Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Blackmoor: Soran'ren - The Honored Elder (Dave Arneson Day!)

Soran'ren of Jackport

Brief: Living in a seashore cave along the beaches near Jackport is Soran'ren, the Scroll Merchant. A Tortle who is purported to be one of the oldest beings of the North. In his cave, he is often puttering over his inks and parchments made of kelp. He enjoys the taste of fruit, which is often the price he asks from the locals in exchange for scrolls of healing that he pens. While ostensibly a scroll merchant to adventurers, Soran'ren is more than that, he is a great scholar, and his work showing the history of the North can be found painted in colors of turquoise, white, and red on his cave walls.

As an NPC - Soran'ren serves two rolls. He is scroll master, able to transcribe magical powers into scrolls. His specialty generally focuses on healing and protection over direct attacks, although when asked to make an offensive scroll, Soran'ren scribes spells of acid or cold for the party wizard to use. He is a Sage, having the Advantage on almost any History or Arcana check, or he may automatically make his checks to give the information the PC's might need on a certain subject. He is, essentially, a GM's tool to help guide the party.

Quick Facts About Soran'ren

-As the Eldest Being of the North, Soran'ren remembers the event known as the ring of fire. The Ring as it is sometimes known, was massive portal event that sheared away several dimensional versions of Blackmoor and scattered them throughout the multiverse. One version of Blackmoor was warped and shaped over Oerth, another was blasted on Mystara until it was destroyed - the greatest sages of Blackmoor College believe it either the will of the divine, or a mistake by an archmage. Soran'ren is the only one willing to divulge the event, he does not know why it was done.

-Major threats to Soran'ren and the Tortle people are agents of the Egg of Coot. The Egg despises Tortles and views them as a threat to its existence on the plane of Blackmoor. For while the Egg is near immortal, it is the Tortle (and extension Soran'ren) who may hold the key to banishing the malevolent blob back to its home dimension. The Egg has many plans in motion, one of which is to kill or enslave Tortles.

-While used as a friendly NPC - if numbers are concern, Soran'ren is a 15+ Wizard who uses scrolls as a casting focus.

-Enjoys fruit. Imported oranges from the south are a delicacy to Soran'ren. He also eats more northern varieties such as apples or cherries. He often takes them as payment from locals. From adventurers his price is often favors or a rare item for his work. His rewards are often scrolls or information that is vital to the party.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

No, I'm not dead. I've just been playing Classic WoW

Had to remove some of this from around my door

It seems like every once in a while I vanish from the blogging scene. A lot of times this is accompanied by me deleting everything on the blog, but I am making great progress in resisting my self-destructive tendencies. Suffice to say, I've been away after falling under the effects of cold which made me irritable and lazy. I have also been playing a roleplaying game on the side called World of Warcraft: Classic.

How can WoW: Classic really be considered a role-playing game? I would argue that it along with roughly the first two expansions: Burning Crusade & Wrath of the Lich King, WoW had several roots in tabletop rpgs. It may not have mimicked one-for-one its ancestors, but there were elements from the game that could be traced back to the source. Such as:

Ragnaros, the Fire Lord
Attributes: Modern WoW still has attributes of a sort, but generally center around only one or two attributes in the game. Playing a modern WoW hunter, the only stats the games shows me is my agility score and the sub-groups that affect my ability. WoW Classic assigns a set (an array if you will) to several attribute scores which closely resemble their D&D counterparts such as: Strength, Agility (Dexterity for table-top), Stamina (Constitution), Spirit (Wisdom), and Intelligence. Granted, as a computer game with fixed interaction, they dumped off Charisma entirely. A limitation to the computer game that I will grant.

Dungeons & Travel: WoW Classic's connection to table top could be seen by the method in which one goes about getting into a dungeon. You do not simply teleport into one (like current WoW) you actually have to walk on the dungeons. Every step you take brings with it a chance for a random encounter. Of course, the encounters in WoW are much... much more frequent.

Emphasis on the Party: Okay, this connection is a little more tenuous. You want a party in D&D, because you are probably playing with friends. D&D is a social game of make-believe, and while possible solo, it really shines when you and your friends go forth to perform feats of derring-do. WoW in both it's current and classic state doesn't outright say you need a party, or a party of your friends. In the case of WoW Classic it's just highly advised you team up in order to quickly accomplish the objective. I will say, in this modern age, it is a lot easier for friends to get together to play WoW. Services like Discord make organization and VOIP much more convenient compared to the electronic voiced Teamspeaks of yesteryear.

Alright, I guess I'm done shilling WoW enough that if I was getting a check, it would have probably been cleared. I do plan to get back into blogging when I feel I have something to blog about. I will say, in terms of gaming, I have been enjoying 5e when I can play and view it generally as a happy medium between the older editions that fascinated me (especially 2e) and the more modern mechanics that I enjoyed from the 3rd edition era. I would also like to say, when I'm in a tinkering mood, that I really enjoy Microlite5e still. I won't say it'll be 5e from here on out, but don't be surprise if you see more of that content come out of the Gnomish Embassy.

Friday, August 16, 2019

AtD: Character Creation

Against the Darkmaster is billed as a tribute/love letter to MERP (Middle-Earth Roleplay) and 80's fantasy cinema (Labyrinth, Willow, The Dark Crystal, Conan...). It takes a lot of nods from early Rolemaster with % dice and consulting tables. The game was backed on Kickstarter and what I'm using is a set of Quick Start rules that I will link below.

Unlike Mutant Epoch, there is no random choice from character type or vocation. Rather than worry on that step, I decided to go along with the concept of a tribute and make a tribute to my Dwarven Animist that I had originally made in MERP and lost... so let's take a look at Faldir, son of Fafnir.

Step 1 - Attribute Allocation

Darkmaster (the shortened form  I plan to use from here on out) eschews randomization in favor of player choice. For attributes, players are given 50 attribute points are allowed to distribute in 5 point increments over 6 stats, the stats are as follows: Brawn, Swiftness, Fortitude, Wits, Wisdom, and Bearing - which come off as re-workings of the D&D 6. To speed things along, the rules also offer a set of pre-made arrays that I shall list below. The arrays are not named, that I came up with myself. We get the following offers:

Focused: +20, +15, +10, +5, +0, +0
Specialized: +25, +20, +5, +0, +0, +0
Well-Rounded: +10, +10, +10, +10, +5, +5

For Faldir, I decided on the Focused array and distributed the numbers over my stats. I'm an Animist, so I know where my +20 is going into. We get the following attribute stats.

Brawn: +15
Swiftness: +0
Fortitude: +10
Wit: +5
Wisdom: +20
Bearing: +0

We see that Faldir is Wise, Tough, and Strong with a touch of rational intelligence. He lacks physical grace and is rather plain looking, but that's okay, most Dwarven marriages are arranged anyway. I'm not quite finished with attributes as I now apply stat mods for being a Dwarf. I get the following modifications: Brawn +5, Swift: -5, Fort: +15, Wisdom: +5, Bear: -5 - the final look at the stats are below:

Brawn: +20
Swiftness: -5
Fortitude: +25
Wits: +5
Wisdom: +25
Bearing: -5

He's even stronger, tougher, and wiser, conversely he is also clumsier and is very, very much plain. Most of that plainness however is covered by a beard. His low Bearing also equates not just to physical beauty, but also charm. I imagine, like most Dwarves, he is a touch of gruff or stoic compared to his taller companions.

Step 2 - Note Racial Abilities & Culture

Every race, even common Man, has some sort of racial ability that makes them unique. Dwarves get the following that I Note.

Darksight - can see in total darkness as dim conditions at a range of 30 meters (90 ft).

Forgekin: +30 Resistance Rolls vs. Heat or Cold based spells and effects. Also receives +30 to crafting using the forge and with materials such as stone or metal.

Stoneborn: +20 to the skills Nature & Wandering while in an underground environment. Nature is noticing an identifying a phenomenon found in the wild (in the Dwarf's case the difference between stalactites and stalagmites). Wandering is the game's Survival skill that allows Dwarves to survive underground (which mosses and lichens are safe to eat, how to find water and etc.)

Moving from that, we look at Culture. Culture takes place of Adolescent skills found in MERP. They represent a pre-adventuring build for the character and comes in several varieties. Some of these go naturally together, for instance, Dwarves often take Deep culture, which represents their upbringing in a Dwarven mine complex (like the Lonely Mountain). In this case, Faldir is the son of refugees and lives in one of the free cities of Men. His cultural background is City. By growing up in the City, Faldir gets the following bonuses and ranks:

City Ranks
Armor - Rank: 1
Blunt Weapons - Rank: 1
Blade Weapons: Rank: 1
Polearm Weapons: Rank: 1
Ranged Weapons: Rank: 1
Brawl: Rank: 1
Athletics: Rank: 1
Acrobatics: Rank: 1
Stealth: Rank: 1
Locks & Traps: Rank: 1
Perception: Rank: 1
Deceive: Rank: 2
Arcana: Rank: 1
Charisma: Rank: 2
Cultures: Rank: 3
Songs and Tales: Rank: 2

Wealth Level: +1
Starting Equipment (I choose this from a small list of options): Leather Jerkin, Battleaxe, Bandages & Healing Salve.

Step 3 - Vocation & Background

While I mentioned earlier that these were Quick Start rules, I did not note that some kins (their word for Race) and vocations are listed, but with no detail as they are not available in the rules. They are expected to show up in the Against the Darkmaster corebook due out this fall. So, for our vocational choices we have Warrior, Wizard, Rogue, and Animist.

Animist is the class of healers, holy men, and the like. They are not quite as combat effective as a D&D Cleric, but they are do carry some survival skill compared to the Wizard. As an Animist, my class gains the following ranks per level. The ranks are below:

Armor: +0 Ranks
Combat: +1 Rank
Adventuring: +2 Ranks w/ +5 Hunting, +15 Nature, & +5 Wandering
Roguery: +1 Rank w/ +5 Perception, +5 Deceive
Lore: +4 Ranks w/ +10 Arcana, +5 Charisma, +5 Cultures, +15 Healer, +5 Song & Tales
Spells: +5 Ranks w/ +10 Spellcasting
Body: +0 Ranks
Magic Points/Level: 2

We'll talk about the whole Spell ranks and lores on a later step as they are wildly different compared to what a MERP player would recognize. For now, I distribute my rank pints into a number of skills that are listed below each subject. 

For instance, Combat includes all of the weapon skills (Blunt, Blade, Ranged, and etc). I looked up what Battleaxe is covered under and noted it is considered a Blade or Blunt weapon. I decide to use it as a blunt weapon, thus putting my skill point under Blunt. For the first 10 or so ranks, their value is equal to Rank x 5. So my 2 ranks placed in Blunt are equal to +10 (2 x 5). I begin distributing my points to the get the following skills.

Blunt Weapons: Rank 2 (+10)
Ride: Rank 1 (+5)
Nature: Rank: 1 (+5)
Perception: Rank 2 (+10)
Cultures: Rank 4 (+20)
Songs & Tales: Rank 3 (+15)

Note: I accounted for the skill totals modified by ranks, I have several other skills that have at least 1 rank from my background. Those will be noted at the end.

Moving on from Vocations, we take a look at Backgrounds. Backgrounds are special powers and abilities that characters can purchase through Background points. The points vary depending on kin. Men & Halflings have the largest pool of Background Points at 5. The ancient and venerable Star Elves begin play with 2 background points. Dwarves get 4 Background points. I decide to purchase 1 major background and 1 minor background.

Minor Heirloom (1 point): Faldir's battleaxe is actually a minor heirloom of the family. It is a +10 (Magic) Battleaxe and can thus hit creatures who are immune to mundane attacks.

Keeper of Secret Lore (Major; 3 Points): Faldir's family has some secret lore involving Rune Magic. He gains +2 Ranks in Spell Lore which he can use to purchase and upgrade his magic. Having Major access to this knowledge, he also gains +1 Magic Points per level, however, he also has enemies in the world the GM can send after him. Enemies that are either desiring his knowledge in Rune Magic or wish to stamp out Rune Magic from the world. If I was asked what kind of enemies would go after Faldir, I would suggest members of his former clan who are upset that outcast city Dwarves are using clan magics without authorization.

Step 4 - Magic

So now comes to Magic, and these rules read very different from what I recall from playing MERP. One is the concept of Spell Ranks. These are rank points you place in a certain field of magic. There are both Open and Closed lists of magic, the open are available to either class (in this case Animist or Wizard) to a maximum of 5th level while the Closed Lists are specific to a certain school of magic. The big difference is that the type of spells a caster can theoretically cast as long as they have the mana is equal to the rank placed in the skill as opposed to level.

For instance, Faldir has 5 ranks +2 in his background for a total of 7 ranks to distribute across spells. He places 3 ranks in Healing. This not only gives him +15 when he casts healing spells, but allows him at first level to cast the 3rd weave healing spell (Which is called Unstun).

Of course, magic in the world of Darkmaster costs magic points. Magic points are accrued from a combination of class (2 for Animist), from attributes (+1 for every 10 points. Faldir's +25 Wis gives him +2 points), and from other sources (like Faldir's background of +2). Faldir's total Magic Points is 5 - given that the cost of casting at a weave is equal to it's placement number, Faldir could cast 1 Unstun (level 3, which costs 3) and still have 2 points over for a spell like Clotting or Healing. 

Faldir's ranks are distributed below as follows:
Healing: Rank: 3 (+15)
Detections: Rank: 2 (+10)
Chanting: Rank: 1 (+5)
Master of Animals: Rank: 1 (+5)

Note: Out of these lore groups, Detections is a combination of a Wizard group and an Open group. Faldir is allowed to put ranks in this group up to Rank 5.

Step 5 - Finishing Touches

We've established Faldir's main weapon (His magical battle axe) and armor (Leather Jerkin). Without body development, Faldir does not get extra hit points. He does get +40 HP from being a Dwarf and +25 due to this Fortitude stat. So even without Body Development poits, he maintains a pretty healthy 65. Like MERP, if I happen to level Faldir, I can choose to trade 2 points from my other skill areas and purchase a point in another field, for instance I could use 2 points from the Lore category (in which I get 4) and give Faldir Rank 1 in Body Development granting him +5. It is noted in the Dwarf entry that the maximum HP that Faldir may have is 150.

Along with HP, I note that Faldir has 1 Drive Point. This is another common feature with modern games, Fate Points, Bennies, Drive Points. It's a point that Faldir has that I can spend to give him a bonus to attacks or activate special abilities. Every session I begin with 1 and can can earn more, but never carry them over.

As for other gear: probably give him some torches, flint and tinder, other minor items depending on how much of a stickler of a GM I have. The game notes I get a free sidearm, which would probably be a knife that Faldir carries.

Name: Faldir, son of Fafnir
Kin: Dwarf / Vocation: Animist (1) / Culture: City

Brawn: +20 (Base: +15 / Kin: +5)
Swiftness: -5 (Base: +0 / Kin: -5)
Fortitude: +25 (Base: +10 / Kin: +15)
Wits: +5 (Base: +5)
Wisdom: +25 (Base: +20 / Kin: +5)
Bearing: -5 (Base: +0 / Kin: -5)

Armor: R: 1 (+5) / Item (Leather Jerkin): -10 = -5

Blades: R: 1 (+5) / Brawn: +20 = +25
Blunt: R: 2 (+10) / Brawn: +20 / Item (Magic Battleaxe): +10 / = +40
Brawl: R: 1 (+5) / Brawn: +20 = +25
Polearms R: 1 (+5) Brawn: +20 = +25
Ranged: R: 1 (+5) / Swift: -5 = +0

Athletics: Brawn: +20 = +20
Hunting: Wit: +5 / Vocation: +5 = +10
Nature: R: 1 (+5) / Wis: +25 / Voc: +15 = +45
Ride: R: 1 (+5) / Swift: -5 = +0
Wandering: Wis: +25 / Voc: +5 = +30

Acrobatics: R: +1 (+5) / Swift: -1 = +0
Deceive: R: 2 (+10) / Wit: +5 / Voc: +5 = +20
Locks & Traps: R: 1 (+5) / Wit: +5 = +10
Perception: R: 2 (+10) / Wis: +25 / Voc: +5 = +40
Stealth: R: 1 (+5) / Swift: -5 = +0

Arcana: R: 1 (+5) / Wit: +5 / Voc: +10 = +20
Charisma: Bea: -5 / Voc: +5 = +0
Cultures: Rank: 4 (+20) / Wit: +5 / Voc: +5 = +30
Healer: Rank: 1 (+5) / Wis: +25 / Voc: +15 = +45
Songs & Tales: R: 3 (+15) / Bea: -5 / Voc: +5 = +15

Body Development: Fort: +25 / Kin: +40 = +65 / HP: 65 / Bruise Threshold (-20 to All Actions at this Number or less): 33

Magic & Spell Lores
Magic Points per Level: +5 / Magic Pool: 5
Magical Attribute: Wisdom

Healing: R: 3 (+15) / Wis: +25 / Voc: +10 = +50 / Weave Level: 3
Detections: R: 2 (+10) / Wis: +25 / Voc: +10 = +45 / Weave Level: 2
Chanting: R: 1 (+5) / Wis: +25 / Voc: +10 = +40 / Weave Level: 1
Master of Animals: R: 1 (+5) / Wis: +25 / Voc: +10 = +40 / Weave Level: 1

Drive Points: +1

Defense (Leather Jerkin; Soft Leather; Light Armor): Swiftness: -5 / Total Defense: -5

Resistance Rolls
Fortitude: +25 / Kin: +20 / Level x 5: +5 = +50
Wisdom: +25 / Kin: +20 / Level x 5: +5 = +50

Equipment: Backpack, Torches (x3), Tinderbox, Battleaxe +10 (Magic), Knife, Rope, Rations, Waterskin

Against the Darkmaster - A tribute to MERP & 80's cinema can be found HERE
Against the Darkmaster Quick Rules - Can be directly accessed from Drivethrurpg as a Pay What You Want. You can find that out HERE.