Saturday, December 16, 2017

Frontier Fort

This post presents a frontier fort for use with The Sixth Gun and similar settings.

Frontier Fort


The Grand Tour
Refer to the appropriate maps for the following area descriptions. In general, the fort is surrounded by a wall made from roughly cut logs, which stands fifteen feet in height.

A. Front Gate
Two broad doors of solid wood grant entrance to the fort; they can be sealed with a stout crossbar that requires a Strength test at -4 to break.

B. Flagpole
Next to the mess hall stands the flagpole, on which flies a banner with thirteen stripes and thirty-eight stars. It is the location from which the bugler plays reveille and taps to mark the beginning and end of each day.

C. Mess Hall
Four broad tables, each surrounded by long benches, fill the ends of this small building; a large cooking stove occupies the wall opposite the door, which at almost all times of the day has pots of beans or stew simmering on it or biscuits baking in it. At mealtimes, half of the fort's company can be found here, with the soldiers and officers eating in two separate shifts.

D. Guard Towers
Ladders in each of these corner structures lead up to narrow walkways that are twelve feet off the ground, providing a position from which the soldiers can defend the surrounding wall. One soldiers is stationed in each such position at all times, and more when danger is suspected. Underneath the platforms, these areas can be used for storing extra building materials and other large items.

E. Officers' Quarters
There are two of these small buildings in the fort; the one closest to the mess hall is for Captain Areneson and the company's surgeon, while the one next to the stable is for the lieutenants. Each is furnished with two comfortable beds, with footlockers underneath them, along with a desk and chair and a wood stove for heat.

F. Barracks
Beds line the walls of this long, low building; there is also a woodstove that stands in the middle of the wall opposite the front door. Underneath the beds there are footlockers in which the soldiers store their personal items. Note that the barracks next to the stable is occupied by cavalry soldiers, while the other two are used by infantrymen.

G. Stable
The interior of this building is divided into eight stalls, each of which usually holds a horse. The stalls have troughs for water and fodder, and a shelf on the wall opposite the door holds tack and harness for these animals.

H. Infirmary
Four beds are positioned in opposite corners of this building, and a wood stove provides heat for the place. This is where casualties are sent to be treated by the camp surgeon, or left to recuperate following and operation.

I. Storehouse
Broad shelves line the wall of this room, which is filled with all manner of crates, barrels, sacks and other such containers that hold foodstuffs, supplies and tools, along with spare weapons and ammunition. This is the only building that is usually kept locked; Captain Arneson has the key for it.

J. Drilling Ground
This area is left open, providing a place in which the soldiers can drill or organize themselves for expeditions. In emergencies this area can become a makeshift camp, with tents set up for parties of passing travelers or even extra troops sent to reinforce the regulars.

Stat blocks for the soldiers and officers who occupy this fort can be found in another supplement. Detailed here, though, is a little about the major personalities of the place.
  • Captain Anders Arneson III, fort commander. His is a military family; his father fought in the Civil War, and his grandfather in the Mexican war. Because of that, he takes his job very seriously.
  • Lieutenant Danforth Jeffreys, cavalry commander. He is flamboyant and loves the idea that service can bring glory to his name. For that reason, he is prone to taking unnecessary, but potentially awe-inspiring, risks.
  • Lieutenant Sean Fitzpatrick, infantry commander. He is quiet and capable, and not overly ambitious. Although he knows it's important to do his duty, and that service involves risk, he is also dedicated to keeping his men alive when possible.
  • Dr. Isaac Shaffer, surgeon. He doesn't especially like life in a frontier fort, since it lacks the civilized niceties of life back east, but he has debts to pay for a reason he doesn't care to share.

Life in the Fort
In spite of the lurid stories told in dime novels back east, life in a frontier military fort is usually repetitive and dull. For the most part, soldiers practice formations and drill with their weapons, along with conducting maintenance, working in patrols to gather wood or water, and the like. While they may see Indians, the natives usually keep their distance. Detailed here, however, are some possible exceptions to that rule.
  • When a local band of Indians goes on the warpath, settlers look to the soldiers of the fort to restore peace. That can be achieved through the use of diplomacy or military force, of course. There are two sides to every story, however, and that begs the question: What if the natives have a justifiable reason for this uprising?
  • A brutal blizzard threatens to trap the fort's inhabitants inside it until the next thaw. What is worse, an outbreak of disease means that somebody needs to brave the elements in order to bring more food, medicine and other supplies before it is too late.
  • Fear begins to spread when some creature begins stalking the surrounding territory, preying upon Indians and Whites alike. This comes to a head when a lone traveler reaches the fort, telling of a nighttime attack and fellows who were left behind. Will a daring party go to their rescue, or will they be left to their doom?
  • A passing group of performers, the Caravan of Curiosities, comes for a visit, bringing such entertainments as a fortune teller, trick shooter, acrobats, the savage boy and others. In addition to a much-needed distraction from routine life, this group also provides plenty of opportunity for distraction

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Using Different Levels of Technology in the Pathfinder RPG

Just as different worlds can give rise to many and varied civilizations and cultures, so too can they have different levels of technological advancement. With that in mind, this article suggests guidelines for determining just what types of equipment are available on any given world based on its development. As always, the GM is the final arbiter regarding life on any given world.

Stone Age
At this early point in their development, the inhabitants of a planet are just starting to learn the use of tools, and even fire. They tend to live nomadic, hunter-gatherer lives, with most of their daily effort dedicating to finding shelter and sustenance. Instead of building their own dwellings, they most likely live in whatever caves or other such locations as they can find. Written language is highly unlikely. Even so, they can create art and even monuments, such as oral legends, cave paintings and roughly worked standing stones. Log rafts and and reed boats are the only watercarft developed.
  • Materials: bone, obsidian, stone, wood, hide.
  • Weapons: club, greatclub, quarterstaff, various spears, javelin, blowgun, dart, throwing ax, shortbow and arrows, sling and bullets.
  • Armor: leather and hide armor, and wooden shields.
  • Other equipment: basket, pouches, rope, torch, waterskin.

Bronze Age
Two major developments—the growing of crops and domestication of livestock—have changed life in this period drastically. Because people don't need to invest so much time into finding food and shelter, they have more free time to develop various crafts and other forms of artistry. Those can include writing, probably on clay or even stone tablets, and possibly even parchment scrolls. Pottery is another invention, useful for storing foodstuffs and other goods. Painting and stone carving are more advanced, and the melting of metals such as tin, copper and bronze change the way weapons and armor are produced. Large stone structures, such as temples and pyramids, become possible. Smaller, more primitive sailing vessels such as longboats are first built, allowing for broader exploration.
  • Materials: bronze, gold.
  • Weapons: dagger, mace, morning star, pick, various swords, flail, trident, warhammer, longbow, whip, net.
  • Armor: leather, studded leather, breasplate.
  • Other equipment: all except barrel, glass bottle, flask, inkpen, lanterns, piton, iron pot, signal whistle, spyglass, water clock, more complex tool kits and alchemical items.

Iron Age
Now that a process for forging steel becomes available, sentients possess the tools they need to craft all manner of structures and things. This allows for finer work in wood and stone, which goes hand in hand with the creation of more complex tools. Glass also becomes available, as do the more advanced means of tranportation.
  • Materials: Iron, steel.
  • Weapons: add specialized polearms and martial arts weapons.
  • Armor: all.
  • Other equipment: all except inkpen,spyglass, water clock, more complex tool kits and alchemical items.

Different Types of Materials
Refer to the Ultimate Equipment supplement to find information about different materials and their mechanical effects when used in creating weapons, armor and other items.

Medieval Era
From a material standpoint, this era represents little real change from the Iron Age. For that reason, it can be considered to have the same level of advancement as that period. Historically speaking, it saw little further progress due to the attitudes and outlooks of the people in power.

Renaissance Era
A renewed focus on study and experimentation, aided by the development of paper and a printing process, allows the culture reach new heights in art, literature, crafts and other elements of culture. Exploration becomes more expansive, too, bringing interaction and even conflict between different societies.
  • Materials: all, including ones with more advanced properties.
  • Weapons: all.
  • Armor: all.
  • Other equipment: all.
Industrial Revolution—And Beyond
While the Pathfinder RPG core rulebook doesn't include rules for steampunk settings or similar worlds, there are plenty of third-party supplements that do. To see just what they might add to a world that has reached such advancement, one should of course refer to those texts.

Different Levels of Magical Development, Too
Just as various worlds can have varying levels of technological advancement, so too can they have different progress in the study of spells and the creation of magical items. In game terms, that means the GM sets a cap on the levels of spells and value of magical items that are available.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Bad Medicine

This is an idea that I've been kicking around for a little while, a seemingly idyllic little town that is held in thrall through occult magic.


Bad Medicine

In some ways, the little town of Smith's Crossing might seem like an ideal community. Consisting of a few businesses and private homes on the western bank of the Mississippi River, its citizens live in relative comfort and almost never have to deal with the crime and other such problems that are all too common in the American West. This is especially noteworthy given the fact that the town sees plenty of transients coming through it, people whose travels have brought them across the river as they seek their fortunes on the western frontier. While locations with that kind of traffic are often plagued by drunkenness, theft, vice and violence, Smith's Crossing has no such problems. 

Of course, if people knew just why the town is so peaceful, they'd not be so approving: In truth, the people who run the town keep others in thrall by creating poppets for every local, dolls crafted in the likeness of each person, infused with evil magic and some trace of material—such as hair, a little blood, a finger nail, and the like—from the victim's body. 

The Grand Tour
Refer to the map of Smith's Crossing to find the relative positions of the different establishments. 

A. The Landing
The first people to inhabit this area were Big Jean's parents, former slaves who set up shop in the area, cutting and selling wood for passing riverboats. Although it was hard work, it provided them with a chance for freedom and independence that they hadn't previously known. Now Big Jean runs the place with his wife, Mama Celeste, and their two children. 

The primary feature of the Landing is a broad wooden pier that juts out into the river. Jean and Celeste live in a small cabin, which consists of a main room and kitchen (A), along with bedrooms for the parents and children (B and C, respectively). Behind the cabin there are five big, long stacks of firewood, some eight feed wide and six feet tall, along with an outhouse.

Big Jean
Big Jean wasn't given his nickname for nothing. He is a big, big man, standing well over six feet in height and weighing more than two hundred pounds. His muscles are hardened from years of cutting down trees, sawing and splitting them into logs, and then stacking them to dry. For the most part he is a gentle soul, happy to let others go about their lives without trouble—but, should anyone threaten him or his own, then they're in for a fight.
Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d4, Spirit d6, Strength d8, Vigor d6
Skills: Boating d4, Climbing d4, Fighting d6, Notice d4, Survival d6, Swimming d4, Tracking d4
Charisma: --, Pace: 6”, Parry: 5, Toughness: 6
Edges: Brawny
Hindrances: Illiterate, Loyal
Gear: Clothing, axe (Damage Str+d6).

Mama Celeste
Mama Celeste possesses two notable gifts: she can influence the loa, and she can see those beings who—for whatever reason—are unable to move from this world into the next. These abilities she uses to help those who seek her aid, working as a healer and a spiritual adviser. Those efforts are in addition to working alongside her husband in his labors, and keeping a small garden along with a few chickens.
Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d4, Spirit d8, Strength d6, Vigor d6
Skills: Fighting d4, Healing d6, Notice d6, Persuasion d4, Survival d4, Voodoo d8
Charisma: --, Pace: 6”, Parry: 4, Toughness: 5
Edges: Arcane Background (Voodoo), Ghost Sight
Hindrances: All Thumbs, Code of Honor
Special Abilities
Power Points: 10
Powers: Boost Trait, Divination
Gear: Clothing, knife (Damage Str+d4).

B. Storehouse
This large, thick building is constructed from mud bricks with a timber roof. It has two sets of broad double doors in the front—one at ground level, and one elevated for use with wagons. There's a single door along one side, too, for people when they come and go. Inside the storehouse, a sloping ramp leads up to a platform (A) inside the raised doors, allowing for loading and unloading. There's also an enclosed office area where the bookkeeper works (C). Most of the space, however, is filled with tall wooden shelves containing crates, barrels, sacks, jars and the like (B).
Two laborers pull guard duty here at all times. 

Godfrey Werner, the Bookkeeper
In addition to running the general store and storehouse in Smith's Crossing, Godfrey Werner also acts as a spy for the Smith family. Indeed, his job gives him an excellent opportunity for keeping tabs on other people's business, since he is the only purveyor of most household items and other goods for miles around. Should anyone start buying items that might indicate a plot against the Smiths, he can report dutifully to them. As a reward for his services he enjoys a comfortable situation with access to many of “the finer things” in life. That also means, however, that he'd be willing to consider a better offer from another potential employer, especially if it becomes apparent to him that the Smiths are about to lose their control over this little frontier town.
Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d10, Spirit d6, Strength d4, Vigor d4
Skills: Gambling d4, Investigation d8, Knowledge d8, Notice d8, Persuasion d8
Charisma: --, Pace: 6”, Parry: 2, Toughness: 5
Edges: Command
Hindrances: Greedy (Major), Sluggish
Gear: Clothing, Derringer (Range 5/10/20, Damage 2d6, RoF 1).

These fellows are strong, but none too bright. They do as they are told, be that loading and unloading goods, or even silencing the occasional upstart who doesn't recognize the blessing that the Smiths have given to the people of this town.
Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d4, Spirit d4, Strength d8, Vigor d8
Skills: Climbing d6, Fighting d6, Notice d6, Shooting d6, Swimming d6
Charisma: -2, Pace: 6”, Parry: 5, Toughness: 7
Edges: Brawny
Hindrances: Mean
Gear: Clothing, Colt Navy .36 (Range 12/24/48, Damage 2d6, RoF 1), Bowie knife (Damage Str+d4+1), chewing tobacco.

C. General Store
Situated next to the storehouse is this single-story wooden building, the place from which Godfrey Werner buys and sells foodstuffs, tools, clothing and other such goods. This includes most items from the Gear section of the Sixth Gun RPG, except for armor, explosives, and firearms and accessories. The shopkeeper can order those other items, of course, but it can take a month or longer for them to be delivered. 

Inside the store, shelves line the walls and fill the center of the front room (A), which also has a counter for the clerk. There's a small office (B) in which Godfrey keeps his books, and a storeroom for extra supplies (C). Because Godfrey lives in the store, there's also a small kitchen (D), along with his bedroom (E) and another for his assistant (F). In addition to a strongbox containing $2000 in mixed coins and banknotes, Godfrey's room also holds his journal, in which he keeps track of people's purchases and speculates about what business they might be pursuing—which he reports to the Smiths, as mentioned above. 

D. Saloon
Across the main east-west street from the general store sits the Cantina, the only watering hole in Smith's Crossing. It consists of a main room (A) with a broad bar and thirty stools in the center, along with ten tables and chairs along the outside walls. Behind the bar, a door leads into the kitchen (B), from which one can access the storeroom (C) and the proprietress's bedroom (D). That latter area, in addition to containing Elizabeth Grey's extra clothing and personal items, is where she keeps a strongbox holding $500 in mixed coins and banknotes.

Elizabeth Grey, Saloonkeeper
Of all the people who live in Smith's Crossing, Elizabeth Grey has the best idea that something unusual is happening in town. That is because she chooses to visit Mama Celeste instead of Dr. Smith when she has a health concern. What is more, she has spent a good deal of time observing the locals, and has concluded that they don't conduct themselves with the same gusto and bravado as people in other frontier towns. While she doesn't know the truth behind these matters, she is curious about how the preacher's sermons can be so effective in stifling the impulses of these rustic and rambunctious settlers.
Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d6, Spirit d6, Strength d6, Vigor d6
Skills: Fighting d6, Notice d6, Knowledge (Aread) d4, Persuasion d6, Shooting d4, Streetwise d6
Charisma: +2, Pace: 6”, Parry: 5, Toughness: 5
Edges: Attractive
Hindrances: Curious
Gear: Comfortable clothing (men's), Sawed-off double-barreled shotgun (Range 5/10/20, Damage 1-3d6, RoF 1-2).

Serving Girls
These women have a surprisingly easy time of it, given the peaceful nature of Smith's Crossing. Even so, Elizabeth Grey has asked them to look out for evidence of just why the town is so well-mannered. In return, they see her as something of a mother figure.
Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d6, Spirit d6, Strength d6, Vigor d6
Skills: Knowledge (Area) d4, Notice d8, Persuasion d6, Stealth d4, Streetwise d6
Charisma: --, Pace: 6”, Parry: 2, Toughness: 5
Edges: Alertness
Hindrances: Curious
Gear: Comfortable clothing (women's), Derringer pistol (Range 5/10/20, Damage 2d6, RoF 1).

E. Church
Kitty-corner from the saloon stands this building, in which Malachi Smith preaches his sermons about sin, penitence and redemption. While they might seem like typical hellfire-and-brimstone chastisement, there's no denying that they're unusually effective in stamping out the more wicked tendencies among the residents of the town as well as the surrounding settlers. 

The church is a story and a half in height, with a bell tower that rises to a full three stories. It has two broad sets of double doors in front that provide access to the entry (A). From there, a spiral staircase leads up into the bell tower, while two more sets of double doors lead into the sanctuary (B). That room is filled with wooden pews, in front of which stands the pulpit from which Rev. Smith preaches. A single door leads into the back room (C), which contains the rear entrance, a single door. It also provides access to the storage room (D), which is lined with shelves containing all of the materials needed for conducting baptisms, weddings and other ceremonies, along with the study (E) in which the minister sometimes works.

Reverend Malachi Smith
A true believer in the Gospel of the Lord, Reverend Smith is convinced that his words are what keep the people of Smith's Crossing living good lives of hard work, honest business and mutual satisfaction. He himself is not really a bad person, suffering mainly from the sin of intolerance but working hard to help others with life's difficulties and their understanding of the Bible's teachings. He would be horrified to learn the truth of why this town seems so idyllic: that his brother and sister-in-law hold everyone in thrall through occult means.
Attributes: Agility d4, Smarts d6, Spirit d8, Strength d6, Vigor d6
Skills: Healing d4, Investigation d6, Knowledge d6 (religion), Notice d4, Persuasion d6, Streetwise d4
Charisma: --, Pace: 6”, Parry: 2, Toughness: 5
Edges: Command, Natural Leader
Hindrances: Code of Honor
Gear: Austere clothing, clerical collar, copy of the Holy Bible.

F. Graveyard
Next to the church is the last resting place for those locals who've passed beyond this world. It is surrounded by a white-washed rail fence, with a gate in front that provides entrance. Inside the fence, seven plots have already been dug, filled and marked with headstones. There is still plenty of room to expand, of course. 

G. Smiths' House
By far the nicest home in town—with whitewashed walls and an immaculate shake roof—is this one, which belongs to the Smiths. It is two stories in height. 

The front door opens into a hallway that runs the length of the house. To the right is the parlor (A), which is filled with two comfortable sofas and an overstuffed chair. Across the hall from there is the dining room (B), which is dominated by a broad table surrounded by eight chairs. A door from the dining room leads into the kitchen (C), which boasts a modern wood stove and a long table for preparing food. A door from here leads into the pantry (D), which is stocked with all manner of dry goods, bottles, jars and the like. Opposite those two rooms is the housemaid's bedroom (E), furnished with a bed, dressing table and storage trunk. A stairway leads to the upstairs; what is more, a hidden door (Notice test at -2 to spot) opens onto the staircase that leads into the hidden basement. 

On the upstairs level there is a closet (F) filled with extra linens and similar things. Next along that side is Malachi's bedroom (G), furnished with a comfortable bed, side table, wardrobe and desk. Along the other side of the hallway one finds Dr. Smith's study (H), which is lined with bookshelves and contains a table and chairs along with an easel that the doctor uses for sketching and even painting pictures based on his study of human anatomy. Finally there is the master bedroom (I), shared by the doctor and Mrs. Angelica, which contains a large bed, a wardrobe, a dressing table and a storage trunk. While one can find clothing and mundane personal items in this room, the really incriminating stuff is located elsewhere. 

The stairs that lead into the basement bring a person face-to-face with the terrible secret of just how Smith's Crossing is such a peaceful town. That room is filled by two long, broad work tables, both of which are covered by dolls in various stages of progress. Those dolls depict various people from around the town and surrounding area, along with others from further afield. What is more, shelves lining the wall opposite the stairs are filled with these sinister little replicas, including all of the townsfolk except Big Jean, Mama Celeste and Elizabeth Grey. Mrs. Angelica can infuse these dolls, when necessary, with voodoo magic in order to inflict pain on those who, in her opinion, are not doing right. Each doll sits on a piece of paper containing the name of the person whom it depicts.

Refer to page 34 of the Sixth Gun RPG rulebook to find more information about the crafting of voodoo dolls and how they can be used to inflict harmful magical effects on unsuspecting victims from a distance.

Meghan Evans, the Housemaid
In addition to working as the Smiths' housemaid, Meghan assists them in their daily business—both public and illicit. To that end she acts as a nurse for Dr. Smith when he needs help and as a sounding board for Rev. Smith's sermon ideas; more notably, Mrs. Smith has secretly begun to tutor her in the practice of magic. Because of these activities, Meghan has become aware that Rev. Smith is being kept in the dark about the town's occult enforcement of social norms. Since she has begun to develop a real affection for the bachelor preacher, she struggles with the fact that he's being allowed to believe his sermons are what keep the townsfolk quiet and happy. Meghan hasn't been willing to tell anyone yet, as she rightly fears the wrath of the other Smiths, but in time she might be persuaded to speak out.
Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d6, Spirit d6, Strength d6, Vigor d6
Skills: Healing d4, Investigation d4, Knowledge d6 (local), Notice d6, Persuasion d6, Voodoo d4
Charisma: --, Pace: 6”, Parry: 2, Toughness: 5
Edges: Connections.
Hindrances: Cautious
Gear: Comfortable clothing.

Dr. Mordecai Smith
There are two things that visitors to this little town should know about Dr. Mordecai Smith. The first, which is public knowledge, is that he is a highly skilled doctor. The second, or which only two of his associates are aware, is that he uses his medical practice to help his wife keep the townsfolk and people of the surround farms in thrall through Voodoo. His part in the business is to take samples from each of his patients—locks of hair, vials of blood, and even the occasional amputated limb—and give them to his wife for use in making poppets (see below for details).
Attributes: Agility d4, Smarts d8, Spirit d6, Strength d6, Vigor d6
Skills: Fighting d4, Healing d8, Investigation d6, Knowledge d6, Notice d6, Persuasion d4
Charisma: --, Pace: 6”, Parry: 4, Toughness: 5
Edges: Luck
Hindrances: Obligation (Minor), Overconfident
Gear: Fancy suit, doctor's bag, book., walking stick (Damage Str + 1d4).

Mrs. Angelica Smith
While this little town is named after the Smith brothers, the real power behind it all is this woman who, on the surface, seems like nothing more than the young and beautiful wife of the country doctor. She uses her knowledge of Voodoo to create a poppet for every person from whom her husband obtains a sample, and then uses those dolls to inflict hurtful powers on those who act against her will. This she learned back east in her home town of Salem, Massachusetts. Additionally, she employs a number of independent agents—such as Jacques Lemaire—who also use magic to seek relics and lore in order to gain more power influence for themselves and their employer. Just how far her ambition might lead, and who could suffer as a result of it, is open to speculation.
Attributes: Agility d6, Smarts d4, Spirit d8, Strength d6, Vigor d6
Skills: Healing d4, Notice d6, Persuasion d6, Streetwise d6, Voodoo d8
Charisma: +2, Pace: --, Parry: 2, Toughness: 5
Edges: Arcane Background (voodoo), Attractive
Hindrances: Arrogant
Special Abilities
Power Points: 10
Powers: Divination, Puppet
Gear: Fancy dress.

Other Homes
Most of the people who work in Smith's crossing live in small, rough but comfortable homes. While the exact details vary, some common features include a kitchen that doubles as a living room (A), a master bedroom (B), smaller bedrooms (C) and an attached storage room (D). There is an outhouse, too, of course. 


Monday, November 13, 2017

Ill-Gotten Gains

I've been working on a follow-up to my first adventure for The Sixth Gun RPG; here it is at last.

Here's a link to the PDF.

Ill-Gotten Gains


During the time leading up to the Civil War, on the border between Kansas and Missouri, it was not uncommon for bands of desperadoes to raid towns on both sides of the state line. An especially notorious group of such raiders was led by Arthur “Mad Dog” Madigan, a self-described “gentleman of fortune” from Charleston who vehemently opposed the abolition movement. While this band of cutthroats was eventually brought to justice, rumors have persisted for more than two decades that a cache of their stolen loot remained hidden after their deaths. Most people assume that such legends are not credible, and that there is no real evidence of the cache's existence.

That was, of course, until a recent incident aboard a steamboat on the Mississippi River.

Adventure Synopsis
This scenario introduces the heroes to the tale of Mad Dog's Raiders and there lost cache of loot, via certain undead attackers who wear the remains of distinguishing uniforms. Following that incident, the steamboat's owner—a German immigrant named Engelbert Meier, who has a strong interest in the history and legends of the American frontier—recognizes the uniforms and asks the PCs to investigate. From there they must track the zombies back to their riverside cache, and then follow cryptic clues back to an old plantation house. At the end of the trail they find the loot—along with a wraith, the spirit of Mad Dog Madigan himself—in its cellar.

For the Gun Master
During the years leading up to the Civil War, the question of slavery loomed large in American life. For one thing, new states as they sought to enter the Union had to decide if they would allow for one person to own another. That question led to such legislative decisions as the Missouri Compromise and the Kansas-Nebraska Act, both of which only delayed the inevitable confrontation over the future of slavery in America. This delay also led parties on both sides of the debate to conduct raids across the border between free Kansas and slaveholding Missouri. As a result there was much bloodshed, as well as looting and destruction.

Of the many parties who participated in this violence, none was more enthusiastic than the band of Confederate raiders led by Arthur “Mad Dog” Madigan. That group quickly developed a reputation for neither asking for nor giving quarter, and legends began to grow about the vast cache of lucre that they assembled. Known as the “Crimson Company,” it is said that they fought under a flag that they called the Bloody Banner, and that they distinguished themselves by tying scarlet bandannas on their left arms.

Few people know what ultimately happened to them during the Civil War, and they might have slipped into obscurity and eventually have been forgotten—until, that is, a cunning bokor discovered their hideout and used his power to animate their bodies in an attempt at robbing a riverboat poker tournament.

Involving the Heroes
As mentioned above, this scenario is intended to be run as a sequel to “The Grand Tournament.” Following those events, Herr Meier approaches the PCs with information about the zombie attackers, and asks them to help track those undead fiends back to their place of origin. He tells them what he knows about the cache's history, and then negotiates shares of the profits as long as they are willing to assist him.

The River Maiden and the Great River Poker Tournament
Refer to the links below to find more information about Herr Engelbert Meier, his riverboat, the Great River Poker Tournament that he hosts and a group of heroes who might show up to compete.




Scene 1—What Has Come Before... and Afterward
In the aftermath of the attempted robbery—whether or not it succeeded—Herr Meier approaches the heroes. He thanks them for their efforts, and then explains what he knows about the raider band, including the details from the first two paragraphs of the For the Gun Master section. Finally, he makes his pitch, offering to split evenly any spoils found during the investigation. He just wants, after all, to immerse himself in the legend of the American frontier.

If the GM is using this as a stand-alone scenario, then introducing the PCs becomes a bit more challenging. In that case, they might come along in the aftermath of an attack, when Sheriff Wainwright and his deputies are cleaning up the mess. Because those lawmen are preoccupied, Herr Meier notices the heroes and decides to recruit them for the investigation. Whatever the case, hopefully the heroes soon find themselves in one or more of the sternwheeler's boats, following the trail of the Confederate zombies.

Scene 2—Up and Down the River
Tracing the undead raiders back to their lair requires a series of Tracking checks. From a narrative standpoint, this involves discovering subtle signs of their passage, including the following possibilities.
  • A boot print in the mud
  • A scrap of cloth that matches the raiders' rotting uniforms
  • The remains of a small animal, caught and eaten by one of the zombies
  • Etc.
This is a chance for some vivid description, too, as the heroes pick out these signs while steering their boat through tangles of reeds and trees with hanging branches, occasionally drag the boat through muddy shallows, and the like.

At the same time, the PCs must succeed at three Tracking checks in order to keep on the trail. Of course, it's also possible that the heroes could use supernatural means to track the zombies, such as via Beast Friend (to summon an animal that can track), Boost Trait, Divination, or even Grave Speak.
At the same time, the heroes can encounter some of the swamp's dangerous denizens, including some of the following options. 
  • Alligator/Crocodile (SWDE page 135)
  • Snake, venomous (SWDE page 140)
  • Zombie, shambler (T6G RPG page 83)
  • Finally, this could also allow the GM to introduce a curious NPC under unusual circumstances, so as to provide future plot hooks.

Scene 3—The Lost Cache
Refer to the following map when the heroes reach the cache once occupied by Mad Dog's Raiders. Keep in mind that light sources are important, limiting what the characters can see while exploring. 

1. Entrance
The entrance to the hidden cache is dug into the side of the riverbank, in an area concealed by overhanging trees. What is more, depending on the height of the river, the cave is usually at least partially submerged. Spotting it requires a Notice check at a -2 penalty; even then, people wouldn't think that it's anything more than a natural cave. Characters who've been following the zombies' trail back to this location don't suffer the penalty, however.

2. Tunnel
The tunnel rises sharply up above the waterline here, until it reaches a point where it is completely dry. It is cramped in here, though, requiring characters to stoop. That could cause a -2 penalty to certain skill tests, at the GM's discretion.

3. Collapsing Floor Trap
In the upper level of the cave, a broad section of the floor has been replaced by a thatch covered with sand. Spotting it requires another Notice or Survival test at a -2 penalty, revealing irregularities in the shape of the floor or erased tracks leading around that area, respectively. Anyone who walks across the middle of the upper level plunges through it must make an Agility test to determine how many spikes they hit: critical failure = three; failure = two; success = one; success with a raise = zero. Each spike attacks as if it had a d6 fighting skill, and inflicts 2d6 damage.

4. Ladder
A ladder here leads through a hole in the floor down to the lower level.

5. Spikes
Scores of sharpened wooden stakes protrude from the ground here, underneath the false floor above. This is, of course, where interlopers end up if they don't recognize the trap that has been set for them. What is more, those who spring the trap likely draw the attention of any shamblers that managed to find their way back to the cache (see below).

6. Raider Hideout
Seven hammocks have been tied up to wooden posts in this area, six along the inside wall of the cavern and one that hangs between those others and the exit. Those belonged to, respectively, the raiders and Mad Dog; he was never a very trusting soul. There is also a broad table at which they took their meals, along with a small firepit and numerous chests and barrels. Before they can examine these items, however, the heroes must deal with the swarm of rats that inhabits this area. Once disturbed, they head for the ladder and then up and out of the cache, biting anyone who comes into their path.

Rat Swarm—Use the stats from page 242 of the Savage Worlds Deluxe rulebook.

The Loot
Among the barrels and crates one can find old sacks of biscuits and flour, now spoiled; containers of coffee in a questionable state; various kinds of meat jerky, also starting to rot; along with dried beans and casks of water that are still good. Scattered among these items are a few empty chests, along with a handful of old Morgan silver dollars half buried in the sand. All in all, this should give the impression that there was more loot here, but that the best of it has been moved.

The Journal
There is also evidence that someone has recently occupied this area. The ashes in the firepit are still warm (Notice test), some of the personal goods are relatively new (such as a coffee pot and tin cup and plate), and someone has recently slept in Mad Dog's hammock (Tracking test). Finally, wrapped up in the hammock's blanket is a journal that belonged to Jacques Lemaire. It details his investigation of stories regarding Arthur “Mad Dog” Madigan and his raiders, and includes some of the following details.
  • Lemaire provides a description of “Mad Dog” Madigan and his raiders; the exact details of this are left up to the GM, and can certainly provide links to future plots.
  • He also describes the cache as being five furlongs west-by-southwest of “the old plantation house.” He mentions that this is the place from which they sold their stolen goods, but doesn't go into much other detail about that location.
  • The occultist has also written in a timetable for the stops made by Engelbert Meier's River Maiden, which correspond with its travels during the Great River Poker Tournament.

What Has Come Before
As mentioned above, this scenario can be run as a sequel to “Reversal of Fortune.” If that is the case, and if Jacques Lemaire managed to escape from the heroes at this time, then it is entirely possible that he has come back here to rest and recover. In that case, he has the rat swarm attack the heroes (using his Beast Friend power) in order to defend himself.

Scene 4—Heading Inland
Having acquired the information in Lemaire's journal, the heroes should easily be able to find the house from which the raiders sold their goods. Depending on the desires of the players and the needs of the campaign, the GM could add more encounters with wildlife and other hazards, as detailed in Scene 2 above, or this journey could be relatively uneventful.

Scene 5—The Old Plantation House
Once the characters arrive at the house, refer to the following map and area descriptions for details.

1. Entry
The houses' front door here opens into a two-story front room. A door leads into the parlor at the right, and a staircase up to the landing on the second floor. To the left, double doors provide access to the dining room.

2. Parlor
This comfortable room is furnished with a sofa, three armchairs and a handful of side tables, creating a space in which to receive visitors. All of it now, however, is covered in dust and smells faintly musty.

3. Dining Room
A broad wooden table surrounded by eight chairs dominates the center of this room. Unlike the parlor, it shows signs of recent use, with one end of the table cleared of dust.

4. Kitchen
The kitchen has recently been used, too. While the ashes in the stove are cold, the utensils, pots and pans have been cleaned recently. What is more, a trapdoor in the floor provides access to the cellar (Area (9) below.

5. Pantry
Shelves line the walls of this room, filled with boxes, jars and other containers of food. There's also a cask of freshwater on the floor, along with an empty basket. Here again, the food is relatively fresh—but it is up to the heroes to deduce that Lemaire was living here while researching “Mad Dog” Madigan and his raiders.

6. Servants' Quarters
This room, once home to the house's servants, has long since fallen into disuse. It is furnished with a bed and desk, but is otherwise empty.

7. Bedrooms
Each of these rooms is also furnished with a bed and desk, and boasts a (now empty) closet for clothing. None have been used for some time.

8. Master Bedroom
In addition to the bed and desk, this room boasts a storage trunk and two bookshelves. This was once the place from which “Mad Dog” Madigan plotted his band's raids, and where he enjoyed the spoils of victory. More recently, however, it is where Jacques Lemaire has been living, communicating with the ghoul in the cellar and plotting his attack on the River Maiden and the poker tournament it hosted.

9. Cellar
Storm doors lead down here from outside, in addition to the ladder from the kitchen. This is where the loot is kept, as well as where the ghoul that Arthur Madigan has now become. Consumed by bloodlust, the former Confederate captain has devolved into a flesh-eating, undead monster. For that reason, the middle of the cellar is filled with gnawed bones, scraps of cloth and the occasional odd personal item. Various crates, trunks and barrels are arranged against the walls.

The Loot
While the GM should feel free to tailor the following list, here are some examples of the spoils accumulated by the captain and his raiders.
  • A small strongbox containing five hundred Morgan silver dollars
  • A case of twelve bottles containing good whiskey
  • A portmanteau filled holding a dozen fancy dresses
  • A set of lockpicks in a leather pouch
  • A photograph of Madigan and his raiders, with their names written on the back
  • A Gatling gun, with the name Clementine engraved on it
Before they can claim this loot, however, the heroes must first deal with the ghoul who lives here. When they first arrive at the house, the ghoul is in the basement. Once he becomes aware of interlopers, however, he moves to stalk them. This might require slipping up the ladder to the kitchen, or out the storm doors in the back of the cellar. At that point, he makes Stealth checks opposed by the heroes' Notice efforts, waiting for changes to ambush lone characters.

Arthur “Mad Dog” Madigan—Use the stats for a ghoul from pages 76-7 of The Sixth Gun RPG.

Provided they can defeat the ghoul, the heroes have made a notable historic discovery—and, of course, claimed some valuable loot for themselves. They should also have gained some important information about current events, including details that could lead to further action.

Further Adventures
Detailed below are just a few of the possibilities for additional business in which the heroes might become entangled.
  • Among the papers in the master bedroom is a bit of paper, a cryptic note that does not match the bokor's handwriting. It simply says, “Smith's Crossing, All Hallow's Eve.” Just what that might imply, of course, is left up to the discernment of the heroes.
  • It's always possible that the loot collected by Madigan's Men includes something important, an item that can be connected to another plot. For example, there might be legal papers regarding a contested estate, a letter with important details about secret plot, a declaration of love for a romance that was never allowed to happen, or something similar.
  • As mentioned above, the bokor's journal could contain hints about lost relics, secretive cults, or other business related to arcane investigation.
  • Herr Engelbert Meier would happily purchase items from the heroes, adding them to his collection of frontier memorabilia. What is more, he might want to hire them to pursue other such acquisitions.
  • The heroes could always decide to take up residence in their newly liberated plantation, a notion that brings its own set of problems.
  • It's also possible that one or more surviving members of “Mad Dog's” Men decide to reclaim their spoils from the heroes—or from Herr Meier, if he purchased them—by any means necessary.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Ratfolk of the Grotto

Curiously, I'm posting this article a year to the day after first posting about the Grotto. (And, yes, I am shamelessly reusing maps again.) 


The Ratfolk of the Grotto
A previous article introduces the Grotto, a hollow asteroid filled with water that features a tavern, inn and brothel, the Sign of the Cup and Loaf. Among the eclectic mix of travelers and regulars who inhabit the place is a pack of ratfolk who serve as custodians for the place. What most people don't know, however, is that they are also a band of thieves. Under the unseeing eyes of other, larger people, they slowly gather any and all useful items and information that others leave unprotected.

The Ratfolk Lair
With its entrance located beneath the rightmost of the piers on the asteroid's artificial lake, this series of caves allows the ratfolk to live and work in the heart of the settlement's activity, all while not attracting undue attention. Refer to the map below for the following location descriptions. 

Note: For a map of the Grotto, refer to that post for details.

1. Entrance
The mouth of this tunnel is some seven feet wide and of roughly five feet in height. It is entirely covered by the artificial lake, making it particularly difficult to notice (DC 25 Perception check). From there, a tunnel cut out of the rock leads up above the waterline. Note, too, that there is a spiked pit trap (refer to page 420 in the core rulebook) in the two squares marked with X's on the map. What is more, to make this trap more dangerous for higher-level parties, the GM might want to have the spikes be poisoned with an appropriate venom or other kind of toxin (see Table 16-2 on page 559 of the core rulebook for options). 

As a general rule, tunnels in this cave network are as tall as they are wide; other chambers have a height of roughly half their width.

2. Main Chamber
This is where the ratfolk keep all of the general goods that they “find.” Most of it is junk, little more than shiny baubles that attracted their attention. To determine the nature of a random item, simply use the “Minor” column from Table 15-2 from page 461 of the core rulebook, but have all items be mundane in nature. At the GM's discretion, there is a 1-in-20 chance of an item actually having magical properties, with only one such item being present. There are also casks of water and various foodstuffs; refer to Table 6-3 on page 140 in the core rulebook for examples.

3. Midden Pit
Ratfolk have a very narrow definition of the word “trash,” but this hole (roughly four feet wide and twenty feet deep) is where they discard old bones, broken glass, spoiled foodstuffs and whatever else they deem apprporiate. At the GM's discretion, it could be home to a swarm of vermin.

4. Females' Den
The most notable feature of this area are five beds made from pieces of cloth, straw and other such materials. Each of these is occupied by one of the five females in the pack. Most notably, any items of legitimate value—coins, gems or magical items—that they don't carry on their persons are hidden in these beds.

5. Den of Nartamus and Lyram
A single large bed dominates this room. That is because it is home to Nartamus and Lyram, the leaders of the pack. In addition to their items of value, stored beneath their bed is a book in which the two ratfolk have written tidbits of information—both things that the rogues who serve Nartamus have overheard in the course of their activities, and additional details that Lyram has been able to glean from her divination magic. 

The exact nature of that information is left up to the GM, in order to add any plot hooks as needed to meet the desires of the players and the needs of the campaign. For example, this might include something overheard by a boastful pirate while he was drunk, notes from a secret meeting of the Royal Interplanetary Company or a similar oganization, personal secrets from any number of individuals, and the like.

6. Males' Den
This location is very much the same as the den for the females (Area 4), above, except that there are six beds that are occupied by the males. Once again, any valuable items they possess but do not carry are hidden in the piles of cloth and straw.

To find statistics for the various members of the ratfolk pack, refer to pages 178-81 the Monster Codex.

Rogues: Ratfolk Tinkerers.

Nartamus: Ratfolk Troubleshooter.

Lyram: Ratfolk Sage.

Using the Ratfolk in an Aetherial Adventures Campaign
There are plenty of ways in which these rogues can become involved in the events of a space fantasy RPG campaign; presented here are a few of the possibilities.
  • First and foremost, PCs visiting the Grotto would do well to visit the ratfolk to learn more about any potential business, since very little there happens without them noticing.
  • In a similar vein, the ratfolk provide the GM with a means of complicating or otherwise steering an existing storyline. For example, if the PCs should fail to acquire a valuable piece of information, then the ratfolk might offer it in exchange for something of similar value; should they leave an important item unguarded, then he ratfolk might “find” it.
  • Keeping in mind the types of—ahem--entertainment provided at the Sign of the Cup and Loaf, this could be a good opportunity for some blackmail—with a choice NPC or even the PCs themselves as victims.
  • Should the ratfolk recover a clue to something like a lost pirate treasure cache, then an all-out battle might erupt in the Grotto as people from various factions—the PCs, scallywags and even the powers that be—try to claim it for themselves.
  • Given the ratfolk's natural aptitude when it comes to alchemy, anyone seeking to experiment in that field—perhaps someone from Wodan studying strange mutative material, or even a Cult of the Void member seeking to develop a potent plague—could come here to set up a laboratory, consulting with these diminutive discoverers.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Building Civilizations: Using Character Classes for Inspiration

Just as the details regarding certain species of creatures can inform the nature of a society or culture that they might build, so can the different character classes from the Pathfinder RPG be used to inspire the types of government (or lack thereof) that people might form. In this way, they can give different worlds—or different nations or settlements on the same world—distinctive flavor. Take, for instance, the following possibilities.

Barbarians and Druids: Primitive and Nomadic Tribes
These two classes are emblematic of a society in which people still lead a nomadic lifestyle, moving from place to place while following the migrations of animals, the natural growth cycles of edible plants, and the like. While they may return to more permanent locations in the winter, during the rest of the are always on the move. They possess only primitive material goods—with weapons and tools for hunting and gathering food being the most prized—and that makes trade with other worlds particularly lucrative, even though they might not have minted coins with which to pay for goods. In general the people know the land, along with its flora and fauna, very well.

Fighters: Military Coup or Warrior Hierarchy
This society might be a long-established military hierarchy, such as one led by a king who shares power with his noble knights, or the product of a recent coup d'etat. In either case, power and influence can be shared based on rank and achievement—although one does not necessarily match up with the other. For example, a particularly charismatic leader could be good at convincing others to obey him, but wouldn't be able to defeat others in single combat. In such cases, however, the strength of one's entourage might outweigh individual prowess. Whatever the case, a society such as this one could feature jousts, archery tournaments and other such contests as means of proving, and thus establishing, oneself. On such worlds, monks might be the pinnacle of self-actualization, or they could be viewed as strange ascetics who are too narrow-minded to make use of armor and more effective weapons.

Paladins and Clerics: Theocracy
When the followers of a particular religion or philosophy gain power over others, the resulting society can bring order and peace or distrust and terror. That is because the dominant faith tries to eliminate all others, believing them to be misguided (at best) or heretical and dangerous (at worst). That bias can manifest in many different forms, from intolerance to outright persecution, and even a crusade. Of course, the exact nature of the society's outlook on life and morality depends on the god(s) whom they worship, along with—to put it in game terms—the domains in the respective portfolio(s). In this way the espoused values can run the gamut from good to evil, law to chaos, and everything in between them. Moreover, monks could be a part of this society, self-disciplined warriors who fight to promote the dominant doctrine, or they could be just another group of unorthodox people who dedicate themselves to the wrong tenets.

Wizards and Sorcerers?
In many ways, a society run by wizards might closely resemble one based on a particular religion. After all, each is run by a cabal of powerful spellcasters. Given the studious nature of wizards, however, they might be more likely to rule by committee. In fact, it could make sense for them to be led by a council of mages, with the most potent practitioner of each school having a seat on it. The notion of a magical aristocracy also raises the question of how sorcerers would be involved. For them, of course, it's a question of bloodline, something akin to royal dynasties of kings and queens.

Rogues: Rampant Organized Crime
A society run by thieves can take at least two different forms. One is more covert, in which they work “behind the scenes” of another type of government. In that way they could secretly promote all manner of illicit activities, perhaps aided by collusion from the powers that be, and possibly even controlling the ruling powers via extortion or some other type of coercion. The other option is for an out-and-out lawless society, one in which the criminals run roughshod and there's no power who is willing or able to stand against them. This might take the form of gangs running amok, taking what they want from other citizens who are just trying to scratch out a living. Perhaps this would occur in the aftermath of some great calamity, one that has left only the shattered remains of a previous civilization.

The solitary nature of these wilderness warriors makes them unlikely candidates for forming any type of government. They could fit nicely into some of the options mentioned previously, however. For example, they would be valued as scouts in a fighter-driven society, or as explorers in a culture driven by arcane or divine spellcasters. Those who are lawful and/or good might find themselves at odds with a society led by thieves, necromancers or evil clerics, however.

Bards: Compliment or Contrast
Bards, too, seem unlikely candidates for establishing a society on their own. They make a natural addition to many of the previous options, however. As storytellers, they would be favored by warriors who seek to promote their own glory, especially through epic poetry and song. They might travel along with nomadic bands, or from stronghold to stronghold in a culture that has more permanent dwellings. Arcane spellcasters are likely to appreciate them as fonts of lore, especially when such learning could lead to new sources of magical power. In a society run by clerics, on the other hand, they might be viewed as a threat if their stories are in opposition to the established orthodoxy, and thus could be persecuted as sources of heresy. Indeed, their knowledge might extend back to the time before the reigning government gained power.