Thursday, June 9, 2022

A d6 Resolution System for WhiteBox FMAG

(This is a train-of-thought posting, where no proper research was conducted. Surely a myriad of illuminaries have arrived at the same conclusions before. Please point sources my way, thank you!)

In recent games I have been fortunate enough to introduce several new players to the hobby of roleplaying games. Frankly, they are my favorite group to fish for. As much as I like the expertise of a commited and focused group of players tackling a demanding adventure, the delightful ingenuity from someone new to the medium is charming. They bring their own Appendix N of related media, minus past experience RPG baggage.

All of this to say that when playing Old School games with these neophyte players (B/X via OSE as of late), I see a lot of confusion about what rolls to make. And if they need to roll high or low!

Many systems have tried simplifying and streamlining things since. From new OSR inspired games that use roll-under ability score for all, to many other variants. Knave (everything's a save!), Black Hack (only players roll!), Macchiato Monsters (all is a risk die!)

Maryse Heilig
But despite delving into Knave and B/X or OSE, I find myself drawn to White Box FMAG. It has simplicity. It is well presented and laid out, with consistent artwork. It is readily available, and dirt cheap to get a printed copy! And more importantly, it is a constant invitation to lay out your preferences via rulings and house rules, stated numerous times throughout the text.

This post from 2009 (!) suggests using the Swords & Wizardry unified single Saving Throw (ST) for general task resolution.

BUT, I much prefer keeping things seprarate. The d20 to avoid and inflict danger (ST and combat). And a d6 for general task resolution. Since bonuses/maluses in WhiteBox are just up to plus/minus 1, let's use a simple d6. Target number is 5+.πŸ¦„

Having a relevant Background can give you a +1 to the task. And players can pour gold and weeks/months of downtime to gain new ones!
πŸ¦„πŸ¦„ So combined with a positive ability score maximally a player can stack a +2 to a roll.

Now some important caveats: keep rolling scarce, and avoid it in most cases in lieu of common sense. "Yes, you were a Butcher (background) and brought the Basilisk's carcass to the keep, so you are able to extract its eyes." OR "No, you cannot read or understand the runes in this archway since you don't know that area".

The outcome of this roll is not a binary YES/NO. Instead, since we are playing a TTRPG and there is a human brain running the fiction, I lay out chances and possible outcomes BEFORE any rolling is done. And this can be a YES/NO or YES/YES WITH CONSEQUENCES or YES/NO WITH CONSEQUENCES or whatever.

To the consequences. Everything is for grabs. Attack the character sheet. Most obvious...
1. Time. Task succeeds, but you are slow. Random encounter checks, timer, timer, timer.
2. Equipment. You force the door open with the crowbar, which ends up bent and useless in the process.
3. Future risk. You jump the chasm, but the bridge is damaged for your return.


πŸ¦„ With this I would reverse the usual Open Doors, Listening at Doors, Find Traps, etc. from the 2-in-6 to this 5+ to have equal odds, but a "roll-higher" instead.

πŸ¦„πŸ¦„ There are plenty of such d100 tables, from WHFRPG, to for instance Black Pudding, Shadow of the Demon Lord, etc. They inform setting and tone. As the effect is mild, there is no real risk of having less useful Backgrounds, as players have to come with interesting applications in each situation that comes up during play.

Monday, June 6, 2022

Ulflandia Play Report 1-3

This being a (long overdue) play report in our Ulflandia campaign, where the players basically tackle a single dungeon. Initially, there were no pretensions of evolving into a campaign, just to cleanse the palate after playing Willowby Hall. Things then snowballed, and we are now in the double-digit realm of sessions.

The avid reader will notice that this is Goblin Gully, an OSR classic. Used this Toadstool Gully variant instead of the original by Dyson Logos. Of course it ended up being easy to shoe-horn into Ulflandia, since the author of Toadstool was planning to use it in Necrotic Gnome's Dolmenwood anyways, and there are a lot of synergies between Ulflandia and Dolmenwood.

Goblin Gully is placed in hex #4626, in the Coblyns region.

Total play time for the 3 sessions: ~7.5 hours

The Cast

Higgley H1 (Copernico): cannibalistic gourmand; probably killed a wizard? (wears a wizard's hat and has wizard liver patΓ©); collects ears.
Neem T1 (iagson): suave thief; from the biggest distant city you never heard of; favors the crossbow.
Retainers:
- Calico D1 (iagson), stout and with a broken broadsword
- Rana (Copernico), MU 1, an alchemist's apprentice.

Highlights

  • Two distracted Goblin sentries on top of the leafless tree, picking their noses and bickering. They spot the group and fire an arrow to Neem which brings him to the ground (0HP), luckily the suave Thief gets to tell the tale (made the save vs. death). This, the first roll of the game! Setting the tone...
  • Once the two sentries are bested by the group, Higgley questions a captive for details, stealing its bag of "magical shrooms". Giving into his meat devouring habits, the Halfling has to taste the goblin's calf! On the party goes, to the Gully
  • Drop halfling down to the bridge with rope. Down there, patroll of goblins approach and spot him! Rana the retainer flings herself down the rope too, doesn't catch the rail, and perishes at the bottom of the pit.
  • A series of confrontrations on the fragile bridge ensue, where the party comes out with the upper hand. Then, they decide to descend to the bottom, check that odd frog statue and loot Rana's body. In the process they discover and negotiate with a talking toad, Xaar, to drive off the goblins in exchange of future riches.
  • Group gets mushrooms from Xaar the talking toad, that allows them to create a (temporary) clone of themselves. Intellect and instincts of a dog, dissolves at nighttime. This proved invaluable to the group, and served as cannon fodder. The group's number is doubled!
  • Next room with glue and rope, and a trapdoor going down (Pretty glaring mistake on my end here. There is no trapdoor in the map, just a descending staircase. Oh well...). Fleeing goblins manage to gain a safe position by climbing up the rope (and pulling it up!). At this point the group goes back and forth, unclear on what the next move will be. Players moan and bicker and grovel.
  • Negotiation with the Goblin Prince. Goblins taken too many losses, and are willing to negotiate. "Want to go downstairs? Sure sure. Great treasure behind big door".

the goblin prince. just a negotiating voice for most of the game!

  • With a temporary and fickle truce in place, and a goblin mook to guide and oversee them, they descend to the goblins' barracks. This was a temple at some point, there's an altar, a big stone door, and carved reliefs and runes on the walls. Here I stole the hammer trap from Tomb of the Serpent Kings wholesale, and the group solved it by moving the altar!
  • All Hell breaks loose! Black Pudding released! The "clones" take the worst of it, the group scadoodles out of here fast like the wind, shortly followed by the Goblin Prince & co. Proceeds to add a Black Pudding to the overland encounter table...

capture of our Roll20 gaming board

Referee Commentary

  • Should have made the bridge combat more realistic, and give the structure a decent chance to break under that duress (with the consequent fall!).
  • My players like to overthink and plan zany endeavours. A lot! Sometimes have to push them to reach a decision.
  • The random mushroom bag obtained from the goblin sentries, with random effects, was an absolute kick. And Higgley would benefit from it for in-game weeks (sessions) to come...
  • As a mea culpa, I realize more and more that a shortcoming of my refereeing is not being impactful enough. "Bad" or risky player decisions should get the impartial outcome they deserve. Instead, I tend to get muddled in unneccesary and rocambolesque saving throws, x-in-6 rolls, etc.
  • I also failed to make the goblins whimsy and trickstery, instead resorting to the dull cannon fodder mooks stereotype.

Monday, May 30, 2022

D10 Draconic Symbioses

In some games, Dragons are powerful setting defining creatures.πŸ•‡ They shape entire regions, soaking with terror every soul within reach. Something as notorious as a kaiju flying lizard that can turn to ash entire cities takes a lot of attention. Followers and remora wanting to live off of that power will sprout, it's just a matter of time.

1. An arctic city is heated by the underground sleeping dragon. In return, the peasantry makes sure slumbering music and aromatic candles keep the fat lizard asleep.

2. Cultists drink this dragon's blood to go berserk. Has to be done through the dragon's eye (only spot without scales). Of course, this dragon loves the flattery of worship.

3. Yaach are hairy bison-like creatures, their pelts reaching the ground mutating its coloration to blend into their environment, making them very hard to spot. Their huge trunks are used to drink and eat (mice, oversized insects). They are mammals, but wish otherwise. Will hatch a dragon's egg for as long as needed, given their protective instincts.

4. The dragon lives in its tower, overseeing and protecting the duchy with a menacing gaze towards external threats. The fierce rule of Law reigns here! Every seventh year Tribute hits, and the dragon takes a maiden as payment for its services.

5. A Red Dragon is flying over a Pickle the size of a galley, impaled on top of the Cathedral's spire. Every so often, the dragon dives into the cucumber and takes a lick, doing so makes it regain d6 HP and go into an elated stupor. (See here)

6. This Black Dragon is at the center of the Ghoul oligarchy. Improvised sage, counselor, confidant. There is mutual respect and understanding, but utter dependency. See, an addict, the Dragon depends on the oligarchs to provide the drug it needs to feign death.

7. Gets teeth pulled to be used as magical daggers, by mousefolk and wererats. Gets trinkets and candy in return, perpetuating this arrangement. This, in turn, evolved into a children's tale.

8. Selling its offspring, the eggs land on a powerful but wealthy wizard. The magician likes them scrambled with salt & cheese. He gives spells and rare books for the dragon's lain eggs in exchange, and as a dragon's hoard is the most important...

9. The Pink Fog and Mist of the Yahaleh Steppes is magical in form and nature. Source of a 1000 gruesome tales, feared by merchants and travelers, it gets avoided if possible. An ancient dragon, however, has taken residence within in the last year. Breathing the fumes for that amount of time makes it (as if by a Geas) incapable of telling the truth. On the flip side, the Pink Fog caused Sapphire Gems to grow on the barren land like tubers, which the wyrm gladly harvests.

10. Actually this dragon is the "little sister" in this relationship. Serving as the furnace of a kingdom of fire giants underground, underneath a mountain complex. Outraged by the working conditions and wage, it is planning an uprising.

πŸ•‡ Some people take offense at only seeing dragons in the mid- to high levels of play. "But it's on the bloody title!". This is a known (perceived) problem since 1974. And of course there are a lot of ways to have them present in the game from level 1 on. I personally have thrown a lot less dragons at my players than I should have, and for that, I repent.

Monday, May 23, 2022

Ulflandia Campaign: B/X House Rules

2. Ulflandia B/X House Rules (this post)
3. Influences, Yoinking and Appendix N
4. Solo Romping
5. Weather, Time, Rumors and Other Minutiae
...
talking about my houserules people end up like this... wonder why
GENERAL & COMBAT
  • Criticals: no effect on a 20 rolled (this was the players' choice). πŸ•‡πŸ•‡
  • AAC: Ascending Armor Class, that's how we roll.
  • Maneuvers: attacker gives effect of the maneuver, then do a normal attack roll. The defender then chooses either to accept the maneuver, or accept the damage (before damage is rolled). From here.
  • Morale: of course we embrace this "optional" rule.
  • At 0HP, Save vs Death. On a fail, character is dead, otherwise they are unconscious and need to be stabilized immediately. (Only for PCs and Retainers).

CHARACTERS & CLASSES

  • New characters get one random impedimenta and one minor magical item at start.
  • No prime requisite bonus/malus to XP
  • No Elf PCs πŸ•‡
  • Halfling: their hiding in the wilderness undergrowth or woods ability of 90% assumes a static/stopped case.

EXPERIENCE

  • Overcoming Monsters does not grant any XP. πŸ•‡πŸ•‡

EQUIPMENT & ENCUMBRANCE

 

πŸ•‡ Rationale: Ulflandia is peppered with different Elf variations and their factions. It would be a disservice to player discovery to just allow them as an option to play. Sword-mage but pointy-eared does not cut it this time around. This can change as the campaign progresses and players grow into Ulflandia.
πŸ•‡πŸ•‡ These were, in fact, the choice of the players.


The above are fairly minimal. This is intended, as we prefer to change the game as the campaign play progresses. It goes without saying that this post will see edits in the future. Fight On!

Friday, May 6, 2022

Patchland; Gygax75 Week 2

 

Before you call me out, yes, a week is an undefined stretch of time in my book ;)

This is my stab at completing the Gygax 75 challenge by Ray Otus. Many others have tried and failed. Some even managed to complete it, so there is hope. Anne has collected some worthy entries in a post. Find my other entries in this challenge here:

Week 1: The Concept
Week 2: Surrounding Area (this)
Week 3: The Dungeon
Week 4: Town Features
Week 5: The Larger World

PATCHLAND

Patch, a campaign World healing from a War that shook its foundation. Ruins upon ruins upon ruins define it. The survivors attempt to rebuild the harsh reality. 

A current feel of slumber and slow prosperity, as the decades of peace brought some solace. Despite the Undead that plague the Night.

Heightened Awakened are revered as Gods of flesh and bone. Their very recent origin, a great puzzle.

2.1 The Hexmap

Asked to produce a hexmap compraising 24x13 hexes, with the following features: one significant settlement, two other settlements, one major terrain feature, one mysterious site to explore, one (main) dungeon entrance.

Decided to go a bit overboard with this one, and populate the map with more. Choosing a 1:6 scale (6-mile hexes) and having a third of Ireland, the above seemed severely lacking in terms on density. Although I understand the rationale of just populating a portion of the map for the players with the bare essentials, and adding to it as play progresses, organically. Even then, I made my choice!

hexkit result (higher res file here)

2122 Naverra (Significant Settlement)
The dreaming jewel of the West: Naverra.

Ruled by a council of merchants. Population: 90'000. Status: Neutral

The portuary city trades frequently by Sea, an advantageous position within Patchland. White stone walls with six turrets, armed with ballistas and cauldrons filled with Blue Flame serve as protection. Surrounded by a twenty feet wide moat.

Twisting spires top the city, staircases encrusted with a pastiche of seashells. Sailors hesitating between two women will find a third. Clandestine emperor-crab fights degenerate into bloody brawls by the bettors in the darkest hours of the night. Eel fishing and molusk snatching produce exquisite stews from the local cuisine.

2205 Lacaralla (Other settlement)
Lacaralla, the Destiny of Patchland

Ruled by a fierce theocracy. Population: 55'000. Status: Lawful

Bare rectangular architecture made of clay bricks. Two neat walls surround the citadel, the outer one peppered with hung bloated bodies, those brought to justice by the Royal Inquisition suspicious of unregulated use of magick.

Despite their ruthlessness, their marvels in the arts of law, numerology and accounting make them formidable traders. If there is a Lacrallan contract behind, the deal will be a bountiful venture for both parties.

Heightened Awakened King God Nefastos rules here. His life before being brought back from the dead a lost mystery. Sorry slob that is marched around the citizens on his palanquin every fifth day. Gets swayed to one decision or another by the myriad of religious factions, no more than a pawn.

1009 Telonian Citadel (Other settlement)
Bastion of the Dead Empire.

Ruled by a parliament. Population: 20'000. Status: Lawful

Hidden and protected underneath the mountain range. Telonians, focused on self-preservation and discretion, their shameful past a hefty burden. Decided to settle in an undeground lake, its bridges accosting everywhere, in pillars, suspended, on barges. Rowing boats are the mode of transportation.

Despite the fassade of lawful rightness, officials are bribed and goods smuggled like everywhere else (especially Telonian apparatuses and wonders).

1911 Mountain / Mysterious site to explore
Wyverns migrate and nest on a seasonal basis atop this mountain range. They come in numbers, and with increasing hunger. Major problem for anyone in the greater surrounding area.

1804 Hand Tower / Mysterious site to explore
A gigantic hand of granite, saluting the skies.

Entrance to a coal mine gone wrong, a ruination of dust, smoke and fire. Now a colony of gigantic ants roam the place, together with other vermin and the ghosts of the perished miners.
There are rumors of a reservoir of coal power still intact, deep underground, as well as ores and gemstones.

0712 Abandoned Mage Tower (Mysterious site to explore)
Built by the famed Ralagazzam before the War of the Sages, this impressive dusk cylinder is culminated by an observatory. You won't find any door or window in the edifice upon approach.

Despite the many traps, portals, experimentations and laboratories, Ralagazzam is nowhere to be found. His whereabouts are but a mystery: swallowed whole by one of his experimental creatures? Snapped into the stars by a foully calibrated portal?

1410 Dungeon entrance
Nightmare Keep

A ruined keep, surrounded by a wide circle of dolmens. Inside the ruins only hollow silence awaits. There are 297 skeletons that animate at night, former inhabitants of this place, going on with their lives in death. Ignore anyone unless their activities are disturbed.

Entrance to the dungeon proper is magically revealed by looking through a mirror to the shadows of the dolmens at midday.

In the dungeon proper: vermin, undead, and Creatures that the Worst Nightmares those trapped souls on the surface (the skeletons) have to offer.

1102 Undead Fortress (Dungeon entrance)
Serpent Skull

The skull of a giant titanic serpent, with alien runes and glyphs carved on its rugged surface. Herein lies an imprisoned powerful lich, Sorcerer of the Saurids from past millenia, and its retinue of undead cohorts.

2.2 Random Encounter Table

Assume that all roads are poorly maintained, for traveling movement rate purposes. The Undead plague at Night has made commerce and traveling a dangerous proposition. Settlements turned reclusive, wary of strangers and foreigners, self-contained and (mostly) self-sufficient.

At day...

2. Awakened Saint, 5:6 of having an entourage of 2d6 pilgrims (Acolytes)
3. d3 Kraa
4. d4 Inquisitors with d20 Practicals
5. d20 Alchemists or merchants (1:6 chance of transporting Blue Flame in bulk), with 2d6 hired mercenaries
6. d20 Pilgrims (as Acolytes)
7. Pack of 3d10 herd animals
8. 3d6 Pack of Wolves
9. 4d6 Telonians
10. d4 Manticores
11. d2 Virbokos
12. Wyvern

At night...

2. Vampire
3. Necromancer with 2d6 Zombies and 1:3 chance of Bone Golem
4. 2d10 Saurid Phallanx
5. d6 Rhagodessa
6. 2d3 Shadow Crooks
7. 4d6 Zombies
8. 3d10 Bandits, carrying Blue Flame torches
9. d4 Crab Spiders
10. 2d4 Flying Serpent Statues (as Gargoyles)
11. d12 Saurid Nobles (as Mummy) riding rotten Pegasi
12. Bone Dragon

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Ulflandia Campaign: Introduction and Overview

Index

1. Introduction and Overview (this post)
2. Ulflandia B/X House Rules
3. Influences, Yoinking and Appendix N
4. Solo Romping
5. Weather, Time, Rumors and Other Minutiae
...

What is this?

A summary on how I've been using the NOD magazines by John Stater. Specifically issues #26 and #27, and the land of Ulflandia therein. Dense and numerous, they are! Any of these NOD mags fill about 60% of what I want to have at the table, but then I need to fill in the gaps and tighten things up a bit to run the game. I added some content and modules to spice things up and sustain the campaign, details will be in other posts linked below.

We are using Old School Essentials (Classic! not Advanced) with pre-generated characters, so B/X rules*. House rules to follow in a future post. Players are level 2 right now. This group, my regulars of the Calaveras, has recently been playing Knave, Macchiato Monsters, LotFP. But we settled on "better layout terse B/X" for this romp, lest I finally nauseate them with all this system hoppery.

TL;DR: NOD magazines are a trove of good content. Any of the hexcrawls will give you years of gaming if you are willing to put the extra effort and fill the gaps.

With that said, I have no idea going in if using Ulflandia as a whole is going to work, or not. I can already say it would be an infinitely better product with an additional 5-10 page overview.

This post serves as a "how I got the sausage done". Going down the rabbit hole. Or rather "don't fall on the same traps as I did" when making and running a campaign out of the pre-made expansive hexcrawls of NOD magazine. Given the disparate range of topics, and that this is almost a conscious stream of thoughts, I decided to split it in several posts (will be linked at the top).

Overview

Ulflandia is an island region in the land of Nod (detailed in issues #26 and #27). Former elven and fey stronghold, still contains a significant presence of various fey factions, intermingled with orders of humanoids, orders of knights, pirates, sea monsters, giants, dragons, and more. Ripe for adventure!
 
We get a concise but helpful overview on NOD#26 pg1-6. Good starting point, but too concise, I would have liked to see more of it, as well as other topics covered (weather, rumors, highlighted locations, etc).
 
It clearly draws from classical fairy tale mythology, as well as Arthurian fantasy. Even if I don't own Dolmenwood, as we are all awaiting the release, its similarities with Wormskin zine make the intermingling of both materials a clever idea. Anecdotally, these 2 issues of NOD magazine predate Wormskin by just a few months (released July/October 2015 vs December 2015 of the first Wormskin issue). More on influences and other modules in a later post.

The main island is roughly 25'000 mi2, so the size of Ireland or Georgia, if we assume 6-mile hexes. This is apparently a fine assumption (I consulted with Stater in this matter), even if not explicitly written in the material.

Furthermore, a splitting in different regions is provided (see below), with enough variety to accommodate for lots of campaign starts. Each region gets a couple paragraphs of general description, a 3d6 random encounter table (with the occasional new monster, but no variety or encounter spicing), and a few major settlements listed (and their hex number).

I decided to start my group right between Coblyns and Greenwood at [4626], dropping a starter dungeon there.

Ulflandia regions

Luckily we get a "spheres of influence" overview, with the different factions that shape the land:

  • 3 religious orders (Black, Grey and White Friars), with a polytheistic pantheon**
  • 2 knightly orders (Knights of the Cauldron and Order of the Red Crosse)
  • 3 magical societies (Blue, Yellow, and Red Mages)
  • an overview of the ruler, Queen Gloriana of Ulflandia

It seems like enough, but is it? I would have liked to see a more thorough breakdown, with smaller factions thrown in, so that low-level PCs can get involved.

There are also numerous new monsters (in the overview and hexes), and spells (mainly in the hexes themselves). Many of the hexes are also an open invitation to flesh them out. Most of the city-states and towns need more detail and personalities, presented they are but a sketch. Another example is [6608], a wizard's tower, which even if with enough details, I would have to map and significantly flesh out in order to run in the game. This in my view is acceptable, otherwise this would be a brick 400 pager, at the very least.

We also get a map of the different kingdoms.

Ulflandia kingdoms

If we combine the relevant sections ins issues #26 and #27, we arrive at 112 pages of content, and 214 and 184, so 398, keyed hexes. This sounds like a lot, and it is! BUT keep in mind that the hex map is 81 x 50 hexes, so 4050 total, meaning that less than 10% of hexes are keyed (!).

I will caveat that by stating that the majority of the map is water from the Tepid Sea and Mother Ocean, so overland the ratio is definitely higher (still in the low double digit percents, for sure). And the numerous online advice is clear in holding back in adding more material or hex locations. Sparse is perfectly fine! We are interested in adventuring locales, not every little minutiae in between, and best not to overwhelm our players.

Why Ulflandia?

  • Ulflandia is an island. It is more constrained than other hexcrawls offerings, but still has a massive size. Surrounding waters promise a romp into the underused sea-faring rules.
  • Classic Medieval terms. Knights, fey, dragons, mythical beings. It has a lot of what we could call the vanilla elements of fantasy, and is fairly grounded. It is easier to gonzo up a setting than to hold it and tame it back, in my experience.
  • Easy to expand. I will have to refrain in this regard, but there are enough empty hexes and blanks to fill to make it our own through play. More importantly, many keyed hexes are an invitation to flesh them out. I'm also looking forward to domain play, hoping we reach that.

One very valid question to throw at this point is why bother with Ulflandia? Isn't it easier to roll your own hexcrawl? (and as a consequence of being both producer and consumer, knowing it inside out). Get to play Patchland would be a great exercise to finally move on with the Gygax75 challenge. Don't get me wrong, NOD is great material, there's a lot to riff of and pilfer for your own games. But here is my reasoning:

  1. Using a published setting I have a safety net, in case my creative muscles fail me, or time is scarce. Something happening a lot these days!
  2. The material ought to be more cohesive and tied up in a particular flavor of fantasy (medieval, Arthurian). My tendencies err to classic D&D-isms, and gonzo sword and sorcery instead.
  3. As an exercise, I want to see how my experiment goes when running one of these products as the back-bone of a campaign. Is it possible? Worth the effort? What would I do differently? And I couldn't find any example online of NOD being used this way (if you have a blog post, video, podcast talking about it, please comment below!)

Conclusion

I think that is all for now. Other posts in this series will come as inspiration strikes, or gaps are filled as play in the campaign demands. Hopefully someone gets some else other than me get use out of these. If nothing else, it will be valuable to document things for future reflection.

Because session-to-session play reports are something I don't have time for these days, I will only write a bare bones recap with highlights every five to ten sessions played.

...

* Initial NOD issues are written for Swords & Wizardry, but these ones are written for Blood & Treasure (I think?). Still, compact and fairly trivial to convert, they have the three saves from 3rd edition.
** Even if this is embedded in the tradition of D&D (see the OD&D Cleric), tonally it is a sore point in such a heavily Christianity-inspired setting, with a polytheistic pantheon. In this I echo the general sentiment of deltasdnd, and have mixed them with a class option in-lieu of a Zealot/Acolyte class with skill based abilities (Turn Undead, Healing, Remove Disease, etc.). I haven't done any such drastic changes as to wipe the pantheon and several factions in one swift move, I want to stay closer to the source if possible.

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

d10 Takes on Halflings

1. Naturalistic natives. Vassals of the Elfs, yet more reliable than goblin servants. Feral. Guerilla warfare constrasts with communion and a great respect with the Wilderness.

2. They are just shaven dwarfs.

3. Halflings and Goblins are two sides of the same coin. Anger a halfling enough, and you just get a goblin. That's why halflings are pestering you with their jovial attitude, and everyone behaves so politely around them.

4. A failed reduction spell by the wizard Ralagazzam spawned the first couple, centuries ago. Copious inter-breading and incest in the generations since then.

5. Halflings are just unattended children. The orphans of wars past. Rascals with an impulse to run away from home in search of equal doses of nourishment and excitement. Of course they've got no shoes and their feet are covered in muck and worse!

6. Halflings are just utopic delusionals. Too much of the right sentiment makes them appear. Maybe they come from a different dimension? Regardless, if you leave your (fairly) peaceful community to go adventuring die in a hole, you are a contrarian moron.

7. Halflings are just beings stranded from the stars. There, they are a species of giants. At their arrival they were utterly terrified and confused. Time and its fading memory meant acceptance.

8. Halflings are born as humans. When in adulthood, solitude is bliss and curse. But Community, that's when things get interesting. As a human gets more and more involved in their Community (church attendance, clubs, social gatherings, etc), their physique morphs and shrinks. Being a Halfling is both a sign of tossed individualism and adopted Community.

9. As medieval pechts (see this post).

10. Dark Sun also has a decent take.

Halfling Ranting

Halflings. Part of the original trifecta (dwarves, elves), but with a lot less historical roots, and a weaker reason to BE. I sometimes feel we are all sequestered by Tolkien's fixation with his view of the British burgueoise, and everyone is too busy riffing off similar concepts to talk up and show the middle finger to this bland concept. Name change? No problem. Interesting update? Nah.

But we already have at least three recognizable lawful character options. Dwarfs? And toss in the gnomes. Do we really need three small-folk races/ancestries/species that blend together, and get confused all the time?

Halflings are something that in my experience a lot of players like to bring to the table. And I like them myself! The jovial attitude and small folk are charming. But I see no real justification to have them as a separate option on the menu. They are just too damn close to humans. Or at least an aspect of them that I would expect in a LOT of adventurers.

My point here is not to encourage you make your halflings shoot eye-lasers and have ballsacks filled with singing gems. Just take them in a slightly different direction. Or drop them and play youngsters and children humans instead. The Urchin. The Lazarillo! It's right there, literally the dawn of the picaresque!

I'm just sad we are at a point where these little suckers are so expected in the DnD vanilla mileau, they are ingrained in our fantasies. And we didn't do anything to let them go. Or invigorate them into something more pallatable and rich. I suppose they are just too damn likeable as they are.