Month: July 2015

Barbarians of Lemuria… let the pulp adventures begin!

A few weeks ago my brother started up a Barbarians of Lemuria campaign focusing on the exploits of dwarven heroes and, from what little I’ve seen of the game and rules, I’m really digging it.

CHARACTER CREATION

Barbarians of Lemuria is elegantly simple.  Character creation involves dividing 4 points and assigning them to 4 attributes:  strength, agility, mind, and appeal.  Each has a starting values of 0-3, though one ability can start at -1 which grants an extra attribute point to be assigned elsewhere.  Your starting health, called Lifeblood, is equal to 10 + your character’s strength attribute.  You also start with your racial or cultural tongue, a common tongue (Lemurian is the default trade tongue in the game), and a number of additional languages equal to your mind attribute.  My dwarven explorer, Bragi Anvilsong, for example, started with the following attributes:

  • Strength: 2 (great)
  • Agility: 1 (superior)
  • Mind: 1 (superior)
  • Appeal: 0 (average)

The same method is used to assign 4 points to combat abilities:  initiative, melee, ranged, and defence (the author, Simon Washbourne, is British… so you get used to see British-English spellings).  Once again one of these abilities can be sub-par, with a rating of -1, granting an extra point that can be assigned to another combat ability.  Bragi started with the following combat abilities:

  • Initiative: 1 (superior)
  • Melee: 2 (great)
  • Ranged: 0 (average)
  • Defence: 1 (superior)

You then choose 4 career paths for your character.  Following the same method, your character divides and assigns 4 ranks to any 4 of the following career paths: alchemist, assassin, barbarian, beastmaster, beggar, blacksmith, dancer, executioner, farmer, gladiator, hunter, magician, merchant, mercenary, minstrel, noble, physician, priest, sailor, scribe, sky-pilot (a setting specific career path), slave, soldier, temptress, thief, and worker.

These careers can easily be altered to suit other backgrounds (town guard in place of soldier, explorer in place of hunter, and so on).  The ranks of starting careers would range from 0-3.  The beauty of this game is that each career represents your background and the skills that come with it.  You need not pick individual skills for your character… you pick the careers of your career path with a mind towards the types of skills that you’d like your character to have.  Bragi’s starting career paths are:

  • Blacksmith: 1
  • Guard (Soldier): 2
  • Healer (Physician): 0
  • Explorer (Hunter): 1

Next you choose Boons and Flaws for your character.  All characters start with 1 Boon.  They may choose additional Boons if they either take a Flaw to offset each Boon chosen OR reduce their starting Hero Points (5) by 1 point per Boon chosen.    Bragi’s starting Boons are:

  • Giant Strength:  +1 to his starting STR attribute and attribute cap (normally the cap is 5 but he can have up to a 6 STR)
  • Detect Deception:  He’s really good at knowing when he’s being lied to

Rather than reduce his starting Hero Points by 1, I chose to give Bragi the GM-created Flaw of Destitute.

Finally you choose you arms, armor, and equipment.  Wealth is abstract in this game, so you’re pretty much free to choose equipment that matches your character concept.  Armor absorbs damage rather than making you harder to hit, while shields make you slightly harder to hit.  Heavier armor types and large shields reduce your agility score, while helms reduce your initiative ability by 1.  Armor also makes spellcasting more difficult… and imposes penalties on social interaction checks in some circumstances.

Hero Points can be used to make minor changes to reality, avoid a wound or change a deadly wound into one that incapacitates your her, change a success into a critical success, shake off damage, re-roll dice, and so on.  These replenish after every adventure.  Most heroes have 5 Hero Points that can be used over the course of each adventure but, as noted above, buying additional Boons my reduce the character’s Hero Point pool.

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Lifestyle Costs & Skill Use

MARKETABLE SKILLS   

5th edition simplifies player expenses, so that games don’t become exercises in accounting.  Chapter 5 of the PHB gives the daily cost for the various lifestyles (wretched, squalid, poor, modest, comfortable, wealthy, and aristocratic) and explains each lifestyle on pages 157 & 158.  The following system would allow players to ply a trade in order to live at a given lifestyle at no cost… but with no chance of monetary gain either.  I’d use this in place of Running a Business (DMG 129) to keep things relatively simple.

Lifestyle Proficiency Check:  I’d allow players to use proficiencies to make a living over the course of one month in place of charging lifestyle expenses.  Characters would have to spend the majority of their day (8-12 hours) engaged in skill or tool use to make a living off of it.  The base DC to achieve the listed lifestyle at no cost would be:

  • Wretched:  N/A.  This is scraping the bottom of the barrel.  PCs would never fall to this level without some major setback (see Carousing below).
  • Squalid:  0
  • Poor: 5
  • Modest: 10
  • Comfortable:  20
  • Wealthy: 25
  • Aristocratic: 30

Limits based on the wealth of the local population should apply.  For example, a character performing at a grimy tavern in the seedy section of town should be limited to modest lifestyle… even if his weekly performance roll indicates that he has earned a better lifestyle.

Here’s a breakdown of how each skill or tool proficiency could be used to earn a living, including notes on the lifestyle proficiency check roll:

Strength

  • Athletics:  Performing feats of strength (i.e. acting as a porter, wrestling in a fighting pit).  Roll at disadvantage because this represents the lowest form of labor.

Dexterity

  • Acrobatics:  Performing as an acrobat or juggler.
  • Sleight of Hand:  Picking pockets, stealing small objects, and confidence games.
  • Stealth:  Spying and scouting for guilds, military units, or other patrons would also require successful perception, investigation, and/or insight rolls.

Intelligence

  • Arcana, History, Investigation, Nature, and Religion:  The character could hire out as a sage or act as a consultant/researcher for a patron or group (i.e a guild or church).  Investigation could also be used by constables, reeves, church inquisitors, etc to perform their duties. Roll at disadvantage as plenty of apprentices would perform such services for free.  Roll normally if the employment has inherent risks to health or well-being.

Wisdom

  • Animal Handling:  Farmhand, animal trainer, mounted courier, or mounted mercenary. Roll at disadvantage unless the employment involves risks that allow for greater compensation.
  • Insight:  Fortune teller, con artist, local magistrate, judge, or adviser.
  • Medicine:  Veterinarian, goodwife, barber, apothecary, or physician.
  • Perception:  This would usually be used in conjunction with stealth to spy on others.  It could also be used for town watchmen or those who need to be observant (i.e. sailor in the crow’s nest or scout). Roll at disadvantage unless the employment brings the character into harm’s way.
  • Survival:  Frontiersmen, surveyors, guides, trackers.  Roll at disadvantage due to the nature and location of the employment.

Charisma

  • Deception: Fortune teller, con artist, charlatan, or beggar.  Beggars would roll at disadvantage while con artists and charlatans would not due to the higher stakes and risks involved with those endeavors.
  • Intimidation:  Gang enforcer, crooked constable, threatening beggar, highwayman.
  • Performance: Poet, actor, lay minister, musician.
  • Persuasion: Town crier, politician, adviser, orator, or lawyer.

Tools & Kits
Most tool or kit proficiency checks require the tools, supplies, and a space in which to work.  Assuming that these are available, the check is made with no modifier.

Gaming set
All gaming set proficiency checks are made with no modifier unless cheating is involved.  With a successful Sleight of Hands roll the gaming set proficiency check may be made with advantage.   A character caught cheating  will find that his fortunes change rather quickly.

Musical instrument
All instrument proficiency checks may be combined with performance checks or could be made to tutor pupils in the use of those instruments.

CAROUSING 

Characters who wish to carouse (DMG 128) live at one lifestyle rank lower than that indicated by their lifestyle skill check to account for the added expenses incurred by their wanton ways.

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Caveat Emptor… Mike Nystul’s at it yet again!

Just to warn anyone who reads this blog:

Mike Nystul, who swindled Kickstarter backers out of 10s of thousands of dollars, is trying to raise money yet again:

https://www.patreon.com/nystul?ty=h

Those who backed his Kickstarters are out of luck… as he has no intention of of making good on his previous projects.  Here’s his own words on the subject:

(H)ere is the thing. The Kickstarter thing was a disaster on many levels. One of the problems is once it failed and my personal as well as professional finances were trashed I had no resources to do much of anything to move forward. I lost everything. Not asking for sympathy here because it was the result of my bad decisions and miscalculations but i had nothing left and at one point was literally homeless. I pulled down that Indiegogo campaign you mentioned not long after it went up (I collected nothing). It would have been going down that same road, a profoundly bad idea (and in some ways in bad taste). Patreon is a different beast entirely. First, it is meant to be used to support a creator not a specific project. If you like what I’m doing – awesome! Become a Patron and we are both happy! If you don’t – don’t. The other thing is I went with the “only collect anything when I post” model rather than straight monthly. That way, if i produce nothing – nothing gets collected. There is no way for me to “fleece” anyone. The Patrons have complete control over things like monthly limits and I encourage them to use them. Going back to your original issue, yes, the Kickstarter issues were huge and horrible and I am very very sorry about them. They do not represent my entire career though and my choices were never do this kind of work again or find a way to do it as above boards as i can. People will forgive me for the failed projects and accept the arrangements I was able to make to try to make good or they will not. At this point all I ca do is do better, yes?

Please avoid giving money to this scam artist and epic-level flake.