I did the SAGE thing with some of the OSR blogosphere folk, organized by Zak Smith. It's a pretty cool idea and what I got was just what I was hoping for. I think it should be up on google docs now, here (fingers crossed).
We've had 2 play sessions so far and they've gone pretty well, but I've been having some computer problems and now that I got my desktop up and running again I haven't had time to post an update. I'll do so with some play reports and whatnot as soon as I get a chance.
I called my husband today from work and the subject of the PA game currency came up again. In the White Wolf system you don't get starting cash like D&D so we've been discussing some possibilities and while I haven't decided how that is going to work yet, I think I've got a currency type now that fits the setting.
I thought about pre war coins, bottlecaps, cheap plastic credits, etc. My husband suggested something else and I like it so I'm going to use it.
There would be tons of them around. As people stop using personal checks or paper gift certificates, you can find these everywhere with denomination and without. I'm thinking any sort of plastic card like a credit card, club card or gift card without a denomination would be a single. Fives would be fivers. Tens tanners and so on. I'm not sure what to call this form of currency just yet but I love the idea of people carrying around all those stupid leftover plastic cards and using them for money.
My players are sometimes brilliant people. One is my husband and he is pretty much an idea machine. My stepson is young and has been playing with us for about 3 years, so he often takes a more back seat sort of approach then sometimes stuns us with some brilliant insight from left field. The other two players I have confirmed are a married couple we've known for years and years and are good friends of ours. They're whip smart people so this should be a really crazy game because they seem to have taken the whole idea of player freedom behind the sandbox genre and run away with it.
Angie hasn't fleshed out her concept entirely but this is what she has so far. Her character is a 'genetecist'. By that she means someone with little to no scientific or medical training who found a copy of Darwin's Origin of Species and has taken it upon herself to save mankind through a selective breeding program. She wanders the wastes trying to get people to sign up for her 'study', mate with each other, swap people from different settlements to encourage 'strong' genetic traits... I can't wait to see how she tries to convince people to do it.
Jekob has two different ideas and I'm not sure which one he's going to go with. The first one is a born wastelander who after striking out on his own, found a high school kid's backpack with some textbooks and junk and is under the impression that 'High School' is the highest school in the land and he wants to gather the books and materials necessary to re-institute higher learning. The second idea is really wacky and he is supposed to be writing it up for me. I can't really do it justice to describe except to say that it has to do with Knights Hospitaller, mistaken history and Hospitals. When he gives me the write up I'll have to post it. He went into a lot of detail.
My husband decided on playing a Brotherhood of Steel advance scout. A sort of navy seal type guy who has been sent to the region for reasons we haven't determined just yet. He's supposed to be carrying on the non involvement policy of the west coast Brotherhood and looking for whizbang tech to 'secure' for the future of 'humanity', ie the Brotherhood. It's going to be really fun to watch his mission programming break down over time as he is out without the Brotherhood around to tell him what to do all the time. I already decided his ability to communicate with their headquarters will be pretty sporadic. They have access to a single working satellite but because of it's orbit it's not available for use 24 hours a day.
My stepson is making a fairly generic scavenger loner sort of character. He's still thinking about it some maybe he will come up with something a little more interesting.
I didn't give them any restrictions except to say that they needed to not be so loner-ish that it makes it really difficult for me as the game referee to get them together and keep them together. Nothing is worse than some lame loner player who refuses to be motivated or play with the group in order to remain true to their character.
I decided now that I'm almost done with hell, err I mean the academy, I'm going to try and post a monster or mutant every monday to keep my drawing skills sharp. No description, no name, just slimy maws and tentacles. If you want to use the picture for something feel free! First up...
I decided the idea of cannibal vampire types in Fallout was pretty groovy but I think I want to go one step further than the game does and give them a mutation in which they are in fact actual vampires of a sort and not just creepy flesh eating weirdos. The Forced Evolutionary Virus opens all kinds of doors for odd, semi plausible mutations and with vampires this is what I'm thinking. Vampires, start out as regular people who have been exposed to the F.E.V but like ghouls, for whatever reason their DNA causes a specific mutation (vampirism or what have you) and they eventually become 'vampires'. Their bodies can't make a particular protein or type of cell or whatever on their own anymore so they have to get it from people. I think the idea of them kidnapping people or buying slaves then keeping them alive and doing creepy blood transfusions on themselves is way more interesting that just drinking blood. Maybe some of the ones that are off their rocker do drink blood or eat flesh, but I think that's sort of old hat zombie type stuff everyone is familiar with already. So in addition to that, they will be more resistant to radiation and disease and will heal quicker than a non mutated human. But they will be highly allergic to sunlight, but not because of the light. I had the idea that there is something produced by their cells when exposed to natural light (kind of like the vitamin D thing in normal people), which causes a serious allergic reaction (non beneficial mutation!). They still have to eat, sleep and breathe, etc. And they may be horrible disease carriers considering their direct exposure to blood born pathogens.
I did have this idea of a merc company of vampires wandering the wastes, swathed head to toe making them look creepy and mysterious, called the Midnight Runners. Yes, after the pop group. Maybe their leader found an old poster or cd...
Last night's game started off with a character death. Mine. I'm a little bummed about it but it was at least an epic confrontation with a demi god ninja. My Scion of Athena is a pretty tough opponent, so I didn't expect to be killed in 2 hits, split in half on the last one while only delivering a minor wound to my opponent. Doh. I had the opportunity after the first hit to declare my defeat. But the problem is that the ninja brutally tortured and murdered a good friend of the groups' (mine in particular) and threatened my character's family. I couldn't just let that go. It was a matter of avenging some wrongs that had been committed and the greeks are all about vengeance. I spent the rest of the game working up a new character, which will be fun but she's starting with significantly less power and xp than the group. Not odd for a lot of people but that's not what usually happens in our games. I'm pleased with the decision though. Everyone else are Demi Gods while my character will be trying to survive their sort of challenges and earn her place among them as a mere Hero.
I revised the scrounging tables and put some important post apocalyptic survival stuff in there I had forgotten and then finished the Geomorph tables. I'm going to just call it done and then show the overall LA Map in a separate post and explain how I'm implementing them later. Anyway I hope they're useful!
Here's the LA map I'm starting out with. I'll expand it out with new sections as needed. It's the central part of LA. I'm going to number the sections as they get explored and use the geomorphs to define the neighborhoods.
I finally finished scanning all the tiles in and getting them fixed up to go into a pdf. I rolled up a quick random 3 x 3 neighborhood as an example of what they look like. They don't line up perfectly but I'm pretty happy with them. There's 50 overall and I tried to make them individually interesting. Over the next week I should be able to release a pdf with all the charts and a Lankhmar style freeway map with gaps for randomly rolled neighborhoods.
I finished drawing the last geomorph today. I've got 50 unique tiles that can be re-arranged for quick neighborhood generation. I'm going to put together a pdf of all the tiles plus the generation chart, building type tables, habitation tables and structural stability charts. I don't think the charts will take a really long time to make since there will only be a few options on each, but the DM can take the information and record it pretty easily and create entire cities from scratch within a pretty short amount of time. I'm going to include the large LA freeway map I draw out too in case anyone wants to see what I did with all of it. It's going to take a while to scan because I think I can only scan maybe 6 tiles at the most at once. I can't say the streets will match up perfectly every time but I drew them all by hand.
Interestingly enough, my husband and I were talking the day before yesterday, while I was working on the modern geomorphs, about how the Lankhmar setting map worked really well for something like this because of the big white spots the GM could fill in on their own. Then this morning I saw that Zak over at pondering the use of the setting. So I was thinking this morning that I am going to make something similar for Hell-A. I have a bunch of zoomed out saves of google maps of the greater LA area. I think I'm going to take them and trace out the general area on a large piece of bristol board or something, using the major highways and little sub sections of LA like West Hollywood and all that with the large spaces in between open to be defined by random geomorph generation or other means. That way I can more easily keep track of where the players are at and where they're headed, and I can keep a journal for myself of which geomorphs got used in what order and a brief run down of what was there. Then like a west marches type sandbox, all those areas are still there and can change depending on how the players affect the landscape. And I can use random tables to define them on the fly along with what's in them.
I drew 20 4"x4" modern street geomorphs for the post apocalyptic game today. I'm going to do 50 of them total so I can create blocks of neighborhoods on the fly. Along with I am going to put together some tables based on building size for determining what buildings are along with their condition and structural stability. When I'm done I'll make it available as a pdf.
I put together a bunch of random tables for scrounging in the post apocalyptic wilderness. There's random useless junk, weapons, armor, explosives, etc. If anybody needs something like that feel free to grab it. I took the drugs table posted over at Monsters and Manuals and modified it for my own needs.
My husband has been itching to play some kind of post apocalyptic fallout/gamma world type thing so I think I am going to oblige him to get some experience running a sandbox game before I run the fantasy sandbox. I don't have to do anything to a system and have something that works that is easy and we're all familiar with; the White Wolf WoD core book is only 200 pages long and has everything I need to make just about any antagonist and give the hubby and the kid plenty of character options. All I have to do is put together the Sandbox, which will be a fun little diversion. Lots of random tables for scrounging and I'm going to make a bunch of square city geomorphs that I can put together randomly. I like map making so it shouldn't take too much work. I'm going to run it in the LA environs in the Fallout setting since we're all familiar with it and played the hell out of FO3. We also have the big Prima guide and I am going to steal sewer plans and stuff out of there to rearrange too.
While I'm at work I'm stuck in one place for 2 days til I come off shift and go home. If no one is having an emergency that pretty much means I'm stuck with TV and internet blogs and whatnot to amuse myself with. Thus the large volume of content or comments from the last 2 days.
Yesterday on a forum I frequent someone was asking some questions about Pathfnder system wise and I tossed off the comment that clerics are still basically just armored heal/buff/turn bots who bop things with a mace. This garnered some other comments about clerics being awesome engines of divine doom and while that might be true, unless your party has other means of healing, you're IT. Playing a cleric for me has often been like being the priest in a WoW raiding party, that's pretty much all you do and if you try to break out of that mold and do something else, the party bitches about it. I realized yesterday while driving back from the other station and onward to bed that I don't want those archetypes in my game. I want holy people to do crazy stuff like turn sticks into snakes, make rivers run with blood and part the very seas. There will be some healing in there too since in most religions that's a common theme of miracles. But I want priests or whatever to do the miraculous and leave the wizarding to wizards. This means I'm going to have to go back to the drawing board and go over some of my domains, but I think it will be interesting to hand the players descriptions of miracles they could perform that don't have a bunch of dice rolls attached. I'm thinking some of the lesser stuff will be more straight forward but the more pious and fanatical you are, the bigger and wackier the bang where Miracles are pretty much just descriptive and STUFF HAPPENS and the DM makes it up as they go along. So wizards or whatever they call themselves will still be doing eldritch weirdness like turning people's hair colors or levitating and whatnot. And clerics will be making it rain frogs.
Hell, maybe I will get rid of the Miracle descriptions altogether and just have the player pray for a Miracle and then make it up as I go along based on the Power's domains. Radical.
I took a cue from some of the other OSR blogs and Sandbox makers out there and left a lot of stuff in my setting pretty fast and loose, hoping the players would fill in the blanks. For one, it's less work for me and players often come up with wacky and unpredictable concepts. Part of this experiment is saying yes instead of no to player creativity, so I left the gods deliberately vague. What I decided on was that the world is influenced collectively by what are called the Powers. They're a huge group of entities of varying levels of influence and power over the mortal world. Some might be gods, others demons, powerful spirits, elementals, ancient heroes, otherwordly monsters beyond human comprehension, etc. They can all grant a measure of their power to favored followers who have dedicated themselves to the service of their patron. I also liked the idea of a more cultish angle to these churches so I think there will probably only be a few 'churches' and the rest are hidden mystery cults and enclaves of creepy robe wearing weirdos. What I really hope happens is that the players interested in that stuff will create their own secretive sects with complicated handshakes for their characters. There are plenty of interesting real world examples to look at for inspiration and of course there's always the movies, which are full of awesome creepo cults. I worked on a couple to serve as examples and came up with some interesting names that the players can take and flesh out too.
'The King is the Land. He carries it upon his brow, and he is honor bound to unite all good men at arms to defend the Kingdom; under one banner.'
Brian Conlee, now called Brian the Blessed
At the right hand of the first King of Moray stood a man of unshakeable courage and great cunning, known then as Brian Conlee. So great was his loyalty to his liege lord that even after victory was won and the King granted him many lands and titles, he gave over all his wealth and power, remaining instead by his lord's side until the end of his days. It was said that so long as Brian Conlee stood by his side, the King would remain victorious and no harm could come to him. When he died he was buried in what would later become the royal crypts, watching ever over the Kingdom he served. Centuries later his story inspired a small but fervent cloister of holy warriors who continue to serve the Kingdom in his name to this day. They most often act as militant chaplains and keep alive the deeds of their patron through oral tradition and eschew the trappings of temporal wealth and power, freeing themselves instead to serve worthy lords in emulation of their beloved Saint. Very rarely, one might strike out instead seeking to serve the Kingdom as an errant, performing worthy deeds to serve the Land; that which the King represents. The only outward symbol they wear to identify themselves is a simple iron chain; it's weight reminding them of their Oath and duty to serve.
Domains: Healing, Protection, Strength, War
Servants of Brian the Blessed must swear an Oath to serve ever their liege Lord or the Land or be Cursed as an Oathbreaker. They may not in word or deed harm the object of their Oath and must endeavor always to act in it's best interest.
And some names. Some of them I took from real world mythological sources since they fit in well with my concept.
One of the problems I faced when trying to find a system that would fit with what I believe are the desires of both my potential pool of players and myself is the limitations of class in a fantasy rpg. I looked over probably a dozen and even White Wolf's fantasy ish Exalted still has classes more or less. I don't mind playing a character class and most of us have been playing so long we've probably each played them all and can find ways to spice them up. I mean recently in our now on hold Pathfinder game I made a cleric who's obviously capable of healing the party but would rather be doing other things, like unearthing weird and eldritch secrets and stuff. System wise she's like every other cleric. Conceptually she's not. But I'm still stuck being the party's healbot because that's the way a cleric in 3e is ultimately designed. I realized yesterday when I was looking through the cleric spell list designing the weird domain system for my game and discovered perhaps for the first time just how truly boring it is. Granted, there's the occasional gem like Storm of Vengeance which I once used to devastate the necromancer city outside the Tomb of Horrors in Return to the Tomb, but the list is largely healing/damage or buff/debuff spells. I want to be able to do crazy weird miracles, not just bop orcs with my mace while I heal the guys doing the really cool stuff.
There is a point to all that, and I'm not sure I adequately resolved those issues I have with that sort of character but at the least there's less limitation in my game as to what a priest sort of character can do since there's no classes to dictate their skills and such. What I ended up doing was substituting the 'Legend' trait from Scion (which I'm using a lot of stuff from anyway) with a trait called Piety, which like Legend, can't just be purchased with XP in our group. You have to earn it. A crappy priest is probably not going to get beyond being able to perform a few minor miracles here and there. They spell level is going to be determined by how much the player really puts into being a priest instead. Their choice of spells is going to be limited compared to arcane magic users but that's kind of the point. They're not just run of the mill spellcasters; they're performing miracles powered by their patron of choice. Most priests in the game world I'm creating can't do that at all. But, I'm really interested in seeing divine (or otherwise) power be separate from 'level'. It may end up being moot and no one will choose to play one. Magical healing works a little different in Scion and Mage anyway since you can only get any benefit from magical healing once a day anyway. The players are going to have to mentally shift gears and consider more how they approach combat since it has the potential to be fairly lethal in that way.
Domain wise things are shaping up to look a lot like the various iterations of d&d domains, but I suppose that's in part because that's the way that I think of them, having played in those systems for so long and most others have been shaped in a similar fashion.
These are straight out of the Scion Boons with only a few changes. Death in Scion is kind of weird so I separated it out into 2 domains (Dead and Spirit) then filled in the blanks.
We had a few minutes before our Scion game so I whipped up some stats for a trio of goblins and a generi-warrior guy and ran through a couple of rounds to see how they would fare in the system I've been tweaking. Within the first several rounds the warrior had hit one of the goblins and did about half it's total health in lethal damage right off the bat, which is to be expected anyway since they're goblins and in just about any iteration of D&D you'd kill or maim the poor little guy within a round or two anyway. The goblins however when they did hit warrior guy, couldn't get through his armor or soak to do anything to him. I'm rereading the rules this morning to see if maybe I missed something, but I might just have to mess with the armor values a little and see what happens.
I also printed out a character sheet and need some make a few adjustments to the size and spacing of certain things but overall I'm pretty happy with it.
Oh and I think I figured out how to incorporate the Table of Death and Dismemberment into my game. In Scion when you fill all your health boxes with lethal wounds you're considered incapacitated and dying and have a number of turns during which you're dying equal to your stamina. For most characters that's probably 2 - 3 dots. So, I think that if a character takes damage which exceeds that threshold in one shot they get to roll on the Table of Death and Dismemberment instead of dying outright.
I've worked on the setting a bit using Bat in the Attic's good how to article on making a fantasy sandbox and here's what I've come up with so far. I developed most of the concepts while being fairly unconcerned about the game system itself and deliberately left some things vague to be filled in later through play. The game begins on the eastern frontier of the Kingdom of Moray, an aging realm ravaged by war and feudal politics. Moray Dukes vie for the King's favor amidst a generations old conflict with it's western neighbors. To the east lies the frontier, with the touch of civilization receding into the wilderness with the encroachment of dangerous humanoids and monsters once held back by the might of Moray's forces; now preoccupied with war in the west. The north is a territory of deep woodlands, craggy hills and cold mountain peaks swept clean by fierce winds and remains largely uninhabited by mankind.
On the border of the Duchy of Teith is a nearly forgotten town, Dunbarton. Once a bustling market town serving as a meeting place for travelers from far and wide, Dunbarton has fallen into hard times over the last few decades as hostilities turned attentions westward. While it still maintains a population of stubborn inhabitants, it's once fine taverns have long since been abandoned and many of it's fields lie fallow. Only those dwelling within the shadow of Dungarrow Keep live with any measure of safety from the deprivations of bandits or worse.
Occasionally, the promise of lost treasures or long buried secrets from ages past draw adventurers to this region. Many venture out into the wilds never to return while others escape with little but their lives and stories of things both wondrous and terrible to behold upon their lips. Recurring warfare, monsters, plague and strife has kept any one kingdom or group from becoming truly dominant and many secrets and innovations have surely been lost due to regular upheaval.
Thus far, I've got two major Kingdoms and a wild tribal type landscape, with the principle area of exploration being on the north eastern part of the map. The two Kingdoms have been in conflict with each other for long enough that it's had a lasting impact on the region economically as the Kingdom of Moray we know for sure has lost territory and resources in the process. Also mentioned is Town, specifically 'Dunbarton'. This will be the town that the players return to between their forays into the wilderness. I picture it as a once prosperous place but is now run down with homes and businesses standing vacant. The countryside around it has obviously seen hard times and many of the farms furthest from the Keep are abandoned and their fields fallow.
I haven't written up any details beyond that yet but I have a fairly good picture of them culturally in my head. The Kingdom of Moray is the most traditional medievalesque. A sort of mid 14th century northern european like Kingdom ruled by quarrelsome feudal lords. The Medine Principalities are a sort of mish mash of cultures in my mind, with a blend of cultures from all over populating them and like the city states of Italy are fiercely independent and boisterous, constantly pushing the boundries of their day. I imagine it to be a bit like the Byzantine empire; a crossroads of cultures creating a very diverse environment. You could probably find just about anything in it's markets. The nomadic horse people are kind of generic at the moment but I wrote a little about them.
Humans come in quite a few varieties, but most notably in the game area are those who come from the Kingdom of Moray, the Medine Principalities or the tribesmen of the southern plains.
The people of Moray are generally fair skinned with any normal human variation of eye and hair color. Their Kingdom is a feudal monarchy founded by an ancient warrior King to whom the first Dukes bent their knees. Concepts of duty, honor and feudal franchise are central to their character. While serfdom faded away centuries ago (a practice abolished by Bran the Reformer) most common folk are just that. The Courts of the Dukes are among the richest and most prosperous in civilized lands, boasting some of the finest artisans and performers known.
The Medine Principalities is a loosely knit confederation of independent city states. Collectively they are a great economic power, having established trade with distant lands and strange peoples. They are fiercely independent and their cities boast many great centers of learning and scholarship. Their cities are sprawling and beautiful and their markets bursting with exotic goods. The peoples of the Provinces vary greatly physically as it is a land of converging peoples and cultures and very diverse physically. The only thing they have in common is a stubborn love of their own autonomy.
The southern tribesfolk are a semi nomadic people who live off the land, raising their swift plains horses and following the herds of cattle that graze on the plains. Their homes are portable and the Tribes put down roots more or less seasonally in the plains, staying in one place for perhaps a few months at a time. They are a people of rigid tradition and do not like outsiders, though some have taken advantage of their neutral position with their neighbors and trade valuable horses and woven goods for things which they do not produce themselves. They are generally left alone despite the rich land they inhabit because of the Badlands which act as a buffer between the Tribes and their neighbors and those few who try and cross them without a Tribesman guide usually do not survive the trip. Their lands are sunny and temperate south of the Badlands, giving the people of the region a tawny to dark complexion and sun streaked hair.
That's about it for now. I wanted to give players some options instead of just being generic anglo dudes from a medievalish place.
I don't have a name for this campaign but I've got some of my maps squared away. The large continent map is done. I'm finally satisfied with the names. And the first portion of the sandbox is well on it's way to being populated with enough stuff for the players to investigate. I have plans for more but I'm not sure if I ought to even put them on the map or just make a note as to where they are for my own use. They're shrunk down quite a bit because I made them print size 8 1/2" x 11".
I figured since I started commenting on a lot of Old School type blogs I ought to start one myself since I'm about to embark on this whole Sandbox thing. I've been playing pen and paper rpgs for almost 20 years now. I'm not positive when my brother and I started playing but we were pretty young and we used to play Magic when it had first come out at a local game shop. I'm pretty sure the first game I ever played there was Shadowrun, followed closely by AD&D. AD&D 2nd edition is what we cut our teeth on though and I've since spent countless hours having a great time with friends rolling dice around the table.
Recently, I ran into the Ars Ludi West Marches blog linked on a forum I frequent. I was pretty intrigued by the idea because it's been a long, long time since I played in a game where we just did whatever came to mind. I can't even remember when except to recall the very early days when we were kids and the idea of the STORY didn't trump everything. I've never really been the GM except for once or twice and never felt confident in my ability to do it. I decided after reading the West Marches stuff I wanted to give it a shot. I've since read a multitude of Old School blogs looking for advice and ideas. I'm not sure if what we're going to be doing counts as Old School exactly, but it will certainly be Sandboxy.
Most of my players and myself included are getting kind of tired of being stuck in Classes and whatnot. I looked around for a system that would work for a classless, low fantasy sandbox that would also fit in with what I want to do and couldn't find anything. So I'm taking the White Wolf Storyteller System and Scion and sort of mashing together the elements from them that I like. I've got about 15 pages worth of information and house rules to give to everybody, but I think they will like it. You can play just about anything without having to be pidgeonholed into a class. I've left the setting details purposefully really vague hoping the players (who I know are more than capable of this) will flesh out concepts on their own. See, I want to say yes instead of no. As long as it's not game breaking and overpowered or completely ridiculous, I want them to have the freedom to shape the setting along with me instead of the other way around.
I'm a firefighter, an artist, a skeptic, a mom and long time gamer. I'm a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism in which I make all kinds of stuff and fight. I'm pursuing my current interest in 14th century europe and the culture of chivalry.