Friday, July 26, 2013

Wizard Needs Answers Badly

Random Wizard recently asked for people to answer ten questions about "Your Game". So, here goes.

(1). Race (Elf, Dwarf, Halfling) as a class? Yes or no?
Yes. I've really come around to this approach of late. I think it encourages people to play humans, while still giving them the option of doing something else if they really want to. I like the idea of non-human characters being mechanically distinct from human ones. (I also like Adventurer Conqueror King's approach, where each non-human race has a couple of unique classes to choose from, even though I don't always like the classes they came up with.)

(2). Do demi-humans have souls?
I don't know. Does anybody have them? I'm assuming this is really asking if Raise Dead and similar spells work on elves. They don't in AD&D, but I'm not playing that, so sure, why not?

(3). Ascending or descending armor class?
I'm not picky. If I ever get the chance to run it, I will be going with descending AC for the Demon Verge campaign, since it's B/X D&D and that's how that game does it.

(4). Demi-human level limits?
Sure. I usually dislike this idea, but I'll be using them in the Demon Verge, partly because that's how the rulebook says it goes, and partly because it doesn't really matter that much in practice. Nobody is likely to reach that level cap anyway. I might change the maximum level for halflings, though, because limiting them to 8th level seems inconsistent with their class abilities.

(5). Should thief be a class?
I think you can make an argument that anybody should be able to use "thief skills". That having been said, I like having thieves as a distinct class. (It makes as much sense as "fighter" being a class, to me.) The problem is that the thief in B/X D&D, as written, is a pretty puny class. I have beefed them up a bit in my house rules. (I also let other classes attempt some thief skills at a lower level of success.)

(6). Do characters get non-weapon skills?
No, but I have considered adding something like "secondary skills" or character backgrounds, where you could say "my character was a hunter before she started clearing dungeons for a living" and that would give her some kind of advantage when doing hunter-y things. Still mulling this over.

(7). Are magic-users more powerful than fighters (and, if yes, what level do they take the lead)?
Hell if I know. I will say that higher level magic-users seem pretty impressive when they have a team backing them up. They can still get into trouble real fast without others to protect them.

(8). Do you use alignment languages?
Yep! But alignment is interpreted differently in my campaign. It's an allegiance with a cosmic force, not a description of your character's moral outlook. (See the sections on languages and alignment in my house rules.)

(9). XP for gold, or XP for objectives (thieves disarming traps, etc...)?
XP for gold, by the B/X book. But you can also get XP from blowing money on stuff like philanthropy, carousing, research, etc.

(10). Which is the best edition; ODD, Holmes, Moldvay, Mentzer, Rules Cyclopedia, 1E ADD, 2E ADD, 3E ADD, 4E ADD, Next ?
Most of them have something going for them. Some are more to my taste than others. I am using Moldvay, Cook, and Marsh's B/X D&D rules this time out because I find them to be concise, well-written, and fun for the DM as well as the players.

Bonus Question: Unified XP level tables or individual XP level tables for each class?
Individual. There are some pretty big disparities in raw power from class to class, and I don't have the time or the inclination to rewrite them, so I'm going with the tables provided in the rules. I have tweaked a few classes slightly, though.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Demon Verge House Rules

I have a long-running tendency to over-prepare for campaigns, to the point where I burn out creatively shortly after starting them, or (more often) before they even begin. This time is different. I've made a concerted effort to keep things simple in order to get things going sooner rather than later. That doesn't mean I'm going ahead with running a game, unfortunately.

It's not that I'm unprepared. I've been working on the Demon Verge campaign for a couple of months now, and it is more or less ready to go. I was hoping to start running it on Google+ in the very near future, but unfortunately, my work schedule is not cooperating with my attempts to do so. (My participation in gaming with my local friends is likewise suffering from my late work hours.)

I did manage to put together some house rules for the campaign, which it seems may or may not actually happen at this point. I figured it wouldn't hurt to share them anyway. It's nothing terribly revolutionary, but if you'd like to see what additions I've made to the B/X D&D rules, you can view the Google Drive document below:

Demon Verge House Rules

Credit where it is due: chunks of these house rules are lifted (sometimes with very little modification) from Adventurer Conqueror King and Akratic Wizardry.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Cults of the Demon Verge

Here's the player primer I've written for clerics in my Demon Verge campaign. Again, I didn't want to dump too much information on anybody. I could have written three times as much, but this still might be more than a new player would realistically need to know.


Axiom. The official religion of the Old Kingdom, centuries old. The Creed of Axiom venerates a single female deity called the Iconess, an embodiment of Law, who works to impose order upon the chaos which was the universe’s original state in a process that will eventually perfect all creation. Until very recently, the Creed was the only religion whose followers could work clerical magic, which in the minds of many supported the assertion that theirs was the one true faith. Many Axiomites are deeply suspicious of followers of Hosar, especially in light of reawakened tensions between the Old Kingdom and their southern neighbors, the Ekkesh Empire, and seek to regain a foothold in the eastern borderland of the Verge.

Axiomite clerics are members of an ancient and militaristic order, and drape themselves in various shades of blue, often trimmed in gold. Their holy symbols are the Eye of Providence (a triangle with an eye inscribed within) or a feminine face (uniformly depicted according to exacting mathematical specifications). They can use daggers as well as those weapons normally allowed to clerics.

Hosar. A young faith, Hosar has its origins as a syncretistic cult that combined some obscure elements of Creed theology (now largely considered heretical) with the beliefs of the southern Ekkesh people, equating their sun-god with an aspect of the Iconess as a bringer of light out of darkness. Hosar belief speaks of a great struggle between light and darkness more often than law and chaos, and an impending apocalyptic conflict between the two forces as opposed to the Axiom’s ongoing gradual process of perfection. One year ago, this belief led to an “alliance of Hosar” that united the border states of D’Ansor, Timur and Barthek and drove them to war with the neighboring Demon-controlled province of Nisshar -- a conflict which nearly led to the destruction of all involved. Many Hosarites are humbled in the face of this mutual defeat, but are nonetheless defiant against the attempts to reassert Axiomite influence in the Demon Verge.

Hosarite clerics, a warrior sect that only manifested magical powers within the past two generations, wear raiments of white, red and orange. Their holy symbols are the sun disc and the bull (or ram). In addition to the weapons normally allowed to clerics, they may wield torches in battle.

Other cults. Numerous patron saints, godlings, and devils are invoked by the common folk to aid in various tasks. Since the power of the Old Kingdom is on the wane, and in the wake of the alliance of Hosar’s disastrous military campaign, new cults have begun to form -- sometimes around these old petty gods, and sometimes around young deities previously unknown. So far those that call themselves priests of these powers have displayed none of the clerics’ powers, but there are rumors that say otherwise.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Demon Verge Pitch

Here's the "pitch" I wrote for my Demon Verge campaign. My goal was to come up with something that was evocative and also gave players enough information to have a rough idea of the setting and the style of play:

a classic Dungeons & Dragons campaign 
inspired by Arnold Hendrick’s wargame Demonlord

There is trouble in the Verge. This is nothing new; the region borders upon Nisshar, the frontier of the Demon Emperor’s domain. The lords of the Verge, a collection of petty princes, minor dukes and barons, have a long tradition of conflict with their neighbors -- and each other. But one year ago, they allied under the common banner of Hosar, the sun-god cult, and swore to end the depredations of Lord Nish and his dark hordes once and for all. The dark masters of the Demon provinces, in kind, made a blood-oath to snuff out the alliance of Hosar forever. One year ago, the forces of light and darkness met upon the battlefield to meet their final victory, or death.

Both failed.

Neither force can claim victory. Not when High Priests and Demons alike were laid low in the battle, villages and cities put to the torch, shrines and temples shattered. The ones that both sides had hoped to court as allies -- the Dwarves of Ula, the cragmen of Altu’han, the Sorcerer Cloud Prince of Lyung, the barbarians of the Great Forest, and the mysterious Ancients -- refused to aid either of them. Perhaps they sensed the folly in this supposed final conflict. Perhaps they were simply weary of generations of war. 

Whatever their reasons, the result is that an already lawless region has plunged into near-chaos. With its failure to convincingly defeat the infernal powers of the southeastern steppe, the religion of Hosar has lost much of its sway over the people, and cults both old and new, wondrous and terrible, are re-emerging. Brigands and bandits rise up in the place of lords disgraced or slain during the war. Monsters and vile warlocks once pressed into the Demonlord's service are now unleashed to do as they will.

Once, the Crown would have sent its legions to restore order. But Altacia is not called “the Old Kingdom” only because it has ruled so much of the continent of Narth for so long. Altacia is in its dotage now, and its rivals sense the weakening of its grip. Embattled and impoverished, forced to fend off threats from within and without, the Crown can only spare a small band of young warriors -- little more than mercenaries -- drawn from across the Kingdom and its colonies to send to its imperiled eastern border. 

With your royal charter, you have traveled to this borderland, the so-called Demon Verge, with a vague directive to bring things under control. But the Throne City lies leagues away, and here in the Verge, the Old Kingdom’s power has faded. Will you help restore that power, or will you establish your own?