Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Improved Armor Tables Part 3 - Light Armor

This is part 3 of my ongoing series on improving the armor tables.  Unlike my Fixing the Weapons Table posts, these changes should be considered entirely optional and a GM should carefully consider whether they want to use them in their game, because it might mean a lot of tweaking stat blocks behind the scenes.  These changes are designed for GMs who love history and want their fantasy worlds to be a little more grounded in it.

This improved armor tables project has been a real labor of love for me.  I have poured countless hours into research, design, and revision that I honestly probably should have spent formulating my PhD proposal or writing thank you notes to my wedding guests.  But hey, I wouldn't be me if I weren't doing this.  What is the point of free time, I ask you, if not to spend it doing something which engages you, even if what engages you is reconciling a body of historical research with an RPG rules system and compiling the results on a table for the readers of your blog?

Now that my table is (mostly) complete, I've had a bit of a debate with myself as to how I should break it up to present to you.  Should I cram it all into one long post?  No, my posts tend to be overly long as it is.  Should I divide it in two, perhaps one post presenting prehistoric and Bronze Age armors and another presenting Roman and medieval armors?  Or perhaps divide it between primarily European and primarily non-European armors?  Finally, I settled on what is perhaps the most obvious solution: one post for light armors, one for medium, and one for heavy.  The deal was sealed when I realized that I had inadvertently made seven armors of each type.  The sixth and (possibly) final part of this series will go over a new set of rules for mixing together two armors to make a composite suit of armor.

The armors presented below and in subsequent parts probably shouldn't all be available in the same time and place in your game world.  After all, one would hardly expect a medieval German warrior to be able to purchase ancient Thracian bronze scale armor or 17th century Iroquois wooden slat armor.  For this reason, and for my own edification, I have provided some historical information with each armor entry below, in order to aid the GM in determining which armors would fit best in his or her campaign setting.

The following items and rules in gold and their accompanying tables are available as Open Game Content under the OGL.  Open Game Content is ©2015 Jonah Bomgaars and d20 Despot.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Monster Monday: Gobbits - A Swarm of Tiny Goblinoids

For today's Monster Monday, I'm adding a new member to the goblinoid family tree.  Gobbits are tiny, knee-high goblinoids that can form up into swarms and wreak havoc.

Warhammer gnoblar box art, via bibliotheque imperiale
My initial inspiration for these little guys came from the Warhammer universe.  Warhammer has a plethora of little goblinoid creatures, like gretchins, gnoblars (pictured above), grots, and snotlings.  Snotlings in particular captured my attention, because they are tiny little guys that attack in swarms.  I wanted something similar in my campaign setting, so years and years ago I statted them up under 3.5 rules as 'Glabouters'.  Glabouter comes from Klabautermann, a type of goblin or kobold from German mythology.  Upon reassessment, Klabautermänner should be nautical goblins or kobolds, which is pretty awesome, so I had to come up with a new name.  Gobbit fit because it sounds like a diminutive form of goblin, plus it is close to 'gobbet', meaning "a lump or chunk of something, especially of raw meat."

As an added bonus, the third definition of gobbet ("an extract of text, or image (especially a quotation), provided as a context for analysis, translation or discussion in an examination.") is a commonly used teaching and testing tool in history education, so naming a monster after it makes me happy.

Presented below are the stats for a solitary gobbit warrior and a mighty gobbit swarm.  I think a swarm of humanoids should feel different from a swarm of rats or vermin, so you may notice that the gobbit swarm is more versatile in combat, able to bristle with longspears and launch volleys of arrows.

The following text in gold is available as Open Game Content under the OGL. Open Game Content is ©2015 Jonah Bomgaars.

Monday, September 14, 2015

GotWK Campaign Part 7: Cold Iron and Hot Lead

This is an account of part 7 of my ongoing campaign set in my homebrewed wild west setting, Guns of the Western Kings.  Get caught up with the previous parts here.

Previously, in Guns of the Western Kings, our heroes were trying to make their way back to Fort Crawdon and the Sunbeam Silver Mine after an unusual subterranean steamboat ride took them far off course.  They fought off a bandit gang of coyote-folk who were trying to rob their train, only to arrive in Fort Crawdon and find they were wanted by the Deuclair Mining Company for failing to carry out their end of a bargain they had made earlier.  They fled into the woods and encountered a group of elves that they had also tried and failed to help, but were interrupted by a patrol of Deuclair Co. soldiers.  They fled deeper into the woods and were surprised to meet Heather's mom, a dryad, who told them that Heather's daughter was in grave danger.

And now:

Before Heather can absorb the fact that her mother is a dryad and her daughter is in the fey realm, the dryad has everyone link arms and pulls Heather, Theodore, GudgunĂ­is, Face, and Rusty (and their horses) through her oak tree into the land of the fey.  They emerge, slightly dizzy from the experience, in a majestic wood.  The dryad introduces herself as Dervenn and explains that Heather's child, Annabelle (whose disappearance was Heather's reason for adventuring) has been living with her in the fey realm.  Because time passes differently in the land of the fey than it does in the mortal realm, Annabelle is no longer a child of eight, but a girl of seventeen, and quite the favorite at the Seelie court.  Unfortunately, her popularity has also made her a target; the goblin king Hizendis kidnapped her and took her to his lair - an ancient tower in the Forest of Twilight.  The tower, built by the ancient Dark Elves long ago, is reputed to have a corrupting influence on the fey, so none from the Seelie court have dared try to rescue her.  Hence why Dervenn had to reach out to the mortal realm.

Still reeling from the news that she is a changeling and her daughter has aged nine years since she last saw her, Heather heads off with the others across the fey realm.  After trekking for some time, they come to a patch of woods where the sky is dim and a foul yellow mist hangs in the air.  Above the treetops they can make out two towers.  They advance, but are distracted by a commotion to the right - two unicorns have wandered into a nearby swamp and become trapped in the sucking mire.  Suspicious of the trapped beasts, Face the pigtailed paladin detects their evil intent and the party simply walks away.  The evil unicorns, loathe to let their prey slip from them so easily, teleport out of the swamp and gore Face and Rusty.  They manage to fend them off, Face smiting them with her twin sawed-off shotguns and Rusty blasting them with fiery bombs, until the nefarious beasts are nothing but crispy, perforated corpses.  Rusty seems to recall that shadhavar horns can be very valuable evil spell components, and Theodore is all for taking them, but Face and Heather overrule Theodore's business plans and have the black unicorns burnt, horns and all.  Face makes camp there, unable to go further before she fully recovers from the shadhavars' poison.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Improved Armor Tables Part 2 - Shields

The stalwart knight raises his shield against the dragon's searing jet of flame.  Axe bites into shield as the two sea raiders begin a duel of honor.  The wild barbarians crash and break like the sea against the well-ordered legion's tight shield wall.  The brave warrior's crushed and bloody body is carried home on his shield.

Shields are an iconic part of ancient and medieval warfare, and naturally of fantasy roleplaying games as well.  They are also the subject of this week's Improved Armor Tables.  The last edition of Improved Armor Tables focused on the fantasy staples of hide and chitin armor, but from here on out they will largely be focused on bringing historical accuracy to the armor tables.  I have a degree in medieval history and I'm using it to shake things up in the world of fantasy RPGs.  Unlike my Fixing the Weapons Table posts, these fixes should be considered entirely optional and a GM should carefully consider whether they want to use them in their game, because it might mean a lot of tweaking stat blocks behind the scenes.  These changes are designed for GMs who love history and want their fantasy worlds to be a little more grounded in it.

In the d20 system, melee fighters face a dilemma: strap on a shield for a boost to your armor class, or leave that hand free to wield a two handed weapon - or maybe two weapons - to deal extra damage.  It's a trade off every RPG player is familiar with, but historically speaking it is not the only trade off about when to use a shield.  In ancient times, the Greek hoplite was the ultimate heavy infantry unit.  It didn't matter whether he was wearing bronze armor, leather or simple linen, as long as he had that great round bronze shield - the hoplon, the hoplite's namesake.  Think of Roman legionnaires and you'll probably picture them with those iconic tower shields, perhaps taking the impenetrable testudo formation.  The vikings had those round wooden shields, three feet in diameter and rimmed with iron.  But as time went on, the shields got smaller.  The long Norman 'kite' shield gave way to the smaller knightly 'heater' shield.  In the later Middle Ages, the small buckler - a foot or less in diameter - rose to prominence for foot combat.  As armor improved, cavalry and heavy infantry abandoned shields altogether, even in tournament jousts.  Why?  Because shields are heavy and cumbersome.  In ancient times, when armor was less advanced, larger shields meant more protection - for some warriors, a shield was the only armor they had.  But knight in full plate is actually more protected without a shield than with it because the shield weighs him down and slows his movements.

To reflect this, I have completely reworked shields.   They have gained a boost to AC, but have more taxing armor check penalties and max Dex bonuses.  There are more types of shields now, to reflect the greater historical variety of materials they were made from.  These different types are largely distinguished from each other by weight and by their hardness and hit points, which I have added to the table - this is important when someone tries to sunder a shield, or when you roll a natural 1 on a reflex save vs a fireball.  You will also notice that I have scrapped the light/heavy shield dichotomy.  There are now small and large shields (and tower shields), and light shields form a separate class of shield.  Read on to learn more!

The following items and rules in gold and their accompanying tables are available as Open Game Content under the OGL.  Open Game Content is ©2015 Jonah Bomgaars and d20 Despot.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Expect the Unexpected

One of the first things you learn as a GM is that the players will absolutely wreck all of your plans at the first opportunity.  You can never make a plan that takes into account every possible action by your players.  This is part of the beauty of tabletop roleplaying games.  This freedom is simultaneously one of the best things about being a player and one of the most difficult things about being a GM.  As a GM, how are you supposed to deal with it?  How can you expect the unexpected?  Today, we're going to look at just that.

We'll start with an anecdote:
My sister recently prepped and ran the first session of an urban adventure for two players.  The party's mission was to recover a valuable statue from the house of a wealthy merchant on behalf of its rightful owner.  She made it a very open-ended adventure with lots of room for the party to make and enact their own plans.  She expected the party might attempt to pull of a stealthy night-time burglary, try to bribe one of the guards, or simply rough up and intimidate the merchant.  She mapped out the merchant's house and came up with a system for determining where the guard would be at any given time during his nightly rounds, and where the merchant would be in town or in his house at any time throughout the day.  She made a list of DCs for all the different ways they might sneak into the house.  While carrying the statue, the DCs are increased by 5, and failure by 10 or more means the statue gets dropped.  All in all, it was a pretty solid set-up for a heist.

The players, of course, had different plans.  In broad daylight, they bluffed their way into the house to discuss tapestries, then cast a spell that let them search a room without being inside it and immediately found the safe in which the statue was hidden.  They bluffed their way into the study and accidentally disabled the alarm.  The skald summoned a dire rat in the streets as a distraction while the inquisitor disguised himself with magic, and they walked right out of the house with the statue.
I'm pretty sure adventurers would rule the world if they didn't have that nasty habit of getting eaten by dragons.

What can we humble, god-like GMs do in the face of creative PCs and their outside-the-box plans?