Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Visions of Fassulia

Visual Summary of Fassulia

The following is a visual summary of Fassulia, a land where my players are heading. You should listen to this in another tab as you scroll down.































A Set of Unified Wilderness Travel Procedures

Wilderness Travel Process:

1. Players are given current weather, date, and information about current hex 1 and daylight left 2
2. Players declare travel intent (We head northwards through the forests)
3. Hex Weight 3 is calculated from conditions, terrain of current hex, and party actions
4. Hex Weight is subtracted from party's Travel Pool 4
5. Player with highest Journey skill is checked against (in secret) if failed see 5a
5a. Roll for Wilderness Complication 5
6. Wilderness Anecdote 6 is rolled for if an encounter see 6a
6a. Wilderness Encounter 7 is rolled for
7. Players are moved into destination hex and are given information about the current hex and daylight left
8. Players make take other actions within a hex 8


Rather than having a unique mechanic for weather, I simply substitute weather as an encounterable monster, which generally fits in with the folklore of many cultures viewing the weather as an entity itself. The reaction table below determines if the weather is gonna be pleasant or hostile.

So the distribution is 2-5 as poor, 6-8 as neutral, and 9-12 as fair. It's pretty simple to assign different effects on the weather. I've also added the categories of bad and terrible for the effects of rolling multiple poor reactions in a row, rolling poor weather while in poor weather resulting in bad weather and rolling poor weather while in bad weather resulting in terrible weather. For bad and terrible weather treat further reaction rolls of neutral and fair reactions as a reset into neutral weather. Every time you roll for the weather also roll a 1d6, the value of that die determines how long the current weather situation lasts.

SummerCloudyHotDroughtFlash Fires
Spring/AutumnCoolRain StormsFlash Floods

Weather Mechanical Effects Table
for those traveling outside or in wilderness without shelter
Fair+1 to Wilderness Traveling Skill
Poor-1 to Wilderness Traveling SkillIncrease hex weight by 0.5
Bad-2 to Wilderness Traveling SkillIncrease hex weight by 1.0
Terrible-3 to Wilderness Traveling SkillIncrease hex weight by 1.5
HotUnless you have water supplies
Save or take 1d4 damage from the Heat* 
DroughtAs Hot, but 2 water rations needed per day
Flash FireAs Drought and a 1 in 6 chance of  Flash Fire
Flash Fire: all must save or 3d10 damage
RainUnless you have cold weather clothing 
Save or take 1d4 damage from the Cold* 
StormsAs rain and 1 in 10 chance of Lightning: 
Lightningrandom member must Save or 3d10 damage
Flash Floods
As Storms and 1 in 6 chance of Flash Flooding. 
Flash FloodingSave or swept away and begin drowning
SnowUnless you have cold weather clothing
Save or take 1d6 damage from the Cold* 
HailAs Snow and Save or take 1d6 damage from Cold
BlizzardAs Hail and 1 in 6 chance of Blizzard.
Blizzardthose outside take 4d10 damage save for half
*This damage cannot reduce a character below 1 HP


So the effects of weather changes based on the season and we have a way to track the days so why not simply combine the two into a calendar. Each season is composed of three months and each month is composed of 30 days. This gives us a year with 360 days, and is honestly good enough for me to use in game as a referee. Many cultures used lunar calendars and it is a useful heuristic for making a gameable calendar. So in real life the moon changes from New Moon to Full Moon over 14 days. I'll use 13 days between the New Moon to Full Moon, 1 day of New Moon, and 3 days of Full Moon. You can start every month on the New Moon which causes days 15-17 to be the Full Moon. This gives us a 30 day cycle and three usable states of the moon the effects of which are detailed on the table below.

Moon StateEffect
FullMonsters get +2 HD and Undead treat each HD as having rolled an 8
NewComplete Darkness at Night 100% chance to be surprised
ChangingNo Effects

Information about current Hex

The following information is given to players while in a hex:
1. The terrain of the current hex
2. What terrain they can see in the cardinal directions
3. What hex contents they can see

You are all in the New Rind Timberlands: The trees here menace from numerous wild angles, each one primordial by its girth, and their limbs a tumult of bifurcated extensions. To the north are mountains, to the east and south is a large lake, and to the west are more of the New Rind Timberlands. You can see the town of New Rind from here as well as the Harpy's Road heading northwards.


There is enough daylight for an average man to cross 3 hexes across plains in daylight. As there is extra light in summer which grants an additional hex to cross, there is more night in winter which grants one less hex to cross.

Daylight is dependent on the season
4 hexes Summer
3 hexes Spring/Fall
2 hexes Winter

Pressing on in darkness:

If a hex is traveled in under darkness it requires a Journey (wilderness travel skill) roll on a 1d12 instead of 1d6. Further encounters are rolled for twice and each character who doesn't burn a torch counts as surprised in an encounter.

This information would be given qualitatively instead to of quantitatively to the players.

The sun is setting in the sky, night will fall soon. If you don't make camp soon you will end up traveling under darkness.

Hex Weight

Hexes of different terrains have a different weight to cross them.

Terrain of Hexes Crossed:
Plains counts as 1.0 Hex
Hills/Forests/Lakes counts as 1.5 Hexes
Swamps counts as 2.0 hexes
Mountains counts as 2.5 hexes

Certain conditions may also alter the weight of a hex

Traveling conditions alter conditions:
Traveling on horseback: Decrease hex weight by 0.5 to a minimum of 0.5
Hex has a road: Decrease hex weight by 1.0 to a minimum of 0.5
Traveling during Poor Weather: Increase hex weight by 0.5
Traveling during Bad Weather: Increase hex weight by 1.0
Traveling during Terrible Weather:  Increase hex weight by 1.5
Hunting while traveling: Increase hex weight by 2
Searching a hex while traveling: Increase hex weight by 2

Travel Pool

As previously mentioned an average man can cross 3 hexes of plains a day. This number can be referred to as his Travel Pool and be subtracted from as he crosses hexes which are not plains.

It is summer so the man has a Travel Pool of 4. He chooses to travel along a road through hills while also hunting. 1.5 - 0.5 + 2.0 = 3.0. Upon doing so he would have a Travel Pool of 1 left, and if he choose to simply travel without hunting he would be able to cross another hills hex before night falls.

Wilderness Complications

Character Skill

The other part of wilderness travel is how well a character can navigate the wilds. As far as I know only LotFP has a dedicated skill (Bushcraft) for determining how well characters travel through the wilderness (if this an incorrect way of using this skill let me know). In my games characters have a 1 in 6 skill which they can improve for traveling through the wilderness. If characters are successful in their travel attempt, nothing happens. Otherwise consult the table below.

Wilderness Complication Table
1 Stalked - Wilderness Encounter strikes in 1d4 nights or at sign of advantage
2Dire Circumstance - Next Wilderness Encounter roll is at a +6
3 Misdirection 1 in 6 chance of being lost, 2 in 6 for Swamps
4Incelement Weather - Weather worsens by 1 category
5Menacing Landscape - Next encounter occurs in Compromising terrain
6Miasma - Save or Disease

Wilderness Anecdote

For each hex traveled through a wilderness anecdote occurs.

Wilderness Anecdote Table
1Find a Lair of something
2Find a Spoor of something
3Find Tracks from something
4Find Traces 1 of something
5Find Traces 2 of something
6Find Monster encounter

Further while traveling through the wilderness, characters may take actions on their journey (such as searching a hex or hunting) each such attempt or traveling through a hex with a lair within it incurs an additional roll of the Wilderness Anecdote Table. 

Wilderness Encounter

So in a dungeon, a wandering monster check is resolved rather elegantly in regards to location. However, in most wilderness expeditions there is a great deal of locational abstraction in regards to how far the players travel. In order to not adjudicate every monster from attacking them in their sleep, the following procedures generate a more varied and randomized placement of wilderness monster encounters. There are present rules for Surprise and Reaction rolls so there is not a further need to describe them here.

Wilderness Monster Encounter Location Table

1As you sleep in a camp
2As you rest in a camp
3As you rest for a moment on the trail
4While you're moving through the wilderness
5While you're moving through harsh terrain
6While you're moving through compromising terrain

This roll should be done in conjunction with the surprise, reaction, and distance roll. Each terrain gives a different effect and this should make the wilderness more memorable if not more horrible.

Distance of Harsh or Compromising Terrain:

Harsh: Safe terrain 1d6*10 feet away
Compromising: Safe terrain 2d6*10 feet away

Harsh Terrain Effects Table

PlainsTall foliage hides holes in the ground, 1 in 6 chance of falling prone if you move
Hills Loose dust is kicked up by the wind here, characters not using a hand to cover their faces must roll under their constitution or start hacking for 1d4 rounds with a -2 to hit and armor
ForestDense foliage 1 in 10 chance of taking an additional 1d4 damage from a damaging attack
Waters (Fresh)Your back is to waters 1d4*10 feet below you with nowhere to turn
Waters (Sea)As waves crash against the boat rocking it mercilessly 1 in 10 chance of save vs falling into the sea every time you move
SwampsMire up to your knees, Movement is at two thirds speed and your armor is at -2
Mountains Perniciously near a precipice with a 1d6+3*10' deep drop

Compromising Terrain Effects Table

The horizon stretches far and wide here, if fleeing a monster. The monster rolls morale twice and takes the higher in continuing to pursue.
Crumbling stones menace below your feet, must roll under movement or slide 2d4*10' away from your companions
Forest Vicious Foliage 1 in 6 chance of taking an additional 1d6 damage from attack
Waters (Fresh)Your back is to waters and large stones 2d4*10 feet below you with nowhere to turn
Waters (Sea)Massive waves crash against the boat rocking it mercilessly 1 in 6 chance of save vs falling into the sea every time you move
SwampsMire up to your chest, Movement is at one third speed and your armor is at -4
MountainsUpon a minuscule ledge if you take damage you must roll under third dexterity or fall down 2d8*10 feet

Weather effects on Encountering Monsters in the Wilderness

DroughtAll participants takes 1 point of damage* at the end of every round of combat
Flash-Fire All participants takes 1d4 points of damage* at the end of every round of combat
Storms Missile fire occurs with a -2 penalty
Flash FloodsAs Storms and 1 in 20 chance of lightning strike at the end of  every round of combat
Hail Missile fire occurs with a -2 penalty
BlizzardAs hail and visibility limited to 30'
*This damage cannot reduce a character below 1 HP

Actions within the wilderness

A character may attempt to roll under half of their wisdom in order to Hunt, Forage, or find Herbs, this takes as much time as
Hunting costs 1d4 arrows and gives 1d4 rations if successful.
Foraging gives 1d3 rations if successful.
Herbalism gives a single beneficial herb which can act as medicine if successful.

A character may roll under half of their wisdom in order to search the hex for anything.

A character may roll under their wisdom in order to search the hex to find the location of something they are aware like a dungeon or another hidden hex feature.

Each of these actions incurs another wilderness anecdote roll and takes up as much time as traveling through a hex with a  Hex Weight of 2.0.


In real life, animals are hunted for their materials. Certain creatures are eaten while others are turned into usable materials. Below are simple abstractions for the usage of monsters once they are hunted.

Usable Corpses:

If a monster is brought down to 0 hp, then there is a 1 in 6 it took excess trauma and it's corpse is unusuable. Any attacks which deal over 10 points of damage or poisons, fires, magics, and similar awful effects increase the chance of a corpses being unusable by 1 in 6.

Eating Monsters:

Certain monsters with a magical or truly awful nature cannot be turned into consumable rations. If the monster has poison or inflicts disease, then it cannot be turned into field rations. Otherwise a monster slain can be turned into a number of field rations equal to it's HD. Thus a Giant Elk which has 4 HD can be turned into 4 field rations. Field rations last for only two days.

If one has access to salt, fire, and tools one can turn a monster corpse into regular rations. This process takes a number of hours equal to the HD of the monster and grants a number of rations equal to its HD squared. Thus the Giant Elk could be turned into 16 rations. Monsters that have poison have a 1 in 6 chance of each ration being safe to eat.

Valuable Parts:

A quick measure of how much one can fetch for the valueable parts of a monster can be determined by the table below. Any monster can be rolled on the Corpse Value Table to determine how much it's parts can be sold for.

Corpse Value Table 1d6

1-3Worth HD^2 * 3 Silver
4-5Worth HD^2 * 6 Silver
6Worth HD^2 * 9 Silver

Each time a is monster encountered the corpse value should be rolled for only once on the table, unless one such monster is encountered with more HP than 5 * the number of HD it possesses. This would represent an especially magnificent specimen of higher value, resulting in an increase of the multiplied silver value by 3. In the case of the Giant Elk previously described above for eating rations, assuming it was rolled to have a corpse value of (4)^2 * 6 = 96 silver, one having more than 20 HP would have a magnificent crown of horns which would be worth 144 silver.

Venoms Sacs/Special Organs:

Monsters which deal poison can have their venom sacs or other special organs harvested in order to make doses of that poison. Such an organ harvested contains a number of doses of poison equal to the HD of the monster. The value of selling such poison can be reflected as costing half of the corpse value.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Why Stabbing Random Townsfolk Has Less Repercussions Than You Think! On Justice In The Iron/Viking/Medieval Age

I don't know who made this

In modern society, you can commit a criminal action if you break a law set out by the state forbidding certain actions. This would be like tax fraud, possessing drugs, or murder. In the iron/viking/medieval age things were different as criminal law wasn't as well developed.

So we have mainly two types of law in our society. Tort and Criminal. Tort refers to actions which harm someone or deprive them of something. Criminal refers to actions which harm the state or deprive them of something. Many crimes one can commit are both. For example if you murder someone you both deprive them of life and also break the law of the state.

In the iron/viking/medieval age instead of a state or society you instead had a king or ruler and there was much less overlap between the two. So if you killed a random peasant you wouldn't necessarily harm the king but you would greatly harm their family. So the family would likely take revenge but the king would likely not take an action. Instead of the king's men investigating the murder, the family would take actions against you either in the form of more murder or payment.

So for people during the iron/viking/medieval age it’s essentially just paying damages to someone else or the king or you specifically do something banned by the king. It’s up to you and your clan to atone for actions or damages made by you.

Here is a collection of the actions which would carry repercussions in the iron/viking/medieval age and how they would be solved:

Crimes vs Man

Murder - Pay a weregild (man price) if their family doesn't try to kill you vengeance. Sometimes you'd also have to pay to the king as well.

Injury/Assault - So accidental injury wasn't a thing outside of Rome (I think), so you would have to pay a fine to the family or individual you harmed which would be proportional to the damage.

Larceny - You would have to either give the item back and may be assaulted from who you stole or pay a fine for what was stolen.

Crimes vs The King

Murder of a king's man - There is a much higher price here than a normal weregild. I'm sure he could also kill you for this but I don't know the specifics.

Crimes against the community - This is like arson, livestock mutilation, or disturbing the peace. Technically this is all the king's property and you're injuring him/stealing from him.

Forbidden action - If the king forbids something and you do it it won't end well.

On Crime Prevention

So a iron/viking/medieval age settlement wouldn't have police who would seek out crime and prevent it and solve it. You would have people who would patrol the town in order to keep order but it wouldn't be to prevent crime. If they came across a murdered body they wouldn't necessarily investigate but instead would maybe clean it out of the way. Further if someone had wronged you it was up to you to fix that wrong. You might petition your king for help but who knows what happen there? If someone stole from you you could possible get a thief-taker to track them down or you could possibly get someone to help your family gain vengeance. But most wealthy people would have guards walk the streets with them for protection instead of trusting the policing force to protect them.

Further if accused of a crime there wasn't much recourse for what you could do. In some soceities you simply needed witness to dispute it, in others you could try to have an ordeal to prove your innocence but the king would never have to prove your guilt. He's the king.

Other Stuff

So you have to pay taxes and may have to become part of an irregular militia in times of war. Certain things may be taxed more as well, but generally you pay with items not with wealth, like a baker may pay tax with bread instead of coin. Foreigners had less legal safety, but their hosts could grant them protection or an extension of their family. Also this could go for orphans or such as well.

Some places also have "outlawing" which is when legal protections don't apply to you anymore, but that does come later historically. However, a similar concept that someone could be killed like a dog with no repercussions wasn't unheard of.

Conclusion/In Practice

So in your games by altering such laws per kingdom you could add more verisimilitude or differentiate each area more. Further, the inclusion of the iron/viking/medieval age justice system could emphasize the nature of your setting.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Abandoned Mines above the Caverns: Procedural Tiny Dungeon Generator 2

Below is a generator for some small dungeons which can be used to construct abandoned mines as well as cavern complexes. These will result in less treasure than most dungeons but can be the source of troglodytes which may spread out from their awful homes to menace the country side. These dungeons are created procedurally and can be rolled for as the party enters them. For the Caverns, you fill the cavern table with monsters, and then roll for room contents.

Abandoned Mineshaft Complex Generator

Mines Layout

Tunnels extending out from central hub room from which the mine complex is entered.
1-32 Tunnels of 1d6 Rooms
4-53 Tunnels of 1d6+1 Rooms +
 1 side path between two shortest tunnels
64 Tunnels of 1d6+2 Rooms +
1 side path between two longest tunnels +
1 side path between two shortest tunnels

Outermost room of the two longest tunnels will allow descent into random rooms of the caverns below

Mineshaft Room Contents 1d8 + 1d8 (Roll twice per room)

1The shaft here is supported by numerous wooden pillars.
2The ceiling buldges down from above, as if about to collapse inward.
3A wheelbarrow has been abandoned here, its wheel broken.
4A lantern lies broken here, now a cracked shell of glass.
5Three wodden pillars have fallen from the wall here, and now lie as rubble.
6From this wall ore was once taken, all that is left is a gaping orifice.
7 A deep hole has been dug here and a ladder leads down into it.
8The walls here is broken, its stoney flesh littering the floor.
1-3Unstable tunnel, rocks fall from ceiling for 1d8 damage
4-5Tunnel Collapses and exit into room covered by stone only passage further inwards, can be removed with 2d4 manhours of labor (assuming a roll of 4 three characters and a hireling could remove the stones in 1 hour and one character in 4 hours)
6-7Collapsing floor into random room of caverns below, fall deals 2d6 damage
8Blackdamp - Open flames snuff out while encased lanterns dim further there is a 1 in 6 chance of a damp requiring a save vs poison or unconciousness and death if they remain in that area
1-4Crazed Miner who has been trapped here some time ago 
(Stats as bandit with 2 HD and undead morale)
5-7Swarm of Bats 
(flees after taking 1 hp but is able to attack entire party at once for 1 hp)
8Monster from Caverns Below
1-31d10 nodules exposed of precious ore 
each worth 1d6*10 silver and requires 1d6 turns to remove all
4-61d6 nodules of exposed gems 
each worth 1d4*20 silver  and requires 1d6 turns to remove all
71d8 nodules of mined precious ore 
each worth 1d6*10 silver
81d4 mined gems 
each worth 1d4*20 silver

Wandering Monsters 1d8

1-4Crazed Miner
5-7Swarm of Bats
8Monster from Caverns Below

Caverns Below Generator

Rooms: 2d6+Number of Tunnels Above

Cavern Layout*

1-3Two linear rows of equal rooms connected to each other by
 sidepaths equal to number of tunnels above
4-5Two floors and two staircases that connect between them. 
Top has number equal to tunnels+1d6. 
Bottom has the other 1d6
6Many floors each has number of rooms 
equal to number of tunnels above
*To construct a Larger Cavern, simply fill the mineshaft columns above with cavern room contents

Cavern Room Contents 1d6 + 1d6 (Roll twice per room)

1A massive pool of water covers the majority of this cave.
2Numerous stalactites hang from the ceiling above.
3The roof of the cave hangs low limiting your ability to stand tall.
4The cave here is barely wide enough to walk through.
5Water falls from a ledge above.
6The cave winds about instead of being easily visible and understandable.
1 Lesser Inhabitants 1st roll
2 Lesser Inhabitants 2nd roll
3Lesser Inhabitants 3rd roll
4Greater Inhabitants 1st roll
5Greater Inhabitants 2nd roll
6Terrible Inhabitants
1-3Fossils embedded in the wall 
worth 1d8 * 50, each 100 silver corresponds to 1 encumbering item requires 1d8 turns to remove from wall
4-5 Exit out of the cavern
6Strange Protohuman Relic carved from pale stone 
worth 2d6*30 silver

Wandering Monsters* (1d4)

1Lesser Inhabitants 1st roll
2 Lesser Inhabitants 2nd roll
3Lesser Inhabitants 3rd roll
4Greater Inhabitants 1st roll

*Determination of Cavern Inhabitants

Lesser 1d8 

(Stastics unless specified as different are 1 HD, Armor as shield, 1d6 damage, movement as unencumberd man, average morale)
1 2d4 Armored Trilobytes crawling out of a stagant pool of water
(armor as chain and shield)
21d4 Giant Bats unfurling their wings from the cavern's roof 
(2 HD, low morale)
3 1d2 Cave-Fishers reeling themselves towards their filaments
(attack from range and if successful embeds filament strand within target)
41d6 Claw Shrimp floating up form the water below
(Two Claw Attacks for 1d6)
51d3 Giant Centipede spiraling downward from stalagtites
(Attacks with poison, high morale)
6Stone Mimic silently ambushing as it opens its eye 
(surprises on 5 in 6, and morale as undead)
71d2 Snapping Slamanders swimming out of some submerged hole
(On hit pulls target into water, dealing 1d6 every round)
81d4 Opilions converging along the walls
(Crawls on wall, if fails morale plays as dead)

Greater 1d6 

(Stastics unless specified as different are 3 HD, Armor as shield+leather, 1d8 damage, movement as unencumberd man, high morale)
1-3Double number of appearing Lesser inhabitants
4 1d2 Serpent Bats screeching and flapping their awful wings from above (Attacks ignore shields, Movement as double that of unencumbered man)
5 1d3 White Apes howling and  as they feast on the corpse of a 
(Roll again for monster) (No reaction roll are always hostile)
6 Scythe Trilobyte lunging a blade out of a pool of water 
(Armor as Plate + shield, 2d6/2d6 damage)

Terrible 1d4

1Double number of appearing Greater inhabitants
2Terror Mole bursting forth from the walls of the cavern
 (as Troll with burrowing speed equal to man in plate) 
3Banished Jotun thrashing and screaming out of chains and shackles
 (as Hill Giant but half movement)


The following can be applied separately or in tandem to make the caverns inhabitants more fantastic

Sentient Creepy Crawlies:
Each Lesser and Greater Inhabitant has a 1 in 6 chance of being sentient and being able to speak.

Cave-dwelling men dressed in creepy crawly skin:
Each Lesser Inhabitant has a 1 in 6 chance of a man dressed in leather/chitin (Stats as bandit + modifications of inhabitant) One Cavern room has secret entrance to small hamlet at bottom of cave.

Each Lesser Inhabitant has a 1 in 6 chance of being a demi-human race (Stats as lesser inhabitant with Double HD) One Cavern room has secret entrance to small village at bottom of cave.

Goal of Procedures

Procedural generation of mines and caverns beneath. Alot of inspiration was taken from the film The Descent and a mechanical incentive of "we have to go lower to escape" was emphasized. For this reason a treasure listed within the caverns is an exit from the dungeon which has a slightly greater than 12% chance of appearing within a room. With an average of 7 rooms within a cavern (not counting the additional rooms from the tunnel) this means that there is a 64% chance of the average caverns below having at least one exit out of the mines. There is a 9% chance of a mine shaft being collapsable which has a 2 in 6 chance (trap chance) of triggering per party member who travels through it. Assuming a party of 4 PC's and 2 hirelings there's a 91% chance of that party triggering a collapse of stone behind them which means they would have to either go deeper into the mine to search for a way out. Further each room has a 9% chance of being trapped to collapse downwards into the caverns. Assuming the previous party there is a 91% chance that one of them collapses downwards into the caverns and as there is a 64% chance of the caverns having a secondary exit there is only a 34% chance a party would have to travel upwards to exit the mines. The mines contents were weight towards being filled with traps rather than monsters and the caverns below infact are the opposite and have no traps. This was to create two states of the complex with the abandoned mines being desolate and the caverns teeming with life but both would still pose a threat to those who would explore.

The mines and caverns are further filled with treasure which is weighted to be produced as within the walls of the mine instead of on the floor. The intent here is to create reasons to return to the dungeon at a later date with hirelings and pickaxes to excavate it. The different value of gems and ores within a dungeon are randomized so that multiple dungeons could be created differently. Thus a referee could create a mine for iron or gold and have their contents feel different for the players. The creatures within the caverns (without modifications to make them more fantastic) are constructed to have a variety of different inhabitants which would change per cavern complex. This would allow multiple cavern complex to feel different from one another lest each cavern complex encountered would have the same trogodyte denizens. Lastly the stats of the denizens are arranged in such a way that the fantastic elements could be easily consturcted. For instance the cave folk who wear the chitin of trilobytes would be better armored and the demihuman centipede folk would be easily made rather than intricately written out.

Playtesting and Adjustments

I have run three sessions of exploring such abandoned mine sites. The only significant change from the initial draft was to reduce the amount of lethal blackdamp found in dungeons to facilitate movement downwards into the caves below. The players reactions to the valuable nodes of gem and ores as well as the fossils embedded in the walls of the dungeon was to fomulate plans to return and excavate them later instead of recovering them during the first dungeon expedition. The abandoned mines greatly reward cautious exploration and preperation beforehand as the danger of avoidable traps is much greater than that of monsters.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Do you have too many playable classes in your OSR game? The answer may shock you!

This is a response to +Angus Warman and +Michael Bacon in regards to including additional playable classes to an OSR game and an excuse for me to write a click-bait article title.

It is a response to the following:

1. "Why have more than one class at all? Why not just fighters? Answer : The classes feel different and work differently. "


2.  "I would say "why have Wizard Schools other than Orthodox", but I think there's more here. 'Why I like that as a referee' has one obvious answer: It makes my players happy/come to my games, and that makes me happy. I'd say it does add a small amount of extra complexity, but not needlessly. It's needful complexity. Why would you have only one casting class? Would that makes it more enjoyable for you to DM? Some other metric I'm not thinking of?"

Each class serves a distinct mechanical purpose within the OSR gameplay loop and adding, removing, or altering the playable classes may disrupt this. On of the strengths of OSR is the robustness of this loop in games and how it serves to produce the OSR playstyle. It is important to know how each class interacts with the OSR gameplay loop as it informs how other classes may be added.

OSR Gameplay Loop

The resources in the loop refer to both literal resources like light and rations as well as meta-resources like those outline on a character sheet like HP or Attributes. Resource drain is anything which may remove these resources such as traps, monsters, and time.

So aside from race as class, there are 4 default classes in the vast majority of OSR. They are Fighter, Magic-User, Cleric, and Thief. For this analysis we will ignore the thematic elements of each class and focus on their mechanical components.*

The Fighter class present consistent and predictable abilities (dealing more damage and taking damage from monsters at a reduced rate than other classes) to wager HP against the most common active HP drains, monsters.
The Magic-User class present a limited number of abilities (spells) with which to skip certain specific resource drains.
The Cleric class present limited resource renewal (healing hp, curing curses and disease, raising the dead) which serves to extend the amount wagering possible and serve against a specific type of HP drain the Undead, as such monsters lack morale and reaction rolls instead always being hostile and fighting to the death.
The Thief class presents consistent and predictable abilities versus the most common passive HP drains (finding or removing traps) which also serve to increase the rate of treasure gained (picking pockets and opening locks). Lastly thieves also have passive avoidance to active HP drain (hiding in shadows and listening at doors).*

*The goal of a thief is to combat traps and locks the same way the goal of a fighter is to combat monsters.

The other three common OSR classes: Elf, Dwarf, and Halfling can also be analyzed mechanically.

The Elf Class functions as a mixture of the Fighter and Magic-User classes, they possess nearly the same combat abilities as a Fighter with the exception of smaller HD and they cast spells as Magic-User could.
The Dwarf Class functions as a mixture of the Fighter and Thief classes, they possess nearly the same combat abilities as a Fighter with the exception of not being able to use bows or two-handed swords and possess the Thief's avoidance of traps.
The Halfling Class functions as a another mixture of the Fighter and Thief classes, instead having a thief's passive avoidance to active HP drain and nearly the same combat abilities as a Fighter with the exception of smaller HD and not being able to use bows or two-handed swords. However, they gain an extra bonus to their AC. Further Halflings have the best saves of any class, which means their chance of surviving random misfortune is greatly increased.

I would posit that the Elf and Dwarf class are redundant and don't add novel ways of interacting with the OSR gameplay loop. The Halfling class can be better described as having a reduced chance to have their resources drained and functions to allow greater wagering similar to a cleric. However, while a cleric returns lost resources a halfling instead has a lessened chance of losing resources wagered.

Thus we are left with a core 5 OSR classes:
Class One: Deals with Monsters
Class Two: Sidesteps wagers of resources for treasure* a limited amount of times
Class Three: Increases number of wagers of resources for treasure possible by resource return
Class Four: Deals with passive resource drains/increase rate of treasure acquisition
Class Five: Increase number of wagers possible by altering chance of it losing wagers of resources for treasure

*This refers to the standard mechanics of dungeoneering or hex-crawling. A spell like Sleep can sidestep combat and in doing so, ignores combat's standard wager of character hp vs enemy hp.

If one was to add further classes to an OSR game, one would have to have them interact with the OSR gameplay loop in another way or they would otherwise be redundant to the gameplay loop and thus to the game.

A quick aside for Racial Classes

Race as Class often subverts the gameplay loop in ways I didn't mention and has implications for the game-world as well as they merge the narrative and mechanics together. Further Racial Classes often function on different mechanics than the core 5 classes, such as not having HP, being able to see in the dark, or being able to breathe flame. Further, racial classes should have a distinct feel that's different from the human classes to emphasize their inhumanness.

Class Redundancy

So, in regards as to "Why would you have only one casting class" I would rephrase it first as "Why would you have only one class which sidesteps wagers of resources for treasure a limited amount of times". I would say that if there were two classes which "cast spells" it would only matter if they both interacted with the OSR gameplay loop in the same way. In fact B/X has two casting classes the Cleric and the Magic-User but they interact with the OSR gameplay loop differently.

In the time I have been writing this +Arnold K. has brought up the examples of two different casters

"(a caster that loses Con when they cast spells will feel different from a wizard who spends gold coins to cast spells)."

I think these are both distinct enough to be offered in play as they interact with the OSR gameplay loop in a novel way. The class which loses a non-renewable resource to sidestep wagers of resources for treasures is different from a class which loses treasure in order to sidestep wagers of resources for treasures is different from the standard class which uses vancian preparation to sidestep further wagers of resources for treasures.

However, if you had two class which both interact with the OSR gameplay loop in the same way or in excess similarity why not consolidate them into a single class? Why have a warrior, knight, and barbarian class instead of having a single fighting-man class. If each just deal consistent damage, have lots of hp, and may wear armor why give them minor differently mechanics to interact with the OSR gameplay loop.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Questions for Player Feedback/Establishment of Shared Setting + Three Player's Responces

Something that worries me as a referee is that how I perceive my games is different from how my players perceive my games. If I am unable to communicate my "vision" of the setting then there is a chance that the players will be confused and unable to play "correctly". I've written about difference in perceived settings before, and these are the questions I have been asking my players about my games. I usually ask these after like 4-5 sessions and try to adjust my descriptions afterwards to try and better match my vision of the setting.

If you want to use these questions simply replace "Valiant" with the name of your setting.

1. How would you describe the Valiant Setting?
2. How do you visualize Valiant in general?
3. How do you see the NPC's
4. How do you see the villages/towns/cities?
5. How do you see the wilderness?
6. How do you see the dungeons?
7. How do you see the monsters?
8. Any media come to mind that is similar to Valiant for you?
9. If you were gonna describe Valiant to a person who was interested and wanted to know more what would you say about the setting/theme/aesthetics?
10. What genre would you say Valiant is?
11. What is the most memorable image or encounter in Valiant?
12. Do any locations visually stand out to you?

Art for an old Dungeon of mine


Player 1

1) the Valiant setting is more-and-more like some kind of proto-HP Lovecraft setting, with a hint of Slavic. In 400 years Lovecraft-ski would be digging up ruins and writing about this place and it's creepy cults and monsters.

2)At first Valiant was standard Adventure stuff, with open, sweeping vistas. After those fungus monsters though, it's suddenly a lot more overcast and gloomy!

3) The Npcs... Same kinda difference with the towns, actually. At the wedding they were great chums, the Jarl was sagely, and the cultists where creepy. It varies too much from place to place for me to pin it down, but I will say the NPCs strike me as being way more unpredictable for some odd reason. As in, it's like one of those horror films where the town is udner a cult, and they act all weird and distant, but you're waiting for the other shoe to drop and for them to go psycho

4) I don't think I've spent enough time in the towns to properly visualize them. Sometimes I see them as muddy Hovels, a la "Monty Python's Holy Grail," Other times it's like a happy Rennaissance fair with the wedding, then it's like Skyrim. Hard to pin it all down just yet, but I'll keep on thinking about it!

5) Wilderness is consistently forlorn at least. It's always dangerous, misty, and creepy. That was well established and reinforced. Terrific job there!

6) Dungeons are always just fun to go through. There’s been a lot to them and we’ve gotten some good chances to stop, catch our breath, retreat and return and explore them all. I think it’s a great sign that I’m always down to see where each dungeon goes to

7) the monsters are Lovecraft Monsters if given Russian names basically (which I take it comes from your Ukrainian background! So I guess that’s “Ukrainian names” not “Russian Names,” but.. well, you get what I’m saying!). Like the Kuvuklaks or whatever they were called? I’m not huge on Lovecraft himself, actually, but the flying fungus horse is straight out of my conception of him!
8) I can’t say yet, I haven’t played this game enough. I guess ”Lovecraft mixed with Skyrim mixed with... Hellboy? This issues where Hellboy fights Yaga Baba or whatever her name was?”
9) if honestly emphasize the mechanics over the setting. I only played one other /tg/ game, which was pathfinder, and this game is so much more graceful and intuitive and faster than that games ever was, which I attribute to the mechanics. IF I was to talk about the setting, I’d mention the creepy proto-Lovecraft factor again

10. What genre would you say valiant is? Hate to go back to the Lovecraft Well, but that comes to mind. throw in a bit of an adventure... Maybe a little more of a dark comedy. I can see how, with a really serious group of players, this could be downright depressing. With our group, at least for the moment, I think it's kinda profound -- it's, like, it could be viewed as an interesting portrait of characters using humor to cope with the circumstances! This is a dark, DARK world, and the fact that the characters we're playing are having a hoot in it... it's, well, interesting is a safe word to use! Needless to say, now that our shit's getting kicked in, that may change, but for now, I think it's kinda heartwarming 11. What is the most memorable image or encounter in valiant? I'm gonna go with the first dungeon, where BV gagged the cultist with a stick and tried to creep on him. That's when I knew what sort of a game we were getting into. The other Pathfinder game I played was dead boring, and there were only two moment from that game where the characters really came alive and the situations got fun. The fact that this happened right from the GO was a great sign to me. 12. Any locations visually stand out to you? Kek. Not really, sorry! I see either the white website we use with cute stick-figures OR a pastiche of screencaps from the Skyrim trailer. I guess the wedding stands out as a fun location, but that had way more to do with the characters than the setting's visuals, by far! I will say that, after giving it a though, I think the cult room with the charnel pit and the weird Peridot Obelisk stand out, but I still want to say that the Visuals are about the last thing I'm focusing on. I'm way more into the fun interactions between the characters!

*The mechanics he is talking about are here

Player 2

1) Practical fantasy, which leans more towards low. Tech where it exists is scarce and mysterious, and the fact that players have no real idea about its purpose or origin is great.

2) How do you visualize Valiant?
Feels like I'm wandering around in wild parts of Scotland or Ireland with some of that good old Viking charm. There's a good balance between religion, magic and steel on steel. Very comfy, but not without intrigue such as what the purpose and origin of the zeppelin was that we encountered not so long ago.

3) How do you see the NPC's
Bless those poor men and women for dealing with our party, but I love that there's a few NPCs out there who seem to be just as dumb as we are. A little bit Byzantine inspired, a little bit Norse. Not really looking for saviours to come and rescue them from every little trouble and not willing to bow at the feet of those who bring it with them.

4) How do you see the Towns?
To make a comparison to obvious fantasy sources, larger towns kind of remind me of a slightly Gothic influenced Esgaroth (albeit with obvious signs of an overarching religion in ye olde Eastern-Orthodox Christianity style). Smaller settlements are a little more of a cross between Edoras and Nashkel.

5) How do you see the wilderness?
The roads are safer than traversing actual wilds, though they're not without their difficulties as the floating spore cloud proved. The wilderness itself seems like it's eager to encroach on human life, or to make you regret entering their own turf. It absolutely pays to be prepared.

6) How do you see the dungeons?
Places with actual uses to certain groups of people, rather than just some nonsensical Ayleid ruin which you'd find in Oblivion. Trapping an ancient evil? Cool. Out of the way complex where people won't be persecuted for cult worship? Also cool.

7) How do you see the monsters?
If you're unprepared or otherwise unlucky, tactical retreat is absolutely a viable and sometimes necessary option. There's no feeling that the player characters are overpowered in this, or that you can walk into a situation with confidence you'll make it through with all your fleshy bits in the right place. The tension you feel in those encounters makes them far more memorable than your run of the mill battle against kobolds.

8) Any media come to mind that is super similar to valiant for you?
I wouldn't say any one thing is wildly similar, I get a few magical and tech elements from Thief, supernatural leanings from some of the fun bits of Grimm's Fairy Tales, good old fighting like you want in fun games like Dark Messiah or Mount & Blade, etc. It's all shaken up enough that I actually had to put thought into comparisons though.

9) If you were gonna describe valiant to a person who was interested and wanted to know more what would you say about the setting/theme/aesthetics?
Do you enjoy coming up with plans to defraud a land of mostly honest people via compulsive lying? Or trying to convince someone that doing so is probably immoral and would cause issues for you later down the line? This is 10/10 for doing so. Or more generally, If you enjoy tense encounters in dark holes where things are likely to take a turn for the worse, where your light is low and your comrades are wounded but there's no ridiculous cloudkill spell to save you... good luck. You may just need it.

10) What genre would you say valiant is?
Low fantasy with an underlying sense of horror lurking in wait.

11) What is the most memorable image or encounter in valiant?
The Avatar of Kull Varld still feels fresh, however the dumb Jarl of New Rind and his longsuffering aide really made me laugh. What a guy.
12) Any locations visually stand out to you?
New Rind is great so far - I love areas with huge towers, massive pennants and arenas. It's one of those places where you can tell at a glance what that place is all about. The three massive toads were also a good source of comedy.

Player 3

1) A fantasy setting mostly inspired by medieval Eastern Europe with some Scandinavian influences and some horror elements.

2-4) I visualise Valiant a lot like the world in The Witcher 3. A lot of open fields, moors and woodlands. Here and there a few villages that look more like hovels and towns that have a bit more going on in terms of activity and size. All of them are relatively small and somewhat dirty towns with poor infrastructure that still does its job.
Same with the NPC’s; relatively poor commoners who live a simple life, while characters like the jarl live a more luxurious life in more extravagant houses. With extravagant in this context meaning that they’ve got a few paintings or weapons hanging from the walls, not that everything is full of gold. Again, a lot like it’s portrayed in The Witcher.

5) The forests I see as untamed with at best small muddy roads as the best way of travel. They’re eerie, dark, and quiet but it being winter currently they’re not all that dense. I see it a bit like the forest in the very first scene of Game of Thrones.
Outside of forests I’m thinking of more open fields of woodlands, with more low shrubbery instead of trees.

6) Somewhat stereotypical in its fantasy design. Ruins of long deserted dark hallways full of spiderwebs, dirt and rubble. With the most recent dungeon that we entered having damp walls and ceilings and being full of fungus.
7) For the most part very much like real life animals, just with some kind of “horror” twist to them. Like a normal bear, but with a human head with snakes for eyes on top of it. Or normal spiders just way bigger and more dangerous. So while I clearly see them as fantasy monsters, I mostly see them as a mutated version of big real life animals.
The exception here being the flying tentacle monster, which leaned much more heavily on the horror aspect without having any familiar real life animal attached to it. It set it apart as somewhat otherworldly, or maybe as something Lovecraftian.

8) The Witcher

9) I’d tell them to think of The Witcher with more horror elements. And also with a bigger focus on religions and cults than you’d find in The Witcher. A religion that, just like a lot of the setting, seems to be inspired by medieval Eastern Europe.

10) A mix of things really. It’s mostly low-fantasy but it certainly has moments that would also make it fit in the horror genre. We’ve even seen a glimpse of what seems like steampunk with the airship.
11) Probably the encounter with the giant spiders. Mostly because of how tense it was and how close to dying we got. It also made for some good character interactions that continued to play a role later on. Like being afraid of spiders, horses dying, and horses (and other things) potentially serving as ritual sacrifices.

12) The hot springs with the frog statues and the room in the first dungeon with the balcony where we fought the leader of the cultists.