Sunday, February 11, 2018

Talking about Authentic Medieval Roleplaying

I been doing a series of podcasts with Brendan Davis, Nick Seidler and Adam Baulderstone.

The first was with Brendan as gamemaster and featured a trap dungeon.

The second was me using my Majestic Fantasy Rules (based on Swords and Wizardry) to run an adventure set in a fantasy medieval setting.

The live stream is here and the podcast where we discussed it can be found here.


Tuesday, February 6, 2018

One of those days.....

Every have one of those days and then something happens that just puts a smile on your face.




Congrats to everybody at SpaceX for a hell of an achievement



Friday, February 2, 2018

Livestreaming the Majestic Wilderlands


Just a heads up that I will be refereeing tonight a one shot adventure and it will be livestream.

The link

The adventure will be Deceits of the Russet Lord, an original adventure I been working on as the follow up to the Scourge of the Demon Wolf.

It will be run using my Majestic Wilderlands rules which are a combination of my supplement and Swords and Wizardry.

Overview
Nestled in the western eaves of Dearthwood is the Shrine of Saint Caelam the Dragonrider a popular pilgrimage destination. The monastery that runs the shrine are habitually late on delivering their tithe to the Bishop. This time are even later than usual. His excellency is fed up with the continual delays an is sending the player characters to resolve the issue and collect this season's due.

But meanwhile others feel their due is owed as well and their payment is far bloodier.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

That vague setting behind Points of Light and Blackmarsh

For those of you with both Points of Lights, and Blackmarsh know that there are common elements like the Grand Kingdom, the Ochre Empire, Delaquain, etc throughout the different setting. While never spelled out in detail they are all could be considered part of the same setting. In the first Points of Light each of the three lands (Southland, Wildland, and Borderland) are also separated in time that when put together open a window into the larger history.

+Ethan Gundry asks whether has anybody had any success merging all the Points of Light settings, along with Blackmarsh? A while ago I combined the Blackmarsh and Southland map along with the work I done with the Wild North merge with Blackmarsh. The result was this.


But do I have a "master" map that combines everything? Do I have a master document like the old Greyhawk Folio? Yes I now have a master map, no I don't have a Greyhawk Folio style master document. Keep in mind the focus on the Points of Light/and Blackmarsh is usability. That each individual setting stands on it own as a useful backdrop for a campaign. Making them into the equivalent of region supplement defeat that purpose. But still I want the option to exist to combine them so I keep the few background elements I write about consistent.

So what the deal with the master maps. Well I drew a lot of maps over the years and I have a bunch that not part of the Majestic Wilderlands or any other setting. For example this giant map I made for what I call the Eastgate region.


At the heart of which is the City State of Eastgate


Both originated in 2008 before I got my license from Judges Guild. I took all the content I made for the Majestic Wilderlands and stripped out the Judges Guild IP which included drawing new maps. I started writing the initial draft of the Majestic Wilderlands when a fortuitous set of circumstances led to me to securing a license to use enough of the Judges Guild IP to publish the Majestic Wilderlands supplement. Having that license meant I could use my original notes as is saving me a lot of work.

But the above work didn't go to waste as I used some of what I created for Blackmarsh.

So back to Ethan's question about combining the maps. A year ago I was sketching out some map on paper to get a feel for how mountainous and hilly regions really looked like based on Earth's geography. I decided to draw a outline map as an experiment to see how real I can make it look. The result was this.


And I figured if I am spending the time doing this I might as well incorporate the Points of Light/Blackmarsh maps use the above as a future reference.

Here is the annotated version of the above.


At this time I am not going to flesh out all the blank spots as I want to leave the possibilities open for further Blackmarsh style projects. The thing I am currently working is the circle marked Beyond the Borderlands basically my answer to the question of what lies beyond the Cave of Chaos in B2 Keep on the Borderlands.

I am also working on the tweaks to the Wild North to make it fit along the north edge of Blackmarsh. This is the map for that. Basically everything below Row xx26 has been tweaked while everythiing above is pretty much the same as the version from Fight On #3.



Hope this answers your question Ethan. Appreciate asking it as it gave me the idea for this blog post.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Making a campaign human centric with the least amount of violence to RAW

+Joshua Macy has a complaint that not uncommon, all the players in his campaign made non-human characters. Let's face it, non humans are cool kids of fantasy roleplaying. Most races have interesting backstories, memorable characters, and of course the racial abilities. Sometimes all three like with the Drow.

Starting with DnD 3.0, later edition attempted to rectify this by giving Human their own racial abilities. Typically extra flexibility by granting a feat or two, increased ability of the player's choice, or more skills. But still it seems lacking and rather bland.

The primary way I fixed it was to grant a 15% XP bonus for humans that works the same as the XP bonus due to having a high prime requisite. Read below the fold for my reasons why.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Why Middle Earth is working for me, the Cubicle 7 supplements

There are two main things that "sold" me on Adventure in Middle Earth by Cubicle 7. The fact that magic is presented as subtle in the core books, and the quality of their supplements.

First most of the AiME contents is repackaged from their The One Ring (TOR) equivalent. What differs are the short sections of either AiME rules or new stuff like NPCs, Creatures, and items. The rest is duplicated from the original TOR version. Luckily the TOR stuff is excellent. But I have to put it out there so you are not surprised in case you decide to buy the TOR supplement AND the AiME supplement. The Moria Boxed Set will be the first Middle Earth product that new to both TOR and AiME. For the rest TOR is generally ahead on the release schedule but AiME is catching up.


Rhovanion Region Guide
TOR and AiME have a class of supplements that can be characterized as a region guide. Both games have a referee hex map that divide broad areas of Middle Earth into regions. One reason for this is that the hex map works hand and hand with the journey rules. Another is that it offers a useful way of  organizing the geography for supplement like this one.

This is a section of the referee's map for the Wilderlands in Rhovanion.


The reddish area are the place that are most  dangerous to travel in as the party found out last week when they were attacked by a swarm of black squirrels in the middle of the Heart of Mirkwood.

The Rhovanion Region Guide has three major section. The first covers the regions along the river Anduin, the second covers the regions of Mirkwood. Dale, Lake-town, and Erebor are not covered although the TOR supplement for these areas have been released. The last section are new adversaries found in these region. It includes NPCs like Gorgol, son of Bolg, and the more general like Hunter Spiders. Seventeen new foes are added plus numerous NPCs in the various region writeups.

Out of all the supplements this is perhaps the most useful.

Each region is given a general description. Has a section called combat scenery which is advice on where typical encounters take place. A description of the wildlife, and inhabitants. This is followed by a list of notable inhabitants. For example the East Middle Vales describes; Beorn the Shape-shifter (from the books), Turin the Tinker, Gelvira Pot-stirrer, Ennalda the Spear-maiden. The last three are original characters created by the author. Turin is a useful contact about the what going on. Gelvira runs a inn at the Old Ford which can be used as a home base by the PCs. Ennalda is a spear-thane of Beorn and is likely the person the PCs will interact most with if they associate with the Beornings.

Then the section goes on to describe notable places within the region. Which for the East Middle Vales is The Carrock (from the books), The Old Ford, The Isle of Strangling Tree, Beorn's House (from the books), The Grey Heath, and The Cleft of Storms. All of these provide interesting places to explore or have roleplaying possibilities.

Man it looks packed
It is and it isn't. While there are a lot of things described it isn't like my mini-region in Scourge of the Wolf where I provide a capsule description of a dozen settlement within a 25 mile radius. Each hex in the above map is 10 miles not quite the howling emptiness of Greyhawk's 30 mile hexes but large enough that even with what I described for the East Middle Vales you have to spend a day or so travelling to each site. And if you go outside of that, you are talking journey of a week or longer.

When you look at the below map for the East Middle Vales keep in mind that you are travelling two hexes (20 miles) per day by foot. That the only two "settlement" are The House of Beorn and the Old Ford with perhaps the Carrock when the Beornings meet there. Where are the Beornings? Read the description from the book.
While most Beornings live in isolated farmsteads, there are a few… well, towns would be an exaggeration. Call them villages, or steadings, clustered around trading posts or river crossings; one of the largest has sprung up in the vicinity of the Old Ford. 


I will talk about the other supplements in the next post.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Why Middle Earth has been working for me

Since the beginning of summer I been running a Middle Earth Campaign using Cubicle 7's Adventures in Middle Earth. My friend Tim's blog post reminded me that I haven't blogged on the campaign in a while.

One of the initial reason I was attracted to Dungeons and Dragon in the late 70s was due to my love of not only Lord of the Rings but the history that was revealed in the Return of the King appendices.

DnD offered me a way to take that love and actually turn into something more concrete than scribbles on a paper. Because Tolkien's history described realms rising and falling, naturally I was open for the players to do the same. Leading to me to be the referee that let players "trash" his campaigns.

The disappointment of Iron Crown MERP
As the hobby and industry expanded I looked for material to help me with this. I found it easier to use things that were grounded in the medieval side of fantasy. Then layered the level of magic I liked on top of it, Harn and Ars Magica I found particularly useful.

During this time Iron Crown published their Middle Earth Roleplaying System or MERPS. I really wanted to like this RPG and their supplements but they paled compared to the quality of Harn, Ars Magica, and Pendragon material I had. Everything except for Pete Fenlon's maps which were great.

The main problem with the game and supplement is that they didn't feel very Middle Earth to me. Yeah they had the names, characters, and locales but they lacked that spark that Tolkien infused the books with.


Over the years I collected two dozen MERPS books which remained unused until I gave them to a friend who really like the game and Middle Earth in the early 2000s.

During that time Decipher released the The Lord of the Rings Roleplaying Game. Then Cubicle 7 released The One Ring RPG. I looked at both and felt they were more interested in having the referee tell Middle Earth stories to his players rather than helping the referee bring Middle Earth to life as a place for the players to experience.

I know a subtle point but to me the distinction is important. When I referee I am not into telling my stories. My goal is to bring a setting to life so that the players felt they actually visited another place and did interesting things that were fun.

Adventures in Middle Earth
Then came along Adventures in Middle Earth also by Cubicle 7. I wrote a review of the first book in this post. Because it was rested on the foundation of DnD 5e, I knew that there was a limit to the amount narrative mechanics it could have. After reading it, I was intrigued because of how they reworked the classes, eliminated DnD style spell,  and turned feats into virtues More than just a Middle Earth RPG, it was a very much a low fantasy RPG using the mechanics of DnD. And completely avoids the issues I had with MERPS which to me always felt like DnDish fantasy, routed through Rolemaster, dressed in a thin Middle Earth outfit.

So I wanted to run it to see how it played, and so started a campaign. I started buying the supplements. It is in the supplements that Cubicle 7 kills it. It doesn't matter if it is the AiME version or the ToR version they make killer supplements for ANY Middle Earth campaign. And the stats are presented with light enough touch that they are easily adapted to your RPG of choice.

And their initial focus on setting the RPG in Wilderlands is brilliant. In the Return of the King appendices we know shit went down in the Wilderlands, both Dale and Erebor were attacked by the forces of Sauron. We get a paragraph of details and that it.

This means that a Middle Earth campaign can be set during the time period of the Lord of the Rings where the players are truly the heroes that matter. The members of Fellowship of the Ring may have ultimately ended Sauron and the war but dozens of other locales has their own struggles and victories. To be specific the various ToR and AiME products are all set between the Battle of Five Armies and the beginning of the Lord of the Rings novels.

The actual supplements are some the best adventures and campaign guides I seen outside of Harn, Pendragon, and Ars Magica. They range from regional supplements, books of adventures, to a pendragon style grand campaign spanning decades. And when they expanded to other reasons like Rivendell, Rohan, and Bree, the authors done a great job of opening enough of a crack that what the players do matter but still make the events of the novels plausible. For example Rohan regional supplements (Horse Lord of Rohan) and the associated adventure book (Oaths of the Riddermark) all focus on helping Thengel, the father of Theoden, the King of Rohan from the novels.

Next up is a Moria boxed set which I can't wait to see. It been a while since I bought into a RPG line wholesale and Cublicle 7 has earned my dollar.

The Campaign
I will blog more about what I am doing in my AiME campaign but I want to point out one thing. The biggest difference I am noticing is the pacing of in-game time. At first the alternating cycle of fellowship phase and adventure phase seemed seem too much like a straight jacket akin to the metagaming mechanics that other games use to in a vain attempt to create a "narrative" in the campaign.

But then I found it makes for a great way of abstracting the downtime between adventures. I am always a fan of what most hobbyists call down time activities. For example in my Majestic Wilderlands Thursday campaign  one player is always using the magic item creation rules, while another is busy lining up trade deals.

What make AiME fellowship rules nice that they are not all meat and potatoes activities (trade, crafting, training, etc). About half of them are what I call pure roleplaying focused on interacting with NPCs. Here is a partial list.

  • Gain a Cultural Virtue
  • Gain an Open Virtue
  • Gain New Trait
  • Heal Corruption
  • Influence Patron
  • Meet Patron
  • Receive Title
  • Open Sanctuary
  • Recovery
  • Research Lore
  • Secure a Supply of Herbs
  • Tend to Holding
  • Training

Added to this are version regional undertaking. For example a couple of sessions back the PCs made friends with a group of Woodsmen living next to the Old Ford across the Anduin. That settlement has a special undertaking called Guard the Old Ford. Which offer the possibility of earning a bit of rare coin from the tolls levied on travelers.

Wrapping it Up
Again I am having a great time and now that I have several months under my belt I will be posting on some of the interesting things I learning running a Middle Earth campaign.