Friday, September 17, 2010

Lockout: Faction Overview 1- Despot Goblins

I'm going to be previewing some of the factions from Lockout and, since the following was the only faction the original party encountered, I thought it would be appropriate to start here. I'd post up some statblocks, but I've yet to find a good, Mac-friendly utility for generating them in 4e form. Might play around with html and see if I can devise something that looks acceptable.

Despot Goblins

The largest faction active in the Lockout campaign, Despot Goblins comprise the majority of the Tran Empire's domestic military force. Unlike the rabble in a typical fantasy campaign, Despots are well-organized, well-equipped, and extremely disciplined. The Despots have control of much of the city, because their role as city guards and protectors of the nobles put them in position to seize significant areas quickly. While the Despots outwardly claim to be maintaining the stability of the Empire, their methods are brutal; in particular, they've made a habit of arresting any non-citizens of the city, not just the Empire, on sight.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Lockout: Apparently My Thoughts On Sam's Race/Feat Question Were Too Long For A Comment

As such, I will make them a post!

First, I very much appreciate the consistent feedback! It's nice to have to think about my posts summat after I make them.

I ported some of the racial stuff over from another campaign I wrote, specifically the coloration of the dragonborn and the orcish feats. I'm not sure if you noted that the Greenblood grants half-orcs access to the orcish feats (which include an always-active weapon feat, though at present some of the others require the orc racial, which I might grant half-orcs another feat to take). I also understand that the expertise-style feats are big, but every 4e game I've played in for the last year or so has adopted the policy of just handing out expertise (now versatile expertise) for free, based on the thousands of internet-spawned words churned out about the combat gap issue. So the first part of my reason for including that sort of feat is, yes, an expectation that players will be allowed to make some more flavourful choices when less interesting things like expertise are already provided.

The second part of specific inclusions like that is setting related, for the half-elves and half-orcs. It's important to stress that there are no humans in my setting, effectively. Humans exist, but only in the swamps, mountains, and woods...they're all near-savages, and the vast majority of "humans" one meets are going to be closer to a shifter at the very least (with most of what you find in a human tribe actually being a reskinned gnoll, minotaur, goliath, squirrelman, etc). That's crucial because I'm not for one second trying to buy into the 4e revisionist half-orc bullshit where they're a "separate race." That's ridiculous. A half-orc comes about when a mommy or daddy orc and a mommy or daddy something else bump one ugly with one not-so-ugly. In the Tran empire, orcs have opportunity to breed with elves or dwarves (I could possibly see opening hobgoblins and bugbears up there too). If it's the former, though, it's going to be the result of military conquest, since the main thing orcs are doing other than fighting beastmen is trying to kill off those darn independent elves. Elves wouldn't raise a half-orc, so the creature is much more likely to take Greenblood and be a hulking savage who is perhaps a mite more graceful than his companions. Dwarven camp followers might give birth to a half-orc child, and occasionally a dwarven ranger might fall in love or lust with an orc and raise a dwarf/orc hybrid, which would actually find itself fairly well accepted in frontier Tran society. However, because the options are so very limited in terms of genetic mixing, I wanted to ensure that players were making their choice of parentage a significant part of their backstory.

It's the same with the half-elves. Again, with no humans to breed with, half-elves on the Tran continent are elf/dwarf hybrids exclusively. Some elves trade peacefully with the Tran, and elves are hot, so it's all sensible. In the Silken Kingdoms, since all the races represent the same core race (elves) further altered due to magical specialization/experimentation, mixing two already hybridized races produces offspring who favor one side of their parentage alongside the elven blood that they still retain. They can't take human feats (it wouldn't make any sense) so I wanted them to have an option whereby they can explore some races' feat trees...hence the dilettante swapping.

The third reason for my choice of feats like Greenblood is that I do expect the specific players I anticipate playing in my game to jump for this because I'm not a man with patience for min-maxery. Perfectly optimizing a sheet is fine for a delve or convention, where you may be on a timer and you're sure to be up against some utterly brutal encounters. However, in the 16+ years I've been playing DnD I've never gone in for character optimizaiton; I've always preferred character realization (was that lame? Perhaps!). That's true no matter what kind of game I'm running, but since I'm incorporating some rules into this specific campaign that make situations a mite less lethal (players have resources at their disposal to skip particularly dangerous encounters, though doing so will limit their options in other areas) there's even less call for the maximized approach. A half-orc in the Tran empire is going to be viewed a certain way and reacted to a certain way; I want her to have options regarding how much of that view and reaction is founded, and how much of each racial heritage is displayed.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Lockout: Races and Classes

Eventually I'll have flavor text for all of this, but I started writing individual, kingdom-specific flavor for each class and nearly blacked out. Most of the racial abilities were wholly off the cuff (feats too) so I don't know exactly where they fit in terms of balance. Goblins and bugbears stand to receive some special feats, and kobolds will probably either get feats of their own or have the ability to just feat into dragonborn feats.

Races Allowed

The Kingdom of Silks


(+2 Dex or Cha, +2 Int)


(+2 Int or Con, +2 Cha)


(+2 Int or Con, +2 Str)


(+2 Dex or Int, +2 Wis)

Changeling (Eberron Player’s Guide)

(+2 Dex or Int, +2 Cha)


(+2 Int or Cha, +2 Wis)


(+2 Con or Dex, +2 Cha)
Special Rules In lieu of their Dilettante power, half-elves from the Kingdom of Silks may select the racial power of Eladrin, Tieflings, Genasi (select one manifestation and only gain the encounter power portion), Githzerai, or Changelings (Changeling Trick only). This represents the strength of that portion of their bloodline, and the half-elf counts as a member of whichever race he selects the racial power from for the purposes of feat and paragon path selection. Note that a half-elf cannot select Deva with this option.

Warforged (Eberron Player’s Guide)

(+2 Str or Int, +2 Con)
Special Rules Warforged may not begin the game as Artificers. They can, however, multiclass into Artificer.


(+2 Wis or Cha, +2 Int)
Special Rules Shardminds do not possess the Immortal Origin. Shardminds may not begin the game as Artificers. They can, however, multiclass into Artificer.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Lockout: The Zones of the City

Drawing up my map for the city of Placeholder, I knew that I wanted a larger number of zones than The Angry DM’s example area, but I only added approximately 50% more than his purposefully small example presented. Even sitting at a mere 14 zones I’m still intimidated by the prospect of statting everything up, and keep telling myself “It’s a sandbox, it’s a sandbox.” The dream is that after a tremendous amount of work up-front, I’ll be able to largely coast through encounters in these various areas. Of course, plot hooks popped into my head as soon as I started labeling and connecting the zones, and I very much look forward to sending players backtracking through dangerous areas to reach something important.

For instance, the players might find their path to the A Gate blocked by a barricade that requires them to travel back through the Merchant Quarter to reach the Engineering District and secure an explosive. However, the plans for that explosive require reagents that send them searching both the Merchant Quarter and the Arcanum. By the time all that’s done, they’ll have the explosive necessary to take down the barricade—but the various factions will have shifted and battled in the meantime. The barricade may have already been removed through the main strength of bugbears, or overrun by feral squirrelmen. Squirrelmen are absolutely a real thing in this campaign.

Since Zak S mentioned the 25-word campaign descriptions idea, I’m going to use that to briefly sketch out the nature of each zone and what the players can expect there…perhaps not in 25 words, but I’ll at least shoot for that many. That makes this a work in progress.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Embarking On a New DnD Campaign

Infused with energy after completing my master’s degree, excitement over some new things I’ve read in DnD (both recently, and all the way back to when Krahulik started his sandbox game), and the endless restless hunger that constantly has me switching my entertainments, I’m starting up a campaign. I’m going to resurrect one of the campaigns I built for a relatively open-ended game right after I had moved to Sioux Falls and 4e dropped: the Tran Empire.

The hook for the game will actually be identical to that of the original adventure I ran (which actually managed to make it through two encounters and two skill challenges, a pretty incredible level of success for a play-by-post game on Myth-Weavers), though advanced a few hours or even days and not necessarily featuring the same characters. The Tran are, or were, the dominant clan of dwarves in a civilization stretching across a massive continent and spreading slightly into the connected landmass to the south. The vast majority of the dwarven empire is subterranean, with major surface settlements every few hundred miles for commerce with other nations and consideration of those citizens who do not thrive beneath the earth. However, almost all travel within the Tran Empire is conducted through paved and buttressed tunnels underground, patrolled by crack dwarven guards mounted on trained saurian’s (or, even worse for brigands, arcane steel mimicry of the same). There are no highways above ground, and in fact hardly any roads at all. The major Tran cities are all walled, and the farmers who operate directly outside the walls can depend on the efficient protection of the Tran army—thousands of goblins, hobgoblins, and bugbears bred and trained to serve their dwarven masters without question. The rest of the Tran surface “territory” is essentially held just like countries use radar and airforces to keep the skies above their land clean of strangers, and for the same reason. Bands of Tran dwarves roam the woods with their orcish troops, killing dangerous monsters and quelling the savage beastmen that infest the woods and fens…but frankly, the dwarves aren’t even trying to be everywhere at once.

Unfortunately for the players, this is a time of great upheaval in the Tran Empire. Specifically, all of the Tran are dead. Somehow, in an undertaking so massive it boggles the mind and eclipsed the preparation of the nation, hordes of beastmen were teleported into the homes and holdings of every Tran dwarf. With the clan eradicated, the other dwarves of substance have been recalled beneath the surface to debate who is best suited to seize the civilization; a debate that is likely to drag on for some time. Once their dwarven masters disappeared, however, the goblinoids seized the cities with a practice and precision that suggests decades of planning for this very eventuality. They have a nice, already-crafted empire they’re loathe to see wasted, and have set about eradicating any foreign elements in their towns while efficiently killing off those dwarves who might remain on the surface to challenge their rule. On the frontiers, entire orc bands had their dwarven handlers snatched from their midst by magic; lacking leadership, they’re quickly working to expand their control and fortify themselves, equally eager to escape the iron gauntlet of dwarven rule.

Other races and cultures exist, of course, and there are some innovations I’m anticipating bringing to the game; but this serves as a brief introduction for what is to come.