Monday, 27 July 2015

On-the-Fly Village Generation

Ah yes, the humble generic D&D village. The well, the washerwomen, the loosely described homes, and who can forget the remarkably large tavern?
This is all especially true since the nearest adventure locale is a few miles away and so you haven't really thought about this place. You can just sit back and say "uh yea uh sure" to most requests the players will make about local village services, so it isn't a big deal.

But! What if it could be ever so slightly more interesting? Here's a way to do that.

Some notes:
- This is meant to spice up a generic village, not create a proper adventure locale like Scenic Dunnsmouth. If you want a proper adventure locale, Logan at Last Gasp has got you covered.
- This is for creating a village quickly at the table when your players stop in. If they hang around, definitely bulk up the descriptions in the place between sessions.
- This is for making a small village of a few hundred people, most of whom the PCs won't meet immediately.


  • Throw a bunch of stuff onto the table. These are the buildings in the village centre.
    • I use a handful of the ever-useful Jenga blocks due to their excitingly chunky shapes.
    • You could also use dice, cards, or possibly snacks.
    • Don't worry too much about how many, 10-20 is about right. You can always add more later.
    • Every village will have a watersource, a church, and an alehouse. Place these wherever.
      • The Watersource depends on the area. Mostly this will be a well in the largest open space in town.
      • If you've got a range of socially acceptable gods, feel free to roll for which one the Church is devoted to. Otherwise it's the prevailing religion of the region.
      • An Alehouse (or Public House from where we get the term Pub) was the current house in the village where someone's wife (an Alewife) had finished brewing up a whole lot of ale. This was important because the water all stank like shit.
        In medieval times this could be any woman who wanted to make a living, but in the Early Modern era it was married women working alongside their husbands in an increasingly male-dominated industry.
        If the village is on a thoroughfare the alehouse will likely be the classic country pub where the proprietors live upstairs. In a backwater this is definitely just someone's house.
    • Every village will have three interesting tradespeople amongst the Generic Townfolk who are probably farmers or something. Place these wherever.
      • Three tradespeople probably isn't that realistic, but it's enough choice without being overwhelming.
      • I drop some dice on the Vornheim buildings chart to generate these tradespeople, but you could roll on my failed medieval careers table and re-roll anything that's dumb. Or not! It's up to you!
    You're done! You just tossed some stuff on the table, added a few key buildings, and added some random tradespersons. That's enough to get going with and only took a minute or two.

    In the example below, there was a house way out to the side so I made it the Church. The standing block totally represents the steeple.
    The blue gem is the location of a well in the village green.
    I usually make the Alehouse one of the blocks that lands on-edge (marked with coin in picture) but if you're using dice pick one of the 6's.
    Rolling for tradesmen I got Mason, Fortuneteller and Furrier, so I marked them with the coloured disks.


    Now the PCs can enter the village and start deciding what to do. When you've got a chance, you can quickly establish some relationships between people in the town. I use whichever people the PCs have interacted with so far, which usually ties the Alewife and a few of the Tradespeople into a little web of intrigue.
    Vornheim, again, has a Connections Between NPCs Diagram which is very helpful in this regard.
    Alternatively Logan has a list of relationships in the post I linked to before.

    Make sure to add some sort of small-town intrigue in case the party ever comes back. It doesn't always have to be secret cults and mutant children chained in basements, just a bit of simmering jealousy brought to the boil by the sexy Fighter when he passed through or maybe a kid who wants to learn from the Magic User in spite of his apprenticeship to his father's trade.

    Sunday, 5 July 2015

    So I Ran Deep Carbon Observatory

    ... and my players want to go back?!

    Usually I'd start this off with a few choice quotes from my players, but I got 7 sessions out of this with potentially more if they return.
    Instead, here's a list of where characters and retainers died.
    • Davril Burtey of Thujin Vale, Level 1 Magic User. Saw two wizards dueling on a sunken bridge. Jumped into Wall of Fog, shanked one in the back but was thrown into the water where he was attacked by a giant 3-metre pike. Managed to put out its eye before being devoured. Rest of party booked it out of there when his familiar erupted into a smoke demon.
    • Wit "Simon" Tamdoun, Level 0 Lovable Urchin. Tied to a rope and sent diving down into the river to inspect a suspected golden boat. Accidentally used as bait for a giant 3-metre pike with one eye which dragged the skiff into greater danger.
    • Dwain William Arthus Remus Froide (aka D.W.A.R.F), Level 2 Dwarf. Lowered on a vast chain into the infinite blackness beneath the earth. Attacked and eaten by a giant bat creature after an hour of descent. He never saw the bottom.
    • Labradoodle, Labrador 1/Poodle 1. Thrown at living tapestry woven from silk and bones because dogs eat bones. Dog's bones added to tapestry in short order.
    • Titus DeCosta, Level 2 Cleric. Crassly asked a bunch of skinny chemical ladies where the nearest treasure was. They snarkily replied that he could find it by jumping off the nearby ledge into infinite blackness. To my incredulous amusement, he believed them.
    • Jack "Danger" Wilbur, Level 1 Fighter. Fought chemical women to avenge Titus' death. He fought well despite being occasionally charmed, but was slain when their burning chlorine fingers turned his heart to glass.
    • Fungonius, Level 5 Cleric. Asked toxic beings from the elemental plane of poison to coat his blade in a poison so virulent that it can kill anything is touches. Accidentally released said toxic beings and exploded in a cloud of poison so virulent it can kill everything it touches. They were very embarrassed by this and shouted their apologies to the rest of the rapidly fleeing party.

    So what's the deal?

    You probably already know the content because if you read my blog you likely move in the same RPG niche-in-a-niche as me and so own it. 
    If you don't, please read a review from one of those scrubs who reviews something without running it first. Ha ha.
    But really, do. I don't want to retread old ground and other people review things way better.
    Oh shit some people did run it before reviewing it.

    So after that you will know that it is four main areas, the flooded town of Carrowmore, the more widely flooded area before the Dam, the no longer flooded area behind the dam, and the eponymous dungeon at the end.

    It is basically a humanitarian disaster zone filled with wacko giant animals and crazy people. Everything will kill you so stay in the goddamn boat.

    This is my favourite monster text in the world.

    The Writing and Art.

    You've got to talk about the writing if Patrick is writing something.
    And the art if Scrap is drawing something.

    These are both things you must get to appreciate them.
    I would show my players a picture of a giant killer platypus or a newt man and they would say "it looks like a child's drawing" or something to which I wanted to say "Do you not SEE the FURIOUS ENERGY in these penstrokes!? Do you not FEEL the lines STRUGGLING TO ESCAPE THE PAGE?!?" but obviously this is an in-crowd thing.
    Patrick's writing is often difficult to parse in the heat of play, to the point where I would often miss something or fill in a gap only to find myself having to paper over contradictions later. Luckily I had read the thing a bunch of times but you still miss stuff.
    But it is really nice to read and jams PSYCHIC ENERGY into your head. Reading through the book the first time there is no overview or explanation of events so your first reading is the same experience that your players get when they're playing through the thing.
    If I wasn't into his writing already I'd probably find it irritatingly difficult to parse.
    I think that's an in-crowd thing too.

    I like it and you likely like it and if you don't like it you are not part of the social clique and thus likely too ill-bred to take part in a discussion of Stuart's work. Harrumph.

    Anyway, you've definitely got to give it a good read before you run it for real. It's dense and hard to parse but there isn't ever a wasted word. Everything is beautiful desolation and sadness.

    Back to the art, it's scribbly and Scrappy. I like this because I appreciate stuff where it's close enough and you have to fill in the blanks with your brain.
    Somehow wooden jenga blocks create a more realistic dungeon environment than the most badass modular terrain. Same thing with these things. The golem looks like a scribbly motherfucker but he's big and blocky and imposing and that's enough.
    It's the same amount of detail as the players need in their heads, basically. I'm a fan.

    The only thing is THE MAPS. Other people have said the maps but THE MAPS.
    It's actually all fine and usable. No scale, but I didn't actually notice that myself! My Drowned Lands were big enough to get from Carrowmore to the Dam in half a day or so by boat. Especially boat pulled by horse until horse is eaten.
    BUT THEN. The Observatory dungeon itself. Room sizes don't line up being the main thing, there are descriptions that imply a much bigger room than shown. I kind of messed up the first room due to accidental map problems, and made the mistake of demarcating the room then looking at its contents.
    I stuck with the side view rather than go the top-down route
    For a game with a fair amount of gameplay based around depth, we haven't really cracked the 3D space problem yet. That's not Scrap's fault though.

    See? Perfectly workable!

    Things that make this thing special

    So the main thing with this module is how fucking awful it is to get to the actual dungeon.
    This is so abnormal as to be almost unique. At least as far as I know.
    Most times there's an outside-dungeon area detailed it's a hex map around the dungeon with a few landmarks and factions based on the dungeon's factions and the occasional joke encounter.
    Here the players were like "Dungeon full of ancient treasures? Let's go!" and found themselves slogging through the worst place in the world. Every time someone suggested turning back others said "we haven't even reached the dungeon yet!".

    Deep Carbon Observatory is typified by its complete lack of shit-giving. The dungeon is completely unrelated to all the stuff happening in the valley. The creatures in the overworld are completely unrelated to the dungeon. This isn't "goblins are attacking the village please clear the goblin dungeon", it's "the dam broke and now everything is horrible and you are part of the problem".
    To get to the dungeon you've got to slog your way through a mile of grim yet impersonal horror. Everything is starving or will starve. The people, the animals, even the immortal golem guardians of the dam. Things are terrible but they don't care whether you think they're terrible or not. They just Are, and here's you trying to make a quick buck off the situation maybe while also hopefully not spending any time rolling up a new character.
    This fits my M.O. perfectly, by the way.

    Another thing that doesn't give a shit about you is the giant. When you get to the actual dungeon this fucking giant follows you around squeezing through passages and being a scary fucker.
    My giant pretended to be a freaky frieze that moved about when the players were in another room, until someone got close to inspect him and he tried to scoop them up and gobble them.
    My players rolled impeccably with this guy, but damn were they scared.
    My favourite tactic was to have the giant form a tube with his hand atop a ladder hole. When someone climbed up the ladder I'd say something like "The rung holes stop, and now there's a lumpy rippled stone tube going up to the top. There's sort of three regular striations you could climb quite easily though so it's no big deal" and IT WAS THE GIANT'S HAND THEY WERE CLIMBING INTO.
    This worked twice (two separate sessions) but the players rolled annoyingly well and the giant killed nobody.
    They killed him with one of their hyper-poisonous crossbow bolts "blessed" by the Poison Dimension's Tox-Men in exchange for their freedom. Now there is no giant but there are three naive and curious beings formed of the platonic ideal of poison down there. They promised to give the players a head start of one year before they emerge to explore the world which is like the 15th player-created apocalypse scenario in my campaign.

    Just look at this fucker.

    Another fairly special thing is the Crows who are a rival adventuring party.
    My players sped through the area so fast that they only saw fleeting glimpses of the Crows in the distance, it was when they emerged from the dungeon that they encountered them properly.
    I played them as real dicks, Hooloch stood out in the open atop the wall where nobody at the bottom could hit him and chatted obnoxiously to gain information.
    This was my downfall since someone critted him with a crossbow bolt made out of super-poison. My bad. At least Ghar Zaghouan got someone with the eye-bolt that allows him to see out of their eye.
    If my players had been slower I would have started smacking them with the Crows but there was no need.

    There's also a sequence of events at the end which tells you what will happen in the ensuing weeks, months and years if the players don't stop it.
    It's basically Raggi-level your-world-is-fucked events, but at least it's over a few years so your players can totally try to stop it.
    This is all good, adventure-generating stuff.

    A final thought - everything is very scientificy.
    The dungeon is not properly magic, it is mainly deep and warped fantastical science. You've got core samples of strata showing a geological layer of compressed vampires and women wearing robes of chlorine. If you kill said women an Elemental of "high atomic weight" pursues you.
    And in terminology terms, from the Profundal Zone to Insolation, I needed to whip out Wikipedia a few times just to look things up.
    Nobody glimpsed the weird stuff through the telescope (yet?) but I think the Underdark here could be typified as deeply fucked.
    Actually Deeply Fucked would be a fantastic name for an Underdark/Deep Sea module.

    I had the giant's face look like this.

    Stop rambling! Was it fun in play?

    Yea it was great fun.

    The opening choose-the-least-worst-option thing worked incredibly well. Everything the players did was balanced out by at least one horrible thing happening that they couldn't stop.

    The drowned lands were good because everything in the water would eat them and was probably giant. There was no potential recourse to stabbing things.
    I love the witch. The witch is amazing. I had the children all yell out "Nooooo!" and things like it's a kid's show, all the while their parents patted them on the heads and said "quiet dear" and tried to bargain for food and passage back to town for their children.
    All the while the witch slid under the water, making ripples in the black corn.
    The players spent a good while thinking of how to kill the witch and eventually just said "fuck that, I'm not messing with this chick" and rowed away.
    On their way back they discovered half the children and parents on the roofs had blank, dead eyes and stared silently at them as the party drifted back in. They gave their spare skiff to the non-creepy parents and kids, spent another good while thinking of how to kill the witch, then said "fuck that, we're still not messing with this chick" and rowed away.
    If (when) this comes back to bite them, at least they'll have some foreknowledge.

    They baited the golems around the place for a while but didn't want to attack, so they climbed the dam and got in that way. Pursuing golems were forestalled by skillful use of oil and some lucky rolls.
    That means they never entered the dam itself.

    The profundal zone behind the dam was quieter. After the constant we're-gonna-die of the drowned lands, it was almost relaxing.
    They ended up not helping the People of the Reeds vs the Kapeks. I had the Reed People with shitty weapons, sort of long umbrellas made of reeds that they'd ordinarily use to just push the Kapeks off their floating reed houses.
    The Kapeks themselves had no weapons, just gummy bites and tiny claws.
    The players watched from their camp in a sun-scoop as the two ancient peoples slowly fought to the death like tired octogenarians.

    Later they emerged from the dungeon to find the Kapeks had won and the surviving Reed People had been driven back to their ancient chieftains. I had the chieftains be bumbling and confused and amazed by modern technology and apparently unable to understand that the village was threatened. The Reed People said they had lost their souls.
    The players tricked the Reed People into thinking that the Halfling had given a chieftain's soul back by mind-controlling him into marching across the river and assaulting the reed village.
    "Finally, we did something to help people!" said one player.

    The Dungeon itself is awesome. I've already talked about the giant, but there is a dense profusion of cool stuff here.
    It is like a funhouse dungeon that ties together. Everything is wacky but related to the fallen underdark empire theme.
    There are no truly empty rooms and each place speaks of what this facility might have once been.
    They'd barely explored the smaller stalactite before getting out of there alive, but they completely understood that this is all weird shit from deeper underground that they could barely comprehend.
    It helps that the minor treasure they took (silk bales, diamond hearts of salt dryads, bags of heatproof ceramic, a mining machine that runs on blood) was worth more than any treasure hoard yet seen.

    Being chased by the giant was a lot of fun (for me) and basically God That Crawls 2.0 for them. Luckily the group composition has changed significantly since I ran God That Crawls last year so it was a new experience. The giant was shutting them off from a known exit, rather than chasing them as they tried to find an exit, so I think this is the superior being-chased-by-an-amorphous-horror experience. Plus a man shaped thing that wants to eat you is for more horrific than an amorphous goop that wants to eat you.
    I enjoyed the Salt Dryads a whole lot. I figured that they'd act nicer towards people with higher charisma, but apparently everyone's an uncultured oaf in the party at the moment. Persuading a character to jump to his death was possibly one of my finest moments, the fact that a terrible elemental will now be hunting them down for the hearts (which they've already sold) is even better.

    The Tox-Men in their sealed glass container were fun. I had a pressure-sealed hatch in the floor that allowed them to exchange stuff with the players, and they totally wanted to explore the world and begged the players to let them out. Any object they touch turns completely to poison, so a player exchanged 20 hypertoxified crossbow bolts for a promise that he'll open their escape hatch as long as they give the party a head start to get out.
    "A year? How about a year?" they said, and the players were all "oh awesome we were going to say an hour but that's much better." 
    If you touch a crossbow bolt directly you have to Save or Die. Anyone pierced by a bolt explodes into a cloud of noxious green gas, no save.
    Another player tried to exploit them by making them turn his sword into super-poison, but they thought he was letting them out and got exploded into poison himself. C'est la mort.
    Can you tell I enjoy dangerous monsters that talk?

    Final Scores:
    7+ sessions of play
    Average of 0.7 PC deaths/session.
    2-3 apocalyptic scenarios inbound.

    It is good and you should run it.

    Thursday, 18 June 2015

    The Ten Foot Polemic Unified House Rule Document - 2015 Update

    It's that time again! A year since I last piled all my house rules into a single document, and thus a year of continued FORGING RULES IN THE CRUCIBLE OF PLAY.

    My house rule page has been updated and the house rule document along with it.
    I also changed the pages around because I've printed them out into cute little A5 booklets for table use.

    Check this out

    Changes and reasonings thereof follow in a sort of changelog:

    Char Gen

    • Your Random Failed Profession now gives you two skill points to be assigned as you wish, so long as you can justify using them in your job. That's all you get forever unless you're a Specialist though.
    • Changes to ammo dice:
      Gunpowder and shot are now bought together (though the shot pouch and powder horn are two items for encumbrance purposes).
      1d12 is now the biggest ammo die because anything bigger is boring and never runs out.

    Living Standards


    • Rations are for healing, unless you're in a situation where food isn't relatively plentiful like a desert or far beneath the earth.
    • Spend a turn eating a ration during the adventuring day to heal 1d6 HP. This is limited only by your number of rations. Standard rations must be cooked for half an hour before eating so they're bad for dungeons - especially since cooking creates smoke and delicious scents that wandering beasts might follow.
    • Rations and camping gear in the wilderness count as Comfortable conditions for healing. This is to encourage hunting and/or bringing food with you for long trips away from civilisation. Tents and cookpots are a must. (Living Standards again)
    • Hunting is slightly simplified from base LotFP - success takes half a day's overland movement, failure takes it all.

    Downtime Activities

    Combat Options

    • Gambits have been messed around with since Logan's original house rule post.
      Now I have both hit as "it happens", both miss as "ironic reversal", and one-hit-one-miss as "minor success or success at cost".
      This means that the positives and negatives can naturally balance out. Try to trip, they could trip you. Try to jump across the room and shank them straight in the throat, they could turn at the last minute and stab you right in the heart.
      Naturally players are told the potential consequences of success or failure before they roll.
    • Wrestling has been better codified as per this wrestling post.

    Big Purple d30 Rule

    • The original big purple d30 rule has one minor issue, scalability! With higher player numbers literally any creature can get burst down by a gang of hoodlums hopped up on the Big Purple.
      Now it's a stake-raising fate-tempting thing.
      The big purple d30 starts on the player's side. Anybody can use it to replace a roll, but if they do it goes to the DM. The DM can use it to replace the same sort of roll at which point it goes back to the players.
      If you use it to hit, I use it to hit. If you use it on a fumble roll, I use it on a fumble roll.
    • Alternatively buy me a beer to get it back for free. This works super well because somebody will use it for damage and I'll keep eyeing it evilly until I get a free beer.


    • New! Take a dead character to a safe place for burial and you can buy up their experience points on a 1:1 exp-for-sp basis. Money is spent on grave goods, parades, bar tabs, the works!
      It's like a no-consequence carousing.
      This makes higher level characters get way better funerals than low level woobies, and means Johnny Newguy gets left in the dungeon because nobody cares about him, whether player or character.


    • I was letting people stack up to ten smallish items (torches, rations and oil flasks mainly) into one encumbrance slot. That's down to 5. This feels like a happy medium between my original misreading and LotFP's actual brutal no-stacking-torches thing.
      I was going to go with 3 but that makes adding things up harder.
    • I had a thing originally where you got three pouches of quick-access items which ended up lame. I cut that out. Now it's just "in your hands" or "in your inventory". Weapons are always in scabbards and stuff and can be grabbed and used in one round as per base LotFP.
      Sleight of Hand is the way to instantly grab anything out of your inventory. Specialists can be people who have exactly the right thing at the right time. Sleight of Hand also lets you sheathe a weapon, whip out another, and attack with no penalty. Dem hands.


    Investments and Business Ventures

    • Tweaked from LotFP! Investments kick in every month and you can influence how well the business does through in-game actions. Business Ventures post here.


    • New! A combination of 5th edition building costs and LotFP property buying.

    New Skills

    • Added Arcana to replace Architecture. Arcana skill post here.
    • First Aid now causes 1 point of damage when you fail on a 6. This is to make First Aid more of a gamble for poorly trained schlubs. One time I had a guy argue that he should regain 1HP per hour on average by First Aiding himself on an off-day, so this is for him.
    • Successful Music now gives a +2 on reaction rolls for music-appreciating creatures. It still sucks on purpose. I put quasi-magical sheet music in a dungeon to enable bard shenanigans but the players missed it.
    • Stealth is now rolled when someone might see you, not before the fact secretly by me.

    Class tweaks

    • Clerics can create talismans.
    • Elf abilities are slowly filling up as more people take Elves of different types.
    • Goblins get buddies from second level. Down from third because buddies is kinda the goblin gimmick.
    • Necromancers require Last Breath to give orders to undead under their control. Each dose lasts ten minutes (and thus generally lasts a whole combat) but if you want to micro-manage your minions you'll need to kill a bunch of people
    • Otherwise, these classes are holding up really well! And none of the players have gotten bored with the options yet.

    Friday, 12 June 2015

    Talismans for the Faithful

    After having only a single Cleric in my group for a while, suddenly I have four.
    A TPK will do that to a group.

    One of them, after a couple of sessions, wanted to know if he could differentiate his guy by giving his converts of his Crossbow God some sort of bonus with crossbows.
    And so, talismans.

    A Cleric can create talismans from second level onwards.
    The power of a God's talisman is chosen by the Cleric’s player. It should be specific, conditional and related to their god. Mechanical benefits will not exceed a +1 bonus.
    The God of Thieves might grant a bonus to hiding in shadows, for instance, or the God of Light might give a benefit to AC when standing in direct sunlight.

    To gain the benefits of a talisman the bearer shalt have no other gods before the Cleric's deity. They must convert to the Cleric's religion and follow any holy strictures thereof. It is the Cleric's player who has final say on whether a character has been living up to their god's standards enough to benefit from a talisman.
    A character who converts to another deity may never again benefit from the talisman of their former religion, even if they convert back later. The gods will not be mocked.

    Talismans can be created only on a Sunday.
    To create a talisman, simply cast Bless on a holy symbol of your god in a place sacred to them.
    The value of the holy symbol and the quality of the altar do not matter, only that the Cleric believes in it.
    A Cleric of the Moon could enact an opulent ritual with a finely crafted half-moon diamond necklace blessed at the lunar cathedral of the Moon Goddess, or a simple ritual blessing a crudely worked moonstone under the night sky, or anything in between.
    The talisman's powers last until the morning of the following Sunday.

    A cleric can, of course, benefit from his deity's own talisman.

    The idea here is to allow Clerics to be a bit more unique, and give benefits to party members who convert to their god.

    Making talisman-crafting a Sunday-only activity is meant to encourage parties to have a day of rest while the Cleric blesses a bunch of talismans. This amuses me.
    Making talisman-crafting reliant on the Bless spell means that Clerics can only make as many talismans as they have spell slots. The higher level the Cleric, the more of their flock can benefit from their holy gifts.
    The week-long time limit is to make sure that Clerics won't just stockpile these suckers, and means they'll run out of juice after a while when the Cleric is dead.

    Having multiple Clerics means that they might compete for converts! This also amuses me.

    The intention behind characters never benefiting from a talisman ever again if they swap gods is to encourage faith.
    But mainly, if I'm honest, it's to forestall the inevitable bit where someone tries to deck themselves out in five holy charms and swap gods on the fly to get the best benefits.

    Currently in my game I have the following depending on who's shown up today -
    Crossbow God: +1 to hit with Crossbows
    God of Darkness: +1 to hit when in the dark
    Mushroom God: +1 vs fungus-related saves
    and another Cleric who hasn't decided on his god but has decided that his talisman makes his censer-mace warm enough to heat incense.

    Saturday, 30 May 2015

    Investments, Business Ventures, and getting the players involved with the world.

    To my surprise, several players in my game have independently decided to open businesses.

    LotFP has rules for investments, but apparently that's too hands-off for players who will give me a list of the wagon prices, wages, and other sundry costs they're paying per month for their speculative mining business.

    And thus, this.

    Grab the pdf here and the word doc here.

    As per LotFP, you choose (or if you don't know, the DM chooses) a level of risk.
    Choose between Stable, Risky and Wild. This table might help.

    Maximum Monthly Growth
    Risk Dice

    Hey woah, what are risk dice?
    The idea is that more dice skew towards the middle result or whatever.
    On 1d6 you've got an even chance of every result oh no.
    On 3d6 you're likely getting a 9-12.

    So here's the risk table.

    Risky (2d6)
    Risk Table
    Bankrupt! Lose every last copper piece.
    Terrible Catastrophe. -1d20% value.
    Major Calamity. -1d10% value.
    Mild Setback. -1d6% value.
    Bad Omens. -1d4% value. -2 to next risk roll.
    Business as usual. +1% value.
    Encouraging Signs. +1d4% value. +2 to next risk roll.
    Good Fortune. +1d6% value
    Excellent Luck. +1d10% value.
    Massive Windfall. +1d20% value.
    Huge Profits! +1d100% value.

    As per LotFP, an accountant gives you an extra +1d10% profit, but takes 5% of money handled as payment.
    Damn accountants always know exactly how much to charge.

    Isn't this still hands-off, just laid out in a different way?
    Ahah! Not quite. The big advantage of this versus regular LotFP rules is that I can give people bonuses or penalties to this risk table based on their actions.
    So if someone's failed career is pie making, they'll get a +1 to their pie business.
    If someone dies and transfers their holdings to their successor character, a change in management is going to mean a -2 or whatever.
    If there are zombies everywhere they'll get a penalty until it's sorted out. If a competitor's business mysteriously collapses, they'll get a bonus.
    Just play it by ear, you're good at this shit.

    If your business venture is Wild you've got way more risk but your actions will have way more impact, and vice versa for a Safe investment.

    The other change from LotFP investment rules is that the investment matures every month, not every year. My campaign doesn't usually move quick enough for yearly stuff to matter, but a month tends to be every few sessions so it works out fine!

    Tuesday, 19 May 2015

    Whips, Wrestling and Other Combat Minutiae.

    Combat rules yay.
    An updated house rule document is coming, but for now here are some tweaks to combat in my game currently.


    Wrestling in LotFP works super well.
    Contested roll, 1d20 + melee bonus. Winner chooses what happens to the loser.
    It's simple, it makes Fighters better at it than other classes, if you fuck it up the enemy gets to turn the tables, it's just generally a good time.

    Grapply monsters get double attack bonus when wrestling.
    Piling on someone means everyone rolls and you take the best.
    Armour doesn't matter when somebody's got your head in a vice.

    I've tweaked and codified it for players as follows:
    Wrestling: Roll off against your opponent. 1d20+melee attack bonus. 
    The winner decides whether they Brawl, Disarm, Hold, or Kick Away. 
    Brawl means attack with a weapon or fists. Weapons must be Small size or less, normal fists do 1d2 damage.
    Disarm means seize something in their hands or knock it away in a random direction.
    Hold means you're trying to immobilize them. Hold someone three times in a row to pin them completely.
    Kick Away kicks them in the direction of your choice.

    I just looked up wrestling in pathfinder and fuuuuuuuuuuuck how do people manage.
    I would also allow Disarm to steal anything the loser is wearing on their head so you can steal their helmet or fancy hat or number one headband.

    Truthfully I don't know what is going on here.


    I have long been satisfied by the Last Gasp weapon rules. They differentiate weapons in a way that's interesting without making them magical, and it lets non-Fighters get some little combat bonuses.
    Also, weapons vs armour in a way that's not fussily actuarial, what's not to love?

    But - flails.
    Nobody takes flails.
    Apparently nobody ever took flails?
    Anyway, in Logan's rules it's like a souped-up Hammer with a disarm and a chance to nut yourself.
    My players are too conservative for that, apparently.

    Instead I'm replacing them with Whips.
    - No damage vs any level of armour.
    - Can be used to melee attack at range and initiate Wrestling from a distance
    - In a wrestle the Brawl option is replaced with Get Over Here which pulls the loser to the winner.

    This enables Indiana Jones shenanigans like whipping their weapon out of their hands and catching it or lassoing someone's legs so they can't move. It also means you can whip someone towards you for a shanking next round. The Kick Away option with a whip probably means you run up and power-kick them or maybe spin them like a top cartoonishly so they stumble in one direction or another.
    Of course if you lose the wrestle the enemy can pull your whip out of your hands, drag you into shanking range or do these ones.

    I also found Logan's "If you haven't been hit this round roll twice for damage, take the best" thing with swords to be surprisingly difficult to keep track of because I always forget and blah blah. I just made it apply to whichever side won initiative.
    With some of the effects I had them apply on evens which makes it a fairly easy to adjudicate and means crits always trigger the thing. Greataxes on a charge are absolutely brutal, by the way.

    Currently my adjusted weapon types go as follows:

    Choppy: Axes. Damaging on evens does double damage to Light armour or less.
    Smashy: Hammers. +1 to hit vs Medium armour or better, damaging on evens reduces Heavy AC by 1.
    Stabby: Swords. If your side won initiative roll twice for damage, take the best.
    ShankyDaggers. If you hit someone you can grab hold and shank the fuck out of them. Auto-crit on each round you win a wrestling roll. Anyone with a Medium weapon or larger can’t attack until they kick you off.
    Whippy: Whips. Zero damage against armoured foes but can be used to melee attack and wrestle from 10’ away. Brawl option is replaced by Get Over Here which pulls the loser to the winner.

    If your weapon can do more than one thing (like it’s got a hammer end and an axe end) or you’re dual-wielding, choose one modifier when rolling to attack.

    Thursday, 14 May 2015

    The Shopkeepers of Fortress-City Fate

    How do you make a city unique?

    My players have recently reached Fortress-City Fate.
    This is the capital of my campaign's map, and I know a fair bit about it.

    It's intended to be the perfect city. It's expensive as all hell. It's tightly controlled by an ever-changing system of tariffs and taxes balanced by the Royal Actuary Corp. It's the only place in the world where you can raise the dead. The palace in the centre is an enormous sundial and people give directions like "One-four at 6:45, just past the baker, you can't miss it". It's circular and got trams and drugs and a quarter of the city is taken up by a whole load of farms. Water runs everywhere under the city, a series of sewers and high-pressure pipes that keeps out the Dead and powers deeper machines.

    But what do they players care about?
    My players are new here. They don't know anyone. More importantly, nobody knows who they are. 
    It's hard to ensnare nobodies in a web of city intrigue.

    What are they likely to do here?
    Get information. Buy things. Carouse.
    These are the ways to ensnare them. Tie them together and with luck I'll rope them deeper into the intrigues of the big city.

    To this end, I have compiled a list of various specialty shopkeepers and information-givers and proprietors of places they might like to frequent.
    These are people and places to be sought out. In a big city it doesn't matter where a location is, just that you know about it. Default to Vornheim as usual if greater detail is required.
    The shopkeepers sell things that are better than normal. There is no downside to not knowing them or visiting their shops, since you can buy stuff off the regular equipment list no problem. Any schmuck can head into the first clothes shop he sees and buy a shirt, it just might not be the best price or quality.
    These people can sell you interesting things or offer services that are not widely available.

    I printed each of these shop profiles out, and hand them the slip of paper with the shop on it when they go to visit. It's worked quite well in play since while some players are at a shop ogling wares I can interact with other people at my increasingly large table.

    An aside -  In Courtney Campbell's Numenhalla there is a whole dungeon sector dedicated to being a shopping district. The first time I joined a game and rolled up a new guy I asked what the deal was with buying gear.
    "Awwwww no don't say that, I wanted to get stuff done today" said one person. We went elsewhere and I geared up from the various magical refuse that had built up in Mad Bill Danger's tower.
    In a later session we actually visited the place. Way cool! So much stuff! Magical weapons and armours and trinkets to buy! Whole lists of stuff! Everything an adventurer might need!
    But midway through hearing the rope merchant's rope stock of various weird and wondrous ropes, I realised that sometimes all you want is 50' of no frills hemp bought out of the equipment list vending machine so you can get back to the dungeon.
    That's the main reason why these shopkeepers are optional extras with benefits, not gatekeepers to regular items.


    Here is a pdf of the shops and locations for printing.
    Here is a spreadsheet of the locations, shopkeepers, and personalities.
    Here is a crude map of Fortress-City Fate.

    Directions in the Fortress-City

    The city is shaped like a sundial, with the enormous palace in the middle as the gnomon. That's the sticky up part of the sundial, so's you know.
    It is a rigidly structured and stratified city beneath a rigorous, almost fascist, system of taxes and administrators that ensure the city is always as perfect as it can possibly be in the eyes of the Fated King.
    More on the city itself some other time. This post is meant to be about the shops and stuff.

    You will note that the city is split into sectors along the hour lines. While these labels are not strictly true, there are temples and shops and housing all over the city, they tend to congregate in the correct districts due to encouragement from the taxation system.
    The second and third rings are tram lines. Automated trams apparently magically animated constantly move on rails around the rings in both directions. They are spaced maybe 5 minutes apart and do not slow down to let people on, you've got to jump on while it's moving.

    Directions are given as a couplet of Time and Arc.
    Time is how far around the city the place is, as measured by the hour lines of the sundial.
    Arc is how far from the centre the place is, as measured from the inner circle. The innermost circle is 0, the next is 1, and the outermost is 2.

    The Thermae (marked "f" on the map) is thus at Arc 1.2 and Time 08:18, said like "One-Two at Eight Eighteen".
    This will hopefully confuse the players at first which is sort of the point. They'll be able to ask people though.

    The populace would probably be more accurate than this and break the time down into seconds and the Arc into longer decimals, but that's by the by.
    In general the closer you are to the centre the more prestigious the place is.

    This is mostly useless information unless a citycrawl becomes necessary.

    How to Use

    The ways in which players find out about these places are the important part.
    I've been delivering knowledge in the following ways:
    - Rumours
    - Requests
    - Requirements

    The way I do rumours is to have a few global rumours the players will hear anywhere, then individualised results for specific locales.
    Big cities are locales all on their own, so if they go listening for rumours in Fate they'll hear Fate-specific gossip. If they hear about a shop or landmark in a rumour I give them the slip of paper. They find out the address and can go there at their leisure.

    Requests are when a player asks "I want to buy a horse" or "I really need to cure this disease". In this case I require a reaction roll (a la Vornheim) and give them pertinent slips of paper depending on how well they did.

    Requirements are stuff where they'll just come face to face with it as a matter of course. Everyone entering the city is going to see the giant stables complex of the Fifth Labour and the towering Sciotherico, and anyone Carousing away more money than they have will awake to find themselves in debt to Slim Jimmy and his small army of thugs.

    I should note that in the case of the various landmarks I have noted the ultimate boss of the place, like the Arch-Bishop of the cathedral or the CEO of the bank. These are people the players are unlikely to meet but tied to the place in the city's pop culture, their names never far from talk of the places they work.

    When they players enter a shop or other location, check it out on the spreadsheet. I mostly give NPCs animal personalities because they're a good shorthand for a range of traits and include exaggerated mannerisms.
    A reaction modifier is included which may improve or sour over time depending on how the players act. Charisma is the god stat in a city.

    If and when my players start getting to know the shopkeepers better I'll start tying them together in little webs of intrigue. I'll wait to see who they like most first though.

    Contacts and Shopkeepers in the Fortress-City

    Slim Jimmy’s Reputable House of Credit

    Pre-loved adventuring gear
    Treasures bought and sold
    No credit history necessary

    Slightly damaged arms and armour available for loan at 50% cost price.
    Lines of credit extended to honest gentlemen (and ladies) at 30% monthly interest.
    Items of uncertain provenance and dubious value fenced for a 20% cut of profit.

    Gunman and Son

    Highest quality firearms
    Custom weaponry made to order
    Concealed weaponry a specialty

    Firearms will never explode when broken.
    Proprietary breech-loading technology reduces reload time by 2 rounds.
    Arms and armour can be purchased with a built-in pistol for +500sp.

    The Body Shop

    Cadavers sold by the pound.
    Every corpse certified fresh and ethically sourced.
    Public dissections every Wednesday.

    Vials of blood, bone powder, etc – 50sp ea.
    Whole cadaver – 20gp ea.
    Experienced physician halves injury recovery time for 10gp/mo.

    Lamister’s Roost

    Specialist tools sold
    Spelunking equipment in stock
    Keys cut while you wait

    Specialist’s tools grant +1 to Tinkering rolls
    Range of specialised ropes on offer
    Keys cut without original for 5gp

    The Spükhaus

    Bodysnatching crime ring

    Delay someone’s resurrection by a month – 10gp
    Inconvenient corpses disappeared – 20gp
    Fresh cadavers purchased at 10gp ea.

    Derring & Do

    Ruffians available at short notice
    All staff trained in Torchbearing 101
    Find the henchman that’s right for you

    Torchbearer – 4.2sp/day. Labourer –  5.6sp/day. Man-at-arms – 10sp/day.
    Employee Life Insurance – 50sp/mo
    1d4 first level characters of random classes available per week

    The Emporium of the Odd

    Purveyor of potions of love and health.
    Mysterious items of grim import identified.
    Experienced alchemist

    Love potions – 5gp ea. Health potions – 10gp ea.
    Items identified (takes 1 week) – 5gp ea.
    Alchemist prevents lab explosions – 400sp/mo.

    Flower’s Bower of Power

    Protective charms and gewgaws for sale.
    Anti-paranormal weaponry available.
    We buy monster parts.

    Charms grant a one-time 50% chance of instantly passing a saving throw – 4gp ea.
    Silver and cold-forged iron weapons can be purchased here.
    Will buy monster claws/teeth/glands/etc for 1gp per hit die per monster.


    Dogs of the world.
    New and unusual breeds imported weekly.
    Dog armour custom fitted.

    All dogs are loyal and well trained. Know Attack, Heel, Stay and Roll Over.
    Choice of two dog breeds per purchase.
    Leather dog armour with spiked collar – 30sp.

    Honest Bill’s Used Horse Dealership

    Budget mounts for the discerning rider.
    Low mileage, high quality, all inspections passed.
    For when your horse is knackered TM

    Half price horses, mules and ponies. Random flaw each.
    Horse loans available at 10% monthly interest.
    Will buy horses in any condition for 50sp

    The Whip & Bridle

    Beautiful thoroughbred riding horses.
    Fast, graceful, elegant.
    Quality leather riding equipment.

    Horses cost triple but are legitimately beautiful and impressive.
    Unencumbered horses have +60’ movement rate, +12 miles/day overland.
    Riding gear allows maximum movement rate in most off-road conditions – 6gp

    The Fifth Labour

    Pets pampered and beasts unburdened.
    Safe and simple self-storage supplied.
    Free for citizens of Fate.

    Per person’s belongings stored – 1sp/day or 5sp/week
    Per animal stabled – 2sp/day or 10sp/week.
    Per axle per vehicle stored – 5sp/day or 25sp/week.

     The Wild Inventoria

    Marvels commissioned
    Impossibilities realised
    Pushing the limits of Science

    Builds heretofore unknown marvels at your request.
    Prices and build times decided on a case-by-case basis.
    You will likely have to test the prototypes.

    The Beaming Barber

    Stylish haircuts at the forefront of fashion
    Range of dyes, wigs and extensions
    Sorry, no bloodletting

    Haircuts grant +2 to your Charisma score within Fate.
    Haircuts count as a helmet for Death and Dismemberment purposes.
    Men’s haircut – 1sp. Women’s haircut – 10sp

    The Happy Haberdasher

    Hats and headgear from the protective to the pompous
    Mystery headpieces available in association with the Beaming Barber
    I’m not mad!

    Standard helms and helmets – 2sp ea.
    Hat or haircut chosen at random – 5sp.
    Fancy headgear may be sacrificed to pass a single saving throw.

    Wizzbang Will’s

    Rare and wondrous mind-altering substances
    All drugs certified to have no post-rebirth impact
    Guided experiences available

    Bawlers, Cacklers, Howlers and Blinders – 5gp/dose.
    Range of specialty substances rotated monthly.
    Vision quest shaman gives +2 to saves vs bad trips – 10sp/hr

    Panacea Parlour

    A physick for every malady.
    Humours balanced, bad blood bled
    The Suppository of All WisdomTM

    Diseases diagnosed – 1sp.
    Treatments administered at varying prices.
    Side effects possible.

    Atrox Morbus

    I will cure you
    Do not question my motives
    I am a Golden Chirurgeon from afar

    I will diagnose your malady for a single gold piece.
    I will administer several treatments if I deem it necessary.
    I will cure you. I will set the price. You are safe. You will be whole.

    Royal Post

    Messages delivered across the land
    Pigeons trained to fly to all major cities
    PO Boxes available for rent

    Messages delivered to any civilised locale.
    Carrier pigeons can be bought for any city.
    PO Box – 2gp/mo.

    Landmarks of the Fortress-city

    One of the other advantages of having shops on slips of paper is that I can lay them out on the table as a vague representation of where they are in relation to each other.
    To this end, I put several landmarks and pubs and non-shops the players might be likely to investigate (or end up in) on slips of paper too -

    The Figgin & Yelp
    Upper class establishment.
    Proprietor: Susan Sassafras
    Posh drinks and cocktails.

    O’Flannagan’s Eirish Fuckhoel
    Raucous alehouse.
    Proprietor: Billy O’Flannagan
    The best of the worst.

    The Copper Bucket
    Surprisingly quiet pub filled with grim men stoically drinking.
    Proprietor: Ralph Stubbs
    Never any fights.

    The Stone Starling
    Gambler’s pub.
    Proprietor: Edmund Cote
    Lots of ways to lose money.

    Trendy pub.
    Proprieter: Harry Pelvister
    Sells dark, intense, horrible ales in china cups.

    The Sullied Maiden
    Traveller’s brothel.
    Proprietor: Madame Charlabelle
    Weird stuff costs extra.

    Male brothel.
    Proprietor: Griff Husky
    Get cocky.

    Posh brothel.
    Proprietor: Max Busty
    Classy gals for classy gents.

    Voluntary Conscription
    Sergeant major: Basil Wotsit.
    We turn your girls and boys into MEN.

    King Construction
    Manager: Dave King
    No job too small!

    The Thermae
    Public baths for citizens of Fate.
    Manager: Richard Landwick
    Hit the showers.

    The Impound of Flesh
    Head warden: Edward Hyde
    A fate worse than life.

    St Cuthbert’s
    Chief of Medical: Jenny Joy
    28sp/day or 280sp/mo. Free for Fate’s citizens.

    Fortress Bank
    CEO: Cedric Ernest Obermann
    Put your cash in our hands.

    Alchemist’s Cradle
    Head Alchemist: Fergus Fizz
    20sp/day to use potion-brewing facilities.

    The Glob
    Chief Playwright: Billiam Shanks-Pierre
    Popular with the masses.

    The Church of Nine Corners
    Archbishop: Reginald Cage
    The seat of the Nonanist faith.

    National Library
    Head Librarian: Catherine Quinn
    20sp/week for use of library facilities. Free for Fate citizens.

    Sortitus College
    Chancellor: Hubert Mews
    A beacon of knowledge in a world of ignorance.

    The Sciotherico
    Monarch: The Fated King
    Est. 1066

    Huge marketplace
    Landlord: Tesco Sainsbury
    Rations bought here heal +2HP when you take a break.