Sunday, December 9, 2012

Dark Ages: Of Monsters & Men

Notables in Normandy
Duke Ricard II - This is the Duke, he travels between his various estates and brings court with him. Ricard is known to be good and kind, but fearless in battle. He has several sisters and two brothers, Mauger of Mortain and William of Eu.
Count Radulf of Ivry - Radulf is the Duke's main advisor, he rules Ivry, a town south of Hralfsburg.
Jarl Harvald of Kjarsburg - Harvald is loyal man to the Duke, but many of the raiders and shipmen in his town resist the imposition of the Christian ways from the south.
Count Odo of St. Lo, Count Ademar of Bayeux - these christian lords are descended from the shieldmen of the first Duke.

Neighboring Lords
Frankia - King Robert II
Brittany - Geoffrey I (suitor of Richard’s sister Hewisse)
Anglo-Saxons - Aethelred the Unready (suitor of Richard’s sister Emma)
London - Thorkell the Tall
Danes - Sven Forkbeard
Alba/Scotland - Mael Colum, King of Alba
Orkneys and Caithness - Jarl Sigurd Hladvisson
Moray - Mormaer Mac Bethad

Reward & Rumors
+ Jarl Harvald offers 200 silver for any information about the Saxon ships or raiders seen in the waters and lands near Kjarsburg. He offers 500 silver for definitive proof.

+ Sailors in Kjarsburg spotted a ghostly ship near an island west of the pennisula. It is rumored to be an old viking raider, some say with a great treasure. Two longships sailing from the west heading to Kjarsburg have been missing.

+ Count Odo offers 200 silver for any word from one of his vassal villages. The four knights he sent to collect tribute disappeared. The village is located in the hills south of St. Lo.

+ Men and cattle have been disappearing from the woods around the town of Bayeux. Some whisper that evil spirits are at work.

+ Strange noises and shapes have been seen at night in Bayeux. It is rumored a long dead Roman noble left treasure beneath the town.

+ The Duke saw a dragon in flight south of Falaise. Shepards report missing sheep from the hills nearby. The Duke offers a reward of 500 sp from any token of the beasts proving its existence, more for trophies from a dragon like claws or its head.

Outside Normandy:
+ King Sweyn Forkbeard will always take on warriors for his many raids against his enemies in Norway and England.
+ King Robert of the Franks  brings Duke Richard and hires other normans for his wars against the Burgundians.
+ The Emperor of Byzantium, Basil the Bulgarslayer, always seeks mercenaries and fierce warriors for his Varangian Guard.

Random encounters
these are the sorts of encounters characters should expect to run into in Normandy:
1. Landless Norman knights looking for trouble or fun.
2. Restive band of peasants, looking for easy pickings or revenge against oppressive lords.
3. Ogres in hunting band, hungry but intimidated by numbers or strong prey.
4. Trickster brownies or dwarves, carrying off precious item or child.
5. Pack of wolves
6. Territorial bear or boar.
7. Deer
8. Troll crashing through forest.
9. Dragon or wyvern.
10. Banshee or ghouls
11. Wild hunt deer men
12. Enemy raiders, Viking, Breton, or Frankish.
13. Pilgrims or clerics.
14. Merchant with guards or tinkerers.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Places of Dark Ages Normandy

Hralfsburg, or Rouen, is the seat of the sons of Hralfr, or Rollo, the conqueror of Normandy. Sites include an old roman amphitheater, a baths, and the Duke has a large stone keep in center of city. Sits on River Seine. Fecamp is an abbey recently built, attached to the Duke's keep. Most of the buildings in the town are half-timber constructions. A bishop has his seat in a church in the city.

Ivry - this is the holding of Count Radulf, the bastard half-uncle of the Duke Ricard. Ivry has a large stone church that is the seat for a bishop. The bishopric dates back to the days of the Romans. There is also a Jewish community in Ivry.

Honnsflow - this is a small docks and wharf, and port for Hralfsburg and the upper Seine, and viking culture still runs strong here. A man favored by Odin is said to get a discount if he builds a ship here.

Cadum - The Norman dukes have built up another of their large stone keeps in the center of this town, and it is displacing Bayeux as the regional center. There is also an old stone church to St. Stephen.

Falaise - this is the Duke's castle. There's no town, but it is strategically important and the Dukes enjoy hunting near here.

Bayeux - This old roman legionary town was sacked in the days of Hralfr, but then the town was rebuilt by the Breton Duke Berengar, father-in-law of Hralfr, to take advantage of the still-standing roman walls. The Dukes inherited the town. The old legion fort is still used to house knights, and an overgrown roman road, although basically unuseable except as a landmark, connects Bayeux to Cadum in the east.

St. Lo - also called St. Lothar, is an old hill fort town named after a Frankish saint and still holds an abbey built by Charlemagne. The Duke has decided to fortify the town and is building stone walls. It stands as a more christian bastion in the otherwise fairly viking-customed Constantine pennisula.

Kjarsburg - built by the Hiberno-Norse who settled here during the early days of Norman settlement, this is basically the strongest holdout of the "old ways." There is a large port and harbor. Recently, Saxon ships have been seen landing on beaches near Kjarsburg. The ruler of Kjarsburg still calls himself Jarl, and is descended from one of Hralfr's more loyal hearthsmen.

St. Michael's Rock - this fortified abbey sits on a high granite hill in the center of a tidal mud bay on the border with Breton lands. The Duke normally sends Christian zealots here, and it fortifies the Duchy's western border.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Dark Ages Normandy

So I came up with some maps of Normandy. These are loosely based on history, I've altered names based on 900s-1000s pre-francophone Nordic names for some of the Norman towns. I've also made the terrain more rugged.

Thematic hex map: scale is approximately 10 miles per hex.

This is at the usual 6 mile hexes.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

AD 1000 House Rules

Here's the Dark Ages D&D house rules I'm thinking of:

Literacy: because of the oral tradition and rarity of books and writing, all characters are illiterate unless they take a certain proficiency: Theology or Language (Latin). Other proficiencies might allow the character to read ancient writings or write in the vulgate, in the DM's discretion. Additionally, all clerics can read the vulgate whether or not they have the literacy proficiencies, but not all clerics can write in Latin.

Spell preparation: Clerics prepare and cast spells as normal. For wizards and mages, they can cast a number of spells per level as determined by their class level plus their Intelligence bonus. So, a wizard that can cast 2 level 1 spells, 2 level 2 spells and 1 level 3 spell with a +1 Int bonus can cast 3 level 1 and level 2 spells and 2 level 3 spells (i.e. cast daily = spells + int bonus). Every day the wizard needs a few hours to gather spell components, practice reciting magic words, and so on to restore the spells. Additionally, the wizard must sleep for at least 6 hours to recover the magical energies he expends casting spells (as the wizard increases in power, so does his ability to channel magical energies on the same amount of sleep). A wizard can attempt to cast 1 more than the usual number of spells per day with a successful Loremastery check, but this ages him 4+spell level years (the aging rules apply to wizards if no one else).

However, wizards are limited by what spells they have in their repertoire (usually in the form of a spellbook).  A starting wizard begins with Read Languages and two spells given by the wizard's master or trainer (roll or pick at DM's choice). Additional spells must be physically added to the repetoire by writing them down, or carving them on a wyrdstone or staff, after deciphering them. Magic spells are jealously guarded and kept secret, so even after a spell is found it must be comprehended and "translated" into a personalized form.  This requires a week of research for each spell and a successful Loremastery check. The spell is lost if the check is failed, and another source must be found to acquire the spell. No check is required if the wizard is taught the spell for the week by a master of it, like a senior wizard.

Wizards in the Dark Ages: Arcane spellcasters come in two types, wizards and the Hermetic/Neo-Platonic/Egyptian mages of the south. Wizards, which includes druids, generally derive their power from the spirits and places of power of the natural world, worship the old gods like Odin or Kereneos, and are often illiterate, as compared to the educated Hermetic wizards of the Mediterranean.  Sometimes though wizards have their own scripts or secret lores from their own homelands, like Ogham. Both keep their magical knowledge secret, and it requires sacrifice and a mystical connection to cast spells. Both are often relied upon by pagan rulers or rich pagans for advice, fortune telling, and knowledge of monsters, fairies and gods. Rather than always enchanting items themselves, wizards often seek out spirits or dwarves who do the work for them, with the wizard serving as a middle man. Additionally, wizards often keep their spell knowledge stored on different items than books like seeing stones, carved into their staves, or in secret places like the hollow of a tree. A wizard can hold up to 5 spells on a staff or through the combinations found on a small bag of stones, or 3 on a wand or stick.  Standing stones or trees can basically hold 15-20 spells.

HP: all characters start with maximum first level hp (e.g. 8 hp + Con bonus for fighters). All the thief-based classes have d6 for hit die rather than d4.

Ability score damage: In addition to the effects of the Mortal Wounds table, a character brought to 0 hp through a critical hit must roll on the body parts die to determine ability score damage taken.  Hands or legs reduce Dex by 1, Belly reduces Con by 1, Head reduces Int, Chest and arms Str. Additionally, any permanent affect on a character's sanity or faith reduces Wisdom.

Cleave: anytime a character kills an enemy in hand to hand combat, he can roll again to attack any foe within a step's distance (approximately 5 feet). The number of cleaves is not limited by the character's level.

Shields: A regular round shield can guard against up to 2 enemies' melee attacks a round. A kite shield can protect against any number.  A regular shield can be strapped to the back to add +1 AC to any attack coming from behind the character (no regular AC bonus).

Weapons: Unless a masterwork or magical weapon, all weapons except for swords break on a natural roll of 1. When rolling a critical, the weapons have different effects:
Axes - Choose to destroy an item on the target, like a shield, piece of armor (armor perm. reduced by 1 pt AC), or a held item. the victim must also save or be stunned from impact for 1 round. This does not apply to enemy weapons.
Hammers and maces - the target is stunned and, if failing a save, knocked prone, for their next round.
Spears - the victim is impaled with the spear. If still fighting the same victim next round, the warrior can attack the victim by ripping the spear back out with their attack, automatically hitting and rolling damage.
Swords and daggers - The attacker can disarm or break the victim's weapon (not natural weapons though) or impale the victim with the weapon as a spear, attacker's choice.
Bows - criticals with a bow immediately allow another attack to the same or different target in the same trajectory. Generally, bows can be fired into melee at a -2 penalty, Precision shot proficiency removes the penalty. A miss when firing into melee has a 50% chance to hit a friendly attacker, determined at DM discretion.

Healing: Usual healing is 1 hp per night with good rest. Drinking a draught off a meadhorn or wineskin during a short rest will heal 1d4 hp, usuable once a day. After one week good rest, all hp are restored no matter what. Faeries and spirits, in addition to clerics, offer healing, but they exact a price, generally a geas.

Silver standard: the silver penny or denarius is equivalent to the D&D gold piece. An actual gold piece or solidius is worth 100 silver pennies (100 gp). XP progession is normal, with acquiring 1 sp equal to 1 XP. Spending on feasting or gift-giving is worth an addition XP per sp spent. Magic items, although usually not sellable, are worth their price/xp when found (this includes healing poultices and so on).

Communication: everyone is presumed to speak a germanic pidgin that allows them to communicate, although not understand complicated matters in a non-native tongue (i.e. a Gaelic speaker trying to understand a viking king's speech).

forgot a couple
Fighting from Horseback: When charging with a spear (there are no lances), the warrior uses the horse's strength rather than his own. This amounts to a +4 damage bonus, or a +5 from a heavy warhorse. Additionally, mounted warriors enjoy a +1 AC against attackers from foot.

Reaction & Morale Rolls Use a 1d12 rather than 2d6. The bell curve on 2d6 makes reaction and morale checks too boring. Having bonuses from charisma or discipline should actually matter.

Friday, November 23, 2012

AD 1000 D&D

So, because Google Plus may not be the totally best format for something as beautifully engineered as Pendragon, especially when players have no familiarity with Pendragon before, I have come up with this little idea for another D&D. I want to want to DM something sword and sorcery like D&D Egypt-Athas, but I'm also not totally feeling it. Vikings and chainmail and raiding parties on the other hand, well, that's the shit for D&D, and especially appeals to me. So I bring you: D&D 1000 AD!!

I figure I'll set it in Normandy proper, because the Dukes there are Christian converts but related to all the Viking kings, with recently settled vikings forming most of the rulers. So, I figure I'll have some old ruins, pagan issues, and rivalries between the various kings. Also, it provides an opportunity for the PCs to be mercenaries in both Normandy and elsewhere if they choose. The idea is to be historical based, but with to max out the action adventure. Monsters and overt magic will exist in "mythic areas" like forests, old ruins, and coasts.

Character Creation rules - as Adventurer Conqueror King, with these differences:

1. Stats, 3d6, reroll all 1s, assign to taste.

2. Pick Class (templates from Comnpanion 49)
Fighter: Guard, Mercenary, Knight (Lancer) (christian only), and barbarian templates
Cleric: Priest or Hermit
Thief: Outlaw (Skulking and pick one: Trap Finding or Lockpicking)
Barbarian (Jutland-style only): Berserker, Huskarl, Viking (Sea Rover), Death Dealer
Mage: Wizard (pick three: Familiar, Loremastery, Healing, Naturalism, Alchemy) (as Magical Scholar equip)
Paladin: Scholae Palatine (Vanguard) (christian only)
Bard: Skald (as Minstril with Performance (Epic Poetry))
Explorer: Pathfinder, Scout
Witch: Village Witch (pagan only)
Venturer: Merchant Traveler
Changeling (Elf Nightblade): Deceiver

3. Pick Culture  - determines starting language, bonuses
Northman: +1 Str, +2 fear saves
Saxon/German:: +1 Con, +2 paralysis saves
Frank: +1 Cha, +1 initiative
Greek: +1 Int, pick bonus knowledge proficiency
Gael: +1 Dex, +1 bonus on mortal wounds chart

4. Pick Religion - Christian (Lawful or Neutral) or Pagan (Neutral or Chaotic)

In order to represent the increased import of something protecting you in battle in the dark ages and make armor more desirable to scavenge, I have revised the armors available as follows.
Furs  AC 1  (10 sp)
Leather  AC 2  (20 sp)
Scale Armor  AC 3  (50 sp)
Chain Mail Shirt (Haubergeon)  AC 4  (100 sp)
Chain Mail Hauberk  AC 5 [-1 Initiative] (300 sp)
Reinforced Chain Hauberk  AC 6 [-2 Initiative] (450 sp)
- chain hauberks also do not allow for dexterity bonuses to AC.

Combat rules are as normal in ACKS, with the option of adding Critical Hits. More on this to come.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Medieval Hack Character: Sir Morvan

So I got involved with some guys from G+ working on gritty realistic, low-magic open quest/chivalry & sorcery type of rpg. I might even get a chance to play test it next week in a hang out. In that light, here's the character I rolled up. One thing I like so far is that creating a character is its own little quest, determining what profession he's in and what happened to him.

Sir Morvan of Fian Gosse
3rd son of a noble Household Knight father

STR 11 (+0)
INT 11
FAI 12
WIL 10

SIZ 15
CON 12
CHA 13

HP 14
Age 28, Status 10
Virtue: Temperantia (self-control, justice, honor, and abstention)

Notable Skills (increased from background, vocations, and chosen increases)
Swords 82
Ride 80
Armor 77
Spears 67
Shield 79
Tactics 55
Influence 37
Perception 31

333 d.
Chain hauberk, Great Helm [1d10+3]; kite shield, longsword, lance
1 Charger (or whatever the biggest warhorse is), 1 Courser (or whatever the more rideable warhorse is)
extras: 1 lance, 1 chainmail tunic, 1 chain hauberk, 1 longsword

Sir Morvan is lord of a manor. The manor covers 3 sq miles, has 1000 acres of arable land, and a large village. The house is a fortified manor house, with 1 knight, 2 men-at-arms, 5 levy footmen, 210 serfs, 30 free farmers, and 2 craftsmen tied to it.

Sir Morvan earned his way into his lands. He started out his vocation as a lowly squire, but gained his spurs soon thereafter and became a household knight. After that, he was granted a fief and became a skilled, although not particularly respected, knight bachelor. Morvan experienced a religious epiphany and began to comport himself with increased fervor  vowing to follow the example of Saint Tudwal of Ulfland. He even attempted to join a Militant Order of the faith, but failed to gain entrance and so returned to his duties pledging his sword to his liege lord as a knight bachelor.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Pendragon in the North thoughts

So after a recent move I've been left without a regular face to face D&D group. This also means my Dark Sun Egypt hack never got off the ground, so I've put it on the backburner in my day-dream thought time. That space has now been taken up by thoughts of continuing a Pendragon game. I've been re-reading the Grand Pendragon Campaign, listen to Librivox Mallory, and surfing the Pendragon boards idly. What has this lead to?

Pendragon North! The PKs would be mercenaries and landless knights settled in the North shortly after Arthur's defeat of Lot and the other lords. Goals would be to maximize intrigue, have lots of Scottish landscapes (PKs stranded on the Moors while mist rolls in, yes please), and all the "joys" of subduing a restive people in a harsh environment. The PKs can be from almost anywhere because the stewards of Arthur and the new lords in the North need hard fighting men. I could also justify a straight-up Danish/Norse invasion. Notable lords:

Duke Ansirus the Pilgrim, Lord of Benoic: recently built the Pilgrim's Castle in the north (located modern Dundee), rules a recently conquered Pictish land. Probably the starting liege for the PKs. Ansirus would be pious, possibly Roman culturally, intolerant of pagans and heathens, and harsh with his pict peasants, which might lead to conflict with his northern neighbor, the Pictish King Carados.

King Carados: ally of Lot in the war against arthur. Bent the knee, now telling others he's converted to Christianity. This may be a farce to avoid trouble, or could be sincere. His pict knights have shabby armor and ride near-ponies, but know the land and are more loyal than the pictish clans.

King Uriens, Lord of Gorre and Stangorre: Rewarded for bowing to Arthur quickly with dominion over his cousin's kingdom as well as his own. He is the strongest lord in the North, but hampered by troubles with the Irish and Pict raiders to the west. Danish longships have also been seen off the coast.

Queen Elaine: Arthur's sister rules the land of Garloth, a pagan Cymric kingdom. She is able, but her knights are few.

Stewards of Lothian: no true lord rules the former sovereign land of Lothian. Instead stewards hold the Castle of Maidens and Stirling Castle and their rents for Arthur. The other lords of north eye these lands hungrily, and some are rumored to be considering strange alliances for the opportunity to take them from Arthur's hands. Arthur has begun to order chapels and monasteries built to convert the pagan Cymri of these lands, providing a useful proxy for Ansirus of the stewards are lax in their efforts. The peasants tell rumors of witches convening to halt such efforts.

(forgot to note names before). Suggested Stewarts: Robert the Stewart, Count of Menteith for Stirling; Alexander the Stewart, Count of Buchan, the Black Knight for Castle of Maidens. (might remove earldoms)

Tables would include rules for travel in the treacherous north, fierce Caledonian faeries of ice and earth, Pict and pagan rebellions and raids. I think a major plot would be intrigue and war between the kings, the rise of the kingdom of the isles to the west, and perhaps a danish invasion of the orkneys.

I'd want rules where the PKs have to establish their military bona fides in this game, by fighting personally, but also being in charge early on of their own men that they scrape together themselves. In other words, I'd like it more militarized, mercenary and gritty than usual for Pendragon. This means more use of the Book of Battle and mercenary hiring costs.

Most importantly, I'd like to establish strong NPC personalities for the characters to meet: scary and cruel witches, really intolerant zealots, over-the-top power hungry folks - borrowing more from Game of Thrones style characterization than Mallory.

I may not end up running this, unless maybe on G+, but some of the ideas I think I'd port over into the Grand Pendragon Campaign, especially the strong NPC ideas. I do like the rise of the Britons, Dark Ages Anarchy and the long fight against the Saxons (who also get to be stand-ins for the Vikings), but I find the NPCs Greg Stafford put in the GPC terribly bland. More to come later...

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Tablelands Encounters

Here's a list of random encounters I came up with for my future Dark Sun ACKS game. Further details on the monsters with ACKS stats forthcoming. Some will be the usual Dark Sun 2e monsters scaled appropriately, maybe with some new ways of having their powers work (like the Braxat or Belgoi), while others are new monsters like the baboon men.

Random Monster Encounters (Check 2x per day, 5+)
  1. Sand Serpent (Ch'thrang)
  2. Braxat
  3. Yayn'nu (baboon-men)
  4. B'rhog
  5. Belgoi
  6. Merchant caravan (mekillot howdah, crodlu outrunners only)
  7. Gith
  8. Herd (erdlu, gazelle, goats)
  9. Escaped slaves or freemen
  10. Kanks (wild)
  11. Elf clan
  12. Giant scorpions
  13. Giant beetle swarm
  14. Thri-Kreen
  15. Ankheg
  16. Phase tiger
  17. Roc
  18. Tembo (bulette)
  19. Plains Giant
  20. Purple worm (so-ut)

Terrain Encounters (2d8)
2-4 Sandstorm
5-6 Sinkhole
7 Twister
8 Monolith (obelisk or stela)
9 Lightning storm
10 Ruins of old fortress or trading post
11-12 Campsite (for nomads or travelers)
13 Vegetation (strange cacti, scrubby trees, muddy oasis with flowering plants)
14 Obsidian or glass field
15 Cave and rock formation
16 Colossi

Motivations for encountered creatures:
Hungry and thirsty
Seeking escaped members or renegades
On the run from authorities or predators
Transporting goods or looking for new temporary home

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Conversion Thoughts from Pendragon to Game of Thrones

I really do think that Pendragon would be the best RPG to experience a Game of Thrones (Song of Ice & Fire) feel. Personalities are so strong in the characters, and many do foolish things simply because it is their nature. The trait system and passions of Pendragon would probably best represent this. (I discussed some of these thoughts over the official KAP forum too.)

I've thought doing a conversion of Pendragon for some friends who love Game of Thrones and D&D, but abhorred Arthurian Pendragon. I think Pendragon's a great fit for really recreating the books, assuming some changes in the starting passions, traits for each culture, and the religious traits (the Seven, Old Gods, Drowned God?). I'm also tempted to take out the Chivalry bonus. Overall, changing traits and passions to reward having a strong personalty, rather than a chivalrous one, would be my goal. I might even double or triple high trait scores for Glory, just to reflect the strong and stubborn personalties in the books better (e.g. seems like Cersei has a high lustful and Tywin a high Prudent). I think Love family, Loyalty, etc. should also be more random, rather than starting universally high as in Pendragon (I mean Roose Bolton's Loyalty(Liege) seems pretty low to me). And perhaps with a corresponding toning-down of the penalties for failing a passion roll, maybe it should just decrease the passion on a fail. I think I'd also be pretty generous about handing out Directed Traits too. I really like the idea of using Intrigue or Orate to intentionally invoke another character's trait (NPC or PC) too. I think would be pretty generous about empowering those skills in verbal disputes.

As far as household income, I think a simple "narrative" system like that in Book of the Manor would be best (i.e. just tell the players how much money they got). In the rough-and-tumble wars of the five kings I can't imagine having time to go back and tend the dovecotes. Just give the knights income for accomplishing things instead: great you captured an Lannister knight, now you can afford to buy a new Charger and hire some bodyguards so you don't die in the next battle. That sort of thing. Another option would be having a monthly Winter phase, more like a week, just to keep things apace. I think then you could have the events in the books going on in the background, with the PKs participating in whatever manner seems appropriate depending on which House they're loyal to. If you want financial management to be a bigger part of the game, make the PKs have to seek out rewards from members of the Great House and just give them large holdings. E.g. you gain Harrenhal for defeating the Mountain, that is worth 60 libra/gold dragons! Then allow them to buy retinue, new fortifications, equipment off the year 530+ list. This would give plenty of incentive to backstab other knights, etc.

I think it would be worthwhile to look into the old books for KAP like Saxons! or 4th edition (I have neither) to check out alternate, non-standard virtues/traits for Game of Thrones. 

I do want to say I have investigated both the d20 Game of Thrones and the current dice pool Game of Thrones. Both look horrible. I hate social "combat" challenges as making no sense and being meta-gamey. It's like D&D, why not just talk it out with some basic "guidance" on the dice like a reaction check or skill check possibly inflaming a passion/trait as in Pendragon. So much simpler, so much more intuitive, and players (not just characters) get to really try and convince people of what's going on and get rewarded for intriguing themselves. Many of the fans of these games like the ability to play children or characters like Septons. But what fun is it to play a child like Bran or Rickon or a nun? If you're a non-knight, play Tyrion or Catelyn or someone for god's sake, characters perfectly reproducible in KAP stats.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Dark Sun Hack for ACKS

So beyond Pendragon, I've been working off and on to create a hacked up Dark Sun using the ACKS rules. Rules-wise, I like ACKS way better, although the race-as-class aspect is alittle difficult to square with Dark Sun's numerous races. I think I've come up with a nice solution, and converted and standardized most equipment and classes for Dark Sun. Here are the rules I will be using:

Dark Sun ACKS Player's Guide (Classes, Equipment, Rules)

Additionally, I want to alter the setting alittle bit to fit my vision of the Ancient Egyptian sword-and-sorcerery type place. Having Sorcerer-Kings as the god-rulers of various city-states, as in Dark Sun, perfectly fits this vision for me. Templars are their servants and the powerful magics of the Sorcerer-Kings means they can grant divine spells to their followers. I want jackal-headed templars and city-guards, like in Stargate (the movie, not those horrible tv shows). I also want it to be a kind of Dark Sun hexcrawl. Here it is in proper OSR setting format (thanks Tales of the Grotesque & In Places Deep for the inspiration):

Precis: Dark Sun with an ancient egyptian feel. Oppressive Sorcerer-Kings rule in monument-filled city-states in a harsh magical desert-land where survival is not guaranteed.

Conspectus: running desert elves, stone and bronze weapons, dark sorceries sucking the life from the land and its denizens, dinosaur-mounts, halfling cannibals, treacherous merchants Houses, animal-headed templars smiting the enemies of the kings, corrupt bureacrats and arbitrary laws, turtle-shelled monstrosities like braxats, gladiators, sand giants, obelisks, pyramids, ziggarauts, gith desert raiders, rebellious slaves, purple worms, rare metals, silt sea, magically-bred races and monsters, colossi in the desert.

Inspirations: orientalist artwork, brom, dark sun, ancient egyptian artwork, Conan the Barbarian, Stargate.

Taste, Sound, Image: curries, dates, campfire-cooked meats, Conan the Barbarian full-orchestral soundtrack, these (some image dump):

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Thoughts on Pendragon after Replay

So I hadn't run Pendragon since about a year ago, and that session was widely derided by my friends and players. They just didn't like so much of the game being about courtly interactions, and the fights against bandits and the battle against Saxons just seemed meaningless. D&D was agreed-to, and a great fun was had in more picaresque and money-grubbing adventures. I kept infecting the game with knights and courtly machinations, but that was already because the D&D players just figured out how to poison and slay those problems.

On this second run I was determined to make Pendragon be more appealing. First, I tried explaining the "purpose" of Pendragon more: get married, worry about your horse, get heirs. Second, I tried to explain the traits and Passions systems more so the players would know to try and use it. Pendragon is alittle bit like what I've heard about from story-games where you end up looking at your character sheet ALOT to try and get checks to increase skills, use passions, etc. I wanted my players to know about this, since in D&D you can pretty much just "come up with stuff." Third, I wanted to keep things moving fast, I didn't want to let the players get to bored because I was being passive - in my mind "open ended" - and letting them dick around trying to get Lustful checks with stableboys for too long.

Finally, and most importantly, I wanted to inject what I love about D&D into Pendragon: lots of freedom for player choice. Pendragon's Grand Campaign starts out heavily "on the rails" if you run it as is, and I wanted some of that because the players have no idea what's going on or even how things will go down. Pendragon's not like D&D in that there's a ton of similar videogame or boardgame experiences, so I'm comfortable with some railroad. I also needed to not the players unintentionally bore themselves by giving them too much choice, because when knowing so little, lots of choice doesn't really help any of the fun. This is what I did then:

Instead of heavy plot choice, I tried to encourage heavy "check" choice. Ok, miss pagan, you want to increase Lustful, here's what you can do. Hey Energetic or Pious wannabe, you can go do this to get a check. Then if the roll succeeded, they'd get a check, and they got a brief description and sometimes, a cool plot thing would happen because they sought the check. Like Sir Renard got Proud, and challenged a Duke to a joust "for love," which he critted. That was unexpected, sets up future events, and just rocks for both me and the players (for me because I hate knowing everything that will happen - that's boring).

Overall, I consider it a success then. I'm looking forward to further adventures, perhaps mixed in with some D&D.

Pendragon: 585-586 Recap

Starting with the wife and some friends playing a proper Pendragon game (in other words, I actually got all the charts and prep and so on I wanted before we tried playing). Game was a fricking blast, we ended playing two nights in a row we got so into it.

The PKs were:
Sir Renaurd du Beaumont du Bordeaux du something else I can't remember. Aquitanian Arian knight known for his good looks and pleasant dedication to his faith.

Lady Brienne, pagan British knight, known for her incredible good looks (APP 20) and lustfulness. She even seduced Renard against his will in the course of a feast (critical APP roll).

Sir Dewi ap C-something long. A diligent and all-around-good guy type. High skills, chivalrous before it was cool, likes to spend time polishing his sword and grooming his horses type. Good British Christian to boot.

In our preliminary adventures the knights investigated a Saxon raid at behest of their knightly trainer, the Marshal Sir Elad, Castellon of Vagon castle. After dispatching the human-sacrificing raiders, the knights received their knighthoods and were elevated from squires. Lady Brienne made a name for herself during the Saxon-hunt by slaying a bear, wearing its claws, and then sacrificing some Saxon heads to Epona while dancing in the blood. They met Count Roderick, who I'm interchangeably referring to as Count and Earl, who happily agreed to knight them as he seeks to strengthen the county and realm by conferring title on any who can bring a skilled sword-arm against the Saxon menace. Bishop Roger of Salisbury introduced himself to the Christian knights, but they bored quickly of him.

Then the knights travelled east to Uther's nearby camp, where they met the Duke of Silchester (see his coat of arms there) and learned of the animosity between Silchester and Salisbury (based on Roderick's rivalry with the Lord of Levcomagus). After hearing his manner of talking mocked by the Duke, Sir Renard challenged him to a joust, inflaming the Duke's propriety. Renard was victorious, to the pleasure of all true Salisbury men! Silchester seemed to only redouble in his hatred of the knights.

The battle of Meacred Creek, however, did not go so well in Renard's favor. The three intrepid knights took to the field for their first battle, led by Marshall Elad as the lance commander. Things went well at first, the knights cutting through a band of wealthy heorthgenats with bearded axes and golden torcs. Then they found themselves in the center of the battle in the shallows of the creek proper, and here they met a group of long-spear wielding Saxons frothing with hate. Lady Brienne and Sir Dewi cut through the spear-shafts of their enemies, but Sir Renard was greviously wounded by a spearmen, and dragged back to the rear by his squire Black Peter. Sir Elad allowed the remainning two to fight on and the knights got their revense when the Marshall noted an opening in the field after withdrawing, allowing the knights to charge the long-spearmen's rear. Many were hacked down gloriously and gleefully by two remaining knights.

As Renard recovered, the knights headed back to their manors, hiring professional stewards as they were bachleor(ette)s and knew little of counting pennies. The winter harvest was not kind to Brienne and her charger died. Generously, Dewi heard of her troubles and gave his friend from Meacred Creek his second charger. The next year the knights went on patrol, after Count Roderick was not convinced of the prudence of their request to raid east into Caercolun where the knights had heard the Saxons had evilly slain the British Duke there.

Once on patrol, the knights discovered a group of Silchester knights had been impersonating Saxons and burning the hamlet of Sir Bars on the London road. After the discovery of the true nature of these "saxons," they sought leave from the Count to retaliate, which he granted while disavowing any real knowledge. They captured a nearby Silchester knight after he rode out to defend his peasants and forced him to ransom himself, earning a fair amount of libra for themselves and to recompense Sir Bars.

Additionally, the knight encountered Merlin, whom they helped to slay a giant and a nukalee water-creature. They were able to then see Merlin receive the Excalibur from the lady of the lake, and learned of his crotchety and sarcastic attitude towards knights.

After all these adventures, the knights invested the ransom-money into apiaries and dovecotes. Sir Brienne found herself an ambitious pagan gentleman to wed, as she would not be able to marry a dowry-holder anyhow. Hopefully his skill at stewardship will make up for it.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Earl's Court

Earl Roderick, Count of Salisbury, Lord of Sarum Castle
Earl Roderick is a harsh but fair man (Just 16, Loyalty (Uther) 17, Hate Saxons 18, Battle 20, Sword 20, Suspicious (unwarlike men)). He seeks to root out the many problems of his realm, and increase the number of skilled fighting men. Thus he favors martial activities and approves of warring and hunting, but is suspicious of courtly activities. He fiercely loves Uther and will hear no disapproval of him, despite disfavored acts he hears Uther engaging in.

Castellans: Sir Amig of Tilshead, Marshall Elad of Vagon, castellans of Devizes and Ebble, and Du Plain.

Lord Hywel, Banneret of Winterslow: an aged widower who dotes on his beloved minor daughter (age 8) Lillian. Hywel will agree to a marriage to anyone she wishes and who is kind to him as well. Earl Roderick would only assent if the suitor has 3k Glory or proved capable of working with the nuns and monks of Amesbury Abbey nearby. Roderick is disappointed with Hywel, who while capable is not a paragon on martial ability or assertiveness.

Bishop Roger of Salisbury: favors christian knights, seeks aid whenever he gets into trouble with his peasants from them. Doesn't believe Roderick takes the pagan "weakness" of the faith seriously.

Sir Jaradan, Sword 22, ambitious (Selfish 16) and Proud 16. He will challenge and insult those he deems weaker than him, and constantly volunteers and lickspittles towards the Count.

Sir Bars, a big and homely knight, but also brave and extremely loyal. He is the lord of the manor bording Silchester and has recently had troubles with raids along the Salisbury-Silchester road to London.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Winter Phase & Other Pendragon Materials

The Winter Phase:

  1. Roll for Experience Checks
  2. Check for Aging (if applicable) [KAP 107]
  3. Check Landholding System (including Fortune, Harvest, Income) [Book of the Manor 48] 
    1. Remove Hate (Landlord) mechanic: just deal with effects in game narratively
  4. Make Stable & Childbirth Rolls [KAP 108]
  5. Make Family & Local Events Rolls [Expanded Family Events Table]
    1. 1-2 No Event, 3-6 Local Event (roll again), 7-20 Family Event (odd or even)
    2. alternative system for family events in KAP if too cumbersome
  6.  Training & Practice [KAP 111]
  7. Compute Glory & Glory Bonuses [KAP 112]
  8. Deal with Events at Local Court & Make Investments
    1. decide if peasants or other nobles come to court beyond the rolls in the Book of the Manor

The Adventuring Phase
After the Winter Phase is dealt with, dealing with the local events around the knights' own manors, then comes time to be summoned for duty at the Liege's (Count's) Court, where the main adventures can occur. Here the knights can hear distant rumors of the king's court, might be summoned there instead, attempt to woo ladies with the liege lord's permission, or forget about it and get straight to killing or performing the lord's own duties. Of course, the knights can interact with each other using messenger birds or undertake their own actions either before or after their yearly service.

Other Resources:
Feasts - Random Feast Tables
Travel in Countryside: Random Encounter Tables from [Blood and Lust 17]

Friday, June 8, 2012


(pic from here:

So I've been in love with Pendragon for about a year now, and after our D&D TPK I've been plotting running a campaign. But I have two huge glaring worries about it as a game because I dislike railroads. They bore me. I have more fun when the players can try new things. Pendragon has two features that worry me about running a campaign. Further, last time we played Pendragon my players weren't that into it, and I wasn't feeling it either. So I'm dealing with two concerns:

1. Railroady plots in published adventures/the Grand Pendragon Campaign. This is not just a "feature" for me, it's a bug. I don't mind structure: hearing about main NPCs off screen, being assigned missions by the liege lord. I just don't like limiting the players' choices once an adventure is kicked off. I'm planning to fix this by going with the flow and asking lots of questions about what PCs do, and not worrying if they mess up the timeline. I endorse  that PCs are there to kick ass and take names (or die trying) and your NPCs are the grist beneath their mailed boots. I'm also planning way more random tables for feasts, yearly events, etc.

2. Encouraging the pursuit of power/giving a shit about Pendragon: I think my D&D crew who I've played with before didn't really understand what they're supposed to be doing. Pendragon is not as clear as D&D, because its goals are alittle off kilter. I also like intrigue and gathering power stories, in addition to tales of moral choice and heroism (blah romance). I intend therefore to try and get PCs first into warfare and combat, and get used to interacting with NPCs with really STRONG personalities. Then I want them to inherit some land and use the Book of the Manor to really build up little personal fiefs.

Anyone have experiences or suggestions with running Pendragon to not be railroady? To maximize intrigue and power grabs?

Monday, April 30, 2012

Warfare Rules

  1. Pre-Battle Manuevering
    1. Can accomplish through use of scouts, rangers, light cavalry.
                                                    i.     If superior scouting ability, including mobility, then automatically get to roll.
                                                   ii.     If basically equal, then scout commanders make checks to get the drop on one another (primarily scouting skill check, otherwise Int-initiative roll).
                                                  iii.     Then scouting forces battle with winner taking initiative and ground, unless scout CO decides to cede the engagement and ground, and returns to main host.
    1. Obtain or grant Battle (no advantage, both armies deploy usually), Initiative & Ground, Pick of Field, Ambush
                                                    i.     If the army had scouting superiority, they can find the enemy host at a location of their choosing and perhaps even ambush if the commander has a clever plan. 1d6: 1-4 = pick battlefield, 5-6 = can ambush the enemy army. Even with superiority, if there is no plausible way to catch the enemy, then only gain initiative and ground.
                                                   ii.     If the army’s scouts won the engagement, they will know where the enemy is heading and can possibly pick the battlefield. Roll 1-4 = initiative & ground (or deny battle), 5-6 can pick field.
                                                  iii.     If indecisive or no pre-battle scouting, roll for commander who wants to fight: 1-2 = no battle but rumors, 3-5 obtain battle, roll Int-initiative for initiative, 6 win initiative and ground.
    1. Battlefield: Mountainous, Muddy or Marshy Fields, Woods, Hilly Field
                                                    i.     Enables different options like Choke-points, high ground, backs to a wall.
                                                   ii.     Those who win ground can take advantages of hill high ground, mountain pass choke points, river crossings, deep woods, etc.
                                                  iii.     Winning initiative means troops will go slightly first, allows commanders to pick where they attack, can ask DM about enemies strategems (only reveal if obvious), etc.
    1. Deploy: Divide forces into wings if >200 warriors a side, need meaningful wing size – at least 25% of largest side's total warriors.
                                                    i.     Each wing should be roughly equal to opposing wing (+/- 25%), if wing not roughly equal then outnumbered (if 3x/4x outnumbered then even worse)
                                                   ii.     Can hold forces in reserve if no wing left badly outnumbered
                                                  iii.     Can conceal forces if superior scouting
  1. Strategems
    1. Each wing picks a strategem: wing composed of majority of average members (fuzzy DM determination)
                                                    i.     battlefield determines some options
    1. Assault (regular), high ground, fortification defense, flank (requires outnumber/open flank), envelope (requires outnumber/open flank and fast unit), prepared ground (braveheart/agincourt), secret weapon (wizardry, troll shock troops, etc. = can grant damage bonus to wing even though wing not majority composed), feint manuever (draw enemy into running around/in wrong direction), brace (if other side also defends, then no combat; best for pike)
                                                    i.     Assumed to work if led by competent captain
    1. Secretly ordered, reveal simultaneously after chosen (unless scrying or something)
  1. Combat
    1. Characters first: bonus to combat roll for victory in personal combat
                                                    i.     Face off against higher numbers if Outnumbered, something like 2x/3x versus each member of PCs & bodyguard (generally generic enemies led at least by lieutenant type with +2/3 HD compared to average).
                                                   ii.     Face off against any leaders or monsters (VIPs): any major NPCs/monsters left unfaced or if they defeat PCs, then they add victorious bonus
1.      VIPs can choose to avoid one another, but difficult (something like Int check)
                                                  iii.     Lasts as long as normal combat; can be both outnumbered and facing VIPs
                                                  iv.     VIPs victorious when killing almost all or enemies facing them failed morale check
    1. Every wing rolls damage dice (d6 for one-handed, d8 or d10 for two-handed), adds bonuses, compares to AC of opponent wing
                                                    i.     Archers roll first against non-archers, if destroy enemy then enemy doesn't get to go; pike roll first against nonpike/nonarchers if bracing
1.      Longbows fire 2x first against non-archers
                                                   ii.     Normal bonuses: knights charging +1, +1 if VIPs victorious, +1 pike bracing, +1 if defending high ground, +1 if attacking on flank/enveloping, +2 if defending fortifications, +1 huge monstrous, +1 outnumbers
1.      Not netted out, instead applies to both
                                                  iii.     Higher roll (not equal) than AC = a hit. If hits = or > # wing's average HD, then wing destroyed.
                                                  iv.     Destroyed wings reduced to 25%, even if rallied
  1. Morale and Spirit
    1. Each wing that engaged in combat makes a morale check (and every unit if battle commander killed/captured)
    2. -2 if battlefield commander out, -2 flanked, -4 enveloped, -2 outnumbered (before hit), -2 to -4 for fearsome enemies (wights, dragons), -2 encountering/seeing routing wing last turn
                                                    i.     Use wing commander's morale (use battle commander's for the wing where he is nearby)
    1. Wings that are destroyed fail morale check unless VIP can rally
                                                    i.     -4 to wing's check for receiving a hit, otherwise use VIP's morale. (remember only 25% or so of destroyed wing remains even if succeed).
    1. If fail, unit routes, generally cannot return to battle but might grab possessions at camp while running away.
    2. A routing unit can be chased down and destroyed by a faster pursuer, or by any pursuer if battlefield restricts movement.
  1. Aftermath
    1. Survivors: about 40% of any destroyed or broken unit on losing side can be found or organized after about a week, if a liege can command their loyalty. Almost no survivors will remain if a unit was basically wiped out (last stand, pursued after broken; DM discresion). Any unit that engaged in combat normally has about 80% survivors, down to 60% if it broke or sustained a non-destroying hit.
    2. XP: commanders receive about 500 xp per wing commanded, plus 500 xp more for strategically important accomplishments, plus bonuses for defeating notable enemies as normal. Any captured enemies or gold also garner XP.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Cairnlands

Lords of Cairnlands
Lord of Drakehall (Green Dragon sigil), Count Oren Ashbriar (Fi7)
Oren Ashbriar is a big, strong man with four sons. His lands occupy the border between the Black Kingdom and Thornlands, and is close enough to the coast and wilderness for many pagan raids, so the Lord of Drakehall battle worn and tested. His lands spill across the hills and scattered forests of the northern Seamist foothills.
Troops & Vassal Levies: 150 heavy foot garrison in Drakehall (high stone tower) plus100 household heavy foot retainers, 25 household knights, 25 longbowmen, 4 sons level 4-5 knights. The Ashbriars have 5 Barons (lv 5-6) as bannermen, and a full muster adds their forces and vassal knights baronet: 25 lv 4 knights, 75 lv 2 knights, 1100 heavy foot.

Demeanor: The Ashbriars are strong and loyal to House Morvain, but value honor and glory. During the days the Guild had acquired de facto control of the Cairnlands the Ashbriars ruled basically independently. Any lord seeking their support would be wise to prove himself in battle against the Ashbriars many enemies.

Plots: Randyll Ashbriar, Oren's firstborn son, seeks the lordship of the Cairnlands and will openly question providing any support to whoever holds the Cairnstones. He also tries to convince his father on virtues of independence or cooperation with Whitehaven unless the Morvains choose a honorable lord for the Cairnstones.

Hooks: an old fortress lies in ruins north of Drakehall. The Ashbriars fear the Redwynes (Tintagel bannermen) seek to occupy the ruins to gain a foothold against them. But the ruins might be home to worse, and  peasants give reports strange lights to their lords.

Bishop Bertram Glover (Cl7), Lord of Greypoint

Count Nyko Talos (Fi6), Lord of Eastport

Strengths & Weaknesses:
Goals & Fears:

Count Simon Berengar (Fi7), Lord of Greenstone
Strengths & Weaknesses: Alistair Berengar (Wi8), Simon's older brother is a powerful wizard who gave up the lordship to practice magic, as the Church forbids wizardly lords.
Goals & Fears::

Encounters in the Cairnlands:
2: Dragons
3: Wild hunt: 2d10 centaurs led by a huntmaster if 8 or more centaurs, armed with spears and bows, accompanied by 1d4 debauched maenads, spirits who appear as beautiful wild women (AC 4, 2 HD, charm, branch-like wands of polymorph 25% or swords). the Hunt wishes to capture trophies for the faerie courts, but will drink the blood of fallen dead foes, or desires a debauched orgy before demanded the lovers accompany back to the faerie court.
4: Wolves: 3d6 black wolves, 2d4 dire wolves (50/50%)
5: Cave bear: 1 or 2, if 2 then near lair
6-8: Game, wild 2d12 herd
9: Formori: these ravenous sea-trolls roam in 2d10 strong packs, seeking destruction and manflesh. they attack with claws for 1d4/1d4 damage or by clubs for 1d8+2 damage; AC 3; HD 3; Mr+2. For every 10, they will be led by a HD 5; AC 5 chieftain armed with a massive axe or club 1d10+2; Mr +3. Formori can breath under water, which they try to stay in sight of, and regenerate 1/hp rd.
10: Stormland reavers
11-12: Knightly patrol: 1/4 chance Baron (Fi5)+10 Kn1+50 footmen; or Knight Lord (Fi3) + 1d4 Kn1 + 20 footmen.
13: Bandits: 1d10x2d4, led by Fi4, 50% armed with bows and short swords, shields and leather, 50% chainmail and light horses. bandits are either bloodthirsty greedy types who prey upon all, or peasant-loving freedom fighter types who resent the cruelties of medieval aristocracy.
14: Bristleboar (giant boar 1d4) - territorial and tusky, will get bloodlust to defend piglets if wounded
15: Foreign scouts or raiders - 50% woodsman types, 2d12; 50% mounted medium cavalry scouts 3d10
16: Trolls: usual number (1d8), but trolls are vulnerable to bright sunlight, turning to stone after 3 rds of exposure to direct sunlight. they are stupid and smell. 1/4 chance a few trolls (25%) will know several different spells like web, acid arrow, darkness. Trolls are also fearsome to those failing a save when they roar. Some trolls vomit on their enemies, causing 1d4 points of damage to all those in a cone in front of the troll and possibly diseasing the victim (get a save).
17: Skeletal troop: 2d12 skeletal warriors march between forgotten battlefields in military formation, 50% lead by wight-lord
18: Faerie grove: graven trees, pixies & nixies
19: Trow or redcaps
20: Wood giants

Note: hamlets and pasturing herds can be found at will near roads and marked castles