The Jarnheim Campaign – Characters

Jarnheim characters should be of the driven, desperate, bold, and colorful type prevalent in pulp sword and sorcery novels. Genre archetypes should be used and exploited to the fullest. More often than not, pulp characters are opportunistic outsiders, shady types with few scruples, but usually with at least one redeeming quality. They might also be of the more traditional heroic type, but with definite character flaws. The key thing here is shades of grey instead of pitch black or purest white. The world in which they live is hard, unforgiving and dangerous. Things like war, famine, and disease are commonplace. What drives people to adventuring is often pure desperation.

Character generation is as per the standard LotFP rules, except demi-humans should be even rarer than the LotFP norm. Characters start out as ordinary people, who’ve recently started out on an adventuring career. As the characters are adults, they all have professions learned prior to adventuring. This profession is either chosen by the player, or rolled randomly on the secondary skills table on p. 21 of the Labyrinth Lord Advanced Edition Companion.

Regarding the character classes:

The Fighter and the Specialist are quite self-explanatory, and versatile enough to come from any kind of character background, although Specialists tend to lean towards more urbane backgrounds. Fighters are often former guardsmen, or militia in the service of a local lord. Either class might also have free company, scout, huntsman or outlaw -type backgrounds.

Clerics are devout fighting-men in the service of their chosen god or gods. Jarnheim Clerics mostly come in two varieties: The wandering holy men, who need no churches or temples for their faith, and the Templar Knights of the Faith of the White God, which is the most prevalent faith among the civilized people of Jarnheim.

The two most common types of Magic-Users in Jarnheim are the scholarly occultist, and the wild-eyed hedge wizard. The former might for instance be the atheist dilettante who dabbles with powers with whom no man should dabble, while the latter might be the wild-eyed worshipper of the raw forces of chaos from which the world and everything in it was formed.

Players should think of a reason why his character became an adventurer. Characters should also have goals and motivations, which can be as intricate or as loosely defined as the player wishes. One last detail: Characters should have one or more distinguishing features, which can be related to looks, style, mannerisms, opinions, idioms, knacks, habits, or anything the player can think of that helps the player bring the character to life during play.

Now all that remains is determining how the player characters met each other, why they decided to stick together, what the characters know about the area where the adventure starts, and what rumors, clues, and knowledge they have about possible adventuring locations.

I’m aiming at getting this thing rolling some time in 2011. All I need now are the players.

More Weird Fantasy at Tapiolan Pelikauppa

Today was our second in-store role-playing game session, this one also refereed by Jim Raggi, and word of mouth had evidently gotten around, as we had three new people show up in addition to the two guys who were there last time. The module Jim ran was one of the three in No Dignity in Death: The Three Brides. Jim’s musings on the topic can be read here.

This time around we had enough players from the get-go, so the game got underway sans store employees. The characters rolled up were a fighter, a dwarf, a cleric, and two elves. After closing up shop, I joined them with my slightly villainous, and completely unscrupulous Magic-User from last session, Professor Tesla Moriarty of the University of Grallides.

What I found was an adventuring party who’d managed to go adventuring without any proper equipment at all. You know; lanterns, torches, rope, that sort of things. Not surprisingly, the game session left the party in shambles, with three dead, and the rest running for dear life. Nevertheless, a good time was had by all, and I’m sure these guys will learn the ropes once they get some more experience with this type of gaming. I’m actually not that surprised at their lack of preparedness, as most modern role-playing games tend to treat equipment which isn’t in the category weapon, armor, or magic item as character decoration, with a game effect of slim to none.

Next session in two weeks!

The Jarnheim Campaign – A Prelude

The forest was dark and foreboding, the trees heavy with a thick blanket of snow. It had been a long time since the fur-swathed man had felt the warmth of a hearth, or filled his belly with food. The wind carried the howls of starving wolves, closer now than mere minutes ago. How had he ended up in this unforgiving land, he thought to himself. Why had he left behind his family and home?

It had been late in autumn, when the Adventurers had arrived, mail coats covered in grime, and steel strapped to their belts, but with purses and satchels heavy with loot. They had glanced at the gathered villagers with contempt; what pitiful wretches they must have seemed to these wandering fortune-seekers. “Bring us your ale, your food, and your wenches”, one of them had called out, “We will pay you in Gold Coin!”

Later they told stories about treasure-laden dungeons, ripe for the plunder. The villagers thought to themselves, these be crazy folk, mayhap of a dangerous and bloodthirsty sort, so better to still tongues, accommodate, and hope they are gone the next morning. One of the villagers, however, sought to listen to these tall tales of easy riches and glory. What a way this would be to escape the toils of a simple farmer! What riches he would find! How happy and proud he’d make his family! And so, when the adventurers set off the next morning, he went with them.

What a fool he had been, he now thought. There had been no treasure, nor glory to be found. In that tower of dark stone they had found only Death, and here he was now, freezing, starved, and soon to be dinner for wolves. What a fool he had been!

There was a light ahead, as cast by a campfire. First only glimpsed between tall firs, then brighter as he strode closer. Closer still, his heart raced, as his feet pumped the snow. Soon he came upon a shrouded clearing, and at the campfire, three men huddled. Clothed in mail, steel at their hips. Adventurers also, no doubt.

D&D 3.5 Mega-Adventures Old School Style

I have a problem of sorts.

I don’t have a regular game of my own at the moment. There are a few reasons (that I can think of) for this, but one I’ve recently been ruminating on relates to players I’ve gamed with quite a lot with in past years. See, I like this thing called old school, which to me says freedom, rules-light, adventure, and fun, and to many others it says simplistic rules, cardboard characters, narrow focus on killing monsters and looting. As you might have guessed already, the people with whom I used to game a lot are of the latter opinion.

So I got this idea of running one of the published D&D 3.5 or Pathfinder RPG Mega-Adventures (or Adventure Paths as Paizo likes to call them) using an old school rules system. Now, I realize this would mean some heavy-duty converting, as the differences in the old school rules systems and 3.5 aren’t “just the rules mechanics”. In fact, the whole play style is so radically different I’d have to rewrite pretty much everything except the basic backstory and the setting. I’d have to do away with everything even remotely resembling a pre-ordained plot, as in my view having a railroad of events is anathema to anything calling itself old school. The question arises: Why in Hell would I want to go through all that trouble, when what’s most likely to happen is the players doing the usual player thing of doing anything but going along nicely with the material at hand?

There are a few reasons. The Paizo adventure path material is (for the most part) quite good, and I since I’ve spent hard-earned money on buying the books, I should find a use for them, even though I can’t stomach the rules system they were written for anymore. Another reason would obviously be to bring some of the lost sheep back into the fold, and show them how old school games can be used to run an interesting, long-running, epic fantasy campaign, which doesn’t concentrate on clearing 10´by 10´rooms of orcs, and getting killed by random and instantly deadly traps.

Now the question arises which Paizo adventure path or mega-dungeon, or other long D&D fantasy epic campaign should I use for this project. Do you have any suggestions or recommendations, preferably with commentary on why that particular one, and how you’d go about making it Old School?

Edit: A more recent post I wrote has relevance the topic of this one. For anyone interested in the topic, it might be worth checking out: Lamentations of the Whispering Tyrant.