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Thursday, July 9, 2015

Shelving, but not scrapping

The multi-PC-per-player, high-level campaign is not going to happen any time soon. I still like the idea, but it is complex enough that I will need to spend a lot more time working out the the kinks before I would be ready to run such a beast. Real life distractions are (surprise!) also limiting my time and energy for pursuing such projects. I think I may need to set my GM-ing sites a little lower for now.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Wheels within Wheels

At this point I have a few ideas for how to handle goals and xp/leveling, but that still leaves the question of ways to engage the PCs. I don't want a higher level campaign that's just about killing bigger monsters. I want the players to explore some of the things that are unique to more experienced characters. Specifically, strongholds, domains, political/military conflict, and magical research/rituals.

Strongholds are –in many ways– the simplest of the bunch. A player character selects the site, pays the costs, and waits for construction to finish. The challenges here I see as twofold:

  1. The "primary" PC is paying attention to things like layout and design and paying for it all.
  2. The "secondary" PCs need to worry about things like keeping supply lines open, wiping out monsters that threaten the builders, etc.
Lots of adventure material there, IMO. 

Domains are more for after the stronghold is done, but players need to start thinking about them even before the first brick is laid. I also use "domain" as a catch all for other name level pursuits including thieves' guilds or position within a temple hierarchy. For wizards, it's more likely about figuring out getting supplies for one's tower, as most farmers won't live in the shadow of such sorcerous places. 

Military conflicts are more likely to be tied to larger events in the campaign than player-driven. Of course, ambitious PCs might instigate a border war with their neighbors. These can also be smaller scale skirmishes or turf wars between thieves. Political conflict could be court intrigue, a diplomatic mission, or a machiavellian power struggle within a guild or church. I can easily foresee external plot hooks as well as player-driven cases of these. 

Magical story arcs might stem from wizards researching new spells, priests performing ancient rituals, or the enchanting of items. The Adventurer, Conquerer, King system includes a lot of rules for these, as well as things like crossbreeding monsters (Bugbatbears, anyone?). Secondaries keeping interlopers away as their sorcerer boss is trying to complete a powerful ritual that will create an iron golem sentinel for the tower is worth a session or two I think. 

In addition to all this, I need to lay out some ideas about what might be going on in the larger world that can drive events in the campaign. Wars, evil gods, rampaging demons, who knows?

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Goal Based XP Awards

Some good ideas offered about my campaign idea on G+ and Dragonsfoot. Here is a little more broad -strokes noodling based on feedback regarding advancement and a player's PCs working toward different goals:

Goal-based XP awards:

PCs are classified as Primary ("Name" level) or Secondary (lower level). Each PC should start with at least one major and two minor goals. Categorizing goals is up to the GM's discretion. Minor goals may include acquiring more powerful magic items, greater wealth, or bolstering one's reputation. Major goals should have a greater level of impact on the character or the campaign. A very few examples include:

  • Successfully researching a spell or enchanting a minor magic item: Minor
  • Acquiring a long sought-after item (magical or otherwise): Minor
  • A primary character completing their hold/tower/abbey/guild: Major
  • Cementing an important alliance or defeating a bitter foe: Major


Unless there is a solid, in-game RP reason, players should consider coordinating their character goals with the other PCs in their group (Primary and Secondary). Goals can change over time. Either the player completes them and picks new ones, or the existing goals alter because of in-game events. Secondary characters level up when they complete two minor or one major goal. Primary characters level up when they complete two minor or one major goal in addition to  ALL of the player's Secondary PCs leveling up.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Campaign Concept for name level


So this is a rough outline of something that occurred to me. It sounds fun on paper, but it would present certain challenges to run.


  • Each player would start with a PC at or near 9th level. If not yet at name level, XP progression would be somewhat accelerated. The idea is the PCs should know what they want to do in the setting.
  • In addition, each player will have several low-to-mid level (≈4-5th?) PCs.
  • Each of the "lesser" PCs are henchmen/followers of other players' high level PCs.
  • The followers are loyal to their boss (the other player's high level character), not their own "main" PC.
  • The main PCs all know and have adventured with each other in the past, but that does not mean they have to be BFFs.
  • Play rotates between the different facets of the campaign from session to session (or even mid-session if there is a lull).
  • To a certain extent, the player of a facet's name level PC drives the story. His or her goals and challenges are (usually) the focus of that storyline, although the followers do have free will and can make their own decisions.
  • There are events in the larger world that will impact on any or all of the facets from time to time.

Determining exactly how a name level PCs pursues their higher ambitions is up to the player. Some ideas/examples:


  • Will the fighter become a lord with a keep and fief? Conquer his own (or someone else's) lands? Maybe he accepts a command in the royal army and becomes a general?
  • Does the thief try to take over a city's guild? Or does he become a bandit king in the wilderness? Does he set up a spy network? Or become captain of a pirate ship?
  • Does the wizard become a court magician? Maybe he builds a tower on some desolate peak?
  • Will the cleric build an abbey? Rise in the church's hierarchy at the main temple? Or will he found his own order?

One of my main concerns with this sort of a setup is that some players might have a hard time separating their characters' loyalties. i.e. possibly working against one of your other PCs. I see it as a neat RP opp, but others may differ.




Friday, June 5, 2015

Changing Gears

The DCC game sort of fizzled, which is too bad because there are many things I like about the system. Spotty attendance coupled with my less than expert grasp of the new rule set were the main culprits.

Lately we've been playing Lady Blackbird. It's a story-based game a friend is running (I'm a shapeshifting goblin). It's a neat change of pace, but I think we are nearing the wind-down point with the system. This naturally turns my thoughts to what I might to run if I take a seat in the GM's chair again.

So –big surprise– I'm thinking about BX/LL. More specifically, I'm thinking about a "name level" campaign, where the PCs start at or near the 9th level range, where all the "endgame" stuff starts to happen.

This is a realm of the game that I rarely get to play with, mostly because I've always pushed for the extended campaign where PCs earn those levels all the way from 1st. Sadly, nowadays that's a level of time commitment that most players (and GMs) our age simply find difficult to manage.

One of the reasons I like the idea of the long slog up the XP ladder (besides being a grumpy SOB of a GM) is the way that all those sessions create a bond between the PC and the larger campaign world. It's hardly a new idea, I know, but it's still true. One of the appeals of higher level play is the idea that the PCs become movers and shakers in the greater world, not just better orc-killers.


To balance these challenges, I may try borrowing from more story-based games and have the players devise "hooks" for their character that are already in play, instead of developing in-game. Again, not a new concept.

The next issue I need to address, for my own preference, is that of higher power PCs. I loves me some low level grinds. I know, I know, evil GM and all that; but the tighter resources present their own challenges in the game. Over the years, I've been guilty of letting lower level/power campaigns make my job easier because the PCs simply couldn't muster the magic or puissance to face harder challenges easily. Nothing's worse than a carefully crafted encounter or puzzle being sidestepped by an unanticipated spell or item in the party's arsenal.

I'm trying to push outside my comfort zone a little by giving the players higher level options and resources. In return, I want them to see beyond the crawl and use those resources on a larger scale. At the same time, I think I may introduce a few house-ruled bits of DCC-inspired weirdness to keep things like spells and magic items from being too easy to depend upon. [evil laugh] But that's a different post.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Spell checker

I haven't forgotten about this patron write-up, but I confess that coming up with custom spells for old Elby has had me stuck a bit. Spell listings in DCC are complex enough that it's going to take a little time for me to

A) Think of specific spells that fit the concept (preferably ones that don't already exist)
and
B) Write up not only the spell check results, but also the manifestation, failure and misfire results.

My current idea is to emphasize the interplanar and temporal aspects, similar to the invoke section.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Taint nothing like the Real Thing, Baby.

Sorry! I couldn't resist!

According the DCC RPG rule book, patron taint is decribed as "The spells cast by patron-based wizards eventually take on the aspect of the wizard’s patron." In a nutshell, this is the magical bond between the wizard and the patron bleeding over into the physical world. Usually manifesting when the wizard fails a spell check or similar, representing him failing to control the energies unleashed and having them act on his spell, or himself, in ways defined at least in part by the nature of his patron.

Since Elbaphraxis is a chthonic cloud of eyes, I decided to -aheh- focus on those aspects for the table results. Here goes:

Patron Taint

D4 Result
1 The wizard periodically shifts “out of phase” to onlookers’ eyes. He turns momentarily ghostlike or two-dimensional in appearance as a portion of his being harmonizes with another dimension. This bizarre manifestation is brief enough to dismissed as a trick of the eye, but is still unsettling enough to result in a -1 to Personality. If the result is rolled a second time, it happens with enough frequency to give a -2 to Personality.

2 During spellcasting, shadowy form appears nearby. It appears as an amorphous blob covered in eyes. The eyes look in all different directions and blink lazily. Some are bestial, others are human. If rolled a second time, the acquires 1d6 spectral eyes that float ghostlike around him. They cannot be harmed and convey no useful information to the caster. 

3 The wizard’s dreams are haunted by strange visions of terrifying worlds. He can recall no specifics upon waking but is left greatly unsettled in his mind and feeling poorly rested. He must make a Will Save (DC 10) or his natural healing rate is halved. If the result is rolled a second time, a failed save means no healing occurs from that night’s (or day’s) rest.


4 Elbaphraxis transcends our notions of time and space. One tainted by his essence begins to find their existence less rooted in “reality.” Once a week, the wizard find himself “slipping” from his proper spot. A Will Save (DC 15) resists. A failure indicates the wizard has (Roll 1d3): 1) Teleported 1d100 feet in a random direction (he will not materialize in solid matter, but he can appear up in the air); 2) Moves d20 minutes forward or backwards in time (determine randomly); or 3) plane shift  to the ethereal plane for 1d6 turns. A second roll of this result causes this to happen daily.