Archive for May, 2011

Sessions 54 and 55

May 17, 2011

The adventurers spent the winter chilling out in the Chateau d’ Mila (previously Chateau d’ Awesome before Mila pulled the Throne card from a Deck of Many Things). They had their own little projects going.

They went back to the ruins of Earthstrike to suss out the place again and check which magic items were for sale by the weird glowing men in the basement of Presa Maximo’s tower. All overpriced, alas.

They traveled north to the Sunken Grove and encountered Goblins who claimed to not be connected with the ones who destroyed Earthstrike. The adventurers killed them anyway. During the fight the PCs took two Fireballs in succession from a Goblin magician, taking down their Illusionist Arkeshi. They used their one precious Elixir of Life to raise him from the dead. At this point everyone has used their bath in the Fountain of Life and nobody has any Raise Dead ability. They have the spell, but nobody has 9th level Healing magic skill.

In the following session the adventurers left their horses and a trained leopard above in the basement level of the Sunken Grove and explored the first dungeon level (below the basement) for about the fourth time. They found it picked pretty clean. They encountered some skeletons and some bats but nothing special. They descended to the second level and found the sinkhole down to Level 3. But they explored south throughout the hidden Toad Shrine, braving a permanent Blade Barrier and several floaty wispy monsters that zapped them, finding some treasure. Then they explored north and completely destroyed a colony of Mushroom Men with Fireballs. As the remnants escaped down an underground river they looted – a few potions. A bit underwhelming. But the XP they gained from the fight was incredible.

I changed certain spells to require spell components (basically a monetary cost to cast the spell). The Identify spell used to figure out what a magic item does now uses 10 GP worth of powdered pearl per item examined. Because this was a change in the rules with the new revision they convinced me to let them swap out some of their sapphires for pearls on a 5:1 ratio just this once. Such a softie.

So we’re now officially on version 1. I saw a couple typos in the text but they’re not too bad. Need to add to and edit the magic item book, but again it’s okay. Working on the referee book now, and after that the monster book which should be pretty easy.

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Training Montage Tables

May 14, 2011

I had this cool idea for PC training. We normally just say you have to train, or you don’t, whatever the rules say or the referee is doing with this campaign. Ya pays yer money and ya gets yer level. Well what actually happens in that time? You’re paying money, so we can assume you’re training under someone. That someone is telling you to do stuff and giving you valuable insights. What kind of stuff are you doing? This can also be used to tell players what they see when they walk through the courtyard of a castle, or among the tents at a jousting tournament, or in the back rooms of the Thieve’s Guild.

These tables are organized according to the type of activity. If this is class-based training, just roll on three or so tables that represent what kinds of things that class does regularly.

Melee
1 Partner throws apples at you, have to spike them with a sword.
2 Partner throws sashes at you, which you have to cut cleanly with a sword.
3 Chopping firewood all day long with an axe.
4 Carefully chopping wooden shingles with an axe.
5 Chopping down saplings, bamboo, and brush with a machete or hatchet.
6 Handling a polearm in formation with other students.
7 Drilling for formation marching.
8 Smacking a leather-covered wooden pole with a weapon.
9 Punching a tall leather bag full of sand.
10 Wrestling practice with other students.
11 Sparring while rowing small boats on the river.
12 Sparring with distractions (roll 1d8 on the Locks and Traps table)

Archery
1 Shooting at discus that are thrown by other students.
2 Shooting at targets down a low hallway where little arc is possible.
3 Shooting at targets moving down a track, pulled by strength-training students.
4 Holding a bow drawn for minutes at a time.
5 Shooting at targets set among tree branches.
6 Shooting at targets lit only by weak flames.
7 Shooting at targets that are under a foot of water.
8 Shooting at targets that slide along a steep-angled rope.
9 Shooting in a high arc to hit something far away at the same level.
10 Stringing and maintaining bows and crossbows.
11 Shooting while riding on horseback.
12 Shooting while distracted (roll 1d8 on the Locks and Traps table)

Throwing
1 Throw apples at someone who is practicing blades – he must spike them with a sword.
2 Skipping stones off a pool of water into buckets.
3 Hurling javelins.
4 Hurling the shotput.
5 Hurling the discus, which archers fire at.
6 Throwing water from a jug to put out specific torches.
7 Throwing sashes at a partner, which he must cut cleanly with a sword.
8 Throwing heavy rocks up onto platforms at the school construction area.
9 Juggling practice: lit torches, knives, or stones.
10 Playing catch with other students using fragile clay jars full of sand. Don’t break them!
11 Playing catch with weighted medicine balls.
12 Throwing stones to hit stones thrown by other students.

Ropes
1 Lassoing pigs.
2 Untangling fishing nets.
3 Setting, opening, and mending fowler’s nets.
4 Rigging a pulley system to lift a heavy load, then dismantling and packing it up.
5 Rig up and maintain the ropes crossing the training yard for tightrope-walkers.
6 Maintain the ropes and pulleys at the school construction area.
7 Maintain the ropes for swinging across the training yard.
8 Knot-tying workshop
9 Brush and braid the hair of the village lasses
10 Repair frayed ropes

Horsemanship
1 Riding at a training dummy and hitting it with a lance or sword.
2 Charging at a mass of hanging rings and tearing off only the red ones with your lance.
3 Leaping your horse over obstacles.
4 Forcing your horse to pass through illusory flames.
5 Riding up and down steep hills.
6 Galloping through low-hanging branches of trees along a lane.
7 Fording the river on horseback.
8 Leading a blindfolded horse along a narrow path.
9 Hanging from the side of the saddle.
10 Brushing, cleaning, and otherwise caring for horses.
11 Leaping into the saddle or down from it.
12 Standing in the saddle while trotting.

Strength
1 Carrying logs out behind the training yard for the axe students to chop up.
2 Breaking rocks with a heavy hammer.
3 Hauling on ropes to pull moving targets for archery students.
4 Lifting village lasses and carrying them up and down stairs.
5 Carrying rocks around for the masons at the school construction area.
6 Get under a floor platform and shake it around while a lock-picker rides it and tries to work.
7 Lunging toward and smashing your weight into training dummies.
8 Lifting heavy weights along with other people, coordinating efforts.
9 Climbing ladders suspended vertically, horizontally, and diagonally (with just arms / with just legs).
10 Snap progressively-thicker bundles of sticks.

Agility
1 Climbing a tree to hang lots of rings from it for horsemanship training.
2 A field of thick poles stuck in the ground – you must leap from pole to pole.
3 A field of thick poles stuck in the ground – you must weave among them.
4 Crawl under sharp obstacles through mud and stones.
5 Leap from rowboat to rowboat, trying to not upset them, while other students row them in formation.
6 Tightrope-walk across the training yard
7 Climb a fieldstone wall.
8 Swing from tree to tree in the training yard, avoiding obstacles below.
9 Rowing boats that need to stay very still for acrobats to leap from boat to boat.
10 Walk around with things balanced on your head.
11 Leaping up and over training dummies.
12 Rowing downriver through rapids and over small waterfalls.

Endurance
1 Recover hurled javelins and shotputs all day.
2 Wear weights while performing some other training regimen.
3 Marching long distances with full equipment.
4 Swimming upriver.
5 Rowing boats that carry cargo and people for the school.
6 Carry water up stairs to the upper rooms of the school.
7 Loading and unloading tools and other equipment for the school construction area.
8 Mixing and stirring mortar for the school construction area.
9 Hauling rowboats out of the river and portaging them upriver.
10 Leaping down onto sand, then gravel, then stone.

Memory
1 Recite verses from a heroic epic that your trainer really likes.
2 Assemble a mosaic from memory using loose tiles.
3 Rewrite pages of text, including errors, exactly.
4 View a complex scene and later answer questions about it.
5 Recite a long, drawn-out story about the friends and family of one of the village lasses.
6 Remember the names, ages, heights, and weights of all the other students.
7 Participate in knot-tying training with the rope students.
8 Catalogue various plants, animals, or minerals.
9 Memorize songs and chants that help you remember long lists of things.
10 Re-play both sides of a board game from memory after viewing it through once.

Spellcasting (I should probably make up a table for each type of spell)
1 Cast fire magic to light torches while other people throw water to extinguish them.
2 Cast an illusion of flames for people to ride their horses through.
3 Cast lightning magic to blast stone buildings at the school construction area.
4 Counter-spelling against other magical students back and forth
5 Casting your spells as slowly as possible to delay the effect until you finally finish.
6 Casting while distracted (roll 1d8 on the Locks and Traps table)
7 Levitating heavy loads or multiple small items at once.
8 Magically churning the water in the river to make things difficult for people rowing in it.
9 Heal other students, or cure their fatigue, or summon Unseen Servants to give them massages.
10 Telekinetically knock roof tiles loose while other students telekinetically catch them and put them back.

Piety (Can also be used as punishments for bad students)
1 Fast for several days while maintaining some other training regimen.
2 Walk a labyrinth inscribed on the ground, on your knees, every morning. This represents a pilgrimage.
3 Wash the feet of the poor.
4 Gather alms for the poor.
5 Muck out the stables and spread new hay and rushes.
6 Wash everyone’s laundry.
7 Vow of silence while maintaining some other training regimen.
8 Study religious books.
9 Go to the temple of another religion and learn from them without speaking of your own faith.
10 Teach the feral village children fundamentals like literacy, arithmetic, and not biting.

Locks and Traps
1 Open a lock while people talk around you.
2 Open a lock in the dark or in cramped quarters.
3 Open a lock while you’re upside-down or lying down on your side.
4 Open a lock while icy water is dripping on you.
5 Open a lock while smoke billows around you.
6 Open a lock while a student moves a floor platform around under you.
7 Open a lock while holding your breath underwater.
8 Open a lock while suspended by ropes.
9 As a 1d8 roll, but there is a trap that shoots a jet of water at your face.
10 As a 1d8 roll, but there is a trap that smacks you with a leather fist on the end of an articulated arm.
11 As a 1d8 roll, but there is a trap that screeches at you horrifyingly.
12 Finger-exercises that form various shapes and hand-signs.

Stealth
1 Steal from a training dummy with bells sewn into it.
2 Sneak across gravel, leaves, and ankle-deep water.
3 Hide yourself among bushes and leaves, or up in the trees.
4 Conceal seven items on your person.
5 Conceal seven items in a room (library, office, workshop, bedroom, etc.)
6 Try to lose a pursuer through the nearby village.
7 Track someone through the nearby village without being noticed.
8 Quietly swim along the boardwalk by the river.
9 Quietly climb a wall, pull yourself over, and land on the other side.
10 Observe another Stealth training regimen with the trainer and try to spot things as they happen.
11 Sneak across a creaky wooden floor.
12 Sneak through the obstacle course, stealing noisy or heavy objects, bringing them all to the end.

Hirst Arts III: Design of Modular Dungeon v1

May 14, 2011

We finally decided to pick up two Hirst Arts molds and try building a dungeon.

First up we needed to gather our supplies. And then prepare for the eventual mad construction by casting a lot of blocks. We went to a builder supply and bought dental plaster. Our experience with plaster of paris is that it’s softer and takes longer to set, which offsets the small extra cost of the dental plaster. Ours was less than $50 for a 100 lb bag. If you go to the hardware store you pay about the same amount per pound for dental plaster.

The next step is to plan out what your dungeon will look like. A modular dungeon works best, since you can change the configuration to whatever you want at the time.

The Hirst Arts website has a tutorial on how to make the dungeon pieces. You should check it out, man. What they don’t tell you is that you’ll want a base that’s more rigid and durable than cereal box card. This is because you might pick up the dungeon block by a corner, which means all the weight is supported by a few weak glue joints between blocks. Better to have the weight supported by the base. For that base, we chose 1/8″ thick plywood. You can get it from the hardware store for a tiny fraction of the price of balsa tiles at a craft store. Ours cost $4 for 24 sq feet.

The next part is line-of-sight. For us, it was very important that people sitting next to the table be able to see their figurines in the dungeon without standing up. That meant the standard 1/2″ wall height (two standard bricks high) was too much. We’re doing just one brick high (1/4″). The floor bricks are 1/8″, walls are 1/4″, and lengths are all in 1″ and occasionally 3/4″ for special pieces. So everything fits together very well!

Next we need to actually set out the floorplan.

The website tutorial has three floor bricks across for a standard hallway. That’s 3″. But if you make a hallway piece, you’ll have a wall sitting on top the outside floor bricks. So you have a center row of floor, and a pair of half-inch floor spaces on either side of it. Effectively the hallway is 2″ across. But in reality, you can’t fit two figures in it side by side. So instead we’re counting any half-bricks as non-walkable space. So a dungeon block 3″ across actually only has 1″ of walkable space, and at 25mm scale is 5′ across. This will waste some table space, but it’ll be much easier to use.

We also need intersections. We’ll need a 90-degree corner, a T, and a four-way. We’re making the rooms modular as well. That is, instead of a whole room, we have room pieces. For that purpose we need tiles that have some number of open corners. Check out this diagram:

(Note: this is actually an old unposted post that I edited to reflect what we actually did. We have a second-generation tile configuration and I like it better, but we actually did make the set described here. I’ll update this post with pictures when I take them. I’ll take pictures of the Version 2 set at the same time and make a new post about it.)

Player vs. Character Knowledge – Local Info

May 13, 2011

There’s this gap between what a player knows and what his character knows. It’s a fun kind of mini-game, pretending to not know things. We also pretend to know things – how to track an animal or tan hides into leather (or fight or cast spells!).

One problem is when the player needs information to make decisions, but the player doesn’t know the information, and the character does. This means the referee ought to tell the player the information so he can know what his character knows. One example might be how the priests of two different religions treat each other. In other cases, it’s not neccessary for the player to know how to make pottery or whatever.

This mirrors an author’s difficulty in giving information to the reader that the protagonist knows already. The typical writers’ advice is something like “show, don’t tell” which means you shouldn’t say the priests hate each other’s guts, you should describe what the priests say to each other and how they act, letting the reader draw his own conclusions.

The problem of giving a player information he should already have is eased a bit when the character doesn’t know either. If your character is a stranger in this land, having just journeyed there, then the referee doesn’t need to tell the player anything about it. He can just “show, not tell” how the game setting works. Overall this cuts down on exposition, which tends to make everyone’s eyes glaze over.

A second issue is giving only the information (whether showing or telling) that he needs right now. Don’t overload, again avoiding long exposition. You should be able to pimp out your game setting in a 1-minute elevator pitch (without talking super fast either). That should suffice for players starting out in the game, too. A second minute should get any new players up to date with what they need to play.

Yes this means I have a bias against games with convoluted alliances and enmities, lots of broad-stroke history and small events that totally matter, lots of important NPCs in general, etc. Maybe if everyone in your group really likes keeping NPC flowcharts and dossiers, that’s great, but there’s a point where most people just don’t care anymore. Stop telling me about X NPC who did Y thing with Z magic item in the ABC wars of 1335 in the Theocratic Republic of DEF. Start letting us play our characters, who after all are the most important characters to us no matter what.

Since that drifted away from decent information and into BLAH BLAH at the end, here’s the JOESKYTAX:

Sandbox Within A Sandbox

May 13, 2011

I realized something when I despaired that my sandbox campaign was too far-flung and didn’t have enough cool adventure sites in it, and those adventure sites weren’t expansive enough, so you end up with scattered sites 2-4 (5-mile) hexes apart wherein each location has 1-6 sessions of adventure possibility.

I fixed the first problem by adding random site encounters and expanding random monster encounters on the fly when I roll that the creature was near its lair. These both end up becoming new sites that I add to the map.

I just realized the fix for the second problem. Before I thought of each adventure site as a little nugget based on one or two cool things that I wanted to place. But you have up to 5 miles to explore. Why not design the adventure site like a little sandbox? This follows the module design for Isle of Dread, Lost City, and Dwellers of the Forbidden City. And now that I type this, I realize that I have already dropped a bunch of these down without thinking, and didn’t remember them because I haven’t gone through any effort to develop them yet.

I made the connection when I thought, maybe I need to refine the sandbox arena to a more densely-detailed smaller locale, like a single mountain valley or something. I have some initial notes for a bunch of these campaigns. Why not just cram the valley sandbox into my big sandbox?

I don’t need to be careful about the adventurers getting sidetracked in an offbeat site that has a lot of depth. It happened accidentally with the Sunken Grove, which was the first dungeon explored on the very first game session, plumbed down to Level 3 but not completely explored (chased off by Mushroom Men). The party returned with a different composition later and scoured Level 1 and 2 again, not discovering the entrances to Level 3. Now they’re back.

Exile: Escape from the Pit

May 12, 2011

Back in the day I played a shareware Spiderweb Software title called Exile: Escape from the Pit. Later the programmer made sequels, and even later he updated them all with better graphics and so forth. The name changed to Avernum instead of Exile. They’re substantially similar.

The game started with your party of criminals having just been exiled through a one-way portal to the depths of a cave system below the Empire. That Empire exiled anyone, really, including political dissidents and homosexuals, so it’s not like your characters needed to be actual criminals. Point is, you’re down in this cave and there’s no escape to the surface.

You arrive in a town that the exiles have built, one of many, on the eastern edge of this huge cavern. It’s basically an overland map. There are lakes and river systems, you can ride boats around, you can see wandering monsters coming from far away. It’s really a pretty decent game.

The setting interests me for D&D purposes. It works as a source material for Underworld adventure, not really for the flavor of the game which was actually sort of bland, but for the whole structure. It’s nice to see a finished, working frame and build from that.

From there, research deep cave systems and cave exploration. The danger and variety present in real-life caves are pretty astonishing. Incorporate those ideas into the Exile campaign. Come up with a few new Big Ideas that aren’t present in Exile and probably remove the one that was there. Map up the whole main cave system and add the towns and adventure sites. Note some side cave systems that connect to multiple places in the “overland” main cave. Detail the first town and the nearest few things, and work your way outward from there week to week as play continues.

I think because the game world is so well-bordered, even if not linear, it’s like playing on an archipelago of islands with harsh currents between that make travel among them difficult.

Domains: Village and Town

May 9, 2011

Villages vs. Towns. In the previous post I talked about a Stronghold and its Village nearby. That Village could be a Town instead, but Villages and Towns do things differently. As a Stronghold and Village grows, it may splay its fingers out and have other villages farther away, and the village around the Stronghold could grow to become a Town instead. Here’s the difference: Villages gather or create resources, which are shipped to Towns for consumption. Towns ship back finished goods of a higher quality and lower cost than could be produced in the Village.

Here’s one possible explanation. In a village you could employ a Blacksmith, or not, but regardless you will need some Blacksmithing work done. If you don’t have one, you have to go to a nearby village to get the work done and to buy new tools. It’s more expensive and inconvenient. The small village just doesn’t have enough people, enough demand, to warrant a whole Blacksmith. However, the village does produce a whole lot more food than it needs, which means the village can trade it to the outside world in exchange for other stuff. A town has the reverse problem: it can produce stuff, but it doesn’t produce food.

That’s not to say you can’t have a town with farmland around it. But the population of the town is probably so much higher than the surrounding farmland can support that it needs to buy food from elsewhere.

The second issue is that some resources are terrain-based. You need to be near a forest to produce wood and game animal meat. You need to be near mineral deposits to produce ore. The town probably grows up from a village at a place central to trade routes, but not necessarily near these resource centers. The mining village produces more ore than it could use, but maybe not enough food, and it’s the only village in the region that produces ore.

Check out this map.

The yellow things are farmland. The double blue lines are rapids or falls. The Mickey thing is a primary Stronghold, the other houses are villages.

What I hope this illustrates is that there is a reason why the entire population isn’t centered around the main Stronghold. If you put the Stronghold up by the mining village, it’s effectively on the outskirts of the land you want to possess. Of course this doesn’t preclude putting fortified places in these other villages, and in fact there should be. But it matters where your main Stronghold is, because that’s where you probably have most of your retainers and your special library and laboratory and all the cool furniture you collect on your adventures. You can’t have three capitols.

Hopefully you can also see why it’s more difficult to determine income from townsfolk, though we can abstract that out too and say that townsfolk give all their taxes in money and not in food and services. This means a town family gives 25 SP per month in tax – pretty cool! So why don’t you just tell all your villagers to buck up and stop farming and just do town things? Because then everyone starves to death and they don’t have the cash money to pay your taxes anyway.

For this reason I’d say you need X village families doing agriculture in order to support Y families not doing agriculture (mining, townsfolk, lumberjacking), and to support the society you’d need A mining families and B lumberjacking families per C total population. Still need to figure out what those should be. Effectively, you’d try to get as many townsfolk as possible because they represent money coming in. But to get those townsfolk you need to support them with enough goods-producing families. You really just care because of the form the tax payment comes in.

I think this level of abstraction is okay, because I’ll just do the nuts and bolts math behind it and give the approximate per-family tax output and support requirements. The player doesn’t need to worry about anything else. If he wants to move families around it’s okay, I don’t care if he drives the barony into famine or mismanages it once he has the underlying numbers. Or will I give him those? If he’s the absentee lord maybe I’ll just give him the populations of each village and town.

Anyway there’s a third possibility for a settlement: the outpost. I won’t make any new rules for outposts, they’re just villages that don’t really produce anything noteworthy. You might want an outpost along a long trade route for example. If I think the outpost families can all work enough I would probably just say the outpost families produce money taxes like town families. We’re talking about an inn or caravanserai with some outlying farms.

Another possibility is that you have a hybrid town-village, where there is a core in the town with high enough population to require agriculture families in the outskirts to support it, but that population isn’t quite high enough to need outside food. Kind of a mini-town. I suspect this would be a midpoint where the existing settlement is in the process of growing into a town. With nothing to check its growth, and people still flocking to it with promises of wealth and comfort and society, the town would eventually grow beyond the hybrid stage. But a strong ruler could demand a maximum town population and tell everyone else to just go try to develop some other village into a town. In this case I would count the townies and the farmers separately and give the taxes for each part (in money from the first, food and such from the second). Of course the hybrid agritown wouldn’t solve the problem of far-flung resource extraction (mining, forestry, etc.).

LOTFP Grindhouse Received

May 8, 2011

I participated in a “Make up a 1st level M-U spell” competition on Lamentations of the Flame Princess, which I won (I was pretty surprised) and for which I received a copy of his new Grindhouse box set (I was pretty delighted). I won’t have a chance to read it for a few hours because my hopeless human eyes can stay open for only so long at a time.

Domain Rules

May 6, 2011

I need some domain rules. I’ve been steered toward the AD&D Birthright materials, since it seems like D&D has kind of flaked on domain rules since Rules Cyclopedia.

The rules need to be based on the same stuff I have now, though. I could make up rules where a Curtain Wall has 40 Structural Points and a Large Square Tower can hold 3 Room Spaces, but I’d rather not have a whole extra layer of rules that doesn’t come into play most of the time. That might be where I eventually go, but I’d rather just treat strongholds and villages and peasants and armies the same way I treat stone walls and thatch huts and NPCs. No new rules-layer, no new objects and modifiers and stuff, just larger numbers of the same old toys we’ve been playing with all this time.

The important thing is that we be able to abstract it out easily for when the player wants to have a domain but doesn’t want the nitty-gritty of running it, and let the player descend into those details as much as he wants to.

That said, I need some specific encounter tables. There needs to be tables for Nature, Diplomacy, Economy, and Monsters. I chose these because they seemed like they would overall cover the range of events I want to have happen to a domain. A village is the “character” here, who encounters things, except that the village is stationary and things that it encounters must come to it. Because it stays in the same place all the time, encounters that affect it can include things that a normal adventuring group wouldn’t really notice, such as droughts and such.

When creating these tables I need to make sure to not make the neighborhood go crazy every month (or season, or whatever). Mainly they’re there so that nothing can be taken for granted, things are a little more interesting, and if the PCs want to hole up making magic items for six months something might still happen.

Any or all of these tables could be ignored, for example, there isn’t opportunity for diplomacy if you’re off in the wilderness. Although the local intelligent forest creatures might practice some form of diplomacy …

In order for these to work, I need to have a list of nearby other actors. These might be other domains, or might be monster lairs, or dungeons, or whatever. These should be listed such that you can roll on the list to select one. If there are 7 actors nearby, just roll d8 and reroll 8s, that sort of thing.

We assume at the start that the domain includes an area that is set aside for the lord, and other areas that are for the villagers. We can call the lord’s area the Stronghold. The other areas are the Village.

The taxes raised by the lord come in the form of goods and services (food, animals, leather, repair work) which upkeep the Stronghold and the lord’s retainers. One family of villagers can support one retainer. The monthly upkeep cost for retainers is

6 SP food
12 SP beer or wine
1 SP equipment repair
1 SP firewood
20 SP total (2 GP the way I count it)

I would count a dog as a quarter man, a horse as four men. Remember this is just the extra cost if you want more retainers than your Village can support. If you have fewer retainers, you get the extra 2 GP in extra food and such (not money). You can also count it like this: with 10 Village families, you get 20 GP in goods and services. Decide what you’re going to do with that. A retainer costs 2 GP to support, a dog costs 5 SP, and a horse costs 8 GP.

Taxes also come in the form of money, but this is a smaller amount, only 5 SP per family per month. This money is almost always in copper coins.

Taxes also come in the form of labor, repairing the Stronghold and maintaining the Stronghold lands. The fact that Villagers maintain their own houses, sheds, fences, etc. is of value to the lord because he still owns all that land and everything on it.

There is trade among Village families and between Village families and the Stronghold. A Village family may buy a new plough blade that your Stronghold Blacksmith made in his spare time, the profit from which he spends getting a nice new pair of boots or extra booze or new bed linens. The lord doesn’t gain anything from this trade.

The lord can increase taxes, but this makes people unhappy because it’s harder to feed themselves and any little bit of extra money they might have is skimmed off. I’d just have to roleplay the villagers differently if taxes were lower or higher. Certainly a highly-taxed village will produce lower-morale militia.

Each retainer needs a 10’ square of personal space in your Stronghold. Courtyard area can be used for horses and dogs if you like. Retainers need additional shared spaces, including kitchen, mess hall, toilets, etc. Assume that 4 retainers can share one 10’ square of shared space. Define these any way you like. If you define all your shared space as toilets, your men will cook and eat and gamble there too (miserably, we can assume).

Village families each take up a 20’x20’ square standard house (80’ exterior walls, ground floor plus loft for children and storage). Twenty families can work one square mile of agricultural land, on which they can support themselves and pay their taxes.

A stronghold and the village immediately around it takes up one square mile in the 5-mile local hex. Not all villagers will live in the main village. Their houses and farms can be farther out. Anyway, that leaves 48 one-mile hexes in the 5-mile local hex. This means you can have up to 960 villager families in one local hex.

Of course, you can have non-agricultural families. But that gets us into towns, which is another level up and involves taxation of a complex economic system.

I have costs already for stone and wood construction, which is based on linear wall length and a standard wall thickness. You can double up wall thickness, etc. You also pay for floors and ceilings separately (usually wooden). I think I have separate extra costs for doors and windows. It’s all pretty atomic.

Magic like Plant Growth will affect the local productivity of your Village. This directly increases the tax output. You can take all the excess as tax, explaining to your villagers that it was only because of your magic that they had the excess to begin with, but they’ll still be pretty steamed about it as if you had raised taxes.

Likewise a drought or something will lower their productivity. If their productivity goes down below 75% they will be unhappy since they are hitting hard times, and might blame their lord even though he didn’t do anything to cause it.

Nature
Earthquake (Volcano chance for those nearby)
Game Animal Population Boom
Drought
Heavy Precipitation
Lightning Storm (forest fire?)
Wind

Diplomacy
Nearby ally offers a magic item for trade (only if you have any allies)
Nearby enemy raids your outskirts / supply line
Envoy from neighbor (opportunity to gain/lose friendship)
Scout from neighbor
Foreign Merchant (goods for trade, might set up trade agreement)

Economy
Mining goes really well
Mining disaster
Good fishing
Villager or Retainer found some buried treasure
Criminal was caught locally (% chance based on retainer strength and numbers, and morale)

Monsters
Human monsters move into area (bandits, pirates, thieves) (add neighbor)
Adventuring group comes into area (possibly add neighbor)
Local nature monsters cause some trouble (satyrs, dryads, ents)
Underworld monster lairs nearby (add neighbor)
Flying / seagoing monster passes through
Exacerbation of local monster problems (or add new local monster problems) (kobolds, giant rats, etc)
Monster refugees come in from elsewhere (wolves come because of no food in their hills) (add neighbor)

These are just some ideas of what might fit under these tables. I think the 1E D&D Oriental Adventures had some tables like this too. I’ll have to look around.

Undersea Adventure

May 5, 2011

Adventuring underwater is all about the alien environment, the mystery, the danger. Our real-world deep underwater explorers suffer from extreme risks compared to other types, and could be compared somewhat to space travel or deep caving. Our literature source material is thick with the trials of underwater adventure. I think that should translate well to D&D.

That said, you need to figure out how to balance the danger with the danger-mitigating technology of D&D: magic.

Breathing: A 3rd level Water Breathing spell removes the most important danger, breathing. But can it let you breathe even in especially high pressure? I don’t think it should matter, although Water Breathing as written in 1E/2E (I’m not sure about later editions) doesn’t do anything except help breathing.

Game Mechanics: I say you can hold your breath for twice your CON score in 6-second rounds. You use twice as much air when fighting or other strenuous activity. This lets an average person hold his breath for about a minute. I’d give a longer time if the person was calm, had plenty of time to oxygenate and take in a full breath, and did no activity at all.

Pressure: There is a point below which humans will just be crushed. Does this matter to you? What about the depth below which you need pressurized air and can’t breathe using a long tube? The reason a snorkel is of a pretty standard length is because you can’t inhale unpressurized air if you have too much pressure on your lungs. I would assume if you carried air with you and it was also under pressure (air in a bag, diving bell) it would be okay. Likewise if you came to an undersea air pocket like in a cave or ruin it would be breathable.

Game Mechanics: Based on basic info I found, you can’t metabolize air past about 200′ depth. If you’re in a depressurized container, obviously this doesn’t count. I give -1 to all your rolls per 50′ of depth due to pressure (dizziness, hallucinations, blacking out, etc). If you rise faster than 10′ per round you suffer 1 HP per extra 10′ in the round from “the bends.” A Necklace of Adaptation should compensate completely.

Vision: Water inhibits vision because light doesn’t pass through it as easily. But it also blocks light from the sun and moon, so below a certain depth you should assume that it’s effectively “night” all the time. You can offset this with bioluminescent fish and plants, especially to illuminate the lairs of various intelligent sea creatures and cool things you want PCs to see from far away. The muddiness of the water will be an absolute limit to vision, but even in especially clear water there will be some obscurement.

Game Mechanics: Your vision underwater is normally obscured the same as in Monsoon precipitation. Muddy water may make this zero vision, very clear water may be lighter precipitation level equivalent. I don’t care about light obscurement because that’s taken care of in the precipitation vision rules. A Helm of Underwater Action or any X-Ray Vision should compensate completely.

Temperature: It’s pretty cold underwater. Typically deep ocean temperature hovers just over freezing. If the PC is soaked, that means he’s going to die of hypothermia very quickly.

Game Mechanics: I would count this as exposure to Cold or even Arctic weather without any protection. My exposure rules give -1 penalty to rolls due to Fatigue and 1d6 damage per hour exposed in such weather. Waterproofing magic would help, reducing it to just the fatigue penalty, but a Ring of Warmth would remove the danger entirely.

Movement: You can’t fight as well as you can on land, nor swim as fast as you could run. It’s because you’re not native that that environment; undersea creatures have no penalties.

Game Mechanics: You have normal base movement, but can “jog” to double move only on the surface. You can’t “run” to multiply movement at all, and can’t jog underwater. You can’t fire missiles indirectly (like a catapult). If you’re a surface-dweller, you always lose Initiative to sea-dwellers and you always have -4 to hit and Armor Class. A Necklace of Adaptation might circumvent this, but I don’t remember. A Helm of Underwater Action maybe? Certainly a Ring of Free Action would do it.


Now that we have the dangers put down, and the possible ways around them using magic, there is another problem. If there are no special environmental conditions, what’s the point of adventuring underwater? Instead consider limited magical benefits, such as a reduction in the penalty rather than removing it, or a limit on times per day, charges, or a single-use item that had a duration.

Also consider the Zelda adventure pattern: you have access to Area A, but the way to Areas B, C, and D are blocked. You need Item B to get to Area B, etc. So you explore what you can (Area A) until you find the item needed to access one of the other areas. So it goes until you have access to everywhere.

So we can start with the assumption that the PCs will eventually have access to every undersea area, but they must earn those tools. Begin with diving for Water Breathing items. Then they need to gather items to relieve Pressure so they can go deeper. Then they need Cold Resist items to dive even deeper into the coldest reaches. In all cases they will have movement and vision problems, except that some of them will find temporary, limited efficacy, or even permanent mitigating magic for those two. Now we have three different adventure zones which require various types of equipment to explore.

Note that there are ways around the zone restrictions. They could wrap up in furs, build a big diving bell, and hit the bottom right away. But their exploratory ability will be pretty reduced.

Now we worry about what kinds of monsters and treasure there are to find down there. Try to focus on sea-based things: pearls, coral, shells, driftwood, shark skin, shipwreck goods, etc. Typical weapons will be nets, knives, spears, tridents. This way the treasure is clearly from the undersea adventure sites, and players will remember seizing it from the special undersea monsters they never fight elsewhere.