No really, there is nothing to see here. I have unfortunately fallen off the role playing wagon having moved from Brighton to Leeds last year. I don’t seem to have found any roleplaying type buddies around in this area of Yorkshire. Are there no such types? Is Yorkshire a no – roleplay zone? I hope not. More updates when I have them. I need a RPG group to keep developing Fusion!
Just an update – as you may have notice progress has slowed to a veritable crawl lately. That’s mostly because real life(tm) has intervened brutally to curtail my RPG activities. I can’t see it taking a turn for the better soon either. I am about to move several 100 miles north to Leeds to take up a new job at Bradford University and as a result I’m sad to say the play-testing group aren’t allowed to sneak in our suitcases and come with us. Sorry chaps. I did ask but was told no. However there certainly has been enough playtesting to support writing up the mashed rpg as it stands. Which of course I am doing but at a very slow pace – somewhat akin to a wounded snail trapped on an island of salt. Oooch – strained a metaphor too far there – my apologies for the discomfort caused.
So please bear with us as we slowly eak some kind of productivity into being, and get another group going at some point. Anybody in Leeds want to help with a RPG? Please apply within.
Terrorists Attack the Plaza District: An Early Game Scenario for Lankhmar and the Hydra FRPG System.
Adaptation/Editorial Notes – Suggestions for Adapting this Scenario for your Campaign.
This scenario is adapted from a City of Greyhawk 2nd Edition AD&D scenario suggestion from the old 1989 box set. I’ve tweaked it to fit more into the Lankhmar setting – although it didn’t need to much for this as it is a city-based scenario and for the Hydra system. We have a liberal approach to the world in which Lankhmar is set (Nehwhon) and Lankhmar as well, so if your Lankhmar campaign is closer to the Lieber canon you may want to tighten things up more in terms of the priest/god aspects and the use of non-human species in the game. This scenario is intended as an early starter – or even a first scenario to introduce characters to each other. So in terms of conversion it should be a relatively low danger/threat to a party that co-operates, prepares and acts sensibly. If the party fails to act constructively or cautiously in the scenario then they should find that they are in plenty of hot water as a result. The Hydra Playtest Campaign Session Journal, Episodes 1 – 9, give you an implementation of this scenario albeit significantly padded and paced out with other plot-hooks and sub-plots and spread over 9 1.5hr-2hr gaming sessions. Stripping out the plot-padding and with a committed party, this scenario could be run completely in about two 4hr sessions. Feel free to adapt and modify the scenario to fit into your setting – it is presented therefore with alternative possibilities to allow for ready adaption by a DM to the campaign setting and party configuration.
Back Drop Rationale of the Scenario
A disgruntled extremist priest, Heironymous Spune, of the Cult of the Beasts has returned after a decade of exile to Lankhmar. Years of exile in the wilderness and bitterness has maddened the priest, and close communion with the magical forces that surround the legendary Beastmaster has not helped either. Spune has amassed a small terrorist force of enslaved Grungh. These are a race of sentient shape-shifting Bears and he has magically trapped and enslaved them to do his bidding with his ring of Beast Control – a rare item forged in antiquity by the Beastmaster Wizard Orton. He has smuggled his terrorist force back into the city via the sewage system and in covered wagons over time, and has taken up residence in the abandoned Old Park Bathhouse in the neighbouring quarter. He has then initiated an increasing war of terror on immigrants and ‘heretic religions’. He has also set about destabilising the southern districts by attacking its commerce. In time he plans to hold the district to ransom with demands for a new temple of the Beast to be erected in the city as recompense for its excommunication.
The party learn about the terrorist attacks in the southern quarters of the city of Lankhmar through the grapevine. It starts becoming newsworthy in Lankhmar when there are several deaths in the Glipkero Street area. Spune then orders his Grungh Were-Bear slaves to start attacking local businesses he blames as contributing to his temple’s downfall. Local flour magnate Pilsbury (aka The Dough Lord) is hit hardest. He will also order attacks on smaller Temples/Churches in the area. When there are gaps in the player’s investigations have news of another attack reach them and allow them choices to investigate the sites of the attack. They will have to negotiate/get round the local city guard – but as times goes on and if the terrorists are not apprehended then the militia are more likely to allow independant adventuring activity to investigate. They will turn a blind eye for a suitably socially empowered individual or if a sufficient bribe is presented appropriately. The attacks happen initially under cover of darkness (hiding the non-human identity of the attackers), and using guerilla hit and run tactics. For a lengthy period there are no meaningful eye-witness accounts, just the aftermath of the attacks. Initial reports are fragmented, and because the terrorists are non-human treated with skeptism and disbelief – hence people are relatively reluctant to come forward until first hand evidence (i.e. a body of a Grungh terrorist) is in the hands of the authorities.
Ways to Start Off the Scenario
When Pilsbury is attacked he will approach the party in desperation to do something about the attacks. He offers resources and funds. It is also clear to the party that he doesn’t tolerate failure and will go beyond the confines of the law to punish those who don’t do his bidding. You can illustrate this by having him punish a guard or employee in plain sight of the player characters for some minor failureor other. In this way the party have a more challenging relationship with their benefactor/employer. Add into this a reward set up later if the attacks continue unchecked by the Overlord of Lankhmar in recognition of the failure of his city-guard. For a starting party this is an opportunity to earn big. Alternatively the DM could entice the party into action by having a minor relative assaulted/surviving an attack and acting as a witness. If the party is in relatively poor financial straits then the rumour of a reward may be enough to get them investigating the attacks.
Starting points are to investigate the remains of Pilsbury’s burned out warehouse. Following this the party can investigate an attacked temple and other sites if they are slow in locating the hideout of the terrorists. Have two Grungh in hiding at the warehouse. They have started to break free of Spune’s enchantment, but are still not capable of independent action. They will fight tooth and claw to defend themselves if attacked – they are more animalistic then human in their behaviour. Individually the Grungh are fearsome and superhuman, but they are not able to readily co-operate as a fighting force and therefore tactical combat by a party can overpower the Grungh. Grungh can also be powered down by making them diseased, or labouring under the sway of the magical ring wielded by Spune. This could slow the creatures down at random points as the ring exerts its magical force and Spune communicates commands to the Grungh. At a distance away from Spune the ring’s commanding effects could be weaker and the Grungh be more animalistic and less intelligent in their activities. For pathos you could have a Grungh change back to human shape if the effects of the ring completely wear off and come to its senses – this could be a dramatic twist in the narrative as the PC’s realise that these are not dumb beasts after all but enslaved into this situation. It is also possible that it may not be relevant or pertinent to the development of the shared story to reveal this angle of the plot and it may be more expedient not to expose this.
Supporting Developing Parties into Co-Operative Play
If you have a novice group and PC’s who are not well knitted together, then nurturing co-operative play, preparation and caution amongst the party participants should be the DM’s priority. (See the Campaign Journal Sessions 1-9 to see a treatment of the scenario where munificent NPC’s – The Hag of the Blue Moon, the Troll Riffkin, the Alchemist Silver, Moolsh the Thief-Spy etc befriend and support the party). Through advice and services (e.g. healing potions, poisons) that cost money or services in return the company and player learn to prepare and support each other for the party objectives over and above their own character’s objectives. If not then party members will be lost unnecessarily. Even so a sense of danger is important and even with a well equipped co-operative party a party member may be lost through bad luck, poor choices or circumstance. Don’t be too nice to PC’s who should feel that they are taxed and challenged by the scenario situations at times – it’s adventure, and that doesn’t always work out peachy and easily.
Developing the Scenario
Reward good detective work and careful, successful exploration with clues as to the identity of the terrorists. As the party follow the trail and explore sites, interview eye-witnesses, it becomes more and more likely that they will run into the Grungh. Either because they manage to follow their trail, or because the Grungh will ‘get wind’ that they are being pursued and will be sent by Spume to ‘eliminate these trouble-makers’. An ambush by Grungh on the party will happen typically late at night, in a quiet area of the city if possible. It will be scary and ferocious, but lack cohesion and be poorly coordinated. A well prepped beginning party should be able to work together to ward off the Grungh who will become dispirited and rout when 2/3rd of their number are injured/killed by the party. Some will fight to the death and it’s down to the DM to roll relevant reactions/decide on the intent and ferociousness of the Grungh when playing them.
Should things lag a helpful NPC could approach the party and act as an informant, telling them that the Grungh were seen in the vicinity of the Park. They could lead the company of adventurers to the disused Bathhouse and hence set up the final confrontation. If the party has done well in fighting off the Grungh prior to the final showdown, reduce the numbers of terrorists accordingly. Have them still nursing injuries should some of the Grungh escaped death at the hands of the party. Spune is not terribly compassionate about his enslaved minions and won’t trouble himself to have them healed or first aided. He is more concerned about them being able to wreak havok upon the world at large and his hated enemies – which grows and grows as his rage and religious mania continues. Spune however won’t care to be caught or killed by the company and would rather have his magically enslaved terrorists cop the brunt of their brute force and will do anything he can to escape. He has a small array of well-learned and practised spells, but since the demise of his followers and brethren he is not the powerful Mage Priest of the Frog God as he used to be. He is particularly fond of Invisibility, and is nearly Superb at its execution and is also skilled at using Darkwall and Windwall. He uses these spell abilities to best advantage to make good his escape, not necessarily to cause harm to the party or to benefit his followers.
If possible try and keep Spune alive at the end of the scenario so that he can potentially reappear in some guise later on down the line and attempt revenge upon the party. In this way you can have an ongoing enemy of the party. Spune of course will need to recuperate and recover from his losses, so the party could hear about his exploits from time to time and learn about his recovery and potential return. Check out the journal sessions to see how this relatively straightforward scenario was extended and interweaved with other plot-elements and story-hooks.
Just to say that because we’ve just had our baby Daughter, Ruby Mae, things are naturally going to be a bit slow on the RPG blog front for a while. Don’t forget about Hydra though as once things have settled and I’ve learned how to deal with the sleep deprivation, we will return with ongoing game development of this Fusion roleplaying game. There are two RPG session entries waiting in the wings (one half written and in editing, and another hot on its heels). Plus I have nearly finished an overview of the the Hydra Playtest Entry Scenario that was used for the main playtesting sessions (Session’s 1-9).
In the meantime meet the newest roleplayer in my team. She may need some help with characterization, unless you needed cute and baby :)
Evening all. I trust you are keeping well. The player behind Felicity ‘Flick’ Sparrow, asked me to have a crack at a character portrait for his Hedge Witch from the Lakes of Pleeiea. So here’s Flick the youthful Hedge Witch. A Hedge Witch, in case you are wondering, is the term applied to ‘witches of the hedgerow’. They are rural village types, with local knowledge, typically skilled also with animals, tracking, nature, weathercraft, foraging and similar. They are ‘wise women’, sort out in times of trouble, when there is illness in the family or when fortunes need telling. Flick is training at the college of Ulris the White, and is a companion of Amberrh of the Cold Wastes and Tillie the Marshlander.
Flick is a hardy type hailing as she does from the Lakes of Pleeiea. She knows how to set a fire, skin and cook a coney, spring a trap and those basic skills Lakelanders rely on day in, day out. Not the sorts of the things the city slicker of a Lankhmarian would be able to turn their hand to if cast out into the wildlands beyond the city of Thieves. I’ve depicted Flick complete with her arcane staff of power (note the curious symbols carved into it). She’s decked out in her all weather head wear. (Yup a pointed hat). This is an acrylic painting on watercolour board and is postcard sized.
Ahem. Evening all. So imagine my surprise and delight when in my e-mail box was a missive from one of the playtesters (Richard) in the second playtest group with some reflections on his playtest experience so far? Yes, you are quite right – most definitely relieved. Here are Richard’s thoughts with zero editing, and I’ll confine my own rejoinders to a post-amble as per usual. Enjoy the clean prose from an unperturbed mind presumably not marinated in unnecessary, obsessive dictionary reading. Unlike my own. Richard plays ‘Flick’ or Felicity Sparrow, and you can read the session summaries of his character play in the Second Group Sessions 1 and 2.
At the risk of further badgering from our long suffering GM/DM/HM (HydraMaster), here’s some idling, musings and fragmentary thoughts regarding Hydra, as experienced from two sessions.
Character Creation: In any game system, it is my contention that proper character creation goes a long way to setting the scene for the game. By investing the time right at the start of a character’s life, the player has a closer bond to their avatar, a handle on how they see the character developing and, I feel, a greater survivability. Any system that glosses over this part has already failed, so Hydra feels a lot like Harnmaster or Runequest and attempts to create a rich back-story from which one can nurture the character into some semblance of authenticity. Without it, characters are just numbers on a piece of paper. I think it’s also Steve’s preference for character creation, as he likes to weave into the back-story to give each character an initial motivation, a friendly shove in the right direction. The whole, visceral feel of just rolling 3d6 specifically for each stat as you go along means you really have to think hard about how they all work together in a coherent fashion – after all, you’re going to have to play this character convincingly, and it is an RPG – the clue’s in the title. I was quite lucky in that I rolled very well except for one attribute, and even then it’s only just below average. Quite what happens when a player rolls half a dozen attributes under 7 remains to be seen. Whilst I accept that PC’s are, almost by definition, out of the ordinary, we shouldn’t preclude the ordinary from having a go at achieving greatness.
Concerns so far? At the moment, and this is just a vague sort of see-what-happens tickle at the back of the brain and that’s equipment and the encumbrance system. Still trying to get a handle on relative carry amounts and tracking it, assessing without recourse to the HM scrabbling through his (impressively) slim line resources. But that’s all I can think of at the moment.
Gameplaying: The game itself has a very free flowing feel to it. The ‘combat’ didn’t revolve around counting hexes/strike ranks/weapon speeds/did he/could he and just happened in a very fluid, organic way. As I understand from the HM, there is a bit more structure when dealing with more typical combats. Overall, it seems to hit the main concerns that Tim and I had as players when we were all discussing our perfect RPG system. I think that the hardest thing to do, as a player and occasional DM of 30 years is the letting go of certain mindsets/concepts. For example, the magic system. Of all the systems I’ve played, the best in terms of playability is Harnmaster. I had to bite my lip in the second session from asking about ‘neutral’ magic etc. My trouble is I’ve played a wizard for a long time and my hubris is that I think I have good ideas about a rationale behind magic. Ultimately though, it’s brought back some of the mystery to RPG’s by stripping away all the mechanics from the players so there’s more time for role playing, not number crunching.
I have to say I am very chuffed to get such positive feedback from Richard’s experience of a couple of games (and pretty shortish one’s too) using the mashed up Hydra. Not sure about the term ‘HydraMaster’ though – sounds like I ought to have some kind of animal handling license. It would be pretty impressive to have an animal handling license for a Hydra! Anyway – I digress. Let me chuck in my rejoinders and comments upon Richard’s reflections. Regarding character creation, the only thing I can pick up on is what might happen if you were to roll up a character with half a dozen attributes under 7. Indeed it remains to be seen – but the character would be played anyway. Statistically you would be hard-pressed to roll up such an relative unfortunate – but it could happen. As a character it would be at a relative disadvantage as a result of the poor stats and harder to keep alive. Harder – not impossible. If you could keep the character alive then you would be able to boost pretty much all those characteristics – as some of the players have started doing for their character’s in the current ‘main’ game. It remains to be seen as to how successful Hydra is in enabling this to happen and how ‘badly’ rolled a character can be and still be nurtured forward into a more heroic figure.
As for Richard’s concerns about the encumbrance system – I share them. Encumbrance has been dialled back in Hydra to be minimally intrusive. We don’t want the past situation of multiple sets of armour profiles and tedious recalculations of combinations of carried stuff. Carry is not just about weight it also contains the notion of carryability – as in somethings are difficult to handle and not just an encumbrance because of their weight. Hydra is not so concerned about movement unless it’s something that needs to be compared against in a chase or a race – so combat is not so affected by encumbrance. Having said all that – you can’t just go ahead and monty haul your character with absolutely everything you can purchase/steal/acquire and carry infinity smerducks back to your base once a game is over. I’m hoping it achieves the right balance but time will tell as the game goes on. So far it’s not played much of a role because no one is burdening their character’s too much.
As for magic – well it’s a very different system I have hijacked for Hydra and as of yet we have only scraped the surface of it. There are more layers and complexities to it then have so far been explored by spell-users in the games so far. So far no one is, I think, even at Spell Level 1, let alone any of the more advanced levels required to progress further into the mysteries of magic use. All of that to come and until it happens I’m not sure myself how well it will stack up against the elegance of Harn Master’s magic system. This will be a collective learning experience! Right – got some bangers and mash to finish off – see you all later. Comments to the usual place. Thanks Richard for taking the time to chuck some comments our way and feel free to write more!