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31  Products / Fantasy Craft / Re: Other Fantasy Genres on: October 02, 2009, 10:21:25 AM
I'm actually running a dystopian fantasy, mages ruined the world centuries ago, and society is still on the brink.
32  Products / Fantasy Craft / Re: Demoralizing the Setting on: October 02, 2009, 10:19:50 AM
So if I understand correctly, you want the NPCs demoralized, not the players.  You want them to save the town, and have a girl child peasant looking up at {HERO PC}, confused and on the border of fear.  Then, when the hero smiles down at her, she smiles, cautious and uncertain, as though this act does not come naturally to her.

[Disclaimer:  This is a bit 'gritty' for young children, and I apologize in advance if it offends anyone.]

In addition to Trenchiron's suggestions:
Poor Food and Drink: As a soldier, nothing was worse than sandy food, pure water that tasted of iodine, and wondering how long it would be until I caught the runs again.  I knew the food was safe, it just granted no pleasure.  When mundane things resemble chores, morale plummets.

Lack of Victory:  Giants are big, and intimidating, and do enough damage that people they hit can't even be buried in open coffins.  Combine that with giants who use their average intelligence to pull out of a fight before they die, and you have what looks like an unwinnable fight.  And IF they defeat the giants, they then have to turn on their allies and fight for the territory AGAIN.

Lack of Hope:  Nothing is so damaging to morale as low morale.  This will manifest as soldiers murmuring to each other just out of the earshot of the PCs.  The soldiers have seen this before, and are waiting for the PCs to come back with fewer than half their numbers.  Oddly, this may seem positive to the players, like soldiers trying to help them. 
    "You don't need to outrun the giants, just that guy in the heavy platemail over there." 
    "Remember, lad, take cover behind a tree with that bow.  Giants throw some pretty big rocks."
    "Oi, new guy.  If them giants take me, you kill me.  Death is better than what they'll do to me if they take me alive."

Know your Enemy:  When you fear an enemy, you don't call the giant in the green Moldypants, you call him Greenjeans or 'the giant druid'.  To demoralize his enemies, Blackbeard supposedly put burning matches in his beard, to show how short the fight was going to be.  This only gets worse in a fantasy environment.  Maybe that one giant's club flashes with fire when it crits someone.  Do you have any proof that ISN'T hellfire, sending the souls of his victims to hell no matter how they've behaved in this life?  If the fear becomes dread, even things like 'Blackbeard' go from mundane descriptors to dreaded pseudonyms.  On the other hand, witness the evolution of: 'Baron of the Skies', 'The Baron', 'The Red Baron', 'The Bloody Red Baron' - history alone is filled with such 'enemy heroes'.

Welcome to Your Doom:  Vietnam was a prime example of this.  Because of the death rate, people began to value life just a little less.  Their enemies were performing attrocities on a daily basis.  Peace-loving monastics were killing themselves in gruesome ways before the soldiers.  When this became less shocking, edged toward NORMAL, is when the most severe breaks in morale happen.
    "I had to kill that officer, he was going to lead us right into the giant fort and get us all killed."
    "Of course I paid that merchant for these supplies." [wiping blood off sword] "I paid him in steel."
    "Why are we defending these people?  Look at them, working their fields day in, day out.  Why haven't they joined us in defending their own fields?"  [For irony, have the soldier eating a food item produced in those fields.]
    An unwillingness to take the dangerous part of standard tactics.  "Who's got left?" from the machine-gun scene in Saving Private Ryan comes to mind.  Everyone agrees SOMEONE has to be on the left side; everyone knows the plan falls apart if there isn't; but (initially) nobody is willing to be there.

Loss of Special Weapons:  Loss of abilities, especially of non-combat assets, can be devastating.  Did the scouts not return from patrol last night?  Is this the fight where the cleric catches a boulder?  Have the giants come up with a tactic that renders our new boar spears useless?  Did the lord's mage get off a fireball before the hill he was standing on got redecorated with rock-pulped body parts?  If the special people and veterans can't survive this, what chance do mere men have?

Walking Wounded:  Beggars in the streets, their bodies broken by blows that have left their skeletons permanently deformed.  Massed near the temples, waiting to see which of them wins the 'healing lotto', getting the precious few spells that will restore them to that most coveted and magical abilities - walking.  Always aware that more of their fellows are arriving than being restored. 
    What about a soldier with a leg bitten off, then discarded by a giant because he 'tasted bad'?  This soldier could blame themselves for whomever the giant DID eat, especially if they witnessed it.

And this is from standard tactics.  When the horrors of war are augmented by REAL horrors, morale can plummet that much faster, life can seem that much more hopeless, and  heroes can be perceived only dimly through the fog of despair, especially if heroes have come and failed before them.
33  Products / Fantasy Craft / Re: Haggle? on: October 02, 2009, 09:26:53 AM
Also keep in mind that the Mastercraft skill system is intentionally fluid to allow plenty of interpretation, alternate skill use, mix and match attributes, etc. We understand that everyone has their own take on how to get various things done and leave plenty of room to make that happen.

Exactly, and if you let the players know that you'll consider each case fairly (generally -4 improvise penalty in my game, like improvised weapons, but going higher or lower with feasibility), the players will do most of the work for you, and not even realize they're working.  AND it convinces them their characters aren't useless.

The Master from Darkest Hour was a fallen Templar.
Assassin:  What do I know about him?  I'm a Lord (specialty) with an interest in folk heroes.
(I waived the penalty for this one,)

Keeper: Runic Language?  Let me see!  Are there any parts on medicine?
(Without pictures or Linguistics, this is going to be hard.  I'd impose -10 with a skill cap for trying to translate a language using Medicine skill, if I were feeling generous.)
34  Products / Fantasy Craft / Re: So.. let me see your take on this scenario.. (Even comes with a disclaimer!) on: September 27, 2009, 12:08:36 PM
1.  That EXACT scenario?  Not really, no.  But players DO come up with some whacky ideas.  I concur with earlier assessment, use the Browbeat rules; I think they have an example of an orc chieftan using the goblin king's head in this manner.

If you want to work psychology on the city, I recommend a complex skill challenge, each roll requiring a set-up.  For example, burning spirit rebuking the city - I can see that as cause for a roll.

Personally, I like a concept from social architecture called Social Collapse.  It requires a more detailed knowledge of how the city works, how the various structures (Peasantry, Criminal, Religious, Nobility, Military, Guilds) work together.  Basically, you assign the city an impossible target number, and possibly 'social TOUGH' (like the NPC ability, a number of failures the city can survive).  As each element of the city is neutralized, it provides a bonus to the rolls against the city itself.  To subvert the rligious nature of the city, perhaps the incident with the burning spirit provides a 'hit' against it, or perhaps a bonus against Religious Subversion rolls.  The advantage of such a system is that each 'entity' defined can have its own actions.  But the party goal is to render the whole incohesive, and drive the city into rebellion or social collapse.

2.  I can't help thinking 'ent' when looking at Rootwalkers.  Like all races, they are loosely enough defined that you the GM can do what you want.  Personally, I'm thinkin of an entire Shrubling race with various racial 'Pod' feats to differentiate between the breeds.  Fortunately, my players aren't giving me ANY time to do such things, I have just enough time to get the straight and narrow filled out.

3.  Fire without fire damage sounds like an ILLUSION to me.  It's just the chemical version of the alchemical potion, on a large scale.  So I'd allow the chemist to use his Craft(chemistry) to make the Elixir that lets the Rootwalker 'burn', and use Bluff-Intimidate to resolve the effects.
35  Products / Fantasy Craft / Re: Downtime and Prudence on: September 14, 2009, 11:04:02 AM
Trust me, whatever the game system, players that want money will find a way to earn it.  I've had players take the dungeon apart with mining tools to sell the worked stone.  When players REALLY want something, they'll find a way to get it.  It may involve the use of several action dice, but even in SpyCraft, it was possible to amass a fortune.

The FC system encourages players to spend money both at the beginning and end of the mission.  Other than that, I expect that players will have everything they need (like a finesse bleeding moonblade, possibly magical) by mission three.
36  Products / Fantasy Craft / Re: Here's my idea for a setting... on: September 09, 2009, 07:38:00 PM
No, I've read enough of Glen Cook's books to make this world on my own.  Also, the 'hundreds' of races promises such races as Urine Golem and Sentient Disease. 

It *is* a good starting point for a campaign, but I don't know that I'd spend money to buy it.  Would other people?  Possibly.
37  Products / Fantasy Craft / Re: How hard is it to use 3.5 adventures in FC on: September 05, 2009, 11:45:58 PM
Converting critters from other d20 systems is remarkably easy.  Where you run into trouble is the unique flavor abilities.  For example, you can pump up a faerie dragon to over 120 XP, and still have no combat prowess or durability.  Judge the impact you want your critter to have, and build appropriately. 

Alternately, look at a similar base critter that has stats in the book.  Then modify the 'in rules' critter until it feels right. 

AND:  Building critters and NPCs to challenge PCs is an art, not a science.  PCs do sneaky things like grapple the sergeant and use them for cover against the squad of archers.  These same PCs can get pinned down by a bunch of kobolds flinging garbage (nobody likes to be nauseated).  It comes with time, effort, and experience.  There will be errors, expect them, correct them, and move on.
38  Products / Fantasy Craft / Re: Running Darkest Hour Tonight - PC Class suggestions on: August 31, 2009, 09:24:03 AM
To showcase FC for Darkest Hour, I'd use the following classes:


To showcase:
1)  You don't need a Mage or Priest
2)  You don't need a dedicated meat shield
3)  Burglars are NOT essential (Explorers do just fine with traps)
4)  This isn't DND, the archtypes are completely different

FC is a low-magic setting.  Not every village of 100 is going to have a mage or cleric.  AND I have to hammer into the characters the differences in armor and healing.  Once they get past that hurdle, they do pretty well.
39  Products / Fantasy Craft / Re: New Ability: Cloaked Form on: August 31, 2009, 09:13:57 AM
I have to agree with Alex on this one; it does too much for too little.  In other D20 games, I've had horror moments where wimpy mages would Shapeshift into Arrow Demons.  But that's a discussion for another time.

Seriously, if your Drakes need a pair of hands, buy a slave.  It's more what a drake would do, anyway.  Or, if you're a 'good' drake (a concept like a 'good' drow), consider the personal lieutenant feat.  (Sorry to all military buffs if I mis-spelled that rank.)  This also has the advantage of being someone you trust to do right by you.

I think it was Council of Worms that touched this issue; one dragon for outdoors, one trusted cohort for going into those tight spaces.  Of course, this gave way to the Shadowrun dragons.  You want money?  We HAVE money... we just need a small FAVOR...

But I'm losing focus again.  It's a good idea, and has basis in the Gold and Silver dragons from the SRD.  HOWEVER, it's like allowing humans, as the most flexible race, to select feats from any other race.  Sounds simple and good, but doesn't work so well in actual practice.
40  Products / Fantasy Craft / Re: Money & Starting Characters on: August 31, 2009, 09:03:27 AM
To answer the original problem, have you considered stealing from SpyCraft?

MAKE a standard adventurer's pack, and then give one to each player.  This has worked out well, except for once, when a dwarf (mine) lost his temper on one of those narrow mountain paths, and hurled twenty pounds of hemp rope over the side.  Of course, we needed it for climbing later that same day.

Another solution, give the characters a number of 'unspecified common' items equal to their starting action dice.  This will allow them to have low-cost items without having to spend an action dice to go back and 'retroactively buy' something silly like soap or chalk or eating utensils.  (All useful for adventurers, but all things I tend to forget.)
41  Products / Fantasy Craft / Re: Too many Prizes: What do I tell my players? on: August 28, 2009, 06:23:24 AM
Well, if we're going to talk about alternate systems, try a combination of Earthdawn and Birthright.  Magic items only work for characters who invest a portion of their 'aura' (which grows with character level) into them.  Minor items require almost no investment.

Likewise, in the manner of Arthurian lands, holdings do well only when their 'bonded' ruler is.  In an unbonded land, crops are over-run by weeds and plagues, cities become dour and desolate, and all manner of monsters are drawn like iron filings to a lodestone.  Kalamar provides a sample of how this could also help the character. 
42  Products / Fantasy Craft / Re: Mage. Priest. FIGHT! on: August 26, 2009, 06:43:54 AM
For gods, I tend to go with the iconic Elemental and GoM (Gods of 'Man'), and allow 'Lesser Gods' who aren't as awesome.  Of course, I do not allow such things as St. Michelob (although dwarves DO have holy beer that works just like holy water).  But back on track, this allows holy PCs to serve the deity of their choice.

Of course, I also try to combine Birthright and Primal Orders behind the scenes.  So PCs soon learn that serving their deity increases that deity's power and influence.  I have yet to see a Lesser transcend into the permanent pantheon, but the Greek 'city gods' have actually risen in a few campaigns.
43  Products / Fantasy Craft / Re: Iconic Classes and Specialties on: August 26, 2009, 06:37:55 AM
Yes, but you spend a feat to get there.  If you find the 'Racial Feats' offensive, let Human players suggest feats from other sources as Human racial feats.  Trust me, players are MUCH better at finding these than GC (especially if you want a life outside of gaming), and if they understand a 'tough but fair' policy, they are eager to find a similar mechanic in another race's feat so it actually balances.

Now I just need to beat into their heads that CLASSES (especially prestige classes) don't transfer.
44  Products / Fantasy Craft / Re: Mage. Priest. FIGHT! on: August 25, 2009, 04:44:15 PM
I find this a curious and fun thing to play with. I was thinking about making a character who has cleric as a specialty and is, in fact, a mage.

This actually does work reasonably well, especially for 'ballad' clerics like (forget his name, Roland's priest from the Charlemaigne saga, the one that spends more time with his mace than his prayer beads).  They can call forth a number of prayers (spells), but it also depends whether the saints/spirits/entities granting those spells favor the character (Is the spell one granted by ranks of Spellcraft?).

It fits well into Norse and Germanic myth, as well as low-mana worlds like Conan.
45  Products / Fantasy Craft / Re: Dwarves can't Swim on: August 24, 2009, 09:15:18 AM
On the topic of Dwarf Navy, I don't see why not.  Historically, most seafaring personnel could NOT swim, which is one of the factors helping the captain keep control.  If someone got too uppity, they walked the plank and got to take swimming lessons from the sharks.

Steam powered vehicles are EASY to make in most fantasy games.  Is it magic, or steam powered?  I'd personally throw in a Mechanics skill at the Rennaisance age, and allow (Steam Power) as a focus of it.  THAT said, I've been recently accused of being a skill monkey. 

Where I run into problems is when the Terapin (turtle) pirates on a Behemoth, which they keep controlled by a giant psicrystal.  If they HAVE those kind of resources, why are they still pirating?  What out there is so valuable that it wouldn't have been easier to get than their vessel?  Still a work in progress, mind you.  Hm... wonder whether they stole the Behemoth from someone else... they'd need adventurers to get it back for them...
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