Taking Stock in 2010

New Year’s Resolutions are the among the most pointless and misguided inventions of mankind. The change in year is just an artificial construct necessary for measuring the passage of time. It doesn’t really mean anything. Midnight on the 31st of December is no more important that midnight on any other day of the year. The only significance it has, is the one that we give it. If you want to change your life, give up a filthy habit or start a new one, then do it now. Why wait for cusp of the year? It’s procrastination, and shows a distinct lack of commitment to your cause.

So this post is not a list of New Year’s Resolutions. Call it instead my intentions for the next year regarding all things roleplaying. It has been one year since we embarked on our joint quest to create a hybrid version of the D&D game. It is appropriate to take stock and see exactly where we think we’re going with this. There is also the issue of my ongoing campaigns, and the new weekly game that is due to begin next September. As many of you reading this blog are also my players, any input on my intended direction for the campaign would be very welcome. So let’s make a start.

Iourn

As I mentioned before, September 2010 is the tenth anniversary of our first Iourn session. This has prompted me to cast a critical eye on the setting, its current direction and what I want to do with it in the future. I think that over the past few campaigns, the setting has rather lost its lustre. For a while each campaign was better than the one that preceded it, with The Crucible of Youth being a creative high for me, and featuring tour-de-force performances from the players. Since then, it’s all rather gone down hill. While enjoyable on many levels, the Game of Souls and (particularly) The Hand that Rocks the Cradle weren’t really in the same league.

There’s no one reason for this, but I think the lack of time and attention that I’m able to lavish on the campaigns has to be a major factor. It’s not just about having material to run through every week, it’s about tying that material together into a rich and coherent story that weaves together the background material provided by the players into the ongoing narrative. One of the reasons The Crucible of Youth worked so well was because I didn’t bother writing any adventures until after I’d had the character backgrounds. There’s wisdom in that approach. I’ve also come to believe that campaign logs have a great role to play in keeping the game alive between sessions, and in maintaining consistency and verisimilitude from session to session. Any new campaign I ran would have to have campaign log accompaniment.

Of course, the campaign logs are the first thing to go when I’m pushed for time. As INdran continually points out, there are literally hundreds of unwritten or unfinished logs over on the Iourn website. This lack of narrative information actively hurts the credibility of the setting and makes it far more difficult for me as a GM to keep track of events. That’s why I started writing the Timelines, but then I ran of time to do those as well. In the future I either have to be more disciplined in writing the logs, or I have delegate their responsibility to a willing players. And I’m far too much of a control freak for that.

I therefore think Iourn has to enter an extended period of re-examination and rationalisation for its own good. I need to take the time to build up my narrative understanding of the world, and draw together all my notes from a hundred different Word files into one coherent whole. I am not therefore running a weekly Iourn campaign from September 2010. I will still be running a weekly game (you can read on to find out what that will be), but it will not be set on Iourn. I’m not abandoning the setting by any means, but I am giving it a good polish.

I should point out that this decision will have no effect at all on the League of Light campaign, that will continue at its current pace for the foreseeable future. Anything that happens in that campaign can be more properly discussed at the next retreat. However, I would like to moot that the next weekend game takes place on 24-26 September next year. A little earlier than usual, but dead on the tenth anniversary of the first ever session. That date seems extremely appropriate, and we can do something special.

Hybrid Dungeons and Dragons

So, it’s been one year since we embarked on the HD&D project. What have we actually achieved? Well, we’ve got a few races hammered out, the full skill system, a bucket of feats and the combat system (finishing soon, I promise). We’ve discussed – at length – how all the mechanics should work, and what principles HD&D should live by. We have done a great deal, but we’re still not close to a working playtest. There’s also been less and less discussion of HD&D with each successive post. So have we grown cold to the idea, or is it simply taking too damn long to get anywhere?

These are legitimate concerns. Even if HD&D has no bugs and turns out to be the greatest fantasy roleplaying rules ever, do we really want to wait ten years for me to finish writing it? We still don’t have any character classes, a magic system, spells, monsters and umpteen other important things. Games like D&D and Pathfinder have a squad of professionals writing the game from 9-5, Monday to Friday. I don’t have the luxury of that sort of time to devote to it. Neither do we have the capacity to playtest the rules as thoroughly as they need to be playtested. At what point do we cut our losses and say that HD&D will never be finished?

I don’t want to sound defeatist, and I have no intention of giving up on HD&D yet, but I am going to need some serious help to make this a reality. Over the next few weeks I’m going to post the rules on Atypical Combat, Wounds & Healing, selected weapons and then (finally) the rules for the Fighter class. When I’ve done that, I think we’ll have all the rules we need to make an informed decision on the future of HD&D.

You see there is a prime alternative to HD&D lurking in the wings called Pathfinder. It’s a far more logical extension of the third edition rules than 4e, and it corrects many of the problems I had with version 3.5. However, Pathfinder is not a perfect fit. Its combat is still heavily dependent on the use of miniatures, and it hasn’t really solved the problems inherent in the magic system, multiclassing, playing powerful races or advancing to very high levels. Pathfinder is an open gaming product in the spirit of third edition, so all the rules are available freely online. You can look at them and see what you think.

The thing is that if we did adopt Pathfinder, I still couldn’t run it as published. We’d ultimately wind up playing a hybrid of third edition, Pathfinder and some of my better ideas from HD&D. I would have to come up with all these house rules anyway, so perhaps the time would be better spent writing HD&D? The next few months should allow us all to make that decision once and for all.

BUT… if we do press on with HD&D after the rules for the fighter are published, then I’m going to have to ask you to step up and shoulder some of the workload. I can’t come up with all the character classes, spells, prestige classes, talents, feats and monsters that will be necessary to even playtest the game. So it’s not just a case of whether I have the time to make this work, but whether you have the time to help me.

Iourn.com

As I mentioned above, I have significant plans to go back and add a lot more content to this site over the next twenty months or so. You will also recall from a recent blog post, that I have intentions to revamp the look of the site and drag it into the twenty-first century. It won’t be cutting edge, but at least it’ll look like a site that was made in 2005 rather than 1995. However, the appearance of the site is not the real reason I want to tackle this project. I think that a change in the structure can actively help me get more information about the setting online. However, I want to see if the new structure works first.

Which is where Karris’Mohr comes in.

Karris’Mohr is Marc’s fourth edition campaign setting that we are currently playing each week. And, like Marc’s Cthulhu game before it, I’ve been taking copious notes in order to keep track of what’s going on. At present I am collating those notes into a coherent whole. Once that is done I’ll post them online in a new website that will be designed to have the same structure as the future Iourn site. We’re less than twenty-five sessions into Karris’Mohr. Regardless of how deep and colourful the game is, there is significantly less information available about it than there is about Iourn. The great swamp city will be my guinea pig.

I should be in a position to distribute the content of the site to Marc and my fellow players at some point in January, with the site itself going live later in the year – hopefully before the next Retreat in March. Once it’s created, I’ll do my best to keep the content up to date – which will also give me an idea of the sort of workload I can expect from my own ongoing games in the future.

If the structure is successful, I will look at porting over the content of the Iourn and FBI sites to the new format. However, both sites will require a bit of a shake-up and additional content if they are going to successfully fit in with what I have in mind. What is most likely to happen is that Karris’Mohr will appear next March, but the rest of Iourn.com won’t follow suit for about a year, as the planets align and I finish the work that has been pending for the best part of a decade.

The Next Weekly Campaign

Taking time out to play week after week is a pleasure. At present I feel no burning desire to run a game. I’m enjoying the peace and quiet. However, I have been having ideas about what I want to do next. Give me a few months, and I’ll be straining at the bit to get back behind the screen. I think it needs to be something other than stock fantasy D&D. I want to do something different, that gives me the chance to tell slightly different sorts of stories. However, I’m going to ease myself in gently.

Fourth Edition Dark Sun

In August, Wizards are releasing a new edition of the fantastic Dark Sun campaign setting. I cut my GMing teeth on 2nd edition Dark Sun back in 1993 – I loved the setting then, and I still love it now. I don’t see how on Athas they can make it work under the fourth edition rules, but I’ll be interested to see them try. However, I am not running an extended Dark Sun campaign. Although I can see how I might make it work, my patience with 4e is finite. We’ll drop into the burnt world for about six sessions and then get out again. I might run a published scenario – either one of the new ones, or a converted one from second edition.

I’m going to try and keep my 4e house-rules to a minimum. The game works best when you don’t try to overcomplicate it too much. That said I will probably be instigating the following changes to the rules as published in PHB1:

  • I’m going to partially use the optional rules for Inherent Bonuses from p138 of DMG2. Under these rules all PCs get +1 to attack and damage rolls at levels 2, 7, 12, 17, 22 and 27; and they get +1 to all defences at levels 4, 9, 14, 19, 24 and 29. These bonuses replace the bonuses the system otherwise expects you to get from magic items.
  • All Daily Powers can be used once per encounter instead. This poses no problems for 95% of powers. If using a daily power every five minutes would break the game, then that power becomes a ritual or it is simply excised from the game.
  • Rituals take time, effort and know-how but they don’t necessarily require money. I’ll alter the economics of rituals, and also rationalise the lists so that ritual casting is only open to certain specific classes.

I’m not going to spend any time looking at these house rules until character generation. If someone wants to play (e.g.) an Avenger then we can look at the Avenger’s daily powers together and work out which ones we need to change. It won’t take too long. I went through the entire cleric power list in PHB1 in about ten minutes and identified seven powers I thought could be converted to rituals. All the various electronic resources provided by D&DI will certainly help in this.

Sanctuary Campaign

At present I’m watching an unprecedented amount of television. One of the programmes that I haven’t given up on is Sanctuary. The premise of the series is that our world is filled with different thinking races collectively known as “abnormals”. These beings might resemble creatures of myth and folklore such as mermaids, werewolves and vampires but they true breeding races in their own right. In the nineteenth century a scientist named Helen Magnus gained immortality and set about creating a refuge to help these abnormals survive in the world, while at the same time protecting the world from abnormals that did not want to be helped. By the present-day she has a worldwide network of Sanctuaries for these creatures.

I always thought that Sanctuary had great potential as a role-playing game. Many of the main characters are supernatural creatures, or individuals of history and folklore. Sort of an ersatz League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, if you will. This is the series where Bigfoot teams up with Jack the Ripper and fights crime. That one line alone is enough to send you imaginations running isn’t it?

Unfortunately, the series itself has never really lived up to its promise. It’s entertaining, and the characters are endearing enough, but it’s all rather bland. It isn’t quite daring enough to push the limits of its own concept, and suffers from the ‘Star Trek Syndrome’ of effectively resetting between episodes. But there’s definitely something there that I can use, and it’s definitely different from anything that I’ve done before. And I definitely want to try it. So the question is how to convert Sanctuary the TV series into an as-yet-unnamed roleplaying setting that bleeds cool from every pore.

From the outset I wanted a game where players can take on (almost) any character they want. This could be a character of their own devising, one plucked from literature or something out of legend or myth. If I wind up with a party consisting of a vampire, the golem of Prague and Spring-Heeled Jack then so much the better. I intend to run the game under the versatile, simple and deadly Basic Roleplaying System (the percentile system used by Call of Cthulhu). For the most part I’m not going to worry about rules. As long as each PC has a distinct role, and as long as those roles don’t overlap, I don’t think the characters need to be balanced. There will be far more roleplaying and co-operative storytelling than fighting.

The TV series is grounded very much in the present-day, and the Sanctuary is the sort of high-tech environment that would make Bil Gates green with envy. I’m not sure I want to go down that route. Science fiction is tricky to pull off if you have little understanding of science, and the modern world seems a little too small for all these abnormal races to have gone unnoticed by the population for so long. Therefore I’m going to dial the setting back to the nineteenth century when there was only one Sanctuary. You’ll probably also find that I’ve dispensed with most of the other trappings of the series, like the term “abnormal” which is bloody awful. I much prefer the term “deviant” which has far more interesting connotations, and seems a better fit for the Victorian age. In summary:

The Campaign Setting: The 1890s in a world familiar to our own, but differing in several key regards. The supernatural creatures of myth and legend walk the Earth. They are few and have managed to keep themselves hidden from the bulk of humanity, but in an age of exploration and discovery this is becoming increasingly difficult. A noted philanthropist named Magnus has established a sanctuary for these deviant races to help protect them from the predations of the world, and also protect the world from them. He is well-regarded, respected and feared in equal measure. This Victorian age sports wonders not seen in our reality: thinking automata, analytical engines, etheric shock rifles and all manner of weird science exists side-by-side with secretive thaumaturgists, phrenologists and mediums. These resources are used by Magnus in pursuit of his goals, as well as by his nefarious enemies.

The Player Characters: You are disparate individuals: perhaps human, perhaps deviant, but certainly humanoid and capable of passing as human in Victorian Society – even if you have to wear heavy make-up, a hood or bandages. You each owe a debt of gratitude or of friendship to Magnus. When he asks for your help on a delicate matter you drop what you’re doing and come to the sanctuary in London to offer your assistance. And that’s when the campaign begins.

The Inspiration: Sanctuary, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (the comic, not the film), Cthulhu by Gaslight, GURPS Steampunk, From Hell, For Faerie Queen and Country, and pretty much anything by H.G. Wells or Jules Verne.

Although my understanding of history is far better than my understanding of science, this will not be a campaign that slavishly recreates Victorian England. Certain facts will be unchanged, and the game will be set in the creepy smog-filled London that you would expect; but I will take liberties where I have to for the good of the story. The game will involve mystery, investigation and adventure. I’m not going for the sort of claustrophobic horror that Cthulhu does so well; this campaign will be a romp through a fantastical reinterpretation of the nineteenth century. Heroism, death-defying leaps and pithy one-liners are required.

So am I selling it to you? This campaign would start after Dark Sun, but hopefully before Christmas next year. It’s my intention to finally break with the convention of playing to the university calendar. I would hope to run the campaign in short bursts (one adventure at a time) and then pause for a few weeks while Marc resumed his weekly Karris’Mohr game. In this way, I would hope that we might be able to share the available game nights between us. It might also give me a chance to catch up on the campaign’s housekeeping.

If you want to play, then start thinking about a character not. Just as in the Crucible of Youth I want to build the campaign around your characters. If one of the PCs is a member of the Golden Dawn who draws magical power from a tarot deck, then I’ll create all the various connections that that requires. If you want to play a vampire then you tell me how vampires work in this game setting. I have no preconceptions. Rules aren’t important at this stage. We can work them out later (the BRP rulebook is very thick), it’s the concept that is the key.

Comments

Over to you.

HD&D: Temperature Extremes

The Dungeons and Dragons rules are a complicated tapestry. For one set of rules to make sense, we need to understand another set of rules. And so it was, while I was considering underwater combat, that I discovered I needed rules on what happens to a body when it suffers extremes of temperature. After all, it gets cold in the deep ocean.

Now there’s no point in having two sets of rules for temperature extremes (one for water and one for dry land) so I looked at the problem as a whole and came up with the following rules. Those who own the third edition books will see that these rules are heavily inspired by the most excellent Frostburn and Sandstorm sourcebooks. I think they speak for themselves, so I’ll dispense with the preamble and just get on with it:

Protection Against Extremes of Temperature

Adventurers  often find themselves into all manner of dangerous situations. They might be challenged by a barbarian tribe to spend a night on the Great Glacier wearing only their underpants, they might bungee jump into an active volcano to recover a treasured childhood toy, or they might find themselves teleported into the middle of an arid desert without parasol or sun-tan lotion. It these circumstances, it is the environment and not the vicious monsters that live there that pose a threat to your character.

Creatures protect themselves against extremes of temperature by their equipment, spells, feats as well as their intrinsic biological advantages. Levels of protection against Cold and Heat dangers are measured on a scale of 0 to 5, where 0 is the least protected and 5 is the most protected. This level of protection is then compared to the effects of a temperature band to determine the effects of temperature on a character. Here’s what you need for the base levels of protection:

Base Description
0 Creature has no temperature adaptation 
1 Cold or Heat Endurance Feat
Creatures is native or a Cold of Hot terrain
 
2 Particularly cold-tolerant character
Creature native to an area of Severe Cold or Severe Heat.
3 Creature has Resist Cold 5 or Resist Fire 5 

In addition to the base level of protection, certain items of equipment can apply bonuses to your level of protection. These bonuses do not stack with one another unless the text explicitly says so. Here here are the most common items that can help you avoid extremes of temperature:

Armourbright: This metallic paint is applied with a brush to the outside of a suit of armor (requiring 1 minute to apply), producing a shiny surface that reflects the light of the sun to reduce the effects of hot weather on the wearer. For 24 hours after applying armorbright to a suit of armor, you gain a +2 bonus to your Fortitude Defence against heat dangers (including heatstroke).

Armorbright provides a +1 bonus to your level of protection against Heat dangers. However, it is not effective in hot environments with no sun, such as the Elemental Plane of Fire.

Armour Insulation: This thick red syrupy mixture is applied with a brush to the inner surface of a suit of armor. When the mixture comes in contact with body heat and sweat, it puffs up to trap body heat, insulating the wearer against the effects of cold. For 24 hours after application, the wearer of a suit of armor treated with armor insulation gains a +5 circumstance bonus to your Fortitude Defence against exposure to cold weather, and a -5 penalty to their Fortitude Defence against exposure to hot weather (incuding hypothermia and heatstroke respectively).

Armour insultation provides a +1 bonus to your level of protection against Cold dangers, and a -1 penalty to your level of protection against Heat dangers. This bonus stacks with fur clothing, but not with a cold weather outfit or an improvised shelter.

Cold Weather Outfit: A cold weather outfit includes a wool coat, linen shirt, wool cap, heavy cloak, thick pants or skirt, and boots. This outfit grants a +5 circumstance to your Fortitude Defence against exposure to cold weather, and a -5 penalty to your Fortitude Defence against exposure to hot weather (incuding hypothermia and heatstroke respectively).

A cold weather outfit provides a +1 bonus to your level of protection against Cold dangers, and a -1 penalty to your level of protection against Heat dangers. This bonus stacks with fur clothing, but not with a armour insulation or an improvised shelter.

Desert Outfit: This outfit consists of loose, billowy clothing to keep the wearer cool and protected from the sun while in hot, dry desert terrain. It includes a caftan, turban, scarf, loose pantaloons, and sandals or high cloth boots.

A desert outfit provides a +1 bonus to your level of protection against Heat dangers. The protection it offers against heat is negated if the wearer also dons armor.

Fur Clothing: Fur clothing consists of thick layers of animal furs designed to be worn over a regular set of clothing or armour. Wearing fur clothing grants a +5 circumstance bonus to your Fortitude Defence against exposure to cold weather; and a -5 penalty to your Fortitude Defence against exposure to hot weather (incuding hypothermia and heatstroke respectively). Fur clothing is cumbersome to wear. Although the furs do not provide an appreciable armor bonus, they do give you a 2 point armour check penalty. This penalty stacks with any armour you are wearing.

Fur clothing provides a +1 bonus to your level of protection against Cold dangers, and a -1 penalty to your level of protection against Heat dangers. This bonus stacks either armour insulation or a cold weater outfit, but not both. It does not stack with the bonus gained from an improvised shelter.

Heat Suit: This suit is designed to protect against heat. It consists of heavy pants and coat, a specially treated leather apron, thick mittens, a thick hood, and goggles. Wearing a heat suit grants a +5 circumstances bonus to your Fortitude defence against heat dangers (incuding heatstroke).

A heat suit provides a +1 bonus on your level of protection against heat dangers.

Hydration Suit: The hydration suit is a masterpiece of water retention, crafted by desert-dwellers with technical skill and unusual materials. Its design allows you to recover nearly all the water your body loses through sweat, exhalation and excretion. A hydration suit is made of the skin and tissue of various desert-dwelling beasts and treated with oils or waxes for water retention. It covers your entire body, with a tight-fitting hood over the head and a mask covering the mouth and nose. Inside the mask is a glass plate to collect condensation and a tube fashioned from watertight materials. An inner lining wicks sweat away from your body and collects it in spongelike filtration material that can be removed after you doff the hydration suit. The tube from the facemask twists in loops around your body, through the sponge, to reclaim moisture, condensing it in a reservoir from which you can sip.

A hydration suit provides a +2 bonus on your level of protection against heat dangers. It offers significant protection against dehydration (see below).

Improvised Shelter: An improvised shelter is any structure, windbreak or shade that grants you protection against the prevailing environmental conditions. It might be a portable hut, a snow hole, a deep cave or even a thick copse of hardy trees. Improvised shelters increase your level of protection by +3 against both heat and cold dangers.

Temperature Bands

All Hot and Cold environments fall into one of the twelve temperature bands listed in the table below. Your level of protection (as noted above) is compared with the effects at a certain temperature band to determine the deliterious effects to your character (if any).

The levels of protection only offer protection over the range of temperatures from Unearthly Cold to Unearthly Heat. They are useless in areas of Freezing Cold or Burning Heat. Characters with Resist Cold 10 can withstand all temperatures down to Unearthly Cold with no protection at all. Equally, characters with Resist Fire 10 can withstand all temperatures up to Unearthly Heat. Resist 15 is required to escape either Freezing Cold or Burning Heat without damage.

Fahrenhite Celsius Band
-81°F or lower -63° to lower Freezing Cold
-51°F to -80°F -46°C to -62°C Unearthly Cold
-21°F to -50°F  -29°C to -45°C Extreme Cold
0°F to -20°F -18°C to -28°C Severe Cold
1°F to 40°F -17°C to 4°C Cold
41°F to 60°F 5°C to 15°C Moderate
61°F to 90°F 16°C to 32°C Warm
91°F to 110°F 33°C to 43°C Hot
111°F to 140°F  44°C to 60°C Severe Heat
141°F to 180°F 61°C to 82°C Extreme Heat
181°F to 210°F 83°C to 99°C Unearthly Heat
211°F or higher 100°C or higher Burning Heat

Freezing Cold: Only supernatural environments ever get as cold as this. Stepping out into such terrible cold is enough to flash-freeze a living creatures in moments.  In a region in this temperature band, characters take 15 points of lethal cold damage per round. In addition, those wearing metal armour or coming into contact with very cold metal are affected as if by a chill metal (q.v.) spell (which lasts as long as the character remains in the area of freezing). Generally, mundane methods of protection against heat offer no protection in areas of burning heat, and various levels of heat protection are meaningless unless it is immune or highly resistant to cold. Characters at this temperature automatically contract hypothermia on their first round of exposure.

Unearthly Cold: Unprotected characters take 10 points of lethal cold damage, and 10 points of subdual cold damage, per minute (10 rounds). The damage is inflicted in phase one of the tenth round. Every time a character takes damage (but no more than once per round), the GM must make an attack roll agains the character’s Fortitude Defence to see if that character has contracted Hypothermia (q.v.). Those wearing metal armour or coming into contact with very cold metal are affected as if by a chill metal (q.v.) spell. Partially protected characters take damage once per 10 minutes instead of once per minute. For complete protection against the effects of unearthly cold, a character must have a level of protection of 4 or higher. Level 2 or 3 is considered partial protection, and level 1 is no protection at all. Liquids carried by characters will almost certainly freeze solid.

Extreme Cold: Unprotected characters take 5 points of lethal cold damage, and 5 points of subdual cold damage, every ten minutes (100 rounds). The damage is inflicted in phase one of the one hundedth round.  Every time a character takes damage (but no more than once per round), the GM must make an attack roll agains the character’s Fortitude Defence to see if that character has contracted Hypothermia (q.v.). Those wearing metal armour or coming into contact with very cold metal are affected as if by a chill metal (q.v.) spell. A partially protected character takes damage once per hour instead of once per 10 minutes. A character must have a level of protection of 3 or higher to be protected against extreme cold. Level 2 is considered partial protection; level 1 is considered unprotected. Liquids carried by characters will almost certainly freeze solid.

Severe Cold: Unprotected characters must make a Fortitude save every 10 minutes (DC 15, +1 per previous check), or take 5 points of cold subdual damage on each failed save. A partially protected character need only check once per hour. Every time a character takes damage (but no more than once per round), the GM must make an attack roll agains the character’s Fortitude Defence to see if that character has contracted Hypothermia (q.v.).  For complete protection against severe cold, a character must have a level of protection of 2 or higher. A character whose level of protection is only 1 is considered partially protected. Liquids carried by characters will probably have frozen solid.

Cold: Unprotected characters must make a Fortitude save each hour (DC 15, +1 per previous check) or take 5 points of cold subdual damage. Characters whose protection against cold is at least level 1 or higher (cold weather outfit, Cold Endurance feat) are safe at this temperature range. The range of this temperate is below the freezing point of water. Characters should bear in mind that magic potions and similar consumables and equipment may freeze at this temperature or lower.

Moderate: Moderate temperatures might be considered a mite nippy by some, but do not have an adverse affect of your character’s health. A brisk Autumn morning, or a cloudy Spring day might have moderate temperatures.

Warm: Warm temperatures usually reflect balmy summer days of peace and solitude. The upper extremes of this range may be a bit sticky and unpleasent for some, but the worse you could expect from going out in this weather is a bit of a headache.

Hot: In this temperature band, unprotected characters must make successful Fortitude saving throws each hour (DC 15, +1 for each previous check) or take 5 points of subdual fire damage. Characters wearing heavy clothing or any kind of armour take a -4 penalty on their saves. Characters whose protection against heat is at least level 1 (such as from the Heat Endurance feat or carrying a parasol) are safe at this temperature range and need not make the save.

Severe Heat: In this temperature band, unprotected characters must make a Fortitude save every 10 minutes (DC 15, +1 per previous check), or take 5 points of fire subdual damage on each failed save. A partially protected character need only check once per hour. Every time a character takes damage (but no more than once per round), the GM must make an attack roll agains the character’s Fortitude Defence to see if that character has contracted Heatstroke (q.v.). Characters wearing heavy clothing or any kind of armour take -4 penalties on their saves. For complete protection against severe heat, a character must have a level of protection of 2 or higher. A character whose level of protection is only 1 is considered partially protected.

Extreme Heat: Unprotected characters take 5 points of lethal fire damage, and 5 points of subdual fire damage, every ten minutes (100 rounds). The damage is inflicted in phase one of the one hundedth round.  Every time a character takes damage (but no more than once per round), the GM must make an attack roll agains the character’s Fortitude Defence to see if that character has contracted Heatstroke (q.v.). Those wearing metal armour or coming into contact with very hot metal are affected as if by a heat metal (q.v.) spell. A partially protected character takes damage once per hour instead of once per 10 minutes. A character must have a level of protection of 3 or higher to be protected against extreme cold. Level 2 is considered partial protection; level 1 is considered unprotected.

Unearthly Heat: In this temperature band, unprotected characters take 10 points of lethal fire damage, and 10 points of subdual fire damage, per minute (10 rounds). The damage is inflicted in phase one of the tenth round.  Every time a character takes damage (but no more than once per round), the GM must make an attack roll against the character’s Fortitude Defence to see if that character has contracted Heatstroke (q.v.). Those wearing metal armour or coming into contact with very hot metal are affected as if by a heat metal (q.v.) spell. Partially protected characters take damage once per 10 minutes instead of once per minute. For complete protection against the effects of unearthly cold, a character must have a level of protection of 4 or higher. Level 2 or 3 is considered partial protection, and level 1 is no protection at all.

Burning Heat: At some point, increasing temperatures push past even unearthly heat and graduate to actual burning – when material objects catch fire spontaneously due to the heat. For instance, paper catches fire at 451ºF (232ºC) – and dried-out skin catches fire at around the same temperature. Characters carrying fuel for their lamps or other combustibles discover that it catches fire at around 260ºF (127ºC). Water boils at approximately 212ºF (100ºC), depending on barometric pressure, and many potions or elixirs could quickly boil away to nothing somewhere near that temperature range.

In a region in this temperature band, characters take 15 points of fire damage per round. In addition, those wearing metal armour or coming into contact with very hot metal are affected as if by a heat metal (q.v.) spell (which lasts as long as the character remains in the area of burning heat). Generally, mundane methods of protection against heat offer no protection in areas of burning heat, and various levels of heat protection are meaningless if a creature is on fire unless it is immune or highly resistant to fire. Characters at this temperature automatically contract heatstroke on their first round of exposure.

Dehydration, Hypothermia and Heatstroke

Normally medium or small characters need to consume about one gallon of fluids (about 8 pints or 4½ litres) per day to stave off dehydration. For each temperature band hotter than Hot in the above table, your character needs to consume one extra gallon. If you don’t drink this your start to get dehydrated, and you may eventually die of thirst. In temperature bands where the hydration suit provides complete protection for heat dangers, it allows the wearer to survive on just one gallon per day. I’ll get into dehydration, as well as dying of thirst (and hunger) in later posts. In the meantime, I think that’s all you really need to know.

Hypothermia and Heatstroke are afflictions, that work in the same way as diseases. They will be fully detailed when the section on Wounds and Healing is published to the blog just before Christmas. However, as they are essential to the understanding of this post as well, I’ll give you a quick preview:

HEATSTROKE (Level 5 Disease)
Any prolonged exposure to intensely warm environments can befuddle the mind and cause you to fall unconscious.
Attack: +7 vs Fortitude
Onset: Instantaneous
Saving Throw: Fortitude DC 17
Frequency: 1/hour

Initial Effect: Your skin turns red and becomes hot and dry to the touch. Your lips swell. Dehydration makes you a little nauseous. Gain the sickened condition.

Further Effects: While not fatal in and of itself, Heatstroke can leave a character helpless and at the mercy of an unforgiving envirnonment. Further failed saving throws impose the following cumulative effects:
    First failed save: You faint. You fall to the ground and are prone and helpless. You remain unconscious for about ten minutes, or until revived by your companions. From now on every time you engage in extreme physical activity (fighting, running, climbing, jumping) you must make a DC 17 Fortitude save or faint.
    Second failed save: You are pemanently under the effect of the Confused condition.
    Third failed save: You fall unconscious. You will not wake up of you own volition.

Cure: Characters making an effort to drink lots of fluids and protect their head with a sensible hat gain a +2 circumstances bonus to their Fortitude Defence and saving throws to resist the effects of Heatstroke.
    If the character can reach the shade and drink lots of fluids then the effects of Heatstroke will fade. The character still has to make saving throws for 1d2 hours. After that, it takes one hour for the effects of Heatstroke to be reversed. Another charcter with the Heal skill can make a check at DC 17 to accelerate the cooling process. In this case no further saves are required, and the sufferer recovers in one hour.
    Alternatively, the effects can be removed by a Cure Disease spell (DC 17) or Heal (DC 17)

HYPOTHERMIA (Level 9 Disease)
Hypothermia comes about through the cooling of the body’s core temperature, and is usually caused by exposure to extremely cold environments for an extended period of time. Victims suffer numbness, shivering, amnesia and death.
Attack: +10 vs Fortitude
Onset: Instantaneous
Saving Throw: Fortitude DC 20
Frequency: 1/hour

Initial Effects: You start shivering uncontrollably, and have trouble performing complex tasks with your hands. Take a -2 penalty to Sleight of Hand checks and all attack rolls. Your vision is also affected imposing a -2 penalty to sight-based Perception checks.

Further Effects: If left untreated, hypothermia can be very deadly, very quickly. Further failed saving throws impose the following effects:
    First failed save: You become pale, and your extremities turn blue. The penalty to skill checks increases to -5. Your shivering is much more pronounced. Reduce you speed to 10 feet per round. You are mildly confused. Every time you roll Wisdom or Intelligence based skill, roll twice and take the lower result.
    Second failed save: Skin becomes blue and puffy, muscle coordination disappears. You fall to the ground and can no longer walk, although you can crawl. You are permanently under the effect of the Confused condition.
    Third failed save: You die.

Cure: The effects will reverse themselves if you can get into a Warm environment (16°C to 32°C). Details of different types of environment are found in the section on Adventuring. However, even if you find such a refuge, you body warms up slowly. You continue to suffer the effects of hypothermia for 1d4 hours after getting somewhere warm. It then takes another hour to return to normal.
    Another character with the Heal skill can make a DC 20 check to accelerate the warming process. If this check is successful, you stop suffering the effects of hypothermia in one hour and do not need to make any further saving throws.
    Alternatively, the effects can be removed by a Cure Disease spell (DC 20) or Heal (DC 20).

Next

It’s back to the Combat Section. Atypical Combat is the next post.

HD&D: Objects and Vehicles

Between now and Christmas, the remaining two parts of the Combat section will be posted to the blog. Part of the information contained in those sections requires an understanding of HD&D’s rules for inanimate objects, and for environmental conditions. I’ll deal with the latter in the next post. For now, we’re going to have a look at how inanimate objects and – by extension – vehicles are handled in the hybrid game. And can I tell you that these rules have caused me a considerable headache.

My headache  stems from my desire for everything to have a degree of internal consistency. If objects have defences, armour class and hit point (which they do) then I want a consistent and coherent way of derriving them. It’s not enough to say that a caravel has 800 hit points. I want to be able to prove why it has 800 hit points. What follows is probably going to seem like a lot of maths for no good reason. However, I think there is a moral point. I can’t spend as long as I have stressing over creature hit point totals and then have object hit points to be completely arbitary. In any event, these are not mechanics that players will use. They will just flip to the Equipment section and use the object or vehicle’s statistics as printed. However, I want the process of how we got to those statistics to be transparent.

Inanimate Objects

Almost all the items defined in the Equipment section are inanimate objects. Just like living creatures, such objects can be manipulated, damaged and destroyed. They therefore require defining game statistics that allow them to interact with your typically ham-fisted player character.

Inanimate objects use many of the same statistics as living creatures, although they do not have levels. This means that we have to derrive those statistics differently. The following rules explain the method for drawing up statistics for all manner of inanimate objects: from a humble wine bottle, to a gravity-defying airship.

Ability Scores

Objects do not have ability scores in the same way as creatures. They have no Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom or Charisma scores. They are assigned pseudo scores in Dexterity and Constitution to help calculate their defences and saving throws.

Dexterity: Even though objects cannot move, their Dexterity is consider to be 1. This gives them a -5 penalty to their Reflex Defence.

Constitution: Inanimate objects have a base Constitution of score of 10 + their Item AC (see below) + Thickness in inches (minimum 1). This means that a one inch thickness of Wood has a Con score of 16, one inch of Iron has a Con score of 21 and so on. The Constitution score is used to calculate the item’s Fortitude Defence. That defence is subequently used to calculate the Break DC of the item.

Size

All objects have a Size category. These size categories are exactly the same as those used by creatures. The size category of an object grants it a multiplier that is used to calculate its hit points (see below). These mulitpliers are based on the size modifiers that apply to the attack rolls and Reflex defence of living creatures.

Size Cateogory

Item Size Multiplier

Miniscule

×0.167

Diminuitive

×0.25

Tiny

×0.5

Small

×1

Medium

×1

Large

×2

Huge

×4

Gargantuan

×6

Colossal

×8

It is worth repeating that the size categories of objects and creatures are the same. Therefore in HD&D, a longsword is not a medium-sized weapon anymore: it’s a Small weapon. The longsword falls within the dimensions of a Small creature, and therefore it is also of Small size. In HD&D characters can wield any weapon up to two size categories smaller than they are in one hand. They can wield weapons of the same size, but must use two hands. They cannot wield weapons of a size greater than they are. So a human can wield tiny and small weapons in one hand, and medium weapons in two hands. A human cannot wield weapons that are diminuitive or smaller, neither can he wield weapons that are Large or larger.

Material

An object’s toughness and durability is mostly dependent upon the material it is made from. An item made of mithril is tougher than one made of wood or tapioca. All materials are assigned an armour class, and also a hit point value per inch of thickness. These details are used when calculating the hit points and the armour class of an inanimate object made from the material (see below). 

Material

Item AC

Hit Points per inch

Paper or Cloth

0

2

Rope

0

2

Glass

1

1

Ice

0

3

Leather or Hide

2

5

Wood

5

10

Stone

8

15

Iron or Steel

10

30

Mithril

15

30

Adamantine

20

40

Note that the Item AC of a material isn’t necessarily the same as the protection conferred by armour made of that material. For example, hide has an Item AC of 2, but hide armour is AC 3. The protection is often as much about the way the armour is made as it is about the material the armour is made from.

Reflex Defence

As objects are immobile and unlikely to get out of the way of any obstacles or attacks, one would imagine that their Reflex Defence would be somewhat on the low side. And indeed one would be right. The Reflex defence of objects is calculated on a similar basis to creatures (except that objects do not have levels):

Base 10 + Dex Modifier + Size Modifier

The Dexterity of an inanimate object is considered to be 1, which imparts a -5 penalty on the Reflex defence. The size modifiers are the same as the size modifiers that creatures use: Miniscule (+6), Diminuitive (+4), Tiny (+2), Small (0), Medium (0), Large (-2), Huge (-4), Gargantuan (-6), Colossal (-8). This results in the following Reflex Defence scores:

Size Cateogory

Reflex Defence

Miniscule

11

Diminuitive

9

Tiny

7

Small

5

Medium

5

Large

3

Huge

1

Gargantuan

-1

Colossal

-3

Fortitude Defence

The Fortitude Defence for objects is interpeted as the object’s ability to resist continuous force. It is also the basis from which the object’s Break DC (see below) is derrived. The Fortitude Defence of an object would be used in combat manoeurvres: for example, if a giant squid was trying to grapple a sailing ship. The formula to calculate Fortitude Defence is as follows:

Base 10 + Con Modifier + Size Modifier

The Constitution of an inanimate object is considered to be 10 + its Item AC + its Thickness in inches. The Size modifiers are inverted for the purpose of calculating Fortitude: i.e. Miniscule (-6), Diminuitive (-4), Tiny (-2), Small (0), Medium (0), Large (+2), Huge (+4), Gargantuan (+6), Colossal (+8). Therefore the Fortitude score of the following selection of objects would be as follows:

Example object

Fortitude Defence

Rope

13

Simple wooden door

13

Small chest

11

Treasure chest

13

Strong wooden door

13

Masonry Wall (1 ft thick)

22

Hewn Stone (3 ft thick)

34

Chain

15

Mannacles

15

Masterwork manacles

17

Iron Door (2″ thick)

16

For example: In the above table a two inch thick iron door has a Fortitude Defence of 16. In order to calculate that figure, we first need to would out the door’s Constitution score. This Con score is work out as the base of 10 + the door’s item AC (10 for iron) + the door’s thickness (2). 10 + 10 + 2 = a Constitution Score of 22. A Con of 22 gives you a Con Modifier of +6. Therefore the Fortitude is worked out as Base 10 + Con Mod (+6) + Size Mod (+0) for a total of 16.

Some objects may be more or less durable than their size, Constitution or thickness would indicate. For example, rope is a Tiny object, with an Item AC of 0, and is only 1 inch thick. It should have a Con of 11, and a Fortitude score of 8. However, Rope is very resistant to damage. It gains a +10 bonus to its Con score, that works in the same way as racial bonuses in creatures. It’s Con is considered 21 (+5 modifier) and therefore its final Fortitude score is 13.

Masterwork and Magical Items

Masterwork items are tougher and more durable that normal items. Depending on its quality, a materwork item can add a bonus of between +1 and +6 to the item’s Fortitude Defence. Masterwork and magical augmentations can also increase an item’s hit points or armour class. Details of which items enjoy such bonuses will be found in the section on equipment.

Break DC

While the Fortitude score is used when applying continuous pressure or grappling with objects, the item’s Break DC is used if you want to destroy the item by dint of sudden force. The Break DC of all items is equal to the item’s Fortitude Defence +10. So manancles have a Fortitude Defence of 15, but a Break DC of 25.

You can only attempt to break objects that one size category larger than you or smaller. An object that is the victim of a successful break attempt gains the Broken condition. In a similar vein to the rules governing the Escape Artist skill, a character can make one (and only one) attempt to break an object. If that fails, then they cannot try again unless circumstances change – e.g. someone helps them, they grab a crowbar. The roll to break an item is a skill check using the Athletics skill. It is not an attack roll, and therefore  a natural 20 is not an automatic success.

Will Defence

Inanimate objects do not have a Will defence. They are mindless. Any attack that targets Will automatically fails against them.

Hit Points

An item’s hit points is calulated very differently to the hit points of creatures. Use the following formula:

Hit Points per inch × Thickness in inches × Size Multiplier

For example wooden door has 10 hit points per inch of thickness, is one inch thick and has a size multiplier of 1. That means it has a total of 10 hit points. A Pinnace is a wooden ship that has 10 hit points per inch of thickness, a hull that is ten inches thick, and a size muliplier of 6. It has a total of 600 hit points.

Remember that an object reducd to half its hit points is Broken. Usually Broken objects are useless, and whatever protection or utility they might provide ceases. For example, if the pinnace takes 300 points of damage it is Broken, which probably means that it starts to sink.

The formula is an excellent guide, but doesn’t always work. Therefore all objects also have a minimum number of hit points based on their size. If the formula comes up with a figure that is less than this minimum number, use the minimum number instead. These minimums are: Miniscule (1), Diminuitive (2), Tiny (5), Small (10), Medium (20), Large (40), Huge (100), Gargantuan (200), Colossal (400).

Armour Class

An item’s armour class is dependent on its material type. Items can be covered in other materials to make them more resistant to damage. For example. A iron-clad battle ship has a layer of iron covering the wooden hull. In these cases the different material types are treated as different objects, and the first must be destroyed (or broken) before damage can be dealt to the second.

For example, a colossal ironclad battleship has a hull made of wood, that is covered in one inch thick iron plate. The wooden hull has an Item AC of 5 (from the wood) and 800 hit points. The armour-plate has an Item AC of 10 (from the iron) and 240 hit points. Any attack against the ironclad hits the armour plate first. Once the armour plate is Broken (has taken 120 points of damage) then subsequent damage is dealt to the wooden hull.

Resistances and Immunities

As with characters, an object’s Item AC does not defend it against energy attacks, but some materials are inherently resistant (or vulnerable) to certain attacks. This works in the same way as resistance (or vulnerability) for creatures. The seven types of energy attacks (Acid, Cold, Fire, Lightning, Necrotic, Radiant and Thunder) have the following effect on these common materials.

Adamant: Resist 20 to all energy attacks.

Cloth: Resist 10 Cold, Vulnerable 5 Lightning; Vulnerable 10 Fire; Vulnerable 10 Necrotic

Glass: Resist 5 Cold; Resist 5 Fire; Resist 5 Lightning; Vulnerable 10 Thunder

Ice: Resist 30 Cold; Vulnerable 10 Lightning; Vulnerable 10 Radiant; Vulnerable 10 Thunder; Vulnerable 20 Fire

Iron/Steel: Resist 15 Cold; Resist 10 Lightning; Resist 10 Fire

Leather/Hide: Resist 5 Fire; Resist 5 Lightning; Resist 10 Cold; Vulnerable 10 Necrotic

Mithril: Resist 15 to all energy attacks.

Paper: Vulnerable 5 Lightning; Vulnerable 15 Fire

Rope: Vulnerable 5 Lightning; Vulnerable 5 Necrotic; Vulnerable 10 Fire

Stone: Resist 20 Cold ; Resist 15 Lightning ; Resist 15 Fire

Wood: Resist Cold 15; Resist Lightning 10; Vulnerable 5 Fire; Vulnerable 10 Necrotic

These resistances and vulnerabilites only come into play if an object is specifically targeted with an energy attack. You don’t have to check the hit points and resistances of your sword and armour every time you’re hit by a fireball. Spells that target characters may still cause collaterol damage, but that damage does not include your character’s equipment. This is a convention of the system, and designed to make for a smoother game. While we might want feasibly want to know how many lightning bolts it takes to blast an iron door off its hinges, we don’t want every fireball to melt the paladin into his platemail.

In addition to immunities and vulnerabilities, many objects also have Immunities to certain assaults. While the material an object is made from usually governs its resistances and vulnerabilities, its immunities are usually dependent on how it is made. For example, most objects are immune to attacks from any weapon that is more than two size categories smaller than it is. So if you want to damage a Caravel (a Colossal object) then you need to be wielding a weapon that is Huge or larger. All smaller weapons simply bounce off.

Of course, all of the above are generalities and I am sure that you can see exceptions. Given enough time a human with a small axe can chop his way through the hull of a caravel. Soaking wet wood doesn’t have any vulnerability to fire, and so on. In HD&D, the GM needs to take the above information as guidelines and create objects and vehicles that work within the spirit of the game.

Sections

In third edition, large objects are divided into a number of different 10 ft by 10 ft sections. A sailing ship might actually be ten different objects, and each one could be targeted separately. That seems a little too complicated for me, and so we’ve gone down the fourth edition route of giving each vehicle one blob of hit points. After all, Called Shot rules can apply equally to vehicles as they do to characters.

However, there are times when it is worth splitting very large objects into two (or more) smaller objects. This is only done when it makes sense to do so. For example, a ships rigging may be considered a different object to the ship’s hull. However, even if we do divide into sections, we are still dealing with one object. One section will be the primary section and all attacks will default to that section unless a player says otherwise.

Usually it isn’t necessary to take a called shot to hit a particular section of an object. If an object has been divided into sections, it’s because the object is enormous to start with. Different sections will have different statistics, and can be treated as two completly separate objects.

A Note on Animated Objects

An object that becomes animated by dint of the Animate Object spell or similar means, ceases to be an object and starts being a creature. Details of example animated objects are given in the Monster Manual. An animated object will have many of the same traits as its inanimate counterparts, but it will have a level and follow the rules for generating creatures.

Does All this Work?

The above may look as little more than an exercise designed to twist me knots. However it does (on paper at least) seem to work. Inanimate objects and vehicles are only useful up to a point they have taken half their hit points in damage – i.e. gain the broken condition. Half hit points for an object in HD&D is about the same as maximum hit points for an object in fourth edition. And as character hit points and damage potential mirrors fourth edition more closely that third, I think this should work. Regardless of how overtly fiddlesome is appears.

However, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. So here are the statistics for a few inanimate objects in the hybrid game. I have concentrated on vehicles because they have a greater bearing on the next Combat system post. Have a look and see what you think. And if there’s any statistics that I haven’t previously explained, I will explain them when the post on Atypical Combat is ready.

LONG SWORD
The mainstay of your stalwart adventurer. These swords are usually referred to as doubled-edged swords, war swords, or military swords. The longsword is about 40 inches in length, and designed to be wielded in one hand.
Size/Type: Small Object
Ability Scores:  Str –, Dex 1, Con 21, Int –, Wis –, Cha —
Armour Class: 10
Fortitude: 15 (Break DC 25)
Reflex: 5
Hit Points: 30
Special: Resist 15 Cold; Resist 10 Lightning; Resist 10 Fire
Cost: 15 gp

CARAVEL
The caravel is a seaworthy, nimble ship that can handle long ocean crossings. It has a small forecastle and sterncastle, and three masts. A caravel is a smooth-hulled, full-decked vessel built on a strong internal frame. It is a relatively advanced design, and not every seafaring people have the skills and knowledge to build one.

Primary Section: Hull

Size/Type: Colossal Object
Ability Scores: Str –, Dex 1, Con 25, Int –, Wis –, Cha —
Armour Class: 5
Fortitude: 25 (Break DC 35)
Reflex: -3
Hit Points: 800
Special: Resist Cold 15; Resist Lightning 10; Vulnerable 5 Fire; Vulnerable 10 Necrotic. The Caravel cannot be damaged by weapons of Large size or smaller, except over the course of many hours in a non-combat environment.

Secondary Section: Rigging

Size/Type: Huge Object
Ability Scores: Str –, Dex 1, Con 19, Int –, Wis –, Cha —
Armour Class: 0
Fortitude: 18 (Break DC 28)
Reflex: 1
Hit Points: 100
Special: Vulnerable 5 Lightning; Vulnerable 5 Necrotic; Vulnerable 10 Fire

Other Statistics

Skill Check: Profession (Sailor)
Crew: 7
Seaworthiness: +2
Manoeuvrability: Poor (-5)
Propulsion: Sails
Speed: Swim 30 ft (× Wind multiplier)
Length: 60 ft
Width: 20 ft
Height: 10 ft
Draft: 10 ft
Complement: 30 passengers and crew
Cargo: 120 tons
Cost: 10,000 gp

WAGON
An open-topped vehicle pulled by a team of two of four horses.
Size/Type: Large Object:
Ability Scores: Str –, Dex 1, Con 21, Int –, Wis –, Cha —
Armour Class: 5
Fortitude: 17 (Break DC 27)
Reflex: 3
Hit Points: 120

Skill Check: Handle Animal
Crew: 1
Manoeuvrability: Average (+0)
Propulsion: Two or Four dray creatures
Speed: As dray creature
Length: 20 ft
Width: 10 ft
Height: 5 ft
Weight: 400 lbs unladen
Complement: 6 passengers
Cargo: 2 tons
Cost: 35 gp

Iourn.com – Phase III

Friday, 24 September 2010 will be the tenth anniversary of the Iourn setting. It’s hard to believe that it’s been a decade since a bunch of fresh-faced nobodies decanted themselves down to the Rutherford Cloister for the Sugar and Spice adventure. To mark this momentous occasion, I have decided to devote some considerable time and attention to updating the Iourn website, revamping it and bringing it in line with the twenty-first century. In this post, I’m going to discuss some of the ideas I have – and hopefully those of you that have opinions will be willing to voice them in the comments below.

The web is not the place it was in 2000 (or even during the last website update in 2004). A static site like Iourn.com has rather fallen out of vogue, replaced by all manner of interactive gubbins such as blogs, social networking sites and so on. These various “Web 2.o” entities have their place, and I plan to use them to augment the existing website. For example a don’t need a page of upcoming events if I can simply imbed an interactive Google Calendar in the site. I don’t need a page of Links when I can simply store all the links on Delicious and then link to that site. The Iourn site doesn’t need to contain important and time-sensitive news, when I can simply upload that sort of material to this blog, and post the blog updates on the front page of Iourn.com via an RSS feed.

None of the above is beyond even my puny web-building skills. However, none of them replace the need for a single, well-known and coherently formatted source of information and resources for the unending game. As I’m sure that HD&D is demonstrating, a blog is a poor place to try and build a coherent body of information. The amount of time I’m spending cross-linking the Combat system is testament to that. The question before us is not whether Iourn.com should continue to be the main source of campaign specific and house rule information, but how that information is presented.

I don’t think that the general skeleton of the site needs to change. Under Iourn.com will hang various sub-sites as now: The HD&D rules, the Iourn setting, the FBI game as well as the Hurssia and Karris’Mohr campaign settings. The Special Features can spin off into a second blog that I’ve been working on for a while. In addition a complete archive of the Iourn site as it was can also be included for historical purposes. Graham has been kind enough to offer me more than enough web space for that to be feasible.

The Structure

So how is information presented within that structure? If you have a look at the sitemap of the Iourn site, you’ll see that the site is laid out in an extremely basic fashion. There’s no search feature, so you need to either use the sitemap or drill down through the site to find what you’re looking for. That can be quite cumbersome, particularly if you’re trying to find something in the Religion section. The sitemap itself is an increasingly long and unwieldly page, that will only grow longer and more unwieldly in time.

And then there’s the A to Z: an encyclopaedia of all things Iourn. A nice idea, but one that hasn’t really been updated since session 35 of the Notoriety of Kings campaign – that’s October 2001 for those not in the know. My intention was always to have the definitive world information on (e.g. Religions, Countries) in their own sections, and then to have the A-to-Z acting as an encyclopaedic index of the rest of the site. A short-hand destination. Recently, I have come to think: what’s the point in that?

Having an A-to-Z in addition to the rest of the material in the site is simply duplicating information. Why not simply have everything in the A-to-Z? If you can imagine every entity, location and object in the setting listed as a separate entry on the site, and then simply indexing those entries. An over-arcing ‘Contents’ page can still group thematically similar pages, or you couldjust use the encyclopaedic index to jump to information about any one specific  thing. The addition of a Google Site Search box would make it even easier to find information.

Again, I can create all of the above with static HTML pages. I can dress them up with style sheets, templates and widgets, but at the core the pages would simple HTML. There wouldn’t be anything clever going on under the surface. But then… the thought occurs to me that if I’m structuring the site in the way I have just described, am I not creating something that is perfectly suited to being a database?

Iourn the Database

The advantages of turning the various subsites of Iourn.com into databases should speak for themselves. There would be a greater ability to classify and sub-classify the entries, allowing for far more sophisticated seaches. For example, Nicos Allumière could be classified as a Player Character, a cleric, a human, a worshipper of Calafax, the Firewalker, one of the Chosen of Narramac and so on. Any search on the database could then be limited by any of those criteria creating a list of all player characters, or all humans or all firewalkers. It would be a whole new way of searching for information, and might reveal new connections and relationships that were previously not apparent.

A database would not preclude a contents structure similar to the one the site has now, that would allow users to drill down and find an entry (rather than rely on the search feature). Neither would it preclude browsing through entries alphabetically. Plenty of database allow for a search feature, as well as the alphabetic browsing of entries through an index. So is this a win-win idea for the Iourn sites?

The main problem with this idea is that I don’t know how to make a database. I’m not a complete Luddite, and I’m sure I could learn, but doing so would take time. Therefore if we did go down the database route we would have to wait for me to master the necessary skills, or to impose upon the good will and the time of someone who already has the skills. With the best of good intentions, the sort of work I’m envisaging would be a tremendous imposition on the time of someone else. I’m happy for the help if someone wanted to volunteer, but I think it’s asking quite a bit.

I’m also not entirely sure how the campaign logs would fit into this database structure. Would they just be absorbed like everything else, or would they in some way stand alone.  Graham and I toyed with the idea of turning the Timeline of Events into a database last year, which I still think is a very good idea. However, I don’t know whether the timeline entries would necessarily sit in the same database as everything else, or occupy one of their own. And this highlights another big problem of using databases: although I interrogate them for the a living, and I know what makes for a good database from the user side, I don’t actually know how they’re made. This means that my expectations of what a database is capable of may be either too small or too great (or both).

Do we need a database?

All that said, and assuming for a moment that turning the Iourn sites into a database was as easy as not turning them into a database, do we really need a database at all? Take a moment to look at the wonderful www.d20srd.org. That’s the complete rules of the d20 Open Gaming Licence rendered in HTML. The world information for Iourn may be complex, but it is in no way more complex than the third edition rules. Site navigation over there is simply dependent on drilling down through the HMTL links, or using the Google Site Search box. I can create a site like that right now.

Of course there are things that the Hypertext d20 SRD can’t do. You can’t sort all the spells by descriptor or school. You can’t find a list of all Large monsters and so on. In fact the limitations of the site are such that has it has a companion site, Pen, Pixel and Paper, that does just that.

Conclusion and Advice

The fact is a database provides a greater degree of utility and control over the information on the site. The question is: do we need it? Is it worth the time and the hassle of turning the site into a database, when we probably won’t need the features of a database most of the time? Or am I simply underestimating the ease with which a database can be integrated with the site. Maybe it’s not as much hassle as I’m thinking?

Over to you.