Lets Create: Urban Jungle Characters In Action

And now for a brief look at the previously crated Urban Jungle characters in action.

(But first a note of warning – I am not an expert on the system. Any and all errors made are unintentional. But then again, I still make errors in games I know well. So it all evens out in the end.)


Felicia Flair’s childhood friend, Kitty Sullivan, now a fearless reporter, has gone missing while investigating the dealings of a notorious badger bootlegger, Big Bad Barry Bodrov. Fearing for her friend and not getting much help from the police, she approaches a Private Eye, Douglas Danger, to help find Kitty. Douglas brings along an acquaintance, Bruno Brown, thinking the big bear may be of some help.

Douglas decides that the best place to start digging for information is The Jiving Hive, a notorious drinking spot that Big Bad Barry is known to frequent. The problem is that Felicia is determined to come along as well, but she is too famous to visit such a lowlife location and not be recognised. Felicia decides that a disguise is in order and that her acting ability will help facilitate the disguise.

The GM decides on a Will + Deceit check for this. Felicia asks to use her Performance gift as well, as she will be putting on a show, which the GM allows. Felicia rolls D6+2D8+D12, getting 4, 3, 4 & 9. 3 successes. Even Douglas, as suspicious as he is, is impressed at how well she slips into her role.

(To see through the disguise requires a contest, in this case it would be a Mind+Observation roll, comparing successes, highest roll vs highest roll. The person with the highest roll wins, and it can result in multiple successes. If Felicia walked into a room with Douglas in it, he would roll D4+D6+D8, which means he wouldn’t be able to roll high enough to beat Felicia. If, however, he was suspicious and got his bonus D12 for his personality, he might be able to see through her disguise.)

As they enter The Jiving Hive, there is not much response from the patrons. Douglas and Bruno blend right in – it is their kind of place. Felicia, the flamboyant actress she is, does attract a couple of looks. After all, she is a good-looking fox, but she doesn’t look out of place, especially not with the company she keeps. While Douglas and Bruno begin to ask around, seeking out news, she settles in for a drink.

Douglas and Bruno both make Will+Questioning checks. Both get their Streetwise bonuses due to gathering information about criminals and Douglas also gets his Gossip bonus. Douglas rolls 1D4+1D6+2D12 getting 3, 5, 10, 10. 3 successes. Bruno rolls D6+D12 getting 5, 8. 2 successes.

Two successes is something a professional could do, getting information that only people in ‘the know’ could supply, while three is at the level of a master and would dig up some serious secrets.

That is more than enough to find out what they need to know, that Big Bad Barry has a factory on the outskirts of town, and in addition it is where he is known to interrogate – and then dispose of – rivals and those who cause him trouble. Given that, it is imperative they get there, and soon, before anything happens to Kitty.

But before they make to leave, their is trouble.

A tipsy cat customer swaggers over to where Felicia sits. “Say, doll, you look like you could use some company.”

Felicia looks him up and down. “I am here with friends,” she states sternly, “I suggest you leave.” As if on queue, Bruno looms large, cracking his knuckles.

Felicia is trying to make the drunk back down, which is a Body+Will+Presence check vs his Body+Will+Presence. Bruno is trying to provide an assist. For an assist, they make the same check and if they get at least one success, the person they are assisting gets a bonus 1D8 (or 1D12 if they have the Team Player gift.)

Bruno rolls 2D6+2D8 getting 2, 1, 5, 3. One success.

Felicia rolls 1D4+1D6+3D8 (including the bonus assist dice), getting 3, 3, 1, 8, 8.

The drunk, being a minor NPC, gets only D6s to his traits. They don’t get a type, just species and career – in this case a Cat Burglar. Neither of these give him presence so gets just 2D6 for his roll, getting 3, 2.

The Cat got no successes, while Felicia got two. Normally you would compare dice to see who did better but there is no need in this case, so Felicia ends up with Two Successes. Between her and Bruno’s assist, they really scare the Cat.

The Cat turns white and backs away, hastily stammering out apologies, all but tripping over a chair as he does, much to the amusement of all in the drinking hole.

With the Cat gone, Felicia, Douglas and Bruno make their way to factory on the outskirts of town, a big place surrounded by high walls, just as night is arriving. The problem isn’t as much getting over as it is in getting over unseen. Big Bad Barry has goons patrolling the compound and it will take some skill, and not a little luck, to slip by them and into the factory without raising an alarm.

Climbing is an Body+Athletics check but in this case the GM says it is an easy task that they can complete by rote. Except in cases of contests, on fairly mundane tasks and to speed up play, you can take 1/2 a success per dice. Felicia and Douglas both have two dice plus a bonus dice from Bruno assisting them due to his Giant gift meaning they have 1 1/2 successes, enough to climb the wall. Bruno only has 1 dice from his Body, but he gains a bonus dice from his Giant gift, as the GM says he can just reach up and pull himself over, giving him two dice, or 1 success, enough to get over.

Dropping down over the wall, they find themselves behind piles of crates, but to get to the factory will require leaving cover and making their way across fairly open ground, with goons keeping an eye out and lights shining about. Trying to judge the best time, they make a dash for it, hoping to avoid detection.

In this case, the GM announces they need to make a Speed + Evasion roll to sneak to the factory without being spotted, but it is more difficult than normal, because of the goons, meaning they need 2 successes to make it. Which cause problems.

Douglas volunteers to go first. He doesn’t have Evasion but asks to use his Suspicious personality trait for its daily use, saying that he will be extra wary and alert for trouble. The GM allows it, so he rolls 1D8+1D12, getting 4 & 10. 2 Successes. Douglas makes it safely to the factory.

Bruno follows. He has 2D6 for his roll, a risky endeavour, but manages a 6 and a 4. 2 successes. A close thing, but he reaches Douglas safely.

Quickly and quietly, the dog and the bear dash across the open ground between the crates and the factory and reach cover unseen. There they wait for Felicia to join them.

That leaves Felicia, who only has her Speed dice, which isn’t enough to get two successes.

Douglas and Bruno say they want to assist her. The GM asks how they mean to do so without attracting attention. They say they will do it with hand signs, motioning where to go and when to stop. The GM allows that, but says they need to make a Mind+Evasion check.

Douglas has 1D6 for his mind and rolls a 3. No success. Bruno rolls 2D6 for a 2 and a 5. 1 success, which is enough, just, to give Felicia a bonus 1D8 to her roll.

Felicia watches as the other two makes motions with their hands, trying to direct her movements. She can’t make much headway with what Douglas is doing, but Bruno’s makes more sense. Psyching her self up, she prepares to cross.

Felicia makes her attempt, with 1D6 for Mind plus the bonus 1D8 for an assist. She rolls a 1 and a 4. Just barely 1 success and not the 2 required.

Felicia scurries across the open ground and reaches Douglas and Bruno, but something caught the attention of one of the goons and he comes to investigate.

And that is when their trouble begins…

Lets Create: Urban Jungle Characters – Douglas ‘Digger’ Danger

Before having a quick look at the mechanics in action, I thought I would add a third character to the mix, as the previous two, Felicia Flair and Bruno Brown, were not suited towards fighting should matters turn physical. Though in Bruno’s case that was more because of his pacifism.

So to fix that I am building another character to aid them should the need arise.

Douglas “Digger” Danger – Hard-boiled Dog Detective

Douglas “Digger” Danger is a dog with a nose for trouble – and the dames. Even though he is new to the Private Eye game, he has seen and done much in the seedy underbelly of the big city.

There is little that is more quintessentially noir than a hard-boiled private eye, the tough-as-nails type who has seen the worst of the city and doesn’t get easily spooked or surprised anymore. So the choice of Hard-Boiled for Type and Detective for Career. And for species, it is hard to go passed a Dog both for the alliteration and the fact they are good at tracking and sniffing out things.

Dog gives him the skills of Athletics, Observation and Tactics and the gifts of Brawling and Tracking.

Hard-Boiled gives him the skills of Endurance, Presence and Shooting and the Soaks of Winded-Soak and Hurt Soak.

Detective gives him the skills of Deceit, Observation and Questioning and the gifts of Gossip and Streetwise.

Assigning the dice for him, I give him D8 for Species – he is a good dog, yes he is – and also Speed. Like many dogs he is always on the move and finds it hard to stay still for long. For his poor dice I stick that in Career. He is only just starting out in the P. I. game and beginning to make a name for himself.

Traits: Body D6, Speed D8, Mind D6, Will D6, Species D8, Type D6, Career D4

Most of the skills are already covered when creating the previous two characters, so the new skills and gifts work as follows;

Shooting is what it says on the tin – it is used for ranged weapons, like guns and bows. Unlike most other skills, it is only ever paired with Speed.

Questioning is the skill of gossiping to find our rumours, to seperate those rumours from facts, to interrogate people and to piece it all together.

Brawling gives Douglas bonus attack moves – Grapple, Pummel and Overbear – which are superior to simple unarmed attacks.

Tracking means Douglas gets a bonus D12 to Observation checks when trying to follow someone – or to Evasion to avoid being followed himself.

Gossip gives a bonus D12 to Questioning, but takes a lot of time and requires numerous people.

Winded Soak allows you to ignore 1 point of damage, and can be recharged by taking a recover action in combat.

Hurt Soak reduces damage by 3, and can be used one per scene, which is about once ever 5 minutes.

For his personality, Douglas is Suspicious – he suspects everyone and everything. Whenever he is in a situation where suspicions are up he gains a bonus D12.

He receives for his Gear a Hip Flask, a Rough Outfit, a Service Pistol and a Magnifying Glass.

His derived stats are; Initiative: D4+D6+D8, Dodge: D8 and Rally: D6+D8.

With that all done, we can get a picture of what Douglas is like, someone who is very good at finding things out and finding people, places and items, especially where the criminal underbelly is involved. And if all that sniffing around leads to trouble, he can take care of himself in a fight.

Douglas “Digger” Danger – Hard-Boiled Dog Detective

Traits: Body D6, Speed D8, Mind D6, Will D6, Species D8, Type D6, Career D4

Skills: Athletics (+D8), Observation (+D8+D4), Tactics (+D8), Endurance (+D6), Presence (+D6), Shooting (+D6), Deceit (+D4), Questioning (+D4).

Gifts: Brawling, Tracking, Gossip, Streetwise

Soaks: Winded Soak -1, Hurt Soak -3.

Gear: Hip Flask, Rough Outfit, Service Pistol, Magnifying Glass

Initiative: D4+D6+D8. Dodge: D8. Rally: D6+D8

Lets Create: Urban Jungle Characters – Bruno Brown and Felicia Flair

After a bit of time experimenting with character builds in Urban Jungle, I have come up with six I want to share, starting with two now. While the rules list character concepts as Species/Type/Career, I go with Type/Species/Career. I find that Broken Bear Vagrant and Famous Fox Actress sound better than Bear Broken Vagrant and Fox Famous Actress.

Speaking of, those are the two I shall be looking at first – Bruno Brown the Broken Bear Vagrant and Felicia Flair the Famous Fox Actress. You could compare all the various species, types and careers to work out the ‘best’ combo for the character you want, but for me I went with choices that sounded fun. Plus alliterations. All of the Urban Jungle characters I came up with have alliterations for no other reason than because I could.

Bruno Brown – Broken Bear Vagrant

Bruno Brown once had it all – a home, a good job, a loving family. But that it all gone now, fate having dealt him a cruel blow. With nothing but the clothes on his back, Bruno has lost everything but his sense of right and wrong.

Your first three choices are your species, type and career, which give you a good overview of what you’d like your character to be. In Bruno’s case that was a big bear who had been through the tough times of the depression and had yet to recover from it. A Bear is pretty obvious as to what it is; a big carnivore. A Broken character is one described as damaged goods but who still wants to do right – they have suffered some tragedy in the past. A Vagrant is the quintessential hobo, riding the rails, sleeping rough, doing what they can to make ends meet. In this case I felt that Broken and Vagrant went well together.

The choice of Bear gives him the skills of Endurance, Fighting and Presence, and the gifts of Giant and Wrestling.

The choice of Broken gives him the skills of Endurance, Evasion and Presence, the gift of Noncombatant and the soak of Frenzy Soak. I didn’t mention soaks previous, but they are ways of ‘soaking’ or reducing damage if you take it, and have limited uses.

The choice of Vagrant gives him the skills of Endurance, Negotiation and Observation, and the gifts of Streetwise and Survival.

You may notice all three unique traits give him access to the Endurance skill, so Bruno is very resilient. He needs to be after all that he has been through.

With his unique traits selected, it is time to assign dice. In Bruno’s case I decided to double down on just how big and tough he is by placing the D8s in Body and Species. He is an impressive specimen of a bear, as big and tough as they get. For his poor dice, I decide that will go in his Career. Bruno has only recently lost it all and been thrust into the life of a Vagrant, and he is still learning the tricks of the trade.

Traits: Body D8, Speed D6, Mind D6, Will D6, Species D8, Type D6, Career D4.

Just a few notes on the various skills and gifts so you can see what they do and get a better picture of what Bruno is like.

Endurance represents stamina, self-discipline and the ability to work through physical hardship. In combat everyone uses an endurance soak first, rolling body plus skill dice, with every success reducing damage by 1. If any damage remains, then they can use their gift soaks. In Bruno’s case he rolls 3D8 + 1D6, with 4 or higher being a success. Meaning he can take a lot of punishment.

Evasion is used for both sneaking about and also dodging attacks. The attacker rolls his fighting dice while the defender rolls his evasion dice. If the defender rolls higher, he is missed, otherwise he takes damage and has to ‘soak’ it.

Presence is used to make an impression of someone, which can range from trying to scare and intimidate someone or impress them in the forms of acting or making public speeches.

Fighting is all forms of hand-to-hand combat, whether it be fists, feet, knives or lumps of wood.

Negotiation is used to try and get people to do things for you, to give you things or to not do something. Basically when you are trying to get a minor advantage.

Observation is for spotting and hearing things, whether it be hidden clues or pick-pockets.

Noncombatant means that as long as Bruno doesn’t attack anyone he gets a bonus +D12 to all dodge rolls and to scramble (run away). If he does attack someone he looses the bonus for 24 hours.

Giant means that he has extra reach in combat and can claim a +D8 bonus to situations where being a giant would help, such as helping assist smaller teammates over tall walls or resisting intimidate attempts by smaller enemies, like mice.

Wrestling gives Bruno extra attacks he can use – Crush, Suplex, Throw and Wrestle – which are superior to simple fisticuffs.

Streetwise gives Bruno an understanding of the criminal element, resulting in a bonus +D12 to know and recognise criminals in the form of Academic and Observation checks, as well as gathering information through gossip. He can also buy illegal goods cheaper and sell them for more than regular people.

Survival is a bonus +D12 for dealing with the wilderness, for Academic, Observation and Endurance checks relating to foraging food, finding water and constructing shelters.

Frenzy Soak reduces damage by 2, and recharges when you hit an enemy with an attack.

The last choice we make is for his personality – Pacifist. Whenever he is in a situation where he is being a pacifist, he gains a bonus +D12 to rolls.

For his Gear we list what he receives from his unique traits; a keepsake from better times, a rough outfit and a bindle on a stick. Yeah, he doesn’t have much.

And lastly three key stats; initiative, dodge and rally. Initiative is Mind plus Observation; D6+D4. Dodge is Speed plus Evasion; D6+D6 (with bonus D12 for Noncombatant and Pacifist while not fighting back). Rally is Will plus Tactics (D6).

With all that we get an idea of what type of character Bruno is – a gentle giant despite all that has happened to him. Despite his size and strength and presence he doesn’t like to hurt people, and it takes a lot to provoke him, but if you poke a bear to much even he can snap. His people skills are limited, but he has started to get an understanding of them, especially the more criminal element. Being homeless and with little in the way of resources, he is also learning to survive it rough in the wilds.

Bruno Brown (Broken Bear Vagrant)

Traits: Body D8, Speed D6, Mind D6, Will D6, Species D8, Type D6, Career D4.

Skills: Endurance (+D6+D8+D8), Evasion (+D6), Presence (+D6+D8), Fighting (+D8), Negotiation (+D4), Observation (+D4)

Gifts: Noncombatant, Giant, Wrestling, Streetwise, Survival

Soaks: Frenzy Soak -2

Gear; Keepsake, Rough Outfit, Bindle on a Stick

Initiative; D6+D4. Dodge; D6+D6. Rally; D6.

Felicia Flair – Famous Fox Actress

Felicia Flair always dreamed of making it as a big star of the silver screen and now she has. Her rise has been meteoric and now everyone knows her and her name.

In Felicia’s case, I wanted something rather different. From the lows of Bruno I wanted to go to the highs, and there isn’t much higher than an actress. Not just any Actress though, a Famous one. I could have chosen any species, but to keep up the alliteration theme I chose a Fox.

Fox gives her the skills of Athletics, Endurance and Observation and the gifts of Coward and Danger Sense.

Famous gives her the skills of Deceit, Presence and Tactics, the gift of Leadership and the soak of Injury Soak.

Actress givers her the skills of Deceit, Observation and Presence and the gifts of Performance and Team Player.

Assigning dice for her, I want her to be at the top of her field and so I place the D8s in Type and Career. She is one of the most famous and best actresses around. Her poor dice I stick in Body. She is used to an easy life and has grown soft, not used to any form of hardship.

Traits: Body D4, Speed D6, Mind D6, Will D6, Species D6, Type D8, Career D8.

Some of the skills are already covered under Bruno but the new skills and gifts work as follows;

Athletics covers all kinds of outdoor sports, like climbing, jumping, swimming and riding.

Deceit is used for lying, cheating, disguises, pilfering and anything that uses a falsehood to get what she wants.

Tactics covers fighting co-ordination with teammates and helping them out. Felicia can gain bonus dice when targeting an enemy a teammate is threatening. She can also try to rally teammates who are dazed or panicked.

Coward gives a bonus D12 to dodge rolls while panicked – and you can choose to be panicked at any time by using your panic soak.

Danger Sense gives a bonus D12 to initiative, and for any skill checks to spot and avoid traps and other hazards.

Leadership gives a bonus D12 to attempts to rally friends, and to any presence roll when you try to exhort a crowd to action through a public speech, like leading workers in a strike against factory owners.

Performance results in a D12 bonus to any rolls relating to impressing a crowd with acting, music or another public performance.

Team Player allows you to assist other characters better. You get a D12 in it compared to a D8 everyone else gets.

Injury Soak allows you to soak up to 4 points of damage, but it can only be used once per rest and doesn’t recharge until after you get 8 hours sleep and a decent meal.

For her personality, Felicia is Flamboyant. She likes to be dramatic and the centre of attention, and when she is, she gets a bonus +D12. She is the star, not the supporting actor after all.

Her Gear is better than Bruno’s, naturally. She has an item like a nice purse, comb or compact that defines her image. For her I’ll go with a hairclip in the form of a blue butterfly. That is her signature piece. She also has a fancy outfit, a pocket pistol and a copy of a Shakespeare play, bookmarked to her favourite soliloquy.

For her derived stats, she has Initiative of 2D6+D8+D12, her Dodge is D6 (with a bonus D12 is she is panicked) and her Rally is D6+D8+D12.

Now that Felicia is built, we can see what kind of person she is, and that is very much a people person. She understands them and can manipulate them, both in a good and a bad way, as she needs. And because she understands people, she can lead and inspire them. Just don’t expect her to do much in a fight – she would rather run.

Felicia Flair – Famous Fox Actress

Traits: Body D4, Speed D6, Mind D6, Will D6, Species D6, Type D8, Career D8.

Skills: Athletics (+D6), Endurance (+D6), Observation (+D6+D8), Deceit (+D8+D8), Presence (+D8+D8), Tactics (+D8)

Gifts: Coward, Danger Sense, Leadership, Performance, Team Player

Soaks: Injury Soak -4

Gear: Hairclip, Fancy Outfit, Pocket Pistol, Shakespeare Play

Initiative: 2D6+D8+D12. Dodge: D6. Rally: D6+D8+D12.

That is, more or less, how you make a character. Next time we might take them out, put them through a couple of situations to see how they actually play.

Lets Create: Urban Jungle Characters

For the first of the Let’s Create series, I will be looking at a system I kickstarted a few years back; Urban Jungle.

Urban Jungle is described as an Anthropomorphic Noir Role-Play system. It is, as it basically says, a system in which you play a humanoid animal in the 1920s and 30s, between the wars, the period of prohibition and speak-easies, of gangsters and corrupt politicians, of hard-boiled detectives and femme fatales and all that jazz.

There are also two expansions for it – Occult Horror (think Lovecraft or Carnivale) and Astounding Science (think B-grade 1950s pulp sci-fi). I don’t have either yet but do plan to, though I was meant to get the Occult Horror one asa part of the kickstarter. For some reason it didn’t happen.

Before we get around to making characters, I am going to do a basic run through of the system and character creation.

To succeed at a task you generally need to roll a 4 or higher on a dice. The more times you succeed, the better. For more difficult tasks you might need more than 1 success. On the flip side, rolling all 1s means something bad happens to you. So the more dice you are able to roll, the better it is for you on both accounts.

With that in mind, how do you get dice? That is part of the character building process.

Everyone starts with seven traits. There are four basic traits that everyone has – body, speed, mind and will. These are common to all characters, and are pretty much what they sound like. Body represents your physical side, speed your quickness and co-ordination, mind your intelligence and perception and will your personality and willpower.

Then there are three unique traits – species, type and career. These differ for each character but serve the same purpose. Each of these unique traits gives you some three skills and two gifts. Skills are what allow you do accomplish stuff and yes, some unique traits can give you bonuses to the same skills. Gifts are unique talents that your character has, some of which are always active while others give you bonuses in specific situations.

Species represents what type of animal you are – are you a horse, an elephant, a weasel or a porcupine.

Type is what kind of noir person you are – you could be hard-boiled type, a rebel, have a heart-of-gold, be crooked or just be plain old.

Career is obviously what you do for a job – you could be a prize-fighter, a bootlegger, a detective, actor and more.

Once you have picked your species, type and career (say a Sparrow Drifter Biker), you assign your dice to your seven traits. Two are your good traits which get D8s, one is a bad trait which gets a D4 and the rest get D6s. Which traits you assign them are up to you – at D8 in species you maybe the foxiest fox that ever foxed, but a D4 in it might mean you don’t conform to the expected standards and tropes of a fox.

For your three unique traits (species, type and career) find your three corresponding skills and assign the dice value you gave to the trait to it. For example, a coyote gets the athletics, fighting and observation skills. If you assigned D6 to coyote, each of those skills gains a +D6 to skill roles.

List your gifts and gear you get from your unique traits and make note of what bonuses you get from the various gifts.

Lastly, work out your personality. Are you bold, lazy, sad, sneaky or something else? If you undertake an action where your personality is at play, you get a bonus +D12.

And that is pretty much it for how you make a character.

When you come to make a skill check, you get the dice value from your appropriate basic trait plus any dice from skills you may know and any bonuses from other sources, like gifts. Basic traits are not necessarily set for a given skill – they can vary depending on how you are undertaking the action. For example, the deceit skill. If you are just trying to out and out bluff someone, the Will trait would be used. Trying to be light-fingered and nick something without anyone noticing would use the Speed trait. Undertaking a clever deception would use the Mind trait. I really like this approach, where skills aren’t set in stone as to what trait they use. Often it can lead to the ‘one stat to rule them all‘ problem. (Warning, TVTropes link.) I especially like this when it is applied to combat.

With a brief look at the system done, next time we will show off a few character builds and what they can do.

Lets Create…

I have been playing RPGs for over 30 years now, and during that time I have collected a lot of different systems, some of which I haven’t even played. They have just been sitting there collecting dust. Others I have played a lot, mostly Cyberpunk 2020 and various editions of D&D, of which 2nd Edition is the best, obviously.

I enjoy studying the mechanics of the systems, to steal ideas for various homebrews that I have come up with, as well as just making characters. I prefer to make interesting characters, rather than over-optimised ones.

That isn’t to say that I can’t make highly optimised characters. I have, on occasion, done that. But I prefer interesting, unusual and even unique characters. A lot of my characters take cooking as a skill, if it is available. Partially that is because I enjoy cooking, but also it can be a fun thing to play around with in game, even if it serves no real purpose or gives no real benefits. It is something that just makes the characters come to life more.

I had one character, a half-orc barbarian/druid, who collected ingredients from various defeated monsters and cooked them up for the party. It was a change of pace from iron rations, having things like shrieker mushroom and dragon steak stew.

So I plan on starting up a new segment here, specifically looking at looking at these various systems, some well known, others more obscure, and creating examples from them. Not just characters, for some have other things you can create, like the Worldbuilding Guide I have previous started looking at.

I have a half dozen systems already in mind to start with, and more will follow that. So stay tuned as we start an at times wild ride.

Let’s Build a World: Part Nine: Planetology

In our return to the world building through AD&D 2e’s World Builders Guidebook, we are going back to the beginning, to the Worlds and Planetology.

Specifically, we are going to look at what the world itself looks like. From our early cosmology section, we rolled up a terrestrial water world that appears to be our campaign world.  But as we go through the next stage that may or may not be the case.

The first part of the chapter deals with the shape and size of the world and the first table deals with the sizes.  Is it a regular planet shape or something else?  A disc, a polyhedron or something even more bizarre.

On a D100 we roll 26 – a sphere.  So basically a normal looking planet.

Next comes the size of the world – anything from 800 to 16,000 miles in diameter.  Earth is about 8,000 miles for comparison.

On a D100 we roll 25 – 4,000 mile diameter.  In effect our world is only about half the size of Earth, or around the size of Mars.

After that comes hydrography – how wet the world is.  We know that the setting is archipelagic in nature so rather than rolling I select 80% water.  This gives us only around 20% of the world as land, which is still a lot of land as it comes out to maybe a third of Earth’s land surface.

Table 5 in the book deals with the starting of the mapping stage of the world, giving an outline of how much land and water each section of it has when mapping out on a 20 section polyhedral map. Even though I aren’t going to use a polyhedral map, it does give some decent indications.  At 8-% water, 8 sections are water, 6 sections are water with a few minor islands, 4 are water with major islands (around 25% of the section) and 2 are water and land sections, with about half and half of each.

We have an idea of how much land and water there are, but what do they actually look like?  The book moves on then to the continents, islands and coastlines part of the chapter.

If you have a water dominated world, you roll to see the number and size of continents you have and vice versa if it is land dominated.

For our world, we have only 2 regions that are at least 50% land so we have 1d2 continents of 1-2 regions in size according to table 6.  If we were at only 60% hydrography, that would give us 9 regions made up of 1d6 continents of 1-8 regions in size.

The roll gives us 2 continents which means that each will be of 1 region in size.  The other regions with islands in them will be scattered around.

Now to placing them.  If you are using the polyhedral map you just use a D20 and roll to locate where the continents or seas are to go.

The first roll is a 7, which is in the centre of the middle latitudes while the second is a 4, placing it up in the northern reaches.

Next time we will start doing some maps of the regions, basic ones, and work out other matters of planetology, such as tectonics, mountains and climates.

World Building One Off

As you read through the World Builder’s Guidebook, you follow the process of creating a world from the start, from the initial design of the world all the way through to the creation of a single kingdom.

There is also a single one off example of a design of a single location at the cities and provinces level, an area of 40 or so miles, which in the case of the example was a tropical island ruled over by renaissance level elven pirates.

So as an example of building from the bottom up, rather than the top down, I am going to do a one off, of a small region with a handful of settlements and some places for adventurers starting out to explore.

Starting off, I roll on the World Hooks chart, coming up with subterranean initially.  While I do want some subterranean elements involved, I also want a more regular above ground region as well, so I roll again, this time getting arctic.  This also covers sub-arctic, which strikes me as the preferred option.  Those that live there will rely heavily on herding, hunting and fishing to live and the region will have summers with long days and winters with very long nights.

Moving on to see what the region looks like, I roll up coastal or peninsular for the seas and rivers in the region, gentle hills for mountains and hills, moderate for seasonal variation, meaning much as Earth experiences and for humidity, I went with arid rather than humid.

The next step was to work out the predominant terrain of the region – the dice came up with rocky desert, a region marked by boulder fields, stony wastes and weathered bedrock, no doubt wind swept and cold, and probably forming where the hills are.  There will also be regions of the other types of terrain found in the area, such as light forests of needleleaf evergreens and grasslands in the form of dry steppes.  These would be where the inhabitants mostly live.

As to who lives there, a roll on the dominant race comes up dwarves, and there are also three other races, those being goblins, aarakocra and humans.  For each I roll to see how they relate to the dominate dwarves.  The goblins life separately, the aarakocra are completely intermixed with the dwarves, living alongside them as equals, and the humans live separately but are considered equals to the dwarves as well.  The goblins aren’t considered equal for whatever reasons.

Continuing on, a roll on the Cultural Archetypes table comes up with Dark Ages Europe.  This is a time of tribal warchiefs and their warbands, prior to feudalism and the landed nobility.

Rather than rolling on the tech level, I just select dark ages technology.  Don’t expect plate armour to show up here.

The government of the region turns out to be neutral-good theocracy, which is interesting.  In effect the region is ruled over by priest-kings.  Given that religion is obviously an important element here, I roll up the primary deity worshiped, and come up with fire and sun for their domains.  Given the cold of the region and the long winter nights, that fits in well, as the priests provide light and warmth and comfort during that time.

Lastly we roll on subsistence levels, to see how people live in the region.  The result is predominantly by herding/grazing, keeping their herds upon the steppes.  There will also by some light levels of farming, hunting, fishing and mining as well.

Working out the population density, we have a base level of 2 for grazing, +1 for the hills and -1 for dark ages, giving us a level of 2, or low density.  That gives us a town and around 5-10 villages in the region, with a population of around 5000 people or so.

With all of that worked out, I made a map of the region.

Subartic 2 copy

(The map was made with a program called Wonderdraft)

Sunfire Keep is the main settlement, and home of the local Priest-King, with four other villages were the dwarves and aarakocra live, and two of humans, on the coast, each with a local headman.  The goblins have a den up north, leading into the subterranean regions.

This is just the local starting area and later on you can expand outwards.  There would be other small nations of the same culture out there of similar size ruled over by other Priest-Kings, as well as other nations and cultures and races as well.  There are other aspects you could expand upon, such as the nature of the religion, the presence of the goblins and what else dwells in the subterranean regions.

But for now we leave the example here and return to the ongoing world building project.

Let’s Build a World: Part Eight: History

As previously promised, we are finally going to cover the history of the region, with a view to working on the background and trying to make some sense of it.

For that we are going to roll up a campaign timeline that sketches out the history of a region/kingdom/culture.

It is nothing more than a rough lists of dates and major events, and is divided into three sections; ancient history, middle history and recent history.

The events for each section are a little different; recent history has events that people can recall, occurring in the lifetime of many people, even characters, while the events of ancient times are hay and il-remembered, coming down through the ages as myths and legends.

For each we roll to see how many events happened and how many years apart.  Ancient ages have 2d6 events set d6+4 x 100 years apart, middle history is 4d4 events set d6+4 x 10 years apart and recent history has 2d6 events set 1d6 years apart.

So time to roll and see what we get.

Ancient History

0: Technological Discovery – (An important breakthrough in physical/magical technology took place, perhaps the invention of a new school of magic, the development of the printing press, or the introduction of a new weapon of warfare.)

700: Magical Discovery  – (As above.)

1200: Expansion/Exploration – (An ancient people expanded into neighbouring territory or conducted exploration of nearby lands.)

2200: Migration – (An ancient race or culture passed through, settled or departed the kingdom in question.)

2900: Empire Falls – (An ancient empire rose or fell.)

3800: Epic War – (Epic wars refer to great conflicts of ancient history, in which, (for example) all dwarves and orcs struggle for decades or centuries, or the gods themselves take an active hand.)

Middle History

3860: War, Conquest

3940: Intrigue/Scandal – (Some kind of far-flung conspiracy or shocking behaviour rattled the leaders of the area.)

4020: Plague – (Disease swept the region, decimating the population.)

4090: Revolution – (A revolution seeks to overturn the entire social order and replace it with another one.  For example, the serfs or peasantry might rise in an attempt to drag down the nobility and make their kingdom a democracy)

4180: Magical Discovery

4240: Legendary Character – (A particularly famous or noteworthy person lived during this time.)

4290: Invasion/Raids – (The kingdom in question was invaded at some point, and possibly conquered.  The people may have eventually integrated their conquerors, or fought back and threw them out.)

Recent History

4293: Intrigue/Scandal

4296: Natural Disaster/Plague – (A storm, flood, fire or similar local disaster struck the area in question.)

4299: Internal War – (A civil war, failed revolution or war of succession is an internal war, fought primarily between parties or regions within the same nation.)

4304: Raids/Brigandage – (The kingdom was looted and pillaged frequently during the period by foreign raiders or by large and well-organised bands of outlaws.)

All right, lets have a look at some of this.  I’m not planning on working out all the details of what all of it means just yet, but more the basics, and later on I can go back and fill in details.

The ancient period seems fairly easy – breakthroughs both magical and mundane – probably related to build building and navigation and the harnessing of the magic of the seas – saw people spread out through the archipelagos, settlings new lands and forming a grand empire.

But it fell and turmoil followed in the aftermath of that, culminating in an epic war that saw the gods involved, with the Storm Lord and his daughter at the centre of it.

The turmoil continued on into the middle period,  with wars and revolution following, marred by a great plague the ravished the land.

And while this wad going on, someone discovered the secrets of the magic of the Darkness, unleashing necromancy and dark magic on the world.

In 4240, a legendary female warrior arose, sickened by the conflicts that plagued the land.  She in time grew to be the demi-goddess previously created in the pantheon section.

That was only 64 years prior to current events, and despite her efforts, the recent period has been marred by more conflict, with raiders loyal to the Storm Lord and his daughter threatening to once more destabilise the whole region and plunge it into a war in which the gods are drawn into.

And with that we finish up with the history and mythology section of the book.  It does go on a little bit more discussing things like races and classes and kits, magic and monsters, but it is more hints of what you can do rather than rules, and we haven’t reached the stage of world creation to think about that kind of thing yet.

So next time we go back to one of the earlier chapters and start looking at what the world may or may not look like, and the type of people and nations that inhabit it.

Let’s Build a World: Part Seven: Creation Myths

I was planning on moving on to the history part of the chapter next, but instead I came up with some ideas for creation myths.  Two of them actually, taken from either side of the cosmological clash.

Both sides see matters differently and both may have some actual points.  Which one is actually true?  Maybe neither, maybe both, at lest for a given value of true.

Note: these are rough first drafts.

The Pantheon’s Creation Myth

There was, at the first, the Ocean, and it lay still and silent beneath the cold light of the stars.  No winds marred it surface and no life dwelt in its depths.  And the Ocean was the Mother and her spirit passed through it.

For an age she existed with it until she looked up at the stars in the dark of night, and she perceived with in them the ghost of what could be, of a yearning to be and to live, an echo of life that had yet to achieve potential.

And the greatest of these she gathered to herself, forming it into a son, and she gave birth to him, and he emerged fully formed and grown.  Now as he didi, from the depths of the Ocean was likewise born in fire and turmoil an island, the first island, the first land.

And there upon the shores of it, beneath the glow of the fires of the Earth, did the Lord of Volcanoes take up his mantle and his dominion.

And there did he and his mother look up and they saw a darkness pass across the stars and they were troubled, for they knew not what it was, and it was some time before they recognised the emotions that bled from it, of a hate and anger so intense they could have burned the new formed land to cinders if it were possible.

Then did Father Earth ascend to the summit of the island, and he caused the volcano to erupt forth and it sent forth fire into the air, to land in the waters around, and as each surge of fire landed, it became land, and new islands were formed until the waters were filled with them.

But as yet they were empty and lifeless, so once more did Mother Ocean look to the stars, and she brought forth four more and gave birth to them, and these were the Sky Lord, the Sun Lord, the Lady of Life and the Lady of Love and Waters, and to each she assigned a place and bid them work together to shape the world and bring forth others to live in it and enjoy it.

Then did she rest, and she turned her thoughts towards the Darkness, for now it roiled across the heavens and sought to undo what had newly been made.

The Darkness’ Creation Myth

In the Time Before, there was only perfection.  The stars in the silent dark above, the ocean below, all was still and as it should be.  Fear and anger, hunger and pain and misery and emotions did not exist, and would not have, but for the actions of one.  The frozen, unchanging stillness did not allow for such things.

Thus would all have remained, if not for the one who dwelt in the oceans.  Envious, and desirous of domination, she gazed above, to where the spirits dwelt in frozen perfection, and these she began to wrench from their place, binding them to herself, imprisoning them in bodies and subjecting them to the frailties of chaos.  And through them she brought into existence land and life.

And the heavens groaned at her usurpation and her contamination, and the heavens awakened, for the Darkness took form, and thus began to struggle to return all creation to as it was and should be and will be, where perfect crystalline order reigns and once more the spirits are returned to their frozen perfection.

Next time we will actually make it to the history of the world.

Let’s Build a World: Part Six: Cosmology and Mythology

With the establishment of our pantheon complete, the chapter moves on to the cosmology and mythology section.

Normally I don’t do much with this one but I felt it would be interesting to have a look at for the purposes of giving the guidebook a thorough examination.

The cosmology section has charts so you can roll to determine such things as the astronomy of you system, the number of planets and moons, their sizes and types.

Firstly there is the astronomy to deal with – the laws of physics that govern the separation of the worlds from the void.  Does it follow real physics, does it have Wildspace as in Spelljammer, is there an aethereal void, as in light and air goes on forever, or is there something else, subject to the DM’s creation.

On a D8 we roll 4 – Wildspace with spheres.  So as per Spelljammer.

Next is system organisation – is the sun (or suns) at the centre of the system, or is the primary world at the centre with the sun (or suns) revolving around it.  Is the world a flat earth or is there something else, subject to the DM’s creation.

On a D8 we roll 1 – Heliocentric, 1 sun.  There is only one sun in the system, and that is at the centre of it.

After that we roll a D12 to see how many planets there are, and for each planet D8-3 for the number of moons, with an additional D8-3 if you roll a natural 8.  And after that you roll for each planet and moon to figure out what each world type is, according to the general AD&D view of worlds.  Are they earth, air, fire or water worlds, or something else, which could range from para-elemental, quasi-elemental or anything else according to your imagination, such as giant world-trees or the body of dead deity.

And when you have done that you roll to see the size of each of the worlds and planets.

That is a lot of work and a potentially a lot of dice rolling for what is essentially background information that may never actually impact upon your campaign, which is why I don’t tend to do it.

But for the sake of completion, I am going to do it for this setting.

The dice say there are four worlds in the system.

World One – Enormous (80-100K mile diameter) Air Planet.  A gas giant.  It has two moons, a tiny (800 mile or less diameter) earth world and a terrestrial (800 to 16,000 mile diameter) earth world.  This later one falls into the size range of most campaign worlds, the size of which can be rolled for back in the worlds and planetology chapter.

World Two – Terrestrial Air Planet. Another, small, gas giant.

World Three – Terrestrial Water Planet.  That looks like it is our campaign world.

World Four – Tiny Fire Planet.  It has two moons, a tiny water world and a terrestrial other world.

This last world seems a little weird, with a strange moon orbiting around a tiny world of fire, almost like a tiny second sun, and that strange moon is larger than it.

But I think I can make something of it, tying it in to the mythology of the system that we generated with the pantheon.  It reflect the battle between the pantheon and the Darkness, in miniature.  The fire world represents the sun, the water world the pantheon and the other word the Darkness.  It is a shadowy world of darkness and the fact that it is larger than the water world reflects the relative strengths of the two sides, that the Darkness is, right at that stage, the stronger party.  As the balance between the two sides ebbs and flows, so too does the size of the two moons relative to each other.

After the section on cosmology, the book goes on to discuss planes and myths and legends.

There are no charts here to roll on, just a series of suggestions for outer planes and creation myths and divine myths and sagas and the like, and what they may or may not contain.

Is that kind of detail important?  Possibly.  It does depend on what type of campaign you are running and the type of players you have.  If they are hack and slash dungeon delvers then maybe it won’t come up much, if at all, but if it heavily based on the intrigues of temples and political manoeuvrings between religions it may be very important.

Given the nature of the world as it has developed so far (and my delusions of being a writer) I will, over time, be actually making up a lot of this over time.

And with that done, in our next part, we shall be moving on in the chapter to history.