Saturday, June 4, 2011

Serpent Sovereigns

I've been kicking around an idea for a Labyrinth Lord game since March and I was finally able to run a test-run last month.  My players like it enough that we're continuing to play it to this day.  Here's the gist of it.

In ages long past a war of magic finally culminated in a catastrophe that tore the continent apart, wiped clean every mage on it and sunk the southern kingdom into the murky abyss.  The remaining kingdoms agreed to an armistice after witnessing the devastation they had caused.   The people seeing the folly of man took it a step further.  They overthrew their leaders and installed another, one that was no man.  Legends depicted Dragons as the early protectors of mankind, the watchful elder that took pains to protect them but allow them room to grow.  The people put a Serpent on the throne.  Unfortunately, like in all things, absolute power corrupts absolutely.  The benevolent dragons of the past eventually became the hated all-powerful despots of today.

The player characters are members of a rebel organization known as Dragon Slayers.  Their ultimate goal is to depose the Tyrant Lizards and bring the power back to the people.  They are currently lacking any and all resources to do so and like any group of ne'er-do-wells they have many conflicting viewpoints on how to go about their business and what to do once the deed has been done.

Gameplay will be a mix of old school dungeon crawling as the PC's descend into the depths of ancient undisturbed ruins to retrieve magical scrolls that will give them the firepower they need as well as a healthy dash of shadowrunning as they make their way into bigger cities.  Their goal is to avoid drawing attention until they are finally ready to make their move. 

Along the way the PC's will try and recruit talented blacksmiths, sages and alchemist as well as courting wealthy merchants for funds to advance their operations.  They shall seek material resources to improve the paltry weapons and armor they being with.  They seek allies to increase their ranks and their skill sets.  Most importantly they must carry the will of the people with them .  There's no point in a coup if everyone is satisfied with the status quo. 

Following the events of the war of magic all magic-users were vaporized so there is no magic-user class. Instead the widespread mage fallout over the land has granted anybody with the knack to cast spells.  There is however, the unfortunate fact that magic has been banned in every kingdom.  So while anyone can cast magic they can also get themselves into heaps of trouble for doing so.

Starting classes are Fighter, Thief, and Cleric with other classes becoming available as the PC's strike bargains and form alliances with neighboring barbarian tribes, monastic orders, rebellious elves, enlightened dwarves and recluse rangers and druids.  Clerics come in two varieties:  priests that worship the forgotten old gods that most of the population forsook after the war of magic devastated the country and shrike cultists that believe in a prophecy that the Pain Lord will one day return traveling through time to destroy everyone and everything (How nice!).

I've given all the classes an ability at level 1 that either grows with them in level or greatly bolsters their effectiveness in a team setting.  They are as follows:

Starting HD: 2d6.
Gain a specialization at level one (expect a weapon specialization post later).
Also gain the Master of Battle ability.  The fighter can attack a number of hit dice equal to his level.
 So a 5th level fighter can attack a 3HD and 2HD creature with one attack, or two 2HD creatures and 1HD creature, or five 1HD creatures, etc.  Basically a simpler and more broader take on the <1HD ability Fighters gained in AD&D.
Optional:  Naked Warrior Challenge:  An idea I loved then adapted from Aeons & Augauries.
Any Fighter going into battle unarmored with not more than a helmet and loin cloth (and shield if they like) receives double combat experience.  They may also attempt to woo the opposite sex as an immediate reaction.

Stunt - Anytime the Thief viscerally describes some crazed stunt they'd like to perform such as swinging across chandeliers, using a silver platter as an impromptu shield, riding an enraged stag by the horns, or jumping out windows in their best Bruce Cambell impression they receive a stunt bonus to the die roll equal to 1 + half their level.  This bonus can be applied to just about any roll involving a d20 (attacks, saves, skill/ability checks) as well as for damage rolls and reaction rolls.
(Since my players are complete neophytes to old school roleplaying I created this ability with the intention of teaching them to describe their actions rather than "I attack, 14, hit?" or "The priestess asks you to chase the fleeing fiend into the portal he ripped open in the town square.  Do you accept?   Player: Diplomacy, 17, give us money."  The incentive seems to be working decently so far.)

Priest of the Old Gods 
Blessings - At the end of combat allies can roll 2d6 and take the higher roll when regaining hit points.
The priest can also spontaneously turn any memorized spell in a cure spell of the appropriate level.
(Normally I use the old Judge's Guild optional rule of regaining a d3 of HP at the end of an encounter but I had planned on it being the classes Hit Die rather than a simple d3.  Since I've decided to avoid variable damage and hit dice for a change they instead regain a d6.)

Shrike Cultist
The Cultist forgoes the use of weapons and instead uses the spines they crafted into their armor to better resemble their imaginary Deity.  It is treated as an unarmed strike that gets progressively better as their armor improves.  Additionally anyone attacking a Shrike Cultist in full Painlord gear takes retributive damage from their spiky armor equal to (10-AC).  The Shrike Cultist must reverse any and all reversible spells but can spontaneously turn any memorized spell into a harm or slow spell of the appropriate level.

Entropic Adjustment: - When rolling initiative enemy groups must roll twice and take the lower result.  Note: I use group initiative and have it rolled at the start of each round.  So far this has been the player's most cherished ability.

That's all for now.  Expect later posts dealing with weapons and armor, specializations, spells, new classes, heroic bloodlines, and session summaries.