Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Good Dragons, considered

In the 1e MM, the metal dragons all have good alignments.  I am skeptical.   Can there really be such a thing as a "good" dragon? 
Here is my definition of a "good" dragon: one that is happy to bully and rob you of your treasure, but won't kill you for fun.   They will still attack you, steal your stuff, and beat you down thoroughly, but with a "good" dragon, you are more likely to be left alive.
I get the impression dragons look at us the way we look at chickens.  You don't have to be evil to eat chickens.  We simply view them as a lesser form of life, a resource to be exploited to our advantage.   Dragons look at humans that way.  
The "evil" ones will kill us and torture us for sport.  The "good" ones will only kill us if we make them, by, for example, failing to turn over all the treasure which they view as theirs.  "Look here, little fellow, I don't want to have to hurt you, just be a good little pet and hand over your treasure..."  
Gygax clearly has a similar concept, hedging his bets on their alignment, mentioning their "neutral tendencies".   For some reason, he elevates the Silver, Gold, and Platinum Dragons as full good and noble beasts. 
I think dragons are, as a rule, selfish, voracious, narcissistic, and pompous.     They aren't like "big pets", who would respect us or think of us as equals in any way.  They think of us as a lesser lifeform, one which has an odd obsession with acquiring their food source (metals and gems). 
In other words, they treat us exactly as we treat bees.  They tolerate our hives because we produce honey for them.  We don't think of the feelings of the bees as we steal their hard-earned honey, nor do dragons consider our feelings as they steal our hard-earned treasure. 
This tendency is especially amplified by AZ Adventures being a dawn of civ milieu, with the land being largely untamed.  The Gygaxian world of 1e MM is a human-dominated world, everything else hanging on at the edges, or surviving far underground.  A certain percentage of dragons there have learned to communicate with humans because humans are the dominant life form in that milieu.
The world of AZ Adventures is not human-dominated at all, except for a few "points of light".   Thus, dragons go about their lives in their wilderness domains hardly ever encountering humans, certainly having very few opportunities to interact with them.    Thus, in AZ, very few dragons speak our language or have the experience to think of us as equals or superiors. 

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Fire Giants and the Pinacate volcano field ecology

The Pinacate volcanoes are located amidst the vast sand dunes in the heart of the Great Southern Wasteland. The rocky badlands of the volcano fields are arrayed in a roughly circular shape some 20 miles across, beginning about seventy miles southwest of Gila Bend (the southern-most human settlement in AZ). Beyond the volcano fields, about 20 more miles of sand dunes must be crossed before finally reaching the coastline of the Baja Gulf ocean.

The volcano peaks jut menacingly upward out of the vast sand dunes, spewing forth volcanic ash from huge black cinder cones. Few places can be found in our world that are more hellishly inhospitable to human life. Naturally, only the most vile and dangerous creatures make their home in such a region.

Fire Giants

The wicked and sadistic race of Fire Giants is found throughout the desert badlands of southern and western AZ, especially concentrated in the Pinacate volcano fields, which appears to be their homeland. They love heat in general and appear to be perfectly comfortable even around flowing lava and blazing fire.

Immediately recognizable by their coal black skin and bright red hair, Fire Giants are the enemies of most other living creatures. Their only allies seem to be their pets, a breed of giant fire-breathing dogs known as Hell Hounds. Fire Giants will feast on any living creature they can capture, including humans.

Fire Giants seem to prefer living above-ground, and they construct their homes out of huge rocks. The huge rock piles appear to be haphazard, but in reality, the rocks are carefully fitted together and provide a sturdy structure . Recently, some Fire Giants have acquired rock cutting tools, and their stone castles are getting larger and more elaborate.

Red Dragons

Despite their similarly wicked nature, and inhabiting roughly the same regions, Fire Giants are no friends of Red Dragons. In fact, Fire Giants love to hunt Red Dragons for food, trophies, and for sport, and Fire Giant hunting parties elicit terror in all but the largest Red Dragons.

Adult Fire Giants can usually be found armored in Red Dragon hide, carrying weapons made of Red Dragon bones and teeth, and often donning helmets that were once Red Dragon skulls. For their part, Red Dragons delight in slaughtering any vulnerable Fire Giants they happen across, mainly the very young and injured or infirm.

Other creatures of the volcano fields

Fire Giants are the dominant predators of their region, but a number of other creatures find a niche in the volcano fields as well, including Firenewts, Giant Striders, Salamanders, Hell Horses (Nightmares), Firesnakes, Firetoads, Fire Lizards, and Fire Beetles. Fire Elementals are quite common in the volcano fields.

A gleaming City of Brass, the homeland to the fire spirits known as Efreeti, can be found on the eastern edge of the volcano fields.

Relation with Human Groups

Whoever is providing the Fire Giants with stone cutting tools is also providing them with more and better weapons, as more Fire Giants have been observed carrying giants swords lately. Obviously, this is of great concern to the humans of southern AZ, who must cope with the Fire Giants' aggression.

It is strongly suspected that Derjuden merchants are running the illegal giant weapons trade, but their Guild Masters deny sanctioning it. The Arya High King has vowed retribution if any more Derjuden merchants are found trafficking in giant weapons. In this rare case of unity, the High King appears to have the full support of the Monmore leadership, who also stand to suffer under increased Fire Giant aggression.

Fire Giants are known to mount expeditionary raids against human and humanoid settlements to capture sacrificial victims. Rumor has it that the Fire Giants worship a huge fire demon, the dreaded Balrog, in the heart of their central Pinacate volcano. No one has ever survived to recount the details of their religious practices.

Other Adventuring Hooks

Despite its deadly environment and unimaginable dangers, the Pinacate volcano fields are a magnet to the bravest adventurers, who seek to harness the powerful fire magic found there. Fire Giant skin and hair, for example, are highly regarded for their fire-resistant properties, and are used in various magical anti-fire gear, including cloaks, boots, gloves, and rings. Fire Giant blood is also highly prized for use in magical potions and scrolls.

The dreaded Flaming Avenger sword, used so effectively by False John in his Rebellion, was said to have been forged in the Pinacate volcanoes, and is rumored to reside there now, taken back there in the chaos following the defeat of the Pretender King.

As would be expected, Fire Giants delight in starting fires. In periodic bursts, perhaps related to some religious impulse, Fire Giants will travel far from their homeland to attack forested areas, attempting to spread fiery conflagrations. Luckily for AZ residents, most of this destructive effort gets directed at the forests lying to the west (Baja) and the southeast (Sierra Madre), but the Fire Giants will occasionally attempt attacks upon the AZ forests as well.

The Great Southern Desert appears to be spreading and growing based on the destructive effort of the Fire Giants, burning out and desertifying area that was previously tropical jungle and mountain forest.

Capture an Efreeti, stuff him in a bottle.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

No Dump Stats - the Importance of INT and WIS for all classes

Great analysis over at the Jovial Priest (here: http://jovialpriest.blogspot.com/2010/12/no-dump-stats-every-ability-score.html)  about making all stats important, especially regarding INT and WIS, which usually become dump stats for everyone but magic users and clerics.
His brilliant concepts:
INT score is the only thing which provides an XP bonus, for all classes.  Makes sense to me, as the smart learn faster.  His rule:
Only intelligence gives XP bonuses, not prime requisites.
3-5                   (-20% earned experience)
6-8                   (-10% earned experience)
9-12                 (no bonus)
13-15               (+5% earned experience)
16 +                 (+10% earned experience)
WIS score provides savings throw bonuses against all magical attacks, not just those affecting the mind.  This is justified because WIS encompasses intuition and judgement, which would be critical components of overcoming magical attacks, even purely physical ones.  Again, makes perfect sense to me. 
The "combat effect" of high WIS is like a character's "spidey sense", providing him with vague foreboding of danger, putting him on the alert, helping him make the right choices in those crucial split seconds when a deadly attack is being launched. 
After all, let's say you are being targeted with a death ray...  Your physical speed will not help you here, the ray is too fast.  What matters is, what were you doing BEFORE the ray was launched???  Were you already ducking for cover, pulling your shield up, etc? 
That is the bonus effect of high WIS: quantifying the benefit of things you did before the attack was launched, subtle actions which your intuition and judgement lead you to take, as well as the positive effect of your willpower in overcoming the ill effects as you are being effected. 
With these slight tweaks, INT and WIS become potentially useful to EVERY class, and character creation becomes a much more interesting and thoughtful event.  

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Petrified Forest of Arizona Adventures

The Petrified Forest of Arizona Adventures is, plainly described, a forest of stone. The trees are striking in their appearance, being precise stone replicas of real trees. There are also stone animals and humans to be found in naturalistic poses throughout the Petrified Forest.

The entire effect of the stone-dead forest, especially with the wind howling through an otherwise completelyquiet region, is spooky and unnerving in the extreme, and living creatures of all kind avoid the place.

Most mysterious of all, the stone forest appears to have some sort of magical life to it. Trees can be seen in full leaf some times of the year, and with bare branches other times, the ground around them covered with stone leaves. The stone animal and human statues are said to move, appearing in different locations and adopting different poses, although there is no report of anyone ever actually seeing them on the move.

The dreaded race of Stone Giants makes their home in the Petrified Forest, finding their manner of living in that barren rocky environment, tending their cattle (gorgons), their fowl (cockatrice), and hunting the wild lizards (basalisk) of the forest. They appear to be the only variety of living creatures that regularly make their way in and out of the forest. A wicked race of snake-headed women are rumored to inhabit the depths of the forest as well, but their presence has not been confirmed, as the forest is still largely unexplored by humans.

The Petrified Forest is located in the northeastern part of the state, a few days journey east of Flagstaff. The northern trade route, Route 666, skirts the northern edge of the forest for some 20 miles.

Magic Users - a concise treatise

Magic Users are many things to many people.  Here is how I handle them, for what I perceive as highest in-game enjoyment by players, as well as most theoretical consistency within the campaign framework.
The world is full of magical power and magical creatures. Humans, however, are considered mundane creatures, not magical by nature. Thus, human magic users are not themselves magical, they simply learn the correct methods of harnessing the magic power of the natural world.  
Magic Users are like scientists, who use formulas to tap into the power of that magic world.    These formulaic methods involve especially the use of magical chemistry, harnessing the magical energy in magical creatures and objects.   Another important method involves magical power words, and a third method involves magical symbols.    Through magical ingredients, magical power words, and magical symbols, magic users release and channel magical power.  
I reject the mechanism of "memorize, fire, and forget".  Not only does it render our magic users drastically underpowered, it conflicts with our general cultural expectation of how magic works, as defined by such characters as Harry Potter.  The hard part of D&D magic is that there is NO popular culture depictions of magic that function that way.  And frankly, it is a bit lame to any young person who wants to play a magic user, based on their enjoyment of Harry Potter, for example, to discover they can only use one spell a day. 
In slightly reformulating the magic user mechanic, we can build on the basic logic of D&D magic.  As Gygax says, the power of the magic does not come from within the magician, he is just a conduit.  However, the act of casting and being a conduit for the energy does take a toll on the wizard's own energy level. 
Thus, rather then the spell slot structure, we can postulate that the natural limit to a wizard's spell casting is his constitution score.    Think of it like this: a pipe can pass a powerful jet of water through it, but the pipe itself can only take so much pressure before it breaks.   A thin pipe can only handle so much pressure, while a thicker pipe can handle more.  If the magic user is the pipe conduit, his CON measures the thickness of those pipe walls. 
The end result is similar to traditional 1e limitations, in that a magic user has only a certain number of spells he can cast per day, and he must get restful sleep before he can regain more spells.  However, now he has more spells to cast, at least at the lower level, rendering the magic user more useful on an adventure, more able to use magic, and therefore, more fun to play.  A higher level magic user would be punished by the CON limit, but he overcomes this natural limit on spell casting by becoming an expert in channeling the magic through other objects, such as scrolls, potions, wands, staffs, etc. 
In game play, for fun and ease of play, a magic user can fire off his spells more or less instantly, needing only as much time as it takes to say the power words, draw the symbols, or employ the material components.  Thus, a magic user is prevented from wearing armor, because he needs easy access to his material components (in the many pockets and folds of his robe, hat, boots, etc) and ability to smoothly and unerringly weave symbols in the air, on his body, or on the ground. 
Magic in Other Races
Humans are the only race that can become powerful magic users, because the other races are themselves magical creatures.  In other words, elves are not just thin humans with pointed ears who live in forests.  There is a qualitative difference, because Elves are a magical race.  Likewise, Halflings, Dwarves, and Gnomes are not just midget humans, they are magical races of their own, with their own special dweomer.  
Magic use by humans is a form of technology, and humans developed the scientific knowledge of magic because they are otherwise non-magical.  Thus, the other races have racial limitations on their advancement as magic users.  The origin and practice of human magic is alien to them, and they can never truly master it's usage.   The case is much like humans and silent movement.  With much training and practice, humans can learn to move silently with more and more skill, but they will never attain the native mastery of the elven race.  
The closest thing approaching a "naturally magical human" occurs in the case of psionics.  Psionically endowed people attain powers that are similar to magic, but they are inborn, not dependent upon power words, symbols, or magical ingredients.  Thus, psionic powers appear to be more related to divine power than magical power, and are probably a vestige of the divine lineage of some human families.  

Cosmology Considerations and the role of Elementals

I think I understand why Gygax and the guys went with the "infinite universe" cosmology of the modern scientifically-informed world. Basically, they wanted to integrate science fiction, as indicated by notes in the 1e DMG on merging Gamma World stats with D&D stats. In this "infinite universe" paradigm, they could easily integrate various science fiction hooks into their adventures.

I get that impulse, it makes sense, but there are some implications that I do not like, and I am going back to the default pre-modern "closed universe" cosmology in my Arizona Adventures campaign. For example, with the "infinite universe" cosmology, heaven is no longer above us, and hell is no longer below us. They are on other "planes".

This is in sharp contrast to the pre-modern view, which saw the place of the afterlife as somewhere down below. The idea that the hells are literally down below us is compelling, and is a never-ending font for adventuring hooks, based on demonic threat.

I think the worst idea of the Gygaxian extra-planar structure is the Elemental Planes. I much prefer the idea that the Elemental powers are embedded in our material world. Our world is pregnant with magical power, full of "spirit" elemental personalities which manifest in surprising and dangerous ways.

Water Elementals

That big lake over there, yeah, that is where the 16HD Water Elemental lives. Every big lake will have some intelligence in it, what we would stat out as a Water Elemental. Smaller lakes would have smaller/lesser-powered Elementals. It would be a very rare natural body of water that was completely mundane, lacking any spiritual power or presence.

Naturally, such elemental powers demand sacrifice. Lacking voluntary sacrifice to keep them appeased, they would be "hungry", and would seek the unwilling sacrifice of any unfortunates who wandered into their domain.

Fire Elementals

Fire Elementals would be less regularly placed, having a permanent location mainly in volcanoes. Terrifyingly, they could also arise spontaneously from any large fire. Fire, is this magically pregnant world, would have a mind of its own, seeking to spread itself and consume everything possible. Perhaps ANY fire, no matter how small, would stand a chance of "going sentient", as the latent Fire Elemental intelligence seeks to manifest itself.

Air Elementals

Air Elementals would be more "airy", less concerned with the details of the earth-bound world. At higher elevations, contact with them would be more regular, providing glimpses of their playful but tempestuous personalities. Any flying creature would come into contact with them regularly.

Earth Elementals

Earth Elementals would be located at specific locations. Places of regular quakes, fissures, grinding and turning of the earth, with the rocks occasionally assembling themselves into giant bipedal forms. Less demanding of sacrifice than Water or Fire Elementals, but more "hungry" than Air Elementals, the Earth Elementals would occasionally, seemingly randomly, seek to consume living creatures.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Psionic Roles in the City

Keeping in mind the rule that 100 psionics will be found in a population of 45,000, the question then arises, where will these psionics be? Given the logic of psionic power, it seems clear that psionics will NOT be randomly distributed through the population. Rather, psionics will become concentrated in powerful and leadership positions, and thus, PCs will be even more likely to encounter them than the "simple percentages" indicate.

Remember, psionics are found only among people with high (16+) INT, WIS, or CHA scores. In other words, these are your natural leaders to begin with. Adding to their natural abilities are their psionic gifts, which they would use to leverage themselves even higher on the social ladder.

Imagine some random person who naturally had the psionic devotion of Invisibility. Do you think that person would stay a field hand their whole life? Of course not! I mean, just imagine the possibilities if you discovered as a young teen that you could go invisible... What sort of adventures you would have, what sort of trouble you would get in...

I am thinking someone with the natural ability of invisibility would gravitate towards espionage, thievery, assassination... Perhaps some would enter the field of law enforcement, and what a detective they would make! Clearly, no one is going to remain an "average citizen" for long with the natural gift of invisibility combined with a high INT/WIS/CHA score.

Just as a thought experiment, what would you do with the natural ability of shrinking size (Reduction)? Or walking on water/feather falling (Body Equilibrium)? Phase shifting (Etherealness)? Levitation? Changing appearance (Shape Alteration)? Teleportation?

Is it just me, or do you get the impression the Thieves and Assassin's Guild would be crawling with these guys???

Or, conversely, they'll be "the Supers", the heroes with superpowers hired by the government to combat these super-powered bad guys. People with Clairaudience or Clairvoyance? Detection of Good/Evil? Object Reading? Sensitivity to Psychic Impressions? These people are tailor made for law enforcement!

And what about Telempathic/Telepathic Projection? Empathy? Precognition? ESP? Hypnosis? Domination? Or even Mass Domination??? These people are born to rule! You are practically guaranteed to find these powers among the ruling elite, either in the rulers themselves (high CHA) or in their "handlers" (high WIS).

A quick glance at the 1e Monster Manual entry on "Men" confirms this logic. Under each subheading, it states repeatedly, "leader types will have the normal potential for psionics." In other words, it is practically axiomatic: psionics will rise to leadership positions.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Mass Combat - misc. modifications

Charging Modifications

A unit charging to the attack against a +2 on their attack roll and damage amount. However, the charging unit must have weapons that are longer than the defending unit. As long as the charging unit has weapons that are longer than the defending unit, they automatically win initiative.

No unit will follow an order to charge a defender with longer weapons which are set to receive the charge. Double damage is inflicted on any creature which charges into a "weapon set for charge" opponent. The attacker must have longer weapons than the defensive "set for charge" weapons in order to be able to harm the defender, or the attacker must clear the set weapons out of the way first.

Mounted Attacks

Mounted units can be used in melee. The unit stats would include the mounts' HD and AC into their unit statistics, and the mounts would be included in any casualties. If the mounts have attacks, those can be factored into the unit's average damage and total damage amount as well.

The mounts will affect the natural line spacing of the mounted unit according to the following rule:

--Cavalry natural line spacing: 100% of the mount's body length per mounted unit. Consider the average war horse to be 8 feet long. Thus, a line of 10 war horse would need 80 feet.
--Cavalry maximum line density: a highly trained unit of cavalry can make a charge at 50% body length spacing.


Because chariots are pulled by a horse team, they are not used in face-to-face line melee. Chariots can be used to charge into lines of infantry arrayed at natural line spacing. Chariots will not charge into maximum line density formations.

Chariots can be used to charge individual targets in the field, as well as for mobile missile attacks, such as slings, javelins, and arrows (although the chariot must be stopped before the volley can be launched. They are also used for troop transportation and reinforcement.

Maximum line density for a chariot charge is 20 feet per chariot team.

Magical Attacks on Massed Formations

Magic that has area effects will affect the total HP of the unit attacked. However, the magical damage will be reduced according to the savings throw table. The unit will only take a percentage damage equal to its save number x5. That saving throw number is based on the average HD of the unit, consulting the standard savings throw chart.

Thus, if a unit needed a 10 to save, as a unit it would only take 50% of the spell damage; if it needed a 11 to save, the unit would take 55% of the damage, and so on. The final damage amount is subtracted from the total HP of the unit.

Invisibility Considered

Invisibility will not be a major factor on the battlefield. A unit that turned invisible before attacking would end up knocking into and damaging each other as much as they damaged the enemy. A small number of creatures might utilize invisibility to attempt to infiltrate the enemy's lines to steal something or assassinate officers, but that is about the extent of the usefulness of invisibility on a massed battlefield.

Rallying the Routed

A commanding officer can attempt to rally the survivors of a routed unit. In order to do so, he must be in the immediate physical vicinity of the retreating troops, with the ability to communicate with them, and must be recognized as a commanding officer. The likelihood of rallying a broken unit is based on a charisma check. If the results of the charisma check are positive, the broken unit ceases its retreat is becomes available to form up into a new unit or take other orders.

Mass Combat Rules - the Easy Way!

Mass combat can be as simple or as complex as you and your players would like to make it. The method used to simplify mass combat is scaling into combat units. Combat is then resolved on a unit-by-unit basis. Thus a battle between two 1000-man armies can be resolved as one battle (scaling the unit to be 1000 soldiers each). Or it can be scaled to two battles involving 500 soldiers in each unit, or 10 battles involving 100 soldiers in each unit, etc. It is all up to the GM and players to decide, based on how much effort they want to put into the overall effort of resolving the mass battle.

For simplicity, combat is resolved on a unit-vs-unit basis using the same mechanics as on an individual-vs-individual basis. It only requires one preparatory step, which is making up the statistics for the battling units.

-- # of fighters - the number of individuals making up the unit
-- total HD - the sum of all the hit dice of the individuals in that unit
-- total HP - the sum of all hit points of the individuals in that unit, usually created by using averages, but can be calculated exactly if specifics are known (consider the average HD to equal 5.5 HP for fighters)
-- average HD - found by calculating the total hit dice divided by the # of fighters
-- average AC - found by calculating the sum of individual armor classes divided by the number of fighters
-- average damage - the average amount of damage caused by the weapons used by the fighters in the unit
-- cohesion level - a percentage score measuring the unit's level of tactical skill and morale, checked when heavy damage is sustained or when attempting a change of battlefield tactics
Cohesion level is base 80, with modifiers as follows: lawful +10, chaotic -10, good +10, evil -10, some peacetime unit drilling +5, extensive peacetime unit drilling +10, long-term/professional peacetime drilling +20, each battle previously fought together as a unit +5; all dwarf + 10; all elf +5; all half-orc -5; all humanoid -10; 50% damage sustained -10; 75% damage sustained -20

Resolving mass combat then involves the following simple steps:

1) The unit attacks using a normal attack table, using the average HD as the fighter's level, against the average AC of the opponent.
2) If the attack is successful, a roll is made from the average damage amount.
3) This damage amount is then raised or lowered by the force multiplier. The force multiplier is calculated from the ratio of the # of fighters in each opposing unit. Thus, if Unit A had 15 fighters vs Unit B which had 10 fighters, the force multiplier for Unit A would be x1.5, from 15/10, and the force multiplier for Unit B would be 0.667, from 10/15.
4) This scaled damage amount is then multiplied by the # of fighters, to determine total damage inflicted that round by the attacking unit.
5) This total damage inflicted is then subtracted from the total HP of the damaged unit.
6) Finally, if heavy damage has been sustained, a cohesion level check is made. These checks are required when a unit sustains 50% of total HP damage and also when a unit sustains 75% of total HP damage. Individual units must also check cohesion when their army as a whole has sustained 50% and 75% casualties.

Example A:
Unit A - twelve first level fighters in chain mail wielding swords, Unit B - ten second level fighters in leather wielding clubs
total HP: A --> 12 x 5.5 = 66; B --> 10 x (5.5x2) = 110
average HD: A -->1; B --> 2
average AC: A --> 6; B --> 8
average damage: A --> 1-8; B --> 1-6
force multiplier: A --> 1.2; B --> 0.833
Each round, the units roll for initiative and roll using the combat tables just as individuals.

Round 1
--Unit A wins initiative, so attacks first, and rolls a successful hit as a first level fighter vs AC 8. Damage is rolled as d8, resulting in a 5. That 5 is then multiplied by 1.2 (their force multiplier) to give 6, then by 12 (the total number of fighters), to produce a total damage of 72.
--Unit B then attacks, a rolls as a 2nd level fighter vs AC 6, also hitting. Damage is rolled as d6, resulting in a 2. That 2 is then multiplied by 0.833 (their force multiplier) to give 1.666, then by 10 (the total number of fighters), to produce a total damage of 17 (rounded to the nearest whole number).

Note: both units get to attack before cohesion checks are made, as the attacks are more or less simultaneous. Unit B has sustained 50% of their total HP as damage, so they must roll a cohesion check. If they fail, they are considered a broken unit, and they would roll on the cohesion failure table. Their cohesion score is calculated, and let us assume they roll under that numbers using d100, so their unit is not broken.

Round 2
--Unit B wins initiative, so attacks first, rolling a successful hit as a 2nd level fighter vs AC 6. Damage is rolled as d6, resulting in 6. That 6 is multiplied by .833 (force multiplier) and 10 (# of fighters) to give 50 total damage.
-- Unit A then attacks, but rolls a miss, so no damage is taken by Unit B.
-- Total damage sustained by Unit A is now 67 (17+ 50), which is above their HP total, so their unit is broken automatically. They then roll on the broken unit table to determine results, which will determine what percentage of the unit is slain outright, and what percentage retreats in a rout.

Cohesion Check table

Unit Damage vs Individual Damage Explained

--At 50% and 75% unit damage, it is assumed that damage is being sustained across the unit, but no individual casualties have been sustained, as long as cohesion is maintained. However, if the cohesion fails, the unit is broken, and casualties could occur as the unit is routed (roll on Cohesion Failure Table).

--At 100% damage, unit cohesion is automatically broken, and casualties occur (roll on table to determine exactly how many). Surviving fighters all take some damage (as indicated on the table) and will attempt disorganized retreat.

--Commanding officers are always considered to be among the survivors of a broken unit. Their HPs are modified downward by the same percentage as the other surviving members of the unit.

--Under special circumstances, when a unit cannot or will not retreat (trapped, under mind control, undead, suicidal), they can continue fighting in a weakened condition. At 125% damage, the unit is wiped out totally.

Cohesion checks must also be made by individual units considering the state of the army as a whole, at 50% and 75%. Thus, if an army is made of 10 units, when 5 of those units are broken, the remaining five must immediate make cohesion checks. When 8 of the original 10 units are broken (passing the 75% mark), the remaining two units must make cohesion checks again. If the cohesion checks fail, no casualties are sustained, but the unit is broken and retreats.

Natural Line Spacing in Mass Combat Lines

--Natural line spacing: spacing per soldier equal to creatures height, roughly equal to arms distance apart (i.e. one human every six feet).
--Maximum line density: 50% of creature height per soldier (exceptions to be made for especially thick-bodied creatures, such as dwarfs)
--Maximum line stretch: 200% of creature height per soldier (anything greater than that would instantly be broken once combat began)

Natural line density will always be maintained by an untrained unit. Only a professional unit, or a non-professional unit that has undergone extensive training, can maintain cohesion at maximum density or maximum stretching.

An untrained unit that is forced into battle in a condensed or stretched formation will quickly rearrange itself into multiple units at the natural line spacing (drawing together into new lines with large gaps between new lines if originally stretched, or separating into multiple stacked rows if originally condensed).

To the untrained soldier, the condensed formation is simply too dangerous, as each soldier is subject to errant swings and jostling from his neighbors, so he would step backwards into a new row behind the original. The stretched formation is too isolated, and he would naturally draw closer to his neighbor to avoid the sensation of exposure and the danger of being cut off.

Ave. HD modifiers for attacks

The average HD determines the skill of the attack, which means the likelihood of causing damage. This likelihood of causing damage is enhanced with sufficient superior numbers. In game terms this means the average HD is increased by the force multiplier to determine the enhanced average HD attack ability.

Example A: 10 trained human soldiers in a line 30 feet wide (in maximum line density) vs 15 halfling soldiers in a line 30 feet wide. Thus, in a battle line, there would be 10 humans facing 15 halflings, so the halflings would have a force multiplier of 1.5. Let's assume the average HD of the halfling unit is 2. To find their effective attacking HD level, we would multiply their average HD times their force multiplier (2 x 1.5). Thus, they would attack as 3 HD attacker.

Example B: Let us imagine that a unit of 10 human soldiers is at natural line spacing, blocking a 60 foot pass. However, a concentrated force is able to attack them, meaning, using the 3 foot width rule, the attackers can fit 20 soldiers in their line. Their force multiplier is thus x2, so they would double their average HD level during the melee attacks. So, if their average HD was normally 2, they would attack using the HD = 4 row of the attack tables.

Example C: Let us image a unit of six Hill Giants marching into the attack, according to natural spacing rules at 12 feet apart, for a total line distance of 72 feet. A well-trained human army could fit 24 soldiers into that same space (3 feet per soldier at maximum line density), providing a force multiplier of x4. This would mean that if the average HD of that human line was 2, given the x4 force multiplier, the human unit would strike as a HD = 8 attacker versus the Hill Giant unit.

The Potential of Magic Users in Mass Combat

Wizards, for the most part, are going to refuse to enter the field of mass combat. Their lack of armor, their lack of hit points, their high intelligence, all incline them against going anywhere near the battlefield.

They are loath to waste any of their precious magical resources on what they will undoubtedly see as a "petty squabble" (no matter how important the battle seems to others). They are far too busy with their magic research anyway, and they are close to making profound breakthroughs, so their time is extremely limited, not to be wasted in "foolish brawling" and "primitive head-butting".

A magic user may be persuaded to contribute some magical assistance if an extreme amount of treasure, services, and concessions are offered in exchange. His assistance would extend to preparing a few scrolls or wands, or the granting of some other magical item, and perhaps "monitoring the outcome of battle" using his crystal ball or scrying device.

Nothing short the immanent threat of extermination would get him to bodily enter the battlefield. Even then, he would expect to be stationed in the safest zone, as far from physical danger as possible, as part of the kings personal guard, on hand to render expert consultation and, perhaps, assistance (only if the direst of emergencies should require it, of course).

Certainly, there is ZERO chance of getting him to fight embedded in a combat unit. If anyone attempted to constrain his "arcane and esoteric freedom and liberty" by forcing him onto the battlefield, he would do everything in his power to escape, and would thenceforth devote all his considerable time and cunning towards plotting revenge upon whomever dared order the affront to his autonomy.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Asya Monks of Arizona - an overview

The Asya are the last of the colonist human groups in Arizona Adventures. They are also the least numerous, having only one small community in the far NW corner of the region, on the edge of Lake Mead, about 20 miles to the southeast of Sin City.

Their location so near to Sin City is no accident. They sought out Sin City intentionally, to reach out to those who are there. The Asya are no ordinary colonists. Rather, they are a quasi-religious body of ascetics, monks who have renounced the pleasures of the world. They sought out Sin City as the place most in need of their non-materialistic message and way of life.

Asya Origins

The origins of the Asya lie beyond the Western Wastelands. In fact, they tell of their homeland on the other side of the Great Western Ocean. It was there that their Great Teacher taught them of the inward power that comes through the path of renunciation and self-denial. Turning their backs on the dual paths of magic and religion, they renounce the world and its pleasures. In return, they achieve harmony, happiness, and balance, relying solely on their inner natures and personal discipline.

Relation to Sin City

The greatest of the Asya monks came to Sin City a century ago to demonstrate the mastery of their path. They came to defeat the twin enemies of sensualism and material gain where they are at their earthly apex, in Sin City.

The evil forces who rule Sin City, of course, wanted nothing to do with these Asya monks in their city, and waged a campaign of extermination against them. The monks were not eliminated, but they were forced out of the city itself. They regrouped in a fortified position called Boulder City, on the banks of Lake Mead, a few hours walk away from Sin City, and established their monastery headquarters there, where they remain to this day.

The monks still make secret journeys into Sin City at great danger to themselves, attempting to help the unfortunate souls trapped there. They also rescue those who are trying to escape the city, rounding up those who end up lost and helpless on the road or in the desert outside the city. Their monastery is visible from the road leading to the city, and they make perpetual effort to warn passing travelers away from the city's dangers, offering them succor and lasting peace in their cloistered halls. Of course, few Sin City-bound travelers take them up on their offer.

Throughout the years, however, they have collected many Sin City outcasts into their fortress monastery, adults and children of all ages and ethnic groups. Thus, not all monks at the Boulder City monastery are of the Asya racial stock, although the upper leadership levels remain so to this day.

The Life of the Monk

The typical monk spends much of his time sitting in meditation, which means either emptying his mind of all thoughts, or, alternatively, contemplating some puzzle his master has given him to figure out. These mental exercises encourage the monk to get in touch with his inner nature, which they cultivate as a source of great power.

It seems that the end effect of these mental exercises is the development of the monk's latent psionic power. While psionic powers are normally manifest in only a small percentage of people, the monks' practices suggest that these powers lie dormant in us all, at least to some greater or lesser degree, and can be brought to the surface if given enough discipline and practice.

The monks also undergo a system of physical exercises which are designed to strengthen their body and hone their reflexes for fighting. Thus, all monks are at least minimally prepared for combat, and the monastery becomes an extremely dangerous place for enemies to attack. The wicked overlords of Sin City certainly find the monks to be a thorn in their side, but have learned through repeated defeats not to treat conflict with the monks as a casual affair.

Development of Superhuman Powers

The most gifted of the monks develop their minds and bodies to such a high degree that they become capable of superhuman feats, which otherwise would require some magic or divine miracle to accomplish. Monks have been known to walk through fields of fire unharmed, survive for days in the hot summer desert without food or water, run over deep bodies of water like it was solid ground, and sit on a block of ice in the middle of a snow storm for hours with only a thin robe for clothing without suffering adverse effects. Some even learn to harden their skin as strong as metal armor, to cut as with a sword using only their bare hands, to pluck arrows in mid-flight out of the air, and to fight without hindrance while totally blind.

When not training for combat or sitting in meditation, the monk can be found tending his garden, or fishing the lake, or sharing a drink of tea with his compatriots. Occasionally, either the Asya monks or their native pupils can be found in other towns of Arizona, spreading their message of renunciation, or going about some other business.

Monmore Society in AZ - an Overview

The Monmore are a third colonizing group in Arizona. They first came to Arizona over two centuries ago, traveling from their homeland around the Great Salt Lake deep in the Great Northern Mountain range. Looking for a homestead along the Colorado River, they were continually uprooted by Giant attacks and forced ever-southward.

Traveling south of Lake Powell, the Giant population thinned considerably (probably due to the greater heat which their large bodies do not process well), and the Monmore eventually settled along a Little Colorado tributary, at the site of present-day Snowflake. Shortly thereafter, a second group of Monmore settlers continued southwards, crossing the Elf-controlled White Mountain range, and settled in the Phoenix desert valley, along the Salt River, in present-day Mesa. The settlement of Mesa was roughly contemporaneous with the settlement of Tempe by the Arya migrants, and the two towns have grown up side by side.


Monmore society is characterized by a strong religious focus, and their social organization is theocratic. Their god is found high up in one of the stars in the firmament, and they are zealous in the spread of his cult. They take pride in abiding by their god's strict rules, which govern the totality of their society. Thus, all social authority flows through their priests, upward to the First Priest, who is the living mouthpiece of their god and rules with unquestioned authority.

Polygamy and its Effects

Monmore social organization is also unique, stemming from their practice of polygamous marriages, which are commanded by their god. Most Monmore men have two or three wives, and their religious leaders have been known to acquire 20, 30, or more. The shortage of women created by this practice is dealt with rather uniquely: as their young men come of age, they are sent out of their towns on what they call "missions", to spread the worship of their god. They are only allowed re-entry into their town if they demonstrate their "spiritual maturity", which means they bring converts with them, who are usually women, ready to worship the Momore god and take a Monmore man as husband.

Thus, there is a continual stream of young Monmore men proceeding forth from their cities. In times past, this caused great friction between Tempe and Mesa, as the Arya of Tempe viewed the nearby Monmore as trying to steal their women, and war between the neighboring communities almost broke out. However, an accord was reached and war averted, as the Momore agreed to stop proselitizing for their god within Tempe itself, and Monmore missionaries were prohibited from entering the city gates. Oddly enough, Tempe's population level ended up benefiting from this arrangement, as Tempe takes in many former missionaries who have abandoned their missions, moving into Tempe to find safe work and available women for marriage.

Seed Communities

Of course, not all young Monmore missionaries return to their towns of origin with wives or abandon their missions in Tempe. Some persevere in their religious quest for years, and some even find wives yet stay in the mission field. Thus, throughout the state, in many out-of-the way and unexpected locations, Monmore "seed communities" can be found.

Sometimes these communities are just a collection of male missionaries (they are sent out in groups of two, but often form larger groups once out in the wilderness). Sometimes these communities also include women, as they attempt to form the seeds of new Monmore cities like Snowflake or Mesa. In all cases, they follow strict religious discipline, and lay out their streets in orderly rectangles around a central temple, just like their home cities (which are patterned after the heavenly city of their god). Such communities are often known to contain an odd assortment of races (including halfling, elf, orc, even the occasional hobgoblin or giant), as the missionaries spread their cult to everyone available.

Relation to the Arya and Derjuden

It is claimed that the Mormore god is the same as the Heavenly Father of the Arya. This seems possible, as the Monmore god is also known to live in the heavens, but unlikely, as the Arya worship under the sign of the cross while the Monmore do not. However, the two groups do seem to share a racial background, as they are physically indistinguishable and speak the same basic language (although with a difference in accent and some vocabulary). Monmore legend says they came to their northern homeland after a great migration from the east, and the Arya also migrated from the east, so an ancient connection is possible.

Whatever their ancient connection, however, today the two groups are rivals: for land, for trade, for wealth, for power and influence. Both groups view it as their divine right to claim and tame the land for their posterity, and so both groups eye one another wearily. Plots and intrigue are common between Tempe and Mesa, with occasional armed skirmishes in their common border zone.

It does not help their relations that the Monmores of Snowflake cooperate quite closely with the Derjuden of Flagstaff along the northern trade route. While the Arya and Derjuden are not in open warfare, it is accurate to think of them as enemies, and the hostility between them is palpable.

For their part, the Derjuden attempt to cultivate friendship with the Monmores of Mesa. The Derjuden view a connection with Mesa as a a means of expanding their trade empire in central and southern Arizona, especially for access to the lucrative magical trade with A.S.U. Thus far, the Arya have kept the Derjuden locked out of the A.S.U. magical trade, and prevented their access to most of the southern trade route.

The Derjuden look to use the Monmore as a wedge and potential ally, while the Arya view the Monmore as potential backstabbers. It is a volatile mixture at the present time.

Derjuden Society in AZ - an Overview

Derjuden society in AZ is part of a mobile, trade-based empire, specializing in the trade of magic, jewels, slaves, and money. The Derjuden can be found throughout the region, ferrying trade goods back and forth, and they specialize in caravan-based living on long over-the-road trade journeys. From their population center in Flagstaff, they dominate the lucrative northern trade route to Sin City. In Flagstaff are located several pillars of Derjuden power, including their Central Bank, their Great Temple, their slave market, and the Necromantic Arts University.

Central Bank

The locus of Derjuden financial power is their Central Bank. Access to the Central Bank is, of course, tightly controlled, but the amount of treasure stored there is acknowledged to be astronomical. Through the actions and proclamations of their Central Bank, the Derjuden strongly influence the interest rate charged for loans throughout the region. Of course, they also receive petitions for loans from everyone needing money throughout the region as well. Loan terms, when granted, are always tough, and the Derjuden have acquired a well-deserved reputation for ruthlessness when it comes to collecting what is owed to them.

The Derjuden Central Bank is one of only two coin mints in Arizona (the other being in Tempe). Derjuden money is most prominent along the northern trade route, and is the major coin of trade in Sin City. Interestingly, the Derjuden coins also appear to be used extensively among the more civilized Giant races of the Great Northern Mountains.


The locus of Derjuden religion is their Great Temple. Although only a minority of Derjuden live in Flagstaff year-round, all the Derjuden will mass around their Great Temple in the late autumn for a sacred pilgrimmage that lasts one week. Although their priests are normally based at their Great Temple, at least one priest can always be found traveling with their trade caravans whereever they go.

The primarily method of priestly action appears to be sacrifice of animals upon their altars. When away from their Great Temple, Derjuden priests will set up altars at whatever high places are locally available, and so, Derjuden altars can be found on hilltops throughout the region. The Derjuden god has been characterized by outsiders as "blood-thirsty", due to their practice of carefully draining all the victim's blood upon the holy altar, both in their Great Temple and their various high places throughout the region.

Rumors abound that their sacrifices also involve unwilling human victims. Of course, this is officially denied, and any such human sacrifice must occur in the greatest of secrecy, if they occur at all.

Slave Market

The Derjuden-controlled slave market in Flagstaff is the largest such market in the region. Slaves of all races, human, humanoid, and demi-human, are bought and sold there, especially for fodder as labor in the forests and mines of the surrounding mountains. Derjuden are not the only slave traders in the region, but they do own the slave market in Flagstaff. Their ability to provide a regular supply of common slaves, as well as their ability to acquire unusual species (such as trolls, giants, or dragons), provide them with an outstanding reputation in the slave buying market.

Roadside Inns

Derjuden can also be found as proprietors of road-side inns throughout the region, providing services and supplies to all travelers. Some observers have wondered how these isolated inns are able to survive in the such isolated and hostile locations, leading to rumors that the Derjuden are involved in dark dealings and secret pacts with the monsters or other dark forces. Of course, these rumors have never been official corroborated, but what is certain is that the Derjuden make frequent use of magical protections and hired mercenaries in their own defense.

Relations with Necromantic Arts University

The origins of N.A.U. predates the Derjuden settlement of Flagstaff. N.A.U. began from a split among the magical faculty of A.S.U. in Temple in centuries past, who were conflicted over the research and practice of the dark arts. It is not certain why Flagstaff was chosen as the location for N.A.U., although it may be related to the powerful nature gods of the nearby mountain peaks, or perhaps its relative easy access to the dark forces in Sin City.

While it is not fully known if the Derjuden were involved in that original split, whatever the case was then, they do have a significant representation there today. The faculty at N.A.U. is at least partialy Derjuden, although they generally seem unconcerned with the ongoing life of humanity about them. The N.A.U. faculty does engage in extensive trade with the outside world, purchasing food, supplies, and magical ingredients, while in turn, selling all manner of magical items of their own manufacture, much of which seems to fall into the hands of Derjuden purchasers. Derjuden merchants dominate the magical trade with N.A.U., although they do not control it. Derjuden students are also commonly taken in to N.A.U., usually being the children of wealthy merchants.


The Derjuden people are fairly loosely organized, and lack any kind of supreme king to rule them all. Rather, they appear to operate as some sort of loose confederation of tribes and trade groups. A mysterious group of elders appears to provide some sort of overall guidance, but they are a shadow group and do not present themselves as a governmental body or provide diplomatic relations.

The city of Flagstaff is governed by a mayor, but the city is home to many races and the mayor is only sometimes Derjuden. The mayor is appointed to office for a fixed term as a representative of the merchant groups, and he is mainly concerned with ensuring Flagstaff's stability and prosperity as a trading town.

While the Derjuden do not appear as a tightly structured governmental unity, and can often be found competing and squabling with one another, they will quickly close ranks when threatened by outsiders.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Tempe goverment and Society - an Overview

Tempe is the largest city in Arizona, and is the preeminent Arya settlement in the region. The city is hierarchical, militarized, and home to His Lordship, the High King. The city was founded over two centuries ago during the Great Migration, when it enjoyed trade with and support from the Great River Kingdoms to the east. That connection to the east was severed a century ago by the rise of the Dark Hordes, and Arya of Arizona have been forced to subsist largely on their own since that time.

The economic base of the city is agriculture and ranching. Irrigation from the Salt River waters Tempe's fields, groves, and herds, which have become the breadbasket of the Arizona region. The main route of trade involves a triangle trade with metals from Prescott, lumber from Flagstaff, and food from Tempe. An overland route to the Colorado River at Blythe is also a significant trade corridor.

Tempe society is two-tiered, with the land-owning, noble families forming the high society, and the landless, agricultural workers forming the low society:

The Landed gentry of Tempe is made of the seven founding clans which own all the land in the town. The basis of their wealth is land ownership and the guarantee of safety they offer those who live on their land. Their young men are removed from their familes at the age of seven and raised in military academies. After eight years of discipline and hardening in common school, most are granted the rank of squire and returned to their families to assist in the clan businesses. The most gifted among the students, however, continue onward into secondary school, where they are trained as scholars and officers, and enter into the direct service of the High King, in the King's College. Membership in the King's College is considered the highest honor in Arya society.

The Landless commoners of Tempe tend to be poor and uneducated, however, they are not slaves or serfs. The Landless are paid wages and are expected to care for their own housing and family upkeep. Many of the Landless take up skilled trades, and the most gifted among them have some upward mobility through the Church, the Applied Spellcasting University, and the Ranger Battalion (see below). The brave and tough among the Landless have also been known to take up careers as henchmen and mercenary soldiers in the hire of the Landed gentry.


The majority of decision-making power and authority is vested in the King and His College, who are entrusted with ruling for the good of all noble clans and the city at large. The various members of the College serve as administrators of the King's laws, guardians of his Treasury, and officers of his Army. The King's College chooses a new king from among their own members when the office of High King becomes empty because of the death or abdication of a King.

The House of Lords is a collection of representatives from the seven noble clans. New laws or taxes proposed by the King must be ratified by the House of Lords in order to become laws. The House of Lords is also responsible for supplying a specified number of Cavaliers to serve in the body of the King's Army.

The House of Commons is a collection of the more powerful and wealthy representatives from the Landless of the town. They have little decision-making authority, but can propose laws to the King's College, and are authorized to adjudicate disputes and conflicts among the Landless.

The King's Army

The King's Army is made primarily of the Cavaliers from the noble clans of the city. It is a standing force, with a career officers drawn from the King's College, athough the body of the army rotates through in limited times of service. The duties of the Army are primarily external, patrolling the King's settled agricultural territories and roads for incursions from magical beasts, giants, or humanoid raiders. The King's Army also patrols the city itself, enforcing internal laws.

The Ranger Battalion is an adjunct force to the King's Army, with dual headquarters in Wickenburg and Superior. The Rangers' duty is to patrol the mountain wilderness, keeping check on humanoid or giant incursions, while gathering information and expanding Aryan territory where possible. While Ranger leadership is supplied by the gentry of the King's College, the rank and file membership is largely drawn from the Landless. The Landed gentry prefers the status and money-making opportunities of the town-based Cavalier lifestyle, viewing a Ranger assignment much like a form of banishment. The Landless, however, view Ranger membership as an opportunity for upward mobility, wealth, and freedom.

Occasionally, in times of need, the King's army will be supplemented by mercenary soldiers drawn from the ranks of the Landless.

Relations with Applied Spellcasting University

The wizard towers of A.S.U. predate the Aryan settlement of Tempe. The origins of the wizarding community at A.S.U. are unknown, and the mysterious wizards are less than forthcoming with any information, but it is clearly connected with the study of the Phoenix Aerie to the immediate west. Although they share contiguous territory, A.S.U. is an autonomous power and does not bow to the authority of the High King.

Overall, the wizards prefer to be left completely alone and seem to be totally unconcerned with the politics or troubles of any other humans in the region. A cadre of servants maintains trade relations with the outside world, and they seem to derive great profit from the sale of the magical items they create. They are also known to take in students, training them in the magical arts, for a steep fee, of course.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

They Walk Among Us - the hidden Dragon Menace

Citizen's Alert - to be Posted in All Pubic Places

As you know, dragons are terrifying and dangerous magical beasts. We need no reminder of their attacks upon our knights, and their constant depredations of our wealth.

Recent discoveries have revealed dragons to be far more terrifying and dangerous than we imagined. Stated plainly, dragons have been found to be walking among us, disguised in human form. Through some magical means, dragons walk among us in our towns, pretending to be human.

As everyone knows, Dragons are motivated by greed, and power. Disguised as humans, they infiltrate our society, to learn of our treasure, and study our defenses, to better attack us.

All citizens are advised to be on the lookout for dragon-ish behavior in their neighbors. Signs of hidden dragon infiltration include unnatural interest in the location of treasure hoards, selfish hoarding of money, secretive behaviors, anti-social attitudes, and hostility to governmental investigation.

If your neighbors are exhibiting any of the above signs, report them immediately to the nearest King's Guards and Keepers of the Peace. With your help, we can eliminate this hidden dragon menace. Thank you.

Adventuring Hooks

The aging King, paranoid and monomaniacal at the best of times, appears to have gone completely mad out of fear of secret dragons, and his paranoia has spread to the terrified citizenry. King's Guards run amok through the city, rounding up political enemies (and their treasures) on suspicion of secret dragon infiltration. Citizen has turned on citizen in a frenzy of paranoid accusation and revenge seeking.

Mobs form suddenly to put anyone accused of dragon infiltration to the immediate test, such as slicing their bellies open to check for swallowed gems, placing them upon bonfires to test for fire resistance, or dropping them repeatedly from towers to check for flying ability...

Anyone from out of town, or anyone seen carrying bags of treasure, is especially prone to accusation, thus making the environment particularly dangerous for adventurers...

PCs stand a 50% chance (3 in 6) per day of being accused of dragon infiltration by a mob if they appear in full gear or carrying treasure in public, a 17% chance (1 in 6) if appearing in public in disguise, and a 33% chance (2 in 6) per day of receiving a visit from the King's Guards at their home based on a tip from an anonymous neighbor.

Mob Accusation (d100, modify with CHA reaction bonus or penalty)
--01-25 enraged mob attempts immediate dragon trial (d6: 1-2 gutting for gems, 3-4 bonfire, 5-6 drop from tower)
--26-50 enraged mob attempts to strip, beat, and turn over PCs for arrest to King's Guards (loss of all possessions and all but 1-6 HPs, ending up in jail for further interogation)
--51-75 enraged mob attempts to strip and beat PCs (loss of all possessions and all but 1-6 HPs, ending up thrown over town wall)
--76+ agitated mob threatens but does not attack PC

King's Guards actions (d100, modify with CHA reaction bonus or penalty)
--01-25 Guards attempt immediate gutting for swallowed treasure
--26-50 Guards confiscate all PC possessions, scorge PC to the bone (only 1d6 HP remaining) during interrogation, and throw PC in jail
--51-75 Guards confiscate all PC money/jewels, threatening scorging and arrest if PC resists
--76+ Guards question PCs but take no action

Dragon Menace hysteria lasts 3-18 days (3d6).

On any given day, 1 in 6 chance of a real dragon being accused, resulting in a dragon battle in town. If PC assists in the battle against the dragon, they will be hailed as heroes, receive a reward from the king, and be free from any further chance of dragon infiltration accusations.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Dragon Ecology in Arizona Adventures

Dragons are found in large numbers throughout the Arizona region. Though all dragons seem capable of flight, dragons appear to prefer subterrainean habitats. In fact, our most learned sages hold that dragons have an under-worldly origin, vomited upwards from the fiery regions below.

Whatever evil power is responsible for their original creation we cannot know, but our sages tell of a gigantic queen mother dragon who resides in a fiery pit at the gates of hell far below our world. Seated in her infernal nest, she receives a continual stream of sacrifice from her dragon servants, and births forth a continual profusion of eggs which they carry up and out of her underworld nest, to become the dragon plague upon the upperworld.

Dragon Treasure Hoarding Explained

Dragons everywhere have been characterized by their voracious appetite for treasure, and AZ dragons are no different. It has long been believed that dragons hoarded treasure simply out of their greedy, evil natures. However, recent observations have led our sages to conclude that dragons actually use the treasure as food.

The use of precious metals and gems as food would explain a number of puzzling aspects of dragon behavior.

--Lack of hunting-- Dragons are creatures of massive size and would seem to require an equally-massive food supply, but they are never seen hunting food or eating prey animals.
--Preference for armored knights-- Dragons will ignore a field full of helpless peasants in rags to attack a fully armored knight in plate mail, whom they will never fail to swallow whole if they are able.
--Underground lairs-- Dragons can always be found nosing around and living in underground locations, where they appear to spend most of their time. Dragon claw marks on the walls in these locations used to be interpreted as claw-sharpening, but may actually indicate tunnel-digging as they prospect for their food supply.

Parasitism upon Humans and other creatures

Although capable of digging their own lairs and prospecting their own metals and gems as food, dragons seem to prefer letting other creatures do the hard work for them. Thus, they would prefer to take over a dwarven-dug mine to digging one themselves. They would rather invade a king's well-stocked treasure room, rather than prospecting underground for all the raw metalic alloys.

Because humans and dwarves do such a good job digging mines and creating treasures, it seems that dragons have gotten more reliant upon them, positioning themselves as a predatory of and parasite upon their work. However, in the totally uncivilized outer regions of Arizona, we can still find dragons in their "natural state", forced to dig for their own food in lairs of their own creation.

Canyon de Chelly

A major entrance into the dragon underworld appears to exist in the northeastern part of the state, in the area known as Canyon de Chelly. Swarms of dragons appear to be continually entering and exiting the caves there, usually carrying treasures in and often seen carrying eggs out. The savage Dineh tribal people live in the area unmolested, perhaps owing to their lack of treasure or metal weapons. The secretive Celtic druids appear to have some access to the area, but they are not forthcoming with much free information. Attempts by the civilized Aryans to investigate further have uniformly ended badly thus far. What seems certain is that a great deal of treasure awaits any heroes brave and powerful enough to survive an expedition there.

Gods and the Supernatural in Arizona Adventures

Let me start out by saying that I am not a big fan of "designer gods". You probably know the kind I mean: the ones with the five syllable, non-English sounding names, obscure powers and identities, strange motivations... i.e., the one's that are everywhere homebrewed by imaginative DMs and make appearances in many commercial modules. These "designer gods" seem to abound, spreading in numbers that seem to me, to be unjustified.

I think a quality campaign is served well when the structure of the supernatural is intuitive, and simple for any new player to jump into. Most gods can serviceably go without any personal name. This also goes well with the idea of a Dawn of Civ campaign. It gives it a certain "primitive" feel, when the gods are simply referred to as "the Thunderer", "the Fire Starter", "the Sun Bearer", "the Tempest Bringer", "the All-Mother", that kind of thing.

Which pantheon are they? Well, it hardly matters, really, when they are broken down to their primitive, pre-literature level. The operating assumption in the ancient world was SYNCRETISM, the idea that, although we have our own particular names for them in our own languages, the gods behind these forces are one.

Gods as Forces of Nature

The "look and feel" I am going for here deviates strongly from our civilized view of pagan gods, that comes from our literary encounter with the Greek/Roman pantheon. I am going for something more along the lines of the gods in Niven & Pournelle's Burning City books (the Magic Goes Away series). These gods are primitive, scary, and very much out of control.

For example, the Burning City's god of fire, who inspires arsonist orgies of destructive conflagration at random intervals, yet prevents the use of any indoor fires in normal times. Drawing from real history, it is like the ancient festivals of Bacchus, where we get drunken orgies, people running around out-of-control because they are possessed by this god of lust and pleasure.

Imagine a primitive town, a la the Burning City, except, rather than ruled by a fire god, is under the control of the Goddess of Love. Under normal circumstances, fighting or sex is impossible there. Literally, people find it impossible to draw arms on each other, or come to blows, or engage in any sexual activity.

Yet a couple times every year, the Goddess goes into her active phase, and everyone suddenly goes crazy, screaming, yelling, pushing, fighting, ripping their clothes off, making love in the street, that kind of thing. [I am thinking the town of this goddess is a thriving merchant town with a, ehem, "wild side"... hmmm, Scottsdale perhaps?]

THAT would be a very different city in concept and application than the standard "medieval European" milieu we are used to, wouldn't it? This gets us back to that primitive idea that each city has their own patron god/goddess. It's not so much that people are picking and choosing their own personal belief system, which is our modern idea of religion. The idea is that a god is in control of a certain region, and the humans who live in that region are under the control and protection of that god.

Evil Gods vs Demons

I am also not a fan of "evil gods". I think this role is better filled by demons and devils. Evil clerics are those who have made deals with these evil creatures. The dark forces agree to reward these clerics with miraculous powers in exchange for serving them, or selling their souls to them, that kind of thing. Of course, serving evil is unpredictable, dangerous, and always has a high price. Their activities are done in secret, and usually their identity as evil clerics is hidden from the public eye as well.

The Mechanics of Cleric Power

Clerics are miracle workers. I think their mechanics have been improperly conflated with that of magic users, because of the "spell slots" structure. I am fine with limiting clerics to their allotted number of "spells" as per the slots, but I disagree with the idea of preparing them ahead of time.

Miracles are, by their nature, ad hoc, as needed. Thus, a 1st level cleric could call upon their god once a day for a low level miracle (i.e., one first level spell slot). Which miracle that is, is up to the cleric at the moment of need, and can be drawn from any of the potential first level cleric spells.

Supernatural Embedded in the Material

As you can infer from my discussion of the fire god or love goddess above, I disagree with the abstract idea that gods are far removed in some other plane of existence. Returning to the primitive ideal, gods have specific locations on earth, like that mountain, that volcano, deep in that canyon, at the roots of that tree, etc. These are places of temples, pilgrimages, even towns that develop, devoted to those specific gods. Their power is not necessarily transferable to other locations, i.e., they would be a poor fit for an adventuring cleric. Adventuring clerics might even find their miracles restricted in these zones (although they would not know that ahead of time, of course)...

Some gods are above, in the literal sense of above, meaning, in the clouds, in the sun, in the moon, in the stars, in the planets (where are embedded in the dome of the sky, not in some infinite space like our modern scientific view). These gods tend to be accessed only from the highest mountain peak, or some means of flying upward. Because these gods can see the whole earth, their worshippers are more mobile, and thus, would be more appropriate for adventuring clerics. Do their powers extend underground, and if so, how far??? That would be a fun plot twist to explore, as your cleric, a devotee of the Thunderer, finds his miraculous powers fading as he progresses underground....

Monday, November 15, 2010

Creating Psionic NPCs the easy way

From our statistical analysis we know that a city of 45,000 will have 100 psionics in it, and their range of psionic strength with be as follows:

25 with one attack mode (01-25)
25 with two attack modes (26-50)
25 with three attack modes (51-75)
20 with four attack modes (76-95)
5 with all five attack modes (96-00)

25 with two defense modes [all have Mind Blank] (01-25)
50 with three defense modes (26-75)
15 with four defense modes (76-90)
10 with all five defense modes (91-00)

10 with 1 minor & 0 major disciplines (01-10)
15 with 2 minor & 0 major disciplines (11-25)
15 with 3 minor & 0 major disciplines (26-40)
15 with 2 minor & 1 major disciplines (41-55)
15 with 3 minor & 1 major disciplines (56-70)
10 with 4 minor & 1 major disciplines (71-80)
10 with 3 minor & 2 major disciplines (81-90)
5 with 5 minor & 1 major disciplines (91-95)
5 with 4 minor & 2 major disciplines (96-00)

The base psionic strength of any individual is postulated as 1-100 (with bonus for INT, WIS, and CHA), so one roll of the d100 can be used to create your psionic NPC.

Your d100 roll will provide the base strength and be applied to each of the above charts. This ensures that a psionic with lots of attacks, defenses, and disciplines will also have lots of strength points to put them to use. It makes intuitive sense, since a psionic with less overall psionic strength would logically have less attacks, defenses, and disciplines as well.

So, for example, a roll of 50 would produce base 50 psionic strength, 2 attack modes, 3 defense modes, 2 minor and 1 major disciplines.

A roll of 72 would produce base 72 strength pionts, 3 attack modes, 3 defense modes, 4 minor and 1 major disciplines.

To create the bonus points for the psionic strength, roll 3d6 for the NPC's INT, WIS, and CHA. Remember that one of them has to be at least 16, or he wouldn't have psionics in the first place. For each point above 12 in those three categories, add 1 psionic strength point.

If two categories are above 16, double these bonus points, and if all three categories are above 16, quadruple the bonus points. Thus
-- an NPC with 16s in INT, WIS, and CHA would have a bonus of 12 points
-- an NPC with two 17s and a 16 would have a bonus of 28
-- an NPC with three 17s would have a bonus of 60
-- with three 18s, the bonus would be 72.

Wild Psionics of the City: the Brawler

As I detailed in some previous posts (here and here), according to the dice, psionics should be far more common that most people give them credit for. In a city of 45,000 people, the odds indicate the presence of 100 people with psionic powers. In this post, I will detail one of the more intriguing possibilities: the psionic brawler.

The Brawler is a smallish looking fellow, perhaps even a woman. Physically weak, slight of frame, an easy mark, apparently. Perhaps our PCs encounter him as part of a bar bet. Imagine a smooth talking local, baiting our heroes with challenges to their manhood. "Take you guys on? Ha, I bet you can't even toss my old grandpa out of the ring!" as he points to a petite looking fellow at the table next to him. He, in turn, looks our heroes up and down, and snorts, "ha, don't waste my time with a tray full of creampuffs like that" and dismisses them with a wave.

Meanwhile, hearing the challenges and sensing a possible fight, a crowd has begun to gather around. The young trouble maker continues his tirade and insults, "These vagabond yahoos are all the same, they ain't nothing without their candy-ass armor and magic swords. Give 'em an old fashioned fight, man to man, and they cry like little girls!" The gathering crowd begins to laugh and jeer... "I'm not going to waste my time with these patsies... I'll bet you a hundred gold you can't even whip my old grandpa!" The crowd erupts in laughter... The spindly old man pulls himself up on his table and flexes his tiny arms to the crowds delight, toothless old grin leering at our heroes...

Once outside, a ring is quickly drawn in the dirt, a large crowd gathered round, cheering the old man on, as he pulls his overshirt and pants off, stripped down to his girdle. "Now, mind the rules, strangers: no magic, no armor, no weapons, first one out of the ring loses." Your hero nods his assent, as he strips off the last of his outergarments and steps into the ring.

The old man across the ring throws aside his walking stick, and with a crooked smile on his face, straightens up his back to stand to his full height, which, you swear, is bigger than he looked in the tavern. The crowd erupts in a rising roar as he throws his hands up in the air, and continues to grow, up, up, up...

The old man across the ring has grown to the size of a giant, with legs like small trees, and arms as thick as a normal man's waist. The ground shakes before you as he stamps his feet and pounds his chest and lets out a loud scream, which drowns out even the cheers of the crowd...

Psionic Details

The old man is exhibiting his psionic power of Expansion. His sixth level power has transformed him to the size and strength of a large ogre, growing to over 10' high, and adding a +6 damage bonus because his 18(00) strength. Luckily for our hero, this minor discipline uses up 5 psionic strength points per round, enough for, say, 10 rounds of combat. Can our hero stay in the ring that long??? Better brush up on your grappling rules, Mr. DM, cause the fight is on!

Another cool idea for this "hand to hand" fighting scam is versus a brawler who has the minor psionic discipline of Body Weaponry. At the sixth level of mastery his hard skin would equal an armor class of 4, and his fists would strike as a morning star!

A brawler with the major psionic science of Shape Alteration could also be quite fun to play. With that power, the psionic can change forms into anything for 3 strength points, and add 100 pounds of mass to his new form for every strength point expended beyond that. Think: instant transformation from skinny old man to 700 pound sumo wrestler.... Yeah, that is a fun NPC to have around.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Psionic Attacks upon non-psionics: Ego Whip

The Ego Whip is another really cool psionic attack. The ego is our conscious mind, our mental dialog, our sense of self. Attacks on someone's conscious thought process and identity can produce some really excellent effects, including insanity and mental domination.

The basic mechanic of Ego Whip is to overwhelm the other person's mental apparatus. In the best case scenario, you can actually take control of their mind. The shock of the attempted takeover might also cause insanity, or at least knock them out of commission for awhile.

The Ego Whip costs 7 attack points against a psionic, or 27 points versus a non-psionic. Remember, a psionic must have at least 100 strength points to attack a non-psionic. The Ego Whip affects only one creature, and its range is S = 4", M = 8", and L = 12".

Note that mind blank is normally helpful against psionic attacks, but against the Ego Whip, mind blank is actually harmful. According to the DMG psionic combat tables, Ego Whip is twice as effective against Mind Blank as any other psionic defense. Because Ego Whip is basically trying to highjack the victim's thought processes, the Mind Blank actually helps things along. It's like a "lay down" defense against a grappling attack. Yeah, not too smart.

Savings throw table

Effects table

Friday, November 5, 2010

Psionic attacks on non-psionic: Id Insinuation

The Id Insuinuation is another very creative psionic attack. It seeks to loose the uncontrolled and subconsious mind of the victim. Against the psionically-aware, it is an area attack (2" by 2"), and costs 10 points. Against non-psionics, I would treat it as an individual attack, and make it cost 30 points.

The Id is the animalistic/reptilian part of the brain, focused on passion, emotion, and pleasure/pain. The Id Insinuation stimulates that part of the mind, attempting to cause it to overwhelm the super-ego, which provides our sense of right/wrong.

Because of the nature of this attack, the savings thrown table against this attack is modified differently than against other attacks. It is also more even across the board, as the INT+WIS level matters relatively less than one's mental character traits and habits:
--Bonuses are given to those peolple and races who are disciplined in mental control and less likely to give in to their passions (lawful, good, dwarf, halfling, cleric, monk, cavalier/paladin)
--Penalties are given against those who tend to be less disciplined and more likely to give into their lower natures (thief, assassin, chaotic, evil, half-orc, elf, gnome).
--Mind Blank spells are given extra bonus here because Mind Blank is the most effective psionic defence against this attack on the psionic combat tables.
--Being in a highly agitated emotional state, as well as sleeping, also opens one up to this attack.

Id Insinuation has the longest range of any psionic attack: Short - 6", Medium - 12", Long - 18"

Saving throw Table vs Id Insinuation

save vs id insinuation

The effects of a succesful Id Insinuation attack are more dependent upon the victim's alignment than mental capacity, due to the nature of people's subconscious tendencies.

effects of id insinuation

Psionic attacks on non-psionics -- Mind Thrust

This is house rules stuff for those who enjoy playing with psionics. The way I see it, everyone has a mind, an id, an ego, and a psyche, therefore everyone is potentially vulnerable to these psionic attacks (not just Psionic Blast, as defined in the 1e rules). Giving psionics the ability to attack non-psionics is potentially a big "game unbalancer", so I am trying to constrain these powers to logical limits while still keeping them somewhat effective and fun.

The PH1e states that Psionic Blast is costly in terms of attack point expenditure, but is the only attack that can affect non-psionics. I take that as a statement of intended game balance, and I respect the logic of it. I would postulate that any psionic attack used on a non-psionic costs 20 extra strength points. Keep in mind, the psionic must have a current psionic strength of at least 100 to be able to affect a non-psionic. Thus, only a very powerful psionic would have a chance at using their powers on a non-psionic.

Used on a non-psionic, the Mind Thrust would cost 24 points. The attack range of the Mind Thrust is as follows: Short - 3", Medium - 6", Long - 9"

The Mind Thrust is a stabbing attack which seeks to short the synapses of the victim. I think of it like swirling a stick inside someone's skull. You are basically just trying to mess something up. When used on a fellow psionic, the Mind Thrust can wound or permanently damage the victim's psionic abilities. When used on a non-psionic, I figure that worst case scenario, it can cause the loss of INT or WIS points.

Save vs Mind Thrust table
save vs mind thrust
Effects of Mind Thrust table

effects of mind thrust

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Psionic attack upon non-psionics: the Psychic Crush

This is house rules stuff for those who enjoy playing with psionics. The way I see it, everyone has a mind, an id, an ego, and a psyche, therefore everyone is potentially vulnerable to these psionic attacks (not just Psionic Blast, as defined in the 1e rules).

The PH1e states that Psionic Blast is costly in terms of attack point expenditure, but is the only attack that can affect non-psionics. I take that as a statement of intended game balance, and I respect the logic of it. I would postulate that any psionic attack used on a non-psionic costs 20 extra strength points. Thus, used on a non-psionic, the Psychic Crush would cost 34 points.

Keep in mind, the psionic must have a current psionic strength of at least 100 to have any chance of effecting a non-psionic. Thus, only a very powerful psionic would have a chance at using this on a non-psionic, and because of its cost, it could only be used once or maybe twice.

The Psychic Crush is a pretty cool attack. It is your basic kill shot, "a massive assault upon all neurons in the brain, attempting to destroy all by a massive overload of signals." It affects but one other creature at a time. Its short range is 5", which is also its max range, as no medium or long range is given.

I figure that a person of average INT and WIS has about a 50% chance of throwing off the Psychic Crush without any effect. The saving table works out as follows:

saving throw vs psychic crush

I am also slightly modifying the effect of Psychic Crush, which is normally save-or-die. I figure there is a range of damage prior to instant death that can result from this "massive assault upon the neurons", so the effects table is as follows:

effects of psychic crush

Again, in terms of game balance, I postulated that a person of average INT and WIS would only suffer instant death 50% of the time. Remember, this is after they already failed their saving throw, meaning that the real chance of killing an average person with a Psychic Crush is only 25%.

On the other hand, someone with max INT+WIS would have a 50% chance of suffering confusion, but only a 5% chance of death (and their saving throw was at 0 to start with anyway).

Giving psionics the ability to attack non-psionics is potentially a big "game unbalancer", so I am trying to constrain these powers to logical limits while still keeping them somewhat effective and fun.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Understanding surprise rules

The surprise mechanics in 1e are a bit counter-intuituve and clunky, which is probably why it underwent some changes in later editions. I think the basic point of confusion comes from the fact that you are NOT rolling to see if you surprise your enemy.

Your surprise roll is better thought of as a "paying attention check" for yourself. Think of it as a saving throw against not paying attention.

You have a base 33% chance of not paying attention. On a d6, if you roll a 1-2, you have failed your paying attention check, so you are vulnerable to surprise. Your "success number" is a 3, because if you roll a 3-6, you passed your attention check, meaning, you were not surprised.

Some monsters surprise on 4 in 6, or better. That means your "success number" is a 5, so on your roll, you have to roll a 5-6 to avoid surprise. A better way of putting it is that they cause a minus 2 in your "attention check" rolls. Your normal "success number" is a 3, but because you are rolling at -2, your "success number" rises to 5.

But what if your surprise roll was already modified, so you are normally only surprised on a 1 in 6? Essentially that means your "attention check" roll is +1. So against the monster that "surprises on 4 in6"/"causes -2 on surprise check rolls", that means you would only be surprised on 3 in 6 by that monster. Your "success number" has risen to 4, because of the -2 and +1.

Segments Lost

The number of segments you lose by being surprised is calculated by how far below your "success number" you actually roll. Normally, your "success number" is a 3. But if you roll a 1, you lose two segments to your opponent (3 minus 1) . If you roll a 2, you lose one segment to your opponent (3 minus 2) .

But if your "attention check" number was 5, because the monster was a "surprise on 4 in 6"/"minus 2 on surprise check rolls" monster, that means you could lose up to 4 segments, if you roll a 1. (5 minus 1)

Your individual DEX score can reduce the number of segments you lose to surprise.
DEX 16 = 1 segment bonus
DEX 17 = 2 segment bonus
DEX 18 = 3 segment bonus

Segments lost to surprise are extra important because while you are surprised, you can be attacked once every segment. Think of it as a complete blindside attack, followed by a bunch of easy follow-up blows as you stumble around trying to get your bearings.

We can see that stealthy monsters are particularly dangerous. If you roll a 1 against a "surprise 4 in 6" monster, that means you are subject to 4 attacks in a row, because 5 (your target success roll) minus 1 (your actual roll) equals 4 (the number of segments you lose). You would be subject to 4 straight attack rolls before you could even roll for initiative to counter attack.

The DMG is a bit vague on the this one fine point: can your DEX bonus remove all suprise segments, effectively eliminating your surprise? The DMG states that a low DEX penalty cannot cause you to be surprised, although it could add to the segments you were vulnerable. Think of the big clumsy guy who is stumbling around for longer, vulnerable to more attacks. Just because he is more clumsy doesn't mean he pays less attention than anyone else. His recovery time is slower, but his odds of being surprised are no worse than anyone else.

But what about on the high-DEX side? DEX is said to reduce the number of segments you are surprised by your DEX bonus. But that would seem to imply that your surprise segments can be cut down to zero, and I think that would defeat the whole reality of the surprise. I would say that your DEX adjustment can reduce your lost segments down to 1 from a higher number, but cannot get rid of the surprised penalty altogether.

To allow the DEX bonus to reduce the surprise segments down to zero would be to confuse categories. High DEX allows you to recover more quickly from surprise, but it doesn't prevent you from being surprised in the first place, and if you are surprised, you are surprised, there is no getting around it.

While your teammates are getting knocked about while they stumble around for multiple segments because they weren't paying attention, your lightning reflexes may allow you to spin off the attack, tumble and roll back to your feet to avoid further attacks... But it doesn't prevent your vulnerability to the initial suprise attack in the first place.

Anyway, that seems reasonable to me!