Sunday, October 30, 2016

Military Hex Tactics and Squad Fighting Rules

Military Hex Tactics

Brief summary of why I decided to write these rules:

So my players wonder over to Apollonia, the largest Island State in Arsuf and seat of the Cheifsmoot. They were leaving the market when an announcement echoed around the city that the Drivas Clan had been found guilty of all charges and that they were expelled from the Cheifsmoot. This was meant as a brief insight for the PCs to see the political landscape in the area, but they decided to be ignorant foreigners and get involved with politics by saving some members of the now ex-Clan and spiriting them off of the island.

They fled with the Drivas to their home island and helped them prepare for the inevitable raids from other small Clans to come and claim their island. So I set up these rules to simulate island scale tactical defense and fast combat resolution if the PCs were not actually present.


We play online using, it works pretty well. I use this kick ass island generator to create the island shape. It works really well cause you can draw over it on roll20.


  • Each round on battle map is 20 minutes.
  • Each division of soldiers has two scores: effective strength (a function of numbers and quality of combatants) and movement (usually 2)
  • Movement score can be used to: move (1), ready an ambush (1), pillage(full round, makes roads impassable), fortify against an attack (1), or attack (1).
  • Moving off of roads costs double movement but makes ambushes more effective.
  • Battles auto resolve unless PCs are there, in which case they can either choose to auto resolve with bonuses or to have the skirmish take place real time.
These worked really well I think, though there is the problem of having all of the players be involved in the decision making. Its a bit like five people sitting around playing the same Civ game and arguing about the next turn, but for one or two sessions it was pretty fun I think.

I wrote a spreadsheet up for the auto-resolution and it did a pretty good job I think. (Goodness, I love Excel.)

Squad Fighting Rules

I got to test these rules out the other night too, and I think it worked really well! Largely based on this post (from the excellent Joseph Manola) about crowd fighting. I used this when the PCs decided to fight in real time instead of auto resolving the combats.

The only trick is that I treated a squad (20-40 fighters) as one unit occupying a 20ft square space and getting to attack together. In a combat between two groups of about 100 combatants each this is way easier than just having hordes of little guys. They get three attacks per turn and move slowly. 

It looked just like this

It was a little annoying that I had control of both friendly and enemy squads with the PCs running around killing stuff, so I ended up rolling a lot of dice against myself which is never good.

I am going to continue to use this, but give the party just one squad as follower/NPC, much like the post from Joseph suggests, like the crew of their ship and have them control it in combat so I don't have to roll as much.

Play Report: Naval Combat

The other night I got to try out some of my new and shiny rules for naval combat.

It went okay, here are some notes from my players and myself:

  • Super fun idea
  • Movement worked out okay eventually, its hard to simulate momentum and slow turning.
  • Ships too hard to sink with ramming, I think I need to give them way less health and keep ramming damage very high.
  • Hard for every player to feel involved with the combat when there are many ships, better if everyone captained their own ship.
  • Ships are still fucking tight, but hard for DnD to simulate large scale conflict, may steer players away from formal naval fights and more to like 1v1 ship duels with pirate ghosts.

Oh, also they got a ship! It's an unarmored Arsuf Longship of average make, they helped capture from a blood hungry Clan while helping their buddy Clan. Now they get to find a crew and assign a Captain and get some cargo and become traders cause who doesn't love trading simulations? (Gosh, thats a future post waiting to happen).

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

It Is Not the Destination but the Journey... Part II: Island Travel

This is part two of my random travel tables, see part 1 here.

I haven't really used this table yet, land travel has been relatively rare so far in the Ánemos. I'm not in love with it, but I like that it folds a lot of social/combat/environmental challenges into one table for the day.

Roll d6
Sub Roll
Weather Event
Lightning Storm: Take cover and loose a day of travel
Mudslide: Loose a day skirting it
Earthquake! No real effect, but scary
Especially beautiful day, travel two days distance
Sign at a crossroads
Aids in navigation, travel two days distance
It was wrong! Loose a day of travel
Crone selling herbs and offering advice, may actually be horrible creature in disguise
Ancestor Spirit shrine
Wander into Spirit’s sanctuary
Roll on Spirit generator!
Find spirit’s shrine
Wandering Monster
Giant animal out hunting, will try and flee
Magical beast out hunting, will stare from on far
Humanoid defending territory
Other Travelers
Trading caravan, trade or gossip!
Highway men! Lives or money!
Hunting party: Rations for sale and tips on area, travel two days distance
Wandering cleric/paladin as appropriate
No Event
Normal day

Epsen Olsen Saetervik
Also Epsen Olsen Saetervik
Xiaodi Jin
Rytis Sabaliauskas

Also Rytis Sabaliauskas

Also Rytis Sabaliauskas

Monday, October 24, 2016

Rhyme Battles

Myths Have the Best Weird Shit

Lately I have been listening to the wonderful "Myths and Legends" podcast while driving or doing computer work. One thing that is in every episode is a monster of the week, usually very weird and obscure folkloric creatures and spirits from across the world. As I listen I have been trying to jot down the good and juicy bits, as any good DM scavenges.

Folklore and myth have always been my main inspirations, especially the super raw/original stuff (Brothers Grimm, not Disney), and this a wonderful way to go through a large catalog of material that is already digested and usable.

The Blue Men of Minch

A group of mythological mermen that haunt the channel between the mainland of Scotland and the Outer Hebrides islands, they hunt ships in bad weather and swim like dolphins. But get this, before they get to attack their leader shouts out two lines of verse and the master of the ship must try and answer with two lines that rhyme. If the captain cannot keep rhyming the Blue Men get to sink the ship.

The classic exchange goes like this:
Blue Chief: Man of the black cap what do you say As your proud ship cleaves the brine? 
Skipper: My speedy ship takes the shortest way And I'll follow you line by line 
Blue Chief: My men are eager, my men are ready To drag you below the waves 
Skipper: My ship is speedy, my ship is steady If it sank, it would wreck your caves.
So basically you can save your ship from being attacked by mermen if you beat their chief in a rap battle. That's awesome and gameable.
"Oooooooooh, you got served"

The Merfolk and the Origins of Poetry

(Largely prompted by Arnold K's post on mermaids and giving monsters conflicting/complex motives)

In Ages past there was a lonely island rising out of Ánemos' Sea, little more than a spire of craggy stone. A man and his wife were sailing by, when their small sloop was scuttled on some shallow reefs. Crying out in anguish they clung to the rocks as the surf beat around them and they hear a small but clear voice answer their cries. "Hold your breath and dive beneath the waves! Trust me, I will shelter you in my caves!" The man and his wife did as they were told and dove, finding themselves in calm water and a large cave that they had not seen.

And so Várdana, the Queen of Poetry, was born along with her first believers deliverance. Though the island was small and rugged, Várdana protected her children and saw that they prospered by learning to work with the long flexible stalks of Nunu and how to build on the rugged cliffs of the island.

Centuries past and Várdana's children had made a home on the small island.They practiced poetry and prayer in the same breath, and she sent her children into the world to soften the speech of Ánemos. These wondering poet/priests became know as the Várdini, and they wore their gift of poetry upon their robes stitched into the very fabric. Everything they said was in perfect rhyming couplet, and they spread far and wide gathering the great stories and histories of the world.

A particularly beautiful Vardini came upon the Mageocracy of the Mágos-King of Histria. She was welcomed into his court and asked to recited for them. She told them many stories that night, but the King only wanted to bed her. She spurned him and fled his island, and in a wrath the Mágos-King of Histria flew as a great pelican to the island of Várdana and scooped it up with his great bill and flew high into the sky where he dropped the island and all of its inhabitants into the Vardic Chanel.

As a dying gift to her children Várdana changed them into the Merfolk we know today. To honor their dead mother they are still the best poets in Ánemos and their capital city still lies in the deepest stretch of the Vardic Chanel. Their sisters, the Vardini are now a homeless sect of clerics to a dead God, and they still wander the world reciting poetry, but now they also spread hope for the common man and subvert cruel governments and wizards alike.

In summary:
Merfolk are the best poets ever and they want to wreck your ship, so you have to rap battle them for it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Ánemos: An Introduction

Geography and Ecology:

Ánemos is a large and loose group of islands, united by a common tongue but little else. Warriors and poets, fishermen and aristocrats, scholars and mystics, sorcerers and madmen, beasts and monsters, lovers and warmongers; all of these call Ánemos home. 

Formed thousands of years ago when the Gods one by one awoke and rent the Sea and lifted their lands into the Sun’s light, Ánemos’s islands vary in size from mere rocks in the sea to roughly 48 miles across. Some of the islands seem to clump together in small sub-groups; others sit alone in the ocean. Few have ever traveled its whole breath, and no one can truthfully claim to have seen every one of her isles.
Most islands look lie this,small and crappy and dry
Beyond the Ánemos Archipelago is the Deep Ocean, beyond which is said to be the end of the world, death, or nothing.

There are two seasons, wet and dry. Ánemos is at its best a warm and mild place to live, and people have flourished in her forgiving grace. At its worst Ánemos is the harshest of deserts, with a cruel Sun and an unforgivingly salty Sea. The winds blow continuously, whether from the north, south, east or west and are often unpredictable. They whisper and they howl, and they shape the lives of all.

The Ocean, or at least the sea that the Ánemos group finds itself, is warm and generally pretty shallow (~700 feet max). Because of this sea life has flourished on the wide shelf of shallow warm water. The floor is littered with coral reefs, and schools of fish are abundant.

The islands large enough to have natural flowing fresh water are home to abundant life, and these are the primary ones that support large animals. The watered lands are lush, though people have trouble wresting control of them from the clutches of the Spirits

Cultures in (not really) Ancient Greece:

There are three primary island groups in Ánemos, and there are many more in the matrix of the sea. This has led to four relatively distinct people: the Chalcis, the Arsuf, the Minoan, and the others. Though they all speak roughly the same language they identify more with themselves then with each other.

The Chalcis Chain is lies on the western side of the Ánemos Archipelago and has several  inhabited islands that are close enough to swim between. The two largest islands are so close that they actually have a bridge spanning that gap, a long straight channel. Her people are quite folk, more interested in fishing and magic than trade and war fare. Many hedge wizards sail Chalcis’ coasts in their enchanted sloops, selling their talents or teaching their pupils. The villages and towns along the Chalcis coasts are all allied in a coalition of mutual protection (the Chalcis Alliance of Protection, or CAP), though they hardly view themselves as a nation.

The Arsuf islands are all long and steep, resting at the south eastern edge of the archipelago. The islands all run north east and have sharp knife like ridges. The people that inhabit these rugged islands are themselves rugged and fierce. They are far and above the best sailors in Ánemos and the Arsuf islands are known to be home to many pirates and lawless peoples. Her people take a deep pride in their strength and independence, and with no government or laws they form small tribes and villages that are led by their strongest as chieftains and warlords. In times of crisis the islands have untied under one war leader, though it has been many generations since that last happened.

The Minoan ring of islands rest near the center of the Ánemos Archipelago, and her people feel that they are the center of civilization. They invented the compass, the built the first light houses, they standardized money and trade across the archipelago, and they have they most learned people in the world studying at their universities. The islands have entered into the only true nation in the known world, the Minoan Republic. In the last few generations the young Republic’s power has truly begun to wax, her navies patrol the Inner Seas and protect trade and citizenship can be bought by merit or birth.

The others islands are governed as fiscal dictatorships, mageocracies, anarcho-collectives, oligarchies, idiocracies, big dick contests, divine rite or as anything else or in between. They are united by nothing other than their lack of identifying features and proud of it!


In the last couple of posts I have been giving you some tools I use to populate my current setting, Ánemos. Hopefully they provide some interesting rules/ideas. So I wanted to give you a look at the setting itself. Its growing and dynamic, as are all played in settings, but I tried hard to write a framework that could be fleshed out in any number of ways.

Anyway, Ánemos, this is the setting I am currently living in, written for and inspired by a friends request for an "episodic, seafaring, island adventure". So I did some thinking, asked him some questions, and Ánemos was born.

One of the stipulations with the setting when requested was that it be episodic with interesting/wacky islands to explore. Neither he nor I had the language to describe it at the the time, but he was basically asking for a picturesque setting with rogue-ish type heroes. I really like writing with a clear ecology/area of the world in mind, and what better mythology to draw on for wacky island adventures than Ancient Greece? Many of their mythologies have been beaten to death, so I am not drawing too much on that, instead focusing on aesthetic and not story.

[I'll post the document I give my players to give them a working knowledge of their world soon (I also don't really suppose anyone likes to read other peoples world building, but one of my players encouraged me to put it out there.)]

Friday, October 14, 2016

It Is Not the Destination but the Journey... Part I: Sea Travel

After reading a flurry of blog posts by other great writers on the "problem" of making travel in tabletop RPGs fun/interesting/story serving/useful I have tried my hand at making a travel table that I can use in my Ánemos campaign.

I've used it for about a month or two now, and it seems to work pretty well. The important thing to keep in mind is that each of these events can be interacted with, they aren't the end all be all. If you roll a 4 and a 2 you get "sneaky sand bars" the ship is beached and it takes all day to wait for high tide and digging in the sand to get it out. Now say that the party wizard has some sort of spell that turns things into water, they could use it and unbeach the ship in a jiffy, successfully addressing the issue with problem solving. So encourage and allow for creative solutions.

Roll 1d8
Sub Rolls
Coral Reef
Abundant fish! Extra rations
Hull stuck on the reef, day lost waiting for
low tide
Mermaids (gossip or food?)!
One roll on ingredient table
No safe harbor
Sail another day farther, but point of
exhaustion the next day
Heavy Winds
Make good head way, travel two days
distance, but point of exhaustion the next day
Blown off course, loose a day of travel,
and point of exhaustion the next day
Small Inlet
Light House: Aids in navigation, travel two
days distance
Sneaky Sand Bars: Grounded, loose a day
of travel
Other Ship
Trading Galley, trade or gossip!
Pirates! Lives or money!
Shipwreck! Loose day of travel if searched
Wandering cleric/paladin seeking nearby Spirit
Psári pod
Adolescents (1d8+2), migrating
Adolescents (1d8+2), hunting!
Adults (1d4), migrating
Adults (1d4), hunting!
Sea Monster
Dragon Turtle
Giant: Snake/shark/octopus/other animal
Spirit! Roll on Spirit Generator
Ship Board Event
Normal day, so roleplay!
Supplies have spoiled, loose half the rations
Crew is exhausted, demand a few days in port
Shipwreck! Beached on near by random island

Floating islands optional

A tidal wave is a good reason for a ship wreck
Probably not Ánemos, maybe Vindjord

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Into the Deep, or How to Hunt Magic Whales in Fantasy Land

So I wrote some posts on sailing. Now you get a post on sailing and hunting magic whales for profit and fun and adventure.

The Ecology of the Psári 

Psári (the Greek word for fish) are the great leviathans of the shallow seas of Ánemos. Indeed they are the foundation of all sea life according to the merefolk, when you can convince them to talk about serious matters for a little while. The merefolk also call them the fish that never stops growing and the dicks of the sea, but we don't listen to merefolk too carefully.

They are born small, lithe and silver in broods of hundreds born out of their mothers secret egg den. When this young they flit around the reefs in schools of thousands eating plankton and algae, and many other fish eat the Psári at this stage and few survive to adolescence.

Once they are large enough the Psári leave the reefs for the deeper waters of the channels between islands and reef shelves. This is where they begin to be the hunters, eating fish that once hunted them. At this point they are long and their tails are powerful, their silver flesh has given way to stony scales of grey.

They look kind of like this

As adults the Psári are massive, more than eighty feet long, and the undisputed kings of the islands. They have lost their speed in favor for massive strength, and many lesser fish follow behind the adult Psári in hopes of cleaning off their algae crusted scales or getting a morsel of some unfortunate prey the Psári have killed.

At this size the Psári  are too large to support themselves through purely carnivorous activities, their diets begin to shift towards their infant food of plankton and algae. This change in diet is accompanied by a change in the structure of their teeth, becoming proto-baleen, capable of both filtering plankton and rending meat.

Example of proto-baleen teeth in leopard seals

Hunting Psári

Its like this, but the fish is bigger and you boat is worse and its really hot.
Okay, so your PCs are convinced that they want to go on a Psári hunt and earn some cash. If they are low level they wont have a boat, so they will have to sign on with a Psári hunting boat (they are called Psaróvarka). The PCs will have to haggle for thier lays of the profit at the end of the voyage, the captain would get something like 1/17th, the firstmate 1/22nd, a harpooner 1/75th, a smith 1/100th, and a crewman 1/140th. Martial characters should be able to convince the captain and first mate of their ability with a harpoon relatively easily, though magical or skillful characters might have a tougher time proving their worth.

Psaróvarka take a while, like a a few weeks to a few months. So its probably best to present the voyage as a montage of sorts, with the hunt being the main piece of action. When the PCs are traveling on their own their is also a chance that they will encounter a pod of Psári, as per my random sea encounter table, at which point they can choose to try for a kill. (Incidentally, Psári also sometimes hunt ships when especially hungry, or in heat, or hurt, or defending a kill, or...)

Unlike ship-ship naval combat Psári hunting takes place at the standard rate and scale, because the hunters are in row boats with harpoons. Treat harpoons like javelins, but when they hit they have lines attached to tow the boat along as the Psári bleeds and fights. Every round make a strength check for the Psári to see if it can snap the lines, getting harder the more lines there are.

Adolescent Psári: Huge beast, unaligned
AC: 14 (silver scales)
HP: 115(10d12+50)
Speed: swim 50 feet
Ability Scores: STR 23, DEX 14, CON 21, INT 3, WIS 10, CHA 8
Saves: STR: +6, DEX +2, CON +8, WIS +3
Perception: +3, Passive 13
Multiattack: The Adolescent Psári makes two attacks, one bite and one tail smash.
Bite: +8 to hit, 5ft reach, one target, 2d10+6 piercing damage.
Tail smash: +8 to hit, 10ft reach, one target and ship, 3d12+6 bludgeoning damage

Adult Psári: Gargantum beast, unaligned
AC: 16 (scales of stone)
HP: 216(16d12+112)
Speed: swim 30 feet
Ability Scores: STR 27, DEX 8, CON 24, INT 6, WIS 12, CHA 8
Saves: STR: +9, DEX -1, CON +12, WIS +6
Perception: +6, Passive 16
Bite: +13 to hit, 10ft reach, one target, 4d12+8 piercing damage.
Tail smash: +13 to hit, 20ft reach, one target and ship, 10d6+8 bludgeoning damage

Selling Psári

Everyone in Ánemos is at least mostly pescetarian, and Psári is the biggest and best fish to catch. There is a vibrant trade of their parts, and most cities will have a fish market near the docks selling Psári parts. Even smaller settlements will get together and buy a few tons of Psári carcass annually to feed them through the year.

Fish Market!
Not only is their meat and blubber used for cooking and heating, but their bones have wonderful flexibility and strength and they are used in many tools and weapons. Their scales are strong and do not rust in the salty spray of the ocean, leading many to make pieces of armor out of them. Their massive hearts are the most valuable of all, prized for their use in rituals and alchemy.

Goods and Prices:
Sell Price/Ton
% of Body Weight
Psári Meat
40 drachma
Psári Bone
80 drachma
Psári Blubber
120 drachma
Psári Scales
200  drachma
Psári Heart
1,000 drachma
Size Chart:

Length (feet)
Weight (tons)
Age (years)