Friday, 29 June 2012

YOU can’t fight the system

Well, that’s what I’m blaming my two latest Fighting Fantasy adventures on. 

Book 13, Freeway Fighter, introduces whole new systems. Rules for vehicle combat, of course, and firearm combat – which are not the same as the rules in Space Assassin – but also new rules for hand-to-hand combat. First to lose 6 STAMINA is knocked unconscious, basically. And, with 2d6+24 STAMINA, this game should be far less lethal. 

Well, what doesn't kill you... still ends your adventure. Three paragraphs into the book I pull my Dodge Interceptor up at a gas station, understanding that the general complaint about this book was the number of endings that involved running out of fuel. A woman comes out of a building. Do I want to speak to her, the book asks. Yes, what harm can calling through the window of my armoured Dodge Inceptor do. So I turn the page… and I find myself getting out of my car in the middle of the post-apocalyptic wasteland! D'oh! Naturally, there is a THUG, or a BANDIT, or somesuch, who I have to fight in hand-to-hand combat. I have a knife, he has a crowbar, but it is still a 'first to lose 6 points of STAMINA is unconscious' fight. Which makes having nigh on 30 STAMINA irrelevant, and even diminishes the effect of SKILL differences – over a long fight, the character with the higher SKILL score will win with crushing regularity, but over a short fight, you just need 3 (un)lucky rolls and, BAM! you’ve been knocked out, lost your Dodge Interceptor, and your adventure ends here. 

This actually highlights the problem that a lot of RPGs have with unarmed combat. Most provide opportunities to knock a character out well before his Hit Points or STAMINA has been whittled away. Cool? But, that means that it takes longer to incapacitate an opponent when you are hitting him with a sword than when you are hitting him with your fists! 

So, on to Book 14, Temple of Terror. Is this the first book in the series in which it is clear that YOU are a professional adventurer? A meeting with Yaztromo clearly ties this character with the YOU of the Forest of Doom (and, less explicitly, Caverns of the Snow Witch). 'Haven't I seen you somewhere before?' he asks. 'Nope, must have been some other sucker,' I’d have said, given the option. And I would have been that arrogant, as this YOU had SKILL 12. SKILL 12 is a licence to walk across Allansia killing anything and grabbing the loot, on the way to foiling Malbordus' evil plan. So, that's what I did – I began to walk to the Vatos in the Desert of Skulls, confident that my superheroic SKILL 12 and my Create Water spell would turn the trip into a delightful stroll. And so it was, I chopped down DARK ELVES like they were daisies in a meadow, and then that bastard Yaztromo decided to send me some 'help'. A GIANT EAGLE. A SKILL 6 GIANT EAGLE. A flying pansy. And we ran into a PTERANODON. A SKILL 7 PTERANODON. Even with the arrows I looted from the DARK ELVES, this is a fight that, the majority of the time, is going to end in defeat for the GIANT EAGLE. So my superhero clung to the back of the bird as she fought gamely, but lost. Given that this fight is one you can only be expected to lose, my adventure wouldn't end here, would it? I'd fall, lose a few points of STAMINA, and continue on foot. Right? Of course not. To be fair that is quite a long way to fall.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Bounty Hunter - a Hammerstein! Archetype

Perhaps in order to demonstrate my gamer ADD, I'll keep posting my archetypes for Hammerstein! The purpose of these is to not only add flavour to the character creation process, but also to speed up character creation by assigning all skill points and equipment at the roll of a dice. When we recently played classic D&D - which we'll be playing even as Hammerstein! is rumbling away in the background - reminded me just how important it is that the players are able to roll up characters and have an adventure (and roll up replacement characters) in a single, short session. I'll probably post on player character mortality later this week, but as far as the last session of D&D goes, if 6 starting PCs can kill 11 goblins in a stand up fight without any fatalities, then combat isn't risky enough to be perilous. Never mind grim. And adventure without real risk may as well be a ride on a ghost train.

Anyway - Hammerstein! archetype number two (there's another 28 posts in this, sorry): Hunter
Bounty hunters make their living tracking down criminals, outlaws, and other wanted men. In the world of Hammerstein!, bounty hunters will never be out of work. Some bounty hunters specialise in tracking their targets through the underworld of the wretched cities of Hammerstein!, while others can track an escaped criminal across hundreds of leagues of twisted weirderland.

A self-written legend in his own lifetime, Canis Olahu is the most feared bounty hunter in the world of Hammerstein! Hailing from the Pearl Islands of the Boiling Sea, his leering, sun-browned face is the stuff of outlaws’ nightmares. He wears several necklaces of teeth, reputedly one from each bounty collected. His wealth means that he has no need for the petty rewards of bounty hunting, but his extraordinary vanity keeps him at the heels of wanted men, so long as fame might be the reward.

Bounty Hunter Aptitudes
Combat Skills
Brawl +20
Close Combat +30 
Ranged Combat +10 

Dodge +30 
Resilience +20 

Common Skills
Athletics +10
Influence +20 
Insight +20 
Perception +20 
Stealth +10 

Bounty Hunter Languages, Lores, and Crafts
Craft (Track) +10
Lore (Law)
Lore (Streetwise) +10

Bounty Hunter Advanced Techniques
Combat Proficiency – Net 

Bounty Hunter Folk Magic
Bearing Witness 2
Demoralise 2
Endurance 2

Bounty Hunter Equipment
Armour: Hard Leather Jack (2pts)
Weapons: War Sword, Dagger, Crossbow
10 Quarrels
Well Worn Travelling Clothes and Riding Boots
Poor Quality Riding Horse and Tack
Face Black
3 Pairs of Leg Irons
3 Hoods and Gags
Purse (XZ silver shillings) [Poor Wealth]

[These archetypes obviously need a bit more tweaking.  For one, their starting money - XZ is not some strange numerical system found in the world of Hammerstein! In addition, as I work through the 'Thinkers', I'm thinking of cutting the levels of magic - even folk magic/cantrips - for the archetypes for whom magic is not a central aspect. So rather than every character starting with 6 points of magnitude in folk magic, as now, the base level would be 2 or 3 points of magnitude, with extra points of magnitude eating into the points that are spent on skills and so on. There also needs to be a bit of fiddling with the resistances - as I'm thinking of capping Resilience and Persistence at CONx5 and POWx5, the number of points that can be automatically allocated to these 'skills' could take some starting characters right up to, and beyond these caps.]

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

The Caves of Mykonos - D&D play report

So, we got the D&D game on. 

1st of High Summer, 974 AC. 

Party: Sibelius Accio (Fighter) and his squire Montrose Giordano (Halfling) [played by S]. Abraham and Mohammed (two clumsy Clerics. And, yes, I know, I know...) [played by C]. Bosch (Fighter) and Catrina (Thief) [played by A]. All these characters were rolled up in about 15 minutes, with the help of the Hill Cantons Random Starting Equipment Charts. The adventure was the one rolled up using the help of the Advanced Fighting Fantasy 2e dungeon generation system, and the Mentzer Basic Set tables. 

The party entered the village of Ubberhouses on the edge of the White Wolds. The villagers were quick to petition the party to solve their problem – to find out what had happed to their local hermit and herbalist, Mykonos. Earlier in the week, some men from the village had been taking Mykonos several bags of dung, as per their arrangement. As they neared the hermit’s caves they were met with a flurry of evil looking black fletched arrows, driving them off. Mykonos supplies the village with healing ointments, salves, and potions; which are now a pressing need with several injured men. To make matters more urgent, the son of Abbalus, the village headman, is deathly ill with Red Tongue Fever. The three youths that the village provide to Mykonos as servants are also missing. 

Abbalus offered to pay the party 50GP each to investigate the hermit’s caves, recover their young people and bring back some healing. The party accept, but only after Abraham and Mohammed offer to do the job for 40GP. They were quickly overruled by Catrina. 

Mykonos’ caves are about four hours' quick walk into the White Wolds, a country of rolling limestone hills, isolated woods, good for goat and sheep herding and little else. Several days away are the White Warrens, a gash in the landscape that exposes a multitude of entrances to the limestone caves beneath the Wolds. The Warrens are filled with humanoid tribes, and, deeper, it is rumoured, much worse, but the Bordertown Keep holds those creatures of Chaos away from civilisation. 

The party make the journey with Lok, a tough looking shepherd who knows the hills well, as their guide, and Ponto and Ordo, two teenagers who serve as porters for the party. By late morning the party spots the smoke rising from Mykonos’ underground chimney. Leaving Lok and the two boys in the shelter of an old wall, a remant of a long since disappeared farm, the party investigated the entrance to the hermit’s cave. 

The cave is entered by climbing steps down into a sinkhole, where a fast running stream disappears into the system of underground rivers. The steps, slippery but not terribly unsafe, wind round the walls of a cave as the waterfall fills the cave with mist and spray. The party descended carefully, and found themselves in a large cave with two other exits, one with flickering light, the other with a constant, brighter light. Catrina sniffed the ait; an acrid smell just detectable amid the spray. As the party mulled over their options, they heard chattering in a cruel language coming from above. A raiding party has returned. 
Bugger. That, I had decided, was to be a 1 in 12 chance each turn. I had decided to use to keep a fair number of the GOBLINS that I had rolled up outside the lair for the majority of the time, each raiding party led some of the toughest of the GOBLIN KING’s 2HD bodyguards. 

The party looked up, and saw short, wiry humanoid shapes at the lip of the sinkhole. Five GOBLINS, the leader a vicious looking brute a head taller than the rest, began to climb down the stairs. The two at the rear carried a dead sheep. The party retreated into the mouth of the tunnel with the constant light, and found that about 20ft down the tunnel the tunnel was block by two large braziers, producing pungent, acrid fumes. They took cover and prepared their missile weapons. Once the GOBLINS were past the waterfall and in clear sight, the party fired. The GOBLINS dropped their sheep, which crashed down onto the wet mossy cave floor, and returned fire. 

The party rolled terribly. They killed one GOBLIN in short order, but after that, if they rolled a hit, they rolled 1s for damage. Sibelius was taken down to -2 HP, and, rolling on the Hill Cantons Death and Dismemberment Chart (with a -2 modifier), rolled a fatal injury. He did better than the next three PCs reduced to 0 HP or below, who all rolled simple, straightforward death. 

With a groan, Sibelius dropped to floor, two arrows in his stomach, and started to bleed to death. Mohammed invoked a miracle, casting CURE LIGHT WOUNDS, and got him back on his feet. 

In this instance, I ruled that magical healing would get a character back on their feet. I probably wouldn’t want to establish this as a precedent, as if a simple level one spell can totally undo a fatal wound, it could fix everything on the Death and Dismemberment table but death. Anyway, Sibelius was back on his feet with a -1/+1 penalty to all actions. I’d make that penalty larger too, but in the end it didn’t matter. Neither did the -2 CHA reduction from the shock of staring death in the face. Sibelius wouldn’t make it out of the caves. 

The characters dropped another GOBLIN, before Montrose and Bosch fell to the black fletched arrows. Suddenly Lok became a PC [played by S]. A fighter, armed with a sling, a short sword, a shield, some leather armour, he was prompted into unlikely bravery as he watched the raiding party block off the party’s escape route (and, though he didn’t know it, by the death of two PCs). He crept to the edge of the sinkhole and prepared to use his sling. 

In the course of the fight, Sibelius’ crossbow jammed (natural 1 – luckily he could pick up Montrose’s short bow), Lok lost his sling (another 1), and Mohammed dropped his stones all over the floor (yet another 1). 

The party retreated further into the tunnel as they heard angry noises approaching rapidly from the other tunnel. Catrina and Abraham kicked over the braziers and went into the chamber beyond, finding a putrid pile of trash; rotting meat and vegetable peelings, old bones and rags. The far side was blocked by metal bars, beyond which there was kitchen in which two GOBLINS worked to gut a sheep. A second tunnel was blocked by two more braziers, while a third was dark. Catrina and Abraham investigated these tunnels, noticing the slimy 3’ wide holes in the walls, while Sibelius and Mohammed held off a new batch of spear wielding GOBLINS. 

Roared on by the leader of the raiding party, the fresh GOBLINS charged down the tunnel. Mohammed, though, smashed the skull of one of them with a sling stone as they charged, and their morale faltered. As they backed up snarling, Mohammed managed to shatter the jaw of another, leaving him burbling painfully until he died. Abraham and Catrina found that the dark tunnel was blocked by odd bits of wood at the far end, and that the other brazier-obstructed tunnel led to a T-junction that, if they turned left, brought them back into the waterfall entrance cave. 

Lok was engaged in furious combat on the steps, but even with the advantage of higher ground things we going badly. Catrina and Abraham charged over to help, but even though they finished off two GOBLINS, they were too late. Finally, the raiding party leader had managed to urge the cowering GOBLINS back into the tunnel, and Sibelius fell a second and final time, run through with a spear. Catrina and Abraham charged back across the cave, Catrina stabbing her rapier through the eye of the big GOBLIN who had led the raiding party. The three of them eventually finished off the last of the GOBLINS, surrounding them in the tunnel. 

Unfortunately, while this was happening, a 3’ wide, 6’ long worm-like thing with a beaked mouth surrounded by 2’ tentacles was slithering out of the holes in the room piled with refuse. 

I had decided that a CARRION CRAWLER would emerge on a 1 in 6 each round the characters, or anyone else, disturbed the refuse pile. Against form, they were lucky that it didn't investigate the commotion until the last round of the fight. 

The party took one look at the CARRION CRAWLER and beat a hasty retreat. Though Abraham appeared to be suggesting that they flee deeper into the caves, shouts and yells from the unexplored tunnels put an end to such talk. 

SIMPLE SESSION SUMMARY: 90 minutes played (a very short session, but a natural endpoint). 11 GOBLINS DEFEATED (one of which was a 2HD boss), 3(+1) PC DEATHS, NO TREASURE, 70 XP (split three ways). 

Back in Ubberhouses, the surviving members of the party rested and healed. The mood among the villagers turned black, though Mohammed and Abraham used their divine favour to offer healing to the villagers. 

As you might have guessed, we’re using the Labyrinth Lord Cleric class, as the party could do with the spells.

Just as the party was fully healed and rested, a shepherd brought news that a Magic User and his two companions was heading for the village. Gandalf (yes, and...?) [played by A], accompanied by Mangloo (a Dwarf) and Hopkirk (a Fighter) [both played by S], joined the party, ready to revisit the CAVES OF MYKONOS. 

Lessons? The players need to roll better! Their luck was spectacularly bad; pretty much everything went against them, but I was determined not to fudge the dice. The same principle went for the adventure – once I had decided how it worked, and surrendered some decisions to the dice by design, I stuck with it. Once I’d rolled a 1 on the d12 for the return of a raiding party I knew things would be tough for them. Nonetheless, with the benefit of position – the goblins exposed on the steps – the party should have made short work of their opponents. The goblins should have died with one hit (on average), but 3 HP monsters were taking three hits to kill! Meanwhile, 9 HP PCs were taking two hits before they rolled on the Death and Dismemberment table. Tough luck Sibelius. And S, who lost 3 PCs. 

Of course, there was some fudging by omission- it has been ages since I've played D&D. Even that didn't go in the players favour though. I didn’t ask them to track ammunition for their bows and slings, and I’d guess they were pretty close to being down to their last arrows. Any advantage that they might have had was negated by the fact that I didn't track the goblins' arrows either - I thought the party would have defeated them before that would be an issue, and, far more importantly, I missed a couple of Morale checks. The goblins should have been more cowardly. And when they did fail their check, it might have been better if they had fled properly, deeper into the caves, rather than simply cowering while their leader exhorted them to charge again. Having the goblins flee after one or two deaths (if that is what the the dice decreed) would have been a good lesson about D&D and the importance of fleeing to fight another day. 

Finally, there wasn’t much room for roleplay, character development, or exploration – but the session was very short and it turned into once big, attritional battle. There's a fair bit more to the Caves of Mykonos, and most of it is more interesting than the entrance. The last word: PC fatality is not unfun - if nothing else, everyone now knows to cherish the character/s who survive and achieve something, because dungeon crawling is dangerous. 

Next game: the 6th of High Summer, 974 AC (next Wednesday).

Monday, 25 June 2012

Best exploding body since Scanners!

I doubt that I'll watch this, but that is some impressive gore. What level spell is that, then?

Thanks to Harvard.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Rapid Dungeon Generation

After weeks of not playing anything other than boardgames (face-to-face at least - I've been playing in an online Age of Treason game [which uses Legend rules], GMed by the writer of the book, no less), tonight was meant to be the beginning of a short(?) trip down memory lane. Variously, illness, children, holidays, and being a local anti-folk 'star', have all hampered getting on with any substantial roleplay gaming over the past couple of months. In an effort to reboot the enthusiasm that had drained away, I suggested we get back-to-basics and play a bit of D&D. And I mean actual, honest-to-goodness D&D. Something quick, easy, and unpretentious. Faced with a very short space of time in which to come up with an adventure, I allowed the dice to roll and to rule. I pulled Advanced Fighting Fantasy 2e off the shelf and used its dungeon generation system (described here, by Coop) to create a hook and a cave system, and then went to the Mentzer Basic Set to generate monster numbers and treasure hoards. I choose the monsters, added some unique (and fun?) features, uncovered the 'why' of the dungeon. I ended up with this mess of notes:

Enough to run a game off, especially when fresh in my head. And then I check my phone... game cancelled. Bugger. Well, in that case, YOU (my players, that is) might well be getting this dungeon 'horrored' up with reference to Crypts and Things. YOU have been warned!

Thursday, 21 June 2012

The Arch-Bigot and the Cult of Divine Form

What with the football and the rugby, I haven't done much Hammerstein! work (much less played) during the past few weeks. Luckily, I couldn't care less about Wimbledon or the Olympics, so...

In the meantime, I'll post up a short snippet from the world of Hammerstein! This was inspired by 1) a misreading of Plato's Allegory of the Cave, 2) Torquemada and Termight from Nemesis the Warlock in 2000AD, 4) a miserable melange of real bigotry throughout history, mostly via fiction such as Q (by 'Luther Blisset', which deals with the horrors of the Reformation), and, unashamedly, Horrible Histories on CBBC, and 4) the lost opportunity in WFRP1e to make the Gods of Law  as big a threat to humanity as the Gods of Chaos (mixed in, of course, with traces of Moorcockian fantasy - I'm currently [re]reading the Elric stories in the 'ultimate fantasy' collection).
Not quite a Dyson Logos dungeon... but maybe location in a heroquest-style journey into the otherworld for PC bigots.

The Arch Bigot and the Cult of Divine Form
Opalt Kakanka is the current Arch-Bigot, head of the Cult of Divine Form. The Cult of Divine Form believes that the Gods of Law created every object in its perfect form, and that all actually existing forms are deviations from this perfection. They seek to eradicate these imperfections, beginning with the most grievous and offensive. In their eschatology, those who have been ‘true servants’ to the Gods of Law will regain their perfection at the Ordering. Being a ‘true servant’ requires good works. Which tend to involve a lot of killing.

The Cult of Divine Form is based in the Citadel of Utherland. Utherland was once a lively metropolis, and the Arch-Bigot was just one of several theological viziers to the Duke. However, the fallout from the explosive destruction of the magical Tower of Heroes allowed the Arch-Bigot to seize power. The people of Utherland suddenly found themselves on the edge of the newly formed Weirderlands, and the zeal with which the Bigots opposed the mutants and monsters won much support. The people of Utherland were perhaps not expecting the city to be razed to the ground and reorganised in a perfect geometric form, nor to the harsh laws that limit men and women to one mode of dress – a bare cassock – or one hairstyle – a bowl cut. But such is life and survival on the edge of the Weirderlands.

Cult of Divine Form
Virtues: Intolerant, Vengeful, Chaste, Suspicious 
Cult Skills: Lore (Divine Form), Insight, Perception
Folk Magic: Detect Mutant, Fanaticism, Light
Divine Magic: Call Angel, and all the common spells: Consecrate, Create Blessed Item, Dismiss Magic, Divination, Excommunicate, Exorcism, Extension, Find Mutant, Mindlink, Soul Sight, Spirit Block, Spiritual Journey.

Call Angel
Magnitude 1, Permanent, Progressive
This spell summons and binds to the service of the caster an Angel from the Courts of the Gods of Law, of a power dependant on the Magnitude of the spell.
1 = Cherub, 2 = Lawspeaker, 3 = Lawbringer, and 4 = Demon of Law (for more details on Angels see Chapter XZ Bestiary).
The Angel stays under the control of the priest until it is killed or the Call Angel spell is dispelled.
To be successfully cast, this spell requires that the priest has the means to create a channel to the Courts of the Gods of Law. The body of an executed criminal is the usual focus for this channel. Cherubs can be summoned with nothing more than the teeth of a condemned man. Summoning a Lawspeaker requires a severed hand, while a severed head is needed to call a Lawbringer. Demons of Law require that the whole body of a recently executed criminal is available as a doorway between the planes, while at higher magnitudes ever larger Demons of Law, even the Named Ones, can be called (and bound) with the use of exponentially greater numbers of the condemned.

The spell Call Angel is simply the OpenQuest Call Elemental spell reskinned ever so slightly.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Lenk the Sour

Rather than simply putting up pictures of whatever I have managed to paint, I thought it a good idea to write them into my campaign as NPCs or encounters, even if the miniatures themselves won’t necessarily be used in play. I've statted them out for Hammerstein!, which is simply OpenQuest/Renaissance/Legend with a few tweaks.

Lenk the Sour is a Captain in the forces of the 2nd Centurion of the Half Clock*. 

Lenk the Sour [Brugelburg Miniature]

The 2nd Centurion is a brutal overlord. Refugees from his underpopulated Shadow can be found in Wilderhaven, living in crowded Docktown tenements. The 2nd Centurion will burn villages in reprisal for some slight, or simply to clear land for his great passions, the noble pursuits of hunting and tournament. The 2nd Shadow abounds with ruined villages and overgrown copses, providing a home for Faerie and worse. 

The 2nd Centurion has little need to maintain a population of agricultural peasants, and has even less inclination to meet his feudal obligations to them. He controls the Fort-agin-the-Moors. The Fort is a staging post for Adventurers into the Craggen Moors, and as such is home to trade in exotic pre-Cataclysm artefacts and relics, with ‘liberated’ abhuman treasure hordes inflating the prices of everything from ordinary provisions to weapons and armour. There is also a woollen mill and monthly textile market, as the luxuriously fine wool from the Ogre shepherds enters civilised lands through the Fort. 

Lenk is the 2nd Centurion’s prime thug. The 2nd Centurion despises Lenk for his crude manners and low birth, and Lenk responds with ever greater servility and renewed attempts at ingratiation. Lenk, therefore, has erased any conscience that he may once have had. He feels no doubt or remorse when he dispossess peasants, mutilates poachers, or cuts off the thumbs of militant wool workers. There is nothing Lenk will not do to his own people, if he thinks it will win favour from his ‘betters’.

Lenk is a tall, powerful man in his 40s. His small, alert eyes are set in angular features. Even as his face is mean, it takes on a pathetic cast when interacting with those of noble birth, or who otherwise hold power; from weasel-cruel to grovelling-mouse. 

Lenk the Cruel

STR: 15 CON: 14 SIZ: 15 INT: 11 POW: 8 DEX: 9 CHA: 6

Damage Modifier: +1d2

Weapons: Coward's Falchion (1d6+2, M), many daggers (1d4+1, S)
Armour: Breastplate and backplate, helmet (4 AP)

Combat Skills: Close Combat 70%, Ranged Combat 50%, Unarmed Combat 50%

Notable Skills: Athletics 60%, Dodge 50%, Influence 70%, Insight 50%, Perception 40%, Persistence 40%, Resilience 50%, Ride 40%, Stealth 30%.

Magic Points: 8
Cantrips: Demoralise (2), Ignite 2, Strength 1, Weapon Enhance 1 
Cantrip Casting: 30%

Among Lenk’s weapons is a COWARD’S FALCHION. Lenk knows that it is a powerful magical weapon, but he does not know its true nature. Forged by a sorcerer for his orc general, the brutal looking weapon has a vestigial intelligence, and seeks to be in the possession of the strongest warrior it can. When fighting an opponent with an inferior combat skill (use the opponent’s highest skill, even if it is not the one being used), the Coward’s Falchion grants a two step increase in the wielder’s Damage Modifier. This means that Lenk often has a +1d6 Damage Modifier. However, when the Coward’s Falchion is used to attack someone with a superior combat skill it betrays its wielder inflicting a -20% penalty to both attacks and parries.

[The Coward’s Falchion impresses its own primal personality onto the wielder. You might want to resolve this by using ‘experience’ checks against Pendragon-like personality traits. The owner of the Coward’s Falchion gains a check against Cruel, Arbitrary, and Cowardly at the end of each game year. This is IN ADDITION to any checks against these traits that may have been gained for the cruel, arbitrary, and cowardly acts that the character might have performed using the weapon. If the character hasn’t carried or handled the Coward’s Falchion for any significant period of time during that year – for example, if it has been locked in an armoury, no checks are necessary. However, even if the character primarily fights with another weapon, or does little fighting at all, so long as he or she carries the Coward’s Falchion it will warp their personality. A simpler option is to impose Persistence tests that increase in difficulty over the years, each time the wielder is presented with an opportunity to be cruel, and especially to cut down the weak. If the test is failed, the personality of the Coward's Falchion will assert itself.] 

*Wilderhaven is built on the site of the Classical city of Kallipolis. During the Cataclysm, Kallipolis burned, its buildings fell, and much sank into the bubbling tar of the Belch. During the Classical Era, the countryside was controlled by six forts arranged in an even semi-circle – a half-clock – to the east. Each of these controlled a ‘Shadow’ of Kallipolis, with the city itself conceived of as the hand of a sundial. After the Cataclysm, the commanders of these six forts used what was left of the legions under their command to carve out hereditary baronies. They have retained some of the Kallipolian stylings – Classical history is the source of their legitimacy – so tin-pot barons call themselves centurions and their brute squads are their legions. They currently owe their feudal loyalty to the Pirate King, their power inextricably tied to the economy of Wilderhaven.     

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Archetypes for Hammerstein!

Hammerstein!, is my OpenQuest/Renaissance/Legend work-in-very-early-progress hack that attempts to build a simple(ish) OGL d100 game that evokes WFRP1e with the 'adventuresome' turned up and the 'grimdark' turned down (but not off). Basically, WFRP1e in Fighting Fantasy's Titan... hmm, perhaps I should just do that rather than write my own game... No, I need my own 'heartbreaker'.

Anyhow, when I think about running WFRP1e in Titan, I think about stripping out all the non-adventuring professions, to ensure everyone has combat, magic, or other specialist skills that would help them adventure rather than scrabble in the mud, pushing their own guts back inside. WFRP1e does adventuring well, if everyone rolls a combat profession (which tend to come well equipped and highly skilled) and someone rolls a wizard's apprentice. If, as has happened when we've played, everyone rolls characters whose chief skill is the ability to dance, you have a troupe of poor, ill-equipped buskers*, and any dungeoneering will get grimdark indeed. However, I play RPGs with people who have no intention of poring over lists of skills or equipment. Even OpenQuest character generation turns my players off the game, as they take a long time to assign skill points and buy equipment, have little fun doing so, but then have invested so much time into the character that killing them off early would be a real enthusiasm drainer. WFRP character generation was easy. Players chose three things; their race, their career category, and their name. Everything else was settled by random rolls, but nevertheless produced interestingly shaped bones on which to build a character. The oracular power of the dice demonstrated right at the outset.

With Hammerstein!, one thing that I've been doing is building archetypes that assign all the skill points and select the equipment of starting characters in order to make d100 character generation a quick, easy process. It's one step up from using pre-generated characters, as the players still get a feel of the system in character creation, and get to roll dice even if they don't make too many choices. Here's part of the work-in-progress, from the chapter on character creation. Why the bombardier archetype? Because it is alphabetically the first of the fighter archetypes.     

1.4     Archetypes
Though their earlier, mundane lives might have been dangerous, player characters now delve deep into the undercities, the faerie forests, and the Chaos wastelands of the world of Hammerstein! Every adventurer in Hammerstein! begins the game with an ‘archetype’. Players should choose whether their starting character is a fighter, a scoundrel, or a thinker. Characters need a STR of 9 to be a fighter, a DEX of 9 to be a scoundrel, and an INT of 13 to be a thinker. A generous GM may allow a player to re-roll a character who does not meet the requirement for any of these backgrounds, ruling that the player has rolled a normal person, not an adventurer[1]. For the hardcore Hammerstein! experience, however, players may add points to STR, DEX, or INT to transform these mediocre characters into adventurers, but each point increase deducts two points from another characteristic.

Players may choose their archetype within these broad classes, but should be encouraged to roll 1d100 and consult Table 1.4. Adventurers in the world of Hammerstein! rarely reach middle age, and so players should be encouraged to roll up and get playing.

These archetypes grant characters bonuses to aptitudes, specific languages, lores, and crafts, and advanced techniques. In cases in which the archetype grants the character a knowledge or craft skill the character already possesses by virtue of their culture and class background, the character gains a +10% bonus to the skill. In cases where the archetype grants the character an advanced technique that he already possesses, the character should add +10% a plausibly related skill. For example, in the Hammerstein! basic game, the Literate advanced technique can be granted by an educated class background or by several of the archetypes. In these cases, add +10% to a Lore, Language, or appropriate Craft skill, or to a common skill such as Evaluate.

Table 1.4 the Archetypes
1d100 Roll
Confidence Trickster
Bounty Hunter
Witch Hunter

1.4.1 The Fighters – The Bloody Handed
The fighters are the brawn of an adventuring party. They brawl, fight, kill, and are often the first to be killed. Fighters, whatever their profession, specialise in putting bits of metal into the bodies of other people. There are a surprising number of ways of doing this.

All fighters, regardless of profession, start with some basic skills that have helped them to survive so far in the bloody world of Hammerstein!

Fighter Aptitudes
Combat Skills
Unarmed Combat +10%
Close Combat +10%

Dodge +10%
Resilience +10%

Common Skills
Athletics +10%
First Aid +10%             Bombardier              
The bombardier is a military specialist skilled in the use of explosives. In Hammerstein!, cannons and bombs are unreliable weapons, capable of inflicting devastating carnage on even the best armoured and fortified opponents, as well as tearing great rents in the bombardier’s own lines. Bombardier careers often end in ways that are viscerally messy even by the standards of the brutal and cruel world of Hammerstein!

Ianto Hoppenhouse is the most famous bombardier in the world of Hammerstein! A mercenary who styles himself the Professor of Saltpeter, Hoppenhouse was responsible for the explosive undermining of the walls of the Citadel of Heroes. The explosion not only brought down the walls, but scattered the ensorcelled masonry across several square miles, leaving a wasteland blighted by creatures of Chaos.  

Bombardier Aptitudes
Combat Skills
Close Combat +10
Ranged Combat +30

Dodge +30
Persistence +20
Resilience +20

Common Skills
Athletics +10
Influence +10
Perception +30

Bombardier Languages, Lores, and Crafts
Craft (Bombardier) +20
Craft (Engineer) +20

Bombardier Advanced Techniques
Combat Proficiency – Blackpowder
Combat Proficiency – Bombs

Bombardier Cantrips
Extinguish 2
Heal 2
Ignite 2

Bombardier Equipment
Armour: Hard Leather Apron and Gauntlets (2pts)
Weapons: War Sword, Dagger, Musket, Pistol, 2 Grenados
Powder and Shot (20)
Good Quality Clothes and Boots
Hoppenhouse’s Tome of Demolition
Purse (XZ silver shillings) [Average Wealth]

[1] In the world of Hammerstein!, there are soldiers with a STR of less than 9 (though they tend to end up crippled or dead), pickpockets with a DEX of less than 9 (though they tend to rot in dungeons or hang), and doctors with an INT of less than 13 (though the Gods must protect their patients). Only player characters, as adventurers, are bound by these minimum scores. 

I've pretty much finished my first draft rewrites of the character creation, skills, and combat chapters, taking the best bits from OpenQuest, Renaissance, and Legend. There won't be many changes for the examples set in these (related) rulesets. Some skills have been merged or rationalised, I've adopted large parts of the Renaissance Serious/Grave Wound system, there'll be some changes to the magic systems, but not much. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. But I do believe in tweaking what ain't broke, so bits here and bits there have minor changes. Hammerstein! will be using the OpenQuest/Renaissance combat system rather than Legend's beautiful system simply, because that much complexity is wrong for our group. Rather than have specialist combat skills, as Renaissance does, unusual weapons or advanced styles are dealt with by 'combat proficiencies' - the core skill remains Unarmed Combat, Close Combat or Ranged Combat, but the combat proficiency allows them to use the weapon without penalty and/or use it in mechanically distinct ways. There will be madness rules, and while I always want to add in Pendragon-esque personality traits and passions, I think I might be able to stay my hand this time.

*Actually, by the rules, busking is one of the best ways to make money in the cities of the Old World. It's certainly better than much low-skilled labouring, which barely pays well enough to keep a character fed and housed. 42 shillings to support a character for an 8 day week. That's just over 5/- per day. It's 2/- per night to sleep on the floor in a common room of an inn, and 3/- is the minimum a character can spend on (pre-prepared) food and remain healthy. Okay, so you might be able to live even more cheaply than that, of you are not renting a patch of floor and have the space and equipment to prepare your own food. But still, it is realistically (for a grimdark game) hand to mouth. Buskers, however, so long as they make a Fel test, make 1d4+1 GOLD CROWNS every hour. If they fail, they still make 1d6 pennies. Why, in the name of Sigmar, would our characters even think of battling Chaos when they could prance in the street and live like dancing kings?