D&D my way

4 May, 2009 at 5:16 pm (game design, generic fantasy setting) (, )

Starting today I’ll be running my version of D&D in the university/Kortepohja gaming evening/club, assuming, of course, that there are interested people. I am too cheap to buy anything and too lazy to print excessive materials, so I’ll homebrew/design my own version. As such, the rules presented herein are in flux and draft stage. Before the rules, a bit more detail on the game I’ll be running.

Setting and some situation

The world is my very own homebrewed generic fantasy world. As such, it is not of much interest to outsiders (I keep assuming). I’ver written about it before and ran games in it before. All of the related material should be in the generic fantasy setting category (which I might rename some day if I bother naming the setting; naming is difficult business).

This game happens a number of years, such as ten or nine, after Tirae, the capital of the only credible human kingdom, experienced rebelling and fires as a result of the actions of a heretical cult of dragon-worshippers. The area claimed by the kingdom of Tirae is very light on wood (hence, fairly constant warfare with the elves who inhabit the northern forest of Thaleth(ia); I told, generic fantasy setting). It is bordered by the aforementioned elven forest, ocean, and some tribes of dissenting, semi-hostile barbarians who are much like the Tiraeans themselves, except they are living in blissful freedom/without the benefits of civilisation. In the north there is a formidable range of mountains. Previously there has been one garrisoned entry through the mountains (in the eastern part of the range, yet still firmly in Tirae’s grasp); the three lizardfolk that are born annually in place of humans have been thrown off the garrison; literally, after the serpent cult and related chaos. They are not killed and the lands beyond the garrison are not settled due to a prophecy, or a curse, involving the dragons coming back. Just a few months ago another entrance through the mountains was discovered near the western ocean. Behind it lies a vast forest, but also untold dangers; many a treasure-seeker has perished there. Regardless there is plenty of wealth to be found there and even a small, but growing, village to support more adventurers. The wealth can be acquired by cutting and selling wood (a task somewhat boring to play through), by protecting people and keeping peace, or by exploring the occasionally mysterious locations found within the woods.

Unfortunately, the forest strikes back (in a way similar to, but distinct from, the one outlined in that article) and is closely connected to the Dreaming so that some of those strikes are formidable; in particular, nasty monsters might appear now and then. In addition, there are natives already inhabiting the forest: A tribe of lizardfolk and some wild elves. To add further excitement, the scum of Tirae is flooding to the newly established village. In particular, there are rumours about certain heretical and dangerous cults, like the serpent cult that people in power had, to their knowledge, already rooted from Tirae. As the game starts the village is ruled by a certain somewhat wealth ruffian, whose position is fairly perilous.

Characters to play and generating them

There are Tiraeans, barbarians, very lucky Thalethians, wild elves and daring lizardfolk to play. If people create characters clearly in conflict with each other they must also be okay with inter-character conflict leading potentially to death. This is D&D and I’m going to assume there is a party that can, at least in theory, stay together. It is recommended that players do not come to table with elaborate character concepts, as dice will be rolled. There’s no point buy here.

Character generation, then. First select the character’s species: Human, lizardfolk or elf. Next, roll attributes. There are six of them and they might be familiar: Strength (voima), constitution (kestävyys), dexterity (ketteryys), intelligence (älykkyys), wisdom (viisaus) and charisma (karisma, since I can’t be bothered to actually properly translate it, at least now). Humans roll everything with 3d6 in order. Lizardfolk roll strength with 4d6, drop lowest and con with 5d, drop two lowest. Elves roll everything with 5d, drop 2 lowest. Everything includes constitution. Elves are powerful (a quick estimation gives them an average score between 13 and 14, but I can’t be bothered to actually confirm that). Attribute levels 3 and 4 indicate a -3 malus; 6 and 5 map to -2, 8 and 7 to -1, 9 to 12 grant 0, 13 and 14 +1, 15 and 16 +2, 17 and 18 +3.  The trend continues upwards and downwards. Attribute of 0 is bad news. It should be noted that elves are harmed by prolonged contact with iron and that lizardfolk have natural armour equal to their constitution modifier. Elves can see well in all but utter darkness, while lizardfolk “see” heat.

Next step is selecting a class. Physically competent characters are encouraged to be warriors, while too smart ones can try the difficult path of summoner/diviner/sage and the particularly charismatic ones can develop themselves in apprenticeship to shamans/wise women or men/mages/witches/sorcerers/wizards. Elves have one additional path they can tread: That of woodshaping. At this point, players of human and lizardfolk characters should write the past pursuits of their characters in one word, like “soldier”, “hunter”, “pickpocket” or “healer”. Elves are live eternally; even starting characters are somewhat aged and I don’t want to read that novel. More background info can freely emerge in play.

Warriors are skilled at the following activities (hence gaining their level as a bonus): attacking, defending, fortitude and reflex saves, potential maximum hit points. Further, they can use any and all commonly available and even rare weapons.

Summoners are extremely sharp folk; in game terms, intelligence bonus is required to make most use of the class. The most feared ones can contact power entities living elsewhere. Their profession requires strict self-control; many are ascetic and wear simple robes (if that). Summoners are skilled at will and fortitude saves. In addition, they can cast divinations as detailed below.

Shamans have strong personalities (cha 13+ recommended) and can bend others, living or merely animate, to their will. The powers of shamans are often used unwittingly by untrained or weak-willed (wisdom bonus or at least lack of penalty also recommended) shamans. Shamans are skilled at will saves and can cast spells as detailed below. Elven shamans do their magic by singing.

Elven woodshapers can create various items from living wood by focusing on it. Their craft requires significant patience and attunement to achieve (wisdom bonus would be nice). Shapers are skilled at will saves and moderately skilled (half level, round down) at fortitude saves, attacking, defending and shamanism (as shamans of half their level). In addition they can shape wood as explained later. All elves can shape wood as shapers of half their level.

Characters also need to be equipped. They start with suitable fairly basic equipment; no rich ones. A weapon or two, some leather armour, clothes, camping equipment, maybe something little implied by their background. A shield or two, mayhaps.

All characters can speak and understand Tiraean or some language of northern barbarians (they are dialects of the same language and which one the character knows does not affect communication very much, though social position of characters who are not fluent in Tirae’s main dialect may be bad). Lizardfolk also can speak Draconic, lizardfolk dialect. All elves speak their native brand of elven (all elven languages are dialects of each other, too, and enable mutual communication). Characters can learn one additional language per point of intelligence bonus, if any. Alternatively it can be used to learn a written version of some language. Draconic and the elven dialects have written forms. Human languages do not. A certain archaic dialect of elven is the dominating language among human scholars. Anyone with relevant background can communicate in that dialect at fair level, though reading it is far more rare a skill.

Derived values

Some basic arithmetic, such as deriving attack bonuses, is unfortunately necessary. Attack score: Strenǵth modifier plus any from level, -4 if unskilled with the weapon in use. Ranged attacks use dexterity modifier instead. Defense score is influenced by dexterity: First, take all negative modifiers (such as negative dexterity modifier) and add them to 10 (or substract, since adding a negative number is the same as substracting a positive one). Next, add highest positive modifier to what has been established before. Next, sum all other modifiers and halve this result; it, too, is a bonus on defense. In summary: All negative modifiers apply, highest positive modifier applies, as do half of the others (round correctly). Leather armour gives +1, chain or breastplate gives +3 and shield gives an extra +2 (as well as splintering occasionally). Fortitude save is constitution modifier (plus suitable levels), reflex save comes from dexterity modifier, will save from wisdom modifier.

Hit points are determined as follows: Take number of six-siders equal to level. Add number of dice equal to the absolute value of constitution modifier (e.g. 2 dice for +2 and -2). Roll them. Forget number of dice equal to constitution modifier; the highest ones if con mod is negative, the lowest ones if con mod is negative. In other words: Positive con modifier adds bonus dice and the highest results are kept, while negative modifier adds malus dice that are rolled and then lowest ones are kept. E.g. level 1, constitution 14: Roll 2 dice, keep the higher. Level 2, constitution 4 (modifier -3): Roll 5 dice, keep the two lowest ones. Hit points are capped above by constitution plus any fighter level. Someone with 5 constitution can never have more than 5 hit points unless he has fighter levels; a 2nd level fighter with 5 con can have up to 7 hit points (but good luck rolling that with two penalty dice). Damage characters deal is d6 for most one-handed weapons; 2d6 take higher for two-handed ones and bows; 2d6 take lower for light or improvised ones (dagger, unarmed, thrown rocks). An off-hand weapon in melee increases damage by one step.

Gameplay and magic

The primary activity shall be adventuring, which includes exploring places, combat, interacting with creatures and finding lost treasures. As a GM, I’ll stick with arbitrating the world and offering hopefully interesting things to get involved in; the players ought to have motivated characters (greed is good motivation to start with; let more emerge in play) and either engage opportunities I provide or create their own goals and go for them.

The rules have fairly good coverage of combat. First everyone declares what their characters are attempting, then the activities are resolved in an order that makes sense; this means that quick actions happen before slow ones and ranged attacks happen before spear-thrusts which precede sword-strikes. Shamanistic magic is slow. In case of equal situations, roll d6 + dexterity modifier to determine initiative. Attacking characters roll d20 + attack and the attack hits if opponent’s defense is reached or exceeded. Damage roll tells how much damage the attack deals. Damage is reduced from opponent’s hit points (which are abstract and not pints of blood). Anyone reduced to 0 hp is safely unconscious; anyone reduced below it must make ortitude save, difficulty 10, to not bleed to death. Any character at negative hit points can be automatically killed by taking an action to achieve that.

Characters naturally heal 1 hit point per night of proper rest. Characters reduced to negative hit points require the services of a skilled healer or shaman.

Saving rolls and some magic involve rolling d20, adding relevant modifiers and hoping for a suitably high result.

General resolution works by the help of a six-sided die. As a GM I estimate chance of success for task at hand; for example, picking pockets might be 1/6 or 3/6 for someone with background as a thief. Next, a relevant attribute modifier is added to the aforementioned chance. For someone with +1 dexterity modifier, the chances would be 2/6 and 4/6, while a somewhat clumsy (-1 dex mod) would-be pickpocket would have chances of 0/6 or 2/6. Then roll a d6 and try to get under the chances. I declare the chances before you need to roll, assuming there does not a exist a specific reason for not disclosing them (the target is something preternatural in disguise, say).

Experience and advancement need a few rules, too. Human characters need current level times thousand xp to get a new level, lizardfolk characters 3/2 times that, elves double what humans require. Each gold piece is worth one experience point to whoever acquires it. Slaying monsters is worth 100 experience per hit die to those engaged in the killing. In addition, I’ll let players set up goals for their characters. Minor or boring goals are worth d1oo experience when completed, while major or interesting ones give ten times that. What is minor or major is entirely up to GM fiat. Level means rerolling hit points and gaining whatever benefits the level gives.

Mysticism

Summoners know one first-level divination per point of intelligence bonus at the start of the game. They can prepare one divination per level per day so that they always prepare more divinations of lower levels than of higher levels (at first level, 1 level 1 divination; at second, two first level divinations; at third, two first level divination and one second level one). All divinations give information or do something else to the caster; this is intensely personal craft.

New divinations can be mastered only by hard studies or as a gift of dubious value from some powerful entity. Learning a divination takes number of days equal to the divination’s level squared and can happen through reading or being taught, with the latter being more common. Receiving a divination as a gift means that the entity has typically installed a backdoor of some sort so that whenever the divination is used the entity learns what is happening and can perhaps influence the events in some way. Consult proper summonings of the same level for guidance. Suitable D&D spells of same levels can be pretty freely added to the list.

The entities summoning is concerned with are always powerful ones and characters happen to know the true names of them, which grants a measure of power over them. Still, they are far beyond controlling.

Some first-level divinations

  • Perfect memory: Perfectly recall one scene, including all perceptions related to it, for as long as concentration is unbroken. Analysing the scene can take minutes or hours, depending on the level of detail involved.
  • Instance of time: Everything happens in bullet time; your actions are no more accelerated than anyone else’s, but you do have time to think and observe. Gives +3 (if d20 is used) or +1 (if d6 is used) in any situation that demands fast reaction and where thinking it through can help. Also, the player can take his time making the decision.
  • Recognise: This divination can be cast up to wisdom bonus times; if the modifier is not positive, this divination can only be cast once and only works when the caster actively concentrates.  Each casting selects one person, whom the caster will thereafter instantly recognise, no matter the circumstances. The target can be hidden, disguised, shapeshifted, or dead but the caster will nevertheless recognise them. Moreover, the caster can be unconscious and will upon waking still know that the target was nearby. This spell is permanent; the caster can dismiss any recognition at any time by willing so. Recognise can be cast whenever in the presence of the to-be-target; this includes contact entity and similar summonings.
  • Accurate [sense]: Each sense is a different divination. The relevant sense is greatly amplified, making the caster generally hard to surprise and very scary to be around. The effect lasts for as long as the character keeps concentrating on that one sense (so sniping would be possible with enhanced sight and eavesdropping an entire discussion with enhanced hearing likewise).
  • Contact entity: Character contacts one entity whose real name is known; the entity learns what the character thinks is happening at that moment and can communicate its general pleasure or displeasure about the situation, as well as vague instructions. This divination is instantaneous.
  • Detect auras: Diviner senses auras; that is, spells and entities of power; in some idiom suited to the caster. Sight is traditional. This spell lasts for as long as the caster concentrates. An aura can give vague sense of the power some entity wields. Careful observation can even tell something of the disposition and intentions or past deeds of some observed target.

Few second level divinations

  • Open window: Pronouncing the name of some powerful entity the character opens a window the thing can sense through. It can use some power roughly equivalent to first level shaman spells through the window, hence closing it. Alternatively it can reveal itself or communicate through the window. Unless the entity uses its powers the window closes at next dusk or dawn.
  • Read languages: Character can read one particular written document, regardless of language it is written in. Lasts as long as the character focuses on that document.

Shamanism

Shamans wield power to impose their will on their surroundings. They can cast one spell per level and more lower level spells than higher level ones, much as summoners do. In addition they can cast extra spells but at a cost. Shamans know one spell per level and an additional one per point of wisdom bonus. Shamans don’t have to prepare spells ahead of time. They can improvise spells but at even greater cost and risk.

When improvising spells or casting over one’s daily allotment the shaman’s player must roll a single d6. If result exceeds the spell level, nothing bad happens except that future similar rolls get +1 until the shaman has rested. In case of known spells the shaman gets to add wisdom bonus to the roll. Wisdom penalty hurts all of these rolls. When improvising a spell the player first tells what he is attempting and the GM then decides what level the spell is of.

Failing the roll above gives GM free reign to come up with nasty problems. In general, they should be in line with the level of the spell just being cast. The spell itself may or may not come to pass. Maybe I’ll write down a random chart or something.

The difficulty of saves is 10 + charisma modifier + shaman level, unless otherwise mentioned.

D&D spells of same level tend to be somewhat more powerful. Generally spells can be increased in level by doing one of the following, assuming suitable spell: Increase range on scale touch/personal -> presence -> sight -> far -> wherever, increase duration on scale short/concentration -> till next dawn or dusk -> till next full moon or other suitable lunar phase -> year and a day -> suitable number of years, like 81, 101, 49, 169, 666, 42 -> eternal, increase spell’s target along following scale: single person -> handful of people -> hundreds -> kingdom or species -> everything

Spells of first level

  • Pain: Touched target takes d6 damage per combat round, up to charisma bonus rounds. This spell never kills a target but is excellent at subduing them. Resisted with fortitude.
  • Scare: Target within presence that fails will save must flee or take -4 on all actions.
  • Courage: Target gets +2 on attacks and resisting mental effects as long as it keeps on fighting; resisted with will.
  • Healing: Up to charisma bonus targets heals d6 hit points per night of sleep and rest.
  • Sleep: Target becomes drowsy or, with failed save, falls asleep.
  • Leaping flames: The flames in bonfire or similar suddenly flare, causing 1 damage to those nearby (and serving as a distraction and maybe blinding people; I’m sure there is more ways of using this spell). Avoided with reflex.
  • Breeze: Sudden breeze may extinguish torches, scare, distract, or do whatever else breezes tend to do. It may also move feathers.
  • Hold portal: Door or other closed means of physical entry or exit clasps shut and chooses to not open: Only those with strength at least equal to caster’s charisma may even attempt opening it. Duration is till next dusk or dawn.
  • Charm: Resisted with will. Target treats everyone as basically trustworthy and good personality until evidence to the contrary presents itself. Duration is till next dawn or dusk.
  • Command: Failed will indicates that target follows one simple command spoken out loud by the caster; the spell is instantaneous, so extended actions can’t be forced through this spell. Target must understand the command for the spell to be effective. Self-defenestrate is a bit complicated.

Second level spells

  • Instant healing: Immediately heals d6 hit points.
  • Burst of fire: Any flammable object (like someone’s hair) bursts to flames, dealing d6 damage to anyone nearby and thereafter acting as a normal fire. Successful reflex reduces damage to 1.

Woodshaping

All suitably experienced elves can do some woodshaping. Select one object per level: The elf can effortlessly create a near-perfect wooden version of the object, given suitable wood and some time (minute for a knife, hour for a spear, days for a house). In addition, woodshapers know one wondrous effect per point of wisdom bonus, but no more than one per level: Items as hard as iron, fireproof wooden items, reviving some random wooden thing (e.g. fence, door, spearshafts, firewood), growing thorns, so on.

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Final (seventh) session of the dragongame

4 March, 2009 at 6:42 pm (actual play, Dragongame)

Again, everyone present, as is proper.

Play

Negotiation between the elves and the lizardfolk, with dragons also participating. Of lizardfolk the leader of the plains-dweller, called Garithyx, is quite ready and willing to slay the puny elves; others are not as eager, and neither are dragons (except Zaphádoranon). Garithyx and almost of its warriors are in full war-paint, with red and white markings on their bodies and faces.

Elves arrive at the meeting place; they have roughly hundred warriors who stay farther, and three figures of some value who, accompanied by two bodyguards, come close. Of lizardfolk there is each leader present and a single guard or other cohort for support. And there are the dragons.

There is an honest attempt at negotiation, but one of the elves starts softly singing, working some magic as observed by Hafnir, and Vulcanus responds by his own draconic singing. Everyone is tense and negotiations really do not work out. The elf actually has more powerful magic than Vulcanus, which is a feat in and of itself, but it comes to little as the dragons resist the consciousness-shattering arcane forces, as do almost all of the lizardfolk army. Then there is war. The elven negotiators and their guards are quickly slain and sheets of icy formed by Isla’s breath and ice manipulation make arrows useless. A melee ensues with many dead on both sides and that particular elven army defeated. The other one destroys the village of plains-dwelling lizarfolk and there are griffons that assault the island. Dragons take a portion of the army to retrieve those on the island (freesing one gryphon drives the others away). Finally everyone is in the caves. There is a brief siege but then the elven forces are noted as wanting and the lizardfolk break out. Elves retreat to their island.

All is well, until the large elven invasion fleet arrives, but that is another game at another time.

Post mortem

I am reasonably happy with this game. I had one notable goal besides the obvious (a good game): To train game mastering for characters that have varied and powerful senses. I’d call this a mediocre success in that I only once forgot one of them, but they were not very prominent during the latest third of the game.

I did not succeed at using the rules properly. This can be explained by two factors: The conflicts were zoomed in too much for this resolution system to work and I had too fixed notions of how everything works to leave it to dice. I think I’ll leave more to dice in the mage game, just to practice running a game with heavy emphasis on dice results.

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Dragongame, sixth session

23 February, 2009 at 10:36 am (actual play, Dragongame)

Session n-1, everyone present.

Play

Planning, idling, then on to the forest near the forthcoming elven tower. Vulcanus persuades (hypnotises) a small bird to act as his spy, forming a mind link to said bird so as to see through its eyes. After some complications it arrives to the desired location. There tower is somewhat taller, some wall of stones is being built in the usual way and there are three members lizardfolk also working, under watch but not maltreated. Some elf begins chirping at the birdie and Vulcanus leaves it.

Zaphádoranon takes the shape of an elf (without clothes) and some plans are as to how it would be best to approach the elves, who are now patrolling the forest. No decision is reached and the dragons decide to wait until night-time, as a squirrel told them that the griffons sleep in certain trees at night. At evening Hafnir notes that some magical pulse is being emitted from the upcoming elven tower, and that the auras of the dragons are responding to it. Not much later there are elves running at them from the forest and griffons circling above. Arrows are fired, Isla swoops back to threaten the elves, who jump to the ground at her icy breath, after which Isla quickly flies away, but not before an arrow hits her.

The others help Isla to the mountainfolk’s lair, wherein she is cared for, including a healing ritual or two. One of the rituals requires spring water, and the lizardman previously slighted who claimed to be called Blosk offers to do this, but the offer is quickly denied. Few bite wounds later the arrow is in Isla no more. The lizardfolk prepare for war, and drums are used to communicate this further.

The next day there are griffons flying above the valley where the dragons like to fly around; one of them is ridden by an elf. The lizardfolk are preparing for war. Elves are marching and souding horns. After the dragons show themselves (by peaking from a cave entrance) the gryphon-rider approaches. Zaphádoranon’s newly developed language skills show their worth, as soon enough it is clear that the elf wants to negotiate. A neutral ground is found and the elf even dismisses some of its gryphons so that the dragons come near. The elf rambles some nonsense about the world being once whole and now shredded and that the elves want to make certain a similar catastrophe won’t happen again by taking control of other peoples. All things considered, the elf seems a little off-kilter. There is posturing by both parties and eventually an agreement is reached: That the leaders of the lizardfolk and the dragons and the local elven leaders would meet and negotiate.

That done, word is taken to the three lizardfolk tribes and even to the dragon-that-is-a-hill, though anger is the only response therefrom, even after Vulcanus sang to it of dragons and their glory.

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Dragongame, session five

15 February, 2009 at 5:55 pm (actual play, Dragongame) (, )

Players as before. There will be two sessions played after this one, assuming nothing changes.

Play

Sleeping and eating done, the dragons go to meet the mountain-dwelling tribe. While entering the settlement proper they meet a gang of of lizardfolk who ask the dragons to follow. Dragons are loathe to cause trouble so they oblige. To trash pit they are taken and demanded to clean it. Though Zaphádoranon snorts in derision, others get to work, which is fairly easy with judicious applications of small-scale wind manipulation, fiery and icy breaths. The gang seems disappointed whereas they were snickering a moment ago. Hafnir hears something akin to chanting and goes on to investigate: A youngish group of lizardfolk notice him and for direction to the others. Once there, they kneel and ask of the sins they did to deserve their eggs being frozen, and of the actions they should take to prevent such disasters in the future. The other group is very hostile to entire idea, as is Isla (who prevents Zape from saying much). The other group is, in fact, hostile enough to ready their spears, though they do not dare attack the dragons. Isla tells the kneeling group to be happy and multiply, which the youngish lizardfolk are fairly certain to approve of, as far as cultish behaviour is concerned. The younglings leave and Zape confronts the other group, which quickly departs as they clearly had no authority to boss the dragons around as they did. Their leader is clearly demoralised by this event and the more followery types scurried away a bit earlier than their leader did.

Zar, the leader of the mountainfolk, was impatiently waiting for the dragons. It soon became clear that cleaning the trash pit was not something the dragons were supposed to be doing and the perpetrator would be duly punished. Dragons are assigned the worthy mission of finding out what the strangers to southeast are about, preferably without starting a war.

The strangers are already have a well-established city on an island, and are constructing something on the mainland, too. To find out more the Zape is to take on the form of a griffon, as some of those seem to be guarding the cities of the strangers. Griffons are larger than the hatchling dragons, so plenty of food is required. A herd of gazelles is driven into a chasm and then eaten, most by Zaphádoranon who then changes shape and eats whatever the others did not. A suitable mountain wherein some cover and a good view are possible is selected and Hafnir and Vulcanus wait there while Zape flies towards the gryphons circling the mainland settlement. Isla creeps along in forest; an activity greatly aided by her scales taking on the colours of her surroundings.

Though Zape looks like a griffon and sounds like them, he has little idea of their language, such as it is. Few attempts at communication prove unsuccessful and he flies away to ponder on the experience. Isla, meanwhile, hears the griffons but decides to go on. He encounters one of the strangers; a guard in silvery metal armour with a sword and a horn at belt and bow in hand, as though it had heard something. As elves are the strangers known. Isla waits until the guard calms down and then freezes it. Sneaking closer Isla finds that the elves are cutting down forest and constructing a tower of marble by forming a circle and chanting at it. Isla leaves. Soon enough two gryphons start circling the area, as if alerted by something. The dragons quickly leave to inform Zar of what they found out.

Zar is busy, so especially Hafnir investigates scrolls present in the common room of the mountainfolk leader. There’s info on local flora and fauna and rumours about wild elves to the north but little factual information, other than that they were territorial (the lore is more than two hundred years old and may not be exactly reliable anymore). More interesting, the treasure hoard of Thunan is somewhere nearby as is a magical divination tool that looks like a stone tablet and a tower that is very rarely visible. The exact locations of all are unknown. Some ritual scrolls are also there, including one for attracting animals by using a large amount of their food and one for summoning winds by blowing a special feather to air.

Zar and the the lizardman who made the dragons clean the trash emerg from Zar’s chambers. One is clearly hostile to the dragons, though does not have the guts to do anything then and there (or is too smart to do so). Information is shared, Zar tells that a few of their people who watched the intruders have disappeared and informs that he has a scroll that might be helpful in communicating with the gryphons, but nothing immediate comes out of it.

Dragons eat (trying the animal attraction ritual, which works as assumed) and those who did not sleep in the scroll chamber do so now. Some further plotting as to how approach the elves is done.

Notes

Two sessions to go, which is a bit less than I expected or that would be ideal, but such is life. The climax is likely to be either awakening a dragon, should the players figure out a way to do it (I don’t know how they might succeed, but there’s four of them and one of me, so they have a distinct edge at figuring out solutions to problems), or as is more likely resolving the elven issue in some way.

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Dragongame, session four

9 February, 2009 at 6:47 pm (actual play, Dragongame) (, )

The dragons wait for the night the rulers of lizardfolk gather to pronounce judgement. A flight of gryphons heads southeast, flying over the valley. Nothing else of importance is done.

The gathering happens on the altar island, known for a large square-shaped slab of black stone dominating it. All three clans of lizardfolk take one side of the square, the dragons taking the last side. The plainsdwellers keep their word, having sworn obedience. The mountainfolk demand that the dragons give one day in three to serving them, for the rest of the dragons’ lives. They agree. There are other issues discussed, including poison from upriver and some strange folk building crystal towers not far.

The dragons have two days before servitude. They decide to spend the time dealing with the incident of poisonous water, hopefully to aid the lizardfolk so as to appease them. A swamp and therein a putrid pool of water with only rotting moss surrounding it is found. Some gentle attempts at waking something living therein follow and five snake heads emerge. Their necks have radius in the ballbark of ten centimeters, though one is much smaller. They like their living in the swamp, came from among the mountains since there was no food there, and are quite poisonous. They agree to move if provided plenty of meat in their destination.

Vulcanus goes scouting for more swamplands, Isla starts freezing some nearby smaller ponds, Zaphádoranon hunts, Hafnir summons clouds to rain snow upon the area. Vulcanus does find swamplands, though fairly far away, and there is some mysterious slightly pulsing and slowly growing mass of whitish meat there. In his flight Vulcanus also sees a mountain that is as if cut by knife, surrounded by a perpetual storm, but explores no further. Meanwhile the others convince the snakes that winter is coming; the hydra, as it reveals itself to be, rises out from its pond to consult Thunan or Thunadrankhor or Thunatriink or whatever. It ponderously walks with short, tubby legs, moving towards the mountains. It gone, the others meticulously do more freezing (and hunting).

Vulcanus returns, as does the hydra. Isla and Hafnir have frozen the swamp fairly badly so that persuading the hydra to relocate is not difficult (it told Thunan was asleep, so no help there with regards to the winter). Isla informs lizardfolk of the hydra on the move and begs Zar of mountainfolk some extra time, to be paid with extra service as soon as possible. Hafnir remains to feast after the laborious weather altering while the others escort the hydra, which is a fairly capable swimmer, though awfully lazy and nastily poisonous. One can follow it by spotting dead fish rising to the surface. Hafnir notes that there is an island with fancy buildings and that a griffon or two patrol above it. One has strangely powerful and inappropriate aura. Then Hafnir seeks the others.

The hydra is satisfied with its new swamp and has forgotten about the meat, though Zape does deliver some, at which the hydra is grateful and the oldest hydra head tells the dragons to wake Thunan up. They first eat and are about to enter the home of the mountainfolk and meet the cult of Isla, of which more can be told in the next session report.

Notes

Slaying the hydra would have been trivial, given it can do little to airborne dragons with breath weapons. Maybe the hydra had some tie to Thunandriaikhor? The dragons are up to three days of servitude for the mountainfolk and there will be consequences to the frozen eggs. Isla has leadership, which gives means that there will be folk worshipping her. Some may be just a bit hostile, though. We’ll see.

The blob of meat and the stormy mountain are just random detail, which have a point and purpose of a sort, should they be investigated by the player characters. Or they can just be ignored. Either way is fine. Sandboxy.

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Dragongame, session three

2 February, 2009 at 6:00 pm (actual play, Dragongame) (, , )

Players: As before. No absences thus far.

Game started in the the island where a particular tribe of lizardfolk lives. Vulcanus meets a blind shaman and gets instructions for building an amulet that provides protection for birds and their kin and then carries on them (feathers from birds of three species; once done, the heartblood of a bird). The others interact a bit more with the island lizardfolk. It is discovered that Hafnir forgets his hostility as easily as becomes sulky. (Hafnir’s idea of building a large bird cage for capturing the aforementioned birds was soundly crushed.)

Isla goes scouting and discovers what might be a sleeping, or dead, dragon. Further research confirms this. First attempts of waking it are unsuccessful and attract the attention of a largish bird of prey. Once Isla reports of these incidents others decide to awake and dig out the dragon, though Zaphádoranon complains, as his desire to conquer liberate the cave-dwelling lizardfolk is strong.

Once everyone is near the dragon, the size of a hill and buried under one, with trees growing on it, it becomes clear that it indeed is a dragon. It has a powerful aura that is somehow turned inwards. Digging ensues and within few hours a scale is revealed. It is dark greenish brown in colour. The dragon is evidently capable of rudimentary communication via feelings, but even Vulcanus’ formidable roar does little to awaken it. Three griffons, one clearly larger, do circle the area for some time while the dragons hide under trees (luxury of being small).

Some hunting, and an oath of loyalty from plains-dwelling lizard-tribe commence. That out of the way, the Plan takes place.

The four dragons get close to the relevant mountain. Zaphádoranon changes shape, adopting that of a lizardman, and pretends to be a king from far away. This is aided by the three dragons being his servants, and one his mount (Isla has that honour). Audience with the ruler of the mountain folk is demanded and granted. The creature is large, fat, ugly, scaleless with uneven body hair, roughly humanoid in shape, and lives in the egg chamber of the mountain folk. The entreé of the dragons is suitably impressive. Zap is as arrogant as the monsters, so things quickly devolve to the creature grabbing a huge stone club and trying to smash Zap (and Isla) with it, with little success. It then threatens to smash the eggs unless the dragons and their lizardman leader behave. Isla responds with an icy breath, Zape by changing shape, Hafnir by wimpering in a corner and Vulcanus by roaring for aid.

A frozen monstrous despot. Many frozen eggs. The monster falls on the eggs. Lots of smashed eggs and shells thereof. Few almost born lizard-things, dead and shattered.

Zaphádoranon tries to figure out a way out of the mess. The others want to surrender, as is soon done. The dragons make a blood oath to come to the meeting of the lizardfolk leaders to be judged. They depart, though many do mutter angrily.

Notes and commentary

This is exactly why I love letting the dice fall where they may. I would not have forced this on player characters. The game took a distinctly dark turn, completely out of blue. This is why gaming is good.

There arenon-trivial analogies to certain countries liberating others, for various reasons.

The endgame is among my best roleplaying moments. I am happy. No matter what happens, I am happy with this game.

My concerns with Zap’s players were unfounded; he is doing well enough, as are all the others.

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Dragongame, session 2

26 January, 2009 at 9:21 am (actual play, Dragongame) (, )

This was the first session where substantial amount of play happened. Same cast of participants as before. A map which I might remember to print and take to the next session can be found online. It is hand-drawn and in size was 6 A4-sized paper, give or take two. Probably give.

There are observations below the play report.

Play

To start with the dragons followed their smallish lizardman guide to a cavern wherein they found an old, soon-to-be-dead, lizardman sage (of sorts). There were questions asked and answered and a huge tome discovered. The tome has too many pages to count and too fine pages to (easily) discover the first one; taking any page, there still are pages before it. Within the tome is detailed the history of dragonkind. A number of pages are devoted to the adventures of the very dragons now reading it, as in when Hafnir first looked at what was being written to the book, the text said that Hafnir was looking at what was being written on the book.

From the book and discussions with the venerable lizardman it became clear that (according to the book) they are the only dragons livingand active; some were petrified or asleep or banished, most simply slain, by humans and their feathered allied. Particularly, two dragons called Thunandriaikhor and Ceosinnax are supposed to have died/etc. nearby.

There was also feasting; someone had evidently prepared for large amounts of food to be consumed in the abode of the ancient lizardman. After feasting, there was sleeping and after that departure. Outside the dragons decided to go hunting; some mountain goats happened to be nearby (whatever the correct nomenclature happens to be). A successful hunt, which does demonstrate Hafnir’s absent-mindedness and Zaphádoranon’s unwillingness to take help from the others, was followed by (more) sleeping. At this point we negotiated a set of rules for creating rituals as part of actions; trophies from everyone’s hunt were a requisite and the talisman hence created makes one a fierce hunter. Such an amulet was created by Vulcanus.

Hafnir was sleeping alone near jagged rocks and was hearing faint music, but ignored it. Isla, given its heat vision, saw something small dancing on top of Hafnir and charged in. The small thing was gone, two dragons bumped together, as their coordination is not quite yet perfect. Soon all the dragons were present, conferring as to what had just happened. Hafnir spotted one of the creatures, earth-coloured and with a mushroomish hat, observing them among the rocks. A quick attempt at catching the thing was not successful, as Hafnir got stuck in a small hole and only caught the creature’s hat.

This attempt was the first case of resolution by rules in this particular game, so I’ll go to some detail. The goal was to catch the creature and the things that could go wrong were that the creature would die or Hafnir get stuck. Rolled results were (reconstructing by memore and deduction, so consider this an approximation) 2, 3 and either 4 or 5. The four or five APen allocated to not harming the creature, 3 to catching it (the hat) and 2 to getting stuck.

Some painful pulling did get Hafnir out of the hole, though a wound to head was suffered. The dragons tried calling the thing back to little effect. A rat did come to stare at them; more precisely, at Vulcanus, the stare of whom hypnotised the poor creature. It came to smell and stare at Vulcanus, staring deep into its eyes, and was not eaten, instead being asked to go back and tell that they meant no harm. The rat gladly scurried away. Not a long time did it take for one of the mushroom folk to come up, moving in a blur to check Hafnir, then running back. Soon it came back with moss that it tied to Hafnir’s wound after which there was much spitting on that same wound. Then it went back to hiding among the rocks.

Everyone but Zaphádoranon went to sleep. Zape went flying, presumably to find out more about a certain primitive settlement nearby. Zap heard sounds of something feathered, and not of negligible size, flying and approaching. Then the thing dived at Zap, who did manage to dodge while also screaming in a distinctive voice. Isla was not pleased at Zaphádoranon thusly fluttering around alone. So they all slept together under a small cliff.

Come morning the young dragons started searching a local lake in order to find Thunandriaikhor. (Hafnir’s wound felt good, yet Hafnir did not remove the moss still covering it.) As none of the dragons is particularly adept at swimming or breathing water and living their attempts at scouting were limited in success. What they did find was that a mangrove and jungle-like island that stands in the middle of the lake is inhabited; there are lizardfolk there, much like those mentioned earlier, though more muscular and slimmer. One idea heard around the table is that the island may in fact be Thunan. The truth value of that is yet to be discovered.

Zaphádoranon, who can shift shape, approaches the island settlement, which consists of fairly primitive huts, in a lizardman form (with the distinctly green eyes that remain regardless of shape). A guard is suspicious and courteously escorts the visitor to the shaman’s hut. The other dragons wait at Hafnir’s request. The shaman can see Zape’s true form, at which point a few comments are uttered and Zap leaves the hut. Hafnir still wants the others to wait, but Isla calls him a wussy and flies to the settlement, followed by Vulcanus and (fuming) Hafnir.

Within the village the powerful visitors are stared at; the lizardfolk are careful, not knowing the nature of the visitors. Vulcanus imperiously demands food, which is provided. It is known that the nightly attacker was a griffon and that they live eastwards, occasionally bothering the lizardfolk, who drive them away as necessary. It also becomes known that there are at least three settlements of lizardfolk hereabouts; these people on the island, one tribe on the plains below and one in a mountain to the west. The best moment in this game, up till know: Hafnir, clearly angry and fuming, asks of the shaman: “Am I a wussy?!” (or perhaps “Do I look like/seem …”), and the shaman, somewhat politically minded, quickly responds that such is not the case. Vulcanus has been gathering bird feathers and another shaman who lives in solitude has griffon feathers, so there goes Vulcanus. End of second session.

Observations

This is the most challenging game I have run thus far. The greatest reason is that the characters have several sensory and other passive abilities that I need to remember and make relevant in play, which is not at all easy. This is by design. I knew what I was getting into. There’s no way of improving but challenging oneself.

Terho plays Zaphádoranon in a way that reminds me of another player I have GM’d for; I have hard time figuring out what he wants his character to accomplish, even if single actions are sufficiently communicated. This did not happen in the previous game I played, which is a strength of those particular rules. Potential solution: Explicitly asking “What are you trying to do?”; in any case, discussion is useful.

Dragon personalities: Isla wants everyone to stick and work together, Hafnir wants to observe and learn and keep some distance to whatever is happening, Zaphádoranon wants to be independent and to get a hold over the lizardfolk tribes. Vulcanus I am unsure of at the moment. Nice amounts of tension, especially now that Isla slighted Hafnir.

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Dragongame, character creation and some play

19 January, 2009 at 6:11 pm (actual play, Dragongame) (, )

GM: Me. Players: Vepa, Terho, Apen, the one guy whose name I don’t remember, but which seems to be Mikko.

Character generation-related topics (and some other stuff) I discussed previously. Characters were made, three of them being very social creatures and one of more cerebral nature. Lessons learned: When using your own notes as an aide for picking special abilities and such, first explain the strange ones, then hand the list to players.

The play started with the dragons hatching, after which they loitered around and let their wings dry and socialised a bit. There was getting used to the environment, then flying to get an overall view of the surroundings. Some settlement was seen and then a small lizard-like humanoid spotted.

The lizardman, whose name was not asked (remember: A pregenerated list of names is a Good Idea.), was suitably awed by the dragons and also scared of them. Some questioning revealed that the lizardan lives in a mountain some distance away and will now take the dragons to its master so that they may get some food therein. Further, the lizardman’s tribe of twenty and twenty and ten and four is dominated by some large, scaleless beast that the dragons showed some interest in overthrowing.

The dragons

If you, the gentle reader, happen to play in this game, consider carefully if you want to read the descriptions and abilities of other dragons. Do it only if it will make your gameplay better and improve the play for everyone. Thank you.

Isla

Body 2, mind 2, will 4.

Abilities and skills somewhat in flux, but include skilled flying, strong will, leadership and control of everything that is icy. Probably an icy breath.

Zabhádoranon

Body 2, mind 2, will 4.

Killer, social chameleon, knows civilisation, powerful will, shapeshifting, voice demands obedience.

Zabe clearly lusts for power, which is a pretty interesting personality in a player character and a fitting one for a dragon. (The temptation to call this one “zap” is significant.)

Vulcanus

Body 2, mind 2, will 4. (I see a pattern.)

Roaring, breathing fire, reading, rituals, making deals, hypnotic gaze, lying, aura of power.

Vulcanus seems very much a traditional dragon.

Hafnir

Body 1, mind 5, will 2. (Pattern broken.)

Skilled flyer, aura seeing and reading, smells emotions, perceptive, can talk to small animals, is believable, weather spirit.

Hafnir is inquisitive and a little careful or scared or mayhaps shy. Hafnir is also not very large.

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Here be (rules about) dragons

1 January, 2009 at 6:06 pm (Dragongame, game design) (, , )

I’ll be running the second iteration of a game in which players play dragons, the first ones after generations without any of their kind having graced the sky. The game is scheduled to start at during early January with the university group. The previous iteration of dragongame is the best game I did not GM well enough.

Of dragons in general

Player character dragons start as mere hatchlings, between one and half and two metres long, including tail. They are omnivorous creatures, though large quantities of meat are necessary for fast growth. Plenty of sleep is also useful for that purpose (it is also the excuse for absent players; the dragon they play just went sleeping or started a frenzy of hunting and feasting).

All (player character) dragons can fly. (A good rule of thumb: all characters can fly or none can, especially in a game where there will be insignificant amounts of exploration.) They are not particularly good at it, however, but see below on skills. They can somewhat swim and burrow with the efficiency and speed of an average dog. Dragons have keen sight, hearing and sense of smell. They can see in darkness. Their sense of touch is not particularly delicate due to scales. They are fanged and clawed.

Psychology is up to players, pretty much. Hoarding instinct is voluntary but recommended. Old dragons tend to be eccentric, but they also do not exist when the game is happening, so it does not matter very much.

Dragons can communicate with their own kind and with human-like beings via normal speech, assuming there exists a shared language. Dracons instinctively know their ancestral language, which humans are unable of speaking due to differences in physiology. Dragons are capable of reasoning in much the same way that humans are. Dragons can make use of magical rituals, much like anyone else who can find instructions for performing one.

Mechanical representation

Dragons have three stats; body, mind and will (keho, mieli ja tahto tai jotkut näiden synonyymit). To start with players divide around 8 points between these; minimum of 2 is recommended, but not enforced. Most humans have the equivalent of 2 or 3 per stat, with 4 and 1 being rare and 5 maximum. Dragons are not bound by such silly limitations.

The main function of stats is to signify how many skills and special abilities dragons have in each domain. Each odd rank (1, 3, 5, ..) in a given stat gives a single skill. Each even one (2, 4, 6, …) gives one special ability and accompanying visible manifestation (or audible, or keyed to some other sense).

In addition, attributes determine how adept characters are when compared to each other. A difference of no points means relative parity, of 1 point means edge, of 2 points means significant edge and of 3 or more points means overwhelming edge. (The character with higher stat reaping benefits of the difference, of course.)

Advancement will, I think, be something like one point per session with an extra point or two if necessary.

Resolution

A version of otherkind dice. What is the character trying to achieve, what two things are risked? Roll 3 dice. Assign one to success: 1-2 is failure, 3-4 is partial success or nothing happens, 5-6 is success. Assign two to the risks: 1-3 is bad stuff, 4-6 is averting the risk. The goal and the risks are made explicit before rolling. Ideally everyone gives ideas, but play will show.

There are also heritage tokens. They are actually fate/luck/plot/action points. You get one for playing well by some measure relevant around the table. This includes entertaining descriptions, good acting, deep character moments and clever solutions to problems. Other stuff, too.

If character has a skill relevant in a conflict, one heritage token can be expended to roll an extra die. This should be done after rolling. Player must explain how the character recalls something relevant or draws from the power of its ancestors. One token can be used to temporarily acquire the use of a particular skill. (Learning the skill when given the chance to do so is polite.)

One should note that stats and resolution are decoupled on mechanical level. They have an effect solely through the fiction; what one can attempt and what the risks are depend on stats, skills, special abilities and the conflict at hand.

Lists of skills and special abilities

I should write more extensive ones someday. The following are not exhaustive. Skills marked with star (*) require relevant in-game events before they can be taken.

Body skills

  • Burrow: This dragon can create tunnels, even a lair, in soft earth. Sand swimming: This is a separate skill that requires burrowing. The character can move as though swimming in loose sand and similar materials.
  • Fly: This dragon is particularly good flyer, to the extent of chasing and even catching birds in the air.
  • Kill: This dragon can kill any beast or man of reasonable size. Warfare*: This is a distinct skill that requires killing. This dragon can fight military formations on at least equal footing.
  • Roar: This dragon can emit a roar of greater volume than one would assume, given its size. It can be used for intimidation, large-distance communication or stunning small animals, small being a relative term.
  • Stalk: This dragon makes no more noise than a stalking cat does and always finds the best places to hide in.
  • Swim: This dragon can swim and dive as well as crocodiles.

Special abilities keyed to body

  • Breath weapon: This dragon can exhale flames, lightning, frost, acid, venom, or some other hostile substance or type of energy. Breath weapon may manifest as smoke emerging from the nostrils of an angry, or excited, dragon, or the dragon having inordinate static electricity, or by caustic spittle. The power of the breath is a function of body stat. Using a breath weapon makes the dragon awfully hungry, which makes the situation no better for those suffering its effects. Breath weapon that affects minds of targets also counts as a mind special ability. (E.g. sleep, confusion, rage.)
  • Chameleon: The dragon is of colour similar to its immediate surroundings and changes in colour as it moves around.
  • Regeneration: This dragon will heal all non-fatal wounds, up to and including lost body parts. Recovering from major wounds involves long periods of sleep. This dragon always looks healthy, its scales lightly shining and perfect in shape and colour.
  • Scales of iron: This dragon’s scales are harder than weapon of iron, bending and shattering any used against it. Body 5+ required. The scales will look special in some way.
  • Venom: This dragon has venomous bite, stinger, or maybe even claws. It can eat food killed by its poison. Poison glands are a typical sign.
  • Water breathing: The dragon can breathe underwater as in air. Swimming is a recommended skill. Webbed feet or even gills may be how this special ability manifests.

Mind skills

  • Extend awareness: This dragon can, by concentrating, simply know everything about its surroundings. This process takes about an hour per two metres of range. It relies on no normal senses, but is rather mystical in nature.
  • Literacy*: This dragon is capable or reading and even writing, though the natural shape of dragons is ill-suited for the latter activity.
  • Lore*: This dragon is very knowledgeable and competent within a certain field, such as flora and fauna, history of dragonkind or tracking.
  • Notice: This dragon notices almost everything stalking it, trying to hide from it, or generally concealed.
  • Read auras: This dragon can read what an aura reveals, assuming it can see the aura in the first place.
  • Sorcery: This dragon is particularly adept with arcane rituals, being able to analyse and modify them. Given suitable collection of arcane works, even developing new rituals is possible.
  • Teaching: This dragon can easily teach the willing on any subject they are capable of mastering and the dragon is skilled in.

Mind abilities

Unless otherwise mentioned, mind and will abilities often manifest as strange behaviour or odd-looking relevant sensory organs. Some abilities are associated with specific sensory organ, such as aura sight; these are examples only.

  • Far sight: This dragon can by concentration see places far away, known by having been there or by simple distance and direction.
  • Hear emotions: This dragon hears powerful emotions of entities close by, assuming such emotions are not being deliberately controlled or suppressed.
  • See auras: This dragon can see the auras of powerful entities; aura of a being is a function of the being’s will. The eyes of such a dragon often look otherworldly in some way.
  • Sense heat: This dragon can see heat, to the point of being able to act in complete and total darkness if there are differences in heat levels.
  • Speak with animals: This dragon can communicate with a given group of animals, such as fish, canines, spiders or little birds. Typically the dragon also behaves in a manner similar to the animals in question.
  • Speak with things: This dragon can communicate with objects of a given substance. For example, rock, plants, clouds and fog, rivers and lakes or fire and smoke. The knowledge such objects have is often peculiar and very limited.

Will skills

  • Deceit: This dragon is easily trusted and few think of questioning its words.
  • Disguise: This dragon can effortlessly act as entities in given position do, even if shapeshifted.
  • False patterns: This dragon can obscure its real thoughs and emotions, projecting what it wills on any that observe those.
  • Forceful: This dragon has very forceful personality and carries an aura of authority; lesser creatures are prone to doing as it commands.
  • Leadership: This dragon, willingly or not, attracts followers of various kinds.

Will abilities

  • Awe: This dragon inspires awe and worship among any that see it in its full glory.
  • Command substance: This dragon can bend a given substance to its will. Examples: Water, rock, clouds. Manifests as the dragon resembling the substance thus under control.
  • Domination: This dragon can control the minds of those who look deep into its eyes. The eyes look like swirling pools of molten metal, water, or other liquid substance.
  • Emanate: This dragon projects its feelings to nearby creatures; any strong emotions the dragon experiences are mirrored in lesser creatures around it.
  • Shapeshift: This dragon has a number of alternate shapes equal to the least of body, will or mind. Assuming a non-native shape takes minutes, returning to native shape mere seconds. This counts as a special ability of all three kinds. All shapes share some distinctive feature which knowledgeable observers can notice and use to identify the dragon.
  • Weather spirit: This dragon can manipulate weather by willing it to change, though the process is slow. In addition, the weather naturally follows the moods of this dragon; anger and storms, sorrow and rains, happiness and clear weather, confusion and fog.
  • Whispers: This dragon can implant ideas and actions on creatures not aware of its presence by mere whispers. The dragon’s voice is particularly compelling and soothing.
  • Wings of terror: This dragon inspires a strong instance of gives emotion on any who are under the shadow of its wings. Examples: Terror, sorrow, despair, joy, hope, madness, awe, obedience.

Design blather

The idea here is that most of the time, skills tell when characters succeed and abilities tell what they can try. If something is risky for a given character, then dice will be rolled.

I was considering some sort of mind reading ability, yet did not find a suitable way of implementing it. Maybe later, if some player is interested in such an ability.

Note that many of the abilities are powerful; players can very much shape the gameplay by taking relevant abilities and skills. I’ll try to shape my gamemastering to fit with whatever choices they make.

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Dragons, then humans.

7 September, 2008 at 9:21 am (Dragongame)

More on my D&D fantasy setting. “D&D fantasy” as a genre, not system. No elves this time. Dragons there are, though, but not till the end.

Age of dragons

In the ages past there were dragons ruling the land (and the sky and the sea and presumably everything else). Little could humans do to them; the mere presence of a dragon was sufficient to make those weak of will to serve them and do as they willed. Very few could resist an order.

Dragons treated humans as pets or slaves or food, depending on the individual. A few actually befriended a human or two, who would thereby gained great power and influence.

During what is now known as year two before the age of humans a shaman, known as Tirae, claimed he would oppose and overthrow the dragons. Some followers she gained, but most ignored her and some hunted her. Regardless she managed to gather roughly hundred followers, around twenty of whom were shamans or wizards.

The small group, forged into a tribe in their challenges, performed a ritual according to Tirae’s directions. They did manage to reach a powerful spirit and struck a deal: They would venerate and worship the entity and it would help in slaying and driving away the hated serpents. The sky was filled with eagles and gryphons and rocs an unnamed flying creatures, bird-like. They savagely attacked the dragons and with help of the various human tribes, many of whom suddenly found strength to defy the dragons, killed many and forced many more to escape wounded. Many of the dragons were spell-bound or delirious or merely savage beasts, in stark contrast to their normal might.

Easy the victory was not; many warriors were dead and the ground was littered with corpses of birds, many of which had never been seen in the region, and would never be seen again. Three of the most powerful dragons, one who was the storms that struck the region, one who was the feared sea serpent, swallowing those who wandered too far from the shores, and the last one burrowing deep underground, causing violent earthquakes, cursed the tribe of Tirae for its insolence; every year the first three children would be born with the scaly complexion of dragons, and woe to any who would harm the dragonspawn (the shamans later consulted several spirits and are convinced that harming the spawn is indeed a bad idea). Of the blood and bones of the three dragons were three seals made. Their locations were a closely guarded secret and thus has remained.

The avians went their ways, some to live in the region, others to live elsewhere. Dragons were gone. For some time the tribes made preparations for their return, but it did not happen. The tribe of Tirae did no such thing, instead seizing power and forging alliances with nearby tribes. With dragons gone humans would have to govern themselves. This role the people of Tirae quickly adopted. They and a total of six other, larger,  tribes formed a kingdom, the first of humans. This was the first year of the age of humans.

Age of humans

Soon enough Tirae, as the kingdom was known, had extended to what space it had; there was a range of mountains to south, badlands and desert to north, sea to the west, and hostile tribes to east, not easily driven away from their native lands with hills and mountains and many an opportunity for ambush, but only little water and game. Some tribes north were also hostile, but rarely did they brave the desert to pillage and kill.

Forests were cut down for farmland and to work metal. Wood became a rarity. To the north, across the badlands, there was a forest known as Thaleth, but all who approached were first warned to not come closer, then brutally slaughtered, should they not take the hint. Elves lived there and their forest was sacred, humans not fit to live there. The mountains to south were difficult to scale, but there were lush forests beyond.

Today

Today it is year 243. Tirae has not grabbed any more area, but tentative peace with the eastern barbarians has been made. Two wars against the elves were expensive, yet futile. Iron is being forged into blades and armours of greater strength than before. A somewhat safe passage to the southern lands has been discovered and garrisoned, as strange monsters live in the forests. Occasionally a warband is sent to the forest, where trees are quickly cut and then warriors return. Often these expeditions are successful. They provide enough wood for forges to burn hot and bright. Three ships have also been built, but one turned to piracy and now preys upon coastal settlements, the other two hunting it and keeping it away when possible.

Tirae the shaman-queen has died of old age, but her descendants sit on the throne built of dragonbone and wood (the two expensive materials only rich can afford), located in the city of Tirae, the capital of the kingdom. Every year three scaly monsters are born; the shamans find them and they are educated in the great stone fortress that is the central feature of the city of Tirae. Deep in a dark dungeon this happens. At the age of nine they are taken away to the southern garrison and banished from the realm. Any that return are killed.

There is a small cult, some say consisting of 27 true members and half a dozen people sympathetic to it, that want the dragons to come back. Their ancestors were, some say, friends of some powerful dragons. Others say they are just disgruntled at the current rulership. Some say their children were born lizardfolk and taken away from them, making them bitter. Whatever the reason, the cultists are widely hunted and little liked.

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