Tuesday, May 30, 2023

QuAD RPG: Classic Sword & Sorcery

[Note: the game QuAD RPG has been changed to Drakken]

So, I started a campaign in the Drowned World, using the classes as I shared them here, along with a custom magic system, and the LotFP Specialist Skills as an add-on to BECMI D&D. And my players were a little disappointed. They loved the world and the design, but the mechanics were not to their taste.

They didn't find the rules congruent with setting and experience that I had set out to create.

I asked for a couple of weeks and went back to the drawing board, looking for something simple and more heroic feeling. I started with Venger Satanis' Crimson Dragonslayer d20 for a test game, and then started hacking the hell out of it... adding stuff from DCC RPG, from Black Pudding Heavy Helping, from Knave, Maze Rats, ICRPG.. even Talisanta, until I had a cobbled-together OSR rule-set that would feel at home with the world I wanted to create.And was extremely rules-light. I named it Quick And Dirty RPG, or QuAD for short. Then I discovered that the name had been taken, and rebranded it as Drakken.

After a week of hacking, refining, and writing it all down I had something that was pretty playable, but to share it I would need to put together a Gazetteer of the Drowned World that could take a little more time... 

Thankfully I did have everything I needed to make an OSR clone here and now.

So I took a couple of extra days to polish it up, pull out the Drowned World material that was integral to it, and then added, as a bit of an experiment, some Ukiyo-e art from a favorite artist, and put it up on Itch.io to share.

I am pretty proud of this one, I must confess. It is fast, you only need a sheet of paper to track HP and inventory. I hope you will have a look and give me a little feedback.

A Drakken: Drowned World is now in the works.

Get Drakken: Classic Sword & Sorcery as a PWYW title on Itch.io here.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Year 3 (and a bit) in Review

 There years! I have been writing and creating through Welcome to the Deathtrap for over three years now, and I am very proud of what I have created.

And I am going to start this review by saying how much I appreciate my readers. You have kept me excited to sit down and write every single day.

Friday, May 19, 2023

Classy World Building (pt. 9)

 So whats left?

I have a few gaps left that I will ultimately want to fill to make the game feel complete:

  • A culture of vivacious necromancers who appreciate life more than most because they know so much about death.
  • A race of nomadic sailors.
  • I need a heavily armored fighter type with a twist.
  • Some kind of underwater people - I am thinking crabs that come in several different levels of human/crab hybrid, kind of like the Yuan-ti or the original Kahjit lore from the Elder Scrolls.
  • A fire-themed group to round out my accidental elemental magician set.
  • A psychic class; maybe a bird-like race of visionaries, with a spell list that is mostly divination with a few telekinetic abilities for good measure.

I feel that this would give me a good, rounded-feeling, but I do not need them immediately; I can afford to spread them out.

Thursday, May 18, 2023

The Skullduggery Die

Ossuary Bone Dice Set CC-BY 2.0 Mindmax

This is an idea that was shared in the comments find my most frequent commenters and loyal reader McChuck and I decided to run with and do the number crunching for.

The credit is therefore not mine but my mission is to share the awesome.

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Classy World-Building (pt.8)

 Lets move from magic and the planes to technology. Some of the cultures of the Drowned World make up for a lack of magical ability by turning to technology.

Classy World-building (pt. 7)

 I am taking s more thematic stab at world-building with here. This time with a unique take on Law vs. Chaos.

Redeem Your Demons

One idea I want to play with was the idea of the berserker as shape changer. Most of the myths of the barbarian going into a holy battle rage come to us through folklore muddled together in Sword & Sorcery lit. The term "berserker" ("bearskin-shirted") was used for a professional duelist who served as the right hand of a Jarl in Scandinavia. 

The idea of them being wild and animalistic comes from images of some of them chewing Shields while they hype themselves up for battle.

But actual superhuman berserker rages are more the fare of Celtic myth with characters like Cu Culhainn, who transformed into a fire-haired one-eyed and fanged monster when he became enraged, and had to be calmed through confusing and embarrassing him usually by sending troops of naked girls to collect him and dunk them in cold barrels of water.

Robert E. Howard and some of his contemporaries were big fans of Celtic heroes and they wove them into their Sword & Sorcery characters. Conan has some of Cu Culhainn's rage, but without the monstrous transformation.

I wanted to play with the idea of a berserker turning into a superhuman monster as the core character trait of their class. So, I decided I wanted a race of warriors who were possessed by demon spirits and could unleash them to transform into monstrous creatires. Statistically it's not much different from drinking a Potion of Stone Giant Strength, (statistically  the most common magic item in AD&D,) which is something my players do every chance they get in my Silver Gull campaign.

Monday, May 15, 2023

Classy World-building (pt. 6)

 I didn't want standard-issue magic missile hurling wizards to be too common in this setting. Instead, I wanted a variety of magicians with very different thematic spell lists.

When designing magician for the drowned world, I wanted to be sparing with damage spells. Instead, I wanted to grant PCs a collection of problem solvers that can offer a lot of battlefield control and tactical play. I have always believed that the best magic-user isn't the one toasting the enemies with fireballs, but rather the one who .make sure the fighter is invulnerable while he splits skulls, and the thief always backstabs. These are my initial takes:

Friday, May 12, 2023

Classy World Building (p.5)

 So, let's get a bit Gonzo!

I don't want this setting to feel like another bland quasi-Medieval Western fantasy world. I want it weird and full of oddities. Making some characters that are definitely not you regular human PC is the best way to go about this. Accordingly, I have made a few very odd character races: some inspired by the earliest days of D&D, some with inspiration from the various games and media that have been the basis for this project, and some from my fevered imagination.

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Classy World Building (pt. 4)

Scions of Chaos from Majesty: The Fantasy Kingdom Sim ©2000 MicroProse

 Now that I have established the setting, and created an interesting racial group, the next step I wanted to take with it was to create some religious orders.

I actually don't have issues with the Cleric as a class; they're fine... So long as Paladins don't steal their role and their thunder the way they did in 3.5 and onward... But I always thought it an odd thing thatthey didn't differ more. The variant priests in the AD&D Deities & Demigods was my go-to solution for this problem in highschool. The mix of Domains and Prestige Classes in 3e also worked alright, but I feel they needed to do more to alter the base class, not just add to it.

In The Drowned World, mystery cults and holy orders are much more unique in their design and purpose. I want each religion to come with a unique class for its most devout. (The Stonespeakers from the last article would fit here, too.)

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Classy World Building (pt. 3)

 So this time, I am going to dive into the classes I am working on with only two prefaces:


First, this is a world where a group of mystics slew the God of Law, and the world was subsequently flooded by the tears of the Goddess of Wisdom, leading to a howling emptiness and a land full of lost hold in sunken ruins.

Greed for a Reason 

One of the first things I wanted to set up in The Drowned World was a race with a really good reason for being greedy and miserly. A replacement for the dwarves that are less encumbered by the mythic symbolism of dwarves from Norse mythology.

(If you're interested, the dwarves in the Prose Edda tend to represent small-mindedness, uninterest in the divine, materialism, and obsession with work, three things that come together. We are in a dwarf age in many respects.)

One of my favorite adventures in the original Majesty: The Fantasy Kingdom Sim was one in which you had to raise $40,000 gold pieces in 40 days in order to pay off a demonic debt interred by your character's late mother.

You don't have to really know what the demon wants with the gold. Theoretically, it shouldn't need gold at all. It is likely that it simply wants the gold to promote greed, or to stir up conflicts and generates sin. After all, The quickest way to win  mission is to build a strong thieves guild,  and invite debauched elves to build casinos and "lounges", then gamble like crazy while taxing the life out of the local vice peddlers.

This inspired my idea for the Oblik: A race struggling under a generational debt to a powerful demon. They celebrate Ambition, greed, miserliness on the one hand, but also see each member of their society as needing to help foot a massive burden on the other. They accept no slackers.

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Classy World Building (pt. 2)

The Dungeons & Dragons Rules Cyclopedia 
Cover Art by Jeff Easley
©️1981 TSR
 This is part two of a series on using character classes to build worlds. For the preamble on how this project came about, see the previous article. The short version is that I have decided to build a collection of classes that express the races, cultures, and religions of a new high fantasy, high magic, noble right fantasy world that I am creating as a pallet cleanser after my life got too dark to want to play dark fantasy..

Inspired by the World of Twelve games (Dofus, Wakfu and Waven) and animated series, as well as by Nox, Majesty the Fantasy Kingdom Sim, Legend of Mana, and increasingly A Wizard of Earthsea all of which give very specific abilities, skills, and secrets to different groups within those worlds. And by some of the amazing classes and house rules shared in Black Pudding Heavy Helping volume 1 by James V West.

The first thing I've had to do is decide what system those worlds will sit in.

Firstly, I wanted a setting where magic was plentiful, but highly specialized. There are dozens of different subgroups of magic users with great power in a very limited sphere. I also wanted characters to have a high level of capability early on in the game, but that their impressive power comes with considerable risk.

I started with my Dungeons & Dragons Rules Cyclopedia. I preferred it as a very complete version of D&D where I could use as many or as few of the additional rules as I saw fit from that to create a solid Dungeons & Dragons scaffold for the world. I am throwing out non-weapon proficiencies and weapons specializations right off the bat; These are a lot of clutter on the character sheet, and add needless complexity to the game. I wanted to play in an old school manner, and so I will keep skill resolution to be controlled by a mix of attribute checks and logic as to which character ought to be able to do which thing.

Monday, May 8, 2023

Classy Worldbuilding (pt.1)

Wakfu promotional poster
©2012 Ankama
In the hopes of reducing the amount of Pokémon in my diet, I recently started looking for animated series I could share with my sons.

While it turned out to be something I don't think they were quite ready for, I came to quite enjoy Wakfu, a French animated fantasy series.

It is a setting that does not quite fit the traditional Tolkeinian / European fantasy mold, although there are elements of it in there, such as knights and princesses. Where they started with a building blocks of Tolkeineasque fantasy, they worked hard to give it enough twists, turns, and changes so has not to feel completely derivative. 

I also noticed very early on in the series that there was a lot of lore they weren't spelling out, such as how certain cultures appear to be racially the same but clearly had very different interests, and called upon different deities and mythic founders. That there seem to be a God for every tribe in the setting.

As I dug a little deeper I discovered that the animated series was released concomitantly with a massively multiplayer online game by the same title. And that it was the second MMO in that setting (Dofus was the first), and a third MMO, Waven, on the way between the animated series, a movie, a series of animated shorts, multiple casual video games, three MMOs, comic books, and other companion books, the setting, the World of Twelve is a true transmedia empire. But one that is not very well known outside of the Francosphere. I suspected cross my radar as much because I watched a fair amount of French programming has anything.

In any case, I'm now quite a few hours into playing the Wakfu MMO, and most of the way through the animated series for my own enjoyment. One of the things that struck me about it, and that I really enjoyed was the world building.