Sunday, February 23, 2014

Making Realistic NPCs

There is one secret to making realistic NPCs: treat them like real people.  That doesn't mean every innkeep, dirt farmer, and bandit thug needs a backstory and daddy issues.  It doesn't mean you need to create motivations and secrets for every character in the village.  Heck, it doesn't even mean every NPC needs a name or a stat block.  It just means that NPCs should feel like real inhabitants of the world, not cardboard cutouts put there to sell magic items, give quests, or fight to the death against the players.

"Stop right there, criminal scum! Nobody breaks the law on my watch!
I'm confiscating your stolen goods. Now pay your fine or it's off to jail."
Let's break it down:

Monday, February 17, 2014

Fixing the Weapons Table, Part 4: More Polearms (part 2)

Continuing from last time (before I was interrupted by an amor of rampaging cupids)...

I am on a quest to make polearms more appealing weapon options for adventurers, and just more realistic* in general.  Part of that involves updating and expanding the list of polearms.  Last time I covered the bardiche, bec de corbin, lucerne hammer, bill, fauchard, fauchard-fork, halberd, glaive, glaive-guisarme, guisarme, glaive-glaive-glaive-guisarme-glaive...  This time around we've got some more polearms like the partisan, the pike, the pollaxe, and maybe some that don't start with p.  Read on, dear reader.

*By realistic, I don't mean 100% historically accurate, because that is simply not possible within the d20 combat system.  I am attempting to reconcile what we know about polearms with the assumptions about them that are core to D&D.  This may sometimes mean adhering to polearm categories that are relevant to D&D but not to modern historical scholarship (I'm pretty sure there's no such thing as a glaive-guisarme).

Monday, February 10, 2014

Monster Monday: Cupid - A d20 Despot Valentine's Day Special

Playing D&D on Valentine's Day is like being a grizzled cop who doesn't play by the rules - to work properly, you either need the perfect partner, or no partner at all.  That said, if you are lucky/unlucky enough to be playing D&D this Valentine's Day (or if you happen to be playing sometime around V-Day, or maybe just in a Greco-Roman-themed campaign), consider slipping one of these babies into the game:

Cupid from Raphael's Triumph of Galatea, genitals hilariously censored with an ancient Roman d14
A cupid is a small, winged humanoid trickster that delights in sowing discord amongst people by shooting them with magic arrows that bring out emotional extremes like love, lust, and revulsion.

The following text in gold is available as Open Game Content under the OGL. Open Game Content is (C)2014 Jonah Bomgaars.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Fixing the Weapons Table, Part 3: Polearms (part 1)

Polearms are just about the most ubiquitous and varied category of weapon to have ever existed.  Heck, spears alone have been in use around the world for hundreds of thousands of years, and are so fundamental that chimpanzees have been observed crafting and using spears for hunting.  But in the Middle Ages and continuing on into the Early-Modern period, there was a proliferation of new varieties of pole-weapons designed for all sorts of uses.  Many of them were very simple to make and to wield, allowing peasant armies to have some recourse against mounted knights.  Many of them were much more complicated and specialized, designed to bust open armour, cut harnesses, or just really mess up a dude's face.

You would be hard pressed to find an army that went to war without polearms, if only just spears; getting into the Late Medieval period most armies would have units of some other specialist polearms - usually halberds.  And yet they hardly turn up in fantasy RPGs these days, whether tabletop of video game.  Many such weapons were included in 1st and 2nd Edition AD&D, and a few of those made the jump to 3.5 and Pathfinder.  My goal here is to round out the list of available polearms and fix those already existing ones which don't seem to have been statted up quite right.