Appendix N

A Visitor’s Guide to Georgian England

Okay, it’s been a fair while since I’ve released any non-review Youtube videos, but recently helping my friend Fozz do some vlogging in Coventry has inspired me to pick up my (admittedly cheap) video camera and give it a go again. Unfortunately having just bought a second monitor, new desktop and a laptop for the wife getting a better camera is going to have to wait, I’ll have to make do with my tiny Toshiba Camileo, phone and webcam until then.

In this video I’m chatting about a cool book on Georgian England that I have been reading, and that I hope to use as inspiration for some future RPG goodness.

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OSR Level Drain Alternative

Disclaimer: This post and the mechanics within are based around the rules for aging that appear in LotFP, I’ve not tested it with other OSR systems, but I believe it would work with some minor tweaking.

This post talks about an alternative I’ve started using for level-draining creatures in my game and why I chose to do so.

What’s the problem with level-drain?

So you might ask me why I don’t just use level-draining creature as is, there are a number of potential issues with it IMO:

  • All the hard work of attaining levels can be removed with a few unlucky dice rolls.
  • Depending on the creature it can slay even very touch PCs extremely quickly.
  • It can create a party imbalance if only a few of the characters get level-drained.

You could say that these things are what make level-draining creatures so scary, and that threatening the player’s precious XP and levels is sure to put the fear of God into them, and there is certainly an argument to be made in that regard, however for me I think that there’s already a threat to players XP and levels, it’s called death and occurs with enough regularity in a lot of OSR games that you don’t need a quick-acting, super death in the form of level-drainers.

An Alternate Suggestion

Noah Stevens got in touch with me on Facebook (thanks Noah) to say “I don’t know. The argument that SuperDeath is too harsh seems to me to be sort of flat when Resurrection and Reincarnation abound” and that “a couple of years here n there are nothing.”

Certainly a valid viewpoint and I can understand how the easy available of resurrection would lessen the impact of level-drain, however to the best of my knowledge such magic is not commonly availabe in LotFP (although I understand that the commonality of it varies depending on the OSR system in question), regardless I tend not to allow it at all in my own games. Without delving into the subject–which could be a series of blog articles on it’s own–I believe it lessens risk and therefore sense of achievement when the PCs triumph.

The exact amount of ‘aging’ that a PC gets from being hit by this version of Level Drain is a very good point, and i’ll admit that I’ve erred on the side of caution starting with 2D6 years, I am considering upping this to 5+2D10 years in future.

So what can we replace it with?

Well before we can replace it, I think we need to ask ourselves a couple of very important questons:

What does Level Drain represent?

The D&D3.5 SRD describes level drain attacks as “sapping a living opponent’s vital energy”, the very name of the ability (sometimes also known as Energy Drain) paints a picture of a foul monster literally drained the vitality and life out of an opponent, reducing them to a withered lifeless husk.

What is the purpose of Level Drain in game?

I think Level Drain serves a few useful purposes in OSR-style games (and probably modern D&D as well):

1. It frightens the players and places their characters in peril.

2. It ramps up the threat, circumventing the often lengthy process of whittling down HP.

3. It creates a vampiric feel to the creature they are attacking (especially since it’s often undead possessing this ability).

My replacement version

This was a problem I faced recently when prepping for my Rose of Westhaven campaign (which is run using LotFP in the Midderlands setting), my PCs are exploring a large underground cavern system with a river flowing through it, attempting to locate the source of water pollution causing trouble for the Town of Blymouth (for those not in the know, the Middlerlands is a twisted, green-tinged version of the United Kingdom, I highly recommend you check it out here). As I was creating the dungeon I placed the undead remnants of an ancient Goman (the Midderlands thinly veiled version of Romans) battalion in there, lead by Caius Veridius a Wight.

I’ve built up a small stock of OSR books now, so finding Wight stats wasn’t difficult, but they all seemed to involve Energy/Level Drain and–like I said earlier–I have a few issues with it, apart from that though I really like the creature and the concept of it. As I was leafing through my LotFP corebook looking for some inspiration, I stumbled across the aging system in Lamentations.

The way aging works in Lamentations is that when your character reaches a certain age you have to make a Saving Throw verses Poison at regular intervals (determined by your species), if the roll is failed then you lose a point off a random stat:

SpeciesNo Modifier-2-4Interval
Dwarf2002503005
ElfElves don’t ageElves don’t ageElves don’t ageElves don’t age
Halfling70801001
Human4050601

The rules also specify that anyone aged by magical means has to make all Saving Throws that would have need to be made if the aging had occurred naturally immediately, with any ability score penalties also being applied immediately.

This seems like a great way of representing Energy Drain to meet, what better way to represent the life-force being leeched out of you than by reducing a strong, burly warrior to a decrepit, aging husk in the space of a few moments. Not really having clear guidelines on how to pitch this I decided to have the Wight age a character by 2D6 years when they hit, in addition to the normal damage, although–in hindsight–since most characters tend to start in their prime and humans don’t even start making rolls until they hit 40, I may up this a little in the future.

Another cool thing that came out of this during the session was that the players tried to bar a door against the Wight, and I decided that–since the Wight could age things–that it would use it’s abilities to rot the wooden door and pursue them, it also gave me some cool visuals for the lair with everything rusting and in a state of decay.

Maximum Age

One thing that a player brought up–and that I hadn’t considered–is what is the maxium age of the various species in the game, I couldn’t find any real guidelines for this in LotFP (save that Elves are immortal) so I searched around the internet and found maxium age figures on the 3.5SRD), which suggested the following.

SpeciesMaximum Age (in years)
Dwarf450
ElvesDo not age and are effectively immortal.
Halfling200
Human90

Google+ Migration

Well, unless you’ve been living under a rock–or at least very isolated from social media–for the past few days you’ll have no doubt heard the news that apparently Google+ is officially circling the drain.

I woke up this morning to a flood of stories like this one

https://thenextweb.com/google/2018/10/08/google-plus-dead-security-flaw/

It would appear that–due to a security issues discovered by Google and lack of use–they’ve decided to shut down their social network over the course of the next 10 months, with it being gone by August 2019. Personally I think this is a great shame, whilst Google+ has never scaled the dizzying heights of public visibility that social media giant Facebook has, there were a few things it did that I really liked:

  • There were some great communities chock-full of great links to RPG material and interesting discussion.
  • It was blissfully free of the flame-wars and rampaging arguments that seem to rage across Facebook like seasonal storms.
  • Originally it served as a handy gateway to Google Hangouts, before Hangouts was largely neutered, lost most of it’s apps and just became is shit(er) version of Skype.

So what do we do now?

Well one of the budding new social media sites that seems to be cleaning up at the minute is MeWe, numerous RPG-based community groups have sprung up over there in the hours since the future departure of Google+ was announced, many migrating from Google. The social network seems to have a fairly similar interface to Facebook and will certainly be easy to grasp for those used to the social-media giant.

I think it’s too early yet to say whether or not MeWe is going to emerge as a spiritual successor to Google+, there are people trumpeting other networks and even hearkening back to the days when forums were the thing for hobby-based interactions on the internet.

Whether or not Google+ does finally die though, it’s good to see we have options; in the meantime I’ve created a Google+ account for myself in order to interact with those communities moving over there, you can find me at:

https://mewe.com/i/reddicediaries

Podcast Episode 36 – Combat in RPGs

In this episode, Johannes Paavola, Lloyd Gyan and myself talk about combat in RPGs, it’s role, the dynamics of combat and the dreaded topic of dice-fudging.

Music on Podcast Title

Shinigami by XTaKeRuX:
http://freemusicarchive.org/music/XTaKeRuX/Empty_Grave/Shinigami

Used under creative commons licence:
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

You can find the live & uncut version of this recording on Twitch:

Watch Podcast Live & Uncut from RedDiceDiaries on www.twitch.tv

Blast from the Past: Phantom of Miragliano

In a Facebook conversation today that was sparked off by Carol Dunster mentioning the forthcoming edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay I happened to mention that in about 1999 (when I was about 19 years old) I’d written an adventure (under the somewhat pretentious pseudonym of Dragonfire – hey I was young) titled “The Phantom of Miragliano” loosely based on the Phantom of the Opera.

After a brief discussion (spurred on by Andre Martinez) and fruitless searches on the internet I was able to find a working copy on my old personal website (remember them?), to save me losing it again and in-case anyone is interested I’ve dropped it into a PDF and you can access it by clicking on the link below:

WFRP – The Phantom of Miragliano

If you’re interested in reading the original back from the dim and murky days when I was well into my Warhammer my personal site is still up on the internet although most of the links are now inactive:

http://dragonfire35.freeservers.com/

Sadly after this period school and other things crowded for my attention, putting a severe crimp in my RPing time, it would be a good few years til a chance encounter with a shit-face friend down a drinking establishment would launch my into my angst-ridden World of Darkness period, but that’s a story for another time…

Wild West Wizardry Prep Notes

Last night I ran a game of Dresden Files Accelerated for five great players, it was a one-shot and–to put a bit of a twist on it–I’d decided to set the game in the wild west rather than the more traditional modern setting of the game. Looking for an iconic town I settled on Tombstone, during it’s waning years after the silver mines had dried up:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tombstone,_Arizona

Using the Wikipedia page I made the following notes:

POTTED TOMBSTONE HISTORY

  • Founded in 1979 by Prospector Ed Schiefflin in Arizona.
  • Grew in mid-1880s, last of the boom towns.
  • Local mines produced $40 to $85 million silver bullion.
  • Town established on mesa above the Goodenough Mine.

  • Had bowling alley, 4 churches, ice house, school, 2 banks,
    3 newspapers and an ice cream parlour.

  • 110 saloons.
  • 14 gambling halls, numerous dance halls and brothels.
  • All businesses situated amongst and around silver mines.

  • In mid-1880s the silver mines pentrated the water table.

  • Pumps were destroyed by a fire in 1886.
  • Unprofitable to re-build the costly pumps.
  • City nearby became something of a ghost town.

The players were told about the setting in advance and asked to create characters using the DFAE rules, shortly before the game I posted the following plot-clue to the Facebook event:

Created using an online tool: https://www.fodey.com/generators/newspaper/snippet.asp

To give you an idea of my prep, below are some of the notes that I made for and during the game.

First of all I started with the main antagonists, a black court vampire by the name of Dillon and his thrall, a young girl with powers of necromancy.

Then I moved onto some of the goon-level flunkies who were going to be acting as muscle for our main villain:

I also made some brief notes of the powers and abilities that these villains had to save me having to look them up during the session:

During the session I also made some notes regarding PC names and incidental NPCs, I also used these index card to keep track of boosts, advantages, etc.

In addition to these note I had a text file with some rough plot ideas outlined, just before we started recording I asked the players for a bit of background and worked to incorporate it into the draft plot that I had written down already, changing it as necessary. The index card method is really useful during a game because it allows me to quickly reference the most needed stats and information without having to flip through the rulebook so much.

If you want to watch the actual play video of the session you can find it here:

 

More one-shots for 2018

I generally don’t go in for New Year’s resolutions very much, in my opinion most of them get broken shortly afterwards so I’ve never really seen the point in enshrining them as a resolution, if you’re going to do something then just do it. That said there are a few things–gaming wise–that I would like to do in 2018:

  • Continue my Westhaven LOTFP campaign: all being well we’ll be doing session 6 of this campaign this weekend, the game has been going well and there’s only been a single PC fatality so far. I’ve recently transferred some of the campaign data onto this site and am very much enjoying my first taste of OSR GM-ing, I’m hoping to keep the campaign going for some time.
  • Start up two Ravenloft 5E campaigns: I’ve been enjoying playing 5E recently as part of the Role with Advantage Facebook community, and it’s inspired me to have a go at running a campaign. I decided to go for a Ravenloft-style campaign, because who doesn’t like gothic horror? Just to put the idea of the game out there and try to generate a bit more interest I “advertised” it on my normal Facebook page as well as my Red Dice Diaries page and in various RP communities that I frequent online, the response was great with more people than I can cram into a single group expressing interest. To accommodate the interested parties I’ve split them into two groups and plan to have two separate groups of adventurers knocking around my version of Ravenloft, each game is only going to run once a month so I’m hoping this should be manageable.
  • Continue playing 5E with RWA: Speaking of Role with Advantage, I’m having great fun playing in some excellent games ran by André Martinez and hope these continue well into the New Year.
  • Run more one-shots in 2018: I’ve always found running low(er) prep one-shots and pick-up games to be enjoying and challenging in equal measures (many of the one-shots I’ve run can be found here on my YouTube channel) but found herding players and the other various bits of admin a real chore that could suck away enthusiasm faster than Dracula sucks down the red stuff. To try and make things a bit easier on myself in 2018 I’ve made a Facebook group featuring people who have played in my games in the recent past and who I have found to be reliable, my hope is that by advertising my games in this group first I’m more likely to get players; of course if that fails to secure enough players then I’ll advertise the remaining places in the usual communities online.
  • Release Storm & Sail: The pirate-fantasy campaign for Fate written by myself and Lloyd Gyan is pretty much ready to go, all the writing is done we’re just waiting for a final few pieces of artwork, after that it’s a few last minute layout tweaks and I should be able to release the PDF onto Drivethru RPG.
  • Release more Fate Thins: I really enjoyed writing and releasing my Fate mini-campaign books as PWYW PDFs on Drivethru, I’m hoping to release some more in 2018.
  • Expand my RPG writing: I’ve been playing several different games over the last year and going into 2018, I’m considering expanding my RPG writing beyond the Fate system, although I think to do so it’d have to be a system that I was really familiar with.

So those are my current roleplaying plans for 2018, let me know what your are in the comments 🙂