Monday, December 14, 2009

Wilderlands of 'Hawk Fantasy - Hexcrawl Notes

In designing the wilderness area for my Greyhawk campaign, I'm finding that I have a million and one choices to make as to my "wilderness procedures", and that these will shape a) how I prepare my material, and b) how smoothly the game runs when we're in the thick of it.

It all comes down to encounter checks (of several varieties). In order to capture the level of simulation (and risk vs. reward) I'm looking for, I'm going to have time-based encounters (as per the DMG - checks at predefined intervals during the day) and exploration-based encounters (1 check for every new hex entered, probably a 1 in 6 or a 1 in 10, with the chance for encounter increased in dangerous hexes like mountains and forests). Exploration checks will draw from nearby lairs (with a chance to find the lair itself based on "% in lair"), while time-based checks will be from a terrain-based encounter table (and may add new lairs to the map, again depending on the "% in lair" rolled). Encounter checks within a few hexes of settlements will have a chance of being converted into a "patrol" encounter (which may or may not benefit the PCs, depending on what they've been up to lately), while encounters on a road or frequently-traveled trade route will use a dedicated "on the road" encounter table (which itself contains a certain chance of monster encounters).

I'm also splitting "creature checks" (monsters, travelers, patrols, etc.) from "location checks" (ruins, relics, settlements, etc.). Passing through a hex, I'll roll a "chance to spot" for each listed (and previously undiscovered) ruin or relic in the hex (setting this on-the-fly - something small but in the open would be a 1 in 6, something big a 2 in 6, a settlement 3 in 6 assuming it's out in the open, while something concealed might be a 1 in 8 or 1 in 10). Searching a hex will take as long as crossing the hex twice, and will allow another roll to spot (with the chance to spot improved by 1). If the PCs spot nothing (or they've already discovered everything in the hex), I'll roll a 1 in 6 chance to discover something new (taken from a pregenerated list of unassigned R&Rs) and add it to the hex. (I expect frequently-traveled wilderness routes will become quite detailed as the campaign matures.)

Now, I know the chances to spot something in an actual 25 square mile area are miniscule, but this is a game conceit I'm willing to live with. I'm generating between 1 and 3 locations for each hex on my initial pass-through - it's to be assumed each hex contains many more than this, and that the others will be added on subsequent passes (once the pregenerated ones are discovered). This is all conjecture until it actually sees play, of course - I'll hopefully get to try it Tuesday, and I'll check in to report how it goes. I'm aiming to have three full "Darlene hexes" (the 30-mile hexes from the folio map) detailed at "Wilderness Grand Tactical" scale (5-mile hexes) by then, and I'll let the players know that if they get off that map, then the FPS (fights per second) of the game is going to slow drastically (while I whip up new crap).


Thursday, December 10, 2009


Hahahaha... Stupid Google tries to show me "D&D" results instead of "AD&D" when I ask for them, and then begrudgingly tells me, if I insist, "Oh OK, I SUPPOSE I can show you this "AD&D" you speak of." It's only one more click, but I don't have time to sit around clicking on websites all day, I HAVE CRAP TO DO, JACK.



Roll For Initiative podcast is up now, you go listen.

Check this shit out: Roll For Initiative is a brandy-new first-edition-centric podcast by two guys from the DF forums. It's pretty cool so far - they're 2 episodes in (each is something like an hour+), and they're already starting to get their dynamic going. The guys are pretty decent on the mic, the lack of which skill is the downfall of most well-intentioned 'casts I've heard (admittedly not many), they seem well-prepared, and they know how to discuss a subject without just sounding like two dudes having a conversation at the game store. (The smell is better as well, which is nice.)

The show is, regardless, painfully nerdy at times (expect a lot of rolled eyes from your girlfriend if she's walking around the apartment while you listen would be my advice), but that's as much of a feature as it is a bug in my department. LOL It's far worse when folks try to turn D&D into something Xtreem like BMX or MMA or cat juggling or whatever. This is honest. This is pure. I want to bask in the nerdliness when they're talking about the Deck of Many Things (and the inevitable campaign-nuking that ensues when you drop one as a DM).

They're focusing on 1e, and what I really like is that there's back-and-forth about how the hosts (and others) interpret BTB rules, and discussion of house rules from different campaigns as well. These guys get 1e - there's a lot of talk about all the different ways you can run your campaign, and about the flexibility and "open-sourced-ness" of OAD&D. I'm totally on board with the idea that the game just plain works better when you take Gygax's "make it your own damn game and stop asking me how initiative works already" mandate to heart.

(Presumably recurring) features include a monster spotlight (they're working from the Dragon "Creature Catalog" beasties now, I believe), a magic item spotlight, and a "Stickler's Corner" where they discuss obscure and fiddly rules. (Yay!) In the second episode they talk to the guy who wrote that Dragonfire DM program back in the day. There was some other stuff, I don't remember, I've been smoking resin this morning.

They also have a website with links and extra stuff from the show; you can get the shows in m4u or mp3 format direct from the site, or by RSS feed. You go there now.


Monday, December 7, 2009

This is fucking D&D. This right here.

From the DF general forum (in a thread about a) Frank Frazetta claiming never to have read any Conan stories (and that nobody else read them either), and b) some new Conan collection where the guy writing the intro bashes REH):

Man, speaking of - this picture just says "friggin' D&D" to me all over. There's a big raging fighter-type (who appears to be flying, or at least leaping for somebody's throat), a cultist with a censer and an altar and the nekkid sacrificial girl with teh bewbs and everything, some kind of magic brazier spewing eerie smoke, demons or gargoyles or something in the background, and then for some reason there's an alligator and an octopus. If I was playing this session I'd think my GM was either on powerful hallucinogenics or a goddamn genius. :lol:


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Greyhawk Creation Comix

Just stumbled across this nifty little beginner's primer on Oerth's creation myth. lulzy.


P.S.: Going to see Until the Light Takes Us tonight at the Cable Car Cinema in Providence. I'll let you know if it sucks.
P.P.S.: It didn't suck. I enjoyed it; can't wait until there's a DVD version (hopefully with some unedited interview footage).

Friday, December 4, 2009

7 Angry Dwarves (give or take a few) b/w The Bastard Squad in "Sex in the City"

Special double half post, which is like one regular post but with ADD.

I just played in the second session of a 1e AD&D campaign that is officially Fucking Awesome: It's Dwarf Fortress, for AD&D. If you haven't heard of it, DF is the most brain-tazeringly complex and in-depth Roguelike RTS city sim featuring manic depressive alcoholic dwarves out there on the market today. It also has ASCII graphics. Did I mention it's free? (Check HERE for how this campaign got started, and HERE for the #1 reason why you need to check out DF. Trust me.)

Long story short: We're 5 dwarves (two clerics - brothers - and three fighters - also brothers - think the Hanson boys in Slapshot) sent from our native hold way the fuck up in the mountains to scout out a site for a new settlement. We've got a wagon of supplies, two 0-lvl dwarven hirelings (a cartographer and a party grunt/porter/wagon watcher), and not one but TWO burglars (a human and a halfling). That's one more than Thorin had, so we've got to be successful, right? Problem is, one of'em (the halfling) is chronically lazy and semi-suicidal (character quote: "Life is pain!"), so he's half useless. On top of that, the other cleric's player has decided to run him as senile as hu- er, dwarvenly possible. The comedy relief is in full effect here, folks.

So that's awesome, so far. Brandon runs a great game, and the players are a blast. We've been hugely successful so far - several experienced players playing smart and hard, plus the fact that five heavily-armored dwarves cut through gobbos and hobbos (and bugbears, oh my!) like a knife through hot butter. A drunken dwarven knife through cowardly goblin butter. We've already cleared out one lair (a ruined monastery) and have started preparing it as a base camp for further expeditions into the surrounding hills. I know Brando's tendency to pile on the hurt when he thinks the players are doing too well for his tastes, though, so I'm sure there's a shitstorm coming our way real soon. But we're fucking dwarves, we'll deal.


In my game, meanwhile, the guys are taking the evil party thing to heart in a big way. Which is also very very awesome. I ran my very first assassination mission at the start of our last session - given the option of a straight roll on the table, or playing out the scenario (and having the opportunity to improve his chances through smart play), the player chose the latter. It was largely a cakewalk - Angus chose the right contract (out of two offered), and took his time casing the location and mapping out the target's moves. When it came down to it, his roll for death attack didn't succeed, but he was able to silence the target with traditional melee and get the fuck outta Dodge anyway. Mission accomplished.

That completed, we went on to determine what the other players' PCs were doing while this was going on (the whole thing took about a week, game time). As I've mentioned here before, I'm using the Midkemia Cities book (which I highly recommend) for its city encounters, but there's also a "city catch-up table" for determining what (if anything) happens to a character during their off-time. They can adjust their chance for an event (up or down) by a certain amount based on their intelligence and/or wisdom. Some of the events on there can have some pretty profound effects on the game, especially if the player chooses to pursue them - for example, one player got "offered dangerous mission". PC gets offered a mission (with the price determined randomly before they accept), and if they choose to attempt it, they have a straight percentage chance of either making it back (with a big bonus in gold and xp) or simply dying. My brother's PC took his chances (for a first-level character it's a smart gamble), but the dice didn't agree, and he bought it. To his credit, Dave shrugged and asked for a clean sheet. (Vive la AD&D! LOL)

The other present player for this session (we were a bit short-handed this night) got a result of "make a friend / your friend has insulted someone / friend asks for help". A few more rolls, we find out that a co-worker (these tables allow for PCs to actually get a job while they're killing time in they city - I decided this was just a fellow adventurer) has insulted a powerful personage, has to get out of the city or face assassination, and asks the PC for assistance. Brandon, without missing a beat, offered to take this guy along to the Castle, and then asks Angus about taking the contract. LOL So now I've got two players in the assassins' guild. EVIL PARTY FOR THE WIN. (They also hired a couple of 0-level spearmen, but these men-at-arms didn't stick around for long once they saw the kind of shenanigans my guys get up to. Hahaha...)

Since they were pretty short (and planning on killing the NPC they'd already hired), they went about looking for a healer to hire on. Since they're complete bastards, this would have been somewhat problematic, except that they thought to inquire through the assassins' guild as to "sympathetic clerics." What they got was one crazy SOB cleric of Erythnul, who was almost more sadistic then they were, and a damn sight creepier. The expedition assembled, they headed off down the Old Castle Track towards the Little Hillwood (and Castle Greyhawk beyond). Oh, with a quick stop to kill the NPC fighter and stash his body.

They delved into the Castle ruins, touched up the map some, encountered some bullywugs (who'd just moved into the lair of some goblins the PCs had "forcibly evicted" a few games earlier), and defeated them. One PC was wounded (the assassin), so they stashed him in their secret bolthole and pressed on. They then returned to the room where, several trips back, they'd fought an evil cleric and his gnoll minions. They'd driven off most of the gnolls and killed the priest last time; anticipating that the gnolls might have returned (but presumably without their clerical backup), they didn't anticipate any problems cleaning up. Which would have been true if the leaderless gnolls hadn't allied with the nearby Old Guard Kobolds. A sound PC rout followed. ("Game over, man, game over!!!")

Getting back to town, our aspiring assassin came up with an interesting way to get treasure identified (they'd come across a potion and a magic dagger in the bullywugs' bindles) - send his hos out to track down a sympathetic bard, and then treat him to a triple-around-the-world on the house. I gave it a chance on the dice, and it came up jackpot, so this worked. (Hey, I'd have gone for it.) So they were able to avoid dealing with the Striped Mage (and his occasionally reasonable but highly variable prices). All in all, a unique session by any standard (well, mine at least).