Monday, September 19, 2016

Kicking off a new campaign

Agreeing What to Play

Starting a new campaign, creating characters, establishing the setting and getting the players engaged can be one of the more challenging aspects of running a game.

Having already thought about what kinds of games I want to run, the first thing I recommend is to talk to your players about what king of game they want to play. That helps me to narrow down settings, game systems and adventures I'm planning to run.

After reconciling the preferences of the players and GM, and settling on a game system and theme, I make my pitch to the players. Only after the players express strong interest in the game and setting do we schedule character creation.

Character Creation

During character creation I give a fuller description of the setting and the characters' places in it. I guide the players through making characters who will work well within the setting, and within the party. Players new to the game system will benefit greatly from the advice of those more familiar with the rules as to how to build appropriate and effective characters.

The First Session

For the first game session I like to run an events-driven scenario. In an events-driven scenario an external event will occur on its own time-line. The consequences of this event will affect the PCs, but how they react to it is entirely up to them. The consequences of the PCs' actions (or inaction) are what drives the game.

In planning an event-driven scenario, it's important to think about how the event will affect the PCs and those around them. Imagine a time-line of events if the characters do not intervene, and then try to thing of alternative time-lines if the characters perform certain actions at certain points of time. Players can be unpredictable, but planning contingencies helps you to improvise when the PCs do something unexpected.

Building the Campaign

Also, as part of world-building, drop in hooks for possible future adventures. These hooks don't need to be related to the present scenario, but including them provides depth and makes the game world more interesting.

After the first game session, you should begin to pick up on some of the in-game interactions, events and character motivations to flesh out and expand upon. These, along with the aforementioned dropped hooks, can be used to create a campaign that holds the players' interest and grows organically.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Mythras Monday

Last month, Mythras Imperative was released. It's a lightweight, genre-neutral Quick Start version of the d100 Mythras rules set. Included are rules for character creation, combat, equipment, general system rules, and a small sampling of monsters. Absent are magic systems, which tend to be quite genre/setting specific.

The pdf is free and you can get physical copies from Lulu for a $9.99. I am looking forward to the complete Mythras core rules being released in the next month or so.

Once again Loz and Pete have demonstrated unerring instinct and excellent judgment in their handling of RuneQuest Mythras. A generic, lightweight d100 rules set (based on the fantastic RQ 6 no less) is exactly the platform needed for developers to launch their own settings and to bring new players to Mythras.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Fantastic Friday - Luck

Luck in Fantastic Heroes & Witchery

Among the mechanical innovations of Dungeon Crawl Classics is the Luck stat. Here Luck is an Ability score like Strength or Intelligence, and is a useful tool for GMs to impartially determine a character's fortune. But what really makes Luck great is the rule that allows players to spend points of Luck to increase die rolls.

Because spent Luck recovers very slowly (if at all) it acts as a diminishing resource. As the character spends Luck to survive immediate dangers and overcome challenges, the foreboding sense of future doom tangibly grows, and it does so as a direct result of the player's own choices. It's brilliant. I don't believe it's a coincidence that a very similar mechanic was introduced into Call of Cthulhu 7th edition.

Here's my adaption of Luck for Fantastic Heroes and Witchery.

Luck (the 7th Ability score)

Spending Luck - A PC may spend Luck points to increase the result of an attack roll, saving throw or skill check, allowing him to succeed where he would otherwise have failed.

Regaining Luck - PCs regain one point of Luck at the end of each adventure. Upon gaining an experience level, a PC regains a number of Luck Points equal to his Charisma Bonus + 1. Finally a PC may also regain Luck for performing acts of great heroism, at the GM's discretion.

Luck Check - Roll 1d20, if the result is equal to below the PC's Luck score, he is successful. Luck Points cannot be spent to increase a character's chance of success on a Luck Check.

Luck Modifier - A character's Luck modifier is determined at character creation and does not change as a result of spending Luck. Roll 2d6 to determine what is modified by a character's Luck.

2d6 Roll....Modified

2 - 4 ..... All Skill Checks
5 - 7 ..... All Saving Throws
   8   ..... Missile Attack Rolls
   9   ..... Melee Attack Rolls
  10  ..... All Attack Rolls
  11  ..... Armor Class
  12  ..... Roll Twice

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Quick Update

The Mythras download links for Magic, Sanity, and House Rules have been updated and fixed. Download them (again) if you like.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Fantastic Friday

   Some people become obsessed with making that they love perfect. I had been hacking AD&D since the mid-90's. Even after writing my own fantasy heartbreaker, I still felt the need to fix D&D, to perfect it.

   The first time I read Fantastic Heroes & Witchery I knew I could scrap all my previous attempts to re-write D&D. Fantastic Heroes & Witchery is the crown jewel of the OSR. In it Dominique Crouzet has taken the best, most elegant features of all the retro-clones that preceded it and Dungeons & Dragons from B/X to 3.5, and melded them into a fantastically streamlined and rational version of the game. On top of that, FH&W adds a plethora of weird-science fantasy options.

   In my opinion Fantastic Heroes & Witchery is the best edition of D&D ever written. Henceforth this blog dedicates Fantastic Fridays to FH&W.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Mythras Monday - Houserules and Character Creation Notes

Here are some house rules and character creation notes for my RuneQuest 6 game. 


Roll 4d6, drop lowest and assign as desired. Prior to rolling, the player can designate any die result as a "4".
Alternatively roll 1d6 + 1d8 + 4 and assign as desired.

Strength and Size - A character's Strength rating cannot exceed his Size rating by more than 3 points.

Female Strength - Human females have a maximum Strength rating of 15.

A character's Size rating is a function of his body mass. At character creation the player may choose his character's Size rating, and being either larger or smaller has different benefits and hindrances.

Size, Strength and Feats of Agility - A character's Size can affect his ability to perform feats of athleticism (such as climbing, jumping and running) and acrobatics (like gymnastics and tumbling). For every 3 points a character's Size exceeds his Strength, the difficulty of skill tests requiring bodily agility made one grade harder. If the character's Strength is greater than his Size, such difficulties are one grade easier.

1.........up to 10 lbs
2.........11 - 20 lbs
3.........21 - 30 lbs
4.........31 - 40 lbs
5.........41 - 50 lbs
6.........51 - 65 lbs
7.........66 - 80 lbs
8.........81 - 95 lbs
9.........96 - 110 lbs
10.......111 - 125 lbs
11.......126 - 140 lbs
12.......142 - 155 lbs
13.......156 - 170 lbs
14.......171 - 190 lbs
15.......191 - 210 lbs
16.......211 - 240 lbs
17.......241 - 270 lbs
18.......271 - 300 lbs
19.......301 - 340 lbs
20.......341 - 380 lbs
21.......381 - 420 lbs
22.......421 - 460 lbs
23.......461 - 500 lbs
24.......501 - 550 lbs
25.......551 - 600 lbs

Mental Retardation - Any character with an Intelligence rating of 7 or less is mentally retarded.


Damage Modifier
A character may shrug off some minor wounds, effectively ignoring damage equal to his Damage Modifier for each non-lethal attack he receives.

Magic Points
Characters may regain Magic Points through normal rest (1 Magic Point per night) and meditation (1d4 Magic Points, with a successful Meditation roll).

A character's maximum skill rating cannot exceed 5x the base rating of that skill.

Passions & Personality Traits
In addition to the Passions listed in the RuneQuest rulebook, characters also posses Personality Traits (otherwise treated as Passions). Each Character must have at least two Passions and two Personality Traits, and may choose their starting values.
Example Personality Traits (and their opposing Traits):

  • Optimistic / Pessimistic
  • Serious / Frivolous
  • Reliable / Capricious
  • Friendly / Taciturn
  • Even-Tempered / Moody
  • Reserved / Gregarious
  • Well-Mannered / Uncouth
  • Brave / Cowardly
  • Loyal / Treacherous
  • Trusting / Suspicious
  • Honest / Deceitful
  • Energetic / Lazy
  • Forgiving / Vengeful
  • Pious / Irreverent
  • Cautious / Rash
  • Peaceful / Violent
  • Modest / Proud
  • Generous / Greedy
  • Courteous / Rude
  • Will to Live / Death Wish

A character's beginning Sanity rating is equal to his POW x5½.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Warhammer Wednesday

   IMO "the Old World" is the greatest D&D setting ever published. It takes the trappings of renaissance Europe, with its complex and believable societies, combines it with the most iconic staples of fantasy (dwarves, elves, halflings, wizards and orcs), and filters it through a lens tinged with dark, British humor.
"Forge of War" by Stanley Lau

    In addition to the Tolkeinesque, Warhammer adds the setting's defining element - Chaos. Chaos provides the existential threat and underlying theme of the world of Warhammer. Chaos corrupts and destroys.

    Chaos is manifest in the Old World through its minions and those it touches. Disease-ridden Skaven infest the sewers under even the greatest cities, animalistic beastmen stalk the dark woods for human prey, and mutants and cultists attest to the power of Chaos to corrupt Man's body and soul.

    No fantasy role-playing setting is complete without vikings, and the Chaos-worshipping Norsicans of the Old World are more savage and brutal than any medieval chronicler of Scandinavian pirates could have imagined.

    Finally there are the Chaos Warriors. Chaos Warriors are FUCKING METAL incarnate.
"Death and Chaos" by Kendrick Lim

    In honor of the sheer awesomeness that is the Old World, this blog hereby designates Warhammer Wednesday.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Mythras Monday - Sanity for Mythras / RuneQuest 6

For those who want a Sanity mechanic in their RuneQuest game, there are several options to choose from.

"Fear and Madness" - Necromancy for RuneQuest II from Mongoose
"Sanity" - Renaissance Deluxe from Cakebread & Walton
"Psychological Stability" - Luther Arkwright for RuneQuest6 from Design Mechanism

And of course the first RPG to feature a Sanity mechanic - Call of Cthulhu. From my perspective using CoC's Sanity system has an important advantage - every creature from the "Cthulhu Mythos" is already stated for it.

Here's my tweak on the CoC Sanity system. Link to the pdf - Sanity

Characters have a number of Sanity Points equal to their POW x 5 ½. The actual Sanity check is made with a Willpower roll.

   Since beginning characters will typically begin with a high Sanity rating (POW 13 = Sanity 72) and relatively low Willpower rating (POW 13 = Willpower 26), this has the effect of new characters being well-adjusted, but somewhat soft and vulnerable to psychological trauma. As a character becomes more experienced he tends to become both mentally hardened and scarred by his travails, accordingly his Willpower increases and his Sanity erodes.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Cthulhu Cthursday

 "Cthulhu" by Douzen

   I've recently been listening to an outstanding Call of Cthulhu actual play podcast - How We Roll. The quality, editing, sound effects and incidental music are all exceptionally well done, and the whole cast is very entertaining. IMO How We Roll is one of the best AP podcasts on the web, give 'em a listen.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Mythras Monday - Combat Styles for Renaissance Europe

Here are some Combat Styles I created for my Renaissance Europe campaign, along with some unofficial houserules how Combat Styles grant Combat Traits. "By the book" each Combat Style seems to be limited to a single Combat Trait, whereas my variation assigns multiple traits to a single style, but with some restrictions (see "Learning Combat Traits" below). 

Links to relevant pdfs - Combat Styles, Combat Style Traits

Learning Combat Styles

Cultural Combat Styles

Cultural combat styles are broadly available to any character of the appropriate cultural background and social status.

Brawling, Common Defense, Knightly Art of Combat, Peasant Levy, Pugilism, Stick Fighting – Quarterstaffing, Swordsmanship – English, Swordsmanship – French (Lutte des Épée), Swordsmanship, German (Fechten), Swordsmanship – Hungarian, Swordsmanship – Italian (Arte della Spada), Swordsmanship – Scottish, Swordsmanship – Spanish (La Verdadera Destreza), Trained Militia – Archer, Trained Militia – Infantry, Woodland Hunter, Wrestling

Professional Combat Styles

Professional combat styles are related to a particular vocation, and generally are only learned by characters of the appropriate career.

Brawling – Sailor, Coraiocht, Knightly Art of Combat, Swordsmanship – English, Swordsmanship – French (Lutte des Épée), Swordsmanship, German (Fechten), Swordsmanship – Hungarian, Swordsmanship – Italian (Arte della Spada), Swordsmanship – Scottish, Swordsmanship – Spanish (La Verdadera Destreza), Trained Guard, Trained Mercenary – Balkan (Stratioti), Trained Mercenary – German (Landsknecht), Trained Mercenary – German (Landsknecht – Doppelsöldner), Trained Mercenary – Scottish (Gallóglaigh), Trained Mercenary – Swiss, Trained Militia – Archer, Trained Militia – Infantry, Trained Militia – Turkish (Akinci), Trained Militia – Turkish (Sipahi), Trained Soldier – Turkish (Janissary), Woodland Hunter

Specialty Combat Styles

Specialty combat styles are unusual fighting arts that typically must be learned by studying under a particular weapons master.

Arte dell'Abbraccio, Arte del combattimento del Maestro Fiore de Liberi, Dagger Fighting – Italian (Arte della Daga) or German (Dolchfechten), Fechten und Ringen von Meister Liechtenaur, Knife Fighting – Italian (Arte del Coltello), Knife Fighting - Spanish (Lucha con Cuchillo), Manus Nigrum

Learning Combat Traits

A character may choose to learn one Combat Trait for every 20 points he has in the relevant Combat Style. Some Combat Styles prioritize certain traits over others. Traits accompanied by a number must be learned in order, from lowest to highest, before traits without a number may be chosen.

Combat Styles

Arte dell'Abbraccio

Weapons - Unarmed

Traits - Cautious Fighter, Excellent Footwork, Iron Holds1, Joint Locking2, Knockout, Unarmed Prowess2

Arte del combattimento del Maestro Fiore de Liberi

Weapons - Unarmed, Dagger, Falchion, Flail, Longsword, Mace, Poleaxe, Quarterstaff, Shortspear, Shortsword, Buckler, Heater Shield

Traits - Defensive Minded1, Excellent Footwork, Joint Locking, Swashbuckling, Unarmed Prowess1, Unarmed Throws2


Weapons - Unarmed, Club, Hatchet, Knife

Traits - Do or Die, Impromptu Weapons1, Knockout, Knockout Blow

Brawling, Sailor

Weapons - Unarmed, Club, Cutlass, Gaff, Gaff Hook, Harpoon, Hatchet, Knife, Net, Sabre, Buckler

Traits - Excellent Footwork1, Impromptu Weapons, Intimidating Scream, Swashbuckling, Throw Weapons

Common Defense

Weapons - Unarmed, Bill, Club, Flail, Hatchet, Quarterstaff, Thrown Rock

Traits - Defensive Minded, Impromptu Weapons1, Throw Weapons, Unarmed Prowess


Weapons - Unarmed, Club, Great Club, Shillelagh, Viking Shield

Traits - Batter Aside1, Berserker, Intimidating Scream, Knockout1, Shield Wall1, Shield Splinter, Skirmishing

Dagger Fighting, Italian (Arte della Daga) or German (Dolchfechten)

Weapons - Unarmed, Dagger

Traits - Cautious Fighter, Defensive Minded1, Joint Locking, Unarmed Prowess1, Unarmed Throws

Fechten und Ringen von Meister Liechtenaur

Weapons - Unarmed, Battleaxe, Dagger, Flamberge, Flail, Longsword, Mace, Poleaxe, Sabre, Smallsword, Buckler, Heater Shield

Traits - Batter Aside, Defensive Minded1, Joint Locking, Unarmed Prowess2, Unarmed Throws

Knife Fighting, Italian (Arte del Coltello)

Weapons - Unarmed, Knife

Traits - Cautious Fighter1, Excellent Footwork, Joint Locking, Unarmed Prowess2, Unarmed Throws

Knife Fighting, Spanish (Lucha con Cuchillo)

Weapons - Unarmed, Dagger, Knife

Traits - Cautious Fighter1, Daredevil Matador1, Excellent Footwork, Flamboyance, Swashbuckling, Unarmed Prowess2

Knightly Art of Combat

Weapons - Unarmed, Ball & Chain, Lance, Longsword, Mace, Poleaxe, Military Pick, Heater Shield

Traits - Batter Aside, Mounted Combat1, Mounted Lancer2, Swashbuckling, Trained Beast, Unarmed Prowess

Manus Nigrum

Weapons - Unarmed, Club, Dagger, Dart, Garotte, Light Crossbow, Shortsword

Traits - Assassination, Cautious Fighter, Hidden Weapons, Knockout Blow, Poisoner

Peasant Levy

Weapons - Bill, Club, Dagger, Great Axe, Flail, Shortspear, Shortbow

Traits - Impromptu Weapons, Shield Splinter


Weapons - Unarmed, Knuckledusters

Traits - Batter Aside, Cautious Fighter1, Do or Die1, Excellent Footwork, Knockout1

Stick Fighting, Quarterstaffing

Weapons - Quarterstaff

Traits - Defensive Minded1, Excellent Footwork, Knockout Blow

Swordsmanship, English

Weapons - Dagger, Longsword, Rapier, Smallsword, Buckler

Traits - Defensive Minded1, Excellent Footwork, Swashbuckling

Swordsmanship, French (Lutte des Épée)

Weapons - Main Gauche, Rapier, Smallsword

Traits - Cautious Fighter1, Excellent Footwork, Flamboyance, Swashbuckling

Swordsmanship, German (Fechten)

Weapons - Broadsword, Dagger, Longsword

Traits - Batter Aside, Defensive Minded1, Excellent Footwork, Swashbuckling

Swordsmanship, Hungarian

Weapons - Sabre

Traits - Cautious Fighter1, Flamboyance, Swashbuckling

Swordsmanship, Italian (Arte della Spada)

Weapons - Club, Main Gauche, Rapier, Buckler

Traits - Defensive Minded1, Do or Die2, Excellent Footwork, Flamboyance, Swashbuckling

Swordsmanship, Scottish

Weapons - Broadsword, Dagger, Great Sword, Target Shield

Traits - Batter Aside1, Do or Die1, Swashbuckling

Swordsmanship, Spanish (La Verdadera Destreza)

Weapons - Rapier

Traits - Cautious Fighter1, Daredevil Matador1, Excellent Footwork, Swashbuckling

Trained Guard

Weapons - Halberd, Mace, Shortspear, Shortsword, Buckler, Light Crossbow

Traits - Knockout Blow, Mancatcher, Spear Phalanx

Trained Mercenary, Balkan (Stratioti)

Weapons - Dagger, Lance, Sabre, Recurve Bow, Heater Shield

Traits - Formation Fighting2, Mounted Combat1, Mounted Lancer, Skirmishing

Trained Mercenary, German (Landsknecht)

Weapons - Heavy Crossbow, Flamberge, Longsword, Shortsword, Pike, Buckler

Traits - Crossbow Handling, Pike Phalanx1, Reload Drill2

Trained Mercenary, German (Landsknecht - Doppelsöldner)

Weapons - Halberd, Partisan, Great Sword

Traits - Batter Aside2, Cautious Fighter, Formation Fighting1

Trained Mercenary, Scottish (Gallóglaigh)

Weapons - Dagger, Great Axe, Great Sword, Longspear, Morningstar, Javelin, Short Bow

Traits - Batter Aside, Berserker, Pike Phalanx1, Intimidating Scream, Shield Splinter, Skirmishing

Trained Mercenary, Swiss

Weapons - Heavy Crossbow, Halberd, Pike, Shortsword

Traits - Crossbow Handling, Pike Phalanx1, Reload Drill2, Siege Warfare

Trained Militia, Archer

Weapons - Shortsword, Shortbow, Target Shield

Traits - Longshot2, Ranged Marksman, Reload Drill1, Skirmishing

Trained Militia, Infantry

Weapons - Broadsword, Glaive, Pike, Shortspear, Shortsword, Buckler

Traits - Pike Phalanx1, Skirmishing

Trained Militia, Turkish (Akinci)

Weapons - Battleaxe, Dagger, Lance, Scimitar, Recurve Bow, Buckler

Traits - Formation Fighting, Longshot2, Mounted Combat1, Mounted Lancer, Skirmishing

Trained Militia, Turkish (Sipahi)

Weapons - Dagger, Mace, Scimitar, Recurve Bow, Buckler

Traits - Formation Fighting2, Longshot2, Mounted Combat1, Mounted Lancer2, Trained Beast

Trained Soldier, Turkish (Janissary)

Weapons - Unarmed, Dagger, Falchion, Mace, Scimitar, Recurve Bow, Buckler

Traits - Formation Fighting1, Longshot2, Ranged Marksman, Reload Drill, Siege Warfare

Woodland Hunter

Weapons - Hatchet, Knife, Short Bow

Traits - Longshot, Ranged Marksman


Weapons - Unarmed

Traits - Excellent Footwork, Iron Holds1, Joint Locking, Unarmed Throws