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.