Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Looks like I'm actually running a campaign now

As it turns out, the godson liked the one-shot I ran for him enough so that he wanted to continue gaming with the character he created.

This time, his parents got to play as well.  I would up running a slightly-tweaked version of the old White Dwarf adventure The Beacon at Enon Tor.  This wound up taking two nights, despite being a fairly short and concise adventure, due to the need to create new characters during the first night.

The group consists of Zeke the Thief, a hyperactive human rogue, played by the boy.  From the previous adventure he has the followers; two human fighters (one male, one female) and a male human cleric.  They were joined for this adventure by a gnomish female illusionist and a human female ranger, rounding out the group nicely (Zeke had a female M-U with him during the first adventure, but she died by way of a nasty critical hit).

The adventure played pretty well, overall, and I can recommend it for someone needing a 1st level C&C adventure that doesn't require too much prep (I should probably note that the above C&C conversion of the adventure was written before the Monsters & Treasure book was released, so some of the monster stats don't quite line up).  I changed a few of the monsters (switching out the Bugbear leading the orcs for a 2 HD orc leader and a 1 HD orc cleric), and I made the titular beacon more magical in nature (a Continual Light spell inside a series of highly reflective mirrors, designed so as to focus the light outward at great range), but I avoided the desire to overly-complicate things.  This is the kid's introduction to D&D-style gaming, and elements that may seem trite and old hat to most of us are still new and interesting to him.  I want to have new discoveries for him at any given session, instead of overwhelming him with too much info all at once.

Although not the final fight of the night, the most interesting combat was when the party lured the orcs in the room next door into an ambush; an arrow and a Color Spray spell promptly took down half of the orcs' number; a failed morale check caused the remaining orcs to quickly flee the tower.

The party was properly rewarded, including acquiring some magic items (also something new for the kid - I didn't have any magic items show up in the first session).  I haven't bothered calculating XP yet, but I suspect Zeke is now either 2nd level, or pretty close to it.  I'll introduce him to the joys of leveling up next time around (which probably won't be until after the holidays).  

As we wrapped up for the night, I let them know that from now on I was going to be letting the players decide the direction and nature of the sessions to come.  I gave them three options (a megadungeon in the nearby hills, a Keep On The Borderlands kind of setup on the far edge of the kingdom, and a nearby coastal town that was quietly putting out the call for adventurers to aid them with some as-yet malady affecting the community).   Once I hear back from them on which way they want to go, I can start fleshing out all sort of maladies to inflict upon their characters.  <insert evil DM laughter here>

Now I just need to finish working on that map of the kingdom...

Saturday, November 17, 2012

C&C: the Bravo class

In most fantasy worlds there are those who live (and die) by violence, but who lack the full training of Fighters and other such warriors.  Picking up what they know mainly from the school of hard knocks, they are brawlers who are not entirely adverse to stealth and guile, as they often operate outside the law.  They are street thugs, muscle for the thieves' guild, back-alley throatslitters, barroom brawlers, village goons, highway bandits, and forested revolutionaries.  They are Bravos.


Move Silently (Dexterity):  As per the Rogue ability.

Sneak Attack:  Gained at 4th level, as per the Rogue ability.  If wearing armor heaver than leather, this penalty suffers a -1 penalty for each point above AC 12 the armor confers.  Likewise, non-leather headgear confers an additional -1 penalty, as does the use of a non-small shield,

Weapon Specialization:  Gained at 4th level, as per the Fighter ability, granting a +1 bonus to hit and damage.  This increases to +2 at 10th level.

The Bravo also has two other special abilities, which varies depending on whether the Bravo is primarily urban- or rural-based.

Bravos who work primarily in cities or larger towns have the following two special abilities:

Conceal (Dexterity):  As per the Rogue ability.  Penalties for wearing heavier armors apply, as per the sneak Attack ability.

Listen (Wisdom):  As per the Rogue ability.

Bravos who live more in villages, or who live outside of civilization altogether (i.e. in the forest) have the following two special abilities:

Conceal (Dexterity):  As per the Ranger ability.

Survival (Wisdom):  As per the Ranger ability.

PRIME ATTRIBUTE: Strength or Dexterity
ALIGNMENT: Any non-Lawful
ARMOR: Cuir bouille, hide, leather, mail shirt, padded, ring mail, scale mail, studded leather, shield (small, medium, or pavis), helm (any except armet or great helm)
STARTING GOLD: 30-120 gp (3d4 x 10)
Level       HD          BtH         EPP
  1         d8          0              0
  2         d8         +1          1,501
  3         d8         +2          3,001
  4         d8         +3          6,251
  5         d8         +4         12,501
  6         d8         +5         25,001
  7         d8         +6         50,001
  8         d8         +7        100,001
  9         d8         +8        200,001
 10         d8         +9        400,001
 11       +3 HP        +10       600,001
 12       +3 HP        +11       800,001
 13+ 200,000 EP per level

The first draft of this was posted many, many moons ago on the old Troll Lords Games C&C forums

Sunday, November 11, 2012

House Rules for Castles & Crusades

Now that I'm a couple of sessions into running my new C&C campaign, I just wanted to write down and formalize my house rules that I'll be using...
  • characters who are spellcasters must have a score of 13+ in their class's Prime Attribute; non-spellcasters need a 9+ in their Prime Attribute
  • the Prime Attribute for Rangers is Dexterity, not Strength
  • characters can increase one of their attributes over time as they level up, based on the combined total score of their six main attributes: (added 11/23/13)
               Attribute Total            Increase An Attribute
               50 or less                   At 2nd level, and every two levels afterward
               51-75                        At 3nd level, and every three levels afterward
               76-90                        At 4th level, and every four levels afterward
               91 or greater              At 5th level, and every five levels afterward
  • saving throw penalties for defending against spells are based on the level of the spell, not the level of the spellcaster; the penalty for saving throws triggered by monster abilities are based on half the monster's HD, rounded up (added 11/23/13)
  • characters are knocked unconscious when they are reduced to 0 HP - the 'death threshold' (the point at which a character dies) is (5 + CON modifier) as a negative number, or (10 + CON modifier) for characters with Constitution as one of their Primes (edited 12/9/12)
  • initiative in combat is determined each round by rolling a d6, adding the character's DEX modifier
  • a 'critical hit' in combat is defined as either a natural 20 (unless only a 20 will hit), or a roll that exceeds the target AC by 10 or more - this does the maximum amount of damage for the attack, and allows a second roll, which does in addition normal damage if the second roll hits, or maximum damage again if the second roll is also a critical hit
  • blunt weapon attacks that reduce a monster or NPC's HP to 0 or below may, at the attacker's option, knock the monster out instead of killing it (this is why clerics use blunt weapons - it's hard to convert the heathens if they're dead (unless you're a necromancer, or course))
  • a combatant can forgo taking damage from a successful attack by sacrificing either a shield or a weapon, under the assumption that is was shattered while parrying/deflecting an incoming attack - the only caveat is that it must make a certain amount of sense for the defender's shield or weapon to be able to absorb the damage of the incoming attack... in practice, this generally means that the incoming attack must either be a blunt or cutting weapon (not counting daggers), as piercing attacks usually would not break an opposing weapon or shield - the defending item to be sacrificed can be either a shield, or pretty much any weapon except a dagger (not counting main-gauches, daggers just usually aren't used much as parrying weapons) (a variant of Trollsmyth's 'shields shall be splintered' rule)
  • melee combatants get a 'free attack' if an opponent with a notably shorter weapon (i.e. dagger vs sword, sword vs spear) closes into melee range, if an opponent moves within the combatant's strike range without stopping to defend themselves (i.e. running around or through the minions to get to the main bad guy), or if a melee combatant turns their back to flee without making a defensive tactical withdrawal - the free attack occurs when the opponent moves into the combatant's strike range, separate and independent of the combatant's normal attack on their initiative count (modified 2/24/13)
  • any piercing or edged attack that does damage will also cause continual bleeding until bandaged or healed - the wounded party will lose 1 HP per minute for the next 1d10 minutes per such attack (damage not to exceed the original amount of damage inflicted by the piercing/edged attack) (added 2/24/13)
  • once per game session, a PC may declare that a henchman/hireling/follower suffers the results of any single attack that the PC takes instead of the PC, if it is reasonable that this could occur, based on the current location of the follower in relation to the PC, and the nature of the attack (added 11/17/12)
  • once per session each person at the table (DM included) may roll a d30 instead of whatever die the situation normally warrants. The decision to use the d30 must be made before the roll (swiped from Jeff's Gameblog)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Alternate spell memorization rules

Like many players growing up with older editions of D&D, I disliked the need for spell memorization from magic-users.  I had not yet read Vance, and the idea of a wizard forgetting a spell upon casting it made no sense to me, nor did it line up with other representations of magic as per Howard, Leiber, Moorcock, etc.  Truthfully, outside of a specifically Vancian setting it still doesn't make that much sense to me, to be honest... however, in recent years I have come to appreciate a bit more the 'resource allocation' aspect of 'old-school' D&D, i.e. the necessity of having the right spell memorized, the right equipment on hand, etc. for a given adventure.  For my upcoming C&C game I'd like to retain a bit of that pre-adventure planning, while still giving wizards a bit more flexibility in terms of overall spellcasting.

The following alternate rules are designed for Castles & Crusades, but could easily be adapted to earlier versions of Dungeons & Dragons with little muss or fuss.  The only possible hurdle might be if your particular flavor of D&D uses a different time scale - in C&C a round is 10 seconds long, and a turn is a minute long.

First, what the wizard (or illusionist, or whatever) is doing after those 8 hours or so of sleep isn't so much spell memorization, but rather spell preparation.  Think of casting a spell as not unlike firing an arrow from a bow.  There are multiple steps involved in the latter: 1) having a bow in hand, 2) grabbing an arrow, 3) nocking the arrow on the bowstring, 4) drawing the arrow (and bowstring) back, 5) aiming the arrow at the target, and 6) letting loose of the arrow, so that it may (hopefully) hit its intended target.  In preparing their spells for the day, spellcasters are essentially going through the magical equivalents of steps 1-5, leaving only the final step undone so that the final triggering of the spell may be cast at the appropriate moment. 

The implication here is that the casting time given for a listed spell is for that last step, when the spellcaster 'pulls the trigger' on the incantation in question.  A further implication is that a spellcaster can cast any unprepared spell they know, but that it required more time to complete.  An unprepared spell whose casting time is listed in rounds requires an equal amount of time in turns/minutes; if a spell has a casting time listed in turns, the unprepared time required is multiplied by 10.  For example, Dragon Mount has a CT of 2 rounds; an illusionist casting it unprepared would actually need 2 turns/minutes to cast it.  Likewise, Explosive Runes has a CT of 1 turn/minute; a wizard would need 10 minutes of cast said spell unprepared.

The exception here is any spell that has a CT listed in minutes, hours, or days (instead of rounds or turns), requires the same amount of time to cast, prepared or not.  This changes the 'resource allocation' dynamic of spell preparation a bit, but not overly much; such spells are comparatively few, and many of them are of a nature that you would not bother to memorize for a dungeon expedition, but would rather save for 'downtime casting' (i.e. Guards And Wards).  If a spellcaster knows such a spell, they can cast them unprepared at no penalty... if they have the time to do so.

The time required for preparing spells after a good night's rest is, unsurprisingly, equal to the full, unprepared casting time described above.  Preparing the spells Detect Magic, Light, Open/Close, Magic Missile, and Sleep (all CT 1) would only require about five minutes.  Preparing the spell Greater Scrying (CT 1 turn) would require about 10 minutes.

While originally intended for arcane spellcasters, the above system can also be applied to divine spellcasters as well, if desired.  The cleric or druid is spending their morning prayers making the mental preparations required to act as a conduit to channel their deity's favor into a specific miracle/spell.  However, if a spell falls under a deity's primary aspect (i.e. Cure Light Wounds for a Goddess of Healing, or Continual Flame for the God of Fire), then the spell can be cast unprepared at the reduced casting time.  

Friday, November 2, 2012

Monday, October 29, 2012

Monster Monday: Kalidahs

Kalidahs (C&C stats)

No. Enc.: 1-3, 6-36
Size: Large
HD: 6 (d8) + 6 HP
Move: 40 ft
AC: 15
Attacks: 2 Claw (1d10), Bite (1d10)
Special: Rake
Saves: P
INT: Low
Align: Neutral Evil (Neutral tendencies)
Type: Magical Beast
TR: 5
XP: 240+6

Kalidahs are forest-dwelling creatures that possess the bodies of bears combined with the heads of tigers, with long, deadly claws on their paws.  They are intelligent creatures, and speak the Common tongue as well as their own language.  Ornery and aggressive creatures, they will often attack travelers in their forests simply for the sake of being combative; they will sometimes fight among themselves if they lack opponents that can satisfy their battlelust.  Practical creatures, they are dismissive of beauty for its own sake.

Kalidahs will sometimes climb trees in pursuit of their prey, assuming the branches are strong enough to support their weight, and spaced out enough that they would have room to maneuver through the branches.  They are also good swimmers, and will pursue their victims into rivers or streams if necessary.

Combat: Aggressive and combative creatures, Kalidahs rarely bother with ambushes, usually charging directly toward their opponents.  They are well-aware of their fearsome reputation, and may be surprised if opponents do not flee in fear, but will usually charge into melee against said foes anyways.

Rake: If a Kalidah successfully bites an opponent, it can make two rake attacks with its hind legs.  Each such attack has a +3 bonus to hit, and inflicts 1d10 damage.

Weakness to Magic: Kalidahs don't deal very well with magic, and suffer a -1 penalty to any saving throws against magic attacks.

Kalidah King: If a Kalidah nest has two dozen or more Kalidahs, there will be a Kalidah 'King' present as leader of the pack.  Such a 'king' will have 7d8+7 HD, an Intelligence of Average, does not suffer the above-listed weakness to magic, and may possess some minor druidical magic (treat as a 3rd level Druid).

Source: "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" and "The Magic of Oz" by L. Frank Baum 

This monster entry is part of the Monstrous Monday bloghop, courtesy of The Other Side blog.

Music Monday: "It's Almost Halloween"

If you don't enjoy Halloween, then what the hell are you doing at this blog, anyways?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Wait, did Hell just freeze over?

Rush has been nominated for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

This is also the first year that voting is open to the public (other nominees include Deep Purple, Heart, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, and Procol Harum).

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

It's been a few years...

...but it looks like I might actually be running a game this weekend.

Specifically, I might be GMing a Castles & Crusades one-shot for my 11-year-old godson.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Dragon*Con 2012 post-mortem

A bit late (I tend to underestimate just how long it will take me to get caught up and back up to speed with everything afterwards), but here's a few short comments regarding this year's Dragon*Con:

* Was able to make the blood drive again this year, once again going the 'double red' option.  I don't know if we beat last year's numbers, but the area where the blood drive was located was pretty packed throughout the weekend, so I'm guessing they had a pretty good turnout one way or the other.

* There are good deals to be found in the dealers/exhibitors rooms, if you're willing to spend a little time looking around.  For myself, I picked up a metric buttload of comic book trade paperbacks/graphic novels on the cheap - the original cover price of said books came up to about $380, for which I paid about $150.  The way I look at it, the amount of money I saved not only paid for my badge, but also for my part of the hotel room that weekend.  My favorite purchase here, if I had to choose one, was the Star Hawks book, collecting together the complete classic Kane/Goulart newspaper comic strip, originally priced at around $30, but which I was able to pick up for $10.

* I was also able to pick up a couple of t-shirts from the Shirts For A Cure booth, which was nice.

* Got a few gaming books on the cheap as well - a Castles & Crusades screen for 25% off, a 2nd ed Mutants & Masterminds core rulebook for 75% off, and two d20 books (The Black Monks of Glastonbury, Seven Strongholds) for a buck each.

* Was able to play a quick demo of a card game called Building an Elder God.  Had fun doing so, and although I'm not certain how much long-term replay value it might have,but it seems like a fun way to kill a half-hour here and there.  Unfortunately (for me at least), the booth that was supposed to be carrying copies was sold out by the time I got there to ask about it.

* While tabletop RPGs don't command the same amount of attention of the overall convention, percentage-wise, as it did during Dragon*Con's early days, there's still a sizable amount of gaming going on during the weekend.  Besides the various card, board, and miniature games, there was still plenty of RPG gaming to be had.  Of the 'campaign' scenarios, Pathfinder (not D&D) was the clear favorite, and represented about 90% of campaign play.  Of the non-campaign scenarios available, Pathfinder, Shadowrun, and Savage Worlds were the big dogs, but there were plenty of other game systems represented, including some indie-style games like FATE.  Notably absent were any 'old-school' games, such as Swords & Wizardry or Castles & Crusades.  If the OSR-types are serious about expanding old-school play throughout the gaming community, then making an effort to demo a few games for players who might not be aware of these games (but who might open to trying such a game out during a one-shot at a con) would probably pay off dividends in the long term for the OSR crowd.

* Got to play in two RPG sessions during the con.  The first was a GURPS game, which ended a bit early when we broke the GM's brain (it wasn't our fault... honest).  The seconds was a d20 Conan game, which was quite fun, but ran on waaaay too long (most RPG sessions are slotted for 4 hours for a reason).  Although not big on d20/3rd ed D&D stuff these days, the Conan system seemed to run smoothly enough, and had a few alterations to the basic d20 combat system that I might look at grafting onto the Castles & Crusads game, should I ever run it again.  Besides myself, there was a young lady who also played in these two sessions, and her antics helped to make both games fun and memorable (and in the Conan game, I daresay it really was all her fault, no matter what her protests to the contrary...).

* Despite various stresses and dramas that occurred during the weekend, had a lot of fun, and already have the badges paid for next year.

* Oh, and just for the record?  Rumors of people in costume dancing in the hotel walkways during the con?  I have no idea how such accusations could be taken seriously... honest:

Monday, September 3, 2012

Music Monday: "It's My Life"

This is the last day of DragonCon... so a cosplay video seems appropriate.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

V&V Vednesday: Minuteman

Character Name: Minuteman     Real Name: William Johnson    Side: Neutral
Gender: Male      Height: 6'3"     Weight: 230 lbs     Age: 27

Physical Description: William Johnson is a tall, muscular, Caucasian male with light brown hair and brown eyes.  As the Minuteman, his costume is primarily blue, with some white and only a hint of red (because "red is for commies").

STR: 33     END: 31      INT: 12     AGL: 16     CHA: 16

Level: 9th     XP: 52,629     Basic Hits: 5     Hit Points: 88     Healing Rate: 4.5/day     Movement: 120"      Power: 92      Carrying Capacity: 4,489 lbs     HTH Damage: 2d8  
Damage Modifier: +2     Accuracy: +2     Detect Hidden: 10%     Detect Danger: 34%
Inventing: 36%     Inventing Points: 1.0     Reaction Modifier: (see below)      
Training: AGL

Heightened Endurance: +17
Heightened Expertise: +4 to hit with all military or primitive weapons
Heightened Senses: +20 % to Detect Danger (from training)
Heightened Strength: +18
Invulnerability: 14 pts
Languages: besides English, can speak Korean reasonably well, and is fluent in Vaerthian (from training)
Speed Bonus: +40" ground movement

Combat knife (+1 to hit, +1d2 damage)
Sword (if still on Vaerth or just recently returned) (+2 to hit, +1d6 damage)
Auto-Pistol (if now back on Earth) (+3 to hit, 1d8 damage, 108” range, 15 bullets/clip)
Auto-Rifle (if now back on Earth) (+4 to hit, 1d10 damage, range = 180", 30 bullets/clip)

Low Self-Control: When enraged, Minuteman will often enter a beserker rage, doing his best to kill any foes before him, as well as any who might seek to stop him.  Things that might trigger such a killing rage include (but is not limited to) any attacks that do more that 1/5 of his HP total in damage (after 'rolling with the punch') in a single round, being reduced to half or less his HP in general, any psychic or mental attacks, knowingly being probed telepathically, and any questioning of his patriotism or manhood.  He must roll his CHR or less on percentile dice to avoid such a beserker state.  Once succumbing to such a state while in combat, he can only roll to overcome his bloodlust if a trusted friend or ally, or a respected leader, appeals to his better nature; otherwise he must follow through on his mono-focused bloodlust until either knocked unconscious, or the fight otherwise ends.

Areas of Knowledge
Espionage, Military

Notes: Minuteman's alignment (Neutral) is somewhat complex in four-color terms.  He will fight for what he believes is right, but will often use methods or tactics that can not be called heroic.  He will curtail the worst of this if he is operating in the public eye, but if he thinks no one is watching he can (and has) committed some truly heinous acts over the years.

People's reaction (specifically, their reaction roll modifiers) to Minuteman (and vice versa) will rely not on whether they are 'good', 'neutral', or 'evil', but rather if they agree or disagree with his particular brand of patriotism and 'old-fashioned values'.

Upon returning to Earth in the 21st century, his heightened expertise bonus with military weapons is limited to those commonly used in the mid-20th century.  However, he will quickly attempt to acquire access to modern military weaponry, and soon familiarize himself accordingly.

Character Notes/Origin/Personality: Born in 1932, William grew up in a military family.  His father had served in World War I, and his brother had died while fighting in World War II.  Upon graduating from high school in 1950, he signed up for the Army, and after boot camp was shipped off to fight in Korea.  He adapted well to combat, but was often guilty of various excesses, most notably in regards to actions taken against the local civilian populace.  He had already been written up twice for such infractions, when in early 1951 his unit was slaughtered by a North Korean ambush; Johnson was the sole survivor.  Desperately trying to avoid North Korean forces while making his way back to his base, he stumbled onto a Buddhist temple, where he hoped to temporarily gain sanctuary before continuing back to his base.  

To his surprise, he found the Buddhist monks in the temple all dead, the means of their demise seemingly not from gunfire or other traditional means.  Making his way further into the temple, he eventually encountered a glowing orb, one which was of seemingly alien origin. The monks had apparently been trying to keep it sequestered away from the world at large, but had eventually fallen prey to its advanced malfeasance.  The orb tried to affect Johnson in a similar manner, but perhaps due to his hostile and aggressive nature, was better able to resist the effects of the orb.  As a result of the mental/psychic struggle that followed, William eventually passed out.  When he eventually came to, the orb was gone.

Johnson finally made his way back to base, where a medical examination revealed that he now possessed superhuman abilities.  The government quickly created the identity of the Minuteman for him, so that he could act as a super-soldier during the ongoing conflict (publicly, the official story was that the Minuteman's abilities were the result of an "experimental super-serum").  For the remainder of the war, Johnson acted as the Minuteman for several high-profile actions, as well as the occasional covert operation sans costume.  During this time he often searched for any signs or clues regarding the orb, but to no avail.  After the war ended in '53, he continued to occasionally serve his country as the Minuteman, although for a while he more frequently acted covertly for the CIA, where he often engaged in 'dirty work' for said group.

In 1954, the U.S. government decided to create a super-hero group, one directly under their control, to combat various super-human threats and menaces.   Minuteman was tapped to lead the team, due to his combat experience and patriotic appeal.  Called the Sentinels, the team consisted of Minuteman, Gateway (who had the ability to create portals that could transport the group several hundred miles, as well as into other dimensions), Gargoyle (who could turn enemies temporarily into stone), Fireball (a young black man with pyrokinetic abilities), and Blue Angel (a woman with wings).  Johnson wasn't crazy about working with civilians, especially a female and a non-white, but he did what was asked of him.

Over the next three years, the Sentinels helped to protect the nation from various threats.  Some of their missions, admittedly, involved fairly minor threats whose importance and danger was officially overstated for PR purposes.  As time passed, Johnson did eventually develop a sense of genuine camaraderie with his teammates; his attitude toward Fireball softened over time as well, although he still thought Blue Angel should not have been with the group, often relegating her to reconnaissance and non-combat roles whenever he could. 

In 1957, the Sentinels encountered the Sphinx, a supervillain who was stealing various mystical artifacts around the country.  The Sentinels eventuality tracked the Sphinx down, but in the resulting battle a dimensional portal was opened by the errant destruction of one of the stolen artifacts, engulfing both the Sphinx and the Sentinels. They found themselves in a primitive, magic-filled world called Vaerth by its inhabitants, one where the military forces of a wizard-lich known as K'luth's held much of the populace under its iron heel.  In the initial clash between the Sentinels (with the Sphinx) and K'luth's forces, a stray arrow pierced the already-injured Gateway's throat, killing him.  

With their sole hope to return to Earth taken away from them, now the remaining Sentinels not only sought revenge against K'luth, but also had to search for another means to return home.  With the Sphinx along side them, the group joined up with, and eventually would lead, a group of freedom fighters opposed to K'luth's rule.  One of these freedom fighters was a young sorceress named Syra, who said that she could rend the barriers between dimensions, but would only do so after K'luth and his forces had been defeated once and for all.

Over the span of what seemed like a year, the Sentinels (with the Sphinx now effectively one of their number) managed to whittle away at K'luth's forces, emboldening the land's downtrodden subjects to rise up against its undead ruler.  Despite the primitive conditions, Minuteman truly enjoyed these battles.  Here he didn't have to hold back; what would be considered a war crime back on Earth was just the regular business of warfare on Vaerth, and he could give in to his bloodlust without hesitation or regret.   

In a battle shortly before the final conflict with K'luth, Minuteman and Gargoyle had gotten separated from the others, and were attacked by soldiers under K'luth's command.  The soldiers tried to use hostages as shields against the Earthlings, but Minuteman was so caught up in has battlelust that he killed several of them in getting to the soldiers.  Gargoyle tried to stop his friend from hurting the non-soldiers, but in his beserker rage Minuteman ran his sword through his ally, seeing him only as just another obstacle.  After he had killed the last of the soldiers, he calmed down enough to realize what he had done; he then killed the last of the hostages, so that no one could say what had really happened, and when he met back up with the other Sentinels he told them that Gargoyle had died from the soldier's swords.

Shortly thereafter was the final battle was K'luth in the lich's bone tower.  Minuteman, Fireball, Blue Angel, Sphinx, Syra, and a troll called Gort (who had attached himself to Blue Angel's service during her time on Vaerth) eventually managed to destroy K'luth's body, collapsing his tower, and in the process breaking the last of the lich's military forces.  After a proper celebration, Syra cast the spell that allowed the Minuteman to return to Earth, coming along with them, for she and Fireball had fallen in love with each other during their time together on Vaerth.  Gort also joined them, unwilling to let Blue Angel leave without him.

To the shock of Minuteman, Fireball, Blue Angel and Sphinx, the Earth they returned to was a very different one than the one they left.  Time passed at a much slower rate on Vaerth, and what had been roughly a year there was over half a century on Earth.  The Earth of 2012 was technologically very different (in ways that the futurists of the mid-20th century did not predict), the number of superhumans was much, much larger, and perhaps most disconcerting for Minuteman, the social and political mores were very different indeed.  While Minuteman has adapted readily enough to the new military realities he now faces (especially in terms of equipment and hardware), the changes in society have left him more than a little flummoxed.  Various conservative groups are beginning to claim Minuteman as a symbol of their beliefs, a champion of "simpler times" and "old-fashioned values". 

Campaign Use: If you need a NPC superhuman to talk down to your PC heroes in a righteous and condescending manner, Minuteman is your guy.  He's used to being in charge, and will try to take commando any group that he is working with, no matter how temporarily.  Because of his darker nature, PC heroes may come into conflict with him if he winds up using lethal force in a situation where it isn't appropriate. 

Alternatively, he could be called in to work with the PC's if they are for whatever reason investigating any more recent appearances of alien orbs such as the one that gave him his powers.

A PC hero with psychic power might discover some of Minuteman's past crimes, possibly bringing them into conflict with the government (who would wish to keep such things quiet).

While the write-up assumes that Minuteman and the others have been back on Earth at least a little bit, the PC's could also encounter the Sentinels just as they return to Earth, with a misunderstanding between the two groups and a fight possibly following.  Or, depending on their abilities, the PC's might show up on Vaerth, just in time for the final battle with K'luth, and may be the means for the Sentinels to return to Earth.

Monday, August 27, 2012

So what's in that spellbook?

Besides spells, I mean.

Most of us have seen college notebooks which, while in theory should be dedicated to notes and information regarding the class in question, in reality will usually have all sorts of doodles, unrelated notes, and various other inanities written in its pages.  An apprentice wizard is very much the equivalent of such a student, so their 'notebook' should probably be similar in that regard.   Also, once a wizard becomes an adventurer, there may be a legitimate need for such behavior - some information will need to be properly recorded, and sometimes a spellbook is the only means available to do so.

And so, when your PC adventurers stumble across a spellbook, roll 1d4-1 times on the table below:

Spellbook Extras Table (d10)

1-2:   Art
3:      Maps
4:      Poetry
5:      Rumor
6:      Spell Commentary
7:      Magic Item Commentary
8:      Monster Commentary
9:      Religious Notes
10:    Roll twice, combining the results

Art - roll a d6 on the table below:
1:  Portrait(s) done in a somewhat realistic style (could be of anyone - the apprentice's master, family and friends, fellow adventurers, the bar wench the wizard encountered the night before, etc)
2:  As above, but drawn in a more erotic/lewd manner
3.  As above, but drawn more for humorous/mocking effect
4:  Non-realistic doodles and/or geometric shapes
5:  Portrait(s) of monster(s)
6:  Portrait(s) of magic item(s)

Maps - roll a d4 on the table below:
1:  Partial dungeon map
2:  Overland local map leading to dungeon
3:  Combo overland/dungeon map
4:  Map of hidden room(s) inside house/temple/castle/etc.

Poetry - there is a 5-in-6 chance that this is pretty doggerel stuff, at best being mildly amusing limericks ("there once was an elf from Hamrick...").  If the poetry is of the non-suck variety, there is a further 5-in-6 chance that it is not original to the wizard in question, but rather copied from another source, and therefore perhaps has potential adventure-useful info contained within its verses.

Rumor - a rumor/adventure seed, noted for posterity.  If you have a rumor table/chart for the area, roll on that and dress it up a little.  There is a 1-in-6 chance that the rumor is 'reversed', making a true rumor false and vice versa.

Spell Commentary - roll a d6 on the table below:
1-4:  basic notes and anecdotes regarding the spell in question ("why did master Garrett teach me this spell?  It's useless!") ("I love the smell of fireballs in the dungeon")
5:  notes regarding an unusual use and/or tactical application of a particular spell
6:  notes and theory regarding creating an improved version of a given spell.   If spell research is followed along these lines, it will give a small bonus to the success chance of creating such a spell, although there is a 2-in-6 chance that the notes/theory are in error, in which case an equivalent penalty is assigned to the spell research roll.

Magic Item Commentary - roll a d4 on the table below:
1.  Listing of a command word for a particular magic item
2-3.  A listing of various items needed for the creation of a particular magic item.*  If item creation research is followed along these lines, it will give a small bonus to the success chance of creating such a magic item, although there is a 2-in-6 chance that the notes/theory are in error, in which case an equivalent penalty is assigned to the item creation roll.
4.  Description of a non-standard/unique magic item.

Monster Commentary - roll a d8 on the table below:
1-5:  Notes on a monster or monsters common to the area ("the orcs of Tharn are not as primitive as we were led to believe...")
6-7.  Notes on a monster or monsters not common to the local area, or are otherwise rare and unique
8.  Notes on a monster not in whatever Monster Manual you're using (make something up!) 

Religious Notes - there is a 4-in-6 chance that this is info regarding some demonic or otherwise malevolent order/cult that the wizard has encountered, otherwise it gives details about a minor or secretive religious order about which little is generally known.

*Appendix J in the 1st ed DMG is quite useful here, as is the 'Reputed Magical Properties of Gems' chart on pages 26-27 of the same volume.

Music Monday: "Hell Broke Luce"

How about a little Tom Waits to help start your week... specifically, a Tom Waits who is all out of bubblegum:

And the weeks will be like months...

"Should hopefully be posting again in a week or two..."  Yeah, right.  A mixture of long work days and a bit of burnout made that hiatus not so brief.  Oh, well.

(and despite not posting for about two months, I somehow managed to pick up some new followers instead of losing them - how did that happen?)

New posts coming up this week (unless something else explodes of course).

Monday, June 18, 2012

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

V&V Vednesday: Atlanteans

(unless I've miscounted along the way, this is my 50th character write-up entry on this blog for the Villains & Vigilantes RPG)

The aquatic race known colloquially as the Atlanteans are not native to this dimension, but rather were brought into this reality by the Thanatari as a servitor race during the extra-dimensional invasion that occurred during the summer of 1988, commonly referred to as the Reality War.  This was not the first time that the aquatic race had followed their masters the Thanatari through the dimensional rifts, but due to the presence of telepaths among Earth's superhuman defenders, it was the first time the underwater people had actually communicated with the local sentients that the Thanatari wished to conquer.  Eventually, that Atlanteans (as the people of Earth called them) rebelled against their masters and sided with the Earthlings, which would turn out to be the moment that would turn the tide (sorry) in the war.  After the Thanatari were defeated, the Atlanteans had no way of returning to their original reality. Fortunately, the deep oceans of Earth provided a suitable new habitat for the underwater race, one which (for the most part) did not come into conflict with the surface dwellers of this new world.  Using their ability to transform matter (see below), the Atlanteans have since created underwater citites, complete with their own unique form of technology.

All Atlanteans have the following Powers and Weaknesses as a racial template:

Animal (Fish) Powers
     + 4 END, -4 AGL (standard modifiers for the power-set)
     Heightened Agility A: +11 (total modifier +7)
     Heightened Senses: adapted to see underwater without difficulty, vision extends into the UV range
     Heightened Strength A: +11
     Speed Bonus (variant): Swimming movement rate is doubled
     Water Breathing (type B)
Matter Transformation - takes simple, non-living matter and rearranges it to create a new object (the Atlanteans usually use the detritus accumulated on the ocean floor as the 'stock' for their new creations).  A cost of PR=1 can create up to the Atlanteans' CHR score in pounds, with the maximum weight possible for such creations is CHR x (INT + character level) for any individual device/object.  PR cost is doubled for complex devices (such as the energy rifles that the Atlanteans favor), and an INT roll on a d20 is also required for such items (because of the Atlanteans' shared telepathic knowledge, most of the race has at least a basic idea of how to re-create even relatively complex items that has been invented in some point in the past).  A completely new complex item would require an Inventing roll.  Most such items dissipate within an hour, but for triple the normal PR cost such items will be permanent in nature.
Prejudice (the fish-like nature of the Atlanteans give most humans a rather uneasy feeling)
Vulnerability (double damage from fire- and heat-based attacks)

Weight for Atlanteans (both male and female) is determined as per a normal human male.

A 'typical' Atlantean armsman might have the following stats:

STR: 22     END: 15     INT: 10     AGL: 18     CHA: 10

Level: 2nd     Weight: 175 lbs     Basic Hits: 4     Hit Points: 25    
Healing Rate: 1.6/day     Movement: 55" running, 110" swimming      Power: 65     
Carrying Capacity: 1,063 lbs     HTH Damage: 1d10
Damage Modifier: +2     Accuracy: +3     Detect Hidden: 8%     Detect Danger: 12%  

Equipment: Dagger (+1 to hit, HTH+1d2 damage), Energy Rifle (+3 to hit, 1d12 damage, can fire underwater but range is halved)

Perhaps one in two-score Atlantean adults will have 1d4 Talents, determined by a d6 roll:

1. Heightened Attack
2. Heightened Defense
3. Heightened Expertise
4. Heightened Mental Prowess (acts similar to Heightened Intelligence A and Heightened Charisma A, bonus may be split between those two attributes as desired)
5. Heightened Physical Prowess (acts similar to Heightened Strength A, Heightened Endurance A and Heightened Agility A, bonus may be split between those three attributes as desired)
6. Willpower

Finally, about one in a thousand Atlanteans will have the Telekinesis power, with the limitation that the telekinesis only affects water.  Those blessed with this ability are the heroes (and villains) of the Atlantean people.  

Although contact is fairly minimal between Atlanteans and humans, the two races have worked together for the shared mutual benefit (humans who act as liaisons and diplomats between the two races are specifically trained not to react negatively to the aquatic race).  The most notable example of this is the respective super-prisons that each side is building, to house difficult prisoners from 'the other side' (i.e. human supervillains are imprisoned in the Atlanteans' underwater prison, while Atlantean criminals are held on land in a human prison, each designed so that the prisoner can live comfortably, but escape would be dangerous and life-threatening due to the respective environments immediately outside the prison walls).

It would be up to each individual GM to determine how the Atlanteans would react to either Undertow or the creature known as Grendel.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Break out the earphones...

...Rush's first studio album in over five years, the concept album Clockwork Angels, is released today.

 You know you want it.  Don't bother fighting it, just go out and buy a copy already.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Sandbox superhero campaigns (part 2)

(part one can be found here)

Patrolling the city is a classic element of superhero comics.  Not all superheroes patrol, of course - many wait until they get news of a crime to follow up on it, via radio or tv reports, and some superheroes are well-connected enough with the local government that they rely on being alerted to any crimes as they occur.

That said, some heroes prefer to be a little more pro-active in their heroics, Batman being the classic example with his nighttime patrols.  It can be a valuable tool for a hero in a sandbox superhero campaign, running across villains, encountering clues that can perhaps lead to something greater, or just running across lesser problems that still need dealing with (and perhaps picking up some extra XP for the hero in the process).

The GM for a superhero sandbox campaign needs to determine how finely detailed they want patrolling to be, and as a result how many dice rolls they're willing to put up with as a result.  My preference is for breaking things down into four-hour blocks, but you could probably narrow things down to individual one-hour blocks if you preferred.

Determine what part of town the hero is patrolling during a given time-block, and then see if that particular neighborhood falls under the Area of Operations (AoO) of any villains or organizations to determine any Major Encounters.  If no villains or organizations operate in the area, there will be no major encounters, no matter how long the hero patrols there.  Otherwise, there is a cumulative 1-in-10 chance for each villain/organization's AoO of such an encounter (for example, if two solo villains, a villain group, and an organization all have AoO's in a particular neighborhood, then there is a 4-in-10 chance of a encounter with one of them during a given patrol).  If more than one villain or organization is in the area, determine randomly which is encountered.  No matter how many villains or organizations are present, a roll of a 10 on a d10 indicates no major encounter during that patrol.  Note that the time of day may affect the odds of such an encounter; if a vampire is operating in the area, for example, their AoO would not modify the encounter roll if the hero insists on patrolling during the daylight hours.

During a major encounter, determine if the villain or organization would prefer to attack the hero, or would rather continue on unnoticed.  Most villains will be aggressive, but some would prefer to commit their crimes unnoticed, or might not want to stop to beat up the hero as they're on the way (to their minds) to something more important.  Most organizations will prefer to operate without drawing superheroic attention, but if there is bad blood between the hero and the organization, it's possible they may be laying in wait to attack the hero, especially if said hero has made a habit of patrolling this particular area.  If the villain or organization is aggressive, assume they are trying to ambush the hero (give the hero a chance to notice what's about to happen, based on how your individual game system handles this sort of thing).  Otherwise, the hero has spotted the villain or organization in the middle of some crime (or on the way to or from same), and can either try to stop the crime in progress, or can attempt to follow them back to their base of operations.

If a major encounter does not occur during the patrol, there is also a chance of the hero encountering a Major Clue, but only if they are looking specifically for a villain or organization that operates in the area, or hunting for clues to a crime tied to a villain or organization in the area (even if the hero is as yet unaware of the connection between the crime and the villain/organization).  Roll a d10, a modified 10+ indicates a clue of some sort is uncovered, allow a +1 to the roll if the hero has a skill or background relevant to the search (electronics skill while hunting an electrical villain,or a military background while observing an organization recruiting ex-military types as mercs, for example), and another +1 if the hero has a detective skill/background).  Note that the clue may not necessarily be a physical object; an informant with relevant dirt on the villain or organization is also applicable.

If neither a major encounter or major clue is rolled, then there is always a chance of a Minor Encounter.  The odds of such an encounter, and the nature thereof, vary from neighborhood to neighborhood.  Relative safe areas only have a 2-in-10 chance of a minor encounter, high-incident areas have a 4-in-10 chance, and most neighborhoods have a 3-in-10 chance of such an encounter (if for some reason the heroes head out into the suburbs, the chance of anything interesting drops to 1-in-20).  This can lead to one of nine different types of encounter:

Assault - where one or more (non-powered) individuals are attacking one or more victims; this is often something as simple as a fistfight, although it can be as complicated as the GM wishes.  There is a chance that an assault is actually a rumble, which involve two (or more) larger groups fighting each other; generally there is a 1-in-10 chance of this, but if street gangs operate in the area, it becomes a 1-in-6 chance. Note that a rumble does not have to include street gangs; rival sport fans, clashing racial groups, gays vs gay-bashers, and union members vs scabs are also possible rumbles, depending on the area in question.

Burglary - anything from a mugging to a late-night robbery to a bank heist.

Citizens Endangered - where normal people are put at risk, in such a manner that hopefully the hero can help to save the day.  The situation might be either natural or unplanned (such as a bridge collapse or an apartment fire), or might be the product of human design (such as a kidnapping or hostage situation); the former is more likely in poorer areas, and the latter more likely in wealthier areas.

Contraband - where some illicit cargo is being moved from buyer to seller.  Most likely drugs, but illegal weapons are also a popular option, and explosives, stolen goods, and even human cargo are possibilities.

Grand Theft Auto - where a vehicle or vehicles of some sort is being stolen.  Optionally, this category also includes criminals using a vehicle of some sort as part of their crimes (a souped-up getaway car in a bank heist, or a helicopter from an industrial raid), which should ideally lead to a high-speed chase on the part of the hero.

Law Enforcement - an encounter with the local constables.  If the hero is on good terms with the local authorities, this is usually not a problem, and may even result in the hero possibly getting some useful info as a result.  If the hero is wanted by the law, or is disliked by the authorities, then the police may try to harass or arrest the hero.  If there are NPC superheroes in the area, there is a chance that the PC runs into them instead (1-in-10 chance if only one NPC hero in the city, 1-in-6 chance if more than one, determine which one randomly).

Observation Rewarded - where the hero encounters some minor clue (perhaps through an informant or passerby witness) regarding a villain, organization, or street gang in the area, or a suspicious-acting person that might lead to the same.  Either way, there's a 1-in-6 chance that it turns out to be a false alarm or red herring.

Vandalism - the destruction of private property (arson is a common example of this); this can range from spray-painting valuable works of art at a museum to planting bombs at a local sports stadium.

Weird Stuff - includes a variety of encounters that fall outside the usual superhero fare, which may or may not be immediately hostile or dangerous.  This often has a supernatural element to it (ghost sightings, vampire attacks, etc), in which case there is a 1-in-10 chance that its actually a trick or scam of some sort.  Not all weird stuff need be supernatural in origin; hearing voices from the future (created by a nearby high-tech experiment with tachyons) or extra-dimensional rifts temporarily showing up are non-supernatural examples of weird stuff.

Each neighborhood should have its own 'encounter table', listing both the chances of a minor encounter, and a table for what sort of encounter comes up.  A baker's dozen of stereotypical neighborhoods are included below; modify for your individual cities and neighborhoods as you see fit:
RESIDENTIAL, WEALTHY (2-in-10 chance of encounter)
1     Assault
2-7   Burglary
8-9   Citizens Endangered
10    Contraband
11-12 Grand Theft Auto
13-16 Law Enforcement
17-18 Observation Rewarded
19    Vandalism
20    Weird Stuff

RESIDENTIAL, MIDDLE-CLASS (3-in-10 chance of encounter)
1-3   Assault
4-7   Burglary
8-9   Citizens Endangered
10    Contraband
11-12 Grand Theft Auto
13-15 Law Enforcement
16-18 Observation Rewarded
19    Vandalism
20    Weird Stuff

RESIDENTIAL, BOHEMIAN (2-in-10 chance of encounter)
1-2   Assault
3-7   Burglary
8-9   Citizens Endangered
10-12 Contraband
13-15 Grand Theft Auto
16-17 Law Enforcement
18    Observation Rewarded
19    Vandalism
20    Weird Stuff

RESIDENTIAL, POOR (4-in-10 chance of encounter)
1-4   Assault
4-6   Burglary
7     Citizens Endangered
8-10  Contraband
11    Grand Theft Auto
12-13 Law Enforcement
14-16 Observation Rewarded
17-18 Vandalism
19-20 Weird Stuff 

RESIDENTIAL, SLUM (4-in-10 chance of encounter)
1-5   Assault
6     Burglary
7     Citizens Endangered
8-10  Contraband
11    Grand Theft Auto
12    Law Enforcement
13-16 Observation Rewarded
17-18 Vandalism
19-20 Weird Stuff

CHINATOWN (2-in-10 chance of encounter)
1-2   Assault
3-4   Burglary
5-6   Citizens Endangered
7-11  Contraband
12    Grand Theft Auto
13-14 Law Enforcement
15-17 Observation Rewarded
18    Vandalism
19-20 Weird Stuff

BARRIO (3-in-10 chance of encounter)
1-4   Assault
5-6   Burglary
7     Citizens Endangered
8-11  Contraband
12    Grand Theft Auto
13-14 Law Enforcement
15-16 Observation Rewarded
17-18 Vandalism
19-20 Weird Stuff

CAMPUS DISTRICT (2-in-10 chance of encounter)
1-3   Assault
4-8   Burglary
9-10  Citizens Endangered
11    Contraband
12    Grand Theft Auto
13-16 Law Enforcement
17-18 Observation Rewarded
19    Vandalism
20    Weird Stuff

WATERFRONT (3-in-10 chance of encounter)
1-3   Assault
4-5   Burglary
6     Citizens Endangered
7-12  Contraband
13-14 Grand Theft Auto
15-16 Law Enforcement
17-18 Observation Rewarded
19    Vandalism
20    Weird Stuff

FINANCIAL DISTRICT (2-in-10 chance of encounter)
1-2   Assault
3-6   Burglary
7     Citizens Endangered
8     Contraband
9-10  Grand Theft Auto
11-14 Law Enforcement
15-17 Observation Rewarded
18-19 Vandalism
20    Weird Stuff

INDUSTRIAL AREA, HIGH-TECH (2-in-10 chance of encounter)
1-2   Assault
3-7   Burglary
8     Citizens Endangered
9     Contraband
10-11 Grand Theft Auto
12-14 Law Enforcement
15-17 Observation Rewarded
18    Vandalism
10-20 Weird Stuff

INDUSTRIAL AREA, BLUE-COLLAR (3-in-10 chance of encounter)
1-3   Assault
4-6   Burglary
7     Citizens Endangered
8     Contraband
9     Grand Theft Auto
10-12 Law Enforcement
13-16 Observation Rewarded
17-19 Vandalism
20    Weird Stuff

INDUSTRIAL AREA, BETTER DAYS GONE BY (3-in-10 chance of encounter)
1-3   Assault
4-7   Burglary
8-9   Citizens Endangered
10-12 Contraband
13    Grand Theft Auto
14    Law Enforcement
15-17 Observation Rewarded
18-19 Vandalism
20    Weird Stuff
(much of the info here on minor encounters is inspired by the DC Heroes supplement Night in Gotham, which took a similar approach to handling nightly patrols)  

If no major encounters, major clues, or minor encounter are rolled for the time-block in question, then nothing of note occurs during that particular patrol.  Even superheroes sometimes have slow nights...

(part three continues here)