Friday, February 27, 2009

Campaign: The Cotter's Dinner

Anshelm and Delfig find the food simple but abundant and in excellent flavor, consisting predominantly of old potatoes, turnip greens, young birds eggs, dove, roasted dormice and fresh milk. This being the spring season, and the store of food from the previous autumn having been spent, there are no grains, nor the bread made of it, nor vegetables, nor fruits.

The smallish man, the head of the community, is named Emmanuel; he introduces you to the other men, whose names you’ve forgotten, and to the two women who were present earlier, Frieda and the pretty one, Suzanne. Suzanne is married to Emmanuel, and Frieda to one of the other men. These are the only members of the small hamlet, and you learn that four of the houses seen earlier are unoccupied.

Emmanuel gets quite angry when you mention the blockhouse. “Obvious?” he asks bitterly. “The town knows nothing about it. They’ve been told Jan and his wife were sympathizers who gave comfort to Protestants during the war. They were innkeepers! They gave comfort to whomever knocked on the door!”

Suzanne tries to soothe him but he won’t have it.

“It’s the war that’s done this,” Emmanuel says. “I’m naught but a cotter, and I’ve naught to do but tend the lord’s sheep and find what food I can, but I can say there’s an evil loose on the land. It’s these men taking pay for doing nothing. My father could remember when the men who owned and worked the land would rise in war to defend it—but those days are gone, and but in one generation. Now it’s the soldier, always the soldier, fighters with no master but the paymaster, who defend not the town but the purse of the town. Hired to fight the Protestants and now kept in hire to fight innocent innkeepers and their wives!”

Emmanuel stands up, needing more room to continue to rant.

“And who holds the purse? The merchants, that’s who! None of them landowners, none of them with a stake in this town nor any town, who gather their things with them whenever they wish to steal from us before moving on to steal from someone else. It’s they who dictate to the army, its they who pay the soldiers and feed the soldiers. If you go into the town, and you look in the town hall, do you know what you’ll find? There’s a notice there asking for more soldiers! For what I ask you? For the good of the peace? Not at all! For the good of destroying the peace, that’s what, to make more monsters to hulk out from the town and pillage the gentle folk here! God, I beg you, put an end to it! Deliver us from these money-loving sinners!”

He sits again, quite worn out, while Suzanne wets a cloth in the corner water barrel and wipes his forehead with it.

Campaign: The Dachau Courthouse

There is very little going on in the market square as the afternoon progresses into the evening. Many of the produce stalls are closed, and goods are loaded up in wagons in front of the market hall. The sun will set at a quarter of eight, so many hours from now.

Josef and Kazimir have had little luck, if they have tried at all, to discover the whereabouts or situation regarding Tiberius—only to discover, quite suddenly, that someone has aroused the judge into his chambers so that the prisoner can be presented at court at five bells. They have time to arrive and gather in the events.

Tiberius has had a fairly comfortable stay in one of the jail cells; as a mage, his hands have remained cuffed, but he has been fed, given water, a stuffed straw mattress to lie on. Upon being put into his cell, Tiberius hears the jailer remark, “Get comfortable. They’ll likely forget about you.

A cleric-monk appears about an hour later, speaks very little to Tiberius. He takes the time to cast a few spells, none of which Tiberius could be familiar with, before taking his leave.

At the quarter chime before the fifth hour, the jailer reappears with two guards. “You must be one of the lucky ones,” he says. “Got some friends in court, have you?”

Tiberius is taken into the court room, a small affair barely twenty feet by fifteen, with an imposing, raised desk and a wrought iron pillar affixed to the stone floor, to which Tiberius’ manacles are attached. There are four guards, the judge, a well-attired gentleman and both Josef and Kazimir in the room. The latter two were admitted only a few minutes before Tiberius was brought in. The stranger, Josef and Kazimir sit on a narrow, rude bench along one wall. Tiberius can’t help feeling the stranger is oddly familiar.

“This is the prisoner from the Merchant Guild Hall?” asks the judge?

Any attempt by Tiberius to speak will be quickly dealt with—Tiberius, being a bright fellow and having watched prisoners in the dock, wisely keeps his mouth shut.

“Yes, your Honor.”

“And who speaks for this man?”

The stranger rises. “I do.”

“You may proceed.”

“Your honor. I was present at the dinner in the Merchant’s Hall when this man’s honor was astoundingly and insultingly impugned by the action of the Hall’s concierge. The very idea that this man could stand in a public place and prepare to throw a spell in such a manner is utterly ridiculous and fully fantastical. This man is a well-known figure in the business world in Graz, in Syria, and is in the employ of the Baron von Furstenfeld, an upstanding gentleman and one of the Electoral College of the Empire, your honor. His faithfulness to the crown, to the wellbeing of his fellow man and to God is indisputable. I demand that compensation be made for this unforgivable attack!”

Tiberius is staring closely at the man—and then realizes from where he knows him. Some five years ago, the stranger—name of Johann Mizer, bought seven horses from the Baron. Tiberius remembers himself, Adelbert, closing the deal. He remembers too that one of the horses was half-blind, something the Baron chose not to mention.

The judge clears his throat. “I have spoken to the concierge. He feels he cannot be mistaken.”

“He must be,” says Johann.

“Adelbert Volkmann,” intones the Judge. “You have been examined by Father Durer and been found not to be a serious threat to the town of Dachau or any of the citizens therein. A writ has been found on your person, also, providing you with free passage through the Duchy of Bavaria. For these reasons it is decided that you shall not be given over to the Inquisition for further examination. This court believes that you could not have intended to throw a spell. Normally, you would be fined ten gold pieces and expelled from the town gates, but I will take under advisement the word of a celebrated and respected member of our community and suspend this sentence. You are free to go.”

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Improv

Yes, I make up most of this shit as I go along. A proper setting, fully understood by the DM, will always suggest what would be the most logical arrangement of encountered persons, spaces, inter-relational events, possible conflicts (going on between groups of NPCs) and opportunities, for a party to grasp and act upon.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Campaign: North Gate

Upon stepping from the town gates, you see the quite beautiful vista made that is the countryside north of Dachau, the road winding up into a low string of hills before descending, just beyond, into the valley of the Danube. To your right, you can see the narrow valley of the Amper, the small stream that flows through Dachau, which will lead down into the valley of the Isar. Not far away, to the left, you can see a grove of apple trees, interplanted with hawthorne and cranberry bushes. The road itself passes through a dry, flat pastureland, where move some seventy cattle tended by a number of herders, townsfolk who bring their animals out of the town in the morning and let them feed before returning them at dusk.

Some hundred yards away you see a stone blockhouse, some twenty feet high and much larger than an ordinary house. There appear to be no windows, nor shutters, only empty cavities where both ought to be. As you approach, you can see a scaffold that has been attached to the front of the structure, from which hangs a man and a woman. You would guess that both have been hanging there for two, perhaps three days. You can see now that the building has been burned out, for charcoal scars, nearly the same color as the stone, score the hard granite above the windows and the entranceway.

There is naught upon the road but a farmer and his wagon, but a quarter full of hay, which is steadily approaching the town from a few hundred yards distant. But a single stile fence runs along the right side of the road for a hundred feet past the town’s gate, and you see three young boys, not yet ten, sitting there. For a moment, you remember what it was like to be a boy.

Campaign: Market Hall

You step into the Market Hall, to find a great space, some sixty feet long and thirty feet wide. There are many stalls set up, selling salt, beer, snuff, wine, carved wooden toys, parchment, glasswares and brass instruments, all the luxury goods made in Dachau. A twin line of pillars, surmounted by great arches holding up the twenty-foot ceiling, stand between the tables and frames supporting various goods which are hung on display. Straw has been scattered over the floor, as here and there goats, pigs and chickens roam freely between the tables along with both the patrons and artisans. These are not the merchants of the guild; the main floor is opened each Sunday for those craftsmen and peddlers who work in shops in the hills surrounding the town, who must have a protected place to sell their valuables.

At each end of the hall are a flight of stairs, without railings, which follow the end walls up into the ceiling. At the bottom of each lounge three guards, while one stands ostensibly at attention.

On the pillar nearest to the door where you enter is a notice board. On it is nailed a piece of parchment which reads, “The town Brux herewith annouces that a price guarantee will be granted for beef at 3,231 gold pieces per ton. This guarantee is valid for a delivery that arrives no later than the first day of June”

Above that is a second notice, which reads, “The town of Dachau seeks a company of soldiers who will perform duties in the defense of those good families that dwell within. There is need for no less than thirty men, well-equipped, led by a learned gentleman of quality standing. The weekly pay shall be 347 gold pieces”

And above that, a third notice, which reads, “The Lord Mayor’s election is to take place on the 24 May 1650. The following citizens have been nominated to date: The competant Lord Mayor Martin Folkes. The competant Councillor Erich Kinski. The competant Patrician Eduard Johannsen. The experience Patrician Eberhardt Hornung”

At the very bottom of these notices is a small wooden carved sign which reads, “Especially recommended today in the guild hall, Chicken pate with a good plum puree”

An Ordinary Word About Non-humans

Well, I managed to get the thing off the ground, and it looks like it just might work out.

But I also think that from time to time I’ll have to make an effort to still produce an ordinary blog entry, or else I might lose everyone not actually running in the campaign.

It would be difficult at this time for any such entry to not mention the current events, or to avoid making comments about. Yes, we might all overdose if this becomes the only topic of conversation, but I can’t resist making a few comments.

I was talking to my daughter about a few circumstances of the campaign, expressing my surprise that out of five characters, four chose to be humans. I can’t remember how long its been since humans outnumbered demi-humans in a party…but my daughter simply shrugged her shoulders and said, “That’s a 3rd edition thing.”

She has had experience with 3rd edition that I haven’t had, since I’ve never played it and she did, all through high school. Apparently, 3rd punished the crap out of non-human players in some effort to balance the game, so that it became impractical to play elves and dwarves. Now, I know nothing about it, that’s just what I’m told.

I more or less came to the conclusion years ago that elves, dwarves and so on had benefits which Gygax chose to balance by allowing humans unlimited levels and denying these to demi-humans. It was obvious early on that this was going to create a great deal of discontent—although I had little experience with it, as my campaigns tended to create players who would struggle hard to get to be tenth or eleventh level, then lose interest. That might have been because it usually took three years of steady running to get to be name level—mine is not an easy world. But I liked that every session was not about experience and my players seemed to appreciate each level all the more for having to actually earn them.

But getting back to the human/demi-human thing. Part of what I did to balance out the game was simply to apply a part of my world towards the difficulties of being a dwarf or a gnome in a predominantly human world. Since virtually every government in civilized Europe or Asia was monopolized by humans, who vastly outnumbered demi-humans, an elven character could expect to be treated with mistrust, antipathy or outright hatred, depending on what part of the world they were. After all, a human, two dwarves and an elf enter the Islamic court in Damascus…which do you think the Sultan will be inclined to lend an ear to?

This never stopped my players from choosing to play elves or dwarves. My offline campaign has only four humans among the twelve principal characters and henchmen (run by five players), and despite the occasional racist reactions they receive, they’re generally happy to be the race they are. After all, parties tend to be insular from the world itself; they learn to trust each other, not NPCs, so that a pervasive us-vs.-them attitude reflects in every action and interaction they take.

I haven’t ever played out a scene where a group of bigoted humans abused or harassed a player on account of their race. Rather, I have most of my humans take a fairly sullen and passive stance. “We don’t bother ‘dem, and dey don’t bother us” is the general rule.

But lately I have instituted the format where humans have slightly more hit points, which has seemed to work. As a result, I have relaxed, somewhat, the discord I once employed.

As I said, I can’t guess what 3rd edition did. I’ve looked through the 3rd edition books, but not at the character descriptions, as a few paragraphs of each seemed to give them an unnaturally high amount of power at a low level. And I can’t recall ever reading anything about demi-humans. So I suppose I shall have to find a source and see.

One last word about the blog itself. I recognize that the prevailing attitude will be that posting into the campaign as a kibitzer will seem inappropriate and annoying. I feel myself that the occasional interjection couldn’t hurt—and that if it actually was inappropriate, it could be deleted as necessary. But these players too are exposing themselves and their playing methods to the general public, and it wouldn’t hurt to give them a word or two of praise when it’s deserved. You are, after all, their peers…and I’m sure they’d like your insight on what they’ve done or how it might affect your own playing styles in the future.

All I ask is that you don’t tell them to do this, or that. Everything else ought to be out and on the table.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Campaign: Getting Started

Even though Kazimir hasn’t put his character up on his blog yet, that’s fine. I don’t need those details in order to get started. This should be an interesting experiment. Feel free to input your character’s actions; I’ll answer questions or add description as needed, until there’s enough of a change in circumstance to warrant a new blog post.

It is early afternoon on a Sunday, May 5, 1650. Four of you are resting yourselves on the porch of a town gasthaus, the Pig, at the corner where a narrow lane meets with the town square. You‘re waiting for your friend Kazimir to arrive. Not long ago, you watched the usual scattering of most of the citizenry from the town cathedral’s doors from your usual place across the square…whereupon the gasthaus threw open its doors for business. A number of stalls and tables were quickly erected by teams of young boys in the employ of their merchant masters, a goodly number of them against the side wall of the church, where you can the usual piles of vegetables and sacks. Various less blessed members of the town are picking them over, haggling with the sellers and stuffing their bought wares into sacks to be hauled off to the various common quarters of the town.

The bartender, Helmunt, fills your drinks at no charge. Upon an agreement, the four of you have been given the privilege of drinking free in exchange for your endorsement, your willingness to put an end to any trouble and the simple fact that you represent the higher end of Helmunt’s clients. He has hopes that your presence on his front stoop might expose the quality of his kitchen to a few of the better members of the town.

You’re bored. This has been the routine for nearly two months now. You four, Tiberius, Josef, Delfig and Anshelm, met on a cold morning in mid-spring (for the region), finding yourselves all stranger, fairly compatible with one another and equally of the opinion that many of the vicissitudes of life are unappreciated by most. At the moment, however, you could stand a few more changes than there have been.

But it is a fine day; May Day celebrations were four days ago. The Bishop of Friesing, the nominal lord of the town, along with Dachau’s burghermeister, gave a fine festival--and since, all of you have been fairly restless. The discussions around the table have suggested a number of reasons for this…that you can’t stay in this dull town forever. That it is these ridiculous Catholics with their fascinations with guilt and sin. That a small taste of the outside world has whet your appetites. But what to do now is left to your minds to conceive. So far, there has been little luck there.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Campaign: Last Pause

I've seen four of your characters set up; it's great that I can have a look at them. Kazimir has been held up on being able to set up his character, so we'll give him tonight to get a start on it. Not his fault, of course.

Tomorrow sometime I'll begin posting the actual campaign. It's not going to start off hardcore, in the middle of a combat, so Kazimir should have time to catch up any last details by tomorrow or by the end of Wednesday.

Until then.

Kazimir Kropt

Str: 15
Int: 12
Wis: 10
Con: 16
Dex: 13
Chr: 8

HP: 9

Kazimir was born, on February 5, 1609, on the Cumana Steppes, near the town of Sumi. Like many cross-bred half-orcs, his ancestry reaches back to the time of the Mongols, four centuries ago; not he, nor his family, has any specific recollection of a pure-bred orc as an ancestor. Kazimir comes from a large family: last he knew, both his parents were yet alive, and his paternal grandfather and maternal grandmother. He is the youngest of six children; he has three older sisters and two older brothers.

And yet Kazimir has not seen his family for seven years. He would not follow his father into the family’s occupation (his father was a rat catcher), and he would not place himself as a soldier nor let himself be apprenticed to any of his uncles. He has, through most of his life, found nothing to interest him. When his family grew sick of his laziness, they cast him out. For many years he lived on the streets of the city of Sumi, then later in Mutrakan, capital of Cumana, where he learned the stealth needed to stay alive.

But even as he turned thirty, he continued to drift, directionless. For a time he worked as a laborer, sometimes as a collector for usurers, more often as a ruffian in the employ of some thieves’ guild.

Although he’s lived many long years in the worst places, he has always suffered less than others; he has a profound tolerance for the effects of hunger and dehydration, being able to live for weeks at a time on half the provisions of an ordinary man. This was nearly his downfall...for he developed a taste for hard liquor, which after became an obsession. One night in Odessa, again out of work, with no one to turn to, he began drinking heavily.

Five years later he found himself in a tavern in Innsbruck. He has almost no recollection of what passed in those years. Asking the innkeeper for a drink, a stranger offered him as many bottles as Kazimir wanted if he would only be willing to help them—Kazimir agreed. The plan was to murder a butcher who had refused to pay money to the assassin’s guild. Kazimir was supposed to enter his shop and distract him—but the assassin failed and the butcher caught him a lucky blow with a meat cleaver. Kazimir, to his own surprise, seized the butcher and smashed his head on the butcher’s block.

Kazimir liked it.

The assassin’s guild took him in, taught him a thing or two in gratitude and released him. Kazimir cleaned himself up and, for a time at least, hasn’t had a drink. Upon an agreement with the guild in Innsbruck, he has made his way north into Bavaria, and wonders how he shall set himself up as a professional killer.

A serious obstacle is his inability to make a leap of more than four feet, due to a strange quirk in his balance and a feeling of vertigo he has when is feet leave the ground—which has kept him off roofs for the time being. His father and grandfather’s experience with rats has given Kazimir a +1 save against poison, which has proven a boon.

Kazimir is 41 years old. He stands six-foot-two, which is tall for a half-orc, and is 183 lbs. He has deep crimson-brown eyes which have always been compelling, despite his less than attractive appearance. Thankfully he does not have the skin disease so common among his people. Kazimir has learned that a trapped and helpless victim, looking into Kazimir’s eyes, will pause—giving the half-second necessary for the death strike.

He has 20 g.p. in his pocket.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Small Successes

Well, despite the in-fighting that marred the after division of treasure, that went on for two and a half hours and left most of those who played in a fitful state of repressed discontent, at least one thing went right last night.

I threw an 8 HD, 210 hp polar worm (built according to my system) at the party and it survived for 14 rounds before going down.

Except for the fact that I was phenomenally unlucky (twice, on 6d6, I rolled damage that included 4 "1"s), and that I did not get to roll a 20 and permanently kill a member of the party, the fear level was everything I could hope for and the usual "swarming" the giant monster was held at a minimum. Twas fun.

Campaign: a Breather

Hey Fellows,

Last night's offline running was gruesome, with a lot of player in-fighting. Some nights are like that. I'm a bit worn down, and I'm going to take a day. This will happen. I'll still have to put together Ryan's character, which I'll do today or tomorrow, and once I get a confirmation from everyone that they're ready to go, I'll start posting the first session.

Have faith in me. I'm not ditching this concept.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Cleaning Up Details

Well, that’s four characters. I’ve got just a few general notes.

Delfig, you’ve got the Bard character posted. For both Delfig and Anshelm, the thief is pretty much the way it is in the Player’s Handbook. Work out your thieving abilities if you will.

Josef, I think I might have forgotten to mention that you have three first level spells to start, on account of your wisdom adding two to the one you always get.

As regards proficiencies: Delfig has 2, Anshelm 2, Josef 2, and Tiberius 4.

Delfig’s Bard/Thief can take a club, dagger, dart, sling, sword, crossbow, javelin, sling, scimitar, spear, staff or sword.

Anshelm is limited to club, dagger, dart, sling, sword or crossbow.

Josef is limited to the usual non-stabbing or cutting weapons.

Tiberius can take any weapon.

Tiberius and Josef are allowed a shield if they wish, and any kind of armor or helmet. The thieves are both restricted to leather armor at best.

The benefit of a helmet is as follows. On a natural 20, damage is doubled. If on the second dice, a 19 or 20 is rolled, the damage is triple. After, every 19 or 20 increases the damage to quadruple, quintuple and so on. A worn helmet means the damage is trebled or more only on a roll of 20.

Weapons are dropped on a 1. A roll is made to see if they break. An ordinary weapon will break 1 in 6. A hard forged weapon (triple the price of an ordinary weapon) will break on a 1 in 8. A welded weapon (9 times the price) will break on a 1 in 10. A blessed weapon (27 times the price) will break on a 1 in 12. And a master crafted weapon (432 times the price) will break on a 1 in 20.

This is a big equipment list, and isn’t arranged alphabetically. A town wouldn’t be. So you’re going to have fun trying to find what you want. The prices are set for Dachau, so if things seem very expensive, it is because they are made a long way away, and not in Bavaria and sometimes not even in Europe.

Take your time buying. Keep in mind that a belt will hold 15 lbs., and that you are limited to 3 belts. You’re limited to two 50+ lb. weapons per belt. A back pack will carry 40 lbs. Coins must be in some kind of container. Equipment stuffed into a backpack can take up to five combat rounds to five. A pound is 16 ounces for calculation.

Anshelm is limited to 170 lbs., Delfig to 150, Tiberius and Josef to 185.

That should be the complete list.










Anshelm Helbelinc

STR: 14
INT: 14
WIS: 4
CON: 8
DEX:17
CHR: 10

HP: 12

Anshelm was born on November 7, 1628, to a fairly wealthy Catholic family of landowners who controlled extensive tobacco properties north of Krems in Lower Austria. His father had at one time been a monk in a Cistercian monastery in Vienna, who married Anshelm’s mother and came into her money.

The family home was a rambling villa where Anshelm’s four grandparents, his parents, his several aunts and uncles and siblings all live. Anshelm is one of five children, the middle child, with three brothers (all of whom work diligently as landlords in their father’s stead). Anshelm, on the other hand, was a very sickly child and never heeded the words of his elders. Much of his childhood he spent bed-ridden, as his poor constitution has resulted in several maladies: a ravaging skin disease which has made him never very attractive; a constant, painful inflammation of his joints and a weak stomach that has trouble digesting anything beyond bland vegetables and fruits, and heavily overcooked meat. He’s not made sick by the sight of blood, unless he’s meant to eat it. His father, incidentally, loves his meat bleeding rare.

His failed son is much of the reason why Anshelm’s father and most of his family have always treated him with complete apathy and a lack of any expectation. As a thief, Anshelm is largely self-taught; he set out the fix the inequalities of his nature by spoiling himself. His success was greatly improved by the early discovery that he was ambidextrous, and able to use both hands with equal proficiency and no combat penalties.

Still suffering from his earlier maladies, and a general hatred for others which has turned him into a spitting, nose-picking, cursing malcontent, Anshelm has nevertheless gotten stronger as he’s gotten older. At present, he swears that his quarter-pound a day addition to tobacco is the cause of this; an addiction he has been loathe to break. Without it, he feels much weaker and less able.

Now, at 22 years of age, Anshelm has left home, and found his way up the Danube valley into Bavaria. He is fairly noticeable wherever he goes, being a remarkable seven-foot-six in height and only 206 lbs. He has always been able to make this “obviousness” work for him, as being obvious he’s also often ignored by the very people he steals from. Having suffered so much in his youth, Anshelm actually has a 1 better armor class than the average—with his +3 dexterity bonus, he has a natural armor class of 6.

He has 200 g.p. in his pocket.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Delfig Kôlhupfer

STR: 8
INT: 10
WIS: 18
CON: 12
DEX: 14
CHR: 16

HP: 13
X.P. needed to advance: 3,251

Unlike the companions Delfig has fallen in with, he has not had a particularly exciting life. In fact, up until now, he has been something of a failure. He wishes more than anything to be great, to become an icon for thousands who would emulate his work, but here he is, 31 years old and only now out on his own.

He has a large family, his parents and grandparents still living. He has two older brothers and two older sisters. His father, a physician, anxious wished for Delfig to follow him into that occupation. But Delfig’s interest in singing and dancing has brought shame to his family in their home town of Munich. All of Delfig’s family have decided that he is wasting his life, and they now treat him with enmity and distaste. He, on the other hand, has turned his back on them, and chosen finally to commit himself to achieving greatness. Even if he has to steal it.

For much of the last six years of his life, he has been able to have the time to practice and yet pay his way by hook or by crook. And he has gotten quite good at it. Not only is he able to make things up on the cuff, and speak with passion, he’s tried his hand as a con artist and it hasn’t worked out half bad--he‘s quite well off, at present. He has never been in any serious trouble with the law.

Delfig is an extraordinarily handsome fellow, despite having ears too large for his head. He is remarkably large: six feet and 273 lbs. Even as a child he towered over his fellows; but if you think Delfig is big, you should see his grandfather.

Spending time in his father’s hospital has taught Delfig a thing or two about caring for the sick. He is able to increase the effects of a day’s rest for one other person or for himself an additional 1 hp per day, and he has a 3% chance per level of likewise healing disease or curing poison. During a plague of the blood that struck Munich, Delfig discovered that he was quite immune to diseases of the heart or the circulation. But he does suffer from poor eyesight. He suffers double the penalty for missile weapons at medium or long range, unless he is wearing eye-glasses.

The twenty-mile journey that Delfig has travelled from Munich to Dachau is the farthest he’s been from home his whole life. He was born on June 2, 1619.

He has 150 g.p. in his pocket.

"Tiberius" Adelbert Volkmann

STR: 16
INT: 14
WIS: 11
CON: 11
DEX: 13
CHR: 11

HP: 11
X.P. needed to advance: 4,501

Adelbert does not know his place of birth. He has vague recollections of his mother, who was a prostitute in the city of Pecuy, in Hungary, when young Adelbert was hardly eight years old. In 1622, his mother and her young son fled Hungary to escape the punishment of Pecuy by the Ottoman Turks, whom members of the city had dared to resist. After many long weeks in a cart, travelling with gypsies, mother and child suffered from exposure while crossing the forest frontier of western Hungary and into Austria. The mother grew very sick and did not recover. She died, leaving Adelbert without any family in the world.

Found by a royal gamekeeper, Adelbert was taken in as a stable boy in the manor of the Baron von Furstenfeld. This began the turning of Adelbert’s life. It was discovered that he was a quick study, and the resident sage in the manor took an interest in him. The boy excelled at both weapons and books, and soon was given the opportunity to be trained at both.

For many years Adelbert remained in the House of Furstenfeld--eventually rising to the keeper of the accounts. (During that time, he discovered a 30% chance of picking pockets). As both a mage and a fighter he excelled. He spent many months of each year in the large city of Graz, where he would meet quite a lot of ladies.

For there is something odd about Adelbert’s physiology. Women find him fascinating. They constantly flirt with him, for reasons unknown; all too often Adelbert has been inclined to take advantage of this strange happenstance. Once too often, at least.

For he was caught in the arms of the wife of a council member in Graz, who was distantly related and connected to the Royal Hapsburg Family, rulers in Austria. Adelbert escaped certain execution; and through his connections he was able to obtain a writ of passage in Bavaria, now in his possession, which enables him to be exempt from inquiry by petty officials within the Duchy of Bavaria. He now uses the name “Tiberius.” Yet he knows he has a sworn enemy who continues to seek revenge for the wrong done to him.

Although he can not know it, Adelbert was born on July 11, 1613, and is 37 years old. He stands six-foot-one and weighs 177 lbs. When he was 14, he fell into the Baron’s eel pond and was bitten many times, only barely surviving death. But since then, he has a strong resistance to poisonous fish (-3 to damage incurred).

He has 120 g.p. in his pocket.

Tiberius' Spellbook:

Josef Mieszko

STR: 16
INT: 8
WIS: 15
CON: 14
DEX: 13
CHR: 13

HP: 10

Josef Mieszko was born in the Sudetes Mountains (‘mountains of the wild boars’) west of Glatz, in the tiny Duchy of Glatz. His father, still living, is a teamster who hauls wood from the highlands into the valley of the Klodzka River. Josef’s mother and all four grandparents are also all alive, and Josef is the favorite child of both his immediate and extended family. Josef is the eldest of four; his younger siblings include a brother and two sisters.

The Mieszko clan have long been fomenters of hatred against the Bishopric of Olmutz, who holds monarchical power in the Duchy, and have always embraced the ancient pagan beliefs of their ancestors--Slavic mythology. The family struggled to find the money to send Josef to the Lobau College, a quietly subversive school which teaches from the ancient texts under the noses of the Princes of Saxony. Josef was released from the school at the age of 20. His family is very proud.

Born on February 4, 1629, Josef has always had a remarkably high metabolism, accounting for his gaunt 134 lbs. despite his six-foot-one frame. The overall impression is not improved by his markedly bucked teeth. But he’s a quick, friendly fellow and makes friends easily (charisma 13).

At a young age, Josef spent a summer with an uncle who travelled south to Italy to collect snakes for sale to various spell casters in Lower Silesia. From the experience, Josef gained a tolerance for snake venom (-3 to damage caused by snake venom). He also learned quickness, which gives Josef a +3 bonus when attacking from behind instead of a +2. Josef also learned much about pack animals from his father, and his affinity for horses, mules and donkeys gives those animals a +1 bonus to morale when in Josef’s care.

Over the last six months, Josef has been wending his way south for his own reasons, enjoying his first few months of freedom in over six years. He turned 21 exactly three months ago, this now being May 4, 1650.

He has 20 g.p. in his pocket.

Campaign: Rolling Characters

Well, I appreciate the exuberance.

Later on, I foresee some difficulties in getting some of you to wait for your cue. For the moment, the bit champing is probably for the good.

I intend to call all of you by your character names, when you have them. Obviously I will be playing with Anshelm, Delfig, Ryan, Josef Mieszko and Joseph; so here’s what I need. Everything should be posted as a comment on this blog entry.

Please provide this by Saturday at 2PM EST.

1) A blogspot profile. You don’t need to provide a picture to go with it until you have a better concept of what your character is…which you should have by mid-Sunday, if I continue to hear from everyone.
2) Six rolls of 4d6, from which you select the highest three dice. Arrange these scores to get your raw, unmodified statistics.
3) Choose a class.
4) Choose a race.
5) Provide me with list of six d20 rolls, in the order that they were rolled.
6) An email address. This last can be sent to alexiss1@telus.net if you don’t want to post your email online.

Ragnorakk/Josef, if you did not roll your dice with 4d6 then do so. If you DID roll your stats on 4d6, then if you were in my offline world I would have you re-roll all three of the 9s. The 8 you keep.

Following that, I’ll provide age, height, weight, hit points, modified ability scores, backgrounds (including place of birth), ages, birthdays and wealth. I will then send any rewrites for Player Handbook classes by email so you can have a closer look at changes I’ve made; I will send mages a spell book and number of cantrips, the thieves their stats and indicate how many spells everyone can pick. You won’t want to pick spells until you see the list of changes I’ve made.

I’ll provide those things starting this evening, 8PM EST, for those who have provided stats. There’s no rush. The deadline for all character creation is Sunday evening; between 8 and 9 PM EST Sunday I’ll post the opening descriptions and get the thing off the ground.

On Saturday, before I begin running my offline campaign (on which I’ll be working tomorrow through the day), I’ll email out the equipment list to those I have an address for.

If anyone wants to do any research, the party will begin in the quiet town of Dachau, Upper Bavaria, a summer residence for Bavarian princes, with a population of a little under four thousand. The town has market privileges, which was necessary for characters to get equipped (not every town has a market). The season will be early summer (first week in May).

A few pictures showing the region and town of Dachau:



Thursday, February 19, 2009

Ongoing Campaign Map


This is a hell of a piece of Earth, let me tell you.

One hex = 20 miles.

The designed portion of my world stops about 40 miles south of the map...I haven't designed Italy yet and haven't much interest in doing so any time soon, so please try to keep north of the Alps for the time being. At the moment, I haven't designed the trade roadways west of Augsburg, but it doesn't matter; assume that there is a road between every hex in this part of the world. Most roads will be overgrown and paved, upwards of six hundred years old.

For those interested, Prague is about 20 miles north of Freiberg in Bohmen, at the top center of the map.

The @%!&#! Bard

The bard has always been a pain in the ass. The original write up in the Player's Handbook was always a ridiculous concept (I have to become a high level fighter AND a high level thief so I can use druid spells and cast charm? Fuck that.

From the beginning we accepted players who just started off as bards, but honestly, it made a lousy character. The charm thing was flat out useless most of the time and even when it did work it seemed either too powerful for the level of the cleric or too stupid to be worth the time. Third edition just made the class into just another spellcaster. Most of all, in no way did it encourage the creation of a character anyone could respect (like a drummer in a rock band).

We played about with having bard characters write their own songs, arguing that "not everyone can be a bard," but overall it was too esoteric to make it playable. And yet there were always people wanting to be a bard, somehow...regardless of how lame the actual character was.

Perhaps someone in a magazine somewhere solved this problem. I never heard about it, I never had one of the forty or fifty people begging to be a bard in the last three decades toss the requisite Dragon magazine issue at me so that I could steal and adapt as needed. Everything I saw just looked more lame or far too powerful--and most of all, NEVER was anything I saw primarily focused on the art. So sometime around '94, I retired the bard and told wannabes that, sorry, I didn't run that class.

Until about three years ago. I started thinking about it again, starting with the premise that the whole "enchant" option had to go. I recognize that Orpheus and the Satyr and all the Greek mythos seemed to demand that a bard be able to cast a sweeping charm spell over crowds, and that "music hath charms to soothe the savage beast." But really, it always sucked. What if, instead, I founded a bard character upon actual artists, rather than mythological creatures? What ought actual artists to be able to do, and how might they affect others. I considered Michaelangelo, and the effect the statue of David had upon the city of Florence (he made dozens of Davids--it took more than a decade of attempts to create the masterpiece).

Watching the Longest Day, showing the piper walking straight into a firefight without a weapon, I thought, "That's what it needs! A brave, foolhardy bastard playing the pipes and winning the battle!"

The result is below. This is virtually all me, almost nothing being stolen from other sources. It may not be your concept of a bard, but I've played it and it works exactly as I'd want--the bard character in my world, at 5th level, has become someone to be reckoned with.

Note that there is less emphasis on spell "power" and much less emphasis on druidism. You might notice a few spells not appearing elsewhere. They are those which I have added with a distinctly "artistic" flavour. If anyone has suggestions on those lines, I will consider...the sixth level spells could use a few.

The Bard

The primary attribute of the bard is charisma. A character must have a wisdom of 13 and a charisma ability of 15. Bards do not receive experience point bonuses.

Bards are artists; their primary abilities focus on the creation and presentation of their art—through artistic means, they have learned how to modulate and redirect the fabric of their universe. Most bards unite to form colleges, which help establish boundaries to the activities of recognized and rogue bards alike. However, since bards are of a highly individualistic nature, the bardic collegiate tends to adopt a “live and let live” perspective. However, they are not above exerting their influence to encourage others along paths towards the collegiate use.

Low-level bards are rarely wrapped up in such doings—indeed, they are hardly conscious of them. Their typical concern is an audience, their work and a place to bed for the night.

Bards profess at varying studies, but principal colleges focus upon music, painting, lyrics or sculpture; lesser schools train dancers, actors, jugglers and the like—would-be bards who are able to do little else rarely reach the first level of experience. However, bards often become interested in the lesser arts to round out their performances. Normally, a young bard makes claim to a single major form, but there is no requirement that this must be done—a Renaissance personality is sometimes adopted, as it was with DaVinci.

Bards have a six-sided die (d6) per level to determine how many hit points he or she has. Besides dedication to their art, bards also have some magical ability and are versatile with a number of weapons (they may use any which either a thief or a druid might use). They are able to wear chain mail armor but no better, and are prohibited from using a shield. A bard begins with two weapon proficiencies, gaining a new one every third level above first (at 4th, 7th, 10th, etc.). Bards are able to employ magic items normally employable by thieves or fighters.

EXPERIENCE NEEDED TO ADVANCE



200,000 experience points are required per level for each additional level beyond 12th. Bards gain 2hp per level after 10th.

At first level, a bardic rhymer will typically carry an instrument of choice, tools for writing, sculpture or painting and provisions.

ART

A bard’s primary weapon is art; through art the bard may bolster, pacify, compel or inspire opponents—through the mastery of various artistic forms. Each form is described below, and is limited by a combination of the bard’s level, chosen art form and endurance.

Martial Spirit

The bard has the ability, through the playing of martial music, to raise the morale and fighting spirit of his friends. The effect is similar to the second level cleric spell, chant, except that because it is not a spell, interrupting play does not affect the bard’s ability to return to playing (although it might result in a round’s interruption). All attacks, damage and saving throws of the bard’s allies are made at +1.

The bard is limited somewhat by his ability to play at such an intensity; in the space of a given day, a bard can play for 4 rounds per level.

The only other condition which must be noted is that the sound of the bard’s strains are limited in range to 60 feet, so that none beyond that range are affected by the bard’s playing.

Music is the only art form which may be applied effectively to this power.

Pacify

If the bard so wishes, he may potentially cause others to cease any sort of aggressive action through the telling of stories, playing of music or performance of a dance. The power of the bard enables one creature per level, per hour, to be affected. Creatures are allowed a saving throw against magic—failure indicates that the individual will lose interest in combat. They will not actively stop others from fighting, but they themselves will not fight. Subjects so pacified may help bind wounds or cast healing spells, or take any other non-aggressive action.

If an ally attempts to compel a pacified person to take an aggressive action, the affected individual will, for one round, strike at the ally before withdrawing to a defensive position. Attacking and causing damage to a passified individual breaks the effect.

Persons will remain passified for an equal number of rounds which the bard has been playing, up to a maximum of four. Thus, if the bard played for three rounds, the passified individual will be affected during the bard’s play and three rounds after the bard has ceased.

Dispel magic will return the affect individual to normal.

Work

Permanent art produced by a bard can have an influence over those who view it, as it has the potential to frighten, encourage or inspire. Such work refers to written materials, sculpture, painting or other permanent artwork (music is exempted).

In the creation of an artwork, the bard must expend time and, often, materials. Greater artworks are more expensive to produce, but will be viewed by more a greater number of persons, who in turn will feel its effects. Below is a table outlining the effort required to produce each quality of artwork.

ARTWORKS



Effort indicates the base number of weeks which must be expended in order to produce the work, per 10’ of cubed space; divide this number by the level of the bard to give the actual period of work involved. Thus, a tenth level bard would require only 212 weeks per 10’ of cubed space to produce a masterpiece.

Materials indicates the modifier to the base cost of the material in question; for example, if a block of marble were to be obtained in order to produce a crude work, it would cost only the value of marble as it usually appears in the equipment list. But for a masterpiece, the value of the marble would be 55 times that listed—on account of the unusual or unlikely presence of a high quality raw piece. The same would apply with regards to paints, canvases, vellum and so on.

Minimum level indicates the level needed to attempt such a work.

Any artwork is also limited the number of persons who can view the artwork at any one time. A book, for example, could only affect an individual able to read, and who took the time to do so—yet it might have a magic which would ultimately affect thousands, but not until those thousands were to read it. A book, however, may be copied by anyone, once the artwork is produced—enabling thousands of copies to be made, and thus the necessary viewers to be affected.

With regards to painting or sculpture, it may be presumed that the number of persons who may view the work is limited by its size; a small painting, even a masterpiece, would require time for people to come and view it. A huge monolithic sculpture, on the other hand, would enable thousands to see it at once.

The “effect” of the artwork is the power inherent in the piece. The maximum affected refers to the maximum at any specific, given time—people, by and large, when not viewing art will generally forget it, and the effect will be lost. As well, any single piece will not affect any individual more than once…though under particular circumstances, that may be a lifetime.

For example, let us suppose the bard constructs a flag, which is a masterpiece. And that this flag influences 6000 persons—this means that whenever in the company of this flag, these same persons will be motivated by the representation of that flag…to march into battle, let’s say. It may be that when they return to their homes, they are not under the influence of the flag—but when recalled, and given sight of the flag again, they will be motivated once more by its influence. In this way an army may be raised.

The intelligence of individuals will reduce the chances of success, with a –10% modifier offered to each point of intelligence less than 11. There is no corresponding bonus modifier for intelligence.

Success indicates the portion of the population viewing the item which will influenced upon contact. A masterpiece will affect nearly everyone. A crude artwork will affect hardly anyone. Thus, to influence that 1 person capable of being influenced by the art, it’s likely that 24 other persons viewing the piece would feel nothing about it.

Artworks are able to produce a variety of effects. Any artwork is designed to produce a specific effect and no other. The options are discussed below:

Motivation. Otherwise disinterested persons are inspired to take up a cause; a war, the destruction of an edifice, even the execution of undesirables (such as the St. Valentine’s Day massacre). The artwork conveys no special combat strength, only the motivation.

Fearfulness. The artwork will discourage others from taking up arms against whatever institution features the artwork, reducing the chance of national enemies going to war or local townspeople harassing the party’s home.

Fertility. The artwork will increase the likelihood of procreation among those able to view it. Maximum affected will be limited to the number of pregnancies which would be ongoing at any one time. Note that, in large kingdoms, a particularly successful fertility artwork would incur hatred, attempts at its destruction and possible long-term negative consequences (over population and such)

Settlement. Persons will wish to move to where the artwork can be viewed; the effect is limited by the distance by which the artwork can be viewed effectively. For each ten feet of cubed space the artwork occupies, 5% of the total maximum affected indicated will settle in the town or nearby.

Note that several bards may attempt a single work, particularly in the case of edifices. Add the level of all bards together and divide by the total required effort. The maximum number of bards which can work in a single 10’ cubed space is one (thus a painting the size of the Mona Lisa could not be shared out). Lesser bards may be involved in artworks where a sufficient level bard is overseeing their work. Maximum affected persons are increased by 5% for each additional bard of at least the 5th level that participates.

Intelligence

Note that all aforementioned effects are somewhat limited by the intelligence of the creature they are used against. Non-intelligent creatures are utterly immune. Animal and semi- intelligent creatures are subject only to music, but not to any form of emotion, such as that caused by compulsion or heartsickness. Low intelligence creatures cannot read, appreciate canvas painting or most esoteric designs; they might be affected by hideous, terrifying sculptures, such as gargoyles. Average intelligence and up are subject to all effects.

SPELLS

Bards have their own collection of spells, largely drawn from the backgrounds of clerics, druids, mages and illusionists—and a few which are special to only themselves. They gain spells much like mages, in that the spells take time to regain. Bards call this period “tuning,” and it is really a period in which they get in touch with their inner selves to recall how once they managed a particular feat.

SPELLS GAINED AT EACH LEVEL



SPELLS: FIRST TO THIRD LEVEL



SPELLS: FOURTH TO SIXTH LEVEL



FIRST-LEVEL SPELLS

Alarm

Range: 10’
Duration: until dispelled or tripped
Area of Effect: 20’ square per level
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: none

This is the same as the first level mage spell of the same name.

Animal Friendship

Range: 10’
Duration: 1 turn per level
Area of Effect: one animal
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: negates

This is the same as the first level druid spell of the same name.

Animal Trance

Range: 25’ + 5’ per level
Duration: 3 rounds per level
Area of Effect: 3 hit dice per level
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: negates

Causes the bard’s music to enthrall creatures with animal intelligence, so that they will take no action but to listen; if the bard moves while playing, so too will those creatures enthralled, so that they will follow the bard. Where the bard goes, so too will the creatures—though not off a cliff, even if the bard himself were to step off and fall or fly. They can, however, be led into cages or hidden traps. Causing damage to a listening creature will break the spell.

Audible Glamer

Range: 70’ + 10’ per level
Duration: 3 rounds per level
Area of Effect: hearing range
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: negates

Except as noted above, this is the same as the second level mage spell of the same name.

Change Self

Range: self
Duration: 3-18 minutes + 2 minutes per level
Area of Effect: self
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: none

Except as noted above, this is the same as the first level illusionist spell of the same name.

Command

Range: 60’
Duration: 2 rounds
Area of Effect: one creature
Casting Time: spoken word (1 second or less)
Saving Throw: negates

This spell is the same as the first level cleric spell of the same name.

Dancing Lights

Range: 40’ + 10’ per level
Duration: 5 rounds per level
Area of Effect: special
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: none

Except as noted above, this is the same as the first level mage spell of the same name.

Friends

Range: self
Duration: 1 round per level
Area of Effect: 20’ + 10’ per level radius
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: negates

Except as noted above, this is the same as the first level mage spell of the same name.

Invisibility to Animals

Range: touch
Duration: special
Area of Effect: creature touched
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: none

This is the same as the first level druid spell of the same name.

Mending

Range: 40’
Duration: permanent
Area of Effect: one object
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: none

Except as noted above, this is the same as the first level mage spell of the same name.

Message

Range: 240’ + 40’ per level
Duration: 5 rounds per level
Area of Effect: not applicable
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: none

Except as noted above, this is the same as the first level mage spell of the same name.

Perception

Range: 120’ + 20’ per level
Duration: 5 rounds per level
Area of Effect: not applicable
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: none

Enables the bard to be able to hear the minutest of sound, from the subtle whispers of a bare wind to the scratching sounds of an ordinary ant as it walks along. The bard is able to tune in to whatever is desired to be heard, so that a conversation in a busy tavern could be selected or whispered words spoken some distance away. In cases where the bard cannot identify visually what might be making a sound, the effects of the spell correspond approximately to the thieving ability, hear noise.

Remove Fear

Range: touch
Duration: permanent or 1 round per level
Area of Effect: 3 persons
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: none

This is the same as the first level cleric spell of the same name.

Tasha’s Hideous Laughter

Range: 25’
Duration: 1 round per level
Area of Effect: one creature per level
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: negates

With either visual or verbal humor, the bard initiates a creature into laughter, so that it cannot stop for the duration of the spell. The humor of the situation will so grip the creature affected that it will fight only defensively, and at –4 to hit. Once affected, the creature will stumble drunkenly in a random direction at a speed of 5’ per round...it will continue to be affected even if it has stumbled out of the spell range (which applies only in the round in which the spell is thrown). Obviously the bard can move away from the creature.

Taunt

Range: self
Duration: instantaneous
Area of Effect: 2 hit dice per level within a 60’ radius
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: negates

This is the same as the first level cleric spell of the same name.

Vanity

Range: 30’
Duration: 2 rounds per level
Area of Effect: two creatures per level
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: none

Causes creatures within range to focus their attention on the bard’s actions, thus drawing them from hearing or seeing anything else. While this might have the effect of causing said affected creatures to attack the bard, they will be drawn from defending a doorway, attacking others who might be casting spells, obeying the orders of a commander or any similar action. If the affected creatures are attacked, or must face defenders in trying to attack the bard, they will fight at –4 to their to hit dice.

Ventriloquism

Range: 20’ per level (maximum 120’)
Duration: 2 rounds + 1 round per level
Area of Effect: one object
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: none

Except as noted above, this is the same as the first level mage spell of the same name.


SECOND-LEVEL SPELLS

Accompaniment


Range: touch
Duration: 4 rounds + 1 round per level
Area of Effect: one additional bard per 2 levels above first
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: none

Enables a given number of bards the power to increase their effectiveness by 20% per joined individual. This includes the time duration and area of effect of cast spells, as well as the bard abilities to pacify or play martial music.

For example, three bards join together to play martial strains during a battle. While the +/- to attacks and damage would require five bards to increase to the modifier to 2, the range on the martial strains would still be extended to 84 feet, or 17 hexes. The strains would then affect everyone who was within that range of any of the bards who were playing, who could increase their mutual effectiveness once the spell was cast.

Charm Person or Mammal

Range: 60’
Duration: one hour
Area of Effect: one hit die per level
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: none

Except as noted above, this is the same as the second level druid spell of the same name.

Deafness

Range: 90’; see below
Duration: special
Area of Effect: one creature per three levels above 3rd
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: none

Except as noted above, this is the similar to the second level illusionist spell of the same name. By means of an instrument, the bard is able to extend the normal range to 90’ (through the creation of an unpleasant, but audible sound). If no instrument is available, treat the range as 60’.

Charm Person or Mammal

Range: 60’
Duration: one hour
Area of Effect: one hit die per level
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: none

Except as noted above, this is the same as the second level druid spell of the same name.

Enthrall

Range: 40’
Duration: special
Area of Effect: spell range
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: none

Except as noted above, this is the same as the second level cleric spell of the same name.

Forget

Range: 30’
Duration: permanent
Area of Effect: 30’ diameter circle
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: negates

Except as noted above, this is the same as the second level mage spell of the same name.

Forte

Range: self
Duration: one time, plus once per 2 levels above fourth
Area of Effect: 50’
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: none

Produces a powerful shock-wave chord which will sweep through all able to hear in a wave radiating outwards from the bard. The effect will be to drive back all facing towards the bard to stagger backwards 10’. Those who are turned more than 120 degrees to the bard will move forward five feet. The spell does not distinguish between friend and foe.

Forward movement will be ended by the forte, and charging creatures will come to an abrupt stop. Creatures charging the in the direction of the bard at three times or greater speed will suffer 1-4 damage on account of the spell. Following the spell, initiative must be re-determined.

Creatures massing more than 500 lbs. will be moved no more than 5’ by the chord.

Grazioso

Range: touch
Duration: 6 rounds per level
Area of Effect: one creature
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: none

Increases the dexterity of any creature by 1-6 points. This will affect the creature’s initiative, missile accuracy, thieving abilities, dexterity checks and so on. Dexterity may be increased to a maximum of 25.

Hold Person

Range: 60’
Duration: 4 rounds + 1 round per level
Area of Effect: up to two creatures
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: negates

Except as noted above, this is the same as the second level cleric spell of the same name.

Magic Mouth

Range: 10’
Duration: until activated
Area of Effect: one object
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: none

This is the same as the second level mage spell of the same name.

Pyrotechnics

Range: 60’
Duration: special
Area of Effect: 60’ from the source fire
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: none

Except as noted above, this is the same as the third level druid spell of the same name.

Remove Curse

Range: touch
Duration: permanent
Area of Effect: see below
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: none

Except as noted above, this is the same as the third level cleric spell of the same name.

Rope Trick

Range: touch
Duration: 2 turns per level
Area of Effect: special
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: none

This is the same as the second level mage spell of the same name.

Serenade

Range: 60’
Duration: permanent
Area of Effect: one creature
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: negates

Casts a powerful charm over the recipient, provided they are of the same race and of the opposite sex to the caster. The specific target must be identified, and if a saving throw is failed then they will fall in love with the caster. This spell will last until a dispel magic or remove curse is cast.

While the recipient will not become the puppet-slave of the caster, he or she will seek by whatever means are available to increase the power, influence, wealth or success of the caster. They will also seek to join with the caster physically should the opportunity arise, and beg for some form of permanent union.

The bard may cast serenade upon as many individuals as wished, but should any affected recipient encounter any other, they will fight to the death unless separated; further, both recipients will immediately seek to have the spell dispelled if not specifically addressed and reassured by the caster. Of course, this could involve recasting the spell, which would eliminate all former discords—but the bard may also seek to make promises or even carry the recipient away.

It happens that recipients that manage to have the spell abjured will often seek to bring about the death of the caster, just as before they sought his or her well-being.

Shatter

Range: 90’
Duration: permanent
Area of Effect: one object
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: negates

Except as noted above, this is the same as the second level mage spell of the same name.

Snake Charm

Range: 40’
Duration: special
Area of Effect: one snake per level
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: negates

Except as noted above, this is the same as the second level cleric spell of the same name.

True

Range: 90’
Duration: permanent; see below
Area of Effect: one object
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: none

Fixes an object with precision, so that any flaws of measurement in the object will be brought into perfect alignment. Measuring devices will be exact in length and degree, corners will be made exactly perpendicular or surfaces placed so they are exactly parallel. The precise length of a rope or dimension of a surface will become known.

The spell also allows the accurate placement of foundation stones, the location in which a well should be placed (provided the water table is not lower than the spell range), where a mine entrance ought to be opened (although the direction of a vein is not determined) to ensure the least likelihood of a cave-in and so on.

Dangerously unbalanced structures or large objects will be revealed to be out of alignment with complete accuracy—even if such may not be visible to the human eye. A construction or mining crew daily assessed by means of this spell will be virtually safe from hazard. The spell duration for examining objects is 6 rounds per level—if the caster then chooses to “fix” a particular joint or brace, the spell comes to an end.


That's enough spells for the present. I'm sick of formatting them for blogspot.

Preliminary Notes

At present, the list of possible players includes:

KenHR, who has a blog but has not updated it since Jan 29, 2007.
Chgowiz, who updates very regularly on his Old Guy RPG Blog.
Ryan, who recently started a blog, Save vs. Poison.
Ragnorakk, who has no blog and whose profile is unavailable.
Joseph, who also has no blog and whose profile is also unavailable.

That is, conveniently, five people. I only mention blogs and profiles because this sums up pretty much everything I know about you. That’s fine, for the record, but it does help me to have a first impression.

I’m not closing the field yet, but I think if I got just one or two more people I’d try running with six or maybe seven. I think eight would be too many. If I do have to pick, however, its not going to be on how much I know about anyone, but about what sort of interest players show for the campaign setting and for writing in general. There are going to be descriptions from me, and I’m going to need information back, which will necessarily mean more than grunting a few words.

But I have no interest in making anyone jump through hoops. If you five and anyone else who wants (besides Chgowiz, who asked for Bavaria) wants to speak out on where you’d like to start, and perhaps some reasons why, that would help me design the beginning of the campaign and pick the specific town/location. Chgowiz, feel free to further elaborate. I hope you can all find wikipedia and you don’t mind looking up a few of the regions I mentioned, those being Mecklenburg, Saxony, Sudetenland, Vogtland (west Czech), Erzgebirge, Bohemia, Moravia, Upper Austria or Bavaria. For good measure, I’ll throw in Holstein (including Hamburg) and Lower Saxony as well.

I’ve been thinking that I won’t start another blog, but simply run the game on this blog, if that’s fine with everyone. I might lose a few readers, but I might gain a few also. I’ll title any post relevant to the campaign with the word “Campaign:” at the front. And at the end, I’ll add the post script that comments are welcome for that post but that suggestions for the players are not; and further that I’ll delete any comment that interrupts the flow of the game.

To play, the players will add comments to the post describing what their characters do or ask questions, to which I’ll answer and elaborate, adding detail and description as necessary. Players will roll dice (in combat describing who they are attacking/what they are doing and with what weapon/spell/method) and give the number as a comment. I will do the same, though I will probably only list hits and misses and damage. To save time, I’ll probably give the enemy’s AC so that damage can be rolled at once if players hit—its not strictly D&D as I would play it, but it will save comments…particularly if you have to roll and then wait and wait before I check my email to tell you that yes, you hit, or no, you didn’t. That could get frustrating. Bad enough you having to wait to see if the damage you did killed or not.

When the circumstance changes enough, I will start a new post.

I’ve been thinking that the best way perhaps to keep track of characters would be if the players created a profile on blogger, including an image of your character, which would then appear, with your character’s name, next to your comments. That would certainly make it easier for me. As well, some of the base information could be kept on your player’s blogger profile page. I’m not sure if this would mean some of you having to create a new email or not; I’ve not tried to create an alternative profile…but I have to keep this one in order to access this blog.

As far as a character picture, something with a recognizable face or the upper torso and head. That helps create an emotional relationship for me and for other players. I’m pretty open about what the image actually is; and I don’t care too much if it perfectly reflects the charisma/hair color of your character. But I asked for nerds, you all heard me do that, so chances are you’ll do your best to reflect your image of your character. That’s fine for me, as long as the first one you pick remains the image for at least a couple of months (frustrating to have people changing images all the time).

Well, that’s just a few thoughts for now. Things will occur to me throughout the day, and when I have enough of them I’ll post again.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

House Rules

Aha. There has been some interest in my proposal...but I won’t take any of the offers as firm until after the prospective players have had a chance to look over some of the house rules I play. After all, they may (reasonably) choose to bow out.

This would not be a definitive list. But it does include most of the things which would affect beginning players in my world.

1) Starting characters roll 4d6 and choose the 3 highest dice for statistics. Players choose where to allocate the final six numbers. Further character stats are generated according to my own systems.

2) Classes are restricted to cleric, druid, fighter, paladin, ranger, mage, illusionist, thief, assassin, monk and bard.

3) Races available to players are restricted to dwarves, gnomes, halflings, elves, half-elves, half-orcs and humans.

4) Class limitations for races are those which appear on page 14 of the Player’s Handbook. Dwarves, elves and gnomes may be clerics. Halflings may be druids. There are no race/level restrictions.

5) Any race and any class may be multi-classed.

6) There are no race/ability score minimums or maximums.

7) I do not expect players to adhere to any racial preferences, most of which are illogical for my campaign anyway.

8) Monks have a d6 for hit points. Their starting armor class is two levels higher than that indicated on page 31 of the PH.

9) There is no such thing as “alignment.” Paladins may be jerks if they wish.

10) Druid required experience is 20% higher than that indicated on page 21 of the PH. Thus, a druid requires 2,401 X.P. to reach 2nd level.

11) All spells have verbal and somatic components. No spell requires material components.

12) Clerics, druids, mages and illusionists are not permitted to take multiple duplicates of a single spell. Thus, cure light wounds cannot be used more than once per day by any level of cleric.

13) Clerics and druids receive 1 spell and 2 spells respectively at first level, plus bonus spells for wisdom. Typically, since a cleric wouldn’t likely be run with a wisdom of less than 14, clerics begin with 3 spells; druids usually start with 4 spells, though often the highest stat is necessarily committed to charisma.

14) Mages and illusionists receive 3 spells at first level. Mage spells are chosen from those which are successfully rolled for in their spell book (% determined by intelligence). Spellbooks are generated in excel. Both mages and illusionist must keep spellbooks in order to “learn” their spells daily.

15) To re-acquire spells, all spellcasters must sleep for six consecutive hours without disturbance. Clerics and druids pray; mages and illusionists study. Spells are reacquired at a rate of 15 minutes per level (fireball would require 45 minutes). Spells which were not cast since last prayed for or studied need not be reacquired.

16) Only fighter types (including paladins and rangers) may fight from horseback. Only fighter types may successfully ride warhorses while armed.

17) Thieving abilities include those in the PH. The “read languages” ability indicates the thief’s ability to read the magic scroll of any spellcaster.

18) Backstabbing and assassination may only be accomplished against surprised or stupefied creatures. Neither may not be accomplished in combat against an opponent who is aware of the thief’s or assassin’s presence.

19) Many of the spells have been rewritten and are periodically subject to review as occasionally my rewrites attempting to give more punch to the spell gives a bit too much for its level. Spell descriptions as they apply in my world will be given to spellcasters.

20) Cantrips exist, as suggested in the Unearthed Arcana. Many of these have also been subject to change. For each new spell a mage or illusionist receives, they also receive one cantrip from a random category.

21) Multi-classed characters need not have a ratio of 1:1 with the main class. The main class may have a ratio of as much as 4:1 against secondary classes.

22) More than two classes for multi-class are permitted. No restrictions exist on which classes may be joined with which classes.

23) Experience is not divided for multi-classed characters. The total required experience is added together and that is the number which must be obtained in order to reach the next level. Thus, a fighter/thief would require 3,251 X.P. to reach second level. If the ratio were 2:1 for the fighter/thief, the character would require half the thief’s necessary X.P.: 2,626 (+1 X.P. is always added).

24) In cases where multi-classed characters have uneven ratios, only partial abilities are provided for the lesser class when the player is promoted. Thus, in the fighter/thief example above (2:1), the thief would gain half the % increase for skills. A mage would not gain a new spell until the fighter achieved 3rd level, but would receive the accompanying cantrip at the fighter’s 2nd level.

25) Multi-classed characters always receive the best possible choice of weapons and the worst possible restriction on armor. Thus a fighter/mage must be unarmored but may use any weapon. A druid/monk would have a monk’s AC but could not wear armor, but would have a range of weapons available to either class.

26) I cannot speak any language but English, so there are hardly any languages in use in my world but “common.” There is no orcish, elvish or that of any other race; there are no thieves’ or assassin’s cants; no other languages at all beyond those which have been hopelessly lost for centuries and may be encountered only in very rare books or inscriptions. This is because I simply can’t “fake” the use of another language and I have no interest in the “translation” issues which are supposed to be so interesting in the game. They are not, so the issue is in the garbage.

27) I use the character mass+level hit point system which I have described in recent posts. This means that humans, dwarves and half-orcs have more hit points than elves, gnomes and halflings.

28) At present I use a money system in which a gold coin (weighing 7 grams or a quarter of an ounce) is equal to 16 silver pieces. One silver piece = 12 copper coins. Electrum and platinum coins do not exist. Typically 80 coins will fit into a small belt pouch and 300 into a large belt pouch. I do not use coins as a unit of weight. I use “pounds.”

29) Swords, spears, long bows, pole arms and other footmen’s weapons cannot be used from horseback. Scimitars were curved by Arabs that would allow this, but Europeans invented smaller versions of flail, mace and so on. Most fighters with long swords were expected to ride into combat and dismount.

30) Long bows cause 1-8 damage. Short bows still cause 1-6 damage and may be used from horseback. Either may be fired every other round normally, but a -4 penalty may be accepted if a player wishes to fire a bow every round.

31) Light crossbows cause 2-12 damage, but may be fired only once every 3 rounds. Heavy crossbows cause 4-14 damage, but may be fired only once every 4 rounds. These damage changes were made to give players a reason to pause when facing a group of town guardsmen.

32) Javelins have a range of 90 feet. Hand weapons may not be hurled a distance greater than 45 feet. Generally, ranges are 15’ per range point indicated on page 38 of the PH.

33) There is no difference between outdoor ranges and indoor ranges. One foot is one foot, always.

34) Psionics do not exist.

35) Combat is accomplished according to the example which I published here.

36) All players begin at first level, regardless of the present level of the party. Low level characters associated with high level party members who SURVIVE tend to go up levels very quickly.

37) Experience points are awarded for damage done (10 X.P. per point) or for damage received (20 X.P. per point). The total for all damage received by every party member is then totalled and redistributed according to the rule of 1 share per character, ½ share per henchman.

Example: 3 characters (cleric, fighter, thief) and a henchman (assassin) get into a combat. When the battle ends, the cleric has suffered 5 points (100 X.P.), the fighter 10 (200 X.P.), the thief 4 (80 X.P.) and the assassin 2 (40 X.P). The total (420 X.P.) is then divided by 3.5, giving the main characters an additional 120 X.P. each and the henchman assassin 60 X.P.

This would be true regardless of which creatures were attacked.



As I said, hardly comprehensive, but enough to turn a few heads. If you have not seen the film The Gamers then you ought to, now. I laughed, and it is suggestive of what I would do as a film vehicle (more about that another day). But I would argue that the DM was about the worst example of a referee imaginable, and I cannot understand why D&D players must always be depicted as drunken frat boys. If I wanted to spend time with drunken frat boys, I would go get drunk at a frat (I’m still welcome there, I think).

I am all for humour; it might be difficult to get the sort of gut-wrenching situations that leave everyone rolling on the floor from an online format, however. It would be nice if there could be a few moments of tension, real drama, high success and quality risk-taking. And even if none of you are heroes, I’ve no doubt you have the potential for bravery.

Waste my time, however, and I’ll waste you. Ha ha. Just kidding.

Stupid Ideas Of Mine

Would it be stupid, I wonder, to attempt to play D&D through a blog?

I have no doubts that others have tried it. The problems are immediately evident: commitment, commitment, commitment.

Because everything would be so slow, with only a few basic decisions being made per day, any in depth combat would stretch out interminably over a period of at least a week. Character design might be managed in a day…but I would expect most who might try to play would lose interest in less than a month, making all the effort up to that point worthless.

Still, I wonder.

I mean, I can sit and write and pundit about D&D forever and a day, but really what I’d rather be doing is A) playing D&D; and B) actually preparing my world for play.

Off hand, here is what I think I’d need.

Five extreme nerds. I don’t see a lot of women commenters online, but I really don’t care about that. I’d need people who had a lot of time, or knew how to make a lot of time (I work two jobs and yet I’m always writing). People who don’t get bored, who rush to check their blog five or six times a day for responses (or their email inbox). Adaptable people who could play my system and not get hung up on proposed rule changes…as a five day dispute about…well, whatever…would be impractical.

I say five because that’s a place to start. I probably wouldn’t consider trying anything with less than three people, and I might be able to manage as many as twenty—but I wouldn’t want to start with that number.

I would need people who could roll their own dice and be trusted to roll their own dice honestly. Now, how would I know? I wouldn’t. I don’t see any point in running if I’m rolling all the dice, and I can’t be bothered with the inconvenience of online die rolling systems (so please don’t suggest any links, I won’t follow them). What I might do would be to go over the last forty or fifty rolls and notice things like a player never rolling less than 7 on a 20-sided or having an overall average of 15.2. Honestly though, I just don’t care. If you are the sort of person who needs to cheat to feel successful, and gets a thrill out of thinking that no one thinks you’re cheating, then you won’t last long in my campaign anyway. That sort of smug, smarmy behavior will get you killed, no matter what you roll.

People like that always seem to expose themselves, anyway.

I could run the campaign on a blog—but not this blog. I’d simply make up another one on blogspot, and use it to upgrade the pictures for combats as necessary and run most of the moment-to-moment events through the comments. If people failed to post their decision before the end of a given period (say a day), then they’d lose their turn and I’d just do the monster side. That would likely get rid of any malingerers pretty quickly.

As far as fluff goes, well, this blog might suffer as I did some lengthy descriptions elsewhere. I think I’d try to keep the excessive fluff to a minimum, since…after all…a thousand words are equivalent to only 8 minutes of talking.

I suppose I’d have to get back on some kind of system for chat, so that if a specific time were arranged most of a combat or a session could be managed through an open room and general discussion. I’d leave it up to my players to figure out how to communicate with each other while I wasn’t specifically online…but there are so many options (including the phone) that make this far easier now than ten years ago.

Other problems…well, only about a hundred, most of which I can’t dream of now. Mostly, however, I think its possible. The game would have to be somewhat open—such as providing players with a general map of travelled-through areas rather than having to describe them over and over again until my fingers dropped off.

But what do any of you say? I’ll provide my end for free, and if any of you want to give it a try, we’ll make a go of it. You’ll have to surrender some of your privacy (I’ll have to surrender some of mine); but if it goes well and its exciting for others who might drop in to read of your exploits your characters could all get famous.

Remember that I run a highly adapted version of first edition AD&D. If I get deluged with volunteers (and I don’t expect to be), then I’m sorry I won’t just take the first five who answer. I’ll consider it for a couple of days and see who bites.

And for the record, if it is just simply beyond me, I reserve the right to quit—but I will give it my best for at least three months.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Cleaner Than You Think

A few weeks ago, following the discussions on this blog regarding cities and the design of cities, I took an afternoon to do a little research on the web--which of course turned up very little, as history is the hardest thing to find. However, I read some excerpts from a book by Lewis Mumford, The Culture of Cities, which impressed me enough to order the book, which arrived about five days ago. It represented a substantial investment…the hardcover cost me $102.

It is an almost featureless tome, the 1970 edition of the original 1940s text, and having gotten only a bit into the book it is clear it suffers somewhat from the scholarship of that decade--in that the author has a tendency to occasionally build a castle in the clouds out of a few scant shreds of evidence.

However, not being ignorant of the medieval period myself, I find myself stunned. There is scarcely a sentence in the book that does not send my mind spinning on various applications or themes regarding the nature of cities in my campaign--and much of what’s written here does set out to thoroughly dispel certain notions about the medieval period, notions which are still around today and which are harped on pedantically by most briefly acquainted with the period.

Mumford’s principal theme so far (I am 50 pages into a 530 page book) has been that the perception of the medieval town as a “sewer” is largely the fabrication of writers contemporary with the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, who have chosen to blame their urban problems upon the lack of planning during the medieval era. Mumford cries foul on this, putting the blame purely where it belongs--upon the industrialization of cities which began in earnest in the mid-seventeenth century and which exacerbated the problems which had arisen in the previous century with the rise of trade and food production.

If you can suspend some of your perceptions of city life, based upon depictions such as those which occur in Monty Python and the Holy Grail and other medieval films, where the peasants perpetually “have shit all over them,” let me quote some of Mumford from the book:

“At harvest time, the population of the town would swarm out into the country, as the slum dwellers of the East End still migrate to Kent for the hop-picking. One has only the read the household recipes of the Goodman of Paris, who was of the well-to-do merchant order, to see how the more prosperous burghers kept a leg firmly planted in each world. Near the city, the fowler and the rabbit hunter could go after game. Fitz-Stephens noted that the citizens of London had the right of hunting in Middlesex, Herefordshire, the Chiltern Hundreds and part of Kent. And in the streams by the city, fishing was diligently pursued: not merely on the coast but inland. Augsburg, for example, was noted for its trout; until 1643 many of the city officials took their pay in trout.

This strong rural influence can be marked on the early city plans; all but a handful of medieval towns were closer to what we should now call a village or a small country town that a city; “greatness” did not mean a big population or a spreading territory. In the original towns, with the exception of a few that kept to original Roman foundations or were constricted by topographical obstacles, ample gardens spread in the rear of houses.

Gardens and orchards, sometimes fields and pastures, existed within the city, as well as in the “suburb” outside; endless illustrations and plans as late as the seventeenth century prove how universal these open spaces were. Goerthe describes such a fine rear-garden, so favourable to a genial family life, in his Dichtung and Wahrheit. Medieval people were used to outdoor living; they had shooting grounds and bowling grounds and tossed the ball and kicked the football and ran races and practiced archery.

As cities increased in size and density of population, their rural base was undermined and new sanitary difficulties arose out of the very fact of density. Not alone the density of the living but the congestion of the dead, who were buried for convenience and piety, not outside the city’s walls, but in the vaults or graveyards of the parish churches. By the seventeenth century the overcrowded conditions here constituted a serious sanitary menace, through seepage into the water supply.

The above is expedited; Mumford goes on further about the subject, but I can’t type out the whole book. What I find fascinating is the potential this creates for redesigning the D&D city. The inset city plan of Zutphen, Holland, from 1649, is an excellent example (I found one that was sizable, so it could be viewed closely by my gentle readers).

How much better for the game if we consider a city where most of the garbage is organic and eaten by various animals which are native to urban life? Gong can be collected and deposited outside the city, or even managed by various magical means (dry, which desiccates a square yard, is after all only a cantrip, and might be possessed by a hundred city dwellers who have an aptitude for marginal magical ability), so that vermin (the bee, bug and spider cantrips will eradicate ordinary rats, mice and other small creatures) and disease can be fought back as successfully as we do in the present. Must we always see cities as festering, sweltering, stinking holes? Are the odors of a farm so pleasant that we cannot imagine a city being no worse?

We might consider that cities could be potential gardens…with healthy, robust citizens, encouraged in their livelihood by magic and the knowledge acquired by magic. Throw off your nineteenth century goggles and consider the possibilities.