30 October 2012

Classes: The Fighter

A first-level Fighter should be a force to be reckoned with. This isn't just someone who picked up a sword. They have either seen battle, or have extensive training. Or maybe both. They should almost always win a fight against an untrained opponent.

  • Backgrounds:
    • Sellsword, Bandit, Man-at-arms, Hedge Knight, Yeoman, Squire, Knight, Noble
  • Abilities:
    • Use any weapon
    • Ignore first failed Fortitude check
    • +2 to Attack and Defence
  • Advancement by:
    • Surviving Battles, training
  • Further Advancement:
    • +1 to Attack and Defence
    • Every second level, fight an additional opponent without penalty
I haven't quite figured out the advancement rate for these things, but I definitely want to tie the advancement of each class to their key talents.

Next up: the Magician.

25 October 2012

Expected Outcomes: Wilderness Travel Distances

Roll a 2d6 for an expected outcome check. On an expected outcome result, you travel the amount given in the chart at the end of the post on Overland Movement.

On a worse than expected outcome, you're delayed by a mishap and lose time.

On a better than expected outcome, you hit a good stride, or find a game trail or something that makes your travel easier, and you make your day's travel distance early, letting you make a few extra miles, or give you extra time for study and finding a good campsite.

Worse outcomes:

  1. Poison ivy, etc. - lose 10%
  2. Lost - lose 25% of day
  3. Lost - lose 50% of day
  4. Horse throws shoe, depends on group's skills, or push on without it (slight chance of horse getting lamed - maybe 5%)
  5. Horse lame / Sprained ankle - lose horse
  6. Horse spooked - if pack animal, lose 10% of day tracking it down
  7. Thrown - someone thrown and hurt
  8. Kicked - someone kicked by horse and hurt

Better outcomes:

  1. Good momentum or favourable game trail - 20% extra or 20% early (more time to look for a campsite)

21 October 2012

Major Magicians and Their Minor Works

Major Magicians

In which is listed some of the major magicians in the English tradition, and their minor works, suitable for the novice. Scraps of these works survive, and are generally known among people who study magic.

  • Vessel
    • An object which receives and stores a spell. Generally speaking, must be an allied or neutral object.
  • Timer
    • Anything that defines a clear point in time - a candle burning down, an hourglass running out, someone crossing a threshold. It generally can't be more specific than that, i.e. when Bill crosses the threshold.
  • Allied / Neutral Object
    • Any object owned by or which personally knows the caster would be an allied object (e.g. the caster's shoes, the stones of the caster's house, roads the caster walks often). 
    • Any object that doesn't have any specific antipathy to the caster, or which isn't allied to an enemy of the caster would be a neutral object (e.g. a random stones in the forest).
    • This concept can be applied to beasts and plants, as well - some spells will require an allied or neutral creature.
  • Subject
    • A person, other than the caster, on whom the spell works. Typically requires something which is connected to the person to function.
  • Mathias Penshawe, Ab Oculis Avium (From the Eyes of Birds)
    • De Manu, Locus (From the Hand, the Location)
      • PL: 4
      • Duration: Concentration
      • Summary: Hands glow brighter near magic sources.
      • The caster's hand glows in the presence of magic - glows more brightly the closer the source.
    • Visionarios Piscinam (Visionary Pool)
      • PL: 4
      • Duration: Concentration
      • Summary: Peer into a mirror or silver dish to see through any mirror the caster has seen.
    • Ab Obiecto, Oculum (From the Object, an Eye)
      • PL: 5
      • Duration: Concentration
      • Summary: Touch an allied or neutral object to place an invisible phantom eye on it. See through this eye instead of your own, but lose all other sensory input.
  • Miles Tilghman, A Book to Ease Your Toil
    • A Spell for Warming Tea
      • PL: 4
      • Duration: 1 round
      • Summary: Allied/neutral object takes one round to reach 100°C (or less).
        • One object friendly or neutral to the caster increases temperature. It will get to about 100°C (or less, if desired) after 6 seconds, and stay at that temperature as long as the caster concentrates.
        • Won't work on items much bigger than a big teapot.
    • A Spell for Watchful Nights
      • PL: 4
      • Duration: One Night
      • Summary: Subject won't need sleep for 36 hours. Then, they enter a coma for 12 hours (no normal means will wake the subject).
    •  A Spell for Calling Friends
      • PL: 5
      • Duration: Variable Delay / Instantaneous
      • Summary: Caster designates a vessel and a timer. Vessel will chime like a church bell (loud!) when the timer runs out.
  • Francis Holcott, The Edge of the 7th Ring
    • The Distant Finger
      • PL: 4
      • Duration: Concentration
      • Summary: Caster can touch anything with one finger up to 30' away as if her finger was long enough to reach.
      • Roll a normal to hit with a -1 penalty every yard.
    • Peace for a Moment
      • PL: 4 + X
      • Duration: Concentration
      • Summary: Prevents an ongoing enchantment of one-half X (rounded up) from affecting the caster.
  • Dorothy Ackworth, Memories of the Unknown
    • Impossible Reminiscence
      • PL: 5 + X
      • Duration: X Days
      • Mechanism: 
      • Summary: Subject finds it impossible to recall a single fact or image: a name, a face, a location, where they left something...
      • Something like an event would be too complex for this spell, as it involves multiple actions, actors, objects, etc.
    • Searing Glimpse
      • PL: 5
      • Duration: Instantaneous/Permanent
      • Summary: At any point in the future, you can recall every detail of the present instant with perfect clarity, as if you were frozen in that instant.
  • Avis Cossington, 32 Roads Have Died, And I Linger Here
    • The Merest Labyrinth
      • PL: 6
      • Duration: 20 minutes
      • Summary: Makes the room inaccessible by replacing it with a labyrinth.
      • Creatures already in the room may leave normally, but creatures outside will simply find a labyrinth that leads them back to where they began. Tunneling in, etc, will only lead into the labyrinth, not the room.
    •  Misleading Crumbs
      • PL: 6
      • Duration: 20 minutes
      • Summary: Misleads a creature about the direction of its goal. Does not work if the creature can currently see its goal.
      • For example, a beggar is heading to the town square. Under the influence of Misleading Crumbs, the beggar would start making wrong turns until the beggar was heading in exactly the wrong direction. 
      • The subject would have no memory of the route they took after the effect wears off.

18 October 2012

Spellcasting - Fatigue and Casting Rolls


To cast a spell, you must pass a Casting Check.

For your Casting Check, you roll 1d6 for each Casting Level and 1d6 for each Fatigue you spent (up to a limit of your Casting Level). This check must meet or exceed the Power Level of the Spell.

You can't spend so much Fatigue adding d6's that you collapse (i.e. make your Fatigue go above your Fortitude).

If you fail your casting roll, you take a Fatigue (this may make you collapse).

Concentrating on a spell requires a Casting Check every minute at half the spell's PL, rounded up.


I've never liked Vancian magic. It doesn't capture the feel of magic I like, where spells take a physical toll on the caster. Spell point systems have always struck me as unparsimonious, and systems using hit points to cast have always seemed too harsh (along with the problems of magical healing creating spellcasting power).

Including Fatigue alongside physical damage provides a convenient mechanism for physical weakening of the caster.

The solution I like to Vancian Magic is a system where casters have a Casting Level which defines how many d6's they can roll for their "Casting Roll". Each spell has a power level that needs to be achieved on that Casting Roll. A failed roll indicates that you take a point of Fatigue, and casting the spell will take another round.

If you want to roll extra d6's on your casting roll, you can - but each one costs a point of Fatigue. Decide before you roll how much effort you want to put into the casting.


The first problem with any stamina or health based magic system is that Constitution or Strength become very important to Magic-Users, which is considered "out-of-type".

The first option that comes to mind is giving an extra Casting Level for high Intelligence. This immediately makes Int far, far more valuable than Str or Con for every-day casting.

The second option is a little more radical: allow characters with low Fortitude to add an extra Caster Level. I'm not convinced this is a good option, but it's an interesting thought - I'll expand on this idea further.

The third option is to have a more D&D-like cap on caster's ability to absorb damage. For example, if you start as a Caster your Fortitude is capped at 10. I don't think I care for this option, as it short-circuits random character generation a bit.

The fourth option is to make people choose class before rolling 3d6 in order for abilities. This has the potential to create some fun out-of-type play, I think.

The second problem is magical healing. I plan to solve that by having little or no magical healing available (limited to first-aid type stuff, to help people who've failed a Fortitude check, for example).

Converting Spells

If you'd like to convert D&D spells to this system, I would suggest Power Level = Spell Level x 6, more for direct-damage spells like Fireball. This would up the potential nova power of spellcaster a bit, but at make them trade stamina for that power.

A first level caster with Fortitude 10 and Casting Level 1, would, on average, be able to cast 1.6 converted D&D spells per day before exhaustion.

14 October 2012

DM Tools: Online Maps

In thinking about mapping, hexes, wilderness, overland travel, domain-level play, and so on, I've come across some really cool mapping resources I thought I'd share.

What's the Path? - Britain

If you play in a UK setting, you owe it to yourself to check this out. It's got a split-screen display between Google Maps satellite maps and detailed Ordnance Survey topographical maps and route planning that takes into account overland distance as well as ascent height, and applies Naismith's Rule to figure out how long it would take to hike the route.

It also will display the route in terms of ascent and descent in a cool little graph.

Vision of Britain Maps - Britain

This site has a bunch of nice topographical maps of Britain (and some of the Continent, as well), including a stunning version done in the 19th century. The 19th century hand-drawn version I found particularly useful for visualizing how big a hex is.

Look at the Lake District in England and mentally project a six-mile hex onto it. Look at all those hills, lakes, rivers, streams... It would take ages to explore that hex thoroughly. I realize that this is not a novel thought, but this map helped me understand this on a more visceral level.

While a more modern topo map has more hard info on it, something about the drawing style in this map gives me a better feel for the terrain.

Cassini Maps - France

Going back even further, these maps are from 1750-1790. If you haven't been to France, and traveled through the vast rolling hills of the south, covered in farmland, these could give you a good idea of just how dense the tiny communities are there - many of them dating back to the Medieval era, or before.

If you're running something that's similar to Medieval France, and you're not having the party come across a half-dozen little communities (<100 people) every day of travel, it's too sparse. Opening a random square of Southern France, there would be dozens and dozens and dozens of communities in a 6-mile hex. Even allowing for population growth between 1300 and 1750, there would still be many small communities around.

11 October 2012

DM Tool: Random Man-Made Terrain Features

To be used in conjunction with the Random Terrain Features tables.

Plains (7+)
  1. Manor
  2. Manor
  3. Manor
  4. Mill
  5. Cottage
  6. Abbey
  7. Tower
  8. Castle
  9. Ruins (roll again, this table)
  10. Standing Stones 
Moor (10)
  1. Ruins (Manor House)
  2. Ruins (Manor House)
  3. Ruins (Hermitage)
  4. Ruins (Tower)
  5. Ruins (Abbey)
  6. Cottage
  7. Hermitage
  8. Tower
  9. Remains
  10. Standing Stones
Forest (8+)
  1. Manor House
  2. Logging Camp
  3. Lumber Mill
  4. Cottage
  5. Hermitage
  6. Tower
  7. Ruins
  8. Ruins
  9. Remains
  10. Standing Stones
Hills (8+)
  1. Manor
  2. Shepherd's Hut
  3. Shepherd's Hut
  4. Mine
  5. Hermitage
  6. Tower
  7. Castle
  8. Ruins
  9. Barrow
  10. Standing Stones
Mountain (10)
  1. Mine
  2. Mine
  3. Abbey
  4. Cottage
  5. Hermitage
  6. Tower
  7. Tower
  8. Castle
  9. Ruins
  10. Ruins
Desert (10)
  1. Hamlet
  2. Hamlet
  3. Herder's Hut
  4. Hermitage
  5. Temple
  6. Temple
  7. Tower
  8. Castle
  9. Burial Grounds
  10. Pyramid
Jungle (10)
  1. Logging Camp
  2. Temple
  3. Tower
  4. Pyramid
  5. Ruin
  6. Ruin
  7. Ruin
  8. Ruin
  9. Ruin
  10. Standing Stones

7 October 2012

Overland Movement: Naismith's Rule, FM 21-18, etc.

I mentioned Naismith's Rule in my last post, as it's relevant to overland movement. If you don't know about the Naismith Rule, it's a rule of thumb to guesstimate the minimum time for a given hike. The rule is:

(overland distance in miles + 8 x ascent height in miles)÷3 miles/hour = time in hours

Now, this is for a fit, unencumbered adult in ideal conditions (good terrain, daytime), and it doesn't take into account bathroom breaks, lunch, etc. If you're loaded down, walking through sand, traveling at night, or a halfling, it's going to take longer. But this is a good starting point. You can also plug in different values for the assumed walking speed (which is 3mph by default) to adjust for movement rate differences in your system.

6-8 hours of actual travel in a day is about what is sustainable (according to the US Army).

Dissenting Opinion - combatreform.com

At the same time, I've come across this chart, at Combat Reform. It has much, much higher speeds.

Solder's Load Realistic March Speed Attainable
0-30 pounds............................5-7 mph
30-40 pounds...........................4 mph
40-50 pounds...........................3 mph
50-70 pounds...........................2 mph
70+....................................1 mph or less (barely move)

Now, if I'm interpreting this correctly, this is not intended to be march speeds for sustained marching. This would be for an approach march from an airborne drop into a combat zone. Even taking into account the fact that soldiers are among the strongest, fittest people around, I don't think this is realistic over long distances. My opinion is backed up by the US Army's documents on foot marches.

US Army Field Manual 21-18, Foot Marches

The US Army's official chart for cross-country foot marching agrees that this is much too fast (from FM 21-18):
 The US Army figures about 2mph average for an unencumbered soldier cross-country in good terrain. Assuming an equivalence with Naismith's Rule, we can see that the US Army allows for about 220 yards of ascent in an average cross-country march hour, or for loading of the soldier, or some combination.

Looking at encumbrance, from 0-40 there's essentially no drop in speed, but then things start slowing down. By 80, you've taken a 25% hit, and by 120, you're at half speed.

This is then backed up by their exhaustion chart (I'm pretty sure MPH is a typo, and should read KPH, as they don't use miles anywhere else in the document). You can see that they figure 9 hours to exaustion at the stated speeds. The manual states the typical travel day is 6-8 hours, which is what you'd expect if you want your soldiers to arrive ready to fight. 6 hours is 8 hours on the trail with a good amount of time for breaks.

They also talk about forced marches in FM 21-18. They say that moving faster isn't really practical, but that you can move further in a day by just marching longer. Roughly speaking, the guidelines for forced marches say that you can do about 50% more miles per day for about three days. This will tucker you out, though.


I think I'd follow from the US Army considerations, but simplify things a little into a few categories. If you're exceptionally fit, move up one category. If you're not very fit, move down one. (i.e. if you have a Constitution bonus or penalty.)

To simplify terrain considerations, for bad terrain (hills, forest), move down one category. For exceptionally bad terrain (sand dunes, mountains, thickets), move down two categories. If you're on a road, move up one category (but not past 3mph, unless you're exceptionally fit).

Drop one category for night movement.

Forced marches give you one Fatigue per day plus one for each weight category (0-40, 40-80, 80-120), plus one if you have low Strength or Constitution.

Speed Weight Daily Move
4mph Very Fit 24-32 miles
3mph ~0lbs 18-24 miles
2mph 0-40lbs 12-16 miles
1.5mph 40-80lbs 9-12 miles
1mph 80-120lbs 6-8 miles
.5mph Unfit/Bad Terrain 3-4 miles
.25mph Unfit/Bad Terrain 1.5-2 miles

6 October 2012

DM Tool: Random Terrain Features

In working on some hex-crawling stuff, I realized I needed some tables for minor features on travels through hexes. These would also work well for a West Marches-style hexless wilderness crawl (perhaps especially for that!).

The idea is that with a good network of landmarks, the players can travel in a more believable manner than, "Let's head North into that Forest hex". This way, the players can say, "Let's head past that rocky outcropping and into the forest, then make for that copse of evergreens we found." I think that's got a bit better feel!

How to Use

Roll d10 three times a day (or to taste) and compare the result to the number in parentheses next to the terrain type.

Roll another d10 to see what kind of feature you find.

Explanations of Some Terms
  • Swamp: wetland characterized by trees.
  • Marsh: wetland characterized by grasses.
  • Moor: Covered in peat bog, rolling hills, wet, foggy (e.g. central Wales, Dartmoor). Peat harvesting can be lucrative. Organic matter in the peat suffers only minimal decomposition.
  • Quaking Bog: A layer of peat, sometimes a metre or two thick, floating on top of water. Possible to fall through a weak spot, which would likely be deadly. Can be detected by feeling the ground "quake" a little.
  • Wadi: depression in the ground, possibly a dry streambed or lake. Can be dangerous during rain, as flash floods are possible.
Plains (6+)
  1. Rocky Outcropping
  2. Copse
  3. Copse
  4. Stream 
  5. Spring
  6. Hill
  7. Hill
  8. Wetland
  9. Wildflower Meadow
  10. Wildflower Meadow
Moor (8+)
  1. Rocky Outcropping
  2. Rocky Outcropping
  3. Copse
  4. Copse
  5. Stream 
  6. Spring
  7. Dominant Hill
  8. Quaking Bog
  9. Pond, or Small Tarn/Loch/Lake
  10. Grandfather Tree
Forest (6+)
  1. Rocky Outcropping
  2. Copse (Different Tree Type)
  3. Thicket
  4. Thicket
  5. Stream
  6. Spring
  7. Grandfather Tree
  8. Clearing
  9. Clearing
  10. Wetland
Hills (6+)
  1. Rocky Outcropping
  2. Rocky Outcropping
  3. Copse
  4. Copse
  5. Thicket
  6. Stream
  7. Spring
  8. Grandfather Tree
  9. Cliff
  10. Cave
Mountain (8+)
  1. Rocky Outcropping
  2. Rocky Outcropping
  3. Broken Ground (poor footing, treacherous)
  4. Broken Ground
  5. Permanent Snow Deposit (mini-glacier in a crevice)
  6. Stream
  7. Waterfall
  8. Cliff
  9. Cave
  10. Crevasse
Desert (8+) 
  1. Rocky Outcropping
  2. Rocky Outcropping
  3. Rocky Outcropping
  4. Salt Pan 
  5. Oasis
  6. Hill
  7. Hill
  8. Wadi
  9. Wadi
  10. Wadi
Jungle (8+)
  1. Rocky Outcropping
  2. Hill
  3. Swamp
  4. Swamp
  5. Marsh 
  6. Marsh
  7. Stream
  8. Spring 
  9. Grandfather Tree
  10. Clearing
Edited, 2012-10-07: I've edited this chart a little to clean it up and conform it to another chart I'm working on in this series, one on man-made landmarks.

4 October 2012

Passing Thought - Skills and the Expected Outcome

What are the possible outcomes of a skill check? Most systems have a pass or fail, some have some kind of critical pass or fail, and some have an auto pass mechanic for certain checks (Take 10 or Take 20), and some notion of a difficulty rating.

The way I see it, when looking at a skill check and assigning a difficulty, I have in mind an expected outcome. I then assign the probabilities to likely produce the expected outcome. The expected outcome could be success, failure, partial success, etc.

It recently occurred to me that there's a needless step here - really, all we should be rolling for is whether we got the expected outcome, something worse, or something better.

Here's what I propose: roll 2d6. On 5-9, the expected outcome occurs. On 10-12, a better than expected outcome occurs. On 2-4, a worse than expected outcome occurs.

I think that this, combined with a page of guidelines for the GM, would be a pretty elegant resolution mechanic.

Just a passing thought, but I think I'll develop this more.