Want to learn more about the world of Michael T. Desing's Army Ants? Start with this Primer!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Charters in the Vault of the Goblin

So, if it was so easy, why hasn’t everyone done it?

Charters come in two sizes: exclusive and open...

Exclusive Charter. Exclusive charters have only been granted to the north halls and the west halls. The two rival guilds (the Hall of Warriors and the Swordsman’s Table) have been able to pay the 100 gold annual commission to explore. In addition to this charter, they are required to report and pay a tithe (10%) on all treasure found. Initial exploration indicated that the north and west halls were the most valuable, and these have been claimed by the two powerful guilds. Both guilds expect absolute adherence by others to their own charter, yet often accidentally wander into other territories or spy on their rivals.  

Open Charter. The southern halls and the eastern halls are both considered ‘open charter’, meaning that anyone who pays the general charter fee (1 silver per week per member of the company) may explore the southern and eastern halls. Law says that any group holding a charter gets ‘squatter’s rights’ to a specific area (defined as ‘all within sight’) and any one direction (if multiple directions of possible exploration - the squatter’s choice on which) for the next 24 hours.

A few takeaways:

Competition is fierce. While there is some open fighting, there is more in the way of making the job of others difficult. The Swordsman’s Table, in particular, has been accused of using magic to summon creatures into the other halls and setting traps that have thinned the ranks of their rivals. This gives a way for the Vaults to continually be re-populated. I could fight that rival guild, or I could bring in a bunch of Rot Creeper eggs and let ‘em hatch in my opponents’ territories…

Some of the smaller guilds are fronts. One is a front for a cult of dragon worshippers, and another is a front for a thief’s guild that works alongside a tribe of wererats that dwell towards the south. They can produce a charter when confronted and expect others to step aside. Then, they can go about their business being all sketchy far underground.   

The law will help to settle disputes, but you have to get to the surface – and somehow get the lawbreaker there as well – in order to have justice on your side. Most of the time, what happens in the Vaults stays in the Vaults. Yeah, your reputation will follow you, and dirty deeds happen to dirty dogs (I just made that up), but don’t expect militia or guard members to come down and help you out. You wanted a charter, you got it… and everything that comes with it. This means that every time the fellowship returns to the surface with treasure, someone has reason to accuse them of breaking a charter and infringing on someone else’s space. “There is NO WAY you found the Shield of Arvak  in the south tunnels – our Loremaster has proof that was last seen in the northern chambers, meaning that you infringed on our charter!”

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Design Time: The Vault of the Goblin and Big Picture Stuff

For the time being, we’re going to focus on the Vault of the Goblin for several reasons…

1. It’s further along towards something akin to a working draft
2. It fits the history of the game better to build a dungeon and settlement first, and expand the world out from there.
3. It’s labeled as book 2… Shouldn't I do book 2 first?

So, on to a few tricky things in considering this…

The human settlement has something of a symbiotic relationship with the dungeon proper. It’s not just this forgotten thing sitting underneath… it’s something they are aware of and for some reason or another haven’t attacked and cleared yet. There’s got to be some reason that the local leaders don’t clear out the dungeon as the first order of business (and keep adventurers from having all of the fun)…

1. Manpower. They don’t have the peeps to do the work. The first ten militia members went down and never came back… we don’t have that many militia sitting around that we can keep throwing them into a bottomless pit!
2. Bigger fish to fry. Yeah, those pesky goblins coming back into the dungeons are a problem, but not as big of a problem as the orkish armies massing to the east and the monsters that keep wandering into our farmlands and wiping out our food supply.
3. Politics. It’s just not popular right now. There’s sentiment against it. The cousin of the prince doesn’t think it’s important right now, and has diverted tax money other places.
4. Superstition. There is great fear – if you don’t look at it, it’s not really there.

To my mind, the best answer is a hybrid of all of these things… let’s start with something akin to the Ancient Greeks… they won a war they weren’t supposed to win, and democracy took hold in the heart of a barbaric wild. So far, so good. However, threats kept creeping in, and eventually a strong hand (LAW baby) was deemed the best chance for long-term survival. This law is a larger force, not a natural outgrowth of the people who live here, but a larger outside group/collective that has come in ‘to help’. The people of the keep – generally hard-working and fair – have had to give up some freedom for security.

Holy cow but this is becoming a metaphor for the US today.

Anyhow, this outside force has done a cost/benefit analysis (because large lawful organizations are good at that sort of thing) and have decided that the huge tunnel complex underground that spits out a few humanoids once in a while rates as a low to moderate risk on the current scale, and has devised a plan. They have created a system of charters and deeds (paperwork – large lawful organizations are also good at this) to designate certain sections of the dungeon as territories of exploration. It might be that one independent adventurer’s guild has a charter to explore ‘all points north and east of the blue fountain on the first level’, while their rivals have a charter to explore ‘all that waits beyond the southern door of silvered oak’. These sorts of charters are clear for the first level or two, but as you delve deeper, and passages turn back towards each other, it gets harder to tell to whom which pieces have been allotted. I’d think this makes for some intense rivalries among various factions that all have a legal charter to be there – much less between the various cults, monsters and na’er-do-wells that call this place home.

Meanwhile, on the surface, there are two competing ‘armies’. One is an overwhelmed and under-resourced militia of locals who see protection of the keep proper – and the safety of its citizens – as job one. On the other side, the well-provisioned and deep-pocketed order of lawful fighterly types (the ‘guard’) sees the keep itself as a relatively small cog in a larger machine. In fact, their leader only took the job here as a stepping stone to a larger position elsewhere, and after ‘slumming’ it here for a few years plans to make his power play elsewhere. The militia, on the whole, knows of the dungeon but greatly fears it (since they were raised on stories of goblins coming in the night and ripping out your heart) while the members of the guard don’t see much to be gained by waging a war in a dark hole against degenerate humanoids who will spill blood for a few copper coins.

Sounds to me like the perfect place to drop a few adventurers and see what they do. 

Happy New Year... and Back in the Game(s)

I know I haven't posted in a bit, but it's been a crazy few months. Here's the short version...

I finally had surgery in late November (after two delays - one for bronchitis and another for weather), and by all accounts it was very successful. I was in the ICU for four days, but all of my doctors believe that they got the cancerous tumor that was growing in my sinus cavity. The surgery was even more extensive than I thought it would be - it left me with 55 stitches going across the top of my head, since they basically had to open me up and dig the tumor out. I have had a few weeks to recover my strength, and now I'm on to radiology. I started my 6-week daily radiation treatments yesterday, and so far I'm responding pretty well. All signs are positive.

Last week, I finally started going through some gaming stuff again and looking at my pile of notes, drafts and assorted sundries. It's going to take me a while to get it all organized and to compose everything that I want to for the next two books that I've promised KS backers, but I'm back on the job, and plan to spend a few hours on it every day for the next while. I plan to get back to a few updates a week, which shouldn't be too hard to do.

Thanks for your kind words and prayers throughout, and especially thank you to the KS backers for your incredible patience. I had set this month as the target for release of all materials, and the cancer and related surgeries/treatments 'put a huge monkey in that wrench' (as my friend Dave used to say)...


Friday, October 31, 2014

Errata Already?!

Okay... one little thing I left out of Saga of the Splintered Realm (and I hope that's all!). I was running a solo play test of some monsters and ideas for Vault of the Goblin, and a fighter dropped to negative hp. So, I decided to look up the rules (even though I knew them) and realized I couldn't... because they weren't there! I've added this to page 50 of the book and updated the file (a grey text box in the middle of the page) but thought I'd post it here just in case...

Damage, Death and Healing. At 0 hp you are unconscious; at the negative value of your CON, you die. You recover 1d4 + CON modifier hit points per hour of rest. Most monsters are assumed to be dead at 0 hp.

Also, the game peaked at #16 this afternoon of RPGNow hot sellers... it's down to 18 right now, but I stay hopeful that it will get into the top ten this weekend at some point...

Thursday, October 30, 2014

A BIG Update

Here's a bit to chew on...

1. The core rules for Saga of the Splintered Realm are now available (thanks to the Kickstarter backers!) as a pay what you want download. The rules are going to see some minor tweaks to aesthetics of the layout and tables over the next few months before the print edition is released, but this core book is good to go. Get your copy now! I'd love to hear what you think, since many of the final decisions were made behind the scenes, and were not part of discussions I threw out there...

2. I've gone back and forth quite about about my responsibilities/commitments, and based on my health situation (see #3 if you want to know), I'm going to suspend my Army Ants Patreon Campaign effective tomorrow (so that no one is billed for November). I've struggled this month to keep up with updates with everything going on, and I've decided that the game is the bigger priority, so I've put all of my energies there. I still owe the Patreon supporters some Army Ants stuff, and (although they may have to wait a bit for it), I think they'll be happy with what they eventually get. I plan to eventually re-group and re-launch that campaign in the future, but for the next few months I just cannot guarantee regular updates.

3. On the medical front - I have a stage 3/4 cancerous tumor in my right sinus (the official term is esthesioneuroblastoma if you're interested in googling it like I did and freaking out)... I have surgery on November 10th, and will have several months of radiation and recovery after. I am getting as much work done before the 10th as I can, because I expect to be pretty much useless for a while after. I know that many people have been sending kind words, thoughts and prayers my way, and I truly appreciate all of it.


Monday, October 13, 2014

Two, Two, Two Webcomics In One!

I got behind due to my surgery, but managed to cobble two pages together this weekend to get back on track... here they are (for 10/6 and 10/13 respectively):

Saturday, October 4, 2014

An Update

As you have likely noticed, I've been a bit quiet on the blogging front. I generally don't talk too much about my outside life, but in this case it's directly impacting my work and ability to keep to deadlines, so it's time to let you all in...

I went in for surgery this week to have polyps removed from my sinuses that had been giving me a great deal of trouble. My surgeon discovered that this wasn't polyps, but was instead a cancerous tumor attached to the smell receptors in my brain. I'll need follow up surgery with a neurosurgeon to remove the tumor, and may need radiation and chemo at the back end to continue to fight this. At this point there are a number of unknowns.

That said, I am in a good place with my creative projects (the core rules for Saga of the Splintered Realm have been lingering at 90%+ done for a few weeks as I dabble with it here and there) and I plan to continue working at that as I spend time at home. However, I want to say that I may drop in and out of visibility quite a bit, and I can not guarantee a January release for the game or weekly updates for the comic - my life is just too unknown at this point. I know that it will help me to have positive things (like my game and comic) to focus on, but I also know that by letting you all in, I'm relieving myself of possible stress that could hurt my recovery.

I am grateful that I have a strong group of friends, great family, and strong faith that are going to get me through this. But it's going to be a fight.

Thanks for your support and understanding.