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Why You Don’t Want to Play in My Dungeons & Dragons Game

5 May

Why You Don’t Want to Play in My Dungeons & Dragons Game

I was talking with a player in my game yesterday about getting together again after a hiatus, since school will be over for me in two days (YAY!)


Here is how the conversation went:

Jeff: We should get a session going in a week or two, since I am done with school soon. You guys were on the sea voyage home… I guess I could say you were blown off course to the South polar regions. I hope you guys like scraping lichen off of rocks with your teeth. Roll a twenty-sided die to see if you break your teeth on the rocks.

Steve: I know you, you will say I broke them no matter what I roll. But I have a “Stone Teeth” spell, so I’ll use that.

Jeff: Yeah, but you didn’t say what kind of stone, so roll to see which type of stone your teeth become. I hope you get Granite!

Steve: Oh darn! I got Sandstone!

Jeff: I can see it now, your Ranger is breaking his teeth on rocks trying to be all Ranger-like in the Antarctic and the Barbarian will be eyeing the NPC Rogue saying: “He looks tasty. I know he eats well!”  Hmm, I wonder if the Rogue has “Lichen Scraping” as a survival skill.

At least it won’t be like some other game systems, where you just sit around the whole time battling a single Skeleton.

Steve: Yeah, we will just be figuring my teeth out the whole session!


Tasty Lichen

Just in case I am mean enough to send those guys off to the bottom of the world, I did some quick research on lichen, some of which ARE edible:

          “Of all the plants, lichens are best adapted to survive in the harsh polar climate. Some lichens have even been found only about 400 km from the South Pole. Lichens have proliferated in Antarctica mainly because there is little competition from mosses or flowering plants and because of their high tolerance of drought and cold.    

          On icy rock, lichens have the same strategy as plants have developed in the sand of the Sahara: they form an “oasis”. Like in the desert they miss water. They have only a chance to survive, if they settle in an area with a convenient, damp microclimate. Since what stops lichens to spread over the whole of Antarctica is not so much the big cold as the lack of water. For this reason they don’t settle in a place with the most sunshine, but in recesses and cracks between rocks. They like scanty soils, created by weathered rocks. They often quicken this process with secretion of acid.

   Snowflakes are captured in the cracked rock and melt on the dark lichens, so they can absorb the vital liquid.”

mmm… I am thinking of a Lichen Soup recipe as I read this. Unless the players have their characters trap penguin or they do some fishing, it seems it may be a long Winter ahead for them until the birds come to breed along the shores of the South polar region in the Spring!

I am such a mean Dungeon Master.

-Jeff
“Retro”

X Marks The Spot!

28 Apr

The chest is already open on that map...someone must have gotten there beforehand!

An “X” on a map means that something secret, probably treasure, is hidden there! Almost every very kid learned from Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, “X marks the spot!. Tales of pirate’s loot (can we still say booty these days?) that is still buried all over the world has drawn people to search for that elusive “X” on the map. Sometimes they uncover riches, sometimes they make some discoveries, but nothing world-turning.

Hoist high the Jeffy Roger!

This A-Z Blogging Challenge has been like searching for the “X” for me.

Counting this one, there are just 3 letters left in the A-Z Blogging Challenge. I think that this loosely structured month of daily posts has not always been easy, but I was able to use some of the posts to help flesh out aspects of my campaign world that I am working on. That alone has made participating in the Challenge well worth it. As I said in an earlier post, the next challenge is for me to determine where I would like to go with this blog in the future. I have some ideas of new features or projects. Also, some of the things I have been doing could be done more effectively.

It is also 3 weeks left for me until the semester is finished. During that time I might cut back from daily posts, but I will not be disappearing. The treasure is only mere weeks away, so I must put in extra effort to reach the elusive “X”. Afterward, I can count the booty… err, loot!

It has been a fun time during the A-Z Challenge. I know that other harbors and adventures lie beyond the horizon, so there I will set sail for!
Thanks to the creators of the A-Z Blogging Challenge and those that participated and to those that commented on my posts. It has been a learning experience.

-Jeff
“Retro”

Weißenstein

27 Apr

The County of Weißenstein
a state of the Holy Roman Empire (1540–1604) and earlier of the Livonian Confederation.

Weißenstein contained Paide Castle, which was built by the Livonian Brothers of the Sword, an autonomous Templar Order aligned with the Prussian Teutonic Knights. The town of Paide grew quickly nearby. The region has changed hands many times and political intrigue has been part of that sometimes secretive history. Paide now lies in modern day Estonia. The current population of the city of Paide is around 10,000.

Once in Weißenstein, Paide Castle has been the site of great military use in the past

The castle was built in 1265 or 1266 by Master Konrad von Mandernand as a fortress of the Livonian Order. It was here that the 4 Estonian Kings who led the St. George’s day uprising in 1343 where killed while negotiating with the Livonian Order.

I have an ancestor, Johann Osthoff von Mengede, who was also a Master of the Livonian Brotherhood from 1450-69, only seven years after the St. George’s Day uprising, so this is quite fascinating to me.

The Livonian Confederation was a loosely organized alliance between the Roman Catholic Church, crusading German knights, German merchants, vassals, cities and existing indigenous peoples in the area which is now Latvia and Estonia. In the late 12th century a German monk, Father Meinhard, came to the area with both spiritual and economic ambitions. His goal was to bring Christianity, in the form of Roman Catholicism, to the tribal peoples. Also, the value of the strategic location of the Baltic area between the Roman Catholic world and the Byzantine world, and the possibility for economic exploitation of this region was not lost on the powers of the Roman Catholic Church. Following Father Meinhard, the Confederation existed for almost three and a half centuries. In 1561, as a result of the invasion of Ivan IV and internal political instability, the Confederation came to an end and its lands were divided amongst the surrounding countries. This is when the Principality known as Weißenstein was formed. The Baltic Germans did however, establish themselves as the ruling, elite class which held ramifications for this region even into the twentieth century.

My campaign contains much regarding Templars and a Universal Church, so these real life historical events and persons are useful for me. Weißenstein will figure heavily in it, as it will fit nicely into the Holy Empire of the Universal Church that figures prominently in my game.

-Jeff
“Retro”

Vigilante NPC: St. Francis

26 Apr

Vigilante NPC

Crime lords fear the name of this saint of the people. The common folk are grateful for his help. The authorities are consternated that this upholder of good undermines their reputation, yet they cannot deny his effectiveness on the streets. The person in question is the robed vigilante they call “Saint Francis”.

St. Francis is a crime-fighting vigilante that is found only in one major, highly populated city in the campaign. I have used this NPC vigilante in a couple of RPGs.

Originally, he figured in a Cyberpunk campaign set it San Francisco, California in the year 2056. Later, I recycled the NPC for another urban campaign that took place in a very large medieval city in the typical fantasy genre Roleplaying game.

The GM can play it so that, while hard-hitting, the vigilante causes only non-lethal damage to his opponents or alternately as a gritty decimator who leaves few, if any criminals left alive. St. Francis comes out of nowhere, moves decisively and then fades away again, never speaking a word.

He wears the habit of the Friars Minor and attacks using weaponry suitable for the campaign. In a medieval one, a staff and hand-to-hand combat is sufficient. In a modern or futuristic setting, depending upon the violence level of St. Francis that the GM chooses, the weaponry could be the same as before or could include things that cause great havoc -usually involving cool explosions and the fiery vengeance of righteous fury!

The root cause of the motivations of St. Francis are unclear, but when he strikes, he thwarts anyone from petty criminals to highly organized street gangs and criminal organizations. Always, the motivation seems to be to protect the average citizen that falls prey to the activities of these individuals and groups. St. Francis only engages in his vigilantism at night.

St. Francis can be either an actual Franciscan monk or a loner that plays the persona for unknown reasons (defrocked monk, a devout lay religious , etc.) Typical choices of a lair of the vigilante are determined by how he is used in the campaign, but they could include: a ruined monastery, underneath a church or serving actively as a monastic cleric during the day.

St. Francis may be considered anathema by his religious organization because of his actions, but he is genuine in his desire to protect the innocent and bring criminals to justice. If there is corruption in the Church, those involved in it will want to expose and suppress him.

I have had great fun having this NPC pop up when least expected in my campaigns. He can be a great hook for drawing in PCs that have their own motivations to fight criminals.

-Jeff
“Retro”

An anathema has fallen
On this poor humanity
The dark world is falling asleep
The moon has hidden the sun

And the sky is becoming cloudy
Like arms which are opening
Spreading darkness
All over our damned world…

Talismondé, the Capital of Arduin

23 Apr

Talismondé, the Capital of Arduin

The capitol city of Arduin is the largest of the cities in the nation, with a seasonal population of 600,000. The city has a long and distinguished history and its foundations extend well beyond the formation of the Accords of Arduin (The treaty between nations that formally ended the Nexus Wars and defined not only the new country of Arduin but also formalized how the Arduin Nexus would be governed).

The city is a hub, just like Arduin is a nexus. All things, great and small eventually find there way to the city; Talismondéans say all things come to Talismondé, whether they want to or not. Perhaps the saying is true, and perhaps not, but Talismondé is indeed a city among cities, where diversity and difference is the rule not the exception. Songs in dozens of languages can be heard in taverns, the smell of foods from different cuisines mix in a heady fog of exotic spices, and beings of all colors, sizes, garbs, and types meet and mingle on the street. The Hermetic Order of Wizardry maintains a large lodge in the city and keeps watch on what happens within the walls of Talismondé.

area around Talismonde' - click for larger image

The magical city of Talismondé is worthy of a campaign in itself. Everything and anything happens here. Just like the Arduin Nexus draws in beings from all over the Multiverse to it, Talismondé draws to itself adventurers and beings of all sorts and kinds. Its streets are full of history. Untold mysteries happen each day.  The air is filled with the voices of myriad races, and the skies full of flying beings, both magical and natural, that bedeck the air like mystical stars or gems.

Only the strict laws against illegal magic and the ever-vigilant city guard prevent things from (usually!) getting out of hand. While justice is swift in Talismondé, the ruling King and Queen of the nation of Arduin, whose castle is at the heart of the city, are beneficent and enlightened. As the guardians of the realm  and of the Nexus, they must be wise.

If one is looking for adventure, ancient vaults beneath the city hold unrevealed treasures to this day. Political intrigue abounds and cloak-and-dagger plots to control the Nexus by secret societies are always a threat. This bustling place is a hub for delvers, princes and alien creatures. Cosmopolitan, exotic and sometimes dangerous, Talismondé is where history is made – or often repeats itself!

-Jeff
“Retro”

The Arduin Grimoire Trilogy (and more) at Emperor’s Choice

Random Subsector Generator

21 Apr

Anyone that has played any version of the Traveller RPG is familiar with subsector maps. These relatively small portions of space. Subsectors are areas of space 8 parsecs across by 10 parsecs down. One parsec is approximately 3.26 light years. An entire subsector covers an area about 26×33 light years in size. A four-by-four grid of subsectors is a sector.

I created a subsector that I am considering using for my campaign. Using the Random Subsector Generator over at The Zhodani Base, it created some ascii output of the subsector stats for me as well as a map. There are several options for output format, so I decided to get the map as a Postscript file, then converted the map from .ps to some images. I have generated many subsectors by hand, but using this tool took only about a minute. The Star System Generation rules from Book 6 Scouts was available and that is what I went with.


Here is the map I generated w/ some custom options:

Sidhe Subsector (click for larger image)

Here are the Universal Planetary Profiles of the worlds contained in the Sidhe Subsector:

Subsector Format: name, some whitespace, coordinates (four digits between 0101 and 0810), some whitespace, starport (A-E or X) size (0-9 or A) atmosphere (0-9 or A-F) hydrographic (0-9 or A) population (0-9 or A-C) government (0-9 or A-F) law level (0-9 or A-L) a dash, tech level (0-99) optionally a non-standard group of bases and a gas giant indicator, optionally separated by whitespace: pirate base (P) imperial consulate (C) TAS base (T) research base (R) naval base (N) scout base (S) gas giant (G), followed by trade codes (see below), and optionally a travel code (A or R). Whitespace can be one or more spaces and tabs.

Trade codes:
Ag Agricultural Hi High Population Na Non-Ag
As Asteroid Ht High Technology NI non-Ind
Ba Barren IC Ice-Capped Po Poor
De Desert In Industrial Ri Rich
Fl Fluid Oceans Lo Low Population Wa Water
Ga Garden Lt Low Technology Va Vacuum


Hopefully this will be of some use to me in the near future. There are many subsector and sector generators out there, but this seemed to suit my needs.

I noticed there were a lot of Red Zones (star systems that are forbidden entry by the Imperium or whatever explorers that charted them).
Red Zones can be anything from quarantine worlds, prison worlds, to low-tech systems that are not to be interfered with, etc. All of the best fun seems to be had in Red Zones!

The letters A-E and X denote the quality of the best Starport in the system with A being an excellent facility and E being a marked patch of ground. A Starport rating of X means there isn’t one present.

“Newer” subsector maps use slightly different color/symbol coded map key:

There is a Traveller Developers Pack available for FREE here: http://www.mongoosepublishing.com/pdf/travdevpack.zip
It includes a lot of SRD material for the current iteration of the Traveller RPG, including information on subsector specifications.

In my first Traveller campaign, I played  a Scout character. He seemed to get into a lot of scrapes, but my luck held with me, as far as his survival was concerned. His reputation, however, went from respected space explorer to traitor of the Imperium and enemy of the Zhodani Consulate . Eventually he slipped away into uncharted regions to avoid the wrath of the humanoid races. After a few misadventures among new alien species (including a 2 year imprisonment for violating a highly advanced species’ turf), my Scout headed even further into unknown space and whatever happened to him in the end is a mystery. He most likely met a very colorful and tragicomic demise outrunning alien pirates dangerously close to a black hole or misjumping a pulsar or something.

I have a new subsector map… now all I need is a bucket of bolts used Scout ship, a few credits and some jump coordinates!

-Jeff
“Retro”

Debtors Prison

19 Apr

The Debtors Prison

Every large Medieval & Renaissance city had one of these.
(I’ve created a map of one for you to use in your games below using the Random Dungeon Generator by drow http://donjon.bin.sh/  … it took some tweaking to get one that seemed to work, but that tool is great for on-the-fly needs)

Debtors Prisons were used to incarcerate those that owed and could not pay taxes or fines to the local authorities, gambling debts and other financial obligations that they were unable to make good on.

Throughout history, jails were mostly dark, overcrowded and filthy. All types of prisoners were often times herded together with no separation of men and women, the young and the old, the convicted and those awaiting sentence; the sane and the insane.

During Europe’s Middle Ages, debtors, both men and women, were locked up together in a single large cell until their families paid their debt. Debt prisoners often died of disease contracted from other debt prisoners. Conditions included starvation and abuse from other prisoners. If the father of a family was imprisoned for debt, the family business often suffered while the mother and children fell into poverty. Unable to pay the debt, the father often remained in debtors’ prison for many years. Some debt prisoners were released to become serfs or indentured servants until they paid off their debt in labor.

Debtor’s prison was like banking overdraw fees: you don’t have any money left so we will charge you for it. Debtor’s prisons were a money-making machine. In my game, I charge each prisoner a copper piece prepay just for the privilege of staying at the prison. This includes one meal of gruel. Anything other than that also costs money, including blankets, better food, stay of execution, etc. As long as someone pays for the prisoners monthly expenses, they will be given the possibility to have these “luxuries.” These costs are added to the original debt and any other fines the magistrate has imposed.

While in debtors prison, those that are able to can do certain tasks or even be “rented” to local nobility for a time, in order to work off their debts. The guards and the warden always take a cut of everything, so the cost of going to prison usually ends up double the original judgment against the prisoner. If a prisoner cannot pay their fees, they will end up executed or will meet an “accident” at the hands of another prisoner – which helps pay off that prisoner’s own debts!

Entire families would often live there with their imprisoned head-of-the-household. The prisoners had to pay for everything: food and lodging, to get out of shackles, etc. If you were lucky enough to be given living quarters with window-access to the street you could beg money from passers-by. Some prisons even had a grille built in to a wall so it was easier for prisoners to beg. Many prisons had an exercise yard called the racquet ground, so prisoners and their families could get some fresh air.
Here is the layout of a debtors prison:

click for larger image

1- Wardens Area

The Warden works and relaxes in this area, when he is not harassing prisoners. The room has a desk and chair for the Warden and a bench for those that are brought before him.

Several arcane torture devices are also in this area. Whether they are for show or are actually used is up to the GM.

2- Ruffians’ Cell

The worst of the worst prisoners are placed here and those who are on Death Row or awaiting prosecution for capital crimes. 6d6 prisoners will be housed here at any time.

If you end up here, things are not looking so good for you!

3 – The Exercise Yard

This area is open to the sky, but is a sunken courtyard (20 feet below ground with 20 foot walls above ground level.

Here prisoners, except those in the Ruffians’ Cell, can walk and get fresh air. Exercise time lasts about 20 minutes, unless it is a special occasion. Inmates are always supervised by 1d6 guards while in the exercise yard.

4- Processing Room

Here all new prisoners are documented and any possessions that are not allowed are taken for “safekeeping”. Those lucky enough to be released are debriefed here… usually with a stern warning to keep their mouths shut and to never come back.

Guards use this as a commons area when they are just coming or going off duty and also as a place where chain gangs, etc await transportation in and out of the prison.

5 – Work Room

Those prisoners housed in the Main Cell that are not given duties outside of the prison during the day are allowed to earn their keep here. Crafts to be sold and a variety of simple household items are made in this area. Prisoners can work 8 hours a day to earn their wage.

The wages earned here are usually barely above the daily costs of staying in the prison. Working here will probably not get one out of debtors prison, but will maintain the cost of daily living expenses the authorities charge.

6 – Main Cell

In this area, 6d6 debtors and other petty criminals will be housed. This is not an area for the most violent, but sometimes unpleasant events do occur.

The chance of getting a disease while housed in either the Main Cell or the Roughian’s Cell is 2% per day. Both cells are filthy and stink. The cell is dark and dank.

The only air and light in these cells comes from several small windows  covered by iron grating. The ceiling is 20 feet high. Candles are a highly prized object among the prisoners.

7 – Guard Station

This is the hub of the actual incarceration area. 2d6 guards are here at any time, with others coming and going from time to time. The guards tend to keep to themselves, unless performing their functions of exercise, feeding and work periods. Prisoners who bribe or are otherwise on good terms with the guards get preferred treatment. Those that aren’t on the preferential treatment list often wish they were.

8 – Kitchen & Storage Area

All of the work and kitchen supplies, etc and everything needed to run the prison are housed here. A cook hired to make the daily meal for the prisoners (and a separate one for guards and special treatment prisoners) works here.

“The Stairs”

At the end of the long tunnel is a stairwell going down… to what is the object of rumors among the prisoners. Even the guards do not know. Only the Warden has been seen going down them and what lies below the prison he is not telling.

The entire complex is surrounded by a 20 foot wall of stone or timber (as the  GM chooses).
While there might be worse places to end up, the debtors prison is still potentially deadly.

NOTE:
Anyone trying to tunnel should have a Random Encounter chance (1 on a d6, roll another d6 for the encounter):
1 Giant Rat
2  (1d3) Undead Skeletons – these were previous prisoners
3  2d6 copper coins
4  Carrion Crawler
5  Giant Ant
6  Jackpot! Secret tunnel out of prison!

-Jeff
“Retro”

Take a look at this fairly recent decision to not allow D&D in a prison:
No D&D for US prison inmate serving life