Friday, June 10, 2022

Lone Wolf: Flight from the Dark (My Son Plays!)

Art from the American Edition
(Found at this website. Fair use.)

Well, it took a couple of years, but my son has starting playing the Lone Wolf series of gamebooks!

He was patient at the beginning, was a little put off when his first Lone Wolf foray died after being attacked by the invading forces of the Darklords of Helgedad, but was thrilled when his second attempt (a) resulted in a character that had high Combat Skill and Endurance; (b) had a better selection of Kai Disciplines; (c) had a very successful ending and transition to the next gamebook!

He's a bit less cautious than I am when I make choices in this game, possibly due to his desire to flex his combat skills and endurance. Or perhaps because he has his own way of viewing the world and solving problems.

His mind was blown when he realized he could carry over the character sheet to the next book! Given his background in video games, he wants the equivalent of  'save points', which I told him was okay. After all, in these solo games, you're only cheating yourself if you cheat.

I am also hoping to get him interested in doing his own art of the world of Magnamund, starting first with Lone Wolf and his gear, and then maybe also the creatures and characters of the stories.

Monday, February 28, 2022

Hin (Halflings) of Karameikos

I've posted other times about halflings on this blog.

It should come as no surprise to longtime readers that -- for Karameikos and Mystara at large -- I'd rather ditch the somewhat roly-poly portrayal of this race and instead have a hardy, sometimes beefy, sometimes seriously cut, sometimes outrageously yoked individuals who are only about 3 feet high.

They shouldn't cut into the look of the dwarves and instead favor looking clean-shaven, or preferring sideburns or carefully trimmed mustaches over the full beards of their rock-delving fellow demi-humans. Also, they should tend to favor ranged combat and weapons of finesse over the heavier weaponry of the inhabitants of Rockhome.

With all this in mind, I began thinking about the classes for the Hin in Karameikos (and possibly the Five Shires as well). What classes (or combinations thereof) would make for interesting halflings?

Single Class Halflings

The obvious answers are Fighters & Rogues. The fighters would provide a variety of specialized defenders of the Five Shires, and some of those traditions would find their way over to Karameikos.

With the 5E Stout halflings (and their DEX + CON combo), these fighters would be the strong backbone of the defense force, probably mixing ranged attackers with some close-in fighters. The 5E Lightfoot halflings (and their DEX + CHA combo), would make for the more personable rogues that greet intruders and be a great advance party as fighters and rogues alike.

I'd round them out with some Rangers, Druids, and some Bards. The two woodland classes would help with keeping their woodlands safe for their people, while the Bards would naturally emerge from the Hin that continued to collect lore and secrets after their wanderlust subsided.

Last but not least -- perhaps a secret cabal of monks. They'd be known to the bards, as part of that secret cabal that keeps safe some of the greatest artifacts of the Five Shires.

Multi-Class Halflings

The only combinations of classes I'd think of creating for halflings at this point would be the following:
  • a fighter + rogue combination to reflect a hardier mix of sly fighting halflings; and
  • a cleric + mage combination to reflect the halflings tending to the Five Shire artifacts
But I'm largely speculative at this point, and haven't looked at the numbers and combinations for the level progressions.

Saturday, February 19, 2022

Elves of Karameikos - 5E Musings

A combination fighter / mage is what the B/X BECMI elf is, essentially. So what are the options for something like this in D&D 5E?

First off, I'm not going to try to replicate super-faithfully the rules in the Cyclopedia -- If I did, I might as well be playing B/X or BECMI rules. What I'm after is something that approximates the flavor of the setting as implied by the rules.

Option 01: Elf Multi-Classing

The most straightforward approach would be to have Elves multi-class -- but only the fighter / mage combination for the most part. There's two approaches for leveling for this option.

Approach A - alternating Fighter / Mage

If we follow the standard D&D approach, then the character starts off at 1st level with either fighter or mage, then the next level they choose the other class -- and so on until the end (20th level).

Under D&D 5E, one of the implications of this would be that if you start off as a mage, you lose out on the heavy armor proficiency once you get to second level. I might rule that elves start off first with fighter, then go to mage. There is another option, though.

Approach B - combined Fighter / Mage levels

The other approach is to combine levels. 1st level elf fighter / mages are technically 2nd level already, and have to gain enough experience to clear both 2nd, 3rd, and 4th levels to get the next fighter / mage level and all the associated leveling benefits.

The downside here is that the player loses out on the experience of leveling and getting new abilities alongside everyone else. But they do get a big jump in abilities each time they do!

There's probably more to these approaches, but these are the implications I can see off the top of my head.

Option 02: Classes that can fight & cast spells

Another approach would be to select a class (or class archetype) that allows for fighting and spellcasting. In 5E, the possibilities would be:
  • Fighter (Eldritch Knight)
  • Ranger
  • Druids
The Fighter (Eldritch Knight) is primarily a fighter that casts offensive spells. This is a possibility, but shouldn't be the most common version of the elves. All out combat is at odds with the versatility of their class originally.

The Ranger would be ideal, but apparently it's one of the worst (?) classes in 5th edition. That's a helluva fall from being the 'broken, overpowered' class of AD&D 1st edition. But it may be just fine with special abilities of the elf -- or if we tweak the class a bit to improve it.

The Druid is a close second to the Ranger. It has that mystical woodland creature feel, and their abilities are certainly a reflection of that. Perhaps the Karameikos elves would be a combination of Rangers & Druids -- but they dress similarly to human eyes, so folks rarely can tell the difference between the wo.

Thursday, February 3, 2022

A New Fading Suns Blog Post (2022)!

I don't know who needs to hear this -- but the newest Fading Suns edition is out!

Figured I'd post this update since one of the topmost blogposts is about Fading Suns -- perhaps fellow fans who are looking for the latest news.

Strangely enough, the more recent posts about Fading Suns haven't gotten the same foothold (just click on the Fading Suns label just under the title of this blog post to see them -- especially the embedded YouTube videos). But as a Fading Suns fan, I know what it can be like to fade out of the universe for a while then suddenly wonder if there's something new!

For great information on the latest Fading Suns edition go the official page on the Ulisses Spiele site! Do you want to know the latest set of books that you might be interested in to get caught up? Here's the skinny on that:

The first three books you should pick up are the Character Book, the Gamemaster Book, and the Universe Book.

The purpose of each should be fairly obvious. All together, they should give you either a strong introduction to the universe, or a quick acclimatization to the current status quo (rules, setting, and tips and tricks to running the game).

After you've got those, there's a bunch of other books you can pick up based on the direction you're taking your campaign -- or whatever you're interested in reading about, honestly.

Dig in, and maybe I'll see you at the next Jumpgate.

Bundle of Holding Alert: Mindjammer !


Looks like there's a Bundle of Holding for MINDJAMMER! If you've always wanted to collect the corebook and various sourcebooks, now's your chance.

Here's the spiel from the site, for your consideration:

Citizen! From the 17th Millennium we've resurrected our May 2018 Mindjammer Bundle featuring Sarah Newton's transhuman science fiction tabletop roleplaying game Mindjammer from Mindjammer Press. In the New Commonality of Humankind -- a hyperadvanced far future of realistic aliens, lost colony worlds, and the vast Mindscape shared consciousness -- Mindjammer lets you play hardened mercs, cunning corpocrats, culture agents and memetic engineers, aliens and para-human hominids, scouts and socialites, uplifted animals, androids, and even sapient starships. The Second Age of Space is your stage for transcendent cutting-edge space opera in the tradition of Cordwainer Smith, Iain M. Banks, Alistair Reynolds, and Charles Stross.

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Bringing Freeport into Mystara

It's interesting when two setting customization goals synergize.

First, I wanted to bring Freeport into Mystara (preferably nearish to Karameikos, which is the start of the campaign). Second, I wanted to initially remove Ierendi due to the overkill comedic elements, but realized I wanted to keep parts of it (esp. since they are mentioned in other Gazetteers and have a nice role as an epicenter of bardic excellence).

Fortunately, I realized I could just chop out several islands from Ierendi (Safari, Alcove, Utter, and Honor) and replace them with Freeport's islands largely intact.

BENEFITS of FREEPORT in this Location

This allows me to do several things:
  1. Freeport becomes a colorful, semi-dangerous, yet useful stopping point for sea adventures for those coming from the Grand Duchy of Karameikos, the Five Shires, the Minrothad Guilds, the Kingdom of Ierendi -- and of course the Thaneigoth Archipelago to the south.
  2. Possible unholy alliances between the factions of Freeport and the Black Eagle Barony.
  3. Another reason for older 'retired adventurers' settling in the Five Shires -- aside from the idyllic location, they work with the smaller, more determined Kingdom of Ierendi to keep watch on threats new and old from Freeport.
  4. Another locus point for a "Cults of Chaos" that interpid adventurers can trace some of the evils in Karameikos back to.
  5. A reason to work in the classic Death in Freeport adventure early into the career of the adventurers, setting the stage for future conflicts.

Sunday, January 30, 2022

Back to the Dark Corners of Mystara in 2022


Almost a year since my last post, and I find that I've decided to finally start running my Mystara campaign, using the 5th edition of D&D (more or less).

While I continue to read and look at other systems and settings, my goal -- to run some of the most memorable old D&D modules in an integrated, re-imagined Mystara -- is paramount in my mind.

Furthermore, several old friends are familiar with the 5th Edition rules (and I am not), so I'm counting on them to help on the mechanical side, while I focus on the setting and adventures and characters (player & game master).

That being the case, I would be remiss if I didn't mention some System + Setting RPGs that have shaped how I'm thinking about this Mystara campaign. So here they are:

Lex Arcana RPG by Acheron Books

This is a beautifully laid out and illustrated RPG that provides rich source material for running a setting with a Roman Empire that did not fall.

For someone trying to replicate this aspect of the Roman Empire (for the Thyatian Empire, of course) this is a gold mine not only about the political, cultural, and military telling details of the Empire -- it comes with its own ready rationale for adventurers in this setting.
In Lex Arcana, you are a Custos (warden) of the Cohors Auxiliaria Arcana, sent by the Emperor to the four corners of the world to further the study of arcane lore, investigate forbidden cults, and face the thread posed by dangerous supernatural creatures.
Very clearly explained setting with a lot of authentic-sounding (I'm not an expert, so I'll trust Acheron Books here) terminology for weaponry, armor, social status, military and political organizations, and so on. It also shows how the many conquered lands and provinces of the Empire have been integrated into it, so it is quite useful for my own questions about how similar Thyatian provinces might be handled.

It's entirely possible that some day I'll play the game as is -- but for now, I'll plunder its contents for my campaign. I'm already looking at a customized Castra (found in the sourcebook Encyclopaedia Arcana -- see image below) to replace the Keep in the classic B2: Keep on the Borderlands.

Also, because the Roman Roads were such an important aspect of the Empire, it meshes with my idea for the Roadwardens campaign (which I had originally lifted from WFRP), giving a different campaign frame from the traditional adventuring party.

If you're similarly interested on good material for your Roman Empire-inspired RPG source material, I highlight recommend their books.

Mythic Constantinople by The Design Mechanism

For almost the same reason, I've picked up this sourcebook for the game system Mythras by the folks at The Design Mechanism. While I do not intend to use the playable character classes and races listed in this well-researched and detail-rich book, they will add also to the source material for Thyatis (which has been stated to be a Byzantium-inspired setting) -- geography, history, politics, organizations, and religions are all here for use and enriching the default Karameikos / Thyatis aspects of Mystara.

The emphasis on recreating a mythical version of the city and setting, rather than a purely historical one, is also quite good for my purposes. It adds to the mystery, the intrigue, and the implied danger that permeates the city, and emanates across the rest of the Empire.

Questions for you, dear reader:

  1. Are there other books out there that you've repurposed for your game settings? What are they?
  2. Are there other aspects of the Mystara setting that you've gleefully edited and replaced with something from some other setting -- D&D or otherwise?