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Blog - Microlite20 Press

NPC Groups - The Slayer's Guild

When cities set themselves up as points of light in a dark wilderness, there are always beasts clamoring at the gates. The Slayer’s Guild seeks to even the odds.

Tomas Burntshield was a Dwarf exiled from his Hold for being born to the wrong family. After his father committed High Treason against the Thane, all the adults of his family were executed as conspirators, and the children were exiled. Having to make his way in the world as a teenager, Tomas fell in with various bandit gangs and mercenary groups. However, he did not seek bloodshed – he simply sought enough coin to make something of himself, and get back into the good graces of the Thane.

One thing he found himself doing repeatedly as a mercenary was being tasked to hunt down monsters which threatened towns and waycastles. Griffons, owlbear nests, even the occasional wyvern and hydra all fell not to strength of arms and steel, but careful planning, the right tools, and knowledge. Tomas found himself researching bestiaries, consulting with wizards and druids, and generally making himself the number-one source of knowledge on beasts in the land.

However, even the greatest must meet their match – and a Dragon is a match for any man. Tomas ended up permanently scarred, missing a leg and an eye (and refusing clerical healing, due to his strong Dwarven religious mores). This left him unable to continue his hunts, but the monster attacks on towns continued unabated. So Tomas did what he felt he had to do – use some of the wealth he had acquired to hire, train and equip a band of mercenaries specifically for the purpose of hunting beasts.

After a number of successful hunts, their reputation spread as great protectors of the land – to the point where many young adventurers were clamoring to join. Not one to turn away a chance at money, new members had to pay dues until they were eligible to work as Slayers.

Years later, Tomas now owns the Slayer’s Guild – the premiere resource for monster hunting equipment and expertise. If you need information, trained men, or highly-specialized equipment to tackle a beast beyond your ability, the Slayer’s Guild can help.

Sample Services

Joining The Slayer’s Guild

Anyone can apply, should they be able to pay their dues (200gp, normally paid over a year). They must take part in at least 3 hunts over this year, and must land the killing blow in at least one of these hunts to gain full membership. After that, they are required to perform in at least 10 hunts or other mercenary service per year. In exchange, they get tools and equipment at half price, knowledge for free, and the standing that comes with being part of one of the most well-regarded professions in the land.

Content Upgrade: Blood Gorge Caravanserai

The slayers guild is a great little organization to throw into a campaign, but Ian and I have worked up an extra special resource for patrons to go along with it. We've created a 5 page resource for for a Slayers Guild Location as well as a handful of plot hooks to give you some inspiration. Patrons can grab a copy of this and other exclusive resources as a thanks for helping to continue to support the growth of M20!

If you want to grab a copy of this and other exclusive content head over to https://www.patreon.com/posts/content-upgrades-8117679

NPC Groups - The Alchemikal Mendicants

The Alchemikal Mendicants are a relatively new order, having only come into their own as something approaching an organised group in the last 20 years or so.

For generations, those who sought a connection to higher powers, whether divine, natural, or otherworldly, would use similar methods to expand the limits of their consciousness – hallucinogens, fermented fruits, and other drugs which tweak perception and allow their users to interact with dimensions beyond the physical.

Most of these petty dabblers conform to the stereotype of the crazed old hermit huffing fermented reindeer urine to touch the Gods – but the Mendicants decided to buck this trend. As a varied collection of Mage College dropouts, ex-Priests, trainee Alchemists and the odd reindeer-piss-huffer, they are still a relatively rag-tag organisation, with no set headquarters or charter. But more and more cities find themselves hosting these miscreants, combining their various talents and skills to try and expand their horizons.

The average Alchemikal Mendicant Guildhouse is like a cross between an alchemist’s lab, a prayer sanctuary, and an opium den. Day and night, people work towards developing new and more powerful drugs to extend their spiritual prowess, while dedicated Mendicants spend their lives in a constant stupor, a drug-fuelled haze of astral projecting into other realms and contacting strange entities.

Using The Alchemikal Mendicants

The Mendicants are a relatively self-contained group – they will not involve themselves in the business of others, being more focused on their pursuits. However, they can make for powerful allies – between their magical knowledge, alchemical skills and underworld contacts, they are a useful organisation to have on your side.

They can produce almost any alchemical item – indeed, many of their members pay for their pursuits through such craftsmanship. They can also create potions, though those which do not directly relate to mental effects, divination or are otherwise related to their interests will be more difficult to produce. They may also be able to cast unusual, even unique spells or provide unusual services, to those who are in their good books.

Plot Hooks

Microlite20 and Mystery

Why is mystery hard?

Anyone who has ever tried to run or play in a mystery game knows that it's one of the trickier genres to run. Your players are either banging their faces off the table trying to figure out where to go next, doubling down on the wrong direction, or they figure the plot out 15 minutes after sitting down.

There are a couple things that make running mystery particularly hard.

(more…)

2016 in review

2016 in review

2016 has been a great year for Microlite20 in a lot of ways! When it really boils down to it this has been a year of refinement. So let's take a look at what happened this year, and what goals we have for next year!

Rules Cyclopedia

This was a pretty ambitious project to try and create a giant single volume of all the fan-made rules into a single volume. Unlike Randall's compendiums that were just individual documents strung together, the Rules Cyclopedia was a compiled book of just the rules.

Ultimately, this project ended up being clunky and time-consuming to put together. Aside from that, there wasn't really positive feedback from the community on it. In the end, this one got sunset pretty quickly to focus on trying to work on original material.

M20 Revised

One great thing that came from the M20 Rules Cyclopedia was a revision of the M20 rules. You can get the revised rules now, but they still require layout to them more size efficient: once that's done they'll be sent out via the mailing list.

This is a great milestone for newcomers to M20, because it meant that gamers would no longer need to refer to the D20 SRD to understand things like spells. While the current layout isn't the most space-efficient it's my recommendations for a starting point.

Forum

Some folks may or may not have noticed the old M20 forum pop up recently. I've been playing around with some possible options, and it's looking like BBPress is going to be the best.

I primarily let the old forum go because of the time issue involved in maintaining it, but with it, as part WordPress, it adds a lot less on my plate. Ultimately, I'm very excited to have things going again and look forward to interacting with people in the forums again!

2017 looking forward

While 2016 was a year of refinement and elimination, I'm hopeful that 2017 will be a year of play. I'd really like to try and create a bunch of neat stuff this year instead of worrying about busy work.

Microlite20 Stories

I love M20, but there are a lot of clunky throwbacks to the d20 system: like Attribute bonuses. Microlite20 will remain in it's revised form as the core M20 game, but I want to explore more interesting stories.

I'm planning to start coming up with ideas for types of worlds I want to explore, or stories I'd like to tell, and letting the rules that support that build up. This means that while conceptually the rules will start from M20 some builds will stray far and wide, while others will fall closer to the tree.

License

I have not really hidden the fact that I hate the OGL. It's clunky and stupid and I'm not going to use it... because I don't have to. The newly revised M20 rules are going to be under Creative Commons, and so will all the new stuff made.

The beautiful thing about this is that if you want to incorporate both older OGL fan material and newer Creative Commons stuff together... just do it. We'll talk more about how licenses work later, but it's important to note that ultimately going forward things will just generally be easier.

Patreon

We're looking forward to creating more awesome things for the folks helping to financially support the M20. I'd like to hear some of the things folks would like to see, but some of the things I'm thinking are:

A really important thing to note though is that I want to make sure that playing m20 is still freely accessible. I don't want anyone to worry about needing to pay to play, but also leave room for this to be sustainable.

Let's talk about it

I'm really excited about this year, and I'm super excited about next year. I'd love to discuss thoughts going forward with the community.

GM Tips - How To Kill A Character

At some point, most GMs have had to deal with the problem of player character death. In old-school games, this was a somewhat accepted part of the overall structure of play – can you imagine surviving the entire Tomb of Horrors without losing a single character? Characters were mechanically simple, with only personality and minor elements to make them distinct. If your character died, it would take a grand total of 5 minutes to roll up a new one.

Modern games, however, are somewhat more complicated – even for experienced players, making a new character might take a while, sifting through the many mechanical options available to them, detailing all the various statistics and sub-attributes that are part of the game. Combine this with a tonal shift away from dungeon-delving thieves and scoundrels towards mythical heroes (such as the recent proliferation of “adventure paths” designed to take heroes from level 1 all the way to saving the world), it’s no wonder that modern editions have mechanics and assumptions designed to keep death a somewhat more remote possibility.

But, in any game where death is a possibility, characters are going to die. The Dice Gods are fickle, after all. So how do you deal with character death is games where it would be considered A Big Deal?

There’s the traditional method – let the dice fall where they may. If a character dies, tough luck – they had their chance, and their luck ran out. This might seem harsh, but it’s what the rules are there for. It creates a sense of danger, knowing that even a 20th-level Archmage of the Realm can fail his save and die a pauper’s death.

You can go the more “storygame” route – make a social contract that characters might get knocked out, captured, or severely hurt, but will not die until a point where it would be meaningful to the story. This might seem a little wishy-washy to some, but it allows for a greater narrative to emerge from gameplay, without having to rely on random chance to achieve it.

Or you can go the Plot Armour route – characters don’t die. They always manage to scrape themselves out of even the worst situations, no matter what.

One method that mixes these is using Fate Points – a metagame resource that can be used for a whole mess of mechanical goodies, but most importantly to this article, can act as a “Get Out of Jail Free” card. In exchange for permanently losing one, you can dodge death. This gives a good balance, where GMs can kill PCs, but there’s a way out – should they have the resources to spend. Knowing you don’t have a Fate Point to spend can add a layer of tension to any fight, but if you can use them for extra damage,l or a guaranteed success earlier in the adventure, it becomes a delicate balancing act – do you want to pick this super-difficult lock, or maybe not die when you fight the Dragon later?

Of course, the usefulness of this advice may vary depending on a lot of factors – one that tends to make such things less important is magic. Between spells that stave off death, to full bodily resurrection, death can become a mere speed-bump in many fantasy games. But in the earlier levels of the game, it’s important to know how your players expect you to handle their characters.

Regardless of your choice, the most important part is communicating with your players – after all, it’s their character’s lives that are on the line.

NPC Groups - The Blackwood Company

The Blackwood Company started life as a bored young nobleman’s pet project, but became a tale whispered in terror across the land.

Leopold Blackwood was the fifth child of the Blackwood Dynasty. While his elder sisters were forced into marriages of convenience and political alliances, his single older brother Nicolaus went on to become a great strategist and warrior, leading the Barony’s armies to clear the surrounding countryside of humanoid invaders in a single season, a well-oiled machine of destruction. Indeed, the armies of Blackwood are respected across the country for their stoic determination and tactical acumen.

Nicolaus became the Baron’s favorite, each victory showing his talent and reinforcing the Baron’s hold on his land. Now, the Baron is beginning to eye the lands at the borders of his own, and promoted Nicolaus to General to begin mustering and training a full invading army.

Leopold grew jealous of his brother’s achievements, and began acting out, souring trade deals and political alliances to undercut his Nicolaus. To direct some of his son’s impotent rage, the Baron offered Leopold a chest full of gold and the washouts from Nicolaus’ intense training – if he wanted to play at being a leader, he could start a mercenary company. Should they prove successful, he would be granted his own command under Nicolaus, and possibly be promoted to General alongside him.

Leopold spent his money in what he thought was the wisest way – hiring mercenaries who would take offensively small sums of money for a bed, board and the chance to stab people. During their early recruitments, they developed a reputation for brutality. Mutilation, killing women and children, burning captured foes alive – no denigration seems below them. These acts originally disgusted Leopold, though he developed a taste for such horrors after seeing the power they held over those they dominated.

While the Baron officially claims no part in their actions, he uses the fear caused by their sheer lack of decorum to gently guide his political agendas and trade deals, subtly inferring their use as enforcers in times of uprising, or as an “envoy” to help keep the peace.

As he built up the newly-minted Blackwood Company, Leopold trained alongside them. While his wiry frame and lack of any physical attributes meant he never reached anything close to their ability, he is deceptively dangerous with a short blade.

Currently, the armies of the Barony are still in the process of gearing up for their border wars – while Nicolaus’ men train and plan, the Blackwood Company are still free to loot and pillage their way throughout these surrounding lands to weaken the opposition.

Using The Blackwood Company

The Blackwood Company can make for a flavorful replacement for Bandits in the areas around the Barony, a constant low-level political threat, or the driving force of your plot. Most of them should be a fairly low-level challenge – their real threat comes from their total lack of scruples and the collateral damage they leave in their wake.

Plot Hooks

 

Sample Stat Blocks

Foot Soldier: HD 1d8+1 (5 hp), AC 12, Short spear +1 (1d6+1) or sling +1 (1d4)

Lieutenant: HD 2d8+1 (10 hp), AC 13, Pike +3 (1d8+2) or crossbow +2 (1d8)

Captain: HD 4d8+1 (20 hp), AC 16, Longsword +6 (1d8+3), Command

Lord-Captain Leopold Blackwood: HD 2d8+1 (10 hp), AC 15, +1 Flaming Shortsword +3 (2d6+2) or crossbow +2 (1d8)

Microlite20 Revised Draft

For a long time, Microlite20 (M20) hasn't been the most friendly game to newcomers. General vagueness of text (especially in the magic section) meant that gamers had to often refer to the standard d20 SRD.

To resolve that the M20 Rules Cyclopedia was made. This was tricky though because it wasn't really a replacement rulebook, but instead of the collection of optional rules.

While this is nice a helpful twitter user pointed out that it was frustrating that they either had to send someone to the less detailed original M20 documents, or to the gangly Rules Cyclopedia.

face-palm

That was such a HUGE oversight and I want to make sure to fix that now! Below is a download link to the current version of the Microlite20 core rules.

Functionally the rules are the same they have merely been much more clearly presented to make sure you don't have to reference any other document to play.

RULES LINK

The document is artificially large now because it needs a way more efficient layout. So please review this with the content in mind. because once we've gotten this through community feedback on the forum

Once we've gotten this through community feedback on the forum, it will get a nice proper layout with real art and everything!

Microlite20 Revised

Microlite20 Monster

So grab a copy of the rules and join us in the forums to discuss it!

Healing that even @TheAngryGM would like?

There are a lot of changes happening in with the Cleric class around domains. While the details are currently being hashed out with Patreon Patrons in the slack channel, the short story is that not every cleric will be able to heal people.

This creates and interesting dilema around healing that we've been discussing. Ultimatley some sort of healing mechanism should be added in, it was just a matter of what.

A lot of inspiration for this came from the excellent post that the Angry GM put up called Hitting the Reset Button that discusses how various editions of the game have handled healing. What we ultmatley came up with in the slack group is what we are hoping is a really interesting (and well paced) healing mechanic.

To accomplish this we delve into the healing systems for 2nd edition, 4th edition, and 5th edition of the d20 system

CROSS THE STREAMS!

The idea of this healing system is to allow natural healing (because it's semi realistic), but also allow characters to get a boost of HP in moments of need. This all has to be balanced so that it doesn't feel like every night is like hitting the reset button, but also so that characters are not constantly taking weeks of recovery time.

The system worked up in the slack group is roughly as follows.

Maximum HD ='s level

Natural Recovery

We'd love to here your thoughts on this healing system.

Additionally, either joining the free mailing list or becoming a supporting patron is an awesome way to be part of these discussions at ground level. This week we'll be continuing to hash things out regarding changes to clerics.

Microlite20 Rules Cyclopedia: Mind Games

Microlite20 Rules Cyclopedia: Mind Games

 

Decision fatigue, and taking the dice from the GM

For some who know me on a more personal level, they are familiar with my habit of trying to reduce decisions to improve my life. I do things like where the same outfit every day, and buzz my own hair once a week.

I do this because having a full time job, older house, son, and all the M20 work adds up to a lot of choices. Every decision we make contributes towards a cumulative decision fatigue, that genuinely impairs our decision making abilities.

I bring this up because we expect our GM's to make a lot of decisions. They function alone in Decision avoidancemaking all these choices, while the players have the ability to off load some of the choices on their end between each other.

Consequences

But what real effect could this have on play?

Every time the GM has to perform calculations on their end they are making decisions that interrupt their train of thought, and continue to compound their decision fatigue. The result is that GM's often start overlooking rules, or even simplifying story elements.

We've all probably seen the GM who is  totally on point in lower level games, but as the complexity of higher levels starts piling on they start to gloss over elements and miss things. This is a result of a persons unconscious decision avoidance taking over to try and relieve the burden of choice. Luckily we can help these poor GM's keep their strides and remain nimble in their narratives.

Solutions

There is a great alternate rule posted over at d20srd.com that suggests taking the dice from the GM. The short of the rules are as follows:

Combat

Attribute Values

Attacking/Damage

Saving Throws

Comments

I'd love to hear your thoughts on your experience with GM dice rolling over on the m20 reddit!

Also don’t forget to join our Epic List so that you can keep update when new Microlite20 Rules Cyclopedia updates are released. Additionally, I'm still working on my own more story game style games that make use of more narrative rules: like no GM rolls.