Tuesday, April 30, 2013
That is to say, one more beer for the night...not forever, jeez!
Still, if three seems a bit unusual for a Tuesday night, well, yeah, it is...though three bottles over the course of an evening isn't nearly the same as a couple pints with a dinner out (which was last night). *Ahem* It IS unusual that I'll down half a six-pack, but it's been a loooong last couple-few days. No, I still have to go to work tomorrow. No, this isn't about the Mariners (hey, we're not last in our division this year...or even second to last!). No, it isn't about the damn David Stern-Sacramento Kings-NBA-thing, either (yes, I'd like to take my boy to a Sonics game some day; no, I'm not a basketball fan by any stretch of the imagination).
No, it's not even about rough times on the homestead...the wife's been back in town for nearly a week, and she's not heading to South America anytime soon, her last project having (mercifully) ended. Ha! I'll bet you folks thought the reason my blogging had fallen off the face of the earth the last ten days had to do with the fam or something. Nope, not at all.
The reason I haven't posted anything to the blog the last ten days is that I've been focusing all my creative energies on finishing one single project...D&D Mine, aka 5AK, aka "my little D&D/Chainmail retread project."
Yep. It's finished.
And I mean, finished. Completed. With artwork and formatting and page numbers and tables of contents and all that jazz. Finished it today. You'll forgive me if I feel a touch entitled to an extra beer.
I even (God help me), drew an actual map...you know, like a sample dungeon level?...and scanned it and stuck it in the book. After wrestling with my own blankety-blank scanner for hours last night (using both a PC and a Mac to no avail) I found one that would do the job at the library this afternoon and just cut the damn thing. And I don't care if it looks like crap compared to some of the brilliant artists posting their fine-tuned pieces of craftsmanship on their blogs. It's good enough. And the fact of the matter is, the game looks better than the original.
It does...it really does. Not that that's a huge stretch or anything...the thing's one can do with a little MS Word and a few jpgs would make those poor bastards doing layout in the 1970s absolutely crap themselves. I am a hack...I have absolutely ZERO background in layout or composition or...well, in anything really useful to putting these books together. I didn't work on a school newspaper or yearbook or anything. But I can fiddle around with these little programs and voila! I look like an f'ing genius. Or at least a competent semi-professional.
So here's the next couple steps I've got to go through before I unveil the thing (yes, I know people want to see it...I'm hoping some folks might even want to buy it). First, I need to have a couple trusted sets of eyes read it...we'll see how that goes. Then I need to get some price-points from the printer and see about getting a few mock-up/proofs. I might need to get better scans of the artwork (it's excellent stuff, but still public domain and the resolution leaves a little something to be desired)...but like I said, it already looks nicer than the original books, so I might leave it as is.
After that, it's all about packaging. For those who haven't been following all that closely, I've written my own "Little Brown Books:"three slim volumes that still pack a lot of info (in a legible font, yes). They are much more setting specific and much less potpourri than the original LBBs but that's by design and for my own amusement (you can still adapt it to play a "generic fantasy RPG" but why would you want to?). I have about 99% decided to distribute them in two different formats:
1. A printed version with all three-volumes shrink-wrapped together along with a set of custom dice that I intend to order from Chessex or someone. Ideally, they'd be wrapped with one of those adhesive paper bands like you find around notebooks at B&N or dress socks, but I don't even know where to purchase such a thing. This may be a "limited edition" type sale depending on price to produce and demand...however, I'm still going to keep it simple (no box, dammit).
2. Electronic PDFs that can be purchased individually from RPGNow or some such. You'll have to pay for and download each book separately, and you will receive the "special dice," but some people may prefer that anyway. I mean, we all have dice, right?
All right, that's enough of an update for the moment...my beer's almost finished, the Mariners have tanked for the evening, and tomorrow's "garbage day" so it's time to clean out the fridge. I'll provide more information (or at least will probably be blogging more) over the next couple weeks, and I'm sure there may yet be some (minor) tinkering as monkey wrenches arise in play-testing. But for now, I'm quite satisfied. It really does seem to be the type of fantasy role-playing game I can live with...for a good, long while.
NOW, having said all that, I will say there's still a part of me that likes the idea of something a little more gonzo and gung-ho. White Plume Mountain-ish, if you'll allow me the conceit. Something a little bit more like B/X...except with druids.
Really, just the B, not the X...a lighter game, capable of introducing younger players to the fun of role-playing with a lot smaller scale and a lot more focused objectives of play...maybe even something that uses "funny shaped dice," like everyone expects. My recent posts on "subclasses" is what got my brain percolating on this idea...which is why I decided I really needed to buckle down and get 5AK finished. Bad enough I'm trying to get Cry Dark Future out, too (I've got five artists on board so far, which is great!)...I didn't want to let my "gamer ADD" sidetrack me when I was so close to the end. But now I am at the end (except for the mechanics of getting the thing printed, etc.), so maybe there's room on my plate for another project: has anyone done a retroclone of Holmes Basic yet?
Oh, yeah...and a completely random note, I have some scribbled ideas for rewriting Vampire the Masquerade. That might actually end up being a one-page micro-game.
Friday, April 19, 2013
[continued from here...sorry about the delayed gratification but the post was getting long]
Each basic class needs their standard abilities and restrictions carefully considered as each exceptional variant will still be based on one of these base classes. Let’s see:
Prime Requisite: STR. Hit Dice: D8 (+2 HP per level after nine). No restriction on armor or weapons; training in shields. +1 attack bonus per HD.
HOLY MAN (or WOMAN)
Prime Requisite: WIS. Hit Dice: D6 (+1 HP per level after nine). No restriction on armor; simple (blunt) weapons and daggers only. +1 attack bonus per two HD (rounded up). Divine spells up to 5th level. Lawful holy men can turn undead; Chaotic holy men can use reverse spells; Neutral holy men choose one or the other.
Prime Requisite: INT. Hit Dice: D4 (+1 HP per level after nine). Abilities restricted by armor; simple (blunt) weapons and daggers only. +1 attack bonus per two HD (rounded up), but subtract one from overall attack bonus. Magician spells up to 7th level (‘cause that’s just how I roll). Magicians of 9th level can engage in magic item creation.
Prime Requisite: DEX. Hit Dice: D4 (+2 HP per level after nine). Abilities restricted by armor; simple (blunt) weapons and daggers only. +1 attack bonus per two HD (rounded up). Thief abilities and bushwhack (i.e. backstab) ability.
That is, of course, the brief synopsis of each basic class...any actual rule book would better define stuff for the newbie user. XP tables would be about the same, but I’m not totally sure about that. Since it’s my version of the B/X game, I’d probably add a bunch of 5AKisms like “fighting styles” for fighters and automatic “detect magic” ability in magicians…but for now, this will do.
NOW, we get to the fun part: exceptional variants. Each variant class should add to the basic class, giving a number of cool bonuses that the average Joe doesn’t get, perhaps with a minor tradeoff or two. However, each class should also have filters to keep the class undesirable to anyone not truly dedicated to the concept. Here are the “fantasy” classes I’d consider for each basic class (I’m sure you’ll recognize some of these):
- Beast Master
- Witch Hunter
Each exceptional class should take a 10% hit in earned XP; in addition, while all exceptional classes have the same prime requisite as their base class, they do NOT receive bonuses for high prime requisites (only penalties). Characters with exceptional classes tend to advance SLOWER than base classes.
Now don’t assume these would look anything like their previous write-ups (in AEC or TCBXA)…like I said, the point is to make them exceptional, NOT balanced. The assassin for example would be much closer to its OD&D counterpart:
|Weak sauce? No.|
Assassin advantages: auto-kill on successful bushwhack attack (opponent save vs. death); training in shields and all weapons; +2 bonus to save versus poison; manufacture poison at 4th level; disguise added ability. Trade-off: thief abilities (other than bushwhack) as if a thief two levels lower than actual level.
Not much of a trade-off, right? Who wouldn’t want such a character? You’re basically a low-HP fighter with back-stabbing ability and a bonus to poison saves until 3rd level, when you really start to rock n' roll...which is why you need to apply FILTERS:
- One-half of all treasure found is to be given to the guild master for use in guild activities (mainly bribes to local officials). Roll 2D8 for each magic item found; if roll is LESS THAN the character’s level, the guild master desires the item for his own (give it up, pal). For truly special or unique items, DM should roll 2D6 or 2D4.
- Every adventure roll D6; if the result is six or more the character has a “special assignment” he’s required to fulfill during the adventure (assigned by the DM). Failure indicates no XP is awarded for adventure. Every session that goes by without a mission, add a cumulative +1 to the D6 roll.
- Characters are expected to stay in good standing with guild; any failure to hand over treasure or failure in special assignments require a check for possible expulsion (cumulative 10% chance per offense). Expulsion results in the assassin being hunted by his former guild mates (one in six chance of being ambushed during any given adventure session by group of D6 assassins; the lead assassin will have D12 levels of experience; other assassins in the ambush party will have half as many levels as the lead). Pursuit only ends with the destruction of old guild (death of the guild master will not end pursuit as a lieutenant will take up the master's mantle).
Thursday, April 18, 2013
People who were kind enough to purchase my last book, The Complete B/X Adventurer, were treated to a number of new classes for their B/X campaign. The list includes B/X write-ups of some of the variant classes found in Bard Games’ The Compleat Adventurer (the obvious inspiration for my volume), plus a handful of new spell-casters, a couple-three new demihumans, and variants of AD&D classes NOT already found in Goblinoid Games’ Advanced Edition Companion (specifically, the acrobat, barbarian, and bard). Plus the mountebank…always have to include a mountebank variant in anything I do these days (though I’ve yet to see anyone play one…*sigh*).
When creating these…what? Sixteen?...classes, my design objectives included the following:
- I wanted to create fun, “fantasy classes” of types that would be recognizable to people who enjoy fantasy literature, comics, and film.
- I wanted to create B/X classes that did not already exist in another form (for example, I considered adding an illusionist class but GG already has an illusionist for LL so why duplicate the work?).
- I wanted to create classes in the B/X style…short and simple, with a few abilities and restrictions, nothing overly complicated (i.e. something more streamlined than the classes found in the AD&D PHB).
- I wanted to make sure the classes were “balanced” (*shudder*) compared to the original classes of B/X. That is, I did not want to create “exceptional variants” like the paladin or ranger that would render the standard fighter “redundant.”
Personally, I think I was able to accomplish these objectives. It was fun to do it…as I picked up each class I asked, ‘How can I make this a unique choice that will be fun for a player? How can I make the class simple and “B/X” in style?’ And when I look at the compilation of classes and creativity, I’m pretty proud of it. Even if folks don’t use it exactly as written, I’m sure folks can find some inspiration for their own house-ruled classes…which was a lot of my motivation for doing the thing.
Of course, now I wish I’d done it differently.
Well, not exactly, but…well, let me put it this way: regular readers are aware that I’m in the process of producing my own “version of D&D” under the title 5AK. 5AK has a very specific setting, with magic and monsters and classes that (I felt) were appropriate to that setting. Fortunately, the setting (inspired by the Arabian Nights stories) is fairly wide-open as far as “fantasy adventure” is concerned…giants and dragons and ghouls and demons and jinn all work within the setting, for example, as does sorcery, witchcraft, and saintly miracles. However, cool as it is, there’s a part of me that says, “man, it’s not fantastic enough.” Or rather, there’s the second guessing that says the fantasy is too much like an Arabian fairy tale (‘too much Ali Baba’)…which, understand, I’ve always loved but, well, it’s not Tolkien. It’s not King Arthur. Maybe there’s just not enough Beowulf.
My personal background is one of American Anglo-Saxonish descent. Yes, I’m Catholic from my maternal Austrian roots (well, and my paternal grandmother converted to Catholicism due to being placed in a Catholic orphanage as a child. No, she wasn’t an orphan…that was kind of a substitute for foster care “back in the day”). It’s hard to imagine how I would have been different as a Lutheran or Episcopalian…but I digress. The point is, despite my “Roman” religion, I am very much a plain, white-bread type; a boring Englishman-descendant whose ancestors had a little bit of ambition (and not a lot of prospects) forcing them to push their way out to the western coast of the American continent. The folklore that is my heritage is mostly a cross between the Arthurian and Brothers Grimm and most everything else…leprechauns or genies or Norse giants and Greek gods…are extremely tertiary to my upbringing.
[hell, my REAL folklore, I suppose is more American folklore like Paul Bunyan…a good axe-man, that one]
So while flying carpets and giant snakes and lamp-bound genies and turbans and curvy swords are all things that fire my imagination, there’s a definite part of me that misses having the knight in shiny armor charging the fire-breathing dragon on horseback. Not that I’m going to suddenly stop writing 5AK or throw out all the mid-eastern “flavor”…as Tim down at Gary’s pointed out, there are folks to whom the setting will resonate. But maybe I’ve missed an opportunity here with the tact I’ve taken. Certainly, it would be tricky to do parts of “traditional D&D” (at least in the style I've traditionally played it) using the rules I’ve written.
After all, the system is much more Chainmail/OD&D than it is B/X.
So it is that my recent thoughts on “subclasses” and “exceptional variants” have led me to think again about D&D Mine, but from a perspective of remaking B/X. Now this is, of course, an even more useless exercise than the current endeavor: at least with 5AK, there may be people who want to play it for the setting or novelty, who then adapt its rules to their normal gaming...whereas people interested in B/X already have B/X or its equivalent (Labyrinth Lord) ready to fulfill their gaming fantasies. And I do NOT want to do an Eberron/Forgotten Realms/Tolkien-style “setting book” for B/X…people can use B/X to do that themselves. Truth is, anything I ended up doing in this vein would probably end up looking like “B/X Talislanta” or “B/X Game of Thrones” (or both), either of which would be kind of dumb. Still, my mind has been having interesting thoughts on ways to remake B/X without remaking the system (as 5AK does) that might be worth a quick gander…
[boy, it takes me a long time to come to the point, doesn’t it?]
Remember how, the other day, I was writing about the way the AD&D subclasses aren’t really “sub-“ anything? How they’re either so wildly divergent as to be separate classes, OR their advantages are so substantial as to make them superior to the basic class? And then remember me saying (in THIS post) how I strove to find “niche” categories for my new classes that did not render the base B/X classes redundant? WHAT IF, instead of the tact I took with TCBXA, I decided to create exceptional variants similar to the AD&D classes…but ones that included the FILTERS I was talking about earlier?
How would that look? Well…
First, we’d have to define our basic classes for the project…um, let’s call it New B/X (as opposed to B/X Next or something), or NBX for short. Let’s go with:
Holy Man (or Woman)
Each with a maximum of nine hit dice and 14 levels (because 36 is kind of outrageous unless you plan on playing the same campaign for 20 years or handing out a dragon hoard’s value in treasure every week). We’ll also include the demihuman classes as “basic classes” (with attributes and restrictions similar to B/X)…because THEN, if you want your “Halfling Thief” or “Dwarf Troll-Slayer,” you can create it as an exceptional variant class.
[to be continued]
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
As many of my readers know, much to my shame, I’m a bit of a TV watcher. Why “to my shame?” Because, like video games, television can be an unforgivable time suck that isolates one from the world and people around you, and yet does not allow the mind or body to rest. Of course video games can be actually ACTIVE and ENGAGING…the television just force feeds your brain whatever the producers deem appropriate.
I realize that’s a bit harsh, and that watching some television shows can actually stimulate conversation or become a “group-bonding” activity…like sporting events or the Academy Awards…and that other shows on television can be educational, inspiring, and teach us things about life, ourselves, and others. But that’s not usually the case. Fact is, there’s a lot of crap on TV…and watching a guy shoot arrows into bad guys while his sister bangs the local meth head (that’s the basic plot of Arrow) isn’t doing a lot for MY brain except providing some fun, superhero-style entertainment.
It is what it is, folks.
Yet, intellectual snob that I am, I can usually hold myself down to just a handful of “regular” shows (thank God we got rid of HBO! Prior to the birth of our child we were watching pretty much everything they were putting out)...and the occasional (terrible, terrible) Mariners game. And (besides Arrow) I try to limit myself to shows of the “quality” variety…Downton Abbey and Mad Men, for example, or Parks and Rec (for funny). Such “sitcom crack” as Friends and Sex and the City have fallen by the wayside.
But now I’ve got Vikings.
Gosh, what a great show! I was up till 2am the other night catching up on the most recent episodes…and to put that it in perspective, my dogs get me up anywhere between 4:30 and 5:30am every morning, rain or shine, weekends or work days (on week days I usually go back to bed until 6ish, when I get up to ready myself for a 7am start time). Sleep is at a premium in my home (it’s not often I get to bed before midnight most days), and my main luxury these days is taking a two or three hour “power nap” on the weekends when my son is having his daily siesta…assuming I don’t need to run errands or blog or write books or something.
But for Vikings…well, it’s “axe crack” people. And I’ve blogged before of my love of axes.
Vikings is a new show airing on the History Channel, and is pretty much better and more interesting than any single television drama currently airing on TV, with the exception of Mad Men. It has great acting, great writing, and beautiful production value…and damn if it isn’t pretty damn historically accurate (I say this as an amateur armchair historian of Norse culture, so take that with a grain of salt). And it’s different…O so different…from any Viking show or film I’ve ever seen. I mean, it takes pains to really try to portray the mindset of 8th century Norse culture.
[BTW: I know the show has received some criticism for being historically INACCURATE with regard to clothing and the Danes lack of knowledge of “the West”…that’s not what I’m referring to. Just hang with me for a bit, okay?]
The show depicts the life and exploits of Ragnar Lodbrok, one of the most famous heroes of the (real life) Norse sagas, including everything from his family life to his raiding expeditions to his political rivalries. For myself, the series is most fascinating because of its portrayal of the Norse personality. Often, Vikings in film are simply cardboard berserkers or violent thugs or parodies…individuals with modern, western values that just happen to do the barbarian thing for a job (think of the Capitol One commercials, or the characters portrayed in the film Erik the Viking). It’s like Scottish highlanders…the concept has been so romanticized and caricatured over the years that it’s difficult to find a historically accurate depiction of their brain. Vikings, I feel, does a better job of this than anything I’ve ever seen.
|Not a nice man.|
Ragnar, for example, is the hero of the show. Ragnar has all the classic virtues of the Norse people: he is courageous, he is clever, he is honorable, he is dutiful to his family. He is also a complete raging asshole and murderous bastard by our present standards. Let there be no discussion about it…the Norsemen had a real “us/them” mentality, and sailing into someone’s country and butchering unarmed folks (not to mention raping and pillaging) was all considered “fair play.” Ragnar is not a very nice person, at all and in his culture there really is a premium value placed on strength…Ragnar and his crew have nothing but contempt for the weaklings they raid, and Ragnar holds the loyalty of his men first and foremost due to having proven himself a strong warrior. His ambition and cunning combine to elevate him above his station of birth, but his brethren would not follow him for these reasons alone (his ability to get them rich plunder is a definite plus towards earning their loyalty and respect as well). At times, he exhibits a degree of compassion and curiosity that marks him different from his fellows…it’s obvious that he is unusual and marked for greatness…but neither one of these traits trump his “Norse nature;” when it’s time to fight there’s no hesitation.
At the same time, the Norse are more than just axe-wielding maniacs. They have a great sense of humor, a great sense of pride, that practicality and peculiar melancholy that marks Scandinavians even today…and an intense reverence for their own gods and religion. Man, it is so refreshing to see, when so much of today’s “historical fiction” films and shows tend to gloss over or ignore religion. For most of our history, humans have lived in worshipful fear and awe of our God or gods…something conveniently forgotten in our production of otherwise high quality, historical films.
[as an aside, this is why I find the recent Clash of the Titans remake so incredibly stupid. The idea some Greek, even a hero like Perseus, would dare stand in defiance of the gods? Utterly asinine in a film full of asinine bullshit]
Vikings (the show) doesn’t ignore the fact that humans have ambition, nor that they are as prone to foibles and frailty as we ever have been, but the underpinning of the earth and reality is the divine, and it’s something that needs to be respected at all costs. Prayer…whether to Odin or to Christ (Christians are well represented on the other side)…is often-used, both in supplication and thanksgiving, and while the heathens may question the validity of the Christian God as much as the Christians condemn Odin, neither side dares profane their OWN religion.
There’s a great bit in the most recent episode wherein one of Ragnar’s men agrees to be baptized so that the English feel more comfortable bargaining with the heathens (the English are trying to pay off the Norsemen to leave them alone). Rollo, Ragnar’s brother agrees to do so, mostly for expedience…he doesn’t actually believe in the Christian God and considers the whole thing a joke. However, when it’s pointed out that his “joke” is probably an affront to Odin (if not outright blasphemy), he quakes in mortal terror…and Rollo is a big guy and pretty bright and ambitious besides. Here's the thing: for a culture that believed in heaven as “Valhalla,” snubbing Odin is a good way to get yourself left behind…plus, the concepts of “divine blessing” in the old Norse culture really boiled down to “being lucky” and he might have felt he’d just signed up for a big heaping helping of bad luck.
To make up for it, Rollo goes apeshit the next time he has a chance to kill some Christians.
Much of the action of Vikings takes place in the old English kingdom of Northumbria, where they happily pillage and raid, and unlike other Viking-centric shows, the people of England are given plenty of time in the program as well…these aren’t faceless victims, cardboard extras existing only to be axe-fodder for the program's protagonists. Neither are they set-up as simple “antagonists” to “heroic Ragnar” nor “poor me Christians” falling to the Viking swords. Again, the series attempts to treat them in the same neutral light…they have their Christian humility and piety, but they also have their selfishness and arrogance. The king of Northumbria offs a guard captain that failed him (in Darth Vader-like style), but tries to rescue his brother from the clutches of the Vikings, and he exhibits his own cunning and ruthlessness (only fitting, since the sagas say he's the one that eventually kills Ragnar). Religion again comes to the forefront: King Aelle is not Henry the VIII to throw off the dominion of Rome and start up the Anglican Church…back in the 8th century there was only ONE “holy, Catholic, and apostolic church” and you were going to HELL if you didn’t do your time on Sunday (a fact rudely exploited by Ragnar in one of his early raids).
There’s another good bit where the English lords are debating whether or not the Vikings have been sent by God as punishment, or by the devil as a trial, or are simply barbarous men, and the ANSWER to that question is IMPORTANT to how they deal with and respond to the threat (this is part of the reason for the baptism deal). When they invite the Norsemen to dine, they are affronted that the Vikings dig-in to the victuals without waiting for grace to be said, and the contrast is stark between the two cultures. And yet the English king praying at his chapel for strength and guidance is no different from the Vikings' earl praying at a shrine to his gods in an earlier episode. These are not just religious “touches” like the scant attention paid to the gods in Ridley Scott’s film Gladiator…this is a statement of the way these people were: devout, reverent, concerned with the fates God (or the gods) had set in store for them, doing what they could (through their bishops or shamans) to determine what their deities’ Divine Will was.
Because that was important. If you come from a culture that believes God is All-Powerful, than you better try to figure out what He wants for you…otherwise, you’re likely to misstep and get yourself and/or your family/tribe all bloodied and butchered. It was yet another hurdle in a life already fraught with uncertainty and danger…a hard life of war and suffering and starvation. A shared spirituality was part of the foundation of a community (in addition to language and cuisine).
I’ve been reading up on Joan of Arc (again) with an eye towards continuing my series on subclasses and filters (I think ol’ Saint Joan makes a good model for the paladin class…along with Roland and Galahad). The fact that she was entrusted with leading the French army in battle as a PEASANT GIRL is amazing, no matter how eloquent or charismatic a speaker she might have been. Even winning a few battles, or being brave enough to lead the charge from the forefront, isn’t incentive enough (IMO) to say, 'okay, the Maid of Orleans can be our general.' It speaks volumes to A) the inherent spirituality and faith of the culture coupled with B) Joan's ability to convince that culture (including the worldly king, lords, and fighting men) that she was an actual instrument of that God and faith. And that was the 15th century…several centuries removed from the ("less sophisticated") time period of Ragnar and Co.
Do folks see where I’m going with this? This is, of course, a gaming blog…not a religious blog, nor a television blog, nor a Viking blog (though people might be forgiven for mistaking it for the latter). And in fantasy role-playing games, especially D&D, there is a tendency to secularize even our pseudo-medieval fantasy worlds. “Oh, yeah, there are gods…that’s where the cleric gets his powers. But I don’t have to worry about that aspect of the game world.” You don’t? Why not? What “divine right” gives your fantasy world ruler the authority to be king? You better find out if you want your character to be king someday, otherwise you’ll never be more than a pretender. What power do you think it is chooses whether or not your adventure ends in success or terrible, terrible death?
Even if you, personally, don’t believe in creationism, what better setting for a radical, supernatural means of world creation than the setting of a fantasy RPG? Even if you, yourself, don’t believe in the power of God and fate, why wouldn’t your character? Part of role-playing is playing a role, right? If Ragnar the axe murderer can say the occasional prayer or make appropriate sacrifice or find reverence for the rituals of his culture, why can’t Bork the Barbarian or Roderick the Fighter or Zimsum the Magic-User?
There are, of course, other things to be taken from the Vikings television show for use in a role-playing game: examples of adventuring, of how people with high moral character/integrity can still be villainous rogues in action, examples of "what we're doing this all for anyway" (family, personal ambition, romance, etc.), as well as how to handle political intrigue and inter-party conflict...interestingly, the latter are both handled the same.
With an axe.
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
[continued from here...]
So, yeah: filters. What is an appropriate filter? Something that requires players to make a choice. Setting requirements that ask the question, "what are you willing to PAY to play this character?" Or rather, "are you willing to give up X, Y, and Z to have this particular concept?"
The basic classes already do this:
- Cleric: will you give up edged (better damage) weapons for some miscellaneous/healing magic and some ability against the undead?
- Fighter: will you give up any other special abilities for the use of all arms and armor, good HPs, and the best attack matrix?
- Magic-User: will you give up all arms, armor, and combat fortitude for a chance to gain fantastic power over the long haul?
- Thief: will you give up being mighty in combat for some sneaky skills?
Part of the trade-off for the basic classes is also with regard to one's expected role in the party. The cleric often seems over-powered for its class advantages, whether in AD&D (with its D8 hit dice and attack-oriented spells) or B/X (especially when using the default D6 damage)...at least, when compared to the cleric's rate of level advancement. But the cleric's player is also being asked the additional question: "Are you willing to take on the role of healer and cooperative/assisting party member in exchange for all these bennies?" The cleric character is generally the most "put-upon" of any party member, followed by either the fighter (expected to be the front-line combatant) or the thief (expected to walk point and disarm poison needles). The damn magic-user gets a "free pass" in most parties (and then bitches loudly that he's got "nothing to do").
The choices for the basic classes are BASIC choices. They define the role the player wants to take in an adventuring party. With exceptional variant classes, classes that "one-up" other classes, it's not enough to require a basic choice...an appropriate filter requires an EXCEPTIONAL choice.
For example, let's look at the AD&D ranger class: XP costs are about 10% higher (reasonable for any variant, in my opinion) plus the arbitrary ability score restrictions. Other penalties for taking the class include the following:
- Only receiving D8s for hit dice (but they receive 2D8 at 1st level giving them a better average HP total than equal level fighters up until 6th level..and their HD go up to eleven, not just nine)
- Must be of good alignment
- May not have hirelings until 8th level
- No more than three rangers may ever operate together at any time (because otherwise the entire party would consist of rangers?)
- May only own the goods and treasure they can carry upon their person and mount
In exchange for which they receive the following bonuses: gradually increasing bonus damage to giant-class creatures with includes such "giants" as goblins and orcs; bonuses to surprise; bonuses to resist surprise; tracking ability; druidic spells beginning at 8th level; magic-user spells beginning at 9th level; ability to employ magical scrying devices at 10th level; attraction of 2-24 loyal (unpaid!) henchmen at 10th level...said henchmen generally consisting of exceptional adventuring types and monsters (including copper dragons and storm giants!).
You know, a copper dragon mount carries a lot of treasure.
Assuming you're playing AD&D 1E sans the weapon specialization rules of the UA (and even rangers are allowed some weapon specialization), what's the real trade-off here? That your character has to be chaotic good instead of chaotic neutral? Other than the "no more than three rangers can operate together" clause, I see no real reason why all the fighting men of a (cooperative) party would not want to play rangers. I don't recall any PCs in my old campaigns hoarding so much treasure they needed a war galley to store it in (and why do you think portable holes were invented anyway?).
No...the restrictions on an obviously exceptional class are restrictions, but they ain't particularly stringent. Not enough to act as the filter I'm talking about.
Filters should have the following characteristics:
- they should be performable even at low (1st) level, making the class open to dedicated players
- they should be based on role-playing and/or player choice, not random dice roll
- they should be appropriate to and emphasize the class concept
- they should be a pain in the ass
And that is a pain in the ass for the player that wants to play the concept, not a pain in the ass for the rest of the players in the group. Filters should involve sacrifice for the player that wants to play the exceptional class, not a sacrifice for the other players. For example, it would be inappropriate for an assassin requisite to be "must kill a friend or ally in cold blood," when that would generally entice the PC to murder a fellow PC or one of her fellow's henchmen. See how that's not cool?
So what are some appropriate filters? Well, unfortunately, they're kind of setting specific...of course, variant classes themselves are setting specific (including paladins in your fantasy world says something very specific about that world)...but most DMs will have to decide how "tight" a filter is needed for his or her own campaign. I suppose I could give some suggestions...but this would just be spit-balling.
[oh, well...when have I ever balked at voicing a half-baked idea?]
The thief-acrobat subclass of thief is a problematic one for a variety of reasons: it requires PCs to obtain a certain level (6th), it has a bunch of fiddly feet/inches based skills, it's written poorly...and yet just about every thief in my old AD&D campaign would eventually switch over to the thief-acrobat route once they had the required levels under their belt. Why? Because their concept of a thief was more in-line with the daring cat-burglar than the skulking pick pocket...plus you get to keep all the "cool" skills (backstabbing, moving silently, etc.) and picking up all this acrobatic nonsense. My campaign was absolutely filthy with thief-acrobats...and no one ever had a problem making the ability pre-requisites.
[as an aside, by 6th level the clerics can detect traps and the magic-user can knock locks, so what's lost in making the transition? See...not much of a SUBclass]
Now, as said, the variant is still problematic because of its level restriction...but if you re-wrote the class to start at 1st level (HINT: subtract 5 from each number in the leftmost column of the Thief-Acrobat Function Table in the Unearthed Arcana), what filters might you put in place to prevent all your aspiring thieves from jumping into the T-A archetype?
How about ALL of the following requirements:
- Character must pay all starting gold to her instructor; part of her "schooling" will include some basic tools of the trade (generally, climbing gear, some pouches, and her two formal weapons...no armor). Thereafter, she must give one-half (or more) of all treasure found to her instructor between adventures, at least for the first three to five levels...acrobatic training is rigorous, and on-going teaching necessary for an apprenticeship period.
- Character is restricted to staff and lasso as her weapons at first level (these take her two proficiency slots)...both are tools as much as weapons, and it is necessary to be as accustomed to them as to her own limbs.
- Character must demonstrate her dedication to the craft by performing (or attempting to perform) at least one feat of daring in each session during the apprentice period. Such a death defying act might be a solo wall scale or over-head hang or any use of the acrobatic skill function. Failure to at least make a single attempt results in NO EXPERIENCE being earned for the session. Likewise, there's no respite from this penalty should "no appropriate opportunity" be presented; in the acrobat's mind, such an adventure might be deemed a waste of time and training! Once the apprentice period is over (after the first three to five levels) such demonstrations are unnecessary for advancement, but should have become a routine part of the player character's gameplay.
I'm sure I could think up some other appropriate filters for the paladin class (most involving vows to a Church or temple and based on the knightly trials of chivalric literature) and the others...but, then, you folks can probably do that, too, right?
Hope this gives people some food for thought!
Monday, April 15, 2013
[continued from here]
So, okay, we should probably think of something different from "subclasses" to call these aberrant classes...just so the discussion can keep going. Because I DO mean this post to be about these things, misnamed or not, and we've got to get back to the point. "Variant classes?" Because they vary from the original classes of OD&D (which constitute three of the four human classes found in B/X: cleric, fighter, magic-user, and thief)? Sure...that's good enough. When I say "variant class" I mean a class found in AD&D (or later iterations) other than cleric, fighter, magic-user, or thief. Okay? Okay.
Back to the discussion.
Variant classes since AD&D have been presented in two different styles: one pre-3rd edition, and one post 3rd-edition. I have issues with both, but let's go ahead and describe what that presentation entails:
- ability score minimums for entry
- generally higher XP requirements than their "parent" class
- unique spell lists, for spell-caster classes
- widely differing adherence to parent class abilities
- some non-standard role-playing requirements (alignment restrictions, treasure acquisition restrictions, guild requirements, behavioral restrictions, etc.)
- no ability minimums
- no XP penalties
- no unique spell lists
- treated as their own "standard class" though save bonuses, BA bonuses, etc. may mimic the non-variant classes
- generally unique "skill lists"
- some variant classes of earlier editions now "prestige classes"
Now, as stated, B/X doesn't include variant classes except in its incarnation as Labyrinth Lord (with the AEC as described above...this uses the pre-3E style, deliberately aping AD&D). But if you wanted to add variant classes to B/X, or if you wanted to re-examine a different (house ruled) way to handle variant classes in your own game, or if you wanted to create you own version of D&D (i.e. a "D&D Mine" project)...if you wanted to do any of these things, you might want to consider the best approach to the concept of variant classes. Because...as that unnamed blogger pointed out...it seems a little hard to swallow parts of either approach.
For example, there aren't any real restrictions to variant classes in 3E or 3.5...which means a paladin or ranger or bard or barbarian is at least as common as the basic four classes. Which not everyone wants to be the case in their setting. One thing the heightened "point of entry" (ability score restrictions) did for AD&D was to ensure that it was a lot harder to roll up a paladin (with that 17 Charisma restriction) than to roll up a plain old fighter. Less than 2% of characters (4 in 216) have a CHA of 17 or 18...at least when rolling your ability scores with the standard 3D6. Add in the other ability score minimums and you're increasing the rarity of the class exponentially.
But are ability scores really a barrier to entry? After all, nothing prevents a player from rolling-rolling-rolling till the right numbers come up...and the DMG and UA provide plenty of "variant methods" of rolling ability scores to give players a better chance of achieving the stat line desired.
However, I'd ask that you forget randomness for a second...I mean, what is it that you are really trying to limit? Given random dice rolls, it's possible, however improbable, that a player might NEVER roll the scores desired, just given bad luck. And then what have you really succeed in doing except preventing a player from creating and playing the character concept they desire? What are you doing except blunting a player's creativity and imagination with your arbitrary barrier?
Here's what I think:
1) I can see the value of including exceptional variant classes in one's game, not just subclasses that fulfill a concept. Often, these might be setting specific, and certainly they should have a degree of scarcity because of their exceptional nature (if "paladins" are the "default fighter" in your game world, then they're not a variant class, they replace the usual basic one).
2) By including such class in a campaign, you are setting up an expectation (and desire) for your players to play them...for sheer novelty if nothing else. When my old DM said she was going to include half-ogres in her new D&D campaign, my first response was "sign me up for THAT!"
3) Players allowed to play the concept they want are generally happy players. That's just a personal, unproven theory, I realize...
4) Random, arbitrary barriers (high ability scores) are a non-starter. They don't actually cut-down on entry (due to the ability for all players to re-roll...or "commit PC suicide" and re-roll). And personally I find it puts too much emphasis on ability scores in a game where such is already too often the case.
5) Likewise, arbitrary level restrictions (for example, 3rd edition prestige classes), is a no-go as it prevents players from running the concept of their choice for (often) a long-ass time. I came up with a dwarven duelist concept for a PC in my buddy's 3.0 game a few years back and it was the height of frustration, plowing along as a fighter and rogue for the six or seven levels necessary to get the correct pre-reqs just to switch classes...and then he ended the campaign around the time I reached eighth level. That's bullshit, folks...again, if the concept is possible in the setting, players should have the option of exercising that possibility from the get-go.
5) What we're looking for is a FILTER, not a barrier...something to weed down the number of people that would take the character class. Ability scores and level restrictions aren't a filter...they simply delay player gratification. Slow advancement (XP penalties) is appropriate to an exceptional variant (it's harder for the Elf to learn both fighting and magic, you know?) but is neither a filter nor a barrier.
[to be continued, where we'll pick up talking about filters]
Dammit...sometimes my blog-hopping takes me farther afield than I normally "surf" and I end up leaving comments somewhere that...later...I can't find anywhere. Which is too bad, because I like to give credit when I'm ripping off someone else's thoughts and musings.
[EDIT: Thanks to Red for the suggestion...have I mentioned how terrible I am with this computer stuff? The "dude" in question was Talysman (duh) over at Nine and Thirty Kingdoms. Jeez, JB...here's the link to the post, along with my half-assed comments at the time]
So some dude was writing recently that he's having a hard time with the ability score prerequisites for subclasses. Which, I'd gather, means he's playing/complaining about AD&D (at least one of its iterations) since that's the only edition that really has "subclasses." Well, okay, both Supplement II (Blackmoor) and Supplement III (Eldritch Wizardry) use the terms "sub-class" when referring to the monk, assassin, and druid classes...and these, too, have ability score prerequisites...so I guess he might have been playing OD&D. But the term and concept is more ubiquitous to AD&D.
B/X doesn't, of course, have subclasses, only classes, and except for the demihumans (dwarf, elf, and halfling) it doesn't even have ability prerequisites. Do you want to play a skinny fighter? A clumsy thief? A stupid magic-user? Sure, you can do that...it's a longer, slower row to hoe (with that prime requisite XP penalty) but you can certainly do it.
BUT, there are no subclasses. Even my B/X supplements (the B/X Companion and The Complete B/X Adventurer) steer clear of the term "subclass." The former has a full enough plate just dealing with a rules expansion for the basic B/X classes...and the NEW classes in TCBXA are just that: "new classes," i.e. classifications of adventurer. The scout is not a subclass of anything, nor is the bounty hunter, nor the summoner. I suppose I could call them "subclasses" but that's not how they were designed. Like the beastmaster or gnome, all were created to fill specific niches not already covered in the B/X rule book.
But what if you wanted to adapt subclasses to your B/X game? Certainly, the Advanced Edition Companion (AEC) for Labyrinth Lord provides all the AD&D subclasses cut to the B/X mold, though they are inconsistently referred to as "subtypes," "types of," "varieties of," and "sub-types." Not that the lingo matters terribly; they're the same things you find in AD&D. The real question is, are they really subclasses? And if they are, is this the best way to present them?
We'll get to what I mean by "presentation" in a second. My own game, 5AK, does indeed have subclasses, but they are true "subclasses." Each main class has two subclasses, the subclass being the exact same as the main class, save that each loses a few class features while gaining a couple (minor) advantages not present in the usual class. This is generally done in order to provide niche or setting specific concepts for the players. For example, the mountebank subclass fills the concept of the magician that failed out of his apprenticeship (he couldn't hack it for whatever reason), but turned to thievery and flimflammery with the few "tricks" he learned in order to have an adventuring career. As a subclass of the thief class, the mountebank is exactly like the thief (same HPs, saves, attacks, skills, etc.) but he's spent less time honing his thieving abilities, in exchange for some of the knowledge of an apprentice magician.
[as a side note, the reverse concept...i.e. the thief taken off the streets and apprenticed to become a true magician...is NOT represented by a subclass. Instead such a character would simply be a magician with the randomly generated advantage, "misspent youth." Becoming a true magician takes years of study compared to picking up some minor ability at picking pockets. But I digress]
Similarly my temple knight subclass (the closest thing 5AK has to a "paladin") provides additional martial training not found in the saint/shaman class, at a cost of some of the divine favors (spells) the saint would normally access. No, it is not a subclass of fighter.
See that's one of the things that irk me about AD&D...the subclasses aren't really "sub-" in the true meaning of the prefix, which would indicate beneath, below, imperfect (as in subpar), or subordinate to. Paladins and rangers aren't subordinate to fighters...they fight the same, have the same or better saves, and have additional bonuses and powers that make them superior to the fighter class. An assassin has all the abilities of a thief, albeit as two levels lower, but has the ability to use all weapons, shields, the express ability to use and manufacture poisons, as well as the ability to disguise and assassinate targets. How does that make an assassin a "sub-" thief?
Other subclasses...like the druid and illusionist...are so expressly different from their parent classes that they might as well be their own. I suspect the reason monks were deemed to be their own class (as opposed to a subclass of cleric as originally stated in Supplement II) was for exactly this reason.
[to be continued]
Tuesday, April 9, 2013
Last night, my wife was drawing some comparisons between my son and I, to which I said, “Look, he’s two years old, and I’m 39…I think I’ve got a few years on him.” And she replied, “You’re turning 40 this year?!”
Yes. Yes I am.
And THEN she asked what I wanted special for my fortieth birthday…and after about ten seconds of deliberation I decided I actually did have something that I wanted: to publish two new books. I want to be able to say I’ve published four books/games by the time I hit 40…one book for each decade I’ve been hanging around this planet. Of course, my past track record suggests my ability to actually meet my own deadlines (I turn 40 in November) is ZERO, so it would appear I’ve set myself up for failure and disappointment. But we all need goals, right? Goals are good things.
So yeah, the two books I’ve got in mind are 5AK (my “D&D Mine” project) and CDF. CDF’s just about ready to go…except that I still need interior artwork.
Here comes the begging.
CRY DARK FUTURE (CDF) is a role-playing game that gives you the opportunity to take on the persona of a covert adventurer in the imaginary future…a future filled with magic and fantasy as well as cyborgs and automatic weapons. Whether you choose to play an idealistic hero or a sociopathic scumbag is entirely up to you; the game provides you with the tools you need to try either path. And once your character retires in style or goes down in a bloody hail of bullets, you can create a new persona and try playing from the other side of the fence…if it suits your fancy.
That’s part of the blurb from the back cover. Here’s the front cover:
What I need now is interior artwork. I’m looking for BLACK & WHITE drawings that depicts the setting of my Dark Mythic Future…a setting that’s equal parts Cyberpunk and B/X D&D. If you are a decent artist and like to doodle things like elvish cyborgs or goblins with machine guns or Blade Runner like city-scapes…well, I’d sure like to include your work in my book. If you’re interested in contributing, you can email me at:
bxblackrazor AT gmail DOT com
Here’s the standard offer: you send me your own, original B&W pieces (jpegs work best). You get full credit in the book and retain the rights to your own artwork. Compensation is slim: if I use three or more of your illustrations, I will send you a copy of the finished product, free of charge. Right now, I’m expecting the book will retail at $30-35 plus shipping and handling, so you’ll have to be the judge of whether or not your time and efforts are worth it.
If you require actual MONETARY compensation, and I really like your work, we may be able to come to a financial arrangement instead…that is to say I’m open to the idea. But payment will only be made upon receipt of the actual artwork.
Oh, yeah…and space is limited. The book is going to clock in at about 80 pages (soft cover), so were probably only talking about 18-24 pieces, depending on the size. Originally, the book was written as a 64 page masterpiece, but I’ve decided to increase the font size and leave space for more than three illos, so there.
If you’re interested in submitting artwork, EMAIL ME. If you’re interested but need ideas for subject matter, email me. If you have doodles just lying around that you want to “throw in the mix,” just scan ‘em and email me. If you’re an artist and think it would be cool to see your work in a book but don’t know if your stuff is “good enough” just email me…the worst thing that could happen is I won’t use your art (and you can still sell it to someone else).
Thanks, folks. Looking forward to getting this project completed.
[by the way, regarding DEADLINES: if you ARE interested in doing artwork, I’d really like it within the next two to three months (i.e. by June) so that I can get everything formatted and laid out and to the printer, etc. before the end of summer. I AM working on a second game, after all, so I need time to do BOTH if I’m going to make my November due date. Thanks, again]
Friday, April 5, 2013
Don’t you want YOUR ogre to be tougher?
For me, in designing 5AK (or D&D Mine or whatever you want to call it), the ogre was one of the “baseline” monsters in designing the game. Ogres are a part of the D&D tradition, sure, but they show up so often in fantasy folklore…representing the large, bestial, BULLY of the human psyche. The abuser. The monster that is O-so-human, and yet a hulking fiend of destruction, too. How do you represent that, and do it justice?
In the end I gave ogres HD 4+2 and the equivalent of light (chain) armor.
Now, granted, that may not seem like much difference compared to the usual AC 5, HD 4+1 ogre found in D&D, but rest assured those numbers mean far more to MY game than your run-o-the-mill, B/X equivalent. In fact, it’s closer to the 700 pound bruiser detailed in Alexis’s recent post (no, his point is something very different from mine…I just like it as an illustration of what an ogre should be like).
Assuming a party similar to the one Alexis describes (of course, there are no halflings or burning hands spells in 5AK, and I don’t have a “ranger” in my game for obvious reasons, though we can assume something equivalent to an archer or temple knight), the outcome in 5AK might have been pretty close to the same. My thief’s “bushwhacking” ability only extends to “living, humanoid targets of roughly human size” specifically so that you don’t find ‘em backstabbing giants and jinn, but it’s really up to the individual DM to determine whether or not an ogre is close enough or not. I’d probably rule “not,” but the character would still have a good 75% chance of doing damage (if not higher based on the creature’s position sleeping).
Then, assuming the monster was awakened and combat ensued we could expect the killing to begin. Average HPs for such a group would be, mmm, 22 for the fighter, 17 for the thief, 9 for the mage, 7 for the cleric, 4 for the “ranger.” A HD 4+2 creature in 5AK is bigger, faster, and stronger than just about everyone in the party, and would likely crush the cleric or ranger with a single shot (average 7 damage, hits the cleric 86% of the time or the ranger 92% presuming heavy armor)...though if this was their first fight of the day that might be mitigated by other factors.
Meanwhile, the chance of the PCs actually harming the ogre would be pretty slim with the exception of the fighter. The high level thief would have a 42% chance of damaging it (actually pretty close to the 45% chance a B/X thief of the same level would have against a “normal” ogre) with a 3% chance of killing the creature outright with a lucky attack (the dagger in the eyeball attack). The 5th level hero would actually have a 67% chance to injure the creature (better than a standard B/X fighter unless you're including high ability scores) with a 17% chance of killing it outright (the same chance a hero in Chainmail has of killing such a monster). The other party members would have a lot smaller chance to even scratch the beast (17% for the cleric or ranger, 28% for the wizard assuming he wants to mix it up in melee)…but then fighting monsters IS an activity best left up to heroes. Non-fighters would do better to use the tried and true method found in folklore when dealing with ogres: trickery.
In point of fact, a group of non-fighting PCs venturing into an ogre’s den with the intention of slaying such a creature in hand-to-hand combat deserve to have their heads handed to them. I mean, what are you thinking of? Sure, David was able to slay Goliath with a rock…but he had the power of God on his side (and/or it was a one-in-a-million shot...you decide). When your PC doesn’t happen to be the divinely chosen king of the divinely chosen people, then you better be the rough-and-tumble equivalent of Beowulf…otherwise, what are you doing except getting in Beowulf’s way?
To write D&D Mine, I’ve been deconstructing the game of D&D and looking at it piece-by-piece and you can see where there’s stuff that’s been broken. I mean, the reason that so much of D&D game play is treated like “our many different ways to kill a monster” is precisely because the rules are written in that fashion. An ogre should just be a walking sack of hit points waiting for a few low level characters to down him with half a dozen arrows…what kind of adventure is that? It cheapens the whole thing, in my opinion. At the same time, it’s not enough to simply assign bunches of extra HPs to monsters. Didn’t I just read that WotC’s research shows players enjoy SHORTER combats? No shit, Sherlock…shorter combats mean more time spent adventuring (which might include a lot of things besides rolling dice and tracking damage).
That’s why “hit dice” in my game have been returned to their proper place as the number of “hits” a creature can suffer before going down. For example, a four hit dice ogre can take four human-incapacitating wounds before being brought down (which is what a successful attack roll measures…the ability to apply a man-incapacitating wound to a target). Yes, I realize that’s less than the six wounds needed in Chainmail (so my ogre is still less than the Ogre of Gormely Keep), but quite a handful for your average adventurer to deal with…like an intelligent bear.
And it’s quite a bit stronger than even an AD&D ogre. Oh sure…an average superhero equivalent in 5AK will put one down pretty fast (exactly as fast as a superhero in Chainmail at 9th level, actually), but it’s never for-sure-for-sure. And it’s nothing like AD&D. I remember converting my old AD&D bard to 2nd edition (and for those who don’t know, there’re major differences between the 1E and 2E bards) in order to solo-test the 2E adventure Return to White Plume Mountain, which is practically filled to the brim with ogres dressed in +5 armor (to give them an AC of 0). It was a pretty silly exercise, but in some ways it’s a pretty silly adventure, and the point is the character could still handle the creatures pretty handily. It just necessitating rolling a LOT of dice to get through the war of HP attrition.
ANYway… point is, as I was saying, that THAT type of game is pretty soft. As far as our adventure gaming goes, we have been coddled a bit…the RPG equivalent of everyone getting a juice box and a trophy at the end of the season. As with sports, part of the whole purpose of playing the games is THE PLAY ITSELF, not the accolades that may (or may not) be deserved for the playing. And if you make the fighting the centerpiece…and the fighting too easy…then the game starts to lose its luster, becoming less of an adventure and more of a…well, I don’t really know what you’d call it.
Actually, I guess that wasn’t really my point. My real point is that I like ogres. I need to mix some in to my next 5AK play-test. I wonder if I put them on-board a ship? Ooo-oo…maybe the PCs travel by ship to the Isle of Ogres. Oh, that sounds good!