Ships & Wagons

I've always felt ship-based adventures didn't get enough love. 

Anyone that read my old blog will have seen a bunch of dull posts about ships back in 2019. I've put them all together into a little supplement that should be useful for any role playing game. I've included ships from the Greek era up until Galleons as well as ships from the Near and Far East and some info on carts, and wagons and such because land based trade is important as well.

I was going to put this up for sale on DriveThruRPG but then this blog was mentioned by two different blogs this past week so I thought I'd celebrate by giving out my mini-rules packet for free. As far as I'm concerned its all public domain. Hope you enjoy. 

Ships & Wagons 

If there are any errors let me know and I'll update the PDF. If you have info on a ship that I missed, write it up and I might add that as well. I'll try to update the version number on this page so changes are obvious.

Change History

  1. Initial Upload

Best of the Web - Old Style and 3D Printing vs Games Workshop

Donato Giancola of Dweller of the Forbidden City has two brilliant articles. The first Running D&D the Role of the Ref lays out how Donato runs games. It's the old style approach stripping out the Game Masters need to handle story and narrative and just presenting the world. This says a lot about how games have changed over the years because anyone that started playing in the old days will recognize the play style immediately. 

The second post is Randomization - It's Not What You Think. Well it is what I think, and it is what most Grognards would think, but a few of the things were abandoned long ago by most in the hopes of streamlining things or making players happy and Donato lays out the points with very convincing rationals why they should be reconsidered. I've never liked individual initiative but the case is made and I can't really deny it is a good one worth exploring. Also Spell Distribution, my games have never had a lot of spell casters so this hasn't been a thing but I like the way its laid out and I'll be giving it some thought. 

Ran across an old article called Games Workshop Takes Legal Action over 3D printing on Greyhawk Grognard.  It made me wonder how the case turned out. It also got me thinking how Games Workshop should be embracing the technology. Imagine if they didn't have to make led figures and ship them around the world, but instead could send out the plans and have them printed up in the many Games Workshop stores. Certain figures are super-popular, print up more of those. It really would solve a lot of supply/logistics problems. Assuming the 3D mini's are of equal quality to the ones they normally make.

Thoughts on To Hit and Damage rolls

To Hit rolls are binary, you hit or you do not. Yes you might have critical hits and fumbles but there is a lot of wiggle-room there that nearly every game just discards. Rolling a 19 and adding all bonuses resulting in hitting easily is no different than getting the exact number required to hit. So I was wondering how practical it would be to take that number (the amount above required to hit) and add that to the weapon damage.

This might be lethal at low level, but then DCs and ACs should make it harder to hit and thus there will be less overflow to add to damage.

I also think it would work particularly well in any game that uses Armor Points that absorb damage instead of AC.

Okay, its a bit of extra math but hardly difficult math. Also if you went with straight weapon damage instead of a roll you could reduce things to a single roll. 

Mag Irkul - An abandoned Mine possessed by Wood Elves

I wanted to build a settlement in the bowl of an open-pit mine. I also wanted an Elf settlement. I'm still trying to decide what an Elf settlement looks like so I decided to mix the two ideas at this point and have a Dwarf settlement currently used by Elves. 

Mag Irkul was an open pit mine that became a trading station and eventually transferred ownership.

Mag Irkul

Mag Irkul was a Hill Dwarf open pit gold mine. When the mine hit the water table the Dwarves decided the mine wasn't producing enough gold to continue.

The mine is located at the edge of Wood Elf territory and the mine have always acting as a trade station between the Dwarves and Wood Elves. When the mine closed the settlement morphed into a trade settlement and a number of permenant structures were built along the inside walls of the pit.

The buildings are built of limestone fitted with Dwarven precision. The roofs are made of dark tile to allow for maximum solar heating and pitched to prevent snow buildup. Like most Dwarven settlements each building has a basement, known as an undercroft and most of these are interconnected.

Mag Irkul is famous for its pool, it forms the center of the small community. The pool is usually frozen throughout the winter

When the Osst Ar Vault fell the Dwarves determined Mag Irkul was impossible to defend and most abandoned the settlement.

The Wood Elves, who had a large permanent population in the settlement already, took ownership of the site.

Wood Elves are semi-nomadic, travelling from settlement to settlement depending upon the seasons. Mag Irkul is home to thirty or so elderly Wood Elves and some very young most of the year but during the summer months the population grows to nearly a thousand. The Halfings, Dwarf Trader, Gray Elf Wizad, and a dozen Wood Elf Rangers stay year round to serve and protect the community.


A1. House Hulgus. This was the administrative center of the community until the Dwarves evacuated. Now it serves as a dorm for Wood Elf elderly.

A2. Arakrana Tower. The tower of Caibella Arakranka a Grey Elf Wizard whose presence has kept the settlement hidden from the Chaos Hordes. On a number of occasions she has called Wood Elf rangers onto Chaos Horde forces that got to close. It is said that the internal space of the tower is significantly larger than it should be.

A3. Gertharm House. Dwarven trader Thuldor Gertharm owns this building. In the past he traded Elven crafts in exchange for Dwarven Gold but now he primarily purchases the best military arms and armor available and provides it at cost to the Wood Elves of the settlement.

A4. Halfling Hole Inn. The tower has rooms for Dwarves and Humans which are usually empty. The lower portion has facilities for Elves. Since Elves don't sleep these 'rooms' are excessively small. The halfings that own and staff the inn live in burrows dug into the hill accessed from the Undercroft of the Inn. The Halfing hole makes most of its money cooking rations for the Wood Elves.

A5. Bathhouse. Elven Magic keeps the water as Hot as desired making this a must stop point for Wood Elves in the region.

A6. Stables. The Wood Elves love their horses and the stables are very well appointed including a fireplace for warmth.

A7. The Pool. The pool is tiled and filled naturally by the water table. It is often frozen over and acts as an ice rink for various winter games.

Best of the Web - Judge Dredd Random Crimes

Tony Bro001 at Roleplay-Geek has a fun table for determining random crimes in Judge Dredd including the penalties called Judge Dredd Random Crime Drop Table.  I don't play Judge Dredd but I love this and I'll be making something similar for medieval type crimes for my Thule Marches campaign since the characters will start off working for the March Lord and will have some kind of law enforcement function (if they choose to enforce or not is on them). 

As I said, I love what he's done but what I don't get though is why a drop table? Why not a regular table with higher crimes as higher number results so modifiers can be added to increase the likely hood of serious crimes or not (-3 to roll during day, +3 to roll at night or in alleys for example). I can see the value of a dice drop table when generating a random dungeon or village, you know, to pick out the location of the buildings, but beyond that I've never understood this type of table. If someone has a semi-convincing reason why these type of tables are valuable let me know. 

Thoughts on Adventure Design (Part 2)

In yesterdays post I talked about dividing modules to separate the Map and Overview from the Encounters so that multiple Encounters sheets can be drafted for the same Map and Overview. This time I'm thinking about those Encounters and more specifically the use of Monster Manuals. I love Monster Books but they aren't useful in quickly populating a dungeon. This is an idea for a supplement to that. A pdf that would be super-useful in populated an adventure. 

5E srd has some prepared stat blocks that enable a GM to simply state GOBLIN in their adventure. This is a decent start but I don't like it for three reasons. 

  1. The Stat block should be in the adventure, you shouldn't depend upon cross-referencing to another book. That is great design to create slimmer books but horrible design for usability at the table. I know some folks like hardcover books but they are limiting as the kind of thing I'm talking about works far better in PDF where you can copy/paste to quickly populate a module.
  2. The Stat blocks have too much info. Does the GM really need to know the Knights skills? Or their passive perception? or even all of their weapons when they are most likely to use their most damaging go-to weapon?
  3. One GOBLIN is insufficient. Back in 4E's monster manual they listed different varieties of each beast to create variety to the encounter. This is the best thing in 4E and they didn't carry it forward. Imagine if that GOBLIN was actually a page or two of WEAK GOBLING, VETERAN GOBLIN, SKIRMISHER GOBLIN, WARRIOR GOBLIN. So the GM could just copy/paste out one or all to create a group of goblins, or to put a different Goblin in different rooms to customize encounters.
So this supplemental book would be a pdf, full of statblocks, with multiple statblocks per beast. include a table of weapons used by the group, and tactics and you have a very useful entry. Yes this book will be a lot longer, and it'll be a dull read, but it should be super-useful and super-fast when it comes to populating an adventure. 

Yes there are probably online generators that do all of this (they have them for RuneQuest which had far more complicated stat blocks, but I've never seen them for D&D). If there are generators it should be easy to cook up what I'm looking for.

Thoughts on Adventure Design (Part 1)

Most old school adventures had an idea, a map, and 30ish pages of fluff that a GM had to sort through (and often cross-out) before they could use the thing.

All Dead Generations has  post called One Page Dungeon Design that is all about good One Page Dungeon Design. The One Page Dungeon is an interesting concept because in most cases they don't provide enough detail to run right away either, but they basically skip the part where the GM has to hack out the fluff and provide the kernel of good stuff directly so the GM can add in their own details right away (much of which can be improvised) allowing for a bit more usability.

All this got me thinking. Does anyone run modules as written (outside a convention setting that is)? If the answer is no, not really then we should all be doing some thinking on how to fix this. B1 In Search of the Unknown created a starting adventure designed where a GM would populate the dungeon, thus learning how that sort of thing is done. This was a good idea but I don't think it was ever duplicated so maybe it wasn't so good, but I tend to think it was and my mind ran with it, a bit.

Imagine a one-page dungeon with just enough info. Nothing about the encounters, just a bit of history, some notes on the location and traps or dressing or unique challenges. Then imagine 2-3 pages listing the encounter table and contents of each room (with stats). Then imagine another 2-3 pages listing an alternate encounter table and contents of each room (with stats). Then maybe a third for a higher level. The same location could be filled with Orc & Ogres in Option 1, Bandits & Bugbear in Option 2, and Drow & Dueger in Option 3. The GM then picks the option they prefer for their campaign. They might end up using all three options as a campaign goes on over the year. Do it right and you might find half the RPG blogs adding their own option to give a location life again, and again.

Anyway I think that might be a useful way to package adventures.

Note, clearly I'm mostly talking about location type adventures here, anything more than that could be cobbled together out of multiple locations with Encounter Option designed to go together in some way. 

Ships & Wagons

I've always felt ship-based adventures didn't get enough love.  Anyone that read my old blog will have seen a bunch of dull posts ab...