Friday, May 12, 2017

Interlude - Ogres & Terrain


I've just figured out rivers in the computational hex mapping project - doing a bit of refinement now, but I believe I'll be able to display rivers with some nod to their relative size - so the Mississippi, for example, will be of a greater width than the Des Peres, and each river may at least resemble it's proper size as compared to the size of the hexes displayed.

More later.

Autarch's latest Kickstarter, Heroic Fantasy Handbook and Barbarian Conquerors of Kanahu, funded, and funded well, and the boards are alight with development, go check that out.

At any rate, I've been a bit spread out, so no dubious content for you this month. I can, instead, show you some relatedly fun things:

I'd 'accidentally' won an auction from my FLGS - the Ogre Designer Edition (Kickstarter version). I'd almost not won it - they called to tell me I won, didn't leave a message, and two more weeks passed for a 'final call'. Thankfully they left a message that time.

It's what I get for doing things on a lark. Only way I'll win a lottery is if I find a ticket on the sidewalk. I'd played Ogre once maybe a zillion years ago; and now I've got some ~25 pounds of cardboard. I forgot how fun/quick it was.

My weakness being completion, I'd ordered a couple of the after-market addon sheets, the first being some of the extra Ogres - starting with this:


That's the backer-funded Vatican faction.

I know, right? Pope Ogre III. I could not resist.

My ever-patient wife worked up some wonderful terrain - not for gaming, alas, but for educational purposes:

I guess I should have rotated that.

It's progression of...forest, I think? I think the rocks (handed out by the volcano?) erode and plants decompose into soil, which then supports trees. Most of the plastic plantlife was sourced from our local hobby shop.

Not shown were some very well done 'flood' dishes, the "murky" tinted goop for making train-layout lakes with some dirt underneath and bits of twigs for denuded trees. 

I've got some ideas for the volcanoes to bring them up to spec. Little battery pack, some red LEDs, and cotton balls in the classic plaster-of-Paris volcano mound should do the trick. I'd have to figure a way to have a river of lava with a minimum amount of backing, so the LED can glow through...

That previous statement is why she's ever-patient, for what it's worth.

We're quickly corkscrewing into the useless summer season of this blog, so curb-stomp your enthusiasm. I wager in a couple weeks I'll at least reveal some progress on the mapping project.



Friday, March 31, 2017

We Are The Sword

By the default ACKS treasure tables, 21% of all magical items randomly generated are magical swords. 4% of those are cursed.

So, .84% of all magical items  - almost 1% - are cursed swords. Who makes those?

I'm going to posit that nobody does.

Cursed swords happen because the wielder has done something to inherently curse the weapon - a deed (or deeds) so foul it seeps into the weapon.

However, that's a bit too interesting for this blog. Brief musical interlude:




Every once in a while someone brings up the overwhelming prevalence of magic swords above magical martial items of other types.

Roll d00Magic Type% Chance
67-87Swords21%
(cursed swords)(0.8%)
88-92Misc. Weapon5%
93-100Armor8%

In fact, magical swords are 21% of all magical items randomly generated, tied with Potions and Scrolls, which are consumable items.

Almost 1% of magic weapons (21% * 4%) are cursed swords - that's how prevalent swords are.

In Miscellaneous Weapons:

Roll d00Weapon% ChanceFull % Chance
1-22Arrows22%1.10%
23-34Axe12%0.60%
35-41Bow7%0.35%
42-63Bolts22%1.10%
64-69Dagger6%0.30%
70-75Sling6%0.30%
76-87Spear12%0.60%
88-100War Hammer13%0.65%

Full % Chance being you rolled your 5% for a misc. weapon, then rolled whatever for the actual piece.  There's no cursed miscellaneous weapons, for whatever reason - you're just as likely to find a cursed sword as you are magical ammunition.

In Armor, I've combined the Armor table and the Armor Type table to get started on something more useful for later in this post:

Armor SetSet ChanceFull % Chance
Hide1.00%0.08%
Hide + Shield1.15%0.09%
Leather5.00%0.40%
Leather + Shield5.75%0.46%
Ring, Chain7.00%0.56%
R,C + Shield8.05%0.64%
Banded, Plate7.00%0.56%
B,P + Shield8.05%0.64%
Shield36%2.88%
Hide (cursed)0.45%0.04%
Hide + Shield (c)0.10%0.01%
Leather (cursed)2.25%0.18%
Leather+Shield (c)0.50%0.04%
R,C (cursed)3.15%0.25%
R,C + S (cursed)0.70%0.06%
B,P (cursed)3.15%0.25%
B,P + S (c)0.70%0.06%
Shield (cursed)10%0.80%


So, warping this a bit, let's look at the chances our undefined magical martial item resolves to any given type, and then the percentage of classes that can use that item, by the expanded class demographics (NPC Parties table, pg 248):

Occurrence for all Martial Magic Items
Item Type% Chance% PCs can use it:
Swords61.76%78.69%
Arrows3.24%71.75%
Axes1.76%73.60%
Bows1.03%71.75%
Bolts3.24%71.75%
Daggers0.88%88.41%
Slings0.88%81.47%
Spears1.76%78.69%
War Hammers1.91%87.95%
Hide0.34%90.26%
w/shield0.29%65.27%
Leather1.71%90.26%
w/shield1.47%65.27%
Chain2.39%65.27%
w/shield2.06%65.27%
Plate2.39%60.64%
w/shield2.06%60.64%
Shield10.82%65.27%


On the armors, I went with the given class being able to use the whole set - so, the leather and the shield counts the fighter, but not the thief.

Since our treasure tables don't break out what type of sword it is, we don't either - the "magic sword" found 61% of the time presumes it can be used by any class that has "* sword" listed in it's proficient weapons.

If you're interested, the class breakdown is as such:
Class% Chance
Nightblade1.85%
Spellsword2.78%
Explorer4.63%
Bladedancer6.94%
Cleric9.72%
Fighter36.57%
Thief11.57%
Mage9.72%
Assassin6.94%
Bard4.63%
Vaultguard2.78%
Craftpriest1.85%

It hasn't been changed for the PC classes. However, out of the PC classes, only the 3 Dwarf classes, the Wonderworker, Priestess, Warlock, and Witch cannot use some type of sword. 

Let's look at another breakdown:

Occurrence for all Martial Magic Items
Item Type% Chance% D@W Units Trained% D@W Armed% Guns Units Trained% Guns Armed
Swords61.76%87.50%66.67%95.45%89.74%
Arrows3.24%54.17%28.57%0.00%0.00%
Axes1.76%70.83%21.43%22.73%2.56%
Bows1.03%54.17%28.57%0.00%0.00%
Bolts3.24%16.67%4.76%0.00%0.00%
Daggers0.88%100.00%7.14%0.00%0.00%
Slings0.88%4.17%2.38%0.00%0.00%
Spears1.76%100.00%23.81%22.73%0.00%
War Hammers1.91%12.50%2.38%13.64%10.26%
Hide0.34%100.00%4.76%100.00%0.00%
w/shield0.29%100.00%0.00%77.27%0.00%
Leather (Jack)1.71%100.00%45.24%100.00%46.15%
w/shield1.47%100.00%28.57%72.73%10.26%
Chain (Half Plate)2.39%54.17%23.81%72.73%35.90%
w/shield2.06%54.17%9.52%63.64%12.82%
Plate (Full Plate)2.39%37.50%23.81%22.73%20.51%
w/shield2.06%37.50%21.43%22.73%7.69%
Shield10.82%100.00%59.52%72.73%30.77%


The percentage of D@W trained units, that, if that training followed them to an adventuring class directly, would be able to use the item, plus the number of unit types/subtypes actually armed with the item. I'm allowing polearms to be spears in this case.

By way of a little explanation, Alex mentioned on the boards that D@W unit training is "cumulative": i.e., Heavy Infantry know what Light Infantry know, and a unit like Cataphract Cavalry know pretty much everything but longbows and crossbows. And, you don't train conscripts to be Light Infantry D - you train them as Light Infantry, and it's a wide skill set.

I'm still fiddling with the Guns of War units, but I think this is what I like based on their qualifying conscripts vs. training time - for example, I'm betting Coutilliers, Reiters, and Harquebusiers are all cross-trained, since they're the same qualifying conscripts and the same training time, and their differences are the same as Light Infantry A->G in D@W - armaments only.

Lastly, swords versus other melee weapons appearing on the magic item chart by price:

WeaponDamageCost
Dagger1d43
Short Sword1d67
Hand Axe1d64
Sword1d6/1d810
Hammers1d6/1d85
Battle Axe1d6/1d87
Spear1d6/1d83
2H Sword1d1015
Great Axe1d1010
Grant the fact swords cost more because they're more complex to make; but; that makes them take longer to enchant - ignoring the spear, which also has a lot of conversation going on around it, the hammer takes half as long to enchant as the sword, and it is, in ACKS, mechanically the same.

Time is money, as they say - in this particular case, time is XP.

A sword +1 costs 5,000gp, and takes (1*10)/10 == 1 month to enchant
A hammer +1 costs 5,000gp, and takes (1*5)/10 == 2 weeks to enchant

A 5th-7th level mage could double her XP income from magical item creation doing hammers instead of swords - getting 5,000-(GpThreshold) twice in the month.


At any rate - 61.76% of magical martial items are some sort of sword, which is ~80% of all magical weapons, and they can be used by ~78% of player character classes, or ~87%+ of trained combatants.

It's cultural - the assumed game world mirrors our own here. Swords are such a large portion of the magical item list because we, generically, want them to be. Swords have held a certain status across a large swath of cultures around the world, and that's been carried into a game written initially to emulate medieval European warfare that got dragons stuck in.

It's such a bias that classes who can make magical weapons evidently make more swords than anything else despite the fact they get more out of making hammers.

It's such a bias that the only class as a group that has martial training and can't use swords (excepting the cleric, which is theoretically a religious choice) and has martial training is the Dwarven non-Vaultguard classes, because we are purposefully making them culturally distinct from humans. (note, above, the occurrence of Dwarven Craftpriests and magical hammers roughly coincide...)

We are the sword.


I don't see any classes' inability to use magical swords as an issue - they are largely unable to utilize weapons in general or have made a conscious or cultural decision not to.

I'd be more interested in what it would mean to simplify the proficiency system beyond the specification of individual weapons - focus more on what it takes to master the mechanics of fighting with a weapon type - or for an able combatant to not be reduced to a peasant's level if they pick up an unfamiliar, yet regular, weapon.

Zaharan Ruinguards, for example, are not proficient in daggers. From the class writeup: "The chthonic powers a ruinguard channels revel in the chaos and brutality of face-to-face combat, and frown upon weapons and attacks which draw blood from a distance." Is there anything more intimate than literally embracing your opponent as you slip a dagger into his heart?

The ruinguard strikes me as the sort of butcher who can kill you with anything, but greatly prefers weapons that slash and pierce - actively practices it, is better with it, in fact. Same with the bladedancer, really - if you catch a bladedancer unarmed, in a room full of hammers, should you have the advantage?

Certainly not. She'll atone for her transgression in your blood.

Less picturesquely, the cleric's lack of proficiency in blades is more specifically limiting if they could absolutely use them with some skill - but choose not to. Denial of opportunity via player choice versus denial via mechanics.

It's something I've been puttering with for a while.


Saturday, March 11, 2017

Lairs and Encounters: Monster Creation: Lesser Naga


A second session of the 'Teacher Campaign' has occurred.

It has worked so far because they're my wife's friends and not mine; aside from one 'ringer' who was one of the persistent DMs back in the day.

Philosophically, perhaps, I'm a lot more relaxed about this. I don't feel I need to overprepare; I've not done a lot of work on establishing damn near anything regarding world or expectations. Didn't have a sandbox map created, aside from various prototypes generated from my Hexomancy project, which is  going pretty well.

I'd laid out a few rumors for them in my take on Turos Tem in the Sinister Stone of Sakkara. They didn't bite on the Stone or Nuromen, but did hit on one that "triggered the quest", as they say, for N1: Against The Cult of the Reptile God.

And I largely winged it the first game. I'd kinda skimmed over all 3 adventures, didn't have time to really internalize things, and was kinda plopping back and forth between things in N1 piecing things together along with the players as they ran around town threatening people's lives, as PCs do. Bad cop/Bad cop, as it tends to go.

I guess I should do it this way more often; two of the players are noobs; another one (due to age) was likely part of the 3E generation, and all them have expressed positive reviews of the experience; in the case of the young veteran positive espc. in comparison to however things were run for him before.

I do need to finish out a map of sorts so I can at least define where resources are. They're talking like they're going to occupy the minor domain that is the N1 adventure location; they'll need to restock the garrison and such.


Anyway, they got into the end-game for N1 last session. I needed a naga sort of thing. Obviously, I could just take the one there, but that's no fun. The Child of Nasga from L&E is a bit too tough for 2nd level characters. To complicate matters, I've already defined the naga as a limbless muse.

By way of a working review, then, let's follow along with my thought processes for using Lairs & Encounters to make a new monster. It worked out well - the balance between choice and randomness is well balanced, and the results gave me both new ideas and helped me reflect on what I was wanting to accomplish, world-building wise, in presenting the monster.

FWIW, the monster worked out pretty well. The 'ringer' player, the tank of the group, was under the weather and joined from home via Skype, and due to overmedication and fatigue "tactically fucked" the group by charging in through a group of troglodytes to attack the lesser naga directly - failed the save vs hypnotism. That part worked well (for me), but the combat turned into a bit of a slog, and the lesser naga got away. They'll have to track her down the hard way.

  1. Concept: So this will be a Lesser Naga, some odd mimic of a true naga/marilith/muse, kinda like how some insects or snakes mimic a more dangerous species. It will be able to charm via contact, let's say, and daze or otherwise immobilize via eye contact. Unlike a muse, it's charm deteriorates the craftsmanship of an artist (hence explaining things like N1's carpenter). It's collection of charmed followers is pointless, but just as cruel, ending often in death or worse.
  2. Type: This is a summoned creature. There's no need for this thing to occur naturally.
  3. Hit Dice: I'm going to shoot for 4 HD here; about half of the Muse.
  4. Saving Throws: Saving throws for a Summoned Creature are Fighter, (HD/2*2d2)...so 2 plus..3. Saves as a Fighter 5. I'm still doing Hazard Throws, so that's...HZ 9+/St11+. 
  5. Body Form: Serpentine! Serpentine! Serpentine!
  6. Monster Weight: By formula: a body mass value exponented to  HD * 10. Serpentine has a range of 0.90 to 1.31 - the lower the value, the more ferocious the monster. I want this thing hungry, so I'mma pick 1.05.. 61 pounds.
  7. Monster Size: By weight - this thing is Man-Sized, which works for me. Serpentine is a body form that wants some length, so I'll call it 10 foot long, based on some light googling 
  8. Carrying Capacity: If it would matter, and, who knows - at 61 points, it can carry around 4 stone, somehow.
  9. AC: Derived from the first 9 HD, a 4HD creature defaults to AC 3.
  10. Natural Attacks: For serpentine; a bite. I don't see this one constricting.
  11. Damage: For 4 HD, I'd be looking at an average of 8 pts per round. A Small Bite from a 4 HD creature could be about 1d8 damage, that's only half that. I'll put a pin on that one for now, and give it an attack of "bite, 1d8"
  12. Movement: I'll top it off at 120'.
  13. Special Abilities: Here's the potatoes to the meat. Summoned Creatures get 1d10-5 special abilities if rolling randomly. I've got an idea of what I'd like it to be able to do; but I'm open to more suggestion. So let's roll some stuff up. 1d10-5 is...9: 4 special abilities.

    I get for Special Abilities: 59: poison, 83: swallow, 60: poison, 94: toughHrm. That was using the quantum random generator at ANU, by the way. Poison gives me an idea; but this creature is certainly not Tough, nor is it large enough to effectively Swallow (but your mom is! Oooooooooooh!) Let's reroll three of them:50: paralysis, 7:bonus attack, 79: stealth
    Ah, now we're talking. Stealth works well - I'd thought of this as a mimic of the Muse, so while the lesser naga may rely on it's resemblance to the more dangerous foe in a pinch, it'd certainly be a lurker. Bonus Attack neatly ties up my earlier lack of damage and gives the monster a quick 'double-hit' befitting a snake like creature. Stealth turns out to be a -2 penalty to folks encountering it in it's native habitat; which will be underground.

    Paralysis and Poison - I need the monster to be able to Charm Person; since I've got all these townsfolk converted. I'd like it to be a bite, just because I like the thought of it. It's not a poison, though, it's a spell-like ability.

    If rolled randomly, getting the spell-like ability effect nets you 1d4 abilities. ANU gives me...1d4=4, which is nice, I guess, but I may not use all these for this particular creature. First is Charm Person. Paralysis triggers a thought on Hypnotism.

    I'll do Charm via a bite attack; perhaps it's a poison?; and probably apply it as a custom spell so that more than humanoids can be charmed. Hypnotism will be a ranged sight attack; sort of like a Disney's Jungle Book Kaa - single target, concentration, 60' range. Still level 2.

    I have no ideas for the next two, so let's roll. Grabbing some seeds from ANU...84; Divine, 92: level 5, 87: Priestess List: Scry. Huh. That's pretty interesting.


    What I'd like to do, longer term, is turn Summoning into more of a process, and part of that is having interesting things to summon. This sort of a result - a low-end creature that happens to be able to do something powerful - is a pretty compelling target for a summons. It's a bit of a risk - the stealthy human-faced snake that can charm you with a bite - but if you got the gumption, you can compel it to scry for you.

    And all the while it'll be scheming against you. Fun!

    Next: 70: Arcane, 22: level 1, 98: Wall of Smoke or Ventriloquism. Ventriloquism will win this particular round-off - it can hide in the dark, taunting you with disembodied voices, distracting you with noise; utilizing it's Stealth to get into position to bite and charm. Very well sorted.

    Adding these up, then:

    Kiss Charm, 1/turn, Level 1: 2*0.8*1=1.6
    Hypnotism, At Will, Level 1: 2*2*1=4
    Ventroliquism, At Will, Level 1: 2*1*1=2
    Scry, Once per Day, Level 5: 2*5*0.4=4

    In total, then, we have 12 "#" from spell-like abilities, 2 "#" from Stealth, and 2 "##" from Bonus Attack, because we're not doing a huge amount of damage.

    16 "#" in all, divided by 8 gets us to 2 "*".

    The Lesser Naga is a 4** HD creature.
  14. ...which means it's worth 80 + 55(2) = 190 XP.
  15. Monster Organization: This is an interesting one. The lesser naga should be surrounding itself with charmed victims, increasing it's security and doing whatever it is it does - occasionally eating victims, who knows. That implies a Humanoid organization - you'll encounter either it or gangs of it's minions in 5 HD clumps, and a dungeon lair containing 35 HD of itself and minions. Rarely, perhaps, the very successful lesser naga has an entire village of victims, 200 HD worth of folks doing it's bidding.

    To run that down, 5 HD of villagers, assuming 1/2 HD per, is an average of 10 people for a gang; or about 2d10. 35 HD in a lair is 70 people. That could be 2d10*7. A village at 200HD is 400 people; 2d10*40. That's also 80 families; so on average a lesser naga could just about claim a small Class VI market.

    That's pretty awesome. That seems like a concept that ought to be applied to things like vampires and whatnot - dunno if you've watched Penny Dreadful, for example (and you should have, because Eva Green), but recall Dracula had a whole cohort of thralls running around London.

    I think I might have to calculate the maximum number of creatures the lesser naga could conceivably keep in thrall.

    For the time being, though, I'll stick with Serpentine, which means the lesser naga is a solitary creature. Philosophically correct - it either charms its way into allies or is compelled by the more powerful to Scry for them. I'll use my own value for % In Lair, however.
  16. Treasure: 190 XP by 4 is 760 GP. They will be hoarders; and that value just barely sneaks into the D Treasure Type.
  17. Intelligence: Sapient, obvs.
  18. Alignment: Chaotic...more obvs.

Lesser Naga
% In Lair: 70%
Dungeon Enc: Solitary (1)
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 120’ (40’)
Armor Class: 3
Hit Dice: 4**
Attacks: 2 (bite/bite)
Damage: 1d8/1d8
Save: M5
Morale: +1
Treasure Type: D
XP: 190


The lesser naga is a serpentine creature, averaging 10 ft long, with a humanoid head. The face of the lesser naga is almost always androgynously attractive, and the naga itself is cunning enough to present itself in the most advantageous way possible.

Lesser naga are summoned here from Ruhn; where they survive via guile and stealth against the more powerful factions of that globe. Creatures encountering a lesser naga suffer a -2 penalty to their suprise rolls; as it is a master of concealment.

The lesser naga strikes with lightning speed - able to bite twice in a round for 1d8 points of damage with its needlepoint teeth. With a successful bite attack, the lesser naga can inject a supernatural venom that charms its target (as Charm Monster). The naga may attempt this once per turn, as it needs some time to regenerate its venom sacs.

When out of attack range, the naga has several options available to it. At will, it may cast illusory sound  centered anywhere within 60' to distract opponents. A creature may save vs Spells to realize the sound is false; but only if they actively attempt to disbelieve.

A naga that captures the eye of a single opponent may attempt to Hypnotize it, as the spell - the naga must concentrate to maintain the lock, but may move. The naga often uses this ability to close on a target for a charming bite.

Finally, and most importantly, the lesser naga may Scry once per day. Sorcerers who believe they can contain the naga will often summon them and keep them entrapped for this task, compelling them to scry for them.

The lesser naga must have a pool of water it can fully coil itself around in order to perform this task. It must enter a trance for a full turn, during time it is unaware of its surroundings. The sorceror requesting a scry must repeat the location of the scrying during this time, and the naga inherits the sorcerer's knowledge of the person, place, or thing. At the end of the trance, the scrying will begin, visualized within the pool. The sorcerer himself may cast clairaudience or ESP to ehance the scrying.

Lesser naga that escape or are otherwise free will most often be found laired within an underground location near small settlements, having charmed many locals to provide it protection and food (which is often the same charmed people).

Lesser naga strongly mimic limbless Muses. A failed proficiency throw to recognize them may misidentify them as such. The mimicry is so complete that craftsman and artisans charmed by the lesser naga's bite will find their skills deteriorating over time, most often except for a single small detail that exhibits itself as an odd, disorientating visual or auditory pattern.






Here's my leftover numbers from ANU:
Set 2:  27,43, 96, 93, 52
Set 3: 99, 40, 84, 24, 7, 32
Set 4: 63, 20, 23, 100, 8, 30


and the statblock for my own running
Lesser Naga    HD4**   HP 18   AC 3    HZ 9+/Mg11+   DF  10+  
ML 0   ATK bite 1d8/1d8 <charm>
Surprise: -2 underground
Hypnotize: concentration, single target, mobile