Saturday 25 January 2020

My Tunnels and Trolls house rules

I just wanted to note down my house rules for T&T and thought you good folks might want to see them. You'll see that I've collected a mish mash of different editions (the D&D 5e of T&T, if you will).

  • Warrior gets double armour. Increase adds per level.
  • Level is based on highest primary stat. Ep spend increases a stat. 
  • Rogues don't have to become a warrior or wizard. They also start with one spell. They can learn spells up to level 7. 
  • Magic comes off Wiz
  • Speed increases adds
  • No minus adds. 
  • One Talent per level. Rogues gain Roguery automatically.
  • Missile combat: Archers have a choice: Make a Dex SR. On a hit the missile does direct damage to an enemy regardless of whether combat is won. Or, they can have the total add to the HPT if they're firing into a group. They needn't make a SR here, just roll as melee. No matter which option, for every 6 rolled they do a spite damage to an ally in melee. In the second option, for every 6 rolled, they also lose an arrow. 
  • Damage is allocated by the players if they lose (as long as it makes sense in context of the fight)

Art: Liz Danforth

Saturday 18 January 2020

BX to Romance of the Perilous Land conversion guide

The general guts of Romance of the Perilous Land owe themselves a debt to my favourite edition of D&D - B/X. There are obvious differences between the two, but it's actually easy to run a B/X adventure with Romance of the Perilous Land rules if that's something you want to do, so here's a simple conversion guide.

Attributes: The equivalents of these are below:
- Strength - Might
- Intelligence - Mind
- Wisdom - Mind
- Dexterity - Reflex

Saving throws: Romance has saving throws for each attribute rather than the standalone throws of B/X. Covert these thusly:
- Death/Poison - Con
- Wands - Mind
- Paralysis/Petrify - Con if mundane, Mind if magical
- Breath Attacks - Reflex
- Spells, rods and staves - Depends on spell effects. Usually Mind, Reflex or Charisma.

Spells: Spell effects will be largely the same. Should a PC or NPC need to cast a BX spell, they must be of the same level and the spell point cost is double that level. E.g. A level 2 spell costs 4 spell points to prepare.

Monsters: This is largely simple. Just use the HD rules for monster creation in Romance instead of the B/X monster stats. You can include any special abilities. Minimum HD is 1 (so 1/2 is rounded up). Maximum is 11.

Armour: Just use the armour types in B/X and substitute AC for the relevant armour points. Anything that would offer a bonus 1 to AC gives 2 armour points.

Weapons: Similarly, just substitute the relevant weapon dice. There will be fairly similar anyway.

Wednesday 15 January 2020

Exploring why Wildemount makes sense with D&D 5th edition's design philosophy

Dungeons and Dragons 5e has just launched a prerelease for The Explorer's Guide to Wildemount, a setting book that covers the world of Critical Role campaign two. I've been mulling over for a while about what the design goals of 5e were, particularly after I wrote about 4e being a daring triumph of design last month. The news of the Wildemount book, a setting based on an insanely popular streaming series with dedicated fans and hard-line haters, quite sums up what I think Wizards are doing with 5e design-wise, and I don't think it's the philosophy they started with.

Let's first travel back to the heady days of 2013 when Wizards put out D&D Next, the public playtest of what would become 5e. Through interviews and running the game (set in an updated version of Caves of Chaos) it was understood that Next would be making some specific and drastic design choices from 4e. The watchword was modular. Next would have an old school feel familiar to OSR fans, but allow those who wanted a more modern game to bolt on rules. This build-an-edition mindset was , as I understood it, to be the bedrock of 5e design. A D&D for all seasons.

" I want to do for DMs is create a flexible core of rules that they can apply and modify as they wish," Mike Mearls told Wired before the playtest. 

What fans got when 5e released wasn't really the modular OSR-tinged game that Next was shaping up to be. Sure, you can have feats if you like, but I don't think they really ended up with a truly modular edition. Of course, that was a possibility due to the nature of playtesting and feedback.

I stoked some conversation on Twitter about what people thought 5e's design philosophy was and broadly received the following answers:
- System simplification
- Decrease new player barrier to entry
- Taking elements of previous editions
- Keep PCs alive longer
- Get more money

There was a clear consensus that 5e was designed to get new people playing and that was the primary focus. Likely that and winning back those who didn't like 4e, and bringing backed lapsed players from the AD&D days. Whereas the design of 4e was about refining mechanics, customisation, mechanical transparency and a modular approach to adventure design, all what I would deem 'in-game design elements', 5e was looking at the 'meta-game design elements', those principles that weren't necessarily concerned with primarily how the game worked, but how the game could have the widest cut-through. This is why it ended up as a grab-bag of design inspiration from Basic through to 4e, picking the elements that made the most sense to attract the most players. In essence 3e would look to do something similar, refining and streamlining certain mechanics, but ultimately it would still be made for the core D&D player.

Mearls also stated early on that he wanted to put the power in the DM's hands. By this he was talking about allowing the DM to make rulings, which meant intentionally not including certain rules that perhaps 3.5 may have included in order to keep some ambiguity. While this was designed to help the DM get on with the job of being a DM, it took the spotlight away from the encounter and adventure creation philosophy that 4e had, which was arguably much more DM friendly than 5e. However, for players brand new to the roleplaying game genre the streamlined system lifted a barrier to entry. An in-game design innovation had been usurped by a meta-game philosophy.

Which brings me to Wildemount and Critical Role's, er, role, in 5e, and what the core of that design philosophy came to be. Wizards knew that to be popular, the game design wasn't just about the players at the table anymore. It became about how those players could influence others to play. The game became the perfect design for streaming play, which was part of Wizards' marketing strategy. The company specifically said:

"It was the Acquisitions Inc. live game at PAX Prime in 2010 that first suggested the potential for livestreaming D&D. The popularity of that game and its followup games in 2011 and 2012 made it an easy decision for the Dungeons & Dragons team to start streaming D&D games online back in July of 2013, debuting Against the Slave Lords as part of the D&D Next playtest process."

Critical Role would become the most popular D&D stream ever, influencing hundreds, if not thousands of people to pick up the dice and play. They could see that the barrier to entry was low.
Making a setting based on a stream is exactly in line with 5e's meta design philosophy, moreso than re-imagining Planescape. It's a culmination of the exact tactics they were going for - game design that seeps outside of the game itself and into its marketing activity.

Look, this is obviously my opinion on the matter based on what I've read and Wizards' actions starting in 2013. But it's interesting to delve into either way.

Sunday 12 January 2020

Campaign report: Legacy of Dragonholt

I'm doing a different kind of campaign report today. Rather than talking about my home Pathfinder 2e or D&D 4e games, I wanted to start a report on my newly acquired Legacy of Dragonholt. This is basically Fabled Lands lite in a box - a purely narrative programmed RPG that you can play solo (I actually see few reasons to play it any other way).

Dragonholt is set in Terrinoth, the Runebound setting from boardgame Ubermensch and lay-off merchants Fantasy Flight Games. It's bog standard high fantasy, which is totally fine. Gimme them tropes.

The idea is that you create a character and run them through a campaign. The campaign itself consists of a fistful of books, including a sandbox location - Dragonholt village. Your actions have consequences and it uses a box check-off system like the codewords in Fabled Lands to track this. Unlike Fabled Lands, there are no dice. It's a purely skill bases system - having certain skills opens up new options in the narrative. This also means the game is light. Very light, which is my taste. You track stamina, fame, items and time.

So I wasted no time creating a half catfolk thief called Eldon. Characters are defined by their skills, backgrounds and personalities. Only skills have anything resembling a mechanical effect, the rest is fluff to help you roleplay. Fair enough, I tend to do this anyway when it comes to gamebooks. Eldon only trusts himself, he dislikes others because they ostracize him for the way he looks. He also wears a floppy hat. Anyway - to the campaign!

Oh, obviously spoilers ahead for the game.

To New Roads

Right, so apparently I've begun the campaign with a couple of travelling companions. I try to ignore the fact that Eldon doesn't do companions and rationalised it as he needs protection in the wilderness and if they die he can nick their stuff. There's an orc called Braxton and a gnome called Miriam. Unbeknownst to them, they're my meatshields. We're all travelling to Dragonholt village. I've specifically been summoned there from a old friend via an obviously coded letter (a nice feely you get in the box) and something about a murder. We're going through the Eventide Forest which is full of bandits apparently (Tony Braxton won't shut up about them). I chat with them both, building up a false friendship that one day I hope to exploit for cash, and find that the gnome is an alchemist looking to open up a shop. An entrepreneur! Braxton is her bodyguard of sorts.

We have to clamber over a load of felled logs which properly did my back in and when night drew in we decided to camp. Because I'm a cat I climbed a tree to see what I could see. Aha! The lights of Dragonholt in the distance. I also found a wooden badger or something. Some sicko's been hoarding wooden nonsense toys up this tree and gluing them onto the branches. Whatever, I'll take what I can get when I'm up a tree.

We take turns with watch duty (well, me and Braxton because Miriam is lazy as all hell). On my watch I hear bushes rustling. I decide to wake everyone up because obviously bandits are around here. And yes, it's bandits. A bunch of them. After a classic brawl where I stab a few and chuck one in the fire with glee, more show up so we high tail it. CHASE SCENE.

We manage to lose them due to my deft use of voice throwing and excellent senses. The others pretty much held me back (the gnome actually threw some alchemist vials around which I guess helped). We're all super worn out by this point, but what ho! Dragonholt. We have arrived. We go and meet Miriam's aunt who gives us a free breakfast, which I'm grateful for, but I'll probably find a way of burglarizing her at some point.

And there we have it. Session one of Dragonholt. What will happen next? Will Eldon be rid of these two laggards? Will he be chased out of town because he looks like a digitally malformed Cats extra? Find out next time on ELDON'S WILD CAT ADVENTURE!

Saturday 4 January 2020

Lore of the Perilous Land: Wytchguard

I wanted to start a series that delves into some of the inner workings of the Perilous Land - the people, places and beings that inhabit the 11 kingdoms. Hopefully these will add even more flavour and hooks to your Romance of the Perilous Land campaign.

Today we're looking at Wytchguard, the elite fighting force of King Ban who rules over Benwick. This is a kingdom where the threat of the Black Lance is strong, Mordred has allies installed within the king's court and has gained the support of the powerful Red Magisters. The Red Magisters have recently discovered the mystery of raising the dead back to life in a manner of undeath as vicious revenants and monstrous ghouls, who in turn descend on unwary villagers as they sleep in their cots. Seeing the rise of the Red Magisters, King Ban pit together a group of undead slayers called the Wytchguard to defend the city of Beyonne and its outlying settlements.

Jarin Dempster is the captain of the Wytchguard, an honourable and seasoned warrior who quickly rose through the ranks of Ban's army and gained the notice of the king. With his longsword Crusader Jarin has slain hundreds of undead beasts in his short time as captain. He leads a force of 50 Wytchguards, posted within the walls of Beyonne and further out into Coyne and Wandleton. They can easily be recognised by their uniform: a silver cloak bearing the emblem of the Wytchguard, a sword through a skull; black armour; and blood red gauntlets. On their pauldrons elaborate prayers to Gofannon are etched in silver. They each carry a longsword (each named by the owner - a name given to them in a dream by Gofannon upon initiation), a silver dagger and a shortbow. They also carry wooden stakes in their packs.

Members of the Wytchguard must be proficient in the teachings of Gofannon, so each member goes through a year of priestly training before they don their cloaks. Attending morning prayers is compulsory, even if they're camping out in the middle of nowhere. During the prayer, Gofannon is asked to bless each of their weapons in turn with the words:

Gofannon, whose anvil is divine
Bless mine weapon with thy wisdom and virtue
So that the enemies of light are destroyed by thy magnificence
And the darkness is driven from this fair land

If you want to use a Wytchguard in your game, use the stats for the knight, but of HD6 (increase TN to 16, AP 6, damage d8+6, HP 34), and add a  silver dagger weapon. If the silver dagger is used against any member of the undead, it does an additional d6 damage. Jarin Dempster is the same, but HD8.

If you want to create a Wytchguard as a character, use the following build:

Class: Knight
Background: Priest
Deity: Gofannon
Key attributes: Might and Mind
Skills: Athletics, Perception, Survival, Religion, Healing
Starting talent: Monster Hunter
Other talents: Armour Expert, Armour Recovery, Swift Recovery,  Sharp-witted, Darksight

Romance of the Perilous Land: A Roleplaying Game if British Folklore is now available in all good places you can find roleplaying games.

Wednesday 1 January 2020

Looking forward to 2020

Happy New Year, folks. A year of possibility lies before me and I'm already getting stuck into some projects for the coming year.

A very quick announcement: El Refugio de Ryhope will be producing a Spanish print version of Quill. These guys did a fantastic job with English Eerie, so I'm really looking forward to seeing what they're going to do with Quill.

But what about playing stuff? D&D 4e will continue this year with the low level campaign I'm running. I'll also be running be running Romance of the Perilous Land and I'd like to get my teeth into Legend of the Five Rings if I can. Other than that, continuing playing in my weekly Pathfinder 2e game.

Oh, I want to play Alien, too. Hmm.