Thursday 30 April 2015

International Dungeoneering League

Welcome, sports fans, to the International Dungeoneering League - the only place for heart-pounding action from the very best dungeons in the world. If you’re new to this exciting and somewhat bloody sport, then let me tell you a bit about it. You’ll be hooked in no time.

Dungeoneering is the most popular form of entertainment in Hyrentia and for good reason - it’s the most adrenaline-fueled, hazard-filled and deadly sport there is. The idea is that teams are sent into hand-crafted dungeons, stocked with vicious beasties, tricky traps and useful items. Teams score points for each hazard they overcome, as well as for performance. They also have to reach the exit in one piece, which doesn’t always happen. It’s a great sport.

Cities have sanctioned dungeons funded by sponsors and tax money, which are generally used for national and international competitions. On a more local level, amateurs are able to play in dungeons crafted from pub cellars or those owned by schools or other private establishments. Amateur dungeoneering tends to be less deadly but the prize money is much less than the big leagues.

The International Dungeoneering League is the body that oversees the professional dungeoneering game, where the dungeons are elaborate and the payouts large. Whereas an amateur dungeon might have a few dire rats and a rusted dart trap, the IDL puts on an incredible show full of complex traps and exotic monsters such as ogres and even dragons.

The World of Hyrentia

International Dungeoneering League takes place in the fictional fantasy world of Hyrentia, where the main past-time and most profitable game is dungeoneering. Entire economies are based on the sport - without it, cities would crumble and governments would topple. Dungeoneering is serious business in Hyrentia.

There are two continents in Hyrentia - Averdale and The Burning Lands. Averdale is by far the most populated and the place where dungeoneering has become a truly giant sport. The Burning Lands are mostly desert, but despite the desolation this is where the sport originated from. The people of the Burning Lands are dungeoneering puritans, still using the same arenas that were built over a thousand years ago by the founders of the sport. The Burning Lands tends to have a more extreme version of the sport and you will hear people in Averdale joke about ‘Burning Lands rules’, referring to the often impossible and deadly dungeons they are famous for.

Many different countries make up Hyrentia, each with their own race of people, teams and dungeoneering culture. For instance, the elves of Treelow have crafted dungeons from twisted trees and forest hazards, while the dwarves of Dimbar tend to get hideously drunk before a game as they believe it gives them magical powers (it doesn’t, but it takes a lot of grog to get a dwarf sloshed). The tinker goblins of Svennara have some of the most ingenious traps ever crafted and the centaurs of the Wild Plains breed exotic creatures such as hydras and manticores, with which they stock their dungeons. The pixies of Flow have built incredible dungeons the float in the sky, with moving platforms and long, long drops.

Playing the Game

So what does a game of International Dungeoneering League look like? Great question. Each player will create their own dungeoneer, tackle dungeons, fight monsters, overcome obstacles and get rich without getting decapitated. Players begin at amateur level and work their way up to the professional league through numerous gaming sessions.

A player will have one of four different roles:

  • The Hitter: these are the big guns. Huge builds and capable of taking a knocking as well as delivering one. Their main function is to keep dungeon threats away from the other team members.
  • The Sneaker: able to move quickly and stealthily, the sneaker is a master of finding and disabling traps, as well as remaining unseen. Sneakers generally take the lead in order to recon the path ahead.
  • The Patcher: When the going get tough, the Patcher is the one who is going to whip out the bandages and essentially make sure that everyone else doesn't cop it in the middle of a match.
  • The Thinker: These are generally academics and clever sorts who are in charge of figuring out tricky puzzles and riddles along with dungeon navigation.
Teams are made up of 4 to 6 players and it's common to have a team name. Some of the more famous teams are:
  • The Raging Harpies
  • The Forest Five
  • Grug’s Fine Team of Dwarves
  • Dragon Butchers
  • An Axe to Grind
Scoring Points

The aim of the game is to score as many points as possible. Points are gained through advancing through the dungeon, taking down monsters, overcoming traps, finding secrets and reaching the end room. Generally there will be two teams in a match and they will take consecutive turns in heading into the dungeon. The team who emerges with the most points wins (if they emerge at all). 

Dungeons can contain as many points as they want, but they must have at least 10 points to obtain. 

Types of Game
  • Classic: The most popular version of the sport - the classic is a 10+ point game with 4-6 player teams. The aim is to reach the end room with more points than the opposing team. Weapons, armour and magic are allowed in classic games. Team levels must be the same.
  • No Magic: The same as classic but magic is prohibited
  • Naked: No weapons and no armour. Magic is allowed
  • Time Trial: One team must reach the end room faster than the other.

Monday 27 April 2015

Fabled Lands: Cities of Gold and Glory Review

Cities of Gold and Glory is the second entry into the Fabled Lands gamebook series, expanding the world into the green and pleasant land of Golnir, which is essentially Arthurian Britain, which suits me fine.

If you decide to create a new character in Cities of Gold you start at rank two and, as is to be expected in these books, you get your fleshy body flung across the beach after a gnarly shipwreck. Characters is Fabled Lands lose at oceans.

So here's me. I'm a warrior and I've arrived in Golnir to make my fortune thwacking anything that gets in my way and doing other warrior-ly things, like covering my pecks in baby oil and riding panthers. I don't have a name, not because I'm lazy but because I see this as some kind of amnesia play. No, I lie, it's totally because I'm lazy.

Despite my love for the series, Cities of Gold has the annoying habit of making it difficult to find quests. Back in Sokara I couldn't throw a cat without it hitting a quest-giver and soon I'd run out of cats and have to use weasels, which made me look ridiculous.

There are a few places to get quests - such as Castle Ravayne, which requires Charisma rolls to even get inside and speak to the baroness to acquire said quests. Boo! The other problem with some quests is that they can be random. I went off to find a dragon and had to keep on coming back in order to roll the right number to make the dragon appear. One the one hand, it makes the world feel a little bit more unpredictable. On the other, it means that you have the chance of being completely done in by other hazards instead of the one you're trying to get to.

Like the other books, you can do some extra-curricular activities, like investing money in the merchant's guild, buying town houses, getting a ship and boffing pirates, and becoming a devotee to certain gods. It's all tried-and-true Fabled Lands and one of the reasons these gamebooks are some of the best out there.

Cities of Gold is a good addition to the series, but falls down at making quests accessible. There are some cool characters, but none are particularly memorable. Still, I enjoy my time bombing around Golnir, killing highwaymen (and easy grind) and getting fat loot.

Tuesday 7 April 2015

Specialisms as magic in USR

Pyromancer by DismalFiction/ DeviantArt

USR has the luxury of being a super easy game that anyone can pick up and play, but when it comes to something as complex as magic, there's no set way of dealing with it. In Halberd Fantasy Roleplaying there's a system of keywords that work nicely, but are still not as simple as I'd like them to be. This is why I suggest magic being directly tied to specialisms.

Balance is an obvious issue with this method of using magic as it's difficult to know how much of an effect a spell has. If I gave my Necromancer a raise dead specialism (natch) then how easy is it for her to cast that spell? I'd approach it like any other task resolution in USR, using the difficulty table to determine how big the effect is. For example:

Easy (2) - You can probably bring an insect back to life, as long as it hasn't been squashed.
Medium (4) - Dead small animals and fish can be raised at this level.
Hard (7) - Larger animals, such as dogs or sheep, can be raised
Very Hard (10) - Now you can raise a humanoid creature
Impossible (14+) - You're able to raise larger or magical beings from the dead. Careful now!

The same goes for any kind of magic, or superpowers or technowizardry.

In the interest of balance, I'd recommend making sure your magic users have a specific niche. Sorcerer is too broad (and boring) and could easily become overpowered, but a Pyromancer is much more specialised and you can theme your specialisms accordingly. Hell, mash-up some different niches and make a character like the Inferno Necronaut, a magic user who can travel between the world of the living and dead while having the ability to conjure fire. That's so metal!

Inferno Necronaut
Action: d8
Wits: d10
Ego: d6
Hits:  9
Specialisms: Travel to the spirit plane (Wits), Conjure flames (Action), Knowledge of the dead (Wits)

To this end, I wouldn't even think about creating a stock sword-and-board 'warrior' character. Why would you when you could create an Apocalyptic Demi-Titan who can create landslides as well as bust someone up real good with a blade?

Rule of cool, guys.