Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Pursuit Rules for D&D

Given the frequency (and wisdom) of player-characters deciding in D&D games to run the fuck away, the game's IGO/UGO movement kind of falls down on having a satisfying way to adjudicate a foot chase. With the previous Hill Cantons session on “pause” with a dual snake-headed giant in hot pursuit of the party as it madly ran out of a lush pocket dimension behind a dungeon mural, I found myself scrambling to come up with something that would spice it up.

Fortunately my Hydra partner, Robert Parker had come up with some pretty nifty and suspenseful ones for his Savage World of Krul campaign and with the help of fellow-player Cole we hammered out a set of rules to use for the session. So here's the amended set of Robert's Rules.

Pursuit Rules
Each round of pursuit is considered to be an abstracted partial normal round. All movement is random (see chart below) and simultaneous.

1. Movement during a Pursuit. A character or creature rolls 1d6 for each 30' of normal movement. Each pip thrown is worth five feet of movement (rounding up to the next 10 foot increment if using a 10-foot gridded map). That's the total maximum distance covered in the round.

Normal Movement Number of Dice

A pursuer ending a round five feet away or less may make an attack.

2. Fighting or Other Actions During Pursuit. Making an attack, closing a door or other similarly lengthy action reduces the above movement die roll by two dice (making 60' foot movement impossible, 90' one die only and so on). Spellcasting, mapping and other action taking concentration is not permitted unless the character opts to end fleeing or pursing.

3. Monster Gives Up. A monster chasing must make a morale check for each 60' increment it falls behind after the first round. If the morale check is failed the creature makes a doleful or bored noise and gives up the chase.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Misty Isles Behind the Scenes, Cut Art and a Review

Quick post to highlight a couple mole-like appearances of my new mini-sandbox, Misty Isles of the Eld, around the web.

Yesterday I had the chance to write up a behind the scenes piece as a guest poster at Tenkar's Tavern. I threw in several incredible pieces of Luka Rejec's that sadly didn't make it into the final print product due to text flow issues (two posted here, the top one being Eldmen slaves working the stim-jam Plantation House).

Also here's the first Misty Isles review from the always-interesting Eric F. over at Swords & Stitchery. His ten point has my brain popping about deviant variations in how the isles could be run at the table. Good stuff go check it out.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Misty Isles Out in Print and North Texas RPG Con

[Translation into common: Misty Isles of the Eld is now available in print and I had a blast running it—among much socializing and gaming—with peeps on Friday morning at North Texas RPG Con.]

Preliminary Report to Eld Overmind, Filing Operative: Agent Xoxx, HUMINT Section 112769
Plans to prevent today's release of Misty Isles of the Eld, the incendiary expose of our foothold in the so-called Hill Cantons, have had a sub-optimal effect. Of concern to Marlinko, Erelhei-Cinlu and Dallas based operatives is the 1.5-day full sellout of pre-release copies by subversive elements in the self-styled Hydra Cooperative.

On the positive side of the Great Ledger, Psychonaut torture-aesthetes in the North Texas RPG cadre made great advances with the odnic-psychic implantation process on the captive party of Misty Isles intruders--Son of Ondrj (wereshark), Pan Vorstr (and his devious man-servant, Jevo), "Other" Pavol (and his talking dog, Kahrul), Glamdalf, Termnix ver 3.3 (robodwarf), Lil Medved (warbear), Zereth and Boinger. Indeed by the end of the session the subjects were clearly convinced that they were Earth humans named Jason Sholtis, Zach H, Billy Longino, Brad Ncube, Jason Hobbs, two Jameses and Chris Holmes, son of the Holmes that allowed us access to this dimension.

Though inartful, staged photos below (and especially that of the purported session by “Jason” on G+ yesterday), will help further in providing deep cover for the op in coming months. Further reports to be filed in the coming days. 

High level crawling in the Jakallan underworld with Victor Raymond. Personal high point was putting a ru'un (an exceedingly high hit dice, potent bot like construct of the Ancients) "around the corner" (shoved into a pocket plane). 
Playtesting Merle Rasmussen's new espionage game "Codename Acrid Herald."
We got a chance to co-create the ancient ruins in the op. 
Fixing to play Zulu Apocalypse with Zeb Cook (my commanding officer on the British side), Steve Winter (co-umpire), Bruce Heard (the other junior British officer) and Doug Niles (Zulu commander).
Humza, Kevin Hendryx (co-umpire) 
My platoon (24th Foot) in serious danger. 
Blood bath. My men are about to rout.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Hill Cantons News Roundup

And now the News from the Hill Cantons...
Addled”Aldo, that most insane of caravel captains, is booking “leisure tours” of the so-called Misty Isles of the Eld in the Persimmon Sea. “Hoi'i, the many-tongued, copper-toned, devil-patron of self-promotion and real estate, called to me in a dream most vivid,” Aldo added as way of explanation. “Take ye this link. It explains all, yar.

The sudden sharp shock of the so-called Red Rye Rebellion is rocking Ostrovo Canton. Armed bands of peasants, sporting red rye badges, have been gathering through the villages and “halushkying” (a time-honored traditional humiliation of dipping a public official in white gravy and then spreading curds and dumplings on them) tax collectors of the Overking. Special assessments levied to support the continued presence of the Black Army in the canton have not been worn well by tenant farmers already suffering from the privations of the recent kozak horde sacking of the area. “The peasants are revolting,” stated an anonymous source close to the cantonal council.
Fomo, the rooster-headed skald is again touring the frontier holdings of the Feral Shore. A rather cryptic ballad is proving to be a widely-requested song among rough laborers. Make of it what you will:
No one dares
tooo sip from the sweet naughty hairs
that give air
tooo swimming down theres.

A fabulous artifact prize
a rod piece that lies.
Below the waves of a city drowned
a city drowned.

Perhaps an allusion to the underwater ruins east of Kezmarok? Hard saying, not knowing.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Misty Isles of the Eld Out Now

After much blood, sweat, and tears, Misty Isles of the Eld is now a real published thing. No really, go check it out (and if you are one of the OG backers of the Slumbering Ursine Dunes project go check your mailbox). Somehow over the last year, it shook itself out of my brain and refused to just be a 20-30 page wee stretch goal affair and instead became a 102-page monster (but a lovable Ozian one).

Here's a couple other related pieces of good news: the manuscripts for Antony Picaro's thoroughly re-skinned/re-imagined Coast of Grizzly Dreams and my What Ho, Frog Demons (the next two and final installments in the SUD series) are in and being worked on.

Also if you are going to North Texas RPG Con this year we will have a limited run of pre-Print-on-Demand hardcopies available--and I'm running this beast Friday morning. 
Click on me.
Anywho brass tacks:
Art, Art, and More Art. Seriously Luka Rejec drew like a fiend in this project, producing ultimately 56 illustrations inside the interior alongside designing that Bowie-rrific cover and gorgeous pointcrawl map. 

Four dungeons. The Vat Complex (with its menacing sealed off-west wing, body-horrific industrial process and pocket dimensions), the flying god-prison Monument Five, the meth-fruit Plantation House and Colonel Zogg's Pagoda Bunker.

Full “extra-planar” pointcrawl. The wilderness crawl spreads over one main isle and two smaller islets subdivided by massive, movable grubs.

An “Anti-Chaos Index.” Through their actions the players shape the very reality of the Isles. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worst, but always for the weird. You know a reverse kind of thing from the Chaos Index mechanic I love so much.

A slew of new otherwordly monsters (the best of which jumping straight from the fever-driven mind of Robert Parker with some Jason Sholtis inspiration).

A large collection of bizarre technological Eldish artifacts and treasure. Includes a random generator for miscellaneous artifacts picked up.

A new psionicist player class, the Psychonaut, with a soft scifi twist. Including its own powers and mutations.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Sexing Up Hexcrawl Terrain

Volturnus could have been a contender. Having recently reread that capstone series of Star Frontiers modules (lucky you, you can download it free and legally here), you can see the foundations of what could have been a truly great adventure series with heavy dollops of planetary romance, fun little mini-games (like a dino-riding polo match with tribal octo-critters), and a colorful, evocative wilderness hex map.

But the light-railroading and over-reliance on pre-planned encounters that lead you to meet Planet of Adventures-style each major sentient race on the planet sadly eclipse what could have been a truly great example of location-based hex-crawling love. (With some medium-exertion one could derail the whole series and revamp it, perhaps a post for another day.)

But hey, let's not beat a 30-plus year dead horse, there are some lessons that can be drawn out of the hexcrawling elements of those modules about gussing up your own wilderness adventures (a long running theme here on the blog). (Note I am leaving out pointcrawls for now mostly because there are some inherent fixes to these issues in that format.)

So what can we learn from Voturnus? Three lessons, I reckon:
1. Terrain should be more varied and sub-divided.
2. Terrain should be weirder and more wonderful (or at least interesting).
3. Landmarks and Specials should be more densely-encountered and varied.

Now click on this map here (also from the Star Frontiers site), zoom in and take a nice long gander at this map before diving in. Run your eye over the key and all those strange markings and lovely colored areas.

Ok let's scoot over to the analysis.

1. Varied and Sub-Varied Terrain. Volturnus is a large map hex-count wise but a not terribly large one scale wise. The hexes are 8 km (that's five of your earth miles). But what immediately jumps out at you is how much diversity there is in terrain. Not just in using a wide range of the major types--to hell with the tyranny of realistic bio-clime modeling—but in diversifying into sub-varieties.

So you don't just have one single mundane “mountains” you have mist-mountains, crystalline mountains, lizard head rock and soaring cliffs each that have differing horizon sight limits, movement rates and special features. You don't have plains you have glass shard plains, salt flats, rocky barrens etc.

2. Weird and Wonderful Terrain. You got a whiff with the list above, but a pulpy swords and planets modeled wilderness led to some great choices in that series.

See on Volturnous you don't just have easily-transversed blah woods, you have “bachanda forest” with dense thorn plants as undergrowth and giant massive-limbed trees as canopy roads. You have razor sharp “shard plains” rolled flat in weird-shaped avenues by steamroller-phant critters. You have baroomian dried canals running through miles of ruins ruins. Lands burning with pitch and oil-slicked lakes.

3. Dense and Varied Landmarks. The next thing that jumps out you is the large number of icons all over the map, many less than a day or two's walk from each other. There's something to travel to and have the party find interesting several times in a session.

You've got needle spires, mesas, weird trees, geysers, weird rock formations (four kinds even), elevation points, and other landmarks. You have vast lost city ruins, crystal stonehenges, ceremonial burial grounds, space pirate bases and alien artifacts. And in a lovely underworld turn, mammoth caves linked by miles of tunnel and underground rivers (marsh even).

This shit is good. There's no reason fantasy shouldn't also reach more beyond the mundane in this regards either. Dream big or go home.

All of this kind of design takes a little work, but has a big payout in my experience in breaking up the boredom of large stretches of terrain with easy to transmit and grok variation. Unwittingly and not always for the best of reasons, it's a route I stumbled into with the Feral Shore where the hex scale is even smaller--at two miles per hex--and wildly varied. Above is just a small, explored part of that map, you can see all three lessons at play.