Sunday, June 17, 2018

How Do You Kill a Werewolf?


We all know that werewolves and other were-s are susceptible to silver.  Your game rules may state that they cannot be harmed by any means other than silver weapons, or perhaps magical weapons.  I always hated this.

In that much earlier game, certain creatures could not be affected by weapons that were not magical or, in case of werewolves, not silver.  So - a catapult stone could hit them full in the face and nothing?  OK, later on they added a rule that monsters of a certain power level (number of dice) were effectively magic weapons.  I hated this more.  If a creature is supposed to be immune to “mundane” magic - what’s more mundane than a troll’s fist?

I ran several variants, none of which I really liked.  One was that if your bonus to damage was equal to what the magic weapon was supposed to have been, then you too could hit the creature.  After all, isn’t that effectively what the high level monster rule was supposed to be saying?  So what did I finally decide?

In Legend Quest - werewolves are really tough to kill.  Maxed out they are roughly 150% of humans, but in reality they take about twice the damage that a human warrior can.  To me, double is pretty tough.  But if you hit them with silver weapons, then they take more damage.  So a werewolf can withstand double what a soldier can, unless its silver, which brings him down to a level pretty much on-par with that human soldier.  I like the way that works.

But I have been messing around with an optional rule.  It is clearly stated in the rule book that chopping a werewolf or vampire to little bits is effectively beheading them and beheading pretty much kills anything in the game.  But LQ is often referred to as being “gritty”, because we have bleeding rules and other things that make it tougher to be insanely heroic in goofy situations.  As a means of granting the werewolves a touch more power, I do not apply the bleeding rules to werewolves, unless a silver (or otherwise non-mundane) weapon was used.  So you could chop a werewolf to bits with a steel sword, but you would have to work at it.  If you push a werewolf to unconsciousness (Life’s Blood = 0), but then walk away assuming it will bleed to death like every other living creature, it won’t.  It may take a bit of time, but it will eventually pull itself together (figuratively, not literally) and get out of there.  Even if you do a coup de grace and spear it through the chest with a mundane weapon - it will survive.  It won’t be happy about it, but it should survive.

I think our modern concept of bullets makes it easier to see a werewolf surviving “deadly damage”.  The idea of a bullet passing through a werewolf and not killing it could make sense.  But when facing battle axes and tridents, it just doesn’t make as much sense.

One thing I do think you have to consider even if you stand by the no damage if not magical rule is knock back.  Does your game have knock back rules?  They’re optional in LQ (a soon to be released optional rule).  So imagine that that catapult stone hits the werewolf in the face.  It may not crush its skull, but it will knock it back with the appropriate amount of force.  The wolfman may be able to stand up, dust himself off and keep going, but he’s going to know he was hit.

Having special and specific ways to kill certain creatures can be great fun, but there is a point at which it gets overwhelming for GMs and players.  If every different magical creature is allergic to a different substance, how many weapons do the adventurers need to carry?  I like this “short-cut” of using silver to kill a werewolf because it can still be done the other way, but silver makes it easier.  That feels like the right balance.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

The Bright Side of the Undead


OK, so maybe this post has a dumb title, but are there any reasons that a “good” person would want to create undead or is necromancy really as evil as everyone says it is?  Well, it depends on your culture.  Not to go down the moral relativism rabbit hole, but what people believe about their bodies is dependent upon their religions.

There is a tradition in some Asian cultures where zombie creation is simply to get the corpse back home for burial.  If someone were to have traveled to a distant city in order to get a job and then died, they probably could not afford to get their corpse shipped back home.  So in order to have the corpse buried with the family (and prevent the spirit from rising due to the unfamiliar ground), there are religious folks who will animate the corpse and then lead them to their home / homeland.

I’m sorry but for some reason I just cannot read that and then get the thought of a “goose herder” out of my head.  Apparently, geese were herded to market in historic times, and I keep getting these two images laid atop each other - the cute little girl with her switch and her basket frolicking down the road leading a half dozen zombies.  Yes - I am messed up!

On Sambrek Island, they use zombies as farm workers.  The corpses are typically sundried (as opposed to embalmed in some other cultures) just in case some part of them falls off.  They don’t want dangerous chemicals getting mixed in with the crops, but apparently body parts are just fertilizer.  Only criminals (typically pirates) are supposed to be turned into zombies after they have been executed, but recently, the number of executed prisoners has not kept up with the demand, so they have been importing executed criminals from Brinston.  The zombi-fication is seen as part of their punishment.  When this news breaks in Brinston, there will be a major scandal, but that hasn’t happened, yet.

Our last possible “good” undead for today is that there are many religions that strongly believe the body is the least important part of the person.  It is their immortal soul that matters, and upon death, the soul escapes the body and travels on to the person’s just reward.  Depending on the strength of this belief, turning someone’s corpse into a zombie may not hold any horror to these people.

But honestly, most people are creeped out by skeletons, zombies, and other undead creatures and therefore will consider any crafting of the undead to be a desecration of their bodies.  So, yeah, in pretty much every culture, necromancy is going to be seen as evil (fear inspiring).  Might be fun, but probably still evil!

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Paladin vs. Paladin aka All About Holy Wars

All of our Patreon patrons should have received their copy of PVP Holy Wars.  If not, you need to let us know right away!

For those of you who are not yet Patreon patrons, we have a silly "cereal box" form of the edition.  It's just a couple of simple puzzles, like you'd find on the back of a cereal box, but they're fun and will distract you for a minute of two.

Click here to go to our website where we have it stashed.  This is not a hustle, it really is free!
FYI - On some computers the image will not simply open.  You may have to click it (to download it) then open it from your download directory.  It's just a pdf, so choose whatever pdf reader you normally go to.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Running Adventures for Differently Powered Characters

So you sit down to start running your massive Holy War campaign.  Three of the players are using characters that were in a previous campaign and their pretty super powered by now.  One joined later and is a bit behind, but not so far that he outright stinks.  But then your buddies brought over their new girlfriends and not only are they new players, but they have new characters.  Oh my freaking god!!!  This will never work!!

But it will.  Notice the lack of “!” there.  That’s calm.  You as a GM need calm.  Not every second, because too much calm is boring, but quite often you need calm.  Take some of that calm when this situation hits your gaming table, because this is how you’re going to handle it:

First, we assume you are playing a role-playing game and not a first person shooter.  If you are playing a first person shooter, this won’t work.  If you’re playing one, go find a different blog.  I may play them, but I don’t write about them.

OK, so this is a role-playing game, let’s focus on that.  It is always best if you have some little background story that justifies putting less powerful characters with more powerful characters.  Maybe they know something the more powerful characters don’t, like the location / setting - like they grew up here or something.  Perhaps they have a specialized skill that the more powerful characters do not, such as tracking, healing, or interrogating.

Why would skills or knowledge like this be good?  Because it gives them a reason to be in the party that does not revolve around killing folks.  Most aspects of game balance involve killing or being killed.  If the lower powered characters don’t need to be the big bruisers in combat, then they can still be of assistance without having to change the types of adversaries that the party as a whole is facing.

But, OK, there still needs to be some fighting, right?  Our war scenario actually works pretty well here, because in all likelihood, the party will be facing a large number of lower powered enemies.  Soldiers may be able to kill you, but they aren’t dragons and giants who will smash you in a single attack.  This allows the under-powered characters to fight enemies one at a time, while the more powerful might be plowing through three.

But let’s think about stories we watch on screens.  How many times has the hero told the damsel in distress to wait for him somewhere only to have her follow when she’s not supposed to, but she winds up smashing a flower pot over the villain’s head, saving the hero.  That stuff happens all the time!  Whether it is actually in the battle or during the battle (doing other important things), less powerful characters can be of help to the heroic folks.  Sometimes just serving as a distraction at the right moment gives the more powerful guy the chance he needs to win the fight.  But the low powered folks do need to be thinking outside the box.

But let’s think about like it were a video game, like an MMO.  What happens when a high level character wants to run a low leveled character through a mission or two?  Well, normally, the high level character needs to go down to the lower “zone” to help out.  That’s a good point of reference here.  Even if a higher level character needs to dominate the enemies, this can still be a fun adventuring style.  It is especially useful if while the big guys are easily handling lesser opponents, they can then concentrate more on helping newer players learn the rules.  Important note:  Don’t teach them by showing them what your super powered guy can do!  Show them by teaching them what their character can do!

Most role-playing games have some manner of geometric progression built into them.  This means that by the time the high level characters get their next “level” or two, the lower powered ones might be nipping at their heels.  So off-powered parties normally won’t stay that way for long.  A little bit of planning from you as the GM and a little bit of patience and the party should be in the same ballpark, plus have some pretty cool stories to tell.


This post was written as part of the soon to be released Paladin vs. Paladin aka All About Holy Wars, the latest in our Small Bites editions.  Each Small Bites book looks deeply at one subject, a character archetype, a race/monster, a style of questing, or some other role-playing/world building subject.  This one details everything having to do with paladins aka holy knights as well as the holy wars they fight in, even if those wars are against other paladins (which is when they are the most fun!).

To get the full Game Masters’ edition when it is published, you will need to be a part of our Patreon project.  There will be no free version of this edition.  Seeing as this is a double sized edition (at least over 80 pages) and the culmination of most of the last year (plus) of Small Bites editions, anyone who has been getting involved in our Small Bites project is going to want to have this edition.  Interested?  Click the link here.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Propaganda in FRPGs

Believe it or not, propaganda has a long history, far longer than you might expect.  Early examples date back as far as 500BC, so clearly it is something we should be including in our fantasy worlds.  But do we?

It can be difficult as a GM to handle propaganda, because it is a series of lies.  It’s tough enough to remember everything that is going on in your world and exponentially harder to remember the fake news that is being spread in your world.  But as we all know today, fake news exists and it has an impact on people.  After all, how many fact checkers are there in a fantasy world?  even fewer that people can rely on for neutrality.

Let’s first start with how it works.  How do the people of your fantasy world get their “news”?  Well, they share it like gossip.  Someone hears something and shares it.  We all know how the telegraph game goes where by the time you get to the end the message is completely garbled.  That has an impact, but it is not truly propaganda.

Another news source is the traveling story teller.  Whether musical, poetic or not, these folks are carrying the tales of the various communities from one to the other.  They are probably carrying the news from the capital as well.  At least here, you have one source of news, not the mixed up nonsense that comes through the gossip route, but that one source is going to add some bias.

Some worlds have broadsheets or some other form of “newspaper”.  But these aren’t newspapers the way we think of them.  Often times, they are more like comic books where the image on the front has to be so outlandish that the passerby will buy the thing just to figure out what that picture is all about.  The story tellers fall into this too.  They want to tell interesting stories, so they are prone to add more action to keep their customers entertained.  Here we are getting a lot closer to propaganda, because the propagandist knows that interesting stories get a lot more attention than boring ones.

But propaganda is intentional fake news to get a predictable response from the people.  Do we have examples?  Sure!  Many of us believe that Mark Anthony (the ancient Rome guy, not the singer) was a drunk and a womanizer, but this portrayal is likely due to propaganda of the times.  Many people today still believe that Protestants were tortured and murdered by the thousands during the Spanish Inquisition, but this is all propaganda from the Dutch who were under Spanish rule at the time.  This was the beginning of the moveable type printing press, so pamphlets were all of a sudden easy to produce, and the people of the time weren’t ready to understand that just because it was printed it did not have to be true.  (This is unlike the internet where absolutely everything is true, especially when the facts contradict themselves.)  Many of the stories of the American Indians being the chief scalpers in the history of America are also based in propaganda, but because some of the Indians seem to have believed the propaganda too, there is a lot of mixed up information.

So what does it do?  Well, strong enough propaganda can be used to rile up the people (actually the mob) to commit acts of violence.  Want to get someone lynched?  Make up a lie about them killing a baby.  Chances are the whole town will turn out to not only lynch the accused, but his whole family as well, and possibly everyone else of his race or creed.  This isn’t just a theory; there are many examples throughout history where this happened.

But to what motive?  Why would someone stir up a bunch of propaganda?  For all sorts of reasons, and not all of them are necessarily bad.  Most often the minor propaganda stories are all about ego.  Someone went off to war and comes back telling everyone the most exaggerated stories about his accomplishments.  Is this propaganda?  It is if he’s using those stories to try and get himself elected to an office or maybe appointed to be sheriff.

But that’s tiny.  What’s a big use?  Well, we are focusing on world wars and especially religious wars right now, and this is probably where you see the biggest use of propaganda.  You see the enemy isn’t just the enemy.  They aren’t just other people.  No, they’re cannibals.  They’re rapists.  They use the blood of infants in their religious rites.  These are a people so evil that you need to go grab your hunting bow and come with us to kill them all before they eat your babies.

That’s the main point of propaganda - to get the populace so angry against a political enemy that they are willing to go to war, risk their lives, and kill the enemy.  In order to get this to work, the propagandists want “you” to think the enemy is evil, but they are also dumb.  After all, if they actually were ogres, which is possible in a fantasy setting, then they would be really tough to kill.  Being afraid of the enemy in battle doesn’t help, so they have to be stupid and easy to kill.

Time for a Fletnern example.  The Miracle at Zembmior is when the war god Manoto “threw” a giant “space golem” at a village he was angry at.  The war god Horroag (from another pantheon) put a huge shield in the way and both the golem and the shield shattered into millions of pieces.  The village was saved.

It was pretty easy for the propagandists to say Horroag triumphed over Manoto because the village was not destroyed.  Manoto is evil because he tried to kill all those “innocent” people.  After all, there were women and children still in the village.  But he’s not just evil, he’s stupid, because he failed.  And he’s a tyrant because he was trying to force the people of Zembmior to worship him.  See!  This god is so bad, and his followers are just like him.  You need to get on a ship and sail over there to liberate these poor villagers from this evil god!

Wow!  I wrote the whole thing and I want to get on a boat and go kill the followers of Manoto.  If this example of propaganda shows us anything, it shows us that there may just be a kernel of truth hidden in the lies being spread.  That makes it easier to believe and tougher to denounce.  Was Manoto defeated?  No, he wanted the ... but the village is still there.  Well, yeah, but ... and he tried to destroy it.  Well, probably not, but ... That means he lost and they won end of story!  Arguing against propaganda is never easy!

Remember that propaganda works.  It works best when it plays on beliefs (accurate or not) already in existence, especially if they can include that kernel of truth, though this is not always a requirement.  And when you’re fighting a war, the truth may not be as important as the emotion you want to generate.


This post was written as part of the soon to be released Paladin vs. Paladin aka All About Holy Wars, the latest in our Small Bites editions.  Each Small Bites book looks deeply at one subject, a character archetype, a race/monster, a style of questing, or some other role-playing/world building subject.  This one details everything having to do with paladins aka holy knights as well as the holy wars they fight in, even if those wars are against other paladins (which is when they are the most fun!).

To get the full Game Masters’ edition when it is published, you will need to be a part of our Patreon project.  There will be no free version of this edition.  Seeing as this is a double sized edition (at least over 80 pages) and the culmination of most of the last year (plus) of Small Bites editions, anyone who has been getting involved in our Small Bites project is going to want to have this edition.  Interested?  Click the link here.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Is a War Like a Dungeon?

Let’s consider an adventuring party fighting in a war.  By war, we mean that there are multiple battles, a huge number of troops in the same vicinity, some manner of opposing sides (at least two), and some manner of objective, even if it is “kill all the other guys”.  That should sound like a war to you, right?  The important difference here is that we’re talking about a war and not about a single battle.

Nearly every game master knows how to run a dungeon.  They’re great!  They’re typically linear, so the party of adventurers needs to pass from one encounter to the next in an organized and pre-determined order.  Nothing could be easier (at least nothing involving herding a bunch of player characters).

So can that be accomplished in a war zone?  No.  It cannot.  BUT!!  Some of it can.  Let’s focus on what can be generally the same.

A war zone can be run like a dungeon, or at least a wilderness adventure.  First, you need a fairly detailed map of the war zone.  The only reason this is harder than the dungeon is that it is far larger.  You can map a dungeon down to 5’x5’ squares, but a war zone is at least a couple hundred acres.

What can often work here is to have the big overall map and then get more detailed in the villages.  Even if you have to use the same village map to represent more than one place, that’s OK.  Often, just turning the map so the players enter from a different direction can be enough to eliminate any advantage they might get from using the same map multiple times.

But clearly a dungeon isn’t only a map.  It is at least a map with descriptions of where the monsters are.  That’s really what we’re going after in this post.  Often times, it is possible to simply see the war zone as a dungeon and place your enemy forces (and allied forces) where they should be.  When the party gets to a new village, which side owns the village now?  Who has troops there?  What troops are there?

Just like a dungeon encounter, knowing what the stats are for these folks and what they are likely to be doing when the party arrives is what you need to run that encounter / fight.  But that is the common problem with some dungeons - the enemy is just suiting there doing nothing.  This actually works in a war zone.  Soldiers sitting around doing nothing is called “guard duty”. Depending on the soldiers and their officers, shows exactly what they would be doing during these times.

But here is the main thing that has to be considered:  wandering monsters.  Hopefully, when you run a dungeon adventure, if the party sits still for any length of time, the monsters in the dungeon may be encountered as wandering monsters.  They don’t just sit 15’ away from a party of fresh meat and wait to be attacked.  They have some basic level of curiosity or at least self-preservation and try to be aware of their environment.

War zone “dungeons” need to be far more active.  If the party attacks a village and defeats the small squad of soldiers left there to protect the place, the others in the army need to react.  Reacting might be posting more sentries.  It might be organizing several squads to begin patrolling the region.  It might be consolidating forces so they can better deal with a group capable of picking them off one squad at a time.  Most likely, these will be the escalating reactions to continued losses to the party.

But there are a lot more things going on as well.  Messengers are carrying orders from place to place.  Well protected officers will be moving around to inspect the troops.  Logistics and supplies will be moving around, whether that is getting arrows to archers or collecting the food stuffs the various squads have “collected” from the locals.  An army doesn’t sit completely still.  (Neither should a dungeon, but that’s another post.)

But one of the most important differences between this style of war zone and a dungeon is that the encounters cannot be executed in a linear fashion.  Assuming you did actually lay out the war zone in this dungeon-like fashion, the party can slip past certain encounters and into others that you thought should be handled later.

You are the GM.  To a degree, you can just decide that the first encounter they have will be X, then Y then Z no matter what they do on the map, but players have a nasty habit of not following a GM’s script.  If the first encounter is intended to be with a messenger, the party (at least every party I’ve ever GMed) will hide in the wilderness and refuse to go anywhere near the roads.  So let’s just agree, that you won’t be able to control the order the encounters occur in.

Is this the best way to run a war zone?  Probably not, but it just might be the easiest.  It will be very important that you work out ahead of time what the reaction to certain party actions will be.  If a village on the outskirts is attacked, what will the army do?  How will the top officers know?  If a village they thought was protected or “behind the lines” gets hit, how will the respond?

The other thing is that wandering monsters list.  Who is moving around the territory?  When a party is in a war zone, they should expect to encounter the enemy often, but how?  What do patrols look like and how many are there?  Do they fight first or signal first?  Is one of them expected to flee from any encounter to make sure the bosses get word?

How are they moving their supplies around?  An active group of adventurers aka saboteurs could cause a great deal of havoc simply by attacking and burning the rations that were supposed to be delivered to the troops.  Is the enemy utilizing simple patrols of soldiers or active anti-saboteur groups?  These are things that can be pre-determined and then sprung on the party either seemingly randomly or actually randomly.  It’s not as though you need to have the messenger’s route detailed on your map and he will be at exactly this spot every day at exactly this time.  That would be an incredible amount of planning.  But still, knowing that there are six messengers who each try to hit eight villages in a day to check on the troops there - That can give you an idea of how much time the party has to attack and get away before their work is discovered.

Real wars are nothing like the controlled setting of a dungeon, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use some of the same concepts to make your FRPG war zones both active and controlled.


This post was written as part of the soon to be released Paladin vs. Paladin aka All About Holy Wars, the latest in our Small Bites editions.  Each Small Bites book looks deeply at one subject, a character archetype, a race/monster, a style of questing, or some other role-playing/world building subject.  This one details everything having to do with paladins aka holy knights as well as the holy wars they fight in, even if those wars are against other paladins (which is when they are the most fun!).

To get the full Game Masters’ edition when it is published, you will need to be a part of our Patreon project.  There will be no free version of this edition.  Seeing as this is a double sized edition (at least over 80 pages) and the culmination of most of the last year (plus) of Small Bites editions, anyone who has been getting involved in our Small Bites project is going to want to have this edition.  Interested?  Click the link here.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Why Keep a Calendar?


Back in our post Importance of Calendar (probably needed an extra “a” in there), we kind of went on generically about how a calendar allows you to figure out what season you’re in, what holidays and events are coming up, and how much to charge your PCs for stabling horses, etc.  That’s all important stuff, but when there’s a war going on, the calendar becomes a lot more important!

Let’s just use the Holy War of Fletnern for an example.  On 10/20/658P, a “space golem” crashed into a 30’d metal disc (“shield”) suspended in the sky over the town of Zembmior and the Holy War was on.

No matter what the PCs are doing in the campaign, there is a matter of time before they will be able to take certain advantages.  For example, there was a smelter nearby, but he couldn’t handle the bulk of the ore in his little portable smelter.  Plus, after the pieces of the space golem were smelted for their metal, that metal has to be worked.  So there is a time frame when the players can start to get a hold of adamant steel gauntlets, and later other adamant steel items, but not before.

An angel of death bled into some bandages.  Those bandages were rushed to the city of Helatia where the angel blood was added to healing potions.  But the players can only get the super powered healing potions if they go to Helatia after the alchemists have had a chance to work on the potions.

The Senate of Helatia banished the Warriors of the Faith from the city after their soldiers attacked several local villages.  So up to a certain date the WotF were based in the cathedral they had built in Helatia, but after that they needed to go elsewhere.  This will be a major impact to any allies of the WotF trying to find them in Helatia.

It’s a war.  There are battles going on in different areas.  Often, there are patrols from the competing sides out in the countryside.  That means allies could have help, and enemies will be attacked.  Knowing what day it is so you (as GM) know where the enemy patrols are is vitally important for running the campaign.

We glossed over the Miracle at Zembmior earlier, but the day of the collision, there were ore and shield shards scattered all over the area.  But it was less than a couple of days later that armed bands tried to snatch up as much of the metal and ore as they could.  A week later, there was even less.  As GM, you need your calendar or you don’t know what day it is and you don’t know what the debris field looks like right now.

Being able to track where important people or units are is important to the game.  If reinforcements are coming, then as GM, you need to know when they arrive.  Can the PCs attack before the reinforcements get there?  Can the reinforcements get to a village before the enemy does?  If the PCs are defending, how long must they hold out?  Do they have food and water in order to do that?  You can’t really run a siege if you don’t know how much food they have or how long it will last them.

Calendars are vital in any campaign in hopes of keeping some manner of order.  They are so much more important in a complicated story line like a war where distances between places and the number of hours or days it takes to travel really count.  Maybe not everything needs to be recorded on the calendar, but knowing the order of things and the time passing is incredibly important to your sanity.


This post was written as part of the soon to be released Paladin vs. Paladin aka All About Holy Wars, the latest in our Small Bites editions.  Each Small Bites book looks deeply at one subject, a character archetype, a race/monster, a style of questing, or some other role-playing/world building subject.  This one details everything having to do with paladins aka holy knights as well as the holy wars they fight in, even if those wars are against other paladins (which is when they are the most fun!).

To get the full Game Masters’ edition when it is published, you will need to be a part of our Patreon project.  There will be no free version of this edition.  Seeing as this is a double sized edition (at least over 80 pages) and the culmination of most of the last year (plus) of Small Bites editions, anyone who has been getting involved in our Small Bites project is going to want to have this edition.  Interested?  Click the link here.