Thursday, April 14, 2011

One Issue Campaign, part 2

Time to crack open that issue of Dragon (number 69) and see what's inside...

...and we've gone off the rails right from the inside cover ad.  Nice.  I remember as a kid being disappointed that the setting in Star Frontiers did not include a kick-ass organization called the Galactic Legions.  Here's an opportunity to remedy that.  Imagine the Galactic Legions as sort of a Star Fleet type good guy org.  What are they doing on our D&D planet?  Could the party befriend some scouts surveying their homeworld?  Could the PC party be composed of crash-landed Legionaires?  Or maybe if like me you still have that cool Star Frontiers city map, part of your campaign world is colonized by a bunch of sci-fi dudes.

I find the domed and towered sci-fi city silhouetted behind the legionaires very evocative, so let's go with that last option.  One of the Legions identified a resource-rich but largely uninhabited region to build a futuristic colony.  That could be what sets Circe Doombringer on a rampage.  She opposes the offworlders but most regular folk like the economic advatages of interstellar trade, so she ends up fighting her own people with armies of skeletons and orcs.  (FYI In Part 1 a commenter by the name of Rick offered some thoughts on a motive for Circe that could work just as well.)

Obviously we'd need stats for at least some laser guns and those cool white spacesuits (I'm thinking protects as platemail, encumbers like leather).  And a Yazirian character class.  And don't forget to sprinkle in some robots and psionics.  Starting, as I suggested yesterday, with Labyrinth Lord as a base makes adding this stuff super-simple.  Most of this sci-fi stuff can be adapted from Mutant Future.

Okay, let's move on.

Page 1 of the magazine is an old Rolemaster ad.  I'm working with screengrabs of the Dragon Archive CD-ROMS (still one of the hobby's best values ever, by the way) so some of the art I'm going to share is all munged up.  Anyway, let's look at four elements of this ad that I found interesting.

This blurb for Claw Law is a little hard to read.  What I'm digging on here is the idea of 'unbalancing results' and 'entangling strikes'.  In my opinion people don't fall down enough in baseline D&D combat.  And getting your weapons tangled up with the foe's weapons or someone's shield sounds interesting as well.  My first thought is to write up a short table of stumbling/falling over/weapon boogered up effects and figure out a way to get it into play.  Maybe "Anytime a natural 13 is rolled, go to the General Fracas Chart.  If your net attack roll is a hit, the Fracas result affects your target.  If it's a miss, you are affected instead."

Obviously there's no setting material in these thoughts, but house rules also help flavor an individual campaign.

The Iron Wind is a very early ICE product and I don't have much more information than that blurb says.  But I do know this: that is a cool mofo name for some badguys.  Maybe that's the name of Circe Doomsinger's organization and the first half of the campaign is a cold war espionage thing against the assassins and traitors of the Iron Wind.

The (iron) Crown of the Ice Empress really ought to be one of the major magic items of the campaign.  Maybe its stolen by agents of the Iron Wind and the PCs have to retrieve before they use it to plunge the Duchy into eternal winter.  By the way I'm sure ICE is named after the iron crown of Morgoth from Tolkien, but there really is an Iron Crown of Lombardy.

Finally, there's this dude.  It's a little hard to see but it's basically a youngish-looking fellow with the same haircut as Rather Dashing.  A hawk is alighting on his arm as a snake looks on from up a tree.  Who is this young hawksman?  Is that snake a lurking danger or another pal like his bird buddy?  I think I'll call him Danlak o' the Falcon.  He's got some sort of beastmaster/druidic thing going, but with a more civilized fairy-tale type gloss to it.  Prince of Birds and Beasts is one of his titles.  The craggy castle in the background (which is almost invisible in this terrible pic) is his home.  Prince Danlak could be a valuable ally for the PCs, what with his ability to know everything the birds in his land know.  But maybe he's a secret member of the Iron Wind.  He's probably got some pet bears that could totally maul the party if they find out and try to take him out with a direct attack.


  1. Maybe "Anytime a natural 13 is rolled, go to the General Fracas Chart. If your net attack roll is a hit, the Fracas result affects your target. If it's a miss, you are affected instead."

    Ooh! I like that!

    If I sent this series to my Congressman, as an argument for why the government needs to invest in Life Extension Research, do you think he would get it? Otherwise, we're just gonna have to go with the old "Mad Scientist Brain in a Jar" thing, when you die.

  2. Jeff, Thanks for the shout out.

    -Concerning Star Frontiers.
    I see a legend of a man, a woman, and an intelligent apeman that claimed their vessel from the stars crashed. They claimed they were members of a "Galatic Legion" until some sort of fireball or lightning struck their vessel and forced it to crash land. They had many strange magic items and were sought after by the Wizards Guild, never to be heard from again.

    Though their is a rumor of a man named Danlak O' Falcon that he is a distant descendant of the man and woman of legend. He lives in a craggily metallic structure near the top of a mountain and seems to communicate with all manner of bird and beast. It is also said he can communicate with anybody in any language. (Can you say universal translator and remnent of crashed ship)

    Also could Circe be a lost descendant as well like an evil Princess Leia but not know it?

    I love the 13 roll idea but I would make it simplier. Roll a natural 7 effects your opponent a 13 effects you. Thus lucky 7s and unlucky 3s come into play.

  3. Ha, this is great I'm enjoying this already. Watching you post on this issues brings back just how much more time I had back in the day. I mean each and every one of those pictures is as if I saw it yesterday -- and I don't think I've paged thru that issue in the last 10 yrs. I'm hoping the Dragon #69 campaign continues!

  4. re: falling & entangling

    I actually am now using (and enjoying--4 playtests) a variation of your "roll a 1 for damage and something happens..." rules.

    Basically I say whenever anyone rolls a 1 for damage the player (or DM if it's a monster or NPC) gets to do anything you could plausibly do with that weapon -other- than cause damage--disarm, knock someone over, grab a piece of loose equipment, etc.

    It's nice since it's automatic and you always know what someone rolls for damage (as opposed for "to hit" where sometimes a player will just go: "I hit" or "I missed" and forget the rule. I noticed that with Lucky Number Kung Fu early on.)

  5. Anonymous2:14 PM

    Interesting start. I grabbed (at random off the shelf) issue #134, and it has articles on pretty much every major RPG genre in it. I guess mine will be "interesting" too...

  6. as opposed for "to hit" where sometimes a player will just go: "I hit" or "I missed" and forget the rule. I noticed that with Lucky Number Kung Fu early on.

    I hadn't considered that, but now that you say that I totally see what you mean. Most players only want to know their net number and whether they rolled a 20 or not.

  7. Anonymous2:45 PM

    This is a great idea! :)

    Except I'll complete the entire process and only then decide on which OSR ruleset to use, though.

    Just to open up my head that tiny bit more when interpreting the material.

  8. I'm enjoying this a lot as well. Semi-random-but-not. :)

  9. Everybody do yourself a favor and follow Kelvin's link.

  10. Anonymous4:59 PM

    My Star Frontiers idea:

    Alright, so those orc and skeleton guys on the front cover? They're animated by nanomachines. They make you effectively immortal, but unfortunately your body doesn't know that. So it just keeps on getting old and rotting away, while the nanomachines keep doing their thing.

    The Iron Crown is the command interface for these meaty robots. The Galactic Legion would /really/ like to get it back.

  11. Anonymous7:52 PM

    And WOW to Kelvin.

    This is a remarkable idea, and I love how you are even using the advertisments.

    I have to dig out my own Dragon Archive discs now.

  12. I always liked the Iron Crown of the Lombards.

    I need to put it in my setting somewhere, though I don't know how to deal with the fact it's made out of one of the "nails from the true cross"

  13. Very cool idea, Jeff! If I wasn't too busy with other things I'd be tempted to follow your lead.

    I actually own most of the early ICE 'Loremaster' campaign modules ('Iron Wind', 'Cloudlords of Tanara', etc.). They're worth checking out, as they're full of cool ideas, all packed tightly into relatively short modules. I think most are available now in PDF at RPGnow/Drivthru.