Copper Age Heroes II – The Quickening

Very quick post today to show off my revised map for the Copper Age campaign idea I’ve been working on. I’ve cleaned up the settlements, color coded them by culture, and made up new names where they were needed for settlements and cultures. I’ve also added in some more mythological places. The red dotted indicates the extent of copper use in the prehistoric world circa 3500 BC. The yellow circles show areas where copper was mined.

The next step for me is fleshing out these fantasy prehistoric societies.

Copper Age Heroes

Works continues apace on the next issue of NOD, and I’m doing research for my Age of Heroes campaign idea, which will probably show up in NOD later this year. The late Neolithic and Chalcolithic are really fascinating, and I’m enjoying the research immensely. Research is, of course, only the first step. I like to get an idea of what really was before I start making nonsense up to lay over the top of it and turn it into a fantasy campaign. I’m still not finished, but today I thought I’d share my working map.

I’ve mapped out settlements that would have been active (or nearly active in the case of Troy – I’d really like to include it but I probably will not) around 4000 to 3500 BC, drew out some broad cultural areas to work with (not entirely accurate, but again, this is a fantasy campaign, not a dissertation), included a couple locations of known ancient monsters (Chimera, for example) and sketched out the location of mythical Atlantis in North Africa. After all, every good fantasy campaign needs an ancient, ruined empire to plunder. In some case, I’ve started the process of giving these sites names – primarily in the west, using Basque and the Berber tongues as guides. Lots of work left to do, but it’s getting there and is being refined and nudged constantly.

Obviously, any person who does this for a living could find a million problems with this map, but for my purposes of creating a Chalcolithic fantasy world with lost kingdoms and monsters, I think it will do.

I should note that the base map comes from Natural Earth Data. Very useful – I wish I had known about it when I was working on some of the other Campaign Workbooks I’ve published.

Getting Primitive

I have a tendency to run with ideas. The current one is an Age of Heroes campaign outline for NOD, or maybe Bloody Basic … or maybe both. I’ve been reading The Horse, the Wheel and Language by David W. Anthony, and it got me thinking about a stone age/copper age setting from before the movement of Proto-Indo-Europeans into Europe and India. Now, I’m not going to get into whether this theorized movement actually happened – I don’t have the background in it, and frankly, when I’m inventing a fantasy world to play in, I don’t care.

My current thinking is to set the game in approximately 3500 BC in Europe, the Near East and the adjacent regions. This means stone age technology, with a few advanced societies using copper weapons (which may have been ceremonial, but who cares.) Armor would be padded and leather, and probably no shields. Weapons include bows, javelins, spears, daggers, maces, clubs, and hand axes. Since most are made of stone or copper, the damage should be reduced from normal, which mitigates the lack of armor to some degree. Hey – it was a rough time to be alive.

I’m thinking I’ll take metal weapon damage back two steps for stone, with a chance of breakage on a natural “1” – maybe a simple item saving throw. For copper weapons, take damage back one step, with a similar chance of item’s being ruined on a natural “1” attack roll. For armor, I might draw on the post I wrote about fighting naked like the ancient Greek heroes were depicted doing in art.

Horses (ponies really) will be rare, and the knowledge and technology of riding will be very limited. In fact, it was probably unknown in this period, but here’s where we fudge things a bit.

Monsters will be geared towards prehistoric hold-overs from previous ages and the mythic monsters of the cultures of Europe and the Near East – manticores, chimeras, etc.

I’m working on a preliminary map of the cultures that were floating around in 3500 BC. Here, there will be some fudging and wholesale creation of ancient cultures. Mythology will be plundered, and something akin to Howard’s Hyborian Age will be woven from the strands of what little we know. This is where the “Age of Heroes” idea comes in – the idea that the heroic stories of ancient peoples were really set in this prehistoric age. Hercules, Jason, etc. will be featured in one guise or another. Here, I want to make use of the demigod class I wrote up a while ago – the idea is that the player characters are demigods walking the world, creating the stories that will be told for centuries after by the tribes and kingdoms they found.

It’s been a fascinating journey through prehistory for me so far – there was plenty I didn’t know, primarily about the extent of stone age urbanization. I’ll update you as I proceed. I’m still writing the next hex crawl. Sinew & Steel is pretty close to completion. Weird Fantasy is on hold while I bone up on my Dunsany and CAS. Still, all is proceeding nicely.

Of Armsmen and Puissants [Bloody Basic]

I’ve put in some yeoman’s work on the Weird Fantasy Edition of Bloody Basic, and, in the process, had some inspiration for what I think I’m calling the Sinew & Steel Edition.

Sinew & Steel is designed to be a version of Bloody Basic with no magic or supernatural elements at all. In other words, it is role-playing in the real (well, mostly real) Middle Ages, with all the filth and plague you would expect from such a thing. Naturally, Sinew & Steel only has human characters, and they may (at least for now) take levels as armsmen (with the subclasses of barbarian, cavalier and cleric), thief (with the subclasses of assassin, charlatan, hedge wizard and minstrel) and scholar (specializing as a lawyer, theologian or leech). The game will feature some simple rules for strongholds, warfare, storming castles (rather than dungeons) and sieges. When you take out spells, monsters (outside of human and animal monsters) and magical treasure, you sure make a concise game, so I’m trying to fill the pages with other useful materials.

I need to get back to work on the next issue of NOD, and I need to set up my own little playtest of GRIT & VIGOR, but I think I might be able to complete Bloody Basic – Weird Fantasy Edition and Bloody Basic – Sinew & Steel Edition by sometime around mid-summer. And, of course, “midsummer” brings up the possibility of doing a Shakespeare edition of Bloody Basic. ‘Zounds, that would be fun!

Now, the armsman … or as the class is known in the Weird Fantasy Edition, the puissant.

The armsman uses the spell casting ability of the magic-user as a basis for using combat feats. I’ve brought this idea up before, and I’m certainly not the first person to think of it, but I thought I might post the class here for your enjoyment and use.

THE ARMSMAN
The armsman is a trained warrior, a master of fence, who is designed to dominate utterly the field of battle. While any sort of historical warrior can be portrayed using the armsman class, most wear heavy armor and carry the most potent weapons they can.

REQUIREMENTS & RESTRICTIONS – Armsmen must have a Strength score of 9 or higher. They can be of any religion, and they can use any weapon and wear any armor.

SPECIAL ABILITIES – Armsmen have the ability to perform feats of combat excellence while fighting. An armsman can perform a limited number of feats per day, based on their level and the level of difficulty of the feat. Armsmen know only a limited number of feats, beginning with three first level feats at first level. An armsman learns a new feat each time they advance in level. They might also learn additional feats from other armsmen.
At sixth level, an armsman gains a retainer. The retainer is a loyal companion under the control of the armsman’s player. The retainer is rolled randomly on the retainer table at the end of this section. The TK should roll ability scores for the retainer and assign them a name and religion. The armsman must pay for his retainer’s room and board. Arsmen receive 25% of the XP earned by the armsman.

FIRST LEVEL ARMSMAN FEATS

1. ARTFUL DODGE – You avoid one enemy attack this round, provided you are capable of moving.

2. CLEAVE – If you slay an opponent this round, you get an extra attack against another opponent within reach.

3. CRITICAL HIT – One successful attack you strike this round does an extra 1d6 points of damage.

4. FAR SHOT – You double the range of a missile weapon attack.

5. FIGHT BLIND – You can make one attack while blind without suffering any penalty on the attack.

6. GUARDS & WARDS – You accept a penalty to hit, and gain a bonus equal to that penalty to your own Armor Class.

7. IRON FIST – You may deal 1d4 points of damage with an unarmed strike this round.

8. POWER ATTACK – You accept a penalty to hit, and if your attack is successful gain a bonus equal to the penalty to damage.

9. QUICK – You add +1 to your initiative roll next round.

10. SHIELD BASH – You may attack with a shield at no penalty, scoring 1d4 points of damage if successful.

11. SWORD & DAGGER – You may attack with two weapons you are holding this round. One weapon can be of medium weight, the other must be light. The light weapon attacks at a penalty of -4 to your attack roll.

12. WEAPON FOCUS – Choose one weapon. For the remainder of this combat, you gain a +1 bonus to hit with that weapon.

SECOND LEVEL ARMSMAN FEATS

1. BULL RUSH – Any opponent you successfully attack this round is also knocked out of your way (up to 5 feet).

2. DEFLECT ARROWS – For one minute you can negate hits on you from missile weapons with a successful Reflex saving throw.

3. DISARM – Any opponent you successful attack this round is also disarmed of their weapon or any other item they are holding.

4. FEINT – Any opponent you successful attack this round is fooled into moving into an awkward position, and is denied an attack on their next turn (whether this round or the next).

5. GRAPPLE – Any opponent you successfully attack with an unarmed strike this round is also held and pinned by you. This pin is maintained until they make a successful attack roll against you.

6. STUNNING FIST – Any opponent you successfully attack with your unarmed strike is dazed for 1d4 rounds. While dazed, they may not move or attack, but can defend themselves.

7. SUNDER – Any opponent you attack this round also has their weapon, shield or some other item they are holding sundered in twain. Fragile items are broken instantly. Wooden items have a 2 in 6 chance of surviving. Metal items have a 4 in 6 chance.

8. TRIP – Any opponent you successfully attack this round is also knocked prone to the ground.

THIRD LEVEL ARMSMAN FEATS

1. GREAT CLEAVE – As long as you keep slaying opponents, you keep gaining extra attacks against new opponents within reach.

2. SHOT ON THE RUN – You may make a full run and still shoot or throw missiles without any penalty to your attacks.

3. SNATCH ARROWS – As deflect arrows, but you actually catch the missiles and may immediately, out of turn, throw them back at your attackers (if they are within range).

4. SPRING ATTACK – You may make a move, attack, and then make a second move.

5. WHIRLWIND ATTACK – You make one attack against every opponent within reach of your weapon. A penalty equal to the total number of attacks you are making is applied to each and every one of these attacks. Attacking five people, therefore, results in a -5 penalty to each of those five attacks.

BARBARIAN SUBCLASS
An armsman with a Constitution of 13 or higher can opt to be a barbarian. Barbarians are wild and woolly warriors from the wilderness. They eschew the civilized ways of normal armsmen. Barbarians do not gain the feats of an armsman and they cannot use armor heavier than maille. Barbarians can go berserk in one combat per day per level. While berserk, the barbarian deducts two from her Armor Class, but scores double damage with successful melee attacks. In addition, barbarians can climb sheer surfaces and move silently as thieves (see below).

THE CAVALIER SUBCLASS
An armsmen with a Dexterity score of 13 or higher can opt to be a cavalier. Cavaliers specialize in mounted combat. They suffer no penalty for fighting on horseback, and gain three special feats not available to other armsmen.

1. RIDE-BY ATTACK – While charging on a mount, the cavalier may attack at any point during the charge – in essence, making a move, attacking, and then moving again.

2. SPIRITED CHARGE – The cavalier deals double damage with his weapon attack while charging on a mount.

3. TRAMPLE – The cavalier can trample opponents with its mount by simply riding over them. The mount gets no attacks that round other than trampling, dealing double hoof damage to all in its path unless they pass a Reflex saving throw, in which case they cut the damage in half. The cavalier may still attack with his own weapon while trampling.

THE CLERIC SUBCLASS
An armsman with a wisdom of 13 or higher can opt to become a cleric. Clerics are religious knights or fighting priests. While clerics must have a religion, the extent of their faith is up to them. One can be a fighting bishop and give only cursory lip service to their faith. Clerics can bless, as theologians (see Scholar below).