Monday, April 16, 2018

Vorishnaad


Once agreement on plans for the morning are reached, and everyone begins to settle for the night, Zeb will find a place in Erathmar's camp to stow his gear, leaving everything except for his trousers, light boots, Malaran fetish around his neck and belt of sheathed knives.  Zeb's trophy for the night, Ignish's fetish, hangs from his belt, and his prey's blood has been smeared in a thick line across Zeb's chest.

Zeb is tired and wounded, but he has been bolstered by Tussugar's words and feels very much alive after the ritual combat with Ignish, at one with his savage, bestial god.  Zeb's going out...and Zeb's going to Hunt.

Not so much worried about Carcerus, other scouts or any other dangers that might lurk in the forest at night, Zeb feels instilled by the Beastlord right now, and this is how he'll learn that he's either chosen correctly--or that he hasn't, in which case he could meet a very bloody end.  Zeb doesn't know what the formal rite of vorishnaad entails, but this is how he's going to execute HIS vorishnaad. formally severing his ties with the beast cults, and establishing his own new, one-man sect with a new purpose, a new aclupar--seek justice for those slain in Shadfeld, and prevent it from ever happening again.

What Zeb seeks in the forest this night is a nod from Malar, some sign that his vorishnaad is approved.  No longer will Zeb play the role of prey to Korvich's insane aclupar or to threat from the Black Devil, Carcerus.  Stand or fall, succeed or fail, he'll confront them on his own terms.

Malar's Dogma

Survival of the fittest and the winnowing of the weak are Malar’s legacy. A brutal, bloody death or kill has great meaning. The crux of life is the challenge between the hunter and the prey, the determination of who lives or dies. View every important task as a hunt. Remain ever alert and alive. Walk the wilderness without trepidation, and show no fear in the hunt. Savagery and strong emotions defeat reason and careful thought in all things. Taste the blood of those you slay, and never kill from a distance. Work against those who cut back the forest and who kill beasts solely because they are dangerous. Slay not the young, the pregnant, or deepspawn so that prey will remain plentiful.

Friday, April 13, 2018

XP awards for sessions 5-7

Looking at the accomplishments over the past few games, I'm going to continue the advancement rate (for now) of 1,000 XP per character, per session. More reasoning and explanation can be found here.

Updated totals:

  • Audric - 12,000
  • Zeb - 3,000/10,200
This puts Zeb over the key threshold for attaining 4th level as an abjurer. The training requirements set forth last time apply now as well, and I know that Jason has some specific ideas around this milestone that he can work on executing next session. While Zeb's two recent advancements feel a bit close in proximity, this is mainly attributable to his dual-class nature. It's also probably the last time we'll have this situation, since XP requirements going forward are now significantly higher.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Session #7, Zeb's Notes


4/11/2018, Session #7

We spend the remaining light preparing for camp; what traps and snares we have at our disposal are set against potential foes.  Audric tends to our wounds, using the magic provided him by the goddess Mystra.  Three watches are set, and we settle into a light, restless sleep.

We are awakened in the middle of the night by Rould; all is dark, except for the barest of moonbeams that illuminate the forest and area around Oldkeep.  We ascend from the troll’s nest, and feel the warm, damp night air, accompanied by fog.  Goblins have gathered near the corpse of the troll.  Quickly, we climb to the roof of Oldkeep.

From the broken wall, we hear a cry that pierces the night—another goblin, and this one has stepped upon caltrops laid out near the wall.  I summon a creeping fog to obscure the six goblins near the troll’s corpse, while Audric gives us Mystra’s blessing in the case that blades and arrows are brought to bear.

All of us reach the roof, and while Rould & Arkhen defend us with their bows, I assist Audric into his mail.  At least one goblin falls to their arrows, and Audric summons forth a swarm of vermin into the fog; unfortunately, we do not hear the cries of those caught within the swarm.  It is likely that our foes have retreated, and perhaps regrouped to rethink their attack.

The decision is made to allow Audric to rest in order to recover his spells.  Unfortunately, the weather does not cooperate with our plans, and a violent downpour disturbs our rest…again.  At least it’s not goblins.  We retreat to the cover of Oldkeep once again, and awaken to an overcast morning.  We’re wet, we’re wounded, and we’re poorly rested…and we’re ready to return to Carrock.

On the way back, Audric reveals that he has been wearing the magic ring all along, and asks Zeb’s thoughts on the encounter the night before.  Audric’s yell echoed from the troll—or perhaps from his sword—after striking the troll.  Zeb is surprised at the revelation, but has little to add to Audric’s quest for discovery.  The remainder of the journey passes in awkward silence.

We acquire cold drinks and warm meals, and share our news with Drachus.  Tussugar is absent, and no one has seen Maglarosh in days.  During the meal, one of Erathmar’s men approaches us, indicating that Erathmar has established a small camp and wishes to see us about a matter of some importance.

When we get to Erathmar’s camp, we find the trader…and see that he’s clearly injured.  He leads us away to someplace private, into the nearby woods.  Audric immediately suspects that it may have been Selben, returning to his previous unstable behavior.  There’s a lantern in the woods, and in the lantern’s light we see the boy, Selben, holding a dagger in front of him, and a man bound with ropes to a tree.  He is straggly and bearded, with a crazed look in his eyes.  I recognize him—Ignish, of the Beast Cults of Malar.

Erathmar explains that Ignish found the camp during the day several hours ago, encountered Erathmar and stabbed him, clearly looking for me.  Erathmar would have been killed were it not for Selben’s intervention.  Erathmar hands a scrimshaw medallion, upon which is painted a beast’s head with a bloody maw.

I pull out my own humble fetish, symbol to Malar.  I put it around my neck, seeing what reaction it elicits, and throw his symbol on the ground, stepping upon it.  Ignish responds to my goading, revealing that he serves Carcerus—and considers Korvich nothing, compared to the Black Devil.  He also reveals that Carcerus doesn’t know of Ignish’s infiltration of Carrock—can that be used to our advantage?

Audric provides his own manner of interrogation—by calling the blessing of Mystra upon him.  Audric’s intimidation results in the following revelation: “The Black Devil gathers the wolf to his aid in the depths of the forest.  You will be set upon and destroyed.”

It is clear, at this point, that Ignish cannot be allowed to live.  Though simply slitting his throat is the most expedient option, murdering a helpless opponent, even one whose actions have likely justified such a punishment, is not the way of nature.  If Ignish would have my blood…then let him take it.  I reveal my plan to Erathmar and Audric—I am wounded, and will give Ignish a grave wound to match my own and ensure his death, regardless of the outcome…then he and I will fight to the death.  If Malar deems his conviction more powerful than my own, then so be it.

I do not expect Erathmar or Audric to understand, but the trader is stoic about the affair, and Audric agrees reluctantly, though only if Tussugar, Rould and Arkhen are brought to the camp to ensure that Ignish does not escape.  Surprised, I agree to the terms.  Tussugar remains silent about my plans as well, clearly torn between seeking his own revenge and my pursuit of justice with Ignish, but he also allows me to proceed.

There’s a tang of iron in the air, as I slide my blade between Ignish’s ribs, drawing a well of dark blood and puncturing his lung.  I press his symbol—a false representation of Malar, twisted by Korvich’s insane aclupar—back into Ignish’s hand.  A knife is thrown to his feet and he is cut loose, and Ignish attacks me in a rage.

We share slashes, sizing each other up, though it is clear that Ignish is blinded by his rage.  He cuts my side, a grazing wound, while I land more penetrating blows.  He slashes at my face, drawing a long, red line that will leave a scar, but I punctuate the exchange by sinking my own blade deep into his flesh.  Ignish falls, losing consciousness, and I step forward and mercilessly end his suffering.

The kill is swift, a single drive of the knife through his neck, severing an artery and embedding itself deep into his skull with an upward thrust.  His lifeblood coats my hands, and I taste my kill, droning a low prayer to the Beastlord as salt and iron burn my throat.  I make a trophy of his false symbol, expecting others to eventually join it.

I turn to Tussugar.  “They’ve found me.  They’re close.”  

He replies, gravely—"What must we do?”

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Session #6, Zeb's Notes


3/21/2018, Session #6

Summer, leading into early Autumn.

We gather at the base of the “Tower of Carrock”, the half-constructed legacy of leaders past, and of Aibreann’s parents.  Tussugar, Aibreann herself, Drachus, Rould, Audric and myself. 

I don’t know what it is we expected to find.  There are stockpiles of blankets, dry goods and provisions for the town, but beneath the tower—in the cellar—we win access to a chamber behind a locked door.  Stale air confronts us, revealing another storeroom stocked with barrels, but also elaborately carved, moth-eaten furniture that is altogether out of place in a town such as Carrock.  We also find a large chest, on which are engraved the initials ‘ECV’—belonging to Aibreann’s mother, Ethelenda. Drachus reveals these to be the handed-down possessions of Aibreann’s parents.

In examining the room, we discern that most of the belongings are mundane in nature, though artfully crafted, if worn from time and neglect.  The chest is full of women’s clothing, presumably having belonged to Aibreann’s mother, but within the chest, Audric detects a magical aura, and with Aibreann’s blessing, rummages through the chest.  None of the items within are the culprit, but he does discover a hidden panel at the base of the chest containing a pair of books and a leather pouch; the aura emanates from the pouch.

One of the books appears to be a book of spells, the other a journal.  Within the pouch, there are three black marbles.  When handed the journal, her eyes tear up—this was clearly an unexpected find.  We hand the items over to Aibreann, expecting to revisit their importance—and potential value—later.

Recognizing that we need a guide to find Oldkeep, we ask around the various hunters of Carrock, setting up a meeting for later that day.  Back at the inn, Aibreann confronts us about our findings earlier that day.  She entrusts the black marbles to us, as we intend to use them in service to and defense of Carrock.  The journal is a pregnancy journal from her mother; it refers to the book of spells, revealing that it was plunder taken from band of orcs.  It’s identified as “particularly suitable to a young apprentice”.  She entrusts that to us as well, then reveals one last secret—that there is something else she wishes us to see.

Drachus and Tussugar, along with Rould, gather around the table.  Aibreann reveals one of the last pages of the journal, where the final entry—several pages—the only thing scribed on the page of the journal is the same mark found on the faces of the creatures we killed.  The mark looks like it may be some sort of a rune or a character of a foreign alphabet, but beyond that it holds no meaning to us.

I use my magic to examine the runes; they appear to be similar, or in fact a wizard mark; an arcane sigil, a wizard’s personal rune.  I explain to Tussugar that it may be that the creatures were in Carrock seeking the book; more likely, however, they were searching for the blood of the book’s author, Aibreann.

Tussugar reveals that he needs to ‘amend’ the story shared with us before.  When he says “he watched them both die,” he actually witnessed Ethelenda attack and kill her husband, Reginald; Tussugar retaliated, striking down Ethelenda with his axe.  Ethelenda was the ‘Witch Queen’ of Tussugar’s tale, though whether the Witch Queen existed before—as a separate entity—is unknown, as Tussugar did not arrive until later.

The hunters arrive, three of them, answering our call for aid.  One among them—short and bearded—reveals that he found the tracks, that he knows the woods better than anyone, and offers to come willingly.  His name is Arkhen.  Though short—perhaps 5’3—he looks strong and capable.  He agrees to leave in the morning.

We spend the night, preparations having been made, and awaken fresh—if anxious—and ready to go.  If we hurry, we will arrive with daylight to spare.  I spare only a moment to remind Tussugar to watch over Aibreann, and we depart.

Arkhen doesn’t know much about Oldkeep; being a day out from Carrock, it would mean spending the night in the wild to visit it, which is a dangerous proposition.  He has been there enough times to know of its location, but hasn’t been within the walls.  Our journey is uneventful, and two hours before sundown we reach Oldkeep, approaching it from the west.  The north wall is mostly intact; the south wall, however, is mostly collapsed, standing only a handful of feet high.  Inside the walls—or remains of the walls, is in interior structure, perhaps a storage chamber or shelter.

I conjure forth an unseen servant to carry a torch in advance of our investigation.  With cover provided by Rould and Arkhen, Audric & I approach the interior structure.  I notice movement within--perhaps an animal, perhaps something more threatening—but we continue our approach.  The ground inside the walls is cobbled, but most is crushed and ground with the passage of time, consumed by the earth.  Nothing is tended, but we do notice scuffs.  We find scatter—it has an odor to it, so it is not old.  There is a subtle unpleasant odor.  We see movement again; this time obviously humanoid, a gangly limb.  I order the unseen servant to raise the torch to the height of the interior structure of the keep.

The realization occurs to me that the detritus I’ve stepped in is in actuality a severed, gory arm.  As the fire reaches the top of the keep, long, clawed hands reach over the wall, and a dark, rubbery creature scales down the wall.  The creature has empty eye sockets, and evil intent.

It rushes me and Audric, and we suffer greatly from its claws and deadly bite.  Audric’s retaliation against the creature is mighty, however, and the aim of our new comrade Arkhen is true.  We flee melee, narrowly avoiding disaster, and Arken slays the creature with a well-placed arrow as it rushes forward to finish us off.

Its wounds begin to stitch and mend, the corpse to move with unnatural life, but that ends when we set flame to the creature—revealed to be a horrid troll.

Within the interior structure of the keep, we discover the troll’s lair, as well as a dilapidated stairwell leading below.  I send the unseen servant down with the torch, where we discover what appears to be the troll’s nest or bed.  The torch illuminates runes that are very similar to those found in Moonglow Cave.  Unsure how to proceed, but in need of secure shelter for the night, we ponder our findings, and make to explore the cellar further…

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Session #5, Zeb's Notes

2/21/2018, Session #5

In the aftermath of our encounter with the creatures, we lick our wounds and assess our options.  Little light can be shed on the attack or the nature of the attackers without the light of dawn; fearing that the dead citizens of Carrock may rise or present some other evil, I suggest that the dead—both the creatures and the citizens of Carrock—be burned.  If nothing else, it will serve as a grim reminder that danger has not passed.

Crude alarms and preparations are made to warrant against additional attacks, or at least provide some means of notification in the case that something else happens.  With little more to add to that effort, we retire for the night, accepting Drachcus’ offer to stay at the Inn of Carrock.  Audric tends the worst of my wounds with the blessings of Mystra, and we sleep.

We awaken in the morning, and the town—as expected, the townsfolk are abuzz with rumors, most of them pure conjecture about the nature of the beasts.  Tussugar looks much the worse for wear, having recovered little over the night.  No words are shared.  Rould assists the hunters, so we leave them to their work while we rest, recuperate, and see to our training.  I take a few opportunities, throughout the day, to inquire of Drachus and his wife of any magic users or history of magic around town—extended family with “gifts”, old scrolls or tomes passed down or inherited from previous generations, oddities turned up from passing merchants or unearthed when plowing a field.  Audric ministers to the folk of Carrock, investigating in his own way, hoping to turn up rumors or news as well.

The effort is not fruitless; we learn that a married couple, Reginald and Ethelenda—historical figures of prominence within Carrock that started construction of the tower, which still lies unfinished in the center of Carrock—were companions of Tussugar.  We also learn from a grandmother of Carrock that “Everybody knows that Aibreann is actually the daughter of Reginald and Ethelenda, and that Bartley and Emmet aren’t her biological siblings.”  We had guessed the latter, but the former is news—perhaps of some significance.

Later in the day, while searching for Drachus to attain permission to visit the tower of Carrock and explore within, we find him with Aibreann, who appears emotional—as if the result of some conflict or unpleasant discussion.  Tussugar lumbers from the room shortly after, perhaps having participated in the affair.  Though it takes a few ales to lubricate the conversation, we eventually learn more of Tussugar as he recounts the tale of himself and his companions, the “Spine Breakers.”  From the tale, we learn that the acolyte’s daughter and bowmaster’s widow was Tyoness, priestess of Shadfeld, slain by Korvich.

Rould returns late in the day with news.  The hunters followed the tracks into the wood—several miles—while they were not able to find signs of the third creature, the tracks originate from a location called Oldkeep, a ruined stronghold.  Tussugar has heard of Oldkeep and has been there many years ago.  Man last inhabited it several hundred years ago.

We are interested in exploring Oldkeep, but not until fully healed and until we’ve trained, and also not unprepared—we discuss our conversation with Drachus, and our request to explore the tower of Carrock.  Tussugar ensures us that there are no treasures to be found, but we’re not convinced—reluctantly, he agrees to speak to Drachus on our behalf regarding the matter.  Tussugar will not travel to Oldkeep with us, but Rould consents to—and Tussugar informs us that Drachus will allow us access to the tower.

The third night, we are awakened in the dead of night by alarms.  Audric dons his armor, and we leave the inn to investigate.  The alarms are coming from the west part of Carrock.  We bump into Drachus, who seems unsure how to proceed—we inform him that he needs to stay at the Inn and lead, and to organize and control the townsfolk.

The west guard has seen torches approaching along the road.  I send the guard back into town to alert the hunters—they need to know the potential for threat, to gather their bows and spears, and to get into the wood and be ready.  I assume the guards post while Audric waits in cover; we wait for whoever—or whatever—it is to approach.

When they approach within a few dozen steps, their approach stops.  They appear to be humanoids and armed, though not heavily armored.  We’re unable to make out details in the torchlight, so I grab a lantern and approach, slowly.  As I get within a dozen paces, one of the figures calls out “Zeb?”, surprised.  Erathmar!  Four of them are men of Erathmar’s caravan; two of them are women, who we later learn are villagers from Shadfeld.  They’re carrying three large bundles—corpses of victims from the attack on Shadfeld who Erathmar felt should not be left for the crows—all on foot and ragged as if worn from travel.

When Shadfeld was attacked, several people fled the village.  The caravan was among them, and they took shelter in the forest for multiple days.  The road east was closed off by Malar cultists; a number of villagers traveled west towards West Tower.  When the way east cleared, Erathmar led his group to Carrock.  They found the bodies along the way and didn’t want to leave them behind.  We traveled east immediately, however, and did not encounter Malarans—confirmation that some phenomenon of time seems to have occurred.

Tussugar recognizes the women as townsfolk from Shadfeld; the Inn of Carrock is made ready for unexpected guests!

With dawn fast approaching and adrenaline still fueling our actions, we aren’t able to return to rest.  I’m interested in confronting Erathmar to discuss his experience of the attack on Shadfeld—it was a complete slaughter.

The next afternoon, Emmet approaches us.  He informs us that Maglarosh wants to see us—perhaps our prisoner has recovered?  He leads us south into the woods along a winding path to a crude hut in the woods where Maglarosh is waiting.  Seated on the ground next to him is the boy, still not fully recovered but lucid.

“This is Selben,” he says.  “Selben hails from a village called Three Streams, to the north.  He became lost and his memory is not intact.”  The boy’s voice is shaky and unsure.  When asked about Three Streams, he tells us that the last thing he remembers is that he and some other villagers were investigating a cave in search of villagers that had been disappearing over the course of several weeks.  He doesn’t know what happened to anyone else he was with, or anything about the cave.  He doesn’t know how long ago it was, or what happened since.  When asked if he remembers anything about his arrival at Carrock, he has no memory of anything before the last day or two.

Though we have started to discover some answers, we are left with yet more questions…

The Valley of Khedrun

Map of the campaign area so far. The distance between Shadfeld and Carrock is approximately 20 miles.

Click to enlarge

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Class distributions, part 3 (modeling a society)

Part 1
Part 2

From the 2e DMG, p. 17:

Only a few people actually attain any character level. Not every soldier who fights in a war becomes a fighter. Not every urchin who steals an apple from the marketplace becomes a thief. The characters with classes and levels have them because they are in some way special. 
It's common sense, and there are numerous passages to support, that only a fraction of people in an AD&D society are classified as adventurers. Most are normal folk, perhaps trained in some vocation, with some of them being stronger, hardier, or more intelligent than even many PCs. What if we wanted to find out, given a population, how many of each class should really be present?

Let's go back to the original "fall through" algorithm that classifies everyone either as having a single class or being non-classed. When we ran the numbers previously, we said that any qualifying person was assigned to a class; the only individuals not assigned a class were those who didn't qualify.

Ultimately, that's not realistic. There should be factors other than ability scores at play in an actual society: age, alignment and training considerations, desire, upbringing, and so forth.

We determined, rolling 3d6 in order, that slightly more than one in every thousand individuals would qualify to be a paladin, based on ability scores alone. But consider what else is required: the person would need to be of sufficient age, of proper alignment and disposition, willing to adhere to the strictness of the paladin's code, and raised under conditions that would allow for the training needed to ascend the ranks of the class. What percent of those meeting the paladin's ability score requirements would also conform to the above? Ten percent? Five percent? Less?

Let's suppose, very generously, that for any individual meeting the ability requirements for a particular class, there's only a 50% chance of the class actually being attained. I can adjust the algorithm to work as it did previously, but to reject half the sets of scores that qualify for each class. In other words, half of those who would otherwise meet the paladin requirements fall through and check for the "easier" classes instead. Some will end up being bards, druids, or fighters. Others will end up having no class at all.
*** Rolling method: 3d6 (in order) ***
*** Population: 100
Results...
   Pal: 0 (0%)
   Rgr: 0 (0%)
   Brd: 0 (0%)
   Drd: 0 (0%)
   Ftr: 39 (39%)
   Thf: 26 (26%)
   Clr: 14 (14%)
   Mge: 12 (12%)
   Nil: 9 (9%)
******************

*** Population: 20000
Results...
   Pal: 15 (0%)
   Rgr: 20 (0%)
   Brd: 107 (1%)
   Drd: 322 (2%)
   Ftr: 7254 (36%)
   Thf: 4457 (22%)
   Clr: 2845 (14%)
   Mge: 1827 (9%)
   Nil: 3153 (16%)
******************
As we still have far more "classed" individuals than non-classed, the 50% reject rate is not nearly enough. And perhaps some classes should have lower percentages than others? The paladin's non-ability requirements are such that members of this class should be rare indeed. Rangers, bards, and druids all have alignment (and to some extent environmental) restrictions. Fighters should be more common, requiring only martial training and permitted to be any alignment. Thieves can't be lawful good, and lock-picking can't be learned on a whim. Clerics and mages require access to religion and magic.

I don't have a perfect way to arrive at these values, so to start, I'm just going to make them up:
  • Paladin - 5%
  • Ranger - 10%
  • Bard - 10%
  • Druid- 10%
  • Fighter - 20%
  • Thief - 15%
  • Cleric - 10%
  • Mage - 10%
The above should be read as "Only five percent of individuals qualifying to be a paladin will attain the class." I'm still using a fall-through procedure: those that qualify for a class but get rejected by the percentage check still have a chance to be something else.

Here are the results for populations of 100 and 20,000:
*** Rolling method: 3d6 (in order) ***
*** Population: 100
Results...
   Pal: 0 (0%)
   Rgr: 0 (0%)
   Brd: 0 (0%)
   Drd: 1 (1%)
   Ftr: 17 (17%)
   Thf: 11 (11%)
   Clr: 7 (7%)
   Mge: 4 (4%)
   Nil: 60 (60%)
******************

*** Population: 20000
Results...
   Pal: 2 (0%)
   Rgr: 4 (0%)
   Brd: 15 (0%)
   Drd: 58 (0%)
   Ftr: 2892 (14%)
   Thf: 1945 (10%)
   Clr: 1105 (6%)
   Mge: 1087 (5%)
   Nil: 12892 (64%)
******************
These numbers look OK at the top, but the core classes feel too highly represented. 36% of a population isn't going to have class levels. The problem may be that very few individuals can qualify for a class like paladin or ranger to begin with, so it stands to reason that a larger cut of these prodigies will end up rising to their potential, despite the narrower requirements. I'll leave the numbers for the "hard" classes unchanged but reduce the core classes to:
  • Fighter - 3%
  • Thief - 2%
  • Cleric - 1%
  • Mage - 1%
Results:
*** Rolling method: 3d6 (in order) ***
*** Population: 100
Results...
   Pal: 0 (0%)
   Rgr: 0 (0%)
   Brd: 1 (1%)
   Drd: 0 (0%)
   Ftr: 1 (1%)
   Thf: 1 (1%)
   Clr: 1 (1%)
   Mge: 1 (1%)
   Nil: 95 (95%)
******************

*** Population: 20000
Results...
   Pal: 1 (0%)
   Rgr: 5 (0%)
   Brd: 18 (0%)
   Drd: 67 (0%)
   Ftr: 447 (2%)
   Thf: 296 (1%)
   Clr: 143 (1%)
   Mge: 137 (1%)
   Nil: 18886 (94%)
******************
This looks a lot better. Only one in twenty receives a character class, with a single party worth of adventurers servicing a small hamlet. The prevalence of spellcasters still feels high, but these numbers are usable for modeling a population in a campaign. I don't want to worry about fractional percentages at this point.

I hope this series of posts was interesting for anyone who ends up reading. I certainly think it's something I may use in my games going forward.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

More on class ability score requirements

Building off the previous post, let's look at the numbers from a different angle. The algorithm I created was designed to simulate an actual D&D population. If the results given by the model feel too generous, you can divide by a factor that represents the percentage of inhabitants that even get a crack at having a class assigned. This could account for age distribution across the populace and enforce the notion that only a subset of people are worthy of becoming adventurers. Even at less than 1% of total, 26 paladins in a city of 20,000 may feel like a lot, in which case some kind of adjustment is probably warranted.

Another thing to be mindful of is that, based on the algorithm, all thieves have strength of 8 or lower, all clerics have strength and dexterity of 8 or lower, and all mages have 8 or lower in strength, dexterity, and wisdom. This is flawed, so while the algorithm can be used to derive the distribution of classes within a population, it shouldn't be used to make assumptions about the ability scores of any one individual.

Turning the page, what if the DM is less interested in simulating a population and more interested in knowing the odds of meeting class requirements using a specific rolling method? The code can be changed a little to generate these numbers. Here's a sampling of 100 individuals across the same two rolling methods. Instead of stopping when a set of scores meets the requirements for a class, we continue checking to figure out all character classes for which the scores are eligible.
*** Rolling method: 3d6 (in order) ***
*** Population: 100
Results...
   Pal: 0 (0%)
   Rgr: 0 (0%)
   Brd: 0 (0%)
   Drd: 2 (2%)
   Ftr: 71 (71%)
   Thf: 67 (67%)
   Clr: 71 (71%)
   Mge: 82 (82%)
   Nil: 100 (100%)
******************
*** Rolling method: 4d6 drop lowest (in order) ***
*** Population: 100
Results...
   Pal: 0 (0%)
   Rgr: 7 (7%)
   Brd: 4 (4%)
   Drd: 4 (4%)
   Ftr: 89 (89%)
   Thf: 85 (85%)
   Clr: 85 (85%)
   Mge: 90 (90%)
   Nil: 100 (100%)
Here are the results against a population size of 20,000:
*** Rolling method: 3d6 (in order) ***
*** Population: 20000
Results...
   Pal: 26 (0%)
   Rgr: 28 (0%)
   Brd: 183 (1%)
   Drd: 658 (3%)
   Ftr: 14884 (74%)
   Thf: 14815 (74%)
   Clr: 14751 (74%)
   Mge: 14811 (74%)
   Nil: 20000 (100%)
******************
*** Rolling method: 4d6 drop lowest (in order) ***
*** Population: 20000
Results...
   Pal: 314 (2%)
   Rgr: 608 (3%)
   Brd: 1451 (7%)
   Drd: 2896 (14%)
   Ftr: 17935 (90%)
   Thf: 18040 (90%)
   Clr: 17884 (89%)
   Mge: 17911 (90%)
   Nil: 20000 (100%)
******************
This gets us closer to the "truth"; look at how the percentages for the four core classes (which all have statistically the same requirements) begin to normalize.

Now let's change the algorithm further to arrange each set of scores optimally. It actually gets a lot easier to be a paladin when the 17 doesn't need to fall in a specific slot. Ranger proves the most difficult class when rolling 3d6 but allowing the scores to be rearranged. 4d6, however, makes the ranger's 13s and 14s easier to hit, so paladin again becomes the hardest.
*** Rolling method: 3d6 (arranged to taste) ***
*** Population: 20000
Results...
   Pal: 1127 (6%)
   Rgr: 718 (4%)
   Brd: 4535 (23%)
   Drd: 7811 (39%)
   Ftr: 19997 (100%)
   Thf: 19997 (100%)
   Clr: 19997 (100%)
   Mge: 19997 (100%)
   Nil: 20000 (100%)
******************
*** Rolling method: 4d6 drop lowest (arranged to taste) ***
*** Population: 20000
Results...
   Pal: 5476 (27%)
   Rgr: 6108 (31%)
   Brd: 13734 (69%)
   Drd: 15592 (78%)
   Ftr: 20000 (100%)
   Thf: 20000 (100%)
   Clr: 20000 (100%)
   Mge: 20000 (100%)
   Nil: 20000 (100%)
Using the 3d6 method, only three sets out of 20,000 failed to get even a single 9. No set failed to get at least one 9 using the 4d6 method.

Lastly, here's the same experiment with the population upped to one million:
*** Rolling method: 3d6 (arranged to taste) ***
*** Population: 1000000
Results...
   Pal: 57141 (6%)
   Rgr: 36272 (4%)
   Brd: 227410 (23%)
   Drd: 387935 (39%)
   Ftr: 999699 (100%)
   Thf: 999699 (100%)
   Clr: 999699 (100%)
   Mge: 999699 (100%)
   Nil: 1000000 (100%)
******************
*** Rolling method: 4d6 drop lowest (arranged to taste) ***
*** Population: 1000000
Results...
   Pal: 270407 (27%)
   Rgr: 305016 (31%)
   Brd: 689606 (69%)
   Drd: 782784 (78%)
   Ftr: 999998 (100%)
   Thf: 999998 (100%)
   Clr: 999998 (100%)
   Mge: 999998 (100%)
   Nil: 1000000 (100%)
******************
The percentages are basically unchanged, though two unlucky players failed to qualify for any class by rolling 4d6.

While this data does little to simulate a population, it might be a great tool for DMs who want to influence the likelihood of players achieving certain class requirements by choosing a specific rolling method.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Class distribution over population size

This is an experiment I've wanted to try for a little while now. In an actual settlement populated by individuals having ability scores generated by the classic "3d6 in order" rolling method, how many would qualify for the various classes?

To obtain some data, I wrote a simple program that rolls sets of ability scores X number of times, based on the desired population size. Each "person" is evaluated based on the minimum ability requirements for the standard AD&D classes and assigned to the "best" class for which the individual qualifies.

In this context, "best" can be interpreted as "hardest," or most stringent ability requirements. The algorithm I implemented is a "fall through," such that each set of scores is "tested" for the most difficult class (paladin) first. If the scores fail to meet the requirements, they get tested for the next most difficult class (ranger), and so on.

When we get down to the four basic classes, which each require a 9 in the prime requisite and nothing else, they're ordered like this:

  • Fighter
  • Thief
  • Cleric
  • Mage
This means that, if an individual qualifies for a fighter, they're a fighter. If not, but they qualify for a thief, they're a thief. Then cleric, then mage. This allows mages, clerics, and thieves to be proportionally rare compared to fighters, even though the requirements for all four are statistically the same.

Here are the results for a hamlet with a population of 100:
*** Population: 100
Results...
   Pal: 0 (0%)
   Rgr: 0 (0%)
   Brd: 0 (0%)
   Drd: 3 (3%)
   Ftr: 73 (73%)
   Thf: 19 (19%)
   Clr: 3 (3%)
   Mge: 2 (2%)
   Nil: 0 (0%)
No paladins, rangers, or bards. Two mages, three clerics, nineteen thieves, and 73 fighters. "Nil" is for scores that qualify for no class at all (ouch).

Of course, in a "real" AD&D village, most of the population would be non-classed (i.e., 0-level villagers). So it's important to read these numbers as representing the top end of the population's potential, rather than an actual class distribution. Most of the "fighters" are likely to be simple common folk with a strength score of 9 or higher. There's also the fact that the population would be spread across different age groups: a five-year-old with a 17 charisma isn't going to be a paladin (at least, not yet).

Here's another hamlet:
*** Population: 100
Results...
   Pal: 1 (1%)
   Rgr: 1 (1%)
   Brd: 1 (1%)
   Drd: 4 (4%)
   Ftr: 72 (72%)
   Thf: 15 (15%)
   Clr: 3 (3%)
   Mge: 2 (2%)
   Nil: 1 (1%)
Similar distribution, but this village could have a paladin, a ranger, and a bard among its inhabitants. Of note, I think druid, of all the classes, feels "easier" to qualify for than it should. In terms of realism, druid should have a similar rarity to the three classes above it. The bard's requirements are clearly much harder to meet, even though both include a 15 charisma. Remember that only those that make druids but also fail to make bards are assigned to be druids.

Let's take a look at a small town of 500 residents:
*** Population: 500
Results...
   Pal: 1 (0%)
   Rgr: 0 (0%)
   Brd: 6 (1%)
   Drd: 13 (3%)
   Ftr: 354 (71%)
   Thf: 104 (21%)
   Clr: 15 (3%)
   Mge: 6 (1%)
   Nil: 1 (0%)
The percentages begin to normalize with a higher population size. (Also, the previous hamlet was fairly lucky to have both a ranger and a paladin.) Here's a city of 20,000:
*** Population: 20000
Results...
   Pal: 25 (0%)
   Rgr: 31 (0%)
   Brd: 166 (1%)
   Drd: 625 (3%)
   Ftr: 14197 (71%)
   Thf: 3606 (18%)
   Clr: 969 (5%)
   Mge: 272 (1%)
   Nil: 109 (1%)
Now the "true" percentages become clearer still. At this sample size we greatly reduce the chance of outliers.

One thing I wondered before doing this was, which class requirements between paladin and ranger are more difficult to meet? Paladins definitely feel like they should be rarer; since both classes have stringent yet different requirements, what happens when we roll the 20,000-person city but allow individuals that qualify for both classes to be rangers instead of paladins?
*** Population: 20000
Results...
   Rgr: 39 (0%)
   Pal: 26 (0%)
   Brd: 180 (1%)
   Drd: 599 (3%)
   Ftr: 14255 (71%)
   Thf: 3618 (18%)
   Clr: 972 (5%)
   Mge: 224 (1%)
   Nil: 87 (0%)
The numbers are really close, so we might want a higher sampling still to root this out. Here are results for both class orderings at population size 1,000,000:
*** Population: 1000000
Results...
   Rgr: 1804 (0%)
   Pal: 1352 (0%)
   Nil: 996844 (100%)
*** Population: 1000000
Results...
   Pal: 1380 (0%)
   Rgr: 1754 (0%)
   Nil: 996866 (100%)
Still very close, implying that characters who qualify for both classes are exceedingly rare (maybe around one in 20,000). This also shows that the paladin's requirements are statistically harder to meet than the ranger's, since we end up with fewer paladins regardless of which class is favored. Makes sense, since there's only a 1-in-54 chance of even hitting on a 17 charisma, let alone the paladin's additional requirements.

I'll go back to giving paladins the benefit of the overlap. Now let's adjust the rolling method. Here are two hamlets, the first using "3d6 in order," the second using "4d6 drop lowest" (but still in order):
*** Rolling method: 3d6 (in order) ***
*** Population: 100
Results...
   Pal: 1 (1%)
   Rgr: 0 (0%)
   Brd: 1 (1%)
   Drd: 5 (5%)
   Ftr: 60 (60%)
   Thf: 23 (23%)
   Clr: 6 (6%)
   Mge: 2 (2%)
   Nil: 2 (2%)
****************** 
*** Rolling method: 4d6 drop lowest (in order) ***
*** Population: 100
Results...
   Pal: 2 (2%)
   Rgr: 5 (5%)
   Brd: 3 (3%)
   Drd: 12 (12%)
   Ftr: 67 (67%)
   Thf: 9 (9%)
   Clr: 2 (2%)
   Mge: 0 (0%)
   Nil: 0 (0%)
******************
Those are large percentage gains in the difficult classes, and not even a single set of scores falls all the way through to mage. This effect shows me that the 4d6 method should probably be reserved for PCs and significant NPCs only, not the general populace.

Finally, let's blow this up to a 20,000-person sampling:
*** Rolling method: 4d6 drop lowest (in order) ***
*** Population: 20000
Results...
   Pal: 308 (2%)
   Rgr: 535 (3%)
   Brd: 1241 (6%)
   Drd: 1738 (9%)
   Ftr: 14395 (72%)
   Thf: 1568 (8%)
   Clr: 189 (1%)
   Mge: 21 (0%)
   Nil: 5 (0%)
Interestingly, the fighter percentage actually looks like it's preserved from the 3d6 method. Even though many more characters qualify for the classes above fighter, the 9 strength requirement is also easier to hit for anyone that falls through the upper ranks. In the end, we have fewer sets trickling down to thief, cleric, and mage (around 9% total, as opposed to 24% with the 3d6 method).

Keep in mind that the 4d6 method employed by most DMs allows the player to rearrange the ability scores, making any class much easier to qualify for compared to keeping the rolls in order. I'm sure there are more experiments I can run with this code, but I'll cut it off here for now. Interested to hear any thoughts or ideas.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

XP awards for sessions 1-4

I'm awarding 1,000 XP to each PC for each of the first four sessions. My goal is to set us off on a solid clip; the enemies defeated so far, though few, have been powerful, and clearly the village of Carrock would be much worse off had the party not intervened. I'm leaning loosely on monster XP values from the books, but all in all, the traditional AD&D XP system is designed for dungeon crawl style campaigns, and this campaign is definitely not that.

Here are the updated totals:

  • Audric - 9,000
  • Zeb - 3,000/6,900
This should gain each PC a level. Advancement is not instantaneous; a number of days equal to each character's new level needs to be passed with a focus on study and self-reflection. This can occur in Carrock if the party chooses not to set out again immediately. Assuming this will be the case, Zeb and Audric can continue to investigate the recent happenings so long as the majority of time is spent in training.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Session #4, Zeb's Notes

2/7/2018, Session #4

In the company of  Emmet and Bartley, we make our return to Carrock.  Their prisoner—still incoherent and suffering from malnourishment, is bound to one of the beasts of burden, and we travel on foot.  The going is slow, but along the way, we learn a little more about the town of Carrock and its inhabitants.  Another druid, Maglarosh, watches over Carrock—I feel that we must share news of Damyca with him.

Travel is uneventful except for the piercing cry of a single wolf during the first night’s watch.  It brings back horrible memories of Carcerus and the destruction of Shadfeld, but heralds nothing malicious—at least not yet.

Carrock is a small village, full of vibrancy and the smell of hearth-fire smoke.  A partially-constructed tower sits at the center of town; the brothers reveal that it was commissioned many years ago by previous inhabitants, but never finished.  It is used to store goods and foodstuffs.  The town itself lies within a light wood, with several gardens.  Fishing and hunting seem to be the primary trades, and the building of chief import the Inn of Carrock, run by a man named Drachus.

In advance of our arrival, we send one of the brothers to alert the town leaders and Maglarosh of our arrival, as well as to make sure their sister is not among the welcome party.  We wish to avoid drama, and know that the presence of the prisoner will likely be unwelcome.  Drachus is the apparent leader of this town, though seems too young to bear such a responsibility.  He takes news of Shadfeld’s destruction with an admirable seriousness that defies his young age; it is clear he cares for the well-being of Carrock. 

As feared, Drachus will not allow the prisoner to re-enter town.  The boy’s state seems unchanged, though he awakens briefly to mumble something about “three streams.”  Tussugar agrees to watch over our prisoner while we escort Drachus to the Inn of Carrock to share more news, a meal, and a welcomed ale.

At the Inn we encounter Aibreann, wife of Drachus, and the victim of our prisoner’s violence.  She has auburn hair, unique among her siblings, and is pregnant (presumably with Drachus’ child).  We learn later that she is adopted, and that the baby is thankfully unharmed.  Drachus has little to add to what we know of his wife’s attack, and for the moment, it seems inappropriate to press Aibreann for information on the matter.

We are saddened to hear that Erathmar is not here, nor has he passed through.  My worry for our employer grows.  We finally agree to camp outside the limits of Carrock, both to quell my worries of Korvich and Carcerus, as well as to keep the prisoner an appropriate distance from the Inn.  Maglarosh awaits us upon our return, however—the quintessential druid, an older, aloof man who smells of the wood and the beasts that reside within.  We tell him the true details of the assault on Shadfeld—leaving out only our encounter with Kezia, which is not easily explained—and Tussugar angrily confirms that it was Korvich and cultists of my faith that carried out the attack.

Maglarosh tells us of the “shadow binding,” lore of ancient druidic nature, that tells of a time of darkness and reshaping of nature.  He had intended to seek out Damyca, having had similar premonitions, and fears that our tale may speak of this “shadow binding” or perhaps dangers of a larger scope than any we imagined.  Maglarosh agrees to watch over our prisoner in hopes that he will recuperate, as the druid agrees that he may play some larger role in the events of the last few days.

Relieved of our burden temporarily, I return to the Inn for a much-needed second drink with Tussugar, who seems to turn his anger at my involvement with the destruction of his town inward.  

When he sees Aibreann, it appears as if he has seen a ghost, startled by her presence or perhaps by recognition of her; it bears further discussion, though now does not seem the appropriate time to have such a discussion.  Despite being relieved of our prisoner, camping outside of town seems the most prudent course of action.

The next day is spent pursuing various tasks, odds, and ends.  Audric works for Drachus at the Inn of Carrock to relieve some of the financial burden of our stay, while I spend some time with the hunters of Carrock.  News of Shadfeld has spread, however, and when the questions start to come, we reconvene the group to investigate the unfinished tower and the rest of town.  Carrock seems woefully unprepared to deal with the threat Korvich and Carcerus present, though there is little we can do about it.  With no apparent direction except to wait for the recovery of our prisoner, we seek out Maglarosh, who has little to report except more murmuring and night terrors, this time about “seeing her” and “don’t take me!”.  The meaning of his babbling, however, or the source of his insanity remains unknown.

Disappointed by our lack of progress, we camp for a second night outside of town.  This night, however, we are awakened by a piercing scream.  When we hurry to investigate, we find two creatures assaulting a woman—goblins, perhaps, though longer of limb and with movements that confuse perception and that make us uneasy.  They have red, glowing eyes and fanged maws—not goblins, then, but something more feral, more dangerous.

We test arms and spells against the creatures, but Tussugar and I are nearly felled by claw and tooth, the dwarf having disdained his armor in our haste to investigate the scream.  The creatures seem resistant to our spells, and possess a constitution greater than that of any goblin.  Their gaze, as well, has the ability to incapacitate, and once they hit with their claws, they smother the face of their opponent with their fanged maws, suffocating their victims.

We are victorious, though it is a close thing, and not without consequence.  The dwarf Tussugar and I sport many wounds, and we were unable to save the woman.  We can see residents of Carrock peeking from windows, though it does not escape our notice that none stepped to our aid during the conflict.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Randomness vs. control

This post does well to articulate how I see D&D as a game, and particularly how I approach D&D as a player. Sean did a great job DMing his inaugural session on Saturday, wherein I found myself continually leaning on the familiar mindset of minimizing randomness to maximize control.

As a player, if I'm being asked to make a die roll, it's because I've already exhausted all other available options. I've attempted (or at least thought through) alternate solutions, formulated tactics, and considered the possible contingencies as best I can. The core mechanics of D&D dictate that certain outcomes will always be decided by luck of the dice; your primary job as a player, to ensure your character's survival, is to minimize the impact of luck by maximizing the strategic approach and management of resources at every turn.

This is why I had Kaldric cast flaming sphere on the round before Kai took the scrolls from atop the pedestal, in anticipation that an enemy might present itself in response. As a player, I determined that, given our situation, the expenditure of one of my two 2nd-level spells for the day was worth the possibility of gaining a free round of fire damage against an unknown threat. It worked: three skeletons emerged from the debris surrounding the dais, and one of them was destroyed single-handedly by my spell, without costing anyone a single action in combat.

It doesn't matter, in retrospect, that none of our lives likely hung in the balance of the flaming sphere. Nor would it have mattered if no enemy appeared at all and the spell had been used to no avail. Evaluation of risk and assertion of control led me to the chosen path, and the decision could only be made with the information available to us at the time. It was the right one.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Kaldric Avernus Trelorn

The character I just wrapped up for Sean's new game is an idea I've been kicking around literally since 2010. It took going through some old emails to pinpoint when Jason, Rich, and I had talked about doing a "descendants" play-by-post from our old campaign, and definitely shows how infrequently I get to be an AD&D player. My FR-specific concept is a battle mage/strategist patron of Red Knight, descended from my long-played Realmsian wizard, Cadazcar.

It's pretty sweet to finally be able to give this one a go. My character was actually named a year before our six-year-old daughter!

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The tarot reading (session #3)

The following is a transcript of the tarot reading performed by Kezia. You may find subtleties here that were otherwise missed.

"Two paths converged, leading you here."

"If we are to know your course, we must first know you."

"The Abjurer's importance, four, is twice that of the Missionary, two. Together, they number six. We reveal a hexad."



"A triumvirate of evil has befallen the land. Vanquish them, and know peace. 
Look within the Traitor to find the Beast. 
Look within the Artifact to find the Anarchist.
Look within the Donjon to find the Necromancer. 
[pause]
No - this is not correct..." [Kezia transposes The Traitor and The Beast]

"Along your journey hence, beware this card."

"But above all else, fear this."