Saturday, 31 October 2015


I always write a ghost story for Halloween on my other blog.

This year's can be found here (the link should go right to the English translation; scroll down if it doesn't).

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Dragon Warriors solo - Part III: Brigands

Scene 6

Chaos: 5

Setup: travel

NPC list: Lady Melisenda, Earl of Avincester, the Secret Enemy

1. get a horse
2. find out situation
3. head home
4. take message to earl

After Ysmena's revelation, it is felt that it would be unwise to tarry in Dunning's Green, so the three set out to the south forthwith. Once safely away, Ysmena pauses to use her wizardry, a restorative invocation to ease her overtaxed lungs [Lesser Healing restores the Health Point lost to smoke inhalation].

Loys and Ysmena converse pleasantly enough on the journey, whilst Reynaud trails behind in splenetic silence.

[Q: Does Ysmena know any good rumours? 50/50: No.]

Sadly, Ysmena has nothing of moment to relate, and is at present unwilling to expound upon the circumstances which led to her near-execution. She tells Loys only that she had been sent to Dunning's Green to retrieve a grimoire in the possession of a certain lady living there living the life of an oblate. Ysmena fears it was she who tried to have her killed, for she had done nothing to arouse the suspicions of Mayor Bricot nor the ire of the redoubtable Fr. Jolyon.

[I rolled on the Road Encounter table in the d30 Sandbox Companion, and got a 30: Ambush. It seemed most logical to occur in the hills hex, right where the PCs come upon the road. Table REAG: Attacking Group indicated 2 attackers, at the same Rank as the PCs (whose average rank is 1.67, thus 2). In point of fact I think the Road encounter table produces too many random combats, but as I'm still learning the DW system I don't mind; Now we get 3-vs-2 with magic & missiles involved.

I checked for magic according to the NPC Weapons & Equipment Table (DW p.133), and it transpires that B had a Potion of Night Vision. Using my potions tables, I determined that the flask is unlabelled (there was only a 1-in-6 chance), and that B knows the nature of the potion therein (he needed to roll 6+, and as he is in the wilderness got to make the roll on 1d10). As these are down-on-their-luck knights turned bandits, I picked weapons at random and gave them each armour with AF 1d6.

  ST RF IN PT LK Att Def Mdef EV HP Equipment
a 13  8 15 14 15  15   9    4  4  9 sword, plate
b 12 15 13  8 12  14  10    3  5 10 battleaxe, mail hauberk, crossbow

I treated the ambush as a Stealth roll using the NPCs' Stealth (both have 13) vs. the PCs' best Perception (Loys, 6): 13 +3 (not moving) - 6 +5 (broad daylight) = 5 or less on 2d10; 8+9, the ambush fails. They are noticed at 3d6x5=50m.]

As he and his companions crest a hill, they finally seed the road below them. On the other side of the road, in a copse of trees, Loys espies a pair of figures. "Ho, there!" he calls out. "Well met!" But there is no reply. The party advance, but cautiously. Loys and Reynaud take up their shields, and put their hands on the hilts of their swords, but do not draw. Ysmena does take the dirk from her belt.

The two figures come forth from the shade of the copse. One wears plate armour and brandishes a sword. The other is clad in a mail hauberk, and advances with crossbow at the ready. The two parties stop a short distance from the road on either side [15m apart]. The man with the crossbow shouts, "Throw all your money and jewels down on the ground, and we shall let you pass. Else ye shall not live to see the morrow."

Loys and Reynaud draw their blades in answer.

[Initiative is in order of REF, so: Ysmena, B, Reynaud, Loys, A]

[round 1]
The three knights in plate charge, their various battle cries issuing from their lips ("Munjoie !", "Albion!", "Gaaaaaaah!").

The brigand with the crossbow raises it and takes careful aim at the charging Loys, as Ysmena speaks a short incantation. As the crossbow bolt is loosed, a lance of fires springs forth from the sorceress' fingers, enveloping the brigand and burning him severely. His bolt slams into Loys' breastplate right in the centre, but is deflected by the thick, curved steel. The brunt brigand ducks back behind a tree, out of sight of the sorceress.

[Initiative, schmintitiative... sometimes it makes more sense to tell it out of order. But for the game mechanics...
Ysmena's Dragonbreath spell has a Speed of 12. B's Evasion is 5, so the spell hits on (12-5=) 7 or less on 2d10; she rolled a 3. Damage is 1d6+6 - the Armour Factor (3) of his hauberk.1d6+3= 6 damage total, leaving him at 4hp.
B's shot has a +2 penalty for Loys' movement, but missiles aren't affected by Defence. So 1d20+2=6, well less than B's Attack score. The d6 thrown for Loys' shield did not come up 1, so it didn't stop the shot. Crossbows get a d10 for their Armour Bypass Roll; a 3 fails to penetrate Loys' plate armour.
Then the knights all moved, but as they went more than 2.5m they could not attack this round.]

[Round 2]
Ysmena wants to throw another spell, but now her companions are in the way. She trots a bit forward and to the left, so she can get a clear line-of-sight. The brigand she had just scorched is behind the tree still, swapping his crossbow for a battleaxe.

Reynaud and Loys are locked in combat with the other brigand [who must split his 9 Defence: 5 toward Loys, 4 towards Reynaud]. Despite the advantage, Reynaud finds his every swing deftly parried by the brigand's sword [19 misses]. But as he counters one knight's assault, he leaves himself open to the other's. Loys waits for an opening, then stabs under his arm as he is raising his sword to fend off yet another furious blow [rolled a natural 1, so automatically bypasses armour. 4 damage drops A to 5hp]. The brigand shouts in pain and surprise, and reels back, weakly counterattacking the honourless cur that just wounded him [rolls an 18, missing]. His sword barely finds the other knight's blade.

[Round 3]
Ysmena can only see the one enemy knight engaged with her companions. Not willing to risk burning either of them by mistake (though in truth she feels they both somewhat deserve it -- but now is not the time to dwell on past injuries), she tries a different spell, chanting the curse that bids the very strength of the brigand desert his limbs [she casts Weaken on A; His Magical Defence (4) is subtracted from her Magical Attack (17); the spell thus works on 13 or less. 2d10= 7, success. He suffers -2 Attack and inflicts -1 damage]. A heaviness grips the brigand's heart, and his sword arm seems to droop.

His companion rushes out to join the fray, battleaxe in hand [move only]. He engages with Reynaud, who lunges straight for him [Att 13 - def 10=3 or less to hit, but as luck would have it he rolls a 3. d8 for his ABR = 4 vs AF3]. The blade find a weak spot in the man's mail, sundering the ill-kept links and running him clean through [4 damage drops him to 0hp]. Reynaud pulls back the gory blade as the brigand collapses at his feet.

Loys and the other brigand are now fighting one-on-one, but neither is able to pierce  his foe's defences.

[Round 4]
Ysmena stands and watches the fight. She will, she thinks, conserve what little magic yet remains to her [1 Magic Point] until there be great need.

Reynaud assails the brigand again, but in vain, finding every thrust knocked aside, every swing met with unyielding steel. Perhaps their styles are too similar, for the  man seems to always know what he is about to do [or perhaps Reynaud's best roll against him this combat is a 17].

Loys once again finds an opening whilst the other two face off, but this time his blade clatters off the brigand's vambrace [he hits, but the ABR is 6, which I had to look up -- the Armour Bypass Roll needs to exceed the AF (which is why AF of 1 isn't useless, now that I think of it). But as the brigand is wounded and alone against two knights and a sorceress, I decided to ask Mythic--

Q: Does he surrender? 50/50: 42, Yes.]

The brigand backpedals, then casts his sword to the ground. "I surrender!" he cries.

Reynaud pauses to see what his master will do. Loys removes his helm, and walks boldly over to the cowering brigand. "You may have no honour," says he, "but fortunately I do. I accept your surrender."

He commands the man to move the body of his fellow out of the road. Ysmena takes up the crossbow and sword, Reynaud takes the battle axe. Loys and Reynaud strip the fallen knight of all his valuables: 59 florins and a small bronze flask, which their prisoner duly informs them is a 'potion of night-seeing'. Loys asks for Ysmena's confirmation, but she admits her ignorance; the Ars Chymica is yet beyond her meagre understanding of the arcane mysteries.

Soon they are marching up the road towards well-tilled fields, their prisoner in the lead.

[Since they were desperate bandits, I had halved their total cash (2d100F total instead of each).

B was at 0HP, so he was actually still alive, with a 1-in-6 chance to wake up each minute. I assumed it would take the party 10 minutes to get their loot and be underway. I rolled 10d6 and got no 1s (this never happens, I assure you); the 14th d6 saw him wake, so B will be added to the NPC list as he may one day be back for revenge. And finally--

Q: Does the prisoner do anything foolish? Unlikely: No.]

As they walk, Loys bethinks to interrogate the prisoner to learn his worth.

"Brigand!" says Loys, "how be ye yclep'd?"

"Ailbert, milord."

"And how be it that you fell into this despicable state?"

"Benoist and I were serving in the king's army, only... I should never have listened to him in the first place. We were going to be sent over the Crusade, willing or not. But I couldn't go. I couldn't be away during the harvest."

"Ah, I see," says Loys, who can practically taste the gold of the man's ransom, "so you did not wish to leave the running of your estate in the hands of your steward?"

"My steward? No, milord, you misunderstand my meaning. I am but a simple farmer, and I must till the land of my lord, lest I be found wanting in my duty... though it's too late for that now."

"But-- but you're a knight."

"I was made a knight in the field, milord, when we did war against the Duc de Roncevaulx in Chaubrette. So many of our nobles were lost, and we were picked by lot--"

"But... the device on your sword. The crest chiseled upon your breastplate--"

"--belonged to the man I replaced. The choler ravaged our camp. There were so many dead, we had to bury them in pits altogether, masters with serfs co-mingled. This armour was given me, as I was of the same build as Sir Gaufridus, rest his soul."

"Enough! I've heard enough! Be silent lest I administer the Kings's justice on you this instant, brigand!"

(adventure continues here)

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Dragon Warriors solo - Part II: An old friend

The knights make their way up the shore towards the village of Dunning's Green. The streets on the outskirts of town are strangely quiet. Not a soul is to be found. The knights make their way towards the town centre, from which the column of smoke rises into the evening sky. They can hear the tumult before they have even rounded the corner behind St. Switha's church. The whole village is assembled in the square.

In the midst of the square, a pyre has been builded, which smokes e'en now as the kindling and straw begin to catch fire. A young woman clad in a soiled shift is lashed to the pale at the pyre's centre, twisting in vain against the ropes which bind her. Shouts, jeers, and taunts erupt from out of the throng, exhorting the executioner to hasten the sentence, to set the witch ablaze.

The two knights shove their way through the crowd to get a better view of the spectacle. As Loys draws near enough to see the woman's face, a shiver runs down his spine.

"Good Lord!" says Loys. "That's Ysmena!"

Scene 5

Chaos: 6

Setup: save the sorceress

NPC list: Lady Melisenda, Earl of Avincester, villagers, officials, clergy

1. get a horse
2. find out situation
3. head home
4. take message to earl

[I was looking through the pictures in my 'Medieval' folder, and when I saw the one above, I instantly knew how the knights would first run across the sorceress. Now, to set up the scene:

I used UNE to quickly generate the major NPCs in the encounter--

Father Jolyon, the officiating priest
power level: comparable (3rd rank Priest)
goal: depress charity (he's against leniency in all matters)

Bricot, the mayor
power level: slightly weaker (normal human, but decent attributes)
goal: discourage freedom

the secret enemy
power level: comparable
goal: ?

Ysmena is down 1d8=1 health point from smoke inhalation. She has full Magic Points, but wouldn't have been able to use any spells whilst under guard.]

"My liege," says Reynaud slowly, "I fear that our Ysmena was always a headstrong girl, and whilst this spectacle saddens my heart, I cannot in truth say that it not that which I feared would someday befall her."

"I cannot believe that of her," says Loys. "This must be a mistake."

"Can we not put our trust in the good people of this village? and the wisdom of their clergy? and the mayor?"

"Even the best men may be deceived by evil."

"And what if it be her evil whose deception they uncovered?"

"Then may the Lord punish me for what I now do..."

Loys strides forward to accost the black-hooded executioner, who is applying his torch here and there to the smouldering straw. "Hold! who is in charge here?"

[reaction roll=9
Who then? (1d6) 1-2 mayor, 3-4 cleric, 5-6 both: 5]

The executioner is insensible to the man's words, but jumps at touch of the iron gauntlet upon his shoulder. A hush settles over the crowd, that they may better hear the ensuing drama.

"Good my lord," says the executioner, cowed at the appearance of the armoured knight, "Father Jolyon has pardoned this miserable sinner, so the case has passed from his hands to those of our good Mayor Bricot. For e'en as the Mercy of our Saviour is infinite, witchcraft is yet a civil offence."

Father Jolyon and Mayor Bricot step forward to treat with Loys. [Their reaction rolls are 8 & 9 respectively. Loys succeeds at a Looks roll (rolling a 7), so they will hear him out.]

"My lord, holy father, whilst I respect your wisdom and both your offices, I must protest at these proceedings. For I know that woman, and I say to you she be no witch!"

"But you are a stranger in our village, O knight," says the Mayor. "How can you know such a thing?"

"For that I know her! I met her at St. Uchtred's Priory, whither I had gone on a pilgrimage before my investiture as a knight. She was a lay sister then. I've not seen her since I left for the Crusade, but she's a beneficent soul and good, and as devout in the True Faith as you or I."

"But... the evidence," says the Mayor.

"What evidence?"

[Q: what evidence? d30=tome (on the Artifact/Relic table (AG8) in the d30 Sandbox Companion)]

"This tome," says the Mayor, indicating the book in the priest's hands.

The priest holds the book forth for Loys to see. It is large, thick, bound in elegant white vellum, and has gilt edges. Loys cannot decipher the title, written in ornate letters down the spine [nor anything else -- he is illiterate], but the look of the thing reminds him of the costly missals in his family's private chapel. He takes a decided gamble.

"Come now," says Loys, "that is hardly a grimoire of black magic!"

[using UNE for the priest's response: prejudiced-assessment-knowledge]

"Nor need it be," replies the stern cleric. "But this book is not a holy book, and thus it is wicked, and full of ungodly sentiment. The Holy Church may not raise a hand against any man, even so far as to offer up prayers for the soul of a foul necromancer, but I shall not scruple to throw this unclean thing upon the fire."

"The fate of this book concerns me not. But I say again this woman is no witch. And I am prepared to prove it in trial by combat. I name myself the champion of this innocent!"

[Q: Will they agree to trial by combat? 50/50: Yes - They are more concerned with civil order anything else, and a combat will placate the masses just as well as an execution.]

The mayor looks to the priest, who nods his assent. "Very well," says the Mayor. "This is unorthodox, but if the good friar is willing..." He bids a subordinate go fetch some water to quench the nascent flames and tells the executioner to remove the prisoner from the stake. He then turns to address the hushed crowd.

"Good people of Dunning's Green! This brave knight insists upon the innocence of the woman Ysmena, saying that she be no witch. And yea though it hath been found otherwise by our good court, let it ne'er be said that we are without mercy. This knight..."

"Sir Loys."

"...Sir Loys hath pledged his sword and his life to prove that it is the will of the Most High that she go free. And so tomorrow at mid-day, he shall return to this square to face our own champion, Sir Cressin--" (Here a cheer erupts from the crowd) "--in a trial by combat!"

Mayor Bricot arranges quarters for Loys and Reynaud, and even invites them to share a late dinner with him. Ysmena must spend the night in the gaol, and the knight are told it would be best if they did not go to see her. Loys does spend a long and prayerful vigil in the church of St. Switha, where he meets Sir Cressin doing likewise. The two observe the laws of chivalry scrupulously, and find one another quite affable besides. Reynaud correctly surmises that the Mayor put off the contest until the morrow to allow his subjects ample time to place bets on the outcome. Reynaud openly disdains talk of wagers, but privately wishes he knew on whom to put his money. As much as he trusts in Loys' fighting prowess, he just cannot be sure that Ysmena isn't a servant of Darkness.

The next day a festal air reigns in the village. The square is filled with sweetmeat sellers, minstrels, and jugglers, all vying for the attentions (and pennies) of the crowd. Fr. Jolyon is peevish about the jocularity round what should be, by rights, a solemn affair, but the Mayor tells him it is good for the commoners to enjoy an extra day of leisure now and again, however distasteful their levity. The happier they are, the easier it is to keep them in line. Perhaps the good father could work his sentiments into his next sermon, and encourage penance through good work. The Mayor neglects to mention that he has 10 gold crowns on the stranger to win.

As the orb of day attains its highest seat in the heavens, a clarion sounds. The crowd falls silent. Soldiers push them back from the centre, and clear a path from the town hall. The executioner leads the prisoner forth, a stout rope about her neck, her hands bound in irons.
Four spearmen follow, and then the Mayor and Fr. Jolyon. The group take up their station before the pyre. It does not yet burn, but a torch rests in a brazier of ardent coals, ready to fulfil its grim office should Ysmena's champion fail.

From the church emerge the two champions, resplendent in their gleaming armour, shining helms under their arms. Each is followed by his squire, bearing sword and shield.

The champions stand in the midst of the square, facing the crowd. The Mayor comes up between them, and addresses his people with a pretty speech. The priest does the like, though with much sterner words. The two champions than kneel in an attitude of prayer. The priest declaims an orison over them in the Bacchile tongue (which none of the peasants -- nor indeed the champions -- understand). The champions rise. They swear before God, in the prescribed form, that they bear no talismans nor rings, have imbibed no magic potions, and will call upon no sorcery in the battle.

The squires come to fasten on their sires' helms, check over their armour, and furnish the swords and shields. They are left alone in the midst of the square, and all the rest pull back. The Mayor bids his herald sound, the trump again rings out -- and the battle begins!

[And then it was time to roll up Sir Cressin. I used UNE's Table 3: NPC Power Level to decide his Rank relative to Loys. The middling Chaos Level of 6 let me roll on the Standard line, and so fortunately Sir Cressin's power level turned out to be Comparable. For simplicity's sake I only rolled the attributes that could affect his combat stats.

Sir Cressin
3rd rank Knight
ST 8  RF 15  IN 9
Attack 14  Defence 10
Health Points 12
sword (1d8,4), shield, plate armour (AF6)

Initiative goes to the higher Reflexes, so Sir Cressin acts first.]

The crowd holds its breath as the two warriors advance. At the first clash of their steel, a roar erupts from hundreds of throats, cheering the combatants on.

[Round 1]
Sir Cressin is faster and more sure than Loys, and rains blows down against him. Loys is slow to bring his sword round to parry and nearly lets the blade past his guard. Fortunately, he raises his shield at the last possible instant, deflecting the blade with its rim. Pushing back with all his might, he forces Sir Cressin back, and takes an opportune thrust at his midsection. The point of his blade slips under Sir Cressin's tasset to wound his thigh. The sight of blood on Loys' sword is like nectar to the bloodlust of the throng.

[This is my first combat, so game mechanics will be written out in more detail than usual.
Sir Cressin has 14 Attack, Loys has 9 Defence. 14-9=5 or less on 1d20 to hit. He rolls a 5 which would have hit, but Loys rolled a 1 on the d6 for his shield, and so deflected the blow.
Loys has 16 Attack 16-10=6 or less to hit. He rolls a 2. Sir Cressin's shield roll is a 5, so the hit stands. A sword gets 1d8 for its Armour Bypass Roll. Plate has and Armour Factor of 6. 1d8=7, the hit penetrates. Swords do 4 damage, so Sir Cressin is down to 8HP.]

[Round 2]
If Sir Cressin is chastened by haven received the first blow, he shews it not. Again and again he comes at Loys cutting here, slashing there, now an overhead blow, now a low thrust. But his sword cannot find his foe, rebounding ever off his stout shield, or being turned aside by Loys' own trusty blade. But the onslaught is so fierce that Loys dare not advance, and indeed is forced back several paces towards the crowd.

[Both missed]

[Round 3]
Sir Cressin presses his advantage, forcing Loys back further and further until he stumbles and falls to his knees. Sir Cressin hesitates a moment -- a terrible mistake. Loys springs up onto his feet and propels himself into the other knight. There is a great clattering of steel upon steel as the two knights' armour smashes together. Loys takes advantage of his foe's consternation at the impact to smash down the hilt of his sword onto Sir Cressin's gleaming helm. Sir Cressin staggers back, nearly dropping his sword.

[Sir Cressin rolled a natural 20. I'm not house ruling fumbles, but a 20 speaks of some sort of mistake. Loys, on the other hand, rolled a natural 1, a Critical Hit, meaning the Armour Bypass roll automatically succeeds. Shields have the normal chance of deflecting a critical, but Sir Cressin rolls a 6; he takes 4 more damage, leaving him with 4HP.]

[Round 4]
Sir Cressin has blood in his eyes, and is still reeling from the mighty blow which dented his helm, and nearly cracked his skull beneath. He swings weakly at Loys, who sidesteps the clumsy manoeuvre with ease. And by so doing, Loys finds himself in an excellent position. He strikes out at Sir Cressin. The blade glances off his pauldron and bites into the mail guarding his neck. Sir Cressin drops both sword and shield, and, clutching his neck, begins to stagger off to the side before collapsing into the dust.

[Sir Cressin rolled an 11, missing.
Loys rolled another 1; Perhaps God really was guiding his hand in this contest! The shield roll failed, so Sir Crespin was reduced to 0HP.]

Loys nudges Sir Cressin with his foot, rolling him flat onto his back. He puts a foot atop his chest, and holds his sword at his throat. "Do you yield?" barks Loys. Sir Cressin does not, nay cannot respond; he only moans faintly. Loys removes his helm, and turns to the Mayor. "I have vanquished your champion! Set the lady free!" The Mayor's reply is drowned out by the cheering of the crowd.

Ysmena's is loosed form her fetters, and she hold a hand out to her saviour. "Loys," said she, "never had I thought to ever be this happy to see you!"

"It is my honour to do you service, fair Lady."

The crowd is dispersing through the square. The jugglers are again doing their tricks, the minstrels again playing. Children, and even some adults, are miming the fight in play. Reynaud shoves his way across to Loys. He looks at Ysmena with [Looks roll with +3 penalty: 11+3>11, fail] barely disguised contempt.

"Ysmena," says Reynaud bluntly.

"Reynaud," she replies, with [Looks roll, also with a +3 penalty: 5+3<15] well-feigned sweetness.

"My Lady," says Loys, "the Mayor had assured me that, should I be victorious, all your property would be returned to you. But I am afraid that does not apply to the book. The priest seemed intent on its destruction."

"Let him burn it," laughs Ysmena. "That was not the grimoire I was sent to collect. Don't look so astonished, good Loys. I thought you knew I practised sorcery!"

[Some bookkeeping, for later:

Q: Has Ysmena's accuser already skipped town? Likely: Yes
Q: With the grimoire? Likely: Yes.
Q: Who was (1-3 m, 4-6 f) she? priest
Q: Magician? Likely: 18  (thus, a cloister-trained sorceress like Ysmena)
Q: Was she the one being spied on (Ysmena's spy / the spiritual result from the character generation post)? Very Likely: Yes.

I've been remiss about putting up the PCs' stats, so here is the party as it now stands.]

Sir Loys
Knight, 3rd Rank
ST 13  RF 9  IN 11  PSY 12  Looks 15
Health Points 11
Attack 16  Defence 9
Evasion 4
Stealth 13  Perception 6
Mag. Attack -  Mag. Defence 5
sword, dagger, plate armour, lantern, flint & tinder, backpack, 25F

Knight, 1st Rank
ST 11  RF 12  IN 7  PSY 14  Looks 11
Health Points 13
Attack 13  Defence 7
Evasion 4
Stealth 13  Perception 5
Mag. Attack -  Mag. Defence 4
sword, dagger, plate armour, lantern, flint & tinder, backpack, 25F

Sorceress, 1st Rank
ST 12  RF 16  IN 16  PSY 13  Looks 15
Health Points 9
Attack 13  Defence 8
Evasion 5
Stealth 14  Perception 5
Mag. Attack 17  Mag. Defence 7
dagger, lantern, flint & tinder, backpack, healing potion, replenishment potion, 20F

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Dragon Warriors solo - Part I: Homeward bound

Battle raged around Loys. But the din of clashing arms, blaring trumpets, bellowed commands, and the dying wails of men and horses sounded only distantly in the knight's ears, as his whole awareness was directed at the armoured foot soldier he now faced. The man's heavy sword crashed down upon his shield time and again, finally splintering it. Loys drew his long dagger with scarcely a second thought and pressed his fierce attack. Raising his heavy sword over his head, he brought it down with a crash upon the helm of his opponent, caving in the bright metal and the skull beneath.

Loys paused but briefly in his triumph, to call out 'Munjoie !' like the knights in the tales of old, then eagerly set upon his next foe...

* * *

"Wake up," said a rough voice. Loys opened his sleep-heavy eyes and saw his squire Reynaud leaning over him, shaking him bodily awake. "You were mumbling in your sleep again."

"I was there again," said Loys gravely. "Always in my dreams am I back 'pon that cursèd field of--"

"There's no time for that now. We've a problem aboard. The ship's mate would address us all."

"What now? I grow weary of this voyage..."

Dragon Warriors, the Players Guide, DW Bestiary
Mythic GME (eventually with my own variations)
rumours will be generated via bibliomancy, and their truth determined by my rumours tables
d30 Sandbox Companion

Notes: I started this a while ago, so the first 8 scenes were played out with a standard implementation of the Mythic GME. I'm also using the DW rules as written, except that spears are not only a 2-handed weapon (d6,4 when used one-handed). I am using the optional rules for permanent injuries on p. 208 and the Shock or Knockout rules (ibid.) I had expected to be using random weapon damage, but the static values bothered me less than I thought they might.]

Scene 1

Chaos: 5

Setup: sailing into port
Interrupt: Passion / Food - NPC negative - ship captain

NPC list: ship captain, sailors, passengers

1. get a horse
2. find out situation
3. head home

The ship's mate summons all passengers and crew on deck, and addresses them. "Our captain -- the miserable oaf! -- has been sneaking into the stores at all hours of the day and night and helping himself to our provisions. Now we've nearly an empty hold! And it is three days yet before we reach a safe harbour in Ellesland."

[Q: Is there a mutiny? Likely: Yes.]

Angry murmurs run through the crowd. All eyes turn towards the captain. He goes white with fear, as he can sense what is coming next. In desperation he throws himself at the feet of the nearest knight, pleading for succour.

The knight, our good Loys, extends his hand towards the man, who eagerly clasps it. Loys helps the quivering captain to his feet. Emboldened by the protection of the gallant, armoured knight, he turns to address his crew.

"Mutiny! for such a trifle as this? Why I ought to have the lot of you flogged just for considering it!"

But the crowd grows still more angry. Shouts ring out, exhorting the others to violence, and it looks as though a riot is near at hand.

"Hold!" calls out Loys. [He needs a Looks roll to get the mob's attention: 2d10=14, just made it.] "Be ye men or animals? There is no call to stain the decks with blood. Use the Reason given ye by the Most High. There is a simpler solution and just."

So saying, Loys turns towards the captain once more, takes him bodily by the shoulders and propels him overboard with utmost swiftness. The assembled throng is silent for a moment, then erupts in a cheer.

"My distaste for gluttony is equal only to my hatred of sloth," says Loys to the ship's mate. "Sail we quickly for Ellesland!"

[Q: Can the PCs manage their own food intake to avoid starvation? 50/50: Yes.]

Scene 2

Chaos: 6

Setup: sailing into port
Altered: dropped off first available place

NPC list: ship captain, sailors, passengers

1. get a horse
2. find out situation
3. head home

Most of the knights returning from the crusade hail from further south than Ebrac, and the new captain would rather not sail upriver and back. Loys says that the first available port will suit him and his squire just fine. Loys and Reynaud are rowed to shore with their scant possessions. They bid the sailors farewell and head up the rocky beach towards the fort they see in the distance.

[There are 4 possible places they could be dropped off on the coast of the d30 locations map: three forts and the lighthouse on the mainland. 1d4=second fort from the top, #22. They disembark at 1d6=pm, 1d12=noon

Q: Is there a good reception for brave knights returning from the Crusades? Likely: Exceptional Yes.]

Loys and Reynaud walk straight up to the rather bored-looking guards outside the gate. Loys announces the two of them, formally as is his wont. The sound of the word 'Crusade' works upon the guards as if it were a potent spell, for they suddenly snap to attention, the boredom in their demeanour replaced by respect, perhaps even admiration for the two weary travellers. Word is sent of their arrival to the fort's commander, who orders comfortable quarters prepared and invites the worthy knights to his table to dine with him and his captains.

The commander of the fort is an ageing knight named Sir Farman. He is all to eager to hear tell of the Holy Crusades, but it soon becomes evident that his guests are too war-weary to regale him with stories of blood and valour, and they are desirous to hear of home.

[Looks rolls (2d10, roll under attribute) with +3 bonus for Sir Farman's respect for the crusaders: both succeed, so neither let slip anything about the unfortunate circumstances in the crusade from which they are returning, nor is the commander any the wiser. They do manage to get a rumour out of him. And since he's so favourably disposed towards them, he'll give them his honest opinion of it, allowing one of the Truth dice to be rolled now.

Rumour: background - group - major - annoyance (-1)
bibliomancy: Sin autem ad pugnam exierint, nam saepe duobus / regibus incessit magno discordia motu
Verg. Georg. IV 67-8

("But if they have gone out to battle / for often between two kings proceeds discord...")]

"Things haven't changed much since you've been away," says the Sir Farman. "There are stories that wandering knights -- dogs and scoundrels all -- have been gallivanting around, and stirring up shit -- pardon my Beaulangue -- between the barons. But people are always saying such things, aren't they?" [The Truth Die came up 3.]

"We were hoping," says Loys, as pudding is being served, "that you might be able to help us get to the mainland. We let our ship's captain drop us off in the first available port before heading south, not realising we were closest to Pask island."

[Q: Can they get rowed to mainland? Likely: 98, Exceptional No.
Q: What does commander want in exchange, then? Persecute / Jealousy]

"Well," replies the old knight, thoughtfully, "I could order you a boat on the morrow. But I was hoping you might be able to help me with a trifling matter first. I am having rather an unhappy time with the commander of the fort on the northern horn of the island..."

[Quick rolls on the d30 Sandbox Companion's Adventure Generator tables--
goal: escort person
who? noble - a Lady
goal/reason: destiny]

"Sir Hardouin, for that be he, is entertaining a certain Lady of our mutual acquaintance, the fair Melisenda, in his keep. This sweet Lady, a most amiable widow, has been promised me in marriage by her brother and guardian. She sent word that her ship had delivered her to the wrong fort upon our little island, and, once she discovered the fort to be commanded by none other than her goodly cousin, she sent a runner to say she would break her journey there for some time and would come south presently. A fortnight went by, and she came not. A second fortnight, and still she would not come. Now a third fortnight is nearly passed. She sends no note, and repulses all my messengers. Please, O glorious knights, I implore you to go thither to find the fair Melisenda, and return her person to me."

"Anything for a fellow knight," says Loys, [Looks roll=3, success] concealing his disdain.

Scene 3

Chaos: 7

Setup: go to the other fort
Altered: something happens on the way

NPC list: Sir Farman, Sir Hardouin, Lady Melisenda

1. get a horse
2. find out situation
3. head home
4. return Lady Melisanda to her bridegroom

Loys and Reynaud rise at dawn. They say their prayers, break their fast, and set out on the eight mile journey to the other fort on Sir Farman's errand.

[an encounter occurs after they have travelled (1d8=) 4 hexes.
Encounter: 1d12=5 Monks
Q: What are they doing? Travel / Outside]

As they are nearing the narrow neck of land connecting the northern reaches of the island to the western fields, Loys and Reynaud espy a comical procession, five jocular monks singing and laughing and almost dancing as they make their way towards the eastern shore.

"Ho! good friars," calls Loys, as he and Reynaud trot up to greet them. "I know of no monastery on this little isle. Have my squire and I been away at the Crusades for so long as to find one new-built?"

"Oh no, my son," chides the leader monk playfully, "It has been not nearly so long as that. We are but simple mendicant friars, enjoying this fine day given us by the Most High, and taking respite from endless journeys to do a little fishing."

"Fishing?" asks Reynaud, "Came ye in a boat."

"'Twere too miraculous had we come otherwise," laughs the monk.

"Could you take us back to the mainland?" asks Loys. [Looks roll, -2 difficulty, rolls:10+5, failure]

"Oh, no," says the monk with a grin, "I fear your iron rainments would sink our humble bark! But in truth we do not depart til after the Sabbath, for the fishing here is truly bountiful as the Grace of our Saviour."

[Can the PCs pick up a rumour? 50/50: 43, Yes.
library data - event - minor -gain (+1)]

"Besides," adds another monk, "when the tide is low, we wish to see if we can see the famous stone rising from the sea, as is reported by the ancient Selentine poet:

Est procul in pelago saxum spumantia contra
litora, quod tumidis submersum tunditur olim
fluctibus, hiberni condunt ubi sidera cori;
tranquillo silet, immotaque attollitur unda
campus, et apricis statio gratissima mergis."

[Verg. Aen. V, 124-8
Something to look for if PCs ever get a ship...]

"Well, God be with you," says Loys, and they go their separate ways. But once the monks have disappeared from sight, Loys turns to address Reynaud. "Lets take a small detour. If we can find where those mad monks let their boat, we can get off this ridiculous island!"

[They need to make a Track roll (1d20 lower than Perception) to pick up the monk's path from the boat. Loys has the better score (Pcn=6) but a roll of 14 fails.]

"I've no idea where they hid it," says Loys after a time.

"Let's to the fort then," replies Reynaud. "I'm sure Sir Farman will keep his word... if we're good little matchmakers!"

* * *

The rest of the walk to the fort passes without incident. When they arrive...

[Q: What's up at the fort? Carelessness / Allies: something's amiss with the Lady
Q: What? Carelessness / Suffering: she's injured - riding accident

Reaction roll for their reception at the fort (I've just been using the classic Traveller chart for reaction rolls): 12, super

Q: Can Loys get an interview with lady? Likely: Yes.]

...they are treated as honoured guests. They are given lodging and refreshments, and invited to dine at Sir Hardouin's table. They are introduced to, and quite taken with, the Lady Melisenda. The Lady seems much recovered from her fall from the saddle, but still walks with a slight limp. Loys is able to obtain a private interview that evening in her private apartments.

"You were sent by that little toad Farman," says she.

"Y--yes, my lady," stammers Loys in reply.

"So he's taken to sending knights as his errand boys! How many ways must I tell him I've changed my mind. Our arrangement is off."

relationship: neutral
mood: friendly

"Off?" asks Loys. "He is under the impression--"

"He is an obstinate fool who refuses to believe the truth. I've seen his demesne. It's small, and crumbling, and shabby -- like its master. I have elected to stay here to enjoy the company of my charming cousin, and when I have had my fill I shall travel on to the place of my choosing. And it shall not be the barracks of Sir Farman."

"But, my Lady, the marriage was contracted. What of your Duty...?"

"Think you I had any part in this matter? Any say at all? Whence comes duty upon my head? As I am not my brother's keeper, neither is my dear brother mine. I came hither to this island out of mordant curiosity only, to see what match my brother would foist upon me. Had Farman been handsome, or clever, or at all interesting I may've consented to the pairing. I stress, may have. You have met him, good sir. I ask you, is he any of these things?"

"Nay, my Lady. He is most certainly not."

"And even if he were, there are other considerations..."

"These being?"

[UNE: keeping the initial Prejudiced result: prejudiced-dislike-fame
Q: Fame? Overindulge / Outside]

"It is said he takes bribes from merchants and smugglers." [this counts as a rumour]

"My lady, let me be frank with you. My squire and I have just come back from the Crusade, and after a miserable sea voyage were put down here instead of the mainland. We have no loyalty to this Sir Farman; we merely agreed to his errand in the understanding he would get us off the island in return. If you say you will not go to him, then I consider this matter closed. And instead I would entreat you, good lady, to take pity on this pair of battle-weary soldiers, and arrange us passage across the bay."

[Q: Can/will she help? 50/50: Yes.
Q: Is there anything she wants in return? 50/50: Yes: Inform / Evil (carry a message to a person who happens to be evil.

d30 Adventure generator - Key NPC chart: noble, chart NPC1=earl
Location: 1d30=25, which is a village, so 24 which is the castle beside it]

"Good sir knight, there is nothing I would more happ'ly do than aid those brave souls who fought the infidel so far from home. But if you do go to the mainland, I would ask of you a small boon, that you bend your journey toward the castle of my friend, the Earl of Avincester, and take to him a small missive."

"It would be our honour to carry your message."

"Then you shall leave at first light. I shall have the men sail you round the western side of the island that none of Sir Farman's men see your passing."

Scene 4

Chaos: 6

Setup: travel

NPC list: Sir Farman, Sir Hardouin, Lady Melisenda, Earl of Avincester

1. get a horse
2. find out situation
3. head home
4. take message to earl

True to her word, Lady Melisenda has had a small sailing ship prepared. At dawn its crew stand at the ready. Brief farewells are said, and the Lady gives Loys a letter stamped with her seal in black wax. They depart at once for the mainland.

[Weather roll (p. 214): d6=4, no change. Thus, a Breeze blows today; I had checked for the weather the day before to determine how far the monks could possibly have come in one day starting from the village, #19 on the map. A small cog can make 3d20 miles in 24 hours in this weather. 3d20=28 miles, so they cover 14 hexes by about 6pm.]

Sailing for a whole of the day, they arrive on the shore at eventide. A village [#26] is seen due south of their landing, from which a plume of black smoke rises high into the azure sky.

[Not the most action-packed of beginnings, but I was still finding my way around the rulebooks. Anyways, I prefer the 19th century novel approach to the Thrilling! Modern! Cinematic! adventure. I did truncate the dinner scenes, to be sure, but a good dinner/opera/ball sequence needs more important NPCs than I have at present.

In any case, the next few scenes will add some excitement into the mix. Stay ye tunèd, O Gentles!]

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Dragon Warriors - character creation

As is standard procedure, after a brief read-through of the rulebook, I rolled up about 10 characters. I assigned a Profession (character class) to each set of stats to form a stable of PCs, but decided that I would focus on just a handful to start, leaving the others a bit vague until either the GM emulator or simple inspiration suggested a use for them. As this is an adventure about knights & castles, the main starting PC would certainly be a Knight.

So, what does a Knight in Dragon Warriors look like? PCs have 5 characteristics, ranging from 3-18 as was common practice for games of this vintage. They are Strength (both physical strength and endurance), Reflexes (dexterity and agility), Intelligence (what it says), Psychic Talent (intuition and facility with magic), and Looks (charisma and appearance). I rolled 3d6 in order for each character, and assigned professions based on the results (and crossed out two hopeless characters). The set I chose for the Knight is:

Strength: 13
Reflexes: 9
Intelligence: 11
Psychic Talent: 12
Looks: 15

He's strong, if occasionally clumsy, but he certainly has a commanding presence. He'll certainly do as the leader of his eventual party.

Following the rulebook, the next step is to roll for Health Points (hit points). This is 1d6 + a modifier based on profession, anywhere from +9 (barbarians) to +4 (sorcerer). Knights get 1d6+7; a crap roll of 2 gives my knight 9hp.

The next few steps of character creation are determining a set of scores for combat, sneaking, dodging, etc.

These all start at a fixed level determined by the character's Profession, but may be modified by attributes falling outside the human average (9-12). They mostly come in pairs: Attack & Defence, Stealth & Perception, Magical Attack & Magical Defence, and Evasion. To hit in combat, you need to roll your Attack minus your opponent's Defence or lower on 1d20. The others are the same, except they use 2d10. Evasion is subtracted from an object's Speed if the character needs to dodge. It's a very simple system at heart. To provide context, here are the base scores for a beginning Knight next to the numbers for a normal, non-adventuring human:

           Knight  Avg.Human
Attack        13      11
Defence        7       3

Stealth       13      12
Perception     5       4

Mag. Att.      -       -
Mag. Def.      3       3

Evasion        4       3

HP            d6+7    d6+3

Due to his high Strength, my knight has a 14 attack, but is otherwise as above.

As a knight, he starts with three special abilities: Track, Armour Expert, and Ride Warhorse. Knights can wear any kind of armour without penalty, and along with Barbarians and some Warlocks (fighter-mages, like Elric) are the only ones capable of riding a warhorse.

Starting characters get equipment based on Profession as well. A knight is initially equipped with plate armour, shield, dagger, lantern, flint-and-tinder, backpack, 25 florins (silver coins), and a sword or morning star. Despite being only 1st Rank (rank=level, but also directly corresponds to one's professional standing), beginning characters stand above the common herd.

This is really all you need to make a character and get playing, but there's a whole section on generating your PC's background. The tables to be consulted vary by profession. Knights start by rolling d% to determine their social class (which is more likely than any other to be Noble [1-18] or Gentry [19-53]; sorcerers are the next highest with 1-13/14-22). My knight is born of noble blood, and will have all the duties and privileges commensurate therewith. He hails from Albion (England) in Ellesland (Britannia), so speaks Elleslandic as his native tongue. As a noble, there was a 40% to speak a second language in addition, but he failed the roll. Fully 15% of the nobility is literate; alas our knight had no time in his youth for bookish pursuits -- leave that to the sons of doctors, lawyers, and architects (who get a whopping 35%). Illiteracy means no chance of knowing ancient languages, so this concluded character creation by the book.

Oh, but he needs a name, doesn't he. Rather than making up vaguely-plausible sounding names, I have been grabbing everything (so far) from here:

My knight is thus yclep'd Loys (Louis), a nice name of Frankish origin.

I decided that I've been playing a lot of games with starting characters, so it might be nice to start this one out a little higher. Also, I really want to use the Jousting and Tournament rules, and a 1st rank knight cannot reasonably expect to make much of an impression in a tourney. So I bumped my knight up to 3rd rank. This provided increases to Attack, Defence, Magical Defence, and Health Points... of +1 per rank. DW is not a game of super-human heroics!

das In-der-Spielwelt-sein

Since Loys is a noble, I wanted him to have more of a connection to the sandbox. Dragon magazine #96 has an excellent article, 'What good PCs are made of' by Katherine Kerr, on generating a (human) PC's history, using the actual middle ages as a guide. Skipping the parts that were already covered by the DW rules, it transpires that Loys is a legitimate child of his parents, but the youngest of three living brothers. Three other siblings died when he was still a child. His family is poor by the standards of the nobility, and he is more hostile towards them than is usual. The knight to whom he was made a squire was of a low status (I imagine the family pawned him off at the first opportunity due to the mutual animosity poisoning their happy home), but at least this knight treated him warmly. I haven't come up with a name for the family yet, but I will when it becomes important.

I thought it best to figure out which castle he calls home. I made a quick-and-dirty origins map; this is just a copy of the hexmap with gigantic (72-point font size) numbers on it, so that when viewed all on one screen they are legible. Red numbers are castles, blue are monasteries and cloisters (in which priestly types are trained; more on this later). Note that blue #4 is the cathedral in Ebrac; there is also a castle in the city, but PCs won't be from there. A die roll makes Loys from castle #12.

castles and monasteries

I was inspired by a random 'your PC might be...' statement in the rulebook to make Loys' first adventure start as he is coming home from the Crusades. The first scene will find him still aboard ship with his squire Reynaud, who is the other Knight I rolled up (and who remains 1st rank). Reynaud is from castle #10, of a noble family who are more secure than Loys'. He's either Loys' squire because the families are connected by alliances and possibly intermarriage, or Loys' took him on to spite his family by having a squire from a rival house. I haven't decided which yet, but either way it will breathe a bit of life into the setting. At some point after I started playing I had a flash of inspiration about events that befell this pair of stalwart crusaders in the month or so before the start of game time; but this will all be revealed in play, as random events are interpreted around it.

Rather than justifying the rest of the PCs' presence on the boat with them, I have elected to have them gradually introduced over the course of the game. But I did want them to all start knowing Loys, and possibly each other. And as they all have skills and abilities which would benefit a party of adventurers, I scattered them around an area of the map so that, should Loys decide he needs the services of one of them, the journey to where they (probably) are will provide extra opportunities for exploration. I left the Elementalist (shaman) and two Barbarians out of the mix, though. They will show up together at some point when I have need of them, but they would not have any obvious connection with the more 'civilised' PCs.

For inter-relationships, I naturally turned to the NPC Relationship Table in Star Trader. I rolled once for each PC to determine their relationship with Loys, and then once again for each of them as if they were a 4-person ship crew, i.e. one roll relating to a randomly-determined other character.

Here is a summary of the other PCs:

Reynaud the Knight is Loys' life-long friend (being his squire, he looks up to him as an older brother, perhaps even a surrogate father). Reynaud is secretly an enemy of Ysmena the Sorceress, and is waiting for his chance to strike.

Ysmena the sorceress: Blames Loys for a past event (the death of the abbot who taught her sorcery at the monastery). She knows a dark secret about Hubertus the Priest.

Fr. Hubertus the Priest is Loys' friend, but only through guilt. He is an old (and these days, ex-) friend of Claricia, the Assassin.

Claricia the Assassin is one of Loys' cousins, who are amongst the gentry living in Ebrac; she's a bit cold towards him. She shares a secret past incident with the Priest. Whatever it is that she and the priest did, it seems to have ended their friendship, and caused Hubertus a lot of guilt besides. I wonder what they will do when they discover that the sorceress knows the horrible truth...

The sorceress learnt magic in the monastery at blue #1. The priest took orders at blue #2. The Priest profession is in the Players Guide; it represents not the average clerics, but the philosopher priests like Thomas Aquinas or Averroës. I almost used Albertus Magnus and Roger Bacon as the examples, but in Dragon Warriors legends are all true, so the former's alchemical pursuits make him a Sorcerer, whilst the latter is a Demonologist.

a screen's worth for starters

Since the adventure necessarily starts in just a small portion of the map, I made a sub-map for the beginning. Focussing the map on Ebrac, I cropped it so it displayed 30 settlements on my screen, and numbered them. The knight's ship will be heading for the city, and from there adventure can compel them in any direction. I spread the other PCs around the map at the whim of my d30, and gave them each a reason for being there via Mythic. All will be revealed as they come into the story, but for the moment:

Sorceress: at 26 : Spy / The spiritual
Priest: at 13 : Gratify / Weapons
Assassin: at 19 : Dispute / Enemies

So now everything is prepared. Next post: the adventure begins.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Knights & Castles - Dragon Warriors sandbox

Switching gears again... A post by Moonsylver in the Lone Wolf Roleplaying group got me thinking about a sandbox game I started up a while ago and never got around to posting. It's caught my interest again, so here goes:

Rambling proöemium

In c.30 years of gaming I have never owned a pad of hex paper. Wilderness maps were either sketched on anything I had to hand, or put on regular graph paper, which worked well enough. Honestly, most overland adventures used either the World of Greyhawk maps or something borrowed from a published module -- if they used a map at all. My best ever solitaire wilderness sandbox was on regular graph paper, all mapped out in advance; I should probably see if I still have it to mine for ideas. A friend once did give me a couple sheets of hex paper. One of them was wasted in drawing a series of caverns that I never used for anything, and the other lay fallow for many a year until I finally found something to do with it. At some point I decided I wanted to play a game about knights and castles, chivalry and the high (fantasy-) middle ages -- indeed, just like the guys on the cover of the WOG box set. The PCs were a group of knights (4th-7th level cavaliers and paladins) and their attendant cleric. I put a town at the bottom of the map for the starting point, and dotted castles around the rest of the page. The adventure was handled with the random wilderness tables in the back of the DMG, each hex's terrain being revealed only as it was explored by the brave knights on their holy quest to do deeds of valour in exchange for experience points. The Lords and Ladies ruling each castle were fleshed out with the NPC personality tables, and given alliances and rivalries, and had the adventure continued there would have eventually been armies from rival castles taking the field under the Battlesystem rules. It was all great fun for a while, but in the end I abandoned it in favour of getting back to the exploits of my elven magic-user, or possibly Star Frontiers.

I did always intend to get back to it some day, but it never happened. It wasn't quite the fairytale adventure I wanted, and the random terrain made it a bit too far-fetched; the castles were never anywhere really sensible and seemed to exist without any need for peasants to till the land. The game probably would have worked better for Pendragon or Chivalry & Sorcery, or with rules from the D&D Companion set, but I didn't have any of those. I started thinking about it again recently when I came across some blog posts about sandboxes and hexcrawls. I was also trying to think about where to go after finishing my latest series of dungeon escapades; fun as they are, I was starting to suffer from writing-about-combat fatigue again.

I mentioned the medieval kick I'd been on somewhere in one of the LotFP dungeon write-ups. Since then, I went visiting in the Midlands and got to go explore an actual castle, which is in fact what reminded me of the old knights & castles hex adventure in all its glory -- and in all its inaccuracies. Not only was the castle was right by the town, but the subterranean passages weren't even close to 10' wide. The cellars of the 18th century manor house we saw that weekend were much more classically dungeon-sized, if somewhat linear and frequently open to the outside.

fig. 1 - Medieval, about 3' wide, maybe 6 1/2' high

fig. 2 - 18th century. Still not 10x10' squares

Added to all this, I recently discovered the Dragon Warriors RPG. Growing up I'd never heard of it, and to be honest, the name probably would have put me off. But when I looked into it the setting really spoke to me in a way that few fantasy games ever had. Briefly, it has both the feel of the actual middle ages and the wonder of proper old fairytales that I was always looking for. The DW setting and ethos are definitely similar to the way I had been setting up my LotFP campaign, only without the baggage of certain D&Disms.

Setting the scene

So, how did I set up the sandbox? I like the basic DW setting, so I am using it for the broad strokes of the world. I am starting with the standard campaign setting of Albion (fantasy England) and I found a big blank space on the world map in which to place my hexcrawl. It corresponds roughly to Yorkshire, which is a good model for the setting I want (i.e. lots of spooky moors to get lost in). I'm using 1-mile hexes, so a 60x80 hexmap (4800 square miles) is about 2/3 the size of actual Yorkshire, and doesn't run over into other parts of the world map.

I've got Hexographer instead of paper, which drastically speeds up the process of map making. The basic random terrain distribution is a bit bizarre though, so I changed it to suit the climate of the region in the Custom Terrain settings. I didn't like the first map it generated at all, but the second one was usable. It still needed a lot of work to clean up (by which I mean it took one whole evening).

First I added the coast, and drew rough lines down it and around the lakes so it looked more like real terrain. I still wasn't happy with the amount of moorland, so I increased that, and even put in a bit of broken lands way out on the western side of the map for the site of some magical disaster or other.

Had I been working on paper, I would have added in rivers next, but with the Add Random Features tool in Hexographer, it makes more sense to see where the settlements are and use those as a guide to laying down the rivers. Since I'm going for verisimilitude, I did a bit of looking online and found, quite handily, a population-density map of Yorkshire based on the Domesday Book. I knew my LotFP map was woefully underpopulated, but even this admission now seems like comic understatement. DW divides settlements into Castles, Towns, and Villages. So, to get a reasonable amount of starting settlements, I first ran the tool with just the Village icon, and bumped up the density from the base .5% to 2%. After that, I put the density back to normal and ran the tool again, placing castles, forts, churches, ruins, &c.

Then I went through the whole map and made sense of it all. Villages were added in big, empty areas of cultivated land, removed from swamps, etc. Castles were moved near villages and vice versa. I added a lot of settlements and fortifications on the coast. And I added a single city icon to represent the largest settlement, where the Earl holds his court. I'm calling it Ebrac, as it is obviously pretend-York (Latin Eboracum).

Once I was satisfied with all that I added rivers, and made sure that all settlements had some sort of believable water supply. I also connected a lot of the settlements by roads, which would have been built in the days when the island was a province of the Selentine (faux-Roman) empire. I made sure to include lots of crossroads so there is somewhere to display the bodies of criminals hanging in gibbets.

fig. 3 - This is just part of the map, and at half size.
Ebrac is on the river, south of the crossroads near the centre.

And that was sort of it. Other than the one city, I will be putting off naming things until it becomes necessary. NPCs, factions, and everything else will come out in play.

Next post: character creation (& more setting)

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Solo Traveller - Episode 27: Commerce

Date: 351-1106

arrive Zalba/Foreven (2037 E100447-A Ni Va)

There's an 800t mercenary cruiser ahead of us. They musta just jumped in a few minutes before we did. They're headed towards the port too, near as any of us can figure. They won't respond to hails at all.

Speaking of not responding, Heldamin and Veev still aren't talking. They had a row almost as soon as we jumped, I'm not sure what about, but when the screaming stopped they went silent and wouldn't even acknowledge the other one the whole length of the trip. So she's been out in the common room a lot, and the doc, and also Orneev and Diula, have been hiding in their staterooms to avoid her. Herself and the marine have mostly been keeping her company. I though they were starting to come round to like her, but then I accidentally overheard her saying to him that they need to keep her onside so had better start treating her nice.

[jump event: Two passengers have a blazing and unresolved argument. It needs resolving!
ship encounter: 800t mercenary cruiser - Ignore you, will not answer comms]

Date: 352-1106

Clock ticked over whilst we were still inbound. Made it in to "port" roughly the same time as the mercs. Took about 12 hours, all told. Zalba's really tiny, but the 100d limit of the gas giant it orbits makes for long transit times.

The port is just a bunch of craters with the bottoms smoothed over with plasticrete. There are like no facilities here, but the port authority is very active. I guess trying to sell fuel when you're only a few thousand kilometres from a gas giant don't go over so well. But that means it's going to be another tankful of unrefined fuel for the trip out. But I don't like to think of that right now.

We had the option of a bare crater at normal berthing rates or a "deluxe" berth for cr500/day. Deluxe just means there's a pressurised rail tube leading to the main transit hub. I opted for a normal berth. We can just walk across the surface. But I got a feeling it's going to be pricey here.

. . .

Later: The merc cruiser put down in one of the fancy craters. We had to wait in a holding pattern for about 25 minutes before we got our landing clearance. I guess their money is better than ours.

There's a few other traders out where we're docked, and one fat trader in a nice berth. There's also a type-S scout ship in for repairs. Looks like it got shot up real bad [this was a random scout vessel, and actually rolled much later; one of the reasons I always play ahead a bit of my posting schedule is so I can include these sorts of details: the hysteron proteron of solo-gaming].

Date: 353-1106

Everyone had been awake way too early when we exited jump, and by the time we were finally docked most of them wanted sleep again. But not me and Orneev. We suited up and headed off to the commerce centre to drum up some trade.

We bounded across the rocky surface, leaping more than walking. Didn't seem that hard [Inty has Zero-g-combat-1], but Orneev complained the whole time and even fell on his arse once or twice. I said I thought he'd appreciate getting to be in a vacc suit the whole time. He just grumbled and said how he grew up on a world with proper grav plates! I'm starting to think that being outside anywhere isn't his forte. (Note to self: should prolly buy a sealed air/raft since there's a fitting for one built into the Empress-Marava class A2.)

Despite the whingeing it wasn't so bad a hike to the nearest transport station. The maglev trains are pressurised and everything. The passengers are a mix of people in vacc suits and street clothes. The street clothes were decidedly looking down their noses at the vacc suits. Maybe they should take some of that cr500/day and buy manners lessons instead of fancy berths!

The transport tube lets everyone off at the commerce centre main station. They don't have a customs area as such, but there is a big sign reading NO VACC SUITS, NO FIREARMS. And lots of armed security about the place. They do provide 24-hour locker facilities to store your vacc suits and guns whilst you move about the settlement -- for a fee of course!

At least the commerce centre seems to be a round-the-clock affair too. It didn't take long before Orneev had lined up a buyer for the cybernetic parts in our hold. Girl had to talk to her boss, so we agreed to meet back after lunch, but it was worth the wait, made half a million credits in the sale. Even if Orneev says that once we deduct the cost of our dinner, our profit is about 10 credits. And his levstaan was undercooked.

[sell cybernetic parts: 6 +3 (broker) +4 (Ni world)= 200% : cr500,000]

Didn't find any decent cargo to buy yesterday though. When we got back to the Hekabe, we found out that Herself and the marine took Diula into town on a shopping trip to buy groceries. "I forgot to tell you, don't eat at any of the restaurants here if you can help it," Eshtam says to us when we got unsuited. "the food is really nasty. There's a reason no one exports it." That explains the metallic aftertaste I still haven't gotten rid of!

Looked for more cargo today, but there was nothing good on offer. Well, there were some speeders, but way overpriced. Too bad. [O&I find cargo: aircraft @1mcr each...]

On our way back to the ship, we must a strayed too close to the mercenaries' berth. We were just bounding along, minding our own business, when these 4 louts in armoured vacc suits carrying what I swear had to be plasma weapons come out and chase us away and tell us not to come within one kilometre of their position if we know what's good for us [encounter: guards. react=6, unreceptive]. Man I hate mercenaries.

cr78,584 ship's fund

     -100 berthing
  -14,000 life support

 +500,000 sell cybernetic parts
 -275,729 mortgage (paid 3 days early)
cr288,755 new ship fund

next mortgage due 20-1107