Sunday, October 22, 2017

Armor - How much can you afford to endure? Part 2

OK, so in the last post, we were pushing getting better armor made out of better materials and enchanted to even higher points.  So why not?  What can a GM do to prevent the PCs from getting impervious armor?

Well, let’s start with - Have you allowed your PCs to accumulate so much wealth that they could probably pull this off?  If the answer is yes, then game balance is already your problem.  If this is the case, you have two choices:  1) end this campaign and start another where you will better control the rewards to prevent the PCs from becoming the next billionaires. or 2) assume that everything we wrote in that last post did not concern the PCs, but instead the NPCs and let the bad guys get impervious armor first.

So we are now assuming that the PCs want impervious armor but cannot afford it.  Or can they?  First things first, the supply of some style of super steel needs to be restricted.  In Fletnern, the first level of “super steel” is considered to be dwarven steel.  Dwarven steel is a steel alloy assumed to be more similar to some of our modern alloys.  It is stronger than steel, but not as tough as “diamond”.  So yep, you guessed it, the next step up is diamond.  There are intermediary steps as well, but if steel is a “3”, dwarven steel is a 4 and diamond is a 5.

Dwarven steel is only available in smaller quantities, but someone with sufficient wealth could get a suit of dwarven steel plate armor.  Because in Legend Quest, armor slows you down, if you’re making dwarven steel armor, you have to decide if you are keeping the same general thickness and thus making the armor sturdier or if you are thinning the metal to give the same protection in a lighter form.  But getting that much dwarven steel would likely require someone to do a favor for the Rocchairian Nation (hint hint - mission reward, not something sold in the farmers’ market).

Which makes us turn to diamonds.  Obviously building a suit out of diamonds is out of the question - or is it?  Can alchemy do this?  In LQ it doesn’t matter, because enchanters can use the harden-diamond enchantment to make it happen magically.  So why aren’t all the adventurers running around in diamond hard armor?  Well, the cost of the enchantment is pretty high.  But also, a suit of armor is not a single thing.  It is a large number of plates, scales, and other items that are attached to each other.  So in order to enchant a suit of plate armor, you need to enchant every single piece.  Every strip, scale or plate would need to be individually enchanted.  For this reason, typically only the biggest pieces are enchanted - the breastplate and the helmet.

Just to take that one step further - In LQ, steel is tough to enchant, so enchanters often seek other substances.  For example, after a harden-diamond spell, a leather breastplate would be just as durable as a harden-diamond steel breastplate and a whole lot easier to enchant, so would the warrior be willing to have a breastplate and helm that did not match the rest of his armor?

Let’s add an additional element that likely affects both special substances and magic:  craftsmanship.  To begin, there shouldn’t be a lot of folks out there who can make plate armor - it is not only a specialized skill, but without factories banging out identical pieces, it is one that requires experience.  So whatever else you’re doing, you need to find an armorer willing to work with you.  That is a slight difficulty.

Once you find this armorer, you need to make certain that they can do the job.  Dwarven steel needs a hotter forge to work than regular steel - does the armorer have it?  What other complications kick in when trying something like this?  Again, in LQ (this is why we used the comic book references in the last post), there are nemean lions, like the thing Herc fought and kept the hide from.  Nemean armor is the best armor in the game, but it cannot be made by just anyone.  Why?  Because it cannot be pierced.  How do you stitch something that cannot be pierced?  You sew it with a needle that has been enchanted to be vorpally sharp.  Finding an enchanter that can do a vorpal sharpness enchantment is tough enough, but finding one that can do it on something as small as a needle is much more difficult.

So having the craftsman shouldn’t be a problem, but having a craftsman with the proper tools is.  Remember all the Wolverine origin stories?  Adamantium, really tough stuff to work with.  So are these substances.

So here’s the summary:  If you have enough money, you should be able to get really good armor, but you need to overcome the rarity of the supplies, the limitations of magic, and the rarity of craftsmen with the appropriate tools.  Once you’ve done that, you’re golden.  Oh, as long as you have the means to repair it when it gets damaged in combat.  Yeah, that’s a pain in the @$$ too.

I really like having stuff made out of stuff other than steel.  A character may want to have the greatest armor ever, but does that mean it resists weapons best?  Does it have built in fire avoidance?  Does it repel the undead when they look at it?  We’ve only begun to scratch the surface (sorry, that pun was sort of planned) of what armor can do.  Repelling weapons may be its main job, but there are so many other things it could do that have to be considered.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Armor - How much can you afford to endure?

A knight’s main weapon of war is his armor, right?  I know, doesn’t seem like it should be called a weapon, so if you want, think of it as a tool of the trade ... of war.  But what is armor?  Yeah, yeah, we all know - it’s the stuff you put between your skin and the other guy’s weapons, but is it just a matter of armor styles or simply of money.

In a fantasy game, better armor is nearly always simply a matter of money.  Let me explain my point, and to do so - I will use comic books!  Makes sense, right?  Give me a second on this.

Wolverine - sure he heals from anything and he’s a berserker, but how effective would he be without the adamantium?  Without claws and bones that cannot be broken, he would be all but useless against Colossus, Doctor Doom or anyone else with the slightest amount of protection.  It is the fact that you can’t simply cut him in half or behead him that actually makes him tough to kill, otherwise healing factor of not, he’d be lying in a heap at the beginning of every big fight.

Similar with the Black Panther.  We’re still trying to figure out if he is actually supposed to be super strong or just a black Tarzan, but in the comics and movies, it is his vibranium that makes him so tough to kill.  Without it, Hawkeye might be able to beat him.

So this is my point - I’ll bet your world either has adamantium and vibranium or substances that are similar.  Fletnern does!  But let’s take it to the next step:  magic!  Legend Quest has an enchantment spell that makes things tougher, in fact there are three:  harden, harden-steel, and harden-diamond.  So even if you didn’t have adamantium, you could still cast harden-diamond on things and it would be like walking around wearing the densest stuff known to man (maybe not densest known to modern man, but still in the top dozen and I do think top natural substance).

Wow!  Seems like I’m taking forever to get to the point here, but here it is:  If you can enchant leather to be stronger than steel, or find a metal stronger than steel, then why not build your armor out of that stuff?  And if you can afford to make your armor out of that stuff, how can you get wounded in the game?

I hear you yelling at that last paragraph - but you didn’t mention criticals.  True, but while that Robin Hood movie claims any boy can be taught to find the weak points in a knight’s armor, that job becomes vastly more difficult when you’re wearing a custom built suit of full plate armor.  Not only have you covered up what might have at one time been chain instead of plate, you have a suit of armor that the enemy has not seen before.  Sure, he will assume that the underarm is weaker than the breastplate, but he will not have been trained to defeat it.  Maybe your plates are articulated in a different fashion which makes piercing attacks from the front more difficult, though still possible from behind?  Yeah, Robin Hood’s boy wasn’t taught that in forestry school.

But take this to the magic world again, and the undercoat could be made of hell hound hide which is impervious to blades.  OK, I’m just making crap up now, but the point remains - Take a look at your warrior characters.  Ignoring how much you spent to make sure that your sword does both fire and shock damage, along with delivering a massive poison hit, how much have you invested in your armor?  Is +3 enough?

Go talk to your armor smith.  You know how much money you have and how much adamantium costs per pound.  Start by talking through the finer points of that.  Better yet - After you kill that celestial dragon thing, check out its skin.  How much armor did it have, and do you have a leather worker good enough to tan that hide into something that can become armor?  It is all a matter of money - How much can you afford to endure?

The next post will be about how GMs can make this not work for players.  Sort of a point-counterpoint kind of thing.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Shields - as weapons?

OK - I know most of you are out there playing D&D or Pathfinder or old school, but I want to cover an explanation of shield bashing in Legend Quest.

If you want to use your shield as a weapon while dual weapon fighting, it counts as an irregular ____.  Bucklers = saps, small shield = club, medium = mace, and large =cudgel.  The rules say that the strength needed for the shield is the strength needed for the weapon.

But what if your shield bash is your main attack and not part of dual weapon fighting (because no one has seven levels in Dual Weapon Fighting to handle a large shield).  The main questions have come down to this:

#1 - If shield bashing, can I use my weapon levels in my weapon to parry?  I think yes.  If you can use your shield levels to parry while attacking with a weapon, you should be able to use your weapon levels to parry while bashing with a shield.

#2 - Do I receive a negative modifier for attacking with my “off” hand?  No - Your shield is intended to be used with your off hand, so it does not receive a negative.  You are using it properly.  Even if you put a shield in your main hand, you still don’t get a minus, because it is your main hand.  A rare case of having your cake and eating it too.

and the more rarely asked:  #3 - Do I get surprise?  Quite often - yes!  Assuming this is not the first turn of combat, where the guy should be ready for anything, few soldiers would expect their enemy to do a quick shield bash instead of attacking with their main hand and main weapon.  However, I do think that characters who are more like adventurers and would be expecting more exotic forms of attack should get a chance to notice that you shifted your weight or your shoulders or whatever you would need to do to drive your strength into your other arm.  So case by case would get a chance to Sense the surprise and defend against it.

One more before we go - If you are attacking with shield, you do not get to use the weapon in your weapon hand to parry.

For any who don’t know the LQ rules - your skill with shields increases the amount of defense you get, but when being attacked from multiple sources, you may need to split these skills between those attacks.  Our intent has always been to allow players to create defensive fighters instead of only crafting offensive fighters, so parrying is equally as important as attacking.  The strategy is yours to tinker with.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Importance of Calendar

How’s the calendar work for your game world?  Do you keep it pretty accurately?  No?  Is that because you just can’t be bothered?  Yeah, that’s going to bite you in the ass.

There are a bunch of reasons for keeping a calendar, and I might be too harsh about keeping it accurately.  But what’s the point?  If you don’t keep a calendar, then you cannot say when things are or will be happening.  Let’s start with the easy and move to the important.

Keeping a calendar, you as the GM can keep track of how long it takes to get from place to place and back again.  This matters for a bunch of reasons.  The player characters should probably have some manner of responsibilities in their home town.  Maybe they aren’t paying rent, but they will need to pay for storage, or stable fees, or something to maintain their lives back home.  A calendar helps you keep the records fairly.

Most of my PCs at some point start to breed their own horses (or dogs, or dragon steeds, or pegasi, etc.).  The calendar helps determine how long the animal will be pregnant and how long it will take for it to grow up.  If the mare is the PC’s main steed, then while she’s getting ready to give birth or nursing, she’s out of the action.  But this isn’t the only “training” you need a calendar for.  If you are following your rules, you likely have to track the number of days your PCs are training in order to use their experience.

My World of Fletnern frequently has things going on that the players / player characters are not involved in.  There could be a war going on somewhere else or perhaps there is an upcoming wedding.  Knowing how long the party has been traveling or just out adventuring is needed in order to keep the two story lines in sync.

Do you know what happens when you don’t do this?  An army can cross a continent and back in the same amount of time it takes a raven to fly from one major fortress to the capital city, and that’s absurd.  How absurd?  Well, even casual watchers of that huge sword and sorcery show have noticed how stupid it is that armies are moving faster than ships are moving faster than ravens.  No, I actually started writing this blog post long before this season of the show started, but pointing out obvious plot holes is not something you want happening in your own game.

But in Fletnern it’s not just those really important things.  There are harvest festivals in fall, the Feast of Brakin in winter, rainy seasons in spring, and rodeos in summer.  So you need to know what season it is at least.  One role-playing tip:  I remember Thieves World (before it got out of control).  There was a big thing when the ships carrying the blood oranges came to town and the blood orange season only lasted a couple of weeks.  It was a really cool touch that I am remembering here nearly 40 years later.

One more gold farming reason - If it is late summer or early fall, then the wheat, corn or hay is going to be high - high enough to hide in.  If it is spring, then the fields are recently plowed and will show footprints very easily and there will be no cover.  Winter - Is it snowing?  Same tracking issues.  Winter also means needed to bundle up.  If a prisoner escapes in winter, his first requirement is going to be shelter and heat.  In summer, he might be more interested in escaping the area and then worrying about food and water.

One other side to calendars is that they can be the motive of the mission.  There are those places where you need to be in a certain spot at a certain time in order to see something important - maybe a keyhole or simply lining up the sun at a temple for the summer or winter solstice.  Or (and these are more my favorites) you need to go and get something and return with it before something happens.  I do believe that when the party knows there is a time limit on what they’re doing, it changes the way they play.  A party that stops frequently and let’s their spell casters rest is going to be far more aggressive if they know that spending an extra five hours resting could mean that they arrive too late to save the princess.

The last but really not least point is this:  Because I have been using my world of Fletnern for decades now, I often want to (sometimes need to) go back and try to figure out what I set up the last time.  OK, maybe I don’t have to, but I can use what I already created without reinventing the wheel.  Trying to keep track of how things are going or went or even figure out how long this party has been adventuring together - this stuff matters!

Calendars are easier when you’re just starting off!  It isn’t until you’re running multiple campaigns in the same world at the same time that things start to get tricky.  So while it is easy - keep the calendar.  You’ll be glad you did.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Strip Maps

Few people of Fletnern use maps.  For the everyday person, even those who might be traveling from one place to another, will not use a map.  If they do not know where they are going, they can ask for directions or rely on road signs.  Every town that wants to be visited (engage in trade) makes certain that there are sufficient signs directing people to their town.

The main users of maps are the navigators, most commonly those on ships.  They need to be able to spot and recognize land marks, even if they are simply a stretch of coast.  Surveyors and other governmental officials use maps but most often in the collecting of taxes and not in exploration.  These maps are incredibly expensive.  Not only are they expensive to craft, but they are incredibly expensive to make accurately.

When travelers are looking to use a map, they most commonly buy a strip map.  Not only are these maps vastly cheaper to craft and develop but they don’t waste space showing a traveler a piece of land they will never see, most typically anything away from the road.  All a strip map shows is what the traveler should expect to see while following the road, river, or whatever established path the map explains.  Nearly every purchaser of this type of map understands that the map maker was paid by certain people along the way to make certain that their businesses are included on the map.  For instance, if you buy a particular strip map, you will be shown where the inns are that helped the map maker, but probably not see the ones that didn’t give him a little extra.  One would hope that the cartographer was steering you towards the best inns, but that is not necessarily the case.