Friday, January 31, 2020

Part 2: Experts/Specialists for 3.5/LotFP/B/X-OSE


Following up on my last post about different expert type characters for various editions of D&D, this presents a few more of my “character concepts” that I originally created for the 3.5 Edition. As I was working on trying to translate them to different OSR systems, I struggled with how to make some of them “adventurer worthy.” Quite a few of the concepts I created, while they work with the mechanics of the expert NPC class for the 3.5 rules, wouldn’t necessarily work in earlier version of the game without adding too many fiddly rules or new skills, which is antithetical to OSR sensibilities.

After chatting in the comments with Chris from “A Rust Monster Ate My Sword” on my last expert post, I’ve decided that these particular expert types are more likely to be good 0-level characters for OSR games like Lamentations of the Flame Princess or B/X or Old School Essentials. So, in this case, I’m not going to provide stats for the OSR games, but you can still use the background information to play a 0-level character in those games if you want a challenge and to emulate something similar to the “character creation funnel” from Dungeon Crawl Classics. As Chris noted in his comments to me, “…rather than provide a complete rules structure to support them, I treated them as 0-level, class-less characters until they got a little experience, then funneled them into the class that made the most sense (Fighter acted as the default class). As for their special talents, we just kept in mind where they started from and ‘played it by ear’.”

One last note on these; as I mentioned in my comments on the last post, the publisher at the time had originally proposed the “Doxy” as an expert type he wanted covered in the book. I wrote one up for my original proposal, but was considering not including it here until Chris mentioned in the comments to my last post that I should include it. My hope is that no one is offended by including it.

With all that out of the way, today I present the Cartographer, Doxy, Herbalist, Historian, Scribe, and Stone Mason.

As always, I look forward to your thoughts and comments. I’ll have some more actual classes for LotFP and B/X-OSE in a future post.


https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Giovanni_Cassini_2.jpg
The original uploader was SITCK at Luxembourgish Wikipedia. [Public domain]
CARTOGRAPHER

A good cartographer can be an adventurer’s best friend.  In a world filled with magic, monsters, and treasure, it takes more than a little bit of luck to survive.  It takes knowledge.  When an adventurer hears a tale from a wizened old man in the corner of the tavern about a dragon’s treasure horde that exists in a mountain hideaway “somewhere beyond Pegasus Peak”, the first thing he’s likely to do is try to obtain a map to the area.  A well-drawn map can help a smart adventuring party find the path of least resistance to their quarry.  Cartographers often congregate in areas that are well known to adventuring parties.  Certain locales just seem to have more than their share of mysterious keeps, ancient ruins, and fantastic treasures.  Cartographers set up shop in the villages near these areas, making a tidy profit by selling maps to groups of explorers.  Many are also excellent copiers, and will offer to neatly copy an adventurer’s hastily scribbled maps for him.  The unscrupulous cartographer will also commit this information to memory so that she may create duplicate copies to sell. 

Adventuring:  Like many of the more scholarly types of experts, cartographers are not known to be adventurers.  Their trade requires a workspace complete with drawing tools, paper, atlases, globes, and other reference materials.  A cartographer who has mastered his craft can earn a tidy sum selling his maps to adventuring parties or even to armchair explorers.  For a few, though, the lure of seeing the places they have drawn becomes too great, and some cartographers will leave the safety of their study to take up the life of adventuring, seeking to offer their services to a group of well-equipped adventurers.  If they survive their first expedition outside their workshop, they may be tempted to put their map-making skills to use in a different form.  More rugged types of cartographers may become rangers, while the more studious sort might be tempted to attach themselves to a wizard for arcane training. 

Role-Playing:  The profession of cartography often involves serious schooling to learn the scientific principals of geography and geology as well as history in order to interpret ancient maps correctly.  As such, the cartographer may be among the most educated members of an adventuring party.  She will be quick to point out that she knows the quickest routes to reach the party’s destination.  However, she may become defensive when it becomes apparent to the rest of the group that her knowledge is mainly academic and that she lacks the practical, real-world experience of a guide. 

3.5 Edition Version
Bonuses:  As a master of her craft, the cartographer gains a +2 bonus to all Craft (cartography) checks.  She also gains a +2 bonus to all Decipher Script checks made to recognize and interpret ancient symbols on maps.  In her role as a copier of maps, she may add ½ of her expert class level to all Forgery checks made to copy maps, and may always Take 10 on Forgery checks to copy maps, even when stress or distractions would normally prevent her from doing so. 

Penalties:  The cartographer is not a skilled combatant, and only receives the weapon proficiencies of a wizard. 

Skills:  Appraise, Craft (drawing), Craft (cartography), Decipher Script, Diplomacy, Forgery, Gather Information, Knowledge (geography), Knowledge (history), Profession (cartographer) 


Gerrit van Honthorst, The Procuress, 1625, oil on panel,
71 x 104 cm. Centraal Museum, Utrecht, inv. no. 10786
(artwork in the public domain) 
DOXY

The world’s oldest profession?  Perhaps.  Defined as a wench with loose morals, doxies can be everything from common tarts and mistresses to more socially acceptable concubines and courtesans who might live with the more influential members of society.  What sets them apart is their ability to use the powers of seduction to their advantage. 

Professional doxies who act as courtesans may not be at the top of the social ladder, but they certainly are not at the bottom, either.  Consorting with members of the nobility tends to elevate the social status of the courtesan.  Given her financial independence, many a doxy spends her money to become educated, with an eye toward her future. 

Whether highly paid courtesan, legal concubine, street-wise tart, or professional escort, the doxy character concept covers the gamut of experts who use a combination of seduction, comeliness, and the skills of love to make their way in the world. 

Adventuring:  The life of a doxy can be tough or easy, depending upon the path that one chooses, and also on how one looks.  While the doxy profession itself has its own particular set of adventures, there are many other opportunities for adventure outside of the bedroom.  Professional courtesans with access to the nobility and other wealthy members of society become privy to highly prized secrets, and these secrets can fetch quite a price from the right bidder.  Other types of doxies may find adventures in a more mundane manner, simply by travelling to a new town to find new and (with a bit of luck) wealthier clients.     

Role-Playing:  Doxies are usually the most outgoing types of characters in the adventuring party.  This extroverted behaviour may be part of their true personality or it may simply be a means of getting the job done.  Either way, it does help them immensely when dealing with members of the opposite sex.  Some doxies are a little more discreet, keeping in the shadows but observing and noting everything of importance.  Others are outspoken, obnoxious tarts, ready to take on anything that comes their way.  In any case, one should not assume that the doxy is simply a girl with low self-esteem who never had a chance for a better life. 

3.5 Edition Version
Bonuses:  As part of their profession, doxies learn how to read people, especially potential targets for their affections.  They receive a +2 bonus to all Sense Motive checks.  This distrusting nature of people, along with their own ability to charm those who find them attractive, grants the doxy a +1 bonus to all Will saves versus charms and enchantments.  Lastly, the doxy may re-roll one failed Bluff, Intimidate, or Perform check versus people who would be sexually interested in her.  She can make this check once per person every 24 hours. 

Penalties: Although she is a very captivating and alluring individual, the doxy’s seductive skills can be offensive and annoying to those who would not normally be sexually interested in her advances.  Against such individuals, she must take a -2 penalty to all Charisma-based skill checks, as they see through her “charms” and find her irritating.  The Games Master has final say on who would be sexually attracted to the doxy, but it is recommended that he allow some latitude.  Race and gender should not automatically be considered as reasons to impose the penalty on the doxy. 

Skills: Appraise, Bluff, Disguise, Escape Artist, Intimidate, Perform (character’s choice of one type), Profession (doxy), Sense Motive, Sleight of Hand, Spot


https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tacuin_Sauge36.jpg
unknown master [Public domain]
HERBALIST

In rural areas with limited access to civilized medicine, the herbalist is the one who is trusted with the medical procedures for the community.  A creator of folk remedies, herbal potions, and various ointments, salves, and poultices, the herbalist is a combination of healer, gardener, and naturalist.  Depending upon the campaign, she may also be a chef, midwife, mystic, witch, counselor, and perhaps even town leader.

Herbs are grown for a variety of purposes.  While most uses are benign, including culinary and healing, there is a dark side to the practice of herbalism that involves poisons.  For this reason, fair or not, some people give herbalists a wide berth and are leery of trusting an herbalist, no matter how well-intentioned she may be. 

In general, despite this wariness the common folk are quick to set aside their apprehensions when they need a curative potion or the help of a midwife during childbirth.  The herbalist is happy to oblige, as her art is primarily concerned with improving the overall health of herself and her community. 

Adventuring:  An herbalist’s adventures will principally be focused on the gathering of new herbs for her concoctions.  While some herbs are quite common and readily available in most climates, some of the most powerful herbs are extremely rare and can be found in only certain areas during a specific time of year.  An herbalist may find herself needing to travel quite extensively to gather these ingredients.  She is sure to encounter many obstacles along the way, including fierce beasts, distrustful townspeople, and severe weather conditions.  A good herbalist will be prepared to face all such circumstances as needed.

Role-Playing:  Herbalists, like most characters, are a varied lot.  Most herbalists conform to a certain common model, being wise in the ways of the natural world but perhaps a little uncomfortable within the modern trappings of civilized society.  As the healer of the common people, the vast majority of herbalists are known to be kind, well-meaning individuals who care for the health and safety of both friends and strangers.  Given their above-average wisdom and simpler lifestyle, the herbalist brings a unique viewpoint to an adventuring party, and may question purely mercenary decisions that are made solely to gather more wealth or to harm innocents. 

3.5 Edition Version
Bonuses:  The herbalist may use Craft (herbalism) to make special herbal concoctions (see the Tools of the Trade Chapter).  As a trained forager, the herbalist adds a bonus equal to ½ of her expert class level to all Survival checks she makes when foraging for materials to make herbal concoctions.  Additionally, in her role as a folk medicine healer, the herbalist gains a +2 bonus to all Heal checks she makes. 

Penalties: While the herbalist is able to make powerful herbal mixtures and usually enjoys good social status in her community, she is usually not blessed with wealth.  She starts with the minimum amount of starting gold.  Herbalists are also not known for their combat skills, and their initial weapon selection is limited to the dagger and staff only.    

Skills: Concentration, Craft (herbalism), Handle Animal, Heal, Knowledge (local), Knowledge (nature), Profession (midwife), Sense Motive, Survival, Use Magic Device

Options: A male herbalist, or one who is less focused on assisting childbirth, may trade out Profession (midwife) for Profession (cook) or Profession (gardener). 


https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Quentin_Massys_-
_Portrait_of_a_Man_-_National_Gallery_of_Scotland.jpg
Quentin Matsys [Public domain]
HISTORIAN

The historian devotes his life to learning the lessons of the past and then applying those lessons to modern-day life.  One of a variety of scholarly experts, the historian has a special place in many campaign worlds where the ruins of ancient civilizations dot the landscape.  Deserted dwarven strongholds, rotting elven tree cities, and the crumbling monuments left by prehistoric human cultures all await discovery and exploration.  The historian, while not necessarily equipped to brave these places on his own, is ultimately the best equipped person to pinpoint the location of such fantastic sites that may have been lost for centuries. 

Bards, and to a lesser extent wizards, both have some knowledge of history which they use on a daily basis.  Bards, however, are concerned mainly with the entertainment aspect of his knowledge, seeking to tell a good tale which will earn him a few silver pieces.  A wizard learns history mostly from a desire to improve his mastery of magic, and therefore he focuses only on the arcane secrets of the past. 

Only the historian is an expert on history, having a breadth of knowledge covering the millennia and encompassing the wisdom of many different types of sentient creatures.  Armed with this knowledge, the historian may be able to answer many questions that his adventuring companions may encounter, such as the potential powers of a mysterious magical artifact, or the reason behind the ancient feud between two warring clans. 

Adventuring: While perhaps not generating the immediate image of an adventuring hero, the historian embodies the classic “arm-chair adventurer” who one day decides to experience the adventures first-hand.  Most fantasy campaign worlds are populated with the ruins of ancient cultures and the historian is a natural for adventuring in such places, seeking to learn new secrets from the wisdom of the people who built such civilizations.  A prudent historian will not travel by himself, but will gather the most professional explorers he can to help him with his archaeological expeditions.  

Role-Playing:  The well-educated and learned historian is likely very confident in his knowledge and may even be a little smug when it comes to the topic that he knows best.  Due to his education and his expertise when it comes to knowledge of history, he is likely to be the party leader when the adventure involves journeying to old ruins, searching for ancient battlegrounds, or uncovering long lost secrets.  Given his probable lack of combat expertise, the historian will be quick to rely on the skills of his comrades when any hostile situations arise. 

3.5 Edition Version
Bonuses:  The historian adds a bonus equal to ½ of his expert class level to all Knowledge (history) checks that he makes.  In addition, if multi-classed as a bard or loremaster, he gains a +2 bonus to all bardic knowledge or lore checks that he makes.  Lastly, the historian is an inheritor of ancient secrets.  These secrets take the form of four bonus skill points that can be allocated to any Charisma, Intelligence, or Wisdom based skills.   The normal restriction on maximum skill ranks applies to these bonus skill points. 

Penalties: As he has devoted his life to study and education rather than more physical pursuits, the historian uses only a d4 for hit dice instead of the normal d6. 

Skills:  Concentration, Craft (writing), Decipher Script, Gather Information, Knowledge (history), Knowledge (nobility & royalty), Knowledge (religion), Profession (historian), Search, Speak Language

Options: Some historians are less chroniclers than they are storytellers.  As such, you may decide to swap out Craft (writing) for Perform (storytelling).  Additionally, depending upon the historian’s area of focus, you may wish to change out Knowledge (nobility & royalty) and Knowledge (religion) for other pertinent knowledge topics that relate to history, such as Knowledge (local) or Knowledge (geography). 


https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Escribano.jpg
Jean Le Tavernier [Public domain]
SCRIBE

The creation of identification papers, the drafting of letters of mark, the writing of laws, the copying of religious texts, and the inscribing of magical scrolls – all require the services of a trained and educated scribe.  In some worlds, the scribe is simply another professional, performing his daily duties by copying texts or chronicling political and legal events.  However, the scribe can do so much more beyond just these simple mundane tasks. 

In certain worlds, the scribe may be the only literate profession, capable of reading the lost secrets of a bygone age and copying the information down for posterity’s sake.  Some tyrannical governments may wish to keep certain facts from history hidden from public scrutiny, forcing the scribe underground where she protects her precious copies of these important documents. 

Religious orders, too, require the services of scribes to chronicle the history and rituals of their faith.  Some orders may even require all of their priests to have some basic knowledge and training as scribes before they advance to the priesthood. 

Many other organizations, from guilds to military orders to legal professionals all require the services of a scribe for record-keeping purposes.  Whatever the particular case, scribes have unique skills that are bound to be needed by an adventuring party sooner or later. 

Adventuring: Scribes are some of the least likely people to go adventuring.  Their skills, while extremely useful, are not necessarily applicable to a life of danger and adventure.  Despite this, a few scribes do indeed go on adventures.  Some religious scribes are sent by their orders to serve new temples.  Others are sent by their employers to oversee the record-keeping for new areas of operations.  A small few other scribes operate independently and may choose to go adventuring simply to add some spice to their otherwise relatively mundane lives.

Many scribes have found themselves embroiled in a dangerous adventure merely by happening to translate an ancient text.  Before she knows it, the innocent scribe is being hunted by secret organizations, bent on finding out exactly what she uncovered before other societies track her down to try to find out the same information. 

Role-Playing:  The cliché image of the scribe is somewhat bookish and meek, and does not paint the picture of the classic hero in most worlds.  As such, most scribes will defer to their comrades to make decisions during combat or other tense situations.  Even when it comes to more intellectual decisions that must be made, the mild and introverted scribe is likely to remain quiet.  Overall, the scribe knows that she relies on her fellow party members to keep her safe, so she would be unwise to upset them. 

3.5 Edition Version
Bonuses:  The scribe gains a +1 bonus to all Decipher Script, Forgery, and Profession (scribe) checks that she makes.  She also gains read magic as a spell-like ability that she can use once per day per three levels in the expert class.  While using her read magic ability, the scribe may make a Profession (scribe) check versus DC 20.  If this check is successful, then she may make a Forgery check versus DC 15 plus the level of the spell.  If this check is also successful, the scribe may copy the spell from a scroll or spellbook to a new scroll or spellbook.  She cannot use the scroll herself, but she can sell it for a fee.  This ability is otherwise identical to the scribe scroll feat as detailed in Core Rulebook I, including the XP expenditure to write the scroll.  If the scribe fails the Forgery check to copy a spell, she has made a mistake, but she might not be aware of her mistake until she tries to sell the item.   

Penalties: The scribe is a poorly trained combatant and receives proficiencies only in the weapons that wizards can use.

Skills:  Appraise, Concentration, Craft (calligraphy), Craft (illumination), Decipher Script, Diplomacy, Forgery, Knowledge (nobility & royalty), Profession (scribe), Speak Language

Option: Religious scribes may trade out Speak Language or Knowledge (nobility & royalty) for Knowledge (religion).


https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rueland_Frueauf_d._J._003_detail.jpg
Rueland Frueauf the Younger [Public domain]
STONE MASON

Builders of defensive fortifications, vast cathedrals, and important monuments, stone masons are some of the most important craftspeople of society and often move within social circles of the nobility.  While massive protective walls, castles, aqueducts, and temples are usually the most visible works of the stone mason, many are also skilled artists and can work with rock and stone to create elegant statuary and elaborately carved decorative friezes.  The best and most famous stone masons may be commissioned by members of the aristocracy to create funerary monuments and other memorials.  It is also among the stone masons that many believe the very concept of the guild structure was created and codified.  While most types of skilled workers have since banded together to form powerful guilds, the Stone Mason’s Guild is thought to be the most powerful of all.

Adventuring:  A typical stone mason has very little reason to go adventuring.  Their skills, while valuable to society, are not as useful to the average band of adventurers.  While a few may seek out buried monuments to learn the building secrets of the ancients or to find new types of building materials, the vast majority are content to stay in their home village where their fame as a great builder can earn them a very comfortable living.  Still, life in a small provincial town can become tedious to some, and they may leave to find more exotic contracts in faraway lands.  His stout back and muscular arms can lend some much needed strength to a group of novice adventurers.

Role-Playing:  Although the stone mason is often physically strong, he has also had some schooling, learning principals of architecture and engineering.  As such, they are usually a good combination of brains and brawn.  The most artistic types of stone masons are often a little eccentric in nature, putting their craft above all other pursuits in life.  A sculptor, for example, may become distracted during a battle in an ancient, ruined temple if he spots an antique statue in the back of the room.  Those stone masons who are members of the Stone Mason’s Guild often may betray a sense of entitlement that comes from knowing they belong to one of the richest and most powerful organizations in the world.

3.5 Edition Version
Bonuses: A stone mason is very proficient in the tools of his craft, and gains free martial weapon proficiency with both the light hammer and the light pick.  At 1st level, he gains a +2 bonus to all Craft (stonemasonry) checks that he makes.  If the stone mason continues advancing in the expert class, he gains the ability to reduce the cost of the masonry jobs he undertakes.  At 5th level in the expert class, before the stone mason begins a job that involves working with stone or rock, he may make a Craft (stonemasonry) check versus DC 20.  If the check is successful, he may reduce the cost of that particular project by 10%.  This percentage increases by 10% every five levels thereafter (20% at 10th level, 30% at 15th level, and 40% at 20th level).  This reduction in cost represents the stone mason having access to inexpensive labor and materials through his ties to the Stone Mason’s Guild or another similar organization or wealthy patron.

Penalties:  As a master of his craft, the stone mason must put maximum skill ranks into Craft (stonemasonry) and Knowledge (architecture & engineering).  Additionally, while he has a keen eye when it comes to judging the quality of stone, he lacks the broader knowledge of the value of other goods.  He takes a -2 penalty to all Appraise checks that do not deal specifically with judging the value of stone used in construction.

Skills:  Appraise, Balance, Climb, Concentration, Craft (draftsmanship), Craft (stonemasonry), Handle Animal, Knowledge (architecture & engineering), Knowledge (history), Use Rope

Options: A more artistic stone mason may wish to trade Craft (draftsmanship) for Craft (sculpture) and Handle Animal (which a typical stone mason uses to coax draft animals to pull heavy amounts of stone to the worksite) for Knowledge (fine arts) (this skill is explained in The Quintessential Aristocrat).  Stone masons who build religious monuments may wish to trade out Knowledge (history) for Knowledge (religion).

That's all for today, everyone. Thanks for reading and commenting. 


Hanging: Home office (laptop)
Drinking: Tap water
Listening: "Nardis" from "The Legendary Bill Evans Trio: The 1960 Birdland Sessions" 


Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Two New Campaign Setting Ideas: One Horror-Fantasy, One Post-Apocalyptic

Way back in April 1985, I was a Freshman in High School (technically I was at a brand new public middle school in my area that went 7th-9th grades, after having already gone to a completely different public middle school in the same town for 6th-8th grades, but that's another story...) and I was right in the thick of a fascination with D&D and role-playing games. I spent pretty much every spare minute of time creating characters and NPCs, reading rulebooks and modules, and starting the work on my first homebrew campaign setting.

That month, issue #96 of Dragon magazine came out, and it included one of my favorite articles from that time period, "Books to Books? Perhaps!" by Arn Ashleigh Parker. The premise of the article is pretty much summed up in the subtitle, "Using Literature as the Backdrop for Adventuring." In fewer than four pages, the article discusses adapting worlds from literary works of fiction, such as Tolkien's Middle Earth, Edgar Rice Burroughs' world of Barsoom, or Robert E. Howard's Hyboria. While most DMs I know usually just grab bits and pieces from fictional worlds to introduce to their campaigns, this article was about how to adapt D&D rules to accommodate the changes necessary to use the worlds presented in fantasy and science-fiction literature "as is." Specifically, the author gives three examples showing how to adapt the worlds of the Gor novels, Barsoom, and Middle Earth

While I've never adapted a fictional world whole cloth for my games, over the years I've referred back to this article and used some of the ideas to help incorporate pieces from fictional worlds of novels, movies, TV shows, and comics for my campaign world. If you search for the Inspirations label here on my blog, you'll see a bunch of those that influenced by World of Samoth campaign. 

One source of inspiration that I think often gets overlooked by RPG world builders is comics. I remember a few years ago reading a really interesting series called The Wake by writer Scott Snyder and artist Sean Murphy. I wrote a bit about it in this post, which included a section at the bottom about "ideas for your role-playing games." This is what I wrote: 

"This thing is chock full of Cthulhuesque undersea fish-men, crazy science research stations, futuristic post-apocalyptic alliances with new political entities that are built on the ruins of the past, future tech, shady government agents, and more. There's just so much cool world-building in this book that you can get plenty of stuff for more than one campaign out of here. If you can't find anything in here to use, then you're not trying." 
Shortly after finishing the series (it was a 10-issue limited series), I asked one of my friends if he's read it, and he said no and that he had no interest, and I mentioned how much cool world-building was in the series, and he said, "If I want world-building, I'll just read a D&D campaign setting sourcebook."

That did get me to thinking about the interesting interconnections between sources of inspiration and where they come from. I actually liked that this comic series had a rich developed background and took time to explore different parts of the world in the story, but my friend's viewpoint was that he was looking for that kind of thing in a comic book story. 

I've written before on using comics as inspirations for role-playing campaigns; just search the Comics label and with nearly every review, I include a section of how you can adapt ideas from that comic for your RPGs, whether it's a specific character, or ideas on how to role-playing NPCs, a monster, or ideas on how to thematically represent different genres like horror or pulp noir. 

With that (long) set-up, here are two recent comics I've read that have sparked my imagination for taking elements to incorporate in a role-playing campaign. 

First up is a horror-fantasy story, Last God by DC Comics Black Label line. The Black Label comics tend to be a bit larger in size than a typical comic, with thicker covers and more mature content. Last God is by writer Philip Kennedy John, artist Riccardo Federici, and colorists Sunny Gho and Dean White. Notably, cartographer Jared Blando, who has done a lot of work for Wizards of the Coast and other game publishers, does the maps for this comic; there's a new map at the end of each issue, and they look fantastic. Check out his map for the world of the Last God, Cain Anuun on his website here

The premise of Last God, as described on DC Comics' website, is: 

"... the story of two fellowships of heroes struggling with the same threat... 30 years apart. One group will doom their world, the other must save it. 

Thirty years ago, a band of heroes traveled beyond the borders of creation and killed the last living god, saving the realm of Cain Anuun from an apocalyptic army of the undead. The legendy companions became the rules of their world and ushered in a new era of peace and prosperity. But it did not last. 

Now the foul legions of the Last God march once more, laying waste to all of Cain Anuun and revealing that the aging fellowship may not be the great heroes they claim to be. With the world burning down around them, a new group of unlikely champions must band together and accomplish what other other has done: kill the Last God once and for all."
The comic gets right to the point in the first issue to lay out what happened in the past (non-spoiler alert: the band of heroes from the past did not actually kill the Last God as they claimed; so the story is about the repercussions of that, and also why they didn't kill him). There are gladiator pits, major horror elements of creepy creatures and undead, the magical Guild Eldritch, elf and dwarf inspired races, and so much more. The creator, Johnson, mentioned that when developing the world, instead of starting with language like Tolkien did when developing Middle Earth, he instead started with music, and began writing folk songs, songs of worship, and epic poetry, and all of those led him to create more history and backstories, which then led to the creation of more maps and cultures. When reading the comic, you can tell there is a lot of information in the head of the creators about this world and that it almost seems real to them. 

I'm clearly not the only person who was intrigued by using this rich world building as the basis for a role-playing game - there's so much information developed by the creators that it was recently announced that a role-playing game supplement, Last God: Tales from the Book of Ages, which will be released on April 29th. The book is compatible with 5E and includes playable races, sub-classes, magic items, monsters, as well as the history of the people, locations, schools of magic, and various creatures of the world. 

Now, you could wait until the sourcebook comes out, but I highly recommend jumping in and reading the comic as well. You'll get a much better sense of the personality of the characters that live in the world, as well as amazing art and an engaging, compelling story. It's currently on the third issue, and if you can't find them at your local comic shop, you can grab digital copies off Comixology

Another comic I'm reading, and which has really intrigued me with adapting aspects of its world building to a post-apocalyptic role-playing game, is Undiscovered Country, by writers Charles Soule and Scott Snyder and artist Giuseppe Camucoli, published by Image comics. 

The premise of this comic, as described by Image, is: 

"Journey into the near future, and an unknown nation that was once the United States of America - a land that's become shrouded in mystery after walling itself off from the rest of the world without explanation over thirty years ago. When a team seeking a cure for a global pandemic breaches U.S. borders, they quickly find themselves in a struggle to survive this strange and deadly lost continent." 

It's tough to explain just why this title is so good without giving away too many spoilers, but the land of the U.S., inside the walled-off border, is definitely nothing like what you'd think it would be. The rest of the world has essentially divided into two massive super-power empires (continent-spanning alliances of Europe-Africa, and one of Asia), poverty and famine are rampant, and a deadly "Sky Virus" is threatening to wipe out humanity (which is the catalyst for the main characters to band together to try to infiltrate into the U.S. for a cure). The U.S. in this story has completely walled itself off both physically and digitally; there has been no communication whatsoever with anybody living inside the U.S. for the past 30 years, and nobody on the outside has any clue as to what's been going on inside. 

The main characters themselves read like an RPG adventuring team, with scientists, combat specialists, a historian (needed for information on pre-walled-off America), computer hackers, helicopter pilots, etc. Once they penetrate the border, what they find is unlike anything they, or I as the reader, expected, but it provides so much fodder for role-playing game world-building. 

The first issue, which came out last November, has gone through several re-printings. It's currently on the third issue, but again, if you can't find it at your local comics shop, you can pick up digital copies on Comixology

I highly recommend both titles, and would love to hear if you've read either (or both!) of these and what your thoughts were. 

Hanging: Home office (laptop)
Drinking: I just had a Ferrari (half Fernet Branca, half Campari)

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Experts/Specialists for 3.5/LotFP/B/X-OSE


Happy New Year! It’s time to get back to blogging. I have a few ideas that have been rattling around in my brain, mostly of the RPG variety.

Going back nearly seven years ago, I blogged about how I had started working on a class guide for Expert characters for the 3.5 Edition of the game. I never did finish that book, although I got relatively far in a few sections. Rather than let all that work go to waste, I’m going to put my ideas here in the blog. However, to give it a bit of a great appeal, I’m going to work on translating a few of the ideas to different systems. I’ll be presenting the main information still with 3.5 era mechanics, but then I’ll also include notes for using the material for both Lamentations of the Flame Princess as well as B/X D&D (which should also cover the new Old School Essentials retro-clone).

For LotFP, I’m using the original Player Core Book: Rules & Magic, and mostly translating my expert class ideas into the Specialist class, as well as including a few new skills for the game, all based on LotFP’s “1-in-6” base mechanic.

For B/X, I opted to use a modified version of an old article from Dragon magazine way back in issue #109 (May, 1986) called “Customized Classes: How to Put Together One-of-a-Kind Characters”) by Paul Montgomery Crabaugh. In the article, Paul broke down each class from BECMI D&D into its base components of hit die, level caps, allowable armor and weapons, racial abilities, magical abilities, allowable magic items, saving throws, hit progression, and also added in a new category for specialties (abilities used by specialist hirelings such as alchemists, armorers, or spies). Each class starts out at a base level of XP needed for the next level, and then each different kind of ability, armor, weapon, hit die, etc., adds a percentage XP premium (e.g., no armor is a 0% cost, but shields is +10%, leather armor is +20%, etc.). He then reverse engineers all of the basic seven classes to show how their XP tables work with his formulas. Using his formulas does change the XP tables (for example, the B/X Thief needs 1,200 XP to advance to 2nd level, whereas using Crabaugh’s formula, it requires 1,460). Using Crabaugh’s formula, some of the expert options might look like the XP is a little high, especially if you use standard B/X or OSE XP tables; in that case, just adjust the XP tables below down a bit.  

I’m keeping all my wording for my first draft of the original book, which, again, was written for 3.5 and therefore included a lot of extraneous language that OSR type games don’t use. If you’re wanting to use these ideas in a more OSR version of the game, just scroll down to the appropriate section.

Given the amount of work I’ll be doing to convert these to LotFP and B/X, I’m just going to start with two class options today and work on putting more out over the coming weeks.

Lastly, all of these options were originally created under the mantra of “enhance, but never change,” so I didn’t do anything mechanically to the Expert NPC class to make it more suitable for adventuring by increasing the hit die or giving it additional class abilities, etc. The main theme of my book was that the Expert is one of the most versatile character classes, even though it’s only an NPC class, because of its ability to select 10 different class skills at 1st level. The options I presented were mainly about how to pick those 10 skills to make interesting adventurers; later in the book, I began adding new skills and options for things like gunpowder, alchemy, and inventions, that were intended for “experts only” as a well to give them a bit of a boost without fundamentally changing the basics of the class.

(I had a lot of trouble with formatting my tables below - they look fine in my Word doc but when I copied them over into Blogger, a lot of the borders got messed up and I couldn't figure out how to fix them.)

CHARACTER CONCEPTS
 The expert class is nearly limitless in its applications.  The ability to choose any 10 skills as class skills creates the opportunity to develop all different types of experts, from craftsman and artisans to specialized scholars and scientists.  The concepts presented below are not meant to be exhaustive; rather, they are idea starters – examples to help both players and Games Masters realize the full potential of the expert class.  A book this size cannot hope to provide details on every type of expert imaginable.  Therefore, it is assumed that players may use the ideas below as the basis for creating their own expert character concepts (with the approval of their Games Master, of course!). 

Although adhering to basic tenets of the expert class, these expert character concepts are somewhat more powerful than the concepts presented in other books in the Collector Series.  This was done deliberately, in an attempt to help balance the weakness of the expert non-player character class and put it at slightly more equal footing with the other classes presented in Core Rulebook I.  While each concept does include a penalty, these penalties do not necessarily always balance with the benefits provided by the concept.  Many of the concepts include the idea of benefits that scale with class level.  As such, care should be taken if applying these concepts to any other core player character class to avoid creating more powerful characters.

Some of the character concepts in this chapter also differ slightly from those found in other volumes of Mongoose Publishing’s Collectors Series in that they provide bonuses that increase with character level.  These bonuses are intended to reward players who continue taking levels in the expert class, as they will be at a disadvantage when compared to players who are using core classes from Core Rulebook I.  The bonuses only increase when the character takes another level in the expert class.  Multi-class characters do not gain these bonuses when taking levels in a non-expert class. 

Each concept below includes background information and rules-based benefits and penalties.  In addition, each concept provides a suggested list of the 10 skills the player would select at 1st level.  These skills may of course be changed to fit the particular campaign or world in which the character’s adventures take place.  As with all character concepts presented in the Collector Series, each character may take only one concept at 1st level.  

One last note about the character concepts: these concepts are intended to portray many of the archetypes of fantasy experts who would also have reason to adventure.  Player characters are the heroes of the game, while non-player characters are the people in the background – the workers, laborers, aristocrats, and guards.  Given the scope that the expert class covers, it would be impossible to include all types.  This book concentrates on those experts that would make good adventurers or add something to an adventuring party.  Other more common types of experts, such as tailors and chefs, are not included in this work.  If you desire a real role-playing challenge, feel free to create such an expert for yourself.  While you will not be very effective in combat, you’ll have some great stories to tell about how and why your tailor accompanied a group that assaulted the dragon’s lair!

APPRENTICE ALCHEMIST 

The art and science of alchemy is one that is difficult to learn.  An apprenticeship in this field usually lasts far longer than it would for another profession, and many an apprentice alchemist becomes weary of mundane responsibilities such as gathering ingredients and cleaning the laboratory.  Still, an apprentice alchemist learns many useful tasks, including how to prepare glass vials to hold his potions, dusts, and gases, and the rudimentary mixing of materials.  Part scientist and part magician, an apprentice alchemist who perseveres and continues on the path to true alchemy stands to gain much for his patience.  

Adventuring:  Alchemists find it difficult to travel, given their need for a laboratory in which to work.  Even so, when new and strange materials are needed, it is the apprentice alchemist who will be sent by his master to gather them.  An apprentice alchemist freed from his master for such a task will often discover that life is better away from the lab and out in the open world.  Most apprentice alchemists are young and still have a sense of adventure stored up inside them.  With his head for scientific methods and ability to quickly craft useful alchemical tools and items, the apprentice alchemist makes a fine addition to an adventuring party, especially one light on magical ability.

Role-Playing:  Many apprentice alchemists spend their youth under the strict tutelage of a much older, and often cantankerous, master alchemist.  The constant barrage of insults, commands, and even beatings can create a meek individual, one afraid of his own shadow and who does his best to please those whom he senses are in command.  Such characters, despite their knowledge, will often defer to the strongest person in the group when decisions need to be made and will rarely be the first to offer their opinion.  Others apprentices become so hardened by their experiences as an apprentice that they act in an opposite manner, using all of their skills and talents to prove how strong and powerful they are. 

Bonuses: The apprentice alchemist gains the Alchemical Familiarity feat for free at 1st level (see the Feats chapter for details).  Additionally, an apprentice alchemist gains the ability to craft alchemical items with superior speed.  When making Craft (alchemy) checks to create alchemical items, his daily progress is counted in silver pieces instead of copper pieces.

Penalties: While his master teaches him how to identify magical potions, the apprentice alchemist is not very learned in the ways of other types of arcane mysteries.  For all checks using the Spellcraft skill, with the exception of using it to identify potions, he takes a -2 penalty.  Additionally, the apprentice alchemist spends a lot of time in the laboratory and hardly any time in combat.  He does not gain proficiency in light armor as most other experts do.  He may spend a feat later to gain light armor proficiency if he wishes. 
 
Class Skills: Appraise, Craft (alchemy), Craft (glassblowing), Decipher Script, Heal, Knowledge (arcana), Knowledge (metallurgy), Knowledge (nature), Spellcraft, Use Magic Device

Lamentations of the Flame Princess Version
Use the Specialist class as a base. You’ll need to add a new Craft skill to the game; there’s a good one already made specifically for LotFP at the blog Blood, Death, Satan & Metal. Using that skill system, your Specialist could put the most points into Craft (Alchemy) and Craft (glassblowing), and then pick whatever other skills the character wishes from the list as presented in the LotFP rulebook (page 17); Languages would be a logical first choice.

In the 3.5 version of the rules, Craft (alchemy) was mainly for creating items like Acid, Alchemist’s Fire, Smokesticks, Tindertwigs, Antitoxins, Sunrods, Tanglefoot Bags, and Thunderstones. These items as presented don’t exist in the LotFP rules; instead, characters with this skill might make items such as Drugs and Poisons (LotFP, page 36). In some games, the character may even be able to craft some low-level potions that replicate first-level spells (LotFP, page 81) such as Comprehend Languages or Cure Light Wounds. In this specific case, the Alchemist Apprentice would be allowed to craft low-level potions like this even though he doesn’t have any spellcasting levels.

Other than ability to use the Craft (alchemy) skill, the character would otherwise be treated like a Specialist and follow the normal rules for that class.

B/X Version
For this version, using the “Customized Classes” article, I came up with the following:
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Alchemist.png
See page for author [Public domain] 

·        Requirements: None
·        Prime Requisite: INT
·        Hit Dice: d4
·        Maximum Level: 14
·        Armor: Leather, No Shields
·        Weapons: Clubs, Crossbows, Daggers, Hammers, Maces, Slings, Spears, Staves
·        Languages: Alignment, Common










Alchemist Apprentice Level Progression




Saving Throws
Level
XP
HD
THACO
Death/ Poison
Wands
Paralysis/ Petrify
Breath Attacks
Spells/ Rods/ Staves
1
0
1d4
19
13
14
13
16
15
2
1,240
2d4
19
13
14
13
16
15
3
2,480
3d4
19
13
14
13
16
15
4
4,960
4d4
19
13
14
13
16
15
5
9,920
5d4
17
12
13
11
14
13
6
19,840
6d4
17
12
13
11
14
13
7
39,680
7d4
17
12
8
11
14
13
8
77,500
8d4
17
12
13
11
14
13
9
155,000
9d4
14
10
11
9
12
10
10
232,500
9d4 +2*
14
10
11
9
12
10
11
385,000
9d4 +4*
14
10
11
9
12
10
12
481,250
9d4 +6*
14
10
11
9
12
10
13
625,625
9d4 +8*
12
8
9
7
10
8
14
770,000
9d4 +10*
12
8
9
7
10
8
* Modifiers from CON no longer apply






Alchemy Check Bonuses
Level
Bonus to INT Check
1
0
2
0
3
0
4
0
5
-1
6
-1
7
-1
8
-1
9
-2
10
-2
11
-2
12
-2
13
-3
14
-3


Class Abilities:
·        Magic Items Allowed: Weapons, Potions/Rings, Miscellaneous Magic
·        Alchemy: The alchemist apprentice has the ability to recognize and identify common alchemical substances, potions, and poisons. A successful check will allow the character to create an antidote potion for one specific type of poison (with DM approval). Additionally, if given a formula or a sample, an alchemist may make a duplicate potion at half the normal time and cost. Alchemists may also conduct research into different types of potions at twice the cost and time required for a magic-user. Using alchemy requires an ability check against the alchemist apprentice’s INT score (roll a d20 and compare to INT; if the result is equal to or less than the alchemist apprentice’s INT score, the alchemy check succeeds). Each different use of alchemy requires a separate check.

BLACKSMITH

The blacksmith is a staple of fantasy literature and medieval adventure stories, such as the character Kate the Farrier from the movie A Knight’s Tale.  The blacksmith is skilled at working with iron and steel, and also might work with more exotic metals such as mithral or adamantine.  A maker of tools, horseshoes and other mundane items made of metal, the blacksmith expert class is also knowledgeable in the craft of making weapons and armor.  Usually one of the more important members of a community, the blacksmith is almost never out of work. 

Adventuring:  A good blacksmith can make a very decent living in his hometown, and therefore seldom has much incentive to leave the comforts of home for the dangerous life of the adventurer.  Some blacksmiths, however, desire to travel and see more of the world.  Others seek out the challenge of finding rare metals to create specialized items worth thousands of gold pieces.  Lastly, adventuring parties often hire blacksmiths who have an adventurous streak in them.  Weapons and armor always need to be repaired while on a quest; having a blacksmith along helps keep items in proper working condition. 

Role-Playing:  Working at the forge all day is very hard work; consequently, many blacksmiths have short tempers.  This gruff exterior is rarely indicative of the blacksmith’s true nature, however, which is usually friendly and helpful.  At one point or another, most people in the town will find a need for the blacksmith’s services, and a good blacksmith learns the art of dealing with all types of people.  In his role as a maker of horseshoes, the blacksmith also gains a certain affinity for working with and training horses.  Blacksmithing requires a mixture of art and science, and both sides are equally represented in the blacksmith’s personality. 

Bonuses:  The blacksmith uses a lot of tools, but one of the most important is his hammer.  Blacksmiths are automatically proficient in the use of the light hammer and warhammer.  Additionally, if a blacksmith makes any other martial weapon himself, the non-proficiency penalty for using the weapon is reduced to –2 (instead of the normal –4 penalty).  Lastly, working at the forge all day provides the blacksmith with a certain tolerance for heat.  Beginning at 2nd level, the blacksmith gains Fire Resistance equal to ½ his expert class level (rounded down) to a total of Fire Resistance 10 at 20th level.

Penalties:  The blacksmith must concentrate on his skills, and therefore must put maximum ranks into Craft (blacksmithing) and one other Craft skill, such as Craft (weaponsmithing) or Craft (armorsmithing).  While working at the forge provides the blacksmith with a tolerance to heat, the constant pounding gradually reduces his hearing.  He takes a –4 penalty to all Listen checks. 

Skills:  Appraise, Concentration, Craft (armorsmithing), Craft (blacksmithing), Craft (weaponsmithing), Diplomacy, Handle Animal, Intimidate, Knowledge (metallurgy), Profession (farrier)

Options: In some campaigns, the blacksmith might also be skilled at making gunpowder weapons, and the player may want to switch out one of his other skills for Craft (gunsmithing), with Games Master approval. 


Lamentations of the Flame Princess Version
Use the Specialist class as a base. You’ll need to add a new Craft skill to the game; there’s a good one already made specifically for LotFP at the blog Blood, Death, Satan & Metal. Using that skill system, your Specialist would put the most points into Craft (Armorer), Craft (Blacksmithing) and Craft (Weaponmaking), and then pick whatever other skills the character wishes from the list as presented in the LotFP rulebook (page 17); Architecture and Tinker could make sense depending on the concept for your blacksmith.

Other than using the new Craft skill as defined above, the character would otherwise be treated like a Specialist and follow the normal rules for that class.

B/X Version
 
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:La_fragua.jpg
Francisco Goya [Public domain]
·        Requirements: None
·        Prime Requisite: INT
·        Hit Dice: d6
·        Maximum Level: 14
·        Armor: Leather, No Shields
·        Weapons: Clubs, Daggers, Hammers, Maces, Swords
·        Languages: Alignment, Common




















Blacksmith Level Progression




Saving Throws
Level
XP
HD
THACO
Death/ Poison
Wands
Paralysis/ Petrify
Breath Attacks
Spells/ Rods/ Staves
1

1d6
19
12
13
14
15
16
2
1,300
2d6
19
12
13
14
15
16
3
2,600
3d6
19
12
13
14
15
16
4
5,200
4d6
19
10
11
12
13
14
5
10,400
5d6
17
10
11
12
13
14
6
20,800
6d6
17
10
11
12
13
14
7
41,600
7d6
17
8
9
10
10
12
8
81,250
8d6
17
8
9
10
10
12
9
162,500
9d6
14
8
9
10
10
12
10
243,750
9d6 +1*
14
6
7
8
8
10
11
325,000
9d6 +2*
14
6
7
8
8
10
12
406,250
9d6 +3*
14
6
7
8
8
10
13
487,500
9d6 +4*
12
4
5
6
5
8
14
568,750
9d6 +5*
12
4
5
6
5
8
* Modifiers from CON no longer apply






Class Abilities:
·        Magic Items Allowed: Armor, Weapons
·        Smithing: The blacksmith may make nonmagical armor and weapons at the rate of one suit of armor, three shields, or five weapons per month of non-adventuring time. The blacksmith may also make smaller items such as nails, horseshoes, shovels, cooking equipment, and complex wrought iron items if desired.  Using smithing requires an ability check against the blacksmith’s INT score (roll a d20 and compare to INT; if the result is equal to or less than the blacksmith’s INT score, the smithing check succeeds).
·        Horse Training: The blacksmith has a familiarity working with horses, and knows how to raise, train, and care for all types of horses. The blacksmith may teach a horse simple tricks or orders. The first trick or command taught requires one month of training; subsequent commands require two additional weeks of training per command. Using horse training requires an ability check against the blacksmith’s WIS score. A separate check is required for each trick.
·        Fire Resistance: A blacksmith has a -1 bonus to all saving throws made against attacks involving fire.



That’s all for today. I’d love to hear your comments and suggestions on these experts. 


Hanging: Home office (laptop)
Drinking: Earlier today I had a Hanky Panky (a classic pre-Prohibition cocktail) and a Eagle Rock Brewery Populist IPA
Listening: "I'd Rather Go Blind" by Etta James, from "Tell Mama: The Complete Muscle Shoals Sessions"
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