I received Burning Wheel as a gift and I slowly working my way through the book. I have fixated on one idea so far -- using Burning Wheel type concepts to aid in Pathfinder/D20 character background generation. Character background generation has always been a difficult concept to get normalized across the different players, and I think a structured rule set could really help this, not by limiting the possibilities or strongly driving the mechanic, but by giving some structure to the details that are sometimes overlooked by the mechanic. In particular I feel the following items have been treated poorly in d20/Pathfinder style games:
Contacts -- Hooks to other characters and NPCs is always difficult to normalize. Rarely do I get references to negative relationships, which is disappointing.Weaknesses and flaws -- Having a low strength score just isn't the same as having a weakness or a flaw that defines the characterLife Backgrounds -- Yeah, you can say you grew up on a farm, but w…
So to celebrate the holidays, I hosted a special game at the local game store with a holiday theme. We had five players, a ton of sugary snacks, and a +3 fruitcake of bludgeoning. The group all rolled d20s to determine the order in which they would pick characters from the collection of level 15 pregens I had prepared. Everyone picked a character they liked. Then, I directed them to give the character to someone else in the spirit of holiday giving.
One player was late, so I picked a class to give him. He was very happy with it.
So the party consisted of:
Jinglewood McGarvin, a Tengu Gunslinger with a double barrel musketMarco the Vain, a half-elf summoner with a dragon-like eidolonMavery the Ghost, a female Drow Rogue / ShadowndancerTriton the Brave, a Samsaran ClericBinks LaForte, a Blue (goblin) Wilder (Psionics)
The party started out in Mirabar, a dwarven mining town. There someone inquired after them in the bar, looking for an adventuring group to find a lost shop owner name…
Most of our session Friday night was spent dealing with new characters, new riches, and the new keep. Ally the Gnome Sorceress is dead and replaced by Sandra the Half-elf Summoner. Muroki the monk also has replaced Zirul. Oh, hmmm... the group has no cleric now.
Don the Magnificent took a crack at interrogating the two bandit prisoners. Even with dominate person, Don wasn't able to get much information. The two prisoners were new to the bandit group, knew of a hidden cave that the bandits used but not its location, and knew that there was only a week to the Forgebar Dwarve's attack. He threatened to kill the prisoners, but one of them recognized the markings of the order on the cavalier's shield. She called on the cavalier to let her go and he made it happen. Meanwhile the giant who previously been under dominate person was now eating while sitting on the sliff ledge in the underground cavern below the castle, happy, for now.
The cavalier dug through the tr…
There was a new player tonight. I found out at the end of the session that he was playing an overpowered NPC with ability scores all pretty much over 20 and a level higher than anyone in our group. WTF?
After a character death last week, one of our existing players had to rebuild a character for the session at the table. This was the goblin. I helped him do a good build -- a rogue that fit with the high dex of a goblin.
It turned out the old character wasn't really dead, but was being pieced back together at the local temple.
There was weird plot line that the new bard dragonrider tried to introduce about a beautiful woman asking about the goblin. There was no info to let it influence anything or even for it to make any sense. WTF?
The bard dragonrider told us that Kooper was mauled by a bear. We found the bear dead (how can a town that can't defend against golbins end up killing a bear?)
The party checked out the the Thornhold, a great keep set on the side of a mountain. They were given a map with a secret entrance. Felix and Corrail crawled down the cliff and into a drain tunnel. Invisible, they followed the tunnel past a one-way mechanism (that they disabled) into a cell. Through the drain grate, they could see the cell's occupant, a ratfolk archaeologist named Byron. Byron talked the two into escorting him into the tunnel, though he was wary of climbing out. Corrail and Felix checked out the rest of the cell area and could peer out into a main chamber that opened out onto the cliff face. There they spotted two large giants, sitting and eating.
They returned, taking Byron along, and getting back to the rest of the party. They diced to split into two groups. Elliot, Ally, Zirul, the Tiger, and Yuri would hold back for a frontal attack, while Don, Corrail, and Felix would go in through the tunnel and try to take out the giants. Once inside Don worked his…
I was reading this article over at Gnome Stew this morning and started thinking about the dreaded slump. I think all GMs find themselves in a state where the excitement just isn't quite there anymore. Along those lines I thought I would share the strategies that have worked form me.
Take it up a notch. This, by far, is the strategy I am most likely to deploy. Instead of putting together a set of encounters, lather, rinse, repeat, try planning something totally different. Take one of those crazy ideas you have been saving for later and use it now. Intense, crazy, unexpected scenarios not only recharge your own skills, but they can bring a new sense of life to the players that is contagious.Take a break. When you have a slump, sometimes you just need to take a break. A break, even a short one, can give your own creativity and imagination time to catch up with you. During the break, I suggest lots of reading of both RPG and non RPG materials. Even movies and old TV series ca…
Kroop was quick to split the crew and get the Celestial Kyte away. With Sandara as captain, the Kyte made for the squib, the bodies of Kyte and Durgen brought along. Sheena, Victaerus, and the Druid were part of the Kyte's crew. The plan was to get the Kyte repaired, supplies and crew for the Zelbinion, and find someone to help repair the magic aboard the Zelbinion and perhaps help strengthen the defenses of the Celestial Kyte.
Arrival at the Iceflow Squib was a bad sight. The outer walls was in shambles, the old ruins, temple, and inn were in flames, and dead bodies of townsfolk and frost giants littered the town. An ugly gunman with a handmade musket watched from the tower as the Kyte docked.
Giffen, the Aquarvan (Crocodile Man) barbarian jumped shipped, hysterical at finding his old squib friend Rickety Hake dead by the squib dock. Sandara grabbed Victaerus and headed to the remaining temple -- a temple of Besmara. Inside, three priests from the other temple fought with …
So the party of 3, Pleon, Crayla, and Kooper, dragged the goblin in manacles back to the Sandpoint jail. They healed him with a potion and gave him a thorough questioning. Really all they found out was that he was from Thistletop (clan of goblins? a mountain name?) and who his chief was. Kooper went psycho when he mentioned the word clan and nearly killed the goblin. They left the goblin in bad shape, unconscious and nearly dead.
Crayla asked uncaringly for gold from the sheriff as the party was leaving the jail. He brushed her off, telling her he was talk to them later, choosing to instead focus on his duties to calm the hysterical wife of the man the goblin killed.
The party gathered and went on to the glass factory, trying to break in. No such luck on Crayla popping the door locks. Kooper tried setting the door on fire and breaking it down, but was too drunk to do any good. They headed back to the Rusty Dragon.
The Zelbinion made landfall in a fjord in the treacherous, icy north. Unfortunately, the fjord was under patrol of three ships of frost giants that inhabit the area. The Zelbinion spun to broadside the giant's ships while Durgen ducked behind with Celestial Kyte. The gunnery crews slowly moved all the cannons to bring a full set to bear on the incoming ships. The giants fired off ballistas while the cannons pounded back. Caster brought flames down on the giants. The druid destroyed one ballista with fire, while Kyte set fire to the incoming ship.
Two of the smaller ships fled, while the largest, on fire, drew close into the Zelbinion for boarding. The officers faced 6 Frost Giants themselves, as Durgen left the Kyte to help the fight aboard the Zelbinion. The Frost Giants pounded away on the officers, forcing Sheena below to snipe at them and getting Durgen and Kyte both killed. Finally, Kroop enabled the blade barrier, and the constant slicing of blades drove the giants f…
I found out a lot at the local brothel. The Kujitsu family is an interesting bunch with some dirty laundry. The old man and wife had a half-elf son (both of them were human). He was sent to the orphanage; the mother was kept away. The father later pushed her off a balcony. They have a duaghter who was a former adventurer and now runs a local inn. The family made their money locally through glass making. Also I got the name of the goblin tribe expert. Man, I wish she were back in town about now. Sheriff says several more weeks.The drawback of the brothel is now that Kooper visits there all the time. He is just one vice on top of another.Met up with Mr. Foxglove who paid us a bit for saving him and took us hunting in the Tickwood. We were able to take down a wild boar and a dire boar fairly easily. It got us a feast back at the Rusty Dragon. Foxglove was all over me with complements and free drinks. The evening got interrupted briefly by old man …
Playing a fantasy character true to their nature is a difficult undertaking. Living in modern times gives us a background that isn't well suited to playing an elf ranger or a dwarf miner or a great paladin. We would be much better to suited to play some hero from our own type of world.
Still we can rise to the occasion if we take just a few simple things into consideration.
A character has limited experiences. In our modern world of technology people are exposed through print, broadcast, and other types of media so we can have a general idea of life throughout the world. We can define normal by the media, and a large number of people can have very similar ideas.
In the fantasy worlds we play in, media is limited, and in some places, nonexistent. The definition of normal is limited to what our characters know -- perhaps locally, perhaps only in their own household. The only religion they may know and understand is that of the local temple. Anything outside of this norm may b…
So the party started into the Sword Mountains, leaving Waterdeep behind and following their "new" guide Marlowe and keeping a watchful eye on the map they picked up in the city. Up into the mountains, Felix, the rogue, spots two goblins and says 'hi'. They run off. The group continues on, and with the cavalier out in front on his horse, the rogue is too late in spotting the trap. A sonic trap goes off all around them.
Then goblins appear... lots of goblins. 72 goblins. Goblins with crossbows. Goblin shaman casters. Goblin dog riders. Goblin spearmen. Goblin infantry with swords. They were crawling out of holes in the ground. They were appearing on the cliffs and rocks above.
(To simplify tracking of 72 goblins, I had them attack mostly in groups, and I gave them only 1 hp. If you hit, you kill. On the board, they were represented by goblin miniatures with a die next to them keeping track of the number left in each group.)
Monday night was a night of answering questions. There was drinking of rum when it was announced that the Zelbinion had been cleared. Kroop passed around the story of how he saved the day by disarming the bomb on the lower level. Kyte called the crew together for time to elect a captain. Durgen and Kroop were nominated and Kroop was obviously the more popular. He quickly grabbed Durgen and suggested he take control of the Celestial Kyte.
After the partying was over, Kroop called the officers and select other crew together. The druid was working on repairs to the Zelbinion bilge pumps and steering mechanism. Kyte was working on keying the tiller to Kroop's old pocket watch. Sheena took over cook's duties. Durgen chose his pyro gunner to accompany him. Victaerus was assigned to ready the boarding party just in case.
The plan was to sail north north east till they hit the coast and then send just the Celestial Kyte to the squib for repairs, supplies, crew, and nautical …
A light report from Crayla:
Taking out the goblins impressed the local yocals. Alderan Foxglove was happy to be saved by us. I'll see what we can use him for.
We visited the cathedral and the priest Father Zantas. Everything seemed intact. I really wish the other guys could allow us to make an appearance without making a negative first impression.
We visited the jail to see if any of the goblins had been captured. No such luck and the sheriff wasn't around. We'd try to catch him in the morning.
Ameko Kujitsu caught us in town. She offered us a week's stay at her inn -- the Rusty Dragon. Talking to her later I found out she was a former adventurer. She might be a resource we can call on if needed. And, her last name matches the biggest crypt in the cemetery. There is money in that family.
The gossip about the goblin raid showed the stupidity of the attack. The goblins had no business attacking the town. It had to be a distraction.
I've just started reading Burning Wheel Hub and Spokes. For those interested, it is available here on the Burning Wheel website for free (registration required). "Hub and Spokes" is the core rules for Burning Wheel.
I met up with the guys today around noontime and set up plans to meet them back at the Rusty Dragon at nightfall. I grabbed some grub at the festival. Kooper had that gleam of trouble maker in his eye when he said he was going to the general store. I followed him and watched him stock up on lamp oil, lots and lots of lamp oil. This isn't going to end well if he ends up burning down the whole town. He doesn't seem to be smart enough to handle that stuff.
I grabbed some rope, a grappling hook, and a crowbar for a reasonable price. With these items, it gives me a few more options on pulling off a heist. I mentioned to Kooper that if he could get me a potion of invisibility, I could double his return on it. He slipped me one, trying to make sure the mage didn't see. Pleon's (not Peelon) scruples seem to be a bit more bothersome than mine and Kooper's. Anyway, it was a nice way to sweet talk a 300 gp potion, and I won't owe him a dime if…
The party regroups, including Zirul, and the tiger, who now points a way to follow him. The group searched the remains and finds out the secret of the Pyramid necklaces. It is a big pyramid scheme for energy. When one of them dies, the others get the energy. Don, with his necklace, is becoming so charismatic that he can sparkle like a Twilight vampire.
The group follows the tiger to a cellar door in a big old building. Don talks his way mostly out of the fight after it started. He realizes these are thugs for the Xanathar's Thieve's Guild.
Meanwhile Felix awaits, tied to a stone chair in an underground cavern. Marlowe is one of the guards keep watch over him. He has been informed that he awaits trial for not completing his mission to deal with the red wizard in Secomber.
The party gains access and follows the cellars through cavern after cave until they reach the beholder's chamber. Don negotiates a price on Felix's head for his dark skull and gets an …
Since we've had no problems with spam comments, I am opening up the blog commenting settings a bit to allow anyone to comment. Comments must be approved (which should keep spammers away) but should otherwise be unhindered.
So we got together last night, and after a few character tweaks, the Pien Ridge Horror got back underway. So here's roughly how the adventure went: Found gruesome stuff while hiking. I fail my fear check.Set up camp. Get frightenened by a bear escaping one of the sasquatch that we don't know about yet. I fail my fear attempt. The bear gets shot.Sasquatch grabs one of our rangers. Pieces go flying and I fail my fear check.One of the other characters flies up to the ridge with the radio to call for help. He gets rocks throw at him by the sasquatch, but isn't injured.We sleep overnight and I regain myself after being frightened so many times.We head up the trail and get attacked by a saquatch. Several good shots protect us from getting mauled by the crazed creature.
At this point one of the other guys take over as GM. We head up to a cabin lead by an Indian named Crowkiller.We fortify and prepare for sasquatch attacks. There are bear traps on the front porch, lots of g…
The party killed off the two casters fighting them with Zirul decapitating the second caster since he was nearly dead already. Zirul charged the group, grabbing three of the other lesser casters and crashing over the side of the mountain with them. It is unclear where he and they went.
Zirul, fueled by the blue flaming fiery energy of Iallanis, Giant Goddess of Love, Mercy, and Beauty, took three of the monstrous necormancer abominations into his arms. By now the waves of energy had made Zirul start to grow, becoming endowed with the strength and size of the giants. He crushed them together has he lept over the side of the mountain with them. Falling for several seconds, casters tumbling, Zirul grabbed the Holy Avenger Longsword breathed in blue flames and began slicing at them. Divine energy crackled in the air like blue lightning as it swept away their magic protections.
Hitting the side of the mountain in a first bounce, now Zirul and the casters all were spinning. A clo…
So Crayla has a Stealth of +7. According to the one source, guards (this one or this one) have perceptions in the +1 to +4 range which matches other places I have looked. So given this, what is the probability of pulling off a heist?
Some aspects to consider:
How many guards will there be?How many guards will actually get a perception check against Crayla?What is an acceptable level of risk?What is the likely reward?
If you check out the Opposed skill check reference sheet here, you can get the opposed skill check probabilities.
For Crayla, I am +6 to +3 better than the opposing check skill level:
+3 -- 60% chance of success
+4 -- 64% chance of success
+5 -- 68% chance of success
+6 -- 72% chance of success
However, each check is independent. If the GM is fishing for failures by making me make multiple checks, the odds aren't as good: Advantage1 Check2 Checks3 Checks4 Checks+360%36%22%13%+464%41%36%17%+568%46%31%21%+672%52%37%27%
In addition, I may need to make a disable device c…
Two players were out (Durgen & the Druid) so I played them through and the crew cleared out the three remaining elementals on the lower ship deck. While Durgen and the Druid repaired the bilge pumps, the rest of the group searched the rooms, carefully avoiding the alchemists lab which had a reasonable chance of blowing up. Unfortunately, a bomb was triggered in another room, but Kroop was able to disarm it with Sheena's help before it blew a hole in the ship. With the Zelbinion now cleared, the crew gets to make all the difficult decisions:
Who is the new captain?Where are they sailing to?What ship or ships are they taking?Where are they mounting the weapons?How are they going to get one or both of the ships repaired?How are they going to avoid the Zelbinion becoming a focus for other pirates, privateers, and navies?
The good news is that the group now has several months of rations, so there are lots of options.
On Saturday nights I am now playing in a Pathfinder game. I'll be recording my adventures from the point of view of Crayla. So let me tell you about Crayla.
Crayla is a half-elf level 1 ranger. She grew up with 10 brothers and a father who was away a good bit of the time acting as a guard for a merchant caravan. She learned to be tough, quick, and emotionally caustic. Though she is good looking (fair skin, fiery red hair) her charisma is only average. She puts people off. She is quick to insult and quick to anger.
Crayla is a good shot with a longbow and can spin her short sword in and out of her scabbard and flip it easily across her wrist from side to side (weapon finesse). She wears a shiny breastplate engraved with various animal markings made by one of her brothers. It was his way of rubbing in that she had failed her druid training and relegated to just be one of those "woodsy rangers that helps find farmers lost cattle in the woods". She can sneak around…
Looking through the waves of twisted light, a turquoise jelly fish slowly comes into view. Not a living creature, inside it a bubble of air sustains two humanoids, grasping a rail that runs across the inside of the bubble. Their eyes turn upward as the oblong hulls of two ships disappear out of sight. Looking down, below them, 4 kuo-toa fish men pull the bluish air bubble lower and lower into the ocean.
Owlbear looks at Jacen with sad eyes and grunts.
Jacen pats him on the back. "Don't worry Owlbear; I've been in worse situations than this."
Slowly a shimmering portal comes into view in the sea waters below them.
Unseen to the kuo-toa, a small bottle holding a small piece of paper floats away, heading for the surface. Jacen watches it just for a second and whispers to himself softly unheard to the others, "A little luck".
The kuo-toa swim up to the edge and then push the whole jelly fish rig in. The rig, Owlbear, and Jacen disappear.
Elf Ranger CorrailWinter Wolf YuriCorrail's Father (Maiali)Don The Magnificent, an older human bardAlly the Gnome SorcererElliot, Human CavalierFelix, Half-elf Rogue / DruidFelix's tiger whose name I forgetZirul, Half-elf Cleric
Zirul and Felix were unmanned tonight. Prior to reaching the courtyard with the adult red dragon, Felix and the tiger went missing.
The party grabbed some potions from a potion cart in the courtyard while Don talked to the dragon. On a lucky diplomacy reroll, Don was able to calm the dragon. He demanded food and wine, which the party rushed to get, and ate his fill and then flex off to a hidden cave to rest. Corrail noticed that the dragon had a bit of trouble exiting the city -- was that some sort of barrier?
With the dragon gone, a massive tidal wave was seen heading into the city. With seconds to spare, Don teleported the party to the Bowels of the Earth, a local Waterdeep tavern. The tsunami wave covered about a thi…
We decided to get out of the house tonight and stop by the local game store. I grabbed up my new book of Savage Worlds, a few printed out character sheets, GM screen references, and some dice and paper. The daughterlings put out texts to gamer friends and suddenly we had a 'how the heck do we play Savage Worlds' session.
Pine Ridge Horror was the session I grabbed to start out.
With only one book it took us a while to build characters while learning the rules. It was nice, easy, familiar. Lots of 'pathfinder-like' things in there. Not a lot of rules.
We barely got started into the adventure. I played a character, so we skipped most of the role playing.
I think it was a good first session. At least one of the players offered to possible even GM it sometime, which seems like a really good sign.
I really need to share this link for Savagepedia anyone interest in Savage Worlds.
New characters are dominating my gaming life right now. I've gotten a spot in a Saturday night Pathfinder game, so I am underway in building my new character. The party currently consists of a sorcerer and a cleric, so rogue skills are needed. I don't really want to play a rogue, though. I don't even really want to play any class. So my plan was to make up my own unique combination.
I want to be able to tank.
I need a moderate number of skill points, so I can cover rogue skills for traps.
I need feats, because I want to get a prestige class early.
Rogues really need dex, so I need to be a quick fighter (dex-based). Fighter is THE class for feats. Shadowdancer seems like a fun prestige class that one can hit the requirements for early.
For race, I looked really close at elf and human. Human's bonus feat is nice, but only a real advantage at first level. Elf has nice ability boosts, but half-elf gets a lot of the elf stuff and +2 to any (dex!) and an automatic s…
The party continued their exploration of the Zelbinion. The party found rum rations, rations, and a load of black powder. In the brig a medium water elemental attacked just after they escaped from a wraith. One room had forty dead bodies in it. Another had 4 broken cages, a break in the floor into the hold below, and seven more dead bodies.
On the lower level, the group awakened two more elementals, a large water elemental and a medium fire elemental. The battle was still underway at the end of the session.
The party lined up against the froghemoth. Elrick charged in and was grabbed up by the monster's mouth. Several players ran to the nearby stores (Wondrous Items Store and Alchemical Store) looking for valuable items for the battle. Elrick dumped a mess of fuse grenades down into the monster and lit them up with a fire bomb. 134 damage to the froghemoth left it 2/3 dead. Thanks to a bit of karma, Elrick was thrown clear. Yuri blasted it with his breath weapon. Ally blasted it with magic. The monster grabbed up Ally and the tiger with his tentacles. Ally finally took it down with another blast of magic missile.
The group gathered up and teleported to the Bowels of the Earth where Corrail's father wanted to speak to Mirt. There the group was attacked by a fire elemental. All fought hard until Don blasted the elemental with the Wand of Wonder (Wubba Wubba), shrinking to 10% of its initial size. Corrail distpatched it by stomping on it.
For Halloween, I hosted a special event of "Expedition to Castle Ravenloft" at my home for 6 select gamers from my groups and family. Unfortunately, one of the players bailed at the last minute, but a party of 5 was sufficient to get going. There was a plethora of food and drink (no Pinatas). I tried out the prototype build of my new 'gaming extension table'. The party spent over 3 hours building characters. We used HeroLab for some and had to fight it a bit on the spell-less ranger build. The group consisted of:
Zephyr, a Kitsune Rogue / DruidSam the axebeakJ, a blind Oread Fighter / ClericKratos, a spell-less rangerLloyd, a wolfOrflex, a half-orc barbarian who flex into a rage anytime anyone messed with his juiceBerth, an Aasimar inquisitor
The gaming extension table was a small map-sized table about a foot off the regular table. We could put stuff underneath like laptops while using the tops for minis and rolling dice. It was just a bit too high, so the next…