Thursday, October 27, 2011

Count Dracula

Picture by Gene Colan

Count Dracula is a centuries-old vampire and Transylvanian nobleman who exudes a veneer of aristocratic charm. He claims to be a Székely descended from Attila the Hun. He is deeply proud of his boyar heritage and is nostalgic for the past times of heroism, honor and valor. Although Dracula dons a mask of cordiality, he often flies into fits of rage when his plans for world domination are interfered with.

Count Dracula

Body: 8 Mind: 7 Soul: 9
Health Points: 125 Energy Points: 160 Shock Value: 17
Combat Value: 11 Defense Value: 6  

Attributes: Alternate Form (Bat: Body 6, Mind 4, Soul 1,  Flight 2 (50 kph), Heightened Senses 1 (Sonar)), Animal Summon/Control (5 Wolves) 2, Attack Combat Mastery 3,  Contamination (Vampirism) 5 (12 hr for transformation to complete, 1 Person), Energy Bonus 4, Extra Attacks 2, Heightened Awareness 2 (4 Check Value Bonus), Heightened Senses 2 (Hearing, Smell, Vision), Highly Skilled 1, Mind Control 3 (+2 Check Bonus, -1 to Resistance Check, 1 Person), Mind Shield 3 (3 defensive levels of Mind and Soul, +30 mental armor), Natural Weapons (Fangs) 1, Regeneration 1 (5 Heath Points restored each round), Special Attack (Vampire bite) 4 (20 damage attack, Incapacitating (Body Check Required), Drain Soul (1 soul points drained), Vampiric, Only Restore Lost Levels, Low Penetration, Melee), Special Defense 7 (Ageing 2, Disease 2, Air/Oxygen to Breathe 2, Poison 1), Special Movement 3 (Wall-Crawling, Cat-Like), Super Strength 1 (2 tonnes and +10 damage in close combat and +4 strength check bonus), Tough 2 (+40 health points)  

Skills: Climbing 1, Cultural Arts (Transylvanian History) 4, Etiquette 3, Forgery 1, Intimidation (Street) 2, Languages (English, Lip Reading) 2, Stealth (Silent move) 3, Urban Tracking (Underworld) 4, Wilderness Tracking (Forest) 2,

Defects: Achilles Heel (Wooden weapons) -2, Bane (Holy Symbol, 20 pts/round of exposure) -1, Bane (Sunlight, 40 pts/round of exposure) -2, Marked (Red eyes. fangs) -1, Nemesis (Professor Abraham Van Helsing) -2

Character Points: 165 Skill Points: 30

Notes: Made with the SAS Character Generator for use with the free Tri-Stat rules. The write up is based on BESM Hellsing (02-907), BESM 3rd Edition (WW76000) Vampire template, and of course Bram Stoker's 1897 Gothic horror novel Dracula.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Rule of Five

I think we've all been in games alongside Power Gamers. You know the ones. They could care less about their character's personality. Their only interest is to turn them into an unstoppable juggernaut. If it weren't for encumbrance rules they'd haul around every conceivable weapon. They also like to load up on any and every magic item they can grab. What's a poor GM to do? The Fantasy Trip had a nice way to deal with the latter problem called The Rule of Five.

The Rule of Five: Wearing Several Magic Items
The Rule of Five states that one person cannot use more than five magical items at a time. However, any one item can contain up to five spells. This means that a person can have up to 25 spells going for him at once -- which ought to be enough.

Of course that won't be enough for the Power Gamer, but they'll just have to lump it. And in practice the average magical item will have far fewer than five spells in it. That could make for some interesting choices for the players as they try to decide between this magic wand and that magic ring. On the other hand, you might also want some special rules to take into account artifacts and other legendary magical items of great power. If someone finds the Ring of Gaxx, which has nine different powers, it might have to count as two items.

You could work any number of variations on this rule. For example, in a more gritty game you could have a Rule of Seven stating that a character can have no more than seven spells - from magic items or elsewhere - going for them at once. That could help keep wizardry from overpowering the game and really annoy the Power Gamers.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Extraordinary Voyages

Previously I posted about how despite the best efforts of RuneQuest's creators they just couldn't persuade the game's fans to use it for settings other than Glorantha. I even posted the mock-ancient map from RQ3 and then speculated that the landmark called "Chariot of Gods" might be a reference to theories of ancient astronauts. Well, it turns out that map was much more realistic than I imagined, and that there really was an ancient mariner who sighted the "Chariot of Gods." That sailor was named Hanno, and here's what H. G. Wells has to say about him in The Outline of History (1920).

About 520 B.C. a certain Hanno made a voyage that is still one of the most notable in the world. This Hanno - if we may trust the Periplus of Hanno, the Greek translation of his account which still survives - followed the African coast southward from the Straits of Gibraltar as far as the confines of Liberia. He had sixty big ships and his main task was to found or reinforce certain Carthaginian stations upon the Morocco coast. Then he pushed southward. He founded a settlement in the Rio de Oro (on Kerne or Herne Island), and sailed on past the Senegal River. The voyagers passed on for seven days beyond the Gambia, and landed at last upon some island. This they left in a panic, because, although the day was silent with the silence of the tropical forests, night they heard the sound of flutes, drums, and gongs, and the sky was red with the blaze of the bush fires. The coast country for the rest of the voyage was one blaze of fire, from the burning of the bush. Streams of fire ran down the hills into the sea, and at length a blaze arose so loftily that it touched the skies. Three days further brought them to an island containing a lake (?Sherbro Island). In this lake was another island (?Macaulay Island), and on this were wild, hairy men and women, "whom the interpreters called gorilla."

The Carthaginians, having caught some of the females of these "gorillas" - they were probably chimpanzees - turned back and eventually deposited the skins of their captives - who had proved impossibly violent guests to entertain on board ship - in the Temple of Juno.

Hanno's own account mentions a notable landmark.

"Sailing quickly away thence, we passed a country burning with fires and perfumes; and streams of fire supplied from it fell into the sea. The country was impassable on account of the heat. We sailed quickly thence, being much terrified; and passing on for four days, we discovered a country full of fire. In the middle was a lofty fire, larger than the rest, which seemed to touch the stars. When day came, we discovered it to be a large hill, called the Chariot of the Gods."

So that's what the map is referring to. But even if you leave space aliens out of it this kind of extraordinary voyage would make a great basis for a game. It could either be an epic campaign, with players undertaking the whole voyage from beginning to end, or it could be a jumping off point for more episodic adventures. Fabulous ruins, mysterious civilizations, lost Atlantean colonies -- any number of adventures await. It would be like a cross between Conan, Tarzan and the old Wagon Train TV series, only set in ancient Africa.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Pillars of Hercules

The state of affairs about 750 B.C.

This is a follow-up post to my earlier suggestion for a game set during the time of the Cimmerian invasions. While in the east the Assyrians and Lydians are fending off the rampaging barbarian hordes, in the west the Phoenicians are extending their sway. This map shows the disposition at the time. The Phoenician colony of Carthage is the dominant city-state in the region. They are so sure of their power that they tend to regard the whole Mediterranean as their own private property, and have been known to seize ships and cargoes. Yet when the Greeks or Etruscans return the favor they're branded "pirates." A loose federation of Etruscan city-states dominates the Italian peninsula. Rome at this time was still ruled by the legendary kings. It was little more than a colony of Alba Longa, only just beginning to assert its independence. The Greeks, both Ionian and Dorian, have a strong presence in the toe and heel of Italy and eastern Sicily. They present a serious challenge to the Phoenician dominance of trade.

Although the Phoenicians counted biremes as part of their navy, and triremes were starting to appear, the most common ship plying the seas was still the pentekonter. Even a century later, at the Battle of Alalia, the Greek fleet would consist entirely of pentekonters, and decades later Polycrates, the tyrant of Samos, would wreak havoc on the Aegean with a navy of 100 pentekonters.

In addition to the usual opportunities for adventure --  treasure rich, monster haunted ruins, etc. --- the prevalence of colonies in this region presents an opportunity for an interesting variation on the standard "D&D endgame." Instead of just getting a stronghold, players reaching a certain level (either literally or figuratively if playing a game like RuneQuest) could set out to found their own city. This could become a campaign in itself, with the party playing out a scenario similar to the one in the later books of The Aeneid.