Friday, December 30, 2016

Sci Campaign: The System So Far

So I've been ranting and raving about sci fi and pretty much putting my fingers in everything science fiction related. I'm replaying Mass Effect 2, as well as playing a lot of Beyond Earth again. I'm watching The Expanse with the missus. And I got a whole bunch of sci fi RPG books and supplements, like Book 6: Scouts for Traveller and SWN's Engines of Babylon, as well as some Mindjammer stuff (the new BLUE adventure) and Diaspora. Basically, I think I'm going all in for the sci fi game next year.

I am thinking that I'm going to be running Stars Without Number, with the Engines of Babylon, Suns of Gold, and Transhuman Archives supplements. I honestly enjoy the themes and settings in Eclipse Phase, but the lack of spaceship support is a real deal break. I was heavily considering Cepheus Engine (and I still am), but I think my players might be more familiar with the more D&D aspects of SWN.

With Engines of Babylon, it's to bring the ships down a bit in tech. Less Star Trek and more Firefly or The Expanse. I've modified it somewhat for ease, using Cepheus Engine's acceleration and distance chart for travel. For Suns of Gold, I'm using the colonization rules from that with some alterations. Since the players are out on their own without any real allies, they are going to have to get their own resources. The ark ship they have has resources on it, but eventually, they will need their own stuff to survive on their new home of NESS 89-03 (purposely made it sound too scientific so the players would feel encouraged to give it a more dynamic name). This won't get into the detail and minutiae like you'd see in a 4x game like Alpha Centauri. I haven't decided how to do the resource harvesting, but I plan on keeping it very simple. I'm actually looking at ACKS's Domain Management system for this, since most of the leg work is done and I really like that system.

Speaking of ACKS, I will be using their Population Increase mechanic for the players' colony. Much of this is to represent the people in cold sleep or archived being put online and brought back down to the new colony. The big change I'm making is the value of families. In ACKS, 1 family is 5 people. For this colony game, it will be 50, 500 or 5,000 people, depending on how much resources they put into self sustaining terraforming installations. This will essentially be a part of building Local Supplies (from Suns of Gold) and means that population growth will increase until the colony is big enough (100,000 people) to really be its own city-state instead of just an outpost.

For planet generation, I've been using Mindjammer's System Generator. It's surprisingly good, with lots of information for the planet and its make up and resources. This means that each planet will always have something interesting on it, even if it isn't a full-on session of adventure. That will be very useful, as eventually, the players will get their hands on FTL travel. But, that will bring its own issues, which I'll talk about another time. Finally, I like the dual class idea from SWN's Designer Notes. I may be allowing that.

That's about it for the rules side. I do want to talk about the setting and get things squared away with that.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Ideas for a Possible Sci Fi Campaign

It never really fails for me, really. When it comes to RPGs, I am very ADHD. One week, I'm all about D&D and fantasy races and building up my fantasy setting. The next week, I'm drawing up a star map for a sci fi campaign. Good thing for my players that I have a great deal of adventures ready for our 5e game, or else I'd be screwed for spending the last week prepping for a game I won't be running for a long time.

So, it started last Thursday on my girl friend's birthday. We went to see Rogue One. I liked it. And I kinda caught the bug for sci fi. Then we saw Interstellar on Sunday. Now we are watching through the Expanse. And boy, the sci fi bug is really hitting me. As much as I love D&D and fantasy, science fiction has always been my first love. Most of my movies, books, and video games are sci fi related. This is why I am now taking the time to detail out a possible campaign, or set of campaigns.

Campaign Idea

So here is what I have for ideas, first being what I'm most excited about.

Human Exodus - In this campaign, the Earth has been wrecked by a Luna mining incident gone wrong. This has fractured the moon and caused pieces of it to hit the Earth, flooding major cities and blanketing the world in a cloud of ash. The nations of the Earth come together in desperation and pour every resource into the impossible: a massive space ark with millions of people, seeds,  resources, and genetic material on board and a wormhole generator with enough energy to work once. So the players will be undertaking this one-way trip to a far away world charted for them. Of course, things go wrong...

For this, I'm torn between starting the game post launch, or starting it leading up to the launch. The latter is nice because it sets up the background and setting more with the ongoing conflict between those that want to fix the Earth and save everyone, and those that are leaving with only a handful of people. And it'll be something that'll haunt them in the future. For this first part, space travel will be stuck on the stellar system they currently jumped to. But that will change, as you'll see below.

One idea I have is that when the players make it to the world, they will eventually find remnants of a colony already there. The strange part is that they discover that the colony was filled with Earthlings. As they'll discover, they were stuck in the wormhole for decades, and in that time, the people of Earth sent a second ship capable of FTL to try and meet with the ark. Things went wrong, they crashed, and there are very few survivors. One of which is the person that invented FTL and can retrofit the ark with it. This will open up the sector and allow the players to have a more Traveller-esque experience with space exploration, further colonization, and getting more resources for their colony.

With all this, mind you, there will be colony and resource rules as well as exploration. The players will be creating a managing a colony, though the management part will be between sessions so that the session can focus more on the game itself. There will be your standard alien wilderness encounters, as well as the social issues of trying to keep a colony together. There will be splintering of factions and such as the colony is built up. Possibility of outright war. There is also dealing with the survivors of the FTL mission that have 'gone native' and are now raiding the colony for supplies. And even the air is attacking the players, as there is a large amount of fungal spores from the flora that is poisonous to the humans.

Some things for the future, if the campaign sticks, are plans for the players' first contact with aliens. I like to go weird with aliens rather than people with suits, so it'll be something crazy. In addition, when their colony is a large, bustling metropolis, there will be contact from an invading force. But it isn't aliens... it's the Earthlings they left behind. But that might be a different campaign for another time.

A lot of this is based on all kinds of games and movies with this in its nature. Alpha Centauri, Civ Beyond Earth, Mass Effect Andromeda, Interstellar... lots of good info of this. There is also a frontier feel to the game, much like Firefly and Starcraft. The players really are out in the space boonies. I tend to lean towards harder sci fi (though not too much) and I have been enjoying The Expanse, so expect at least the social issues of that to creep in. I have considered having multiple, smaller arks from different countries to make it easier to have rival colonies, but I think for now I will keep it one ark that they can fight for control over. Have the rival colonies splinter off from there. There will also be transhuman elements in the game, though not to the extent that you see with games like Eclipse Phase or Nova Praxis. But, there will be mind uplinks and sleeving, as well as some basic nanotechnology and cornucopia machines.

Rule System

So now the elephant in the room is... what system do I run this in? Right now, I'm looking at Stars Without Number, as it is the only rule system I know that has rules for running a colony (Suns of Gold). That is really important to me. I plan on tying that together with the rules of population growth from Adventure, Conqueror, King's Domain Management section. That said, I also enjoy Cepheus Engine (essentially old school Traveller) and the ruleset there. Though the trade section wouldn't get much use until much later. I thought about Mindjammer, but FATE rules don't quite resonate with me as they do with others. As much as I love the setting and technology of Eclipse Phase, the lack of rules for space travel and combat is a deal breaker for me. I've also considered M-Space, but I don't own that.

So that's the campaign I'm looking to make. Tell me what you thing, any ideas you have, and what ruleset would be great to try out.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Thivola Regional Map

Thivola Regional Map: 1 hex = 24 miles opposite corners. Sub hex = 6 miles
So here is the regional map of the setting I am running my players in. This isn't anywhere close to the final draft, as everything is too saturated and such. But, this is usable enough to where I can give it to my players and we can use it.

I will be placing some more icons on the map as the game continues and demands it. At the moment, the red triangle is the city of Kosna, the dilapidated frontier city that the players are currently at. As you can see, they are at the edge of a large forest. They've encountered some interesting locals both new to the players and familiar. There are some roads on the more zoomed in Province map below. These roads lead to some of the keeps that lie on the frontier. Two of the ones that the players have encountered were housing not the locals, but other people. The first one had a tribe of onbu, squat grey fey creatures that were robbing the locals on the roads. The second one had a mercenary band of orcs performing a sky burial for a fallen comrade killed by a pack of Iemesch. 

In addition to Kosna, there is the black square in the upper area by the merging rivers. This is the capital of the frontier province, Rikantu. This is very much a large city and a great place to get some items that would normally be out of the price range for the players. This is also a good place for some more urban styled adventures. Dealing with guilds 

At some point, I do plan on putting the map through the GIMP and work on it. Clean up the line art more, color it in a much better way, better icons. For now though, this will suffice for my game.
Thivola Provincal Map: 1 hex = 6 miles opposite corners. Sub hex = 1 mile
Above is the zoomed in Province Map, colored with pencils instead of GIMP. This is the actual map that I use currently for the day to day adventuring. Currently, my players are stranded in the mountains that are two hexes to the right of the city of Kosna (the red and black triangle). You can see that I've put in some roads and icons in here for the keeps and such. The way I have been doing my 'zoomed in' maps is that I try and break up the globs of terrain more as I zoom in. So, looking at the Regional and Provincial maps, you'll notice that I broke up the glob of forest some. I did this by adding bare patches of grasslands as well as some forested hills and such. I like doing this because it makes the terrain more realistic and more varied for the players. Though drawing it was a bit of a pain, but it was certainly worth it I feel.

I plan on populating it some more as the month progress. One of my biggest blocks right now is the trouble of finding stable work. Sadly, it's taken up a lot of my time to search for a job that can help pay to keep the lights on. The other thing I want to work on is the largest Atlas map, where I can get into some of the real big changes in area, like rainforests and deserts and such. Plus, I do plan on adding a sort of confederation of free city-states for the players to interact with and possibly even rule in, if that is their sort of thing.

That's it for now. I do want to detail some of the adventure sites on the Provincial map for the next blog, as well as talk about how the "Adventure in One 6 mile Hex" is going.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Turkey Day Approaches

For a RPG and food blog, I don't have much to say about food here. So, time for the second blog about food, celebrating Turkey Day. I apply that old school, DIY attitude to making food, making delicious stuff with both traditional and new methods.

So for this, I have decided to do something different with the turkey. See, I have a sous vide thermocirculator I got for myself as a graduation gift. It's a really handy device that lets me cook things in sous vide. What's sous vide? Well, it's when you store a food item in a ziplock bag or other plastic bag, then cook it in water that is kept at a certain temperature. It keeps the food at a constant temperature and lets you fire and forget, working on other stuff. To learn more, you can go to ChefSteps or Serious Eats for more information.

So I've been rocking that and have decided to sous vide the turkey pieces. This is to ensure correct cooking time, maximum juiciness, tenderness, and flavor. In addition, dark meat cook to a higher temperature than white meats. Cooking the breasts together and away from the thigh quarters ensures that the breasts don't end up dry and boring. So starting, I needed the turkey.

I made a bit of a mess here.
I went with a young turkey because I'm only feeding three people. So it'll be enough, especially with sides and such. With this, I broke down the turkey carcass into quarters. Two leg quarters and two airline breasts. One thing that was disappointing was that the company that pre-trussed the legs screwed up the skin on the tips of the turkey breast. Shame, as I really wanted it to cover the whole breast for searing. No worries though, we can manage.

Top two: Leg Quarters; Bottom two: Airline Breasts
An airline breast is a breast cut that retains the forewing bone. This was mostly for looks, so that it'd look the same as the leg quarters. Sadly, I screwed up the skin on the bottom left turkey breast. I'm getting out of practice. I also removed the thigh bone from the two thighs up top. Again, this was for symmetry and also for ease of slicing when I serve everything cooked up.

From this point, I seared all of the turkey pieces on a cast iron pan for maximum browning! Did it for a minute skin side down so that we can get the skin nice and crispy, then took it off. While I'm getting all of this prepped up, I have the thermocirculator heating the water to 167 F. Once the turkey pieces were seared on their skin side, I put each piece in a separate ziplock bag. In this bag, I also put olive oil, salt and sugar to brine while cooking, and some herbs. For salt and sugar, I like to go 5 parts salt to 2 parts sugar. Then I cover the pieces of meat with them fairly heavily. For herbs, I like rosemary and thyme with a bit of sage. Can't go wrong with that.

Now, we have our four bags, each with their flavorings and their turkey quarter. I elected to do the legs first, but you can start with the breasts. Here are the turkey leg quarters cooking in the sous vide hot bath.

Nice browning on these bad boys.
These suckers will be in there for seven hours. Plenty of time to kick back and relax, maybe plan out the sides. When they are done, I put them in an ice bath to bring down the temperature, then store them in the fridge until Thanksgiving. Because they are already cooked to the temperature required for doneness, it's all a matter of reheating by searing it again. I'll show you what I do with them on Thursday. From here, I repeat the process, but bring the temperature down to 131 F and do the breasts for eight hours. 

Thing is, now I have a carcass laying around. And with that, plus the wings and thigh bone, and all of the other offal (neck, gizzard, heart, liver), I still have a lot of stuff lying around. Do we through that away? Hell no. Throw it all into your biggest stock pot, throw some whole carrots and halved white onions and celery, fill with water, and put it out to make turkey stock.

DIY applied to cooking.
In mine, I also threw in some garlic cloves, black peppercorns, and bay leaves. I love that extra flavor. The stock stays on a simmer for 6-8 hours. You can also roast your carcass for extra flavor. I like to put my oven to 225 F and then place the stock pot in there to cook for eight hours. After that, strain it and cool it off so you can store it for later. I will be using this for gravy, but you can also use this to flavor your rice instead of using just water. Or make an awesome turkey soup. Or turkey polenta/grits. Maybe a turkey flavored gastrique.

That's the start of my Turkey Day. I plan on having some pictures and actual recipes of the sides in the coming two days. I'll also post up a picture of the finished turkey stock later. Until then, have a great Turkey Day!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Atlas Map of South Western Thivola (WIP) plus Campaign Stuff

With my 5e/ACKS mashup coming in less than a week, I've been taking a lot of the side work I've been doing the last couple of weeks and getting it all together for Session 1. Setting notes, NPCs, towns, people, monsters... I have quite the treasure trove of stuff ready for this game. While I've played 5e, I have only ever run it once, so I haven't gotten into creating my own races and such yet. Still want to get my sea legs with the current ruleset before I start creating. But I imagine it won't take too long.

Below is the Atlas sized map for South Western Thivola, the continent inspired by South America.

This map in particular is inspired by the Chilean-Argentinean area where Santiago is. The north western part becomes a desert due to the coastline mountain range blocking the trade winds and due to it getting ever so closer to those Horse Latitudes. Further north, there is a plateau similar to the Altiplano. I plan on having a variety of deserts up there. The barren wastelands, the dried up lake turned salt flat, and some sandy dunes. The mountain range is Etapu's Spine, named after the people's founder god of the earth and forests, Etapu. I plan on widening it some more as it goes more south. On the other side of it in the north lie the beginnings of sub tropical wet forest. Further north and east, I'll probably put in some more rain forests and swamps.

As you get more south, the terrain, climate, and vegetation changes to be more green and hilly. The mountains get closer to the coast. The climate becomes more temperate with Mediterranean summers. More rivers and some swamps here and there. This is where the players will be starting their adventures. On the other side of Etapu's Spine, I plan on widening the mountain range to be about 200 mi wide. Very much a montane/alpine area. Then, it will lead to a more arid, steppe-like area of nomadic tribes and such before hitting the coast on the other end.

From here, I have a great variety of terrains and climates that will make exploration and travel interesting to the players. While they will be starting in something a bit more familiar, they can end up in some deserts, rainforests, alpine, or even tundra. All in a geographically close area.

I do have more zoomed in maps for campaign use. I have a Regional Map with small 6-mile hexes that create large 24-mile hexes. I also have a Provincial Map with small 1-mile hexes that create a large 6-mile hex. And finally, I have the Local Map, which just focuses on a single 6 mile hex broken up into 43 1-mile hexes and half/third hexes. Below is a mostly finished Provincial Map. The players will be starting in the large triangle.

I'm bad at coloring within the lines
You can see that from the center to the upper left, my style of drawing changed drastically. I went from doing more symbolic mapping to more iconic mapping. I may redo this at a later point to keep the style consistent and to use a hex map that isn't so dark.

While this campaign is using 5e for the basic rules, I've been using ACKS for a lot of the nation building. You'll notice in the Atlas map that there are some pencil marks that encircle certain areas of the map. These are provinces of the empire ruling over the northern area. The cities are the capital holdings of the nobles in charge of these provinces, built up by ACKS's empire building rules. It was pretty interesting putting the rules to work. Setting up populations and big cities and the empire's metropolis capital in the mountains. The players will be adventuring on the frontier area, away from a lot of these big cities. However, with enough travel time and horses, they can get to one of the capitals in four days. Great if they want to buy and sell expensive stuff, or want more urban adventuring and a break from the wilderness.

I'll get more into detail with the mapping and campaign as the week goes by. Till then, let me know what you think about the maps. 

Monday, November 14, 2016

Running a Game Finally

So for the first time since the move in early October, I'm going to be running a game for some friends online. While I did want my first game to be face to face, it's still nice to get to GM again. And there is still time open to run a game in real life.

So the game of choice is 5e. While I'd prefer to try and run ACKS, the players are more familiar with 5e. And right now, given their revolving door of GMs and failed games, I think they could use some familiarity to ease their fears that my game will tank after a couple weeks.

So the question now is... what to run?

I have a setting I've been using for a couple of years now. It's based on a fantasy styled Caribbean, inspired by much of the folklore and cultures therein. While I like it and will continue to run games there, I've decided to expand the setting more. Inspired by South America's cultures, folklore, and terrain, I want to do something set there. 

The terrain is a big thing for me, because I love exploration. And South America has a great amount of varied, extreme terrain. Huge mountains, large deserts with the largest salt flat, massive rainforests... it's really exciting.

I've also been reading a lot about the different folklores and peoples there, which has been really fun. Great inspiration. It's helped me decide what I want to do for the campaign.

Here are the two ideas I have for it:

1. War has ended, but the continent is in turmoil. Ka Macha, new leader of the great Rational Quencha Empire, has won the civil war and now owns the empire. However, he now has to succeed in holding and repairing the land that is shattered by famine, violence, and hate. The players are currently paid body guards for a nobleman who is being sent to a fort hamlet as an act of reclaiming and repairing it for the Quencha Empire. 

This sets the players on a set goal at the beginning, but then opens it up to the sandbox a little later. I prefer easing players into the sandbox because I find that those that aren't used to it do freeze up a bit. After the initial adventure, they can leave the noble's service and do their own thing. Since this is also on the frontier, there is plenty of open wilderness to explore, take over, and own for the players. But for those that aren't interested in wilderness, there is the town and its people that they can interact with. 

2. The great Quencha Empire has consolidated its holdings and now seeks to add other tribes and city states into their control. The players are scattered tribes and bands, each driven from their lands into the great and terrible rainforests. In this, the players unite the squabbling tribes into one great kingdom to oppose the mighty empire.

This is a sandbox game with a sort of goal oriented metaplot. While it is a bit more buy in, I feel it's open enough where the players can still do what they want if they decide to take a break from being rulers. Plus, from a personal perspective, it turns the Law = Good Guys Chaos = Bad Guys around some as now, the players are the barbarians and beastmen dealing with adventurers and would-be conquerors driving them from their livelihood.

I'm leaning more towards the first one, though I do like the second one a lot. Tell me what you guys think. Also, for anyone that knows more about South American history, culture, and folklore, I'd love to know more about it for more inspiration. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Tension, Stress, Fear, And Fatigue

I've been wanting to do a mechanic for stress and tension in the game to add a bit more atmosphere to my games while having mechanical bonuses/penalties for such things. In making this, I'm looking at something that is easy to run and adjudicate and adds a bit of difficulty and nuance to adventuring. An extra complication to consider before setting off into the great wilds. Much of this is inspired by Darkest Dungeon, a really great game where stress and fear play a big part of adventuring. Some of the rules part and rules decision is inspired by Goblin Punch's sanity rules here as well as the rules in Torchbearer. A lot of this is also inspired by reading my brother's journals about fatigue and mental stress and how the two combine. Here we go!


Fatigue is when your character pushes themselves too hard mentally and physically and their body suffers from it. Forced marches, constant adventuring, dungeon delving, starving themselves, staying up for 24+ hours... these are all physically and mentally taxing on a person. Whenever someone overdoes it and fails their Constitution save, they become Fatigued. Fatigued means you gain a -2 to all d20 rolls made.

A character can still continue to go even when fatigued. Caffeine, adrenaline, and stim packs could be very useful for keeping you up. Every hour you spend doing something while Fatigued, make a Constitution check (DC 10 + 1 for every additional hour active). Failure means you are Exhausted. You take -4 to all d20 rolls and can only move up to half your speed. You also lose your Dexterity to your AC.

If the character still keeps going while Exhausted, then they make the same Constitution checks as before (DC 10 + 1 for every additional hour active). Failure means you are Disabled. You take a -6 to all d20 rolls. You can't make any physical action without making a Constitution check. People that attack you automatically hit. If your GM does coup de grace, then that can happen to you. You're just a human lump at this point, and every hour spent awake or active forces a Constitution check like normal. Failure means you die of exhaustion.

Getting rid of Fatigue generally requires a couple hours of rest. Getting rid of Exhaustion is a whole day affair of rest and relaxation. Getting rid of Disabled is a week minimum of bed rest and some medical attention. 


Adventuring is a dangerous and stressful career that can be cut short if you don't keep a level head. Any time you encounter something that can make you uneasy, cause some stress, or surprised/shock ed, you gain a point of Tension. This is like a tally mark. Things like seeing a dead body, or the lights going out on you, or hearing the sounds of a crazed monster in the woods at night can all add Tension. Then, the players that gained the Tension Point roll 1d20 + Wis, against a Target Number of 10 + the amount of Tension points. If you meet or beat the TN, your character is fine. If you roll below it. then you get Stressed. Most scenarios should really only give 1 or 2 Tension Points to each player, but some truly gruesome and horrific stuff could give 3 or more.


When your character gets Stressed, they have a sort of minor breakdown. They might panic a bit, need to sit down, or vomit. That's up to the character. A Stressed character becomes Fatigued. Being Stressed doesn't go away until you take a couple hours to chill out and relax, generally away from the thing causing stress. Every time your character fails a Tension Roll, they get more Stressed. This becomes Exhaustion, then Disabled, then Death. Eliminating these stress levels can take much longer.

Being Stressed can also be a form of fear, depending on the situation. This works out like normal Stressed, only with some different reactions. Generally, reactions to being stressed out go under the four F's: Fight, Flight, Freeze, or Fawn.

  • Fight: You engage the source of fear in combat, with disregard for the situation.
  • Flight: You panic and flee away as fast as humanly possible, leaving behind anyone
  • Freeze: You are paralyzed with fear and cannot move, hoping that the thing doesn't notice you
  • Fawn: You beg, flatter, or try and reason with the source of fear, praying it will spare you.

A player can choose which action their character takes, or you can roll randomly. I prefer the former, but they have to commit. Sometimes one of the F's works out. Other times it lands you into trouble.

A GM can give a madness to players. This is optional and there are plenty of sites and books with examples, from manias to phobias. I'd suggest picking one that fits the situation, instead of rolling.

Reducing Tension

It's hard to reduce Tension while you are in the scenario causing it, but it is possible. If out adventuring in a dungeon or wilderness, taking a break to shoot the shit with your fellow PCs and NPCs can help drop it by 1 or 2. Finding a safe spot to rest also helps. In a more urban, social adventure, maybe taking an hour or two in the castle courtyard can help you find your center before tackling the corrupted vizier, dropping your Tension down 1 or 2 points. These also make great points for roleplaying with your compatriots, or other friendly NPCs that you know. Leaving the scenario that is causing Tension lets you reduce it all to 0.

Adrenaline Rush

Tension isn't all bad. When the chips are down and you need a boost, you can activate your Tension and get an Adrenaline Rush. For a number of rounds equal to half of your Tension Points (round up, minimum 1 round), you gain advantage on all attack rolls and ability checks. In addition, you ignore all Fatigue effects for these rounds. At the end of your rush, however, you are immediately Stressed out and gain a level of Fatigue. If you were Disabled and did an adrenaline rush, then you die. You pushed your body too far.


Adventurers that survive have seen it all and don't get as easily spooked as veterans as they did when they were novices. When players survive a tense scenario or adventure, they can become jaded. That same scenario won't give them any Tension Points. So a player that keeps a level head while getting attacked by zombies won't get Tension Points when encountering future zombies. The only way to affect a jaded individual is escalating the scenario. So a jaded character won't get tense when being attacked by zombies, but maybe seeing them slaughter an entire village trapped in a church might. Fighting ghouls may be fine, but seeing a ghoul drag off your good friend while he's screaming and begging for help will make you Tense. It's all about context, and I encourage GMs not to overly abuse it.

Design Notes

One thing people might notice is that I've created the Fatigue, Exhausted, and Disabled conditions and tied them to stress and fear. Why is that? Well, my brother was once a Marine and I remember reading and hearing him talk about the humps and the fear and tension of being out in Afghanistan. And one thing that stuck from him and other soldiers is how the fear and fatigue really go hand in hand out there. So that's why I united the Fear/Stress mechanic with Fatigue. It simplifies the mechanics and I can use the Fatigue model for other things, like a project I'm working on for clerics.

In addition, I was looking for something a bit less drastic and more down-to-earth with these mechanics. I didn't want random madness tables or sanity scores. Just something a bit more low key.

These rules have been used in one game and were okay, but not enough to test them out. I think they work fine, but I can't wait to put them through their paces more. Tell me what you think about them, and any changes to the ruleset.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Bound in Ruin

"This post is inspired by the Pan-Dungeonism belief discussed over at Hill Cantons. The blog has some great stuff that has really inspired my hexcrawls. Lots of good stuff here to look at, but the Pan-Dungeonism has really struck a cord in my meat noodle, so here we go!"
All things die in the end. People, animals, even the gods themselves will fade away into the afterlife. This has been the way of the world for eons upon countless eons. Though we ourselves have never set foot upon the blessed paradise of Heaven nor the blasted halls of Hell, we know well that our souls make their long trek home with the guidance of grim, sullen-eyed psychopomps.

And yet, who says that creatures and man are the only ones that descend to oblivion?

There is a tablet from an ancient age when men huddled in mud huts for warmth, and the riddle of steel still hung unanswered in the minds of artificers. Written by pressed reeds is a tale of a world of ruins. An entire universe containing the spiritual remnants of civilization. Ancient ziggurats and step pyramids litter the world as testaments to the ephemeral nature of man. Sullen-eyed spirits troll the blackened wasteland, scavenging for information, architecture, or souls hiding in the rubble from damnation.

There is much to pick from the carcass of civilization. Pieces of broken technology can be found and with the right knowledge, refurbished and reused. Lost knowledge can be discovered and traded for the right price. True names, missing people from one's lineage, architecture secrets, lost treasure... the realm of Ruin is the multiverse's landfill. And if someone could find a way to travel there like the ancients were able to, then they can truly make one man's trash into their own treasure.

But how does one make it into the World of Ruin?

There is the current belief that all places of ruin in our world can lead to the World of Ruin.  Places of decay and destruction... like a dungeon. Ruined temples and keeps, old forts from wars long done, steadings razed to the ground, and crypts and tombs can all take us to the World of Ruin with the knowledge of the right ritual to open up a sinkhole in reality. Entering the World of Ruin through these sinkholes is believed to take you to a mirror image of the dungeon you were in, as it sinks further and further into oblivion. From there, it is theorized that you can travel to other sinking dungeons and come back to the real world in its mirror image. You could start your adventure in a ruined temple in a desert and end it at an ancient alien city frozen in the South Pole. All dungeons in the world are connected by the World of Ruin as a sort of network of crumbling dungeons. The implications of travel are incredible to those looking to exploit it. Colonization, military mobilization, trade. All can be improved if these sinkholes were mapped and the ritual was discovered.

Even without the ritual, dungeons can, after a time, have natural sinkholes form. The older the dungeon is, the further it has sunk into the World of Ruin and the greater a chance that one or even more sinkholes into the World have spawned inside. There have been tales of adventures that have traversed between two dungeons in completely separate continents via these portals. But when taken back to the dungeon, the sinkholes have disappeared. Do they only appear for a small amount of time before vanishing? Do these portals change locations for each adventurer that enters the dungeon? Or is this just another case of adventurers telling tall tales?

Friday, October 28, 2016

First Map in Years

It's been a good couple of years since I've done any kind of D&D mapping on the computer. With the move into a bigger home, I am able to carve out my own little space for work on art, D&D, and writing. With that, here is my first map in three years. I present The Ruined Keep. The concept and layout was done with my random dungeon dice generator, then I simply embellished and drew it out.

A link to the full sized version is here. Looking for any and all critiques from viewers. I hope to get back into drawing again.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

My Favorite Monsters

These last two weeks have been pretty tough. We had the hurricane, then packing and the move. A lot of cleaning because of disgusting squatter, but they are finally gone now. Then food poisoning. Then car troubles. The ride never ends. But, the house is coming together, and though I am bedridden, I can at least blog about my favorite monsters.

Devilfish: I'm a sucker (hehe) for mollusks and devilfish are pretty cool. Their ink can make underwater fighting even more dangerous than it already is. And they have poisonous demon blood. What's not to like?

Aboleth: Aboleths Are a great mastermind monster with a cool look. Primordial fish body and tentacles with three weird eyes, plus I love their sort of angry, antideist bent. Makes perfect villains against your party cleric.

Grell: I seem to have a thing for creatures with tentacles. The grell was a creature I used in my first foray into DMing. It was a creepy looking creature, with some nasty barbs that make mince meat of your PCs. Even when playing PF or other games, I still like to use the grell in my games.

Lizardfolk: Going more humanoid, I've always liked lizardfolk. They feature prominently in my own homebrew setting, only I let them shoot blood from their eyes. Lizards are great, especially if you go with the more conspiracy theory bend of secret reptiloid masters lording over the populace. Though that seems more in the realm of serpentfolk.

Lamia: This is a more recent one that I used only a year ago, but the encounter was so memorable that I've grown to love the cursed beast. Have a pride of lamia stalking the PCs while they are out in the wilderness. It can really make players super paranoid. Plus I like cursed beasts.

Werewolves: Speaking of cursed beasts, I love werewolves. Werecreatures in general are all awesome, but werewolves are definitely my favorite. While I don't have them all evil, I do make sure that those afflicted by lycanthropy are cursed and as such, are absolutely dangerous and murderous like a rabid animal. Only by taking a ritual of killing and eating a virgin child under a full moon lets them control their change, but after that, they have succumbed to their predatory instincts and treat people like food.

Wyverns: I like big creatures that really make us embrace the game as a fantasy setting. Hydras and such are great, but nothing beats a good old fashioned dragon. Since most dragons are pretty far up in Challenge Ratings, I like using wyverns as a sort of low level, baby's first dragon kill. Mind you, they are still dangerous with their barbed tails and vicious demeanor. But they are fun to use, especially as potential mounts.

Also it caused a pretty hilarious argument over the pronunciation of the word wyvern. Gotta love nerd fights.

Anything Spider Related: Giant spiders rock my socks. The web weavers are great, but I like the more proactive wolf spider or tarantula. Ogre faced spiders make great ambush predators, and trap door spiders add an awesome mix of traps and monster fight. Imagine your players fighting a wolf spider with babies on the abdomen the size of small dogs. Now imagine them all swarming you as you fight their momma. Creepy

Ghouls: I have been dealing with ghouls since I was a kid. My dad would run us through dungeons and I remember one being somewhat Aztec themed that was infested with ghouls. Since then, they are pretty much in all of my games. I like them because they can fill in the vicious, fast undead role while simultaneously being a possible ally (or at least, parleyable ally) NPC. My ghouls are somewhere in the middle of 28 Days Later zombie and H.P. Lovecraft macabre civilized anthropophage.

Those are my favorite monsters to use. What are ones you guys like to use and how do you use them?

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Musings While in a Hurricane

I want to make a race of squat horned lizard people that live in the deserts and can shoot blood at enemies. It's so cool.

I think as far as my homebrew setting goes, I'm ready to detail the southern continent, which is based heavily on South America. I've always loved the wide amount of landscapes there, from rain forests and plains to mountains and salt flats. 

I want to use more creatures from American myths and folklore in my games, both Pre-Columbian and Post. There's some fun stuff there that can breath some life into a setting where kobolds are bog standard.

With Axioms #3 out, I'd love to run a kingdom building game, but the players are the forces of 'Chaos'. i.e. they are tribes of nomads, hunter-gatherers, and chiefdoms that are fighting back against the encroaching forces of a mighty empire. I'm thinking this will be in that southern continent from above, and the empire will be based on the Inca Empire. I'll probably make some tribe generator for players who want their backstory and clan more involved.

I like the naming conventions of various Amerindian groups, where they use a verb to describe the person or creature. I learned about this a decade ago when I read about Sitting Bull, and was reminded by noism of Monsters and Manuals. A later blog will be about a creature called "walks-like-man".

I need a list of names for NPCs.

I like Beyond the Wall. I know people generally don't like spending time on character creation, but for me, it's half the fun. And most OSR games don't really do it for me in that regard. Plus, I don't like rolling for stats (sorry DCC, I tried!). Beyond the Wall really makes character creation fun again, and it even makes rolling stats fun to me. Plus, I like having that bond between characters in games.

Druids don't really hate civilization per se, but see it as a symptom to what ultimately separates man from nature; unchecked ambition. Only man has that drive and determination to transcend surviving and thriving and instead command and exploit nature. Druids hate that.

I love rolling dice and all, but I'd like to use playing cards and dominoes in D&D. I could see doing a dungeon generator or NPC mapping with dominoes. And cards would be awesome for backstory generation. I was inspired in part by Scenic Dunnsmouth.

Here's a 1d30 table for when you roll a hurricane on your weather chart and need a category

1-10:   Category 1 (74-95 mph wind)
11-18: Category 2 (96-110 mph)
19-24: Category 3 (111-130 mph)
25-28: Category 4 (131-155 mph)
29-30: Category 5 (156+ mph)

Alright, the storm is close to landfall. Time to buckle down, get cozy, and drink some rum.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Exploring and the Untamed Wilderness

Wilderness exploration is very popular in OSR games. I absolutely love it. It allows for different, unrestricted adventures that you sometimes can't do in more urban adventures thanks to that pesky law enforcement and social customs. There is also a great feeling when you discover something hidden away that no one else has found. Exploration is great fun, but we can definitely improve on it. 

Yosemite Valley

A Populated Wilderness

I briefly touched upon this in my alignment blog post, but I think it bears repeating here. I'm not really a fan of always evil creatures. I think it limits options that players can take when encountering these creatures. I like the idea of players parleying with goblins and trolls, but many times, that option gets tossed aside in favor of razing and looting because they are evil. It's why I ditched the classical alignment and I ditched XP for only combat.

In addition, I think sometimes as GMs, we may focus more on dangers too much. Everything wants to kill, exploit, or betray the PCs and destroy what they've accomplished, so there's really no reason to stay attached to one area or trust NPCs. A lot of times it's because conflict brings adventure, and it adds to the gritty atmosphere of a dangerous world. But we often forget that even in dark times, there are still good people that wish to help out those in need. And when things are rough, you can see people come together and heroism shine through. I think that's why it's important to have allies and friendly NPCs to contrast the bleakness of the setting.

Zhangjiajie National Forest Park
How does this tie into exploration? Well, in the real world, the untamed wilderness wasn't as untamed as we like to think. In North America, for example, there was hamlets scattered across the wilds and signs of a human touch everywhere. When Lewis and Clark made their rounds to explore the newly acquired land, they encountered many of these bands of travelers and villagers that would help them in their quest. Across the pond, we can look at Germany during the Roman era on, which had several tribes and homesteads amidst the wide expanse of forest. So no matter where you go, there will eventually be a group of people you can encounter.

Cenote in Valladolid
So, what does this mean? Well, one negative to exploration games in the wilderness is the lack of NPCs that you can encounter. Generally, you find some cool landmarks, survive the elements, and kill some monsters. And if you find a sentient creature, it's generally an orc or goblin lair that gets razed and looted. So, having an encounter of a homestead or a small camp would open up the chance for the social scenarios that you would expect in a more urban campaign. Maybe you befriend a tribe of drow with gifts, or take a test of manhood with a clan of orc raiders. They can help guide you around the land, telling of rumors and landmarks in the area.

Mongolian Steppe
And speaking of landmarks, special areas of interest can be great encounters for players exploring the wilderness. Discovering a large cenote with hidden treasure in it, or an ancient monument with hidden power, or anything else can be a great break from the combat slog as long as it is interesting. A beautiful cliffside could house a magic item, or some treasure, or it could be a cool spot for a player wanting to make a castle. I like to look up landscapes of places on Earth to get some creative ideas of what the players can get to. Getting some focus on the awe inspiring parts of nature can be a great contrast to the constant threat of surviving Mother Nature.

Mount Cook, NZ
Beyond meeting mortals and landmarks, there is also magic and spirits that the players can encounter. Spirits of nature can be a bane or boon to the player, depending how they act. Elder animals that have lived for decades and become spirit creatures can provide great scenarios for adventurers. Faeries, elementals, talking animals that have long been extinct, dinosaurs... it's a magic world, so go crazy with it! It's why I have my Wild Primeval mechanic in my hex games for. Inject some crazy into the world and see how the players like it.

The Matterhorn
Basically, there's more to exploring than just a hex map with a wandering monster table. Don't get me wrong, killing monsters is always fun, and as a player, I love overcoming tough challenges out in the world of D&D. But I think as GMs, we can get creative and think about more than what can we can throw to kill our players. Sometimes a cool adventure is as simple as discovering what's in the next hex. Also, enjoy some more pictures of landscapes and landmarks.
The Painted Desert
Great Blue Hole, Belize
Old Man of the Mountain, 2003

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Inheriting Stats

Resting from the house renovations, packing for the move, and hurricane preparations. Was pondering about a lineage kingdom builder game, where the players can give birth to heirs and eventually play as them. So I came up with a simple mechanic to pass on your stats to you next of kin.

Source (DeviantArt)

Everybody Loves Punnet Squares

This builds off of a punnet square like from high school biology. Take both parents and identify their highest and lowest stat. The highest stat is called the peak and the lowest stat is called the weak. Next, place these stats on the square as listed below. 

Now, whenever a child is born, roll a d4 to see which stats they inherit. After that, just roll for the other stats normally. And you are essentially done! You could also use this as a dice drop method easily if that's what you prefer. It's all up to you. I personally have the stat limit as 18 and I wouldn't let magic item's stat boost apply for this. I feel that would be a tad broken.


If both parents have the same stat as their peak and you get a result of PP, then you simply roll a d12.

1-4    Take the average (round up)
5-8    Take Parent 1's peak
9-12  Take Parent 2's peak

If the first parent has a peak stat that is a weak stat for the second parent and you get a result that would give you both, roll a d12. 

1-4    Take the average (round up)
5-8    Take the peak stat
9-12  Take the weak stat

Example: Quinn and Rose both want children. Quinn has Dex (18) as his peak stat, while for Rose, Dex (6) is her weak stat. They have one child named Darius. The square is set up below:

The players roll a 2, getting Dex for peak and weak. Now the player must roll a d12 to see what they get. If the player rolls a 1-4, then they take the average for their Dex stat. In this case, that value is 12. If they roll a 5-8, then Darius would take his dad's value for Dex, 18. If they rolled a 9-12, then Darius would take his mother's value for Dex, 6. Finally, Darius would roll normally for his other stats.

And that's it. Some basic hereditary trait rules. I'll probably throw in some rules for inbreeding later down the road, if players pursue that. I plan on using this for a kingdom building game where having an heir and playing as one is not only desirable, but a mechanical benefit.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Different Take on Alignment

Truth be told, alignment has never been something I liked. People arguing over what is good and what is evil, wars between law and chaos, detect spells, always evil races. Nothing about alignment really appeals to me. I don't think that people are wrong for liking alignment. It's just not my jam. I feel the alignment axis constricts stories a bit too much. I like the idea of clerics of a good god doing evil in their name, but you can't really do that with alignment the way it is. Not to mention the philosophical questions. If evil is a palpable thing, then is killing evil creature wrong? Should a paladin fall from killing a drow that has done nothing because they are always evil? It's kind of a headache. Also I really just can't get into Law vs Chaos. It doesn't really inspire me like it does others. And let's not get started on chaotic stupid evil PCs.

In addition, I like the idea of the darker, evil gods being facets of everyday life. It's something you saw with polytheistic religions. People prayed to dark gods to spare them, or perhaps the evil god had dominion over something that we use every day. Tezcatlipoca is a great example of this. He was a destroyer and a fairly evil god, but people still built temples to honor (or fear him). Tezca also had dominion over magic and was the patron deity of nobility. So instead of having clerics of Quetzalcoatl routing out cults of Tezcatlipoca, you'd instead have luxurious grand temples dedicated to the Smoking Mirror. I really like that idea of an 'evil' god (certainly not a nice god) having a large sway over civilization without damning worshipers to Hell.

Also can't say I'm a fan of Always Evil races. I feel it restricts your options when encountering monsters, since most players see Always Evil and keep their options to kill and loot. And you can't really blame them. In D&D, evil and chaos are palpable things. If something is always evil and known to be always evil (like drow, orcs, etc), then there is probably the best thing you can do. Sure you kill a bunch of orcs and goblins, but think of the potential human lives you save by doing it. I like the idea of players deciding to negotiate with orcs, parleying with dragons, and redeeming demons. Keeping that option open is pretty nice and can be refreshing when players make new, monstrous allies.

Still, there is value to having tags that describe your character. Ones that can help as a sort of rubric to see what your character's personality and reactions to situations would be like. But flexible enough where you aren't beholden to them and can simply change them as your character grows. So I've through out classic alignment and I use Motives, Nature, and Methods, or MNM. It's good if you just want some quick and sweet descriptor about your character and don't have the time or inclination to make a backstory.

Sorry, wrong one
Motives are tied to who benefits from your actions. Natures are you natural tendencies. Methods are how you carry out your desires and achieve your goals. You come up with your character's personality, and then pick which three tags from each category best fit them. The seven tags are listed below:

  • Altruistic (Motive): Altruistic people tend to think about other people, doing things to help them out regardless of the outcome for themselves. Some are self sacrificing, while others on the more extreme end believe the good of the many outweigh the good of the few.
  • Conforming (Nature): Those that conform tend to go with the flow, rarely deviating from the norm. They are more comfortable with sticking to the status quo, since to them, that's what has worked.
  • Mercenary (Motive): Mercenary people think about themselves, perhaps extending that to a small group of people. Many may just want to live a good life, avoiding other people's conflicts, while the more extreme may only care about others that have some value to them.
  • Pragmatic (Motive, Nature, & Method): Pragmatism is based on logic and efficiency. Morals may or may not weigh in on how to achieve a goal. Pragmatists are comfortable using most means necessary to achieve their goals without getting into extremes.
  • Principled (Method): The principled are bound to a code, personal or not. Bound by honor or ego, the principled tend to stick to this code when achieving their goals. It's a big deal if a principled character breaks their code.
  • Ruthless (Method): Those that are ruthless have no qualms with overkill, and will do whatever it takes to survive and win. Lie, cheat, steal, kill... few things are taboo to them.
  • Unorthodox (Nature): Unorthodox people tend to go against the grain. Tradition can be stifling and only through innovation can they accomplish their goals.
So I can make a character that is Altruistic, Conforming, and Principled. Or Mercenary, Pragmatic, and Ruthless. Or any crazy combination of these. Altruistic, Unorthodox, Ruthless sounds pretty fun.

Note that good and evil are purposefully unattached to these tags. That is because people of any moral compass can actually have similar motives, natures, and methods. A good person can be Ruthless and Mercenary, and evil acts can be done by an Altruistic and Principled person. It's up to the player to fill in the specifics. Like alignment, this is meant to be a spectrum. Unlike alignment, there are absolutely no mechanics that are tied to your motives and methods. There is no detect altruism or protection from ruthlessness. You won't fall because you decided to become mercenary or pragmatic. There is detect fiend and summon celestial, so those spells that do those things are still very useful without giving away a bad guy NPC.

As for divine casters, I have faith play the most important part in casting. The cleric must have absolute faith in their god and the tenants of their deity. Note deity instead of church. I like the idea of heresies of the same religion fighting each other. Schisms are great adventure fodder. Now with faith, I do intend to have a Stress/Fear style of rolls for situations. And if a cleric fails their fear roll, then their faith wavers and bad things happen. More on that another time.

These tags can change, especially when the chips are down. In film and literature, there are plenty of examples of characters who, when the going got tough, they defied their normal motives and methods. Han Solo, normally mercenary, comes in to save Luke during the Death Star trench run. Whereas Frodo, normally altruistic, dons the ring at the very end. Remember that you dictate your motives, natures, and methods, not the other way around. 

I've used this for a couple of games in the last year and a half and it really works well. It's helped to have players shape how their characters work in the game world without having to worry about falling or such. I definitely want to expand on this more at some point, but I think right now, it's fine the way it is.

I had also considered a Passion axis with Zealous, Moderate, and Apathetic, but I think that is unnecessarily complicated. Plus, MNM has a better ring to it.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

An Exercise in Improvisation, Procedural Generation, and Small Scale Adventuring

For a very long time, I've run games in the same setting. That is, a world that takes influence from aspects of the Early Modern Period, the Age of Sail, and Columbian Exchange in an island chain that is a pastiche of the Caribbean. There you see aspects of swashbuckling tales like The Three Musketeers and Pirates of the Caribbean, weird magic a la Clark and Howard, ancient aliens, gritty sword and sorcery, tales of endemic warfare, and Caribbean folklore, both Taino/Carib and Post Columbian. So you're likely to battle alongside hupia against vicious colonist militia men on the remains of an ancient alien space craft.

However, I've been really interested in trying a campaign where I control very little of the world itself. One that is as randomly created as humanly possible, from the hexmap to the landmarks and adventures that can be found. Doing this was to be an exercise in drawing inspiration from the random and interpreting results to be interesting for adventures, no matter how crazy it may combine. I want to improve my improvisation abilities and remain flexible against weird results, especially since it's a good preparation for dealing with the most random aspect of gaming; your players.

I also had a second goal for this. I've been playing a hell of a lot of Witcher 3 and in that game, you have all this adventure crammed into an area that could be smaller than a six-mile hex. So, I wanted to replicate that feeling of tons of adventure packed in almost 15,000 acres of land. I want each sub hex to have something there that was interesting. Whether it's tracks and spoor of a local creature, a lair of a demon, a city, ruins, landmark... anything that is interesting.

Doing this was interesting, as after a couple hours, I had enough adventures and a campaign that could easily last me weeks, if not months. The books I used were

  • d30 Sandbox Companion: An amazing toolkit that I probably used the most when doing this. I also used the d30 Terrain Hex Generator a great deal.
  • The Perilous Wilds: The second most used book. Even though it's Dungeon World, the Ask the Fates section was great for populating each of my sub hexes.
  • Hex Map Pack: I used this for my hex map. I preferred the 6:1 ratio, but you can use less granular ones if you wish.
  • Dodeca Series: Primarily the Weather generator, because I feel it's the most in-depth climate and weather rules out there. My game is meant to be a wilderness survival game, so weather is important. But everything else in this cheap book is really useful.
  • The Disoriented Ranger's Random Narrative Generator: Along side the adventure generator in the d30SC, +Jens D. blog really helped to add some interesting twists and complications to different things going on.
  • Dice Dungeon Generator: I used my dice dungeon generator whenever a dungeon or ruin rolled itself on my hex map.
  • Vornheim: Despite being a wilderness adventure, I also have a city and ruins to be explored. And this book has always been a staple in my games.
  • Adventure, Conqueror, King: I used this to stock my dungeons and for the economy. The world building aspect is really great too, but I didn't use that this time. Mostly it's because that's better for a top-down approach of campaign building and I was going from a bottom-up approach. If Lairs and Encounters ever come out, I'd love to use that.

My Approach

My only rules were to keep it as random as possible. Things like town names and NPC names and number were created by me.

  1. I started with a single six-mile hex and had several one-mile hexes as the sub hexes. Counting the half and third hexes as separate hexes, this gave me over forty adventuring locations in a single six-mile hex. 
  2. Using the d30 Hex Terrain Generator, I randomly rolled what the middle hex terrain would be, then rolled what each surrounding sub hex's terrain would be until I filled up the six-mile hex.
  3. I used the d30 Natural Features and Phenomena table to fill up the sub hexes with crazy stuff.
  4. I'd then roll a d3 to see how many special and interesting discoveries there were in a given hex. Then, using Perilous Wild's Discovery table, I rolled for each sub hex to see what would be there. I got a lot of threes so this took a bit. Next time I might skip the d3 roll.
  5. For each result of a dungeon, I used my Dice Dungeon Generator to create them. For things like ruins or intact keeps, I used Vornheim's building generator.
  6. I stocked the dungeons and ruins using ACKS, though I tweaked the table to have monsters that would fit a tropical setting. I also used this for treasure stocking.
  7. I rolled for the weather for 14 days. I started the campaign on a New Moon and set up tides at 8A/2P/8P/2A for times. Whenever I roll weather, I always seem to get a tornado result. It's become a joke among my friends.
  8. I then took a look at everything on the hex map and interpreted the results, making connections that seemed like they would work and filling in some results with monsters or NPCs that caught my eye. Also used the d30 NPC Maker to make a lot of NPCs for the area.
  9. For each possible adventure, I used the Random Narrative Generator. For simple quests, I only rolled on it once or twice. For more in depth adventures, I rolled three to four times, and for longer campaigns, I rolled five times.
  10. Made a random encounter table
  11. Had a beer
The original terrain map after rolling
Above is the preliminary hex map. Big hex is 6 miles and the sub hexes are 1 mile. The letters are the terrain for the area. W is water, H is hill, F is forest, S is swamp, and P is plain. WZ stands for Wild Zone, which is a campaign specific hex that I talk about here and here

At this point, I had made all the connections and was essentially ready to run the campaign. I wrote down all of the adventure ideas that I had randomly rolled up and interpreted and I have to say, I was really excited for what was created. The biggest thing I like is that each 1 mile hex has at least three interesting hooks in there for adventures. Everything from treasure maps to tracks of a creature to dungeons to NPCs. And the best part is that despite the results looking quite disparate, the adventure narrative between things really work out. On paper, this looks fun and I can't wait to run this for a group. Once I get my scanner working, I'll have to post my notes up on everything.

I learned that there is a greater value to random rolls than I honestly first imagined, even with my love of random tables. I feel a bit more in the right headspace for the world because I've had to interpret everything instead of creating, though there was plenty of creating from the inspiration of the rolls. I think that my improvisation skills will benefit from this little exercise. Now I just need  a chance to run it.

My next post, I want to post up the final map and the notes I made for each area that I rolled up. With the move and packing, my time will be a bit limited on what I can post.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Against Magic: Part 2 of Anticasting Series

My last post was about mages and some of the methods that mundanes can exploit to stop a loose cannon wizard from becoming an arcane tyrant. Some brainstorming caused me to think up more ideas. Some of these are inspired by the Witcher series, which is all about using alchemy and special materials to take down supernatural creatures.

Hallucinogens and other Mind Altering Substances

Being a caster requires some mighty mental discipline, unwavering faith, or extreme focus. You take that away and the caster just becomes a normal, albeit tripping, mortal like the rest of us. Many a mage hunter will keep these on hand to take down pesky magic users, though it can be dangerous for the user if using a smoking hallucinogen. That's why more often than not, mage hunters use digestible drugs in food to get to the mage.  

Tripping (Source)
Hallucinogens are primarily a role-playing issue rather than a poison. There isn't a saving roll for the drug itself. Rather, there are mental rolls to force a state of lucidity so you can take action. Otherwise, you are likely under the influence of mental illusions as you go through a bad trip.

Hallucinogen: When the mage is under the effect of a hallucinogen, whenever they wish to cast a spell, they must roll a d20 and add their casting stat to the roll. This is rolled against the following DCs (5e):

Weak Hallucinogen: DC 5
Moderate Hallucinogen: DC 10
Strong Hallucinogen: DC 15

If you are playing ACKS or similar like I do, then this is a Poison/Death roll with a +4/-4 modifier depending on the weakness and severity of the Hallucinogen.

Success means that they are able to pull it together for a brief moment and cast their spell normally. Failure means the spell is cast, but something changes. This is a great chance to use a Wild Magic, Chaos Magic, or other crazy magic table to roll on and see what happens. Go crazy with it. If you don't have one, you can use the following (until I make a crazy Wild Magic list).

  1. The spell doesn't work, but still uses up a slot. You take 1d4 damage per spell level.
  2. A different spell on your list is cast, GM's choice.
  3. The spell's cosmetics changes. Fireball becomes purple and grease smells like lavender.
  4. Something cosmetic changes either you or the target(s). Hair color, smell, clothes, gender, whatever you or the GM decides. It lasts for 1d6 hours.
  5. The spell casts for free, without using a slot.
  6. The spell heals you or your target for 1d4 per spell level.

Cerulean Smoke Bomb

Also called "devil's ink" and "bat smoke", this concoction was first brewed by assassins from a land of rajahs halfway across the world. Using the secrets of gunpowder mixed with ultramarine (ground lapis lazuli) and devilfish ink, alchemists create a smoke bomb that puts the victim in coughing fits and makes it hard to breath or see. What is interesting is that the smoke has the secondary effect of interfering with spell casting. The magic from the ultramarine and the ink blocks arcane, divine, and ki energy and makes it attack the user if pushed too far.

Lapis Lazuli

Cerulean Smoke Bomb: You can throw the smoke bomb up to 20 feet. The smoke fills up a 10 foot wide cube. Any one trapped in the smoke is blind. On the start of their turn, they must make a Constitution saving throw (5e) or a Poison/Death saving throw (ACKS). Success means you hold your breath long enough and can act normally. Failure means that they lost out on an action due to coughing fits. The victim can still move at half speed and end their turn. 

If the victim is a caster, then their casting goes haywire. While the caster is in the smoke, they cannot cast any spells. Leaving the smoke can give them a chance to be able to cast. Anytime the caster tries to cast a spell, they roll a d20 plus their casting stat against a DC 20. Success means the spell goes through. Failure means that the spell attacks the caster, dealing 1d4 Constitution damage. 

The cloud will dissipate after three rounds. The magic blocking effects on the caster lasts for 3 rounds after they leave the smoke cloud.