Saturday, February 27, 2021

Atlantaverse: Full of Dread

   We sat down for some old-school superhero action and ran the new Discord server for it.

The Heroes:

Jack- Sirius the Winderdog. Exposed to a meteorite the faithful hound was imbued with incredible powers, keen intelligence, and a thirst for justice.

Sam- Emerald Guardian. Billionaire. Aristocrat. Inventor. Man of Action. Leader of the Emerald Guardsmen he uses his base on Emerald Island as a crime-fighting headquarters as he fights evil across the globe.

Nick- Phoenix. A powerful magician that can assume the fiery form of the phoenix he opposes all dastardly deeds.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Why I Don't Mind Aerith and Bob

 Although I have gone into details on names in my campaigns before let's talk about it again. Why? Because it is on my mind, no more than that.

 In the Blackstone campaign the highest level character and leader of leaders is Doomsman the Destroyer, from the Northern Tribelands, a barbarian who rose to be the greatest living swordsman in the world and a powerful baron. I once had someone say he thought the name Doomsman the Destroyer was ridiculous and he would NEVER let a player have such a ridiculous, unrealistic name.

  I jokingly told him I made him change the name to Ruine Zerstorer.

"Much better!" they wrote.

Yes, I did indeed laugh out loud.

In game Doomsman is from the Destroyer tribe - everyone from the tribe is called 'the Destroyer'. I could make them all be called 'der Zerstorung', I suppose, but why? I mean, exactly WHY would I use the exact same name in a non-English language to sound 'more realistic'?

  Look at my mine - taking the meaning and translating it my name means 'Powerful Ruler Shortguy'.My oldest son? 'God Has Given Shortguy'.

This leads Jack to talk about being an ancient Hebrew and calling for your kids, 
"Gooood! God has Given! Get in here and wash your hands, it is dinner time!", or,
"God Has Given, get your brother Who Is Like Unto God, and your sister Wished For Child and start cleaning your rooms! Ugh!"

I also really like my wife's maiden name translated: 'Fair Skinned Maiden with Black Hair' which is literally true.

How about some Puritan names, eh? Like the Barebones family.
Yes, these names and people are real or my name isn't Dick Stump.

There were the brothers Praise God barebones and Fear-God Barebones. Praise God became a member of Cromwell's Appointed Aseembly (whichw as nicknamed 'Barebone's Parliament'). One of Praise God's sonw was named If Christ Had Not Died For Thee Thou Hads't Been Damned Barebones, nicknamed Damned Barebones. He went on to found the first fire insurance company in London.

My own kids are a little jealous of our Hispanic friends. As Jack says,

 "If I were to name my son John of the Cross people would look at me funny. But if you meet a Juan de la Cruz no one blinks."

So let the names fly, fast and free.

DM Log: Into the Four Counties

 North of Seaward and West of Tirgalen are the Four Counties, an alliance of demi-human nations:

Riverhearth: An nation of about 20,000 Halflings (mainly Southern Halflings). Ruled by Count Perrinor and the primate is Bishop Jerriador.

Greenbough: A nation of about 15,000 Elves (mainly Forest Elves). Led by Count Finan Laclaer and with primate Bishop Erencu.

Gladdenstone: Home to about 12,000 Gnomes (legends claim some Glade Gnomes live there, but almost exclusively Dell Gnomes). Count Artenn rules with the help of his cousin, the primate Bishop Waldo.

Karag: A nation of about 11,000 Dwarves, mainly Granite Dwarves. Their ruler is Count Theorn and their primate is the legendary Archbishop Karl, called Hammer of the Orcs.

The Company of the Dark Moon sent a scouting team consisting of:

Starfalcon: (Alex) A ranger from Timberlake and one of the top fighters in the entire company. 6th level ranger.

Ursula: (Jen) A halfling thief from Riverhearth and known for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. 4th level thief.

Anwyn: (Nick) A bard and known for being in the right place at the right time. 5th level bard.

Seamus: (Jack) A druid and raconteur. 5th level druid.

        Bornthein: (henchman to Seamus) a warrior from Karag. 3rd level fighter.

Godfrey: Master of Scouts for the Company. 6th level scout.

        Alfred: Religious Brother, henchman to Godfrey. 3rd level religious brother.

        Nigel: Scout and henchman to Godfrey. 3rd level scout.

The Company had learned from various sources (read: the castle of Lord Whitehill and interrogating mercenaries and bandits) that-

  A) The evil para-elemental cults had been subverted and were in service to a demon cult.

  B) The demon cult was Baron Samedhi's primary tool used to subvert nations from within.

So they sent the info team to get info.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Magic Item of the Week - back! The Headsman's Axe

   This is for AD&D 2e S&P.

  We love AD&D 2e in the house, and we LOVE the Player's Options books.
  In Combat and Tactics they introduced weapon styles and my Blackstone campaign includes several unique styles, including the beloved (by my darling wife Jennifer 'BLOOD! BLOOD AND SKULLS!' Stump) Headsman's Style which can be used with the great axe, bardiche, and greatsword.

  To use the Headman's Style you must already have two levels in the Two-Handed Weapons style and be at least specialized in great axe/bardiche/greatsword. The first level in Headsman's Style gives you an additional +1 damage and the second gives you a +3 (total) to damage

  Which leads us to the magic item the Headsman's Axe.

 This great axe is normally +2 to hit and damage. If you have both levels in the Two-Weapon Style it is +2 to hit and +3 to damage. If you have one level in Headsman's Style it is +3 to hit and +4 to damage. And if you have both levels in Headsman's Style it is +5 to hit and +7 to damage (not including style bonuses!).

  Other style-related magical weapons exist, of course

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Reflections on 43 Years in the Hobby

   In less than six months it will be the 44th anniversary of the first time I played D&D and my lifelong obsess-, uh, hobby, began. And this very recent August the 41st anniversary of me starting my own homebrew campaign came and went. We were so busy playing we missed it, which is apropos.

  But it has also been pretty tough in some ways. One of my very first players, Dave, fought really, really hard but lost to cancer. George, another early player, lost all of his early gaming stuff (from first printings of AD&D books to his first 20 characters and notes and the first player-facing map of Seaward) to storm damage. So we've lost at least 5 of the players from the first 10 years of the campaign and a tremendous amount of the original notes, maps, and such.

  Tempus Fugit.

  But looking back there are a few things I learned (or at least came to believe to be true!). I'll try to condense them here.

The Roles within the Party

My theory of The Roles - the positions filled by character classes in D&D and its clones. The roles are:

-Physical Offense: pretty obvious - killing things with weapons.
-Physical Defense: being a 'meat shield' and keeping the physical offense of foes contained.
-Magical Offense: Killing things with magic.
-Magical Defense: Stopping enemy magic from harming the party.
-Scouting and Intelligence: Using information and skills to control the location and tempo of encounters.

The AD&D 1e classes fill these roles like this:
Fighter = Physical Offense
    Ranger = Physical Offense + Scouting & Intelligence
    Paladin = Physical Offense + Magical Defense
Cleric = Physical Defense + Magical Defense
    Druid = Magical Offense + Scouting & Intelligence
Magic-user = Magical Offense
    Illusionist = Magical Offense + counter Scouting & Intelligence
Thief = Scouting & Intelligence
    Assassin = Scouting& Intelligence + Physical Offense
Monk = counter Magical Offense + counter Magical Defense + counter Scouting & Intelligence
Bard = everything

  This framework allows me to get a better estimation of what the party is capable of doing and handling and how to oppose them with clever foes.

NPCs Matter, especially Henchmen

  Time after time I have seen henchmen truly matter in the game. Perhaps most recently and dramatically in the Assault on the Fortress of Lord Whitehill. The PCs were pinned and about to be wiped out when the henchmen, following orders, arrived in the nick of time and just barely pulled victory from the jaws of death.

  If nothing else, with henchmen an NPC or three can play the class no player wants for a PC.

Jazz Band Adventuring Matters

  Something I first tried to describe here Jazz Band play just means every players has multiple PCs in the campaign and the party composition varies by mission, which players are there, what PCs are available, etc. It makes it a LOT easier if a player can't make it or you want your PC to go learn a new spell and more importantly it shifts focus from "this party" to the campaign as a whle..

It Isn't About One Thing

  RPGs are about fun, so it can't be about the GM, or a single player, or even this particular party. What seems to me in my limited experience to matter is that people are emotionally and intellectually invested in the campaign. Less pressure, more fun, at least as far as I can see.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Playtest of my Mass Combat Rules - Report

   The sons and I broke out my new mass combat rules and playtested all weekend. We started with Orcs vs Elves (using the number for a max-sized group of each from the Monster Manual, tweaked so that we got even units) . A real slugfest and a ton of fun. The elven sword and bow bonus makes a difference on the field, and do the number of spell casters. We re-ran it several times to eliminate the 'I have no idea what I am doing' issue of new players and to test our assumptions and what we learned.

  I am very pleased. The changes I am writing in today are:
- Rules for cavalry mounts also fighting
- Missile Fire and Flanking
- Clarifying spell duration
- Modifying the damage inflicted by units on lone heroes
And that's it other than some spelling/grammar errors!

  This week and weekend we will test it with a replay of the Battle for Whitehill Castle from the campaign - the knights of the King of Seaward, the Starry Banner, and the Company of the Dark Moon on one side, the brigands and renegades of Lord Whitehill on the other

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Seaward Play Update: Fun in Foreign Lands

 The players have grown aware that Baron Samedhi's plans are many and wide-spread, so they sent thier highest level characters in their spelljammer to Yashima (Japanland) where they docked at an island just for spelljammers and took a boat to Norunga, the Foreign Trade Port allowed by the Shogun of Yashima.

Meanwhile, in the Kingdom of Seaward, the other characters fought a week of bloody battles with the Bandit Lord they call Farquad eventually breaking the last remnant of Whitehill's army and last agents of Samedhi in the Bandit Realms. This opened overland trade between the Kingdom of Seaward and the High County of Banath for the first time ever. The players also found the Bandit's Brother, a powerful intelligent sword with a sage's knowledge of warfare. It had been the actual leader of the bandits!

  In Norunga the party established ties with local adventurers (read: their Oriental Adventures PCs met their Seaward are PCs), established trade between Yashima and Seaward (their cover), went on a very clandestine adventure for a local member of the Sea Folk nobility, and made initial contact with a 'good' clan of ninja. They learned that an admiral of Liung Diguo (Chinaland) was forming a great fleet ostensibly to conquer Goryeo (Korealand) but would actually attack Yashima and, with the help of armies of bandits led by Lady Snow, try to conquer the island and hand it to Samedhi.

  This session the party planned to negotiate with the Red Mountain ninjas to help provide them information about Lady Snow (half sister of Samedhi) and her bandit armies and perhaps interfere. The discussion was interrupted by an attack of other ninja. The two members of the party were a monk and a fighter that knows kung-fu (foreigners must be unarmed in the Foreign Quarter) so they triumphed quickly. They learned that the other ninja, the despicable Black Chrysanthemum Clan, were now backed by/led by someone calling herself 'Sister of the Oni King'. The PCs pieced together clues and realized that was Lady Snow. The Red Mountain ninja joined the alliance against Samedhi.

  Back at their rented house the party received a letter requesting a meeting. They agreed and soon a merchant from Qader (Arabialand) arrived with his retinue of bodyguards, servants, a seer, a sorceress, and a translator genie. After a meal (rought by the merchant, named Fazeel) Fazeel explained he was on a mission for his patron and lord, Prince Ali of Arrabess. There were three claimants to the empty throne of the Caliph - Ali, another prince named Bari, and a man who had quickly risen in prestige over the last decade, not of noble birth but with many willing to declare him Caliph, a man who called himself al-Samadi. There was only one was to be certain you became Caliph - present the Granite Blade, an enchanted scimitar of great power that was the ancient symbol of the Caliph. But it had been missing for centuries. Prince Ali had asked Fazeel to find it.

  Fazeel soon realized that for some reason magic could not find it so he had hired the cleverest sorceress in Qader and she had tracked down a powerful Seer and the two women had asked different questions, resulting in two visions.

  The first was to come to Norunga on this day of this year and speak to whomsoever was in the only red house.

  The second was to ask them "Where is Rupert?".

As a DM watching the players' reaction to this question [groans of horror and inevitability, mainly, with many a head slumped with a hand over the eyes] was epic.

   The party conferred among themselves and realized Samedhi was trying to seize the Caliphate at the same time he was angling to take over Yashima. Speaking with Fazeel they surmised he was also working on Rushk (Russialand). Concerned about these possibilities they told Fazeel that Skull Mountain cannot be scried into and that Rupert is a being of incredible power that "guards" parts of the mountain. According to the legends inside the mountain Rupert wields a weapon called the Granite Sword.

  ...and then the monk in the party realized what was bugging him. The Sorceress was using magic to 'broadcast' the meeting somewhere! He warned the others the sorceress was a spy.

  Cue the ninjas. It was a full-on brawl between the party (aided by Fazeel) against the sorceress, the seer, and a pack of ninja. Hans and Franz, the twin barbarian henchmen, were on a tear and the monk (Akira, Nick's character) was in fine form so the fight didn't last long. And they were glad they had poison antidote magic!

  After it was over Jennifer's character, Fiona, reluctantly used the Hoary Head of Hogarth to interrogate the dead sorceress. She had indeed been working for Samedhi and Samedhi himself had been listening in, so he now knows where to find the sword. 

  The party struck up a deal with Fazeel that the party will try to get the sword. In return Fazeel will slowly  and carefully inform others in Qader about the true nature of al-Samadi. Fazeel left until the morning and the PCs/Players started talking.

  They wondered why Samedhi was making so many plays for power all at once in so many areas. The logistics of organizing and controlling them all must be staggering. And why some nations and not others? Sure, Yashima was vast and wealthy, as was the Caliphate, but tiny, backwater Seaward? 

  About then Nick cracked a joke about 'while we're here we should look for a Skull Mountain substation'. There were a few chuckles that faded to a contemplative silence. Then Jack said,

  "The Wizard of the Tower uses his control of local substations to boost his magic."


  "What if... what if there are bigger stations, or even just substations, farther away? What could you do if you controlled 10 of them?"

  So the party asked local natives if they had ever heard tales of a room made of silver metal with flashing lights and that you needed a small back card to enter?

"Of course! The Black Metal Mirror is part of the Imperial Regalia of the Emperor. All of the other regalia is in the Room of Flashing Jewels. It is sister to the one in Liung Diguo, the Yellow Throne of the Dragon Emperor lies over the silver room in that nation."

  They confirmed from Fazeel in the morning that part of being Caliph was access to the Room of Silver Walls under the palace of the Caliph. Then the party realized - in Seaward there is the Royal Island, a heavily fortified island where on the royal family and their personal guard may ever go....

  Another sage pointed out that according to legend, legends that can only be told out of earshot of the Shogun's spies, that many years before the first Shogun had snuck into the Room of Flashing Jewels and used it to ask the Lord of aAll Evil to use something called 'Skull Mountain' to destroy the skyship ferrying the Crown Prince, allowing the first Shogun to sieze power!


"Samedhi is trying to control these 'national' stations. Now we know that if you know what to do you can use them to communicate. And the Wizard in the Tower proves you can use them to boost magic. Maybe the only way to get to the Contraption is to control enough national stations?"


"What if you control enough of them you don't need access in person? Maybe 6 or 7 of them IS remote access to the Contraption!"


"If he controls enough of them, maybe he can just make himself a demon prince, Or worse."

  The PCs resolved to thwart Samedhi everywhere they could

  The next morning Fazeel used his genie-powered galley to take the party to their spelljammer (Clarence, Sam's character, stayed behind for a series of solo adventures in Yashima).


One Hell of a day at the table!