Sunday, April 27, 2014

Your God Ate My God

Anyone who has read our Gods & Demons supplement knows how we treat divine folks. They are “fed” by fear and/or adoration. In other words, you can pray to them to power them, you can sacrifice to give them stuff (and power), and you can simply be terrified by them and their aspect(s). Without sufficient energy gained in one of these fashions, the god will “die”.

But gods typically don’t die. They don’t even fade away. OK, they do sort of fade away, but the point here is that often one god’s aspect is very similar to another’s, and the surviving god will sort of absorb the dying god’s aspect. This works fairly well because then the surviving god gains a new bunch of worshippers. Yes, the surviving god needs to tend to those worshippers, but the worshippers are gaining the benefits of powerful god instead of a waning deity. Seeing as gods are divine and hugely powerful, they typically don’t mind appearing as the other god when they are expected to. Physical form is not that important to them. Important point - It takes centuries for a god to fade away.

So examples: Gillanae is the dwarven Queen of the gods and goddess of fairness. But the main dwarven culture has turned away from their gods, and all the dwarven gods are weakening. Gillanae was never all that powerful in that pantheon, and she is one of the first to start fading. But Laenta is a very similar goddess - Queen of her pantheon, goddess of motherhood and home, with the king having justice. So slowly, Gillanae is being absorbed into Laenta. Nobody is even going to notice. The dwarves who still worship Gillanae (the few that remain) will be worshipping Laenta, but calling her Gillanae. Laenta may over time direct the priestesses to change a few of the things they do to make certain the adoration gets to where she wants it, but overall - no harm - no foul. Even some of Gillanae’s minions have already “jumped ship” and are working for/with Laenta.

Example 2 - Suppetta Julli is the Latvich goddess of lust. Tyreabbae is the elven goddess of magical/female power. Both of these goddesses are embodiments of female power, but in seemingly different ways. Oddly enough, on a magical/spiritual level, they aren’t all that different. In fact, the two goddesses (partly purposefully and partly unconsciously) are merging. In a few hundred years, there will only be one goddess who will have an aspect of female power. She will wield her power through lust and other natural magics and have cults amongst the elves and the Lats. This has only just begun, so the elven priestesses refuse to believe that their goddess is associated with a foreign goddess of lust, but the Lats sort of get what’s going on. They have been leaving offerings to Suppetta Julli in Tyreabbae’s temples. In a very rare case, the divine may be quicker to change than the mortal on this one.

Last example: OK, we said the dwarven gods are fading. Their king Karrendock is losing power, but he has always been worshipped by some humans as the god of smiths. Quimgrow, the Dinsthain (human) god of miners is a demi-god and cannot maintain his power on his own. In a weird double shift, Brakin, king of the Dinsthains, will take on Karrendock’s duties as king of the dwarven gods, Karrendock will become the Dinsthain god of smiths and miners, and Quimgrow will cease to be. If you get the feeling that all of the dwarven gods are getting eaten up by the Dinsthain gods, you are on the right track.

OK, more on this later, but think about the gods in your game world. Any useless ones? Any ones you’d prefer went away? Any way you can have something like this happen? It might be nice and calm like Gillanae and Laenta, or it might wind up in some serious violence like Suppetta Julli and Tyreabbae before it’s done.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Idea Sparks - Military Units

OK - I often describe myself as being an idea man. By this I mean that I can typically develop a ton of ideas in a short period of time. I can develop a “100” supplement (100 Towns, 100 Professions, 100 Bar Drinks, Gods & Demons) in a day, though it takes me a ton of time to finalize, edit and format it. I assume this is a combination of my ADHD and imagination, but I think most people who are drawn to being game masters have similar traits.

But even though I can typically come up with a huge number of ideas, I often try to find a device that will help me. Here’s my most recent one: I need to establish more of Fletnern’s military units, both regular army and mercenary. So here’s what I’m doing - I’m using school mascots. A unit is nothing without a cool symbol, so while I can come up with all manner of military units, I want cool mascots and symbols to give them some life. Here’s what I mean:

There is a particular school that I don’t like, but has a fantastic defense line. So these guys are going to be heavily armored and shield users, probably less than others with their spears and having a red “wave” as their symbol.

Their rivals I like even less, but they are still a decent team. I don’t like them, so I am going to characterize them as being stupid and bullies, a dangerous combination in armed men. They are the tigers, so they will use a tiger on their emblem, and have striped patterns of steel and bronze on their shoulders, but their officers keep a small eagle as a pet. Not sure why, but I’m going to give them split armor (plate mail chest and shoulders, chain mail arms and legs). I’m going to give them swords (sort of gladius/leaf blades) and spiked bucklers.

There’s a pro team in a port city named for a sea mammal. My perception is that they have never been very good, but they’ve had some good QBs, so I’m going to make them a poorly disciplined unit with good officers. I’m going to give them fins on the top of their helmets to represent their mascot. Let’s give them battle tridents, all the better to keep the enemy away from the greener troops.

I don’t enjoy basketball, so taking the team from a city I hate, let’s make them bandits. I assume they’re all felons anyway. But they’re named after a car part. How do I use that? Let’s go with horseshoes. They use a horse as their symbol and actually sew horseshoes onto their leather gloves, where the iron will lead when they punch with their fists. Nasty, tattooed criminals quick to take advantage of anyone, dressed in horsehide leather armor.

I’m going to just keep going. I have college teams, pro teams, at least four sports to leverage - more than enough ideas to generate dozens of military units, if not a new 100 list. I can generate general personalities/cultures, general gear specs, and mascots/colors. What can you do with a start like this?

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Armor Stats

OK - In Legend Quest, armor blocks damage, not attacks. In order to do damage, you have to hit the target and then do enough damage to get past their armor (called the Damage Absorption Rating - DAR). So how does it work? I have had the argument with many folks that armor isn’t strong enough. This is because it takes skill levels to wear armor, otherwise it slows you down, making you easier to hit. But let’s work through the math:

Standard soldier is walking around in chain mail. The DAR is 3, 2 vs. piercing weapons. Well, let’s put him up against a standard bow - a regular weapon for bandits and other enemies a standard soldier might face. A bow does 1-10 damage, so average 5.5. So chain mail blocks 2 out of an average 5.5 or 36%. That’s not so bad. Assuming our soldier had 36 Life’s Blood (higher than average but normal for a soldier), then with chain mail he could survive 10 average arrow hits, while his unarmored friend could only survive 6, dying on the seventh. I think that’s pretty important.

Just for grins, let’s consider the chain mail soldier against a claymore swinging barbarian. OK - claymore (two-handed sword) does 2-20 damage. The chain mail blocks 3. So average of 11 damage or 8 to the soldier. Here the armored soldier dies on the 5th attack, where the unarmored guy sees heaven on the 4th. One more attack. Is that a big deal? Maybe, but my point really is that modest armor (and chain mail is modest compared to the heavier stuff) is great for moderate combatants, but high level adventurers either need to invest in some heavy armor or rely on something other than their chain mail to protect them. Still - Our average soldier may not be able to stand up to a high level adventurer with a magical sword, but was he supposed to?

OK - admission time: The original intent was that even though the chain mail blocks 2 points of damage, that for example, if a bow did 3 points of damage to a target wearing chain mail, it is unlikely that the arrow actually made it through the mail. Instead of piercing the mail and drawing blood, it most likely left a small bruise under the mail, but never actually touched the skin. Now when using poisons, we typically say you must “breech” the armor in order to cause poison damage, so that third point will carry poison through, but this is more of an ease of gaming issue. I plan to add an optional rule (if I ever actually publish them) by which for poison to carry through, you would need to do double the DAR in order to have the poison be effective for exactly this reason. As an optional rule, it will slow down the game while the player and GM determine what damage was done to the armor and the person and if the damage was in fact double the DAR, etc. Optional rules = more math!

Who are the Regular Folk?

Do you know who the regular folks are in your cities? I do and don’t. Maybe they change depending on what I need from them. I know who they are in Rhum - They’re brewers and potters, cranking out their products in factories. They’re bigger folks - 5’9” on average, broad shouldered, stout (OK - chubby, but still strong). They’re wearing wool and deerskin. They are carrying knives and “stickers” (a single pronged fork, for all practical purpose). Yeah - I know these beer drinking working men.

I know who they are in Brinston too. The working class work in horrible conditions, often producing chemicals or glass for the various industries. The lower class are mainly porters/stevedores or worse yet, fishermen, barely surviving on the sandy river bank by the ocean. The upper classes and the soldiers don’t have it so bad. They have their private clubs where the world’s best wines pour in great quantities. They can all smell the sea throughout the city, except maybe for the chemical workers who have had their sense of smell seared from their noses. They’re uppity, even the lowly fishermen, convinced that they are the salt of the earth and their culture dominates. Well, in a lot of ways it does. Short, dark haired, following the fashions as they come down the river from the elven lands, these urban folks cannot imagine what it would be like to live in a smaller less important city.

I know who they are in Forsbury. The caravaneers who leave their wives and families to go out for weeks or months at a time, the vital link in the trade world. Those that stay behind are still working for the caravans - either manning the warehouses or working in some clerical or administrative role. They have the best of trade - just like the folks in Brinston, but like so many of those folks, they don’t have the money to appreciate it either. Still, they have their local churches, where some of their wives spend all day when they aren’t in town, listening to preachers who are the fantasy world’s version of talk radio.

Why does it matter? First - I like local color. If you’ve read more than one of my posts and didn’t get that, you may have been asleep. But even for those of you who don’t care about the role-playing - What happens when your player character thief tries to pick some guy’s pocket? Can the guy fight? Is he big enough to? Does he have a knife or weapon? Is he paying attention or does he think his city guards will protect him?

In Rhum - They’re big guys, and they all carry knives or daggers. They’ve been trained to box and wrestle as boys - it’s just what they do. In Brinston, they’re smaller, more intellectual, even the factory workers. Yes, the fishermen will be armed and know what to do with that knife, but the rest won’t be. They may have some street smarts, but their culture believes its own propaganda and they probably aren’t as aware as they should be. In Forsbury, they know that half the people in town at any given time are not from there. So many strangers make people wary. They stick to their neighborhoods where they can rely on well-known neighbors. They won’t be armed, but their neighbors are going to have a hatchet or cleaver nearby and will be willing to come help.

Why do I spend so much time figuring out my world, my cities, my cultures? So when someone goes off script, I know what to expect. In truth - I don’t really know who the common folks are in Helatia or Snobist or even Scaret. But I’m learning, and I’m writing notes, so the next time it comes up, I have a base to keep building on.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Military Machine - Gear

Do you know what your militaries carry? I mean actually carry - not just “chain mail, spear, shield”. We came out with An Army’s Arms a while back, and to be honest, they didn’t sell well. Each book is a detailed description of an army and their gear. I mean - really detailed. Well, that didn’t work the way we wanted, so we loaded up A Baker’s Dozen Tribes with a lot of gear notes. That did better, but with sales of Army’s Arms low, we didn’t publish the others we were preparing.

But back to the question - Do you know what they carry? Does the army issue each soldier with his kit? Do you know what’s in it? In order to know, you need to know how they’re fed. If there is a chuck wagon that travels with each battalion, then they need a lot less than if each squad cooks for itself. The point today isn’t really do you know what they have, but more to the point, Do you know who made it? If you think about all the stuff a soldier normally carries, even if it is just the combat system relevant stuff (armor and weaponry), who made it is very important. If you have an army of 6,000 swordsmen in scale mail, someone had to make all that. You need a lot more than a couple of blacksmiths to bang out 6,000 swords. Worse yet, if they all carry bows, then you need 6,000 bows and probably 120,000 arrows - not counting the ones they lose practicing. Who is making all that?

This is the way I build my worlds - I ask myself questions like this and then develop the answers. Depending on the place the army exists, there might be a weapons factory. If there isn’t, then there are a series of weapon crafters and armorers - and they might be of different skills. Now very few of my soldiers carry swords, but you still need to figure out who crafted their spears, shields and armor, even if it is studded leather. By figuring out some of the army of smiths who were working for the military, you can probably figure out who the player characters would go to for theirs. It gives those guys a reason for existing, not just waiting on the couple of adventuring parties wandering around the city.

I love the Three Musketeers - I won’t get into it, because this is already too long, but I love A. Dumas. One scene from the original book that I love is when they have to go to war. They’re told to get their stuff together and show up in a few days ready to march. Well, the heroes have squandered their pay on booze, partying and women. They have no funds to go out and buy war horses, uniforms, etc. They wind up selling a diamond to get the money, but the concept that the officers and nobles had to supply their own gear from the pay they received (and that they typically didn’t unless forced) entertains me. In that world, there must have been a host of tailors for military cloaks and uniforms, horse traders with steeds from nags to the finest, weapon smiths capable of etching coats of arms and other insignia, saddle makers, bag makers, scabbard makers, etc. etc. etc. No - You don’t need to make up each and every one of these businesses! You could, but I wouldn’t suggest it, unless you have players who love to role-play shopping. But you do need to have a handle on the fact that these folks exist and need to have shops in your world. I’ll go so far as to say that you ought to have a portion of the city (near the garrisons) where a soldier could find all these shops within a few blocks of each other - a mercenaries’ mall.

Maybe some of you have your worlds developed to this point, but I’m guessing few do. Maybe you just work off a price list - chances are it isn’t enough. I strongly suggest that you find the happy medium - a place where your players believe that you have nearly everything developed, but you have not bothered to work on anything that is never used. Utopia, right? But beware - get too detailed, and you won’t be able to remember it all anyway. Then you wind up stumbling during game sessions while you check your notes on that guy who sells the silvered armor.