Wednesday, April 7, 2010

D.A.'s Anniversary and Fantasy Strongholds

Dave Arneson (October 1, 1947 – April 7, 2009)

While you can't debate EGG's profound contribution to wargaming and role-playing, his works never really sparked a profound desire to write my own works in the way that Dave Arneson's original Blackmoor did. The first time I read Dave Arneson's descriptions of Blackmoor in the Judge's Guild book "The First Fantasy Campaign" (originally pub'd 1977) I felt a connection with the "tongue-in-cheek" humor, inside jokes and "anything goes" style of fantasy that still persists in my adventures to this day (for better or worse).

One characteristic that stood out about the Blackmoor campaign was that a basic motivation for Blackmoor PCs going on adventures was to fund their strongholds, purchase improvements for the strongholds, and help defend or expand their lands. In other words, there was a feel of "ownership" in the Blackmoor campaign that you don't much see anymore these days.

In tribute to Dave Arneson, I outline some modifications for the creation of PC strongholds as they might exist in Spirit of Greyhawk.

So as a foundational step to Strongholds, I think you have to consider the tropes of the Fantasy-gaming genre and make a quick pass at Treasure (at least in the macro) as it might be played out in a world based upon dungeon crawls and treasure hoards.

The Treasure Track

Considering that a big point of the traditional dungeon crawl was the acquisition of treasure, I propose adding a stress track for Treasure. The Resources skill still exists, but is not directly used for spending money, determining lifestyle, or purchasing / maintaining workspaces and strongholds.

  • Purchases reflect stress applied against the Treasure track.
  • The Resource skill represents a per-adventure benefit paid into the Treasure track (like natural healing over time).
  • The acquisition of treasure reflects a one-time benefit paid into the Treasure track.

The Treasure track for any particular PC is determined as:

  • Base Treasure track score = Resource Skill
  • Plus any current Treasure (net increase, not gross)


  • PC with Resource Skill of Fair (+2) but no treasure has a Treasure Track of 2.
  • Same PC received a Good (+3) treasure so his Treasure Track is increased to 3 (not 5).
  • PCs spending drops his Treasure Track to 1 by the end of the adventure.
  • At the start of the next adventure, the PCs Resource skill +2, resets the PCs Treasure Track to 2.
  • If the PC receives a Great (+4) treasure, then the Treasure Track is increased to 4.
  • If the PC spends 1 stress worth of treasure, then the Treasure track stays at 3.

Not entirely the most accurate method, but it keeps the game moving and the fudging is on both sides of the scale so I think it evens out.

General Rule for Spending Wealth (Stress against the Treasure Track)

GM's discretion as to when to take stress to the Treasure track applies (so we don't get into paperwork to buy rope...) but essentially the cost of items (measured on the ladder) represents stress against the Treasure track. For now, roll-ups are applied normally as per any other stress track. Again, perhaps not the most accurate, but keeps the game moving.

Keeping the Randomness in Purchases

Because this is no longer a skill roll against Resources, we can shift the randomness function to instead focus on possible negotiations and modifications to the cost of something, due to the fantasy / feudal nature of the economy. This also has the benefit of making things more fun for socially oriented PCs.

Future Points of Consideration about the Treasure Track

Things to think about at some point in the future:

  • Distinctions about treasure "readily available" versus net sum of wealth.
  • The application of consequences against the Treasure track (like losing access to Strongholds, or losing them altogether)


PCs have the opportunity to purchase and own a physical location that would support them in their endeavors.

Basic Workspace Characteristics

A Workspace consists of ONE of the following at a level equal to the initial purchase quality +2:

  1. Mundane Library (use with Lore)
  2. Arcane Laboratory (use with either Wizardry or Sorcery)
  3. Temple (use with clerical magic)
  4. Alchemy Laboratory (use with Alchemy)
  5. Training Area (Melee/Missile, Thievery, Monk, Assassins)
  6. Armory (use with Crafting)

Example: To acquire an Armory of Fair (+1) quality, it would require a treasure amount of Good (+3).

Specializing Workspaces

Workspaces can be specialized to function in particular area instead, at a level equal to the purchase quality + 1. Examples would be:

  • An Armory that specializes in creating swords
  • A Library specializing in Ancient Lands
  • An Arcane Lab specializing in Summoning

Improving Workspaces

Workspace improvements may be constructed with a skill difficulty equal to the quality desired +2 (or +1 for a specialized workspace).

Example: A PC with a Treasure available of +3 (Good), decides to have a workspace of a Mundane Library. The base quality of the Library is +1 (3 - 2 = +1). If the PC wants the Library to be improved and expanded to become +3, the difficulty would be (3 + 2 = 5), and so the PC would have to roll a +2 on the dice or better (5 difficulty - 3 skill level = 2). Of course, Fate Points and Aspect tagging rules would be available as per usual.

At this level, the physical area is usually represented as more of a house or something similar. Any general physical characteristics are set at Mediocre (+0).

Resource Stunts

Note that these stunts are still tied to having the Resource skill. In other words, just having treasure might give you a nice place to do your research and whatnot, going past that point and creating strongholds, keeps and citadels does require advancement to be spent on the Resource skill.

Secondary Residence

Used as per SotC RAW to allow a second Workspace in a second physical location (either pre-determined or can be specified during play as long it's on the same plane of existance). Some examples of a Secondary Residence might be:
  • A noble's family maintaining a residence in another city.
  • A ranger having a backup lair deep within the forest
  • A thief's safehouse

The physical characteristics of a secondary residence also start at Mediocre (+0).


This stunt allows one of the character's properties to qualify as a Stronghold. Note that a Stronghold is used somewhat generically: a bard's stronghold might be a playhouse, whereas a Wizard's stronghold might be a tower in the Yatil mountains.

The quality of the stronghold's "default" workspace is equal to Resources skill (or Resources + 1 if the workspace's function is specialized). The base physical characteristics of a Stronghold start at Average (+1) and can be improved with the Fortifications improvement.

The stronghold also will have 1 extra improvement (see "Stronghold Improvements", below)


Prerequisite: Requires Stronghold stunt

The keep is similar to the Stronghold, but provides an additional 3 Stronghold improvements. The base physical characteristics of a Keep start at Average (+1), same as a Stronghold and can be improved with the Fortifications improvement.


Prerequisite: Requires Keep stunt

The Citadel is considered a "Wonder of the World". It has the improvements from the prior stunts, but one 1 of them can be traded (if desired) for something unique and distinctive. This 1 unique improvement can be determined between the PC and the GM. The following are some examples:

  • A world-class workspace (adds another +2 quality to one of the workspaces within the citadel and adds another +1 to speed the rate of research).
  • An exotic location like: the Astral Plane or the Yatil Mountains. This also includes a means of dedicated transport for reaching it.
  • A larger and more highly-trained staff (the head of the citadel is of Good quality, and attended by two Fair and three Average lieutenants).
  • The citadel is movable (Baba Yaga's hut anyone?)

A citadel starts with base physical characteristics of Fair (+2) and can be improved with the Fortifications improvement(s).

Stronghold Improvements

Improvements can be selected more than once and can be stacked.

"Additional Workspace"

This improvement allows for an additional workspace to contained within the same stronghold. For example, an arch-mage could choose to have a Library and a Laboratory contained within the same stronghold.

"Add a Stronghold Aspect"

Adds an aspect to the Stronghold at the GM's discretion. Examples could be:

  • Holy Ground
  • More than it Seems
  • Hidden Reserves
  • Traps and Pitfalls
  • Perfect acoustics (useful for a bard's performance or for social combat showdowns in front of a crowd)
  • Situated on a Magic Ley line

Aspects can be purchased with treasure, but each aspect would require a treasure quality of Good (+3). Additionally, aspects purchased after a stronghold's inception would need some manner of explanation. Certain aspects are fairly easy to explain by the application of money ("Hidden Reserves" for one), others like "Situated on a Magic Ley Line" might take some thought to work out a plausible explanation.


Improves the physical toughness of the Stronghold by 1 shift. I would consider that fortifications could also be considered a function of the geography of the area as well, but I wouldn't consider that this improvement places it in some exotic location (see "Citadel")

"Landed Gentry"

This is sort of a catch-all improvement that basically states that Stronghold also has associated lands as well as some sort of feudal order that goes with it. The size of the lands within the Stronghold's control are determined by this improvement. Each improvement counts as 1 shift. This is a prerequisite for other improvements that follow.

NOTE: I haven't worked out the full implications of this improvement, but I expect that this might also have an impact on the PCs status or title.

"Improved Tithing"

Prerequisite: Landed Gentry
The quality of the lands within the Stronghold's control are a function of this upgrade. While a stronghold might control "large tracts of land" (pantomiming Michael Palin's father-in-law from "Monty Python and the Holy Grail"), this upgrade provides a shift in the quality of tithing that is provided by those lands.

So for a literary example of a relatively small stronghold with Improved Tithing, you might consider the Kamarg from Moorcock's Hawkmoon stories.

"Conscripted Troops"

Prerequisite: Landed Gentry
I haven't fleshed this out entirely (maybe Mike can chime in with suggestions as I'm using his Mass Combat rules), but I would look at each grade of improvement as the ability to marshal increasingly large forces for military purposes.


Note that this is slightly different from having minions/henchmen in that lackeys are tied to the location of the stronghold and the lands surrounding.

The stronghold has a small staff of competent people: two with Average skill at something (skill to be determined when defining the henchman), and a Lieutenant with a peak skill of Fair. However these henchmen are tied to the location around the Stronghold.

NOTE: I'm sure there's more to be thought through, but this is enough to start!

Maintaining Workspaces and Strongholds

This is still in the consideration phase, but I think that if a campaign is going to venture into the area of the PCs having holdings, there should be idea of having to accept Treasure stress in order to maintain these holdings. I mean if you're looking for a reason to go out adventuring, that's just far too choice to not use!

Being unable to accept the stress to the Treasure track due to maintenance costs would likely result in a per-adventure cumulative -1 "consequence" to the quality of the workspaces and then losing upgrades (one upgrade counts as -1). Fortifications crumble, unpaid troops will desert, etc.

Assessing the Maintenance Cost (or "Paying the Cost to be the Boss")

Each of the following adds or subtracts at the number shown next to the condition. Add all of the applicable together for a net Treasure stress to be assessed per adventure.

  • Workspace +1
  • Stronghold or Keep rating +1
  • Citadel rating +2
  • Conscripted troops (add a Treasure stress equal to their size/quality)
  • Landed Gentry -1 per upgrade
  • Improved Tithing -1 per upgrade
  • Owner's Resource Skill used as a modifier to the cost. (Note that this doesn't count against his Treasure track)

Apply the net result to the Treasure track. If the net result is positive, that gets added to the Treasure track!

Example: Branson the Knight has constructed a Stronghold with the following characteristics and associated maintenance costs...

  • Workspace (Armory) +1
  • Stronghold +1
  • Aspect "Moat" +0
  • Fortification +1
  • Landed Gentry -1
  • Resource Skill of Mediocre +0

He would have a maintenance cost of +2 assessed against his treasure per adventure. So then our knight is now heavily motivated to adventure so that he could...

  • Acquire sufficient upgrades to have the stronghold pay for itself (or fill his coffers)
  • Acquire sufficient advancements to increase his Resource skill
  • Acquire loads of treasure as a backlog to keep things in good repair

...otherwise, he starts losing stronghold improvements due to lack of maintenance.

WHEW! Okay, that's enough. Mr. Arneson: thank you for the inspiration.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Spirit of Greyhawk - Damage Revisited

On the heels of a prior post about damage and SoG, some information about a SotC mod known as "2/4/6/8 damage" was provided to me. Apparently the 2/4/6/8 modification was created to provide a grittier play experience. So we'll give it a go.

Irresistable non sequiter: "You know nothing of The Grit!"
(paraphrased from "The Mighty Boosh" who likely stole it from Winston Churchill)

Naboo: You've read all the books, but when it comes to the crunch - where are you?
Saboo: How dare you speak to me of The Crunch! You know nothing of The Crunch. You've never even been to The Crunch.
Naboo: I've been there once.
Saboo: Oh, a little day trip around The Crunch. We can all go as tourists.

(ahem) Anyway, bringing it back around...

I don't know if there's a real provenance for the 2/4/6/8 damage mechanic--it's in the community and I'm using it. I provide this writeup as I'm going to playtest it in this weekend's upcoming SoG game, along with psionics. Hopefully this weekend's game is where the merde hits the ventilateur for this particular adventure and plentiful opportunities to test out both modifications will arise (mu-hu-ha)!

Stress Tracks

For every creation phase for a "named" character, give them the usual base of 1 stress box per phase. All SotC stunt and skill-related modifications to the stress track still apply.

So the typical SotC PC would have 5 stress boxes.

Keep in mind that in application to the Greyhawk source material, my quick-and-dirty conversion factor is that each creation phase is probably good for about 2 AD&D levels of experience. In other words, the typical SotC PC with 5 creation phases would tend to imply a 10th level AD&D character.


Consequences work more or less as you know them in SotC RAW, in that a "named" character still has the baseline of being able to deal with 3 consequences before being taken out. All SotC RAW skills and stunts related to adding / removing consequences are still in effect.

However, there are now 4 consequences that could be inflicted...

  • Minor (treated as per normal)
  • Moderate (treated as per normal)
  • Severe (treated as per normal)
  • Extreme (receiving this consequence also creates a "permanent" damage-related aspect that would require something like Regeneration or Restoration to negate)

...but consistent with SotC, you can only have 3 consequences and only 1 of each kind (barring some stunt/skill adjustment). So for what this 4th consequence means, see the next section.

Applying Stress & Consequences

The process by which stress is applied is only slightly different.

Determine the amount of stress applied to a target. So let's use an example where a PC with 5 stress-boxes is thumped for 6 stress. Since 6 exceeds the PC's physical stress track, he is considered "taken out" UNLESS the PC accepts a consequence, which is pretty consistent with SotC. Remember that a PC can "trade in" consequences for stress boxes any time; it's at the player's discretion.

The severity of the consequence is related to a certain "reduction" of stress boxes:

  • Minor (worth a reduction of 2 stress boxes)
  • Moderate (worth a reduction of 4 stress boxes)
  • Severe (worth a reduction of 6 stress boxes)
  • Extreme (worth a reduction of 8 stress boxes)

So using the example above, the player who received the 6 stress has the option to avoid being taken out by either:

  • Accept a Minor consequence and receive 4 stress (6 - 2 = 4)
  • Accept a Moderate consequence and receive 2 stress (6 - 4 = 2)
  • Accept a Severe consequence and receive 0 stress (6 - 6 = 0)

All SotC stress roll-up rules still apply.

Recovery Time

Recovering from consequences is is pretty much the same as SotC RAW, but I'll show it here with the Extreme consequence:

  • Minor ("take a breather" for a few minutes)
  • Moderate (several days recovery to clear)
  • Severe (several weeks recovery to clear)
  • Extreme (several months of recovery to clear, but even still there's a permanent loss somehow, expressed by an Aspect.

Some examples of Extreme consequences might be:

  • Luke gets his hand cut off by Vader's lightsaber.
  • Frodo stabbed by the Nazgul's blade--even though Elrond "healed" him, he still carried the effects of that wound the rest of his life.
  • Harry Dresden's hand being burned during the showdown with Mavra's Scourge

So what I really like about this is the fact that it's such a small modification and how much fun and (oh I'm gonna say it) "grit" this adds without very much re-work at all.

Giving credit where credit is due: A huge amount of thanks to Bill Burdick for the research.

Psionic Effects coming up next!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Anglerre: No Foolin'

So I know I haven't been posting on this blog lately -- after that flurry of supers posts, my FATE activities dropped off precipitously, and lately I've been spending time finishing up Leftovers so it can go to layout, and working on other stuff (like this latest Game-Fu entry). And plus, y'know, baby, which also consumes no small amount of time on a daily basis.

Thankfully, we have Guy Bowring and his seldom-ending stream of FATE goodness to keep the blog active. Whew!

Anyway... I thought it might be of some interest to readers that I'm currently perusing Legends of Anglerre. Seriously! I know it's April Fool's Day and all, and this could easily be taken as a joke, since last year at this time we thought we'd have this in November 2009, but for serious real, I have in front of me (all right, on the screen in front of me) a very rough layout of Anglerre. How rough? Well, it's missing an index and a table of contents, the credits page is a placeholder, the character sheet's from Starblazer, there are many references to "page XX," it has yet to be proofread, etc. The point is, though, it exists, and for those of us who've been wondering when that was going to happen, that's... something of a relief, at least for me. Not that I thought it wouldn't happen, because I knew it would. The relief is that it's April instead of, say, July.

I'm told that, in the interest of keeping the page count down (yay!), Anglerre won't be quite as image-heavy as Starblazer. In a way, that's a shame -- all those images are a large part of Starblazer's charm, IMO, but if I had to make a choice, I'd rather have a book of a manageable size (and price?) than ~150 pages of scanned art. We should be through with proofing by mid-April, which means actual, physical product sometime in May.

Mark your calendars! And let the last leg of waiting begin!