Tuesday, March 31, 2015

A Tasty Little Evening

The bartender was absent from the local joint last night, so I was able to instruct and supervise Melisa in the proper construction of a delicious dry gin martini. "Ooo...it's so blanco!" she said. By which she meant "clear" (instead of yellow or pink or brownish which has been their last few attempts). Very, very nice...I'm going to have to get her to make me a couple-four more of those over the next week so that she can solidify the instructions in her brain (Melisa's our regular waitress at the place).

By the time we got home, I was pleasantly (i.e. mildly) shnockered, and it was time to get my game on. Turns out, teaching a four-year old to play streamlined BattleTech (which is what War of the Mecha is) isn't all that tough, and the kid loved it. He would have played all night, but my loose sense of parental responsibility required me to get him to bed by eleven. Besides he had gotten to play a good long time in the afternoon prior to his siesta ("I'm too excited to sleep, papi!").

An archer is caught in the kill zone between two mountains while seeking to avoid a "swamp" of baby toys.
This was actually my child's first toe-dip into wargaming...we don't have hex maps here, so we were using actual measuring sticks, turning squares, and "terrain." It worked well, and I was pleased with the restructuring of the rules for D6-only play. Some folks might be a little confused as to why I would bother...isn't BattleTech already a D6-based game? Yes it is, but one that requires entirely too many random tables and chart consultation (I have a little more patience than a four-year old, but not much...for a war-game, I want my rules constrained to a single page). Anyway, it worked well and Diego was surprisingly good at managing his heat accumulation while coordinating two mechs simultaneously.

My Warhammer lost an arm to a critical hit. D's favorite mech was the Yu Huang, but he decided to rename it "Dino-Nex."

[Diego had wanted to play with a four-mech squad, but I put my foot down...plus we were running out of Legos since he insisted on building the mechs so big. To be fair, he was using an assault-class mech, so it was supposed to be big. I guess my old age makes me inclined to be pragmatic (save some blocks for the other robots!) about such things. *sigh*]

I will try to get the Crowns of Blood thing posted before I leave town, but it's going to be tough. Diego really prefers playing with papa (today it's Star Wars), which leaves me little time for writing, what with the other stuff I've got to do to prepare. Later, gators.
: )

Monday, March 30, 2015

Holy Week

Yesterday was the 29th of the month which, as everyone knows, is Gnocchi Day here in Paraguay. I'm certain I've mentioned the Paraguayans love of holidays and fireworks (and any excuse for either). The 29th of every month is Gnocchi Day, and since the dish is so ubiquitous in Paraguayan restaurants (a pasta made from a root vegetable? That is smack-dab in the center of their wheelhouse, baby!) most places offer a special gnocchi dish to celebrate.

Of course, I wasn't celebrating Gnocchi Day...I was kind of "gnocchi'd out" round about our 2nd month of living here (interesting factoid on Yours Truly: the ability to cook Gnocchi used to be one of my culinary "claims to fame" in a repertoire of not-very-many dishes I know how to make; never thought I'd end up in the land of gnocchi). Instead I was celebrating Palm Sunday, the first day of Holy Week (i.e. the week leading up to Easter Sunday).

Another interesting note: when you're living in a Catholic country (albeit one of lapsed, non-practicing, and generally non-devout Catholics) that has an abundant surplus of palm trees and a large group of impoverished people who work in folk art, you end up with an exceptionally elaborate version of Palm Sunday. Up in Seattle, you get handed a single palm leaf as you walk into your church...here, you get an elaborate handicraft-woven rod-o-palms, or shield-and-cross, or...well take your pick. 'Course, you're paying 5000 guaranii (the local money) a pop, but still it's very cool.

If (like me) you're into such things.

ANYway...school's out this week, and most people are taking vacations, including my family (though later this week). My time for writing will be fairly constrained, seeing as how I will be planning and packing when I'm not entertaining the kids. SO...I hope to still finish the chargen posts for Crowns of Blood (only one left, though I want to write another one about starting and running a campaign), but that may not get done till tomorrow or Wednesday. At the moment, I'm in the process of retooling my old micro-adventure War of the Mecha to work with D6s and the metric system so that Diego and I can play it with the Duplos (can you tell I'm jonesin' for a tabletop game?).

Okay...time to eat some breakfast and do some coloring (BattleTech mecha pix). Later.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Interlude: Squire Roll?!

So...someone familiar with 3rd Edition Pendragon, please tell me where I will find the section on "how to make a Squire Roll."

The index has two entries for squires: page 25 (what a squire is), and page 45 (adding the squire to your character sheet). On page 45 it states:

Usually a squire's success at performing his duty is determined by attempting a Squire Roll (see the Game Mechanics" chapter).

In the Game Mechanics chapter, we find the following under the section Actions Permitted in Melee:

  • Make a squire roll to get help or a new weapon. If more than one squire is available, multiple rolls may be made as one action. See below for the Squire Roll definition.

Um...okay. Where? There is no further information on "squire rolls" in the Game Mechanics chapter (at least, none that I found).

The next reference to "Squire Rolls" (other than one or two examples that seem to presume one already knows what a Squire Roll is and how to make one) is in The Battle System section in Chivalric Duties (page 163). Here we find:

Squires perform a wide variety of duties in battle, all for the simple trouble of a Squire Roll. They may:

  • bring a new horse or weapon.
  • escort prisoners away.
  • drag an unconscious knight off the field.

Once a squire is used in battle he is gone for the duration, unless he is sought after and found during a disengaged session. Thus the usefulness of multiple squires is apparent.

Indeed...squires sound very useful, and this Squire Roll mechanic sounds like a nice, simple way to deal with knightly minutia in a streamlined manner. Now, where exactly do I find the mechanic of how to make one?

I'm appealing to Pendragon players here...and specifically 3rd Edition players. Give a brother some insight, huh?

[yes, there is more info on squires in the Knights Adventurous supplement, though it is not specifically listed as "errata." I want to know if I'm missing (what is obviously) an important, standard mechanic from the default game or was it truly left out as a gross oversight/editing error. In statting up my own rules/setting, I prefer to start from the "default" system (rather than the more elaborate KA material) whenever possible]

Thanks, folks.

"Um...squire roll? What's that?"

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Crowns of Blood: Chargen (Part 4)

[continued from here; getting close to the end, now!]


As determined waaaay back in Personal Data, your character will be somewhere between the age of 16 and 21. For each year of your adult life (i.e. starting with age 16) you may choose one of the following three options:

  1. Roll D6 and distribute that number of points among those skills already possessed. Remember that a combat trained character possesses all weapon skills, but most of these probably have a score of "0." No skill may be raised above 15 with this additional training.
  2. Add one (1) to any single personality trait, passion, or skill. This point may increase the value above 15, though no more than 19 (in the case of traits) or 20 (in the case of skills). If the skill is a non-combat skill, it may not be raised above a character's INT score.
  3. Add one (1) point to any single statistic. This may not take a stat over its culture adjusted maximum. SIZ may not be increased after age 21. STR, DEX, CON, and APP may not me increased after age 35.


1. Starting Glory

Your character's starting Glory is determined by rolling 1D6 for every year of your adult life, beginning at age 16 (so your starting character will roll from 1D6 to 6D6 to determine starting Glory). You also inherit 10% of your parents' Glory (5% if your character is a bastard), but this will be determined in a subsequent section. However, you can add the following bonuses immediately, if they apply:

Character is a bastard that was legitimized: add +100 Glory
Character's father "took the Black:" add +100 Glory
Character is Targaryen: add +150 Glory

Valyrian daggers don't break.
2. Luck Benefits

Your character is allowed to roll once on the Luck table. If your father was a Minor House lord, you may roll twice on the Luck table; if your father was a Great House lord, you may roll thrice.

Roll D20: Lucky Result
1: Cultural Gift; See Below
2: Extra Money: +2D6x10 silver stags
3: Extra Money: +D3 gold dragons
4: Extra Money: +D6 gold dragons
5: Famous Mother: add +100 Glory
6: Father Died Gloriously: add +100 Glory
7-8: Heirloom: Beautiful Jewelry (worth D6 gold dragons)
9: Heirloom: Opulent Clothing (+1 APP when worn, worth D3 gold dragons)
10: Heirloom: Valyrian Steel Blade* (+2 to weapon skill when used; doesn't break)
11: Horseflesh (one extra horse of your choice)
12: Magic Potion (roll D6): 1-2 healing, 3-4 salve, 5-6 love
13: Mythic Ancestor from Age of Heroes: +200 Glory
14: Royal Lineage**: +150 Glory
15: Sailing Ship (part owner)
16: Strange Faith: may choose different religion from home culture
17: Trained as Maester: add D6 years to age. For every year, add an additional D6 skill points to any non-combat skill (no restriction).
18-19: Upgrade Outfit*** (one step improvement; see Step 3 below)
20: Roll Twice More

*Targaryens or lords only (Minor or Great House); all others re-roll this result.
**Targaryens re-roll this result.
***Crannogmen and Mountain Clan treat this result as "Cultural Gift." Sellswords get Outfit #1. Ironborn of the Iron Islands treat this as "sailing ship."

Cultural Gifts
Andal: SIZ +2 (may exceed cultural maximum)
Crannogman: Greensight (prophecy)
Dornishman: APP +2 (may exceed cultural maximum)
Ironborn: Immune to drowning.
Mountain Clan: Skinchanger
Northman (roll D6): 1-3 Greensight, 4-6 Skinchanger
Targaryen: Dragon Dreams (prophecy)

3. Determine Equipment

Starting equipment is determined by character's culture and social class. Fosterlings may choose to be equipped as per their foster family. To find the foster family's social class, roll D20 on the "father's social class" table (Step 3 of the Personal Data section) and add +10 to the result.

Knightly classes have equipment listed by "outfit." Only first and second born (natural) sons are afforded full kit. Later sons, bastards, and fosterlings treat their outfit as one step lower (though never worse than #1). Daughters who wish to go to war receive full kit, provided their family has no sons of the proper age; otherwise, they likewise treat their outfit as one step lower. Women of Dorne are not subject to this rule, having all the rights and responsibilities of sons.

If a first or second born son decides to forgo his rights (or is killed, crippled, becomes a maester, etc.),  his outfit is passed on to the next most eligible person. A non-combatant daughter, may choose to give her rightful gear to her husband (assuming it is better outfitting than his status would otherwise warrant).

1 gold dragon is worth 200 silver stags. 1 silver stag is worth 7 copper stars.

SELLSWORD (any culture):
Boiled leather armor + open helm (6 points)
Arming sword or other one-handed weapon, dagger, clothing worth 20 silver stags.

CRANNOGMAN (any class but sellsword):
Leather armor (equivalent) (3 points), shield
Frog spear (javelin), bronze knife, net, clothing worth 10 silver stags.

MOUNTAIN CLAN (any class but sellsword):
Leather armor (equivalent) + open helm (4 points)
Great axe, 2 one-handed weapons, shield, dagger, 2 javelins, clothing worth 5 silver stags.

Knight or lord: chainmail, dublet, and open helm (10 points), shield; all others: boiled leather + open helm (6 points), shield
Hand axe, 2 spears, bow (10 arrows), one other weapon, dagger, clothing worth 50 silver stags.

"Keep your fancy finery. I've got a ship."

   Footman: Outfit #1
   Squire or Sergeant: Outfit #2
   Hedge Knight or Sworn Sword: Outfit #3
   Landed Knight or Officer: Outfit #4
   Minor House Lord: Outfit #5
   Great House Lord: Outfit #6

Boiled leather + open helm (6 points), shield
Arming sword or other one-handed weapon, choice of great spear or bow, dagger, clothing worth 100 silver stags.

Chainmail, dublet, open helm (10 points), shield
Rounsey; arming sword, spear, one other weapon, dagger, clothing worth 1 gold dragon.

Reinforced chainmail, dublet, closed helm (12 points), shield
Courser, palfrey, and rounsey (may trade the courser and rounsey for a destrier and stot, if desired); 2 spears, arming sword, any one other weapon, 5 jousting lances, dagger, clothing worth 2 gold dragons, 1 gold dragon in money.

Dorne and the North: armor as per Outfit #3
All others: partial plate, dublet, closed helm (14 points), shield
Courser, destrier, palfrey, 2 rounseys; 2 spears, arming sword, any one other weapon, dagger, 5 jousting lances, clothing worth 4 gold dragons, 2 gold dragons in money.

Dorne: armor as per Outfit #3; the North: armor as per Outfit #4
All others: plate armor, dublet, closed helm (16 points), 2 shields
Courser, destrier, 2 palfreys, rounsey, mule; leather hunting armor (2 points), 6 spears, long sword, arming sword, any 2 other weapons, dagger, 10 jousting lances, clothing worth 8 gold dragons, 2 gold dragons in money.

Dorne: armor as per Outfit #3 though exquisitely worked
All others: plate armor, doublet, closed helm (16 points), 2 shields
Courser, destrier,  2 palfreys, 2 rounseys, mule; engraved leather hunting armor (2 points), 6 spears, long sword, arming sword, any 4 other weapons, dagger, 10 jousting lances, clothing worth 10 gold dragons, 3 gold dragons in money.

Dorne: ceremonial plate armor (14 points) plus Outfit #3 for battle.
All Others: filigree plate armor, dublet, closed helm (16 points), 2 shields
2 coursers, destrier, 2 palfreys, 2 rounseys, 2 mules; engraved leather hunting armor (2 points), 6 spears, long sword, arming sword, any 6 other weapons, dagger, 10 jousting lances, clothing worth 12 gold dragons, 4 gold dragons in money.

NOTE: characters of Dorne change all warhorses (destriers and coursers) for an equal number of sand steeds. A character of Dorne can only possess a courser or destrier if granted additional horseflesh by a luck roll (see Step 2 above). A sand steed may not be ridden in battle with armor heavier than Dornish (reinforced) chain mail.

[to be continued]

Crowns of Blood: Chargen (Part 3)

[continued from here]


1. Divide 72 points among the following six statistics: SIZ (size), STR (Strength), DEX (Dexterity), CON (Constitution), INT (Intelligence), and APP (Appearance). No statistic may exceed 18, nor be less than 5, prior to adding cultural modifiers. If a character is to have combat training (see Step 6 below), a minimum SIZ of 8 is required, prior to adjustment.

INT is a new stat for Crowns of Blood; it is not found in Pendragon. INT represents a character's inherent smarts, learned knowledge, and ability to learn. It replaces the old skill recognition, and is used in opposition to intrigue the way an animal used avoidance in opposition to the hunting skill. It is important for determination of a character's non-combat skills.

A male character with an INT that exceeds Love (family) and Loyalty (lord) might be tempted to become a maester...but player characters are never obligated to take that path.

"Okay, we're short...get over it."
2. Add cultural modifiers. Stats may be increased above 18, or reduced below 5 in this way. However, if ANY stat would be reduced to 3 or less, the character is bedridden, making it very difficult to take part in adventures.

Andal: SIZ +1, CON +2
Crannogman: SIZ -2, DEX +2, CON +2, APP -2
Dornishman (Rhoynar): DEX +1, APP +2
Ironborn: STR +1, DEX +1, CON +1
Mountain Clan (North or Vale): STR +1, DEX +1, CON +2, INT -2, APP -2
Northman: STR +1, CON +2
Targaryen: INT +1, APP +2

3. Figure derived statistics

Total Hit Points = CON + SIZ
Unconscious = Total Hit Points /4
Movement Rate = (STR + DEX) /10
Damage = (SIZ + STR) /6
Healing Rate = (CON + STR) /10
Distinctive Features based on APP:

Less than 7, greater than 16 = three distinctive features
7 to 9 or 13 to 16 = two distinctive features
10 to 12 = one distinctive feature

Distinctive features can be chosen from the following categories: hair, body, expression, speech, facial features, and limbs. Random rolling is not required.

4. Determine Family Characteristic

Randomly determined. All members of your character's family will have the same characteristic.

Roll D20: Characteristic
1-2: At home in nature (+5 hunting)
3-4: Born to saddle (+5 horsemanship)*
5: Dextrous fingers (+10 industry)
6: Excellent strategists (+5 battle)
7-8: Keen sighted (+5 awareness)
9: Long memories (+5 folklore)
10: Machiavellian (+5 intrigue)
11: Masters of etiquette (+5 courtesy)
12: Musically gifted (+10 music)
13: Natural healer (+5 first aid**)
14: Pirate ancestors (+5 sailing)
15: Raised bilingual (+10 language)
16: Rumored necromancy (+5 magic)
17: Symbol affinity (+10 heraldry)
18: Talented organizer (+5 stewardship)
19: Water born (+5 boating)
20: Well read (+5 knowledge)

*Crannogmen learn "Poison Makers" (+5 poisons) instead.
**Non-combatants may add bonus to chiurgery instead of first aid.

5. Select Non-Combat skills

  • A character is allowed a number of non-combat skills equal to the character's INT score.
  • Skill choices are limited to the following: awareness, boating, courtesy, first aid, folklore, heraldry, hunting, intrigue, knowledge, music, stewardship, and the individual's "family characteristic."
  • The following skills may be available (GM discretion) based on foster or home culture: sailing (especially in the Iron Islands) and other language.
  • Non-combatants (see Step 6) may also learn the following skills: chiurgery and industry.
  • The following skills are only available with maester training (unless possessed as a "family characteristic"): magic, poisons, and potions.

Choose two skills to begin at 10; all other skills known begin at 5. If a character is "combat trained" (see Step 6), add a +5 bonus to first aid.

6. Select Combat skills

  • If trained for combat (player's choice), the player learns the following skills: battle, horsemanship, dagger, and three other weapon skills (including grapple as an option). Choose two skills to begin at 10; all others start at 5. Character also receives the bonus to first aid listed in Step 5.
  • Combat trained characters are considered to know all other weapon skills at level 0.
  • Non-combat trained characters may add 1D6 to APP, not to exceed the character's cultural maximum. A non-combatant may still select combat skills (like horsemanship or a weapon skill) from the character's normal allowance of skill choices (based on INT, see Step 5). Even non-combatants receive training in dagger at skill level 5; this does not count against the character's allowance of skills.

"Not all of us were meant for bloody swordplay."

7. Add skills based on father's social class

A character receives a number of points based on social class to add to the skills already possessed; this reflects the character's training through childhood. Points cannot be allocated to skills not already possessed (remember that a combat trained character possesses ALL weapon skills, though most start at "0"). The following limitations apply:

  • No skill may be raised above 15, unless it receives a bonus as a "family characteristic."
  • Non-combat skills may not exceed a character's INT score (even if INT is less than 15), except in the case of a "family characteristic."
  • The maximum for a family characteristic is 15 plus bonus, or INT plus bonus if INT is less than 15.

Great House lord: add 25 points of skill.
Officer of lord: add 20 points of skill.
Minor House lord, clan chieftain, or landed knight: add 15 points of skill.
All other social classes: add 10 points of skill.

Note that there are several "officer" positions that a character's father may possess (lord steward, marshal, chief forester, castellan, lord of coin, "hand," etc.) and these positions are not inherited. The extra points should be used to select appropriate skills that the character's father would have taught his children (in hopes the son or daughter might succeed the father to the office).

[to be continued]

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Crowns of Blood: Chargen (Part 2)

[continued from here]


For the most part, Crowns of Blood follows the designated method of trait assignment found in Pendragon (third edition). Random determination of traits is not recommended. Just follow the steps below:

1. All traits start at 10, and the pair together must add to 20. If one side of the pair gets raised, the other must be reduced an equal amount. A trait has a minimum score of 1.

2. Make a note of your religious virtues. Your religion has five virtues, each of which corresponds to one trait. On your character sheet, underline your virtuous traits; each of these are raised by +3 (to 13 at this point). Remember, this reduces the other side to 7.

Faith of Seven: Chaste, Just, Merciful, Prudent, Valorous
Old Gods: Generous, Honest, Just, Lustful, Proud
Drowned God: Cruel, Lustful, Proud, Selfish, Valorous
R'hllor*: Cruel, Energetic, Honest, Proud, Reckless

*R'hllor, the Lord of Light, is not available as a starting religion.

3.  Modify traits for home culture and father's social class:

Andal (Crownlands): Deceitful +1, Forgiving +1, Lazy +2, Selfish +2
Andal (Dorne): Energetic +2, Generous +1, Proud +2, Valorous +1
Andal (Iron Islands): Deceitful +2, Prudent +1, Selfish +1, Suspicious +2
Andal (North): Energetic +2, Forgiving +1, Proud +2, Prudent +1
Andal (Reach): Energetic +1, Generous +2, Pious +2, Valorous +1
Andal (Riverlands): Modest +2, Pious +1, Temperate +2, Vengeful +1
Andal (Stormlands): Honest +2, Indulgent +1, Proud +2, Valorous +1
Andal (Vale): Honest +1, Just +2, Proud +1, Suspicious +2
Andal (Westerlands): Proud +1, Trusting +1, Vengeful +2, Worldly +2
Crannogman: Cowardly +2, Pious +2, Prudent +1, Temperate +1
Dornishman: Deceitful +2, Lustful +2, Indulgent +1, Proud +1, Vengeful +1
Ironborn: Pious +1, Reckless +2, Suspicious +2, Vengeful +1
Mountain Clan: Cowardly +1, Cruel +1, Reckless +2, Vengeful +2
Targaryen: Energetic +1, Lustful +2, Proud +2, Vengeful +2

Sellsword: Selfish +1, Worldly +2
Footsoldier: Valorous +D3
Squire: Valorous +D6
Sergeant: Valorous +D3
Clan Warrior: Proud +1, Reckless +D3
Clan Chieftain: Valorous +D3
Officer: Valorous +1
Hedge Knight: Valorous +D3
Sworn Sword: Valorous +1
Landed Knight: Valorous +2
Minor House Lord: Valorous +3
Great House Lord: Proud +D3, Valorous +D3

When multiple modifications apply the same trait (for example, the valorous bonus of a hedge knight and the valorous bonus of one who follows the Faith of Seven), add all bonus together. If two bonuses are in conflict with each other (like bonuses to both chaste and lustful), you may choose one of the following options:

  1. Subtract the lesser bonus from the greater and apply the difference to the bonus that was greater to begin with (a cumulative effect of competing values), OR
  2. Choose one of the paired traits; only apply bonuses to that trait and ignore the others (one side of competing values won out in the character's psyche).

Famous for indulgence...amongst other things.
4. If desired, choose one trait to be "famous." Increase the famous trait to 16 (and reduce its opposite trait to 4). You are not required to have a famous trait.

5. Check for Bonuses:

If all underlined traits are 16+:

Faith of Seven: add +6 to character's total hit points.
Old Gods: add +2 to character's healing rate.
Drowned God: add +1D6 to damage.
R'hllor: character may learn sorcery.

A character is considered a True Knight if the sum of the following six traits add to 87+:
Honest, Just, Merciful, Modest, Pious, and Valorous

A True Knight receives a +3 bonus to their armor, and receives +100 bonus Glory at the end of every year. A character does not need to be an actual knight to receive the True Knight bonus.

6. Find the character's Passions. All Passions (if possessed) have a starting minimum of 3, and a maximum of 18.

A. Standard Passions
Loyalty (lord) = 2D6+3
Love (family) = 2D6+6*
Hospitality = 3D6 (but never less than 10 to start)
Honor = 2D6+3
* Legitimate sons subtract their birth order from passion, unless they are the eldest son. For example, a third-born son would have only 2D6+3 for their passion.

B. Fosterlings (Loyalty and Honor remain standard)
Love (family) = 2D6+3 (adjusted as above for non-eldest sons).
Love (foster family) = 3D6
Hospitality = 2D6+6

C. Bastards (Loyalty remains standard)
Love (family) = 3D6 (+3 if legitimized)
Hospitality = 3D6
Honor = 3D6

D. Adjust passions for father's social class:

Clan Chieftain: Honor +D6, Love (family) +D3, Loyalty (clan) 2D6+6 (Vale only)
Clan Warrior: Honor +D6, Loyalty (clan) 2D6+3 (Vale only)
Footsoldier: Honor +D3, Loyalty (lord) +3
Great House Lord: Honor +3, Loyalty (lord) +6
Hedge Knight: Honor +1
Landed Knight: Honor +1, Loyalty (lord) +4
Minor House Lord: Honor +D3, Loyalty (lord) +5
Officer: Honor +D3, Loyalty (lord) +4
Sergeant: Honor +D6, Loyalty (lord) +D3
Squire: Honor +1, Loyalty (lord) +3
Sworn Sword: Honor +1, Loyalty (lord) +3
Sellsword: Loyalty (lord) -2

Characters with a Pious trait higher than both their Love (family) and Loyalty (lord) would probably consider becoming a septon or septa...but player characters are never obligated to take that road.

"This 'honor' thang can be a real bitch..."
[to be continued]

Crowns of Blood: Chargen (Part 1)

This will probably be a fairly long series, so I'm going to try to keep it to the straight facts/rules of chargen in the Crowns of Blood campaign. The timeline for the saga is 249 A.C. (After Conquest) through 283 A.C.; however, as with Pendragon we'll be looking back a few decades prior to see what events occurred in the lives of your parents and grandparents. Still, that comes later (at the end of this series). In an attempt to keep this section as short as possible, I'm not going to give a lot of explanation/reason for my design choices, though I'll be happy to answer questions in the comments section of each post. I'm also going to proceed with the assumption that interested folks already have a good idea about how the Pendragon system works.

Got it? Good...let's start.


1. Choose (or Roll) for Starting Region

The GM may decide to have all characters begin in the same region, though this is not necessary (other methods will be provided for linking characters of disparate regions). The "starting region" may or may not be a character's homeland; it is where their career begins.

D20: Region
1-3: Crownlands (Faith of Seven)
4-5: Dorne (Faith of Seven)
6: Iron Islands (Drowned God, Faith of Seven)
7-8: North (Old Gods, Faith of Seven)
9-11: Reach (Faith of Seven)
12-14: Riverlands (Faith of Seven)
15-16: Stormlands (Faith of Seven)
17-18: Vale (Faith of Seven)
19-20: Westerlands (Faith of Seven)

2. Determine Character's Culture and Homeland

Roll D20: Homeland
1-15: Of the Region
16-20: Fosterling (re-roll Step 1 to determine "home" region)

Fosterlings have specific culture, religion, traits, and stats based on their home region. Fosterlings may be male or female. Players who wish to play female warriors/rulers should consider having their characters' home region be the Crownlands (Targaryen), Dorne, the Iron Islands, or the North where the laws of primogeniture aren't nearly as strict (or are, in fact, non-existent). However, a female character of any culture may choose to pursue a warrior life; Brienne of Tarth (the Stormlands) is a prominent example.

Roll D20 for Specific Culture based on Homeland
Crownlands: 1-12 Andal, 13 Dornishman, 14-20 Targaryen
Dorne: 1-6 Andal (Western Dorne), 7-20 Dornishman (Rhoynar)
Iron Islands: 1-3 Andal*, 4-20 Ironborn
North: 1-3 Andal, 4-5 Crannogman, 6 Mountain Clan**, 7-20 Northman
Reach: 1-20 Andal
Riverlands: 1-16 Andal, 17-18 Ironborn, 19-20 Targaryen
Stormlands: 1-19 Andal, 20 Targaryen
Vale: 1-16 Andal, 17-20 Mountain Clan
Westerlands: 1-19 Andal, 20, Ironborn

*Unless character is a Fosterling subtract 10 from Step 3 (minimum 1).
**Actually a "wildling" from north of the Wall.

3. Determine Father's Class (+5 if character is a Fosterling)

Roll D20: Social Class
1: Sellsword (+6 to Step 5)
2-3: Footsoldier or Clan Warrior* (+1 to Step 5 regardless)
4-5: Squire or Sergeant
6-7: Hedge Knight (+4 to Step 5)
8-10: Sworn Sword
11-15: Landed Knight/Northern Vassal
16-19: Minor House Lord, Officer, or Clan Chieftain*
20+: Great House Lord or Clan Chieftain*

*Only mountain clansmen may have fathers who were clan warriors or clan chieftains. Fathers of mountain clansmen may never be lords or officers.

4. Determine Birth Order (by Sex)

Roll D6: Birth Order
1: First son or daughter
2: Second son or daughter
3: Third son or daughter
4: Fourth son or daughter
5: Fifth son or daughter OR legitimized bastard
6: Bastard son or daughter

5. Father's Survival

Roll D20: Father's Survival
1-10: Father is still living
11-12: Father alive, but bedridden
12-14: Father took the Black (+100 Glory)
15-19: Father deceased
20+: Father missing for 2D6 years

6. Determine Religion
  • All Andals worship the Faith of Seven, regardless of region.
  • Mountain Clans worship Old Gods, regardless of region.
  • The Drowned God is only worshipped in the Iron Islands.
  • The Old Gods are worshipped by cultures of the North (except Andals).
  • All other regions follow the Faith of Seven, regard of region.
7. Other Personal Data

Choose a name for your character. Given names in Westeros range from standard American/English names (Robert, Brandon, Jaime, Jon, etc.) to names that are similar (Joffrey instead of Jeffrey or Stannis instead of Stanley, Eddard instead of Edward, etc.) to weird "fantasy" names (Selwyn, Rhaegar, Daenerys, etc.). Historic names from ancient cultures (like those found in Pendragon's Knights Adventurous) might also be used.

Your character's surname is based on his or her house (family) if noble (landed knight or better). House names (by region) can be found at A Wiki of Ice and Fire. Even if a character's father is a Great House lord, it is suggested that they not be of any of the principle Great Houses (Lannister, Stark, Targaryen, Greyjoy, etc.) unless a member of a "cadet" branch. It is suggested that no player character be a member of the Blackfyre cadet branch of House Targaryen.

Non-noble characters may choose to ignore surnames (like Bronn), or use a town as Surname (Whitehall or Oldtown, for example), or a descriptive based on career (Wainwright, Smith, Steward, etc.). Westeros has a specific tradition for bastard surnames whereby illegitimate children take a surname based on region of birth: Flowers (Reach), Hill (Westerlands), Pyke (Iron Isles), Rivers (Riverlands), Sand (Dorne), Snow (North), Stone (Vale), Storm (Stormlands), Waters (Crownlands).

Your parents' names should be chosen in similar fashion. Assume all characters' parents were legitimate.

Your character starts their career at age 16 (adulthood), or at a random age determined by rolling D6 and adding it to 15 (to a maximum of age 21). Subtract your character's starting age from 249 A.C. (the starting year of the campaign) to find the year your character was born.

Your character's immediate Lord is determined by their home region:

Crownlands: House Targaryen
Dorne: House Martell
Iron Islands: House Greyjoy
North: House Stark
Reach: House Tyrell
Riverlands: House Tully
Stormlands: House Baratheon
Vale: House Arryn
Westerlands: House Lannister

For simplicity, use the principle noble house as your character's liege, though some minor houses owe immediate fealty to a lesser Great House (itself a vassal of the principle house).

If your character is a noble of one of the houses named in Martin's saga, it would probably be a good idea to make a note of your "house words" (the family motto). Landed knights (like House Clegane) don't generally have "words" or words worth knowing. If you're making up your own noble house (a fine idea), you should create a motto and sigil for the family, too.

[to be continued]

The sigil of ruling House Targaryen. Its motto: "Fire and Blood."

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Familial Glory (Part 2)

[continued from here]

Of course, in Westeros (and elsewhere) it takes that Big Ego to rule. The Big Ego is celebrated...and the bigger the ego, the bigger the landholdings in the feudal society. Ego and ambition often go hand in hand...and when they don't, ego often gets supplanted by ambition (though of course ambition can falter for over-reaching). The point is: Glory is a good measure of one's ego, and thus their place/status in the feudal society of the Seven Kingdoms. But for the purpose of Crowns of Blood, we want to measure familial (family) Glory...because the family (or, rather, house - to use Martin's parlance) with the largest amount of Glory is the one the others are forced to acknowledge as their liege...or, at least, their betters.

The various Great Houses of Westeros are powerful because of the land they control and the fighting men they can raise when needed. But those fighting men remain loyal because the top dog has the Top Glory. That power can be lost with the loss of Glory. In Pendragon (and, thus, for Crowns of Blood), there is only one way to lose Glory: death.

When a character (PC or NPC) dies, his Glory dies with him. Glory is passed onto adult children (that 10% with which character's begin) when they reach adulthood. In Westeros, a person is considered a legal adult at age 16. In Pendragon, the father from whom Glory is inherited is considered to retain their full Glory (100%) until death. For my purpose, that's going to change; here's how:

Glory is a currency. When the head of the family has a child no Glory is lost; a child doesn't matter (for the purpose of currency/legacy) until he/she reaches adulthood, and can begin "earning their keep" (Glory-wise). If the child does reach the age of maturity, he (or she) receives 10% of his (or her) parents' current Glory score, leaving the parents with 90% of the total. Thereafter, both the parents AND the child continue to earn their own Glory, all of which goes to a family total.

"Parents' Glory?" That's right...another change. When man and woman are joined in matrimony, they become one person in the eyes of their gods. The Glory of both individuals are added together to form one total; however, if both parents have Glory greater than 1000 (an unusual situation), then the sum is limited to the Glory of the greater partner's total plus 1000. This becomes the Glory score for the couple...what either partner does to earn Glory adds to this amount. It helps alleviate issues like which of the two gain Glory for which holdings they have (castles and lands, etc.) and gives a reason for both partners to have strong personalities (they both earn Glory for their famous traits). A player who wishes to play a stay-at-home "Lady of the Manor" can still be a full participant in the gathering of glory by using her husband as her tool for acquiring battle and tournament Glory...the same ways many historical "great ladies" did. All other types of Glory acquisition (skill use, conspicuous consumption, holdings, famous passions, etc.) apply normally.

A heaping pile of Glory lost with his death.
If a character should lose their spouse (to death, exile, or other) they lose one-half of their Glory. But the character can always remarry.

By allowing part of their Glory to pass to their (adult) children, parents are doing something akin to "doubling down" in Blackjack: they're splitting up their current Glory to have a chance at growing both separately under two different "trees." Young men can be squired out in hopes of being knighted (earning that 1000 point bonus we love) while young women with large amounts of Glory become attractive spouses to other (high Glory) lords. Houses that lack sons can, of course, squire out their daughters (see House Mormont and House Tarth), though some Westeros cultures have no qualms about female warriors regardless (see the Ironborn and Dornish folk). Regardless, it all counts towards the family total.

All Glory in Crowns of Blood is kept as a running "family total," updated every "End Year Phase" (Crowns of Blood doesn't use a "Winter Phase" for obvious reasons). Unmarried, adult NPCs in a character's family accumulate D6 Glory in an otherwise uneventful year; married couples accumulate 2D6 Glory between themselves, assuming both are adults (since the impatient lords of Westeros are wont to marry off their daughters before legal adulthood).

[why D6? Go back to starting Glory for that 21 year old starting Pendragon character: who's to say that 6D6 roll doesn't represent the first six years of Glory earned in the character's adult life? Plus, it makes it easy to simply roll 1D6 for each adult individual in the character's family, once per year]

Other events that occur during the year: battles and tourneys, marriages and knightings, etc. will add to this Glory accumulation (individually, which feeds into the total). An extended "Family Events" table (from the Winter Phase chapter of Pendragon) can provide random additions of Glory accumulation for players who don't want to spend their adventuring time arranging marriages for their cousins and whatnot. Of course, those that DO focus on this area will find their family acquiring Glory at a faster rate.

Let's look at a couple examples from Martin's books:

House Baratheon in the year 298 consists of three brothers: Robert (the King), Stannis, and Renly. Only Robert and Stannis are married: Robert to Cersei Lannister and Stannis to Selyse Florent (of House Florent in the Reach). Robert and Cersei have three legitimate children and Stannis has one (Shireen); however, none of them have reached adulthood. For purposes of Familial Glory, we count only Robert-Cersei's total, plus Stanis-Selyse's total, plus Renly's total. All three totals receive good annual Glory from their holdings; Robert and Stannis earned considerable Glory during the war ("Robert's Rebellion"). Cersei and Selyse added their totals to their husbands' with their marriage (both had plenty, though neither had more than 1000 to add). Robert-Cersei continue to add the most to their family totals for high traits (lustful, deceitful, indulgent, reckless, valorous, and a couple high passions for each), but Stannis and Selyse have a couple notable traits themselves (temperate and pious). Unfortunately their family takes a lot of "hits" over the next couple years. Robert dies, taking half his Glory with him. Renly dies just as he was about to marry a Glorious spouse in Margaery Tyrell. Joffrey dies before he can even reach adulthood, and while Tommen is crowned as his father's successor he doesn't receive any Glory as he is still underage. The Queen-Regent continues to earn Glory for the family from the Baratheon holdings...but with open rebellion on the part of Stannis, it seems clear that his Glory will be going to his own (new) House for the foreseeable future.

House Lannister looks quite a bit different. As of 298 (the start of the books), Tywin has his Glory, plus that of his eldest son (a famous knight and member of the illustrious Kingsguard), Cersei and Robert's combined Glory ('cause they're married, natch), and the little bit from his son Tyrion (who's not earning much except by being famous for his vices). In addition, Tywin has a couple living siblings from whom he receives Glory for House Lannister: Kevan (whose eldest son is on the verge of knighthood and whose second son is 15), his sister Genna (married to Emmon Frey) and her children; plus his nephew, Tyrek, and niece, Joy Hill, whose fathers are deceased (actually, I suppose their widowed mother's would still contribute the usual one-half share of Glory to the mix). Tywin is all about nurturing, growing, and positioning his family and it has resulted in House Lannister being one of the most powerful and influential families in Westeros. When Tywin dies, the family is considerably diminished as a result.

All right, this post is even longer than the last one. Just going to wrap up with a last few extra notes:

  1. Crowns of Blood doesn't have "chivalric," "religious," or "romantic" knights. It does have the status of True Knight, which carries the same 100 Glory per year bonus as a chivalric knight (though the requirements are different).
  2. One time, extraordinary (1000 point) Glory rewards like knighthood, being crowned a king, and dying heroic death all still apply. New ones include being elected to the Kingsguard and taking the Black (becoming a member of the Night's Watch), though individuals that do the latter gain no further Glory for there family. It's still a better alternative than getting executed (and adds an extra 100 Glory to their children's Glory).
  3. What happens if a couple has more than ten children? Remember that the 10% pull of Glory comes from the couple's CURRENT Glory total at the time the child reaches adulthood. It's 10% of what's left. Presumably, the parents are acquiring more Glory (when they're not spending time procreating), but regardless, it's 10% of the remaining, diminished Glory. The more children a family has, the less Glory there is to go around.
  4. While children don't start counting Glory (for themselves or their family) till they reach adulthood, they still accumulate points for things like being crowned or married or any other events. When they turn 16 all points accumulated go into effect (for themselves and their House).
  5. Regarding bastards: illegitimate children are a tricky subject, though a prominent one in Martin's setting. My inclination is that acknowledged bastards receive 5% of their father's Glory (10% of half the couple, since the child is not of the mother), and a bastard that is legitimized earns a one-time bonus of 100 Glory. Children born of an adulteress mother (for example, those of Cersei) are an even trickier matter: it may take a while to ascertain the truth and normally Glory is never "lost" (my rules regarding inheritance is simply one of redistribution), and it doesn't seem right that a father would "regain Glory" upon learning he's been the cuckold. Here's my take: if the child's bastardy is discovered prior to reaching adulthood, they receive the normal 5% (as the illegitimate child of one parent)...and possibly more if it turns out the wife's lover is willing to name himself as father (and she wants him to do so...perhaps because he's some famous knight of the realm). OTHERWISE, if undiscovered upon reaching adulthood, the child receives the full 10% of a legitimate child, and anything that comes out afterward is dismissed as vicious rumor.
  6. Becoming a septon/septa or maester earns no Glory for a house (and has the same effect as the character dying, as they give up their life and name). There are other benefits to that road, however.

Okay, is that enough? Yes...it's enough for now.

Get legitimized for 100 or take the Black for 1000? Hmm...

Familial Glory (Part 1)

Okay...so after some thought on the subject, I think I've got the Glory-thing hammered out as far as Crowns of Blood is concerned. It actually won't be straying too far from the Pendragon system on which it's based, but there are some important tweaks. First, some foundational information:

In Pendragon, a knight begins with a random amount of Glory...Glory which is inherited from his father (I'm using the masculine pronoun because default Pendragon requires all PCs to be male). This  random Glory is 6D6+150 plus additional Glory based on the events that befell your father and grandfather in the forty years prior to commencement of the campaign.

Inherited Glory is 10% of the father's total amount. Your grandfather begins with 2500 (a not quite "notable knight," which would require 3000), and with fortunate dice rolls can end his career (and life) with a little more than 4000 points of Glory. Your father can thus begin with a maximum of 400 Glory (10% of grandpa) and with good dice rolls, can ring that up to a bit more than 5800. Even if you roll poorly for both your grandfather and father, the worst possibly result could be your father dying with 1570 in accumulated glory (this assumes he only received 250 from a grandfather who died ignominiously after accomplishing nothing more than his starting 2500).

1570 to 5800. This means your character starts with from 307 to 730 plus the result of a 6D6 dice roll (the random events only pertains to exemplary events, the 150+6D6 is supposed to cover the 10% of other "father accumulated Glory;" for example, getting married, holding a castle, exceptional traits/passions, random acts of heroism, etc.) for a maximum possible range of 322 to 766. Working backwards, we can see your character's father was either a "notable knight" (in the 3000+ range) or a "famous knight" (in the 6000+ range). Your character claims only a fraction of that amount, but hopefully he'll ring up a few thousand more in the course of his career/life. I say "hopefully" because 90% of the family Glory dies with the patriarch.

[this is important...we'll come back to it]

Family Glory. It IS family Glory, because in Pendragon you only track the accumulation of Glory for the active PCs, even though "any character, whether peasant of king, may gain Glory" (page 56 of the 3rd edition). Certainly all characters have and receive Glory...when a PC knight takes a wife, he receives Glory equal to that of his new spouse (and she receives Glory equal to his) up to a maximum of 1000 points (no single Glory award may exceed 1000 points)...but thereafter, there's little need to track the wife's Glory. She's not the one going on adventures and accumulating more Glory points.

The player character knight, as head of his household holds the bulk of his family's Glory; for all intents and purposes, his Glory IS the family Glory. But then, Pendragon is a game about personal Glory, and the accumulation of that Glory through individual knightly adventure. Indeed, the reward mechanic encourages players to showboat and accumulate Glory individually as A) there is a maximum amount of Glory to be received from any event/encounter, and B) Glory is divided amongst all participants. Since Glory is not just a measure of the PCs' success, but the method by which one achieves extraordinary abilities (each 1000 Glory accumulated gives a PC a +1 bonus to stats, skills, or traits that can exceed normal human maximums), it behooves PCs to find their Glory in ways that exclude other participants (i.e. the other PCs). There can only be one knight that wins the tournament, you know?

But while that's Pendragon's bag, it doesn't really equate with A Song of Ice and Fire's setting, as I wrote previously. Eddard Stark may be worried about his personal honor (well...until it interferes with his love for his family), but not his personal Glory. Otherwise, he'd be jumping at the chance to become Hand of the King, marry his children to the King's heirs, and fight in whatever tournaments become available. Honor is personal...but Glory takes a backseat to duty, a common theme of Martin's books.

Being dutiful is more important than Glory; one might argue that it's the failure to do one's duty (because of its inconvenience to a person's life) that leads to all the pain and suffering in the saga. Robert Baratheon allows his passions to get in the way of doing his duty to his wife and kingdom...it results in the shaky status of the realm, the lack of a legitimate heir to the throne, and (ultimately) his early demise. Cersei's lack of duty to her king (because of her hatred for him and lust for her brother), leads to civil war which creates the suffering of her children (whom she loves), up to and including their untimely deaths. Eddard Stark fails to do his duty to his king (being "merciful" by giving Cersei a chance to flee with her illegitimate children) which leads to his betrayal and ultimate death. Robb's failure to honor his commitment to his promised bride-to-be provides the opening for his betrayal and death. Theon allows his ambitions to get the best of him, and it ends up costing him limb and liberty...well, you get the point. I think it's fair to say there's a theme here of "karma's a bitch" and one's karma being ultimately reaped from how well folks fulfill their dharma (i.e. their duties/responsibilities). It's a very non-Western way of looking at life and very "new and unusual" for those of us more familiar with the Western/American/Hollywood form of heroism. You know what I'm talking about: it's the guy who pushes the boundaries of what's acceptable (or who goes "outside the box") that ends up being rewarded by winning the day, or the girl, or whatever. It's the police procedural according to Die Hard.

This "romanticism of the individual" (i.e. the dude who goes out and grabs personal Glory for himself) doesn't fly in Martin's world. Really. Look at Tywin Lannister...he talks a good game about doing one's duty, but ultimately he's brought down by his own selfishness, too. Tywin's not so much interested in doing his duty as he is in having duty looking the way he wants it to...he has a son (Tyrion) that could carry on the family line, but his hatred for this son (because he is a dwarf, because he's a lecherous an lush, because his birth resulted in the death of his beloved wife) causes him to engineer all manner of machinations, hoping to bring his "true son" (Jaime) back to become his heir...this includes even perverting justice (rigging a court system to frame his son for murder, rather than finding the true regicide). In the end, he fails in his duty as a father, as a vassal (to the throne), and as a liege (to his own people). And he suffers an ignominious and untimely death because of it.

"I am a terrible person and must die."
Now there's a very good reason why things hit the shitter so often in Martin's books, and it has less to do with "because it makes for good drama." The fact is that...just as in real life...it's hard to do one's duty all the time. Humans do have passions (hates, fears, loves, consciences, compassions) and a sorry lack of enlightened perspective that tends to get in the way of doing what we're supposed to do. And all that stuff gets amped up and exaggerated when you're talking about the warrior class of a feudal system...people who have been taught from birth to be active and direct...to fight...not to sit back and let shit happen. These are folks that are supposed to lead...at court and on the battlefield...and so when they are slighted or their passions are touched off, they are unlikely to respond with apathy. "Oh, well, that's just how life goes," is NOT the response of people whose God-given birthright is sticking people with swords and spears (and that applies to the non-fighting women-folk who are raised to marry these barbarians). Duty (dharma) gets stepped on and/or forgotten when humans give in to their ego...and people with big egos mess that up more than others.

[to be continued...because this is getting REAL long]

Monday, March 23, 2015

A Land of Sugar and Sewage

Sorry...a lot of stuff has been distracting me the last few days. The boy's still sick, but getting better. The wife was sick, which gave the housekeeper a stay of execution (or, rather, confrontation)...and now she's absentee. So I haven't had the time to post. I'll get the Crowns of Blood chargen notes up tomorrow, or late tonight (if I'm lucky).

Friday, March 20, 2015

Oh Boy!

Finished modifying the Pendragon chargen system for my Crowns of Blood concept. Looks pretty darn good. Long...but good. The notes are crammed into a half-dozen spreadsheets in Excel (that's a literal half-dozen, mind you), but I'm thinking I probably need to re-do the "outfits" from Knights Adventurous to make it more "Westeros specific." Those guys wear a LOT of full plate armor, after all.

Yeah, I'll get to that today. And I'll try to get the first installment up and posted sometime this afternoon, also (probably after the boy goes down for his nap). Unfortunately, everyone's sick and vomiting (again). This fucking place. Food spoils so fast here, it takes a steady stream of alcohol to keep my digestive system sanitized. Unfortunately, my kids don't have that luxury.

Ugh. Vomit.

O By The Way (and moving away from that topic)...I think I've hit upon an idea for re-conceptualizing the Pendragon Glory system so that it works for Crowns of Blood. The basic gist is that instead of worrying about personal Glory (watching that knightly ego hard at work), the game's going to be all about working for the Glory of your noble House/family. Winning tournaments and getting showered with honor on the battlefield is still good. So is having famous traits and passions and being a chivalrous ("True") knight. But marrying well, and making sure your siblings are married; taking care of (and avenging) family members and slights to the house honor; helping defend your lands and increase your own holdings, not to mention conducting oneself as befits a noble and forming alliances...all THAT stuff is going to add up to a tremendous heap of Glory, too.

The quest to elevate one's house (whether the characters are lords, banner men, sworn swords, or foot soldiers serving said house) is what will force characters to interact in the political machinations of the realm. In some ways, the Glory rules need to be simplified and streamlined, because there's a need to track the Glory gains of other house members, not just your own PC. It'll all culminate in the Big End Game for the campaign: Robert's Rebellion. At the end of the civil war, the family/house that has accumulated the most Glory will be the one that lays claims the Iron Throne. Check it out:
Ser Elys Westerling and Lord Crakehall and others of his father's knights burst into the hall in time so see the last of it, so there was no way for Jaime to vanish and let some braggart steal the praise or blame... 
"The castle is ours, ser, and the city," Roland Crakehall told him...he had not seemed surprised to find Aerys slain; Jaime had been Lord Tywin's son long before he had been named to the Kingsguard. 
"Tell them the Mad King is dead," he commanded. "Spare all those who yield and hold them captive." 
"Shall I proclaim a new king as well?" Crakehall asked, and Jaime read the question plain: Shall it be your father, or Robert Baratheon, or do you mean to try to make a new dragonking? He thought for a moment of the boy Viserys, fled to Dragonstone, and of Rhaegar's infant son Aegon, still in Maegor's with his mother. A new Targaryen king and my father as Hand. How the wolves will howl, and the storm lord choke with rage. For a moment he was tempted, until he glanced down again at the body on the floor, in its spreading pool of blood. His blood is in both of them, he thought. 
"Proclaim who you bloody well like," he told Crakehall. Then he climbed the Iron Throne and seated himself with his sword across his knees, to see who would come to claim the kingdom.
- From Storm of Swords, George R. R. Martin

There's nothing the players can do to stop the war or forestall the killing of Mad King by his youngest Kingsguard, Jaime Lannister. Fate has got that part written: the Targaryen dynasty WILL fall in the 283rd year after the taming of Westeron by Aegon the Conqueror and his two sister-brides. But what comes after that?

I don't really care.

Oh, yeah...it is going to happen.
Crowns of Blood isn't about Robert Baratheon's ass getting fatter as it warms the Iron Throne for fifteen years. It's not about Eddard Stark's betrayal and beheading, nor about the fates of his half dozen children, nor the death and resurrection of his good Lady Wife. It's not concerned with the "mystery of the Others," nor about the War of Five Kings, nor the castration and torture of Theon Greyjoy, heir to the Iron Islands. And it is ESPECIALLY unconcerned with whatever Dany the Targaryen is doing with dragons and Dothraki and slave liberation on the the eastern continent of Essos.

All that "stuff" makes for good (well...watchable) television...and I'm happy to see it unfold over the next couple years on Ye Old HBO. But for playing an RPG? Nah, not interested.

I've got a beginning and an end for the saga...MY saga. And that end is a kingdom in flames and up for grabs. And whichever PC has accumulated the most Glory for his house over successive generations is going to get to claim the spoils...in this case the crown of Aerys II...for their liege and family, or whichever family they designate as the "worthy" successor.

See? Objectives of play. How cool is that?

Okay...now to take a look at these equipment lists....

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Getting' Down To It

We have to have a confrontation with our housekeeper today over a pile of missing cash, which I'm not looking forward to. It's a situation really outside my realm of experience...I never had "servants" growing up (nor do I back in Seattle), and I'm not used to working with cash so much that I have bunches of it laying around (or, rather, "squirreled away") at home. But Paraguay and developing countries are different...it's very "old timey" when it comes to having hired help and a cash-n-carry economy.

*sigh* I now understand why people have safes in their homes. I'm probably going to have to buy one, too.

Anyway...I get to put that off for the moment, however, so I might as well get to writing. The knowledge of the upcoming confrontation kept me up a while last night, and I had quite a few brain-thoughts about Pendragon and my adaptation of it.

First off: I went back over my abbreviated skill list, and analyzed it in light of the actual systems they cover. I see now why the game authors made flirtation and romance two separate skills, and got a closer look at how they're used, not to mention the whole concept of "the romantic knight" and its associated Glory. And I've decided I need to just axe the whole thing from the game. The skills, the ambition, the system for love affairs...gone.

I know that longtime fans of the Pendragon game might think ill of me, but the fact is this isn't going to be a Pendragon game. This is not a fairytale, 6th century England with an enchanting queen creating a tradition of fine amor. This is A Song of Ice and Fire...and romance, sex, and love just don't work like that in the setting. Marriages between nobles are arranged affairs, for wealth and politics, not love affairs. There ARE love affairs...and the consummation of those affairs...but there's no waiting around for years, mooning over each other, and bringing gifts. When people have an attraction, they jump in the sack and do it. It ain't Guenever's idealized world.

[and while there ARE instances of romantic longing in Martin's books...Petyr Baelish for Catelyn Stark, Brienne for Renly, etc...they are all of the "unrequited" variety, never culminating in anything, and simply ending when one party dies]

Anything that appears to be fine amor (i.e. "courtly love") is simply a sham...it's the stuff of Westeros fairy tales. If there's an attraction, there's an invitation extended, and either accepted or rejected. After the proverbial "roll in the hay" folks might develop a bond of love...see Tyrion, Lysa Arryn (on her part, at least), the Stark brothers, Dany, for example...at least as the characters are portrayed in the television program. But the "attraction" part needs a different system.

[maybe something akin to "recognition" in another Chaosium game: ElfQuest]

In the books, there are nobles who marry for love, rather than political alliance...the children of Aegon V, for example. But that happens after they've been betrothed for political alliance and often ends up starting wars/rebellions...these are exceptions that lead to adventure hooks. No, we don't need a system for exceptions...and we don't need flirting and Glory for romantic knights.

Besides, the whole "romantic knight" thing really only works in one direction (male to female), and as I've stated before, part of the reason for using this setting is that it's more inclusive. If you want to play a female knight...or a homosexual knight (like Ser Loras Tyrell)...you should have the same chances at Glory as anyone else. And it's difficult (if not impossible) to make the "courtly love" thing work if it ain't strictly Arthurian.

"What's your feeling on beards?"

Nope...axing it. As well as any "seduction" skill I was thinking of adding. There's intrigue (used differently...to find out secrets and what people want) and there's marrying and there's attraction (based on traits and APP)...my game doesn't need these extra skill rolls.

[Pendragon, for those who don't know, already has a system for producing arranged marriages: within, below, and above one's social class. They involve courtesy skill checks with your Lord (since the Lord is the one who needs to arrange-approve the marriage match) and works just fine as is. Anything else should come down to role-playing...probably involving personality traits like "lustful" and "reckless"]

The other major change is that I've decided to add a sixth statistic after all: Intelligence (INT). I can't see any way around it, as it's just too useful a measure. For one thing, it can be used (as DEX is) as a catch-all check for mental pursuits: in place of recognition (another Pendragon skill that I axed), or for opposition to an intrigue roll in a one-on-one conversation (the same way an animal's avoidance check is used in opposition to a hunting roll). Intelligence will have an impact on the number of starting skills a character has, and set maximums for those skills...but only with regard to non-combat skills. Being stupid doesn't affect one's ability to fight...that's a lot of practice, repetitive muscle memory, and combat experience.

Plus, these are knights we're talking about.

Tywin: cunning AND evil.
For a point-buy method of character creation, this will give PCs an extra 12 points to spend (72 total). It allows for a little extra distinction between characters, highlighting the difference between cunning types (like Tywin Lannister) and brutal meatheads (like the Cleganes).

Okay, that's it for the moment. My next post(s) should have the step-by-step of chargen for the Crowns of Blood campaign. Hope-hope!
; )

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Of Culture and Currency

[no, this is not going to be some scholarly treatise]

Man, this shit takes a long time.

Currently working on a list of all the noble houses of Westeros for my Crowns of Blood campaign. Yes, there's quite a few. I started with two of the smaller regions (the mountainous Vale and the Iron Islands) to "warm up" to the task, and it's a big one: nineteen houses (including two "cadet" branches) for the Vale and another nineteen for the Iron Islands not counting cadets (which would have brought the total over two dozen). I can only imagine what The Reach and The North are going to look like.


This is the kind of thing..."world modeling"...that I can get really bored with. And it's the kind of extraneous campaign material that...well, suffice is to say, my "world making muscles" are a little out of shape. I hate hex maps. And while spreadsheets are fun, it just takes so long to navigate this on-line information. I just want a hard copy atlas I can page through!

['course, I'd still be striving to transpose the atlas entries into the spreadsheet. It all takes work-effort]

Thing is, I'm not sure the effort is really being utilized as best as it could be. In fact, I know it isn't. All this is being done for character creation, to get a large group of "stuff" so that I can cut it onto random tables determining homeland and culture (with its associated traits, passions, starting skills, etc.). But I'm probably being waaaay too specific. Fact is, even with the "advanced chargen" of Pendragon's Knights Adventurous, the extra information doesn't result in a whole helluva' lot of mechanical adjustments.

Take Jaime Lannister, for example. I worked up a suitable replica of the Kingslayer using KA this morning, and it went something like this:

Starting age 15 (even though he's winning a tourney melee at age 13, I'll chalk it up as a little extra glory to start...his real beginning starts at 15 with his adventures against the Kingswood Brotherhood, and his subsequent knighting). Homeland region Cambria (roughly equivalent to the Westerlands), specifically (and just for fun) Cameliard, hometown of High Queen Guenever.

[there are a lot o similarities between Arthurian Cambria and the stand-offishness of the Westerlands. Cameliard is ruled by a king (Guenever's father Leodegrance), and Jaime is the son of the Warden of the West (Tywin Lannister) who would be a king in his own right if his ancestors hadn't sword allegiance to the Iron Throne (i.e. the Targaryen "high king"). The fact that Tywin's daughter Cersei Lannister is Martin's equivalent of Guenever in the books (married to the high king, very beautiful, committing adultery with the king's Golden Boy knight) is a tasty little parallel. In the actual Pendragon campaign, being from Cameliard gives one the passion Amor: Guenever. Giving Jaime such a passion (replacing Guenver with Cersei) sets him up with a motivation for their incestuous relationship]

He's got a "famous" passion...for his sister.
There's no random roll for father's class...Jaime's the first-born son of the Lord. In Pendragon, he's of the Cymri culture and a Christian...in Westeros this is the equivalent of being of Andal ancestry (both the Andals and the Cymrics are the most populous race of the continent), and of the Faith of the Seven. However, the only real adjustment that any of this gives us?

Cambria Region: bonus traits: arbitrary +2, suspicious +2, prudent +1, temperate +1
Cameliard Homeland: culture (Cymri) and religion (Christian) set; bonus passion (amor: Cersei).

Skills (Pendragon is a skill-based system, and most of characters' effectiveness comes from their skill) are derived entirely from the character's culture and the father's class.  There are scores of homelands in Pendragon, but only seven cultures: Cymri, French, Occitainian, Irish, Pict, Roman, and Saxon. There are fewer than that in Westeros (unless you want to start allowing Braavosi and Dothraki and whatnot to have "wandered over" from Essos). Maybe six if you allow characters to be Wildlings and Mountain Clan tribesmen.

As for "father's class," the same classes are (more or less) present in every region. Even if you decide to go the Knights Adventurous route and step away from the default "all characters are vassal knights" you're still dealing with...well, with lords and knights and highborn warrior types (your character might be a savage, but you're still a warrior savage, and quite possibly a son of the tribal "chief"). Pendragon (and Crowns of Blood by extension) is NOT a game of playing small folk and peasants. You will never start off as the son of a baker or a criminal ("thief") type. Even churchmen and druids (in Pendragon) require GM's permission...you can never become one by random roll. You might be a bastard, but your father was someone who fought for a lord (if not a lord himself).

Which, again, is right in line with the Game of Thrones setting. None of these characters are "low-born." Sandor Clegane ("the Hound") isn't a knight...but his father was. Arya Stark is unlikely to become a knight, but her father was a Lord and she's had fighter training. Even if you want to allow for non-warrior women (i.e. the Sansa and Cersei and Catelyn Stark types), we're still talking about high born folk, movers and shakers in castle politics, not washer women. But you might as well take advantage of the setting and make your female characters fighters (like Maege Mormont and her daughters, Brienne of Tarth, Asha (Yara) Greyjoy, Arya and Lyanna Stark, the Sand Snakes, etc.).

The point is, why am I bothering to write all this up? I might as well simply say, "roll for culture, roll for class status, and then PICK a house...from the books or the wikipedia...that fits!" Characters can have random trait adjustments or adjustments based on REGION (instead of house) or simply assigned...they don't have to be a "chip off the block" of their ancestors. I'm making this harder than it needs to be!

Oh, and just while we're on the subject of streamlining character class: what is up with this "qualify for a career class" step in KA's chargen process? The "classes" offered (again all fighting-types: warrior, foot soldier, squire, sergeant, merc knight, vassal knight, etc.) don't add a blessed thing to your character. Not skills (these are determined by culture and social class), not traits (culture and religion), not starting glory (that's father's social class), not starting equipment (father's social class again), nor special abilities or gear (random rolls on "luck tables"). This step is utterly pointless, having no effect except to determine whether or not a character is qualified for eventual knighthood (which thereby gains a 1000 point Glory bonus)...but since the section states eldest sons of rich lords might be knighted even when not meeting the qualifications of knighthood, it really does become pointless.

These two? Same "class" of character.
Okay, SO, new plan...stop making this so hard. Roll for region (North, Vale, Westerlands, Reach, etc.), roll for culture (Andal, Ironborn, Targaryen, etc.), and roll for father's social class (the usual). Then you get pick from a list of house names based on region, probably excluding the principle Great Houses (Stark, Lannister, etc.) of each region. Probably....I'm still considering that option.

Whoops! Almost forgot the "currency" part of this post. In Martin's books, the folks of Westeros use three types of coined currency: gold "dragons," silver "stags," and copper "stars," plus (per Martin in a web interview outside the books) a variety of pennies and half-pennies, etc.

Gold, silver, and copper. Pretty familiar, huh?

Pendragon uses three types of coin, apparently based on the currency minted by Pepin the Short in 8th century France: 240 pennies (Pepin's novus denarius) to one Carolingian pound (called a Libra, or L, in Pendragon)...that is, one pound (weight) of silver. Pendragon also uses the silver shilling (valued at 1/20 of a pound), though I can't see where that was used prior to Charlemagne (Pepin's son). Remember that Pendragon is based firmly the 6th century...but it's fantasy, yeah?

Anyway, Martin doesn't bother to give us a breakdown of currency conversion in his books, though he does say the cost for a complete set of steel armor (from the description something the equivalent of Pendragon's reinforced chain mail, including closed helm) is about 800 silver stags ("roughly four gold dragons"). In Pendragon, such a suit would cost 6L, or 120 shillings...thus, one gold dragon of Westeros has the equivalent value of 1.5L (a pound and a half of silver, or 30 shillings = 30 sheep).

In Westeros, it would appear you'd need about seven silver stags to buy a sheep, instead of the 10-15 pennies of Pendragon (see the Stockyards table).

She's rich, fellas!
Martin also states that 300 gold dragons is a fair price to ransom a knight. Of course, the knight in question is Brienne of Tarth, the only child and heir of House Tarth. Lord Tarth himself offers the ransom. Per Pendragon, ransom amounts are set by custom and not open for debate and are based on three years average income; by that standard, the yearly income for a small noble house like Tarth could be estimated at 100 dragons, yeah? The equivalent of 150L? Well, a ransom for such a house would then be 450L. The closest equivalent ransom in Pendragon would be 550L for a Baron which is close...and for a small house, it may be a rich one given that it controls Straits of Tarth, the northern entry into Shipbreaker Bay.

All right, folks...I've got to close this for the moment. More later (probably). Got to go convert some money myself, before the exchange shop closes!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Going for a Guinness

...if I can find one in this town.

[I'm pretty sure I know where to look]

The chances of getting a corn beef sandwich is pretty much zero, however. *sigh*

Hope everyone back in the good ol' U.S. of A. is having a happy St. Pat's.
: )

I miss my Irish pubs...

Monday, March 16, 2015

Re-Write Pendragon? Ridiculous

My original plan for today's post was going to be something like "Young Turks and Old Fools" and discuss the condensed timeline I've been working on since Friday or so. See, in Pendragon (at least, in the 3rd edition...the version I'm using for this Crowns of Blood thang) TIME is very important. Not in the Gygaxian, old school AD&D way (where every second, minute, and game day counts towards your character's eventual collapse), but in way of the saga, of significance of time passing, of continuity.

Okay...that probably doesn't make much sense. Let me scratch it a little bit.

Pendragon is a game set in Arthurian (i.e. King Arthur) fantasy England. It contains a timeline beginning in 495 CE (with Uther's death) and chronicling the major events up through 565 CE (the battle of Camlann when Arthur is mortally wounded by Mordred and removed to Avalon). It is meant to encompass the entirety of Arthur's mortal life, from his birth (presumably from the year Uther is slain, since Arthur is Uther's son) until his own end...and the end of the fantasy time about which som many myths and legends and stories have been written. It may not be explicitly written, but the gist I get from reading the rules is that the game is supposed to be folded upon reaching 565...it's a hard end date for the campaign/saga.

Since each game session begins with a new year (the player characters only have one adventure per year), this sets a finite number of game sessions to advance, develop, and play the characters you've created. What's more, it drives home characters' mortality, as they age and (eventually) die, leaving their legacy to be carried on by their children. Building a family and 'passing the torch' are big components of the game.

70 sessions (70 years of adventure) may not seem like a lot (if your group plays weekly or more often) but the finite limit is actually even less than that. While Arthur's timeline extends back to 495, the player characters all begin play in 531, shortly before the Age of Apogee begins, which really only leaves you with one-half of the timeline to explore. By the time your knights come of age, the Round Table has already been established, the King's married Gwen, and Lancelot has established himself as Arthur's greatest knight. Sure, your characters (or their kids) will be witness to the closing tragedies of the story, but mostly you'll be left with roaming around the countryside on knightly adventures, fighting magical beasties and kicking Saxon ass. You don't have to worry about helping unify the kingdom or anything because that all happened while your character was a kid growing up.

Which is fine, because Pendragon's a game about being a knight, not about playing out a company-produced story arc. The set events (Lance and Gwen's adultery, Mordred's betrayal/villainy) aren't anything you can change, but that's not your characters' objective, anyway. Your objective...the objective of all knights...is the pursuit of Glory. Gaining glory (becoming famous for your deeds) is the road to power and prestige. It's the method by which your characters measure their accomplishments; it's the method by which they develop their abilities beyond ordinary levels. Glory is how knights rank themselves against each other...and it is what is passed on to their children.

[well, one-tenth of Glory earned is passed on, anyway]

The Pendragon timeline provides a frame in which to pursue the knightly quest of gaining glory, while the setting provides the justification. And it's a neat little system.

A Song of Ice and Fire, the setting basis for Crowns of Blood, is NOT about winning glory.

In the timeline of the Seven Kingdoms, there's nearly three centuries from the time the continent is united by their dragon-riding conquerors and the "current events" portrayed in the books and television series. Lots of neat things happen in those 300 years. There are rebellions and battles. There are religious wars and religious persecution. There's a war of succession between competing claimants fighting each other on dragon-back...and that's all within the first 150 years. The last Targaryen dragon on Westeross died in in 153 (as they count time); the events of the books begin circa 298. If I really wanted to emulate the scope of Pendragon play, there's a lot of "35 year periods" from which to choose, with plenty of interesting events. But game play is not about "interesting events" in Pendragon...game play is about giving players a lot of leeway (in a specific fantasy setting), allowing them the freedom to develop interesting characters, distinct from each other even while sharing the same class and (basic) background.

That's what I want to do with Crowns of Blood.

Dragons in medieval warfare = grossly unfair.
The problem...well, ONE of the problems...is that the time periods I'm looking at in Martin's setting don't offer the same thing that Pendragon does: namely, a chance to win glory and adventure in a magical land. I want the game to be set in a time period when there ain't no dragons, because I want the play to be about the struggles between rival lords armed and clad in steel. It's still a setting of high passions and extreme personalities and loyalty and family (all themes of Pendragon)...but is that enough to make it compelling? Is it enough to compel players to want to immerse themselves in the game? Because immersion is one of the key objectives of Pendragon. Not exploring dark dungeons or fighting Morgan Le Fay or stopping Mordred from partnering up with the Saxons. It's about living the life of a (romanticized) knight for half-a-year's worth of game sessions.

I'm starting to feel like my initial impressions of Pendragon's suitability for the setting were mistaken. I'm not sure people want to immerse themselves in a world of so much madness and sorrow and death and cynicism. When you're not about winning capital-G Glory, and there's no orcs to pillage for gold, what are you left with? Armored warriors trying to walk a path of honor, but being driven to acts of atrocity and brutality?

So, then, what to do...well, I can't really PLAY anything at the moment anyway (duh) being in Paraguay, but the Game of Thrones marathon continues on the cable, and the project is still interesting. I suppose I have a couple-three options here:

  1. Rewrite Martin's setting material to be more more romantically Arthurian (but, then, why not simply play Pendragon?).
  2. Rewrite Pendragon to provide some "winning criteria" besides acquiring Glory to make it more true to the setting material.
  3. Just "force it." Leave the Pendragon system as is (minor tweaks and setting changes aside), and try to place it in a time period that seems at least "semi-Arthurian."

Of the three, Option 2 would probably be the "best" option...but I'm not going to f'ing rewrite Pendragon. That is a ridiculous idea. You're talking an overhaul, design-wise, and this was something I wanted to do for a one-off campaign...not a book I intend to publish. Even if it WAS something I wanted to publish, I couldn't since the rights to Martin's material are already owned (and being used) by someone else...the best I could do would be to knock-off the setting AND the system. And that's a LOT more work than I want to do.


After not-very-careful consideration, I think I'll just "keep on keeping on" with Option 3, but brainstorm a little on how to tweak the system mechanic. Maybe give myself a week to mull on it? Sure. If I can't come up with something by next Monday, I'll just table the project indefinitely.