Taverns & Tea-Houses

A couple of tables I worked up, for taverns and tea-shops in the D&D setting I’ve been working on the last couple of years.

[A brief note on the setting, Amerath: A swashbuckling, sword-and-sorcery wuxia setting, with inspiration less from medieval Europe and more from the Americas, Asia, and the European Bronze Age.]

Taverns

 

Random Tavern

d6           Construction

1              Wood planks

2              Cut stone

3              On a boat in the harbor

4              Whitewashed walls, red roof tiles

5              Over water – on stilts or pilings, perhaps also acting as a bridge.

6              Rice-paper and red-painted wood

 

d4           Interior

1              Cushion seating and low tables, futon beds

2              Chairs and tables

3              unfurnished floorboards (50% chance of being covered in straw), bare benches and stools

4              Long communal tables

 

d12         Atmosphere/Other Notes

1              Carpets strewn about the floor, colorful wall hangings (1-3 patterned, 4-6 scenes)

2              A smoky haze hangs over the main room

3              Live plants and lava stone, black velvet paintings, trained pseudodragons on the bar and in the rafters

4              Additional seating outside

5              Well-behaved merchant patrons

6              Raucous laborer patrons

7              A bar fight is currently in progress

8              Informal, casual, friendly

9              Funded by a temple, staffed by priests, holy iconography prevalent.

10           Dim lighting, gloomy, quiet muttering

11           Thieves’ guild safehouse, secret cellar

12           Owner waters down the drinks

 

d10         Food Offered 3 of:

1              Roast meat (1-2 turkey, 3-4 moose, 5-6 mutton)

2              Lamb/mutton and potato stew

3              Bread (1-2 sourdough, 3-4 rye, 5-6 rice, 7-8 flatbread)

4              Cheese (1-2 moose, 3-4 goat, 5 yak, 6 sheep)

5              Seafood (1 trout, 2 salmon, 3 catfish, 4 bass, 5 perch, 6 carp, 7 mahi mahi, 8 halibut, 9 crab, 10 shrimp, 11 lobster, 12 crayfish)

6              Bread and sauces

7              Meat pies

8              Rice

9              Meat or vegetable skewers

10           Noodles

 

d6           Drinks Offered 3 of:

1              rice wine

2              beer

3              red wine

4              white wine

5              orange wine

6              pink wine

 

d10         Also Offers 1d3 of

1              Pipe-leaf

2              Side room with (1-2 singing, 3-4 dancing, 5-6 drama, 7-8 comedy)

3              Private room with screen, access to bar, offers private drinking for higher price

4              Dancing girls

5              Free lunch with purchase of one drink

6              Communal bath, using water from nearby hot spring if any

7              Fruit pies

8              Gaming supplies (1-2 dice, 3-4 cards, 5-6 pattern guessing games, 7-8 roll d6 twice)

9              Live music, open stage

10           Spiced potatoes

 

 

Tea Shops

 

Random Tea Shop

d6           Construction

1              Wood planks

2              Cut stone

3              On a boat in the harbor/river

4              Underground (1-3 cave, 4-6 cellar)

5              Over water – on stilts or pilings, perhaps also acting as a bridge.

6              Racial (1d4)

1              Elvish: walls of graceful stone and living trees, a canopy of branches and a latticework of stone, a floor of moss or short-cropped grass, lit by jars of fireflies at night set loose when morning comes. Trees artfully scattered across the main room.

2              Dwarvish: walls of stone in geometric shapes, set tight without mortar; a floor a few steps below the level of the ground, so the building seems larger inside than out; few windows, with light provided by lamps filled with glowing spores; reading material may be provided.

3              Drow: red lanterns, silk tapestries, the faint smell of roses; no windows, curved and fluid stone; soups sipped quietly from shallow bowls, food eaten with knives or pairs of sharpened sticks.

4              Tallfellow Halfling: Built of wood, with many windows; spacious feeling, but a ceiling around 6’; anything colored is mainly in vibrant shades of brown, yellow, or green.

 

d4           Interior

1              Cushion seating and low tables

2              Chairs and tables

3              Private compartments

4              Long communal tables

 

d12         Atmosphere/Other Notes

1              Carpets strewn about the floor, colorful wall hangings (1-3 patterned, 4-6 scenes)

2              A haze of incense and smoke

3              Flooded ankle-deep in clear water, a slight current taking away any detritus; seating areas may or may not be raised on dry platforms.

4              Additional seating outside

5              Well-behaved merchant patrons

6              Raucous laborer patrons

7              Fountain fills the room with the sound of trickling water

8              Every patron is required to wear a carnivale mask

9              Reading materials are provided, and conversation kept to a low murmur

10           Tables, counters, bowls, utensils, fixtures are made of copper and bronze

11           Owner runs a smuggling ring. Secret door in basement leads somewhere convenient. Rough-looking folks at the side table are off-work employees.

12           Haunted. Do not sit in the corner, it is taken.

 

d8           Teas Offered 3 of:

1              White

2              Yellow

3              Green

4              Oolong

5              Red

6              Heilong

7              Blue Lotus

8              Herbal

 

d10         Also Offers 1d3 of

1              Pipe-leaf

2              Hookah

3              Rice Wine

4              Dancing girls

5              Pastries (3 of: 1 bubbly pie, 2 fruit tart, 3 chasan, 4 churro, 5 cream horn, 6 kolache, 7 cheese pastry, 8 curry puff, 9 fig roll, 10 lotus seed bun, 11 samosa, 12 empanada)

6              Soup (1-2 rice-noodle, 3-4 fish, 5-6 rice-noodle with fish, 7-8 lamb and vegetable, 9-10 turkey and potato)

7              Steamed buns, filled with meat or vegetables

8              Sandwiches and cakes

9              Live music

10           Sweet iced tea

 

LARP: Rules Bloat- Solutions

Hey, guess who’s back! I can’t promise regular updates or anything, but I’m at least finished with college classes for the semester.

Larp rules

The problem with writing a rulebook for something when you have no rules design experience (and little roleplaying experience) should be evident. Of course, since I was fourteen at the time, not so much. I blissfully sat down at the keyboard and pounded out a fifty-page rulebook for my live-action roleplaying system. Naturally, it had some issues. Thus I have lately taken the time to review it, edit it, and condense it.

I decided I had three main goals for the redesign.

1. Make it something people will be willing to read.

Nobody actually bothered to read the old rulebook, probably because it was fifty pages long. Looking back through it, this was probably a good thing.

2. Make the rules easy to internalize and remember.

Complicated maths and large numbers of spells and abilities resulted in two situations: half the time, nobody used the abilities and lost track of hit points; the other half, play had to be paused repeatedly to explain their effects.

3. Create a high level of immersion.

There is a large difference between roleplaying, and whacking each other with swords while talking about school.

 

First problem, making the book something readable. For that, I simply started fresh. I decided on a guideline of ten pages for rules. What are the essential pieces of the rules that I wanted to keep? I decided on classes, races, and spells. Following my second point, I realized my level system served almost no purpose; its only effects were increasing health, and providing an incentive to show up in costume. But even so, the leveling system meant long-term players would be massively more powerful than a new player, and should the two need to fight there would be no chance of the newbie winning, no matter their skill with a weapon. Instead, I decided long-term players should have in-game advantages, rather than rules-based ones. After removing the leveling system, I obviously did not need higher-level spells either, and left out everything above what had been first or second level. This left a total of ten basic spells. I have also removed some extraneous classes (Freelancer and mercenary were essentially Warriors and Rogues with different flavor texts, while Alchemists relied on a ruleset that had not yet been clearly defined.)

Next, point two. The previous system had swords dealing two points of damage- or three, or one, largely independent of other weapons otherwise equal- and location-based hit points: three on every limb, and five on the torso. While I liked the idea of a location-based system, the rest needed fixed. It’s much easier for a player who has taken a sword blow to subtract one from a number than two, so I decided to make that the damage dealt by a sword. I also decided that hit points should be a bit lower. Thus the new system: the average character has three hit points on every location, though character class and armor may cause this to vary slightly. Additionally, having condensed my spell list, I have made it so that even a warrior character with no spellcasting can give the spells a quick glance and know enough to take any effects when the spell is cast on them.

This ability to internalize also has a great effect on immersion: if all players know, for example, that a sword does one point of damage, and a spell does three, then when they are hit with a sword or a spell they can mentally subtract fairly easily, eliminating the necessity of damage calls. Without damage calls, it is more similar to an actual battle (or at least as similar as foam-sword combat gets).

And that was it. The rulebook is now ten pages long, descriptive, and simple to remember. I have a few other projects I’m working on- cultural dossiers, and better weapons that look more like swords and less like clubs- but the rulebook itself is essentially completed.

Journal Excerpt #1

Sunday, July 2nd, 2017

It seems sometimes, especially when one is young, that an Alaskan summer is never really over; that it goes on and on, a neverending continuum from the first Dena’ina fishermen on the wide Kenai river down to the modern young man or woman, hiking home through the woods with the promise of ice cream and a cold drink held before them. As I lie writing this, I am nineteen; old enough to do grown-up things, such as bargain with the Internal Revenue Service or pay for my own gasoline, but young enough that I do not really want to, and would much rather climb a tree, or read a book, or do both at the same time.
It is true, of course, that even when fully an adult, without the ability to call oneself a teen-ager, most people I have met still have little desire to do adult things; they seem more to have ungracefully accepted them as a part of life, something I have never aspired to do.
As another long Alaska summer day draws toward a close, I stare out the window of our old motor home, meditating on life and living. This evening has been the first of three days, in total, spent at the summer camp that my family attends each year. We have been coming for over a decade now, a longer time than any other family, and in fact longer than many members of the staff, a fact which grants me some measure of familiarity and even prestige. I have, on occasion, gone places that no other except some staff members are allowed, and my long history has given me a greater knowledge of the twists and turns of the moose-paths and side trails than most others with whom I speak.
The evening meal was a quiet affair, for the number of camp attendees this year is surprisingly small, but it marked a reunion with an old friend, who like myself spent much of his formative years at this camp. After our repast and pleasant reminiscence, we parted ways, him to organize the staff members in his charge, and I toward the grassy field overlooking the waterfront. There I met two young women, whom I joined in hitting a volleyball back and forth.
The evening’s enjoyment came to an end perhaps a little over an hour later, as the four of us- for another had joined eventually, a young man with even less skill than I- went our separate ways.

Writing Comedy

There are a lot of reasons to try to do comedy in writing, or just in everyday life. Yes, comedy can be taught. This post is largely focused on writing it, but it should be fairly easy to distill into general advice.

The stakes in humor are usually low.
The difference between drama and comedy is exaggeration, and character reaction.
For example, the action scene gets funny fast when the guy gets kicked in the crotch.

It’s also funny when people get self-referential during uncomfortable situations.

Comedy is also often surprising; unexpected things are more likely to make people laugh. See Non-sequitors below.

Situational- out of their element and trying (and mostly failing) to cope.

Physical comedy- people doing ridiculous things. People even suffering. But really low stakes.

Linguistic Humor
Wordplays: puns work best when the one who tells it isn’t the one who set it up.
Accurate but unexpected descriptions: the ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t.
Awesome, especially when they can be tied to a particular character because they describe things in ways nobody else does.

Here’s a brief example of wordplay: if something is really easy to figure out, you’d probably say it’s obvious. But if it’s about someone’s mother or father, try goig with ‘apparent’.

Character humor
Something about how the characters do things is inherently funny because of who they are.
This kind of contains and kind of leads into Running Gags, which is when one particular bit of character humor is repeatedly called back to.

Cognitive humor
You have three pieces of the puzzle, the fourth is the punchline, and the reader has to figure it out themselves.

Non-sequitors
Something that quite literally doesn’t follow in the expected sequence.
Often funniest when the reader can draw a connection between the non-sequitor and what came before, yet still doesn’t quite make sense.
Lists are great, when the last thing in the list is completely unexpected.

Life Issues

I know, I’ve been absent for a while. Expect a continued absence, I’m afraid. A very dear friend of mine has recently passed away unexpectedly,  and I will be spending a good deal of time attempting to process this. He was also a member of our D&D group, so if you were reading our adventures, don’t expect more sessions transcripts any time soon.

I’m.. I ‘m not quite sure how to end this post…

D&D 5e: Elves of Wood and Jungle

In my homebrew campaign setting of Moonsea (See the Campaign Journal if you’re interested; I just added our most recent session and figured out how the dropdown menus work), Drow aren’t really all that bad. They’re just another subrace of Elves, one that lives in the deep jungles of Dhathan. Perhaps they were something else, once, but if so that was long ago.

Wood Elves are fairly similar to the Wood Elves described in the PHB, but there are a few key differences, including a greater affinity with animals.

Wild Elves are even more closely entwined with the animals of the forest, even being able to speak their language. However, they do have a few… cultural values that more civilized races have difficulty understanding. Yes, I know I’ve posted them before, but this time I’ve added a picture.

 

Drow

drow

Drow are wild elves, akin to sylvan or wood elves, but descended from an earlier subrace of dark-skinned elves. More primitive than other elves, they lead lives apart from civilized beings, deep in wild jungles.

Also called dark elves, the drow have black skin that resembles polished obsidian and stark white or pale yellow hair. They commonly have very pale eyes (so pale as to be mistaken for white) in shades of lilac, silver, pink, red, and blue. They tend to be smaller and thinner than most elves- they rarely top 5’4″-, letting them easily slip through tangles of underbrush that would stop or slow down larger beings. Their small size and light weight also make climbing trees easy for them.

Ability Score Increase. Your Charisma score increases by 1.

Drow Magic. You know the dancing lights cantrip. When you reach 3rd level, you can cast the faerie fire spell once per day. When you reach 5th level you can also cast the invisibility spell once per day. Charisma is your spellcasting ability for the spell.

Life in the Trees. Climbing doesn’t halve your speed.

Bestowed by Silvanus. The drow have great knowledge of the jungles that they call home. You have proficiency in Nature.

Drow Weapon Training. You are proficient with shortbows, longbows, daggers and blowguns.

 

Wood Elves

wood elf

As a wood elf, you have keen senses and intuition, and your feet carry you swiftly and silently through your native forests. You are just as quick-witted as you are quick-limbed.

Wood elves are shorter than most other elves and men- about 5’ on average-, and have a frail, delicate build, but they are quite agile, and have an affinity of sorts with wild animals.

Wood elves’ skin tends to be coppery in hue, sometimes with traces of green. Their hair tends toward browns and blacks, but it is occasionally blond or copper-colored. Their eyes are green, brown, or hazel.

Ability Score Increase. Your Intelligence score increases by 1.

Elf Weapon Training. You have proficiency with the dagger, shortsword, shortbow, and longbow.

Fleet of Foot. Your base walking speed increases to 35 feet.

Mask of the Wild. You can attempt to hide even when you are only lightly obscured by foliage, heavy rain, falling snow, mist, and other natural phenomena.

Natures Gift. You gain proficiency with Animal Handling. In addition, animals of the natural world are friendly towards you and your companions, so long as you do not threaten them and they are not overly hungry. They are willing to do small tasks for you, though nothing that would endanger them or their offspring.

 

Wild Elves

wild elf

Wild elves are a far older race than Wood Elves, for the Wild Elves are descended from the first of the ancient Fae to emerge into the mortal world. The Wild Elves live deep in untamed jungles, and have a simple lifestyle, in tune with nature. However, some younger Wild Elves, wishing to know more about the world, emerge into the outer world and are often mistaken for Halflings or Venthel. They have spiky, wild hair in shades of green, blond, silver, or red; large almond-shaped eyes in turquoise, hazel, or emerald-green; and skin with a faint greenish cast. They are adventurous and mischievous, and can’t abide the sight of caged animals. They’re also ritual cannibals, and believe the soul is housed in the throat (if you can’t talk, you must be dead), but hey; nobody’s perfect.

Size: Small. They max out at 3’ 6 in height.

Ability Score Adjustment: Your Dexterity, Constitution, and Charisma scores increase by 1, but your Intelligence and Wisdom scores decrease by 1.

Forest Bond: You gain a +2 bonus to AC in forest and jungle environments (due to ability to dodge behind trees, etc.)

Bite: You have an unarmed bite attack that deals 1d4 piercing damage.

Languages: You can speak Elven, Animal, and Sylvan.

 

And for your viewing pleasure…

I still don’t feel like I’ve made an adequate apology for my long absence (despite the fact that it probably didn’t have any effect on the daily lives of my readership), so here’s the first page of my journal/comic that I create from time to time. I prefer to draw my experiences rather than write them. The voices in my head tend to interject their own opinions.

comic 2.png