Monday, December 12, 2016

Turtle Island

Some of you may have noticed the new game image to the right.  This is the game we are currently playing.  My wife’s Dragon Age game got put on hold for various personal reasons, and one of the guys in our group has been working on Turtle Island for a long time.  So, we just decided to jump in.

Basically, it’s 14th century “North America” (as in before it was known as such).  We’re all members of the Penobscot tribe (plenty of M*A*S*H jokes to be had every time the name is mentioned), living in what is currently the state of Maine.

It’s a fun take on D&D for many reasons.  Mainly, Native Americans (or Indigenous Peoples).  That right there makes it a cool idea.  And all that goes with it makes it a very unique play setting.  Things like no armor to speak of, no “uber” spells (like Fireball or Lightning Bolt), different kinds of classes, and unique takes on existing classes.

All of this is handled well by the DM who wrote a lot of new rules and variations to cover these ideas.  I’m pushing him to put it all into a publishable format.  I think this would do gangbusters at RPGNow.

Our group is kind of large, but with a wide variety of characters and character-types.  So far we’ve fought some bears, a giant snake, a giant lobster (this is Maine, after all), and a witch.  We’re still dealing with the witch, though.  She did a number on an NPC, and we are inclined to help her, and the village in general, out of this mess.

And once again, I have pigeon-holed myself into the role of hulking warrior.  So, to counter that, I’ve decided that my excessively large Brave (Fighter), who spent time among the Bear Spirits in the Spirit Realm, is very self-conscious about his freakish size and strength.  I imagine him being like if Andre the Giant had been an Indigenous.  His name is Sitting Bear, mainly because he has taken on a lot of the mannerisms of a bear, including just sitting when he is not active.

Already had some interesting RP moments with him.  He has an affinity with bears, so he doesn’t eat bear meat, and has a preference for eating a lot of fish.  This affinity came into play when he stopped his companions from killing a mama bear who was defending her cub by imitating a bear and turning on his party to “scare them off.”  And it worked!  The mama and her cub escaped into the woods unharmed (papa bear had already been killed, which upset Sitting Bear somewhat).

He also started an odd romantic involvement of sorts with an NPC who is physically deformed, which he identifies with.  It’s a long, complicated story, but it’s fun.

Probably won’t get to play again until after the new year, but I’m looking forward to seeing where this is going.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Orcspendibles and Gamehole 4

I have begun to lay the groundwork for my “Orcspendibles” game (which may end up being the actual title of the game).  I am definitely going to use the 5e rules, and I have made a preliminary list of all of the modifications I will need to make, and the extras I will need to add.

In a nutshell, the initial playable races will be Orcs, Half-orcs, and Goblins.  I will have a short list of Backgrounds that are relevant to the setting, most of which I will have to create from scratch.  But I like doing that sort of thing, so it’ll be cool.

There will also be some other stuff I will need to create and write up, including a set of rules I have in mind for randomly generating missions.  And I will most likely put it all together as a supplement book for sale at RPGNow.  Going to attempt to do all of the artwork myself as well.  Been getting back into drawing lately, so I can probably pull that off.  Though I wouldn’t turn down any art donations…

My latest decision, though, is to include minis at the table.  For that I will dig out my old copy of Gorkamorka, and paint up a few orcs and stuff.  If I can find my old WH40K army, I’ll have some goblin figures to paint up too.  I’ll probably enlist my wife to help with the painting.

I got some renewed vigor in my motivation during Gamehole Con 4 this past weekend.  Apparently I have until roughly the end of December to submit games to Gary Con.  So, I may end up running my first Con session there in March.  But only if I have the rules written and at least one playtest with my group before the end of the year.

As to the Con itself, another homerun.  And, as always, life had a way of not allowing to me to game quite as much as I wanted.  However, I can honestly say that ALL of the gaming I did was quality stuff.  Had a good time interacting with my fellow gamers, and saw many familiar faces, as well as new ones that will probably become familiar in the years to come.

The games were all pretty fun.  I especially liked the BareBones Wuxia game.  Got to play the brawler type of character that I always love in wuxia films.  The other fun point was playing with Luke Gygax on Sunday (yes, you can all be jealous).  He’s really cool, and it was fun to hear his stories about the games his dad would run for him when he was younger.  Of course, he and I are both Army and Desert Storm vets, so there were some in-jokes shared about that.

All-in-all, another great Con.  And though Gary Con can’t get here soon enough, I am very much looking forward to Gamehole 5 already.

So, anyone find themselves at Gamehole this year?  Did I game with any of you and not know it?

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Gamehole Con Level 4

Wow.  Been a while.  Anyone miss me?  Probably not.  :)

Anyways, next weekend is Gamehole Con 4 here in Madison, WI.  I'm looking forward to strutting around with "Level 4" on my badge.  As always, the wife will be there as well, and my daughter on Saturday.

This year is kind of a weird mix of games for me.  Instead of aiming for a genre theme or anything, I specifically went for stuff I'd never played, or don't play anymore.  I think I got a good mix.  The only game I have specific experience with is AD&D on Sunday:

Friday, 10:00 AM - Shark Riders of the Purple Plain (Badlands & Barbarians)
Friday, 2:00 PM - Shotguns & Sorcery Demo
Friday, 8:00 PM - ICONS: Urban Jungle!
Saturday, 8:00 AM - BareBones Wuxia! The Willow Blades
Saturday, 2:00 PM - Into the Unknown (Castles & Crusades)
Saturday, 4:00 PM - The Sea-Wolf's Daughter (Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea)
Sunday, 10:00 AM - The Cave of Wisdom (AD&D 1E)

I also have Saturday night free after 8:00 PM, so I might try to find an open game in the gaming room, or maybe just chill out for a bit.  I don't think my wife has a game at that time either, so we may do something together.  Especially since we are not scheduled together at all for the whole weekend.

Speaking of gaming, I am entertaining the idea of running a game or two next year.  I was thinking about Gary Con in the Spring, but it's already too late to submit games for that, I hear.  So, Gamehole 5 might be my debut as a convention GM.

The first game I am considering running is an idea that I am actually developing as a novel, and the one I am going to attempt to do NaNoWriMo with this year.  Inspired by Fantasy Flight games' old 3.x setting, Dragonstar, my game would focus on a team of orc mercenaries.  The idea was sparked by a friend who suggested I combine my love of orcs with my love of The Expendibles.  Thus "The Orcspendibles" was born.

Right now I am leaning towards using a modified version of D&D 5e for the rules.  Though I might go with something else if the inspiration hits.  Basically, I want something simple and fast, and something that the majority of people will already know.

I may also run a game of Mutants & Marvels.  It's still getting a little action over at RPGNow, selling at least a couple of copies each month.

So, any of my faithful readers going to be there?

Monday, August 29, 2016


When last we left off, the party had just defeated the wight guardians in their magical chamber, and had moved into the short hallway beyond. Here they took a short rest, while the rogue investigated the double bronze doors. They were locked, with a large keyhole on this side. Beyond he periodically heard guttural voices and movement.

Having not found a key, the rogue picked the lock, and was rewarded with the a satisfying click. Preparing for whatever lay beyond, the barbarian and cleric positioned themselves at the door, ready to charge in, while the rest lined up behind them

As they shoved the doors open, the party entered a large room carved from obsidian. The floor was lined with six, large pillars, and there was an altar at the far end. Standing on the altar was the obsidian and marble likeness of an ancient god with one large eye and six splayed arms. However, none could ponder the identity of the god, as there were five bugbears and a half-ogre waiting for the party.

The barbarian got the drop and charged in, swinging wildly at the first bugbear. Then all hell broke loose as spells were casts, arrows were fired, and weapons were swung. The battle was brutal, and loud, as Shatter spells did much damage to the bugbears, as well as the statue, which lost two arms, and nearly half of its head.

With most of the bugbears down, the barbarian had the half-ogre cornered. The wizard slammed her flaming sphere into the being, causing him to finally fall to the floor. But, just as she was about finish him off with a well-placed spell, a voice boomed in their heads…

(This was read aloud to the players at this point)


Suddenly you all feel yourselves compelled to stand still, your weapons dropping to your sides, the words to spells being cast dying on your lips. In front of the cyclopean idol appears a man. He is of medium height and build, with dark, angular features, and flowing black hair. He is dressed in simple black clothing of indeterminate design. He gazes at you appraisingly, as a smirk creeps across his face. He begins to casually walk among you, hands clasped behind his back, as he speaks in a casual manner.

"So, you are the current pebbles in my boot." He stops and gazes at Graz and Colette’s holy symbols. "Impressive. I see that the All-Seeing One is doing well. And though I do not know her personally, the Wise Warrioress also seems to be well-established. Good, good." He paces about a bit more.

"When we were first brought to this world, I had thought to maybe re-invent myself. After eons of my old ways, I thought perhaps I would ‘turn over a new leaf,’ as you say. Start fresh. Entice followers, and gain divine glory. Become a force the others might respect." He pauses to chuckle to himself. "But, I suppose old habits die hard. Besides," his grin widens, "this is so much more fun!"

He grows a bit more serious. "Be that as it may, you have successfully thwarted my plans for this region. Well-played, adventurers. Well-played. Let it not be said, however, that The Sly One does not have a sense of fairness. I shall concede to you your victory here. You shall no doubt receive accolades for averting a costly little war, and saving hundreds of lives." He pauses and furrows his brow in thought for a moment. "I foresee a great future for you all…." He pauses for a moment, then smiles. "Well, most of you, at any rate. The future is always so unclear, even to us."

He stops pacing in front of the half-ogre's body. He looks down on the half-ogre, and his face grows a bit more stern.

"This one, however, is mine. You shall not harm him further." He looks at you all, and his visage softens just a bit. "He is a dumb brute, but he is useful." He pauses and smiles, as if recalling a pleasant memory. "In fact, he reminds me a bit of my dear brother." He waves his hand and the half-ogre disappears in a flash of light.

He gazes at you all again, and his amused expression slowly turns to one of annoyance.

"You know, if word gets out that I simply let you walk away without exacting some kind of ‘punishment’ on you…well, let’s just say I have a reputation to uphold. So, on that note, enjoy your walk home!"

He waves good-bye, and the world disappears in a brilliant flash of light.

The light fades to black, and your senses slowly begin to return to you. You first realize that you are laying on warm stone. Then you sense that the air is much more warm and humid than you last recall, and smells strongly of vegetation. You hear the sounds of abundant wildlife, and a breeze rustles through trees. As you slowly peel your eyes open and groggily sit up, you see that you are in an empty, square room, approximately 30 feet on each side. The walls, floor and ceiling are all made from rough cut bricks of dark, somewhat greenish stone. There are crevices between several of the stones in the walls, and from one side beams of sunlight pierce the darkness. On the side opposite the sunlight is an arch leading into a hallway. You have all of the equipment you were carrying.

Thus ends the first chapter of this arc. Where are they? How will they get home? And what perils will challenge them for their very lives? It should also be noted that the barbarian and ranger appear to be missing.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

5e Freebie: Kensai

About a week or so ago I had this idea for non-traditional monk traditions for 5e.  Basically, the idea was to have characters who fought bare-handed like monks, but had slightly less regimented backgrounds, and consequently, less "Far Eastern" abilities.

I initially came up with three traditions: the Brawler, the Wrestler, and the Kensai.  I have since expanded the idea into a whole new class, based mainly on the Monk from the PHB, but with some distinct differences.  And in the process, I decided that the Kensai was actually more like a very focused traditional Monk.

So, here is the Kensai Tradition.  It isn't playtested, so you may want to tweak it a bit here and there.  But the idea is that this is a fourth Tradition your Monk character could choose from at 3rd level.  I've also included a few magic items that are geared specifically for traditional Monk characters.

Also, as usually happens when I get a bug like this up my ass, someone else has already done the Kensai as a full class.  Have a look here.  It looks pretty good, honestly.

As always, comments and criticisms are welcome.

    There are warriors who gain total mastery of a specific type of weapon, and then there are the kensai.  A kensai is a monk who has dedicated practically his entire existence to perfecting his ability with a specific type of weapon, to the point of it being a supernatural connection.  Although a kensai can use other, simple weapons, if there is a weapon of his chosen type available, even if it is inferior to other available weapons, he will always choose that one.  At 1st level, the kensai declares his chosen weapon, and he will use this weapon (or another one just like it) until the end of his days.  This weapon can be simple or martial, but cannot be a ranged weapon.  Eventually the kensai will focus his efforts with a specific weapon of this type, often specially commissioned, and always of masterwork quality.  However, a kensai will never use a magic version of his chosen weapon.

Special note:  Any instance where a monk would gain an additional unarmed strike, the kensai can be assumed to make that additional attack with his chosen weapon.

Perfect Form
When taking the kensai tradition at 3rd level, you improve the die-type of your chosen weapon by one step.  From then on, any weapon of this type you use rolls this new die for damage.  For instance, if you choose the longsword, any longsword attacks you hit with will deal 1d10 damage, instead of 1d8.  If you choose a greatsword, any attack will deal 2d8 damage, instead of 2d6.

Ki Weapon
At 6th level you can channel your Ki into your weapon, per the monk’s Ki Empowered Strikes feature.  However, when using your chosen weapon, you also add one half of your Proficiency bonus (rounded up) as a magical bonus to attack and damage.

Soul Weapon
At 11th level, you must choose a specific weapon to focus on.  This weapon becomes soul bound to you; you can never be disarmed, and you will never fumble with this specific weapon.  Additionally, you score a critical hit on a natural roll of 19 or 20 with this weapon.

My Weapon Is My Life
At 17th level your Soul Weapon can be summoned from a distance, and will magically appear in your hand instantly, so long as it is on the same plane of existence.  Additionally, you can spend a Ki point once per round to make a single ranged attack with the weapon, attacking any target within 50 feet of you.

Magic Items for Monks
Monks are not above the use of magic items, though their normal restrictions on weapons and armor apply.  Items such as Rings of Protection, Bracers of Defense, and Girdles of Strength are fairly common for monk characters to use when available. 

Below are four magic items that are specifically intended for monks.

Gauntlets of the Iron Fists
These hand coverings are usually in the form of wraps of sturdy cloth or leather, and radiate moderate magic.  Wrapping one’s hands with these gives the monk a magical bonus of +1 to +3 to hit and damage when making an unarmed strike, depending on the power of the enchantment.

Intercepting Staff
This +1 staff is made from dark cherry wood, and radiates mild magic.  While wielding the staff, a monk may expend a Ki point to activate the staff’s Interception ability for that round.  When this is used, the monk makes an attack roll, the result of which becomes his AC for a single opponent’s next attack.  If the opponent misses, and the monk’s AC roll was higher than the opponent’s AC, the monk strikes with the staff as a free action, automatically dealing 1d8+1 (plus Strength modifier) in damage.

Ki Medallion
This medallion is a small disk or amulet on a golden chain worn around the monk’s neck, and radiates faint magic.  By meditating with the medallion in hand for one hour, the monk can suffuse the medallion with Ki points equal to half of his current maximum rounded up.  These Ki points can be spent just like the monk’s own Ki points.

Ring of Physical Perfection
This plain, onyx ring radiates moderate magic.  A monk wearing such a ring may expend up to five Ki points to heal himself as a full action.  For each Ki expended the monk regains 1d8 hit points up to his maximum.  Once all five Ki points have been used, the monk must meditate on the ring, regaining one Ki point of healing for every half hour of meditation, up to a maximum of five (2.5 hours).

Monday, August 8, 2016

Into the basement

After sorting out the details involving lost character sheets, and missing players, the party picked up outside the main hall of the abandoned monastery. They knew that at least some of the remaining bugbears had fled to that room, and had barricaded themselves in. The party, wishing to avoid being approached from behind while exploring the stairwell leading down they had earlier discovered, decided to turn the tables, as it were, and add to the barricaded doors, ensuring that the bugbears wouldn’t be able to get out if they suddenly wanted to.

Feeling secure in that decision, the party proceeded down the stairs for two levels, all the while enduring an overpowering stench of sewage and decay. They finally came to a large, square room filled with mushrooms of all sizes, shapes, and colors. Some managed to notice shambling forms coming from a cave in on the far wall, and after taking cover, they witnessed four spore-zombie bugbears enter, gather mushrooms and begin to leave.

One of the warlocks, whose patron is an entity connected to fungus and mushrooms, decided to pick a mushroom from a nearby cluster. This caused one of the spore zombies to confront him threateningly. Placing the mushroom back, the warlock reached out with his mind to the zombie, and made a connection with the "master" entity. After a brief discussion communicated through emotions, they came to an agreement that the party could pass as long as they left the room undisturbed. Seeing the wisdom of that choice, the party crossed the room, and exited through a door on the far wall.

The door had not been open in decades, and it lead to a darkened hallway, similarly disused. They noticed there was a faint glow coming from the far end, and the cleric’s light cantrip allowed them to see that the hallway lead to a set of stairs turning right and heading further down.

After some winding halls and stairs, the party came to an archway leading into a room. The room was H-shaped, and in the four points were sarcophaguses. The room itself was iced over and the ice glowed with a ghostly white light. They could feel that room was much colder beyond the archway, and when the paladin finally set foot in the room, the temperature was indeed many degrees colder. This action also caused all four sarcophaguses to open up, and four undead creatures clambered out. They were adorned with aged armor, and all brandished swords, glaring hungrily with glowing eyes.

The cleric and paladin agreed that they were wights, and the party engaged them cautiously. The cleric turned two, and the paladin caused another to cower in fear. The party then turned their sites on the fourth and laid into it. In this manner, they managed to take down all four wights one at a time, with only the barbarian suffering any notable damage, and the paladin having several hit points of life drained.

Looting the room proved very profitable, as the wights had been buried with what was obviously great treasures from their living lives. Now armed with some magical weapons, and a Bag of Tricks, the party prepared to enter the double doors that lay just beyond this chamber, expecting to find whatever power it was that had influenced the hobgoblin generals into starting an unwinnable war with the local communities.

However, real-life time was getting late, so the group parted ways for the night, eager for the next (and last) session of this arc of the campaign, and an answer to their burning questions about who, or what, was behind all of this.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Goblinoid Races and Language

As you may recall, I have been using hobgoblins as my go-to bad guys in this current campaign. One of the ways I made things a bit easier on my players was to state that if they spoke orc, goblin, or bugbear, they could understand what the hobgoblins are saying after listening for a bit. I don't know if this has ever been laid out officially, but below is a quick write-up I did to add some background for this in my world.

The "Goblinoid" language

We have determined that if one can speak orc or goblin, one can, with a bit of practice, understand hobgoblin. This is believed to be because all of them derive from a single root language.

According to scholars, in ancient times there was a single "goblinoid" race. None know what they called themselves, and each subrace that has developed has their own legend which depicts themselves as the root. However, through centuries of warfare, diasporas, and wandering, portions of this master race spread far and wide across the world, developing their own words and manners of speech, and even distinct cultures, based on what and who they encountered.

Today, there are four distinct branches; orcs, goblins, hobgoblins, and bugbears. Each of these subraces are thought to be the result of goblinoids meeting and interbreeding with other races.

Orcs are the result of breeding with humans, and are believed to originate in the southern portion of Ameron, near the dense jungles of The Shades. Those who remained in the south have taken on a green cast to their skin, lending credence to the notion that goblinoids may have had some chameleon-like abilities, and changed colors to match the dominant hues of their surroundings. This is further supported by the orcs of the plains and foothills being brown, and those in the high mountains being gray.

Goblins are believed to be the result of breeding with either gnomes or halflings. However, it is also believed possible that they are simply the descendants of outcasts who were deemed too small and weak to survive.

Hobgoblins, it is believed, were created from interactions with fiends and other outsiders. Their blood-red skin tone, and the fact that there are higher numbers of sorcerers among them indicate they may share this heritage with tieflings.

Bugbears are conjectured by some to possibly be the result of breeding with ogres. However, others believe that bugbears may be the closest to the master race, and are simply those surviving members of this lost race who have fallen into savage barbarism.

The fact that the languages of each of these races is actually just a dialect of the same language lends further evidence to the belief that they all share a common ancestor race.