Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Character Creation in the Known World

Character Creation houserules. We never bothered calling the setting anything specific, so I'm going with "Known World" for now.

Character Creation in the Known World

This is specifically for running sandbox crawls. I'd take out some of this if I wasn't running a sandbox crawl (especially the staggered development of character background & unlocks, etc).

0. Character Sheet. Here is a character sheet. There is an example of a completed sheet below. Print this page out for ease of use.

1. Pick a given name and write it down. No family names yet.

2. There are four classes. Pick one. You may unlock more for use later and/or can switch to those classes.
                                  Fighters are usually front-line combatants
                                  The Initiated invoke divine miracles
                                  Magic Users are weird and dangerous and cast spells
                                  Thieves sneak and rely on the element of surprise to do lots of damage

3. Starting Level. Write down 1.

4. Ability Scores. Roll 3d6 6 times and write down the results, in the below order:

Strength _______  is good for accuracy and hurting things at close range, lifting things, Fighters
Dexterity _______ is good for sneaking, being quick to act, dodging, accuracy at range, Rogues
Constitution ____ how hardy you are, able to withstand great blows, laugh at death, good for everyone
Intelligence _____ measures your ability to quickly recognize & understand complex abstractions, good for M-Us
Wisdom _______ measures how “on” your intuition & common sense are, some magi resists, good for The Initiated
Charisma ______ measures your ability to sway others, how many you may lead, how beloved a leader you are, good for everyone

Also, you may:
(A) re-roll one ability score that is less than six and take the better of the two AND
(B) swap two scores once.

Final numbers are entered on the character sheet.

After step 5, there are no bonuses associated with ability scores. There are certainly no penalties.

5. Traits from Ability Scores. If you've got an ability score of 13 or greater, see below. Otherwise skip to 6.

                               scores from 13-15 indicate notable ability
                               scores from 16-17 indicate remarkable ability
                               scores of 18+ indicate awesome ability

              For each such score, write down a "Trait" in the designated section on the Character Sheet. The Trait is: descriptor + ability. So, a 15 Dex grants the notably dexterous Trait. If you've 13+ in your constitution, describe it as "hardy."
6. There are three native playable species at this point. Pick one. Befriend or discover more to unlock them for future use (you can create a new character of this species, recruit henchman and hireling of this species and/or change your species at a Vat, with some limitations). Then write it down in both the "Trait" and the "character description" section of the sheet.
                               Humans are hard to kill (extra save at death)
                               Elves are fast (can attack an extra time in combat)
                               Haflings are violent (massive bonus to ambush)

7. HP (hit points) are 8 if you're a fighter, 6 if you're a thief or one of the initiated and 4 if you're a magic-user. Note it on the character sheet.

8. Gold Multiply your charisma by 10 for your starting gold. Cash/currency is in rare earth metals and barter goods, summarized, for ease of conversion, as the standard D&D currencies.

9. Gear Everyone gets a pack, a couple weeks' worth of rations, and the various and sundry adventuring gear you'd need to start off with. Varies per starting scenario (ie, your campaign starts focused on dungeon crawling, you get torches, poles, etc; you start mountaineering, you get picks, rope, etc). Ask if you're not sure if it's there. I'll tell you ahead of time if we'll be tracking encumbrance today (chances are, it's a maybe). Everyone gets a backup chit.

10. Special Gear I'll hand you a sheet. You'll likely be able to pick a couple things to take with you and then roll for something else. This changes, but basically, the things you pick will be strange, possibly useful (and you can certainly find a way to make anything useful). The thing you roll for will just be something that works like a Trait, but temporary.


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Random Minor Deities

The local game has a few major deities. Worshiping them is generally what the bad guys do. Below is a modified version of the charts & tables I use when generating a new minor deity for the home game. There are some metaphysical assumptions (order/chaos, light/dark, life/death, growth/decay) baked in that ought to be easy to manipulate, remove entirely etc. Here is cleaner, better looking pdf of the below.

Creating a Deity
 “There are a thousand times a thousand deities between the Crawling Chaos and the White Dragon.”
 Roll d4 for the number of syllables/characters, then roll a d100 that number of times on the below. The results may be how the name is written, how it is spoken, how the deity introduces itself, how it is known in this time and place, etc.

01ah21gah41Mah61Ta81Zoo (tsoo)
17fee37Lee57Ree77Za (tsa)97Eth
18feh38Leh58Reh78Zhee (tsee)98ach
19foh39loh59Roh79Zeh (tseh)99‘ (pause)
20foo40loo60roo80Zoh (tsoh)100bazz
 roll d12 and consult the below (instead of choosing, feel free to roll up something random)

01Organizations (anarchy or true Chaos)07Abstract Concepts (Mathematics, Philosophy, or Language)
02The Unnamed & Many (god of lost civilization, ancient technologies, an animal (choose), a star (point one out in the sky))08Cast Light (choose also: of the daytime, of summer, of spring, of fall)
03Organizations (beaurocracies, tyrannies, oligarchies, plutocracies, theocracies, the Imperial Cult)09Glorious (choose also: deaths, sacrifices, fools)
04The Final Dark (choose also: of the dead, of the end, of winter, of night)10Fire (choose also: of life, of ceaseless life, of innovation)
05Entropy (choose also: the decay of the body (and all natural things), the slow collapse of things made (art, civilizations and organizations))11Witches (name a location)
06Perpetual Destruction (war) (choose also: of things made by man, of the living, of all things)12Transpositioning (choose: travel, flight, safe harbors, trade, theft, disappearances)
 Deities value those that do homage to what they honor and despise those that practice what they eschew. If the deity’s name has 1-2 syllables, roll a d4 once below in the appropriate domain for virtues & again for taboos; if the deity’s name has 3-4 syllables, roll twice.

Domain                       Values (virtues)             Eschews (taboos)                                          
Organizations               1. Orderliness                         1. Disorderliness
(swap depending           2. Cleanliness                          2. Filthiness
on type of org)              3. Being Correct                     3. Being Interesting
                                    4. Controlling Others                4. Liberty                                             

The Unnamed &          1. The Law of Tooth & Claw    1. Mercy to those outside the
   Many                                                                            pack/cohort/religion
                                   2. The Laws of a Lost Time/     2. The laws and philosophies of modern                  
                                       People                                       mankind
                                    3. Non-Euclidean Spaces           3. Abstract Concepts
                                     4. Might                                 4. Mercy                                             

The Final Dark             1. Death                                   1. Life, Fire
                                     2. Supernatural Cold                 2. Warmth, heat, fire, etc.
                                     3. Blindness, total darkness       3. Vision, light
                                     4. the End of the World            4. Life Unending
                                      (absolute zero, total destruction)                                                        
Perpetual Destruction     1. Wars, battles                        1. Peace, peace-making
                                       2. Luddites                              2. Innovation, Fire
                                       3. Assassins                             3. Healers, good-hearted politicians,  
                                       4. the Undead                        4. the living                                          
Entropy                        1. Disorderliness                      1. Order
                                       2. Rot, corruption                    2. Growth, life,  Fire
                                       3. Poison, toxins, acids            3. Life Unending
                                       4. Rust, collapse, ruin                4. Construction, innovation                 

Abstract Concepts       1.Education                              1. Luddites
                                      2. Philosophy                            2. Philistines
                                      3. Language                              3. Non-Euclidian Space
                                      4. Mathematics                        4.  Might                                            

Cast Light                     1. Summer, Spring, Fall            1. Winter, the End of the World
                                      2. Daytime, the Sun, Crops,      2. Cold
                                      3. Artificial, constructed light      3. Controlling Others
                                      4. the Moon                        4. Darkness                                           

Fire                               1. Magic                                    1. Death
                                      2. Creation, Life                         2. the End of the World
                                      3. Mutation (“Life Unending”)     3. Total Darkness
                                      4.  Innovation                           4. all cold                                         

Witches                          1. Poison, toxins, acids               1. Controlling Others
                                      2. Mutation                                 2. Cleanliness
                                      3. Creation                                 3. Abstract Concepts
                                      4. the Law of Tooth & Claw 4. All cold                                         

Transposition               1. Travel                                    1. Chaos
                                      2. Trade                                     2. Controlling Others
                                      3. Safe Harbors, Safety               3. Disorderliness
                                      4.Thiefs/thievery                         4. Filthiness                                      

Glorious                     1. Battle, War                             1. Entropy
                                    2. Self-Sacrifice                           2. The Final Dark
                                    3. Mercy                                     3. Abstract Concepts
                                    4.  Creation, Life, Healing       4. Peace, peace-making                 
*EDITED as I left off "Glorious"

 Below is a random interesting thing about your deity. Roll d20 once.

RollFun Fact
01speaks using images, emotions, music, formulas, etc.; comprehendible to followers or on an Int [-2] or Wis check, relays valuable information.
02only responds to petitions in rhyme, will speak in rhyme, grants bonus to checks related to diplomacy, bluffing and the arts.
03appears in the form of an animal, may grant a temporary bonus, as a Magic User’s familiar.
04has a visual quirk whenever it appears, noticing the quirk may earn wrath or reward.
05appears as an abstraction (equation, sign/symbol, drawing, etc); deciphering the meaning of the abstraction grants the worshipper special insight
06is an agent of the creator or perhaps even an incarnation of the creator itself, likely grants insight into matters supernatural, especially having to do with fire and the end of all things.
07speaks in two voices, has a dichotomous nature (embodies elements of order/chaos, light/dark, etc), may be flexible about violations of taboos.
08known for pestering petitioners. Rather than appearing to worshippers in visions, is simply always “on” and easily reachable via meditation or even mild concentration. Is always mid-sentence when contacted. 50% there is useful knowledge to be had (may not be germane to current predicament).
09knows all about one specific field of knowledge (flight, tectonic movement, quadratic equations) and may grant its followers such knowledge (on a Wis check)
10was once mortal and may know the secret to immortality or prolonging life. Senior cultists are likely hundreds of years old.
11associated with a specific smell (flower or spice) and may grant knowledge as to flora, fauna and geology
12associated with a specific smell (mineral or mechanical) and may grant knowledge as to scientific matters
13is associated with one of the four elements (roll d4 for earth, fire, wind, water— none are opposed to a domain [ie, can be “dark flame,” “crumbling earth”, etc) and may grant insight or protection into the same.
14is known for her terrible wrath, may grant furies in battle (as a berserker or the like).
15worshippers haunted by visions of other dimensions, may have knowledge of different times and places.
16is attended by minor saints, angels or other divine beings who may respond to worshipper's calls for help.
17is consort or courtier to another, perhaps greater deity. May petition that deity for aid.
18appears in dreams and meditation as a specific thing. Finding that thing will lead to a momentous event for the worshipper.
19speaks to worshippers with several voices, multiple mouths, worshipper may be able to understand strange tongues
20wears a crown of divine puissance. Will grant its favorite the crown some day.

the DM rolls 5d10, consults the below and keeps the result a secret (alternatively, see “An Interesting Thing or Two” table and riff on the results there. For example, if the interesting thing is “was once a mortal...” or “is a consort or courtier…”, the “is a giant wolf…” from the below may work well.) As always, hack to and flavor to suit.).

RollThis is true about this godRollThis is true about this god
05is newly born; may be shocked to learn basic things, fits of wrath are actually tantrums (may just be hungry)28is trapped in a prison somewhere and pleads for freedom. Release may prove catastrophic
06has written all her secrets on a book stored in the world library. The book is a palimpsest. Translating book affords power over her29claims to be two gods of one being and two natures but is just one god. May be bored or may be insane.
07has vacated this realm, leaving its work to others/a complex bureaucracy of semi-divine saints30Is trapped in a state of death and rebirth, sometimes causing powers granted to fail
08is of infinitely small/large size31is secretly two gods, sharing a single being but of dual natures
09cannot recall the past/future surrounding cleric's life. Can offer insights into times long past/not yet to come32is a sentient vat, trying to breed a race of followers. Its sworn enemy is the god below
10is a ghost shark and consumes stars, slowly becoming luminous itself33Is the opposite of what it claims to be
11is an ancient being who is about to die and be reborn as another god entirely34Suffers from a strange disease. Would be lethal, but survives by passing the disease to worshippers, as miracles.
12lives in the rays of light cast by a certain star, now collapsed into a black hole35is a sentient vat, trying to breed its creator. Its sworn enemy is the god above
13has died quite some time ago and is in denial of anything that happened after its death (is “just playing along” with its deluded followers, provides oracular visions as a joke/to humor them)36claims to be the ninth form of the creator, vibrating on the eleventh parallel, will answer to no other name, after the first time it is called on by the name given
14has caused a catastrophic war in the future/past and is so horrified it refuses to take any form of direct intervention37obsessed with an item of seeming insignificance. Pesters worshippers about the item frequently
15is a lich38Is really a wizard
16is a really old wyvern39will claim importance and powers far beyond its reach
17is a giant wolf and is fed and kept by another god40is an empty suit of armor, waiting for its next avatar to put it on
18is a porcupine, each of whose quills grants miraculous powers41is an enormous black pudding (the monster)
19is a porcupine, each of whose quills can be used to kill someone automatically; the porcupine has 3d6 quills left and will die once the last quill is used42is an enormous hourglass guarded by an equally large bronze dragon, once the sand stops falling, god will fall into a slumber. The dragon will prevent any attempt to turn the hourglass.
20is a whale, its belly contains pearls, each of which is a small universe of kind, sentient beings43hates anything with hair, will demand followers shave their heads, trim hair, etc
21pretends to be a millenia old wyvern but is actually a vat-grown being of incredible powers, slowly succombing to vat death44is an enormous black pudding (the edible kind); blood comes from endless followers, or from another deity's corpse
22the god must be eaten by its followers to remain divine, once it is eaten entirely or no one cares to eat it, it dies, disappears or returns to its original condition45is a fungus and sentient only in spore form, subsumed into the super-body of another fungal deity when it grows to the cannon-like structure that spits spore deities once more into the ether
23will not shut up46is forgetful at the worst possible moment
24is a ghost shark, will try to eat any friends or family of its worshipper47always provides three answers, at least one of which is true
25is one of the black pawns in an unassuming chess set in the possession of one of the players or their ally48is a fungus that infects a human being to survive, causing obsessive behavior and a stutter. Once the victim can no longer utter the name of the god due to the stutter, the victim bursts into a thousand spores, each of which sails through the air on seeking a new avatar.
26floats through the atmosphere as a massive storm cloud and nearly dies whenever it rains49pretends to be a lich/undead, but actually is a phylactery of an ancient alien being, long dead.
27Haunts an old forest, castle, complex, dungeon. Can be turned as a lich (level 20).50Hates its worshippers but is bound by supernatural contract to serve them, will do whatever it can to get its followers to destroy the contract.

Monday, January 21, 2013

3x and 4e players; getting to know the OSR, for free

So someone asks, "What free OSR products would you recommend for someone who has only experienced 3.X and/or 4E, but wants to branch out and learn "new" games?"

What's the answer?

My first suggestion is: sit down with the three brown books (and maybe Chainmail?) and read them all through. Pretty sure you can find pdfs via google (you could, of course, spend the time and money to hunt for actual copies). Not that I'm advocating you download hot data. 

I think all told, they're like 100 pages? I can't remember.

Once you're finished, it should be apparent that OD&D is incomplete. If you're coming at this from 3x or 4e, it'll likely feel really, really incomplete. It's like a quarter of the rules you'd expect.

This is by design. Rather than deciding how throwing an oil flask and then lighting that oil works in your world for you, Gygax et al more or less leave it open for you/your DM to figure it out. This is meant to be part of the fun. It's "meant" to encourage players to think outside of their character sheet, among other things (The reason I'm suggesting your read the core rule books is because it may not be apparent what is going on in the below links without that knowledge - and because I think it's likely more effective if you just read stuff yourself rather than take my word for it).

Then go grab Philotomy's Musings over at grey-elf and skim them. I like Philotomy's because it's simple, direct and it's built through play. It's also fairly vanilla, so it's applications are broad.

And like, check out what Zak Smith has done here, to the Wizard class.

And like, this, from Jeff Rients and this.

And this, from Joey.

And lookit how Raggi does encumbrance. (art free rules linked on the right of the page)

And look at Jack Mcnamee's Dangertopia

And Jack Shear's Gothic Earth (his blog is linked below)

And Matt Finch's Old School Primer (caveat: the tone of this primer pisses some people off, I hear. I think it explains some of the appeal of OSR gaming, but it's kind of hard to capture lightning in a jar)

And go mine the below blogs for ideas about classes, settings, rules, spells, etc, etc.

And really, all of Zak's and Jeff's and Joey's stuff and these too:

Rolang's Creeping Doom

Secret Santicore

Grotesque & Dungeonesque


Reynaldo's blog

Hill Cantons

Brendan's blog

False Machine





Ian's Blog

And over course, this.

And Jensen's Jammers

I know I've left a bunch out. Is there a "best of the OSR blogs" out there? If someone thinks I'm missing an obvious blog, let me know. I know I am, I'm just tired/lazy.
Here are a few products for money that are chosen as I feel they are indicative of what I value in the OSR:

If you're willing to shell out a little money, Vornheim is a great example of OSR-ness.
For more money than that, Blood & Treasure is a really interesting (I can't say good as I haven't finished it) adaptation of 3x for the OSR.
For even more money than that, here is part of a megadungeon

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.