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From the prow of your ship you see the island come into view. At first it is nothing but a glint on the horizon, then a shining sphere.. a ...

Monday, October 27, 2014

On Mountains high Altitude and adventures.

Altitude and adventures:
(Not the name of some crappy fantasy game I'm writing.) yet

I have a second Blog, I started it last week and on it I dump work I am doing for my campaign that I want to share with the players. 

Part of that has been hex mapping the players current surroundings. Right now they are near a ruined city in  what is basically frontier wilderness. A no-mans land that was basically depopulated during a war some  200 years ago. So for now it's pretty easy, the area is populated, but not heavily, there are a few notable villages and one actual town. The rest is overgrown ghosts of an agrarian past.
but to the south , the  south contains mountains.



So mountains:
I am thinking eventually the party is going to head south and hit the mountains. I might be wrong but I have a hunch.

I have one major mountain range to contend with. The kind of range where there  are only a few safe passes. Think  the  Rockies. 
Think Donner party.

According to that fount of  all knowledge "wikipedia" the Rockies are 3000 some odd miles long. And more importantly to my needs range from 70 to 300 miles wide. At 23.38 square miles per hex that's a ton of hexes of  sparsely populated high mountains. By Sparsely I'm thinking  three or four people per square mile perhaps, less in the really extreme parts. That's sparse, like hermit sparse. I am thinking  small towns on the  southern side of the  mountains in the valleys, sort of like the Italian / swiss alps towns (Lorenzago Di Cadore for example) 

The  Northern approaches will be much less populated.


I love mountains as a fantasy game environment. There are lots of  places for interesting things to  hide, caves to spelunking, peaks to wonder at. The whole idea is ripe for exploration. Thinking about mountains got me thinking, "what makes mountains dangerous, what if the characters experience if they decide to explore more than just a convenient pass?"


So lets look at some mountain dangers:

Keeping in mind I'm no mountaineer. By the same token I don't expect the players to send their characters off to ascend peaks. I think they  will have to cross the  high mountains eventually and  will more than likely not want to pend too much time there.

I think most interesting is the writer makes a distinction between, Subjective and Objective dangers. Subjective being things the characters have control over, bringing rations, hiring guides, making sure they fasten ropes tightly. Subjective dangers could lead to a  mire of  making  skill checks to climb a mountain which is not what I 'm looking for. For me at most the  players are way too lax about preparation when climbing to height, we should  know enough to call them on it appropriately. (AKA make their climb suitably hellish)


The major objective issues characters would have with  mountains, are exposure and altitude. Other more dramatic events like land slides, avalanches, lightning, and dangerous terrain, are GM events to be narrated and expounded upon. The elements and altitude just are, they always are, no matter how careful the players are.


I think exposure has been covered in RPG manuals in the past, But I'm not sure I have seen Altitude sickness brought up very often.

(I think the old AD&D second edition wilderness survival guide gave it a good once over.)


Some solid information on the dangers of Altitude, a bit more dry than what was offered above but useful. Taken from here:


For example, I find this  block useful"
"Altitude is defined on the following scale High (8,000 - 12,000 feet [2,438 - 3,658 meters]), Very High (12,000 - 18,000 feet [3,658 - 5,487 meters]), and Extremely High (18,000+ feet [5,500+ meters]). Since few people have been to such altitudes, it is hard to know who may be affected. There are no specific factors such as age, sex, or physical condition that correlate with susceptibility to altitude sickness. Some people get it and some people don't, and some people are more susceptible than others. Most people can go up to 8,000 feet (2,438 meters) with minimal effect."
So anything over 8000 feet the  characters should start having a chance of feeling something going on.
Also interesting is, "There are no specific factors such as age, sex, or physical condition that correlate with susceptibility to altitude sickness"  Which leads me to believe the typical "Constitution save" or what ever your game has is really not appropriate.  

How does a GM figure out who is  effected by the altitude? 

A random roll? I suppose that would be the most realistic way to do it honestly just assign the victims randomly. Though I'm not sure it's the most interesting way, it woudl work.

I would give every  character a chance to start showing systems of altitude sickness of about  15% starting at 8000 feet and going up about 15% every 500 feet climbed. 


So on D20 starting at a roll of:
  • 1 to 3  at 8000 feet 
  • 1 to 6 at 8500 feet, 
  • 1 to 9 at 9000 feet, 
  • 1 to 12 at 9500 feet, 
  • 1 to 15 at 10000 feet 
  • And so on. 
  • Or something roughly like it, whatever floats your boat.



"Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS)


AMS is common at high altitudes. At elevations over 10,000 feet (3,048 meters), 75% of people will have mild symptoms. The occurrence of AMS is dependent upon the elevation, the rate of ascent, and individual susceptibility. Many people will experience mild AMS during the acclimatization process. Symptoms usually start 12-24 hours after arrival at altitude and begin to decrease in severity about the third day. The symptoms of Mild AMS are headache, dizziness, fatigue, shortness of breath, loss of appetite, nausea, disturbed sleep, and a general feeling of malaise. Symptoms tend to be worse at night and when respiratory drive is decreased. Mild AMS does not interfere with normal activity and symptoms generally subside within 2-4 days as the body acclimatizes. As long as symptoms are mild, and only a nuisance, ascent can continue at a moderate rate."


This  is a nuisance in the real world yes, but the  interrupted sleep and Dizziness might  play havoc on  Spell casters. 
I would  assign  Save penalties and perhaps even combat penalties for any one under the effects of mild Mountain sickness.



"Moderate AMS

Moderate AMS includes severe headache that is not relieved by medication, nausea and vomiting, increasing weakness and fatigue, shortness of breath, and decreased coordination (ataxia). Normal activity is difficult, although the person may still be able to walk on their own."


This is bad, This is where the fighters start to feel the bite. Shortness of breath, weakness, all lead to combat modifiers. Ataxia can lead to the inability to even walk leaving even the  strongest fighter at a loss. For spell casters it's the same only worse than Mild AMS, there will be no reading spell books with proper focus at 10000 feet.

Severe AMS is similar to the above only  every ting is worse. "including shortness of breath at rest, inability to walk, decreasing mental status, and fluid buildup in the lungs. Severe AMS requires immediate descent to lower altitudes "

As a gm I would move Mild AMS into the realm of  Severe AMS after the  party has climbed another 1000 feet without  taking time to acclimate.

AS far as acclimation goes here is a blurb from that oracle known as wikipedia:

"Full hematological adaptation to high altitude is achieved when the increase of red blood cells reaches a plateau and stops. The length of full hematological adaptation can be approximated by multiplying the altitude in kilometers by 11.4 days. For example, to adapt to 4,000 metres (13,000 ft) of altitude would require 45.6 days. The upper altitude limit of this linear relationship has not been fully established"

Though if I were GMing I would let the characters take less time. They are not looking for full acclimation they just want to get where they are going.



Here is another treat:
"Above 10,000 feet (3,000 meters) most people experience a periodic breathing during sleep known as Cheyne-Stokes Respiration. The pattern begins with a few shallow breaths and increases to deep sighing respirations then falls off rapidly. Respirations may cease entirely for a few seconds and then the shallow breaths begin again. During the period when breathing stops the person often becomes restless and may wake with a sudden feeling of suffocation. This can disturb sleeping patterns, exhausting the climber."




Again Cheyne-Stokes is going to make getting enough rest to heal (ala D&D 5th), recover, or memorize spells difficult. The whole experience is physically and mentally taxing, in ways most characters would be unaccustomed to.

Lastly on altitude, going too high too fast can kill a person outright. taken from here:
"High altitude Pulmonary and Cerebral Edema: Are a deadly, sudden, and seemingly random swelling of the  brain and  restriction of the lungs from fluid build up. It can kill in hours and  getting lower is the  only way to cure it."

I am not saying dropping this bomb on a party member is a good idea. However, that  pesky hireling might  have to die in order to put a sharp point how dangerous extreme heights can be.



Why is all this important?
Imagine a party trying to reach a temple at 12000 feet, being  set upon by a tribe of goblins that are acclimate to the  heights?

Even a high level party might have their hands full as the  fighters stagger around trying not tip over, dizzy, blurry eyed chests heaving. Spell casters unable to focus properly, botching what ever spells they might have on scrolls.


This all adds up  to  two things, characters take their time and camp for days on the  mountains leading to the  chance of  random events or wondering  encounters causing havoc with the party. Or they charge up the mountain risking  altitude sickness. Say  the party is at 8500 feet and the fighter is getting sick. Do the characters camp for two days to let her acclimate? or do they press on hoping they can reach their goal before it gets worse? Are they being pursued? is the climb time sensitive? Is there something living on these mountains that might be waiting for the heights to weaken the party? Storm Giants live up here and they  are wicked smart, capable of luring a party higher and higher if it would give them an advantage.


Finally:

If you have a party heading off into the  high  territory of your fantasy game world remember. Climbing a peek can be a mini campaign all it's own, an expedition fraught with overt, subjective, and objective dangers. Climbing a peak can be an achievement that makes a man a hero. In whatever way the GM and the players treat a formidable mountain range, they should be just that, formidable, and those mountain passes all that much more valuable.






As usual thank you for reading:
Please drop any comments you  have in that hikers rucksack below.
-Mark





















Friday, October 24, 2014

In Defense of the Campaign:

Before I start to  wander here is my main point:
Rpg's, to be at their best need the consistency and structure of a regular continuing game.
Let the digressions begin.

I am not saying that one shot games can't create some very interesting and memorable experiences. I will however say, it's not the same. There are some excellent games out there designed to be one shot experiences, which are tightly designed, elegant and effective. They are also  much closer to party games in my  mind then they are to RPG's. If a person says to me, "We're going to play this one shot RPG today." In my mind they might as well be saying, "lets play  munchkin, or cards against humanity, or Blood Bowl." This is not an attack on one shots, I enjoyed "Project Ninja Panda Taco," and I LOVE "Hell for Leather" by cobweb games.

One-shots can create memories, campaigns can create mythology.

Does your group have a personal mytholgy? When the PC's visit a city do they  know things that have happened there in the past? Is the statue down by the docks that of a fighter who played in that game years ago? Did you players once save, or loose a city? Are there recurring villains that just pop up every now and again? Are the ruins the PC's are exploring the remains of a city the once walked in and fought over as different characters? Is there a ruined tower near the shore that once belonged to a PC?

Esta Carnahan, Personal Mythology

Campaigns provide the fertile ground in which the next set of adventures grow. After a game is well established the adventures practically write themselves.
How does this relate to what I'm doing right now?

I have said before on this blog but it bears saying again, we are in a golden age of gaming. There are more RPGS to pick form than there ever have been before. Everything from big ticket new editions of the "greatest role-playing game EVAR" to small press Indy games. Old school dungeon crawls, new school story games, everything in between. On top of that every type of game seems to have it's own supporting community. I have been gaming for a long time and I have never seen games, of such quality, in such variety, and  so available as we have right now.

It's too tempting to leave the safe waters of whatever game / campaign  is being played at the moment and start sampling other things.


For example the group I am involved in over the past year or so has played, The Strange, Numenera, Ad&D 2nd, D&D 4th, D&D 5th, Dungeon World, a version of Gum shoe ( I missed the games so I'm sorry to say I'm not sure which one.) We also tried some Car Wars, my game AAIE, even at that I might be missing something. This does not even take into account my inability to not work on some random game projects.

It's a blessing, to have some much to choose from and a group to  play it all with. There are as they say  two sides to every coin. I have found it extremely hard to stay focused on any one thing. I have two 5th edition fighters, an Akido cop in The Strange, A 4th ed half dragon,  and a glaive in Numenara whose name I DON"T EVEN REMEMBER.*

When I said in a thread on G+ that "I want to focus on something.** "One of my friends replied and I am paraphrasing. "I want to focus on something Until I (meaning me) get bored (there fixed)."
The comment was in good fun and no offense was taken. It was thought provoking, because I'm never bored, I just get disconnected. In fact think from an observer bored was a fair thing to say just not wholly accurate to what's in my head. 
I have decided a better way to put it.
It's burn out.

Burn out kills campaigns.

Back to my first point, I don't thing RPG's work without campaigns.
When a player or  gm burns out  for one reason or another campaigns because they are hard to do, tend to get sent to the back burner first. Once something slides to the back burner, good luck getting that momentum back. Good luck reestablishing that personal mythology, good luck hooking players away from the next thing coming down the pipe.

What I need as a table top gamer is to get back to basics. I need to work (emphasis explicit, it is work) on my campaign. I need to sit at a table with players and play. I need to be consistent about it. 
In order for me to stay with this hobby *** into what will statistically speaking be the second half of my life I need to get back to building the personal mythology of the campaign. Anything else seems pretty empty right now.

Thank you for reading, 
Please leave any questions or comments in the huge barrel of pickles bellow.
-Mark.



 *(My friends would know that's not like me I generaly take allot of time and thought with my characters.)
**(the original thread was me asking our group what projects everyone was actually interested in so I could pair back a bit.)
***(This is something I have been thinking about quite a bit, not just with  RPG's but many of my hobbies. It might be another blog post. The second generation of RPG players is turning 40. What does that mean for the industry?)


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

I'm Back, Lights back on, bar is open.

put the shingle out we're open for business again.

I went on a trip and was sans net for  more than a week. That's over and now the blog is back up and running. I should resume posting at my normal rate this week.

What will I post.
I have no clue.
I don't want to put too fine a point on it, I prefer to be blunt. I have been  profoundly disinterested in  RPG's in general for  about a couple of months now.
I was kind of hoping a vacation  off in a different country would fire my engine a bit, perhaps it has we shall see.

Regardless I'm back at it so if you stop by regularly, thank you.
Lets keep rolling.

This  kind of building should fire the imagination  right? right.


Saturday, October 11, 2014

Going grey.

There will be no updates on the blog this coming  week. I will be back the week after, hopefully recharged and with  new ideas.


In the mean time
Enjoy the monsters from your id.
And If you need me use this phone, it's attached to my butt.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

My 181st post is a list of all my other posts representing things you can use.


When 2014 began I decided to take this blog in the direction of  posting more things people can use in their games rather than just rambling about the games I am working on. 
To that end I  have posted about  twenty four such entries since. I think it has improved the blog. I know there are more people looking at my page than there ever were before, so it  must be at the very least entertaining. 

I know I'm sloppy sometimes, badly edited, and some of the art work is at best hackney. (I still have to redraw Haver's Harrowing Cube.)  Still there are some usable tidbits in here.  I want to make all of it  available to anyone who wants it.


I will be making this  a "Blog Page" that I will update Monthly.


Adventure seeds:
Priory of the Lumbering Colossus:
The drawing that goes with it.

The Hilldugger Inn:

Haver's Harrowing Cube:

Gulild of Rangers (from my  campaign)
dates back to 2013, fluff from my game.

Scarmaw Orcs:
(something I thought was good but received very little  feed back.. shrug)


Maps:
a cave map:

A temple map (with a standing stone that I have been told looks like a wiener. Classy interwebs, real classy.)

A sort of  abstract  map

Sharak Falls temple:
sloppy as hell but a fun map.


Monsters:



Character stuff:

GNOMES Mfer GNOMES

A 5th ed background: (The Archeologist)
This has 498 views as of today I think only because the  term 5th ed is in the title.


Items:
Sword of Stone and Blood

The Pin of Skull Crushing:

Random lightly silly potions alternatives.



Random charts of stuff:

100 random things that can happen in a bar.

100 Things lying in the corner of your dungeon.

100 Things that Just might be in that inaccessible valley 
(I feel this is my best one)

 2d20 pantheon of Fool , Devils, and Cretins.
(its a drop chart really)

d100 things that might be in that hollow tree.

100 Random Mutations:

Natural cave hazards:
(my second best)

D20 Things that washed up on the  shore:






Wednesday, October 1, 2014

(D20) Things that washed up on the shore one stormy night.

The  storm was fierce.
The  weather had been grey and rainy for days, the slate sea uncommonly choppy, we all knew it was coming. When it finally arrived it blew in form the ocean in the  afternoon, covering the beach with  frothy angry waves. It intensified through the evening, fishermen moved from tier seasonal huts to the interior for the night. The wind lashed hurled it's fury against the  land. The  moaning of the  wind whipping through the lamenting stones which  rose high above the bay was heard for the first time in many  years. Then as quickly as it came, it cleared, leaving a dark sky ripped by streamers of low white clouds. A beach strewn with  the remains of trees and.....

What did the storm wash up on the beach that night?
Roll D20:
Entry 7, Nasty buggers.
  1. A man naked, beautiful, with golden skin and pure white eyes. His chest covered in strange deeply azure tattoos. He is barely alive. He cradles in his arms a large white feather.
  2. A three foot around still beating heart. With each beat it seems to get slightly larger, arteries and vessels growing from it like strands of seaweed. With each  pump it adds mass and branches out away from it's self. Something is growing, or regrowing , something huge, but what?
  3. Millions of diner plate sized crabs. They are intelligent, they wish to negotiate.
  4. A net bag containing a large amount of gold, and a black lacquer box containing a human skull.
  5. A fifty foot long wicker statue of a four armed man. There is a  grey  wooden chest in side of it secured by chains.
  6. An eyeball the  size of a watermelon. It swivels and turns to observe any one who draws near.
  7. A writhing pile of  spiky tentacles, each one ending in a fanged bulbous mouth. The moment any one approaches the  whole thing scurries off into the nearby brush.
  8. A huge dead whale carcass, any one getting near can hear a voice yelling, "Help, Cut me out!" form inside the beast.
  9. A bag containing several large and obviously very valuable jewels. it is held shut by a rope that is held by an ornately decorated sliver clasp. Also in the  bag is a small sealed scroll case, in that case is a note that says  "deliver to high Viser Nesthrilint" (or whomever you want)
  10. This:
    Antikythera Mechanism

  11. A Long sword encrusted with barnacles and coral. It was once a fine weapon, but was lost to the sea.  A good blacksmith could restore it to usable. Every sword has a story and this swords is likely an interesting one.
  12. A singular jet black cube of soap stone. If anyone picks it up the cube splits into four smaller cubes that float above the holders hand. One of the cubes always points true north, but the others move as the holder moves. It could be a strange navigational device, or a very abstract map.
  13. A house, worse for wear but  intact, very exotic in it's aesthetic. There is movement visible inside.
  14. The storm has unearthed only the uppermost three feet of a stone construction, perhaps it's the top of a tower, or an old harbor construction, regardless no one remembers seeing a building there before.
  15. A 13 foot tall stone golem crawls barnacle covered and weathered from the surf. It proceeds up the beach at a slow but steady pace as if on a mission.
  16. One huge jelly fish, easily ten foot crossed if any one goes near it lashes at them with thirty foot long, slender, poison tentacles. It constantly emits a high pitched buzzing sound any animal near by flees. (dogs, horses, birds, ect..)
  17. A dead and  partially decomposed human corpse chained to a severed human head preserved in a glass jar. The head is sentient and and make facial expressions,because it is  submerged in some  viscous yellow fluid, it can not speak. If the fluid is drained the  first thing the  head will do after gasping and sputtering is start intoning  spells to reanimate his bearer corpse, they attempt to mind control a nearby  unfortunate onlooker (usually the biggest most capable looking warrior in sight)to become a new more suitable bearer corpse. Becoming a litch is hard work and this bastard never got it right. He did learn that deals made with demons are rarely made at face value. Having his "mind live on in eternity" sounded good for the first hundred years.
  18. A large (beach ball sized) globe of  amazing craftsmen ship and detail lies half buried in the sand. Each detail a cut and faceted piece of  painted, inlaid stone. In the center of each major cartographic area a differing finely faceted gem mounted in golden pinions. A true work of art, but what of it's function. Ir definitely reveals some areas thought to be unexplored or beyond the  players current geographic knowledge.
  19. One half of a sturdy rod wrought from ivory and inlaid withe golden runes. A dull silver metal clasp on the upper end shows where a scond piece might fasten, and inscriptions along it's length says "Lest We Forget, the Loss of Wards." It gives off a strong aura of magic, but no other function can be discerned.
  20. The  very classic message in a bottle. the  message i s up to the Games GM, what is interesting is that the  bottle has a bit of mercury like fluid in rolling around in the bottom. This  fluid will move on it's own and  roll around in pellets seemingly attracted to the  players. The fluid is the concentrated intelligence and all of the learning distilled from a wizard that was shipwrecked and badly hurt several years ago. Touching the  fluid will give a player a vivid flash back to the  wizards life, seemingly random, but very very vivid. Drinking the  fluid will overwhelm all but the most intelligent of  creatures driving them insane. At best even an intelligent creature that could hope to contain a second mind will have their personality shattered between their own and that of the wizard. The  fluid has no goals of it's own, it is now only a material a repository of  knowledge, creating flash backs that could  teach an adventures character a great deal.



Bonus stuff from Google image search.
 Roll 1D6
1.

2.

3. 
4.
5
6






There you go I hope these spark some interesting adventures. As usual if you use any of them just drop me a line with how things turned out.
Please leave any questions or comments in the gigantic conk shell below.