Monday, September 24, 2012

Port Specific Trade II

Just a short post.  Some more ideas on dice drop trade charts unique to specific ports:

  • A better artist than I might actually have the dice drop chart look like a map of its port so it's easy to know which port's chart you're looking at.
  • If you use the method I suggested for determining what goods merchants want, you run into a weird issue.  Imagine a northern port that predominately ships lumber and hides but wants cloth and pottery.  To make those results come up more frequently I'd need to make the spaces for both bigger on the dice drop chart (or have more spaces scattered about).  That means a merchant is just as likely to have pottery and cloth as the ports biggest exports.  I suppose you could make some interesting adventure hooks out of this: a merchant ship stuck in port and shunned by all the local merchants, or whatever.
  • I really liked the idea from the dragon article that made the profit of trade based on distance from port.  My barter idea while even simpler undercuts that whole idea.  I wish I could have both.  But I suppose the "taking goods farther gets more money" is abstract in a way that "this port has an abundance of hides and a demand for cloth" just isn't.  The former requires little world set up by the DM, but bookkeeping of how many ports traveled with a chart and some math.  The latter requires the DM determine ahead of time what each port has and needs, but then determining market quantities is a cinch.
  • But what if the party has cold cash?  Doesn't that go back to the original idea that hides should be cheaper the closer you get to the port that specializes in them?
ps. Got my Secret Santicore and it's a doozy.  It'll be a challenge for me because it is more mathy and logical than I think I'm good at.  I'm hoping I can let my unconscious mind help me out here.  I've already scribbled  down a few ideas that were fuzzily in my head waking at 3:00 in the morning.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Port Specific Trade Good Bartering

   I'm excited because I got an idea that could add some fun player options to the game with very little added complexity.  I combine my barter mini-game idea with my attempt to boil down trade goods to a manageable lot.  So how's this for an idea, if players ever get interested in trading or piracy and want to know what is needed or in abundance in a particular port you have them throw two dice on a dice drop chart specific to that port.  You can limit the chart to the goods most likely to be found in that port and even vary the size of for each depending on how common they are.

I don't know enough about how dice drops work to make the perfect template.  I know I want it larger than many I've seen, because I want it visible by all the players sitting around the table.  I tried to make it look aesthetically pleasing too.

I threw together some public domain icons to get a sense of what it might look like.  Gathering images for all the goods will be a challenge, as always, with our century long copyright.  But you can see how it might work:
Livestock, hides, pottery, oil, and glassware.

   Probably should have a space for the name of the port somewhere, now that I think of it. Also, I made twenty spots, but this might benefit from a big simplification to six, especially if the ports are supposed to feel unique with different selections from the 20 basic trade goods.

So the idea is the same as from my gear bartering post: throw a d2 and d4 for each merchant. d2 is what they're offering, d4 what they want. Players with exceptional charisma can shift one of these numbers up or down for each merchant. I'm, guessing that we would need some sense of units. That might be something good to have on the trade goods chart, so oil might be kegs, salt could be coffers, hides bundles of certain weight, etc.

Here is the blank template if you want to fool around with it.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Bartering Gear

This is for R, thanks for the request.  My first real edition was 1e AD&D, and in it Gygax compares adventuring equipment prices to those of the Gold Rush days.  It always made sense to me that there would be merchants offering as many torches and bundles of rope as you needed but at a steep price inflation.

But bartering could be an interesting proposition.  I think most barter systems are one step away from using a currency; if you're trading chickens for swords it will eventually be easier to standardize on the value of things in chickens or swords.  But standardizing implies authority and enforcement and some places might be far from civilization.

So bartering could give a nice flavor of either being in a post apocalyptic world where there is no government and what is dredged from the wreckage of the former world is always unexpected and hard to put values on, or the savage frontier where merchant houses and authorities are far from the trading post.

Bartering could just be handled by roleplaying out each encounter with a merchant.  I usually do just this, rolling reaction rolls to determine if they have requested items or not, and how much they will ask for them.

But that doesn't help the busy DM much and it doesn't give the players a sense of a teeming market place.  So, can we come up with a mini-game to help?

After thinking about it, I think a dice drop chart of the most common gear would work.  Take a sheet of paper and split it up into sections for each piece of gear.  Cheaper, more common items can have bigger sections. 
Orange will give sacks for torches or spikes, sounds like a crappy deal.  How do you like my ghetto office dice?
Drop a d4 and a d6.  Read the d6 as a d2, 1-3=1, 4-6=2.  The d2 is what the merchant is willing to give, the d4 what they want.  If you pair up d4s and d2s of the same color and have three or four sets of different colors, you can let each color represent a particular merchant.  Throw all the dice at once.

Let the players look at the market.  It should sometimes be possible to identify strings of possible trades: this guy has an excess of rope, this guy over here needs it, etc.  Players with exceptional Charisma can shift the numbers on one of the dice for each merchant up or down one.  You can roleplay out the rest.


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Travel Challenge Compilation

It's rough, but here are all the travel mini-games I've posted about in one document.  I want to add desert later and the trackless waste thingamajigger.  If anyone tries these in play I'd love to hear the results.  My group is on hiatus because of my work right now, so I've never had a chance to try them.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Trade Goods

This is a first rough pass.  I thought it might be good to boil trade goods down to a list of 20.  This could facilitate randomly determining ship cargoes, warehouse contents, bandit hoards, and player trade mini-games.  I started with this list:

1   beer
2   dye
3   glassware
4   fish
5   furs
6   grain
7   hides
8   livestock
9   meat
10 metals
11 oil
12 pottery
13 salt
14 spices - honey/sugar/
15 tea/coffee
16 textiles - wool / cotton / tapestries / lace / silk
17 vegetables / fruit
18 weapons/tools
19 wine
20 wood

As you can see, I'm already having a hard time limiting some of the categories, like 14 and 16.  One idea was to have each category have a rarity scale.  The idea being you roll to determine what the trade good is, say, a textile, then roll rarity and you might get silk, cotton, or wool depending on the result of that roll.

But after making this chart I realized bandit hoards and caravans will probably have very different cargoes than ships.  Maybe even different enough to warrant a separate chart.  Ugh, a whole new chart of twenty more goods is getting too complicated for my liking.  What if I split this into two 10-entry sections, half could be land cargoes, half bulkier sea cargoes (like lumber)?  I could make the chart where I could roll a d20 to get a result from all the categories for say a coastal warehouse or something.

Keep in mind this is meant to be a baseline of trade goods that almost any world would have-- a place for the busy DM to start.  You could always edit this or make whole new charts for world specific items.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Serendipity XVIII

Sometimes I find cool illustrations that aren't what I was looking for. These are all public domain pics:
Saw this on the OBI Scrap book blog. I think it would make an awesome dungeon entrance.
I clipped this sad soul from an illustration in hopes of making him into a silhouette, but the coolest details are hidden in his bodies profile, so I'll just offer him like this.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Silhouettes XXXVIII

I usually have a bunch of partially done silhouettes on my desktop because  I work on several at a time.  These two aren't the most exciting but they're what I had closest to finished.  I figured I'd finish them and get them out to you instead of waiting even longer.  These are public domain.  Use them or lose them.
We already have a snake, but this cobra seemed pretty iconic.
For all your giant bot fly needs.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


This is the hardest time of the year for my job.  That and getting robbed this summer just sucked all the wind out of my creative sails.  But I miss creating stuff and conversing on the blog.  I was wondering if you have something you'd find interesting for me to blog about or create.  Not a big project, just blog post length.  Bonus points if it is related to something I've already blogged about.  Hit me up in the comments and I'll do my best.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Into the Coastal Caves

Sourpuss - F
Fezik - F
Walter - F
Pearl - MU
Morgana the Magical Bitch (? I think) - MU
Gladius the Wiztard - MU

Six folks with incredibly low wisdom decided to explore the local spooky cave.  Entering the cave it smelled of old urine and unwashed humans.  Fezik poked around in some broken shelves and much chaos ensued as black centipedes raced out.  They were finally dispatched, including a powerful atomic elbow drop on one by Gladius.

The party started to take the left passage until they realized the water on the floor was getting deeper.  Heading right they encountered a passage so steep they had to use their hands to help them climb.

As they reached a less steep section carnivorous bats attacked.  Some dithering was made about whether Morgana and Pearl should cast sleep or not.  They decided to just duck and attack with staff respectively.  Walter scored a mighty blow cutting one in half and sending the rest to the ground.  For some reason the bats hated Fezik attacking him again and again, even after he splintered his shield they tore open his flesh.  Morgana soon followed.  Pearl decided to cast sleep.

Heading into an even smaller passage the party encounter a hole in the ground into a stale-aired space.  Having heard rumors of noxious fumes they were fearful.  Gladius shoved his bedroll into a hole before they found another and just moved on.

Several choices were made about which passages to take, usually the driest option was chosen.  The party found themselves in a cave with what looked like bodies in fetal positions encrusted in limestone.  They were fearful and left the bodies undisturbed.

On circling back into a room with a pool they were surprised by blind cave salamanders the size of small crocodiles.  It just so happened that the two torch bearers, Gladius and Pearl, were pulled under water extinguishing the light sources.

A desperate battle ensued.  Walter hurt the salamander holding Pearl enough that it fled.  But the beast that held Gladius was tougher and more stubborn and even as Sourpuss was systematically opening its gut with her dagger, it held on.  At last the survivors figured Gladius drowned and fled.

They encountered a dusty room with bison cave paintings.  Pearl eventually swept the dust away on the floor finding two hands painted there.  Placing her hands there she felt a surge of strength.  Sourpuss and Walter tried it to no effect.

A few more twists and turns and the last of the party found a little isle in a grotto covered in silver coins, two ruined chests, a huge skull with scrimshawed teeth and a rowboat.  Gathering all the coins they got in the luckily seaworthy boat and escaped out a passage to sea.

Easy way to store and offer rumors to players.

Some thoughts

I had another session before this I didn't write up.  I'll include some lessons I learned from that so I don't lose them.

A party going into a dungeon to "check it out," a party going into a dungeon to "earn x gold pieces," and a party going into a dungeon to "find the wondrous X," are all different kinds of adventure.  The first is probably the best for brand new players because they can quit any time they feel satisfied.  The last is probably the hardest because a new party will have to go on and on looking for something and feel like they failed if they don't ever find it.

If you give a power for a one-off, make sure it is powerful enough to work in that one-off scenario, i.e. a vow to protect against blades when there are no enemies with blades isn't going to shine that session, telekinesis of a few pounds might be quite useful over the course of a campaign, but for a one off make it 200 pounds.

I still don't understand rumors or what they are for.  The party in this adventure were terrified of noxious fumes and the tide coming in, both of which were false rumors.  As the DM lying is the easiest thing to do.  So, did the relief that they weren't going to be killed by fumes merit the false rumor?  I don't know.

Notice the passage choices are almost all to take the driest route.

One player got really frustrated during the salamander fight.  I was trying to give the sense of the chaos of the bodies intertwining under water and counting off on my finger for them to choose actions, but that player got overwhelmed I think.  I suppose I could have gone easier, suggested some courses of actions to him, but I don't think there were a lot of good choices at that point.  He did save one of the drowners.

"Protection from Evil" is a dumb spell name.  Several players now have thought it would, you know protect them.  Finding out it just made it harder to get hit, and they wasted a spell slot on it led to unhappiness.  Note: this was usually as a second spell for exceptionally smart wizards, I almost always suggest they take Sleep.

Asking players what their spells look like is always frutiful and hilarious.

Funny relationships between characters is also gold.  I use a chart I edited down from JB's.  Two of the characters were parent and child this time.  The father leaving the son to drown.  Good stuff.

I made this map years ago.  As a DM that's run it, it sucks.  I wanted clearer markings of elevation change and water depth.  It was fun to make, but doesn't need all the dark ink either.

I tried to make it a sort of naturalistic place-- a living cave system with sections dry and "dead."  But I need to be careful, centipedes and bats don't seem that dangerous to players in the way a vomiter or man of wounds would be.

These folks want to play again.  I had a great time eating pizza, drinking adult beverages, and joking around with smart people.  This is a great game we have.