Wednesday, December 21, 2016

New Monster: The Org

Here's a story from my gaming youth.

My mom was a big fan of Blackleaf.
When I was young, my mom, influenced by the Satanic Panic of the 1980s, forbade me from playing D&D. Thus, while I had been introduced to the game years before by watching my brother play, I actually cut my RPG teeth on Top Secret and I.C.E.'s Middle Earth Roleplaying Game.

The guy who sort of reintroduced me to the original RPG or, rather, the Second Edition of the Advanced version of the original RPG, was my cousin. I spent a couple of long weekends at his house in Minnesota one summer, and he showed my all his kick-ass AD&D books. My favorites were the Monstrous Compendiums, these huge white binders full of loose-leaf monsters. Something about these badies grabbed my imagination, particularly their often lengthy ecology entries. Looking back on it now, these writeups were often a combination of too serious and too stupid to be very useful at the gaming table, but to my young eyes they just made these fantastic creatures seem so real.

As is often the case when you're 12 years old, learning something from another 12 year-old, you don't always get all the details correct. A lot of us have stories about rules that we radically misinterpreted during our formative years of gaming. For me, learning from my cousin, the problems were not with the rules but with the mispronunciation of words.

One good example, and the point of this post, was the way that my cousin pronounced one of his favorite monsters: the ogre. 

For some reason, we both got it in our heads that this word was pronounced as though it was spelled o-r-g. As in orc, only with a g instead of a c at the end. This stuck with me for an entire summer at least, until someone finally grew exasperated enough to point out that the word was oge-er.

I was telling this story to my kids the other night when it occurred to me that I should really sit down and stat out a monster called an org, just to kind of complete the circle. I've always thought that D&D could use some kind of beastman, not unlike the monsters from the Warhammer Fantasy setting. You know, monstrous half-man half-animal humanoids that variously resemble goats, rams, and other beasties. Beastman is not a very evocative name, however, so why not call them orgs?

Sure, I'd never make a monster called an org were it not for my cousin's mistake all those years ago. For one, the name sounds way too much like orc. It's a little bit stupid, not unlike a lot of those AD&D monster ecologies from back in 2E. On the other hand, that stupidity is rather charming, and it's important not to take D&D too seriously, right? So, in that vein, I present you with...the orgg, statted for my up-and-coming Swords and Wizardry Campaign. I'm spelling it with a double g at the end, lest people think that I'm simply making a typo every time I try to type orc.

Free stock art courtesy of 1manstudio.


Hit Dice: 1
Armor Class: 8 [11]
Attacks: Weapon or natural weapon
Saving Throw: 17
Special: Fury
Move: 12
Alignment: Chaos
Challenge Level/XP: 2/30

Orgs are savage humanoids that resemble a cross between men and beasts. Orgs are broad-shouldered, muscular, and covered with thick, curly hair. Their flat faces resemble that of a sheep or goat, as do their legs and cloven hooves, but they are otherwise human from the waist up. Most but not all orgs have horns, usually broad and curled like a ram’s, although some have short straight horns and a few sport deer-like antlers. Creatures of almost pure chaos, the orgs are a universally violent, bloodthirsty race. They fight to the death, adding a +2 to all attack rolls because of their great fury.

Rumors exist of orgs who possess far different characteristics than the rest of their race, with bony-plated skin, bear-like muzzles, or serpentine appendages. Whether these mutants are the chosen warriors of the org’s chaos-gods, some rare off-shoot of the main race, or merely the bugaboo of some adventurer’s tall tale is as of yet unknown.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

New Campaign: Explanation

As I mentioned before, I'm a full-time nontraditional college student. That means, in a nutshell, that I don't have enough time to worry about the fact that I'm too old to be in college. One thing that I can't help but do is mine my classes for RPG ideas. The following is my brief pitch for what this campaign is going to be about. I'm not going to bother calling out all the historic and literary references that inspired these ideas, except in the broadest sense. They should, for the most part, be readily apparent, as I'm not trying to write the great American novel here, just tap into the same fertile ground that has inspired fantasy RPGs since their creation.

What follows is my stream-of-consciousness thoughts on the campaign. While I do have rules to back most of this up, that will have to wait for a future post. 

Basic Premise
The campaign takes place in Brynland, a snowy land of war-like tribes who live on the outskirts of the Ludal Empire. A generation ago, King Reinfried I, called Reinfried the Great, used his superior military cunning to greatly expand his holdings, and Valdland represents the far northern border of that expansion.

Reinfried's successor and current King of Ludal, Reinfried II, has found his father's empire difficult to maintain. A series of costly rebellions, plus war in the south, have combined to largely drain the royal treasury. In these economic conditions, a remote place like Valdland, populated by armed and belligerent peoples, might be the first place to slip from King Reinfried's control, if not for a very unique location: The Valley of the Last Battle.

The Ludal people follow a monotheistic faith that worships Telnos of the Eternal Flame. The Telnins (as they call themselves) believe that this valley, which rests in the very heart of Valdland, will one day be the location of the final apocalyptic battle between Law and Chaos that will decide the fate of the world. The valley is currently controlled by an alarming collection of monstrous humanoids, who themselves hold the site to be sacred. Thus, King Reinfried II, at the church's urging, has called for able-bodied members of the faith to take up arms and help secure the Valley of the Last Battle in the name of their god. Though only a brave few have taken up this call, Reinfried hopes the campaign will help refill his coffers and bolster the spirit of his ailing empire.

A few local Valdlanders have joined the Ludal campaign as well. While they don't share the Ludalian religion, their own local traditions also hold the valley to be an important location; it is the supposed final resting place of the first Valdic King, the legendary Ulfrith the Wise. That the caves are also supposedly filled with lost treasures is no small incentive to the more adventerous-minded Valdlanders, either.

PC Options
The PCs have a choice; they can run local Valdlanders or outsiders from the Ludal Empire. There are also dwarves, and I haven't decided on whether elves or halflings will be an option.

Auslanders (foreigners) are humans who have come to Valdland on King Reinfried's Campaign. They have access to heavier armor (plate is not readily available in Valdland, so the locals are not trained in its use). Auslanders may be fighters, magic-users, clerics, or thieves and use the standard rules.
Valdlanders (locals) are humans local to the campaign area, and have their own motives for taking on the valley. Valdland has been under Ludal control for 40 years and, while there is some resentment, the local lord is a fair and honorable ruler who has earned the Valdlanders' begrudging respect.

Valdlander fighters can't use heavy armor, but they are extraordinarily skilled with the use of shields and spears. They don't have clerics, but instead may choose to be a gothi, a cleric-variant that uses rune-magic and cannot turn undead. Although they may become magic-users, doing so marks them as a bit of an outcast, since magic of that sort is an export from Ludal.

Dwarves: The dwarves have a somewhat removed relationship from both Ludal and Valdland characters. They have their own settlement, many miles away in the Diamond Peaks, but maintain a strong trade presence in Valdland. The dwarves are master craftsmen and represent the only reliable source of plate armor, as well as a variety of quality weapons and other expensive goods in the area. While their are a few dwarves willing to brave the dangers of the Valley of the Last Battle, their motivations remain a mystery.

Monday, December 19, 2016

New Campaign: Beowulf on the Borderlands

Beowulf of the Borderlands is a working title for a campaign I'm currently prepping using Swords & Wizardry White Box. I've always had this idea in the back of my head of building a campaign to run with my kids, plus anyone else who happens to be around and up for a game of D&D.

The idea would be to make a pretty standard D&D setup: A central dungeon and a small wilderness area around it. The campaign would start out bare bones but would gain detail over time as the kids explored and made their own impact on the world. Ideally, in ten years or so, I'd have this binder containing a full dungeon and campaign fleshed out by actual play via my kids and I. Sort of a D&D-geek family heirloom.

Pictured: Prop Heirloom

My biggest struggle was choosing what version of D&D to run. I have a spiral bound edition of B/X that I put together myself, a hardcover of the Rules Cyclopedia, and just about every retroclone in either print or PDF format. Plus, there is always 5E, which I'll admit is probably my second favorite version of D&D next to the various flavors of Basic.

I decided to go with White Box because it's the closest I can find to vanilla OD&D, but it's organized in a much easier-to-grasp fashion. As much as I love my original D&D PDFs, they are not exactly the best version for trying to teach D&D to someone under 10. Plus, White Box begs for house rules, and this campaign is going to have a bunch of them, although mostly house rules of a flavor-adding variety.

I'm a full-time college student, so I needed to something to give me a head start and not run the risk of stalling out because of workload. Thus, I decided to use the Caves of Chaos from Keep on the Borderlands fame...but with a few twists. First of all, I'm not using the original map from the Caves of Chaos, but this reworked version done by 0One Games. The neat benefit is that, while it's reminiscent of the original, it's just different enough to through off any Grognards that may or may not hypothetically join in the fun down the road.

Secondly, I'm not going to use the Keep itself, but rather this map by the illustrious Dyson Logos. I'll be making great use of random charts to populate both the dungeon and the wilderness around it. I'll be building it all around what I think is a pretty fun Anglo-Saxon sort of theme. Additionally, I'll be publishing my thoughts along the way here on this echo-chamber of a blog, mostly for my own reference but also as incentive to keep working on things.

We'll see how things go, but as of right now I'm pretty excited. I think the kids are going to have a lot of fun with this one.

Yes, sort of like this. Maybe no Demogorgon

Campaign Concept (Or, What Do You Mean by Beowulf on the Borderlands?)