Sunday, January 14, 2018

Forest of Fiends: The Old Gods & Their Weirdings

[Here's another bit of setting lore for my Forest of Fiends campaign, with actual effects on play.]

Before the hex-priests bound the empire to the Maralith Queens, the land of Pra-Kryush had its own pantheon of local deities.  With the rise of the Queens their worship was suppressed, the priests broken or sacrificed, and the temples demolished.  Today, little remains of their faith and even the oldest amongst the tiefling elders remembers naught but odd references.  Nevertheless, the Old Gods are not dead.  Without mortal worshippers to sustain them they are so faded now as to be little more than wandering wisps.  Most are like dotards with fading memories of their former glory, some even forgetting their own names.  Some still cling to an abandoned shrine, idol, stele, cenote, or other lonely site in the jungle.  In that locale, referred to as a shrine manse,  they have some small power left.

Outside of these shrine manses, there are still many remnants about, such as building stones scavenged from their razed temples with some carvings left undefiled.  Here and there are troves of holy items stashed by faithful priests to keep them from destruction by the minions of the Queens.  A few of the greatest and oldest temples were so steeped in holiness that no corrupted being could enter, and so they were sealed by the demon-minions and forsaken.

The names of the Old Gods are long-forgotten, even to the gods themselves, for they have gone senile.  A person contacting one will experience strange visions appropriate to the deity's domains.  If the person tries to resist the visions, they must make a WILL save (DC 25) against each of the deity's three domains.  If they embrace the visions, or fail a WILL save against any, they will gain a "Weirding" (containing a boon and a curse) for each.

When each manse is contacted, the GM will secretly make three random rolls on the domain list for the forgotten deity's three domains.  The player of an affected character will then roll 1d6 (1-2/3-4/5-6) to see which of the three affects them.  The GM will note which weirding the character gains and reveal the effects when appropriate.

There are twelve domains on the list.  To keep things fun for the players, I'll just reveal one domain "weirding" as an example:

Domain: Animal
Wierding: you can speak with wild animals (boon); but domesticated animals panic near you (curse)

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Forest of Fiends: The Homesteaders

As I continue hammering out ideas for my Forest of Fiends campaign, I'm getting to areas which I don't want the players to see or it will totally spoil the surprise.  One area which will be public knowledge (mostly) is that of the "homesteaders".  After the peoples of the Holy Realms overthrew the demonic empire of Pra-Kryush and drove their orc and drow allies back into the wilderness and the Everdark, there were a lot of undesirables left behind.  Many were executed, with or without a proper trial, but significant numbers remain.  These undesirables included half-orcs, half-drow, suspected heretics, sorcerers, shapechangers, and so on.

As the victors began to relax after cleansing their homelands, the priests of Lawgiver Tyr ruled that these undesireables could not be held culpable for the sins of the empire and brought an end to the executions.  However, they were still not considered entirely trustworthy.  It was clear they carried some measure of taint from the dark times.  Some of the undesirables took advantage of the lull in the violence to flee to wild and desolate places or risk living in disguise.  The rest were put under some form of supervision, such as apprentices to guilds or lay brothers in monasteries.  As long as they remained well-behaved, devout, and submitted to their new place they were tolerated.

When the continental homeland of Pra-Kryush was officially re-opened for the crusade, most of the rulers of the Holy Realms saw an opportunity to be rid of all manner of persons.  At first there were open calls for volunteers to fight, build, explore, and colonize in the new lands.  But soon roundups of the undesirables began.  Half-orcs, half-drow (half-elves), kitsune, gnomes, sorcerors, convicts, vagabonds, and beggars were given the "opportunity" to become homesteaders across the seas.  Those with money and possessions were allowed make reasonable preparations.  The penniless ones, who were the majority by far, were supplied with a few basic items and handful of coin out of charity.

So as far as the campaign is concerned, there will be affects both on the overall setting and on character creation.  Any characters of the half-orc, half-elf, or gnome race or of the sorceror class (I'm working on the assumption we'll be using the Pathfinder core classes only) must begin either as a "homesteader" or with their secret disguised.  Also, all homesteader characters start with the only the minimum starting money for their class.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Forest of Fiends: Temples on the Frontier

Okay, so I've been developing my jungle sandbox campaign setting a bit more.  Because the effort on the coast of the ancient continent is led by contingents from the temples of several major deities I need to sketch in some basic information on them.  In the beginning the temples of The Radiant Triad (Torm, Tyr, and Ilmater) provided priests, paladins, soldiers, servants, and pilgrims for the holy crusade and the faithful of did not stint in providing support of all kinds.  Alas, their first fleet was wrecked on the coast in an ouragan storm and only a few survivors escaped in a small boat to tell the tale.  Two smaller expeditions explored the coast more cautiously and eventually discovered the island they named Light of Fortune.  After establishing a base in the abandoned town of Tahala and bringing reinforcements they quelled the ire of the local tiefling savages and pacified them by teaching proper worship of the True Gods.  With the help of tiefling laborers from the newly-pacified clans the Temple of Jannath cleared jungle and built a small village named Lady of Bounty dedicated to the goddess.  Unfortunately, not long afterwards the village was ravaged and mostly burned by evil fey marauders.  The rebuilding is mostly complete but more settlers are needed.

Temple of Torm (God of duty, loyalty, and obedience [LG])

Our here on the frontier the clerics of dauntless Torm are led by the dashing but vain Paladin-Captain Rynaldo Lyma <male/human>, about whom the songs are many.  The majority of the representatives of this temple out here are paladins but there are still many clerics and others.  Paladins are always stationed at the docks to determine the quality of the souls of new arrivals.  Those found wanting are sentenced to paid positions under "supervised service", mostly as oarsmen on two small triremes (the Tidecutter and Ocean of Faith) which patrol near the island, up the river, and along the coast; others work with hammer and chisel to level the rock at the island's highest point to prepare for a planned temple.

Temple of Tyr (God of justice and war [LG])

Judge-General Chessanta Turindei Urbaville <female/dwarf>  is first among the clerics of incorruptible Tyr.  The temple operates the only court of law out here on the edge of the world.  The temple of Tyr is represented mostly by judge-priests here, but there are a few paladins.  The judges work with the paladins of Torm to find fair employment for those arrivals whose souls are found to be clouded.  The temple also has a contingent of mercenaries, half halberdiers and half crossbowmen, led by two Priest-Captain clerics of the temple.  These defend the island, Lady of Bounty, and serve as marines on the two patrol galleys.

Temple of Ilmater: God of martyrdom and patience [LG])

The priests and priestesses of Ilmater currently have no one preeminent among them.  They operate a small hospital on the island, providing healing to all who enter without prejudice or fee.  Most of his clerics, however, are currently onshore ministering to  the pacified tielfing clans and the colonists at Lady of Bounty.  They sooth fears, heal wounds, and teach forebearance.  Many have willingly gone forth into the jungle to proselytize more tieflings and more than a few subsequently gladly accepted martyrdom in his service.

Temple of Chauntea, called by some Bhalla or Jannath (Goddess of agriculture, farmers, gardeners, summer [NG])

The center of activity for the Grain Goddess is the struggling colony of Lady of Bounty.  The chief priestess Henrielta Lurical <female/human> is determined to tame the savage jungle and replace it with proper, decent fields of grain and orchards for fruit.  The village is well-located, with fairly good soil, a river along one side, and a spring for fresh water; it is also protected by a log stockade.  However the fey of the jungle seem to hate the place and they harass it constantly.  About two weeks ago it was attacked by an unusually large band of raiders who burned over half the buildings and some of the stockade.  The inhabitants are mostly "volunteer homesteaders" transported from the Holy Realms and thus not fit material for farming or fighting.  They are instead a mix of half-orcs, half-elves, petty criminals, beggars and vagrants, ransomed debtors, and some political exiles.

Temple of Tymora (Goddess of Luck, Adventure, Travel  [CG])

Tymora is the only deity with a fully consecrated temple out here.  It is led by Luck-Chanter Sanchetta Lurical <female/human>--free-spirited older sister of the chief priestess of Chauntea at Lady of Bounty.  In fact Sanchetta eagerly came out here as a way to tease her stuffy (but much loved) little sister.  The other temples currently make due with small portable shrines in temporary housing, which causes some resentment.  The House of Tymora, however, is not a simple temple but a thriving bar, casino, and (so persistent rumors have it) brothel.  The goddess is a natural focus for worship under the circumstances and her casino temple is the only major location in Tahala for fun.  The clerics of the Radiant Triad are not amused by this den of iniquity but shutting it down would destroy morale and likely lead to rioting.  They content themselves with stiff watch patrols in its vicinity.

Friday, October 13, 2017

There's Only One Condition (Simple Condition Rules for Old School Hack)

So, yes I am still chugging along with my hack of the very fun Old School Hack, thanks for asking.  Being a very old school game, it does not waste any space on rules for "conditions", such as dazed or nauseated.  I wanted to add some condition rules, but they had to be very simple.  An excellent example for me of the approach NOT to take is Pathfinder.  Pathfinder has 36 (!) conditions.  Several have names which are way too similar in meaning, such as Frightened and Panicked, and many apply such slight modifiers that they aren't really worth bothering with: Oh, no, I have a -1 to attack rolls for 3 rounds!? Pfffftt, whatever.

Thinking over a quick and easy way to do conditions I decided that really there are three basic states for a creature: 1) fine (no impairments), 2) suffering a condition which partially impairs (such as blindness or nausea), and 3) suffering a condition which totally impairs (such as being paralyzed or unconscious).  Fine is fine and totally impaired is totally impaired, so we really only have to tackle conditions which partially impair.  I decided up front that there should be a single, easy-to-remember  mechanic for all impairing conditions (as opposed to a massive list with finicky micro-rules).  In the end I went with the advantage/disadvantage mechanic from D&D 5th Edition.

So when a character is suffering a condition which partially impairs and they need to roll for some action, the GM rolls a d12 against them which is the condition die.  If the condition die beats  the character's roll, either the 1d12 roll for an attribute check or the both of the d10s (individually) for an attack roll, then the character action fails.

Simple.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Doing Initiative Like a (Dungeon) Boss!

Okay, so I've been playing this fun RPG batttle game on my mobile phone called Dungeon Boss.  You acquire heroes, run dungeons, level up, etc.  The initiative is based on classing each hero or monster as fast, normal, or slow.  Fast characters/monsters go first, then normals, then slows.  I'm interested in adapting this for regular RPG games.  I don't quite like the old school "party initiative" because it lumps everyone together regardless of dexterity, encumbrance, etc. and I'm tired of slogging through the stilted 3E/Pathfinder individual initiative (even though I generally treat the party's opponents as one group to speed things up).

So the Dungeon Boss initiative model looked like an interesting alternative.  The first step is to sort your classes into the three speed categories:

Old School Classes
Thief = fast
Halfling = fast
Fighter =normal
Elf = normal
Magic-User = slow
Cleric = slow
Dwarf = slow


D&D 3E/Pathfinder Classes
Fast:
Barbarian
Monk
Rogue 
Normal:
Bard
Drud
Fighter
Paladin
Range
Slow:
Cleric
Sorceror
Wizard

If one side has more fast heroes than the other then that side automatically gets the initiative.  Otherwise, you roll 1d6 for each side as though you were doing party style initiative and the higher scoring side gets the initiative  The winning initiative side acts with all fast heroes then the other side acts with all its fast heroes.  Next all the normal speed heroes on the winning side act, etc.  The overall sequence will look like this:
  1. Winning side fast heroes
  2. Other side fast heroes
  3. Winning side normal heroes
  4. Other side normal heroes
  5. Winning side slow heroes
  6. Other side slow heroes
This method has its own quirks but I'm looking for something with more granularity than old school initiative but without the tedious fiddly bits in 3E initiative.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Zophiel'sTale: Meeting the Strikers, Then Demons

 This post is a guest appearance by my buddy Kirk.  I'm currently running a campaign based on the Shackled City adventure path by Paizo.  This is the story of how his character, Zophiel, meets the rest of the group and heads off with them on their latest foray.  They have dubbed themselves The Last Strikers and are slowly becoming known around the city of Cauldron.  The Strikers, minus the human mage Abraham, have just raided the Cathedral of Nethys in Cauldron in search of clues about the insidious Cagewrights and their vile plans.  Zophiel comes upon the party and Abraham unexpectedly as she visits the cathedral to inquire about learning some arcane lore.

The City of Cauldron (from the AP boo)

Zophiel in the Wilds, Again

After a brief introduction, I watch the Strikers.  Trenzen does most of the talking.  He leads us through the town to visit an old mage, the library, the captain of the guard, but only after a great inspiring speech in the front of the crowd gathered outside of the Temple of Nethys.  The same crowd that had gathered and I was a part of.  But first, let me continue my story of how I met them.

So, as I was standing in the crowd, I see a man dressed in robes coming to the temple.  From his description, I am guessing it is Abraham, one of the Strikers and a great wizard.  This sends me back to my days of my youth, when I was just 25 or 26, and I saw the Elven wizards so common in my homeland.  I'm a little nervous when I introduce myself and I use what humans call me, Sophie.  I mention to Abraham that I saw one of the Strikers peek out then head back in again.  It is just natural that we can follow and slip into the temple through same side door, unseen.

The inside of the temple is deserted, yet I know they are in here, and most of the others are gone, for I saw two giants, half-orc guards and many gnomes wearing the clothing of their temple running away.  I call out “Is anyone in here?” 

“We are back here!” A half orc’s voice returns.  From the descriptions I got in the bath house, this must be Trenzen, the half orc archer-paladin.  The half orc is busy questioning two clerics of this temple.  I keep silent as he probes them while they prepare a corpse for burial.  I find out that the body is one of the famous Stormblades.  Trenzen handles this like a mystery.  Admiration for his inquisitiveness is worthy to give him, for a half orc.  That is my upbringing talking, for being in the goddess forsaken place I have learned that many are much better than they seem, while others, deep down, are very superficial.  I ask about magic regents and don't get any help.

Soon we are on our way to the captain of the guard and introductions are given to me.  So many names but for me, it is to put names to faces.  I tell them, seeing how they are a ‘just’ force coming to power, I want to ally myself to them.  I'll want tell of my past but not today, as Trenzen is so interested in what I could do.  I tell him of my translation work, and tracking, both humans and animals, and being a scout.  He asks me if I weave magic.  I state that I do and he presses me for if I use books or not.  And well, sometimes I do, but mostly I don't.  Then he asks if I perform. I do not.  I tell him again, what I have done in the past and how I can help.  Apparently, we go in circles.  And finally he asks if I can teach him some magic.  We finally agree that what I know, he doesn't know and has little chance of learning.  I can only surmise, that the orc in him is speaking. 

We arrive at the house of the captain of the guard and Trenzen proclaims the group’s innocence.  When he speaks, it's hard to follow, but in the end, he is very convincing, this is not the orc speaking this time.  The logic doesn't actually confirms his original statements, though.  Since it is to our benefit, I'll let it slide.

Next, Trenzen wants to warn the rest of the Stormblades.  We find one of them in the Cusp of Sunrise.  She tells of how the head of the temple of Nethys wanted them to go underground beneath the city to fight something called the Cagewrights.  Instead it was an ambush and one of them died, which explains the death. 

For the evening, they offer to let me stay with them. 

The next day, we are up early. Trenzen asks if I need a horse, but I decline.  I summon my spirit horse.  All the day long it is with me.  We, the summon horse and I, move as fast uphill as down and more than once I had to wait for the others with their slower animals.  The hooves from the horse are barely seen, for one can almost see through them.  And after a day’s trip, we arrive at Red Gorge.  My horse vanishes when I dismiss it.  But the Strikers take this in stride, that is, magic they are accustomed to, and so, it's a common thing for me to weave the elven song.  We stay at the Redhead Miners Inn and I meet Kaylee, another Striker, and I compliment her on the bathhouse.  I tell her the employees spoke very highly of her and of the rest.  They told me of many tales of their adventures in colorful washes of finely spoken words, while I lay naked in the pool, with a mist rising around.  Not the same mists of the jungle.  The jungle holds mists filled with creatures and plants, magnificent beautiful and dangerously deadly.

That evening, we debate how to proceed.  In the end, we decide to hire boat paddlers to take us down the Seave River to the camping spot with an idol.  The paddlers sleep under the canoes and we rest around a campfire, located on a sandy beach, midway from the river to the jungle tree line.  It's a short distance of no more than 50 or so feet.  I set my backpack down and pull out my bedroll.  I fall into a comfortable meditation quickly under the stars, for I know I am with good company.  They agree to wake me for a third watch.

Shouts, orders, painful shrieks I see and hear in my non awake mind.  I know I must be dreaming, but then I open my eyes and am all too well aware that I wasn't dreaming.  We are being attacked!  A wall of blue and purple flames encircled around us, forcing us close.  There is a reason I can guess and is confirmed not a few more seconds later, when a fireball comes down from the sky and explodes right on our campfire, engulfing us.  The Strikers do their thing, and I stretch my mind for a jungle creature that does this.  But to the Strikers, I appear confused and panicky consider jumping over the fire, or over the ice storm that appears to possibly put out the fire circle.  Or, to jump in the water to swim under the fire.  Then I feel a sudden urge of goodness.  That's my cue to shoot wildly at the creature that is raining fire down upon us.  It will force it to dodge more arrows and disrupt its casting another fireball. I see that an arrow, one of mine hit Toni, the Striker's heavily armored warrior.  I run to her and using my magic, I close some of her wounds.  And I apologize profusely for having one of my arrows hit her.  It's over almost as fast as it begins, with arrows and magic bolts, the creature falls from the sky.  At this point, I can clearly see it is not a jungle creature at all, but a creature not from this world and some of the Strikers conjecture it was sent by a newly made adversary, the high clerics of the Temple of Nethys from the city of Cauldron.

Since the entire night hadn't passed yet, we return to our sleep, a bit more watchful of the sky and of the jungle treeline, searching for whatever could be lurking in the distance.  I finally drift off to my meditation while others discuss if that creature was sent by the clerics of Nethys, something I concluded already.

The next day, I'll be on point.  I summon the Elven magic to give me a clear view of the jungle and the most safe direct route to the Demon Scar.  We don't want to fight anything we can avoid.  A vision comes to me and I recognize the places where natural beasts would lay in wait, catching their next meal.  These areas I avoid.

About mid afternoon, after the usual rains, the jungle give way to a vast desolate circular bowl void of plant life: the Demon Scar opens with a view.  Down below, we see demons and fire giants roaming freely.  I suggest that we can go around the rim.  Before setting out, I call a small woodland spirit.  It looks like a pink semi translucent bird.  Definitely it is not a real bird.  I ask it to scout the rim and to look for large animals or creatures and report back.  When it returns it tells me that there aren't any large animals or creatures on the rim, and it also says that it found ruins where an entrance has been dug out recently. 

When we get there, Jax the "adventurer" and I scout around.  We make too much noise and I realize the day at the bath has softened me some.  We find tracks of three of four people that have passed this way.  It's too difficult to tell if they came or left.  On the way back, Jax and I are much more quiet.

We decide that everyone should go into the building for they think it will be safer inside than out here.  I'm not running this group, but I'd advise against it, if asked.  I call a bat to fly down into the ruins and it returns to tell us of two empty of life rooms below and a collapsed tower with a watery stream running in a tunnel, below.  We move inside and rest in the big room.  I conjure a magic hut so we rest in comfort from the jungle humidity.  That is one thing I haven't gotten use to after a hundred and some years here - the wet heat.  The night passes without incident.

At the end of my watch, I prepare a breakfast for the Strikers...

Friday, August 25, 2017

Pathfinder Themed Gestalt (draft)

As I mentioned in a recent post I'm looking to break out of my gaming group's usual Pathfinder comfort zone and do something different--either a little different or a lot different.  More specifically I'd like to do things we've never done before.  So if we stick with Pathfinder that may be tough because we've played most of the usual classes, archetypes, races, prestige classes etc.  I see two good alternatives; well, easy alternatives.  One is to use the new hybrid classes--just the hybrid classes.  I haven't seen anyone play one of these in our games.  However, I'm not super excited about them and, apparently, neither is the rest of my group.  The other path is gestalt multi-classing, probably with just the core classes because they seem the best balanced.

Okay, but how about taking that a step farther and doing what I'll call "themed gestalt" play.  In themed gestalt all players will share one class (or a choice from a limited group of at most three classes) and add another to that one to individualize.  The shared class(es) creates the theme and provides a background tying the group together.  I played with this idea earlier as a basis for a fantasy oriental game "Righteous Cloud Temple" where all the characters are monk+something dual classed.

So here is a set of themed gestalt ideas using the core classes as a base.

⦁    Barbarian Based - a dream-quest called you all here to meet your ultimate fate as a hero; the druid and/or ranger could be alternate bases

⦁    Bard Based - Hey, Hey it's the Monkees!/Josie and the Pussycats/This is Spinal Tap; came out here to play to the adventurers--hopefully as the only act in town--and wacky hijinks ensue; the sorcerer (with maestro bloodline) could be an alternative base

⦁    Cleric Based - clerics of one deity or small set of compatible deities; could have the paladin as alternate base if that works for the particular deity

⦁    Druid Based - members of a druidic circle are drawn to commune with and heal the tainted wilderness; could have the ranger as alternate base

⦁    Fighter Based - former military or mercenary comrades-in-arms carve out a kingdom for glory and riches

⦁    Monk Based - members of the same temple or --better--all rival temples, seeking the fabled First Temple where the noble study of the martial arts first began

⦁    Paladin Based - paladins of a Lawful Good deity; the paladin theme class could have the cleric, of the same deity or any compatible deity, as alternate base

⦁    Ranger Based - drawn to explore and investigate the tainted wilderness; the ranger theme class here could have the druid and/or barbarian as alternates

⦁    Rogue Based - a gang of "explorers" or  "archaeologists" seek the biggest heist ever

⦁    Sorcerer Based - your inner natures called you together, and now you must find out why

⦁    Wizard Based - find ancient spells and magic to bring back with power and knowledge; the wizard theme class could have the sorceror and/or bard as alternates