Sunday, December 29, 2013

Spell Components for Actual Play!

I love the idea of spell components!  They can add a rich flavor to magic making it both exotic and rare; "Apparently I need a glorthak claw for this spell ... what the Hells is a glorthak and where can I find one?".  Unfortunately, most spell components are mundane (a pinch of soot, a candle) and tracking them is a total bore.  Much like encumbrance, a system that abstracts and simplifies the process of tracking spell components would be a vast improvement.  This system is designed to work with the encumbrance house rules we use in my game.

Purchase and Storage

Spell components are purchased in lots of 20 (20 components fit into one container slot).  A lot of components is designed for a particular spell level or lower. The cost of a lot is based on the level.

 Level   Cost / lot 
 Level   Cost / lot 
 Level   Cost / lot 
 Level   Cost / lot 

Using Components

When a wizard casts a spell requiring a general component, remove 1 component from a lot of the appropriate level.  Some spells require very specialized components and are not covered by the general spell components.  For example, the 3rd level spell Wizard Lock requires a pair of magnets costing no less than $10.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Vunterdua: the winter festival of Aldsburg

The winter in Aldsburg is long and dark.  Lady Ring of the Ramhorns weeps contstantly for her imprisoned lover the sun, her tears splashing on the spires.   Lord Vinde of the Ramhorns is always shouting at her, his cold breath freezing the lady's tears and covering the cobbles with frost and ice.  The Wizard Kal attempts to hide the pain with an endless dusting of snow - pure and white and beautiful.  And the Rån, the sun, makes his appearances when he can to warm the heart of his lover, but the weight of ice and snow and the rage of Lord Vinde keeps his visits short.

Vunterdua Eve is the winter solstice - the longest, darkest night of the year.  It is a night of terror for many, but in this darkest of nights, the communities of Aldsburg come together in preparation for the Vunterdua Day celebration of surviving the night once again.

Vunterdua Eve

The night before the winter festival is the longest night.  It is one where families gather together to huddle by their oily fires and take comfort in what little they can.  Music from the top of great spires filters through the city streets and gantries, in the lowest levels, there are prayers to Narkul begging his red knight to stalk the city streets and protect them from the Hulufk - the elves that crawl from the darkest places to steal whatever and whomever they can.  The families and cloisters hold tight when they hear the red knight wander by on his iron-shod mount and the sounds of vicious battles won are sounded with deep hand bells that echo ominously.  Don't go out or you may be mistaken for Hulufk.

Vunterdua Day

With the longest night come and gone, Rån will slowly make his triumphant return.  In days long past the day would begin with the sounding of the Ramhorn itself - a might trumpet of brass and gold - to announce that the underworld contingent of dwarfs have come to trade.  It sounds infrequently now, but small versions can be heard bleating and echoing all about the city at dawn.  While Vinde and Ring still continue crying and shouting and Kal does what he can to keep the mythical din to a minimum, people emerge and celebrate.

Food made slowly on the night hearths is brought into the street and shared with neighbors and friends and strangers.  The strange priests of Narkul, wearing a sash to cover their eyes, come out as well and mingle freely.  There are also some nobility (or perhaps more terrible things) that dress as the Red Knight of Narkul, Vunterdua,  and hand out small gifts and coins to all they see.

Bodies of the slain Hulufk, wrapped in bloody burlap, hang from bridges and lamps and overpasses.  The blood frozen, glistening in the sunlight, makes for a beautiful sight.  It is bad luck to look upon the Hulufk, but often you'll find them decorated with sprigs of holly and evergreen.  The priests of Narkul take them down and throw them into the char pit that evening - the reeking smoke shadows from the ghostly flames filling the streets. 

The Hulufk & The Red Knight

While some claim that the Hulufk are actually people who have been murdered by the clerics of Narkul (and perhaps some of those burlap covered bodies are the victims of dark ritual or simply the method some unscrupulous criminals dispose of their kills), the Hulufk are real.

These human-sized demons creep out of the mountain underworld. Their faces covered with masks of ice, they are otherwise nude.  With bluish skin, long blackened nails, and teeth stained red with blood, they prowl the street looking for easy prey.  The Hulufk also seem to have a tendency to take anything they find interesting and carry it around with them.  As the night goes on, they become burdened with their load but their greed will not allow them to drop a single item.

Vunterdua, the Red Knight of Narkul, is likely not a true Red Knight.  Nonetheless, something comes hunting these monsters and hangs their bodies.  None have truly seen Vunterdua and lived to tell the tale, although fleeting glimpses of red capes and a huge bloody goat surface from time to time.

Better Not Shout.
Better Not Cry.
Better Watch Out.
I'll tell you why ...

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Dreadful Wilderness: Ramhorns of the Unvald

Aldsburg is carved from the stone of the Ramhorn Mountains (which are the southern branch of the expansive Unvald Mountain range). They are rugged and very difficult to travel, the eastern faces tend to have sudden and often quite violent storms, and the temperatures in the winter (let alone the snowfall) can freeze a man's eyeballs solid right in his head. In addition to the physical hardships, the inhabitants are none too friendly either. The slate-scaled wyvren circle cloud-covered spires, serpentine dragons with black iron teeth hunt among the avalanches they cause, endless hordes of savages (orcs and other beastmen) come down all too often in the north to try and lay waste to Frantis Keep, and the Ramhorn Ogres (led by the one-armed half-ogre Swissgar the BoneShredder wielding a fearsome giant axe looted from the Storm Giant Durthrandar) are a constant and unfortunately intelligent threat.

The good stuff? The mountains are LOADED with gold, silver, other precious metals, gems, and a whole variety of minerals that folks tend to want. The two passes through the Ramhorns can (assuming they don't run afoul of monsters or bandits) save a merchant months of travel and avoid traversing Discontent the Sea of Woe. Aldsburg is rich from mining, Frantis Keep exists to guard the northlands from ravaging beastfolk, and the few villages that dot the landscape tend to exist as mining or logging camps and the occasional weird cult village. The foothills are also rich and fertile from all of the mountain streams and filled with vibrant life.  The moutnains are still mad dangerous.

The one other saving grace is Xinheart, a dwarfin fortress city in the souther mountains near Aldsburg.  The dwarfs tend to keep most of the more dangerous elements in check and have recently re-opened trade and communication with Aldsburg (thanks to the new Patrician).  Unvald dwarfs are not know for being friendly.  Xinheart may be the last of the dwarfin strongholds since they lost their underworld war.  It is a final bastion of the Grand Kingdom that once existed.  Outsiders - even dwarfs from other lands - are not allowed in and only a select few dwarfs will travel outside (except for the war patrols).

Random Hex Locations
1) The Black Spire: visible from any adjacent hex, the Black Spire is an absurdly tall and thin tower of stone reaching half again as high as any nearby mountain.  It seems to constantly weep a thick black goo.  Ramhorn Ogres worship at this site and are rather protective.

2) Bestial Canton: sitting low and snug in a valley between peaks, a "settlement" of orcs and their associates grunt and squak and generally make a mess of things.  The village is centered around their birthing puddle (a mucky pit that goes deep into the earth).  Pretty big chance of patrols and guards.  They like to eat adventurers.

3) Craggy Nest: a sheer cliff face that is riddled with shallow caves, making it quite easy to climb for those skilled in such things.  The only problem is the number of goatbirds (eagle-like except for their gnashing flat teeth and curled butting horns) that nest here.  They can be distracted with raw meat and tend to collect shiny baubles.

4) Bone Cairn: a huge pile of symmetrically stacked bones of all manner of creature, including mountain troll, giant, and some sort of enormous mountain cat.

5) Dust Mines of Gthaith: A group of Yauni have come all the way from the southlands to set up a mine.  They are all dead now - apparently succumb to the cold and or some sort of plague.  They were keeping barrels of a strange fine dust (bluish in hue) recovered from the mine.  Enter the dark dust pits ... I'm sure it will not contain a terrible beast or long forgotten dwarfin stronghold overrun by slime demons from the bowels of the underworld.

6) Shangrila: a peacful secluded valley with monks in safron robes that chant and seem perfectly happy.  Delicious fruit, clean water, and no monsters.  Of course, attempt to leave and things will get hairy.  The Monks of the Outward Fist have a Black Lyndwyrm they venerate (and have trained) they will unleash if things get too bad.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Dreadful Wilderness: Grubwood

South of Aldsburg lies the Grubwood.  It is big and dark and scary and things that die in there don't stay dead, probably because of Kelpathi the Sticher (who is rumored to be a False Man and a Sorcerer).  The edges seem normal enough, but a bit further in you'll find the walking dead riding on huge forest trolls, gibbering packs of savages, and strange wells and clearings that will make a paladin die simply be looking directly at them.  No doubt.

Random Hex Locations (d9 ... was a d8, then I added #9 from an awesome blog)
1) Well of Gorlieb: a diminuative well that is made from the teeth of children and beaks of sparrows. 

2) Ruins of Tul: a village overrun with a thick creeping vine.  A pack of savages lives here and offers blood sacrifice to the demon god KU6R, who resides in the bell tower.

3) The Blight: for as far as the eye can see, there is a thin layer of mucus and blood covering everything, and maggots the size of your thumb wriggling about.  Anyone looking closely will see the maggots have human-like faces.  Also, they are delicious.

4) Popo's Gorge: a deep gash in the earth from which eminates the sweet smell of freshly baked bread.  Popo, possibly a goblin, lives in a small hut by a rickety bridge and offers safe passage for a few copper.  The gorge is filled with zombies that can't escape.

5) Silver Tree: Nearly 1 in 10 trees in the area havea silvery film on them.  In the center of the region is a tree made of pure silver.  In it lives a spider dryad who spins insanely strong webs because she drinks the sap of the tree.  A silver tree branch makes an extra potent wand.

6) Tuk Tuk Hollow: The tuk tuk are goblin-kin (mean and agressive and territorial) and have managed to dig wells everywhere in this region looking for the Treasure of Jorbal Mag.  There are pits and stone-lined wells everywhere, most of them filled with filthy water and quite a few home to many tentacled ktuth-spawn.

7) Tentacle Forest: This area is infected with tentacles.  many of the trees have tentacles instead of branches and attack anything that moves nearby

8) The Dastardly Ruins: A village in great condition, but entirely abandoned, all the buildings are completely empty.  Investigating the well in the center of town will reveal some oozing ecojunk.  if visited at night, the ghost population (including ghost animals and ghost furniture) will welcome their new guests

9) One of these lakes

Encounters With The Devil's Friends (d10)
1) The Witches Three - they know things and want to tell you but that curse ... OH THE CURSE!
2) Sharg the Troll Mother.  She is not your friend.  Nor are her children.  Best to run.
3) Eggar the Host and his band of Bone Soldiers
4) Magpie the Fleshmolder (drank one to many polymorph potions)
5) Kirk.  Of. The. Lost. Tower. (brutal warlord with host of red shirt wearing berserks)
6) Ted the Mind Wizard (inept or just much more clever than you?)
7) Giant spiders that have tree branches for legs
8) A band of survivalist elf zombies hunting the ghost of Xhug the ape-man
9) A bear the size of an elephant and hungry like a great white, the bear will also accept gold
10) A flock of carrion birds eating the last few scraps from an Ramhorn ogre that was an emisarry with a coded letter for Hesporiax the Despoiler asking for more troops ... the ogre animates and attacks

Strange Stuff in the Grubwood (d6)
1) The moon just rose ... no .. the other moon.  I didn't know we had two either.
2) The wind through the leaves sounds like whispering, then shouting, then chanting, then suddenly stops.
3) A beautiful statue of a elf warrior that, no matter what direction approached from, is always pointing his barbed stone spear at the party.  No one sees him move.
4) A pile of broken mechanical animals wearing the pelts of real animals - mostly squirrel and rabbits.  One of them is still moving and squealing in pain.
5) A pond with reddish water is suddenly where it wasn't before and won't be here tomorrow.  The fish are all freakishly long (like 12-15') but very thin (2" diameter) eels.  There are also turtles that have chromed shells that shine and glitter in the sun.  The eels are harmless, but the turtles bite.
6) Will-o-the-wisps dance in the distance making complex geometric patterns.  Investigating the area will likely reveal a collection of toadstools and tiny finger bones.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Cartography Skill

Here are some facts:
1) Game Masters love making dungeon maps.
2) Players hate making dungeon maps.

Because of this, GMs end up with wonderfully complex maps that, once translated to the player's minds, are just some boxes with lines between them and a few notes.  The Cartography skill from HM5, in this case, is pretty weak.

Things to Do with Cartography (in the dungeon)
If a character with cartography has made a map (i.e. the player has made a map) then a cartography check can be made to do a few things if the character takes a moment to study the map and their surroundings:

1) Determine best known path to entrance (-10)
2) Identify places previously mapped (+10)
3) Notice strange construction/paths (there should be a room here, or I think this passage doubles back on itself) (+40)
4) "Connect" mapped areas (+10)
5) Get a hint (see below) when at an intersection about where a corridor may lead (limited)

In addition, player who has a character with trained cartography can ask the GM to map one area, review some piece of their map, or ask a yes/no map-related question a number of times per session equal to their rank (novice = 1, average =2, etc).

Make MapsCool, Not Technical
Mapping should be kind of fun and not tedious.  Who cares if the room was 20x20 with a 5' alcove in the north side of the eastern wall?  What players are interested in is that in a moderately sized room an alcove beckons them - a strange mist seeming to roll from the floor and an ominous grinding noise coming from beyond the far wall.

What is important for the GM to do when mapping is make the exploration interesting.  Multiple elevations within the same level, multiple paths, that sort of thing.  Straight line dungeons are BORING.  Read This.

Critical Hits

Critical Hits are an integral part of Hackmaster, but the current process doesn't feel as awesome as I want it to.  Also, the charts as they exist are ridiculous.  Numerous repeat entries, far too many body parts and location, and generally not exciting.  WHFRP hit the nail on the head with their critical charts.  They are BRUTAL.  So ... a combination of things that is, in the end, easier I think.

d12d10000 Location  1-56-1011-1516-2021-2526-30
1-31-2500LegsM10%C1 RM25%C2   RS2D1M25%C3   RS3D1M50%C4  RS4D2M50%C5RS6D2M75%C6
 10-11  7501-9167ArmsC1D1C2RD1C3RD2C4RS2D2C5RS3D3C6
12 9168-10000  Head RS3D1C1  RS4D2C2RS6D3C3RS8D3M10%C4 RS10D4M10%C5   RS12D4M25%C6 

d12d10000 Location  31-3536-4041-4546-5051+
 10-11  7501-9167ArmsRS4D3C7RS6D4C8RS8D4C9RS10D5C10C11+(1d6-1)
12 9168-10000  Head RS20D5M25%C7   RS20D5M25%C8   RS20D6M50%C9   RS20D7M75%C10   C11+(1d6-1) 

The Codes
C: critical hit result (see below)
M: Move - indicates percent of movement reduction until the wound heals
R: count reset
S: stun result, number indicates die result (S4 = stunned for 1d4 seconds)
D: extra dice of damage (D3 = +3d of damage, always use higher die first for odd numbers and multiple damage dice)

The Critical Results
I like the various types of critical hits listed on the Winds of Chaos site.  Arrows can be used for piercing weapons with a bit of modification.  Of course, the charts are all in WHFRP speak, so some translation is necessary.  I'll make a PDF of the charts with the HackMaster conversion.  The results are permanent (in the case of lopped off parts) or last until the wound is healed.  The severity 51+ crit causes a critical result of 11-15.