Tag: rpg

Magic in Role-Playing Games: A Moral Taboo?

“Magic is a matter of symbolism and intent.”  —Randall Garrett, Too Many Magicians

Most role-playing games (RPGs) include some kind of magic or occult phenomena as part of the game. This fact makes some people uncomfortable. Some Christians go so far as to insist that any activity—games, movies, whatever—including the portrayal of magic must be avoided in order to maintain a right relationship with God and to follow His moral guidance. On careful examination, however, the arguments used to support this stand are weak, both from a logical and Scriptural perspective.

There are two aspects to this controversy: 1) what is actually happening when magic appears in an RPG, and 2) what does Scripture have to say about this? In this essay I address the issue of fact rather than the application of Scripture—not because Scripture is less important, but because it is impossible to apply Scripture properly without knowing the factual truth about any situation barring direct divine inspiration, which lies outside the realm of the merely rational mind. Read more

Vengeance of Andreas Fuchs

Another tale from the Exploration of Isenwald campaign!


BACKGROUND:

Not long after arriving in the northern land of Isenwald, the party had made an enemy of the selfish knight Banneret. They had defeated his band of knights and custrels in a barrier combat during a spring festival in Arianport. Unhappy with the loss, Sir Andreas Fuchs and his men later ambushed the party to steal the winnings. The party defeated them, and Diego was merciful. However, Andreas Fuchs took this for weakness. After attracting a few more swords to his band, he followed the party northwards to the Cloister Mine and witnessed the Battle of the Muddy Fields. His men then laid a careful ambush for the weary party.

FROM THE DM:

This session was the closest we came to a TPK (editor’s note: that’s “Total Party Kill” for those unfamiliar with roleplaying parlance), at least to this point. The PCs were already at half-strength when I hit them with a fresh band of armored knights. I pushed them to their limits, but the players responded well. Ironically, the PCs won the battle when all the main fighters were down or dying. The peace-loving thief (he would say spymaster) of the party turned the tide with a magical whip! This encounter gave the PCs tremendous satisfaction because they killed a worthy foe that they hated. Read more

The Battle of the Muddy Fields

Michael Garcia returns with another tale from his Exploration of Isenwald campaign.


BACKGROUND:

Having defeated the Eaters-of-the-Dead after an extended campaign, the party then won control of the Cloister Mine by legal means, namely by out-producing their rival Varyag claimants (envision Russians) in the span of one month. During that time, a third party of claimants attacked, but the party defeated them too. Finally, now in control of the mine, the party learned that the leader of the Varyag claimants was none other than the corrupt Orthodox Bishop of the nearby town of Arianport. Unwilling to yield the mine, but always eager to keep his hands clean, this bishop, or Yepiskop, dispatched a group of mounted thugs, the Oprichniki, to take the mine by force.

FROM THE DM:

This was our largest battle to date in this campaign (roughly 60 to 30). It was also the first time that the party saw specific spells that they often used cast against them. The PCs had to develop larger-scale battle tactics while contending with rain and challenging terrain (a muddy field surrounded by hills, plus the mine entrance). I also learned that a carefully crafted NPC might perish with a single roll of the dice. Creating that NPC was an hour of my life that I’ll never get back, but it made the player feel like a demigod. Lastly, the fate of the party’s spell caster at the end gave us a good laugh (the player role-played it perfectly too). The following write-up also gave one character (Sir Tomo) his nickname for the rest of the campaign. Don’t underestimate the effect of a decent write-up.

Read more

Faith and Gaming: Slavery

Role playing games take us to other worlds, other times and places, some which were, some which might have been, some which yet might be, and even some that could not, as far as we understand, be. Because of this, they also challenge us at times to wrestle with answers to questions of morality that are not our own. In an age in which it was common, was polygamy wrong in the eyes of God? Would it be wrong for a human to eat an intelligent creature who is not human, given that it was as intelligent as a human but truly not related in any way that would make that cannibalism? Issues are raised in our games at times that don’t come up in our lives, because we don’t live in those worlds; yet we manage to find answers to these questions, and so come better to understand our own moral values.

Slavery is one of the more difficult and more common issues that arise in our games. Read more

Languages of Northumbria

CGG member Mike Garcia offers some of his copious campaign world documents for the continent of Northumbria.


ALCHEMISTS’ TONGUE, THE

This was the language created by alchemists in the ancient Aquilonian Empire, over a dozen centuries ago. The alchemical concepts are far older, dating back many millennia, but Aquilonian alchemists codified a set of unique and mystical runes to allow them to record and share their knowledge in some secrecy. No alchemist will teach the concepts or the runes to a non-alchemist.

AQUILONIAN

This was the common language of the ancient Aquilonian Empire, once located across the sea, but now in ruins. The Aquilonians used a sound-based system of letters, and this alphabet is now used for writing both Frangian and Zeelander.

FRANGIAN

This is the common language of the Kingdom of Frangia and its colonies. Derived from Old Frangian, Frangian is a sister language to Zeelander. Those that can understand Zeelander have a 20% chance to understand Frangian and vice versa. Frangians use the Aquilonian alphabet.

HIGH TONGUE, THE

This is the language of the Frangian nobility, derived from the peculiar dialect of one of the Frangian ruling tribes from centuries ago. Those that understand Frangian have a 10% chance of understanding the High Tongue and vice versa. The High Tongue uses the Aquilonian alphabet.
Though the High Tongue is widely available in books and thus familiar to many scholars, few understand how to speak it fluently. Frangian nobles have carefully guarded the precise verbal nuances of their language—a practice that allows them to recognize one another and to distinguish their own from imposters.

KENIENKA

This is the language of the Kenianka, one of the main native human populations of eastern Northumbria. They call it the ‘Flint Tongue’, as the Kenienka call themselves the ‘Flint People’ or the ‘People of the Flint Place’.

NORSK

This is the common language of the Varangians, who once ruled the mighty Northern Realm in Northumbria. Though that kingdom is now in ruins, the Varangian people spread throughout Northumbria, keeping alive their native tongue. Norsk and Old Frangian both come from an ancient northern language, now forgotten. Those that can understand Frangian or Zeelander have a 05% chance to understand Norsk and vice versa. Varangians use a sound-based system of runes, derived from those of the dwarves and elves.

PICTISH

This is the common language of the Picts in Northumbria. It is entirely different from all other known languages in the region. Picts use a sound-based system of runes, possibly derived from those of the Varangians, but many scholars argue that any similarities are coincidence.

WENDAT

This is the language of the Wendat, one of the main native human populations of eastern Northumbria. Its origins are unknown.

ZEELANDER

This is the common language of the Kingdom of Zeeland and its colonies. Derived from Old Frangian, Zeelander is a sister language to Frangian. Those that can understand Zeelander have a 20% chance to understand Frangian and vice versa. Zeelanders use the Aquilonian alphabet.

ELVEN

Dating back many millennia, this is the common language of the fey folk. They call it the ‘ancient song’, or vanha laulu. It is entirely different from all other non-elven languages.
The elves use a sound-based system of runes, which later became the inspiration for other runic systems, such as that of the dwarves and that of the Varangians. The elves actually use two sets of runes, one for common writing (called sanat, meaning ‘words’) and another (called voimat, meaning ‘powers’) for important concepts like magic and law.  All elves know the former, and all elders know the latter as well.

DWARVEN

Dating back many millennia, this is the common language of the mountain folk. Dwarves refer to their tongue as the ‘song of stone and fire’.
The dwarves use two sound-based systems of runes, both derived from those of the elves. They use the first set of runes, which they simply call ‘carvings’, for common writing. These runes undoubtedly had some influence on development of Varangian runes. The second set of runes, which they call ‘smithing marks’, they use for important concepts like magic and manufacturing secrets.  Most dwarves know the ‘carvings’, but only proven dwarven smiths know the ‘smithing marks’.

GNOMISH

This is the soft language of the reclusive forest-dwelling gnomes. Gnomes do not teach their tongue to non-gnomes so the languages remains a mystery to most.
The gnomes use a sound-based system of runes, possibly influenced by those of the elves, but aso similar in some ways to those used by Picts. Some scholars suggest that the early Picts learned their runes from gnomes.

DM’S NOTE ON NUMBER OF LANGUAGES KNOWN

A PC’s intelligence determines how many languages he or she can learn, but the PC does not begin with his potential fully achieved.

  1. Each PC should start out with a primary human language, plus any suitable racial language.
  2. Frangian nobles raised as such will also know the High Tongue (the family should be wealthy though—DM’s call).
  3. Thieves will also know Thieves’ Cant, which is not really a full language.
  4. Each magic user, illusionist, or cleric may start with one additional language that is open to him or her.
  5. Thereafter, if intelligence allows, each PC may know one additional language that is open to him or her.
  6. A PC must learn anything beyond this starting number of languages during the game, taking active steps to learn from an NPC. It will take time.

For example, a Frangian knight with a 16 intelligence (maximum of 5 additional languages) would know Frangian as his base language, plus the High Tongue. As he could start with one more, he might choose Zeelander. That means that he starts with three languages and can learn three more in the course of play.

Another example: A Zeelander ranger with a 16 intelligence (maximum of five additional languages) would know Zeelander as his base language. His back story explains that he has been on the frontier for many years, so he can chose Kenienka or Wendat or Varangian as a second tongue. he starts with two languages and would be able to learn four more.

Another example: A Frangian cleric from a noble family has a 14 intelligence (four additional languages). He starts with Frangian as his base language, and, having been raised in a noble family, he knows the High Tongue as well. As a cleric, he then chooses Zeelander. Lastly, he selects ancient Aquilonian as his bonus language, having studied it for years before arriving in Northumbria. He therefore starts with four languages and can learn one more during play.

DM’S NOTE ON LANGUAGE RESTRICTIONS

The guiding principle is that a PC’s knowledge of a language must make sense. Languages are not flippantly learned. One must spend a great deal of time and energy both learning and practicing a language.

Some basic rules for a Blackwater Campaign:

  1. No PC, save under very rare circumstances, will know the Alchemist’s Tongue. Only alchemists learn this carefully guarded code.
  2. Only Frangian nobles, raised in such a household, will know the High Tongue.
  3. Anyone wishing to know Kenienka or Wendat must have spent a good deal of time in eastern Northumbria among the native speakers. It cannot be learned through books, and it cannot be learned quickly through casual conversation.
  4. No PC can know Pictish. It is very different, but more importantly, the Picts are utterly hostile to other peoples, and they do not value intellectual pursuits so their literature is almost non-existent.
  5. Save under rare circumstances, no human PC should know the elven tongue as the elves do not readily teach it to others. If a PC knows elven runes, they will always be the ones for common writing (sanat).
  6. Dwarves are less guarded in teaching their language, though any PC that knows dwarves runes will know only the ‘carvings’ for common writing—not the smithing marks.

Keeping Their Heads Down

Trickles of sweat stung his eyes and slowly worked down his back. This jungle wasn’t anything like the New Jersey Pine Barrens he grew up in. He viewed the dark with the special night vision goggles that made everything look like some bizarre green seascape. Ten years as a city cop had not prepared him for humping through a tropical rain forest. “Pepsi, check, over…” He was supposed to observe radio silence but hearing a friendly voice helped take the edge off. ‘Pepsi’ Kohler was a lifelong friend and a former Marine, a comforting companion for his first night on patrol.

“Check, Woody, wait one…,” came the reply. There was an edge to the brief transmission. Woody Marks quickly turned and began scanning in the direction of his teammate. Still a novice with the NVGs, he suffered a temporary green out of his vision as he scanned right over the team’s campfire. With a muffled curse, he pushed the goggles onto his forehead and searched the night with his naked eyes. He spotted Kohler on one knee, 40 meters away, SMG at the ready. Woody followed Pepsi’s line of sight, trying to see what had spooked him. A hint of movement in his peripheral vision brought his attention back around behind Pepsi. The biggest, meanest looking Bengal tiger Woody had ever seen was stalking his friend! Read more

The Search for Sergeant Adelar

This is the debut article in a series of memorable and entertaining roleplaying sessions from the CGG membership. Michael Garcia kicks things off with a session from his Exploration of Isenwald campaign.


BACKGROUND:

The party members are southerners that have traveled north for many weeks to foster a business relationship with their employer’s good friend. As a favor to the local baron, they went by horseback to inspect a silver mine. On the road, they stumbled upon a battle in the fog. Mysterious beast-men, whom locals called Eaters-of-the-Dead, were attacking dozens of pilgrims. The party rode to their rescue, and in the process made allies of the soldier-monks of Moragiel, who patrol the roads to protect pilgrims. After the battle, the party and the knights were escorting the pilgrims north to the royal fortress of Grenzenburg.

FROM THE DM:

This turned out to be an interesting session because it was different. The PCs were racing against time to rescue a wounded kidnapping victim. With daylight dying, they had to track the Eaters-of-the-Dead, catch up to them, and somehow save the victim. I designed the trail to end up high up in the hills, on a narrow rocky road that winds along a cliff face. After many dangerous skill checks, the Eaters-of-the-Dead had a small ambush for the would-be heroes. The rescue party was small because speed was important for the PCs. Thus, the dangers seemed greater than normal. Read more

The Numbers Game

CGG President Rodney Barnes begins a series about how a Gamemaster can be a Servant to their roleplaying group. 


Too many personalities to handle?

How big should your RPG group be?

There is not a set answer to the question of how big your group should be. But here are some helpful guidelines to help you in establishing a group size. Read more

Hitting Them Where it HURTS

This article by Charles Franklin originally appeared in The Way, the Truth & the Dice issue 1 in the spring of 1999. It is reposted here with permission from the author.


I was watching a classic science fiction film this weekend with my four-year-old son and one scene in particular emphasized the way combat is portrayed in movies and in our games. In this particular scene an alien, accompanied by a starship pilot and a teenager, wander into a detention zone where a firefight erupts with the evil military police. Now granted, the threesome had the element of surprise, but when the shooting starts they calmly go about their business, zapping security cameras and bad guys with amazing accuracy. Meanwhile the trained military police can’t seem to hit anything. Common sense tells us that this is a less than accurate portrayal of how this firefight would occur, and I think everyone realizes that Hollywood takes great liberty with reality in their action movies. This cinematic liberty carries over into RPGs that for the most part seek to model movies, not reality.

The purpose of this series of articles is not to open a debate about the glorification of violence in popular movies and role playing games. I do believe, however, that adding a dose or two of reality to our game mechanics will reduce the quantity of violence and increase the quality of role playing. I see this as a win-win adjustment.

Read more

Sci-Fi Gaming with 5th Edition D&D

Modern Ops / Sci-fi using D&D 5e??

I thought to myself, sure, let’s go for it. I love modern ops, sci-fi, and D&D. Why not run D&D in space? So, first, I start with how firearms and modern weapons are covered in the DMG pages 267-268 and these two articles from WOTCs website:

My New D20 Modern Campaign

Modern Magic | Unearthed Arcana

Then I added my own flare for what you need in your personal setting, going with the D&D 5th Edition rule of “specific trumps general”. I also created two commonly used “paths” for the Rogue class, extrapolating from the long out-of-print “DragonStar” d20 setting. Read more