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.