More random thoughts that may or may not warrant exploration, expansion, discussion, or even middling attention.
On Being Trained Up
I don’t like negative modifiers to die rolls. I think it’s because I add faster than I subtract. To remedy one area where this annoys me, I’ve decided that when you attempt an untrained Ability in Chimera, instead of taking a -4 penalty to your 1d20 roll, you just make the Action Roll with a 1d12.
Now, I realise that, maximum result-wise, that’s a difference of 8 points, which seems twice as bad as the existing -4 penalty in the Chimera Basic rulebook. But, no subtraction. Mechanically, all it means is that the only way you can succeed, untrained, at a Difficult or harder action (TN 13+) is with the aid of situational advantages. Done.
You like-a the sauce?
Embarking from the Foreign Quarter
Assuming your fantasy campaign is as xenophobic as medieval Europe was, then the foreign quarters of its cities will be unpleasant places. By “foreign,” I mean anyone who’s not (1) a native son or (2) rich (i.e., most adventurers). For clarity, the Foreign Quarter is not where diplomats live and work—that’s the Diplomats’ Quarter—it’s where immigrants are settled because they’re heretical, disease-ridden, hard to understand, and bad cooks. 
Inhabitants are more likely to take the law into their own hands, provided it involves other foreigners, mostly because city authorities are more interested in the non-Foreign Quarters. Inside, local coinage may not be accepted, though there will be many things to buy, wondrous to see. Rumours abound, especially those dealing with far-away places that locals have only heard about. Common goods may be of lower quality (for lack of decent raw materials), though certain foreign wares—unavailable anywhere else—will be top notch. This is how you might get a bunch of retainers armed with scimitars instead of short swords, or a character with actual Greek Fire instead of crappy lamp oil.
Odd Dream featuring Zak S.
This happened back in August. Normally, I’d say it was my subconscious mulling over something I read on Zak's blog. But the synopsis of my recollection (and what I wrote down upon waking) doesn’t really bear that out. To whit:
- I took a NY subway to Zak’s house (not sure which train)
- His yard was filled with lots of people, each with their own handshake (I placed my left-hand pinky in the wrong position, and the guy said “That’s how the girls do it.” I apologised, and he smiled, saying “That’s cool.”).
- Zak and I exchanged Dr. Benway quotes in his backyard
- There was a big flying beetle in the yard, like two-and-a-half inches long, and it flew onto my hand, biting my thumb (right by the fingernail; I could feel this in the dream, like my thumb was asleep). I swatted it away and the beetle snapped off, with the head and mandibles still embedded in my thumb. Zak said something like, “That beetle only had 2hp.”
- Then Zak wanted to show me other bugs he had in the yard. There was a radish-sized beetle with a lumpy shell that was twice as high as the beetle was long. The shell could match the colour and shape of whatever leaf was nearest.
- There was also a basin of aquatic slugs. They were about a half-dozen in the basin, all submerged. Zak went to feed them meat from an eyedropper, and when he approached, the slugs reached their mouths—vertical, serrated slits—out of the water, like little C'thulhu koi in a pond.
I have no idea what most (any) of this means.
This took 1 click
Island Mapping Tool
MapGen2 - Generates islands and tiny archipelagos. Likes: random, creates rivers and mountain lakes, nice Polygon and 3D Slopes views. You can even export to XML, if you’re one of those freaks. Dislikes: Flash, the fact that it’s hosted on a university server (hint: get it before it goes away). That said, the author’s blog does seem current.
Also nice: there’s no scale, AND the map is rendered in a square window. So you could easily generate a nice-looking island and pop it into an Atlas or Regional hex template.
GM Life Stages
Start with published modules -> Tweak and customise those modules -> Write your own modules -> Write notes -> Show up with random tables and run the game on the fly. Thoughts?
Who Makes a Dungeon?
Maybe I have creative inertia, but lately I can’t justify dungeons. Small crypts, tombs, natural cave complexes, city sewers, catacombs, prisons, abandoned mines—all these are fine (in moderation).
But big dungeons? What for PCs to run amok in? I was embarrassed to admit this until Bane revealed similar consternation. I could see a few of the examples above, even multi-levelled, but they are easily over-used—like, there might be one (ONE) mad wizard who dug crazy tunnels under his tower, but that’s about it. Who builds dungeons in your campaign, and why?
C'mpalla the Axe
Let's see, there's 69 Villages and C'mpalla's Saga. I haven't forgotten, but other stuff does get in the way. For 69 villages, I'm working up some Inspiration Pad Pro tables to automate the process (almost done—just have to figure out the freeholder populations). The tables spit out slightly different results from what you get from the Medieval Demographics Tool, but it's worth the effort. On the plus side, quick-and-dirty villages. On the downside, not much point in continuing the project once it's done, because you'll be able to make your own villages faster than I can post them. Though, continued application will suggest improvements...
C'mpalla's Saga is actually done and written out—it's a text file in my Chimera folder. I'm not sure whether to write it up as an after action report or annotate with Chimera-mechanics so you can see the dice behind the results. If the former, it's pretty much just a story, which I think will be boring. If it's the latter, then it's a boring story with distracting annotations. Preferences?
Smale’s Laws of Roleplaying Games
- Realism is inversely proportional to playability
- Stat block size is inversely proportional to system flexibility
- Character sheet presentation is a barometer of system complexity
- The quantity of house rules is proportional to the game's age
I’m coming off my Swords & Wizardry phase. Now, please don’t take that as a shot against S&W. Every now and then—particularly as I’m cultivating Chimera—it’s nice to work in a familiar landscape. And—quelle surprise—I finally realised that I can play more than one RPG without betraying the others.
I’ll continue to putter about with S&W, as there are many
hacks house variants I have in mind. These will make their way into The Bastard’s Blade, a blog that covers a (highly) fictionalised Dark Age Christian Europe. I’ll be binge-posting there, so I can’t say when I'll make updates, but when I do, they’ll be copious. And staggeringly brilliant.
As S&W wanes, so waxes Chimera. I’ve been busy in Chimera-land: in the very (VERY) near future, you’ll be able to get your grubbies on a new electronic version that lets you make your own edits, add your own material, and manage your Chimera kit digitally. Suffice to say that I can release more material faster if I'm not jerking around with PDF layout. Hint: this project involves NBOS.
Release details will be posted to forum and newsletter subscribers.
- It should go without saying that this is not my view of immigrants, but instead the broad view of foreigners held by the Western European establishment during the Middle Ages.
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