'Barbarism is the natural state of mankind,' the borderer said, still staring somberly at the Cimmerian. 'Civilization is unnatural. It is a whim of circumstance. And barbarism must always ultimately triumph.'

-Robert E. Howard
Beyond The Black River

Showing posts with label dungeons and Dragons. Show all posts
Showing posts with label dungeons and Dragons. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Episode 89: Desert Ruins!

Welcome back! I recently decided to do full terrain at conventions, and because of this, I found myself in need of a few new desert ruin pieces. I decided I should video the build and put out a youtube video for it!


I have provided a table of contents to take you to the pertinent locations in the video you may be interested in.
The ruins will be built from XPS and based on MDF board.

Needed:
  • MDF Base (1/4")
  • XPS Foam
  • PVA GLue.
  • Hot Glue.
  • Sand.
  • Various colors of brown from dark to light.
  • Black paint.
  • Gloss varnish.
  • You will also need Sculptamold,
I mentioned a few other things that I used at the convention that I thought people might be interested in as well.

18" Lazy Susan for Ultimate Dungeon Terrain
Amazon Fire HD 10

These last three links take you to Amazon, which gives me a small commission on each sale, helping to support the blog.

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Friday, February 15, 2019

Friday's Forgotten Fiends: The Essence of Beyond

Welcome back to another installment of Friday's Forgotten Fiends! Custom monsters for your RPG table feature stat blocks for Conan 2d20 and Dungeons and Dragons 5e as well as paper 28mm miniatures and VTT tokens!

The candles flickered in the circle around the old wizard. His blade was raised above him in symbolism of ritual sacrifice. The bronze bowl before him held the still warm heart of some unfortunate soul, either human or a large animal, only he knew. with his circle of power intact, his sacrifice prepared he began the chant in some long forgotten tongue taught to him by his ancient master so many years ago.

He had enemies, and he intended to summon a dark thing to do his bidding and have is revenge. He would no longer be the laughing stock in his village. He would show them all the power he possessed! After chanting for what seemed like an eternity he felt the very veil grow thin as the air around him grew cold, and in a final motion his blade struck down into the heart completing the ritual and unleashing the dark forces all around him.

He could almost hear the great tear open between our two world, as the gash opened, and he called forth his creature. Within moments a dark smoke like foot stepped through the tear, fel energy swirling and coalescing around it.

The last thing he saw was a claw of smoke and a mouth filled with row after row of gleaming white teeth. The chamber was filled with the protests and then screams of the wizard as the dark thing took it's price for his desires. When it had had it's fill of his flesh the thing stood and left the chamber, off to do what it was summoned to do. Behind it the great portal slowly stitched itself back together, and in a moment all that remained was the wizard's body as it was slowly consumed by the remnants of the dark energy that game through with the beast. In moments what can only be described as the Essence of Beyond remained, hungry and angry.

These blobs of malignant energy are the remnants of dark sorcery gone wrong, a merger of the one who summoned forth the magic, and the magic itself. They are a manifestation of the outer dark made physical in our world. Typically found on old places of power such as a ruined temple or ancient sunken city, these things feed on our world, and especially on the life forms in our world. These being simple manifestations of power have coalesced into semi-sentient and hostile creatures. Although having no magic themselves, and being relatively easily vanquished, their very nature can make them difficult to pin down and strike, and in that process many warriors have fallen to these.

Conan 2d20

D&D 5e

VTT Tokens

Paper Minis!

And finally paper minis!


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Friday, February 8, 2019

Friday's Forgotten Fiends: The Boar of Nergal

Welcome back to another installment of Friday's Forgotten Fiends! Custom monsters for your RPG table feature stat blocks for Conan 2d20 and Dungeons and Dragons 5e as well as paper 28mm miniatures and VTT tokens!

The shepherd lounged under a large tree. The air was warm and clear and the sun shone down bright across the meadow lands. A small flock of sheep munched happily on the green grass emitting only the occasional bleating. Arvad was happy with things, predators had been few and far between and his flock grew fat providing wool and food for his family and money for his pockets.

In an instant everything had changed, the throng of sheep broken and running in all directions as a Boar or Nergal stalked into their midst killing what would surely be more than its fat belly could eat. It seemed to be killing for sport as much as anything, a keen intelligence in its eyes as it turned and spotted Arvad. With a low growl it stalked towards the small man, sitting shocked beneath the tree.

In a smooth action Arvad took up his spear and slid to his feet slowly as the monster continued its slow methodical approach. Leveling the spear, the shepherd planted the spear at his feet as he waited for the infernal creature to come for him. The beast continued its slow approach and as it did its true size began to show itself, easily as tall as a man at the shoulders, gleaming red eyes and yellowed teeth and tusks glistened in the sun, now stained with the blood of his sheep. With a slight pause the massive head is lowered and in a flash nearly one thousand pounds of predator charged towards him. Arvad could do nothing but grip the spear tighter, aim its point, close his eyes and pray to Mitra.......

The giant pig like creatures are some long forgotten remnant of a time best left forgotten, when giant beasts ruled over the lands. They generally favor the northern plains of Shem where the pastoral lands meet the low foothills of the Mountains of Khoraja. Although these creatures are generally solitary they live in small loose knit herd-like communities, coming across one means more are almost certainly nearby. Named for the dark god of death, Nergal, these creatures, although resembling boars are actually fierce predators. It is not uncommon to see them hunt the largest game.

This beast is based on the real life animal known as the "HELL PIG", but I didn't want to simply call it that, I wanted something more... Hyborian. So I went out onto the Internet and looked up gods, I found a nice list on Xoth.net. I did perhaps make a small error in ONLY using that site as it uses all sources for the Hyborian Age, not just REH. There is nothing wrong with that, but I would prefer to use REH as a first source and pastiches as a second source.

Do not worry though, as I found a story fragment on the Internet this morning, The Hand of Nergal, which makes me cheer a little in that the name I have chosen is both fairly fitting and REH.

Don't forget to scroll all the way to the end to see a new feature I am looking to add to these to supplement the stat blocks and VTT tokens!

Alright as Matt from Rogues in the House loves to say....

"ENOUGH TALK!"

Conan 2d20

D&D 5e

VTT Tokens

Paper Minis!

And finally paper minis!


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Friday, February 1, 2019

Friday's Forgotten Fiends: Child of Nethuns.

Welcome back to another installment of Friday's Forgotten Fiends! Custom monsters for your RPG table feature stat blocks for Conan 2d20 and Dungeons and Dragons 5e as well VTT tokens!

The torch light revealed the large vaulted chamber as it slowly slid across the ancient stone. The chamber was buried deep in the mountains, part of an ancient fortress, or so the stories went. The trio of explorers, Dagen, Epas and Volmastes, entered through a small doorway set in the western wall, searching for gold and jewels. Light danced along the walls of this room amplified by the large natural pool of water that sat at its center. Slowly as the torchlight was cast across the room small objects near the pool became visible. Volmastes approached the pool and stooped to investigate and found small candles and bits of parchments. The water rippled as if by wind or a bubble being released far below. The torch, brought forward by the other two, did nothing to illuminate the depths of the inky pool.

Suddenly the trio was flung back from the pool as....SOMETHING...erupted from the depths. A mass of tentacles, large and small, studded with claws writhed in the air, pausing momentarily before striking at the awe stricken party. Living ropes of flesh and talons raked at the three adventurers, slicing and grabbing them, one slid around Volmastes and pulled him, struggling, towards the pool. Dagen drawing steel and striking with the skill of a Master of Iado, felt her blade sink in and through the large tentacle, freeing her friend. The remains of the tentacle fell heavily to the cold stone floor, dark ichor leaking everywhere. Epas turned towards Dagen in time to see what was left of the vanquished tentacle erupt into smaller versions of itself, it struck and slashed and wrapped around her with the fierce speed and strength of a jungle cat....

These creatures are never seen fully. Only their appendages that erupt from a body of water to attack and rend the flesh of adventurers. These creatures are often the result of dark magic and pacts between sorcerers and the forgotten gods of the deep, with especially strong links to the worship of Dagon.

They attacked from a fixed body of water, able to move freely within that water and look like a black/red group of triangular shaped tentacles with talons or teeth lining the underside. Smaller tentacles are sound with a similar claw at each end used to penetrate hard prey.

Although the beast is associated with Dagon, I chose to name it a child of Nethuns, a personal bastardization of the god, "Neptune". Players may get it with some thought if you even reveal the name, but it won't be an obvious reveal as to the origins and what the beast represents.

As always below you will find stats for 2d20 and D&D5e for both major and minor tentacles of this horrific beast.

Conan 2d20


D&D 5e

VTT TOKENS!



NOW WITH PAPERMINIS!


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Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Adventure Wednesday: The d6 Outpost

On the far reaches of the kingdom sits a small fort. Its only purpose is to guard the border and warn of approaching threats from the west. The land is desolate and the soldiers stationed here rely on supplies from the nearest city, some two days hard ride away. This place is isolated and those unlucky enough to be here spend day after day looking out at nothing......

Welcome to Adventure Wednesday! Last week we started Story Seed Tuesday. I decided I should move this to Wednesdays so I could have my efforts to create weekly content more spread out across the week. This is our first Wednesday installment and I already though I would do something a little different. If you like this idea, I will see about including some roll tables with future adventure ideas. As we go forward the blog will end up with a good store house of adventure roll tables to go along with the monsters of Friday's Forgotten Fiends!

Stories about an isolated outpost or ship are common place and work equally well for sci-fi and fantasy. Players can either be stationed there when things start to go wrong, or they could be responding to word of something bad, perhaps the last supply train never returned?

Today I am going to provide a few roll tables that will allow you as the GM to generate a quick plot you can use to build an adventure around. The tables are setting agnostic and should work as well for D&D 5e as they do for The upcoming Expanse RPG by Green Ronin Games.

Step 1: Roll for the outpost type.
1d6 Roll
Result
Goods, Cost Modifier
Number of goods
1
2
3
4
5
6
Guardpost
Gateway
Place of Study
Isolated Community
Trade Outpost
Religious Order
-2, +20%, 3
0, +10%, 2
+2, +10%, 2
0, +20%, 1
0, +10%, 4
0, +20%, 2

Step 2: Make a number of rolls equal to the "Number of Goods" rolled in Step 1. Modify these rolls by the "Goods Modifier".
1d6 Roll +
Goods Modifier
Result
1
2
3
4
5
6
Weapons
Armor
Food
Lodging
Basic Goods
Lore about the Area

Step 3: Determine the environment the outpost exists in. Make sure to note if this is a fantasy or a sci-fi outpost.
1d6 Roll
Location
1
2
3
4
5
6
Edge of Kingdom/Deep Space
Rocky Area/Asteroids
Coast Line/Gas Giant
Forests/Rocky Moon
Deserts/Lagrange Station
Mountains/Class M Planet

Step 4: Determine a basic plot
1d6 Roll
Location
1
2
3
4
5
6
Attacked by Enemy Faction (Military, pirates, etc)
Attacked by Natural Enemy (Wild animals, alien organisms)
Natural Catastrophic Event (Earthquakes, asteroid strikes)
Plague (Disease outbreak, Zombies, Mutations)
Betrayal (Higher up at outpost has sold it out)
Outpost has been taken over in secret (Enemies unknown to the players now control the outpost)

Step 5: How are the players involved?
1d6 Roll
Location
1
2
3
4
5
6
Relief Effort
Stationed at Outpost
Sent to Investigate
Escort to or From Outpost
Evacuation of Outpost
Rescue Mission
Infiltration


Now that we have a few fun tables to roll on, let's generate a few story ideas!
Setting
Type
Goods
Location
What is happening?
How are the characters involved?
Fantasy
Trade Outpost
+20% cost
Weapons, Armor, Lodging, Basic Goods
Edge of the Kingdom
Natural catastrophic event.
Sent to Investigate the cause of the event
Sci-Fi
Religious Order
+0% cost
Basic Goods, Lore about the Area
Asteroid Base
Attacked by a natural enemy
Evacuation
Fantasy
Religious Order
+0% cost
Weapons, Food
Mountains
Attacked by an enemy faction
Members of the order, or hire as guards
Sci-fi
Gateway
+10% cost
Lodging, Lore about Area
Lagrange station
Attacked by an enemy faction
Rescue Mission

There you have it. Four super quick story idea seeds and a set of table to generate a lot more all revolving around an isolated outpost.

If you liked this article then don't forget to subscribe to get the next exciting installment on pulp gaming both Sci-Fi and Fantasy!

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Friday, January 25, 2019

Friday's Forgotten Fiends: The Hyperborean Monoceros

Welcome back to another installment of Friday's Forgotten Fiends! Custom monsters for your RPG table feature stat blocks for Conan 2d20 and Dungeons and Dragons 5e as well as VTT tokens!


The "ice age" and it's mega fauna are ripe for inclusion in a setting like the Hyborian Age. They fit so well that they are already common in sword and sorcery and even in the Hyborian Age itself; From mammoths in Conan Exiles and Age of Conan to the saber-tooth tigers written by Howard himself in Beyond the Black River. I am not one to stand back and think, what if.....

This past week Logan of "Rogues In the House" Podcast posted a picture from a facebook group about ice age mega fauna: The Siberian Unicorn. This thing is a great giant rhino the size of a mammoth! How could I not stat it up and bring it to life on the northern planes of Hyperborea or Hyrkania.

Not only am I providing some stats worked up for Conan 2d20, but also for Dungeons and Dragons 5e! So if you have friends who play either, don't forget to point them my way! As always following the stat blocks will be a token for use with your favorite VTT.

His labored breath produced a cloud in front of him. His hands gripped tightly around the wooden shaft and he wondered, not for the first time, why he had come to this frozen hell of Hyperborean tundra. The great beast stood in the ruins of his camp, its cold eyes staring at him, seemingly oblivious to the blood soaked into it's thick coat. The beast snorted, its own white haze billowing from its nostrils. Conal involuntarily took a step back, trying to grip the spear even harder.

Suddenly the great beast lowered it's head and with it, the single monstrous horn protruding from its forehead. The beast's charge shook the earth as it thundered towards the single man. Conal braced himself and, at the last second, avoided the wicked horn, but not the the enormity of the creatures gigantic head, which bashed him aside like a child's doll. With reflexes that only a life long warrior might possesses, he rolled up and struck with the spear. He felt the point resist and then slip deep into the beast just behind the shoulder. With a last mournful cry the great behemoth sunk to the earth motionless.

Conal stood, bloodied and bruised, and scanned the remains of his camp. As he surveyed the destruction his eyes caught movement and as he turned four more of the great shaggy beasts appeared out of the night, the remains of the herd, called by the death cries of one of their own............



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Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Story Seed Tuesday: Suns

Welcome to the first of a new weekly series we are going to try on Starships & Steel, "Story Seed Tuesday".

Whether you play Dungeons and Dragons 5e, Rifts or Traveller I hope you find a story idea in one of these articles.

Starships

Articles like this began to pop-up recently: Sun will Turn Into a Solid Crystal

WOAH. When I first saw these pop-up I was blown away, I'm pretty sure I haven't encountered that in sci-fi, and immediately my mind turned to a small starship on approach to a massive crystal hanging infront of it in the heavens.

  • Did this crystallization cause a civilization to die?
  • Did an advanced species mine the ancient star?
  • Is the crystal integral to the villain's doomsday machine?
  • Is something alive in the giant crystal?
  • Is it a backdrop to a giant orbital station?

Steel

Giant crystalline suns will be hard to beat, but lets keep suns as the theme of the day.

As you move towards the poles of our world the days and nights become increasingly long depending on the time of the year. Far enough north and the darkness is eternal for half of the year. To people who don't understand science this concept on any world is rife with ideas.

  • The yearly darkness is spreading further south.
  • Some dark creature emerges from it's lair to hunt during the darkness.
  • Sorcery is at it's height at this time, the wizard must be stopped.
  • Every year champions are sent north to fight back the darkness.



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Monday, January 7, 2019

The Search for Clues: How I approached Investigation in Conan 2d20

Introduction

Whenever I write a new adventure for my players I try and include things that are not simply hack and slash. Ways for members less adept at combat to shine and have a great time. I have worked with placing "Trials" into combat situations so the non-combat characters can contribute in a more meaningful way. I like the idea, but often my party tunnel vision's on monsters and villains and won't do anything else until they are vanquished. Generally what I want the trials to do, don't work in this situation.

In my last adventure I wanted the players to start their adventure arriving at an abandoned Asgard village. They would need to investigate the village and figure out what had likely happened and go forward with the adventure from there. Previously i've had things in the adventure that were available for players to find, maybe some ancient script on the wall that would reveal some deeper meaning to the dungeon they were in, add some more COOL to it. Nothing that really *NEEDED* to be found to progress.

With an investigation you want your players to look around and find clues, and then use those clues to draw conclusions about what they should do. If you make this difficult they might not find those clues and end up with no way to progress. What to do!? Well I, like you, went out to the Internet and read a few articles and watched a few videos on running investigative games. What I came up with is the idea that there should be some clues that are going to be found if the players walk into a place and do a cursory examination. These clues are the most basic information the players need to move forward with the plot. Other clues are there and can be found which will add information or a better path for the players.

The Clues

Since running the adventure I have had time to think about this methodology for investigation and might do a larger adventure with it, but until then I will tell you about how I broke down my clues. I felt each clue should have a few basic elements: where it could be found, what skill was used to uncover it, what difficulty it was, what was the result of finding it and what was the result of not finding it.

Finding & Using the Clues

I later decided that all clues should be found with an observation test, and once found a further test could be used to determine something useful from them. This way a player is always rolling against the same skill without the clue being hinted at. This will also allow the keen eyed character to find tracks and the expert tracker to follow them, allowing more non-combat team work for the party. ie A player makes a D1 Observation test to see the tracks, followed by a second D1 Survival test to learn about them. Of course common sense needs to be used, if the clue is a testimony from a dieing man, you probably don't need to find him.

There are times when you will want players to use a certain skill to gain knowledge about the clue, but what if they don't have that skill? Sometimes a secondary skill can be useful. If they found animal tracks, but don't have survival, you may want to allow them to use a skill like Observation, but probably with a higher difficulty.

Setting up the Clues

With this knowledge let's set up the clues following a set of five basic steps.
  1. Crime Scene: Describe what happened. This will give you a good founding of what went on in the scene and why clues are what and where they are. We see this all the time in detective and police shows, but from the other end, where the main characters have found clues and have pieced back together their version of the events that placed them there.
  2. Key Clues: Identify the key clues the players will need to find to lead them to the next phase of the adventure.
  3. Negative Effect Clues: Pick out things from the description that are key and build clues around them that might have negative consequences if not found.
  4. Informational Clues: Pick out further informational clues that have no real long term effect on the adventure.
  5. Red Herrings: Maybe a few clues scattered about to lead the players astray, and make things more difficult.
Step 1: Crime Scene.
Evening falls, and as most nights recently the village is huddled around their central fire pit for comfort and security. Something has been stalking them. Finally they hear a low growl as a giant cat appears on the edge of the fire light, with terror the villagers panic and run. Only the Shaman stands to stop the beast, striding forward he commands it to stop. He is struck down where he stands, as a giant claws tear through his flesh. The cat stalks the people while small dark humanoids chitter with glee as they pull down and bind villagers, the ones they do not capture escape into the cold night. The cat and the children of the night escape out towards the mountains, with the villagers for sacrifice by their Master on the coming Solstice. A light snow beings to fall..

Step 2: Key clues.
We know we need the players to find evidence that will lead them to the mountain. The easiest one is the tracks the cat and the little people leave behind, but with the commotion I think tracks might be harder to find, especially with the snow that had begun to fall. Instead we will see that the villagers have been stalked for sometime. Our first clue will be notes written by the chieftain about sending a party to the mountains and other similar information to make the players believe the mountain is important. We will place this note in the Chieftain's hut.

Clue
Location
Skill & Difficulty
Found
Not Found
Chieftain's Notes Chief's Hut Observ. D0 Notes describe The Chief's council with the village
shaman about omens in the mountains.
A party of warriors investigated and found
ruins of an ancient fortress inhabited by snow apes.
N/A

Players entering the hut and making a basic cursory look into the place will find this clue. It is possible they don't search all the huts and in the end don't find this clue and end up not knowing what to do. As much as I recognize this to be a possibility, I think players who have not found a plot hook and haven't searched all the huts deserve to be stumped a little bit. In short I think they should have to do something to get the clue, even if once that is done there is no dice rolled.

Step 3: Negative Effect Clues.
Now that we have this basic clue let's work from there. We know the cat and little people and villagers would leave tracks. We can make it more interesting by placing this clue in a few areas, maybe in the village where they are hard to find and outside the village where they are easier to find. If the players find this clue we should reward them, maybe give them a safer, faster way to the mountain fortress.

Clue
Location
Skill & Difficulty
Found
Not Found
Animal Tracks Outside the Village Observ. D1 ->
Survival D3
Observ. D5
Tracks of a large animal lead away.
Players use the easy passage through the ruins.
Players use the dangerous passage through the ruins.
Animal Tracks Inside the Village Observ. D1 ->
Survival D1
Observ. D3
Tracks are obscured by other tracks in the village
Tracks of a large animal lead away
Players use the easy passage through the ruins.
Players use the dangerous passage through the ruins.

We had a couple of other things happen in our description. One was the shaman being struck down. Perhaps he managed to drag himself to his hut and as the beast crashed in to finish the job, he managed to ward it off with some spell or alchemy? We can add clues to handle this as well.

Clue
Location
Skill & Difficulty
Found
Not Found
Blood Entrance to Village Observ. D1
Covered in snow
Blood stains in the snow.
Lead to Shaman's Hut
No effect.
Shaman Shaman's hut Auto find ->
Healing D1
Persuade D2
Tells of the battle with the cat &
solstice sacrifice.
Cat doesn't cause FEAR 1 when
the players encounter it.
+1M Gives the players a talisman
to ward off the cat.
On a failed test:
Shaman croaks a single word, "The Mountain."
and dies.
Star Charts Shaman's hut Observ. D1 ->
Lore D1
Observation D3
Shows how far away the solstice is.
Solstice is one day closer than previously determined.

Now we have three clues associated with the Shaman, one simply leads the players to him, and the others provide information and perhaps a little bit of advantage if the investigation here goes very well. I haven't included basic things such as claw marks on the body or the damage on the hut, but things like this should be improvised pretty easily based on your knowledge of what happened here.

Step 4: Informational Clues.
We also know there was struggles and villagers being bound and taken against their will. Players will probably make this assumption, especially based on other clues, but you can sprinkle a few things around the village to given them a deeper investigation.

Clue
Location
Skill & Difficulty
Found
Not Found
Bindings Next to one of the huts Observ. D1
Covered in snow
Iron shackles with arcane
glyphs.
No Effect
Small footprints Around village Observ. D3 -> Survival D2 One of the Children of the Night
erupts from the snow and attacks.
No Effect

Step 5: Red Herrings.
We know villagers ran off into the night from our look at the crime scene. We know not all were taken by the wizard. What happened to them?
Clue
Location
Skill & Difficulty
Found
Not Found
Blood West of the Village Observ. D1 ->
Observ. D2
Survival D1
Covered in snow
Blood stain leading southwest.
See BEAR ENCOUNTER if followed
No Effect

With a fairly simple crime scene description we are able to come up with 9 clues of varying merit, and at least one that will lead the characters the right direction. Hopefully this will give you some inspiration on ways to add clues and investigation into your own game. If you do I would love to hear how it worked out! Of course if you have other ideas or comments on this methodology please drop me a comment below.


If you liked this article then don't forget to subscribe to get the next exciting installment on pulp gaming both Sci-Fi and Fantasy!

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If you need to check out any of these great games stop on by DriveThruRPG and pick something up through my affiliate link to help support the blog!

Till next time, don't forget to Keep it Weird!

Monday, December 10, 2018

NPCs: A Codified Approach to the Man on the Street.

In a general session of play, you as GM may have a series of NPCs that you are aware of. A cast of characters you expect your players to interact with. You have an idea about them and how the interaction will go. You have at least some idea of how the social encounter will work. This article is generally not about those cases, although it may act as a guide to flesh those characters out if you generally haven't and have trouble figuring out how you want to role play them.

This is an approach to NPCs that will hopefully help you have better social interactions between your players and the cast of characters that populate your world. Not just the few have prepared in advance but everyone the PCs encounter. They are, after all, representing people with their own lives and aspirations, even if the PCs only encounter them during a single session. I am going to present a basic framework to help you give your NPCs more life, more direction, which in turn will allow you as the GM to role play them better.

It's easy to want to boil these encounters down to a single roll of the die or an opposed test and go from there, and I won't tell you this doesn't have it's place. Instead this framework will allow you to use these rolls and give these NPCs desires to resist, or be difficult. Should the random guy on the street be as willing to help as someone the PCs have known, will bribing them be a way to get more information? I believe that simply boiling the encounter to a simple set of dice rolls is short changing a potentially rich encounter that may lead down different paths. Maybe that dancer they just tried to get information from is actually in cahoots with the villian and is laying a trap for the PCs? The possibilities!

The Framework

I see us needing to have a few known things to really flesh out the NPCs: What do they want? What is their disposition towards the players and what motivates the them? Certainly you can answer more questions about them, but I think knowing these three simple things will allow you to really add some realism to these people.

The Disposition of the NPC

If we accept the NPCs disposition is separate from their personality or charisma, then we must define it. Mechanically I see a scale, in the middle I see someone who is neutral, who just doesn't care. They might help. They might not. For this I think a simple social test at a basic difficulty is a fine way to determine if the NPC will be somewhat helpful or disinterested. I don't see this as an outward showing by the NPC towards the players, simply a concept of how easily they can be swayed.

As we move away from the middle of the scale we get the two basic dispositions you might encounter: positive and negative. One end of the scale is an NPC who thinks of the PCs as good friends and is willing to help them, go out of the way for them, maybe even endanger themselves. On the other end is an NPC who is openly hostile or rude to the PCs. Someone who hates them and who might become something more to them in an antagonistic way in the future.

I would probably leave the far ends of the scales alone for random NPCs unless the PCs have had numerous positive or negative dealings with the NPC.

What does the NPC want?

What the NPC wants can have a direct impact on their disposition. If they want to steal or cause harm to the PCs they are more likely to have a negative disposition towards the PCs. Is the NPC someone who wants something from the players? Is he a merchant looking to sell, or perhaps someone who needs something recovered? Or do they just want to be left alone to go about their business, that is probably the case of the neutrally disposed NPC.

Knowing what the NPC wants is something we should determine first and from there we can use this to determine a more accurate disposition for the NPC.

The Motivation of the NPC

The thing that motivates the NPC is something a player can use to change her disposition in their favor making social encounters easier? Is it money? Money is probably a motivator for a lot of people and is the easiest one for the players to figure out. Bribing someone with cash can be the easiest way to change there disposition towards a character. Of course there is probably a few people out there that will see an attempted bribe as an insult and may move disposition away from the players.

Maybe something else motivates them though, which could make things more interesting: family, friends, trinkets, food, jewels. You can use these to help flesh out the NPC. If the NPC is motivated by jewels, perhaps she is adorned in several of them, or mentions them in conversation. Likewise someone motivated by fine wine, might be overweight, or have a winejug with them. These small details might be picked up by the players making observation tests to determine more information about the NPC.

The NPCs motivation might not be something useful at all. The motivation of someone not motivated by money, who will do anything for their family, might not be useful to the players, unless they can determine that and are willing to do something....unsavory.

Quick Random NPC Tables

Now that we have a framework to build NPCs from, sometimes when the players encounter someone, or force and encounter with someone you will need to determine something about that NPC beyond basic stats. A few quick tables and a roll of a few D6 can generate this quickly and easily.

You can of course simply pick how you want the NPC to act, or build their framework however you want, but we all like rolling dice.

What do they want?
1 - Left alone (+)
2 - Left alone (-)
3 - Help finding something (+)
4 - Help finding someone (+)
5 - Rob the PCs (-)
6 - Lure the PCs into a trap(--)
Disposition
1 - Negative
2 - Negative
3 - Neutral
4 - Neutral
5 - Positive
6 - Positive
Motivated by Money?
1 - No
2 - Yes
3 - Yes
4 - Yes, but expensive
5 - Yes, but expensive
6 - Expensive and insulted by low offers
Other Motivation
1 - None
2 - None
3 - Delicacies
4 - Jewels
5 - Trinkets
6 - Family

So we roll 4d6 and consult the tables to describe the social aspects of the NPC. You will not that under the column, "What do they want?" each entry has a (+) or a (-) on it. Each + or minus will shift the disposition one direction, one step. So a (+) would move a hostile disposition to neutral and likewise a (--) would move a positive disposition to a negative one.

Lets see this idea in action

Your players are on a mission to rescue the king's beautiful daughter, the Princess of Zamora. They haven't simply ridden out to the evil Wizard's mountain as you expected, instead they have decided to hit the local tavern and see if they can glean any information from the tavern goers.

You are not really prepared for this, but as a good GM you have a set of generic human stats just in case, but of course these are not all generic people. The party warrior approaches someone at the bar and engages them in conversation........You as the GM, quickly roll 4d6.....and roll: 4,4,5,6. Suddenly the random generic tavern goer is someone in need of help, perhaps his own kin has been taken by the wizard, or maybe a more mundane kidnapping, either way as the PCs approach he sees warriors and maybe hope in finding his lost friend or family. He will react positively to the PCs, at least initially, although he *IS* motivated by money, he is expensive, but can also be swayed by family.

Now we have more than just a block of stats, now we have a somewhat fleshed out NPC that we put together at the drop of a hat with a few rolls on a very basic set of tables. How many options these tables get is limited only by you imagination and the world the NPC lives in.

Until Next Time. Keep it Weird!

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Momentum in Conan 2d20! A Basic Guide to Spending Momentum in the Hyborian Age!

As we have discussed in this article on momentum, Momentum is a measure of success and a way to see that things are going in favor of the party. The mechanics around it have had questions raised about how and when it can be spent. This largely comes from the term "Immediate", and the two sources of momentum, personal and pool. We, myself included, have read far too much into how this works. The following is how I understand momentum within the Conan 2d20 rules and up until this morning, I would have described it differently.

Let's start with a few basic definitions.
  • Generated Momentum - Momentum generated from a successful test.
  • Pool Momentum - Momentum stored from another players successful test.
  • Immediate Spend - Can be used at anytime. You do not need to have had a successful skill test to use this spend.
  • Regular Spend - Spent after a successful skill test.

What kind of momentum can we spend on a given test?

Immediate Spend Regular Spend
Generated
Momentum
X
X
Pool
Momentum
X
X

Yes that is right. Momentum is momentum and can be used interchangeably. The real difference in these two types of spends is WHEN you can use them, and that may limit where the momentum comes from.

Immediate Spend Regular Spend
Successful Test
X
X
Unsuccessful Test/
No Skill Test
X


There is one more distinction between Immediate Spends and Regular Spends.

Immediate Spend Regular Spend
Bought with Doom?
YES
NO


For Example: Immediate Spend, No Skill Test
The group has stored 3 momentum in the pool and Dianan wants to roll more than 2 dice to attack the skeleton opposing her. Dianan at this time has not made a skill test, and so the only spends available to her are Immediate Spends. Dianan doesn't have any Generated Momentum because she hasn't rolled any dice yet. She can pull from the group pool using the "Create Opportunity" momentum spend which is an Immediate Spend.

For Example: Immediate Spend, Unsuccessful Skill Test
The group has stored 6 momentum in the pool. Dianan attacks the skeleton nearest her but misses! Her vigor is sitting at 2 and so she decides to use the Second Wind momentum spend, which is listed as an Immediate Spend. Again she is unable to use any Generated Momentum, simple because her attack failed and she has none. She can still spend all 6 points of Pool Momentum.

For Example: Immediate Spend, Successful Skill Test
The group has stored 1 momentum in the pool. Dianan continues her attack on the skeleton! She hits it and does enough damage to destroy it, in addition she has 2 points of Generated Momentum from the attack. She decides to use a Swift Action spend with her Generated Momentum. Her second attack she decides to roll an additional D20 using the Immediate Spend, Create Opportunity, with the last point of Pool Momentum
NOTE: She could have used the 1 point of Pool Momentum + 1 point of Generated Momentum for the Swift Action, and the last point of Generated Momentum for the Create Opportunity spend.

For Example: Regular Spend, Unsuccessful Skill Test
The group has stored 6 momentum in the pool. Dianan attacks the next skeleton nearest her but misses! She wants to use Swift Action to try and attack again, but since it is a Regular Spend, it requires a successful skill test. She is unable to use Swift Action.

For Example: Regular Spend, Successful Skill Test
The group has stored 1 momentum in the pool. In desperation Dianan strikes out again at the skeleton, but generates 0 momentum. Her damage fails to eliminate the skeleton and so She opts to use Swift Action, in an attempt to bash the skeleton with her shield. Since Swift Action with another weapon only costs 1 point of momentum, Dianan can use the Pool Momentum to make this Regular Spend.

I hope this quick guide helps you in your Hyborian Aged adventures! If you have questions or comments please drop them below. Maybe you disagree with this assessment of Immediate vs Regular Spends? Let me know!

Until Next Time. Keep it Weird!

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

A comparison of Savage Worlds and the 2d20 systems.

Last year sometimes I picked up the Savage World rules. I had heard they were good, and I knew they had done the Solomon Kane RPG based on these, which I still need to pick up. Despite all I had heard I didn't know very much about it. Other games reached back far enough into my youth and young adult days that I at least had a basic understanding of general mechanics. Savage Worlds was different. So I picked it up and I took a look.

I haven't played the rules, but I generally like the idea behind them, and as it turns out the most basic mechanic isn't totally new to me. If you are not familiar with the basic concept it is this. You need to roll 4+ on a die to get a success. How good or bad you are determines the type of die you roll. In the 15mm war game world there is a game called "Tomorrow's War" which works exactly like this.

There is of course more to the game, but one of the things that really struck me about it as I read it was the similarity to Conan 2d20, or 2d20 in general. They are far from being carbon copies of each other, but certain aspects of SW remind me of 2d20. So if you have played Savage Worlds and are looking for something different, give 2d20 a try.

One quick final note, there is a kickstarter for a new edition of Savage Worlds, The Adventure Edition. This is written based around my knowledge of Savage Worlds Deluxe.

Overall Feeling

I'll first start by saying I am most familiar with the Conan iteration of 2d20, so my thoughts and opinions are going to be largely revolving around that specific 2d20 ruleset. Both rulesets provide an action centric version of game events. 2d20 might be a little more crunchy in terms of combat resolution and Savage Worlds is certainly more concerned with miniatures. Both systems abstract certain things in favor of speed, but both are written to mimic high action and adventure whether they be from a modern movie or the pulps of the 20s and 30s.

Similarities & Differences

My first reading of Savage Worlds struck me at how much similarity it had with the 2d20 system by Modiphius. Certainly not identical, but more similar than it is to something like Dungeons & Dragons. This extended beyond the feeling of the game and had roots in the mechanics of both systems.

Success by Measure - Similar

Coming back to RPGs the concept of not just succeeding at a skill test, but being able to succeed by a little or a lot intrigued me. It is one of the things I loved about Conan 2d20. I no longer simply rolled to hit, I could roll to hit and either hit or HIT. I liked the idea a lot. Reading over Savage Worlds which has an open ended exploding die mechanic, I could roll not only above that target number of 4, but I could get raises. I could succeed better based on getting a higher roll.

This idea of success by measure is critical to these games that are revolving around these very heroic characters as it allows them to get things done in an exaggerated, or larger than life, way sometimes.

Momentum - Different

The concept of momentum and doom is a pretty large difference between the two systems. In Savage Worlds getting raises have a specified result, either causing more damage, causing extra dice to be rolled or similar. In Conan 2d20 getting more success than you need results in momentum, which can in turn be spent on various effects such as more damage, armor penetration, more attacks and similar, this can even be stored in group pools to allow your friends to use it to a degree, basically it's a measure of how well things are going for you. PCs store momentum in a group pool that maxes out at 6 and NPCs simply store it in a group pool called, "DOOM".

Bad guys - Similar

The "Bad Guys" in Savage Worlds are generally in two categories: Wild Cards and Extras. Wild Cards are equivalent to a Player Character, tough and unique. The super villain in a story is going to be a Wild Card. That villain's henchmen are going to be Extras. In Conan 2d20 we have a similar idea with our NPCs being broken into Minions, Toughened and Nemesis. Extras and Wild Cards are roughly equivalent to the Minion and the Nemesis, with the Toughened falling between the two.

In both Savage Worlds and Conan 2d20, inflicting a single wound against a Minion or an Extra removes it from play, although how those are caused is different, although I would say share a similar overall idea. As well they are less able to complete skill or trait tests. In 2d20 the Minion rolls a single d20 instead of 2d20, and in Savage Worlds the Extra doesn't get to roll a Wild Die like the Wild Cards do. Conan 2d20 allows you to group your Minions into mobs of five and then allows them to aid each other in their rolls making them more effective, but also moving things along quicker, ie if you have 10 skeletons attacking it is easier to have them attack in 2 rolls vs 10. Savage Worlds allows groups of these Extras to roll a Wild Die with their Trait Die when in a group, but makes no provisions for groups of them in combat situations.

The Nemesis and Wild Card both represent a special character, a high level named NPC or similar. They are both roughly equivalent to the player character and can both suffer more than one wound before they are removed from play. Both of them are as capable as the players in terms of the dice they roll, 2d20 in Conan and Trait + Wild in Savage Worlds.

Savage Worlds doesn't have a toughened class, but a roughly analogous idea might be an Extra that rolls Wild+Trait dice and can suffer an additional wound over an Extra.

This system of classes of bad guys allows your heroic characters to have an easier time eliminating all those pesky guards or low level monsters, just like we always see in the movies, comics and action stories.

Miniatures - different

Savage Worlds is built to be played on a tabletop with miniatures, the rules say so. Weapons ranges are provided in inches with a footnote on how to convert to real world distances. 2d20 can be used with miniatures, but doing so is a small footnote. Conan and other 2d20 systems use abstract zones, ie Irene and Frank are over by the vending machines, which Susan is guarding the exit door. Frank and Irene are in one zone and Susan is in another, how large the zones are isn't really that important mechanically to the 2d20 system. House rules wise, using miniatures in 2d20, unless you can clearly define zones on battlemaps, I find using a range rulers to be pretty helpful.

Damage and Elimination - Similar

Neither system uses hit points to track when a player or NPC is eliminated. 2d20 has a mechanic that allows a characters reduction of stress before they are wounded that superficially looks like hit points, but they are simply a measure of how long before a character is actually wounded. Savage Worlds is much more dangerous in this regard requiring only a shaken condition before a wound is inflicted. Both systems penalize characters when they are wounded making it more difficult for them to complete tasks.

In Conan players can suffer 3 wounds and remain functional, becoming unconscious at four but alive. if they suffer a fifth wound they are considered dead. in Savage Worlds Wild Cards can likewise take 3 wounds and remain functional, and at 4 they become incapacitated. However in Savage Worlds Wild Cards only ever become incapacitated, essentially anything over 3 wounds.

Good Fortune and Bennies - similar

Both systems have a limited resource that can be replenished as a reward for excellent ideas and role playing. In Savage Worlds we have Bennies and in Conan 2d20 we have Fortune. In Savage worlds players start with three bennies and can use them to re-roll trait tests. Players can also use it to remove the "shaken" status a character may suffer from. Their equivalent in Conan 2d20 is a little more robust and can be used for a multitude of things, although re-rolling skill tests is not one of them, they can be used to practically guarantee a skill tests is successful. They can also be used for other things such as getting a second action, recovering lost stress, ignoring a wound. So while not identical they are both a consumable resource that allows the PCs to accomplish extra heroic actions.

Final Thoughts

These two systems have many differences, but despite that they have a lot of similarities, which shouldn't be surprising. In general both of the systems are aiming to recreate a pulp or cinematic style of fast high action based around bad ass heroes. At present Savage Worlds is a generic system and 2d20 is not. 2d20 will need to be repurchased for each setting you decided you might want to play in, but once you learn one, the others will be simple to learn. Both systems have strengths and weaknesses, but overall I like what both can bring to the table.

Don't forget to drop a comment about your thoughts on these two systems and how they compare and contrast!


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Monday, November 5, 2018

Conan 2d20: Chase Trials.

Recently we talked about a mechanic to bring extended tests into Conan 2d20. We named this the Trial. Today we are going to extend this a little further using what amounts to Trial struggle, or the Chase Trial

We saw a Trial denoted like this, "10-D2", where D2 was the difficulty and 10 was the total momentum that needed to be generated to complete the extended test. The Chase Trial will work essentially the same way. One side will be given the Trial, and the other side a simple difficulty rating.

The Chase

Those being chased will be given a Trial they will need to complete to escape, ie 15-D1. In order to escape their pursuers they must complete the Trial. Those chasing will make their own skill roll, and as in a struggle the total momentum available will be the difference between the two.

Those escaping can, of course, use any momentum left to work through the Trial, while those giving chase can use their momentum to undo whatever headway the escapees have made.

How Far?

If we assume an accumulated momentum on this Trial of 0 is equivalent to the parties being in the same zone then we can take this a step further and introduce zones and ranged weapons into the mix. Perhaps an accumulated momentum of 1 or 2 indicates the two parties are at medium range and an accumulated momentum of 3 or 4 indicates long range.

How many momentum is indicated by range will largely by the GMs call. A short chase across a grassland might mean 3 momentum still indicates close range, while a long chase through the narrow streets of the Maul might indicate only 1 momentum is medium range and beyond that you lose line of sight on your opponents.

Test Difficulty

Generally, start the difficulty at 1 and add to it based on the environment. The total momentum required will vary based on the number of players, how capable they are, and how much they are willing to risk. If the player leading the challenge is unwilling to use Doom to gain additional dice, the players may flounder, especially if their base difficulty is 2 or higher.

  • Escape through a well known, lit city. Base difficulty = D1.
  • Escape through a known darkened city. +1 Difficulty = D2.
  • Escape through an unknown, darkened city. +2 Difficulty = D3.


Here are a few quick samples illustrating this as an idea.
Quick escape through known darkened streets - 10-D2 Survival/Stealth vs D2 Observation/Survival
Quick escape through unknown darkened streets - 10-D3 Survival/Stealth vs D2 Observation/Survival
Prolonged Escape through known daylight streets - 15-D1 Survival/Stealth vs D1 Observation/Survival
Chasing a cart on horseback along a forested road - 10-D2 Animal Handling vs D1 Animal Handling

The night is dark and a thick mist has descended upon the city. Two men stand outside a money house, while a third crouches and works the lock with slender tools that glint occasionally in whatever light is available. The standing men are both of native stock, Nemedia, while the third is clearly Zamoran. The Nemedians scan the area and one speaks, "Hurry up."

"Almost there.....", replies the Zamoran, his voice trailing off in concentration.

With a click the door opens and a quick sly smile jumps across the Zamoran's face. Just as quickly the smile vanishes as men in clanking armor and the livery of the Numalian town guard step from the shadows and utter a single command, "HALT!"

The three companions look at each other and with a small nod that only their years together allowed them to understand. They bolted off into the night, the guardsmen in pursuit!

Round 1
Momentum Pool: 2
Doom Pool: 13

GM: Ok! You escape into the fairly familiar streets of the city with the guards hot on your tail. Your difficulty in evading the guard is 10-D2 Stealth or Survival, and they are at a D2 to catch up to you.
Nemedian1: I have a 15/3 Survival rating so I will take the lead.
Nemedian2: I assist with my 13/2 observation helping to pick the safest path through the darkness.
Zamoran: I will assist with my Stealth 12/2 skill, helping us stay as silent as possible.
GM: Ok Roll!
Nemedian1: I roll 4 dice, buying 1 with momentum. 15, 1, 2 and 12 for 6 successes and 4 momentum!
Nemedian2: I roll my assistance die! I roll a 2 adding 2 more success!
Zamoran: I roll 1 die as well. I get a 4. That is 1 more success!
GM: Your total momentum for the struggle is 7!
GM: Ok. The Squad of guards rolls. 3 for the Sgt with an observation of 9/1 and 4 more for the rest of his unit also at 9/1
GM: 10,9,1,13,17,4 and 15 for 4 Successes and 2 momentum vs your total momentum of 7
GM: You manage to put some ground ground between you and them. Your total momentum for the escape is at 5/10.

Round 2
Momentum Pool: 0
Doom Pool: 12

Nemedian1: I roll 3 dice! a 3, 14 and a 10, for 4 successes and 2 momentum!
Nemedian2: I also roll assistance 1d20 against my observation again! I get a 1! 2 more successes!
Zamoran: I assist with my stealth again rolling my 1d20! 12 for 1 successes.
GM: Your total momentum for the struggle is 5!
GM: The sergeant buys 3 dice with doom and the rest of the squad rolls 4, for a total of 9d20 all at 9/1.
GM: 3,10,19,11,20,7,13,13,10 for a total of 2 successes and 0 momentum, PLUS a complication!
GM: Your total momentum for this Trial is now at 10!

The three men race into the familiar streets of the city, the night and mist work in their favor as they quickly slip away from the guardsmen that were laying in wait to catch these three thieves.......


Until Next Time

If you have any ideas or thoughts about this as a simple system to mechanically run chases, let me know. Feel free to drop a comment or check me out on YouTube .

Till next time, don't forget to Keep it Weird!

Friday, October 26, 2018

Naval Combat in the Hyborian Age: Conan 2d20, an overview and example.

It was just at sunrise when the lookout shouted a warning. Around the long point of an island off the starboard bow glided a long lethal shape, a slender serpentine galley, with a raised deck that ran from stem to stern. Forty oars on each side drove her swiftly through the water, and the low rail swarmed with naked blacks that chanted and clashed spears on oval shields. From the masthead floated a long crimson pennon.
Queen of the Black Coast
-Robert E. Howard

Overview

Like many things in Conan 2d20, small details are ignored to bring big action and quick resolution. We generally don't count arrows and we don't concern ourselves with exactly how many coins of gold we find. Naval combat works like this, scaling up regular combat to the high seas. Allowing us to resolve the epic ship battles of the open water in only a few rounds.

This is not a wargame by any stretch of the imagination. It is a high level abstraction of ship combat that allows PCs to still be central to the action. Like combat at a man to man level we have familiar ideas like zones, soak, stress(structure) and harm(breaks). Despite these similarities a man's weapon isn't going to cause damage to a ship, but flaming arrows, ramming and siege weapons can all batter and destroy a ship sending it to the depths.

Ship Positions & Roles

Crew Assignment - One or more crew members on a ship assigned to the same task. If the crew assignment is larger than one, then one of the crew assignment is designated as the leader and the others as support. For example a PC might be the leader on a crew assignment that commands the ship and have a number of NPCs to assist in the role.

A ship is split into various positions that describe the functions a ship might perform during its turn: Commander, Helmsman, Lookout, Marine and Piper. Each of these positions has a selection of actions they can perform; marines can try and grapple the enemy ship or fire flaming arrows at it, Commanders can attempt to coordinate actions or assign command crew.

Each crew assignment is able to complete one action in a ship's turn. In order for a ship to complete one of these actions in a turn, it must have a crew assignment to complete the skill test associated with it. For marines to shoot flaming arrows there must be one or more marines assigned to attempt a ranged weapons test.

Each position can only have one crew assignment associated with it. You can't have two command crews and perform two coordinate actions in a turn. The only position this is different, is the marine crew. You can have as many marine crew assignments as you have men for.

This is a list of the positions, what they do, and the number of crew assignments they can have.
  • Commander - Generally giving orders and coordinating. Adding momentum to the pool and moving crewmen around if needed. 1 crew assignment.
  • Helmsman - Making movement decisions and sailing tests to avoid shallows, reefs and debris. 1 crew assignment.
  • Lookout - Watching and adding momentum to movement and helping to coordinate attacks. 1 crew assignment.
  • Marines - Boarding, Firing arrows (Normal and flame), firing siege equipment. 1+ crew assignment.
  • Piper - Coordination of the rowers. Adding momentum to movement. 1 crew assignment.
Large ships will generally have enough crew to create larger crew assignments and be more effective. Smaller ships will have less effective crew assignments, or in the case of very small vessels, not enough crew to fill all the roles, causing them to not be able to perform an action from each position during a turn.


The term "Crew Assignment" is one of my own creation to help clarify the positions on a ship. Conan the Pirate talks about crew (generally the PCs) and Support crew. However support crew are a part of the rules that could use a little bit of clarity. I play them based on my idea of the crew assignment and assistance rules; the leader rolls their dice and the support crew roll their dice. If the leader is successful then the support successes are added in. If I was GMing a party of six adventurers on a sailing vessel and they had managed to scare up 20 crew members, they might organize their vessel something like this.
  • Commander - PC1 - 2 crew - Command rolls are PCs 2d20-5d20 + 2d20 assistance dice from the crew.
  • Helmsman - PC2 - 3 crew - Helmsman rolls are PCs 2d20-5d20 + 3d20 assistance dice from the crew.
  • Lookout - PC3 - 3 crew - Lookout rolls are PCs 2d20-5d20 + 3d20 assistance dice from the crew.
  • Marines - PC4 - 4 crew (Squad with PC) - Marine rolls are PCs 2d20-5d20 + 4d20 assistance dice from the crew.
  • Marines - PC5 - 4 crew (Squad with PC) - Marine rolls are PCs 2d20-5d20 + 4d20 assistance dice from the crew.
  • Marines - PC6 - 4 crew (Squad with PC) - Marine rolls are PCs 2d20-5d20 + 4d20 assistance dice from the crew.

Reactions

Although the rules state a single action per crew assignment, it lists actions as a Standard Action and as a Reaction. This is another area I feel the rules could use a little work, but it we assume a scaled up version of normal combat, in which players receive a single standard action and can still perform reactions, we can reasonably make the same assumption here. We can of course make the same assumption on the cost of these reactions being 1 doom for the first, 2 for the second etc.

The Ships

As I mentioned combat is essentially scaled up from standard melee combat. Each ship is given basic specifications, some matter for combat and some do not. The ones we care the most about are as follows.
  • Structure - Stress of the ship.
  • Breaks - How many breaks it takes to destroy/sink/incapacitate the ship.
  • Soak - How much armor the ship has.
  • Maneuver - How nimble a ship is, grants bonus d20s on sailing tests.
  • Qualities - Some of these are general concepts and don't lend themselves to combat, others allow combat centric abilities like quicker moves, or easier ramming.

Damage

Ships can suffer from a few types of damage. Ramming, flaming arrows and siege weapons can all cause physical damage that can sink the vessel. Boarding and regular arrows generally cause non-lethal damage, and again the rules are a little loose here, so use your best judgement on how many crew are actually killed if the ship takes several non-lethal breaks.

Final Thoughts

As a set of rules these could use a little more polish. There is a large portion of gamers that want to play RAW and some things just don't make sense as they are written. Others require more of a leap of faith than some are willing to make. If you can get past that, then you can easily use this as a framework to play out high level narrative combats on the high seas, while allowing each PC to handle a specific action on a ship.

An Example

In the example to follow we will break it down in depth and split each ship turn up into the crew positions. Our example will illustrate a battle between a Merchant Cog named "The Promise of Ishtar" being attack by a Pirate Caravel named "The Fury of Set". Below are the specifications for the two ships. You will see that the "Fury of Set" has a maneuver of 1, and so will gain +1d20 to sailing tests. It is also listed as agile which means it can move an additional zone with any movement action it takes.

Also take note that the "Promise of Ishtar" is a much heavier ship with more structure and breaks than the caravel has.

To further help in our example, we will call the "Promise of Ishtar" the PC vessel and the "Fury of Set" the NPC vessel. Further we will assume all crew positions have an acting leader, who is at least toughened, to give each ship equal actions during a turn. We will also assume play has been in sessions for awhile and the players have 3 momentum in their pool while the GM has 15 doom accumulated.

Fury of Set

Class: Caravel Sailing Range: 14 Days Maneuver: 1
Soak: 2 Structure: 6 Breaks: 3
Crew: 20
Qualities: Agile, Shallow Draft, Ship
Stowage: 100

Promise of Ishtar

Class: Cog Sailing Range: 8 Days Maneuver: 0
Soak: 2 Structure: 10 Breaks: 4
Crew:10
Qualities: Deep Draft, Ship
Stowage: --

Here I have laid out the crew assignments for the various ship positions. As well as the skill Target Number(TN) and Focus(FC) we are most likely to need in this scenario.

Crew Assignments
Fury of Set Promise of Ishtar
Commander 1 Leader
3 crew
Command Skill: 9/1
1 Leader
1 crew
Command Skill: 10/2
Helmsman 1 Leader
4 crew
Sailing Skill: 9/1
1 Leader
1 crew
Sailing Skill: 12/1
Lookout 1 Leader
4 crew
Observation Skill: 10/1
1 Leader
1 crew
Observation Skill: 9/2
Marines 1 Leader
4 crew
Ranged Skill: 10/1
Command Skill: 10/1
1 Leader
1 crew
Ranged Skill: 9/1
Command Skill: 10/1
Piper
None
None

One final note before we move to the example. It will seem long as there is a lot of writing, however it is only 3.5 rounds of combat. I have also not included any descriptive text as this was designed to be a mechanical example of the rules. Of course if you have any questions or find any mistakes please drop me a line or leave a comment on the blog!


Khemi was still a day away, and as the sun began to set, the crew of the “Promise of Ishtar” prepared for another night at sea. They sailed from Messantia loaded with cargo, headed for the northern end of the Black Coast. They had travelled this route many times, past dark coves and around small islands holding mysterious ruins.

The remainder of the day was quiet in the embrace of the dying sun, only the sound of the ship’s prow plying the waves made any discernable noise. Suddenly the silence was broken by a sharp cry from the lookout as he spotted a long dark shape sliding out of one of the shallow coves. Its mast flying a brightly colored pennon, floating on the breeze. Its triangular sails unfurled and full of wind as it bore down on them with remarkable speed.

“By Mitra!” The captain cursed. “Get ready ya dogs! That be the Fury of Set!”.


Opening set-up.  "Fury of set" sailing out of the cove to attack "Promise of Ishtar".


Round 1


  • Momentum: 3
  • Doom: 15
The Fury of set is headed toward the Promise of Ishtar, but is currently at long range and running with the wind.
Players always get initiative unless the GM interrupts.

Promise of Ishtar
"Promise of Ishtar" takes damage in the shallows.

Commander: Coordinate.
  • D1 Command Test vs. 10/2. Rolls 2d20(9,17). 1 success, 0 momentum.
  • Crew support of 1 rolls 1d20(19). 0 successes, 0 momentum.
  • No momentum spent.
  • No momentum is added to the group pool.
Lookout: Heading.
  • D1 Observation Test vs 9/2. Rolls 2d20(14,14). 0 successes. Failure.
  • No momentum spent.
  • No momentum is added to the group pool.
Helmsman: Full Sail.
  • It is a deep draft ship, so the difficulty is increased by 1 step due to crossing shallow waters.
  • Move 2 zones. Z5->Z6->Z4. D2 Sailing Test vs. 12/2. Rolls 3d20(13,16,5). 1 success. Failure.
  • The ship fails to cross the shallow water and slows as it takes damage ending its turn in Z6. The hazard causes 3cd(2,5,6).
  • Promise of Ishtar suffers 2 structure damage as her soak absorbs 2 points.
  • 1 momentum spent. (+1d20) (2 left)
  • No momentum is added to the group pool.

Fury of Set
"Fury of Set" softens her prey with flaming arrows.

Commander: Coordinate.
  • D1 Command Test vs. 9/1. Rolls 3d20(1,5,10). 2 successes, 1 momentum.
  • Crew support of 3 rolls 3d20(15,19,2). 1 success, 1 momentum.
  • 1 doom is spent. (+1d20)
  • 2 doom is added to the doom pool. (16 left)
Lookout: Heading.
  • D1 Observation Test vs, 10/1. Rolls 2d20(4,15). 1 success, 0 momentum.
  • Crew support of 3 rolls 3d20(8,4,19). 2 successes, 2 momentum.
  • 0 doom is spent.
  • 2 doom is added to the doom pool. (17 left)
Marines: The ships are now in close range. Flaming Arrows.
  • "Promise of Ishtar" attempts to evade and pays 1 doom for the reaction.
  • Reaction Struggle
    • "Fury of Set" D1 Ranged attack vs 10/1. 4d20(19,16,14,4)+crew 4d20(8,18,7,13)=2 momentum.
    • "Promise of Ishtar" D1 Sailing Test vs 12/1. 5d20(8,10,16,3,14)+crew 1d20(15)=2 momentum.
    • GM spends 1 point of doom to break the tie for the NPCs.
  • Flame arrows cause 4cd(4,2,2,3) damage to the "Promise of Ishtar". 2 points are soaked.
  • She takes points of structure damage.
  • 3 doom is spent. (+3d20)
  • 2 doom from PCs. (1 reaction, (+1d20)(18 left)
  • 2 momentum spent. (+2d20)(0 left)

Round 2


  • Momentum: 0
  • Doom: 18

GM interrupts initiative and "The Fury of Set" goes first.

Fury of Set
"Fury of Set" grapples and pulls in her quarry!

Commander: Coordinate.
  • D1 Command Test vs. 9/1. Rolls 3d20(12,12,13). 0 successes. Failure.
  • 1 doom is spent. (+1d20)(17 left)
Lookout: Heading.
  • D1 Observation Test vs. 10/1. Rolls 4d20(17,5,15,10). 2 successes, 1 momentum.
  • Crew support adds 4d20(10,14,19,18). 1 success, 1 momentum.
  • 2 doom is spent. (+2d20)
  • 2 doom is added to the doom pool. (17 left)
Helmsman: Standard motion. Z6 close – Z6 reach.
  • D1 Sailing test vs. 9/1. Rolls 4d20(17,2,17,4). 2 successes, 1 momentum.
  • Crew support adds 4d20(8,14,6,9). 3 successes, 3 momentum.
  • 1 doom is spent. (+1d20)
  • 4 doom is added to the doom pool. (22 left)
Marines: Grapple.
  • D2 Ranged attack. "Promise of Ishtar" attempt to evade spending 1 doom.
  • Reaction Struggle
    • "Fury of Set" D2 Ranged attack vs 10/1. 5d20(10,11,8,4,4)+crew 4d20(17,6,2,4)=5 momentum.
    • "Promise of Ishtar" D1 Sailing Test vs 12/1. 5d20(4,14,11,19,2)+crew 1d20(16)=2 momentum.
    • "Fury of Set" wins the struggle with 3 momentum.
  • 3 Doom is spent. (+3d20)
  • 4 doom from PCs. (reaction, +3d20)
  • 3 doom is added to the doom pool. (26 left)

Promise of Ishtar
"Promise of Ishtar" fails to cut herself free.

Commander: Coordinate.
  • D1 Command Test vs. 10/2. Rolls 2d20(7,3). 2 success, 1 momentum.
  • Crew support of 1 rolls 1d20(6). 1 successes, 1 momentum.
  • No momentum spent.
  • 2 momentum is added to the group pool. (2 left)
Lookout: Heading.
  • D1 Observation Test vs 9/2. Rolls 2d20(16,15). 0 successes. Failure.
  • No momentum spent.
  • No momentum is added to the group pool.
Helmsman: The ships are grappled and floating aimlessly within the zone.
There are no rules presented to ungrapple the ships, or at least non that I can find. You can assume it is not possible in combat or you can allow the grapples to be unhooked if a boarding action is successful. We will allow the grapples to be unhooked after a successful boarding action.
    Marines: Boarding Action. Attackers are at D0 when attacking during a grapple.
    • Command Struggle D0 vs. D1
    • Struggle
      • "Promise of Ishtar" D0 Command Test vs 9/1. 4d20(3,19,10,4)+crew 1d20(5)=3 momentum.
      • "Fury of Set" D1 Command Test vs 10/1. 5d20(7,1,4,5,12)+crew 4d20(8,10,6,19)=7 momentum.
      • "Fury of Set" wins the struggle with 4 momentum.
    • 2 momentum is spent. (+2d20) (0 left)
    • 3 doom is spent. (+3d20)
    • 4 doom is added to the doom pool. (27 left)

    Round 3


    • Momentum: 0
    • Doom: 27

    GM interrupts initiative and "The Fury of Set" goes first.

    Fury of Set
    Savage pirates board and kill on "Promise of Ishtar".

    Commander: Coordinate.
    • D1 Command Test vs. 9/1. Rolls 5d20(19,16,2,15,2). 2 successes, 1 momentum.
    • Crew support adds 3d20(9,17,11,3). 2 success, 2 momentum.
    • 3 doom is spent. (+3d20)
    • 3 doom is added to the doom pool. (26 left)
    Lookout: Heading.
    • D1 Observation Test vs. 10/1. Rolls 5d20(17,10,1,5,17). 4 successes, 3 momentum.
    • Crew support adds 4d20(9,17,11,3). 2 success, 2 momentum.
    • 3 doom is spent. (+3d20)
    • 5 doom is added to the doom pool. (28 left)
    Marines: Boarding Action. Attackers are at D0 when attacking during a grapple.
    • Command Struggle D0 vs. D1
    • Struggle
      • "Fury of Set" D0 Command Test vs 10/1. 5d20(11,19,9,8,6)+crew 4d20(8,2,19,19)=5 momentum.
      • "Promise of Ishtar" D1 Command Test vs 9/1. 4d20(17,15,19,8,3)+crew 1d20(8)=2 momentum.
      • "Fury of Set" wins the struggle with 3 momentum. Note this is not doom yet, but momentum generated from a test and so can be used for non-immediate spends.
    • Boarding actions cause 5cd NON-LETHAL damage.
      • Rolls 5cd(4,1,1,2,6).
      • 1 momentum to re-roll the 4 and a 1. Rolls 2cd(6,5). Total damage = 6.
      • 1 momentum to gain a penetrating attack ignoring 2 points of soak.
    • "Promise of Ishtar" takes 2 breaks. 1 for suffering more than 5 structure in a single attack and 1 for having it's structure drop below 0.
    • Note: You may wish to reduce the crew of "Promise of Ishtar" by about 1/2 as it's now suffered half of it's breaks. For this example we won't bother. You should do whatever makes narrative sense.
    • 3 doom from PCs (+3d20)
    • 3 doom is spent. (+3d20)
    • 1 doom is added to the doom pool. (27 left)

    Promise of Ishtar
    "Ishtar" fails to cut herself free again.

    Commander: Assign Crew.
    • D1 Command Test vs. 10/2. Rolls 2d20(17,15). 0 success. Failure.
    • No momentum spent.
    • No momentum is added to the group pool.
    Lookout: Heading.
    • D1 Observation Test vs 9/2. Rolls 4d20(5,16,15,7). 2 successes, 1 momentum.
    • Crew support adds 1d20(19). 0 success, 2 momentum.
    • No momentum spent.
    • 1 momentum is added to the group pool.
    • 2 doom from PCs. (+2d20)(28 left)
    Marines: Boarding Action. Attackers are at D0 when attacking during a grapple.
    • Command Struggle D0 vs. D1
    • Struggle
      • "Promise of Ishtar" D0 Command Test vs 9/1. 5d20(14,1,9,8,10)+crew 1d20(14)=4 momentum.
      • "Fury of Set" D1 Command Test vs 10/1. 5d20(12,16,5,5,9)+crew 4d20(6,14,7,12)=4 momentum.
      • Gm breaks the tie in favor of the "Fury of Set"
    • 1 momentum is spent. (+1d20) (0 left)
    • 2 doom from PCs. (+2d20)
    • 4 doom is spent. (+3d20, Tie Break)
    • 0 doom is added to the doom pool. (24 left)

    Round 4


    • Momentum: 0
    • Doom: 24

    GM interrupts initiative and "The Fury of Set" goes first.

    Fury of Set
    The Pirate's of Fury of Set finish the job, taking the ship.

    Commander: Coordinate.
    • D1 Command Test vs. 9/1. Rolls 2d20(19,10). 0 successes. Failure.
    • 0 doom is spent.
    • 0 doom is added to the doom pool. (23 left)
    Lookout: Heading.
    • D1 Observation Test vs. 10/1. Rolls 2d20(7,11). 1 successes, 0 momentum.
    • Crew support adds 4d20(14,19,11,3). 2 success, 1 momentum.
    • 0 doom is spent.
    • 1 doom is added to the doom pool. (24 left)
    Marines: Boarding Action. Attackers are at D0 when attacking during a grapple.
    • Command Struggle D0 vs. D1
    • Struggle
      • "Fury of Set" D0 Command Test vs 10/1. 5d20(9,1,6,15,2)+crew 4d20(19,3,16,9)=7 momentum.
      • "Promise of Ishtar" D1 Command Test vs 9/1. 5d20(3,17,19,10,2)+crew 1d20(6)=2 momentum.
      • "Fury of Set" wins the struggle with 5 momentum. Note this is not doom yet, but momentum generated from a test and so can be used for non-immediate spends.
    • Boarding actions cause 5cd NON-LETHAL damage.
      • Rolls 5cd(5,3,2,2,2).
      • Total damage = 11 structure damage - 2 soak = 9 structure damage.
    • "Promise of Ishtar" takes 2 breaks. 1 for suffering more than 5 structure in a single attack and 1 for having it's structure drop below 0.
    • 3 doom from PCs. (+3d20)
    • 3 doom is spent. (+3d20)
    • 5 doom is added to the doom pool. (29 left)

    "Promise of Ishtar" has now suffered 4 non-lethal breaks and so has been subdued and taken over by the "Fury of Set".