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Mors Rattus
Oct 25, 2007

FATAL & Friends
Walls of Text
#1 Builder
2014-2018



"Ser" I've mostly seen used to be gender-neutral rather than Sir/Lady.

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EthanSteele
Nov 18, 2007

I can hear you


I've seen it as gender-neutral for specifically the knightly title of "Sir" in a couple of places.


PurpleXVI posted:

My personal policy is that players can make their intellectual or social rolls as long as they put in a bit of effort. Like, you can't just go: "I roll Cha(or appropriate stat/skill) to make the guard let me through." but you can absolutely go: "I try to convince the guard that this box full of poisonous snakes is a special delivery for the evil vizier, can I roll Cha(or appropriate stat/skill) for that?" Though generally I tend to go relatively light on the rolls as a GM, I only call them if it's something where I'm not sure. Like an 18 Str D&D character wanting to push through a rotten door doesn't need a check for it, it goes down. A guy who comes up with a very believable argument that an NPC would be prone to believing doesn't need to roll for it, the guy lets him through.

"I try to convince the guard the guard to let me through, I do it by X" with X being intimidating, being pals, pretending to be there for legitimate reasons etc is as legit as "I attack the goblin with my sword" to me, ie: you can do it every now and then because coming up with stuff on the fly is hard sometimes and you shouldn't be penalised for playing the talky guy because you can't think of anything to say when the sword guy doesn't get penalised for not knowing how to sword irl, but doing it every time is boring as hell and if you're having that much trouble coming up with stuff we should probably just do something else tonight.

I would still ask for a roll for your example of a believable argument because if the guy who dumped charisma comes up with it he's just getting to ignore the fact that he dumped charisma and it's kinda like cheating. If they fail the roll then its not that what they said doesn't make sense, it's that what they said doesn't sound legit from them or whatever. Maybe your character just sounds really sarcastic or something. Same for any other skill, if the character would know and you don't, that's fine, roll away and we'll see. If you know a thing and your character wouldn't then I'm not going to let you cheat, you need to roll. Or if another character would have that information they can be the one to know, but your 7 int 7 charisma fighter doesn't get to be the smooth talking genius any more than the 0 survival skill wizard gets to know how to get drinkable water out in the woods. Roll and we'll see if it goes down how you want.

PurpleXVI
Oct 30, 2011

Spewing insults, pissing off all your neighbors, betraying your allies, backing out of treaties and accords, and generally screwing over the global environment?
ALL PART OF MY BRILLIANT STRATEGY!


Dragonlance



Dragons of Flame


when showing off your pecs matters more than your AC

Alright, so in Dragons of Hope we were railroaded on to a fed ex quest full of horrible TPK-tier random encounters and mostly trivial fixed encounters so that we could deliver a stick, find Mishakal's DVD collection and reintroduce the good gods' divine magic to the world(as an aside, we're told that the evil gods have had their clerics active for longer, but what about the neutral gods? Are they just sitting this one out? Who knows!). We now have access to the greatest miracle of all, divine intervention on speed dial, and are heading home. Before the Companions of the Lance(or possibly Heroes, both terms are used mostly interchangeably) left for Solace, however, Mishakal threw them a new quest, which was to find a great leader of some sort to unite people under the banner of Good.

quote:

DRAGONLANCE is a complex epic, filled with detail, legend and history not found in most modules. To run this module properly, you must think of it as a story, and try to motivate players subtly to follow the right path.

Well, Dragons of Despair certainly knew how to do this, by filling every path off the beaten route with NPC's hectoring the players to get back on track and, if they insisted on walking off the straight and narrow, infinite encounters with the Dragonarmies' troops.



Chapter 5: Que Kiri and the Plains

So, referring to the map above, the players are coming from the northeast, finally leaving the random encounters of Xak Tsaroth and the surrounding swamps behind as they head back to Solace to spend what little loot they got out of the ruins on booze and whores, but whoops, as they get closer, it turns out everything's on fire ahead of them, oh no! The Dragonarmies have started invading and everywhere they come across between Que Shu and Que Kiri is burned to a cinder by raiders. Que Kiri itself has been hit as well, but has a single almost-survivor who will live just long enough to go "aaaargh dragons killed us all aaaaaargh." The rules text specifically states that even if a Cleric, the new amazing divine trick they've got access to, should heal him, he dies within like a round anyway. Way to give the players a nice introduction to the awesome powers of the gods, jackasses.

This then prompts an ambush by a type of draconian the party hasn't dealt with before, Kapak draconians. They're the ones who turn into acid pools on death, though the 1E version notes their acid will only destroy wood and leather, not metal equipment, so at least your weapons should be safe. However, they can also lick their weapons to poison them, which turns them into save-or-die weapons as a hit where you fail to resist the poison paralyzes you for 2d6 rounds. So unless the rest of the party can keep the draconians off you and kill them by themselves, you'll just get casually coup-de-graced by the first draconian with a combat action to spare. They're also a step up in general combat stats compared to the other draconians the party has faced so far, and considering that they attack in packs of 2d10 size, their odds of hitting someone, and someone flubbing their save vs poison are rather high.

Anyway, presuming they survive this(they will, after all, being the immortal canon heroes. And no, I'll keep harping on that dumb poo poo forever)...

quote:

If the PCs decide to continue to Solace, go to Chapter 6: Solace. Read the opening encounter as the party crests the pass in the Sentinel Peaks between Que Kiri and Solace.

...

The dragonmen have conquered all of the areas off the north and east map edges. If the PCs leave the map at these edges, move immediately to event 5: “Captured!”

...

At the start of this adventure, the dragonarmies have conquered all of the lands on the map except Qualinesti. Although folk still live in these areas, the Dragonlords have absolute power. If the PCs wander through these areas, let several days pass with the usual random encounters, then go to encounter 5: “Captured!”

...

5. Captured!

This encounter returns the PCs to their epic path if they stray or dally. Run the encounter when the party is in open terrain (plains or low mountains) and has no place to hide.

[unwinnable encounter with loving two red dragons and their draconian support ensues, the PC's will be captured no matter what]

Within an hour of their capture, the heroes will be surrounded by several hundred Kapak Draconians. Their weapons and other possessions are removed and they are loaded into a huge wheeled cage and taken to Solace. There they will become part of the caravan to the south. Go to Chapter 7: The Slave Caravan.

Choo loving choo. Go to Solace or you'll get loving brought to Solace, assholes.

Chapter 6: Solace

So, yeah, you guessed it, Solace has also been raided. But unlike the farmsteads further east and Que Kiri, it's been occupied. The Draconians are smart enough to let the Inn of the Last Home stay standing, since they need a place to booze it up, even though they've burned most of the other trees around, and have set the locals to doing drudge work. The draconians here won't randomly attack the PC's either, unless the PC's annoy them, in fact they don't give a drat for the most part, suggesting that the draconians are only as belligerent as the story needs them to be to harass the PC's back on their paths. Guess the draconians aren't Lawful Evil but instead Lawful Railroading. Starting any trouble gets you jumped by, I kid you not, 100+ Kapak Draconians, and inevitably captured.

Just go to the inn, get drunk, and try to forget the bad game you're stuck in.

Tika Waylan, Caramon's romance interest, shows up and serves them while telling them the very startling secret that living in an occupied town isn't much fun.

quote:

Curly auburn hair tumbles around Tika’s lightly freckled face. Her striking green eyes match her low-cut blouse, and the kulots tucked into her boots allow her great freedom of movement . A fur trimmed leather vest actually doubles as effective leather armor if she gets involved in unexpected trouble. She wears a gold ring on a chain around her neck.

Tika is a brash young barmaid who looks older than her 19 years. Rough living has hardened her, and she presents a tough image as insulation against her sense of vulnerability. Indeed she has certain childlike qualities: a fascination with magic and a fear of heights. Formerly quite happy at the Inn of the Last Home, she now nurses a bitter hatred toward the dragonmen who have invaded her home. She realizes that it is just a question of time before her patience with the brutal conquerors wears out and she does something rash and foolish. Tika is a former 3rd level thief.

That's when some draconian patrons start harassing an elf patron, and Tika begins beating them around the head with a pan. Whether the players help her out or not, Fewmaster Toede shows up just as the melee comes to an end and arrests everyone. Once again, trying to resist is pointless unless you want to deal with hundreds of draconians in an unwinnable fight, so just go ahead and surrender. The players are allowed rolls to hide small items on their person, but spellbooks and theves' tools, just the sort of thing that might derail being imprisoned in some way, are explicitly forbidden from being hidden.

CHOO CHOO.

Chapter 7: The Slave Caravan



Yeah that's right, we're done with two chapters out of a total 6 already. Turns out not giving the players even a smidgeon of agency really helps move things along! Anyway, in addition to the party the caravan contains: some generic nameless NPC's that serve no purpose, Tika Waylan, Gilthanas(Tanis' brother-by-adoption that's a full elf and kind of a huge racist prick) and Elistan(one of the former Haven Highseekers). Tika magically becomes a PC at this point, the adventure is made for level 5 to 7 PC's so of course she starts at level 4, along with her terrible dual-classing class choice. The PC's have been robbed of anything they could use to make an escape, but if they try to come up with a plan anyway, you know, to have some sort of agency, Gilthanas tells them not to try and is very cryptic about it.

The only choice the players get to have is when a gravely wounded resistance fighter is tossed into their prison wagon, whether to heal him so he doesn't die or not. Some sort of huge assholes might choose not to, but why not? It's not like you have anything else to use your loving healing magic for.

Oh and if you do ignore Gilthanas' advice and somehow break out, good luck, there's a combined force of ~250 draconians and hobgoblins guarding this caravan of, like, what, twenty people, tops?

Attempting to talk to Gilthanas about anything results in a random encounter with large amounts of exposition, he tells them the story of PAX THARKAS, the fortress they're being carted towards. It used to be a monument to peace between the Qualinesti(less racist) elves and the dwarves, but now the draconians have taken it over. Also there's some other dickery in the past related to it, but thankfully Gilthanas is interrupted by ELFS attacking the caravan to rescue everyone. If the players don't think to recover their gear, by the way, it'll all be lost in the fray. Keep in mind that every PC has one or more magic items, some of them of +2 quality or with unique, ireplaceable attributes of some sort(like Raistlin's artifact STAFF OF MAGIUS).

But holy poo poo running these fights must be a pain in the rear end. It's large swarms of weak enemies(like 16 hobgoblins) against about eight PC's. That's a lot of loving moving pieces to keep track of. 1E D&D hadn't yet cottoned on to the idea of statting many small enemies as "swarms" or implementing some sort of non-kludgy mass combat rules that I'm aware of, at least not in the base ruleset.

Chapter 8: Elvenhome

Seriously these chapters are just one loving encounter each, what the hell?

Anyway, the elves go: "GOOD PRISONERS, THOU ART SAVED. PC's please come with me to safety in the SACRED ELVEN REALMS the rest of you are on your own lol go south or something gl hf" Seriously elf dudes you've got an entire loving city just over the hill you can take in like twenty smelly humans or whatever. Why you gotta be huge assholes.

But what if the players don't want to go to Elftown? Well...

quote:

If the players go north, they have random encounters (see Random Encounter Table) forthe next game day. Then they run into one squad of Kapak draconians (use entry #4 on the Random Encounter Table) per game hour. These dragonmen fight to the death, and there are an infinite supply of squadrons.

loving oh my god I can't stop laughing.

So, uh, long story short. Just go with the loving elves because in one direction there are infinite draconians, and in the other direction the elves capture you and bring you home anyway.

quote:

The dense aspen forest thins out in front of the spires and arches of Qualinost. The city is small by human standards; by the same token, no humans could ever build a city like this. Four slender towers lined with silver mark the four corners of the roughly square city. Between each of these towers, strings of slender arches— also silver-stretch in an elegant chain.

A high tower of burnished gold dominates the city, throwing off sunlight in a whirling, sparkling pattern that gives the impression of movement. Of course, the tower is quite still, but the illusion is very realistic indeed.

Then you get a cutscene where the elves talk to each other(looks like Gilthanas tried to raid Pax Tharkas before and got caught during that trip), some "poetry," and then Tanis' ex who's also his sister-by-adoption shows up.

quote:

An exceptionally beautiful elven maiden moves forward from the onlookers. She curtsies slightly toward the Speaker before blessing the weary travelers with a smile like a spring sunrise. Her beauty seems greater as she moves closer; yet a childlike air about her belies the wisdom in her eyes.

Ah yes I love reading about beautiful children who have a romantic thing going with 30-something men. Totally not weird at all. Anyway she's just there to serve the players some elven McDonald's before the next set piece, for now. Anyway, once the players have gotten diabetes from eating too much elf food, Cutscene Mode kicks in and the King Elf tells them what's so important about Pax Tharkas: the elves are totally hosed and the hostile army encamped at Pax Tharkas is very likely to murder them all if they retreat from the other armies coming in from the north. So, they need the PC's to go to Pax Tharkas and lead the slaves there in a bloody uprising and take the fortress so the elves can leg it.

But do the PC's want to take on this momentous quest? Doesn't loving matter, lol, if they say no, they have a prophetic dream about being hosed and then they get attacked by draconians every hour, on the hour, until they're all dead. Game loving over.

ARE YOU SEEING THE PATTERN YET?

I'm seriously not making this up.

quote:

no matter which direction the PCs go, after one game day they encounter draconians as they did in encounter 14. These skirmishes will continue, one every game hour, until all the PCs are dead

So of course, our players, after the GM shows them this passage from the book and taps it pointedly, smile nervously and accept the GRAND ELFEN QUEST.

Overnight, Laurana is captured for a future plot point of some sort, to which the elves just shrug and go "whaddaya gonna do about it, eh?" while Gilthanas joins the party, giving them a second arcane spellcaster(he's a Fighter/Mage of low-ish level).

The cutscenes have been exhausted, the elf food has been eaten, it's time...

Kree! It's time to take a break from this railroad! It's got less branching paths than my reanimated spine!

Next Time: PAX THARKAS

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.


You know, one reason I appreciate that the average aelfir is a hack who's trying too hard in Spire is because of how every goddamn elf in fiction is always portrayed as beautiful and their food is better and their art is amazing and yet it's always the same stuff.

I adore the aelfir just sturgeon's lawing that stuff as hard as their crazy little heads can manage.

Cythereal
Nov 8, 2009



Night10194 posted:

I adore the aelfir just sturgeon's lawing that stuff as hard as their crazy little heads can manage.

Also a point in Eberron's favor. Elves are your pick of: soulless megacorp, jungle-dwelling necromancers, or fantasy Scythians.

Prism
Dec 22, 2007

yospos


Cythereal posted:

Also a point in Eberron's favor. Elves are your pick of: soulless megacorp, jungle-dwelling necromancers, or fantasy Scythians.

Aren't the necromancers good, too? Just really into keeping their ancestors around. They're certainly better than the corporate elves...

Hell, IIRC Deathless run on positive energy so they don't even default to evil.

Althalin
Nov 19, 2019

Putting the ham in Chamon


Pork Pro



A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplay: Why Are IP Tie-In Games Always So Clunky?
Part 2: I Lied

I was going to run through the Great Houses in this post, but
  1. They’re generally irrelevant to the actual gameplay
  2. There are good summaries already out there
  3. I’m a lazy bastard and :effort: to write up summaries of 9 houses with pages and pages of lore that doesn’t matter in the context of reviewing the game system

I’m going to run through the systems for Intrigue, Combat, and Warfare in that order, and then we’ll see about creating characters and Houses.

So with that, said:
Intrigue!

Intrigue is essentially Combat, But With Words. Instead of “Health” you have “Composure,” and instead of dealing “Damage” you’re leveraging “Influence.”

The Narrator is responsible for setting the scene, as expected, which may affect the Intrigue in much the same way terrain affects combat. Perhaps it’s the back booth in a darkly lit tavern, or you’re standing before the Iron Throne accused of high treason.

Both sides have an Objective, which broadly falls into the categories of: Friendship, wherein you try to curry favor; Information, which is self-explanatory; Service, a quid pro quo if you will; or Deceit, where you try to successfully lie your way off of the chopping block.
The book does note that this isn’t a complete list. You can certainly have an Objective that isn’t in one of those four categories.

At the start of every “Exchange” (read: round) you can change your Objective if something interesting happens, or if you realize it’s a moot point.

Also determined before you start shooting off words is each side’s Disposition towards the other. Disposition provides the effective “soak” for Influence, reducing incoming Influence by the amount listed.

These Dispositions range from Malicious to Affectionate, with the former reducing incoming Influence by a massive 7 points, and the latter by only 1. Meaning that it’s easier to Influence someone who likes you; go figure.



The Disposition of both sides is often modified, and the book helpfully provides a table of likely modifiers. I want to give a shout-out to Green Ronin for making the first example “Opponent is attractive.” That’s pretty in-theme with the books, I guess.



Dispositions can change during the course of an Intrigue, and this can be intentionally done with certain Techniques. We’ll get there when we get there.


Once each side’s Disposition is determined, you finally get to roll for Initiative. This is a Status test, with bonus dice from Status (Reputation) - let’s touch briefly on what that means.

Status is one of your character’s Abilities, determined by their station in life. For player characters, it ranges from 2 (house retainer, hedge knight) to 6 (Lord of the house, lady, heir). For perspective, the King is considered to have Status 10.

Reputation is a “specialty” of Status, representing how well-known you are in the land.

Ability tests are a number of d6s determined by the governing Ability, with bonus dice rolled for relevant Specialties. However, you only get to keep a number of dice equal to the Ability. For example, let’s say we’re making a Status (Reputation) test for a relatively well-known Landed Knight. He has Status 4, and Reputation 2B (+2 bonus dice). His roll, then would be (4 + 2) = 6d6, dropping the lowest 2. For those who like numbers, this means he’ll average an 18. Not too shabby.


Once Initiative is determined, the person taking their turn chooses what action to take. These are similar to Combat actions, with analogues to Aiming a shot (get bonus dice on your next Influence attempt) adopting a Defensive tact, or similar.

The most common action is to attempt to Influence your opponent, using a chosen Technique.



Technique determines what governing Ability you’ll use, as well as which specialty is appropriate (depending on whether you’re attempting to persuade or deceive your opponent). There are also enumerated consequences for succeeding with the various techniques. These range from getting a discount on goods if you’re bargaining; to getting bonus test dice (thus keeping more of your pool) during your next Intrigue with this opponent.

I want to call special attention to the artwork used to depict the "Seduce" Technique. It's... special. I did y'all a solid and made it as SFW as I could without undermining the glory.



If you successfully Taunt someone whose Disposition towards you is Dislike or worse, they’ll try to attack you (if possible) or flee (if not).

If your Influence test is successful, you deal an amount of Influence “damage” based on your Technique, multiplied by your degrees of success (increment the multiplier by 1 per 5 points over the target you rolled), reduced by the opponent’s Disposition Rating, rinse and repeat.

The book specifically numbers Roleplay as a step in an Intrigue, but almost immediately qualifies it by saying that roleplaying should be happening through the entire encounter. Huh, you don’t say?



In practice, at least in my experience, this subsystem falls pretty flat. It makes social interactions to which it’s applied rather stilted and jarring. While I like that it’s granular and more detailed than “Roll Persuasion against their Wisdom,” it doesn’t necessarily feel more fun.

Instead of roleplaying out an actual discussion, you’re encouraged to take the extra time to figure out what technique you’re using, stack up Disposition bonuses and maluses, finally roll the dice, and chip away at the other person. Unless you have a character specifically built for Intrigue, which will obviously be more or less relevant depending on the campaign, it’ll feel a lot like low-level Fighter play in D&D. You roll a lot, hit a lot less, and what damage you do is underwhelming.

It’s more deterministic than Persuasion/Deception/Whatever rolls in d20, that’s for sure. You’ll notice that’s a theme I’ll touch on a few times as I review this game.


Next time: Combat! (For real this time, I swear, you guys)

Althalin fucked around with this message at 18:13 on Dec 4, 2019

wiegieman
Apr 22, 2010

Royalty is a continuous cutting motion




Prism posted:

Aren't the necromancers good, too? Just really into keeping their ancestors around. They're certainly better than the corporate elves...

Hell, IIRC Deathless run on positive energy so they don't even default to evil.

You can run on positive energy and still be a racist, imperialist rear end in a top hat.

Prism
Dec 22, 2007

yospos


wiegieman posted:

You can run on positive energy and still be a racist, imperialist rear end in a top hat.

You sure can! I didn't say they can't be evil, only that they don't have to be, which is A Thing for 99% of undead in 3.5E, when Eberron was written.

Edit: maybe I should F&F the new 5E Eberron stuff... would people be interested in that? I know Eberron has been started before, but I think it was abandoned and it would have been the 3E stuff anyway.

Prism fucked around with this message at 18:22 on Dec 4, 2019

megane
Jun 20, 2008





The beatings dragonman encounters will continue until morale improves.

Althalin
Nov 19, 2019

Putting the ham in Chamon


Pork Pro

Prism posted:

You sure can! I didn't say they can't be evil, only that they don't have to be, which is A Thing for 99% of undead in 3.5E, when Eberron was written.

Edit: maybe I should F&F the new 5E Eberron stuff... would people be interested in that? I know Eberron has been started before, but I think it was abandoned and it would have been the 3E stuff anyway.

I got the :justpost: treatment, and so shall you.

I'm in the midst of a 5e campaign at the moment, so I at least would be interested in seeing what you make of Eberron

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.


megane posted:

The beatings dragonman encounters will continue until morale improves.

I wonder why it never seems to occur to older games to just say 'look, everyone wants to continue, right? I'm sorry, the module only anticipates you go with the elves, so that's the only direction that's filled in' instead of infinite dragomen until the hint is taken and elftown is chosen.

Moldless Bread
Jul 10, 2019


Because players are annoying little shits and will specifically go into the other direction if you give them a choice.

Or so the antagonistic GM logic goes.

PurpleXVI
Oct 30, 2011

Spewing insults, pissing off all your neighbors, betraying your allies, backing out of treaties and accords, and generally screwing over the global environment?
ALL PART OF MY BRILLIANT STRATEGY!


Night10194 posted:

I wonder why it never seems to occur to older games to just say 'look, everyone wants to continue, right? I'm sorry, the module only anticipates you go with the elves, so that's the only direction that's filled in' instead of infinite dragomen until the hint is taken and elftown is chosen.

Generally if you explain to the players that they're headed towards somewhere with loot and fun, they'll be happy to go that way. Maybe instead of heavy-handed prophecies, just hand them a loving treasure map. What players wouldn't follow a treasure map? Instead of "BUT THOU MUST," have someone hint that the vast treasure rooms and armories of Pax Tharkas would be free for the raiding if the draconian squatters were evicted, etc.

Night10194
Feb 13, 2012

We'll start,
like many good things,
with a bear.


Still, it's a general thing in older games: They're really averse to actually discussing things directly. Even the pretty good GMing advice in 1e WHFRP says 'watch your players to see if they're bored or pessimistic and then give them a break if they are' instead of 'ask the players if they're having a good time or have suggestions or would like to change anything'. And that was already a set of GMing advice that understood adversarial GMing was dumb.

MonsterEnvy
Feb 4, 2012

Truly Cursed


Prism posted:

You sure can! I didn't say they can't be evil, only that they don't have to be, which is A Thing for 99% of undead in 3.5E, when Eberron was written.

Edit: maybe I should F&F the new 5E Eberron stuff... would people be interested in that? I know Eberron has been started before, but I think it was abandoned and it would have been the 3E stuff anyway.

I think it would be cool. Eberron's cool.

Seatox
Mar 12, 2012


These early Dragonlance modules kind of explain why certain SSI Gold Box games had so much horrible endless cannonfodder encounter bullshit - they were being completly faithful to their source material. At least with a computer game, you don't have to run the packs of thirty goblins on paper...

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

Let your word be "Yes, Yes" or "No, No"; anything more than this comes from the evil one.

I love Pool of Radiance, but I don't miss those encounters with literally dozens of goblins or kobolds. Those games taught you that the only spells worth having are Sleep, Stink Cloud, Fireball, and occasionally Lightning Bolt. Anything that takes all those little fuckers off the board before one of them scores a critical hit.

Robindaybird
Aug 21, 2007

Neat. Sweet. Petite.



Seatox posted:

These early Dragonlance modules kind of explain why certain SSI Gold Box games had so much horrible endless cannonfodder encounter bullshit - they were being completly faithful to their source material. At least with a computer game, you don't have to run the packs of thirty goblins on paper...

I remember trying to play the gold box Dragonlance games, and just dragonmens everywhere, and being utterly encumbered by the sheer amount of platinum from all those fights while I was trying to figure out where the hell I was suppose to go next.

Seatox
Mar 12, 2012


Robindaybird posted:

I remember trying to play the gold box Dragonlance games, and just dragonmens everywhere, and being utterly encumbered by the sheer amount of platinum from all those fights while I was trying to figure out where the hell I was suppose to go next.

Back on the plot railroad, of course. Goodness, this fancy game engine supports a vast over-world roaming map? Better paint it all with one encounter type cell.

Prism
Dec 22, 2007

yospos


Althalin posted:

I got the :justpost: treatment, and so shall you.

I'm in the midst of a 5e campaign at the moment, so I at least would be interested in seeing what you make of Eberron

MonsterEnvy posted:

I think it would be cool. Eberron's cool.

Seems reasonable! I'll reread the book and then get to posting in the next few days.

Bieeanshee
Aug 21, 2000

Not keen on keening.




Grimey Drawer

Halloween Jack posted:

I love Pool of Radiance, but I don't miss those encounters with literally dozens of goblins or kobolds. Those games taught you that the only spells worth having are Sleep, Stink Cloud, Fireball, and occasionally Lightning Bolt. Anything that takes all those little fuckers off the board before one of them scores a critical hit.

Escaping Podol Plaza after brazenly stealing some magical artifact from the auction was... something. 'You are attacked by 91 goblins'. 'Let's set combat to Auto mode, go upstairs and make dinner.' There were other areas with similarly absurd fights, but that scenario had them as random encounters.

Everyone
Sep 6, 2019


Review: The Fabled Lands Gamebook Series Part One

PurpleXVI's reviews of the DL module and their "Obey the plot! Dance little PC puppets! Dance for your master! And go where loving tell you!" has inspired me to do a bit on what's probably the opposite of that: The Fabled Lands gamebook series. You remember gamebooks, right? They're what you'd play in the 80s and 90s before computer graphics and engines stopped being so lovely. They were like modules you could play by yourself. You'd get a character with stats and equipment, often with a predefined set of goals and mission to accomplish within the book:

You are: The Buttfucker. You must save the good village of Sodomy from the evil Vaginaface Witch. It will take all your strength, cunning and bravery (aka good dice rolls) to accomplish this mighty feat. Blah, blah, ad nauseum.

And then in the mid-90s in the UK Dave Morris and Jaime Thompson tried to put together an open-world fantasy computer and it turned into a game book series instead, The Fabled Lands. So, diving right in.

There are six Abilities in the books that are fairly self-explanatory: Charisma, Combat, Magic, Sanctity, Scouting and Thievery but I'll briefly go through them

Charisma is about influencing/persuading people. Want to talk yourself out of going to prison? That's this.
Combat is about fighting/strength and is used in tests and actual fighting encounters
Magic is about magical/occult knowledge and spells. There really aren't any spells as such in FL. You just use this in tests.
Sanctity is about Divine connections and wisdom.
Scouting is about wilderness lore and survival, including tracking and the like
Thievery is about stealth, lockpicking and such

All the Abilities are used in Tests which means rolling 2d6, adding the Ability (and apply modifiers) and trying to score higher than the Difficulty of the Test. You come to a locked door with a Difficulty of 12. You have a Thieving of 5 and Magic Lockpicks (Thieving +2), so you'll succeed by rolling a 6 or higher.

Aside from Abilities, you have Stamina, which is basically your hit points, Rank, your "level" and Defence, which is your Combat Ability plus your Rank and any modifiers for armor or other items. A Rank 3 character with a Combat of 5 who was wearing Chain Mail Armor (Def+3) would have a Defense of 11 in fighting. A starting Rank 3 character gets a Stamina of 16.

And speaking of that, Combat in this is pretty simple. Your character always goes first. You roll 2d6 and add your Combat, applying any modifiers (-1 for having some disease, +3 for a magic weapon, etc.) then subtract their Defense. Any positive number remaining is the damage to their Stamina. Behind that door you unlocked is a Guard with Combat 9, Defense 11 and Stamina of 15. You have a Combat of 5 with an Enchanted Sword (Com +3). If you roll an 8 your total is 16, minus Defense 11 means the Guard takes 5 damage and his Stamina is now 10.

At this point he strikes back, rolling his own 8 giving him a 17, minus your Defense of 11 meaning you take 6 damage, dropping your own Stamina to a 10.

Usually defeating an opponent gets you some money or an item or two. The Guard might have a Sword, Chain Mail (Def +3) and a Brass Key. The first two items aren't that useful but can still be sold in markets for money. The third might be useful later. Or something that just takes up space.

And space is a thing. You can carry a total of 12 Items in your Inventory at any given time. Find a 13th Item you want or need and you'll have to drop something (which is gone forever) to make room for it. That said, you can carry an unlimited amount of mone

So far, so pretty much bog standard for these books.

Along with Weapons, Armor and other stuff, in these books you can buy Ships, Cargo and Houses.

Yes, Houses. You can go to your House and drop off some of the poo poo you're carrying. Most of the time a House/storage area will have conditions like "Roll 2d6 every time you come here. On a 2-9 your stuff is safe. On a 10-11 a thief broke in and stole your money and possessions. On a 12 the house burns down. You lose you stuff and have to buy a new house." However, there are places without conditions where your stuff is safe.

Each book have Code Words and Page Ticks that make the book "remember" your actions. Say you meet a wizard who wants you to find his magic aardvark figurine. Take up the quest and you get the code word, aardvark. Some place else an encounter is a "rustling in the bushes." Investigate and you'll find an angry bear that you'll have to fight. After the fight you'll get a few coins or something and then the book will ask "Do you have the Aardvark code word?" If so turn to section 455. If not, there's nothing left but gnawed bones and bear scat. Go left by turning to 300 or right by turning to 222. Assuming you get back to the wizard and turn the aardvark over to him, you'll likely lose the code word or have it be replaced by something else like Aided to reflect your friendly relationship with the wizard.

There are also page ticks. At the top of some pages is a small empty box. Your character is going into a cave. When he does the text says, "If you have already ticked the box, turn to 333. If not read on. Reading on means you fight a troll and gets a good bit of money or items. Coming back to the cave and going to 333 shows an empty cave where a fight played out since you already went their earlier.

More stuff later.




First, building your character. Pick a name and gender. For the most part the books are neutral, gender-wise but there are a couple of points where gender is important.

Everyone fucked around with this message at 21:17 on Dec 5, 2019

Speleothing
May 6, 2008

Spare batteries are pretty key.

Charisma, Combat, Magic, Sanctity, Scouting, and Thievery. drat that's a satisfying set of attributes. Add in athletics and I think you'd have just about everything covered.

Everyone
Sep 6, 2019


Speleothing posted:

Charisma, Combat, Magic, Sanctity, Scouting, and Thievery. drat that's a satisfying set of attributes. Add in athletics and I think you'd have just about everything covered.

Athletics tended to fall under Scouting and/or Thievery. Swimming was Scouting. Climbing could often be Scouting or Thievery.

I'll talk a bit more about them later, but while there are Professions, class isn't that much of a thing in FL, though Professions sometimes give situational advantages. Nothing stops a Mage from having a high Combat (or wearing even Heavy Plate (Def +6) as armor). He'll just start lower is all.

Libertad!
Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!



Alternate Krynns, Part I

We talked about time paradoxes and forks in the River of Time, so in this chapter we get six parallel worlds that may have been if some major event did or did not happen and how its ripple effects changed the face of Krynn. It should be noted that the below do not all take place in the same “current era”: Kingpriest Ascendant is in the Third Age, Magocracy of Ansalon takes place during the original Chronicles, Dragonlands and Hourglass in the Sky a few years afterwards, and War of the Darklance and Age of Dragons 30 or 70 years respectively during what would be known as the Age of Mortals.

Kingpriest Ascendant


In case you didn’t get enough of Istar dear readers, our first fork along the river posits a Krynn where the Kingpriest’s ritual to enslave the gods was successful. Becoming the Godpriest, he and he alone can grant divine power to mortals and overtook the true gods as the object of worship by the state. And if that weren’t bad enough, while the Cataclysm was averted, the divine usurpation sent a terrible reverberation across Krynn where one out of three living beings died. The Godpriest’s clerics claim that those who perished were weak in the Faith.

Strangely, this near-Thanos Snap is not elucidated on much in the setting. Entire forests and farmland should be dust, and the sudden depopulation of regions will result in a gargantuan power vacuum. And instead of causing violent riots at the Godpriest’s callousness the average citizen...more or less goes along with it. Edit: This all happened last year, so the memories aren't something which faded from the passage of time.

Fun Fact: In my run of 13th Age Dragonlance I used the “1 out of 3” possibility as a rationale for why the gods committed the Cataclysm. And even among the Good and Neutral gods it was a decision that eventually tore apart the pantheons among ideological grounds. I go into further detail on it and other subject matter in this blog post for those interested.

Rather, Kingpriest Ascendant portrays the Empire of Istar as stronger than ever, with the few holdouts on the fringes of the continent. Solamnia, its immediate neighbor, is mightily pissed about the enslavement of the gods to the point that they’re gearing up for war, and wizards are forming a network of underground insurgency cells known as the Burning Robes to strike out at the Faith’s holdings. The Divine Hammer is mostly tasked with foreign affairs, such as fending off and invading minotaur forces in the continent’s far east, while the Brotherhood of Querists (the mind-reading secret police) are becoming more corrupt and violent now that they don’t have to worry about the gods withdrawing their divine magic.

Even the Silvanesti elves thought that this was all too much, so they stepped up spying and reconnaissance to find any advantage they could. Unfortunately for them the Faith developed a magical brainwashing ritual to turn these captured warriors and others into the Purified, entities unquestioningly loyal to the Faith and stripped of all emotion. The minotaurs are enmeshed in a civil war of their own due to Social Darwinism, but at times put aside their differences whenever news of an Istaran army builds up along their borders. Of the nonhuman races the gnomes got the best deal, but their propensity for unpredictable gadgets got them consigned to a reservation-city where they’re free to design and invent with all the government funding they want as a means of lowering incentive for them to go elsewhere. Hylo to the far west is the last refuge of kender on Ansalon, who concoct ever more means of pissing off Istar in a grand social experiment known as the Game. In short you score points for inconveniencing the Faith, be it stealing their holy symbols or filling their braziers with laughing gas.

The Tower of High Sorcery in Wayreth still exists but suffers a declining membership due to the popularity of the Burning Robes. There’s no information about Ergoth, which in Dragonlance was the big human empire before Istar and declined rather than outright fall. It also had Romanesque culture in its later days but its population was notably mostly dark-skinned. In the 3rd and later Ages they were mostly known for expansive trade networks and seamanship, and during the Chronicles kept to themselves. It’s a bit strange to see them excised considering they get mentions in the other Alternate Krynns.

We get three adventure hooks revolving around insurgency against the Godpriest’s reign, be it from kender, clerics of the true gods, or the Burning Robes. A fourth one involves freeing a captured Istaran border town from minotaurs threatening to kill off the villagers and which has been abandoned by the Faith as a military loss. For stat blocks we have a template for the Purified and various kinds of Istaran knights, inquisitors, and the like along with a good-aligned Lord Soth who can make for an ally. The Godpriest is still 20th-level, but now has a Greater Aspect template* which gives him some massive bonuses across the board along with a host of spell-like abilities to supplement his clerical spellcasting.

*from another Dragonlance sourcebook, Holy Orders of the Stars.

Rating: ⅗. Kingpriest Ascendant makes for a pretty cool offbeat campaign where you’re conducting covert guerilla raids against religious fundamentalists. However, as most written material for Dragonlance details later Ages you don’t have as much material to work with for this setting given that the Age of Might references countries and cultures which no longer exist even in the main timeline. The one out of three dead is meant to show the deadly cost of the Godpriest’s rule, but it is reduced to an afterthought for world-building which I heavily dislike.

Magocracy of Ansalon


In the main timeline the Wizards of High Sorcery have a strict clause that their higher-ranking members cannot get involved in politics, which isn’t always followed. The historical distrust of wizards means that they have plenty of reason to cut themselves off from an ungrateful world. But in an alternate timeline, when the Cataclysm rent Krynn asunder, the Wizards stepped in to provide safety and order. They used their magic to aid communities where there were no more clerics and defended them against the numerous monsters and warlords. The soldiers who knew better than to pick a fight with someone who can kill them with a flick of their fingers were hired and incorporated into the new societies. And the best of the best became the Knights of Huma, an order of warriors tasked with defending mages and keeping the peace.

In short, the Wizards of High Sorcery became the government in most lands. They acted in theory as administrators and defenders using their superior magical might, and in turn the citizens paid their taxes which could be used for furthering arcane research along with the more mundane government services. For the White Robes it was an act of altruism in making a better world; for the Red Robes it was a rational choice in making their lives easier when citizens were grateful of witches rather than burning them at the stake; and the Black Robes were more than happy to abuse their newfound power like countless spell-less tyrants of times long gone.

The standards of living are higher here than in the standard Age of Despair. Everyday magic is more plentiful and many families encourage their children to learn the arcane arts as a means of social mobility for completing the Test of High Sorcery. But society is still hierarchical, for all high-ranking positions are held by mages and the six major countries are large administrative regions named after the Towers of High Sorcery. Clerical magic is unheard of, and Takhisis is still plotting to make a Dragonarmy. But instead she uses a secret order of Gray Robe Wizards loyal to her in lieu of evil clerics.

We get a detail of the lands after the general history: the Solamnic Knights still exist but resent the mages’ ascendancy and fight them from the southern city of Tarsis, while various exiles wanting to be free of mages make new lives on the nearby Plains of Dust. The Tower of Istar was teleported away during the Cataclysm and now looks over the Blood Sea created in its wake from the safety of an island. The elven land of Silvanesti has a memorial dedicated to the names of mages who gave their lives saving people during the chaos of the Cataclysm. The Blasted Isles of Sancrist are a magical Bikini Atoll where repeated testing of dangerous spells warped the land with aberrant creatures and unnatural phenomena. The mountainous ogre nation of Blöde is a place no mage wants to govern and thus Takhisis’ gray robes are slowly building up Dragonarmies there for an eventual invasion of surrounding lands.

Adventure hooks include an escort mission for Dalamar the White to the Blasted Isles for a Test of High Sorcery at the Tower there, hunting renegade mages in Blöde, and saving a wizard from an execution at the hands of Solamnic Knights. But the hook which jumped out the most to me was a recreation of the opening of the Dragonlance Chronicles: a disgraced wizard seeks the hands of the true gods after losing faith in the current order and seeks to claim the Disks of Mishakal said to lie below the Blood Sea of Istar. But this time it won’t just be Takhisis’ Dragonarmies who object to this; the established Orders of High Sorcery have no intention of upstart clerics challenging their power.

We get write-ups and brief stats for each Tower (and therefore national) leader as well as the respective leaders of the Knights of Huma and Solamnia. We get some interesting world-building in their entries: my favorite is having the normally anti-arcane minotaurs be the first people to embrace the magocracy on account of having a shared history of oppression by Istar and respecting how the mages established themselves as the new power.

Rating: ⅘. Magocracy of Ansalon is a cool and innovative spin on Dragonlance based off of a common question asked by successive generations of D&D fans: why don’t spellcasters use their powers to rule everything? There’s some build-up of a high magic War of the Lance in the hooks, although given the iconic nature of said adventures it’s the kind of thing that would best be run with a veteran set of Dragonlance gamers who can spot the minor changes and references. It doesn’t have a central overarching villain at the onset, unlike the other Alternate Krynns which can allow for a wider variety of campaign styles.

Dragonlands


The Dragonlands can be best surmised as what happens when you get a Game Over/TPK when running the Dragonlance Chronicles. Without the Heroes of the Lance to stop the Dragonarmies, Takhisis takes over the continent of Ansalon with eyes towards the rest of the world! But since we cannot predict whatever rag-tag group of ogre druids and gnome assassins were part of your local gaming group, this timeline’s canon is going with the characters from the books. The major turning point in this campaign was during the Battle of the High Clerist’s Tower, when Sturm Brightblade became overwhelmed by dragonfear. Without his stalwart example and heroic sacrifice, the Knights of Solamnia’s morale gave way and lost the Tower and thus Palanthas to the Blue Dragonarmy. The metallic dragons never learned of the plight of their kidnapped eggs (which were being used to make draconians), and when Theros Ironfeld disappeared the secrets of forging Dragonlances were lost.

Now all of Ansalon is made to give praise to the Dark Queen Takhisis, its formerly-free nations carved up as territory between the five Dragonarmies. Now new heroes must answer the call in an even deadlier world where the last vestiges of resistance (deposed governments in exile, Solamnic Knights, non-evil clerics, etc) are separate bands of resistance constantly on the move, outnumbered and outclassed.

For those interested in what happened to the Heroes of the Lance: Elistan died from an incurable disease, Riverwind and Goldmoon were slain by barbarian mercenaries, Laurana was driven mad by desperate use of the Dragon Orb in the High Clerist’s Tower, Raistlin turned evil and stole a Dragon Orb of his own before disappearing to who-knows-where, Flint died from a stroke, Caramon and Tika become trapped in an unhappy marriage, Sturm is a disgraced and broken man, and Tanis is too busy looking over his remaining friends to restart the fight against the Dark Queen’s forces.

Setting locations are sparse and readers are pointed to the existing War of the Lance sourcebook where things remain relatively unchanged. The notable exceptions are the High Clerist’s Tower, guarded over by the spirits of slain dragons summoned by the Dragon Orb where Laurana’s mad melodies can be heard; the administrative regions of the Dragon Empire; a secret rebel base in the mountains known as Sanctuary occupying a temple which shows historical evidence of the existence of good-aligned metallic dragons*; the nightmare lands of Silvanesti are used as a dumping ground by the Dragonarmies for elven prisoners across the continent; a secret temple holding a dragon-slaying arrow which will only reveal its gates to a cleric of the non-evil gods; and the Tower of Wayreth’s wizards are locked in furious debate as to whether or not to intervene in the outside world given that it’s only a matter of time before the Dragonarmies come for them.

*Dragons were considered mythical beasts during the War of the Lance, and for most of the Chronicles only Chromatics were known.

Some of the more interesting adventure hooks include seizing the Blue Crystal Staff from a highly-secured transport, Sturm giving his sword to one of the PCs for a quest to rediscover the ancient forge of the Dragonlances, and papers from a dying soldier showing of an intrafactional assassination attempt against the Green Dragon Highlord. The NPC write-ups are a diverse assortment, ranging from freedom fighters, a demoted Dragonarmy desk clerk using the bureaucracy against the Empire to cause supply shortages and mishaps, a gnome weapons designer who invented an automatic Gatling crossbow (but no stats for said new weapon), an in-character write-up of Fewmaster Toede* who portrays himself as THE GREATEST SOLDIER OF ANSALSON, and Sturm Brightblade who is now a shadow of his former self.

*an arrogant and utterly ineffectual recurring comic relief villain in the Chronicles.

Rating: ⅘. It’s not exactly that much different than the original Chronicles, but everything’s worse since evil has won. The adventure hooks, NPCs, and location material strongly point to the PCs picking up where the Heroes of the Lance failed, which can make for an interesting “second try” for those who suffered a TPK during the Chronicles. The baked-in nature of existing book characters means that things will need to be changed around to account for things like if Sturm was never a PC in your games.

Due to the length of this chapter, the second half of Alternate Krynns will continue in a future post.

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 01:01 on Dec 5, 2019

Nessus
Dec 22, 2003

To witness titanic events is always dangerous, usually painful, and often fatal.





Had the Kingpriest just done that thing that killed a third of the world population? After a couple of generations people would have settled down and gotten used to things. If it was like three years ago, yeah, people would still be raw.

Libertad!
Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

Nessus posted:

Had the Kingpriest just done that thing that killed a third of the world population? After a couple of generations people would have settled down and gotten used to things. If it was like three years ago, yeah, people would still be raw.

It literally happened last year before the campaign's start.

Libertad!
Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!



Dragons of Flame, Part I: 3rd Edition Changes

1. Heading north initially does not spawn infinite enemies, but rather the sourcebook says you're going deeper into enemy territory and to "consult the geography section of the War of the Lance Campaign Setting Companion" to guide the DM in seeing what happens. Aka they haven't written the plot with that in mind but aren't going to kill the PCs.

2. The survivor screaming about dragons can be healed by cleric spells, but he'll still pass out unconscious (and presumably can be carried to safety). In the AD&D version he can still be cured but gradually loses HP until he dies which cannot be stopped with magic.

3. The flying red dragon is only one instead of two, and it can be hidden from with stealth and appropriate magic. They can still be captured but it's not an inevitability. But if they are captured they are taken right into the slave caravan, skipping Solace entirely.

4. Kapak Draconian poison deals Dexterity damage (1d6 initial and secondary) so it's unlikely to insta-paralyze PCs on the first hit unless they have super-low Dexterity.

5. PCs who go south to Pax Tharkas early will meet up with Gilthanas' elf scouts engaged in a fight with trolls. He'll beg the PCs to return to Solace to reunite with his comrades and explain how dangerous it is to simply go to Pax Tharkas without a plan.

6. Tika's stat block is a level 3 rogue/level 3 fighter, which will put her on part with PCs who leveled up from Xak Tsaroth if doing the 8 party model. She is meant to be leveled up higher if the party size is smaller (8th in this case). For DMPC types like Tika and Gilthanas there are no guidelines for building them beyond their base levels; that's in the hands of the PCs. Gilthanas is a 2nd level Noble/3rd level Wizard/1st level Fighter. He's meant to be a gish type but arcane spell failure penalty of 20% with his elven chain is pretty bad. His spells include mostly utility things but has a few offensive measures.

7. Tika has a sidebar of likely questions PCs may ask her:



8. During the slave caravan one of the prisoners is Fizban the Fabulous, a weird and wacky recurring wizard character who will disappear during the chaos once the caravan's attacked. He's actually Paladine in disguise, subtly aiding the PCs. This is in the AD&D version but a much-abused gully dwarf servant frees the PCs' lock on the cages before running away. In 3rd Edition he's given more personality and the name of Sestun, grumbling about poor treatment by Toede causing him to turn against evil.

9. Many years ago before I did the 13th Age Dragonlance campaign I ran the 3.5 version for some high school friends. The party wizard trapped his spellbook with sepia snake sigil which is like explosive runes but paralyzes the reader instead. Fewmaster Toede claimed the book for himself and ended up in a rather undignified pose once triggered. As the spells' duration lasts for literal days, the presence of a hunched-over hobgoblin tied to his donkey provided no end of amusement to the group.

Nothing like this happens with a spellbook, I just felt like adding that in for readers.

10. Also here's my blog entry for this. It also covers Pax Tharkas which PurpleXVI has yet to review.

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 22:55 on Dec 6, 2019

Zandar
Aug 22, 2008


Halloween Jack posted:

I love Pool of Radiance, but I don't miss those encounters with literally dozens of goblins or kobolds. Those games taught you that the only spells worth having are Sleep, Stink Cloud, Fireball, and occasionally Lightning Bolt. Anything that takes all those little fuckers off the board before one of them scores a critical hit.

Fun fact, apparently the Gold Box games actually scaled encounter difficulty based on your PCs' attributes. They did this by adjusting the number of monsters per encounter. This was not mentioned anywhere in the game or manual.

Also, you could set a character's attributes arbitrarily when creating them (this was meant to be used to recreate your tabletop characters).

I suspect that these two things combined mean that the majority of players did not see the encounter sizes that the devs expected them to.

oriongates
Mar 14, 2013

Validate Me!




Zandar posted:

Fun fact, apparently the Gold Box games actually scaled encounter difficulty based on your PCs' attributes. They did this by adjusting the number of monsters per encounter. This was not mentioned anywhere in the game or manual.

Also, you could set a character's attributes arbitrarily when creating them (this was meant to be used to recreate your tabletop characters).

I suspect that these two things combined mean that the majority of players did not see the encounter sizes that the devs expected them to.

That explains a lot.

I came into those games before I actually started playing D&D and I was also terrible at reading game manuals, so I honestly had no clue how any of the mechanics worked (bastard swords were especially confusing...was 2d4 good? bad? what?!). I just set all the attributes to the max, so I had wizards with 18s in strength and charisma for no god-drat reason because I didn't know what any of the stats actually did.

And there were a poo poo-ton of monsters to fight...

Halloween Jack
Sep 11, 2003

Let your word be "Yes, Yes" or "No, No"; anything more than this comes from the evil one.

I mainly played the NES version of Pool of Radiance, and I don't think that had scaling. (That version has an overall smoother presentation, at the cost of a few sidequests.) Even then, leveling up is well worth it to get more spells that will let you just take a whole pack of weak monsters out of the fight.

Now that I think about it, PoR was my first exposure to tabletop RPG mechanics. Shadowrun and Vampire were the first games I actually played more than once, but PoR dumps a whole lot of mechanics on you, straight from AD&D1e, and only halfway explains them in the manual. Just like the real thing!

It's amazing that gully dwarves got published. They're just a half-breed species that are stupid and filthy.They're illustrated wearing rags and with flies buzzing around them. The books take pains to ensure you that everyone else thinks the gully dwarves are stupid and filthy because they absolutely are, and that they're all essentially the same.

I can only assume that the Hickmans invented the gully dwarves to raise the following hosed-up moral question: "What if some people really are inferior? We should be gracious to them anyway, right?"

Seatox
Mar 12, 2012


Halloween Jack posted:

I mainly played the NES version of Pool of Radiance, and I don't think that had scaling. (That version has an overall smoother presentation, at the cost of a few sidequests.) Even then, leveling up is well worth it to get more spells that will let you just take a whole pack of weak monsters out of the fight.

Now that I think about it, PoR was my first exposure to tabletop RPG mechanics. Shadowrun and Vampire were the first games I actually played more than once, but PoR dumps a whole lot of mechanics on you, straight from AD&D1e, and only halfway explains them in the manual. Just like the real thing!

It's amazing that gully dwarves got published. They're just a half-breed species that are stupid and filthy.They're illustrated wearing rags and with flies buzzing around them. The books take pains to ensure you that everyone else thinks the gully dwarves are stupid and filthy because they absolutely are, and that they're all essentially the same.

I can only assume that the Hickmans invented the gully dwarves to raise the following hosed-up moral question: "What if some people really are inferior? We should be gracious to them anyway, right?"

D&D crossbreeding is an ethical and moral cesspit. Half-orcs and rape implications, Dark Sun's Mul (at least Dark Sun is supposed to be a horrible bleak wasteland, so they're not as jarringly out of place as the gully dwarves). Then gully dwarves exist, blowing even the kender out of the water for cringe-worthy awfulness, since they're treated as comic relief of a particularly offensive, regressive "ha ha look at the r-word" vein.

Libertad!
Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!



Alternate Krynns, Part II

Hourglass in the Sky


The world is doomed. DOOMED! This alternate timeline details what would happen if Raistlin’s quest for power culminated in him killing off the gods of Krynn and what happens in the meantime. Unlike previous timelines this one’s a lot shorter as the world will literally end in two years once Raistlin slays the final god Paladine, with entries detailing days of the month instead of just year by year. Taking place three years after the end of the War of the Lance, Raistlin slays Takhisis while an ascetic of the Library of Palanthas steals the Final Volume prophesying Krynn’s final days with startling detail. Circulation of the book spreads rapidly once Raistlin kills more gods, causing terrible weather known as magestorms to sweep across the world. The three moons shatter once Raistlin kills the first of the three gods of magic. What follows is a series of natural and unnatural disasters, political upheaval once knowledge of the Final Volume spreads, and the rise of Raistlin-worshiping cultists which culminates in a wide displacement of refugees and survivors seeking the few safe places left on Ansalon. The world gets progressively worse in more supernatural ways, from literal rains of blood raining across the northern half of Ansalon, a lightstorm resurrecting former Dragonarmy soldiers who don’t know what the hell’s going on and renew their old battles, to larger magestorms covering wider surfaces of the planet the closer the end of history approaches.

We get some write-ups on existing organizations, but what is of paramount interest are two new ones: the first is the Armies of Reorx, a united coalition of dwarven soldiers super-pissed that Raistlin killed their dwarf-god and are fighting the Raistlinites. The second are the aforementioned Raistlinites, who believe that they will survive the end of the world should a lightstorm resurrect them and so are pitching in with the winning party. They’re pretty much your garden-variety evil cultists who can use both arcane and divine magic; they range from community leaders with good publicity to eldritch-powered bandits.

We get several new rules reflecting the apocalyptic state of affairs. The first are magestorms, violent thunderstorms whose lightning strikes cause magical phenomena ranging from instant death to the creation of nightmares and warping the bodies of those struck. Lightstorms are a rarer variety whose rain has healing properties, where its lightning strikes can bring the dead back to life. If it hits no dead material, the lightning spontaneously generates good-aligned animals. It is theorized that the lightstorms are the spark of Crysania who lives on inside Raistlin.

The second rule involves the deaths of the gods. Raistlin’s own constellation gradually grows one star with every act of deicide, and divine spellcasters of a dead god find their magic power waning over the process of 1 Caster Level per day and must roll a Fortitude save vs fatigue whenever they cast a spell. This includes arcane spellcasters who worship one of the three moons, so it might be a good idea to pick a patron deity who gets killed off late in the campaign. Additionally, Raistlin unconsciously passes some of his power to those like himself: non-good-aligned creatures receive bonus HP equal to (4 minus their Constitution bonus, minimum 0) times the number of stars in the sky. This is meant to be a metaphysical act of sympathy for the weak and sickly people like himself, but this means that local wildlife and small woodland creatures get super-buff over the course of the campaign.

Adventure hooks include appropriately out-there ideas: ideas include piloting a gnomish vessel designed to catch pieces of falling moon, finding a magical rose in Lord Soth’s possession which can regrow desolate wastelands, thwarting a plot by clerics of the death god offering to plane shift refugees to what they claim is a safe haven, and helping lead the Armies of Reorx in a vain, supremely risky plan to surround and kill Raistlin. Character write-ups include the scholar of the Final Volume looking for someone to prevent said events, a Solamnic knight in over his head when much of his superiors up the chain of command got killed, a widowed Tika who donned her husband’s gear and seeks to confront Raistlin once he returns to Solace as detailed in the Final Volume, and full write-ups for the Raistlinite cult leader and his warlord second-in-command. We know that as a deity Raistlin has the Evil and Magic domains, but little beyond that.

Rating: 5/5. This is my favorite of the Alternate Krynns. The end of the world scenario is both easy to understand and provides a literal countdown clock for the PCs to accomplish whatever good they seek to do in the world, however futile it may be. The locations, characters, and rules all reinforce this theme in a more punctual way than the Kingpriest Ascendant or Dragonlands’ underdog stories do.

War of the Darklance


Fun Fact: this alternate timeline was originally a homebrewed setting, but someone in Sovereign Press (the publisher which later became Margaret Weis Productions) liked it so much they asked the creator if they wanted to include it in an official sourcebook. A more complete 208 page PDF is available on the Dragonlance Nexus site.

In the standard Dragonlance timeline, the new Age of Mortals is ushered along when the Graygem of Gargath breaks and releases Chaos into the world. This results in a rare time when the forces of both Good and Evil cooperate against this existential threat which would destroy reality as they knew it. But in War of the Darklance, the Graygem is never broken; therefore the Knights of Takhisis, the spiritual successors to the Dragonarmies, have no such incentive for cooperation and instead try to take Krynn over again.

Taking place around 30 years after the end of the War of the Lance, both arcane and divine magic is widespread enough that armies are beginning to make us of spells for defense, and the Knights of Takhisis begin to steal Dragonlances to corrupt them into Darklances. Such foul magic is so evil that it begins to affect nature, resulting in an unnaturally long continent-wide winter. The Blood Sea of Istar freezes, and the minotaurs march forth on the ice to wage genocidal war against the ogres. Without the unifying pact of the Whitestone Council from the War of the Lance, the Solamnic Knights have their hands full while refugees are arriving in Northern and Southern Ergoth in massive groups for they are the only countries untouched by the Dark Queen’s onslaught. The forests of the Qualinesti elves get burned by the evil Knights, forcing them to flee their homeland once again. The Knights of Takhisis conquered most of the continent, and granary stocks are running ever more dangerously low.

Location write-ups include a Solamnic waystation that made an unlikely alliance with a Black Robe wizard to defend travelers from the Knights of Takhisis; various governments in exile formed settlements in Ergoth, Solamnia and Qualinesti included; the Blood and New Seas froze over with permafrost allowing for strange inhabitants to make their homes in icy caverns; Feal-Thas the White Dragon Highlord became undead and converted Icewall Castle into a flying citadel in the polar south; the gnomes utilize their technology for the war effort by cooperating with the Solamnic Knights; and the Tower of High Sorcery of Palanthas was destroyed by the Knights of the Thorn* in a deadly fight with the Wizards. The forces clashed over the Tower holding a portal to the Abyss, which the Knights could use to free their goddess.

*arcane casters of Takhisis’ Knights.

We have eight whopping adventure hooks, the most of any Alternate Krynn were it not tied with Age of Dragons. They mostly involve thwarting plots against the Knights of Takhisis by seeking aid from some faction or following up a rumor of stolen Dragonlances or saboteurs. But the most interesting one in my opinion involves boring through the Blood Sea’s ice to raid the sunken Tower of High Sorcery of Istar. We have a lot of character writes-ups and stat blocks too. The more notable ones among our selection include Emperor Ariakas’ son, Ariakan, who is a 20th-level martial character specializing in leadership-based buffs derived from his prestige classes; Aren Feal-Thas who is a cold magic-focused wizard and gish with the death knight template*; an evil gully dwarf cleric of Morgion who is spreading filth and disease on purpose; and a motley assortment of notable dragons, regional and military leaders of the various factions, more notable soldiers, draconian assassins, warpriests, and others whose talents are invaluable to the war effort.

*think Lord Soth.

Lastly we have a side-bar going into detail on the creation of Darklances as a twisted reflection of the process used to forge the Dragonlances. Sadly no game stats on how Darklances differ from their original counterparts is provided. I can’t help but feel that this is a wasted opportunity.

Rating: ⅗. While I appreciate it when official companies honor their fanboys by adopting their work, the War of the Darklance is too...well samey for my tastes. Instead of the Dragonarmies, you have the Knights of Takhisis. And instead of Emperor Ariakas they are lead by his son Ariakan. The Qualinesti elves become refugees again. The corrupted Darklances and the continent-wide winter is a novel touch. For the Krynns with similar threats, the Dragonlands at least were based on a clear loss factor, and the Magocracy of Ansalon is different enough to feel novel even if they’re using arcane Dragonarmies.

But I will give it some pluses: I like it more than the default Age of Mortals that came after Dragons of Summer Flame, which more or less was an attempt at nullifying everything that happened in the Chronicles. The large amount of material serves as useful gaming aids, and combined with the linked PDF is the most developed of all the Alternate Krynns.

Age of Dragons


This Alternate Krynn was present in the Legends novels (same with Hourglass in the Sky, although only its aftermath), where Tasslehoff traveled to the future and attended Caramon’s funeral. It takes place in the most current year of the published Dragonlance material, 70 years after the War of the Lance to be precise, but its major divergence point is that Chaos was defeated and Takhisis did not steal the world away to claim for herself. In essence, this bypasses the War of Souls trilogy resulting in a highly different Krynn.

Unlike the other Alternate Krynns there is no major threat arising to menace Ansalon. Instead there is an uneasy peace, where new nations arose as united political blocs: the Ergothian Coalition takes the role of a neutral power, the Solamnic Alliance and the Nerakan Empire are stockpiling arms for yet another war they feel will come, and despite their separation the three elven subraces came together as the United Elven Nations. The United Realms is a pseudo-UN organization dedicated to arbitrating disputes, and the region of Khur (pseudo-Middle East) refused to join in favor of isolationism. The minotaurs and dwarves express little desire to join as well, although the hill dwarves sent an ambassador of their own to the United Realms whilst the minotaurs are eager to invade Ansalon regardless of how its geo-political borders are drawn. The former Grand Master of the Knights of Solamnia died under suspicious circumstances, Neraka’s leader survived his own assassination attempt, and dragons have begun to gather in both nations claiming to be observers of how future events will unfold.

Location-wise we focus mostly on the ‘big picture’ of nations rather than individual places of interest. Some major developments include the Nerakan capital declaring itself a “free trade haven” to boost foreign investment and tourism, the citadel Storm’s Keep is the headquarters of the Knights of Takhisis, the Tower of High Sorcery at Kalaman is built in Solamnia as part of a more open policy to wizards, and the Thieves’ Guild in Palanthas is growing more powerful while the Solamnic Knights are struggling to build reliable kender-proof jail cells in the city.

Our eight adventure hooks have appropriately cloak and dagger politicking themes, ranging from the draconian nation of Teyr being suspected of kidnapping a Solamnic noble to secure a peace treaty, rooting out underground arms dealers selling to minotaurs, and some sillier ones such as a rampaging gnome-created clockwork dragon laying egg bombs or an upstart gully dwarf chieftain bringing Thorbadin to near-civil war by stealing the Hammer of Kharas.The nine stat blocks include write-ups for major political figures and ambassadors. The most notable ones include a souped-up Dalamar who’s the Master of the Tower of Palanthas, and a traveling red robe wizard looking for lost artifacts, texts, and places of arcane significance.

Rating: ⅖. I will admit that Age of Dragons is not really my thing. On the one hand I can see how it cuts down on world-destroying events which at this time in Dragonlance feel old hat, but the murky political intrigue is something I feel does not suit the setting. I can get all this from Eberron’s backdrop; when I run a game of Dragonlance, I want classic high fantasy even if it doesn’t involve the original Chronicles. On the other hand, this setting does have a sizeable fanbase if a Dragonlance Nexus expanded entry and an RPGnet thread are anything to go by.

Thoughts So Far: I appreciate how each Alternate Krynn is both very different from the base setting while also having concepts which can be summed up in quick soundbites. I also enjoy how several of them are willing to give unorthodox antagonists beyond Takhisis’ forces. Hourglass in the Sky was my favorite, with Magocracy of Ansalon a close second. I see potential in Kingpriest Ascendant and Dragonlands, although War of the Darklance and Age of Dragons didn’t really grab me. But even in the latter case the book did a good job of being clear in worldbuilding and generous with gaming aids.

Join us next time as we cover Chapter Five: Legendary Wars!

Everyone
Sep 6, 2019


Seatox posted:

D&D crossbreeding is an ethical and moral cesspit. Half-orcs and rape implications, Dark Sun's Mul (at least Dark Sun is supposed to be a horrible bleak wasteland, so they're not as jarringly out of place as the gully dwarves). Then gully dwarves exist, blowing even the kender out of the water for cringe-worthy awfulness, since they're treated as comic relief of a particularly offensive, regressive "ha ha look at the r-word" vein.

The weird thing for me is that it wasn't until this thread that I grokked the concept that gully dwarves are what happens when humans and dwarves mate. That... is just deeply hosed up on so many levels. First off, enough humans wanted to gently caress enough dwarves to make an entire subrace of these guys. Then, instead of caring for their offspring they threw them the gently caress away in places like Xak Tsaroth. At this point I think the gods should've thrown multiple mountains at Krynn, wiped out the lot of them and started over with something else. Dolphins, maybe.

Kender are at least cute. Fine, the halflings of Krynn are an entire race of 9 year olds (who still have sex to make more kender but whatever). I'm surprised we don't have half-kender running around because the human "punishment" for pedophiles in Krynn is exile to the lands of the Kender or something.

Half-orcs. Half-elves. Half-ogre. Now Half-dwarves. Half-dragons. Tieflings, which apparently Half-demons/devils or something. Is there anything that humans won't gently caress?

I remember a guy from the Dresden Files RPG bouncing the idea of a Half-hob off of us. And my take was:

This is a Hob.



Take a look at that thing and realize that what you want means that someone had sex with that thing. Someone wanted to have that thing's babies.

And his take was "Maybe it was rape?"

Because in RPGs rape always makes everything better. *sigh*

Libertad!
Oct 30, 2013

You can have the last word, but I'll have the last laugh!

PurpleXVI posted:

Alright, so in Dragons of Hope we were railroaded on to a fed ex quest full of horrible TPK-tier random encounters and mostly trivial fixed encounters so that we could deliver a stick, find Mishakal's DVD collection and reintroduce the good gods' divine magic to the world(as an aside, we're told that the evil gods have had their clerics active for longer, but what about the neutral gods? Are they just sitting this one out? Who knows!). We now have access to the greatest miracle of all, divine intervention on speed dial, and are heading home. Before the Companions of the Lance(or possibly Heroes, both terms are used mostly interchangeably) left for Solace, however, Mishakal threw them a new quest, which was to find a great leader of some sort to unite people under the banner of Good.


As part of withdrawing from the world due to the Cataclysm, the gods of all alignments abided by this. But 141 years later Takhisis secretly used her power to teleport the Temple of Istar into the mountains, were travelers found it and got influenced by visions to commune with the goddess. Emperor Ariakas was one of these pilgrims, and the city of Neraka was built up around it which would later become the capital of the Dragon Empire.

The evil gods besides Takhisis and Nuitari (the moon gods are still revered by Wizards and arcane magic doesn't work like divine magic) were able to also come in via Takhisis' permission, but there methods were a lot more subtle. Takhisis was all about tyranny and being loud and obvious in that manner. Morgion and Hiddukel represent things like disease and greed and so encourage roundabout means of spreading evil. Chemosh appeals to the desperate by convincing them that souls and the afterlife do not exist so undeath is the best route for survival, while Sargonnas is revered among the minotaurs. Zeboim is mostly active among the aquatic races so she doesn't have as much a presence inland.

Libertad! fucked around with this message at 06:11 on Dec 5, 2019

The Lone Badger
Sep 24, 2007



Everyone posted:

I remember a guy from the Dresden Files RPG bouncing the idea of a Half-hob off of us. And my take was:

This is a Hob.



I have seen the internet. I would 100% believe that there are people out there who want to gently caress that.

Terrible Opinions
Oct 17, 2013





Everyone posted:

The weird thing for me is that it wasn't until this thread that I grokked the concept that gully dwarves are what happens when humans and dwarves mate. That... is just deeply hosed up on so many levels. First off, enough humans wanted to gently caress enough dwarves to make an entire subrace of these guys. Then, instead of caring for their offspring they threw them the gently caress away in places like Xak Tsaroth. At this point I think the gods should've thrown multiple mountains at Krynn, wiped out the lot of them and started over with something else. Dolphins, maybe.

Kender are at least cute. Fine, the halflings of Krynn are an entire race of 9 year olds (who still have sex to make more kender but whatever). I'm surprised we don't have half-kender running around because the human "punishment" for pedophiles in Krynn is exile to the lands of the Kender or something.

Half-orcs. Half-elves. Half-ogre. Now Half-dwarves. Half-dragons. Tieflings, which apparently Half-demons/devils or something. Is there anything that humans won't gently caress?

I remember a guy from the Dresden Files RPG bouncing the idea of a Half-hob off of us. And my take was:

This is a Hob.



Take a look at that thing and realize that what you want means that someone had sex with that thing. Someone wanted to have that thing's babies.

And his take was "Maybe it was rape?"

Because in RPGs rape always makes everything better. *sigh*
Honestly if an RPG is going to go in on half races it really should just go full Galaxy Quest. Yes he is aware that his girlfriend is a squid, not a woman with squid costume items, and everyone is just okay with that.

Seatox
Mar 12, 2012


Terrible Opinions posted:

Honestly if an RPG is going to go in on half races it really should just go full Galaxy Quest. Yes he is aware that his girlfriend is a squid, not a woman with squid costume items, and everyone is just okay with that.

That's pretty much the life story of generic good-aligned half-metallic dragons at least. "Mom's a shape-shifted silver dragon, so what?"

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PurpleXVI
Oct 30, 2011

Spewing insults, pissing off all your neighbors, betraying your allies, backing out of treaties and accords, and generally screwing over the global environment?
ALL PART OF MY BRILLIANT STRATEGY!


I think probably the alternate Krynn I'd be most interested in would be Kingpriest Ascendant, in part because the Purified remind me a lot of Divinity: Original Sin 2, which I'm absolutely in love with.

Mind you, do any of these alternate Krynns acknowledge Taladas at all? It feels like the response to, for instance, Istar's ascendance would be to visit Taladas and tell the minotaur empire there that the Kingpriest is responsible for their deities being gone and their clerics no longer worky, whip them up into a frenzy to put him down.

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