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The material on this site is owned by Samuel Penn, and any queries should be directed there. Most of the material on this site is licensed under CC-BY-SA. You can view my profile on Google+.

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Roleplaying and Wargaming

Glendale is an old website about gaming written by Samuel Penn. It may contain other things as well, but it's mostly related to gaming in some way. By gaming, I mean the tabletop variety - roleplaying games, wargames and sometimes boardgames. I play computer games, but I don't talk about them much (unless I'm writing them). Since some of the content here dates back to 1996 (when the address was on my bifrost domain at Demon), it can vary greatly in style.

Most of the content on here is entirely original. Some of it is based on material published by other people - e.g., game content for published RPGs or Wargames.

Campaigns Roleplaying Wargaming


In Search of Sanity

Our weekly 7th Sea game finished a few weeks back, and we have now started on another Pathfinder adventure path - this time Strange Aeons. For those who don't know, it's effectively a Lovecraftian horror scenario which begins with the characters waking up in an insane asylum with no memory of how they got there.

We've been playing Pathfinder on and off for the last few years now (some of us are in a monthly Serpent's Skull campaign that has been running for 3 years, and I've been running Rise of the Runelords on and off for about as long during our weekly game nights, one chapter at a time), so we're reasonably comfortable with the basic classes to want to begin experimenting a bit. I've taken a Spiritualist (so trying out the Occult classes as well), and we've also got an Inquisitor, a Shaman and a Swashbuckler with only the Rogue being a standard class (and even they are heading towards being an Arcane Trickster).

It does leave us with some interesting gaps in our line up, but then Strange Aeons could potentially be a non-standard adventure path so we might do okay if we're careful. The big range of mechanics options during character generation is one of the things I like about Pathfinder, but given the limited number of campaigns we've started there hasn't been much opportunity to try different options.

Our GM is very keen on all things Lovecraft, so was keen to run this path as soon as she heard about it (given how little interest there is from the rest of the group to play actual Call of Cthulhu, it seemed a reasonable compromise). I'm interested to see how much it plays like a Horror game rather than the kill-monsters-for-xp game that Pathfinder often is. Horror is also often about there actually being a serious risk of getting killed, whilst an Adventure Path sort of assumes that characters will survive (or at least, enough of them) for all six chapters in order for the story to play out. Pathfinder APs also assume that the PCs will win in the end - another difference to Horror games.

Though we're playing face-to-face, the GM has a lot of the notes and creatures defined in Roll20, using that to manage the game (much like I did for the previous episode of my Rise of the Runelords game). We still use tabletop miniatures for combat and mapping, so we get the advantage of streamlining the combat along with the advantage of real physical items on the table.

So far we've made it to second level, and are beginning to try to find out what has happened in the asylum. It does feel a bit horror-like at the moment, given that we have no clue what is going on and many of the things that we're meeting do seem to be quite insane. Only one of us has gone insane so far - my spirit, who turns out to be really bad at dealing with insanity. Since she's probably our best front line fighter at the moment, losing her could be bad.

The first two sessions have gone well, and it's been a lot of fun. We'll see how it progresses over the next few weeks.

For a somewhat abstract (probably spoiler filled) account of our adventures, I have a diary written from the point of view of my character. Assuming they survive long enough, I intend to keep it updated as our adventures continue.

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· 14 May 2017 · Samuel Penn


Running a Pathfinder campaign in a city means that the majority of people that player characters meet and interact with actually have NPC class levels. Even people they've had to fight have generally been Commoners or Experts. Some may have a PC level (such as an Expert/Rogue), but the NPC classes are useful for fleshing out the city.

I have a number of character templates set up in Roll20 which I can use as a basis for new characters. The latest batch are actually Aristocrats - members of the wealthy elite of the city. Are few of them are listed below.

Rather than just listing these templates as Aristocrat 2, or Aristocrat 3, as I've done previously for the Commoners and Experts, I've decided to use the sort of naming scheme used in the Pathfinder Codex books - i.e. an adjective/noun descriptor, together with a bit of character background.

Since I use the Bio field in Roll20 for the physical description which players can see, I've updated my API scripts to output the GM Notes field of the character to the information block I can call up with a press of a macro. This reminds me of this character type's personality.

A second tweak outputs information from the token's GM Notes field, so if I want to add information to the particular instance I can do that.

Coupled with my random name generator, and random hitpoint setter, I can produce some noble NPCs with unique names relatively quickly during the game, or when writing an adventure. Given that I assume NPCs 'level up' more or less with age, most are in the range of levels 1-5.

So far I have 10 done (5 male, 5 female), and have another 10 portraits and tokens lined up waiting to be completed. I then might go back and rename some of my previous templates, though I'm quite happy with rogues and fighters which are actually named after the appropriate level titles from AD&D 1st edition.

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· 07 May 2017 · Samuel Penn

Pathfinder Factions

The Dark Archives One of the ideas I'm playing with in my new Pathfinder campaign is the use of factions. Pathfinder already has rules for handling reputation with different factions, which is spread across several books (Ultimate Campaign, the Faction Guide and some mentions in various Pathfinder Society books). They all seem to handle it slightly differently, plus there are also the Influence rules in Ultimate Intrigue.

What I've gone for is, I think, slightly different to all of them, but uses the terminology from Ultimate Campaign. Just to be clear, these aren't the factions from the Pathfinder Society itself (though some of them may turn up), but factions specific to my campaign in and around the city of Magnimar.

There are a number of factions in and around Magnimar, and these are generally where plot quests are being driven from. So the city watch might put out a bounty on a known criminal, or ask for help dealing with a problem that a group of 'adventurers' are better dealing with. Success will generally provide 1 or 2 reputation points with The Law for all the characters involved, and open up awards unique to that faction which reputation can be spent on. Each faction has its own unique set of awards, but players don't know what they are until they've unlocked them.

The awards will tend to follow a theme for each faction though - some might provide access to equipment, others to retraining or just to information or physical aid.

Amongst the unlocked awards so far, Serpent's Run gives access to “A Daily Jog”, which allows a character to retrain their hit points. The Shucked Oyster provides “A spanking, a spanking” which allows reputation to be traded for experience points. The Dome of the Savoured Sting provides “Between the sheets”, which grants a bonus on a gather information check.

So far characters have only unlocked the first level on several factions, but the first few adventures are geared towards introducing them to a number of the more important ones in the city. As they get to work with different factions, they might decide that some are more useful than others and try to get involved more with one over another. It's also possible that a high reputation with one faction might be viewed negatively by a rival, so doing work for The Law might mean you are less likely to get work from various criminal groups.

There are also other differences between the factions. Some pay more than others for jobs, or are more (or less) likely to tell the whole truth about quests. The Streets can't afford to pay much, since it's requests for aid from the common folk, but their needs are generally simple and relatively safe, and having a good reputation with the townsfolk is always useful. Serpent's Run may be more interested in characters going out and capturing dangerous monsters for them to use in the arena, but only pay on success.

It's basically a mechanical bonus to supplement the role playing side of interactions between the characters and the environment they're in, and give me as GM a framework to try and provide some consistency in what the NPC factions are doing.

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· 26 Feb 2017 · Samuel Penn

Roll20 Video

Sometime after we finished our D&D 3.5 campaign last year, Roll20 switched the engine it was using for WebRTC. Apparently this caused lots of problems for everyone, but I was hoping that these issues would be resolved by the time we started our new campaign.

It appears that I was being too optimistic, and we were unable to get more than three people working over Roll20's video chat (and the forum thread discussing the issues are still going strong). So we tried using Hangouts external to Roll20, but one person was unable to connect to this (not sure why, since Hangouts has always 'just worked' for me, on several different platforms).

In the end we tried, and this just worked without anyone needing to sign in and register. The only hiccup was one person with a delayed audio, which was rectified after a disconnect/reconnect.

So we've now disabled video/audio chat in Roll20, and are planning on using for future sessions. We still use Roll20 for text chat, and of course all the dice rolling, character sheets and mapping (at which it still excels), but the video chat seems to be unusable for us at the moment.

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· 08 Jan 2017 · Samuel Penn

Fortress of the Stone Giants

This week we finished our last session of the fourth Rise of the Runelords Pathfinder adventure, Fortress of the Stone Giants. This one seemed to take longer than any of the others, though part of that may have been due to several missed sessions which stretched things out.

As with all the adventures in the series (so far), it's very railroaded in its assumptions about how players will tackle it, but has some options to take some very wrong turns. Right near the start, there's a possibility to leap into the fifth adventure, which the group very nearly did (which would have possibly lead to a very quick TPK). Actually, that possibility is also at the start of the first adventure, where it suggests laying some clues to a hidden location (something I avoided doing, since I figured there was a high probability of them following up on them, and thereby ending the campaign very quickly).

For the final storming of Jorgenfist, there are multiple routes in, but it pretty much assumes they'll go in the front door. Going in the back door avoids plot clues, and more importantly avoids a large chunk of XP which means the PCs are lower level than they 'should' be by the time they meet the big bad. Fortunately for them they decided at the end of a fight that they were too badly beaten to continue, and fled out. Which gave me an opportunity to bring the plot to them and encourage them to explore a bit more first before leaping right to the end.

Having said all that, they did reasonably well. I've actually switched to using the medium XP progression for the adventure path (it recommends fast XP progression), which has given me the opportunity to add in some side quests and flesh out a few things. Despite the extra quests, they were still lower level at the end than they 'should' have been. They've finished the adventure at level 12, when it's recommended that they should be close to level 14.

From an adventure balance perspective, this was probably a good thing. It seems to me that the adventure is either a bit on the easy side, or my group is very well optimised. It may be a bit of both. The group's fighter can easily dish out over 100 hitpoints of damage a round, and the second front line character is almost unhittable (as well as also dishing out respectable damage). Few opponents last more than a round, so it's rare for the group to take lots of damage.

I have also allowing the use of Hero Points, and they did burn through quite a few of those (at least twice to avoid character death when fighting more magic orientated foes), so possibly it's not entirely one sided. Though Hero Points remove the threat of death to some extent, they're a limited resource that can't be easily recovered (gain one per level, to a maximum of 3, and you need to burn 2 to avoid death), so I'm reasonably happy with their use. For a railroaded adventure path like this, they're working well since they keep the campaign moving. I probably wouldn't use them quite so much in a more sandboxed game.

All in all, I think it went well, and players seem to be enjoying themselves (at least they say they are). The lower than expected character levels is making things more of an interesting challenge without making it too hard, and means I have the option of slotting in something between the end of this adventure and the beginning of the next one.

We're going to switch to a game of 7th Sea next, so I'll probably run the fifth adventure, Sins of the Saviours sometime later next year.

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index.txt · Last modified: 2014/02/16 15:20 by sam