Monday, April 17, 2017


Nebelkuste is the land at the top of the world. It is the land hidden by mist. It is the land of dwarves, fae, fomorii, sidh, and giants. It is the land of nobles and rich merchants. It is the land of revolution, industry, and progress. It is the land of hardy folk. It is the land of barbarian hordes. It is the last bastion between the world and whatever lies beyond the keep of the Necromistress.

The Land
Nebelkuste is a thin whip of landmass located at the top of the world. It is the northmost continent of the planet Eisal and it floats alone in the frigid seas. On our globe Nebelkuste would be located on the northern hemisphere located just below the arctic circle. It would be colinear with Alaska, Iceland, and Scandinavia. Its climate is Marine with Humid climates in the southeast. Beyond the Geralf Mountains the climate transitions from taiga-like to arctic. Nebelkuste is mostly comprised of deciduous forests and grasslands. Locals harvest tubers, legumes, and various fruits and vegetables during the warm seasons; they fish, hunt and pastoralize year round.

Nebelkuste's shores are surrounded by an ever-present mist. No one knows the cause of this mist but its origin has been traced to above the clouds of the Geralf Mountains. Folklorists spin tales of ancient giants living on clouds bellowing breath that turns air into mist. Of this there is no proof but locals know that before even before the barbarian hordes ruled Nebelkuste, the giants walked the land. Some say they still do.

Sightings of giants are numerous along the coast and surrounding settlements. The validity of these sightings is supported by evidence left in the giants' wake: footprints, felled trees, and refuse. Despite their size they are incredibly elusive and only seen in the corner of one's eye or off in the distance as a grey shadow hidden in the mist. Skeletons of these creatures have been discovered in mass graves scattered throughout Nebelkuste. The shortest of these skeletons measures at 16 feet and the tallest at nearly 25 feet. Occasionally giant sized structures comprised of stone will accompany these remains.

Cousins to the giants are the Sidh. Sidh are petty, fickle, selfish creatures. They are shorter than the shortest giant skeleton discovered but still taller than two men standing atop shoulders. Sidh can appear animalistic, often sporting the head or feet of a particular animal. (If this is a trait shared by their supposed cousins the giants, this is not known.) They live in earthen mounds of their own creation and prefer compact spaces. Sidh are capricious creatures, often wanting one thing to only hate it a moment later. However they do possess unnatural abilities the likes of which no man possesses. In simple terms they control nature. They can make crops grow, the rain come, the cattle fat, etc. Sidh are aware and proud of their powers and offer them as service to those willing to make the proper payment. This payment usually takes the form of a celebration, ceremony, and sometimes sacrifice in the name of the Sidh. (Sidh love nothing more than to have their ego stroked.) Woe to those fools who cross a Sidh for they are known to enact terrible curses on transgressors if they do not smash them first. Because of their contributions to their survival Men are wont to form communities around Sidh. These communities usually fall just short of complete worship of the Sidh.

The Fae are below even the Sidh and they often serve them. Fae take many forms: fairies, hags, saytyrs, centaurs, and the easy-going Halflings and Intelligent Elves. The Fae almost entirely prefer the forests for shelter. Not much is known of fae settlements as they are reclusive and nearly impossible to spot with human eyes. What little reports that exist of Fae settlements come from humans escorted personally by Fae. However the number of individuals that never return from these excursions is exponentially higher than those that do.

The Dwarves find home underground, usually beneath the Geralf Mountains. Dwarves are peculiar. They are almost completely anti-social even among themselves and exhibits a caste system not that different from a beehive or anthill. A dwarf is always working for and contributing to his clan. It's important to note that there are no female dwarves and they seem to procreate by creating "sons" out of enchanted stone. It's only recently that dwarves have "warmed-up" to the presence of Men and began trading with them. It is not known how long the dwarves have called Nebelkuste their home for they are wont to not discussing such information.

The Fomorii claim the seas around Nebelkuste—in addition to all the seas—as their own. Formorii are eerily human-like. The only calling sign of a Fomorii are their distinct reptilian eyes. They are capable of swimming at great speeds and distances and can breathe underwater indefinitely. They are known to live in underwater cities. Folktales claim these cities boast structures of pure silver and roads lined with precious gems.

Before the age of the empire barbarian hordes roamed Nebelkuste as hunter/gather nomads. They were eventually erradicated or incorporated after the empire discovered Nebelkuste and claimed it for the emperor. The empire brought agriculture and government to the mist coast and Man prospered. In recent years Nebelkusters have been appearing on the world stage as the capital Wundergauss is quickly becoming a popular point on trade routes. Progress is on the upswing and discoveries are made everyday. Serfs are abandoning their lord's land to work in factories while enterprising merchants are scooping that same land up to make farming an industry. Political upheaval is on the rise as Nebelkusters are becoming more aware of their growing independence from the empire and the one-sided relationship that empire offers them. With that a growing sense of nationalism is on the rise. The people cry out for revolution but the nobility argues otherwise.

Every referee has a pet setting they fall in love with and Nebelkuste is mine. It is a shameless analogue for Nordic, German, and Celtic mythoi and the lands that spun them. However its spiced with a dash of high fantasy, sometimes Gothic horror, and the weird—always the weird. It is the land of butt-german names shamelessly plucked from google translate. It is even an avenue for my love of swashbuckling and age-of-sailing settings. It is the land that I've found that I can wantingly pour my creative energy into and be proud of the result.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

To Trea— I Mean Swordfish Island!

I'm wary of anyone that asks for money. Kickstarter is no exception, considering its reputation for "take the money and run projects." Swordfish Island demolished all of my hesitation and made me want to throw money at it at the soonest opportunity.

With no further a due here's the reasons why you should back this awesome RPG product:

1) It's system agnostic. Whether you're old school or new school, run 0e or 5e, or run something completely different, you can run Swordfish Island. There's no monster statistics given. Instead they are given rough descriptors to help you pick the best option. If you buy this product now chances are you'll still be using it years down the road, whether you're running something old or new

2) It's interactive for players. The players of Swordfish Island are given a field guide filled with facts about plants, monsters, languages, and more! Instead of the answers lying on their character sheets, the answers lay in the tome before them. They'll have to use their survival guide effectively if they want to...well survive!

3) Other people are backing it! At the time of this post Swordfish Island is at 59%. All it needs is a few more backers and this wonderful rpg product is yours! Seriously back it now! You won't regret it!

The Deck of Cards

I was first introduced to playing cards in rpgs when I played Savage Worlds. In that game a deck of cards is used for (but not limited to) initiative, chase mechanics, roleplay, and random encounter generation. The experience was comparable to rolling your first non-d6 or your first zocchi die. In a way the deck of playing cards made the game feel fresh and new in a system that was marketed as generic.

Ever since that short stint with Savage World I've been obsessed with introducing the deck of cards into my games.

Here's just a few ways that I've used, or am thinking about using, cards in my games.

Straight up stolen from Savage Worlds. Deal a card to each player and group of enemies. Aces can be high or low and the highest rank goes first. Ties are resolved by suit. In Savage Worlds a player who draws a joker gets to go whenever they want during the round and gets an additional +2 to their rolls. (This is also the calling card for the referee to shuffle the deck.) You don't have to do that or you could take it one step further. Maybe players get +2 to their next attack-damage roll if they draw a king. Likewise a queen could allow for a temporary parley to negotiate.

Prison Polyhedrons
Sometimes you don't have dice just laying around. Maybe you've started a pick up game with your customers at work or you've introduced resolution systems to a lost tribe in the amazon. Anyways, you don't have your dice but for some reason you've brought your trusty deck of playing cards! Needs a d27? No prob! Just make a mental layout of each card's value, shuffle, and draw! The numbers work out quite well. I once made a 2d6 out of a deck of 44 and out of 60 results the average only deviated by 0.0166! Math aside, the more cards in your deck the more random the results will be. For example, you'd probably want to shuffle 4 suits of 7 cards each if you're making a pp7. That's prison polyhedral seven. In fact I'm declaring the short hand for all card-related number generation is now pp! pp8? pp10. pp37!

Character Creation
Sometimes the idea of rolling 18d6 is scary to a new player—even if it's devided into 3d6 chunks—or your players are just lazy like mine. What to do? Simply buy blank playing cards, generate your own stats, and write them on the cards with markers! It's sounds like a lot of work at first but if you have access to an online dice roller (and who doesn't these days?) the process is made even easier. It will pay off in the long run because you can tuck the card back in your deck for a rainy day when you or someone you know needs a quick character. You can go a step further and include backgrounds, class, or maybe a few roleplay ques. Which brings me to my next use.

I once shuffled a deck of face cards and laid them on the table in a grid. I told the players that each card had an adjective tied to it that would describe their character, but didn't tell them what they were. They took turns picking cards and I would tell them their adjective afterwards. After all the cards were gone and the game started, roleplay was a breeze! Keep in mind this was for a group that had trouble with roleplay. At the time I was honestly surprised it worked so well, but after asking the player what they thought, they liked it because "the character was already made for them!" Honestly I think a deck of tarot cards would work much better but my knowledge of their use isn't that great so I'll stick to regular playing cards!

That about wraps things up. If I discover yet more interesting or effective uses for the deck of cards, I will either update this post or make a new one.

Monday, April 3, 2017

5e vs Lotfp: Fighters

Fighters are pretty much the bread and butter when it comes towards combat. That's no exception in lotfp.

Fighters have the greatest hit die of the human classes and are allowed to start play with a minimum of 8 hit points.

Additionally they start with a +2 Base Attack Bonus and access to the Press, Defensive, and Parry +4 Combat Options.

Besides gaining more hit points and better saves when he gains a level, the fighter's base attack bonus increases by +1 per level. This makes the fighter deal more consistent damage towards the end of his adventures without turning him into an unstoppable juggernaut.

The role of fighters in 5e is treated much the same as Lotfp.

Fighting Style allows them to customize their mode of attack.

Second Wind allows them to press on after taking a walloping.

Action Surge allows the fighter to unleash bursts of damage, especially after he's gained extra attacks, or accomplish more complex tasks in a single turn.

Out of all the classes in 5e, fighters get the most Ability Score Improvements and Extra Attacks.

Towards the end of their adventure they earn Indomitable, which allows them to succeed on potentially world-shattering saves.

Not to mention the Martial Archetypes allow the fighter to further his tactics.

Champions appear to be raw stat engines with their increased crit range and ability to regenerate later on.

Battle Masters interact with their allies and enemies via maneuvers and Know Your Enemy can lead to some interesting situations.

Last but not least the Eldritch Knight allows the fighter to dabble into magic, giving them a summonable weapon and the ability to more effectively blend combat and magic.

I've heard the particular leveling process utilized by Lotfp and 5e referred to as Scale and Gate respectively.

In Lotfp when a character levels up, he gets more hit points, better saving throws, and an increase towards a tertiary stat. This would be base attack bonus for fighter, spells for magic-users/clerics, and skill points for specialists. In other words the character scales better as he levels up.

When a character levels up in 5e he gains access to new features that add a new paradigm into the system, or he gets upgrades to already existing features. The leveling process is the gate that prevents lower level characters from being on par with higher level ones. The characters still receive stat upgrades but it is distributed sparsely throughout the character's progression.

A level 1 fighter in lotfp is not that different from a level 13 fighter if you completely ignore stats. But a 5e fighter at level 1 looks completely alien from a level 20 fighter by their features alone.

I don't believe that one particular style is better than the other and a "scale" vs "gate" argument isn't necessary.

I think both systems do a good job with their own style and I find it difficult to gleam any hidden lesson by comparing the two since they're so different from each other to begin with.