Friday, December 27, 2013

Toldara: Races - Anshus

The Anshus of Toldara are a feline race much like the Khajiit from Elder Scrolls or the Kilrathi from Wing Commander. They were once sacred keepers of the natural world, in partnership with the Karnin, until their alliance with the Karnin fell apart and the Karnin forced them from most of the sacred lands. Today, they still hold on to their ancient duties, even if the Karnin no longer recognize their sacred mission and fight them over it.

<The following is taken from the Toldara Player's Handbook Playtest Version 1.03, and was written by my cousin>

Anshus are renowned for their abilities to hunt and track in the woods. Human armies typically have at least one Anshu scout. Anshus are fairly strict traditionalists and believe their homelands will provide most of their needs. Anshus are typically slow to form bonds with outsiders but when they do, have prove to be steadfast allies. Upon betrayal or when their homelands are threatened, Anshus have prove to be just as powerful adversaries.

Personality: Anshus are never quick to make any decision concerning others; slow to judge or trust outsiders. Those that gain the trust and friendship of an Anshu have gained a faithful companion. Anshus have a deep respect for tradition and generally oppose random change.

Physical Description: Anshus typically stand between 5 and 6 feet tall weighing from 125 to 175 pounds with a generally slim, athletic build. Their features are basically feline with fur that is often brown or yellow in color and even a tail. Anshus reach maturity at the age of 14 years and can live to be 90 years of age.

Relations: Anshus have been in a centuries long war with the Karnin. There are periods of peace between them but the truces are uneasy at best. Eventually, the hostilities seem to be always be triggered again. Anshus share a deep mutual respect of nature with the Elves and often trade goods with them. Anshus get along well with Humans except when they get greedy and try to expand into their lands.

Alignments: Anshus are usually lawful, and they tend toward neutral. Adventuring Anshus may not fit the typical mold of Anshun society.

Anshu Lands: Although Anshus can be found in most places, the largest Anshu populations are typically located in the forests and plains.

Religion: The chief deity of the Anshus is Kitta, the Den Mother. She is the origin of all Anshus in the world. They also revere numerous smaller gods in charge of such things as the seasons, hunting, food, etc.

Language: Anshus communicate with each other by a somewhat primitive language consisting of various feline like sounds. Many Anshus have learned common as well. Most other races can not seem to master the Anshu language.

Names: Anshus have three names. The first name is given at birth by the parents, the second name comes from the tribe, and the third name is awarded by the tribe elders based on the greatest aptitude or accomplishment of the individual.

<Thus ends the verbatim CopyPasta. The following was copied from the same source and same author, but has been modified by myself to follow the Pathfinder rules instead of D&D 3.5.>

  • +2 Dexterity, +2 Wisdom -2 Constitution: Anshus are quick and agile to compensate for being somewhat frail. They have better than average senses, making them excellent hunters.
  • Medium-Size: As Medium-size creatures, Anshus have no special bonuses or penalties due to their size.
  • Anshu base land speed is 40 feet.
  • Low-Light Vision: Anshus can see twice as far as humans in starlight, moonlight, torchlight, and similar conditions of poor illumination. They retain the ability to distinguish color and dress in these conditions.
  • Natural Weaponry: Anshus have clawed fingers that can be used to inflict 1D4 damage.
  • +2 racial bonus on Acrobatics, and Climb checks: Anshus are surefooted an agile.
  • +2 racial bonus on Handle Animal and Survival checks: Anshus do not only live in the wilds, they are a part of it.
  • +2 racial bonus on Perception checks: Anshus have keen senses.
  • Automatic Languages: Common and Anshunti. Bonus Languages: Dwarven, Elven, Gnome, Goblic, and Orc. Smart Anshus learn the languages of their friends and enemies.

    <End Entry>

    As you can see, Anshus are master trackers and hunters. Personality-wise, they remind me of the Kilrathi more than Khajiit.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Game Review: Neverwinter

I don't like MMOs. They're not games. They are mindless grind orgies. So, when an MMO comes around that isn't, I get excited. It restores my faith in humanity to a degree. It lets me know that, out there somewhere, are people who still know how to make games. An MMO really shouldn't be much different from a single-player game, except that there are more people online at the same time playing it. Indeed, you should be able to enjoy the game playing alone just as well, or close to it, as you could with others. I think I have found such an MMO. And, what's more, it's free to play! Because of this, I am interrupting my posts about Toldara to bring you a review of Neverwinter.

I haven't yet played it in-depth, so this review will be more of a "first impressions". I had been hesitant about trying the game at all as it was based on D&D 4E. I hate 4E. But that really hasn't affected the quality of the game too much, I was pleased to discover. The download and patch sizes are actually pretty small, compared to other MMOs, which is really nice. Somehow, they managed to maintain good graphics quality with the small size, as well. Kudos for that. When you get the game running, and click on the Create Character button, you are treated to a CGI intro movie that pretty much tells you what's going on. An evil Elf Necromancer has come to the city of Neverwinter with her army of undead and is trying to break through the walls. Due to the valiant efforts of several heroes, the city is safe, for the time being. Yay. Then you actually get to make your character.

You start by picking a race, and your selection consists of the D&D 4E standard core races. Meaning that half of them are Elves for some ungodly reason. Now, don't get me wrong. I love Elves. Always have. Both of the characters I have made in this game are Elves. But, seriously? Three full-blooded breeds of Elves, and the Half-Elf. AND NO GNOMES! THE F***?!? Why no Gnomes? :'(

Anyway, I digress. Human, Half-Orc, Half-Elf, Halfling, Tiefling (another WTF?!?), Dwarf, [Wood] Elf, High Elf, and Drow (<headdesk>). Yes, Wood is in brackets because 4E doesn't actually call them that. 4E just calls them Elves. That only works when you don't have other subraces as part of your Core Race lineup, Wizards of the Coast!

Alright, so far my major complaints are about the integrity of D&D and how much it has been compromised. Totally not this game's fault. I pick [Wood] Elf and move on. The next option is Class. Now, here is where the game seems to fall short. The Class options are fairly pitiful. The only arcane spellcaster is a Control Wizard, which is severely gimps the potential of spellcasters in D&D. There are two types of Fighters, Great Weapon and Guardian, even though the role of the Guardian Fighter could have been filled by a type of Paladin. You also can choose from a Trickster Rogue, a Devoted Cleric, or a Hunter Ranger. Good archetypes for those classes if you're only going to have one each. Just don't understand why they didn't have a Warlock, at least. 4E has some pretty effed up Core Class options, but they're a lot better than the ones presented in this game.

Once again, my choice is simple, and honestly probably not worth the ruckus I just made in the last paragraph. I love Rangers, especially the kind who hunt, so Hunter Ranger it was for me. I know, right? I'm so creative over here with my Elven Ranger. I should be given some kind of reward for how original my character is. But, you know what? I love Elven Rangers. I just do. So, as cliche as it is, that's what I play, when I can. Next, I get to tweak my character's appearance. The options aren't great, but they're not all that bad, either. Especially considering how gawd-aweful some of the customization options can be in F2P MMOs. The tattoos and scars are all the same, no matter which Race, Class, or gender you choose. Other options can be gender or Race specific, though. For example, you can't give your female character a beard, and Tieflings can choose what their horns look like. Sorry, no bearded, female Dwarves for you. Mostly, though, it's pretty standard.

After picking just the right base features, and moving the sliders into just the right spot, I then got to choose my background. This consists of choosing where your character is from, and one of the two or three options per location of what you spent your time doing there. Mostly getting into trouble. You also get to choose which of the non-Faerun dieties you want to worship. Not only is there not an atheist option, but where the hells is Helm? You're given the option to play as a Drow, but not given the option to worship Lolth? I suspect this is more 4E nonsense as apposed to being Neverwinter's fault, but I could be wrong.

I forgot the name of the location I selected, but it was a town just South of a forest, and my character did a lot of hunting there in his youth. Surprise! He also worships the Nature Goddess who helps bridge the gap between nature and people. I forget her name, but whatever. Her symbol is the rose. Finally, on to the last screen. I name my Elf and give him a strange backstory involving being raised by a Human, an Elf, and a Dwarf. The backstory, while a nice touch, does nothing, really. Just gives other players something they will never read when they examine your character. Oh, and my Elf is named Uthrac. Uthrac Townshend. Why such an un-Elvish name? Because, that's why. (Actually it has to do with how effed up he was raised, but whatevs)

So far, this review has had something of a negative tone to it. That's because the character creation process really does leave a lot to be desired. It isn't really all that horrible, but it's not good, either. For a game bearing the name Dungeons & Dragons, character creation is woefully disappointing. Now for the good stuff.

You start the game naked on the beach. A good start. Good enough you wonder why you left this paradise and went adventuring in the first place. Then you realize it isn't a paradise, but instead you were part of the defending force from the CGI movie earlier, and you had your ass handed to you in a big way. Tutorial time! The game guides you through the first couple of quests, telling you how to control your character, equip items, attack and such. It's actually pretty cool. You have to fight off the remaining undead while helping injured soldiers and reestablishing control of the bridge into Neverwinter. At the end, you get to fight a giant baddy that teaches you how to dodge, and how to use all the abilities you gained at that point: both your primary attacks, or At-Will Powers if you prefer, your Encounter Power and your Daily Power. All three terms taken straight from the 4E rule book, and, thankfully, not used in quite the same way as the 4E rule book. The Encounter Powers are on a standard MMO cooldown, while the Daily Powers draw from an action pool that replenishes as you damage enemies and perform other actions that I believe are supposed to be class specific. The At-Will Powers you can use, as the name suggests, at will. No cooldowns to speak of, just point and click.

When I say point and click, I mean that literally. The control scheme is set up more like a 3rd person action game than an MMO. You have a reticle locked in the center of your screen, and your mouse lets you look around. WASD key move you forward and back, and let you strafe left and right. You attack by moving the mouse until the reticle is on the target, and clicking. Your At-Will Powers are bound to one mouse button each. The left-click power is your standard attack, while the right-click power generally has special abilities depending on how long you charge it by holding down the right mouse button. Your Encounter Powers are used by pressing Q,E, or R. At the time of this writing, I have only acquired the Q power. It's a fairly useful, standard MMO-ish ability, and has a short cooldown before you can use it again. Your Daily Power is used by pressing the 1 on the top of your keyboard. It's usually something pretty epic, and takes a percentage of points from your action pool. The Ranger's Daily Power takes up 100% of this pool, so woot! However, it seemed to do quite a bit of damage to the big baddy at the end of the tutorial. Enough more so than my other abilities that I really wished I could refill those action points faster.

The Class balance needs some work, as well. After the tutorial, I played the game with my wife, who was playing a Dwarven Great Weapon Fighter. As a Ranger, I was doing more damage than her. Something about that just isn't right. Yes, yes, Tank versus DPS, but this is D&D. Rangers aren't DPS. Arcane spellcasters, Fighters, and Barbarians are DPS. Certain builds of Fighters, Paladins, and even Barbarians *can* be Tanks, but anything with "Great Weapon" in the name shouldn't be designed for tanking damage. It should be dishing it out. And at much greater quantities than my dinky little arrows would be able to. Yet, somehow, with a single use of my right-click power, I could clear a room before anyone came anywhere near me, while she would have died had I done nothing. It was weird. But, as a fan of Rangers, I can't complain too much.

The quests, at least so far, make you feel like you're in a story instead of just being led to the next, infinitely re-spawning mob so you can collect a predetermined amount of useless crap to give to the quest giver, or kill a certain number of them to "control the population." You actually have a goal, and you have to fight your way to it, rather than the fighting and killing being the goal. This is how quests are supposed to be. They have their own story, as well as furthering a bigger one. They have a personality. Or they should. Most MMOs can't seem to fathom that. They want the boring, mindless crap heap quests that pollute WoW and its ilk. Within quests, there are certain loot containers that can only be accessed by certain classes, unless you have the right kit to bypass it. It's a good way to reward having a varied party, while still letting a small party, or even a single player, have access to all the loot if they have the resources. It also gives you a sense that a little more thought went into making the quest than most MMOs can seem to spare. It's also worth mentioning that there is a quest creator that allows you to make your own quests and publish them. I haven't played around with it, yet, but it's there.

After all is said and done, I really did enjoy this game. The character creation could use an overhaul, but wasn't absolutely horrid. Certainly not a deal breaker. The gameplay itself was amazing, especially for an MMO, and the quests are well made. Not quite as well made as the quests in DDO, but really good, nonetheless. I really wish more MMOs were like this one.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Masterwork Adventures: Toldara: Something Wicked

Well, upon playing with One Note, I have decided that it is a fairly amazing program. It's nice to know Microsoft can still do something right from time to time.

I have tried running a D&D campaign based in the world of Toldara before. It met with quite a bit of success, but I have had a bit of a falling out with the group that was playing it. However, I had an idea for a new campaign. It was inspired by Pathfinder's Bestiary 4, if that gives you any indication as to what kind of campaign it will be. If you're familiar with the book, you can probably guess what my endgame is going to be, as well. I'm also incorporating the Mythic rules, and intend for the final party to consist of level 20 characters all with 10 Mythic Ranks. The final battle should be pretty epic.

I will be using One Note to plan out and keep track of everything for the campaign. I will also be posting it Obsidian Portal ( when I have a little more planning done. I will try to be keeping up with it there as well, so check it out if you like. Obsidian Portal is an amazing website for campaigns, and it's free. It does have a premium option that would be well worth the money, but you don't need it. The free features are great.

The name of the campaign will be Something Wicked, and will find the PCs discovering that something is not quite right about their world any longer. Something has arisen, and is corrupting the whole world. There are powers in Toldara who are working to stem the tide of the corruption, but only one individual, an outcast from an ancient sect of the precursors to the Techno-Mages, has put his faith in an unlikely solution: the PCs. I will be allowing any Paizo published races and classes, as well as the races and classes my cousin and I created especially for Toldara. I would also be open to 3rd party classes and races, but would have to approve them first. The Players will begin in the capitol of the first and greatest human kingdom: Kalrock, the Bronze Empire. Named so due to the ancient alliance the humans of Kalrock have made with the Bronze Dragons who live in the complex cave systems underneath the castle and surrounding area. It is in this city that the PCs will likely be spending most of their down time, and is also where they will get their first indication that something is horribly wrong. Why they are in the Bronze City, and how they got there, will be up to the Players. However, should someone need help with this, I have an NPC in mind that can guide and/or lure them there.

My next few posts will be finishing up the Race entries for the four custom races we have come up with for Toldara, as well as the Elementalist class, an arcane spellcaster who is somewhere between a Sorcerer and a Bender from Avatar, the Tinkerer class, an engineer type class, and the Priest, think Cleric except trade in the martial combat and armor proficiencies for charismatic interaction and powered up spells. The Priest can probably be worked as a archetype for the Cleric, if it hasn't already been done. The Tinkerer might also fit well as an archetype of the Alchemist, but I'm a little less sure of that one. The Elementalist is going to be it's own class with four archetypes to choose from, one for each element.

This is going to be a heck of a ride, and I am looking forward to it. Until next time. ;)

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

One Note

Well, I said the success of this blog would be a measure of the success of my life, and that hasn't been untrue. Up until recently, I have been droning along. Things are different, now. I have a lot more free time, and, as of next month, if I can ever get my adviser to call me back, I'll be going back to school and getting my MIT degree! Starting now, and throughout school, I will be trying hard to be productive again.

My first task: learning One Note. I've heard it's a pretty cool program, and it seems to have some use as a writing aid. If I can use it to keep track of characters, locations, and significant events, it would be a great help to my writing, in both fiction and in RP adventures.

So, wish me luck . . . again. One of these days, I might actually get this right.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Source Code of the Universe: My First Game Pt. 2

So, after thinking on it for awhile, I realized that the JLabel, location, and the JTextAreas, view and comm, need to be declared as global variables, as they will be manipulated by other methods. Also, added a line wrap to JTextArea view, as it will contain enough words to require it. I thought I was going to use ActionListener to tell when the user pressed ENTER. Looking into it, I found that using a key binding was a better choice.

My first attempt at using the key binding involved attaching the binding to the component most affected by it: the JTextArea called comm. It's where the user will type the commands. When the user presses the ENTER button on the keyboard, I want the program to take what the user has typed and submit it to a method that will check the text for keywords. However, when the binding code is attached to comm, the program only recognizes the button press when that component is in focus. If the user has clicked elsewhere on the window before pressing ENTER, nothing will happen. I need to attach the code to the entire window instead of just that component, so that the event will trigger whenever the ENTER button is pressed, not just when that one component is in focus. Granted, it will be rare for the user to press ENTER after selecting a different component, but I want to cover those rare instances. Especially if I ever want to add timed events to this project, or future projects that use this same engine. I don't need the user feeling added frustration at failing a timed event because the comm component accidentally lost focus before he or she could press ENTER. As it turns out, all I have to do to accomplish this attach the binding to the view component as well. The code ends up looking like this:

comm.getInputMap().put(KeyStroke.getKeyStroke("ENTER"), "inputComm"); comm.getActionMap().put("inputComm", inputComm); view.getInputMap().put(KeyStroke.getKeyStroke("ENTER"), "inputComm"); view.getActionMap().put("inputComm", inputComm);

Now, not matter where you click in the window, the program recognizes when you press the ENTER button. Next step is to take whatever the user has typed into the text area, pass it to a method that will check it against available commands, and clear the text area so it is ready to have another command typed into it. Also, I think I am going to add in the functionality of letting the user instantly retype the last command entered by pressing the down button, like DOS used to. Just in case you wanted to do the same thing again, or if you typed something wrong and wanted to try that command again after correcting the error without having to retype the entire thing. This requires another global String variable called lastComm.

Next time, we examine the method that looks at the commands the user give the program!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Source Code of the Universe: My First Game Pt. 1

So, I've been reading a blog known as Twenty Sided. It started out as a D&D blog, hence the name, but has become a lot more since. On it, Shamus Young talked about writing a program that procedurally created a night-time cityscape. Reading about his adventures in programming made me start itching really bad to do some programming myself.

I've always loved programming. I'm not great at it, not even good at it, but I do love it. I started with QBasic on Windows 95/98. I tried to make an Interactive Fiction game with it, but never finished it. I didn't know enough to even have a working inventory. After that, I dabbled a little in C++, but my real know-how, if it can actually be called that, is in Java. That's the language I studied in College, and the one I know the most about. I like it because it seemed a lot easier than C++ (though it as been a while since I tried C++), yet was still capable of a lot, and was easily portable to other platforms. As in, no additional programming required because it runs in its own environment.

My idea for my current project isn't as grand as a 3D cityscape, but it's probably the biggest project I've attempted. I'm revisiting my IF roots, and I'm going to try and make a really short, and really crappy Interactive Fiction game, complete with multiple endings and a fully functional inventory system. We'll see what the final project ends up looking like.

The first thing I need to do before I ever even touch a code editor is figure out what I'm doing. I have a story in mind: You are the Hero of the Universe, though no one knows that because you haven't saved shit, yet. You are looking for the mythical Biforce, which has the power to destroy the Great Evil that has descended upon the galaxy. You have tracked it's location to a dinner on the edge of the Galaxy, and, after a thorough search, have come to the conclusion that there is only one place it could possibly be - the women's bathroom. As you are the Hero of the Universe, and not the Heroine Of the Universe, this poses a problem. Especially with the big, burly guard that won't let males into the bathroom. Apparently, they've had issues with that sort of thing.

So, that's my premise. The game takes place entirely within the dinner, and there are only three rooms: the main dining area, the men's room, and the ladies' room. Maybe one or two other areas as the story requires, but that's really it. I have at least one solution in mind, and an idea of how I'm going to set everything up, so I guess I can dive into the fun part for awhile.

The first thing to do, programming wise, is set up the additional Classes I'm going to need for this program. I'm going to use two, one for the rooms/areas, and one for the objects in those rooms/areas. Let's see what we can do.

public class Object { String name = ""; String shortDiscrp = ""; String longDiscrp = ""; boolean inInv = false; Object(String n, String s, String l) { name = n; shortDiscrp = s; longDiscrp = l; } } public class Room { String name = ""; String shortDiscrp = ""; String longDiscrp = ""; String[] objects; Room(String n, String s, String l, String[] o) { name = n; shortDiscrp = s; longDiscrp = l; objects = o; } }

This is a very simple start. I can't, yet, think of everything these classes need (or maybe I have), but I can go back and add more stuff in later if the program requires it. Yes, I realize that this is not the proper way to program. You're supposed to know what it is you code is going to do before you start typing. However, when working for fun, I like to take the approach of coding is like painting; you start off with the basic colors, and add more detail as you go. That, and I'm just too lazy to write out all of that before I get to the fun part.

Now, to set up the Main method and get our opening screen to display.

public static void main(String[] args) { JFrame biforce = new Biforce(); biforce.setVisible(true); } public Biforce() { setTitle("Biforce"); setSize(1000,700); setLocation(300, 100); setLayout(new GridBagLayout()); GridBagConstraints gBC = new GridBagConstraints(); setDefaultCloseOperation(EXIT_ON_CLOSE); getContentPane().setBackground(new Color(100, 100, 100)); gBC.fill = GridBagConstraints.HORIZONTAL; gBC.gridx = 0; gBC.gridy = 0; gBC.weightx = 0.2; gBC.weighty = 0.2; gBC.anchor = GridBagConstraints.FIRST_LINE_START; Label location = new Label("Title Screen"); location.setSize(1000, 10); location.setForeground(new Color(220, 220, 50)); add(location, gBC); gBC.gridx = 0; gBC.gridy = 1; gBC.gridwidth = 3; gBC.weightx = 1; gBC.weighty = 10; gBC.fill = GridBagConstraints.BOTH; JTextArea view = new JTextArea("Welcome to Biforce!!!"); view.setSize(1000, 680); add(view, gBC); view.setEditable(false); gBC.gridx = 0; gBC.gridy = 2; gBC.weightx = 0.00001; gBC.weighty = 0.2; gBC.gridwidth = 1; gBC.fill = GridBagConstraints.NONE; gBC.anchor = GridBagConstraints.LINE_START; Label c = new Label("Type Command, then press ENTER:"); c.setForeground(new Color(220, 220, 50)); c.setSize(300, 10); add(c, gBC); gBC.gridx = 1; gBC.gridy = 2; gBC.weightx = 10; gBC.weighty = 0.2; gBC.gridwidth = 2; gBC.fill = GridBagConstraints.HORIZONTAL; gBC.anchor = GridBagConstraints.LINE_START; JTextArea comm = new JTextArea(); comm.setSize(690, 10); add(comm, gBC); }

This sets everything up and gives us a screen that looks like this:

At the moment, this is exactly what we want. It took a little tweaking to get it this way. I've never used GridBagConstraints, before, but I needed the control it provided over where elements went, and what they looked like. I think it turned out rather nicely, if I do say so myself.

Next time, I'll be creating some Rooms, some Objects to go in those Rooms, and adding the ENTER key functionality that will allow us to travel between those Rooms and manipulate those Objects.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Toldara: Technology

So, I've missed two Saturdays, now. Damn it. To be fair, the first one we were still adjusting back to real life after our honeymoon, and the second was taken up entirely by my wife's sister's birthday, and then my wife getting really sick. Still, I should have found some time to do this. I am getting better at it, though, and I haven't given up on my goal. This is just a minor setback.

The Toldara campaign setting consists, mostly, of two major continents: The Eastern and the Western. The Western continent has a country completely owned by a faction known as the Techno-Mages. Now, a lot of DMs do not like having technology in their campaigns. If this is the case with you, please note that the Techno-Mages keep to themselves, and do everything they can to keep technology out of the hands of anyone who may use it poorly (AKA, everyone but them). The degree of success they have in their efforts depends entirely on the needs of your campaign. If you don't want any technology, assume a 100% success rate. And the fact that they keep to themselves means that players don't even have to know there is a technology option for this campaign setting.

For those of you who are interested in having some tech in your campaign, here are some notes about how it would work. The Techno-Mages are a group that was founded shortly after the First Fiend War (or, the Fiend War, for anyone who isn't a Karnin). They were initially a group of wizards and gnomish engineers who banded together to contain and control the Western portal used by the Fiends to gain access to the material plane. The Eastern portal was contained by the gods, themselves, when they dropped Mount Karnic on it. The early Techno-Mages were able to harness the massive energy output of the portal while still keeping it closed . . . for the most part.

As it turns out, the containment and usage of the portal by the Techno-Mages creates a kind of inter-dimensional pressure, which builds up and makes things belch forth from the portal. Also, the nature of the tampering the Techno-Mages did to the portal has caused it to no longer link solely to the Abyssal Plane, but to alternate which plane, and even which Universe, it links to in an unpredictable fashion. The Techno-Mages have figured out ways to, at great cost, align the portal to specific places should the need arise.

The "belching" of the portal is actually where the Techno-Mages have gotten a great deal of their technology. Not restricted by time or space, the portal has provided the Techno-Mages which a massive amount of technological and magical artifacts to study and reverse engineer. Even though all of these things come from the Western portal, they didn't always end up at the feet of the Techno-Mages. Often, they would materialize elsewhere on the planet. Also, because the portal now linked to anywhere and everywhere, there was a threat of invasion by more than just the fiends. The Techno-Mages, for these reasons, developed a private army of technologically equipped adventurers to retrieve tech that had appeared elsewhere in the world, and fight off invasions from other worlds. They are known as the Techno-Mage Paramilitary, or TeMP. (Made that up off the top of my head, and is subject to change)

Now, it should be noted here that, while TeMP makes use of adventurers and is perfectly okay for PCs to join, should you want to have your campaign go in that direction, the Techno-Mages themselves are not. They are far too powerful, unless your are running an epic level campaign that is in the high end of epic. If you're familiar with Magic: The Gathering, the Techno-Mages make Planeswalkers look like apprentices. They've been far more places, and seen far more things. If you are running a campaign of sufficient level, and wish to allow your players to join the Techno-Mages, it would count as an epic level Prestige Class, the rules for which I may flesh out at a later date, just for fun. In order to join, a character must be either a spellcaster capable of casting at least 9th level spells (Alchemists count if you're running Pathfinder, as do Psionics *IF* you are running the optional rule that Psionics and Magic are the same), or must be a Tinker, or some other such engineering or tech based class. The character must also go through several months of training to learn how the tech (if he/she's a spellcaster) or the magic (if he/she's a Tinker) works with what the character already knows.

TeMP uses various forms of technology to supplement the skills and abilities of the characters using them. While the Techno-Mages have their own brand of technology that they equip members of TeMP with, most of it come from reverse-engineering and improving on things that have come through the portal. Because of this, any form of technological equipment is possible for a TeMP member to have. Writing rules for every possible item would be painstaking, and, honestly, has probably already been done somewhere else. A good place to start with such rules would the the Dragonstar rulebooks from Fantasy Flight Games. They did an amazing job of making sci-fi rules for a 3rd Ed. D&D fantasy campaign. (I realize that doesn't sound quite right, but give it a read, and you'll understand) The inclusion of such tech requires the addition of new skills, namely the Use Technological Device skill and the Pilot skill. The Pilot skill, like the Craft or Knowledge skills, has several subcategories, each one covering a different type of vehicle. The Use Technological Device is used for activating and using control panels, turning on and correctly using tech devices like communicators and shield generators, and anything else that would reasonably require familiarity with technology to be able to operate. Weapons and armor, however, are covered by the Exotic Weapon Proficiency feat and the Tech Armor Proficiency feat. Other than that, TeMP members operate just like their medieval counterparts.

Even if you don't want your PCs to join TeMP, random portal belches can allow your PCs to find trinkets, weapons, and shields/armor from distant worlds and tech-levels. Keep in mind, though, that the Techno-Mages don't like other people having such technology, as they might not use it wisely. Your PCs may be hounded by TeMP, or even the Techno-Mages themselves, if they acquire such items. The only way to stop such harassment would be to give over the tech, or somehow prove that the PCs were worthy of keeping it. Or destroying the Techno-Mages, but good luck with that. Even if they somehow managed it, who would keep tabs on the portal?

The Techno-Mages have developed their own Star Navy as well. It's small, compared to most such navies, but powerful beyond imagining. The Techno-Mages don't do much interplanetary exploration, however. The Star Navy is mostly for defense from other space-faring navies that may come through the portal. However, every ship is equipped with a FTL drive, and is fully capable of interstellar flight. The crews of these ships are mostly TeMP members, but the higher ranking crew, such as those in command roles, tend to be Techno-Mages. The aforementioned Dragonstar does have rules for starships, but the ones depicted in those rules are not as powerful as the ones the Techno-Mages employ.

I think that about covers it for a general overview of technology in Toldara. Specific rules for it may be coming in the future, but, really, Toldara is mostly a fantasy campaign, and I will be focusing on that. The technology is there if people want to use it, but is mostly just there for flavor. See ya next time!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Masterwork Adventures: From Thin Air

Some of the most fun my players have had were improvised adventures that I just came up with off the top of my head. I didn't really know what was going to happen until it happened. The enemies were more interesting, even though I didn't have the rules and stats to utilize. It's something of an artform to do a spontaneous adventure, but one that it is necessary for any DM to be able to perform, at last to some degree. If your players are anything like the ones I've had to deal with in my years of DMing, then you know how easily an adventure can get derailed. You've worked hard on planning every dungeon, every room, every creature, every encounter. And then the players decide to turn left instead of right, and avoid the whole mess. Some would say that a good DM would find a way to get them back on track. I disagree. After all, part of the fun of playing D&D is the freedom it allows you to do whatever you want. Sure, there should be consequences, but railroading your players into a pre-planned adventure isn't good DMing. I think a good DM should be able roll with the punches, and pull a decent adventure out of his ass when the situation calls for it.

So, how does one actually do that? Well, it does involve knowing your Player Characters (PCs) pretty well. You should know how powerful they are, and what they can actually do. Even if you don't, maybe because it's a new campaign, or some of the players had to roll new characters, or there are new or fewer players now, keep in mind that you are the DM, and you can make adjustments to monsters and other elements on the fly. That is a very important concept to keep in mind. Your imagination shapes reality in a D&D session. Did you accidentally put the PCs up against a challenge they cannot overcome? Gimp it. Maybe the monster has a lame arm, and is denied some of its attacks. Maybe it has just finished off another band of adventurers, and is low on health. Maybe that trap or that lock you made too strong is really, really old, and is overcome much easier than it should be. The reverse of this is also true. If you make something too weak, you can find ways of making it stronger. The universal explanation for everything that doesn't make sense, Magic, works really well here. However, I find that it is often better to let them have the victory over a challenge you made too weak to wet their appetite for the next encounter.

NPCs are one of the easier aspects of making an adventure on the fly. If you pay attention to all the rules governing NPCs, you notice they suggest that every NPC your PCs come across should have their own character sheet, filled with stats and NPC Classes and such. I find this is largely unnecessary. If it really comes down to it, you can make a pretty good estimate of what their roll modifier will be, based on who and what they are. A blacksmith, for example, is going to be strong and stout. He will likely have STR and CON bonuses of at least +2, maybe even +3. As "normal people" tend to go into careers that complement their existing talents, it is not likely he will have a DEX bonus of higher than +1, though likely it will be average, or +0. Any bonuses to their remaining three ability scores should reflect their personality. A gruff, silent-type balcksmith would have a CHA bonus of +0, or maybe even less. Where as a friendly blacksmith who can't wait to sell you his wares might have a CHA bonus equal to his STR bonus. Is this blacksmith Rogue bait, or is he going to put the Rogue in his place? That would affect his WIS bonus. You should also know about what level he is. Basically, have an idea of how high you want his average result on a given check to be, then subtract 10 (the average roll on a d20) and his relevant Ability modifier. The remaining number is how many ranks he needs in that skill, or how much of a class bonus he needs in that save/attack. That will give you an idea of what level he would need to be in order to achieve the result you want, which will in turn give you an idea what the ranks/class bonuses for other rolls would be. This process also works for Character Classes for NPCs and creatures that the PCs might have to fight.

Monster follow a similar process, but are a little different. Most monsters you can still pull directly from the Monster Manuel/Bestiary. However, sometimes you need that custom creature to add the right flavor to whatever hairbrained idea you've come up with in the five seconds since your PCs took the wrong fork in the road. Again, this is where it is really helpful to know what your PCs are capable of, but, with the advice I gave above, you can fix any miscalculations. Have in mind the highest AC you want the monster to be able to hit, set your average to a bit below that, then subtract 10. That is it's total attack bonus for its primary attack. Repeat these steps for saves and skill checks as they come up. Don't worry too much about hard rules for any special abilities, just have them happen. If your PCs want to make a save against whatever effect it was, make up a number and have them roll against it. Keep that number in mind, though. All subsequent saves your PCs make against this creature shouldn't stray too far, if at all, from that number. First and foremost, however, let your imagination be your guide.

The adventure itself is basically window dressing. It's all appearance and atmosphere. Tropes are your friend in the spontaneous adventure. The hook doesn't have to be terribly creative or unique (though, if you have the creative talent to make one up on the fly, a slight twist to it would be nice), as long as it adds a semi-plausible scenario for the PCs to explore. And they should be rewarded. Whether it is the same or equal reward you had planned for in your pre-made adventure, or less to encourage them to stay on track in the future, is up to you. I would, however, highly discourage the rewards to be more, unless you want them to make a habit of screwing over your plans. Don't be too lazy, though. The people and places the PCs encounter on this spontaneous adventure may well show up again in a future planned adventure.

Keeping these principles in mind, added with a little imagination, can make for a very fun night at the gaming table. Sure, there is nothing like the well oiled machine that is a thoroughly planned adventure, but there is a certain charm to one made from thin air. There is an unexpected quality to many of the elements, as often even the DM doesn't know what's going to happen, or who's going to show up, until the event occurs. There is always a difference in tone and feel to a spontaneous adventure, and it is a good time for PCs to really let loose, test you as a DM, and generally have a lot of fun. It's a change of pace, and a welcome one, generally speaking. You, as DM, shouldn't make a habit of it, but you shouldn't rail against it, either. It's a really good opportunity to experience something new, and maybe even refill your inspiration pool for future adventured.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

When it Rains . . .

So, Lawgambit, supposedly my best friend, and the guy who was supposed to be my best man, abandoned me three weeks before I get married. He just stops talking to me with no explanation as to why. It is now only two weeks before the wedding, and I still haven't heard from him. I know he's still alive and well, because I've seen him around. But, no, he won't talk to me. He won't even acknowledge I exist. Why? No idea. He won't tell me.

Anyway, that's more real life stuff than I really wanted to put on this blog, anymore. But, I have been dealing with that, and filling the hole left in the wedding and my life, for the past week. Thus, I am afraid that my creative endeavors have been stunted. I really wish I had more to post here, but, alas, I have done nothing this week. Well, nothing that this blog is about, anyway. So, I will spend this post talking about another feature I'm thinking of doing.

This new feature will not, actually, be a feature of the blog, but instead a feature of my YouTube channel, Galador5000. It will be titled "Let's Fail", and will be a series of let's plays done by my fiancee, Rasat, and I. I think it will be fun an unique, as I have not seen many husband/wife LP teams. Granted, I haven't watched a large number of LPs, but still. Plus, I really think the two of us will be funny and entertaining. We haven't settled yet on our first LP, but we don't want to limit ourselves to co-op or multiplayer games. As such, we might be doing Amnesia: The Dark Decent. We'd probably take turns, and watch each other play. One playthrough, two players. Of course, we would do multiplayer games as well. I'm thinking Super Mario World, while done to death on the LP scene, would still be fun.

Anyway, that's another project I would like to work on. Sorry I don't have more than that this week, but life doesn't like me very much. At least it doesn't seem to, at the moment. Next time, I really hope to have more. Oh, also, the 22nd of June, I will likely not be posting, as I will be on my honeymoon. I will, however, resume posting on the following Saturday as a married man. Woo!

Until next week, this is Drai-Gon signing off. ;)

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Growing Pains

This is getting to be a really bad habit. One I am breaking. Now.

From this day forward, Saturday is Blog Day. Every week, a blog post. About something. Anything. That is not to say I will only be blogging on Saturday. Merely that I will AT LEAST blog every Saturday. Also, I intend to change the focus of this blog. Up to this point, it has been woefully unfocused. I've basically been posting whatever is on my mind at the time. I am taking a cue from my best friend, LawGambit, and making "features" that my blog will . . . well . . . feature.

My Masterwork Adventures feature will be returning. I'm abandoning the vampire mansion I was working on. The group I was making it for is one I am no longer a part of. However, I shall start making new adventures with the purpose of publishing them here for other DMs to use. They probably won't be very fancy, but it'll give you some maps and NPCs to play with. I don't claim to be a professional. This is merely a creative outlet. But if it can benefit others, then why not.

On that note, I will be working more on fleshing out Toldara, as well. It is far past time my cousin and I finished that campaign world. I like a lot of the things it includes, and would really like to see a finished product at some point.

I will be doing more reviews. I like picking things apart and rambling about them, so I will. I'm not as good as LawGambit is at it, but it's still fun. His tends to be from the point of view of someone who has dabbled in the field of the thing he's reviewing. Mine will mostly be from the point of view of an average consumer. Well, maybe better than average, experience-wise and intelligence-wise, but still.

I also plan on doing some writing. Short stories and the like. I would like to do some comics with my fiancee, but I don't know if those will make it on the blog or not. I will also still be writing random musings from time to time, I think.

One thing I used to do a *LOT* of when I was younger was modding and level making for video games. I would like to get back into that, too. Games, and making content for them, is a lot more complicated than it was when I used to do it. Still, I would like to give it a go, and document my processes here. I think it would be a lot of fun to get back into that sort of thing.

My life has been in a constant state of flux and change for awhile, now. It has taken a toll on a lot of aspects of my life, but I fully plan on taking advantage of this. While it is in flux, malleable, I intend to mold it into what I want it to be. This is the opportunity I have been waiting for for years. This is the day I stop letting life happen, and take it back. This is June 1st, 2013. Mark it down. I have. May my success in life be measured by this blog. May it be an indication of what I have accomplished. In a year from now, let us see what I have done. If nothing, then I am a failure. But if I have kept up with this simple plan, then maybe I can actually succeed at life.

We shall see.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Hammer the Gap

Well, hello again. My life has been interesting since my last post. Hectic as well. Hence the no posting. Well, things have started to settle down a bit, and it's time to get back to posting. I do fully intend on finishing my adventure crafting series that I started last time, but I thought, to get back into the swing of things, to start a little simpler.

I mentioned in at least one of my earlier posts that I found myself a girlfriend. I could have sworn I mentioned her in more than just one, but she says I didn't. I would believe her on that one. Sadly, she would know better. Anyway, since then she has stopped being my girlfriend. No, we didn't break up. She agreed to marry me. June 21 is the date. The fact that she's crazy enough to say "yes" should send me running for the hills (as that takes a *lot* of crazy to want to marry me), but I'm actually pretty stoked. She's everything I've always needed. And she's a beautiful red-head with big boobs. So, she's everything I've ever wanted, too. Not sure what I did to deserve her, but, damn, must have been something really good. God was *very* happy with me. Oh, did I mention that? God himself brought us together. Yes, I know how that sounds, but, really, he did. . . . Okay, let me tell you the story.

So, I told you all already how I worked at Wal-Mart for awhile, and then quit to return to Vintage Stock. Well, my very first day back, my fiance's best friend comes into the store. She is our first customer of the day. She hears the voice of God telling her to set me up with her friend, my now fiance`. At first, I'm very reluctant. As far as I'm concerned, at this point, I'm set in life. I didn't need or want the complications of a girlfriend. So, I said I wasn't interested, but this woman seemed like interesting people, so I agreed to at least exchange contact info. Later that night, she tricked me into talking to the friend she had tried to set me up with that morning. I told the girl I wasn't interested, and we left it at that. The moment I stopped talking with her, I heard a voice in my head that wasn't my own say, "You made a mistake. Fix it." That voice played on repeat the entire rest of the night, and the entire day at work the next day. So, I went back on Facebook and messaged her, saying I had been too quick to express disinterest. She agreed to go out with me, and now here we are, engaged to be married! So, yes, God literally brought us together. He spoke directly to at least two people, me and my fiance's best friend, to make it happen. Either that, or we're both insane. I haven't ruled that out, yet, but either way, it's a win.

Also, I got me a house! My own house!!! I can't afford anything else on what they're paying me at VS, but hey! I don't give no fucks! I gots a house!!!!

Though, speaking of money, I have been searching for a way to get more of it. I love having a house, but I would like to be able to buy other things, too. Luckily, not only is my fiance` awesome, and her best friend awesome, but her best friend has connection with Langston University. Meaning I might be able to get a free ride to a new degree. Not making the same mistake I made last time, though. This time, I'll be getting a degree I actually want: Computer Information Science. IT work, here I come!!!!!

So, yeah, all in all, my life has been pretty amazing. However, all of this stuff has been happening really fast. As such, I haven't been able to do much else. Hopefully, though, I'll be able to get back on track now that things are calming down. Until next time!