Sunday, June 11, 2017

A new area of the Majestic Wilderlands mapped

Though out the history of the tabletop roleplaying the myth and legends of Japan has fascinated many hobbyists. For many there was a strong desire to player Samauri, and Ninjas. Have one's character wield a katana or throwing shurikens. Especially when I stated out in the late 70s and early 80s, I had numerous players wanting to play these types of character in my Majestic Wilderlands. So I carved a section called it the Karian Islands.

Flash forward 30 years, my friend +Dwayne Gillingham is running a campaign playtesting his RPG called the Crit System. He using his own take on the Majestic Wilderlands as the setting. As it so happens the campaign has taken a detour to the Karian Islands. So I thought to myself, I better make a map for it. Many characters were from there but I never had a campaign where the PCs visited it. So I looked at my notes and overview maps and started drawing.

First some background.

Karian Isles
Comprised of two archipelagos; the Silver Skein Islands to the south and the Isles of Dawn to the north. These islands were originally occupied by the Karians, humans with a culture similar to the early Japanese. They were contacted and incorporated into the Ghinorian Empire early in its expansion.

When the Empire collapsed one of the last pretenders to the title of the Imperial Prince of Ghinor fled to the islands to regroup. He married a local princess to win the loyalty of the Karian nobles. He left and was killed while trying to reclaim the throne. The princess was pregnant and gave birth to a son who was proclaimed as the new Imperial Prince.

Legends grew of the last pretender and some claimed he was the divine son of Mitra. His Karian successors adopted the legend as their own and assumed not only political leadership of the islands but religous leadership as well. Over the past thousand years their culture has grown more inward. They have developed an elaborate code of honor and social system.

Finally the main map itself. Remember each hex is 5 leagues with a league taking 1 hour to walk. A ship with average winds can make about 10 leagues (2 hexes) every four hours. Or 60 leagues (12 hexes) a day. Those of you with the Judges Guild will notices a lot of differences some due to the increased map size and other due to the different background I use.


Monday, June 5, 2017

New Maps of the Majestic Wilderlands

So I been running a Thursday night game using my Majestic Wilderlands rules. The group is currently based in Viridistan, the largest city in my campaign.

They are stomping around the region, which prompted me to make a regional map. Note that it is the most densely populated areas of the Wilderlands hence the extensive amount of cropland. Which is marked as a textured yellow brown fill.

Each small hex is 2.5 miles or 1 league, the distance a person can walk in an hour.
Each large hex is 5 leagues. For comparison a ship with sails can travel 12 of the large hexes in 24 hours or 2 per four hours.

The larger view

The Legend Key

Enjoy today's map fix.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Joining the OSR Extravaganza with 15% off.

Normally I don't participate in OBS general sales events like GM Day because I found they don't generate any more sales over just leaving it up at list price. However the OSR Extravaganza is different as it targets you folks directly. But because I don't have my join sales option turned on, I am not listed by OBS.

Doesn't mean I can't run my own sales. So if you head over to RPGNow you will find the PDFs are marked off 40% individually and 15% off of the bundle price. So if you been wanting to pick up the Majestic Wilderlands or Scourge of the Demon Wolf, this is a pretty good price break.

As for Blackmarsh the PDF is free and the print copy is only a buck and change over cost at $5. So no discount on Blackmarsh.

Remember the Basic Rules for the Majestic Fantasy RPG if you want to see the rules I been using the past few years. They work with both the Majestic Wilderlands, Blackmarsh, and Scourge of the Demon Wolf

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Thoughts on Tabletop Roleplaying, Generating Sandbox Adventures

In the previous post I talked about how I developed Scourge of the Demon Wolf. How does one get started with this type of adventure?

Sourge of the Demon Wolf  was developed during the course of one of my GURPS campaigns around 2000. I knew the players were planning to travel along a specific road from the events of the last session. There was a small chance that something different would have occurred but given their goal the odds were high they were going to do. Remember that once a sandbox campaign gets going,it gets easier to predict the players are looking to do for the next session.

PC Route
What does it suggest to you?

Thinking of ideas I was inspired by a movie called the Brotherhood of the Wolf about the Beast of Gevaudan. Now I have a basic situation, a monster terrorizing the countryside. What the monster? A wolf of course, but abnormally powerful wolf. Where was the wolf doing this? That was easy for me as a lot of that region were medievalish manorial villages. So I picked one near the road the PCs were travelling on.

Why is the wolf on a ramage? Here I diverged from my source of inspiration and picked something more suited for my campaign. To make the wolf more powerful I elected to have the wolf possessed by a demon. How did get it possessed by a demon? By a botched summoning! Who botched the summoning? A mage's apprentice greedy for power. Where was the apprentice's master? He was one of several living in a mage's conclave in the wilderness.

Now I turned to who the demon wolf was terrorizing. I knew it was a fantasy medieval villages. So I came up wtih a reeve, a village priest, and added two characters for local color. A old guy who "minded" the local tavern and Yoluf a trapper that could act as a guide if the players hit it off with the Reeve.

To connect the village to the mage I had the apprentice be sloppy and left much of what she used for the botched summon out at a site in the wilderness to be found.

At this point I could have run it. But the situation would have been straight forward to resolve. If the PC elect to pursue the reports of wolf attack, they go to the village, do a bit of roleplaying, go out into the wilderness, maybe fight some wolves, find the summoning site, realize that mages are involved, find out about the local conclave and then head there. Another alternative they could just resolve it by main force and figure out a plan to kill every wolf in the area including the Demon Wolf.

So in the next post I will explain how I complicated it.

Friday, May 19, 2017

A world for only $5, Harnworld

Just a heads up, Columbia Games has been running a series of sales on their PDFs for Harn. The latest is $5 for the Harnworld PDF which you can get through this link. Note that it automatically adds it to your cart so if you don't get it make sure you remove it.

If you want to look at the product you can goto the normal RPGNow page through this link.

I am not using any type of affiliate ID the one on the first link is for Columbia Games.

There are other discounted PDFs that you can pick and you can see what are the latest by following this thread on the Lythia forum.

The individual articles, like Heru Castle, are often useful as resources for your campaign for when you need it a particular Locale and don't have time to generate one of your own from scratch.

Monday, May 15, 2017

The Basic Rules for the Majestic Fantasy RPG

While writing the first book of my RPG project, The Lost Grimoire of Magic, I realized that too much of it was devoted to rules that will repeated among all the supplements. So I worked on a basic set of rules summarizing the system as a whole. So I got it down to 47 pages, and just as important should read as a coherent whole.

You can download it from the following link
Basic Rules for the Majestic Fantasy RPG.

Any comments and suggestions are appreciated, I have a forum thread opened up at this link.

Some highlights

  • Designed it be highly compatible with Swords and Wizardry
  • More generous with attribute bonuses but not as generous as the d20 SRD. Instead there a -1/+1 per three attribute points instead of per 2 like d20. 
  • Four Classses: Burglar, Cleric of Mitra, Fighter, Magic User.
  • Four Races: Dwarves, Elves, Halflings, and Man.
  • Man gets a +15% XP bonus on top of their prime requisite bonus. I played with the exact number over the years by gauging the reaction of players in choosing Man over the other races.
  • For abilities, and spells, I jettisoned situational bonuses for the most part in favor of 5th edition's advantage and disadvantage. My opinion that is much easier to grasp by players than remembering whether you get a -4, -2, +2, or +4 bonus that it worth including. Plus the original edition never been big on stacking up modifiers anyway so I feel the loss of having a +1, +2, or +4 bonus (or minus) is not a big deal.
  • Incorporated the ability system from the supplement. Basic resolution is still 15 or better on a roll of a d20.
  • Any character can do any ability just that some are better at certain abilities than others. All classes have ability bonuses they can use. Rogue classes like the Burglar are built around ability bonuses.
  • A short equipment but many pieces of equipment have one or two rules associated with their use. For example using a mace give you +1 to hit versus chainmail armor. The use of Shields have been fleshed out.
  • The ritual rule allowing clerics and magic user to cast spells as a ten minute ritual plus a cost component has been carried over from the supplement.
  • Magical Immunity works a bit differently from Magic Resistance. Basically Fireball, Lightning Bolt work as they do direct damage by creating something, Charm Person, Sleep, etc are effected by Magical Immunity. The resolution has been made into a d20 roll with the same odds as the original percentage based rolls.
  • Spells note whether they are effected by Magical Immunity or not. In addition all uses of percentages been changed to d20 rolls with the same odds. Just saying if it going to be in 5% increments make it a d20 roll. There been some tweaks to specific spells like Sleep effecting 4d4 hit dice of creature max 4 HD effected.
  • The combat system uses 1d6 individual imitative. A new wrinkle is that fighters get to add their to hit bonus.
  • I allow two actions per combat round which can be summed up as a half-move and an attack. As a side note this  is the oldest section of the rules dating all the way back form when I ran ADnD 1st in 1979, 1980. 
  • My stab at easy to use grappling rules. You successfully hit, your opponent is now grappled, if the opponent doesn't break free the next round, you have a number of options including damage.
  • Combat stunts, the general idea is that you can opt to do something else other than inflict damage with a successful to hit roll. However the downside the opponent gets a saving throw which means high level or high hit dice is likely going to save. But if you are desperate it may be the best option in that round. 
  • No Monsters or Magic Items which will be presented as part of the various supplements. However anything from any version of Swords and Wizardry will work with these rules.
  • Finally I kept an eye on how interdependent the rules are so you should be able to swap in how other handle things easily. For example initiative will work with group initiative, the combat system can be replaced with the one in the B/X rules. You can ignore my spell in favor the original edition text, etc, etc.
Hope you find this useful for your campaigns and appreciate hearing your thoughts on these rules.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Thoughts on Tabletop Roleplaying - Sandbox Adventures

In the last post I talked about my background in refereeing. As result of my experiences I found that I had to lot to write about sandbox campaigns. Stuff that people could get and use in their own campaigns like Points of Light and Blackmarsh. On my blog I worked on a series of posts about How to make a Fantasy Sandbox. One thing I didn't write about as much is what happens session to session, like the adventures I ran during a sandbox campaign.

Scourge of the Demon Wolf is an adventure that represent what players typically deal with in my campaigns. One that allowed me to publish Scourge was that it was self-contained enough to written up so it was useful for other campaigns. Most of my sandbox adventures are highly situational based on the circumstances of the PCs involved. But occasionally something like Scourge happens and I can set aside my notes for further development.

What makes Scourge a sandbox adventures? First off it is a situation that has the potential for adventure. The situation is driven by the interactions between the various NPCs. For Scourge it starts when an ambitious apprentice foolishly summons a demon. To the apprentice the ritual appeared not to have worked. So the apprentice returned the conclave where she was studying. But shortly after a weakened wrath demon from the Abyss emerged. Without the proper completion of the ritual, the Wrath Demon floated around as a spirit and possessed a nearby wolf pup. Thus the Demon Wolf was born.

The area in which this occurs is a typical rural fantasy medieval setting. There is a village owned by a Baron and has a Bailiff and Reeve that work together to manage it. There is a crossroad hamlet nearby with a inn. More unusual is a conclave of mages living in a small compound just half day into the wilderness. There are also bandits that prey on caravans and a group of wandering beggars that occasionally travel through the area to smuggle stolen goods. Finally there is itinerant tinker that wander the area making a few pennies by selling small goods and doing repairs.

The Demon Wolf goes on a murderous rampage, people die, the Baron sends his huntsman who is outwitted, and finally in a second round of attacks the baliff of the village dies. The villagers refuse to bring in the harvest until the creature is killed. The Baron can't have this so sends the PCs to deal with the situation once and for all. There also a number of other hooks including the thieves guild sending somebody to find out why the bandits or beggars are not paying a cut of what they steal.

This is the setup.

How did this get written up? Most of the time author get an idea; write, refine, edit, and then finally get laid out as a book or PDF and published. This works for a lot of published adventures. But they suffer from the same problem as a movie or a novel, it hit or miss whether the hobby winds up liking it. Sure experience helps but still a roll of dice whether something catches on?

Is there a better way of doing this? Or rather there is something we can do more. What I didn't mention above is playtesting. Because writing for RPGs is about writing for games, playtesting is part of the process. However how do you playtest? You get your draft into a semi-finished form and try it out a couple of times. Then use the feedback to tweak it from there.

The problem I have with that process is the initial draft especially for adventures. Normally people lay out a rough draft from start to finish and use that as a starting point. A lot of the structure of the adventure is baked in. What if you took advantage of the fact that RPGs are a active form of entertainment and just started with a initial situation. You have NO idea how the adventure is going to conclude when you start the process. Would it be a more useful adventure for others to use in their campaign?

By the time I decided to publish Scourge I ran it two times already. Once for GURPS and once for D&D 3.0. So I had a some information of on the things that PCs were likely going to do. But now I was going to publish it, I resolved that the final product would be in part a record of what the players do and not do in the various playtest sessions. And see if this really made for a better adventure.

By the end of the process I have ran it over 8 times through my home region centered NW Pennsylvania and twice in other locations in the United States notably Morningstar Games in Savannah Georgia. By the sixth time I ran it I started writing, and was incorporating notes from the 8th and last time I ran the adventure.

What did I wind up writing about? I wrote about the region, the locale, and the NPCs. The playtest helped pare down what I needed to write about. Then I consolidated common events caused by the PCs and wrote them up. I included notes about where things diverged. I made sure I included a one page summary to get the referee up to speed.

The stuff I pared away I reformatted into a sourcebook. I laid the book out into two sections, the adventure and a small regional sourcebook that fully fleshed out each of the locales in the adventures. You can run the adventure with what in the first half. Then use the second half as part of your ongoing campaign.

So how did sell? OK didn't burn down the RPG hobby by any means even by OSR standards. But creatively it was very sastifying and currently repeating the process for a couple of other adventures.

Any downside? Yes time, it is very time intensive to do this. Not good if you need regular cash flow as a business. You couldget a pipeline going where you are playtesting all the time so when the first adventure is finished there always one more behind it almost done. Then you have to think of travel expenses for face to face. The rise of vritual tabletop software should make this easier. You could schedule periodic sessions and really rack up the playtest hours. But you are still going to need to do face to face as not all hobbyists can be found on-line.

For me using my hobby time to develop this, it took me three years to rack up the eight playtests. Although in the third year, I slacked off the writing a bit too much I have to admit. Today I can probably do eight playtest in a year with two run face to face at a game store and/or convention and the others run on-line. 

Next time I will be talking about the creative process I used to develop the initial setup.