Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Not Just Another +1 Sword (Part 2)

I've got to post these ideas the moment they come to me, I had a much better articulated and thought out idea in my head when I decided to do this, but  I just seem too busy to get them down right away. My wife and I just bought our first home, and we move in 4 days...so we are busy as heck right now.

Right so my next idea on how to keep the magic in magic weapons. Games, or campaigns which have a higher prevalence of magic, may have +1 swords a plenty, and the idea of naming all of them too daunting, or unrealistic.Most classic modules seem to fall in this category; even Keep on the Borderlands looks to have quite a few in the hands of many of the NPC's, not to mention the Caves  of Chaos themselves. Another option here maybe the Hattori Hanzo option (re: Kill Bill 1); have the "low level" swords be crafted by master sword makers. A campaign could have  between 1-5 true master weapon smiths whose  creations are seen as true works of art.  “This my finest sword. If in your journey you should encounter God, God will be cut.” Maybe each one has some sort of signature, sigil, or symbol belonging to the great artist, which is always present on their pieces. It could be that the weapons are expected to held only by those worthy enough  to wield such a treasure, and challenges could be made to test if this is really the case. Perhaps certain martial schools have a signature weapon, which only their members can own (think of what happens if a non-memeber is caught with a Hell's Angel patch).
   Another take maybe the weapon made by an ancient long dead civilization; swords made from Atlantean steel, Bows from the Ancient Groves blessed by the Druids etc. Again anything to give the weapon some kind of history.
   Speaking about history why shouldn't the weapon have a past. I like the idea of the PC's learning a little something about the weapon; things like who owned it, their own fortunes, and what legends are told about them. These things can give the characters a chance to hypothesize about the weapons capabilities. The weapons past doesn't have to be to grandiose, Characters may or may not what a weapon which has belonged to the greatest hero in history, creating an expectation they themselves may never live up to. It could be something as simple as "This weapon belonged to the loyal bodyguard of the Thane of Theosguard, who died protecting the fallen body of his lord liege. Its said that he fought as ten man that day, and sustain such injuries as would have killed twenty. But he held on, refusing to fall, till he saw his fellows rescue the unconscious form of his beloved king." Forget about what plus the weapon has, thats a weapon with some weight behind it, and a pretty good "cool factor".
    A weapon could even come tied with a destiny.  I'm not talking some railroad plotted destiny, it's best if things are left vague enough to allow for its fufillment to be seen after the fact. Who's to say that the great danger that will be overcome wasn't the Blue dragon to which the character just managed to inflict the killing blow. (a nasty idea is to take away the weapons abiltes afterwards, at least until it is needed again). Plus in all honesty the destiny may not necessarily be fulfilled by the character presently holding the weapon (its sad but they just weren't worthy of the great responsibility). It maybe a curse that is also placed on the blade which is hinted at through riddles. My one compliant about old school weapons is that the curses were sometimes to blatantly obvious. Curses can be tied to boons; yes Swiftstrike will allow you to hit first in the first round, but it also leads to hot tempered aggressiveness, with the character needing to role to see if they will attack immediately in an encounter.

I've got a couple of other ideas to share, but I'm going to leave it be for tonight. I hope some of this "idea diarrhea" is proving useful to someone besides myself.


Okay, I'm not a huge hockey fan...but man I can't believe we lost to the US. They had one helluva goalie though; good job this time guys, but we'll be back. Right now its 1- nothing for the Canadians against Germany.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Not Just Another +1 Sword

When I was young and playing (dm'ing actually) I became jaded very quickly to simple +1 weapons. I wanted my magic weapons to have more, do more, and be more. I blame part of this on my youth and the monty haul approach I had to the game when I was young; unlike some others,my small and I were completely self taught in D&D; and boy did we end up doing some pretty "bad" things rules wise with the game. Now though, being older, more experienced, and enjoying the feel of low magic adventure, I want each magical weapon I bring into the game to have some weight behind it; to give an impression of power and history, no matter if it is "just" a +1 weapon or not; and I think I've come up with a few ideas on how that I'd like to share.

My first thought is naming; I believe EVERY magical weapon in a campaign should have a name. I don't know about you, but as a player I'm certain as hell that I'm going to be more frightened if the Gulthor the evil Orc lord is growling at me in a low chuckling voice "Now fool its time for you to taste the cold touch of my blade Night Strike" as opposed to "Now fool its time for you to taste the cold touch of my +1 blade". Naming weapons is just more evocative, pure and simple.
Here's a list of some words I think would make cool sword names, the list is certainly not exhaustive (in fact as I'm writing this I can think of more) but here goes:

autumn horn shred

bane hug silver

bind ice sky

bite kill slay

blade lightning slice

blind luck smash

blood master split

bone metal spring

burst mountain squash

carve night star

claw omen star

cleave part steel

cloud pierce sting

conquer pulverize stone

crusher quelch strike

cutter quell summer

death quick sun

despair razor sweep

edge scratch swift

embrace sea thunder

envy seduction tooth

ever sever torment

fall shade wind

fire shadow winter

flame sharp wound





(Sorry about the formatting, copying tables into blogger is turning out to be more difficult then I had thought)

Looking at this list it occurs to me that I could try and create some random table to create two word weapon names. Some of the words are not meant to work alone of course, just like some verbs work better in their -er form " eg. bone pulverizer". Weapon names can be single words alone (ala Sting), double words (God's Hand ), or describe their function (Sea Spark the Flame Quelcher). I think the names should have some sort of air of mystery, or personality: calling the PC's new magical mace "Envy", for example, is going to lead to some interesting questions from the one who found it.

    Of course the names don't have to be in English, or "common". I personally like Old English words, there's something very direct and hard about them; instead of calling the battle axe "Death" call it ifgedæl, or forðweg. Both here and here are some useful Old English links, there's also old Norse, if you prefer. You get the idea; any old language will add some history and weight to your weapon naming. If you prefer something out of a true historical context there's this site that has a random name generator for many things, weapons included.

You may want to keep in mind whether or not your going to include more powerful weapons later in your campaign. It'd be more appropriate to keep name's like DemonSlayer for that +3 battleaxe +4 vs demons, and give the +1 sword Wolf's Tooth. Both are cool, but the first one does seem better suited for the more powerful weapon.

Names can give clues as to the weapons abilities, but that's not a necessity. Sometimes a little vagueness is a good thing, for example: Silver Bane could give a +2 vs lycanthropes, but who's to say for certain. I could keep going on about naming, but I think you get the idea. The main point is that we should not  discount the power of even a simple one word name to add a little something to your "plain old +1 weapons".

I think I'll add more to this topic, dealing with other ways to bring the magic back to magic weapons very soon.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Education is painful

So, I've learned two very important things today, the first is that I'm not twenty anymore, and can no longer teach grappling right after lifting weights..or is that I can't lift weights just before I hold a grappling class (either way my back hurts and I'm not happy).
But I've also learned there were some big mechanical differences between original d&d and the Moldvay set. You see last night I decided to buy the pdf of Micheal "Chgowiz" Shortens Swords and Wizardy's Reference Sheets. Well I was very pleased with the product, I felt it gave concise information in a useful format, and even gave intstructions on how to make a booklet form of the sheets (I guess I learned something new about my printer too). However when I crossed referenced the mechanic info on levels, spell progression, and turning values ( heck even item prices) I was struck with how much diference there was between oD&D and B/X D&D. I mean I should have been aware of the fact that there would be some differences yes, but I hadn't realized the extent. As a quick example take the cleric (please....ohh groan); in swords and wizardry ( and by extension oD&D I'm assuming) a 10th level cleric requires 225,000 exp, as opposed to B/X which requires 300,000. In swords and Wizardry the spells at 10th level are 3,3,3,3,3; while in B/X its 4,4,3,3,2; the same with turning in B/X they can destroy a vampire (I'm not sure I like this as a smart vampire makes a good NPC foe you just don't want to be obliterated so easily, in Swords and Wizardry ( and again by extension oD&D) you don't have this problem as they can only be TURNED on a 10 (on a d20 of course). This is only one example. Again I knew the mechanics were not exactly the same but I'm still surprised to see just how different they are. A general trend would show that characters progressed faster in terms of exp points in oD&D, maybe not time wise as it may have been harder to earn said experience points in the first place, while B/X D&D had slower progressions with more powerful changes at each new level. I wonder why that was?
Well any way the reference sheets are still good for me, but not quite as usefulr for my game as I thought, because Its going to be a combined Moldvay/Mentzer D&D game (I just hope these two aren't different mechanically.
Maybe I can find a way to create my own sheets...ummm food for thought.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

My B2 Plot Hooks (thus far)

Well, I've been reading through B2 Keep on the Borderland, and trying to decide on some plot hooks to incorporate to keep it from being all hack'n slash. Some things that are needed are connections to the people in the keep, goals while in the caverns, chances for roleplaying and negotiation, the chance to overcome some tricks and traps, and finally some mystery to keep the players wanting to investigate these caverns. Here are some ideas I've gotten and decided to write down, so they don't get forgotten; they're not presented in any order, and they are pretty rough right now:

1) Once the characters have established themselves, and been introduced to the Castellan, a memeber of his family could go missing (kidnapped by the priests of Chaos). I'm picturing the Castellan as an older man (mid forties-fifties), a rough frontier type noble very common sense and straight forward (probably not favoured by any distant "court". His son a promising heir with an expectant wife (don't know why).

2) If the Orcs capture the characters in the net trap, they may try to use the characters to rescue their brethern from the goblin/hobgoblin alliance, or to kill the hired "Big Guns" aka the Ogre. I see the proposed warring groups as splitting between lines of those aligned with the priests of chaos and more independent races. One idea I've been toying with is that the goblins are natural beings of chaos who are subservient to the priests while the orcs and gnolls are magically created to be superior, but proved to unreliable and rebelled against their masters.

3)The jewel merchant may have a story of a trusted seller coming with a famed necklace who barely survived an attack from tiny dog faced demons known to lair at the foreboding caves.

4)The hermit may have been an apprentice of Zelligar the Unknown. I don't want to dismiss Search of the Unknown, and the hermit maybe a nice link between the two. Aswell the Zelligar, and Rogahn may have fought the Priests ( or worked with them). Of course there is nothing set in stone here, just an idea to link the two modules. It would mean looking at how to show signs of this link in the adventures' tower-cavern complex though.

6) The treacherous priest the treacherous priest, oh what to do with the treacherous priest.

Well these are just some hooks I thought of using, there are still more to come. I also want to flesh out the priests of chaos a little bit : why are they there, what are their goals, are they a death cult, do they serve some elder evil god, how prevalent or powerful are they? While I don't want to restrict myself too much in the beginning; some history here would help.
My goal here is to leave pausible plot hooks without forcing a railroad plot on people. I'd like to know what others think; are any of these good ideas, too railroady, am I over-thinking this ( okay I probably am over thinking this, but its fun!).
I know there is a vocal group out there who have gone away from total world creation before getting started (and I for one agree), however I'd like to have a little background history to work with, as opposed to make it all up on the fly.