Focus For NaGa DeMon 2012

After two weeks of thrashing around ideas, a killer birthday party, a bridal shower and four nights of insomnia, I've decided what I will be doing for November.

I'm going to finish a setting and make an add-on for ACKS.

I seriously considered writing a novel or a collection of short stories. A good friend of mine has written a few books and has a great magazine. I would like to be a part of that at some point. However, I couldn't bring myself to attempt a novel with so many game ideas.

A few ideas were not RPG related at all. I want to finish my redesign of Statis-Pro Football. I want to make a couple games for my kids. I had all sorts of ideas for various bits and bobs to be manufactured by the GameCrafter. My lack of funds helped me to put those ideas aside.

I still want to create my own five suited deck of cards. I know that Five Kings already exists, but mine would have Aces, Jokers, Sergant-At-Arms and other extra cards. (You can do a lot more than rummy.) I just don't have the money to pay for art. I don't have the talent to make my own face cards.

In the RPG world there are all kinds of settings I want to finish, especially my space fantasy setting.

In the end, the two projects were chosen because I have a lot of groundwork already in place for these two projects. The ACKS Psionicist, I believe, fits into the spirit of the ACKS rules. Also, the psionicist rules fit very well into one of my favorite settings, Tanah Con-Rahn. This setting is inspired by Southeastern Asian traditions from Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia, though no real historical accuracy is attempted. In addition to setting rules, the book will include a spell creation system. The goal is for all of this to fit into a 128 page PDF.

The system for this RPG will be largely based on Labyrinth Lord with the Specialist and some other features of Lamentation of the Flame Princess game. LOTFP has an elegant skill system that also handles demi-humans very well. Although written as its own game, Tanah Con-Rahn should be easy to adapt to your system of choice.

The setting itself features an eternal struggle of the Naga against the Garuda as the primary backdrop. Unlike traditional D20-based games, the Naga are the good guys and friends of mankind. The Garuda love nothing but destruction and to inflict suffering on others. Demi-humans, both traditional and diverse sit on both sides of the conflict with mankind squarely in the middle.

Urban adventures, wealthy landowners, tedious bureaucrats  and much more await in the mythical Land of the Naga.

I can't wait to get started.

The Numbers of All Things – A Thought Expirement

This post may seem to be stream of conscious, but the main point centers around having a reason why a setting works the way it does and why people in the setting have the superstitions that they do. Taking the ideas in this post to the extreme can lead to some extreme associations, so caveat emptor. So here are thoughts about my southeastern Asian setting based on setting up a number system to categorize elements within the game world.

Tanah-Con-Rahn is a reorganization of a setting I began developing for Nevermet Press some time ago. I want to make sure that others that contributed to it feel like I am not stealing their ideas. So for example, there is no City of Spires in Tanah-Con-Rahn, because John Schutt had a killer idea of an perpetually dying god and various city factions trying to find him. All I did was name the place, John added the awesome.

With recent work on a Verb/Noun magic system, I've begun to work out how magic will work in Tanah-Con-Rahn. Based on an earlier post about how nouns are classified in other languages, I plan on offering NPC wizards with some very unique nouns.

Of course, psionics and ghosts play their part as well. The ACKS Psionicist allows for a specialty in dealing with ghosts that fits a niche for specific settings. Mixing southeast Asia and psionics seem to go together like peas and carrots.

Tonight, though, I was going through some math in my mind in an attempt to go to sleep. While pondering various number sequence, I got out of bed and googled the concept in my head. It turns out to be called the digital root. Digital roots can be laid out in a nine by nine grid to produce a Vedic Square. If you fill in the Vedic Square for a specific number, so get some interesting geometric designs that show some kind of symmetry.

Dude, seriously, you're putting me to sleep. What does this have to do with gaming.

The short answer is that the geometric designs with distinct patterns for numbers 1 through 9 provide a visual code for 1st through 9th level spells. I wouldn't use it much in-game as much as between games in an effort to provide small touches of "otherness" to the setting. I know a lot folks like me that will remember the symbols as a way to classify various power levels of spells. It may not be your thing, and that's okay.

Building on these patterns, I can scrawl some rune-looking glyphs to place throughout a dungeon, wizard's tower, etc. Since libraries are a big part of Tanah-Con-Rahn, the nine glyphs can be used to classify non-fiction material. For priests, the glyphs can represent the eight paths of righteousness and the one path of destruction. Since the present noun/verb system allows most spellcasters to access a specific set of nine verbs only, I could assign one glyph to one verb as a way to list the spells. Rainbows have seven colors. If you include white and black, you have nine colors, one glyph for each color. The list of things can go on and on.

By creating these multiple associations, it provides some subtext for a world without having to write six or seven novels of backstory. These nine patterns have meaning throughout the setting and it can mean different things depending on context. It's not all about magic, like the colors of the rainbow example, and it shouldn't be.

None of this is really game crunch, not yet. Here's where some really out there stuff can help create a seemingly random groups of spells. You can make the group my a mathematic principle instead of effect. Players may forever wonder why every school has a create spell, but if they ever want to know, you can send them on a wild goose chase to find the answer. Here's how it works:

The spell creation system works by assigning effects on a scale of 0 to 8. Then rating the duration on the same scale. Then rating the Range. Then rating the Area of Effect/Number of targets on the same scale. Using the numbers, every spell can be a unique four digit number. Take the digital root of the number and classify the spell book accordingly. In the current draft of the spell system, this would put Create Water and Speak with the Dead in the same school of magic.

Astute players will look at the PHB and see that spells with certain difficulties are grouped together, but at first glance it won't be obvious. Spells with a difficulty of 15 and 6 will be in the same school. One school will be only spells with a difficulty of 9.

Many will probably never, ever care about any of this. But for me as the GM, it lets me sound like a wizard or a numerologist or a half-witted "prophet of doom" that sees patterns in everything. It also lets me sound like a sage that seeks to classify all knowledge according to what he/she perceives to be a universal pattern, like Aristotle. It even lets me throw in day-to-day stuff like why common folk find some numbers lucky in certain situations, but bad in others.

In Tanah-Con-Rahn, the number you are born under (digital root of birthdate) are a boon to specific abilities that benefit a character depending on their class. Others may have a bane, thus they are driven to vile magic, pacts with demons or other horrendous things in an effort to escape their destiny. With some effort, I can come up with a sort of nine month zodiac for beneficial animals or totems and another for detrimental animals.

The number you train under for magic can dictate why some wizards cannot wear certain colors. Such a number would be determined by a number from 1 to 9 that you assign to the verbs of the magic system. The first verb a mage learns determines the number they train under. Nine minus that number corresponds to the color that would be the color that they cannot wear.

Anything you can rate from 1 to 9 will work for this system.


Psionicists and a Trip to Half Price Books

Work on the ACKS Psionicist is on task for the end of May. Last night I managed to get the Proficiencies written thanks to a ninth evening of insomnia. The Wild Talents and Stronghold rules are next. It's all coming together.

The proficiencies may change, but here are the ones I have so far. These are all in ACKS already:

Acrobatics, Battle Magic, Beast Friendship, Command, Contemplation, Craft, Diplomacy, Healing, Illusion Resistance, Leadership, Magical Music, Mystic Aura, Performance, Quiet Magic, Sensing Power, Unflappable Casting, Weapon Focus

The others so far are reworked feats from the SRDs:

Delay Power, Psionic Armor, Psionic Body, Psionic Fist, Psionic Shot, Psionic Weapon, Speed of Thought, Up the Walls.

Yes, I will be changing the names. I don't like everything having the word psionic in it. A few more proficiencies are on the way as well.

Adventures in Book Buying

Today I was at Half-Price books pondering another RPG purchase. I don't get a bit of allowance often, but I was eager to see what deals I could get. Last time I found a TORG book for about four dollars. That was a few months ago, so I figured the stock had changed...

Someone at this branch of Half Price apparently checks eBay for price comparisons. The Birthright box set without War Cards was $30. The 2nd Edition Tome of Magic was way high as well. About the best deal I found was a Metabarrons hardback for $15. I wasn't able to get it.

What I did find, however, was a book about Southeast Asian history. Specifically, Southeast Asia in the Age of Commerce 1450 - 1680 by Anthony Reid for about $6. Tanah-Con-Rahn is inspired by Southeast Asia and this is the perfect sourcebook. Not only does it detail daily life, but warfare, urban culture and pastimes. One of the aspects I liked is the discussion about mass conflict. The prevailing mood in conflict was that land was forever, but human capital was limited. Apparently, battles weren't fought to the last man or anything like that. In fact, cities didn't have walls. An army would invade, and the citizens would wait in the woods until the invaders left.

The goal of mass conflict was to actually capture people. The measure of power was in the number of slaves and people under a ruler's control. People were a limited resource, so you didn't waste them in war. In fact, if you completely wiped out your opposition, you lost the opportunity to capture their forces. Not only did you want to avoid losing lots of your troops, but avoiding lots of theirs.

How was mass combat handled? Many times it was either handled through one-on-one combat (champion to champion) or through scaring the other force. The reason a ruler would amass a huge army was to lower the morale of his opponent. One way of lowering morale was to prove that your force had superior magic, defensive or offensive. In fact, when firearms arrived in the area, shots were more often fired into the air rather than at the enemy.

From a game standpoint, mass combat is basically a reaction roll. Before the reaction roll, though, each side could wheel out their crossbreed or extraplanar champion to fight it out. As the fight progresses, each side makes reaction rolls based on how the fight is going. When one fails, the battle is over. If the champion route doesn't work, it could be a mega-powerful weapon, or mutant elephants. One of the more powerful effects could even be the sudden transformation of the front line into rakshasas.

As an aside, this also addresses another issue, why are the endless forests filled with weird monsters? It's filled with the losers (or permanently transformed troops) from the many wars and skirmishes throughout the land.

As far as diversions, it seems that gambling on animal fights was quite popular. However, it doesn't have to be magical creations. It can be roosters (for the lower classes), tigers, even elephants. The big battle might be the weird and bizarre, but it doesn't have to be.

By the way, stronghold rules would be the same for every class...

Okay, okay, okay. What does this have to do with the ACKS Psionicist?

The Tanah-Con-Rahn setting features variations of the ACKS Psionicist. I want to make certain that the ideas I have for Tanah-Con-Rahn are possible in the rules I present. For that matter, there are a class of people in the space fantasy setting based on the Psionicist. (They are called the Pythagoreans.)

More to come. I hope to finish more tonight and enjoy a good book tomorrow.