reverancepavane: (Default)

Some time ago I started writing yet another set of D&D rules – for the last three or four campaigns I've had I've used custom sets of rules – as it cuts down on the rules arguments and allows me to create innovative systems to drive play in the directions I want. [Although I admit the last set died stillborn when I got my copy of Blue Rose and discovered that Green Ronin and I had been thinking along the same lines with both the True 20 system and the ideas of feats and levels. It's not the first time it's happened, either. I was disappointed with Earthdawn for limiting itself to commercially available dice. Steam engine time!]

Now I wanted a set of Old School Rules because I wanted to go back and visit the old idea of the megadungeon, because, frankly, I'd grown nostalgic. And I wasn't ready to recreate a campaign since the idea was haunted by the ghost of my players (the last had died a year previously). So I wrote a nice simple set of rules which I liked and tuned them. But meanwhile The Crater seems to have frown into an extended sandbox campaign. Which is not surprising. I like world development and tend to write reams of background information my players will never get to see – they don't need to and it's basically for me. [I'm not really complaining about this, since the advent of the DCC RPG makes me want to use that for some good old-fashioned dungeon crawls. I really do like this game.]

Anyway, one of the things I was playing with was actually defining level as meaning something in the game context, so that places and things all had a level that could be compared directly to player level, so that single "level table" could be used to create most things of importance in a direct sandbox style, (although it is less a case of rolling a distinct level but randomly modifying the level one would expect to meet with an exponentially skewed dice roll). [Note that the system is orientated towards a lot more higher level play than is common in most D&D games, so that I envisage most players will tend to be operating in the 5th to 11th level sweet spot. In fact 1st to 3rd level characters are considered ordinary people (what would be "0 level characters" or "normal men" in most systems).]

Anyway, beneath the cut are my notes for Religious Assets to give you an idea of what I'm looking at with these tables. [When finalised they probably be released for free under a creative commons licence.]

Religious Assets )

reverancepavane: (Skraling)

Thinking seriously (again) about doing an Old School campaign, albeit one that has been heavily modified. One of the things I'm thinking of doing is eliminating the Strength bonus to weapon damage. [pause for effect] Well, not really. What I'm thinking of doing is integrating the strength bonus in with the weapon choices available to characters.

Essentially, the damage that a character causes in combat is based primarily on their class. Fighters do d10 damage, clerics do d8 damage, thieves do d6 damage, and magic users do d4 damage. If they wield a weapon in two hands, then they get a damage boost of one step, so a normal fighter wielding a greatsword will do d12 damage and a normal magic user using a staff will do d6.

The damage bonus from strength is applied to this value. Thus a magic user with a +2 damage bonus wielding a 1H would do d8 damage, and a cleric with a -1 damage bonus would also do 1d6 with a 1H weapon.

So not much of a change from normal, really. However the difference is that this damage is actually what determines the weapons that the character can wield. Thus the aforementioned magic user would be able to wield a longsword (d8) in one hand. The cleric on the other hand would only be able to wield a club (d6) damage.

This is because strength allows you to wield larger and heavier weapons more easily. If the weapon does not suit your strength and reach, you will be very ineffective in wielding it. Conversely a weapon that is inadequate to your strength and reach means that you won't be able to gain the full effect from using it.

Does this mean that fighters with a high strength bonus wield supermassive two-handed weapons in one hand? Well no. It just means that the weapon they do wield can be used better. This system innately assumes that fighters wield the best weapons in the game. Thus the ultimate 1H weapon for a human-sized character is in fact the Bastard Sword (d10). Increasing the damage bonus simply means that the character can wield it more effectively when battering you into submission.

Classes will also gain damage bonuses as they increase in level. I'm unsure at the moment whether these should be applied in the same manner as the strength damage bonus (affecting the weapons that may be wielded), or act as a permanent bonus (so a dagger wielder with this kind of damage bonus does d6 because they know where to attack). What I may do is allow either approach, so a character can learn to wield a larger weapon or use a smaller weapon more effectively.

For reference the damage caused by swords are Greatswords (d12), Bastard Swords (d10), Longswords or Broadswords (d8), Shortswords or Smallswords (d6), Daggers (d4) and Knives (d2). Other weapons follow a similar scale, although they may lose a step for a special ability (frex a Spear, which would normally do d8 damage, actually does d6 damage but can attack at reach [and more importantly keep an opponent at reach]). Similarly creature size (and thus weapon size) will alter weapon damage accordingly, so a shortsword (d6) for a Fire Giant (+3 Size) would be a Greatsword (d12) for a normal human (albeit a clumsy one because the furniture would all be wrong - but capable of being adapted by a skilled weaponsmith).

reverancepavane: (ale)

I'm thinking that for my next fantasy campaign, which will probably use modified BRP rules (all that's left is the hardest part - hacking a suitable magic system), of introducing Birth Caste. Not sure whether it will be random or whether I'll allow the players to choose or some combination of the two). What do people think?

Anyway, caste will be determined before characteristics are rolled. Normal characteristics are rolled by taking 3d6 of a 4d6 roll (it doesn't have to be the best three if players want), but the characteristic that is associated with the character's birth caste uses all 4d6 of the roll.

The castes are (in rough order of social standing):

  1. Noble (CHA): This is the ruling caste - those who have a native right to rule. It does not mean that they get to rule, merely that their childhood has exposed them to the art of rulership, and given them an air of authority and command. Naturally, there are relatively few members of this caste.

  2. Warrior (STR): The warrior or military caste are those who were born to fight and who have a strong martial heritage. Not all soldiers are warrior caste (in fact comparitively few of them are), but those of the warrior caste who take up arms are naturally expected to excel at them. The Hindu kshatriya caste is the prime example of this caste.

  3. Priest (INT): The priest or scholar caste is a caste of learning and education. I'm thinking of a world where the temples (of the core civilisation of the campaign) are primarily involved in many matters of learning and teaching rather than devotion to some supernatural entity. Although this does not preclude their learning the art of magic). Like my old campaign, the gods will probably be unreachable and unknowable - if they do exist in fact. And this hopefully will breed many different philosophies, some orthodox, some heterodox, and some outright heresy. [And yes, I do want priest-engineers and priest-scientists.] The Hindu example of this would be the brahmin (and yes, I have intentionally placed them beneath the kshatriya, despite the fact that they teach they are higher - I see arguments developing as to which of these two is the higher caste).

  4. Artisan (DEX): The artisan caste are those involved in the crafting and manufacture of goods. There is a strong aesthetic ideal that runs through this caste (and therefore through all artisans), that what they produce should be functional works of art. The crude manufacturies and factories are for the peasants who cannot afford better. That includes the munitions-quality armaments thay are equipped with. Many of the magic swords and armour of That Other Game™ are actually the products of artisan swordsmiths and armourers. Next to the nobles and sorcerors, this is probably the smallest and most exclusive caste. They are the Hindu vaishya.

  5. Peasant (CON): The vast majority of people are members of the peasant caste. Farmers, labourers, and merchants, all generally belong to this caste. In a substantially agrarian society farmers actually are probably the highest members of this caste, because they produce the food people need to survive. Merchants, while they may end up quite rich and are vitally important to the proper functioning of society, are generally viewed with disdain socially because they create nothing and simply gain their wealth by selling the produce of others. As in our world, the rising power of this middle class will upset society. These are the Hindu sudra.

  6. Sorceror (POW): While not recognised as a proper caste, this is an option that my be taken by player-characters. It represents an individual who has sorcery in their bloodline. Whilst priests may eventually learn sorcery, it comes to these individuals naturally, often before they learn the discipline to use it responsibly (in fact a priest must pass many examinations before they can begin learning the magical arts as it is considered very dangerous). Sorcerors are generally the villains in folk tales, putting princesses to sleep and getting poisonous vipers to bite small children, only to be defeated by the famous warrior hero (and her faithful wise-cracking male sidekick). And there is an element of truth to these tales. Naturally this predisposes the general populace against them, although there are a number of sorceror communities that simple pretend to be the other, except on certain nights, when they enact powerful rituals.

Now I mention the Hindu equivalencies because that is probably the first thing people think of when people think of caste. However one thing I want to avoid is the Hindu idea of purity and that character's membership of caste is a result of the character's karma. In actual fact I'd like to encourage the concept of caste mobility. I'd rather have people comment in amazement at the ability of a peasant to become a ruler, than have them consider it a travesty and society being broken as a result. As such I emphasise we are talking about birth caste here. It's simply a measure of where the character grew up. And whether their father insisted that they carry bags of sand up and down the hill whilst they were growing up. That sort of thing.

The other possible problem, is the inherent social status of each caste. No one can doubt that the noble caste has a higher rank than the peasant caste in society. However all the player-characters will have a single Status that applies to the entire campaign, not their caste. This means that a noble player-character will probably have an extremely minor rank in their caste (and correspondingly few opportunities available to them due to their caste), whilst a peasant player-character will have quite a high rank (and correspondingly greater opportunities available to them due to caste).

In addition to the bonus to a specific characteristic roll (which on average is just a +1), each birth caste will probably have slightly different background starting skills and opportunities for apprenticeship.

Any thoughts?

reverancepavane: (Skraling)

I've been wanting to revisit Old School D&D for some time now, but resurrecting any of my old fantasy campaigns seems relatively wrong in the absence of my old players* (as the worlds are as much theirs as they are mine). But the recent Doctyor Dee movie has me wanting to do so again.

One option I've been working on and and off over the years is based on one of the ideas one of the players had for escaping the Demon War. He built a fleet of magical golden ships which could sail the Sea of Stars, and took his followers East of the Moon and West of the Sun, and into Faerie. There his followers founded three settlements – the cities of Haven, Sanctuary, and Refuge – and battled the attempts of the denizens of Faerie to evict these mundane intruders from their world. Meanwhile the player and his party of companions ventured into the heart of Faerie in order to plea to the Lords of Faerie for a place in the land. After numerous trials and tribulations they succeeded and the player was named a Lord of Faerie and the Emperor of Mankind, and the Exiles had a place to call their own on the very edge of Faerie. After all, there was precedent. The Kingdom of Avalon was established well before them by the High King.

The benefit of this is that a lot of the world-building is already established. In some places, such as Ostgard, the cultures and geography are well enough evolved that I can taste them. The down side of this is that it is all well established, which means that I have to extract the world from where it lies in my head and place it down on paper for players to subsequently ignore. <grin> And any disharmony between what I see and what player's present will tend to shatter the illusion of reality.

The other thing I could do is, of course, the megadungeon that is only loosely connected to the surrounding world. I've run two of these before.

One, which goes by the unfortunate name of Darkmoor Dungeon (it needed a name in a hurry and I'd just described the dark and desolate bramble-ridden moors over which the castle dominates, and well...). This was a competition dungeon, in that each of the players was also the gamemaster of their own dungeon, with the overall theme that each of the dungeons hid the thing that could be used to destroy them. My gamemaster character (who wasn't actually "played," I should add), was the Lich King, who, being something of a traditionalist, hid his heart in the dungeon. The rule was that the object had to be readily accessable to the builder of the dungeon (who knew how to get through all the tricks and traps), and could not be guarded by a creature powerful enough to seize the object on their own behalf and use it for their own ends. I my case my heart was wrapped in linen cloth and placed in a cavity behind a loose stone above the doorway into the dungeon (on the inside), satisfying all the requirements and thereby making the entire dungeon a deathtrap. With T-shirts and badges and guide books and (mostly accurate) maps available at the concession stands run by my orc palace guards in the small fairground outside the entrance (as well as more serious adventuring supplies and services, one must admit).

The other was situated on an island paradise inhabited by extremely beautiful and long-lived people (the former servants of the wizard lord who built his place there and were evicted when the disaster happened). It was a fairly unknown place, yet to be extensively looted. Whilst the entire mountain that dominated the island was the wizard's palace, very few people realised the true extent of the dungeon. I was quite amused that having found one entrance, nobody went looking for any others, despite the inconvenience of the entrance (the villagers had sunk a well shaft into the #3 cistern; adventurers would lower themselves into the water and trudge to the doorway leading into the #3 pump room and the facilities beyond).

But I don't really feel like resurrecting either of these either. In the first case a lot of fun was the competition aspect, to see whose dungeon would fail first, and whose people would be "liberated from their oppressor" first. The second doesn't really rock my boat. Despite having a consistent design element, it was still as haphazard as any traditional dungeon design.

However I recently had an idea for a third megadungeon that might be viable, and suitably organic in design. The Crater is a large crater located in the Plains of Thun. It is considered by many to be the source of magic in the world. Despite the difficulties of maintaining an outpost at the Crater (given the inhospitable attitude of the nomadic barbarian tribes who view the crater has a holy/unholy site), the Empire feels it is important to maintain a presence there. The reason is that the crater is a source of magestones, essentially crystallised magic. As one enters the Crater itself, the presence of magic is palatable and overwhelming. Day and night are replaced by the pale radiance of the ghostlight that is emitted from the very heart of the crater. As one descends, the radiance grows stronger, and the more unnatural creatures one is likely to encounter, but also the more valuable the magestones one can find. The Empire has established an outpost on the edge of the crater, and a small settlement some distance down the crater wall (as well as a deeper fort called Last Hope). There are many strange creatures there, including some sentient races seen nowhere else (such as the Empire's Skraling allies, pictured in the icon above). And time runs slower down there. Even at the middle levels a century passes for every year that passes above, so some of the inhabitants have been down there a long time (the fact that they age only a year helps). And some magicians have chosen to live down there because the ambient magic is free to use (releasing them from the bondage of needing magestones, and incidentally, Imperial control).

Do you think this might work?

* It's sad to realise that most of them are dead now. And the few that aren't are separated by continents and oceans. I'm not that old, am I?

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Ian Borchardt

October 2012

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