Rick’s RPGs: Transitions in an RPG World

One of the biggest things that GM’s overlook in their game world is transitions in time and how if affects the world around the player characters. IE, What happens to the PC’s favorite Inn or Tavern after they have been gone for a while? Maybe the PCs heard some rumors in the inn that took them on a world saving journey that lasted many years? What happened to the inn now that they’re back in town? This month’s article for the RPG Blog Carnival is all about “Transitions.”

You can likely see transitions in your own neighborhood. Old buildings have been torn down or updated. New buildings have come in. Restaurants and stores have gone out of business and new ones have opened up. For a bit of reality in a gaming world it makes sense to add such transitions. They can simply be flavor for your game world or can be important plot points for further adventure.

A good example of an extreme version of this in fantasy literature is the last chapter of J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Return of the King” simply called “The Scouring of the Shire.” When the four Hobbits return home to The Shire, they find that it’s been taken over by Men from the South led by the former wizard Saruman who is living in Bag End. The formerly peaceful Shire is full of pollution. The Hobbits as a race are effectively enslaved and generally unhappy in sharp contrast to how peaceful and serene it was when they left. The Hobbits, specifically Merry and Pippen, rally The Shire to battle. They kick the strangers out in the Battle of Bywater, also known as the last battle in the War of the Ring. Saruman, the formerly powerful wizard, is killed by his servant Wormtounge (who had been poisoning the mind of the King of Gondor,) who in turn is slain by an arrow. Afterwards the Shire goes back to it’s original happy and serene place as the Hobbit race is once again free.

In my own game world I have a building that is the Orphanage of Talric. It is a huge two story stone building. A grand stair case from the front door leads to the second floor. On the west wing of the ground floor are class rooms. The east wing is kitchen, dining area, and temple to Talric. A small storage closet serves as armory, mostly practice weapons.

The second floor is dormitories. Orphans share rooms in the west wing, while the teachers and staff each have their own room in the west wing. There are also rooms for visitors and dignitaries, or even road weary travelers who need a place to stay the night. There is also a “hidden” basement area that is mostly used for storage.

This location has served in my game for nearly ten years. During that time I have built up quite a history for it as it’s been through multiple transitions. The building was originally built 500 years ago (in game time,) as the Mayor’s house for the town. When the Black Hand armies came through 200 years ago, they took over the building and made it the regional Headquarters for their army. As part of the offense against the Black Hand by the Solar Empire, it was captured by a group of adventurers in a daring midnight raid two years later. The leader of this party was a Paladin of Talric who built a basic temple inside to worship at. The Solar Empire used it as their own forward Headquarters during this time.

The temple attracted Paladins and Clerics of Talric to the area who ended up being instrumental in turning back a last ditch attempt to break the Empire’s defensive lines. This effectively collapsed the Black Hand’s offensive, but the war lasted another three years as lost territory was reconquered. During that time the temple took in so many war orphans that is gradually took over the entire building as the front lines moved forward and it was no longer needed as headquarters.

Since then the building has housed Orphans from all over the Empire and has been a central location for many adventurers. Player Characters lived and met each other in the orphanage. Orphans have been stolen in the dead of night for nefarious purposes. The hidden basement houses supplies left over from the war, among these an powerful artifact wanted by a mysterious Cult. The former mayor’s family have fallen on hard times, but they do have one thing, the original deed to the house and they want it back. Goblin raiders driven from the mountains by an early snow storm attempted to attack the Orphanage.

The possibilities have been endless for this building because I sat down to think about it’s transition through the decades. This can be done for any building or location. Not just over hundreds of years, but even over a few months. Keep in mind that the one constant is change, and your game world should reflect this to be as believable as possible.

For those who run dungeons in their fantasy games, it’s good to think what happened to the dungeon after the players went through it. Perhaps that colony of giant bees take over the entire complex now that there are no larger creatures to hold them back? Maybe the PC’s battle through the dungeon severely damaged it and has caused a partial collapse that reveals another level or two? Or have bandits discovered the abandoned dungeon and turned it into their hideout?

If you need a little help, I created the below chart to help you think about transitions. Roll a D20 to see what event happened at the location. From there you should be able to build a back story and likely an adventure or two.

Transitions Chart
1 – cataclysm, nothing is left to even rebuild
2 – devastated, in ruins no one cares to rebuild
3 – recently suffered a disaster, main NPC’s maybe dead or missing
4 – recently suffered a disaster, but everyone is OK, rebuilding in progress
5 – famine or drought is causing people to move on
6 – sold, given away, taken over by some one else.
7 – razed to make way for a new construction project
8 – NPC has died or left unexpectedly
9 – PCs relative, patron, or friend has shown up unexpectedly
10 – increase in taxes causes a slow down in business or traffic
11 – severe weather causing flooding or other damage
12 – NPC has recently come into a huge amount of money and is making modifications or repairs
13 – Long lost relative joins the family business
14 – A party of adventurers had a fight, causing huge amount of damage
15 – Raided by evil (humans, creatures, elves, tax collectors)
16 – New Permit process affects business
17 – Nobility have discovered the location, their money and influence is pushing out the poorer folks
18 – Owner approaches the PCs to invest in their business or company
19 – Main trade route has moved causing a drop in business
20 – Nothing, all is well just as the PCs last saw it. Or is it?

Be sure to modify as needed for your game world.

Please let me know what you think of this article. I’d love to hear any comments, ideas, or suggestions!

Followers, DND Style

Followers, DND Style

One of the biggest boons in AD&D to player characters, were the followers. By 7th through 9th level most Classes started gaining followers. The rules for followers were found in the AD&D Dungeon Master Guide, pg.16. A group of Player Characters could amass an army pretty quickly. There is even a random followers generator over at deadskexies, based off this chart.

Dragon Magazine had several sets of flavor rules on attracting followers for almost every class. Many of the article had a series of tables to roll on to figure out what types, level, and number of followers a player character could have. These were meant to supplement the rules in the Dungeon Master’s Guide and add a bit more flavor to games.

If you’d like to re-read some of those articles, and still have your old copies of Dragon Magazine, check out the following issues.
Dragon #92 – The more, the merrier (Clerics)
Dragon #99 – Tables and Tables of Troops (Fighters)
Dragon #103 – More range for rangers (Rangers)
Dragon #113 – Clout for Clerics (Clerics)
Dragon #178 – Follow the Leader (Paladins)
Dragon #219 – Pirate Crews and Retinues (Fighter subclasses)
Dragon #246 – A Few Good Henchmen (List of NPCs to use as Henchmen)

A savvy DM could also use these tables to quickly generate followers for NPCs. The table from Dragon #219 “Barbarian” could generate a tribe of primitives for instance. Or the Pirate table could be used to crew a ship from an actual Pirate ship to a Merchantman. (Click here for Random Gangs and Guilds generators)

Unfortunately, the concept of followers was moved from an automatic boon to characters at a certain level, to a Feat in DND 3.x. The 3.5 Dungeon Master’s Manual has this feat on pg 106, and it is also in the SRD. I have yet to see a Player ever take this feat though.

While the concept of followers above it heavily influenced by Dungeons and Dragons, it can be easily transferred to other game systems, and not just fantasy ones. Nor does it have to be a virtual army of NPCs following the Player Characters along. It could just as easily be a single follower or henchman that complements the Player’s Class.

For instance, an Police Officer could have a rookie partner assigned to them. A Solider could advance in rank and have a batman. An Indiana Jones type character could have an especially bright student as a follower. A Superhero could have a sidekick with complimentary powers. The possibilities are endless.

The biggest problem with followers though is that it’s one more NPC for the GM to keep track of. The best way to handle this is offload the work of tracking stats and such to the Player, while the characters motives are still controlled by the GM. This allows the GM to not worry about their stats, but gives them an additional way move plot points along, or even introduce new ones as needed.

Good examples of such are that the Follower could have a deep dark secret that is coming back to haunt them. They could have a stroke of intuition, or luck, at just the right moment in time that is the key to solving the puzzle. They can add a precious bit of fire power in battles, or be used to cause a distraction at a critical moment.

The usefulness of followers in Role Playing games should not be over looked by players or GMs. While they add a bit of work for both parties, the additional opportunities for role playing more then make up for it. Have you used followers in your game? If so, how did that work out? Any memorable scenes where the follower played a critical role?

Written for the December 2013 RPG Blog Carnival

D20 Character Race – Neanderthals

D20 Character Race – Neanderthals

From Wikipedia: Neanderthals are an extinct species of the genus Homo, possibly a subspecies of Homo sapiens. They are closely related to modern humans, differing in DNA by only 0.3%, just twice the variability across contemporary humans. Remains left by Neanderthals include bones and stone tools, which are found from western Europe to central Asia. The species is named after Neandertal (“Neander’s Valley”), the location in Germany where it was first discovered.

D20 Character Race - Neanderthals

Neanderthals made advanced tools, had a language (the nature of which is debated) and lived in complex social groups. The Molodova archaeological site in eastern Ukraine suggests some Neanderthals built dwellings using animal bones. A building was made of mammoth skulls, jaws, tusks and leg bones, and had 25 hearths inside. While largely carnivorous, and apex predators; new studies indicate Neanderthals had cooked vegetables in their diet. In 2010, a U.S. researcher reported finding cooked vegetable matter in the teeth of a Neanderthal skull, contradicting the earlier belief they were exclusively (or almost exclusively) carnivorous and apex predators.

Neanderthal as Characters
Personality: Neanderthals tend to be peaceful and caring people. They will rarely war on others or make trouble, but they will finish it if they are evenly matched or have the upper hand. They tend to think things through, and they are not quick to anger. Both these leave them to be thought unintelligent, and simple people – even among other tribes of the same technological level. They are predators though and in hunting and war can be very vicious. They will rarely give quarter to enemies. Their outlook on life is pragmatic – live and let live, kill or be killed. Despite that they will avoid trouble when possible. Entire tribes will move away to avoid problems.

Physical Description: They have short natural lives, with an upper limit of 50 years old. Both males and females reach puberty at a young age, eight to twelve years old though. Males average 65 inches tall and 171 pounds in weight, while females average 60 inches tall and 146 pounds in weight. Both will have shaggy unwashed hair adorned with bones, feathers, and colored stones. Males will have shaggy beards to match. They wear rough hide tunics or go fully naked. In cold weather foot wrappings and coats of fur will be worn.

Society: Neanderthals live in tribes of 10-50 individuals, mostly extended family members who tend to pair off for life. Particularly heroic figures, and other aged members of the tribe will act as a ruling council, with the oldest member of the tribe the leader. All members of a tribe no matter age, participate in the hunt, preparing food, building shelter, and war. Tribes will make permanent villages near sources of food such as herds of large animals. They do eat vegetables, but as a supplement to their diet. They do not brew, farm, or raise animals, instead living off the land as foragers and hunters. Shelters will be made of the bones and skins of animals, and sometimes caves or piles of rocks. Neanderthal are masters of stone chipped tools, they have a wide variety of chipped tools for scraping and curing hides, cutting vegetation, and making weapons. Neanderthal art is basic, woven grasses, small stone statues, and bone, feather and sinew totems and necklaces.

D20 Character Race - Neanderthals

Neanderthal have the concept of trade, but it is mostly small items on an individual level. A father will trade his daughter to another tribe for one of their children. An especially skilled stone worker will trade tools or weapons for food. A tribe may trade one type of meat for another, for extra hides, or for stones they can chip. Otherwise most possessions that aren’t carried day to day are communal and can be used by anyone. Most of these will likely be left behind if the tribe moves.

Hunting: The entire tribe funnels large animals into traps, either by driving them over a cliff side, or into a box canyon where they finish it off as fast as possible with spears. They try to only kill as many animals as needed, avoiding destroying entire herds if possible. They may also hunt especially dangerous predators that pose a threat, although they are just as likely to move the entire tribe to a safer location.

Religion: The Neanderthal does not worship a god per say. They give thanks for their sacrifice to the souls of animals they kill for food, for enemies killed in battle, and tribal members who have died. Opponents in war are given the same burial rights as members of their own tribe, a basic burial away from camps and water sources without a marker of any sort. Neanderthals do rely on herbal and natural remedies to heal the injured and remove afflictions. They naturally live “with” nature and have a distrust of magic.

Language: They have their own language that is straightforward and without metaphors or allusion. Nor does it have words to express feelings of hatred, revenge or envy. The are able to express simple emotions such as sadness and love. They have the ability to pickup guttural languages easily and are likely to learn Orc or Goblin before Common or Elvish.

Alignment: Neanderthals tend towards Neutral Good, Chaotic Good, or True Neutral. Neanderthals do not naturally have the concept of Evil, selfishness, or laws outside those imposed by the tribe or nature. Any characters with these alignments are either mentally deranged or have suffered a life shattering event that has driven them over the edge into another alignment.

Adventurers: Neanderthal adventurers are incredibly rare. Their natural isolationism and willingness to move to avoid trouble leave family groups relatively whole. An adventurer is likely to be the last remaining member of a tribe, attempting to find a mate or home with another tribe, or a lone hunter who has gotten lost.

Neanderthal Racial Traits

  • +2 Str,+2 Int,-2 Chr,+2 Con,+2 Hit Points. Neanderthals are stockier, stronger, and slightly smarter then humans.
  • Medium Sized
  • Neanderthal Land speed is 30 feet. They are not slowed when carrying a medium or heavy load. Unlike dwarves this does not include armor, they are still slowed by armor weights – if they can be convinced to wear it in the first place.
  • Weapons: Neanderthals use Shortspears, Longspears, Stone Axes, slings, and stone daggers. They can use metal versions of these weapons, but are likely to drop them in favor of their own homemade stone versions as soon as possible.
  • Masterwork and Magic Weapons: Any adult Neanderthal automatically makes masterwork stone weapons and tools. This takes 2D6 days per an item assuming the correct materials are on hand. At level five these become +1 weapons, at level ten, +2, +3 at level 15, and +4 at level 20.
  • Armor is limited to crude hides and leathers, and will be indistinguishable from their day to day clothing. As for weapons, armor is masterwork by default, and gains a +1 bonus every five character levels if the character makes it themselves. This bonus can stack on top of exotic leathers to the maximum +5 bonus.
  • Thrown Weapons: Neanderthals can throw any of their ranged weapons at double the normal range. IE, a shortspear normally has a range increment of 20ft, in the hands of an neanderthal it is 40ft. In addition, longspears can be thrown as if they are shortspears (range increment of 20ft)
  • +4 dodge bonus to Armor Class against all beasts and animals, size medium or larger.
  • +4 saving throw Spell Resistance. Includes ALL magical affects, including supernatural, extraordinary, and even those cast by friendly characters.
  • +4 savings throw against poison and disease.
  • +5 resistance against Cold
  • Favored Class: Barbarian. Neanderthals that have had contact with the “outside” world may also take Fighter, Druid, or Ranger as a multi-class only after they have at least two levels of barbarian, AND must have access to a teacher of some sort.

  • Fantasy D20 World
    Typically players would only come across a tribe of Neanderthals in a remote location. They will be treated indifferently unless the tribe is helped or threatened.

    Plot Points:

  • Slavers have found a tribe of Neanderthals and have captured them. A few members were able to escape and are looking for help to rescue the rest of the tribe.
  • The colored stones a tribe of Neanderthals wear in their hair turn out to be valuable gems. The PCs can be tasked to find the source of gems, or can try to protect the tribe before it is ruthlessly slaughtered by treasure seekers.
  • A tribe has come across a powerful artifact that is slowly twisting their minds towards evil. The tribe has been attacking settlements nearby and the characters are tasked to take care of them.

  • Modern D20 World

  • An frozen Neanderthal is found frozen in the Arctic. It is brought back to civilization but along the way unfreezes….
  • A tribe of Neanderthals are found in a remote area that is soon to be exploited for it’s natural resources (Minerals, oil, etc.) The Corporation is planning on simply wiping them out, but the head of the project has secretly contacted the characters to make the tribe quietly disappear to somewhere safe.
  • An unscrupulous scientist is posing as a fertility doctor. He is implanting unsuspecting women with Neanderthal children without them knowing.
  • A group of Neanderthals have been found. Zoos want to put them into captivity. Corporations want to exploit them. Scientists want to study them. Activists want to protect them. The characters can be asked by one or more of these groups to resolve the issue.

  • Science Fiction/Future D20 World

  • The characters come across a previously hidden island “Lost World” style. To survive, they need to make friends with the natives, who just happen to be a tribe of Neanderthals.
  • A corporation has decided to resurrect the Neanderthals to exploit them as cheap labor. Since they don’t fall under the definition of “human,” this has been determined as legal by the courts. Characters can be “guards” of the labor camp. Or hired to break the Neanderthals out.
  • Neanderthals never went extinct. They simply left Earth to avoid the problems with humans. They have been found on another planet, with technology far advanced of humans and a racial grudge.
  • RPG Plot Hooks: Treason at the Finest Kind

    RPG Plot Hooks: Treason at the Finest Kind

    The Findest Kind is a high class fantasy Inn and Tavern that can be placed anywhere in your game world as appropriate. It can be a waypoint with a few subplots and plot hooks of it’s own. Or it can be a major part of larger plot arc.

    The Finest Kind Inn should sit near a large trade route, noble quarter if in a city, or Continue reading “RPG Plot Hooks: Treason at the Finest Kind”

    Random DND online Generators – Code Only

    Random DND online Generators – Code Only

    Here are links to the GITHUB repository for some of the best random DND online generators that ever existed. The author, Jamis Buck, has released the code into the wild, and if anybody gets these going I would be grateful.

    I am also willing to host the generators on one of my sites if space is needed.

    Library Templates (Needed for the NPC Generator)
    DND NPC Generator
    3rd Edition Rules Templates
    Random Dungeon Generator – This was the best online random dungeon generator ever!
    4th Edition NPC Generator