Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Third Imperium - A Brief Overview of GURPS

A Brief Overview of GURPS

GURPS is the Generic Universal Role-Playing System, currently in its fourth edition. This page is intended as an overview of the system, although it is a decidedly incomplete guide.

GURPS is a skill-based system that uses a non-random point-based method for character generation. The fundamental game mechanic is "roll 3d6 and try to get a result under your skill". When making a skill check, a roll of 3 or 4 is always a success, and a roll of a 17 or 18 is always a failure. This is basically about 90% of the game system. The rest is pretty much details and tracking how each character's particular skills are determined.

Because GURPS is skill-based rather than level-based, characters don't level-up as they gain experience and wisdom. Instead, characters are usually rewarded with character points - the GM guidance recommends between 1 and 5 points per session, with an average of two or three per session. Points can be spent to improve abilities, buy some advantages, buy off disadvantages, improve skills, or gain wealth, at the player's option. Awarded points can be spent as they are handed out, or "saved" so the character can make a big point buy at a later date. Characters can instead be rewarded with gained advantages determined by the GM - such as gaining a new patron or ally, or obtaining military rank or social status.

Character Creation

Characters are built using a point buy system. Basic attributes, advantages, disadvantages, quirks, and skills all have a point value and making a character consists of deciding what the player wants to spend their available points on. The standard campaign (which I will use for my Third Imperium campaign) gives each player 100 points to build their character and permits them to take 40 points of disadvantages and 5 points of quirks. Disadvantages and quirks cost negative points, which the character can then use to purchase additional abilities. In effect, a standard character is a 145-point character who uses 45 points of disadvantages and quirks to bring their total value down to the 100 point limit.

Because it is a skill-based system, characters do not have character classes or other limitations. Almost any combination of attributes, advantages, disadvantages, and skills is possible, although there are some attributes that might be limited to certain races, or might be limited due to cultural or legal requirements. In extreme cases, very unusual characters may have to take the "Unusual Background" advantage at some point level as determined by the GM. Although there are no character classes, the rule books include a variety of "character templates" providing suggested distributions of points for certain character archetypes.

Basic Attributes

Characters have four basic attributes. The baseline for all four stats is 10, which is the starting value for a normal human character. Players can spend points to raise stats, or gain points by reducing stats. As a general rule of thumb, an attribute of 6 or lower would be considered a crippling disadvantage, and an attribute of 15 or higher would be considered amazing. The basic attributes are:
  • Strength (ST): Strength is a character's physical prowess and bulk. It determines how much a character can lift, how much they can carry, how much damage they do in unarmed combat or with weapons like swords and axes, and how much damage they can take.

  • Dexterity (DX): Dexterity is a combination of agility, coordination, and fine motor skill. It is the key attribute for most athletic, combat, crafting, and other skills involving physical activity. Dexterity also goes into determining a character's Basic Speed and Basic Move.

  • Intelligence (IQ): Intelligence measures a character's brainpower, broadly including creativity, perception, intuition, memory, and other mental abilities. It is the key ability for science, engineering, social interaction, and any other skill involving mental capability. In campaigns that use magic, it is the key ability for magic skills. Intelligence also determines a character's Will and Perception.

  • Health (HT): Health represents a character's stamina, resilience, resistance to poisons, diseases, and other ill-effects. Health determines a character's Fatigue, and goes into calculating their Basic Move and Basic Speed.
Secondary Characteristics

Secondary characteristics are a set of derived states that all characters possess. They all use one or more of the basic stats to calculate them. One can raise or lower many of these secondary attributes by spending points to increase them, or by gaining negative points to lower them. So, for example, if you wanted to play a low-IQ character with exceptionally string Will, one could purchase ranks of Will by spending points to do so. As a general rule of thumb, raising or lowering a secondary characteristic costs (or grants) fewer points than raising or lowering the basic stat it is derived from. The secondary characteristics are:
  • Damage: This is based on a character's ST, and comes in two flavors - thrusting damage, which measures the damage the character does with a punch, kick, or rapier, and swinging damage, which measures the damage the character does with a swinging weapon like an axe or club. For example, a ST 10 character does 1d6-2 damage, so if they punched someone and connected, they would roll 1d6 and subtract 2 for their damage. If that same character was using a spear, which has listed damage of "thrust+2", then the character would roll 1d6 on a successful hit.

  • Basic Lift: This is based on ST and measures how much weight a character can lift over their head with one hand in one second. This value is used to determine how much a character can carry before becoming encumbered. The basic lift for a human with ST 10 is 20 pounds.

  • Hit Points: This is based on ST and represents how much damage a character can take before becoming unconscious or dying. Effectively, a character has as many hit points as their ST score.

  • Will: Will is based on IQ and represents a character's ability to resist mental stress including fear, hypnotism, seduction, torture, and so on. In the Traveller setting, it is important to note that Will is used to resist psionic influence. In a fantasy setting, Will is used to resist some magical effects.

  • Perception: Perception is based on IQ and represents a character's general alertness.

  • Fatigue Points: Fatigue Points are based on HT, and represents a character's "energy supply". A character expends Fatigue points when they engage in strenuous activity. Disease, heat, hunger, and other similar issues can sap a character's Fatigue Points as well. Losing Fatigue Points can slow a character down or cause them to fall unconscious. In extreme cases, loss of Fatigue Points can result in death from overexertion.

  • Basic Speed: Basic Speed is determined by a combination of a character's DX and HT, and measures a character's reflexes and physical quickness. Initiative in combat is based on a character's Basic Speed, as is a character's ability to dodge attacks.

  • Basic Move: Basic Move is based upon a character's Basic Speed and represents how many yards a character can move in one second. Encumbrance can modify a character's Move.
There are a few other derived attributes, mostly a character's height and weight, which are based on ST, but those don't affect gameplay much. These can be modified with advantages or disadvantages. In a science fiction game like Traveller, a character's home gravity can also matter, but that mostly affects how many points a character needs to put into ST to be "average".

Advantages

Advantages are benefits a character can buy that are not either increases to their base abilities or skills. Advantages can cover an extraordinarily wide range of abilities, ranging from physical appearance, to social status, wealth, military rank, administrative rank, or even allies, contacts, or patrons as well as more esoteric benefits like Absolute Timing, Alternate Identities, or Danger Sense. Effectively, anything that has the potential to help a character out as they make their way through the world is classified as an advantage. Advantages all have an associated point cost, ranging from zero to as high as the benefit warrants.

There are a whole host of advantages - such as Brachiator or Constriction Attack - that are generally only available as racial advantages. In a science fiction setting, however, it is possible that bio-engineering or cybernetic enhancements could provide such enhancements. Within the Imperium, there is a social stigma against cybernetic implants or other body modifications made for purposes other than to replace but not augment missing body parts, and these are generally not commercially available. That said, most advanced societies within the Third Imperium have the capability to make such devices, and may do so covertly for a variety of reasons, most notably to enhance military or intelligence agency personnel.

Note that psionics exist in the Third Imperium setting, but require an Unusual Background and open use of such powers in many areas carries with it negative reaction modifiers from the social stigma against psionics in the Imperium.

It is possible, under certain circumstances, to acquire certain advantages during play. In those cases, the player would simply expend a number of accumulated points equal to the cost of the advantage and then add it to the character. Some advantages may require a character train to object them or (in extreme cases) undergo surgery or other body modifications. In some cases it is possible to acquire an advantage at a particular level and then later increase it. For example, the Ally advantage includes a frequency of appearance. If the player initially selected "quite rarely" for their Allies' frequency of appearance, they could later expend points and raise that to "fairly often", meaning the Ally would show up to help the character more often. As a good rule of thumb, a character who wishes to acquire a new advantage during play should consult with the GM first.

Disadvantages

Disadvantages are the flip-side of advantages. Where advantages cost points, disadvantages "cost" negative points, reducing the point total of a character. Where advantages represent benefits that can aid a character as they make their way through the world, disadvantages represent hindrances that limit a character. Some things can be either advantages or disadvantages - high social status, for example, is an advantage, while low social status could be a disadvantage. Other things, such as Clueless, Colorblindness, or Combat Paralysis, are simply disadvantages. A disadvantage doesn't have to be a negative trait for a character, just one that limits what a character can do. Honesty or a Code of Honor is a disadvantage because it limits what a character is willing to do. A dependent is a disadvantage, because the character is required to spend time and effort to take care of them, while an enemy is a disadvantage because they might show up an inopportune time to cause trouble for the character.

In general, disadvantages are things that give characters flavor and make them interesting. Perfect heroes get dull, and heroes that have flaws or limitations make for fun role-playing. Players should endeavor to play their disadvantages when they are applicable and not try to evade them. So, a character who has a Code of Honor against killing shouldn't try to figure out ways to kill his foes by accident, but rather should role-play that character's refusal to kill their foes. In extreme cases, it would be appropriate for a character to penalize a player who consistently refuses to play his character's disadvantages - either by limiting the rewards that character gets for adventuring, or by requiring the player "buy off" the disadvantage. by spending points.

Players can voluntarily "buy-off" disadvantages during play using a similar process to that used for buying advantages. The player expends a number of accumulated points equal to the disadvantage and then discards the disadvantage. Just as with advantages, if a character has a disadvantage that has "levels", they can partially buy off a disadvantage, reducing the hindrance it causes. For example, if a character has the Enemy disadvantage and that enemy is specified to appear "quite often", the character could expend points and reduce the frequency to "fairly often", meaning the Enemy will show up more rarely. In many cases, a GM will require a character to fulfill some sort of in-campaign goal before they can buy off a particular disadvantage, so a player should consult with the GM if they want to do so.

Quirks

Quirks are minor character notes that give one negative point. They are not intended to be as debilitating as regular disadvantages, but are rather little habits or traits that a character has that impact how the player role-plays a character. A quirk might be a very minor version of a regular disadvantage - for example someone might have a quirk "never kills insects" which would be a minor version of the pacifism disadvantage. There are a variety of quirks suggested in the GURPS rulebooks, but the list of possible quirks is by no means limited to those. Almost anything that is a specific behavior, dislike, like, preference, or other attribute of a character that will affect how the player plays the character could count as a quirk. Some quirks, such as Alcohol Intolerance, Dreamer, or Nervous Stomach, can have mechanical game effects, but they are minor and likely come up only infrequently.

Just like disadvantages, quirks can be "bought off" by spending accumulated points to do so, although it is often recommended that players don't do this, because quirks are often a large part of what give characters their individual personalities.

Skills

Skills are things a character knows how to do. Basically, almost any kind of action a character could take that could be trained is represented by a skill. Skills are all connected to one of the four basic attributes, and a character's aptitude for that skill is heavily affected by their relevant ability score. This means that a character who has a high DX will be better at a DX-based skill than a character with a low DX, even if they both spend the same number of points on that skill.

One important concept in GURPS is "defaults". Many skills have defaults, which is what a character rolls against when they try to use a skill they have not studied. For example, a character with a DX of 10 who has no points invested in the Acrobatics skill can still attempt to make an Acrobatics roll at the default value, which is DX-6, or 4, meaning they would have to roll a 4 or lower on 3d6. Some skills have multiple defaults, such as the Interrogation skill, which defaults to IQ-5, Intimidation=5, or Psychology-4. In the event a character is trying to use a skill with multiple defaults, they use the best default value. Some skills have no defaults, such a Karate. For skills with no defaults, a character cannot use the skill unless they have spent points studying it.

Skills are rated as being Easy (such as Brawling), Average (such as Driving), Hard (such as Chemistry), or Very Hard (such as Computer Hacking), which affects how much benefit a character gains by spending points in those skills. Easy skills require relatively few points to raise to a high level, Very Hard skills require substantially more.

Some skills have prerequisites. Basically, this means that the character must have the prerequisite - usually a particular ability with another skill, but sometimes a particular advantage - in order to put points into that skill. For example, the skill Physics requires that a character spend points in Mathematics (Applied) at TL5+ first. In short, you cannot learn Physics unless you learn Applied Mathematics first.

Some IQ-based skills are defined as being for a particular tech level. So, for example, a character spending points on the Mechanic skill would need to define what tech level their skill applied to. The default is that it applies to the tech level the character is native to or in which they trained the skill. So, for example a character from the modern day (TL8) who trained in the Mechanic skill would be capable of using that skill with no penalty on a car from TL8. If they were called upon to make repairs to a car from World War II (TL7), they would suffer a -1 penalty to their mechanic skill when doing so. If they tried to work on a car from a TL9 society, they would suffer a -5 penalty. Greater variations between a the tech level a character learned a skill at and the subject of the skill, the greater the penalty.

Finally, some skills permit or require specialization. In these cases, the skill represents a range of endeavors, and the character may (and in some times must) choose a specialty within that skills. For example, the Driving skill has several specialties that a character must specialize in including Automobile, Construction Equipment, Hovercraft, and Motorcycle (among others). Basically, this sort of thing reflects the fact that the ability to drive a car doesn't really translate very well to being able to drive a bulldozer. Note that a character can put points into skills with specialties multiple times and learn multiple specializations. So a character might put points into Driving (Automobile) and also put points into Driving (Tracked), giving him the ability to drive both.

Skills can be raised (or learned) after character creation by spending the appropriate number of points required to raise them.

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Sunday, February 28, 2021

Third Imperium - A Note About Races in GURPS and Races in GURPS: Traveller

Races in GURPS

Races in the GURPS game system are essentially fixed-cost point packages paid for during character creation. For the most part, they are an array of advantages and disadvantages that reflect the characteristics of that race. One generally cannot pick and choose which racial characteristics one wishes to have out of a racial package - one is either a member of the race, with all of the benefits and drawbacks that entails, or one is not. On a side note, there are some advantages and disadvantages that are usually only available as part of a racial package, although magic and extremely high-technology could conceivably change that.

Note that racial disadvantages do not count against a character's 40 point disadvantage limit for the purpose of character creation. In a similar manner, racial quirks do not count against the character's 5 point quirk limit. It should also be noted that some racial packages have very high point totals, and as a result may be difficult or even impossible to take when using a standard 100 point character build.

Races in GURPS: Traveller

As a general rule of thumb, all of the races found in the various GURPS: Traveller sourcebooks, including GURPS: Humaniti and all of the GURPS: Alien Races books, are available as character options in the Third Imperium. I will note that all of those sourcebooks are GURPS Third Edition books, and thus the point costs for those racial packages may be inaccurate for GURPS Fourth Edition. I am in the process of converting all the the racial templates to the more recent edition, but this is a time-consuming process and likely won't be completed for quite a while. Any player wishing to play a particular race that has not yet been converted should contact me and I will do the necessary conversion.

I will also point out that the area covered by the Third Imperium and its neighbors is huge. Space is vast, and between the various interstellar civilizations detailed in the setting, there are tens of thousands of inhabited star systems. Consequently, this means that there are likely a myriad of minor alien races that are not detailed in the official GURPS: Traveller sourcebooks. With some modification, races from GURPS: Aliens, GURPS: Uplift, or GURPS: Lensman could be fit into the GURPS: Traveller setting. It is plausible that a race from GURPS: Fantasy Folk or even GURPS: Myth could be modified to fit the setting as well, although that determination would have to be made on a case-by-case basis. If a player wishes to play a particular race from one of those sources, they should contact me and we can work together to place them into the setting and establish an appropriate point cost.

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Third Imperium - Major Race: Vargr

Vargr

The Vargr are a major race of intelligent humanoid beings who resemble anthropomorphic wolves. They are unique among major races, and indeed most sapient species, in that they were not the product of natural selections, but are rather the culmination of an experiment in artificial evolution by the Ancients.

Vargr were initially a puzzle for xenologist. The Vargr did not seem to "fit", having a biochemistry and genetic makeup distinct from most other native flora and fauna indigenous to Lair, their purported homeworld. This was not a new puzzle: Similar problems had confronted scientists studying the origins of the Vilani, Zhodani, and many human minor races collectively known as Humaniti. All of these enigmas were solved after contact with the Solomani, the humans from Earth. It was eventually discovered that the Vargr, like all the races of Humaniti, has a Terrestrial genetic origin.

Unlike Humaniti, the Vargr were not simply transplanted. During the early years of the Third Imperium, researchers concluded that they were the result of genetic manipulation of Terran carnivores of canine stock, probably wolves or proto-wolves. Archaeological data and other evidence suggests that the Ancients were responsible. Vargr retain many of the characteristics of their canine ancestors, to a greater degree than humans do with other primates. Also, some 300,000 years of natural adaptation took place, as the Vargr appear to have not been fully fitted to the environment of Lair, and this produced rigorous conditions which made natural selection essential to the survival of the race. Thus, the Vargr are in effect, products of both genetic engineering and some degree of evolution.

Although most Vargr live in the Vargr Extents, a region of slightly more than twenty-one sectors of space coreward of the Third Imperium situated between the Zhodani Consulate and the Two Thousand Worlds of the K'Kree, Vargr can be found throughout the galaxy, often as traders and corsairs, but also as citizens of every major government in the region. They can be found relatively often in the Third Imperium, with some having even having risen to the ranks of the nobility. They are also found as citizens of all of the other interstellar nations, although they are fairly rare in the Two Thousand Worlds due to the vegetarianism the K'kree require of all those who reside within their dominions. Within the Extents, there are believed to be more than 1,100 independent multi-world government, although many or only small clusters of a handful of worlds. Cataloging the various governments is almost an exercise in futility, as by the time one were to complete such a project, the swirling chaos of Vargr society would have swept many away, and replaced them with new governments.

Physiology

Vargr are upright bipeds who resemble a humanoid wolf with a bipedal posture and arms ending in hands instead of paws. Vargr legs are digitigrade - that is , they walk on their toes, their heel not touching the ground. Their bodies are covered with short fur, usually gray, brown, black, or rust colored, although a wider variety of patterns appear than in terrestrial wolves. Their fairly long tails end in a flaring brush. Their muzzle is shorter and less pronounced than a Terran canine, but still quite evident with strong jaws and sharp teeth. They have other characteristics consistent with terrestrial mammalian origin. Vargr biochemistry is terrestrial, making them closer cousins to Humaniti than any other non-Human species encountered off Terra.

A typical adult male Vargr stands five feet, four inches tall and weights approximately 135 pounds., while Vargr females are an inch or two shorter and five to ten pounds lighter. On average, Vargr aren't as strong as Humans, but their reaction speed is measurably faster, although there are vide variations among individuals.

Vargr hands are similar in shape and functionality to Human hands, though with significant internal differences. Vargr are normally able to use the same equipment without modification or additional practice. Their hands tend to be somewhat more slender and flexible than Humans, at least on the average, though there is considerable variation. Vargr fingers retain sharp pointed non-retractable nails useful as claws in close combat, although not as dangerous to an opponent as their teeth.

Vargr are built for sprinting: They can run approximately twice as fast as Humans for a short period. they tire more quickly and because of the fur that covers most of their body, they cannot col off by sweating; instead they pant. The combination of bipedal posture and digitigrade leg design means a Vargr cannot kick effectively.

Vargr eyesight is notably sharper than Human sight, but responds somewhat differently to color; to Humans, Vargr color patterns frequently seem excessively unusual, sometimes muddy, at other times garish and clashing. Vargr have a similar reaction to human color sense, finding it outlandish. A Vargr's hearing is excellent, but again slightly out of phase with that of humans. Sounds that are generally too high-pitched for human ears can be detected, but lower ranges are often vaguely sensed rather than heard. Though Vargr have keener noses than human, their sense of smells lack the acuity of their canine ancestors and they cannot match that of the K'kree.

Vargr voice boxes were modified to make them capable of speech, but their canine heritage is reflected in their extensive non-verbal body language. Tails, the movement of ears, and the state of their fur serve as an unconscious means of signaling a Vargr's emotional state to other Vargr (and to a lesser extent, to Humans, who have long racial experience with canines). Vargr speech is not quite the mixture of barks and howls that some make it out to be, but does have a strong echo of their canine ancestry. Vargr can and do howl, albeit not without the same intensity of a wolf (at least not without some practice and training). Some Vargr speech is often lost on humans, as some high notes are above their hearing threshold.

Psychology

Vargr retain a number of mental and behavioral traits that bean an obvious relationship to the instinctive behavior of the canines they were derived from. Vargr are still very much pack-oriented carnivores. The traits most other races find negative about the Vargr is a nature often characterized as inconsistent, chaotic, and impulsive. Vargr can seem intensely loyal to a cause and then suddenly shift allegiance. The rapid evolutions in Vargr politics and commerce are bewildering, and maps showing national boundaries are rarely accurate for more than a few decades.

Gregariousness

Vargr are a gregarious people, enjoying the company of one another and demanding the security and comfort of fellowship with others of their own kind. As a rule, Vargr enjoy living in close proximity with one another. At a family level, they tend toward extended families. Solitary confinement is a form of torture for most Vargr. They have less of a sense of privacy and personal modesty than Humans - at least within the pack.

Charisma and Dominance

Group behavior of Vargr is characterized by a constant struggle for dominance within the group. The ability to exert authority over others derives from an individual's prestige and force of personality. Vargr have many different words to describe this important characteristic, but Humans call it charisma.

A charismatic Vargr radiates confidence and ability in voice, manner, and posture, and other Vargr are naturally drawn to him. Charisma is also affected by events: defeat has a profound negative impact on an individual's bearing and conduct, signaling to others than he has failed. Vargr are constantly moving to the next challenge, and much Vargr behavior is based on a need to continually reaffirm their abilities, win the approval and support of others, and to prove, over and over, that they are worthy of the respect and admiration of their fellows.

Vargr with lower charisma are usually loyal followers. They are aware of their own lack of the qualities they see in charismatic leaders, and so attach themselves to a leader in the hopes that a little bit of his or her reflected glory will help them. A Vargr follower transfers his attentions from proving he is better than other Vargr to proving his group is better than other groups.

Racial Pride

Vargr possess a fierce personal pride. Vargr are easily insulted, which sometimes leads them into getting involved in conflicts without regard for the consequences. Vargr pride extends to their race: They do not like to be placed into a subordinate position compared to non-Vargr. Their unusual origin as an artificially uplifted species is a touchy subject. Some Vargr do not wish to discuss it. Others take pride in it, seeing themselves as the product of a successful attempt to develop a superior species. Some believe Vargr should be recognized as the natural successors to the Ancients.

Vargr Society
Vargr social organization is not easily comprehensible to outsiders. Analogies from history are prone to be easily misinterpreted. There are as many, if not more, distinct Vargr societies as there are Human ones. The key elements that characterize Vargr societies are strong emphasis on collective and informal lines of authority and and equally strong tendency to pack-tribe-nation loyalty.

Although gregarious, Vargr tend to be more cohesive on a small scale, in bands of small groups. A Vargr gives loyalty to a charismatic leader and follows that leader over the dictates of a higher authority if necessary. Vargr are always susceptible to the lyre of some other group if the charisma of its leader is superior. Vargr tend to place much more value in their group leader than in abstract or impersonal institutions such as "governments" and "nations". A common Vargr saying is "If I can smell my leader's confidence, I needn't fear."

Vargr have little use for concepts such as "title" or "rank" or 'chain of command", They respect an individual they can see, hear, and smell. Consequently, larger Vargr hierarchies tend to be groups of smaller bands welded together by a single Vargr leader who maintains close personal contact between his subordinates, each of whom has their own band of subordinates who they maintain a charismatic position over. These organizations can have as many layers as the various leaders are able to maintain. As one might expect, centralized authority is very tenuous at the higher levels of Vargr society.

Pack Dynamics

Small Vargr groups with shared purpose tend to be very cohesive. For pack-mates, "work" and "home" lives are rarely separated. Packs are often part of larger organizations, but in general the loyalty of such groups' component members will be greater toward their own immediate leader than toward the parent institution they are part of. Vargr who work together tend to establish an informal hierarchy of dominance, and when a new individual enters the group there will be tension as their position is sorted out as they are required to demonstrate their competence and secure their place within the group.

For all the backbiting that goes on within a pack, it will rapidly close ranks against an outsider who is seen as a threat. A Vargr joining a new pack must be careful that they don't mark themselves as a threat to the pack itself, which would result in their being reclassified as an enemy of the entire group.

Loyalties

For a Vargr most loyalties are temporary, but are still strong while they exist. A Vargr does their best for a group as long as they remain within it, but almost never has the intent of remaining within it forever, and other Vargr do not expect them to. Vargr often switch from one group to another, even to groups that are diametrically opposed to the goals or ideals of their previous group so long as the change improves the Vargr's own lot by enhancing their charisma and dominance.

A successful Vargr group does well, it's leader's charisma is enhanced, which will attract more members. The influx of low-status, low-charisma Vargr into a group will enhance its stability, because it means the status of existing members rises automatically, which means promotion no longer requires direct challenges of one's superiors. The equation "growth equals stability" is vital to Vargr organization, and is essential for understanding how Vargr society can actually succeed.

Ambitions of individual Vargr in a successful group are channeled toward doing better than others of equal rank in the hope of impressing their immediate leaders and obtaining promotion. A successful Vargr group is rewarded by more success until it reaches the natural limits of the enterprise - either the ability of its leadership to remain in close contact with their subordinates. When this happens, either new leadership takes over, or the group splinters as Vargr abandon it to seek out other opportunities.

Egalitarianism

Although Vargr groups emphasize dynamic leadership, Vargr societies tend to be essentially egalitarian: Static systems that lock individuals into hierarchies are foreign to Vargr thinking. The concept that even the lowest status Vargr can, with sufficient charisma, aspire to rule as a prince, is found in all Vargr cultures.

Vargr Racial Template [21 points]

Note that this template has been updated to reflect the point costs for GURPS Fourth Edition. In addition, while all the tendencies listed are racial tendencies, as with all species, there is considerable variation between individual Vargr. That said, varying too far from some of the "normal" Vargr characteristics may requires a character to take an unusual background. The information given here is an overview of Vargr sensibilities, society, government, and social mores. A considerably more detailed amount of information can be found in GURPS: Traveller - Alien Races 1. Those who wish to play a Vargr character should probably look through the material found in that volume.

Attributes

ST -1 [-10 points]; DX +1 [20 points]. Vargr are somewhat smaller than Humans, but have faster reflexes.

Advantages

Vargr are smaller than Humans, but have superior senses, faster reflexes and are better short-distance sprinters. They possess natural weapons (claws and teeth) and protection (fur).
  • Acute taste/smell +3 [6 points]

  • Acute vision +1 [2 points]

  • Claws (+2 damage) [15 points]

  • Enhanced Move 1 (doubles Move, with the limitation that running fatigue begins after 5 seconds -30%) [14 points]

  • Fur (DR 1, keeps warm) [5 points]

  • Teeth (1d-1 bite in close combat) [5 points]
Disadvantages
  • Cannot kick [-5 points]. Due to their digitigrade posture, Vargr cannot kick in close combat unless a foe is prone and the Vargr is standing, in which case they can stamp downward. This disadvantage's cost is set at -5 points, cancelling the point cost Vargr pay for having sharper than normal teeth.

  • Chummy [-5 points]. This is the famous Vargr gregariousness, a "pack mentality" that leaves them happiest when in groups they have come to find trustworthy, whether among Vargr or not.

  • Curious [-5 points]. Even more than Humans, a Vargr will go out of his way to investigate new things.

  • Easy to Read [-10 points]. Vargr find hiding their feelings an alien concept. Even if the Vargr doesn't say what he thinks, which he usually will, posture, facial expression, and ruffled fur are all easy for other Vargr to read. These cues are also fairly obvious to Humans, as Vargr are descended from canines and Humans have been reading their dogs' body language for millennia. The correlation is not total, but comes close enough.

  • Proud [-1 point]. Vargr are always concerned with their own status within any individual group, and that group's status in society. They are also quick to take offense at racial slights.

  • Reduced Fatigue (-1 fatigue) [-3 points]. Vargr are good sprinters, but lack the long-distance endurance of Humans.

  • Reduced Hit Points -1 [-2 points]. The lighter Vargr build results in the average Vargr having an HT of 10, but only nine hit points.

  • Reputation -2 [-10 points]. Vargr have a universal reputation as chaotic, easily swayed, and potentially disloyal.
Character Creation Notes

Common advantages for Vargr characters include Charisma, Status, and on occasion a Military Rank (most often for Vargr who serve as corsairs). Vargr also commonly have the disadvantages Impulsive or Paranoid.

Vargr characters almost never have the disadvantages Code of Honor (save for the Pirates' Code, which can reflect a cohesive Vargr pack), Fanaticism (to anything other than a high-charisma leader), Honesty, Sense of Duty (to any group larger than a pack or family group), Shyness, or Xenophobia. Any Vargr with one of these disadvantages would need to take an Unusual Background and describe just how they came by it.

Most of the character templates found in the GURPS: Traveller sourcebook are suitable for Vargr, as are the templates found in the Vargr chapter in GURPS: Traveller - Alien Races 1. I note, however, that the templates have not been updated to reflect the point costs for GURPS 4th Edition, and thus anyone who wishes to use them should consult with me and I will do the appropriate conversion. I intend to convert these templates as time permits, but there are a lot of them and it may take me a while to get to all of them.

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Monday, December 14, 2020

Campaign Design - Prestige Class: Servant of Kivutar

Servant of Kivutar (adapted from Dragon Magazine #353)

Kivutar often refers to her servants almost lovingly as her favored children. They are seducers and hedonists who have given their entire lives over to the fulfilment of pleasure and pain. Only when working to subvert the values and morals of the innocent do they turn from this consuming need, and it is said that such lust is felt in turn by their lascivious mistress deep in her icy palace in the Hells. Servants of Kivutar often lead her cults in the Three Worlds, but just as often work in secret in the employ of dockside brothels or in the harems of powerful kings. Kivutar only allows women to become her servants, for only they can properly transmit the particular thrills and rewards the Rotted Temptress seeks to harvest from the mortal world.

This prestige class is primarily suited for spellcasters, but fighters and rogues have been known to become servants of Kivutar as well. Monks who have turned away from law can make particularly devastating thralls. Typically, a monk, fighter, or rogue takes a level of favored soul or sorcerer before entering this prestige class so they can gain the full advantages the class has to offer.

Hit Die: d6.
Luck Die: d6.

Requirements
To become a servant of Kivutar, one must meet the following criteria:
  • Alignment: Chaotic evil.
  • Gender: Female.
  • Skills: Bluff 9+ ranks, Diplomacy 9+ ranks, Perform: Any Two 5+ ranks.
  • Feats: Servant of Darkness, Skill Augmentation (Bluff and Intimidate), Spell Focus (Enchantment).
  • Special: Must have Kivutar as their patron deity.
  • Special: Must willingly murder someone who loves you.
  • Special: Must have permanently lost at least one experience level from a succubus's energy drain attack. Once a servant gains her first level in this prestige class, restoring this lost level via greater restoration does not adversely affect the character's qualification for this prestige class. Most who seek entry to this prestige class wait until the last possible moment to meet this requirement, so they have enough time to restore the lost level while greater restoration can still help.
Class Skills
  • The servant of Kivutar's class skills (and the key ability for each skill) are Balance (Dex), Bluff (Cha), Concentration (Con), Diplomacy (Cha), Disguise (Cha), Escape Artist (Dex), Forgery (Int), Gather Information (Cha), Intimidate (Cha), Knowledge: Nobility and Royalty: Religion (Int), Knowledge: Religion (Int), Knowledge: the Planes (Int), Perform: Any (all skills taken individually) (Cha), Profession: Any (all skills taken individually) (Wis), Sense Motive (Wis), Sleight of Hand (Dex), Speak Language (NA), Tumble (Dex), Use Magic Device (Cha), and Use Rope (Dex).
  • Note: Because the Three Worlds campaign uses the Skills by Character house rule, the list of class skills given here is only included for the sake of completeness, and is not used by characters in the campaign setting.
  • Skill Points at each level: 6 + Intelligence modifier.
Class Features
All of the following are class features of the servant of Kivutar prestige class.
  • Base Attack Bonus: Poor. A servant of Kivutar gains +½ base attack bonus per class level.

  • Base Fortitude Save Bonus: Poor. A servant of Kivutar gains +13 base Fortitude save bonus per class level.

  • Base Reflex Save Bonus: Poor. A servant of Kivutar gains +13 base Reflex save bonus per class level.

  • Base Will Save Bonus: Good. A servant of Kivutar gains a +½ base Will save bonus per class level.

  • Weapon and Armor Proficiencies: Servants of Kivutar gain Martial Weapon Proficiency (Kukri) and Exotic Weapon Proficiency (Scourge) as bonus feats.

  • Spellcasting: At every level save for 1st, 5th, and 9th, a servant of Kivutar gains new spells per day as if he had also gained a level in whatever spellcasting class he belonged to before he added the prestige class. She does not, however, gain any other benefit of a character of that class would have gained. This essentially means that she adds the level of servant of Kivutar to the level of whatever other spellcasting class the character has, then determines spells per and caster level accordingly. If a character had more than one spellcasting class before she became a servant of Kivutar, she must decide to which spellcasting class she adds each level of servant of Kivutar for the purpose of determining spells per day.

  • Profane Beauty (Su): As long as a servant of Kivutar wears no armor and wields no shield, she gains a deflection bonus to her Armor Class equal to her Charisma bonus, to a maximum bonus equal to her servant of Kivutar level.

  • Telepathic Gaze (Ex): A servant of Kivutar can communicate via telepathy with any creature within 100 feet that meets her gaze. While communicating with a creature in this manner, she can read his surface thoughts as if she had cast detect thoughts and concentrated on the target for 3 rounds. The target can attempt to resist this gaze by making a Will save (DC 10 + the servant's class level + her Charisma modifier). If she can red the target's surface thoughts, she gains a +5 circumstance bonus on Bluff, Diplomacy, or Intimidate checks made against that opponent.

  • Betrayal (Su): At 2ndrd level, a servant of Kivutar's attacks are particularly devastating to those who believe her to be an ally. If she ever deals damage to an ally with a weapon or spell, the ally must make a Will saving throw (DC 10 + the servant's class level + her Charisma modifier) or be stunned for 1d4 rounds.

  • Sneak Attack: If a servant of Kivutar of 3rd level of higher can catch an opponent when he is unable to defend himself effectively from her attack, she can strike a vital spot for extra damage.

    The servant’s attack deals extra damage any time her target would be denied a Dexterity bonus to Armor Class (whether the target actually has a Dexterity bonus or not), or when the servant flanks her target. This extra damage is +1d6 at 3rd level, and it increases by +1d6 every three servant levels thereafter. Should the servant score a critical hit with a sneak attack, this extra damage is not multiplied.

    Ranged attacks can count as sneak attacks only if the target is within 30 feet.

    With a sap (blackjack) or an unarmed strike, a servant can make a sneak attack that deals nonlethal damage instead of lethal damage. She cannot use a weapon that deals lethal damage to deal nonlethal damage in a sneak attack, not even with the usual -4 penalty.

    A servant can sneak attack only living creatures with discernible anatomies - undead, constructs, oozes, plants, and incorporeal creatures lack vital areas to attack. Any creature that is immune to critical hits is not vulnerable to sneak attacks. The servant must be able to see the target well enough to pick out a vital spot and must be able to reach such a spot. A servant cannot sneak attack while striking a creature with concealment or striking the limbs of a creature whose vitals are beyond reach.

    If a servant of Kivutar gets a sneak attack bonus from another source (such as rogue levels) the bonuses to damage stack.

  • Charming Voice (Su): At 4th level, the servant's voice becomes beguiling. She gains a +4 competence bonus on Bluff, Diplomacy, and Intimidate checks, and the save DC for any language-dependent spells she casts gain a +1 profane bonus. Once per day, she may attempt to charm a creature of the same type as a spell-like ability, provided that creature can hear and understand her voice. This otherwise duplicates the effects of charm monster. Her caster level for this ability equals the servant;s class level.

  • Sinner's Beauty (Su): When a servant of Kivutar reaches 5th level, her appearance takes on an otherworldly and arousing beauty. Her charisma increases by 2 points. At 10th level, her beauty increases even more, increasing her Charisma score by another 2 points.

  • Draining Kiss (Su): When she becomes 5th level, a servant of Kivutar can drain energy from a creature she lures into some act of passion or by simply planting a kiss on the victim. If the target is not willing, she must successfully grapple him first. The kiss bestows 1 negative level. The victim must succeed on a Fortitude save (DC 10 + the servant's class level + her Charisma modifier) to remove this negative level. This ability may be used up to three times per day.

  • Reflect Enchantment (Ex): At 7th level, a servant of Kivutar can reflexively reflect enchantment spells that target her and fail to affect her. Up to three times per day, as an immediate action, a servant of Kivutar who makes her saving throw to resist any spell of the school of enchantment may immediately reflect that spell back at its source, as if she had cast the spell on the target. This defense works only against enchantment spells negated by successful saving throws.

  • Dominating Voice (Su): A 8th level, the servant's charming voice becomes more potent. She gains a +8 competence bonus on Bluff, Diplomacy, and Intimidate checks, and the save DC for any language-dependent spel she casts gains a +2 profane bonus. Once per day, she may attempt to dominate a creature of her type as a spell-like ability, provided the creature can hear and understand her voice. This otherwise duplicates the effects of dominate monster. Her caster level for this ability equals the servant's class level.

  • Succubus Form (Ex): At 10th level, a servant of Kivutar gains the supernatural ability to transform into a succubus-like creature once per day. This transformation requires a full-round action and lasts for 1 hour. During this time, the servant gains the following benefits:

    • +2 Strength, +2 Dexterity, +2 Constitution, +6 Intelligence, +4 wisdom, and +16 Charisma.

    • +9 natural armor bonus to her Armor Class.

    • Wings that grant a fly speed of 50 feet with average maneuverability.

    • Damage reduction 10/cold iron or good.

    • Darkvision 60 feet.

    • Immunity to electricity and poison.

    • Resistance to acid 10, cold 10, and fire 10.

    • Spell resistance 18.

    • She can use her draining kiss ability at will as long as she remains in this form; uses do not count against her regular limit of three times per day.
Servant of Kivutar

LevelSpecialSpells per Day
1stProfane beauty, telepathic gaze-
2ndBetrayal+1 level of existing spellcasting class
3rdSneak attack +1d6+1 level of existing spellcasting class
4thCharming voice+1 level of existing spellcasting class
5thDraining kiss, sinner's beauty-
6thSneak attack +2d6+1 level of existing spellcasting class
7thReflect enchantment+1 level of existing spellcasting class
8thDominating voice+1 level of existing spellcasting class
9thSneak attack +3d6-
10thSinner's beauty +4, succubus form+1 level of existing spellcasting class

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Wednesday, September 23, 2020

The History of Cadfor: An Account of the Years from the Fall of House Llud to the Present

The History of Cadfor: An Account of the Years from the Fall of House Llud to the Present
by Wulfsige sé Stærtractere
(Published 540 IR)

Most of the misfortunes of Cadfor over the last century can be traced to the whelming of Llydaw in 451 IR and the subsequent failure in 455 IR of the Great Houses to agree upon a new Emperor for the Naceadan-Rhadynnic Dual Empire. Once the Great Houses fell into war amongst themselves, the Freeholds were left to fend for themselves without the protective shield provided by the Sky Empire. During this time of chaos, all of the Freeholds suffered to some extent, from the persistent raids launched tribes of giants against Ersav and Melin, to the depredations of the Dark Prince endured by Ceniþ in the 530s, to the extended occupation of Nuþralia by Kivutar’s Polþian armies that was only ended a few scant years ago. Save for Loring, which still labors under the rule of the White Hand, few of the Freeholds suffered as much as Cadfor did under the heel of the Crimson Duke.

Though his origins are shrouded in such obscurity that his true name is unknown to history, the overlord known only as the Crimson Duke arrived in Cadfor in 469 IR with an army of giants, orcs, and ratmen raised from tribes in Elizon, the Hills of Brann-Galedd, and Crespor Mountains. Utterly devoted to Ishi, and wielding mighty arcane powers, the Crimson Duke treated the Ruby Sorcerer as his personal patron, and naturally he sought to emulate his demonic master. Emulating Ishi himself, the Crimson Duke enticed a myriad of evil creatures to his side by forging an alliance of the elemental deities Halpas, Iku-Tyrma, Khil, and Surtan as his following, even including the worshipper of Bål and Lug among the ranks of his armies. In an odd twist for a coalition that was so laden with giants and giant-friendly allies, Abonde’s priestesses were strangely absent from the Crimson Duke’s followers.

Some sages have speculated that Abonde’s absence was the result of jealousy expressed by the Crimson Duke’s consort Nakhtmoy, a dark and shadowy spider-demoness who served as his mistress of assassins. Some assert that the Crimson Duke simply did not recruit any of Abonde’s disciples into his armies out of deference for his fearsome consort, while others have expressed the belief that Nakhtmoy must have arranged for all of Abonde’s followers in the invading army to be murdered, while still others maintain that Abonde’s priestesses simply refused to rally to the Crimson Duke’s banner. No matter the reason, all agree that Nakhtmoy would brook no rivals to her mistress Gangyn, and not only was Abonde’s influence absent from the Crimson Duke’s armies, also apparently banned from his retinue were the followers of Kivutar, Ninkurra, Seþra, and even Tunar.

After a mere three years of war, the Crimson Duke had exhausted the armies of the wily and resourceful King Emyr Bane Tan of Cadfor, but only at the cost of extending his own forces dangerously close to the breaking point. That all changed in 472 IR when King Emyr was assassinated in his sleep, most likely by Nakhtmoy. Soon thereafter, a wave of assassinations resulted in the deaths of every one of King Emyr’s family, ending House Bane Tan. The Crimson Duke’s army soon crushed the remaining feeble forces of resistance in Cadfor and nearly forty years of brutal, iron-fisted rule began.

Befitting a devoted follower of the Soulblighter, the Crimson Duke was not content to merely conquer Cadfor. With one hand the Red Tyrant crushed the people of Cadfor, and with the other he waged war upon his neighbors. Almost as soon as he established his control over the kingdom, the Crimson Duke led his armies to war against Melin and Gwenarþ and when those campaigns went awry, he pushed into Elizon and tried to seize control of Loring in an effort to expand his dominions northwards. In Cadfor itself, the countryside was stripped bare and its industry and populace put to work fueling the Crimson Duke’s war machine. The youth of the nation were drafted into the Duke’s armies, or forced into labor battalions to craft and construct the materials of warfare to supply them. Many daughters were forced into a life as camp followers, servicing the needs of the Duke’s favored soldiers.

Those denizens of Cadfor who refused the Duke’s demands were killed. Some slaughtered outright by the partols of orcs and giants who roamed the land, others were simply found dead in their beds with their throats cut, killed by Nakhtmoy’s omnipresent network of spies and assassins. Fear ruled the land, as no one could be sure that their neighbor wasn’t secretly an agent working for the Crimson Duke who would turn you in for shirking your work or failing to pay your taxes or expressing disloyalty or even dissatisfaction. Though he was not the sole reason for the creation of the Freeholder’s Council, in 492 IR, the Crimson Duke’s depredations were certainly a significant motivating factor in convincing many of the Freehold kings to join.

After years of war and destruction, the first glimmers of hope for Cadfor shone through in 508 IR, although almost no one knew it at the time. The small village of Laragh in the foothills of the Crespor Mountains was the site of a minor dispute over tax collection that set a rebellion into motion. When four black orcs sought to collect what they claimed were unpaid taxes owed by the village blacksmith Osian, the exchange turned violent, and they killed him. According to legend, Osian’s apprentice Girion killed all four of the Duke’s tax collectors with his blacksmith’s hammer, and then fled into the wilderness as an outlaw.

For two years Girion lived in the mountains, coming down from the high passes to raid the Crimson Duke’s camps and strongholds. For two years Girion was able to confound and evade the Red Tyrant’s forces, and the tales of his exploits caused others to rally to his cause. In 510 IR, however, Nakhtmoy’s spies discovered that Girion had been secretly meeting with a farmer’s daughter named Siân, and soon the order was given to kill her family and capture her as bait. Even though Girion knew it was a trap, he could not leave his beloved in the hands of the crimson Duke, and he mounted a rescue of such epic daring that it is now recounted in song. Realizing that his presence in Cadfor was endangering those he cared for, Giron fled the country with Siân at his side, vowing to return one day.

In 520 IR, Girion made good upon his vow. In the intervening years, Girion and Siân had made names for themselves as sellswords and privateers and returned to their homeland as seasoned, battle-hardened veterans skilled in both physical and mystical combat. In their travels they had acquired several allies whose names have become famous: Wulfric, Elena, Heinrich, and Colwyn, all of whom joined the pair in their return to Cadfor. Leading this small band of allies and supported by a devoted retinue of followers, Girion launched a war to liberate his nation from the heel of the Crimson Duke.

Over the succeeding years, Giron’s rebellion grew from this tiny kernel to a full-fledged popular movement. Inspired by this former blacksmith’s apprentice and farmer’s daughter, the common-folk rallied to their cause. Girion forged alliances with the dwarves of the Haearn Hills, obtained support and troops from Melin and Gwenarth, and even recruited the aid of tribes of khulen from Elizon who had grown weary of the Crimson Duke’s attempts to bring them under his power.

The war was long and hard, and Girion’s forces suffered many setbacks and scored many victories, but they ever pushed the Crimson Duke’s forces back, liberating towns and villages one by one. These triumphs were not without cost- Girion suffered a personal loss in 529 IR when his eldest son Liam was killed at the Battle of Féarach Hill. In 531 IR, Girion seized Celliwig, wresting control of the city from the Crimson Duke after an eleven month siege, forcing his foe entirely out of the eastern and central parts of Cadfor.

Finally, in 533 IR, Girion scraped together every soldier he could muster and led his troops against the Crimson Duke’s amassed forces at the Battle of Bythwrdd Meadows. For this titanic battle, both Melin and Gwenarþ sent their own armies to aid Girion, and even Girion’s remaining son Padraig took to the field at his father’s side. The battle went badly for the allied army, and just when it seemed that the Crimson Duke’s companies of giants would overwhelm them, Ådon, Dallen, Mannan and the rest of the Conclave of Eight came to once and for all deal with the threat posed by the Crimson Duke and Nakhtmoy and turned the tide of battle and the Duke’s forces were scattered. Despite the victory, this was a day of sadness as Siân, Girion’s faithful spouse of more than two decades, was slain in the battle. Though his body was never found, the Crimson Duke was never seen after this day, and he presumably died on the field with his troops.

After his victory at the Battle of Bythwrdd Meadows, Girion laid siege to the Crimson Duke’s stronghold of Cær Colur, now the refuge of the vile Nakhtmoy. Within a year, the dread fortress fell and though they could not locate the demoness to banish her, the Conclave of Eight was able to trap her inside the network of tunnels that honeycombed the earth beneath its ruined walls. Seals of mystical power were placed on the place, imprisoning the elusive spider-demon within the complex.

Having driven the Crimson Duke and his armies from Cadfor, Girion was declared king of that nation in 534 IR. In that same year, King OEngus Lairdsonne of Melin and King Brann of Gwenarth sponsored Girion’s membership in the Freeholder’s Council, and he was admitted to that body in that same year. Girion chose a black crossed hammer and sickle on a silver field with a red border as the symbol of his house, and chose Lámh Casúr as his House name, becoming King Girion Lámh Casúr.

King Girion is closely allied with King Œngus Lairdsonne of the neighboring kingdom of Melin, and Girion's only living son Padraig was betrothed to Œngus' daughter Iarfhlaith in 535 IR , a union that would have united the two kingdoms in a mutually beneficial alliance. Unfortunately, in a sad turn of events Padraig vanished while campaigning against a goblinoid incursion in the Lloftmelin Mountains in 538 IR, and he is presumed dead. Girion’s only remaining heir is his thirteen year old daughter Andrella.

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Monday, September 21, 2020

A Brief History of Sakaþa, the Great King of the Lizardfolk

Excerpts from Brief History of Sakaþa, the Great King of the Lizardfolk
by Demetrios ap Varin
(Published 536 IR)

The Great King Sakaþa is an enigma, shrouded in myth and legend. Venerated by the lizardfolk of the Great Southern Swamp as their true and eternal leader and feared as a demonic figure of terror by all of the civilized peoples of Nuþralia, it is almost impossible to disinguish between fact and fiction concerning this creature. Among the lizardfolk, the legend of Sakaþa has taken on such epic proportions that virtually any deed one can conceive of has been attributed to him. Among the non-lizardfolk that live in Eor, the folk tales and stories told about him paint Sakaþa alternatively as a figure of ineffable terror who name should only be spoken in hushed whispers and a comical buffoon whose ineptitude is a suitable subject for mockery.

No one knows for certain where or when the dread creature known as Sakaþa was born, but it is reasonable to assume that it took place in the early part of the 4th century IR, presumably somewhere in the depths of the Great Southern Swamp. With the strength and stamina of the lizardfolk, but intelligence that rivaled even the most brilliant of men, Sakaþa quickly rose to a position of power and leadership among the tribes of the marshes, gaining such renown that his name appears in texts as early as 348 IR. Sakaþa proved to be a skilled arcanist, and he used his magical prowess to great effect, defeating his enemies with both the physical prowess of his troops and the arcane power of his wizardly abilities. In short order, Sakaþa ruled over a vast nation of scaled folk. Despite his success in taming his fellows, Sakaþa was clearly unsatisfied, and all accounts provide the same reasons why: He had a larger than normal share of the greed, rapacity, and evil found among both the lizardfolk and men.

Sakaþa's ambitions likely would have gone unfulfilled had the lizardman not formed an alliance with a powerful sect of Belial’s church called the Cult of the Black Flame. The power wielded by the Cult's priests and the dark mysteries of Belial's power they commanded gave Sakaþa's armies a strength and vigor that was nigh-unstoppable. Within just a few years, Sakaþa came to be the supreme ruler of the lizardfolk and other denizens of the Great Southern Swamp, extending his hegemony over all who dwelled there and becoming a constant thorn in the side of his neighbors as raiding parties were frequently sent forth to plunder all those on his borders.

Following his conquest of the denizens of the swamp, Sakaþa decided that plundering his neighbors was not sufficient, and launched an invasion of Eor in 351 IR, and completing his conquest of the region by 356 IR, defeating King Comyn of Nuþralia’s army and killing the king in the process at the Battle of Ongal Hill. Once he seized control of Eor, Sakaþa enslaved the population and carried away vast riches to the Great Southern Swamp. In addition to his loyal lizardfolk and vast army of slaves, Sakaþa’s overflowing treasury enabled him to employ many powerful mercenaries in his service, further cementing his position as unquestioned ruler of both the Great Southern Swamp and Western Nuþralia.

After Sakaþa’s invasion of Eor, Nuþralia was in disarray, with the newly crowned King Cadwalandr unable to respond right away due to incursions by Ahaliat tribesmen and yet another invasion by seafaring raiders from Kysthjem and Langjord that not only overran much of the eastern half of the realm but also kept most of the Imperial fleet occupied for years. Fortunately for the young king, Sakaþa was strangely quiescent during this period, giving both the Nuþralian royal house and the Imperial Throne the time they needed to marshal their forces for a campaign to liberate the lands the Grat King of the Lizardfolk had seized.

In 364 IR, Cadwalandr’s pleas for Imperial aid were finally answered, and High King Ghilchrist IV assembled a host that included knights from the Order of the Gauntlet, and forces contributed by House Gilfaethwy and House Llefelys. In an unexpected turn, King Cadwalandr was able to turn Håkon, one of the chieftains of the invading northmen, by promising him lands for Håkon's followers to settle upon, and thus was able to swell his own forces for the campaign. Over the next three years, the King Cadwalandr aided by the Imperial forces was able to reconquer most of what Sakaþa had seized a decade before.

Sakaþa was not a particularly wise or judicious ruler. It was this weakness that caused him to ride into battle at the head of his lizardfolk in the Battle of Vendare, where he was mortally wounded. Legend holds that it was Håkon himself who dealt the fatal blow upon the Lizard King, a story many consider dubious, but which Håkon's descendants consider to be iron clad fact. What is known is that Håkon was made Æorldorman of Vendare for the services he rendered to King Caldwalandr during the war. As for Sakaþa, his shattered army was scattered, but stories tell that a few loyal servants carried his dead and broken body from the field of battle and off into the Great Southern Swamp to a locale unknown to his enemies.


Since that day, Sakaþa’s name became a talisman of power among the lizardfolk of the Great Southern Swamp. Powerful tribal leaders often style themselves as the “New Sakaþa’, but none has ever been able to match his combination of power and cunning, and none was ever able to equal his glorious career. In time, it became de rigeur for the lizardfolk of the Great Southern Swamp to claim they were acting in Great King Sakaþa’s name, and invoking his name in their battle cries and curses. Fact turned to legend, and legend turned to myth, and over the years it became impossible to distinguish between the reality of Sakaþa’s life and the array of stories concerning heroic feats and exploits that were attributed to him in tall tales. Stories about Sakaþa’s acts have become a staple of tavern tales and songs even among the men living in the regions bordering the Great Southern Swamp, although he was almost always depicted as a villain in them.

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Monday, September 14, 2020

General Rules: Feats - Leadership

Leadership is a somewhat unique feat that allows a character to recruit a cohort and followers. This page details how I handle this feat.

Leadership [General] (from the Player's Handbook)
You are the sort of person others want to follow, and you have done some work attempting to recruit cohorts and followers.
  Prerequisite: Character level 6th+
  Benefit: You can attract loyal companions and devoted followers, subordinates who assist you. The level of your cohort and the number and level of your followers is determined by your leadership score. Note that there are different modifiers for your Leadership score with respect to cohorts and followers, so your Leadership score might be different for your cohort than it is for your followers.

Your cohorts and followers are generally loyal and reliable retainers. Unlike ordinary NPCs, who have their own agendas and objectives, cohorts and followers look to the character for direction and guidance. As a general rule, they will not betray you or deceive you unless they are severely mistreated, although in such cases they will usually simply abandon your service.

Cohorts and followers will expect that the character will provide for their basic needs including room, board, and any workspace, tools, or other specialized equipment needed to undertake the tasks you assign to them (this is, after all, one of the major reasons they have sought you out to serve as your retainers). So, for example, if you recruit a follower who is a blacksmith and ask him to craft materials for you, he will expect you to provide a forge with appropriate blacksmithing tools and raw materials needed to undertake the work. Failure to appropriately provide for your cohort and followers will be likely to negatively affect your Leadership Score.

Cohort: A character with Leadership may have a single cohort. In general, a player may design their desired cohort, subject to my approval. Cohorts should be built using the elite array of ability scores (15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8), subject to applicable racial modifiers. The cohort may be any playable race and any allowable class. The cohort may be a multi-classed character if the player desires, and may take advantage of any of the options available to player characters. When the cohort enters the character's service, they will be equipped with equipment with a total value appropriate to an NPC of the cohort's level (see Table 4-23: NPC Gear Value on page 127 of the Dungeon Master's Guide). Any additional equipment must be provided by the player.

Under certain circumstances, I may allow a cohort to be a nonstandard race, or even an intelligent monstrous creature, such as a sphinx or a dragon. In those cases, apply the appropriate Level Adjustment to the cohorts class levels, or, if the cohort is a type of creature that does not have a listed Level Adjustment, the cohort's initial "level" will be their Challenge Rating. All such nonstandard cohorts must be approved by me in advance.

Your cohort is a loyal companion who will accompany your character on adventures. In general, you can control your cohort, although they will not undertake obviously suicidal or self-destructive actions. I reserve the right to assume control of the cohort if that becomes necessary.

Your cohort does not gain "experience". As your Leadership score goes up as you rise in level, your cohort will gain levels to match that allowed by your new Leadership score, although this is subject to the usual limitation that your cohort can never be higher level than two levels lower than your current character level.

Followers: A character with Leadership is able to attract followers if his Leadership Score is at least 10. Followers, like your cohort, may be designed by the player, subject to my approval. Followers should be built using the standard array of ability scores (11, 11, 11, 10, 10, 10) or the nonelite array of ability scores (13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8) at your option. You may, if you wish switch back and forth between these two arrays for different followers. Followers can be any standard playable race, and may be adepts, commoners, experts, or warriors. When a follower enters the character's service, they will be equipped with equipment with a total value equal to the starting gear for a character of their class. Any additional equipment must be provided by the player.

Under certain circumstances, a follower may be of a nonstandard race if there is an appropriate character-driven reason for such followers to be attracted to the player character. All such followers will be typical members of their race and must be approved by me in advance.

Your followers are loyal aides, but generally will not be willing to accompany the character on adventures. Followers will be willing to work as craftsmen, work as personal aides, handle business tasks, act as couriers, travel with caravans and take care of your animals and wagons, and even defend your stronghold or, if necessary, go to war alongside you, but they will not delve into dungeons, enter a dragon's lair, or help you sack an evil temple. In general, a character may direct the actions of their followers, but they will not be willing to undertake unnecessarily dangerous, suicidal, or self-destructive actions. As with cohorts, I reserve the right to assume control of followers if necessary.

As with cohorts, your followers don't gain "experience". As your Leadership Score increases, you attract new followers and are eligible to retain higher level followers. When you become eligible for higher level followers, you may either advance a current follower to a higher level or recruit a new follower of the appropriate level.

Leadership Modifiers: A character's base leadership score is their character level + their Charisma modifier. Several factors can affect a character's Leadership score, causing it to vary from this base score. Your reputation from the point of view of the cohort or follower you are trying to attract raises of lowers your Leadership score.

Leader's ReputationModifier
Great renown+2
Fairness and generosity+1
Special power+1
Failure-1
Aloofness-1
Cruelty-2

Other modifiers may apply when the character tries to attract a cohort.

The Leader . . .Modifier
Has a familiar, special mount, or animal companion-2
Recruits a cohort of a different alignment-1
Caused the death of a cohort-2 1
1 Cumulative per cohort killed

Followers have different priorities from cohorts. When the character tries to attract a new follower, use any of the following modifiers that apply.

The Leader . . .Modifier
Has a stronghold, base of operations, guildhouse, or the like+2
Moves around a lot-1
Caused the death of other followers-1

Cohorts and Followers: Once a character's Leadership score is determined, the level of their cohort and the number of followers they can attract is determined according to the following table. If a character's Leadership score changes, their cohort and number of followers may be affected. As a character's Leadership score rises, their cohort will advance in level and more followers will come into their service. If a character's Leadership score falls, their cohort's advancement will stagnate, and followers may abandon the character.

LeadershipCohortNumber of Followers by Level
ScoreLevel1st2nd3rd4th5th6th
1 or lower-------
21st------
32nd------
43rd------
53rd------
64th------
75th------
85th------
96th------
107th5-----
117th6-----
128th8-----
139th101----
1410th151----
1510th2021---
1611th2521---
1712th30311--
1812th35311--
1913th404211-
2014th505321-
2115th6063211
2215th7574221
2316th9095321
2417th110116321
24 or higher17th135137422
Leadership Score: A character's base Leadership score equals his level plus any Charisma modifier. In order to take into account negative Charisma modifiers, this table allows for very low Leadership scores, but the character must still be 6th level or higher in order to gain the Leadership feat. Outside factors can affect a character's Leadership score, as detailed above.
Cohort Level: The character can attract a cohort of up to this level. Regardless of a character's Leadership score, he can only recruit a cohort who is two or more levels lower than himself. A 6th-level character with a +3 Charisma bonus, for example, can still only recruit a cohort of 4th level or lower. The cohort should be equipped with gear appropriate for its level.
Number of Followers by Level: The character can lead up to the indicated number of characters of each level.For example, a character with a Leadership score of 14 can lead up to fifteen 1st-level followers and one 2nd-level follower.

Replacing Cohorts and Followers: If you lose a cohort or followers, you can generally replace thrm, according to your current Leadership Score. I takes 1d4 months to recruit replacements. If you are to blame for the deaths of the cohort or followers, it takes extra time to replace them, up to a full year. Losing a cohort or followers can give you a reputation for failure, which would affect your Leadership score.

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