mandag den 22. august 2011

A bit about gods

A while back Jeff over at Jeffs Gameblog made a post about how the miracle dispenser nature of Dungeons and Dragons clerics might actually kinda fit with how priests actually worked, back before newfangled stuff like the enlightenment and the industrial revolution.

Yesterday I was listening to a lecture from UCLA while playing Minecraft (because if I'm going to waste time playing Minecraft, I might as well get some brainfood at the same time). Towards the end, something caught my attention, given that it seemed relevant to roleplaying, and world-building.

The bit that caught my attention starts around here. But really, the stuff that caught me are just two short sections.

First there is this bit
Curses are really popular. Charms are really popular. Because this is gonna help the individual get on with it. If he wants to marry somebody, he better put a binding spell to make that person fall in love with him. If he wants to get ahead in business, can it hurt to curse his enemies?
And then there are this bit, about a curse being put on a charioteer, probably belonging to an opposing team.
I invoke you by the great names, so that you will bind every limb and every senew of Victoriques the charioteer of the blue team. And that his horses, that he is about to race, under Segundunes, Juvenes, Avacades, Rubules, etc, etc, And also bind any others who may be yoked with them, bind their legs, their armwrists, their bounding, their running. Blind their eyes, so that they cannot see, and twist their souls while you're at it, and their heart so that they cannot breath.
One might consider a world where this stuff is what the gods are all about. You worship not a god because he deserves it, but because he gives you stuff. I do think I might incorporate this in whatever new Fantasy world I might brew up (though not The City, since it already has a well-defined religious system).

Envision this; your cleric in battle, beseeching his god to blind his opponent. Calling upon his god, not expecting response because he is loyal servant of the god, but expecting response because he sacrificed a pig yesterday, and the god darn better come through on his part of bargain, or your cleric is going to go out and find a god that does appreciate a good sacrifice.

søndag den 24. april 2011

I is for the Imperial Inquisition

Like the Assassins Guild the Imperial Inquisition is an ancient and venerable institution. Unlike the assassins, the inquisitors are relatively well known, their stories being spread in books and plays, and their intervention being at times extremely visible.

The inquisitors are an institution constantly searching for the internal enemies of the Empire. From the first whiff of treachery, they will follow the trail until they find the ultimate culprit. They concern themselves with the big picture. Treacherous dukes, rebellious general, powerful cults and rogue demon summoners. If they are plotting against the emperor, it is the inquisitions duty to find them, and remove the danger. This may be by the way of the Assassins Guild, but at other times the problem is too great to be handled by the death of a single man, or the Inquisition wishes to make an example.

For this reason, the imperial inquisitors have wide reaching powers, giving them authority to command any imperial servant or citizen, and allowing them to requisition forces and supplies from the Empire's reserves. The authority of the inquisitors derive from the highest echelons of the imperial bureaucracy, and they are to be obeyed unquestioningly. Inquisitors can command assassins, imperial mages and imperial bureaucrats in the hunt for their prey, and send out entire armies if necessary.

But most of the time the inquisitors won't call out armies. While they have massive authority, they are still accountable to the Emperor. Misuse of the powers given to them may see them dismissed from duty, imprisoned or even executed. Most inquisitors carefully weigh the needed force against not only the target's resistance, but also what the Empire can spare. Sometimes they go as far as hiring freelancers, the quintessential "adventurers".

Unfortunately, with the decline of the Empire the inquisition has run into problems. More and more, individuals are finding their way into the institution that serve not the Empire, but themselves. Ranging from swindlers who want to fill their own pockets to outright traitors, seeking to bring down the Empire from within, these inquisitors with false allegiances pose a serious problem. Not only does their acts themselves cause trouble, but their very existence brings into doubt the intentions of every other inquisitor. These days, the nobles and imperial bureaucrats do not instantly spring to an inquisitors aid, for there are too many stories of false inquisitors. Though this hesitance can always be dispelled by the inquisitor calling down higher authority, the time this takes may cost the Empire dearly.

H is for History

When I started this a,b,c malarkey, I wrote up a list of what I was going to say on some of the letters, just to make sure that I'd get important areas covered, and wouldn't accidentally use up needed letters, such as a throw-away post about Eldritch Abominations instead of the important Enclave concept.

H was supposed to be about history. But as I've struggled for the last day and half to come up with something to write, I've realized that I'm not ready. Alexis over at The Tao of D&D said some good stuff about campaign world history in his post about Pressure. In short: there isn't really any reason to make history that won't impact the adventures played in the campaign world. If the history isn't going to impact the players, there's a good chance that they won't care. (He does say some other things, specifically about Historical Pressures, but the above it what I concentrate on.)

Of course, this is not to say that there shouldn't be history in the campaign. A lot of history will impact the players, even if obliquely. But most of the time, you don't need the great picture. A complete family tree of the imperial family probably won't have much interest. But knowing that an NPC is distantly related to the emperor through his grand-aunt Margaret might be important. And you don't need a family tree for that tidbit. Placing the dungeon in an ancient tomb from before the time of the empire, with cultural artifacts from the previous civilization might be interesting. But mapping every previous culture back to the start of the ages (which was one of the options I considered for this post) might be counterproductive.

Because I love fitting history into my adventures. And I love for things to stick logically together. But I also love to create the biggest bang of a story. So I might find that I want an ancient lizardman empire. But if I have already filled out the history of the world, there might not be room for a lizardman empire. And then I'd either have to scratch that idea, or find a way to tweak it.

Alternatively, I might have a vague idea of history. Various cultures and empire will be dotted along the time-line because I've mentioned them before, either in background (the creators of this or that artifact) or because they have been encountered in play (that ancient tomb from before the time of the empire). And the lizardman empire can be slotted in anywhere that there is room. They might even expand upon known history. I might have known that the Solomani were destroyed in a series of wars. Now the lizardmen could be the enemy that they fought, and lost, against.

I already have a few historical tidbits forming. I know that the peak of the empire was a bit over two hundred years ago, as I established that in the F is also for Firearms post. I know that various factions out in the empire has rebelled and seceded successfully since then. I'm pretty sure that the capital has had an unbroken string of emperors, and has never been touched (in large scale at least) by civil war, though a few barbarian invasions may have made their way to the walls. I'm also have an idea in the back of my head that this empire isn't the first, and that the remains of earlier capitals can be found beneath the city. But honestly, I have nothing worth writing a post about yet.

fredag den 22. april 2011

G is for the Grand Master of the Mechanus Guilds of the Greater Mechanum Quarter

Grand Master Caine is an incredibly influential person being the head of the greatest industrial complex in the empire, located inside the walls of the imperial city to the northwest of the imperial palace. This zone is divided by the city walls into the actual Mechanum Quarter, the southern Mechanum Quarter and the northern Mechanum Quarter, which together form the Greater Mechanum Quarter.

The quarters are divided between many different Mechanist guilds. Three of the five imperially sanctioned gun smiths guilds have their workshops here. So does many other guilds; clock-workers, forgers, armorers, mechanists, and so on. Each guild claims a smaller or larger portion of the quarter, and generally keep to their own affairs, though there are some trade amongst the guilds. Especially the forgers sell their finished products to many guilds who use the forged metal to create their own products.

All these guilds together form the Mechanus Guilds of the Greater Mechanum Quarter. This overarching organization represents the united guilds in negotiations with the imperial administration, and stand for the protection and infrastructure of the Greater Mechanum Quarter. The Iron Guard which protects the district is sizable, and well armed, and have permission to field a small amount of soldiery (about 50) armed with longarms.

Grand Master Caine is the person who stands at the head of this great organization, and has power to speak with the emperor directly on matters concerning Mechanum artifice within the empire. He is said to be a man without scruples, singularly dedicated to advance the position of himself and his organization within the empire using means both fair and foul. But he is an elevated personality, far from the lives of the everyday man. Though his only formal authority is within the Mechanus Guilds of the Greater Mechanum Quarter, he has contacts throughout the empire, and spends his time working in politics that effects the entire empire. Everyday concerns of the Greater Mechanum Quarter is left to lesser officials.

It is said that Caine is being watched carefully by the Imperial Inquisition, for he may be working to usurp the power of the empire from the increasingly weakened imperial administration.

torsdag den 21. april 2011

F is also for Firearms

Firearms came into being over two hundred years ago, during the height of the empire, rising alongside the growing industrialization. Though advances have been made since then, it has been slow owing to tradition, the decline of the empire, and outright suppression.

The gun was invented in the empire, and the imperial administration, recognizing its power, have done everything they could to ensure that nobody else would get it. The construction of firearms have been the monopoly of a few crafting guilds by imperial law, and the design and construction of the gun, and more-so the recipe of the gunpowder, has been a closely guarded secret. As the empire declined, the secrecy and monopolies meant that the gun makers became conservative, and not only was innovation difficult to achieve with so few gun smiths, but often it was opposed by the masters of the guilds.

With a monopoly on firearms the armies of the empire has remained relatively strong despite declines in men, training and equipment. But such things could not last. In the current day the secrets of gun making has leaked from the empire's grasp. Neighboring countries and internal rebels have small-scale gun making industries of their own, and guns have spread from being a strictly military weapon, illegal for civilians to own, to a weapon which can be owned by any with the necessary money.

It is still illegal for any but the designated crafting guilds to produce weaponry, and no imperial citizen may gather a force armed with firearms. While rebel factions out in the empire has done so, the city is too close to the imperial center of power for any to do so. While some nobles and enclave leaders have tried to arm forces with firearms produced in secret factories, they have always been discovered and dealt with harshly by the imperial army.

But individuals may own firearms under imperial law. All that is required are that they possess the papers of crafting that follow with guns sold by the imperial gun smiths. But even this simple requirement is often flaunted by individuals. Few enclaves outside of the imperial administration will ask for the paper of crafting, and they are easily forged. A flourishing black market exists in guns produces by foreign powers or liberated from their former owners. Military long arms are rarely sold to civilians, and thus find buyers on the black market. Also, there are fewer restrictions on innovation among foreign gun smiths, and so designs have begun to appear that are superior to the imperial designs. These too are found on the black market, though ownership is punished severely by the imperial administration.

When speaking in terms of the Fantasy craft rules, the Military pistol, Blunderbuss, Hand Cannon, Harquebus, Musket and Musketoons are considered imperial firearms. The muskets and musketoons are rarely sold to civilians, while both the Hand cannon and Harquebus are considered obsolete. Experimentation into Dueling pistols, Pocket pistols and Long rifles are conducted by foreign gun smiths, as are various customization options, including making the firearms reliable. The light and heavy cannon are also available, but are strictly military weapons.

F is for Fenmore, Lord of Berkey

Fenmore of Berkey is the latest in a long line of protectors of the Berkey Quarter, the center of which is Berkey House, his ancestral home.

It is said that when imperial control began to subside in the district and criminals began to roam the streets at night, the House of Berkey extended its protection to the houses around it, where lived the servants and close associates of the family. Soon petitioners showed up at Berkey House, requesting that the family extend their protection further, offering tributes and loyalty in exchange. And so the house extended its protection.

These days the Berkey Quarter is a pocket of civilization in an otherwise overrun by monsters and barbarians. It is bounded on the south by the great wall, on the east and north by barricaded buildings and walled-off streets and on the west by the Pantheon park, part of which have been walled off to serve as farmland. This is not enough to fully serve the quarters food needs, however. A tunnel has been dug through the great wall, providing access to the south. Through this tunnel Berkey serves as a stopping point on the way to the underground dwarven enclave of Nalzak to the west, or as a fast route to the Golden Quarter to the north.

Fenmore is in his late twenties. He took over from his father eight years ago, when the father died leading his men against a band of human-sacrificing cultists in the east ruins. Though Fenmore really isn't all that interested in leading Berkey, and would rather party in the Golden Quarter or the Imperial District, the quarter is his heritage, and he has drudged through all the necessary administrative duties ever since. He is neither a malevolent nor a benevolent ruler, only strictly fair, following the laws of the quarter to the letter.

But Fenmore is dreadfully bored. When entertainers of interest pass through he will hire them to perform at Berkey House. When adventurers pass through he will invite them, dredging the brains for stories of adventure and derring-do. What Fenmore, really, in secret, wishes for is some kind of catastrophe. A grand evil arising that he can ride out against, finally getting some adventure into his life.

E is for Enclaves

Well, I think I've pretty much failed the challenge  part of the ABC challenge, given that it is more than 2 weeks since I posted the last letter. But due to Jingle's encouragement last post (which I received yesterday) I'm going to try and catch up to the current letter which is.. "R" I think. Let's get going.

The City is huge, the City is old, the City is heavily populated. That could become a catchphrase. The first two parts are of importance in this post. The first part because the City fills such a large area that it is difficult to effectively govern it all. The second part because the City has had a lot of time to develop distinct cultures, districts and authority figures.

The Empire is in a state of decline. Imperial authority in the City is shrinking. Once the entire city was governed by the imperial administration, a chain from the lowly clerks in charge of a certain neighborhood all the way up to the emperor. These days the only places the imperial administration has a sizable presence are in the Government districts. While these are large in their own right, they only form a small percentage of the entire city. Here you will find imperial law, soldiers and a vast bureaucratic machinery that is as much interested in the managing of the rest of the empire, as the City itself. They are stretched thin.

This leads to a semi-feudal model for the rest of the city. Warlords, nobles, merchants and other persons of power control their own smaller or larger part of the city. As long as they pay taxes, and don't threaten the stability of the empire, the imperial administration lets them run things more or less as they please.

There are wars between enclaves, though on a small scale. Raising a proper army is threatening the stability of the empire. But if you happen to be a noble with 500 city guardsmen with good armor and weapons under your command, as well as your own elite bodyguard of 50 men, then it is tempting to seize that merchant district next door. While clashes between hundreds of men happens only rarely, skirmishes, power struggles and resource grabs are a part of life in some of the more unstable parts of the city. In other parts the situation has been stable for decades and looks to continue so.

Though imperial law is the basis for all law in the City, many enclaves have added their own laws, and changed or gotten rid of parts of imperial law that doesn't suit them. A few, isolated enclaves have scrapped imperial law completely, creating their own laws from religious or philosophical foundations. A traveler does well to keep these changing laws in mind, for while imperial law may allow any man to carry a weapon, some enclaves may require a peace knot or restrict the carrying of weapons to nobles, licensed mercenaries, or the enclave's soldiery. Some enclaves place special restrictions on the movements and freedoms of demihumans, mages or simply all outsiders.

There are also those areas not strictly part of the enclave system. Places where the inhabitants have been reduced to barbarism, living in tribes and clans, hostile to outsiders. You are unlikely to accidentally wander into these places, as they only exist far from imperial authority in the isolated pockets of the city, but they do exist. In these same isolated regions are societies of orcs and other humanoids, of nefarious cults or other creatures or men hostile to the empire and those within it. Though these rarely get the chance to grow to a true threat, before being discovered and exterminated by the imperial army, many remain small, local dangers, preying on the enclaves close by, but never growing large enough to warrant imperial attention. And it has happened that one of these dangers has manage to grow large in silence, suddenly spilling out from the far reaches of the city, requiring massive efforts to contain, drive back and finally exterminate. You can say many things of the empire, but in these cases they make sure to be very thorough in their extermination.

tirsdag den 5. april 2011

D is for Dungeons

The City has dungeons, both of the underground cell kind, but also of the generic underground adventuring complex kind.

The City has plenty of sewers, transporting the waste of the city to the river or to underground streams. Some of the sewer lines are huge, servicing hundreds of thousands of people. Some are in ruins, reflecting the state of the landscape above. Wererats, smugglers, cultists and thieves have their hideouts down here.

The City has cellars, some of which are huge winding complexes. Tunnels may run from cellar to cellar, connecting various structures on the surface. In some places they will connect to the sewers. Cultists of ill favored gods will hide their temples below ground in these structures, and use the many entrances to enter and exit unseen. In the abandoned parts of the city, these cellars will form dungeons like any other underground complex, harboring those creatures that avoid the sun.

The City has catacombs. Though there are churchyards and necropolises on the surface, these are hardly large enough to hold all the dead of the City. People have gone below ground for an answer, and vast catacombs can be found beneath temples and aforementioned necropolises. Merchant families and nobles may have their own private tombs beneath their ancestral homes. With every dead, the catacombs are expanded a bit more. Many parts are entirely forgotten, inhabited only by the ancient remains of people that have gone long before. And by those that have arisen to undeath, either spontaneously or by the callings of a powerful necromancer or coven of death cultists.

The City has hideouts. Connected to the sewers or cellars, or hidden under one of the city's many structures, the City has many underground complexes, built to house objects or people far from the sight of the people above. Thieves guilds have expanded on their underground complexes for centuries. Temples have constructed elaborate vaults to hide forbidden artifacts. Eccentric merchants have built grand tombs, the location of which is known only by themselves and the dead craftsmen within.

And the City has dungeons. Whether belonging to the Inquisitors, the military forts, or local lords, these dark dank complexes of cells and corridors stretch far and wide. Generations of prisoners have been born, lived and died within. Some even say that there are parts of the inquisitors dungeons that have not been visited by outsiders for decades, but still host prisoners inside. Though whether they remain human is a point of contention.

mandag den 4. april 2011

C is for Ceriel

A minor deity, Ceriel is a goddess of the night, worshiped by thieves, lovers and others that wish for the darkness to hide them. She has no official priesthood, but grants her blessings of anonymity directly upon her worshipers. She has shrines in most of the major temple districts, but as they rely on volunteer work for maintenance and cleaning, most of them are filled with the remains of past offerings and falling apart. They see few worshipers because of their sorry state. Her worshipers often construct their own private shrines in the privacy of their homes, and conduct their offerings to her there. Various acrid smelling incenses are a traditional offering in the southern parts of the imperial city.

In the southern city she has a bad reputation, and it is said that she is commands a tribe of night creatures that live in the eastern ruins. These creatures, protected by her darkness, strike into surrounding districts, and drag innocents back into the ruins. In the areas afflicted by these creatures, anyone discovered to send prayers to the night goddess are burned at the stake.

At Sparrow's Gate between the imperial city and the northern city, she does have some priests, as she is in sharp competition with Meron, a godling positioning himself to become a god of thieves. Meron's worshipers have little compunction about slaying their competition, and several of Ceriel's priests have died with a dagger in their back. This little priesthood is growing desperate, and are trying to seek out allies, despite the fact that they have little to offer themselves.

søndag den 3. april 2011

B is for Bazars

The City accepts huge amounts of trade, both in and out. Though the everyday trade happens at local markets, there are also several grand markets, or bazars, which trade in large amounts of exotic goods and materials.

Inside the Tiger's Gate, the northernmost of the City's gates, you can find the Indigo Market, trading in dyes and spices from the northern jungles and deserts. Here you'll also find northern tribesmen and camels, opium dens and carpet salesmen.

Inside the Wyvern's Gate, the northern gate of the southern city, you find the Wool Bazar, where traders and tribesmen from the northwestern mountains bring wool, sheep and goats to trade. The Wool Bazar is a rustic place, dominated animal pens and carts. Some metal ores are also traded in the sourthern parts of the market, but not as much as is carried along the river.Channels have been dug to carry these ores to the Ore Market to the east.

The Iron Market lies along the river, straddling the border of southern city and the imperial city. Industrialists and merchants mix here, trading ores for finished products, which are ferried both ways along channels to the industrial district to the north.

The Ox Market and the Grain Market lies inside the Dragon's gate and the Ox's Gate in the southern part of the imperial city. Ironically it is the Grain Market that lies behind the Ox's Gate. These are the two major trading point for food stuffs coming from the south and east. Once upon the time they were joined by the Boar's market, behind the eastern Sentinel's Gate, but these days the Boar's market and the districts around it are a shadow of their former selves, and suffer from ghouls roaming the streets.

The Hawker's Market, the easternmost of the great markets, trades in fish, fruit, ores, and trinkets from the industrial district to the south. Here, in amongst the stalls selling fish and fruit, you will find small shops selling clockwork servants, telescopes and self-loading crossbows.

The westernmost of the great markets is the Grand Market. Here merchants buy and sell the goods of the city, shipping wares to and from the cities downstream. Porcelain, glasswares, and woodwork from Leyly and Zamrath are traded for scrolls of imperial decrees, iron bars and mass-produced industrial works. The various nobles are very active in this district, both as merchant clans and as buyers. There are entire neighborhoods were the streets are nobles form the crowds and commoners are not allowed to enter.

The Imperial Bazar lies across the river from the Iron Market, and trades in all the goods of the City. Here the imperial administration, and the palace receive the goods that they need, and nobles, soldiers and other true imperial citizens throng the streets. Though serving primarily the needs of the imperial administration, the Imperial Bazar has shops and stalls like any other market, and is also frequented by merchants, adventurers, pilgrims and tourists.

A is for the Average Man

The City is huge, the City is old, the City is heavily populated. There are a lot of people in the City. Some of the districts are depopulated or in ruins or in some other non-standard state, but many still bear a resemblance of normality. While some of the inhabitants of these districts are nobles or imperial bureaucrats or rich merchants or adventurers or high priests, most are normal people.

These normal people can hold many jobs. They may be shoemakers, beggars, rat catchers, construction workers, bakers or hold any host of other everyday jobs. They see little reason for adventure, and in fact much prefers a safe and predictable life. They will be unlikely to welcome adventurers most of the time. Heavily armed opportunists looking to mess with things better left forgotten, aren't people that the average man wants in his neighborhood.

And the average neighborhood might not be altogether useful for an adventurer. They have coopers, bakers, shoemakers and maybe a blacksmith, not inns, weapon smithies, and other services wanted by the average adventurer. These services may be provided in market districts, by inn keepers, weapon smiths and other, more specialized craftsmen. These are probably more colorful, and will be more easily remembered by the adventurer than the average man.

But the average man is also in the market district, buying or selling, or maybe providing services beneath the notice of the adventurer. Even merchants need shoes. The majority of the people in a crowd will be average men, and they'll have no love for adventurers. They'll call the local law enforcement in case of trouble, and might even become a mob, if they catch the adventurers at the wrong moment (bending over the bloodied body of a young woman).

The average man is an imperial citizen, but doesn't think about that much. He might have a son or daughter in the imperial military or bureacracy, but is much more likely to have a progeny in the service of the local church or the local authorities. He is also taxed by the local authorities and church, as the imperial tax collectors have better things to do than go from door to door. But he may on occasion grumble about unnecessary wars, when the local authorities raises taxes once again.

The average man are not overly superstitious. They do not know every monster and spell, and they may attribute wrong powers to such an unknown, but this will be from misinterpretation or caution rather than outright fabrication. The average man does not dislike mages automatically, as mages carry beneficial spells that an average man would happily accept. The average man generally does follow a god (whether large or small), and may believe the church's doctrine.

That is all I can think to say about the average man right now.

Slow Foxtrot

Been slow going here. I've been busy with the Fallout campaign, my 4th ed D&D campaign, school and playing video games. And starting up a Shadowrun campaign. I'm also slowly laying the ground-work for a mega-dungeon. Unfortunately none of this has resulted in any real world-building material. The closest thing is my index of monsters from A Hamsterish Hoard of Dungeons and Dragons found here:

But there is this A to Z April Challenge going around, and I figured it might give some material. So I'm doing the A to Z of The City. I just learned that I real should have started Friday (since that was the 1st of April), but that just means that I'll throw up A and B today.

onsdag den 9. marts 2011

Travelling the wastes

So, let's see how it will work when the party travels the waste, using the random tables I've made.

Right now I have a starting map, where I've filled in the most important features, and played a little bit with random terrain generation.

I've marked the urban area of Washington DC and Baltimore, the Potomac, Chesapeake bay and a couple of the major roads. The black dots mark settlements, with Rivet City and the Citadel at 1, Megaton at 2 and Grayditch at 3. The other numbers mark features, with a looted power station at 4, the entrance to Vault 101 at 5, and the Supermutant infested mall at 6. The large red area marks the general spread of the infestation. Finally the yellow line passing Megaton marks a power line. The power lines aren't functional. Merely a rusting part of the landscape, relics of a by-gone time.

Now, let's say the group finds that they need to travel to a settlement three days march to the northwest of Megaton. Each hex is 6 miles wide, or quarter of a day's march (half a day's march for hills, forests and urban areas). So I'll place the settlement 12 hexes to the northwest.

The group decides to head north first, avoiding the hills northwest of Megaton. This prompts me to roll for the three hexes adjacent to their destination tile. For the northwest one I roll 64 for terrain: more hills. I roll a d6 to see if it has any features (50% chance), and get a 3 and find that it has no features. Next I roll for the northern hex:  22, badlands. Another 3 on the d6 means still no features here either. The northeastern hex is another 64: hills, and still no features. I also decide that the powerlines will continue north, and draw them in. Finally I roll for random encounter: a d6 with a 6 meaning a random encounter. I get a 2 and thus no encounter either. And the map looks like this:

Since there are still hills blocking their path, the group continues following the power lines north. Once again I roll for the three hexes that come into view, getting a minor settlement to the northwest, badlands to the north and hills to the northeast. I quickly roll again to determine the terrain by the settlement, and get badlands. Checking for features, I find that the settlement hex also has a feature, and rolling for that I get 48: Hide-away/Stash. I decide that the small collection of hovels is also an entry point for smugglers, and that they both have stuff hidden away beneath the settlement, but also in a nearby cave. Finally I decide that  the power lines will end in a tangle, down by the river. I roll for random encounters and get none.

The group goes northeast to the settlement, intending to spend the night. I roll for terrain getting hills to the southwest, badlands to the north and blasted lands to the northwest. Now badlands (and hills) are just your typical wasteland environment; radiated pools, crippled trees, scattered tufts of grass, and marginally fertile soil. Blasted lands are areas directly touched by the bombs, scorched and desert-like with the occasional plains of glass. Not a place for man.

Rolling for features, I find that both the hills and blasted lands have some. In the hills there is a shelter, which I decide is a hunter's shed dug halfway into a hill, and for the blasted lands I roll a 37: traffic jam. Hmm.. I decide that on the border between the settlement and the blasted lands, there runs a minor road, surrounded by the tumbled wreckage of cars. Evacuees that were jamming the road, and got blasted off it by the pressure wave when the bomb hit.

I also get a 6 when I roll for random encounters. This area counts as the Wasteland, close enough to civilization for normal folks to live (as evidenced by the settlement), but far enough that they are still subject to raiders, or in this case: hunting tribals (as I rolled a 40 on the random encounters table). I quickly decide that they are head-hunting tribals, and that the settlement is under attack. If the group help out, they'll learn afterwards that this isn't a single occurrence. A side-quest might be in the cards.

Next morning the group travels north to avoid the blasted lands, and a special rule comes into play. Any time a new tile borders an old tile of blasted lands or radiated lands, I roll on the deadlands table. The reason for this is to create large cohesive streches of deadlands (the same principles apply to woodlands). The result for the northwestern tile is that it becomes more deadlands. The northern tile is still rolled on the badlands table, as it doesn't border an old hex of deadlands. The result becomes hills to both the north and northeast.

The feature rolls tells of some factory ruins inside the deadlands, and a church to the north, both of which are visible to the group from a distance. The random encounters roll give a result again. This time a patrol of super mutants. I decide that the church to the north is a super mutant base, and using their binoculars the group is able to learn this themselves.

So the group heads northwest, aiming to avoid the mutants, and perhaps find some salvage in the factory. Since they are moving into the deadlands, all the new terrain is now rolled on the deadlands table. In this case I also get irradiated lands and crags. The irradiated lands are just like blasted lands, except they are radioactive. Not a good place to be, but unless the players carry a geiger counter, they might not notice until they start getting sick. The crags are blasted landscapes of tumbled rocks, and large rifts. Crags do not count as deadlands, and thus new hexes next to crag hexes are not forced to roll on the deadlands table, meaning that crags will often be found at the edge of deadlands.

The features rolls provide a pre-fallout animal population in the radiated zone (12) (which I decide to change to a unique post-fall animal population: giant two-headed vipers), and the Telescopes/Windmills/Powerstation result to the northwest, which I interpret as the blasted remains of a major nuclear power station (13). And once again a random encounter. However, this time we are in Inhospitable terrain, so subtract 75 from the roll. I roll 53, which results in a negative number. So there is no random encounter after all.

Continuing northwest they simply find more blasted lands. There is feature, a hermit, which I decide is a ghoul hermit (14), who probably hunts the two-headed vipers in the neighboring hex. But the group won't actually find him unless they enter that hex.

Which they don't, instead continuing northwest. By the time they enter the hex, it is getting time to set camp. But they do see some hills to the north that look decidedly more green (well, brownish green) than the deadlands. There are no features, and no random encounter.

The next morning they head north, aiming to leave the deadlands behind. However, while the hex north of the hill will be rolled on the badlands table, both the northwestern and the northeastern hexes border a deadlands hex. And indeed it they both turn out to be blasted lands. It also turns out that there is a camouflaged bunker(15), the tumbled remains of a trailer park(17), and an operational factory(16) in each of the three hexes. I roll on the random encounters tables a few times to get inspiration, and decide that the bunker is abandoned, while the factory is being run by semi-raiders who is using it to churn out ammunition.

Tired of the desert the group crosses the river, and going across the hills and crossing the river cost them most of the day, and this is the hex they end up in by the end of the day. The result is the same as the previous hex, with two hexes of blasted lands and one of badlands. This time there are no features, but there is a random encounter. As the group reaches the other side of the river, they disturb a nest of mole rats.

And I think I'll stop here. I may already have dragged it out too long.

One obvious problem with the above is that there is no way of knowing the terrain, before it is actually rolled up. Not only would nobody in Megaton know even the fact that there was a large stretch of deadlands to the northwest, but the inhabitants of the smuggler settlement wouldn't know whether it was 1, 2, 4 or 8 hexes wide. But that's an integral weakness of the concept I'd think.

mandag den 7. marts 2011

The Terrain Tables

Next part of my fallout tables are up. I did just intend it to be one table, but I ended up with 4. I sense a trend forming.

First is the general terrain table, or the Badlands table. Anytime the players move into a new area, I'll be rolling to check the terrain of the area, generally using the table below.

There are two other tables for specific types of areas.
The deadlands table:

And the woodlands table:

Finally an area might also have a feature of some kind. I'm currently working with a 50% chance of a feature, chosen from the table below:

This table is optimized for badlands, but I'll probably use it for the other two terrain types as well, and just tweak the results I get.

On the features table, the features from 20-29, 40-49 and 60-69 are features that might not be discovered by a group just passing through the area. Theoretically, it also presents them so that 20 is the most likely find and 29 the least likely find. But at the current time I haven't decided for a technique to determine whether the group stumbles across the feature. I might just end up using a 50% chance and some common sense.

Now, I haven't told too much exactly how I'm going to use the tables, but that is because I intend to run a demo of sorts once I've got all the tables up.

The Assassin's Guild

A few days ago Al wrote about The Book of the New Sun over on Beyond the Black Gate and how the weird pictures of that universe spring to his mind once in a while. Coincidentally I'm reading the same series at the moment. It is slow going, as I don't really read all that much at the moment, advancing a couple of pages a month or something like that.

But the city of Nessus from the beginning of the series is constantly trying to put its mark on The City. Currently I'm thinking of the city walls of The City as hundreds of meters tall, just like the city walls of Nessus. For a while I considered making The City the center of an interstellar empire, inspired by the hints of a fallen interstellar empire in The Book of the New Sun.

One concept that I really like is the series presentation of the Torturers Guild. I'm very tempted to just outright steal it and dump it into my setting, but each time I come to the conclusion that there isn't any reason to do that, except for the fact that I like that guild. But last night, as I was trying to sleep, I came upon the concept of the Assassin's Guild of The City.

The Assassin's Guild is an imperial institution, a tool of the emperor and his administration. It is an ancient institution, and a very specialized one, dedicated to the removal of single individuals that hamper the smooth functioning of the empire.

The code of the guild focus on professionalism, detachment, and civility. Death at an imperial assassin's hand shall be swift, painless and certain. The assassin's are not tools of terror or mass slaughter. They are precision instruments for removing individuals while causing the least amount of turmoil in society. There are stories of assassin's that has spent hours with their victim, helping them make their last will and testament and bringing their affairs in order, before the final end. Of course, not all are willing to surrender so easily. But the end is always swift and painless, and (at least so the stories say) death is always certain once the emperor has marked you for assassination.

In addition to the common assassin, there are also the undercover assassins. Assassin's that infiltrate the households of the most important nobles and functionaries, gaining positions as captain of the guard, personal butler or trusted advisor. Totally loyal to their employer until the day the guild sends the word, and the assassin kills the man he has served for years or decades.

The assassin's is just one institution among many, and the average lowly citizen is unlikely to ever have heard of them, and even if they have, is likely to view them in the same light as the murderers and cutthroats used by nobles and crime lords in their dealings. The nobles have an ambivalent view on the assassin's. They are civil, courteous, pleasant and are genuinely useful civil servants. On the other hand they are utterly loyal to the emperor, and you may find yourself marked at any time, depending on the emperor's whims. Few nobles welcome the presence of an assassin, except when they know the assassin is targeting a personal enemy. Some nobles live in constant paranoia, fearing the emperor will send an assassin for some slight, real or imagined. Most of the time, most nobles can forget that they even exist, concentrating on the more present threats of political rivals and grand machinations.

tirsdag den 1. marts 2011

Random Encounters in Fallout

I've been distracted from the blog by a couple of other projects, none of which belonged here. However, the latest distraction is my tabletop group. We've decided to run a bi-weekly fallout campaign, and I've volunteered to be the game master.

The actual setting of the campaign will be the Capital Wasteland (for those of you who've played Fallout 3) since that's the setting that is freshest in my mind. With that decided, I also concluded that I'd need a random encounter table, to give proper life to the wasteland.

I've been working on that on and off for a week or so, and come to the conclusion that I don't need one, but at least 3 tables. One for when the group first walks into an uncharted area, to determine what static locations are in that area. That way I just have to worry about the large well-known locations, while still giving the characters plenty of stuff to run into out in the wasteland.

Second, I need a table for ordinary random encounters with various creatures and factions of the wasteland, which I can roll on for everyday travel. This'll let the players run into rad scorpion nests, raider ambushes, or the occasional fight between two factions, where they can intervene on either side, or just slink off.

Finally, I'm going to make a scavenging table. The players can decide to scavenge, causing them to move at a slower rate, and the table will contain different types of caches and salvageable loot that the players may find.

I've finished the table for ordinary encounters.

You may have noticed that the table has more than 100 entries. That is because I've stolen an idea from Mongoose Traveler's "Space Encounters" table. Every d100 roll has a modifier taken from the table below.

So no Brotherhood patrols in the Deep Wasteland, and no feral ghouls in Brotherhood territory. If the modifier results in a roll below 01, there is no encounter, which means there are very few encounters i Inhospitable territories.

Next I'll go to work on the table for Static Locations.

torsdag den 10. februar 2011

Religion of the City

I've been thinking about this for a while. I've wanted temple districts that are a mass of temples to various gods, godlings and deities, as you might find in some sword and sorcery worlds. But at first sight it seemed at odds with the renaissance technology, which, in my mind at least, brings to mind large organized religions.

But I've thought a bit about it, and I think I've come up with a solution that might work. It starts off with five assumptions.

1) Gods are real. The gods often communicate with their worshipers, and there can be no dispute to the fact that they are real.
2) The more worship, the more power. So most deities (and their priesthood) will want to have as large a worshiper-base as possible. Also, worshipers that worship often are worth more than worshipers that worship less often. A ceremony is good, a prayer is okay, an oath is better than nothing.
3) The increase in power is not directly proportional to the amount of new worshipers. Power increases slower than the amount of worshipers. This means that the more worshipers, the less power there will be to each worshiper.
4) There are many gods. If one falls, another is ready to take his place. There are a multitude of unworshiped godlings trying to pry worshipers from the established gods.
5) Worship is not exclusive.A worshiper can worship any amount of gods, though of course there will be less worship to each god.

With these four assumptions in mind, I think of three primary phases in the life of a religion.

The Cults: There is the greatest amount of these. They belong to godlings who have managed to gather a small worshiper-base. The priests have decent amounts of power at their disposal, and can help every one of the cults members if needed. In the smallest of the cults there is enough power that every member can be a divine caster. Cultists have an intimate relationship with their god, often being able to hear him speak from his idol, or at the very least being able to speak to priests which will be able to speak directly to the god. Cultists often focus most of their worship on their chosen god, sending only occasional, minor prayers to major deities. If the cultists devote large amount of time to worship in the form of ceremonies and everyday observance, the resulting power to worshiper ratio may be considerable.

The Pretender Churches: These are cults that are growing too big for the intimacy of the cults. A secondary or even tertiary layer of priests develop which can't communicate directly with the god. The power to worshiper ration decreases, and though there is more power in total, worshipers may start to seek out smaller cults that can better provide for their needs. Most churches fail at this point, as the god gets a reputation for being capricious or isolated.
Some churches manage to remain in this state indefinitely, by taking up a niche where worshipers will rarely seek out aid, but more often remember to send out a prayer. These usually try to spread to as many worshipers as possible, given the smaller amount worship that each worshiper provides. Among these churches some manage to grow large enough, and old enough that they become established churches.

The Established Churches: These churches have grown large enough to become part of everyday life. They have become known for their niche, and people will think to send them a prayer when encountering that niche, whether it is childbirth, battle, strength, or smithing. Their power derives from two, and sometimes three groups.
The first group is the incidental worshipers. They have little relation with the deity, but will send a short prayer, or swear an oath in its name. They are legion, and thus still provide a significant amount of power, despite their lack of consistent worship. Incidental worshipers may be aligned to another deity, or they may not be aligned to any deity, the closest that the world comes to an atheist.
The second group is the priesthood. Incidental worshipers will occasionally donate money to the church, and with enough donations a permanent staff of priests can be established, dedicated to worship of the deity. The hierarchy is likely to be deep, and while the high priesthood will wield significant power, some minor priests may wield less than a cultist. Some churches have dedicated monasteries, where the monks have no divine power, but spend their entire time worshiping, fueling the deity. Some monasteries or priesthoods may run various business schemes, thus giving the church even more money, with which to have more priests and monks.
The third group, that some churches have, are the consistent worshipers. These are everyday people who will still spend time to visit church and participate in ceremonies. They also provide a power boost, and is a good pool to recruit priesthood from and with which to inspire incidental worshipers. Consistent worshipers provide power, but they also drain power, as suitable miracles need to be performed to keep them in the church.
The priesthood and the consistent worshipers are both strongly aligned to the church, thinking of the deity as their one god. They may send the occasional incidental prayer other deities, but dual- or polyworship is not done, unless it is part of the churches doctrine.

Now, all this is background information. Neither the world's populace or the players will be really aware of these simple rules, despite the results being all around them. The primary reason are the churches themselves. Most cults and all churches develop some amount of doctrine, which includes their view on the world. Some cults and churches will claim that their god is the only true god or the only just god or simply the strongest god. Established churches have a wide tendency to purport that the gods of the established churches are different from the minor gods, and that they have always been there. The rising and falling of cults compared to the permanency of established churches gives a sense of a clear separation between deities and the false gods/demons. Every church has its own view of the world, and most will have been formed by gods that want to do their very best to obscure the actual mechanics of divine power. After all, the optimal power to worshiper ratio is a achieved when you are a cult of one.

This, I think, is the religious model that I will be rolling with. Now I just need to find some time to actually make that starting area.

tirsdag den 1. februar 2011

A work in progress - always

I spent some time Sunday scattering ruins randomly across the town (using dice to decide latitude and longitude and how many blocks involved. It took forever), as well as marking gates in the walls, and where the walls had been more or less demolished (grey areas such as the park in the southwest).

But it is still a work in progress. Which I decided I would talk a bit about.

Building a world, especially one that is meant for roleplaying, is rarely a task that will ever be finished. Not only can you always add more detail, but even after you have started playing, you can still change stuff. The world created is not an absolute place, an entity in its own right. It is merely a background for the players to adventure in. So sometimes you'll want to change your world, so it will have more or better places to adventure in.

The map above isn't meant for the players. The information it portrays is meant for my own inspiration, which is one of the reasons that I've tried to be as random about it as possible. I've followed the guidelines in City Works (mostly), but whenever there was a choice to make, I tried to let the dice rule. This gives excellent inspiration material, because it will give situations that you wouldn't have thought off yourself. Of course, sometimes I did specifically place tiles in a certain way, because there was certain features that I wanted.

I'll throw in another map:

Here I've marked a few areas, the nature of which I have decided on.

The imperial administration, and the dwarven enclave were handplaced. The imperial district I knew that I wanted, and so placed the government districts from the very start to fit my vision. Though I did randomize which sides of the imperial palace would have administration districts. The dwarven enclave came after I had placed all the districts, as I decided I wanted a dwarven hold. I'm not quite sure yet whether it might be partially or completely in ruins.

I also knew that I wanted a necropolis. But as fate would have it, there was a temple district inside the walls, close to the nobles and the palace, and largely in ruins. Perfect. No need to add one to the hills, where it wouldn't really be integrated in the city.

Then there is Plague Row, and the Ruined University. Neither of those were planned. They just happened to be ruined as completely as they are. And when I saw those areas being ruined, I figured there must be a reason for it. I decided that Plague Row has been walled off at both ends, due to the deadly plague that may or may not have turned the inhabitants into zombies. The areas close to the wall was abandoned by people who didn't want to live that close to the area. The ruined university was destroyed by some magical experiment gone wrong, wrecking the entire university as well as some of the nearby administrative district.

My next step will be to decide on where the players will start off, and then more closely determine the nature of the surrounding area. The entire rest of the map will be left as it is. Maybe I will add further areas to the edge of the city. Maybe I will ruin further areas. The dwarven enclave might, or might not be ruined. But I will get to that as it comes up.

lørdag den 29. januar 2011


After having made the basic map, I start filling in the districts. I start out with the center of the city.

City Works has different city profiles that give different rations of districts. I'm going to start out with the "fading city" which gives a larger than normal ratio of slums. Then after I've created the city, I'll choose areas to have fallen into ruin.

First we have the city in its glory days.

It's a shame that I didn't get to use the hills more, but I'll probably place a necropolis up in the northwestern hills, and maybe add a smaller city to the southeast.

While making the map, I've also come to the conclusion that the setting will be at least slightly industrialized. The industrial districts will be protected by the Industrialists Guild, who rule the areas with an iron hand. The most important consequence from the point of adventurers will be that black powder weapons and other "high tech" equipment will be available. All in moderation though. To start I'll only use the stuff that is described in the basic book (which does include black powder weapons), given that the point of the exercise is to try out the system.

fredag den 28. januar 2011

The City

First up is The City. I'm also currently working on a D&D 4th ed. campaign, and considering starting work on a Mongoose Traveller campaign and a Lamentations of the Flame Princess campaign. And maybe an OD&D megadungeon somewhere in the future.

But first The City. The city is really just supposed to be setting for testing out the Fantasy Craft rules.  

The City has a name, but to the inhabitants it is known simply as "The City". It is the heart and capital of an empire, but the empire is in decline. The current emperor has lost all interest in the city, and occupy himself with his capital and his foreign campaigns. No single power really controls the city, and unified law enforcement is non-existent. The city is a warren of feuding noble clans, struggling guilds, gangs, and people just trying to survive. What "law enforcement" does exist is locally organized, and the law they enforce is formulated by their employers, whether they be guards of the nobles, watchmen of the guilds, or simply a militia raised to protect a neighborhood.

The starting idea was purely for the place to be a quick testing ground, where I could make an adventure around The Alexandrian's idea of node-based design.

I spent an evening with City Works from Fantasy Flight Games, and made the following rough map of the city's neighborhoods.

City Works work with city blocks that are approximately 500 ft on a side, with 100 inhabitants. So this city has approximately 80.000 inhabitants, and is some three miles across. The colors denote the type of district.

But then I got side-tracked. I'm now thinking on a setting that might work for an extended campaign. Not because I'm necessarily going to run an extended campaign, but because I liked the ideas I got. Mostly I'm thinking larger. Much larger.

The empire is in decline. When it was at its height, the population numbered in untold millions. Now large parts of the city is abandoned and in ruins due to plagues, fires or other incidents. One can walk for hours and even days to reach the inner parts of the ruined areas. Goblins, undead, vile cults and other enemies of man lurk in ruins.

So, I'm starting the map from scratch. For this city I'm going to work with a larger scale. I wanted those big ruin areas with multi-hour walks. So I decided to first start by constructing the city from megablocks, which would contain multiple city works blocks. After some calculations, I decided that I would go with megablocks that were 25 city blocks wide on each side (2.4 miles wide, and with a population of 62500 each). Currently I'm thinking I'll have 1600 of these megablocks, for a total theoretical population of 1 billion inhabitants when the city was at its height. I guess that counts as untold millions, though the goal here is the city's size, not its population.

To spread out the districts a bit (City Works wants all the government districts to lie in the city center for example) I'm going to construct the city as three cities that grew together, two of 500 megablocks, and one of 600 megablocks.

This is the basic map I'll be working from. We got a river running down the center, and tall ridges rising on either side. The red lines are city walls. Most of the interior walls will be in some state of decay, and passages broken through in many places, but they will still serve to split up the districts once I get around to placing those.

Of Gods and Dice

I've been roleplaying for a long time, and done world building for almost as long. A year or two ago, I discovered blogs, or more specifically roleplaying blogs.

I do a lot of world building. I start with an idea, and then start working on it. Often I soon get another idea, and start working on that instead. My hard-disk is littered with the neglected corpses of past projects.

So I figured I'd start documenting my work online. Do one of those world-building blogs. I'll upload what I'm working on at the moment. And who knows. Maybe you'll like it.