Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Traveller Itch

I'm starting to get the "Traveller Itch" again.

I need to find some way to run a campaign. My home group is busy with Swords&Wizardry (or Pathfinder as a fallback) and is by and large not hugely SF friendly. My work crew might be mobilized for a once-a-week session if I ask nicely, but we may need to "go Mongoose" (MgT) or even T20, since I didn't get the idea that everyone was fully on-board with Classic's "Old School" (that is, "Mostly GM fiat with few hard rules") feel.

I'd like to use the "Twilight's Peak" adventure as the framework for a merchant campaign. I ran this adventure once decades ago for a group of impatient teenagers (I was also an impatient teenager at the time), and I think we missed out on a lot of the fun of the slowly unrolling story. Though one of my friends still teases me about a planet-bound search we were playing where I forgot to reveal one of the most important facts to them. Something along the lines of, "You can't leave the ATV safely, there's a blizzard." Sigh.

In order to make the campaign work, I'll need to get a player to agree to run the starship's accounting. Last time, I used an NPC (naturally, Alexander L. Jamison) as the captain and owner, and didn't have the players make any choices about mercantile matters. I don't plan to get too detailed about such matters, but on each world I'll present the crew with a list of available flat-rate and speculative cargoes, give them a moment to decide if they want to sell what's in their hold, etc. With any luck, that won't take more than 5min per world and hopefully people will take some interest in the ship's (and therefore their own) profits. The players will then get to choose how they plan to spend their time on-world - hanging around the starport (possibly getting some work from patrons or hearing useful rumors while they blow some cash), going out to "see the sights" (if there are any, and the local law allows it), or whatever else may come up.

The part of space Twilight's Peak is set in is a chain about 20 worlds long, which at normal rates of travel means their journey will take a year or so. Some worlds we'll be able to bang through in 10-20 minutes of game time, some may require hours.

I'm sure this is just another of my pipe dreams, and like so many of my other plans will either come to naught or aggravate my state of mind.  I dunno, I'll float the idea around and see if anyone bites. The usual office game is off for a few weeks anyway, so maybe....

As a side note, the by-the-book "cost of being alive for a week based on your social standing" rules will definitely be in effect, but some of the worlds that are being visited are decidedly unpleasant, so I might do something like "the lowest of Social Standing, World Population, or Tech Level" since many worlds won't be able to support a high-society lifestyle to begin with. ("Wow, are you wearing a Pirema jumpsuit? That's just sad, man.") I'll have to work out rules for things like refusing to leave the ship. ("I don't care, I'm not going out into the sulfuric acid these idiots call an atmo!")

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Current set of house rules for the S&W campaign

I've evolved a set of house rules to adapt S&W to my home campaign.

  • Magic Users spell casting expansion - Standard rules apply, but a memorized spell is considered to be a "mostly cast" spell. An MU can also cast spells from their spellbooks, but it takes a full turn (10 rounds) to do it. The spell is NOT consumed from the book under this system. So your MU can prepare Sleep, but still be able to cast Detect Magic if you have a full turn to let them work their mojo in peace.
    The Magic User still can't prepare spells for combat casting without an extended rest, so this rule is mostly a way for your MU to be able to cast those "why would I memorize THAT?" spells during an adventure, at the price of losing a turn and possibly attracting wandering monsters.
  • Cleric Temples and Healing - all temples are built around a magic fountain or similar structure that can heal 1d6 HP per day if used by a worthy person. The same fountain can cure minor ailments, but not diseases; those still require a Cleric's magic. The water itself has no special powers, so it's not a free source of Cure Light potions, but it provides the kind of divine healing that a community would need to shrug off minor daily wounds. This helps explain why the D&D world is not as miserable and festering as a real European medieval style civilization would be.
  • A character can "tag out" of a combat as a move if a friend is behind them and ready to step in. This lets characters relieve each other in a congested fight. I'm considering only allowing this when your side has initiative.
  • Likewise, if you have initiative, you can attempt to push through an enemy's position. However, they get a free attack against you, and if they hit you do not move past them.
  • By way of rationale, the Saving Throw bonuses some classes get (Magic Users get +2 vs. spells, for example) are considered to be caused by player action. For example, the MU save bonus is due to the wizard knowing certain warding runes or other arcane ways to diffuse magic. It doesn't help a lot, but it helps some. Likewise, a Cleric's resistance to poison and petrification comes from their faith that their god will protect their body. Maybe yes, maybe no, but it helps some.
  • Clerics can attempt to turn every round as their standard action. Once they've failed to turn a particular undead, they will never be able to turn it in the current combat, but if they simply did not turn enough of the undead, they can re-try turning the rest of them in a later round.
Well, that's it. Seems like a lot, but those are some spot-rulings I made during play in addition to a few logical implications of the way I see my campaign working. The twist on wizard casting that I'm using is probably the biggest change, though the difference is only going to come up during exploration, not combat.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Does a cleric choose his faith, or does it choose him?

Swords&Wizardry Clerics have a property that is unusual in the D&D world - they do not get any spells as first level. They can still turn undead, but no spells until level 2, at which point they basically track the Magic User, but one level behind.

From a game mechanics perspective, I suspect that was originally done to balance out the Cleric's power level. After all, he can turn undead things at will, which is nearly a 1st level spell's worth of power. He also has a medium level of HP, can wear any armor, and has some nice weapon proficiencies.

But from a game world perspective, what does that mean? Clerical spells are powers granted by the divine, after all.

I've decided that what it means in my campaign is that Clerics have to earn their god's patronage by proving themselves. (That is, gaining a level) Once a cleric has leveled up, his exploits will be noticed by one of the lesser gods or godly servants, who will contact him and become his celestial contact.

A starting off cleric, while no doubt well versed in the faith he's pursuing, has yet to form a real bond with his god(s). Presumably, the cleric should perform acts that make the god he's trying to woo happy. However, it's also possible that the cleric will be contacted by a god other than his chosen god. This is likely in some mythoi, as the gods will compete with each other to some extent.

Also, in my system a character would in theory not need to be exclusive with his god, though he would treat with his god's enemies only at his own peril!

I'm a bit worried that my view of Cleric is bleeding over into Paladin territory, but those two classes are similar to begin with. I figure Paladins are introverted in the sense that they seek to do their god's bidding without question, but aren't showy about it. Clerics play the extrovert, making sure everyone is aware of the power of their god, and are more inclined to work with than for their god. (As in, "Mighty Odin, we can vanquish your foes if you grant us the boon of <insert spell list here>!" Whereas the Paladin would go out, vanquish the foes and shout, "Souls for Odin's Hall!" as he's killing enemies.) It's a fine line, and one which I don't think I fully grasp, not being a big fan of Paladins.

Friday, March 1, 2013

A Traveller Patron

Here is a simple patron idea I had, originally designed for Mongoose Traveller, but usable in any system if you disregard some of the notes. I haven't followed the normal "options 1-6" format, though anyone using this should feel free to explore all sensible options, because there are a great many places this encounter could go off the rails, and I've only explored a few. I haven't run this one, so I can't say how it works out in practice. If you decide to inflict it on your players, let me know what did and didn't work.

PATRON - A Snake in the Grass

In the Startown tavern of a high Law Level world, a man approaches the players with an offer:  Retrieve a duffle bag from a free trader currently in port for 2000Cr. This bag contains some personal effects, and he claims that he was unfairly fired from the ship's crew and not allowed to retrieve his goods. He will suggest that the players pose as prospective employees (for his old job) and during the interview, get his bag for him.

Referee's Information:
The patron is a liar and a thief. Last night at the tavern, he overheard the actual crewman talking about a bag with (valuable item) that his "lucky dog" bunk mate had acquired. The crewman had already told the captain that he was quitting his job, and since he was leaving on good terms he was going to clean out his stateroom the next day. Unfortunately, that crewman was locked up on a drunk and disorderly charge the previous evening, and will be locked up for 48 hours, giving 

The players can try any technique they want to gain access to the crewman's stateroom, but Starport security is high and the captain is a busy man who will not give tours of his ship to just anyone. The captain is indeed searching for a new crew member, but if the characters ask about the previous crewman, the Patron's story won't match up.

If the players manage to impress the captain and don't sort out the core deception, they should be able to get into the stateroom without any violence, and with some Stealth should be able to get the satchel out.  If they're caught, things could get dicey. Likewise, the captain will come looking for them at his departure time. The subsequent events are up to the Referee.

If the players return with the duffle, the Patron will try to cheat them, claiming that he needs to "go get the money". If the players intimidate him successfully (Average Intimidate DM+STR) he will pay 2000cr (marginal success gets them 1000cr). If the players decide to keep the satchel or lie about retrieving it, the Patron will become VERY irate, and will possibly even attack the players with a ceramic knife.

If the players sort out the deception and inform the captain, he will be furious and will want to turn the 
Patron over to the local authorities. It will turn out that he's a known criminal who is wanted and has a 3000cr reward for his capture. The captain will let them use a spare ship's duffle for the deception. The Patron will be able to detect the deception and will produce a ceramic knife (Blade, but undetectable by local TL) and attack the players. The law enforcement officers will arrive in 1d6 turns afterwards.  On a Difficult Deception/DEX roll, the players can swipe the knife without the officer noticing.

Patron: Karl Mortensen 76957(9) (SS is a disguise - real number is 4, Steve Savage)
     Deception-2, Melee(blade)-1, Recon-2
     Ceramic Dagger (melee, 1d6)

Captain: Merchant Captain Rebart Shivvan 65A887
     Admin-2, Broker-3, etc.

Police Officer: Bran Thuragud 99977A
     Relevant skills at level 3
     Stun baton