War and How to Wage It

March 29th, 2009

rpgblogcarnivallogoMarch’s RPG Blog Carnival on War, hosted by The Book of Rev, will soon be drawing to a close. Before it does, here’s that post I promised about war within a fantasy setting.  The typical D&D campaign is set in a fantastic version of late-medieval to early-Renaissance Europe, so that’s the setting I’m considering.  Gunpowder isn’t a factor, but magic and mythological creatures are.  This is bound to change the way a war is conducted.

For instance, let’s take castles and fortifications.  These are, essentially, walls.  Walls can prove very effective at protecting one army from another, helping to defend a strategic point even against larger forces.  They’re cover for allies and an obstacle to enemies.  Confronted with a strong castle full of defenders, many armies of the middle ages were forced to respond with besiegement — what could be a long process of waiting for the defenders’ supplies to run out, or for their commanders to make a mistake.  The other major option, if the enemy could not be drawn out, was the use of siege engines, devices intended to breach or circumvent the walls.

But in a game like Dungeons & Dragons, a siege might not make sense.  If the army has a complement of flying creatures, for instance, walls become much less of an obstacle.  Similarly, there are many creatures that can teleport or tunnel.  What impact would this have on the game world?

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The Pieces of Gestalt

March 27th, 2009

gestalt_middleImagine a world in which personifications of concepts — Archetypes such as Winter, Death, and Determination — existed, having sprung to life in 1989.  Now imagine that, in this world, a fairly large number of these personifications, these living symbols, chose to put on colorful costumes and become superheroes and supervillains.  That’s the high concept of Scott Bennie’s campaign setting Gestalt: the Hero Within, which I was able to review thanks to Ed Healy of Atomic Array.

In some ways, this is not such a stretch for a superhero game.  As Bennie writes in his introduction to the first chapter, “[a]ll fiction deals in archetypes, [and] comic books apply these symbols more consciously than other fictional forms.”  The statement might be open for debate, but clearly comic books deal with archetypes.  Bennie intends for Gestalt to go one step further, though:  the characters are not making use of those archetypes; instead, the characters are the archetypes.  The Gestalt (Bennie’s name for such a living symbol) of Winter might have cold and ice powers, but he’s not just a guy with cold and ice powers — he’s a living representation of Winter.  The Gestalt of Murder isn’t just a common serial killer, or even an uncommon one — he’s Murder personified.

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Review: Player’s Handbook 2

March 26th, 2009

phb2coverThe Player’s Handbook 2 has been out for a week or so now, with sneak previews running about a week before that in several roleplaying blogs, but I’ve got some musings about where it takes the game.  Before that, though, I offer my brief review:  It’s partly silly and mostly good.  Here’s a more specific rundown:

It’s got 5 new races, 8 new classes, and a bunch of new feats, magic items, rituals, and epic destinies.  (It’s also got a couple pages of errata, notably the new Stealth rules, but that’s not really the focus here.)  The classes include two divine, two arcane, and four primal, and, at least at first read, seem to compare reasonably to those in the first PHB, being neither too much stronger nor too much weaker in general.  The races are a mixed bag.  The content as a whole is a mix of new material and updated versions of old favorites.

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I’m a Monster! Rawr!

March 23rd, 2009

Trampling the latest blog meme to the ground, I present:  The Dreaming Butterfly, following the jump.

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A Harvest of Men: In Play

March 23rd, 2009

rpgblogcarnivallogoMy proof-of-concept session for my war system finally came around.  I’ll let the example take center stage:

The PCs were a second-level party of four, including a fighter, a ranger, a wizard, and a warlord.  While on their way back to the village of Bridenford from a nearby ruin they’d been exploring, they happened across an orcish scouting party.  Defeating the orcs, they found a message speaking of battle plans — Bridenford was in danger!  Swiftly, they returned to warn the villagers.

The villagers were mostly untrained for war, of course, but they were rugged folk, used to wresting a living from the rather poor land and from the forest nearby.  Many weren’t a bad shot with the bow, and some turned the tools of their trades into weapons, using axes or improvised polearms.  (+5 to the DC for sub-par melee weapons and lack of useful armor.) Furthermore, they had leadership in the form of Daros Whitebeard, formerly a marshal of the king’s legions.  Now he was a bent and lame old man, but his mind remained as keen as ever.  (Overall leadership bonus:  +5 — +4 Int, +1 for Daros’ level 6.)

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