Joachim Baas, Pirate Hunter

A-Z 2014 JAbout ten years ago I played in a campaign based on the Warhammer setting. We were operating out of Mordenheim, nominally working for a “Mr. Graf”, a businessman with broad contacts within the community and an almost-explicable amount of wealth because of it.

My first character, Jerris the Toolsmith… well, evasion doesn’t work when you fail your Reflex save, and that much fire is bad for a third-level character’s complexion. His cousin swept up the ashes and took him home, and my next character was Joachim Baas, assigned to provide transportation and ship-based support in dealing with some business- and merchant-related difficulties at sea.

Joachim Baas

Wave of Manaan, Sea Ranger, Scourge of Pirates, Captain of the Kestrel.


Theme: Priest of Manaan, lord of the sea and sailor’s doom [in the ‘this is fated’ sense, not necessarily ‘you gonna die’]. Has a reputation for being dangerous and generous to his crew — sail with him and survive, you will likely be rich, sail with him and die, your family will be cared for…. (Also, Secret Imperial Agent.)

Threats: Hunts pirates and slavers, fights Chaos (self-preservation, and because Chaos-allies often are involved with piracy and slavery), secret agent of the Empire in working to bring Mordenheim under the Imperial Hand.

Rewards: Knowledge of and access to the Temple of Manaan, can often be persuaded to take on sea-based missions if they align with his purpose [your family was killed by pirates or taken by slavers? Entirely possibly he’ll hunt them down for you].
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Weapon Speed in D&D

Weapon speeds in D&D – expressed as modifiers to initiative rolls – have always bothered me.  I was delighted to see them removed in D&D 3.x after having stuck around through AD&D.

Real Life

In my experience and observation, both of which I will admit are limited but are verified by people with much more experience, there is little difference in speed of attack when using melee weapons at appropriate reach and range.  Yes, it is possible to accelerate a dagger faster than you can accelerate a sword one-handed.  This is a big part of why you can throw daggers but not throw swords.  However, anyone who has seen sword fighting comes to realize pretty quickly that swords are pretty damn quick too, and more to the point can be brought to bear in an attack at least as fast.

Greatswords?  They’re used two-handed, and the increased leverage goes a long way to making them ‘fast’ as well.  Factor in that they are most often used in a fashion similar to a spear or a staff (including clubbing the opponent with the handle) close to the body rather than swung like a baseball bat and the attack speeds, for those proficient with them, are pretty comparable.

I am reluctant to grant inherent speed modifiers to initiative based on melee weapon size.

In this post I do not discuss ranged weapons.  In particular I don’t discuss the advantage knives have over guns at short range because that advantage comes from different circumstances than I discuss here.

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RPG Blog Planet Coming Soon

This isn’t the announcement I was hoping to post today, I’ve got some more work to do before I’m ready to open the doors on the RPG blog planet.

Things are coming along, but I am now looking for more data.  Right now I’m pulling from a couple of my own blogs, plus a couple more who said they’d sign up when this goes live (thanks Brendan and Erik!), but I could really use a broader sample.  Twenty feeds would be good, fifty better, a hundred would be crazy great.  I need to see how the various templates and widgets and doodads and thingamies work when I’ve got a broader set of blogs.  Not all feeds are the same, so making sure everything works properly needs a fair bit of varied input.

Yes, I could just grab some feeds and remove them later, but I don’t really like doing that.  For something like this I’d like to see opt in, and it saves me time later.

If you’d like to help out, please leave the name of your blog and/or the RSS feed in a comment below, or send it via the contact form.

As described, the new RPG blog planet will pull the feed and store the articles in their entirety for search and indexing reasons, but will display only excerpts to readers.

What is the Bare Minimum?

A question for RPG designers (pro and amateur, whatever):

What is the bare minimum core rule set required to get a game off the ground?


  • Characters are already created (half a dozen pregen).
  • Character-specific rules are attached to the character sheet and don’t need to be repeated, spells and feats and skills and stuff count for this, as does character advancement.
  • Truly introductory stuff (what is an RPG?) is irrelevant, at this point this isn’t going to be picked up by someone who doesn’t already play.

Additional Context:

  • Probably focus on D&D-trope play.  Maybe have the seven iconic classes (fighter, cleric, wizard, thief, elf, dwarf, halfling) as sample characters.  Oh, and ‘bear’ because I’d goofed on the original version of this post (“the bear minimum core rule set”) and got caught… and decided why not go for it?
  • There would be a simple adventure or something (because this does not provide the rules or guidelines for constructing one) with the information needed to run them.  “This room has a fire trap, so roll a Reflex save to avoid when someone triggers it by stepping on the red square.  A character with the Trapfinder ability can roll a Spot check to notice it before anyone steps on it” sort of thing.  Probably five rooms or so, to exercise more than move, kill, loot.

I see:

  • common game elements (ability scores — what each one does; does not need ability score modifier tables because those are on the character sheets already).
  • task resolution (including basic combat and skill/ability checks).
  • game processes (like ‘how a fight works’).
  • … I’m out.

This is not for a rule set to be built upon, nothing about character design or construction, nothing about writing adventures, no monster or spell selection or design considerations.  These things should be known in order to build this package, but I’m looking for the bare bones get-to-the-table content.

Random Encounter Tables: Second Thoughts (Heavy Lifting, part 2)

… I suppose I could have found a way to get a dash in there or something.  What’s one more separator in a title?

I realized today after Random Encounter Tables: Second Thoughts (Heavy Lifting) went up that the raw percentages might not be so useful overall, but didn’t have time at that point to do anything about it.

I’ve redone the tables for this post, showing the likelihood for each slot that the encounter is enhanced, standard, reduced, or evidence only.

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