Archive for February, 2010

Glendawynn of Lankhmar – Player Character

Editorial Newsflash – George, the player of the player-character formerly known as Grendowynn, made the decision between roll-up and play-test that he wants to change the name of his character. That’s why the character sheet has Grendowynn on it and not Glendowynn.

So meet Glendowynn, George’s character. I’ve transplanted her into the working v1.1.2 Hydra Character Sheet. You can see from how the sheet is laid out that the initial heading section is meant to give you an overview of the character background, origins, working background and so forth. We then move into the attribute descriptions which hopefully speak for themselves. So in  Hydra you can literally read out your character description from the sheet, and therefore as a DM it’s easy to present DMC’s to your players. In the case of Glendowynn we can describe her as “A slim, beautiful, fairly strong woman, with decent physical stamina. Very beautiful, bright and charismatic”. No need to interpret the attribute numbers because for the PC version of the characters and for the DMC versions too, there are ready-made categorical descriptions. I think also that there is no problem with some rewording of the descriptions either, so long as the meaning is understood to be the same/similar enough. So we could just as well also say “A sleightly built comely well-toned and muscled youthful woman. Able to withstand hardship, sharp of mind and quick to lead others with her words and thoughts”. The latter being a bit more flowery perhaps.

Grendowynn's character sheet

It's that low-down sneaky seductress of a thief, Grendowynn.

The character rolling process aims to be a collaborative PC/DM/Rule experience. The DM guides the process, offers constructive suggestions for the player rolling the character, explicates the rules as needed. He also interprets the PC’s ideas and suggestions for character development, background plotting and so forth. As you roll up the character, as here with Glendowynn, so you start together to shape an idea of how the person is. What their possibilities are, and how to explain their nature and capabilities to yourself. Sometimes this may lead to getting a bit creative with the rules and bending a few – but if it leads to a sound character from which ideas for plots/stories are going to unfold – bend away. Hydra is by nature a flexible bit of kit and designed to be readily ‘bendable’. Most of the rule-set is under the control of the DM, and this makes it amenable to ready adjustment.

Lankhmar addicts will no doubt baulk perhaps at what the character presents. I’m no Lankhmar expert – and so sorry if this isn’t a great representation of a thief in Lankhmar or there are things about it that don’t exactly fit the Leiber mould. To you I’d say – hey – help me out with writing some source material! My e-mail address is on this site somewhere – drop me a line :) And also I’d say – lighten up this is a fantasy interpretation – not the reincarnation of the books in roleplaying form. Also, if you had this system you could readily tune it in to your own sensibilities – that’s your choice, these are ours. Anyway, enough evangelism.

George was enabled to make as many choices as he liked about this character. At times, he had random rolls to make that the dice afforded. For others he picked options based on what he fancied playing and how he wanted to build it/specialise it. Hence Glendowynn’s selection of skills makes her more of a pick-pocket/burglar type. Also it seemed to us that with her outstanding beauty (they were good rolls on appearence!) that she would probably use her feminine charms as part of her thieving repertoire. Added to this a penchant for using a bow, and I embellished George’s selection of martial arts as a skill by fleshing it out more into a specific Lankhmarian thieve’s style of fighting – short fist. So, more of a ‘Wing Chun’ style of combat. Short ranged combination of hand techniques, predominantly punching in the southern kung-fu style. Just seemed to me a nice way of tailoring it. All those who pick the martial arts skill are free to describe it to suit their character’s unarmed-combat style and cultural origins.

I also popped in the languages – and included ‘Thief’s signs’. This may not be true Leiber – dunno, anyone who does know please let me in on it (I’m slowly reading his stuff). I’ve always liked the idea of covert signals – and leaving signs for fellow thieves. So that’s what the Thief Signs is intended to be. Not much use for anyone other than a licensed thief sticking to the rules of his guild. Could prove of use in the game, we shall see.

So that’s a bit about Glendowynn. Next up will be Vincent’s charming character, and then Jordan’s. We have all the party for play-testing rolled up – I’m keeping it to three players so that I have a relatively small party to manage as I grapple with the new rules. Hope to be getting the game underway in the next week or so. At present I’m working on setting and scenarios, painting up figures for the game and getting materials together. All the PC’s are done and I have some further main DMC’s to generate. Looking forward to bringing it on!

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New Hydra Character Sheet, Playtesting Update.

I have been working on character sheets, and they are now at version 1.1.2.  I’ve skipped putting up the intervening versions as this would indeed, be pointless! This has taken into account some initial character rolling feedback and reflection on my part. So you will see that there have been some changes to terms used in the character sheet. Fear not these are merely term changes and the mechanics underneath remain as is. Words have merely been changed to protect the innocent and better reflect the meaning of the stat/mechanic. My gratitude to the Hydra playtesters (Jordan, George and Vincent) for letting me try out my mashed up RPG with them. I will make sure my netbook has some power next time I bring the thing along so I don’t have to use ANY brain power or calculators at all. Hope you guys are enjoying designing your characters further. I have had to make some minor corrections where I got things wrong – will let you know what they are next time I catch up with you.

There are .DOC and .PDF versions of the hydrasheet available to download from the fusion site as of, about now. I have some printed off copies available for those who want them and will bring them along this week to WGH. I’m going to be around onWednesday evening when I should be finishing off the rolling of Jordan’s character with him if that works out to be possible. Be there about 8pm ish. Big thanks to WGH for being the ideal place to recruit players, talk RPG, have a laugh and so forth. If you don’t know what WGH is – check the link in the blogroll for wargames heaven. It does what it says on the tin.

All PlayTester’s I’ve asked have agreed for their initial PC character sheets to be published online, so I will have PC versions up in due course, and there will be the DM versions, but I’m afraid not available to public eyes they will be in the DM’s journal. (I’m such a tease :).

Feedback so far – generally well received. Positive comments about the overall character generation – categorical nature of the system, flexibility, and roleplaying within the character creation phase. I like Vincent’s point about re-rolls. I am a re-roll fascist these days – we used to have games where stats were conflated by re-rolls or extra dice and then I thought – why bother having stats less than 12 if that’s the case? Why have 3-18 if no one is ever a 3? Why not just 12-18. Hence – no re-rolls. his suggestion – 1 re-roll and you have to take it even if it is worse then the original. This way it is just another dice-roll. I think this could be a DM’s option. For myself – everybody rolls stats as is, once, and that’s that. Then Hydra let’s you, if you keep them alive, develop them up from their humble roots into a truly heroic figure. At least, that’s the plan and we shall see what happens from play-testing, rules revisions and subsequent Lankhmar campaign.

Now, excuse me I have to get off and do my day job. Science is a harsh mistress.

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Original Concept Sketch for Amberrh

Here’s the original concept sketch I did for Amberrh my DMC pint-pot barbarian princess from the Cold Wastes. She’s a pint-pot of fury, so don’t go upsetting her. I have a figure for her which is devoid of kilt, so I’m having to rethink her design as I like my RPG figures to match the character as far as possible. Once I have a new piccy of Amberrh I’ll pop her up onto the blog for general perusal. She’s a feisty girl!

Amberrh of the Cold Wastes

You can see that I’ve gone for a sort of scottish look with the tartan kilt, sporran (thats where the smerduks live), a broadsword carried in scabbard so she can fight with it in or out of the scabbard as needed. She wearing an open-faced plate helm which is basically a roman-type style. Then she also has a ringmail hauberk, with leather underneath of course. Bare legs, and a set of stout socks, with a belt-knife tucked in the socks. Finished off with hob-nail boots. And the obligatory cloak.

This is taken from my  DM’s “little-black-book” of rules, and is part of where I’ve figured out the encumbrance calculations rubrics for Hydra – hence the title in the top right.  She’s only 4’3″ can you believe it? So not part of the towering barbarian tribe of the north that Fafhrd is from, but from another tribe I think.

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Images of Lankhmar and Nehwon

I have been trawling the web for about the last 2 hours looking for quality sources of information on Lankhmar, Fritz Leiber, the world of Nehwon and so forth for the campaign world an there’s a lot of stuff out there, some of which is very old and no longer updated. I am impressed by the scrolls of Lankhmar website though and have added it to the links here at fusionrpg. There’s some serious stuff on there – although it is a slow site to browse around.

It's those rogues of lankhmar fame - ill met!

Here are some of the images I’ve picked up off the web that help give a flavour of the world of Nehwon and Lankhmar in particular. A nice image of Fafhrd and the Gray mouser, giant northern barbarian and teeny gray mouser compressed, for some reason best known to the website author into a capital letter ‘i’. There was a nice website with this image which I’m keeping to myself for the minute because it’s chock full of plot hooks. Any way, moving rapidly on, from the same website (I’ll just keep mentioning it without giving the URL away – although heck it isn’t that difficult to find – I’ll just pray you are pretty lazy and can’t be bothered to move your pinkies towards any search engine type pages), here are some more juicy Lankhmarian type images.

It's those two again!

Just above there in full technicolour is an image from a comics website with another illustrator’s take on Leiber’s fantasy creations of Fafhrd and the GM. Spanish artist, Mignola, if I recall correctly. Thought this was beautifully executed and particularly liked the voodoo-esque quality to the artwork.

I have to say that trying to find quality lankhmar maps online is a challenge. Oh there are some but not so good in terms of quality. Also, there are lots of scathing negative reviews from real Leiber uber-geeks on the 2nd Edition AD&D source material for the COL, which I am using btw. Now, I’m a Tolkien geek really, and not so well versed on the writings of Mr Leiber – although I gather its pronounced Liber. However, it seems to me there’s a lot of axe-grinding going on with the TSR publication. But hey – this is largely VERY old news, so I won’t bang on. I did discover to my keen interest that Mongoose Publishing re-released a RQ Lankhmar supplement as recently as 2006 – Lankhmar Unleashed which I think I will try and get later on when I am less skint. Should be very useful for the Hydra system and developing campaign. People who want to give me a spontaneous present please note the above!

a minstrel in a Lankhmar City tavern

Now this sidebar image (from the website whose URL I still haven’t mentioned) puts me in mind of a lot of RQ illustrations. I’m guessing this is where it hails. Possibly from the above mentioned book. If anyone out there in the webosphere can confirm/deny that for me – please do. Suffice to say I like it and I hope someone rolls up a minstrel type character. (Hint hint to any reading player character types).

Anyway, if anybody has some spot on images from the world of Nehwon and Lankhmar City in particular – get in contact or drop me a comment, and I’d like to have a link to it on the site for reference purposes, and to build a gallery of sorts for use in the games ahead. Always good to have some clear images to help get the feel of a world I think.

Maps of Lankhmar in particular, if you happen to have some lying around on your coffee table and would like to donate them to me in the spirit of giving people you barely/don’t know little presents, would be most welcome! Everyone knows that DM’s and PC’s are obsessed with maps. I have some maps of Lankhmar that I am working up as I speak, but they’re not ready to hit the site yet. When they are ready I’ll pop them up. No breath holding please, drawing stuff takes an age!

Finally I have to finish with this sidebar image (from the website whose URL I stubbornly refuse to divulge) of a mage.

A sorcerous wizard doing sorcerous stuff

We have a wizard in rolling at the moment, and I liked the drama in this picture. Drama! you have to have that in your RPG otherwise you may as well read the back of a crisp packet to your players. Now this guy could easily be casting a spell or he could be waving a haughty goodbye or even ‘stop!’ to his comrades down below. Something funny going on though with that shimmering around the leg area so I suspect this is a spell casting event. But I like the idea that he’s shouting ‘Farethewell – loooooooooooooosers!” to some compatriots down below as he stalks off to go his own way.

Right, that’s a nice little selection of tasty pictures to feast your eyes on. Really looking forward to a full character rolling up tomorrow with a new play-tester. No doubt have a character sheet of them posted up online if they give permission, so check that out if you so desire some time later tomorrow evening. Toodle pip!

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An Example Hydra Character – Amberrh the Barbarian Princess

This is one of the DMC’s, published in the hydra version 1.0 character sheet. Amberrh is the first character I rolled whilst developing hydra so she’s very dear to me. She’s a little pint-pot northern barbarian princess. Underestimate her at your peril because she’s a demon with her fists and feet. Not to mention she is mega charismatic and a barbarian babe.

This is published as if it were a player character, so in the way PC’s record their characters rather than the guts n all DM version. I’m very happy with my logo btw, the image is a medieval picture of – uh – an hydra!

amberrh of the north

Here is the first character ever generated with hydra version 1.0 - my DMC Amberrh!

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Protected: Playtest PC Character Creation

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Protected: Creating a Human Character in Hydra – Rolled Characteristics and Derived Characteristics

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