Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Celtic Game: Tribes

PCs have to be human, but there are several different tribes to choose from. Most are directly inspired by (stolen from) the Slaine comic, although the Picts are lifted from Robert E. Howard's stories (check out Bran Mak Morn).  Its ok for players to be from different tribes because it was common to foster children with a different tribe--much like medieval lords.  In the campaign I ran, two players were Sessair and two were without a tribe, and when a fifth player joined later he was from Midgard. 

There are four main tribes of the earth goddess, and some smaller groups closely related.
Sessair—The Tribe that Stands Up.  This tribe takes the Celtic warrior ideal to the extreme.  They fight with no armor, and are known to take wounds just to prove how tough they are.  Their tempers are just as renowned as their honor and hospitality.  
Finians—The Tribe that Endures.  While they fight as well as any, this tribe’s true strength lies in defense.  Known for their uncaring acceptance of hardship and hunger, they have a reputation of being serious and depressing.  Their rocky homeland provides ideal fortress walls, but precious little food.  Hope you like oats and turnips.
Falians—The Tribe of Shadows.  They paint their bodies black and prefer to fight at night.  Some say they are cursed, perhaps haunted by their own ill deeds.  Certainly they are prone to moon-madness (lunacy) and avoid the sun more than they should.
Fir Domain—The Tribe of the Growling Shields.  They fight with more discipline than other tribes, using battle roars to terrify enemies and marching slowly and menacingly into battle rather than charging.  This military training comes from being surrounded on all sides by enemies.
Fir Bolg—Primitive cousins of the Fir Domain, they use crude weapons and worship the Horned God, Carnun, above all others.  Their wild hunts have been known to take down both dangerous beasts and unlucky men caught in their path.
Picts—A small, dark-skinned race far older than even the Celts, they carry an ancient racial hatred of the Celts’ ancestors.  Once a great people, now they have degenerated to savages, haunting the dark corners of the world.  Any trespassers are unlikely to see them before being brought down by a silent arrow or dark blade.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Celtic Game: Races

I didn't want my Celtic game to be full of typical fantasy races like elves, dwarves and orcs. At the same time, making everyone play a standard human can be kind of boring and ignores the awesome racial abilities available in 4E. So I gave the players the advantages of both--some of the human racial traits, and additional traits from other races. Note that this list was written right after the PHB2 came out, so it doesn't include more recent racial abilities.

The only race available is human.  The tribes of Tir Nan Og are remnants of sunken Atlantis, although they have mixed their blood with the many peoples of the continent.  The Tribes are more concerned with cultural heritage than blood ancestry, so folk of all appearances are found among their ranks.
Humans get +2 to two ability scores, an extra feat and trained skill at first level, and one major and one minor trait off of the list:
Major Traits
Accuracy:  You rarely miss.  You can use the elf power Elven Accuracy as an encounter power.  
Changeling:  You can use the doppelganger power Change Shape as an encounter power.
Child of Darkness:  You have a touch of dark fey blood, or perhaps you were born during an eclipse.  Once per encounter you can use the drow power Cloud of Darkness or Darkfire.
Dilettante:  At 1st level, you choose an at-will power from a class different from yours.  You can use that power as an encounter power.
Furious Assault:  You can use the half-orc power Furious Assault as an encounter power.
Hide of Bronze:  You can use the goliath power Stone’s Endurance as an encounter power.
Memory of a Another Lifetime:  You have been reborn from death before.  You can use the deva power Memory of a Thousand Lifetimes as an encounter power.
Otherworld Step:  You can step briefly into the Otherworld and step out in a different space. You can use the eladrin power Fey Step as an encounter power.
Second Chance:  You can use the halfling power Second Chance as an encounter power.
Shake It Off:  You can use the hobgoblin power Hobgoblin Resiliency as an encounter power.
Spiral Energy Surge:  Your body is marked with a scar or birthmark similar to a weirdstone mark, and you can channel Earth Power into a violent blast.  You can use the dragonborn power Dragon Breath as an encounter power.
Training:  You know an extra at-will power from your class.
Minor Traits
Berserker Resilience:  The first time you are bloodied during an encounter, you gain 5 temporary hit points. (10 hp at 11th level, 15 hp at 21st level)
Bear’s Toughness:  You can use your second wind as a minor action.
Blood Fury: When you’re bloodied, you gain a +1 bonus to attack rolls.
Bloodhunt:  You gain a +1 bonus to attack rolls against bloodied foes.
Educated:  You have an extra trained skill.
Eidetic Memory:  When you make any knowledge check, roll twice and take the best result.  This cannot be used when making a skill check for a ritual.
Infernal Wrath:  You can use the tiefling power Infernal Wrath as an encounter power.
Mighty Build:  Your oversized body allows you to use a two-handed weapon in one hand.
Powerful Athlete:  When you make an Athletics check to jump or climb, roll twice and take the best result.
Self-Reliant:  +1 to Fortitude, Reflex and Will Defenses.
Quick Step:  Your base speed is 7 instead of 6.
Stand Your Ground:  When an effect forces you to move—through a push, a pull, or a slide—you can move 1 square less than the effect states.  Also, if you are knocked prone you can make an immediate saving throw to avoid falling prone.
Untiring:  Add your Constitution modifier to your healing surge value.
Wild Step:  You ignore difficult terrain when shifting.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Celtic Game Intro

Lazy post--I'm gonna show some stuff I wrote up for a 4E Celtic game I ran, heavily influenced by the Slaine comics. 

Tir Nan Og is the legendary Celtic Land of the Young, so named because few live to old age.  It combines the mythical ancestors of the Celts with prehistoric facts, thousands of years ago at the end of the Ice Age.  You are members of the Tribes of the Earth Goddess, proud warriors who honor the deities of earth and sky.  You are surrounded by enemies:  the Fomor sea devils, berserkers from Midgard, and the vile Drune lords who warp earth power to their own ends.  And when no enemies are present the Tribes gladly fight amongst each other!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Social Aspect of RPGs

I've been thinking a lot about different play styles for different groups of gamers. It seems really important that everybody is on the same page when it comes to playing style. When you think about it, there are lots of variations of playing outside of the actual rules of the system.

How much roleplaying do you do? Do you talk in character a lot? How much table-talk goes on? When a rule disagreement comes up, do you take as long as it needs to resolve it or hand-waive it to keep the pace moving? How much freedom do the players have to create their characters? Do you require backgrounds? How do you feel about PCs with silly names?

These and other issues can have a big impact on the game, but aren't addressed much. Most DM advice you see focuses on rules and setting development. That's great, but RPGs are a social activity and often that gets overlooked. Really, RPGs are pretty unique as a social game because it has a continuity in story and group. Its different from sitting down to play a board game with friends. Players get invested in the game, the campaign, their characters.

I'm going to try to focus on this aspect some more in the future. I know Robin D. Laws has some good stuff to say about really bringing the social, cooperative aspects of the game to the forefront (and he has some good advice in the DMG2).

Another good post I came across just now discusses possible DM traits based on the RIASEC career path model we all took a test on in high school. I think I fall firmly in the Artistic style. I definitely look at DMing as a creative outlet. I like designing campaign worlds and monsters. I can be disorganized and chaotic. I look at the rules as guidelines for creating an experience, and I'm willing to bend them.

Its easy to fall in the trap of building a campaign without taking the players and their characters into account. I'm trying to work on that, especially since I'm new to this group of players. I also assume that differences in play style will work themselves out easily, and finding that's not always the case. Its hard to discuss some of these things up front because there isn't a good vocabulary for a lot of it, and people have different standards based on prior experience. Also, gamers in general aren't the best at social skills. I'm an introvert and hate confrontation, I'd rather not confront issues head-on. But when things bother me they build up and eventually I lose my temper. People can get very defensive about how they view their game--just read any edition war thread online and you see how hostile people get.

Anyway, this is starting to ramble. One last thing: some podcast or blog (can't remember which one) talked about the unwritten social contract of gaming, and I think it needs to be written.
The DM promises to be fair and provide an entertaining game. The players promise to respect the DM's game and respect the other players right to enjoy the game.
Something like that. Keep it friendly.