Sunday, 31 August 2014

Runequest solo - part II, Investigations

scene 5

chaos: increased to 5

Setup: interview Ay-Meddush to dig for clues

1. (the murderer or murderers)
2. Ay-Meddush, the merchant
3. Huollof, the caravan leader
4. chieftain Ulevaard and the barbarian delegation
5. prefect (PC's enemy)
6. Maruthus, the nosey neighbour
7. Izzeri-zatah, the high priestess of Ziburrun, the knowledge god

1. solve murder

Though she knows they would have nothing to gain by the murder, and everything to lose, Lachaidiga decides it would be remiss of her to neglect questioning the merchant and the caravan master. She therefore has her servants bear her across the neighbourhood to the residence of Ay-Meddush, whom she is pleased to find at home. The wealthy merchant agrees to an interview and receives his guest amongst the greenery and fountains of his roof terrace.

"Such a business!" says the merchant as he hands her a golden tray heaped with produce from his one of his many orchards, "I barely slept at all last night. The sight of that poor, murdered wretch was right there every time I closed my eyes."

"Did you see anything out of the ordinary last night?" asks Lachaidiga. "Anything at all."

"Barbarians eating with their mouths closed! No, that's unfair of me. They're a decent enough sort. Very direct. And they take their honour quite seriously. You know, I think I'd rather deal with them than any of our people. But to answer your question, no, I didn't see anything that gave me the slightest cause for alarm."

"So you don't have any idea who could have wanted to do such a thing?"

[Q: Has Ay-Meddush any opinions on incident? Likely: 50, Yes.
What? Kill / Investment]

"Well," he says, "these dealings are important enough -- lucrative enough -- to bring the chieftain himself down to discuss particulars. I would look to those who were shut out of negotiations. Burosu has always had it in for me, and Ammauya, and the ki-Yulgahts. I wouldn't be at all surprised to find that one of them had a hand in this!"

[Q: Is this a valid clue? 50/50: 54, No.

Lachaidiga must make an Insight roll (58%) opposed by Ay-Meddush's Deceit (73%) to realise he's just fingering his enemies: She rolls a 36, he rolls a 21. Since they both rolled a normal success, Lachaidiga wins the contest, as she rolled higher.]

"I see," says Lachaidiga, smiling sweetly. "I'll be sure to keep them in mind."

scene 6

chaos: up to 6; she didn't lose any ground last scene, but she didn't gain anything at all

Setup: roll of 2 = Interrupt (was: interview Huollof to dig for clues)

Interrupt: New NPC (random picture)

1. (the murderer or murderers)
2. Ay-Meddush, the merchant
3. Huollof, the caravan leader
4. chieftain Ulevaard and the barbarian delegation
5. prefect (PC's enemy)
6. Maruthus, the nosy neighbour
7. Izzeri-zatah, the high priestess of Ziburrun, the knowledge god

1. solve murder

new NPC - Genembes, an elite officer

[Q: What does Genembes want? Inquire / a Plot - he's looking into the murder too.
Q: Is he assisting the prefect? 50/50: 26, Yes.
Q: Is he allied with the prefect? 50/50: 40, Yes.

RQ6 lacks an NPC reaction chart (or I've overlooked it), so I just used the one in the back of Legend. His initial reaction is Friendly(!)]

After the second, disappointing interview, Lachaidiga heads once again through the city streets in her palanquin. She hopes the caravan master will know something useful -- and not keep it hidden.

Suddenly a voice booms out, "Hold there!" Her litter-bearers stop dead in their tracks as a unit of foot soldiers form a ring round them. Their leader, a tall and powerfully-built man wearing the headdress of an elite officer, steps up to Lachaidiga, smiling.

"That's enough!" he says to the troops. "We're all friends here." The soldiers stand down, and he addresses Lachaidiga directly. "I was wondering if our paths would meet. My, such an early start you made this fine day. Imagine the prefect's surprise to find you absent from your home when he came to call. Oh, how he wanted that to be suspicious! But you did tell the chieftain you would solve this mystery for him. So, lady, how's your investigation coming?"

"Hmph!" responds Lachaidiga, "No one saw a thing, no one knows a thing. They just point fingers at those whom they despise. I have little hope that interviewing the caravan master will prove any different."

[Q: Is Genebes en route to Huollof too? 50/50: 01, Yes.
Q: Does he have any clues yet? Very unlikely: 42, Yes.

Hard Influence (2/3 skill = 42%) vs. normal Willpower (44%) to elicit information: L rolls 04 - critical success; Genembes rolls 87, failure.]

"Good lady, I fear you are right."

"I-- We just need some sort of solid lead. Someone must know something. We must find out what that is before this blows all out of proportion. The Sorcerous Colleges are already involved. It won't be long until all the priesthoods start butting in."

"But is not my lady a representative of those most noble colleges?"

"Rather! It's but three weeks since I've completed my novitiate. I'd be lucky if any of the mages even remember my name."

"Perhaps, then, I should allow you to accompany me to see this caravan master. Perhaps two shall succeed were only one should fail."

Genembes walks beside Lachaidiga's palanquin as they continue towards Huollof's townhouse. They compare notes on the way. He and Lachaidiga have mostly uncovered all the same information, but he does offer up one tantalising clue: the victim was initiated into a mystery cult of which his parents strongly disapproved.

[Q: Does Genembes know which cult? Unlikely: 48, Yes. (random picture)
Q: Does cult have a temple in town? Unlikely: 87, No. Just a shrine on the God's Street.]

scene 7

chaos: 5

Setup: interview Huollof with the officer

1. (the murderer or murderers)
2. Ay-Meddush, the merchant
3. Huollof, the caravan leader
4. chieftain Ulevaard and the barbarian delegation
5. prefect (PC's enemy)
6. Maruthus, the nosy neighbour
7. Izzeri-zatah, the high priestess of Ziburrun, the knowledge god
8. Genembes, the elite officer

1. solve murder

[Q: Has Huollof any opinions on incident? Likely: 97, Exceptional no.
Q: Does Elite officer believe him? Likely: 58, Yes.
Does Lachaidiga? Insight roll of 31 indicates she believes him, too.]

"I saw nothing. I did nothing. I know nothing. Before last night, I never have met these barbarians. I am never in this City, with it's walls so claustrophobic. Now I am thinking I should sell this house, and come back no more!"

scene 8

chaos 6

Setup: (1d10) 1=Altered scene: (was: go backhome to look again for clues there, then call it a day)
Q: Is someone waiting? 50/50: 75, No.
Q: Family trouble? 64, Yes.

1. (the murderer or murderers)
2. Ay-Meddush, the merchant
3. Huollof, the caravan leader
4. chieftain Ulevaard and the barbarian delegation
5. prefect (PC's enemy)
6. Maruthus, the nosy neighbour
7. Izzeri-zatah, the high priestess of Ziburrun, the knowledge god
8. Genembes, the elite officer

1. solve murder

Lachaidiga returns home somewhat frustrated, but intent on searching her house once more for clues. Her older brother is waiting for her when she arrives.

[Using UNE to direct the scene: the NPC bearing is obviously Hostile. Rolling percentile dice twice to determine the conversation yields 37, Combat (I'll take this as general antagonism) and 74, Community. Result: the Hostile NPC speaks of Combat regarding the Community or, loosely, "what will the neighbours think?"]

"Just where have you been all day?" demands Lachaidiga's brother. "The prefect, unsurprisingly, came this morning as part of his investigation. When you failed to come down, he nearly sent his men after you to haul you before the magistrates on suspicion of having fled the scene of your crime. It was all I could do to convince him of the baseless nature of that accusation. I almost didn't try! It would serve you right to answer to this in the courts. But I can't allow your irrationality to reflect badly on our family. People will talk."

"Oh, come now, the prefect isn't so stupid that he'd allow his enmity to get the better of him like that. Then he'd look ridiculous, and people would most certainly talk then. Besides, Chieftain Ulevaard said he trusts me to investigate."

[Formidable Influence (skill at 1/2 = 32%) roll to make him see reason: 51, failure]

"I had not taken the mighty chieftain for such a fool! Why don't you show some sense and leave this matter to the prefect and his men?"

"You know I have absolutely no intention of giving up, dear brother."

[Q: Will he try to confine her to the house? Somewhat likely: 56, Yes.
How? Change / Dispute]

"We'll see," he replies, "But it will have to wait. We have important guests coming to-morrow, and you absolutely must be here with me to receive them."

[Q: What is nature of the visitors? Antagonise / Ambush. Her betrothed!
Influence vs. Willpower roll to get him to say who it is: L:77, failure. Brother: 41, success.]

"Why? Who is coming? I'm useless in these business affairs. It would be better for us both if I weren't there, I'm certain."

"This isn't about business. Nor politics, nor anything else. It is a social call, with important people who are very close to our family. I will not have you insulting them by your refusal to greet them!"

The argument rages for some time, until one of the frightened servants (the drawer of the short straw, to be sure) approaches to announce that dinner is served. Lachaidiga snaps that she'll have it sent up, and stomps off to her room in defeat.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Runequest solo - part I, Murder in Anzakàr

"I'm so bored!" sighed Lachaidiga as she sat brushing her hair for the fourth time that day. Her friend Nillath, the fair priestess of the Sun, looked on with sweet concern as she handed her a golden headband.

"In the three weeks," she said, "since you completed your studies at the Sorcerers' College, you've done nothing but lay about the villa complaining of boredom."

"Not true! I've also attended plenty of dinner parties -- full of tiresome people with nothing to say."

"Oh?" responded the priestess. "I shan't force your ladyship to endure another evening in my tiresome presence."

"You know perfectly well I'm not talking about you, dear heart. I'd forgotten how superficial society is. I've spent the past ten years talking to scholars."

"You've spent the past ten years talking to Serpentfolk. I'm surprised you didn't come out with a lisp!"

The hairbrush sailed past the priestess in a wide arc and skittered over the marble floor.

"And now," says the sorceress, "my dear brother informs me that my presence is needed yet again, whilst his precious wife is away tending her sick mother. 'A very important meeting', he says, 'for the City and for our family', he says, 'and I need you to accompany me and be gracious and charming'. Why didn't he just tell me to smile and keep my mouth shut; it's what he was thinking!"

"I can hardly imagine why."

"And you," continues the sorceress, undaunted, "shan't even be there to keep me company. Oh, why can't you come?"

"You know very well, my treasure, that I have duties at the temple. I really must away before dusk. Now finish your hair, put on your gown, and promise me you'll be a good girl and not cause any diplomatic incidents. To-morrow is a festal day. We can go watch the procession and make fun of the sea-priests' hats."

[My toolbox for the adventure:
Ruleset: Runequest 6
GM: Mythic & Mythic Variations
Random idea generator: random pictures, as explained in the preceding posts
Random encounters:  Cities (2nd ed.) by Midkemia Press, also random pictures
NPC stats: RQ 6 Encounter Generator (I've saved a bunch of randomly generated NPCs on PDFs)
Treasure: 2nd ed. Runequest has perfectly serviceable treasure tables
Rumours: my Rumours system

At least, that's a start. Most things should come of a combination of Mythic and random pictures. As it's going to be an urban adventure, I will roll once on the Cities encounter table(s) whenever my PC moves around an area of the city. I doubt I will be mapping the city at any point, but should the adventure move beyond it I'll generate something with Hexographer.

For the first adventure, I will be using only one PC (Lachaidiga, the sorceress), but the other two characters I rolled up (an elite warrior and a priest of the City god) are waiting in the wings as quasi-PCs in case an actual party becomes necessary. But enough with the preliminaries.

For the first adventure, I'm using the Mystery theme from Mythic Variations. My plan/hope is that when the mystery is solved, the next adventure can come right off the back of whatever dastardly plans are revealed. I rolled a random setup for the actual start, since 'the PC is brushing her hair' is hardly a good starting point for adventure [though in point of fact I did roll to see if the thrown hairbrush hit. Since Lachaidiga does not have Combat Style (toilet articles), her attack% is the default STR+DEX. She rolled a 77, missing]. Instead of using the Event Focus tables in Mythic to determine the event focus, I picked out a picture to illustrate it at random:

Scene 1

chaos: 5

Setup: (random) Remote Event.  So this is just foreshadowing. Normally this isn't the sort of thing I like in RPGs; I'd rather not tell the players anything their characters aren't present for. But I was hoping the pictures would lend the proceedings a storybook quality, so I suppose I can't complain. Also, when I chose 'mystery', I was thinking more along the lines of a conspiracy rather than a straight-up murder mystery. But that's the joy of Mythic: never quite knowing where things are headed.

1. (the murderer or murderers)
2. Ay-Meddush, the merchant
3. Huollof, the caravan leader
4. (a barbarian delegation in the city)

Threads: none yet

A group of merchants and diplomats have gathered to discuss important trade agreements. The barbarians far to the north (across the sea) are the only known source of iron. Certain barbarian clans ship it down from their homeland to the port (a town wholly controlled by the aristocracy of Anzakàr). After the City takes its share (as a tax), the rest is sold on. Powerful nomad caravan masters are then hired to transport iron safely through the wastelands where it can be traded to other, smaller human cities.

Tonight, Ay-Meddush, a wealthy Anzakarite trader is meeting with the renowned caravan master Huollof and the barbarian Prince Hurthred in the home of one of the cities more influential families. But as the dignitaries leave their entourages to repair to a more private room, a grim discovery is made: the barbarian prince has been brutally murdered!

Scene 2

chaos: increases to 6

Setup: since scene 1 was a remote event, I'm going with another random setup (just Mythic this time) to see how my PC gets drawn in - NPC action: (1d4=) the barbarian delegation -  Inspect / Friendship (The barbarian delegation will come to call at Lachaidiga's family villa, to solicit help)

Modified?(yes if a 1d10 roll under chaos factor): 1, yes -- altered scene; the murder happened in villa itself (whilst she was tarrying upstairs); the barbarians are now treating the hosts as circumspect.

1. (the murderer or murderers)
2. Ay-Meddush, the merchant
3. Huollof, the caravan leader
4. (a barbarian delegation in the city)

1. solve murder

[Q: Do the barbarians completely freak out? 50/50: 66, no +Event: PC positive - Trust / The intellectual]

Having arranged her hair and put on her most opaque gown (those barbarians are such prudes!), Lachaidiga is on the point of leaving her apartments when one of the servants bursts in the door.

"Oh, mistress, it's horrible! The Master is trying to clam the guests but everyone is shouting and making accusations! His temper is beginning to flare. Please mistress, come down and help."

"Oh, no! Not a chance. Whatever they're all on about, I am most assuredly not interested, and not going to get involved."

"Mistress, you don't understand. There-- there's been a murder!"

[What shall our heroine do? Her inner turmoil can be modelled by a test of her Insight skill vs. her Passion (Hates her brother). The deleterious effect of having her brother implicated in murder makes the Insight check easy (skill level increased by 1/2). D% rolls are Insight 36 (success) vs. Passion 60 (failure).]

Rationality wins out over the brief impulse to let her brother make a mess of things, and she rushes down to help.

She strides into the room to find the dignitaries and their parties all making wild accusations around the body lying crumpled against the wall in a pool of blood. Her screams for quiet, unsurprisingly, go unheeded. In desperation she picks up a large silver tray of pickled mushrooms and other delicacies and hurls it against a low column. The clattering of the metal against marble gets the assembled throng's attention.

"You always did love a grand entrance, dear sister."

"Oh, be quiet. Has anyone here done anything other than shout and make accusations? No? Anyone examined the body? It's still warm. Has anyone checked the room or the street? Whoever did this couldn't have gone that far... well, by now they could have. Everyone just stay where you are and let me look."

"Don't trust her!" shouts one of the barbarians. "Never trust a sorceress!"

"Hold your tongue, Ragnild!" says the barbarian chieftain. "Her words ring true."

[This is the Mythic PC positive - Trust / The Intellectual event.

It will be a hard (skill reduced by 1/3) Perception check to figure out exactly what killed the barbarian. Skill of 48 -1/3 = 32%; d% roll 14 = success. I asked Mythic a series of Unlikely questions to figure out the clue.

Q: Q: Was the Barbarian killed with poison? No (good, I don't have to photoshop out the blood to make the picture match). Weapons? No. Magic? No. His own dagger? No. By a monster? Yes (photoshop in more blood, then).]

"Look here," says Lachaidiga, "these are claw marks. And here... and here. But see how they're shaped. Look, it's almost like fingernails... only sharper. And this bite mark. I don't know what did this but it wasn't an animal. Not a natural one, anyway..."

[Q: Are there bloody footsteps leading out of house?  Unlikely 22, Yes +Event: PC Negative (random picture)]

Lachaidiga looks further about the room, and sees a bloody half-footprint. A few paces further is another, and another. The trail goes faint, but it appears as if the assailant fled out a window into the street. Lachaidiga runs out the servants' back entrance into the side street, where she finds a crowd of soldiers, labourers, and other servants from the neighbourhood gathered.

"How can we trust them?" shouts a rabble-rouser. "They're always plotting something against us. And they call themselves our betters! They allow violence in their own homes! Violence against the likes of us, brothers and sisters! Why, I heard shouting coming from this fine house here: the house of the wicked sorceress. And screams of pain! Then I saw her emerge with blood on her hands!"

[Q: Does the city watch take Lachaidiga in for questions? 50/50: 96, Exceptional No.]

Some of the crowd speak in assent, but the flustered guardsmen do not listen to their wild stories and order them to calm down and disperse. Lachaidiga pleads with the crowd [Influence (63%) check. D% = 50, success] for anyone who actually saw anything to come forward, but no one did [according to Mythic]. Frustrated, she is about to go back into the house, but pauses for a word with the guardsman.

"I don't suppose there's any way I could convince you not to report this until the morning. These barbarians are so volatile, but I think they trust me, and if I get a head start I can solve this. For the good of the City."

[It will take a Formidable (1/2 skill, so 32%) Influence check to convince him. A roll of 43 is a failure.]

"Sorry, m'lady, but I dare not. If the rumours reach the prefect's ears before my report, they'll send me to the mines for certain!"

scene 3

chaos: back down to 5, as she was more on top of things than not in the last scene

Setup: on next day, talk to barbarians to look for clues

Modified? 2= interrupt: New NPC (random picture)

1. (the murderer or murderers)
2. Ay-Meddush, the merchant
3. Huollof, the caravan leader
4. (a barbarian delegation in the city)
5. prefect (PC's enemy)

1. solve murder

The following morning, Lachaidiga gets a very early start, hoping to be out of the house when the prefect or his agents arrive for the inevitable interrogation. She sets out into the streets in her palanquin, promising the bearers an extra piece each for their exertions; she has a lot of places to go today.

As they are making their way through the wealthy quarter, another litter coming towards them in a narrow street suddenly turns to block their way. The brocaded silk curtains concealing the other litter's occupant are brushed aside from within by a bejewelled hand. A man's elegantly coiffured head pokes out.

[Q: What do they want? Spy / Dispute. Interpretation: nosey neighbour!
Note to self: his stats are Maruthus (Civilised Noble 2), rq_Wealthy_family.pdf]

"Ah, Lachaidiga, dearest lady! Allow me to extend to you the blessings of the day. What brings you out of doors at such an early hour? Not more unpleasantness at home, I hope; I heard what happened to that barbarian. Shocking that those brutes would do this to one another in your family home. Absolutely shocking!"

[It will take an opposed roll of Lachaidiga's Courtesy(45%) vs. his Willpower (56%) to get him to go away: rolling 10 (success) vs. 62 (failure), Lachaidiga succeeds handily.]

"Oh, Maruthus, it was simply awful. I'm sure I shall have to spend many an hour in front of the prefect -- perhaps even the magistrates! But do not fret, good Maruthus, I shall make sure to tell them that you have no small knowledge of this ghastly affair."

"Oh, no, no! My lady, you misunderstand me. I have merely heard report of these tragic events. No, I must proclaim great ignorance. I only wished to enquire after your health... as a concerned neighbour. But I should not detain you from your business. Servants, walk on!"

scene 4

chaos: 4

Setup: talk to the barbarians to look for clues

1. (the murderer or murderers)
2. Ay-Meddush, the merchant
3. Huollof, the caravan leader
4. (a barbarian delegation in the city)
5. prefect (PC's enemy)
6. Maruthus, the nosy neighbour

1. solve murder

[Note: The detective asking the suspects questions is a major part of the murder mystery genre, but relies on the writer knowing what happened to come off properly. This absolutely doesn't work for my adventure, since everything is developing via die rolls. So these first interrogation sequences are going to seem a bit heavy on the game mechanics and a bit light on anything else, as dropping subtle clues is honestly an impossibility.]

The barbarian delegation is staying at one of the finer inns in the wealthy quarter of the City. Lachaidiga sends one of her servants inside to announce her and request an audience. She is ushered inside by a pair of sneering and surly -- not to mention heavily-armed -- barbarian warriors. Within the barbarian's apartments she is witness to a pitiable sight. The murdered prince lies in state on a bed, his disconsolate mother in tears beside. Ulevaard, the chieftain, rises when he sees her, and silently motions her into a side chamber where they may speak in private.

"I was wondering when you'd get here," begins Ulevaard. "The city prefect came late last night with some of his soldiers and a priest, and a serpent man wearing the death rune. They, shall we say, requested some time alone to examine the prince. They came out a while later not much wiser than they went in. The prefect told us we must remain here until this is solved. The serpent assured us that we should not worry, that he had banished the spirits of decay from the room. We're not such ignorant and fearful savages that we don't understand sorcery, you know. I hope you will not treat us with such contempt."

"I wouldn't dream of it," says Lachaidiga. "Tell me, can you think of anyone in the City who would wish you or your family ill?"

[Q: Do the barbarians have any personal enemies in the city? 50/50: 02, Exceptional yes.

Who? A priestess of the god of Knowledge
Why? Harm / Reality]

"There is a high priestess, Izzeri-zatah. She looks down on us, on all the clans, and wishes to end our trade with Anzakàr. She is one of those who believe our iron to be cursed, and has said very publicly -- and on more than one occasion -- that she would see us destroyed ourselves before we bring doom to your City."

"I know of her; she's a priestess of Ziburrun, the god of knowledge. Violence is abhorrent to them. Their sect is even immune from militia service."

"She is the only one who moves against us. The only one of consequence, that is."

"Did the prince have any personal enemies here? Perhaps this isn't about trade or politics at all."

[Q: Is there something Ulevaard will refuse to tell Lachaidiga? Somewhat likely: 17, Yes.
Insight (58%) roll to realise he's holding back: 24, success.
Influence (63%) roll opposed by Ulevaard's Willpower (71%) to get him to spill beans: 95 vs. 36, such a failure!]

"Look, this is the first time I, the prince, or his poor mother has ever set foot in your city, and once this business is concluded I hope it be the last. I have no idea why anyone would want him dead. I've already been over all of this with the prefect and his men, so unless you have anything further to add, I shall return to the side of my grieving wife. Good day!"

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Runequest 6 - character creation

She was born on that terrible night, when the swollen and blood-coloured moon hung low in the heavens, hidden now and again by the unwholesome clouds which held in the damp  heat and the horrid exhalations of the Earth, when the gods, incensed against the populace, sent down unceasing thunder against the city, and smote it with lightning, but refused to let the solace-bringing rains follow after. For though the most pious of peoples, it was said, did inhabit the City, yet had their sins grown in number and provoked this divine wrath. And so she was born on this night of terror, when the affrighted dogs did bay in every street, and the children cry, and that unseen beast slumbering beneath the ground began to stir, vexing the world in its very innards and causing the Earth to tremble. But the time is not meet to talk of such things...

Character creation for Runequest has always been a lengthy affair. This first character took well over an hour. But, after a little familiarity with the rules I was able to roll up two more characters (a priest and a warrior) in about 45 minutes total. I'll go through the first one step-by-step, as parts of the setting came out of it.

Basic character creation

Concept: unsurprisingly, I'm going to make a sorceress.

Step 1: The 7 characteristics are Strength, Constitution, Size, Intelligence, Power, Dexterity, and Charisma. For humans, they're all 3D6, except SIZ and INT which are 2D6+6. I roll all the 3D6 attributes at once and arrange them as desired, then roll for INT and SIZ and assign those. The dice were kind:

STR  9 (low human average; she's a bit indolent)
CON 14 (but healthy)
SIZ 12 (about average size)
INT 16 (very clever)
POW 17 (full of magical potential)
DEX 10 (average)
CHA 14 (she has a way about her)

Attributes are figured values using one or more characteristics. Briefly:

Action Points: 3 (exceptional INT made up for blah DEX)
Damage bonus: +0 (from average STR & SIZ, but 1 point less in either would have given her a penalty)
Experience Modifier: +1 (above average CHA allows her to get more out of others' assistance)
Healing Rate: 3 (above average CON speeds her recovery)
Height & Weight: 171cm (5'7") 80kg (175#) based on SIZ 12, medium build
Strike Rank: 13 (average of INT & DEX; used to determine Initiative in combat)
Luck points: 3 (based on POW; allow rerolls during play)
Hit Points: are by location. I'll look them up when the time comes...

Standard skills: All Runequest 6 characters have the following skills by default. The base value for each is the sum of two characteristics (or a single characteristic x2). Since my setting uses the Ubiquitous Magic rule, the Folk Magic skill is included on the standard skill list. [NB. I made a spreadsheet that automatically calculates base skill percentages. Making subsequent characters took so much less time.]

Athletics 19%, Boating 23%, Brawn 21%, Conceal 27%, Customs 32%, Dance 24%, Deceit 30%, Drive 27%, Endurance 28%, Evade 20%, First Aid 26%, Influence 28%, Insight 33%, Locale 32%, Perception 33%, Ride 27%, Sing 31%, Stealth 26%, Swim 23%, Unarmed 19%, Willpower 34%, Folk Magic 31%, Native Language 30%, Combat Style 19%

The next step is to select a Culture. I'd already intended to make a resident of the great City, so Civilised is the only choice. Sorcery is only available to civilised characters at any rate, so this would have been a foregone conclusion in any case.

Technically, the next step is the selection of cultural skills, but it seems wrong to me to pick skills before figuring out background circumstances and events, so I swapped these steps round. So, to start off, a d% roll on the Background Events table:

Background event: 32 - "You have been marked as special by the gods. You carry with you a ... marking that is of great reverence to a particular religion or cult." Picking a random picture out of the gods folder gets a good one for a sorceress:

The Night Goddess

As to the mark: her pupils resemble the current phase of the moon when the light catches them just so.

Social Class: a roll of 97 (!) makes her a member of the aristocracy. The rules say to keep families vague to start with, but as hers seems quite important I'll do a little extra work to make sense of things.

Parents: rolling a 91 on the tables indicates both parents are dead. So who is head of the family now?

Siblings: a roll of 37 gives her (1d6=) 2 siblings. Random determination of age and sex gives her 2 older brothers (1 and 3 years older). The eldest brother is now head of the family, and has inherited the title (Count). He is a soldier-turned-statesman, the younger brother is an infantry officer.

N.B. The younger brother picture is wrong. At some point I realised that person would be better as a different NPC. I'll change the image eventually...

Marriage: an optional sidebar. A character is betrothed if they roll under their base Influence skill, and married if the roll is a critical success (1/10th the skill, round all fractions up). I rolled a 23, so she will be betrothed: an arranged marriage, due to her social status. She's still unmarried (and at her age!) because getting married is not something one can do whilst training to become a sorcerer.

Extended Family: 06, None!

Family Reputation: A d% roll of 98 yields Untarnished & Excellent Standing. This provides (1d3=) 3 contacts or allies.

Connections: another astounding d% roll of 99 indicates that her family is well-connected in the city and enjoys some status with those commanding national power. This provides 4 rolls for allies/contacts/rivals/enemies.

Time to rummage through the NPC folder:

ally - an old priest of the city god, her godfather
ally - a young priestess of the sun, her best friend
contact - the general's daughter, renknowned for her wisdom
contact - an ophidian, her instructor at the sorcery college
rival - a countess, vindictive social-climber
rival -  a sorcerer, from the Hermetic college
enemy - the city prefect, promoted from the ranks and despises the nobility

Culture skills: seven Standard Skills are allotted to each culture, and three Professional Skills are chosen from those allowed. A character may (but is not required to) choose a cultural Combat Style as well. 100 skill points are divided between these 10 or 11 skills, with a minimum of 5 and a amximum of 15 allocated to each. Customs and Native Tongue get an additional +40 bonus. So her skill choices are:

Standard skills: conceal +5, deceit +15, drive +5, influnce +10, insight +5, locale +5, willpower +15

Combat Style (citizen militia) +10

Professional skills: courtesy +15, language (ophidian) +10, streetwise +5

Deceit, influence, and courtesy are important for navigating high society. Willpower is important for navigating her family. Ophidian is necessary for the proper study of sorcery. She has some small familiarity with spear, shield, and shortsword from the militia training required of all citizens. As a member of the aristocracy, a big deal would have been made of her turning out to fulfil this important civic duty.

Passions: each culture provides three Passions, strong feelings which "can greatly assist players and Games Masters in deepening the nature of the character, introducing plot hooks based on a character’s desire or prejudices, and helping the player to understand who his character is, what drives him, and so on". Civilised characters get Loyalty to Town/City, Love (friend, sibling or romantic lover), and Hate (rival, gang, district or city). I thought it would be fun to set up some family quarrels, so her passions are:

Loyal to City 30% + Character’s POW+INT: 63%
Love - the younger brother 30% + his POW+CHA (7+11): 48%
Hate - the older brother 30% + his POW+CHA (12 +15): 57%

She should also have a Loyalty to the Sorcery College, which brings us to the next stage.

Careers and Development

Each career has a list of standard skill that may be increased, plus a list from which three professional skills may be chosen. 100 skill points are divided between these, with a maximum increase of 15 in any single skill, but no minimum.

Standard skills: influence +10, insight +15, perception +15, willpower +15 (no points are put into customs, deceit, or locale)

Professional skills: invocation(grimoire) +15, shaping +15, literacy +15

The standard skills are equally as useful in wizard school as they are in her social life. Invocation and Shaping are her spellcasting skills. Literacy is a sine qua non of learning sorcery at the college, and also serves to separate the upper and lower classes.

After career comes Age. The default for characters is Adult, 2d6+15 years old. I rolled a 10, so she's 25. A decent age for a starting sorcerer. I would assume she's only recently graduated from Novice rank. More on this later.

Age determines the number of bonus skill points and the maximum number which may be spent on any one skill (for adults: 150 total, +15 max. increase). One new Professional skill or Combat Style may be chosen, but the rest of the bonus points must be spent on skills currently on the character sheet (i.e. all the Standard skills plus any professional ones gained from culture & career).

Standard skills: dance +10, deceit +10, evade +15, influence +15, insight +5, stealth +15, willpower+15

Professional skills: literacy +15, language (ophidian) +10, invocation +15, shaping +15
NEW: lore (history) +10

Again, skill choices are mostly reflective of her aristocratic background and sorcerous pursuits. Evade is chosen (mostly from a game perspective) with the idea of not getting hit in combat. Stealth is also a good game choice, but I imagine she uses it to sneak out of the house to avoid certain family members.


As an Apprentice member of the Scholastic sorcery College, she is entitled to one sorcery spell for every 20% (or any fraction thereof) of Invocation skill. 62% gives her 4 spells. Since it's a high magic setting, the college provides (potential) access to (1D3+6=) 9 spells. I am using the basic list of seven given in the example and adding two to it. The first of these is Smother. It not only thematically fits with Abjure Breath (which itself is intended to avoid environmental hazards when looking for forgotten knowledge in ancient ruins), but is a decent spell for adventurers generally.  The final spell shall only be revealed as my character sounds the depths of the scholastic mysteries. She also gets 1 folk magic spell per 10% (or fraction) of her Folk Magic skill.

Sorcery Spells: Perceive (Darksense), Neutralise Magic, Abjure Breath, Smother
Folk Magic: Heal, Protection, Befuddle, Clean


Starting equipment and money are based on culture and social class. As a civilised (4D6x75) aristocrat (x5), she has 6375 silver pieces. A sizable amount to be sure, but she moves in expensive circles, and whatever minor allowance her tyrant of an eldest brother allows her will just barely cover her expenses. In game terms, food and lodgings are covered, but any special equipment or training she needs once play starts will be paid for out-of-pocket.

In addition, she also starts with:
- (1d6+3=) 6 sets of clothing, made of expensive fabrics and sporting lots of decoration
- (1d3+3=) 4 weapons of expensive quality, decorated with precious substances
- a full set of armour worth (1d2+3=)4 Armour Points
- a Palanquin for personal transport

Final character sheet:

Lachaidiga the sorceress

STR  9
CON 14
SIZ 12
INT 16
POW 17
DEX 10
CHA 14

Action Points: 3
Damage bonus: +0
Experience Modifier: +1
Healing Rate: 3
Strike Rank: 13
Luck points: 3

Height & Weight: medium build, 171cm, 80kg
Age: 25

Passions: Loyal to City 63%, Love - younger brother 48%, Hate - older brother 57%, Loyal to Sorcerous College 63%

Standard Skills: Athletics 19%, Boating 23%, Brawn 21%, Combat Style (citizen Militia) 29%, Conceal 32%, Customs 72%, Dance 34%, Deceit 55%, Drive 32%, Endurance 28%, Evade 35%, First Aid 26%, Influence 63%, Insight 58%, Locale 37%, Native Tongue 70%, Perception 48%, Ride 27%, Sing 31%, Stealth 41%, Swim 23%, Unarmed 19%, Willpower 79%

Professional Skills: Courtesy 45%, Language (Ophidian) 50%, Literacy 62%, Lore (History) 42%, Streetwise 36%

Sorcery: Invocation (scholastic grimoire) 62%, Shaping 63%
Spells: Perceive (Darksense), Neutralise Magic, Abjure Breath, Smother

Folk Magic (31%): Heal, Protection, Befuddle, Clean 

Can I go on an adventure now?

Sunday, 24 August 2014

The accidental world-builder

As I said in the last post, the whole of the setting for my new Runequest campaign branched out from the picture above. Here I have a wondrous city of (mixed) classical architecture rising up the summit of a mountain. There's a few trees and some scrub for vegetation.

A good start, but by itself rather vague. So I went through my picture folders and sorted out a bunch of people and places that seemed like they'd be good for Runequest. All the vikings and Germanic tribes and Celts got put to one side, and I was left with classical Greeks and Romans, ancient Egyptians and Mesopotamians, Africans, and a few Arabs. Mostly these came from books on history and anthropology, but there were a few adventure novels thrown in for good measure.

So dividing it up by cultures (RQ style), the European types are Barbarians, the Arabs & North Africans are Nomads, and the rest are Civilised. There's also a bunch of stone age people (truly bons sauvages)  from a rather mad french book on human origins in case I need any Primitive people. There's a lot of pictures that could conceivably fall in more than one category; the boundaries between Civilised and Nomad are particularly fluid, and many priestly types could easily be Civilised or Barbarian. But as a rough guide:





barbarian? civilised? nomad?

Most of the pictures of the person(s) that inspired the PC I will make were Egyptian, but everything hinges on them being a citizen of this great city. So instead of dividing up all the Civilised peoples into cultures and giving each one a city-state, there is one big city made up of the remnants of many different cultures to form a single poly-ethnic gens. This will also explain how my PC sometimes looks to be dressed more like a Mesopotamian or Persian. It also lets me use the Greek & Roman warriors for the city's armies, as there is a dearth of good pictures of Egyptian soldiers.

except these guys in stripey PJs

The wilderness locations were similarly mixed: Africa and the middle east with mostly classical and Egyptian ruins. Almost everything is a desert or empty plain. Plus some viking stuff.

random adventure location

So putting it all together I have a cosmopolitan mountain city surrounded by the ruins of many older civilisations. The remnants of these civilisations now make up the populace of the city, whence their ancestors fled in the time of a great cataclysm where chaos creatures overran the land, about ~500 years prior to game time. There are a few other city states, similarly organised, separated by vast wastelands. Nomads traverse the wastes, taking trade caravans from city to city. Barbarians live a short way across the sea (lots of pictures of viking ships) and occasionally come down to trade.

A few details:

Between their inclusion in the new RQ rules and stumbling across this picture, I had to put Ophidians into the setting.


I went for the classic swords & sorcery trope of the serpent people being an ancient and sorcerous race. But instead of making them evil, I instead put a small enclave of ~200 of them in the city. They run the sorcery colleges, and so have inordinate influence in the city. Many view them with suspicion, though they are essentially harmless; just alien. Their major plots and schemes all revolve around sending sorcerers east into the lands that were once the ophidians' empire(s) in quest of lost knowledge -- which could potentially make a nice adventure.

There are broo (chaos hybrids) and other vile creatures in the wastelands. None of them have the might to take on the city. Yet.

I'm keeping the 3rd edition monster book handy for headhanger stats

All able-bodied citizens are required to turn out for militia service. [Rules Alert] The default Civilised combat style is Citizen Militia, giving training in shortspear, shortsword, and medium shield with the Formation Fighting trait. There is also a troop of elite soldiers, who train battleaxe, javelin, shortspear, and scutum [Elite soldier combat style]. They eschew wearing armour in favour of better mobility, and so receive the Daredevil trait (May use Evade to dodge blows in hand to hand combat without ending up prone. I chose it for the effect rather than the name). The elite warriors are classed as a Brotherhood (using the default Warband package in the rulebook).

elite soldiers

I'm opting for a high-magic setting, with the Ubiquitous Folk Magic rule and overnight regeneration of personal Magic Points (basically, everything like in RQ3). Sorcerous colleges will be all the non-evil seeming ones from the main book and Monster Island. Theism cults will be abundant. The city's Street of Temples claims to have temple, altar, or shrine to every known god in the world. The major religions are the obvious ones, being the list of sample Theist Cults in the rulebook. The most popular/important religions are the gods of the Sun and of Mountains, and the eponymous city god.

To make the gods slightly less generic, I picked random images and assigned the god to them; I'll figure out what they're all like (and name them) as it becomes important. But for now:

Writing this all down was considerably more time-consuming than making it all up in the first place. I have more setting notes than just these, for certain, but I'll let them come out during play.

Edited to add -- I forgot to mention the name of the place: Anzakàr (Sumerian for tower or fort. The grave accent on the final a is only there to distinguish among homophones in translitteration, but it looks nice for teh name of my fantasy city so I'm keeping it).

Next up: character creation, wherein I will show how Runequest 6 character creation works and how making my character defined more of the setting.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Random pictures for campaign background generation & solo play

Using pictures as random idea generators is hardly a novel idea. Sites like Meanwhile Back in The Dungeon...  and Build a Dungeon from Me have been offering up plenty of gaming  inspiration for a while now, and I've even stumbled across random idea websites for writers that offer up stock photos as writing challenges.

I've got a ton of old woodcuts & engravings & illustrations saved on my hard drive, and have started using some of them to illustrate my T&T Katabasis adventures, in the same way that I was using photos I took to illustrate LotFP. This is all well and good, but time consuming. Finding the right pictures to go with the story can often devolve into hours of flipping through pictures. I'll do this anyway, but it's nicer to do when you aren't constantly asking yourself, 'did my PCs just go there? How about there? Would it work if I photoshop out the car? &c'. I mostly have all the Greek woodcuts in one place, but even then only a small fraction of them are suitable for adventures: too many famous people. I sorted out a likely collection to put in my T&T folder, but I was still mostly playing the adventure and then looking for pictures that fit.

It occurred to me it would be much easier to do it the other way round. Not all the pictures I have are particularly useful for RPG adventures though, so some sort of system was going to be necessary.

Build a dungeon from me. I dare you.

The idea for the new campaign came to me as I was idly messing about with GIMP to turn a picture of Misenum into a mountain city. I realised I could set a high-fantasy campaign in such a place quite handily. And since it was a civilised environment, there would be a lot less combat. Of course, the city has to be somewhere. So what is surrounding it?

before & after

Organisation is not my strong suit, but in the main woodcuts folder I have a subfolder for landscapes and cityscapes, and also one for ruins. I went through them (and a few others) and pulled out everything that seemed like it would make for a good adventure location. I also grabbed a bunch of pictures of monsters that would make good wilderness encounters.

What I should have done at this point was start organising all the stuff I was putting in the new campaign folder, but I didn't. I exhort you to learn from my mistake and sort everything you find into folders as you go. You can always make more, and delete empty ones, or combine small ones later.

Next came NPCs. There are pictures of people spread all throughout the woodcut folders. I had already been leaning towards Runequest, so I pulled out all the ones that suited a pre-medieval feel and/or were interesting enough that I could justify their inclusion. Somewhere at this stage I found the pictures that inspired my main PC, and three people who are either subordinate PCs or major NPCs. I made sure to include some random groups of minor / incidental / cannon fodder NPCs as well.

You're the best 1d6 friends a guy could ask for!

And now the game world was taking shape by itself... but more on this later.

At this point almost everything has been sorted into folders for the actual gaming. I'll be using Mythic with Mythic Variations for my GM emulator again. But when it comes up with stuff like Remote Event or New NPC, I'll just go into the appropriate folder and pull up a random picture to figure out the result. Some of the pictures I've named or even photoshopped (gimped?) in advance in order to have certain possibilities in the story: monsters I want to use, NPCs related to my character, etc. In theory I could even  make individual folders for all the categories on Mythic's Event Focus Table, but what I have suits my basic story so far.

Some of the folders (barbarian lands, battles and armies) are there to keep stuff that I won't be using unless the adventure goes a certain way. Gods and items are small folders to be dipped into primarily when events call for something specifically in them, though they may end up being used randomly as well (the party just met a priest of _____). PC stuff is pictures that look like the characters I rolled up; some of these are just portraits, others have definite encounter potential. Encounters is empty and should have been deleted; its contents got split early on between monsters and wilderness event. NPC portraits is the random NPC generator. NPC event is people actively doing things, urban event and wilderness event are things happening more generally; all three are good for Mythic's Remote events. Not shown here is another folder full of pictures of horned mammals and snakes whose heads will be photoshopped onto other bodies to make pictures of broo (chaos hybrids) and ophidians.

When I grow up, I'm going to be a broo!

I didn't agonise over where to put the pictures when I was filing or it would have taken forever. Some are probably misfiled, others could have gone in either of two folders equally well. I can move them when I find them, though they may just provide less obvious inspiration when they show up. So I will purposefully not be going through the folders to clean them up. Less prep = more gaming.

In the next post I'll show off the setting, and how I got there.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Rules & Ruminations

...and once again I feel myself being pulled in another direction, starting a new game and a new campaign before any of the other three have finished, or even come to a reasonable stopping point. Partly I'm just bad at finishing projects, but also I'm just starting to suffer from combat fatigue. As much fun as dungeon exploration can be, I feel like the main way my PCs interact with their world is by hitting things. Asking Mythic questions about what they can do is all well and good, but it requires a lot of arbitrary decisions about who can do what in the first place, and determining their relative levels of skill or competence on the fly. Now, this is something that never bothers me as a player or as a GM, but when I have to be both it's just too much; I might as well just be writing a story rather than gaming. Plus, I'm a simulationist at heart. I like game rules that model the real world, more-or-less, plus whatever fantastical elements the setting requires. I'm not a fan of larger-than-life PCs, overly abstract rules, or cinematic anything (varied and interesting combat is fine; John Woo-style heroics not so much).

For solo gaming, I find that having more definite rules makes it more like playing a proper game. For example, if the random dungeon generator gives me a 20' wide underground river bisecting the corridor, I like to be able to look over the character sheets and come up with a plausible solution for getting across based on the characters' skills and equipment (and probably have it made more difficult by the amount of crap they're hauling around). And the rulebook gets to be my GM; this is more fun for me  than saying 'O Mythic, I say it be Somewhat Likely that yon party can cross this Stream by dint of Skillfulness and a length of Rope: What say'st Thou?'. Sure, they're more likely to succeed with a roll on Mythic's Fate chart, but where's the fun in that? and when else am I going to get to use the swimming and drowning rules, anyways?

T&T avoids the all-combat problem with SRs, but that still leaves things quite open-ended. The simple solution would be to pick up with the Traveller game again, but I'm still in a fantasy mood. I thought briefly about trying to switch systems in the elven campaign, but that always strains my suspension of disbelief ('hey, Aldira, remember when magic used to work differently?' 'Yeah... what the hell happened last Tuesday?'). And in any case I am in the mood for less standard fantasy. Thus, all signs pointed to Runequest.

I haven't had much time to play lately, and I have other projects demanding my attention still, but I did/do have enough to think things over. And over. And over. After some edition waffling (I love 3rd, but 2nd has a lot of charm) I was finally won over by the possibilities of the newest (6th) edition. It does, hélas ! promise cinematic combat, but as a solitaire player I can manage to keep that toned way down to realistic levels. Besides, there shouldn't be all that much combat in the game I have in mind.

I also had an interesting idea about random idea generation during games, which I will showcase as I get playing. It's not really one I could suddenly throw onto my current campaigns (well, maybe T&T), so a fresh start seemed like a good idea.

Runequest, of course, really wants a good setting to be played in, and much more so than a lot of other games owing to the level of detail it lavishes on culture and communities. Since I'm not going to be using a published setting, that will necessitate some world-building. Fortunately, I have found another way around doing too much of it, one which is part of the random idea generation process I came up with. More on all of this in the next post.