Showing posts with label Heroes of Karameikos. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Heroes of Karameikos. Show all posts

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Firearms in D&D Mystara: Tinker, Tailor, Dwarf, and Spy's Darokinian Musketeers

As I posted last week, my current D&D campaign "Tinker, Tailor, Dwarf, and Spy" takes place in the "Known World" setting that was originally published in the Cook Expert Set of Dungeons & Dragons. The players are currently adventuring in northern Karameikos, but I have plans to have the players wander into Darokin and Glantri. For those who aren't familiar with the Known World, it is a hodge-podge setting that includes an anachronistic combination of cultures ranging from the Roman Empire to Renaissance tech societies. Karameikos, where the players' characters are based, is a high-medieval culture and thus is an ideal starting society for the "default fantasy" campaign.

As I mentioned above, even though the characters are based out of a default fantasy kingdom, they will be wandering into Darokin and Glantri which are countries inspired by renaissance level cultures. Darokin is based on renaissance Florence and Genoa with a strict plutocratic government. Glantri is based on renaissance Glantri with the country being a "mageocracy" rather than plutocracy. Because the players will likely be traveling into these two nations, I had to ask myself whether or not I wanted to include firearms in my D&D campaign. After some back and forth, I decided that I would indeed be introducing characters who use Muskets, Pistols, and Arquebuses, but limiting them to Darokinian society.

In preparation for this move, I purchased the Tal'Dorei Campaign Setting by Green Ronin in the hopes that it included the rules for the Gunslinger archetype for the Fighter Class. It turns out that it wasn't necessary to purchase the full campaign guide, as Matthew Mercer has been kind enough to provide the Gunslinger rules as a Pay What You Want file. After reading the archetype, I found that it didn't fit exactly what I wanted to have in my games. The Tal'Dorei Gunslinger is closely based on the Pathfinder Gunslinger character class from the Pathfinder Ultimate Combat Guide and as cool as that class it, it comes with all of the "fiddliness" of the Pathfinder system. Matthew Mercer's Gunslinger kept that fiddliness and I wanted a class that fit with the simplicity of 5th edition.

In the end, I read through the existing archetypes and feats in 5th edition and realized that I didn't need to come up with an entirely new archetype or create new feats. All I needed to do was reskin some existing rules to fit the theme.

The first reskin I will be using in my game is the creation of a Blackpowder Marksman feat. The feat will be identical to the Crossbow Expert feat on page 165 of the 5th Edition Player's Handbook. That feat is pretty powerful and makes crossbow using Fighters extremely powerful options in 5e. A key element is the first benefit which lets those who possess the feat to "ignore the loading quality of crossbows with which you are proficient." In other words, it allows crossbow using Fighters to attack more than once when using an Attack action. I thought that it was fair to have a feat that applies all of these benefits to a person who uses black powder weapons.

While I don't want to spend any real time getting into the weeds of the Arquebus > Crossbow > Longbow > Shortbow argument, I will share the reasons for why I am happy with this quick fix. First, as argued effectively by Richard Berg in his wargame Arquebus, while the longbow's effectiveness had been reduced by the innovation of plate armor, "crossbows took more time to wind and fire than an arquebus, which had similar penetrative abilities but a far lower rate of fire." Looking at the stats for the crossbow and comparing them to the longbow, we see that these attributes are taken into account in 5e.  The heavy crossbow does 1d10 damage and requires reloading while the longbow does 1d8 and doesn't. The Crossbow Expert feat allows a Fighter to use a crossbow with the same rate of fire as a longbow, something ahistorical but perfect for fantasy. In D&D a combat round is only 6 seconds long and a high level Fighter can shoot his longbow 8 times in a combat round (and thus a crossbow 8 times). That's not at all realistic, but it allows the damage curve to keep up with mages and hand to hand combatants. This is high fantasy after all and limiting arquebus/musket use to 4 shots per minute might be accurate, but it wouldn't be fun. So long as you keep the damage for the black powder weapons within reason (which the DMG does), game balance is retained.

Once I made this slight concession to fun over fact, I began looking to the character class archetypes to see how they fit the model of Musketeer. What I found was that two of the archetypes in the Player's Handbook reskinned nicely to be gun toting characters. I was especially impressed with how the Battle Master archetype fit for Musketeers. Since only a few of the maneuvers for the Battle Master specified "melee weapon," it meant that these abilities could be used with missile weapons with only minimum change. I quickly wrote up a page using The Homebrewery that included the Musketeer archetype based on the Battle Master. I haven't stated up the Eldritch Knight version, but if one limits the spell list properly it's easy to see spell as "magic ammunition."

Lastly, I created a background that would allow even non-Fighters to be proficient in "simple" black powder weapons and classified the arquebus as a simple weapon with the pistol and musket counting as martial weapons in Darokinian Society.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

[Heroes of Karameikos] Part 2 -- The Order of the Griffon

As you know, I am working on a set of house rules that adapt the old Moldvay/Cook Basic and Expert D&D rules and make them play more like a 4th edition campaign. I am calling these rules "Heroes of Karameikos" after a country in the Known World setting that was originally presented in the Moldvay/Cook sets. I have always enjoyed the Known World setting and my house rules will attempt to capture some of the flavor of the setting, but they will continually direct readers to the original rule books for additional rules.

Take my most recent addition, the Order of the Griffon, as an example. At the beginning of my Character Classes section, I make it clear that Player Characters are different from normal people. They have the potential to become heroes of legend. As such, most people are merely "Normal Men," and even special non-player characters are represented by the character classes presented in the Moldvay/Cook rules. My house rules tell you to use those rules for non-player characters, but they provide sub-classes specially designed for player characters. These sub-classes have abilities granted to them at every level in a way I believe reflects the 4th edition feel. I wanted the abilities to be significant enough to matter, but not so powerful as to make using them the equivalent of playing D&D on "easy."

For members of the Order of the Griffon, the military order of the Church of Karameikos (you can read more about them in the excellent Grand Duchy of Karameikos Gazetteer), they gain the following special abilities.

Order of the Griffon (Cleric)
  • 1st Level – Cure Minor Wounds. A member of the Order of the Griffon may call upon the power of the immortals to heal up to 3 points of damage dealt to himself/herself or allies each encounter. These points of healing may be divided as the Cleric wishes.
  • 2nd Level – Military Training. The member of the Order of the Griffon is now trained in the use of Normal Swords and can use them in combat.
  • 3rd Level – Strike Against the Stained Soul. Once per Encounter, the Cleric may add +3 points of damage to a successful attack against an enemy of Chaotic alignment.

As always, you can find a working copy of my house rules here.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

[Heroes of Karameikos] 4e Feel, 1e Rules -- It's George Strayton's Fault

I have been haunting the blogs of various members of the Old School Renaissance gaming community for some time now. Some of the ideas coming from that community are quite inspiring to the role playing game fan and I heartily recommend that you hunt down several of the many blogs devoted to the OSR movement. Start over at Grognardia as he has a wonderful collection of links to OSR sights and is a consistently good blogger on topics gaming and pulp related. Up until yesterday my interest in OSR gaming has been primarily as a consumer. I own the "Swords and Wizardry White Box," "Lamentations of the Flame Princess," and the "B/X Companion" in print and several other titles as pdfs, and have enjoyed reading them. Reading the works of these creators created a small spark in the back of my imagination, but that spark had no kindling to feed it into a flame.

That kindling came from reading George Strayton's excellent "Legends & Labyrinths" blog. Unlike many OSR gamers, and I'm not sure George would consider himself completely OSR, Strayton's blog wasn't devoted to using the OGL to create a re-envisioned version of the D&D of old with "old school mechanics." Those blogs often, though not always, have a certain disdain for 4th edition D&D in general and a special ire for D&D Essentials. Strayton's blog was a sharp contrast to the typical older edition nostalgia blog. His blog was dedicated to playing 1st edition style games where death is around every corner and adventurers aren't necessarily "heroic" using the 4th edition D&D rules set. His particular recommendation was to use Essentials as the basis, and his house rules as a modification to that core rules set. Most of his house rules are excellent and are finding their way into my regular 4e game.

He also inspired me to try to get my group to play Moldvay/Cook Basic D&D again. The group's session wasn't quite what I had hoped it would be. I measure the quality of a game session by how much fun the players have in a session, and one player felt particularly hopeless during the very first encounter. It wasn't a good start, and I blogged about that yesterday, but it did turn out fun for me as the adventure continued -- and I hope the group enjoyed it as well. The experience made me realize what I really like about M/C Basic and what I really like about 4e.

I love the archetype driven nature of M/C and its quick and easy mechanics, but I don't like its almost capricious lethality. Characters can die at a moments notice. While this is fine for a horror game, I don't like that in a High Fantasy game. My favorite D&D setting, Mystara, can in no way be considered anything other than High Fantasy and a capricious lethality seems out of character for the setting.

What I enjoy about 4e is the clarity of the rules set, how the actions of one player interact with the other characters in the game. The rules reward and encourage team play. The game also allows players to feel heroic, while still feeling at peril during combat. I have considered using Robin Laws' mark up system in Hamlet's Hit Points to highlight how 4e combats nicely follow plot beats, but others have already touched on the topic. What I don't like about 4e is the tremendous number of powers, feats, and magic items. Yes, they allow for creativity, but they also create so many combinations that a player can become lost examining the puzzle pieces and never get around to actually playing the game.

I've decided to take my love for these two systems and post my own modified rules set temporarily called Heroes of Karameikos. The house rules will be based on the Moldvay/Cook rules sets, but they will incorporate some of what I like from 4e. In a twist on the traditional "old school" line "New edition rules, old edition feel," my game rules will be "Old edition rules with a new edition feel." I'll try to post at least one Heroes of Karameikos update a week starting with character generation and moving on to each of the classes. For those of you wondering...

Yes Elf will be a Class!