Thursday, March 31, 2011

Noodling Around

This comes in the middle of the week, but starting Monday I've been working to make the new commodities pages I linked earlier more accessible - or more meaningful - to the DM and player.  So have another look at the following pages:  banking, markets, antimony, bismuth, chromium, cobalt, copper and gold.  The gentle reader might find them more interesting now.

There are a lot more pages under Commodities, too.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Whiteboards

My daughter has been running her campaign intermittently these last eighteen months, making an attempt to get a hold of my system and learning better how to run a sandbox game.  Still, up until the weekend, it has been a dungeon campaign.  She's been clever in setting up combats, keeping the interest going and creating some political intrigue along the way ... but the time had come that we succeeded in finding our way out, enabling us to get back to the nearby town and finally purchase some much needed supplies.

Now, this isn't a what-we-did-in-the-last-session sort of post.  It is only that the party decided to quit the dungeon, opting instead to make our way to the edge of human-civilized lands and start border raiding on the far-off orc empire.  Like young people who have a dream of adventure, we've loaded up the party's donkey and draft horse, and we're on our way.

My daughter's issue with this is a common one: what in hell does she do with us as we make a thousand-mile journey to the edge of civilization?

Let's have a look at the situation, since it is something every sandbox DM is faced with from time to time.

1)  Because we're low-level players, 2nd to 5th level, and because we've been dungeoneering, we haven't left a lot of enemies still left alive.  Intrigue level is therefore pretty nigh zero.

2)  The journey isn't a straightforward one.  To get where we're going, we have to cross a range of mountains (the Carpathians) in a somewhat wild section (Ruthenia, in Western Ukraine), while skirting the edge of the Ottoman Empire, and thence crossing from Poland into Southern Russia, a land filled with hills and cossacks.  This suggests plenty of possible tensions.  Naturally, one would not wish to snap one's fingers and say, "You're there."

3)  Being not me, however, the experience and knowledge she has with the various elements of the journey are not great.  This is an enormous obstacle to her running us as players.

One of the benefits to having maps that are blank, featureless hexes is that blank, featureless people are not sorely tried in rising to the occasion.  They merely need to announce that the players have crossed the blank, featureless plain and are now on the other side.  There is none of that inconvenient history, geography and culture to get in the way.  No, there are no special peoples who dwell on this particular plain hex (in fact, there's no people whatsoever except for a few farmers), they don't have any sentimental hatred of foreigners, the weather is Hollywood-perfect and as long as a 1 on a d6 is not rolled, the party might just as well be crossing a whiteboard.  A string of six or eight perfectly blank hexes only means the d6 must be rolled six or eight times, and once that occurs, the party is safely on the other side, potentially without any incident at all.

This is the way my daughter ran a world when she did so with her friends from school, before she came to be into my universe - something she put off doing for years, which I respected.  I've said before that I feel children ought to be fully sentient before being allowed to play D&D - age 11 or so - or else they will build bad habits in terms of perceiving what the game is about.  By the time my daughter was 11, my particular world was highly unstable ... and by the time she reached 13, and my life had returned to stability again, she was unsure that my serious way of playing was for her.  Three years of playing with high school students convinced her otherwise, and she (her partner, and some of her friends) have been playing with me for six years now.

She wants to play a better campaign than just a whiteboard.  But now that she has found herself faced with the grim reality of filling in that blank, featureless space, the pressure is on.

Let me explain the point of this post.  If you, the gentle reader, were to produce a night's running without any thoughtful preparation - i.e., you did not expect the party was going to suddenly strike out in an unexpected direction - you couldn't be blamed for producing a campaign that suffered a little from cliche.  We all do it.  For example:
  • The party is walking along the road and finds a crisis is going on:  an Inn is on fire.  The chances of this happening at the exact time the party is wandering by are ridiculously tiny ... but the Gods play for convenience, not for odds.
  • The party is walking along the road and are met with others who desperately need help.  Good thing the party is here.
  • The party is walking along the road and are randomly attacked.
  • The party is walking along the road and fall in with others going in the same direction, who have an interesting story to tell about some feature nearby.
  • The party is walking along the road and the weather forces them to seek shelter in some potentially awful feature nearby.
  • The party is walking along the road and are met with people who accuse the party of being someone else.
  • The party is walking along the road and find a person who is dead, unconscious or otherwise harmless and unable to convey any information, and find clues as to what happened.
And so on.  Story after story, film after film, these same patterns are followed.  But let me go on record that there's nothing wrong with the cliche.  It has worked effectively for eight hundred years or more, right back to the Song of Roland and Le Morte d'Arthur.  People walk along roads.  Things inhabit places next to roads, or also walk along roads, or just wait for people who walk along roads.  The 'road trip' is a time-honoured story device.

What's important isn't the initial set-up.  What is important is the quality of the character one meets on the road.  Letting Rutger Hauer into your car gets pretty freaky.  No matter how implausible, it makes a better horror film than picking up Jessica Tandy (some would disagree).  The real question isn't "What happens?" ... it is, "HOW does it happen?"  How do we get the players to agree to help out the fellows who need help?  How does the dead body look when it is found?  How really odd are the other travellers going the same way as the party?  How awful or strange or unexpected is the terrible disaster taking place along the side of the road?  Just how bad or extraordinary or disturbingly personal is the weather?

Hollywood is a terrible story teller, and yet it has the inconvenience of being all-pervasive as an influence on D&D sandboxes.  Hollywood features a group of assholes sitting in a room talking about where this story is going to take place, and what products will be in the story that can be sold.  It talks about the jobs the characters will have, and the relationships the characters will be in, and then casts actors on the basis of those designs.

If somehow a great character is born out of those conversations, it's pure chance.  'Cause Hollywood doesn't care about character.  They're still trying to figure out why Indiana Jones was popular.  They've been trying to repeat Indiana Jones for thirty years and their efforts have been mostly a dismal failure.  They think Jones is tough, fearless, resourceful, handsome, correctly dressed and so on.

It is a complete mystery to them that Jones feels pain ... so they make Indiana Jones character after Indiana Jones character that doesn't.  They are oblivious to the moment that Jones hesitates with visible fear before he does something insanely dangerous, so they make Jones characters that don't hesitate.  They fail to realize that really, and for the most part, Jones doesn't know how to do a lot of things - he can't fly a plane, he has trouble starting boats, he makes a lousy purser and a lot of the time he does stupid things that get him into trouble - but Hollywood goes on making amazing characters who look like Jones who instead can do everything.  What he looks like isn't that important, but Hollywood thinks it is.  It's the sweating from working hard and the eyes desperately seeking a way out that appeal to a woman's instincts to clean him and help him.  If the actor sweats and can look simultaneously scared and determined like Harrison Ford, women will think he's attractive.

I guess what I'm saying is that character is a lot more than what somebody does or how someone is dressed.  "Barbarian" isn't a character.  The Greeks used the word to describe people who were not Greek.  If your NPC Barbarian's behavior is based on how you think a 'Barbarian' behaves, congratulations:  You've just invented Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.

You've got to think more deeply about these characters that are standing by the road asking the players for help.  You've got to consider how they got where they are, how they came to be covered with little nicks and scars or how it happened that they lost a leg.  Don't hold back in giving this information.  Make it clear that the lost leg is directly involved in what the characters are being asked to do.  Make it clear that the NPC would willingly lose the other leg, if he could go, only that then he couldn't get back.  Create a character foible or habit, an abiding opinion, a vicious streak or whatever, and then squeeze all the juice out of it that you can.  One decent cold-hearted bastard who keeps kittens in his bag for his morning meals - for a REALLY GOOD reason - is worth a thousand interesting settings.

The problem with these posts suggesting this or that for the DMs out there is that they are necessarily vague and abstract.  There isn't any table I can offer for the creation of characters.  I can provide a hundred lists for products and hit point comparisons and region statistics, but there's nothing that can be done to infuse you, the DM, with the knowledge of how to make a good character.  It can't be done with rows and columns.  You have to be the sort of observant creature who watches the way a character's cheek flutters or how flexing their hands in a particular scene helps establish the tension.  You've got to be able to pick out from the order of the words in a sentence just how the author is attempting to manipulate you into believing that this guy is a dope and that guy has it all together.

I can't remember saying this on this blog before, but it's worth repeating.  It is an important guidepost for determining whether or not you are able to see what's really there, or if you're only deluding yourself.  For a number of computer programs, if you make a picture frame, and then import a picture into it, you'll be asked a question:  Do you wish to change the shape of the picture to fit the frame, or do you wish to change the frame to fit the picture.

In observing anything, the goal is to make yourself change your frame to fit the picture you're given.  This is the only way to see the picture clearly.  If you change the picture to fit your frame, you distort the picture and you'll never really see it.

If you are an artist, you want to force your audience to change their frames.  You want to create a picture so compelling and profound that even after they've changed the picture to fit their frames, it will disturb them and they'll go back to find out what the picture really looked like.  This, to me, is the definition of great art - that when it is deformed by the blank, featureless minds that refuse to see it, those same minds find they MUST return and see it properly, the way the creator wanted.

It isn't impossible.  It's hard, it's very hard.  But it can be done.

Let me finish, for the benefit of those who think that I am just a collection of complicated tables and insane, unnecessary details in a painstakingly 'realistic' world that feels as though it wouldn't be much fun.  You suffer from a great misconception, demonstrated brilliantly by this recent effort by a brilliant creator.  My world isn't boring because it is filled with tables.  My world has tables because I am struggling to create a gigantic frame which will encompass the impossibly complex world I find myself having to handle.  I know it is an impossible frame to create.  I don't worry about that.  I'm only looking for a place where I can stand and look at the magnificence of a world I did not create, but from which I obtain an indescribable awe.  This blog, and these many tables, and this hopeless attempt to describe the potential of this game to capture an ever greater bit of this world, are all intended to force the gentle reader to fix their frame, whether they want to or not.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Why Don't They Throw Rocks?

About three weeks ago I made a comment on one of the combat simulation posts about how there are ways to foil the old "falling back to defend the doorway" trick that has been part of the dungeon strategic lexicon since the beginning of time.  I never did say how ... nor did anyone online ask.  But DMs must know why it wouldn't work.

Let us set up the usual scenario.  A party enters a dungeon.  It then enters a room, such as I had in my simulation, finds a group of creatures, and then falls back to the doorway in order to reduce the number of possible attackers.  The fighters 'hold' the doorway while the mages cast spells and the cleric keeps the fighters whole ... and when the enemy starts to dwindle, the party moves forward and mops up.

There are a couple of assumptions being made here - first and foremost being that the enemy has any reason to force their way through the door.  Why shouldn't the enemy, as soon as the party retreats to the doorway, simply move to a place where the party can't see them?  After all, its the party doing the invading here, not the enemy.  Logically, the enemy should have their lair set up so that A) the party in the doorway is vulnerable to some trap which can be sprung at will by the enemy; and B) the party in the doorway isn't a threat until they leave their comfortable, safe doorway and venture across the prepared, open surface to where the enemy is lodged in their own defensive location.

Just look at what is typically used as a "guard room" the party would likely encounter at the front of a creature's lair:



Lot of thinking went into this one.   Typically, it's all of 20' across - why would you make it bigger, it's only the forward defense for all your stuff? - so of course the enemy gets wasted.  The thieves with bows and the spellcasters can see every corner of the room, and a torch can light everything, so even if the enemy does pull back to the corners they're still vulnerable.  The players can assess the strength of the enemy and implement their spells/attacks accordingly.

Note that the combat simulation I provided gave a wide expanse with places to hide.  This above is just a death trap ... for the defenders.

Why not this?


Much better.  Even if the party does stick to the door, the enemy can line up behind the wall on the opposite side and keep a barrage going with arrows and crossbows.  There are spaces for unknown numbers of enemies to stand where they're protected.  If the size of this is forty feet deep and sixty feet wide (and we assume more arrow slits in the defending fortification than just three), there's plenty of room in the far corners for additional troops, equipment and so on, for when the party tries to enter.  And when they do, the 20 degree slope leads them down, where they become increasingly vulnerable as they move forward.  So what if the party defends the 'door'?  Whoop-dee-do.  You want the treasure, you're going to have to get in.  The enemy has no reason to come to you.

This isn't particularly clever.  Even goblins with an 8 intelligence could have been shown how to do this by a passing stranger of potentially any race.

All right, what if it is just any door?  What if the enemy does have a reason to push past the party?  It happens.

Missile weapons, anyone?  I might not be able to get more than two hand-to-hand attackers in the space the doorway provides, but I bet I can fit quite a number of thrown missile weapons into it.  I recognize that often humanoids don't have missile weapons ... at least according to the books.  I didn't give the goblins in my simulation missile weapons - but I could have very cheaply.

What if, throughout my lair, I pile up small cairns of fist-sized stones?  As the party moves through the rather empty dungeon area, these piles are everywhere.  Being stones, they're not convenient to collect or otherwise remove, and even if the piles are broken apart, what matter?  When the enemies find the party, there should be more than enough missiles around.  A fist sized stone may not travel very far, it may not do the damage of a long bow, but I'll be the party runs out of arrows before my fifty or a hundred kobalds run out of rocks.

And if we're fighting something a bit brighter than kobalds and goblins, how about a little lamp oil, hm?  Doorways are nice, cramped spaces, excellent for fire attacks ... lots and lots of splash damage.  And just how long is that fighter going to hold the doorway when he's suddenly covered in burning oil?  2-12 damage may not be much, but it isn't the sort of thing you can just ignore and go on fighting.  It is the sort of thing you react to by breaking ranks, falling to the ground and quickly rushing to put out - and needing aid to put out.  Gee, that doorway doesn't seem like such a good defense any more.

It takes a fair while (in combat terms) to prepare a new burning flask of oil (even if you have the flame and the flask ready), so there's time to run, slam the door ... or rush the room.  The last thing you want to do is stand passively in the doorway until the oil is thrown.

Incidentally, I haven't ever found any real military tactical manual, ever, which has a chapter on the benefits of fighting in doorways.  If someone wants to send me a link, I'll have a look at it.  I'm guessing this is just a long standing D&D canard that has somehow gained the status of being tactically brilliant because its hard to believe a goblin can throw a rock.

Wiki, March 28, 2011

I didn't even do one of these posts last Monday.

I confess ... the Wiki does not fit my world-designing nature.  I was supposed to work on spells.  I was supposed to work on describing my combat system.  I did my best to guilt myself into working on these things.  For three weeks I wrote here on the blog that I was going to work on these things, with the expectation that if I said it in the public sphere, that would ramp up my guilt to the point where I would work on spells and the combat system.

It didn't work.  It just didn't.  My headspace was someplace else, I found myself bored by both prospects, I was tired after a long, spectacular weekend and really, I wanted to work on other things.  So I did.  I worked on things that did not translate to the Wiki, I worked on things that had nothing whatsoever to do with D&D (I have, in fact, other projects) and I hid.

So here it is a new week, and I'll come clean.  I haven't worked on any of the things I said I would.  As it happens, I am nearly always working on D&D or something related to it, but I work on various projects, switching from project to project as I feel in the mood.  Sometimes, I will leave a given project for up to a year, or even two, to work on other things.  Steadily the various aspects of my world build up.

But the Wiki has been making me feel for a couple of months like a ball and chain.  Gotta put up something the people will like, I keep thinking.  Gotta astound them.  That is how magazine writing works - every month you trouble yourself to think of interesting visual or tantalizing gimmicks that will blast people off their seats and make them talk about the magazine.  And having been in publishing for as long as I have, its a habit to think that way.

Unfortunately, it's different when there's no money involved.  I could go on guilting myself if this was my occupation.  But my occupation right now is in other projects, and they tend to sap my energy like little vampires.  And all I've had to give the wiki has been, really, the dregs.

By stages I have been stepping back.  I started posting something every day.  Then, accumulating material to post something every weekend.  And now, four and a half months after starting, I'm having to say fuck a schedule.  I'm going to post, or not post, as I feel.  This is a dangerous thing.  It tends to lead people to never post.  And then the Wiki just becomes another bloated dead thing on the Internet that hasn't been updated in the last three years.  Interesting, sure, but the same old stuff.  "How long's it been since I was there?  Eight months?  I wonder if it's got anything new yet ... nope.  Oh well."

The Wiki is at least as important to me as this blog.  It is just as important for me to post material there, as it is to post material here.  And I've been keeping this blog going for almost three years, still writing posts as long as those I did at the start.  Three years and I haven't run out of words yet.  I think, with the right attitude, the Wiki will still have new material three years from now.  But as the old material piles up, the new material will fall like drops on the ocean.  That is the way of things.

I did spend time posting this last week.  I added material that was fairly easy to pull together, which may or may not be of interest to anyone.  I began a 'Commodities' page, listing off my trade references for banking and trade markets, as well as mining references for antimony ore, chromium ore, copper ore, native gold and gold ore and iron ore.  I'll continue adding other tables in this group until I get sick of it ... and move back onto some other project.

Something I really have to do is to go about the pages that have been created and add text.  This is a goal for me these next six months.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Round 6: Darien Dead

Albrecht’s Action: Attack Goblin 6, and if successful turning on Goblin 2 to help out the Mage. (65%)

Cailaith’s Action: Attack Goblin 2 with both weapons, and if stunning on the first blow turning back to attack Goblin 5. (50%)

Brønn’s Action: Remain in place to attack Goblin 9, and if stunning turning to melee Goblin 5. (50%)

The Advocates To Save Darien failed across the board this week, though I gave all three active characters the opportunity to run and save him. It could have been Supernal’s appeal that changed the early pattern. People might be getting bored with this … most of the votes, about 85% I’d guess, came in the first 36 hours. I could set the polls faster, but I just don’t have time during the week to do the set-ups.

The combat’s are simple to run.

Albrecht rolls a 12, which is a 13 with the bless, missing. Sometimes it pays to have a strength bonus, as he missed AC 6 by 1 point.

Cailaith rolls a 15 with the first weapon, which does hit AC 6 exactly. She causes 3 damage, which doesn’t quite kill Goblin 2 … but it staggers back, stunned. And here’s where the movement bonus comes into application: Cailaith, the reader will take note, moves five because she is not in armor. It requires two moves to attack, so she uses those in attacking Goblin 2. Because she stunned the goblin, there’s no movement penalty for breaking off the combat. She turns, moves one (that’s three moves she’s used) and attacks goblin 5. She still has two moves left, so she has enough time to do so.

Sadly, she rolls a 1, dropping the dagger just like the goblin attacking Darien did in the last round. It can happen to anyone. She rolls a d6 for the weapon to see if it breaks, and it doesn’t. She rolls to see where the dagger ends up, rolls a 1 and it winds up in an adjacent hex. The wall is in the way on one corner, so there’s five hexes it could wind up. From the top, counting clockwise, she rolls a 7 on a die ten and the dagger winds up in the hex with Goblin 5. Bad luck!

Brønn rolls a 12 too. He doesn’t have a strength bonus either, so he misses.

Here’s how it looks before the goblins’ turn:


Cailaith didn’t kill the one she hit, so the goblins still don’t need to make a morale check.

Goblin 1 grabs its sword, and both it and Goblin 11 make intelligence checks. Being goblins, and having an intelligence of average (low), this is an 8 intelligence. Goblin 1 rolls a natural 20, and Goblin 11 rolls a 17 … so they both fail. They use their weapons to split the armor and chest cavity of Darien, causing an automatic critical hit each, causing a d6 doubled. Darien takes a total of 22 damage, and his chest erupts in bloody goodness. The two goblins fall to their knees and start slopping the blood and exposed body parts into their mouths.

Goblin 6 swings at Albrecht, missing with a 9.

Goblin 9 swings at Brønn, hitting with a 19. Brønn takes 4 damage, stumbling backwards either to the left or the right of Cailaith. A die is rolled and Brønn ends up in the hex between Cailaith and Englund. The goblin makes an intelligence check, succeeds and decides and both Brønn and Cailaith are more than it can handle. It falls back 2 hexes (the goblin has a movement of 4, and has used two of them) to rejoin Goblin 6 and Goblin 2, to hold as much of a position as possible. It moves into the hex next to Albrecht.

Goblin 5 swings at Cailaith, missing with a 6. It makes an intelligence check, fails, and decides not to fall back along the wall, but to stand his ground.

Well, all, I’m done with this experiment. By now it should be obvious to anyone the benefits of running this kind of system. Because of the stunning rules, combats quickly break down from organized melees with two comfortable lines of combatants to mixed free-for-alls with a wide variety of possible outcomes. While the end of Round 5 looked good for the party, the changes in Round 6 – brought about by the single action of a single goblin, Goblin 9, has suddenly got Albrecht on the ropes. Englund can’t move fast enough to attack Goblin 9, but might accomplish something with a spell. But even then, the spell won’t come into effect until the next round, Round 8 (as it is cast in Round 7).

Even if Albrecht hits and kills his opponent, he may face two attacks from Goblin 2 and from Goblin 9 (remember Goblin 2 has already missed its turn this round, so after Albrecht attacks it will be free to do so).

But it might happen that if Albrecht kills one goblin, or if Cailaith does, the others will all break off after failing morale. But if they don’t, and Albrecht misses, he will be attacked by three goblins while Brønn has to recover. If those three goblins can then rouse the Darien eaters back into the combat, the other three players will find themselves in bad straits.

It can go either way … and one more round could completely change it over again. If there’s anything that Darien’s move in the first round proves, its that the thief never had time to hide anywhere … even if he had gotten through the enemy lines. It would have only left him out there, alone, while three additional goblins were free to attack and consume the party. Darien wouldn’t have lasted long in that event.

The normal combat system for D&D is so slow, plodding and predictable, it’s no wonder intelligent people grew exhausted with it. But the attack/defense of the die rolls and the armor was never the problem. It was a good combat mechanic. It was only the insistence that the game had to be seen as either in terms of tactical perfection (Warhammer) or as something that shouldn’t need a map that created boredom-o-rama.

I hope I’ve shown that with some simple non-tactical rules, enabling things to go disastrously wrong in just a few rolls, without it seems hopelessly random, the combat in D&D can be much better. Tactically, if Darien had not divided up the party, the bad rolls could have been compensated for and won through.

Anyone convinced?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Foodstuffs II - Distilling

This post is a continuation, intended to describe various foods which I have found mentioned in my Colliers 1952 Encyclopedia, references upon which I have based my trade system.  The foregoing link will explain how these references fit into determining the relative value of goods from one location to another.  For a general idea of how many references for various goods might exist, I suggest the gentle reader have a look at this page from the Same Universe Wiki, and the links included there ... which may in turn be compared with this previous post I wrote last year on metals and minerals.

I certainly hope that the deep structure of my world can be gleaned from how these various elements fit together, from references of a random unfamiliar kingdom such as "Hoth" in the above linked metal and mineral reference pages, to the cities of which can be found here, which can then be compared with a history I wrote on the founding of Hoth by dwarves here and a reference to my offline party's fleeing to Hoth here.  I grant that these things can appear on the surface to be random collections of disconnected items, but I assure the reader that they have each been carefully thought out, pieced together and allotted their place as a single whole.  I have worked to create a clear, structured idea of every location, its production, its government, its people and its place in the whole milieu ... so that as I consider each element that might change the rules or the fabric of the game, I must further consider how those elements will also change the world I've created.

In the same fashion, each item described below serves its little part to enhance the fabric and intrisicality of the world - making the experience tangible, while rich in scope and emotional tone.  This cheese or that particular truffle may seem purposeless and easily dismissed in light of fighting dragons and rescuing princesses, but the very food that is served at the table of the local bar seems every bit as important to me as the number of plusses after the name of the sword in the player's scabbard.

So we begin.

Distilling

Virtually every place on Earth has produced its own unique variety of distilled liquor, while at the same time spirits can be made out of anything.  My first wife Michelle, now passed away, told me once of how when she and her co-workers were teenagers and working at a food court bakery, they mixed sugar and yeast together with fruit juices in plastic cups and stored them up on the high shelves, where the managers did see and which were generally never cleaned.  Every six weeks or so they'd have a late night 'party' following the cleaning schedule the company insisted (where everyone had to stay and clean), without anyone knowing.  You see now why I married her.


This is something to think about when hearing that Islam countries, quote, "do not drink."  Yeah, sure they don't.


At any rate, locally there would always be liquor of some kind served at the local tavern, made of whatever fruit, grain, nut, wood or other vegetable material available.  I assume a price for this locally produced liquor, and it is generally lower than the price of any of the specific types listed below ... though the local stuff often resembles (poorly) the better liquors when made of the same root materials.  So please understand, if the reference is for, say, 'gin,' we are speaking of quality gin, not prohibition gin.  Liquor, more than most things, is a matter of taste.


Arak.  While Wikipedia describes this as a distilled wine beverage flavoured with anise, or dates in the case of Iraq.  I suspect the names Iraq/Arak have something to do with one another.  Arak is fairly strong, about the level of ouzo, and reminiscent of it - in that anise is an herb with a taste much like licorice.  The substance is widespread throughout the Muslim world, so there goes the no-drinking thing right out the window.  The gentle reader will no doubt hasten to mention that it is only certain countries which certain rabid right-wing Islamic governments that actually ban liquor ... let me say that I am aware of this.  I mention it here because no everyone is.


Pirates probably made due without the fruit.
 

Arrack.  This is an entirely different substance, produced in a different part of the world, created from coconuts, sugarcane and various other substances (whatever is convenient to mix into the mash).  Wikipedia explains the etymological association between Arrack and Arak, so I feel I need to specify that the difference between Arrack and araka, araki, ariki, rak, raque and so on is the difference between a quality liquor being made from coconut milk and the local varieties as described above.  I've never tasted Arrack, but if someone wants to send me a bottle, I'm open to it.  Will it ever replace mountain dew as a D&D staple?  Only if we try, children.  Only if we try.

 

Brandywine, not Brandy

BrandywineI will insist on using the older name, simply because it has round tones and is vaguely reminiscent of times gone by.  I remember when taverns actually used to list it as brandywine on the menu.  Brandywine is, of course, distilled wine, and most everyone has an easy opportunity to test it.  I have two specific kinds of brandywine referenced in my world: Cognac and Armagnac, both named after towns in France.  Armagnac certainly has the lower profile, but either are astounding if you can afford a taste.  Take note of the various 'rules' in the storage of brandywine, and how "damaging the stopper" positively destroys the beverage.  In other words, not something for the pack on one's way to the dragon lair.



Elixir de Spa.  Ha, the only wikipedia link I could find to it was in French.  I confess, i haven't the slightest idea what this tastes like - perhaps one of the Dutch, Walloon or German readers could enlighten us poor souls in North America.  I can say that the village of Spa is in Eastern Belgium, and doesn't appear on my D&D map of the region (which only means its very small, not that it doesn't exist).  It's not a bad cost ... perhaps I can order a bottle.


Gin.  Yes, it's here.  Being a heathen, my preferred brand is Bombay Sapphire, which I prefer to drink straight out of a short tumbler.  Most other gin tastes like swill to me, which must be mixed with tonic to be consumable.  Gin is made from juniper berries, and was developed by the Dutch.  It's prevalent use in English culture resulted from the necessity to take quinine to reduce the effects of malaria in equatorial regions, which represented a large portion of Europe's colonies.  Quinine tastes godawful horrible, much worse than tonic water, but gin cut the flavour nicely and made taking medicine a decent practice.

KirschwasserLiterally "cherry water," often called simply Kirsch, this is an example of my learning about and trying something specifically because I stumbled across it while making these lists.  And now I like it very much (star points for the filmophile who can name the movie referenced there).  It is a hard, strong flavour, not as reminiscent of cherries as the reader might expect, but highly addictive once the taste for it is gotten.

Plum Brandy.  Slivovitz is a popular Eastern European liquor, with a quality distribution reflecting the Germanic occupation of various parts of Romania, Bulgaria and the former Yugoslavia.  My relatives on my mother's side, those who were women and old, used to sip this similar to the way English people will sip sherry.  I never developed a taste for it.  If you want a legitimate taste, find it from the old country - the stuff produced in North America and Western Europe is not the same drink, though it may be made from plums.

Rum.  I think I should pause here and point out that there are several large areas of the globe which I have not researched in terms of the production there: specifically, most of Africa, all of the Western Hemisphere and all of the Pacific Islands, including Australia.  So there are items which are not going to show up on my list because they are produced no where other than, say, the Congo.  It was a long time before I found anywhere that manufactured rum ... when I ever do get around to graphing out the Caribbean, I'll get a lot more references to it.  Rum is made from sugarcane, and has always held a special place for certain ex-British patriots.  As a Canadian once told me, if Jamaica had hockey, he'd go there and never come back.  I myself liked it as a kid.  Doesn't hold much interest for me now.

Perhaps it's the little cups?
Sake.  Obviously, this showed up on the list as I added Japan.  Sake is mistakenly thought of as a 'wine' because the term 'rice wine' apparently causes cognitive dissonance in the minds of some people.  No, seriously, I've had this argument with people twice.   Some people get terribly addicted to it, but it has never been extensively distributed here in Canada - the States may be different.  As a liquor, it is fairly meh ... along the lines of ordinary rye or scotch.

Speaking of which, although I combed through more than 300 city, county and regional articles in the aforementioned encyclopedia covering the British Isles, I did not find one single reference to a specific location producing either rye or scotch.  There were plenty of generally references to 'distilling' in this town or that, but none of the articles referred to either of these two distilled beverages by name.  Therefore, as much as it will probably anger a certain portion of the liquor-drinking gallery, neither rye nor scotch have any special notariety in my world.  Those who take umberance at this situation will please provide me a with a specific reference to either rye or scotch printed prior to 1650 (the date of my world) by a source other than one that derives from the British Isles, to prove that the non-English speaking world thought anything of these two rather common liquors.  As it happens, I was able to find a number of references to whiskey ... perhaps that might alleviate the concern that rye and scotch are not given their own special categories (irish or bourbon either, for that matter).  Not to worry, they can still be bought ... as 'local distilled liquor.'

StregaOnce again, something invented in the 19th century turns up in my world ... but I have already explained about the druids, and I like Strega.  So it stays.  Not a hard sell, I should think, since Don Corleone and the boys also drank Strega, and the Godfather is aped by most would-that-were-me fanboys.  It's a strong Italian liquor, but old Hollywood used to enjoy putting it in the hands of young actresses to show how European and worldly they were.  As it happens, I haven't had any in years.

Vermouth.  For the record, I detest vermouth.  It is a 'fortified wine,' which means that a quantity of distilled beverage has been added to it ... similar to Madiera, Marsala or Port.  But while I consider those others to be wines, I just can't bring myself to put Vermouth in the same category.  I know, I know, but sometimes we must fight the wind.  The fortifying liquor is typically Mistelle, which is excellent in Madiera but somehow produces an terrible concoction - to my palate - when creating vermouth.  My personal tastes aside (warped as they may be), I have a reference for vermouth, so it exists in my world.  That's how simple it is.

The reason sherry isn't on this list is simply because I have not yet added Spain.  Whenever I get the time, I will include it ... perhaps I will make space to write about new substances when that time comes.

And now, I am just exhausted.  It will take a long time to get through these lists, I can see.  But I'm in no hurry.  I don't expect to die soon.  And I'm sure people will wait.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Kicking Goblins Back Down The Stairs

Inspired by this post from Anthony of Of Pedantry, where yet another blogger is writing about the cleverness and innovation of goblins, I want to make an argument for the importance of stupid, brainless races.

There isn't anything wrong with Anthony's post; and he is perfectly free to run goblins any way that he wishes.  But I am unclear as to why goblins, of all creatures, have developed the kind of tactics which have only been taught at military schools since the 18th century, or how it is that they have the restraint and the organization to follow orders as a group ... without also developing other higher ideals such as ethics, the rule of law and above-ground architecture.  In short, military science is not something that is developed inside a narrow framework.  The sort of tactics that require different groups to attack with different tools at appropriate times requires also a higher level of motivation than, "we're all evil, let's kill together."

I know there's a perception that primitive tribes of people attack in primitive warfare in astoundingly clever ways, but this is pure propagandistic bullshit invented by people who want you to think koala bears have an even chance of winning against Imperial Stormtroopers, or who want you to think primitive blue 'indians' of a mythical culture can't lose to industrialized miners.  Let me repeat.  It's bullshit.  Military organization has never been accomplished by a primitive culture.  That's why the British in Africa and the Spanish in South America found a few hundred troops could handily manage tens of thousands of tribesmen, even when some of those tribesmen were armed with modern equipment.  Because to stand in military order in the face of the enemy without flinching requires more than equipment; it requires more than a leader with a good idea; it requires decades of steadfast training on the fields of Eton and in the drawing rooms of elder patriarchs.

Correct me if I'm wrong ... goblins don't have higher culture, do they?

I know, I know.  I am failing to get into the fantasy spirit of the thing.  We want goblins to be tougher, we don't want to give them more hit points and so on, so instead we want to bless them with an organizational framework on a level with the Romans.  What is wrong with that?  This is fantasy.

Okay, so am I operating in a world where goblins are the masters of all they survey?  No, because this is fantasy.  Can I count on the various races that have the ability to be mages and illusionist being the equal of goblins on the battlefield in military training?  Well, no guarantees, because this is fantasy.  What about orcs, gnolls, bugbears, ogres, trolls and giants ... do they have the instinctive military training of an ordinary goblin?  Sometimes yes, and sometimes no, it depends on how I feel, because this is fantasy.  So really, this is just a free-for-all, with the DM incorporating any intellectual trait at random into any race regardless of logic or characteristics, isn't it?  Yep.  'Cause this is fantasy.

Heck, why not have giant rats organized along military logic?  These giant rats will bite at the ankles, distracting the enemy, while these will slide down chutes they've burrowed out of the clay ceiling, while these giant rats will form rat-pyramids as attack squads intended to bury intruders in rat flesh, smothering opposition and ensuring plenty of meat for the swarm ...

Or green slime who raid castles, seeping between the stones and attacking at the wooden struts supporting the upper floors of the central keep and the various towers, perhaps supported by rust monster cavalries mounted by teams of rot grub who have built tiny catapults designed to hurl their small brethren at defenders.  Sure, what the hell, it's fantasy ain't it?

Why not green slime that flies ... oh wait, rust monsters that fly and are made of green slime, which teleport at will and co-exist in forty universes at the same time, while cleverly manipulating goblins which are transmuted into streetwalkers that follow parties around and give them green slime STD's ...

Okay, okay, I'm losing it.

Here's a thought.  It's fantasy, so how about one race of fairly weak humanoid creatures who act rather stupidly and provide ready fodder for low-level, quite weak parties who find eight or ten of them pretty hard to kill.  And how about we think of those humanoids as being pretty dumb, so they run straight out without any tactics at all, enabling the parties to develop tactics of their own.  That way, when the parties get tougher and stronger, they can use those tactics on other, smarter humanoids, that are known by different names and have different, more intelligent characteristics.  And what if we call the weaker humanoids "goblins" and the tougher humanoids "orcs," or "gnolls," or other names like that.  And then there could be even smarter humanoids, called "elves" say, who were even harder to kill?

That way, the parties could say, as they were moving onto 3rd level, "Wow, this isn't like fighting goblins," and everyone would understand just what the fuck was being talked about.

But hey, that's just a thought.  Don't pay any attention to it.  Just go back to making goblins into elves, and elves into sphinxes, and sphinxes into titans and titans into black puddings and black puddings into Yorkshire beef cattle and so on and so forth, since there isn't any need at all to keep things straight.  Reinventing is fun and wow does it ever feel like we're making something new here ...

My apologies, Anthony.  It really isn't you.  And yours won't be the last post reinventing the goblin.  Sigh.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Foodstuffs I


I had never intended to produce this post; the first effort that I made along these lines received all of one comment ... which at the time was sad for me, as it took a lot of hunting around and work and I wound up writing it over a period of four or five days.

But then I added the tool from blogger on the weekend that installed links for popular posts - and I found that it was actually one of the five most popular posts I've written.  Go figure.  I don't know how this fits into Cyclopeatron's assertion that blog readers don't want creative content ... can you call something which is just plain scholarship creative?  The combat simulation is much more creative (and equally time consuming), and though it doesn't generate many comments there are 20 plus people who at least vote.  On the other hand, metal and mineral descriptions are different from what most of the bloggers blog about.  So there's that.

This post (and I shudder as I start it) includes those foodstuff products which have arisen from the encyclopedia from which I get my industrial product references for my trade tables (which I haven't mentioned in months).  It does not proport to include all foodstuffs, or varieties of foodstuffs, for that would be insane.  But I wager there will be some mentioned of which the gentle reader will not have heard.  I certainly hadn't heard of some before starting this process.  The point is that everything common will be included, and uncommon things only as they happened to be mentioned by said source.

Food is any substance that is consumed to provide nutritional support for the body, which may be ingested and assimilated by the organism's cells.  I stretch the point in bits, including items which derive from animals and plants, but which would not necessarily be considered edible.  Through the post, I'll color code sections so as to make things clearer.  When the color is blue, we've returned to the main alphabetical list.  Grouped items will appear as a different color under a black heading.

BrewingThe production of beer through steeping various plant material, commonly cereals, the result of which is then fermented with yeast.  I don't know how deeply I have to get into this.  Beer has been brewed for thousands upon thousands of years, and is sometimes said to predate cooking in the technological history of man.  You can, if you wish, make beer from virtually anything, because virtually anything edible contains sugars which provide the fermentation that gives beer its purpose for being.  Most worlds insist on beer made from either grains or honey (mead), but it can be made from most vegetables and starchy plants, including tubers.  Just 'cause its interesting, the Sumerians had a god of brewing, Ninkasi, which for reasons unknown didn't get into the Deities & Demigods supplement.

Caviar
CaviarCaviar is a luxury delicacy deriving from the roe, or fully ripe internal ovaries/egg masses, of - traditionally - sturgeons in the delta of the Volga river where it debouches into the Caspian Sea.  Caviar has come to refer nowadays to a wide variety of other fish sources, including salmon, steelhead, trout, lumpfish and whitefish ... all of which this particular author refuses to eat.  Even alternate forms of sturgeon, not deriving from the Caspian, are intolerable to me ... and yes, I can taste the difference.  While it sounds horrific to some, the option of including caviar as a valuable treasure has come up in my world often, though not since my party left Russia.  People asked me once about the influence of magic upon farming production - if you ask me, some Khazar mage centuries ago is certain to have invented a summon monster derivative spell that only summons Caspian sturgeon ... it would only make sense.

CiderA fermented beverage made from apple juice - in effect, beer made from apples.  While cider can be made from most any apple, its generally made now of apples specifically cultured to produce specific flavours.  A medieval apple - prior to widespread cutting and recutting to produce varieties - would have been more likely to grow wild, though of course many areas of Europe had orchards prior to the fall of Rome.  It must be remembered that Rome was subtropical, however, and not ripe with apples ... in large areas of northern Europe, cider would have been brewed long before apple orchards would have been common.  No doubt, the brew was less namby-pamby than modern cider ... and heavier on the alcohol content too.  It would not be the medieval equivalent of ordering 'milk.'

Confectionary


I include seven varieties of 'unusual delicacies,' some of which might not seem correctly widespread in an Earth-based world due to their western hemispherean origin ... to which I have one answer: druids.


ChocolateWe're all familiar with the old saw about chocolate originally not being sweet and being drunk as a coffee alternative in a Mayan world that did not have coffee.  The people of the Andes and Mexican highlands probably still drink the bitter brew of the Mayans, but for me that seems boring and dull.  And there are druids.  So I accept chocolate's existence in the form we know it today, because that's fun and because it makes a really different treasure type.  There's really no limitation on the portion size, either ... dungeon made of chocolate, anyone?


CandyThe Arabs had candy before the west did, and would have been most likely what we would  call 'rock candy' ... hard sucking lumps that could be carried on long journeys in a very hot and dry climate with little trouble.  The explosion of variety we're familiar with post-dates my world, so with the exception of the other confectionary listed here, I don't offer for sale anything in this category but hard candy.  I suppose if a player made an argument for some other reasonable type, I'd be willing to give ground ... but no one has.


Edible Bird's Nests
Edible Bird's Nests.  This is one of the strangest things on my list.  The taste for bird's nests is something that dirives from Southeast Asia, where gatherers risk their lives crawling down cliff faces in order to nests, consisting mostly of bird saliva with little or no plant materials.  The nests are most commonly made into soup, but not necessarily.


Glazed Fruit"The continual process of drenching the fruit in syrup ..."  Mmm, sounds good.  This is distinctly a European thing, and not easily found in North America.  Once the fruit is sugared, allowed to dry and solidify, then powdered, it can be kept in a saddle bag for many months, ready for handing out to various orc children on the journey.  Longer, if the mage has the right cantrips.


Peppermint.  Not to be confused with the naturally occurring plant, the candy's origin is non-specific.  The link says 1670, but that's only the confirmed date.  For myself, I can't think of any two things more at odds than a D&D paladin and a sack full of candy canes ... but then I like mixed up images like that.  Eh, treasure's treasure.


Perigord Truffles
Truffles, and specifically black Perigord truffles, must be the druidical contribution to the delights of man.  I wonder if plant growth allows for the creation of thousands of instant truffles - it shouldn't, since technically fungus isn't a 'plant' in the understood sense of the word.  On the other hand, medieval science didn't make modern distinctions about such things.  In the Great Chain of Being, truffles ranked somewhere just above rocks, and just below mosses.  At any rate, they're an acquired taste.  I'll stick to caviar.

Treacle.  Sort of a medieval equivalent to molasses, not as dark and not as thick, but syrupy and meant for eating with bread.  A barrel of this stuff would go for a fair price and be a real pain to roll around, since the center of gravity doesn't shift as fast as it does with water ... the barrel would have a tendency to wobble, you understand, and even 'get away.'  For reasons surpassing all understanding, treacle became known as a medical cure all ... so obviously it ought to be important to magical research, too.

CopraNote that we've returned to the main list, and left confectionary behind.  Copra is the dried meat, or kernal, of the coconut.  While it can be eaten, and even stored, it's typically dried and cleaned as the first stage in producing coconut oil, in which state it is used extensively (to be discussed later).  Copra can be used as an animal feed, and apparently - according to this - is highly combustable.  A mage with a dry cantrip and some black powder could have a field day.  Give me two druids with the ability to change into swallows and I'll destroy your field artillery in short order.

Dairying

CreamStraightforward and something we're all familiar with, a very common substance that doesn't seem to occur all that often on equipment lists.  Why would it?  It is not adventure friendly.  You can't wipe out a band of roving goblins and then take their cream to market.  Goblin ranchers, sure, but not goblin rovers.

Milk.  More boring than cream.  But if I can make a comment on those bloggers who are busily calculating the number of calories that can be obtained from 30 acres of medieval yield wheat, the addition of milk or cream to the diet of your average cotter or villein deserves its due.  A single cup of whole milk contains 146 calories and 8 grams of protein ... and therefore a village cow goes a long way to increasing the health of everyone in the community.

Kumiss
Kumiss.  Then again, if you want to take a left turn away from sanity, you might want to consider a glass of this stuff: a fermented beverage made from the milk of a horse.  It's popular among Turks, Mongols and Hungarians - and yes, there is certainly a cultural connection there.  Any further discussion I will leave to the link.  I have yet to have a party member develop a taste for it.

Butter.  Produced through the thickening, or churning of whole milk to transform it from fat mixed into water (milk) into water mixed into fat (butter).  Obviously, I don't have to explain what butter is ... but I recommend looking into how its made, how much trouble it takes, how widely it would influence a culture that prized the substance and why your peasant women have more to do than sit on the porch greeting character travellers all day.

Ghee

Ghee.  Clarified butter, or butter 'without the pulp' (hah hah, I'm just being clever).   Milk solids and water are separated from the butterfat in order to obtain a clear liquid (which, when solidified, turns opaque).  It is popular in South Asia, in part because it can be kept longer in a warmer temperature.  In North American culture, is occurs most commonly in association with seafood, such as shrimp, lobster and crab.

CheeseThe perfect marriage between bug and cow.  The coagulation of milk protein which, after allowed to get suitably moldy, hardens into a wonderful substance without which my life would be horribly empty.  As complicated as it is, cheese offers no end to possibilities for deep dungeon industrial production, since once the milk is obtained it can be manufactured virtually anywhere.  I'm afraid I don't have any 'poison' cheeses on my list today ... though one wonders what kind of cheese either yellow mold or brown mold would bring into existence, and which kind of creature would eat it.  Still, I have a list of cheeses that my world does include, as listed below.  I'm not sure how many of these reach back into the medieval age ... this is one case in which I'm ready to make exceptions.  The reader will please note that not every cheese is added here ... only those which, according to my 60-year-old encyclopedia, were worth mentioning.  Other cheeses would exist and be available in my world, but these would be the more expensive:


CamembertWith strawberries, please.  Wikipedia says it was invented in either the 18th or 19th century in Normandy, but with cheeses I just can't believe there wasn't a peasant equivalent around for centuries beforehand.  Perhaps that is just wishful thinking.  One way or another, I repeat, my world has druids.

CheddarThe association between this cheese and that called 'cheddar' in North America makes the fantasy of D&D look staggeringly scientific.  It originates from a town of the same name in west England.  I would wager that most persons in the world's western hemisphere have never actually tasted cheddar cheese ... I did once, years ago, but I can't seem to find it where I am.  I repeatedly stumble across groups swearing up and down that they make cheddar, and then it turns out that, well, they don't.  Trust me, you bastards reading this in England have my envy.  Note that the picture on the link isn't orange.

EdamNamed after the Dutch city, a total failure as cannon ammunition and still, marvelous with wine and pears.

Ewe's Milk CheeseThe encyclopedia isn't specific, except that the reference I have comes from Aveyron, France.  If any gentle reader would like to identify which ewe's milk cheese Aveyron is famous for, I wouldn't mind hearing about it.

GorgonzolaAn Italian cheese for which I have a medieval origin (AD 879, according to Wikipedia), in the town of the same name.  I have places of production including Nuara (modern Novara) and Lecco, both in the foothills of the Alps in northern Italy.  This is definitely leaning into my cheese favorites.

GoudaAn excellent cheese from Holland, the city of the same name, and for my money superior to Edam (when you can get it from a Dutch maker).  I like that "pungent, underlying bitterness."  The hardness would make it a most excellent choice for dungeoneering.

Gouda

GruyereNamed after the town of the same name in Switzerland, produced throughout the low lying valleys of that country.  The French have perfected many sauces from it, making me wonder why I don't live in France.  Ah, yes, it's my lack of desire to weigh 400 lbs.
LimburgerAnd here I draw the line.  I detest Limburger cheese.  It's described as being first produced by Rudolph Benkerts in 1867, but yada yada druids yada yada.  Some people like it.  I can do without.  I'm not saying its quite the same as other evils Germany has perpetrated on the world (sauerkraut, liederhosen), but it's close.

Parmagiano.  Excessively common now, parmagiano is heavy on maintenance, takes a long time to produce and includes issues such as what fodder cattle are raised on.  It's an excellent cheese for long-distance travel, as it is hard and remains edible for literally years.  .  Ah, the best for last.  Stilton is a blue cheese, traditionally invented in the 18th century, and must be eaten to be believed.  Though I understand some do not like it.  Baffling.

Pont-l'Évêque.  Another French cheese originating in Normandy, said to date from the 12th century, and similar in texture to brie and the above-mentioned camembert.  I haven't actually tasted this, but it is very popular.  An alternate name for the cheese is 'angelot.'

Red Leicester.  This, I admit, I haven't tasted.  If anyone wants to send me a sample, I'm certainly ready for it.  Please, not aged less than six months.  Might as well be effete about it.  Leicester is a large city in central east England, for those who don't know.

Red Leicester

StiltonAh, the best for last ... a blue cheese, nominally created in the 18th century.  But since this is my favorite cheese, I'm certainly going to include it.  If you haven't had Stilton, you must try it ... though I understand some people do not like it.  Baffling.

I want to make the brief point that while there are ongoing issues with Stilton and other cheeses regarding the dangers they present in not being pasturized, none of the cheeses mentioned here would have been pasturized during the middle ages.  Perhaps a cantrip could make them safe, but certainly some people would feel that unmagicked cheese tasted better, and would be aware they were hazarding their lives in eating cheese.  But what D&D player would tolerate their 9th level fighter kicking it after a few bites of Stilton?  Unimaginable.

This is a long and grueling task, and I will continue.  Aside from a few random items, the larger categories yet to come include distilling, baking, meat, oils and wine.  About 75 more foodstuff types.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Round 5: The Mage Fights Back

Here are the results from last week’s poll:

Albrecht hacks with a long sword at Goblin 8 (62% of votes).

Cailaith attacks Goblin 5 with a dagger in each hand, suffering penalties of -1 and-3 to hit (54% of votes).

It’s only Cailaith’s 17 dexterity that allows for the practical use of two weapons … but I’m sure the gentle reader knew that already. I just felt the need to say it. It’s a DM thing.

Albrecht attacks and rolls a 19, modified to a 20 by the bless, and delivers 5 damage to Goblin 8. The Goblin has 1hp, and dies. He swings around and faces Goblin 6 … he technically has two moves left, but as long as he’s in combat he must surrender them; he could do something like pull another weapon, or throw the torch away (he can’t attack with it, as a fighter he only gets 1 attack at his level), but as these are useless. He could circle one to the left around Goblin 6, but he doesn’t want to desert Cailaith.

Cailaith makes her first attack with a dagger against Goblin 5, rolling a 16 on the die; this is -1 for using two weapons, but +1 for the bless spell , so it doesn’t change … the roll hits AC 5 for a mage, and Cailaith manages to cause 3 damage. Goblin 5 has 4 hp, but is stunned. He staggers backwards and to Cailaith’s right into the hex with Goblin 8’s body.

Cailaith could step forward and take her other attack, but here the smart player would turn and stab at either Goblin 2 or Goblin 10. Time to decide if it’s better to save an attack on herself, or free up Brønn, who is the better fighter, Cailaith opts (in my opinion) to attack Goblin 10. I know, I know, I should run a poll just for this, but there isn’t time.

Cailaith rolls a natural 20! I promise, not faked, I actually rolled it. First off, even with modifiers of -3 and +1, it hits AC 3. At present, then, her damage is doubled … but Cailaith immediately rolls the die again – if she rolls either a 19 or a 20, the damage is tripled. Normally it would only be on a 20, but the goblin isn’t wearing a helmet, so a 19 would be sufficient. Cailaith rolls an 18. Bad luck. Still, she rolls a 4, doubled to cause 8 damage. Goblin 10 had 5 hit points, and dies. Cailaith spins on Goblin 2 and readies for being attacked.

So now things appear as this:


Nice round.

The goblins have only lost two more of their brethren, so a morale check isn’t in the offing yet. That will take one more. So we’ll start with Goblin 1 and Goblin 11 attacking Darien.

Not surprisingly, one of them hits. Goblin 11 rolls a 14, which will hit AC 6. He causes 4 damage, dropping Darien to -4 hit points. Darien is automatically stunned … but now he must also roll a constitution check to determine if he’s still conscious. Because he’s at -4, his constitution is reduced to 60% of 11, his constitution when he is at zero hit points or greater. His constitution is at present, then, 6.6. He must roll a 6 or less on a d20 or fall unconscious. He rolls a 7, and passes out.

Goblin 1, when attacking Darien, had rolled a 1 to hit … this indicates that he’s dropped his weapon. It’s an average-quality weapon, so it rolls a d6 to see if it breaks. He rolls a 2, and since anything other than a 1 indicates the weapon isn’t broken, he’s merely put to the trouble of having to recover it. The DM rolls a d6 … a 3 indicates the weapon has dropped into the same hex as Goblin 1. If the DM had rolled a 1, the weapon would have wound up in a random hex around the goblin.

Goblin 9 attacks Englund, rolling a 12. This hits AC 8, which is sufficient to hit. He does 1 damage, but as Englund is presently at 3 hit points, he’s stunned. He staggers back one hex. Goblin 9 turns to face Brønn.

Goblin 9 attacks Cailaith, rolling a 9 and missing. It could shift one to the left, but it chooses to remain next to Goblin 6.

Goblin 6 attacks Albrecht, rolling a 19. This obviously hits. The goblin rolls 2 damage. This would stun an opponent with up to 8 hit points, but Albrecht has 17. He shrugs off the blow, and moves into the next round.

Brønn, stunned the round before, now recovers. He, Cailaith and Albrecht may take an action this round. As always, I’ll set up the polls in the next hour or so.  The updated characters are as follows:




Oh, and since I haven’t had one fucking comment about the shadows, I’ll assume people don’t care, and I won’t bother adding them today. Nor am I adding the wider dungeon shot. I’ll keep the shadow-circle provided by the torch, since that’s easy.  Here's how it looks:

Things are looking up.

UPDATED:

The remaining three characters not posted this week: