Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Raising Ability Scores

In 2nd edition, short of magical means, once you have your character ability scores, they're pretty much set. Given that I start characters off with a modified 3d6 in order, I've instituted the following rules in my campaign.

Determining which ability score to raise
Ability Scores are broken down into 4 types, based on Class.
  • Type A: The Prime Requisite scores for the class. At any odd level after first, the character may train to attempt to raise just one of these scores.
  • Type B: These consist of the scores that, while not PRs, but are still required to qualify for the class. Once every set of 3 levels(1-3, 4-6, 7-9, etc) the character may train to attempt to raise just one of these scores.
  • Type C: These are scores while not required by the class, I feel are a big part of determining how effective the character is at fulfilling his role determined by class. The character may train to attempt all of these scores(separately) once for every set of 4 levels(1-4, 5-8, 9-12, etc)
  • Type D: These are the scores that really have little bearing on the assumed role of the character. The character may train to attempt all of these scores(separately) once for every set of 5 levels(1-5,6-10,11-15, etc)
For my campaign, this is how I've set up the scores


Type A

Type B

Type C

Type D




Dexterity, Constitution

Intelligence, Wisdom, Charisma


Strength, Charisma

Wisdom, Constitution


Dexterity, Intelligence


Strength, Dexterity, Wisdom



Intelligence, Charisma




Dexterity, Wisdom

Strength, Constitution, Charisma

Sp. Wizard


Varies by Specialist type


Varies by specialist type




Constitution, Charisma

Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence


Wisdom, Charisma



Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence




Intelligence, Charisma

Strength, Constitution, Wisdom


Dexterity, Charisma



Strength, Constitution, Wisdom

Training to Raise the Score
The cost and time to raise an ability score is the same as for when gaining a level as presented in the optional rule in the DMG. For speed and for those who don't play 2nd edition.
The Time required is:
19-(Character's Wisdom) = Time in weeks(x2 if the character is not being trained by a teacher)
The Cost is:
Current Character level x 100 = gp/week(x2 if the character is not being trained by a teacher)

At the end of this time the character gets to make a check based on his Wisdom, Intelligence, or the ability score being raised, whichever is highest(treat percentile Strength as an 18). If the character passes the check the ability score is raised by 1 point(or 1d10% in the case of warriors for percentile strength). If the pass fails, the character may not attempt to train again(nor continue training) while within this level category for that ability(or any other ability in that type if it's a type A or B ability). At no point can the character use this method to exceed Racial maximums.

Getting a Teacher/Mentor
In order to qualify to train another character, the prospective teacher must have an ability score 2 points(or 20% in the case of percentile strength) higher than the student's current ability score. The only time it can be lower than this is when the trainer has suffered penalties due to aging. Thus, if a 20 year old Human teacher was trying to teach a student to raise his strength from 12 to 13, the teacher would need a minimum strength of 14. However, if a 90 year old Human teacher were teaching the same student, he would need a current minimum Strength score of at least 10(since at 90 years old, the human would have subtracted 4 points from his strength score due to aging) to teach the same student.
If a PC is attempting to train another PC(or even an NPC), the teacher PC must succeed at a Wisdom AND Charisma check(NPC teachers are assumed to have already made these checks), or be unsuitable as a teacher.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A word on race in the borderlands

Anyone who has played in my campaigns knows that I have a rather strong dislike of non-human and ESPECIALLY of half breed player characters. I despise any setting where dwarves, elves, and humans live all on the same block of your average city. I've always preferred more racially xenophobic settings.
The civil rights movement took off almost half a century ago. In the year 2010, as the palest white guy most people will ever meet, there are certain areas of NYC(one of the supposedly, most cosmopolitan cities in the modern world) I will not go into unless I'm armed, especially after dark.
I realize that elves, dwarves, gnomes, and half elves are part of the game, but I've always felt that by putting them in the hands of the average player I seem to get, it takes away some of the mystery and magic of the non-humans.
An elf isn't just a guy with spock ears who can see in the dark, s/he's the embodiment of the world's magic. They're capricious as the fae, as old as dirt, and not someone I would ever want watching my non-existant kids. I've always seen elves as something like how David Bowie portrayed Jareth, the Goblin King in Labyrinth. The elves from WoW just seem too human in terms of emotion and motivation. The archetypal elf in my campaigns is similar to the Sidhelien from the Birthright Setting(right down to occasionally hunting the "lesser species").
Dwarves are the strength of the earth, crumbling under the weight of their history. Their world is driven by their greed, pride, loyalty to their ancestors, and their hatreds/grudges. A dwarf is obsessive in his pursuits compared to even the most dedicated human. The difference between fighting a weasel and a dwarf is that the weasel lets go when its dead, a dwarf just grips harder.
Gnomes are slightly more personable, as they embody curiosity. Their curiosity isn't (always) stupid however, and a group of gnomes would likely be watching a group for weeks before anyone even knew they were being watched. This doesn't mean that they'll jump on the bandwagon, far from it. Humans would be seen as far too darkly minded, too weak willed to be anything more than temporary allies at best, little more than large pale goblins whom the Gnomes war with fairly often.
Halfings are at once the most open and xenophobic races out there, and the best way to get halfling culture is to see them as the jews of Anatevka from Fiddler on the Roof, their days ruled by traditions handed down since the very first halflings. The traditions have been altered so as to not too greatly offend the humans, dwarves, or elves they live near. Ultimately though, they just want to live in peace, being left alone to their own devices.
Half elves. of the 3 "standard" half breed races present in 2nd edition core D&D, this is my least favorite. However, one of my players seems to refuse to play a "stupid human" and only wants to play thieves. Since Elves have a stronger penalty, and halflings don't appeal to her, she chose the half elf route. As such we had to come up with a reason as to why this walking abomination should even be allowed. I do happen to like the old stories about the Fae. One of which in particular caught my eye. Changelings. Changelings are Fae children switched with human babies so that humans end up raising a fae child rather than their own human child. This works out surprisingly well for half elves, so in the borderlands campaign, no human realizes that half elves are actually Half elf and half human, believing them instead to be creatures born to the fae, upon whom magics are wrought to make them appear more human. The Elves know the truth of the matter, but they DO NOT talk about it, not even to other elves, as it is a great shame to the entire race that they are able to breed with humans.
Half Orcs make the most sense for half breeds. Where they come from is obvious; orc warbands come in raping and enslaving people, and the result is the many half orcs left behind. Most of these "demon spawn" would be killed outright, but given the irrationality of the maternal instinct, some of them are allowed to grow up. Given that orcs themselves tend to just be a harsh reflection of the very worst qualities of human males, this is the one half breed I'm likely to allow without much effort. That doesn't mean I'm going to take it easy on them however. They are still half ORC, and that means humans are not going to like them very much.
Half Ogres are a bit tricky. Ogre culture is entirely based on laziness and an un-controllable rage and anger. In addition, it's hard to imagine them even being born as most ogres would rather eat humans than breed with them. Either way, the end result is a person akin to Norse Berserkers; large, strong, dangerous, and always angry(not necessarily always enraged, but a sense of anger would always seem to project itself from them). Those few who aren't killed are likely raised outside of town where they're less of a threat to the village population. I can imagine them only being allowed in major cities if they submit to having "handlers"(ie, fully armed guards) escort them during their stay, and being asked to leave before nightfall.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

An updated map!

an updated map that doesn't look quite so blank

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Food and Culture, pt 2

Goblins: Goblin culture is ENTIRELY about eating. The goblin diet consists of primarily of meat, though, in a pinch, the goblins will eat any organic material they can fit in their mouths(which are quite large for their size). Food preparation is entirely unheard of amongst the ever hungry goblins, though they do prefer rotten food(the more putrid and vile, the better). Goblins, thus, do not preserve food, nor do they have any sort of agricultural process. Food is either stolen or acquired by hunting, though theft is the preferred method.
Hobgoblins: Like their smaller cousins, the Hobgoblins have iron stomachs. Unlike the Goblins, hobgoblins can't go as long without feeding, and their appetites(though still large in comparison to that of humans) are much smaller. Where a single goblin can eat 3 full grown cattle in a single sitting(and still be hungry again an hour or two later), a hobgoblin will only eat the equivalent of 2 human-sized meals. Their preferred diet is meat, with horseflesh being the choicest of all meats. The diet of the average hobgoblin however consists of large 1 pound loaves known as Hobgok(literal translation is "Warrior-food"). Hobgok is made of whatever flour is available(either stolen or made from things like acorns) mixed with sawdust, ash, water, bonemeal, and whatever else happens to be at hand when the tribe makes it(the entire tribe participates in the process, which usually occurs after a major battle/raid or, if the tribe has been at "peace" for awhile, once a season). Hobgok is a foul-tasting item that is consumable by most humanoids but not for the long term. Another common food item, usually made when Hobgok stores are running low, is Pazgrek(literally "bits-stew"). Pazgrek is made up of the parts of enemies, and other normally less than edible bits, as well as stale/moldy pieces of Hobgok.
Bugbears: Bugbears have the strictest dietary requirements of the goblinoid races. They only eat meat, and they require a lot of it. Their appetites are greater than that of a hobgoblin, but less than that of a goblin, perhaps 4-5 times that of an average human in a single sitting. They prefer their meat bloody, fresh, and raw, but if the meat has cooled to around room temperature or if it's eating a creature that isn't all that appetizing(like say, a goblin), bugbears will cook the meat. The preferred method of cooking is over a spit, though in leaner times or when the meat goes bad, like hobgoblins, they will make stew.
Orcs: Orcish appetites are less than that of a hobgoblin, but greater than that of a human. Like bugbears, orcs prefer raw meat, but are fully capable of consuming anything a human would be able to eat. Orcish agriculture consists primarily of stealing livestock from other races(usually from humans), or overseeing slaves while they tend to certain, very hardy crops. Slaves end up on the menu as often as anything else. Of special note is orcish alcohol. It's the one thing they make themselves, and is only made following a great battle. Orcish Blood Ale as it's called by humans, is made of the blood of captured or slain orcish foes(though more than a bit of orc blood goes in as well, after all, why let it go to waste). The blood is mixed with certain herbs and foul items only an orc would think(or know) to add, and allowed to ferment. The result is a thick black syrupy drink(with chunks) whose smell you wouldn't mistake for anything else, and whose taste is only tolerable by orcs(and some very deranged other creatures with stronger than average constitutions).

More to come!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Food and Culture

yesterday's post got me thinking about the various cultures and what they eat in my borderlands campaign setting. It also got me thinking about how each culture acquires and preserves food.

Humans: The civilized humans of the southern kingdoms are farmers and fishermen. They preserve their food with salt that they either mine or pan for. Their diet consists mostly of breads, cheeses, vegetables, and meat. The most common meat depends on the nation. Wheat(the favored) and barley are the primary grain crops used for human consumption. In the borderlands, humans tend to grow hardier crops, and hunting/trapping is more important. The common meat is likely either pork or mutton. The method for commoners to preserve food is smoking it, while people with more money will likely use salt. Their wouldn't be a common grain crop and most flour would have to be imported or made via local mills(or handmills) at or near each settlement. The barbarian kingdoms and tribelands tend to be herders, huntsmen, fishermen, and whalers following the herds of caribou, reindeer, mammoth, and following the schools of fish and pods of whales. What little agriculture their is in the more civilized areas tends to be only the hardiest breeds that can withstand the shorter growing seasons.
Halfings: Halfling diet would be very much like the diet of the civilized humans. However, there is decidedly less meat(and almost no fish) in the halfling diet.
Hill Dwarves: Hill dwarves would likely trap and hunt most of their food, there would be a fair amount of grain production(if only to brew alcohol), and it's likely hill dwarves who have perfected brewing to the mythical degree that most campaigns have for dwarven beverages. Hill Dwarves likely preserve the food they grow/hunt/trap with salt. Hill Dwarven diet consists mostly of breads, cheeses, meats, and hardy vegetables that the hill dwarves are able to grow locally. Hill Dwarf food would taste rather salty to humans.
Mountain Dwarves: Mountain dwarves probably do have some agriculture going on, but it seems to me that they likely get the majority of the food for their settlements by trading either with humans or Hill Dwarves. Mountain Dwarven dishes would be saltier than even those of their Hill Dwarf cousins(since the mountain dwarves are better able to mine it), and likely heavily garnished with various types of mushrooms.
High Elves: The High Elven diet would consist mostly of very delicately prepared herbs, nuts, berries, and honey that had been procured by gathering. The common "food" for elves would likely be breads and cakes made from these materials. There would be only a minimal amount of actual meat(maybe once or twice a year), often from birds. The method by which the elves prepare their food also preserves the food, though most elves have "seasonal" diets merely eating what nature provides by the season.
Sylvan Elves: These elves who live in only the deepest and possibly most enchanted of forests, subsist almost entirely on plant materials they procure from the ancient forests in which they live. Since Sylvan elves rarely even build fires, the vast majority of these foods are consumed raw or as some sort of blended paste/sauce that only they know how to make.
Grey Elves: These Elves dwelling in the Icefangs will tend to rely on a limited form of agriculture as well as hunting the great beasts native to their mountainous home. As such, there is a greater degree of meat in their diets, but like the high elves, everything is prepared to a much greater degree than human foods. It is the grey elves who are most likely to use magic during food preparation.
Gnomes: While gnomes can and often do hunt to supplement their diet with meat, at least 75% of the gnome diet consists of mushrooms and fungus grown in various locations in their forest homes. Mushrooms are usually stored in cool, dry places until they are needed for cooking.

Stay tuned! Humanoid dietary concerns coming up!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

You Can't Live on Rations

When starting adventurers pick out their initial gear it's always fun to see what nifty toys they picked. You can also tell what kind of players you have by hearing the questions, or reading the lists the players present to you. Veteran and neophyte alike however seem to be rather interested in carrying great quantities of rations for food.
A few years ago, for my own reasons that don't need to be discussed here, I was forced to live on the streets for awhile. I'm not talking "ooo, spiffy crazy camping trip" I mean the kind that causes people to only own what they can carry and when you don't know IF you'll ever live with a roof over your head again. Somehow I'd actually managed to get some modern hardtack, some beef jerky, and a small block of cheese.
This is pretty much what you'd expect the average adventurer's rations to look like. By day three, I was willing to kill to eat something that wasn't one of those three things and I felt weaker than I ever had been before.
After about a week of living like this, you DO lose muscle mass, you're often still hungry, but you don't want to eat that stuff b/c doing so is hurting your insides. You end up with one of any number of gastric problems(constipation, horrid gas pains, etc). Thankfully I was able to procure other food sources within the next couple of weeks(it's amazing what skills you can pick up when your life depends on it), and surviving on rations is not something I'd ever want to do again.
After I managed to get things settled and back the way they should be(ie a roof over my head, food that didn't make me sick, and internet!), I began to do some research. The reality is, food rations are never meant to be used long term. It's a means of providing an extra calorie boost to people who went a little further afield than a field kitchen can go. Additionally, I found out that rations generally don't last as long as you think they will, especially if you don't have access to ziplock bags.
What does this mean for campaigns? Well, for starters it means that anyone who isn't some sort of masochist or has a deathwish is actually going to have to plan out their expeditions. For the most part, you would carry a few rations into the wilderness, but not the 6 month supply that some adventurers seem intent on bringing.
It also means that trips into the wilderness are, by necessity, going to be shorter. Unless you're willing to spend one day in every three hunting for game; mouse sized and larger, you're probably not going to be out of the safety of a town or village for more than a 2-3 days tops. Alternately, this means the players are going to be setting up base camps so they can go even further afield, or stay away from the town/village longer.
For DMs, all of this information should be giving you at least 2 additional opportunities for adventuring and role playing incentives. With the weight and cost of food, players are likely going to have to hire porters/buy pack animals which will require them to seek out greater sources of income. It also means that a clever party will likely seek out the food stores when storming the enemy's stronghold(so now the players will actually CARE what's in those cupboards you spent an hour on). While some more experienced players are generally of the opinion that one should never eat the food left by their enemies(especially when you're dealing with such disgusting creatures as orcs and goblins who don't even have words for hygiene), this is where bringing that cleric along really pays off. Detect Poison, Neutralize Poison, and the ever popular Purify Food and Drink can easily turn even the most putrid of goblin food "preparation" into something that can be safely consumed by creatures with weaker systems(just about anything that isn't a goblin or otyugh)

Sunday, June 6, 2010

A new sandbox campaign

Feel free to take this map for your own campaigns and perhaps delete some of the names and add in ones of your own. I'll probably be posting more detailed descriptions or filling in more of the map later, so stay tuned! For the time being though, here's a brief overview

The Borderlands: The main campaign area, a frontier and no man's land filled with ancient ruins from ages long past. Home to various brigands, tribes of humanoids, Sylvan Elves, hermits, and even dragons.
The Southern Kingdoms: The "civilized" lands of the south, their are dozens of kingdoms and empires here, though only those near to the Borderlands are shown. The
  • Invera: A theocratic empire known for its paladins.
  • The Brun Empire: An old Empire known for it's strength and just actions.
  • Paltesh: A once peaceful kingdom in the process of being overrun by the humanoids who had made the Dismal Bog their home.
  • Thatanis: A trade nation who is often at war with the pirates of Malibas.
  • Malibas: A trade nation that often resorts to Piracy
  • Pelovia: A kingdom inhabited primarily by fishermen.
  • Algion: A power hungry and expansionist Kingdom.
  • Atlias: A nation of Sailors, Merchants, Farmers, and various other types. The vast majority of the High Elves come from this Island.
The Barbaric North: A collection of tribelands, cutthroat kingdoms, and Jarldoms that ever seem to be ever changing in terms of political borders.
The Desert of Winds: The large western Desert said to be the home to a secretive nation of Wizards. There are hundreds of ruins left over believed to have been left behind by a once great magically advanced civilization.
The Dwarfshield Mountains: A group of medium sized Mountains. Known primarily for the presence of the last major Mountain Dwarf Strongholds. There are dozens of ruined citadels to every one stronghold still used by the dwarves.
The Cinderpeaks: A volcanic range of mountains. Fire Giants, Red Dragons, Firedrakes, and Basilisks tend to call this region home. It's said that a great lost citadel of ancient Dwarf and Wizard craftsmanship lies somewhere in these mountains, guarded by a powerful and ancient Wyrm.
The Icefangs: An Icebound set of mountains home to various races that favor cold as well as the hidden communities of the last of the Faerie and Winged Elves. Like the rest of the Borderlands, the Icefangs are believed to have plenty of ruins for would-be adventurers to explore and plunder.
The Dismal Bog: A stinking wooded Swamp home to various humanoids. Most of the ruins in the Bog are flooded or have long since been looted, but a truly lucky group of adventurers might find something of value within the darkest reaches.
The Gap of Tears: A treacherous and rocky area that had perhaps once been a massive cavern in the underdark thousands of years ago before it had collapsed resulting in the rock-strewn land that it is today. This area is home to a variety of strange and bizarre monsters that would more than happily add an adventurer or two to their diet. This is also a favored stomping ground for certain wizards wishing to experiment with magical crossbreeding(as who would notice the long-eared killer aardvarks amongst the other strange monstrosities wandering the land). Also home to various undead creatures.
The Sea of Dragons: A great ocean where the vast majority of major commerce takes place. It's said that somewhere there's an island surrounded by storms that can only be reached by the dragons where they breed, die, and hold court amongst themselves. Most dismiss this as an old sailor's tale. Beneath the waves various tribes of Sahuagin, Sea Elves, Merfolk, and even stranger creatures hold sway.