Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Thorne of Vancia (For Three Systems!)

Hey, buddy, let  me tell you about my character...

A few years back, the Hex Games crew started an on-going pulp sword & sorcery campaign. We rotate GMs and play whenever all of us have a chance to get together, so y'know, once a year if we're lucky. The adventures have been a lot of fun, and our characters all follow a couple basic premises about S&S heroes:
1) Pulp sword & sorcery heroes are extraordinarily competent.
2) Pulp sword & sorcery heroes are kind of terrible people.

How YOU doin'?
Our episodic adventures have been mostly deconstructive pastiches of old S&S tropes. Our characters are all deeply broken men who willingly put themselves in danger for nebulous rewards. The once-pleasant little fishing village where we chose to set up shop has become a den of vice, corruption, and degradation thanks to our presence.  It's been a lot of fun.

My character is Thorne of Vancia, a knock-off of the Grey Mouser.  Thorn ap Dion was the middle child of a rich merchant family from the decadent city of Vancia (a city I've recycled and fleshed-out for Pangloss). He had to leave his home after he "accidentally" murdered his fencing instructor. He has since wandered the world as a mariner, a gladiator, a mercenary, and a rogue. While serving as henchman for the sorcerer Varnum the Mad, he picked up a few minor magical tricks. When he left the sorcerer's service, he also stole a trunk full of unknown charms and talismans. Thorne hates the savage wilderness and longs for the decadent comforts of civilization. He is a quick-witted rogue of low character with a preference for opium, fortified wine, and unsavory women.

In adventures ran by Steve Johnson, Ian Engle, and Leighton Connor he helped loot the lost temple of Pikus the Fish God, liberated a tribe of bird-people, and stole the sword Nurandrel from an angel of Death. He has since pried the jewels from the sword's hilt and sold them for drugs. He has also had a year of his life magically drained away due to poor life choices.

Thorne was originally made for QAGS. I thought it would be neat to see what he looks like under two of my other favorite games, Fate Accelerated and Dungeons & Dragons (5th Edition). I have two different listing for D&D--one with Thorne as a lowly 1st level beginner and one with him as a more-competent 5th level veteran.

I think it's interesting to contrast and compare the same character across three very different systems to see how the mechanics of each system switches focus on different aspects of the character. It's also neat to see how easily QAGS maps to FAE and vice-versa. Job and Weakness easily become High Concept and Trouble, while Gimmick and even Tagline provide additional aspects. Skills help inform Stunts, as well. For D&D it's nice to see that the Arcane Initiate feat works well enough for "the guy that messed around with magic a bit in the past" without having to go full-blown Arcane Trickster or multiclass Wizard.

Thorne of Vancia
Body: 12
Brain: 11
Nerve: 14
HP: 12
YY: 3

Job: Vagabond Ne’er-do-well (15)
Gimmick: Magical Dabbler (11)
Weakness: Hedonist (11)

Trading +1
Fast Talk +2
Scimitar +2
Swordplay +3

WWPHITM?: Robert Downey Jr.
Tagline: “Style beats skill nine times out of ten.”
Dumb Fact: Has never been a pirate

Scimitar  (+3 Damage Modifier; medium, sharp)
Short Sword (+2 Damage Modifier; small, sharp)
Pockets full of minor charms and doo-dads

FATE Accelerated
Thorne of Vancia
High Concept: Vagabond Ne’er-do-well
Trouble: The pleasures of the flesh
Other Aspects: Magical dabbler, “Style beats skill nine times out of ten,” Wayward middle son of House Thorne

Flashy +3
Quick +2
Sneaky +2
Careful +1
Clever +1
Forceful +0

Because I use a blade in each hand, I get +2 when I Flashily Attack multiple combatants in melee.

Because I dabble in minor magics, I get +2 to Cleverly Create Advantage when using petty sorcery.

Because you never know what I’ve stashed in my pockets, once per session I can automatically add an aspect to a scene thanks to some handy item I happen to have on my person.

Refresh: 3
Stress: OOO

D&D 5th Edition (level 1)
Thorne ap Dion
Race: Human
Class/Level: Rogue 1
Background: Noble
Alignment: Chaotic Neutral

AC: 14 (leather armor)
HP: 10 
Hit Die: 1d8

Prof Bonus: +2

STR: 10 (-)
Save +0
*Athletics +2

DEX: 16 (+3)
*Save +5
**Acrobatics +7
Sleight of Hand +3
*Stealth +5

CON: 14 (+2)
Save: +2
INT: 12 (+1)
*Save +3
Arcana +1
*History +3
Investigation +1
Nature +1
Religion +1

WIS: 8 (-1)
Save -1
Animal Handling -1
Insight -1
Medicine -1
Perception -1
Survival -1

CHA: 15 (+2)
Save +2
**Deception +6
Intimidation +2
Performance +2
*Persuasion +4

Feature: Position of privilege

Dual Shortswords: +5/+5 (1d6+3/1d6)
Dagger: +5 (1d4+3)

Armor: Light Armor
Weapons: Simple weapons, hand crossbow, longswords, rapiers, shortswords
Tools: Thieves’ tools, playing card set

Common, Thieves’ Cant, Draconic

Sneak Attack 1d6

Magic Initiate (sorcerer)

Speed: 30’

Cantrips Known:  Light, Prestidigitation
1st Level Spells: Sleep
Spell Save: DC 12

Shortsword x2
Explorer’s pack
Leather armor
Dagger x2
Thieves’ tools
Set of fine clothes
Signet ring
Scroll of pedigree

GP: 25

PERSONALITY TRAIT: If you do me an injury, I will crush you, ruin your name, and salt your fields.
IDEALS: I must prove that I can handle myself without the coddling of my family.
BONDS: Nothing is more important than the stout companions that I travel with.
FLAWS: I have an insatiable desire for carnal pleasures.

D&D 5th Edition Version (Level 5)
Thorne ap Dion
Race: Human
Class/Level: Rogue 4, Fighter 1
Background: Noble
Alignment: Chaotic Neutral

AC: 16 (studded leather armor + Dual Wielder feat)
HP: 39 
Hit Die: 4d8, 1d10

Prof Bonus: +3

STR: 10 (-)
Save +0
*Athletics +3

DEX: 16 (+3)
*Save +6
**Acrobatics +9
Sleight of Hand +3
*Stealth +6

CON: 14 (+2)
Save: +2
INT: 12 (+1)
*Save +4
Arcana +1
*History +4
Investigation +1
Nature +1
Religion +1

WIS: 8 (-1)
Save -1
Animal Handling -1
Insight -1
Medicine -1
Perception -1
Survival -1

CHA: 15 (+2)
Save +2
**Deception +8
Intimidation +2
Performance +2
*Persuasion +5

Feature: Position of privilege

Dual Rapiers: +6/+6 (1d8+3/1d8+3)
Dagger: +6 (1d4+3)

Armor: Light Armor, Medium Armor
Weapons: Simple weapons, Martial Weapons
Tools: Thieves’ tools, playing card set, disguise kit, poisoner’s kit

Common, Thieves’ Cant, Draconic

Sneak Attack 2d6
Cunning Action


Fighting Style: Two-Weapon Fighting
Second Wind

Magic Initiate (sorcerer)
Dual Wielder

Speed: 30’

Cantrips Known:  Light, Prestidigitation
1st Level Spells: Sleep

Spell Save: DC 12

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Lower Danks [Mini-Map Monday]

The Danks were once a marshland outpost for a community of Halflings in the Bogbrie Wetlands. Due to some basic construction errors, the structure soon sank into the marsh (becoming known as the Lower Danks) and were quickly occupied by Bollywugs.

Let's get froggy!

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Marchlands

The Marchlands are a loose coalition of free cities and small fiefdoms bound by the Freeman's Compact. The Bastion is a militant faction dedicated to keeping The Marchalnds free and protecting it from incursions by Uth-Goliad to the north and Madyan to the south. 

The Marchlands is the starting province for my upcoming D&D 5th Edition game. For reference, Phandalin lies east of Old Warrior's Road, between Red Widow Woods and the Knucklebone Mountains. 

Here are some bullet-points about the important towns and cities in the Marchlands.

Population: 30,000 (city)
  • Sovereign Hieronymus Rook (human fighter, NG)
  • Cast down the former overlord Krace Krokus 20 years ago.
  • Largest city in the Marchlands.
  • Temples to most (non-evil) gods.
  • Pangloss' largest temple to Hyperia, Heaven's Vigil. A mighty citadel of vaulted stone topped with bronze spires. Still under construction.
  • Crypt-shrine to Lord Rook's dead wife (Mellura, half-elf sorceress) made of blue crystal in city square. Honor guards provide constant vigil. Died six years ago.
  • Main castle,rechristened Rookskeep, an ancient edifice of black stone with heavy iron gates.
  • The Seclusium (a wizards' collective) in tower covered in dark gray, maroon, and green fractal mosaics.
  • Large halfling quarter with prosperous artisans.
  • The Pale House, large circular temple to Death Itself with thirteen doors, made of marble and carved like bone.

Population: 20,000 (city)
  • Duke Xythos Blackhelm (human fighter, LN)
  • Duchess Galthia
  • Blackhelm family has ruled the land for seven generations.
  • The Black Helm is a magical helmet, sapient and powerful. Family artifact.
  • Home of the only navy in the Marchlands
  • Famed for its pottery and brick-works. Rich deposits of dark blue clay.
  • Massive temple to Thantogrim. The Hall of Gates. Five-sided building with five sets of gates. Worshipers are allowed deeper and deeper into temple as they are indoctrinated deeper and deeper into the Gray Mysteries. None have returned after passing through the fifth gate.
  • Minority tieflings and orcbrood live in slums called Little Stygia.
  • Main base of operations for The Bastion. Fort Bulwark on the hills outside of town.

Population: 18,000 (city)
  • City on island in Titan lake.
  • Duchess Ardith Ymma (human fighter, N)
  • Orchards and rich farm lands. Abernath Apples are a rich golden-green and keep for years. Popularly used in iron rations. Makes potent wine and brandy.
  • City walls of large, irregular red and purple bricks.
  • Tall buildings and towers with narrow, cobbled streets.
  • Thousands of statues and hundreds of fountains, even in the poor parts of town.
  • Famous for its fancy clothing (especially velvet, suede, and lace) and elaborate hats.
  • Sizable community of dragonborn, mostly laborers and artisans.
  • Wyrd Elf enclave of artists in the Crystal Quarter.
  • Ban-Rooe--Small bard college (Lore) founded by survivors of Ban-Wyyr.
  • Mysterious disease Sticky Fever is spreading through the gentry. Causes horrible pain as body fluids slowly turn to glue.

Population: 3,000 (town)
  • Halfling fishing town, also famous for crabs and oysters.
  • Guild counsel governed by Lord Merriweather Foxslayer. (halfling commoner, LN)
  • Low buildings on platforms, terraces, and bridges over the silty, sandy ground.
  • Reed and rice fields. Paper mills produces high quality paper in demand by wizards, scribes, and sages.
  • Temples to the Lawgiver, Chalice, and Brahma.
  • Millennial Turtles are wild, bearded tortoises that wander through town, supposedly over 1000 years old. People write poetry on their shells to ensure luck and long life.

Population: 1,500 (town)
  • Ancient and massive stone bridge spanning Graymourn River. Fortified tower on each side of bridge. Massive iron bells toll every hour.
  • Controlled by a monastic sect of 100 warrior-clerics of Thantogrim.
  • Arch-Cenobite: Gorgophon (Human cleric LN)
  • Monks charge taxes and tolls on goods and travelers crossing bridge.
  • Mummy guards.
  • Clerics destroy any other bridges or ferries that cross the river.
  • Sizable town has grown up around the bridge.
  • All spices but salt illegal due to decree of former arch-cenobite 350 years ago.

Population: 5,000 (town)
  • Fortified town built at crossroads of Harpstring Highway and Knight's Road.
  • Large trading town. Suffering a bit since the conquest of Wyyr.
  • Called the “Gateway to the Marchlands”
  • Ruled by council of guilds and merchants, who elect an Archminister.
  • Archminister Gurndle Groatpenny (dwarf commoner, N)
  • Dwarf-made walls with several watchtowers in the outlying lands.
  • Lots of fur and ore trade from forest and mountains to the south.
  • Many fine dwarf and gnomish armorers and smiths.
  • Chapterhouse of the Hrothgarem. Housemaster Pukk Garribeldi (middle-aged Halfling fighter, NG)
  • The Bronze Goatmen--Dwarven knights who patrol the roads on armored war-goats.

  • Old abandoned fortress, recently refortified by refugees from Wyyr.
  • Captain Tormund Ten-Fingers (Orcbrood fighter, CG) leads a rag-tag cohort of 150 soldiers from Wyyr, holding the Harpstring Highway against Warlord Margok's advance.
  • 400 civilian refugees in makeshift villages scattered in the hills around the fort.
  • Princess Korina Larken (Human valor bard, CG) daughter of slain duke of Wyyr stays here.

Former population: 8,000 (town)
  • Port city conquered by hobgoblins three years ago. Lead by Warlord Margok Elfslayer.
  • Legion of 500 hobgoblins and other humanoids and monsters.
  • Docks destroyed and burned in the battle. Poorly replaced.
  • Former home of the Ban-Wyyr, the greatest bardic college of Lore in Pangloss.
  • Human population currently kept in thrall. Elves and halflings have been eaten.
  • Churches razed and replaced by new temples to Moloch.
  • None of the Marchland lords can spare the troops or time to liberate the city.

Population: 3,000 (town)
  • Halfing settlement on the marshy banks of Mirklemire Lake.
  • Lord Mayor Hezekiah Griggs (halfling commoner, NG)
  • Small, two-story houses on stilts, connected by bridges and small boats.
  • Homes and streets illuminated by large bioluminescent snails in glass lanterns.
  • The Stompin' Hall--Large meeting/dance hall on a solid hillock in the center of town.
  • Trade with Branwyn and Blackhelm.
  • Famous for leather-working, especially snake and alligator.
  • Large fields of swamp-tobacco, a foul-smelling but incredibly potent pipeweed, usually sweetened with molasses.
  • Large church of the Lawgiver made of unmortared stone and living wood.

Population: 7,000 (town)
  • Lady Delphina Starflower (half-elf, N sorceress). Sister of the late Lady Mellura of Horizon.
  • Port city. Prosperous fishing town.
  • Winding streets meander around large old trees and flower beds.
  • Low houses painted in shades of green and orange. Orange paint comes from the fireblossoms cultivated locally.
  • Large population of seals on nearby islands. Considered signs of good luck.
  • Starflower Manse—three-story manor of glass and yellow brick covered in flowering, lambent ivy. Lady Starflower's home.
  • The Kissing Stone--Sacred menhir to Baphomet in center of town. New brides kiss it for large, healthy families.
  • Temple to Chalice. Etched white stone with massive windows of pink glass.
  • Ancient temple to Pikus the Fish God (CN, Nature domain) on nearby island. Made of fossil coral, encrusted with salt and black kelp.
  • Sleeping Selkie inn and tavern.
  • Green Gnome enclave with large communal homes.

Population: 4,000 (town)
  • Prosperous logging, mining, and trapping community in Thistlethorn Forest.
  • Founded 100 years ago by retired adventurers and pilgrims fleeing the fall of Arkavoi.
  • Count Roan Blackoak (Half-elf ranger, NG) is a master of the gnomish long-rifle and rides a bear as a mount.
  • Stout wooden palisades protect town from orc and goblin raids.
  • Gnomes mine tin, copper, and silver in the mountains.
  • Wood Elves trap game and harvest pelts in the forests.
  • Marchland's largest temple to Beoren, White Bear Lodge. Decorated with the pelt of a giant albino dire bear.
  • Twice per year, float lumber, furs, and trade goods up the river to Toadwallow and Blackhelm.

Population: 5,000 (town)
  • Seaside town built along the rocky shores and cliffs.
  • Lady Madelaine Nyx (human cleric, N) governs the town and acts as high priestess.
  • Temples to Unastre and only Unastre. Heretical sect reveres Her as mother goddess and demiurge.
  • Clergy and faithful consume glowing purple sea moss that causes hallucinatory visions.
  • Sea moss is harvested by merfolk colony off-shore and traded with the clergy.
  • Dead interred in tombs hacked into cliffs, and capped with carvings of the departed's faces. Richer citizens are entombed higher up the cliff.
  • 40-foot tall, giant-bone pipes stand along the shore. Haunting melodies to fill the air when the wind blows (and the wind blows a lot).
  • Iocasta Doomslayer (Tiefling, paladin of vengeance LN) carries out Lady Nyx's will and roots out trouble.

Population: 2,500 (town)
  • Vancian whaling town.
  • Lord Adriano ap Marius (human commoner, N)
  • Town reeks of fish and whale blubber. Constant yellow haze from rendering plants.
  • Sizable temple to Aeshura, Vancian demon goddess of the sea (CN, Tempest domain).
  • Cosmopolitan town with wide mix of cultures and races.
  • Popular stop-off spot for merchants, trader, and pirates.
  • Popular haunt for Captain Damnation Devilfish, infamous tiefling pirate.
  • Ancient, giant brass statue of a naked elvish woman stands in harbor, breathing elemental fire. Acts as navigational beacon and lighthouse. Named “Isadole” by original settlers.
  • Outlying swamps are infested with trolls, scared away from town by flaming statue.

Population: 3,000 (town)
  • Madyan town founded by a sect monastic scholars and philosophers. Town has grown over three centuries.
  • Governed by a line of sage-princes. Bekhizitha Kos (human wizard/diviner, LN) is current sage-prince. Former tutor to King Elyas.
  • The Ten-Eyed Temple, school of diviner wizards. Members tattoo eyes on all their fingertips.
  • Large lighthouse of alabaster and stained glass, illuminated by radiant crystals.
  • Tamed lions patrol the town and guard the scholars.
  • Beach Farmers dredge amber from the seabed and shore.
  • Beach farmers have begun to discover weird artifacts and coins of unknown metal and origin.

Population: 2,500 (town)
  • Uth-Goliad town on island in the Sea of Shadows.
  • Ruled by Count Eru Gauth (human cleric, LN)
  • Entire population is male. Female children are sent to twin city of Gol-Morath on opposite side of the island.
  • Strict religious culture dedicated to Brahma.
  • Expert brewers, crofters, and animal breeders.
  • Fraternity of warrior-poets called Brotherhood of Drums.
  • Once per year, eligible young people travel to Temple of Unity in mountains for year-long, temporary marriages arranged by parents and town councils.

Population: 2,500 (town)
  • Uth-Goliad town on island in the Sea of Shadows.
  • Ruled by Countess Eala Kaar (human wizard, LN)
  • Entire population is female. Male children are sent to twin city of Mor-Golath on opposite side of the island.
  • Strict religious culture dedicated to Unastre.
  • Expert warriors and metalsmiths.
  • Sorority of Eldritch Knights called Sisterhood of Thorns.
  • Once per year, eligible young people travel to Temple of Unity in mountains for year-long, temporary marriages arranged by parents and town councils.