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[BFRPG] Caves of Chaos Project

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randalls
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« on: February 27, 2008, 06:55:05 am »

The idea for the Caves of Chaos project came from reading a few unrelated threads on Dragonsfoot, my discovery of the Holmes Companion, and a few threads on the "E6" variant of D&D3.5.
  • On Dragonsfoot, the first thread had a discussion on what it make take to have a really popular version of D&D today -- really popular as in a game that would sell well in toy stores and the like something like D&D during its heyday saleswise in the early 1980s. The second thread talked about random dungeon generators on the web. The third was a thread on one of my favorite modules, B2: the Keep on the Borderland. 
  • The Holmes Companion is a fan-created 4 page guide to expanding the Holmes Basic Set through 6th level.
  • The E6 variant of D&D3.5 has a level limit of 6th for all characters (after that, all they get is a new Feat every so many experience points). This way the game is not about superheroes who can wipe out a small town without missing lunch and more about heroic humans who even at the highest level of play would be no match for a legendary monster like an adult dragon -- at least not with out a lot of planning, some extra magic items, and good luck.

All of these unrelated concepts gave me an idea for a D&D-like "basic set" that could be played without a lot of DM preparation (one of the main things some on Dragonsfoot thought would be needed for a "D&D" that would have a chance of being popular in today's very busy world) but yet would still have lots of room for a DM who had spare time to create interesting adventures. It would use the Labyrinth Lord rules as a base as they are entirely open game content and they have a very Basic/Expert set feel to them. Characters would be limited to sixth level. The game, however, would be complete in itself. There would a special system that allowed higher level magic to be done in a ritual manner (taking hours) which would allow friendly NPC clerics to do spells like Raise Dead, Restoration as services in their temple buildings and friendly NPC Wizards to do Legend Lore, Stone-to-Flesh, and the like for a hefty fee from the ritual chamber of their towers.  Higher power magic (over 3 level spells) would be available as the DM allowed, it just would not be something PCs could use on adventures.

The setting would be an area recovering from the Chaos Wars of hundreds of years ago. Wars that humanity/demihumanity won only by virtue of not being wiped out. They were pushed back to a relatively small area of the world before the Chaos Lords suddenly lost interest in the war for reasons unknown to humanity (real reason: major infighting amongst the Chaos Lords as to who would rule when the war was won which resulted in the deaths of many of the Chaos Lords within a few weeks).

Most of the world became chaotic after the war. So chaotic that random bits from other material planes of controlled by chaos would shift in and out in the "Chaos Lands."  Civilization returned and eventually needed to expand into areas now chaotic. The Dwarves discovered that it could be done at great risk.  One planted a stronghold 75-100 miles into a chaos land and held it at all costs. Sending warriors out of the stronghold to defeat the monsters that appeared when lands shifted in chaotically while using up the chaos energy by forging items of magical power in the stronghold and shipping them out to the civilized lands. If you keep this up long enough chaos loses control of the land and it because "lawful and sane" so that normal people can settle it. Over the centuries, this method has been improved on somewhat, but is still basically the same.

The Caves of Chaos setting would be such a fortress town set over 100 miles into the Chaos Lands, connected to the civilized world by a magically enchanted, but still very dangerous, road that has to be protected from damage and repaired if the forces of chaos cut it. This particular area is noted for its constantly appearing and shifting caves full of creatures of chaos. This allows DMs to generate an evening's dungeon with a random dungeon generator and have the randomness of it all make sense in the campaign world. This area has not be tamed as rapidly as others and in addition to the random caves and other chaotic randomness, there seems to be occasional signs of well-organized chaotic opposition -- some fear that a powerful servant of one of the Chaos Lords (or even a Chaos Lord itself) has taken an interest in the area for unknown reasons.

This setting allows for quick play and quick DM setup while allowing almost any type of adventure the GM wants. It allows for lots of powerful magic to be available to the PC for a price when they are in town between adventures, but forces them to rely on their own abilities when out fighting chaos. It allows for town adventures as well as dungeon and wilderness adventures. The chaotic changes to the lands allow for an infinite variety without the DM having to constantly come up with new background (towns, NPCs, etc.).

More later.
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Greyharp
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« Reply #1 on: February 27, 2008, 04:11:55 pm »

I first started reading your post Randall and thought 'yes!' The whole spirit of the Holmes Companion was something I liked and wanted to try. Halfway through and your mention of shifting areas of chaos had my logical Virgo brain screaming 'NO!' It goes against my natural grain to not have a neat and tidy, controlled setting. But then the more I read, the more I realised the freedom this would give me as a DM, the freedom to not spend hours of time preparing the logical elements of a campaign, which the players will most likely not be interested in anyway. The whole idea would be a wonderful way for me to introduce LL to my group and so I'll be watching this space with interest.
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randalls
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« Reply #2 on: February 27, 2008, 05:25:52 pm »

Halfway through and your mention of shifting areas of chaos had my logical Virgo brain screaming 'NO!' It goes against my natural grain to not have a neat and tidy, controlled setting.

The setting can be as neat and controlled behind the scenes as you want it to be. You never need use a randomly created dungeon if you do not want to, what your player see as chaos can all be fully planned out behind the scenes if you want.  Or you could mix things up with some truly randomly generated caves and dungeons and others designed by you as part of some chaos leader's long term mad plan. The point of Caves of Chaos isn't to force randomness on DMs but to provide a setting where randomness makes sense so that those with little spare time can still run an interesting and fun campaign.

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But then the more I read, the more I realised the freedom this would give me as a DM, the freedom to not spend hours of time preparing the logical elements of a campaign, which the players will most likely not be interested in anyway.

Exactly the purpose of the project -- to provide the basic rules and an easy to use setting that is interesting enough to keep the players happy without being a lot of work for the DM.

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The whole idea would be a wonderful way for me to introduce LL to my group and so I'll be watching this space with interest.

Given your experience with RPGs, you probably have enough info to take this idea and run with it now.
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randalls
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« Reply #3 on: March 12, 2008, 07:23:43 am »

The idea for the Caves of Chaos project came from reading a few unrelated threads on Dragonsfoot, my discovery of the Holmes Companion, and a few threads on the "E6" variant of D&D3.5.

While my wife's cancer treatments haven't left me much time to work on this the RetroRoleplaying site, this board, or by project, I have continued to think about the Caves of Chaos project.

After reading the Holmes Basic D&D as a complete game thread on Dragonsfoot, I am seriously thinking of limiting memorizable spells to first and second level spells for both magic users and clerics. Higher levels spells could only be directly cast from scrolls (or other magic items). Otherwise they could only be cast from spell books in long rituals in a wizard's lab (mu spells) or temple (cleric spells) or placed in magic items. Not only does Geoffrey made a good Swords and Sorcery literary case for limiting memorizable spells to 1st and second level in the Dragonsfoot thread, but doing so would be closer to the Vancian source material as well. One story mentioned only twotypes of spells the magic user could memorize: lesser and greater spells.

I'm also thinking of using the Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game as the basis for the rules instead of Labyrinth Lord as and the word processor source is available for BFRPG while only the finished PDF is available for Labyrinth Lord. BFRPG also has races as races instead of as classes, which is probably better for a low-level only rules set as it provides more player options.
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Greyharp
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« Reply #4 on: March 14, 2008, 01:56:23 am »

I've been following Donna's cancer blog and she is an amazing woman. I'm surprised you have any time to spend on this website at all Randall.

I like idea of limiting easy spells to the lower levels. As for the BFRPG option, I have yet to try it or LL (plan on trying both eventually), but in terms of reproducing the look of the rules, on the Goblinoid Games forum someone trying to recreate the LL look in a project was told he'd need to buy a $26 font. I thought that was a bit of a shame. If BFRPG is more flexible for those producing compatible products, it sounds like a goer. Besides which, most players usually like more options.  Grin
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randalls
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« Reply #5 on: March 14, 2008, 07:41:59 am »

I've been following Donna's cancer blog and she is an amazing woman. I'm surprised you have any time to spend on this website at all Randall.

I'm sure Donna would thank you for the kind words -- if she only had the energy.  Sad I don't have a lot of time for this site, which is probably obvious, but just thinking about it does provide me with with a much needed pleasant distraction. I could do more if my energy level was so low. It's not as low as Donna's, but it is probably only 60% of my usual. All the stress, I guess.

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As for the BFRPG option, I have yet to try it or LL (plan on trying both eventually), but in terms of reproducing the look of the rules, on the Goblinoid Games forum someone trying to recreate the LL look in a project was told he'd need to buy a $26 font.

That's another slight mark against LL. I've been carefully comparing them at night before I go to bed, and find things I don't like about each. There are weird omissions in BFRPG (no intelligent sword rules, djinni and efreeti lack all they special creation powers in the descriptions, etc) but the BFRPG seem a bit more flexible, which is helpful for what I want to do here. I still haven't made a decision, however.
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Solomoriah
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« Reply #6 on: March 17, 2008, 07:02:48 pm »

That's another slight mark against LL. I've been carefully comparing them at night before I go to bed, and find things I don't like about each. There are weird omissions in BFRPG (no intelligent sword rules, djinni and efreeti lack all they special creation powers in the descriptions, etc) but the BFRPG seem a bit more flexible, which is helpful for what I want to do here. I still haven't made a decision, however.
It has been my plan for some time to put out a supplement for Sapient Weapons (I'm not sword-centric... I see no reason why an axe can't be just as annoying as a sword).  As to the missing Djinn and Efreet powers... let's call that an oversight.  I expect to add something along those lines in Release 65 of the Core Rules.
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randalls
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« Reply #7 on: March 18, 2008, 07:10:20 am »

It has been my plan for some time to put out a supplement for Sapient Weapons (I'm not sword-centric... I see no reason why an axe can't be just as annoying as a sword).  As to the missing Djinn and Efreet powers... let's call that an oversight.  I expect to add something along those lines in Release 65 of the Core Rules.

Welcome Chris!

A Sapient Weapons supplement is a great idea. The omission of intelligent swords didn't strike me as a fatal flaw so much as a weird thing to omit considering how long the idea has been a part of the game. I figured the missing Djinn and Efreet powers were an oversight. I probably would not have noticed had I not once ran a campaign that was centered around conflict between the two that fought out via proxy between nations they supported.

I've tentatively decided on BFRPG for the Caves of Chaos project as the system is just more flexible. I'm testing out many of the ideas I will need rules wise in the Swords and Sorcery supplement I'm working on -- which you've already seen.
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