Monday, June 29, 2015

Elves of Monvesia


Language Analog:  Finnish
Inspiration:  Greek myth, fairy folklore, Wicca

Tainted Counterpart: none, elves are immune to Taint
Temperamental Association: Dynamist

Names (any gender): Aamu, Aatos, Ahti, Aimo, Aino, Alli, Ansa, Armas, Armo, Arvo, Aulis, Eija, Eino, Hella, Hilja, Ilma, Ilta, Impi, Into, Jalo, Kai, Kaleva, Kauko, Kielo, Kirsikka, Kukka, Kyllikki, Lahja, Lempi, Lumi, Mainio, Maire, Meri, Merja, Oiva, Onni, Orvokki, Otso, Paiva, Pilvi, Pyry, Rauha, Ritva, Sade, Sampo, Satu, Seija, Seppo, Sini, Sirpa, Sisu, Soile, Sulo, Suoma, Suvi, Tahti, Taika, Taime, Taisto, Taipo, Tarmo, Taru, Tauno, Terhi, Terho, Terttu, Toivo, Tuija, Tuuli, Tyyne, Ukko, Urho, Vanamo, Varpu, Veli, Vesa, Vieno, Virva, Voitto, Vuokko

With Dwarves and Rakasta, Elves are one of the original races of Monvesia.  Their homeland is called S├╝nnimaa, and once included all of Cuorria, Notopoli, and even Inheritance.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Gnomes of Monvesia


Language Analog:  Chechen
Inspiration:  Surface dwarves in the Dragon Age franchise; travellers/tinkers

Tainted Counterpart:  Goblin
Temperamental Association:  Idealist

Male Names:  Batraz, Borz, Dikalu, Lom, Mayrsolt, Tawara, Vaharsolt
Female Names:  Avarka, Kheda, Prina, Tabarik, Zargan

Gnomes have evolved from dwarves.

Dwarves of Monvesia

Language Analog: Georgian
Inspiration: Dwarves in the Dragon Age franchise

Tainted Counterpart: Hobgoblin
Temperamental Association: Materialist

Male Names: Amiran, Anzor, Archil, Avtandil, Bidzina, Givi, Gocha, Gurgen, Imeda, Malkhaz, Mamuka, Okropir, Otar, Revaz, Tornike, Vakhtang, Vazha, Vepkhia, Zviad

Female Names: Bedisa, Darejan, Endzela, Eteri, Gulisa, Khatuna, Lali, Makvala, Manana, Mzia, Nana, Natela, Nestan, Rusudan, Tinatin, Tsisana, Tsiuri, Vardo

With Rakasta and Elves, Dwarves are one of the original races of Monvesia. Their homeland is called Dvergheim by Honderreichers or Duerghame by Galts.  Now little more than the Homeland and Granitsan Mountains, it once extended through the Northpeaks--including parts of the Honderreich and Galtain, and much of Voztok.

Image result for several dwarves

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Monvesia: 3 Editions, 1 World

Several years ago, I played 4th Edition D&D with a group of friends.  While the ruleset was fun, I kept mentioning (probably to their annoyance, after a while) that it didn't feel like D&D.  It still felt like an epic fantasy campaign ... it just didn't feel like D&D.  Our DM was getting a bit burnt out, so I asked if I could run a game for a while.

They let me run a game from the Rules Cyclopedia (with Rage of the Rakasta).  Using the Classic ruleset, I built a complex world for them around their character's backgrounds and choices their characters made.   I came to call the known world Monvesia, named for the river which dominated it, the Monvesien.  We focused our early adventures on a small tributary in the north called the river Kleim.  A political intrigue surrounding the fall of the kingdom of the Hindland and the rise of the Grand Duchy of the Kleimland began to play out behind the characters--but their adventured quickly took them away from the ensuing war (toward the Isle of Dread, beyond the mouth of the great river).

Having already incorporated the Caves of Chaos into the local topography, we took a detour with the D&D Next pre-gen characters.  The adventure was changed based on the players' initial foray into the valley, though the goblinoids who inhabited the caves proved to be resilient enough to return in short order.

Our previous DM wanted to run a game of his own again, but didn't want to end the campaign I was running.  So, we agreed to switch off--one session would be his campaign, and the next would be mine.  In order to not confuse the players, however, we also agreed to play using the same ruleset.  He was going to be using a Pathfinder Adventure Path, so I agreed to update the rules of Monvesia to the Pathfinder rules.

The edition jump, skipping AD&D entirely, as well as the early incarnations of the 3rd edition, proved to be an interesting and fun exercise.  New possibilities of explaining classes and races expanded the world.  I even started to incorporate Psionics Unleashed into the campaign--introducing half-giants ("civilized ogres").

After only a few sessions, our collective personal lives got in the way.  Both campaigns ended without being resolved.  We would often talk to each other about playing again--either picking up where we left off, or starting anew.  Alas, it has yet to come to pass.

But an amazing thing happened in the last year:  the release of the fifth edition of Dungeons & Dragons.  In this new ruleset, we (the players of the game as a whole) have experienced two seasons of adventure, and await a third.    As more an more options for this edition are released--through adventures, or the Unearthed Arcana column--the possibility of resurrecting Monvesia in a new edition has become more encouraging.

For the last few months, I have been updating my Classic/Pathfinder world of Monvesia to 5th edition.  I hope to present this world in pieces on this blog.  I will start with each race; then each class; then other tidbits of the campaign setting itself.  I will reference the necessary rules for each, and provide new rules where necessary.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Delineating D&D

Fully sympathizing with the frustration expressed by The Grey Elf on some time ago, I feel it necessary to delineate, according to my understanding (which differs slightly from The Grey Elf's), the various versions and acronyms of "the world's most popular role-playing game." These are the terms as I use them, and will be using them on this blog.

OD&D, wherein the O stands for "original" not "old," was the beginning. Published in 1974, this was something of a rules expansion for the Chainmail game. Because of the packaging of some printings, this is also known as the White Box rules. Backtracking from recent nomenclature, this could be considered 0-edition. A retro-clone similar to these rules is Swords & Wizardry.

Holmes (after its editor) was the first attempt at creating "basic set" rules for the game, covering rules for levels 1st - 3rd. Published in 1977, this was meant to be a compilation of the rules in a straight-forward format incorporating some of the new rules being prepared for the Advanced game (see below). After completing 3rd level, players were directed to the forthcoming edition. This could be considered 0.5 in recent nomenclature.

AD&D[1e] was both a compilation and expansion of the original rules also published in 1977. Commonly called First Edition (or 1.0 in recent nomenclature). A retro-clone similar to these rules is OSRIC (Old School Reference and Index Compilation).

B/X or Moldvay/Cook[/Marsh] (after its editors) was a revision of the Basic (B) rules and its expansion into an Expert (X) rules set published in 1981. With this revision, the Basic rules were presented as a game separate from the "Original" and Advanced games; this and following revisions in the same line are therefore identified as BD&D (while the Holmes Basic Set can still be considered part of OD&D). A Companion rules set was promised to follow, possibly completing the rules (see below). For the sake of assigning it a designation in recent nomenclature, let's call this one B.0. Retro-clones similar to these rules are the Basic Fantasy RPG and Labyrinth Lord; a retro-clone expansion of these rules is the B/X Companion.

Labyrinth Lord includes independent expansion rules that mimic OD&D (Original Edition Characters) and AD&D1e (Advanced Edition Companion).

BECMI or Mentzer (after its primary editor) was published from 1983 to 1985. Instead of simply producing a Companion rules set for B/X (above), the Basic (B) and Expert (E) sets were revised, and the Companion (C) set was followed by Master (M) and Immortals (I) rules sets. References in B/X concerning the Companion set were not met, and the game was revised for a younger audience. The revised Basic set came in an iconic box that has led to this version to also be called the Red Box rules. Because of the revision of the presentation, and the CMI expansions altering play at the BE levels, BECMI could also be identified as B.5 in recent nomenclature.

AD&D2e was a major revision of the AD&D rules and first published in 1989. It is commonly known as Second Edition (and can be called 2.0 in recent nomenclature. A revision to this rules set appeared in 1996, which expressly stated that the revised rules were not a "third edition" of the game. This sub-revision, which incorporated the Player's Option and DM Option series and espoused psionic revisions from the Dark Sun campaign setting, could be identified as 2.5 in recent nomenclature. See HackMaster (below).

RC or Classic was the last revision of the BD&D rules (see above), published in 1991. It consisted of a single rule book (the 'Cyclopedia) which compiled the BECM portions of BECMI (the Immortals rules were later revised in a box set) with optional rules introduced in the Gazeteer series. The starter set of this game bore the title "The Classic Dungeons and Dragons Game," and covered levels 1st - 5th. Please not, however, that the proper form is Classic D&D, never "CD&D." The revisions between BECMI and RC are minor, and this "edition" could be called B.75 in recent nomenclature.

A retro-clone similar to these rules is Dark Dungeons.  Dark Dungeons is also revised and expanded in two, independent rules sets: and Darker Dungeons and Darkest Dungeons.

Third Edition was published in 2000. It replaced both the Advanced and Basic versions of the game, but draws its identification directly from the Advanced rules--being the third edition that the revised second edition was not, but dropping "Advanced" from the title. Third edition was resealeased alongside the Open Gaming License (OGL) and a stripped-down System Reference Document (SRD), meant to encourage third-party publishers to produce source material for the game. After the publication of 3.5 (see below), this edition became known as 3.0; this and following revisions of the same rule set are commonly called 3.x.

HackMaster (humorously subtitled "Fourth Edition") was originally a spoof of this gaming franchise as seen in the Knights of the Dinner Table comic. In 2001, its writers recieved permission to revise and expand the AD&D2e rules. It is similar to a "retro-clone," but produced in cooperation with the publishers of Third Edition.

3.5, identified as such on the covers of its core rulebooks, was a revision of the Third Edition rules in 2003. This included a revision to the SRD, but not the the OGL.

Fourth Edition was published in 2008, and is the current version of the game today. It is accompanied by a Game System License (GSL) that is more restrictive than its predecessor (the OGL, see above). This edition is commonly known as 4.0.

In 2010, the Essentials product line was introduced, incorporating errata and minor revisions from the game''s first two years--these are merely supplemental books, and are not intended to replace the fourth edition core rulebooks. Since the Essentials series does present character classes differently, it could be considered 4.25 in recent nomenclature.

The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game was first published in 2009 as a reaction to Fourth Edition. Pathfinder is published as a revision to the 3.5 rules under the OGL--published by the company that temporarily produced the Dungeon and Dragon magazines. This "version" of the game perpetuates the OGL, but replaced the SRD with its own PRD ("Pathfinder Reference Document").

HackMaster Basic or Fifth Edition was also published in 2009 as a revision of the AD&D2e-based HackMaster rules, incorporating necessary changes since the expiration of the publsher's license.

D&D Next was a playtest that lasted from May 2012 - December 2013.  It was a open playtest of the next edition of the game, allowing fans of the game to contribute to the development of the next edition.  Early in 2014, some sources continued to use "D&D Next" for the final product, but this was inaccurate.

Fifth Edition was born from D&D Next and released in 2014.  Officially, Wizards of the Coast did not use the determinative "fifth edition" early on--preferring, instead, to say "the newest edition."  I suppose this is the most accurate, as (given the above), the designation of 5th is somewhat inaccurate.  The fan-base generally accepted the designation of 5th, and it is the version of the game played in official events today.

If you are ever confused by what edition of the game I am talking about, please refer back to this post. As new editions of the game are produced (or discovered), this post will be edited.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Fixing the Basic Thief

I have been running an RC game with a group that I normally play 4e with--to allow the DM time off to prep for our regular game, and to catch up with (cringe) WoW. Being that I cannot leave rules well enough alone, I've been implementing options, alternates, expansions and house rules since the first session--one player even has a Rakasta character (using the mini-class presented in the Rage of the Rakasta solo adventure). Another player went the traditional route and chose the make his character a thief.

Back when I played Basic for the first time in the 90s (yeah, I'm a late-comer), I had not used the thief, so I didn't know what to expect. Now that I'm trying to run a game with the poor class, I am more acutely aware of its deficiencies. It's important to the rest of the campaign that he be able to unlock more than 15% of the doors in a dungeon and disable more than 10% of its traps. The player is getting so frustrated, he's on the verge of quitting the game because the rules are stacked against him.

After completing two dungeons (Zanzer Tem's Dungeon and Castle Mistamere), it has become clear to us that the first-level thief is a generally useless character. Having come near death twice in each dungeon, I have already increased his hit die to a d6. This keeps him alive long enough to showcase his thief abilities. Not like there is much to showcase. Online, I've found two, promising solutions to this second problem.

One, called the d6 Method, can be found here and numerous other places--so many places that it is hard for me to determine its original source. It seems to be a popular favorite. However, while it grants the player the chance to customize his thief, that customization (to me) does not seem to capture the essence of the Basic game.

The other method with promise can be found...somewhere online, but I cannot find it now....The principle is to apply the character's Dexterity modifier to his character level to determine the level of his thief skills. For example, a 2nd-level thief with a 17 Dexterity uses his thief skills as if he were 4th level. Conversely, a low skill will penalize the thief (minimum "skill level" of 1). The other drawbacks here are: 1) how can dexterity help a thief hear noise? 2) players are encouraged to munchkin their Dexterity scores.

I will implement a refined version of this second method in my RC campaign: Skill level will be determined by multiple attributes--
  • Strength for Climb Walls (aka. Climb Sheer Surfaces)

  • Intelligence for Find Traps and Remove Traps (aka. Find and Remove Traps)

  • Wisdom for Hear Noise

  • Dexterity for Hide in Shadows, Move Silently, Pick Pockets (aka. Pickpocket), and Open Locks

Furthermore, only high ability scores (13+) can modify skills this way. A thief's lowest "skill level" will never be lower than thief/character level. I'm also toying with returning thief skill progressions to their B/X roots--including chance-in-6 for hear noise, possibly using the expanded d6 method at higher levels.

With this skill-bonus and the boosted hit die mentioned above, I think our thief will have a better chance keeping up with the rest of the party.