Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Major Religions

"Godlings we called them once. The man-like beings that live deep in the Ancient Cities. The Old Warlords wrote much on the fortitude of these. . ."humanoids". . .that poured out of the Labyrinths when their Engineers cracked open the Ancient Gates. They will eat the flesh of Men as beasts and speak in their own alien language. There is a fierce intelligence in them akin to our own. Take care, if you are sincere in delving into the Ancient Cities."
-Roger the Mercer, Trader at the Last Stop Delver Tavern

Within the Mother Empire there are several major religions practiced.

Messianics: The Messianics follow the Law of the Messiah, who is also the Empress or Imperatrix and Supreme Ruler of the Mother Empire. Messianics believe that their leader is a Living God and the embodiment of Sophia -- the Creator God who sacrificed Herself so that Mankind could successfully escape Eden during the Ancient Cataclysm.

Priests are the main instruments of the Messiah and are each carefully chosen at adolescence for training and eventually bonded with a Patron Saint at the completion of their training. Priests wield strange powers following the completion of their training which culminates in a Trial at the so-called "Hall of Souls."

The Messianics catalog 777 Saints, some of which are embodied through a Priest, others remain asleep within the Hall of Souls. Priests are known by both their birth name and the name of their Patron Saint -- indeed, they are considered one and the same by the Laity.

Priests are promoted to High Priests -- overseeing a congregation -- and Bishop -- overseeing a City or other high administrative function -- as they serve and prove their faith. The Messianics follow The First Book of the Law and The Second Book of the Law.

Baptists: A splinter group from the Messianics that believe that all persons are capable of Ministry if they feel the calling from within themselves, apart from a special training process and a Priesthood. Baptists hold Chapel in private residences and they abhor any sort of structure in their faith.

The Baptists are tolerated by the Messianic Church as the Baptists follow both books of The Law and still believe in the divinity of the Messiah. Indeed, the Messianic Church still view the Baptists as part of their Laity and not a separate religion -- just misguided. In some regions more radical Priests of the Messianic faith will cooperate with Baptist Ministers in some religious holidays and good works.

The Baptists are so named due their reinterpretation of Baptism as the main rite that allows for any person to Minister -- as opposed to the strict tiers of Priesthood and training followed by the Messianics.

Unitarians: 500 years ago there was a rebellion within the Messianic Church where a high ranking Bishop took 100 Priests and High Priests to start a new country on the western coast of Nod. This is referred to as the 100 Heresy in the history books. The Unitarians believe that the Messiah has failed in her mission for Mankind and have developed their own Utopia based on new principles of government. The Unitarians refer to their institution as the All-One Church and have a strict socialist society ruled by powerful warrior-priests entitled Palace-Deacons or Paladins. The law imposed by the All-One Church on its Citizens is strict and unforgiving as Order and Law are seen as the true saviors of Mankind.

The Messianic Church considers the All-One Church heretical and will only ever refer to them as the Occidental Church for their geographical location in the west (or Accidental if they are being vulgar in their reference). There are those that follow the Unitarian faith in the Mother Empire, but they keep their faith a secret and, indeed, there are whispers of its members infiltrating the government and even the Church itself at the highest levels.

Spiritualists: The Spiritualists believe that there are "good" as well as evil spirits dwelling in the darkness and seek to commune with these unseen forces. Spiritualists are considered heretical and must practice their faith and its arts secretly. Spiritualists claim that they can commune with the dead via their ability to contact the Spirit World. Although most people believe that all unseen forces are inherently demonic, desperate people seek out the Spiritualists for the abilities they claim to have.

Adherent to these ideas refer to themselves as Spiritual or Spiritualists -- though only those with the dedication to hone the Subtle Talent can contact the Darkness Unseen, the Spirit World. Messianics and others that regard the so-called Spiritualists with suspicion use the vulgar Demonologists or Devil Worshippers when referring to this faith and its adherents.

The Messianic Church is quick to exorcise those who have had contact with or follow the so-called Spiritual path. Any contact whatsoever with the unseen is a potential pathway for demonic forces into the physical world. Spiritualists insist that this is not so.

Other Faiths: Magic-users follow their own religion -- called the Old Faith -- which is supported by the Messianic Church. In The Second Book of the Law it is written that Wisemen (the name the Church uses for Magic-users) supported the Messiah in her campaign against the Old Warlords for peace and to end the Great War. To this day, Magic-users and their Orders are respected and supported for their ongoing contribution to the Mother Empire.

The Hassan people also follow a religion which resembles in many ways the practices of Wisemen. Indeed, it is said that Magic-users and their Orders follow the original faith of the Six Tribes that left Eden.

The Bantu people also have their own religion that resembles the Old Faith in many ways, but in their own language. The Bantu people have a strong sense of tradition and avoid integrating into Westman society entirely. This is partially due to how far over the waters, to the south, their home country is -- the Bantu that settled in Nod hold strong to their traditions so as to preserve their cultural identity so far away from their homeland.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Witches They Be!

"They were sticky with the muck that filled the offal pit: a foul green ichor. These Wretched things were missing. . .parts of themselves, but still they lived. I watched in horror as they crawled towards us with what they had left for limbs, gnashing their teeth, flailing their tongues about. Not yet upon us, some horrible awareness occurred amongst these not-yet-dead things as their direction began towards one another. These Undead climbed upon one another, forming a moaning, pulsating mass. Out of the rotten pile,It rose on its mismatched, malformed limbs and wailed at us with a sound of many throats. We gripped our weapons tightly in defensive positions, but our companion-Pyromancer lunged to the front of us shouting the Full Incantation of The Baleful Pyre! The monstrosity lit up like a furnace as the column of flame rose from Its feet!"
-Unknown Accounting, taken from scraps of a journal found in The Last Stop Delver's Tavern.

From the Journal of Leonard, Get of Harold, Warrior-Deacon. . .

For three weeks I watched them and their so-called "Carnival of Delights" within the Free Market of Nein. May Sophia bless the Messiah, but I question the wisdom of allowing people to do as they please if it brings harm to none in the affairs of business. A result of this Law has created circumstances such as these -- that has taken me three weeks of gathering evidence to conclude what I already knew!

I knew the minute the Giantess from the desert-lands entered Nein with her troupe of female carnies -- a brothel -- a coven! The giantess did well to conceal her appearance as the Guardsmen would have been upon the Ogress at the city gates. Since entering the city the Hag has remained retired within the largest of their cabins while the children of Men that she has possesed do her bidding.

Donning my most stealthy attire and close-quarters arms I watched the men -- and women -- enter the small encampment the Coven rented for themselves within the Free Market. The drumming, singing, jeering and sighs told obvious tales of the fleshy delights within the curtained encampment. How the Mercer's Guild turns their eye away from such sin for silver! At the end of the first week the last of the customers each night -- normally waking the next day and stumbling (with a mouthful of apologies) back to their families and jobs -- were no where to be found.

As a Deacon I am afforded much less respect than a full Priest and I musn't ever represent myself otherwise to the Laity. I approached the Guardsmen who stand post at the Free Market entrance with the Mercers with my observations. "What is your evidence?" they asked. "You are not a Priest! How can we be certain if you lack the subtle powers of the full-clothed" Insulting, their words. "Half-cloth" is the word they use for us Deacons. Some of us serve in humility, not wishing to disturb the status-quo. Others, like myself, feel as if we can make a difference though we lack the strange powers Priests gain when they come back from the Hall of Souls.

I knew I was right, so I returned to my watch. The coven continued their ruse as more of the Laity entered the trap. Realizing that I would need evidence I decided to confront the Deceivers directly. I entered the encampment in the second week.

"Welcome, Deacon." whispered a voice in my mind as I parted the curtains. I looked forward past the curtains. Empty -- sorcery in my mind. "Show yourself, Witch." I cursed. There was a breeze in the air and the long figure of the Giantess, lounging upon a velvet couch, appeared before me.

"You're soo persistent, Deacon. Why don't you follow your own Law?" the Giantess lazily gazed at me.

"What have you done with the missing people, Witch?"

"We don't take those who don't wish to be had. You know that we can lift the Secrets from people's minds -- especially in the weakness of their ecstasy. We did not kill anyone -- the death we offer is a mercy compared the horrible ways that these ill would act out their despair. . ."

"The lives are not yours to take! How dare you!" I motioned for my blades.

The Giantess snapped her fingers and as another breeze moved through the air the rest of her troupe of human females appeared from out of the corners of my eye. Tsk-tsk, scolded the Giantess. She stood and her image shimmered like water, revealing her True Form. "I would suggest. . .that you. . ." -- the Giantess was upon me, holding me aloft by my throat in her ironclad fist, ". . .reconsider. . ." She threw me from the tent leading me to tumble down the dirt road in front of the encampment and her voice continued in my mind as she used the Secret Language, ". . .your position, Deacon. The Death Wish is not in you, but I will take your life anyway if you threaten us again. BEGONE!"

On Armor

"We can save the recently possessed, but not the Greater Demon. Legion sings His song to us all, and listening closely draws Him near. Beware, young Acolytes, for if a year and a day passes before the Exorcism, the Soul is lost forever: becoming a beacon -- a Gate -- for one of Legion's Children."
-Mother Veronica St. Alden, High Priest instructing her class of Acolytes in Exorcism.

For Sophia's Children I have designed the armor system where I have tried to balance simplicity with a degree of strategic choice. The multitude of choices present in some armor systems replete with all sorts of elemental resistances, physical damage type variations make my head hurt and trigger, for me, choice paralysis. I think there should be SOME degree of tactical variance apart from the Armor Class (AC) which is why I have the Special Resistance (SR) in the system.

Tactical Choices

How do these differ tactically? Well, attacks that are basic or mundane will nearly always focus on AC While attacks that are of a more extraordinary or even supernatural quality will target SR. I have not detailed the Ability and Action Point system yet, but really quite simply put each class has access to one or two kinds of abilities beyond the Basic Attack.
1. Basic Attacks that use no Action Point and always target AC. All PCs and Monsters have basic attacks.
2. Advanced Attacks that use an Action Point, but that Action Point can be gained back later in the same combat -- these nearly always target AC.
3. Major Abilities that spend an Action Point, which is returned after Resting (by "rest" here I mean sleeping for 6-8 hours and getting a solid meal in one's belly). Whether these target AC or SR depends on Class, Monster -- but the spread is about 50-50 across all abilities
4. Supreme Abilities that "burn" an Action Point. Burnt Action Points are only ever returned following the month-long Upkeep between excursions. Supreme abilities always target SR. 
A Hassan Fighter wielding a Saif and Pike.
The terms above, Basic, Advanced, Major and Supreme are not necessarily game-terms as each Class, as well as Monsters have their own nomenclature for how they interact with the system. For examples: Fighters have Weapon Proficiencies which grant access to an Advanced Attack and Power Attack for the weapon type or style the Weapon Proficiency is in. And Magic-users have Spells: each one having both a Partial Incantation that spends an Action Point and Full Incantation that burns up an Action Point.

Those will be detailed further in future posts specific to each of three starting classes: The Fighter, The Magic-user and The Thief.

Strategic Considerations

That aside, the intention behind the system is to present the Player Characters with a strategic choice: Equip to shore up Armor Class, risking being more easily hit by big attacks? Or: Focus on equipment that raises Special Resistance, making it more likely to avoid extraordinary effects, but becoming more vulnerable to mundane combat modes.

Armor functions as a complete set when worn. I.E.: there are no rules for piece-meal armor, helmets et cetera. Armor is of three types: Light Armor, Heavy Armor and Super Heavy Armor.
A group of Nein Soldiers wearing Full Brigandine Suits
Light Armors provide straight bonuses to Armor Class and Special Resistance to varying degrees as their construction focuses on deflection, comfort and enhancing maneuverability. Some lower quality Light Armors may favor one form of protection over another, resulting in a bonus to one and a penalty to the other.

Heavy Armors mainly provide a straight bonus to Maximum Hit Points, in addition to slight bonuses to AC or SR -- although more simply constructed Heavy Armors may have a small penalty. Heavy Armors are constructed to absorb punishment more directly, but are still designed well enough to preserve maneuverability.

Super Heavy Armors provide the same bonuses as Heavy Armors, but also provide Damage Reduction. Damage Reduction is subtracted from all incoming damage. Super Heavy Armors are the toughest of all the armors, and also the heaviest. When wearing Super Heavy Armor the bonuses to AC and SR from Agility and Intellect are divided by two, rounding down.

In addition to providing AC, SR, DR and bonuses to Maximum HP, Armor requires a certain degree of Strength to use effectively, in addition to modifying the chance to Dodge. Light Armors can be used effectively, but having the Strength Requirement to use it allows for fully unencumbered movement equivalent to being unarmored. Heavy Armor and Super Heavy Armor being used without meeting the Strength Requirement result in a permanent Slow condition that inhibits movement in addition to limiting combat strategies as a result of being Slowed (no Dodging, Intercepting or Running). (Fortunately, acquiring the Slow condition again as a result of combat or similar will NOT increase this penalty in any way.) Super Heavy Armor also has a Strength Requirement one higher than Heavy Armor.

Example Equipment

Leather Jack: A padded leather jacket that laces up the front to a high collar. Comes with matching combat boots. Light Armor, +2 AC, -2 SR, Requires 1 Strength.

Jack of Plates: A woolen coat with plates of iron woven in. Comes with a pair of studded combat gloves. Light Armor, +3 AC, -2 SR, Requires 1 Strength.

Military Suit: A standard mobility-focused armor issued to Nein soldiers: a padded justacorps, hardened leather leggings and arm-bands. Comes with an iron kettle hat. Light Armor, +2 AC, Requires 1 Strength.

Coat of Mail: A set of mail armor: hauberk, sleeves and chausses. Comes with a woolen hood. Heavy Armor, -1 SR, +6 HP, Requires 1 Strength.

Old Breastplate: A piece of scrap from a suit of field plate. This should work for now. Super Heavy Armor, -1 AC, -1 SR, +4 HP, +2 DR, Requires 2 Strength.
Field Plate Armor without helmet plus Arming Sword

Note: And this is pretty much the format for equipment in the game. Quick, evocative descriptions combined with to-the-point statistics. And, again, there are elements within this post that will elaborated on later (Dodging, Encumbrance, Action Points, et cetera). Stay tuned!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Sophia's Children: The Initiating & Order of Combat

The Dweller
"The Old Asylum? That place has been unfunded by the Lord Mayor for years -- just run by a Priest and some Deacons who tend to the patients who couldn't make the transfer to the Hospital Main. . . (The old Dweller loudly clears his throat and spits) I hate how speaking Mannish makes my throat hurt. . . But, yes, it is built upon older, deeper dwellings that likely contain the tunnel you seek." -Deviltail the Dweller

So, I'm going to detail the order of combat resolution in this post from my draft notes. This will be a good way of organizing it in one place both for reference by myself and also for inspection by prospective players who want to learn a bit more about the mechanics of Sophia's Children.

At the beginning of combat, all non-surprised combatants roll for initiative. Surprise is decided upon either 1. the adjudicated circumstances before combat began or 2. a roll of 1d6 for the entire party with a result of 1-2 indicating surprise for that side.

Example #1: Francis and his three men-at-arms are exploring the forests south of Nein, searching for a rumored Man-eater that is said to be stalking the area. Francis and his men-at-arms are being very loud and generally doing nothing to conceal or silence their search. The Man-eater leaps upon them from a nearby tree, surprising the lot of Francis and his party -- no roll.

Example #2: Francis and his one man-at-arms, severely injured from a recent hunt, are retreating back to Nein and are being careful by sticking to the main roads. 100 yards ahead of them they see a group of rough-looking thugs speaking amongst themselves. Francis and his sole retainer move ahead through the forest and ambush the thugs from the forest -- surprising the thugs. No roll for surprise.

Example #3: A band of three merry thieves is returning to Nein after a successful night of mugging travelers. They enter an alleyway in the slums to avoid the watchful eyes of Guardsmen as they've developed quite a reputation for themselves lately. When entering the alleyway they run into a rival band of four thieves. Not so merry, both sides roll a 1d6 for surprise as they weren't expecting one another under the circumstances. Neither side roll a 1 or a 2 for their surprise roll. Roll initiative!

Initiative is rolled with 1d6 plus Agility. Combatants either roll for initiative as a Squad or Individuals. This is decided by the type of combatant. Monsters of the Minion or Soldier variety roll initiative as a Squad -- these Monsters are typically encountered in large groups of the same kind, roll 1d6 and add the Squad's common Agility. Monsters of the Leader or Humongous Monster variety, roll 1d6 and add their Agility as individual combatants. Players Characters of level 1 or higher roll for individual initiative. Beginning Player Characters at level 0 choose one party member to roll initiative for their group.

Example: Our band of merry-thieves-three are experienced adventurers (two level 2 Fighters, and one level 2 Thief), but the rival gang they've run into are four common thugs (level 2 Soldiers). Each of our merry band roll 1d6 and add their Agility, scoring a 5, 3 and 7 for the first Fighter, second Fighter and Thief, respectively. The four common thugs roll 1d6 once and add Agility, scoring a 6.

The Initiative Pool & First Action

Once resolving initiative either one of two eventualities will result: one stand-out high-roller or tied-results. In the case of a stand-out high-roller, the First Action goes to that combatant or squad. Ties are resolved by spending points out of each of the tied combatants' or squads' contribution to their side's Initiative Pool.

Example #1: Returning to our merry-thieves-three in the alleyway faced with a rival band of muggers. As the Thief rolled the highest -- a 7 -- the Thief has First Action.

The Initiative Pool is computed by adding together all the Agility scores for each combatant on one side of a combat. The total number is the Initiative Pool by each of the combatants on that particular side of a conflict.

Example #2: Within our band of thieves the first Fighter has an Agility of 2, the second Fighter has an Agility of 1 and the Thief has an Agility of 3. Their Initiative Pool at the beginning of this combat is 6. Each of the four thugs (level 2 Soldiers) have an Agility of 2, so the Initiative Pool on their side is (4 times 2) 8.

In the case of ties, First Action is decided by "bidding" with each of the tied combatant's or squad's initial contribution to the Initiative Pool. Whoever puts up the highest number wins First Action, but all points so-bid are subtracted from each side's respective starting Initiative Pool. If the sides bidding on First Action put up equal points (or no points at all), the First Action is decided through a 1d6 rolled for each side (reroll ties). The highest rolling side decides which of their tied allies has First Action.

Example #3: Francis, now alone, makes his way into the south of Nein, swearing vengeance on the thieves who assaulted him and killed his man-at-arms. He makes his way into the Southerly Slums and takes a wrong turn down a narrow street into a pair of assassins who have just finished dispatching a street merchant. Knowing that the Assassin Guild has a policy of never leaving witnesses, Francis takes his Arming Sword from its sheath, readying for the coming battle.

Both sides roll for surprise as they weren't expecting one another. The assassins roll a 3 and Francis rolls a 4 -- neither side is surprised. The assassins are each level 1 Leaders and therefore roll individual initiative, scoring a 5 and 8, respectively. Francis is a level 3 Fighter and rolls individual initiative, scoring an 8, tying for initiative with the second assassin.

Since both sides of this combat are tied, there is no First Action yet. Initiative Pools are first calculated. Francis, being alone, has an Initiative Pool of 3 as he has an Agility score of 3. The two assassins each have an Agility score of 3, for a combined Initiative Pool of 6.

To resolve the First Action, only the one assassin's contribution can be used to bid, 3 points. Francis has only his 3 points. The assassin first puts up 1 point, Francis puts up all 3 of his points. The assassin does not bid any further points, but has reduced the starting Initiative Pool for his side by 1 point, for a total of 5. Though Francis has won First Action, he has put up the whole of his Initiative Pool for this, for a starting Initiative Pool of 0.

The First Action, Next Actions & Interrupts

The combatant with First Action performs the action of their choice (Combat Actions et alia will be elaborated elsewhere). And, following the resolution of their choice, decides who has the Next Action amongst the individual combatants or squads who have yet to act. Combatants and Squads who have yet to act are Up, Combatants and Squads who have already acted are Tapped.

If a Squad is currently acting, all of their squad members act in whatever order they choose. At the last squad member's action, the squad decides who is to act next out of the combatants or other squads that are Up.

After Next Action is declared by the currently acting Squad or Combatant, any of the combatants who are Up may Interrupt this declaration by paying out of their side's Initiative Pool. Unless the Interrupted combatant or squad matches this bid out of their own side's Initiative Pool, the Next Action will go to the Interrupting combatant instead. It is NOT possible to Interrupt the First Action in this way.

Note #1: It IS possible to Interrupt allied Combatants -- this is useful when the opposing side chooses a combatant on your side for Next Action, but someone else wants to go next. This follows the same procedure as in the previous paragraph -- pay at least 1 point out of the Initiative Pool. Of course, some allies may be more or less cooperative with being interrupted and could buy their action back out of the same Initiative Pool through the same previously explicated procedure. It pays to communicate with your fellows clearly!

Note #2: If a Combatant (or the entirety of a Squad) is Stunned or similar (Asleep, Dying) they are incapable of Interrupting the order of actions, nor can they counter-bid Interruptions of their own actions.

Example: Returning to our merry thieves who have entered into combat with a rival gang of thugs. The Thief has won First Action since he rolled highest initiative (7), beating his fellows and the rival gang (who are a Squad of four level 2 Soldiers that rolled a 6 for their whole group). The merry thieves have an Initiative Pool of 6, whereas the rival gang has an Initiative Pool of 8. The Thief takes his first action, dropping one of the thugs with a well-placed stiletto stab. The Thief then designates the Second Fighter for the Next Action. 

The remaining thugs decide to Interrupt this action by paying 2 points out of their Initiative Pool, hoping to surround the Thief who has closed into melee with them. The Second Fighter matches their bid with 2 points out of their side's Initiative Pool. The thugs raise the bid to 4. The Second Fighter then matches again to 4 points. The thugs acquiesce and the Second Fighter keeps his action. After this Interrupt-Counter-Interrupt-Counter exchange the merry thieves have their Initiative Pool reduced to 2 as the Second Fighter spent 4 points to retain his action. The rival gang has their Initiative Pool reduced to 4, reduced from 8 due to their failed bidding of 4 points.

The Second Fighter leaps into the action, hitting -- but not dropping -- one of the thugs. The Second Fighter then designates the First Fighter for the Next Action. The rival gang attempts to Interrupt this action by paying 3 of their remaining 4 points. The First Fighter, realizing that he cannot match or exceed this bid with his side's remaining 2 points of Initiative Pool, is successfully interrupted by the rival gang.

The remaining three thugs close in with the Thief and Second Fighter, ganging up on the Second Fighter with their attacks. The Second Fighter takes a hit, is missed by the second attack and blocks the third attack with his Light Shield without being stunned. After all the thugs complete their actions as a Squad, they designate the First Fighter for the Next Action, as he is the only remaining combatant who is Up and available to act this Round.

The First Fighter charges into the melee with his Claymore drawn and drops one of the thugs with a well placed chop to the neck.

Ending a Round

A Round ends when ALL Combatants have been Tapped. Two things occur at the end of a Round: 1) All Combatants and Squads reset from Tapped to Up and 2) If ALL sides' Initiative Pools have been spent to 0, all Initiative Pools are recalculated (Agility of remaining -- non-dead -- combatants are added together).

In addition, the LAST acting Combatant or Squad has the privilege of designating the Next Action out of any of the available combatants -- but cannot designate themselves.

Example: Last we were with Francis, he had won First Action by spending all of his contribution to his side's starting Initiative Pool, 0. The two assassins (each level 1 Leaders) have a starting Initiative Pool of 5.

Francis spends his First Action charging the First Assassin with his Arming Sword, which the assassin successfully dodges, but is now Stunned. Francis then designates the Stunned assassin for the Next Action. The Second, non-Stunned, Assassin interrupts this order by spending 1 point of their Initiative Pool (which is now 4) and uses his action to move into the shadows of the street -- becoming Hidden. The Second Assassin then designates the First Assassin for the Next Action as he is the only combatant Up at this point in the Round. The First Assassin, who was stunned from rolling out of the way of Francis' attack, gets his balance back -- losing the Stunned status, but this also ends his action. The First Assassin, since he was the last combatant in this conflict can now designate either Francis or his colleague, the Second Assassin, for the Next Action.

Also, since this is the End of the Round -- all Combatants are Tapped -- all combatants reset to Up and are available to act again. Francis, though he has an Initiative Pool of 0, does NOT reset his Initiative Pool since the opposing side has an Initiative Pool of 4 points remaining.
The First Assassin chooses the Second Assassin for the Next Action. Francis, reflecting on the dangerousness of the situation, realizes that he cannot Interrupt this action because he has an Initiative Pool of 0! The Second Assassin leaps from the shadows into a flanking position with Francis, striking him down with a deep backstab.

This concludes my explanation of the Order of Combat. I have included terms in my examples of other parts of the system that have not been explained yet. I will be explicating much of this later on, but -- again -- it is helpful to write in this way to see what parts of the system sit together or separately.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

"The Forever Dance" & First Foray Into Nein

Pink Flower Cultists
"If it's the Forever Dance you seek, I recommend speaking to the Pink Flower Cultists that do their 'recruiting' on these streets. Rumor has it a few of their recent members lost their minds after finding 'it.' Their leader, a Hassan former-mercenary goes by the name 'Peace Be Unto You.' Yep, that's his name. Those Cultists all change their names after joining -- something about how the Pink Flower reveals their True Name to them. I think they're just high out of their minds on Opium paste, but what do I know, I just work here." -Rachel "Rach", Waitress at the Red Room in Nein

Nein (pronounced NAY-ihn) will be the initial setting for my upcoming playtest for Sophia's Children current rules iteration. In this post I want to provide a bit of background as both a writing exercise for myself, but also some setting information for persons who have expressed or will express interest in playing!

Painting of the Messiah symbolically "Trampling War and Writing The Law." Hangs in the City Hall Proper in Nein.
Nein is the east-most city in the Mother Empire, sitting in the middle of the continent and near the Barrier Mountains that separate the western portion of Nod -- the continent upon which the Mother Empire and its surrounding countries lay -- from the eastern portion, where the Wastes of Asad and the Silent Kingdoms are. Nein is built against the southern wall of one of the many Ancient Cities that were sealed at the end of the Great War 2000 years ago. The Ancient Cities provide a strategic position for the city as the walls surrounding this particular one are nigh-impregnable and reach 100s of feet into the air, allowing the city to bifurcate any invasions from the northerly direction. The Ancient Cities also have functional plumbing systems that Engineers have, long ago, figured out how to interface into to provide running water for the entirety of Nein, in addition to irrigating the farmland on its outskirts.

Nein is separated into several Districts and sprawls across an expanse of several square miles, not including the Ancient City -- effectively an artificial mountain -- on its northern border. There are two Farming Districts, one to the West and another to the South. Also, on these outer portions of the cities are roads leading West and East. The Eastern Road leads around the Ancient City, eventually splitting to the north and to the east -- heading to The Wall a long wall of similar construction to the Ancient Cities, that -- according to explorers -- fully bifurcates the Barrier Mountains north-to-south. The Western Road eventually splits into several main through ways towards other cities and, to the north, one of the two so-call "Free States." Small collections of residences are located along the roads, which are often combined tavern-residences, the people who live there also make a living off of the travelers that come by and come in for rest, food, drink and provisions.

Farther in, are the Crafting District to the west, Workers Residential District on the southern end, Poor Workers Residential District on the eastern end, and two Slums on the eastern and southern portions of the City. Closer to the center and northern portions of the city are the Merchants District, Merchant Class Residential District, City Hall and finally the Baron Wards -- "Barons" only-in-name as their ruling power was transferred long ago by the Messiah to a governmental system located in City Hall.

Throughout the Districts are small and large Guard Posts where Guardsmen, Inspectors and attendant Deputy Sheriffs and Sheriffs look out for crime (or look the other way, depending. . .). Several Military Garrisons are located in the City as well (which may be called to arms in cases of overwhelming inner strife, but usually only respond to external threats). Churches of the Messianic faith are located throughout the City as well. Within the Merchants' District is a Free Market, where -- for a fee -- anyone can set up shop. Those who cannot afford to rent a shop within the District proper often resort to the Free Market -- which is also a good spot to check for traveling merchants and caravans.

All told, here are the Districts in summary:

1. The Western Road
2, The Eastern Road
3. West Farmland
4. South Farmland
5. Crafters' District
6. Workers' Ward
7. Poor Workers' Ward
8. Eastern Slums
9. Southerly Slums
10. Merchants' District / Free Market
11. Merchants' Residential Ward
12. City Hall / City's Heart
13. Baron's Ward

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

My Playtest Recruitment Flyer!

This flyer is intended to be a brief description of my D&D-derived ruleset I am intending to playtest, in addition to a recruiting tool. I am seeking play testers for my hope-to-be-published-in-some-manner Roleplaying Game, "Sophia's Children." I have discovered that Redcap's Corner hosts a D&D specific night every Wednesday and I thought that this would be a good forum to talk to some people and see what interest exists and/or drum-up some interest in my own game.
Who Am I? My name is Dane and I am an amateur game designer (I.E.: This is a hobby for me and I don't do anything related to this for a living.) who has been enjoying and musing on roleplaying games (of the tabletop variety) for about 20 years. I have designed all sorts of worlds and systems that are inspired in one way or another by Ye Olde Dungeons & Dragons game.
What Are You Looking For? My current creation, "Sophia's Children" is a culmination of what I believe to be my best efforts in game design and I want to collect a group of interested persons to take it through its paces. I have designed the game for play by both "experienced" and "inexperienced" players and, indeed, it would be helpful to have both kinds of players represented in my playtest group. I am ALSO looking for honest feedback regarding the game -- I will provide Feedback Forms following every session -- critical, scathing, praising and especially specific feedback is encouraged. Again, I am an amateur, so I am NOT looking for people to sign all sorts of NDAs or whatever -- just people looking to experiment with something new, have some fun and offer their opinions!
Well, What Kind Of Game Is This? My game relies on the tropes of Dungeons & Dragons most are familiar with: Wandering Monsters, Dungeons, Traps, Treasure, Fighters, Magic-users, Thieves, Priests, et alia. Characters / PC s are defined by Six Traits: Strength, Agility, Intellect, Appearance, Personality and Alignment. Characters are further defined by their Class and Background. The game has no skills as characters are defined by the above elements (E.G.: Weapon and Armor use depends on having certain scores in Strength or Agility) and several game mechanisms that are usually thought of as skills are now pieces of equipment (E.G.: any can use lock picks – but they can break). Combat utilizes 1d20 versus target number approach and there are traditional Hit Points. Rolling “to hit” is against the usual Armor Class, but sometimes against “Special Resistance” for extraordinary or magical attacks. Throughout the system there are elements of “novelty” (such as the initiative system, wounds & resting mechanics) and the “traditional” (class-based, level-gaining and experience points). Only 20-sided and 6-sided dice are needed to play.
OK, What's In It For Me? I don't have anything to offer apart from the possibility of having a fun time and including your name in the list of "Playtesters" in some sort of formal or informal publication of my game. If you have a blog or similar online identity I can, by your consent, include this information when I post "Playtest Reports" on my blog as well. I am open to suggestions, however -- let me know what you think!
How Can I Stay In Touch? Do you have questions? Are you interested in signing up for the playtest?? You can get in contact with me utilizing the information below. I also plan on checking out Redcap's Corner on Wednesday nights to get a feel for what happens here -- so feel free to approach me with your questions in-person if that suits you!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Westmen: Sample Backgrounds

One of several Messianic churches in Nein.
(As a writing exercise, I will begin including "quotations" from the various personalities I am creating within the setting of Sophia's Children.)

"Priests? No, we are Ministers to the People. Sophia's Wisdom is for all that would submit to Baptism, not the elitist methods the Messianic Church employs. What? No, we are very friendly with the Church and Mary, may Sophia's Grace be upon her, is Most Certainly the Messiah, God's Messenger. . . We just have different opinions on how that message gets carried out. . ." -Brother Rudolph the Peddler, Baptist Minister

Upon generating the Six Traits for your character: Strength, Agility, Intellect, Appearance, Personality and Alignment, it is time to generate a Background. A Background is a one-sentence summation of how your character's life has been up to the present. Roll Then Choose one of the Background indicated by your selection of Race -- or make up your own!

Westmen: Roll 1d20 and go to the number indicated on the one's digit as your Background.

1: Adopted and raised by an older relative who is an outrageous hermit, but also an accomplished Magic-user.
2: Your wild parents are both adventurers, now retired, and you were raised in the wealthy merchant districts where they live relatively comfortably off the spoils of their past adventures that they always tell you about.
3: You hail from one of the wealthy Baron Houses and though you frequently venture off the estate seeking adventure, your family has their own very boring plans for you.
4: You were raised by your mother from a young age as your father, a Sergeant of a Garrison in the City's military, left many years ago on campaign never returning.
5: You are part of large, very extended family of farmers and lived outside of the City most of your childhood, although you've always been intensely curious of it.
6: Orphaned at a young age, you made due on the tough streets of the City with your cunning, making some allies, making more enemies along the way.
7: You were raised in one of the City's orphanages run by the Clergy and Curates of the Messianic Church and are still close with some of your guardians to this day.
8: You come from a family of wealthy Merchants and Guildsmen who are putting a lot of pressure on you to "make your own fortune" as you've come of age.
9: You were adopted by a High Priest of the Messianic Church and lived a very sheltered yet structured childhood, as she took pains to thoroughly home school you between her responsibilities with the Church.
0: Orphaned in your youth, you were taken in by an Opium Dealer and served as his "look out" in exchange for room and board -- he was kind to you, but wretched to his "customers."

Putting Together Playtest Documents

I'm slapping together a first draft for my playtest documents. I am looking for playtesters and will be setting out to Red Cap's Corner in University City, Philadelphia to see what I can do to recruit or at least to see if there's any interest. They appear to have a Wednesday night D&D specific night which focuses on Pathfinder and the like. As my game is OD&D derived and very much focuses on its tropes I may find some interest there -- I'll post on here the results!

To the design of characters. All characters start at Level 0 and are considered classless Commoners. The major decision to make has to do with your character's Race, which is more a selection of Culture/Ethnicity as the initial selections will be limited to the three to four common human races to the Mother Empire on the continent of Nod: Westmen, Hassan, Bantu and (possibly) Asherites.

After selecting your character's race you roll on a race-specific chart for your starting scores in the Three Ability Scores: Strength, Agility and Intellect. All races of Men have equal abilities, but in different ratios as Men have primary, secondary and tertiary foci afforded by their culture's history and environment of origin. This roll is made with a 2d6 roll against a referenced chart.

Ability Scores are, at the start, scored from 0 to 2. 0 is the poor, mediocre level which can indicate anything from extremely abysmal performance up to simply sub-par ability. 1 is the human average, nothing outstanding, nothing unsatisfactory. 2 is above-average, but just that. Ability scores above 2 are possible after a degree of advancement, which is considered extraordinary and a result of focused training and experience.

Strength is a measure of physical might, vigor. Strength directly influences a character's ability in hand-to-hand combat, modifying their "to hit" rolls in melee combat. Most weapons multiply their Scaling Grade by the user's Strength to increase damage. Strength also increases Hit Points. Starting characters get a bonus to Hit Points equal to their Strength divided by 2, dropping fractions. I.E.: A characters with a Strength of 2 gets 1 bonus Hit Point at starting Level 0. Additionally, most weapons and armor have a Strength Requirement for use without which a character will clumsily attack or be hampered in their movement -- especially tactical movement -- respectively.

Agility is a measure of speed, reflexes, balance and coordination. Agility directly influences a character's ability with ranged weaponry and targeting, modifying the "to hit" roll. Some weapons multiply their Scaling Grade with the greater of Agility or Strength to increase damage, E.G.: Light Blades. Some weapons, such as Bows require a certain degree of Agility for basic use. Agility also directly increases Armor Class: the number to be rolled when being targeted with physical attacks. Finally, Agility is used for Initiative rolls and is the character's individual contribution to the Initiative Pool during combat proper.

Intellect is a measure of a character's willpower, mental acuity, memory and reason. Intellect modifies how effective certain supernatural or extraordinary abilities are: increasing damage or healing effects. Intellect also increases a character's available Action Points, allowing for more uses of certain abilities. (Aside: I am including some terms that I will elaborate on in later posts, documents. Action Points are roughly analogous to "Energy Points" or "Mana" in other systems. There is NO system for "Fate Points" or similar in my system.) Intellect also directly increases a character's Special Resistance, the number to be rolled when being targeted by all manner of spell, strange or special effects and attacks.

Appearance, Personality and Alignment round out the six Character Traits. These final three traits are word-based and provide some guidance for roleplaying, if only to assist the players in imagining the character. Appearance and Personality are generated using a "Roll Then Choose" method on a table. Each of these are a simple one-word descriptor which can certainly be provided by the player him or herself instead of rolling / selecting. Alignment is selected from the nine alignments made up of one of the Three Methods: Lawful, Dominant or Chaotic combined with one of Three Motivations: Good, Dexter or Evil. (My alignment system is based in Hindu / Yogic philosophy. I will expand on it in a future post.)

I realize that there are a lot of terms up above that I will need to expand upon. My system is currently sitting together in a roughly-complete, albeit draft, form that writing in this particular way helps me with noting where different parts of the system reference each other.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Melee Weapons: Swords & Axes

The Westman Arming Sword
Swords: Swords are one-handed melee weapons of two general kinds: Heavy Blades and Light Blades. Light Blades benefit from the better of Agility or Strength for their bonus damage. Heavy blades benefit only from Strength. Light Blades can be used in two hands, conferring their reduction in Strength requirement for use, but without the bonus to damage scaling. Heavy Blades confer the usual bonus to damage from being used in two hands.

The Hassan Saif or Crescent Blade
The Light Blades come in two styles. Among the Westmen, the Arming Sword is the standard one-handed melee blade. From the Hassan people the Saif or Crescent Blade is a Light Blade known for its swiftness compared to the western Arming Sword.
Westman Claymore

The Heavy Blades, too, come in two standard styles. The Falchion or Broadblade is a heavier version of the Saif, whose design also comes from the Hassan culture. This broad-bladed sword swings like a Sword and cuts like an Axe. The Claymore is a sword of Westman-make: a longer and heavier version of the Arming Sword.
The Hassan Falchion or Broadblade
The Battle Axe
Axes: Axes are large, heavy blades bound to wooden or metal hafts. Axes are used to hack in a bludgeoning fashion similar to Maces and Hammers, but cut with the force of Swords. Axes are of two general kinds, one more common than the other.

The Battle Axe is the most typical of the Axes found amongst the people of Nod: a haft with a sharpened head on the end. The Battle Axe is an evolution of the simple Hatchet, but specialized for warfare.

The Sickle is a version of Axe imported from the Bantu people. A large, concave blade derived from the ancient Bantu ceremonial execution-blade which is symbolic of warrior prowess. The Execution Knife is deadlier than a Battle Axe when connecting, but heavier and more difficult to wield.
A Bantu Execution Knife or Sickle

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Mechanics

The art of locksmithing, keymaking, clockmaking and other tiny feats of engineering are considering a pseudo-magic. The method of creating these tiny devices of metal are combination of revealed mysteries through the Guild. The art of the Mechanics Guilds is contrasted with the more obtuse Engineers Guild, whose craft deals with larger creations of iron, wood and stone.

Lock & Key. All keys and locks are of 24 kinds, based on the Treatise of the Twenty-Four Ultimate Permutations by Frederick the Keymaker. The discoveries and experiments detailed by Frederick in the Treatise were that there are only 24 mathematically perfect methods of configuring a lock's design. In the Treatise's appendix there is some discussion about a method of creating Unique Keys matched to Unique Locks with some theories as to how these might be forged. The appendix also includes discussion about some of the weaknesses in the system, mostly how some of the 24 may not be as unique from one another as indicated in the title. The source of Frederick's designs, as illustrated in the book, come from both salvages from the remains of the Ark and materials brought out of the Ancient Cities.

The Delvers Guild. The Delvers Guild seeks out assistance from the Mechanics Guild in their pursuit of secrets within the Ancient Cities. The discoveries of Frederick -- while helpful in securing the portals of modern Man -- have proved invaluable in unlocking the troves deep within the Ancient Cities.

The Unique Keys. Mechanics that worked on the Treatise's original assumptions eventually developed Unique Keys of their own. This discovery allowed Mechanics to secure all manner of portal and container in their evolving craft. This also offered clues as to how many ancient portals and gates may be opened. (Years following the Great Peace, a discovered Unique Key was used to open a gate in the Great Wall the separated the Wastes from the Holy Empire.) The method is perfect to a fault, portals so-secured could only ever be opened or secured using the forged key.

Thieves. The Black Companies, having Mechanics under their own employ -- however secret -- developed strategies to break any portal secured with one of the 24 basic locking mechanisms. These Lock Picks are a set of a dozen or so tools made of iron, brass, wood, etc. -- designs that attempt to hijack the arcane mechanisms of the basic locks. Picks are contraband in any City are should never be brandished as they will be confiscated, you will be fined (or worse if you have a criminal history).

The 24 Permutations.
 The Jeweled Triad: Adorned, Fancy, Ornate.
The Triple Minerals: Brass, Iron, Rough.
The Three Precious Minerals: Copper, Gold, Silver.
The Monstrous Tripartite: Dragon, Titan, Ur-beast
The Three Animals: Eagle, Lion, Pig.
The Triple Archetypes: Hierophant, Mother, Warrior.
The Cards: Jack, King, Queen.
The Plants: Nettles, Vines, Yew-tree.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Sophia's Children: The Westmen

The Westmen & The Warlords of Nod

Thousands of years ago, the tribe of men that have come to be known as Westmen settled the continent of Nod. They were powerful warriors and magic-users. At first there was peace, but then there was a great Civil War between Warlord Houses for contested land and resources as they discovered abandoned Ancient Cities. The greatly dwindling population due to how the war ravaged the supplies of alchemies that ensured the survival of Men, in combination with casualties and other horrors that were unleashed by delving into the Labyrinths. During this time the Messiah -- the Holy Mother -- was born and matured, instituting the Order that exists today through "The Second Book of the Law" and her original 12 Disciples -- the First Saints. During this Great War, many Westmen sought refuge with another tribe of Men far to the east, the Hassan -- leading to a degree of intermingled cultures.

The Warlords are organized into large families with histories and treasured family names  -- the names of the original Warlords -- to this day. "Warlord" is the old name for these families, the modern term is "Overlord" or "Overseer" as they have been charged with managing the land of the Parishes through the "Second Book of the Law."

Most of these Warlords were males and the near-extinction of Westmen and Hassan peoples during this period is cited in "The Second Book" as a lesson for the dangers of unbalanced sexual dominance. The Immortal Mother demanded the obedience of the Warlords by evidencing that she was the Messiah -- the Mortal Incarnation of Sophia, Goddess of Creation, the Tripartate God. This is one of many mysteries lost to legend and history that took place during the Great War.

The appearance of Westmen is minimally sexually dimorphic. Men are effeminate with minimal facial hair. Women have minimal breast tissue and slender hips. Heights and weights are similar, women very slightly shorter and lighter on average. Complexion is pale. Men tend to develop ruddy patches in patterns that respond to increases in blood pressure or temperature. Overexposure to sunlight will cause sunburn, resulting in redness. Hair is straight-to-wavey, typically platinum-white, blonde, red/orange, strawberry-blonde. Eye color is pale-grey, blue-tones or green (especially with red hair). Freckles are rare, indicating Hassan ancestry. Westmen with some ancestry from the Hassan or Bantu tribes will have darker complexions, eye color and hair.

The music of Westmen includes shouting choruses, glossolaliac singers, string and percussion instruments. Singers are praised for their range of affect and variety of "No-Words" in their singing. Singing using real words is taboo -- a point of contention amongst Hassan and Westmen cultures, as Hassan songs are their verbal histories and legends. This is reinforced by the religion of the Immortal Mother in that words are considered to have Holy Power and should not be used in the pursuit of trivial things. The four traditional instruments are the Standard Drum (leather stretched over wood and played by hand or hammer), the Iron Drum (a concave plate of iron that is played with specialized hammers), the Hand Bass (a one to three string standing bass), and the Hammer Bass (a bass laid horizontally and played with flexible wooden sticks).

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Magical Rings

Magical Rings of Power are a rare find, typically found deep within the Ancient Cities and rarely traded amongst Men. The strange energies contained within these seeming pieces of jewelry are highly varied and unpredictable. Men and Gods alike jealously guard these magical devices.

In order to access the power within a Magical Ring, it must be "attuned" to the wearer. While the exact reasons why this needs to happen or what mechanism is behind this is unknown, it is known that wearing the Ring during a complete night's rest will attune it to the wearer. The energies inside the Ring will infect the dreams of the wearer offering some clue to the Ring's function -- the wearer of the ring awakens with an intuitive knowledge of the function of the ring. The dreams reported by run the gamut: a shadowy figure speaks directly to them for a year, an ancient tome is discovered that they read cover to cover, a sensation like fire runs through their bodies, mundane memories -- not their own -- play out.

Magical Rings are vulnerable to breaking. Some Rings may break through regular use: some matter of their function uses up the "magic" contained inside the Ring. All Rings lose their durability if removed after being attuned. A Ring can only be attuned so many times before breaking -- this will occur immediately when removing a Ring for the final time. Due to these facts, Magical Rings are jealously guarded and rarely "shared" with others or even removed at all.

To those explorers that manage to discover more than one Magical Ring, donning multiple Rings is dangerous -- and foolish -- indeed. The dreams of the wearer will be strange and phantasmagorical for as long as they wear more than one Ring of Power. Those that have dared to do this, have reported that their dreams are filled with visions of ancient battles between armies of strange beasts and men. It is as if the energies in the rings were doing battle with one another, unable to settle into a peace and attune to the wearer. Only when one Ring is decided upon will the next night's sleep result in that one Ring of Power attuning itself to the wearer.


Every ring comes with up to 10 points of durability. These points can not be increased in any way. The specific way points are lost are, fortunately, limited. Every time the wearer removes the ring, for any reason, following attunement roll one six-sided die for each point of durability left on the ring. If a roll of 5 or 6 comes up, stop rolling and do not subtract a point of durability. If a roll of 1 comes up, stop rolling and subtract a point of durability. If only 2s, 3s and 4s are rolled, subtract a point of durability.

Some rings also break when triggered by certain events. In these cases, it does not matter how much durability was left on the ring. These sorts of rings will note the triggering event in its description.


Ring of Life Saving
This silver band is warm to the touch. After attunement, the wearer will be able to dull any physical pain in their body by rotating the band. In addition, if the wearer is dropped to 0 hit points for any reason, the energies in the ring will release, restoring the wearer back to the half-way mark of their base hit points. This breaks the ring in the process.

Ring of Shooting Stars
This golden ring is covered in etchings of the night sky. After attunement, the wearer will notice that their temper is quicker to anger than before. Even if the wearer had no knowledge of magic before, they will find that they can summon balls of fire from the hand the ring is worn on, as a Pyromancer. This act requires an expenditure of Willpower, just like a Magic-user casting a Full Incantation of a Spell.

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Iron Heart

"The Iron Heart" -- My entry into Gorgonmilk's Community Project, "D12 Sources of Magical Energy."

All initiates into the Order of the Iron Heart spend their first years studying the alchemy of metallurgy, in addition to whatever clerical or menial tasks appointed by their Magister. The first true work of magic by an initiate is the creation of their Iron Heart, the Star Regulus, out of iron and other stranger materials. It is with this talisman that they begin the second stage of their training.

The initiate begins to train with their talisman in preparation for the final rite that completes their training. The first exercises include sensing the location of their talisman without sight. Once this has been mastered, the initiate will then practice sitting across a room from their talisman while visualizing their Star Regulus moving across the floor towards them. This has been mastered when the talisman begins obeying these cognitive commands.

The final test is a 24 hour Ordeal of keeping their talisman in perfect suspension mid-air under the supervision of the Magister. Once the initiate can manipulate all the gravitational force around their Star Regulus are they ready for the final step the process -- Tuning.

The process of Tuning begins with the physical restraint of the Initiate-to-be-Adept supine in the ritual chamber. At this point certain Orders allow for numbing drugs or ointments to be applied to the initiate, but tradition dictates that this procedure be performed WITHOUT drugs of any kind so that the initiate's mind is absolutely clear.

The skin of the breast-bone is sliced open to the sternum, spread and held open with hooks. With the sternum exposed a chisel is applied to bone, shaping a depression deep enough to hold the initiate's Star Regulus. The talisman is then hammered into the depression. Once the installation is complete, the initiate is carefully sown back together, muscle and skin.

Following the Tuning the initiate is now know as an Adept, a Gyromancer.

The Order of the Iron Heart has several compounds spread across the land. Entry into its mysteries is always begun at an early age, during adolescence, after some degree of observation by members of the Order that the adolescent is a "Child of Promise" -- some latent magical ability. Adult initiates are rare, but not unheard of -- typically the result of a large sum of silver paid directly to a greedy Magister.

Example Spell:

Ahtibat's Scintillating Spear
The partial incantation of Ahtibat's Scintillating Spear brings forth a crackling shaft of pure energy into the Magician's hand. This "spear" can then be thrust as a melee weapon into any opponent within range. If the spear hits, the Magician can choose to discharge the energy to send the opponent hurtling back.
The full incantation brings forth what will appear to be a bundle of crackling spears of energy into the Magician's hand. The Magician can then hurl at this at any number of opponent's at range similar to a volley of javelins from a squad of soldiers. These jets of energy also create pulses of gravity on their landing, send the Magician's opponent's flying back.

The Silent Kingdoms

From the excerpted journals of Anis Al-Farid, companion to Nigel the Sage and Glenn, Get of Erwin.

In northern lands, past the Wastes of Asad and the Eastern Mountains, lie the Silent Kingdoms. The so-called Silent Kingdoms is the name the race of Men have given this land as their language cannot be pronounced by Men and they have no written "tongue" to speak of. We approached this region with great care not to give our excursion away, hiding within the forests that make up much of the southern region.

Our first foray into the Kingdoms proper happened after the first month of our expedition. One of the scouts noted that there was a roving band of hunters to the east of our location during the night. The scouts did not give away their location, but noted that these hunters traveled with a strange silence and did not speak to one another. They used weaponry known to men in the hunt, bows, arrows and knives, and were hunting wild deer. Indeed, the scouts noted, the hunters were seen leaving the forest area with several kills in tow.

The scouts indicated to us that the hunters appeared to have some sort of servants with them, who carried their kills and equipment. The hunters themselves were dressed in regal leathers and cloth, taking arms only when they attempted their kills. Indeed, said our scouts, the Thralls (as we later came to call them) were of smaller stature than their masters and seemed to take great care to predict and cater to the silent, unheard orders of the hunters.

Being that our scouts observed that the hunters were not dressed nor equipped for warfare, but for hunting -- apparently for food, we made plans to travel farther north and see if we could locate a settlement. We packed up our camp and made our exodus.

A league north we approached a fortress into the evening, surrounded by great walls made of stone. Outside the fortress were several buildings. As we approached the buildings and southern-most wall of the fortress, we noted that these building were bereft of any windows or obvious portals. Indeed, our approach to the southern wall we noted the same. Additionally, there were no markings or signage of any kind anywhere.

After much deliberating on what to do, we decided to hail the towers above the gates to the fortress, as it appeared the sealed buildings before it had not obvious method of introducing ourselves.  Nigel the Sage, the most learned of us in the histories, stated to us before our excursion north that one of the Six Tribes were supposed to have lived in this region of the continent. Their language, said Nigel, was not known, but he would attempt to communicate with whoever may respond to the hail.

"Hello! We come in peace from beyond the mountains!" yelled Nigel. "We represent two of the Six Tribes in our company! We wish to know you!"

There was no answer from above the walls. Nigel suggested we wait for some time outside the gate. We made ourselves comfortable and sent some of our scouts to explore and map the surrounding walls.

We received our response several hours after we sent two of our scouts out. A group of these silent hunters approached from the east, with our scouts in shackles. There were about a dozen of them, dressed in hunting leathers as our scouts indicated. They were flanked by an equal number of hunched persons, dressed in squalid cloths. These hunters had the complexion of Westmen, but much paler, but each had long, dark hair as the Hassan people, that they had tied into topknots.

We froze as the hunters approached with our retainers.

Glenn, the boldest of us three, called to the hunters, "We come in peace! Do you believe we have intruded? We wish you no harm!"

These hunters wore no expression upon their faces, except for a bizarre grin -- like a mask. They wore no masks, we soon discovered, as the seeming leader of them responded, "Who. . . Are. . . You. . .?" The words were Mannish, but the speech was labored as if they had to force the words out one syllable at a time. It may be bettered described as "coughing" the words.

"We come from lands beyond the mountain, on an exploratory journey. We wish to learn more of this continent." Glenn continued the parley.

"Are. . .These. . . Yours?" the leader hacked as he pointed to our shackled scouts. As the leader pointed, we noted its hand was not the hand of a Man, but something more bestial: clawed, black and hirsute.

It was then I realized why Sage Nigel told me that this land was also referred to as the Land of the Demon Princes in some texts. We may have come in peace, but we came in peace to a monstrous land.

End of excerpt.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

In Which I Discuss Resting & Resources

In considering the vast array of rulesets I have reviewed, created and pondered over the years, one of the most contentious elements has been the issue of "resting" in the game or the process by which the players regain their characters' resources. I have thought of several of my own solutions and have seen some rather ingenius ones by others. In this post I am going to explicate some of my own thinking on the subject and explicate the solution I will be using for my own games.

In the current iteration of Dungeons & Dragons there are two forms of rest: the so-called "Short Rest" and the "Extended / Long Rest." These two forms of resting interact with the Hit Point resources (Healing Surges and per se Hit Points) and the more complex resources that deal with "Powers" (the special abilities that have limited use).

I like the idea of two forms of rest as it introduces a degree of granularity to resource replenishment and management. This can allow for a degree of strategy in the game, but only if there are some costs and risks attached to these procedures. In this particular ruleset, as written, the only cost appears to be time. And this time cost can be trivial in the context of the world-logic. By default, a "Short Rest" is ~5 minutes and a "Long Rest" is 8 hours -- or a night's rest.

The solutions to the above I have read have been in one of two flavors. Either you make revisions to the structure of replenishing powers, which increases the granularity. Or you make revisions to the resting process, introducing wandering monsters or game-related (plot or otherwise) consequences for taking a longer rest.

My current ruleset utilizes the granularity of the short and long rest which are named resting and upkeep. I have altered the "game time" used for these two procedures as follows: Resting is a period of 6-8 hours inactivity that can be at night or during the day. Upkeep is a period of approximately 1 month or 30 days of rest, recuperation, training and other non-adventuring activities.

I believe that there is some precedent for this sort of large period of rest. In the older ruleset for the Cleric, for example, it is said that the Cleric can cast their spells as indicated per adventure. I interpret adventure to be equivalent to expedition, excursion into the wilderness, dungeon or otherwise. A simple night's rest does not a break in the adventure make. In the pulp and other fantasy-fiction I have read and watched, the hero or band of rogues spend a great deal of time doing "other things" before heading out for a new excursion.

The other side of having rules for the replenishment of resources is having rules for the resources themselves. How will Hit Points or its equivalent be regained? What resources are there to use spells or other limited-use abilities? How are characters differentiated in their ability to utilize these resources?

One of the implications of the resting and upkeep split is that I will have to develop a system to track resources that are replenished by resting and other resources that are replenished by upkeep. I do have rules developed for this, but will save its explication for a future post!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Where I Develop A Procedure

So, I'm experimenting with a few blogging techniques, including adding a related to image to each post. As well as playing around with the text formatting some -- as you just saw! I'm going to be tagging certain posts as gaming related and other posts as writing related. Rarely, there will be posts that involve both to a degree.

Today's post is a gaming related one. For the game I run I only use 20-sided and 6-sided dice. I do this for a number reasons. Number 1, practicality. Having one, two dice to select from for any mechanical procedure reduces the choice of which dice to use to two from five or more (d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, d20 et alia). Number 2, nostalgia. The oldest rulesets for Dungeons & Dragons used, primarily, 6-sided and 20-sided dice. (As a matter of fact, before the 20-sided -- so I've read -- a bag full of chips numbered 1 through 20 were used.)

I am fond of the Percentile Die procedure (two 10-sided dice or an actual 100-sided die) as I use a number of procedural elements that would best function with the 100 spread. In addition, many very interesting game procedures and resources utilize the Percentile Die. Such as this one right here by Zak from Playing D&D With Porn Stars.

So, I have developed a procedure to generate the percentile with the 20-sided die. It is nothing of genius and I am sure I probably picked it up from somewhere, but forgot the source.

Dani's Procedure for Generating the Percentile (the 100) Using the 20-sided Die 

1. Roll one 20-sided die.
2. If the die reads 11-20, the ones digit is the tens digit of the percentile.
3. Alternatively, if the die reads 1-10, the ones digit is the ones digit of the percentile.
4. Roll the same die again. The ones digit becomes the remaining digit (ones or tens) of the percentile.

So, there you have it.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Writing Exercise #1

I am utilizing this blog to exercise my writing skills. This will be the first of many posts where I am simply writing out of my thoughts. In this case these will be thoughts born out of my writer's block. I am having difficulty -- or maybe doubt -- about my ability to write within the structure of a basic short story or trad. story structure.

To the best of my understanding this story structure should be made up of six sections. Let me see if I can relate these six in my own words.

Number 1: Background
Background is where the story sets tone, provide details et cetera. In this particular section of a story I should elaborate on characters and / or setting. This provides the reader with a context within which to place the subsequent elements of the story (#2, 3, 4 and 5).

Number 2: Conflict
Conflict is the initiation of the basic plot line or lines. The conflict makes no sense unless it involves the Background elaboration done in number one. In conflict the characters provided for in Background spring into action against one another. It seems, as I am writing this, several elements of writing are coming into focus. For example, the particular element that I am becoming aware of as I am writing this, is that the MOTIVES of the characters introduced in Background and put into action via Conflict should be apparent at this point. A character with no known motivation will seem mysterious. Perhaps there will be mysterious elements, but at least one participant's motivations should be explicity, otherwise the reader will have no reason to care.

Number 3: Complications
Complications are when the action and pressure are building. Complications are the rising action of the story. The Conflict, already in motion, is being built upon. Stakes are rising. Decisions are being made. Consequences are being postponed.

Number 4: Climax
The Climax is the full culmination of the buidling that has occurred during the Complications. It is here where the full result of the decisions made during the Complications occur.

* As an aside, I am intensely aware of a piece of writing advice I read somwhere. Paraphrasing: "Every sentence should explicate a character, piece of setting or advance the action / complication." This seems an important element for writing as the Six Elements are Macroscopic and also Microscopic in their scope.

Number 5: Falling Action / Consequences
The Consequences are the results of all the building action and Climax. Here, there is a falling energy level and elements put into play during the Climax gradually come to fruition. This is the retreat from battle, death, birth, the pay-out. Revelations may occur here.

Number 6: Denouement
Here, the final result of the all the elements are revealed. This can be the "Epilogue" of the story, which may be required to fully explicate the results of the ongoing Conflicts.

This is, to the best of my understanding, the elements needed to create a story. What is interesting to me is how these are in parallel with the awareness cycle in Gestalt Therapy theory: Pre-Contact, Contact, Post-Contact, Integration.

In Pre-Contacting there is an initial awareness of sensing of the Other (which can also be the environment). This seems in parallel with the "Background" element of the story and "Conflict," second element.

In Contact there is direct contact with the Other and there is a moment of Confluence where there is no differentiation. This seems in parallel with some elements of "Conflict" and the "Climax" seems the quintessential contacting.

In Post-contact or "withdrawal" the self moves away from the other. This is the "Falling Action" phase of the story. The contacting has occurred and the story's conflicted elements have exchanged elements with one another. There is no integration, yet.

Integration is the integration of elements acquired during Contacting. This is the Denouement, where the story's elements are integrated into new wholes / Gestalts.

It might be interesting to think of my story writing attempts in terms of Gestalt Therapy theory. Where Background is conflated with Conflict, as "Pre-Contacting." Then Complications and Climax are Contact. Perhaps it would be better to think of Complications as Contact per se. The Climax should be "Final Contact" or the moment of ultimate Confluence.

Thinking more on this, it would be better to keep the six elements and expand on the parallel. Background elaboration is awareness without energy. Conflict is awareness WITH energy as in the story is beginning to establish its conflicts and disagreements. This is contrasted with awareness without energy / conflict, information.

So, in my model for writing I will think of the six elements thusly:

1. Awareness without Conflict
2. Awareness of Conflict
3. Acting in Conflict / Raising the Stakes
4. Climax / Clash
5. Awareness of Lowering Energy
6. New Awareness without Conflict

So, I think this is a good model for me. I will try to continue writing in this vein so as to hone my skills and continue reading. It will be important to write in this manner to beat so-called "writer's block."