LWC – House Rules

October 1, 2015

When I started thinking about running a campaign using the PFBB, I came up with a grocery list of things about Pathfinder I didn’t like and wanted to change, including porting over a number of concepts from 5th Edition (such as Advantage/Disadvantage).  But as the list grew, I realized that I’d basically be rewriting the game, which completely undermines the idea of running a PFBB campaign “out of the box.”  A massive rewrite of the rules would also effectively be a bait-n-switch on the players, who’re expecting a Pathfinder-based game, and would eliminate the utility of 3rd-party resources, such as Hero Lab.

Instead, I decided to keep everything on the player’s side of the screen by-the-book, with only a couple of minor changes.  One of these changes is implementing an inventory slot system for encumbrance (as PFBB has no rules for such), and another is eliminating critical hit confirmation rolls (to help speed up the game a bit, and make combat more lethal – I want this to be a dangerous world, after all).

On my side of the screen, however, I plan to change a quite a bit.  These changes should be largely transparent to the players, and include things such as altering some of the monsters a bit, adding the missing iconic monsters (gnolls, bugbears, trolls, etc.), and substitute certain magic items (some of the PFBB magic items are just lame – Ring of Swimming, lookin’ at you).

To later to talk...maybe they should run

Too late to talk…maybe they should run?

The biggest change, however, will be in encounter building.  I plan to simply toss PFBB’s encounter building rules in favor of the old school approach of GM discretion and random generation.  This is not a perfectly symmetrical world where the challenges rise incrementally with the PC’s experience.  It’s a wide open sandbox, and it is entirely possible (indeed, probable…even desirable) that the party will run into something they can’t handle, and then they’ll have to either talk their way out, or run for it.  I’m angling for a style of play that challenges the players, and not just their character sheets.

The other significant change, mentioned in earlier posts, is making most magic items unique in the world.  Which is why I’ll be substituting certain items.  A unique Ring of Climbing (+5 to climbing checks) seems underwhelming to me.  You probably wouldn’t risk your neck for something so lame.  But replace that with a unique Ring of Invisibility and now you’re talking.  The ‘One Ring’ indeed!

LWC – Dwarves of the Grimhau

September 26, 2015

Even before the Long Winters, dwarves were never populous in this remote border province of the Old Empire, numbering thousands at the most.  And their numbers dwindle still, picked off by bitter cold, hungry humanoids and long simmering blood feuds.  They now account 500, or less.

Most dwarves are concentrated at the Grimhau, more commonly referred to as the Grimstand by humans.  During Imperial times, Grimhau was an insignificant outpost along the mountainous High Road (between the paladin’s Citadel and the Lost Keep on the far northern stretch of the High Road), home to about 500 dwarves (and a few others).  Today the Grimhau’s inhabitants number 300 dwarves, plus another 50 or so others.


Dwarves patrolling the High Road.

Grimhau is a subterranean settlement, specializing in mining and metalworking.  Given this, while the rest of the Riverlands hunkers down during winter, the dwarves are able to work all year long, stockpiling resources and goods for trade when the thaw comes.  In fact, Grimhau is the primary source of tools, weapons and armor for the region, and boasts the highest concentration of master weaponsmiths of any settlement.

The dwarven settlement is also home to the Collegium Lacunae,  a college of wizards dedicated to safeguarding and restoring lost knowledge, especially magical knowledge.  In particular, they seek any information regarding the Cataclysm and the Spells of Ending, in the hopes they might someday counteract the Long Winters.  However, they are a good market for any kind of book or scroll, arcane or not.

Culturally, the dwarves of the Long Winter Campaign are based along Norse/Viking lines, rather than the Scottish vogue for dwarves that’s been popular since WoW came out.  The Grimstand has also taught them to prepare for dark times.  For example, the Grimhau now stocks enough provisions and supplies to last three winters, and it’s said they’ve stockpiled such an arsenal to outfit a thousand soldiers (though, interestingly enough, the arms and armor are designed for human proportions, not dwarven).  So, dwarves are sort of the ultimate Viking doomsday preppers. :)

Battle of the Grimstand

The Grimstand gets its name from the now legendary battle fought there in the early days of the first Long Winter, when ice and snow reigned nearly two years.  Normally querulous, the various tribes of humanoids and giantkin inhabiting the mountainous highlands put aside their differences, banding together in a massive horde.  Driven by desperation, with the certain knowledge they would soon die by starvation and exposure, they threw themselves upon the Grimgates, intent on taking the Grimhau’s shelter for themselves (sustained in winter, no doubt, by the flesh of the former inhabitants).

An artist's interpretation of the Grimstand (art by slaine69.deviantart.com)

An artist’s stylistic interpretation of the Grimstand, probably not particularly accurate. (art by slaine69.deviantart.com)

For weeks, wave after wave of the great horde assaulted the Grimhau’s narrow entrance.  And for weeks the defenders repulsed the horde’s increasingly mantic assaults.  The dead piled high, buried only in snow.  At the last measure of desperation, the horde-lings threw even their youngest into battle.  And then they were spent.  The horde had perished by the thousands; the defenders themselves were reduced to less than a hundred.

Those few creatures that remained scurried off to find whatever winter-shelter they could.  During brief respites in the weather, they’d venture out to pilfer a frozen meal from the battlefield.    When that first thaw came, more than a year later, it was said that the fields of the Grimhaus had already been picked so neatly clean that there were hardly any bodies left to burn.


Long Winter Campaign – Paladins, Rangers & Druids

September 23, 2015

The Pathfinder Beginner Box includes only the four iconic classes of D&D: cleric, fighter, rogue and wizard.  To keep the game ‘in the box,’ so to speak, I’ll only use these four iconic classes, and if someone wants to try a more exotic class, I’ll recommend they multi-class appropriately and roleplay the difference.

However, I still have a use for paladins, rangers and druids…as independent organizations operating within and along the borders of civilization.

The Paladins

A company of Paladins on patrol.

A company of Paladins on patrol.

An independent paramilitary organization dedicated to defending civilization from bandits and the ravaging hordes of Chaos alike.  The Order of Knights Paladin, Most Illustrious, is comprised of 50-60 fighters and clerics of Lawful alignment who have sworn an oath to serve the Lord Paladin, and the Imperial Prefect (more on him in a later post).

They maintain a heavily defended karg (Dwarven for a stone fortification, typically located in a mountainous region), which they call the Citadel, though others commonly refer to it as the War Karg (or the Krieg Karg).  About half the paladins defend this karg, except in times of dire crisis.  The rest of the paladins typically patrol the Riverlands in groups of 5 to 10, deterring monstrous raids and discouraging banditry.

In times of crisis, the Order will gather as may paladins as possible and march under the banner of the Prefect, leaving behind a skeleton force to defend the Citadel.  Paladins typically don’t get along well with Rangers, viewing the latter as mavericks and loose canons, but the two orders can work together to combat a greater threat.

The Rangers

Rangers are a disparate lot.

Rangers are a disparate lot.

A loosely organized law-enforcement and reconnaissance organization (think Texas Rangers with bows), comprised of approximately 80-90 clerics, fighters, rogues and wizards of Chaotic alignment (commonly Chaotic Good, some Chaotic Neutral and a handful of Chaotic Evil).  Though nominally under the command of the Captain, rangers tend to value their independence.

The Rangers maintain a wooden palisade fort in a wooded region along the old Imperial Road, garrisoned with about 40 rangers under normal conditions.  The remaining rangers patrol wilderness areas along the borders of civilization, either singly or in small groups, on the lookout for war bands, raiding parties and bandit gangs.

In times of crisis, rangers will gather as many as they can to form effective scouting parties, skirmishers or even guerrilla bands operating behind an enemy’s axis of advance.  On rare occasions, groups of rangers may come together to undertake a dangerous long-range mission (usually called ‘treks’), disappearing into the wilderness for a year or two at a time (obviously finding somewhere to winter in the process).

Rangers tend to view paladins as pompous and stubborn, sticklers for rules and regulations where unorthodox approaches may work better.

The Druids

Druids: enigmatic and untrustworthy.

Druids: enigmatic and untrustworthy.

A cabal of true Neutral clerics and wizards, numbering but a score, dedicated to maintaining a harmonious balance between civilization and barbarism, Law and Chaos.  Given the grim circumstances of the Long Winters, the Druids currently assist the forces of civilization.  However, should the tables turn, the Druids would abandon the civilized folk in an instant, and possibly start assisting Chaos, if they felt it necessary to maintain a balance.  All the rulers and leaders of the Riverlands are quite aware of this, and thus the Druids are never completely trusted by anyone.

The Druids maintain an ancient karg hidden deep inside the forests on the periphery of the Riverlands.  Only but a few actual druids garrison the fort, though they are heavily reinforced by a bevy of exotic guardians (such as elementals, for example).  Druids are typically aloof and arrogant, which bolsters no one’s trust of them.

PFBB Campaign Idea – The Long Winter

September 21, 2015

About a year ago I posted some ideas on a Pathfinder Beginner Box campaign (which you can read here, if you’re interested), which threw out some ideas for house rules and the like.  This post builds on those ideas, fleshing out a campaign setting in greater detail.


The Long Winter campaign is a fantasy post-apocalyptic setting using the Outdoor Survival map (once used as the wilderness map for early OD&D campaigns).  This is a depleted world, in a diminished age, with interesting implications for the structuring of society, military activity, economics and trade and, ultimately, adventuring.

So, a bit of background.  Centuries earlier an event known as the Cataclysm, the result of an apocalyptic war between the Old Empire and a distant rival kingdom, laid waste to the land.  The Rain of Colorless Fire (yes, I’m totally stealing that from Greyhawk) and the Spells of Ending destroyed nearly every major city, killing countless people.  And those not killed by the invoked armageddon soon faced the onset of a precipitous winter (a sort of magical ‘nuclear winter,’ if you will).  This was the beginning of the calamitous Long Winters, whence countless others, caught unprepared, starved and froze.

The Outdoor Survival Map

The Outdoor Survival Map

This region is beset by long, dark winters followed by relatively short growing seasons.  It is during these all-too-short seasons that the remnants of civilization must prepare for the coming winter.  Food is scarce, goods are scarce, and labor is scarcest of all.  Settlements tend to be small (the largest city on the map has but a few thousand inhabitants).  These isolated settlements are surrounded by a howling wilderness dotted with the ruins and relics of the Old Empire, and home to starving monsters that must themselves prepare for the coming winter (usually at the expense of the civilized).

The PCs will have about 6 to 7 months of adventuring time, depending on how close they’re willing to cut things (being caught in the wilderness by an early winter could be lethal).  Winter is spent mostly indoors, or at least in established settlements, providing lots of down time to prepare for the next adventuring season.  Town adventuring is also a possibility during winter, though in all likelihood winter will probably be adjudicated in an hour or so of play time.  But during the adventuring season, adventurers will have to acquire enough resources to support themselves during winter.

This is also a materially poor region.  Most treasure will not come in the form of coins and gems, but rather in the form of luxury goods that people can use: salt, spices, wines, tobacco, ingots of workable metal, etc.  Values for goods will vary from settlement to settlement dependent upon their specialties.  For example, one city may be the best place to buy alchemical goods, another the best place to find masterwork weapons, and a third the best for acquiring mounts.

Population levels are fairly low.  The totality of humanity numbers approximately 10,000, spread throughout the region.  Dwarves and elves number in the hundreds each.  The PFBB doesn’t include halflings, but I may add them.  If I do, they’ll number no more than a few hundred.

Set against them are the starving hordes of chaos (in the OD&D sense of Law vs. Chaos): tribes of orcs, goblins and worse, along with a multitude of monsters, and exactly one black dragon hidden somewhere on the map.  Orcs and goblins generally aren’t the farming type, so they’ll spend the short warm season raiding settlements and taking captives/food stock (they don’t mind a bit of cannibalism, if that’s what it takes to get through a rough winter).

Large armies are unheard of.  If all the forces of civilization combined their might, they could field approximately 1,500 professional soldiers, and perhaps a militia levy of another 1,000 or so.  But fielding such a “vast” force has never happened, and never will, as concentrating these disparate “armies” would stretch the region’s logistical capability to the breaking point (to say nothing of leaving so many settlements exposed and unprotected).

Far more common are small warbands, numbering in the dozens or scores.  A large “battle” might feature a hundred people total, accounting both sides.  Humanoid races spend the entire warm season raiding, but the civilized races typically have but a short marching period between planting and harvest, a month or two at best.  Military campaigns, such as they are, must be concluded swiftly, as every free hand will be required for harvest and the coming winter’s preparation.  As such, punitive expeditions into the wilderness are all but impossible, leaving, perhaps, a niche for foolhardy adventurers to fill.

Over time I plan to fill in the details with more posts.  Maybe someday I’ll actually be able to run this campaign. :)  Cheers.

PFBB Bestiary – Kobolds

September 5, 2015

D1-Cover-Small-DnS-filter_400I’ve converted a couple of kobolds for the Pathfinder Beginner Box.  The kobold boss is based on the Kobold Rogue from an adventure (I found the stats on d20pfsrd.com).  Please let me know if you have any questions, or if you notice any errors.  Cheers.

Castle Greyhawk Webcomic

August 29, 2015

I recently discovered a webcomic based on Castle Greyhawk, featuring some of the iconic OD&D characters such as Tenser, Mordenkainen, Yrag and others.  If you’re a fan of old school D&D, you owe it to yourself to check it out.  Aside from being an interesting take on the “old days,” it’s given me plenty of ideas for my own games.

PFBB Bestiary – Hobgoblins

August 10, 2015
Come to momma.

Come to Momma.

I’ve worked up a PFBB monster conversion for hobgoblins and a hobgoblin boss.  I’m not sure if I did the class conversions properly for the hobgoblin boss, but it looks pretty close to me, at least when compared to the orc boss from the GMG.

I equipped the hobgoblin boss with a whip, mainly due to art limitations.  But I think it turns out to be a nasty weapon, allowing the hobgoblin boss to trip dangerous opponents, giving the rest of the gang a +4 bonus to attack the prone target.  A great way to cut those plate-mailed tanks down to size. :)

On a side note, if you want some additional BB monster conversions, you can download a free PDF of Wayfinder #10 magazine from Paizo.com.  It has conversions for two gnolls, and an otyugh.


PFBB: Essential Monster Stats

July 14, 2015

First, sorry for my prolonged absence of late.  I’ve been busy with some RL things, plus I had a touch of blogging burnout.  I think I’m better now. :)

A friend has been running Rise of the Runelords at one of our FLGS, and for some reason it has sparked a renewed interest in me to run that Beginner Box campaign I blogged about some time ago.  So, reading through the BB rule books again, I finally noticed that the stat blocks given for Black Fang’s Dungeon (pages 2-15 of the GMG) are condensed to just essential combat information.

PZO1130-GoblinsIt occurred to me that it may be helpful to have these condensed stat blocks prepared for all the monsters in the BB (including the four from the supplements), so that one could easily copy and paste them into a document for ready reference.  And so I went ahead and did it: condensed stat blocks for all the official BB monsters, including a blank template so you can add new monsters, if you’re so inclined.  There’s a DOC version and an RTF version.

Note that the formatting appears screwed up when you preview it in Mediafire, but when downloaded it should be fine.

Please let me know if you notice any discrepancies, errors, or if you have any questions or suggestions.  Cheers!

Reaper Bones 3 Kickstarter

July 6, 2015

reaperbones3 This is just a quick heads-up that Reaper’s Bones III Kickstarter launches tomorrow (10 AM Central Time, July 7th), for those who may be interested.  You can usually get a pretty decent deal on a large group of miniatures.  Cheers.

Edit:  Here’s the link to the actual Kickstarter campaign.  They’ve already hit $395,000!

Zombicide Black Plague

June 21, 2015

First off, I apologize for my long absence (for anyone who cares :) ).  I took a week-long trip to D.C. to visit a high school buddy, and then I’ve been busy with RL stuff since I’ve been back.  We played a lot of awesome games on that trip (Edge of the Empire, Cthulu Wars, XCOM board game, Fun Employed, Artic Scavengers, Shadowrun Crossfire, Eldritch Horror, Netrunner, Cthulu Flux, and a bunch of others I can’t remember).  And Alamo Drafthouse Cinema is the bomb.  We need one of those here in Reno.

zombicideblackplagueJust so I don’t go the entire month of June without a post, I thought I’d bring some attention to a new Zombicide game set in a medieval fantasy world: Zombicide Black Plague.  If you’re into collecting minis, you can get about 180-ish (so far) minis for $150 (plus shipping).  A dollar a mini ain’t bad, though granted many of them are duplicates.

This got me thinking that it might be interesting to do a gritty undead apocalypse campaign set in a fantasy world.  Not just zombies, but ghouls, wights, spectres, vampires and all the other undead nasties as well.  Clerics would really shine in such a setting, so you might have to tone down Turn Undead a bit (maybe make it a spell instead of an at-will ability).  When the undead hordes rule the world, it might just be the good folk who move into dungeons!


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