Saturday, April 17, 2021

Occupied Settlements

This is for my "what if Saruman won?" mega dungeon forest campaign

When the group visit a settlement I roll a random event to color their visit.  

Settlement Events (d10)

  1. Occupation event
  2. Occupation event
  3. Occupation event
  4. Scarcity event
  5. Scarcity event
  6. Scarcity event
  7. Quiet times
  8. Quiet times
  9. Quiet times
  10. Community event
Occupation Events (d10)
  1. Unfair arrest, trial or execution.
  2. Abuse of power. 
  3. Inspection, looking for illegal goods, sign of divine magic or rebels.
  4. Troops movements d6 (1. raise occupation level, 2-5 stay the same, 6 lower occupation level) 
  5. Troublesome celebration, the troops celebrate and cause troubles.
  6. Construction or fortifications or sanctioned buildings 
  7. Extra taxation or conscripted labor 
  8. Blackmailing, corruption or intimidations of allies 
  9. Propaganda, glorious statues, indoctrination ceremonies, etc
  10. Establish a NPC who is part of the occupation or profit from it. 

Scarcity Events (d10)

  1. Lost of service, a shop or inn is closing, a specialist is leaving.  
  2. Infighting and accusation, tension is high. 
  3. Lost of resource, shortage of some basic resources, prices are high. 
  4. Sickness, people are getting weak and sick.  
  5. Raid, banditry, looting of goods or arrival of refugees.
  6. Black market troubles, people have to pay for protection, etc 
  7. Low morale, people are discouraged, -1 to reaction and morale tests. 
  8. A populist movement or cult causing is growing or causing troubles. 
  9. Scapegoating and intolerance, strangers, refugees and outcasts are blamed.  
  10. Establish a opportunistic NPC who profit from the scarcity. 
Quiet times (d10)
  1. Shop maintenance, people are cleaning or repairing.  
  2. Gossip and rumors spread around. 
  3. A travelling merchant, caravan or ship arrive. 
  4. News from other settlements, roll a event for a random settlement. 
  5. Business is low, merchants are more willing to bargain.  
  6. People are resting and prefer not to be disturbed.  
  7. Everything is calm, people are worried that things are too quiet. 
  8. Routine, people work and labor. 
  9. Nostalgia, bards sing about the older times, people tell stories or miss the past. 
  10. Establish a NPC that try to remain neutral. 

Community Events (d10)
  1. New service, a new shop open or a new specialist arrive. 
  2. New alliance between local factions or NPCs.
  3. New trade that bring goods from a nearby or distant settlement.
  4. Local celebration, childbirth, marriage, small victory or local festivity. 
  5. Vigil, people organize themselves to protect the community
  6. Market fare, family visits, local goods, business is good.  
  7. Political organizing, people try to cooperate together to better the settlement.
  8. Community work, people come together to repair or build something.
  9. A community or group of outcasts or refugees is helping, receiving help and doing better.
  10. Establish a NPC who try to better or help the community. 
The Settlements
Each settlement start with it own Settlement Events table, some may have more occupation or scarcity results. 

For example Grey Port, a large city, have more occupation events and less scarcity events 
  1. Occupation event
  2. Occupation event
  3. Occupation event
  4. Occupation event
  5. Scarcity event
  6. Scarcity event
  7. Quiet times
  8. Quiet times
  9. Quiet times
  10. Community event
Each settlement also have a occupation level that range from 0 to 3
0: no occupation troops 
1: local troops lawful to the occupation force
2: occupation garrison 
3: legion

Supporting settlements

The group can spend gold to try to support settlements and spark revolutions. 

They can spend 2000 GP to roll on the Supporting Settlements Table, but be careful as this can also attract the attention of the occupation forces and backfire.

Roll 2d6 - the occupation level
For each extra 2000 GP spent add +1
Group action: +1 (if the group take personal risks to help the settlement) 

Supporting Settlements Table (2d6)
2-3:change an event entry into a occupation event
4-5: change an event entry into a scarcity event
6-8: nothing change 
9-10: change an event entry into a quiet event
11-12: change an event entry into a community event
13+: Reduce the occupation level by 1 

Depending of the result, modify the settlement's random events table. 

This way the group can spend GP to shape the types of events that appear on a settlement random table. For example after many good rolls they can turn all the occupation results into other types of events. The best outcome for a settlement would be to only have quiet and community results in it random events table.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Some advice to represent trans characters in game

Note: I am discussing that topic from my own point of view, like I underline it below, trans people are very diverse, so naturally different trans people may feel differently about trans representation, if you have trans people at your table, listen to them first.  

The other day someone said they wanted to include trans non player characters in their game but did not know how to show or communicate that they are trans. I thought about it and here are some of my thoughts as a trans person. 

I would say that:

A) You can include trans characters without the need to show that they are trans. Being trans can be a private thing for some NPCs. If you do that it is important to not treat their transness as a dark secret or as a dramatic reveal, if a PC get close to that NPC try to make the reveal casual. 

B) You can simply state that a NPC is trans when you introduce them. You can say "you enter into the bakery shop and the baker, a cheerful trans woman with brown hairs and a warm smile, great you". 

I like that B offer clear representation and normalize trans people in a casual way. It can be a bit meta but I think that clear communication and representation are worth it.

This is worth a thought: when you describe cis people you simply state their gender, you don’t try to remain immersive by communicating their cisness and gender only through physical descriptions. If saying "you see a young woman with brown hairs, wearing a blue dress" is fine, casually saying "you see a trans woman with brown hairs, wearing a blue dress" should also be fine.  

When presenting a NPC as trans you are not saying that their transness is automatically apparent, you are simply informing the players that the NPC is trans, you are not necessarily communicating this to the characters. I would let a player choose if their character notice that the PNJ is trans or not. People perceive us in different ways, how we are perceived is not a fixed trait. (Please, don't ask for perception tests to notice if a character is trans or not, this put emphasis on "passing" and is kind of transphobic.) 

If you decide to physically describe a trans character don't present some of their physical traits as "non passing" or as being noticeably odd for their gender. Don't put the focus on how a trans person pass or not pass. You can frame some trans traits in a positive light but be careful not to base your entire description around them, also include traits that are not related to being trans. Exp: "You see a tall trans woman with dark hair and beautiful broad shoulders, she is wearing a..."     

This is mostly for binary trans characters, but with some nuances, the same can be applied for presenting and describing non binary characters. The main difference is that you will introduce them using non binary pronouns and often their occupation. Exp.: "You see a knight, they look brash and are wearing a fine set of armor." I would also be ok with adding "they are non binary". 

Other things to consider when creating or roleplaying a trans character: 

Don't forget that trans people have very diverse backgrounds and life stories. Try to give them diverse cultural backgrounds, educations, careers, ages, loyalties, attitudes, personalities and gender expressions. Their path toward self discovery, coming out and transition are very diverse too. Note that trans people may also remain in the closet or avoid transition for very diverse reasons too. Try to include more than one trans NPC to also represent trans people diversity. Like you can have old butch trans woman warrior and a young closeted non binary scholar. 

Family can be a big thing for trans people, their family can be a source of anxiety or support. Again,  there is a large variety of experiences: some trans people may have cut all ties with their families, some may be in conflict with them while some other may receive a lot of support. I think it is important again to show different interactions for different trans people and different family member. A father can be very unaccepting while a uncle can be very supportive. I would say try more often to show family members as distant or supportive to avoid creating overemphasis on rejection. Don't ignore family conflicts but don't make them the norm too as it can get tiresome to see trans character always struggling with their family. 

Trans people don't exist in vacuum, they have friends and allies that support them. Try to give them some close friends or allies, people that support them or that simply appreciate them. These friendships may have started before or after their transition. Often trans people have a wide variety of friends of diverse genders, coming from the different parts of their life. On the other hand some trans people may experience a lot of isolation, which can be a source of distress for them, again don't make this the norm but it can be something to explore.

Trans people, like everyone else, may be single or have a partner (or more) and have diverse intimate relationships. Some may be in a relationship with a cis person, some may have a trans partner, some may be strait, gay, poly, ace, etc. Again the keyword here is diversity. Don't forget that your cis NPCs could also have a trans partner. 

Skills and past careers 
Depending of their background, trans people may have acquired a wide variety of skills, especially those who transitioned later in life and went through different careers. In a fantasy setting some trans people may have experienced a drastic career change due to the gender roles of their society or culture. But then again, trans people are good at challenging gender roles so there is no fixed rules here. You can have a trans woman baker who was a soldier before or a trans man who remain a well know healer and "midwife".

Networking and community
Trans people network together to learn about themselves and how to transition, also to help and support each others. This is especially true with internet but you could easily imagine a fantasy trans network about helping each other finding hormones potions or more mundane resources. Give your trans NPCs other trans allies, friends and contacts. Make trans people interact and discuss together, make them part of a community. Again, also consider that some trans people can be isolated and cut away from that networking, which can make their transition harder or be a source of distress. 

Ups and Downs
Trans people often have both a mix of low and high self confidence, sometime they can be very self confident and self affirming while other times they can experience a lot of anxiety and self doubts. This is often part of the trans experience, sometime you feel super courageous and defiant but other days you may feel super insecure about your appearance or something else about yourself. Some trans people also experience up and downs with their gender dysphoria, sometime they can feel super dysphoric, other time they forget about gender or are gender euphoric. (Note that not all trans people experience gender dysphoria, some trans people simply feel more comfortable in their chosen gender). 

For your trans characters who choose to transition, don't forget that there is different ways to transition, someone can do a social transition (changing name and pronouns) while others can take hormones to also transition their body. Depending of your setting there may be different ways to transition socially or physically. Modern days offer different options (name change, hormones, surgery, etc) but you can also easily imagine ways to transition in other settings, like a renaming ritual or spell, hormones potions, magical pools, etc. Try to combine these with other services or social functions, like that trans clinic could also be a good bioware clinic and that hormones potions witch could also be a wonderful healer.

Somethings to maybe consider about magical or high tech transitions: is a "perfect" transition possible? Or is it a long and difficult process? Do it require frequent uses of magic or injections that reflect how modern trans people have to regularly take hormones? How accessible transition is? Is there different ways to transition that have different costs or benefits? 

Trans people can face discrimination, this can be something that you explore in play but be careful if you choose to do so, even if it only affect NPCs, take the time to discuss with your players to see with what they are comfortable with or not. Also be careful not to define trans character only through the discrimination they face. If every trans characters are show as facing discrimination and suffering this teach to trans people that we can only experience our transness through suffering and struggles. This is why you need to be careful to avoid making discrimination the norm or default, even if discrimination can be a common thing, use it sparingly at the table or in your writing and don't be afraid to imagine trans characters who are well supported or settings with no discrimination at all. 

Some tropes to avoid

  • Trans identity as a dark or mysterious secret.
  • Dramatic outing of a trans character.  
  • Trans people who don't reveal their identity to their partner. 
  • Pre transition life coming back to haunt trans characters.
  • Blackmailing trans characters with the menace of outing them or revealing their past identity. 
  • Murdering trans people or suicide. 
  • Assassins, spies or monsters who switch sex as a weapon. 

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Magical Cloaks

Some Magical Cloaks:

Cloak of Cartography: once a day, carefully put your cloak on a floor and after d6 turns a map of the area will draw itself inside your cloak. 

Cloak of the Seamstress: magically repair itself, it can also project a swarm of sewing needles that can fix any clothes and can once by encounter inflict d6 damage to a target and hinder it by wrapping and sewing threads on it (-4 to all actions). 

Cloak of the Smith: give + 4 to save against fire. The cloak accumulate heat while working in the forge, afterward it can be used to cast heat metal affecting one target per two hours of uninterrupted work. (Exp.: working 12h in the forge enable you to affect 6 targets) 

Cloak of Dreams: make your dreams vivid. Each morning tell us about what you dreamed, you can later summon a element of your dream as a illusion that last 2d6 turns. If you ever physically travel in the Dreamworld it become a cloak of protection +2.

Cloak of the Librarian: the cloak work as a bag of holding for books, upon request a skeletal hand emerge from the cloak, d6 rounds later, with the appropriate book. When asking for a book that was never put into the cloak, there is 2 chance on a d6 that the cloak already have that book. (-1 for rare ones, +1 for common ones). Books must be returned 2 weeks later or the cloak will refuse to give out any more books. The cloak give +2 reactions when asking someone to be quiet. 

Cloak of the Cat: there is a strange cat that live (well more exactly sleep) in that cloak, the cat look different for each person who wear the cloak. Once per day you can ask the cat for a service, roll a reaction roll, the result will tell you how well the cat accomplish or sabotage your request. Complex and difficult tasks may impose a reaction penalty of dramatic proportion. A dirty or wet cloak also impose severe penalties. When asked to fight, on a very good reaction the cat can turn into a panther. If killed, the cat will respawn in the cloak d6 nights later. Asking for tasks impossible for a cat (like dethroning the king) make the cat yawn and sleep for an hour, dreaming it is accomplishing the task.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Random cults of Orcus

Some variant cults of the Demon Prince Orcus rolled created using this blog post of mine: Use Super Heroes gimmicks to create Cults.

Undead: this cult venerate a undead version of their deity. Some believe that the original deity came back from the dead, some believe in a undead double that oppose the original deity. 
Cult of Rotting Orcus: this secret cult believe that Orcus physical form was slain in the material plane and that while Orcus' demonic essence reformed in the abyss, his carcass gained a will of it own and is trying to craft it own scepter out of undead tissues. The cult believe that their necromantic art will enable them to control this manifestation of Orcus as it raise in power.   

Usurper: this cult believe that a other deity stole the powers or the name of their original deity. Some hope for the return of the original deity, some work against it. 
Cult of Orcus Executioner: the cult believe that when Orcus physical form was slain, one of his generals took over his scepter to avenge him while his essence reform in the Abyss. This new Orcus appear as a Balor demon wearing a executioner hood adorned with a ram's skull. Some believe that the Executioner should replace Orcus and are rising hooded undead warriors in his honor.  A secret splinter believe that the Executioner went too far and should return Orcus's scepter so that his demonic essence reform faster in the Abyss. 

Pet: this cult believe that the deity have a pet with a similar set of power. They believe that this pet is the herald of their deity and that it can intercede for them. They also believe that sometime divine pets work together to secretly protect humankind. 
Cult of the Carrion Ram: this cult worship a undead ram that is said to whisper to Orcus the prayers of those who wish for unlife. They also believe that making of blood offerings of horned animals to the Ram can protect them against undead. Some even believe that the Carrion Ram sometimes become a undead white ram, know as Ghost Ram, that join force with other divine pets to defend humanity against invasions from titanic extra planar animal monsters.     

Gender switched alternate: this cult believe in a gender switched alternate version of their deity that replace the original deity. (Or that their deity actually changed gender or was actually of a other gender). 
Cult of Orcusrella: this cult worship Orcusrella (also know as Orcella), the cruel daughter of Orcus, queen of vampires. Orcella is often called upon by undead women as a spirit of vengeance. She is in favor of The Executioner cult, hoping that he will defy her father when he will return. She wield her own scepter of dead that was crafted for her as a gift by undead dwarfs women. 

Divine Spouse: this cult worship the divine spouse of their deity. Those cults are often alternate or lost continuity cults. Some wish that the divine spouse would lead his or her own pantheon. 
Cult of the Mourning Mother. Wearing a funeral veil and often accompanied by the Carrion Ram, the Mourning Mother is a mortal woman that married Orcus after refusing his gift of unlife. She throne beside him in the Abyss and gave birth to Orcella with a drop of Orcus blood. She feel a lot of compassion toward undead and lost souls. The cult think that the Mourning Mother and her daughter come from a reality rift that opened in the Abyss when Orcus was slain in the material plane. They hope that their worship will anchor her existence and make Orcus remember her when his essence will reform in the Abyss.    

Noble Alien Paragon: this cult worship a utterly alien but noble version of the original deity who is often a legacy upholder or a temporary holder of power. 
Cult of Orcellion. Orcellion appear as a muscular ram headed androgynous humanoid, they have three eyes and wield a scepter adorned with a alien skull. Orcellion is the defender of people who became undead to pursue heroic goals. Their body formed in the Abyss when the Mourning Mother's reality rift closed down. Orcellion remember Orcus as a comrade of arms and don't understand why demons are chaotic evil or the concept of alignments. 


Monday, February 22, 2021

Setup of my new OSE campaign

I started a new Old School Essentials campaign, the campaign premise is something like: "what if Saruman had won and people now need to loot the dying forest of Lorien to survive?"

The Great Archwizard betrayed the elven alliance and took the throne of the Dark Lord. The elves are now gone and the Archwizard rule over the free world with his army of orcs and humans. His college of wizardry oversee cities, divine spellcasting is now forbidden. The eternal forest of the elves is slowly dying and is now in a state of eternal Autumn. Pushed by misery, desperate adventurers and renegades explore the forest in search of elven treasures and magical artefacts. 

I removed the elf class (to keep elven culture mysterious) and added some advanced classes like the druid and the ranger. I also included some classes that seem relevant to the premise like the half-elf and the half-orc. 

The Ruddy Dawn Forest

My goal is to run (and craft) a forest mega dungeon. the overland map is a point crawl but each points correspond to a geomorph tile when you zoom in. This way I get a series of interconnected dungeon crawl areas that contain a mix of empty and interactive "rooms" (clearings) and the feel of crawling through "corridors" (paths). 

This is the point crawl overland map I gave to the players, we are at the start of the campaign so the links are not revealed yet, my GM map naturally contain more information. The colors zones correspond to the "levels" of the dungeon, the deeper you venture into the forest the more dangerous are the encounters and the more wondrous are the treasures. 

The players can uncover new entry paths while exploring. To move between points the group must roll to see if they get lost (losing direction), if they do, I can augment the chance of the random encounter roll, make them arrive at a different point or advance time so that it get dark in the forest (I am tempted to let them choose the consequence). 

When the group arrive to a point we switch to dungeon crawling mode. To generate the forest map, I used caves geomorph and redrew the rock as forest, the tunnels and corridors as paths and the caves and rooms as clearings. 

The big difference compared to a dungeon is that there is less uses of torches but I established that the forest is very dense and that it get dark very early. Also the forest "walls" are porous, characters can move through the trees at half speed but this also mean that during random encounters, monsters can emerge through the walls. 

What else? 

I wrote four settlements for the adventurers to come from and to return to after their expeditions. The settlement they chose to rest in will influence the gear, services and retainers available. Also possibly different kinds of troubles. 

Grey Port (large port city)
  • Afflicted by: unemployment and corruption 
  • Occupied by the 4th Shadow Hand Legion 
  • Wizard Tower (loyal to the ArchWizard) 
  • House Silver-Mare (Lawful knights, secretly resist) 
  • Black market, thief guilds 
  • Great library (Engineer & Sage specialists) 
  • Know for their candles that resist the sea breeze 
  • Secretly worship the old gods in the sewers 
Wilder Town (trade post forest village)
  • Afflicted by: famine and bandit raids 
  • Trade with barbarian wildlings 
  • Protected by House Willow-Spear (Neutral knights in exile) 
  • Know for their wolf-dogs and archers 
  • Specialists: Animals trainers 
  • Worship the old gods in the forest 
  • Druidic sect: the Mother
Gentle Anvil (small vale village)
  • Afflicted by: poverty and taxation 
  • Blacksmith and armorer specialists 
  • Stone quarry 
  • Dwarfs trading post 
  • Know for their headstrong mules 
  • Brave peasants and villagers 
  • Proud torch makers, love bonfires 
  • Secretly worship the old gods in their daily life 
  • Druidic sect: the Maiden 
Castle Basilisk (swamp village protected by a fortress)
  • Afflicted by sickness and scarcity 
  • House Heron-claw (Chaotic knights, boldly defiant) 
  • Harbor many renegades 
  • Great healers and poisoners 
  • Specialists: alchemists, spies and mercenaries 
  • Boar hunters and great cooks 
  • Openly worship the Old gods 
  • Druidic sect: the Crone
I am tempted to enable the PCs to be able to spend their gold to try to help the settlements but I am not certain yet how to handle that. 

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Last 24h for Where the Wheat Grows Tall!

Last 24 hours before the end of our Zine Quest KS for Where the Wheat Grows Tall. We are generously funded but I am still sharing for those who would want a printed copy.

Thanks again everyone for supporting our project, your encouragement mean a lot to us.
Seriously you have no idea how this give me and Camilla some hope. ๐Ÿ’–

I can’t wait for everyone to have a copy in their hands. ๐Ÿ˜Š

500 backers!! Amazing!!
A big Thank You from Camilla and me!! ๐Ÿ’œ๐Ÿ’œ
Masha and the Barstukai are celebrating with make believe tea time!
#zinequest3 #ZineQuest

Monday, February 8, 2021

Friday, February 5, 2021

Where the Wheat Grows Tall

After a lot of anxiety, stress and work we were able to setup our Zine Quest Kick Starter page. We will probably launch this Monday.