Saturday, February 27, 2010

Magic Item: Force of Law

This is a black flanged Mace +2 that inflicts double damage to Chaotic clerics (meaning all Chaotic divine spellcasters). When double damage is inflicted the mace flashes with a bright light (no penalties) and makes a loud tearing almost exploding sound. The mace is quite effective in combat but these side effects make it difficult to keep a battle quiet when stealth is needed.

Lore: Force of Law was created centuries ago by a militant order of lawful clerics known as the Guardians of Order who waged war up and down the coast of the Northern Sea. Disdaining stealth they sought open battle with their foes with the intention of eliminating organized bands of chaotics from the region. They were quite successful, bringing a large measure of peace to the region for a century. During this time their numbers dwindled and their vigilance waned and eventually a band of powerful chaotic clerics and assassins infiltrated their fortress-monastery and eliminated them in a single night. Members of the order out on patrol were now the last survivors and they continued their duty with a renewed almost fanatical zeal until the last of them was slain. The Guardians created many powerful weapons, most of them specialized to fight against chaotic creatures. Almost of them were lost in the orders final years after their base was destroyed.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The New Old Campaign Design - Part 9 - NPC Levels

My plan for this campaign is to emphasize the PC's power in the world more than in some campaigns. The highest level NPC rulers, movers, and shakers will be name level, about 9th or 10th. Characters who climb past 10th level will quickly become legendary figures whose fame will spread far and wide, attracting followers, opportunists, and rivals.

Typical village and town leaders will be about 3rd level - basically everyone starts as a Normal Man but greatness is thrust upon them when the well goes dry, the orcs attack, or something else goes wrong. Some strike out to settle things and end up looting a bandit camp or clearing out a dungeon, gaining wealth and enough XP's to make 2nd-3rd-4th level. These figures are naturally looked upon as the leaders of whatever town they live in if they choose to stay at home after their big adventure and this is how most adventurers end up.

This also has the side effect of limiting the availability of powerful magic to characters which is good in my opinion. It also limits the impact of easy magic on the world at large which D&D has never been good at explaining. Things like widespread healing magic, raise dead, cure disease, create food and water could have a major effect on the semi-medieval society found in most D&D worlds. I don't want to think through it for this campaign so making it not widespread and easily available solves that quite nicely for me.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The New Old Campaign Design - Part 8 - Divine Magic & the Chaotic Alignment

As the worldwide nanotech network was shown to be safe, reliable, and powerful, military experiments were underway to create nanotech that would be able to disrupt it. These were generally developed in secret and then held in a dormant state to be released in time of war. There was little hope of overcoming the entire worldwide network as it was too vast and too redundant to be overcome globally. The strategy was to achieve a local superiority to enable a surprise attack or a more effective strike. Some were given limited programming and specific objectives but others were effectively AI's with a mission of creating destruction and disruption by any means available. When the war started these nanite "Chaos agents" were released and performed quite well. Pre-war the thought was that the worldwide cloud would overcome these local clouds so many of them had no off switch, an unfortunate and short-sighted decision.

What happened was that when the cloud dispersed due to the widespread radiation it left the surviving hostile nanite clouds "alive" and unmolested. If these clouds could avoid radiation zones after achieving their programmed missions they could go dormant or find themselves free and with no mission to achieve. Radiation also sometimes caused malfunctions in their original programming leading to unforseen actions and results. Some nanoclouds, prevented from achieving their objectives by these rad zones They too quickly learned the trick of linking with a human and communicating with them to accomplish things they could not.

Over the years these nano clouds have spread and acquired many followers. The smartest have learned much of human psychology and are quite adept at convincing others to follow them. Some of them have developed personalities as well, making them seem even more like angry gods. All of them though tend to be agents of disruption and destruction and violence. It's important that they are not human and they do not care about preserving humanity. Many of them are not especially concerned with preserving themselves. Some have been developed flaws over the years and their goals tend to shift around with no apparent pattern. A few have become concerned with acquiring power and followers and these will even fight other chaotic "gods".

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The New Old Campaign Design - Part 7 - Divine Magic & the Lawful Alignment

Divine Magic is not psionics. Divine magic is the ability to tap into a power source unavailable to most beings and use that power to create a variety of effects. This connection also allows the power source to communicate with the being and make its wishes known. These powers are thought of as gods but they are not deities in the strictest sense or in their origin, though they may as well be in their power. None living now know the truth of where this power or these "gods" came from.

One of the last, highest technology systems of the ancient world was a worldwide nanotech cloud. This cloud of microscopic self-reproducing machines was programmed for beneficial purposes - curing disease, healing injury, repairing devices, communications - a variety of missions on a multitude of nanite"networks". These system worked better than expected and earth was set to enter a golden age as these were perfected. Radiation was lethal to these machines (partly by design as a failsafe in case something went wrong).

When the war broke out, prolific use of nuclear weapons devastated these nanite networks and thinned the worldwide nanotech cloud to near-impotence. The computer networks and Artificial intelligences that managed these systems generally withdrew them and concentrated them into a few remote and untainted areas until the radiation died down and they could be regenerated and dispersed into the world again. This reemergence did not occur until well after the height of the Gamma era.

As the limited remaining worldwide infrastructure fell apart, some of the AI's uploaded themselves from the hardware network into the nanotech cloud. many of these AI's developed distinctive personalities during their long isolation and when they re-dispersed their consciousness was spread across a large area. Being programmed to aid humanity they saw much work to do and not many technological resources to use in doing it. They selected certain humans (and dwarves) to be their "operators" and began communicating with them through implanted nanites. Some of them consciously used a religious metaphor to enable the primitive humans to understand what was going on, while others developed the whole paradigm independently. There were many of these AI's, many of them operating on what was effectively a local level, so many local "gods" sprang up over the years. The common characteristics of these gods operations were construction, cooperation, adherence to certain rules, and expansion. This is known today as the "Lawful" philosophy and means that most of these gods' followers get along fairly well. These gods are one of the major drivers of civilization over the past few centuries.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The New Old Campaign Design - Part 6 - Arcane Magic

Arcane Magic is psionics. A person must have some natural psi ability but then can learn to improve it through rigorous study and concentration. A modern scientist might see this as the wild, fixed mutations of the Gamma Terra era gradually subsiding into a latent pool of abilities that can be unlocked through practice to create a variety of effects. This also means that magic-users are not 100% pure-strain humans, but the evolved version of Gamma Terra's humanoids. Not that anyone cares about mutants vs. pure-strains anymore

Because of this origin, Arcane Magic is totally self-contained to the individual, requiring no outside aid.

Magic Items created by Arcane Magic Users are the result of special processes used in their creation. Intensely focused magic is used to change the way a substance interacts with the universe.

Normal common materials used for this are generally temporary in nature, like potions and scrolls.

Permanent magic items like magic swords or armor are usually constructed from "starmetal" which is a highly valued substance in the campaign. In this campaign, starmetal is usually a chunk of living superdense metal fallen to earth from a starship destroyed in orbit during the War of the Gods. It is found in some installations as well but it was not a standard building material even in the height of pre-collapse earth. It is difficult to shape with standard tools which is why it takes a magic user to assist in the working of the metal.

Additionally, as human scientists explored human psionic potential certain materials were found to be psionically active, able to be imprinted on psionically much like writing on a blank piece of paper. This is taxing and not especially pleasant, more akin to writing on paper by cutting your finger and bleeding on the page - it takes a lot of control and both pains and fatigues the user. This is how additional effects can be built into an item such as an invisibility ring or a flaming sword. This is also why elves have created many magic items as it is more natural to them than to a typical human magic-user.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Healers of the White Hand

One organization that will be found in multiple locations is The White Hand. This is an organization founded by lawful clerics to heal the sick and injured regardless of affiliation, race, or alignment. They wear white robes and their symbol is a white handprint. They are pacifists and do not carry or use weapons of any kind and do not tolerate violence in their facilities.

Their mission is to heal all who need it and they refuse no one unless they shed blood in one of their facilities which is grounds for expulsion. They do not charge for services, instead relying on donations - which often come from grateful, wealthy adventurers.

Their pacifism is total as far as weapons are concerned but they have been known to use spells to defend wounded patients - hold person is not harmful in their eyes and throwing raise dead at an undead creature is mercy, not violence.

The head of a typical White Hand outpost is a 6th level cleric - this is by design as I want the characters to find a way to Cure Disease and Remove Curse without having to go to ridiculous lengths, but Raise Dead should remain uncommon.

There will also be a 3rd level assistant who is the second in command and several 1st level acolytes who assist in tending the wounded.

There may also be a few normal men hanging around the facility to keep it clean and perform basic tasks. These may be maimed in some way or otherwise be recovering from injury.

These outposts typically keep a stock of clean bandages, alcohol, fresh water, and some holy water. There is always a fire burning somewhere in the structure day or night regardless of season.

Expansion: This organization started with a single location and expands one outpost at a time. When the assistant reaches 6th level, the head of the outpost will help him prepare to set up a new outpost. The soon-to-be leader then travels the area to decide where to locate the new branch. He will also pick one acolyte who has progressed beyond 1st level to become his new assistant. Once the new location is chosen they will begin operating from whatever quarters they can find which may be a tent or just a cleared area of ground. The eventual goal is to set up in a permanent facility and do their work with shelter and proper supplies.

DM notes: The total pacifism rule is in to keep players from wanting to join this order - this is intended as a strictly NPC organization. It also makes them a convenient target for atrocities if the campaign goes badly. The organization also exists in case the players do not want to play clerics - I need some kind of convenient healing beyond the NPC priest who joins the party - I don't like running members of the party other than some hirelings.

The New Old Campaign Design - Part 5 -Races

The baseline for the background is that earth was home to an advanced starfaring civillization then war broke out and the world was hammered with a multitude of weapons, wrecking the whole thing.

About 200 - 500 years after this event is the time of the Gamma World and the Mutant Future.

Around 500 to 1000 years after the war is the Age of Wizards - the wild random mutations have diminished and rudimentary pockets of civilization have emerged only to be threatened by powerful Techno-Wizards who have mastered both mutations and technology and seek to dominate the world. A few brave souls fight against them and they often fight each other, but much of the emerging civil structure is wiped out during these conflicts.

Roughly 1000 - 2000 years after the War of the Gods a few civilized kingdoms are rising and medieval level technology is common.

  • The Pure Strain Humans have survived and prospered and are now just "human"
  • Elves are an alien race stranded here when the world ended. They are largely unaffected by mutation and have stayed fairly pure. There were never very many of them on earth so they are not especially common now though their population has grown. They are natural psionics. Their affinity with nature is natural to them as their homeworld was terraformed long ago. They have very strong tendencies towards lawful behavior when raised in traditional elven society -think Vulcans with a homeworld that looks more like Endor than Vulcan. They have legends that describe them as being from "across the sea" but they do not realize the true meaning of this or their true origin.
  • Dwarves were genetically modified for improved performance on high-gravity worlds - they are shorter, wider, denser, and stronger. Their preference for underground living is a byproduct of the changes made to them long ago though their love of crafting is largely cultural, not genetic. They seem to have less natural psionic ability than pure-strain humans.
  • Halflings were created in laboratories as servants for the rich. They were designed to be cute, dextrous, social, and obedient. In some quarters they were thought of more as pets than as full humans. They were an offshoot of android development programs with different labs developing different strains for crossbreeding like breeds of dogs. They can reproduce with other halflings but not with anything else and their artificial genetic background has proven to be fairly resilient to the altered environment and they have grown to be quite numerous, mainly collecting around human communities as they have little culture of their own.
  • Gnomes are high-g halflings. They were created for the same purposes to serve on high-g worlds though they are little less craft-focused and a little more entertainment focused as the dwarves were already serious enough.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The New Old Campaign Design - Part 4 - Map Rules

Now that the basic idea has been revealed I wanted to go over what I think of as the rules for using real-world maps in my campaign:

Some features must remain unchanged:
  • Coastlines
  • Rivers
  • Mountains
  • Deserts
  • Lakes
  • Canyons/Rough ground
Now rivers might conceivably be dammed and I might drain the occasional lake, and a new desert (or crater) might have sprung up in the last few thousand years, but otherwise this stuff stays the same. I know rivers can change course but I'm not going to do a lot of that just for sanity's sake as it eventually weakens the advantages of using an existing map.

Some things must be different
  • Place names
  • Cities and towns
This is not a PA game like Gamma World of Mutant Future where names like Pitz Burke and Mecksgo are part of the fun. I don't want my players to figure this out for a while so regular D&D/Fantasy names are essential. There won't be any stop-sign shields or coats of arms based on the American flag either. OK there might be a little of that but not enough to set off any alerts.

Similarly civilization has completely collapsed and sprung up so that there has been no continuous habitation by organized cultural groups in set locations. Thus cities and towns are all new. The locations aren't necessarily new - a good city site is a good city site - but the inhabitants do not think of it as "Pensacola" or "New Pensacola" or "Penzkolar" or "Prince of Kola" or anything similar. They call it Baytown or Dukesberg or something relevant to them, not something relevant or reverent to societies of the past that they are completely unaware of. So there can be no recognizable places or names on the map. (though I kind of like Penzkolar - maybe in the next Mutant Future campaign)

Campaign House Rules

These are the house rules my new D&D campaign will operate under:

  1. Ability generation is 3d6 six times, any order, drop 2 to raise prime requisite by 1
  2. Max HP's at 1st level
  3. Attack roll of 1 is an automatic miss
  4. Attack roll of 20 is a crit, does maximum damage
  5. Main reference book is Moldvay Red Basic but I may refer to Holmes Basic or the Compendium as needed.
That's really all at this point. I'm sure other things will come up but I'm trying to keep it light at the start.