Monday, March 28, 2016

A Baleful Sky: Elves & Hit Dice

Way back here I posited that Baleful Sky elves should default to 4 HD.

The reasons are the same as they were - I wanted elves to be something more than funny-eared humans, and to be taken as a possible threat when encountered.

Lairs & Encounters, however, has given me a bit to think about.

Elven spellswords are extraordinary members of their species - and built as Fighting 2, HD 1, Elf 4.

Near as I can tell, the Elven Courtier is Fighting 1, HD 1, Thief 1, Elf 2, which is a decent start for a "common" elf.

Let's assume for the moment the common elf is the Courtier, and most elves you meet at HD 4 cast as a Mage of 2nd level - my monster entry would be amended to say that elves cast as mages of half their HD.

From what we learn from Lairs and Encounters, it then follows that adolescent elves are HD3, casting as a 2nd level mage,  and child elves are HD 2 - casting as a first level mage.

Circle back, then, to the image of elves as tricksters, small, furtive, ignorant of consequences and mortality - fey.

Is that image not childlike?

I've got two daughters - they've gone through a lot of dolls. Would a young elf think twice about grabbing that cute, chubby, burbling human infant?

Some group of  young elves slipping through the woods just as human teens do comes across a party of regular humans - what happens if it goes badly? This group of essentially veterans with magic, against normal men?

Their parents are 4HD creatures. They're better than humans - and these are teenagers, so they think they're better than everybody. They've been "teenagers" for probably 20 years now.

Maybe that's how elves get the reputations they do. The adults are aloof, haughty, elite, sure - but they're older, wiser, circumspect.

In a species that reproduces sexually, attributes considered to be adult are a bit twisted by puberty and adolescence - and I bet a lot of these teenage elves wouldn't think twice about bullying a group of normal men to the point of violence. And one of them brought along their little sister or brother, and that one snuck over to the village and grabbed a baby to play with.

If any of that goes incredibly wrong - if the little sister is discovered in the village and slain, if the cocksure teenage elf is maimed - what happens then?

I'd bet that village ceases to exist, and elves start getting a reputation.

Fast forward a few hundred years and that forest is haunted, and we don't go there for wood - and there's not a human settlement within miles of the forest edge - none that aren't ruins.

“Elves are wonderful. They provoke wonder.
Elves are marvelous. They cause marvels. 
Elves are fantastic. They create fantasies. 
Elves are glamorous. They project glamour. 
Elves are enchanting. They weave enchantment. 
Elves are terrific. They beget terror. 
The thing about words is that meanings can twist just like a snake, and if you want to find snakes look for them behind words that have changed their meaning. 
No one ever said elves are nice. Elves are bad.”
― Terry PratchettLords and Ladies

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Post 100; Heroes

100 posts since starting July 2012. Didn't figure it'd last that long.

Game Running: I technically started this blog to record running a game for a group of kids. I've had ... 3 different attempts at a kid's game fail, in two cases it was scheduling - sports schedules and work schedules and a father went back to school. The third case was a separation of the parents, which is still an ongoing process. The previously mentioned father is about to be out of school, so here's hoping. We moved over last summer and we're still kinda out-of-sorts in our own household, and even non-RPG gaming has been sparse.

Game Playing: I played for about a year and a half in a Roll20 game with two of the college buddies. I had to drop out for time constraints, and it ended a little after that. It restarted a bit without me, not sure if that lasted. We never could get any of the other gang to join (scheduling, desire) and we couldn't get a stable group of people who weren't us involved.

I'm actively in almost two PbP games on the Autarch boards, which is a first time thing for me. It's interesting. I can't really decide if I'd run that way - have to give it more time.

This Blog: What was once a relatively firm 2-week schedule has been slipping out due to real life. Gonna see about 3-weeks-per-post this time around. I'd like to think I've kept things relatively light and marginally novel.

I have somewhere around 40 draft posts, most of which sitting around from 2014, when my schedule shifted. 8 or 9 of them are in relation to a full-ACKS conversion of a somewhat popular 3.X module, which I don't expect to see the light of day - been too long. There's a few half-and-quarter finished Baleful Sky campaign thought dumps waiting around as well. Several others are niche subsystems, like we like to explore here at the C&B, which are being increasingly made irrelevant by Autarch's Patreon output.

What Else?: Other things have gone on, in relation to development side of gaming,  that have been beyond any sort of expectation from 2012. So that's good.



No, not the original show or the painful reboot.

I'm talking about this guy:

Looks a little fresh from the fight?

that advances like this:

Or, in ACKS, it's Hero and Epic Hero, a clean nod to the original without the "S" word - I can't even say for certain that in the mid-70s that the term "Super Hero" would reference anything other than a spandex-clad crimefighter.

In ACKS, it has a secondary characteristic - survive a level as a Hero, and be established as such - at level 5 hirelings you lead gain a +1 to morale.

Survive a level of Epic Hero, and you're rewarded with followers, provided you establish a stronghold.

Spellcasters gain magical research abilities at their post-Hero levels, along with single-use magical items; then permanent items at 9th level.

It's an interesting benchmark for relating to monster HD, as well. 4-5HD monsters - that's a job for a Hero - ogres are a great example.

Note the text in ACKS pg 152, on Giant Humanoids: creatures that would be humanoids
were it not for their great size and 5 or more Hit Dice. Giant types have a lot of hit dice because of their size, but here stands the high level fighter - giant power condensed into the size of a normal man.

Super/Epic Heroes take on giants, or wyverns, or younger dragons.

I've been keeping the 4HD/8HD limit in mind when looking at the sort of threats one may encounter under the Baleful Sky - I'd previously made elves and dwarves a "monster race" at 4/5HD, indicating that in my mind, it takes a hero to deal with the threat of just one, and I'll have an iteration after that talking about 8/9HD creatures as ancient threats in that same world.

Even the Fighting Capability column there expresses their prowess in terms of how many normal men it would take to match them (in a relative sense).

It's a good metric to keep in mind, especially now that you can create your own threats with Lairs & Encounters. My own contributed monster in that product is set at 8 HD - it is a creature I expect only an Epic Hero would be able to take on.