Saturday, March 11, 2017

The World Between for the Renaissance Game Engine

Jack Shear's Tales of The Grotesque and Dungeonesque  is a Gothic Fantasy Supplement for old-school fantasy role-playing games. He now has three publications in print containing house rules, random tables, new spells, new monsters, and a campaign setting for Gothic Fantasy adventures. He calls the setting "The World Between" and it is fit to drop right into your favorite B/X retro-clone. That means, if you are like me, this wonderful setting needs to be dropped into a completely different game system!

I have this perverse streak of grabbing hold of cool game settings and wanting to use them in an entirely different system than they were written for. Probably because the preponderance of great DIY stuff being released these days is written specifically for old school D&D. Therefore there is always a high chance I will need to convert because I have a head full of game systems and I'm always on the hunt for the "right" setting to play them in. Not all the time. Dolmenwood in the pages of Wormskin I would slot right into LotFP without changing a thing. I'm still on the quest for the right mash up of system and setting for a Space Opera campaign. With over a year of play I may be just starting to get comfortable with Cakebread & Walton's Clockwork & Chivalry game. More to the point, getting comfortable with using Chaosium's system, commonly referred to as BRP (Basic Role Playing) system. You know, d100 mechanics and the whole Call of Cthulhu engine.

I've mentioned plenty about my first exposure to BRP through Stormbringer. How I fell in love with it and believed it would give me the flexibility, the ability to go beyond a class and level system I had been playing with A/D&D. But I never got a chance to play it all that much. In fact the game puzzled me some. I knew I liked the combat system, and character creation framework seemed just what I wanted. The chance to make characters pretty much how I wanted them. I guess as a teen I just didn't know how to uncouple the system from the setting and then reskin.

Now that I'm back gaming I can reap the benefits of getting older and wiser. The plethora of DIY game materials available online from the OSR community continues to be an embarrassment of riches. There is literally a f$%k-ton of material so that players and referees can create any flavor of game they wish.

So now I finally have a satisfying fantasy setting to place a d100 game I can get my teeth in. The World Between's most attractive feature is it is relatively complete in concept. There is enough information on the game world and fantastic random tables I can sprout adventure ideas with relative ease. This also avails players with character color to give them a handle on what kind of world they are in for. The world map, found in Volumne II, conjures up Moorckock's other fantasy realm The Tragic Millennium, the world in which Dorian Hawkmoon quested for the Runestaff and battled the vile forces of Gran Breton. This is helpful because I have a copy of Chaosium's Hawkmoon on my shelf so can utilize these slim sourcebooks for immediate NPC and monsters stats.

The Clockwork & Chivalry rule book will give me all the Chaosium rules mechanics I could want including a nice framework for character creation. Its specific ties to European 1600's colors the magic system a certain way so it will need to be tailored to better reflect Shear's fantasy setting, but hell you have all the clockwork rules you could want! Cakebread & Walton also offer a free PDF of the "Renaissance" system which is actually much easier to flip through when creating characters. The free PDF does lack clockwork rules, but has alchemy and witchcraft, so keep that in mind when deciding whether to spend money or not.

Here is how I retrofitted character creation with this D&D based setting: Go ahead and roll starting attributes per the Renaissance/C&C rules. Then flip to the Character Background Table in TotGaD and make a random roll. Chaosium attributes line right up with D&D's. The only switch is Wisdom becomes Power. So attributes which receive bonuses from the character background  table translate point for point. Now compare the background rolled to the list of professions available in Renaissance/C&C. Pick the one which most aligns with the background rolled. For example; if you rolled Initiate then you have many good options. Witch/Warlock, Witchfinder, Scholar, Preacher, and Cunning Man or Wise Woman are all good matches for this one background. Your profession picked gives bonuses to certain Common Skills as well as giving the new character particular Advanced Skills. Also the profession picked indicates which Social Class you can pick from the five available.  Your Social Class gives your character further bonuses to Common and Advanced Skills. Note this is backwards from the regular character creation process outlined in the Renaissance/C&C rules.

Two Advanced Skills to pay attention to at this point are Lore(Any) and Craft(Any). If your character ends up with these it is now a good time to roll the character's nationality. There are fifteen nationalities listed in the World Between so make a random 1d15 roll for nationality and then a review of the TotGaD books, focusing on entries relating to the nation rolled. For example; if you rolled the Island of Jade Mysteries there is a section on "Monsters of the Jade Mysteries". This becomes a setting specific Lore skill which makes sense for your new character's background. Note the preponderance of undead listed amongst the different nations. Each has their own flavor and the unliving flesh is a common trope in gothic fiction. Characters having knowledge about these monsters should be useful in their upcoming adventures when they must confront these terrors. A look at the examples of suggested crafts in the Renaissance/C&C book should help with selections which relate to this gothic setting. Apothecary, Alchemy, Weaponsmith; all should find use in this world. I suggest skill in "Clockwork" can be either a Lore skill or a Craft skill.

The final thing which nationality will help flesh out is the characters starting languages. The character's native language will be obvious from the table in Volume II. The next language a character should have is the common language known as "Tradecraft". This is in effect a free additional Advanced Skill which should be noted on the character sheet. Each character will be required to have at least 30% in this language so that the party will be able to converse with each other and NPC's. The 250 free skill points each character gets at creation will be used to boost their starting skill in this language to at least the minimum.

So the last step in your World Between character creation process will be to distribute your free 250 points per the Renaissance/C&C rules. Here players will want to work closely with the Game Master if they are interested in utilizing magic. Now it is time to roll on the Dark Secrets table in TotGaD Volume I. Between this table, your nationality, character background, and chosen profession will be all the information the player will get to make their case for starting magic. For example; say I roll a "Dandy" on the TotGaD Character Background table with "Arcane Dabbler" for a Dark Secret. The Nationality roll gives me Mord-Stavian, a land of clockwork technomancy and undead worshippers. With access to Lore(Any) and Craft(Any) skills I have plenty of ingredients from the TotGaD books to brew up some type of magic wielder. From the Renaissance/C&C book I choose "Courtier" for profession and "Gentry" for Class. This combination will give me access to a Lore(Any), Craft(Any), and an Art(Any) skill. Flipping through the TotGaD books I come up with Lore(Witchcraft), Craft(Clockwork Technomancy), and Art(Gypsy Fortune Telling). I will now discuss with the GM what spells and or magical equipment my character will start out with, relying on guidance and inspiration from Jack Shear's background information.

Actually the last step will be to purchase equipment, so let's take a look at how to go about this process. Roll starting coin per the Renaissance/C&C rules. The monetary system for Renaissance is English with the common coin being the shilling. Just convert shillings into silver. You'll want a fantasy appropriate equipment list and you will need to classify armor into Light, Medium, and Heavy categories. This will give you corresponding protection in Renaissance/C&C values. I recommend jacking the prices of black powder weapons than are found in the C&C rules. I want my gothic fantasy world to have a premium on firearms.

Let's take a look at the Renaissance character sheet as we wrap up character creation. I'm not using Factions from the Renaissance rules so this part of the sheet is not being used. "Player" is to be used for the character's name. "Adventurer" is where you would write down your result from the Dark Secrets table. In the TotGaD book this is on page 44 and is highly recommended. Irregardless of the character's national origins the rolled result should be tailored to the character's profession and background so the Game Master has "personal apocalypses and a constant exposure to danger" to work into adventures for their players. "Nationality" should be used to list the character's national origin and "Homeland" is a useful line to write down their native language as well as Tradecraft and its percentage skill value. Any other languages known can be listed here also.

"Profession" is what you get from the background table and add the short descriptor from Dark Secrets. For example; Pirate-Silent Witness. Don't write down the profession you compare it to from the Renaissance book even though you are using that particular profession to identify the Common and Advanced skills your new character is starting out with. In the Character Background description is a Leading Question. This should be written on the "Connections" line of the character sheet. This is another useful bit of color the Game Master can use for plot hooks and adventure seeds. On the back Alchemy may be used if the character takes it as a Lore skill and Witchcraft section will be useful for spell casting ability.

Here is a character example; we've rolled are starting attributes giving us STR:10, CON:08, SIZ:13, INT:14, POW:11, DEX:08, and CHA:09. Before we establish the three figured attributes we should roll now for character background. We roll 80, Servant. We have a choice of a +1 to CON, or +1 to CHA. We'll boost CON to 09 as this will increase the character's starting Hit Points as well. The leading question described in the background will be written down on the Connections line of our character sheet, this being "What scandal forced you to resign your position?" Valet/Lady's Maid is the obvious profession here. Townsman is the only listed Class available so this will set the starting skills for our character. To finish defining our character concept we roll on the Nationality and Dark Secrets tables. We get Ulverland and Spy for the Inquisition. Now I have all the ingrediants I need to complete the concept. Defining the two starting Lore(Any) skills and the one Craft(Any) skill I look to the TotGaD books. Ulverland has some nifty descriptions for Enchanted Teas and seems they have a bit of a Troll problem. I shape up these skills such; Lore(Enchanted Teas), Lore(Trolls), and Craft(Apothecary). The Craft skill is how adept the character is in brewing the magical beverage and the skill number can be tossed into the Alchemy section of the character sheet. You get the idea...