Earlier today I noted on G+ that I was slogging through some worldbuilding. I’m fleshing out the realms and areas that appear on the map of the continent on which Dragon Heresy takes place (I’d post an image, but the maps aren’t done yet, and so technically I don’t own them).

Morevel is a realm in the bottom-left-hand corner of the map. It really doesn’t play much of a part in the conception and execution of the game’s main area, which is a pseudo-sandbox north of the Norse/Viking-inspired country of Torengar. 

Still, it was on the map, and so I need to at least give prospective GMs something.

I decided to base the culture and history after that of Macedonean Greece, right after Alexander brought the region under his control, but before he launched his ridiculously successful campaign that ended deep into India.

This provided me with all sorts of goodness. A rich, prosperous country, but until recently, not a player due to internal strife. A 4,000-year history, with plenty of time to develop a local cultural identity, but also time for the political geography to change massively, several times. 

As I got writing, it got more interesting. I definitely will keep this in mind in case the project is successful enough to spawn follow-on works as either “wouldn’t it be fun” or stretch goals as part of a crowd-funding effort. Morevel’s neighbor to the immediate west, Inthriki, will be based on Kamakura-era Japan. Two rival lines to the throne, a not-so-stable military dictatorship, samurai, feudal systems, something like twelve different buddhist sects, and of course, there have to be ninja. There are always ninja. But that’s the rest of the night.

For now, I give you Morevel, in draft form. I suspect I may edit the hell out of this, since at this point in the draft, it’s mostly about getting thoughts on paper, rather than “yes, yes, publish this now.”

For the record: yes, Alidrus is Sparta.


MOREVEL

Land Area: 217,000 square miles.

Morevel lies directly to the west of Brousha and continental Barakthel, separated by 150-200 miles of the Neveri grasslands. It is a principally human-occupied realm, and is comprised of a significant continental land mass, as well as a vast archipelago sheltered inside a vast bay.

BRIEF HISTORY

The realm of Morevel is old, and came into existence around 1945 AS, in the last third of the three-millenium long dragon wars. It does not, however, owe its existence to the wars and their aftermath, as do the coastal cities bordering the Reithur Sea. 

The peoples which now comprise the lands of Morevel formed city-states and small kingdoms and domains, a pattern that exists to this day. The large archipelago that forms the heart of Morevel gave rise to a substantial naval expertise, which has also been developed and maintained as the realm matured.

After 500 years of exsiting as hundreds, if not thousands, of micro-domains, Soryuchis of Morevel began a period of expansion and conquest that would last for perhaps 200-300 years, expanding the small domain of Morevel into a country roughly the size of Brousha – about 60,000 square miles. Other areas formed similiarly-sized realms, either following Soryuchis’ example of conquest, or as a defensive alliance. Eventually, six large domains would form: Morevel, Dodeusis, Eretanes, and Cythmna were the largest, each of 30,000 to 60,000 square miles. Kepeira was the smallest at 12,000 square miles, and Alidrus was the final kingdom, at roughy 25,000. These six kingdoms existed as sometime allies, sometime enemies until the time of the Great Alliance. 

The daughter and the widow-king of Morevel had chance to meet with the son and the Queen of Alidrus. In was was surely a sordid affair, Orinon, Queen of Alidrus and Gunsus, widow-King of Morevel, and their children – Tytor of Alidrus and Iaira of Morevel both met, fell for each other, and plotted and executed the murder of the former prince-consort of Alidrus (who was apparently so beloved history does not record hs name). These countries were not geographical neighbors, nor had there been a long history of friendly relations between them. The death of the prince-consort was expected by those not involved to plunge the two nations into war. Instead, upon returning back to their respective countries, they mounted a dual-invasion of the next-largest and most powerful realm, Dodeusis. When the armies of Morevel and Alidrus met in the middle of Dodeusis, having subdued the country in a shockingly violent and successful campaign, the two couples married right there on the battlefield. 

They turned their eyes to the rest of the realms. Cythmna simply surrendered, having seen the violence of the recent campaign first hand. Kepeira and Eritanes did not give in, and did not fall immediately, but fall they did, with the last battle that unified the six realms under one ruler ocuring in 3006 AS, under the strategic command of Iaira, Queen of Morevel.
Since then, the realm grew unified, fractured into dozens to hundreds of component states around 4200 AS, was re-unified as the Republic of Dodeusis, broke apart again in 4440 AS, was reunified for the third time as the Autocracy of Alidrus in 4751, only to immediately break apart again upon the death of the Autarch in 4802, this time back to the six original realms that had been unified into Morevel in the first place.

Modern Morevel

In 5558, the King of Morevel watched the Neveri clans gather. Fearing the worst, he tried to rally his countrymen to mount a defense, only to find that the massed clans were directed at Torengar rather than the city-states. Vowing that they would never be that vulnerable, he and his heirs made plans to once again re-unify the realms under the banner of Morevel. Through a combination of hard fighting and hard negotiations, the country was consolidated again under Arcestus and Hypalia of Morevel, in 5772 AS – five years before Krail II made his proclaimation opening Tanalor to conquest.

PEOPLE AND SOCIETY

The realm of Morevel has been a single nation and comprised of a multitude of domains and city states over the roughly 4,000 years of its history. Nonetheless, mostly the peoples surrounding the Gulf of Otheoi (the body of water around which Morevel lies). It is realm that values education, literature, valor, and skill.

The population of Morevel is estimated to be between 7-8 million people, who are distributed relatively evenly throughout the six provinces of Morevel. Cities can be much larger than those found in the coastal realms, with the capitol of Morevel estimated to contain over 100,000 citizens, and several other cities being home to 50,000 people or more. 

Growing up in Morevel

A newborn in Morevel will be unnamed for the first ten days of life. If the child is sickly or weak, in most provinces clerical or magical aid will be brought in to assist. In Alidrus, it was – thousands of years ago – traditional to leave a sickly or deformed child to die of exposure; some from that provice will still follow that tradition. Others will give the child to the clergy to be adopted by others. Some, of course, will simply bring the mages, doctors, or clerical assistance that is common in every other province.

If the child survives that time, will be welcomed into the world with as glorious a feast and party as the parents and their family can afford to put on. A special dance is performed, with the mother, father, and the new child passed between them as they move through the four points of the compass, symbolizing the life-journey the newborn will take.

The child is educated at home until roughly age six, at which point they will be educated in mathematics, literature, debate, military skills, and generally be given as complete a physical, mental, and magical eduction as can be afforded, and as the talents of the child allow.

Again, Alidrus is a bit different – the child goes away to what is effectively a military academy until age 16, drilled under harsher conditions of discipline and physicality, but trained in substantially the same skills.

At 16, the child comes of age as an adult, and may marry, own property, and serve in a line of battle – in fact every year, each polity will send 1/40 of its adults to serve in the military for a two-year minimum term (service past two years is voluntary). This practice, called eikostos, keeps roughly 5% of the adult population of Morevel under arms at any given time.
At the age of 30, the citizen of Morevel is allowed to be appointed or engage in politics and serve as a government official should they wish to do so, and they are of the land-owner class.

Hierarchy in Morevel

Power in Morevel is mostly driven by wealth, and the noble familes are those with the largest resources. The nobles by definition are the landowners, but the lands and power is not hereditary, and it can be won and lost, bought and sold, as the fortunes of the land change.

Slaves. The lowest level of Morevelian is the slave. While those captured in warfare might become slaves if they’re foreigners or if the victorious commander has a personal grudge against his foe, that is not usual. The most common reason to become a slave is debt slavery. Where a citizen can no longer afford to pay land-rent on property, he can enter into a period of indentured slavery in exchange for funds. It is always possible to buy a slave’s contract, and the prices/terms are well established.

Citizens. The next level up are those who work or craft or serve in the military, but do not own their own lands. They are wage-makers, artisans, and soldiers, but as they do not control their own fortunes through land ownership, they are lower on the social pyramid.

Land-owners. Those who own real estate are at the highest level of Morevelian society. There are, of course, huge variations in how much land might be owned, and large estate holders could be almost comically wealthy. But to own land is to largely have the potential to be debt-free, or to receive revenues from others who work the land. One must also own land to hold political office or military command.

Military elite. A curious twist on the Morevelian culture was instituted by Arcestus and Hypalia – land owners who were also domain rulers must serve as heavy cavalry in the Morevelian army, or alternately provide and crew a ship in the navy. They must serve personally, not by proxy, for at least six months of the year when not on campaign, and if on campaign, until the campaign is over. Regents, spouses, and stewards rule in their stead while away. In this way, Arcestus and Hypalia keep the nobility busy, far from their homes and power base, and in constant mortal peril.

GOVERNMENT

Ultimately, the government is a military dictatorship under Arcestus and Hypalia, at least for the moment. They wield total power.

There is a senate of 500 advisors comprised of wealthy landowners and influential philosophers (who are also wealthy landowners), each of whom represents roughly a medium-sized city (15,000 people) and it’s surrounds. The provide advice, policy options, and intelligence from networks that they are encouraged to develop as part of the position in order to run the realm.

They are also responsible for the collection of taxes, with each senator responsible for the collection of roughly 20,000 gp per month of taxation revenue – or more – that flow to the treasury of Morevel.

ECONOMY

The economy of Morevel is based on the blessing of the land, whose average productivity rivals the best of that of Torengar, and the best of which produce an amazing bounty. Of highest value are crops that cannot be easily grown well in the more-northern climate of Torengar, such as olives, nuts, figs, and truly wonderful wines. They also have access to what amounts to a 125,000 square mile sheltered fishery on the continental shelf: the Gulf of Otheoi. 

The Morevelians also possess large access to limestone rocks, from which they have developed a remarkable variety of products, up to and including a pumice-reinforced lime cement, which is used both as a construction material and trade goods.

The natural metals of the area tend strongly to copper and alloys – iron is available but less plentiful, and so one finds bronze and brass in heavy use throughout the realm.

COMMUNICATIONS AND TRANSPORTATION

There have been many different styles of communication in the 4,000-year history of morevel, but the predominant ones have been through physical and mystical messengers. The recently-ended period of chaos and internal war that have led to the re-unification of the country under the banner of Morevel led to the breaking up of some of the established communication networks as strategic goals in the war. Arcestus and Hypalia have made the re-esablishment of these networks under trusted operations a high priority.

MILITARY

Though in recent history it has been used mostly against other Morevelians, the military of Morevel is large, sophisticated, and extremely well trained. 

Morevel maintains a standing army of professional fighters, and maintains discipline in the country through a two-layered system which is in effect a military dictatorship. The high-ranking nobles of nearly every domain must either command or ride as heavy cavalry with the King’s army. The peasantry is required to provide a continual portion of the population in service to the military, a personal levy called the eikostos (the “twentieth”). As such, it is estimated that there may be as many as a third of a million people under arms in Morevel.
Nobles and peasants alike are never stationed close to the lands where they were born.

Land Forces

Morevel maintains a powerful combined arms force and employs them in well-drilled maneuver. Such troops include:

  • Units of heavy cavalry, armed with bronze or steel breastplates and greaves, and each with a shortsword as a backup weapon. Their primary armament is a 12’ double-ended lance (treat as a pike).
  • Light cavalry in the form of horse archers armed with hide or scale armor and a shortbow, or with several javelins and a shortsword. These troops make darting hit-and-run attacks against opposing forces.
  • A phalanx of heavy infantry, each with a long pike usually used in two hands, a shield (used by those at the forefront of a formation), breastplate and greaves, and a shortsword.
  • Shock infantry with breastplate and greaves, a short spear, shortsword, and shield.
  • Light infantry, usually unarmored, carrying a light shield, several javelins, and a shortsword.

One notable feature of the armies of Morevel is that Hypalia has forbidden the use of wheeled transport when the armies are on the march, and limited servants amongs the troops to no more than one in ten. This significantly increases the speed of march and nimbleness of the armies of Morevel in recent times; several battles in recent history were won just because Arcestus’ army showed up days earlier than his foes’ thought they might.

Naval Forces

With well over 1,000 islands scattered through a central bay, and over 1,000 miles of coastline mostly enclosing a relatively narrow gulf, maintaining military power in Morevel has also meant maintaining a strong naval force as well.

The principal – and nearly omnipresent – vessel of the Morevelian military is the trireme. These large ships are built to a pattern, and tend to be about 120’ long, 20’ wide, and weigh about 40 tons. It has three banks of oars, 170 oars at one man per oar, and a total compliment of 200 souls. It had one large mast, and another small one in the front of the ship. Best continuous speed is about 10’ normal speed with half the oarsmen rowing, and sprinting under full power at 40’ per turn.

RELATIONSHIPS WITH OTHER NATIONS

Up until recently, the only nation that has been in regular contact with Morevel from the coastal realms has been Brousha, who trade across the Neveri steppes.

Morevel does have limited contact with Inthriki, though less than the map of Etera might suggest. Significant topographical barriers separate what would otherwise appear to be neighboring countries. Fennu and Shenho lakes are large and be quite turbulent, though there are two cities neighboring each other and trade and commerce occurs there. To the south of Shenho is a significant mountain range that extends south to the ocean, making the limited border along the lakes the primary point of contact.

Here we are. August 1st. I’d posted a hopeful schedule two weeks ago on what I had to do and the timing it was supposed to do down on.

Yeah. I’m behind. But maybe not by that much. And the last two weeks have seen me get a yuuge amount done.

What’s the Status?


Two weeks ago, I noted what I had left to complete, and here it is in brief:

Monsters and Foes.

I had what I thought was 90,000 words of grunt-work. I was really thinking this was going to be a slog. And it was, but thanks to Emily Smirle and her coding skills and Luke Campbell and his tireless approach to reading my stuff, I got the grunt-work done.

It’s not completely finished, because the SRD has bupkiss, mostly, for monster descriptions and information.

But every monster has a Dragon-Heresy specific stat block that makes it very easy to just look at the entry and fight with the monster. 

We also did a lot of re-jiggering names and monster types so that they go better with the setting. Trolls are now fey, because they are described that way in the setting. Monsters that are notoriously non-Norse have been eliminated, while those that are mostly non-Norse but too cool to leave out have been retained but renamed, often with helpful parenthetical reminders.

Example? Pegasus is a unique flying horse to the Greek mythological set. Not only is he Greek, but there’s only one of him. That was expanded to a type of creature rather than just the one horse Bellerephon rode. But again: Greek.

And yet flying horses were very much a Norse thing, even if not Pegasus. So a quick rename to Hofvarpnir (flying horse) and boom, done.

Oni is a magical Japanese Ogre. But the power set is much (!) closer to the Norse troll legends than the actual 5e Troll is. What did we do? We called the Ogre, the Oni, and the Troll all trolls, and renamed them something like the brute troll, the magical troll, and the tough troll (that one has the regeneration). 

And the Norse legends are full of serpents and dragons, with little to distinguish them. So a lot of things like giant lizards and worms got slid over to the dragon subtype. Plus, the winged flying dragon of Beowulf is not the only dragon in Norse mythology, and thanks to Luke again, I have 15,000 words of additional nasty dragons to compliment the chromatic and metallic dragons of the classic SRD. 

Total wordcount of the Bestiary is currently maybe 95,000 if you include Luke’s portion. So mission accomplished there – mostly – and the book is better for it.

Setting

The main map of the “starting kingdom” has been finalized, and I got some great help from the folks on the Iceland reddit on making sure that my cool ethnic names weren’t stupid. Most were OK, but my name for “High Lord” suffered from a grammar error and would have been “Hair Lord,” which really needs to be an 80s Cover Band.

The map of Etera, the continent on which everything takes place, is also done.

The map of the sandbox is proving troublesome, because I don’t want to define too much, because each GM should have freedom to do what they want, but I also don’t want to do too little, or else why bother with a setting at all.

I think I have a compromise in mind.

Also, I realized that the Races chapter of the characters book (which now has a name) just said things like “DWARF” and then right into the stat block.

Well, that wouldn’t do.

I am expanding the entries there to talk culture, appearance, size and weight, and important traditions. Plus how each race deals with magic and religion. That obviously crosses over with my setting information, so every word spent on Races is also a word spent on setting and worldbuilding. So good progress there, and I hope to finish that up in the coming week.

Once that’s done, then I need to get my CIA Factbook done for each country/kingdom/political entry, plus the different factions and regions in Tanalor, my game-play sandbox.

Oh, and I got permission to include a well-known set of domain building and management rules into my own game. It was OGL to begin with, but I thought it would be polite to ask, and he said “sure.” This was a major coup, in my opinion, and it enabled me to write more into the next section on GM advice.

So setting isn’t done. But it’s been much advanced, and if I can put nose to typewriter this week, I should be able to polish that off. Finishing the Races chapter will truly put the bow on the player’s book.

GM Advice

I have three sections left to do here, and they’re all C-HEAD/Topic level, meaning they can be pretty short. These sections are Combat and Tactics, Lethality and Challenge, and Converting from Other Source Material.

Then that’s done.

Environments and Hazards


I have some free-form sections on Dungeons, Wilderness, Settlements and Ruins, and Unusual Environments to write. Again, those are Topic level, so they can be as short or long as things require.

The Setting


Back to the setting. Here’s the outline:

THE CONQUEST OF TANALOR
KINGDOMS AND TERRITORIES

  • Settlements
  • Languages
  • Foes, Factions, and Organizations

THE AESIR, WINTERFEY, AND ELDER DRAGONS
YGGDRASIL AND OTHER PLANES AND WORLDS
MAGIC

  • Basic magic
  • Ley lines and leyferths
  • Enchantment and permanent items
Once that’s complete . . . the book is done.
Also on Deck

This is the month I get the Kickstarter prepped, and form an LLC to host the sales and keep it separate from my regular life.
The players’ book has also entered layout, with +Rob Muadib working to start putting things into a good format, chapter by chapter. I feel this will go slowly at first and then he will get on a roll. 
That will let me start writing art notes based on the spaces he’ll need for layout.
Parting Shot

I can’t say if I honestly expected to come this far. The project will likely be released as two 250-275 page volumes, and I think people will like the mix of rules and setting. 

As you can see from my various playtest reports, the game seems to play well, and has some very interesting outcomes that make sense to me.

Story: I have been reading Poul Anderson’s The Broken Sword for the first time. In it, the protagonist and an ally do battle with a mighty venomous serpent (an ormr; we’ve got 15,000 words of those in the book now). Despite many close calls, the two emerge victorious and mostly unscathed, and the ormr retreats.

This outcome is very, very possible in Dragon Heresy through emergent mechanics. This was somewhere between designed in and a happy accident, but I’ve seen it more than once, and most recently with the 3-on-1 battle with the Hill Giant in the last playtest session.

So I’m very much looking forward to finishing the draft, and then getting it in front of folks. I think you’ll like it.

Schedule

I’m behind on finishing the draft, but mid-August seems reasonable.  The book has been split in two, with a Character book and a Campaign book, and I think people will get a lot of use out of both.

Layout has started, and I hope will get major effort over the next three weeks. After that, my layout guy has life thing starting up, so progress would either stop or slow down a lot. We’ll see.

That means art holes and direction is the last half of August.

September, then, is “fill in the art holes and prepare for Kickstarter,” which would push to October.

The length of the overall manuscript means the KS will need more money for indexing, editing, black-and-white, and color artwork – in that order. November and December would be taking delivery of the art as it’s done – but that’s hard to predict, because I’m going to need a LOT of art. 

Still thinking Q117 release.

We mostly got our quorum for today’s game. The players and I had decided that this game would start at level 7 instead of level 1, to test out the mid-power game.

So whom did we have?

+Anne Hunter was Gudrun, a level 7 human runic barbarian. She carried a greatsword and a shortbow, and has DR 2 thanks to Unarmored Defense.
+Wright Johnson was Dakar,  a level 7 human berserker barbarian, who brought a greataxe and a longbow to the fray, with DR 3 from Unarmored Defense.
+Nathan Joy was Ka’Shyx, a level 7 dragonborn cleric of the Justice and War domain. He sported DR 6 from chain mail armor, carried a shield and a warhammer.

This was a test on several levels, and I explained to the players that I was deliberately trying to convert a bog-standard 5e adventure to Dragon Heresy somewhat on the fly. They were OK with this, so it was good. 

I purchased the module – Palace of the Crowned Skull – from the DM’s Guild. It’s Pay What You Want, and I threw in $5. I took screenshots of the map and put them in Roll20, using Dynamic Lighting for the first time. I came up with a good way of quickly putting in the blockers, and honestly the hardest part is rescaling the maps.

I have a suggestion for the +Roll20 crowd for this, for what it’s worth. you should be able to define two squares, likely of about 20×20′ or even more, and say “the native image that’s being imported has 20×20 squares that are this big.” The squares will usually be (say) at the upper left and lower right of the map. Since both squares are 20×20 (four 5×5 squares), that gives a centerpoint for each, as well as four parallel lines in X and Y, as well as four 20′ lines in X and Y. The map can be centered, aligned, and rescaled accordingly to the grid on the blank Roll20 map. Poof, instant alignment and rescale, making a very tedious portion of the import process trivial.

Anyway, the vision-blocks worked well, once I figured out a few things.

Playing through the module worked well. I dropped the references to the Forgotten Realms, and relocated the keep to a very convenient ruin on my own setting map. It fits so well that I really should contact Bill Volk about repurposing it for Dragon Heresy, but it’s DM’s Guild, so I probably can’t. But that makes for a pretty good test  run.

Anyway, the conversation with the representative from the noble family went easily, the players asked some of the right questions, and were satisfied with the offer of 800gp each for their efforts.

One thing we quickly realized is that we need a table of expected wealth by level. Not just because we were starting at level 7 so we needed to know what stuff they might be able to afford (can the cleric afford plate armor by Level 7? My Level 6 paladin was tromping around with +2 plate by then, but the GM was very, very generous with magic items and threw bounded accuracy right out the window). Armor is a huge deal in DH, as are magical weapons, so knowing what’s possible is key. I think I know how to resolve this! Roll once on the Hoard Table with a challenge equal to level – for a level 7 character in DH, at the low end it might only be 800gp. At the high end, it’s 4,200gp and two powerful magical items (rare or very rare). 

They didn’t find any wild encounters, and traveled the roughly 60 miles to the keep in two days. It was easier to find with the provided map, and they made good time and did enough preparation to not draw any monster encounters.

They elected to come up the back way, and immediately encountered a Hill Giant on a large lower area of the castle.

They detected the Hill Giant first, and he was on patrol, walking predictably in circles on the platform, which was roughly 90×140′. They got a first-shot at the (Challenge 5) giant, but he wasn’t surprise (he had a good Perception roll).

The players immediately twigged to the right tactics – the two barbarians started peppering him with arrows, draining his vigor. Now, the hill giant had DR 6, so mostly could ignore the shortbow, but with two attacks (one of which could be used for aiming), the archers could vastly increase the odds of a critical hit, which made even the shortbow a threat. 

Initially, the giant pinned the players at the top of a narrow staircase, but then a good/lucky shot got through and caused a few wounds. This caused the giant to lose his nerve, backing off with the Demoralized condition.This allowed our players to flank him and spread out on the platform, while continuing to pepper him with arrows and the cleric used Sacred Flame a lot.

The giant retreated until his morale re-solidified, whereupon he attacked again.

It should be noted that he (and Dakar, for that matter) more or less didn’t roll higher than an 8, almost ever. The one time the giant did roll well, he was Demoralized, with disadvantage on attack rolls and skill checks, and so what would have been two shattering hits on Gudrun turned into “the mighty Casey had struck out.”

So they beat down his vigor and then went to town on wounds in hand-to-hand combat, mostly using flanking and good tactics to render the giant unconscious. They emerged unscathed, with 1 gp and 170 sp, and 965 XP each as spoils.

They did a bit more exploring, found a bit of treasure, including a potion of healing, and we called it a night. We played a bit less-long than we’d planned due to some confusion on timing.

Parting Shot

Was it an easy fight?

Yes and no. It went about as I expected it to go.

The hill giant was bad news, with 49 wounds required to kill him (but fewer required to demoralize, injure, and knock out), and 105 vigor with which to soak defenses. However, my experience here is that many-on-one, with the defender lacking a shield and the attackers well endowed with spells and ranged weapons? 

Always, always bad for the one. The giant had to make use of frantic defense to turn wounds to vigor on nearly every ranged attack, though he probably should have just taken more shots, trusting his high DR to spare him from all but lucky shortbow attacks. Still, the three players really made with the pincushion syndrome, and there’s not much the hill giant could do about it. He’s too stupid to come up with clever tactics (INT 5).

He hit Ka’Shyx with a thrown rock, but he used his reaction to take it on his shield, damaging the shield (it was a fairly poor roll) with one “hit,” and three hits and it’s broken. Unless he has the mending cantrip to repair it, he can only pull that trick 1-2 times more, and then he’ll need a new shield.

On the other hand, he rolled really badly. Throwing rocks, he was looking at 2-20 wounds per rock. With his greatclub, two attacks for 8-15 vigor each. Even with 60-70 vigor, our barbarians (who elected not to rage, because of the exhaustion effects). So only a few hits, not even counting criticals, and our heroes would have been the ones on the short end of the stick. A few hits and the PCs would have been severely short on vigor, and one greatclub crit and you’re looking at 11-65 vigor loss, and if that also exceeded the Hit DC, that could double to “you’re at zero vigor and taking plenty of wounds through only DR 2 or DR 3.”

So again: it went as I expected. A couple of hits and it was bad news for the PCs. But they did not take those hits, and kept up a steady stream of vigor-reducing attacks. Had there been a few minions or lower-level guys to take up the slack, it may well have been very different. Heck, I bet two or three goblins would have occupied enough mindshare that the hill giant would have been a magnified problem.

Lessons Learned


The massive amount of work writing up stat blocks for all the critters paid enormous dividends. I was able to just look up “Hill Giant” and adjudicate the fight with a couple of glances at the table. 

The adventure ports over easily and well.

The game still rewards sensible tactics that are intuitively obvious to players. Flank your foes. If your foes do not have shields and you’re many on one, hang back and pelt ’em with arrows. 

Taking a blow on a shield is a good thing. Having a shield is a good thing.

High DR matters, and GMs and players alike should be encouraged to think about this. Take the time to aim when dealing with armored foes, as it allows you to increase your chance of a crit by quite a bit.

The emergent behavior of our giant becoming demoralized and then in a few rounds snapping out of it and pressing back to the attack works freakin’ great. That has been a real pleasure to see.

I still need to write up a quickie combat flow algorithm for maximum clarity. It’s clear enough, but you can never be too clear about this sort of thing.

Good session. The game still plays well, and I don’t think I need to adjust challenge ratings much. Fights may well end up “gee, we’re all OK” or “tomato paste” more frequently than the SRD5.1’s base assumption of everyone down a bunch of Hit Points.

Tomorrow will be a big writing day, and then pushing hard for the rest of the week to finish the complete draft of both books. I’m guessing 350,000 words total. Maybe two books of 250-280 pages each. Solid but not with their own gravity well.

More later! 

I’m into serious worldbuilding for the Dragon Heresy RPG now, so this will be a short post. 

I’ve settled on an organizational structure for detailing the Races that come out of the SRD5.1 with nothing but the stat-block and abilities, and also the Kingdoms that make up the political entities in the setting.

So, what am I including with each?

Races

Each race of course has it’s game-mechanical abilities. But there’s also the other bits that define a bit of the culture and background for each one.

The SRD5.1 races are Dwarf, Elf, Half-Elf, Gnome, Human, Halfling, Tiefling, Dragonborn, and Half-Orc. Half-orcs might be a problem from a setting point of view, as they’re not really the common cannon-fodder monster – that honor belongs to lizardfolk and kobolds. 


However, fey are a big part of the setting, and legends of fey mingling their blood with humans – usually through charms and shapeshifting – are pretty common. I may keep the stats as they are and just rebrand them half-trolls. But really they’re not real trolls, but half-hobgoblins, because goblins are fey in Dragon Heresy. (I needed more fey. I made a bunch of critters fey that weren’t before, mostly with some nudges from mythology. I might yet do more – Will-o-the-Wisps in Finnish mythology guard faerie treasure, so rebranding them as fey instead of undead makes a lot of sense to me.

Anyway, here’s the outline of information to be provided fo reach race:

[This Race] in Etera

  • Do they have a home kingdom?
  • What Kingdoms do they live in?

[This Race’s] Stereotypes

  • Demeanor with each other
  • Demeanor with other races

[This Race’s]Appearance

  • Size, Weight, and Body type
  • Distinguishing Features

Culture

  • Social Organization
  • Customs and Traditions of Note
  • Religion
  • Language
  • Arts and Literature
  • Forms of Government
  • Economic Systems

Priorities

  • Power/Influence
  • Violence/Command
  • Wealth/Resources
  • Desire/Fellowship

Names

  • Male Names
  • Female Names
Kingdoms
Here, I nipped over to the CIA World Factbook, and totally stole the outline of what is covered for each country. Too useful not to.

  • INTRODUCTION
  • BRIEF HISTORY
  • PEOPLE AND SOCIETY
  • GOVERNMENT
  • ECONOMY
  • COMMUNICATIONS AND TRANSPORTATION
  • MILITARY
  • RELATIONSHIPS WITH OTHER NATIONS
Parting Shot

The overall work is about 306,000 words as last night. I was hoping to have the entire first draft complete by Sunday night, but I very much doubt this will happen – too much yet to write. I might be able to cover it all in a week.
I have, however, sent a chapter-by-chapter draft of the player’s book (175,000 words) to +Rob Muadib, my layout guy, and while the Races chapter is obviously expanding, the rest of them are basically done. The act of putting them into layout by chapter will also allow my three-dozen playtesters to say “hey, what happened to X?”
It will also allow me to start writing art direction. I posted a call for artists a while ago, but then things changed and evolved, and so I put that on hold. But I’m getting to the point where I can start writing a “what I would like to have” primer for prospective artists, and I’ve got some strong interest from more than one already. Paying them is the province of Kickstarter, of course!
Back to the grindstone. But things are getting closer. Much closer.

Edit: I also want to give a shout-out to both the +Norse Mythology G+ community as well as the Iceland reddit. While my forays into DnD-inspired reddits have largely been met with . . . hmm. Smug hostility? Maybe too strong. Still, it’s not been welcoming – and the SJG Forums are pretty special with regard to how eagerly people will embrace and comment on a well-written question – but these two communities have been very, very helpful to me in these later stages of development. The Iceland guys in particular have gone above and beyond the call to help me turn really bad Icelandic/Old Norse into far-less-bad Icelandic and Old Norse. The errors that will appear on the maps are mine, and mostly there purposefully.

Example? Rivers. The ending/word for river is just á. Toss in an -in ending, áin and you get a definite article or some such. I’m using it wrong deliberately – rivers in the primary Kingdom of my world end in áin in the area north of the river on which the capital city lies. It’s deliberately ungrammatical, to show that it’s a bit rough and tumble and archaic up there. Below the twin rivers that terminate at the capital city – the Freysáin and the Blítháin, all the rivers end in á. 

They’re probably pretty smug about it, too.

The Dragon Heresy RPG player-centric book is finished, at least in complete first draft form. 
Based off of an extensively edited and modified SRD5.1, the player’s book consists of roughly 172,000 words, or between 235-275 laid-out pages depending on how that goes.
You can see the raw dump of the Table of Contents below. This represent Chapter and Section Titles (what I’d call A-HEAD and B-HEAD in a GURPS manuscript).
Next step for this one is for +Rob Muadib to pour it into our black-and-white layout format, and then make holes for art. In the meantime, my squad of nearly three dozen playtesters and readers will hopefully be looking at this with a “tweak and fix” rather than “suggest sections to write” eye.
I have also created an outline for the GM’s book, and ported the major already-written sections into it, whch means it’s over 120,000 words on day one. This is good. Not all of my effort is going into the GM’s book, but most of it will be over the next week.
So: a good bit of progress, but more yet to do. I’m still hoping to have a complete draft in a week, but that’s a lot of writing in a short time. We shall see.

Introduction………………………………………………………… 5
Core Concepts……………………………………………………….. 9
Using Ability Scores………………………………………………… 11
Saving Throws………………………………………………………. 22
Combat…………………………………………………………….. 23
The Order of Combat…………………………………………………. 23
Actions in Combat…………………………………………………… 25
Defensive Target Numbers…………………………………………….. 27
Making an Attack……………………………………………………. 30
Grappling………………………………………………………….. 36
Movement and Position……………………………………………….. 41
Mounted Combat……………………………………………………… 42
Underwater Combat…………………………………………………… 43
Injury, Rest, and Healing……………………………………………. 44
Inspiration………………………………………………………… 49
Generating Characters……………………………………………….. 52
Character Description……………………………………………….. 52
Generating Ability Scores……………………………………………. 54
Character Races…………………………………………………….. 57
Racial Traits………………………………………………………. 57
Dwarf……………………………………………………………… 57
Elf……………………………………………………………….. 58
Halfling…………………………………………………………… 59
Human……………………………………………………………… 60
Dragonborn…………………………………………………………. 60
Gnome……………………………………………………………… 61
Half-elf…………………………………………………………… 62
Half-orc…………………………………………………………… 63
Tiefling…………………………………………………………… 63
Character Classes…………………………………………………… 65
Barbarian………………………………………………………….. 65
Bard………………………………………………………………. 70
Cleric…………………………………………………………….. 76
Druid……………………………………………………………… 93
Fighter…………………………………………………………… 101
Monk……………………………………………………………… 106
Ranger……………………………………………………………. 122
Rogue…………………………………………………………….. 131
Sorcerer………………………………………………………….. 137
Warlock…………………………………………………………… 144
Wizard……………………………………………………………. 156
Character Background……………………………………………….. 165
Backgrounds……………………………………………………….. 166
Motivation, Cohesion, and Goal………………………………………. 190
Beyond 1st Level…………………………………………………… 192
Explicit Multiclass Options…………………………………………. 196
Equipment…………………………………………………………. 204
Coinage…………………………………………………………… 204
Selling Treasure…………………………………………………… 204
Armor and Shields………………………………………………….. 205
Weapons…………………………………………………………… 208
Magical Attacks vs Armor……………………………………………. 211
Adventuring Gear…………………………………………………… 212
Tools…………………………………………………………….. 218
Mounts and Vehicles………………………………………………… 220
Trade Goods……………………………………………………….. 221
Expenses………………………………………………………….. 222
Feats…………………………………………………………….. 226
List of Feats……………………………………………………… 226
Spellcasting………………………………………………………. 235
What Is a Spell?…………………………………………………… 235
Casting a Spell……………………………………………………. 238
Spell Lists……………………………………………………….. 245
Spells by Class……………………………………………………. 245
Cantrips………………………………………………………….. 262
1st Level Spells…………………………………………………… 268
2nd Level Spells…………………………………………………… 281
3rd Level Spells…………………………………………………… 300
4th Level Spells…………………………………………………… 315
5th Level Spells…………………………………………………… 327
6th Level Spells…………………………………………………… 345
7th Level Spells…………………………………………………… 358
8th Level Spells…………………………………………………… 369
9th Level Spells…………………………………………………… 376
Conditions………………………………………………………… 386
Open Game License Version 1.0A………………………………………. 389

We had another playtest of the Dragon Heresy RPG. It was a surprisingly challenging session in terms of personal interaction. The productive way to look at this is in terms of how the rules and text of the game can attempt to deal with what is usually one of the only real problems in RPG play, which in my opinion is expectations management.


That is, players conflict with each other, and the GM, when their view of what the game world, rules, or (for lack of a better word) mission or purpose of the game is differs from others.

Some of this, in the case of a game that is still being written, with a setting that is being defined, is clearly because the ground rules are not yet fixed. Some of this was not.

Gods and Men, Men and Men

For Dragon Heresy, and specifically the pseudo-Norse setting that is being worked up, I very much need to say something about certain things. These include the Aesir – the Norse gods – and their relationship with humans and dwarves in the setting, and also the relationships that their clerics have with the Aesir, their “flock,” as well as other Clerics. 

The Aesir, the Norse pantheon, is interesting for several reasons, not the least of which is that there are people walking the world that have personally had relations with these deities. Some of those relations are of a very intimate nature – when someone says “I got to know Odin personally,” or especially Loki, one might be implying a certain amount of superposition.

So there’s really no “whose God is real” sort of thing. They all are, at least within the Norse pantheon. My setting is silent on whether other pantheons even exist, much less influence this world – that’s a GM decision and could go either way.


But at least the default assumption in my world is that people will feel a calling, or kinship, or affinity for one or some of the Aesir, and will tend to associate with them, pray to them, and try and bolster the strengths that that particular deity embodies. Using the more-common names, if you believe in Fate and Destiny as paramount, even over the gods, you probably follow the Norns. If you will be bound by no man or contract, but uphold dignity, honor, and delight in righteous conflict and equally-righteous hangovers, Thor’s your man. If you believe in a form of righteous vengeance that is both ice-cold and white-hot, but still justified, you are in the province of Skadi, who is basically Elsa when she’s pissed off.

But none of that means that you are going to, as a Cleric, be converting people. You don’t proselytize from one god to another, though certainly if a person is uncertain about where their affinities lie, a cleric or druid or paladin or strong follower from another class, might encourage a deliberate choice, especially if the interlocutor discovers traits in the undecided person that might be amenable to the way their deity approaches things. 

That’s how I see it, at least. And you certainly don’t say “Believe in Thor, abandon Odin, because Odin doesn’t exist.” Because that’s a great way to get on the bad side of lots of people. The Aesir are a family show, so to speak. And they do have their strife, of course:

Bruce Banner: I don’t think we should be focusing on Loki. That guy’s brain is a bag full of cats. You can smell crazy on him. 

Thor: Have a care how you speak! Loki is beyond reason, but he is of Asgard and he is my brother! 

Natasha Romanoff: He killed eighty people in two days.

Thor: He’s adopted?

Now, my setting doesn’t have the Marvel version of Thor (Donnar in my setting) in it – though I do think that it’s marvelous (see what I, oh, nevermind) and Hemsworth does a great job. But even when dealing with Loki, it’s love-hate. Well, unless you’re Freya (Valfreya in my setting).  Then it’s just hate-hate. So there’s not exactly competition for believers in a way that makes people stand on street corners asking “Have you bathed in the presence of Odin today? You really should convert to serving his Glory!”

But I didn’t make that terribly clear, and it caused an issue. So: lesson one learned about the importance of setting for establishing expectations.

Lesson two, and I really, really should have known this from before. Medieval, or even faux-medieval, social structure is ridiculously structured. When dealing with your social betters, you are mostly considered somewhere between clearly inferior but allowed to speak, to worthless slime that is lucky to not be decapitated on sight. 

OK, that’s extreme. And the right to kill and depart was mostly a Japanese thing. But after our group of 1st-level characters dealt rather effectively with a bandit problem, I had the town Constable approach them through an intermediary about helping to solve a problem that the jarl of Midgard (one of the big towns along the north of Audreyn’s Wall) had with a relative’s son. They challenged the right or even the fact that the Constable was actually representing the jarl’s interests. 

That got a bit testy, as the relative social standing of first-level characters is not always clear in SRD5.1 games. During the discussion, I likened it to a new college grad demanding to go over the head of their Senior Manager and speak directly to an Executive VP. At worst, it’s a grave breach of protocol. I would guess that this guy – the constable – was something like an 8th to 12th level Fighter or Barbarian, possibly a Ranger, now that I think of it. He was the local captain of the guard and ran the jarl’s messenger service – very important posts. Anyway, I didn’t make it clear enough where this guy was in both the hierarchy of power, and the relative social standing of characters of a given level. Players will tend to think that the world is more egalitarian than it is, and that the nobles and administrative functionaries are lower level and weaker than they are. This was almost my party’s undoing in +Rob Conley‘s Majestic Wilderlands campaign, where we got somewhat lucky and managed to not get killed and burned by the 15th level Fighter we challenged the authority of. 

What I learned


I was viewing the roleplaying exchange from three points of view, all of which were negative from my perspective.

  1. The cleric involved was taking a very tough tone with the Constable, in terms of trying to convert him from Tyr (Ziu, in my setting) to Sol (brother sun, the lord of light). When the Constable noted he had his own beliefs, the conversation persisted, which violated my view of how the setting’s clerical domains worked. That is basically hidden from the players, for whom the only words of guidance are in a reasonably recent version of the manuscript – fluff text that post-dates when these guys made characters:

    “The pantheon of the Aesir is broad, and to follow one patron does not, cannot, preclude the others. A cleric that hews to the path of the Storm Domain will not deny the actions or validity of the followers of Skadi (Winter) or Ziu (justice and war), but prefers or favors a certain way of looking at, and solving, problems. When any Aesir speaks, the clerics of Torengar are wise to listen, though it is far more likely that such a message from Donnar will be delivered to a cleric of Donnar, of course.”

    I should have made this more clear. If I did make it clear, I would look to the players to respect that distinction – or be prepared to suffer the consequences, up to and including the Constable delivering a mighty beat-down.

  2. The party was engaging in spectacular disrespect of the Constable’s position, behaving as if he was a mere flunky for a low-ranking noble, and they wanted to deal directly with the jarl.

    That’s on me, in that the relative power level and social strata are not established. So the vast impropriety of the suggested direction was not apparent to everyone. This is what happens when rules come before setting in the writing process, and also when modern sense of egalitarianism and the expectation that noblesse oblige is expected because the parties are equal, rather than the expectation that the much-superior noble will condescend to have congress and treat with honor those of lower station.

    There will definitely be a social interactions mechanism – or suggested mechanism – that will be invoked here. I’m thinking of both mechanical help – setting the DC of a particular die roll, such as Persuasion or Deception – based in part on the difference in level of the two parties. Not the difference in proficiency – social strata differences are wider than that.

    But also, just a general level of how the society works and the adventurer’s place in it, as they will frequently be outsiders to a given town, and maybe outside most other societal boundaries. They might belong to no guild, have no association with the locals, and basically be tolerated because the King has this writ thing going on where he’s encouraging people to go North and conquer the lands.

    None of this was made explicit, and there needs to be some level of “careful here” in the text. The “good” news is that the Norse structures were fairly, as they say in corporate speak, “flat.” So there were basically three (broad – very broad) classes. Slaves, freemen, and jarls. The king basically being first among equal jarls. But of course, there were myriad informal strata, and not all jarls were of equal power, respect, and influence. And my world is not Scandinavia, but influenced by those cultures. So I’ve got some writing to do, and soon, on this topic.

  3. Lastly, game expectations. This is a playtest campaign. So while it’s not a series of unconnected fights or conflicts designed to test one or another parts of the rules, it’s designed to put the rules through their paces, and I’ve been so busy writing these last few weeks that I really didn’t have a ton of “choose A, B, or C” options prepared. I’d toyed with dropping these guys into a dungeon from the OSR, but looking through my options, I saw that would actually be a bit of work to convert, so I was out of time. So I whipped up a depopulated village, re-populated it with four encounters worth of bad guys, and tried to drop a job in the PCs lap. That was of mixed success, as one may have gathered.
The Play of the Game

The job itself? 5gp per adventurer to bring back simple word of what happened. An extra 20gp per person if they solved whatever problem caused the issue, and they managed to negotiate for a bit more if they brought back proof of the jarl’s cousin’s son’s fate. Plus, the implicit “plus whatever loot you can find” that always exists in these things. 
They were given three days worth of food, and were given the use of a riding horse each – worth 75gp (about $5,000 USD!) each, but to be returned. 
What if we steal them? Well, then you’re outlaws and not welcome south of the wall. Ever. Oh, just checking.
So north they ride, and the Ranger kept them fed and watered. They approached the village from the south, at mid-morning. 
Long story short, they checked out the buildings, found signs of blood and death but no bodies, and eventually checked out the tavern (2).
(The map was generated using the Inkwell Random Village Generator, which is entirely awesome).
The tavern had bodies in it, plus four kobolds – two regular and two winged. They don’t like sunlight and so were inclined to stay inside, and the players pulled off a sweet, sweet surprise attack, killing all four quickly. Bodies inside were stacked like cordwood, being rendered down as food for the bad guys. Eww. But they did quickly locate the jarl’s (deceased) relative. So, evidence obtained.
They then realized that when they scouted the smithy (9), they never did clear it, only looking inside for a threat but not finding any. So (wisely) they decided to clear the building. Inside was a lizardfolk magic-user, who rolled a 20+ on the Perception check vs the rogue’s relatively modest stealth check the first time around, and was ready for them – when the rogue came to the door, entangling vines sprouted in front of it, but I made a mistake in placement and left a clear space in front of the door. So the grappling attack on the rogue failed, and he was able to roll a natural 20 on an acrobatic dive into the room, which was entirely awesome.
The fight was hard, but the shaman rolled fairly poorly, saving throws were made, and many-on-one always works out poorly for the one, especially in Dragon Heresy, which indulges in GURPS-like death spiral behavior at times, by design. So the shaman was overcome. 

It should be noted that I missed something important – the lizardfolk have natural DR 3, which takes 3 points of damage off any potential injury that gets by his defenses. I really need to print out my new monster section, or get +Rob Muadib to lay it out so it compresses into a smaller book, so I can look at natively Dragon Heresy stat blocks. Fewer mistakes would be made with this expedient.

By that point, it was nearly midnight, so we called it. The silent village was beset by at least one lizardfolk shaman, plus some kobolds. They still have not yet explored the houses to the northeast. That will be next time.

Parting Shot

The point of these playtest campaigns is for me to see what a group of players might do with the setting. Well, like it or not – and at the time, I did not – I found out. Some of this is expectation management, and some is that I need to write down the soft rules of the setting in an absolutely clear way. 

If I can’t express the expectations for social strata and interaction in five or fewer guidelines that could appear on a 3×5 card as guidance, I will have failed my readership in terms of providing simple, digestible guidance for how such things work. So there’s an important part of the setting that is basically “how to live in it.” Good learning there.

Another is way more explicit guidance on how holy men are expected to act. 

The combat system also needs a flowchart or a series of steps, laid out explicitly. This is present in one form already, but needs to be expanded by a few steps because even I, as GM, tend to forget a few things – but that’s because the rules have changed from the first iteration to the final one.

Explicitly: Armor Class is now two quantities. Threat DC and Hit DC. If you exceed Threat DC, something happens. If you exceed Hit DC, you are assumed to bypass all footwork, parries, and normal defenses such as shields and strike the target. From there, you have to punch through armor DR to cause injury.

Very early incarnations of the rules had an attack that meets Hit DC just inflict wounds. Then I introduced Frantic Defense, a way of turning wounds into vigor loss as an option, and then that turned into the default way of doing things. But sometimes I revert to the olde ways.

Anyway: combat flowchart. Which again will be short, few special cases, and easily internalized. It will fit on a 3×5 card or smaller in easily-readable font.

I need to write a GM advice/Running the Game section/chapter, which will have some guidance on when the PCs will be powerful enough to expect to strike out on their own and make a play for establishing a land-hold of their own. Before that, the players will be taking odd jobs and basing themselves out of a city, or even perhaps joining a more-powerful adventurer as retainers. I have a few ideas on how to make that viable.

Finally, I had a dialog with a well-known name in the OSR community about some rules he wrote that I wanted to borrow, and he agreed to let me take and modify them. This was fantastic news to me, but more on that later, perhaps.

So a lot learned this time, but very little of it had to do with combat mechanics or the hard-style rules material. Even negative experiences – or even especially negative experiences – can drive learning, and last night’s game was a case in point. I got a lot of soft-style setting learning, which is timely, since my remaining tasks are:

  • Finish the fluff text and editing of the monsters section. This is non-trivial, since there are 250-300 monster entries and there will be both fewer (as we decide that, say, an ancient Egyptian monster or ancient Mayan monstrosity or Celestial has no place in the setting) and more, since there are scarce-few good fey in the SRD, and my setting needs to be lousy with them. Plus a lot of re-skinning. Sure, crocodiles would not be found in the northern parts of my setting . . . but swamp ormr? Sure. What are they? Ahem. Crocodiles with the name changed, and the lineage/monster type set to “dragon” instead of “beast.”
  • Write the setting information. My notes have been growing on this, and my own mental understanding of the setting and world. But I have to put them into the manuscript. I know how I’m going to do it, too, for the main.
  • Write the outline for the GM book, which will include sections on the setting, general adventuring guidance, rewards and treasure, magic items, and specific guidance on expectations management and running the game for GMs.

Stuff like:

  • A foe with no armor and no shield is going to be easy meat for PCs, almost regardless of wound/vigor capacity. 
  • Conversely, foes with a shield or DR X or higher armor are going to be tough nuts to crack. In my playtest games, archers simply stopped shooting at guys with shields. There are ways to beat this, but they require a line of disciplines archers acting in concert. This has not yet occurred.
  • How to use the morale rules so that every encounter does not end in a TPK for one side or another. 
  • When to insist on using passive scores for certain tasks. I already have a “no fishing” boxtext and thought of a simple alternative for GMs and players that like to roll dice that works equally well.
  • Other tidbits that came up during the playtest campaigns that can be turned into general guidance. 
But here we come to the crux of it all. The game’s quite nearly done, quite playable, and offers some benefits to lots of different groups of gamers. I was hoping to be able to publish one book instead of two, but I’m not going to make a tome that’s a single 550-page volume. I may, however, go the GURPS route of having (for example) the book mostly concerned with characters and basic game play be page 1-275, and the campaign and setting book start at p. 276 and go to p. 525. We’ll see what my playtesters think of that.

A sample NPC/Monster writeup from the Dragon Heresy draft. This started life in the SRD5.1, but has been modified for the new game rules.
Archmage
Medium humanoid (any race), any alignment
Speed 30 ft.
STR
DEX
CON
INT
WIS
CHA
10
14
12
20
15
16
0
+2
+1
+5
+2
+3
Defenses
Wound Thresholds
Threat DC
12
Morale
Injury
KO
Death
Hit DC
24
0-3
4-6
7-12
13+
DR
0*
Control Thresholds
Vigor
99
Grab
Grapple
Restr.
Incap.
Vigor Dice
18d8+18
0-3
4-6
7-12
13+
*mage armor adds DR 1 per spell slot level

Proficiency +4

Saving
Throws.
Int +9, Wis +6
Skills.
Arcana +13, History +13
Damage
Resistance.
damage from spells; nonmagical bludgeoning, piercing, and
slashing (from stoneskin)
Senses.
passive Perception 12
Languages.
any six languages.
Challenge
12
(8,400 XP)

Magic Resistance. The
archmage has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical
effects.

Spellcasting. The
archmage is an 18th-level spellcaster. Its spellcasting ability is Intelligence
(spell save DC 17, +9 to hit with spell attacks). The archmage can cast
disguise self and invisibility at will and has the following wizard spells
prepared:
•  Cantrips
(at will): fire bolt, light, mage hand, prestidigitation, shocking grasp
•  1st
level (4 slots): detect magic, identify, mage armor*, magic missile
•  2nd
level (3 slots): detect thoughts, mirror image, misty step
•  3rd
level (3 slots): counterspell, fly, lightning bolt
•  4th
level (3 slots): banishment, fire shield, stoneskin*
•  5th
level (3 slots): cone of cold, scrying, wall of force
•  6th
level (1 slot): globe of invulnerability
•  7th
level (1 slot): teleport
•  8th
level (1 slot): mind blank*
•  9th
level (1 slot): time stop
*The archmage casts these spells on itself before combat.
Actions
Dagger. Melee or
Ranged Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft. or range 20/60 ft., one target.
Hit: 4 (1d4 + 2) piercing damage.
Archmages are powerful (and usually quite old) spellcasters
dedicated to the study of the arcane arts. Benevolent ones counsel kings and
queens, while evil ones rule as tyrants and pursue lichdom. Those who are
neither good nor evil sequester themselves in remote towers to practice their
magic without interruption.

An archmage typically has one or more apprentice mages, and an
archmage’s abode has numerous magical wards and guardians to discourage
interlopers.

This is a shout-out to +Emily Smirle .

I fretted about my monsters chapter for Dragon Heresy. It was 91,000 words long, and a whole lot of problems.

Well, I chatted with Em and +GodBeastX , and they noted that the best way to do this was probably a brute scrape of a text file. Turn it into an HTML table.

Well. I thought about that, and how I would do that if I knew how to write code well (I used to know FORTRAN, PASCAL, a bit of MATLAB scripting code, and dabbled in Visual Basic, but not any of the newer languages).

So I used Word’s wildcard files to look for all instances in my Monsters and Foes file that used the “Sub-Topic” style (which is how almost all monster entries are titled), and then replace the monster [Name] with MONSTER – [Name].

That gave a tagged file. I gave Em a format, some rules for conversions based on information contained in the data already (Armor Class converts to Dragon Heresy concepts like so; Hit Points become Vigor; Wounds are calculated like so; etc.).

She went to town, and converted this:

ANCIENT BLACK DRAGON
Gargantuan dragon, chaotic evilArmor Class: 22 (natural armor)
Hit Points: 367 (21d20 + 147)
Speed 40 ft., fly 80 ft., swim 40 ft.
STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
27 (+8) 14 (+2) 25 (+7) 16 (+3) 15 (+2) 19 (+4)
Saving Throws Dex +9, Con +14, Wis +9, Cha +11
Skills Perception +16, Stealth +9
Damage Immunities acid
Senses blindsight 60 ft., darkvision 120 ft., passive Perception 26
Languages Common, Draconic
Challenge 21 (33,000 XP)

Into this below, with a bit of Excel nudging from me. Ultimately, she has taken days of work and turned it into hours. 

I did a lot of writing last week, and was up until just shy of 4am on Saturday night trying to finish editing the magical items, treasure, and rewards chapters.

For those that come to these pages looking for tons of GURPS content, especially my semi-regular features such as The Reloading Press or even the Firing Squad, I can only apologize. I’ve been pretty laser-focused on Dragon Heresy since it became a real thing in Feburary, and I’ve come a long way since then.

So, where’s the game right now?


Dragon Heresy RPG

One of the things that happened last week was a major reorganization of all of the material that I’ve written to date, plus some things that I’d forgotten to include that are pretty key from SRD5.1. That’s done, and while I still think that there are some sections that could usefully be wrapped into their own chapters, the rest of the material now flows a heck of a lot better.

The Introduction got a long-ago rewrite to not mention certain game names, even as an acknowledgement, nod, homage, or a respectful comment. Alas, because while I don’t wish to claim compatibility with anything or camp out on a brand, the roots of the game are clear and SRD5.1-derived.

The Core Concepts chapter then introduces all of the things you need to know that are the same, and more importantly, the few things that are different, to play the game.

The Combat chapter comes next, with the new SRD sections smoothing out the flow, and making it more readable. Grappling is now four pages (well, MS Word pages) and it’s a lot more interesting. It’s been used quite a bit by both monsters and PCs in the test campaigns I’ve played, which has been fantastic. Damage Types have rules associated with them now, too. Getting slashed and getting burned are now different and flavorful.

Then Injury, Rest, and Healing, which details how the new rules for wounds and vigor interact with long and short rests, and the much-longer requirements to heal wounds than vigor. The emergent behavior out of this split system has been wonderful to behold, and is, I think, going to be a strong point in favor of Dragon Heresy for those that like it.

Then there are a bunch of sections on the adventuring environment that really need to be folded up into their own chapter. Probably need to create an Adventuring and Campaigning chapter that will be a natural place for all of this stuff.

Then the Characters set of chapters, which are everything you’d expect. All the classes, and sub-classes, backgrounds unique to the game, advancing beyond first level, feats, spellcasting, and the fully-adjusted spell lists, tweaked to incorporate the new Dragon Heresy concepts.

And the rewards and treasure section, which has personal and hoard loot, a new gemstone table, and the section on magical items, which again have been tweaked to fit Dragon Heresy. I do the work so you don’t have to.

What’s left to do?


I’ve got several chapters/sections left before I can confidently say “this is a complete draft.”

Monsters and Foes.

This is a big section – porting in from the SRD reveals it to be 90,000 words by itself, which could be as much as 140 pages. That’s in addition to the 215,000 words that’s already written above. 

So that’s just too long. It’s long to the point that I might just split the entire project into three books – that’s a model we’ve seen before – one for players, one for the campaign, and a bestiary. The imported monsters are fun, but some of them aren’t terribly setting-relevant, and there are others that need to be there – such as a monster based off of Grendel – that aren’t, that I know of. 

Plus, I’m going to have to go through every monster that I keep and rewrite it in terms of wounds, vigor, new attack and damage modes, damage reduction for armor . . .

It’s grunt work, but it’s 90,000 words of grunt-work.

Setting


I’m working with a pro cartographer on maps, and I’ve got a final map of my continent and starter maps of the sandbox. That’s helping define some of the setting details.

I have a brief history and some major events defined, which provides flavor.

I’ve got a reasonable start on a defining culture, and I think I can bang this out in short order. The real work is in the adventuring area, which will have sufficient defined areas to inspire, and sufficient “the GM puts whatever here” to keep it a sandbox.

There’s enough “kingdoms far away” that enterprising players and GMs can play the “outsider” if they want, because someone always wants to.

GM Advice


Some of the things that have come up in playtest – “watch out for X,” and “be aware of Y” will go here. So will suggestions on starter adventures and ways to kick the game off.

Dragon Heresy is, flat out, potentially more deadly than the SRD5.1 basis from which it derives. That’s not a bad thing. In fact it was a design goal, to take enhanced lethality and combine it with a certain amount of additional narrative cohesion.

But it makes the game play differently, and at least the GM should be aware of how. So I’ll be writing a bit on that.

Schedule

My personal goal is still to finish a complete publishable text draft this month – that is, in the next 13 days. The Monsters chapter is what really stands in the way of that, as it’s the most time-intensive and fiddle-intensive. Plus the length, which is a problem by itself.

But with a finished draft, even if I don’t have the monsters done but if I do decide to put them in their own book, I can start layout and defining holes for art. 
Then August will be “find public domain art to fill the holes.”
September would be “launch a Kickstarter to take the book to ever-higher quality levels.” Things like, and in rough order:
1. Indexing. Probably wind up needing $2,500 for this, as I’ve seen budgetary estimates for pro indexing at $10 per 1,000 words.
2. Editing. I want to work with an established professional, and that means about $6,500 in the budget so that someone can look over my work and fix it. 
There are also some expenses I’ve already incurred such as the map, and I’ll need to bring the websites for the RPG and my notional publishing company online. 
I suspect that the prior two items will define the first goal: $12,000 to fund the Kickstarter, with backers potentially having access to a laid-out PDF with public domain art that’s already written as soon as the project funds (if, after consultations, it seems wise to do that; I’m going to be chatting with lots of folks who have run both successful and unsuccessful Kickstarters before I commit to anything), so there’s no risk there. That means I’ll need 300-400 backers just to cover the basics. 
3. Black and White Art. If the book is 250,000 words long, that’s probably 130 pieces of art. Figure that’s 30-40 full pages equivalent, and I’ll need something like $4,000-5000 for B/W art to replace the public domain art.
4. Color Art. That’s about an extra $10,000 right there. Some of that might be “the same as B/W, but color,” but I won’t necessarily constrain my artists that way,

5. Stretch Goals. The separate monster book is probably best left as a stretch goal. So would be additional setting material for Torengar (the country adjacent to the setting sandbox) to allow internal adventuring rather than just external. I’d love to have enough backers and money to do a hard-cover, full-color offset print run at high quality, but that’s a massive risk to all parties and involves me having tens of thousands of dollars of backing beyond the above, in order to afford both the printing and (more importantly) the shipping, which is where a lot of Kickstarters seem to go wrong.

But that means if things don’t go wrong, October-November would be the ideal cases for getting all that art in, and having the thing on sale by Christmas. That in itself is a stretch goal, because I suspect timing will not be that kind – real life tends to interfere. So Q1 of calendar 2017 might be the best date to look for a Dragon Heresy release.
Assuming it funds at all. But I think people will be pleased with the game for what it is, and I hope that I can scare up enough interest to do this project right, all the way to the finish line.

Got questions, suggestions, comments, or helpful advice? Please leave a comment!

Just for fun, here are the subclasses that will appear in Dragon Heresy. Bold are new, original, or heavily modified subclasses. Plain text appear in SRD5.1 and have been minimally modified for the game.

  1. Barbarian – Path of the Berserker
  2. Barbarian – Path of Primal Runes
  3. Bard – College of Lore
  4. Bard – College of Craft
  5. Cleric – Death Domain (Halja)
  6. Cleric – Fate Domain (Norns)
  7. Cleric – Fluidity Domain (Loki)
  8. Cleric – Justice and War Domain (Ziu)
  9. Cleric – Knowledge and Foresight (Woden)
  10. Cleric – Magic and Transcendence (Valfreya)
  11. Cleric – Renewal (Iduna)
  12. Cleric – Storms (Donnar)
  13. Cleric – Warding (Idris)
  14. Cleric – Winter (Skadi)
  15. Druid – Circle of the Land
  16. Druid – Circle of the Beast
  17. Fighter – Champion
  18. Fighter – Commander
  19. Monk – Way of Lausatok (grappling master)
  20. Monk – Way of the Valkyries (precision striking)
  21. Monk – Way of the Open Hand (unarmed striking)
  22. Paladin – Oath of Justice
  23. Paladin – Oath of Protection
  24. Paladin – Oath of Yggdrasil
  25. Ranger – Hunter (taken and adapted with permission from +George Sutherland Howard‘s work)
  26. Ranger – Spellstrider (taken and adapted with permission from +George Sutherland Howard‘s work)
  27. Rogue – Highwayman/Corsair
  28. Rogue – Thief
  29. Sorcerer – Aesir bloodline
  30. Sorcerer – Draconic bloodline
  31. Sorcerer – Winterfey bloodline
  32. Warlock – Pact with the Aesir
  33. Warlock – Pact with a Dragonlord
  34. Warlock – Pact with a fiend
  35. Warlock – Pact with a Winterfey
  36. Wizard – School of Doors
  37. Wizard – School of Essences
  38. Wizard – School of Might
  39. Wizard – School of Mischief
The only writing I have yet to do on the subclasses is to find the right level-boosts for the Wizard schools. I’m working on the 2nd level ability being finesse, the 6th level being understanding, the 10th level being power, and the 14th being resistance or overwhelm. So that (for example) the 14th level ability corresponding to the algiz rune (abjuration) will half the protection of magical shields and barriers, allowing your thurisaz rune spells (evocation) to penetrate magical protections more easily.