The Great Franken Game began this weekend. Sure there were some setbacks but we worked through it and even had some time to throw some dice and get into trouble.
Our first problem was the damned weather. When you get ice and snow in Texas, bad things happen. What that meant was two of the four players had to make up work from earlier in the week. One thing that I did tell the players and myself is that the game will go on. And it did. This also illustrates why I opted not to use the now famous “milestone” leveling up method. We’re going with XP. Can’t make it. Sorry. You’ll just be a little behind the other player characters.
Next up. We had to deal with Kanka. This is what I’m using for campaign notes and ideas and for a place for the players to back up their characters. I had all the templates created before and did some screen sharing in Discord to help them get it set up. Sure there were hiccups but it should be valuable in the long run.
So what did the party end up looking like? Well, I know that the players who couldn’t attend are planning on a Druid and Cleric. For the pair that made it. We’ve got a Magic-User (Witch), based on the Witch Class from Cursed Scroll Zine. And a Magic-User (Warlock). For this I’m not basing Warlocks on the 5E variety rather on those from Hyperborea. That is to say masters of Sword and Spell (once they get a few levels under their belt). So all spell casters. No Fighter. No real rogue. But I am offering the players to roll on the Benisons & Dooms tables from DCC Lankhmar and the Witch got a Criminal Background so there’s some thief-type skills available.
So how did our session go playwise? Our two mages decide to wander into the spooky woods and try to make a few gold collecting on that bounty on bandits. I guess they did have a solid plan. Cast sleep. Run in and club the bandits into unconsciousness and tie them up. But they ended up wandering in the wrong direction. They did run into a few gnolls. They did survive and use their basic plan in combat except for the pair of gnolls who weren’t slept. So that meant things got really touch and go. But they prevailed in the end.
It did go well over all. Nothing seemed to go wrong with all the wonky game mechanics that I stitched together. The players had blasted and even complimented it at the end. So that’s the first update. And there will be more to come as the party gets into more trouble and more of the crazy YARC ideas get bounced off players.
And crazy quote of the session, “Did you just put human poop in your pocket?”
The campaign is coming and I’m pulling out all those ideas that have been lingering in the back of my head. This time I want to talk a little about goblins.
Sure they’re a fun, favorite bag of hit points for player characters to kill. But in some settings they are cute little scamps that makes everybody say, “Ahhh.” Well, the goblins from Zoong are nasty and a common threat everywhere. They’re sort like a cross between piranhas and cock roaches.
Nobody knows exactly where goblins come from. They just seem to appear out of nowhere and occasionally disappear just as quickly. A goblin nest or warren acts as a portal from their native dimension. The only to deal with an infestation is find the nest and take it out.
Goblins are primitive and vicious. They gang up on what they believed to be the weakest target. They will use what ever weapons that they can find but many just prefer biting their opponents. Speaking of biting. Goblins have no real sense for mortal precious metals or gems, but for some reason they do value to teeth of mortal humanoids. So if you find a bunch of chewed up corpses that are missing their teeth. It’s goblins. That is if you find corpses. Goblins like meat.
Goblin hunting is a professional practiced across the land. It doesn’t matter if it’s a rural area or a major city. The little monsters can show up anywhere. Hey, it’s a living. That is if you survive.
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.
Yes, I know that a real click bait title for this post. But you know it kind of fits. Let me start of with saying that I understand that maps are cool. Some are even works of art but how valuable and efficient is that work of art at the gaming table? Sure they can inspirational and evocative but I’m looking plain old utility and ease of use at the gaming table.
I’ve been playing around with Inkarnate for a world map for the reboot of my original campaign and while also playing around with online campaign managers I got to thinking about the way I actually keep notes which is a lot of bullet journaling and mind maps. This lead me to the idea of using “one map” for each thing in my world and basically here it is:
Wait? What? That’s it? Yep. I started with the simple concept of a group of hexes then changed it up to off-set squares just to make it easier to use with a word processor. As you can see, it’s numbered from 1 to 19 (20 is “outside” the map) in case I want to do something random. I also grabbed some inspiration from Index Card RPG with the zoned combat and the Ultimate Dungeon Terrain from Dungeon Craft on Youtube.
I figured if you can do this combat then why use it on a bigger scale?
Here’s how it works. Let’s start with the big picture. The World. You may be tempted to put that Big City in the middle of the map. I say no. Put where the characters start in the middle. Build the map from the character’s perspective. Let’s say you’re starting your campaign with the classic Keep on the Borderlands. Put that right in the center. What do the characters know? Since this is the “world” map at this stage. They would know that say the Dwarves come from “Far Away” to the north. So put the Dwarf home there like in Box 9. The Elves are far too but to the south east and so on. All that matters really is that something “near” to where they are or faraway. Fill in what extra bullet details you want.
Then you can do the same thing with a region. Once again with Keep on the Borderlands. Put the Keep in the middle then add the Caves of Chaos, Caves of the Unknown, the Mad Hermit, and the other adventure areas on the region map. All that really matters, is it close or far?
And you can do the exact same thing with a city. I know that the actual distances are abstract. Personally, I’ve found it better to measure the distances in actual miles or whatever but how many days it will take the party to get to their destination (for supply purposes) and what may be between them and their destination (making getting rumors even more key to survival).
This idea is also handy for my DM World Notebook. I can squeeze just about all of the information for a city or region that I need quickly into a single page.
And there you go. A single simple tool with many uses. And here’s a PDF of it:
The good old 5E Sword & Sorcery game is going well but I do have a the habit of planning well in advance for the next campaign. For this, it’s time to go back to the more traditional D&D style game and that means knocking the dust off the old notes.
So, Zoong is my own home brewed setting for the more standard style of campaign. I’ve already ran in this setting with 5E, Swords & Wizardry, and Dungeon Crawl Classics. For this iteration, I’m gearing up to use my YARC 5E/Old School Hack.
There’s bits and pieces of each of those earlier campaigns that are left over and made some changes to the setting. Of course, also my own preferences and experiences add even more bits. Plus the returning players already have a good feel for the whole vibe of the world. And what’s the best place to start? A New Map!
I decided to kick the tires and learn how to use Inkarnate. Since I’m just learning, I only used the free version. This isn’t the final version of the map. I may do some more tweaking here and there. Really, I have no idea what I’m doing. And there were about half a dozen false starts that I just trashed and started over.
I’m also debating on whether to use on of those fancy online campaign managers or keep it old school and just do PDF’s for my players and the good old three-ring binder for my DM notes. I’m playing around with a couple of them but more on that later.