Search This Blog

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Campaign binders

My friend, John, who runs all of our Shadowrun campaigns, has a couple binders worth of info, just printouts and handwritten notes on tablet paper. It always seemed to be a big mess, but I'm starting to think it's a good idea. John had one binder with just NPCs, plotlines, and houserules, and another with all of Atlanta mapped out, including various building maps he made on an architect program he has, (and photocopied published Atlanta stuff from his Shadowrun books). He always runs our games in Atlanta, and over the 2 several years long campaigns I was in, and a few he ran before I knew him, he had a ton of info. I'm actually kind of jealous ;).

I tend to use a published city (Waterdeep) over the last 5 or 6 years. But I also was horrible about keeping campaign notes. If I had kept the various maps and NPCs I used, I'd have a lot more stuff to work with when I start up again. Instead, I'm back to my copies of the published material. That leaves me with a lot of information, but it also doesn't really leave the city as "mine". I have used bits from CSIO, Marienburg, Ptolus, and other published cities as well, especially NPCs.If I'd kept a running folder, even with notes like "this PC from this book goes here", my version of Waterdeep would be much more interesting to me. I have a fair amount of this stuff still in my head, but I never wrote it down. Maybe I'll have to do that soon.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The S&W WhiteBox houserules that I use

Stat bonuses go from -2 to +2.
Fighters can crit on a natural 20. Crits do maximum damage - no damage roll required.
There is no Turn Undead in my game. Clerics do +1 damage vs. Undead in melee to make up for this.
Maximum level 10, even for mages.
Elves use the variant class, not the weird one with fighter one day, mage the next.
No demi-human level limits. Everyone can reach level 10.
AAC throughout. I hate Descending AC.

That's about it. Mostly small changes, except for demi-humans.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Swords & Wizardy WhiteBoxes are shipping!

Not sure how long until mine will show up, but I'm kinda excited. This little box set just sounds awesome to me. I already really like the WhiteBox rules, and now they are in a great format.

My favorite "style" of old-school game

In general, I prefer a city setting. I actually had the most fun D&D gaming when we were in Waterdeep, but the DM was running the game like we were Shadowrunners instead of your standard D&D party. I know there is a fair amount of overlap, but Shadowrun has a distinct feel compared to D&D. We had a guy we met in taverns (our "fixer") who gave us missions, and we got paid in gold instead of nuyen.

Some of our missions were not very nice. We broke into places, kidnapped a noble's son, and robbed a couple merchant houses. But instead of using smart-linked Ares Predators, we had fireballs and longswords. It was a lot of fun. I haven't played in a D&D campaign like that since the mid-90's, but I will never forget it.

I'm thinking of running something like that the next time I get a gaming group together. I will focus on the street gangs, the taverns, and a couple mysterious people who need work done by discriminating adventurers. And I am not going to include alignment in the game, which I think will really change the players outlooks. I will keep stuff like Angels are good and Demons are evil, but alignment doesn't matter for normal people.

Monday, February 22, 2010

This picture is Dungeons and Dragons for me

When I first started playing, I had the Otus-cover B/X books, and the Companion set. And for whatever reason, this is my favorite D&D-related picture of all time. It just screams high fantasy, and I love it. Which is kind of weird, as most of the games I've been in have been more down and dirty Black Company style stuff.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Elves as the ruling class

I think I want to make a world where the elves are the rulers. After all, they live for hundreds of years. Just by personal connections alone, they should have a huge advantage over humans. I also don't believe in demi-human level limits, so this seems to be a natural extension of what that rule change would mean.

It seems to me that the Melniboneans in the Elric Saga by Moorcock would be one potential model for the elven rulers. Another could just be how Galadriel is portrayed in the LOTR movies. Both are mysterious, and quite alien to human psychology. I know I don't want the elves to just be super-powered humans. I want them to have a distinct feeling from the other races.

I might have them be slave-owners. "After all, why should humans, who only live for maybe 60 years, be treated any better? They just act like spoiled children unless they have elven guidance.", says the typical elf.

I don't really want an elven Dark Lord, though it is a possibility. If normal elves have a ruthless enough feel, then a Dark Lord would be redundant, anyway. Maybe the crumbling elven empire on the edge of the campaign map would be enough, with the actual campaign area the wilderness next to it, or even a province that has revolted in the not-too-distant past.

I'm actually a bit surprised that none of the major published campaign worlds have tried a setting where the elves are the big movers and shakers, and everyone else is just living as their servants or in the wilderness that the elves don't care about. It seems a fairly obvious setting hook to me. Instead, they generally go with "There are only a few elves left in the world, and they are tree-huggers who never leave their forest". I did like Eberron's ancestor/undead worshipping elves, but even they are no major force in the world.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

"Real" magic in D&D campaigns

I've often toyed with the idea of using a "real" magic system in D&D. I'd love to have a non-flashy, money-consuming, rituals-only Golden Dawn type of magic usable by mages, instead of the walking artillery currently in the game. Or maybe just an indian shaman or voodoo priest celebration style magic system.

I know various attempts were done for this in 2e (by Mayfair and TSR) and some OGL 3e products. But, in general, any of the people I've actually gamed with strongly prefer the flash-bang stuff. Which the game sort of requires. If a mage can't easily and quickly aid the party while in the dungeon, he just ends up being a burden instead of a helper.

My idea really would only work if magic was NPC-only, or the game was mostly low-combat, and probably city-based. A Golden Dawn practitioner would be pretty useless when faced with an angry ogre. But sometimes I wonder just how different the game might be if Gary Gygax had been heavily interested in the occult.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Sword and Board 5th draft available

The fifth draft of Sword and Board is located HERE. Please let me know what you think!

Hex mapping

I kinda missed most of the hex mapping craze during my early gaming career. I wasn't really introduced to it until I picked up the Wilderlands of High Fantasy box set put out by Necromancer Games a few years back. I'm kinda up in the air on my feelings about this style of map when used for a campaign setting.

1. I love just having a large bunch of encounters keyed to each hex. It is easy to organize, and very easy to look up information on the fly.
2. It gives the game a more sandbox feel, at least to me. Especially when the hexes are not set up where all the low-level adventures are in one corner, and all the high-level adventures are in the other corner. You could find a dragon one hex over from a small goblin cave.
2a. It makes it easier as far as just letting the characters wander wherever they want to, as there will be at least one interesting thing for them to find in any given direction. Now, if they can actually handle the encounter is another story.

1. Hexes are damn ugly. And they can hide map information if not done just right.
2. It makes it harder for me to picture how each kingdom or area is set up, and how they deal with their neighbors. The pertinent information is often in the various hex entries, which tend to be scattered about by hex number, instead of a separate country/area entry.
3. While it is cool to have big monsters living right next to little ones, an inexperienced or rash adventuring party could easily be killed just by heading east instead of north.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Add a little steampunk to your S&W

Steampunk items table
1. Pair of goggles.
2. Flying cap.
3. Grandfather clock.
4. Working pocketwatch.
5. Mechanical bird.
6. Coal-powered automobile.
7. Steam-powered robot.
8. An Aetherscope (allows user to see into the ethereal realm).
9. Binoculars.
10. Difference Engine (a very, very large clockwork computer).
11. Compass.
12. Bowler hat.
13. Box of fine cigars.
14. Full helmet with goggle eyes that lets you see invisible creatures.
15. An airship.
16. Clockwork toy that moves.
17. Stereoscope (3D images).
18. Phonograph (early record player).
19. A fully-loaded Revolver.
20. A clockwork spying fly.
21. A submersible ship.
22. Monocle.
23. Top hat.
24. Sword cane.
25. Jet pack.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Party first meets

I tend to avoid the party meets in a tavern meme. It feels too contrived to me. Some of the ways I've gotten around this include:

1. All of the adventurers are from the same village, and grew up knowing each other. Some of them may even be related.

2. The adventurers all work for the same person, from before the actual campaign starts. Maybe they are part of the same mercenary company, maybe just guards on the same caravan.

3. The adventurers have all received a bounty notice, where they have been summoned to meet the wronged person at a scheduled meeting. This is pretty similar to the tavern idea, but at least avoids a disjointed one person at a time talking to someone problem.

4. The party is initially split into smaller groups, but with one player knowing everyone and introducing the groups to each other.

This provides a more realistic reason for the characters to adventure with each other. After all, how many people would make a life-threatening trek into the unknown or an obviously trapped dungeon with complete strangers?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Wicker Construct for Ruins & Ronin

Constructs, Wicker
Armor Class: 7 [12]
Hit Dice: 13
Attacks: No-dachi (3d6)
Special: See Below
Move: 8
HDE/XP: 13/2300

Wicker Constructs are made of wicker. They often appear as fully armored samurai, and utilize a wicker no-dachi as their weapon. Due to their great strength, they do extra damage with their sword. They are healed by Growth spells (and do not increase in size). They are only harmed by +1 or better weapons, or fire-based spells. Normal fire damage slows them. No other spells affect them.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Ruins & Ronin review

I've been a big fan of oriental rpg settings for years. I had the 1e Oriental Adventures, and multiple versions of Legends of the Five Rings. Ruins & Ronin is a new game based upon the S&W WhiteBox ruleset(which R&R is compatible with). While no setting is provided, it references Japan quite a bit, and the classes are designed for that style of game.

The book has a great Pete Mullen cover. Unfortunately, that is the only artwork in the entire book. I really wish at least some of the monsters and the equipment had pictures provided.

There are three classes in the game: Bujin (fighters), Shugenja (magic-users), and Sohei (clerics). People who have played Oriental Adventures should recognize the names. The system is extremely rules-lite, similar to WhiteBox. If you are familiar with any of the older versions of D&D, you should pick up gameplay in a matter of minutes.

The spell selection is straight out of WhiteBox. Nothing new here that I noticed.

The monsters are a weird mix of standard WhiteBox monsters and oriental monsters. I think a number of them could have been eliminated (slimes, oozes, normal ogres and goblins).

There are a number of really cool oriental magic items included, which is great for adding flavor. The equipment and weapons section also was completely samurai-friendly.

There is no honor system in this game, which I was surprised by. It is a feature element of the other oriental games I've been in. This may be a plus, though, as it frees up characters to be more free-wheeling ronin than clan samurai.

Overall, I like the game. It could definitely use some more art, and I think the spells and monster selections could be tweaked a bit, but it is a great buy if you want to run a chanbara-style samurai story.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Forgotten Realms gray box

I may have mentioned a few times on a few boards that I'm a huge fan of the Forgotten Realms 1e gray box. I got it when I was 13 years old. Up until that time, I used the Known World as presented in Isle of Dread and Red Arrow, Black Shield.

What set the Gray Box apart from everything else:

1. Great maps. Sure, compared to later versions, they were largely blank and kinda plain. But all those blank spaces just screamed wilderness adventure to me. And with our Wild West style game, those open spaces were often just plains with huge herds of free-roaming bison and savage orc tribes and the occasional wandering elf-with-no-name.

2. Mercenary companies. I don't know why, but the inclusion of the sample mercenary companies was about the coolest thing ever when I was a kid.

3. The Zhentarim. A group of evil mages. Who were merchants. And who didn't mind killing people who got in their way. Manshoon is still the lead dog in my campaign. Fzool is just his toady.

4. Waterdeep. Not a ton of info in the box, but it quickly became my favorite rpg city once FR1 was published. Even though I used it as a far-off city that the occasional worldy, wealthy traveller came from for my friends to meet.

5. No god-like NPCs. They come later. At this point, Elminster is just a crabby old sage, not a super-powered world savior.

6. Iriaebor. My second-favorite city. The blueprint for Sharn. Luckily, never over-developed.

7. Evereska. A mountain citadel full of elves. Best idea ever.

8. The NPCs. Lots of good stuff here. Including stuff like low-level thieves the characters might meet. Heck, at this time, even Elminster was cool.

9. A detailed history. I'm a sucker for these. The recent battle in Shadowdale was really cool, and it's affects on everyone was well done.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Working on 5th draft of Sword and Board

Fourth Draft

The big sticking point now is on saves vs spells. I am leaning towards all saves be opposed rolls, with the target rolling his Luck vs. the spellcaster rolling his School, and having the spellcaster win ties.

Other options include making a Hard Success Roll, and keying different stats to different spells. I don't really like either, as the Hard roll leaves out the spellcasters ability, and the different stats just adds complication to the ruleset.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Magic Items - I don't use random tables very often

Generally, I like to preselect the magic items that will be available to the players in the game. And I make most of them readily usable by the characters. If a fighter prefers to use a halberd, odds are he will find a magic halberd instead of 10 different magic swords. It makes the game more fun for the players, and avoids the "every fighter uses a sword, since most magic weapons are swords" syndrome.

I do use some random stuff, though. It's not completely missing. Usually this is stuff like a miscellaneous item or a potion. If I just want a magic item as a treasure, but I already have my placed items decided, then I will roll, though on the potion, etc. table, instead of the main generic tables.

I know a lot of DMs aren't really into this, but I like doing it. And sometimes I can add in a cool item that would probably be impossible to get by random rolls.