Jeremiah McCoy

Geek For Hire

Tag: game design (page 1 of 2)

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.

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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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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.

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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4 Grand Thieves Guilds

Large Scale Thieves guilds

The thieves guilds are an integral part of the standard generic fantasy worlds in which D&D takes place. This is partly due to the inspiring fiction. That said, it is often portrayed as a local phenomenon. There is a local guild or two in the city, or maybe the bandits inhabit a particular forest. I am looking at you Sherwood.

World guilds, which is the term I am going with, are not quite so local. They have a broader reach but still remain secretive and unknown. This could be like La Cosa Nostra, or the Yakuza in the real world. They may have local affiliates, but they also are part of a broader underworld. I prefer the world described by John Wick, with the Continental in every city, but there are other examples.

Here are a few examples I came up with that you could drop into most campaign worlds.

 

The Shado Linar

The Shado Linar translates to the Family of Shadow. This group has existed since ancient times in the shadows throughout the world. It came about during a great war for survival against a dark power. It has persisted as a unifying force in thieves guild across many lands ever since. The Shado Linar claims to have noble guiding principles such as protect the weak from the strong and protect the commoner from the powerful. In practice, this is often just a thin pretext but, for the more traditionalist members, it often defines and constrains their actions.

The Shado Linar has local chapters around the world. There is no single leader to the Shado Linar. Instead, local guilds follow the same traditions, and occasionally form councils in times of need. The individual chapters can often be in conflict, but will follow traditional rules in their conflicts.

The local Guild head is called Aunt or Uncle. The Uncle/Aunt maintains the guilds relationships with other local groups. They are also responsible for finding talented amateurs and encourage their joining the guild. New recruits are called Nieces and Nephews. Long time members are Cousins. Members of another guild are often called distant Cousins.. The Aunt/Uncle also tend to be the keepers of the traditions. They are often responsible for the final test for membership. These tests are usually difficult trap filled houses, or picking the pocket of an important person without getting caught. Tests are also sometimes arranged to resolve disputes to avoid war in the streets.

The Shado Linar has a public facing advocate called Mensata. Mensata are sought out in disputes by members and nonmembers alike. They are generally sought out to resolve difficult matters but that advocacy often comes at a price. That price can be a favor, monetary reward, or something else entirely. The Mensata is sent to speak to all parties and the guild head to seek an accommodation, or a test of skill which will resolve the matter.

Traditions

Each Member of a local Shado Linar guild must leave a marker after a theft. This marker will have the symbol of their guild, and a symbol indicating who the thief is, if you know how to translate it. This is an attempt by the thieves in Shado Linar to show that they are just, in their own fashion.  “Never take the last, or more than someone can afford” is the traditional rule and the marker is part of that.

To say that the guild is always fair and good to the common people would be an exaggeration. Many local Shado Linar guilds will operate protection rackets. Don’t pay up? Well then, you can probably afford to lose more. There are some members who do not leave markers, but not doing so can be grounds for a severe form of discipline.  It has resulted in death of the offending thief, or worse.

If the victim of a robbery finds a marker, they can seek out recompense. Going to a Mensata or an Uncle looking for your stolen property can be a big risk. If it is found you can afford more than you lost, then you may well lose more. That said, once the marker is presented, the guild is obligated to provide a test. They could return the item if they feel it was taken in error but that is rare. If you pass the test you will get your stolen item, or be compensated for it. Don’t pass……well, material things are not really that important, right?

Design notes:

The Shado Linar was the product of the Dust to Dust larp which I helped write with Harbinger of Doom, Stands in the Fire, Kainenchen and others. One of my particular areas of interest was the thieves guilds and writing their traditions. Brandes said he wanted there to be a mechanism for PC’s to be able to try and get their stuff back if they got raided by thieves, which is where the tokens came from. The modern thieves guilds, and their traditions, were descended from the more ancient Shado Linar. A lot the choices made were to create thieves guilds for the rogue type pc’s to interact with. They were shady but not so terrible as to make you be a “bad guy” just to be a member. For what it is worth, I think the token and challenge thing works in a tabletop game context as well. It gives great adventure hook potential.

 

Gravediggers

The dead in a fantasy world really have a bit of a hard time. First, they are dead. That is certainly a bummer, but in the real world that at least means you are no longer have anything to worry about. In a fantasy world, you have hauntings, gods of undeath and a surprising number inconsiderate necromancers. Your troubles do not go away when you die.

Luckily, the Gravediggers are there for the recently deceased.

This guild is a much more informal affair than the Shado Linar. They do not have regimented ranks. There are no tests for membership. While there is an origin to the guild, no one seems to remember it. Throughout the world you can find the Gravediggers toiling away making sure that the dead stay undisturbed.

The Gravediggers do not have a group structure. Individual Gravediggers will take apprentices and train them in the ways. This training is not just in the thieving arts they use to protect tombs, but also how to slay undead. They also teach them Gravescript. That is a collection of marks left on tombs indicating where traps are, what tombs may attract unwanted adventurers and if there is a history of undead in the area.

Traditions

Gravediggers are an unlikely thieves guild. In many ways, they are the opposite of the standard guild as they are intent of preventing a crime, specifically grave robbing. They do not tend to collect in groups of more than a handful. Some take to the road, which is referred to as “Digging a Path.” They travel to points of conflict and war and see to the needs of the fallen. This allows them to learn new burial practices. The more practices a gravedigger knows the greater their prestige. By tradition, the only payment they take for the burials are as laborers. Sometimes, an event will come that attracts many Gravediggers in a region. This is called a Grave Moot. Grave Moots are truly a dread sign. Those who know of them know that it is a sign that the Gravediggers see their services being in high demand soon. A Moot can be called by any Gravedigger but is usually only called by the oldest and most experienced.

Design Notes:  

This is obviously directly tied the Gravedigger archetype I already wrote up. Is this guild for every rogue? Nope. It does give a nice mix of adventure hook potential and possible adversaries depending on your group. Trying to rob a tomb protected by these guys can be rough. Or they might be who turns you toward the necromancer big bad operating in the area.

 

Strands of Fate

The dark cousin of a thieves guild is an assassins guild.  Most thieves guilds pursue criminal endeavors, and may even kill someone if they need to. An assassins guild provides a single service to a discerning and somewhat demanding clientele. They reduce the life expectancy dramatically for coin. The Strands of Fate are the premier assassins guild. They have offices in most large cities. An office does not have a sign hanging out front which says “we kill people.” If you are the sort who occasionally needs to hire such services, you know the offices are disguised as a tailor’s shop.

The order is placed and sent to the Weavers for approval. The Weavers decide which contracts to take. They sometimes inform a noble that he will want to hire them for an assassination. This noble probably had previously not known someone needed to be killed, but who is he to argue with experts. Other times a contract can be declined. Only the Weavers know why. Only the Weavers can give the order. A member of the guild who performs unapproved services often finds they have a much shorter and remarkably unpleasant life.

The cost for an assassination is high, and the individual members of the guild end up quite wealthy. They often can afford the best gear. Once a contract has been accepted, it cannot be rescinded. The assassin will continue to attempt to assassinate the target till the either the target or the assassin is dead. If the Assassin fails another is sent to finish. An accepted contract is permanent and only ends with the death of the target even if the whole guild has to become involved. That said, it rarely involves more than one or possibly two members.

The preferred methods of assassination depend on the assassin.  They are often assigned based on their specialties and the requirements of the job. Sometimes, the job is rather public and clearly an assasination. Other times, well…it is possible the king merely died of old age, right? The merchant who died from a common cold is not unheard of, right?

Traditions

The Strands of Fate carry a knotted thin cord. They add a knot for each person they kill. When orders come to assassinate a target, it is embroidered on a silk handkerchief. The Weavers are not field agents nor have they ever been. This is not known by people outside the guild. They are said to be oracles who see a potential future that each assassination brings closer. Another rumor has that they have the Tapestry of Fate in their possession and can see who should die in every thread. Whatever the case, their decisions are final in the guild and have an uncanny ability to know when someone has not followed orders.

Design Notes:

This is a mystery cult at its heart. Assassination, taking money to kill people, is ultimately an evil profession. There are not a lot of ways around that. The Assassins Creed games address  this by framing assassination as being in service of a mysterious greater good. It allows the player to feel like a good guy while going about killing people. If you don’t have an assassin in your party, you can also use this group as a major plot complication. Why did the weavers take a contract on Lord Gimel? What do you do if they take a contract on your cleric?

 

 

The Shadow Court

Sometimes, theatrics are part of the game.  You need to have style and flash. Sure, there is a place for the unseen and unknown anonymous cutpurse, but that is not for everyone. There are those for whom glory is the call, even in the shadows. The Shadow Court is for those people.

The Shadow Court has chapters in every city. They are not a terribly well-kept secret and anyone with some knowledge of an area has heard of them. They are certainly criminal and dangerous, but they do cultivate a romantic and mysterious charm. Each member has a faux noble title. When in the capacity of a member, they wear a mask to disguise their features. Real names are not to be used and illusions are often used to obscure their true identities.

This showmanship does not make them any less effective. The integration of magic into the guilds mythology is more than just show. The guild has many magicians in their employ and many members are spell thieves themselves. They use magic, skill, misdirection and a flair for the dramatic to take almost anything they choose.

The Shadow Court does try to avoid presenting a bad image so they rarely involve themselves in petty street crime and attacking the poor. Not that they have any moral qualms, just aesthetic ones. They are often approached by nobles to acquire hard to obtain objects from rivals, or ancient tombs. They trade in favors. A deal with the Shadow Court is kept always.

Tradition

The Shadow Court has a separate court for every city. The leader of the guild in a city is called the Prince or Princess. The court for a city has a particular color or theme. The court of one city might be the Purple court. Another might be the court of Thorns. The titles will share this theme. The guilds enforcer for the court of Thorns would be Lady Rose, Dame of Thorns. The quartermaster in the guild might be called the Bishop of Thorns, and so on.

There once was a King of the Shadow Court, hundreds of years ago. But the last one died long ago and no one has had the power and prestige to claim it again.

Becoming a member is sought out. There are some who join as legacy members. Their parents were members so now they are. Some join by proving their skill to the court and earning the place. The Shadow Court is popular among young rebellious nobles who fancy themselves as rogues, and some even survive trying to prove that they belong.

Design Notes:

In my head, these guys are based on comic book super villains. They are flashy, dangerous, and amoral for the most part. Maybe not the Joker, but certainly the Riddler or Captain Cold would be good examples. The game is the point. The showmanship is part of that game. If you have a rogue in your group who wants to be showy, this is their playground. If not, well this would be a good source for recurring adversaries.

 

Designing your own

The larger regional or world guilds give you a few things. First, you ave a consistent underworld you can keep going as your players travel. This invests your rogue type pc’s in each new city. It also allows you some story options that would not really carry over from a small local guild.

If you are going to design a guild, large or small, you want them to be memorable. This is true of any NPC element in your game world. Details and traditions make the world have a sense of reality, a sense of being a “secondary world” as professor Tolkien might put it.

Don’t just call it the “thieves guild.” Names are powerful. The Shadow Court says a lot about the group before you ever meet them. Also, give the group a theme or cultural touchstone to make it easy for you and your players to latch on to them. If you have a semi secretive group of criminals who rule the streets and all have ornate body tattoos, then you have a built in set of expectations and questions.

Yet another take on Kalashtar for 5th edition

I recently offered to run the alternate, off-week, D&D game for the group I play with on Tuesdays. I would be the fill in guy for weeks when the normal DM did not want to run. My offer was generally greeted with some enthusiasm. The normal DM and another player expressed a desire for Eberron. Now, I love me some Eberron.  I could wax rhapsodic about it for days.  It is a setting with a wider range of setting conventions than are found in Forgotten Realm. And then there is Sharn: City of Towers.

That said there are some issues with running it in 5th edition,  at the moment. Some things just haven’t been written yet. They only now released The Mystic (see also Psionics) and the Artificer. They do have some race stats for some of the races, like the Warforged, on the Wizards of the Coast site. Others have not been done. Also Dragonmarks have been accounted for, but I feel like they need some clarification. I will tackle those another time, but the race I was asked for was Kalashtar. There are some fan versions out there, but nothing definitive. I figured I would take a pass at it.

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5 Magic Spears…you are on your own for the Magic Helmet

So…magic weapons are a thing in D&D. They have been since the early days of the game. Certainly the most often remembered ones are magic swords. A sword is a good weapon. It is versatile, with chopping, slashing, and stabbing elements throughout its various iterations.  It was the go-to weapon for professional soldiers through a lot of history.

However…. There are other contenders. Let me tell you about spears. The spear is also a weapon with a long history. Spears are useful for a number of reasons. First, they are cheap to make. You find a straight piece of wood. Forge about a daggers worth of metal to add to the point, or don’t.  You can stab people from long sword distance with a lot less cost. Spears, like swords, can be more involved affairs in the hands of a true craftsman. Materials can be rare and exotic as mithril or adamantine. It is often the weapon of a stalwart footman, or a barbarian on the fringes who can’t afford much more, or even the martial arts master. There are a number of magic spears in real world myths around the world.  It is especially prevalent in Irish Legends.

Sadly, there are not many famous magical spears in D&D, though.  My friend Brandes did his part to add some to the pool. It is the least I could do to continue that trend. I also borrowed some of his formatting. I hope they are useful additions to your magical arsenal.

You can get your own magic helmet.

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Researching New Spells

So, this is my core system for researching spells. To say this could use some feedback is an understatement. Researching spells is something I want rules for, and sometimes you just have to write them yourself. It also forced me to look at the structure of Wizard spells in 5th Edition more closely.  These rules are assuming there are more restrictions on learning new spells than are currently in place in D&D, but they should work fine with the current system, as well.  With all that preamble out of the way…

 

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