Wednesday, November 30, 2016

This blog just got 5 years old ... (a post with useful stuff in it)

Damn it, I hate it when that happens, but I'm so frecking busy right now that I won't make the progress I'd like to see with Monkey Business.  You know what they say: "A plan is a list of things that don't happen." Anyway. I'm also further ahead in this than I thought possible to begin with. 50 pages laid out, another 35 conceptualized and ready to make their way into the module as soon as I find the time and the rest being at least outlined. That's good, right? Well, it isn't enough. So I'll go ahead and show some juicy bits of the module, some real crunch, so you people get a good impression where a good part of the time went I could have used blogging.

For those completely unaware: Monkey Business will be my first published module. It's a procedural jungle sandbox with drug trafficking apes, crazy cannibals, sloppy aliens and all kinds of good weirdness. It keeps growing and growing, so there'll be a shit-load of content. Here is a (wee) bit of it.

A post where I show more than I should ...

First some layout and text. There's still a last spell check and what-not in order, but I think this is presentable:

One of around 160 possible encounters with some pd art for flavor.

And here is the rumor table:

10 ideas how to get the party started ...

... and still raise you one Cannibal Village Drop Die Generator

Alright, I'll go all in and show you a bit of the procedural sandbox tools I've been working on for this thing. It's part of a hex-field generator and will be accompanied by a ruins generator. One roll on this table alone will already give you enough fodder for an adventure, including some hooks for more. The whole thing should give you enough for a campaign. The "Cheat Sheet" at the end is supposed to be the icing on the cake. I think it's important to give the random content produced for the module a home to make book keeping as easy as possible.

Well, here we go:

Random Village Generator
Roll 1d4, 1d6, 1d8, 1d10, 1d12 and 1d20 all at once. Add the result up, that's your population. Copy the pattern the dice form as relative positions of the different village areas and the numerical results as indicated in the tables unto the Cannibal Village Cheat Sheet (at the end of the module). Die size indicates hierarchy, die numbers indicate how strong or weak (high or low results) that aspect of the village life is. Doubles indicate a strong bond between two results and if one result is the double of another result, than the higher one has some kind of dominance over the lower (ignoring/conflicting with hierarchy).
Use the Cannibal Village Cheat Sheet to fill in the die results and draw a sketch of the village. Although this method is pretty fast (taking not more time than one roll of a couple dice and noting the results), I'd prepare a couple of those up front. Hex results will indicate further details as soon as you drop a village somewhere. Let's get to those tables.
D4 – Sick Huts (old, wounded & sick)
1: Many here are insane (-4 to basic culture roll)
2: The Sickness is here ( 3d6 of the population are really sick)
3: Many wounded (2d10 wounded because of war)
4: People take care of the old and weak (+3d6 to population, +4 to basic culture roll)
d6 – Big Communal Huts (women, children & simple work)
1: People are angry, something riles them up (-4 to reaction rolls)
2: People are afraid, something bad is about to happen (possible quest, -2 to reaction rolls)
3: People are nervous, something is wrong (possible quest, correct reaction roll 2 towards neutral)
4: People are content, all is as it should (+2 to basic culture)
5: People are curious, something strange happened (possible quest, +2 to reaction rolls)
6: People are happy, something fortunate happened (possible contacts, + 4 to reaction rolls)
d8 - Storage Huts (valuables, workshops, food & prisoners)
1: This is not their village! (1d6 prisoners, -4 to reaction rolls, -6 to basic culture)
2: They are very primitive hunters & gatherers (-4 to basic culture roll)
3: Primitives with basic farming & rudimentary tools (-2 to basic culture roll)
4: Greedy Savages, they lack nothing (+2 to resource)
5: Wealthy savages, fat is a beauty ideal (+4 to resource, +2 to reaction roll if a fat character is in the group)
6: Living in the ruins of a lost culture (+2 to basic culture roll, +2 to resource level, -2 to reaction rolls)
7: Sophisticated savages who'd eat you nonetheless (+4 to basic culture roll, shaman is M-U, +1 to resource level)
8: Retired group of adventurers brought civilization & blond children (+2 to reaction roll, +6 to basic culture roll, shaman is M-U, trainers for all classes, +2 to resource level)
d10 – Initiation Huts (combat training, armory & trophies)
1: All warriors dead, dying or wounded (2d6 of population are warriors in the sick huts, +4 to reaction rolls, -4 to basic culture, -4 to resources)
2: Cowards (+2d6 warriors to population, -2 to resources, -4 to Morale)
3: Poorly equipped (+3d6 warriors to population, +1 to level for warriors, +2 for two veterans/leaders, -4 to resources, -2 to Morale)
4: Lazy (+2d6 warriors to population, +2 level for one leader, -2 to Morale)
5: Peaceful tribe (+1d6 honor guards to population, +3 to level for each warrior, +2 to resources)
6: Very Young (+3d6 warriors to population, +1 to level for warriors, +2 for three veterans/leaders, +1 to resources, +2 to Morale)
7: Only old veterans (+2d6 warriors to population, +3 to level for veterans/leaders, +2 to resources, +4 to Morale)
8: Organized and trained (+4d6 warriors to population, +1d6 prisoners of war, +2 to level for warriors, +3 for one veteran/leader, +2 to resources, +2 to Morale)
9: Experienced warriors (+3d6 warriors to population, +1d6 prisoners of war, +2 to level for warriors, +4 for two veterans/leaders, +4 to resources, +4 to Morale)
10: Elite warriors of fame (+3d6 warriors to population, +2d6 prisoners of war, +3 to level for warriors, +6 for three veterans/leaders, +4 to resources, +6 to Morale)
d12 – Shaman's Hut (boneyard, shrine & altar of sacrifice)
Even result: male shaman, uneven result: female shaman
1-2: Faking it (possible quests, because needs help, +1d6 prisoners for sacrifices, -4 to resources, -4 to reaction rolls, -4 to resources, -2 to morale)
3-4: Sold soul to evil for powers (+2d6 prisoners for sacrifices,+2 resources, -4 reaction roll, -4 to basic culture)
5-6: Controls a demon (+1d6 prisoners for sacrifices, -2 to basic culture, -2 to reaction rolls, +4 to morale +4 to resources)
7-8: The spirits of the jungle listen! (level 3 shaman, +2 to basic culture, +4 to resources, +2d6 to population)
9-10: A holy presence (level 6 shaman, +4 to basic culture, +4 to resources, +2 to morale, +2 to reaction rolls, +2d6 to population, +1d6 level 3 holy warriors)
11-12: A place of pilgrimage (level 8 shaman, +4 to basic culture, +4 to resources, +4 to morale, +4 to reaction rolls, double population, +3d6 level 3 holy warriors)
d20 - Chieftain's hut (Chief's family, honor guard & place of assembly)
Roll is base value for basic culture.
1: Old & senile (-4 to morale, -4 to resources, +4 to reaction roll with even reaction roll or -4 with uneven reaction roll, because senile)
2: Stupid (every other village in the same hex-field makes fun of him, -4 to resources, +2 to morale, -6 to reaction roll)
3: Crazy (half the population, -2 to resources, -2 to morale, +2 to reaction roll)
4: Young & inexperienced (-4 to resources, +2 to morale)
5: Incompetent (always does the opposite of what would be wise, -6 to resources, -4 to morale)
6: A drunk (-4 to resources, -2 to morale, +2 to reaction roll)
7: Extra savage cannibal (always aims to eat you, +1d6 prisoners for soup, +2 to resources, +4 to morale, -6 to reaction roll)
8: Warmonger (at war with every other tribe in the hex-field, +2d6 level 1 warriors, half of the warriors are down to half their hit points, +4 to resources, +2 to morale, -6 to reaction roll)
9: Superstitious (easy to impress with magic, -4 to all saves vs. magic for the tribe,
10: Greedy (tribe is poor, chief is rich, -2 to resources)
11: Rich (bought alliance with one other factions in the hex-field to be the strongest force in the area, +4 resources)
12: Wise (chief is level 2 cleric, +1d6 visitors seeking advice, +4 to reaction rolls)
13: Suave Savage (chief is level 2 thief, +6 to resources, +2 to morale, +2 to reaction rolls)
14: EVIL! (other tribes fear this tribe, leader is level 4 chaotic warrior with issues, +2 to morale, -4 to reaction rolls)
15: Warrior Chief (+3d6 warriors to population, +1d6 prisoners of war, +2 to level for warriors, +4 for two veterans/leaders, +4 to resources, +4 to Morale)
16: Educated Savage (chance to buy normal equipment, leader is level 4 wizard with 3 level 1 apprentices
17: Prodigy of the gods (chief is level 6 cleric, double population, +2d6 level 3 holy warriors, +4 to morale, +4 to resources)
18: Diplomat (allied with all other tribes in the hex-field, chief is level 6 fighter+1d6 honored hostages, +4 to morale, +4 to resources)
19: Noble Savage (respected by all tribes and factions in the hex-field, chief is level 6 fighter, double population +2d6 level 3 elite warriors, +4 to morale, +6 to resources)
20: A king among cannibals (level 9 warrior, if there are other villages in the same hex-field, they also accepted him as king*, double population and warriors, +2d6 level 5 elite warriors, +4 to morale, +6 to resources)
*Unless they also came up with kings, which would mean war, unless they are all kings, then they also control every hex-field sharing a border with them.
Reaction and Basic Culture Rolls (always 2d6 +/- modifiers)
Tribes always act as a whole. That means that the first reaction roll with the members of a tribes also counts for interactions with other members of a tribe until the characters do something to force another reaction roll (like bringing gifts, killing someone and so on). Basic culture rolls are always made when characters ask if a tribe has something or not (medicine, tools, knowledge) to find out if and how they might have something. The results read:
negative result (deep seated hatred/alien customs, they oppose what you want)
1-4 (aggressive prejudice/different customs, they don't have what you want)
5-8 (neutral and cautious/close enough, they might have what you want, but for a price)
9-12 (friendly and open/the same thing, as you'd expect)
13-16 (they celebrate you/they are happy to accommodate)
higher results (they think you are gods/they top what you want)
Resources
Take that just for the value it has in the beginning. If it's above zero, they are wealthy and if it's below zero, they are poor at the moment. A tribe uses a number of resource points equal to a tenth of its population per week (rounded up, so a tribe of 32 cannibals would use 4 points per week) and gain their resource level (see Appendix 1, p. XX or on the Cheat Sheet) in d6.
And here's the sheet:

Results go to the left, drawing of the village and connections to the right!
That's all I'll write today ...

And less than I promised, I'm afraid (as I wanted to give you the whole thing today). I hope you guys enjoyed this extensive look behind the curtain, there's going to be way more of the same where that came from. It'll be around 100 A5 pages of rampant procedural weirdness to throw at your players. It'll also be PWYW, so you all can have it for what you think it's worth :)

I really tried to give this to you guys as celebration for the 5 years existence of this here blog. And it will be that. Just a couple of weeks later. I'll try December, but I shouldn't promise.

Anyway, to end this on a positive note: I still enjoy doing what I'm doing here. Lots of great people all around and although I'm pretty damn slow in finishing what I started, I'm pretty sure I will get there sooner or later. All I'm trying to say is, maybe, I really don't know when I'll be done with Lost Songs of the Nibelungs, The Grind, The Mines under Karrakez, The Goblin-Tribe Simulator or Monkey Business, but the more I do all this here, the more confident I get that I will eventually get there.

So please stay tuned, if you have the patience :)

Thanks for staying with the blog, everyone, however long you dared to endure my ramblings. I really appreciate all of you. Here's to 5 years more!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Ratpeople Class for the D&D RC (or Labyrinth Lord and so on)

Just a quick one because I need that class for a player today. In other (short) news: I wrote some place that I aimed to publish Monkey Business before November. Well, what scatter-brained me actually had planned was publishing it IN November (sorry). That's still the plan and has a good chance of happening. I'm also still pretty busy with exams stuff, so no regular posting until mid-December, I'm afraid (I'll try, though). For now: enjoy a class of Ratpeople for your D&D games!

Ratpeople

No matter how you call them, they are around in most fantasy settings and about as popular as goblins. But they make good workers, passable shock troupes and better scouts. Their eyesight isn't the best (short sighted, color blind), but they make up for it with excellent hearing and smelling. They are good at hiding, sneaking around and squeezing through very small holes.

Skaven are, of course a prime example. Just not very cute ... [source]
Ratpeople are as fast as humans are, but a little smaller in general (reaching the height a dwarf would, but without the broad shoulders). Language doesn't come easy to them because of their snouts. They also have big ears, whiskers and, of course, a tail.

Prime Requisites: Dexterity and Constitution

Experience Bonus: 5% for DEX or CON higher than 12, 10% for DEX and CON higher than 12

Hit Dice: 1d6 per level up to 9th level.

Maximum Level: 12

Armor: No heavy armor, shields permitted

Weapon: Any (also has claws)

Combat Progression: like Fighter

Weapon Mastery (if you use that): normal

Saves as: Halfling

Special Abilities: SQUEEZE (if the head fits, the rat fits ... character can get through very small holes), SNEAKY RAT (character gets [(3 x DEX) + (2 x Level) %]-chance to be stealthy when sneaking around), HEIGHTENED SMELL AND HEARING (what it says on the tin, can only be surprised in smelly/noisy environments), HIDE INSIDE (like Halfling), HIDE OUTSIDE (like Halfling)

Ratpeople Experience Table (advances like Fighter/Thief)
Level     XP
1           0
2       1.400
3       2.800
4       5.600
5      10.000
6      20.000
7      40.000
8      80.000
9     160.000
10    280.000
11    400.000
12    520.000
And that's that. As far as origins go, the Crazy Wizard Experiment works best in my games. SCIENCE DID IT, that's how. Got out of hand during imperial times (because we have that, too) and they have been reproducing ever since. Their birth place is lost in obscurity, though, because we like to keep it interesting. Society pretty much accepts them as you'd expect ... so they don't. Elves in particular really don't like them. Rats go at length to assimilate, mostly just by wearing cloths but some going as far as cutting their tails off to seem more humanoid (although half the rat community frowns at such behavior).

I used Building the Perfect Class as a guide to make the Ratpeople. You should check that out, if you haven't already (and here is why).

Next up should be more Monkey Business!


Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Ultimate Game (Blog Challenge!)

Yeah, this blog is still running šŸ˜€ Done with the Weltschmerz, too (for now). I'm just stressed between exams and all over the place. Still with lots of gaming in my head, but not so much in my fingers right now ... Anyway, +Adam Dickstein wrote a November Blog Challenge over at the Barking Alien and it's actually posing a question I've been asking myself every now and then. Here it is in his own words:
"I'm wondering if I've already run my greatest campaign, or is my greatest campaign yet to come? Would I know it if I saw it? What would it consist of?"
and 
"So, what would my Ultimate Campaign look like? What would yours look like?"

Not an easy question (being a challenge and all) and I'm not sure what my answer would look like, say, 10 years from now. But I'll give it a shot anyway. Let's see where this leads.

Genre/Setting

Pseudo-historic, gritty and epic, low on fantasy and low on magic (but with both present).

Or something like that ... Oh damn, DM ADD? Again?! [source]
Approach

A sandbox campaign with several stages:

It begins somewhat 550 AC, somewhere in Europe, the Roman Empire is down and the Germanic tribes start to take roots, forming the roots for what would be kings and noble families in the Middle Ages. And that's what the characters will do. They'll explore the lands their parents claimed for fame and glory. Adventurers in the beginning, leaders after that and legends in the end. The players build here the foundation for the next game ...

... it gets a bit vague after that, but I imagine it would be great fun to see how the descendants of those legends fared through history. The High Middle Ages come to mind, something like "Knights & Sorcery". It'd be the same sandbox, but centuries later and with new threats and horrors (and maybe some old coming back?). Territorial disputes, epic battles, the crusades ... old magic and monsters, the fay court still strong, but fighting a losing battle against Christianity. Stuff like that.

And once those characters got old and that part of the campaign cycle comes to an end, it'd jump to the 17th century, early 18th century. Cloak & Dagger, gunpowder, 30 years war, again with the descendants and in the same sandbox (expanding, growing and changing over time, I believe). Might have pirates, too.

I know it's crazy in scope and way too big. But we have that Dark Ages game going already and there is hope. I also have a plan ...

Pace

Pace is a problem. I like it when things have the time they need to unfold and I like to give players the time they need to get wherever they are heading. The only pressure I like to have in the game is the narrative. But that might be a luxury from my youth, where we met every Friday to game for hours and hours .. a luxury I don't have nowadays. So ideally I'd be able to have 2 games a month and some Play by Mail in between to keep it focused on the juicy bits during our face to face gaming.

Players/PCs

I like to have players that invest in the game and the story (well, who doesn't?). It's also necessary to play on a regular basis for people to get accustomed to each other, ideally becoming a group of friends over the course of a campaign (or at least a good team). It's good to just gather and have fun from the get-go, but for me there is a layer where the players start getting good at a game (player skill?) and go beyond beer & pretzels. This is where I want to get again.

Early stages of group formation ... [source]
Characters ... well, as mentioned above, I'd like to instill a sense of history for a couple of strong, individual characters and there descendants. One character per player and it's more about scars than about dying (if they get old enough, that is).

System

If you've been around this blog, you know my answer must be "highly customized and DIY". That's the "plan" I was talking about above: if I write it, I get to test and play it. That's often worth a campaign or two and usually gets more experienced players interested. Another aspect is that if I want to explore a specific idea or concept, I'll make it an adventure module and offer play-tests for that, too. Sounds easy, turns out to be quite challenging but also rewarding and intense.

So that Dark Ages game I talked about above? That'll be Lost Songs of the Nibelungs, of course. It'll be done and ready next year (I think). The first supplement after that would be about the Domain game when the characters hit level 10 in Lost Songs (title: Lost Kings of the Nibelungs) and after that it's epic (like "Beowulf"-epic) level adventures (title: Lost Legends of the Nibelungs).

Once the core rules are done, I'm thinking about exploring other epochs, just like described above. I hope it'll keep being that easy to find players interested in playing and testing those games, because as long as that's the case, I will also end up playing them!

Maybe it happened already?

And that's it. I already had the pleasure of DMing three great campaigns in my 24 years of gaming. I never managed to top my first campaign, though, and it might be that I already had my Ultimate Campaign. It might be that I'll never manage to have something like that again.

But who knows? For now I'll keep trucking. Writing Lost Songs is a great experience and it might not come as a surprise that I never felt that close to any other set of rules. Writing your own game is something I'd recommend to every DM out there.

To grow with a set of rules like that, to see it develop in play-testing and as the campaign unfolds, to see it all through, I think that's my Ultimate Game right now ...

And now I must get back to learning. I have a tough month ahead. If I get the chance, I'll take the time for another post or two this month.