January 31, 2012

Leaf Leapers

The forest of Beldin has been drawing my thoughts lately, I've been sketching out some general forest nastiness to go along with the giant insects and give it a sort of Mirkwood feel. I confess to a less than encyclopedic knowledge of old source books, adventure modules, etc. Was there anything focused on terrible things among the trees? To go along with that theme I've statted out a little forest creature to drop on an unsuspecting party who doesn't keep to the path.
In head: Mix with Arboreal Piranha
Leaf Leaper
No. Enc.: 1d10x10 (1d10x10)
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 120’ (40’)
Armor Class: 10
Hit Dice: 1 hp
Attacks: 1 bite
Damage: 1
Save: 0-level Human
Morale: 8
Hoard Class: None
XP: 5
Leaf Leapers are tiny small reptilian creatures common to the larger broad leaf forests of Ig. They look similar to a gecko but have an elongated ribcage that extends over their body in an elliptical, leaf-shaped arc. This, along with their green to yellow coloration gives them an almost identical appearance to fallen leaves when standing still.They have a surprisingly large mouth full of sharp, needle-like teeth. Being omnivorous their diet consists mainly of small insects and leaf litter, but when found in large numbers can prove a threat to much larger game. They are social creatures living in communities of up to 100 individuals and often nest in hollow trees, overhangs, and leaf piles.

They are fiercely territorial, and very dangerous to travelers who wander near a nest. What appeared to be an empty glade quickly becomes a killing field as the leaf leapers spring from up from the ground and drop from the trees in a murderous frenzy. While not bigger than a man’s fist, their teeth are sharp enough to cut skin and cloth. Anyone unable flee or to drive off a colony of enraged Leapers will soon be reduced to a pile of bones and flensed meat.

Leaf Leapers are repelled by open flames and confused by the smell of cinnamon, which overwhelms their senses. They are attracted by the smell of rotten fish.

January 27, 2012

Can You Catch Him with a Fishhook?

I've bashed together some house rules for fighting giant insects in my campaign. This is an early draft of what I've imagined, so it needs some editing before I call it done. It also lacks testing, and may be terrible. Caveat emptor.

D&D deals with fighting similarly sized combatants well, but it doesn’t address dispatching truly vast foes in any codified way. By vast foes I mean enemies a PC could be expected to scale in the midst of combat. Fighting huge monsters should feel different than normal combat, it should be a struggle as much against scale and physics as it is force of arms. This supplement is intended to add some extra crunch to taking down colossal foes. It takes its main inspiration from the kind of set-piece conflicts found in Moby Dick, Shadow of the Colossus and Monster Hunter.  These rules focus on giant insects since they’re the most common type of giant monster in my home campaign, but I’ve tried to write this with conversion to other types in mind. Giants are totally pissed when one tries to climb them with pickaxes.

Tools of the Trade
There are several pieces of equipment that are more or less critical to fighting giant monsters. Hunters need plenty of rope to scale monsters, bind them, and to hold on to if the beast tries to throw off its tormentors. Grapnels are needed in tandem with rope, to catch on the carapace of the thing and allow safer climbing. Harpoons can be used in a similar manner to grapnels, with the added bonus of also dealing damage like a javelin. Once a hunter has scaled the beast iron spikes or stakes secure the line against the beast snapping free. Secured lines also make falling off much more difficult. Several types of pick are also useful, the small one-handed adze, larger two-handed mining pick, and long-handled alpenstock. Each is used as a climbing aid and to prise sections of chitin open to expose weak points on the body. Once exposed these section can be spiked open, allowing for sustained attacks.

Too Many Legs
When converting a monster to this system divide the total HP of the monster into two parts:
    30% Each limb (ex. A 9 HD Giant Carnivorous Beetle has 44 total HP, its limbs have 13 HP each)
    70% Body (ex. A 12 HD Hamlet-Eating Caterpillar has 67 total HP, its body has 47 HP)

When a limb is reduced to 0 HP it is considered detached. Insects reduced to half their original limbs are -2 to hit and AC, and move at half speed. Monsters with no limbs are unable to attack or move. When the body is reduced to 0 HP the creature is dead.

Girt in Iron Scales
When attacking from the ground all PC hits will strike the limbs, unless attacking from the rear. Due to the hardened carapace of giant insects all hits on the body and limbs not made with piercing weapons (picks, adzes, crossbow bolts, short range arrows, etc) or two-handed weapons deal half damage. If a PC is able to attack the head or a weak point, either by scaling the beast or through a lucky ranged shot (the head, being generally smaller and more active, is -4 to hit with a ranged weapon) the hit deals normal damage.

The Hunt Begins
The actions listed below are taken in place of normal movement and attack actions. DCs are listed, to be used at the DM’s discretion.
Movement Actions
DC10 Grapneling a line onto an unaware monster
DC 15 Grapneling a line onto an aware monster
DC 15 Scaling a monster with a rope
DC 20 Scaling a monster without a rope
Attack Actions
AC Drive an iron spike or stake into the monster, for securing a line or spiking a weak point
AC Expose a weak point, if wielding a piercing weapon.

We Need More Rope!
If the destruction of the monster isn’t the aim, it can be rendered immobile if tied down by a number of ropes equal to its HD. These ropes must be spiked down, or held by HD/3 characters. A giant monster can attempt to dislodge any characters scaling it, and also tear free binding ropes, by making a flail attack. This replaces one of its normal attacks. The DM makes a normal to-hit roll, comparing the total to the AC of all PCs climbing on the creature. Characters holding on to secured lines or embedded weapons (harpoons, spear, etc) add 2 to their AC for this attack. Staked ropes count as unarmored targets (AC 10). Ropes secured by characters count their AC as 10 + 1 per character. Any characters ‘hit’ by this attack are flung off the beast and take 1d6 falling damage (or more, depending on the height of the creature). Any ropes hit tear loose, and 1 in 6 will snap and become useless.

January 23, 2012

Hexmaps Happen

The regional map to the Plains of Ig, key and all! You can snag the full-sized version here. I had a lot of fun toying with the typography in the title to give it some pop. Opinion request: does the font I've chosen short-circuit your brain directly to the Dark Crystal? I wanted something that looked exotic and alien, but it's a pretty distinctive font.

January 21, 2012

A History Lesson

Hubert Robert totally played D&D
I've sketched out a rudimentary timeline for my campaign, it's really just a frame for quick estimation of the age of whatever fallen-down piece of masonry the party is murdering through. What little history the people of Ig remember and bother to hand down is little more than tall tale and myth.
~10,000 years before the Scourge of Katoun Belmora, the empire of the elves, is a world power. They build walls of glass that hold back the primeval night and live in long eons of wonder and delight. The humans and dwarves who live outside the empire's gates scrabble to survive in the darkness beyond. Humans develop stone age tools, while the dwarves soon become masters of the forge deep in the mountains. The Scourge of Belmora comes when the gaze of the elves pierce the sky and unleash a plague of monstrous locusts that scourge the empire from the land. Humanity remembers this only as a age of dreams and terror before the mastery of fire. The dwarves weather the fall of Belmora by closing off their mountain fastness from the outside world.

~7,500 years before the Scourge of Katoun The dwarves open the gates of Mak, their underground empire. In the 500 years since they cut themselves off from the outside world their kingdom has grown vast indeed, having hollowed out one great peak in the Dark Mountains. Facing a lack of living space within the mountain, and finding Ig more pleasant than they left it, they quickly form settlements across Ig. They soon come into contact with tribes of agrarian humans. Trade between the two gets off to a rocky start, but the dwarven mercantile families soon form partnerships with many tribes to supply the empire with the food it needs.

~5,500 years before the Scourge of Katoun The dwarves of Mak delve too deep into the roots of the Dark Mountains, unleashing a horde of creeping, monstrous insects. These horrors devour Mak from the inside out, and without its heart the rest of the empire soon crumbles. These are hard times, the winters turn cold and the monstrous insects pour down into greater Ig, causing devastation to most of the dwarven settlements of the plains. Humanity, in its decentralized tribal units, escapes the worst depredations, although most of the urbanized population living among the dwarves is annihilated with the fall of Mak.

~3,500 years before the Scourge of Katoun Human civilization progresses during an era of plentiful harvest. The empire of Katoun begins to coalesce around the port of Holdfast. Beneficent rulers are able to quickly expand the empire as small kingdoms and freeholds flock to the banner in pursuit of easy trade. The Knights of Katoun push the borders of the empire to the uttermost corners of Ig, laying low monstrous insects and pushing fell beasts out of the civilized lands.

The Scourge of Katoun In a bid to discover the shape of the world, Katoun sends a fleet of ships to the south. They are never heard from again, but within 50 years monstrous insects begin to move north across the ocean. The Dark Mountains, long quiet, vomit forth a new horde of insect horrors that lay waste to Ig. Caught between two primal forces the villages and towns turn on one another, blaming each other for the encroaching doom. A long dark age begins.

~900 years after the Scourge of Katoun The campaign begins.
I'm intentionally riffing off the Four Ages of Man from Ovid and the Fall of Rome. 900 years after the collapse of empire seemed like a time when the civilization would be just beginning to creep back into the world. Whatever petty kingdoms the warlords that had sprang up out of the remains of Katoun collapsed leaving space for dominion for the players if they accrue enough wealth and power.

January 19, 2012

Here be Hexes

My regional map for the Plains of Ig is approaching a finished state! Check it out full-size. I toyed around a little with Hexographer, but in the end decided to drew up a set of custom icons in Illustrator. I'll post a SVG when I've got this piece finished so everyone else can play around with the hexes. I have the basic terrain laid out now, I just need to add in some names and a key. I'm pretty happy how close it looks to my original sketch.

The Dungeon Crawl Classics beta rules I use don't have any overland crunch, so I've borrowed from Labyrinth Lord to save me doing math in my head. I've set the scale at 24 miles to a hex, a day's travel, which seemed like a good start for someone who's never run anything even remotely hexcrawly. It's all experimentation and OSR blogosphere osmosis. Once I've got this map finished I'll work on a small 6 mile maps for the areas around Hamanda Jakla and Smoleng, the two towns the group is likely to hang around for a while.

Despite pretty consistent game nights the group is pretty slow to get through dungeons. They've been descending through the current labyrinth for (real world) months now. They've probably forgotten there's an open air over their heads.

January 18, 2012

Making do with Limited Resources

The people of Ig cannot secure a steady supply of metals due to monsters encroaching on their mines. They have learned to make do with other resources. The warriors are as likely to wield a warpick fashioned from beetle horn and crocodile skin armor as iron chainmail and a sword. The rule of cool absolutely necessary.

When rolling up a random item from a hoard or merchant roll on these charts to give the object some Iglandish flavor.

Roll 1d12 and consult below, re-roll nonsense:
1- Tortoise Shell
2- Obsidian
3- Insect Carapace
4 - Insect Mandible
5- Wood
6- Ceramic
7- Giant Tooth
8- Bone
9- Flint
10- Bronze
11- Iron
12- Silver

Depending on the class of armor found/purchased, roll on the appropriate table below:
1- Fur
2- Quilt
3- Paper
4- Mothwing

Leather (or Hide, if boiled)
1- Cowhide
2- Buffalo
3- Lizard
4- Buckskin
5- Snakeskin
6- Bearskin
7- Eel skin
8- Rhinoceros
9- Hippo
10- Spider Carapace
11- Sharkskin
12- Thick Paper

Studded leather (Stud materials)
1- Bone
2- Tortoise Shell
3- Stone chip
4- Beetle horn
5- Cockroach
6- Bronze
7- Horn
8- Iron

Scale mail (Scale Materials)
1- Crocodile skin
2- Stone
3- Bone
4- Insect Carapace
5- Wood
6- Scarab
7- Iron
8- Bronze

1- Bamboo
2- Rattan
3- Bone Splintmail
4- Giant Stag Beetle Carapace
5- Bronze
6- Iron

Banded mail
1- Giant Turtle Shell
2- Giant Centipede Carapace
3- Dwarf Ceramic
4- Bone
5- Bronze
6- Iron

1- Ironback Carapace (Elf-make only)
2- Dwarven Ceramic (Dwarf-make only)
3- Bronze
4- Iron

Full plate
1- Ironback Carapace (Elf-make only)
2- Dwarven Ceramic (Dwarf-make only)
3- Bronze
4- Iron

1 - Turtle shell
2- Wood
3- Hide (roll on leather table)
4- Bamboo
5- Bone
6- Trilobite
7- Ironback Carapace (Elf-make only)
8- Dwarven Ceramic (Dwarf-make only)
9- Bronze
10- Iron

January 17, 2012

Geography of the Plains of Ig

The plains of Ig are a land far past its prime, overshadowed by the fallen empires of the past. The kingdoms of the elves, dwarfs, and humans were swept aside in eons past by unstoppable hordes of monstrous insects, scourges of chitin and claw that swept the land clean of the lights of civilization. Now the people shudder beneath thatch roofs, living in fear of the horrors that lurk in the wilderness and eking out a meager existence by the sweat of their brow.

Ig is composed of rolling grassland, descending from the foothills of the Dark Mountains to the north. The northern plains are cut by deep ravines cut by fast rivers that descend from the peaks. Copses of trees grow around these waterways, in some places so thick they blot out the light. Tiny villages dot the plains, usually no more than a dozen low thatch and unworked stone huts. These are connected by low rutted paths which bring trade and tale come summer. Farther to the south the land grows low and wet, made of up trackless marshland and fertile farmland. This wide floodplain descends to the sea.

Hamanda Jakla is as close to a center of trade as the plains get. Sitting behind half-ruined stone walls of an ancient seat of power, its districts of stone and wood rise above the squalor of the tiny hamlets that feed it. It is the locus of mercantile guilds that travel throughout the region, one of the only places with the gold and will to support a nascent upper class.

The plains are hemmed in on either side by trackless forests of Beldin and the dank swampland of And.
And that is Ig in a nutshell. Self-contained enough to host any number of adventures within, and diverse enough to make them interesting. I'm currently working on a hexmap of the area, but that's taking time as the artist in my head refuses to use Hexographer.

January 15, 2012

Introducing the Plains of Ig

The Plains of Ig are my stab at a more or less coherent fantasy setting for my home campaign. It's growing somewhat organically through play and a few ground rules I set up to try to avoid the bog standard. Imagine if Nausicaa met Monster Hunter and they had a sword and sorcery baby. Everything here is subject to change/revision without notice.

  1. Giant insects occupy the top of the food chain, similar to dragons play, which don't exist in the setting, but less rare and also non-intelligent. The empires of the past were all toppled when the population of giant insects surged, scourging the surface of most life before turning and devouring each other. Their exoskeletons still rise above the plains where they were slain.
  2. Society is in the middle of a dark age, with only basic trade and agriculture being maintained in small villages that dot the land. The empires of the past live on only as stories told around the bonfire.
  3. Metal is rare, the seams of ore closest to the surface are almost entirely played out, and mines attract monsters so quickly it's almost impossible to mine for long.
  4. People have learned to make do with stone, wood, obsidian, and bone as a replacement for metal. Elves fashion tools from giant insect chitin, and dwarfs craft a super hard ceramic. Think Monster Hunter, with weapons and armor jury-rigged from the teeth and hides of the monsters the PCs kill.
  5. Gods don't exist, or if they do they're prehistoric forces without consciousness. Clerics don't exist, and therefore magical healing does not exist.

January 13, 2012

Games Made Me, I Made Games

Dungeons and Dragons was not my first RPG. Where I grew up D&D was the abomination that brings desolation, and while I desperately longed to play what I assumed was the best game ever, I was out of luck till much later in life. The Satanic Panic ruined my childhood. My first commercial game was West End Games' Star Wars RPG, in the heady days when the Star Wars card game was huge and the Special Editions were distant and unimaginable. But before that I ran games without rules, cribbing themes from console games and books, developing sprawling menagerie of characters who traveled through time fighting monsters and righting wrongs. It was collaborative storytelling as only children can, and reigned unchallenged until we picked up the Star Wars RPG.

Traditional fantasy games never seemed to crop up, my friends played Marvel Super Heroes Adventure Game, Legend of the Five Rings, GURPS, and a million home-brew systems I cobbled together. I didn't actually play D&D until college, starting with third edition, but it was joined a plenty of other systems: Deadlands, Paranoia, the Burning Wheel, a short sojourn in 4E, and Dark Heresy.

Life happened, peopled moved, and I found myself sans group for a few years. I started hearing rumblings about the OSR from blogs and started looking for older edition stuff in local bookshops. I got a taste of old school awesomeness, and in the last 6 months I've started running an OSR campaign using the beta Dungeon Crawl Classics rules (with a pile of Labyrinth Lord and the D&D Cyclopedia to shore up the holes)

I intend to share some of the work I've done on my campaign setting, the Plains of Ig and surrounding lands, as well as whatever cool game-related thing I've stumbled onto recently.