Character stable #28

I include some numbers that give an idea for the power level of the character.

  • A dungeon badger in the dungeons of Castle Greyhawk. Hit dice 2, average attribute 11.
  • Guinevere, the current queen of Camelot, but now adventuring in Greyhawk. Average attribute 12, level 1, experience 399.
  • Pönk, level 4 wolf troll warrior in the empire of Khazan, near Saxon. Personal adds 41, total adventure points 624.
  • Shahu, a human merchant (or maybe a naga wizard) working for the glory of his trade company (or maybe nest). Currently active near Saxon. Level 1, personal adds -1, total adventure points 358.
  • Senja, a commander and outdoorswoman who would rather not kill. Level 3, experience 3438, average attribute 11.
  • Ælfstan, a psionic monk who lives in poverty and has opinions about organized religions. In Gnarley woods in Greyhawk. Level 3, experience 3999, average attribute 13. Poisoned by a hydra to eternal sleep.
  • Gotfried, a very unfortunate pickpocket who was caught and pressed into service as a dungeon guide in Great kingdom, in the world of Greyhawk. Currently adventuring in Gnarley woods. Level 1, experience 367, average attribute 10.
  • athes, a cruel pseudo-mongol mounted archer. From Barren lands in Greyhawk and adventuring in Middle kingdoms. Level 4, average attribute 11. Wargamish experience 145, modern D&D experience 6070.
  • Sølv, a human leader who owns a great farm, last seen in Saxon. First level, 73 adventure points, average attribute 13.
  • Melaku, a godbound in the village of Waja, in Ancalja. Level 1, average attribute 15, experience 2, spent influence 0.
  • Torgun Sigurddottir, a skjoldmøy from a shattered Norden, adventured last near Saxon. Level 2, adventure points 229, average attribute 10.
  • Vasana, a heavy cavalrywoman of the Ernaldori clan of the Colymar Tribe, in Glorantha. Average attribute 14, highest skills and affinities 90 %.
  • Fridswid, a young witch adventuring with elves in Castle Greyhawk. Level 2, experience 2548, average attribute 12.

Graveyard

  • Blarg, forest troll warrior died in the empire of Khazan, near Saxon, killed while simultaneously killing a horrid necrolyte and saving the village. Level 2, adventure points 1560.
  • Pöö, a warrior in the empire of Khazan, died in the blood feud of Saxon. Level 1, adventure points 1483.
  • Garkromm, a savage entertainer from Abbor-Alz in Greyhawk, died in the dungeons of Castle Greyhawk, eaten by a fire beetle. Level 1, experience 268.
  • Rodaria, a seamstress from the city of Greyhawk, died in the dungeons of Castle Greyhawk, pierced by two spears to their gut, one ripped out by a (friendly?) barbarian. Level 1, experience 209.
  • Ottar, a chieftain from Sogndal, perished in Buffalo castle. Level 1, adventure points 127.
  • Mitlar, a human warrior who was slain by killer bees in Buffalo castle while also killing them. Level 2, adventure points 62.
  • Wohoo the gargoyle warrior, level 1, killed by an orc at the exit of Buffalo castle in Khazan Empire. 42 adventure points.
  • Möö the urook warrior, level 1, died in a pit in Buffalo castle, killed by an orc. Empire of Khazan in Trollworld. 5 adventure points.
  • Ranrance, a first level thief of small stature, mauled by a magical owlbear statue in Greyhawk. Level 1, experience 0.

Character stable #28

Theory review #36

Theory review #36

Nordic D&D without rails

This game is not going to happen right now, but I am recording it for later use. Compare and contrast: https://ropeblogi.wordpress.com/2021/07/16/nordic-dd-with-rails/.

What should a player know

Vikings, a bit after the raid on Lindisfarne. There is magic and the mythical. Rules are D&D 5, but with various adjustments.

  • The purpose of play is to play a character embedded in a potentially violent situation and see what they make of it; what kind of person they are and whether they succeed or not.
  • Character options are restricted: humans, no feats, no multiclassing, some character options are also taken away.
  • Many character options have particular implications on who the character is and how they are seen in the world. They are not mere fluff.
  • Your character is not promised a good end or a pleasant career as an adventurer. It is not off limits, either. Death, permanent wounding and losing one’s faith and powers are on the table, but so is success.
  • A character stable is welcome and to some extent advised. This means that you have several characters available and choose which one is most motivated or relevant for the current adventure or situation.
  • Group experience from success at adventures. Personal experience from being inspired. Advancement is not guaranteed or necessarily fast. Feats and multiclassing may be possible through mentors and training, but you, as the player, will need to take the trouble to arrange them.
  • Stats and maximum hit points are more fluid than you are used to, and can fluctuate from one adventure to the next.
  • At start the characters are expected to be loosely allied, or at least tolerate each other. We do not guarantee that this situation continues; it might, and is likely to, but also personal differences and player character versus player character action is explicitly on the table, though we do not intentionally aim for realizing it.
  • Niche protection and party composition are not terribly important. You have freedom to choose your battles and which side you are on. Unbalanced parties are completely fine.

If this all sounds exciting and maybe a bit risky, welcome!

Example situation

This draws from the Brennande vikingar – BW game that I ran, but only vaguely.

A few villages, a handful of longhouses each, near each other. Someone hunted a few reindeers, the Sápmi retaliated by killing some shepherd-thrall and taking the sheep, and now there are a few dead on both sides, with some prisoners, too. And some magics ready to curse or call monsters on the enemies. Enter the player characters. Solving the conflict is maybe a third level challenge.

Some details about character options

You play a human. Some other options may become available through play.

For your stats, you can use the default array, arranged as you wish, or if (and only if) you do not yet have a character concept, roll 4d6, drop lowest, arrange in order: first roll to strength, last to charisma. No rerolls, no rearranging. Only do this if you are fine with terrible or extreme stats, as well as a strange distribution of them.

Choose your character’s ethnicity. The default is a North(wo)man, but consider also Sápmi, Finns, mainland Europe and British isles and even more exotic choices: vikings travelled from Vinland to Greenland to Novgorod to Constantinople.

Below are some notes about different character classes. Note that if you want to play something exotic, the burden is on you: give us a literary precedent about someone with similar powers. I am, in general, not going in detail through all the possible subclasses or archetypes.

  • Barbarian: berserker, usually a fotloose troublemaker, but maybe part of a wealthy jarl’s hirð. Your background is also berserker. You are a North(wo)man.
  • Bard: College of lore could be a Finnic tietäjä, martial colleges skalds.
  • Cleric: The default is a Christian crusader from South. Some options might be consistent with being a völva. A cleric’s powers are conditional on worship and relations to their god(s).
  • Druid: A Finnic or Sápmi shaman is likely.
  • Fighter: pretty much anything for the champion and battlemaster archetypes. Others are rare.
  • Monk: exceedingly rare.
  • Paladin: The default is a holy Christian warrior. Consider Jean d’Arc. Powers are conditional on personal devotion and belief in it.
  • Ranger: available for most ethnicities. Some archetypes are rare.
  • Rogue: available for most ethnicities. Some archetypes are rare.
  • Sorcerer: some might be consistent with a völva or a witch, but an exotic choice.
  • Warlock: The fiend patron implies a Christian character with a deal with the devil. Consider this very carefully: it is not fluff. Cthulhu and some others are not appropriate. Many others are exotic choices.
  • Wizard: a natural philosopher, probably Islamic or Christian.

In any case, name a background, select two skills and other stuff appropriate to it. The special abilities of the ones in the book are not in use; we’ll take these case by case in play. The characters knowing a native language. Many backgrounds should give additional ones. Knowing Old Norse can make the game go smoother, but if you want a character that can not speak with the others, go ahead.

Some details about rules changes

Most of the resolution mechanics and other such rules cruft remains unchanged.

  • Experience for goals: come to an agreement with the game master about the level of a goal. Experience, should the goal succeed, is divided evenly among the characters who participated. There are some details if a single player has several characters or if there are non-player characters who take an active role, etc. In any case, the total amount of experience equals the amount a character needs to get that particular level, so a third level challenge nets 900 experience, divided among the characters.
  • Experience for dangers or threats: overcoming a danger gives only a tenth of the experience that achieving a goal does.
  • Inspiration and experience: When character faces a decision point with many possible ways to go, and at least one of their personality traits, flaws, bonds, etc. are involved, and they give a short inner monologue about why they choose what, gain inspiration and 100 experience. The second time during a session, 10 experience. Further: 1 experience, no monologue.
  • Wounds: after a combat or other stressful situation, any character reduced to zero hit points has to make a constitution save. Failure means an actual wound, with all that implies.
  • After an adventure or lengthier downtime we can check if some attributes of the character have had an opportunity to increase or decrease. To check for increase: roll 3d6, and if it exceeds the current score, +1 attribute. A decrease similarly, but a result below the attribute decreases it. Particularly significant circumstances might offer bonus or penalty dice to these rolls.
  • Before player chooses which character to play, they roll their total hit points by rolling all their hit dice. (A character on their first adventures has full hit points from the first hit die.) This is typically not rerolled before the next adventure starts. A poor roll makes it advisable to take another character from the stable into use. Favourable or poor life circumstances, such as being a jarl or a thrall, can give a bonus or a penalty die to the hit point roll.
  • Adventure ends when the players have their characters relax for an extended period of time. This allows the game master to move any open situations onward.
  • Short rest: takes an hour, some snacking and first aid. As per core book.
  • Medium rest: A night’s sleep, fairly uninterrupted (no fighting, though boring guard duty is okay if there is sufficient sleep, too), give a short rest, plus one of the following: one hit die back, one spell slot back, one ability back that otherwise returns only with a long rest.
  • Long rest: at the end of an adventure.
  • Some skill alterations: nature and survival combined, society as a new skill, probably something should be done with arcana and religion.

Game master side

Set up the situation with actors and threats. Then just play the non-player characters. Cut in time to interesting stuff. Normal game mastering, and, as always, no railroading, fudging, or other stupidity.

Motivation

The idea behind this is simple: what if I take D&D 5 as just a fantasy adventure roleplaying game, and use it like any other? Take a compelling setting and situation, restrict character options to those relevant to it and then simply play, with no D&D baggage about GM story via pearls of encounters, or for that matters sandbox wargaming with fantasy Vietnam.

Nordic D&D without rails

Theory review #33

Theory review #33

Character stable #27

I include some numbers that give an idea for the power level of the character.

  • Fridswid, a young witch travelling with elves in the world of Greyhawk. Level 2, experience 2517, average attribute 12.
  • A dungeon badger in the dungeons of Castle Greyhawk. Hit dice 2, average attribute 11.
  • Guinevere, the current queen of Camelot, but now adventuring in Greyhawk. Average attribute 12, level 1, experience 399.
  • Pönk, level 4 wolf troll warrior in the empire of Khazan, near Saxon. Personal adds 41, total adventure points 624.
  • Shahu, a human merchant (or maybe a naga wizard) working for the glory of his trade company (or maybe nest). Currently active near Saxon. Level 1, personal adds -1, total adventure points 358.
  • Senja, a commander and outdoorswoman who would rather not kill. Level 3, experience 3438, average attribute 11.
  • Ælfstan, a psionic monk who lives in poverty and has opinions about organized religions. In Gnarley woods in Greyhawk. Level 3, experience 3999, average attribute 13. Poisoned by a hydra to eternal sleep.
  • Gotfried, a very unfortunate pickpocket who was caught and pressed into service as a dungeon guide in Great kingdom, in the world of Greyhawk. Currently adventuring in Gnarley woods. Level 1, experience 367, average attribute 10.
  • athes, a cruel pseudo-mongol mounted archer. From Barren lands in Greyhawk and adventuring in Middle kingdoms. Level 3, average attribute 11.
  • Sølv, a human leader who owns a great farm, last seen in Saxon. First level, 73 adventure points, average attribute 13.
  • Melaku, a godbound in the village of Waja, in Ancalja. Level 1, average attribute 15, experience 2, spent influence 0.
  • Torgun Sigurddottir, a skjoldmøy from a shattered Norden, adventured last near Saxon. Level 2, adventure points 229, average attribute 10.

Graveyard

  • Blarg, forest troll warrior died in the empire of Khazan, near Saxon, killed while simultaneously killing a horrid necrolyte and saving the village. Level 2, adventure points 1560.
  • Pöö, a warrior in the empire of Khazan, died in the blood feud of Saxon. Level 1, adventure points 1483.
  • Garkromm, a savage entertainer from Abbor-Alz in Greyhawk, died in the dungeons of Castle Greyhawk, eaten by a fire beetle. Level 1, experience 268.
  • Rodaria, a seamstress from the city of Greyhawk, died in the dungeons of Castle Greyhawk, pierced by two spears to their gut, one ripped out by a (friendly?) barbarian. Level 1, experience 209.
  • Ottar, a chieftain from Sogndal, perished in Buffalo castle. Level 1, adventure points 127.
  • Mitlar, a human warrior who was slain by killer bees in Buffalo castle while also killing them. Level 2, adventure points 62.
  • Wohoo the gargoyle warrior, level 1, killed by an orc at the exit of Buffalo castle in Khazan Empire. 42 adventure points.
  • Möö the urook warrior, level 1, died in a pit in Buffalo castle, killed by an orc. Empire of Khazan in Trollworld. 5 adventure points.
  • Ranrance, a first level thief of small stature, mauled by a magical owlbear statue in Greyhawk. Level 1, experience 0.

Character stable #27

Theory review #30

Theory review #30

Two Burning wheels

There are two ways of playing Burning wheel; one relies on consensus-based decision making and respecting the sanctity of the characters, whereas the other has more focus on challenging the core concepts of the characters and unpredictable, perhaps unwanted, story outcomes. For the usual disclaimers, please see a few paragraphs down.

Storyboarding

The game is a means of shared story creation. Players each play a character and they typically have an idea for a storyline they want the character to go through, or at least some way they are going to evolve. The role of dice and uncertainty is to add twists and surprises along the way, but it is not their mandate to create a bad or undesired story. Techniques (or rules) that might support this include:

  • Negotiation of dice rolling outcomes until everyone is happy with both the effects of failure and success. Telling the failure stakes ahead of time is paramount, as it allows the players to object to any undesired outcomes and suggest more fun ones.
  • Players should typically be allowed to play the characters they want. Adjusting lifepaths and requirements might help with this.
  • Beliefs are a sign of where the game should go next. They are typically taken very seriously.
  • Persona complication optional rule is a good bet.
  • If there is too much or too little adversity, the game master might remove or add some.
  • The negotiation of dice rolls is a good safety tool.

Story now

The game is a means of creating a story none of us can control. Players each play a character and advocate for them. The purpose of play is to challenge the beliefs of the characters and see how things turn out, no matter where it goes and how well or poorly the characters do.

  • Dice rolls are unlikely to be negotiated. Announcing failure outcomes might not be done in a systematic manner; maybe only if they are hard to foresee.
  • Players might be forced to play something not quite what they wanted due to lifepaths or resources.
  • Beliefs are a sign of what is to be challenged, what is uncertain about the fate of the characters. They might be taken more an indicators of what the game should be about, rather than an ironclad rule.
  • The game events might derail the game from what was expected or planned for.
  • The game might turn into a depressing tragedy or an easy triumph for some character, and this is okay. It might be a good reason to rewrite beliefs to take this into account.
  • It is necessary to handle group safety by some other means, since nobody is in control about where the game is going. Safety tools or at least general attention and support.

Disclaimers

These are not discrete modes where necessarily do one or the other. People might not have or know their preferences, and I have, for the sake of simplicity, blended together a few things that might not always be blended together. The idea here is more to illustrate that there are differences what some of them might be to act as a first step in discussing them.

I have preferences here. I tried to write both descriptions in a positive light, but to the extent I failed, please do better and I’ll be happy to link to it. Or write angry feedback in the comments.

Related readings

Ron Edwards does not approve of storyboarding play. This is in context of Primetime adventures, but the same reading applies to Burning wheel, too: http://adeptplay.com/seminar-hearts-minds/discuss-primetime-chat . The other non-D&D things linked in the later theory review can also be relevant: https://ropeblogi.wordpress.com/2021/10/02/teoriakatsaus-28/

My aim with an earlier house rules text was what I have here named story now play: https://ropeblogi.wordpress.com/2021/08/03/oiled-wheel/

The term ”story now” comes from the alternative name of the narrativism creative agenda by Ron Edwards. No further knowledge of or belief in the theory is necessary. A better name is naturally welcome.

Two Burning wheels

Next patch of games to consider

  • Online or physical: Physically near Horten, Norway, if there is sufficient interest, otherwise online. Local players have priority in any case.
  • Preferably weekends (reasonable European time). Evenings European time might work with shorter sessions, but I like sleeping at night and waking up fairly early in the morning.
  • Language: norsk/skandinavisk, suomi/kveeni or English.
  • Game about once per two weeks, fixed time and date. Start maybe January 2022, maybe in November 2021. Thereabouts.

Play

I will consider any short-term game and particular long-term ones. The main consideration is that what happens in play has to come from a combination of player choices ad creativity, game master preparation and creativity, and unpredictability bought by dice or a similar element. No rails, no fate tokens that guarantee success.

Other options are ones I would be willing to run (in addition to playing).

Sorcerer

Modern day, set in a place one of the players knows well. You are all sorcerers, having summoned a demon. All went fine for a time, but now something has happened or is happening that permanently changes your life, forcing you to act. You, the player, decide what it is and you also design your demon, to a point. We play to see what happens to your character and whether they retain their humanity. The game continues for however long it takes to come to a resolution.

Demons are forces of nature or old gods, no longer actively worshipped.

Game master plus two to three players.

Vancian tunnels

We take the core rules of Tunnels and trolls, but replace weapons lists with martial arts and introduce an organic skill system (no point buy, rest assured). For the world we take inspiration from the writings of Vance and Dunsany: the world is a magical place, with monsters and wonders, but they are not unknown; you can learn where you are going to. Characters have random attributes; some of them will be magicians, some not. We play adventures and we play downtime projects of the mages and others. The adventures are typically high risk, high reward, and characters might very well die. They won’t die of game master arbitrariness, but rather misjudgment, risk-taking or bad luck. And hopefully many will survive.

A beginning mage has a few random spells; might be powerful, might be weak. You can learn more from other mages (if they want to teach you) and from adventures. During downtime you can build magical wonders, though you might first want to establish a sanctum and maybe deal with such details as wealth and ageing. Magical workings tend to take months or years of downtime, giving you an ample opportunity to play other characters in your stable. The adventures are partially designed by players by way of knowledge checks the characters make.

This is an open table game with any number of players.

Excessive drafting of details here, somewhat preliminary and up to simplification: https://ropeblogi.wordpress.com/2021/07/23/vancian-tunnels-maybe-with-trolls/

Apocalypse world

I have run it, once upon a time, two short campaigns. Now I want to come back to the game to see if it is any good, from the perspective I have now. Rules used to letter, to the extent we manage, but understanding that there will be mistakes and problems along the way, as always.

The first session will determine the milieu and such details.

Two to four players, or two to three online, plus the master of ceremonies.

Some other games

For these I would want at least one other participant willing to take equal creative and organisatory responsibility, together with shared creative goals. The bar is not low. Excitement plus proven ability to carry through.

  • Burning wheel with some modifications to make the game faster and smoother, and less controlled: https://ropeblogi.wordpress.com/2021/08/03/oiled-wheel/ . Also some simulatory skill house rules: https://ropeblogi.wordpress.com/2020/05/12/burning-wheel-skill-house-rules/ . Maybe other rules, too; replace duel of wits with something out of Miseries and misfortunes, for example. This’ll be a rules tinkering project. Maybe vikings, maybe Paris 1648, maybe mongols, maybe something else historical. Two to four players.
  • Miseries and misfortunes, but remove or retool mortal coil, so that it no longer gives automatic successes. Two to four players.
  • Long-term campaign play, OSR, neutral referee, wargaming sensibility, etc. Eero Tuovinen’s Muster (a crowdfunding project). Start with whichever basic rules chassis we want, with the expectation that it will change a lot as we get our hands on it and start remaking it to fit our sensibilities of how the world works. Open table, any amount of players.
  • Tunnels and trolls, pretty much as written. Any number of players.
  • D&D 3 remade to actually simulate some parts of martial combat, and for more spontaneous character advancement. Very much a rules tinkering and design enterprise. Two to five players.
  • Investigation, whichever reasonable traditional rules system. Do it properly. No breadcrumbs to follow. Call of Cthulhu (any but the most recent edition) is traditional, of course, but something else is fine, too. Any amount of players, but up to the players to keep the game together.

Next patch of games to consider

Character stable #26

I include some numbers that give an idea for the power level of the character.

  • Gotfried, a very unfortunate pickpocket who was caught and pressed into service as a dungeon guide in Great kingdom, in the world of Greyhawk. Currently imprisoned by dwarves of Graymere. Level 1, experience 367, average attribute 9.
  • Fridswid, a young witch travelling with elves in the world of Greyhawk. Level 2, experience 2517, average attribute 12.
  • A dungeon badger in the dungeons of Castle Greyhawk. Hit dice 2, average attribute 11.
  • Guinevere, the current queen of Camelot, but now adventuring in Greyhawk. Average attribute 12, level 1, experience 399.
  • Pönk, level 4 wolf troll warrior in the empire of Khazan, near Saxon. Personal adds 41, total adventure points 624.
  • Shahu, a human merchant (or maybe a naga wizard) working for the glory of his trade company (or maybe nest). Currently active in the empire of Khazan, near Saxon. Level 1, personal adds -1, total adventure points 358.
  • Senja, a commander and outdoorswoman who would rather not kill. Level 3, experience 3438, average attribute 11.
  • Sølv, a leader who inherited a great farm, from and living in Nordveien. Visa-fortelling played through.
  • Torgun Sigurddottir, a skjoldmøy from and adventuring in a shattered Norden. Level 2, average attribute 10.
  • Ottar, a chieftain from Sogndal, currently in Scotland. Average attribute 59, sanity 55, luck 85.
  • Ælfstan, a psionic monk who lives in poverty and has opinions about organized religions. In Gnarley woods in Greyhawk. Level 3, experience 3999, average attribute 13. Poisoned by a hydra to eternal sleep.
  • athes, a cruel pseudo-mongol mounted archer. From Barren lands in Greyhawk and adventuring in Middle kingdoms. Level 3, average attribute 11.

Graveyard

  • Blarg, forest troll warrior died in the empire of Khazan, near Saxon, killed while simultaneously killing a horrid necrolyte and saving the village. Level 2, adventure points 1560.
  • Pöö, a warrior in the empire of Khazan, died in the blood feud of Saxon. Level 1, adventure points 1483.
  • Garkromm, a savage entertainer from Abbor-Alz in Greyhawk, died in the dungeons of Castle Greyhawk, eaten by a fire beetle. Level 1, experience 268.
  • Rodaria, a seamstress from the city of Greyhawk, died in the dungeons of Castle Greyhawk, pierced by two spears to their gut, one ripped out by a (friendly?) barbarian. Level 1, experience 209.
  • Wohoo the gargoyle warrior, level 1, killed by an orc at the exit of Buffalo castle in Khazan Empire. 42 adventure points.
  • Möö the urook warrior, level 1, died in a pit in Buffalo castle, killed by an orc. Empire of Khazan in Trollworld. 5 adventure points.
  • Ranrance, a first level thief of small stature, mauled by a magical owlbear statue in Greyhawk. Level 1, experience 0.

Character stable #26

Theory review #27

Theory review #27