Aug 27, 2014

Places to Go, Things to Kill: Ocean Null

Ocean Null is the ocean of Necrocarcerus. It does not exist in any particular location, but may be reached by losing sight of land while on an open body of water, whether from fog, darkness, or other means. It may be exited by following one of its currents until the correct shore is reached. It is a vast, stormwracked body of water mainly of use to smugglers, warlords and desperate merchants, though over the aeon of its existence it has accumulated many things that may be of interest to adventurers.

Places to Go

Vigilant Pantagruel

A town built in the empty eye-socket of a vast and ancient skeleton that rises out of the depths. Only the head is visible, though the feet are said to rest at the bottom of a oceanic chasm five kilometres below. The inhabitants mine the skull's teeth for massive slabs of bone harder than steel, and trade it to necromancers for use in undead juggernauts. It is overseen by the Parliament of Pirates, self-proclaimed lords of Ocean Null. Vigilant Pantagruel is a free port where all are welcome, no matter their crimes.

The Lashing Eyes

The Lashing Eyes are a pair of lighthouses that oversee the Great Malestrom, the largest permanent whirlpool in Ocean Null. They sit on small islands on either side of the maelstrom, and the lights are green flames endlessly spurting from the mouths of massive statues of gargoyles on iron pillars. The islands are populated by a handful of refugees who survived the Great Maelstrom and are led by the legendary killer Tzalka Mur, and the crabmen they have enslaved, who dredge untold riches from the shipwrecks laying at the bottom of the whirlpool.

Coal Slag Island

An AUC-run prison atop a giant coal seam jutting out of Ocean Null. Inmates dig the coal and refuel AUC steamers traversing Ocean Null. A red Guardian, Allumex-8, oversees their punishment, and uses fire elementals for guards. Because of its out-of-the-way location, Coal Slag Island is a popular place to hold onto high-value prisoners who are likely to escape or be freed by their allies. The entire island is blanketed with choking soot and toxic coal slag, with the narrow tip of Coal Slag Bastion poking out of the smoke. The prisoners here have a tendency to go mad and become coal wights, who are let to roam around outside the fortified mining areas to discourage escape.

Things to Kill

The Kraken Shipyard

The fever-dream of the mad dream-smith Gotomba Ryoat, the kraken shipyard is a massive golemic kraken that sails around building ships. Unfortunately, to do so it disassembles whatever ships and other objects it finds sailing loose in the ocean for their the raw materials it needs. Those sailors who do not resist are allowed to board the kraken, where they serve as labourers assisting the host of smaller golems who do work too fine for the massive manipulators. The kraken shipyard is a master at its task, and can build a ship out of almost anything in under a day. Gotomba Ryoat is long dead. His body can be seen behind the impenetrable glass of the bridge window, slumped dead over the control panel. The codes to access the bridge were lost upon his death, and now no one can prevent the kraken shipyard from destroying whatever it comes across to build more ships.

The Red Sea Bankers

The Red Sea Bank is a group of vampire pirate-captains, and one of the more aggressive pirate fleets operating across Ocean Null. Most of their crews are thralls, zombies and sea-ghouls, though they will also hypnotise the crews of ships they have captured. The Bank maintains a treasure house in Vigilant Pantagruel, but they maintain a low key presence in almost every major port in Ocean Null. Their leader, Bloodbeard, rides a skeletal chariot drawn by two nightmares that launches from the deck of his flagship, the Furious Hunger.

The Sea Devils of G'Dur

G'Dur was the Guardians' attempt to build a small city in Ocean Null as a fortified outpost for AUC. The experiment failed when the volcanic island G'Dur was on exploded. The city crumbled into the newly-formed lagoon in the centre of the island, and the few inhabitants that didn't die in the cataclysm fled, never to return. Since its abandonment, a tribe of sahaugin have taken over and appropriated the technology and infrastructure of lost G'Dur for their own uses. The tribe now numbers in the thousands, and their army is well equipped with cannons and harpoon guns. G'Dur's site was chosen so that the currents of several major exits from Ocean Null flow near to it, which the sea devils have used to their benefit by attacking ships for materials hard to obtain on G'Dur.

Aug 23, 2014

Fighters Get Better Initiative

I have come around over time to the system of initiative Courtney Campbell uses in Numenhalla as simple and effective. Briefly, the system is that each side (PCs and monsters) rolls a d6, with the higher roll going first. Even ties are resolved in favour of the player acting first, odd ties result in the monsters going first. I used to be more of a proponent of individual initiative, and still use it in some games, but for Swords and Wizardry, and other old school D&D versions I play, I tend towards using this method.

I have a proposed alterations to this system which I will be experimenting with in the next Necrocarcerus campaign:

If a fighter is the highest level character in the party (or all characters are of equivalent level), then the group may roll a d8 for initiative.

The idea is that the fighter is tactically acute in a way other characters aren't, and helps coordinate not just their own actions, but the actions of others, allowing them an operational edge. You can continue to roll surprise on a d6.

Aug 22, 2014

Feats of Strength: A Proposal for Fighters

I play Swords and Wizardry Complete, where there is no "Exceptional Strength" score. I like the idea of "Bend Bars / Lift Gates" as an ability one has, but suggest that you make it a fighter class feature instead of based specifically on Strength scores.

I use Jack Shear's suggestion that all Thief skills use the Hear Noise d6 table, modified by my own rule that Assassins, bards, dandies and monks (and all other classes that receive thief skills) use the same rule, but at -1 compared to thieves (so whereas a thief starts off at 3 in 6 and goes up, other classes start at 2 in 6 and go up).

I propose that we use an identical table to the Thief Hear Noise d6 table for feats of strength - singular exertions of power and force - that a fighter wishes to perform, whether battering down doors, hurling boulders back at giants, hoisting the portcullis of the castle, dragging the elephant he's just lassoed to its knees, picking up an opponent and using them as a living missile, etc. Barbarians, rangers, paladins, etc. may do the same thing, but at the same -1 penalty that thief-like classes suffer in comparison to thieves using their skills. In cases where it might constitute an attack, an attack roll skill needs to be made, this roll simply allows the feat to even be possible in the first place.

The intent here is not that fighters are automatically the strongest class around (though they do tend to be), but rather than this represents their capacity for heroic exertion under stress. I recommend against allowing it to replace normal athletics tests for running, jumping, swimming, climbing, etc. (I will be using Skills: The Middle Road in Necrocarcerus when I start it up again). Instead, this is precisely there to cover the exceptional feats that we read about in epic literature that are otherwise not well represented in the rules. I encourage players to come up with exciting and interesting feats of strength for use in the game.

There are no limits to how often fighters can use feats of strength, and I encourage a permissive attitude, since this encourages fights to follow unpredictable, dynamic progressions involving the feats of strength. Individual referees may wish to establish beforehand with the players of fighters whether these feats of strength can actually be superhuman (as some examples mentioned above are), or merely at the extreme limits of what is humanly capable (the strength of the exemplary mother lifting a car off of her children in a fit of adrenaline).

One simple possible variation of the rule would be to have the feats of strength be merely humanly possible until a player hits 9th level, and then allow them to become superhuman.