Sunday, August 31, 2014

Monster Monday: Orang Pendek - The Hairy Forest Man

Lately, in my spare time, I've been doing some research for the Southeast-Asian-themed region of my campaign setting.  As a direct result of that, today's Monster Monday is the Orang Pendek, a mythical forest-man creature from the jungles of Sumatra, which I have imagined as an intelligent orangutan-like ape capable of making and using tools.

'Orangutan Attacked by Dyaks' by Joseph Wolf, via Wikimedia
I've also made a new intelligent animal subtype that allows for animals with an Intelligence higher than 2 without making them Magical Beasts, because language and tool use are not magic.

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

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Guns of the Western Kings - What is it?

A few weeks ago I posted an account of the first play session in my new campaign setting, Guns of the Western Kings, promising that I would explain more about the setting later.  Well, later is now.  Last time, I explained that GotWK (pronounced gotwik) is not Eberron, not steampunk, and not Deadlands.  I want to expand on that a bit, just for clarity's sake:

GotWK is not Eberron.  Eberron is a campaign setting that made its debut during the age of 3rd edition D&D.  It was groundbreaking in tone, inviting players into a high-magic, high-fantasy setting heavily inspired by post-WWI pulp adventure.  Eberron took magic to great extremes, filling the world with magical robots (that you can play as), airships, and trains powered by bound elementals.  GotWK, while similarly bringing a fantasy world into a more modern setting, is not a high-magic world of airships and sentient robots.  Magic, in the world of GotWK, did not advance exponentially as technology did.  It has the same basic presence in and effect on the world as it does in an average game of D&D or Pathfinder - magic items are expensive, wizards are holed up in their towers, and magical beasts are terrifying and dangerous.  The trains in GotWK run on coal.  Speaking of coal...

GotWK is not steampunk.  The level of technology is the same as the real world American West in the 1870s-80s.  Although I wouldn't rule out coal powered automatons and airships, they certainly won't be commonplace.  Steampunk can be pretty cool when it's done right, but it is rarely done right.  Besides, if GotWK were steampunk, it wouldn't be western anymore.  There are no giant mechanical spiders in GotWK, as far as I know.

Warner Bros via Unmuseum
GotWK is not Deadlands.  Deadlands is a Western RPG set in an America where suddenly, after the Battle of Gettysburg, the dead started rising from their graves and magic was unleashed upon the world.  It has its own system of magic, its own classes, and its own rule system (although it was later adapted into d20, GURPS, and Savage Worlds).  Where Deadlands is about the real world suddenly becoming magic, GotWK is about a fantasy world that advances to the point that it has a Wild West.  It is not its own RPG, it is a campaign setting for the Pathfinder roleplaying game.

So now that we are clear on what Guns of the Western Kings is not, let's talk more about what it is.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Fixing the Weapons Table, Part 6: Medieval Gunpowder Weapons

Depictions of gunpowder weapons in fantasy RPGs are plagued by a number of issues, not the least of which is a general overestimation of their power and efficacy.  This is because people think, "Guns and gunners replaced swords and knights, therefore guns must be more powerful."  This is a reasonable line of thinking, but it is not correct.  The reasons why guns became the dominant weapon on the battlefield are many - too many to go into here, in fact - but for our purposes, it is important simply to recognize that guns did not become dominant because they did more damage than the other weapons of the period.  Even today, in this wonderful technological world we live in, I would rather be shot in the chest than be struck with a battle axe.

Knights actually co-existed with guns for centuries, and for the most part they could get by with only a few dents in their armour to show for it.  Even in the 17th century, many soldiers wore steel armour which protected them from bullets.

Royal Armouries - Leeds
Although later guns were getting better at penetrating armour, the decline of armour in warfare had less to do with the power of guns and more to do with the weight and expense of the armour itself.  It is only in recent decades that sending soldiers into battle in suits of armour has come back into fashion.

That said, you may be starting to guess that I have some issues with the way Pathfinder deals with gunpowder weapons.

Actually, not as many as you might think from the above paragraphs.  For the most part, the damage these weapons deal seems reasonable on the whole, with a few exceptions.  A lot of the weapons have x4 crits, which seems fine for modelling gunpowder weapons - if they hit you right, they can hit you hard.  Sure there are a lot of things I could nitpick (in what world does a musket do more damage than a rifle?), but I'd rather just scrap the whole thing and start over.  So let's kick off Part 6 of Fixing the Weapons Table.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Guns of the Western Kings - First Play Session in a Brand New Campaign Setting

I've been working on a secret project for a while now: a Wild West campaign setting for the PFRPG.  I'm calling it "Guns of the Western Kings" (formerly: "Gunslinger", but that is a little too close to some other trademarked names.  Plus Pathfinder has since come out with an ill-conceived class of the same name).  Here's a picture I drew when I first came up with the idea about 4-5 years ago, which still gives a pretty good idea of what this whole thing is about:

(No longer called Gunslinger and no longer being developed for D&D 3.5)
I thought maybe the best way to introduce you to the campaign setting was to tell you how my first playtest of it went.  But first, I feel I should clear up a few things.  This is a campaign setting for the PFRPG, not a new roleplaying game system.  It uses the same rules and has many of the same races, classes, and monsters.  It is not steampunk, it is not Eberron, and it is not Deadlands.  It is an original fantasy world, not a magicked-up version of the late 19th century American West.  The world of GotWK is one of kings and presidents, dragons and locomotives, wizards and six-shooters.

But I'll tell you more about it later.  For now, let's hear how the first play session went!

Monday, August 4, 2014

4 Rules You Probably Aren't Using Correctly (And Why You Should)

You know the problem with rulebooks?  There's just so many darn rules!  I know how it is - some rules are just too complicated or time consuming to enforce.  Maybe you were a new GM and you jettisoned those minor rules that just slowed things down.  Maybe you were running a game for some new players and you didn't want to scare them away with these extraneous rules.  And then you sort of let them slip away, because the game worked just perfectly without them.

Well... I think it's time to re-evaluate some of those rules.  I've played a fair amount of D&D in my time, and I've read of and heard a lot of other peoples' stories as well.  From the experiences of myself and others, I've identified a few rules that often get ignored (not all the time - very possibly not even in your games - but often).  Now, I totally understand why these rules don't always get used: I've neglected many of them myself.  But they were written for a reason, and I think they might benefit from a little extra love.