Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Artifact April #1: Kingmaker [LotFP/D&D]

Since I have a tendency to ignore this blog for prolonged periods, I arbitrarily decided to make this April "Artifact April."  Thirty days of magic items for various systems — expect some Dungeons & Dragons and its many variants, some World of Darkness, some Unknown Armies, and maybe some other nonsense, as appropriate.  Hopefully some good ones will appear.  Occasionally.

Also, hopefully, I'll keep to it.  So, without further ado:

Kingmaker (the write-up assumes Lamentations of the Flame Princess rules)

The sword called Kingmaker appears as a khopesh of archaic manufacture with a gilded and jeweled hilt.  One side of the blade bears the inscription "I am wielded;" the other side bears the inscription "I am sheathed."  These inscriptions appear in an ancient language requiring a Languages roll at -3 to translate; Ancient Egyptian is a fair analogue for the culture from which the blade originates.

Kingmaker detects as magical if Detect Magic or similar abilities are used.  It counts as a medium weapon dealing 1d8 damage.  If found in a treasure hoard and sold by greedy adventurers, it can be sold for maybe somewhere in the 1,000-5,000 sp range.  (No doubt someone might try to pry off the gems, scrape off the gold, and sell them separately; you could maybe get 1,000 sp or so for the components, and 10 sp for the sword — maybe 100 to 200 sp from a collector still willing to buy the well-crafted blade despite its obvious damage.)  The merchant to whom you sell the blade will no doubt appear again, as suggested below.

The sword only has one effect: when the monarch of the closest kingdom to the sword's owner dies (Kingmaker's owner being defined as whatever living or unliving being is carrying the sword when the monarch dies; if the sword is stashed on a cart or something, then whomever most logically lays claim to that stash counts as the "owner"), Kingmaker manufactures evidence to place the owner next in the line of succession.  It cannot manipulate memories or conflate truths and lies, but it can forge documents, shift personal effects, and even alter its owner's DNA on the off-chance someone has the magic or technology necessary to check.  (This won't change the owner's characteristics at all, but will provide convincing genetic markers for anyone investigating the owner's lineage.)  Despite the overwhelming evidence that the owner is some long-lost bastard child or cousin or whatever, the sudden appearance of this heir is always designed to cause the maximum possible amount of strife on a national scale.  Affairs will be revealed, conspiracies will be unearthed, siblings will go to war, assassins will be unleashed, and the sword's unwitting owner will be at the center of all this, often with no real inkling as to why this is happening.  Canny wielders may turn this situation to their advantage, of course, assuming they live that long.

The sword's owner remains the same, even if they divest themselves of the sword, until death.  Of course, if someone kills the owner and takes the sword, then the sword manufactures evidence for that person, starting the cycle anew.

The sword is sapient and Chaotic in alignment, able to communicate telepathically with creatures within 100 feet, although rarely deigning to talk to anyone.  The sword looks on living and unliving things with disdain, considering the works of man and other sapients as abominations against the natural order.

Incidentally, if the player characters stripped the sword of valuables and sold it, it will somehow communicate to its new owner that this is all the player characters' fault.  (It may do likewise if they sold it unmolested, or maybe they'll just hear of the troubles when the merchant to whom they sold the weapon is named next in line to be king.)

It is entirely possible that the sword can manufacture evidence at will, sowing chaos among the cities of men.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

State of the Madicon 2015

The state of the Madicon is strong.

Nicole and I made the obligatory pilgrimage to Harrisonburg, VA for Madicon 24.  (Astute readers will note it is apparently not that obligatory, as we missed Madicon 23.  Interested parties can read my write-up of Madicon 22.)

No pictures this time, I'm afraid.  There was a lot of cool cosplay around, but I always feel like a creeper taking cosplay pictures, so I refrained.

This one was not as convention-y as last time, because we mostly spent the convention with friends.  We didn't do the LARP (sadly, as I heard from a reliable source that it was a blast).  Strangely, I did not purchase anything (likely because it's mostly on my shelf anyway), but we did support the Dealer's Room via Nicole.  (A particular shout-out in this case to Emizart; it was her first convention, and Nicole ordered a couple of jewelry pieces from her, including a custom order I understand is headed our way in a couple of weeks.)

For us, Friday featured Lords of Waterdeep, a favorite among many I know.  If I recall correctly, we weren't paying attention and so the player playing Lord Larissa Neathal — the "building lady" — won.

As one does.

Saturday featured Night's Black Agents; interested parties may read about the game session here.  I was fond of it, and the only real complaint was out of the GMs hands — once the vampires appeared, so did the endless parade of 1s.  Seriously, we learned there are about eight 1s on your average six-sided die, a number which seems impossible, and yet there it is.  In truth, this is probably realistic — when Jason Bourne first encounters vampires, everything goes to goddamn Hell.

I know we ignored some of the refresh options for the purposes of learning the game, but I'm really not sure it would have helped.  I watched people blow five points of skills just to make sure they succeeded without rolling, because the dice were our enemy.

Even so, it was a partial success.  We stopped the bioweapon, recovered the scientist, and no PCs died.  Any op you can walk away from, right?

Later Saturday also featured A Single, Small Cut, a sequel to the Death Love Doom game from Madicon 22.  I switched some details around, and once again, the player characters proved to be entirely too careful — they came to St. Gothard's church with a small army of twenty-two mercenaries, and annihilated the Corrector of Sins (which the PCs colloquially called the "ass-monster") in one round.  They accidentally summoned the beast again in the catacombs (a weaker version, as they had moved some of the corpses out of the crypt), and still annihilated it in one round.  They carefully packed away the Red Bell with the knowledge that they can now generate ass-monsters from fresh corpses whenever they want.

Also, the party elf convinced "Father" Clement to track down his fellows and retrieve Eutaric's spellbook, as he'll pay handsomely for it.  Clement knows where they're headed next, so he'll try to retrieve the book and track them down.

Incidentally, A Single, Small Cut was meant to be the cold open to Death Frost Doom, but they stretched out A Single, Small Cut to fit the entire timeslot (again, their preparations are probably a large reason as to why they survived), so Mount Deathfrost waits for another day.

Also, since a couple of us were out in force in our Lamentations of the Flame Princess shirts, we ended up repeatedly explaining about the game system.  Which is good advertising for James Raggi, I suppose.

I only failed to perform two activities this Madicon: we did not make the pilgrimage to Glen's Fair Price Store, and I hoped to debut the Carcosa megadungeon at Madicon 24, but I've been neglecting it in favor of other projects.  Here's hoping to getting it up and running in 2015.

All-in-all, a successful convention.

Monday, February 23, 2015

You Should GM: DM Roundtable

A couple of weeks ago, Wizards of the Coast posted a video offering Dungeon Master advice from DMs around their office.  It's all stuff with which long-term GMs are familiar, but it might be worth a look for anybody just starting out.  And if you have a spare 77 minutes lying around.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Tom Braider

Having recently finished Tomb Raider — despite my previously-stated plan, I decided to pause between Dragon Age II and Dark Souls — and still having AD&D on the brain, I found those two ideas weirdly synchronize.

There'll be mild spoilers ahead, so be wary of those.

For those of you who don't know, this is a reboot of the franchise in which an archaeological expedition hits some foul weather and shipwrecks on an abandoned island in its best Lost impression.  Lara Croft — a mere stripling of an archaeologist, and not the action protagonist treasure-seeker of previous games — is separated from the group.  After almost dying several times, she manages to find the others and uncover the secrets of the island.

Despite the more-or-less linear gameplay, they manage to make a neat little island hexcrawl with all the hallmarks of D&D.  Resource management isn't actually a thing, but one of the first objectives is to find food, and ammunition is always threatening to run out, even though it never truly does.  You don't actually risk starvation, but hunting and foraging are core mechanics.  As befits a game called Tomb Raider, the island is pock-marked by numerous small tombs, and tons of relics dot the island.

Plus, there are (admittedly simplistic) factions.  The main secret of the isle revolves around the worship of the so-called "Sun Queen," and the two groups are mildly antagonistic to each other despite both being her cultists.  (On more than one occasion, the appearance of one group distracts the other, allowing you to escape certain doom.)  On the one hand, you have legions of the Sun Queen's undying samurai, and on the other, you have a cult of shipwreck survivors who believe the Sun Queen will allow them to escape if they can provide her spiritual essence with a new vessel to inhabit.

It's not quite The Isle of Dread, but I would love to run an island hexcrawl of this nature.  Instead of idols and gems and gold, treasure tends to be food and whatever you can scavenge to craft the things you need to survive.  (How often do the crafting rules get game time, anyway?)  And in the meantime, you can have all the D&D weirdness of exploration, magic, secrets, and tombs.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Tower of the Stargazer for 5e

I ran Tower of the Stargazer for D&D 5e, and neglected to put my notes up here.

So, here are Tower of the Stargazer 5e conversion notes.

I used a gold treasure standard, but you're of course free to do as you'd like.

Incidentally, it went about as well as one might expect — the thief fell victim to one of the mirrors, and then wandered off by himself to steal the golden thread, which went about as well as one would expect.  The other three PCs survived, gained the thread, and profited from his fatal mistake.

Friday, January 23, 2015

1d10 Random Villages

Go straight to the entries: 1d10 Random Villages

Some of my associates are planning a round-robin D&D 5e game, and an entry I placed on a random encounter table is "A small village of 30+3d10, nestled in the woods."  Although I have some village building resources, it's always helpful to prepare ahead of time so you don't have to pause the game to generate a village.

So, I made ten of them.  Since that means that anywhere from 0 to 10 results might not get used, someone ought to find some use for them, right?  Why not these fine readers?

Stats are exceedingly minimal, but assume 5e.  (If it matters, the Religion check in entries #2 and #5 should be whatever would reflect an exceedingly difficult check regarding an obscure religion.  In entry #9, the deity should be any Lawful Good deity, and you can change the dragonborn paladin to a human paladin with no particular trouble.  If you don't use paladins, just use a cleric or a religious fighter.  Likewise, if you don't use sorcerers, assume the sorcerer in #9 is a magic-user.)

So, without further ado, 1d10 Random Villages.

Friday, January 2, 2015

The Obligatory Update: 2015 Edition

Sadly, not a whole lot happening on the gaming front.  (At least, not anything truly blog-worthy.)

I'm still running that Dungeon World game.  I don't have much DIY stuff for it, though, because the PCs' responses to most things are Hack and Slash and Volley (usually with intensely graphic descriptions).  They are exceedingly efficient at murdering Scandshar.  I have a couple of extra monsters and magic items, but those will likely stay under wraps for now.  (Although, if you missed The Wendigo compendium class, there's that.)

It looks like Nicole and I are about to play a spot of D&D 5e.  I already have a sorcerer in mind; I don't know what she'll play.

Spelljammer has returned to my headspace and still won't let go after a year and a half; it now comes complete with a character creation document (still in progress, of course).

The current plan is to run A Single, Small Cut and Death Frost Doom at Madicon this year, as a sequel to the Death Love Doom run from two years ago.

A friend of mine wants me to run Rifts, which would require me to read any Palladium book; I have several, but I've never had cause to read them.  I suppose this is just cause.

The Carcosa megadungeon continues to lay fallow.  I think my New Years' resolution should be to get that underway.

I have been playing more video games, however.  I'm currently absorbing Dragon Age: Origins, Dragon Age II, and D&D: Daggerdale.  As I'll likely be playing Dark Souls next, I clearly only play video games that start with "D" anymore.  I think that's why Spelljammer has returned to my headspace; fantasy immersion brings me back to AD&D.  (Plus it helps that Dragon Age is a little sandbox-y, as that's completely what I want for Spelljammer.)

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