Wednesday, August 26, 2009

An Approach to the Sandbox Campaign

So the more I think about it, the more I need to fold Hope Cross into the Jacob's Well book. Here's my thinking:

Put together a sourcebook that details the whole region (Hope Cross will probably be the most detailed village - I don't want to put that kind of effort into Jacob's Cross' 1200 or so inhabitants, for example).
Detail areas like Hope Cross, the Marsh, the passes, the mountainous areas, Hag Island, Seven Stone Creek, etc. There's all kind of hamlets (is that the right word for tiny villages?) that I can get through pretty quickly (maybe with a hook or two for each?). Anyway, put together this larger document of setting - and then a second (or more) document of "story" if you will - adventure outlines that take place in the Jacob's Well region.

Darkness at hope cross becomes only about a three or four page "adventure" that connects to the Hope Cross, Southdowns and Temple of Darkness areas directly and possibly the Great Forest, Seven Stone Creek indirectly (if they can't find the Temple of Darkness, for example, they might wander all through the Great Forest - and bump up against the Goblin House or the wyvern's lair from A Question of Balance - all in the Great Forest area).

There's two things going on here - I want to put together a big region as a kind of a "sandbox" - but I want to seed it with all kind of hooks and adventures - many of which overlap in locale. Plus, I think it's really cool when looking for a lost ruin, the party happens on some other completely unrelated area - that has all kind of ramifications for them if they do this and that...

So, here's one thought. As I'm assembling this mega Sourcebook for the Jacob's Well region I'm thinking I'll put in the intended connections.

For example: The Wyvern's Lair (hex B18) - as the PCs approach (within 100') this cliffside cave, the area is heavy with unnatural silence - no animals, no insects, even the wind has silenced. This cavern is the lair of an ancient wyvern. Adventure Notes: A Question of Balance
Then go on to detail the lair and the surroundings...

In the Wandering Monster section it would say either
Wyvern (see hex B18)
Wyvern (hex B18/A Question of Balance)

So, if the party is wandering around looking for Goblin House, but they end up in this hex, the DM is free to, of course, allow them to explore the lair and defeat the wyvern. The DM can then look over the notes for A Question of Balance and see what some potential ramifications are now (maybe none, but maybe - in this case at least - some pretty serious ones).

Also, if they encounter the wyvern as a wandering monster and dispatch it, the DM will know that hex B18 is now unoccupied if the party goes there. The second wandering monster entry has the benefit of connecting the DM to both the hex lair and the adventure for hooks and ramifications (how long before the Goblins notice the wyvern is gone, for exmaple?)

So the idea is to provide some frameworks for "adventures" while maintaining the PC autonomy of goining wherever they want to.

So, to this end, I'm thinking about putting together the list of monsters and places that I want to have in the area (some will be Wandering Monsters but they'll have lairs detailed in the area - some as simple as a cave or a stand of trees, I think). So I need to know how many of what type of creature (especially humanoids, or in Daen Ral terms - the godless) and where they live, who the bandits are and where they hideout, undead, etc. Some just are all over (stirges, for example, don't need to have a "roost" though a giant eagle would). Not everything will be evil or attack the party, either.

So Jacob's Well Region is growing larger and more complicated, but I'm getting happier with the ideas I've got going here.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Quick Update on Hope Cross and a little whining...

I've added factions to the adventure Darkness at Hope Cross. I'll leave the draft here on the blog, but in the end I think I'll have added another five or six pages (not just factions, I'm also working on expanding Seven Stone Creek, Seeley's Glen, making the Temple of Darkness a little more dangerous and putting in a rumor table and a handful of side quests). I don't think I'll post any more updates of Hope Cross here, though. I'll put it together as a pdf soon and get some more widespread feedback from folks at Dragonsfoot and the like.

One of the most challenging things I'm trying to do is limit the scope of the adventure. The Jacob's Well Hundred is full of ancient ruins (well, the whole of the Midlands are) and lost magic and hidden monsters (it's a borderland - on the edge of civilization - but still somewhat tamed). Maybe I just put together the whole Jacob's Well Hundred as a mega adventure/sourcebook. I've got Goblin House and Grave Robbers outlined and I have a sketch for Jacob's Well itself. The Archmage's tower and dungeons are going to be a huge undertaking all on their own, so I'll leave that for a separate book, but there's like a hundred square miles to fill (hence the term, Hundred) with hidden gems...

Here's the thing - I have hundreds of published adventures (if you count all the adventures in the individual issues of Dungeon Magazine and the old Dragon Mag adventures and White Dwarf, as well as the free stuff I've downloaded over the past several years, it could be over a thousand) - and a lot of them are really good, and I want to run some of them...why create my own? I can easily adapt these for what want to do... Jacob's Well? Keep on the Borderland with a small town tacked on the side (if I can find it, Little Keep on the Border - the Hackmaster adventure - might be even better). Hope Cross? Homlett. Temple of Darkness? "Valley of the Earth Mother" from Dragon 102. And the possibilities are limited only in my ability to adapt what has been published to what I want (I used the ruins in DL1 for the shattered ancient elven city ruins years ago - players loved it, though one realized what I did years later when he read one of the Dragonlance novels - mabye Riverwind, was that his name? the "barbarian" guy). And some of the stuff I just really WANT to use - like the GDQ1 and Temple of Elemental Evil (though I heavily modified it last time I used it).

Oh well...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Goblin House Map

Somewhere I have a One Page Dungeon writeup on this. Of course, I can't find the blasted thing. Here's a first draft of the Goblin House dungeon map.

The adventure will be presented on two fronts: first is a basic, children are disappearing and you have to find out why (since it's the son of a noble, you'll be well paid, of course). The trail leads to this old Artificer's Labratory which has been overrun by goblins. Once the PCs discover that it is goblins kidnapping the children and how to get to Goblin House, the players and DM will have the option to play a the kidnapped children (the oldest of them, of course) who
discover what the goblins do with them when they "graduate" and either attempt to escape or incite a rebellion. If this path is chosen, the DM is free to introduce the PCs at any time in the adventure (even as an act of Deus Ex Machina to rescue the doomed rebels at just the last second). Since it's very, very loosely based on a short story I read years ago (which I can't seem to find now...argh...I remember that it was probably written by a woman...but that's all), well, since it's at least inspired by this story, I'll pull it together and publish it for free.

So, that's the framework of the adventure (yeah, there's a lot of twists to it - the goblins are trying to frame faries for the abductions among other things), and here's one of the maps. Hope to get more posted soon...

Monday, August 10, 2009

Counter Spells - First Draft

A Magic User or an Illusionist can try to counter any spell that an opponent is casting. The process is as follows:

The PC must know the spell being cast, though he need not have it prepared for the day.

The PC and the opponent roll d20 modified in the following ways. If the PC does not have the spell memorized he is penalized -5 in his roll (if the spell is memorized there is no penalty, but see below). The difference in level between the PC and the opponent is added to the higher level magic-user's roll. The rolls are made and the highest roll wins (either the spell is countered or the spell cast to normal effect).

Attempting to counter a spell has a cost associated with it as follows. If the PC attempting to counter the spell has the spell prepared for the day, he will lose the ability to cast the spell in the attempted counter (whether or not the countering was successful) for the rest of the day (until such time as the spell can be re-prepared). If the PC does not have the spell memorized, he loses 1 point of constitution per level of the spell attempted to counter. The CON loss is temporary, regained at a rate of one point per hour, regardless of activity.

If the counter is successful, the magic-user whose spell was countered is stunned for one round (unable to perform any action but move at one-quarter speed) and loses the spell. There is a 5% chance (natural 20 on the part of the counterer) that the countered magic-user will be knocked unconscious for 2-12 rounds. A natural 20 on the part of the original caster means no only does the spell succeed, but that the counter spell caster's level is added to the caster's in order to determine effect (that is, a 5th level mu tries to counter a 4th level mu, fails as the 4th level mu rolls a natural 20 which means automatic success and the spell is now cast at 9th level).

For example, Gavin is a 6th level magic user. He sees the Big Bad Evil Guy (who is a 9th level magic user) is about to cast fireball. Gavin has fireball memorized, so he tries to counter the BBEG's spell. He rolls a 14 and the BBEG rolls a 12, which is further modified by the level difference (+3) to be 15. Thus, the spell is not countered, and Gavin loses the possibility to cast fireball until he takes time to re-prepare it.

Example 2: Gavin is a 6th level magic-user. He sees the Big Bad Evil Guy (who is a 9th level magic user) is about to cast fireball. Gavin does not have fireball prepared for the day, though it is in his spellbook. He decides to try to counter it, suffering a -5 penalty on his roll, since he does not have it memorized. He rolls well, a 16, modified to 11. The BBEG rolls very badly, a 4, modified to 7 by the level difference. The spell is countered. The BBEG is stunned for a round and Gavin loses 3 points of constitution.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Daen-Ral Rule Books

I've been compiling a Player's Handbook pdf that I can just pass out to players if they don't have one. I started with 1e AD&D because that's what I know and like - I've never been a fan of the "race is class" bit of Basic/Expert D&D - though I used those rule books for just about everything else...

So, classes - I pulled the multiclass as class article from DF's Footprints (don't remember which issue) and killed the assassin combos (no assassins in Daen-Ral). And someone posted a Friar (as opposed to the traditional monk) class. I'm looking for a bit more variation for thieves (I have, of course, Paladins and Rangers plus the Hunter class from Gygax for fighters, Illusionists and Sorcerors plus possibly Elemental Mages for Magic Users and Druids and Friars for Clerics). So I have the...what were they, Savant, Jester, Mountebank and...something else that Gygax proposed but never created but someone did a writeup for Footprints. I'd like possibly a Thief Acrobat, but the UA version never really sparked it for me. Oh, and I want a bard. A bard that is it's own class - not even a sub class of another. Just the Bard. (That was the class my wife wanted to play the one time she tried to game with me...maybe 20 years ago - and it started off so well...but I didn't let her roll the dice enough...go figure).

Races - well, right now it's pretty standard. Humans are the most common. Elves, Dwarves, Halflings, Half-elves. No Half-orcs (orcs are reproducing creatures in Daen-Ral - they're the spawn of darkness and chaos and evil - and magic, of course - so they don't eat, sleep or reproduce - no little orclets to worry aboutg - nor do they die a normal death). I'm considering some other races, but I'm too focused on a humanocentric world that I don't know if it'll work... I might, in the tradition of Sword and Sorcery, dump the demi-humans (at least as player races) and use different racial types of humans for racial bonuses and penalties...dunno yet.

Speaking of bonuses and penalties, while the lower limit of ability scores will always be 3, there is no upper limit in Daen-Ral and at character creation a PC could be created with an ability score of 19 (though in the case of Demi-humans, some ability scores can NEVER exceed 16 or 17 - even magically). Like I said, humanocentric world.

Character creation is taking more pages than I had intended (since I have to suss out every multiclass combo I will allow) but I'm hoping it will still be pretty quick compared to what I hear about these later editions. Gripe as some will about players building a character these days, we did the same thing back in the day. We'd play an elven fighter/magic-user/thief to get the cool abilities and armor and...well, you know the drill. If we happened to roll 18 for strength, we'd ALWAYS play a figher (paladin if we could get away with it) to roll that bonus strength. So, there's a part of me that gets wanting to kind of build a unique character, but I don't like the "a rule for every situation" skill stuff that started in 2e and just went insane with the player's options stuff. So, I have a little blessings and flaws list that gives PCs a few possible bonuses/penalties, there are racial bonuses (and penalties) and I'm still on the fence as to whether or not I'll use a "secondary talents" or whatever list (you know, you were a blacksmith's apprentice so you understand the basics of smithing...or whatever). I think I'd prefer the players to come up with a background based on the blessings/flaws list and their own imaginations.

The Monster Manual is in a useable draft for me to begin, though I haven't plotted the general locations of the creatures therein (some I have - for example, I'm using Aarokroka - however you spell that - the bird men, but they're VERY rare, just a few tribes in the Barrier Mountains and a few in the Southern Mountains near the Fortress of the Spire).

I'm pulling some interesting houserules and sorting through them. One thing I think I like is making spellcasters more flexible. We've always houseruled that clerics could cast any spells they knew, they didn't have to "prepare them" for the day. I'm thinking that Magic Users can do something like that...I have a house rule here somewhere - anyway, they prepare spells for the day, but can potentially cast any spell they know - just unprepared spells will cost them. And since magic works by channeling lifeforce or spirit or whatever (fae), the MU will also run the risk of hurting him/herself in the casting. I guess the same could be true of clerics who want to cast something they don't "know"...hmmm, thinking.

Zodiacal Possibilities

So I have 13 "old gods" in the adventure "Darkness at Hope Cross" - so I'm thinking that maybe this could be the 13 points of the zodiac or something.

I caught a hint of a campaign that someone ran somewhere (in the Forgotten Realms) where the PCs had to collect some broze discs related to the points of the zodiac, so I'm going to incorporate something similar to that.

So I need symbols for each of the 13 old gods:


Just a random thought for the morning (since I haven't posted anything in a while).

So, how do the symbols of the old gods relate to the overarching story lines that I want to have going in the background (the Heir Apparent, Days of the Comet, Spires, etc).