Thursday, December 29, 2016

Strathos Update

Strathos is the name of the continent/setting I've been working on for a year. The whole process has been up and down with too many rewrites, edits, and complete deletions to count. It's been a lot of fun! I love writing. Even if it never comes to anything, it still keeps my brain working.

Anyway, I drew a new map rough and of course it is completely different from previous maps I published here.

Even the background info is vastly different than what I've previously written. For me, this whole thing is almost like a living entity; changing, growing, evolving, devolving, morphing into new shapes and forms.

Basically what I have now is this:

  • Fantasy stand-in for Europe sent explorers and undesirables to a New World; a newly discovered continent across a vast ocean. 
  • Strathos is located within the southern hemisphere of the planet, so South gets colder and North gets warmer.
  • Colonists are Wizards, religious fanatics, criminals, and people who want to settle a new area free from the control of the government back in the homeland.
  • The colonies are generally left alone by the founding nations due to distance and lack of profitability and/or strategic value.
  • Strathos is already populated by humans and a couple other sentients, including Ape People, Moss Dwarves, Muscarians (Mushroom men), Goblins, and Hobgoblins.
  • Animal life is mostly giant-sized; giant weasels, giant lynx, Mastadons, Saber Tooth Tigers, Wooly Rhinos, and other prehistoric beasts. 
  • Colonists have firearms, including cannon. This is really the only thing keeping them from being wiped out by beasts and barbarians. Well, this and the wizards they pay for protection.
  • Wizards have created a closed community among themselves and do not allow non-magical beings to enter. There is a password (Wizards Rule) to get in.
  • Most wizards maintain homes/towers/laboratories outside of the bubble, only visiting the community to trade for or purchase supplies or socialize. 
  • Some of the colonies were founded for the express purpose of supplying the wizards. These communities are under the protection of, and governed by, wizards.
  • Where the colonies end, the Pictlands begin. Picts are the native humans who wear little clothing and ride on the backs of Mammoths and drive sleighs pulled by polar bears. They are bad ass barbarians who don't give a fuck.
  • Beyond the Pictlands are the Goblin Forests and beyond those is the Hobgoblin Empire. The Hobgoblins are socially and technologically advanced almost to the point of the colonies, but lack gunpowder and the know-how to make firearms. 
  • The Ape People, Yon, live in an isolated rainforest within a crater valley on a high plateau overlooking the ocean. Trees, animals, and insects are all especially large in the valley. 
  • Within the crater is a section of few trees, but thousands of collosal mushrooms and other fungus. The Muscarians emerged from this area and spread out over the continent. 
  • The Moss Dwarves are a plant based people and not actually dwarves. They live in the forests and are generally peaceful people who brew beer and talk to birds and smell rather bad.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Leveling Up and Bonus Abilities

Each of the classes I've posted on this blog has something in common; they receive abilities as they level up.

I added that feature to each class because, lets face it, standard classes in LotFP are lackluster and boring. However, that dullness serves a purpose; to keep the game gritty, keep the players on their toes, and to avoid the super heroics of other similar games.

I lost sight of all that, especially the third one.

So I've been thinking; I don't want to completely get rid of level up abilities. I also don't want to turn the game into a bloated feat-fest of super heroes who can never die.

So I came up with the following;

If your character class has level up abilities, you only gain an ability on a 1 in 20 die roll. This is cumulative, so that the higher in level you go, the better the chance of getting something cool. The reasons for this are as follows:
  • To reward the players for surviving.
  • To keep cool, special abilities without overpowering the game mechanics.
  • To keep things gritty.
  • To help differentiate characters from each other.

I will be including this in the Strathos player's guide I've been writing.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Language and Language Skill

Today's post isn't a rule change or new class. Instead it's just my brief thoughts on a particular aspect of role playing games.

In my getting-near 30 years of gaming, something that has always fascinated me in RPGs is language.

For me, language (including literacy) is a big part of what I think of when I think about good role playing.

In the real world, there are hundreds of current languages, and thousands of dead languages. There are codes and cyphers that act as languages. There are fictional languages. Language is everywhere and without it, we wouldn't be able to effectively communicate. We'd still be living under rocks and grunting at each other.

So using language in a game is not only a great thing to do, but I think increases the enjoyability of the game. Language adds tension, adds background flavor, adds complications, can escalate or de-escalate conflict.

Some games deal with language by not dealing with it; everyone can understand each other. Either by default or because of babelfish or universal translators or whatever. It's an uninteresting cop-out.

Other games provide a "common" language, with other languages existing in the world to a lesser degree. Many of these games provide a set number of languages a character "knows" from the begining of the game. Or a maximum number of languages a character can know in their lifetime.

So when they roll up their character, and have Common and 4 other languages to fill in, what do they do? Scratch in Elvish, Dwarvish, Goblin might come in handy, and uh... whatever demons speak.

The problem with this is A) why the hell does your first level fighter know the language of demons, and B) If you never have an opportunity to speak with demons, or elves, or dwarves, or goblins, you wasted those language slots.

Lamentations of the Flame Princess utilizes a skill mechanic for languages that fits my needs as a GM and my wants as a player. Namely, simplicity.

In LotFP, Language, as with all skills, are rated on a scale of 1 to 6, with success determined by rolling under the value with a d6. Intelligence modifiers add to your skill score. So a INT mod of +1 would add 1 to your skill, making your Language skill 2 in 6. Got it?

With the Language skill in LotFP, you start play speaking whatever language you want, although speaking the dominant language of wherever you are is a good idea. There isn't a list of additional languages. You don't start play with additional languages. Instead, whenever your character encounters another language, whether it be from the foreign trader, the ancient religious text, or the kingdom next door, you roll your language skill. If successful, you know the language and can utilize it from then on. If you fail, you don't know the language.

That's it.

It's quick, it's simple, it's intuitive, and it doesn't tie anyone's hands with poor decisions at character creation.

And it can be used in most other games with little modification.

That's it. Go read something else now.