Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Why the Blog is Quiet

  I did the last of the main writing for my OSRIC supplement Far Realms over the past week while also celebrating the birthday of one of my sons. Expect posting to return tomorrow!

Friday, July 25, 2014

An Article Worth Reading.... and my own comments

  The RPGer known on Google+ as Jeffro (Jeff Johnson) has written a review of the book High Crusade that is (typical for Jeff) very good and delves into a lot more than just a great book by a great author. Other great writers have already chimed in on the piece and I am going to exploi-, uh, also comment.
  Jeff touches on some if the issues with thieves and clerics held by some gamers. I have previously touched on both of these classes, so my opinions should be clear. What I want to focus on in Jeff's insight into how writers and gamers tend to get history wrong.
  This is a topic I have touched on before when I discussed how modern people fail to think of distances in an appropriate way. In brief, modern people tend to think of people from other periods as either 'just like me' or 'too stupid to be just like me'. Or, more shortly, we don't portray historical people historically especially when our own misconceptions and prejudices crop up. This is perhaps most egregious in steampunk.
  I like steampunk, I read a lot of it, I have friends who make a living writing it, and I play and GM it. And most people get the Victorian period very, very wrong. As Jeff points out in his article many modern writers give people of the Victorian Era a hard time because they were so very, very repressed and stuffy.
  Too bad that isn't true. In reality most of the ideas we have of 'stuffy, prudish Victorian Britain with their narrow-mindedness and judgmental attitudes' originated from British satires of American outlooks and attitudes of the era! In fact British Victorians were, yes, focused on moral behavior but were also rather open-minded, charitable, and more inclusive than most would believe. They also weren't all doing opium and seeing prostitutes! Steampunk seems to like one, the other, or both but not to embrace the reality.
  Likewise with portrayals of Medieval people. On the one hand they were not a single conversation away from enthusiastically sharing the outlooks and attitudes of a middle-class college sophomore attending a large liberal arts university. On the other they were not bloodthirsty, ignorant savages who thought the world was flat and would burn old ladies at the stake for having a cat.
  Yes, Yes, I know - it's a game. Your Vikingland barbarians can have horns on their helmets, your Irishland natives can all have red hair, I get it. But the reality was very complex, very interesting, and (in my opinion) more fun.
  Thanks, Jeff, for a great review.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Seaward Campaign - Ursula's Diary Part 1

Real time:
Part 1, July 19
Je. plays Ursula, a hafling thief
J plays Hans, a hafling fighter
A plays Starfalcon, a half-elf ranger
S plays Blackstar, a human wizard
N plays Talnar, a human cleric

  Backstory: We are here in Timberlake, my cousin Hans and I. We came from our home in
Riverhearth, looking for adventure - he and I have always shared a certain wanderlust. After we
arrived in the city, we got to know Starfalcon, a half-elf ranger, and his human friends, Talnar the
cleric and Blackstar the wizard. We all want to explore the world and search for wealth and
adventure! So we are, of course, keeping our ears to the ground, anxious to seize upon any
opportunity we can find. We hear that the Duke of Timberlake is distracted and concerned with
something odd off in the West, I wonder what will come of that? One day, Hans tells me that he
has discovered rumors that someone named Llewelyn the Black is asking for help. Now, that
sounds promising! All we can find out, though, is that he is somewhere to the west of the village
of Swining. People are surprisingly reluctant to speak to us of Llewelyn the Black. Everyone
seems to know who he is, but no one wants to tell us anything about him. So, we mention the
tales to Starfalcon, the ranger, and he tells Talnar and Blackstar. We get together, and decide to
just take off, see what we can see and find out. Swining is only about two days travel down
Wyvern Rock. Why not check it out?
  Before we leave town, I loan a few gold pieces to Blackstar. He wants to buy a few more darts,
and I don't blame him. He's going to need all the defense he can get. He is kind of a wimpy
guy, head in the books, looks like a slight breeze will knock him over. Wizards, geesh!

Day 1: The morning dawns kind of overcast, light clouds and a strong West wind. As we leave
town, Timber Lake is on our right, and what a beautiful sight it is! We travel onward, and around
noon we come to the village of Pancy. It is a quaint little fishing village with a post, and an Inn
called "The Purple Grimoire Inn". It is quite the odd little inn - hanging on the wall inside is a big
purple spell book in a glass case! We inquire about it, and the barkeep tells us that the book is
actually blank. He tells us the store of how the owner used his spell book as collateral for loans
to buy both this inn, and a couple fishing vessels. After his death, it was discovered that the
spell book was blank, so they hung it on the wall as a conversation piece. Such a strange story!
Lunch was good, however, almost worth the 5 copper pieces.
We continue to travel on until dinner time, when we stop in the village of Carcester. We stay at
the Roaming Ogre Inn, where a silver piece each gets us dinner, a room to sleep in, and
breakfast. When we come down to dinner, we see a man struggling with a small blue dragon in
chains. Such an odd sight, he tells us he captured it in the hills and is going to try to take him to
the Duke. We wish him good luck, but personally, I don't want anything to do with a blue
dragon, no matter how small!

Day 2: In the morning, we head south toward Swining. We are almost to the famous Inn at
Denmouth. Along the road, we run into another group, a half elven woman on horseback, an
obvious barbarian man with blond braids, a dwarf on a pony, and a rather shady looking character who I recognize as a fellow thief, and not the good kind like me. They let us know that
the road ahead is clear. They went to Estem, where they heard about a Dwarven silvermine
called Dwarf Hill. They tell us they were looking for a powerful spell caster named Llewelyn the
Black. None of us mention we are looking for the same man, though we get as much
information as we can, of course. The elven woman (who lets Starfalcon know that she is
engaged to Olaf the Bluff) tells us Llewellyn is quite a powerful magic user and maybealso a druid.  Sounds
like an interesting guy.
  Not too much farther along the road, we arrive at Denmouth and find the famous inn. It is called
" The Inexpensive Blessing", and its sign shows a Bishop and a coin. The story is that the
bishop rode through and blessed the Inn for just one coin, thus it's name, the "Inexpensive
Blessing". We eat lunch here for 7 cp (by this time, I am paying for Blackstar's lunch - poor
broke guy. I don't mind, it's never a bad thing to have the wizard owe you a favor.). It is a
beautiful, clear day, if hot and windy. We continue our travels, and by sunset, we are in Swining.
We stay at the the Empty Mug Inn for a silver piece each. We ask around, and get just enough
information to know we need to head west to find Llewelyn. While the rest of us sleep, Starfalcon
goes out to investigate.

Day 3: In the morning, Starfalcon tells us that rumors in the town indicate that Llewelyn is an
unusual spell caster trained by the Druids who once was an adventurer to the south. Most of
the outlying villages worship Llewelyn for what he does for the poor, but he has an odd sense of
honor, often says he can't do a certain thing due to some oath he made long ago. They say his
fortress is about 4-5 miles to the west in the forest, but we should be careful because there is
nothing much there. So, why not, after breakfast, we head out to the west.
  As we are riding out, we hear a girl crying, and look over to see a broken fence, and a bull
charging a little girl! Hans and I move to attack, and sadly, we both miss terribly. Talnar hits
him, though, causing the bull to start charging us! Just as I am about to yell that the villagers
might get upset that we killed their bull, Hans sets for charge, and the bull can't avoid the blow,
falling down dead. Suddenly, the bull, the girl, and the fence just - disappear! And a young man
appears, clapping. He congratulates us for a job well done, says the last party to come through
didn't bother trying to save the girl, so they didn't find him. He introduces himself - we have met
Llewelyn the Black! We talk for awhile, tell him a bit about ourselves, and he offers to take us to
his tower. The bottom level of the tower looks almost like a cottage, but strangely, with a tower
on top. We go inside and sit down with him, and he tells us why he needs help. He explains
that a raiding party of Orcs is attacking the kingdom. There are people, a brother and sister
helping the Orcs, people that he has an oath with. He explains that he once swore a Great Oath: because of it he cannot harm them or interfere with them; he cannot speak to the authorities about them; and he cannot directly ask others to interfere with or harm them. But, since we are strangers, he can tell us about it, and we can do what  we wish.
  We all know what he is asking.
  He takes us to the top of the tower and shows us the smoke from the camp where these people are staying, just about 8 miles away.
  He offers us a place to stay for the night, but tells us not to go above the fourth floor, and to
ignore any strange sounds in the middle of the night. Come to think of it, the tower looks to be
just five stories tall from the outside, but we all distinctly remember going up seven floors. I am
a little anxious about this, so I ask Telnar to try to detect evil. He senses no evil in the tower, so
we all relax just a little. In the middle of the night we hear a woman laughing, but nothing
sinister, thank goodness. Day 4: We wake up in the morning, refreshed, and a lovely young woman fixes us breakfast, and wishes us luck. We set out toward the bad guy's camp, and as we are walking along, we
notice an Ogre, about 15 feet away, leaning against the side of a tree. Luckily, he doesn't notice
us! Starfalcon attacks him. I sneak around to make sure he's the only threat around. We all
land blows against the Ogre, and finally kill him. Thankfully, I am able to get all my sling bullets
back, and Blackstar gets all his (my!) darts back, too.
  The Ogre apparently lived in this hollow tree he was standing against. Inside, we find a note
asking him to watch this road, signed by "Hammerhand". The Ogre must have been busy,
because he has a ton of stuff inside this tree. Mostly junk, but we do find some pretty amazing
-a large quartz
-a sunstone
-a ring made with silver and gold enterwined bands, a puzzle ring
-a crown made of bands of platinum with an onyx on it
-a matching scepter of gold, also with an onyx on it
-a case made of wood, also with an onyx, with five potion bottle inside, identical steel bottles.
Hans smells one of the potions, says it smells like pungent plant material. He takes a drink, and
says he feels a lot stronger, ever so briefly. We all convince him to stop sampling the potions.
And finally, there are also 6000 SP! I guess our horses are going to be tired.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Magic Item of the Week - Amulet of Perception

  Another magic item from my 11 year old.
  Usually a small piece of jewelry with an eye or lantern motif this item grants its wearer an 18 Intelligence only for purposes of detecting an invisible creature. If the wearer has an 18 intelligence the Amulet grants a +5% to existing chances of detecting invisible creatures.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Seaward Campaign - Brigid's Adventure Log

Real time: July 5-6, 2014

Je. played Brigid, a human Barbarian
Ja. played Seamus, a human Druid
A. played Starkiller, a half elf Fighter/cleric/magic user
S. played Clarence, a half elf "fighter-thief"/assassin
N. played Akira, a human monk

I am Brigid, born of the sept O'Mara, clan Branaugh. I was born under a summer moon, some 18
years ago. My family has a proud history with our clan, one of the strongest on Isle Eiru. I have such
fond memories of roaming the hills and valleys of my beautiful homeland, first learning to spar and
fight by playing games with my ten siblings and countless cousins. And then the dark times came
when I was but 9 years old. A blight came upon the land, and our previously fertile hills were
practically barren for too many years. It hit our family's homestead particularly hard, and the wicked
pains of hunger are never far from my memory. My body grew taller and taller as I approached
adulthood, with only the strength born of my happy childhood sustaining me during these lean years.
When I reached the age of full womanhood, my world fell apart even further. A rival clansmen
attempted to dishonor me, and quite frankly, I beat him to the pulp he deserved. Upon discovery of his
injuries, his father, head of clan Donegal, approached my family and offered a terrible choice - I may
marry his son, the rotting lecherous bastard, and save his clan's honor, or he would be forced to declare
conflict with our clan. Weakened by the famine, I could not see my family succeeding against this
challenge, and neither could my poor father. So, I left. Banishment would save my family and also
keep me from wedding the vile son. I am tall and strong, I knew I could make my own way. I will
work hard, further hone my fighting skills, and earn enough gold to restore my family to glory. My
need for revenge upon the forces of evil that brought famine upon our land, and upon the dreadful clan
Donegal, drive me. My faith teaches me that revenge is for God alone, but sometimes I can't resist the
rage I feel deep down inside...

I found passage on a ship bound south for a city called Seaward. I worked the sails for my passage.
The crew seemed somewhat frightened of me after I put down the first man who tried to dishonor me,
but they couldn't deny my hard work and assistance with fighting off pirates, so they left me alone for
the rest of our journey. Once in Seaward, I found work in the city as a sign painter (my fascination
with art as a child actually was valuable, though my cousins swore I was wasting my time). It wasn't
long though before the ugliness and stench of the city got the best of me, and I set out for the
countryside. I hear that the Dwarvenlands might remind me of home, which I miss so very much. I
made my way through various small villages, offering my services at the small taverns and inns,
reprinting signs and drawing portraits in exchange for my food and board. I eventually came to the
town of Old Bridge and found plentiful work, and I knew I needed to rest there for awhile. I am
fearfully lonely.

At the inn where I was staying, I met an interesting fellow who goes by the name of Starkiller. A half
elf, he has been kind to me, and has told me of adventures he has had with a few friends, fighting evil
and coming to the defense of weaker villagers. This appeals to me, I am running out of places to draw
new signs, and I am thus far only making my own way, not acquiring gold and treasure to help my
family. I am, quite frankly, pestering him daily, asking to join him and his friends on their next
adventure. I wonder if I should warn them of the rages that come upon me at times, but I don't want
to scare them off, I must prove how helpful I can be, first. I guess the time for me to prove that is
now, as he has finally come to tell me of a new request for help they have received. Something about a
legend of a town who fears the new moon, and people disappearing. I am intrigued.

Day 1:
I have met Starkiller's friends. One of them, Clarence, is overly fond of drink, and I am somewhat
suspicious of him. Seamus seems like a stand-up guy, and Akira is an interesting kind of fighter. They have told me more about the legend, and the new troubles in the village. Seems that 25 years ago or
so, near the village of Richacre, the local lord, named Sir Tremare, built a great guard tower, so he
could watch over the briars on the border. There was a large gargoyle on the top. About a year later,
he and his men all vanished from the tower. Interestingly enough, the gargoyle disappeared, too. After
that, every new moon, one to three people would go missing. The tales tell that the creature that took
them away was said to look like a gargoyle. Several times men said they had killed it, only to find that
the next morning, its body had disappeared, and at the next full moon, people would vanish again.
After about a year and a half, the attacks simply ended. Well, about two months ago, it seems like the
attacks started again. The village sent out word, asking for assistance. Supposedly another adventuring
party arrived to help, but then they disappeared, too. Seamus has heard of the village asking again for
help, and is organizing his friends to set out. I am joining them, and they were kind enough - maybe
mercenary enough? - to loan me money to buy a horse. I am wary of owing money to that Clarence
guy, but hopefully my gamble will pay off. I must show them my worth and try to keep the rage at bay.
Hopefully I can join them on many more adventures and save money for my family. But, first things
first, we are off to the village of Richacre. As we set out, it is cloudy, misting, and very, very hot. How
I miss the cool breezes of home!

Later that evening...
We passed the village of Ham on Wye around noon, then stopped in Stowanger to eat lunch at the
Tankard and Bowl tavern - a good bowl of stew and some beer, very refreshing. We are really on the
border here, you can practically see the edge of civilization. As we set out, we see a sign and are
headed toward Richacre. We arrived late that afternoon, to find a village heavily fortified, with ditches,
earthen ramparts, and palisades. We entered the open gates, and found twelve buildings inside,
including ten family homes. Towards the forest in back, there was a lovely grove of pecan and walnut

After we entered the gates, we spoke with Tardyl, the head of the village, and the gatekeeper. Both of
them indicated that the last group that came to help was very shifty, and they weren't all that surprised
that they had disappeared. We spoke with them both about the legends, and Tardyl insisted that
several people actually killed the gargoyle, but the body always disappeared! Now, more people are
vanishing. There is no pattern to the targets, and way back when it first started, people as far away as
Stowanger and Ham on Wye. Many people were scared away, and there are only about 50 people left in this village. They offer us a place to stay in a local house inside the walls, and we all note that there is a full moon in two nights, so we should have time to investigate.

And then, Seamus began talking with a crow! He tells us that the crow said that something that smells
funny flies in and out of the tower, there were humans living in the tower 3-4 weeks ago, and there was
a big monster, a Drake, that they rode around. There is also, apparently, something suspicious in the
forest, and something is calling all the crows south for the battles to come. There is definitely evil
afoot, and I can only hope to contribute to its banishment.

Day 2
We got a good nights sleep and awoke this morning to a dreary, misty day, with a fierce north wind, but
it is surprisingly hot. We approached the tower, and saw lots of tracks going between the tower and a
nearby hill. It is a rather foreboding tower, made of dark grey granite, certainly a guard tower and not
a home. There seems to be a place on the south east corner where the old gargoyle probably was at one

My companions and I decided that we should check out the hill before approaching the tower, and
circled around to try to explore he hill without being seen by the tower. I noticed a strange thing, the
tops of the pine trees all around the hill are scorched, and behind the trees there is a cave. Akira
snuck into the cave and found a 24 foot long red dragon! It was chained to the wall, sitting on a pile of
copper and silver. Thankfully, Akira was unseen! Starkiller detected evil, and tells is it is massively
evil, plotting revenge, and very, very annoyed.

We decided to ignore the dragon for now, since he seems securely chained, and see what we have to
deal with in the tower.

Later that day...
We got to the tower safely, and Akira opened the grate in front of a door and saw two humans with
crossbows, grilling meat over a brazier. Akira knocked down the door and we attack! Inside, I remind
myself to not give in to the rage, and I successfully killed one of the bad guys, and my companions
killed the other. Once inside the tower, we opened a door to a spiral staircase, and decided to go down
first. We found a store room with a well and a secret door. The secret door opens onto a dusty, 40'
long hallway with a door at the end.

We decided to clear out the tower before exploring the evil we detect in the secret hall - best to know
what we are dealing with.

The cellar and the first floor remained as they were before we entered the secret tunnel. We climbed
the stairs to the second floor, and I opened the door just a crack and peeked in. I saw four men, and
rushed in (keep the rage at bay!) I killed a guy, and then another. Starkiller kills another, and
Clarence got the final blow against another. As we are searching the room, a man burst into the room
bearing a two handed sword. Clarence recognizes him as Merle, stupid but strong. How does Clarence
know these bad guys? I definitely don't trust him!

Seamus cast a fairy fire spell on Merle, he glowed with an outlined contrast, which should have made it
easier to hit him. Unfortunately, in the heat of battle, my inexperience shines through, to my shame.
I can't seem to hit anything, and I am no help at all to my companions. Maybe my inner fights against
my rage are distracting me? My companions are fierce fighters, however. Akira punched and stuns
him. Suddenly, a woman peeked in the doorway and touched Merle, healing him. Starkiller threw a
dart at the woman. Merle attacked Akira and knocked him unconscious, but Starkiller healed him and
kept him on his feet. Behind us, a thief type appeared in the window and started throwing daggers.
Meanwhile, Merle started being affected by the heating metal of his armor, thanks to a spell cast by
Seamus. Merle is eventually killed by the heated metal, and I got myself together and killed the
woman in the hallway. As we were healing each other and getting our bearings after the battle, we
noticed a guy fall outside the window, in an oddly slow, light way. I pulled out my longbow and shot
him dead as he tried to run away.

We cleared out the rest of the tower, which was empty. From the top of the tower we could see a long
way, we even saw smoke in the distance by where Skull Mountain must be. Clarence found a spell
book, a book on combat and tactics, and a book on the history of Seaward on a bookshelf.

We went outside the tower and raided the body of the man I killed running away, and got a ring and a
key. He was running toward the dragon, perhaps it is the key to his chains?

We went back inside to explore the hallway behind the secret door in the basement. We went through
the door at the end of the hallway and found a room. It was littered with old skeletons covering the
floor, and there were a couple fresher bodies, plus a pile of coins and a large shield. We noticed two
secret doors, and I opened one of them. I found the gargoyle! I rushed in to attack him, and once
again, I just totally failed. Oh, my dreams of fighting evil to avenge my family, how can I fail now??
The gargoyle attacked me and injured me, which shook me out of my inept stupor, and I finally killed
the gargoyle. We opened the other secret door and found a large room with a big seal on the floor and
glowing moss on the floors and walls. We could sense evil in the corner, and nearby, but decided that
we should rest and heal up before exploring further.

Day 3 We went back down to the large room behind the secret door to check out the lead-lined seal on the
floor in that one room. We detected brooding evil, and decided (wisely, I believe) not to open it. We
need to deal with dragon, and there was great debate over what to do. We decided to take our loot
(including the head of the gargoyle thing, to prove we have actually killed it) to the village before we
deal with the dragon. In the village, we contacted the local hedge wizard to identify our possibly
magical loot. We discovered that we have oil of etherealness, so we decided to use that to kill the
dragon. Clarence rubbed the oil will over himself and then we all got ready in case he needed our
help. Clarence entered the dragon's cave ethereally and when the oil wore off, he was able to surprise
the dragon, attacking the dragon with his sword and killing him with a well placed blow. We gathered
his rather paltry loot and carted it out with a mule train, including the dragon hide (we used the
magical sword we found and Akira's leather working skills to preserve it whole!)

My first adventure. I am ashamed of how often I missed my attacks, but I did kill several bad guys,
and managed to keep the rage at bay, so maybe my companions will try to keep me around?

(from the DM, Experience Points: 1600 - plus 500 extra for Clarence)

9000 cp. 20,000 sp. 3,000 GP

Potion of treasure finding
Oil of etherealness (used)
Scroll (illusion spell, phantom armor)
Potion of extra healing
Potion of invisibility
Potion of Orc control
Potion of heroism
+1 leather armor
+1 short sword
Ring of Feather Fall

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

How I Made NPCs Work For My Campaign

  In the previous week or so I have spoken about the the background guys with levels; not the guys you specifically place as a game master; not the followers of high-level characters; none of the important NPCs but the 'other NPCs'. I talked about my theories as to their frequency, level, impact on the military, impact on economics, and impact on magic in your campaign.
  I worked out a great deal of these numbers many years ago when I was trying to take my primary campaign to new levels of depth. All of the numbers seemed supported by what the PHB and DMG both said and implied. While obviously critical and impactful they still left all the heavy lifting up to me. It made perfectly good sense to me that the unsung, unspecified NPCs would be important without being critical.

  And I didn't like it. Let me explain why by describing what I like in my campaigns.

  I personally think AD&D starts to break down above, oh, 8th-10th level. You can absolutely play above those levels but the margin of error gets smaller - the difference between the party strolling through unchallenged and a TPK gets more and more narrow each level past 8th, in my opinion. Sure, you can switch over to politics and intrigue, but this can be done 'away from the table' and the table can be reserved for lower-level play. This is why I like jazz band adventuring; you can keep it mixed up.
  For these reasons I prefer game play to mainly be below 9th level.

  I also strive to make magic special; some spells are hard or impossible to find, permanent magic items are far from common, and high-level casters are a Big Deal. But low level players with no magic items and very limited spells feel, well, cheated or slighted. A +1 sword is a big treasure to a 2nd level party and making limits too low can make the players feel unappreciated. This seems like a great fit for the 'other NPC' numbers where potions and scrolls are going to be relatively common but a sharp drop-off in quantity as power goes up. By placing the NPCs capable of making big items myself I can fine tune these levels the way I like.
  Unfortunately, it negatively impacts my desire to have an active Good church as a unifying force that knits demi-humans together, especially humans, and help shield fragile humanity from the horrors from beyond the walls of reality that threaten them at every turn. After all, there are a ton of clerics and magic-users among gnomes, elves, etc. and humanoids likewise have a high number of shamans, witch-doctors, etc. I wanted a similar role in human kingdoms which meant that I needed a lot more clerics. 
  And while I want magic to be special I was struck by the idea that the vast majority of humanity would never encounter any kind of spell caster, especially arcane casters. Yes, I like and want 5th+ level magic-users to be impressive, but I also looked at European folktales that often depicted a minor wise woman or hedge wizard common enough that in an emergency a peasant could track one down.  So I needed a lot more magic-users, too.

  In other words, I wanted many more leveled NPCs without it increasing the amount of magic items in the campaign and without it making PCs less special.

  One of the first things I tried was to greatly increase the number of 1st level NPCs and then have them 'drop off' faster. While I had originally used the 'adjust for location' entry in the DMG to mean that leveled NPCs naturally congregated in the places PCs look for them and, thus, were actually only 1 in 1,000 what if I just take the initial entry at face value and have 1 in 100? Suddenly the number of leveled NPCs shot up tenfold to 7,800! If we use the assumption that 50% are 1st level, 25% 2nd, etc., this would mean over 650 1st level magic-users and about the same number of 1st level clerics.
  That would certainly give me the larger numbers of low level clerics and magic-users!
  Unfortunately, it also means that there will be about 50 clerics and magic-users capable of making scrolls and potions! There will also be more clerics that can Raise Dead, more wizards that can cast Fireball, etc. While I get the low-level numbers I want this solution really wipes out the PCs as special - they won't stand out as special until, oh, 13th-15th level. 
  It would also give me a population of about 2,500 1st level fighters. That is a huge difference and, if they are employed, begs the question of 'why isn't the entire standing army made up of only 3rd level fighters?'. You also end up with enough higher level spell casters to have an 8th or 9th level magic-user AND cleric in every large town and a caster capable of making permanent items in every city. The massive 8.2 million person empire would be guaranteed to have an archmage, a high priest, and a handful of guys of even higher level, meaning that the world would have plenty of people capable of casting Wish every day.
  When I first did that math I thought,
  'From the little I know, that looks like Forgotten Realms.'
  So what if we assume 50% are 1st level, 30% are 2nd, 15% are 3rd, and then the rest are spread out between 4th and 7th?
  The big problems (thousands of fighters, too many spell casters) remain even though the PCs certainly do stand out much faster! While avoiding the 'there are plenty of guys making magic items' problem it makes the 'why isn't the army just all 3rd level?' a bit worse, actually. And we haven't even spoken of things like, oh, 343 paladins

  What is to be done, if anything?

  What I eventually did was to create a 'third way' of getting what I wanted.
  What I did was - make some NPC-only classes. I certainly wasn't the first to do this but I don't personally know of anyone else who made NPC-only classes to solve these particular problems. 
  I approached the NPC classes from my needs and desires for the campaign. These included a desire to both increase the number of low-powered spell casters and avoid increasing the number of high-level spell casters, the number of magic-items/those who can make magic items, and all without reducing the impact of the PCs. 
  I also wanted to add in something between 'untrained peasant levy' and '1st level fighter'. I was always struck by the huge differences between 'some guy' and 'professional warrior' and the only thing in-between (mercenaries) look like 'some guy in armor'.
  Lastly, I wanted to represent bandits, brigands, thugs, rakes, etc. as (like with fighters) more than 'some guy in leather armor'.

  The NPC classes I made are;
  Men-at-Arms ( in-between 0-level peasants and 1st level fighters) - maximum of 12th level or so
  Religious Brothers or Sisters (the monks, nuns, parish priests, etc. that are religious without being clerics) - maximum level of 14th or so
  Hedge Wizards (the local spell casters who can cast a few small spells but might not even be literate)
  Scoundrels (tougher than a peasant, not as tough as a man-at-arms, often just dumb muscle)
  These classes have limited spell power, combat power, etc. so that while tougher than a peasant they do not compare with player character classes. 

  But what frequency should they have from the general population? And how would that affect the number of NPCs with levels in 'PC classes' like paladin?

  I figured this out by starting with one assumption and a particular goal.
  The assumption is that of all NPCs with NPC classes 40% would be men-at-arms, 30% religious brothers, 20% hedge wizards, and 10% scoundrels.
  The goal was to have enough religious brothers that about 80% of all villages would have a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd level religious brother as a parish priest. I wanted this to reflect a vaguely Southern France in the 1200's feel to the Church of the campaign.
  Since there are about 1,250 villages in Seaward that means I need about 1,000 religious brothers from 1st through 3rd level. Those would represent 87.5% of all religious brothers who, themselves, were 30% of all NPCs with NPC classes in the kingdom. Therefore, 1 in 200 NPCs will have NPC classes.

  Trust me.

  This means that there are;
  1,560 men-at-arms
  1,170 religious brothers
  780 hedge wizards
  390 scoundrels

  This gives us about 1,020-1,025 religious brothers of 1st, 2nd, or 3rd level, exactly my goal. 
  Now, men-at-arms are no competition with full-fledged fighters, but if you look at the numbers with the 'standard assumptions' that means there is a single 11th level man-at-arms in the kingdom.  What impact does this have? well, going through the entire 'let's roll x number of followers' is still perfectly valid, but what if, oh, 50% of these men-at-arms are the standing army? 700 or so 1st level men-at-arms with a few sergeants, lieutenants, etc., most of whom are also men-at-arms and then the rest can fill in all of those positions as bodyguards, caravan guards, etc. This can suddenly fill in a fair number of the gaps we had earlier. Now these roles aren't 'peasants with armor' without being 'a 1st level fighter watching a toll road'.
  Religious brothers are parish priests, deacons, religious monks, nuns, etc. and are not fighters nor even healers until higher level. They will be doing their jobs, tending to the spiritual and personal needs of the common man throughout the kingdom. Ever wonder why clerics aren't giving sermons, converting pagans, or holding Mass? Well, it isn't their role, that is what religious brothers do. Clerics are, instead, much more like the fighting monks they are meant to be.
  Hedge wizards are not the powerhouses of illusionists or magic-users, but they can make little trinkets and cast small spells. Even if the higher-level hedge wizards (and some low level ones!) all head to the towns and cities there are enough 'left over' to put one in about every other village, each making a living from small magic and good will, none ever able to cast Fireball or Conjure Elemental
  The scoundrels will be guarding illegal casinos, manning smuggler's boats, etc. relying upon their few meager hit points to earn a living.

  In short, despite their higher numbers their reduced power does not overshadow the PCS or make magic items more common. Heck, they even answer a fair few questions from earlier work. The NPC classes made the background of my campaign much more coherent.

  But what about NPCs with levels in PC classes? Do they 'go away'? Well, no - of course not. They just became much rarer. I used another assumption - NPCs with levels in PC classes should be at least 1/10th as common so I just made them 1 in every 2,500 NPCs. This gives us;

  NPCs with levels in PC classes (1st level)
  Fighters - 55
  Clerics - 27
  Magic-users - 26
  Thieves - 20
  Rangers - 7
  Paladins - 6
  Druids - 5
  Illusionists - 5
  Assassins - 4
  Monks - 3

  NPCs with levels in PC classes (5th)
  Fighters - 7
  Clerics - 4
  Magic-users - 3
  Thieves - 2
  Ranger - 1
  Paladin - 1
  An illusionist or an assassin or a monk

   The highest level NPC with PC classes you are going to see is going to be, oh, 9th level (and probably a fighter).
  If you compare these lists to the ones I did with the initial assumptions the differences are - interesting. Overall the impact is that low level parties are just a touch less unusual but PCs become distinctive and powerful at 4th and 5th level, not 7th+.  By introducing these four NPC-only classes I was able to create a campaign world where the average peasant knows someone who can cast (minor) spells - a local parish priest, or a hedge wizard - while powerful spells are more rare.
  If you look at the discussion of standing armies there are more fun surprises - the standing forces become marginally tougher at the level of the individual soldier (and make human armies more on-par with humanoid forces in general) while making name-level fighters more rare. 
  Lastly, as DM I still have total control over the level and location of any NPC capable of making magic items. With these simple guidelines I can easily expand my campaign with just a handful of tools and be confident that it will not impact the power level or feel of my world.

Monday, July 14, 2014

An Experimental Podcast - Weapons and Fighters in AD&D 1e

The sound is odd because we were grilling dinner in the backyard.
9 minutes

NPCs and the Magic Level of a Campaign.

  My series on NPCs in 1e/OSR campaigns began with a discussion of 'the other guys'; NPCs who aren't placed by the DM, rolled up as followers or members of a guild, or part of a random encounter. The NPCs implied to be part of everyday life by the various PHB and DMG entries on henchman, etc.
  It continued by examining the potential size of standing armies and such, which is mainly fighter followers.
  Then I went on to discuss how these various NPCs could impact the economy.
  While I mention followers, and leaders, and kings, and such my focus is really still on the 'other NPCs' because their existence, numbers, and levels mean a lot to how your world looks and works. Yeah, I know, it may seem a bit odd to focus so much energy on the elements of a campaign that are designed as background, but the wallpaper on your computer screen is important, too. Consider these articles a 'jumping off point' for a discussion.

  This time, let's talk about what these leveled NPCs say about magic and magic item sin the campaign.

  As we saw earlier if you follow the general numbers we can assume from the entries on henchmen in the DMG you will generally not have very many NPCs above 3rd level and very few of 7th level or above. Indeed, in the sample kingdom of about three-quarters of a million humans there is about a 17% chance of having a single 10th level magic-user. Expanding the math a bit you need a population greater than about 2 million to have a 17% chance of a 12th level magic-user and if you want to make sure you have at least one mage like that 'floating around' then the base population needs to be, oh, 8.2 million+.
  What this implies is that there are not a lot of guys making magic items in the hinterlands. Large empires are the source of all those wands and holy avengers. Where a lot of adventures take place, the edge of civilization, isn't where these things are manufactured.
  So why is it where they are found?
  The very excellent blog The Hill Cantons (which you should be reading) describes this better than I can here and here. Essentially, a lot of the assumptions behind Greyhawk (and thus the original rules) are very Dying Earth/post-apocalyptic/lost glory based. While there are powerful people roaming around the world is full of the ruins of past glory beyond the ken of current dreamers....

  The magical worldview that flows from the '1 in 1,000 NPCs has levels' assumption is that spell casters are rare and magic items are rarer. The vast majority of rural NPCs will never have met a magic-user of any level and there are probably less than 3 people in the kingdom that can cast Fireball or Lightning Bolt. This seems to mean that having a spell cast for you will probably be expensive if you can find someone who can cast it. After all, there are probably just a dozen mages who know Identify in the entire realm; half of them are above 1st level and will charge more since the spell is more accurate when cast by higher level magic-users.
  It also means that the only clerics of high enough level to Resurrect (if any) will be specifically placed by the DM, limiting who can be raised as well as where and why. Magical cures will be far from common; only 6 clerics are high enough level to cast Cure Disease which means that even with the help of the 30 or so paladins plague can still easily sweep the land. Lay doctors and barber-surgeons will certainly be needed since there is only 1 leveled cleric per 9 villages.

  On the one hand, I find this fairly refreshing, actually, because while the assumptions and implications may be about faded glories, this also means that the DM can determine exactly how common magic items are. How? well, the 'other NPCs' aren't going to have a lot to do with this; only NPCs specifically placed by the DM will be in the magic item creation business. There are just enough 7th-9th level magic-users and clerics around to justify potions and scrolls without an on-universe explanation for why +2 daggers aren't for sale from street carts (unless, of course, you want that). You can still use the threat of plague and famine as a strategic plot device, 0-level mooks are still a credible threat, etc.
  On the other it really demands that the DM actively explain where magic items come from, why they are where they are, and maybe even why they were made. A strong argument could be made that hiring a spell caster would be hideously expensive and spell components might be, as well. And the party might be hard-pressed to convince the only cleric in 1,000 miles capable of casting Raise Dead that their companion deserves the spell being cast on him.

  Further, this sort of 'density of characters with levels' puts the player characters into an interesting position - until about, oh, 5th level they will sort of 'blend in'; there are a fair number of NPCs in that range. From 5th, though, they really start to stand out and probably start to become famous and become a Big Deal at 7th+. Name level? They are now in a class of their own. All this fits smoothly into the idea that PCs are exceptional in how far they can go. There may be 150 magic-users in the kingdom, but the PC will rise to heights the others can only dream of.

  Suddenly we can understand why PCs aren't unusual enough to be remarkable at 1st level but special enough at 9th to attract loyal followers. And while useful this analysis doesn't solve any of the real problems a DM faces in his campaign - the who, what, why, etc. of magic item creation, for example.

  Next time I will discuss how to change these numbers to change the campaign.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Economics of Having Levels

  This week I have been discussing NPCs with levels and army sizes. While fairly specific to a 1e campaign these ideas can fit anything from Chivalry & Sorcery to Traveller or novels if you squint hard enough. That said, my first love is fantasy RPGs so this is my focus here, too.
  So by running with a few assumptions made by looking at the DMG we see some interesting results in the details of NPCs with levels (linked above). For example, in a fantasy kingdom of three-quarters of a million people the highest level NPC wizard who isn't specifically placed by the DM should be no higher than about, oh, 7th level, 8th on the outside. That may seem low to many and it certainly is low, especially compared with, oh, Forgotten Realms!
  On the other hand the total number of magic-users and illusionists in that same kingdom is about 150! Sure, half of them are 1st level, but that is still a lot of spell casters. If you look at the numbers I crunched on armies (also linked above) it means that you might very well have more arcane spellcasters than you do heavy cavalry.
  We should assume that these arcane spellcasters are overwhelmingly in larger urban centers; the need for an education, access to esoteric ingredients, proximity to everything from libraries to bookbinders, and the fact that their training doesn't lend itself to tilling the soil may start the impetus, but the fact that most wealthy clients are also in cities and large towns probably cements the deal. I would personally assume that about 80% of all arcane spellcasters are in urban centers. The rest will be retainers to nobles or researchers, eccentrics, and villains off on their own.
  But what do they do? Less than 10 of these arcane spellcasters will be capable of casting a spell of 3rd level or above, so we can probably rule out 'wizards as weapons of war' as an income stream - it simply isn't an option for most of them. We read in the DMG that it is certainly possible to pay spellcasters to cast spells (but not in combat!) so that is probably what they do. So while a player character might be desperate to get a starting spell such as Magic Missile or Burning Hands an NPC is probably just as eager for Comprehend Languages or Magic Aura because the latter spells are money makers. Among those NPC arcane casters capable of 2nd level spells Illusionary Trap and Wizard's Lock are probably much better for building a non-adventuring career than Ray of Enfeeblement. After all, there are probably plenty of wealthy merchants willing to pay for the former and substantially fewer interested in paying for the latter.
  Magic-users are educated and literate; they may also earn a living as relatively prestigious scribes, tutors, and copyists. Roles as translators, researchers and even just (because of a relatively high intelligence) advisor may also be seen. These low level mages will almost certainly never be rich (which is probably what separates PCs from NPCs: ambition vs. risk avoidance ratios) but they have a good shot at a comfortable life as (essentially) a skilled artisan.

  If you noticed the level maximums assumed, above, none of these NPCs will be high enough level to craft permanent magic items and only a very few for them (1 to 4) will be able to make potions or scrolls. This means that unless you have a large number of existing magic items changing hands there is no place for a shop that buys and sells just magic items in such a kingdom - the volume of trade would simply be far too low to support such a business.
  On the other hand, the idea of merchants that cater to arcane spellcasters might very well make sense, especially in larger urban areas. This could range from a bookbinder who makes sure to have such things as blank codexes usable as spell books and rare inks on hand all the way up to a 'magical supply shop' that stocks blank standard and travelling spell books, arcane inks, rare feather quills, the most common spell components for low level spells, specialized equipment (such as portable writing desks and black candles), and even trinkets for familiars.

  On the other hand, the concentration of clerics in urban areas, while existing, will be much less extreme mainly because the role of the cleric is to be spiritual leaders of all people. Thus while the large basilicas and cathedrals of larger urban centers will have more clerics the majority will be in villages. Druids will probably be 100% rural! In the same fantasy kingdom mentioned throughout there will almost certainly be an 8th level cleric and their may be one as high as 10th level. There will be somewhere between 135 and 140 clerics (or about 1 cleric per 5,800 people). About a dozen of these clerics will be able to cast Cure Disease or Remove Curse and there may be one who can cast Raise Dead.
  Clerics have much less of a need for valuable components, inks, etc. than a magic-user and their other needs (ritual clothing, even a place to live) might be provided by their church, so their impact on the economy will not be as consumers. Instead, clerics will use their skills (literacy, influence) and charity to help the poor and downtrodden. While not as money-direct as arcane casters spending hundreds of gold pennies on ink or charging similar prices to cast Illusionary Trap on a rich merchant's payroll chest a dynamic cleric can reduce crime (via charity, leadership, and such) and invigorate the economy in the poorest quarters of a city by helping others focus on positive growth (those higher wisdom scores in action!) thus increasing tax revenue, decreasing expenses (less need for town watch and jails, etc.) and even reducing the need for those Illusionary Trap spells.

  [note: this might cause unscrupulous mages to oppose clerical charity].

  In this same vein, let's look at fighters, rangers, and paladins largely as a group. In the same fantasy kingdom there will be about 340 total leveled righters, paladins, and rangers (with over 80% being fighters), which is a pretty serious number. Why? Because if we accept the numbers for a standing army (from that article linked to waaaaay above) then the number of NPC fighter classes with levels is equal to about 1/2 the standing armies of the kingdom. So if there is a major war and there is a full levy at least a large fraction of these leveled NPCs will be available as combat troops.
  Look at it this way - assume that the standard formula for orcish forces is, oh,
  'for every 30 orcs there are 4 tougher orcs (meaner, tougher, etc.) and for every 120 orcs there is a leader of 2 HD' etc.'
  If were were to write up the army of this kingdom the same way it would read something like this,
'For every 14 members of the levy there is a veteran soldier (better trained, equipped, etc.) and for every 60 there is a 1st level fighter, ranger, or paladin. Additionally, there is an a fighter, paladin, or ranger of 2nd level or higher for every 120 levy troops. These are in addition to a core leadership of 8 5th to 7th level fighters.'   
  Huh. When you look at it that way the leader ratios, combat abilities, etc. of human armies are actually not too bad, are they?
  But all of these professional soldiers/adventurers aren't sitting around farming or doing calligraphy [note: no jokes about knees and arrows, please]. We should assume that they are earning their living fighting, guarding, patrolling, and exploring.
  Suddenly we know where at least some of those high-level patrol leaders come from!
  These soldiers are going to be spending money on armor, weapons, and horses. Heck, that many leveled NPC fighter types could keep 8 or 9 armorers employed full time! Toss in the standing army and noble troops and you realize soldiers alone could support about 30 armorers, 10 blacksmiths, 12 weapon smiths, 8 bowyer-fletchers, and 6 tailors full time. Add adventurers, distance between groups, DM allocated NPCs, and the desire to make a buck and there are probably no less than 100 skilled artisans employed in the creation and maintenance of the armor and weapons of the various soldiers in the kingdom. This will cascade into the need to provide these artisans themselves with everything from processed iron ingots to bird feathers.
  Paladins are a quiet bunch who aren't big consumers of luxury goods. Rangers are typically rural and also focus on their mission. Fighters, though, will be spending their pay. Leveled fighters are going to be paid more than the standing army.
  Since Gary tells us that 90% of these 'excess NPCs' are happy with their existing position. While these jobs probably range from being mercenary officers to bodyguards for the rich to caravan security and private watchmen let's assume that they are making roughly what they would make as a mercenary. That is about 124 sergeants, 92 lieutenants, and 9 captains [interestingly enough, there is no place in a band of mercenaries for a 4th level fighter. Are they all trapped in Decks of Many Things?]. Now, I know that PCs are expected to pay mercenaries in hard coin but these NPCs are almost certainly getting the majority of their pay in kind - room, board, clothing, maintenance, etc. This will probably be up to 90% of their compensation with just 10% of the value in actual pay.
  This means all of these NPC fighters will be spending "only" 2,000 g.p. a month on ale, gambling, ale, trinkets for pretty girls, ale, lucky charms, and ale.
  Hey, I was in the army myself. I know how pay is spent.
  So as we can see the NPC warriors are going to have a huge impact on the kingdom's economy being directly responsible for the livelihoods of hundreds of artisans, publicans, servants, and such. They are also a key security element for private individuals and the kingdom as a whole.

  There are about 100 thieves among the 'excess' NPCs' (I count these in addition to any thief followers or guild members, remember) with one of them 7th level and maybe one as high as 10th. While many of the 1st  and second level thieves are going to be 'freelance' (i.e., not in a guild) pickpockets, petty thieves, and such I personally assume a fair number are in those areas of thievery we don't see often performed by PCs - forgery, smuggling, con games, money laundering, and fencing stolen goods. Money launderers, forgers, and fences in particular can operate with a thieves guild without a) being in the guild or b) angering the guild. Smuggling happens 'in-between' where guilds control and con games are too varied to be more than a nuisance to organized crime/the guilds.
  These thieves are going to have an outsize impact on any economy; smugglers often make people happy (cheaper goods) and governments angry (lower tax revenues); forgers make documents suspect; money laundering really upsets governments; fences really upset merchants. The collective impact of all this non-violent crime (more patrols, more private guards, experts to check the veracity of documents, etc.) is going to add just a bit to the costs of everything - taxes are a hair higher to cover smuggling, etc. At least some of the ale I mentioned earlier will be bought by soldiers hired to deal with crime, etc.
  There are also about 20 assassins 'freelancing' in the kingdom. With their unique combination of skills they can be anywhere we see thieves or fighters and even some places we see magic-users; bodyguards, smugglers, mercenary lieutenants, even scribes and translators. With at least one 5th level assassin and a possibility of one as high as 10th level there is a surprisingly large amount of professional hit men lurking about. Their economic impact is going to mainly be from their 'day job' although the fees associated with assassination and spying will probably make them quietly rich (at least the successful ones).
  The needs of thieves and assassins is going to drive a gray market in things like special equipment (small boats for smugglers, jeweler's tools for forgers, fenced goods, etc.) and a black market (thief tools, poison, stolen goods, blackmail evidence, etc.). There will also be an entire community and communications system hidden within the world of these rogues that may be able to learn things about or get message to people and places no one else can - for a fee.

  As you can see, these NPCs 'floating around' in any campaign world are going to have a profound impact on the size and shape of the economy, as well as a host of other things.

  I look forward to you comments.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Just How Big is your Army?

 As modern people we have trouble thinking like medieval people. Whether it is about family sizehow far is 'far', or other things, we think differently.
  Of course.
  Another thing we often get wrong is army size. We think of the vast, often conscripted armies of the Napoleonic era forward and assume 'army' = 'huge numbers'. Hollywood doesn't help! But how big was a medieval army? And why do RPG players care?
  Well, we care because it gives us an idea of what we can make our campaigns look like.
 Before we talk about armies we have to decide - what kind of army are we talking about?
  See, every nation tends to have two armies; a standing army and a war time army. The standing army is what is always there, the wartime is the maximum force you can bring to bear in an all-out war. Since you might not have your campaign in constant all-out war, let's start with a standing army.
  I can't remember which historian said it, but one said that in the early medieval period the 'standing army' and the 'government' were largely the same people; knights, barons, etc. ruled and fought or, more to the point, ruled because they fought. Indeed, the medieval three types of people were those who worked, those who prayed, and those who fought. These men and their retainers are the main force of any medieval kingdom.
  Historically the cornerstone of the feudal system was the fee (root of the term 'fief') defined as, roughly, 'the amount of land, peasants, etc. required to support themselves and provide at least enough excess to feed, equip, and support a knight and his personal retainers'. The most historically accurate way to figure out how large a standing army would probably be to figure out how much of the kingdom's area is settled land, divide it by the average size of a knight's fee, figure out a rough percentage of the which is already enfeoffed, and do the math.
  The trouble is historians have effectively thrown up their hands and declared no one will ever know the average size of a fee because there wasn't one. The variables are too high and the documentation too scattered and partial.
  Besides, its just a game, right?
  So, instead, let's look at the DMG and PHB.
  The average area of the holding of a high-level fighter is between 3,500 and 4,000 square miles (yes, really) or, well, Lebanon. Or 5 times the size of the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. I am assuming that the vast size of a 9th level fighter's holding is based on one simple fact - it is a wilderness holding and the character is much higher in rank than mere 'knight'. If the fiefdom was well inside a settled area we would need to assume it was much smaller.

  [note: the smallest fighter fiefdom, 314 sq. mi., is as big as Kiribati and the largest, 7,850 sq. mi., is as big as Israel. At this point my sons point out 'Well, sure; King David was at least 9th level'].

  So here are a ton of assumptions - a 9th level fighter has huge tracts of land but few citizens at first. He is beholden to another lord but has the space to give fiefdoms to several knights (and barons!), eventually - that makes him a duke. Thus, the followers of a fighter are about the same as the followers for a duke. Dukes each have their own vassals that have, aggregate, about the same number of troops as the duke. The king is, really, another duke so he gets more of the same. A Lord or Free City would be, oh, half that.
  Therefore, to determine the size of the standing army in a campaign kingdom do this:

  [(N+1)x2]+H = X

  where N = the number of duchies (or equivalents) in the kingdom, H is the number of lesser nobles, and X is the number of times you roll for followers and leaders in the DMG.
  If we do this for my campaign it looks like this:
  There are 2 duchies/equivalents, 2 lordships/equivalents, and the king, so the formula would be:

[(2+1)x2]+2= X, or 8 rolls for followers and leaders.

  Throwing some dice gives me a total of about 680 troops, 400 of which are heavy infantry, 4 5th level leaders, 3 6th level leaders, 1 7th level leader, and a 3rd level lieutenant.

  "OK, Rick, even if I accept all your wild guesses who are these troops and what do they do?"

  These are garrison troops, the guys who man the castles, towers, custom stations, border forts, etc. The king's guards, maybe even the marines on royal warships could come from these troops as well. Some of them are going to be mercenaries who are paid via the taxes collected, the rest will be professional soldiers paid via the same manner. So we can estimate that Seaward's standing army is 650 to 700 troops.
  These aren't city guards, though, because city guards don't typically leave the city while armies do! Besides, troops and guards would have very different armor, weapons, and training. These forces also don't come from the NPCs that are otherwise also part of the population.

  Now, in time of war the standing army is joined by levies. These troops are drawn from free men (peasants, yeomen, townmen, etc.) and are usually of lower quality in training and equipment than standing forces, but not always. In Real Life some area, especially Free Cities, had top-quality militias so their levies were solid, well-trained and excellently equipped troops!
  Rather than do a ton of math myself I want to point to this work by John Savage because he does the math for me.
  Bottom line - your levies will never be more than 7% of total population unless you want starvation for the next 1-3 years and even then that assumes near 100% turnout. Further, only about 1.5% - 2% of the population can be massed into an effective fighting unit at a given time and place. Applied to Seaward, this means in a 'real war' the kingdom could probably field about 10,000 levied troops BUT other levies would also free up the standing army so that they, too, could take to the field of battle. 700 is relatively small compared to 10,000 but the presence of professional soldiers with better gear and higher morale as well as the tough, experienced, and leveled leaders would make the levy troops much more effective in combat.

  We also need to talk about nobles. I forget who the writer was, but someone once said,
   'The "leaders of the army" and the "government" were the same people. Indeed, the government was in charge because they led the armies'.
  Remember the formula, above? Dukes, lords, even the king, are all either themselves skilled (probably leveled) fighters and such or such men exist as knights to fight for them. Traditionally each noble had 4-9 other cavalry with them in battle to fight in groups called 'conrois'; while a particular conroi might be all noblemen it wasn't uncommon to have common-born men who were well-trained cavalry accompany knights as personal assistants and to add to a conroi's strength. These commoners who were heavy cavalry had a fair amount of authority over non-noble troops and were often in charge of them.
   They were called 'sergeants'.
  Conrois also typically included a few squires and servants and their own focused supply train.
  Remember the formula I posted above? X also equals the number of conrois that can be called up to fight. In the case of Seaward, that is a total of 50 top-notch heavy cavalry with its own support and logistics. Again, 50 isn't much compared to 10,000 but the morale boost of leadership is large and the damage even a small number of noble cavalry can do to enemy formations should never be underestimated.

  There it is, a ton of assumptions which you can feel free to tinker with, blow off, etc. But it is also a set of guidelines to help you figure out how big your campaign army can be.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Peasants, Nobles, Mages, Normals, and Heroes - How Many NPCs have Levels?

  A discussion my sons and I were having recently was - in 1e how many NPCs have levels and what are they? We have always assumed that player characters are 'over and above' NPC numbers, but we were curious as to what those numbers are. I'll walk you through what we did to see if you agree.
  Please remember that my 1e campaign is a relatively low-level, low-magic world.
  Let's see if we can figure out the assumptions made by EGG.
  When you look at the DMG you see that the rules for henchmen talk about the numbers for leveled characters in "an active adventuring area" could be as high as 1 in 50 while is settled areas as low as 1 in 5,000! If we assume that those are the extremes we can guess that the total number is, oh, 1 in 1,000. This means that in a nation the size of the Kingdom of Seaward (my 1e campaign setting) my which has a population of about 780,000 there would be about 780 NPCs with levels.
  It also looks like there are twice as many 1st level characters as 2nd level and twice as many 2nd level as 3rd level, etc. Yes, thuis is just an impression. It also looks like (based on notes in the Hirelings section) that most NPCs are 3rd level or below (up to third level = enlisted or NCO, 4th level+ = officer).
  Since I am already waving my hands hard enough to flutter papers, let's assume 50% of all NPCs with levels are 1st level and each higher level is half as common.
  So, this means that my breakdown of those NPCs in Seaward would look roughly like this
1st level - 390 NPCS
2nd - 195
3rd - 92
4th - 46
5th - 23
6th - 12
7th - 6
8th - 3
9th - 2
10th - 1

  OK, while there are about 2,000 assumptions going on there, I can live with this. But what classes are they?
  Once again, the henchmen section gives us a hint. According to it we should expect the NPC population to be:
35.2% Fighters
17% Clerics
17% Magic-users
12.5% Thieves
4.4% Paladins
4.4% Rangers
3% Druids
3% Illusionists
2.5% Assassins
1% Monks

  Or to break down this list even further, the 1st level NPCs should look like this;
138 1st level Fighters
67 1st level Clerics
66 1st level Magic-users
50 1st level Thieves
17 1st level Paladins
17 1st level Rangers
12 1st level Druids
11 1st level Illusionists
10 1st level Assassins
3 1st level Monks
  [note: I rounded up a few]
  While this may look like a lot, this means that 1 in every 5,620 Seawardians is a 1st level fighter - that isn't shocking.

  Let's look at 5th level and look just at the 'big four' (fighter, cleric, magic-user. thief) at first to get a rough idea. The rough numbers are;
10 5th level Fighters
5 5th level Clerics
4 5th level Magic-users
3 5th level Thieves
1 'left over' by rounding [note that I rounded Clerics up and Magic-users down].

If we use the 'expanded' percentages, it looks like this;
8 5th level Fighters
3 5th level Clerics
3 5th level Magic-users
3 5th level Thieves
1 5th level Paladin
1 5th level Ranger
1 5th level Druid
1 5th level Illusionist
1 5th level Assassin
1 5th level Monk
  [by rounding up the 'marginal' classes we account for all 23 NPCs]

Well, that is interesting! Only 3 5th level magic-users in the Kingdom? Mentors might be hard to come by!

  For the rarefied heights of upper levels we concluded we'd just use the table for henchmen in the DMG and let the dice roll as they may.

  I really look forward to your comments about my 2,000 assumptions

  Now, when we were discussing this we came to 2 main points;
  1) this OBVIOUSLY can't include PCs!
  2) NPCs placed by the DM probably shouldn't count, either.

  Let's get back to assuming things from the DMG.
  The section on henchmen says that a fair number of even 1st level guys are either  not interested in the high risk life of adventuring or 'already in a situation they are satisfied with', i.e., a job that doesn't suck too hard. The percentage of those timid + happy leveled types out of the total appears to be as low as 50% in the oft-mentioned 'active adventuring area', as high as 98% in settled areas with it being about, oh, 90% as an average. So it looks like at any given time there are 13-14 1st level fighters that would be willing to become henchmen, if you can find them!
  Conversely, this also points to 125 1st level fighters having employment in the kingdom.

  Once long ago I was playing a 7th/7th Cleric/magic-user in Lew Pulsipher's campaign on an adventure and we rode into a town to ask questions. When my character introduced himself the headman swept off his hat, tugged his forelock, and treated my character with great deference, bordering on awe. When we were done I asked, out of character, what that was about. Lew's reply was simple and to the point,
  "Your character can cast out demons and shoot fireballs. Every peasant in 100 miles knows who he is and what he can do. Of course they treat him with respect!"
  Let's look at those NPC numbers again and think about how PCs fit into such a low-level, low-magic world. There are only somewhere between 3 and, oh, 8 NPCs who have enough levels in magic-user to know and cast Fireball. Based upon spell availability, the chances of a mage with average Intelligence to learn a particular spell (typically on 55% for an NPC), even one as sought-after as this, and it is obvious that other than PCs there are perhaps 2 or 3 people in the entire kingdom who can cast Fireball (not counting NPCs placed by the DM).
  That means your 5th level mage is probably mentioned in gossip; at 7th level he is spoken of (usually in hushed tones) in taverns, and at 9th maybe, depending, his name is used to frighten peasant children into behaving. Your 8th level cleric? The people will have certainly heard of the patriarch and he may face strangers approaching him for blessings and healing almost everywhere he travels.
  On the other hand, there are also about 32 paladins, plus or minus, with a 5th level paladin in the mix and another as high as 10th (although that is unlikely); depending on how such things are arranged in the campaign there may be an abbey for just paladins in the kingdom. There is also at least one fighter of 8th or higher level and 8 5th level fighters - while the 5th level mage in the party is known, the fighter may be more obscure. At 9th level, however, he could very well stand out as being so famous and successful as to be elevated to the nobility.

  There is a lot more to discuss on this topic, but I hope to get some feedback before I continue.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Magic Item of the Week - Magekiller

  No, not all of my magic items are low power or non-combat.

  One of the most terrifying NPCs in my Blackstone campaign is the Undying Witchking, Emperor of Zangara. The legends surrounding him are many, but they all agree - he is not undead but he can't die. He's been stabbed, punctured, burned, decapitated, and more and always appears fresh as a daisy a few rounds later. He has also ruled Zangara with an iron fist for 2 centuries and does not appear to age (he is ostensibly human).
  Note: Since he is one of the top BBEGs of the campaign and I assured the party I follow the rules very closely for NPCs a major meta-plot was them doing serious rules research to figure out how I did it. I am proud to say that, as hard as it was, they did figure it out.
  Two generations ago a conspiracy of Zangaran wizards and clerics worked for decades to create a weapon capable of destroying the Witchking regardless of the methods he uses; the result was Magekiller. The conspiracy was betrayed and killed before they could locate a hero to wield the weapon. The last survivors of the group, a father and son, fled in a ship that was destroyed by water elementals summoned by the Crimson Watch, the Witchking's personal guards (various wizards, clerics, thieves, and fighters). Magekiller was thought lost to the sea.
  Just a few years ago a barbarian warrior in a frontier district of the continent of Ansar began to rise in local prominence, eventually founding his own small fiefdom on the utmost border of civilization. He is a swordsman of great renown, considered by some to be the greatest living master of the zweihander. The sword he wields is rumored to be Magekiller, returned from the sea.

  Note: the Blackstone campaign is AD&D 2nd edition with all player's options books.

  +3 two-handed sword; +4 vs. creatures with spell-like abilities; +6 vs. any creature capable of casting arcane spells, summoned or conjured creatures, animated objects, constructs, familiars, and golems.

  Int: 17 Ego: 25 Alignment: Neutral Good Special Purpose: Destroy evil arcane spellcasters

  Can communicate telepathically with its wielder, can speak, read, read maps, and Read Magic
  Can speak and read: Bandur (the Western Common tongue), Kadathi (the language of arcane spell casters in the campaign), Zanzur (the Eastern Common tongue), Borelath (a creole common to elves, gnomes, and halflings), Low Pidgin (a language common to orcs, goblins, kobolds, etc. with no written version), and Denek (dwarven)

  Magekiller can see normally out to a range of 60' and has mystical sight that allows it to see normally in complete darkness (but not magical darkness) up to 10'. Magekiller has a field of view roughly equal to that of a person but can 'look around' like a character by altering its direction of sight. Magekiller cannot see through solid objects, etc., although it is possible to, for example, extend the sword's blade past a junction so that it can 'look around the corner'. Anything seen by Magekiller must be communicated to the wielder or spoken aloud; it cannot share its senses.
  Magekiller likewise automatically senses all magic within 30'.
  Magekiller can automatically detect if a creature has spell-like abilities or can cast arcane spells within 10'.
  Magekiller can detect alignment on arcane spellcasters (only) within 10' automatically.
  Much like vision, Magekiller must communicate what it senses to its wielder.
  Lastly, Magekiller automatically knows if its wielder is under the effects of a Charm, Quest, Geas, or similar spell.

  When worn or held Magekiller;
-Acts as an Amulet of Proof vs. Detection and Location
-Grants its wielder 20% magic resistance
-Grants its wielder a +4 on all saves vs. magic
-reduces all damage from spells or spell-like effects/abilities by 2 h.p./die (to a minimum of 1 h.p. per die); if the attack is set damage, etc., the damage is reduced by 1/4th.

  When held and the blade is bared the wielder may choose to activate the sword's power of Spell Turning. This is identical to the Ring of Spell Turning. While this power is active Magekiller does not grant any magic resistance, saving throw bonuses, or reduced damage from spells. The wielder also cannot engage in melee combat with Magekiller while Spell Turning is active, although he can move or fight with other weapons.

  When fighting evil arcane spellcasters Magekiller may invoke its special power of Cancellation when it strikes such a target. When used the weapon's blow does no damage but all spells and spell-like effects active on the creature struck are 'turned off'; the creature struck gets no save vs. this spell although magic resistance does apply at 1/2 strength. Cancellation may only be used once a day and only when Magekiller itself decides to use it.

  Example: Lord Doomsman and his companions had finally penetrated the catacombs beneath the Obsidian Fortress and cut their way through the hordes of undead - all that remained were the Necromancer Lord Pathin the Foul, his henchmen, and their personal guards.
  As the two groups closed with each other Bishop Darkwalk and Mournglow the Mage immediately began casting, their personal henchmen guarding them, while Ember the Pyromancer, always unpredictable, cloaked himself in fire and charged with his flaming sword bared, his henchmen trailing behind. Stardust had simply vanished, as usual. Doomsman charged the cluster of men surrounding Pathin, eager for battle, his lieutenants guarding his flanks as he cut down enemy mercenaries.
  The vast cavern flashed with terrible magics as the Death Priests and Necromancers sought to hold off the forces of good. Doomsman saw a Death Priest cast a warding upon Pathin as the necromancer lord drank a foul brew. A blast of shadow swept over Doomsman, Magekiller protecting him from the foul curse. He saw Stardust appear from nowhere and slit the throat of a Plague Priest before she vanished back into the darkness. Mournglow and Darkwalk were both blasting foes and protecting each other from counter-attacks. Ember was laughing with joy as he cut down enemy spellcasters with the cleansing flames of his blade and cloak.
  Doomsman and his men slammed into Pathin's personal guard like a hammer, cutting through rapidly. Some of his men froze, gripped by spells cast by the Death Priests, but Doomsman felt the magic glide past him like a breeze as Magekiller shielded him again. Pathin, obviously afraid of the tall barbarian lord, cast a spell that caused him to be surrounded by a shell of shadows.
  Doomsman was finally through the last guards and lunged toward Pathin. The necromancer also leaped forward with magical quickness, touching Doomsman's arm; there was a muted flash of green light and, once more, Doomsman felt Magekiller protect him. As Doomsman's first stroke lashed out he heard Magekiller's voice in his head,
  "Strike true"
  The blade hit but Pathin was unharmed; instead the shell of shadows, the green nimbus on his hands, and all the rest simply vanished [Magekiller Cancelled the spell effects of Prayer, Aid, Bless, Spirit Armor, Ghoul Touch, and Contingency as well as the effects of a Potion of Speed]. Pathin recoiled in terror as Doomsman's backstroke slashed across his torso, almost disemboweling him. The spellcaster staggered back and opened his mouth but the third stroke decapitated him before the scream could start.

  Magekiller's personality is very subdued; it almost never speaks aloud and is very taciturn even with its wielder. It will not allow itself to be wielded by an evil creature nor a creature capable of casting arcane spells; in the former case it 'turns off' it powers and uses its telepathy to make the wielder uneasy and fearful of it until it is sold or given away. For the latter it will telepathically urge that it be given to 'someone more suited' as well as 'turning off' its powers.
  Magekiller prefers to be wielded by fighters, then multi-class fighters (not including fighter/magic-users or such!), and then those clerics that can use a two-handed sword.
  Magekiller will usually only come into conflict with its wielder if the wielder has been Charmed, Geased, etc. If that occurs Magekiller will attempt to 'take over' and force the wielder to seek out counterspells. Note that Magekiller cannot use its Cancellation power on any creature that cannot cast arcane spells!
  Magekiller could potentially also come into conflict with a wielder who refuses to oppose arcane spellcasters at all.

  Anyone wielding this powerful weapon should expect to fact threats ranging from other who desire to own it to the enmity of virtually every evil mage to the machinations of the Crimson Watch.
  [The party that has it is justly paranoid of 'Witchking Infiltrators'].

  Some sages suspect that if Magekiller were to destroy the Witchking that the sword itself may become 'depowered', its purpose completed.

Monday, July 7, 2014

First Impressions - 5e at a glance

  As I have mentioned before, I will not be putting 5e into my 'game rotation' for a number of reasons that have nothing to do with 5e in and of itself. I've never played 4e and avoided Next. I am going in cold with the download from the 3rd and will record my impressions from a quick read-through here and, perhaps, more later.
  [Note from Future Rick; the quick read-through finished Monday morning due to having a large family and commitments. The following are the notes taken as I read through the PDF in one go].
  [Skip to Bottom Line, below, for my initial conclusions]

The Introduction: Not bad; a clear explanation of RPGs in general, how dice work, etc. ]
-The 'round down' rule is interesting.
-I like the 'three pillars of adventuring'.
   Impression - a good summary is good, but nothing special.

Champter 1:
-Choose race, then class, then roll characteristics? WTF?!
-4d6, choose 3 arrange to suit OR a set of stats that is well above average OR a point buy system that is min/max-able. I think we will be seeing a lot of characters with shockingly similar stats.
-Seems we see a lot more about background, alignment, etc. later.
-Humans gets a +1 on all stats
-All character classes use the same experience point chart
-You either FLY through low levels or crawl once you hit higher levels
    Impression- character creation strikes me as heavy munchkin bait which will probably lead to a game where there is strong similarity between all fighters, all thieves, etc. as people jockey to get something for nothing.

Chapter 2:
-The damage wrought by Dragonlance will never fully heal; freakin' tinker gnomes ruined everything
TIME FOR A RANT: AD&D 2nd edition TSR said 'hey, the illusionist isn't alone, all sorts of specialists exist!' and we got the various specialists and illusion spells were not isolated an 'off to the side'. In 3e WotC said 'why can't every race to every thing, huh?' and now any race could be any specialty. Then is 4e WotC said 'well, we really can't figure out what gnomes are  for so we got rid of 'em as player characters'.
  Of course they don't have anything to do, you buffoons, you eliminated what made them special when you got rid of racial limitations to classes! And if 'they're just other dwarves' is reason enough to get rid of them then why are halflings still playable (other than the obvious reason)?
-Elves get anime hair and skin. And the text reminds me of the Complete Book of the Master Race
-the bit on lasting institutions was good and a solid idea
    Impression- No half-orc, no half-elf, no gnome; very stripped down. The idea of giving humans a bonus to each stat is an interesting way of explaining why anyone would play a human.

Chapter 3:
-More hit points of thieves and mages, which I see as coddling players and DMs
-Maximum hit points at first level - also coddling DMs and players
-Class abilities by level with stat improvement.
-Cantrips are still around
-Saving throws and 'to hit' with spells are now set by the caster and based upon class stats.
-I like the idea of being able to take about average H.P. instead of rolling - that is an old house rule!
-Fighting styles is a shout-back to AD&D second edition Combat and Tactics
-Second wind and actions surge = more coddling and worship of 'balance'
-Archetypes. Bleh.
-Wizards get more spells and faster - coddling
-ALL wizards get the very best offensive and defensive spells at first level - and no utility spells other than a cantrip or two. Gee, I wonder what they expect wizards to do? A limited view of mages and - more coddling
-Spell casting mixes Vancian memorization and mana/points/slots spontaneous casting to give you the worst of both
-every time you advance in level you get two spells of your choice - MORE coddling
-Spell mastery and signature spells; a shout out to AD&D2e Spells and Magic AND more coddling!
-The School of Evocation seems a bit powerful
     Impression-Classes seem to be about coddling players and DMs. The basic rules are far from complete - it is obvious that there are more races and flat-out stated that there are a TON more options for each class in the 5e PHB.

Chapter 4:
-sigh. I play RPGs to get away from politics, but it looks like politics is following me
-The background section is good, especially for new/newer players.
-Inspirations... my initial reaction is 'wow - HackMaster honor die'. Another good tool to teach new players, I suppose.
-Backgrounds; 'oh, look! 2nd edition kits!'
    Impression- actually plenty of good stuff for new DMs and players

Chapter 5:
-Nice discussion of how 'starting money' doesn't have to be a stack of coins
-Also nice touch about 'magic items aren't necessarily cash', although it does sort of strongly urge a particular view of magic on the reader
-Having strength determine if armor slows you is an old and solid idea
-shields are +2 to AC across the board; like 2e C&T overload
-Breastplate and half-plate are on the list. Nice; I've had them in my 1e campaign for about 30 years, so that's a nice add.
-'Thrown property' - video game thinking
-Nice variety of equipment
-Upkeep returns! Expenses are a welcome sight
-Trinkets are odd, although I love the shoutout to Discworld
    Impression- A lot of good here, my favorite section so far

Chapter 6:
-3e-style multi-classing
-Oh HO! Can't track proficiencies for multi-classing characters without the 5e PHB! The information for feats and features is, too.  
    That is pretty serious!
    Impression- So much for 'only needing the Basic PDF to play 5e'! This short chapter pretty much says 'without the PHB you can't play multi-class'. Combined with Chapter 3 this means, in my opinion, that the Basic set is about equal with the old box set - instead of 'only up to 3rd level' it is 'each class has 1 of many options and no multi-classing'.

Chapter 7:
-Advantage and Disadvantage. Well, so much for the 'just use +2 or -2'. Seems complicated, seem game slowing, and seems rife for 'well, I am Lucky, and I have a luck stone, and I have this Doodad of Advantage, so let me roll these two dice, then reroll, then reroll, then reroll. How long did that Find Traps take?' And the converse, of course, is also likely
-The method of dealing with contests is better than some I have seen
-[paraphrase]'A character's carrying capacity is high enough you usually don't have to worry about it' this cracked me up - it seems the writers and I play with different sorts of people.
   Impression- Looks like it will slow down a lot of activities

Chapter 8:
-Time and Travel are dealt with well enough, I suppose.
-Long distance flight, etc., are in the DMG along with tracking, getting lost, and foraging.
-Wow! Is that a 1e description of falling damage I see?
-Blindsight, darkvision, and truesight are still there
-Food and water rules are straightforward
-Resting - this is the biggest, most annoying soft-coddle of players and DMs I have seen. Down to 1 h.p.? Eat lunch and get up to 100% back. Back down to 1 h.p. that night? Well, spend 8 hours reading, talking, eating, napping, standing watch, etc. and poof! Full hit points! Why bring a cleric? Just rename the Heal spell that 'I just took a long nap -1d4 h.p.' spell. Seriously, this just erased the idea of a long, desperate pursuit over days.
-Similarly, in-between adventuring you seem to just 'get over' being diseased, poisoned, etc.
    Impression- Resting, etc., is a train wreck and makes clerics a bit superfluous and the abstraction of hit points so extreme as to be humorous.

Chapter 9:
-Movement and Attacks are still linked in the combat system (which is small surprise) which makes combat farcical, IMO. A real shame and it seems to reflect turn-based computer games more than old-school miniatures rules.
-Bonus actions can act as an interrupt
-Reactions are interrupts
-Lose segments = spell casting gets wonky with the possibility of a spell not being an action
-critical hits are in
-you have to have as many negative H.P. as your maximum positive to die - HERO system shout out AND more coddling
-Death saving throws make it likely you will just get better.
RANT: So, if I understand this correctly, this is possible - Joe the Warrior is 15th level and has 90 h.p.. He is in a death struggle with Armatratius the Blue, dragon and bandit king, and at the end of a long fight is knocked to -8 h.p. Now, Joe isn't dead because he isn't at -90 h.p. On his next turn Joe rolls a 7 on his death saving throw, meaning he is getting worse. The turn after that he rolls a 2 - oh, no! Then he rolls a natural 20 and, well, wakes up with 1 h.p. Turns out the rest of the party drove the dragon away while Joe was out. Battle over, the party sits down and Joe  has some jerky, some ale, and a little nap: he also rolls 15d10 and returns to full h.p. because short rest.
  Later the foul dragon, likewise regenerated, uh, 'reinvigorated' by a light snack, returns and performs another beat down on Joe. At the very end Armatratius breathes lightning causing 70 h.p. of damage, driving Joe to -20 h.p. Now, he isn't dead because he isn't at -90. He makes the following death saving throws: 12, 9, 6, 15, and 20 and, once again, 'wakes up' with 1 h.p. This time the party slew Armitratius while Joe was down.
  Exhausted from being repeatedly clawed and bitten by a living engine of destruction the size of a small office building before being struck by mystical lightning that can shatter granite, Joe has a little dinner, sings a campfire song or two, has some wine, pulls a 2 hour guard shift, and sleeps in the open next to a small fire under the stars.
  He wakes up with 90 h.p. because long rest.
-Mounted and underwater combat are at least addressed.
    Impression- The unified movement and combat is a disaster. It appears the game designers were really, really afraid that people will stop playing if their characters die.

Chapter 10:
-So the weird mixed Vancian/spontaneous system includes the gem of 'cast a 1st level spell with a 9th level slot changes the spell'. Is this a shout out to HackMaster Advanced? Sure feels like it.
-Cantrips are 'at will spell-like abilities'
-Rituals - potentially a mess. Also, the use of the term 'tag' hearkens to, oh, video gaming to me.
-There it is, as I predicted above - you can cast more than one spell a round under some conditions.
-Material components are, typically, toned down
-Concentration checks are still around
    Impression- While I am forcing myself to read some of the spells first, my initial impression is this is a major power boost to wizards and clerics.

Chapter 11:
-Looks like you need the PHB for a full list of spells, doesn't it?
-Burning Hands and Aid are powered up, that is for sure
-Rituals include Detect Magic, Augury, Commune, Divination, and a lot more, seemingly most divinations
-The cantrip Fire Bolt (Rolemaster shout out?) is a cantrip (i.e., at-will spell like ability) does 1d10 (increasing with level to eventually reach 4d10 at 17th); so much for 1st level magic-users having only 1 spell a day! Just cast this puppy every round and tell the elven archer to watch the party's rear.
-Spells certainly do more damage when cast at low levels and while they need to be cast as higher level slots to do more damage this means lower level spell casters are tougher
-Faerie Fire gives all those attacking the target advantage. Seems serious for a 1st level spell even with concentration
-Inflict Damage is pretty serious
-Revivify at 3rd level means my rant about damage above is no harsh enough
-Sacred Flame = Fire Bolt for clerics
-Oddly enough they nerfed the Shield spell!
-Since it is now based on hit points, not dice, and increases with spell slots Sleep is more dangerous than ever
    Impression- Well, lower level casters got a serious boost in power and all casters got more powerful, even with the 'need higher slots to cause more damage with some spells' thing. My sons argue a first level party of 2 wizards and 4 rogues will roll over a party of 4 fighters and 2 clerics if all are 1st level.

-not bad

Bottom Line:
  1) The basic rules are FAR from complete - races and classes that are obviously part of the full game are not detailed; spells are obviously excluded; the included classes are missing the majority of their options; can't do multi-classing properly; etc. And the biggest - no monsters.
  This is not a surprise to me (or most) but some of the people who championed 5e (at least directly to me) insisted that Basic would be 'complete'. As is, any would-be DM must spend money on a module or three to get a range of monsters. Again, not a surprise to me but not what a vocal segment of fandom expected.
  2) The game coddles players and DMs alike. Player death is really hard, player power levels (especially spell casters) is increased, and healing is cheap and free.
  3) Combat got more complicated. I say that as someone running a 2e S&P campaign with Combat and Tactics. With Advantage and Disadvantage, etc., there are going to be a lot more dice flying and rerolls will complicate that. Combining movement with attack means that, like 3e+, tactical combat makes no tactical sense.

Your mileage may vary.

  The kids and I will now read the PDF in depth.