Saturday, November 26, 2022

Assault on Pillbox 12: an OWB "Trial by Fire" Funnel attempt

This post is based on a recent "one-shot" session I ran my group through using the "Trial by Fire" rules from OWB and the "Assault on Pillbox 12" scenario from the "Normandy Breakout" supplement. We were a regular player down (the one that is the designated group leader), so it made for an interesting diversion and helped me with some of the individual personality dynamics... 

Into the Jaws of Death...

So Why a D-Day Scenario? 

So when I start a new group of players or a new campaign arc for existing ones, I like to throw the action straight at them - not always a combat situation, but often something dangerous - they begin in media res and need to quickly sort themselves out - it's one of The Lazy DM's tactics I like to use repeatedly. I thought this would work even better for a one-shot and the nature of a funnel is that things move fast and improvisation is the name of the game...

Assault on Pillbox 12 is an almost scene-by-scene simulation of the Omaha beach landing scene from the film "Saving Private Ryan", so I thought it would be ideal, if somewhat intense... (trigger warning)

I mean the first few minutes really kicks things off and gets the adrenaline going - I recommended the players watch that extended scene from Saving Private Ryan if they could to get into the mood.

Amusingly, only one of the three players had actually seen the film, which I think amplified the whole effect and created a very compelling sense of confusion and urgency.

How to Play OWB "Trial by Fire" 

Effectively the rules on pages 42-43 of the OWB Corebook are a type of funnel, well at least a "mini-funnel" in the spirit of DCC or similar. A bunch of unskilled 0th level characters that are thrown into a dangerous situation and the survivors develop relationships, back stories and an idea of their skill aptitudes and personality quirks during the "funnel session".

Character Names 

Rather than actual proper names, I just asked the players to pick appropriate style firstnames (and optionally surnames) starting with the same letter in sequence. So for instance we first had:

    Aaron
    Bob
    Colin

Then as each character dies, moving down the alphabet:

    Dave
    Eliot
    Fred
    George

... and so on, cycling through the letters. 

This prevented interruption of play, and to further keep up the momentum I had each new character appear as a new grunt running up to the spot the player's last character died or near enough (emulating respawning in FPS cames eg Call of Duty and similar) and falling in.

The only hesitation was choosing the weapon loadout from the three choices (Large Rifle (M1 Garand) + 4 grenades / SMG + 4 grenades / Heavy Weapon + only 2 grenades) and the preferred Physical Stat (STR or DEX or CON). This rolled through pretty quickly after the first few "changoevers".

After a player had three characters die, as a variant rule given the lethality of Assault on Pillbox 12 for zero level characters, I allowed for 4th and subsequent characters but restricted the weapon choice to Large Rifle but players could scavenge from their fallen comrades.     

In the session I ran with my group as a "one-shot" , only the character that started with Colin had a surving character (Leonard) from his three initial "lives", the other players had one surviving character (Mike) with 4 dead, and no surviving character and 7 dead. So in total, 13 dead and 2 surviving 0th level characters from the "funnel", one who stood out as a possible Tactician, the other was played more as a Grunt than anything (survived jumping on a grenade with a helmet).

Using Allied NPCs 

I used a similar strategy with any Allied NPCs, using their first names A, B, C ... etc, but in retrospect it would have been better to use surnames for realism and will do that for any subsequent sessions. An alternative would be to use a name generator such as this one (in advance) and have a ready-made list

So I didn't use any officers, because I wanted to let the players attempt to rally the remnants and didn't want to railroad them, but unfortunately, they just randomly headed off in a group by themselves.... LOL. 

However, I did throw in a brief encounter with a combat medic moving along the lines, healing up the troops and any wounded player characters, and some combat engineers with bangalores but otherwise left it pretty freeform and let the chaos reign.

For a future session, I'd run these a bit more developed (see below).

Running the Beach Landing

Just like in the movie, there's a lot going on during the beach landing and it can be confusing... this is inherent to the chaos of the assault but can make it difficult to run easily even with the "mass combat lite" appproach used in the scenario, so I broke things down into a couple of actions I needed to do. 

I first decided to push the dice rolling back onto the players to increase their buy and in and provide a sense of urgency and hopefully retain agency... this worked so well though thsat it resulted in the players running off in different directions without coordination - somewhat less than optimal, but led to amusing outcomes and I think truly reflective of the potential for panic.

To achieve this I made each charatcer roll TWO d6s each "round" (preferably different colours unless using Discord or Roll 20 etc) while moving to the base of the cliff. Depending on their choices and the bangalores, a given character can reach the cliff base in as little as 6 "rounds" but it will most likely take longer than that to cross the distance into the relatively safety of the  

The first d6  is to check if they were hit by "enemy fire" - on a 1, that is the main event for that round and the second d6 is used ot determine what they are hit by (Normandy Breakout, p4). 

If I'd thought of it, I would have added a d20 save as most of the time they ended up having some sort of cover they could use or flong themselves towards - one of the players worked out how to make a short macro for Roll 20 which we used, so that would be the way forward I suspect.

                Use this string:     /roll 2d6+d20     (copy and paste)

Secondly, I created a "DM Playsheet" from the map that had all the main information to hand:

DM Playsheet for Assault on Pillbox 12

This has pretty much everything I need that is in the scenario but not covered by the basic OWB rules.

I also found this elevation plan that gives an idea of the beach terrain for better visualisation and can be handed to as a printout for players or sent as an image over Discord / Roll 20 or other VTT:


And a nifty diagram and photo of a Landing Craft (aka "Higgins Boat") to help evoke the initial moments:



Ideas for Repeat Playthrough

I plan to run this again, as it really was a lot of chaotic fun!

It was a great "one-shot" filler for when a player or two is missing, and I can see adding in WW2 style variations (Nazi Super Science, Nazi Occult etc) or shifting it into a different setting or game system even with a bit of jury rigging. There are definitely a few elements and structural parts that could fit into say a T2k 2nd edition or 4th edition (Free League) game - adjusting some of the "atmospheric" rules for the initial breakout from Escape from Kalisz...

Added Details and Encounters while Crossing the Beach

For future plays, I'll be making it so that if they roll another number than 1, other events happen based on this optional expanded table next time, using the second die to help determine the exact scene the player witnesses:

Table A: Stray Fire & Additional Beach Scenes

1.        Hit by Enemy Fire (1-4 stray fire, 5 MG, 6 explosion) as per p4 
2-3      Just missed by enemy fire (use 2nd die to determine type of enemy fire)
4.        Soldier falls in front of you to enemy fire (use 2nd die to determine type of enemy fire)
5.        Come across a dead body (can use as partial cover for stray fire only) with gear
           + Wire clippers (1-2) / Rocket grapple (3-4) / Weapon upgrade (5-6)
          6.        Officer (1) / Radioman (2) / Sniper (3) / Medic (4) encounter OR soldier falls (5-6)

Officer: will attempt to rally the players and push them towards next objective barking orders.  
Radioman: busy trying to communicate about conditions on the beach, characters will hear snatches of communication but be aware that few officers have survived. 
Sniper: can ask to lay down covering fire on a MG nest to avoid if rolls next turn 
Medic: will heal character 1d3 hit potins of wounded. If character not wounded, Medic will ask them to help drag a wounded soldier to the closest piece of cover and assist for 1 round. 

This is roughly based on the scipt of the beach landing scene and the brief encounters of Tom Hank's character, Captain Miller, plus a few other ideas to help the meta-game progress and give the players some hints and the potental to pickup some specific equipment or weapons.



 



Wednesday, November 24, 2021

"Monk" v4.0 - Free League edition Conversion of an Iconic T2k Character

 “Me, I’m a grease monkey. That’s why they call me “Monk” – I keep the Hum Vee purring and the LAV-25 limping along (so far). I guess I’ve always loved engines, which is why I’m so good at them…” 

– T2k v1.0 Play Manual, page 7.

I think Monk is a good place to start for conversion because although every group needs a mechanic and backup driver, it's not necessarily a role that many players are going to jump at in a military-based game. I've also noticed there's a subtle nod to Monk in the nicknames suggested for the Mechanic Archetype, so it seems to almost be a sign. And who doesn't have a soft spot for the kid... right?

So let's convert him, falling back on that Archetype when necessary as we're not going the full Lifepath route.

Converting "Monk" to Free League / 4th edition


Basic nationality, rank, and other core aspects are easy enough to decide on. Monk is technically only capable of being a Specialist if we follow the Mechanic archetype guideline but is described as being a sergeant, which is likely just possible with lifepath development. I'm not fussed too much, rank also has very little bearing in the latest edition.


American, US Army Specialist


Moral Code:                    TBA, this isn't really called out in the original narrative

Buddy:                            TBA and/or pick one of the other "iconic" v1.0/2.2 characters (TBA) 

Big Dream:                      Keep the Humvee and the LAV-25 running until we get back home 


Attributes and skills are converted using the guidelines from the Referee's Manual pages 107-110. 


This is his starting converted Attribute & Skill breakdown:


Attributes & Skills


Strength (STR)                B    1d10 
    CLOSE COMBAT          D   1d6     Martial Arts       


Agility (AGL)                    A    1d12    

    DRIVING                       D    1d6    Racer
    RANGED COMBAT       D    1d6    Rifle
    MOBILITY                     D    1d6    Diver, Pitcher
    

Intelligence (INT)            C    1d8  

    TECH                           C    1d8    Computers, Mechanic

    SURVIVAL                    D    1d6    Scrounger


Empathy (EMP)              C    1d8    

    PERSUASION             B   1d10   Linguist


My initial version of Monk converts across to a character with a lot of low-level skills and specialties compared to a character built with the Archetype method. Also, as the primary attribute for various skills shifts in Free League edition (notably STR and AGL swapping around for Ranged Combat and Mechanic moving from STR based to INT based), Monk's attribute spread doesn't make a lot of sense actually. 


Compared to an Archetype build, the conversion translates into the same 1 A, 1 B, and 2 C level attributes. The suggested primary attribute for his closest Archetype is INT, however, not AGL or STR. Sure, AGL makes sense if he's more a driver than a mechanic (potentially a useful option as mechanic skill seems to be somewhat downplayed in this later edition - see later post), but I think STR and INT need to be swapped to align with the original concept - as the attributes stand, this initial attempt at conversion seems more of a brawler style of character who is less mechanic and more a traditional "Wheelman" however.


Monk seems to have one extra skill due to Language: English converting to PERSUASION B (Linguist) which doesn't really fit and is outside the Mechanic Archetype's suggested cores skills. In addition, he has only one level C skill which is TECH, although he does have two specialties for it and overall seems to have a lot of specialties - a total of 9 compared to a starting Archetype-based character's usual single specialty. Sure, I can see PERSUASION being useful for haggling but I'd suggest switching the B with the C of TECH at least, if not dropping it to D or losing it entirely and bumping up DRIVING or SURVIVAL (Scrounger) to C instead. 


In terms of the specialties, if I had to choose only one I'd stick to Mechanic, but otherwise, it seems reasonable to drop to only 3: Mechanic, Racer, and Scrounger seem the most applicable. Of course, this is a converted character, so it's not unreasonable just to keep all the specialties if your Referee is not worried about balance.


So revised to fit the Archetype better this becomes:


Attributes & Skills


Strength (STR)                C    1d8 
    CLOSE COMBAT          D   1d6        


Agility (AGL)                    B    1d10    

    DRIVING                       C    1d8    Racer
    RANGED COMBAT       D    1d6   
    MOBILITY                     D    1d6    
    

Intelligence (INT)            A    1d12  

    TECH                           B    1d10  Mechanic

    SURVIVAL                   C    1d6    Scrounger


Empathy (EMP)              C    1d8   


So with the attributes reordered and skills added, it's easy enough to sort out the Hit and Stress Capacity. Given we're basing him on the Mechanic archetype, his CUF (Coolness Under Fire) is only a D (1d6). I'm not going to delve into this further now, maybe in a later post dealing with combat and/or survival. 


Hit Capacity:                    5

Stress Capacity:              5        

Coolness Under Fire:      D    1d6

 

So now equipment and gear, previously a big part of v2.2 and earlier editions. Like most other military characters, Monk starts with a standard helmet and flak armor so let's add those and then roll 1d6 for radiation or take the average rounded down. Again, let's leave Radiation for now and return to it in it's own post as compared to my previous article analysis it seems a lot simpler than in earlier editions. 


Armor


    Head    Kevlar Helmet    1
    Arms
    Torso    Flak Jacket        1
    Legs

Radiation


    Permanent                   3

That's actually mostly done now, let's just add his specific gear, weapons and make a note of any group equipment he carries or has been assigned - it's worth noting at this point that earlier edition T2k characters can have a lot of gear/resources compared to their Free League / 4th edition counterparts.


Gear


  • Fatigues
  • Backpack
  • Thermal fatigues
  • Personal medkit
  • Vehicle tools
  • Flashlight
  • Protective mask (gas mask)
  • Small tent


Weapons 


  • M4A1 Carbine with 6 reloads 
  • 6 frag grenades
  • 2 smoke grenades 
  • Large wrench (as a club)


Group Equipment


  • Case of 5.56N ammo (840 rounds in magazines) & 180 loose 5.56N rounds 
  • Dirtbike with half a tank of fuel
  • AN/PRC-77 portable backpack radio 
  • Small alcohol still

There's nothing extraordinary here, except noting that a converted Monk has quite a few more pieces of equipment than an archetype-generated character, and the extra reloads, the whole case of ammo, and the bulk of loose rounds provide him with an equivalent small fortune in Free League terms. His original concept has an M117 carbine, but this converts across easily enough to an M4A1 without needing specific treatment so I haven't looked at the weapon conversion rules yet. I've thrown in a dirt bike because I gave Monk a motorcycle in one of my earlier worked examples for the v2.2 travel rules. 


First Thoughts on Free League / 4th edition Conversion 


Like the v2.2 version, this Monk is intended as a pretty green / “Novice” level support character – he’s a decent mechanic and capable driver but not very skilled at much else except standing watch while the grunts sleep. Without additional development, he may be better used as a somewhat just more than generic background NPC to streamline play or a backup or sidekick character if the part splits and you want to keep the players involved.

A few general observations to test for future conversions:

  • Core Attributes don't necessarily correlate - the most obvious change from T2k v2.2 is that whereas in the earlier edition a lot of essential skills relied on STR, this has been evened out in the FL / v4.0.
  • The LANGUAGE skill doesn't really covert across well and just seems to create a glut of patients with skill in PERSUASION for no real reason. I'd consider dropping this unless the patient is multilingual and or has more of an intelligence background or "Face" role.  
  • Specialties are differently geared in FL / v4.0 - their role is similar but they seemingly cost a lot more XP (equivalent to increasing a skill from D to C). It looks like v2.2 characters are likely to have a lot more Specialties because of how the long skill list translates across to the simpler FL / v4.0 equivalents. I've reduced this character's options a lot which streamlines things, but there's a significant drop in characterisation and to some extent capability.
  • Not sure how the combat-relevant characteristics convert across so let's come back to that.
  • v2.2 can seemingly have a *lot* more gear than their FL / v4.0 counterparts - as one poster on the Fria Ligan forum has noted, the standard character whether Archetype or Lifepath has very little in the way of "standard gear" although there are perhaps a few reasons for this. Added to this, the excess cash equivalent that can be pooled amongst the group to purchase additional soft-skinned vehicles and supplies is notably absent. I like the shift to small arms ammo as a barter currency, however.   

"Monk" FL / v4.0 Conversion Complete 


I'll link to a Google Drive final character sheet for "Monk" FL / v4.0 - this is based on the fillable PDF by Fenhorn over on the Fria Ligan forums and will paste in an image version here for reference.

Suggested Variants


"Tank"

This is essentially "Monk" re-envisaged as a tanker or self-propelled artillery crewman, not dissimilar to the way he originally converted and an amalgam of the artillery and armor variants for the original v2.2 version. Big Dream needs to be changed to something more protective of the group as a whole and I'd suggest dropping his rank down to Private First Class. He's more a driver than a primary gunner and only a passable mechanic. I've recalculated HIt Capacity & Stress Capacity included but increase CUF to C as this shifts across to more of a Gunner archetype but is really more a hybrid. Let's keep the same accumulated Radiation for simplicity.


Strength (STR)
                A    1d12 
    HEAVY WEAPONS      C    1d8     Any one specialty other than Launcher Crew
    STAMINA                      D    1d6    


Agility (AGL)                    B    1d10    

    DRIVING                       B    1d10    Tanker
    RANGED COMBAT       C    1d8    
    

Intelligence (INT)            C    1d8  

    RECON                        D    1d6    Forward Observer

    TECH                           D    1d6    


Empathy (EMP)              C    1d8    


Hit Capacity:                    6

Stress Capacity:              4        

Coolness Under Fire:      C    1d8


Basic gear and weapons can stay as a crewman the same unless you want to have a character hefting around a dismounted MG in which case the HEAVY WEAPONS specialty is obvious, but this concept is more a driver or loader hence the Forward Observer specialty. Easy enough to tweak to be an M113 APC and/or mortar carrier driver if the group has that vehicle or an M2/M3 Bradley crewman likely now dismounted.

"Abbot"


An older, grimmer but necessarily wiser version of the younger "Monk" above, perhaps one that made it back home to the US after escaping Poland. Bump him up to Sergeant earned in the field, but notice the reduced STR, lower EMP, and frailty from age and burnout to compensate for the extra experience and gain in CUF. This is a more world-weary field mechanic who has picked up a lot of decent tricks as a survivor (reflected in the additional Specialties closer to the initially converted version above), evolving past a mere "grease monkey" to become an expert able to keep anything vital to the group running. His dreams have changed and his moral code may well have shifted from his experiences as a survivor...


Strength (STR)                 D   1d6 
    CLOSE COMBAT          C   1d8     Martial Arts        


Agility (AGL)                    B    1d10    

    DRIVING                       B    1d8    Biker, Racer
    RANGED COMBAT      C    1d6    Rifleman
    MOBILITY                     C    1d6    Pitcher     
    

Intelligence (INT)            A    1d12  

    TECH                           A    1d12  Computer, Electrician, Mechanic

    SURVIVAL                   B    1d6    Scrounger


Empathy (EMP)              D    1d6   


Hit Capacity:                    4

Stress Capacity:              4        

Coolness Under Fire:      B    1d6


I'd leave his gear unchanged overall although perhaps replace the ammo crate with a collection of spare parts bartered or more likely scrounged from his travels across the ruined landscape. Easy enough to advance "Tank" above similarly accounting for age in terms of attributes and capacities but maybe more of a focus on a second Heavy Weapon specialty (probably Machinegun for use when dismounted) and then Blacksmith / Gunsmith than Computer / Electrician. Cook and Quartermaster might suit better than Scrounger. 


Sunday, November 14, 2021

What To Do When You're (Still) On Your Own... On the Absence of Iconic T2k Characters in T2k:FL


T2k Free League "Soldiers in the Rain"

So the long-awaited "Ammo Box" arrived last week and I've been slowly working my way through it, digesting the contents, and trying to work out how to approach this somewhat 4th edition... it's looking very different mechanically, more streamlined is my first impression, so much so I might redo the "20 Quick Rule Rules Questions..." as a way of getting to grips with things. Overall it looks promising - I'm trying to judge it without being coloured by the strong personalities on the forums, but I'm reserving judgment until I've had a good look at the components and worked out how it all fits together for me. 

But one component I'd hoped for is missing - pre-generated characters. And yes I know people have mixed feelings about them, but for the prior edition and starting point of T2k v2.2, I think they have a place and I've outlined my reasoning in the original blog article.

There's a sort of "half-way" attempt in the form of Archetypes, and I can see why they have done this and it has merit but these aren't what I would consider "Starter Kit" level friendly or immediately usable as sidekick style characters to round out a small starting party, unfortunately. 

So let's start with a few comments and ideas.

Hey, these Archetypes look Familiar...

So I'm working my way through Chapter 2: Player Characters and after a tantalising mention of Archetypes vs Life Path character creation then the basics of what is what, it hits me on page 20, a summary of the Archetype method followed by the first of the various Archetypes, the Civilian.

Not bad. Upfront we have a non-military character option (admittedly they are in alphabetical order). Sets the scene that this is not just military and encourages a more mixed party, expanding play style options.

But rather than being an actual pre-generated character, it's really only a template to follow. 

Oh hang on, there's a small paragraph on page 19 that I almost missed that uses the Archetype rules to make a Grunt (2nd option, page 23) that is the example "Private Ronson" filled in as a character sheet on page 21. OK, so we have a pre-genrated basic soldier, probably the easiest example and not very imaginative but I guess that shows how quick the system is and I think that's fair.

Hmmm. OK. 

<flicks through the Player's Manual to see if he's missing something>

Nope, that's it. Only the one pre-generated character and one that could basically be simulated by just using a basic NPC with combat stats and equipment. I'm feeling a bit disappointed it wasn't one of the less obvious options and seems like a wasted opportunity - of course, I am somewhat biased because of how I would prefer to run a campaign. But for a beginning group, especially of only a few players, it would seem good to have a few worked through examples that can be used "out of the box". 

Or is that "Out of the Crate"?

Back to the other templates... I mean Archetypes, of which there are another eight - another new civilian concept, "the Kid",  which is a welcome addition to the previously heavily weighted military origin options in earlier editions:

  • The Civilian 
  • The Grunt
  • The Gunner
  • The Kid
  • The Mechanic
  • The Medic
  • The Officer
  • The Operator
  • The Spook  

Apart from the two civilians and the Spook (basically a spy template unsurprisingly), I feel struck by how close they are to the pregen characters I developed a few years ago now, although I gave them different names: the Wheelman (Mechanic), the Heavy (Gunner), the Doctor (Medic), the Major (Officer) and the Scout (Operator). The Engineer character I created (based on a test character I use to try out new systems) would seem initially to be a variant of the Mechanic archetype as that's where the Combat Engineer specialty is suggested (a bit clunky) but I think the Grunt or Heavy probably fits better for the specific character concept I had in mind.

I'm *not* claiming I invented these roles or archetypes - they're pretty standard and easy to derive from the prior editions or any of the various post-apocalyptic/military media representations but it's amusing to see how close they are to my list or the similar classes in Operation White Box that I actually based my core pregens on. I think their inclusion gives a bit of structure to how players might think about building a group. They're not quite "classes" like in other systems but there is the comment that players should probably pick different archetypes to provide the variety needed in the group.

For each Archetype, there are some suggested variations and options other than the recommended favoured Attribute (pick a Specialty from a list of three, roleplaying choices (cosmetic, moral code,  goal, relationships, how you met the group), and basic weapon differences) but the resulting output still looks like it's going to be pretty bland.

A Missed Opportunity?

Don't get me wrong, I like the archetypes as a concept - they would seem particularly useful for introducing players that may only be familiar with a very class-based, core d20 rollover mechanic game.  

But they aren't worked examples or pregens and I think that would have been useful.

I just think these could have easily taken it a bit further - give us an example character for each of the Archetypes with a few variation suggestions and a bit of a backstory to make them usable as sidekicks and starting supporting cast with minimal GM effort - as mentioned in my original pregen post, this is what we did for the Grogs supplement for Ars Magica 5th edition and subsequent books,  and I think it was a good nod towards providing a resource usable easily by GMs.

I don't always like a lot of "fluff" and character fiction in games - there was a particular RPG publisher and lines where this was taken to the extreme to be sure - but I did like the original "iconic" characters scattered through the worked examples of the first two and a bit editions.

The Challenge

So I think what my "Ammo Box" needs first off is some pre-gen characters, readily able to be personalised, so a group can hit the ground running, particularly if there are only a few players and the majority are coming from other non Year Zero systems.

Rather than just complain about it, I'm going to do something about it and generate some, either converting my existing pregens and maybe some others to the Free League mechanics (using the guidelines I've just found in the back of the Referee's Manual, pages 106-107) and/or designing them using the Life Path (or Archetype) method. 

As I did originally, I think I'll start with Monk...








 


 












Sunday, October 17, 2021

I'm Still On My Own? Viva La Apocalypse while awaiting my copy of T2k v4.0

The Wasteland of 2022?
Art from Free League (promotional images)


It's been a while since I posted anything T2k related, but this post acts as a partial explanation and has some hints about the future of this blog with the release of the 4th edition. I don't usually seek comments, but given the circumstances, I'd welcome opinions on my intentions from the community!

My current mood for lockdown in Fortress Oz... 

Well not quite perhaps, but down here in Australia shipping is often delayed significantly, so it's unlikely I'll see my Kickstarter T2k v4 boxed set anytime soon sadly. As much as I appreciate the PDFs (alpha and beta), for something like this I feel I need to have the physical product to immerse myself in to study and work through - so I'll keep waiting for now patiently.

The pandemic has caught all of us up in different ways so it's been a while since I've looked at any of the T2k material I've created and written about on this blog. I was surprised when I came back after about a year to post a player summary for my current 5E group about the Iron Kingdoms, to see that this site has been accessed a *lot* more times than I expected, more than my other RPG blog

So I may have felt like I was still on my own down here in the antipodes, but it was a welcome surprise to find that in March this year, my site has become wildly more popular than previously, with particular popularity in July and August as well which is unprecedented.


Thank you all for your interest in my humble little blog of rantings!

I must say I'm a bit lost as to why as I've been so caught up with life and work that I hadn't been following along with the community much and seem to have missed something... so I had a look at the Top 10 posts accessed in the last 6 months to get some idea of where the interest lay:



Top 10 Posts April to October 2021

So it seems pretty clear, with 7/10 of the top posts directly T2k related, that the interest is likely related to the recent launch of the 4th edition and perhaps people's reactions to (or against that). I'm quite proud of some of the articles in this list, so good to see people are finding them useful.

I am however curious why they are being accessed - whether they are being accessed for use in the new 4th edition or rather being used to support people playing the earlier editions. As noted above, leave a comment on what you have found useful and preferably why. Also if you have any ideas to shed on the site's sudden popularity I'd appreciate it.

As to the other three posts:

So when I do get my boxed set, I'll be returning to revise and expand on my existing T2k articles.

I'll compare the v2.2 mechanics of my older articles and the new 4th edition mechanical interpretations of the setting: character generation, iconic pre-generated NPCs, the Polish campaign and hex maps, trains, cavalry, and of course TOTs. OK maybe some new articles as well, eh? 

Should be fun, I'm looking forward to it.


Tu N'es Pas Tout Seul... Merci!

Oh last, but definitely not least comment. 

Thank you to all you viewers in France.!

Whoever you are and regardless of why because this was a very unexpected audience metric.

It seems this blog is now significantly more accessed from France than elsewhere by almost an order of magnitude. I really don't understand why to be honest, but although I can understand the content being popular in North America and also Sweden, I'm not quite sure what the "French Connection" is exactly as nothing is in French (my schoolboy French is terrible, Google Translate to the rescue) and nothing on this blog is set in France, unlike my other blog

I'm not aware of French VPNs being suddenly popular either.



6 months of Audience by Origin

So I guess it's Viva La Apocalypse! 

Au revoir. 




Saturday, September 18, 2021

Answers to 20 Quick Questions: An Iron Kingdoms: Requiem 5E Campaign

My 5E group players have shifted into a simulacrum of the Iron Kingdoms setting's Corvis region and are not that familiar with the setting.  I've been looking around for a suitable introduction or summary as recommended by many luminaries, such as this chap, and found this and that but thought writing my own might be better. 

I've based it on my previous "Answers to 20 Quick Questions for a Twilight:2000 Polish Campaign" article inspired Jeff Rient's original 2011 post. It's not meant to be definitive nor exhaustive and makes good use of existing resources wherever possible. The following abbreviations are used: IK:R5E (Iron Kingdoms: Requiem 5E Corebook), Mn5E (5E Monsternomicon). Links are provided to the Privateer Press website, the Iron Kingdoms Wiki and other resources for additional context or description.

1. What is the deal with my cleric's religion?


Well, if you're human you have two main religious choices - either Menoth and Morrow, with the latter supported by a demi-pantheon of ascended mortal saints known as "Ascendants" that have various portfolios. These two main dieties are akin to Old Testament and New Testament approaches respectively, except just to spice it up a bit instead of a "holy spirit", the formerly human Morrow has a similarly once mortal dark twin sister, Thamar, with her own squad of dark saints referred to as "Scions" that cover the nastier and blacker aspects of humanity (more on her in Q17 below). Iron Kingdoms clerics of these three faiths and their Domains and abilities are detailed specifically (IK:R5E 111-113) with similar write ups for the two main orders of paladins (IK:R5E 119-121). 

Cyriss, the Maiden of Gears, is an ancient power but relatively new as an open religion across those of various races that are mechaniks or have an aptitude with technology and particularly mechanika.

Technically, Toruk the Dragonfather, Lord of the Nightmare Kingdom of Cryx is considered a deity by his human (and humanoid) minions, although exact details of his "priesthood" are yet to be revealed.

For non-human races, there's Dhunia, the incarnation of Mother Earth revered by gobbers, trollkin and the generally "good" and civilised non-human races, or the linked but opposing darker and chaotic entity know as the Devourer Wyrm favoured not only by the Blacklads of the druidic Circle Oroboros but also in often species-specific incarnations by bog-trog (like deep ones), farrow (hog headed orc replacements), gatormen (bayou lizardmen), tharn (think beastmen), the wild bogrin (boggers, uncivilised goblinkind) and others. Both of these gods are served primarily by druids and it's possible they will be more detailed in a future suppkement.

Rhulic dwarves have an as yet poorly detailed pantheon of ancestral founders.

Iosan elves somehow lost the majority of their gods to a catastrophe except for Scyrah, who is the patron of those trying to hold things together and reform their society. The Nyss (wild winter elves), briefly rediscovered their god Nyssor entombed in ice, but many of them have fallen to the sway of Everblight, the corrupting northern ice dragon that has enslaved and blighted many of the Nyss clans. More recently following the Claiming, both remaining gods were slain by a traitor and the Rivening ensued, with all the remaining elven priests going mad and the remaining living elves prohibited from their ancestral lands.               

Finally, the mysterious alien easterners known as the Skorne (sort of the dark elf equivalent for the setting) don't believe in gods despite their literal physical presence in the world but instead follow their own esoteric and sadistic philosophy. They don't have clerics as such but have an unusual caste structure of specialists called extollers. 

2. Where can we go to buy standard equipment?


In the towns and cities, there'll be a general store and probably not only a blacksmith for standard weapons and armour but also a gunshop or two. There will also be an alchemist store, an apothecary and probably even a mechanik (a new tinker style class, IK:R5E 96-101) workshop in most sizable towns. Out in the wilderness, mechanika is less common but herbalism-derived alchemy equivalents and bone grinder items fashioned from wild creatures are more common and fulfill a similar niche. 

The IK:R5E Corebook contains a whole new Equipment chapter (IK:R5E 190-214) including sections for firearms, mechanika, steam armour and warcaster armour. There's a lot of other flavourful and thematic new equipment or variations to round out your character's load out.

3. Where can we go to get platemail custom fitted for this monster I just befriended?


If by "monster I just befriended" you mean clapped out warjack, and by "platemail" you mean rune plates and 'jack accessories well you're in luck! There's a whole Chapter dedicated to steamjacks (IK:R5E 215-228), supplemented by the section on mechanika in the above Equipment chapter suitable for the steam-powered robots and their warcaster allies.

Steamjacks are integral to the unique flavour of the Iron Kingdoms setting:
A steamjack is a mechanikal construct given the ability to reason by a magical brain known as a cortex. A steamjack does not possess higher- level cognitive powers, but it can execute simple commands and make logical decisions in order to complete its assigned tasks. Throughout the Iron Kingdoms, steamjacks perform various jobs that would be too dangerous, if not outright impossible, for humans.

Steamjacks fall under one of two classifications: laborjacks and warjacks. Laborjacks are relatively simple machines built for physical labor, whereas warjacks are sophisticated weapons of war bristling with state-of-the-art arms and armor. Despite this distinction, the differences between the two types often become blurry. In the modern-day Iron Kingdoms, clapped-out military ’jacks can be found pulling plows after decades of service, and laborjacks are often armored and retrofitted with military-grade hardware by desperate mercenary outfits. 

 

4. Who is the mightiest wizard in the land?


Although spellcasters are rare, magic itself is not uncommon, although more often than not, it manifests as mechanika (IK:R5E 229):
Magic in the Iron Kingdoms is simultaneously commonplace and spectacular. Most citizens of western Immoren are unable to cast magic themselves, marking those with the talent as rare individuals. No matter their specific area of expertise, spellcasters are in high demand by all manner of kings, nations, and gods. 

Although spellcasters are rare in western Immoren, magic—specifically, mechanika—is not. Mechanika is responsible for the greatest advancements in the Iron Kingdoms and has reshaped war and industry alike. Mechanikal devices are constructed to fulfill a wide array of purposes, whether in the service of massive military foundries churning out weapons of war or for the benefit of independent mechaniks tinkering in their workshops. 

There's no Immoren "Mary Sue" archmage equivalent of Elminster, Tenser or Raistlin although the warcasters (a new IK class with 3 subclasses, see IK:R5E 102-108) and warlocks (not the 5E class, like warcasters for warbeasts instead of warjacks likely to be detailed in a future supplement) that lead the armies of the Iron Kingdoms are considered some of the most powerful casters in the land.

Wizards usually divide on nationalistic lines and variously belong to the Order of Wizardry, the Greylords Covenant or the Maritime Order of the Trident (see below), whereas the rare sorcerors are considered witches or at best tolerated with caution. Bards, other than trollkin fell callers (IK:R5E 109, think barbaric yodellers) are uncommon as are the part caster subclasses. Standard 5E warlocks are rare in the Iron Kingdoms and treated more as witches (IK:R5E 234-235), the equivalent mechnical niche being occupied by the setting specific gun mages (IK:R5E 85-90) or warcasters.

5. Who is the greatest warrior in the land?


Well strong candidates include some of the more famous and experienced warcasters backed up by their battle groups of warjacks, but there's not such an emphasis on "greatest warrior" like there perhaps is in other more standard medieval settings. 

There are two specific orders of monks linked to the churches of Thamar and Menoth, the Way of Deception and the Way of the Fist respectively.

It's worth calling out the gunfighter class (IK:R5E 91-95) and it's subclasses of Pistoleer, Sharpshooter (the equivalent of the 3.5E d20 Rifleman) and Commando

6. Who is the richest person in the land?


Hmmm, that's a hard one but the mercantile coastal nation of Ord, ostensibly neutral to the main conflict between Cygnar and Khador is probably the best place to start as it's merchants trade across the Iron Kingdoms along it's roads, railways and rivers... even to the distant continents beyond.

7. Where can we go to get some magical healing?


There are plenty of clerics and paladins (particularly of Menoth and Morrow, not so much Thamar) as well as of the other faiths, druidic healing, and even alchemical / arcane healing. However. healing magic is a bit different in the Iorn Kingdoms (IK;R5E 229):

"...healing magic has its own drawbacks. The gods of Caen grant healing magic to their clergy as normal, but the process of being healed by a divine or arcane spell is not pleasant. Wounds do not simply vanish without a trace, nor do diseases disappear with no lingering effects. Simply put, healing magic in the Iron Kingdoms leaves scars, both physical and emotional.

Healing magic should be treated as a sort of “fast-forward surgery” that causes recipients to feel the sting of every set bone and every bit of mended tissue. Diseases and poisons must be physically extracted from the afflicted, dissipating into harmless sludge on the ground after being sweated out through the skin or violently expelled from the body.

Healing spells have no additional in-game effect beyond what each spell already does, but a character who has suffered years of injuries healed in such a manner should bear the same scars as one who took the time to recover from each injury naturally. If a grievous wound, such as a severed limb, has been healed magically, the scars should look unnatural and should be a source of regular discomfort to the healed individual.

The process of magical healing is not without a cost to the spellcaster, either. The exact nature of this toll varies from one instance to the next but often involves reliving the pain of healed injuries, having vivid dreams of torn muscles and ligaments, and experiencing other sympathetic reflections of injury and malady. These consequences do not have specific in-game effects, but many magical healers are dour individuals who bear emotional scars from their work. GMs who use rules that measure a character’s sanity might consider frequent use of healing spells as a possible trigger for descending into madness, for instance..." 

As a result, there are a lot fewer standard healing magic items, particularly in the cities where mechanika and alchemy predominate. Out in the wild, more traditional herbalist-based magic healing items are more likely but regardless of region, the above effects apply.


8. Where can we go to get cures for the following conditions: poison, disease, curse, level drain, lycanthropy, polymorph, alignment change, death, undeath?


Poison and disease can be addressed through alchemical, clerical or medical means but note that even magical cure is not quite as straightforward as noted in Q7 above:

Diseases and poisons must be physically extracted from the afflicted, dissipating into harmless sludge on the ground after being sweated out through the skin or violently expelled from the body. 

Clerics of Thamar are particularly known for their knowledge of these afflictions and curses, whether sought out to remove them or more commonly to *bestow* them on enemies... 

Curses from bestow curse and similar spells or effects are handled as usual. 

Level (or energy) drain isn't really a thing anymore in 5E nor was it ever a big part of the Iron Kingdoms original bestiary either. even the iconic Deathjack and Pistol Wraith have been given alternative powers.

Death is usually permanent in the Iron Kingdoms (IK:R5E 229):
The mortal souls of the Iron Kingdoms are a precious commodity in the afterlife. The gods of Caen utilize the spirits of their followers to wage endless war both in life and in death. The gods safeguard the spirits of their faithful in Urcaen and rarely grant the living the divine power to return the slain back to life.

The following spells cannot be prepared normally in an Iron Kingdoms campaign: raise dead, reincarnate, resurrection, revivify, true resurrection, or any other spell that returns a slain character to life. Characters capable of preparing one of these spells must make a pact with their patron deity in order to do so, often at great cost to themselves and only if the individual being resurrected is more valuable to the deity on Caen than in Urcaen. This exceedingly rare event often goes generations without occurring—and even then, only in the direst situations. 

There's no cure for lycanthropy per se. The majority of lycanthropes are warp wolves that willingly serve the druidic Blackclads and are dedicated to the Devourer Wyrm faction (Mn5E 158).
Although the exact origins of the warpwolf are not widely known, the secrets of its creation lie with the blackclads of the Circle Orboros, who oversee the rituals whereby those who would undergo this transformation are fed a magical elixir. Individuals who ingest this elixir are forever changed. There is no known “cure” for those who become warpwolves. Instead, they find the transformation happening more naturally over time, and eventually they completely lose the will to resist changing into their bestial form. 
Polymorph and alignment change is less of an issue in 5E in general these days and there are no specific Iron Kingdoms changes to account for.

Undead in the iron kingdoms are... different. Creepier for a start. Rather than typical mindless zombies and skeletons, there are thralls produced by either dark necromantic magics from Thamar or the necrotech of the Nightmare Kingdom of Cryx. There are free-willed undead as well, the most notable being the iron liches of the Dragonfather's armies.

9. Is there a magic guild my wizard belongs to or that I can join in order to get more spells?


Actually, there's a couple, depending on your nationality and aptitude that are availabel as backgrounds (IK:R5E 127-155)

Cygnar is the nominal home of the Order of Wizardry (IK:R5E 129-130), although there are also branches in Ord and Llael. There's a decent No Quarter article on different factions or cabals within the guild. They are noted for their scholarly approach, hubris and chapter houses in major cities.

Khador's equivalent is the Greylord Covenant (IK:R5E 131) are more militant inclined and have major chapter houses in the larger Khadoran towns and secret facilities in other nations.

The Navy of Ord is the base of the sea mage's and magus-at-arms of the Maritime Order of the Trident (IK:R5E 139) characterised by their love of wandering but also their patriotism.

Llael doesn't have an eqquivalent but is the nominal home of gun mages which have at least three known "orders" - these are treated as subclasses (IK:R5E 85-90) rather than backgrounds however and are not "guilds" as such. They are the Order of the Arcane Tempest (mainly Cygnaran), the Order of the Thorn (Laelese) and the Order of the Lone Gun (independent). 

In addition, the Order of the Golden Crucible is the equivalent to the guild of alchemists and is primarily based in Llael and to an extent Ord during their exile from the recent occupation of thei home country.

10. Where can I find an alchemist, sage or other expert NPC?


First off, alchemy is a big deal in Western Immoren, so much so there's a whole new non-spellcasting alchemist character class that differs somewhat from the standard 5E artificer subclass, with three subclasses: Combat Alchemist, Synthetist, and Rogue Alchemist (IK:R5E 76-84) and a mainly Llael based guild known as the Order of the Golden Crucible.

For sages, there's the one and only Professor Viktor Pendrake, the setting's non-magical narrator and equivalent to Elminster and the like from other worlds. Well if you believe his stories that is... There even used to be an Adventuring Scholar prestige class in the original 3.5 d20 iteration and the in-house 2nd edition RPG ("Warmachine lite") version that was directly inspired by him, but this appears to have been dropped from the 5E version or is yet to make an appearance in a subsequent supplement. 

11. Where can I hire mercenaries?


Boy, have you have come to the right place! Did you not realise there's still a war on? Actually several wars effectively speaking, the whole region is in chaos in many respects.

Mercenaries are an integral part of the Iron Kingdoms and are available as a starting character background (IK:R5E 140-141). There so common there's even a whole ruleset in Warmachine for adding mercenaries to various army lists as auxiliaries and many colourful characters... in fact, rather than have standard factions, IK:R5E introduces adventuring companies and a mercenary charter is a very legitimate option for a player group, along with a pirate crew amongst other suggestions.

There's a whole section on Adventuring Companies actually (IK:R5E 156-173) which is great.

12. Is there any place on the map where swords are illegal, magic is outlawed or any other notable hassles from Johnny Law?


Probably the Protectorate of Menoth to the south, the bastion of the Iron Kingdom's Old Faith equivalent. Those guys are pretty intense to be honest and make Gideon (from the Handmaid's Tale) look like a pleasant holiday destination at times. Technically they're not meant to have warjacks or even an army thanks to the treaties, but they do anyway. 

13. Which way to the nearest tavern?


Down the street. If you want a particular dive or nefarious den of n'er do wells then the chaotic criminal port of Five Fingers is where you want to head for. Good luck and keep your wits about you!

14. What monsters are terrorizing the countryside sufficiently that if I kill them I will become famous?


Given the whole area is in a state of constant war and shifting allegiances (see 15 below), this isn't as straightforward as it seems. Most of the opponents (at least in civilised areas) are humans or humanoids with complex motivations and morality. Having said that, there's a couple of "evil until proven otherwise, and even then probably just pretending" opponents out there and their minions:
In the wilder areas of Immoren, there are indeed monsters and beasts - there was even a Monster Hunter prestige class in 3.5E, but this has been partly retrofitted into the Vigilant (IK:R5E 123-124) ranger subclass although it may well reappear in some form for a later supplement.  

15. Are there any wars brewing I could go fight?


Yes, pretty much everywhere at the moment to be honest. This is a game based on the twin / interlinked wargames of Warmachine and Hordes after all...

This overview from the Privateer Press website should give you some idea of the situation. Other than that there are various novels and short story collections to give more specific details beyond the flavour text in the supplements.

16. How about gladiatorial arenas complete with hard-won glory and fabulous cash prizes?


Hmmm, not so much. Your best bet is probably an illegal prize fight in the Undercity of Corvis or in the port of Five Fingers, as presented in "The Pendrake Encounters: Bite Club" (spoilers for players). The oddly sophisticated yet somewhat barbaric Skorne (see above) might go in for that sort of thing a bit more admittedly but they are way off to the east usually unless serving in their forward army.

17. Are there any secret societies with sinister agendas I could join and/or fight?


So, you could secretly be a Thamarite, a follower of the Dark Twin of Morrow. Oddly, despite being considered "evil" in many ways, the Thamarites act as a vital mirror to the teachings of Morrow and remain accepted as it was their goddess that struck the deal to bring the magic into Caen that helped defeated the Orgoth invaders. They even form a signficiant part of the Order of Illumination, the tripartisan organisation that also includes Menite and Morrowan members dedciated to combating the new threat of the Infernals of the Nonokrion Order.

18. What is there to eat around here?


Most of the typical fare. Out in the wilds sure things get a bit... wilder.

Of course, you could always just chew on some fine cigars. Everyone seems to have them around here, there's even a whole No Quarter magazine article on it...

19. Any legendary lost treasures I could be looking for?


Well, there are old Orgoth artifacts littered around in ruins that weren't fully destroyed by their scorched earth retreat or by the wars. Note that most of these artifacts are if not cursed, hideously evil in proportion to their power level - wielding or even just finding one may have lasting deleterious consequences...


20. Where is the nearest dragon or other monsters with Type H treasure?


The nearest *dragon*? Are you completely insane? 

Iron Kingdoms dragons are next-level epic, demi-god like creatures. You have been warned.

The nearest you want to be to an *actual* Caen dragon is as far away as possible and for Toruk the Dragonfather, that's probably Urcaen or preferably another plane entirely (note that planar travel is very restricted in the Iron Kingdoms so it's probably a moot point). I'm not even kidding here.