Friday, August 30, 2013

Worldkit: TIme


I'll track time in HMAEE using the following 5 time scales.

  • Affect Weather
  • Affect creatures and dispositions
  • Tracking major time - one adventure per season
  • Birthdays are determined by season
  • Also allows for abstracted training & recovery time

  • A season has 12 weeks
  • useful for long distance non-encounter travel
  • sometimes used for ill effects

  • 6 days in a week
  • tracking food
    • 1 slot holds 6 days iron rations or 3 days standard rations
  • wilderness exploration and travel

  • A moment is a short, abstract amount of time
    • if it becomes important, each "moment" is either 10 or 2d6+3 minutes 
  • Used for local (dungeon) exploration and interaction
  • akin to the old school "turn"
  • this is the general time unit that things take
    • "i'll be a few moments"
    • searching a 10' x 10' section of wall or floor takes a moment

  • Combat and anything that initiative and reaction time are important
  • some traps require initiative rolls
  • some non-combat situations require each character act together in a particular manner

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Cosmic Transplaner Design

The Design

Many RPGs have a complex interactive series of planes of existence that span a cosmos consisting of all possibilities.  I feel that defining these this too much can completely remove the mystery and awe of the cosmos.  Also, unless a character has trained in the esoteric skill of Cosmic Lore, what the player thinks they know is what the character knows.  A few examples of these otherworlds are listed below.

The Aestheral

A place of mists that holds the key to infinite travel.  The Aestheral connects all places through vast grey plains and undulating tunnels.  Those refusing to go to or getting lost on the way to the Deadworlds end up here and become ghosts.  Some say that the lost and forgotten gods lay down here to die and the substance of the place are the tears of their loss and sorrow.

Patchwork Kingdom

A place of raw magic and terrible demons.  Those that cast arcane spells are said to draw magic from the Patchwork.  Those in the know say that the Underworld Dungeons are a living extension of the Patchwork.  Touching the Patchwork changes a man forever, always for the worse.

The Goblin Kingdom

The fat and grotesque Goblin King commands a vast army of goblins, each one a stolen child that has mutated from the violent radiation storms that sweep the land.  The Goblin Kingdom exists in the real world, but is not part of the real world.  Goblins well up and swarm into dungeons and other dark places, such as under beds.

The Deadworlds

Imagine a series of lace shawls stack atop one another - some with gaps that the layers above dip into, great gaps of nothingness, and tangles threads of a dozen different patters in tight frustrating knots.  These are the worlds of the dead that linger at the edges of the real world.  Necromancers reach here to find and bind souls that wander the endless mazes.  Even ideas and gods that have been long dead can be resurrected from the deadworlds if one knows how.


A countryside covered in mist under the shadow of an imposing mountain covered with the towers of a mad lord.  Small villages dot the landscape.  Everything is abandoned and you are utterly alone ... except for those that are watching you.  Those that want something from you.  Other than the Goblin Kingdom, Ravenlost is a place that frightens children - it is where those who wander off the path, those who disobey, and those who don't finish their dinner end up.  Alone.

How Does It Fit Together?

However I need it to at the moment.  The cosmos isn't a place for random wandering and exploration.  It isn't a list of places to visit and kill the locals.  It isn't something that a character could truly understand.  It is mysterious.  It may not exist.  It obviously does exit.  Different regions have different beliefs - not only in the cosmos but in the gods, afterlife, and so on.  Some of them might be right.  Others not.  Or maybe they all are!

The whole point is that the cosmos is a place of mystery and strangeness and possibility.  Too many hard facts and the Infinite Ghostmarch is just another location that PCs can get to by some magical portal rather than by horse.

Worldkit: Climate & Weather

Climate Bands

In reality, climates are complex and tricky - taking into account not only position but immediate and adjacent terrain, wind patterns, ocean currents, and endless other details.  For the purposes of the Worldkit, though, climates are broken into the following (real world locations given as a reference point):

LatitudeClimate Band Real World Locations
0 - 10Equatorial Indonesia, Brazil
11 - 20Tropical Colombia, India
21 - 30Subtropical Hawaii, Saudi Arabia
31 - 40Moderate Morocco, Japan
41 - 50Temperate Chicago, Spain
51 - 60Subarctic Norway, England
61 - 70Arctic Alaska, Iceland
71 - 80Glacial Russia, Finland
81 - 90Polar  Canada
91 - 180Dark Wastes These are part of the inner Torus of Eradu 

Most weather systems for RPGs suck.  Here is why.
  Player: "What is the weather?
  GM putters for a few minutes.
  GM: "48 degrees Fahrenheit, slightly overcast and ..." rolls dice "... looks like rain"
  Player: "I've already forgotten why I cared. Who cares?!  I kill some NPCs"

- or -

  Player: "What is the weather?
  GM: "It doesn't matter - you are going into a dungeon!"
  Player: "I am bored.  Let's start a fire somewhere inappropriate."

Then I found this slice of genius. From what I understand, credit goes to Dave.  Where this is a weather chart for a particular part of the WHFRP world (the Empire), creating a single chart for each Area or Region (or at least new ones when needed) would be easy enough, especially creating them as needed rather than all at once.

  Player: "What is the weather?
  GM: "Mild and sunny with a nice breeze"
  Player: "Rad.  I strip off my armor and go skinny dip in that cursed lake."

With a few simple tables, it is easy enough to roll up for a week or two in case folks have the ability to predict (or sense) the weather.  The results have enough flavor to be interesting and just enough detail to pacify most weather questions without being overwhelming.  Perfect.

Wasting Treasure for Experience (and some tangential points of interest)

The Value of Silver

D&D has had a gold-based economy forever.  A hyper-inflated crazy dungeon-based economy that got out of control (bad to begin with, worse with each edition).  HackMaster attempts to remedy this with a silver-based economy, but even this is madness ... at least in terms relating to HMAEE and the Eradu setting.

A treasure trove of 1000 brass bits should be cause for celebration.  Gear and loot are often going to be more valuable than treasure because actually finding someone who can sell a sword is tricky.  Eradu isn't a place where the local smith has time to kick out 100 short swords over the year.  Most villages a character will be lucky to find even a poor quality blade going or three times what the asking price should be. 

Treasure Per Level

Replace the suggested treasure per level table with the one below (values in silver).  At first level, the party is going to get quite a bit more than the original, but after that, things get thin very quickly.  HMB lists at 30/character/level; a 5th level party of 5 would get $750, but in HMAEE that same party would be scraping by with $365, which is $73 each, of which $24 can be spent on wasting for experience.  $50 in change isn't much for a 5th level character.  HMAEE is not a game of gathering wealth into vast piles ... easy come, easy go.

Party Members
 Level  34567
10 353   470   588   705   823 

Party Members
 Level  34567
20 719   958   1198   1437   1677 

What Can I Spend?

In a village, roll 1d6.  In a town, roll 1 or 2d6.  In a city, a player may roll up to 3d6.

On each die, pip 1 - 5 indicates that treasure has been spent and experience gained.  Per pip, the treasure cost and the experience gain are shown in the table below.  For each 6 rolled, count it as a 5 having been rolled, but before gaining any experience roll on the consequences table.

If any pips go over the 15 "allowed" per level, automatically roll on the Consequences chart for each die (or partial die) PLUS any 6's rolled.  Any pips over the 15 only contribute half (truncated) of the listed EP/pip.

 Level   EP/pip   $/pip   $/level 
 Level   EP/pip   $/pip   $/level 


Jeff Rients came up with the carousing rules (and consequences) that swept the internet.  They are simple and awesome and everyone uses them.  Attempting to find some additional resources to plunder, I found this blog.  That was about it though ... people just kept reposting the same thing over and over.  I compiled what I liked, added what I felt it needed, and made the following tables.  Eventually I need to add these in because they are great results (and like the blog).  Eventually I want to make each of these d20 rolls rather than d6, but tackling too much at once is a recipe for disaster.

Consequence Type [d10]

1. Reputation [1d6]
  1. Make a fool of yourself in public.  The money is spent, but no experience is gained.  Make a Charisma Check (vs d20+15) or gain the reputation of a Drunken Lout.
  2. You are known as the Life of the Party!  All carousing in this location costs double due to hanger's on.
  3. Wake up naked in a local temple.  (1-3) the clergy is majorly pissed off (4-5) the clergy smile and thank you for dropping by (6) You are now known as a zealot in the Area and roll on The Gods consequence table.
  4. They all said dressing in silly costumes was a stupid idea, but everyone is talking about it.  You gain a reputation for throwing great parties.  Gain +10% EP next time you carouse in this town.
  5. You did something dubious and have the reputation as a lecherous lush.  Social interactions are now awkward at best.
  6. You pick up the reputation as a mean drunk.  No one will party with you in this town, and you gain the reputation for the Area.  People are frightened of you.
2. Fighting [1d6]
  1. You were involved in a brawl.  Pass a Feat of Strength check (vs d20) or start the day with 1d4p wounds of 1d3hp each.  
  2. Your shenanigans got a bit out of control and you started a fire.  Were: (1-2) you burnt down your favorite inn (3-4) a den of ill repute is burnt to ash (5-6) a big chunk of town is ablaze.  Who: (1-2) No one knows it was you (3-4) your fellow carousers know it was you (5) a probable blackmailer or tattletale knows (6) everyone knows.
  3. That brawl last night put you in a badass mood!  You have 1d3 wounds of 1d3 hp and a black eye, but are +1 to attack rolls for the day.
  4. You got beaten pretty badly.  Black eye, lose 1d4p teeth, 50% chance of a broken nose, and you are +3 FF for the next 1d6 days.
  5. You remember being challenged to a duel, but not by who, when, or over what.  This is probably going to end badly.
  6. Your duel starts in a few minutes when the sun comes up.  Everyone is watching.  It is (1) to the death (2-3) to first blood (4-5) an honor duel (6) a setup and you are about to get royally humiliated.
3. Misunderstandings [1d6]
  1. A minor misunderstanding with the authorities.  Pass an average Diplomacy skill check.  Success means a 1d6 x $2 fine.  Failure (or the inability to pay) means that many days in jail.  
  2. You insulted a local person of rank.  Time for some difficult Diplomacy to get the offended party to be amenable to a public apology and reparations.
  3. Major misunderstanding with the law.  1d6 weeks in jail and a fine of 2d4px$5 and all weapons, armor, and the like are confiscated.  25% chance of a criminal tattoo.  5% chance of a jailhouse tattoo per week of incarceration.
  4. Apparently someone that ugly can be married to a local magistrate.  You've been given an unpleasant task or difficult quest to make up for your cruel slurred words.
  5. You somehow swapped backpacks with someone.  Lose your backpack gear and gain an equal amount of other gear (GM's choice, probably random, and a good chance of something criminal).
  6. What seemed like a hilarious practical joke turned out to be in very bad taste.  You have made an enemy of a moderately powerful local personality.  Things might get hairy if you stick around.
4. Romance [1d6]
  1. Save vs Poison (2d20p) because in the candlelight, you didn't see the rash.  Fail and you've got a nasty itch (-1 to everything) for the next 2d6 weeks.  Save again each week to see if it gets better or worse.
  2. The target of your lewd and advances was a witch.  Seduction skill check (vs 1d100+15).  Succeed and you have a witch that is now obsessed with you.  Fail and you have to make a saving throw vs magic (d20+11) or are turned into a swine.
  3. Despite the best of intentions, you have fallen madly in love with someone and want to impress them.  75% chance they are married.  25% chance they return your affections. 100% chance other adventurers make fun of you.
  4. Last night was out of this world ... literally.  Having taken up with some sort of extra planar creature you had a wild night and picked up a little gift.  You have until next season to rid yourself of the parasite (pregnancy?) or the results will be spectacular and utterly lethal.
  5. You wake up next to someone who is (1-2) crazy (3-4) ugly (5-6) or both.  Let the antics ensue.
  6. Someone you dallied with has fallen for you big time.  They are (more or less) sweet an innocent and want to follow you everywhere.  They are more of a hanger-on than a henchman.
5. Finance [1d6]
  1. You were robbed of everything - cash, weapons, armor, gear.  Everything.  In fact, you are only wearing some dirty underwear and a strange look of defiant pride.
  2. You gambled a damn lot.  Make a gambling skill check (vs d100p+50).  If you lose, make another carousing roll (same dice) to see how much cash you lose (no EP gained).
  3. You invested all your spare cash in a smooth talking merchant scheme.  (1-3) it is bogus and you are going to lose it all (4-5) it is a scam but the local authority think you are in on it, adventurer scum! (6) holy crap - it is a real investment.  Next season you'll get your investment back plus 5d20p% more.
  4. You somehow got stuck with a bar tab that wasn't yours.  Pay 30% more to cover the costs or end up spending some time in jail to think about what you did.  A skill check might get you out of jail, but not the tab.
  5. You were robbed and have only your armor and favorite weapon (50% chance of keeping a shield if you had one).
  6. Apparently you upset some merchants  Everything in this settlement is now 25% more expensive for your entire party.  10% increase in prices for you and your kind across the Area.
6. Painful Reminders [1d6]
  1. You have the most powerful hangover ever - and a permanent low level headache.  -1d20 fractional points each to WIS and INT.
  2. Might be sprained, probably broken.  -1d20 fractional points each to DEX and STR.
  3. You are utterly exhausted.  +1d6 Fatigue Factor, it gets better by 1 point every week.
  4. You have become addicted to something ... something terrible.  Add the addiction quirk, but it is for something worse than on the table.
  5. You've broken knuckles from punching someone in the face (or a wall, or possibly yourself).  Lose the ability to fight with your (1-4) right (5-6) left hand for 1d6 weeks.
  6. You stink of exotic spices, booze, and rich food.  Good luck gaining surprise on anyone for the next 2d3 days ... and be prepared to fend off hungry monsters a bit more often.
7. The Gods [1d6]
  1. In a drunken stupor you begged a god for help resolving some situation.  They heard and responded.  Of course now you must complete a really hard quest before gaining any additional EP.  Also, you'd better convert or your Karma will take a hit.
  2. Holy men in the Area will shun you ... apparently there are some things that all gods find irritating and you, my friend, nailed it.
  3. A boozed offer to a cleric "pay you back later" is being taken up.  You have 1d12 orphans (age 2d4 each) that you need to take to the Orphanarium.  It isn't particularly close by.
  4. Waking up in the temple, you blurrily review your signed document to give alms.  Give away all of your things to the poor and tithe 10% of your future wealth to the temple for the next 3 adventuring seasons.
  5. You have displeased the gods ... or at least one of them.  You are probably the target of random effects, healing spells only half work on you, and if you are a cleric you'll need to atone before you can get any spells again.
  6. The temple is trashed.  (1-3) You are going to get run out of town and hunted by the clerics (4-5) no one cares, but holy men may shun you in this Area (6) you get an award from the people for removing the shackles of religious oppression ... which means orgy time.
8. Mark of Shame [1d6]
  1. You got a tattoo.  (1-3) It is lame (4) it is pretty cool (5) it could have been cool except for the misspelling or obvious mistake (6) it is incredibly crude and/or insulting.
  2. An evil wizard has a hunk of your flesh and hair.  In addition to a bad haircut, be prepared for the worst.
  3. You have a new henchman.  A jester.  He steals treasure from everyone except you and tells really terrible jokes.  You like him, but the others in the party ... not so much.
  4. You have been infected with a double shadow.  Animals are terrified of you.  Children cry when they see you.  In 1d6+2 weeks the shadows will merge and murder you.
  5. Your flesh starts to crack and slough.  You need to wear bandages all the time to keep it together.  Also a permanent  -1 Con and -1d4 HP.
  6. For some reason, you are now a ghost magnet.  If in a haunted area, you attract ghosts like the dickens.  In a non-haunted area, you are generally considered spooky and no one really wants to hang out with you except other spooky people (who you don't like).
9. New Friends [1d6]
  1. Apparently you joined or were at least initiated into (1-3) a cult (4-5) a secret society (6) a fraternity.  Make a spell cognition roll to see if you remember the signs and phrases.
  2. While completely hammered you spent some time with some of the local servants and servers.  They like you, so gain a new follower!  Unfortunately, the followers former boss is less than pleased about the situation.
  3. You win a bar bet and have the services of two henchmen for a month.  They have really shitty morale and are trouble makers.  
  4. You have an amazing time with an adventurer from another party.  He told you something really important ... Cognition check to see if you can remember.  You are also pretty sure you told him something that was supposed to be a secret.
  5. A gluttonous drunk boorish friar (kind of like a 1d6th level cleric) joins your party until he loses a morale check or you have another carousing expedition.
  6. You lose your favorite follower ... but now have a mangy mutt that follows you around.
10. Dungeon Bloom [1d6]
  1. You felt the call in your dreams.  You've woken up in an alley covered in blood with chunks of flesh under your fingernails.  It is (1-3) morning (4-5) dawn (6) noon and you are (1-3) being started at by a street urching (4-5) alone (6) being prodded awake by the local authorities.
  2. Someone (you?) scratched a map onto your forearm of a dungeon you have never been in before.  The lower levels are going to be trickier to carve...
  3. There is a new dungeon nearby.  You can feel it trying to hide an artifact from you.  You know where it is.  Convince the others to come with you if you can ... but you will find what you are after.
  4. Being in the daylight makes you kind of uneasy ... -1 or 5% to everything while you are in the sunlight.  This permanent affect lasts for 1d6 days after you leave a dungeon.
  5. Roll for an physical aberration as though you received Backlash from a Spell Mishap.  No matter what the others think, you like it.  Makes you look mysterious and dangerous.  Heck, it might even be useful.
  6. You saw a vision while in your carousing haze.  Of things dark and dreadful, of the underworld spreading across the cosmos, of your fate.  Gain 1 mulligan only to be used to avoid some dungeon hazard.  Until you use it the paranoia is almost overwhelming.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Combat Encounters Revised

Killing vs Defeating

The original category of the revision was Killing Monsters.  This still stands.  However, if a party can otherwise defeat a monstrous encounter (subdual, capture, trapping, etc.) they will also earn the experience for defeating the beast.  Of course if they do something stupid like letting it go, then no reward ... and the thing will likely have a Grudge.  Grudge Monsters ... hell yea.

EP Per Encounter

With fewer encounters per level, how much should they be?  The chart below covers the modification.  Approximately 5 encounters per level, each encounter a bit tougher than suggested by the book, but still balanced to both the experience ration and the level of the characters.  Mind you, there should always be encounters that are far tougher than listed as well as a few that are less intense. 

 Party  Party Members
15 894   1192   1490   1788   2086 
 Party  Party Members
30 4134   5512   6890   8268   9646 

Intensity Variation

For each encounter, roll 2d6.  On a roll of 2, use an EP target of 50% of list, on a 3 75% of list.  On an 11 125% of list, and 12 200% of list.  For example, designing an adventure for a 4th level Party of 5 (where all the parents are dead):

2: 160 EP (easy peasy, but potentially tiring)
3: 200 EP (a bit less challenging)
4-10: 240 EP (standard fare)
11: 290 EP (ouch ... careful)
12: 500 EP (uh oh ... might need to run)

Experience Points

Experience Points By the Book

I don't like them.  16 combat encounters per level is about half of the EP, and the rest from story awards.  I simply do not like this.  First, I want fewer but more deadly combats.  Second, I want EP to be related to looting treasures and awesome role playing.

Revised Experience Profile

HMAEE has the following priorities for handing out experience:
  1. Recovering then Wasting Treasure [30%]
  2. Clever Role Playing [25%]
  3. Killing Monsters [20%]
  4. Exploration [15%]
  5. Completing Quests [10%]
That is a significantly different breakdown and focus.  Let's look at this in more detail...

Recovering then Wasting Treasure

Many will argue that recovering treasure in no way reflects experience gained.  I call bunk on this.  The character likely learned quite a bit while gathering that treasure - it is representative of having overcome the challenges that character faced.

The character gains the experience from the treasure, though, once they give it up.  This can be done by carousing, donating the loot (outside of any mandatory tithing), spending it on research (when available), and carousing (I like carousing).  Wasting Treasure for Experience will get a post of its own some day.

The specific values are not yet defined (1sp = 1EP?) because I need to work out what the "Eradu Economy" looks like.  Loot will be scarce, and the desire to hoard it must be compelling against gaining experience from it.

Clever Role Playing

I set this at 25% of the total for a level, and why not!  Engagement in the game, remembering rules when appropriate, doing dramatic things, and generally having a good time are important.  Situations to role play may be made available, but the players need to take the initiative.  Assuming 5 clever moments per level, each one is worth 5% of the EP needed to level.  What if a player has more than 5?  Then they will earn more.  No clever role playing?  Then less are earned.  

Clever role playing is not just participation, but doing the unexpected and doing it well.  Taking dramatic risks to try and take control of situations rather than simply react to them.  Being clever is being an active participant.   Clever RP might backfire on the characters, but it will never backfire on the players - even failure can earn a partial award.

Killing Monsters

At 20%, this comes out to about 5 combat encounters per level.  Significantly less than suggested, but that works.  Each encounter will be tougher but have more of an impact.  Wandering monsters or unplanned encounters have more of an impact.  Killing monsters is still fun, but too many combats make it a combat game - and I want this to be a game of role playing and exploration.


As characters discover the setting, they will gain experience for exploration.  Finding new and special locations, paths and roads, dungeon levels, new glades in the forest, and the like.  Exploring hexes is worth experience during a wilderness crawl (in addition to the possibility of locating dungeons) and the dungeons themselves have key locations that cash in on the exploration award.  Mostly secret locations.  Those are the best ones.

Completing Quests

Story award stuff.  The plot or story or quest can kickstart the adventure, but this isn't a story telling game.  Role playing experience can make up for any perceived lack of story/quest experience.

What About Traps?

In the H53 rules as written defeating traps are worth EP.  Nah ... surviving a trap is the reward.  Avoiding it is just smart (like using a shield).  If I'm giving out experience for disarming traps, I should also give out ep for casting spells and carrying the torch and such.  Traps are part of dungeoneering, so adventurers will just have to live with it.  Of course awsome traps usually hide awesome treasure (see #1 above).

Eradu: Setting Intorduction

Being an Adventurer

There was no cataclysm that brought the world low.  In fact, it can't be stated that the world was ever truly better off than it is now.  Sure - there are stories of a golden age of heroes and gods, but the people standing before you now, watching and waiting for your answer, are all there is.  Life is tough and terrifying and dangerous and, for the most part, utterly unfair.  People huddle in their cramped and muddy villages behind walls of wood and daub hoping that the underworld doesn't find them.  But it did.  That is why you are here.

There isn't much glory in being an adventurer.  When you make an appearance the people assume, and often rightly so, that you are little more than a vagabond, scoundrel, and mercenary cut-throat.  But when that doorway appears in someone's cellar, or the long abandoned farm on the edge of town suddenly has a family living in it, the respectable folk steer clear.  Suddenly they need someone brave and stalwart to defend them from the unreasoning madness of the underworld.  So they offer as little as they can, and stand with clasped hands and begging eyes waiting for your answer.

You might be smart, but you have an attitude problem.  Or perhaps you are just unlucky enough to be the eighth son of a beet merchant.  The guild were full up with bright eyed apprentices they day you showed up (a day late I might add) and your eldest brother gambled away the already meager family inheritance.  The temple was going to hand you some beads and a prayer book (can you even read?) and send you right back out the door to spread the word.  There were no other options.  You spent everything you could find on a chipped sword and are weighing your options.  Risk life and limb for a reward that you'll inevitably spend right here in this dump of a town on few nights of revelry before being run out or let the darkness under the earth devour these pitiful souls. 

There is freedom in this life of being an adventurer and a strange responsibility.  When the dungeons bloom you can almost sense it.  When the darkness wells up inside someone and makes them hollow, you can see it in the eyes before their own family does.  Hunting a pack of goblins that have separated from their mother is a pleasure, and diving into the depths of the living darkness ... well ... every time you step back out into the light laden with treasure and covered with gore you know you are magnificent and must celebrate life.  Eat, drink, and be merry ... for tomorrow you may well die.


The Eradu setting emphasis mystery, exploration, the unknown, isolation, and the weird fantasy that lurks just below the obvious.  Eradu isn't chained by the "common" facts of medieval fantasy worlds.  At the same time, the pastiche of moral relativism and the exception being commonplace are also put aside - there is true evil and the players are on the opposite side.

The world is wilderness - vast and unforgiving.  Walled settlements dot the land and do what they can to protect themselves from the dangerous of the world and eek out a living.  You probably won't find maps and traveling merchants or even shops with adventuring gear.  There just isn't much out there and the people don't know much beyond perhaps where the next village is (old Jyon once walked three days to Cooper's Point ... you could ask him). 

A local villager might know a bit about the area surrounding her village, but will tell even brave adventurers to stay away from the woods because they are haunted by vengeful ghosts of lost children and to avoid the river at night because of the demon water spirit that resides there.  The villager may be right, or she may be full of crap and just frightened.  But even if there are no ghosts, a bear (infested with blakkwyrm or not) can easily tear a person apart. If you want accurate details, ask the guy in the tavern with one leg.

Eradu is old.  Eradu is vast.  Eradu is dangerous.

The Dreadful Wilderness

Most of Eradu is wilderness.  While there are small settlements dotted across the seemingly endless landscape, they are few and far between.  The space between those dim points of light are haunted by all manner of creature and littered with the ruins of times longs past.

There are few roads, although a fading trail can be found from time to time. Crumbling outpost towers from ages past stand sadly and watch the passing of the seasons.  There are vast tracks of forest, improbable mountains, endless seas, scorching deserts, and dank bogs.  Finding one's way without getting lost across the vastness is a feat to be proud of.

There are dire creatures that call these places home and would happily dine on the flesh of foolish adventurers. Beasts known to men stalk the land, but fouler creatures lurk in the darkness of the old trees and rugged hills. Things unseen stalk the high grasses.  The movement just under the surface of the bog has thorny claws more often than not.

The landscape and the inhabitants are not the only problem in the dreadful wilderness.  Fierce and strange storms ravage  those who do not take shelter; not simply driving rain or blinding snow, but hails of metal shards, winds that stink of decay and cause violent sickness, and fogs that can cause madness and confusion.

The wilderness is not a place to be taken lightly.  The unprepared die quickly and the experienced often barely survive.

The Urban Excressency

The majority of the world is small settlements crowded around storm-worn castles or huddling in simple huts behind rotted wooden walls, there are places where humanity has create a places where they exist in numbers unimaginable to most.  These places are not simply villages that have grown larger, but dangerous urban environments of outlandish scale.

Where in the wilderness the most dangerous foes will likely be unknown horrors, the urban foe is just as often someone that was previously thought to be an ally.  Dopplegangers and shape-shifters abound, but simple human nature, the twin cults of greed and pride, create the most fearsome opponents.

While constructs of human pride, the oldest of the great cities have more of a soul than one might imagine.  The city has a pulse, and those that are tuned into the frequency can feel when something is coming.  When retribution is  near, when vengeance is creeping, and when agents of chaos are let through the gates not by human hands, but by sheer will of the urban blight itself.

The Living Underworld [credit]
The underworld is not just a dream or myth, it is a real place that lies beneath the feet of those that live in the light of day.  The underworld is not simply a series of dungeons and caverns, but a place unto it’s own that follows rules and laws that are different that the world of light.  It is a place of Darkness - not just the absence of light, but the absence of morality, sense, and virtue.  It is a place of wickedness where creatures guard forgotten tombs and worship living demon gods.  It is a place where vast treasures lie scattered and ready for the taking if the looter is willing to pay the price of his soul.  Most terrifying of all, however, is that it is a place that wants to be.

Abandoned buildings left unused for too long grow grow weedy, dusty, strange. The angles twist and the geometry buckles under the barometric pressure of anti-life. Among the dust and cobwebs, traps blossom. A brood of goblins rise out of the earth and shake clods of birth matter from their heads. Exotic, threatening beasts settle down and nest; below these lairs, trap doors lead to newly-formed but entirely ancient and archetypal stairs, dank tunnels with torch brackets that never held a torch.

Sewers have to be regularly patrolled, newly-budded secret doors smashed and burned. Behind these doors may be shimmering portal mist, writhing, glistening gristle or simply mundane wall. The door is destroyed, what lays behind sealed away under rocks and incantations.

The Underworld is a place that wants to exist and blooms, grows, and will slowly devour all if left unchecked.  However, the presence of a single Daylight Person causes dungeon growth to slow to a crawl if not stop completely. The dungeon is sluggish, confused when humans wander through it and it begins to wake monsters, set traps, and otherwise expel its guts to purge and frighten away the intruder.

Dungeons dream in forgotten places and long to be born. In the liminality of the taking form, the dungeon's dreams and fantasies blow like a hot breath from its hiding place and cause confusion and nightmares. Where abandoned sewer lines and city intermingle, usually in the poorest places, dungeon birth is foretold when the poor suffer from madness & mutation, plot riots and insurrection.

Dungeons also appear in uncivilized minds, in items of power too-long unused. Wizards have dungeon-bent minds, cultists, punk priests, chaos Catholics all find themselves compelled to live by nascent dungeons, total capitulation to the dungeon and it's reigning deities.  Wizards summoning monsters are essentially just wizards peeling back the difference between this place and the cloaca that first ripped open their minds.

The New Campaign Vision

The New Vision

A new setting, new system, and new style...

The next campaign I'm building will have 4 points of focus.
  • Player Focus: player skill is more important than die rolls
  • Gamist: players are playing a GAME and can lose
  • Streamlined: simplified rules to allow for faster play
  • Episodic: adventures are rarely tied directly together

I'm going to call the campaign HackMaster: Adventurous Exploits Edition or HMAEE.

Player Focused

While in some games a player may roll the dice to determine if they have succeeded, HMAEE requires the player to describe the character actions.  A skill roll may influence the outcome, but the GM will judge the outcome of a described action more often than the dice.

In addition, players are encouraged to use their knowledge to make decisions. While some player knowledge is very different than character knowledge, many games discourage what is often called "meta-gaming".  If the players all know the GM likes to set up pit traps in a particular manner, they can use this knowledge.  It is up to the GM to adapt and change as well.


Aspects such as the story and plot are important to making the whole HMAEE experience more fufilling, but the players and GM should remember that this is a game - and games have winners and losers.  If the characters can't fail, then the players can't lose; with no real risk comes no real reward.

It is up to the Game Master to provide a reasonable challenge for the players based on their characters.  This doesn't mean that every single encounter or challenge is able to be overcome - some things are just too difficult to handle in the normal manner.  Players need to understand when these situations arise and react accordingly.

This is also going to further the GM vs The Party mentality a bit.  While fair and impartial, I'm not above adding a completely devious deathtrap to a dungeon or having the players find utterly false information that will send them down a rabbit hole of total destruction.  The players should know this and need to act accordingly.  Some might say that this is unfair and unbalanced and I would agree ... but that doesn't automatically make it less fun.


HM5e is plenty crunchy.  The streamlining of the rules is designed to remove rules that don't enhance the HMAEE style of game play.  Some accounting is necessary, but tracking every single item an adventurer carries and the weight can get a bit tedious.  Critical Hits should be exciting and descriptive more than a simple list of effects.

The idea is to retain the feel and effects of the rules while making things much easier to manage.  By reducing the rules and making the focus of the game more on player choices within the game (do we investigate the visceral bubbling sound from the other side of the door?) rather than player choices outside of the game (which weapon does the most damage per second).


A single adventure may span several sessions, the adventurers generally don't have more than one adventure per season (spring, summer, autumn) and almost never adventure in the winter (it is seriously dangerous).  The one adventure per season is from Torchbearer, but is a style choice I think is fantastic.  This allows for both GM and player narative to take place between adventures.  Training, research, and other time-consuming activities can be hand-waved and described as happening in between adventures. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Honor Revised

Honor Used to Mean Something

At least back in the HM4e days ... at least as far as I'm concerned.  In HM5e there is an ongoing argument that the game mechanic called Honor works just fine, but it isn't really the correct name for it any more.  I tend to agree, and so I'm going to call it Karma.Saying that the mechanics isn't necessary is fine, but I like it.  Watching characters burn through luck and companion points and honor (or karma as it shall henceforth be known) and the players squirm as they feel their cosmic luck running out is delightful.  That isn't just cruel GM talk - the players seem to enjoy the sense of tension it can bring to the table as well.

What is Karma?

I'm not even going to start getting into any debates on the religious connotations of "real world karma".  I'm simply stating it as the sum of a character's actions viewed as a deciding factor in the fate of future existences.  What?  A character's karma reflects how much they are in alignment with who they truly are.  When someone is who they are and true to themselves, no matter if good or bad, they have a certain presence and respect.  In all mechanical in-game aspects, it works just the same as honor.

Gaining Karma

When a character gains a level, they earn up to 16 points of karma.  The GM rates them on more or less the same categories as stated in the HM5e PHB, but with some adjustment for flavor.
  • Disposition: getting along with the party in the chosen role
  • Role Playing: general role playing enthusiasm and participation
  • Beliefs: how well did the character act true to their stated beliefs
  • Honor: defending one's personal, family, and party honor
In addition, when a character advanced they earn karma points equal to their new level.  Survival and advancement are worthy of karmic reward because, in short, my games are tough.

A character may also gain back a portion of karma when they spend it to do something dramatic, important, in line with their beliefs, and generally game-saving.  That award comes at the end of a session.  These are going to be rare awards, but the potential is out there.

Losing Karma

If a players has their character do something so drastically in opposition of their character's beliefs, or that disrupts the game, or is out-and-out foolish, the gods (the GM) will punish them with a swift kick in the karma point pool.  These are handed out moments after the action and will often cause other characters to have to scramble to make sure they don't get caught in the karma sucking vortex of bad decisions.

Encumbrance Revised

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

At some level, the fantasy RPG I want to play always has some level of resource management.  I like resource management as a concept - making sure you have enough food and light to survive but not getting weighed down so you can't outrun the dragon that shouldn't be on level 2.  I want my players to have to think about it as well.

Tracking encumbrance, though, is an endless and thankless pain in the ass.  For my less mathematically inclined players it simply isn't going to happen and for the arithmetically clever they are going to min-max and outsmart the system.

Because I like encumbrance and want it to play a part, I started tracking everything for the players and updating the sheets after every session.  For the longest time I didn't mind, but eventually I just got sick of it.  If the game is getting bogged down in a choice over 1 pound of equipment, we aren't playing the game of epic awesomeness I want.

A Game of Tough Choices

HackMaster states, several times, that is a Game of Hard Choices.  I'm down with that - it is exactly the mentality I want in my RPG rules because it fits the tone I like.  However, spending more than a few minutes agonizing over equipment purchases to ensure the maximum amount of space is utilized to avoid the most penalties when only half (at best) of the players are into that is NOT FUN.  It may be a hard choice, but it isn't fun.

Long ago I instituted a "slot" mechanic to replace encumbrance in the BECMI game.  It worked, more or less.  It felt a bit too much like a video game inventory, but it worked.  That faded away as we moved on to HackMaster4e (and eventually the new HMB and HM5e).  But now, as the campaign is coming to an end and I'm preparing the new game, I want that smoothness of play, but with the hard choices again.

Suddenly I run across and help fund Torchbearer ... which has (among other things) an encumbrance system I love.  LOVE.  I've adapted what I read from TB over to the HM5e game.

House Rule: Encumbrance

Character's have 4 locations to "store" gear:
  • Torso: 4 slots
  • Belt: 4 individual slots
  • Hand (left and right): 1 slot each

Containers also have a number of slots.  For example, a backpack requires 2 Torso slots to wear, but has 6 slots of space inside it (not to mention 1 slot on either side as well as 3 in the rear, all of which can be used for other things).  A small sack can be attached to a belt, backpack side or rear, or carried in a hand and 3 carrying slots in it.  A character can really load up on things if they like.

All items now take up a number of slots - probably just 1 slot, but some take up more.  The belt slots are 1-item only slots, whereas something like a backpack can hold an item that is large and takes up 3 slots).  Items are generally small (1 slot), medium (2 slots), or large (3 slots) with the occasional crazy huge thing and some stuff that comes multiples to a slot (3 torches or 100 coins/gems take up 1 slot).

Using the HM carrying capacities idea, I've modified the weight into a number of slots.  The formula involves some square roots and such to help balance it all out.  Encumbrance is partially weight but also includes size and bulk.  After writing the system I translated a few characters ... and it came out pretty much to the same encumbrance levels.  I think this will work.  I'll try it out and see how it goes.

1/01 - 1/500 - 345 - 67 - 89+
1/51 - 1/000 - 34 - 56 - 78 - 910+
2/01 - 2/510 - 45 - 67 - 89 - 1011+
2/51 - 2/000 - 45 - 67 - 910 - 1011+
3/01 - 3/510 - 45 - 67 - 910 - 1112+
3/51 - 3/000 - 56 - 78 - 1011 - 1213+
4/01 - 4/510 - 56 - 78 - 1112 - 1314+
4/51 - 4/000 - 56 - 89 - 1112 - 1314+
5/01 - 5/510 - 78 - 910 - 1213 - 1415+
5/51 - 5/000 - 78 - 910 - 1213 - 1516+
6/01 - 6/510 - 78 - 910 - 1213 - 1617+
6/51 - 6/000 - 78 - 910 - 1415 - 1617+
7/01 - 7/510 - 78 - 910 - 1415 - 1718+
7/51 - 7/000 - 78 - 1011 - 1415 - 1718+
8/01 - 8/510 - 89 - 1011 - 1415 - 1718+
8/51 - 8/000 - 89 - 1112 - 1516 - 1819+
9/01 - 9/510 - 89 - 1112 - 1516 - 1920+
9/51 - 9/000 - 89 - 1112 - 1617 - 1920+
10/01 - 10/510 - 910 - 1112 - 1617 - 1920+
10/51 - 10/000 - 910 - 1213 - 1617 - 2021+
11/01 - 11/510 - 910 - 1213 - 1718 - 2122+
11/51 - 11/000 - 910 - 1314 - 1819 - 2324+
12/01 - 12/510 - 910 - 1415 - 1920 - 2324+
12/51 - 12/000 - 1011 - 1415 - 2122 - 2425+
13/01 - 13/510 - 1011 - 1415 - 2122 - 2627+
13/51 - 13/000 - 1112 - 1617 - 2223 - 2829+
14/01 - 14/510 - 1213 - 1617 - 2425 - 2930+
14/51 - 14/000 - 1213 - 1718 - 2425 - 3031+
15/01 - 15/510 - 1415 - 1920 - 2627 - 3132+
15/51 - 15/000 - 1415 - 1920 - 2728 - 3334+
16/01 - 16/510 - 1415 - 2122 - 2930 - 3536+
16/51 - 16/000 - 1516 - 2122 - 3132 - 3839+
17/01 - 17/510 - 1617 - 2324 - 3334 - 4041+
17/51 - 17/000 - 1718 - 2425 - 3435 - 4243+
18/01 - 18/510 - 1718 - 2627 - 3637 - 4546+
18/51 - 18/000 - 1920 - 2829 - 3839 - 4748+
19/01 - 19/510 - 2122 - 2829 - 4041 - 5051+
19/51 - 19/000 - 2223 - 3031 - 4344 - 5253+
20/01 - 20/510 - 2324 - 3334 - 4546 - 5657+
20/51 - 20/000 - 2526 - 3536 - 4950 - 6061+

Backpack2 torso 6 pack + 1 side + 1 side + 2 rear 
 Backpack, Porter's  3 torso + 2 bel 8 pack + 2 side + 2 side + 2 rear
Satchel 1 torso, 1 pack side + rear, or 2 hands   4 slots
Sack, Small1 belt or 1 hand3 slots
Sack, Large2 torso + 1 hand or 2 hands5 slots
Belt Pouch, Small1 belt or 1 hand1 slot
Belt Pouch, Large1 belt or 1 hand2 slots
Quiver1 torso, 1 belt, or 1 pack side1 slot for 12 arrows

With all that in mind, characters are going to have bits abd pieces and scraps of paper and whatnot.  Everyone also gets a set of slots for "Ephemera and Miscellanea".  These don't take up any space because they are things that can be tucked here and there without issue.  Some things (like rings and other jewelry) will likely have a "coin equivalent" so they can be stored with coins in the same container.  Why?  Because that is how I imagine treasure looking - everything shiny intermingled.