Friday, September 27, 2019

The Other 0th Level

One place where I diverge from the Hackmaster Development Team is that I like rules to build my 0th level NPCs. While there’s certainly value in “Make your NPC however you want, giving them whatever scores they need”, I prefer having a bit more structure to help guide me on what’s likely and reasonable for a given character; penetrating rolls may make for unusually talented characters, but the structure gives me comfort.

To that end, I have created these rules for mechanically describing 0th level characters of all sorts. A GM is, of course, free to use these rules in some places, yet ignore them in others… if you need there to be an expert carpenter among the bandits, then there is… but their purpose is to provide a framework for what an NPC of a given age might be capable of.

Character Generation or Growing Up Normal
Step 1: Receive BPs. NPCs, like PCs, begin with 40 BP.

Step 2: Generate Ability scores. While rolling 3d6 in order is still suggested, a 0 level NPC receives NO bonus BPs for keeping their stats in the rolled order.

Step 3: Choose a race and alignment. The race may modify ability scores; those modifications should be made now. If the racial ability modifiers would reduce a score below 1, the score remains at 1/01.

Step 4: Finalize Ability Scores. If you choose, you may spend BPs to increase attributes, as with PCs.

Step 5: Calculate Starting Honor. 0 level NPCs begin with a penalty of 4 to Honor. Unlike PCs, a negative or 0 Honor does not preclude the character, but any negative numbers in honor are raised to 0.

Step 6: Determine Priors and Particulars. Unchanged from PC generation step 7.

Step 7: Determine Quirks and Flaws. While not necessary, giving an NPC a quirk or flaw can help make them memorable, both for you and the PCs. As a bonus, NPCs get full BPs from cherry-picked quirks and flaws; if you need an NPC to be blind, they are blind, and it is blind fate (i.e. the GM) that determined it, not a player looking to cage some extra build points.

Step 8: Determine Skills, Talents, and Proficiencies. 0 level NPCs who pursue weapon specialization do so at 8 BPs per category per level.

Step 9: Roll Hit Points. The default Hit Die for 0 level NPCs is 1d6, in addition to Constitution and a bonus for size.

Step 10: Record Combat statistics.

Step 11: Finalize the character; give them money, equipment, and other accoutrements as befits their character.

This represents a character of about starting age; just entering adulthood, as defined on page 135 of the GMG.

After Growing Up
Subsequent to character generation, people advance and grow, improving their skills with experience, and learning new ones as they go along. To represent this, Human 0 level NPCs gain 3 BP per year after maturity; a human is counted as mature at 18, and so a 21 year old NPC Human would have an additional 12 BPs to spend on skills. For other races, this should be prorated according to their longevity. Accordingly

Dwarves: 3 BP per 2 years
Elves: 1 BP per 10 years
Gnomes: 1 BP per year
Gnome Titans: 1 BP per year
Grel: 2 BP per year
Half-elf: 2 BP per year
Sil-karg 2 BP per year
Half-orc 3 BP per year
Halfling 2 BP per year

If the GM wishes to represent some specific, formal, training the NPC might have acquired, they may attend a kobar, university, guild, or some other source of formal training. Once at maturity, and once again per 15 BP acquired due to age, the GM may choose to have the NPC attend some sort of formal training, and roll on the Formal Training Event table in the GMG.

This process is obviously much longer than the standard “Determine a name, race, and a couple of salient skills”, but it can be useful for NPCs that are intended to be important (for example, torchbearers, alchemists, or others the PCs will interact with frequently), or as a means to advance NPCs when time skips or long campaigns demand that 0th level NPCs become more than they were.

NPCs and Honor
The Honor of NPCs doesn’t vary that much; unless they’re involved in some risky business, their honor will remain steady for a long time. Every time they receive BPs (once per year for most races; once every two or ten for dwarves and elves, respectively), their honor resets one point towards 11 + their honor modifiers for Charisma and Looks.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

The Truth about Ogres

Ogres are a scourge upon human lands in Palladium Fantasy. Gigantic, with the strength of ten men, they prey upon the livestock of human holdings and kidnap women to propagate their cruel race. But, sometimes, ogres are born to humans unbidden. Though they are counted as their own race, ogres are clearly not their own species.

Ogres: The Secret History
Before the fall of Atlantis, millennia ago, the human species spread throughout the Megaverse. Advanced science, medicine, and magic made the natives of Atlantis something akin to the “lesser” humans of the worlds; taller, stronger, wiser, ubermensch without the sinister connotations that concept would later acquire. Cultural taboos kept the Atlanteans from mingling too closely with other humans, and advanced medicine kept any mistakes from happening. But, then, Atlantis fell, and the scattered children of that great nation became refugees, frequently disconnected from their kin and bereft of the benefits of their society. And, in such a situation, they mingled with the humans around them, and gave birth to abominations.
To achieve the stature and longevity of the True Atlanteans, certain changes were made from the human baseline. You cannot live for centuries in a standard human form; touches must be made to allow it to endure the march of years. Some of this can be done simply, with access to healing magics and psionics; the wear and tear a normal body takes is restored with magical healing in the way the crude medicine of the 21st century can not even dream of. But there were also tweaks to genetics, making a body that would be easier to repair, and wear out less quickly. Atlantean medicine helped to direct those changes and make the Atlanteans who they wished to be. But, deprived of that medical knowledge, and subjected to generations of interbreeding, those changes manifested as monstrous mutations. An Atlantean’s great height compared to mortal men became gigantism. Their modestly enhanced strength became mighty thews; their endurance became legendary, with hair grown wild and claw-like fingernails. Teeth meant to repair themselves over centuries of use became fangs that shredded flesh and replaced themselves when broken.
More succinctly, ogres are the eventual result of the interbreeding of humans and True Atlanteans, when deprived of Atlantean medicine and magic. They are not a simple crossbreed, but a subspecies derived from the hybridization of two distinct subspecies, then subjected to environmental stresses (or, more accurately, deprived of environmental supports). This is why they take so well to tattoo magic, and other mystical arts thought to be wholly human; they are, themselves, wholly human, born of two lines rejoining in desperate situations.

Body and Mind

So, what is an ogre, beyond a man writ large? Most often, they are male; the genetic manipulation and mutation which made ogres possible seems to favor the viability of male fetuses. Their features are often caricatures of human strength; the “strong jaw” of a dashing human hero is a granite slab attached with powerful muscles to an ogre’s skull. Their eyes are bright, but in a way that transcends intelligence and speaks of mania. All ogres are exceptionally hairy, but in very human ways; they do not grow fur or a pelt, but nor do they frequently suffer from male pattern baldness. It is an effect that humans find disturbing, especially when paired with their great size.
Though much is made of ogres’ claws and bite, it is important to realize that these are not fearsome weapons; their claw-like nails are no more damaging than their fists, and their canines can cause a serious wound, but not much more than one would receive from a ten foot tall human. What matters far more is an ogre’s willingness to use these weapons; a human would not bite, save in the most dire of circumstances, but an ogre will do so out of perverse joy. Men prefer a solid fist, but ogres know that the pain of a claw-rake is almost as good, and far more scarring.
Mentally, ogres are on par with humans, but they are not as easily psychic as their smaller kin. Ogres can and do study psychic professions; they are capable psi-healers, psi-mystics, and even mind mages. But without that study, they are unlikely to have any psionic powers. Some of this seems to extend to the more mundane form of empathy; ogres don’t really “get” people and what motivates them, which results in the decrease of their Mental Affinity attribute. When trained, however, ogres are as able and adept at mental games as any human.
Ogres are, thankfully, born mostly on the human scale, though at the larger end of it; whereas a human child will be between 5 and a half to almost nine pounds, an average ogre child will be between seven to ten pounds. Some very large ogre children have been born; fifteen to twenty pounds have been reported, but usually only with magical or psionic aid. After birth, however, they grow relatively rapidly, often reaching five or six feet tall by the time they are eight years old, after which their growth steadies, adding one inch to their height every year or two. This growth continues throughout their life; the tallest ogres are often the eldest, with truly exceptional and ancient ogres approaching fifteen feet tall; far more common among adults is 7-12 feet, however.
As is known, many ogre women are sterile, or have trouble giving birth. This leads ogre men to kidnap and rape human women, forcing them to bring the children to term, sometimes repeatedly. In most cases, the offspring of these are ogres, and most of the ogres born are male. Female ogres are a rarity, as are non-ogre offspring; perhaps one child in ten will not be an ogre, and perhaps one ogre in ten will be female. Non-ogre offspring, however, may go on to later bear or sire ogre children of their own, the essential sequences of DNA having been dormant in themselves, but awakening in their children.

Ogres in Society, and Ogre Society
Ogres raised in human lands are almost always treated as brutes. They are no less intelligent than the humans who surround them (on average), but their great size and strength means that humans invariably channel them towards physical pursuits (when they don’t simply kill them). Some of these ogres are anomalies; the children of humans who had an ogre parent or grandparent. Others are the children of women rescued from captivity. There are some rare ogres who simply make their homes among humans, or ogre children adopted by human or non-human parents who round out this population. Still, though, most are pointed towards things at which they will exceed human capacity… feats of strength, and professions to match. An ogre could become a bard or a ballerina, but they would be no better than a human at either. An ogre gladiator or longshoreman, however, would have a leg up, so to speak, simply by being a few heads taller than everyone else.
When in giant society, ogres are often regarded as useful and clever. While not all giants are terribly stupid, ogres are cleverer than many of a giant’s other minions, while no physical threat to the giant. As such, giant sorcerers have no shortage of eager ogre apprentices, and giants prize ogres as taskmasters; intimidating to an orc, and not likely to be outsmarted by a goblin.
When on their own, with neither humans nor giants to tell them what to do, ogres compete. Ogres don’t get particularly bent out of shape about losing to an obvious superior; they may be big, strong, and tough, but they know that trolls are bigger, stronger, and tougher, so there’s not much to be lost by being less than them… but other ogres are competition. Every task an ogre may engage in with another ogre may turn into a competition. Who hauled the most barrels? Who slew the most foes? Who fathered the most sons? Two ogres at a latrine will try to pee farther and longer than each other; two ogres at a table will try to out eat and out drink their “opponent”. Every ogre is the opponent of every other ogre, and one who is consistently at the bottom of the rankings is one who will “receive” the “opportunity” to “prove themselves”... horrible jobs, dangerous assignments, and the worst equipment. Why, if they can overcome those obstacles, they must truly be a great; if they cannot, well, then they deserve whatever they get.
The strength of ogres tends to attract other humanoids, attracted to that strength. Orcs and goblins are both commonly part of ogre-centered communities, with the ogres serving as an aristocracy, of sorts, to their lesser tribe-mates. The rules of the ogres govern how they can treat their tribe-mates, though it is usually with a mixture of aloofness, disdain, and brutality; there’s no competition in being better than an orc, after all.
What surprises many is the fondness ogres have for animals; though they’re happily omnivorous, they seem to prefer a pastoral lifestyle, if there’s no way to make a living fighting. They will herd animals, hunt with hawks and dogs, even keep horses, though most ogres are far too large to ride. Ogres with magical powers often seek out beasts to make a connection with; familiars, yes, but even simply wild creatures tamed through a combination of magic and ogre stubbornness.

Ogre Party
Ogres in a traditional adventuring party might be found in any role; they may be warriors, archers, priests, or magicians. The ogre relationship with humans means that they often must be careful if adventuring in the Eastern Territory, Western Empire, or Timiro; while there are some home-grown ogres in these places, raised among humans, the default reaction to a free ogre is, at best, wariness. In the Northern Wilderness, free ogres have fewer restrictions; they don’t intimidate wolfen, much, and the canines are far more willing to see what the ogre will do before they decide who he is.
Travelling with an ogre does pose some problems. Most obviously, ogres consume a LOT of food; three to four times what a human eats is close to a starvation diet for an ogre. Their gear is likewise large and, except in wolfen territory, hard to come by (and they tend to find even wolfen weapons a bit small). Ogres can seldom buy “off-the-rack”, and that comes at a premium. Furthermore, their size can make it difficult to acquire riding animals for them, so groups are usually travelling at the speed of ogre. As ogres have few notable empires of the past, or alchemists of note, they may also find appropriate magical gear difficult to acquire.
As noted above, ogres frequently are too large to ride horses, which can cause them some difficulty as Knights or Palladins. Ogres raised to those classes, however, frequently study other methods, such as the Way of the Landsknecht, below.

Way of the Landsknecht
For many reasons, there are those who are knights (or Palladins; this option applies equally to them) who do not ride horses. In the case of ogres, they are simply too big to do so, and suitable mounts for their size are hard to come by. For others, they may live in places where knighthood flourishes but horses, sadly, do not. To them is the Way of the Landsknecht. This replaces both the Way of the Horse and the Way of the Lance for Palladins and Knights.
Landsknecht are heavy infantry, drilled in the use of two or three weapons: the Pike, a long spear more than double their own height in length, and a Cleaver; either a pole-axe like a halberd, or a two-handed sword. Whereas traditional knights are trained to fight from horseback, the Landsknecht are trained to deal with cavalry; killing horses and unseating riders with the Pike, and fighting heavily armored troops on the ground with the cleaver.

Way of the Pike: The Landsknecht is skilled in the use of the pike as a weapon in combat and for tournaments. The character gets the equivalent of W.P. Spear with the following abilities and bonuses when facing mounted opponents, or those larger than themselves.
The player must announce their character's intention to inflict damage, disarm, or unseat their opponent. If the player chooses to unseat, a roll of 19 or higher (including bonuses) means the strike unseats or knocks down their opponent.
Opponents unseated from horseback suffer normal damage from the pike, and are knocked off their horse and take an additional 1D6 damage unless they successfully roll with impact/fall. The fallen rider also loses initiative and one melee action/attack. An opponent who is not or horseback, but standing on the ground can be knocked off their feet and on their backside with the same result, except no additional damage from the fall.
In the alternative, the Landsknecht can try to disarm a larger or mounted opponent with the pike. Roll to strike as usual, but if the defender fails to parry or dodge, the Landsknecht successfully strikes them in such a way that they drop their weapon or shield. The player must announce their character's intention to disarm their opponent and make a "called shot," indicating what item they are trying to knock out of the foe's hands. This attack can also be used to knock off any hat or helmet that isn't bolted directly to the body armor. This attack is often used by Landsknechts for fun and games, as a warning, or an attempt to frighten away or discourage an opponent rather than engage in a battle to the death.
Any time the Landsknecht rolls a Critical Strike with a pike, they may choose to inflict a higher multiple of damage (*3 instead of *2; *4 instead of *3), or they may apply knockdown or disarm, even if they did not declare it.

Way of the Cleaver: The Way of the Cleaver is used when facing heavily armored foes; anyone whose AR is 14 or higher. For those wearing artificial armor whose non-magical AR is 14 or greater*, the Landsknecht may intentionally attack the armor, not the opponent inside. In doing so, they inflict no damage on the opponent, but inflict an additional 6 damage on the armor with each successful strike. Furthermore, if the opponent is not aware that this is the Landsknecht’s intent, they receive a parry penalty equal to half their AR (rounded down); they are attempting to deflect hits with their armor, when hitting their armor is exactly what the Landsknecht intends! If the opponent becomes aware of this, the parry penalty drops to only -2; dodges have no penalty, regardless.
For those with natural armor whose AR exceeds 14, Landsknechts may attempt to weaken their armor. The Landsknecht receives no bonus to hit or damage, but on any critical strike, they may either roll double damage, or reduce the opponent’s AR by 1 point (to a minimum of half their original AR, rounded up). Lost points of AR return like hit points, either through natural healing, bio-regeneration, or healing magics.
The Way of the Cleaver requires a large, two-handed sword, or a two-handed pole-axe, such as a halberd or voulge.

*For example, someone wearing Full Chain has an AR of 14 or greater, and even if the AR were magically enhanced, it would qualify. Someone wearing Leather of Iron, a Cloak of Armor, or even AR-enhanced Studded Leather would not be a viable target; while their armor may possess an AR of 14 or more, it does not have a non-magical AR of that level.