Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Wizardly Wednesday

I don't know who this guy is.  I just love this Holloway illo from the spell research article I talked about on Monday.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Dude, where's my first level?

I haven't played in a 5e playtest yet and I haven't even read the docs all the way through, so please feel free to dismiss this post as the vague impressions of an under-informed idiot.

That being said, my beef with the most recent draft of the D&D Next playtest docs is the same one I had with 4e: my own personal D&D sweet spot, the hard-scrabble death-at-any-moment fiasco of levels 1-3, is no longer supported.  Here's a simple example of why my style of play doesn't work with these rules:   The pregen halfling rogue and elf mage each have 16 hit points.  A standard kobold's spear does d8-2 damage, an orc's axe does d8+1.  Crits do max damage, rather than extra damage.

Stop me if I'm getting any of this wrong, but it looks like that means these starting wimps can't be killed by a single blow from baseline opposition.  For me, all other questions about what should and shouldn't be in the new edition pale in comparison to this simple issue.  If by the numbers I can't murder your starting PC with a single lousy orc-stab, I don't want to play.  It's that effing simple for me.

Depending on the edition and the hit dice used and the Con rules, some PCs have always had enough hit points to be able to shrug off that first strike.  Even in OD&D a fighter can start with 7 hit points when most monsters do only d6.  But most PCs in most editions are vulnerable to one or two blows from any random goon and that's the way I like it.

Back when 4e came out I agreed with the observation that 1st level 4e PCs read like 4th level or so characters under previously editions.  The run of Wessex where each PC was from a different system supported that thesis.  Zak's first level 4e dude outperformed other characters of second or higher level.  The power level has been noticeably toned down, but I still say that an elf MU that can cast 3 first level spells per day and an unlimited number of magic missiles and shocking grasps ain't no 1st level character in my book.

But Jeff, once the modules are implemented it'll all become clear that your kind of D&D is well supported, you might be thinking.  That may be so.  But let me tell you the bigass problem with this modular system: it will needlessly complicate any published adventures.  Will the adventures be written for all possible module combos?  Will some be horribly broken with the wrong modules in play?  Will a starter adventure written for Elfy McInfiniteMissiles even work as a reasonable challenge for starting characters run with the OSR-friendly modules?  WotC's track record on published adventures is already dubious in my opinion, this module approach will only make them wonkier.

I like simple solutions to problems whenever possible.  Here's the one I advocated back at the start of 4e: tell the 4e fans to start at a higher level.  I've played many campaigns where we skipped the rat-punching, die-from-nicking-yourself-while-shaving stage.  The way we did that was to build 3rd or 4th level characters.  That's what the original Dark Sun rules said to do right in the book, right?  Why can't we go back to that approach?  Me and my fellow Old School sadomasochists get to play levels 1 to 3 (or whatever) and all the sane players just start at level 4 or so.

I've raised this idea before and at least a couple of 4e fans pushed back at it, claiming that it was unfair of me to suggest that they shouldn't get to play through all twenty levels.  (The unquestioned expectation that their PC will survive that long is symptomatic of the huge gulf in playstyle that the poor bastards at WotC have to bridge.)  So instead, here's a suggestion for WotC: level zero.  Don't stick it in a sidebar or an appendix or otherwise marginalize it.  Just write into the main body of the rules a level 0 for each class that more closely cleaves to the 3 hit point, one spell per day, crappy thief percentage losers we all know and love.

Monday, May 28, 2012

not spellbooks, books about spells

Dragon #82 (Feb '84) has one of my all-time favorite random charts, located in Bruce Heard's pretty dang cool article on spell research, "Spells Between the Covers: Details for Delving into Magical Research".  The chart that I love is this d100 list of what I tend to think of as "almost spellbooks".  Each entry is an academic treatise written by a famous or not-so-famous wizard.  Each book lists a few spells that are mentioned in the book or that the books might be helpful in developing.  These spells are not simply sitting in these books in complete form, waiting to be copied out by eager PC magic-users.  Rather the books contain clues that can aid in research, to the tune of up to +10% bonus to your research roll.  Dig up the original article for all the details.  Any, here's the chart in full.  Below the chart I'll offer an alternative use for it.  Dig it:

01-02. Idioms & Rare Cryptographs by Elminster (message, write, illusionary script, tongues, audible glamer, magic mouth)
03. Legendry of Phantoms and Ghosts by Evard (phantom armor, phantom steed, phantom wind, Evard's black tentacle, wraithform)
04. Lore of Subtle Communication by Tasha (ventriloquism, message, comprehend languages, legend lore, Tasha.s uncontrollable hideous laughter)
05-06. Ancient Cryptomancy by Phandal (sending, wizard mark, secret page, sepia snake sigil)
07-08. Extreme Powers of Observation by Kwalish (detect magic, detect illusion, identify, detect invisibility, glassee, locate object)
09. Eyes, Vision, and Arcane Sight by Alphon (infravision, clairvoyance, blur, vision, blindness, wizard eye, eyebite, ultravision)
10. Theories on Perception by Kuroth (detect evil, clairaudience, true sight, deafness)
11-12. Manual Powers Beyond the Life by Bigby (burning hands, Bigby's interposing hand, Bigby's forceful hand, Bigby's grasping hand, Bigby's crushing hand, Bigby's clenched fist)
13. The Seven Skies of The Universe by Casimur (gust of wind, whispering wind, rainbow pattern, precipitation, cloudburst, wind wall)
14-15. The Forgotten Arts of Oratory Magnetism by Leomund (fascinate, taunt, irritation, truename, Leomund's lamentable belabourment)
16. Theory of the Invisible Forces by Tenser (push, unseen servant, strength, Tenser's floating disc)
17- 8. Displacements and Modelling the Milieu by Thurl (shatter, enlarge, mending, stone shape, massmorph)
19. Creation and Modification of Matter by Caterpillar (move earth, dig, telekinesis, statue)
20-21. Influence on Solid Corpus by Mentor (fool's gold, transmute rock to mud, stone to flesh, plant growth, animal growth, shape change)
22. Subconscious Repercussions of Pyromancy by Quaal (fire trap, wall of fire, firewater, flaming sphere)
23-24. Dissimulation and Obscuration by Tzunk (blink, invisibility invisibility 10. radius, improved invisibility darkness, continual darkness, vacancy, avoidance, mass invisibility)
25-26. Life of Nature, Its Secrets by Caligarde (feather fall, levitate, spider climb, web, fly, mount, Caligarde's claw, bind)
27. Alterations of Tangibles and Intangibles by Yagrax (melt, transmute water to dust, item, material, fabricate, crystalbrittle)
28. Encyclopaedia of the Non-Substances by Asmiak (erase, non-detection, misdirection, improved phantasmal force)
29-30. Components and Reactions of Phosphorus by Daern (affect normal fires, dancing lights, fire charm, fireball, delayed blast fireball, incendiary cloud)
31. Legendry of Great Arms and Fabulous Heroes by Kas (armor, phantom armor, stoneskin, protection from normal missiles, shield, forcecage)
32. Sulphur, Influence and Actions by Arbane (pyrotechnics, flame arrow, fire charm, fire shield)
33-34. Tome on Influences and Suggestions by Arunsun (charm person, ray of enfeeblement, scare, suggestion, antipathy/sympathy, mass suggestion)
35. The Multiple Applications of Perceptomancy by Laeral (alarm, detect illusion, mislead, dream, dolor, sequester, Laeral's dancing dweomer)
36. Occult Magnetism by Nolzur (friends, hold person, charm monster, hold monster, charm plants, mass charm)
37-38. Arcane Manipulations of the Entourage by Otto (sleep, scare, fumble, geas, Otto's irresistible dance, confusion)
39. The Deep Fears of Humanity by Hallo-ene (shout, spook, scare, fear, chaos)
40-41. Art of Communications and Sigils by Flamsterd (explosive runes, power word stun, power word kill, power word blind, symbol)
42. Echo & Resonance of the Great Void by Whisper (find familiar, monster summoning I - V)
43. The Foundations of Secret Authority by Ill-Oominoty (binding, demand, torment, dismissal)
44-45. Epic Saga of the Great Conjurers by Mordenkainen (Mordenkainen's faithful hound, conjure animals, monster summoning VI, cacodemon)
46. Repertoire of Illustrious Conjurations by Drawmij (conjure elemental, Drawmij's instant summons, monster summoning VII, summon shadow, invisible stalker, guards and wards)
47. Architecture by Leomund & Mordenkainen (Leomund's secure shelter, Leomund's tiny hut, forcecage, Mordenkainen's magnificent mansion)
48-49. Doors and Passages of Parallel Worlds by Lethchauntos (hold portal, knock, jump, wizard lock)
50. Theories on Converging Transitions by Lhegrand (dimension door, passwall, gate)
51. The Unknown Movements of the Universe by Arnd (run, shadow walk, teleport without error, succor, vanish)
52. Thesis on Conditional Ruptures by Archveult (teleport, phase door, shadow door, maze, Archveult's Skybolt)
53. Luminescence and Coloration by Nchaser & Tulrun (light, color spray, continual light, darkness 15' radius, prismatic spray, project image, projected image, chromatic orb, Nchaser's glowing globe, Tulrun's tracer)
54. Spherogenesis of the Multiverses by Otiluke (Otiluke's resilient sphere, Otiluke's telekinetic sphere, Otiluke's freezing sphere, globe of invulnerability, flaming sphere, prismatic sphere)
55. The Powers of the Spiritual Will by Phrandjas (emotion, chaos, feeblemind, confusion)
56. The Transcendental Impenetrabilities by Leomund (Leomund.s tiny hut, minor globe of invulnerability, globe of invulnerability prismatic sphere)
57. Cosmogony of Magnetic Fluids by Mordenkainen (chain lightning, volley, energy drain, Mordenkainen's disjunction)
58-59. Arcane Resistance of Dwarves and Halflings by Serten (dispel magic , remove curse, Serten's spell immunity, anti-magic shell, dispel illusion, dispel exhaustion)
60. Manual of Magnetic and Electric Waves by Gee-Eeh (shocking grasp, lightning bolt, repulsion, reverse gravity)
61. The Dark Sides of the Memory by Mordenkainen (banishment, Mordenkainen's lucubration, ensnarement, contingency)
62-63. Treatise on Cabalistic Protections by Krest (protection from evil, shield, protection from evil 10' radius, protection from normal missiles)
64. The Trance of the Intellect by Aspirin (feign death, contact other plane, limited wish, wish)
65. The Representations of the Sentient Plane by Rialissom (phantasmagoria, weird, mirage arcane, advanced illusion, delude)
66-67. Intelligence and Intuitive Domination by Zagy (ESP, trap the soul, spiritwrack, magic jar)
68-69. Arcane Puissance of the Memory by Rary (Rary's mnemonic enhancer, forget, mind blank, hypnotic pattern)
70. The Origins of the Hour Glass Symbology by Nulathoe (preserve, tempus fugit, Nulathoe's ninemen, haste)
71-72. Variations on the Visual Perception by Mhzentul (hypnotism, hallucinatory terrain, paralyzation, veil)
73. Mental Impressions of the Retina by Johydee (phantasmal force, improved phantasmal force, permanent illusion, programmed illusion)
74. Treatise of Sublimated Oneiromancy by Tasirin (sleep, dream, feign death, Tasirin's haunted sleep)
75-76. Theory of Occult Visual Shock by Ye'Cind (fear, minor creation, phantasmal killer, major creation)
77-78. Libram of the Great Paravisual Emanations by Nystul (Nystul's magic aura, shadow magic, demi-shadow magic, shades, Leomund's trap)
79. The Minds of The Unknown by Lum (feeblemind, mind blank, dismind, forget)
80-81. Repertoire of Subconscious Apparitions by Gaxx (spectral force, shadow monsters, demi-shadow monsters, simulacrum)
82. Thesis on the Planes of Anti-Matter by Leomund (rope trick, distance distortion, astral spell, disintegrate, Leomund's secret chest, duo-dimension, deeppockets)
83-84. Clouds and Fog by Dahlver-Nar (stinking cloud, fog cloud, cloudkill, wall of fog, death fog, solid fog)
85-86. Gazette of the Norse Climates by Otiluke (gust of wind, ice storm, control weather, Otiluke's freezing sphere, cone of cold, wall of ice)
87. Science of Temporal Waves by Leuk-0 (haste, slow, extension I - III, permanency)
88-89. Tome of Studies on the Fourth Dimension by Seik-O (temporal stasis, time stop, imprisonment)
90-91. Occult Observations on Fluids by Koorz (water breathing, airy water, lower water, part-water, sink, grease, Spendelarde's chaser)
92. Evolution of the Arcane Will Power by Tenser (polymorph self polymorph other, polymorph any object, Tenser's transformation)
93-94. Alterations of the Intrinsic Absolutes by Math (change self, alter reality, massmorph, shape change, alter self)
95-96. The Bricks of the Spiritual Fortification by Webster (wind wall, wall of fire, wall of force, wall of iron, wall of stone, prismatic wall, glassteel)
97. Ordinary Necromancy by Vecna (animate dead, death spell, reincarnation, clone)
98. The Weapons of the Ether by Melf & Mordenkainen (whip, Melfs acid arrow, magic missile, enchant an item, enchanted weapon, Mordenkainen's sword)
99. Treatise of Universal Astronomy by Melf (Melf's minute meteor, meteor swarm, fireball)
00. Inexplicable Reflections by Bucknard (mirror image, magic mirror, gaze reflection)

Obviously some of the author names used above are gags.  Eg. Koorz, master of fluid magic, is based upon Coors, a brand of cheap American beer.

Anyway, to get another use out of this chart, set aside the book concept for a moment.  What we have here are a list of wizards, most of whom probably lived centuries ago, and what spells they were into.  Assume wizardry works by wizards passing knowledge to apprentices over the generations, a sort of apostolic succession as opposed to the Hogwart's model of mass magical education.  This means you could roll on this chart for each MU in your campaign.  What the spell list afterwards means would depend on how generous you are with spells in your game.  They could be free spells added to the book, or PCs could get a bonus to researching them since they have been taught the proper theoretical background info.

Plus it would be super-neat to assign each PC and NPC a school of wizardry that mostly exists to color the campaign.  Do the disciples of Ye'Cind constantly seek out that archmage's lost Recorder?  Are the members of the school of Vecna all unrepentant jerks, or do they get a bad rep because their founder went bonkers in his elder years?  Are the Sons of Koorz all beery swine?  Or "Hey, DM, I really want to learn lightning bolt."  "Then seek ye a student of the ancient master, Gee-Eeh."  Instant adventure hook.

If you've got the late AD&D1 tome Greyhawk Adventures by Jim Ward you can use the Bigby, Drawmij, Mordenkainen, Nystul, Otiluke, Otto, Rary and Tenser-branded spells therein as secret teachings for these wizards.  These spells and the teachings attached to them never made it into publication, so only the apprentices of the apprentices of the apprentices of these great bygone masters know them.

And just to keep the PCs on their toes, pick a few of the authors on the list above to be alive and active in the campaign.  The reputations of these living masters could precede them in the form of these treatises, encounters with apprentices and evidence of heavy duty magic in use.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

typical PC behavior

I just discovered recently that my local library has Red Dwarf in the DVD section and I've watched 9 series of it in the last three weeks.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Doom of the Jaredites

That Mormons & Morlocks idea has been rattling around my skull, so I think I'm going to try running it via G+ Hangout next week or so.  I'll keep everyone posted on the dates.  The system will be Lamentations of the Flame Princess, but it'll be a FLAILSNAILS joint so bring whatever weirdos you want.

The campaign starts at the Furthest House of Zarahemla, the westernmost extent of the kingdom of the Mulekites.  At this point in the history of continent the Mulekites have largely been absorbed culturally and politically by the Nephites.  A Nephite king sits on the throne of Zarahemla and most Mulekites speak Nephite as their primary language.  Only on the outskirts of the realm can you find cultural hold-outs and the occasional pretender to the throne.

Ahaziel of the Furthest House is one of these throwbacks to the old order.  His family is a cadet line that traces its descent from Mulek, the son of King Zedekiah that travelled to the new world and founded the kingdom.  If you wandered the length and breadth of Zarahemla you could probably find a dozen lords with similar claims upon the throne.  What sets Ahaziel apart from the others is that he also claims to be descended from Coriantumr, last king of the Jaredites.  According to the widely-known legend King Coriantumr survived the destruction of his realm and lived his last days among the Mulekites.  Ahaziel says that this exiled king then married into his family and thus he can claim the Jaredite kingdom as his own.

This is where you lot come in.  Ahaziel needs explorers and surveyors.  He needs to know if any descendants of Coriantumr's subjects survive in the wastes beyond his estates.  And if you can recover any royal treasures, such as the Crown of Coriantumr, so much the better.  Lord Ahaziel hosts a motley crew of adventurers, providing food, drink and a place to sleep for all who would dare to venture into those blank hexes and bring back reports and maps of what is found.

More info to follow.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Witchy Wednesday

The flame-haired lady on the right here is one of the earliest arcane spellcasters on record, the Witch of Endor.  You'll find her in the Old Testament, in the 25th chapter of the first book of Samuel, where she conjures up the spirit of the prophet Samuel for an anxious King Saul.  Art by William effin' Blake.

Play report: Fun times in Quyen Valley

"Sir" Donnal
You go to sleep in an army tent in the Hill Cantons and wake up on a barge in the heart of Fantasy Fucking Vietnam, as run by the Calithena Gildenclaw, the fellow who coined the term.  That's life in the FLAILSNAILS multiverse.  Donnal MacDonnal, haphazard adventurer and darling of the first FLAILSNAILS jousting tournament, and his henchweenies Stanislav the World's Dumbest Magic-User and Polg the Nigh-Useless joined a party of hardbitten mercenaries consisting of Seńor Silver, Sigbert the Saxon Soccer Hooligan, Androx the Ambivalent and Grimepaw the Acolyte of St. Bast.  The mission was to clear a small stone keep of its hobgoblish occupiers, for which the local princeling promised us each a sack of gold.

The DM initially described our landing in Quyen as akin to stepping off the boat for the first time in Tekumel.  That had me worried we would all end the session on some sort of local impalement device, but instead we ended up a feast designed to induce us into fighting these dang hobgobbos.  So we end up trekking ten miles through brush and forest, leading our horses and clearing a path with machetes.  We routed around a group of five blue-skinned gigantos with mouths full of tusks, as they seemed to be wandering monsters of either ogrish or giantish strength.  That was a smart move because it turns out we can barely handle hobgoblins.

Sure, the first encounter is with a lone hobgoblin guard who gets a crossbow bolt through the eye before he can raise a hue and cry.  But the second fight with half a dozen of them is pretty intense, even with a party member taking out one of them with some poison slipped into their wine.  Polg proved less useless than usual by successfully back-stabbing one of the hobgoblins.  Then we fought a berserk hobgoblin leader and his orc anti-cleric buddy.  That turned out to be a helluva a fight.  For a couple three rounds in a roll none of the numerous fighters in the party were able to hit jack or squat, but the cleric Grimepaw kept whupping on the bad guys making the rest of us look like chumps.  My favorite part of the fight had to be when one of the badguys tried to escape and Stanislav cast Hold Portal to block him.  At the beginning of the session I asked "Are there any other MUs in the party? I ask because Hold Portal is the closest thing my guy has to an offensive spell."  In fact, it is his only spell besides Read Magic.

I like Stanislav because he is literally the worst MU I have ever seen.  Sure, my buddy Joe once ran a first level MU with Hold Portal as his spell, but at least that dude had reasonable stats.  Poor, stupid Stanislav isn't even a legal character in some editions of D&D, because his Intelligence score is only a five.

Anyway, once these two leader-types are kaput we put their heads on pikes and tell the rest of the hobgoblins to clear on out of the place.  It would have been hilarious to only then discover that these badasses were not the local leadership, but we were right in our guess.  The demoralized remnants of the hobgoblin tribe head for greener pastures and we return to the local lord to claim our reward.

Monday, May 21, 2012

clerics/hit points/healing surges/etc

Seems like Mike Mearls' latest column has set off another wave of discussion about hit points and stuff.  I won't link back to the original article because I've stopped reading, as everything I saw there either bored or annoyed me.  Anydangway, I just wanted to say a few things about hit points and such that aren't directly related to anything I've read recently.  I just want to give Mearls credit for kicking off another round of this evergreen nonsense.

1) If you are a player (not a DM) then you should always, always argue that hit points are abstract combinations of luck, toughness, agility and whatever else you can throw in the mix.  Keeping hitpoints undefined allows you to work over the GM for extra healing.  "The friendly leprechaun can heal me by granting me the luck o' the Irish, right?"  That sort of thing.

2) Abstract "healing surges" are about the most boring game mechanic ever.  I've used healing surges in my own campaigns for a while now, only they're called the "Liquid Courage" house rule.  I first saw this thing at Grognardia, though Jamie Mal attributes the idea to Sham.  The basic idea is that once per session you can down the contents of a wineskin to gain d6 hit points.  It doesn't scale up, and that's on purpose.  Also, PC's getting soaked in the dungeon is a lot more amusing than "I use my healing surge".

3) If clerics are nothing but wandering medkits then the problem is in the campaign, not the friggin' combat rules.  Give your players some kickass gods to worship, ecclesiastical authorities to cheese off, holy shrines to visit, etc.  Also, here's a simple house rule I've used for both MUs and clerics: No double dipping; you cannot memorize two of any spell.  Though I don't think this rule is absolutely necessary, as superior players will make use of all spells available, not just fireball and cure light wounds.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Traveller session #1

Last night the exploration vessel Leviathan set out into the unknown with its crew of 55 and 4 civilian scientists.  Each player had one of the senior officer pregens and one or two characters rolled up using the original Traveller rules.  Yes, some PCs died in chargen.  The players rolled up a large number of ground-pounders (Army and Marines), which resulted in many PCs assigned crap jobs aboard the ship.  There are only so many starship gigs available for a dude whose best skill is Cutlass-3, so we ended up with several trained killers working as Cargo Handlers and Galley Hands.

Many of the extra PCs ended up serving most of the session as the landing party.  While the Leviathan and its shuttle scooped fuel from a nearby gas giant, the landing party would survey the mainworld of the system with the ship's pinnace, a term that provided unlimited amusement to the players.  

The first world explored (dubbed "Erebus") was an airless rockball with the remains of three domed cities, all bombed out. Under the largest they detected some trace emissions of breathable gases, so the party donned vaccsuits and descended below the street level.  That's when the morlocks jumped them.  It was a brief struggle, as the morlocks only had clubs and daggers while the party had a large array of firearms.  Pat's vaccsuit helmet was dented up a bit and a couple suits had to be patched quickly, but the morlocks were defeated.  A quick examination of some of the less laser-blasted bodies revealed small limpet-like symbiots on the bellies of all the morlocks.  These creatures oxygenate the blood in exchange for nutrients, allowing the morlocks to live in thinner atmospheres than normal humans.  A live symbiotic limpet is the only thing of value they found on the world.

The second system visited was more promising.  They found an earthlike world they named Wibbly.  Wibbly is inhabited by slowship colonists whose technology level had crept back to the stoneage due to lack of heavy metals, but they had a very successful neolithic civilization going.  First contact with the Wibblonians went reasonably well and some trade followed.  More importantly, vast deposits of petrochemical were found just under the surface.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

return of Wizardly Wednesday

Not everyday you see a wizard wearing a wristwatch.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

quick Carcosa Wacky Races update

So my caveman Oogah was driving his hell-powered motor-trike across the apocalyptic wastelands of Carcosa when a Hound of Tindalos starts loping after him.  This will not stand.  I pull into a bootlegger reverse and charge the transdimensional mofo.  The first pass he kills my mechanic riding behind me, but on a second pass bike and Hound collide and explode.  My caveman is thrown clear of the blast, miraculously suffering only 2 points of damage.

Win or lose the race, I just took out a Hound of Tindalos by charging it on a sweet-ass motorcycle.

Monday, May 14, 2012

campaign concept: Mormons & Morlocks

Howdy folks!  The semester is over so time to get back to bloggering about games.  Here's a campaign concept I've been kicking around.  It sort of follows the Wessex line of thinking in adapting someone else's non-wizardy setting for D&D play.  Instead of borrowing from Thomas Hardy, this campaign would lean on the Book of Mormon, the third testament of the Latter Day Saints.  It's a pretty intriguing text.

According to the Book of Mormon America was settled by four different groups, each descended from people mentioned in the Old Testament.  The first group, the Jaredites, rode across the ocean in vessels kinda like Noah's Ark way back when the Tower of Babel was under construction.  They avoided the confounding of languages and thus spoke the original language of Adam and Eve.  Because they exit the Middle East prior to Abraham and Moses and the Babylonian Captivity, their culture would have very few points of contact with ancient Judaism.  By the traditional Mormon chronology the Jaredites arrive in the New World around 3,000 BC.  For two and half millennia or so they are the only human on the continent and they eventually flourish into a kingdom of 2 millions, somewhere in the north.

Near the time of the fall of the Kingdom of Judah and the Babylonian Captivity, which can be fairly certainly dated to 587 BC or so, the other three groups arrive.  The Nephites and Lamanites, both descended from a prophet, settle fair to the south.  The Mulekites, consisting of the last prince of Judah and his followers, settle much closer to the land of the Jaredites.  By the time the Mulekites, Nephites and Lamanites arrive Jaredite civilization has gone down the crapper.  The Mulekites encounter the sole survivor, the last king to rule over the Jaredites.  His kingdom is in ruins.

The campaign would be set three hundred years after that point, when the Mulekites and the other two groups discover each others' existence.  Local PCs would consist of members of any of the three extant tribes of humanity, as well as the three standard demi-human races.  Halflings would be of the homo floresiensis variety, though whether natives or fellow travellers with one or more of the human races I don't know.  I'm thinking elves might be the descendants of Cain and/or Lilith, who live as a secret enclave within the ranks of humanity.  Dwarves would be descendants of the dudes that helped the Supreme Being create the world.

The adventurers would be based in a remote frontier town on the edge of Zarahemla, the kingdom of the Mulekites.  Sessions would consist of expeditions into the desolated realm of the Jaredites, in search of their lost cities.  Since the Jaredites had 2,500 years to themselves they could have developed all sorts of whacky super-science, so in addition to your standard gold and jewels their ruined cities could contain all sorts of death rays and hover cars and robots just ripe for the plundering.  Obviously there would also be degenerate subhuman remnants of the Jaredites, Cthulhoid entities and giant freakin' snakes.