Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Play Report: Legends of Anglerre

Last night, a friend of mine was back in town for the day and we decided to do a little gaming. I had just picked up the PDF of Legends of Anglerre and opted to try and learn the system in time to run it that evening. LoA uses the FATE (Fantastic Adventures in Tabletop Entertainment) roleplaying system, which is based on the Fudge roleplaying system. Compared to the Original Game, I can say that LoA is quite a different experience. I'll try to briefly sum up the key points of the system before I get into the actual play report so you have at least a vague idea of what I'm talking about.

Dice: Roll 2D6 of different colour. Designate one as the minus die and subtract it from the other.

The Ladder: Pretty much everything in the game, from tasks to equipment to monsters and skills, is described using the Ladder, which is a chart of adjectives and numbers ranging from -3 (Abysmal) up to +8 (Legendary).

Shifts: The margin of success or failure in relation to the difficulty number you are rolling against. eg. If you roll a 5 on a difficulty 3 task, you succeed by 2 shifts.

Aspects: Short phrases or adjectives describing characters (or sometimes scenes). They can be activated by the players to give a bonus or penalty to a roll.

Stress: How much pain your character can take. There are two types of stress: physical and composure. If you drop to 0 in either, you're "taken out."

Character creation started off with a group brainstorm between the players. The setting was an older one of my creation called the Wild Wood. LoA allows players to be created on the fly so you can get right to playing if you wish. That's what we chose to do. Each of the players chose a name, a good aspect and a bad aspect.

The Setup
The players were each in the village of Whitehill for some reason or other, which overlooked a dangerous valley known as the Black Pools. There had been reports of ugly, monstrous men coming up in bands from the Black Pools. Alten the Long, the steward of Whitehill, sent a patrol of soldiers down into the valley three days ago. They had not returned. Alten could spare no more soldiers in case these raiding bands assaulted the village, but he was seeking the help of a group of adventurers who could find out what happened to the patrol.

The Cast
Edgar Wright: a sneaky dandy from Halldale Citadel in the Western Reaches. 
Aspects: Moves with the Sounds of Silence, Pompous Ass.

The Dark One: a shrouded figure in black from the Black Pools.
Aspects: Quick Learner of the Mystical Arts, Inner Ear Problem.

Cornelius Asquach: a grey bearded old man from the north.
Aspects: Conjurer of the Dead, They're All Out to Get You!

Seven Reed Whispering Emerald: an athletic martial artist from Whitehill.
Aspects: Leaping Baboon Striking Cobra, The Voices Made Me Do It.

And that was it! All it took to create characters and get started. Obviously there are more complex details to be added, but you really can begin with just this. LoA has a much more detailed character creation option that is separated into phases with all sorts of great stuff, but it's better for those who know the game or who will be playing a long term campaign.

Play began with the characters deciding how they wanted to proceed, either due north and down into the Pools, or along the eastern wall of the valley, overlooking the Pools from above. After a visit to the captain of the guard, an effeminate man with steely eyes, and obtaining a route map of the patrol from him, they discovered that the patrol was meant to head down into the valley and then west along the foot of the western valley wall. The party descended.

On the valley floor, the grey landscape spread out in a haze of fog before them, dotted with small black pools. Travelling through the Pools without a guide would almost certainly lead to getting lost, so the Dark One decided to spend some of her skill points on Survival at this point. With the "Characters on the Fly" method of play, players are able to spend up to 20 points on skills as they go. She bought Average (+1) Survival. Before the Dark One could make a Survival roll, however, Edgar Wright noticed the tracks and attempted to read them himself (Pompous Ass). He received no bonus to his roll since his Survival skill was Mediocre (0) and failed miserably. He ended up obscuring and confusing the tracks that were there. The party decided to follow them anyway, but they were unable to determine the type of tracks or how large a group they were following.

Because they failed their tracking attempt, I had the band of orcs ahead take them by surprise. They came charging out of the haze wielding crude swords and shouting. Edgar Wright quickly decided he needed some combat skills at this point and bought Average (+1) Melee Weapons and Average (+1) Athletics. The Dark One bought Fair (+2) Ranged Weapons, and Seven Reed Whispering Emerald bought Good (+3) Athletics, Fair (+2) Unarmed and Average (+1) Might.

I decided these were Fair (+2) orcs. I had them in two groups (3 in each) of minion quality. This was something I quite like about LoA. The minion groups are treated as a single monster, but they can have more than one actual creature in them.

Now that everyone had their combat skills, the battle ensued! 

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Bringing Your Campaign to Life: Leitmotif

In movies and video games, theme music goes hand in hand with individual iconic ideas. Most often a theme will be associated with a culture, a city, or a character. This musical technique is called a leitmotif. It's a way of reminding the listener of a particular character, announcing an entrance, or evoking a mood for a specific location.

As an example, in Peter Jackson's The Hobbit, the elven theme music from the Lord of the Rings films starts playing before the elves even appear on screen, but the audience immediately recognizes what that means -- here come the elves! 

In RPGs, MMORPGs in particular, there is often a distinct musical theme for each city that you visit. You begin to associate the imagery of that city with the theme, and that allows you to develop an even greater familiarity with the location.

Try using a leitmotif in your campaign. The easiest thing to do would be to play a specific track each time the players visit a particular settlement. Over time, they'll begin to feel even more familiar with the location you've designed, and it will be easier to consistently reinvoke the mood, atmosphere and imagery you've envisioned for that place.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Xeria: Giant Desert Arachnid

The desert arachnids of Xeria stalk the few shelters to be found within the drifting sands. Their sand-coloured bodies keep adventurers from even noticing them until they leap forth, using the momentum of their leap to skewer their prey with sharp, chitinous legs.

Giant Desert Arachnid 
Init +1 
Atk +1 melee (1d4)
AC 14 (12 for 1 round after leaping) 
HD 1d8+2 
MV 60, Climb 60
Act 1d20 
SV Fort +4, Ref +2, Will -2 
SP 20% leapers, leap attack: +4 melee and knocked prone (DC 12 Ref save avoids) 
AL Chaotic

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Xeria: Espadian Occupation Table

DCC RPG uses a character creation system that has the player roll on an occupation chart that determines what the character did before he became an adventurer. Each occupation also comes with an undetermined set of skills that can be called upon when making a check. I use the word undetermined because DCC RPG has no skill system, per se -- if the character is attempting something he would have learned in his occupation, the skill is trained. Roll a d20. Otherwise, it's untrained. Roll a d10.

Since we've done away with Elves, Dwarves and Halfings for our Xeria hexcrawl, we decided to make a unique occupation table for each of the four human races we've designed instead. Here's the table for the Espadians, a race of humans who are essentially eccentric musketeer nobles. They wear fancy clothing, hold frequent balls, duel with rapiers for honour, and create beautiful works of art from glass, including the three splendid glass spires in their city of Espada.

Espadian Occupation Table (1d20)*

  1. Glassblower's apprentice (blowpipe as staff, glass bauble)
  2.  Architect's apprentice (dagger, parchment and quill)
  3.  Servant (kitchen knife as dagger, 'lucky' trinket)
  4.  Noble (rapier, large finely crafted satchel [50lbs])
  5.  Messenger (letter opener as dagger, supple leather shoes)
  6.  Herald (dagger, brass horn)
  7.  Excavator (shovel as staff, 1lb sand)
  8.  Foreman (hammer as club, speaking trumpet)
  9.  Tailor (scissors as dagger, needle and thread)
  10.  Dressmaker (scissors as dagger, 2 yards fine cloth)
  11.  Lookout (sling, brimmed hat)
  12.  Duelist (rapier, fine gloves)
  13.  Blacksmith (hammer as club, steel tongs)
  14.  Ostler (staff, bridle)
  15.  Chef (rolling pin as club, fine spices)
  16.  Merchant (dagger, cask of fine rum)
  17.  Deckhand (knife as dagger, 50' rope)
  18.  Scholar (dagger, 10 candles)
  19.  Conman (dagger, quality cloak)
  20.  Actor (dagger, fine clothes)
*The items in brackets are the character's trained weapon and starting trade good, respectively.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Mindscape: Cliffside Town

Another Mindscape for you. Cliffside towns. One of the cultures in our Xeria setting are the Morecians, and theirs is a culture somewhat of a cross between ancient Arabia and ancient Greece.

The music is by Gabriel Yared, from a rejected score composed for the movie Troy. This score far trumps the replacement score in my own opinion.  

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Xeria: Hex Contents Table

The new campaign setting in the works is called Xeria. I'm actually co-creating it with my partner, Leah. The two of us decided we wanted to design a desert-themed hex crawl/sandbox. We printed out a hex template map and started allotting terrain using this awesome guide over at The Welsh Piper. After that, we turned to this awesome guide by Flynn over at his excellent blog, In Like Flynn. To suit our desert theme, we came up with a combined and modified version of the tables provided in both guides and rolled once per hex on the following custom tables.

Hex Filling Table (d6)
1-2. Colour
3. Terrain effect
4. Settlement
5. Lair
6. Adventure

After rolling on the Hex Filling Table, roll again on the indicated subtable.

Terrain (d6)
1. Weather
2. Arcane
3. Divine
4-5. Strange
6. Combine two

Settlement (d6)
1. Waystation/outpost/hut
2. Permanent camp/farm(s)
3. Village/small town
4. Large town/city
5. Monastery/shrine/temple
6. Wise person's abode

The different results indicated by the slashes correspond to the terrain type of the hex being rolled for, eg. waystation (desert), outpost (plains), hut (mountains).

Lair (d6)
1-3. Monster
4-5. Supernatural
6. Humanoids

Adventure (d6)
1-3. Site
4-6. Event

A site is a location, such as a ruin or dungeon. An event is a scene that is triggered when the players first enter the hex, such as coming upon a caravan master with a broken wheel who needs help reaching his destination.

Colour: This is just flavour or fluff and requires only a short description. For example: A tree with dangling nooses used to hang criminals.

We were quite pleased with the results and only occasionally fudged what the table gave us. But that's okay -- the point of the table is to give you ideas and get your imagination going. Also, we already had some cool ideas that we just plunked down into certain hexes instead of rolling for them. 

Note: This table and tables like it are NOT masters to be bowed down to. You don't need to be a slave to them. If another idea pops into your head, use it!   

The reason we decided to modify the tables in the original guides was due to the fact that those tables left roughly 50% of hexes completely empty. This seemed like a waste of space to us and we didn't want our players just trudging around only finding something interesting half of the time. That said, you don't want your hexes too cluttered, either, or exploration will start to lose some of its lustre. Overall it came to a nice balance of fillings for our purposes.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Enchanted Steel

How do magic weapons look in your game? Are they glowing with energy, alight with fire and crackling with lightning? Or do you prefer a more subtle approach? An exquisitely wrought pommel, a blade that never dulls, a faint warmth in the hand when grasping the hilt? Or is it the weird and otherwordly that strikes you? A strangely coloured metal, alien runes along the blade, a trail of whispering shadows when swung?

Leave a comment describing your favourite magic weapon you've come across in your games!