I'm going to start the campaign with the default rule that 0 HP=death. However, if that eventually gets old due to high attrition, I'd be willing to use the "Keeping Characters Alive" variant rule from page 266 of the Rules Cyclopedia.
  • I'm probably going to include something like "checkpoint levels", but it'll be "checkpoint amounts of XP" instead, since different classes have different XP tables and players won't necessarily play the same class all the time. I'll probably base it on the Fighter's XP table. As for brand new players joining the campaign at a later time, their characters will most likely start 2 levels below the least experienced living PC.
  • No more spell memorization! Spellcasters are still limited by their spells per day, but if they have a particular spell in their own spellbook (or general repertoire for clerics), and they have an unused "spell slot" of the appropriate level available, they can cast the spell as if they had memorized it. Additionally, the number of spells that can fit in a character's spellbook is essentially unlimited, as per the Rules Cyclopedia. Hopefully this will encourage players to use a wider variety of spells. This goes for NPCs as well, just to even the playing field.
  • If you want to play a Mystic from the Rules Cyclopedia, or a class from one of the Gazetters, I'm cool with it. If you want to play a class you found on a blog or something, I'll probably allow it, but run it by me first, please.
  • If there's a rule or something in the Rules Cyclopedia or another supplement you'd like to try out, feel free to ask me about it.
Possible Links Between Adventures
This is all subject to change based on the actions and requests of the players, of course. I'm just spitballing.

In true "patchwork map" fashion, the party members descend from the snowy mountains of Blizzard Pass to a vast desert, home of the pyramid from The Lost City. Battered by sandstorms, they seek refuge in the pyramid and come into conflict with the evil Zargon. Below is the titular city of Cynidicea, currently thrown into turmoil by the kidnapping of princess Rahasia. Beneath Cynidicea are the even more ancient Caverns of Thracia, said to be magically sealed off from the city by the power of the Black Opal Eye. Perhaps the Thracian ruins hold the secret to ensuring that Zargon never returns?

If Zargon is defeated for good, the adventurers are given an opportunity to make a vast fortune in the Grand Duchy of Karameikos as Cynidicean ambassadors, but their plan is interrupted by Night's Dark Terror. One thing leads to another, and they end up making their way to a hidden valley which houses a secret portal to mist-veiled Castle Amber. Should the players find a way to return to their own world, this method of interdimensional travel could conveniently deposit them on the island of Vacros from Maze of the Riddling Minotaur. If the players procure a ship, they could travel to The Isle of Dread and/or Teki-Nura-Ria from Drums on Fire Mountain, either of which could be modified to include Dwellers of the Forbidden City and The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan. Some uncharted corner of the Sea of Dread could easily contain another interdimensional portal as well, this time leading to a certain "Paradoxical Garden Festival Anomaly".

Should the players return to the mainland, news of whatever great feats they may have accomplished could inspire some major political figure from Karameikos to ask them to intercede in the ongoing crisis described in Master of the Desert Nomads and Temple of Death. Afterward, the players could wander the land as they wish and get involved in all kinds of shenanigans, following a trail of incredible technological and mystical artifacts (and more portals, of course!) until they eventually reach the forgotten realm of Blackmoor. Perhaps they may even learn of the legend of Acererak, dreaming fitfully within his Tomb of Horrors in the darkest of Blackmoor's mires. Is the astral magic of the demi-lich somehow involved in the strange portals and chronological anomalies the adventurers have discovered time after time? And what is Acererak's connection to the dreaded immortal Alphaks?

"But Professor, I thought railroading was bad?"
Listen here, you little sh- Good point, but I don't think this'll be so bad. These newfangled "adventure paths" aren't actually all that new - look at "supermodules" like the GDQ series or Scourge of the Slave Lords or the Saltmarsh series or Desert of Desolation or the Village of Homlet/Temple of Elemental Evil combo get the idea. I've seen plenty of online discussion about the ideal order in which to run this or that group of adventures, or various dream campaigns that link together various favorites.

Sure, if you force it, and you don't get player buy-in, then sure, that's railroading and that often sucks, and it generally runs counter to what I find to be some of the biggest strengths of D&D and the OSR. You know, like open-world sandbox play and unpredictable player-driven "storytelling" - as opposed to pre-determined stories dictated by the DM and acted out by the players with little or no wiggle room, which is the kind of stuff that makes "story" a dirty word for some in the OSR crowd.

When I run a campaign and I feel that it's time to add in a new adventure, I usually try to avoid railroading in one of two ways.
  1. I introduce plot hooks and wait to see if the players bite. If something related to a particular adventure grabs their attention and they freely choose to pursue it, or if the consequences of their previous freely chosen actions force them to interact with such an element, then I reel them in and start the adventure when it seems to make sense. And if they don't bite, that's fine; we don't play that particular adventure and the players do something else instead. In other words, I try to let it happen organically.
  2. I give the players a list of adventures I want to run, along with their basic premises or other non-spoiler info if asked, and I straight-up let them vote on the next one we play. Then I do my best to fit it into the campaign as naturally as possible, with the implicit agreement that the players will cooperate in biting the initial necessary plot hook. In return, I try my best not to immediately and totally screw them over through no fault of their own.
But now, with a specific list of adventures I want to run, I think I'm going to try a third method: tell my players ahead of time that I have this path roughly planned out and just see if they're okay with it. If they are, I don't see the harm in roughly sketching out a path like this; they can tackle each adventure however they want, they can decide when they're ready to move on to the next one, and they can revisit previous adventure locations if they want to. They can straight-up skip one if they want. Their actions determine how each adventure ends, who survives and who their enemies and allies are, what resources they can bring to bear, what kind of reputation precedes them, etc.

And if they're not okay with the path, they're free to leave it. I'll do my best to adjust and follow their lead. I might need extra prep time, or I might end up making stuff up off the top of my head, but I'll deal with it. Still, the path is there in case they enjoy following it.

I honestly think they will. This is supposed to be a Super Casual campaign. I think one advantage of running a series of modules back-to-back like this is that if we get bored of dealing with the minutiae between adventures, we can easily gloss over the connective tissue and get back to the action. We don't have to worry about exact distances and travel times between interesting locations, or keeping a consistent calendar, or tracking every last ration in the wagon or copper spent at the inn. That's just not what I want to focus on this time. The story starts when the wandering heroes show up, and it ends when they leave. Then we're off to the next story.

My Biggest Challenge
This campaign needs a catchy name!

Sunday, December 22, 2019

B/X + RC Reference Sheet v0.5

As I suggested earlier, I put together some house rules to "bridge" the difference between the 1981 D&D Basic/Expert sets ("B/X") and the Rules Cyclopedia, as inspired by Zenopus' Bridge Tables. The idea here is to use the Rules Cyclopedia primarily as a supplement to extend B/X campaigns beyond Level 14, and to allow additional rules from the Cyclopedia to be added piecemeal as desired. Hopefully, this post can help players use all of these rulebooks together within the same campaigns, without confusion or inconsistencies.

Suggestions for improvement are more than welcome. I'd also like to give this a slicker layout with some easy-to-read tables and turn it into a PDF, so if anyone is willing to help me figure out how to do that, I'd appreciate it. Anyway, I hope someone finds this useful. Enjoy!

B/X + RC Reference Sheet v0.5

Saving Throws
  • Levels 1-16: As per B/X.
  • Levels 17-20: Poison 3, Wands 5, Paralysis 6, Breath Attack 8, Spells 7
  • Levels 21-24: Poison 3, Wands 5, Paralysis 5, Breath Attack 6, Spells 5
  • Levels 25+: As per the Rules Cyclopedia.
  • Levels 1-15: As per B/X.
  • Levels 16-18: As per Levels 13-15 in B/X.
  • Levels 19-21: Poison 4, Wands 5, Paralysis 6, Breath 5, Spells 7
  • Levels 22+: As per the Rules Cyclopedia.
  • Levels 1-15: As per B/X.
  • Levels 16+: As per the Rules Cyclopedia.
  • Levels 1-16: As per B/X.
  • Levels 17+: As per the Rules Cyclopedia.
  • Levels 1-12: As per B/X.
  • At Attack Rank D, begin using Level 12 Saving Throws from the Rules Cyclopedia.
  • Levels 13+: As per the Rules Cyclopedia (if using the Extended Experience Table).
  • Levels 1-10: As per B/X.
  • At Attack Rank F, being using Level 10 Saving Throws from the Rules Cyclopedia.
  • Levels 11-12: As per Level 10 in B/X (if using the Extended Experience Table).
  • Levels 13+: As per the Rules Cyclopedia (if using the Extended Experience Table).
  • Levels 1-8: As per B/X.
  • At Attack Rank C, begin using Level 8 Saving Throws from the Rules Cyclopedia.
  • Level 9: As per Levels 7-8 in B/X (if using the Extended Experience Table).
  • Levels 10+: As per the Rules Cyclopedia (if using the Extended Experience Table).
Spells Per Day
  • Levels 1-14: As per B/X.
  • Level 15: 6/5/5/5/4/3
  • Level 16: 6/5/5/5/4/3
  • Level 17: 6/6/5/5/4/3/1
  • Level 18: 6/6/5/5/4/3/2
  • Level 19: 7/6/5/5/4/4/2
  • Level 20: 7/6/5/5/4/4/3
  • Levels 21+: As per the Rules Cyclopedia.
  • Levels 1-14: As per B/X.
  • Level 15: 5/4/4/4/3/3/1
  • Level 16: 5/5/5/4/3/3/2
  • Levels 17+: As per the Rules Cyclopedia.
Thief Skills
  • Climb Walls and Hear Noise: Switch to the Rules Cyclopedia at Level 14.
  • Pick Pockets: Switch to the Rules Cyclopedia at Level 23.
  • Open Locks, Find Traps, and Remove Traps: Switch to the Rules Cyclopedia at Level 26.
  • Move Silently and Hide in Shadows: Switch to the Rules Cyclopedia at Level 36.
Turn Undead
Always use the table from the Rules Cyclopedia.
Alternatively, from Levels 1-10, use the B/X table, and from Level 11 on, use the Rules Cyclopedia table.

Attack Table, Attack Ranks, and Multiple Attacks
Always use the Attack Table from the Rules Cyclopedia.
Demi-human Player Characters gain Attack Ranks as per the Rules Cyclopedia (or else follow the Extended Experience Table from the Rules Cyclopedia if the Dungeon Master allows).
Player Characters gain multiple attacks as per the Rules Cyclopedia.

Experience Points for Monsters
Always use the "Experience Points for Monsters" table from the Rules Cyclopedia.
Alternatively, use the B/X table until at least one Player Character achieves either Level 14 or the maximum level for their class, then begin using the table from the Rules Cyclopedia.

The Electrum Rule: Assume the B/X rulebooks take precedence over the Rules Cyclopedia by default, unless the Dungeon Master decides otherwise.

Monday, December 16, 2019

B/X vs. RC: A Quick & Dirty Class Comparison

The Rules Cyclopedia rocks, but I have a major bone to pick with it (and BECMI, which is practically the same thing as far as I'm concerned). Thieves freaking suck!* Their chances of succeeding at their class skills were SUPER nerfed from B/X in order to spread out their advancement over a ridiculous 36 levels; it would have been better to keep the percentages the same, then introduce some new abilities after level 14, if you ask me. Also, they could use ANY weapon in B/X, but they have new weapon limitations in BECMI. It's bad enough the poor guys have d4 hit dice, and you have to make them even crappier on top of that just to fit the new level scheme? Lame. That class deserves better if you're going to bother including it at all.

The Rules Cyclopedia is also just...a lot. It's a lot to take in. I think my ideal version of D&D would use the two B/X books as a base, and then just sprinkle some occasional RC stuff on top - some more monsters/magic items/spells here, a little rule clarification or two there, voila. Then MAYBE bring in some of the optional systems later if desired (mass combat?), but generally try to point the players to the B/X books if they need to reference something themselves, and just keep the RC to myself as an extra DM guide of sorts.

If I did that, I would probably still limit level advancement to 14, as per the Expert book. But if my players ever actually made it that far and didn't like the level limit, maybe they could budge me on that? I don't know. There are one or two Companion adventure modules that look kind of good. I don't know how smoothly you could transition from, say, the saving throw and spells-per-day tables of B/X to the RC if you switch from one to the other mid-stream like that.

Let's take a moment to compare the classes in B/X and the RC up to level 14. (Please feel free to point out any mistakes in the comments.) Experience tables are exactly the same. HP is the same.** Elf spells are the same, M-U is the same until level 12, Cleric spells are only the same until level 6. Saving throws are way off - Fighters, Clerics, and Magic-Users have worse saves by level 14 in the RC, while Thieves have mildly better saves and demi-humans have MUCH better saves in the RC. Dwarves and Halflings no longer share the same saving throw table in RC. Thief skills are generally MUCH worse in RC. The Cleric's Turn Undead table is the same until level 11 (where it maxes out in B/X), but the RC table has a lot more monsters and 2 new results, so it's hard to say if it's better or not. I don't feel like going over the Attack Table with a fine-tooth comb, but I did spot a difference or two.

In summary, switching from B/X to RC mid-campaign at level 15 would present some compatibility problems. Not insurmountable ones, by any means, but ones I'd personally prefer to address, partly to avoid confusion or inconsistency and partly because this kind of nitpicky stuff just bugs me. I would love to have something like the Holmes Basic + OD&D Reference Sheet by Zenopus, except for B/X and the Rules Cyclopedia instead. Something to work as a bridge between levels 1 to 14 for B/X and levels 15+ for the RC. Maybe I'll just have to do it myself...

*Well, I hear they're pretty good again if you use the optional Weapon Specialization rules and some other optional stuff, but I haven't really looked at them yet.

**Sort of. The Elf gets 2 HP at level 10 in B/X. In the RC, the elf gets 1 HP in at level 10 according to their class write-up near the beginning of the book, but I think it says later in the book that they get 2 HP as per B/X. I'm assuming there was a typo or an editing mistake or something. I'll probably double-check this later. It's a tiny difference either way, but I'd rather be nice and default to B/X here.