Jeremiah McCoy

Geek For Hire

Author: Jeremiah McCoy (page 1 of 31)

I am back at it. Here is a review of a couple of 5e PDF products from Rite Publishing. Both have 5e rules work done on them by my friend Brandes Stoddard.

Brandes’s Blog
http://www.brandesstoddard.com/

Kaiju Codex is a book of super large and powerful monsters.
http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/219786/Kaiju-Codex-5e

In the Company of Giants is a book of pc options for the giant inclined.
http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/226574/In-the-Company-of-Giants-Revised-5E

(production Note: round about 5:30 there is a little bit of audio weirdness. Not sure why but I couldn’t fix it and I didn’t want to record it twice.)

My Patreon
https://www.patreon.com/jeremiahmccoy

So here is a brief update. I talk about the response to designing for Fantasy Age, designing Blight Elves over on my blog, and trying to find ways to format things for presentation.

My Blog
https://jeremiahmccoy.com

My Patreon
https://www.patreon.com/jeremiahmccoy

Beware the Blight Elves

Fantasy and science fiction have always overlapped a little.  In post-apocalyptic fantasy you have permission to combine both a little more freely.  I am going to swing at this idea which has been bouncing around in my head for a while. This is also pulling a good deal from my recent post about God Thrones, a post apocalyptic fantasy setting in my head of late.  The idea of course can work in other settings.  As an example,  is a crashed spaceship in the classic Mystara setting. That ship is leaking radiation and causing a range of problems. This might fit in there.

 

Anyways….here we go

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Setting Idea: the God Thrones

Okay, so I had a crazy idea pop into my head. This actually happens a lot, but I try not to let myself get to taken by them. Sure, I probably could make an excellent dread overlord, but I am unwilling to spend time making the robot army of Pippi Longstockings.  Think of the overhead!

 

Where was I?

 

Oh right! Crazy idea.

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The Basics of the Game updates and The Tal Dorei Setting

Here I am making another video.  Crazy talk. I talk about recent projects, new audio gear, and I briefly review the Tal’ Dorei Setting.

 

http://www.thetomeshow.com/e/the-beholder-monstrous-ecologist-001/

 

 

My Blog

https://jeremiahmccoy.com

 

My Patreon

https://www.patreon.com/jeremiahmccoy

Different Rules for Death.

Why I am I talking about death on a blog dealing mainly with games?

Medieval Drawing of skeletons

Well, games handle death differently.   In many video games, you simply return to prior save point if you die. In Dungeons & Dragons we have spells which can bring you back from the dead. Death does not have the tight hold on a character it does on people in the real world. How easily a caster can gain access to these Resurrection spells says a lot about the setting. If it is just something you pay some gold for at the local temple, then death is less scary. If it is something that only pc’s can learn, then that puts PC’s in a unique position in your world. Suddenly, they go from just being another adventurer to being some of the most important people in the world.  The notion of someone dying and being brought back to life is kind of a central tenant to at least one major real world religion.

The thing is, I am not super satisfied with the treatment of death in most fantasy games. It makes sense with how D&D evolved.  Of course bringing someone back from the dead boils down just casting a spell.  That is how player controlled magic works in D&D. Having your character die can suck. It is not as traumatic as having a real person die, but you can invest a lot in that character. Often you will spend many hours playing, making and thinking about your character. You get invested, so of course you want to have them brought back.  It all makes sense but it also removes something. If death is a guaranteed non permanent thing, if it is a simple fix, then why should you care if someone is under threat of death?

Larps Handle Death A Little Differently….

Boffer or Action Larps often bring an even strong sense of attachment to a character. You are spending whole weekends in costumes you either bought for the character, or made for the character. You inhabit that character in a way you cant at a tabletop session.  You are physically doing many of the things you might describe in a tabletop game. This means the impact of character death is even stronger here, so having an easy(ish) way to bring people back is essential, but, again, how do you put people at risk if they know they can be brought back? A few games I have played have done that differently, but they all boil down to a couple of strategies.

The Drawing

The first tactic is adding the chance you might not come back. Whether you are drawing a card, or a domino, or a specially marked stone, you take a random chance when bringing people back.  The more often they get brought back, the worse their chances become. As you die, the folks running the game would record it in a book. When you died again, they would prepare the pool you are drawing for based on the number of previous deaths. You will likely have no problems coming back for your first few deaths, but as you go along the chances to comeback are reduced. You can add complications to this system.  Perhaps you could make a draw result that is not just alive or dead, but different. You could be brought back with a venerability to silver or mind magics. Some spells may have a greater chance to be brought back different, much like the Reincarnate spell of older editions of D&D.  Add in a few cards that could change you from a Human to an Elf, for instance.

 

This adds threat the longer pc’s are played. They may become more powerful, but their death draw becomes more and more likely to be their last.  It also allows you to add effects that increase the stakes of an encounter. Say you are fighting  bad guy who uses some dark magics. He drops your friend, and you think “well there is a still a good chance that he will come back, lets rush the guy.” Then the bad guy casts a spell that weakens peoples souls, making that draw even more likely to fail.  That bad guy becomes an even more of threat.  Suddenly the PC’s feel more at risk. You could also have spells that there is no coming back. Rather than just killing you, they obliterate you leaving nothing to be brought back.  That sense of threat is put back into dying. Obviously, you want to advertise that and not have a surprise permanent death, but making that known makes an opponent that much more frightening.  It marks the clear difference between early campaign and late campaign content, where the stakes should be higher.

 

The Conditions

Some Larps placed a particularly limit on bringing someone back.  For instance, a couple of larps I played required that you get to the body of the person you want to bring back before the sun sets or rises. No body, no coming back.  This creates a sense of pressure on the heroes.  Not only do you have to get out of the dungeon with your dead friend, but you need to do it quick.

It also presents an interesting set of complications for stopping the bad guy.  That ritual the  bad guy is going to do to give himself nearly godlike powers? Yeah he is doing that at sunset.  Jump too late, he is a god. Jump too soon and your heroes face a real chance of dying permanently.

Other games I played did not have this complication and the body of heroes dissolved and appeared in a magic circle.  This presented a different complication.  All their gear is wherever they died. People familiar with MMO’s will be familiar with  the corpse run.  That is unpleasant, but it is even more unpleasant in a circumstance where you are not a ghost, where all your nice weapons, armor, spell books and the like are in a dungeon that was bad enough it killed you once already. Many an adventure would have a  point where someone would die and resurrect  in the circle and hope their buddies grabbed all their gear on their way out of the evil temple.

 

Role Playing Death

Another big part of this process was the description. You died and it is not a binary proposition bringing you back. Narratively, there is struggle.  There would often be a description of the spirit reentering the body, or the sensation of resistance on resurrection that was not going well. A pc’s ghost might meet other ghosts while dead, or Death herself. The point is it was rarely a simple spell cast and poof you were fine. That isn’t interesting.  There is little chance for story in binary death interactions.

Oi, Mate….How Does This Relate To Tabletop?

That is a good question, and why are you suddenly English. This relates because you can bring a lot of this over to D&D (or Fantasy AGE or insert your game system here).  MAking death a more interesting and role play heavy experience can change how session goes.  A nearly Total Party Kill can have a more interesting aftermath. Here are some options.

The Magic Circles

There are Magic Circles scattered through out the world. The art for making them has been lost, but their power remains.  A person of sufficient power and ability(like a hero) can attune to one. Normal attunement rules apply.  If they do, they can use the circle to bring people back from the dead.  To use it, they must bring at least most of the body back to circle. Once there, they must make an Arcana or Religion check to begin the resurrection. The person being brought back rolls a d20. For the first death, anything above a 1 succeeds.

However, each time they use the circle to come back (or any other method) they also add a d4 to the roll.   If they roll lower on the d20 than what they roll on the d4’s the resurrection fails. If it fails three times, they can never try again. That person is beyond the veil permanently.

Example:  Charley the Bard has died 3 times before. This is his 4th death and his cleric buddy is trying to bring him back in a circle. Charley roles and 11 on his d4’s, to represent the damage his soul has taken in the past. He roles the D20 and gets a 6. He fails his first attempt. He can try to role under 11 on two more tries.  If he succeeds he comes back.  If he fails, the party is going to need a new Bard.

Note: You could replace that with a card pull.  Have 10 hearts cards.  With each death add a spades card. A spade means failure. You could add other suites for more exotic results liek raise changes or developing flaws.

Make a Deal

There is a ritual, which anyone with ritual casting can cast.  It costs 100 gold in certain herbs burnt over the body of a fallen person.  This summons a being. The type of being summoned is decided at the casting.  This can be a spirit of death, a demon, or a fae.  The summoned being will bring the person back from the dead, but all magic of this sort has a cost. To bring your friend back from the dead, you must make a sacrifice something. The first time can be relatively minor, but as someone becomes more powerful, it cost more.  The GM should work out the cost but a good rule of thumb is if the dead person is less than level 5, a material object of some rarity or power(example: minor magic item, the sheets from the kings bed, a work of art) is sufficient.  If they are between 5th and 10th levels, it costs the equivalent of a difficult service or curse. Above that, get creative.  A soul is not out of the question.

Note: This is very much on the GM to come up with something, often on the fly, and with little mechanical guidance. That said, it also adds a lot of story to the process. It is not going to be for everyone, but it can be a fun addition.  

 

We Are The Princes of the Universe

You could also make it so the PC’s by nature of being PC’s are immortal unless killed in a particular way.  This is decided at the beginning of the game and can vary per person. One Fighter can only be killed by decapitation, while the Cleric can only be killed by  a blade of mistletoe wood, or the Bard can only die by being burned to death. Be creative but the way should not be overly specific.  A vulnerability to only spears forged by gods from star metal on a Tuesday is not really a good choice. If they are brought unconscious, they will wake up in 30 minutes no matter how badly damaged, assuming death condition is not met. This does not increase their healing rate, so being beat down to 0 hit points still takes a bit to recover from. To make this work it needs two extra bits. First, there need to be villains also so endowed.  This is a touch of divinity or destiny and the bad guys get that too. Second, there has to be a way for the bad guys to learn what the heroes can die from. Maybe it is a prophesy, or book, but there has a to be a way for the villains to learn it.  Dying to random orcs becomes a lot less likely. It also hammers home that the PC’s are special, but the moment that Cleric notices a bad guy with wooden knives, he begins to sweat.  When that Bard hears that you have to stop a dragon, he will have reason to feel extra concerned.

Note:  This radically changes the nature of a campaign, obviously.  This probably doesn’t fit into every campaign world.  Also, there is a significant chance of having the odd problem prop up due to the seeming immortality of characters.  A character falls into a nearly bottomless ravine with no chance of ever making it out.  Do you count that as dead and make a new character? Eternal toture also becomes an issue.  

 

There are a range of ways to make death more interesting in D&D and other games.  Death is a compelling driver of stories because it is something we all deal with in the real world.  It has a profound effect on those left behind. It should have weight and power in a game, as well. Hopefully these ideas will help do that at your table.

Bringing Tal Dorei races into Fantasy Age

Trying something new here. Bear with me….

 

I am fond of the Fantasy AGE game system. It is, in many ways, very reminiscent of old school D&D in feel, but with some more modern tweaks that make sense.  The die mechanics of the AGE system are not the same, but they are clean and simple to understand. I have not, however, tried making things for it. I mainly work in D&D, specifically in 5th Edition, because it is easy and there seems to be a higher demand for D&D material. That said, I kind of want to take a whack making things for Fantasy AGE if for no other reason than to stretch my creative muscles.

Note: Critical Role Setting  of Tal’ Dorei is copyrighted to Green Ronin.  I will be converting things not actually in the D&D 5e SRD.  This is purely a fan build and not intended as an infringement of any properties. Just a fan trying to make some things for fellow fans.

So, this is my experiment. Lets make something for Fantasy AGE.  I want to start simple.  I figure expanding on the racial options is a good place to start. Also, I am big fan of Critical Role show and the Tal’ Dorei setting. You should be able to run a fairly accurate version of Tal’ Dorei in Fantasy AGE, but there are a few things missing. There are no Goliaths.  If there are no Goliaths, there is no Grog, and you can’t have that. There are no Dragonborn or Teiflings in Fantasy AGE  These are pretty basic options for characters in the world that have already been presented so they seem like something people might want if they were doing a Tal’ Dorei game using the AGE system.

 

Goliath

The Goliath are a race of mountain dwelling giantkin. They are tied to stone giants in a way that is not fully understood and the Goliaths are not telling that tale. They do keep some old stone giant traditions, but other traditions are uniquely their own. They live in small villages in the mountains or as nomadic hunter gatherers.  They have an oral tradition among themselves but some can read and write, if only to trade with others.  They are not common on Tal’ Dorei, but they are not unheard of either.

If you choose to play a Goliath, modify your character as follows:
• Add 1 to your Strength ability.
• Pick one of the following ability focuses: Constitution (Stamina) or Strength (Might).
• You consider targets within 4 yards to be in melee range. (the normal range is 2 yards)
• Your Speed is equal to 12 + Dexterity (minus armor penalty if applicable).
• You can speak and read Giant and the Common Tongue.
• Roll twice on the Goliath Benefits table for additional benefits. Roll 2d6 and add the dice together. If you get the same result twice, re-roll until you get something different.

2d6 Roll                 Benefit
2                                 +1  Fighting
3-4                            Focus: Strength (Climbing)
5                                 Focus:Willpower (Courage)
6                                 Focus: Intelligence (Nature)
7-8                            +1 Constitution
9                                 Weapon Group: Heavy Blades*
10-11                      Focus: Accuracy (Brawling)
12                             +1 Willpower

 

Dragonborn

The Dragonborn in Exandria are from the nation of Draconia on Windmount. The nation is an archipelago and its floating sky cities were brought down by the Chroma Conclave in recent years. There is a dark side to Draconian society. There is a strict division in their society between Dragonborn with tails, who are the upper class, and those without tails which are basically treated like slaves.

If you choose to play a Dragonborn, modify your character as follows:
• Add 1 to your Strength ability.
• Pick one of the following ability focuses: Intelligence (Arcane Lore) or Willpower (Self-Discipline).
• Your Speed is equal to 10 + Dexterity (minus armor penalty if applicable).
• You can speak and read Draconic and the Common Tongue.
• You can breath a breath attack once per combat based upon your Draconic ancestry.  (pick one at character creation)

Black = Acid in a 30 ft. line
Blue = Lightning in a  30 ft. line
Brass = Fire in a 30 ft. line
Bronze = Lightning in a 30 ft. line
Copper = Acid in a 30 ft. line
Gold = Fire  in a 15 ft. cone
Green = Poison  in a 15 ft. cone
Red = Fire  in a 15 ft. cone
Silver = Cold  in a 15 ft. cone
White = Cold  in a 15 ft. cone

The effect of the breath is a blast of the energy from the type defined by your Draconic legacy. Anyone hit by the blast takes 2d6+1 damage. Targets that make a successful Dexterity (Acrobatics) test vs. 5 + your Willpower + your level only take 1d6+1 damage.

Roll Once on the Dragonborn Benefits table for additional benefits.

2d6 Roll             Benefit
2                             +1 Willpower
3-4                        Focus: Constitution (Stamina)
5                             Focus: Intelligence (Historical Lore)
6                             Focus: Intelligence (Nature)
7-8                        +1 Intelligence
9                             Focus: Intelligence (Research)
10-11                  Focus: Strength (Intimidation)
12                         +1  Constitution

Teifling

Teiflings are found through out the world Exandria but their origins are murky. They carry infernal traits, but the individual members of the race are no more or less apt to evil than any other person. Their appearance can cause distrust and fear in the less metropolitan areas of the world.  They do carry a certain amount of magic in their blood due to their connection to the infernal powers.

If you choose to play an Teifling, modify your character as follows:
• Add 1 to your Communication ability.
• Pick one of the following ability focuses: Intelligence (Arcane Lore) or Perception (Empathy).
• You have Dark Sight, which allows you to see up to 20 yards in darkness without a light source.
• Your Speed is equal to 10 + Dexterity (minus armor penalty if applicable).
• You can speak and read Infernal and the Common Tongue.
• If you are playing a Mage you gain novice in one extra Aracana at first level and only roll once  on the Teifling Benefits table, otherwise roll twice on the Teifling Benefits table for additional benefits. Roll 2d6 and add the dice together. If you get the same result twice, re-roll until you get something different.

2d6 Roll                 Benefit

2                             +1 Willpower
3-4                        Focus: Communication (Persuasion)
5                             Focus: Intelligence (Historical Lore)
6                             Focus: Perception (Searching)
7-8                        +1 Intelligence
9                             Focus: Intelligence (Religious Lore)
10-11                  Focus: Accuracy (Arcane Blast)* Note, if you get this and are not a mage, make that Focus: Accuracy (Grenade)
12                         +1  Dexterity

 

 

So, this was my first attempt and doing something for a non-D&D system.  Yes, it shares some similarities but is different enough to present some interesting challenges.  For instance, you really dont want to give more than a +1 to anyone ones stat. The scale of the stats are such that providing a +2 to one stat could be unbalancing. I suspect the Teifling may be too powerful, or at least run the risk of being the one race every mage should take.  I don’t think the Dragonborn are over powered, but I am sure there are those who can argue that point. I started with races because it is a point of similarity between D&D and Fantasy Age so I had a context to work with and build on.

As to the other elements, class works differently in Fantasy Age. Mage is a catch all class with both arcane and divine casters sort of wrapped up in it. A druid in Fantasy AGE is just a Mage with Druid Specialization.  I might write that at some point, though I suspect it already exists. A Barbarian is a Warrior with a Berserker Specialization.  There are some differences but these things are similar enough that you could represent the things from the Critical Role setting easy enough.

 

I am looking to hear some feedback. Are you interested in seeing more content for systems other than D&D?  Would you want more stuff for Fantasy AGE? I am obviously going to do some more D&D stuff as well, but I am enjoying stretching the horizons some. Let me know what you want to see.

The Basics of the Game Gencon Wrap Up Episode

Here is my post Gencon write up. I am trying out producing video on the phone. The results are mixed.

 

My Patreon
https://www.patreon.com/jeremiahmccoy

 

Gencon 50 and the Refreshed Mission

A brief post about Gencon 50.

 

Gencon is the annual pilgrimage for many gamers, designers, and game writers. I have been before but not in a long while. It is like going to the cold clear spring and having a sip. The walk is hard, there are uncomfortable parts to the trail, but the trip is made worth it when you sip from that spring.

I went to Gencon for the 50th anniversary this year. I met cool people and played cool game. I got to attend interesting panels and see the latest things. I also got to be reminded that I am not alone on this winding path through game writing. Friends, new and old, are walking it with me. Strangers walk ahead or behind. We are all on the same quest and face the same dragons.

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More Thieves Guilds To Further Your Criminal Endeavors

So here are a few of more Thieves Guilds archetypes. Clearly, I have a problem. This is my cow bell to be sure. I think the Thieves Guild is an interesting element and can be used to serve a lot of functions. Sometimes they are just vehicle for the thief in a party to get things. Sometimes they are plot hook providers.  You can use them as the premise for a group of PC’s or you can use them as antagonists in your campaign.

With all of that in mind, here are an extra set of guild ideas. They could easily fit in a number of campaigns.  I also have my previous post listing some World Guilds. Between these I hope I have given enough fodder to help spice up your underworld.

 

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