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Wednesday, July 28, 2021

New Old School Campaign

 On Wednesday nights, I've been playing online with some of my oldest gaming friends, a group that goes back to the 80s, scattered now around Northern California & one in Arizona, using Discord and a couple virtual tabletops, lately Owlbear Rodeo. When I joined into Wednesday nights, Martin wrapped up a campaign and Pete was getting an Old West themed game started, set around SF around 1880, and we got in a few sessions of that. Pete got busy with work so Stu started a Basic Fantasy OSR game to fill in. Stu's work calendar clarified to only alternate Wednesdays being good for him t run, so, feeling the itch to DM again, I started a very impromptu OD&D & house rules campaign for the alternate weeks. Pete might pick back up at some point. Martin also has something brewing, possibly with Barry co-gming.

Since I was starting very ad hoc and unprepared, I picked out what books to use, and settled on the three little brown books and part of Greyhawk. I might grab a snippet from Blackmoor but there is not much there that appeals to me. I'm using the spell casting part of my 80s house rules and turn undead variants on this blog, and following Barbarians of Lemuria for weapon damage D6L, D6, D6H, etc. I grabbed the old Judges Guild Wilderlands map of the area around the City State of the Invincible Overlord, but didn't have any key handy to it, so just randomly placed them in a hex to start. The initial session had only three characters in it, Stu having managed to actually roll OD&D Paladin stats at first go, and so began Sir Manus Handofitay. Martin playing an FMC Half Elf Marinus Vanderlube, and Jim the thief Wardenson. Asked them if they were knockabout freelancers or wanted to be on a mission, they went with the latter, and after a few dice rolls we discovered there was a Priory of a Holy Order in service of St Cuthbert in Landmarch, Sir Manus is member of the Order, and they were on a mission for it, which turned out to be prisoner transport from the village nearest the starting hex back to the Priory. Some dice to determine the prisoner, and more discovered he had escaped just before they arrived. They set out hunting him with the help of a couple local lads and a dog for tracking.

The second session saw Barry and Pete join in, and both had attributes that said cleric to them, so we have two clerics (Barry: Joseph of Aren and Pete: Brardor Nusk ) showing up with the barred wagon that had suffered a breakdown and fallen behind the lead group. They get directed to the pursuers, leave the wagon in the village, and hustle to catch up. The rest of the session saw the party track Esdin, a soldier devoted to Hextor, through the woods south of the village, have a peaceful encounter with a couple goblins, and follow Esdin's trail through the night to Skaney, which the dice told us is a hive of scum and villainy. Jim's thief tracks Esdin's trail over the town wall but he loses the trail atop it and drops into town to try to pick up the trail. The rest talk their way in at dawn at the south gate and find lodging at a local inn. Once rested they take the dog for a walk along the inside of the town wall and pick up the trail, leading to the back alley door of a house in a run down neighborhood. Then the clerics, having learned that there is a small temple to Odin in Skaney, and Pete's cleric Brordor Nusk is in service to Odin, so they go there to ask about the house. Barry's Joseph of Arran serves Istus, Goddess of Fate. The priest is away, but the old woman caretaker tells them of the recent death of the old residents. Meanwhile the others do some scouting of the street the house fronts on, and spot a couple of young lookouts, indicating the house is in use by some sort of nefarious gang.

Before the third session I determined that the house is occupied by a cult, not a secular criminal gang, and some particulars of the cult. Just before the session I sketched a floorplan map of the house and set it into a row of outlined houses.

The third session begins with a small retcon of departure of the clerics from the temple, in which Brordor Nusk has a mysterious vision from Odin giving some foreshadowing hints about a dark ritual in the house that is their target. Most of the party hung out on the market cross street watching the Paladin perform a religious soap box sermon/rap battle with a rival speaker/rabble rousing effort to stir the mob against the cult house. Wardenson snuck through the neighboring ruined building to the right and looked for sneaky ways in. He ended up crossing roof to roof and into a dormer window of a leader in the cult. He had an encounter with a guard in the upper hall that took a shine to him (boxcars reaction roll) and snooped out some of the upstairs rooms, spying upon two important figures in the cult before fleeing down the stairs, and past the front door guard. Running to the rest of the party, he escaped and with a quick decision to attack, the party split, the two clerics down the back alley and the rest to the front door. In a quick series of fights they stormed the ground floor of the house and took down most of the cultists, two in a particularly grisly way as they were thrown into the statue of a vine tentacled dark god that drained them to husks and then activated to attack our heroes. By dint of luck and tactics the party overcame the statue after defeating the cultists, all without losing any party member.

The fourth session saw the group dealing with the aftermath of their attack on the cult house. They collected clues, loot, fought Esdin as he showed up at the back door with some hired ruffians that he expected to introduce to the cult to take on a mission. A sleep spell took out Esdin and the thugs, and a brief fight defeated the half plant woman in the front room, before searching the upper floor and exiting quickly to be met by the cordoning Watch that had arrived after reports that there was fighting around and in the house. Notably, the pit down to the cellar before the statue was not much examined, and they had a glimpse of plant creatures down there. They were taken in for questioning by a magistrate, who released them and let them take their prisoner away. Returning to the village of Shavenoar, they were feted when one of the prisoners they had freed showed up in the company of watchman dispatched from Skaney.  They locked Esdin in the wagon and drove back to Landmarch, capturing a bandit chief, and meeting an Order patrol along the way. The session ended with some treasure examination and a report to Prior Adelbert. A lot of XPs were calculated from all of the foregoing and some of the characters reached level 2.

Tonight, unless one of the other GMs wants to run something, we'll explore the mission Prior Adelbart gives them, probably including a return to Skaney to deal with cultist loose ends.

Character sheets for Organizations and Powers in a Roleplaying or Wargame Campaign

 I found some old notes about a side project on quantifying and generating groups like governments, religions, thieves guilds, cults, and the like. So capturing them now to the blog.

This was inspired by various sources. Tony Bath's book "Setting Up a Wargames Campaign" is the biggest influence. It's still available as part of "Tony Bath's Ancient Wargaming" on Amazon for a reasonable price and worth getting.

The iteration of the idea that I am looking at today has the following attributes with a note to roll 2D6 for each or set them to values to model a specific idea. The idea was to stat out a variety of clashing organizations and then at time intervals roll to see what they do in a Monte Carlo campaign simulator backdrop to a roleplaying campaign. The rolls would generate & resolve actions that would be fleshed out descriptively to give some life to the campaign world. There was also an idea of fractally defining larger and smaller groups that are nested, a guild in a city in a county in a country, or a squad in a platoon in a company in a regiment in an army for examples.

The attributes list:

Size: Might be land area or numbers in membership. Might be split if both of those should be distinctly captured

Wealth: Can they buy what or who they want? High wealth and low power might mean they are more a target than an actor, or that most of their wealth is committed in ways that make it less useful as a tool for group to group interactions.

Power: If they take action, how much power can they bring to bear? Should correlate somewhat with wealth but some organizations will have other forms of power. This is probably the main stat for conflict resolution.

Cohesion: How unified in mindset and purpose is the group? A low cohesion group is more likely to have internal faction fighting or break up into separate, possibly rival groups.

Aggressiveness: How likely is the group to try to expand  & attack other groups

Activity: How fast is the group to take action to seize an opportunity or react to a threat?

Scruples: Will the leadership of the group tend to honor agreements? Can they be trusted to deal honestly?

Centralization: The higher it is, the fewer people need to be in agreement on actions

Alliances: Does the group have relationships with other groups that might assist it or call upon it for assistance?

Infiltration: How much of the group has outside loyalties that conflict with their loyalty to the group? Probably covaries with Cohesion

Example Group:

Knights of the Flame

Size 5

Wealth 10

Power 8

Cohesion 7

Aggro 4

Activity 4

Scruples 9

Central 7

Allies 10

Infil 8

Once an active military order, the Knights of the Flame have become a body of elder statesmen and councilors of the King. They are very well connected in society, wealthy, and honorable, not prone to act in haste or indeed at all in many cases.