Monthly Archives: July 2016

War Cry of the Flame Princess: The Scout

I retroactively added this post to the WCotFP series.

Earlier this year many people have been writing about the cleric class being an oddity unique to Dungeons & Dragons that doesn’t really fit in most other fantasy settings and seems rather inappropriate. Priests in other fictional worlds never really look and behave like that, and especially in the early edition a great amount of spells are taken from biblical miracles. There seems to be some move to not use the cleric class and instead represent priests and shamans through alternate spell lists for the magic-user class. I am fully behind that.

That leaves you with the now very well established scheme of warrior, mage, and rogue, which you’ll find almost everywhere in fantasy gaming. And I have to say, I also don’t like rogues.

han-lando

Scoundrels on the other hand are a completely different story.

The thief class for D&D was a later addition that didn’t exist yet in the first release of the game but was added very soon after. And in hindsight this move made many people angry and was seen as a move in the wrong direction. But the effect that the introduction of the thief meant that fighters and mages no longer had any reason to try to deal with traps or scout ahead because now there was someone who was always much better at it then them is not my main problem with the archetype. The original thief class had a clear identity but soon people wanted the thief to be good at fighting as well which lead us to the current form of the rogue. And rogues don’t really know what they want to be. The thief aspect has largely vanished and instead we have a fast fighter with light armor, who does huge damage with special attacks, or could be an archer. That takes away almost everything the fighter had left except for heavy armor. In a campaign with knights that’s not necesaarily a problem, but when you play in a setting that doesn’t have heavy armor or huge weapons, what is left? This was one of the reasons that made me pick Lamentations of the Flame Princess as my current system of choice, as its specialist class is meant to be neither great at fighting, nor required to be a thief.

But still, I am not fully happy with that. For my Old World that is full of barbarian warriors and made for adventures mostly set in the wilderness, the specialist seems a bit too flimsy to represent a hardened adventurer and the fighter too simple to represent the more skilled and sneaky hunters. On Dragons Gonna Drag, Justin presented the idea of merging the fighter and specialist classes together. But I really like classes and am already down to only three of them, so my idea is to do something similar but opposite.

drow_xendrik

One of the greatest idea I’ve seen for the warrior, mage, rogue archetypes is in Star Wars Saga Edition which has the soldier, scout, scoundrel, and noble classes as a spectrum of different approaches to fighting character and skilled characters. Neither the scoundrel nor the noble are exactly thieves, and the scout is something different than just a fighter/thief. And so I decided to come up with some kind of scout class that represents a more sneaky kind of warrior than the fighter.

One idea I’e seen a while back is that the halfling class would make a pretty good base for a Basic ranger. And while looking around for some more ideas I discovered that this is pretty much exactly what Adventurer Conqueror King did with the explorer class. It’s pretty much the B/X halfling with a different name. That’s also what I ended up doing.

Level Hit Points Attack Bushcraft Stealth
1st 6 +1 3 in 6 2 in 6
2nd +1d6 +1 3 in 6 2 in 6
3rd +1d6 +2 3 in 6 2 in 6
4th +1d6 +2 4 in 6 3 in 6
5th +1d6 +3 4 in 6 3 in 6
6th +1d6 +3 4 in 6 3 in 6
7th +1d6 +4 5 in 6 4 in 6
8th +1d6 +4 5 in 6 4 in 6
9th +1d6 +5 5 in 6 4 in 6
10th+ +2/level +5 6 in 6 5 in 6

Creating a scout class for LotFP turned out to be pretty quick and painless. The basic frame is once again the halfling class with the addition of an attack bonus half that of the fighter (other classes im LotFP always remain at +1) and the saving throws taken from the dwarf class (which covers a wider range of levels) and reduced by 2. Since it’s a scout class, the Bushcraft skill of the halfling is retained, but it also gains the Stealth skill with a chance of 1 lower than Bushcraft and not the flat 5 in 6 chance in wilderness environments that halflings have. A scout also can make a sneak attack for double damage with no option to increase like a specialist does.

And there you pretty much have it. I am considering giving also a 2 in 6 chance for Search and Climb, as it would fit the theme, but right now I am somewhat uncertain whether that might be a bit too much. Compared to the fighter the higher saves should even out with the lower hit points, which leaves all the skills compensated only by the reduced bonus to attack. But overall I am very happy with the class and it really took only about an hour to make, including research.

We need to use more links!

The number of RPG related websites and the frequency of post has gone down a lot over the last few years (though there’s a good case to be made that the overall quality went up as well). I would really love to read much more than I do now, but the way things work I only ever find new sites when they are linked to on pages I am already reading. There are a good number of relatively new sites around that are very much worth reading, but they are always so difficult to find. It’s almost impossible to find anything on the internet if you don’t know it exists, especially when it’s a site with few links that search engines don’t pay attention to.

Most sites have a list of links to others, but when I look at them I mostly see the same names who have been around for 5 years or longer. As more and more of these are discontinued new ones are springing up, but it’s almost impossible to get noticed if you’re not already known. My site had been up for two years before I got linked by anyone and just a few weeks back I discovered two new sites I really enjoy reading now and which have also been around for a year.

What we all need is more links. Not just when it’s necessary but any time you have some kind of reasonable excuse. When you read something that makes you think about writing a new post, include a link to it even if the connection might seem flimsy. It inspired you to write,so it might also interest people who are reading your post. If you have a list of links, as almost everybody does, don’t just include sites of which you are a huge fan. Also include those you somewhat regularly check because you occasionally find something interesting there. Also, write comments. I think everyone loves to see comments on posts, even if it’s a trivial “I liked that”, and it also puts another link to your own site on the internet. When you comment, other people will also be more likely to comment on your posts.

Links aren’t just the currency of the internet,they are also it’s fuel. I think there are a lot more people writing about RPGs now than it seems to anyone individually because everything is so fractured. When old contributors fall away new ones need to replace them. And there are plenty of people who are up for it, but they can only succeed at this if we keep supporting them by sending them our own visitors through links.

A first look at the Fantasy Age Bestiary

The Bestiary for Fantasy Age has been released in pdf now, and it really was about time. When the game came out last year it was the most demanded addition to the rulebook, which only provided ten or so sample creatures to show what their stat blocks look like. Which is really not much as a basis to easily get an introduction in how to effectively make new monsters for your campaign. Now a dedicated monster book has finally arrived.

GRR6004_450_1024x1024The big downside that immediately stands out is that there are only about 60 creatures in the book and the majority of them are pretty generic stuff that you find in every D&D Monster Manual 1. On the other hand, every creature has a full double page of description, which is more than I’ve ever seen in any other monster book. The description consists of a basic summary of the creature, usually a few paragraphs on making special customized versions of them, and three plot hooks as ideas how the creature can be used in play. This is something that I very much approve of. Unfortunately most of the creatures are not really interesting at all and so it all ends up being pretty uninspiring.

In Fantasy Age all the special abilities of a creature are in its stat block and usually it’s not too many of them to get too confusing. Often just four or five, with the creature’s natural armor and the ability to see in the dark being one item each. Most abilities are stunts which the creature can activate when it rolls two same numbers on its attack roll of 3d6 (if I recall correctly). Which in many cases makes a lot more sense than having them be special actions that are done instead of an attack and is one of the big features of the rules system. The downside is that the creatures have almost entirely only abilities for combat. That’s a bit too much needlessly imitating D&D in my opinion.

All in all, the Fantasy Age Bestiary seems like a book that is both necessary and unsatisfying. And like the rulebook itself it seems to be overpriced. There are so much better and bigger monster books out there which are much cheaper or even free and 15€ seems to be really too much. If you’re a huge fan of Fantasy Age and desperately waiting for a monster book to help running your campaign then this book seems like a necessary purchase. But if you’re looking for new monsters and inspirations for any other kind of campaign I very much recommend against it.

Old World Adventures

With my last two post having been about antagonists in the Old World and creating campaign settings to be ideally suited to run adventures in them, I’ve spend the last days thinking about what adventures specifically could take place in the Old World.

Here are a few basic adventure plots for which I want to create a good selection of sample locations and backgrounds. I believe that adventures should be very much tailored to the setting in which they take place to make the campaign feel truly distinctive and the worldbuilding feel more than just cosmetic. Not every adventure can work in every setting and in a world with little civilization and without most of the institutions of ancient and medieval society a setting like the Old World is particularly restricted. But even when the campaign might be just about barbarian hunters in the wilderness, there’s still quite a lot you can do other than fighting other clans and searching for food. The following adventure types should all be working in any Old World campaign, whether it’s set in the vast frozen emptiness of Venlad or in the sorcerous city states of Senkand.

  • Defending against Raiders: The old classic. The Seven Samurai. The Thirteenth Warrior. A community is under regular attacks by an enemy they can not defeat through their own strength so they turn to the heroes to protect them in their hour of need. The antagonists can be either clanless outcasts or a rival local clan, or even reavers coming across the sea while the heroes happen to be around. Usually a pretty straightforward affair, but it can all be made more interesting by having the attackers kidnap prisoners, giving them complex motivations for their raids, or splitting them into multiple groups with slightly different motivations.
  • Hunting a Beast: Also incredibly oldschool. A dangerous beast or a group of them has come to the area and poses a serious danger to the locals. The heroes have to find its lair or lure it into a trap and somehow get rid of it for good. Which can turn out rather more complicated than that in a wide range of ways. Understanding the nature of the creature and anticipating its moves is key to overcoming it.
  • Hunting an Enemy: The person in question might be an assassin who must be caught before murdering someone or a criminal who is on the run. Alternatively the heroes might be tasked with kidnapping or killing an enemy leader to help their allies win a larger conflict.
  • Scouting New Locations: The leaders of the settlement have learned about the existance of a previously unknown ruin or cave, or a hidden path to an unexplored valley and they want to know more about what’s inside them. Whether they could be dangerous or may hold anything of value to their people that should be claimed before someone else does. A task best suited for experienced explorers who are capable of dealing with whatever they might find. As settlements in the Old Worldare few and far between, new places can still be found everywhere, even just a few hours outside of a major port city. Since it’s meant to be an adventure for the players there should be something worth telling tales about. People like exploration, but it’s not the act of exploring that is fun, but the joy of discovery. Even when you don’t know yet what it is you will find. A well done exploration should include a regular series of discoveries that each hint that there is more to find if the heroes press on instead of turning back, even when that would be the reasonable course of action. The discovery near the ens of the exploration can be almost any of the other items on this list, with the difference that the players don’t know what it is until they find it.
  • Calming Angry Spirits: The spirits of nature are a major feature of the Old World, and one that should regularly appear in most adventures in some capacity. In adventures of this type they take the center stage. Somehow the actions of people have upset the peace with the local spirits, putting the survivial of any nearby villages at risk. The heroes have to find out what angered the spirits in the first place and put an end to the offence, and then find a way to appease the spirits’ anger. There’s a lot of things that someone might have done to offend the spirits, which can be unique for any agreement between a spirit and a settlement. The offense might have been an accident, a crime that was hidden from other people but did not went unnoticed by the spirits, or a deliberate attack by a hostile group. Village shamans might be able to learn the general nature of the spirits’ anger, but to truly understand what upset them and to fix the conflict someone has to visit and investigate the sites of the offenses in person. Which can often be a highly dangerous task in itself and too big for a simple shaman to handle.
  • Uncovering malicious Sorcerers: Sorcery has a corrupting influence on the minds and the hearts of those who practice it and who are falling under its spell. Raiders, wild beasts, and angry spirits are a constant threat to any village or town, but sorcery is a threat that can strike from the inside and be just as devastating. Except for the city states of Senkand and distant Kemesh, sorcerers always practice their craft in secret as few people are willing to tolerate them in their midst. Witches are already highly suspect and rarely fully trusted, but signs of the much darker magic of sorcery are usually treated as major threats to be dealt with before it can do greater damage and doom everyone. To most people it makes no difference whether a sorcerer is actively trying to corrupt and control the leaders of their community. Once their existance is discovered there will be no rest until the hidden threat is dealt with for good.
  • Breaking a Curse: In many ways this is quite similar to dealing with both angry spirits and nefarious sorcerers. The heroes become aware of a curse that lies on a place or group and people and are tasks with putting an end to it. Usually this means there has to be an investigation of how the curse started in the first place, what exactly it is doing, and how it can be reversed. Often the curse is some kind of haunting by a raving spirit, but sometimes it is the work of a witch or sorcerers who deliberately drove the spirits to such hostile behavior. The spirits might be able to tell, but often it is very difficult to get them to reveal their reasons unless the original source of the curse is discovered and a method found to force the spirits to show themselves and state the conditions to stop their haunting.
  • Recovering a Relic: Most often these adventures take the form of learning about a magic item that is located in some kind of dungeon and has not yet been claimed. The most plausible source for such information in the Old World are spirits who know about the item but have no interest in it themselves. Though conversations with spirits, shamans and witches might have learned of the existance and stories of such objects of power, which might have been known among experts of the occult for centuries even though no mortal has ever seen them. When a witch comes into possession of enough clues to identify the likely location of a relic it will still have to be retrieved from a potentially distant and likely dangerous place. Which is a great job for heroes looking for adventures. Alternatively they could try to follow the trail of people who were known to be in possession of such relics but disappeared in the wilderness and were never seen again. Or the item might have been stolen with the thief being still on the run.
  • Rescuing People: Same idea as recovering a relic but the object of the quest is to return people to safety. They could be prisoners or people who have been lost in the wilderness or a ruin. Finding them is only half of the adventure as taking them back to the village might be even more difficult.
  • Destroying hostile Cults: All throughout the Old World are cults of Wilders who worship the Ancients who live deep beneath the earth and the oceans. Not all such cults are hostile or dangerous, but their association with sorcerous powers makes them widely feared in lands that consider themselves civilized. And often enough their suspicions are true, as some are thralls to malicious spirits craving for sacrifices and rewarding their followers with dark powers. Larger cults can often appear as raiders coming from the wilds but being more interested in captives than in plunder. But sometimes small cults arise in secret within villages and towns that worship the spirit of the land. These are a threat very much like sorcerers, but instead of just one or two apprentices the leader of such groups might have dozens of followers among the local people.
  • Escaping from Dangerous Places: This is a variant of most of the above. Instead of the heroes having to find the main object of the adventure they have to get away from it. They could unknowingly enter the territory of a dangerous beast or angry spirit, become trapped in a ruin or cave and have to explore to find an exit or break the curse that keeps them from leaving, or become captives of raiders, sorcerers, or cultists.