Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Proper Conflict Modifiers

I am an idiot.

I have for months been trying to work out a consistent set of modifiers for Conflict and it has been staring me in the fact this whole time.  I mean literally, staring me in the face.

Civilization IV and V have conflict modifiers which are included in the game, designed to balance negotiations against the course of recent events and circumstances.  Why not use those?

So if my players could please ignore the previous modifiers I introduced a couple of months ago, and please include these in your calculations, that would be terrific:

I think the inclusion of these may make some circumstances more difficult (like the recent discussion), but since they come from a source outside myself - a recognizeable source - they may be more readily accepted.  Please give your opinion, and I will get back to running my campaign.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Hamlet Aroused

The girl has a strong effect on the cluster of houses.  She shouts about the death of her pig, and about the party waiting on the road nearby.  Sofia is able to hear something else - apparently, the pig's principle value was that it was able to sniff out truffles.

The rest is predictable.  The hamlet rouses itself, the men shouting for justice, and some twenty men arm themselves with pitchforks and start towards the road and the party, and the girl among them.  Sofia is quite able to outrun them - and the men of the hamlet are not running, but walking with purpose.  They do not seem angry so much as determined and resolute.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Crossroads North of Hildesheim

October 12, 1650, Sunday night
Weather: with brisk temperatures and overcast conditions, with a calm air.

It is not long again before you catch up with Ruiz, who is also heading south.  You may spare him a few words, you may not; he does not seem especially talkative, and answers cryptically to any questions.  One gets the sense that he is landless, and probably drifting south to avoid the winter.

The party continues through mixed forest and cropland, steadily approaching the Salzgitter Hills to the south, with rise 800 feet above the plateau.  They extend far to the east, as far as you can see.  The crossroads you reach are at the edge of them.  All day you've seen fields covered with the dead leaves of beet plants, or the stubble from wheat. 

You chance to see a sign that Andrej missed before, probably because it is posted so that travellers from the south might miss it.  The sign states that the Holle Saltbaths may be found by taking a minor west road, which departs from the crossroads.  The road is in poor shape, without many stones, and would necessitate travelling almost single file between the dense poplar forest.

It gets dark as you reach the crossroads, and the drizzle finally gives up.  Again, you eat what Andrej has left, and the party settles in to camp.  Another group of men are settled along the road, nearby (perhaps 30 yards).  They are travelling north, with plans to reach Luneburg before Friday.  They describe themselves as laborers who have been employed in Heilingenstadt, where they have been rebuilding the town cathedral for the past two seasons.  They will winter in Luneburg with their families before returning south.

Ahmet, you discretely separate yourself from your camp, well after nightfall, to relieve yourself of some water - taking your sword with you, naturally.  I'm afraid you're not armored.  You comfortably pass what you must, but as you turn to return to the camp, you hear the definite snuffling of a large beast, no more than 10 feet to your right.

The camp with the others is 50 feet away, and you can hear them chattering pleasantly that the food had better get better - good meat isn't that expensive.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Stream At Celle

October 12, 1650, late afternoon Sunday
Weather: with cool temperatures and a brief drizzle, with a light breeze

The party is awoken in the morning of the 12th by a freezing rain; the morning storm is wet and drops a fifth of an inch of rain, dousing the camp.  Thankfully, it's no worse that a strong breeze, and despite the flapping of tents and such, the party diligently breaks camp, shivering and damp.  Andrej is mindful that it is Sunday, and when the rain ends at midday, he holds the party up for two hours to give services.  Those members of the party who have accepted catholicism join in.

Andrej was last in Calenburg in June, when it was green and lush.  Now the leaves have fallen over the road, and the horse's feet crunch the leaves as they ride.  As you pass through Munster-an-der-Ortze (the other Munster), past companions are dimly remembered.  It's been a month since the battle in Arnsberg ... already one month.  The party feels strangely old and mature, perhaps more than they've ever felt.  They're like their mentors now, people who have seen some significant part of the world and who have tales to tell both pleasant and unpleasant.  And it has only been a few months.

South of Munster-an-der-Ortze, the road leads to Celle.  South of here, Andrej recalls there's a fork that goes either to Hildesheim, the road Andrej knows, and Brunswick.  You reach Celle by mid-afternoon, and there the party dismounts and waters the horses in the Aller River.  From here, the ground climbs above the wet heath of Lower Saxony, to drier parkland.  There's a ford across the river that does not cost money to cross.  The party hopes they can make the aforementioned fork before dark.

Aller River
As the party watches the horses, and eats a bit of food Andrej had created, they find themselves joined on the river by an old knight.  Without dismounting, he urges his horse into the stream about twenty years from you, and lets the horse drink.  The knight is well past his sixties; he wears armor nearly as old as he is, and has a sword in a scabbard that is so worn it shows part of the blade.  The helmet he wears has a few dents in it.  His clothes are expensively made, but have not been cleaned in ages.  A fairly heavy, but rumpled sheepskin coat is wrapped around his shoulders, untied in the front.  The knight nods his acknowledgement to the party, and returns his attention to staying on his horse as he drinks.

Death of an Archbishop

For fun, I wanted to show something else behind the curtain.

Back in January, when I had conceived of the idea of the party meeting Eberhardt and Serafina, my principle plan was to have Andrej perform the wedding, if he was willing, and then hopefully (if he didn't fuck it up, which seemed unlikely) to win the approval of the Prince-Bishop of Munster.  It would be the Prince-Bishop, then, who would offer to fund a mission out east for Andrej.  With this in mind, I went to look up the Prince-Bishop of Munster to see who he was.

And got a big surprise.

The party was arriving in Munster on September 3, 1650.  The Prince-Bishop, as it turned out, was Ferdinand of Bavaria ... who was also the Bishop in authority over a number of different states, including Hildesheim, Liege, Cologne and Paderborn.  He was described thusly to the party when I introduced the character.

However, Ferdinand DIED September 13, 1650.  Within 10 DAYS of the party arriving in Munster.

Because of this inconvenience and unexpected coincidence, and because I love the idea of being dictated to by a source outside of myself, I decided to completely change the role of Ferdinand in my world.  If at all possible, I would make him evil, I would drum up an assault on his castle, give the party the choice of whether to get involved and carefully arrange it so that Ferdinand would still die on the date of his death.  Which he did.  The party assaulted the castle,  on the afternoon of the 12th ... and Ferdinand the Archbishop died after midnight on the 13th.

I personally don't think this is railroading, as the party repeatedly had the opportunity to change their minds and not get involved.  But I do think that Fate can play a hand in a game, particularly when the death of an NPC can be held far enough from the party's grasp.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Lubeck to Luneburg

October 11, 1650, all day Saturday
Weather:  with chilly tempertures in the morning, just above freezing, and cool throughout the rest of the day.  It is cloudy in the morning, overcast in the afternoon.  At night, after setting up camp, an intermittent drizzle makes resting unpleasant.

The full moon is waning, and hasn't set yet as the sun rises.  The party follows the plan of changing horses as they travel, enabling them to move quite quickly.   Because I haven't heard yet that Lukas is teaching Andrej how to read, we will presume the party travels four hexes its first day.

The road to Hamburg is heavily travelled, and is an impressive 20 yards wide in places.  Military companies, haulers, peasants, seamen, gypsies, caravans, peddlers, carriages, carts, freight wagons and vardos compete for passage going both ways, even to the point of pressing the party off the road.  Its a good, clear day for travelling, and everyone is out here making their way from the basin of the North Sea to the basin of the Baltic.

Still, the road is of such terrific quality that the party is able to make good time.  Worse than the road, however, is being hung at the ferries across the mouth of the Elbe at Hamburg.  There are literally hundreds of scows and barges zipping back and forth across the river, between banks and sandy islands - for the river is low in October.  The water is fearfully cold, and in six weeks may freeze solid if there's a bad winter.  This is quite a lot of the discussion the party hears.

For the party to get across, it costs 1 g.p. per creature and person ... and this is without entering the town proper itself.  The party is then dropped upon the opposite side, where the grass has turned completely brown.  Throughout the whole morning the party has not seen a single green tree - but as they ride up the left bank of the Elbe, there are still signs of a waning late summer.  The land is flat, with ponds scattered about between brown fens and willow trees, at least until late afternoon as the party approaches Luneburg.  It is there, outside the city walls, that the party finally settles down for the night.

There's little or nothing in the way of 'encounters,' so-called.  Plenty of opportunity to chat with others along the road, the sort you'd expect to meet, worried about the winter or closing up their affairs before the snow flies.  Virtually every field is stubble now, and the only produce filling carts are potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips and parsnips.  The grounds outside Luneburg are quiet - Andrej remembers being here before, but briefly.  Luneburg is a town of about 750 buildings, and just now there are heaping stacks of timber to be seen in every direction.  Thus, between such stacks, the party virtually has the night to themselves.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Preparations in Lubeck

October 10, 1650.  Friday.

I'm creating this post to compensate for the comments, which are past the 100 mark.  I don't think the weather is important, but I am adding three days for locating objects, sorting out details, buying horses and so on.

Klaas speaks with Emmanuel and decides to travel to Dachau with him.  Emmanuel is leaving Saturday morning.

Before he goes, he encourages Andrej not to fret about his going home.  "I would not keep you from any opportunity," he says.  "For the first time in my life I feel I've made a difference - I plan to go make a difference at home now.  Please, my former master, you must now make a difference yourself, without me.  I shall always remember you, and consider you my master.  Perhaps we will meet again, and perhaps I shall be a person able to make more for you than dinner."  Emmanuel will smile, and drop his eyes in slight embarrassment.


Included, a map of Germany south of Lubeck.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Andrej's New Monk

Here's the base table for Andrej's Monk henchwoman:

There are a number of details that need addressing.

Because she is 24, her strength and constitution are both increased by 1.  I left the original rolls on the above table, but in fact her strength is 16, and her constitution 15.

Because she is less than 140 lbs., she gets a d6 for mass hit points; she gets the maximum of 2d6 for starting hit points (and I will explain that in a moment); and +1 for the increased constitution.  Rolling a 1 for mass, the total starting hit points are 14.

I dislike the weaknesses of monks in the player's handbook, so they have been increased in two ways - the hit dice have been increased from d4 to d6; and the AC is improved two points, from 10 to 8.  In the case of Andrej's monk, she also happened to roll a result that gains her a natural AC increase of 1 due to her toughness (composition), so her starting AC is 7.

She may be flexible, but she's been relaxing too much, drinking too much perhaps, and probably just getting off the booze (see Tendencies & Interests), so this is why her Physical is down.  Note that although she can use two weapons, together they cannot be more than 5 lbs. until she has toned up - this toning will make itself evident when she has reached 2nd level.  I think we can guess that the conduct that has banned her from bars has been drunkedness (or possibly shouting about the realities of Ottoman law). 

Monks, I think, start with 1 weapon proficiency.  I could be wrong.  The player's handbook is accurate in this instance.

"Law" is a specialty knowledge field which the monk has - I wanted to emphasize the Ottoman knowledge because her Catholic father practiced law in Sofia.  Her Catholic mother is listed as a laborer - since she would not need the money, we'll say she did so as an act of piety and charity in a Benedictine monastery, as a farmer day in and day out.  This would create the connection between her own life and her daughter's choice to take vows and train.

The "Monk" in historical European tradition has to be tossed out.  Just as mages do not exist in reality, we must perceive that European monks carry more characteristics of the Black and Yellow Hats of China ... and that they, too, are trained in the ways of open hand combat.  This is not only necessary for D&D to work in an Earth setting, is it far more interesting, too.  Thus, whereas the monasteries of Italy, France and England may look the same, they would be full of monks training, practicing, learning the methods of the quivering palm and so on ... after all, if such powers did actually exist, why shouldn't European monks embrace them as well?

If we can rethink the European druid for D&D, there's no reason we can't rethink the European monk.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Palace in Lubeck

October 7, 1650, early afternoon Tuesday
Weather: With cool temperatures and overcast conditions, with a light air

I wish I could show you an image of the palace of Lubeck, but I could find nothing - I presume it has been long since destroyed.  I would guess it would look something like this, to be found at Schwerin:

I shall place it in the small town of Moisling, two miles to the southwest of Lubeck.  Lukas and Janos may ride with Serafina and Hornung; Andrej and Ahmet upon their mounts; the dwarves in the wagon driven by Emmanuel.  Emmanuel will apologize profusely to Andrej for leaving his service - yet he is anxious to go home, where he hopes to return a hero.  He plans to turn his land into a commune for all those who dwelt in his hamlet, which Andrej first encountered last May.

Fatima will meet Ahmet upon the steps, and berate her brother for disappearing before happily falling to her knees and embracing his thighs.  Carolina will appear weakly in the doorway.  The Duke is not available, but the Duchess will make a brief showing to welcome the party to her home, before retiring.  She is Helga Rosenkrantz, and she is nearing 80.  The Duke is bedridden, and his son is at present fighting in France.  There are several grandchildren who stand beside the Duchess, but they do not speak, and it is clear they are being forced to be there.

Hornung has one last request before the party is allow to retire to their rooms.  He wishes to give them what has been collected from the Archbishop's Castle for them.  He shows them to a turret, where there has been stored a chest and several boxes.

The first box is a bit more than five feet long and a foot wide - this is for Ahmet.
The second box is similar in size to a cigar box - this is for Andrej.
The third box is long and narrow, two inches by two inches, and 13 inches long - this is also for Andrej.
The fourth box is smaller than the palm of a hand - this is for Lukas.
The fifth box is four inches wide, five inches long and two inches deep - this is for whomever the party wills.
Lastly, the sixth box is five inches wide, 13 inches long and four inches deep - this is for the whole party.

The chest, Hornung will demonstrate, contains 2,000 gold pieces.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Journeying to Lubeck

Up front, the journey is relatively uneventful.  The captain is aware of the party's apparent status and experience, and they are asked to the captain's table on two occasions to tell some stories of their recent adventures.

Covering the weather generally over the whole time covered ... 9 days of waiting for the ship, 8 days of ship travel.  The most important characteristic of the weather is that nearly every morning the temperature drops nearly to zero.  There is frost on the ground, or on the guidelines aboard ship, when the sun rises - and still, no day truly produces a killing frost, not yet.  This temperature in the mornings, described as "brisk" - what you would call 32 to 38 degrees - is as cold as it gets.

Before the ship is set to leave Memel, there is another violent storm, this time with a whole gale (worse than before), with winds approaching those of a hurricane ... but the harbor at Memel is well protected, and on the 29th the wind is gentle and promising.  The captain seems unconcerned and his ship slips into the Baltic Sea on a brisk day.  By afternoon the weather is actually pleasant, a fine autumn day upon the sea, and the party's spirits are lifted with the promise of returning to Germany.

The full journey into Lubeck is marred by a brief gale off the coast of Pomerania.  The captain sees it coming from a long distance off, and tacks quickly towards the coast in order to avoid it ... the ship skirts the edge, blowing heavy for three long hours, as the party learns who has a taste for sea travel.  Andrej in particular, being a half-orc (not a mariner species, but a desert people by birth), suffers most of all.  Still, the ship makes its way towards the great bank called Isle Rugen, and thereafter the worst it does is drizzle.  Still, it is a wet journey, with slush on the decks, rime on the ropes and glazed portals, and not what you would think of as an ocean cruise.  When you're told that Lubeck will be the next day, and that the captain has managed not to lose any time on the journey, your hearts are grateful.

It is the 7th of October as the ship draws nearer the great bay upon which Lubeck sits, and the town is a welcome sight.  It is an enormous city, with more than 5,000 buildings, sprawling along the sea, and up into the hills both to the left and right of the harbor.  There are many magnificent palaces, and there are at least five hundred ships in the harbor, many of them in a state of repair.  Lubeck is one of the greatest ports in the world ... and it takes some time for the captain to pick his way through the complex arrangement of private ships to find his particular dock.

As you see the destination, a large wooden platform on piers, with two big red warehouses poised behind, you gain quite a shock.  On the dock is a carraige and a wagon, and two beautiful horses besides.  Emmanuel sits upon the wagon; Serafina's face can be seen through a window of the carriage; and Eberhardt Hornung is holding the reins of the horses.  Behind them are a dozen dwarves, lounging, smoking and waving from a pile of barrels, crates and piled fishnets.

Monday, August 6, 2012

The March to Memel

September 20, 1650, Saturday morning.
Weather: with chilly temperatures and a quickly passing storm, with a strong gale.

The drizzle continues steady all night, while the temperature plummets.  By morning, as the temperature drops all the way to just above freezing, much of the wet upon the stones develops into a soft rime.  This is the coldest the party has faced, and the weather is beyond hideous ... teeth chattering all night, in wet clothes, body aching, no sleep ... chances for catching a bug would be unusually high except that you are out in the relative wilderness.  Still, it is probably the worst night any of you can remember.

Klaas in particular suffers the most - he's the least hardened from the journey, the least prepared for it.  He begins to complain as the night wears on, until finally Batath warns him if he doesn't shut up, Batath will kill him.  The rest of the party would probably raise a hand to stop the thief, but you're all just too goddamn tired, and at any rate you wish, too, that Klaas would just shut up.  Klaas does, and you all suffer in silence for the next long hours.

The drizzle falls away as the wind begins to rise before dawn.  By the time the sun rises, the wind is so strong from the west that the river itself - little more than a flat body of water anyway - is showing wave crests, as are the larger ponds on your left or right.  Now and then you're hit with spindrifts, lines of spatter picked up off the water surface and carried along the wind.  The willow trees, sparse but there, are dancing wildly, looking for all the world as though they will be pulled from the earth and rolled over the landscape.

When the storm comes, the party realizes they must find shelter, though there is none.  The best you can do is a two foot bank along the side of the road, where you cluster together and huddle for what feels like your very life.  Kushi, next to Ahmet, apologizes to the Turk; "After this," says the Dwarf, "I'll kneel down and pray to Allah with you."

Together, locked arm in arm, bags stuffed beneath you to keep them from blowing away, the party feels the clothes on their backs ready to tear.  The storm thickens above you.  Ermeth shouts, "I pray there's no hail!"  And moments later you're drenched, soaked completely through.  The rain hammers the road and the pond surfaces, tearing over the grass in sheets.  Curtain after curtain of hard, cold pellets sting your faces and whiten your knuckles as together you hold on for dear life.

In stages it diminishes.  You relax.  The rain subsides.  There is one last hard fury before it stops altogether.

The world is soaked.  You stand, gather your things, remark upon the horrorshow that has been since leaving Silute, while Andrej no doubt prays for each of you and for himself.  Klaas comes to Andrej and begs to be blessed.  The dwarves treat Andrej as though they are not themselves Russian Orthodox.  You continue along the road.

All the members of the party somehow manage to retain their strength; there are no colds among any of the nine members.  Ahmet suffers 3 damage; Andrej, 2; Lukas & Klaas, 5 damage each.  The dwarves all suffer, and of them, Ermeth is the very worse.  He is limping poorly, and speaks very little.

After the storm, the grass gives way to dispersed croplands; there are fruit orchards; and cattle lowing in fields.  Not much further on is Memel, a sprawling, flat city of some 550 buildings, extending along a stoney spit into the Baltic Sea.

The party has made it.

Friday, August 3, 2012

After the Magic & Crossbows

September 19, 1650, before midnight Friday
Weather: with cool temperatures and a steady drizzle, with a moderate breeze

At the moment the bolts fly, the eyes disappear and there is splashing heard everywhere;  Klaas's second shot is completely blind, as he cannot see a thing to shoot at (but being zero level and somewhat concerned, he shoots anyway).

[For the record, I should point out that I never did get a 2d6 roll for Klaas, to see if his morale is up to it - so I rolled myself]

That is it.  Nothing else seems to happen.  There is no advance from the creatures that the party is able to see.  The party can detect no movement that disturbs the surface of the water, given that it is dark, and the continues to be a very light rain.  The party is getting more damp, and Ahmet, who entered the water, is beginning to shiver.

I don't want to push the time that passes, for I don't want to invest the party, but no matter what you may do, I promise you that for five minutes, nothing happens.