Saturday, February 8, 2014

K&D: Inception of a New RPG

Knights & Dragons: Inception of a New RPG

A bold announcement … we’ll have to see what it amounts to in the long run.

St. George and the Dragon
Here’s the basic premise: Knights & Dragons will be a simple RPG. It could be the game that you use to introduce children - hmmm, maybe 5 to 10-year-olds - to the world of roleplaying. Or it could be the simple RPG that you and a group of friends play because it doesn’t require much in the way of preparation or learning. Of course, trying to stay true to these goals may be quite a challenge. 

Currently I’m working on basic character classes/types, and have a rough idea for the combat initiative system. I’ll save details of those for a later post.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

KitM: What's in a Name?

Kingdoms in the Mist: What's in a Name

It occurred to me last week that if I was going to keep an ongoing chronicle of my new campaign from design stage right through to actual play, coming up with an official name was something of a priority. A name might help solidify the tone or atmosphere of the campaign, and it would certainly make the task of organizing and labelling my blog entries a lot easier.

For the past month or two, as I played around with the idea of creating a new fantasy campaign, I tended to use the phrase The Southern Isles as a quick mental tag. This was mostly based on the simple fact that the initial campaign setting was leaning toward some islands of a far-southerly persuasion, but I think it was also partly an initially unconscious mirroring of the name of my current Pathfinder campaign - The Northern Isles.

When I realized the two names were so similar, I decided it was time to explore some other options. I wasn’t completely opposed to the idea of The Southern Isles as a campaign name, but I wanted to make sure the name truly reflected some aspect of the new campaign. I started by brainstorming a list of “possibles.” Here’s what I came up with:

  • The Southern Isles
  • After the Fall
  • A New Dawn
  • After the Fire and Ice
  • The Second Age
  • Lost Realms
  • The Seven Kingdoms
  • Kingdoms in the Mist
  • Islands in the Mist
  • The Middle Isle
  • Bone Isle

After looking over the list I decided to eliminate a few right away: 

  • The Southern Isles - I decided, after all that it was too similar to the name of my PF campaign, and I didn’t want to put too much initial emphasis on the notion of south (let the players figure that out for themselves);
  • After the Fire and Ice - hmmm, too close to A Song of Fire and Ice;
  • Lost Realms - too close to The Forgotten Realms;
  • The Middle Isle - the campaign is initially set on the Middle Isle but I expect the players to visit other islands, and the mainland is only 200-250 km. away by sea (and there are other ways of getting there too); and
  • Bone Isle - Bone Isle is another name for The Middle Isle; the previous objection is still valid - and I started wondering whether I might prefer Isle of Bones to Bone Isle anyway.

Having winnowed the original list down to six remaining contenders - though I was willing to consider last-minute entries - I decided to make a short list of some of the design elements I was thinking of for the campaign, and then see if any of the names made sense in that light: 

  • campaign takes place after an Age of Greatness/Wonder - so lots of ancient ruins, artifacts and magic of the past, etc. lying around to be discovered/explored;
  • the previous Age - dominated by an Elven Empire - ended with a series of disasters/catastrophes, the Days of Fire and Ice, that the world has taken centuries to begin to recover from;
  • some people think the new age is - or should be - the Age of Man;
  • it is the - tentative - beginning of an Age of Exploration and Discovery; mostly rediscovering lost lands and lost knowledge; and
  • some other key descriptors: eerie, horror, mystery, the unknown.

When I re-examined my list of “contenders” the name I was happiest with was Kingdoms in the Mist. It seemed to hint at mystery, the unknown, long history, and maybe a sense of the eerie; and the word “kingdoms” suggested a fragmented, quarrelsome world. After choosing it I was a tiny bit concerned that the name echoed Gorillas in the Mist too closely, but I thought the subject matter was different enough to make the point moot (unless of course I get in the habit of adding hordes of killer apes to all my adventures).

So, Kingdoms in the Mist it is.

Next time … Design Decisions Part I.

P.S. The painting, The Fortress Bridge is by the amazing fantasy/SF artist Bob Eggleton. Check out his blog @ The photograph is - I believe - of the ruins of Machu Pichu.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Back to the Dungeon

Been quite a few months since I posted, eh? That's one of the things that happens when a) you end up sick for most of the winter, and b) you forget what e-mail address you've had to migrate your blogs to - oh, and the password for said blogs too. Arrrgh!
Early in those intervening months I actually ran several game sessions in my developing Northern Isles campaign - a single LotFP Old-school session with the Grognards of Willowdale and two Pathfinder sessions with the Whitby Grenadiers. I may post more on those sessions later. It was certainly my original intention to post "after-the-battle" reports: I took copious notes; I reviewed said notes; I got sick; I mislaid or stratified the notes; I never got around to writing or posting the reports. I wonder whether there's an anti-Caesarian phrase in Latin for all that? I meandered; I mislaid; I failed?

In any event, given that several months have passed since my last posting I have of course developed a passion for yet another game system: HackMaster 5E. And, of course, a new game system calls for a new campaign ... plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

More than a year ago I picked up a copy of HackMaster Basic. I had always liked the original HackMaster's combination of solid old-school gaming, over-the-top rules chrome, and dark humour but I mostly picked up HM Basic as a matter of product loyalty. I never actually looked at the rules - in fact, I think they're still in the bag from the store. At the time I really didn't need another OSR game, especially one whose rules substantively diverged from those of yore.

Hacklopedia of Beasts [Deluxe Hardcover]Last summer I bought the beautiful yet expensive Hacklopedia of Beasts. It was gorgeous; I was duly impressed; I wasn't sure what to do with it.

I placed the tome reverently on my shelf, and took it down every so often to lovingly leaf through its pages of monstery goodness.

This past June I was feeling a little more energetic and happened to visit Kenzer & Co.'s website - I think I was curious as to whether anything more had come out for the new version of HM (it's been a little harder to keep up with what's going on in the world of gaming since many publishers have apparently stopped soliciting in Previews). I discovered that the 400-page Player's Handbook was scheduled for a Summer 2012 release (to be followed in Summer 2013 by the HackMaster's Guide). Okay ... good to know HM is still alive. I looked at the blurb for the Player's Handbook and was hooked: I pre-ordered the book on the spot and started downloading the immediately available pdf version.

I have been reading through the HM5 Player's Handbook - and really, really, really wishing I knew where the heck I put that copy of HM Basic now that I could use it! I've been sketching out a campaign background, and I've started work on a few maps. Now all I need to do is round up a few vic...uhm...players.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

It's Alive!

I haven’t blogged in several months … that’s partly because I’ve been busy – with work, a new nephew, campaign design, etc. – but also because my blog ran away from home.

Okay, what really happened is that when I set up my blog I used my work email address as the contact link. At the time I was planning to switch from Neolithic-era dial-up to quasi-modern high-speed internet at home, and I thought that using a soon-to-evaporate personal email account didn’t make much sense. Ironically, six months have come and gone, and I still haven’t switched to high speed internet; I still plan to do so … any day now, really I do … check back with me in a year or two and we’ll see if I’ve managed to carry through on that plan.

So, I used my work email address, and everything worked like a charm. Then, out of the blue, and several years after assigning me “a new and up-to-date” email account, the inscrutable tinker gnomes in our IT department opened and attached new Google accounts to each employee’s email address.

The IT department didn’t consider it worthwhile warning me about this development but all of a sudden I started getting “alert” notifications from Google every time I tried to access my blog – kind of a, “hey buddy, you seem to have a personal Google account with this email address BUT one of our corporate clients also has a Google account with the same address; you need to move your personal crap somewhere else.”

I have to admit that Google “offered” to make the transition really easy. All I needed to do was give them another email address to which they could attach my existing account. [At this point you can go back to paragraph 2 and reread my rationale for using the work email address in the first place.]

So … I needed another, other, email account. Hmmm, I thought, “If I need a new email address to attach to my Google account, why don’t I open a gmail account?” I did some research, didn’t encounter too many ‘nays’, and subsequently opened a gmail account. This had the added benefit that I could correspond with friends and check their responses from work; something I couldn’t really do with my original “home” account.

Then I tried “migrating” my inaccessible blog [inaccessible partly because the IT gnomes also changed my Google password when they opened the “new” account for me] from the work email to my new gmail account. That’s when I discovered the curious fact that you can move Google accounts to a new email address as long as that email isn’t gmail. Huh? “Our migration system is designed to work with every existing email account in the world except our own.”
I had to open yet another new gmail account just to regain access to my blog. Arrgh, this is bound to be a continuing issue of confusion to me in the years ahead. At least I can post to my own blog again, so I suppose it’s not all bad.

Monday, April 11, 2011

A is for the Ancients

Stories and legends of the enigmatic Ancients abound throughout the Northern Isles. A mysterious race – masters of unsurpassed eldritch power – the Ancients vanished many millennia ago, leaving behind a legacy of cyclopean architecture, wondrous artefacts, and sites of enduring fascination.

Within the Earldom of the Northern Isles itself several relics of the Ancients have long drawn the curious, the greedy, the desperate, and the foolhardy. These include the so-called City of the Ancients and its proximate neighbours, the cloud-piercing Tower of the Moon and the unfathomed Well of Demons; the Twisted Spire; the Hungry Forest; and another cluster of sites: the Crystal Henge, the Avenue of Gods and Demons, and the Mound of the King.

The Ancients used metal in some of their creations but, based on surviving examples of their work favoured the use of stone, crystal, bone, and especially ceramic.

The text below is hereby designated Open Game Content via the Open Game License.

Miscellaneous Magic Item
A collar of submission works its subtle charm
Collar of Submission: found in a range of sizes, from those that would fit a small child to others clearly intended for creatures much larger than man-size, these simple metal or ceramic collars exert a subtle but powerful influence over the - usually reluctant - wearer. Each collar is attuned to a master, simply holding an empty collar for a period of an hour or more makes one the “master.” When placed around a living being’s neck, the collar dissuades the wearer from thoughts or actions hostile to the master. The collar rewards loyalty and obedience with pleasure, and disobedience with pain and despair. In order to take an action in any way hostile to the master, the wearer must make a successful saving throw versus Spells; failure results in the wearer being incapacitated for 1d4 rounds by pain and nausea. In addition, for every month the collar is worn, up to a maximum of 4 months, the wearer gains a +1 bonus to morale checks made in the service of the master. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Plan A

A message from your sponsor … apparently “come back tomorrow” actually meant “drop by next month.” I REALLY didn’t think the hiatus was anywhere near that long. Oh well …

At the minimum a new campaign needs: a) a game system; b) an initial adventure site; and c) some potential victims, uhm players. It’s also a good idea to have at least the rough outline of a campaign setting … assuming you’re not using a commercial product for this purpose.

From personal experience, the impetus or inspiration to put together a new campaign can start with any of these elements. Over the years I can’t remember how many times the purchase of a new game has instantly inflamed the desire to build a new campaign just to try it out. Sometimes my players jumped at the opportunity, sometimes they reluctantly acquiesced, and occasionally they retreated firmly behind their walls and barred the gates – I was NEVER able to convince them to play FGU’s Bunnies & Burrows, which sounded absolutely amazing when I read a campaign article about it back in the early ‘80s.

Sometimes you pick up or read an adventure that just screams to be played. I’ve been reading Monte Cook’s Dungeon-a-Day project whenever I have the time, and it’s really made me want to get back into gaming in a serious way. There is some irony in the fact that this product is not currently on the top of my “to play” list; instead it’s on my “save for the perfect day” list.

Occasionally you pick up an interesting campaign setting or come up with a campaign idea you want to develop yourself, and that can lead to a new campaign too – though, it’s also possible to simply link the new setting to an existing one via conventional travel, gates, planar adventuring, etc.
So … having decided to plan a return to gaming I got to work on Plan A. Here’s how the initial idea looked:

Factor 1: Adventure: “I really want to DM Monte Cook’s Dungeon-a-Day megadungeon.” I’ve never run or adventured in a megadungeon; the first couple of levels look great; and Monte Cook is an amazing designer.

Factor 2: Game System: “I’ll use D&D4E.” I’ve been buying all these neat-looking 4E products but haven’t had a chance to try the system out yet. Okay, admittedly Dungeon-a-Day is specifically designed for D&D3E (and more recently for Pathfinder) but that’s okay; it’ll give me the chance to really figure out how 4E works.

Factor 3: Victims: I “sort of” have potential players: the core – or debris - of my 1980s gaming group. There are a few teeny tiny problems though. One player lives an hour away and doesn’t have the health to travel or game for hours on end (the fact that he thinks another regular is a tad insane is an added complication). Player #2 has expressed reservations about committing any “acts of violence” in a game. I’m not sure exactly how this reconciles with his default preference for playing violent computer games instead, but it definitely could be a problem.
Celtic Chieftain painted by Ben Pecson

Having read over the core D&D4E products I’m immediately struck by the game’s “high beam” focus on combat. Admittedly, D&D in any of its incarnations has always been a combat oriented game but at first glance 4E doesn’t seem to support much else; in other words, if you chose to play a largely non-violent character I’m not sure what you’d actually do for most of the evening. Fortunately, my third regular traditionally likes to wade into combat and kill things. So … if I’m going to use 4E I should probably plan on using it with players 1 and 3; the drawback being that we’d probably get together once a month at most if we were lucky.

Factor 4: Campaign Setting: Monte Cook’s Dungeon-a-Day megadungeon has local detail but is designed to be generic enough to be fit into almost any reasonably standard fantasy setting. At the time, I was playing with the idea of designing a Celtic rather than Feudal Medieval world, and that seemed like a reasonable mesh with Dungeon-a-Day.

Okay, I had a basic plan for how to develop a campaign and get back into gaming. Interestingly enough NONE of these factors worked out in the long term.

Next time … Plan B.

P.S. The painted Celt Chieftain is painted by pro-painter Ben Pecson, and the image comes from his Brush Warriors webpage. Link @

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Hot Elf Chicks Throw Support Behind RPGs

At least one assumes that hot Elf chicks would support RPGs.

A picture in support of the blogosphere Hot Elf Chick movement.