It's Halloweeny time here in the spooky room where all the magic happens. Decorations, Turner Classic Movies and pumpkin growing are in full swing.
Issue 5 of LoSS: Lairs is also chugging along at full speed.
Detailing everything you need to know to make up your own Lairs as well as the mechanics of the LoSS story designer. What's inside you ask?
If you've ever checked out the free Lairs on the LoSS hub (They're on the right hand side, check em out) then you've seen the Lair template. It details everything you need for a Lair on a single sheet.
All the enemies, the story, locations, background can fit on a single double sided sheet.
The game was written from the ground up to allow Demonlords to quickly write their own Lairs and quickly read and run Lairs by other Demonlords.
But more interesting things lurk on those templates than are immediately obvious. We talk a little bit about them in the Combat issue if you're reading along.
Punishment and Reward
Every Lair should have a Reward, if the heroes are successful, and a punishment if they fail.
It seems a little mechanical to have such a thing but really all adventures have a nebulous reward or punishment, but in LoSS they are clearcut usually known to all.
The punishment for "failure" also means that if the heroes are forced to turn back and retreat then they will face some kind of penalty. This means that they can't pop into a Lair, encounter the first couple of rooms, head back to town and heal and restock, and then head back in to finish the adventure.
When you're running a Lair this is the heroes only chance to get it right. The system is built to make retreat relatively easy as the Lairs and the Combat system tend to be quite dangerous.
All of this combines to give LoSS the sense of High Adventure which has been lost in most modern roleplaying games. Indeed that's why I don't even refer to LoSS isn't called a Roleplaying game on the cover. It's an adventure game!
Fame and Infamy and Favours
Some times the only reward for success is Fame or possibly being owed a favour, and the only punishment for Failure is infamy.
I LoSS though these words mean a very different thing.
In the Veteran issue we introduced the Fame and Infamy system which allows players to take advantage of their Hero's status. They can cash in favours they have earned with people or towns in return for political power or office, money or supplies, or a Home, or to help them on another mission.
By Codifying the nature of Heroes fame players and Demonlords are free to have fun and spend their time coming up with cool adventures instead of worrying about the heroes having too little money or too much, or how the townpeople will react to them, or whether they are know or not when they walk into a town.
When writing your own Lairs with the LoSS system instead of having to fill your rooms with gold and treasure you can simply reward the heroes with Fame for having cleared the thing and, and with the Fame system this is reward enough.
In the rules of LoSS the Demonlord must have something different in every single Lair. Something that appears nowhere else, be it a special monster, enemies wielding a new type of weapon, or a villain with a special skill that no one else has.
Or it could be a special dungeon feature, like a new trap, a new kind of door, a series of levels to open a box, a trapdoor over lave, anything at all as long as it's unique and has it's own rules.
It seems silly to make such a rule but it is a great tool for Lair design. By picking a special feature and building your Lair around it, it means that every Lair will have it's own flavour and atmosphere completely different from any other. Use this as your key for Lair design and everything else falls into place.
The Story Template
Visitors to the site haven't seen the Story template yet but it;s a doozy.
In LoSS a Story is a series of events that links more than one Lair together. Lairs may be something simple like separate levels of a Sorcerers tower, or sets of caves going ever deeper int he earth.
But they could also be in different places,
Like a town's cemetery, leading to an underground catacombs with a clue leading to a mansion deep in the woods. This story would link those three areas (or Lairs) into one long story all occurring in one night or week of game time.
Other features of the Story Template
But what if the Heroes aren't interested in the "main" story? The story template also has a place to enter a background story. While the main story tends to be triggered by the Heroes poking their noses in and mucking things up for the enemy, the background story is usually happen whether the heroes are involved or not. It's "What's going on in town" while the main story is happening. It may weave into the main story at times or may only be caught in passing as the heroes notice a body being carried through the bar while they are talking to their contacts.
Also included are "Miscellaneous" Lairs. Places the heroes may encounter just in passing, like a bar with a backroom selling stolen goods, or the local temple with an infestation of snakes in the basement. Or a local begger who if asked will be glad to lead them to gambling den.
And last of all the "triggered" lairs and events. Things that will happen only if the heroes do "X". Usually it would be succeeding or failing at a particular mission but it may be as simple as still being in town after 3 days, or being in town on the full moon, or "next time the heroes visit the bronzer".
All of this is tracked on a single double sided sheet of paper as well. All of these weaving plot lines, encounters and Lairs can all be created and tracked while sitting down to watch a movie.
And with this template you have a guideline for filling out all your lair templates. And with the special feature rule and being able to just fill in the blanks on the Lair template, you can create an entire story that will take months to complete all while you sit and watch TV on a friday night.
How do we do it?Well you'll have to wait for issue 5 to see for yourself, but really the rulesets in LoSS are the reason you can do this.
Instead of having to fill out all of creatures stats and then use those to figure out how good it is at fighting, and then determining how much experience the creautre gives you as well as what is a fair reward for killing it?
Nah, Just make up a monster, give it some combat stats and maybe a special ability, if the heroes get hurt real bad by it then that means that get veteran points. And they've killed it? Good the reward for killing it is that everyone knows they killed it. The villagers will happily have a whip round to get the heroe that new sword they've needed, or donate a tacket and sled to the group.
Heroes don't get big piles of gold so they don't need the demonlord to figure out how to get that gold back.
If they get hurt on a mission then they obviously learned something so they get veteran points
All of a characters levels, magic items, special powers etc in other games are really just ways of tracking how powerful a character is. In Lair if your hero is famous enough and is owed enough favours, he can ride into town and order the people to form an army at his beck and call. That' far more exciting than a +1 sword and a wand of fireballs in a Sword and Sorcery game.
Blind Burrower is finally here!
All of this and more will all be poured into issue 5. Also included will be the Blind Burrower Story to be used as an example Story. The first real LoSS story to get playtested and it was a roaring success.
Core almost Complete!
With the publishing of issue 5 the "core" rules of LoSS will be complete. And what come next?
After issue 5 will be lots of content. Future issues will continue to explore Kartharka, Fill in some of those exciting gaps in the Winterlands, have some exciting villains, Lairs, legends and monsters.
And as for me, I'll be out there spreading the word. I'll be running some games out there in real life. I have a couple of venues hopefully lined up to bring Lair to the world, some local conventions to visit and I'll be running at least one regular online game. I'll also be occasionally opening up the online game to other people wanting to try out Lair themselves so keep your eyes peeled for announcements on upcoming games.
Why keep writing LoSS
Because this is the game I want to play. I'm tired of jumping from system to system, trying to fix rules and add rules that don't work for me. I want a barebones system that actually works and actually gives you everything you need. And most importantly a system that easy to write good adventures in quickly. I'd really rather be spending my time coming up with more special features than balancing encounters to be "fair". In my games if the monsters too tough, you bolt and take the taunts and jeers of the village people but live on to fight another day.
I'm tired of playing in systems where 90% of the content is above my characters level, and when I get to that level everything is too easy to be interesting anymore.
I'm done with paying money for content I'll never use, we don't need more 300 page books of character classes.
We don't need more books full of half page descriptions of monsters. We need books with 1 monster in it with 10 pages of description about what it is and where it cam from and where it lives and what it's lair looks like.
We don't need more games that you have to read 3 manuals to start playing.
We were all 12 years old once, playing Dungeons and Dragons for the first time from the Red Box. Remember how hard it was to keep track of even those simple rules, and just throwing them out and winging it anyway? And that manual wasn't even 100 pages long. I want to people to have the chance to decide to roleplay. Pick up a book read it on Friday night and bike over to your friends house on Saturday to play. Think back to your 12 year old self laying on the floor drawing giant dungeons on a huge piece of paper and just saying "this rooms has a bunch of skeletons", "this room has a pirate king with bunch of ghost parrots" This room is completely full of gold but if you go in it fills up with water. Those kids aren't making balanced encounters, or tracking experience points, or counting how many torches they use. They think miniatures are cool, rolling dice is fun and getting to fight with a sword against a bunch of zombies sounds super cool.
That's my game and if that's your game too then keep following the Lair of Sword and Sorcery Adventure game.