Saturday, 30 April 2011
It would be interesting to know more "behind the curtain" details about the setting and monsters. I mean some seem to be obvious adaptations of D&D monsters, others of various Arthurian and folklore origins, others like your Hrafnmenn more original. But it would be nice to know what comes from where in more instances.
It’s great to be asked for actual in depth info on stuff, so I’ll gladly oblige. Three websites have been invaluable when creating the Redwald Bestiary . . .
and most of all
Most of the Google searches for the bestiary led to Wikipedia. I also sometimes use Bosworth and Toller’s OE Dictionary.
The reason I mention the webpages is because there are three ways in which the Redwald monsters have been created.
1) I have an idea for a monster and then use the translator to find a good OE Name.
The Hrafnmenn that DHBoggs mentions were created that way. The original idea comes from some fiction I’m working on. It has nothing to do with Saxons (it’s middle-east bronze age swords and sorcery) and the Crowmen of that fiction are nothing like the Redwald Ravenmen except for the cloak of black feathers. In the fiction the crowmen are a shadowy organisation who are kind of scavengers in search of new things they can take apart, learn about, and add to the empires knowledge base. Nothing like the Hrafnmenn . . .
Little is known of these vile creatures. Some believe them to be evil spirits; others say they are a Réðealingas cult of death wittas. Some say they glide down from the trees to feed, some say they burst up through earth straight from the underworld. They appear as men with skin as pale as the moon. They go naked save for a cloak of Raven feathers and a raven beaked helm that covers their face but not their mouth. They carry black bladed short swords curved like a raven’s beak. They appear after small battles and skirmishes to feast on the eyes of the dead. They only ever appear in threes. They ignore the living unless they are foolish enough to interfere with their feasting.
The Hræfnmenn: AC: 3 ; HD: 3+3; Attacks; 3 Raven blade (3 damage each hit); Special: Eye pluck counter; Move: 13; HDE/XP: 3/333.
If anyone attacking a Hræfnmenn rolls a 3 on their to-hit roll he immediately counters by plucking the attacker’s eye out reducing them to 3 Hit Points.
. . . not at all like the Crowmen. The theme of 3 in the stats just flowed from the idea that they came in threes, which is a very ‘big’ number in magic and mythology, especially Celtic mythology. I think the Hræfnmenn have a definite Celtic vibe.
2) I take monsters associated with Saxon and Celtic mythology and mess about with them.
There are certain monsters you just have to have in a Saxon based RPG. Trolls, Giants, Dragons, being the main three. When creating these I’m looking at some of the sources in the bibliography, but mostly I’m Googling ‘Anglo-Saxon monsters’, ‘Trolls’ or running them through the translator and seeing what comes up.
For example Niht Genga (Night goer) is a term used in Beowulf in reference to Grendel, but it is also more generally used term for any monster that goes about its grim business and night and has a strong association with Goblins so I used Niht Genga for the Goblins. To make them stand out a little from D&D Goblins I simply made them the opposite of what they are in D&D I made them scarce, a breed dwindling in numbers and power.
The Giants I had some fun with. One of the hard parts of using Anglo-Saxon mythology is that it’s basically the same as Norse Mythology (Woden/Odin) but with less detail and often overshadowed by the Norse version. However, when it comes to Giants we have a great tradition in the UK although not necessarily Anglo-Saxon. So all of Redwald’s Giants are British Giants. Some are just stories and folk law, but they’re all asociated with various places around the country. Some can still be found carved in the landscape; such as the Rude Man of Hlæw . . .
The Rude Man of Hlæw
The rude man of Hlæw haunts the burial mounds of Midlandseax. Twelve foot tall, and naked he is a strange and intimidating foe. His head is comparatively small for his body size and he wears a constant expression of shock; perhaps because his manhood is comparatively large for his body size and is in a constant state of excitement. Any man thus confronted must make a Saving Throw or run in fear (or perhaps shame). Strangely, the Rude Man’s nakedness doesn’t seem to scare women. He fights with a war club, his only possession.
The Rude Man of Hlæw: AC: 6 ; Hit Dice: 8+2; HP: 33; Attacks: 1 Club (2d6); Special: Induces fear in men (ST) ; Move: 12; HDE/XP: 9/1100 . . .
The trolls I simply used a spin on the more Tolkinesque version, rather than the Poul Anderson stringy green D&D types. I also made them a single family of Trolls. Dwindling numbers of near extinct monsters is a theme in Redwald that I did have in mind from the start.
There are few things straight out of, or inspired by Celtic mythology such as the Cauldron Born who are from the Mabinogion, and the Deorcynn which are deer-headed beastmen inspired by the Celtic god Cernunnos.
Of course it’s not always clear cut, for example the creation method for the Redwald Dragons uses method 2 and method 3 . . .
3) Find intriguing monster names in the Old English Translator, investigate (Google) and invent (make shit up).
Obviously Dragons are a mainstay of myth, but one of the glorious quirks of Old English is that it often has a ton of kennings, or poetic turns of phrase, or variations for one thing. So, when I put Dragon through the translator not only did I find the OE word for Dragon I also found a whole load of colourful names for Dragons. As I had already decided I wanted individual dragons this was a Boon. I simply took these colourful dragon names (Twilightflyer, Flamespewer, Earthdargon, etc.) and used the names as inspiration when creating the individual dragons.
I’ve been using the translator constantly since starting Redwald. I can set out to look up one word, and before I know it an hour has passed as one word leads to another, kind of like a wikiwalk. A lot of the monsters were stumbled on and sometimes it kind of works in the reverse of method two. I’d accidentally find something intriguing whilst messing about with the translator, such as the Naedercynn (snake tribe) and Spiderwhit (Spider Wight) then I’d Google that and see if there was anything interesting in the mythology associated with the intriguing name. Sometimes there was, such as with the Spider Wight and I could use that to create the monster. Other times such as with the Naedercynn I couldn’t find anything so made it all up.
Other times I’d take something like Wælwulfas (Slaughter Wolves) now the listing in the translator has them as Cannibal warriors in modern English, but Wæl is OE for Slaughter, and Wulf is obviously a wolf. So there’s a good chance that Slaughter Wolf is just a kenning for Vikings, but it might also point to cannibalism because wolves would often feast on the dead after battle, and Bosworth and Toller have a listing for cannibal warriors under the same name. Then there’s the Andreas OE poem that mentions Cannibals from a fanciful place called Mermedonia, and then there’s the 13th Warrior. So throw ‘em all in the pan, bring to the boil, simmer and season and . . .
Wælwulfas (Slaughter Wolves)
Legend tells that the cannibal warriors known as the Wælwulfas came to Rædwald from a far off land called Mermedonia, but any who survive contact with them know these eaters of the dead must be denizens of the underworld. They are a primitive and violent tribe of cannibals who migrate from place to place, seeking new caves to dwell in and civilised lands to raid. They dress themselves in wolf furs, cover their heads and faces with wolf heads, and even fight with wolf claw clubs all to give the impression that they are an inhuman beast, but any warrior who has stood against them and lived to tell the tale is able to confirm that it was ‘just a man’ he fought.
Wælwulfas: AC: 7; HD: 1+1; Attacks: Wolf Claw Club 1d6; Special: Fear the Wolf; Saving Throw: 14; Move: 14; HDE/XP: 2/20.
The first time these fearsome warriors are encountered a saving throw must be made. If it is failed the victim is overcome with fear of such an unnatural foe and runs. This affect only works on those yet to realise the Wælwulfas are merely men . . .
. . .This method is hard to separate from method two, because obviously if the monsters are in OE they’re from the mythology to a certain extent. In much the same way method one and three are similar.
So that’s it. Anyone who want a closer look at the Bestiary can find it at Mike D’s Sword+1 blog. Mike was kind enough to do the layout and host the Bestiary for which I’m extremely grateful.
Wednesday, 27 April 2011
I'd like to attempt a setting made entirely of random tables. The first of which would be a 1d4 roll to see which of the four maps the campaign would be set in.
EDIT: Keep Remembering stuff . . .
Princes, Rogues, Ogres, Goblins
Take King crimson's In the Court of the Crimson King, a handful of other D&D lyric Prog Rock classics such as Tull's Broadsword and the Beast , a few posters and gatefold album covers by Roger Dean and Rodney Matthews mix that all up in my brain circa '87 when I was in my Carlos Castenanda/Aldlous Huxley/Dali/Fear and Loathing phase and voila there's one fucked up setting I'd love to write, run, and evenm play in.
Saturday, 23 April 2011
Thursday, 21 April 2011
Wednesday, 20 April 2011
1) Shieldwall: Abstract Skirmish Rules for Warbands.
This is simple enough (well it is in my head, but maybe that's because I have a simple little brain!). Should be easy to write up. There's not much to it.
2) Finish the Bestiary.
There are a few more monsters to do, some animals, an entry on non combatants, but mostly it the write ups for Aelfcynn, Dwearogas, and Eorthwerod that need to be done. Easy enough just a case of getting down to it.
3) Mission Generator
I had an idea for this, but I think I forgot it. D'oh! I usually remember these things when I start to jot down notes, and brainstorm ideas. Basically were just talking about random tables, maybe a card draw. I think some of the Adventure Generators from various Savage Worlds Plot Point settings were my orginal inspiration.
4) An example Campaign/Kingdom set up.
Just a basic walk through of how I grow a campaign based on the paragraph of kingdom info and input from the players, etc.
5) Redwald Specific GM Advice.
Kind of a how-you-might-like-to-run-Redwald-but-are-in-no-way-being-told-you-must guide. Not looking forward to this.
6) Finishing Touches there are a few obvious things I've not touched on like death and damage and what happens when HPs hit 0, other little bits like that.
I'll tick 'em off and report them here at this blog as I do them. See now I've said that I'll have to pull my finger out and get it done.
Tuesday, 19 April 2011
Monday, 18 April 2011
Saturday, 16 April 2011
Friday, 15 April 2011
There aren’t really any good guys, and bad guys in Redwald just lots of people lusting after power. It’s a common enough set-up. The characters are flawed anti-heroes with a shady past in the employ of an ambitious patron they might not like and really shouldn’t trust.
Of course, you could play it straight if you wanted, the characters could be like a delta team in the employ of a ‘noble’ lord, only targeting the baddies. Personally I think that would be a bit dull, but you could do it that way.
Thursday, 14 April 2011
"There are only three levels in Redwald . . .
Hildewulf(Hero) 4,000 - 31,999 XP
Wulfdryhten(Wolflord) 32,000+ XP
Wednesday, 13 April 2011
Saxon Kingship differs from the more familiar later Feudal set up which is most often seen in RPGs. Early Saxon kingships, wasn’t hereditary and wasn’t permanent. Kings were chosen by their peers, and ruled only as long as their kingship was deemed successful, which invariably meant successful in war. A king considered unskilled or even unlucky in war would be replaced.
Tuesday, 12 April 2011
Monday, 11 April 2011
Saturday, 9 April 2011
Here they are . . .
Little is known of these vile creatures. Some believe them to be evil spirits, others say they are a Réðealingas cult of death wittas. Some say they glide down from the trees to feed, some say they burst up through earth straight from the underworld. They appear as men with skin as pale as the moon. They go naked save for a cloak of Raven feathers and a raven beaked helm that covers their face but not their mouth. They carry black bladed short swords curved like a raven’s beak. They appear after small battles and skirmishes to feast on the eyes of the dead. They only ever appear in threes. They ignore the living unless they are foolish enough to interfere with their feasting.
The Hræfnmenn: AC: 3 ; HD: 3+3; Attacks; 3 Raven blade (3 damage each hit); Special: Eye pluck counter; Move: 13; HDE/XP: 3/333.
If anyone attacking a Hræfnmenn rolls a 3 on their to-hit roll it immediately counters by plucking the attacker’s eye out reducing them to 3 Hit Points.
Friday, 8 April 2011
Thursday, 7 April 2011
For me the best RPG writing explains the rules clearly and inspires at the same time. It sends my imagination over the edge, gets me excited about the setting, the possibilities of the game. Most important of all it makes me want to play.
Wednesday, 6 April 2011
Tuesday, 5 April 2011
Monday, 4 April 2011
When it came to classes for Redwald I wanted to keep close to the simple approach in OD&D/S&W: WB of Fighting-man, Magic-User, and Cleric. I also wanted to have classes unique to Redwald and each of the races and I knew I wouldn’t be using Clerics, neither would I add thieves.
Saturday, 2 April 2011
However, as the project progressed I at least inferred the question, and the answer was not to Beowulf. Early on I decided to have the characters be outlaws. The title Wolfshead is just so evocative, and the idea of the characters being outside the law fits the average D&D party, who if not exactly outlaws, are often a law unto themselves.
Recently, during playtest and in emails from people who have a copy of the playtest pdf, I’ve had head scratching questions along the lines of: 'Why isn’t there a human warrior with chain, sword, and shield as one of the character classes?'
The answer is simple enough. Redwald players aren’t heroes, they’re not Thegns, they’re not Ealdormen. They are not Beowulf. They aren’t even Churls in the Fryd. The players in Redwald are outlaw scum. How can that not be fun?
Now it's not that I went out of my way to be different, or contrary.I just figured there are plenty of settings and RPGs where you can play Saxon, Viking, Celtic, or Barbarian warrior including TSR D&D. I think that’s already covered.
Beyond that, Beowulf and his ilk are the archetypal Dark Age heroes. Beowulf, Kings, Ealdormen, Thegns, and the Fryd are the acceptable face of Redwald society. They’re the mainstream. The player characters are on the margins of that society. Which I think works well for D&D characters, especially OSR D&D.
So why isn’t Beowulf or the archetypal Dark Age warrior a character class in Redwald? Because Beowulf and his mates are Redwald's ‘Orcs’ and like all good Orcs they want your characters dead!
Friday, 1 April 2011
Rather than being magical high elves they are portrayed as being the remnants of the Neolithic peoples that inhabited Briton, before the arrival of the Bronze Age, and later Iron Age cultures and peoples that pushed them out. There’s also a nod to this in Bernard Cornwell’s superb Warlord Trilogy where he has the superstitious Romano-Briton warriors collecting stone arrowheads, which they call Elf shot, for good luck.
One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about writing Redwald is learning about Old English. How could this strange foreign sounding language be the root of modern English? I didn’t know. All I knew was I loved the sound of it. I can’t say I understand it yet, I doubt I’m using it correctly most of the time, but I enjoying spending hours trying to track down (ie Google) meanings, nuances, and usage for OE words when I probably should be doing something more productive.