Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Making hay while the sun shines

Just another quick update on Chanbara.

I had a fairly light load of readings for grad school this week, so I've really been trying to crank out the text for Chanbara.  Today, I revised the monster XP tables, lowering values quite a bit from Flying Swordsmen.  FSRPG is all about the kung fu, so combat XP is high.  Chanbara will be about getting the loot as well as kicking monster ass, so XP for GP will be in it, and monster XP needed to be toned down a bit.  Of course, that means I'll also need to devise some treasure tables...  Hmm...

Anyway, I managed to write up seven or eight of the approximately 20 new monsters in the game.

And for those who wish to take score at home, Chanbara will feature:

13 Character classes, 66 spells, around 45 combat Maneuvers (I'll have to count them to be sure), a similar number of ninja Tricks, the above mentioned 20 monsters, and setting information for those islands up at the top right corner of the Zhongyang Dalu map in FS.

I've decided the major samurai clans will be named after sumo stables.  Originally I thought I'd go with famous samurai actors' names, but decided the sumo stables sound more interesting (or at least to me).  Other than that, I'm still not decided on whether I want a "warring states" political free-for-all setting for maximum action and social mobility, or a more stable "Edo-Jidai" human lands with encroaching monsters to go for a traditional Law vs. Chaos thing.  I considered adding notes for both, and I guess that will depend on how long I want this ebook to be.  Still shooting for 64 pages, but it may end up 120 or so like Flying Swordsmen if I'm not careful.

[If you don't mind waiting, I can go full bore on this thing.  If you'd like it sooner rather than later, like me, 64 pages is the way to go.]

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Progress continues on Chanbara!

Yesterday I finished the Exploration/Interaction chapter, which included all the Skill Dice and Tricks for Shinobi (read as "cool ninja powers"), and started on the Magic chapter.

Finished the Magic chapter at work today.  Well, the first draft, anyway.  And I forced myself into brevity, which I found both productive and liberating.

There are 66 spells in the game, plus the Magic Skill Dice, the spellcasting mechanic (riffing off [or ripping off, if you prefer] of Chainmail's caster roll rather than normal Vancian magic), and a few notes on special magical conditions.  Six pages, A4.  I limited myself to no more than two lines of text for any spell description, along with one line that has name/range/duration/effect.  I figure anyone who wants super bloated "AD&D 2E and further" style rules that spell out all the individual limitations can add that part themselves.

Pretty happy with my writing today.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Crap...or maybe this is a good thing?

I'm not sure if this is good or bad, but I did a bit of editing on what I've written for Chanbara so far. 

And I realized that it's somehow morphed from an expansion intended for use with Flying Swordsmen (or any OSR Clone or TSR original D&D variant) into a stand-alone game.

I think I'm going to have to trim it back to just a supplement if I want even a hope of keeping it to 64 pages.  Luckily, I can keep all the extra writing I've done for my update of Flying Swordsmen, if I ever get around to that.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Chanbara Armor Poll Closed

Super Simple Armor is the winner.

I'll revise it.  I was thinking that I'll have two types of light armor - concealable (for the shinobi, mostly) and non-concealable.  One type each of medium and heavy armor.

Various descriptions of what each type could entail. 

I worked up the encumbrance system today.  Similar to Delta's "stones" system, I'm using vague "encumbrance units" and a PC can carry up to 1/2 their Str. score with no penalty.  Up to Str. with modest penalties to speed.  Up to double Str. at max, but severe penalties.

A full backpack, a bag of loot, a large weapon, a bulky piece of normal gear, light armor - all count as one encumbrance unit.

Medium armor counts as 2 EU.  Heavy armor is 4 EU.

Medium weapons are only 1/2 EU, and Small weapons are 1/4 EU. 

Actually, thinking about it now, that might be broken for PCs with 18 Str and overly severe for PCs with 3 Str.  Maybe I'll adjust the numbers to base 10, with bonuses and penalties for high/low Str similar to BX D&D, like this:

Str 3  Enc. 7
Str 4-5 Enc. 8
Str 6-8 Enc 9
Str 9-12 Enc 10
Str 13-15 Enc 11
Str 16-7 Enc 12
Str 18 Enc 13

One half Enc. value at no penalty, Enc. value at modest penalty, double Enc max at severe penalties.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

So you want to be a samurai?

Then chances are, you want to be like this guy:

Yes, gratuitous Mifune image-dump post. 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Lost in the Dungeon

Last night, several of us were in the mood to play - including me, since I will be busy tonight with grad school stuff and will miss our regularly scheduled Saturday game.  And since Justin was out, I offered to run my Megadungeon.

Jeremy and Rick were the only players to show up, and they rolled up a couple of new level 1 PCs, Evinarus the (Elf) Thief and Max the Fighter.  Rick didn't have the Basic Fantasy RPG and I was too lazy to look it up since I had my homebrew players' guide right there, so he ran a normal Thief class character and role-played the Elf parts (I did let him have infravision and better secret door detection and we didn't meet any ghouls so the paralysis never came up).  Jeremy of course rolled another 18 Str Fighter with a polearm (great axe), and while he's perfectly fine to imagine for himself massive anime bulging muscles that would put the Incredible Hulk to shame, my world just doesn't work that way.  ;)

They gathered some rumors in the town of Silverwood and set out for the dungeon.  They circled around the outer curtain wall and found a boarded up wooden shack against the outer wall.  Discussions with the occupants (who refused to show themselves) sent them back to town to get a pony keg of beer and they also hired Valeria, a buxom mercenary, to accompany them for 10gp up front and a share of any treasure.

Back at the shack, they found it was manned by thirsty gnomes, who happily let them pass and use the stairs down to the dungeon in return for the beer.  At the bottom of the stairs, there was a closed doorway and Evinarus heard singing beyond.  Going out into a wide corridor running north-south, they heard the singing coming from a side passage straight ahead - and after some cautious moves, discovered it to be a party of young halflings having a party in the dungeon!  Much discussions hinted that goblins lived to the east. 

They explored a bit more and found and set fire to a rickety barricade with alarms that summoned a large warband of kobolds, who shot at them and wounded Max with a crossbow.  A patrol of more gnomes had passed them and had rushed off to get the beer their companions were swilling, but the party followed them back up and convinced them to help take on their ancestral enemies, the kobolds.  Big battle led to all but two kobolds dead, the last two fled, with only one gnomish loss.  Then the party tried to sucker the gnomes into tangling with the halflings over beer, but the halfling party was just wrapping up and they were about to head back to their village, all the beer consumed. 

With promises to bring more beer once they found some treasure, the party next investigated a hallway with many doors.  One led to a makeshift latrine.  Another had a basin collecting run-off water.  Yet another had two strange walls, one a shifting wall trap of some sort which they avoided setting off, the other a secret door.  In the secret chamber was a strange crystal wall blocking them from reaching an alcove where they could see a finely crafted elven bow.  While searching for secret levers or some other mechanism to move the crystal wall, a pair of hungry giant racer snakes slithered in and attacked.

Rolls went against our party.  Although they managed to slay one snake, Max was eaten and instead of fleeing, Evinarus decided to keep fighting and his 4 hit points didn't last him long.  Valeria the NPC fled with the measly 200 cp they'd managed to loot off of the kobolds.

She does, however, now have a map of the area explored, and along with Geissler and Kessel, will join the rouster of local NPC armsmen for hire.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Poison in Chanbara

I just spent the past hour or so trying to find a blog post from a little while back - could have been as far back as last November, or maybe only January.  Don't remember exactly.  Anyway, the blogger had posted about the actual effects of poison, and how they're actually a lot more fun than simply keeling over dead.  Projectile vomiting, uncontrolled diarrhea, swelling, hallucinations, all that sort of stuff.

And I can't find it.

Anyway, thanks to my very light Thursday schedule, I've just about got the Chanbara combat chapter done.  All that's left is the poisons.

Inspired by this renegade blog post (and if you're reading this or you also remember that post and happen to remember who blogged about it please let me know!  I'd love to give credit where credit is due, and also stick that post up on the Links to Wisdom wiki so I and others can find it again), Chanbara [and Flying Swordsmen when I get around to revising it] will have three different types of poisons with effects as follows:

Intoxicants: affect the mind, and could cause any of the following - sleep, drowsiness, confusion, impaired judgement, hallucinations, slowed reactions, severe headache, death

Contaminants: nausea, pain, vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, blindness, choking/coughing, death

Destructive: hit point damage, greater hit point damage, damage plus intoxicant symptom, damage plus contaminant syndrome, convulsions, rash/swelling, death

I'll have charts with the various symptoms, and different die roll spreads for differing strengths of poison: weak 2d4 (never results in death), moderate 2d6 (slight chance for instant death), strong 2d8 (higher chance for instant death).  Of course, the weak destructive poisons could easily result in death through hit point damage even if there's no chance to roll for instant death on that chart.

Once I get all this sorted, then I just need to come up with prices for the different types...

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Thieves (again)

Quite a bit of reading about Thieves and related matters on my blog list this morning, here, here, and here.

Jim at Carjacked Seraphim starts out talking about the fact that secret DM rolls for searching for traps can really screw the player.  While he goes on then to give some new ideas for mechanics to deal with traps, I returned to something I've considered before.

Originally, when the Thief class appeared in the Greyhawk Supplement, they only had a % chance to REMOVE traps.  The % to "find" traps is a later addition.

I'm thinking I'll drop the find traps part.  If you want to find a trap (whatever class you are), you need to search for it descriptively.  Also, as -C and others have pointed out, traps should be telegraphed in at least some fashion to be fair. 

Finding traps should be easy, if you take the time to look for them.  Removing, disarming, or circumventing traps can and often should be done through roleplay.  If no one seems to have a good idea for the roleplay of trap removal or time is pressing, a Thief character can make a roll to see if the PC knows something the player doesn't.

Plus, check out that link to Frank Mentzer's ideas on Thief as a template, rather than a class.  Makes Conan and Fafhrd & the Grey Mouser easier to write up for D&D for sure!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Cast your vote! All the cool kids are doing it!

Just a reminder, there's a little poll on the side-bar about how best to handle armor in Chanbara, my samurai/ninja adaptation of Flying Swordsmen.

At the time of writing, I've gotten one vote.  I know my readership is down - hard to keep up substantive posts with a) grad school b) playing more than DMing, but ce la vie

Anyway, if you have a preference for how detailed you like armor in RPGs, now's your chance to chime in!

And as far as Chanbara updates go, had some time this afternoon and got to work on the Combat chapter.  Details of skill dice and combat maneuvers finished.  Now to detail all the boring nuts and bolts of RPG combat (likely cribbing a lot from Flying Swordsmen).

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Thoughts on Armor in Chanbara

So, I managed to get all my grad school reading done, and had plenty of free time at work on Thursday, so I finished up my chapter on equipment for Chanbara.  There are weapons, armors, normal equipment (just a copy/paste from Flying Swordsmen with one or two little changes) and special ninja equipment.

Then, last night, I was watching Kurosawa Akira's 蜘蛛の巣城, or Throne of Blood.  For those unfamiliar, this was the movie where Kurosawa transplanted Shakespeare's Macbeth and changed all the Scotsmen into samurai.  Of course, Toshiro Mifune stars.

Watching it, and looking at all the different types of armor presented in the movie then reminded me of participating in several festivals during my time in Japan where my friends and I was able to wear reconstructions of period armor.
My buddy Justin decked out in a parade
Anyway, I think I may need to go back and make the armor section a bit more general.  I could go full-bore AD&D style and try to cover every single armor type, or AD&D OA style and try a piecemeal armor system, but that's a bit too complicated.  I've maybe got more armors than I need.  I may have hit a sweet spot with Flying Swordsmen, but then since there's not much call for armor there except for NPCs for the most part, I felt safe with a more abstract system.

So I'm a bit unsure on what to do.  Right now, I've got three categories, Light, Medium and Heavy.  Each category has three armors in it.  One, Kote, works like a shield, being able to combine it with what in Flying Swordsmen I termed "corselet armor" meaning just a breastplate and maybe a few other pieces.  There are three of these, two light and one medium.  The other medium and all of the heavy armors would be considered "suit" armors in Flying Swordsmen.

Maybe it's fine the way it is.  I've got most of the major Japanese armor types covered, in a non-historically accurate way.  Or maybe the more abstract FS version would work better?  A super simple way like OD&D/Classic D&D's leather/chain/plate?  3E OA's categorical armor (ashigaru armor, samurai armor, barbarian armor)?  Or should I go full-bore baroque detail AD&D/OA style?

What say you, readership?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Ur Gazette: Obituaries

Saturday, March 2nd, 2013 (Residimosday, Fourth Cycle, Year of the Beetle local time):

Friends, family and parishioners are mourning the loss of the Venerable Carolus: upstanding citizen of Fort Low, adventurer, dimension-hopper, and Follower of the Great Bear Spirit (birth name Father Karl), at the wrong end of a giant bee stinger during an encounter in the Zoo.  Carolus succumbed to poison.  His remains are now being transported back to Ur by his companions Ralex the Fighter, Thidrek the Sleestak, and their henchman Noctis (alias Burg the Orc).  Carolus leaves no family behind.  His accomplishments include the establishment of diplomatic relations between Fort Low and the Hive, and the clearing of the Alchemist's House which is the center of the new Crossroads settlement.  Donations in his memory can be made to the Shaman Gusorius on Bear Island, or to the seer who saw these events transpire in his crystal ball from the safety of Fort Low, Necronal the Sage.

In other news, it's been nearly a year since we started this campaign!  And it's been pretty awesome.  Thanks, Justin!  Anyway, here's the skinny on what happened last adventure.

So we (Ralex the NPC, Thidrek, Venerable Carolus and Burg renamed to Noctis) left Golden Pond, the lizardmen's village built atop giant lilypads, and headed south through the jungle that used to be the Zoo.  We had a rough map to follow, and soon struck a road headed mostly in the direction we wanted to go.

Soon after, we found a "pillbox" sort of structure on a small hill just off the road, on what we assumed was the border of the zoo and Sky Hunter territory.  After a brief investigation, we found that no one was home, but there was a large hatch in the floor leading down to the undercity, and nothing else.  Heading back to the road, we found the vegetation was becoming more sickly, and assumed we were heading to what the lizardmen had called the "diseased ones" and their "god." 

art by Dean
Heading onto side trails, we seemed to be making good time.  Then we heard the buzzing.  Before we had decided what to do, a swarm of five giant killer bees attacked.  In the first round, Venerable Carolus failed his saving throw.  The rest of the party made a heroic effort to kill the bees and save Carolus.  Unfortunately, the best we were able to manage was getting back to the pillbox and creating a barricade to block the entrance (after managing to fend off many more giant bees, luckily without serious injury or further losses).

During Thidrek's watch (Noctis' watch passed uneventfully), there were noises outside.  Infravision showed several very hot signatures low to the ground, with cold spots as if they were carrying loads.  A vague humanoid blur was also off in the brush.  Waking the others, we were attacked.  A large rock flew through our barricade, and Thidrek was beset by ghouls.  He was managing to fend them off by himself, but neither Noctis nor Ralex came to his aid - because they saw him flailing around at nothing.  A bit of assistance from Noctis brought Thidrek around as our assailants were pelting the walls and floors and Ralex (who was being played by Dean now) with oil.  Noctis went out to negotiate, and was told for his companions to come out.  Thidrek, not wanting to get captured again, dived into the tunnels while Ralex joined Noctis outside.

Asked about the "third one" in the party by the bondage-leather clad leader and his short, robed companion, they produced Carolus's corpse.  They were told to go to the road, wait one hour, then return to the pillbox.  Being good soldiers, they did as ordered.

Underground, Thidrek found an underground river (maybe the same one we explored before beneath the Hive), with a pier where some beastmen had loaded up a boat.  Hearing footsteps approach, he hid in an alcove and watched as a bondage-leather clad dude and a short robed companion led four pack-bats to the boat, board, and then set off into the river.  As the boat passed his hiding spot, the beastmen noticed Thidrek.  He shouted in Beastman language (Sleestak are a subspecies of Beastman) for them not to shoot, and they obliged.

Noctis and Ralex came back and went down into the tunnels looking for Thidrek, and we met up again and returned to the surface to watch over Carolus's remains for the rest of the night.
more art by Dean
This may not be the end for Elder Karl, though.  Justin informed us after the game that Dean can choose to roll up a new character with 1/3 of Carolus's accumulated XP, but if he does there's no chance of resurrection.  We've got four days of in-game time, however, to try to get back to Bear Island with the remains and see if, like Ripper, they can bring back Karl's spirit.  I'm hoping we make it.  The bear afterlife is likely just as interesting as the orc afterlife was.

The Cartography of Ur

Justin posted a map of the ruined city of Ur on G+ at Jez Gordon's request.  I'm reposting it here mostly so I can find it more easily in the future.

Also, this is the first week of my Ph.D. course.  I plan to write up our latest Ur adventure, chronicling the sad demise of the beloved Venerable Carolus, but I've got a shit ton of readings to do.  Hopefully I'll get around to it later tonight or tomorrow.  Anyway, here's Justin's map and key of our above-ground explorations in Ur.

1. The Golden Pyramid that dominates the skyline. No one knows what's inside it.

2. A broken obelisk. Between here and #1 is the territory of the Spiked Circle, a demon cult active in the ruins.

3. Fort Low, home to the PCs.

4. An overgrown park where giant apes once lived before the PCs got there. A faction of beastmen live in the tunnels beneath these old neighborhoods. They helped the party once. Between here and #6 is an underground facility that serves as the border between the beastmen and the undercity dwellers, the ghouls.

5. The party has never been here but have heard of an artifact buried in a mausoleum near here.

6. A giant thorn maze that has overgrown several urban blocks. There's an entrance to the underground facility mentioned in #4 at the maze's center. The maze was once home to the Vulture warriors and their harpy consorts, but they were mostly killed by the party.

7. A ruined temple where the Vulture warrior champion was defeated.

8. The Alchemist's Tower now a trading post with the Hive at #10.

9. A swamp where herbs grow.

10. The Hive - basically a giant termite mound where humans and giant insects live in symbiosis. The party has dabbled in Hive politics and installed an allied faction as the local power. There are entrances to the undercity beneath the hive.

11. A ruined Spiked Circle fort that sits over the entrance to an ancient tomb, which the party failed to explore completely. There is now a slowly spreading zone of eternal night above this area.

12. During the Hive power struggle some mercenaries told the power to meet at this ruined temple for a "showdown". The party was smart enough not to fall for the trick. It remains unexplored.

13. An Observatory. The party has heard of a group called the Sky Hunters and thinks they might live here. The lizardmen at #16 fear them.

14. An overgrown structure at the center of the "zoo" (it's more a park). The lizardmen at #16 say the Diseased Ones live here with their "god".

15. A small pillbox that sits atop an entrance to the undercity. The party is currently here licking their wounds and mourning their fallen.

16. A lizardman village. They are significantly richer for having "rescued" the party from Orlock the Anchorite, a fire-weilding undead sun priest that meditates in one of the towers at #17. North-west of here the party fought the eagle-shark.

17. The sky-tombs of the Sun Priests. A plaza of towers open to the sun. The party looted some until they encountered Orlock and his fire magic.

18. A small lake with an island park at its center. The party hasn't quite figured out how to use Ur's portal system yet. But they ended up here after using a portal in the tunnels beneath the Hive.

19. The party saw a giant rise out of the ruins and walk west from here. They chose to go in the other direction.

20. Massive walls surround Ur that have equally massive "gates" in them. These look like art deco skyscrapers as if designed by Viggo the Carpathian from Ghostbusters.

21. Off shore from Fort Low are several islands. One is sacred to the Bear God. The party, currently at #15, hopes to get their fallen companion here so he can be resurrected. They have four days to do it.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Return to Dragon's Delve

Last Friday was a holiday in Korea, so on Thursday night we (being Rick the DM, myself, Dean and Jeremy) played another session of Rick's Pathfinder game set in Monte Cook's Dragon's Delve megadungeon.  Dean plays Little Sparrow, a Human Monk (planning to multiclass Monk/Cleric at level 2), a staff-wielding friar.  Jeremy plays Harathys, a Human Fighter, rather mercenary in outlook.  I play Wooderson, an Elf Cleric of Manidono, purveyor of halfling herb, magic mushrooms, and other mind-altering goodies.  [Erin, not sure if you read this, but if you do, thanks for the inspiration!]

*Warning: module spoilers for the adventure.  If you think you might play this and don't want it spoiled, you should probably skip my Dragon's Delve posts in the future.*

We'd done a bit of RP in town (well, mostly Dean and Jeremy) and learned a few things.    We set out to explore the ruins with Evanerys the Elven Rogue (our NPC companion).  The entranceway, for those following along from my previous post or who followed Monte's Dungeon-a-day Blog where this thing got started, has three stairways.  This time, we returned to the pool room where we had found the books and fought the ghast.

There was another door with scratching sounds behind it.  Opening it, we managed to release another undead creature.  Luckily for us, it went down to one solid hit from Harathys's sword.  It was also inhabiting a small cell with no other doors or anything of interest.  Returning to the pool room (as in scrying pool, not billiards hall), we found a secret door to the north. 

It led to a short hallway with another secret door at the far end.  We heard some voices talking, but no one understood what they were saying.  Bursting out of the doorway, we found an orc/hobgoblin dinner party underway.  We were matched numbers wise, and they seemed tough.  The leader spoke common, and gave us a chance to identify ourselves.  Harathys failed at a bluff, but Wooderson's diplomacy and doobies earned us a chance to return the way we had came.

Exploring a bit more, there was another corridor from the pool room headed east.  It led to a room with a magically locked glowing blue door (Wooderson had heard rumors that these were password protected creations of a group known as the "Mages Four").  In another room, we found an ornate key.  And that seemed to be as far as we could go without the password or trying to fight the orcish dining club.

Returning to the entrance and then going west, we came to an oblong room with a skeleton at the base of the stairs we were descending.  Wary of traps, we found that there was nothing immediately threatening.  We did hear animal growling in the distance.  Wooderson also found a secret door in the floor.  The growling was getting nearer, so we prepared ourselves for battle.  It was a mountain lion, and we quickly dispatched it.  Following it back to the lair, we encountered its mate, guarding their young.  We spent a couple of ranged attacks and damaged it, but it didn't pursue.  Instead, it just held its ground and guarded its young.  Feeling bad about that (although there were some thoughts of trying to sell the cubs in town), we retreated back to the oblong room. 

The trap door opened onto a ladder going down.  We decided not to explore that yet.  At the south end of the room, a door led us down a slope into a very large room with catwalk-type galleries or balconies.  A trio of moldering skeletons were in the room.  We burned them with oil, avoiding potential dungeon funk mayhem, but also destroying any treasure they might have had. 

After that, we headed back to town.  We didn't find any loot, but we explored a fair amount of real estate, eliminated a few threats, and have some leads to follow up on in town.