Monday, 5 July 2021

Mini Six & Primeval Thule



Have you ever done a retrospective of your Mini Six Primeval Thule game?  How well Mini Six worked for it, things you would change about it?

Wednesday, 14 April 2021

Gary Gygax on The Campaign

 From the 1e AD&D DMG. The original advice, still the best.


Unlike most games, AD&D is an ongoing collection of episode adventures,

each of which constitutes a session of play. You, as the Dungeon Master, are

about to embark on a new career, that of universe maker. You will order the

universe and direct the activities in each game, becoming one of the elite group

of campaign referees referred to as DMs in the vernacular of AD&D. What lies

ahead will require the use of all of your skill, put a strain on your imagination,

bring your creativity to the fore, test your patience, and exhaust your free time.

Being a DM is no matter to be taken lightly!

Your campaign requires the above from you, and participation by your players.

To belabor an old saw, Rome wasn’t built in a day. You are probably just

learning, so take small steps at first. The milieu for initial adventures should be

kept to a size commensurate with the needs of campaign participants — your

available time as compared with the demands of the players. This will

typically result in your giving them a brief background, placing them in a

settlement, and stating that they should prepare themselves to find and

explore the dungeon/ruin they know is nearby. As background you inform

them that they are from some nearby place where they were apprentices

learning their respective professions, that they met by chance in an inn or

tavern and resolved to journey together to seek their fortunes in the

dangerous environment, and that, beyond the knowledge common to the area

(speech, alignments, races, and the like), they know nothing of the world.

Placing these new participants in a small settlement means that you need do

only minimal work describing the place and its inhabitants. Likewise, as player

characters are inexperienced, a single dungeon or ruins map will suffice to

begin play.

After a few episodes of play, you and your campaign participants will be

ready for expansion of the milieu. The territory around the settlement — likely

the “home” city or town of the adventurers, other nearby habitations,

wilderness areas, and whatever else you determine is right for the area —

should be sketch-mapped, and places likely to become settings for play

actually done in detail. At this time it is probable that you will have to have a

large scale map of the whole continent or sub-continent involved, some rough

outlines of the political divisions of the place, notes on predominant terrain

features, indications of the distribution of creature types, and some plans as to

what conflicts are likely to occur. In short, you will have to create the social

and ecological parameters of a good part of a make-believe world. The more

painstakingly this is done, the more “real” this creation will become.

Eventually, as player characters develop and grow powerful, they will explore

and adventure over all of the area of the continent. When such activity

begins, you must then broaden your general map still farther so as to

encompass the whole globe. More still! You must begin to consider seriously

the makeup of your entire multiverse — space, planets and their satellites,

parallel worlds, the dimensions and planes. What is there? why? can

participants in the campaign get there? how? will they? Never fear! By the

time your campaign has grown to such a state of sophistication, you will be

ready to handle the new demands.

Setting Things In Motion:

There is nothing wrong with using a prepared setting to start a campaign,

just as long as you are totally familiar with its precepts and they mesh with

what you envision as the ultimate direction of your own milieu. Whatever

doesn’t match, remove from the material and substitute your own in its

place. On the other hand, there is nothing to say you are not capable of

creating your own starting place; just use whichever method is best suited to

your available time and more likely to please your players. Until you are

sure of yourself, lean upon the book. Improvisation might be fine later, but

until you are completely relaxed as the DM, don’t run the risk of trying to

“wing it” unless absolutely necessary. Set up the hamlet or village where the

action will commence with the player characters entering and interacting

with the local population. Place regular people, some “different” and

unusual types, and a few non-player characters (NPCs) in the various

dwellings and places of business. Note vital information particular to each.

Stock the goods available to the players. When they arrive, you will be

ready to take on the persona of the settlement as a whole, as well as that of

each individual therein. Be dramatic, witty, stupid, dull, clever, dishonest,

tricky, hostile, etc. as the situation demands. The players will quickly learn

who is who and what is going on — perhaps at the loss of a few coins.

Having handled this, their characters will be equipped as well as

circumstances will allow and will be ready for their bold journey into the

dangerous place where treasure abounds and monsters lurk.

The testing grounds for novice adventurers must be kept to a difficulty factor

which encourages rather than discourages players. If things are too easy, then

there is no challenge, and boredom sets in after one or two games.

Conversely, impossible difficulty and character deaths cause instant loss of

interest. Entrance to and movement through the dungeon level should be

relatively easy, with a few tricks, traps, and puzzles to make it interesting in

itself. Features such as rooms and chambers must be described with verve and

sufficiently detailed in content to make each seem as if it were strange and

mysterious. Creatures inhabiting the place must be of strength and in numbers

not excessive compared to the adventurers’ wherewithal to deal with them.

(You may, at this point, refer to the sample dungeon level and partial

encounter key.)

The general idea is to develop a dungeon of multiple levels, and the deeper

adventurers go, the more difficult the challenges become — fiercer monsters,

more deadly traps, more confusing mazes, and so forth. This same concept

applies to areas outdoors as well, with more and terrible monsters occurring

more frequently the further one goes away from civilization. Many variations on

dungeon and wilderness areas are possible. One can build an underground

complex where distance away from the entry point approximates depth, or it

can be in a mountain where adventurers work upwards. Outdoor adventures

can be in a ruined city or a town which seems normal but is under a curse, or

virtually anything which you can imagine and then develop into a playable

situation for your campaign participants.

Whatever you settle upon as a starting point, be it your own design or one of

the many modular settings which are commercially available, remember to have

some overall plan of your milieu in mind. The campaign might grow slowly, or it

might mushroom. Be prepared for either event with more adventure areas, and

the reasons for everything which exists and happens. This is not to say that total

and absolutely perfect information will be needed, but a general schema is

required. From this you can give vague hints and ambiguous answers. It is no

exaggeration to state that the fantasy world builds itself, almost as if the milieu

actually takes on a life and reality of its own. This is not to say that an occult

power takes over. It is simply that the interaction of judge and players shapes

the bare bones of the initial creation into something far larger. It becomes

fleshed out, and adventuring breathes life into a make-believe world. Similarly,

the geography and history you assign to the world will suddenly begin to shape

the character of states and peoples. Details of former events will become

obvious from mere outlines of the past course of things. Surprisingly, as the

personalities of player characters and non-player characters in the milieu are

bound to develop and become almost real, the nations and states and events of

a well-conceived AD&D world will take on even more of their own direction

and life. What this all boils down to is that once the campaign is set in motion,

you will become more of a recorder of events, while the milieu seemingly charts

its own course!

Thursday, 11 March 2021

Leaving the Sandbox

When the party are leaving the sandbox edges, I find it does not normally need a hard "You can't go that way". Instead I find the best technique is to shift GMing mode from detailed (eg hex by hex) to very broad-brush.

"You spend a week out beyond the Kurmanur Wilds, but there seems little of interest here."

Players don't take offence at being told a summary response to their actions. They can take offence at being told "You can't do that/go there".

Shifting mode is a very important GM technique, something we all do routinely (eg exploration-combat-downtime-social). I've only ever seen Justin Alexander give it much attention, but knowing how & when to shift is a particularly powerful tool in running non-linear campaigns.

Sunday, 28 February 2021

My 5e D&D Achievement XP Awards System

This is my current XP system for non-combat achievements, from getting through a difficult door to a diplomatic negotiation, finding hidden treasure, or significant exploration. It is similar to the 5e DMG suggested approach, but based off monster Challenge XP and awards are divided by Tier, not by Level. It gives increasing awards at higher levels, but advancement generally slows over time.

Low Level (Tier 1) XP awards (per PC)

Easy Achievement: 10 XP (Challenge 0)
Minor Achievement: 25 XP (Challenge 1/8) 
Moderate Achievement: 50 XP (Challenge 1/4)
Major Achievement: 100 XP (Challenge 1/2)
Very Hard Achievement: 200 XP (Challenge 1)
Exceptional Achievement: 450 XP (Challenge 2)

Mid Level (Tier 2) XP awards (per PC)
Easy 50 XP (Challenge 1/4)
Minor 100 XP (Challenge 1/2)
Moderate 200 XP (Challenge 1)
Major 450 XP (Challenge 2)
Very Hard 700 XP (Challenge 3)
Exceptional 1100 XP (Challenge 4)

High Level (Tier 3) XP awards (per PC) 
Easy 200 XP (Challenge 1)
Minor 450 XP (Challenge 2)
Moderate 700 XP (Challenge 3)
Major 1100 XP (Challenge 4)
Very Hard 1800 XP (Challenge 5)
Exceptional 2300 XP (Challenge 6)

Epic Level (Tier 4) XP awards (per PC) 
Easy 700 XP (Challenge 3)
Minor 1100 XP (Challenge 4)
Moderate 1800 XP (Challenge 5)
Major 2300 XP (Challenge 6)
Very Hard 2900 XP (Challenge 7)
Exceptional 5000 XP (Challenge 8)

XP awards tend to increase over time, as the scale of achievements increase. Acquiring significant treasure is usually worth some XP, as is rescuing prisoners, infiltrating a guarded keep, exploring a cavern network, etc. A typical session award for non-combat achievements might be 25 XP per PC at level 1, rising to ca 100 XP per PC at level 4.

PC Level - Typical Non-Combat Session Award (for extensive non-combat activities)
1 - 25
2 - 50
3 - 75
4 - 100
5 - 150
6 - 200
7 - 250
8 - 300
9 - 350
10 - 400
11 - 450
12 - 500
13 - 600
14 - 700
15 - 800
16 - 1000
17 - 1500
18 - 2000
19 - 2500

My 5e D&D Dominion System

 This uses a mix of 1e DMG, Mentzer Classic Companion Set, the 3e d20 Fields of Blood, and some ideas of my own, eg the mining survey system.

Territory Development

When characters clear and rule territory around a stronghold (at least 10 miles radius), they may receive a tax income of typically 5 silver pieces per inhabitant per month, plus any Resource income. High level Fighters, and some other classes, may also have a body of Followers come to serve them. A typical initial domain has 2-8 (2d4) hamlets, each with 101-400 (1d3x100 + 1d100) people. Politically this is, or is equivalent to, a minor Barony.

Typical Followers for PC Level 9+ ("Lord")

Warlord's Followers (roll d4 or choose)
(1). 20 light cavalry (9gp/m), ringmail & shield AC 16, longsword, hand axe, 3 javelins.
      100 heavy infantry (6gp/m), scale AC 15, halberd, club.
(2) 20 heavy infantry (6p/m), splint & shield AC 19, morningstar, hand axe.
      60 pike infantry (6gp/m), padded AC 12, long pike, short sword.
(3) 40 heavy crossbowmen (6gp/m), chain AC 16, heavy crossbow, shortsword
      20 light crossbowmen (6gp/m), chain AC 16, light crossbow, shortsword  
(4) 10 heavy cavalry (15gp/m), splint & shield AC 19, lance longsword & mace
      20 medium cavalry (12gp/m), scale & shield AC 17, lance longsword & mace
      30 light cavalry (9gp/m), studded & shield AC 15, lance & flail
Troops typically are veterans and use Mercenary stats (hp 16, ST+2 DE+1 CO+1), with adjustments for equipment as above.

Troop Commander (d4):
(1) MM Veteran, plate armour & shield, +2 battle axe
(2) MM Knight, plate armour & +1 shield+1 spear & +1 dagger
(3) MM Veteran+1 plate armour & shield, heavy +1 heavy crossbow of distance (rare, +50% range, short 150' long 600'), +1 longsword.
(4) MM Knight+1 plate & +1 shield+2 longsword, heavy warhorse with horseshoes of speed.
Commander Upkeep: 60gp/month

Troop Lieutenant (d4)
(1) Fighter-2, chain & shield AC 18, or splint & shield AC 19 if unit includes men so equipped.
(2)-(3) Fighter-3, splint & shield AC 19
(4) Fighter-4, plate & shield AC 20, +1 longsword
The Lieutenant can advance to Fighter-4 if initially below that level.

Alternate Followers
Rogue's Guild: 1d3 MM Spy, 2d3 MM Thug, 2d3 Rogue-1 (hp 10 DEX+3)
Wizard's Tower: 2d3 VGTM Apprentice Wizard, 2d6 Mercenary (hp 16 ST+2)
Priest's Temple: 1 MM Priest, 3d3 MM Acolyte, 2d6 Mercenary (hp 16 ST+2)
Druid's Grove: 1d2 MM Druid sc4, 2d3 Druid Acolyte sc1 (hp 9 WIS+2)
Bard's Company: 1d2 VGTM Bard sc4, 1d3 MM Spy, 1d3 Bard Apprentice sc1 (hp 9  CHA+2)
Barbarian's Holdfast: 1d2 MM Berserker, 20d6 MM Tribal Warrior, 2d3 Barbarian-1 (hp 14 ST+3)
Other classes typically acquire 1d3 1st level followers of the character's own class, eg a Fighter Lord may acquire 1d3 Fighter-1 (hp 12 ST+3).

Most strongholds will also attract an appropriate number of Commoners to serve the PC. A Wizard's Tower might have only 1d6, where a Warlord's fortress has 10d6 or more.
Losses of non-classed followers may typically be replaced at a rate of 5% of initial total per month, eg a force of 120 can replace 6/month.

Classed Followers
Classed followers may use a generic template as above, or may be created by the player using the standard PC rules (and may be played as a PC in lower level adventures). Classed followers are not replaced if lost, but every month there is a 10% chance to acquire one additional such follower. 
No character may ever have more classed followers (aka Henchmen) at once than their Charisma bonus +4 ; eg CHA 8 (-1) enables 3 such followers, while CHA 20 (+5) enables 9 such followers.

Realm Improvements

Magic Resources
Shrine (1 Acolyte sc1): 1,500gp & 5 weeks. Requires: Thorpe pop. 20
Church (1 Priest sc3, 1 Acolyte sc1): 4,500gp & 7 weeks. Requires: Hamlet pop.100 
Temple (1 Priest sc5, 2 Priest sc3, 4 Acolyte sc1): 15,000gp & 11 weeks. Requires: Village pop. 500 
Abbey (1 Abbott/Abbess sc5, 2 Senior Brother/Sister sc 3, 4 Monk/Nun sc 2, 8 Monk/Nun sc1): 50,000gp & 57 weeks. Requires: -
Cathedral (1 Bishop sc7, 2 Priest sc4, 4 Priest sc2, 8 Acolyte sc1):  42,000gp & 20 weeks. Requires: Small City pop. 6,000
Arcane Tower (1 Wizard sc3, 1 Apprentice Wizard sc1): 4,500gp & 8 weeks. Requires: -
Arcane Guild Hall (1 Wizard sc5, 2 Wizard sc3, 4 Apprentice Wizard sc1): 15,000gp & 14 weeks. Requires: Small Town pop. 1,500 
Arcane University (1 Mage sc9, 2 Wizard sc5, 4 Wizard sc3, 8 Apprentice Wizard sc1): 54,000gp & 31 weeks. Requires: Small City pop. 6,000

Mercantile & Administrative
Trading post (improves all Resource income by +10% in a 2 hex/20 mile radius): 5,000gp & 8 weeks. Requires: -
Guildhall (improves 1 Resource income by +20% in a 2 hex/20 mile radius): 5,000gp & 12 weeks. Requires Large Town pop. 3,000. 
Noble Estate with Manor, luxurious (improves Tax income by +10% in a 2 hex/20 mile radius): 25,000gp & 21 weeks. Requires: -
Imperial Palace (improves Tax income by +10% across entire dominion): 500,000gp & 3 years. Requires: -

Tower/Broch: 10,000gp & 12 weeks. Can hold 30 infantry.
Motte & Bailey: 20,000gp & 18 weeks. Can hold 60 infantry.
Small Castle: 40,000gp & 30 weeks. Can hold 125 infantry.
Large Castle: 80,000gp & 45 weeks. Can hold 250 infantry.
Fortress: 160,000gp & 60 weeks. Can hold 500 infantry.
Citadel: 320,000gp & 90 weeks. Can hold 1,000 infantry.
One light cavalry = 3 infantry. One medium or heavy cavalry = 4 infantry.

Manor Resource Improvements
At Manor Scale, 1 hex = 2 miles. For Baronial Scale (1 hex = 10 miles) multiply costs & incomes by x10.
25gp/month = 300gp/year. 50gp/month =600gp/year.
Mine (requires valuable minerals): cost 2d4x100gp, income +1d6x100gp/month. Population +2d4
Smelter (requires Mine): cost 1,000gp, income +2d4x10gp/month. Population +2d4
Logging Camp (requires Forest**): cost 1,000gp, income +1d4x10gp/month. Population +4d4
Sawmill (requires Logging Camp): cost 2,000gp, income +2d4x10gp/month. Population +2d4
Improved Farmland (requires Plains***): cost 2,000gp, income +2d4x10gp/m. Population +4d4
Fishing Ship (requires Sea): cost 2,000gp, income +2d4x10gp/m. Population +2d4

*Typically a 1 in 6 chance there is a mining resource per two mile hex. With one surveyor a survey takes 1 month (& a typical 30gp hireling cost) per 2 mile hex, requires a character with Miner's Tools Proficiency or equivalent and a successful proficiency (INT) check at a DC of 5+1d10 (1e: 4 in 6 chance of success).
If a resource is discovered, the GM rolls 1d6, or selects:
1: clay or stone quarry 100gp/m
2: lead or coal mine 200gp/m
3: copper or oil/tar mine 300gp/m
4: silver or tin mine 400gp/m
5: gold mine or marble quarry 500gp/m
6: platinum or gemstone mine 600gp/m

**One two mile hex, approx 3.5 sq m of forest.
***One square mile of arable land.

Baronial Domains

Resources per hex (Baronial Scale, 1 hex = 10 miles across, approx 85 sq m)
1: 1 resource
2-7: 2 resources
8-9: 3 resources
10: 4 resources

Resource Type
1-3 Animal (eg dairy, fish, fowl, furs, bees, horses, ivory, beef, pork)
4-8 Vegetable (eg farm produce, foodstuffs, oil, fodder, wood & timber, paper, wine)
9-10 Mineral (as above)

Baronial Income (per 10 mile hex, a domain has 1+ hexes).
Taxes: 5 sp/person/month (unlimited)
Animal Resource: 10 sp/person/month, max 1d4x1,000 (2,500) gp/month per hex.
Vegetable Resource: 5 sp/person/month, max 1d6x1,000 (3,500) gp/month per hex.
Mineral Resource: 15 sp/person/month, max 1d8x1,000gp (4,500) gp/month per hex.

The maximum resource income for a 10-mile domain hex thus varies from 1,000gp/month, to 32,000gp/month!

Thursday, 13 August 2020

5e: Old School Foes

I wanted some traditional-feeling enemies for a low power 5e D&D campaign - while keeping elements of the 5e flavour. I came up with the following.

CR PB +2
ATT:    Damage:

Orc (Pig-faced) | Scifi fantasy art, Pig face, Fantasy art


Kobold Mook
CR 0 (10 XP) PB +2
AC  10/12 w shield HP 2 (d6-1)
ST -3 DE +0 CO -1 IN -1 WI -2 CH -2
Dagger (1h) or kobold spear (1h): Melee Weapon Attack: +2 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 2 (1d4) piercing damage. Spear does 1d6 2-handed.
Sling (2h loading): Ranged Weapon Attack: +2 to hit, range 30/120 ft., one target. Hit: 2 (1d4) bludgeoning damage.
Sunlight Sensitivity: While in sunlight, the kobold has disadvantage on Attack rolls, as well as on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight.
Pack Tactics: The kobold has advantage on an Attack roll against a creature if at least one of the kobold's allies is within 5 ft. of the creature and the ally isn't Incapacitated.


Pig Orc
CR 1/8 (25 XP) PB +2
AC 14/16 (ringmail, shield) HP 11
ST +1 DE +0 CO +1 IN -1 WI +0 CH -1
Spear, Hand Axe or Scimitar ATT: +3  Damage: 1d6+1
Halberd or Glaive (2h) ATT+3 Damage 1d10+1, reach 10'
Flail, Longsword or Battle Axe ATT +3 Damage 1d8+1
Light Crossbow (2h) ATT +2 Damage 1d8 range 80'/320'

Goblin Minion
CR 1/8 (25 XP) PB +2
AC 13/15 (hide, shield)  HP 7
ST -1 DE +1 CO +0 IN -1 WI -1 CH -1
Skills: Stealth+5
Goblin Dagger ATT: +3  Damage: 1d4+1 
Goblin Spear (1h or 2h) ATT +3 Damage: 1d4+1/1d6+1
Shortbow (2h) ATT: +3 Damage: 1d6+1 range 80'/320'
Nimble Escape: Disengage or Hide as bonus action.


Hobgoblin Grunt
CR 1/4 (50 XP) PB +2
AC 15/17 (scale, shield) HP 11
ST +1 DE +1 CO +1 IN -1 WI -1 CH -1
Spear or Scimitar ATT: +3  Damage: 1d6+1 (2d6+1 with Martial Advantage)
Heavy Crossbow (2h) ATT +3 Damage 1d10+1
Martial Advantage: Once per turn the hobgoblin can deal an extra 1d6 damage to a creature it hits with a melee weapon attack if that creature is within 5' of an ally of the hobgoblin that isn't incapacitated.

Human Brigand
CR 1/4 (50 XP) PB +2
AC 14/16 (ring or chain shirt, shield) HP 16
ST +2 DE +1 CO +1 IN +0 WI +0 CH +0
Longsword, Flail or Battle Axe ATT: +4  Damage: 1d8+2/2-h 1d10+2
Heavy crossbow (2h) ATT+3 Damage 1d10+1 range 100'/400'

Human Guard Corporal 
CR 1/4 (50 XP) PB +2
AC 16/18 (chainmail, shield) HP 16
ST +2 DE +0 CO +1 IN +0 WI +0 CH +0
Skills: Perception +2
Halberd (2h) ATT: +4 Damage: 1d10+2, reach 10'
Spear ATT +4 Damage 1d6+2, 2h 1d8+2.
Mace ATT +4 Damage 1d6+2 blunt - Subdual
Heavy Crossbow (2h) ATT +2 Damage 1d10 range 80'/320'
Subdual: an opponent reduced to 0 hp by guard's mace, but not killed outright, is unconscious & stable.

Tuesday, 14 July 2020

Running Mini Six

In response to a query from Melan/Gabor Lux.

The main campaign page for my Mini Six Primeval Thule game, including some house rules (like shields add to parry/block not soak) -

15 sessions in so far. I've been mostly running it online text chat recently, so there are some full session logs, eg - session opens with a fight between PCs and Berbalangs and there's a spellcasting lizardman shaman PC so you can see the magic system in action. So far we've played through Palace of the Silver Princess and are now playing Halls of Tizun Thane. Dungeon crawls seem to work fantastically well in Mini Six; there's not a lot of routine attrition to track but there's always a fear that any fight could be your last, so PCs avoid unnecessary combat. I used standard starting PC attribute & skill levels (which is pretty powerful, feels like about 5th level in D&D) and the recommended advancement of 3-7 CP/session, more to the low end for online sessions, which feels like a nice rate.

One thing I learned to do different from the book; I automatically hand out a Hero Point at the end of every full session. I rarely give them in-session, though I may give bonus CP. I find this works best; HP are a nice resource to both save and spend. In this session a player who'd been hoarding his HP blew all 6 on a single attack (3 on to hit, 3 on damage) - and destroyed the unkillable Night Thing.

Here's a thread I started back in February when I'd just begun the game!-%28WEG-Star-Wars-et-al%29&highlight=Mini+Six