Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Class-based damage & endurance + 2020 mini-rant

Characters in Sorrow in Haven have two die types set by their class - Endurance and Damage.

The Endurance Die
This is pretty common - different character classes have different amounts of hp. Endurance in SiH is a bit different. It is like hit points, but only represents stamina and stress. Vitality (another stat) actually represents the amount of physical damage one can take before getting killed.  Endurance is also a resource that characters can spend to increase their chances of success.

At 1st level a character gets a roll of their END die to determine stating END (15+END die roll), but after that every character gets 5 END when they level up. Early on it became obvious that characters with a big END die were just more capable then those with smaller END die - at everything (because you can spend END). So an initial bump, but long term END is fairly even across the classes. Adventurers are adventurers. 

So why still have it? Because the END die represents how effective the characters are at recovering END when they rest. Fighters recover from activity (which is usually physical in nature) faster than wizards. Vitality recovery still sucks for everyone, as intended. So if HP aren't the measure of combat prowess any more (and they definitely aren't in my game), it has to be ....

The Damage Die
I never liked classic D&D where characters couldn't use certain weapons. I understand why (game balance reasons) - a fighter is awesome at fighting so they get the best weapons. This was somewhat mitigated over time with proficiencies and whatnot, but it is still hella clunky. I also totally hate the idea that a dagger is less dangerous than a sword in the hands of a capable opponent. Hence, class-based damage. Fighters do 1d8 when they attack, wizards 1d4. Why? Fighters know how to fuck enemies up with anything in their hands, wizards not so much (they get spells, so you know, compensate in other ways).

This also allowed weapons to not be an endless list of stats, but rather descriptive items items that further the character idea. All "medium close combat" weapons are identical for stat purposes, just describe it however you want. Mace? Fine. longsword? Fine. Chain covered in salt-crusted thorns? Sweet. Gear, at least at a basic level, is then just an extension of the vision a player has for their character. 

I'm not the first (by a long shot) to use or even suggest class-based damage. I did it decades ago with the BX D&D game I ran as well. It works. It is fun. Arguments against it are boring.

"Game" Balance / Multiclassing
Both a character END die and Damage die can be improved. For all classes. If there isn't a specific advance within the class itself, there is always the option of the alternate "Broaden Your Horizons" advances. They have a level requirement and cause your XP totals required to advance to increase. Why? because the character is deviating from the archetype.

I hate "multiclassing". If a fighter 6, warlock 2, rogue 1 ... fucking Christ! You aren't anything coherent at that point. Your character is a collection of abilities and not an in-game concept. But having some options isn't unreasonable. A Dr. of Physics can also be awesome at singing, so why can't a wizard also deal some heft sword damage? The "broaden your horizons" advances don't change your class, your archetype, your focus, they just open some possibilities. Besides, there are tons of alternate powers and advances that anyone can choose.

Some "From Play" Examples
One of my players has gone all-in with a concept of a gun-slinger. He is playing a fighter that has deviated and chosen the alternate power "Black Powder Enthusiast". This guy is fast and deadly when it comes to shooting people with guns. Like seemingly way over-powered at 2nd level. However, the moment the tide turns and melee is upon him, things don't go as well. The character is so hyper focused on shooting pistols that anything else is mechanically wanting. 

In the previous campaign, we had a wizard that was all about causing damage. Massive damage. Destructive spells, physical damage, etc. In addition to being a war mage (increased damage die on spell effects) he also advnaced his general damage die. He was a fucking destruction machine, but when it came to interacting with people he was awful (and this was played oh so very well). 

Are these flaws? Nope. I say they are strengths. You can craft a character that excels in one thing at the cost of other things. And it is obvious from the get-go. He knew in the last session that once those gang thugs closed in on him, things were about to go fucking sour, and they did. That wizard was shit at everything except blasting monsters apart and the player really leaded into it. The whole things was awesome.

My Point
I don't have one. I like making END growth fairly flat as it makes every combat dangerous, even at higher levels. I like class-based damage because it opens up character concepts without gimping them with abstract game rules. I like character classes as archetypes, hate multi-classing, but love customization options. Done rambling. 

In Conclusions
I hope everyone is having a happy (or at least reasonable) holiday season. Stay Safe. Trump & his cronies & supporters are pieces of shit. Black Lives Matter. RPGs are awesome. Keep playing and doing awesome stuff. Don't be gate-keeping assholes. Orcs can just be orcs. Free Healthcare for Americans. Fuck you, 2020. 

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Special Ability: Level Level Drain - HELL YEA

I love it. I said it. Level drain the the SINGLER MOST TERRIFYING THING to old school players (Turn to Stone being a close #2). It probably doesn't kill you, but it makes you less than you were before. It is awesomely frightening. Players don't like it? too bad - they also don't like creatures that do 3d6 damage per hit or vomit gouts of acid that do 50hp of damage, but they don't whine about those as much.

However ... it never seems to make sense in the setting. Player characters have levels, but Zoff the Thief is only as good as his reputation and most recent score. Players know that vampires drain levels, but Helena is terrified of them because ... well .. because they drain levels?

I also am not a huge fan of the level loss itself as an actual game mechanic. It can be a huge pain in the ass from a book keeping standpoint in any edition, really.

My Solution, Part I

Monsters don't drain levels, they drain experience points. 

For OSR games, a monster drains 500XP per HD (or 1000 if they drain 2 levels). Using BECMI a vampire would drain 7000 - 9000 XP (based on HD), while a wraith would drain 2000 per hit.

For Sorrow in Haven, they drain some amount of XP - the more dangerous they are the more they drain. A Degenerate Wight sucks out 10x the XP as it does damage on a hit (1d6 damage). A shard mite eats 1d100 XP each day.

In any case, characters do NOT lose a level, it is now just that much harder to get to the next level. If a character is dropped to 0XP, they are just dead ass dead as the last of their life is drained out.

My Solution, Part II

When XP is drained, the character makes a Save (Death for OSR, monster-specific for Sorrow in Haven). If they fail, the GM makes a note. Do this each time they lose XP.

Once everything is said and done with the current encounter the GM rolls once on the Memories of the Past Table for each failed save. Then a little flashback happens between the player and the GM ... in the scene their character must learn something. When the flashback is over, that something is gone. The memory is has been dragged out of them. Loss of XP represents a loss of self, and what is the self if not memories? Or maybe they don't get a save - up to the GM.

I've had characters lose their fear of the unknown - making them wildly overconfident; lose their trust - making them turn on their own crew members; lose their ability to understand love - that one got really dark...

When the character next gains a level, or after some worthwhile session where the PC learned a valuable life lesson (the more you know!) they can choose to lose the problem they've picked up.


So Level Drain still rules, just replaced with XP Drain.

Something awful is still awful, but now opens an opportunity for more role playing (if you are into that sort of thing).

Monsters that suck out your memories and sense self now feel more like actual monsters and less shitty. Also: verisimilitude!

Monday, November 16, 2020

Cults ... always with the cults

Why Cults?

Nameless mooks worshiping a demon god bent on destruction? How is this NOT a fun thing to have as your enemy - especially if they've got some NPCs with names backing them mup or an actual chance to summon the Pure Evil Whoever. Everyone loves cults for background material. They are always up to something and seem to attract members out of nowhere. And you rarely feel bad sticking them with a sword or blasting them to pieces with a fireball. Seriously - they are the nazis of the medieval fantasy world - fantasy Castle Wolfenstein.

But they can be more - so much more! They are an organization like all others - the individuals have motivations, the gods have motivations, allies, enemies, and all that good stuff. Cults in the Sorrow in Haven setting are always particularly dangerous because they could invite evil, actual evil, into the city. Even if they don't mean to. Corrupt one Templar and now the entire neighborhood might start getting weird. Summon some minions from the Gloom? Oh shit - Gloom Portals in every semi-abandoned alleyway.

The Tables

Roll 4d10 and read up on the Cult Basics table. With a generated Origin, Ideal, Lure, and Rites you have a framework. Now roll 1d10 on the Worship & Veneration table - but if the roll is higher than any rolled on the Cult Basics table, reroll it until it isn't.

Desperate Searching for Hope
Free Thinkers
Shadow-Corrupt Clergy
Pleasure Seekers
Adepts of the Old Ways
Destroy the Dome
A Prophet has Arisen
 Influence from Outside the Dome 
 Forbidden Knowledge 
 Blood Sacrifice 
Signs and Omens of the Sea
Decadent Lesser Nobility
Tradition of Bloodline
Blessed Lands
Offerings from the Gloom
Dreamvisions of the Underworld

Worship & Veneration
A complete fabrication - this cult is based on lies of the leader for their own purposes
The Cult Leader - perhaps delusional, perhaps not; has unwavering loyalty of the faithful 
 The Ephemeral - love, hate, joy, death, birth, or any concept beyond physical manifestation 
An Ancient Idol - discovered in the Undercity or recovered from the Underworld
A Broken Saint - a twisted aspect of the Church of Eternal Light, driven by the Shadow
One of the Dead Gods - Followers of the Old Ways worship a god thought long gone
Unclean Spirit - a lich, vampire, ghost, or something much worse with influence in Haven
Patchwork Demon - an unimaginable horror that may only partially exist in this reality
Gloom Entity - some powerful being of the Gloom has made contact and demands worship
The Underworld - the whole of the Underworld, each dungeon bloom is a sacred place

What's with the limited d10 for the last table? 
Good question. The higher the roll, the more seriously dangerous the cult is, so a little dice magic makes sure not every cult can bring about the end of the world when there are literally dozens of the things running around. Don't like that Rule? Ignore It. I don't care.

Why are some things so vague?
Because I don't know your game. I don't know what exactly you get up to or what gods or demons you have. Also, vague allows for creativity. Is that just lazy? No. Reading everything from a table and saying "Yes - this is exactly correct" is lazy. As I'm writing this I'm clearly not over some bullshit I read on Reddit and people whining about "incomplete" settings. Homebrew isn't a dirty word, it is the only word and everything else is just fodder for your homebrew game. Fuck those guys. Anyway...


This isn't going to be well thought out - just stream of consciousness so you can see how I putter around with these tables and results.

The Rolls
Origins [6]: Signs and Omens of the Sea
Ideals [7]: Immortality
Lure [2]: Purpose
Rites [10]: Demagoguery
Focus [7]: Powerful Unclean Spirit

Let's see here ... Unclean spirit that offers immortality to the followers. Vampire jumps to mind, so let's go with that to start things off. The lure is Purpose ... improving Haven - bringing it back the a golden age through ... demagoguery. OK. Politics. Some sort of vampire that offers immortality to those that show their purpose in the guild politics of Haven. But what about Signs and Omens of the Sea. Got it!

Soulgivers of Atosh
When the galleon Bonsuire was seen slowly drifting into the dome just past Elig Murr, there wasn't much stir. Things drift into Haven's waters all the time. But this ship was different. The tattered remains of the sails bore the symbol of the sun as king, the symbol Haven Nobility from ancient times. When the ship was approached a thousand crows took flight and spent 3 days in the air. Not a single body was found on board. No living thing except a baby lamb. The sea had dropped a big pile of omens into Haven's waters and to ignore them was folly.

When Atosh stepped off the ship, he didn't even need to use his ability to mezmerise the dock workers who saw him, they knew he was something special. A few years went by and Atosh had gone slowly been working his way off the docks and into some more respectable parts of society. He had a following. And he knew what to do.

Now, the Soulgivers of Atosh do their master's bidding of their own free will. The promise of not only making Haven a better place by re-establishing the noble rule of the city, but in doing so they can attain immortality and serve at the side of the their Immortal King Atosh. The Soulgivers have made their way into numerous guilds and act as pawns for Atosh. He has some plan that may take another decade to come to fruition - inciting riots, setting up alliances and trade deals, even brokering with some of the minor noble houses - inspiring them to "take back what is theirs".

How the party gets involved (d6)
  1. a guild asks them to investigate their political rival
  2. overhear the term while heisting some goods
  3. stumble across the murder of a splinter group - in progress
  4. suddenly a lot of goats are missing - get asked to help
  5. they are on the shit end of a seemingly mindless political guild maneuver 
  6. one of them gets asked to join

Mix it up

Throw in some stuff from the gang generator! If the Focus d10 is 1-4, they are "petty", 5-6 is "minor", 7-8 is "major" and 9-10 would be "serious". So in the example above 7 would be "Major", so I'll roll 1d8 for the goal and get a 1 ... survival. Leadhership produces Ruthless & Charlatan.

What does this mean? Atosh knows that if discovered he will be destroyed. He has no actual plans for the rise of nobility, he is just trying to get a secure place to spend his time while he figures out what to do. There is no grand plan - just a handful of ideas. Atosh lives in constant fear of discovery but will do anything to ensure his safety.


Monday, November 9, 2020

Wandering Monsters

Before I get into this, WTF happened with blogger? The auto-formatting sucks. May be time to fuck off to another platform. 

Wandering monster have been a staple of D&D from the beginning, but the some time (3e era i think) people started complaining they didn't make sense or they screwed up carefully balanced encounters or something along those lines. If you don't like wnadering monsters don't use them, but I personally think they add some fun for both the GM and the players. They are mysterious forces, a bit of random mayhem to cause some fucking havoc. Linger too long and you might get a wandering monster ... try to rest in the dungeon? oh good luck - wandering monsters.

Here is how I'm doing wandering monsters these days.

Chance of Encounter

  • Active Dungeon: 1 in 8 every Turn/10 minutes
  • Normal Dungeon: 1 in 6 chance every 2 Turns/20 minutes
  • Quiet Dungeon: 1 in 6 every 3 Turns/30 minutes
  • Passive Dungeon: 1 in 6 every 6 Turns/ 1 hour

Other Times to Check

If the party makes a big noise - like bashing open a door, a combat, or anything else, immediate check. Wait - every time they have a combat? Oh hell yes. Sometimes other monsters join the battle, sometimes they think they'll have a moment to recover but them BLAM. Combat isn't a goal in my games, it is a challenge to overcome. It doesn't provide shit for XP and depletes resources.

Resting in the Dungeon

If the party managed to create a safe/secure location somehow, I bump the check die up 2 times (d6 becomes a d10, d8 becomes a d12). If it is really secure, like they've locked themselves in between two secret doors and cast Safe Haven, then I'll also double the time between checks. 

In the last session, the crew was wandering about a "standard" dungeon - 1 in 6 every 20 minutes. They decided to do a long rest as they'd been exploring around for quite and were tired, but didn't want to leave. They found a secure location (the secret door think I mentioned above) and the templar dropped a Safe Haven. So the checks went from 1 in 6 every 20 minutes to 1 in 10 every 40 minutes. Over a 6 hour rest period

What Gets Encountered

Rather than have a wandering monster table for every dungeon level, I roll 1d10.

  • 1 - 3: Nearest Monster
  • 4 - 6: Nearest Lair Monster
  • 7 - 8: Dungeon Monster
  • 9: Regional  Monster 
  • 10: Creatures of Dust

Nearest Monster: 1d6 monsters, but never more than half of those set to be encountered, have wandered over to investigate whatever bullshit the crew is up to.

Nearest Lair Monster: With each stocked monster in a dungeon there is a chance that  this is the creature's lair. There are always a lot more monsters here than you would like. When this comes up, the standard number appearing for a wandering encounter is used - they are from the lair and continuing to assert their dungeon dominance.

Dungeon Monster: Encounter a random monster that is specific to this dungeon. these are always monsters that are unique to the dungeon - if there are goblins, fine, but they won't show up on this roll. If for some reason there are no unique monsters, then go with Creatures of Dust.

Regional Monsters: Roll on the random table for monsters of this type. In a Gorehaven dungeon, roll on the gorehaven tables, and so on. If in a Dust dungeon, roll on the Dust table. This is the long-form ecosystem of the dungeons circling into this reality.

Creatures of Dust: These are the common dungeon monsters that you find all over the goddamn place.

The Good Old Danger Level

Regional Monsters are broken down into 5 grades (A-E). A is the least dangerous for that region, E is pretty rough no matter what dungeon region you are in. The threat level of the dungeon determines what grade of critter gets rolled up based on this chart:


Then to make sure things don't go entirely out of control or are far to simple, the number encountered is multiplied by this sweet table. Mind you, I only use this math when I'm automating the population of a dungeon. When I'm doing it by hand I just eyeball the numbers.


Example: the crew is puttering around a threat level 5 Gardens dungeon. Time for a regional encounter! First I roll 1d6 to determine the grade of monsters. I rolled a 3 so it is "grade B" monsters. I roll 1d100 on the Gardens-B table and get Eelheads, 1d6 of them. I roll 1d6, get a 6, then multiple that by 1.2 for a total of 7 Eelheads. How these large plants fit into the situation is a different matter - I'll like have them clogging up the next unexplored corridor the party wanders into.

This method works for me, but it might be too many tables for some folks. If I get around to it I'll just make tables for each regional threat level that includes number encountered. In any case, I always roll up a bunch of random encounters BEFORE the game starts. Nearest and Lair I leave as notes, because i don't know where folks will be. I roll to see if there is an encounter, then just grab the next one on the list. Easy. anyone who fully rolls up random encounters AS THEY HAPPEN is a GM that doesn't understand pacing.

What Are the Monsters Doing? 

I make this a super simple 1d6 roll.

  • 1-3: checking out whatever the PC Crew is up to
  • 4-5: just wandering around
  • 6: weird monster-specific behavior

That seems like a pretty weak list, but it really covers all the things I need. Checking out the PCs? If they are intelligent then based on their demeanor and ferocity that will be watching, stalking, hunting, ambushing, or whatever. Beasts might be hunting them. Or mayeb they just heard a weird noise and are checking things out. Like it says. Just wandering around might be exploring, pushing into new terrain, hunting for food, things like that. They are doing what they do, just not expecting the PCs in particular. The last one is the most fun - monsters are weird. That is the entire point of monsters - to be terrifying and strange. This one lets the PCs wander across (or vice versa) the monsters doing something that makes them monsters. 

Examples? Fine. Some shell horrors pulling the skeleton out of a corpse to make a shell from it. Harbingad animated and arguing over a scrap of rotten fruit. A Red Hunter bubbling out from a crack in the wall and another crack nearby disgorging the undigested remains of it's last meal. Option 6 is all about some improv - and GMs - take notes!

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

Friday, March 27, 2020

Task Difficulty in BXDH

As editing progresses in Sorrow in Haven, I've been running a campaign with multiple parties in Castle Gargantua. I modded up Basic D&D (I'm calling the system BXDH) with a simple "Aim for 20" resolution system.

Aim for 20 in a Nutshell

  • Roll 1d20 + level  + modifier. If the score is 20 or higher, you succeed.
  • Level is character level, except for attacking (which is BASED on level and STR or DEX modifiers for melee and ranged).
  • Modifier is an attribute modifier, saving throw modifier, or skill modifier. Turning the Undead gets another mod based on undead HD, and attacking adds the targets AC.

I've kept it simple on purpose - originally for faster play at the table and now online. It works, but there are some questions about task difficulty. So ... some options ...

Advantage and Disadvantage
This works by changing the distribution of the d20 roll. Disadvantage is usually handed out when folks are in trouble (you are crippled by poison!) or do describe something amazing (handed out as a reward). It works, but is purely mechanical.

More Interesting Option: Change the Stakes
Changing the stakes of failure definitely changes things.  For example, climbing that 30' cliff could have 3 difficulties based on failure:

  • Low: you can't get a good grip and are unable to climb
  • Moderate: you'll get stuck part way up and have to check again
  • High: you'll definitely fall from 20-30' up (which is 2d8 or 3d8 damage, which is a LOT)
Getting a Critical Failure (Natural 1) increases the failure results

  • Low: you are stuck
  • Moderate: you fall
  • High: one of these: no save for 1/2 damage, 2d4+8 or 3d4+12 damage, automatically break a random limb

Another Option: Succeed with a Cost
I really liked this option in Dungeon World and use it sometimes. Using it all the time doesn't feel right because sometimes things just don't work. A roll fails, but I'll give the player an option to succeed for a cost. Some examples:

  • Low: it takes twice the time to climb (time tracking is a big deal in this game)
  • Moderate: Cut off your backpack to lose some weight
  • High: Lose 1d4 HP to exhaustion; 0 hp becomes 1 hp but you have a sprain and disadvantage to things for a while.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Gear Durability

I like the idea of gear breaking down - it makes choosing the right equipment important, adds another layer of resource management, and allows for some minor boons and improvements to gear. But tracking gear hit points sucks. Having items be in perfect condition or broken is boring.

I tried a durability system with descending die types, but that just didn't hit the spot - gear was too durable to the point where it wasn't even interesting to track - it became pointless book keeping.

So ... the Durability Die Rules for Sorrow in Haven v2:

The Durability die is used to check if an item breaks. When the GM calls for a Durability Roll and the result is a 1 or 2, the item is Damaged. A broken item may still be usable in this state (at the GM's discretion), but if a second Durability Roll produces a result of 1 or 2, the item is Broken and can no longer be used.

Repairing Gear
Repairing Damaged gear costs 20% of the base cost. Repairing Broken gear costs 50% of the base cost and 50% of the time will permanently reduce the durability die by 1 type. If the die type would be reduced from a d4, the item is permanently Broken.

Durability Scale
d4: super fragile
d6: normal items
d8: sturdy biz

The die an specific item also determine when a roll is made. If an item is encountering normal wear and tear or use then no roll is needed. Like a prybar being used to pry open a chest - no roll required. But if a 10' pole is used to brace across a hole and a bunch of people hang from it, you bet there is a durability roll.

Advantage and Disadvantage can be applied to durability rolls as well, but if it has Advantage why even roll?

Monday, March 9, 2020

Some Shitty Magic Rings

Artwork for Sorrow in Haven is still filtering in, and looking grand. I'm running some old school D&D and have a Mothership game in the works while I'm preparing for some hard editing. Also, some of my group are running their own games for a while, which is pretty sweet. In the mean time, here are some shitty magic rings I just thought of.

  1. Eldriband's Canker: simple silver ring with a grotty white stone. Put it on and you are covered, head to toe, in painful bloody warts. Disadvantage to everything for a day, then you get used to it. The benefit? Gain 1 DR forever. But you look nasty - which is Advantage or Disadvantage to PRE checks (depending on the situation). Cursed: take it off and a replacement GROWS on your finger in 1d6 days. If the curse is removed, the warts fade after 1d4 weeks.
  2. Ghostfinger: translucent crystal ring. Put it on and your finger is chopped off and the ring falls to the ground (it clearly has other applications) - lose 1 point of maximum VIT because it is really painful. After 1 night of sleep, your ghost finger, which is entirely invisible, appears and is fully functional.  Also, you can hit incorporeal things now. Lose more fingers? gain +1 to hit incorporeal things for each finger you lose. That last bit doesn't work if you are wearing gloves. 
  3. Ring of Rings: simple gold band inscribed with concentric circles. Roll 1d100 after each night of sleep. A new gold ring appears on an adjacent finger worth that much (in groats, of course)! The new rings are completely normal and you must have a free finger. However, for every 10g of value of new rings generated, add +1 to the next roll. If you ever roll MORE than 100 the next ring is a brass collar and you are now enslaved to the Ringlord Freldor who will find you and will be able to control all of your actions and he is pretty unpleasant. Also the when that happens the Ring of Rings disappears.
  4. Brass Destroyer: a brass ring that becomes brass knuckles when you get angry. you get +2 damage if unarmed and you punch with this hand. On a critical success do triple damage (quintuple damage on a legendary) but your hand is broken and won't heal for a month, which means no holding things (or punching) with that hand. Luckily you have another hand. And feet - it could be a toe ring.
  5. Ring of Posies: with a touch you give folks the plague, even if you don't want to or if they touch you. You are immune to disease until you take the ring off, then you immediately contract the black death, or red death, or whatever super awful plague exists in your campaign. On the bright side, you always smell like fresh flowers even if you take the ring off - forever. How delightful.
  6. Circle of Death: ring of bone, carved tiny skull on it. looks super metal. touch anything alive and say the word and they must pass a CON Save (difficulty 10) or die. Each time you do this one of your fingers withers and will remain on your hand as a blackened reminder of your move (no healing or magic can fix this relic's curse). When you lose a finger roll 1d6: (1-2) lose that many max VIT (3-5) -1 DEX (6) -1 CON and your shadow starts acting up and plotting what may be your own demise.
Not using Sorrow in Haven - no problem. some OSR conversions:

  • Chance PRE to CHA
  • Maximum VIT loses are losses to maximum HP
  • groats are whatever your base currency is (or if in a money-tight game the next lowest coin)
  • critical or legendary hits - just increase the critical hit results for your game. don't use critical hits? add them in for this one

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Castle Gargantua

taking a break from Sorrow in Haven for a bit. the new artwork is coming in (Scott Lemien) , which is fantastic, but I just can't start the editing process - need to spend some time looking at other things. So right now one of my players is running a 5e game for the group, but that is set to finish up shortly. Another is going to run a KULT game when he is back from a trip to Vietnam. In between, though, I I've prepped for a game of Castle Gargantua!

The Game System
I wrote up rules that I'm calling BXHD. They are basically BE(CMI) D&D with an adaptation of the Target 20 system. Human characters only - which means cleric, fighter, mage (I've always hated "magic-user"), & thief. Then to add some spice, I'm using a variation on the Random Character Advancement to allow for characters to have a bit of elf blood or be more barbarian than fighter. I'm 100% OK with a thief taking a ranger roll or a cleric picking up something from the barbarian table. Should be fun :)

I'm also a sucker and had to add in OVERCASTING. Mage and Cleric can cast a spell beyond their "safe" limit (spell slots), but failure has consequences. Magical Chaos in the case of the Mage, Atonement requirements in the case of Clerics.

... and the LUCK stat. CC is 3d6 in order ... then roll for Luck and you can swap it with another score. There might be a LUK check sometimes, but mostly characters can burn the score and get a +1d6 on their d20 rolls. Characters with a positive LUK modifier are "lucky" and those without are "unlucky" - that will start showing up immediately when random targets are assigned and whatnot.

The Castle
I took the random generators in the book and created some Tablesmith tables, then generated the whole damn castle, each region having 1d4+4 rooms. 20% of the rooms have descriptions pulled from my random dungeon generator instead of those in the book to add some spice, and i added a few other bits including a few restock rolls to make things faster later.  Generated rooms look like this:

Area 5-3: TUNNEL, Rectangular chamber (3x2) [STONE]
  Furniture: Man-sized      Lighting: Dark
  Enter from 1
     Exit 1 (N): Iron door; room after corridor with several turns and doors
  * Drizzling rain

Restock: Monster: Valkyries
Restock: Nothing
Restock: Nothing
Restock: Monster: Border patrol
Restock: Nothing
Area 6-6: TOPIARY GARDEN, Circular chamber (radius 5) [LUST]
  Furniture: Mixed      Lighting: Illuminated
  Enter from 2
     Exit 1 (W): Wooden door, painted; room after climbing several flights of stairs
     Exit 2 (S): Wooden door, painted; room just behind exit
  -- rotted Tatters lie bundled against a wall. Wode tattooed pigs pursue, nipping at heels
  # Monster: Houris
  # Loot: A sturdy copper collar with a chain worth 9cp

Restock: Nothing
Restock: Nothing
Restock: Nothing
Restock: Nothing
Restock: Nothing

I wanted to include the option for classic D&D monsters too, so 50% of wandering monsters are the patrols from the book, which are awesome, and 50% are random D&D critters (basic and expert only). The D&D creates are generated with NO REGARD for character level because that is just more fun. They don't have to fight them - they just encounter them, maybe in the middle of something else. Sample from the generator:

Castle Guards x3
  Made of: Rotting Flesh. The guards always attack last.
  They can shoot black laser rays for 1d8 damage with their eyes in addition to their standard spear attack.
  HD: (rabble), AC: 7, Spear: 1d6 (rabble scale)

Gargoyle x2 (Chaotic)   (B30)
HD: 4 XP: 125 Treasure : C
Mv: 90(F150) Morale: 11 Save: F8
AC: 5 Thac0: 16 Attacks & Damage : 2 clws (1d3), 1 bite (1d6), & 1 horn (1d4)
* Can only be hit by magic or magic weapons
* Not affected by Sleep or Charm

Bandit x1 ( Neutral)   (B25)
HD: 1 XP: 10 Treasure : U(A)
Mv: 90 Morale: 8 Save: T1
AC: 6 Thac0: 19 Attacks & Damage : 1 weapon

Castle Guards x4
  Made of: Tin. The guards are considered to be wearing chain mail armor.
  They ignore all creatures except undead.
  HD: (rabble), AC: 7, Spear: 1d6

They list Thac0, but only because I couldn't be bothered to remove it from the generator as it was written ages ago. Same with the treasure - that isn't happening.

So ...

  • I've pre-generated 2 Castle Gargantuas (one for a game I'm trying to run at the Granite Coast Brewing on their game night, the other for my home game).
  • I generated a few pages of wandering monsters, to be used by either game
  • I created a "quick view" of the monsters presented in CG for quick reference
  • I have the game system written up/out and ready go
  • Character sheets are ready

I'm super stoked to run this properly ... dipped my toes in a year or tow ago with a single session, but this is full prep madness. If anyone is interested in the tablesmith tables, let me know; i can set you up with everything.