Sunday, December 29, 2013

What would I change if I could?

Legend Quest has been going strong for over twenty years now, so I am not ready to turn anything within the game too much on its ear. However, over the last couple of weeks there have been a couple of things that jumped out at me - things I kind of wish I could change.

1 - I’m still upset with myself for making Seduction a 6 point skill while making Carousing and Etiquette 3 point skills. Feel free to change that in your game!
2 - A copper coin is worth too much. If you have Grain Into Gold, then you’ve seen that onions (for example) cost 0.4cc per pound. Cabbage is 0.3cc. Now in Rhum (and therefore most other areas of my game world) I have introduced the “bit”. It’s a quarter of a copper coin. This worked extremely well, because if you know the Wild West, you know that two bits are a quarter of a dollar. Well, when I created Rhum and Legend Quest back in the early 90s, I use to say that a silver coin was worth about $5, thus “two bits” of a copper coin would have been 25¢. Well, now with Grain Into Gold and the other products due out in 2014, that doesn’t work. It especially doesn’t work because of inflation. Anyway - There is no real way to buy something small. You can invent a much lower value coin for your world, but the truth is that no money changer would bother making them - There isn’t enough profit in it to hammer out the coins themselves.
3 - This one is a little easier to fix: An axe used to chop wood is clearly a two-handed weapon, but an “axe” in LQ is a one-handed weapon that does 1½S damage with a Strength Needed of 5. So, just assume that there is another thing, often called a “wood axe”, that is a two-handed weapon. This has a SN=4 and does 1S. It is also of tool strength (if made for a lumberjack, just standard for a home). If you don’t understand tool vs. standard vs. combat ready, you may want to take a look at the Optional Weapons supplement.

As I think of more things I’m unhappy with, I’ll post those too.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Killing - Do you have to?

I remember my very first FRPG game session. My first character (priest/healer type) died in the first room. So we rolled up new characters and went back at it. Second character - a mage type - put the spiders who had killed the last character to sleep and we won the first room. While they were asleep, I killed them. Every time I put something to sleep, I used my dagger and “cut his throat”. It was just the thing to do. Now I did question my GM the first time. I asked if that was OK, and he assured me that I could still be a “good” person and slit throats. Well I’m not 12 anymore and I don’t agree.

Do we have to always kill people in FRPGs? Look at the classics, stories like the Three Musketeers and Ivanhoe. They don’t always kill the bad guy. OK, sometimes it bites them in the @$$, but sometimes it works out for them. I wish that there was a little more surrendering in games, and less slitting of throats. Maybe a little capturing. But why would a FRPG character not kill someone?

1 - Ransom. The main income of low born knights was the capturing and ransoming of enemy knights. It got so out of hand that there were battles where one side would be losing their forces because they were off protecting the prisoners they had already taken. If player characters can make money, they can be incented to do things.
2 - You don’t want to be cold blooded. In my campaigns, if you cold bloodedly kill people, it affects your Carousing and other social skills. Psycho killers make themselves known, even if it is just that cold or crazy look in their eyes. Want to be the face man for the party and talk to all the locals? Better not be slitting throats.
3 - Because like begets like. In other words, if the campaign world is built on the idea that ransoming and capturing are the way to go, then if the party is ever overwhelmed, they don’t need to be killed. They can be captured. Maybe there is someone who can pay a ransom - Maybe one character is released to gather funds. I have successfully captured an entire party and forced them into indentured service - making them perform three missions for their captors. They were both mercenary forces in a merchant war, so there was nothing personal about it.
4 - Because people you let live owe you. If you think you’re going to try this, let the first guy they let go give them something. Maybe he reveals an ambush, tells them who the secret enemy is, appears out of nowhere to show them a secret passage when they are about to get their butts kicked, whatever. If the first time they let someone live, he comes back with a bigger force and attacks, then they start thinking, “Well that was stupid - should of killed him.” So be overly generous and hope to convince them of the new normal.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Your Army is Doing What?

I often struggle with having massive standing armies in fantasy worlds. As you probably know from this blog - I have a tendency to dwell (probably too much) on the mundane things like feeding people and housing people. Having a large group of guys sitting around unproductively (between wars) is a drain on the entire community.

Wait! Don’t think I’m ignoring the importance of an army, whether it be fantasy or real. What I’m really saying is that letting soldiers sit around and do nothing is really bad! “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” Leaving a massive group of well-armed and well-trained guys to get bored will end in disaster, or at least a military coup. So what do you do with them?

Before we get into soldiers, I want to stress the use of militias. Most of my fantasy kingdoms seem to have very few soldiers, but they have a trained militia. Militias allow for two things - peasants who are not push overs and a swelling of the army if the kingdom is ever attacked. These are good things! The army may be 2,000, but with the militia it is 10,000 trained (or at least semi-trained) soldiers - much more difficult for the invaders to take advantage of.

OK, so soldiers, between the wars. The main pursuit of soldiers if sentry duty. Sentries stand a post and look for danger, but there are several variations on how this can work. They could be wall guards, literally walking the walls of the castle or city wall. This is boring work; watch out for idle hands. They can be border guards, standing sentry at the kingdom’s boundaries. Here they are often the guys supporting the customs and tax officials. A tax collector standing on the border is not going to be able to collect from a caravan with dozens of guards, but a tax collector backed by two platoons of armed and ready soldiers stands a far better chance. But there are also those soldiers who’s job is to patrol the forests and middle lands, typically for bandits. This is a sentry job too, just a moving one. Most folks probably think this is what soldiers always do between major wars, but there is so much more they could be doing.

- Construction - The Roman Legions were great builders. They built the roads and the walls. Some folks believe that Hadrian’s Wall was built simply to keep the legions busy so they wouldn’t have time to think about assimilating with the Scots. Today we have the Army Corps of Engineers. They build all sorts of major projects, though they probably are not a material part of our forces (by numbers). So the precedent is definitely there to have soldiers building stuff.

- Messengers - Does your fantasy world have a postal service? If so, who’s carrying the messages? Can they be trusted? Letting military units carry the messages, especially if they are cavalry, gets the job done, keeps the soldiers busy, protects the message by force, and allows the unit to review region (checking for those pesky bandits and poachers).

- Police - Soldiers are not police. Soldiers fight (at least typically - I know this whole post is about what else they do). Police keep the peace and investigate. That’s not the same thing. That’s why standard soldiers do not make for good policemen; it’s just two different disciplines. However, using soldiers as police is a time honored tradition. Soldiers are best used when extra police are needed - like when there is a riot brewing. At these points, no one really cares if the soldiers are too rough - they do what needs to be done. Do be careful here, because if your culture believes in people possibly being innocent, sending a bunch of spear stabbers to “capture” the suspects usually doesn’t end well.

- Athletes - I don’t want to get into whining over the “amateurs” that go to the modern Olympic games, but some countries clearly believe that they can employ athletes within the army. This may seem frivolous, but what sports are popular in your fantasy world? In mine, it’s mainly what we see as track and field events. Having military units who are training for running, jumping and throwing events, and then performing those events at public competitions - that’s the stuff that national pride is made of. Whether it is unit against unit or kingdom against kingdom, these events keep the soldiers busy and keep the public entertained. I do not advocate gladiatorial competitions between soldiers.

What else? Any of a huge number of things! Construction might also include such things as digging canals, painting buildings, or building fences. What about ship building? There might be reason to have the soldiers trained as smiths and be making armor and weapons for themselves and for the militia. There is always training, but training can get boring pretty fast. Military exercises are less boring, but still training. Soldiers often have some fashion of first aid training - can they use that to help civilians in peacetime? What about firemen? Someone needs to pull down burning buildings, and soldiers are typically brave enough to do it. There are other fields as well. If you agreed with having military smiths, then having soldiers mine the iron or cure the leather seem reasonable next steps. In Forsbury, it is common to go from being one of the Baron’s cowboys to being one of his Border Watch (light cav).

Not enough? There is no rule that everyone has to do the same thing, so break it up a bit. Also remember that an army lives or dies on their logistics. Not to suggest that the soldiers take up farming their own food, but they might be active in moving barrels and cases of food around from ship to storehouse and from storehouse to barracks. Simply transporting goods around the city for their own purposes should keep quite a number of them busy at all times.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Royalty - Expanded

Here is a review of our product Royalty: The Royalty is another useful niche product from the people who brought us Grain Into Gold. It does what it purports to do: it comes with a boatload of NPCs. It's sadly not as much of a look at processes as Grain into Gold is – it's a collection. If you need a menagerie of connected NPC aristocrats of various sorts, many of which are relatively generic if not for the intricate family lines, then this would be a useful product. I find that the NPCs could've used some more expansion, and more of a variance – there's an awful lot of whining miscreants and cheeky gossips. Rating: [4 of 5 Stars!] Despite his criticism, he still gave us 4 stars. We take this criticism very seriously. Because Royalty was intended to be used to fill out the most commonly met people in a fantasy world court, there is an overabundance of courtiers and gossip mongers. In an effort to address this issue, we have expanded Royalty with 50 additional NPCs. These folks are the ones who may not be as visible or may be actively hidden. We hope this addresses your comments and keeps our customers happy! Enjoy! You can see Royalty - Expanded here.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Alchemist's Lab

Board Enterprises has published and released a new product - The Alchemist's Lab - A Guide to Magical Manufacturers In most game worlds, the alchemists sit in their dungeon laboratories and craft potions of all manners, sinister and benign. Typically, if they are in a major city, they are churning out healing potions for the adventurers. The same can be said of the enchanters, slaving away making magical swords and armor. But what do they do for themselves? Making magic is a difficult task, yet these brilliant researchers never seem to take the time to invent things that will directly help them. Even if all their doing is finding better ways to make the magical swords, they really need to spend a little time enhancing their labs. This book does that. Here you will find dozens of products and techniques that can be used to make making magic easier. For player character alchemists, this book is required reading. For GMs, it can be a wonderful source of background color, loot, and/or explanations for why you do or don’t allow the sale of magical items in your world. This book is written in a generic format, so that the items can be used in the widest range of magical role-playing games. This supplement contains: 51 pages of content. Artwork is kept to a minimum to deliver more to you the reader. over 250 different items in the price list - from the mundane to the highly magical All that for less than $4 The Alchemist's Lab on e23 The Alchemist's Lab on RPG Now

Sunday, December 1, 2013

A Couple of Guys who Need Grain Into Gold

My son is a huge fan of the web comic Goblins. I have to admit, it has certainly brought a chuckle to me more than once. Link to this particular episode. You don't need to know anything about the series for this to be funny, just have played "those other games". If you have ever had that discussion around your gaming table - check out Grain Into Gold. This is a fantasy economy that actually works!

Cups (like for drinking)

There are numerous ways to try and get your players to get into the idea of role-playing. Sometimes it’s something small like forcing them to determine what kind of cup they want to use. After all in the fantasy world, there are no drinking fountains (that’s bubblers for you Wisconsin folks) and no Dixie cups. (for you Southerns, there are Dixie cups in the North and no one considers them racist.) So what do they use? In my fantasy towns, the fastest way to find yourself in the bottom of a well is to drink straight out of the bucket. So anyone who wants to drink something between meals needs to carry his own cup. The really Viking-like will want drinking horns, though they are kind of difficult to stand on a table. You might think that a wooden cup would be the cheapo version, but think about how tough it is to carve out a wooden cup without power tools. It’s actually a lot quicker to solder up a tin cup. Then again, ceramics are going to be the really cheap version. After all, they’re just mud that was properly fired after being molded in a matter of seconds by a skilled potter. But you have all sorts of ceramics: earthenware, stoneware, and porcelain, plus they can be glazed or not, and then can be in the shape of a cup or perhaps a stein, etc. Was it painted or decorated in another way? Don’t forget leather, whether it’s waterskins or hardened flasks. So what is each player going to pick for their character? What does it say about them? Further, it’s not just the players. What does the tavern keeper choose for his bar room? What does it say about his bar? Are glasses fancier then ceramic? Do steins show that this is a place for real beer drinkers? Were the leather jacks coated in water proofing that makes the beer taste different? And if you figure out what type of vessels you’re using but want to figure out what they are drinking out of those cups, take a look at 100 Bar Drinks for some ideas. It's got 5 stars, so we must have done something right.