Thursday, June 28, 2007

WoAdWriMo: Day 28

Well - there's no way I'm going to finish this month... but it isn't too far from done. The point of WoAdWriMo, of course, is to have new adventures available free on the web. That will happen. For me, it will just happen in July rather than June.

I realized last night just how much new rules-content I will have for this adventure. So far:

Two new monsters
One new spell
One new magic item
One new special material
One new NPC class
One new Prestige class

...and there's a strong possibility of of a new goblin (and/or worg) subrace and more magic items on the way.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Real Magic Items, Special WoAdWriMo Edition

Tonight we get a sneak peek from the Goblins of Gourm.



The material enclosed in the box below is released via the Open Game License.



Malachite Menagerie

This item is similar in many ways to the Figurines of Wondrous Power. It consists of a small copper cage with three statuettes of animals inside it, carved from malachite: a badger, a bat, and a boar. Each of the statuettes is about a two inches high. The cage itself has no latch or door. When the correct command word is spoken, one of the statuettes disappears from the cage, and a full sized animal, seemingly made of malachite (and possessed of Hardness 5), appears outside the cage. These creatures obey and serve their owner, and they understand Common but do not speak. Once the owner is done with the creature, she may command it to disappear and reenter the cage. A creature may remain outside of the cage for as long as the owner wishes, but for each hour it spends outside of the cage, the item must remain dormant for two hours. Only one creature can be used at a time. If a creature is killed, it will reform in the cage in one month's time. Until it reforms, the item is unusable. The three forms are as follows:

Badger: This statuette becomes a dire badger. Unlike a normal dire badger, it does not rage, but it can burrow through solid rock.

Bat: This statuette becomes a bat that is capable of communicating with its owner by telepathic means, informing her of all it sees and hears. (Remember the limitations of its Intelligence.) The bat may also be commanded to bear a message just like a creature affected by an animal messenger spell.

Boar: This statuette becomes a dire boar. Unlike a normal dire boar, it does not possess the Ferocity extraordinary ability. It does, however, make an excellent mount or beast of burden. When riding it, its owner may handle the boar as a swift action.

Moderate transmutation; CL 11th; Craft Wondrous Item, animal growth, stone shape; Price 25,000 gp.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Separated at Birth?


The reason Angela has few ogres in her campaign world: every time she pictures them, she sees the Dark Crystal Mystics and wants to characterize them as wise and peaceful.

WoAdWriMo: Day Twenty-five

This has been a hell of a month.

I had this big conference that I was planning for this past Saturday - and doing largely by myself since my coworker was out on sick leave after being diagnosed with stomach cancer.

Friday night, my coworker died during a relatively minor surgical procedure.

So, yeah. I'm a mess.

WoAdWriMo was going to be my top priority this week. Right now, the priority has become making it through the week.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

WoAdWriMo: Day Twenty-One

Eep!

Will I finish?

I don't know. I am fairly sure I'll have at least 32 pages worth of an adventure. Will it be a coherent adventure, though?

Only time will tell. Nine days of time.

I should get in a full day or two of work next week on it, which is a good thing.

In any case, Goblins of Gourm will get finished... even if I have to post the thing here after the fact. I was planning on posting web enhancements after June was over anyway.

Feeling reflective

...like a mirror.

Today I rewrote the description of this blog for no particular reason.

Last night: Beyond Vinland. We slaughtered us some stone-age Duergar and their pet dinobots (dinosaur skeletons with eye lasers?!?). Their boss got away, though. That was a shame. Also, Jeff couldn't find his digital camera, and I decided not to bring mine... so there are no skeletal dino-pics.



After that, I finished tightening up my Exalted PC for tonight. I seem to have managed to fit more-or-less everything on one side of one sheet of paper, which is impressive in an Exalted character. See?

Now it is lunchtime. I must eat.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Random status update

Last night, I met with Jenn and we chatted about her Exalted game. Then I went home, ate spring rolls, and started creating a new character. For those who care, he's a teenaged Night Caste Solar from the Realm. He's a stowaway on a ship and is a bit of a champion for the underdog. (Warning: Don't follow that last link.) I need a name for him, though. Suggestions are welcome.

Last night, I was trying to figure out Realm naming conventions for commoners. I did a few searched and tried "exalted dragonblood naming conventions" on Google. My own site was the #2 hit. I, of course, clicked on it without noticing the page title and then got really confused.

Also, WoAdWriMo has been weird for my posting habits. I've been averaging more than a post a day, which is good for me, but I don't feel like I've had a lot of content.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Mediocre game night

Last night's gaming was mediocre at best.

We were playing Aberrant. I'd missed the past two games due to travel and work craziness, but my PC had been kept in the loop, doing a bunch of run and fetch type things that kept him off screen most of the time.

The set-up was promising. My PC was developing a crush on Grace, a young nova from Australia whose team we'd been working with... We had gotten into a bit of a rumble with some pathetic nova satanists, and one of the had mutated Grace in the fight. My character, usually thoughtful and reserved (and relatively pacifistic), wanted to kill this guy.

Instead, the GM had one NPC after another engage us in tired political debates and speculate about how to handle a problem that none of the PCs cared a whit about.

I do take some responsibility for this. I should have just said something. I should have turned to the GM and said, "Hey. Alem (my PC) is really fired up about this and wants to go a kick some satanist ass." Alternatively, I should have just had him leave and go on a rampaging vendetta. Unfortunately, our PCs were in Australia and the satanists (as far as we knew) were somewhere in Scandinavia - Alem didn't have an easy way to get there on his own. Also, I was personally exhausted, so I wasn't at my peak.

Monday, June 18, 2007

WoAdWriMo: Day Eighteen

I got some work done over the weekend. I think I've been making progress in terms of cutting back on details. I was going a bit overboard there for a while.

I did come up with a new creepy-cool encounter using an SRD monster and a commonly-known, but not commonly-seen magic item in an unusual way.

I was trying to figure out my projected page count. It will be well over 32.

Right now, the biggest thing working against me is time. This week will be rough. I have a big work-event on Saturday. The last two days of the month I will be in Chicago.

That leaves me Sunday-Thursday next week to finish things off.

Oy.

On the plus side, I may have to take a vacation day or two next week due to end of the fiscal year wackiness and confuddled planning on my part.

Friday, June 15, 2007

NPC class: The Cutthroat

So, I've been frustrated with the current group of NPC classes. Mainly, the issue is that it is hard to make sneaky, combat-effective goblins without using PC classes. Warriors don't have any stealthy skills on their skill lists. Experts aren't that combat-effective.

To fill the gap, I decided to create a new NPC class. I'll eventually tweak it up and release it as open game content, but here are the basics:



Cutthroat

Hit Die
d6.

Class Skills
The cutthroat's class skills (and the key ability for each skill) are Balance (Dex), Climb (Str), Craft (Int), Escape Artist (Dex), Hide (Dex), Intimidate (Cha), Listen (Wis), Move Silently (Dex), Search (Int), Sleight of Hand (Dex), Spot (Wis), and Use Rope (Dex).

Skill Points at 1st Level
(4 + Int modifier) ×4.

Skill Points at Each Additional Level
4 + Int modifier.

Class Features
The following are class features of the cutthroat NPC class.

Weapon and Armor Proficiency

The cutthroat is proficient in the use of all simple weapons, plus the sap and shortsword. Cutthroats are proficient with light and medium armor and shields (but not tower shields).


Ambush
Beginning at second level, if a cutthroat can catch an opponent by surprise, she can strike a vital spot for extra damage.

As a standard action, a cutthroat may make an attack that deals extra damage if her target would be denied a Dexterity bonus to AC (whether the target actually has a Dexterity bonus or not). This extra damage is 1d6 at 2nd level, and it increases by 1d6 every three cutthroat levels thereafter (at levels 5, 8, 11, 14, 17, and 20). Should the cutthroat score a critical hit with an ambush, this extra damage is not multiplied.

Ranged attacks can count as sneak attacks only if the target is within 30 feet.

With a sap (blackjack) or an unarmed strike, a cutthroat can deal nonlethal damage instead of lethal damage in an ambush. She cannot use a weapon that deals lethal damage to deal nonlethal damage in an ambush, not even with the usual -4 penalty.

A cutthroat can ambush only living creatures with discernible anatomies—undead, constructs, oozes, plants, and incorporeal creatures lack vital areas to attack. Any creature that is immune to critical hits is not vulnerable to ambushes. The cutthroat must be able to see the target well enough to pick out a vital spot and must be able to reach such a spot. A cutthroat cannot ambush while striking a creature with concealment or striking the limbs of a creature whose vitals are beyond reach.


BAB:
Medium.

Saves:
Good Reflex. Poor Fortitude and Will.


Thoughts are welcome. I was worried that Ambush was too good, but it is strictly inferior to Sneak Attack: the progression is worse, it doesn't apply as widely, and it is only usable once per round... so I think it is OK.

This class should work pretty well for goblins, kobolds, and other creepy little guys... as well as for random street thugs who rely on stealth.

WoAdWriMo: The Halfway Point

Well... temporally halfway. Writing-wise, not so much.

I think I passed a major psychological hurdle yesterday, though. This whole site/scene/challenge thing is going to make it a lot easier for me than I thought it would be.

Also, I decided against mapping everything out. That takes a load off. Do you need a map for the manor house in Greenstone? Why? I don't plan a fight there. I don't expect the PCs to search through it like a dungeon. A map would just encourage that sort of behavior. I'll give a description of the place. That should be sufficient.

I may, after the month is over, toss together some extra maps or something for download... bonus material for the adventure. I'm not going to worry about that now, though.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Sites and Scenes

I've been tossing around a lot of ideas about how to organize my Goblins of Gourm. My newest thought? Sites and Scenes.

What does that mean?

Well, most of the things that show up in GoG are in one of five or six geographic areas (depending upon how I break them up), so I'm thinking about splitting the adventure up into five or six Areas. The first Area, for example, would be Area One: The Hamlet of Greenstone. Within each Area will be two subsections. The first, Sites, would list locations in the area, descriptions of those locations, and people who are likely to be in those locations. The second, Scenes, would list events that are likely to occur when the PCs are in the Area. Some scenes would be limited to specific sites, some would not. Challenges could be in either sites or scenes. Most such challenges will likely be set within scenes, but the two or three dungeon-like areas in the adventure will have more site-related challenges.

Zoyd Sampson



WoAdWriMo: Day Fourteen

I seem to have the same problem with adventure-writing that I have with fiction writing: I get hung up on the beginning.

Introductions have to be good. You know? Compelling. They need to grab you and keep your interest.

Unfortunately, for me, this means that I go over the beginning of things again and again, and never get past that. What is the use of grabbing the reader's interest if you aren't going to do anything with it? Obviously, not much...

I will get this done.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Let me tell you about my characters...

I ran through my gaming schedule, so I thought I'd give an update on the various characters that I am currently playing.

Sunday, Angela's D&D Game: Bart Fliegenbart, Dwarven Chef (Rogue 2/Ranger 2)
Bart has become the de facto group leader... of a group of misfits. I enjoy playing him quite a bit. I knew that Angela would go into excruciating detail when describing flora and fauna, so I built a character who would care about that sort of thing... because he will probably want to eat it. The character is incredibly non-optimized for anything other than cooking (his feats include Skill Focus-Cooking and Negotiator), but - with two weapon fighting and sneak attack - he's still one of the more effective hand-to-hand combatants in the group.
Sunday, Nick's Mage Game: Isaac Bhakar, Slacker Hermetic of House Thig

I have trouble getting excited about playing Isaac. I'm not sure if it is that the character isn't grabbing me or if I am just burnt out on the World of Darkness. He does have some cool things going for him. He's kind of in that slacker-rebel mindset and has a deep-seated distrust of male authority figures (daddy issues). Also, he uses a universal remote control as a magic wand (Forces focus). That's pretty cool.

Monday, George's Aberrant Game: Alem Tefatzion, aka Orbital

Alem is the sole nova from the nation of Eritrea. He has tremendous powers over gravity, which could make him one of the more powerful novas around. He's also a vaguely geeky nineteen year old kid who has had to grow up more than a bit too quickly. The fact that he has become a genius with the onset of his powers has helped him assume adult responsibilities, but it hasn't helped in preparing for them emotionally. His uncle is, essentially, a warlord who has a substantial amount of control over Eritrea's government. It is unclear how much he has used threats of Alem's powers to secure that control.

Tuesday, Nick's Exalted Game: Three Ashen Pillars, Zenith Caste Solar

I've been playing Pillars for a few years now. He's nuts: a religious fanatic who is a near-invincible warrior. He grew up in what is essentially a necropolis, and he has a particularly fatalistic outlook on life and death as a result. He's been a lot of fun to play, but it has been a bit of a challenge to make him play nice with the other PCs - he's more than a bit of a bulldozer.


Wednesday, Jeff's D&D Game: Hjorek Hafgarson, Warrior-Historian (Bardic Sage 2/Warblade 4)

Hjorek is my newest character, I think. So far, I've been enjoying him. The warblade stuff is cool. Unfortunately, he hasn't yet succeeded at a single bardic lore roll. He's essentially been the party meatshield... which is tricky since his AC is less than stellar. While the party's patron saint is the Punisher, Hjorek also follows the path of the Warriors Three.

Thursday, Jenn's Piratey Exalted Game: Hijiki, Eclipse Caste Solar

Hijiki is a treasure hunter and would-be loremaster/propagandist. Unfortunately, I didn't create the character all that wisely for the game that I'm in, and now I am frustrated with him. I'm either reworking the character or making a new one (a plucky stowaway kid, if you are curious).

A week without gaming...

So, yesterday, Jenn (who runs the more-or-less-every-other-week Pirate Exalted game that I play in) asked me what my gaming schedule was looking like these days.

It comes out to about 3 games a week on average. I have alternating games on Sundays (D&D and Mage), a Monday game (Aberrant), an every-once-in-a-while Tuesday game (Exalted, about 1-2 times a month), an every other week Wednesday game (D&D), and an almost-every-other-week Thursday game (Pirate Exalted)... and a once every few months Run-Club game (various).

Then I realized that, despite this rather heavy schedule, my last game was on last Wednesday... a week ago today... and the next time I game will either be Sunday (which might end up canceled this week) or Monday.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

NPC classes

I've been toying with the idea of creating new NPC classes. Most of those I've thought about (such as the Bureaucrat) can be easily modeled with the Expert.

Two that don't fit, though:

I'd like to see a Hedge Mage class that does for the Wizard what the Adept does for the Cleric. This class would also be good as an alchemist.

I'd also like to see a Thief class. Take the Expert, specify its skill list, switch its good save to Reflex, and add a few weapon proficiencies (like the sap). Alternately, to make it more of a Cutthroat/Thug sort of criminal, take that and drop it down to four skill points per level and add in sudden strike at one half the rogue's progression for sneak attack.

WoAdWriMo: mapping part two

Here is the revised map of Greenstone:




Thoughts? Suggestions?

Monday, June 11, 2007

WoAdWriMo: Day Eleven

Eep!

Over a third of the way through the month, and we have.... not so much done.

Angela said she worked on some wilderness bits this past weekend. I don't know what she's done, though. I was away in Maryland. I jotted some notes down and such, but the weekend was essentially dead for me, WoAdWriMo-wise.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

A different kind of city book

I recently picked up Seven Cities, a book in the Penumbra d20 line that Atlas Games produced.

I haven't read the entire thing, but so far I like it. A lot.

It has seven cities of various sizes - from thorp to large city. The detail is finer on the smaller towns, of course, but they did something rather smart in producing this book. Each city builds upon the one smaller than it... so a location in the torp might show up in the hamlet, small town, small city, etc. This allows for pretty significant detail even for the larger towns. It was clever. I like clever things.

I like them even more when I pick them up on sale for $5.

A full review of the book can be found on RPGnet.

WoAdWriMo: mapping

We've been toying with the idea of using satellite photos and such for mapping, but I think that might be a bit too time consuming for this project.


Last night, during Jeff's game, I tried to focus my compulsive doodling constructively. I came up with this:...a rough sketch of the hamlet of Greenstone, where the adventure more-or-less begins. I scanned it in and played around in Photoshop with it a bit last night when I ought to have been packing (I'm going away for a long weekend), and I came up with this:


I'm not completely happy with it, but it looks like a map, at least.

I think the cool thing about this was that the mapping gave me some ideas. Those circular buildings on the ends of things didn't really exist in my mind before I drew them. Now that they are there, I came up with some cool things to do with them.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

A question of taste

So, in my WoAdWriMo contribution, I am writing up an area in which a lot of VERY BAD THINGS happened. If PCs explore this area in detail, they will see the aftereffects of some of these things. I'm toying with writing up a rather graphic Gruesome Scene table that GMs can pick from or roll randomly on... but I don't know if that will squick some people out.

Thoughts?

The Challenge Format, revisited

A few days ago, I mentioned the Challenge Format of as a method of presenting non-encounter challenges in a written adventure.

I expect the format to evolve a bit more as WoAdWriMo progresses, but it has already changed a bit from where it was when I started. I thought I'd share that with the world.

So, how have things changed?

First, I'm using the same format for challenges based around encounters and other challenges. Time permitting, combat encounters may have some additional tools included in the adventure, but those won't be part of the presentation format.

Second, I've changed some of the headings. Currently, they stand at:
Problem - A presentation of the challenge. If there are monsters to fight, their stat blocks (ugh) go here.

Resolution - Likely ways that the problem can be resolved. Notes on what is likely to occur if the problem is not resolved adequately. Included in this section are DCs for possible steps toward a resolution. The resolution section is, clearly, not comprehensive. Clever players may find other ways to resolve the problem.

Tips - Suggestions for the DM on how to run the encounter. This might include roleplaying tips for NPCs, combat tactics, or simply things to keep in mind.

Rewards - How are the PCs and/or players rewarded for resolving the problem? This includes, but isn't limited to, treasure.

Adjustment - How you might adjust this challenge to fit your own campaign or style. Want to change the difficulty? Make it more humorous? Make it more morally ambiguous? This section may include suggestions for any of these things.
So far, this format seems to be working for me. It lets me make things a bit less map-driven, which is good for a primarily non-dungeon adventure like Goblins of Gourm.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Back to game stuff

What I need for d20 creature design:

A software program where you plug in the stats of a monster and it runs a few tests (expected damage per attack vs various character types and things of that sort) and tells you what the suggested CR is. I would be perfectly happy with it flagging things it couldn't factor in, but I wantsss it.

Also, why are there CR 1/2, CR 1/3, and CR 1/4 creatures, but no CR 2/3 or CR 3/4 creatures? It seems like the lack of resolution between CR 1/2 and CR 1 hurts low-level encounter writing.

update

I don't have much more WoAdWriMo written since my last update.

Luna, my chinchilla, died yesterday. Here is a picture of her, so you too can be sad.




















She'd been having problems with her teeth, so I'd been taking her in to the vet to have them trimmed. I took her in this past Saturday... and she never seemed to recover from the anesthesia.

Angela took me to brunch at the Original Pancake House to distract me. We talked about goblins a bit. I guess we did make a breakthrough on how to tie a NPC into things plot-wise. That was good. He was someone we needed to put into the adventure, but he hadn't quite fit before.

Monday, June 04, 2007

WoAdWriMo: Day Three

I don't really plan on daily blog updates about WoAdWriMo, but they've happened so far.

I didn't get as much done as I'd hoped today. My pet chinchilla isn't doing well, and I've been stressing out about it. I'm going to take her into the vet tomorrow and cross my fingers, but it doesn't look good.

Anyway, somewhere over 2000 words.

I'm trying to figure out the best way to present a village in the adventure. I will probably resort to numbering the important buildings and describing the contents/inhabitants of each, but that has never sat right with me. It seems too static and too much like a dungeon crawl. If anyone has seen a good way of handling this, let me know.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

WoAdWriMo: Day Two

Today I set aside my outline/notes and forced myself to write the introduction and overview/background to the adventure. I also wrote up a new treasure item and a new special material for the appendix. I wrote 1550 words today, which isn't bad at all (admittedly, though, one of them was "blahblahblah.")

What took me the longest? Stat blocks. Gah. I had forgotten how bad they were. I know there are some good tools out there to make them easier. PC Gen? Anything else? Jamis Buck's NPC Generator is fairly useful, but the randomness isn't always what I need. I suspect that part of my problem is that stat blocks are ugly. I'll try and make them as easy to read as I can without driving myself crazy. If anyone has any suggestions, I'd love to hear them.

Friday, June 01, 2007

The Challenge Format

In thinking about my WoAdWriMo adventure, I realize that not every challenge to be overcome by the party is a monster to be defeated in combat. Sometimes there is a puzzle to be solved or a short quest to be completed. Many of these transcend the physical location that they are found in, so embedding them in the text describing a location isn't a completely satisfying solution.

Currently, I'm toying with a standardized format for these sorts of challenges. It goes something like this (the example below is more-or-less made up on the spot):


Challenge 14: Translate the Diary (CR 5)
The diary found in Section 2F is written in a strange language (a pidgin of Auran and Ignan).
Complications: The diary is warded against divination magics, so Comprehend Languages will be of no use.
Possible Solutions: The most obvious solution is to use Decipher Script, but the difficulty on this check is difficult (DC 35, the PC receives a +5 on the check if he can read either Auran or Ignan, and a +10 on the check if he can read both). The madwoman in Section 1C can read the diary, though the PCs would need to discover some means of communicating with her (via Tongues, for instance). The PCs could recopy the diary (Forgery check DC 15, +2 on the check if the PC is literate in a language using the Draconic alphabet) and use Comprehend language on the unwarded copy.
Rewards: Information is the primary reward of translating the diary (it will make Challenges 17, 18, and 23 much easier and provide useful information about defeating the Invisible Stalker in Section 2J). Working with the madwoman can also lead to the rewards listed in Section 1C.
Adjustments: Reducing the CR: You may remove the divination ward on the diary. If you do so, the Adept in area 1G can cast Comprehend Languages for the PCs if they cannot do so themselves. Increasing the CR: Add a Secret Page, Illusory Script, and/or a Symbol of Fear spell to the diary.


Any way to make that clearer? Anything I am missing?

More Exalted Frustrations

Last night was Jenn's piratey Exalted game.

I think I've concluded that I made the wrong character for the game. My PC (Hijiki) is a generalist, but the things that he's good at are either not terribly useful or are things that someone else does better... and which we only need one person to do.

For example, Hijiki has 8 dice in his Wits+Sail pool. He can pilot a ship through just about anything. He has abilities that let him use his full die pool regardless of environmental conditions, and he can re-roll a failed die roll. This is pretty good, and it represents a not-insignificant dedication of character creation resources. Of course, someone else brought in a character who was better at sailing than I was.

Ultimately, though, I think the big problem is that the sorts of things that I wrote Hijiki up to be interested in doing are not things that I'm terribly interested in doing given Jenn's GMing style. This isn't a knock against her - it is more a misjudgment on my part. There are plenty of things that I could enjoy doing in her game. I'm just not playing a character who is interested in them.

So - the question - do I revamp this character somehow or replace it?

WoAdWriMo: Design Notes?

I'm torn as to whether or not to include substantial design notes for my WoAdWriMo entry in this blog. On the one hand, it might make for interesting reading. On the other, I'm worried about revealing too much about the adventure itself.

In any case, I'll definitely talk about some of my general rules. For instance, there are some things that I think either aren't particularly fun or bog down play unnecessarily when used against PCs: ability drain, devastating ability damage without access to Lesser Restoration or the like, and paralysis. Permanent weakening of characters is rarely fun for their players - and it messes up CR calculations. Temporary weakening of characters can be OK - the Paladin who has taken Intelligence damage can be fun to play for a bit. No one likes to play with Constitution damage, though. In games I've played in, we tend to sleep that off whenever possible... which can slow down the pacing if you aren't careful. Paralysis? Well... I generally don't like effects that take you out of the game. It is fine for PCs to be frustrated, but that tends to make for frustrated players - which isn't a desirable thing. So, unless there is some sort of weirdness that makes them palatable, effects like these just won't show up in games I design or run.

I'll note here that this makes undead tricky. I may have to write up some new undead creatures in order to fill the gap I just created for myself.

WoAdWriMo: Day One

Angela and I are writing the d20 adventure Goblins of Gourm.

Currently, we have 3.5 pages of rough notes that outline nine encounter areas or scenes. Some of these are more developed than others - the first area is about a page long. The last one is four words.

Total word count on day one: 1229

1229 words sounds like a lot to begin with, but some of them are things like "Chicken!" or "Worg party?" or whatever.