Monday, May 10, 2021

OD&D/WHITEHACK

Katsuya Terada

Running Whitehack like OD&D

OD&D has been one of my inspirations with how I've been running Whitehack as of late. Being written in the "original tradition", playing 3e like this has been quite fun and easy. Since the game is so open as well, I just use a couple of the tweaks and Referee guidelines below to help get across the feel I'm going for.

This is a living home for all my tweaks, guidelines, and rules. It will change over time.

Determination of Abilities

Generate two stat arrays, rolling 3d6 six times for each.

Choose one array for the character to use and assign in order. Give the other to Referee to use as they see fit.

Schrodinger's Character

The first session for a character is character creation; this session starts with everyone naming their character, assigning a species, and rolling their attributes. Play then proceeds with players filling out aspects of their character when required and after any rolls are made. 

As they need them, players can select:

  • a basic class and a slot ability
  • an inventory of items equal to 3d6x10sp (see below)
  • 2 groups (+bonus groups for low stats)
  • relationships with other PCs

Stolen from NGR

Starting Gear

All characters begin with 3d6x10 sp worth of "Schrodinger's inventory". This "inventory" can be decided during the first game session as needed. Should a character need a rope to cross a chasm, as long as they have the "inventory" sp left to cover it, then they have luckily happened to have brought along. 

All of these items should be mundane and common items, with the exception of 1 special item such as military-grade equipment, luxury items, specialist tools, or highly illegal items.

Any unused 'equipment' sp here just counts as extra coin the character has back home. If a character with 120sp of "inventory" only used 90sp of "Schrodinger's inventory" during the first game session and picked up 20sp of loot, they would have an additional 50sp.

Stolen from NGR

Affiliation Groups as Alignment

Alignment is a bigger deal. In Whitehack, Affiliation groups like "Lawful" or "Chaotic" represent allegiance to the warring cosmic powers. Characters without such groups (i.e. most people; these groups are for zealots and champions) simply have no stake in this grand contest.

Law is order and (at least the pretense of) civility. Chaos is disorder and (at least the pretense of) brutality. They have nothing to do with morality, as "good" and "evil" can be found on all sides of this struggle.

Just like normal Affiliations, these provide friends, knowledge, language, and enemies. The limited languages from these groups are Lawful and Chaotic. Feel free to come up with more exciting names.

Species

The classic HALFLING, DWARF, and ELF are present as Species groups. For those wanting a more human-centric setting, these three options can be made into Rare Species-as-Class options (see below).

There is no reason that players cannot be allowed to play as virtually anything, provided they begin relatively weak and work up to the top, i.e., a player wishing to be a Dragon would have to begin as, let us say, a “young” one and progress upwards in the usual manner, steps being predetermined by the campaign referee. 

- Gygax & Arneson, OD&D Book I: Men & Magic, 1974

In keeping with the original tradition, the table is encouraged to work together when Rare Classes become available to determine what fantastical Species-as-Class options are available. Almost nothing should be off-limits with the caveat that this type of character is uncommon in the game world.

Avoid making these mono-cultures. These classes only imply that a certain type of individual is a character in the game world, not that all the members of a species are the same.

Halfling Species-as-Class

TBD

Dwarf Species-as-Class

TBD

Elf Species-as-Class

TBD

Classic Hirelings, Mercs, and Retainers

In the baseline game, hirelings and retainers are HD 1 and come from Affiliation groups. The Referee decides how many, required compensation, and loyalty. Only Fortunate characters can have retainers that benefit from XP and can increase in power (p. 82).

Aside from these HD 1 normal-types as hirelings and mercs, unusual help including monsters and classed-types can be sought. These retainers are charmed, hired, or otherwise enlisted into service and the number allowed is limited to a character's CHA divided by 3. 

Classed retainers receive XP gained from acquired gold only.  Their loyalty isn't a guarantee and should be determined by the Referee based on pay, treatment, and inclination. This loyalty should also factor into any morale checks or decisions when notable circumstances arise.

Monstrous retainers may or may not be able to increase in power, but many have other abilities. 

  • HIRELINGS & MERCS: no class, usually HD 1, usually come from Affiliations
  • RETAINERS: classed-types or monsters

The slotted retainers of the Fortunate aren't subject to the above limitations. The only limit to their number is the number of open slots the Fortunate possesses. They loyally serve and are controlled by the same player, not the Referee. The Fortunate can choose to make one of their retainers suffer a grisly death on behalf of her or anyone else (perhaps shoving the Fortunate out of the way of an attack)*.

*Stolen from NGR's Bard class

Weapons

Weapons are defined by their size, workmanship, and whether they are melee or ranged. All weapons deal 1d6 damage. They will have other benefits and drawbacks in different circumstances as well. The Referee should consider these and apply Combat Advantage, penalties, and other adjustments as appropriate (e.g. weapon reach, armor-piercing, concealable, etc.).

  • Melee, small. Cost 2, weight 0.5.
  • Melee. medium. Cost 8, weight 1.
  • Melee, large. Cost 25, weight 2.
  • Ranged, small. Cost 3, weight 0.5
  • Ranged, medium. Cost 15, weight 1.
  • Ranged, large. Cost 50, weight 2.
Small weapons re-roll their damage and take the worse result. Large weapons re-roll their damage and take the better result. Anything else is Medium.

E.g. Rocks, fists, daggers, and slings are considered small. Polearms, longbows, and greatswords are considered large.

Cheap weapons are unable to score critical hits. Quality weapons do not suffer fumbles. Natural weapons can neither crit nor fumble. Anything else is Standard. Cheap weapons are priced in copper, Standard in silver, and Quality in gold.

E.g. Clubs, staves, slings, and thrown rocks are cheap. Magical weapons, fine swords, and composite bows are considered quality. Bows, axes, spears, and maces are standard. Natural weapons are teeth, claws, horns, fists, or any other part of a being.

Missile weapons have Range 50 for Small, 100, for Medium, and 150 for Large. They require ammunition specific to the weapon. Thrown weapons have Range 15.

Stolen from Zzarchov's Obligatory Sample Rules

Shields & Other Protection

Before damage is rolled, a shield may be sacrificed to negate a single strike. This only works for conventional strikes - other, specific types of shields might stop magical attacks.

Heavy Shields (+2 AC, cost 15) are available to represent tower shields and other similarly bulky shields. 

Great Helmets (+1 AC, -3 on task rolls to spot things, cost 25) are over-the-top pieces of protection compared to normal helmets. They still allow a re-roll on the crit table.

Magic

The optional rules for Traditional Magick and True Miracles* are used (p. 83). A true Vancian air is intended with petty wizards, coveted spells, and an increased focus on scrolls (or an appropriate analog).

*A small tweak to True Miracles is in play, however. Miracles are rare and coveted ancient spells; the last remnants that haven't been lost to time. There is no limit on how many Wise can know such a miracle at any one time, but they are more akin to "items" looted or passed down. The creation of new miracles is a rarity in these times.

Most Wise characters will start with one of the more commonly known wordings (still a comparative rarity) and acquire more as they adventure.

These spells are appropriate fodder for Miracle wordings and set scroll effects. When making your own, grandiose and fantastic names are a requirement!

For those with the appropriate group, a limited ritual language is granted: The Arcane Cypher. A small spell-infused language that allows one the understanding of magical inscriptions, spell formulae, etc.

Is an evil sorcerer a cleric of a dark god or a magic-user? Such things make little difference here. Whether their miraculous incantations are whispered into their ear by otherworldly beings or gleaned from decades of study, all wrestle with the laws of the universe with their miracles.

Magic Swords

All magical blades are intelligent and have an alignment group. Many can communicate, some possess powers they can share with a worthy wielder. They have goals and motivations. They are dangerous and fickling items that can overwhelm a lesser wielder and harm those who are enemies in the great cosmic struggle.

Magical blades have two stats: Ego and Intelligence with their alignment affiliation put as a group next to one of them. In certain situations, the Ego of the blade can be used in a contest to overwhelm and possess a wielder.

Monsters

Monsters may be subject to bonus damage if they notable large, strong, deadly, or some combination of the three.

  1. Most monsters deal 1-6 damage or damage as weapon.
  2. Notably strong monsters deal 2-7 damage or damage as weapon +1.
  3. Inhumanly strong or large monsters, such as ogres, deal 3-8 damage or damage as weapon +2.
  4. Supernaturally strong or giant monsters, such as balrogs or giants, deal 2-12 damage.
  5. Impossibly strong or massive monsters, such as titans or leviathans, deal 3-18 damage.
Not all attacks from the same monster need to do the same amount of damage. For example, the leviathan's tentacle might try and smash someone for 2d6 damage, but any unfortunate that faces its serrated maw could risk 3d6 or more damage! Go with your gut.

Some entities can have Supernatural HP. They are only affected by attacks that deal 6 or more damage. A successful attack that beats this threshold removes a single HD for every 6 damage dealt. A simple implementation for such foes is that Supernatural HP = HD.

Dragons' breath attack is a keyword and the dragon must pay a few HP to use. The most common effect is dealing damage equal to their current HP in an area with a Save allowed for half damage.

Poison

Poison has a potency rating the same as the HD of the creature that it came from. If the poison is rated higher than your level, then you save vs. poison or die. If it is equal to or lower than your level then you save or take damage for a number of rounds equal to its rating (unless an antidote or cureall gets to you first).

If the poison has some effect other than or instead of damage (like makes you hallucinate, or vomit, or fall unconscious) then that last for a number of rounds/turns equal to the HD if it’s greater than your level, or half HD if it’s under your level.

Suitable groups could allow for resistance for these saving throws (i.e. assassin vocation).

Stolen from Sean McCoy. Check it out for more ideas.

---

Big influences from Luke Gearing, Simon Bull's Delving DeeperPhilotomy's Musings, and Zzarchov Kowolski's NGR.

Monday, April 5, 2021

The State of the Game - April 2021

1978 Ken Barr cover to H. Rider Haggard’s The Wanderer’s Necklace

It has been a busy month and full of games. I figured I'd babble a bit about how they are going.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Giant Robots for the Vampires of the Gothic Frontier

Escaflowne: The Movie (2000) dir. Kazuki Akane

Whitehack 3e just dropped and it has all kinds of goodies to take advantage of for my futuristic gothic western campaign. One of the main things I want to get sorted is the titular Dragoon. These are terrible creations of the vampiric Nobles. Giant, bio-organic suits of armor powered by a mixture of occult magicks and inhuman sciences. They were lost long ago but around the time my campaign is taking place, they are slowly being unearthed and brought out of the murky depths of legend and myth.

Being made by the occult science of the Nobles, it would only make sense that these things are gnarly. Their armor is scales of bone and thick scabbed skin, their sensors are organic clusters of eyes or tongues that flick and taste the air, and their minds are full of sin and rage. To pilot one is to be pierced by organic tubes and feeders that latch onto your veins, bones, and mind. Rather than think of them as mere vehicles you pilot, they are better thought of as beasts fused with tier pilot and 'ridden' into battle.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Rider with a Mask - A Toku Troika Background

Katsuya Terada's take on Kamen Rider

My Vampires & Dragoons campaign has been pushed back until after we get our hands on Whitehack's newest edition. In the meantime, I've been watching a lot of old Showa-era tokusatsu like Kamen Rider Black and Choushinsei Flashman. I figured it would be a fun opportunity to make some Troika backgrounds for them since The Tragedy That Begot Ternwillow opened my third eye to weird giant monster and mecha goodness with the game.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Heroic Characters in Whitehack

Atey Ghailan

After reading Solar Blades & Cosmic Spells, I'm coming away with lots of neat ideas for my games. There's a particularly neat bit on heroic* characters that can tackle obstacles that would normally take a full party of players. It's pretty minimal and is less work than applying something like Scarlet Heroes with its Fray dice and unique damage table. Perfect to steal and adapt for Whitehack!

*Heroic here has nothing to do with morals or inclinations; capability and potency are the focus!

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Vampires & Dragoons - Gothic Western Wastes in Whitehack

Yoshitaka Amano
With perfect timing, Whitehack 3e will be coming out right as I start a new Whitehack 2e game with my players! We just wrapped up our previous Whitehack campaign after almost a year and a half, but we're already itching for some more.

I've recently watched some favorites of mine: Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust (2000) dir. Yoshiaki Kawajiri and Escaflowne: The Movie (2000) dir. Kazuki Akane. Both films have been swirling in my mind. Ancient technology, strange and powerful species, apocalyptic wastes, and gothic goodness. That sounds like a good excuse for a new campaign! The following is what I pitched to my players before we threw together a session 0:

Earth...

The distant future...

The dwindling shadow of the Vampires and their terrible Dragoons still lingers...

With huge bounties on their head, a class of hunters has emerged. Bounty Hunters.

In a far-future, post-nuclear waste we wander. A world, once terrified by the blood-sucking Nobles, ancient demons, mutants, and their terrible creations: the Dragoons, that is only now returning to a semblance of human control--thanks in part to the decadence and hubris of Nobles, the stubbornness of humanity, and the rise of mercenary hunters-for-hire.

But as the shadow of the past fades, new troubles stir. Haughty warlords and despotic tyrants seek to claim power and dominion over their fellow humans in a world that has only now tasted freedom. Nobles still rule the night and cling to the past by any means available, from unholy pacts to technology best left forgotten. The Dragoons, those fell suits of Dragon Armor born of Sin, towering bio-weapons all, are being unearthed after their merciful slumber.

Indeed, only time will tell if the world can finally emerge into the light, or if it falls into dark forevermore.

 INSPIRATION

> Pulp genres of inspiration: westerns, sci-fi, horror, high fantasy, folklore, and occult science.

WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE?

> Imagine `Castlevania` + `Fist of the North Star` + `A Fistfull of Dollars` illustrated by Yoshitaka Amano and Ayami Kojima.

WHAT DO WE DO?

> Rob parasitic nobles, overthrow tyranny, delve unholy temples, use freaky past tech and unholy magic, hunt undead horrors, make posses to ride with, and carve out your legend or die trying.

I see this as a great opportunity to play to Whitehack's strengths and expose my players to genres and art they might not have known about. Also, I can't really think of a better time to get together to stick it to corrupt and inhuman leeches at the top of a struggling society.

Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust (2000) dir. Yoshiaki Kawajiri

Whitehack has a very broad framework for character creation. Nearly anything goes. The following are just some of the ideas I had scribbled down to give my players a creative push during our session 0.

Basic Classes

  • The Strong
  • The Deft
  • The Wise

Rare Classes

  • The Brave
  • The Fortunate
  • The Species-as-Class
    • Dhampir
    • Cyborg
    • Revenant

Sample Vocation Groups

  • Revolutionary
  • Highwayman
  • Merchant
  • Raod Warrior
  • Sheriff's Deputy
  • Hunter-for-Hire
  • Vampire Hunter
  • Exorcist
  • Grave Robber
  • Rancher
  • Scavenger
  • Surgeon
  • Horse Mechanic
  • Old World Scholar
  • Shadow Templar [RARE]

Species Groups

  • Humans
  • Dhampir [RARE]
  • Cyborg [RARE]
  • Revenant [RARE]
  • Night Creature [RARE]

We also wanted to try 'Affiliation Groups as Social Class Attunement'. Not unlike using groups like 'Lawful' or 'Good' for moral attunements in more traditional campaigns, we talked about using them to represent your class loyalties.

We have:

  • The Nobility. Why would you side with their cold ilk? They care for you not.
  • The High Class. Seekers of opportunity in these fresh vacuums of power. They aspire for what they shall never have.
  • The 'Deadbeats'. The masses. The most powerful as the others are powerless without them.
Characters without such groups are simply more ambiguous and complex in their loyalties.

Whitehack really thrives with Groups. They are a potent way to just fully open the setting up to players and everyone at the table (Referee included) can be surprised by the emergent creativity. It's one of my favorite parts of the system.

Escaflowne: The Movie (2000) dir. Kazuki Akane

At the end of our session 0, we ended up with a neat group of characters and a quirky place where our adventures will start.

We have a con man on the run from his past deeds, a mutant rancher, a vampire hunter with potent contraband, and a gentleman thief who dabbles in the occult. 

I look forward to coming up with some more ideas for the various bio-weapons and weird occult nonsense that we'll stumble across. The lasers with fly, the gun blades will sing, and the dead will rise in these unholy wastes. For now, we kick off with our first session next week!

It is the year 12,090 A.D. The world has all but ended, ravaged in a firestorm of mankind's wars and madness. But from the wreckage a few humans manage to survive. A few humans... and something else.

Welcome to the Frontier. A post-apocalyptic wasteland inhabited by humans, mutants, demons and various other strange creatures. 

Our story begins in the town of Sandridge, a small ranch town in the Eastern Sector of the Frontier established a couple hundred years ago. It's not far from New Moses, the closest seat of the relatively young Revolutionary Government. It's at least close enough to have some of the Frontier Defense Force parade around and act like heroes.

It's a quiet place. The weather controllers still work and the augmented fields still deliver plenty of crops. But some nasty trouble is brewing and those who came here for an escape are in for a rude awakening!

Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust (2000) dir. Yoshiaki Kawajiri

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Rakehell - A Review of Exiles and Petty Brigandage

Rakehell is damnably good. It's been circling in my mind since I found it earlier this year, worming its way into my other games and infecting my own ideas of play and creation. I could attempt to dive into the miserable little slice of the world that Brian has presented here which is full of toil, suffering, and fragile hope... but I'm afraid I'm quite ill-equipped to do it justice. 

But I'll try anyway. So think of this as more of a semi-coherent ramble (which I hope you can understand) trying to get across why this zine has been occupying my thoughts even still.

Getting the "overview" out of the way, Rakehell is a full toolkit for KNAVE outlining just about everything you'd need to adventure in a sad little region called the Rift. From adventurer generators, content randomizer for exploration, villains and fiends with plenty of variation, and brilliant factions that ooze atmosphere and spur on faction play. Oh and two thematic adventures, a base town, a reactive black market for PCs to influence. 

There's a lot here. It's $3. Go get it.

So Why the Obsession?

I must confess, I am a huge Warhammer Fantasy fan. The aesthetic and world of WFRP (both 1st and 2nd editions), were right up my alley. It was grim, perilous, dirty, and violent. It immediately captured me and changed the type of stories and settings I would create with my players at the table, even when we weren't playing it. All that mud and blood made the real heroics or victories (when they did occur), all the sweeter.

Something similar happened when I cracked open Rakehell and began pouring over the truly immense amount of content packed into its 90+ pages. Where Warhammer reveled in the darkness of the world (I mean come on, just look at the Chaos Warriors or Beastmen), Rakehell is ultimately about people and their imperfect nature. It's about bad choices, mistakes, desperately clutching to what you once knew in the face of the unknown, petty justification, and the pain you cause others to shield yourself. It's comparatively a very human and personal affair next to the "eternal chaos threat from hell dimension" shenanigans I know from WFRP, but it retains that great dirty and pathetic aesthetic with Brian's own evocative and eloquent twists added throughout.

I mean, it touches on the ugly bits we should be scared of in *this* dimension: empire, institutional failure, the corruption of the spirit and of "noble" causes, the abuse of power, kicking down, and more.

"No Man is an Island"

This evocative flavoring is present everywhere in Rakehell. From the various tables for customizing foes like sinful wyrms or pitiful bandits, to the very weapons and kits PCs start their exile with. But nowhere does this truly shine like the factions presented. There are 10 in all, and each one is just asking for conflict, intrigue, sacrifice, and ruination in equal measure.

See, PCs can start and join a faction throughout the course of a game in the Rift. In fact, it's quite likely they'll do so. Loners and untrustworthy sorts who nobody likes don't last long. It's a land of exiles and folk aching for an opportunity, and nothing screams you're an easy mark like flying solo.

The factions that the characters join can help illuminate what's happening in your world and really make the Rift your own. It organically sets up scheming guilds, pompous institutions, belligerent nations, and zealous religions in one powder keg of a border region. This is ripe for everything from folks getting a second chance to heralding the drums of war whose threat is ever-present.

I also quite like how it hits home the fact that everything you do for the faction, ultimately eats you up in a way. You become less of your own boss (and maybe less than human in one way or another) and more of their instrument, doing their dirty work, trying to move up in the chain in this region that eats people alive. There are no illusions of ever leading a faction or having a say in its goals. Very much sets the tone of faction play here.

Other Random Things I Like

I really like how the factions have unique initiations and shape how characters can earn XP. For example, upon joining the dog-soldiers of the Barghestknecht characters are rewarded for conquering, military, a military junta, or taking a goblin spouse. You also get their nasty tools and grinning helms at a discount.

I like the tables for customizing threats. No two brigand groups are the same and not all of them are generic baddies. For some, their brigandage is quite understandable. A pitiful lot really. The less human threats, like the specters of the First Men or the wicked Fiends, also get quite a bit of nuance from their random tables, full of rich fodder at the table.

It has an Appendix N! I wish more content did this. Brian suggests several other zines, products, and toolkits that would be right at home in Rakehell. Not only does this grant some much-needed attention to great content, but it's a rich way to look at the ways a work can be twisted or tailored for your own table. "Hey, here's some cool stuff to bolt onto this and what you might do with it" is always great.

The weather is... strange in these parts. It is truly bizarre. 12 entries to really get across that the Rift is just not a good place. One moment you're setting up camp, the next thing you know a creeping cold fog filled with predatory things spreads down from the mountains or whaling some clouds for sustenance. Keep that almanac close at hand!

I could go on and on.

Final Words

Like I said when I started this whole thing, it's good and I'm quite fond of it (if you couldn't tell). I've run several escapades with it using KNAVE, Into the Odd, and Whitehack. I've used it for several other campaigns entirely removed from the Rift as well. It's $3. An expanded sequel work is on the way. What more excuse do you need to pick it up?