Monday, 12 March 2012

Ideas from the Companion Boxed Set: Dungeon Master's Companion: Book 2 part 1

As a continuation of my previous post about the Player's book from the Companion set, I'm now taking a look at the Dungeon Master's Companion. As it is a considerably larger volume (64 pages as opposed to the 32 page players companion), I'll split it into 2 posts.
The book has 5 sections:
  • The Campaign
  • Procedures
  • Monsters
  • Treasures
  • Adventures

The Campaign
Part 1 General Guidelines is interesting not so much in terms of ideas for my Kaelaross campaign, so much as the viewpoint of the writers in Adventure Planning. I'm not sure how I feel about this part. On one level it makes sense but on the other hand it implies adventures worked out to a mathematical formula. But by taking this planning of adventures per level you can calculate what the PCs ought to earn more carefully. I say ought to earn, because this is dependent on whether the PCs follow your carefully laid plans. As if....
The 6 to 8 adventures per level for frequent play does seem quite stingy. I am assuming (and I think the author is assuming as well) that this is one adventure per session. At that rate, I'm not sure if many people actually got to use the Masters boxed set with honestly levelled-up characters.
I suppose there is  the question of where the XP comes from. Traditionally this is mainly treasure with some Monster XP. It is interesting that the book actually recommends that 1/5th of the XP should come from monsters, and the DM can award some goal/achievement XP, with the balance being made up with treasure.

Part 2 The Fantasy World covers aspects such as Obtaining a dominion, dominion administration, tournaments, dominion confidence levels and checks, changing rulers/officials, dominion events and titles. This system has been thought out and written in considerable detail, so that when any name-level PC obtains his own stronghold and surrounding area (his Dominion), his DM knows how to make the necessary calculations.
My inclination is to use the rules as guidelines. I think they are interesting, but the DM is allowed to overrule anything in the Dominion rules he deems unsuitable for his campaign.
One interesting thing I've just realised is that the rules say the PC gets 1 XP per 1 GP of resource and tax income. This means that for a newly established borderland dominion with 500 families and a single vegetable resource (a lot of cabbage farms perhaps?) the PC gets 500xp per month from tax income and 500xp per month from resource income. That's 1000xp for just sitting around watching cabbages grow! For larger dominions with better resources (and most do - the 1gp per family for one vegetable resource is the minimum) this means a serious contribution to a character's advancement. I wonder whether the writers were bearing this in mind when writing the previous part about planning adventures per level?

Mass Combat - the War Machine: This is something I remember from when the Companion rules first came out. It can be used, but it seems overly complicated when most factors are in the hands of the DM anyway. If I were able to, I'd want to fight it out on a map with miniatures.
As I said when talking about the range of possible adventures in Kaelaross, war and battles can be part of adventures, and will probably be part of maintaining a dominion.
Actually, I can see that while I would want to wargame the big, significant battles, this system could be useful for when there are lots of battles and skirmishes to be dealt with.

Part 3 The Multiverse: This part, along with the AD&D view of the Multiverse, helped shape my map of the Cosmology of Kaelaross. My cosmology is not exactly the same, but there are enough similarities for a lot of ideas in this part to work in Kaelaross.
The implication in here is that travelling to and from the ethereal and elemental planes is part of Companion level play, but beyond that the "Distant Planes" are master-level. This is not strictly true in Kaelaross - the planes of Law and Chaos closer to the Material Plane should be feasible for mid-level (6-12 level) adventures, particularly Hestoris and Carceros. Further beyond these planes, yes, it gets more dangerous and difficult for characters, and higher level characters are better suited to the more inhospitable planes such as Noreesis Vale and Urdunor.
Wormholes and Vortices have been mostly replaced in Kaelaross by portals, but some of the spontaneous ones (there are thought to be connections between the deepest oceans and the elemental plane of water, as well as between the Elemental plane of Earth and deepest parts of the Underworld) could be wormholes rather than portals.

Procedures - Although not exactly an inspiring piece, this part has a go at tidying up some of the odds and ends of D&D, such as:

  • Aging, 
  • Constructs (not as much information as I would like), 
  • Damage to magic items, 
  • Demihuman crafts - interesting but rather limited in that each race only has one path it can follow, namely Clan Relic > Special Oil > Magic Transport. 
  • Maximum hit points is basic maths, but a useful check to make sure a player isn't fiddling the numbers on his character sheet. 
  • Poison, 
  • Expanded To Hit rolls and Saving Throws 
  • Haste spells
  • Treasure - which, as with Adventure Planning in Part 1, confirms that treasure is the main source of XP for adventurers, forming about 4/5ths of XP earned. 

None of theses parts are particularly interesting, but are there in case any DM is interested.

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