Friday, October 29, 2010

I Don't Even Know

Four men sit in a dim tavern, smoke ringing their heads. The tavern is dim because they are the only ones left, even the bartender has gone to lay his head to rest. The ash of a hundred cigarettes lies thick in their ashtrays and each of the men has the stubby remains of one clamped between their lips. The cigarettes are made of Keltin or Baccaralt leaves because tobacco does not grow in this strange place.

Their eyes are hollow, lifeless things that peek up over strange and alien hands of cards at one another. Those hollow eyes convey age and disinterest, not stupidity. Though these men appear to be nothing more than their late thirties, their eyes speak of age and experience at odds with their scarless and middle-aged faces.

These men are a cross between hardboiled detective and space pirate. They wear beaten up trench coats patched with the hide of a deranged Lacerat they slew in the bar they now sit. Their guns are mundane in origin, but rifled and jury rigged to accept ammunition that uses fresh Saevoi blood in lieu of gunpowder. They have not tasted beef or chicken in ten years, or a thousand, or a hundred. When they do remember to eat, it is something once strange, but now as mundane to them as beef or chicken once were. When they recall that they should drink, it is an alcohol brewed upon the shores of the city they now dwell in.

The city. These men dwell in a city on the edge of oblivion. A crude busted rock, a remnant of an ancient planet now gone to ruin. The city is a broken thing, part ancient fortress of stone and part city on the edge of the future, all gleaming steel and bright lights. This strange city built of all times and places sits upon a sea of seething chaos that roils below it. The sea of chaos fills the city with life and wonder and monstrousness.

These men are immortal, because this is not their world or their time. These men have not known peace or comfort in ten years, or a thousand, or a hundred. These men are unrelenting and unforgiving slayers of things that go bump in the night and would do harm to the innocent. These men are Darkest Night Detective Agency, and they still draw breath in an alien land.

Music: Night City - The Sword
Music: Space Pirates - Alice Cooper

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Race: Modified Soulless
Class: Fighter

The creature known as Spineplate was one of the twelve original soulless created by the artisans of The Fallen Empire of Man and the Okwighta Aleknostas. Trained and raised for a lifetime of battle by Omne-4, for forty years he served the nation of undead as a blood-slick metal warrior, reaching a moderately high rank and gaining control over a small force of his kind. He and his unit were sent on a mission to the country of Kusseth to investigate underground ruins and he was wounded beyond repair and left to rust and go mad from his isolation. He was discovered by a creature named A'lst that found his sorcerous nature repugnant but his machine nature intriguing, A'lst altered Spineplate and negated the sorcerous energies of his creation. This stripped Spineplate of his allegiance to the Fallen Empire and his somewhat homicidal nature and replaced his psyche with that of an unthinking metal beast. Over time A'lst grew affectionate towards his metal hound and taught him the language of his people (Thoeleknair) and gave him a name befitting his developing personality (Kethranmeer, meaning warrior of steel mind and steel flesh). A'lst had ties to the bardic colleges and Spineplate was inducted into the colleges as a warrior and during one of his missions with the bards he was caught by the wardens of Kusseth. Because his kind were thought to be sorcerous constructs of war and due to his clearly deadly nature he was to be destroyed, but A'lst had connections to a senior warden of some repute in Kusseth (Traith Harris of the 37th). The warden vouched for the construct and he was instead imprisoned in the Beltan prison camp where he was modified by smiths and miners to become an ideal and untiring mining device. Over the next twenty years he succumbed to the rigors of isolation and abuse and devolved once more into the animalistic state A'lst's interventions had first left him in. At the end of that twenty years he was able to escape from Beltan by being involved in a prison break masterminded by Smiling Jack and Laram of Volungshemle. He met up with a collection of malcontents that were later dubbed The Robust Five (More or Less) and became fast friends with a human of Fell Human descent called D'alton Braun.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Ieanegatniv 101

Words!!1! (twenty-two hundred or so)

Halfway around the world from The Known World is a place called Ieanegatniv. It is primarily jungle terrain, ringed by mountains. Mountains ring the continent in sort of a horseshoe shape. The western beach is nice, but the mountains and the jungles lock in the sticky, stifling, heat of the jungle. The mountains are tall and mountainy, the jungles are hot and sweaty and full of big bugs, and warring countries and whatnot.

In the upper reaches of the mountains are this race of purple skinned humanoids called The Night Clans. They're big brutish creatures, not stupid, just very fragmented and warlike, even among their own people. They typically dwell in large stone domed shelters on the mountainsides, or in the upper interiors of the mountains. They tend to stay up higher on the mountains, but we'll get to the why of that later. The Night Clans are a warlike nation, very similar to Volungshmele. They call themselves The Night Clans because they believe themselves to be lunar creatures, so much so that they ritually scar their brows with a phase of the moon. Their legends say that they descended from Hekinoe's moon after a great catastrophe befell their empire and cast them down to the peaks of Ieanegatniv. As a race, they feel their fortunes are tied to the moon. When they wage war, they do so under the moon, and beneath its pale gaze their vitality and strength are limitless. They are not a race that fears the daylight, but they do take much comfort and strength from the twilight hours when the moon rides high in the sky. Despite their fragmented nature, one creature stands out among the herds of warriors and berserkers of this race, Pometkin, a warlord that seeks to conquer The Night Clans and unify them into a power to be feared and respected on Ieangatniv. This warlord dwells in the lowest regions of the mountains, daring the People of Darkwood to attack him and his holdings. He, more than any other chieftain of The Night Clans, ventures out into the thick jungles to raid against the other races of the area. He is widely feared and respected among his people, but his power has turned much of his race against him, filling their eyes with green envy so that he is perpetually beset by petty enemies that drain resources that could be better spent on making war against other races and bringing other chieftains to his banners.

At the foot of the mountains is a cooler stretch of the jungles, not cold or anything like that, but cooler due to the proximity of the cold mountains and the underground lakes and rivers that cut through the rock. This ring of cooler jungle backed up against the mountains is called Darkwood. The creatures living in Darkwood are these pale blond and albino humanoids that are broken up into three main factions, perhaps more. The first faction is led by a creature called Shade of Darkwood and he is something known as a wood witch. He believes that his people should take refuge at the foot of the mountains and protect themselves there, essentially walling themselves off from the rest of Ieanegtatniv and taking no part in the constant infighting of the land. He thinks of himself as a protector and defender of his people, not as a tyrant. His brother, Solo of Darkwood operates under an opposing view. Solo believes that the People should roam through all the jungles of Ieanegatiniv waging a battle of constant guerrilla war against the other races, bleeding them even as they wear themselves down against one another so that one day the People can rule all of Ieangatniv alone and in peace. Many of his warriors are outcasts from Shade's fortress-like cities that expressed views at odds with those of Shade and his supporters. The third faction is a collection of warriors led by Gherret, called the Hawkeye, and he and his warriors act as mercenaries throughout Ieangatniv. The Hawkeye feels that the People are beset on all sides by bloodthirsty foes, and the only way they can truly guarantee their survival is by becoming far too useful for the other races to even think of destroying them. The Hawkeye takes the long view of things, believing that being employed by other races to wage war against other races that dwell outside of Darkwood, he creates fewer and fewer enemies for his people in the future. The Hawkeye considers the factions ruled by Solo and Shade to be his allies, recognizing that each view of their race's future has it's own merits and he supports them when he and his warriors can. In return, Shade and his people offer safe havens to the Hawkeye and Solo sends information on local conflicts and troop placements across Ieanegatniv so the Hawkeye knows where he can find employment and weakened forces to kill and loot.

The hot, humid, dim, suffocatingly thick core of the jungle that is Ieanegatniv is populated by three main races. They are the Cinder Ghosts, Panthermen, and the Trolls. These three races are the most fragmented and warlike of the races/nations of Ieanegatniv. The Night Clans are similar, and Pometkin comes under frequent attack because of his attempts to unify the race under his iron fist. However, no tribe or city of the Night Clans commits genocide upon another. The Cinder Ghosts, Trolls, and Panthermen are savage and brutal races that will wage war against their own people for no better reason than they are there to be fought. That said, each race has a warrior king attempting to change that, much like The Night Clans.

The Cinder Ghosts are a race of pygmies that dwell in the trees of Ieanegatniv harvesting plants and mosses from the bark. They call themselves the Cinder Ghosts because of their knack for stealth and their common use of sorcerers (the kind that like to burn things) in engagements. Their greatest threat (aside from their own kind) is the giant insects that dwell in the trees with them. Creatures we would know as mosquitoes, scorpions, centipedes, earwigs, and spiders, all of them the size of small horses. These creatures dwell in the earth or the trees waiting for the Cinder Ghosts to show weakness. There is such enmity between the Cinder Ghosts and the crawling skittering creatures of Ieangatniv that the Cinder Ghosts armor themselves in plates of insect chitin and adorn themselves with antennae and wings and stingers as trophies and weapons taken from their fallen foes. The man of the Cinder Ghosts that seeks unity is one Day'Meun of the Cinder Ghosts. Day'Meun came from a small, ineffective tribe that was on the verge of dying out, they were beset on all sides by Trolls, Underlox, and their insect/arachnid enemies. Day'Meun killed the tribal chieftain and assumed his role and his first step was to make pacts of non-aggression with other Cinder Ghost tribes in the area, following that he engaged in trade with Panthermen tribes distant enough that resource sharing was not an issue, but close enough that pacts of mutual defense would be beneficial to both parties. With the strength and numbers added to his force by the Panthermen, he was able to clear out the caves near his tribe's trees and block off the passages the Underlox used to gain access to the surface world. When other Cinder Ghost tribes eventually reneged on their non-aggression pacts and attacked his tribe, they found healthy and rested warriors ready for them and backed by Panthermen soldiers. Day'Meun was able to then absorb the tribes that attacked him and add to his own power. Day'Meun is a planner, and usually his goals center on allying himself with others or hiring mercenaries so his forces are not depleted every time he finds it necessary to destroy an enemy tribe or fight off insects or Trolls.

The Pathermen are a race of bipedal panther creatures. Of the races of Ieanegatniv, they are the most well known as warriors. Their society is completely martial in nature and one where might truly does make right. They build fortresses of clay and stone in between the mighty trees of Ieanegatniv and are second only to The Night Clans in their weapon and armorsmithing skill. Exactly like the Cinder Ghosts, the Panthermen are a fragmented race prone to conflict with one another, and just like the Cinder Ghosts, they have their own warrior that looks to the future. His name is Kain. In his early years he fought as a gladiator in the Runegate arena, eventually coming to some degree of fame and being noticed by Kelik and Krin, the rulers of that city of neutrality and mercenaries. Kane fought in the arena for almost two decades, forming bonds of friendship and respect with a Troll named Algar and an Underlox named Bic Thered. It was in the arena that Kain decided it was his destiny to have as much power as he could sink his claws into, and with that in mind he retired from the arena and dragged Algar and Bic with him. The three of them hired mercenaries with their winnings and carved a swath of death through the jungles, drawing other warriors to their banner and growing in fame. It was with Kain that Day'Meun of the Cinder Ghosts made his pacts of mutual defense with. It was Kain that ordered Algar back to his people to conquer a tribe of his own so that it could be added to the growing list of Kain's warriors. Kain and his warriors live as mercenaries, much like Gherret the Hawkeye, but their goal is less noble. Kain wants nothing more than complete and utter control of Ieanegatniv, this includes Runegate and the deep caverns of the Underlox. Kain's banner, four black talons tearing across a field of red, is sometimes enough to cause defenders to drop their weapons and flee their posts.

The jungles are, as I said, also home to the Trolls. Algar, Kain's ally, was once a respected well-known warrior among his kind before his time in the arena. He still is to a certain extent. The Trolls are thin looking giant things with thick green hide the color of the jungle. The Trolls have an innate affinity for the jungles, some even believe the that Trolls are somehow the descendants of the most ancient trees of Ieanegatniv. Perhaps there is some truth to this, for the green flesh of the Trolls is as thick and unfeeling to injury as thick tree bark and when cut apart, the creatures regrow their thick hide. If a limb is cut apart, it returns, if the Troll is particularly old or strong, they can sometimes split the wounded limb and cause it to regrow into two new limbs. Some beasts even grow additional heads. The Trolls are broken into many tribes ruled by many different chieftains and wage constant battles against one another, believing that every battle makes them stronger and worthier in the eyes of their ancestors. The largest tribe of Trolls is led by a Troll named Aldox Tektroenik and he has a special enmity for Algar of Kain's alliance and he has led many assaults (of varying degrees of success) against Kain, Algar, and their allies.

Beneath the jungles of Ieanegatniv are a series of interconnected caverns and tunnels that riddle the earth. In these caverns dwell the Underlox. The Underlox are barely a race, they have no society or rulers, nothing they create or export to trade with other races and they do nothing but raid the surface for food and tools. The few of them that do decide to leave the caves for more than raiding often find work, or slavery, in the arenas of Runegate. The Underlox are a horrific fusion of flesh and chitin that should not exist. As a race they have no uniform appearance, some of them are bipedal, others skitter around on a half dozen or more insect legs. Some sting or bite or claw, while others rage like men.

At the edge of the beach of Ieanegatniv, where sand meets jungle, sits a walled city. The city has one gate and it faces the jungle. The gate is forged of heavy black metal and etched with runes of silver and red. The air hums violently around the massive gate because the huge opening in the wall is not sealed by wood or steel, but by sorcery. The walls are tall and thick, more so than any other fortress or city found on Ieanegatniv, and they have been impervious to all attempts to bring them down. Within the walls of the city is a neutral city where all may go to meet and trade in relative safety. Mercenaries may be hired, goods and services procured, and so on. All under the watchful eye of two brothers dwelling in a tower that rises from the center of Runegate like a pike aimed upwards to impale an invisible titan of the sky. At the base of the tower is a huge amphitheater where the arenas of Runegate can be found. Gladiators, willing and otherwise, engage in bloody combat with one another and whatever beasts can be dragged up out of the caverns below Ieanegatniv to the entertainment of the crowds. The willing fight for honor, glory, ensorcelled weaponry, or even just base coinage. The unwilling fight so that they may see the next dawn.

The two brothers that dwell in the tall tower are Kelik and Krin. One is a wizard of such power that he would shame the Fallen of The Known World and the other is a psychic savant of such power that he could level a city with his gaze. Because of these two Eldumans, Runegate remains a neutral city that no armed force can wage war upon and survive. How long the brothers have been on Ieanegatniv is unknown, but Runegate's age borders on ancient.

Also, sorcery is bound and controlled in most areas of Ieanegatniv. It still warps the flesh of man and beast (I cite the Underlox as an example), but the sorcerous explosions that are a common sight in some areas of The Known World are almost unheard of on Ieanegatniv.

At the time of writing this, this continent/idea is three days old, not that that is really relevant to anything. If you've gamed with me for a while, or you are Jeremy, you know what is going on here in Ieangatniv. Some of the names are altered and some characters have been compiled together into one, but this place is exactly what you think it is and I'm glad I got the idea to do it.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Essentiality: Part 3

Once more, into the breach!

Heroes of the Fallen Lands
Before I delve into it, I want to go into this new "digest" format of the Essentials books. I like it. There is a perception of weightiness to the cut down book that even had Tony impressed. I enjoy the sandy sepia color tone of the books. The font is just a point or two smaller than in a "normal" 4th Edition book (I think, Jeremy could probably get specific on that issue), but the books are definitely a few inches short on the vertical and horizontal axis, and I'm not sure if the smaller font and additional thickness make up for that. I'm not even sure if they need to, these books are sort of a new format for a new style of 4th Edition so I have a hard time guessing how they're breaking everything down and what their new splatbook format will look like. Figuring that out would take more work than I want to put into this. Anyway, I dig the new style. These books are paperback though and despite the built in cover creases to prevent ragged player made creases from being made in them, they probably won't stand up as well to long term use as a hardcover would. (Again, Jeremy might be able to assess that better than I.)

-Rules. There are rules in here for the basic aspects of the game related to what players can do. Healing surges, Grabs, basic attacks, etc. It is in here and laid out in a readable format. Huzzah.

-Character creation. Character creation is broken down in a pretty legible fashion. They're really spamming the "Hey, hey! We have other products with other options you know!" thing. I like the Character Builder and I like buying DnD books, you've won. Chill. The roles are broken down and the basic races and classes are outlined, along with what can be found in Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms (which I'll likely grab at some point for giggles and defecations). Anyway, it moves on through the basics in what appears to be a brisk but thorough fashion, outlining skill checks and how to resolve attacks, creating stats and background information. The much maligned (by me!) alignment system is explained, along with the gods of the world. Their evil counterparts are given a brief mention too. Unfortunate limitedness, but 4th Edition has made it abundantly clear that even the hard asses are good guys and nothing you could ever potentially fight will have a good alignment. Why would you? You're the big damn heroes.

-Powers. The section on powers, the types of powers, their use, their targets. Etc, etc, etc, etc. There are about eighteen pages on powers and the basics of how they work and such and it is pretty robust. All the quirks and fiddly bits of the power system are pretty well laid out and explained. The theme of the book, much like the Rules Compendium, seems to be collection, clarification, and updating. (I struggled for a while to find a synonym for updating that had a see so I could make an alliteration, poo.) So everything in here is pretty easily understood and up to date with the current rules. The placement is fitting in the book as well because next come the classes.

-Classes. The four classes (Cleric, Fighter, Rogue, and Wizard) in the book are given brief, paragraph long descriptions.They get into a little bit about paragon paths and epic destinies as well before moving on to the specific class details. I guess I'll break the class section down by the classes in question. The first is the Cleric, but first I want to talk about the newerish format first. The line at the top is the power source and role, which is a good place to start and it kind of makes for a nice three or four line "this is what the class does" and there is also "this class does X as a good secondary role" that you see in some of the more recent handbooks when classes are described. As the descriptions of the class move on we get told the key abilities of the class, what races make good choices for the class, and so on. Before we start getting into actual powers and abilities we're given a few pages of suggestions that start with races and move through feats, equipment, skills, and ability scores. It all seems to be solid, helpful, advice, there if you need it and easy to breeze through if you don't.

-Cleric. Ahem, excuse me, the Warpriest. Cleric, Fighter, Rogue, etc appear to be categories of classes now. Warpriest, Slayer, Knight, etc seem to be the classes. Domains are back, which is cool, I always liked domains. I think they were "back" in an earlier product, Divine Power maybe, not sure. Anyway, I thought domains were cool. I find these...lackluster. The Warpriest can choose powers from the Sun and Storm domain. Fine, good for Pelor and Kord. What about everybody else? Am I supposed to believe that a Warpriest of The Raven Queen would have the sun domain? I'm sure you can find a way to fit one of the two domains with each of the core gods, but it just feels like if they were going to make the whole domain thing a core feature of Warpriests, it should be more robustly presented. After that comes a list of powers and abilities that are pretty much 100% of what I am looking for if I were to want to play a Warpriest. The capabilities of the Warpriest are outlined at each tier of play, along with the powers and features granted to a character via their domain. Ultimately, the Warpriest pretty much operates exactly as the Cleric does.

-Fighter. I like Martial classes and I tend to gravitate towards them for a variety of reasons that won't be explored here. There are two Fighter types in the book, the Slayer and the Knight. The names are incredibly fitting, the Slayer is a striker and the Knight is a defender. I am extremely pleased with what they've done to the Fighter class as a whole. No more daily powers for Fighters that I can see. I love that. Being able to only do your super awesome signature move once a day was/is a stupid limitation for Martial classes. Making a lot of Martial daily powers reliable was even more goofy. That doesn't do much more than say you can fail at it as many times as you want, but you can only successfully do it once. There are still Encounter powers, which make sense to me. Most fights last less than a minute in DnD, if that. It may take the players and DM two hours to finish the fight, but your characters just spent forty seconds or less fighting thirteen kobolds and that isn't a lot of time to be setting up and pulling off sweet moves. The big change is that Fighters primarily attack using Basic Attacks modified by Stances. Stances are chosen at various levels and provide modifiers to your Basic Melee Attacks. You choose a style to fight in and it effects how you attack, I like that. It makes sense to me and it allows the Fighter to differentiate himself from the whole "We're all Wizards!" kind of motif of 4th Edition. I do not enjoy the fact that the Slayer is limited two two-handed axes or two-handed swords and nothing else. Seem like you could effectively slay things with more weapons than those two. The bastard sword is a pretty good option, but requires only one hand to wield. I dunno, I'm sure there will come a point when there are more options for weapon load outs with the Fighter classes. I really enjoy the fact that there are options for Fighters to be Defenders and Strikers.

-Rogues. Rogues are one of my favorite classes, as I said before, I am a fan of Martial classes (regardless of edition). The Thief class has undergone changes similar to those undergone by the Fighter. No more daily powers, but a lot of stuff that modifies what you are doing and what you can do. You have sneak attack and backstab, and I need to look at those for a few minutes before I'll be able to figure out what is going on with them, at first glance they seem like the same thing basically. We'll see. Anyway, it looks like the Thief has Tricks in the same way the Fighters have Stances. Tricks are typically Move Action at wills that modify how the Thief can get to his enemy (or away from him), some of them also modify what the Thief's Basic Attacks do against them as well. I like it. It differentiates the Thief from other classes in the same way that Fighters have been changed, but it keeps the Thief looking and playing different from the Fighter. I'm really interested to pick up Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms to see what they've done to Rangers to change them up, the list shows that they've come up with a Ranger class that is a Controller and I find that very very interesting.

Yay for Martial classes!

-Mage. I'm pretty pleased with Mages as well. First off, you can specialize in a school again, which is swell. Your school choice grants you abilities that modify what you can do with certain spells. I'm glad school specialization is back, it is a bit of a callback to older editions of the game. The spellbook is still here, and a little more central to the character than in regular 4th Edition. We're very much back to the spells per day system of Vancian magic that we didn't entirely leave when 4th Edition came out. I have mixed feelings about this, but I've always had mixed feelings about spells per day. Regardless, it keeps the feel of the Wizard intact. Cantrips are still here, Magic Missile is here (and it auto-hits! Yay!). Fireball, Fly, Disintegrate, Invisibility, Chain Lightning, Meteor Swarm, all our friends are here. I can't point to any one thing that makes me happy with the Mage, but overall, I really like them. I just get this happy gamer vibe off of them that I never got when reading the Wizard info in the Player's Handbook.

-Races. We've got Dwarves, Eladrin, Elves, Halflings, and Humans. They all look pretty much the same as they did pre-Essentials. The Dwarf now has an encounter power to use his Second Wind as a minor action, rather than have it just listed as an ability. Humans also have a new ability to use as an encounter power that allows them to gain a bonus on a saving throw or an attack roll. A big change is that each race has a set +2 bonus, and then another that can be chosen from two choices. Dwarves get +2 to Constitution and a +2 to Strength or Wisdom for instance. This allows for a bit more customization and optimization during character creation. It also makes races a bit more varied, even among those players of the same race. They started doing it in the PHB 3 and it is nice to see the core races get the same treatment. It seems like there is more background content to read on each race than there has been previously, but I could be wrong. This books is obviously a different shape and layout than the original PHB, and I have no intention of counting the words in each description to compare them. Suffice it to say that there is enough information to get the gist of each race, if you haven't already gotten it by reading fantasy novels and watching fantasy movies or playing video games for the past two decades of your life. We're not breaking any molds here, elves live in forests and are agile and dwarves live in or near mountains and they're sturdy. There are sections to read on how each race takes to each of the four classes in the book and there are also some ideas on role-playing each race. Meh, don't tell me how to role-play. I'll play my humans and dwarves the way I want to. That said, I can see how the information would be beneficial to someone with little or no experience with DnD, true role-playing games, or Tolkien inspired fiction.

-Skills are set up pretty much in the fashion of the PHB. Each skill is explained, the key abilities that go with each skill, what training in each skill means, and so on. They also include a chart about easy, moderate, and hard skill DCs, which I believe was in the DMG previously. I think that is a good idea, that way a player has something to look at to gauge exactly how good he needs to be at a skill to do what he wants to do with it. One thing they've added to the descriptions of what you can accomplish with skills is a short section on improvising with them, and I think that is a nice touch. A lot of people think the skill selection in 4th Edition is limited (they're wrong, but I've ranted like a lunatic about that before, heh), so it is a good idea that they're putting info with the skills that will give players ideas on how to use them in unconventional ways.

-Feats. I do not care for the new format of feat organization. In previous books they had this really nice set up where they broke them down by tier, and sometimes by race or class. On top of that, there was a column for prerequisites for the feat and another one for a brief description of what it does. Now, in this book they do break them down by style: Divine feats, Armor related feats, endurance/Constitution related feats, and so on. Then they organize them alphabetically. There is no quick reference table to look at. The book is smaller, so there isn't really room for wide table full of info, and you get an idea about what kind of feat you'll get when you see it on a table and go looking for its description. Now, back to the tier thing. Breaking the feats down by tier is almost a waste of time at this point. They've done it before with a lot of feats, but it seems much more prevalent in this book. Most feats seem to upgrade themselves the higher level you are. I like it, it keeps your feats feeling useful as you progress in your career. There aren't too many feats to choose from in the book, but the way they upgrade themselves makes the majority of them an attractive option. Plus, the Essentials stuff seems pretty compatible with current 4th Edition trends, so if you really really can't find anything in this book, you can find something somewhere in another one I'm sure.

-Gear. There is some gear in the back end of the book. Basic tables and descriptions of armor, weapons, and adventuring gear. All of it is pretty basic info, but it is what you need to outfit your character with gear. The section touches on magic items and the types you can find and how they work, but there are about twelve total in there (twenty-nine actually). I'm not miffed that there are so few described, I hail from an age where the DMG was loaded out with all the phat lewts and the players could only guess what their dark god would bestow upon them. I do feel that if you're going to put your lewts in a player book, put them in there, don't just tease people with the tip.

-Glossary. There's a glossary at the end, it has some pertinent words that are useful to have defined for the reading. There is also an index. Huzzah and shit.

-Character sheet. The final few pages are a character sheet. They're kind of small, so I'm not too sure I give a shit about them. I rarely use standard sheets anyway, so I guess I really don't care about them. They're more robust than the sheets included with The Red Box, but they're still digest sized, so I'm not sure how often people will be using them. I won't. People need character sheets though, and they're there if you want them and can't find ten million better options in the (inter) tubes.

...and that is Heroes of the Fallen Lands. Another note, I really like the titles of these books. Heroes of the Fallen Lands and Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms really evoke some imagery that I like. I feel like perhaps Wizards is on the cusp of letting go of their "we're going to leave huge holes in the core setting for you to fill in" and finally flesh out a bit of the Points of Light campaign setting. I feel like they could be doing something with the background instead of saying "Arkhosia and Bael Turath existed, now you write out the rest of it."

I think at some point in the near future I will head out and purchase Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms, I am really quite interested by the concept of a Martial Controller. I'm assuming it is an archer type class in the vein of the Seeker in the PHB 3.

I've got to say, I'm really jonesing to do something 4th Edition related with this new content. I like the new direction of the Martial classes and I would really like to run a Rogue or Fighter in something. Most of the changes I've read about so far have my full approval, so I am quite interested to see what they eventually do to Bards. Looking at the Wizards product schedule, I don't see that happening any time soon. The next Essentials release is slated for March next year and it looks like it is more options for the Heroes of the Fallen Kingdoms classes, along with Essentials conversions for the Warlord. It looks like it will be a paperback and run around twenty-five bucks at three hundred and twenty pages. ::grimace: Heroes of the Fallen Lands weighs in at three hundred and sixty some pages for twenty at full price (thirteen on Amazon).

As I was saying, I am really wanting to try something out with this stuff. I don't know when I'll have the opportunity to though. My players profess a definite dislike of 4th Edition, except for Jeremy, and we have a hard enough time getting together for our regular sessions. I'm not ready to start retconning Erevan into being a Fighter or Rogue either. On top of that, I find Gamma World extremely enticing. I'm going to avoid that like the plague though, wasting money on this Essentials stuff that I won't ever really run is enough of a silly excursion to sate my gamer gene. I don't need yet another box of Wizards stuff lying around the house. Let Eric or some other poor dumb sod worry about Gamma World, I have plenty of goofy stuff on my plate.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Essentiality: Part 2

We meet again.

Rules Compendium
-Rules. There are rules in here, they are updated and collated and indexed. Pretend I fleshed this out more with more adjectives indicating updatedness and collectedness.

Next time, Heroes of the Fallen Lands.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Essentiality: Part 1

I bought some DnD Essentials stuff on Amazon. I'm paging through it with no prior experience and kind of writing it as I go, so these are just my gut reactions as they happen. If more develops and I actually test any of this out, I'll post again. Or maybe not. Whatever.

I feel I should tell you that I want to like these products, so perhaps that implies a bias. You've been warned or something.

The Red Box
-It is red and retro looking and that makes me happy inside.

-There is a code for a free adventure, awesome, I like codes for free stuff.

-There is a battle mat map, I like battle mats and maps, they are cool.

-Ads for other shit, meh. I expect ads in my game boxes at this point. I still have some in my old Mystara box. Most of the stuff that is being advertised on the ads that came with The Red Box came in my Amazon box, heh. Perhaps I'll check out the Essentials Dungeon Master's Kit and the Bestiary at a later date. Probably won't ever pick up the Dungeon Tiles though.

-Stripped down character sheets, there are four of them and there isn't much that goes on them or much that can be filled in on them. They're stripped down but I guess they work, I tend to like robust character sheets though so these leave something to be desired for me. You should see Jeremy's fantastical Pathfinder character sheets, five pages of glorious black and white retro looking deliciousness.

-Power card sheets, there are seven sheets of nine power cards. I'm not sure if they are random or what, but there seems to be an odd/random assortment of them. There are power cards for Halflings, Elves, and Humans to show their racial powers, but nothing for Eladrin or any of the other races. I'm not sure what that means yet. (Interlude) Ok, now I do, those three races are the only race options available in the Player's Book. Regardless, the cards are kind of flimsy and they take some work to get out of the sheets without damaging them. Meh, just print stuff off of the Character Builder on tougher paper, that is what I did when I wanted to print out some maneuvers from 3.5 Edition's Tome of Battle - Book of Nine Swords, which in my opinion is the early version of the power system.

-A Player's Book. Oh fuck yes! This thing brings the power cards and the stripped down character sheet together. This isn't just basic rules on how to play, those are there, but they're not what has me excited. I've told my wife and various others that I love DnD because it is like a truly interactive version of those Choose Your Own Adventure books they used to have. That is exactly what this book is. It guides you through character creation including skills and power selection and filling out your character sheet in a sort of one player adventure to guide you into the madness that is DnD. I think it is swell and a pretty thorough document for a starter set designed as a gateway into DnD. My only issue is that it is limited to the contents of the box to select from and I'm wondering if a compiled and updated version of this that includes options from Heroes of the Fallen Lands and Heroes of the Forgotten Kingdoms might be a nice option for them to come out with, perhaps even as a pdf or a system to add into the Character Builder down the road.

-A Dungeon Master's Book. How many of these have I read? A side note, I am now twenty-eight and it occurred to me that I have been playing DnD in some form or another longer than half my life. Seventeen years my friends. When I can say it has been twenty I think I'll throw myself a little party. Or kill a player character, been a while since I did that. Anyway, it is a bit thicker than the Player's Book, which makes sense. It gives some solid advice on the role of the DM and some basics of DMing and running things. The latter half is a continuation of the adventure begun in the Player's Book. All seems pretty straightforward and is pretty much what it needs to be.

-Dice. They are black with white numbers. I love dice.

That is The Red Box. It is pretty cool.

Next up on the agenda is The Rules Compendium. Forward! Into the FUTURE!!1!

Friday, October 15, 2010


In my post about that southern continent that channels The Lost World pretty strongly in my mind, I say the natives had their gods and those gods helped them fight off The New Empire conquistadors. The question now becomes, are the god gods, or are they just super powerful entities, and does it matter if they are one or the other?

I go back and forth on this topic a lot. I think clerics and stuff screw up a lot about fantasy worlds. How can you have anything remotely resembling widespread starvation or disease anywhere in the world when there are two or three dozen different priesthoods of various bents that can provide meals and healing at a variety of low levels. A 5th level cleric can provide ten gallons of water and a meal that feeds fifteen people for twenty-four hours, and that is with only a 10 in Wisdom, which is highly unlikely. I suppose that relies on a church being fairly helpful in nature, but even "neutral" or "evil" churches could have those services bought by a government in dire straits. I dunno, it just seems to me like healing and such have the potential to muck up anything you try to run. If there does end up being some sort of apocalyptic disease you have to resort to "magic did it" to explain why all the useful cure spells suddenly no longer work.

Sometimes I wonder if the whole "there are no gods and everyone on Hekinoe knows it" thing is influenced more by my personal thoughts and beliefs than by any sort of logic. I don't suppose it matters ultimately. None of my players have voiced any concern over the topic. John seemed to really enjoy playing a Favored Soul way back when, although that was a pretty broken class in my opinion.

Would I ever allow Cleric, Paladins, and the like into my game? No. They're stupid. I remember back in 2nd Edition, the basic Cleric was not allowed to use anything but bludgeoning weapons because they weren't supposed to shed blood. Have you ever seen a crush injury? There is blood, I assure you. Eventually there were rules for customizing your clerics based on their faith, war gods allowed their clerics to use swords and other implements of mayhem. Made more sense, but the bludgeoning thing always struck me as patently ridiculous. Now that I think about it, I think it was based on some Catholic rule or something. Who knows, I'm not a religious scholar and this is all vague recollections. Paladins could only be good guys, because only good religions have soldiers empowered by the divine power of their god. Dumb.

Anyway, I never cared for Clerics in DnD, period. I never really cared for gods either. They were always too invested in the players and the world in general in typical DnD settings. I like Dark Sun and Planescape because the gods were non-existent or the Lady of Pain's bitches. In Forgotten Realms they were a dime a dozen (as common as magic items, which were pretty common in Toril's extremely high fantasy world). They were all over the place, ruling nations, or running around as demigods or souping up various entities serving them to make them chosen. The logic was that gods were dependent on their devotees for power, so they had to be invested in the world and their followers, they couldn't just sit on high and be Cromm-like. They had to wander out of God Town and do shit.

I like the Witch class in Pathfinder, I think it works well in lieu of the whole Cleric thing. You make pacts with various entities and gain supernatural powers from them. Basically amounts to a Cleric with less armor and a weird pet that is an agent of their patron. Besides, devotion and servitude are modeled with role-playing far better than they are with game mechanics.

I lately find myself wondering if I should play a game like "the old gods are returning" or something. Like maybe at the height of their power Kaleshmar decided that they would erase the knowledge of higher powers from the world because if all their Uncout slaves started throwing fireballs and challenging their might, well, it might compromise the stability of the mighty empire. I dunno, like I said, no one has voiced an opinion about the lack of deity-centric fun.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Live Nude Aoefel!

Just watched the live PAX Prime Acquisitions Incorporated DnD game with the Penny Arcade Guys, Whil Wheaton, and Scott Kurtz. Utter hilarity.

Monday, October 11, 2010

How Minecraft Ruined My Marriage

I read Penny Arcade pseudo-religiously. It is on their lovely site that I learned of a game called Minecraft.

Rewind. A while back, years ago, Shawn got me into WoW, I think we started pretty close to the release date, maybe a month or two after it had been out. At the time I had no idea what an MMO was and how much time I was about to invest into this crack-like game. Perhaps it will surprise you, heh, but I am an awful WoW player.

Do you remember a post on 4th Edition from a few weeks (months?) ago? I went on about how if you want to craft stuff, set up shop in town and don't play a player class and stay the fuck away from all the orcs with the sharp objects in their mitts. There is a reason all the wizards and fighters go into dungeons and the artisans, commoners, and aristocrats don't. It is because they die.

I was that one foolhardy artisan that adventurers lured into wandering down into the dungeon. Heh.

Other people would get in on raids and group quest, or they'd farm for loot to buy ever phatter lewts from the auction house. They would go far and wide to accrue xps and purples and such. Meanwhile, I wandered the Barrens farming hides or herbs so that I could continue passing armor kits to Smitty and potions to Shawn. I didn't care about cash or gear, all I wanted to do was watch Akulna make skinning motions as I created leather armor that was further and further above my level. I even toyed with the idea of playing EverQuest 2 for a time because of the robust crafting system. Later on, after quitting and restarting a new toon on WoW, Tony and I formed a guild called The Explorers of Azeroth. We swam literally from The Swamp of Sorrows north to Dun Modr, because we were Dogdamn explorers. Of Azeroth. It was difficult and involved traversing some unfinished areas that we should not have tread in, true story.

Back to Penny Arcade, at the time of this writing, the comic is only a few weeks old, it is called Mine All Mine Part 1 and 2. It is about Minecraft and the comic is 100% accurate. I bought the game for like eleven dollars. I dug a hole, punched a tree, and began building wooden axes, swords, and picks. I burrowed into the earth like a fearful grub and I waited in the night as zombies groaned around me and skeletons clattered about plinking my fragile hut with arrows. In the night, I heard a giant spider devour a pig.

At daybreak I destroyed my hut of sand and dirt and built a stone fortress with a door and a glass window. I burrowed into the earth like a mighty umber hulk and took coal and iron from their place in the earthen womb I was making. I lit my hovel with torches and built a furnace to smelt the iron. Then I built a shaft that hit the bottom of the map, I mined what I could and journeyed to the surface by building ladders and shoveling my way up out of the mountain I had taken refuge in. Then I built a bonfire atop it and built another stone fort for another mine. When I had mined too deep and too greedily, I fled the lava and creepers beneath the earth and built another tower. I then linked my two towers with a stone bridge studded with torches to bring light to the darkness. Then I opened a new world to start it all over again because I died and couldn't find the fort I had been working on when I respawned.

Your map is randomly generated as you explore is, it is populated with pigs and ducks and about five types of enemies to encounter. The countryside of your island can be quite striking at times. I like this game a lot and I've probably put far more time than is healthy into it at the moment. My architectural endeavor is building a tower of glass that currently rises into the sky above the clouds of my map. I'm still working on it.

All you do is gather resources and craft stuff, from boats and books to tnt and traps. Minecraft gives me everything I loved about WoW (moderately robust crafting and a persistent world) without giving me all the crap I hated (asshats, constant hunger for phat lewts, monthly fees, etc). You can also play the game in multiplayer, you do need a server to host it though. I like to think that if Tony and I set up a map together we will build a walled kingdom studded with penis-shaped towers to guard against the zombies and skeletons that come for us in the night.

Edit After The Fact: Tower is done, ran out of sky. Now I've got an underwater tunnel and am planning on building a moat around my glass tower.

Further Editing: The lake was dug and filled with water, then I decided to build a mansion from my Pathfinder game. Built the whole first floor of the mansion, then it accidentally lit on fire. Minecraft has real good fire physics, had to start over from scratch but now I almost have it done.

Friday, October 8, 2010

South 101

The South will rise again, mon!

Imagine for a moment that there is a continent on Hekinoe to the south of The Known World. Dry heat has turned to damp humidity that hangs thick in the air. Imagine that, like Fresgulen, there are rumors of this place, but they trailed off out of sailor gossip about a hundred years ago when an expedition to investigate them left the shores of The New Empire.

There's this continent to the south of The Known World, still a bit north of the south pole of Hekinoe. It is a hot jungle full of jungle type stuff. About a hundred years ago, possibly more, perhaps even a lot more, some ships left The New Empire to explore south when they found that expansion into The Fallen Empire of man was going to be far more difficult than they expected.

When they found themselves near this southern continent, they sailed to a beach and set up camp. It was a tough land full of oversized flora and fauna, but resource rich. Lots of big trees and big animals to eat and take hide from. Unfortunately, as conquistador types often do, they ran into some natives. Things went quite well for the natives, the explorers had some guns and cannons, but the natives knew the forest and they knew the denizens of the forest. They also had the help of their gods.

They call/ed them The Gods of the Deep Earth, there were/are/? ten of them and the tribes of this southern continent worship them as, well, gods. Not as mighty beings of power that they serve, but as god gods, the creators of everything. Anyway, the gods were good to their worshippers and wiped the beaches free of these invaders. The explorers lost their ships and a lot of their supplies, but they survived.

Once the explorers could not steal everything not nailed down and flee, the natives left them alone to forge their own destiny. Their gods were benevolent, and they were happily willing to follow the example laid down by their creators. So the explorers got all factiony and some went native, others were determined to conquer the damn place in the name of their king. Others went against decades of propaganda calling cultists madmen and delusional and decided to start worshipping The Gods of the Deep Earth.

The natives are an old race of lizardfolk types from various clans all over the continent, they use obsidian weaponry and live in a fairly primitive tribal society. Obsidian is quite abundant in the area due to the volcanic activity of the place, which is a result of the god's activities within their mountain domain. The jungle is large and jungle-like with lots of poisonous critters and insects, and what might be called Hekinoeian dinosaurs. Sorcery is only really known in its druidic form on the continent, and it keeps the theme of unreliability we're all used to.

It's kind of an untamed place with only the lizardfolk and their gods. The explorers from over a hundred years ago have fallen on hard times for the most part. As I said, some went native and took to jungle life. Others became cultists. The largest chunk of explorers became a militaristic society obsessed with the idea of conquering the place in the name of The New Empire.

Those descended from those that have gone native so to speak are tolerated. They tried to start some shit and the god bitch slapped them, but they and their descendants have changed. They're not welcomed among the various clans of lizardfolk, but they don't hunt them.

The crazy cultist types are considered fools and madman, mainly because the lizardfolk believe that they were created as crude representations of their gods and no sane god would create something that looks like an Elduman or Elduman descended human. Seriously, they have no scales or talons and that is just plain gross.

Those that claim they want to conquer this land are hunted pretty extensively. They usually live in tree forts and keep lizardfolk captives as slave labor. They take as much as they can from the areas surrounding their encampments and from those they slay in battle. They are pretty straightforward examples of foreign conquerers that feel they're entitled to everything.

The god(s), they live in their mountains doing god type things.

I'm not sure if this jungle place matters, but it is there.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


So my other group, the one Shawn DM's, had some problems using MapTool. We are playing through Keep On The Shadowfell at the moment, and we got lucky and found a campaign file that someone had used to convert all the maps and enemies of The Keep on the Shadowfell into MapTool usable data. It is a really nice set up that works rather well. Unfortunately, we happened to game at my house one time. Shawn and I were in my living room, Lance and Kristina were in Seattle. Shawn forgot his laptop at home so he had to run the session off of my desktop and he did not have the data for the campaign. So, MapTool was not feasible.

We got Skype working and were chatting with Lance and Kristina while Shawn was fiddling with something in Excel. I didn't quite see what he was doing, but it looked like he was basically converting the pdf maps of the adventure into an Excel spreadsheet. He then created and labelled little shapes to represent Erevan, Blinders, and Cerra and the hordes of Kobolds we were about to face. I believe we were outnumbered two to one in that fight.

Shawn then uploaded his little spreadsheet and sent it to us via Gmail. We then played what amounted to DnD Battleship. Blinders moves to J3 and Weight of Earth's the Kobold at K3. The Kobold at J7 bloodies Erevan as he moves into and out of J6, etc. It actually worked quite well. Shawn really rather liked the way it went so apparently we will be using that till further notice.

Which is fine, it works and we don't really need all the tool tip displays and dice rollers and chat features of MapTool. They're nice, and the macros are handy for using healing surges and rolling initiative, but I find myself nostalgic for "old school" gaming with reams of paper and pencils and dice clattering about like plastic thunder.

It was a neat little thing Shawn did and I like it. I am excited to play again.

Monday, October 4, 2010

That Went Well

It is currently September 26 as I write this, but it probably won't be published to post for like a week. That said, I gamed yesterday with the group I GM for (and I game with my other group tonight! So much gaming!). Once again, my players have amazed me with their forethought and planning. They did good. The mission was to kidnap a big bruiser of a dude that practiced sorcery. They very neatly and intelligently sidestepped the inherent dangers of such a task.

I had planned, and when I say planned I mean I had assumed, on them just storming the guy's house and beating him into unconsciousness. I tend to plan my scenarios based on the most straightforward route to completion. In the past, that is generally how the group has done things. Lately they've been surprising me though, and I really enjoy that.

Anyway, what they did was scout the tower (a little four story stone thing), once they determined it wasn't bustling with activity they tried to find and disable any sorcerous protections the guy had. They were very concerned about taking him alive and without any sort of bloodshed, good on them, the mission was to kidnap the guy but make it look like he just up and left and not like he was taken by a band of banditos in the night. They almost left his sword behind though, heh.

Anyway, they ended up using stealth and Gaseous Form to infiltrate the tower and ended up drugging the target with the most potent transcutaneous paralytic agent they could find. Eric even had Xein make a Heal check to see if he could use his Craft (Alchemy) to alter the chemical composition of the poison so it would have greater potency against their target's race. He ended up making it easier to resist by getting a 1 on his Craft (Alchemy) check, heh. Such are the vagaries of fate.

There were a few things I wish they would have done. They did figure out that it seems like reavers have been leaving the city they were in, which is important. But I don't know if they understood that Nakmander's operation was a one night only thing and he isn't responsible for all the other reavers that have been leaving the city for the past few weeks. They also didn't grill Nakmander too hard on why they were kidnapping reavers and why he was collecting them in his basement. Some missed opportunities there for getting a view of the wider picture.

That said, I really had a lot of fun watching them do their thing. They were on the ball last night. Everyone contributing and going about things as a team. I even stopped in the midst of everything to say that this is what I love about GMing. I really liked just watching them work, and it wasn't the counter-productive running in circles planning they ran into in previous scenarios. They came up with a few plans, settled on one that seemed promising, and got shit done. It was great. I loved hearing them reason and plan things out.

Eric got super frustrated about the money issue and everyone not caring, but the role-playing went well, although I don't think he would agree with that statement. Jeremy and Fred played their characters fairly true to the material though. The missing money will never be resolved at this point I think. Spineplate felt he was entitled to his full share, he never wastes group funds on food, drink, clothes, or booze, and he usually gets pretty beat up in fights. D'alton just doesn't care. Again, good on everyone for playing their characters right during the conversation.

The little Gonigi Montoya thing went well, I was hoping they would be more concerned about what he was up to, but I think Derf's actions were kind of distracting. It went well though.

Overall, I was pleased with everything that went down. Good job gentlemen.

I asked the players for a bit of info about Tesla's Boil and the staff there and a little bit about their (the players) personalities and how much they know about each other. Got some useful information for a later date. Heh. Xein will apparently be adding caffeinated beer to the Boil's stable of booze. I have ideas for that.

We also discussed some of my plans for the next campaign. Fred thought they (my plans) were stupid and that they (the group) should never sit down and make plans for what they want to do. Fred is dumb though and we forgive him. I kid. The way I think it will end up going is that we have scheduled planning sessions where there is a scenario going on, but the majority of it will be role-playing or jotting out goals. Then they assign levels of importance to said goals, and I do the GM thing and make their goals reality. We play a few scenarios, see where we are, then we have another planning session. I envision the planning sessions as relatively relaxed, we hang out and bullshit, jot down a couple ideas, bullshit some more, watch a Youtube video, plan more, call Eric a bitch, then call it a night.

Fred seemed slightly more open to that idea, but I sensed hesitation. We'll see how it goes. I'm just sick of having to have Bob Quest Giver on hand and trying to find ways to get the players to associated with him and do things for him in a reasonably believable fashion. I'd like it more if the players were working for themselves and making their own decisions about their own goals. My main goal is for us all to have fun, but I want them to get invested in the world and the characters they are playing.

Then, once they "care" about their characters and the world, I want to have Rhetkhan Kannunn burn everything to cinders and make my players cry. Heh

Edit After The Fact: Apparently I missed it when the players asked why they were going after this particular reaver. What I would have told the players if I had been paying attention would be that Cenn is taking his reavers out of Hell for his own reasons and he and Nakmander have made an agreement where Nakmander will remove those reavers unwilling to leave the city without killing them. Nakmander will then be allowed to capitalize on the weakened government of Hell.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Character Concept

So I have this somewhat goofy idea for a character. I was kind of thinking of something in the vein of an NPC that the players pick up in a situation where they have to bring this bystander along with them, or they (the NPC) almost assuredly just die. Or perhaps kind of a follower that won't get the fuck away from them. Just someone, a normal person, that ends up tagging along with the party. It would definitely be a bit of a change from the undying combat monstrosity that Kethranmeer is.

The concept behind the character is that he would be a commoner, just a person that the players run in to during their adventures. Maybe in a bar or something. He spends most of his time screaming or crying or just generally being terrified and whatnot. Eventually a point would come where everyone is occupied and there is stuff going on during the battle and he is forced to do something other than bystand. So he picks up a flagon or a bench or something and starts beating people with it to help out.

He would be centered around the Pathfinder feats for improvised weapons and he would kind of just run around going "Yikes!" and lobbing rocks at enemies or bashing them into people's heads while the players occupy their attention. I really like the feel of those improvised weapon feats and it is a fun idea for a character I think. Someone who is totally unprepared for combat and still manages to have some effect on his surroundings.

He wouldn't have a player class starting out, despite being the same level as the players. I have an idea that he would start out with levels in Commoner. As the campaign progressed the goal would be for the players to kind of help him out and teach him and form a bond of friendship or something with him to help keep him alive. They so rarely interact with NPCs on a regular basis (even Kethranmeer) that it would be a growing experience for all of us.

As the players helped him and interacted with him, he would upgrade. Perhaps something in the vein of converting his levels in Commoner to Warrior and then to Fighter. Perhaps he'd go down a different path if they just ignored him and let him survive on his own. I haven't decided on that yet. The gist of it is that he would maintain the improvised weapon/punches thing throughout his career, but as the players help him he would become more of an asset to the team.

I think it is kind of a neat idea and I think I'll try it for the next campaign arc. The difficult thing is that the players are not terribly caring individuals. Even their character backgrounds have most of them as self-centered individuals with only their goals and survival in mind. I have a difficult time coming up with a reason why they would bring such an individual along with them on their adventures, other than because I ask them to. Also, why won't this individual just pick up a sword or mace and start busting heads?

I have some ideas about how to go about this, and they work nicely with some events going on right now that are only tangentially related to the whole rebellion idea. I should be able to make it work, but we'll see. We're adding Sean into the mix for the next campaign arc, and Jeff may rejoin us after his three scenario absence, so we may have too many people as is. If the party is too big, an NPC might be unnecessary, and I'm not going to negatively impact game time just because I have a story in my head that needs to be tied up.