RPG a Day 2020: Day 1 Beginning

This summer, the idea of “Beginnings” has been on my mind a lot. First, I’ve been starting a bunch of new things, recently. I finished on game and started a Council of Wyrms game, I’ll have a table on Wednesdays to restart our Gamestore’s playspace post-Quarantine starting soonish, and I also started a game for my D&D Reunion group, made up of people that I used to play with in North Dakota. And, speaking of that, 10 years ago is when I joined the ND group. And 1 year ago, I started the J-Team for my brother. So it has certainly been a summer to reflect on beginnings. Continue reading “RPG a Day 2020: Day 1 Beginning”

Unearthed Arcana 2020 Classes part 4

New UA! Which mean another frank as I read it review. So let’s go.

Bard: College of Spirts

“These bards seek the spirits of philosophers and stories beyond the marteial plane”

Huh, that’s a neat idea.

“They  do this using gaming sets”

…. wat? *reads ahead* Ohh, they mean like a Ouija board. Okay, that’s a bit better than what I thought at first. I thought they were trying to find a way to force 3 dragon ante into being a thing. Instead of being gimmicky, this actually looks kinda cool

Level 3: Guiding Whispers: Free guidance cantrip? don’t mind if I do!

Level 3: Spiritual Focus: You get a role play item crucial to your class, which means it can be taken away and you lose the subclass abilities. But it can be something weird that you use to channel the voices.

Level 3: Tales from beyond. This ability was confusing the first time I read it, but I think I got it now. So you spend a BA to tell a story. This expends a BI, which you roll to see which story it is. This gives you a spell-like ability you can trigger with an action sometime before the next short rest. Some are for allies, some are for enemies. The more powerful ones are higher up, so you need to level and get a better BI die to unlock.

Normally, I don’t like random, but I think this does it well. None of the abilities are negative, and none are really game changing. If you get the tale that you need its going to feel great, but if you don’t you’ll still have some useful things.

Level 6 Spiritual Focus: Add a single d6 to a heal or damage spell. Wow. This makes bards a better leader AND a better striker.

Level 6 Spirit Session: Spend an hour to temporarily learn a spell with all sorts of limitations. It has to be of a level you can cast, equal or under your proficiency bonus, and you need to have a number of creatures to assist in the spell. Interestingly, this would be the first thing in 5e that makes a familiar useful in casting ritual magic. You know, like familiars are supposed to do.

Also, if you learn animate dead with this, you can use your undead servants to help you learn Animate dead the next day.

Looking at the spells, Divination and Necromancy are rarely game changing at low levels. Mostly, they’re problem solving. And this ability doesn’t scale fast enough to be a problem IMO.

My big concern is I want this to be more of a thing for other classes.

Level 14 Mystical Connection: Save on BI by using a free d6 to tell stories. They might get repetitive, but they’re the good ones!

Conclusion: This bard looks like fun. It’s got enough mechanics to keep it competitive and enough flavor to season the soup. And the flavor can go many ways. Have you ever wanted to play a character like Fozzie Bear in Muppet Treasure Island, who has someone living in his finger that only he can hear? Wanna play a secret agent who has a “Guy in the chair” whispering in his ear?” Done. Wanna check people’s horoscopes? Or roll to decide which way to go?

The flavor here facilitates all of that. And that just sounds fun.

Undead Warlock

“Your patron could be Acererak [Evil],  Azalin [Evil], Lord Soth [Evil], Strahd[Evil], or some other ancient undead being.”

I’m starting to build a case about hating warlocks. And a big part of that is flot like this. Five examples. FIVE EXAMPLES, and all of them evil. This doesn’t season the soup, it salts the soup. One flavor. Evil.

Level 1 Spell List: This spell list is weird. I was expecting things like animate dead (which, yeah, should NEVER be a warlock spell, now that I think about it). But it looks more about being the undead threat, not making it or destroying it.

Level 1 Form of Dread: Temp HP, immune to fear, and a free fear like effect? Not bad. And it’s tied to PB, which is interesting. We don’t see enough of that.

Level 6 Grave touched: No need to eat drink or breathe. Nice undead features, there. Being able to turn an attack into necrotic is interesting, as it lets you bypass resistances, but I don’t see it being more than ribbons. Really thick ribbons, but ribbons nonetheless.

Level 10: Mortal Husk: Okay, Resistance is always good. Resistance that conditionally becomes immunity is better. Also, you’re occasionally a bomb. I can totally see the party making a play where they shoot the warlock for the boom. No save on the bomb, btws.

Level 14: Spirit Projection: Once per day, you jump out of your body and wreck face as a ghost. Enjoy.

Conclusion

As much as the flavor is focuses on evil undead, the actual flow looks fun. This is a self-contained warlock. Warlocks like Noble Djinn depend on the patron, but here, the warlock has been given powers and just does things himself. I like how it really focuses on the one ability and ties everything to that.

I think it’s a solid class, and I welcome it’s inclusion in a future book.

Skraz

Another great set of classes of UA. I’m building a lot of hype for PHB2 or whatever it’ll be called. Can’t wait.

Culture-Re-Quest: The Origin of Space Whales

A bounty was offered by my brother to write an article on the history of the space whale, a staple of Sci-fauna. But when did it become so commonplace?

Continue reading “Culture-Re-Quest: The Origin of Space Whales”

Diltensar Rough Draft: Building a Campaign World From Scratch

If you’re not one of my four players for an upcoming game, then this won’t make much sense. If you ARE one of those four, then this might not make much sense. There’s been a lot of lore and mechanical creep since we talked about things.

I started building the mechanics system based on the last survey. I formed things heavily on the Piety system from Theros, which is effectively a second leveling track that gives rewards the further you are along it. I decided a selection of 2 different tracks would be a good buffet of opportunity, one with 12 options, and one with 5. Each would level separately, and each would have the same tier of power, meaning characters with 2 tracks (aka, the PCs) are going to be very powerful indeed.

With some mechanics figured out, I started creating a world, and that’s when a lot of my lore decided to shy away from things we had talked about and go on its own journey. This lore is a rough draft. I still have lot of things to add in.

(If you have suggestions for how I can have a heavy metalworking area that’s not in a volcano like it always is, please let me know!)

Lore

Once, ages ago, Tahoc, the First of the Gods, lived in a land of war and destruction. There, the gods made men and creatures like men and used them like pawns, just meaningless pieces on their game board. Tahoe grew sickened by the heartlessness of his fellow gods, so he built a ship of Light and called to Emlihna, a leader of his armies and a faithful man. Emlihna brought his people to the ship and they sailed through the Heavens to the far land of Diltensar, a place hidden in the clouds of the heavens from the other gods and their hordes.

In Diltensar, Tahoc commanded Emlihna and his people to build cities, plant crops, and raise herds. The land was prosperous and bountiful, and the people flourished. Generations passed and the people of Emlihna spread through the land. As they drifted apart, they found new homes and purpose.

In the living hills to the south, The people of Jamok (Jam oak) built moving villages among the beasts made of dirt and stone.

In the forest of spires to the north, the people of Nelir (nell-eer) befriended the spider-like people of the Roia (row-eye-ah).

Above the foam geysers, the Pisad (Pie-sad) built cities in the sky

[And some others I haven’t made yet…]

But Peace did not last forever. Of the gods Tahoc had left behind, two had noted his absence. Hedalneep, a cruel goddess of great beauty and malicious cunning, and Khinaret, who lurks in the shadows. They had seen the ship of Light depart and had chased after it into the heavens. They had hoped to easily catch it, that they might plunder and murder with glee, but the ship proved too fast. They tried to follow the ship of Light, but the world of Diltensar was well hidden. They lost the trail of the ship and could not find their way home, lost in the clouds of the heavens. For centuries they searched the clouded heavens, looking for a way home.

Instead, they finally found Diltensar. With haste and hunger, the descended from the skies, reaching out to create armies of minions to dominate the realm. They were, however, thwarted. For Tahoc had formed the Twelve Guardians, powerful beings with which he divided his essence. Instead of two Evil Gods descending and overpowering one god of god, the evil ones were met with 12 guardians arrayed against them. In a battle, one-on-one no Guardian could stand against the force of a god. But, supporting each other, the Guardians were able to beat back Hedalneep and Khinaret.

But while the evil gods were repelled, they did not entirely depart. Their influence is always creeping in through the defenses of the guardians. Tempting and corrupting, altering the natural order, seeking a foothold that they could use to gain power and dominance over Diltensar.

The Guardians are ever watchful, and they choose Heroes, giving them power and teaching them to harness their potential, charging them with investigating the dark places of the world, in bringing hope and peace to the children of Emlihna.

/End Lore

I have a lot more deepening to do of the world, including drawing a map and finding more ways to hide the fact that all this started with mechanics based on the Chinese Zodiac (the final product will (probably) NOT be based on the Chinese Zodiac or related mythology.) And I think any campaign that I run will need to be fast forwarded, idk, 500 years? from the repelling of the evil gods, if not more. Civilization will need to advance, populations grow, and  factions created with slightly differing viewpoints on what’s important.

Campaigns in Diltensar (which i rolled dice to name, btw, and need to use a LOT more before it becomes natural to use) will probably involve the party being told about some sort of trouble or something mysterious happening, they’ll go to the place, see the wonders, and deal with the issue. Which means I need to make sure there’s enough dangerous things in the world that the party doesn’t instantly expect the Evils to be behind it. Good to know.

Player options

Players will have a few options to select. They’ll have their Patron Guardian, Their “Soul” their Race/Heritage, and their class

Patron Guardian

There are 12 Guardians, at the moment, although that’s arbitrary right now. Each player will be able to pick which one they want. They use the Piety system, which I might rename, idk. Each session the “piety” level goes up by one. Each guardian will also have some actions that will net you bonus piety, and one or two things I can make as a hard choice that will cost you piety. (I have no idea what the actions will be, but they’ll be tied to the lore of the Guardians. Maybe “bring down a powerful beast” or “Bring peace to a restless undead soul” Things like that)

Here’s a sample of what a Guardian could give. It still has a Zodiac name attached, so don’t pay attention to that, but this is the type of abilities and the level of power you can expect.

Guardian “Rat” 

Piety Level 3+: 

You can cast Command a number of times a day equal to your Intelligence Modifier. Intelligence is your Spellcasting ability for this spell. 

Piety Level 10+:

You can cast Enemies Abound once a day. Intelligence is your Spellcasting ability for this spell. 

Piety Level 25+:

You can cast Scry once per day. Intelligence is your Spellcasting ability for this spell. 

Piety Level 50+:

Increase your Charisma or Intelligence Score by 2. The maximum is also increased.

Picking your “Soul” is similar. It will also have a “Piety” level that you track separately.

Wood Soul

Piety Level 3+: 

You can cast Entangle a number of times a day equal to your Charisma Modifier. Charisma is your Spellcasting ability for this spell. 

Piety Level 10+:

You can cast Plant Growth once a day. Charisma is your Spellcasting ability for this spell. 

Piety Level 25+:

You skin begins to be covered in bark. Your AC cannot be below 16.

Piety Level 50+:

Increase your Charisma or Constitution Score by 2. The maximum is also increased.

Again, there will be ways to accumulate “piety” faster, but I’m not sure what they are yet. I need to harmonize the lore, and mechanics, as well as finish plastering over the Chinese myth understructure.

Races

Race/Heritage will be another choice, and I’m not sure what options I’ll be offering. I’m not sure if I’m just going to be offering a variety of Super Human options, like variant human, but instead of a feat, there’s a 2nd level spell flavored for the people. For instance, my penciled notes for the Jamok would be able to cast “Find Steed” once a day and be able to summon a “horse” made of floating stones. I’m working on creating a bunch of really interesting locales and people who have adapted to living there.

There might be a few non-human races? I’m not sure yet. If the idea of the Super Human isn’t tasty enough, I might be able to work a few into the lore. The story of the lore surprised me, in how limited the options started looking. I could always squeeze an option or two as having joined the Ship of Light, but we’re not going to have the smorgasbord of options that, say, the Forgotten Realms has.

Classes

I guess we need to talk classes. Like races, the classes that potentially exist in the world say things about the world. For example, the existence of the fighter says “There are people in the world who train with weapons.” In most worlds, we would just say “fair enough.” However, this sentence goes against the lore of the Harry Potter universe. So if I was using D&D to run a Hogwarts game, I would probably say “No fighters.”

I would not use D&D for a Harry Potter game without being severely bribed.

In building a world from scratch, it’s important to listen to what the classes say and see how that ties in to your world. And you either cut away the voices that aren’t harmonious, or retrain them, so they sing differently than normal, but in key.

There are some voices that I’m not liking. Some of them I might be able to rectify, others not. Some subclasses fit better than others. It’s a tedious process. I have 6 classes I feel good about using, and the rest I don’t. Quick run through, I guess

  • Cleric and Paladin: I designed this world in part around the idea of clerics being a core class. They say “There is a higher power that grants us power” and yes, this world is designed for that. Ditto for paladins, except they say “There is an organization or higher power that wants us to kick ass.” Atm, all subclasses are going to be in, but that might change as we get closer.
  • Fighter, Rogue, Barbarian: Pretty universal. Most subclasses get through.
  • Monk: I know people don’t like the monk, but I like it. I might have to restrict some subclasses (like I don’t think Shadow monks really have a place here) but a lot of it should get through.
  • Artificer: I like the class, even though it’s not core PHB. But I’m not sure of where it fits. I guess the forge city, but I don’t have a good picture yet.
  • Wizard: Wizards say “Magic is a thing that is organized, categorized, studied and well-understood.” … and I’m not sure if that’s true here. Maybe after I fast forward the time line, it could be true, but idk. Also, wizard spells DO more than cleric spells, in terms of interacting with the world and idk what I think about some of those things.
  • Sorcerer: Sorcerers say “Some people are just born to arcane magic.” If I am opening the door for arcane magic, I can make Sorc work easier than any other Arcane class. But I would have to write some lore for it, as opposed to making an organization like I would for wizards.
  • Warlock: On paper, Warlocks say “I’m willing to trade my soul for power, and someone out there is buying.” And then the subclasses say “There are powerful creatures of (circle each that is relevant): Fey, Fiends, Aberrations, Celestials [Whatever Long Death are], [whatever Hexblades are], etc, willing to take my soul” And that’s a lot of things to write into a world. (Off paper, with how D&D is designed, the DM doesn’t have a lot of control. It looks like hooks, but it’s a lie. And they set up role play that is normally antagonistic.
    I could make warlocks work, but really, I’d rather not.
  • Bard: Bards are weird. I don’t know what they say about a world, other than maybe “Everything else is allowed, so why not bards?”

The point of things

To my four players, does this world sound interesting? It’s not as “Highlander” as we had talked about, as per the aforementioned lore creep. If you want something more Highlander, I can try again. If you feel strongly about anything I mentioned here, let me know. (If I get good feedback, I won’t have to send out a survey)

I’ll keep poking at this world, but if it’s not of interest, I’ll backburner this. I don’t need to run weird D&D.

Cody asked what I enjoy in a game and I’ve been giving it some thought. There’s a lot of things I like, but a game playing the way it should is one of them. A game set in the Forgotten Realms should make use of how big and complete the place is, how much history it has. A game set in Eberron should make use of the world’s ability to tell ANY story. A game set in Ravenloft needs to be about the tone.

When I’m building a world, I want it to be consistent and well thought out, so that I can tell the story I have in mind. And Diltensar, to me, has a team of actually good guys who get to see some crazy amazing things I’ve thought up. But having a good game is more important than my vision of this world. I can pivot. And I’m willing to. I just need to know.

Culture Quest: American Wolf by Nate Blakeslee

This is an odd book to write about, as this wasn’t on the Big List. For school, I wrote a paper on the reintroduction to wolves in Colorado, and I saw a reference to this book. Recently infatuated with my local library (See: Culture Quest) I placed an order without learning anything else about it. And I’m glad I did. This book was amazing as a way to learn about the issues involved with reintroducing wolves, and I don’t think I’ve EVER read a book as well written as this one. Continue reading “Culture Quest: American Wolf by Nate Blakeslee”

Why I can’t run Theros: The Buy-in Scale

You never run out of white whales. It’s a fact in life. As a chaser of whales, I’m not confident in saying you’ll never catch them, because that’s something I literally cannot believe about this metaphor. I am incapable of that. And now we make a hard pivot to talk about gaming.

There are some gaming whales that I’ve been chasing for a while. We might talk about those later, but for new, we need to talk about the new whale in my sights. A greek whale. Continue reading “Why I can’t run Theros: The Buy-in Scale”

A Rough History of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay

I was talking to a friend about RPGs and he asked if I knew about some drama from an upcoming Games Workshop Age of Sigmar RPG. I did not, so I did a bit of digging. Here’s the scoop on Age of Sigmar as far as I understand it.

I could have details wrong, as I haven’t watched this all develop and it’s not exactly my scene. Also, there are a LOT of things named similar things. I’ll be using nickname to keep things straight, not actual product titles.

Continue reading “A Rough History of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay”