Great Khan Enthroned

Great Khan Enthroned

Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Blog Retrospective-

I have spent a couple of days going over my last year's worth of blog posts trying to figure out how I could put together a retrospective for the year; because that's what all the cool kids in the OSR are doing now and I always jump on a trend while it's hot*. The only thing I am really certain about here is that I have written a lot, and on a lot of different topics. Everything from campaign reports to rules ideas to retro-reviews of old AD&D books to what I got in the mail, and I was offline due to computer problems for the better part of a month and had times when I just didn't post a lot due to either my own illness, or just being too busy, or being kind of depressed and too busy about what happened to Ashli at Army Basic Training.

I could go the Good, the Bad and the Ugly route and see what I thought was good and what sucked and what was just malformed on my blog. I could go the route of seeing what I have accomplished over the year, which isn't a bad idea. I'd kind of like to mention all the little orphan ideas that I had that never got a chance, because either we were already playing something or something else seemed like a better idea at the time we did start playing. I could just mention the posts that are most popular by blogger stats over the course of the year, but that is always going to skew towards older posts because they have existed longer. I'll save my new years resolutions for tomorrow, although I already have some in mind gaming-wise.

The orphans- Campaign ideas, some more fully formed than others, I kind of liked the whole post of Campaign Ideas I Have Had and I was pretty into the "Ruins of a Shattered Empire" and "Humans Only" ideas there, they never came to pass. More recently we have the epic chivalric goodness of this post and this post, and I never quite got around to doing a Norselands campaign either, which I talked about, practically as bookends to the year, on January 3rd of 2011 here and on December 29th of 2011 here. Also orphaned are my wife's Star Wars campaign and any Legend of the Five Rings campaign I might have run, but I did get my Oriental Adventures game off the ground as compensation for that.

I had a couple of orphaned game projects too, B/X WW II was going good, until it wasn't. My main D&D group was lukewarm on the project to start with, and I never got the second playtest group up and running. I still have the stuff for it, maybe I'll get back to it, eventually. B/X Star Wars, a simpler version of D20 Star Wars? Sign me up! Nope, I never did it. I am in good company there though because the same project failed at B/X Blackrazor. Oriental Adventures retro-clone, I proposed it and asked for volunteers to build a team for it, then Fabian and Dangerous Brian started doing it. Good work guys, but I do feel like I should have actually done some of the heavy lifting.

The Garnia Post-Apocalypse campaign- pretty much petered out. That poor game suffered cast changes and a real change of direction and tone when I let Lee Ann DM so I could recharge some and then Ashli went into the Army and we never got back to it. Ruby is still Ashli's favorite RPG character of all time, and may be the only reason Halflings get to stay in Garnia if they make the cut. Now I am in the process of completely re-booting the entire campaign setting, so the Apocalypse is pretty much moot, but it was fun while it lasted.

I got back into contact with several old gaming friends over the course of the last year. Darryl and I are working on the Garnia re-boot together, and plan for some further gaming. Lance and I have gamed together on several occasions, most recently the night before last, when he introduced me to the new game 7 Wonders. Nikki and I have made plans for her to join us for a D&D session a few times, but our schedules haven't meshed yet.

I bought a ton of old games and gaming stuff on EBay or through Amazon. Everything from stuff I used to have and either lost or sold off over the years, to stuff I wanted back in the day but couldn't find or afford at the time, to stuff that just struck my fancy as I was trolling the Ebay auctions looking for more stuff at discount prices. I stuck mostly to RPGs and miniatures, but grabbed the occasional wargame too. Speaking of which, these came in the mail today.

I have had a lot of opinions about a lot of gaming stuff. Sometimes it's been kind of cranky "In my day, we ...." type stuff, but a lot of it has been some fairly critical analysis of the rules and tropes of the genre that we just take for granted and never think about; this sort of thing actually surprises me because I really didn't think I was too concerned with that type of critical analysis; but I explored why I liked or didn't like different things about different versions of D&D, and I think that this has helped me understand the underlying principles of the game better. That said I also spent a lot of time regaling my audience with, what I hope were interesting, nostalgic tales of my early days of playing D&D.

What did I think were my stand out posts over the last year? I liked my posts on Magical Pools and Sacred Springs, the follow up on Shrines Too from last March. I liked my posts on Shields, Helmets and Shield Walls that ran from late June through mid-July until my computer died, oddly on the day that Ashli left for Basic Training, which was also my mother's birthday. The April posting blitz was pretty good too, although more for it's completely scatter-gun approach than for any unity of theme.

I didn't really post anything I didn't like, because I heavily self-edit so I won't come off damaging my dignitas on the internet; the same goes for malformed posts, although I have noticed in going through the year's posts a number of spelling and grammar errors that I wish there was an easy way to fix.

Other than gaming, lets see- I didn't do much SCA stuff this year. Multiple knee injuries kept me from fighting and that kind of depressed the hell out of me. I went to Florida for a Star Wars weekend at Disney World and hung out with my buddy Jeff, that was cool. I performed a marriage ceremony for my friend Scott and his lady, Debbie; that didn't go quite as planned but that had more to do with the caterer than anything else. We cleared a lot of land here. We didn't get any crops in or the chicken coop built, because it rained too much in the spring and early summer. I built a huge garage with my dad, my son John and my daughter Ember; some other people showed up on occasion to help too, and it's not quite finished yet, but we were the main work force. My oldest daughter went from triumph to tragedy, she graduated from Mexico High School covered in academic and ROTC honors and then went to Basic Training and came home two months later, broken; the US Army may be all about families while a soldier is fit to serve, but as soon as you are useless to them they want nothing more to do with you and will do everything in their considerable power to deny that they have any responsibilities towards you in the future. My sadness at how the US Army has treated my daughter, who only wanted to carry on a family tradition of military service, is truly great.

*Not actually true, although I did predict several trends when I was younger. Gourmet coffee, Single Malt Whisky, Cigars, Micro-Brewed Beers, and maybe a couple of others; although it was more out of a desire to have the finer things in life than any sense that I should be trendy. I think other people saw me enjoying myself and copied me.

Lots to go through

I am working on a bit of a year end retrospective, and there's quite a bit more to go through than I remembered from over the last year. I'll try and get it condensed for a post tomorrow.

Anyway, this came in the mail today-

I never owned this back in the day, but it's a pretty nice book. I play AD&D and 1st and 2nd edition are pretty compatible, so I figured when it popped up on my ebay radar cheap I'd give it a shot. I am not disappointed, although I would have been if I'd paid cover price for it; $18.00 US, it's a 5th printing from January of 1994 and apparently once belonged to "Sir Joseph A. Heinmiller I", it's 128 pages of weapons and equipment with some, mostly recycled from other TSR products, art. I am not really sure why it needed to be a blue covered DMG reference though, rather than a brown covered PH reference, since equipment is in the PH.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Winter, the Yuletide and Vikings?

When a young, or in my case, middle-aged*, DM's thought's turn to Vikings**. The snow on the ground and the cold in the air make going outside suck. I live in Oswego county in upstate New York, at the east end of Lake Ontario, where we usually measure our snowfall in feet rather than inches, so I am pretty accustomed to a Nordic, if not exactly Norse lifestyle. I wrote a bit on my other blog about my old Norselands campaign I ran back at the dawn of (my group's) 3e experience; and I have written here before about how I basically wrote a Viking Campaign Sourcebook so I could run a Viking campaign back at the dawn of the 2nd edition AD&D era too.

I like Vikings. I like their adventurous spirit. I like their no nonsense attitude. I like their religion. I like the way they treat their women. I like the kind of democratic institutions they had. I like their distinctive artistic style***. Viking style shields were made to be splintered and runes are pretty awesome too, am I right? I like to drink mead too, and have several friends that like to make it. I have made mead too, but not often. I like Vikings so much I have played one in the SCA****.

Plus, it's pretty easy to come up with plot hooks for a Viking campaign, these guys were all about getting rich and famous and their end game was to become a King, Jarl or die a heroic death. That's pretty old school D&D right there. Sure their mythology and sagas don't give a huge number of monsters to fight, but it's quality there rather than quantity. I was looking through my Saga mini-game the other day when my buddy Lance dropped by for some gaming and that map and game rules cry out to be adapted into a D&D game setting. You are essentially playing a middle to high level character when you start that game, and you fight some legendary monsters, pick up some henchmen, conquer some territories and fight against other heroes to see who will die as the most glorious hero of the age. There is some magic and some divine intervention and a few pretty sweet artifact type magic items and a few magic swords that are mostly not all that powerful, all in all, it makes for a pretty sweet little dark ages campaign setting with a fairly low magic level.

*Seriously, when did middle-aged start meaning 50+? Are people so deluded that they really believe their average life expectancy is 100+ years? I am 42 1/2 years old now, I think I can reasonably expect to live to be 85 given today's medical technology and my family history. Human mortality exists, deal with it.

**Weird, right? It's been almost exactly a year since I wrote that. I never ran that proposed campaign, I am now in contact with both Lance and Darryl though.

***OK, styles, but they are related, evolving over time and from place to place.

****And I may do it again, the clothes are comfortable and easy to make (or so I am told, Mona makes them), and they wear well, since they are similar to our own in most respects. My wife and daughters like viking women's clothes too.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

My Other Blog

Nice Viking says- "Pick me!"

On my other blog I am running a poll on what Human ethnicities to include, even if you don't follow that blog (and most of you don't), here's your chance to affect the future of my campaign world!

Monday, December 26, 2011

A Gift for Gamers Everywhere!

You'll have to head on over here to get it. I had nothing to do with it's creation, I am just trying to spread the cheer from the OSR to the rest of the world.

Also, since everyone is sharing their Christmas memories, it occurs to me that it was 30 Christmases before the one we just had when I got my AD&D 1st edition Players Handbook and Dungeon Masters Guide. The DMG was from my dad and the PH was from my little brother, who was 3 weeks shy of his 3rd birthday. I had already bought for myself the Holmes Basic boxed set and the AD&D Monster Manual. I still have those AD&D books.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve & Glad Yule

First off, I'd like to wish all my readers a Merry Christmas and a Glad Yule.

I celebrate Christmas here more out of a sense of cultural imperative than any religious meaning, I am not a Christian, nor are my wife and kids. Honestly most of the people I know are not, unless they are at least as old as my parents, which is why the religious right getting involved in and powerful within politics always scares the hell out of me. Most of the people I know that are roughly my own age are, at best, nominally Christian if they profess that religion at all. A good number of my peers are Atheists or Pagans of one stripe or another, but we all pretty much celebrate Christmas anyway, although some of us call it Yule and point out that the Christians took most of their holiday traditions from either the Germanic Yule or the Roman Saturnalia, both of which occurred at roughly the same time of year and had more fun traditions than praying in church all day, like gift giving and parties, but I digress; this isn't really a post about the Christian take over of Yule.

My family always had a tradition of giving us kids one gift on Christmas Eve, I modified it slightly today and gave my kids the "family" gift of a new X-Box Kinect and set it up and transferred over the X-Box live accounts and all that, the kids have had fun with it and so have I; between waving your hand at it and using voice commands it's like a cross between being a Jedi and having a Star Trek voice activated computer. The coolest thing about this was that Fed-Ex delivered it today, Amazon said it wasn't supposed to be here until after Christmas, they upgraded the shipping on it free of charge and of their own volition.

Oh, and this came in the mail today too-

Not as complete as I'd hoped when I was bidding, but OK for the price.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Thinking about Thieves

So I got to thinking about Thieves and how they weren't in OD&D originally. I chatted with my buddy Darryl about it and I talked a little bit with my wife Mona and I got to thinking that the introduction of the Thief class, in whatever supplement it was, started the slippery slope of Skills and Non-Weapon Proficiencies that later proliferated through AD&D in both editions and has made 3rd and, from what I hear, 4th edition a skill based math nightmare that you practically need a computer to assist creation of characters and run combats, it also took the roleplaying and player skill aspect out of the game when people just started rolling search checks to search rooms or bluff checks to BS the guards, but that's another post waiting to happen someday.

The real and biggest problem with the introduction of the Thief class was that as soon as it came along and codified "Thief Skills", suddenly everyone felt like they couldn't do any of those things themselves anymore. So, for however many years before whatever supplement introduced the Thief came out, Fighting Men, Clerics and Magic-Users, Hobbits, Elves and Dwarves all were finding traps and presumably opening locks and climbing walls and hiding in shadows and moving silently when necessary and now, all of a sudden, they lost that ability because it wasn't coded onto their character sheet? It used to be the DM's call, he'd take the situational modifiers into account and make a judgment, now all that changed with the introduction of a new specialist class.

AD&D made the problem worse, first with Weapon Proficiencies; because now everyone had just a couple of weapons they really knew how to use, instead of the broad (or tight) range they used to; then with the mid- 1st edition AD&D introduction of Non-Weapon Proficiencies it got even worse, the Thief skill problem was magnified by orders of magnitude. Sure, I loved the idea when they were introduced in the Oriental Adventures book, and every group I know played with them all through the 2nd edition AD&D era, despite the fact that they were an optional rule. We loved the rules crunchiness of them all. By the end of the 2nd edition era I had adapted the NWP system to my Garnia campaign and had set up NWP packages based on your race and socio-economic background; I like randomness in character generation; by the time of the 3e era I had ported that system over to the newer Skill system too. Sadly, most of those documents are lost, but since I have grown to despise the system anyway I guess it's for the best, but it may have been nice just for the historical value.

Anyway, I kind of meandered away from the point I was making there, so I'll get back to it, as soon as the NWPs (or Skills) were codified into rules and onto character sheets, suddenly no one could do any of those things anymore. Maybe none of the players in your campaign had ever thought to have their Druid or Ranger or just their what ever class character with a woodsy background ever try to find a healing herb in the forest before, but now they never would without herbalism. Try hunting without the Hunting NWP? Preposterous! Fishing without the Fishing NWP? Not going to happen. Suddenly all of these characters that should have been easily able to survive in the woods are going to starve to death if they picked the wrong NWPs when they made their characters, all because the players think they can't do it now because it doesn't say they can on their character sheet, and it all started with the Thief.

Those were just the examples I came up with off the top of my head relating to wilderness adventuring, there are probably thousands of other examples you could come up with based on the NWP/Skill proliferation in AD&D and later D&D systems. But what it all boils down to I guess for me is this- Why can't a Fighter climb a wall? Or a Magic-User pick a lock? Or a Cleric hide in shadows until the Orcs pass? The Fighter might have to lighten his load a bit, drop his shield, maybe even take off his armor, depending on what it is and how hard the climb is, but why can't he do it? The Magic-User is a pretty smart guy, he should be able to figure out how locks work, if he has any reasonably decent Dexterity, say 9+, he ought to have a shot at it with the right materials, like, say, a set of lock picks. Hiding in Shadows is even easier, just get into the dark, try and get low or behind something and don't move or make noise. OK, that may be cheating a bit, because usually when a Thief does it they are trying to maneuver through the darkness to their advantage, but a Cleric should have a chance at that too, but he doesn't for the same reason the Magic-User and the Fighter don't, because the Thief explicitly does.

What's worse is that the Thief is the most contentious player character class, like they were deliberately designed to screw over the rest of the party. There is a certain type of player out there that thrives on playing Thief characters just because he enjoys ruining the fun for the other players and any sense of cooperation between the party members. The skills on his character sheet and the name of his class pretty much tell you that you should play a Thief this way. That's pretty much the way every Thief was played back when I was a teenager and even when I was in my twenties I saw a lot of my peers playing Thieves that way. The attitude didn't change much when the name changed to Rogue either. I don't have much of a problem with intra-party conflict just because one player was a stupid, fun-killing-for-his-own-amusement, chaos monkey these days; but then I observe a pretty strict no gaming with jerks rule nowadays.

Between these issues, and the issue of Ability Score inflation, with the much greater importance of higher ability scores in AD&D than in any version of D&D from OD&D through Cyclopedia, I am giving serious thought to starting my next game as either B/X (LL) or OD&D (S&W White Box). B/X still has the Thief, and both of them have race as class, which I am not sold on, raised as I was on AD&D, but I can always house rule that stuff or check out Labyrinth Lord's AEC.

I also started a second blog. It's a blog specifically dedicated to the development of my Garnia campaign world and currently has two contributors, myself and my longtime Garnia co-developer and friend Darryl. Right now the entire thing is just a long conversation between the two of us asking questions and answering back and forth, but if anyone is really interested in the creative process there, you are seeing something like 75% of all the new stuff right there, the rest has been usually over the phone or via email. Older stuff can be gleaned from blog posts here tagged "Garnia" or from the Obsidian Portal site, or you can just ask me questions if you are curious. Actually comments and questions might be helpful to spur the development process, and if anyone is really interested I am not averse to adding more team members.

Here's what I got in the mail today.

I got them both for a pretty sweet bargain, so it doesn't even really bother me that it doesn't look like Mona will actually be running a Star Wars game for us, and these books are in seriously pristine condition, like they were never even opened and read before.

I also stopped at a Salvation Army Thrift Store and found a pristine copy of "Star Trek - Tales of the Dominion War", which is an anthology edited by Keith R.A. DeCandido, who is probably my favorite Star Trek author; this book is out of print and has been on my Amazon wish list for a while, so finding it there and for the super discount price was awesome, plus it's nice that it helps people out too.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Couple More Quick Thoughts-

First- The Horde boxed set- Did TSR ever release any other campaign setting that they instantly nuked as part of their marketing strategy? It occurred to me as I was flipping through the contents of the boxed set that TSR published exactly eight things for this entire setting, including the boxed set for the setting itself (The Horde TSR 1055). There were three tie in novels- The Empires Trilogy (Which I incorrectly identified as the Hordelands trilogy in my last post); Horselords by David Cook, Dragonwall by Troy Denning, and Crusade by James Lowder. There were three tie in modules, these were the Hordelands trilogy; Storm Riders by Troy Denning, Black Courser by Troy Denning, and Blood Charge also by Troy Denning. Lastly, TSR released the Forgotten Realms Horde Campaign, which is part history book for the events detailed in the novels and modules and part Battle System supplement; it kind of reads like an Osprey book but with crappier art, Doug Chaffee is no Angus McBride.

My point here is that everything they used to market the campaign setting boxed set completely destroyed the campaign setting as presented in the boxed set. Yamun is dead, all of the tribes are unraveling into a bunch of warring rivals rather than the unified Horde presented in the boxed set; in short, they nuked the boxed set to market the boxed set. Furthermore, and I alluded to this in my last post also, even the adventure in the boxed set assumes that all of the characters are going to be foreigners that get caught up in dealing with the natives as the enemy. The three published modules feature the Horde as the enemy. The three published novels feature the Horde mostly as the enemy, always as the other. Since this is the era of 2nd edition AD&D and we have a plethora of campaign settings ranging from the fairly vanilla Forgotten Realms to the slightly off Dragonlance to the pretty out there Darksun to the fairly wild Planescape and Spelljammer; and there were all of those historical settings too Vikings, Celts, Charlemagne's Paladins, and the other ones I don't own. I also did a little research on the internet and saw that Al-Qadim was pretty heavily supported with modules and boxed sets and books, so what the hell, why not the Horde (or Kara-Tur, but don't get me started there)? You think maybe, between their strategy of making the campaign setting not particularly playable as a character from that setting, their marketing strategy of making everything in the campaign setting boxed set irrelevant, and their complete lack of support for the setting in any way after it's initial release might have had something to do with it's lack of popularity as a setting? A "Complete Horde Handbook" detailing how to make and play characters from that setting might have breathed just a little life into it, and we know TSR loved to print them for every conceivable topic.

Second- You ever wonder why EGG decided to make three core classes for OD&D instead of just two? Wouldn't things have been so much easier if we had just had Fighting Men and Magic-Users? His separation of divine magic from arcane magic has led to a lot of weirdness over the years and I am not really sure where he got it from. All of the pulp sword & sorcery fiction he liked to read pretty much has just one type of Magic-User, whether he's called a Priest or a Sorcerer is really irrelevant. Think of how much effort it would have saved having just one spell list. Sure, spell casters would have to pick whether they wanted to have an assortment of healing/Cleric type spells or go with more offensive Magic-User type spells, but they already have to pick how offensive/defensive/other they want their spell list to be anyway, that's a huge part of the tactical burden of playing a spell caster, and that's why the smartest tactician in the group usually plays the Magic-User. Even if he'd rather be playing the Paladin.

I don't mean to be down on Clerics here, although Clerics are really just light Fighters with some Divine abilities; actually I think their Turn Undead ability is probably more helpful than most of their spells, which leads me to-

Third- I have been rolling this one around in my head for a couple, three days and I chatted with my Cleric loving wife about it a bit, Cleric Cure X Wounds spells kind of blow. I mean they're great at low level, but once you start leveling up a Cure Light Wounds spell just ain't what she used to be. So I got to thinking, let's say you're a 10th level Fighter and I'm a 1st level Fighter, assume I got lucky and I have 10 Hit Points at full, you have 56 at full because you were only slightly luckier than average and neither of us has a CON bonus. A Cure Light Wounds Spell heals 1d8 points of damage and can be cast by a 1st level Cleric, sometimes multiple times if he has a WIS bonus. At 1st level, even with 10 HP, the maximum of 8 HP the spell can heal is a nearly mortal wound on me, not a light one, but with your 56 HP it's maximum of 8 HP healed is barely healing a scratch on you. So I had a thought that maybe, we should be healing based on the Hit Dice of the Character being healed, rather than arbitrarily healing a nearly mortal wound at the light wounds healing level on low level characters and only scratches on higher level characters, who really get to suffer when it comes to Cure Serious and Cure Critical Wounds spells. I didn't really want to say anything, but Cure Serious and Cure Critical Wounds are really shit spells for their levels, essentially equaling two and three Cure Light Wounds spells respectively, only you have to be 7th and 9th level, respectively, to cast them. There are way better spells out there by then to be casting and if your party really needs the 2d8+1 Cure Serious Wounds when everyone in the party is roughly 7th level- the Thief will average 1 level higher, everyone else 1 level lower and catching up before you level again- you guys are in pretty bad shape, even worse when the same thing happens at level 9 and you all really need that 3d8+1 Cure Critical Wounds spell- I contend that the only one in the party at 9th level that this would be a critical wound on is the party Magic-User, and maybe not even him.

I haven't really thought it through in a number crunchy rules kind of a way, because I see the immediate drawback of it screwing over low level characters by only healing them a hit point or two every time they get a Cure Light Wounds spell cast on them, but the idea is intriguing to me simply because it makes more sense.

Monday, December 19, 2011

OA Session Report 18 DEC 2011

I was sick, but DMed anyway, since I was on the mend. Dalton didn't show up for the game because he had a death in the family. Lee Ann came and brought her two little girls, Amelia and Deanna, to play too, since they have been playing in a home D&D campaign where they get to be Mermaids. She quickly rolled up a pair of Fighter characters for them, SuGyong and MiGyong, and added them as Chaka's retainers, since she is pretty much a Steppe Barbarian princess. Ashli started her new character, the Korobokuru Barbarian Natsua of the Bearkiller Clan and retired her old character, the seriously unlucky Kensei Yuma Aiko. Em retired her Sohei Natsumi and started her new Samurai Kato Momoko. Since Dalton couldn't be here, and we had enough people, I had his character and retainers stay at the inn, having contracted a "swamp-fever" on the march home.John was here, but couldn't play because he had a pile of school work that needed attending to. John was here, but couldn't play because he had a pile of school work that needed attending to, so Katsuo the Wu Jen and his Bushi Henchman Kenshin also got the "Swamp-Fever". So, out of the original party, only Mona's character Misaki the Hengeyokai Shugenja was going out for another foray to the Moathouse.

Two noteworthy things to mention here. First, it's hard to pretty much start over in the same adventure with an (almost) entirely new party. Second, it's hard to tone down what had been a pretty PG-13* rated adventure, where the youngest player was my fourteen year old daughter, so I got to make the judgment calls, to a G rated adventure for the inclusion of a six year old and an eight year old. Remember the eerie horror elements I have been slowly adding and alluding to? I don't think that's going to work with a first grader and a third grader in the room. Ultimately the Temple of Elemental Evil focuses on a fight against Demons and their worshipers, having small children in the party will throw me off my proposed game.

Anyway, I am now in a position of having to either completely alter my game so I can accommodate Lee and her kids, and I am not sure if not accommodating her is a deal breaker or not as to whether or not she'll be able to make it at all; or telling her to not bring the kids again and maybe losing one of my players, and we all really like Lee. So that sucks.

Other than that we mostly just explored a little more of the top level of the Moathouse, I really wish my OA conversion notes hadn't disappeared, I just worked from my memory on that, but I am sure it would have been better with my actual Japanification of the Moathouse. They pretty much cleared the north side.

Here's what came in the mail today.

I bought this right after Lee Ann rolled up a Steppe Barbarian character, because I forgot that not everyone is a setting nazi like me and wants to know everything about the imaginary culture from which their D&D character has come. This is billed as an AD&D 2nd edition product, it was published in 1990, but it makes heavy use of 1st edition Oriental Adventures materials. I remember buying the Hordelands trilogy of novels when they came out, I was interested in the Mongols and how they would fit into a fantasy world then and I still am. My online persona as Jagatai, Khakhan of the Steppe Warriors comes directly from the continuity of the Forgotten Realms and AOL's Neverwinter Nights- we used the idea that Yamun Khahan's defeat by Azoun's crusade at the Battle of the Golden Way** was our origin story as a guild***. I probably should have owned this product before now, I had read it before and was unimpressed at the time, probably because I was expecting something meatier, like say, the Oriental Adventures book (also written by David "Zeb" Cook), but as a campaign boxed set goes it really isn't bad. Some better ideas on how to run a campaign set in the area would have been nice, or any at all really, and it makes the assumption that you really aren't going to play a character from the "Endless Waste", you're probably going to be a "regular" AD&D character passing through, which is too bad. It comes with a lot of cool bits, some pretty lame stuff thrown in to make it a whole boxed set, and a few ideas that a clever, enterprising DM might be able to mine out of there for running an actual campaign in this campaign setting, but really it's just an add-on for the Forgotten Realms, and it arbitrarily changes the scale of all of the Kara-Tur maps by 1/3 "to improve play" which kind of irritates me. It does make me kind of want to get Al-Qadim though and see how they did that, to see if they got around to doing exotic settings right, plus, as I understand it, doesn't Al-Qadim fit in there too somewhere?

*Hollywood would probably give me an R for violence, and maybe I deserve it for some of the creepy/disturbing stuff I throw in, but I try to keep my descriptions and plotlines from getting too graphic. I played in a Living Greyhawk game once where small humanoids were kidnapping human children to be sex slaves, that's pretty messed up; I wouldn't go there. It did make sure we killed every last one of them though.

**Yamun was robbed by Azoun's plot immunity. His failure to conquer Shou Lung and all of Faerun is total BS from any military standpoint, seriously, play it out using Battlesystem or Warmachine rules or pick a wargame. Yamun's forces should have won that battle, fighting it out using the tactics described in the Horde Campaign (FR 12) requires that Yamun and all of his generals receive frontal lobotomies prior to engaging the crusaders; they have literally never acted in a like manner in any previous battle in the book. Nor did they behave in such a manner in any book of the Hordelands trilogy, until it was required to keep the Realms at status quo ante bellum.

***I am the second Khakhan since Yamun, Ogotai (AKA Darryl C.) having been before me, reigning from our inception as a guild until 1997.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

AD&D vs. Bards, Vates & Druids

Or, do we need a special subclass for everything? I am knee deep in a redesign of my Garnia campaign world that I have worked on and played in since I was in 7th grade, I am 42 now so that's right around 30 years. Garnia had her greatest periods of development right when we started and later on in the late 1990's when I did the first serious overhaul. All of this got me to thinking about how AD&D works and whether or not I should be using it or some other form of D&D, house ruled for the campaign world of course, or just, as Darryl has suggested, create the world logically and system neutral, then let any system adapt to it; which makes a great deal of sense, but since I actually want to game there and playtest things as I go, I am inclined towards going with a Holmes-B/X bastard child moving towards AD&D, heavily house ruled to fit the unique culture and setting of the campaign.

But- I keep coming back to the same basic questions about classes and subclasses, wasn't the Fighter good enough? Did the Ranger and the Paladin really represent such different Fighter archetypes that they could not be modeled by playing a Fighter as a woodsman/anti-giant/protector of civilization, but living outside of it? I always get the impression that someone in EGG's gaming group pestered him until he let him play Aragorn junior and now we're stuck with it. The same thing with Holger Carlsen and the Paladin. He pretty much admitted that was how the Monk slipped into the game.

I guess where I am going with this is that by making subclasses, we're pretty much just making new character builds with different "feats" and "skills" than the standard Fighter build, in the case of Rangers or Paladins (or Barbarians if you want to go all UA). Sure they pay for this with slower level advancement and some roleplaying restrictions, but couldn't all of these subclasses have been played, albeit less mechanically effectively, through roleplay? In one of the early D&D books, I don't remember which one or where, it said something like "A Fighting Man might be a Knight, or a Viking or a Japanese Samurai"; I am probably mangling the quote, but I can't remember where to look for it right now; anyway, if that's the case, are any subclasses necessary at all?

Which brings me to the Bard. Overpowered and nigh impossible to achieve in ordinary play in 1st edition AD&D, poorly conceived and executed in later editions. Historical Bards are members of the Druidic class/hierarchy, as much as we can document them at all, they are the repositories of historical, legal and genealogical information for a preliterate society, as well as serving as entertainers. Bards spent something like twenty years learning all of the stuff they needed to know before they were ready to be real Bards (Druids too, but that's a different topic), they needed to memorize all of these laws and historical facts and genealogies and they did so by using poetry as an aid to memory. That actually makes a lot of sense, I can remember a lot of lyrics to songs from over twenty years ago as soon as I hear them start to play again, I might stumble here or there, but I get most of them, even with songs I didn't like at the time if I heard them enough; if it was a song I liked I can here the Muzak version of it and start to sing along. My wife says that my life is like one big Karaoke night.

Getting back to entertainment now, they had a different set of standards for entertainment than we do now, particularly for what was going to be the entertainment of the upper class, which in Celtic society, where Bards come from, is a warrior elite; so the history and genealogy are going to be important to crafting the entertainment for these people. They liked stories and songs about their own heroic deeds and the heroic deeds of their ancestors. They also liked fantastic tales about supernatural things and tragic tales and romances, but a good heroic tale is always a crowd pleaser and you can always tell one that includes elements of those other things, heroic tragedy is popular for instance, because how many heroes really live happy lives after completing their heroic tasks, raise a family and die happy in their sleep? Furthermore, and going back to the telling of tales about your patron and his ancestors, I firmly believe poetic license was invented to put a political spin on events back in the day; Bards are sworn to tell the truth, but they can try to tell the truth in the best possible light for their patron.

Now, bringing me back to my topic, is a separate subclass really necessary for the Bard? Or could he be played as a Cleric in this case, since he has his ties to, and training from organized religion. Should he just be a Druid? I have never been 100% happy with the AD&D presentation of Druids as nature priests to be honest, and I have given serious consideration to making the Druid class as written an Elven only Cleric substitute, and probably renaming it something like "Elven Nature Priest", although I'd probably change the weapon restrictions, if I end up keeping them in my future games at all. AD&D, as EGG was writing it, seemed to be subclassing itself into madness*; sub-racing too, but that's another topic for another day too, counting the AD&D 1st edition books published by TSR while EGG still worked there, you have six core classes- Fighter, Cavalier, Magic-User, Cleric, Thief and Monk. The Fighter has five subclasses, the Ranger, the Barbarian, the Oriental Barbarian (yes, they are slightly different), the Kensai and the Bushi. The Cavalier has two subclasses, the Paladin and the Samurai. The Magic-User has two subclasses, the Illusionist and the Wu Jen. The Cleric has three subclasses, the Druid, the Shukenja and the Sohei. The Thief has four subclasses, the Assassin, the Thief-Acrobat, the Ninja and the Yakuza. The Monk has not so much a subclass as an alternate version presented in the Oriental Adventures book, but I guess you could consider it to be a second Monk, so Monk and Monk II. Then you have the solitary optional class, the Bard. OD&D had three (3) classes, Fighting Man, Cleric and Magic-User, and no subclasses, until supplements started arriving. Gygax era AD&D has twenty-four (24) to choose from, and he was promising more. Even if you discount the OA classes, and I don't, simply because they are the basis for my entire argument that you SHOULD tailor classes (and races) to fit your campaign, not try and shoehorn in all of the D&D/AD&D spectrum, but even if you ditch those OA classes there are still fourteen classes to choose from, and again, EGG was promising more.

And yes, I never understood either why Cavalier wasn't a subclass of Fighter, it was when it was initially presented in Dragon Magazine #72; and why, if the Samurai is a subclass of the Cavalier, doesn't it get the Cavalier's crazy stat raising ability? Am I alone in believing that the Unearthed Arcana Cavalier was possibly the most ill conceived, or at least, poorly executed 1st edition AD&D character class of them all? Remember, UA also had the Barbarian, so take your time to think it over.

I guess the issue here is that power levels in AD&D kept increasing over time, like stat inflation from OD&D to AD&D, so maybe I am a little gun shy here. I played through all these editions. With 1st edition, when UA came out suddenly there were Barbarians and Cavaliers everywhere, until they got banned and UA became the Apocrypha of 1st edition AD&D; at least around here. There was always an uneasy truce about what bits of UA we were willing to allow to be cherry-picked out and allowed into games, mostly the DM's section was considered kosher, but the rest was at his discretion, and he could alter it at will. 2nd edition had the Complete series of splatbooks, with the Kit and Non-Weapon Proficiency proliferation. 3e had splatbooks for every class and race too, giving us Skill and Feat proliferation and character build maximization***.

So, my thought here is that I go one of two routes with my Garnia reboot, I either kill all subclasses and just have people play their characters how they want them to be, with no mechanics attached, really old school; or I go Gygaxian and essentially recreate all of the classes from their core outward, including numerous subclasses to enhance the flavor of the campaign. Since Garnia is a pretty non-standard AD&D game world for a standard AD&D game world, that might just be the route to go. However, if I do that, then I need to have a Bard class that doesn't suck, and it needs to be more than a roguish minstrel type with some minor magical skills based in song. My Bard needs to be a guy that has a long education with a religious order and a fairly privileged place in society. Sure he knows how to create poetry and song at a moments notice, and will have some lore skills, and he'll know the law, heraldry, courtly manners and forms of address and all that too. He may be kind of a jack-of-all-trades, but I don't see him as having Thief skills, and any magic he has will probably be of the Enchantment/Charm variety. Maybe I'd give them some Divination, because that's all about knowing stuff. I can see an argument for Illusion spells, because they are all about making people believe things. Druid spells may be appropriate too, just because historical Druids did study nature somewhat, according to the surviving sources we have, particularly if you include all the batshit crazy invented/discovered stuff about the Druids** that has been surfacing since the 17th century or so. So I guess I'd most likely make them a unique spell list taken from the AD&D spell lists of Clerics and Druids, Magic-Users and Illusionists. In system neutral terms that would make them minor spell casters, generally.

I mentioned Vates in the title of the post too, the third, and least well known and documented class of Druid, they were seers. In the 2nd edition AD&D Celts Campaign Sourcebook (HR3 Celts), they were called Manteis and were their own class of Priest, my wife played one in a short, but fairly important campaign in the late 1990s, it was perhaps seminal to the development of Garnia and what it would become, so 2nd edition AD&D influences the development of my (at this point nominally) 1st edition AD&D campaign, is this a paradox? Anyway, there was something off about this character class, that I really didn't like, but I don't remember what it was now, since it was something like 1999 when we played this game. I am tempted to keep them as they were written and make them NPCs.

So, in closing, I don't know if I have worked anything out; I may have asked more questions than I answered for myself and for anyone reading this. Sorry about that. I am like that sometimes.

Also, keen observers will note that I am now using my Google+ profile, so I am no longer the super cool Great Khan Jagatai, except in my heart, as the Mighty Google has decreed that I must use my real name with my Google+ account, and I wanted to feed my blog to there too, so to connect the accounts my nifty net moniker had to go.

Oh, and I got this mixed bag of stuff in the mail the other day.

I had been looking to get the D20 Star Wars Revised Core Rules, so now I have all three WotC versions for comparison. The Galactic Campaign Guide & Hero's Guide were just a bonus, as was the Star Trek Encyclopedia. I got them for the minimum bid, and they had free shipping, it was a good deal, but I was almost annoyed that they were only shipping from Syracuse, NY; I could have driven there and picked them up the day I won the auction, but that would have cost me gas money and the shipping was free, so there you go.

*Although, to my disappointment, we never got the Witch we were promised in Holmes Basic.

**To be fair, this may have been where EGG got much of his information about the Druids, they are certainly more interesting this way, and there is an abundance of information available once you go to the, shall we say, less reliable sources about the Druids; and I certainly can't fault him for using it in a fantasy game. That being said, my Garnia, despite being a fantasy world, has a firm grounding in the real culture(s) of the Celts.

***3e was the first time I ever played D&D and watched my players planning out what Classes, Feats and Skills they were planning on taking for their next few levels, a part of my DMing soul died then; another part died when I realized I was playing a tactical miniatures skirmish game instead of an RPG, but it was a tactical miniatures skirmish game with explicit rules on how difficult I was allowed to make the combat encounters for the players- I was playing a skirmish game with miniatures that the rules insisted that , no matter how much I outnumber my opponents, or how well I play, I am expected to lose; and lose while inflicting minimal losses on my opponents. On top of all of that, as DM, I also needed to remember multiple modifiers for every combat, modifiers for my miniatures and modifiers for the PCs, that drove me a little crazy too. Honestly, I have no idea how they can market 3rd or 4th edition as a beginners game, I know for 3e, that for every rule they simplified it seemed like they added three to make it more complex. Look at it this way, I play 1st edition now (kind of), and my party in about 5-6 hours of "game time" will usually get a fair amount of actual roleplaying in, some investigation or exploration and two or three small combats and one or two big combats; less if there is a lot of BSing around the table or too many breaks, but in a 5-6 hour session that's not too bad. Hell, it usually takes us an hour to settle in to start to play. In 3e we'd be lucky to get one big combat in during that time and maybe one smaller combat, with a little bit of investigation/exploration. I don't know, but I have heard that it is worse in 4th edition.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Character Generation II

In my brief history of D&D character generation and stat importance yesterday, I left out a rule that has existed since OD&D, through every edition of Basic from Holmes to Cyclopedia with minor variations, but got skipped in AD&D; the ability to alter a Prime Requisite Ability score by lowering another stat or stats. Given the importance of exceptional ability scores in AD&D I find this to be a curious rule to drop; I mean in the first paragraph on page 9 of the 1st edition AD&D Players Handbook it says that "The premise of the game is that each player character is above average -- at least in some respects-- and has superior potential. Furthermore, it is usually essential to the character's survival to be exceptional (with a rating of 15 or above) in no fewer than two ability characteristics."; and yet, the ability to alter your randomly generated ability scores is absent from AD&D, forcing you to rely on luck alone (or cheating) to create a character with at least two 15+ ability scores.

In OD&D, where your ability scores aren't nearly as important, you can raise your Strength if you are a Fighting Man, your Wisdom if you are a Cleric or your Intelligence if you are a Magic-User*, at the cost of two for one or three for one, depending on your class and the stat you are decreasing, for instance Fighting Men trade Intelligence at minus two for plus one point of Strength, but Wisdom at minus three to plus one point of Strength. You are never allowed to drop Intelligence or Wisdom to below average, or nine (9), so if you rolled poorly I guess you don't get to trade. It works similarly for both Clerics and Magic-Users.

In all versions of Basic, you can't touch Charisma or Constitution, and the addition of the Thief class means that Dexterity can be raised but not lowered. They all have slightly different versions of the rule; Holmes and Moldvay go through on a class by class basis and tell you what Ability Score can be lowered to raise your Prime Requisite, and what it will cost. I don't have Mentzer, but I assume it's the same as Cyclopedia, where you can pretty much drop points at a 2:1 ratio as long as you don't drop below 9, raise above 18, and you don't touch Constitution, Dexterity or Charisma for lowering purposes.

*Did EGG have a real issue with using the words Wizard or Sorcerer? Magic-User is such a ponderous name for the class I am surprised that it caught on, and yet, three decades after I started using the term I still use it.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Character Generation- How Do You Roll?

This post started life as a comment on the "Dreams in the Lich House" blog, but I realized that it was really long and figured I might just as well turn it into a post here. Take a minute and go read that post, if you haven't already, I'll still be here when you get back.


I voted for my preference for 3d6x6 in order, but that's not how we play AD&D here most of the time. I started playing D&D with Holmes Basic and ability scores weren't as important there, but in AD&D they take a wild leap forward in importance for the playability and survivability of your character. In OD&D the highest bonus was +1, the worst penalty was -1, as far as I can tell there is no Strength bonus for Fighting Men at all other than an XP bonus. Holmes Basic follows this pattern, but ups the Constitution bonus to +3 at 18. Moldvay Basic* really ups the ante as far as ability score modifiers with most stats having modifiers that range from -3 to +3, Charisma being the lone hold out with it's -2 to +2 range. AD&D explodes modifiers though, particularly Strength, where it separates the To Hit modifier from the Damage modifier and adds Percentile Strength to Fighters and their Sub-Classes that roll an 18. So suddenly for Strength alone you have modifiers that range from -3/-1 to +3/+6; admittedly that's the most egregious case of stat bonus/penalty inflation, but it does pretty clearly show the advancement of stat importance through the editions.

As a DM I have taken to going with one of two options for character generation. Option A- roll 4d6(drop the lowest)x6 arrange to taste, or option B- roll 4d6(drop the lowest)x7 in order drop the lowest stat**. I still play with a "Hopeless Character" clause too, if you roll a character with either option that has no stats higher than a 9 or has multiple negative modifiers, just give it to me and I'll use it as an NPC sometime maybe. I usually give them one "free" re-roll too, just in case they think they can do better, but they give up the first character in those cases as if it were hopeless. I guess I have gotten soft as a DM lately.

Then there's the Mona Rule- Named after my wife, who has notoriously bad luck with dice, this rule is, essentially, if you roll more than two hopeless characters in a row, the other players can each grab a single die and roll instead of you (assuming there are at least four players, otherwise the DM can take a die too, or a player can take more than one die to make up the difference; it's not ever been an issue) and roll your character for you while you record the results; this rule is designed to save time and stop Mona from saying things like "I think it could be a great role playing challenge to play a character with no stat higher than a 10 and multiple penalties"; a second, rarely used option for saving time is to have me pregenerate characters, given my extraordinary luck with dice and the fact that this is well known, I am always shocked when I offer and no one accepts. I guess the thrill of generating a PC of your own is still a mighty thing.

I would like to try some "Iron Man" AD&D again sometime, where everyone rolls 3d6 in order and plays what they roll, but we tried that last year and got a pretty lackluster party and a good time was not had by all. I think that's because of the expectations of the players when playing AD&D, looking at the stat modifiers, particularly if they have ever seen a copy of Unearthed Arcana and it's crazy munchkin maker stat rolling systems, they just assume that any character that doesn't have X number of bonuses is destined to be a failure.

I have tried playing OD&D, B/X and Cyclopedia with my group over the last few years, and they have pretty solidly rejected anything but AD&D, which is odd because none of the gamers I play with now have a rules heavy or wargamer background. I think they just like the greater range of choices in race and class, multi-classing options, larger hit die types and maybe the proliferation of polearms. We don't use a lot of AD&D rules as written, like most people I house rule a lot of stuff and always have. I've never used the Weapons vs. AC table for instance, and unarmed combat in AD&D is a nightmare, I have banned Psionics, Monks, Assassins, Bards & Gnomes and I am on the fence about Halflings. I have added and subtracted rules from pretty much every edition of D&D I have ever come across and played. I actually like 3e's Saving Throw system better, 2nd edition did Thieves Skills better and initiative, although with my current game I have returned to the simple d6 party initiative, I have found over the years that you go with the complexity level that the group you are playing with is comfortable at. I liked the way Clerics could trade spells for healing in 3e and that Wizards got bonus spells for high Intelligence, so I added them to my 1st edition game. I also took the old house rule that became standard procedure in 3e and give everyone maximum Hit Points at 1st level, it's a small thing, but I guess it may be a kind of heresy.

*Moldvay Basic & later Basic D&D editions postdate the publication of AD&D, so there may have been a little cross pollination/contamination there. I can't comment on Mentzer Basic because I don't have a copy, but Cyclopedia D&D goes -3 to +3 across the board for everything.

**Or whichever stat is most advantageous for you to drop, usually that would be the lowest, but not always if you have a specific character class in mind.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

7th Grade Garnia

Back when I was in 7th grade I started farming out work on my "World of Garnia" to my friend Darryl*. He wanted to help out with cartography and I knew my map sucked, artistically inclined I am not; but in our haste to start the project we accidentally created an entirely new world. You see I was on the phone with him and he wanted to get started right away**, so I just described the countries, their relative sizes to each other, and how they were placed in location vis-a-vis one another. Something was lost in translation though and he moved a couple of countries and started some work on some history, and by some, I mean a lot, and a lot of maps to go with the history. By the time I saw what he had started I didn't want to change anything, so a new Garnia was born.

I don't have a lot of early Garnia stuff anymore, but I do have two of his maps from various points in his expansive, and long since declared apocryphal, history. I have a much later map that I drew using GIMP or Paintshop Pro and a hand drawn map that my wife did based off of that too. I once made a pretty cool Civilization II map that I played on a lot, and that's what mine and Mona's maps are based on, sadly, that map is lost now; but this is about early Garnia, so I'll talk about those maps some other time.

What struck me first about Darryl's old maps was the fact that there were entire countries that I had forgotten the existence of, they had been written out of my Garnia canon so long ago I had essentially scrubbed them from my brain. Asros was one, the weird thing about them is that, despite the fact that his maps have the "modern" borders of all of the countries outlined, I honestly couldn't tell you where Asros was supposed to be except to the east of Garnia. I don't remember anything about their history as a people or their culture, although they must have split off from Garnia at some point and it was probably either a religious tension or a dynastic split; that's how pretty much every single human nation in the "World of Garnia" setting was founded. The Halfling Lands I had forgotten about too, but I think that might just be the super power that Halflings have.

Anyway, here's the maps, enjoy our 7th grade creativity!

His 2nd century completely contradicted mine, and the origin stories I had established for most of the nations, but what the hell, he was making lots of maps and writing lots of history!

Allied Progress at the Height of World War Five- I love that this map shows his preferences and personality quirks at the time it was made. He had started taking French so he started naming things in French on the map. My sole requirement in his history writing, at the time, was that all of the nations must be at their present borders and power situations relative to each other at time present in the campaign; that made the past his playground and he spent at least five world wars beating the snot out of Garnia with Frodia and her allies, only to have Garnia come back in the end and retake their territory for a "reset". I think it's quite telling about his preference for Frodia that it refers to 'Allied Progress" in the map title. We debated that out a lot, I knew there must be something wrong at the time, that medieval countries didn't just make NATO and Warsaw Pact style alliances and duke it out until one side or the other had conquered completely. What ever, it was during the cold war and we all grew up watching World War Two movies, obviously a kid is going to think that style of war is how it must always have been. I just chuckle a bit that my beloved Garnian warrior knights got to play the role of the Commie-Nazi bad guys, particularly since Frodia was originally based partly on Stygia.

Actually, looking now at the scale of miles on the old map he set it at 1 square= 100 miles; given that there are four squares to the inch and the paper is 8 1/2"x11" that comes out to a roughly 4400 mile wide continent represented on the map, which is huge, but not Eurasia huge; more like bigger than North America huge. Darryl and I were talking about that the other day and he said he always saw it as a Pangaea type continent. I never gave it much thought at the time, in 7th and 8th grade, when he and I did the bulk of our collaboration on, and arguing about, world building. It does make the countries a bit uncomfortably huge for my purposes though, what I was really looking for was something the size of Europe, maybe a tad larger, and maybe with a connected larger continental landmass that you can't see because the map just ends in the west. That's how I drew it out for Civilization II. Still, I really like these maps, not just because they are gaming relics from my youth and they have a nostalgic value, although they do, but they also look kind of medieval.

Anyway, I need to make some new maps, or maybe farm them out to Darryl or Mona or someone else, but it'll probably be me; and I wanted to make numbered hex maps. Is there any simple way to do that? Any software for Linux? Maybe a GIMP tutorial?

*Who back then was a scrawny nerdy kid that happened to share a lot of common interests with me, I have often wondered if our friendship wasn't originally based on his self preservation instinct. I was easily the biggest 7th grader and maybe the biggest kid in the junior high, and I was also the only big, tough kid that liked any of the nerds. I spent a lot of my time in junior high fighting to protect them from bullies. A couple of years later it wouldn't really matter because Darryl grew to be 6'1" and a fairly muscular 200+ lbs, a fighter and a bad-ass in his own right, but in the beginning, he was one of the smaller, skinnier, smarter kids and other kids seem to hate that.

** Logically, it may have been a Friday night otherwise I probably would have just brought him my map, but that's just conjecture on my part now.

Good Yule!

My parents had, what they claim will be, their last ever Christmas party last night. I saw a bunch of people I haven't seen in years, some I haven't seen in over a decade. It was nice. Crowded though.

I'd like to thank Jeff Rients for bringing this gem to my attention, and now I will share it with all of you too.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

So Today...

I got my Minivan back, that's nice, it kind of sucks being in your 40's and having a family of your own and having to call your dad for a ride. I am not really thrilled that my AAA membership discount for parts and labor came to less than the tax on the bill either. But I have one (1) very nice new tire and it only took the better part of three days and over a hundred dollars to get it.

I also bought Lamentations of the Flame Princess Grindhouse Edition, Vornheim and Death Frost Doom while they are on sale so I can see what all the fuss is about and not be left in the dark anymore, well, not about these anyway. I still have to buy Stonehell. Give me time, Christmas and kid's birthdays, plus I still feel like I have to re-buy all the old stuff I used to own and buy the old stuff I never had back in the day.

I also talked with Darryl, and in between us talking politics and planning a one-shot steampunk adventure for a newly forming group here in central NY, we talked a little bit about the Garnia reboot. That was nice. We mostly talked about the history and cultures, cultural diffusion and linguistics. I always saw Garnia as more like China, he saw it as more like Rome. He likened Frodia to Greece then, rather than, say, Thailand. I was thinking it was more like China when China was divided between the Jin and the Sung; Garnia being the Jin and Frodia being the Sung, but we never quite got there because his phone died. I also have been talking with Dalton about Garnia lately, the cosmology mostly there. Good versus Evil, multi-planar war and the mapping of that conflict. So I have had a lot of ferment on that front lately.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

One of Those Days...

Or rather two, in a row. Yesterday I had a tire inexplicably just explosively deflate at a stoplight, it was a rear tire and I honestly wasn't sure what had happened at first. When the light changed I drove through and pulled into a parking lot and got out to check and my passenger side rear tire was just flat. I figured if it had to happen at least I was in the city and right in front of a store, so I went in to buy a can of fix-a-flat. It didn't work, which indicated to me that there was some fairly serious tire damage, as I suspected from a rapid, explosive deflation, but fix-a-flat is relatively cheap and I was in a hurry. It was cold out and kind of raining and I was taking my daughter to a doctors appointment, so, rather than screw around with the tiny donut spare and crappy scissor jack that come standard with minivans, I called AAA for a tow to a shop for a new tire, and my dad, who lives about 2 miles from my house and about 12 miles from the city, for a ride to the appointment and back home. That all went off fairly well and quickly and my daughter was only about 15 minutes late, which was pretty good considering. We had planned on doing some grocery shopping on the way home, which is why my wife was really with us, and my dad was happy to oblige us in that regard too. We stopped off at the garage before leaving the city and made sure they had all the proper contact information and everything and they said they'd most likely get back to me before they closed shop for the evening. They did not.

When I get home I read through my blog roll and buy a copy of Tim Shorts' module "Knowledge Illuminates", I skim through it too. I like it. I will probably run it to kick off a campaign eventually. I'll alter it to fit my campaign world, but I always do.

I had a doctors appointment this morning, no big deal- just a check up, but my daughter also has another appointment moved to today, because doctors offices, at least around here, expect that you can rearrange your schedule at a moments notice. So I have to call my dad for a ride into town again. Mona comes along for the ride with us too and forwards the house calls to her cell phone. We go through all the appointments without any word from the garage. So I go back to the garage and talk to the people in the service department, apparently they don't have any tires in my minivan's size (15"), which strikes me as odd because the last time I had a flat tire they had a used one there for me, but whatever; not only do they not have any 15's, there aren't any in the entire city of Oswego. They have to special order me a tire and it won't be there until tomorrow, and this single tire is going to cost $97 and change. They tried telling me that nobody uses 15s anymore, but my dad's minivan is essentially the same as mine, only newer, it's 4 years old now and it has 15s on it.

So now I am kind of ranting about totally non-gaming related stuff on a primarily gaming blog, I have some cool topics lined up, but I am too tired to write about them coherently. I didn't get anything done on Obsidian Portal either yesterday or today. I am still trying to decide whether or not to go back to my original vision of Garnia with the (mostly) Celtic people, the sole exception being the Saxons in Wodanslund; which I am leaning towards, or to just throw in everything including the kitchen sink and retcon everything. I still haven't given myself a good reason to include Halflings in the setting, the only reason that they are there now is that they are an AD&D 1st edition player character race from the Players Handbook and they appeared in the Monster Manual. My wife says that I make too big a deal out of trying to make sense out these things, I say that these things need to make sense to me for me to make them real to my players, verisimilitude. Hobbits worked with the verisimilitude of Tolkien's Middle Earth, I fear they work against my Garnia by making it an imitation.

Anyway, here's some stuff that came in the mail today-

Shinobi Ryu for the Sengoku RPG, now I really have all of the stuff for this game. Sadly, I will most likely never play it.

Graduation Exercise for the Task Force Games version of Prime Directive, oddly, I believe this marks the final item in this game's inventory too. I will actually try to convince people to play this one, but I am not holding out a lot of hope, probably as a one-shot, if at all.

West End Games Star Wars Rebel Alliance Sourcebook for the 1st edition of the game, it's a first printing too, and in pretty fine shape. I played some Star Wars back in the day, or I should say, I GMed it, apparently we quit before this book came out because I never saw it. I flipped through it, it seems pretty cool like most of the D6 Star Wars stuff the WEG put out, although I heard that the 2nd edition of the game, while technically superior, lost a lot of it's heart; I haven't really seen a lot of the 2nd edition products, and the ones I have are real peripheral material, not core products, so I couldn't really make that assessment.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Obsidian Portal

This banner totally belongs to Obsidian Portal, but I assume that since I am extolling the virtues of their site, they won't mind me showing you their image.

Obsidian Portal is eating my blogging time as I try to figure out how everything there works and slowly transfer everything from hand written to typed internet stuff. I am enjoying discovering and rediscovering the tools there that I really liked last year when I started putting my Garnia stuff up last year and then pretty much abandoned and forgot the project, so now I have to go back through and check that stuff out as I redesign for rebooting that campaign world too. I spent a little while, by which I mean several hours of my day, yesterday putting up the retired PCs from my current OA campaign in the Against the Black Temple campaign and even linked an item to one of them in the wiki, huzzah for me! I will probably add some more actual NPCs and Lee Ann's dead character Ami to the character's section today too, but I have some other things going on today to take care of and have a little less time.

Here is a link to my current OA campaign.

Here is a link to my on hiatus, rebooting Garnia campaign.

Both of them are really rough now, but they are getting better all the time. Consider them under construction, and I am willing to take advice on what direction to go since I am not really a web design html person.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

OA Quasi-Session

In an effort to not completely screw over my eldest daughter and force her to essentially retire her character, I went with yet another alternate dying rule for my Oriental Adventures campaign and removed the odious broken leg result from her. Instead she ended up unconscious for an hour and losing a point of Comeliness permanently due to scarring. The party healed her up some, waited for her to regain consciousness, then entered the Moathouse proper through the broken doors to the great hall area. There were no random encounters during this time. I described the room to them, not as well as if I had found my original conversion notes, but pretty good from the actual module and my memory of what I had changed. The loss of those notes will continue to haunt me until they are found or someone admits to throwing them away because they didn't realize what they were, but I digress. I fear that I am just going to have to do it all over again, which I guess isn't a big deal, since I did it once, but it is rather annoying.

Anyway, I sketched them a map of the room and what they could see, they looked around and then quickly decided to check out the storeroom to the left, the one with the stairs down that they could not see, oddly enough with Misaki leading the way, and sure enough she heard the rats in there and started looking for them. Well the module says these rats are hungry and fearless, so I just had them roll initiative and combat began. Unfortunately, Aiko was the other person in the storeroom with Misaki and, while she actually got to attack the rats first, she got dropped by three lucky rat hits in the first round. Well, there are thirteen Giant Rats in this encounter, so I guess it's a pretty tough encounter for a (mostly) first level party, particularly in the tight space of the storeroom. It took the party four rounds to kill them all, no one else was even injured. Aiko made her save versus death, but ended up permanently deaf and unconscious for the next four hours. The party decided to retreat to Hondo and return to the strange Moathouse for further exploration later.

Honestly, it was a super short session. Lee Ann couldn't make it, which should have been OK because she died last session anyway and it actually made introducing her new PC less difficult for me. The real problem here was that my daughter Ashli was really beginning to believe that Aiko was just an unlucky character and wanted to roll up a replacement, and my daughter Ember has pretty much been dissatisfied with Natsumi the Sohei since she started playing her too. So both of my daughters spent the after the battle time rolling new characters. Ember will be playing the Human Samurai Kato Momoko, who has awesome stats; Ash will be playing Natsua of the Bear-Killer Clan, a Korobokuru Barbarian of the Forest variety.

Interesting trivia about OA Barbarians- at the top of page 15 in the OA book it says in the second paragraph "Barbarians are automatically considered outsiders and thus occupy the lowest levels of the caste system. Barbarian characters never roll on table 38:Character Birth.", then on page 31, about the middle of the page on table 37:Birth Requirements By Class- when you get down to the Barbarian class it says under Birth Table Required- Yes, it says that for Family too, but when one page tells you one thing and another tells you the exact opposite, which one are you supposed to go with? I mean, for some classes the Birth Table is not required, but is optional, but the class description for Barbarian outright forbids the use of the Birth Table, it says they "NEVER" use it. I tend to think that they mean for Barbarians to use it because they explicitly mention Barbarian characters twice under the Ancestry section, and imply how a roll could apply to a Barbarian character at least one other time.

I also killed Non-Weapon proficiencies officially today and scaled back proficiencies to their core class standard AD&D numbers, so now it's a race to see who gets their versions of all the classes and races done first and best for playtesting, Fabian's got a strong lead, but it's more B/X style because it's for Labyrinth Lord; Dangerous Brian is coming in pretty strong with a "closer to AD&D" version for OSRIC; I hate to throw my hat in too, but I kind of did today in a little way, just deleting bits of AD&D OA that were driving me a little nuts. I am still willing to let my players playtest anything that comes out from the OSR for OA, but I think they are a little scared of new material for an old game or something, or maybe just not using the rulebook and it's official classes and material. Still, I alter the game slightly every time we play, so I wonder how long it will be before the game isn't really an AD&D OA campaign anymore and just becomes a product of the OSR's combined creative talent with me at the helm.

I still haven't put anything more than holding pages up on Obsidian Portal, other real life stuff keeps intruding on my taking care of my D&D campaign time. On a completely unrelated note, here are a couple of pictures of some FASA Star Trek RPG stuff I got off EBay that arrived on Saturday and I forgot to show you all.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

D&D and Alignment

I use alignment in my D&D games, and I am unabashedly in favor of doing so. My Garnia campaign world is designed around the concept of an alignment based multi-planar war, so it's one of the key concepts in D&D/AD&D that I am totally OK with. Alignment is also so wholly and completely integrated into the system that removing it is more trouble than it's worth. Plus, since I am a Paladin, or so my wife's been telling me for decades, and now that test has confirmed, I kind of need alignments to keep my class functions. All that being said, I'd be lying if I said I use every part of the alignment rules completely as written, because, quite honestly, some of them are just plain stupid.

I guess I am mainly thinking of alignment languages here. I never really understood a reason why all sentient creatures that followed a similar moral code should have a secret language, known only to them, and only for as long as they adhered to that moral code, for the discussion of the precepts and concepts of that moral code. That is so blindingly stupid that I cannot even think of a good reason from a gamist perspective that they should have ever existed, so I can only conclude that they must have come from some piece of Appendix N literature that I never got around to reading or EGG really needed his players to be able to communicate with, say, Blink Dogs one day and that was the best idea he could come up with on the spur of the moment so we were stuck with it after that.

I never really used some of the other alignment rules as a DM either, partly because I pretty much never used the training times and costs rules, so there was a whole section of AD&D alignment rules that just fell by the wayside, not because I didn't feel it was necessary to occasionally nudge a player back towards their professed alignment, but just because I never gave away so much loot that it was a problem for me to suck it back out of the campaign via the somewhat artificial mechanism of training times and costs to level up**.

Experience point penalties and level loss for alignment change I have never used, but I can't say that I wouldn't, it just has never come up that I can recall. Actually, now that I think about it, I am pretty sure I have used it; once. The player was OK with it, he had a good in character reason for changing his alignment, but you do tend to shift to evil when your raison d'être is revenge on a Paladin. So I guess I am OK with that rule and declare it to not be a stupid waste of my time.

Speaking of Paladins, and to a lesser extent Rangers, Monks, Druids and anyone else whose class is based, at least partly, on their alignment; I ask this question of alignment haters out there- How do you really run Paladins (in particular) without an alignment system? Do you just substitute in a code of conduct or ethical code? That's the same thing as an alignment. Sure, I have always hate their "Detect Evil" sonar as much as the next DM and worked as hard as I could to nerf it as often as possible, pointing out the social restriction of using it in civilized society, having ambient evil screw with it's sensitivity, stuff like that; because otherwise it gets pretty tough to have a hidden evil infiltrator in any organization. Try hiring some Henchmen or Hirelings with a Paladin there to check their alignments, certain allegedly good Clerics and their Acolytes are unlikely to be brought on expeditions to some famous caves if you are playing with AD&D rules and have a Paladin in the party.

I started playing D&D with Holmes Basic, and it gave us an almost complete AD&D alignment axis, more than the Law vs. Chaos axis of Moorcock* including five alignments instead of the three included in OD&D (or later versions of Basic), but clearly showing where the other four fit; it wasn't a very difficult leap for me to the AD&D nine alignment system. Good vs. Evil was always a more important axis for me than the Law vs. Chaos axis, but I assume that's a relic of my upbringing in the vaguely Christian western world. Law vs. Chaos always seemed to me more like a battle between individualism and authoritarianism, which it really isn't, but that's how I perceived it when I was younger. Now I see it more as a function of civilization versus barbarism, and I still fall a little more on the side of barbarism in my heart of hearts. I do live in the woods after all.

AD&D 1st edition codified alignments between the PH and the DMG better than any version of the game since. AD&D 2nd edition made a valiant effort, but managed to screw Chaotic Neutral up so bad it became the alignment that was the sole preserve of lunatics; there is an entire generation of D&D players out there that cannot be trusted with a Chaotic Neutral character.

Lastly, in keeping with my desire to expand a little bit about my Garnia campaign world, if only to open it up for discussion amongst my blog followers, who are some damned smart and creative people in their own rights, I have been thinking about the idea of adding the OA style social class, ancestry/birth rights and honor to Garnia; I think it fits pretty well given the almost caste structure of Celtic society, and I am thinking that my next campaign set there will be in the earlier period, before they've had so long a time to evolve away from their ancient Gaulish, Celt-Iberian, British, Caledonian, Pictish & Irish roots. Some of this I can lift from the 2nd edition AD&D Celtic Campaign Sourcebook, other stuff I'll adapt from 1st edition OA and I am leaning towards making Social Class a new 3-18 stat, although apparently I am not the first person to have thought of this.

*Or Zelazny's Amber chronicles, also mentioned in Appendix N, and they have the virtue of me having read them, I've always wondered why people always jump immediately to the conclusion that D&D's alignment system is solely lifted from Elric)

**OK, essentially when you are training under a higher level mentor they are giving you experience, which is exactly the same thing you just earned on the job while you were adventuring. As an actual Armored Fighter, I can say that training under people better than you is a great experience, as is regular practice. So too is the practical experience of fighting in tourney or mêlée or going to war. Most of my real life XP as a Fighter comes from practice, in fact I got significantly better as a Fighter myself when I started teaching newer Fighters because it made me examine how I did things myself, what worked for me, and what would work for any one of my student Fighters.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Garnia Reboot.

Rebooting movie franchises and beloved television franchises seems to be all the rage these days, from J.J. Abrams' "Star Trek" to Ron Moore's "Battlestar Galactica", that caused waves of nerd rage and/or nerdgasms, to a bunch of stuff like the "Dukes of Hazzard" or "Miami Vice" that most of us nerds could not care less about. Hollywood has been doing it for decades now and I figure maybe it's time I give my old workhorse world of Garnia a reboot to see how a fresh perspective and some new ideas in design might make my Celtic fantasy world work a little better now that I am older and less of a slave to the AD&D rule books.

Back when I was a kid; I mean literally a child, Garnia started as a project when I was in 7th grade, so I would have been twelve years old; I felt like I needed to jam into it everything "officially" available to me. Thankfully, at the time, the only published AD&D books were the MM, PH & DMG, although I did go on to make extensive use of other AD&D books as they were published, I felt less pressure to always find room for,say, the Nilbog or the Flumph. I will now apologize to my British readers for slighting their countrymen's contributions to the AD&D monster canon.

What got me thinking about this, aside from my work on putting together the campaign pages for my OA game "Against the Black Temple" on Obsidian Portal and seeing my still unfinished "Garnia" campaign pages, was the fact that I have been talking to Darryl again lately, and sure as winter is coming, we will eventually talk about Garnia. Why? Because, while Garnia may have been my brain child, he and I have been collaborating on it for so long now that it is at least partially his. He drew the original maps. He spent countless hours of his youth writing histories for the world. None of it is in use anymore, but he still was always right there in the planning stages. I know for a fact he's run entire campaigns there without any of my input at all when we lived thousands of miles apart.

We even have our favorite nations in the world, I favor Garnia, it was originally named after an old D&D character of mine "Garn the Great", I later retconned that to be an altered form of Gwarynica Riga- in the pseudo-Celtic language I kind of created using bits of Gaulish and Welsh and Gaelic and Breton it means pretty much "Kingdom of the people of Gwaryn", which was later shortened to simply "Garnia"; allowing me to keep the same name I'd always used for the campaign and the kingdom, but giving it a more historico-linguistic rationalization. Historically, in the campaign world, they are founded when the Humans sweep in off the northern steppes and destroy the (already besieged) ancient Elven empire in a decades long war of extermination. I picture their material culture starting off like the ancient Celts and building pretty much like western Europe over time, only with the Celtic artistic flavor throughout. Their kingdom has been conquered several times by their steppe dwelling cousins over the centuries, which generally results in nothing more than a change of dynasty as the new lords settle in to the comforts of civilization. I modeled their history on that of China.

Darryl favors Frodia. Frodia was a nation of sorcerers that I always likened to Howard's Stygia with it's Sorcerous Priests and I wanted to have a nation that would be a clear foil to the noble warriors of Garnia when I set up the world initially, as a kid. Plus, Magocracy was a government type in the DMG and it sounded cool. According to the earliest histories that I wrote (and still have!), Frodia is a child kingdom of Garnia dating to the earliest times after the Humans conquered the old Elven kingdom. A cult sprung up worshiping Frodal*, a name that is going to have to go in any reboot, who was a god of magic; and they were outlawed and driven from the kingdom of Garnia into the wilderness; or, alternately, these priest-kings discovered secrets of ancient elven magic and rebelled against the weak central authority of the Garnian high-king, taking the south-western third of the kingdom with them, which is actually more likely. Frodia also is more urban, the major elven cities having been less destroyed by the decades long conquest by the time it reached there. They have a major river as a natural defensive border between them, think of it like the Rhine.

That actually is where he and I had one of our greatest creative differences. He saw Frodia as this Magic-User ruled utopia with magic taking the place of technology, kind of a magi-tech, almost steam punk before that was a thing, thing going on there. He also saw them as clearly the greatest superpower in the world. I was going for a more "pulp-fantasy" Conan the Barbarian, so when magic does happen it will be awesome kind of a vibe, even back then, and I still kind of do that now. I like magic to be either of the rare and wonderful or scary and possibly sanity destroying varieties. Perhaps D&D/AD&D wasn't the best vehicle to convey my vision of a "perfect" RPG world, but it's what I had, and what I have.

Anyway, enough about two countries in a fantasy world most of you don't care about, although, if I ever do actually publish anything through the Hydra collective, my Garnia campaign will probably be it. My wife Mona and my daughter Ashli were sitting in the living room sick the other day, so I had a captive audience, which they hate, and I said to them "I think for my next (D&D) game I am going to get rid of all the half breeds, they really don't make much sense when you think about it. No Half-Orcs, Half-Elves, Half-Ogres, or Halflings!", I threw that last one in there just to see if they were paying attention, and if they weren't before, that sure got it. You'd think I'd kicked a hornet's nest from the reaction it got, are Halflings really such sacred cows in the D&D/RPG universe? My adult take on them is that EGG either added them to OD&D because he snagged everything he could for content from every source he could find, fantasy, science fiction, mythology, even the Bible(!); or, more cynically, he deliberately contrived to add Hobbits to OD&D to broaden it's appeal because Tolkien's work was so popular in the US at the time; either way, I don't think the loss of one PC race is going to ruin the game world and I have always had trouble rationalizing a reason for their existence in my Garnia campaign world. Plus, I didn't see anyone coming to the defense of the poor bloody Gnomes when they got the axe back in the 90's. I know they are technically not half breeds, like the other races I am considering taking out, but is it really so bad to be limited to playing Humans, Elves & Dwarves?

Elves and Dwarves are getting a racial make-over too, partially due to an offhand comment by my wife, who said "Why let people play Elves at all?", in regard to the setting being the ruins of an ancient Elven empire; that gave me a kick-ass idea, all player character Elves are what I am calling "Fallen Elves" the degenerate survivors of their long ago fallen race, no longer immortal, merely long-lived; they have lost the culture, technological secrets and magic of their forebears. They are the ones that fled to the wilderness, turned coat or submitted to slavery, the descendants of the few survivors of a near total genocide of their species. This allows for the seriously strong mystical, hidden Elven island kingdom to still exist and have really powerful Elves that aren't like the PCs, that shun the PC Elves as a lesser version of themselves.

Dwarven PCs get a similar treatment, but to a much lesser extent, all Dwarven PCs start as "Broken Dwarves", Dwarves from clans or kingdoms that have lost their territory to humanoid encroachment and moved into Human lands as refugees. The Garnian high-kings have always had a history of keeping a Dwarven warband, as do some other ranking nobles. Dwarves are essentially mountain dwelling craftsmen, traders and warriors; to my mind that makes them pretty much like short Vikings culturally, and in AD&D they can't be anything but Fighters and Thieves (or Assassins, but that's another story). So, my point here is, essentially, that if you play a Dwarf in my Garnia campaign, then your character is pretty much a refugee. Maybe a refugee of generations long status, but a refugee all the same.

Humans are supposed to be the backbone of any party in AD&D, and the culture of my campaign is set up for it to be a very humanocentric world, the reboot is going to make it even moreso, only more like ancient/medieval Europe too, where the territory between settled areas is dangerous howling wilderness and ancient evils lurk waiting to trap and devour the unwary. The cool thing about a reboot is I don't have to toss out thirty years of development entirely and start again from scratch, that's probably why Hollywood likes them, I can take the good bits and tweak them better, I can keep the best bits the same and I can toss the crap bits entirely.

The hard part is deciding what constitutes crap. Over the last 30 years Garnia has accreted to it pretty much every smaller, lesser campaign idea I have ever had and some of them I still love. Old fantasy Roman empire campaign where the Romans conquered an Egypt that was run by Goblins? It's on the other side of the huge and largely impassable mountain chain where the Dwarven kingdoms are, on the old Roman campaign map, they were called "Regni Homoi Cortii" or something like that, I don't actually speak Latin, so I had to look it up at the time, I really just read Latin, and then only some. Damned American educational system. But it was like I'd planned for those two maps to fit together all along.

How about those independent "Mistlander" Clans? Essentially Scottish Highlanders living in a mountainous area north east of the kingdom of Garnia, the area is always foggy and the sulfurous fog eats ferrous metals over the course of days. Between the mists and the hostile terrain, no one has ever been able to conquer them. Do we like the idea of a Chinese empire on the same map as a Celtic one? How about the Japanese islands (Tenchuko, I forget what it means) just off map? Most of the lands are Celtic, the first non-Celts were the Wotanic Knights, who were actually one of the few (relatively) unchanged names from the original Garnia map, back in the day when all of the names were vaguely Germanic, rather than Celtic. Now the county's called Wodanslund, and the people bear a striking resemblance to the Rohirrim that I never noticed until I actually set a campaign there a couple of years ago. I have an origin myth for them even. What about the Viking island kingdoms? The Byzantines? The Aztecs? The Mongols (actually a mixed Turko-Mongolian horde) that I placed in an unused spot on the map and used as a tribute to the Steppe Warriors? The Necromancer's lands are Arabic in name and culture, just south of the civil war torn Celtic kingdom of Tir nan Kaur, and the Necromancer once, almost, conquered the entire world. I have an Orc kingdom on land torn from Garnia itself, should I keep it or kill it? Do I have too many races and cultures?

The key thing to remember is that the world where Garnia is was the Elven home world and is at the heart of a multi-planar war between the forces of good and the forces of evil. Humankind was the wild card introduced by the forces of evil to unbalance things, Humans are inherently neither good nor evil, other races are. Since this is a good plane, the goodness emanating influences the naturally unaligned Humans towards good, but it isn't a given. Anyway, Humans are an import, brought through planar gates, Stargate style, although long before that movie/TV series, and I picked the Ancient Celts as the people to go, the had a lot going for them. War chariots, head-hunting, woad, iron weapons, warlike disposition and a tendency to migrate entire tribes all at once seemingly on a whim. Oh, and Druids and Bards. Plus a largely mutually antagonistic relationship with the Roman empire over time. Those things combined to make them ideal choices for my peoples of choice for the journey to another world, plus my own feeling that they peaked too soon here on Earth, so maybe I could give them another chance elsewhere, and almost all of my own ancestors are western Europeans, some of them are Scottish Highlanders, so there is a little narcissism there too.

There's a little more to the whole story than just that, and originally I had it being the Germanic hordes that took down the Roman empire instead of the Celtic hordes that were taken down by the Romans, but I wanted to move it back into the mists of time some and give me a little wiggle room, plus it seemed like everyone and their brother was doing everything in a Germanic barbarian or Viking theme back then, so I wanted to be different, even if it meant I couldn't pronounce half of the names I was using properly. Incidentally, also a problem for people using Viking or Germanic barbarian stuff, just saying; it remains so to this day for the vast majority.

*Frodal- God of Magic is one of the pantheon of deities I designed using EGG's Greyhawk and the DDG as a guide, they are horrible. Garn was another, but he was just a deified player character of mine, that I created the entire world as a vanity project for, one of the other gods was "Ignas the Bright" Who, I believe was a God of Law. His people got the far away "Bright Empire", a Lawful Neutral aligned empire, that was sometimes at war on the sea and over some rough terrain and at long distance, on land, with Garnia, they are now known as "The Empire of Ming Liang**". The rest of my original pantheon? I have them in a binder here somewhere, but they are painful to see. They were replaced, largely, by the Celtic pantheon by the 1990's, although some parts of the world have other gods and the Demi-Humans and Humanoids have always had their own too. I have never been able to come up with a good rational Celticization of Frodia, I have been able to do that for other countries on the map, the old Torakor, invented when I was 12, got to be renamed "Tir nan Kaur", I forget what it means, and it's probably in a mixture of languages, "Tir Nan" means "Land of" in Gaelic I know.

**Yes, it's poor form to footnote a footnote, but I felt it best to mention that I redesigned that area of the world specifically so I could play some Oriental Adventures without ever having to leave my Garnia campaign world, and then never did. Every single time I play OA, I end up playing in Kara-Tur.