Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A little lick o' paint there and...

Attribute it to sleep deprivation if you must, but I kind of screwed up that last Legends of Partholon entry. It wound up posting while still incomplete. So, uh, it's fixed now. Not that anyone was exactly crying in anguish that Tanaris didn't have any legends or an artifact in his entry, but since Nylian kind of follows in the hammer-god's footsteps, at least inasmuch as she beats monsters to death with a big ol' sledgehammer, I figure I should try not to screw that particular pooch.

Still sleep-deprived here. It probably shows. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

Legends of Partholon: Thunderlord Tanaris

Found on the wall of many a forge.
Names & Titles: Tanaris, the Thunderlord, the Hammer-god, Lord of the Forge, the Wrath of Valkas.

Prestige: He is counted among the sons of Valkas, and is the smith and weaponsmaster of the heavenly court. In Tyrhennea, Tanaris is mainly the patron of smiths, but his patronage is seen as the foundation for the empire's rise to power. He is also recognized as a warrior who carries out the will of Valkas.

Among the Vagyar, Tanaris is a warrior first and a smith second. He champions mankind in the battle against chaos, and demands none of the weird devotions and sacrifices required by rival war-gods like Ariokh.

Symbols & Depiction: The hammer is his primary symbol, while lightning (poetically called "sky-fire") may represent either the fires of his forge or the flames of his fury. He is depicted as a robust man, with his hammer never far from hand, and is normally quite jovial. Only when he is called to battle does his fury erupt to shake the earth and burn the heavens.

Veneration: It was the secret crafts of forging steel and working mail that propelled Tyrhennea to dominance and founded the empire. His image adorns most forges, and most citizens see him as a god of crafts only. However, the military embraces him and supports his priesthood in order to celebrate his holy days and to praise him on return from successful campaigns. Veterans give him due credit for the quality of arms and armor that have kept them alive. Furthermore, Tanaris' willingness to set aside the tools of his craft to fight for the Lawgiver's cause is an example for all soldiers.

Legends: In the age when gods walked the earth, Tanaris and Alia came to the folk of Valinar in the north and taught them the Great Crafts. He taught them to work metal, wood and stone, while she taught them the crafts of textiles, leather, and pottery. Together they raised men from savagery to civilization, and the reign of Valinar is still remembered as a golden age for humanity. When the monsters of the elder world threatened to overwhelm mankind, Tanaris and Alia took to battle, and inspired heroes to follow their example, to battle the chaotic hordes. Many a book of tales has been filled with the exploits of gods and men hunting these spawn of the black eons.

When the vilest monsters of the northlands were slain or driven into the nightlands beneath the earth, the gods returned to their heavenly abode, and envoys of Valinar brought their crafts to distant corners of the world. For a time, it seemed that their greatest threat would be the ancient empire of Agha-yin, or the sorcerers of Arkhemea, but in the end it was the Kruthar savages that overwhelmed Valinar and smote its grandeur into ruin.

It is common these days for the elders of any tribe or the priests of any city to claim their folk as the true descendants of Valinar. Perhaps it is so, that the envoys of that great civilization seeded their blood as well as their crafts among the many tribes of the earth. Perhaps it is naught but hubris and superstition. 

Artifacts: Legend tells that when Tanaris was teaching his mortal students the craft of smithing, a Favaragh giant came upon them and thought to feast upon the hapless mortals. Tanaris hurled his hammer at the giant, slaying it, and continued his lesson. This hammer, the ur-hammer of Valinar, was left in the care of his students to be the prototype from which they would devise their own tools.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Chaotic, the Lawful and the Neutral

Monday, March 12, 2012

Exploring the Labyrinth: Doors

Since the party brings torches and lanterns into the otherwise lightless depths of the underworld, it is rare that they get a chance to surprise monsters. Doors present a rare opportunity to gain this tactical advantage.

Doors in the dungeon stick firmly in their frames - the wood warped by long ages of underground humidity. Opening such a door will often be too slow and loud to allow the party to surprise monsters that may be lurking on the other side. However, the party may attempt to breach the door in order to secure that surprise.

To breach a door, one or two party members will attempt to push or pull the door open swiftly enough for the party to rush through before the monsters get a chance to react. PCs with average strength roll a single d6, while PCs with high strength roll two dice.  If any die turns up a 1 or 2, the breach has succeeded. (PCs with low strength can't contribute meaningfully to a breach attempt - they can still force a door open, but the time & effort required blows any chance of surprise.)

With a successful breach, the party can rush in ready for combat, and roll a surprise check with 2 in 6 odds. If the party wins surprise, they get a round of combat before the monsters have even a chance of reacting. Surprised monsters usually lose any chance of First Strike and similar reactive abilities.

After this, the party rolls for initiative against the monsters. With luck, the party can win initiative and take a second round of combat before the monsters can take their first. This may well allow the party to finish an encounter without taking a single wound!

To summarize: Roll 1 to 4 dice with 2/6 odds to breach the door, depending on who's helping. Then roll 2/6 on a single die to surprise the enemy, and roll initiative as usual.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Armor in Partholon

Armor is a trade-off between protection and mobility.

Soft Armor such as soft leather, padded tunics, or the heavy robes favored by magic-users.
AC 11 for 10 silver. Counts as a heavy item, but does not hinder movement otherwise (120''turn, 40'/round.

Light Armor such as boiled leather plates, gladiator harness, or layered hides & furs.
AC 13 for 20 silver. Slows movement to 90'/turn & 30'/round.

Medium Armor such as chainmail or basic plate (breastplate, greaves & bracers).
AC 15 for 40 silver (plate) or 60 silver (chain). Slows movement to 60'/turn & 20'/round.

Heavy Armor layers plate & chain for maximum protection.
AC 17 for 100 silver. Slows movement to 60'/turn & 20'/round and counts as a heavy item.

Shields are wooden with metal reinforcements and may be painted with a design indicative of the bearer or his company or lord. Special: When the bearer would be reduced to 0 hp, the shield is destroyed and the bearer reduced to 1 hp instead.
AC 12, or +1 to other armor, for 30 silver. Counts as a heavy item.

In the Dark Age of Partholon, chainmail is the pinnacle of military technology. A smith who can craft mail is rare indeed, so most warriors get by with basic plate. A fighter in plate & chain might as well be Robocop as far as the peasantry is concerned, and anyone traveling in such harness will generate ripples of gossip.

Soft armors can generally pass for civilian garb and do not mark the wearer as a combatant. A padded tunic may be the outfit of choice for a career warrior whenever heavier armor would be socially unacceptable.

[Edited to reflect updates in my campaign.]

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Exploring the Labyrinth: Movement

Much of the gameplay in my campaign is centered around exploring the dungeon. Exploring speed is noted on the character sheet, modified by armor and encumbrance. Each ten-minute turn, the party can make a single-, double-, or triple-move.

Single-moves allow you to map the dungeon with more-or-less accurate measurements, and gives 1 in 6 odds for chance encounters. The party is assumed to be watching for unusual features that might indicate a trap, and will have a chance to approach such features cautiously to out-think the trap. If someone in the front rank has a mirror, the players will be given info about what's visible through doorways and around corners while the party still has cover.

Double-moves allow you to consult the map, but you get no measurements while traveling, so any mapping must be sketchy and brief. Chance encounters are checked at  2 in 6 odds, as the party is less stealthy than usual. The party is being less cautious about traps, and has only a 2/6 chance to spot potential trouble before walking into it. Mirrors are being checked only briefly, so that lights and creatures may be spotted while the party has cover, but details will not be immediately obvious.

Triple-moves are the swiftest pace that can be maintained without exhausting the party, being roughly a jog. The party can't consult the map, and check for chance encounters at 3 in 6 odds. Traps can be avoided only by dumb luck (assume a 2/6 chance of each rank passing by unless otherwise noted). Mirrors can't be used effectively, and the party make only 5 triple-moves before it must rest for 1 turn - these moves can be all at once or brief bursts of speed amidst turns of slower travel.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Melee for Metalheads Part 2: How to Kick All the Ass

Continuing my presentation of melee house rules for the players who don't want to read long, rambling posts. I don't know if this is any better. 

Dude, remember those slavering monsters that want to eat your lungs? Well, you just walked up to within lung-eating range. But that also means they're within ass-kicking range, right? Now, how are you gonna do it?

How to Be a Badass in Melee

First, remember that all dice hate you, and you must never ever trust them. You don't want to play the odds, because you aren't here to amuse a crowd of spectators and attract advertising revenue. You are here to get the other guy dead and find some damn treasure. So you want to fight dirty.

Make up stunts and change the battlefield and take advantage of anything that makes a lick of sense. When you have a clear advantage, like jumping on the monster's head from on top of some demon idol or whatever, that's worth a good +2 AP bonus. When you are completely batshit with awesome, like being fucking invisible or something, that's worth +4 AP.

Gang up on the monsters. When and your buddy are both beating on the same monster, you get a +1 bonus to AP. When you and your buddy are on opposite sides of the monster, you get another +1 bonus for outflanking it.

Do other stuff besides just beat on it for damage. You can try to disarm, stun, knockdown, or push a monster, or you can even try to break through the enemy line if you are made of solid badass.  You'll still roll your attack like usual, but if you hit, the monster can submit to your dirty trick or can absorb damage instead - a win-win for you. If you get a natural 20, call it out! Then the monster doesn't get to choose, it has to be affected by whatever you were trying to do. But hey, you have to say what you're trying to do before you make your roll, so no whining if you get that beautiful 20 and failed to say you wanted to kick that thing down that deep dark pit you've been fighting next to.

Defend yourself. Instead of trying to hurt the other guy, just concentrate on staying alive. You don't make any attacks, but you get +2 AC instead.

But wait! I'm a totally awesome fighter!

Well why didn't you say so? You're even better at this!

If you defend, you get a whole 'nother +2 AC bonus that you use to defend one of your buddies. But one dude can only be defended by a single fighter - so like if Ash and Nylian both wanted to defend Bill, only one of them could. Make sense?

Charge! If you can run in a straight line for 40 feet, you get +2 AP and +1d6 damage. This is why crazy people fight naked and why rich people ride horses, but if you run on foot for two rounds without getting interrupted, you could make it work.

If you have a spear and monsters are charging at you or pouncing on you or something, you actually get a First Strike with +1d6 damage because spears are awesome!

If you are a real BAMF like Ash, you can try the Ash Smash (a.k.a. the Massive Attack for trip-hop fans). You take a -5 AP penalty, but if you still hurt the monster, you roll your 2 or 3 damage dice and instead of taking the best one, you add 'em all up!