Friday, January 29, 2010

Introduction to the Shifting Twilight Campaign

I present here the introduction to my Shifting Twilight Campaign. Any thoughts, critiques or suggestions for improvement?
I appreciate your thoughts on the matter.

Semper Fidelis,


Introduction to the Shifting Twilight Campaign

“Through the muted glow of the shifting twilight, the sun is on the horizon. It is uncertain, however—will the shifting twilight reveal the arrival of a new dark age of savagery and barbarism—or the dawn of a new age of glory and prosperity?”
--Garrius Saranus Tarberus, 6th King of the Kingdom of Varanthus, DC 1470

The Shifting Twilight Campaign is an “Old School” 1E AD&D campaign set in the world of Thandor. The world of Thandor has been continuously developed over the last 30 years, and had its humble roots in 1980. The Shifting Twilight Campaign begins in the rugged Kingdom of Varanthus, located on the frontiers of civilization and the bordering territories of the glorious Vallorean Empire.

In flavour, the Shifting Twilight Campaign highlights a world that is swallowed in darkness, savagery and barbarism. The struggle of humanity is desperate, as not only do humans face their own kind as enemies, rivals and competitors, but also the realms of the dwarfs, ancient and powerful in their dark halls below the ground; in the deepest and most ancient forests, the mist-shrouded realms of the elves rule with a fierce pride and devotion. In the wilderness, vast hordes of beastmen, orcs and other monsters gibber and gather, eager to subjugate all that is good and righteous, and extinguish the flickering light of civilization in a savage orgy of blood and fire. In the great places of mystery and ancient power, the divine titans still remain—most are terrible demi-gods of awesome power and dark tyranny, working to rise again in their dreaded dominion.

The Shifting Twilight Campaign is a huge, wondrous world of ancient antiquity, full of myth, monsters, and epic adventure. While most standard “vanilla” D&D campaigns have their milieu’s center of gravity firmly rooted in a Medieval Western European focus, with heavy infusions of the renaissance period—the Shifting Twilight Campaign takes a different approach, wherein the campaign’s center of gravity is centered more on the cultures and civilizations of the Ancient Mediterranean; with heavy infusions from Dark Ages Northern and Western Europe, as well as infusions from ancient Africa, the Middle East, India, and China. To this palette, then, is added various doses of the Middle Ages, with only the lightest flirtation with the renaissance period.

Welcome to the Shifting Twilight Campaign!

Semper Fidelis,



Player characters should carefully read and review all race and culture sections described in the campaign gazetteer. Most of the special racial characteristics remain the same as per the OSRIC manual, pages 3-7. Height, weight, and so on for various races and characters are significantly different, however.

Standard Human Adjustments
The player of a standard human character may select any two characteristics and gain a +2 bonus to them at character creation. In addition, standard human characters receive a +10% bonus to earned experience points. Furthermore, standard human characters begin the game with (6) Fate Points.

Players of Demi-humans and other allowed humanoid races are unrestricted in the maximum level they may achieve; however, there are restrictions on armor for multi-classed characters that include magic-users. (mages, wizards, etc.) Demi-Humans and humanoids begin the game with (3) Fate Points.

Campaign Languages

Common Languages Available of the Varanthus Region


Unusual Languages of the Varanthus Region

Troll—The tongue of trolls; known most often in the far north; in the Varanthus region, troll is mostly only known by some of the Gharnoth barbarians
Tegheran—the tongue of the Tegheran Empire
Narmedian—The tongue of a feudal, fairly urban and sophisticated kingdom of humans who are tall, and athletic, with dark black skin and fine features, from the distant land of Aghanda; Mercenaries, provincial soldiers, scholars, adventurers, priestesses and merchants from Narmedia occasionally live or visit the kingdom of Varanthus.
Mbornu—The tongue of a mostly rural, tribal kingdom of humans with broad, strong physiques, beautiful features, and dark black skin from lands in distant Aghanda. Mercenaries, provincial soldiers, priestesses, adventurers, and merchants from Mbornu occasionally live in or visit Varanthus
Margoth—The dark, ancient tongue spoken by beastmen, and dark champions of the eldritch gods and divine titans
Perrenar—The tongue of Deer Men
Harthak—The tongue of Hippo Men
Albeeri—The tongue of Elephant Men
Lugonde—The tongue of Lizard Men
Segande—The tongue of Snake Men
Sylvan—a polyglot common tongue for creatures of the Faerie Realms; dryads, nymphs, pixies, brownies, korreds, korrigans, and so on. Such creatures still maintain their own racial languages, however. Sylvan represents a common language of communication amongst all of the faerie races.
Amazon--Amazon is the strange tongue of nomadic tribes of mythical Amazon women, alleged to live in forest regions to the north-east of the varanthus region. Typically, only a few old adventurers, daring explorers and the occasional eccentric scholar possesses knowledge of this language.

Additional, though restricted languages are noted in the various race and cultural sections. Dwarf, Elf and High Vallorean, as well as regional Archaedian languages may only be known if the character is of the specific race, or in the case of regional Archaedian dialects possesses some specialized training and education. Furthermore, any standard monster and humanoid languages from the standard OSRIC manual, Player’s Handbook/Dungeon Master’s Guide have carefully restricted access, and such permission must be gained from the DM for a character to have such languages. Gnome is not immediately available in the campaign, and races that have Gnome as a standard known language must replace it with a selection from the appropriate campaign language table.


Coins are large, and heavy, weighing 1.60 ounces. There are 10 coins to a pound.

Coins are noted as follows: Name (M, for multiple)/Name, (S, for singular); followed by their respective valuations, and then a description of the coin.

Minas(M) /Mina (S): one PP=5 EP

Drachmas(M) /Drachma (S): one EP=2 GP

Dranus (M) /Drani (S): one GP=10 SP

Denarius (M) /Denari (S): one SP=2 BP

Sallius (M) /Salli (S): one BP=5 CP

Dherus (M) /Dheri (S): Copper

Mina/Minas (PP)
The Mina is a platinum coin, featuring a relief of the current reigning emperor's image, and the year the coin was minted. The obverse side features a stylized dragon raised up, as if attacking. A single platinum piece equals 5 Electrum.

Drachma/Drachmas (EP)
The Drachma is an electrum coin--combining elements of gold and silver together. One side features a relief of the reigning emperor's image, and the year the coin was minted. The obverse side features the image of a bull. A single electrum piece equals 2 Gold.

Drani/Dranus (GP)
The Drani is a gold coin, featuring the relief of the reigning emperor's image, and the year the coin was minted. The obverse side features a two-headed eagle, one is facing east, and one is facing to the west. A single gold piece equals 10 Silver.

Denari/Denarius (SP)
The Denari is a silver coin, featuring the relief of the reigning emperor's image, and the year the coin was minted. The obverse side features the head of a wolf. A single silver piece equals 2 Bronze.

Salli/Sallius (BP)
The Salli is a bronze coin, featuring the relief of the reigning emperor's image, and the year the coin was minted. The obverse side features a rampant lion. A single bronze piece equals 5 Copper.

Dheri/Dherus (CP)
The Dheri is a copper coin, featuring the relief of the reigning emperor's image, and the year the coin was minted. The obverse side features the head of a stag. The copper Dheri is the lowest valued coin.

Initial prices for goods are as for the OSRIC manual, pg. 28-30. This is to provide a common baseline of equipment and goods prices that everyone has access to for ease of initial play of the game. In the future, extensive price revisions may be made, or may be encountered during the campaign that deviates from the standard prices in the OSRIC manual.

Calendar and Days of the Week

There are 12 months in the Vallorean calendar, which marks time and the passage of months by the term “DC”—which stands for “Drannicus Calendi”, short for “The Drannicus Calendar”. Each month is divided into 30 days, similar to other kinds of calendars. There are a total of 360 days throughout the entire year.

Vallenari--First Month of the Year
Dhoranni--Second Month of the Year
Teganni--Third Month of the Year
Martherri--Fourth Month of the Year
Sarmandi--Fifth Month of the Year
Aribethi--Sixth Month of the Year
Galdari--Seventh Month of the Year
Paladari--Eighth Month of the Year
Taarnu--Ninth Month of the Year
Nohbirri--Tenth Month of the Year
Mallannu--Eleventh Month of the Year
Ulleri--Twelfth Month of the Year

Days of the Week
A day is always considered to begin and end at dawn. The day is generally considered to be 12 hours, and the evening is likewise 12 hours.
Mardann—First Day of the Week
Haldann—Second Day of the Week
Valdann—Third Day of the Week
Thordann—Fourth Day of the Week
Galdann—Fifth Day of the Week
Saradann—Sixth Day of the Week
Sindann—Seventh Day of the Week

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Knight Orders


I have created some useful questions to prompt the design of knight orders within the campaign. I like them.


Semper Fidelis,



Knight Orders have historically been very provocative--and even mysterious. The Knights Templar, the Hospitallers, the Teutonic Knights--all developed around the time of the Crusades, with new knight orders developing afterwards inspired by the orginal orders of knights. Knight Orders within the campaign are always interesting, and provide a great deal of depth and opportunity for not only player characters, but also for NPC's. Certainly, creating a particular knight order can be a rather intimidating prospect. However, a DM can create very interesting and detailed knight orders with just a bit of thought and work using the tables and rules provided herein.

The DM and players alike typically have many questions that need to be answered concerning any particular knight order in the campaign. Certainly, the following questions can serve as a springboard from which to gather the knowledge and build an evocative, detailed, and interesting order of knights to populate your campaign world.

(1) Whom Does The Order Serve?
(2) How Old is the Knight Order?
(3) Who is the Grand Master of the Knight Order?
(4) What Kind of Officers Does the Knight Order Possess?
(5) What Kind of Reputation Does the Knight Order Enjoy?
(6) How Influential is the Knight Order?
(7) How Many Knights are in the Knight Order?
(8) What Kind of Additional Forces Does the Knight Order Command?
(9) How Many Castles and Fortresses Does the Knight Order Possess?
(10) Does the Knight Order Possess Other Lands and Resources?
(11) How Wealthy is the Knight Order?
(12) What Kind of Heraldric Symbology is the Knight Order Known By?
(13) What Kind of Noble Code Does the Knight Order Live By?
(14) What Kind of Entrance Requirements Does the Knight Order Maintain?
(15) What are the Membership Benefits Enjoyed by the Knight Order?
(16) What Kind of Judicial System Does the Knight Order Enforce?
(17) Does the Knight Order Possess Special Authority and Power?
(18) What Kind of Great Secrets Does the Knight Order Keep?
(19) What Mystic Goal Does the Knight Order Pursue?
(20) Does the Knight Order's Headquarters Possess Special Features?
(21) Does the Knight Order Possess Any Mystical Relics?
(22) What Kind of Special Training Does the Knight Order Provide?
(23) What Kind of Special Allies Does the Knight Order Possess?
(24) Does the Knight Order Enjoy Any Glorious Blessings?
(25) Does the Knight Order Possess Any Great Enemies?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Orc Tribes and Characters


Here I present some interesting tables for quickly generating details about various orc tribes and cultures, with quick character-traits for individual orcs encountered. Yes--I know orcs do not usually live long enough to do more than scream a ferocious oath, or gnash out harsh, growling noises--but on the occasions where the orcs have a speaking role, such tables can be helpful.


Semper Fidelis,


Orc Tribe Technology Level
01-05% Stone Age
06-10% Bronze Age
11-30% Iron Age
31-50% Dark Ages
51-70% Early Middle Ages
71-90% High Middle Ages
91-95% Late Middle Ages
96-00% Renassiance

Orc Government and Leadership
01-25%: Single Powerful Chieftain or King+Strong Advisor Council
26-50%: Single Powerful Chieftain or King+Weak or Submissive Advisor Council
51-75%: Powerful Couple: King and Queen+Strong Advisory Council
76-00%: Powerful Couple: King and Queen+Weak or Submissive Advisory Council

Orc Social Power Centers
01-20% Single Powerful King or Chieftain possesses primary power and authority
21-40% Powerful Couple: King and Queen possess primary power and authority
41-55% Strong Primary Single Leadership, plus shared power with strong Religious leadership, and strong Nobility
56-70% Strong Primary Couple Leadership, plus shared power with strong Religious leadership, and strong Nobility.
71-80% Strong Primary Single Leadership, plus shared power with strong Nobility; weak Religious leadership
81-90% Strong Primary Single Leadership, plus shared power with strong Religious leadership, but weak Nobility.
91-95% Strong Primary Couple Leadership, plus shared power with strong Nobility; weak Religious leadership
96-00% Strong Primary Couple Leadership, plus shared power with strong Religious leadership, but weak Nobility.

Orc Tribe Size
01-10% Small Tribe 100-300 members
11-25% Medium Tribe 400-700 members
26-50% Large Tribe 700-1200 members
51-75% Huge Tribe 2,000-or more members
76-90% Strong Chieftain Leads Confederation of several tribes (3-8 small-huge tribes)
91-00% Orc Kingdom of multiple tribes (7-12 orc tribes, from small to huge)

Orc Character Trait Templates

The DM should roll on the Orc Character Traits table once for a particular Orc NPC. The table can be used to add a bit of variation and color to a single Orc, as well as providing some variety for individual members within a group of Orcs encountered.

Orc Character Traits
01-10% Simple Beast
11-20% Brilliant Moron
21-30% Greedy Brute
31-40% Loyal Savage
41-50% Suspicious Guardian
51-60% Savage Warrior
61-70% Cunning Advisor
71-80% Strange Mystic
81-90% Relentless Hunter
91-00% Disciplined Warrior

01-10% Simple Beast
The Simple Beast Orc is muscular, reasonably quick, and skilled in combat. Simple Beast Orcs are particularly simplistic, harsh and brutal in thinking, judgement, and social skills.

11-20% Brilliant Moron
The Brilliant Moron Orc is famous for spontaneously spouting off some brilliant idea or analysis--and just as frequently, comes up with insanely stupid ideas or if in charge of executing some great plan, often botches it from a series of stupid decisions, assumptions, or interpretations.

21-30% Greedy Brute
The Greedy Brute is famously known for always seeking personal gain--whether that is booty, food, or some other benefit, the character often voices their own desires and announces their intentions and expectations of profit to their companions.

31-40% Loyal Savage
The Loyal Savage is a solid, conservative character. Loyal Savages are famously stubborn in their loyalty, and stoic in their refusal to accept bribes or support treachery of any kind. Loyal Savages often stand with their leaders whom they have pledged their loyalty to, and will go to the ends of the earth for their leader.

41-50% Suspicious Guardian
Suspicious Guardians are always watchful, wary, and suspicious of others true motives or intentions. Suspicious Guardians are especially scornful of lesser orcs down the pecking order, and always on the lookout for treachery, laziness, or gross stupidity.

51-60% Savage Warrior
The Savage Warrior is brutal, ambitious, and harsh. Savage Warriors are relatively simple in their desires, and straightforward in their ambitions and intentions.

61-70% Cunning Advisor
The Cunning Advisor is intelligent, cautious, and capable of fairly advanced schemes and is relatively smooth and skilled at manuevering in political environments.

71-80% Strange Mystic
The Strange Mystic are often bizarre in their spiritual philosophy and mannerisms, though they are typically cunning, shrewd and wise.

81-90% Relentless Hunter
Relentless Hunters are skilled in forestry, ambush, evasion and infiltration--and are tough, relentless hunters that zealously pursue their prey. Relentless Hunters are also cunning and skilled in surmising the prey's likely escape routes, and often can arrive at a guessed-at juncture before the prey arrives.

91-00% Disciplined Warrior
Disciplined Warriors are courageous, strong, and steadfast. Disciplined warriors are loathe to ever retreat, though may do so if they believe the battle is hopelessly lost.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Royal Tournaments of the Realm


Below, I present a tournament system I developed for use in my own campaigns.


Semper Fidelis,


Royal Tournaments of the Realm

Throughout the provinces and domains of the realm, Great Nobles sponsor and host glorious, noble tournaments throughout the year with great pomp and ceremony, providing enormous, noble feasts of outstanding food and refreshing drinks, fine wines, and delicious ales. These famous tournaments provide joyous entertainment for the masses, from commoners and merchants to every rank of nobleman and knight. Such rich and glorious celebrations provide the local community with every kind of commercial opportunity and potential for great profit, providing lodging, goods and services to fellow citizens and foreign visitors alike.

The spectacular tournaments provide knights from across the land with numerous opportunities to rise to the challenge of testing their skills in martial combat against other noble and chivalrous knights from every level of skill and experience. The various tournaments also allow participating knights to gain in skills, fame and glory! Victorious knights are also rewarded richly for their glorious exploits of heroic valor and chivalrous prowess with a great variety of noble and splendid treasures, from great, finely-trained warhorses and noble hounds, to beautiful armor and weaponry, rich cloaks, and glittering, precious jewels, as well as fine sums of excellent gold. Visiting knights also gain excellent opportunities to attend many other contests and assorted games and celebrations, as well as resplendent feasts, regal dances, and exotic masquerade balls. Visiting knights have many occasions to socialize with other knights, fine craftsmen and merchants, as well as enjoying constant and dazzling opportunities of romance.

Each knight seeking to enter the tournaments must provide noble papers and declarations documenting their personal noble coat-of-arms, as well as providing extensive family histories and lineages. The knights must register their coat-of-arms with the Chief Herald and the Master of Ceremonies. Knights that have been provided with warrants exempting them from the proof of lineage by their noble patron--or their temple--must register their coat-of-arms as other knights, and submit their Warrants of Exemption to the Chief Herald and the Master of Ceremonies for inspection and review.

Knights entering the tournaments must defeat four other knights in single combat, and be declared the victor by any panel of judges presiding--or by the Great Noble and Regal Host. Each knight entering the tournament will engage in combat with a variety of opponents, some of whom may be of less skill, equal skill, or greater skill to the knight. Such are the hazards of even noble and chivalrous combat on the tournament field!

Tournament Opponent Table
01-10% Two Levels Below the Character.
11-25% One Level Below the Character.
26-75% Equal Level with the Character.
76-90% One Level Above the Character.
91-00% Two Levels Above the Character.

Champion Tournament Opponent Table
01-50% Equal Level with the Character.
51-70% One Level Above the Character.
71-85% Two Levels Above the Character.
86-95% Three Levels Above the Character.
96-00% Four Levels Above the Character.

Noble Valor Tournaments: "Champion of The Marches" Tournament Circuit
The series of tournaments belonging to the Champion of The Marches Tournament Circuit are typically referred to as "Noble Valor" tournaments, as they are part of a general theme. The "Champion of The Marches" tournament circuit is composed of the Northern Marches Tournament, Southern Marches Tournament, Eastern Marches Tournament, and the Western Marches Tournament. The tournament circuit series culminates with the "Champion of The Marches" tournament, wherein the greatest knights from the lower four tournaments in the series gather together for the great tournament to determine the greatest "Champion of The Marches".

Northern Marches Tournament: (Top three knights go on to Champion of Marches Tournament).
Southern Marches Tournament: (Top three knights go on to Champion of Marches Tournament).
Eastern Marches Tournament: (Top three knights go on to Champion of Marches Tournament).
Western Marches Tournament: (Top three knights go on to Champion of Marches Tournament).
Champion of The Marches Tournament: (Top twelve knights of the circuit compete against each other; The top three knights go on to Champion of The Realm Tournament).

Noble Wisdom Tournaments: "Champion of Seasons" Tournament Circuit
The series of tournaments belonging to the Champion of Seasons Tournament Circuit are typically referred to as "Noble Wisdom" tournaments, as they are part of a general theme. The "Champion of Seasons" tournament circuit is composed of the Spring Festival Tournament, Summer Fires Tournament, Autumn Feast Tournament, and the Winter Procession Tournament. The tournament circuit series culminates with the "Champion of Seasons" tournament, wherein the greatest knights from the lower four tournaments in the series gather together for the great tournament to determine the greatest "Champion of Seasons".

Spring Festival Tournament: (Top three knights go on to Champion of Seasons Tournament).
Summer Fires Tournament: (Top three knights go on to Champion of Seasons Tournament).
Autumn Feast Tournament: (Top three knights go on to Champion of Seasons Tournament).
Winter Procession Tournament: (Top three knights go on to Champion of Seasons Tournament).

Champion of Seasons Tournament: (Top twelve knights of the circuit compete against each other; The top three knights go on to Champion of The Realm Tournament).

Noble Honor Tournaments: "Champion of The Glorious Kingdom" Tournament Circuit
The series of tournaments belonging to the Champion of The Glorious Kingdom Tournament Circuit are typically referred to as "Noble Honor" tournaments, as they are part of a general theme. The "Champion of The Glorious Kingdom" tournament circuit is composed of the Tournament of the Radiant Dawn, Tournament of Virtuous Hope, Tournament of Eternal Love, and the Tournament of Righteous Brethren. The tournament circuit series culminates with the "Champion of The Glorious Kingdom" tournament, wherein the greatest knights from the lower four tournaments in the series gather together for the great tournament to determine the greatest champion of the circuit.

Tournament of The Radiant Dawn: (Top three knights go on to Champion of The Glorious Kingdom Tournament).
Tournament of Virtuous Hope: (Top three knights go on to Champion of The Glorious Kingdom Tournament).
Tournament of Eternal Love: (Top three knights go on to Champion of The Glorious Kingdom Tournament).
Tournament of Righteous Brethren: (Top three knights go on to Champion of The Glorious Kingdom Tournament).

Champion of The Glorious Kingdom: (Top twelve knights of the circuit compete against each other; The top three knights go on to Champion of The Realm Tournament).

Noble Faith Tournaments: "Champion of Chivalry" Tournament Circuit
The "Noble Faith" tournaments are part of a unified theme of chivalry, and form the "Champion of Chivalry" Tournament Circuit. The Champion of Chivalry circuit is composed of the following tournaments: Champion of Bravery; Champion of Charity; Champion of Defense; Champion of Justice; Champion of Loyalty; and Champion of Piety tournaments. The series of chivalry-themed tournaments culminate in the Champion of Chivalry tournament, wherein the greatest knights from the lower seven tournaments within the series compete to determine the greatest Champion of Chivalry.

Champion of Bravery Tournament: (Top six knights go on to Champion of Chivalry Tournament).
Champion of Charity Tournament: (Top three knights go on to Champion of Chivalry Tournament).
Champion of Courtesy Tournament: (Top three knights go on to Champion of Chivalry Tournament)
Champion of Defense Tournament: (Top three knights go on to Champion of Chivalry Tournament)
Champion of Justice Tournament: (Top three knights go on to Champion of Chivalry Tournament)
Champion of Loyalty Tournament: (Top three knights go on to Champion of Chivalry Tournament)
Champion of Piety Tournament: (Top three knights go on to Champion of Chivalry Tournament)

Champion of Chivalry Tournament: (Top twenty-four knights of the circuit compete against each other; The top three knights go on to Champion of The Realm Tournament).

The greatest knights from the lower four champion tournaments are allowed to enter the greatest tournament of the entire year--the Champion of The Realm Tournament. This tournament is traditionally hosted in the capital city of the realm, as enjoys a long and glorious tradition. The most glorious tournament features the finest entertainment, joyous celebrations, noble ceremonies, and fantastic spectacles of any tournament of the year. The greatest and most glorious and prestigious tournament of the year is attended by tens of thousands of people from across the land, often gathered together in their best attire and costume, enjoying the realm's most glorious tournament alongside the land's greatest nobles, finest knights, and fine merchants from near and far, bringing together the finest in goods, food, drink, and entertainments.

Champion of The Realm Tournament: (Top three knights from each of the four previous tournament circuits compete against each other; The greatest knight of them all is awarded the title of Champion of The Realm).

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Tudors Showtime Series


"The Tudors"--a dramatic series from Showtime is quite interesting, addictive, and entertaining. The series offers lush cinematography, costumes, and setting detail. The characterizations are intriguing, watching King Henry develop increasing megalomania as he gains absolute power; while Queen Anne Bolin, while initially seeming to be intelligent, alluring, and graceful--as well as attractive--she increasingly becomes, or it reveals itself--that she really isn't that bright; she is adolescent and immature in her emotions and ideals, as well as petty, capricious, conniving, jealous, and petulant. Many more dramatic characters appear, and the show is a good window into various political and religious issues which can face a kingdom, and, for a D&D game as well, the various court dynamics, intrigues and romances that can make things difficult, interesting, and challenging for any character in such a royal court environment.

Great stuff!

I highly recommend the series to everyone.

Semper Fidelis,


Sunday, January 24, 2010

Book Review: The History of the Ancient World


I have been reading "The History of the Ancient World" by Susan Wise Bauer.
The book covers various aspects of the ancient world, from Rome to China. I will expand this review later on. So far, the book is quite interesting, and well-written.

Semper Fidelis,


Saturday, January 23, 2010

Book Review: Cities


I've been reading the book, Cities, by John Reader lately. It's a very interesting book, full of all kinds of interesting details about how cities are formed, and why, as well as the different challenges and solutions they arrive at and develop, through the centuries. Fascinating stuff! I will expand this review more fully tomorrow.

Cities, John Reader; 2004, Atlantic Monthly Press, New York. 358 pages.

Semper Fidelis,


Friday, January 22, 2010



I just received in the mail my hardcover, black & white copy of OSRIC. Woot! It's very neat. It's organized well, and has all of the goodies from the original books. I'm so glad I have it now. I have been using the downloaded version, which is cool when I'm at the computer--but I wanted the actual book, too. I like to keep my original set of D&D books...well, preserved, and safe in my bookshelves, rather than grind them with heavy use, at least more than they already have endured. So, Osric is here finally!

Semper Fidelis,


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Merchant Quarters: Julia's Grill


I present below an NPC and merchant quarters. Small details are often helpful with NPC’s, and Julia’s Grill can be used effectively and colorfully in any city environment.

Semper Fidelis,


Julia's Grill

Julia's Grill is owned and operated by Julia, a commoner, professional cook and part-time prostitute. Julia lives in the nearby apartment complex, which is right next to the small shop. The shop is a small, stone room, perhaps 20'-ft. long, 12'-ft. wide, and 7'-ft. high. The shop has a tiled roof, and is partially open at the front side facing the street with a 4 and a half foot high stone countertop that extends perhaps 12'-ft down the length of the building. Inside, Julia has several large grills, fire-pits, brick ovens and iron cauldrons from which she and her staff of half a dozen women cook sausages, flatbread, soups, stews, biscuits and loaves of bread. Julia's Grill typically offers water, wine, and one kind of ale from several barrels and casks she keeps in the building.

Patrons of Julia's Grill are typically fellow tenants on their way to work, or coming home after a long day. During the midday hours, many come by for a quick bite for lunch, as well as others that are simply pedestrians walking by in the streets going about their business. Patrons come up to the stone countertop, and order what they want to eat and drink, which is cooked for them fresh right there on the spot. Patrons typically gather about and stand while eating, or lean against the countertop and walls nearby enjoying their meal.

Julia and her employees--typically other women that live in the apartment complex, as well as their daughters--usually open the shop up at 0600 in the morning, and remain open until 10:00 PM at night, at least five days a week.

Julia Neberus
Julia Zero-Level Commoner
Race: Human
Alignment: Chaotic Good
STR 10 DEX 10 CON 15 INT 14 WIS 14 CHA 15 COM 14
HP: 6
AC: 10

Julia is 5'6", and weighs 145-lbs. She has olive-coloured skin, long black hair to the middle of her back, and dark brown eyes. Julia is only 24 years old, and is attractive, friendly, and cheerful. She was married to a soldier, but since he died on campaign, she is now a widow, and used the family savings to open up this little shop so she can survive and provide for her three children--a daughter, age 10; a daughter, age 8; and a son, age 6. Julia got married when she was 14 years old, and was happily married to her husband until his tragic death in some foreign campaign three years ago.

Julia rents a four-room apartment in the apartment complex, and also pays a monthly rental fee to the apartment owner for renting the building she uses for her business. Julia also pays the local city business tax, as well as paying a monthly dues fee to the local merchant's guild. Julia makes regular donations to the local neighborhood watch station, and often provides local neighborhood militia members with free meals periodically. Julia is active in her neighborhood, and also provides assistance and donations to poor single mothers and impoverished families that live in the same apartment complex.

Julia has several girlfriends that are prostitutes, and she helps them whenever she can as well. While not a professional prostitute, and increasingly becoming a successful, self-employed entrepreneur, Julia has occasionally in the past embraced especially nice and attractive men for companionship and profit to help make ends meet, and is willing to take advantage of particular opportunities that present themselves to her. Her prostitute girlfriends periodically send especially nice and charming men her way, and provide only the best referrals, as Julia is quite picky and selective for such arrangements. Julia is especially wary and refuses to embrace any such arrangements with married men of her apartment complex, or those who are married to any women that are her friends. Julia has many friends amongst her neighbors, both male and female, and her friends are typically simple, hard-working folk. Julia has several friends in the local watch, as well as the merchant's guild, and among various street urchins, beggars, and wanderers amongst the dark, unwashed masses of the urban poor.

Julia's Clientele

Most of Julia's clientele are from lower-class to middle-class backgrounds, and many of her regular customers are also fellow tenants of the same apartment complex that she lives in, and are her neighbors. Spontaneous patrons are often fishermen, laborers’, and various tradesmen and workmen as well as the local watch or militia patrol. Many servants going about their master's errands stop by as well, in addition to various working women, laundresses, fruit and vegetable vendors, wives, and prostitutes.

Menu at Julia's Grill
4 SP--Sausages and Flatbread/Biscuits
6 SP--Bowl of Sausage and Pasta with Flatbread/Biscuits
6 SP--Bowl of Stew and Rice with Flatbread/Biscuits
6 SP--Bowl of Soup and Flatbread/Biscuits
6 SP--Bowl of Stew and Flatbread/Biscuits
5 CP--Biscuits (2)
5 CP--Flatbread (2)
1 SP--Mug of Wine
2 SP--Mug of Ale
3 SP--Mug of Tea

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

To the Shark Empire Followers--Old and New!


I wanted to say that I appreciate all of you. I also want to expressly welcome you new followers! Welcome to the SHARK EMPIRE! For the legions of friends that post commentary and discussion, I thank you. You quiet and silent folks should contribute as well! No need to be shy--you are all more than welcome to comment and discuss things, as well as ask me questions and such.

As to commentary--keep your eyes posted, for I plan to go through the recent blog topics and post extended commentary and responses tomorrow. Lately, I have been absorbed with a series of projects, and have been slacking in my responses. My apologies, my friends.

I'm also going to post a new Bard class, too, damnit.:) I love your commentary and discussion. The ideas are very nice.

I thank you again, my friends.

Semper Fidelis,


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

I Hate the AD&D Bard!


Yes, I hate the AD&D Bard. The class is an utter mess, and it has always appalled me that Gygax and company--with their esteemed knowledge, education, and brilliance--could not compose a Bard class that was more effective, fun, and enjoyable--as well as somewhat more faithful to the historical Celtic Bards and Norse Skalds. From this long-standing frustration on my part--I've been seriously considering creating my own damned Bard--that's elegant and playable from level 1. Of course, such a Bard must be more reflective of it's noble, historical roots, than a weird, much-watered down medieval quasi-rogue and minstrel. I suppose some aspects of a rogue/minstrel are fine--but Bards were more like herald/druid/scholars in the Celtic traditions, and musical/warrior-poets in the Norse and Finnish traditions.

Any good suggestions and ideas on how I should proceed with this project my friends?

Your commentary is much appreciated!

Semper Fidelis,


Monday, January 18, 2010

What's Wrong With Thieves in AD&D?


Well, I admit, *I* don't necessarily believe there is anything "wrong" with Thieves in AD&D. I merely present that as a rhetorical thought echoing the numerous thoughts and commentary I have read in various locations, with people lamenting how:

"Thieves are weak";
"Thieves die to easily in AD&D";
"Thieves in AD&D are next to useless";
"In AD&D, Thieves are near-hopeless characters";

I also confess--I have never played a Thief character. I've always played my favourites, Paladins, as well as Rangers, Fighters, Mages and occasionally Clerics. I guess I've just never really identified with Thieves. Nonetheless, I freely concede that even my recollection and familiarity with the nuances of rules pertaining to Thieves may be ignorant; however, I really do not understand where all the gnashing of teeth and wailing about how pathetic Thieves are in the game. In many, many campaigns I have been a part of--speaking exclusively of AD&D games back in the day--I recall friends of mine *loving* playing their Thief characters--whether they were uber-fighter/thief elves, elven fighter/magic-user/thieves--or merely *Human* Thieves--they loved them all dearly. Truth be told--the way they typically played them, whether they were Human or Elven, they were always talented, ruthless, smooth, charming, clever, daring, and often funny, zany, madcap characters of affection, and great style--sometimes even mixed with a pinch of the flamboyantly ridiculous--they all stand out in my mind as absolutely fun, creative, flexible characters that were always useful and effective in--and out of combat.

Thus, I am at a loss as to this seemingly recent consensus of lamentation about how Thieves in the game are entirely *Lame*.

Any of you, my friends, have some thoughts and commentary on this curious matter?

Semper Fidelis,


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Finer Details In the Campaign


I was looking over my copy of "From Stone to Steel" today--a book for d20 about armour, weapons, and history. It has a plethora of details about all kinds of historical armour and weaponry through the ages, for 3E.

I was then thinking about AD&D, and the standard list of weapons and armour. At a glance--they do seem quite simplistic, and very generalized. However, while on one hand, a sword, is a sword is a sword, so to speak--aside from shortsword, longsword, scimitar, bastard sword and two-handed sword--that about covers things pretty well. Virtually any number of historical models do not chiefly perform in any different capacity from such base models. Thus, there doesn't really seem to be a mechanical representation of too much more variety than that. Plus, we keep in mind the fine pleasure of keepings most things fast, simple, and easy to deal with.

Ok--having said that, there is that nagging thought back in my head that says AD&D *doesn't* approximate the details in that effective a manner--even with the rough simplistic standards being essentially correct, accurate, and sufficient. The point of contention is, there *were* in fact a variety of weapons that seemed to be similar to their legions of lesser brethren, but in fact, their individual weapon performance and characteristics were often quite superior.

For example:

Mongolian Composite Bows--these were superior to other types of composite bows.

Roman Gladius--while plenty of other shortswords existed, the Roman Gladius was superior for a variety of reasons, from raw effectiveness in battle, to weight, and ease of manufacture, as well as strength and durability.

And on and on.

How so, then, would you handle such a challenge?

Semper Fidelis,


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Level Limitations By Race


I have been doing some thinking lately about the dreaded "Level limits" for races in AD&D. On one hand, it seems quaint to keep the restrictions in place--nostalgic, even. However, the argument that such limitations are necessary so as to maintain an uber-human dominated world, where the majority of players will desire to play *human* characters, as opposed to demi-humans, doesn't seem to add up. The few advantages that demi-humans gain are to me, not necessarily sufficient to sway myself or others, say, into avoiding humans. For high-level campaign considerations, as well as the overall general consistency of world-building, the racial level limitations seem quite weak. Thus, the racial level limitations should be thrown out, and swiftly.

Now, having said that--there is the problem of elven fighter/magic-users being able to wear armor and cast spells at the same time. If there are no level limitations, wouldn't everyone be playing elven fighter/magic-users?

Thus, I am back to my dilemma. I'm persuaded so far to keep the restrictions in place--but I hate them for the many reasons alluded to in brief previously.

What to do my friends?

Semper Fidelis,


Friday, January 15, 2010

Campaign Race: Urrgan (Wolf-Men)


Below, I present the Urrgan--a race of humanoid wolf-men that have been in my campaigns forever, since I created them many years ago when I was tired of having merely "evil" werewolves in the campaign, and I came upon a campaign development where I had a dominant human culture that featured a powerful war god that also had wolves as a sacred and favoured animal. The Urrgan have been a fun and intriguing component of my campaigns ever since. Enjoy!

Semper Fidelis,


Campaign Race: Urrgan (Wolf-Men)

Urrgan characters gain a +1 bonus to Dexterity and Constitution when rolling their abilities at character generation. Such bonuses, however, cannot exceed the starting maximums. This simply represents the Urrgan being on average faster, and tougher than many other creatures.

Strength: Minimum: 9 Maximum: 18 (00) for males/18 (50) for females
Dexterity: Minimum: 6 Maximum: 18
Constitution: Minimum: 8 Maximum: 18
Intelligence: Minimum: 3 Maximum: 17
Wisdom: Minimum: 6 Maximum: 18
Charisma: Minimum: 3 Maximum: 15 (18 vs. other Wolf-men and canine races)

Age Categories
Young Adult: 6-11 (1d6+5)
Adult: 12-30 (2d10+10)
Mature Adult: 31-50 (1d20+30)
Old: 51-60 (1d10+50)
Venerable: 61-70 (1d10+60)

Classes Available
Fighter 10th Level (Starting age: 6+1d4)
Ranger 10th Level (Starting age: 9+1d4)
Cleric 9th Level (Starting age: 9+1d4)
Druid 11th Level (Starting age: 9+1d4)
Thief 10th Level (Starting age: 6+1d4)
Assassin 12th Level (Starting age: 8+1d4)*

*NB: Urrgan of evil alignments often choose to follow the Assassin class.

Move: 12"
Bite Attack:
Urrgan can make a bite attack (1d6 damage) in place of a weapon attack. At higher levels of ability, if the character gains the ability to make additional attacks, the Urrgan character can use the Bite Attack as one of the standard attacks available when fighting.
Keen Senses:
Urrgan are surprised only 1 in 6 (+25% on rolls to detect an invisible foe)
Track by Scent:
Urrgan have excellent senses, and may track foes, prey, and creatures by scent (as Ranger with base 50% in or outdoors, Rangers make both checks, if either is successful the creature(s) may be followed)
Rugged Metabolism:
Urrgan are famous for having exceptionally rugged metabolisms and are highly resistant to poisons and toxic substances, both injected or ingested. For every 3 1/2 points of Constitution ability, Urrgan gain a +1 bonus to saving throws against poisons. Urrgan prefer carnivorous diets high in proteins, though they are generally omnivorous, and can eat most kinds of creatures and animals, as well as various fruits and vegetables. Morally-speaking, Urrgan have no philosophical taboos concerning eating humanoids, though culturally, non-evil Urrgan generally avoid eating humans, elves, dwarves, and Halflings, for example. Urrgan do, however, greatly enjoy eating any humanoids that their home tribe or culture considers being an enemy or prey. When Urrgan must rely on packaged rations or food, whether by choice or circumstance, Urrgan must pay double standard costs for special rations of prepared meat, as Urrgan instinctually prefer meat over other types of food. Urrgan cannot merely *choose* to eat some kind of non-meat food, regardless of cost, when meat is available.
Racial Enemies:
Urrgan are natural enemies of Beastmen, Orcs, and Gnolls. Urrgan have had centuries of tribal warfare against these enemies, and their skill in fighting against such foes provides all Urrgan characters with a +4 bonus to AC.
Ferocious Howl:
Urrgan naturally growl, howl, yip, and make other strange canine noises as a matter of course. However, Urrgan can make an especially ferocious howl that inspires all allies within a 30-ft. radius. The Urrgan's Ferocious Howl also has a 90% chance of startling herbivores and causing them to flee. The Urrgan character and all allies within a 30-ft. radius gain a +2 bonus To-Hit when making attacks. The Ferocious Howl has a duration of 4 round/character level, and may be used no more than 3/day.

Thief Ability Adjustments
Pick Pockets: -10%
Open Locks: -5%
Find/Remove Traps: -5%
Move Silently: +10%
Hide in Shadows: +10%
Hear Noise: +20%
Climb Walls: -10%
Read Languages: 0

Reaction Adjustments: Unless dealing with other Urrgan characters, Urrgan suffer a -3 reaction penalty modifier regardless of their Charisma score.

Multiclass options: none
Languages: Native, bonus languages as per int (PC's get common free, npc's 75% likely to speak common)

Cultural Weapons Available
Urrgan characters may only select weapon proficiencies from the following Cultural Weapons at character generation. Of course, Urrgan characters may learn other weapon proficiencies as the campaign progresses, as they have opportunity to do so.

Weapon Proficiencies:
Bastard Sword, Club, Quarter Staff, Spear, Javelin, Hand Axe/Throwing Axe, Battle Axe, Wolf Claws (Variant of Tiger Claws), Bite Attack (Gaining proficiency in Bite Attack increases bite damage from 1d6 to 1d8) and Short Bow

Urrgan characters may select one type of Cultural Weapon of their choice, and gain a +1 bonus To-Hit when fighting with the selected weapon. This represents the Urrgan character's early training and focus on a favourite weapon.


Urrgan are a race of wolf-humanoids, with wolf-heads, furry bodies and limbs, and other canine features and attributes. Urrgan have bent-back legs, much like a wolf or dog possesses, though the Urrgan's legs are quite large and muscular, for they stand upright as men do. Urrgan have large, broad wolf-like feet, and clawed hands. The Urrgan's hands, while large and strong, with long fingers, have only small claws that are ineffective for making any kind of special attack. However, Urrgan can strike and pummel with their fist, as a normal humanoid might. Urrgan have excellent senses, especially hearing and scent. Urrgan can see well, and are active, excitable, and athletic. Urrgan have rugged metabolisms, and while preferably carnivorous, are generally omnivorous. Urrgan are typically between 6-7 1/2 feet in height, and weigh approximately 250-350-lbs. Urrgan have large mouths full of sharp teeth, and enjoy biting their enemies during combat. Urrgan are generally dark greyish in fur colouration, or greyish-black, though some are white, black, or pale grey. Urrgan have a broad range of eye colors, with grey, silver, brown, orange or gold being typical.

Urrgan originally come from a somewhat simple, primitive, and barbaric culture. Urrgan are politically and socially organized into tribes, led by a strong chieftain. Tribal leadership is organized around the chieftain, with honoured warlords, priests, druids, hunters, and other elders being accorded status and rank based on their merit and ability, which typically includes fighting prowess and strength, though also includes wisdom, judgment, and other contributions to the overall welfare of the tribe. Urrgan tribes typically live in a cluster of small communities and villages spread out and spaced as necessary, depending on the tribe's population. Regardless of the actual size of the particular tribe, Urrgan prefer to maintain their settlements and villages relatively close to each other. Urrgan tribes typically live in Sub-Arctic and Temperate forests and mountains.

The Urrgan have their own pantheon of gods, and besides worshipping these gods, Urrgan also embrace elements of Animism, believing in a wide range of spiritual and elemental beings, from spirits of individual animals and creatures, to River Spirits, Mountain Spirits, Lake Spirits, and Forest Spirits. Urrgan are devout, and simple in their religious practices and customs. Urrgan simply cannot comprehend other culture's or races complex theological philosophies, such as human's typical religious particularism. At best, Urrgan can sometimes equate various foreign gods with one of their own deities that seem similar. Urrgan are content with their religious philosophy, and whatever insight or wisdom they hold to, they are happy to share with others, though the concept of "proselytizing" or converting others to their particular religion seems an entirely foreign concept to them. Should someone have questions about the Urrgan's religion, Urrgan are sincere in all discussions or answering questions, though they are not terribly concerned if others "get" the Urrgan's religion or not. If others understand the Urrgan's religion, great. If they do not, then they do not. Urrgan are content with viewing such things as "It is what it is."

Though Urrgan have a generally easy-going, accepting religious philosophy, Urrgan do, however, possess a particular understanding of what is good, and what is evil. Urrgan are social creatures, and have strong family relationships, and cultivate deep and meaningful friendships. Urrgan are typically noble, loyal, valiant, and honourable. Most Urrgan are of some kind of Good alignment, whether they are lawful, chaotic or neutral in disposition and philosophy. Many Urrgan, however, tend towards being lawful good, as the Urrgan society and culture is good, hierarchical, lawful, and group-oriented. It should be noted, however, that there are some Urrgan tribes that are of neutral alignment, and even evil alignment, though such would be a distinct minority.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Castles, Crusades and Feudalism!


I present below some thoughts on and quick tables for determining the type of castle encountered, the nature and motivation of a crusade, and brief detail of European feudal titles.

Semper Fidelis,



Castles are an essential and greatly-enjoyed aspect of most campaigns. Castles provide some iconic and rich imagery, and inspire numerous tales of glory and adventure! Naturally, castles are a focal point for innumerable wars, sieges, and of course, lots of espionage and skulking about in the shadows! Rebellions are often plotted within such walls, evil villains are brought down, and great champions are rewarded and celebrated! Sadly, actual support in game books for them, while occasionally and periodically interesting and helpful--is often few and far between and seldom really supported in much detail in most of the base rules--or even much of the supplemental rule books. I believe that castles--their construction, defense, and continued presence in any campaign can provide a great deal of richness, depth, and development to the campaign.

What Kind of Castle is Encountered?
01-20% Fortified Monastery
21-70% Border Keep
71-90% Mighty Fortress
91-00% Glorious Citadel


Crusades are great wars inspired by mighty religious authority and leadership. Crusades may indeed have many goals--political, military, economic, and cultural--much like any other kind of war. However, Crusades also have a potent religious or spiritual motivation for everyone involved, from the greatest priest, nobleman and soldier, to the most humble peasant conscript, merchant, or squire--at least to some degree. Naturally, there are individuals that may participate in the Crusade for entirely personal, worldly, even selfish reasons, and who could care less about any sort of religious motivation at all. However, for the most part, the majority of the people involved in a crusade have some level of sincere religious and spiritual motivation for participating--this too, can be seen through both official pronouncements and purposes--but also include deeply personal spiritual motivations as inspiration for an individual's particpation in the crusade.

What Motivates the Crusade?

01-10% The Infidels have arrested, enslaved, or attacked traveling pilgrims of the faith that seek to reach shrines, temples and holy places sacred to the Crusader's faith that are located in border regions, or in distant, foreign lands.

11-20% The Infidels have siezed and occupied shrines, temples and holy places sacred to the faith that are located in border regions, or in distant, foreign lands.

21-30% The Infidels have attacked, burned and destroyed shrines, temples and holy places sacred to the faith that are located in border regions, or in distant, foreign lands.

31-40% The Infidels have attacked shipping belonging to the Crusader's faith, and proceeded to kill, enslave, or forcibly convert all passengers and crew to the Infidel's faith at swordpoint. Such passengers and crew that are thusly converted are not released to their freedom, but rather, they are essentially enslaved as well, and taken far away from any border regions, where they are isolated and forced to live and embrace the Infidel's religion.

41-50% The Infidels have attacked and invaded lands belonging to the Crusader's, or lands and peoples allied to the Crusader's, where they have burned, raped, and established their foreign rule by force of armies, tyranny, and oppression.

51-70% The Infidels are not merely content to be different from the Crusader's faith, and remain in their own lands practicing their own faith and minding their own business--but rather, they are not content to do this; instead, they seek conquer and convert all lands and peoples that their armies can reach; and for those lands and peoples that the Infidel's armies cannot reach--yet--they still seek to influence, intimidate, and subjugate by cultural influence, political intimidation, and economic competition--always backed up by the knowledge that military conquest and domination may come at some future time if such lands and peoples do not submit earlier.

71-00% The Infidels have committed one or more of these terrible deeds--or all of them.

Nature of the Strange, Foreign Faith of the Infidels

01-20% The Infidels are zealous followers of a strange, foreign religion that is somewhat different in many ways from the Crusader's faith--and seems entirely evil and wicked, embracing theological and philosophical ideas, customs and practices that are seen as hateful, evil and wicked on every level by the Crusader's faith.

21-40% The Infidels are zealous followers of a strange, foreign religion that is distinctly different in many ways from the Crusader's faith--and seems entirely evil and wicked, embracing theological and philosophical ideas, customs and practices that are seen as hateful, evil and wicked on every level by the Crusader's faith.

41-00% The Infidels are zealous followers of a strange, foreign religion that is radically different from the Crusader's faith--and seems entirely evil and wicked, embracing theological and philosophical ideas, customs and practices that are seen as hateful, evil and wicked on every level by the Crusader's faith.


Feudalism is the medieval social and political system of government that pervades the lands of a medieval society. Feudalism is essentially a complex pyramid of interlocking political alliances between both individuals and families, insuring a chain of command, a reasonably-unified sense of common purpose and general foreign and domestic policies, as well as a greatly enhanced network of force both to prosecute offense against a common enemy, but also as a form of defense against any common enemy that seeks to pose as a threat.

In a standard Medieval European milieu, Feudalism contains the following heirarchy of nobles, each having the loyalty, allegiance, and service of nobles under them, and in turn, providing their loyalty, allegiance, and service to nobles ranked above them.

Arch-Duke, Arch-Prince, etc.
Great Baron (Also Great Lord)
Lord (Also Baron)
Knight (Also Squire, Esquire)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Crusades


The Crusades of the Middle Ages can be very inspiring for ideas in the game. I recently watched the film, "The Kingdom of Heaven", directed by Ridley Scott. The film reminded me that there are a vast range of cultural and religious nuances that can serve as the root of conflict in a campaign, some of which can be very complex, as well as having the apparent superficial quality of seeming to be quite trivial. However, upon closer inspection, even seemingly trivial points of difference--such as obscure theological doctrinal differences--can, when they are practiced and held by whatever culture or people, build up and generate some significant friction, and reason for conflict.

Then, in the game-world where there are often many different religions, the scope for religious conflict expands greatly, not to mention the potential conflicts even within various racial religions, i.e elves, which might develop different philosophical interpretations on the *most important* aspect of a particular deity, or religious precept.

Then again, in my campaigns, while there is divine involvement, and periodically communication to various degrees, it isn't like priests sit down to have coffee with their patron god or goddess. The gods may have said "X" at some time in the past, or inscribed some crazy magical tablet, but it remains for the priests and priestesses to *interpret* such things. That's where I have a lot of fun creating different theologies, and philosophies that drive and inspire different religions, from where they can take a philosophical doctrine, and practice it one way--while using the same philosophical doctrine, a different branch can practice it another way. Both at the same time, remaining seemingly "true" to whatever divinely-inspired doctrine or commandment.

I will expand this article tomorrow.

Semper Fidelis,


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Enchanted Spellbooks


Spellbooks are great treasures to be gained for magic-users, and more than a few such spellbooks discovered are unusual in some manner. I love spellbooks, for they serve not merely as a reward for good play, but can also serve as adventure hooks, lore, and campaign development. It's always nice to have a quick and easy method to roll up some descriptions for spellbooks suddenly discovered by the players.

Semper Fidelis,



Spellbook Size
01-55% Small
56-75% Large
76-90% Huge
91-00% Enchanted

Spellbook, Pagecount
01-40% Standard
41-70% Large
71-90% Huge
91-00% Enchanted

Spellbook Features
01-40% Mundane
41-60% Unusual
61-75% Rare
76-90% Mystical
91-00% Legendary

Spellbook Knowledge
01-30% Mundane
31-60% Unusual
61-75% Rare
76-90% Mystical
91-00% Legendary

Spellbook Defenses
01-25% Standard Properties
26-50% Standard Properties, plus Lock
51-75% Standard Properties, plus Lock, plus Trapped
76-00% Standard Properties, plus Lock, Trapped, and Enchanted

Spellbook Form and Decoration
01-05% Standard Form, Simple Decoration
06-25% Standard Form, Standard Decoration
26-45% Standard Form, Fine Decoration
46-60% Standard Form, Rich Decoration
61-70% Standard Form, Exotic Decoration
71-72% Strange Form, Simple Decoration
73-76% Strange Form, Standard Decoration
77-82% Strange Form, Fine Decoration
83-90% Strange Form, Rich Decoration
91-00% Strange Form, Exotic Decoration

Monday, January 11, 2010

Book Review: The Enemies of Rome


Book Review: The Enemies of Rome (Philip Matyszak, 2004, Thames & Hudson, 296 pages)

I will complete this review soon. As a preview, however, I shall mention a few remarks, as follows; This is an excellent work, and I highly recommend it. It has some very nice elements useful for portraying warfare, cultures, and characters in a game campaign.

Semper Fidelis,


Sunday, January 10, 2010

Book Review: Cannae


I love being inspired by history. (No surprise there! *laughs*). I often gain insights into roleplaying, world-building, civilizations, customs, cultures, and raw, brutal action and adventures from real-world history. I present below a non-fiction book review, of the book Cannae, that I have very much enjoyed, and highly recommend.

Semper Fidelis,


Reviewed By: SHARK

Gregory Daly, Cannae, (London and New York: Routledge, 2002)

Cannae is the title of a new book written by Mr. Gregory Daly concerning the ancient battle of Cannae in 216 BC between the Carthaginians and the Romans during the Second Punic War. Daly has attempted a comprehensive analysis of the epic battle of Cannae combining the small-scale tactical and the larger operational perspectives, while seeking to apply the analytical tools articulated by the historian John Keegan, inspired from Keegan’s book, The Face of Battle. (John Keegan, The Face of Battle, London, 1976) Daly discusses the situations and experiences of the individual soldiers in the ranks, as well as the larger tactical and command issues confronting the commanders of the two opposing armies. Daly provides discussions of the respective armies’ histories, equipment, weapons, tactical doctrines, as well as cultural and strategic concerns. Daly gathers these diverse elements into a vivid, comprehensive analysis that is a valuable contribution to the history of warfare in the ancient world.

Mr. Gregory Daly is a tutor in the Department of Classics and Ancient History at the University of Manchester, England. Daly, as a Briton, is a professional scholar and writes from a position of an upper-middle class status, at least by profession if not also from birth. From such an educated, precise background Daly writes in an environment that insists on scholarly standards and professional methods that are peer-reviewed as a matter of course. Historically, the British academic establishment is well-known for professionalism and precise methodology, and Daly’s acknowledgements and bibliography indicates that he has remained true to this professional tradition.
Daly has written Cannae in an effort to thoroughly analyze the epic battle, as he maintains that few books previously have attempted such a thorough treatment but also to bring to the analysis several perspectives on detailing the experience of the individual, front-line soldiers in a vivid and gripping manner, as articulated by the historian John Keegan. Daly has aimed at writing a work that effectively combines the tactical view-point with the larger, necessarily vague and generalized operational viewpoints, such as that of a commander might view the battlefield from a position of higher vantage.

In the beginning of the book, Daly provides a section on abbreviations and a useful glossary after the acknowledgements. Following such, Daly introduces the history of the Romans and the Carthaginians, and of the events and trends that lead to their historical conflict in the Punic Wars. The early introductions also discuss the growing tensions and economic and political rivalry growing between Rome and Carthage during the early years leading up to the Punic Wars. Daly provides a concise, though detailed discussion of the First Punic War, highlighted by Rome’s robust naval policy that brought victory, chiefly through the development of the Corvis, a beaked assault bridge that Roman ships used to close with the Carthaginian vessels in hand-to-hand combat. (6).

Daly discusses the ancient sources, such as Polybius and Livy, providing a thorough analysis and critique of these ancient commentators that is useful and insightful. In somewhat of a departure from other books discussing ancient battles, where many authors choose not to include such a discussion, or delve into the briefest of notations, Daly seeks to provide something more in including a discussion of such ancient sources. The following chapters of the book discuss the tactics, weapons, strategies, and an overall historical and strategic build-up to the epic battle at Cannae during the Second Punic War. Daly discusses food rations, armour, and numerous details in a wealth of information that equips the reader with an almost personalized experience of being a Roman soldier marching to war, or as a Carthaginian mercenary from some distant land of the Mediterranean. These sections lead up to a thorough, highly detailed analysis of the battle, stage by stage, finalizing with a conclusion of interesting and authoritative analysis.

Daly writes in a very orderly, systematic manner, moving from one particular detail to another, ranging in discussion from the ranks and duties of specific soldiers and officers, like the Roman Centurion, to specific weapons and armour. For example, while discussing leaders, ranks, and duties, Daly provides numerous ancient sources discussing the Centurion, such as Polybius, as well as modern peers such as Goldworthy and Hansen, and specifically the career of one Centurion who was decorated repeatedly for valour and earned the coveted rank of Centurio primi pili. (63) The Centurion was the backbone of the Roman Legion, as it was the duty of the Centurions to lead their men by example. (63)

Daly follows the detailed discussion of ranks and command structure with a chapter on the nature of command. Daly discusses with keen detail the requirements of command, the need for intelligence, and the motivation of troops, and the building of an effective Esprit de Corps. (115-116) In Daly’s discussion of the nature of command and the command analysis of both the Romans and the Carthaginians, Daly makes extensive use of the ancient historians like Polybius, Vegetius, and Livy, but also modern scholars like Hansen, Goldworthy, and particularly Keegan. (116) The nature of command, professional chains of command, as well as the expectations of the respective commanders all play an essential role in affecting the ebb an flow of battle, and ultimately, the outcome of tens of thousands of armoured men slashing and hacking at each other in an orgy of death and destruction.

Daly works into the description of the bloody charnel house that the 80,000 Romans and 40,000 Carthaginians grimly embraced on that hot summer day in 216 BC. Daly goes into extensive description of the accounts of the various noises that ancient warriors like the Celts and the Iberians made as they went into battle, providing ancient sources on the baying sounds of Celtic war horns, and the cries and growls of the barbarian warriors as they sought to intimidate their enemies and strike fear into the hearts of the men facing them. (170)
Daly provides ancient as well as modern analysis of skirmisher warfare, tactics, and weaponry. (174) Daly discusses the nature of the men called to be skirmishers, their demeanor and their approach to warfare. The Romans and the Carthaginians both used skirmishers, though such skirmishers were from different tribes and peoples. The skirmishers served as a sort of warm-up for the battle to come, as well as an opportunity for each side to engage in a form of tactical psychological warfare. The discussion details the purposes, weapons, but also the tactical effectiveness of the employment of skirmisher forces in the opening prelude to battle. (174) Daly describes with precision the kill zones of the various infantry soldiers, and the effects of their weapons in hand to hand combat. (186-187) Here, as Daly does throughout the book, Daly provides commentary and analysis from both ancient scholars and modern, showing where the analysis agrees, as well as discussing past errors or misinterpretations of such combat. (186-187) Daly provides a chilling analysis of the suggested effect of the mass unleashing of javelins and sling stones upon the mass ranks of trapped Romans, and the surmised effect that such a constant barrage, without escape and without let up, on the Roman troops themselves, but also upon their morale. In the battle of Cannae, as the Romans were closed in on and trapped, such a deluge of unseen and relentless death and agony was no doubt devastatingly effective. (196) Though seemingly obvious, the detail and process by which the Carthaginians may have employed their skirmishers in closing the Romans up for slaughter, as Daly suggests, is instructive and thoughtful. Daly brings the book to a close by describing the final annihilation, where some 50-65,000 Romans died in combat in one dread and terrible day. Daly discusses the limitations of the chief ancient source, that of Polybius, and how Daly’s analysis has drawn upon other sources and perspectives to provide a more thorough and compelling account, (204) as well as a more accurate portrayal of the epic battle and the battle’s grim lessons, that has been indelibly etched into the consciousness of Western culture from the ancient Romans through the present day.

Mr. Gregory Daly has written perhaps the most authoritative account and analysis of the ancient battle of Cannae ever produced. Daly’s thesis is clear, and thoughtful. Daly provides a comprehensive analysis that provides a detailed view on every aspect of the battle, the armies of men who fought, and the generals who led these men into combat. Daly provides counter discussion to previous evidence and analysis, and cogently supports his own analysis with a different approach with the same ancient sources, as well as using modern experts and scientific knowledge of weaponry, physics, and so on to strengthen and detail his analysis. Daly writes in an accessible manner for the general reader or student, and yet provides a thorough framework of supporting detail and evidence to fully satisfy the scholar. Cannae provides an expert, comprehensive analysis of this event in Roman history and is an excellent resource for any academic reading list.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Urban Housing: Boarding Houses, Tenements and Apartments

Urban Housing: Boarding Houses, Tenements and Apartments



I often find in my own campaigns that the group will move into a new town or city, and stay for awhile. During such times, of course, it's pretty common to have them simply rent some rooms at the local tavern/inn. However, I have found that occasionally mixing this up can be fun. In history, the ubiquitous hotel/motel thing that we have in our own modern era was something rather rare. In medieval times, many traveling strangers were put up by the local church, allowed to stay at someone's local barn, or they were allowed to rent space at a large, public inn which simply featured a huge, barn-like common room.

Interestingly, in ancient Roman times, there were roadside "Inns" as we more typically see in D&D--however, they were far less luxurious than is often seen of game taverns, and could be quite dangerous as well, attracting all manner of gamblers, outlaws, mercenaries, and thugs--often spying the place out for rich travelers to have their gang target later on down the road once they left the relative safety of the roadside Inn. However, the Romans also developed something else we see commonly in the modern era--the Apartment Complex.

Yes, the Romans had many such apartment buildings throughout the empire in large cities as well as towns. In Rome, these apartment complexes could easily reach three stories high, and provide housing for hundreds of people--quite like we have today. Furthermore, the Roman apartment complexes also had a special laundry area set aside for common use of the tenants, as well as public restrooms. In addition, many of these apartment buildings also featured small restaurants, and "snack bars"--small, single room open stalls just outside the apartment building proper, equipped with a large countertop, and several grills and fire-pits inside. The countertop was open to the street, and tenants could walk right up on their way home after work and order a simple meal for dinner, or stop by during the midday for lunch. Very modern of the Romans, heh?

Of course, the laundry room, restroom, and restaurants were also favourite hang-out spots for various prostitutes to entice potential customers. Also, it can be surmised--many of the prostitutes offering themselves at these convenient spots were also tenants and lived in the same apartment complex itself.

Then, of course, from the early-to-mid 20th century in America we have the ubiquitous "Boarding House". These places were also especially popular before the 20th century as well. There are some instances and pieces of evidence that suggest that such living arrangements have always been a feature of semi-urban life, from medieval times, as well as in ancient times.

Thus, there are more interesting options for player characters and NPC's, too!--to have a place to live while they are working and living--whether they ever gain the wealth to buy a house or castle. These additional options create some new opportunities and variety, aside from the typical and routine "Tavern" or "Inn" that is so prevalent within the typical game milieu.

Semper Fidelis,


Boarding Houses/Apartments/Tenements

Housing Project Size
01-70% One Story
71-90% Two Stories
91-00% Three or more stories

Housing Unit Size
01-35% Single Room
36-55% Two Room
56-75% Three Room
76-90% Four Room
91-00% Five Room or more.

Housing Room Size
01-30% Small 10'-ft x 10'-ft.
31-70% Standard 12'-ft. x 12'-ft.
71-80% Large 14'-ft. x 14'-ft.
81-90% Huge 16'-ft. x 16'-ft.
91-00% Palatial 20'-ft. x 20'-ft or more

Number of Individual Housing Units
01-25% Small 7-12 Individual Units (Roll 1d6+6)
26-65% Standard 15-20 Individual Units (Roll 1d6+14)
66-80% Large 22-40 Individual Units (Roll 2d10+20)
81-90% Huge 64-100 Individual Units (Roll 4d10+60)
91-00% Palatial 146-200 or more Individual Units (Roll 6d10+140)

Friday, January 8, 2010

Paladins in the Sandbox World of Rogues!


Over on Zak's D&D with pornstars blog-- writes a very entertaining and interesting article about the ease of integrating roguish characters into a S&S/Old School/Sandbox campaign. Zak explains how *upstanding* heroic characters are more or less "reactive" as opposed to the roguish characters being "proactive" in pursuing and developing adventures. For roguish characters, as Zak testifies, practically write their own adventures, with little preparation required from the GM.

While I agree with much of what Zak says, I must disagree not only with him, but anyone else that maintains that *Old School* D&D/Sandbox/S&S campaigns highlight roguish characters while being unsuited to "Upstanding and Heroic" characters.

I certainly agree--the S&S literature, historically speaking, highlighted such roguish characters. However, in any *Old School/Sandbox/S&S* campaign this not only need not be so--but that heroic, upstanding characters, such as heroic soldiers, devout clerics, valiant mages, and righteous paladins can easily have as much to do as any roguish character.

In such a amoral, cynical and corrupt world as is often featured--and assumed--in S&S campaigns, etc, adventures are just outside the castle gates, or just beyond the temple doors for heroic characters. For example, the righteous paladin--in such a world, there is no end to the corrupt nobles scheming at court against the King; also, there is no shortage of wicked, corrupt priests, and a plethora of evil enchantresses and witches seeking to bring evil and darkness to the realm. Not to mention the savage countryside is full of barbaric monsters and ruthless brigands at every turn. Furthermore, even within the relatively civilized walls of the sprawling city, there are streaming hordes of vicious, grasping unwashed masses, seeking to riot, rape, burn and plunder at the slightest provocation. Let us also not forget there are packs of cruel and evil ruffians lurking in the dark alleys, as well as slave rings, thieves' guilds, and an assortment of criminals, murderers, weird cultists, and the like scheming night and day.

In such an environment, the said righteous paladin never needs to even leave the city gates to keep himself busy crushing the wicked and bringing death and fire to the enemies of the gods, and the realm at large.

A good GM should be able to effortlessly unveil numerous adventures for the righteous paladin, or any similar heroic character, just as easy as for any group of shiftless rogues and greedy mercenaries!

I suppose I believe that it really is only easier for a GM to run a group of roguish characters at first glance; giving the situation a quick look from a different perspective, and running heroic characters in a dynamic environment easily and dramatically comes to life.

Semper Fidelis,


Thursday, January 7, 2010

Sex, Racism and Slavery


Well, I've been reading a bit, and it seems that including the topics of sex, racism, and slavery in the campaign is a hot issue for many. People exclaim, with great "indignation" how shocked and horrified they are that any particular DM would dare to include such in the campaign! These self-satisfied folks claim that the "game" is no place for such topics, and they would never play in a campaign that included them, as they are either much too *squick, ewww!*--or they are simply entirely too inflammatory.

I confess a certain confusion at all the proclamations that any D&D campaign must be rated *G* or *PG-13* at best, so as to not offend anyone's precious sensibilities. It strikes me as supremely hypocritical and contradictory that many of these same gamers complain vehemently about how "bored they are with vanilla, scrubbed clean PG" D&D.

Well, which is it? Unless of course you do happen to be running a campaign with children, rather than a group of 21+ adult men and women, what else would they have if not "vanilla, scrubbed-clean PG" D&D, if they refuse to change the dynamics of a sanitized D&D game? After all, throughout good literature that inspires the D&D game, especially S&S, sex, racism, and slavery are not only common ingredients, but often serve as focal points of conflict, or excitement and drama.

I say, yes, bring on the sex, racism, and slavery! It adds many layers of complexity, as well as drama and fun to the game. Obviously, such topics must be integrated with care and attention--though there is no need to raise a hue and cry at the mere mention of including them, or expressing an interest and intention in doing so.

Semper Fidelis,


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Cultural Crossroads and Forgotten Cultures


Ancient and medieval *crossroads* have always fascinated me. Some historical crossroads are well-known, of course, such as Constantinople (Ancient Byzantium), Samarkand, Palmyra, and Babylon. However, some are not nearly as well known. Various parts of ancient Greece, including Athens, were certainly cultural *crossroads*. I am also reminded of geographical regions, that served as cultural *crossroads*, such as the Ionian Coast, various settlements along the Black Sea, as well as the southern Balkan region, and later, the Hanseatic League of northern Germany and Poland.

I've also been doing some thinking about how many types of cultural types have been largely ignored by most gaming companies over the years--Africa, Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and India, as well as China all come to mind.

When I have done research for my degree in Ancient & Medieval History, some of my studies led me down the path of discovering much more information about all of these areas and cultures than the standard education typically provides.

I encourage all of you to do some reading and thinking about these different cultures, and also about the cultural *crossroads* that intersected with the *West*--and including such concepts and themes in your games. If you have done so already--how have you included them? What elements did you use, and what times, regions or cultures were you most inspired by?

Semper Fidelis,


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Music For Gaming


Music often adds a great sense of ambience to a gaming session. I highly recommend the following artists:

Loreena McKinnit
Lord of the Rings Soundtrack
Gladiator Soundtrack
Kingdom of Heaven Soundtrack
Rob Roy Soundtrack
Braveheart Soundtrack

I'll add some more as I review my lists.

Great stuff!

Semper Fidelis,


Monday, January 4, 2010

Does 4E Cause Amnesia or Drain 4E player's Creativity?


Well, I was reading various posts and discussions on the internet recently, and noticed several discussions where 4E fans were gushing about how great and enjoyable 4E is, especially compared to *any* older version of D&D, and made frequent commentary about how in 4E, a DM who places an orc in a 10x10 room just doesn't cut it, because the mobility and freedom of the new game has outstripped and surpassed anything that came before it in older editions. This newfound freedom and mobility allows characters to "swing from chandeliers"; "Tip over bookcases against foes" "leap and do acrobatic stunts"; and otherwise perform crazy stunts exploiting the environment constantly in every encounter.


When the hell did characters *stop* being able to do any of those things in older editions of D&D? Let's see...AD&D...players "swing from chandeliers"; "Tip over bookcases" and otherwise exploit the environment all the time, at every opportunity.

Does 4E cause Amnesia? Has 4E drained players and DM's of their creativity to such a degree that they need *rules* to tell them to "swing from chandeliers" and otherwise use the environment during encounters?

Just wow, you know. What the hell has happened in 4E?

Semper Fidelis,


Sunday, January 3, 2010

We're Here to Help You--Asylums in the Campaign


The Asylum is used as a strange setting adventure site in my campaign. The Vallorean Empire has many asylums throughout the land, providing a relatively safe and secure place for the insane to live, separate from the rest of the *good* society. Families often send their nutjob relatives and problem-children to live forever in Asylums, where they cannot escape and interact with others, or cause problems and embarrassment. Not to mention that many of those that are afflicted with various kinds of insanities are quite dangerous to others--as well as themselves. Asylums are supported two-fold--from support from the Provincial Governor or King, as well as private donations from family members, and other citizens.

Asylums vary greatly in the amenities they provide, as well as the standard of care and the quality of staff training. Many asylums are the final destination professionally and socially for maladjusted social-misfit psychological care-providers, quasi-medical and healer professionals, quack doctors and surgeons, and mad alchemists. Add in the borderline criminally-insane, as well as other assorted freaks and social and sexual predators and that is a large portion of the staff at any given asylum.

Many of the workers and staff at asylums are themselves afflicted with numerous neurosis and insanities; however, they are simply better able to minimally function within the society so as to go unnoticed, or at least somewhat so, enough for them to maintain relative personal and professional independence.

The particular nature and conditions of asylums naturally tend to attract the bizarre and predatory, appealing to those who have an interest in degrading, exploiting, or experimenting on other people afflicted with strange insanities and mental conditions, as well as physical deformities that typically make them incapable or unlikely to voice complaints about how they live or how they are treated. Naturally, as most of society is generally indifferent or even fearful and scornful of mentally ill people, as well as deformed, and maladjusted misfits, most of society turns a deaf and unbelieving ear to most complaints that are made, consigning them to wild imagination and insane ramblings of the damned, demon-possessed, or those who are otherwise seen as unlucky, and cursed by fate and abandoned by the gods.

However, there are some that do enter professions dealing with caring for the mentally ill, the insane, the deformed, and other social maladjusted misfits with a sincere desire to provide care and comfort, if not solutions and healing. Unfortunately, even many such people become overwhelmed with the workload, the lack of financial funds for the institution, poor pay, and little social or professional respect. Many become depressed themselves, and disillusioned, and leave the medical care and healing professions and services entirely. Some do manage to stay, out of personal dedication, or religious devotion and self-discipline, and strive to provide the best care they are able to do.

Some few still, are not only sincere and professional, and selflessly dedicated to the welfare of the people entrusted into their care, but also are gifted with enormous empathy for those that suffer, and also have some talent of brilliance or inspiration that allows them to develop and provide truly enlightened care to all those that live within the asylum.

Asylum Size
01-20%: Small
21-50%: Medium
51-75%: Large
76-90%: Huge
91-00%: Palatial

Asylum Estate Quality
01-20%: Poor
21-70%: Standard
71-85%: Good
86-95%: Excellent
96-00%: Outstanding

Asylum Professional Quality
01-25%: Poor
26-75%: Standard
76-85%: Good
86-95%: Excellent
96-00%: Outstanding

Asylum Operational Quality
01-25%: A House of Damnation
26-45%: A Diabolic Zoo
46-65%: A Delirious Playground
66-70%: Indifferent and Experimental
71-85%: Roughly Adequate
86-90%: A House of Discipline
91-95%: Devout and Professional
96-98%: Empathetic and Sincere
99-00%: Enlightened and Noble

A House of Damnation
The House of Damnation is much like the Diabolic Zoo--except it actively seeks to use regular humanoid sacrifices to open and control mystical gates, create new races of creatures, and draw upon a plethora of philosophies of the damned, the most lascivious and wicked wizards, physicians and philosophers, as well as other staff that have otherwise honed some particular skill set...these institutions are a carefully constructed charade enclosing a gathering of wicked criminals, sociopaths, wizards, and a range of other brilliant individuals that are otherwise ostracized or feel distant or out of sync with the larger community. A House of Damnation seeks out and attracts such individuals, seeking to locate, and gather them in such places so as to organize, and use their combined evil knowledge for grander schemes and plans, both often from a practical level, though also from a philosophical, and theoretical level.

A Diabolic Zoo
An institution such as this is a huge upgrade from a delerious playground. The Diabolic Zoo actively cultivates and attracts insane, though brilliant mages, physicians, and philosophers, and zealously pursue all manner of wicked schemes, insane theories, and blood-drenched, horrific experiments. While it has much in common with the Delerious Playground, the Diabolic Zoo possesses a much larger degree of actually skilled and talented staff.

A Delerious Playground
This kind of institution maintains the appearance of an appropriate and professional institution--though all of that is a carefully designed charade. In reality, when the last visitors leave for the day, and the doors are closed by the muscular, stern guardians--the staff is engaged in wildly preying upon the patients, conducting evil and cruel jokes, tortures, and experiments, and generally indulging every whim they can, at the expense of the patients, and the families and taxes that pay for such support. However, there are occasionally sincere individual staff members that seek to actually accomplish something positive--though they are greatly outnumbered and typically outranked--by other staff that are more or less morally bankrupt, careless, lazy, and possessed with various insanities and embrace an assortment of socially maladjusted beliefs.

Indifferent and Experimental
Such an institution often provides care at a considerable discount--though the staff are largely indifferent to the overall welfare of the patients. Certainly, basic care is provided, and the appearance of an adequate environment is there--though behind the scenes, the staff is typically far more involved with their own entertainments, or in conducting genuine, and perhaps even sincere experiments on the patients, in the belief that their experiments and research is ultimately more important in the bigger scheme of things than the immediate care and consistent welfare, of the patients.

Roughly Adequate
An asylum such as this is operated by a mixed staff--some are dedicated and sincere, while others are often lazy, apathetic, or generally uninspired--as well as some being malevolent and predatory. The institution has a basic mix of equipment, supplies, and so on, to provide a roughly adequate environment for most patients staying at such an asylum. Naturally, occasionally accidents occur, as well as various incidents of neglect or abuse, and the occasional scandal of lewd debauchery is uncovered. However, such an institution provides care at a considerable discount from more well-funded and well-established institutions, and thus they attract and maintain a large customer base.

A House of Discipline
An asylum such as this is operated by a strict, disciplined staff of professionals that provide basic, orthodox care in a strictly supervised manner governed by extensive protocols and regulations. While generally competent, and generally safe for patients--such an institution generates little empathy, and lacks the capacity to embrace any new ideas or unorthodox techniques or practices.

Devout and Professional
An asylum such as this is operated by a staff of highly trained, religiously and professionally devout practitioners and healers. The staff seeks to provide the best possible care, though no breakthrough research or wild new ideas or techniques would be typically used or developed in such an institution. Such asylums are often deeply influenced by particular religious doctrines that inspire and guide the philosophy of the care provided at such an asylum.

Empathetic and Sincere
An asylum such as this goes to extraordinary efforts to provide excellent, effective care for their patients. Such an institution--even when the best supplies or skills are not available--seeks to always protect and comfort the patients in a genuinely empathetic environment with sincere, highly dedicated and professional staff.

Enlightened and Noble
An asylum such as this is led by either a single enlightened visionary, or perhaps a group of brilliant physicians and philosopher-healers that are intense and always vigilant for providing the best possible care for the patients--and furthermore, are committed to providing such care in a manner that is ethical and protects and maintains the dignity of the patient as much as is possible--and often such care is provided in ways combining the best as well as novel approaches with magic, science, technology, herbs, as well as philosophy.

Semper Fidelis,


Saturday, January 2, 2010

Building a Better Barbarian


Building a Better Barbarian

Barbarians in the campaign are often pretty dull. It's a class that obviously has potential--harkening back to its 1E AD&D roots, it was interesting then. Mechanically, it has promise, but seems "meh". The flavour, of course, is virtually non-existent in the core rulebooks. In AD&D, of course, with the advent of UA, the Barbarian has been much-debated. The basic notion is that there is no need for a “Barbarian” class—simply use the base “Fighter”, add furs, leather, or loin-cloth, primitive technology, and a savage, “barbaric” culture, and *whalaah*--you have a barbarian. Whether or not a DM uses the basic *Fighter* class to model barbarians, or the Barbarian class itself in some form, there remains a need to develop the background, motif, and flavour of any given barbarian or group of barbarians encountered in the milieu.

Thus, I designed some tables to relatively quickly determine some quick guidelines of a barbarian culture encountered by the players--or as a snapshot to the background of an NPC Barbarian, or some barbarian opponents. Questions would frequently arise--What are their marriage customs? How do they handle crime and punishment? What kind of religious system does this tribe have? How does this barbarian view certain family relationships, or ideas? Or how might he or she--respond to this kind of family relationship or custom over here? What kind of technology does that barbarian tribe have? What kind of skills are they famous or well-known for? And many others.

The Barbarian Technology Tables are divided into two different tables; Table I is for a "Random Campaign Correspondence"; while Table II is for a "Strict Campaign Correspondence". What do these tables mean?

The Random Campaign Correspondence table--Table I--is for when the DM wants there to be broad, open possibilities, vastly different cultural templates and dynamics, and potentially very difficult social, political and cultural problems when such barbarians encounter player characters or NPC's from wildly different cultures.

Table II--the "Strict Campaign Correspondence" table, is much tighter, in that there is less random chance for some culture to be very radically different from the more modern cultures present in the quasi-medieval milieu. The barbarian cultures developed will have a much closer technological and cultural correspondence--or if they do have an Iron Age technology/culture, they will be placed to advance much more rapidly in the larger political scheme of the campaign milieu. In such a case, it would be easier for the DM to advance a particular Iron Age tribe, for example, up to the Early Middle Ages level of technology and thus have less friction within the campaign. It just depends on what kind of open probabilities the DM wants a greater chance of dealing with for the campaign.

Barbarian Technology Table I
01-20% Stone Age
21-40% Bronze Age
41-60% Iron Age
61-80% Dark Ages
81-00% Early Middle Ages

Barbarian Technology Table II
01-10% Stone Age
11-20% Bronze Age
21-40% Iron Age
41-70% Dark Ages
71-00% Early Middle Ages

Barbarian Climate & Terrain Type
01-15% Forest
16-30% Hills
31-45% Mountains
46-60% Steppe/Plain
61-70% Jungle/Swamp
71-80% Desert/Wastes
81-90% Coastal/Islands
91-00% Coastal/Sea Raider

Barbarian Culture & Lifestyle
01-10% Simple Hunter/Gatherers
11-20% Advanced Hunter/Gatherers
21-35% Pastoralism
36-50% Nomadic
51-90% Village-Based; with simple Agriculture
91-00% Village/Town Based; with advanced Agriculture

Barbarian Government & Leadership
01-25% Chieftain--Autocracy/Divine Right
26-50% Chieftain--Warlord/Elder Council
51-60% Chieftain--Longhouse Democracy
61-75% Kingship--Autocracy/Divine Right
76-90% Kingship--Warlord/Elder Council
91-92% Kingship--Confederation; Autocracy/Divine Right
93-94% Kingship--Confederation; Warlord/Elder Council
95-96% Chieftain--Confederation; Autocracy/Divine Right
97-98% Chieftain--Confederation; Warlord/Elder Council
99-00% Chieftain--Confederation; Longhouse Democracy

Barbarian Economy
01-25% Simple Barter Economy, with Local Trade
26-50% Advanced, Complex Barter Economy, with Local Trade
51-65% Simple Barter Economy, Long Ranged Trade
66-80% Advanced Barter Economy, Long Ranged Trade
81-90% Mixed Complex Barter/Coin-based Economy, with Local Trade
91-00% Mixed Complex Barter/Coin-based Economy, Long Ranged Trade

Barbarian Social Justice & Punishment
01-02% Simple Justice
03-04% Simple Justice+Violence I
05-06% Simple Justice+Violence I; plus Indentured Servitude I
07-08% Simple Justice+Violence I; plus Indentured Servitude II;
09-10% Simple Justice+Violence II; Slavery I
11-30% Simple Justice+Violence II; Slavery II
31-50% Simple Justice+Violence III; Slavery I
51-90% Simple Justice+Violence III; Slavery II
91-95% Simple Justice+Violence IV; Slavery I
96-00% Simple Justice+Violence IV; Slavery II

Interpreting the table results:
Simple Justice: Simple Justice refers to the comprehensive social justice systems embraced virtually universally by all tribes of people throughout history; these customs form the basis of almost all justice systems, to one degree or another; they are generally composed of the following customs: Compensatory; Social Outcast, Labour, Exile

Violence I: Torture
The culture embraces and accepts the use of torture as punishment or for whatever means necessary in addition to standard simple justice.

Violence II: Torture and Execution
The culture also embraces various forms and methods of execution, as a form of punishment along with torture and standard simple justice.

Violence III: Torture, Execution, Sacrifice
The culture embraces customs of religiously sacrificing victims to their gods as a form of punishment in addition to execution, torture, and standard simple justice.

Violence IV: Torture, Execution, Sacrifice, Cannabalism: The culture embraces Cannibalism--the feasting on other human beings as well as other humanoid creatures, as a form of punishment, in addition to torture, execution, sacrifice, and simple justice.

Indentured Servitude I: Limited
Limited; the culture embraces Indentured Servitude; using the custom as a punishment for a specific period of time, and or for specific people; various kinds of criminals, war prisoners, foreign captives, adoptive members of the tribe from foreigners, etc. Indentured Servants also possess specific rights--unlike slaves, who may have no rights whatsoever. Limited Indentured Servitude usually has limits of from months to years, though 7 years is generally the maximum.

Indentured Servitude II: General
General; the culture embraces Indentured Servitude on a much larger basis; the times sentenced may be specific and temporary, or much longer; General can encompass typically sentences of any number of years, up to 20. General Indentured Servitude may be limited to only foreign males; foreigners in general; war prisoners; criminals; foreign women; any halfling; and so on.

Slavery I: Limited
The culture embraces limited slavery. This may be only Half Orcs; Only Halflings; Only War Prisoners; Only Foreign Captives; Only Criminals; or some other kind of institutional limitation based on sex/gender, race, religion, status, ethnicity/culture, and so on. There may be more than one qualifier, as well. In limited slavery, slaves may enjoy some legal, cultural, or social rights, to one degree or another, depending on the culture. This form of slavery differs from the more general slavery, where virtually anyone and everyone can be condemned to slavery.

Slavery II: General
The culture embraces general slavery; criminals, foreigners, war prisoners, war captives, of whatever sex/gender, race or culture can be condemned to slavery, for life unless released by their master while alive, or in the master's will. Slaves have virtually no rights whatsoever, and may worked brutally and inhumanely, be sacrificed, tortured, or killed for any reason, or for mere whim.

Barbarian Marriage Customs
01-05% Monogamous; Strict, Formal
06-10% Monogamous; Loose, Informal
11-20% Monogamous; Loose, Informal, Concubinage
21-25% Polygamous; Strict, Formal
26-40% Polygamous; Loose, Informal
41-90% Polygamous; Loose, Informal, Concubinage
91-00% Polyandrous/Tribal/Group (Subtable)
01-30% Polyandrous; Strict, Formal
31-90% Polyandrous; Loose, Informal
91-94% Polyandrous; Loose, Informal, Concubinage
95-96% Tribal/Group; Strict, Formal
97-98% Tribal/Group; Loose, Informal
99-00% Tribal/Group; Loose, Informal, Concubinage

Strict: A strict adherence to fidelity and exclusive sexual relations is expected. Violation of these expectations and customs may provoke serious social and or legal consequences. Adultery is often punished with savage torture, and often death sentences are the standard.

Loose: People involved have varying expectations of absolute sexual fidelity and exclusivity; mistresses, lovers, and so on are fairly common, and generally accepted.

Formal: The society has very high standards and strict rules and expectations for any kind of divorce. There may be specific requirements that the couple or people involved must exhibit in order to be allowed to divorce. There may be various significant social and religious stigmas attached to anyone that has been divorced. Children born out of wedlock are likewise social outcasts if such is becomes known.

Informal: The culture has no strict requirements concerning divorce, and divorce is relatively easy and simple to do, with no social, religious or cultural stigmas for anyone involved. In addition, children born out of wedlock are not subject to being outcasts, and may be common and entirely accepted.

Concubinage: The culture embraces the custom of maintaining concubines for a married person, whether male or female. In the cases where concubines provide children, the children have some rights of inheritance. In addition, concubines have an official, legal and social status, and enjoy specific social, legal and inheritance rights.

Barbarian Religion
01-30% Comprehensive Pantheon
31-70% Nature/Elements Pantheon
71-85% Animism/Spiritualism
86-95% Great Spirit/Animism/Spiritualism
96-00% Other

Barbarian Religious Leadership
01-05% Shaman--Exclusively Male or Female Genders
06-10% Shaman--Both genders may serve as shamans
11-30% Priests--Exclusively Male or Female Genders
31-50% Priests--Both genders may serve as priests
51-60% Druids--Exclusively Male or Female Genders
61-70% Druids--Both genders may serve as druids
71-80% Informal Clergy: Witches, Witch-Doctors, Holy Hermits. Both or either genders may serve; many are open; some have restrictions. Culture may have one or more types, as appropriate.
81-00% Special: Roll again; any Shaman, Priest, or Druid type, plus Informal Clergy.

Semper Fidelis,