June 30, 2011

Farstead: An Adventurer's Charter

This is the adventuring charter that I gave the players on the day of character generation. The group will be acting as an Adventurers Group; ie professional adventurers. While I thought the idea of a charter for them to see and sign could be fun, it also will give the players a sense of bonding and reinforce the concept that this is a group instead of a band of individuals.

Official Charter of Membership

Be it known that on this day the Adventurers Group known as

is hereby established as a fully recognized Adventurers Group in accordance of Arkhan Law. As such it is entitled to privileges as set forth by Arkhan Ordinance as listed below.

A. Right to bear arms in a public place.
B. Right to wear armor in a public place.
C. Right to practice magic in a public place.
D. Abstention from special tariffs and taxes associated with Salvage of Forgotten, lost or otherwise unclaimed goods.

In order to maintain said privileges associated with this Charter this Organization must comply with the following stipulations.

A. A fee of 100 Gold pieces must be paid each year to the office of the Registrar at the local city.
    1. This fee must be paid before the 1 year anniversary of the organizations founding.
    2. If this fee is not paid in the time allotted then a 10 GP fine will be levied for each week of tardiness.
    3. If an entire year passes without payment of fees owed the contract/charter is canceled and all outstanding fees owed may be garnished.
    4. If no funds are available the city may petition a local magistrate for Justice.
B. The local magistrate may call upon the members of the Adventurers Group for purposes of civil defense as deemed warranted.
C. Any time the membership, constitution, or by-laws are changed a copy of those changes must be forwarded to the office of the Registrar at the nearest city.

Member Signatures

June 29, 2011

Farstead: A Campaign Letter

This is a letter I gave to my players on the first day of play, the day we generated characters. It is a general overview of the campaign; ie what to expect as to style. It also provides some very basic background information; ie things their characters would know going in.

Farstead Campaign

Welcome to the Farstead campaign! This will be a 4th Edition D&D game.

You are all from Arkha. Arkha is a progressive kingdom covering a wide swath of land on the continent of Epeiros. There is a diversity of races and customs within the kingdom. Two years ago a new continent was discovered, Kainon. There was an initial settlement named Kingston, but when the second set of boats arrived the settlement was abandoned and the settlers missing. The new batch of settlers moved a bit to the north and founded Farstead. Arkha wants to see the settlement grow and the new continent explored. They have put forth a call looking for more settlers and for adventurers to explore the new land. You are some of those adventurers seeking to make a name for themselves in a new world.

The campaign will be run sandbox style. There will be a complete new world to explore and lots of places to venture into, but not all will be tuned to your level. Where you go and what you do are completely up to you. It is very conceivable that some or all of you will die during your adventures. If this happens you will roll up new characters (assuming it is impossible to raise them from the dead) at the start of the level of the lowest character level still surviving.

All races and classes are available (see attached race/class list).
Abilities will be done with Method 2 (page 17).

The attached list of races and classes basically listed all those available and a very brief description. Players usually have a concept in mind before they sit down to make characters and rather than hand them a pile of books and say 'go' a brief description can help narrow their search. Here is the list I gave the players. It only had the races and classes up through PH2:

Striker = Single target DPS, usually melee
Defender = Tank
Controller = AoE DPS, usually ranged
Leader = Healer/Buffer

Warlock-Striker/Controller-magic-make pacts for power

Avenger-Striker/Controller-divine melee
Barbarian-Striker/Defender-martial-rage user
Druid-Controller/Striker-nature-change into beast forms
Invoker-Controller/Striker-divine ranged
Shaman-Leader/Striker-nature-get a spirit pet
Sorcerer-Striker/Controller-wild magic
Warden-Defender/Striker-nature-change into spirit forms

Runepriest-Leader/Defender-divine-enter rune states

Swordmage-Defender/Controller-magic and swords together

Soul Siphon-Striker/Controller-magic-DoTs (a new class I designed)

Hybrid-Combine two classes

June 28, 2011

Farstead Part One: A 4E Hexcrawl

Welcome to Farstead. This is the name of my hexcrawl campaign for 4E. I’ll be posting how I wrote up this campaign with the intent of maybe giving someone else some ideas they can use. It will be a series of articles over the next few weeks.

The Start
This campaign came about as my wife’s Gamma World (she ran an awesome serious version using the 3rd edition rules-science over fantasy) was wrapping up. The players were asking for a fantasy game as the next campaign. This meant it fell to me, as my wife is only comfortable with two systems (Gamma World and 7th Sea).

June 27, 2011

Wanted: 6

This is another in the series of "wanted" posters that can be found within a campaign setting.

-From the small amount of reward we can only assume this is a lost dog a young child has lost and is desperately searching for. Sometimes its a good idea to throw in something simple and mundane as a counterpoint to all the fantastic stuff the characters run into.
-However, if that is too boring. The dog may have been dognapped by a cabal of sinister mages running horrible experiments with the goal of creating a hideous and unstoppable monster to do their bidding. Or Jasper is really a werewolf. Or a polymorphed prince.

June 24, 2011

Wanted: 5

This is another in the series of "wanted" posters that can be found within a campaign setting.

-An easy way to get the party into a dungeon. Baoorws allows for a wide variety of monster types; bandits or other humanoids may have made the place their lair, or undead may be roaming the area. Let's just hope that the author of the poster is not looking to trick a group of adventurers into clearing the place out and then jumping them as they leave.
-The author of the poster may be looking for specific information, information that will lead to a new and hidden dungeon setting. Of course, since the party did such a good job exploring the Lost Barrows he is looking to hire them to explore his real objective.
-Pretty simple wanted poster. Of course the picture depicts a person unafraid, which should give the payers pause, either before they engage him or after he pulls out a devious trick.

June 23, 2011

Wanted: 4

This is another in the series of "wanted" posters that can be found within a campaign setting.

-As implied by his name and dress, he is a mage of some type. What type could change the parameters of the adventure. Of particular interest is that he is only wanted for questioning. Apparently, he is not the sort of person who willingly will go in for this "questioning", otherwise there would be no need for such a poster. Perhaps he is a recluse or is hidden or too powerful for conventional forces to apply pressure on him. The challenge for such an adventure consists of first finding him and then convincing him to come along. If he is too powerful for the party to convince through strength and combat, he may be willing to accompany them...after they first complete a seperate adventure for him first.
-This is a straighforward opportunity to move the party from one location to another. Of note is the fact the poster specifes experienced fighters and casters; this implies the people who posted the item are expecting trouble. If the players are eager and willing to pursue this opportunity it may be a way of letting the DM know they feel their current area of adventure is overused or holds not enough of their interest.

June 22, 2011

Wanted: 3

This is another in the series of "wanted" posters that be found within a campaign setting.

-After looting old ruins characters often find coinage from ancient civilizations. This is an opportunity for the characters to have a ready source for exchanging these coins into readily usable cash. This will draw the characters to a central location after an adventure is over, giving the DM an idea of where the characters will be at certain times. It also allows the DM to threaten this person at a later time and the characters will have a vested interest in saving him.
-However, what is this person doing with all this ancient coinage? Is he a collector on a large scale? Has he found some means to power rituals with relics of ancient times, of which coinage tends to be in the greatest quantity? Is he reselling the coinage to someone he should not be (or can the characters cut out this middle-man)?
-The typical kill-the-evil-monster poster. Simply getting to the target could be an adventure in itself. Also, if it is a powerful monster it likely has followers. This is a good way to allow the players to choose to do a traditional monster hunt. If they decide to follow it up, they are likely letting the DM know that type of adventure is what they are currently in the mood for.

June 21, 2011

Wanted: 2

This is another in the series of "wanted" posters that be found within a campaign setting.

-Where has he gone? How did he go missing? Was this a result of an enemy (or a disgruntled wife/lover)? Is he not really missing but rather hiding (in which case the author of this poster may be seeking to do him harm)? The High Merchant title implies he is a man of great wealth and importance.

-It being a tower implies a mage type. Is the person who put up the poster concerned for this person's welfare (since it is implied he may still be alive) or is the person hoping the characters will kill this Milland individual?
-Milland may have put this poster up himself and he has layered this tower with various tests and traps. This was all done to see who could reach the end. It is such a group that he wishes to hire for a dangerous mission.

June 20, 2011

Wanted: 1

This week I will be putting up some "wanted" posters (a couple per day). These are designed to be inspirations for any D&D campaign. These work really well in open settings; characters can come across these and they can be catalysts for a night's adventure. They are designed to allow a DM to tailor the poster to his campaign while still providing enough information to be useful. I will be providing a couple of ideas of how to use the poster in case a DM is stuck for an idea on the fly. However, I heartily suggest tailoring a poster's meaning to your own campaign.

It should be fairly easy to print these out. You can simply take the picture and print it; this might eat up alot of colored ink. You can also snag the picture and then play with it; turn it black and white to remove the colors. One suggestion is to print on colored paper if you still want it to have some color; colored paper is alot cheaper than color ink.

After this week I'll be running one of these for a bunch of weeks on Mondays. This will last until I run out of ideas or enthusiasm. When it is all done there should be a bunch of posters a DM can use in his campaign.

-This is pretty straightforward. A bad guy needs to be taken down. He is wearing a symbol so may be part of a larger group.
-The party gets word of his whereabouts. Unfortunately, there is also a gathering in the same area by a group of devout clerics who shave their heads. Finding their target in such a grouping can present its own difficulties.

-This is a way for characters to feel killing all those orcs and trolls has some benefit other than the coins they drop. This is one time being an adventurer is useful. The author of the poster may be a local sage looking to augment his library of information. He may also hire the party to gather more information on other topics, such as gnolls or cyclops; something the party has not fought before but would now have reason to go looking for.
-The author of the poster may be looking to wage war against a tribe of goblinoids (kidnapped daughter or  revenge as a motivator) and is looking for information before he commits to action. In fact, this poster may be a test to see who truly has fought goblins before he recruits them into his personal war.

June 15, 2011

Sci-Fi vs. Fantasy

Stargazer’s World asked the question, why is the sci-fi genre second to fantasy in RPGs? I began to write a comment but it got too long so here it is. I suggest you read his excellent discourse on the subject first.

First off I do believe Traveller was in fact the flagship, go-to system back in the day. I remember it having a huge following (and it still does) and in the eyes of everyone I knew (so this may be subjective) it was The Sci-Fi Game. Eventually it lost that position. Why? For some of the same reasons why sci-fi RPGs are not on the same level as fantasy. And here are some of those reasons...

-Diversity/Niche. Cyberpunk, superheroes, space opera, hard science, near future, psionics, no psionics, multiple worlds, space combat, etc. These all fall under sci-fi RPGs but they are distinctive enough to garner their own following. And with that diversity there is a fragmentation of interest and purchasers. Fantasy tends to fall into the same general genre, medieval society with spells. Diversity in sci-fi tends to focus on the differences of setting, while diversity in fantasy tends to focus on diversity of rules. Thereby sci-fi games are divergent from each other while fantasy games are less so.

-Too close to reality. Most players want to get away from the normal, the every day. For some of those people sci-fi is too close to what they do everyday. Fantasy allows for the, well, fantastic. In sci-fi games you know the rules of nature. You can’t breathe in the vacuum of space, lasers and bullets will kill you, etc. In fantasy a spell will allow you to breathe in any environment or weapons to bounce off your magical shield. Sci-fi follows real world realities, fantasy does not. For some, it’s that extra step away from reality that they are looking for.

-Math is hard. By this I mean that because sci-fi is based on reality it “requires” the GM to follow those rules. Most GMs don’t know the rules of science, at least not to the degree running a sci-fi games requires. In fantasy, if a GM wants a menace to threaten the characters he can write it off as magic. In sci-fi, he has to come up with a realistic explanation or the setting and his game will lose cohesion. This is further compounded if a GM has a player who is science-savvy.

-Available resources. This pertains to the resources available to the player characters.. Fantasy has built in limitations to the setting that sci-fi can easily bypass. In a fantasy game players use horses to get around, keeping their movement options limited. In sci-fi, they could have access to a ship that could cover the same distance in a fraction of the time thus negating any planned overland encounters. Sci-fi games present another level of difficulty for a GM as they need to account for advanced technology disrupting an adventure.

-History. Fantasy games tend to be based on real-world cultures that people are familiar with. It is easier to gain a basic understanding of the setting. Sci-fi deals with things that do not exist yet, they are completely imaginary (while at the same time being bound by “reality”). For some people, they would prefer what they are familiar with in a setting than trying to wrap their head around a multitude of unknowns.

-800 lb Gorilla. Most players came into the niche of RPGs through D&D or some other fantasy game. It is what they know the best and are the most comfortable with, if for no other reason than that is what they started with. As a subjective example, my wife had been running a sci-fi version of Gamma World (heavy on the science, light on the mutations/fantasy). After that 3 year campaign ended, there were several players who asked for a fantasy game, any type of fantasy game.

Obviously, not all these apply to everyone and every group. But combined together it provides some reasons why sci-fi is not embraced to the same degree as straight forward fantasy. However, I also have a theory that sci-fi is not as less played as it first appears to be. Yes, there is no flagship sci-fi game that is dominant in the same way D&D is. But if you were to combine all the different genres that fall under the title of sci-fi, I believe there would be roughly the same amount of games being run as fantasy, they are just spread out over a wider range of game systems, whereas fantasy is consolidated into a few (though I believe we are seeing a true trend away from that consolidation due to the internet).

June 10, 2011

Quick Tip- Fast and Easy Floor Plans

Suddenly need a floor plan for that merchant’s home the PCs have decided to burglarize? Need the layout of the wizard’s home they are planning to visit? A quick search online for floorplans is an excellent way to get a simple floor plan, fast.

Here is a link to houseplans.com. Scroll down while on the main page and there are a number of headings for types of floor plans. I like looking under Architectural Styles and then under something like Spanish Home Plans or Victorian Home Plans. One nice thing is along with the layout of the floorplans, similar to what we use for maps, there are often more pictures showing the exterior of the home; useful if the characters are casing the location. (Since these are modern plans, you will need to edit the modern rooms, such as the car garage, but that could be turned something like a storage room.)

Here is one such plan. Included is a picture of the house and the first and second floors.

June 7, 2011

4E Character Theme: Cartographer

Dennis over at Spirits of Eden wrote up a nice article on the Cartographer. As I was reading, it struck me it should be a Character Theme for 4E similar to those seen recently in Dragon. Here is my version of such a Theme. I have not included the "fluff" and descriptive pieces of the Theme as I feel the Spirits of Eden article did a nice job of doing that.

If you are unfamiliar with the Character Themes as written for the Dragon (I can't deign to call it Magazine anymore), basically it is similar to the Dark Sun Character Themes with some slight variations. Its something extra a character can choose at character creation (with a slight power creep included). The character gains the Starting Feature, as well as the Level 5 and 10 Feature. In addition, there are 3 utility powers a character can choose to replace the ones they would normally get at levels 2, 6, and 10.


Starting Feature
You’ve seen it all before. Others may have seen the type of scale molting or curvature of a beast’s claw before, but you’ve seen the archway, corridor stonework and forest path before. You know the best way to utilize it to your advantage and to your enemy’s disadvantage. While everyone else runs in or ducks behind the occasional wall, you know how to use that which you map to its fullest potential.
     Benefit: You gain the Lay of the Land power.

Additional Features

Level 5 Feature
Where others overlook them, it’s the details you notice. Some would call you obsessive over the minor things, but you are able to see things others can not. This comes from taking painstaking measurements and keeping accurate notes. You are so good at what you do you can measure a room with your eyes alone. You also can see things that should be there, such as a hidden doorway, even when it is not readily apparent.
     Benefit: You gain a +2 power bonus to Perception checks. You also gain an additional +2 power bonus when there is a hidden terrain feature, such as a secret door or trap that can be found.

Level 10 Feature
Making maps keeps the world organized and structured. Within that structure lays knowledge as there is much which can be learned from a map. What was the intent of the designer? What was he thinking? These lessons can be applied everywhere. Also, having a map is just plain handy.
     Benefit: You gain a +2 power bonus to Insight checks. In addition, until your next extended rest, you are able to ask the GM one time for the direction to anything you have previously mapped. He will give you the general direction to the location (North, East, Southwest, etc) as well as an approximation of how far away it is.

Optional Powers

Level 2 Utility Power
One thing you have learned from map making is that there is always another way.. Where others see the impassable you can see a way through, and can then use that knowledge to your advantage.

Level 6 Utility Power
While knowledge of structural design can allow you to seek cover where the normal person can not, it also allows you see ways around the cover your opponents may be using. It may be because you are able to bounce an attack off a wall or angle a shot just right, you can make an opponent seem as if he is standing in the open.

Level 10 Utility Power
There are patterns in everything and you are able to see them. Every dungeon has its own style, feel and architecture. Soon enough you can tell what the designer has built before you even reach it, simply from what he has previously built.

June 3, 2011

My Desires for New 4E Books

What new subject matter (books) would I like WotC to release for 4E? This is all personally subjective but I think following in the general philosophy of WotC releases (provide content that can be used by both the GMs and the players to reach a broader audience) these ideas would have sales power. They also would provide me with some things I could personally use.

Equipment Book- I don’t mean another Adventurer’s Vault full of magic items, we have enough of those already. I mean make it full of all the equipment the players want for their characters; such things as chalk, pitons, shovels, varieties of rope, alternate clothing (dress vs. adventuring), ninja claws for climbing walls, oils for sheaths, hammers, etc. To make the book stellar include a variety of mounts, animal companions and hirelings, as well as an expanded rule set for strongholds. Bascially, all the non-magical stuff an adventurer could ever want.

Character Theme Book- I really like the new character themes (as seen in the Dragon Magazine). I would like to see a book full of a bunch of new ones. This area has potential for significant growth, much the same as the old Prestige Classes added uniqueness. They are ways to customize a character without throwing balance out the window-though they are still a power creep.

Class Book- I know some people don’t like having too many options as it can add confusion and redundancy, but personally I believe in more options. I believe there is still room for interesting classes for 4E. Same applies for races (especially monster races).

Skill Challenge Book- I will admit that I do not like skill challenges. One thing that might help is a book full of skill challenges for a wide variety of possible encounters. This could include examples for such things as wilderness travel (or any form of extended travel), diplomacy, closing or opening portals, stealth missions, battles, etc. Jam the book with all types of skill challenges. The goal would be to provide something a DM can reach for when an impromptu skill challenge comes up or as a base for creating their own challenges (something requiring nothing more than altering some DC numbers). However, this is a niche item that would only appeal to GMs.

Monster Book- More monsters. I have always liked more monsters. Be sure to include an appendix that provides guidelines for making monsters from previous Monster Manuals (MM1 & 2) compatible to the more “modern” monster power levels. yes, I know Monster Vault: Threats to the Nentir Vale is coming out this year, but I want moar!

Feywild Setting- I am looking forward to the Shadowfell Box set. It appears to both function as a setting book (a place wherein you can run a campaign) or as a supplemental setting (a resource for adding bits of the setting into your own setting). I would like to see something similar for the Feywild. Maybe have Glamour cards instead of Gloom cards. With them releasing Heroes of the Feywild I can only hope they will follow it up with a Feywild setting. Maybe they are waiting to see how the Shadowfell set sells.

Domain Rules- This would be something along the lines of the Domain rule set for Birthright but independent of a setting; something you could insert into any campaign. In light of much discussion of late of the under-supported Epic Tier play, Domain rules could be used in the Epic Tier to enhance that level of play. Instead of adventuring in a world made up of Points of Light, the characters can themselves create and rule over their own Points of Light; they could become the movers and shakers of the campaign.

If you also like 4E, what would you like WotC to put out for 4E?