Sunday, July 29, 2012

High Fantasy Setting

On page 119 of High Fantasy, included in the background section of the solo-adventure Escape from Queztec'l, we are treated to a map of a continent.  No credit is given for the map but, as a whole, the solo-adventure is attributed to Craig Fisher.

As we can see, the name of the continent is Lysdexia.  This is doubtless an attempt at humor by switching two letters in dyslexia.  Such humor would not fly in our politically correct day and age, but in the era of the Old School, making fun of the less fortunate was commonplace.

There's not much detail, but it is more than enough for purposes of the solo-adventure.  The aptly named adventure takes place in the city of Queztec'l on the northern coast.  According to page 118:
Once Queztec'l was a regional capital of the Anarlinian Empire but that empire is long, long gone and even the subsequent Queztec'lan Empire is in a state of decay.
Once Queztec'l controlled nearly the complete northern half of the continent.  At the time of this story, however, the area governed by the city is only one-fifth of the size of the former domain.
You are Xenon, from a medium sized barony out on the Long Arm.  Although your lands have not formally been part of Queztec'l for centuries, you are still tied by a common language, religion, and customs.
Should someone want to employ the map for a campaign setting, there is a great deal of space with which to play.  (Just what is the scale anyway?)  Yet there are a variety of landmarks depicted to inspire the imagination.  (By the way, Queztec'l sits at the mouth of the Mezofari River.)

In the southwest quadrant of Lysdexia, there are “the ruins of Anarlion,” apparently the former seat of the great Anarlinian Empire.  The empire ceased to hold sway ages ago, but why would the city be abandoned?  Why would it remain abandoned after so long?  The ruins would seem to occupy a prime piece of real estate at the mouth of a major river and it wouldn't have been built in the first place if the position wasn't advantageous.

Also, why is the Insane City called thus?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Various and Sundry Incarnations of Djacarta

or Religion in High Fantasy

The following is from page 121 of High Fantasy.  This section on religion is actually part of the solo-adventure Escape from Queztec'l.  As such, I suppose it is attributable to Craig Fisher rather than Jeffrey Dillow.
     The religion of Queztec'l is a form of ancestor worship.  Shrines are built up around gems containing the souls of departed nobility and clergy.  The faithful come daily to these gems, asking for knowledge, miracles, or just blessings.  The powers of the spirit in any gem varied considerably, but gem spirits have been known to cure, to kill, to prophesy, and to work other magics.  Eventually the lifeforce in these gems fades away and the gem becomes dark and empty.
     Presiding over this panopoly [sic] of captured souls is Djacarta, the god of 66 incarnations, the god of changes.  Djacarta is not directly worshipped by the populace:  it is only in private temples and shrines that the priests and acolytes of Djacarta conduct services for their god.  Rather, the Queztec'lans see Djacarta as the Prime Mover, the power behind the spirits of their ancestors.  In many of the 66 incarnations, Djacarta appears as a male, in others as a female.
     Queztec'l's descent from ancient Anarlion has left it with a heritage of strong magic, the almost innate ability to communicate with spirits, and a thorough knowledge of magical artifacts...such as gems...
     Gems, of course, come in many different colors and shades with different colors denoting different properties.
     The light purple (mauve) gems have the particular ability to hold the souls of dying men and to eventually allow these souls to focus their powers in many ways.  These are the Gems of Keeping mentioned above.
     Another type of the light gem.  When activated, this stone will give off a steady glow for considerable periods of time.  Both of these gems, among many others, are an integral part of Queztec'lan life.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Cleverly Named Monsters in Atlantasia

John Holland, in his The Realms of Atlantasia role-playing game, offers several monsters with names that sound familiar but which have an atypical spelling. I think that Holland has done this for reasons having to do with intellectual property. Anyone can have salamanders, but only Atlantasia can have salamandorrs.

Leetch (not to be confused with ‘leech’)
Actually, Holland confuses leech with leetch, using either spelling when referring to the same thing. ‘Soul Leetches‘ attach themselves to the base of the neck and feed upon Magic Source Points which “cannot ever be recovered.” ‘Brain Leetches‘ crawl into a person's ear and feed upon memories. Eventually all memories will be irrevocably lost, so the afflicted “will have to be trained for another career.” At least they get to keep their hit points life points.

Peridactyll (not to be confused with ‘pterodactyl‘)
“While many will automatically perceive a large reptilian bird, on Atlantasia a peridactyll is actually an enormous, hairy beast that lumbers across the tundra.”

Salamandorr (not to be confused with ‘salamander’)
Salamandorrs are anthropomorphic crocodiles. Although they use weapons, their bite does twice as much damage as a war axe on average. Their special attack is a “Death Roll (will take you to the bottom and roll over until you die).” No rules are provided to implement this attack.

Stalycyte (not to be confused with ‘stalactite’)
Stalycytes are cone-shaped entities that reside on cave ceilings. They spin webs upon unsuspecting prey beneath them. Stalycytes haul up their entrapped prey and then “secrete an acid that will eat anything non-magical and turn it in to a liquid that the stalycyte will drink for food.” Apparently, since stalycytes “glow red when seen through infra-red” they are warm-blooded. “There is [sic] only two things that will kill a stalycyte; a magical axe wielded by someone who can reach them, or by freezing them and then smashing them while frozen with a magical hammer.” I suppose throwing a magical axe isn't good enough.

Sychobyss (not to be confused with ‘succubus’)
“Sychobysses will appear to be beautiful, sultry women (5' 6" tall). In actuality, sychobysses are scaled, bat-winged serpents 2' - 4' long.” They use spells to attack but “if magical attacks fail, sychobysses will revert to true form, slither into cracks and disappear.” Men will never attack a sychobyss.

Trollip (not to be confused with ‘trollop’)
You won't find these irrepressible fellows on Gary's Harlot Table! Trollips are like trolls, but only one to two feet tall. Like trolls, they regenerate. “While severed appendages will not grow back, those that are cut off WILL regenerate a new trollip.” Fire isn't effective against trollips, but electricity can kill them. “The only other way to kill a trollip is to cut its head off.” (Does the head grow a new trollip?)

Mogul (not to be confused with ‘mound of snow’ or ‘tycoon‘)
Moguls “appear to be large balls of mud...rolling across vast areas of land.” In combat, they change to a humanoid shape. If the attack of a mogul connects, “you will be covered in a hardening mud that will slow you down at the rate of 1/2 your movements per ss.” Ha ha, the joke's on the mogul! Atlantasian characters don't have movement rates!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Wizard's Book

For good reason, magic-users in role-playing games are protective of their spell books. In HighFantasy, a wizard has an especially good reason to be protective of his or her spell book.
In fact, the book is a living entity that draws its life force from the wizard and is therefore attuned to its owner only. A book separated from its owner will actually die if the separation lasts over two weeks.
The relationship between the book and a wizard is so strong that when the wizard takes damage there is a chance that the book will be harmed also.
The chances are rather low that any given successful combat strike upon a wizard will harm his or her book, but with enough combat the odds become palpable. If a wizard is burned, damage to the spell book is almost certain.  Most damage sustained by a spell book is represented as a loss of pages.  Although not expressly stated, it seems that each page represents a spell.  So, if a wizard takes damage, it is possible that the wizard also loses spells.

While damage to a wizard could impose damage to his or her spell book, the converse does not appear to be true (other than the loss of spells).  I suppose that rules could be established whereby damage to a spell book automatically inflicts damage upon the associated wizard.  Perhaps such a rule would be too harsh.

Wizards begin the game with a wizard's book...A person must be born with the talent to be a wizard. As they grow older the local witch maids and magic users nurture this ability along. The majority of the learning however, is self-taught. At birth each child is tested and those who are indeed magical receive the covers for their book. As the child grows he adds scrolls that are given to him or found by placing them inside the book, at which time they “heal in” and become part of his book and life force. More spells are found by searching, buying or questing for scrolls.
I would expect there to be some period of apprenticeship among (or at least an initiation into) “the local witch maids and magic users.”  Book covers have to be crafted and I assume that some sort of bonding ritual is necessary for the book and the wizard to become attuned to one another.  This attunement is such that a “wizard separated from his book should be able to sense the direction his book is as long as it is alive.”

Captured books cannot be read. The pages appear blank because the life forces are not identical between the new reader and the book. Whenever the wizard dies or whenever his book is separated from him for more than a two week period, the book disintegrates into a collection of pages known as scrolls. Another wizard finding a scroll may read the title of it only. In order to use the spell it must be incorporated into his book, taking on his life force, before it can be totally read.
An interesting aspect of a wizard's spell book is its relation to the wizard's familiar.  Creating a familiar requires “living pages from the Wizard's spell book...”  Additionally:
The pages that are used will become the Familiar's abilities.  For example, a Fly page will give the creature wings, a flame spell would make the creature fire based and able to use fire equivalent to the Wizard at the time of its creation.
Given the relationship between spell book pages and Familiar abilities, I would hope that spell books could contain more than one instance of a particular spell.  It would be a shame to forgo having access to a Fly spell simply because one's Familiar has the ability of flight.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


It's a wonderful time to be alive.

As I announced to my readership last year, Raven c. s. McCracken has been working on a new edition of The World of Synnibarr ; however, I had no idea it would be ready so soon.  McCracken has launched a Kickstarter project for the new Synnibarr (which apparently carries the subtitle of “Invicta”).  I am so excited by this development, I have placed a Synnibarr Kickstarter widget in the side column (temporarily) above the “Where's Dave?” appeal.

The project home page says, “The eagerly anticipated -and simplified- redesign, is in the final beta-testing phase a full year ahead of schedule.”  McCracken estimates publication in September 2013.

The goal is $55,000 and just about $3,000 has been pledged so far.  That means McCracken has three weeks to get $52,000.  I love me some midnight sunstone bazooka, but I'm not optimistic about reaching this goal.  Maybe McCracken should have concentrated on one book at a time; start small and let the enthusiasm snowball.

McCracken's no quitter.  So if this project isn't successful, I know it won't be the end of the 'new' Synnibarr.  However, I can't image how severe the setback will be without this funding.  All we can do is hope, “For we have the hearts and imaginations, but not the power or frontiers...”

Praise Aridius!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Subclasses in High Fantasy

In addition to a main class, each High Fantasy player character has a subclass. (In small parties, each character might have two subclasses.) Any of the eight subclasses can be paired with any of the four main classes. While the main classes (other than Warrior) use Innate Ability as a gauge of aptitude, competence with subclass abilities is based exclusively upon experience level. A character has a 5% chance of success with a subclass ability per level. Thus, all first level characters start with a 5% chance. “However, if the judge feels that he will never play a long campaign game...he may opt to increase their chances of using the subclass abilities.” The suggested base chance is 20% plus 5% per level.

Armorer: Armorers get discounts when buying armor. They can also repair armor. Yes, armor in High Fantasy takes damage. (Imagine that! Three decades before Atlantasia!) Also, an Armorer “can identify either magical or non-magical abilities in weapons...”

Healer: Since there is no cleric class in High Fantasy, the Healer subclass functions to keep player characters alive. Healers can heal others as well as themselves. At higher levels, Healers can do things like cure blindness and reattach severed limbs. At even higher levels, Healers can restore life to the dead; however, a character or creature “can only be restored to life twice.” Healers must use units of “herbs and elixirs” when performing their work. Where does one obtain these herbs and elixirs? High Fantasy is silent on the matter.

Historian (Archeologist): Historians can read runes as well as “sense” and recognize artifacts. This subclass is a convenient means to feed plot hooks to the players since Historians have “[a]ccess to legends and folklores the judge wishes to disclose.”

Hunter/Huntress: A Hunter/Huntress has knowledge of flora and fauna and can locate/track such. A Hunter/Huntress can also set traps, but only in natural settings and only for unintelligent beings. As a corollary, they can detect traps in natural settings. Furthermore, a Hunter/Huntress possesses preternatural senses. He or she knows “the correct direction,” has a chance of avoiding being surprised, can see “further in the dark than normal,” and can “[s]ense the nearness and number of creatures.”

Jeweler: Jewelers can “automatically” determine the worth of non-magical gems and have a chance of determining “if a gem is magical and what properties it has.”Appropriately, Jewelers can craft jewelry.

Sensitive: “This subclass deals with abilities of the mind.” Sensitives have a chance of detecting magic, detecting truth, locating a person they know, and send or receive “a thought sentence to [or from] another willing sentient organism.” Lastly, Sensitives can attack with a “psychic blast.” However, a Sensitive takes half-damage when attacking this way; not half of the inflicted damage, but half of rerolled damage. So, it is possible for the Sensitive to sustain more harm than he or she caused.

Thief/Assassin: This subclass confers an assortment of abilities typically associated with 'classic RPG' thieves. The abilities include: detect/remove traps, open locked containers, disguise, 'pick pockets' (although that exact phrase is not used), and “hide in dark places if unseen when entering it and doesn't move once in it.”

Martial Artist: A Martial Artist must choose one of five schools (called 'sects' in High Fantasy): Tiger, Hawk, Praying Mantis, Dragon, and Serpent. Each sect provides a bonus to Quickness and – as the character gains experience levels – increases to Defense and weaponless damage. The differences among the sects are the extent of the bonuses and the rate at which they accrue. Also, each sect has a signature weapon: Tiger – The Claw (like a morning star), Hawk – The Talon (like a throwing star), Praying Mantis – The Strike (a pair of flails), Dragon – The Flame (“a small spear that ignites on the end”), and Serpent – The Jaw (“a three-bladed dagger”). Finally, Martial Artists also possess some 'escape artist' abilities, regardless of sect.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Character Classes in High Fantasy

A player character in High Fantasy can belong to one of four main classes: Warrior, Wizard, Animal Handler, or Alchemist. Characters of each class – other than Warrior – have a randomly determined “Innate Ability” score that represents the chance of success of performing class related tasks. For instance, Wizards use Innate Ability to cast spells, Animal Handlers use it to train animals, and Alchemists use it to analyze and duplicate potions.

If I could go back in time and influence development of the game, I would have liked for Warriors to have an Innate Ability. It could be used to perform special maneuvers or avoid the effects of critical hits or something along those lines. Otherwise, Warriors aren't very interesting. They get a bonus in using a certain type of weapon; every few levels, the bonus increases and they select another weapon. At higher levels, they can train troops and build fortifications.

If I'm going back in time anyway, I may as well address the method of determining Innate Ability. Per the rules, starting Innate Ability is a percentile roll +1. So a starting Wizard could have a 2% chance of successfully casting a spell. There ought to be three rolls for Innate Ability, with the highest and lowest rolls being excluded.

I won't dwell on the Wizard class in this post. Magic in High Fantasy needs more than one post.

As the reader might suspect, “Animal Masters may train creatures...” In order for a creature to be trained, it must first be subdued. There are three ways in which a creature may be subdued. (1) Attack the creature until it is stunned, then heal it. (2) Use a net. (3) “[A]sk the wizard in the party to please cast a binding spell.” (I suppose a sleep spell would also work.) Interestingly, all creatures in High Fantasy can theoretically be trained. A creature's 'Difficulty Factor' is subtracted from the Animal Master's Innate Ability to determine the chance that the creature may be trained. Most 'real' animals (such as lions) have a Difficulty Factor (DF) of zero, meaning no modification to the Animal Master's roll. A Hobgoblin (DF 50) is slightly harder to train than a Tyrannosaurus Rex (DF 40). A Balro* (DF 120) is rather difficult to train, but nowhere near as intransigent as a Valkyrie (DF 190).

An Alchemist “is automatically assumed to have in his possession a small wooden case...” The case contains a supply of chemicals with which the Alchemist can perform his (or her) class abilities. These chemicals “are made up of various minerals and herbs easily attainable in wooded areas.” As indicated above, Alchemists can analyze and “duplicate” potions. Potions, in High Fantasy, are not magical but can have effects identical to magic. Alchemists can also formulate poisons and antidotes. Lastly, only Alchemists can create the High Fantasy version of gunpowder. Only Alchemists can use gunpowder weapons. Every beginning Alchemists has an arquebus, but Alchemists can upgrade to more advanced firearms upon reaching certain experience levels.

* See how they left off the 'g' to keep the lawyers at bay?