Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Majestic Wilderland Monster Stat Block

So we been trying Fantasy Age by Green Ronin and have a lot of fun. When +Tim Shorts ran his adventure he liked their idea for a stat block and figured out how to make using his word processor and desktop publishing software. Then he got my draft for the monsters section of the Majestic Wilderlands RPG I am working on. A week later he suggested that I come with a stat block format for the monsters and items I was creating.


My first major publishing gig was adapting Judges Guild's Thieves of Fortress Badabaskor to DnD 3.5. And I grew to despise creating 3.5 style stat blocks. For Scourge of the Demon Wolf I came up with a one line stat block similar to how TSR formatted their stat blocks in ADnD 1st edition.

But on further reflection I realized that Tim had a point.

For example I don't think this is particularly clear.
It wasn't a major problem with Scourge because the stat blocks were mostly for NPCs and there were only a handful of monsters none of them with a complicated array of abilities.

So I mess around and finally came up with this which Tim liked.
Which I feel is a lot easier to use as a reference during play. And one of my major selling points for the Majestic Wilderlands RPG is that it focuses on usability at the table as opposed to being just a reference for prep.

And it is not without precendent in classic DnD as the first edition Monster Manual also had a multi-line stat block for each entry. So with this done, I went through the monster and did a second pass at editing along with reformatting all the stats into the above format.

In general what I did was went through the Swords and Wizardry text and turned any description of abilities into a item on a list. Most monsters are the same as how they are in the Swords and Wizardry core rules but reformatted. I also came up with new flavor text for most monster to reflect how they exist in my Majestic Wilderlands. I like Tim's idea of harvesting monsters so most monsters have something of value that can be harvested including the magical substance known as viz.

I did make some changes to how Swords and Wizardry, I turned percentages into a d20 roll with the same odds as they were all in 5% increments anyway. I did away bonuses and minuses to saves and attacks in favor of DnD 5e style favored and hindered rolls. (Favored = take the best out of 2d20, Hindered = take the worst out of 2d20). Also if a monster has memorized spells I gave them a typical list of spells. I included one of the Lich's stat blocks in the PDF as an example of that.

Sometime I had a new intrepetation of a classic monster. I included an example of that in the sample PDF for Ceiling Lurker, Piercers, and Trapper Beasts. I re-imagined them as variations of land dwelling manta-rays who can camouflage themselves as stone or natural surfaces.

So now I am back to working on NPCs using a stat block similar to the one I came up for monsters. Note also this is what I call my lunch hour project where I bust out the laptop and get in a half-hour of writing while eating lunch at work. So it will be another few weeks for the next installment to be done and a few months before it's complete. My hobby-time at home is filled with completing paid map projects like the City-State of the Invincible Overlord and others.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Computer Crash

Generally I do my own assembly of the computers I use. Starting in 1989 I had a succession of computer that I upgraded with bit and pieces over the years. One thing I learned is to do is store my creative stuff on multiple hard drives along with off-line backups. First Floppies, then CDs, USB Flash Drives and now I added a 100 GB of Google Drive into the mix.

Well last week the hard drive where I store all my programs died. I tweak my setup to work the way I want it to work so I hate when this happens. I have to reinstall everything and dig out serial numbers and passwords and so forth and so on. The only silver lining is that my working folders are on a separate hard drive and my games are on a third hard drive. And with Steam I already have everything downloaded so the first time I run a game it will install what it needs and I am off playing!

Well I decided this was a good time to do the upgrade to Windows 10. It was quick and easy. Has the fastest boot time I seen of any windows version to date. It also seems to be able to do this to the point where it actually connected to the network. Windows 7 got you to the login quickly but sometime it took a few minutes to finalize your network connection.

All my old drivers work including some off-beat one I use for my Wacom Tablet and 3D Mouse. For those who are interested the Table I use when I do maps and want to draw rivers, coasts, and roads. It has absolute positioning so it wrote more like a pen on paper than a mouse on a screen. The 3D mouse I use for when I run Orbiter Space Simulator or the Kerbal Space Program. I have a Logitech Joystic for attitude control. I use the 3D mouse for translation as it has not only up and down, left and right, but push in and pull out. (And twist, and it tilts four ways but I don't normally use those).

One thing I really liked about Windows 10 is that you can have two different images for dual monitors. I have one normal monitor. The other monitor is rotated 90 degrees into portrait mode. I can write or edit and see a full page at a time. 

Here what the new background looks like.

What you do is copy all the images you want to C:\Windows\Web\Wallpaper\Windows
Do a multi-select by selecting one of the images and then select the other while holding down the CTRL key.
Then right click and select Set as desktop Background.
Then will have multiple images for multiple monitors.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

How I made a Dungeon Part I

On October 3rd I ran a Fantasy Age adventure for my friends Tim, and Dan. Another friend unfortunately wasn't able to make it due to being sick. The general idea is that we get together about once a month to play RPGs and board games face to face. This time it was my turn and after talking about it, I agreed to run a Fantasy Age adventure.

Fantasy Age is intriguing to use as we are looking at an alternative to GURPS. Because Fantasy Age uses a 3d6 roll high system and has a moderate level of detail for combat and character, we have been giving it and Dragon Age a whirl. One nice thing about Fantasy Age/Dragon Age is how they handle "criticals". When you roll you use two dice of one color and one dice of another color. That third dice is called a stunt dice. If you roll a success and two of the three dice numbers match, then you are eligable for stunts. Stunts can do extra damage, allow for increase effects, and a number of other benefits. Stunts are prices in stunt points. The number of stunt points you get is based on the number rolled on the stunt die.

Outside of this the system has a lot of similarity with playing with 3.X/d20/Pathfinder with 3d6 and starting at 3rd level. But where d20 provides options through feats, in Fantasy Age it is the stunts that mixes things up. After playing it a couple of times, I find myself liking it. The cost in game play is limited to looking up costs on a short table. It adds a lot of unpredictability and tactics without complicating the rest of the system.

So now I have to prepare an adventure. I elect to keep it simple and run a dungeon underneath the City State of the Invincible Overlord. The hook as such is that during a recent revolt an entrance to a forgotten sanctum of a powerful mage was uncovered by the crash of a blue dragon. The plan is to start out the players at the famous Seahawk Tavern on Regal Street, subject them to a riot/tavern brawl, discover a map clue to the sanctum, have the dragon crash, and they find the entrance. A bit heavy handed but I felt since this was a one-shot, for now, it was a decent way to get the party to the entrance of the dungeon.

This series of posts is about my efforts to create the dungeon.

First off the concept. My view is that dungeons are like any other locales in having a history and a reason for being. In this case, the dungeon was the sanctum of a mage (think 16th level) from two centuries ago. That it has been looted in the past but not completely. What left is the equivalent of a 1st level dungeon for Fantasy Age.

The mage, Aldrous was a member of the Guild of Arcane Lord in City-State and an opponent of the Guild leader Salm-Lorin who eventually became an Overlord of the City-State. Salm-Lorin is known to history as the Tyrant and his reign was looked on as a dark period in City-State's history. The consequence for the dungeon that part of Aldrous' preparations for his final confrontation, which he lost, was sealing the entrance so it couldn't be found except by him.

However I decided the dungeon would have a second entrance to the sewers which was the reason it was able to be looted in the intervening years. The sewers always been a big part of my City-State campaigns so I figured they should be incorporated.

With that in mind I decided the Dungeon will be in two parts. One would be an abandoned barracks area connected to the basement entrance and that it would be mostly stocked with vermin. The back half with the sewer entrance was the actual sanctum of the mage.

Next Post will be on how I designed and drew the map.

Friday, September 25, 2015

The One where I get GUMSHOE

My friend +Tim Shorts is a big fan of GUMSHOE and used it effectively to run a fun supernatural campaign using the Esoterrorists rules.

And I never really got the point of the system. The campaign yes but not the system we were using. The who "find your clue automatically part" was throwing me off. I understood the problem caused by missed dice rolls when running campaign around solving mysteries however GUMSHOE's solution was going completely over my head.

Then I found that Pelgrane Press had a System Reference Document under the Open Game License. It is stripped of any setting or genre specific reference and lays out the system in a way that I finally got it.

The key was this sentence on page 28
Assuming that they look in the right place and apply appropriate abilities to the task, GUMSHOE ensures that the heroes get the basic clues they need to move through the story.
Now I can see how the character can still miss a clue or even only score a partial success. You still have to be in the right place with the right ability. Got it.

One thing I found useful in recent years is to learn how to play and referee systems that are out of my usual range. I find that broaden the range of techniques that I can bring to bear on the campaigns that I run with the systems that I like best (GURPS, Hero System, ODnD, Traveller, etc). One of my weakness is running procedural mysteries like the ones found in Sherlock Holmes.

GURPS Mysteries has a lot of great advice and is probably the best book on the subject in the hobby. Given that people like Robin Laws was involved I though it was important to figure it out.

And I am glad I did, as it solidifies my thoughts on the subject and reinforces what I been developing over the past decade for my sandbox campaign. Basically I assume a certain level of competency if the player has the skills or the levels and will deliberately give more information about a situation than otherwise would be called for by a strict interpretation of ability/skill rolls.

That failed rolls on an attempt doesn't mean automatic failure. There will be a negative consequence like it taking longer or something break. I reserve utter failure to critical failures like rolling a 1 in DnD or a 17, or 18 in GURPS. I use the traditional succeed/fail if the character in a time critical situation like combat.

My day job involves supporting customers using my company's metal cutting machine. I observe that utter failure to solve a problem or implement a feature are very rare. Where things differ is how long it takes to solve a problem or to implement a feature. That the best employees at where I work are able to solve things faster because of their high skill in a particular area. So for me the skill roll is more of a question of "How long does it take the character to do X." Then a utter failure.

As for GUMSHOE the system is a bit too lite for my taste, but I find the advice on structuring investigations and mysteries very useful to stand alongside what is said in GURPS Mysteries.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Blackmarsh and ACKS

Koewn over on the Crowbar and Brick blog is writing a series of post on using Blackmarsh with Adventurer, Conqueror, King.

I pointed out that I have this Map available if he needs more room. If you use Dwimmermount swap out the southland rectangle out for the Southland of Dwimmermount.

Click for full size

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

A follow up to my letter to Steve Wieck

I didn't get a direct reply but I got a letter to publishers today from OBS on the issue along with the proposed policy which I will share with you.

Looks like they are dealing with the concerns I had about automatic reporting. I like the idea of a white list where a product that flagged, been reviewed and found NOT offensive is not subject to repeated reviews. This means that the publishers that generate controversy will not get repeatably bothered about the same product over and over again. Once a publisher successfully dealt with the process it over for that product.

Also since we are dealing a handful of reviewers in what is a small company, I hope that they will do the common sense thing if a publisher entire list is targeted and they finding that it works goes on the white list.. By the umpteenth occurrence the publisher's line should be given a brief review and then everything should be white-listed as obviously that publisher being targeted.   Only new products subject to the normal process afterwards.

Of course nothing is going to change the fact that the whole thing is a highly subjective judgment. And the only way to ease concern about that is to establish a track record. So we will just have to wait and see on that. Which in my opinion would be the case regardless of how liberal or restrictive of a policy they adopted.

In the end it as much people as it is policy. The policy is what gives structure but the people involved is what defines it. In the hand of one group even the most liberal policy can be a vehicle for tyranny of a narrow view while in the hands of another used to create something that supports free expression.

What is the process for flagging offensive titles? 
Step 1: Customer reports a product.
Step 2: A human being at OneBookShelf does a cursory review to determine if the title should be temporarily suspended from sale or not. Either way the product is put in queue for review.
Step 3: A more thorough review of the product in completed. If deemed not offensive the product is whitelisted. If deemed potentially offensive then...
Step 4: We have expanded internal review and discussion with publisher possibly resulting in publisher retraction of the title or banning of the title.

Will a title be turned off automatically if it is flagged?
No, just because a title is flagged as offensive, it will not be automatically turned off. This process will send alerts to our staff for quick review. If our staff sees a product that is problematic, they will temporarily suspend it for further review.

Who will review the offensive titles list? 
Steve Wieck, C.E.O., who has the final say on titles marked as offensive.
Scott Holden, Marketing and Development
Matt McElroy, Director of Publishing and Marketing
Meredith Gerber, RPG Publisher Relations
Other OneBookShelf staff as deemed helpful for particular products.

I am concerned that a group that may not like myself, my company, or my product will report the title as offensive over and over until it gets pulled. How will this affect the process?
We understand that there are groups within the industry that may not be in favor of the other, but we will only be looking at the content of the product itself. Our only focus is what the content of the title is not what the author’s personal ideology is on their blog or what the artist’s criminal record is, or what other products the publisher has created or anything else outside of the product itself.

Will you be contacting the publisher before, during, or after a review? 
You will receive an email from us when your product is reported as offensive. The email will let you know if we have temporarily suspended the product or not while we review it. After we review the product you will get an email from us letting you know the product was whitelisted (and re-activated if it was suspended) or letting you know we would like to chat on the phone with you because there is potentially a problem with the product.

Will you be giving scrutiny to certain topics? 
We're going to give extra scrutiny to rape, real world racial violence, torture, sexism, homophobia, and crimes against children.

What is white list?
The White List refers to titles on site that have gone through the review process and determined not to offensive.

What can I do to be on the white list?
Nothing. Only titles that are reported as offensive and reviewed as not offensive are white listed. It is not a privileged status to desire for your products.

Are products grandfathered in?
With our library of thousands of products, we will not be able to go through every single title to make sure it is approved by our staff. We will, however, treat old products just like new ones when they’re marked as offensive.

How will you conduct this process with old titles? 
If a product is flagged as offensive, we will be going through the same process.

What if I don’t like another publisher’s title? 
Just as we expected publishers not to review one another's’ titles on site, we expect publishers not to flag another publisher’s title offensive on site. Customer accounts associated to publisher accounts will not be able to report titles as offensive. If you see something on site that you feel is genuinely offensive then you can email publisher service and let us know.

When will this be enforced?
We need to code the system for flagging titles. We expect it to be done by the end of October or sooner.

Should I be concerned about the new policy and how it will affect my marketplace?
At this time, we have not yet banned an RPG title.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Rural Criminals in the Majestic Wilderlands

While the population of a village is too small to sustain a criminal underworld, some villages will have the misfortune of having a faction of toughs. And a rare few will even be controlled by the toughs although this usually requires the indifference or cooperation of the liege lord.

Village Tough, Init +0; AC 8[11]; 1st level Thug; HP 4; ATK 1; HTB +1; DMG 1d4+2 (club, tool); Mv 120’; Save 15; ABL Athletics +2; Intimidation +1; Professional (Farming) +1; Special: +1 to damage to all weapons;
Attrib: Str 13 (+1); Dex 10 (+0); Con 10 (+0); Int 10 (+0); Wis 8 (-1); Cha 10 (+0);
Posses: Clothes, Club (1d4+2), Farm Tools, 8d.

The village tough is a typical member of this faction.

Village Tough Leader, Init +0; AC 8[11]; 3rd level Thug; HP 10; ATK 1; HTB +3; DMG 1d4+4 (club, tool); Mv 120’; Save 13; ABL Area Knowledge (Local Region) +1; Athletics +4; Intimidation +2; Professional (Farming) +1; Special: +2 to damage to all weapons;
Attrib: Str 15 (+2); Dex 10 (+0); Con 10 (+0); Int 10 (+0); Wis 10 (+0); Cha 12 (+1);
Posses: Clothes, Club (1d4+4), Farm Tools, 50d.

The leader of the village toughs often is the individual who is the strongest and most charismatic. He also usually has extensive knowledge of the local region and knows where local bandits, smugglers, and the rare fence are located.