Hero Forge

Attention Players with too much money on your hands! A company called Hero Forge is marketing custom Minis!

This is cool, you just play around with the program, make it look like your character, and then you can pay to have Hero Forge cast the mini in plastic and send it right to your door!

I think that everybody has that ONE character that they had played that was worthy of casting in bronze. I’ve got lots of favorites, but I think that my most preferred is a Thief called Leggus. She was one of my first PCs and I got her up to pretty high levels before she had fallen victim to her arch-enemy, which was a bummer. I played her under several DM’s, including a DM who would be my future wife. Would I spend over 10 dollars to have her cast? Well, no. But this is still a novel idea.

Playing With Fire

The AD&D system doesn’t have rules for every situation, but by sticking to the Core Rule system, we can always use them to establish our own. For instance a building catches on fire with characters inside of it. This scenario is going to need lots of logic on the DMs part, but I think that I have the basics covered. If you see any holes, kind readers, please let me know.

I’ve got two different methods to handling this situation; let’s do the hard way first.
A building constructed with normal planks has the structural hp of 10. (Source: Player’s Option: Combat & Tactics)

 FIRST ROUND: Save vs. Mag. Fire: failure = structure fire, building loses 2d3 structure hp, or half damage with successful save.  (2d6 is in the DMG but this seems too much to me, so I cut it in half)

SECOND ROUND: structure takes 1d3 points of damage, if save was successful, half damage.
Third Round: If save was successful, must make a Save vs. Normal Fire, if this save is successful the fire goes out, if it fails, the structure takes 1 point of damage per round until it is either extinguished or its hp is gone, at which point the building falls down.

  • ·         Attacker can add more oil or fuel to the fire, and cause another saving throw vs Magic Fire.

  • ·         People still in building when it burns down must save vs. death. Failure = death. Success = 2d6 of damage the first round, character runs blindly outside by the fastest possible means,  1d6 the second.

  • ·         Assume all items are destroyed. If a specific item is in question, it may make a saving throw vs. magic fire. Item will be damaged, but not destroyed if it makes its save.

  • ·         Under some circumstances, a saving throw vs. normal fire is applicable (i.e. throwing a torch into a building with oil on the floor may land on a table, or sit funny so that fire doesn’t start). Once oil catches on fire, it is treated as a magical fire until the fuel is consumed, which takes 2 rounds.

  • ·         Use logic to attempts to put out the fire. A wall that is burning cannot be put out by non-magical means, without lots of water.

  • ·         A structure won’t fall down on the first round, regardless of hp consumed. A building with 0hp is out of control, and cannot be put out or saved. It may still stand in some form. Use logic!

  • ·         This is a none-direct attack and players who use this method do not acquire XP for every creature that dies inside. Players who do use this method of attack, depending on their alignment, and the situation, may lose their current alignment at the discretion of the DM.

  • ·         Characters who survive being burned from getting trapped in a structure fire will be scarred, even if critical damage systems aren’t used.

  • ·         Those inside of a building while it is burning may be subject to heat or smoke damage, a person who is on fire takes 2d6 of damage, radiated heat or smoke damage might cause half of that, depending on the intensity of the fire, I’d say that it would be anywhere from 1d2 to 1d6. However if we are going by the movies (which we probably are) then only dish out damage to failed saving throws , because lets face it, sword fights that take place in burning buildings are awesome!

I suppose that the fire serving the story that you are telling works best of all. Ignore these rules and just start the fire, and write a detailed chain of events to guide you through the process. Have key items and/or locations be on fire and write how and when the fire spreads. Rules be damned!
I would be interested to hear about any play testing or get some tips from other DM’s who have ran similar scenarios.
Now, before we wrap this up, we should discuss barrels of oil. The PHB says that oil is purchased by Flask, but this wouldn’t work for shipping, or for evil wizards, dungeon keepers, castle dwellers and the like. They would purchase it by the barrel, or by the tun (a smaller barrel like the kind you’d get beer out of).  By using the weight of the lamp oil, we could fit 30 flasks of oil in a small barrel and the average price would be 38sp. Greek Fire (if available) would contain 15 flasks and cost 152gp both of them would weigh at least 60lbs.
Large barrels of Greek Fire would run double that and weigh at least 120lbs. but as they say, sieges aren’t cheap! Of course, a warrior who has gotten a siege or two under his belt, with the right materials, may be able to turn normal lamp oil into Greek Fire. Goblinoid creatures of some intelligence and resourcefulness could probably make some too, course it wouldn’t be a good as the stuff that a man at arms would hurl at a fortress wall, but it would be good enough to burn down a serfs house or two. A giant with a stolen wagon of the stuff could be a nightmare! It isn’t something that would be an every day thing, as this would change the world away from what we and our characters want to play in, but it would make some encounters that more memorable!

Town & City Building 101

Medieval town by Hetman80
Writing up towns can be a spooky task for the DM, but it really shouldn’t be. Towns are actually one of the best rewards that we get! Free and creative writing! Well, how about writing major cities? We are talking about an even bigger task! But fear not friends, All we need is a plan.
There is a quick formula that I always use for creating towns, which I got from the Forgotten Realms Adventures book by Jeff Grubb and Ed Greenwood. Now I am new to the Realms, but I am not new to this book. A friend of mine let me look at it years ago to help me pick my first character’s religion, I fell in love and bought the book and have always used it as a trusty DM tool, namely for the formula which I’m about to talk about. The book served me better then most of them combined! I highly recommend getting it. Not only does it help with city building, but it aids in religion building and has a couple of treasure tables that is far superior to anything in the Dungeon Master’s guide.
I’m going to let you in on a secret about city maps. They aren’t for Dungeon Masters. You don’t want to sit there and label everything; it is a colossal waste of time. Nobody wants to slow the game down to a dungeon crawl speed, not unless a major attack is going to take place on one of the streets, or some such scenario where you need to know exactly what is where (but that is where smaller maps come into play) so for this exercise, we don’t really need a detailed map. Of course, if you are playing in an established setting, such as Greyhawk or Forgotten Realms, then it is best to see what is out there. Maybe some strange module came with a map of the place? Or another DM built one, you never know and it only takes a moment or two.
A map can be helpful during this stage, and if you are going to generate one, now is probably the time to do so.  Don’t put anything on the map that is too revealing, because when it comes to game day, you’ll just be throwing the thing at the PC’s anyway, so that they can get a better idea of how to see the city.
Of course the most important part of the mapping process is finding your location on your big map. This leads us to our very first question that we have to ask ourselves.
“Why is this place here?”
Available Resources
A good rule of thumb for everything that you add to your map is that small towns produce raw goods. The more raw goods a town produces, the larger it can be. Larger cities buy the raw goods and produce finished goods.
What is out there? If a village is in the mountains, they must be mining something, in the forest, wood. Do they grow a spice? Dig clay? Form bricks? Once we got an idea of how they get money, we have to figure out how a small town moves the raw goods to a city. The most common answer is WATER! A river is the main ingredient for a successful town. If a city is on the Ocean, its chances of being large are extremely good, but if it also has river access, this town is going to be colossal because of shipping.
Shipping raw goods down river is always preferable and cheaper then shipping them by road.
This just helps us establish size and population. Once we know this then we can draw up a quick and very brief map, or, if we have a map already, then we can figure out how much money the town can gain access too and we are off to the Magic Formula!
The Magic Formula
For this step I recommend putting your computer away and grabbing the old-school DMs best friend, a common notebook. It is common for our initial answers to these questions to change as we write, so none of this is final. We are going to use this information to write up our outline.
  • Who rules:
  • Who really rules:
  • Population:
  • Major Products:
  • Armed Forces:
  • Notable Mages:
  • Notable Churches:
  • Notable Rogues’ and Thieves’ Guilds:
  • Equipment Shops:
  • Adventurers’ Quarters:
  • Important Characters:
  • Important Features in Town:
  • Local Lore:
No matter how big or small a community, AWAYS use this summery. This is stuff that you’ll have to know to make your life easier. Also pay close attention to what your PCs will be interested in, we’ll want to add color, but we need this place to be functional too. Of course we don’t need to get overly complex here. You can spend the rest of your life creating every NPC that lives in this place, but you’ll never use it all. As long and as drawn out as we are going to get, this still must remain a sketch.
Some of these items need some explaining.
Unless it is noted, always assume that 100% of the population is human. If this isn’t true, then we have to make a notation. Are there elves, dwarfs, or some other demi-race that lives here along with the humans? Is it a city just for the demi-race, or is it mixed, and why. The why may come up later in local lore.
We are not writing “Anytown, USA”. We need to think of something that sets this place apart. While not that important for tiny little villages; the larger the population, the more important that it is.
This also sets up the history of the place: Where it came from, how it succeeds (if it is or not), this section will grow as you write. For our first draft, just write a couple of suggestions to yourself to guide you in fleshing the place out, though, I’ve abandoned some of my original ideas completely once I got going.
We need to create the NPCs which the PCs are likely to have to deal with. People who have push in the town. If a town doesn’t have a mage, then just write: none. If it does, then why is he there? What does he do? If the place has no church it probably has a shrine and somebody to maintain it. What gods are important to these people? Don’t get too carried away! Even large cities won’t have churches to the entire pantheon! They will have a couple of major gods (possible just one) and a few minor shrines. Churches will change the way the town or city functions, if not the entire area around them so be careful with them.
For our brief outline we want to keep it simple. The equipment list assumes that it is a huge city. If it is, then it will be FULL/Normal. But for smaller towns and hamlets, they are probably limited to things that they use to acquire their raw goods (which would be affordable), and things that you can put a cap on; for instance we’ll put a 50gp cap on the town, they don’t sell anything over this amount. The prices for this stuff will also be a bit higher then listed in the PHB as well, any where from 25% to 100% increase. Also keep in mind that seasons effect items availability too. For our outline, we’ll just keep it to terms like Partial, and Cheap or Expensive. We’ll fill in the specific rules later. Same goes for Adventurers Quarters, which we know are important. Do they have taverns? Are they squalid or fine? Do you have to share a bed with a stranger? Do they offer food? Are they expensive or cheap? For larger towns you can have a variety and let the PC’s choose for their selves based on how much they are willing to spend.
If we are dealing with just a small little mining town, then we’re probably done. We’ve used all of these questions to fill in the blanks and we can start writing up our summary, but what about BIG GIANT CITIES that the mean people at TSR failed to flesh out beyond a paragraph? Well friends, if this is the case, then NOW the fun really starts!
How do we do this without going insane? Easy! We chop it up into manageable pieces. We break our city down into smaller sections, or districts, and we treat them like they are their own small little towns. Our ruler doesn’t change, but who really rules might. Each section will have its own flavor and reason for being there. You’ll want to assign social classes to each section, the larger the city, the more divided that it becomes. Where are the people that we already have on our lists? We’ll recreate these lists but this time adding real detail.
We’ll put the wizard in the poor part of town called the Shadow District because of the thieves’ guild that runs it. We’ve got to figure out if he runs the gang or if he is there to fight the gang. Maybe he doesn’t care and that was the best land that he’s got! What do the local guards think about him, or the people? Do they think that he secretly runs the gang? Enjoy yourself! Have fun! Think of what-ifs!
For big cities, we also have to consider those around it. Do they have an enemy nearby? Are they actively at war, or has it gone cold? Who are their allies? Are there any secret societies in the town? How do these answers affect our summary? I have found that now is the time to write up a paragraph or five to better see the area that I’m writing about.
This is a lot of work.  It will take a couple of days and it does help to have some kind of map to look at and just work on it section by section until you’ve answered all of the questions again for each section.
It is nice to have places already named and ready to go. Again, we are going to keep it simple. We’ll look at the needs of our PCs, what kind of shops would they be interested in, and what kind of services might they be interested in? Who is likely to employ them? While there may be hundreds of shops in town, we only need to describe a few. Running a city scene should be like a movie, the players might say, I wonder what kind of armor they have here? Or “Where can I get spell components?” Anticipate their questions and describe the places where they might want to go, as well a few other places just for local color if you want to.
Once we are done with the individual outlines for all of the different city districts, it is time to put them all together. This time we are going to make the Master Outline. We will know all of the answers for each question. Don’t be afraid to edit yourself, we wanted lots of information, most of the stuff on our lists will find homes on our master lists, but probably not all of it.
Your Big City Master List should contain the following information:
  • Name of the City
  • Country it is a part of, or independent
  • Who Rules
  • Who Really Rules
  • Major Products
  • Armed Forces: (include Town Guard totals, Naval Forces, Constables, and the number of men the ruler can gather to form a standing army. I try not to be too specific about WHO. If I developed a cool Constable or something, he goes down in “Important Characters”)
  • Notable Mages: (who and where)
  • Notable Churches: (who, where, brief description of what they do)
  • Notable Rogues & Thieves Guilds: (who, where, brief descriptions)
  • Equipment shops: (Name and what they sell)
  • Adventurers Quarters:
  • Taverns:
  • Food:
  • Services:
  • Important Characters: (anybody who I noted in my outlines who didn’t make it elsewhere on this list)
  • Important Features in Town: (Quick descriptions of all of the districts including places not elsewhere on this list)
  • Local Lore:
  • A Key: (I do make notations on the map, but I first ask myself if it is important or not. Do I need to know EXACTLY where something is? Usually the answer is, No.)
  • Notes: (things that either are or are not on the map, describe strange conditions of weather if any, add a couple of rumors that are floating around, or long term plans of some NPC to destroy the place; etc.)
  • Festivals: (holidays and events that people fear/look forward too.)
And you’re done! Now you have a well balanced description of a large city that is described enough for quick play, but brief enough to allow room for growth.

Further Reading:
Let's Build a City
1001 Common Structures in a Village, Town, or City
The Secrets of Great City Campaigns

Back in the saddle again

A few months ago, the wife seen a brand new boxset that they were selling at Walmart, of all places, so she picked it up and gave it to me. We’ve been wanting to teach the children how to play and this looked like a nice, small adventure to start with. It is 5th edition, Forgotten Realms . . . I was able to fix the 5e thing, and turn it into 2e, and I thought about transferring it all over to Greyhawk as well, but to be honest, my players never got excited about Greyhawk, so I figured why not?
I don’t know about you, but I have avoided Forgotten Realms for a very long time. I have played in the world quite a bit, but all of the DMs who ran the games were BIG into FR, so, I will admit to being kind of intimidated by the whole thing. It has tones of books and baggage that goes with it . .  . but really, how is that any different then with Greyhawk? In fact, Greyhawk is a political hell. If you run the game as is, it would be terrible! So I went ahead and ran the first night of the game, letting the players know that what ever it is that they think that they know about Forgotten Realms, probably won’t be true with my game.
We were all very rusty! It has been several years since we last played. I got some practice with my conversions, but when it came to running the game, I found lots of rust that needed shook off.
I had thought about creating my own map . . . but I didn’t have time for THAT much prep. Besides, if I did, then I’d be working on my Masque of the Red Death campaign, so I got to looking at a map of Forgotten Realms that was left here, and decided that I might as well jump in. I found an affordable copy of the 2e Box Set and actually fell in love! The crummy political system of Greyhawk was gone, and this one seemed like something that I could manage a lot better. I even started reading the Drizzts series of novels and find them entertaining.
Oddly enough, this adventure takes place near Neverwinter, and I had no map, but I had already let the players know that many of them were from there, and some simple facts about what the 5e box told me had happened there, which of course hasn’t happened in my world. Anyway, I got to build my own city of Neverwinter, WHICH IS HUGE!!! The largest city that I ever wrote! There was lots of stuff online to help flesh the thing out so that it is halfway recognizable for players who know more then I do, but it is still my own. It took several weeks of writing to get everything just so, but I am pleased with the results.
Anyway, the DM is back to playing again. I’ve got lots of ideas for the blog already so get ready for some updates!
It’s good to be back :)


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