Slowly gearing up for that new campaign and it’s time to start pulling a few odds and ends that have been bouncing around my head for a long time. So yes. The Orcs of Zoong are EVIL. And no. This has nothing to do with all the hubbub from early. It’s an idea that’s been there I just hadn’t blogged on it until now.
The Orcs of Zoong appear out of nowhere and hew a path of death, destruction and misery. Their sole goal is cause as mush pain and devastation as possible. Why?
The Orcs are the souls of the most cruel and evil mortals sent back to the material to cause as much chaos as possible. If they inflict enough pain and suffering on the mortals before they die, their souls return to Hell. But instead of being a tortured soul in Hell, they get to be the torturer. So it’s sort of a promotion.
There really isn’t anything that could remotely considered an “orc” society. They are just these bands that appear and start killing. They are constant threat every where. On the bright side, there never seems to be enough of them in one band to stage what anyone could consider a large scale military operation. Nor are they organized enough. The safest time to attack a new band of orcs is when they are still fighting amongst themselves to see which one of them is toughest and gets to lead.
Do they have any different stats than you’re run of the mill Orc (pig-faced or otherwise)? Nope. It’s the lore and those subtle things like just appearing out of nowhere in a civilized region.
Everything I’ve posted about YARC has been player facing stuff. This is where the whole tone of any game really happens in my opinion. It’s the options that are available for the player character that make things move. And that part is basically done. The players have a draft of the rules and it will be time to start rolling some dice in the near future. But now I want to start looking behind the screen and stuff to make the life of the DM easier.
One of the most useful axioms is that monsters and NPC’s don’t have to follow the same rules as player characters. Sure a DM can use that to cheat and just outright kill or outshine the PC’s but the true intent is to make the DM’s job easier. The less time that the DM has flip through rule books or try to puzzle out a page long monster stat block is time away from actually keeping the excitement up. This where so many of the old school games shine. Easy and to the point monster stat blocks.
If you remember from the early posts, another goal of YARC to make it so that the DM could grab just any old school adventure and quickly and easily convert it while running it.
If we boil monsters down to their most basic, there’s three things that become the core mechanics of monster: HD, AC, and Damage. Hit Dice are basically a monster’s level. It’s how many Hit Points they have plus how powerful they are overall. Sure you could roll for HP but I’m running a standard of 5 HP/HD. As far as Attack and Save Bonuses. That’s the HD. Armor Class can be just from what’s listed or compare it to what the AC might be for a player character and if you’re using a source that only has Descending AC the just take 19-AC to get the Ascending AC. Damage same thing. Just use it or think of it in terms of the what’s available to the player characters. Then adjust or run any special abilities as needed. No this isn’t a scientific approach. It’s a lot of instinct and what feels right. So let’s make a freaky swamp monster
It’s pretty tough for single low characters but it’s going to go against a whole party. Let’s give it HD : 3. So it’s got 15 HP and +3 to Attack and make any checks and Saves.
It’s got a tough rubbery hide. Let’s say that’s about leather armor so AC: 12.
Its got long nasty claws. Those are sort of like daggers but it’s really strong so let’s make damage: 1d6.
It’s a Freaky Swamp Monster so it needs a couple of freaky powers. It lives in a swamp so it should be aquatic. I know let’s make it a stealthy predator so give it Advantage on Stealth type checks in a swamp. And last let’s give it a Swamp Gas power. It’s a fog that blinds and disorients everybody but it.
Now, I know that for higher HD monsters the HD as bonus thing breaks. So I’m running with a max bonus of +10. So a HD 18 Demon Lord would have only a +10 and 90 HP. It’s a good max while it does make the monster powerful without being overpowered plus anything with that many HD is going to have really nasty special abilities that really won’t depend on hitting high level characters in combat.
And those special abilities are where a lot of monsters shine. Don’t even thing putting those into a paragraph or a sentence for use at the game table.
IMHO, too many monster books are just too damn wordy.
Let’s talk about NPC’s a bit. Unnamed, and unimportant NPC’s basically use a monster stat block. That city guard, random pickpocket, tavern keep, or merchant. They are all going to be 1 to 2 HD and might not ever be seen again or you might need even any combat stats for them. And that’s an important note right there. If an NPC isn’t going to get into combat then you don’t need stats for them.
Here’s a confession. Vasha of the Night Market is an NPC that I’ve used in two campaigns. At the very least, the player character know up front that she’s a powerful magic-user. With even the smallest bit of research, they learn that the city elders let her do pretty much whatever she wants. She’s the only person that the head of local Thieves Guild actually fears. It’s clear to the players that if they do something stupid then eight kinds of hell is going to come raining down on them. I’ve never made any kind of stat block for her.
But if that NPC is the big bad. Oh hell yes. Go crazy and make that cool stat block. And make one’s for NPC that are reoccurring that you just need to have them go into combat either with or against the player characters.
Then there’s that special time that you want make an NPC with a whole sheet just like a player character. Always keep one of those in reserve.In case a player doesn’t show up or even if there happens to an extra player show up.
I know this has been a rambling post. So it’s time for me to shut up. I’ve got a game to prep for this weekend.
And here’s the Freaky Swamp Monster
HD: 3 (15 HP)
Advantage on Stealth
Swamp Gas: Blocks vision further than 10 feet. Save Vs Magic or Confused.
Yes, it’s more stuff for Barbaric! Like I’ve said before, I’m really loving this simple and rules efficient games. So let’s get on with another cool supplement that’s out there.
Scandinavian Legendary Creatures is tight little PDF that’s gives you thirteen new monsters from Scandinavian folklore and 66 new spells plus a couple more optional rules for your game.
The monsters are familiar to most that have played fantasy games before so if you’re basing your campaign in an original setting then they are still useful. One good thing is that there’s a good variety of monsters and the author did a good take on many. I like how monsters use Traits for that extra bit of punch. The Draugar are especially nasty. And who doesn’t want to test their mettle against a Linworm. Like I said there’s a good variety of monsters that can be used no matter the setting.
For me, the big bonus is the spell list. Most of the spells are conversions from of the standard D&D spells that didn’t make it into the core Barbaric rules. Of course, many players will want access to something like those familiar spells like Magic Missile or Haste. There’s new one’s too. I like Bone Bow and Sticky Floor. The names pretty much say what they do. So this is a valuable resource for GM’s.
Rounding out the PDF are a couple of optional rules. One is Fame system. Since Barbaric doesn’t have an Alignment system this adds a way to reward characters for not being totally evil. Do good things and you get good things like reduction in prices or help from the locals. Do bad things and well get penalties for reaction and pay higher prices. Now, I don’t know if an average merchant who recognizes the character as soulless psychopath is going to charge them more. That might be a good way to end up being hacked into little pieces. There’s also a quick and very short rule to make combat even more dangerous by increasing the chance for character’s to score critical hits.
Overall, I’m pleased with material. It adds more tricks and options options for the game, especially the spells like I said. But I have to admit that there a few typos here and there. Yes, I’m guilty of the same. There’s also a couple of places where I think there was some minor hiccups on layout where a paragraph has odd line spacing. For me those aren’t a huge deal but I know they drive some folks crazy.
It’s been one of those weeks but you don’t here to listen to me whine about real life. Instead I offer some thoughts on a new product for one of new favorite games, Barbaric!
I’ve mentioned that Mark over at the Crossplanes Blog has written some pretty cool material for Barbaric! and it’s related games using the Quantum Engine. Now, he’s released his own little monster book, The Foelio. No, that’s not typo. Folio. Foelio. Get it? Actually, it does kind of make sense because from what I can tell that it’s mostly a conversion of the Foe Folio for BX Essentials (now knows as Old School Essentials). Which is not a bad thing. We need more monsters for Quantum Engine.
Like I said, Foilio is a monster book and it’s pretty darned good one. I count 27 monsters in there. And it’s pretty good selection of monsters. Sure there a couple that’s some well known D&D monsters with the serial numbers filed off. I don’t think that’s any sort of detractor. First, many players expect these to show up some time. And second, the whole Barbaric and Quantum Engine community is just getting off the ground, so there’s not that much out there, yet. So it’s nice to have at least one version of that available.
There’s some original monsters too. That I think are cool. I like the Cobriath for a good old sword & sorcery monster. Sure it may just a giant snake but it’s still cool. Umbrals which basically an undead assassin and who can’t use one of those? And the Upir which are just plain weird vampires that can only feed on their own families.
Of course, there’s even some Lovecraftian monsters in there too. The most useful ones like Byahkee, Deep Ones, and Hounds of Tindalos. Once again useful monsters.
Thanks to ease of the Quantum Engine, the stat blocks are easy to read. That’s one of my personal pet peeves. Cluttered stat blocks. They also have something nice that I often don’t read. And that’s the quick little fluff blurb about the monster. These are nice and just inspirational enough that you could squeeze some more lore into your own world. The monsters overall should be pretty challenging and interesting to most parties which makes Foelio a good addition to a referee’s tool kit.
This week I’m going to talk about monsters a little and where I took a couple of twists and turns on them.
First, I want to talk about game mechanics. You already have a lot to handle as a GM so I wanted to make monsters as easy to run as possible. I played a lot of 3.x but vowed never to run it and the main reason was those crazy monster stat blocks.
If you remember back to the early posts, I mentioned that I was taking inspiration from Swords & Wizardry Light and Continual Light. These two games have some of the simplest monster stat blocks around. A monster’s HD not only determines HP but also attack bonus and Saving Throw. And it does it without having to reference a table. It also codifies the common monster special abilities so you don’t have to add an entire explanation to each monster plus you can combine similar effects into one special ability. I like that.
Second, I dropped many of the standard monsters from the core book. So I dropped orcs, goblins, trolls, giants, unicorns and bunch of others. Sure you can add them to your game but I really don’t think you need another set of stats for them. I did focus on monsters I felt had a more Sword & Sorcery vibe. Serpent folk, lizard men, giant snakes, giant spiders, and undead.
Every one knows about the connection between Robert E Howard, HP Lovecraft, and Clark Ashton Smith. So I decided to add some Mythos and Mythos inspired creatures. But they are monsters. Remember, this isn’t a game about cosmic horror or existential dread. This is about brave adventurers hacking their way through an indifferent world. It’s a bit cinematic. So while those monsters are there, they aren’t mind wrenching horrors but they still are things that can rip you limb from limb.