Duelling

Questions from a couple of my players has encouraged me to think about duelling in a bit more depth. My ‘Stolen Lands’ game is heavily based on Paizo’s Kingmaker AP, which introduced the Aldori and their duelling style –  so duelling classes are important to the game.  We haven’t actually had any duels yet, but we are getting close to the point where I think we might – so I need to be prepared.

Styles

There are three duelling styles available to players in my world –

Aldori

Considered by many to be the most effective duelling style it was introduced by Sirian Aldori, the Sword Baron of Rostand. It is a delicate and acrobatic style based on a specialist ‘duelling’ sword and it taught in Brevoy (mainly in Restov and amongst the Khavortorov) and  Mivon by descendants of the original Aldori Swordlords.

There in no formal mention of a Real life equivalent – in my game the Duelling Sword is based  Katana and the fighting styles based in oriental martial arts.  The description of the duelling sword is katana-like and it fits the story given for Sirian Aldori.  He left Rostland in disgrace after he lost a duel, but then came back years later with a new and better style to reclaim his lands – and we know (from the Jade Regent AP)  that there is a path to oriental lands across the crown of the world.

The Duelling Sword is a ‘hand and a half’ weapon, that can be used in either one, or two hands. It is the ability to change grips, that gives the weapon it speeds and flexibility.  When duelling, the Aldori just use a single weapon and no shield.  Sometimes, when they are in combat, they might choose to use a second weapon in their ‘free’ hand, but their Duelling Sword becomes a lot less effective. Many of the  Aldori specialist archetypes, prestige classes, feats and traits become less effective when the Duellist is using a weapon or shield (including buckler) in their free hand.

An Aldori Duellist is just someone who fights in duels with an Aldori Duelling Sword –  however, the very best will have spent years following specialist training regimes.  A basic Aldori Duellist might just study for proficiency with a Duelling Sword, but to be recognized as a master, and a swordlord, is more difficult.  There are three main routes to becoming a Swordlord.

Swordlord (Fighter Archetype) – the mainstream approach used by the majority of Aldori  families and their troops.   When they achieve level five they are known as a Swordlord Elect (Think Brown Belt).  Level six gains them full Swordlord status  (Think Black belt)

Swordlord (Prestige Class) – The best route for anyone who didn’t follow the Swordlord  archetype – and even some that have.  Qualifying for and achieving a single level of the Swordlord Prestige Class earns you Swordlord Status.

Duellist (Prestige Class) –  An unusual way to qualify, but still possible.  Someone trained in a different class, but proficient with an Aldori Duelling Sword, may well be given Swordlord status when they qualify as a duellist.  However, they will have to prove their ability in a duel.

There are many  Feats and Traits are specifically helpful to Aldori Duellists. 

Traditional

A fast and furious fighting and duelling style from Taldan that is based on the Falcata and Buckler – it is also known as Rondolero. The style is common among fighting men across many areas where Taldan settled originally and is seen as a link to the ‘Old Days’.  However, duels are more gladiatorial than in the other styles.  It is taught in Silverhall, Restov and New Stetven.

Its real life equivalent has to be the Rodeleros of 16th century Spain, but with a nod towards the legionary soldiers of the Roman Empire.

A falcata is a fairly heavy slashing sword, an (in the games rules at least) a buckler is a small shield strapped to the arm.  Although you can grasp something in the Buckler hand –  you lose the defensive benefits of the buckler if you do that – and you also lose all the class benefits  that are based on the buckler.

A Traditional  Duellist is just someone who fights in duels with a buckler and falcata –  however, the very best will have spent years following specialist training regimes.  A basic Traditional Duellist might just study for proficiency with a falcate and buckler, but to be recognized as a master is more difficult.  There are not many ways to become a master duellist in the traditional style.

Buckler Duellist (Fighter Archetype) – the approach chosen by most characters who choose to make a career as a Traditional Duellist.  When they gain Level Six they are known as master Dualists.   

Duellist (Combat Feat) – This feat give a character with basic falcata and buckler skills a boost.  Someone with this feat and, at least, BAB 6 might be awarded Master Duellist status.

Modern

Also known as ‘The Light Blade Style’ in some areas. The rapier is the primary weapon of the Modern Duellist, but the style is flexible enough that it can be used with any light blade.  It doesn’t have the long history of the other two styles, but has been adopted by the aristocracy as a ‘Noble Sport’ and many young nobles get their first taste of swordplay in a duelling area.  Because of this it has become widespread and is available in many places, and is often learned by the middle classes as a way of showing their status.  General seen as the least effective style of Duelling, it tends to be looked down on by hard-core duellists.

Its ‘real life’ equivalent (in this game) is European duelling culture, and the fencing/duelling schools of the 17th and 18th century.

Based on the rapier and light weapons generally, the Modern Style lends itself well to two weapons fighting techniques.  Where a Traditional Duellist uses a Buckler in the off-hand, the  Modern Duellist can use a second weapon, although the Parrying Dagger is the favoured weapon, certainly among nobles and those who ape them.  Note that all the normal rules for two weapon fighting still apply.

A Modern Duellist is just someone who fights in duels with a light blade, most often a rapier. However, the very best will have spent years following specialist training regimes.  A basic modern Duellist might just be proficient with a rapier, or other light blade, but to be recognized as a master is more difficult.  There are not many ways to become a master duellist in the modern style.

Learned Duellist (Fighter Archetype) – This is a career path taken mainly by fighters with an aristocratic background, of one sort or another.  It is a good way to improve your status in aristocratic society.

Duellist (Prestige Class) –  this is the most common career path for a Modern Master Duellist, as it offers a straightforward route into high level duelling for characters from many classes.  Rogues and Bards are the obvious beneficiaries by any ‘combat’ character will have proficiency with rapiers and light blades, and most other classes can learn proficiency with at least one light blade. It is a common route for NPCs with the Aristocrat NPC class, as it can help them gain and maintain status in Aristocratic Circles.

There are many general feats and traits that will help a Modern Duellist improve their duelling ability.

Types of Duel

All duels follow the Paizo duelling rules – or they are not recognized as proper duels.  However, there are many ways they can be interpreted.

Sparring Duels

Duels intended for practice.  These are part of the everyday world of the duellist, and they help the duellist improve and learn better duelling techniques. They generally take place in a duelling salon somewhere in a duelling or sword school. They are fought to the first blood – and there is always a cleric or medic standing by.  Participants used matched weapons and rarely use armour – duelling salons normally provide a selection of weapons for participants to use.  More skilled duellist may use masterwork weapons –  however, both participants will use weapons of the same quality.

Formal Duel

Again, these may take place in a Duelling Salon although they may also happen under the watchful eye of a number of ‘seconds’.  While each participant supplies a second to support them – many duels are watched by a number of independent seconds, who can act as legal witnesses if the outcome of the duel is called into question.  Equipment is agreed between the participants, but should be equal or equivalent.  Formal duels can be fought to First Blood, Unconscious, or Death. 

In my games – first blood requires a medic present, unconscious requires the presence of a priest capable of raise dead or the equivalent, although ‘To the Death’ does not require any medical support available.  No formal duel can be started without the specific OOC consent of both players.

Combat Duel

If a Duel is called, and accepted, in a combat situation – weapons, armour and external assistance are only controlled by the ‘honour’ of the participants.  If an opponent cheats – so be it.

Peter Gasgano

Peter Gasgano first came to life back in 1999, as an NPC for a game I was running at a precursor to PlayByWeb, based on a home-brew Sage class. He became a PC in another game at RPoL running D&D 2.5 (Skills and Powers), before reverting to an NPC in a NWN persistent world, and eventually turning up in Pathfinder game I ran. In between he was a PC in a couple of ‘Tavern’ style games. Now he has grown powerful enough to be an Immortal in my latest game world.

This biography of my long-standing sage, has been ‘written by’ another long-standing character, who also has an interest in collecting information, and will probably serve as my ‘Senior Sage’ now that Gasgano is so important. I might write up Flower’s biography one day.


A biography of Peter Gasgano – as told by Flower Nightsky, Advisor and Librarian to Sir Joromi Doxaro, Lord of Holbridges.

I first met Peter when he come to Berghof to visit the Nightsky Monastary, in the hope of seeing their famous books of prophesy and, while he was refused access to the prophesies, he stayed with me for a few weeks, to learn what he could of the area and the order.  He was interested many things, his current field of study was people and societies – so he collected stories about individuals, groups and societies.  Eventually, he published a paper on the people and history of Berghof.  In return for my help, he told me about his long life and experiences – which I duly wrote down and published as a short biography. 

Peter, or as he is often known, Gasgano, is a small lithe man, not particularly strong, nor light on his feet – but gifted with love of knowledge and the ability to learn, with a knack of rooting out things that few others can find.   He isn’t particularly gregarious, although he is personable and people feel comfortable in talking to him.  Even when his notebook comes out and he starts writing things down.

His early years were spent on a farm, as a child of reasonably wealthy parents – who rented out their lands to tenant farmers.  While not robust, and not interested in the physical work of farming, Peter turned his mind to the academic side of farming.  Before long he had a good understanding of crop rotations, complementary planting, fertilizers and laboursaving systems.  He also had interest in herbs and, particularly, fungi.  Eventually, his father found him and apprenticeship with a sage called Reece, in Angasa.

He was soon sent to Galinia, to act as support for a group of adventurers who were clearing and exploring the land ready for recolonization.  Gasgano’s role was to bolster agricultural production for the clans that had remained behind and to offer support in the form of herbal remedies to the party, as well as recording the wildlife he encountered.  It went well, and he was eventually offered the role of Chief Herald for the newly reformed state.  All went well until, after a trip to Holy Isle to meet the Raven King of Armes, he returned to the land of his birth expecting to reconnect with his family.  Things did not go as planned, and he was caught up in a magical gate-trap which transported him to a different plane – and into the middle of a war between two competing religious factions.

Initially disappointed with their ‘catch’, his new colleagues realised Gasgano’s worth when they found a copy of the Book of the Dead, in the dungeons of a necromancer, and he was able to translate some of it.  That included a spell that allowed him to open a gate to the Paths of the Dead.  The Paths of the Dead surround a world and, if you know how, you can use them to travel rapidly from one point of the world to another.    However, he was soon scrabbling for other, defensive, spells as he and his group fought their way through The Paths to their enemy’s headquarters for the decisive battle.  His use of the book attracted the attention of Ankoo[i] (who is a servant of Aroon[ii], god of the underworld) who taught him how to use the book to travel between planes, and thus find a way home.  However, that made it easier for Gasgano to translate some of the more complex parts of the text, and he worked out how he could absorb some of the powers that were held in the book.

Eventually he summoned a Guiding Light, which led him from The Paths to The Boatman and eventually onto the realms of the goddess Takri[iii].  Takri’s role in her Pantheon is to ensure that souls got to their proper destination, and in this case, seeing as Peter wasn’t dead, he managed to convince her to allow a Guiding Light to show him the way back to his original plane.

He studied with a cleric of The Ruby Sorceress[iv] who sold resurrection to adventurers, and was at the destruction of an Artefact created  for a follower of the Four Horsemen[v] – then studied the religious library that priest had kept.

By this time he was well versed in the Paths of the Dead.  He could manipulate the borders with our world and move between those planes at ease.  He could also control the unquiet spirits of the paths and, if it was required, undead on this plane as well.  And he is the Master of Reincarnation.  Should he ever be killed, he was able to hold his spirit together, and then reform a new body 24 hours later.  He had become an immortal.

He must have sensed a kindred spirit in me, because he invited me to visit his home.  He lives on a permanent demi-plane, somewhere on the Astral Plane.  We travelled via the Path of the Dead, of course, and that alone was an experience worthy of note. The Paths are grey/green, with little or no other colour at all – it is a bit like looking at the word through a pair of heavily misted spectacles. They are full of the unquiet dead, souls who have not released their hold on the living world, or who do not have a coin to pay the ferryman. They clamour around trying to steal life essence, in the misguided belief that they can return to the living world, or trying to steal coins that they may pay their way forwards.  Gasgano constructed a barrier around us and they parted to leave us a way through, although they were always close and moaning softly  – although unable to reach us.  They, and their moaning, accompanied us all the time we were on the Paths of the Dead.

Then there was a very short trip into the Astral Plane, before Gasgano opened a way into his own home.  We entered into a small garden surrounded by fruit bushes and walls slung with climbing plants.  A shallow stream flowed from a wall fountain to make a pond in the middle of the garden, which was surrounded by trees, many bearing nuts, which obscured the sky and left us in dappled shade.  On one side a door leads into a small house.  There is a central living area a main suite for Gasgano and smaller rooms for guests.  While we needed to collect our own water and fruits from the garden, the house itself was kept clean and neat by an invisible servant. A flight of stairs led down …

Into the most comprehensive library I have ever seen.    Chambers filled with books and scrolls of all sorts – there is one with general works, another dedicated to natural sciences such as agriculture, herbs and fungi.  A third contains Gasgano’s own writings on the people and societies of our world, while another contains his books and research notes on death, the Paths of the Dead and other similar topics.  It was most impressive.

A door from the other side of the garden led to the Sunset Land.  A large red sun hung on the horizon, throwing the cool shadows of evening across a pleasant parkland dotted with large trees and small open air amphitheatres, all linked by narrow paths..    Small group of people congregated under trees to discuss lore and theories, while some of the amphitheatres hosted a ‘teacher’ holding forth of their favourite theories and philosophies.  Mostly this led to quiet debate, although occasionally voices were raised in fiercer debate of the finer or philosophical points of an argument.

We didn’t stop for long, before Gasgano returned us to this mundane world and the tasks of daily life.  However, that was a journey that I will never forget, and one that changed my outlook on life.  I have always followed a path of physical and mental development and trained both my mind and body to deal with the rigours of life – and my upbringing at the Nightsky monastery gave me a healthy respect for books and reading.  However, now I have taken the step of deliberately searching out new information and recording it as best I can, in the hope that one day I will be deemed suitable for an afterlife filled with gentle discussion and debate.  Who knows, one might still be able to grow and develop, even after one has died.


[i] Ankou, Breton Celtic: shepherd of souls.

[ii] Arawn, Welsh Celtic: God of the Underworld.

[iii] Takri, Valarez Pantheon: A bespoke Psycopomp written for a game set in Valerez, now translated to my New World Pantheon.

[iv] Wee Jas, Various D&D.  Shepherdess of the dead. She was the story-core behind the death system in NWN worlds that I worked on.

[v] The Four Horsemen, Pathfinder 1 Mythos.

Life, The Universe and Everything: Part 2a

You wait ages for a bus and then two come along at once … Welcome to me thinking things through.


The Structure of the Cosmos: Q

I would have called this a FAQ –  but no one has asked any questions yet 😛  But these are questions that I would want to ask.

Where do the gods live, if there aren’t any Outer Planes?

They live on great demi-planes floating somewhere in the Astral Plane.  A true god is so powerful, their power so awesome and the abilities so great, that their very presence adds a new bit to their realm each day, in much the same way as a Create Demiplane Spell.  The longer a god has existed and the more powerful they are – the larger/greater/ more sophisticated their demiplane is.

Rather than being arranged by alignment, these massive demi-planes are arranged by Pantheon –  so the whole pantheon are lodged together – rather than with others of the same alignment.  The residents of the gods are often clustered together in the oldest and most developed parts of the joint demiplane –  as you move outwards, the joint demiplane become less well-developed and less well sophisticated.  All very similar to an Outer Plane 🙂

There might even be a portal from the prima material directly into the realm of the gods.  Much as the Greek gods had Mount Olympus and the Norse Gods had Bifrost.

Yeah.  I know.  How big does a demiplane have to be a plane in its own right?  A:  As big or as small as you like.  Personally, I see the greatest of gods having almost infinite demi-planes.

Life

‘Normal life’ –Humans, Humanoids, Plants, Animals, Insects and even most Monsters are a collection of all the elements (Earth, Wind, Fire and Air bound together by ethereal glue) supported by a ‘life force’.   More intelligent things have a larger Spark of Life, while things with any sort of innate ability (bards, gnomes, magical beasts, dragons etc) have Motes of Magic, and some heroes and deities have Shards of Immortality. Anything with Int 2+ has a soul that can pass on to the afterlife.

The bodies of creatures such as Elementals, are made up of  one or two elements, although still bound together by ethereal glue. Ethereal beings might just be made of Ethereal glue and a life force.

Death

When a living being dies, the life force is separated from the  physical body, although a small amount of Ethereal glue continues to bind the life force together, for a while.  This means the  life force can’t yet leave The Miasmas that surrounds the Prime Material (Which allows speak to dead, raise dead etc) to work.  However, eventually the Ethereal glue weakens and the Spark of Life, as well as any Motes of Magic dissolve back into the astral plane.

This generally happens to non-sentient beings, those who do not believe in an afterlife and those who do not consciously follow a life philosophy.

The Afterlife

There are a number of things that bind the Life Force into a soul, and stop, or at least delay,the life force from fading away and everything being returned to their component parts.

Philosophy – some people consciously choose to follow or support a philosophy throughout their life,  and their soul may well finish up in a demi-plane created by earlier followers of those views.  For example,  Nature Priests (Druids, Rangers, Adepts etc) who have followed the Green Faith, but not dedicated themselves to a particular deity.  Oracles and some Witches fall into this category.  Note that this not an alignment thing –  there must be a  decision to follow a specific philosophical path.

Belief – a character who follows a religion and has a clear idea of their afterlife, does not fade away.  Instead, they make their way to the planes of their gods, and face judgement there.  This doesn’t happen immediately, as they need to wait until they can leave the Miasmas before they can complete their journey.  However, the soul might be hijacked on that journey (normally by something evil) and taken to a different afterlife instead.  It is much better to have a better funeral service where a priest calls on the services of a Psycopomp to act as a guide and protector.  This includes most ‘normal’ beings as well as any with a character class that gains divine spells.

Shards of Immortality –  heroes who have managed to incorporate at least one Shard of Immortality, but not enough to be truly immortal, do not fade away.  They are not strong enough to follow their own destiny – but follow lesser souls, to the afterlife as promised by their religion or philosophy – They often finish up as members of their chosen celestial (or diabolic) hierarchy.  If they don’t have a philosophy or religion, they need to find a protector quickly, or else their souls will be snapped up to feed the furnaces of hell (or its equivalent)

Immortal –There are a number of ways to achieve some form of immortality, and each have their own rules that should be followed.

Undeath

Undead creatures have found a way to replace their Spark of Life with a Mote of Magic – and they live the unlife that they have chosen – or been given.

In some cases, the ‘gift’ of undeath is passed from undead to undead naturally (Vampires) or through spells (Create Undead) or though sophisticated ceremonies enacted before death (Lich).  In some cases it comes with the ‘price’ of being controlled by the creator while other undead are free willed.

Many undead (Skeletons, Zombies) retain a physical body – but for others such as Ghosts or Wraiths, the elemental part degrades normally and only the Ethereal glue remains to bind the unlife force together.

High level free-willed undead may have incorporated Shard of Immortality – although they are few and far between.

Life, The Universe and Everything: Part 2

This is a refinement of my views of the structure of a fantasy game universe, which should be compatible with most D&D like games. I never did much like the model that has been used, and this makes more sense to me – but it is also flexible enough that it can be used with a variety of models – but still leave enough space for the DM to play 🙂

I know it needs a bit more refinement – but that will come in time. Theses things hang around in the back of my brain for ages, getting tweked and reworked all of the time – however, I don’t think the core of the model will change much.

And yes, I probably do need a decent editor to make it read better 😛


The Structure of the Cosmos

I use a different ‘Cosmic’ structure to most D&D style game settings. My world doesn’t have inner planes and outer planes, or even separate planes for different elements or alignments – I use a simple, much more flexible model.

The Ethereal Plane

Back in the beginning there was chaos – nothing really existed, it was all just ‘Stuff’. I have no idea where the stuff came from – we just have to accept that it was there. Although it would make an interesting project for a theoretical research sage.

Then something happened. There are many different explanations for this – The great Ey-Oy swimming, the natural separation of heavy ‘stuff’ from light ‘stuff’ – probably as many as there are religious groupings. It doesn’t really matter how it happened, what is important is that it happened – because it separated ‘stuff’ out into five different things. Fire, Air, Earth, Water and Aether – the elements. We all know what Fire, Air, Earth and Water look like – but Aether has always been a source of interest for sages, because no one is really sure what it is.

Most sages think it was the original ‘stuff’ and that bits of it changed to make up the other elements – however, they all agree that it is everywhere in the whole of the physical cosmos. If you think of a giant snow-globe – with red flecks for fire, white for air, brown for earth and blue for water – shake it up and watch them all swirl around mixing up and swirling around each other. The Aether is the liquid that they swirl in – it touches all four elements, it is everywhere – and it makes it all possible. Without Aether everything would just fall to pieces.

The Elemental Planes

One thing the sages can agree on, is that the four physical elements have an affinity for themselves – and they clump together. Think of lots of little magnets sticking together, or fat forming into greasy clumps after you roasted a joint, or even starlings flocking together. Again, it doesn’t matter how or why – it just happens. And that forms the elemental planes.

The sages argue about how many there are – some say there is just one plane of each type of element, others argue that there might be many different planes of each element. The most radical argue that there could be planes where two elements come together – Fire and Earth, to make a Magma plane.  Who, in this tiny little bubble of a world, can know all of these things?

One thing the sages are sure of is that the Aether, the Ethereal Plane, touches all of those other elemental planes, and holds them together.

The Astral Plane

Is the key to life. Some sages say it is the life blood of the primal creator god Ey-Oh, who sacrificed itself to create life in the universe, others say it was released from a water droplet that fell and burst, and I am sure that there are other ideas out there as well. However, they all agree that The Astral Plane is the source of all life.

However, rather than a snow-globe, the Astral is more like a tangled ball of yarn, threads stretch everywhere and practically impossible to separate. Indeed, you can see one of those threads if every you enter the Astral Plane – all you need to do is watch your own silver cord stretch back to your material body. However, there are many other threads, and only a few of them stretch back to a living being. Worse still, the Astral is a matted mess of more than one type of thread – think of strands of spider silk, mixed with the down from a baby’s bottom and the fluff of cotton-wool – among any other type of thin fibre that comes to mind. And those treads wind right through the Ethereal and touch everything in the cosmos.

Sages are not sure what these threads are, or where they go, but they are sure that there are at least three things involved – either as threads themselves or, as most think, caught up within them.

Sparks of Life

The first thing that any form of life needs – from the smallest simplest thing swimming in a primordial sea, right through to the greatest of the gods. Some sages argue that the bigger your Spark, the greater your life force – others argue that you can accumulate more Life Sparks. Others just say they don’t know. What they do all agree on, is that every living thing has at least one Spark of Life.

Motes of Magic

Sages believe that Motes are the source of all magic in the cosmos. Mages learn how to manipulate motes when they read their spell books, priests learn prayers s that grant them divine access to motes, while sorcerers just have an innate ability to manipulate them. Some sages even say that sorcerers and bards have motes of magic in their makeup. It doesn’t really matter, of course, so long as the magic works.

Shards of Immortality

The stuff of the gods. However not everyone who has Shards of Immortality in their makeup is a god, and they aren’t even immortal – however, they have taken the first steps along that way. However, as you incorporate more Shards, you may become immortal, and may (eventually) become

The Prime Material Plane

There isn’t just one of them, there are lots, because each world is its own self-contained plane. No one is quite sure how they came about, but a Prime Material plane is where bits of all the elements exist close to each other. The world itself is a chunk of Elemental Earth, the Sky is Elemental Air, the sea is Elemental Water and the sun Elemental Earth – and somehow they all co-exist together in the same little bit of the Ethereal Plane. Sages debate it endlessly. Most agree that there must be something special about that particular piece of the Ethereal. The Interventionists maintain that it a part of Ey-Oh that wasn’t completely destroyed, the Naturalists argue that it is a small piece of the original drop that remains, still others argue that it is a ripple in the fabric of the astral. None of them really know, but there are many different theories.

All believe that it needn’t just be one piece of each element. Moons are generally seen as an extra piece of Elemental Earth, while dual suns are each made of Elemental Fire. Some argue that that ‘extras’ will all slowly move closer together until they coalesce into one large piece. Some even argue that there is Elemental Fire inside the great ball of Elemental Earth, which would explain volcanoes and magma. But none of them really know.

The Miasma

What all the sages agree on, is the Miasma. This is a region close the the Prime Material where both the Ethereal and Astral planes act differently to normal. Some describe them as ‘thicker’ others describe them as ‘more dense’, while another group describes them as ‘closely intermingled’. The all agree, however, that something is different, and most believe that The Miasma creates a sort of border plane around the Prime Material – although it isn’t consistent. Some recognise it as a Border Ethereal, some as the Plane of Shadows, while still others call it the Paths of the Dead.

However you see it, all three seem to co-exist in the same space at the same time, like some twisted, not quite right, version of both planes, which have become twisted and interlinked.

Playing Styles

Recently, I have been thinking about playing styles and the way players approach games. While it is something I have been aware of for quite a while, game groups normally sort themselves out reasonably quickly. For example, I run a game for a table-top group who come together once a year for a weekend of gaming. For the first few years, we invited a lot of my RPG friends. Over time, it settled into a group of players who all trusted each other and who all enjoyed a bit of IC banter. Now the same people come back year after year – and we all have a good time. It was a self-selecting game group. The same sort of thing has happened in all TT groups that I have played in – sooner or later a regular group of players develops – who are right for that game, that group, the GM etc.

On RPoL, which is a text based playing environment, the same sort of thing happens. Players who don’t fit with the GM style move on, new players come in – and sooner or later a fairly homogenous group forms. It can often be a slower, but sooner or later you get a group of PCs who can live with each other and their playing styles.

However, the game I run at the moment is a bit different. Rather than being a standard small group game, I decided to run a large multi-group game. I had played in a couple of similar games, and I had enjoyed them – so I thought why not? It has been great fun – an awful lot of work, but I have enjoyed it immensely.

To make it more complicated, the game has three different aspects that I try to merge into one semi-coherent setting.

  • I normally have about fifteen players split into three adventuring groups – at the moment we have two groups (to cope with lock-down related absences) although we have, occasionally, had four adventuring groups in the past.
  • The game also uses a home-brew set of kingdom building and campaign rules, which have grown and developed as the game has progressed.
  • Fuzzy Threads are ‘out of time’ role-playing adventures. They aren’t there for combat, and rarely require any dice rolls, but they are a place for players to Role Play their characters, and to interact beyond their adventuring groups. Characters can be in these RP thread at the same time they are out slaying monsters (etc) with their adventuring party.

Now you can see why I say it is a lot of work. However, there is no requirement for any player, or character, to take part in any aspect of the game. We even have a couple of characters who don’t go adventuring, but hang around in bars looking for RP opportunities.

It has really highlighted the different ‘styles’ of the players. Some are writers, some are gamers, some are rules people – although, in reality, they all have some element of each aspect in their playing style. Before I look at it further, I want to say that I value all of my players – they all bring something different to (what I think) is a brilliant game, and they represent the tapestry of life really well. Without them, and their different styles, my game would not work 🙂

Writers

Everyone who plays on RPoL is a writer, those who aren’t drop off of the platform fairly quickly – and while I get a few non-writers, they tend to leave the game quite quickly. However, there are some players who are serious writers, who could probably be writing good fiction, and I have been privileged to play with quite a few over the twenty years, or so, that I have been playing on RPoL and PBW. They tend to develop a strong backstory for their character, and then keep building and exploring the character throughout the game. They spend a lot of time role-playing with other characters and invest a lot of time in their characters and their writing. Each of their characters has their own story, and it is a major focus is a writer’s playing style. I am in awe of them, and thoroughly enjoy their interaction – but I can’t maintain the intensity and effort they put into their RP. And I say that as a published author (of text books), someone who has written poetry for pleasure – and someone who writes stuff like this for the hell of it.

For a world build, like me, it is great. I get to build and work on the parts of my game world that the character needs for their story, and my game world has benefited immensely from the co-operative work that I have done to help flesh out Character backgrounds, and help lay future plans.

In game management terms, it can be an issue when characterization and story building clashes with key parts of the game’s story line – but that can normally be managed OK.  Another occasional issue is when long RP posts dominate more general threads, but I tend to deal with that problem by adding extra threads for people to play in.

Gamers

Again, everyone is a gamer of some sort, if they weren’t they wouldn’t be playing in an RPG game at all, however, there are some players who play the adventure threads more innovatively than others. And that is how it should be – a party where every player tries to set group tactics, solve puzzles or coming up with inventive ways to use their abilities, can kill a game very quickly. There has to be concerted and group action for a party to succeed in adventure threads, it just plays straight into the DM’s hands – and then I have to be careful not to set up a Total Party Kill.

That said, gamers are important and it would be boring if everything went according to plan and everything was easy for the players. Games like that tend to die off very quickly and, personally, I enjoy it when a group comes up with something I haven’t planned for. Sometimes, it means the party get a quick win, other times it means that I have to rework parts of the adventure, other times it means that a party member might die (or get very close to it) –the game becomes a less predictable and more fun.

As a player, I have always felt that the best encounters are the ones that a party just ‘wins’. As a DM, the best encounter I can run is one where the party just wins, and comes out depleted and surprised. In table-top games, I like to leave a party on single figure hit points (between them!) with next to no spells (etc) left. On RPoL and similar sites that is more difficult to achieve, but it is good to leave a character or two in negative HP, when they weren’t expecting it. It adds to the jeopardy of the whole game, makes it interesting for everyone, and justifies the ‘loot’ that help the characters grow. It doesn’t need to happen all the time – but that risk has to be there to keep adventures enjoyable and ‘adventurous’.

In game management terms, I try to split the gamers between groups. I try to put a leader, a puzzle solver and a maverick into each group – and hope that it helps keep the group working together. It has worked so far 🙂

Rules People

Again, we all need a basic grasp of the rules to be able to play the game, but some people love to delve into the rules. In the past they might have been called min-maxers, now the favoured term seems to be optimizers, it doesn’t matter – we have all done it at some point of our game life. If you haven’t done it yet, you almost certainly will do at some stage in your playing life 🙂

I can remember constructing tables to see how I could get the greatest weapon damage for a druid under the 1st ed D&D rules – and then expanding it to show that, at low levels, a druid could do more damage that a paladin. Even now, I have been known to go hunting through the skills and feats lists to find something that will let my character do what I want them to. It is all part of the same thing.

And it is important, because it keeps the game growing. I have learned a lot about the pathfinder rules in the last few years, just because people have asked to take skills, feats or combinations that I wasn’t aware of.  I have certainly incorporated some things I have learned into my NPCs and game structures. My game world is better for that.  It also keeps other players on their toes … ‘How did she do that?’ or ‘How can I learn to do something like that’. It encourages players to think and to look at the rules in a bit more depth.

As for my in-house Campaign Rules, they have grown (and improved) significantly. Those rules have been tested and used to the limit, and every time that has happened, they have evolved. In some cases it has come from general questions such as, ‘can I run a magic shop’ or ‘how can my shop expand’. Both of those questions led to an expansion of the business types offered within the rules, and eventually to a simplification of the system used to manage businesses. At other times, players have found ways of using the rules that I never realized were possible. Sometimes that has led to a rewrite (although never to the disadvantage of the player who found the loop-hole) other times it has led to additions or expansions.

I manage that, in game, by disallowing classes, races and feats – there are two reasons for this. The first is a bit selfish, my game world (even though it is based on material published by Paizo) reflects my ideas of a fantasy world.  It is those ideas that underpinned the game environment that I fashioned, and form part of my ‘world vision’. I want to keep enjoying my game and its world – so I tweak it to my tastes.

The second reason has to do with game-play balance. Not every player is a rules’ guru, some even have a limited understanding of the basic rules and occasionally need help with which die they are supposed to roll – but they still add to the game. So I disallow feats that I think would allow a character to dominate and adventuring party and hog all the action.  There is nothing worse, as a player, than having to sit back and watch the action because you know your character isn’t in the same power league. A well optimized character will work out as significantly more powerful than an unoptimised character (that is the whole point)  but when the party also includes poorly designed characters, the difference is immense. And every character needs to feel that they can be involved in the adventure situation – or else what is the point of going adventuring?

Conclusion

My game benefits from all three of those attributes and most players have all three of them – but in different ratios. My job is to try and balance them, so that no one group of players dominates the whole game at the expense of the other players. So far it has worked out quite well. I have seen some brilliant writing and Role Play. I have been pleasantly surprised by the way parties use tactics – and am often kept on my toes – and I have also learned a lot about the rules, both Paizo’s and my own house rules.

As I said, for me, it is a brilliant game – well worth the angst that comes with managing some on the (minor) excesses. And, let’s face it, while players and their enjoyment is important, we are all a bit selfish. If I didn’t enjoy the playing the game, it wouldn’t exist.

Now, to be fair, I suppose I should tell you where I fit in those categories 🙂

I would love to be a really good writer – but I am not. I am not bad, I get quite a bit of RP in and I write some decent posts.  I rate me as average. It is the same on the gamer scale. I come up with a few good ideas and manage to surprise DMs occasionally – but again, I rate me as fairly average. Rules? I love rules. I came to this game back in the very early 80s when a flat mate left the PHB and DMG (AD&D I) out on the settee when he went to bed. I read both of them from cover to cover in one hit (Yes, I am a quick reader), and never did get to sleep that night. BUT, I can never quite see the right ways to take advantage of them. So again average.

That doesn’t worry me in the slightest, and in real life I am a jack-of-all trades. I even had fairly successful careers in both teaching and IT by having lots of ‘average’ skills. Lots of people could do things better than me – but I did a better job, overall. The moral of this story is – take what skills you have, and use them well. 🙂

Starting a New Year

The Campaign Rounds, in my RPoL game, happen every RL six months but represent a year in game time – it amuses me to use the dates of the summer and winter solstices to start campaign rounds.  We started off running campaign rounds every time the group levelled up (I was using a group levelling system) – but that didn’t work well when we recruited new players, because they were never going to catch up.  However, that, and the XP system I have put in place, might be a good blog post later.

Anyway, we are coming up to the start of the next Campaign Round, it will be year 4715 and players will have to age all of their characters (any entourage and secondary PC characters, as well as their main PC) by one year.  Better news is that existing Entourage members can advance a level – assuming they haven’t reached their permissible level limit (1/2 the level of their PC), or their level cap (L5).  Secondary PCs, such squires or cohorts purchased with a feat, are not affected because they level according to their own rules.  But most importantly, it is the time they get income from their investments and get to develop the next part of their Character’s (non-adventuring) story.

As DM, I control quite a lot of resources, and while my NPCs each have their own agenda, I like to support the PCs when I can.  I always appreciate it when people interact with the structure of my world and, while all things should be a challenge, I try to use NPC resources sympathetically.  So I tend to have a quick look at each Business, town or estate, before time, just so I am aware of the problems that they might face – and the options that are open to them, should I be asked for advice.  These are my thoughts:-

First, I think, the political climate is important. The King-Regent of Brevoy and The Rostland Aldori are gearing up for a civil war – with a large part of Rostland as the prize.  Midmarch is on the border, and we have PCs with family, and allegiances, in different camps.  We know that the Gnomes of Jovvox (who sell weapons in bulk) are building a shop in Ringbridge (close to The Aldori) and we think that members of the Rostland Aldori have been speaking with their ‘cousins’ in Mivon.

Other things affect the development climate as well.  V&A Shipping will be opening up their first external trade link (quite an important occasion) with a jetty in Jovvox and regular services between Tusk and Jovvox.  They are also negotiating for permission of build a jetty in Mivon.   Zelona will take ownership of an ancient keep found in the Narlemarch.  Henry isn’t interested in colonising that area so, while Henry is prepared to be supportive, Zelona and her colonists are ‘on their own’.

Henry’s main plan is to push Midmarch westward to the East Sellen River, an expansion which will (eventually) cover two ‘interesting’ sites.  An old villa, once home to a mage of some sort, which should really be occupied to prevent its re-population by monsters, bandits or tribes.  And Bogside, a village on the marshy borders of Hooktongue Lake, which could be taken over – once the current despotic overlord has been dealt with.

But back to Midmarch:

Tusk

Tusk has been growing rapidly, and has progressed from a simple village into a small city in just a few short years – and that is starting to create size and pressure problems.  There are three core districts:  Central district (Civic buildings temples etc) is almost full.  Port Henry (The dock area) has ONE development slot left.  Merchant (home of traders etc) has more room,   but (for aesthetic reasons) should probably be saved for the other mercantile businesses which will surely arrive.  Outside the walls there are Lakeside (which is filling up fast) as a military / trade district.  College (which is what it sounds like) and Ivory Nob, the putative ‘Noble District’.

What would I do?  I think I would build a seventh district, to close the outer ring of the city, and start paying smelly and low status developments to move there.  Build your own ‘Workers district’, rather than let it develop haphazardly.  Things like the Orphanage, The Grain Silos, The Brewery (have you ever lived close to a brewery?) and the Leather Works.  It adds a point of consumption (which they would have to pay from taxes) but it establishes the structure of the city and helps with planning.  It makes it easier to build an outer wall, gives another water border and makes planning and zoning really easy for the next few Campaign Rounds.

Oston

Oston is almost full as well however, the senior residents (Oleg and Svetlana) have decided to limit the size of the town, and won’t allow development of new districts, because they want to ‘live in the country’ – rather than a big town or city.  A one district Small Town fits that model well.  It also fits in with Henry’s views of a rural economy to the north of Midmarch – which is where all the good agricultural land is.

What would I do?  Oston has barracks for its troops, and therefore has two defence points.  This means Oston can have two Hamlets (secondary settlements) in their town hex. Oleg and Svetlana are cool with that, so long as there is an agricultural / country feel about such developments.

The Others

I don’t see any real issues for any of the other estates.  I expect Marik Metals will develop their new mine and I guess the Vallani estate will start on building canals soon.  WSM needs to pay back debts this round, and V&A Shipping need to remember that they will want quite a bit of cash (to develop in Mivon) soon –  and work out how to raise that out of the campaign/BP rules system.

And my advice for Zelona, if you want a rural/wilderness holding, get your village built first – then look at extending into the surrounding wilderness areas.  You might be able to help fund that development by building suitable hamlets (say Fishing and a Green Lumber Camp) in the Old Keep Hex.  Last thought is that you will need to balance Econ, Loy and Stab carefully and use the space in your village and your fishing hamlet wisely – while you have more usable space, I struggled when building the Northern Narlmarch Reserve.   However, you could also build a small town (as Tatzleford will do) which would make your planning a bit easier, but might not suit your RP needs.

Nothing much to add

It has been a strange few weeks since I last posted, and I have had a lot of things on my mind. 

  • Lockdown has been running for (what seems like) ages, and I am getting really frustrated now.  I have been working from home, using MS Teams, to support apprentices through their course.  They have been coming and going at different times – and I have not been able to establish a sensible structure to the week.
  • I set fire to a camping cooker when we went for a picnic down by the beach.  I live close to the sea and it was permissible under our lockdown rules.  No damage done, but it was within a few feet of the   ‘bus’.  More importantly, it meant we had to go home to cook our dinner 🙁  And that just added to the frustration.
  • I discovered that I have developed hay fever.  In the past I only reacted to heavily scented flowers and rape fields.  Now it seems my nose itches and I start sneezing, every time the pollen count is high.  That is going to be annoying.
  • On top of that I celebrated my wedding anniversary (17th) and my birthday (65th).  We were supposed to be going to Venice –  but that has all gone by the wayside.
  • The Wiki software I use for my games site got upgraded.  Unfortunately many add-ons and extensions didn’t.  That messed up some formatting I had got and started throwing warnings all over the place.  That was frustrating, took time to understand and it still isn’t working properly – although it is much better than it was.

My RPoL game has been in a funny stage as well.  Players are still MIA, some (I am sure) due to the lockdown and I have had to reorganize the adventuring groups.  So we have dropped from three groups to two, reorganized the parties and left the missing characters in a holding group.  If they come back, I can ease them back into the game.  If they haven’t returned in a few weeks, I’ll start recruiting again.

That has coincided with a political phase of the game, the discontent that has permeated southern Brevoy for years is coming to a head, and it looks like a Civil War is brewing.  So I have been dropping clues to what has been happening.  Some subtle, some much less so – but I  most characters are aware, and some are staring to take sides already.  One day soon they will have to make a decision about which  side their rapidly growing colony should support – and I am looking forward to the RP that should come with it.

At the same time we are coming up to the start of a new Campaign Round.  I have been spending a lot of time reporting back to players about the health and status of the holdings.  Because Characters have joined at different times, they have different levels of holding.  We have a massively wealthy merchant, a PC Bishop who has built a Cathedral at the heart of the new settlement, a hotel magnate – and that runs right down to a couple of characters who are able to build their first small shop / shrine etc this round. 

Players have now started running their development plans passed me.  That is great, I can tell them when they have misread the rules and suggest options that they might not have thought of – and it helps me spot any inconsistencies in the rules.  Most recently, questions from a couple of players has encouraged me to re-think the Merchant House rules – and that has led to a slightly different approach where merchants control both supply of goods and try to control the sales in their own city.  Ironically, it doesn’t change the actual rules all that much –  but it does entail a complete rewrite as I split retail and transportation businesses into two different business groups.  Which, of course, has a knock on effect on all the other business pages.

And all of that right in the middle of an overall restructure of the Campaign Rules – which then got put on the back burner again

And that is my excuse for not writing anything new ….

Taxes and the Economy

Being in lockdown, with little to do and bored with updating my wiki – I took a shower.  Did you know that showers are one of the best places for thinking, ever?  My campaign system incorporates taxes – and I had a rough idea of how they, and the economy, worked – but by the time I came out of the shower, I had it all sussed out.  Now I need to write it down before I forget.

There are only three different taxes – and they are very straight forward.

Ordinary Taxes

Ordinary Taxes are the main taxes that everyone pays, it goes to the Council or Lord who ‘owns’ the settlement and is used to help expand and maintain the settlement.  It is based on the economic value of the main businesses in the settlement and is currently set at 20% of the economy.  However, it doesn’t come directly from the settlements businesses – but to understand that, you need to understand the three tier economy.

Primary Economy

The Primary Economy consists of the main businesses in town that are run by the PCs or significant NPCs.  If it contributes Economy, Loyalty, Stability, Defence or Magic Items  – it is a main business and part of the primary economy.

Example:  An inn contributes +3Economy and +1Loyalty to a settlement,  and is always part of the primary economy.  It directly employs waiting staff, bar staff, cooks, housekeeping staff, stable staff etc.  It rents rooms, sells food and drink and may have other facilities (such as meeting rooms) as well.  But it hardly pays any taxes – directly.

Secondary Economy

The secondary economy represents those businesses that directly service the Primary Economy.  It is generally run by the middle classes and less important NPCs, and includes craftsmen, professionals and the moderately wealthy.  There are many more people involved in the Secondary Economy that there are in the primary economy.

Example:  the Hotel buys meat from a butcher, veg from the market, crockery from the potter, beer from the brewery, wine from the wine merchant …  The inn needs cutlery, pots, pans, bed linen, laundry services and many other items.  The Commoners need somewhere to live, so the Secondary Economy includes tenements and other rented facilities owned by, and providing an income for, the minor aristocrats and lesser NPCs of the town.  All those members of the Secondary Economy have to pay taxes and fees, and they pass those costs on to the Primary economy, as part of the cost of doing the job.

Tertiary Economy

This consist of the commoners who supply the Secondary Economy.  The brewery needs barley and grains, the butcher needs animals, and the market needs eggs and vegetables.  Somewhere along the line someone has supplied metal to a smith or tinker, material to a seamstress and carried wine to the wine-merchant.  It consists of farm labourers, porters, teamsters, cleaners, spinners, weavers, woodcutters, quarrymen, apprentices, servants – and all sorts of other low skilled commoners. And there are more people involved in the Tertiary Economy than in the Secondary.  These guys all have to pay taxes and fees as well – and these get passed on as well. 

The Effect

The economy is like an iceberg – you only ever see the top 10%,  but there is much more going on underneath.  So while ‘Ordinary Tax’ is based on the economic value of the businesses in a settlement, the money doesn’t actually come from the business itself – it comes from all the people who are involved in the business or servicing it via the Secondary or Tertiary economies.

Nor does it come in the form of income or corporation tax – those are much too difficult to police.  Instead, there are fees for using the market, property taxes, fees for passing through the gates – every one finishes up paying bits of tax, according to their station. However, those costs finish up reflected in the prices that the Inn above charge. 

It is important to remember that these taxes are assessed in BPs – which are an indeterminate mix of cash, goods and services.  So some commoners might pay in labour (sweeping streets, painting bridges, carting refuse).  Some members of the middle classes might pay in a goods or services – a supply of torches, or perhaps pens, ink or maybe even paper or a signwriter might ‘refresh’ some of the town’s signs each year.  There are many options – including coins. 

Simple Tax

This is the tax that is paid to the overlord to help grow and maintain the region / province, country or empire.  Rather than being a set percentage, Henry of Midmarch collects Road Tax – this comes in the shape of road tolls and settlement income raised from goods entering or leaving a settlement.  To keep it simple, Henry collects all the income generated by Roads or Highways within the Campaign System Rules.  He does not claim the income generated by canals.

However, a different game could use a different way of collecting this tax.

Development Tax

A Development Tax, is a fee paid when you are granted permission to build or develop something. 

Settlements of all sorts are required to keep Economy, Loyalty and Stability in balance, if they don’t bad things start to happen in their town.  Investors and business-folks are mainly interested in developments with an Economic benefit for them.  To balance that, the council has to add points of Loyalty and Stability to their town – they can either do this out of their tax money, or they can ask the investor for a contribution towards expenses. 

In Midmarch this has settled at roughly 0.5bp per every point of unbalanced economy –  the town has to find another 0.5bp from its own resources to keep the balance.  This is a discretionary tax – it is normally lower for ‘friends’ and higher for ‘strangers’.   Religious building don’t add to the Economy but do add Loyalty and Stability – so they are often encouraged, tax-free, to help balance economic developments. 

It happens on a provincial level too.  Henry of Midmarch claims the right to charge a fee every time someone wants to settle a hex.  He has a sliding scale of fees for his followers – first hex free, next six hexes taxed at 1bp per hex, 2bp per hex beyond that.  It is higher for strangers.  The right to settle at Tazleford was bought by an elf, who paid for it in a heady mix of gems, jewellery and magic items.  That was three or four times the cost that Henry would have charged one of his favourites.   Indeed, he has been known to give hexes away free to people who have done him a service.

Extra taxes

I have described a full tax system here – however a monarch can charge whatever taxes they think are appropriate.  In England / Britain we have had taxes on the number and size of windows, taxes to fund ship building, or special taxes to support an army.  Not to mention import and export duties on all sorts of items – at one point merchants had to pay a tax to be able to export wool that had been produced in England.

As a DM, you should be prepared to throw in strange taxes if it suits you.  As a player, you should expect them …

Mass Combat

Overview

I have never found a set of mass combat rules in a D&D style game that I liked – but I never really knew why. However, sometime ago I saw a blog that explains it perfectly. The quote below sums it up.

“All of these games perpetuate the flaw that kept Chainmail from catching on in the first place: in order to play them, you have to stop playing D&D.

D&D is not a war game. All the design decisions that make a good war game lead to a bad D&D game, and vice versa.

-Because war games are played competitively, they must be fair. D&D campaigns can only achieve longevity when they are unfair in favor of the players.“

There is more to it, and I ‘sort of’ like the system he comes up with – but that doesn’t work all that well with my overall campaign rules. So I have come up with my own version.

Base Concept

I have read mythology and fantasy books for years, and whenever they describe wars, the action focusses on the heroic individuals and the actual battle take place in the background. The Siege of Troy, for example, focuses on Paris, Achilles, Ajax and other heroes – not on the battle. In Celtic myth Cu Chulain fights off a whole army almost single handled – but the stories deal with the small encounters rather than mass battles. In The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien focuses on the heroes at the Battle of the Black Gate – and I could go on.

It is that style of heroic battle that I want to portray in my mass combat rules. The battle is still there and becomes the backdrop for normally D&D style small group combats – with the PCs as the Armies’ heroes. Importantly the outcome of the PC encounters affects the morale of their army, and adds to their saves and combat rolls.

And that matches my experience as a re-enactor :] For years I have been a member of the Sealed Knot and, more recently, The Wimborne Militia re-enacting battles from 17th century Britain. I am never really aware of the overall state of the battle, apart from in the most general terms, because I am too busy fighting my own fight. The same was true when I was in command of a company or regiment involved in the battle – I was given a specific task, then relied on runners from a General to tell me what the overall position was, or to change my tasking.

I want to create the same sort of effect in my D&D game.

The Campaign Rules

My campaign rules are designed to support a long running game where the players can build up churches, businesses and strongholds – and even develop an independent state, if they want to – and these mass Combat rules need to work with those rules as well. That is particularly important at the moment as my primary campaign, runs on RPoL and can have fifteen or sixteen PCs split into three different adventuring parties.

Under those rules ‘Military Presence’ is defined by Defence Points. Each Defence point is, roughly, about a CR7 encounter (after very basic run-through combat) – and will form the basis of Army size/effectiveness calculations. To do this the size of the unit gets smaller and the toughness of the troops increases. So, perhaps, 10 guardsmen, 7 veterans, 5 light cavalry or 3 heavy cavalry, each make up 1dp of troops. And that makes sense to me, because all of those units have the same cost in the Campaign Rules (1bp) but if you want tougher troops you have to pay them more and buy them better equipment, so it balances out.

To find the total strength of the army I use the additive method found in the DM section of the PF rules. The table below is an extract.

Army CR Calculations

CRWeighting
165
2100
3135
4200
5265
6400
7535
8800
91070
101600
112130
123200
134270
146400
158530
1612800
1717100
1825600
1934100
2051200
2168300
22102400
23137000
24204800
25273000
26409600
27546000
28819200
291092000
301638400

Find the CR value of the unit in the left-hand side, then take the weighting from the right-hand side. Add the weightings together and then cross-reference that total to find the total CR of the Army.

So for example a very small army might consist of 4dp of guards and 3 DP of light cavalry

  • 1dp Guards = 535
  • 1dp Guards = 535
  • 1dp Guards = 535
  • 1dp Guards = 535
  • 1dp Lgt Cav = 535
  • 1dp Lgt Cav = 535
  • 1dp Lgt Cav = 535

Total = 3745

3745 = CR12 army.

For that example, I could just as easily have said 535* 7 = 3475 and got the same result.

This all assumes that the Army has a suitable NPC command structure in place, which should be more or less in place from their other functions in the game world.

However, this system allows us to be a bit more flexible. Perhaps a Cleric, Wizard and Ranger also live in town, and they come along to support the army …

  • Army = 3475
  • L4 Cleric = 135
  • L7 Wizard = 400
  • L6 Ranger = 265

Total = 4075 – or a CR13 army.

Note: Characters with at least one level in a PC or Prestige Class.

Example

Midmarch has an army worth 44 defence points, assuming that every unit musters as requested – that gives an Army strength of 23,540 – or a CR 17 army. However, there are a number of NPCs or inactive PCs who come along in support of the army.

  • Henry (Aristo/Scion) CR6 – 400
  • Rikka (Magus) CR5 – 265
  • El (Fighter) CR3 – 135
  • Abbess Beatrix (Cleric) CR3 – 135

Bringing the total strength up to 24,475 – which is still a CR17 army, but it doesn’t need much (perhaps the Roths) to push it up to CR 18.

It makes combining armies straight forward as well. For example House Khavortorov have 15dp (8025) of normal troops and supporters worth another 1465 – giving an army strength of 9,490 or a CR15 army.

Should Midmarch and Khavortorov join up to fight together – their total is 24,475+9,490 = 33,965. Or a CR 18 army. Again it doesn’t need much (just a L4 PC) to tip it over to a CR 19 army.

Making it work.

The battle ebbs and flows around the battlefield, often in sight of the heroic PCs battle. At the end of each combat round one of the PCs rolls for their army, DM rolls for the enemy. Opposed D20 roll – modified by the Army CR and mods awarded from the PC battle. Keep a total of Victory Points.

Army wins by 15 or moreDominant win+3 Victory points
Army wins by 10 or moreWin+2 Victory Points
Army wins by 5 or moreWinning Draw+1 Victory Point
 DrawNo Change
Army loses by 5 or moreLosing DrawNo Change
Army loses by 10 or moreLose-1 Victory point
Army loses by 15 or moreHeavy loss-2 Victory points
PCs get the better of the round +1 morale modifier to Army combat roll
PCs clearly winning +2 morale modifier to Army combat roll
PCs win Heroic Combat +5 morale modifier to Army combat roll, and
+5 Victory points.

The battle ends at the same time as the PCs Heroic Combat.

Victory Conditions

If an army ever reaches -25 Victory Points, it routs and runs away. It might be reformed later, but it suffers a -4cr depletion penalty until it can get back to its barracks and recruit new soldiers. Getting a routed army to reform is an RP challenge for the PCs. A routing army may be pursued by Heroes from the other side, but the victorious army does not chase them.

If no-one routs – then both sides retreat to their pre-battle formation when the PC heroic combat finishes. Any army who finishes the day with 1+ Victory Points – suffers a -1cr depletion penalty until it can get back to its barracks and recruit new soldiers. Any army who finishes the day with 0- Victory Points – suffers a -2cr depletion penalty until it can get back to its barracks and recruit new soldiers.

Whether the armies reform and fight again next day is down to the commanders on both sides. Either commander can choose to retire and concede the ground – if both choose to stand, the battle starts again the next day (with the cr penalties applied)

Why do it that way? Even a victorious army loses soldiers unless they are re-enforced – and that is hard to do with limited communications and really slow transport. But just as importantly, it means even Victorious leaders have to think about their army strength – especially if they think they need to take on a different army later.

Sieges

Sieges have always been more difficult that open battles, and even taking buildings with light fortification or defence is more difficult than taking, or burning, civilian properties. This is because there are more combat trained people about, that can fill in when required. Under the Campaign rules there are auxiliaries and militia – and then there are all those guys who are too old to go off on active duty. However, they can fire crossbows for the walls, chuck rocks over the battlements, pour hot stuff through murder holes or poke spears at anyone who comes close. So …

  • If the troops are at home (ie not out as part of an army) Defence Point Value for every fortified building, villages with palisades, or towns/cities with walls is doubled.
  • If the troops are away, with the army, the buildings are defended by those people left behind – so defence points still count (but at normal value) if the building or settlement is besieged.

The problem arises when you have a city like Tusk. Three districts are inside the walls – and benefit from defence – but another three are outside the walls and there is nothing to stop a marauding army destroying those districts – when the army is away from home.

Property Law

You wait patiently for a post, and then suddenly two come along almost at the same time. However, one thing leads to another – and it was the last post on settlements that made me think about property. While much of this post could be generally useful – all the examples come directly from the game I run at RPoL. In part that is because I am in the middle of developing a new element for my house campaign rules.

Land Ownership

This section refers to large tracts of land that are owned by Kings, Nobles and Aristocrats.  This ownership is heritable, and can be passed down from generation to generation.

Alloidal – this is the absolute land ownership enjoyed by absolute monarchs.  The land is held by the grace of The Gods and The Sun – or by conquest.   There is no higher authority who can make laws or take the land away from its ruler, except by conquest.

  • This is how Coral the Conqueror held Brevoy.
  • Before Brevoy existed – Lord Surtova,  Lord Olovsky and Sword-Baron Aldori held their land Alloidally. 

Palatine – Palatine states are one stage down from Alloidal states – the ruler owns the land but has a responsibility to a higher authority.  Palatine states are generally required to follow military  policy set by their overlord, use a national currency and pay Simple Tax.  Beyond that, they are free to rule their land as they see fit – they decide the laws, run the courts, tax their people, award titles and make any other decisions they want to.

  • Examples – House Lodkova’s lands.

Manorial – Manors are land granted by a higher ranking authority.  The owner can charge taxes and rent, sell or lease land and properties as they see fit. However, they are required to follow military policy set by their higher ranking authority, use a national currency, pay Simple Tax and follow all the laws of the land.   Manors are a single hex – but an individual may own more than one manor, which combine to create an Honour.

  • Examples of manors include – Ringbridge, Oston, Silverton.
  • Examples of honours include – the leMaistre estate (Newgate, Eastgate, Westgate) and the Vallani estate (Feyfalls, Whiterun)

Tribal Ownership – land owned by a particular tribe and the land is used for their communal benefit.  There might be a chief, and there is probably an elite – but the land belongs to the tribe.  There may well be a treaty arrangement between a tribe and the surrounding manor.

  • This fits the Sootscale Enclave (Kobolds) in Midmarch.

Property Ownership

This section applies to individual properties, rather than to parcels of land. However, It can also include livestock such as farm animals, mule trains etc, wagons, ships, boats and personal property such as weapons and armour.

Freehold – The owner has the right to sell or lease the property onwards but must pay Ordinary Taxes to their higher authority.  The authority normally retains the right to take it back into ownership if the property is abandoned or unused.  This type of ownership is normally reserved for the aristocracy and can be passed down through the generations.

  • Examples include – Henry/Adoven’s estates in Tusk –  and every other building listed in the spreadsheets. 

Leasehold – The owner buys the right to build and use a property for a limited amount of time (often 100 years).  For that time the owner has all the same rights of a freeholder.  However, the property must be returned to the authority at the end of the lease or a new fee paid for an extension. Many buildings in towns and cities are leasehold and are often ‘owned’ by low ranking aristocrats, or NPC craftsmen. They are not recorded in the financial spreadsheets and don’t affect their town’s balance/stats in any way.

  • Examples include – Many of the tenement buildings in Tusk are leased by House Hananki and Lily Teskertin,  who are junior members of the Tusk Aristocracy.  They are then rented out to commoners and other NPCs alike.

Copyhold – most commonly found in the country side, Copyhold is a way for commoners to own property.  Normally this comes in the form of a small piece of land that can be used as a small holding, in return for a fixed service.  That might, for example,  be a responsibility to maintain and repair a section of road.  So long as that obligation is met, the Copyhold remains valid and the commoner holds onto their land.  It can be sold, or passed on to the  next generation –  although that must be approved by the local lord / authority.

  • Examples include –  most of the smallholdings in rural Midmarch.

Owners

There are many ways that a property’s owner can be defined – here are some examples.  These  types of ownership apply to  Letters Patent and can be a signatory of a contract.

Personal – Cass Mordane owns land at Silverton (with Manorial Rights) as well as a Hotel and a Tavern (both freehold property).

Family – DELEM trading is the property of the leMaistre family.  It owns freehold property in Midmarch and across the southeast of Brevoy.

Joint – WSM is jointly owned by Domitius Solanus and Kendrick Winters.  It also works well for established adventuring parties and mercenary companies.

Charity – The Three Ladies School was set up to be self-funding and self-supporting.

Administrative – The Governor of Midmarch own a small estate that provides services to Midmarch.  Tusk Council owns a number of buildings in the city.

Communal – some properties are built and owned by the whole community,

Letters Patent

Letters patent are a way for a ruler to assign titles, land or a privilege to people, groups or families.  In many cases they can be granted by a representative on behalf of their ruler.

Patents of Rights – A Patent of Rights is a document that confers a specific right on an individual, often as a reward, or as payment for a service.  Patents of Rights are heritable and can be passed on to succeeding generations.

  • Examples Include Marik’s exclusive right to negotiate business with the Sootscale Kobolds.

Land Patents – Patents of Palatine land ownership must be signed and delivered by a ruler.  Patents of Manorial land ownership are often signed and issued by the ruler’s representatives.  Other types of land or property ownership do not need a Patent, just a contract with the Local Lord –  as they do not confer any special rights.

Patents of Nobility – The document that confers a title on an individual.  Peerage Titles (such as Duke or Count) are only conferred by Kings.  Kings, Dukes and Princes can all appoint Barons.  Lord and Lord-Dominus titles are often issued by the king’s representatives against given criteria.  In Midmarch the Governor can award the title of Lord-Dominus and can recommend the title of Lord – according to The Military Policy.  Patents of Nobility are heritable, but normally contain a clause that links them to the manors that triggered the ennoblement.  (Those manors / resources are inherited alongside the title – other properties may be left to other hiers)

The Terms

In Midmarch, Lord Henry LeMaistre, Governor of Midmarch is the ‘overlord’.

Simple Tax –  In Midmarch,  Simple Taxes are paid to the Governor to support provincial running costs. They are the fee you pay to ‘buy’ the land from Henry the Governor and the income from any roads that pass through your lands.

Ordinary Tax – in Midmarch Standard Tax is set at 29% – and is calculated and paid automatically (by your business managers) within the Campaign Rules.  It goes to fund and support the settlement the building is in.

Military Policy – Different levels of Noble title are awarded to those who provide different levels of military support to the state/province when required by the Overlord\Governor.  (Lord Dominus = 5 defence points, Lord = 10dp, Baron 15dp)