Thursday, October 24, 2013

How Did I Not Know About This?

I love the Onion.  YDIS written in the style of the Onion makes me happy.

Keep up the good work, even though, as you say:  Blog Target Audience Pathetically Small, Powerless.

The Dongion

You should go read it.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

13th Age Icons for D&D Next - The Priestess

The next Icon in this series is the Priestess.  I like some of the basic ideas about this Icon - earthly emissary of the good/lawful deities, ever-growing mystical temple complex, but I wanted to add a bit more depth to the icon, so I built her into a set up prophecies that link her explicitly to the Crusader.  I stole a bit from Glenn Cook here.  He can give me grief about that if he wants.

The Priestess

Atheras, the Blue Rose.  Mistress of the Holy City of Paham.

Usual Location: The Ziggurat in Paham.

Common Knowledge: The Blue Rose is the Priestess of the Gods and Goddesses of Good, and maintains their greatest temple at the Ziggurat of a Thousand Steps in Paham.  Devotees of all the Good Gods are welcomed, and the Ziggurat rises into the sky to accommodate the many temples built upon its shaded steps.

Adventurers: The Priestess and her representatives, the Builders often hire or recruit adventurers to battle against cults, unholy magic or undead infestations.  They also seek to retrieve holy artifacts and Angelic magic items, and destroy Abyssal, Diabolic or Necromantic items.

Allies: The Emperor, the Great Gold Wyrm.  The Elf Queen and the Dwarf King both respect the Priestess.  Relations with the Archmage are very strained since the Desolation.

Enemies: The Crusader, The Diabolist, the Lich King, the Three.

History: There have been a number of Priests and Priestesses over the Ages, all of whom have been linked to some sort of prophecy or omen.  Atheras arose as the result of a Prophecy of the Blue Rose at the close of the 10th Age, and has maintained the Ziggurat of a Thousand Steps since that time.  Her magic keeps the edifice rising into the sky, each white marble step larger than the last.

One True Danger:  It is whispered that the Prophecy of the Blue Rose once spoke of an event called the Withering, when the Priestess turned to evil, and the Thousand Steps became an Endless Pit.  No current copies of the Prophecy contain this material, but it is rumored that unedited copies exist.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Memoir '44 Variant Rules: Memoir Medieval

A month or so ago my buddy and I got the chance to sit down and spend a day playing games.  We both have kids, so this basically never happens, so it was lots of fun.

Our wives both enjoy board games too, but in this case they weren't around, so we broke out the 2-player games.  One of them was Memoir '44, by Days of Wonder, which I hadn't played before.  We ran through a couple of the starting scenarios to get used to the system and ended up splitting the first 2 games.  Game 1 I won by taking a couple of bridges, game 2 Rayn won by dint of a very fortunate air-drop and my inexperience.

Rather than playing a third game, my innate desire to hack things up kicked in, and I decided I wanted to build a set of medieval/fantasy variant rules for the game.  The basic mechanics are great - play cards to move your troops, roll dice to attack - damage the enemy or force them to retreat based on the dice results.

I figured that these mechanics could be translated easily into a medieval/fantasy game, so I dug through all the other board games at Rayn's house and came up with a spread of figures that we could use to replace the existing soldiers and tanks and artillery.

We didn't bother to make up specific scenarios, so we put together some rules for quickly building maps cooperatively.  We also set up a point buy system for building armies and some basic deployment rules.

Scenario Setup:


75 points each, no giants allowed.  4 command cards each.  15 terrain cards each. 4 VP's required to win. 
The Skirmish rules are for a small engagement with quite a bit of terrain.  Point restrictions will likely mean no catapults.

100 points each.  5 command cards each.  12 terrain cards each.  5 VP to win.
The Battle rules are for a medium/normal engagement, which can include catapults and giants.  Less terrain means freer movement.

Large Battle
150 points each, 1 free commander on each side (if commanders are being used), 5 command cards each. 10 terrain cards each.  6 VP to win.  1 VP location place-able by each player.  2 VP locations placed along center line of board.
The Large Battle rules are for a big, full-scale engagement.  Player-placed VP locations must be placed within 2 hexes of the center-line of the board.  The 2 center line VP locations are placed according to mutual agreement after the terrain tiles are placed.

Side 1 150 Points, 10 terrain cards, 5 command cards.  Side 2 100 points, 15 terrain cards, 1
fortification, 3 sandbags, 5 barbed wire, 2 VP location markers, 3 command cards (draw 2 on 1st 2 rounds).  6 VP to win.
The Siege rules are designed  to simulate an attack by a larger force on a smaller, entrenched force, which starts with the VP locations. 

Terrain Placement:

Players pick the requisite number of terrain tiles blindly from a bag.  Players then alternate placing terrain tiles on the board.  They may play either side of the tile.  The first tile must be placed somewhere along the centerline of the board.  Subsequent tiles must be placed within 1 hex of an existing tile.

River tiles should be placed contiguous to other river tiles, in the direction of the closest edge of the map, unless both players agree to set the river up differently.

Unless both players agree, all tiles must be played within 3 hexes of the center line of the board.

Other terrain features, like bridges, barricades or fortifications, can be placed if both players agree.  Remember, the setup is a collaborative process designed to create an interesting map.


Once the board is set up, both players alternate deploying 1 unit at a time, until both armies are deployed.  Units cannot be moved once deployed unless both players agree.  Units must be deployed within at 2 hexes of the players map edge, unless both players agree.



Infantry Units:

4 figures. 
Move: 0/1 and battle or move 2 and no battle.   
Attack: 3.
Cost: 10 points.
Close Support:  Ignore 1 retreat flag for each friendly unit in contact.
We used the spearmen from Risk:Godstorm.

4 figures.
Move 0/1 and battle or move 2 and no battle. 
Attack 1/2/3.
Cost: 10 points.
Arcing Shot:  Can hit targets that are within range that allied units have LOS on, even if they do not.
Elusive: Count as armor for defensive purposes when in rough terrain.
We couldn't find good archers, so we used infantry units from vanilla Memoir '44.

4 figures.
Move: 3.  Can move before AND after battling.
Attack: 2  
Cost: 10
Flank:  Gain +1 combat if another unit is in close assault with target.
Pursuit:  retreat flags count as hits against infantry units.

We used cavalry from Conquest of the Empire.

Optional Cavalry type: 
Horse Archers
4 figures.
Move: 3.
Attack: 2/2.
Cost 15.

Armor Units


3 figures
Move: 0/1 and battle or move 2 and no battle.
Attack: 4
Cost: 25
Terror: Any unit taking damage from giants must retreat 1 space.
We used the Saxon and Pict figures from Shadows Over Camelot.

Heavy Cavalry (Elephants)
3 figures.
Move 2 and battle.
Attack 3.
Cost: 15.
Overrun:  If close combat destroys a unit, the heavy cavalry may move into their space and launch an additional attack.
We used the elephants from Risk:Godstorm.

Artillery Units

2 figures.
Move: 1 or attack.
Attack: 3/3/2/2/1/1 
Cost: 25 
We used the catapults from Conquest of the Empire, but the catapults from Shadows Over Camelot would work just as well.


Commanders are an optional rule that I added after the initial playtesting, so they might not work.  I thought it might be interesting to add a Commander/General type unit to the board, which would allow some additional options for issuing orders.  If both players agree, then each player secretly selects a Commander type, revealing them during setup.

I used the god tokens from Risk:Godstorm.

All Commander Units have a single figure.  They cannot take hits in combat, but any hit or retreat result counts as a retreat.  The Commander is destroyed if they are forced off the board.

Move 3, no order required.
The Warlord can issue 1 order/turn to a unit that it is adjacent to.  Units in close assault fight at +1 if the Warlord is adjacent to them.

Move 2, no order required.
If the Wizard is issued an order, the Wizard may either
Teleport to any location on the board.  If that location is adjacent to a friendly unit, the Wizard may issue an order to that unit. 
Launch a 3 attack (counts as artillery) against 1 unit within 2 squares.

Move 2, no order required.
The Cultist can issue an order to up to 3 infantry units in their current battle area each turn.  These units must move directly forward up to 2 squares and can battle.  Friendly units adjacent to the Cultist ignore the 1st retreat flag rolled when attacked.

Move 2, no order required.
The Enchantress can issue 1 order/turn to any unit in the same battle area.  If the Enchantress is issued an order, she may swap locations with another friendly unit on the board.

To download a complete PDF version of these rules, click here:  Medieval '44 Variant Rules

Monday, September 16, 2013

Random Encounters and Reaction Rolls: RERR?

My current D&D Next playtest campaign:  Dwarves, is a semi-sandbox.  By that I mean that the world is generally open for exploration, but I've developed a number of adventure hooks/events in most of the neighboring areas.  This gives the party quite a bit of freedom to explore the map and get into trouble, but also gives me some narrative structures that I can use to build encounters and areas.

Each area adjacent to the PC's starting area (Goldenhills Hall) has site-based, random and "story" based elements.  That means that any random encounters table has to pull double-duty.  It has to contain random encounters, true, but the encounters need to be linked to the story elements and to the site-based elements as well.

As a DM, I tend to work on the "you CAN talk to most things, but sometimes they don't want to talk to you" basis.  Having encounters that end in ways other than combat is an essential step towards creating a world that gives the characters options besides "I hit it with the rock!"  But realistically, not everything wants to talk.  AND you can't really use charisma is all circumstances.  You might be a charming motherfucking pig, but the Cave Lion don't care...

So that means that encounter tables have to carry quite a bit of weight.  I use a standard 2d6 reaction dice, but each encounter has a modification, and also notes whether Charisma can be used.  Temper all this stuff with a generous dose of common sense.  Obviously you need some way to communicate, even if it's lighting torches and throwing them at said Cave Lion (universal human symbol for "Fuck Off").

Encounters are rolled daily and nightly with a d6.  1 indicates an encounter.  I tend to add +1 or +2 to the actual encounter roll (d20) at night, since I keep fairly positive encounters at the low end of the list - nighttime encounters tend to be more hostile as a result. 

Encounter reaction table:  Roll 2d6 and modify, encounters with Cha can be modified by characters Cha bonus IF they can communicate.  Characters with Animal Handling can add their modified bonus to reaction rolls involving animals.

1-           Immediate Attack
2-3          Hostile, will attack if opportunity presents
4-5          Suspicious, will attack if threatened or try to flee.
6-8          Neutral, will talk, attack or flee depending on interactions
9-10       Wary, but willing to listen.  Won’t let guard down.
11-12     Curious, interested in talking, will approach.
13+         Friendly, interested, will approach and offer assistance.

This system is structured to work with a possible encounter bonus of around +/- 4 or so at the extreme.  A +/- 8 modifier would mean a purely hostile or peaceful encounter.

Currently, the party is exploring the Saltwind Flats.  The area is prairie and rolling grassy and rocky hills.  The main local inhabitants are the Ahten Nomads, who are currently under attack by the followers of Doresain, King of Ghouls, who have taken up residence in a local ruin/dungeon. 

Saltwind Flats Plains and Foothills encounters
# Appearing
Reaction Modifier (2d6)
Ahten Nomads – Herders with stock and families
+4 (cha)
Ahten Nomads – Hunting Party
+3 (cha)
Ahten Nomads – War party – well-armed nomads
+2 (cha)
Animal Herd (1-2 Buffalo, 3-4 Wild Horses, 5-6 Wild Cattle)
Plains lion pride – plains lions.
Wolf pack
Ghul skulkers, looking to carry off the unwary
Gnoll raiders, looking to kill and eat something
-4 (cha)
Air elemental, playful, but rough.
Slavers out of Hellonde
-2 (cha)
Lizardman Raiders on raptor mounts.
-4 (cha)
Giant snake out hunting.  It ain’t picky.
Griffons on the wing.
Ankheg nest.  It’s usually hungry
Manticore.  It likes to eat people most of all
Perytons out looking for something to kill
Wendigo.  Cannibalistic air spirits only come out at night.
Roll again, you find that group recently dead.

Roll twice, and the two groups have just met.


I keep a separate table for Special encounters.  Those are the weird, different stuff.

I find this system gives me a good spread of random encounters with a range of possible outcomes, tied to both the story elements and the regional "feel" that I'm looking for.