Friday, September 11, 2020

Moving Forward & Gang Generator

Updates on Stuff!

Since March we've been playing online - in fact I've had 2 groups playing BXDH (my version of Basic D&D) in the same campaign - exploring Castle Gargantua, doing some hex crawling, running about Quasqueton, and several other adventuring threads.

I didn't post much about it - there are already a billion "Old School" clones out there. And the campaign is almost entirely built around other people's modules and work. I'm just wrangling players and letting them run rampant. It has been super fun ... and one of those groups is going to continue BXDH - exploring the Land of Jade and Butter. 

The other group? We are going to start playing Sorrow in Haven (Revised). I wanted to wait until we could get back together in person, but that isn't going to happen any time soon (America is apparently just a sack of idiots and can't separate health and safety from some over-inflated concept of 'freedom'). Tonight we are having Session 0 (part 1) - going over some of the rules changes, making basic characters, and starting to look at the setting.

I'm super excited to get working on this again. Like seriously excited. Phantasmagoric: Volume 1 (the monster book) has initial layout as well. At 3 monsters per page, there are 41 pages full of monsters right now. I can already tell I want to increase that to 60-70 pages (2 monsters per page with some extra details) but I thought it was more important to have something "in hand". 

Over and over I see people that haven't done something because whatever they were preparing wasn't ready. They had to keep tweaking it and polishing it. Those things never see the light of day (with a few rare exceptions). The best advice I ever got (and I WISH I could recall from where) that I'll pass along to anyone reading this is just fucking start playing your game! You can make changes as you go. Find a flaw? Fix it between sessions and discuss it. Do you have the entire mega-dungeon planned out? No? That is fine because your players aren't going to explore the entire thing at once. World map not complete? The only one who cares is you because players aren't going to visit everything in one session. The best way to complete something is to just start playing it.

So - the Sorrow in Haven Revised rules are in a playable state - they have had a primary edit, layout is done, artwork is added, and I want to get some games in!  I'm 100% sure that I'll make changes after even just a few sessions. Things that made sense when I wrote them that don't work in play, wordy bits that can be simplified, probably some broken-ass bits as well. Last version we realized that a Templar could be an infinite healing machine if they just kept recovering their own END then spending it to power more END healing invocations. The original mechanism for getting critical and legendary results was also broken as soon as modifiers got a bit high. Both have been resolved in the revised edition, but we never would have found them without trying it out first.

Some useful gaming material (from Appendix III: Criminal Groups). As I'm writing this up I realized that the tables from the Guilds (Appendix II) could be used with them as well. Heck - the whole thing could be combined into a single "Organizations" appendix. Once again - the act of doing/playing/writing can bring about new ideas to improve what you already have. That is some good advice. 

Random Gang Generator
Haven has a lot of gangs. Like a LOT of them. There isn't a centralized law enforcement - no "City Guard" or anything like that. District and Neighborhoods might have something - rich folks have personal guards, but overall society just rambles along keeping itself in check.

A gang's Influence is one of four levels:
  • Petty: usually younger neighborhood hooligans. Use 1d4 on the gang tables.
  • Minor: a small time gang, but potentially problematic; 1d6 on the gang tables.
  • Major: these folks have some pull and may claim a district; 1d8 on the gang tables.
  • Serious: either at odds with or directly related to the Jaserligan; 1d10 on the gangs tables.
Gang Tables part 1: Goals & Schemes
Using the die indicated by the gang's Influence, roll once for their general goal and once for the type of schemes they are known for.

Petty Theft
Anarchy (teen)
Muscle for Mire
 Anarchy (actual) 
 Murder for Hire 
Political Ends
Shady Business

Gang Tables part 2: Gang Leadership
Using the die based on the gang's influence roll once on each of the Leader tables to create a profile of the leader.


Putting It All Together
Put together the leader, goals, and schemes. The motivation for membership, who they report to , how they recruit, what else they get up to, how they are thought of by the locals can all be deciphered from those three items.
  • A petty game [d4] has the goal of [1] Survival and uses the scheme of [4] Muscle for Hire. Their leader is a [3] Charismatic [1] Charlatan.
  • A minor gang [d6] has the goal of [4] Anarchy (teen) and uses the scheme of [6] Mugging. The leader is a [2] Brutish [2] Idiot.
  • A major gang [d8] has the goal of [2] Fun and uses the scheme [8] Protection racket. The leader is a [7] Well-known [7] demagogue.
  • A serious gang [d10] has a goal of [9] Anarchy (actual) and uses scheme [5] Drugs distribution. The leader is a [5] Talented [6] Scoundrel.
A Few Gang Examples

Jabber Street Boys
Influence: Petty
Goal: Fun 
Scheme: Loitering
Leader: Small-time Thug
Location: Dougans' Road, Belltowers
These folks bolster their ranks with urchins and castaway children. The entire gang is made of kids no more than 16 years old. Ian Felfs, their leader, is a small-time thug that focuses all efforts of the gang into having fun and generally "marking" their territory with chalk graffiti. If one can befriend them, they know all sorts of things about the Belltowers neighborhood.

Sister Toad
Influence: Minor
Goal: Cult-driven 
Scheme: Muggings
Leader: Dangerous Idiot
Location: Tumbledowns, Suffering Gate 
Mary Wellson has become the unwitting pawn of a small time cult. She has a violent temper and a lack of long-term planning skills. Her gang cruises the streets mugging folks and often beats them down as well, the targets picked by the Mary (as directed by her cult contacts). Anyone out at night in the Tumbledowns knows to watch out for this pack of trouble.

One-Ten Syndicate
Influence: Serious
Goal: Political Infuence 
Scheme: Shady Business
Leader: Ruthless Wizard
Location: Bentworth & Smouldering Wharf
Gersh Io (level 5 wizard) would kill his own brother to get what he wants - and he did. This former adventurer (GDD local 485) has become entangled with a few noble houses, the Jaserligan, and more than a few guilds. Through various suspect businesses, some "legitimate" and others fly-by-night operations, Gersh and the one-ten syndicate have been able to manipulate and bend the bureaucracy of Haven to push forward political agendas which, in turn, bring more than a little profit to Gersh and the gang. Violence is a last option for the syndicate, they much prefer getting minions or lesser gangs to carry our the dirty work. They could be valuable allies, dire foes, or both depending on how they are interacted with.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Phantasmagoricon, Volume 1

Monster list for Volume 1
Acuser Daemon, Angel's Crown, Ashen Rooter, Barret Snail, Beggering Imp, Binferet, Black Gallus, Bleeding Fault, Bludnik, Boneape, Bramblecorpse, Brunki, Caldru, Callowpest, Capacu, Capleresta, Cave Children, Cavesnapper, Cherub, Chokeblossom, Choking Ard, Clipper, Corpse Spider, Corpseweed, Corrector, Creeping Corpse, Crimson Sehkt, Dark Magistrate, Devil Flea, Divap, Dolomic, Dopplganger, Draon-o-chains, Driver Rat, Eelhead Bloom, Erdkung, False Man, Fanged Toad, Fire Skunk, Flame Beetle, Flayed Gink, Fullisant, Galloping Beetle, Gambrel Beetle, Gator Tree, Ghost Cett, Glass Serpent, Glowskull, Goblin, Godling, Gorging Worm, Gracklette, Grave Serpent, Gulper Rat, Hammerhand, Hands of Uldor, Harbingad, Hatemonger, Hob, Hooded Incinerator, Infinite Teeth, Invisible Lacerator, Iron Wraith, Jellymob, Jub Jub Bird, Jumping Cave Spider, Kiyohun, Kobani Hydra, Kobold, Leaf Sucker, Lost Angel, Luminous Jelly, Maniywe, Mantipede, Many-toothed Angel, Masked Defiler, Melarch, Needlehead, Null Value, Panic , Parson’s Beetle, Pheralt, Plague Bat, Quaifenril, Quillflower, Raeth Vine, Red Hunter, Root Chewers, Root Tenders, Rooter, Rotting Wolf, Schraderaft, Shadeflower, Shambler, Shell Horror, Shingleback, Shinkap, Shovelhead, Sick Jack, Sigminfaul, Similoedan, Skitterling, Soviet Spider, Spearhaft Spider, Spelunker, Sphyraena , Spined Lizard, Tebarian, Temple Cat, Thallu Vapor, Trollock, Trow, Ubrica, Unholy Martyr, Vermillion Sehkt, Verminous Tracker, Vesk, Vexdol, Vulper, Whiphawk, White-coated Fools, Wire Ghost, Zombie Gink

123 Monsters ... a few more than initially planned but it is workable. 1 entry per page, and some entries might have a variation or two. Not everything is written up yet so I don't have a full count yet. I'm going with a AD&D 2e vibe for the presentation - more on that once I've got a few of the bugs worked out. OK -back to my actual job now.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Sorrow Revised Edition Update

Stay on Target
The initial editing is done - less than 2 weeks off target schedule, which is pretty good! This doesn't include the appendixes which I've been writing up, but they are of lesser concern at the moment and I don't count them as part of the main text.

I'll be printing out a few copies and giving them a quick binding (staples and ribbon - high tech stuff) for my local crew to dig into. 

In Brief
It was also suggested that I'm pretty verbose ... which isn't wrong. It got me wondering how long a "Quick-Start" set of rules would be, so I'm working on that as well - almost like a reference booklet. I'll put that up as a side project for now - maybe it I'll post it as a free .pdf somewhere.

Point of Order
One thing I have noticed is that the order of things could be improved. This writing was pretty organic, and the organization could use some improvement. I'm thinking specifically about the crew ranking being analogous to the character leveling, REP and XP, Advances and Improvements. There are a few other things like that ... and a section or two upon re-reading that I don't like as much as I did when I wrote it (things that haven't been play-tested yet). 

The Road Ahead
More than anything, we need to dig in and play; test the new and revised rules, make sure things feel right, find ways to simplify and consolidate, and generally move from "review draft 1" (where we are now) to "proof final" (right before we start making actual books). 

Getting to this point is going to be a bit more complicated as I want to play in person - it is easier than remote for conversations about rules. I can see more easily if people are struggling, they can point to character sheets and underline sections of rules, and it is easier to have a multi-person conversation than on any of the remote meeting applications.

Up Next ... Monster Time
One of the major ideas behind Sorrow was that the world should be mysterious and unknown. Monsters are always the first thing to get cataloged and become less mysterious. Everyone KNOWS so many of the monsters from D&D - their stats and abilities, how dangerous they are and how to take them down. It becomes a list of challenges rather than an experience. Then "trick" monsters show up - it LOOKS like a skeleton but is ACTUALLY a plant monster.or whatever. This is also not fun for the players as one type of knowledge is defeated by basically lying to the players.

So instead I've got all new monsters. Sure I'll include goblins and skeletons, but the majority of things are not things that players know about. Some common monsters are being listed in one of the appendixes - creatures that everyone has just heard about. Then the Monster Lore Advances (talked about those here) allow players to gain more knowledge in-character. The best, though, is actually encountering things. Observing and interacting with monsters is still the best way to learn about them.

There are 306 Monsters to get things started. Some are fleshed out, some are just notes and stats. As monsters are grouped into 5 sets (A - E) based on what depth of dungeon level they are most common on, I think I'll organize them into 3 volumes:
  • Phantasmagoricon Volume 1: Set A & B (78 monsters)
  • Phantasmagoricon Volume 1: Set C & D (119 monsters)
  • Phantasmagoricon Volume 1: Set E & Process (64 monsters)
That 3rd volume will contain some basic monster stats by size and threat as well as the full encounter tables. I'll eventually write up monsters that are specific to the dungeon Sorrow itself, likely volumes by Region which have their own monsters plus the dungeon levels themselves which also have their own monsters.

I'm even thinking, once these are fleshed out (sans artwork, of course) creating a super-duper all-in-one encounter table that is exclusively based on the threat of monsters so folks can use whatever they like wherever they like. 

Then, of course, non-dungeon monsters. Sorrow is almost entirely based in Haven and the dungeons of Haven ... so wilderness encounters aren't on the near-term agenda. This doesn't mean I haven't thought about them.

Speaking of Monsters...
A few nasty critters from the Machine Core

Wire Ghost
Threat 1 [Machine Core A] Small Neutral Monstrosity (Low Intelligence); Demeanor: Polite; Ferocity: Docile
Encounter 1d6 wandering, 2d6 stocked; 10% chance in lair (x4 multiplier)
 Init: +3    Attack: +0    Speed: 10     Damage: 1d8    Wrap and squeeze 
 Defense:+2   DR: 0    KO: 0    END: 3    VIT: 3   
Description: A living mass of veins and wires - a trail of slime and tubes drag messily behind. While disgusting, they are rarely hostile and even flee from combat if a single member of a pack is injured. If attacked with magic, however, they become aggressive for a 1d4 rounds, wrapping themselves around victims and literally squeezing the life out of them.

Threat 2 [Machine Core A] Medium Neutral Scions (Human Intelligence); Demeanor: Rude; Ferocity: Cautious
Encounter 1d10 wandering, 2d8 stocked; 10% chance in lair (x4 multiplier)
 Init: +3    Attack: +1    Speed: 9     Damage: 1d4+1    Wrap and squeeze 
 Defense:+3   DR: 0    KO: 1    END: 7    VIT: 8   
Description: This serpentine metallic creature slithers about with a dozens of thin articulated arms, the ends feather-like manipulators. Anything it comes into contact with it attempts to "Correct" using some ancient and likely corrupt code. They attempt to rewire technomancy, tighten door hinges, and move body parts they feel are not appropriately placed. These freakish robots drape themselves in the skins and parts of flesh creatures they have "corrected".

Driver Rat
Threat 5 [Machine Core B] Medium Neutral Beast (Animal Intelligence); Demeanor: Creepy; Ferocity: Panicky
Encounter 1d4 wandering, 1d6 stocked; 20% chance in lair (x3 multiplier)
 Init: +3 Attack: +3    Speed: 9     Damage: 2d4    Rusty Tools 
 Defense:+3   DR:2    KO: 5    END: 15    VIT: 14   
Description: Rats the size of dogs with prominent bone-plated head. The over-sized teeth on these things are jagged, yellow and stained. The driver rats instinctively charge at any threats, bashing enemies with their bony heads. Any attack where the damage roll is doubles the rat also bites for an additional 1d8 (adding to the total damage). Inscribed on the rear edge of every driver rat's head plate a 14-digit number is inscribed with a high level of precision.

Friday, June 5, 2020

Black Lives Matter

Nothing clever to say, no inspiring stories, no amazing links to more clever people ... just a tiny blip of solidarity here in the backwaters of the internet.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

New Cover Art

The updated wrap-around cover for Sorrow in Haven (Revised Edition)

I expect the new draft will be ready for player-driven testing and proofing (those folks are BRUTAL) by the end of May, which  is behind schedule, but we can't sit down anyway so I'm not worried abotu it :)

Property Rules
Haven is a packed, overcrowded place, but PCs can get their hands on property. The monthly cost to rest is based on the location (social class) and size of property (based on a tiered scale). Size is abstracted into "units" of 10' x 10' spaces. For property larger than 15 units in size, the price of additional units increases, and the price increases again at 26 or more.

 Class  Tier 1 (1-15 units)  Tier 2 (16-25 units)  Tier 3 (26+ units) 

Some examples:
  • A 9 unit property in a lower class district would cost: [9 x 3] 27 groats per month
  • A 17 unit property in a middle class district would cost: [(15 x 8) + (2 x 30)] 180 groats per month
  • A 28 unit property in a high class district would cost: [(15 x 25) + (10 x 125) + (3 x 625)] 3500 groats per month

Each Unit is a dedicated space. Some examples:
  • Personal Rooms: enough space for 2 people to have their own small rooms.
  • Barracks: up to 6 people can bunk in this space, cramped but functional.
  • Collection: libraries and laboratories require one unit per 200g of value.
  • Display Area: merchants need to be able to display their goods and folks to walk around
  • Storage Room: for areas packed with goods or materials
  • Common Area: open space with tables, enough for space for about 10 people
  • Prep Areas: such as a bar or kitchen, can handle up to 2 seating areas
  • Base Improvements: Base improvements (page 113), such as a Darks Chamber, may require additional units.

To outright purchase a property is the monthly cost x 100 (for low class), 150 (middle class), or 200 (for upper class). Then on top of that are monthly maintenance fees of 10% of the original monthly cost.

For those 3 properties mentioned above:
  • 9-unit lower class: purchase for 2700, monthly maintenance cost of 3g
  • 17-unit middle class: purchase for 27000, monthly maintenance of 18g
  • 28-unit upper class: purchase for 700000, monthly maintenance of 350g

Side Note: 33% of a character's monthly Lifestyle cost can be applied directly to property expenses.

So ... why do this?
It seems like some fiddly nonsense. However, more than one player over the years has started a money-making scheme, needed a base of operations, or any manner of thing where some rules for property became important. They aren't necessary and have little bearing on reality (but do work out nicely with the lifestyle costs.

Lets say you've got a crew of 3 adventurers who are "working class" lifestyle. That totals to 75g/month, of which 25 is considered to be applied to property. They could rent, for "free" any property that costs 25g or less each month. An 8-unit lower class property (definitely a bar with rooms), a 4-unit middle class place (an apartment with some storage space), or 1-unit upper class joint (a cramped barracks).

Fine. But WTF does that have to do with the Cover Art?
Nothing. But this does...

Escian Queen's Gimp 
Threat 6 - Large Neutral Filth (Human Intelligence); Demeanor: Hateful; Ferocity: Unrelenting
Encounter 1 wandering, 1d3 stocked; (never in lair)
 Init: +2    Attack: +3    Speed: 8    Damage: 3d4    Heavy Spear   
 Defense:+2   DR: 3    KO: +10    END: 32    VIT: 26   
Description: Escian giant-kin that have been bound to serve their Queen without question. They love her and hate everything else. Their armor is permanent and welded shut. Their massive spears cause opponents to stagger (each 4 rolled for damage is instead 1 damage but the target is stunned for 1d6 segemnts).

Escian Queen
Threat 12 - Giant Evil Fey (Brilliant Intelligence); Demeanor: Manipulative; Ferocity: Dangerous
Encounter never wandering, 1 stocked; (always in lair)
 Init: +4 Attack: +10    Speed: 8    Damage: 3d4+2    Pummeling Fist   
 Defense:+4   DR: 2    KO: +8    END: 174    VIT: 183   
Description: the giant witch-queens have the powers and advances of a 6th level wizard including 4 cynosure. They are incredibly rare to encounter, but their influence is likely felt by folk long before they know what is happening. They are outcasts of the Autumn Court and wish to gain power to destroy the Autumn Court. 4 Queens are known to still be living, and another 3 rumored to still hold sway. The Queens Yrio and Hesphetia are dead, but the other Queens still speak of them as though they are still in power.They rarely leave their throne rooms, but when they do they move without making a noise or leaving a trail. If forced into physical combat, a critical or legendary strike with their fist does an additional 1d10 damage.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

New Logo

Going for that old school pulp scifi / fantasy vibe ... The revised edition is on the way!

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Art for Sorrow in Haven

The editing is in full swing and the new illustrations are almost done. Here are a few for you to enjoy!

A templar bringing down divine wrath upon the undead hoard.

A wizard with her familiar.

The five traditions of magic and their their connections to each other