Friday, 24 September 2010

Age of Chaos - Session 7

A short but fun session, with a very interesting (and completely unexpected by all concerned) twist at the end.


Aergyl - Aged and ill-fated necromancer and devotee of Mot, god of death
Barur - Noble Dwarven warrior, accompanied by his hirelings Barath and Angur
Darian - Wandering bard

This session left off directly where the last one finished - with Aergyl incarcerated in the village of Keet after being put to the rune trial for dealing with the gods of Chaos, found guilty, and sentenced to death by burning the following day.

After the murder of one of the prison guards by Aergyl during the night, it was decided that he needed to be more securely imprisoned. A group of guards, accompanied by the Seid (the village temple warden), came to Aergyl's cell, bound his hands behind his back, gagged him, put a sack over his head, and blocked up the small window in the door of his cell. Unable to resist, the necromancer languished in the darkness, trying to think of a means of escape or revenge.

At dawn the prison guards gathered, preparing to take Aergyl to meet his fate in the town of Aglong. Barur also awoke at dawn, and, hoping to at least be able to speak with his former companion (the necromancer), he roused Barath, Angur and Darian, with whom he was sharing a room at the inn. The Dwarf's companions were rather disgruntled at being woken up so early, and none of them was keen to interfere further in the course of justice. So Barur went alone to the guard's barracks, where he met the party as they were bringing Aergyl out from his cell. Blenworth, the guard captain, explained to Barur what had happened, how Aergyl had murdered one of the men in the night with dark magic, and how there could be no doubt now that the judgement of the high gods was correct - the wizard should be condemned to death. Barur asked to be able to speak to Aergyl, but Blenworth refused, saying that they didn't want to risk him speaking any more dangerous words of power in the village. Thus Aergyl was dragged down to the road, and began his journey to Aglong.

Barur stayed and spoke with the guards' captain for a time, and reached a reconciliation. The captain said that the adventurers were still welcome in the village, and that their explorations of the wilderness to the south, and killing of Goblins was greatly appreciated. However, he was urged to take more care in choosing his companions in future, especially those who dabble in the arts of wizardry. The Dwarf then returned to the inn to mull over the events of the last day, and to decide his next course of action.

Aergyl, in the meantime, was being dragged along the road to Aglong. Being physically overpowered, and unable to use magic due to his bindings, the certainty of his fate sunk in. His mind reached out in desperation to the dark gods of Chaos. He was wearing a silver necklace in the form of a spider, which he had taken from a spider cultist whom they had encountered and killed in the forest several weeks ago. The necklace was known to have magical powers, and had been used several times to charm and control giant spiders, so Aergyl surmised that it had some connection to the spider god Ligg. Attempting to use the power of the necklace once more, he called out mentally to the spider god, asking to be saved. His plea was heard, and his mind slipped gradually into a vision - where he was standing in a dark subterranean space, surrounded by spiders of all shapes and sizes, crawling everywhere and eventually submerging him in their number. The voice of Ligg emerged out of the noise of thousands of spiders crawling, a sinister whisper answering the necromancer's plea for aid - "And what would you do for me in return?". Aergyl replied that he would serve Ligg in return for his help now. The deity replied simply "Renounce your god". Aergyl detected a malicious humour in this remark, knowing that his god, Mot, the god of death, would very likely not look kindly on one who willingly leaves his service. Nonetheless, he took the risk, and in the presence of the spider god he renounced Mot and swore to serve only Ligg. The god accepted his service.

The spider necklace began to get hot, burning Aergyl's flesh and burrowing into his chest. Through his gag, he screamed out in pain, but his mind was now elsewhere, being fully immersed in the consciousness of the spiders surrounding him. As the necklace bored to the centre of his chest, the wizard's body was transformed into a thousand tiny spiders, which scuttled away from the horrified guards, leaving his robes and bindings to drop to the ground.

And so ended the career of Aergyl as a PC. However, this episode has layed the seed of him potentially returning as an enemy at some point, a deranged devotee of Ligg. It was a really interesting session, and great fun to delve a bit further into the relationship of mortals to the gods. I have very much in mind that I want the gods to have real power in the world, and that characters speaking their names, and invoking their aid have the potential to bring forth that power. I've not come up with any formal rules for this as yet (though I might do), but have just been asking players to make Spirit rolls when they invoke the power of a deity. And Aergyl's player made some very successful Spirit rolls in his dealing with the spider god!

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Damage by class

I've seen a few people discussing this topic, on various blogs and forums: the idea of weapon damage in D&D being determined not by the weapon itself, but by the class of the character wielding it. The most commonly propsed system is that characters do damage based on their hit die (d4 for magic users, d6 for thieves, d8 for clerics and d10 for fighters - using the AD&D class hit dice).

It's an idea that I find very appealing. 1. It's simple, super simple. 2. It (potentially) does away with that old D&D stickler - "why can't my wizard / cleric use a sword?".

So with damage by class a wizard can use a sword - he just won't do much damage with it. This makes sense to me. Of course, anyone can pick up and use (almost) any weapon, but without proper training (like, say, being a fighter) they're not going to be able to use it at full effectiveness.

At the low end of the damage spectrum it seems to make sense. However I've wondered if it makes sense at the other end (fighters). Is a trained warrior really as effective in combat with a dagger as with a longsword? I don't claim any knowledge of such things, but I presume not, otherwise the longsword would probably never have been invented.

So, what I've been thinking is that a mixture of the two systems would probably work - damage by class and by weapon. This sounds like it's going to be complicated and involve tables, but it doesn't! All you need to do is say that any character can use any weapon, and all weapons do the damage listed as normal - BUT up to a maximum of the character's hit die. So a wizard wielding a dagger, a club, a sword - any weapon at all - will do d4 damage. But a fighter wielding a dagger will be a far less formidable opponent than a fighter wielding a 2-handed sword.

(By the way, I'm sure this idea is subconsciously inspired by Savage Worlds, where damage is by weapon but limited by a character's Strength.)

The only trouble I can see with this (or other damage by class systems) is that it takes away one of the fighter's big advantages - having no weapon restrictions. Of course the fighter has also just gained a new big advantage - being the only class capable of dealing maximum damage with big weapons. I'm not sure if this balances out though.

I'd say probably clerics would be the big winners here, going from being able to use a very limited selection of weapons, almost all of which do d6 damage, to being able to use any weapon, many of which deal up to d8 damage. In that respect I'd consider reducing clerics' maximum damage to d6, that seems more balanced.

I'm interested to hear anyone's thoughts on this matter!

Age of Chaos - Session 6

I've not gotten around to doing proper write-ups of the previous 5 sessions in my Savage Worlds sandbox campaign, and unfortunately I can't remember enough of the specifics of what occurred to do them retrospectively. So we must begin with the sixth session...


Aergyl - eldery and unusually ugly dabbler in the dark arts of necromancy. Worshipper of Mot, god of death.

Barur - Dwarf warrior, noble son of the lord of a distant kingdom. Accompanied by two henchmen: Angur the fighter and Barath the bard.

Darian - wandering bard, about whom little is yet known, as he's appearing on the scene for the first time in this session.

A brief re-cap:

The campaign so far has centred around the village of Keet, a small settlement in the outlying regions of the lands of Karg (yes, the classic sandbox setup :). A motely crew of adventurers have recently entered the region and have been exploring the wilderness to the south of the village, with the eventual aim of finding a route into the mountains and into the City of Iron - a Dwarven stronghold which was overrun by the forces of Chaos about 50 years ago.

Their adventures thusfar have led them into the heart of Grinwold Wood, which is haunted with a strange presence, and inhabited by all manner and size of spiders, and a cult of humans who appear to be spider worshippers. The party have also investigated the ruins of the village of Ballan, which seems to now be home to a group of Bugbears.

This week's session continued directly on from the last, wherein Aergyl was badly injured in a battle against giant spiders and thus decided to attempt to purchase some leather armour, for his future protection. He visited the village smithy, which also acts as a kind of general equipment store, stocking a range of goods which aren't produced in the village, at higher-than-normal prices. A suit of leather armour was available, but Aergyl attempted to "negotiate" a lower price with the smith - insinuating that his wares were not of the highest quality and not worth the price being asked. The smith didn't take kindly to these words, and (after a result of snakeyes for a Persuasion roll) an argument ensued. Aergyl ended up cursing the man in the name of Mot, and carving a rune of death on his door, before making his way to Aglong (the nearest large town) to buy armour there.

Returning from to Keet Aglong in the evening, after several days away from the village, the party headed straight to the inn (the Grinwold's Eaves), which had been their base for the last month or so. They were greeted with an uncomfortable quiet, but nonetheless sat down and ordered some food and drinks from the innkeeper. Barur inquired of the man if there was something wrong, or if something untoward had happened in the last few days, and was told that there had been some kind of trouble, and that they would find out about it soon enough.

Shortly a group of armed guards entered the inn, walked straight up to Aergyl and requested that he accompany them to the village temple, located on a mound to the north of the settlement. He complied, and went peacefully with them, a little unsure of what they wanted or what was to come. Upon reaching the temple he was met by the village priest, a short stocky man whom the party had not previously encountered. It was revealed that Aergyl was to be put to trial for dealing with the dark gods of Chaos - news of the cursing of the smith had, obviously, spread quickly.

The chosen form of the trial was by calling on the judgement of the high gods by means of the runes. Three village elders were present, each as a representative of one of the forces of Order: Blenworth, captain of the guard, on behalf of the King, Meredith, local herbalist, on behalf of the earth gods, and the priest on behalf of the high gods. Each selected a rune, giving three possible fates for the defendant. The runes of Death, Exile and Mercy were selected. The judgement of the god Baal was then called upon, as to which of these three fates should come to pass. *

The rune of Death was revealed, and Aergyl's fate was sealed. He was hurried off to the cell in the guards' barracks, to be taken to Aglong on the morrow to meet his doom.

Barur and his henchmen saw Aergyl being taken, and attempted to intervene, asking the guard captain what had happened, and pleading Aergyl's innocence. But the guards wouldn't question the judgement of the gods, and threw the necromancer into the cell.

After languishing for some hours, Aergyl decided to try his luck at escaping. All his equipment had been taken from him, but he had managed to secret a single tooth in a small pocket on his person - the required component for his spell to summon an undead skeleton. He hoped to be able to command the skeleton to steal the key to his cell, and unlock the door from the outside. The summoning succeeded, but one of the prison guards got into a fight with the skeleton, and Aergyl, out of desperation and anger, ended up killing the man with bolts of eldritch green fire. After the guard's death the skeleton managed to retrieve the key, and attempted to open the lock. However it's manual dexterity wasn't up to the task, and it crumbled into a pile of bones before it could free its master.

Soon afterwards Barur, accompanied by Darian (who had, strangely, just arrived in the village in the middle of the night) went to the prison to investigate and to see if he'd be allowed to speak with Aergyl. Creeping up to one of the prison's windows Barur heard the guards cursing the necromancer, and bemoaning the murder of their comrade. At this point even the loyal dwarf questioned whether attempting to rescue his companion was really the best thing to do, and Darian, who apparently was just along for the adventure, began to find the prospect of breaking a necromancer out of prison in the middle of the night to be distinctly unappealing. So they returned to inn and their sleep, hoping to speak with Aergyl in the morning before he was taken to Aglong.

The session ended thus.

* At this point, I tried an interesting experiment. I didn't feel that it'd be fair for me to just decree that Aergyl was to be put to death (which, in the setting, would probably be the usual punishment for dealing with the gods of Chaos), so I let Yves (Aergyl's player) decide which of the three fates would come to pass. In the end he decided to choose randomly by rolling a die.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Updated Savage Worlds hirelings & henchmen PDF

I've just updated the PDF of my guidelines for Hirelings & Henchmen in Savage Worlds fantasy campaigns. Not a big change, but I've just removed the stuff that was specific to my own campaign (names of deities and magic-wielding Elf warriors). Oh and I also changed the guidelines for henchmen gaining XP to match the rules in SWEX (which I'd not noticed previously).

So everything in the sheet is now fully 100% certifiably compatible with SWEX + the Fantasy Companion ;)

Next thing I've got in mind is adding some random tables for interesting bits of background and quirks.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Tricks in Labyrinth Lord

So I've been thinking, during various random day dream opportunities, about how tricks (to use the Savage Worlds terminology) could work in Labyrinth Lord or other old-school D&D type games. For non-Savages, the SW tricks system basically allows one character to gain a combat advantage over another by means other than a standard attack. They're divided into Smarts and Agility tricks - the former being anything that tries to confuse or get one over on the opponent, and the latter being anything that tries to unbalance or hinder the opponent. It's a super simple system, and one which can be used to resolve a huge variety of spur of the moment combat maneuvers.

So to convert it over to D&D, there needs to be two components:

1. A system for resolving whether the trick succeeds.
2. A definition of what hapens when a trick does succeed.

The latter is easier. At first I was thinking about Armour Class penalties or stunned conditions, which would be fairly close, mechanically, to the effects of a trick in Savage Worlds. However, a reading of the AD&D description of what Hit Points represent put me onto a different track - the 1e rules explicitly state that HPs are abstract, and include all sorts of factors like fatigue, luck, combat expertise, etc. So, with that in mind, actual normal damage seems like a pretty good effect for a successful trick (albeit fairly low damage - 1d3 perhaps). Probably with the caveat that a trick cannot kill - it can't reduce a character to less than 1hp.

Resolution of a trick's success is more troublesome, and I've not managed to come up with a satisfactory solution yet. The most obvious candidate would be an opposed Int or Dex roll. But in old-school D&D books, how many monsters have an Int or Dex score? None. The AD&D monster manuals give an Int rating, which could easily be converted to a score, but it's still an extra step to do that conversion. But as for Dex, there's no simple way to work it out.

Ability checks also of course have the problem that characters can never get better at them, unlike saving throws or THAC0, which improve with experience level. It'd be nice for certain classes to be able to get better at certain types of tricks - any kind of Mountebank or Bard type class, in particular, would suit this kind of advancement.

Another possibility I considered is that could tricks be resolved with a simple attack roll? That solution would certainly be simple, but an attack vs Armour Class just doesn't make sense for an agility type trick (where heavy amour would usually be an impediment rather than an aid to resisting the trick), and is completely meaningless for a mental type trick.

The search for a solution continues...