As to the supposed boringness of your description of Smelt: I thoroughly enjoyed it. Did you use any resources to aid in the village's creation, or just your imagination? I think that it is very well thought out, especially the smelts (I wanna eat one, or keep one as a pet in a freezing/thawing aquarium!). If any of my campaigns travel into the far north, I will have for them a Smelt fishing village, with your permission. They won't know it, but I would also like to include your gf's character as the resident druid.
Thanks for this thread, I'm really enjoying it. My girlfriend just joined my campaign but the group has already been playing for awhile and has a few levels under their belts so I started her character just a bit lower-level than they are. She is picking up the rules very well, but now I'm thinking I should see if she wants to play one-on-one, so as to introduce her to the rules and to give her a chance to grow into a character. After awhile she can decide if she wants to bring this new character into the already established game or just keep playing the one that started out at a higher level.
I really like the way you are focusing on introducing various game mechanics step by step, and your setting is wonderful; I'm getting attached to this little village.
*nervously eyes the dark storm clouds on the horizon*
You're building a tutorial on introducing new players to the game and I think all your posts on this thread should be collected and stickied.
Thank you so much, Oakspar! I'm starting with a new DM, since I resently retired from my groups DM spot. I'm a new DM as well, so I can't claim to have taught the new guy much; this thread will be greatly appreciated for this!
Thank you for all the nice comments. I have been showing them to my GF, and she is thrilled at the thought that all of you like her (and love Pepper).
Rallaster - I agree completely. I would not want any DM giving out XP for someone on a VoP giving away their share of the loot. In fact, all of the Vows are game-rule inforcable, and are no more worth of reward than a Paladin for acting Good or a Barbarian for not acting Lawful. What I was thinking of was the 2nd Ed. Paladin, who was restricted in magic items owned (which works very poorly in the magic rich 3.X game) and a mandatory tithe. If I had a player who was still used to 2nd Ed descide that HIS Paladin still tithes, and does it consistantly, THAT is worthy of reward.
A Cleric of Pelor tricked out for toasting Undead does not deserve a bonus when toasting Undead (the relatively easy XP is enough of a reward there). When that same Cleric, however, convinces the party to tract down the rumor of a vampire in a nearby city rather than some other (potentially more lucrative) adventure, because the Cleric hates Undead, THAT is worthy of reward.
The first time Kandi chooses to take an arrow for Pepper's sake, or uses her last healing spell on Pepper when they are both equally hurt, THAT is when she will get some bonus XP.
Laranis: I did ask my GF if she was having fun or just humoring me. She answered "Yes." Make of that what you will (in otherwords, she is having fun, but she is reserving the right to use it against me for more dates out).
Kjartan: There is a very specific reasons why I did not remind her of the CMW spell. First, I went over all the spells when she created the character. She new what the spell did (I had also gone over death and dying with negative HP, which she obviously understood, since she knew enough to try to use a Heal check to stabalize). Also, with me not reminding her until later makes her wonder if she could have saved the last Penguin had she used the spell and not wasted rounds trying to make checks, and THAT will make sure she does not forget the spell in the future much more than a reminder from me. Finally, the WORST thing you can do with a new player is play for them. You will want to, because they will make wrong (suboptimal, really, there is no wrong) choices, not see obvious things, and forget stuff. If you play for them, however, by aiding or suggesting choices (which they will always take, after all, you are the DM and you descide what does or does not work), then they will stop wanting to make any choices without your imput. Before long, they are asking you what feats they should choose, etc, and that is not as much fun.
TheNatealator: There were no previous basises for the village or Smelt than my imagination. I thought about what I needed (a village in a frozen area that has a reason for existing, access to the outside world, but closed off enough to be a "low level" area). The Northlands was default since it is the only commonly habitated frozen area in my game world. The income up there is fishing, furs, and mining. She is not a Dwarf, so mining was out. That meant furs or fishing, and a fishing setting is more prone to low level play (both are hunting, but fishing is generally safer). Then, I needed a reason for why people would stay year round, rather than migrate. In my mind, the fish I was thinking of (Smelt) was named because they were crushed up into a paste (which was a common way of eating sardine like fish during Roman times, spread on bread). Smelt was just like smelting iron ingots together to create iron. However, the similarity broke down, as I didn't want huge cooking operations in the village (a little too urban). Before long, the full idea of Smelt came along, and just grew with each retelling until it filled an entire ecosystem (I watch way to many nature shows). As far as inspiration goes, one of the Icewind Dale video games starts out in a frozen fishing village, but that is about as for as the similarity goes.
Of course, once I had the economy down, and a reason for them to winter there, the rest was simple. It was just a matter of filling in what they would need to survive. Of course, this is food and shelter. Food was covered somewhat with Smelt. Of course, vegtibles would have to be inported, though one or two species can spring up and be harvested in small backyard gardens during the short (4 month) growing season. Livestock would be imported young, allowed to graze and grow in the small village commons and yard, then be butchered before the hard freezes. Chickens also would be imported each spring, and would produce eggs all summer until they are killed in the fall. Hunting also would provide some variety, as well as some gathered wild berries. Food then was covered. What else would such a town need? Clothes. Warm clothes and lots of them. That means furs. As such, about a fourth of the town consist of trappers. Those furs are needed for clothes, coats, carpets, bedding, etc. Thus, most of the clothing worn by natives of the city is leather (since other fabrics would have to be imported). Thus, it made sense that the seamstress would also be a leatherworker. The house strucktures are just what makes sense for that kind of environment (notice the predominance of steep roofed houses in New England that are a novelty here in the South). Of course, ever village of that size, especially with all the traps and tact to maintain would have a rather busy blacksmith.
If you are still curious about the day to day life in Smelt, let me know. I'm happy to tell, because it gives me more reason to think deeply into my world and ask all the "why" questions. Oh, and everyone may always feel free to borrow whatever they want from my post. That is what they are there for.
Wow! That is alot of reply material. I think that will do it for this post then, and I will put what I was going to talk about in another post. The next post will be about Pepper and Animal Companions.
There are really two philosophies on ACs, class ability and lifelong companion. The Class Ability people are those who are willing to risk their ACs, trade-up their ACs, and don't worry about their ACs, since another one is always only 24 hours away. Lifelong Companion people are those who think of the AC as an extension of the Druid himself. As such, they don't want to trade ACs or have their AC die. If it does die, they are likely to seek to have it raised. This distinction would appear to split upon the roll and role playing line, but I have found that this is not always the case. I have had several definate roll players who have envisioned their druid with, say, a Wolf AC, and have kept it all the way up. I have also heard of (though I have not DMed any myself) Druids who role play, but let their ACs go free back into the wild regularly and actually call up ACs who are specifically suited for the upcomming adventures (say, switching a Brown Bear for a Dog before entering a civilized area, and then maybe letting the dog go in favor of a Large Shark as the party embarks on an ocean voyage).
I'm not for or against either one, and so long as they are role played well, either one can work. Just don't let your Druid get away with ACs being put in risky situations (which include combats they cannot handle as well as trap springing and the like), unless, of course, the Druid is Evil (at which point, this is exactly in character, though some Intimidation checks might be in order to get ACs to do things they normally would not).
If you go with the Class Ability route, your Druid is likely to go through many ACs during his career. This could be terribly time consuming, since your AC recieves only a very few bonus tricks. Since an AC is pretty worthless without Attack, and very dangerous without Heel or Down, you almost HAVE to take a week to Handle Animal with a new companion at low levels. If your Druid is going to be the type to change ACs often, and role playes it well, I would suggest houseruling that it is the Druid that learns the tricks. In other words, the Druid takes the same time, makes the same Handle Animal checks, and choose the same Bonus Tricks, but then those Tricks apply to EVERY AC that the Druid summons (keep tract of the last three tricks learned, as they will be lost on an IN 1 AC). This keeps the Druid from having to spend months training each new AC (and enforcing the trick rules is a great way to keep people from abusing the ability with disposable ACs).
If your player is a Lifelong Companion type player, I suggest you keep the Handle Animal checks as they are. Also remember, for both types of Druids, that giving an animal a command takes a DC 10 Handle Animal check (not that she does this as a Free Action with the AC, not the usual Move Action, due to the Link ability). She also gets a +4 on all HA check for her AC. This means a DC of 10 is not hard to hit (even a CH +0 Druid with max ranks only misses on a 1). Do make sure you have your Druids make their rolls, however, at level one if they don't already automatically make a 10, as this will make sure they max it out by level two. Lifelong Comanion players often bond with only a single animal, or only want to have a certian kind of AC.
I often let Lifelong Companion type players ressurect their dead ACs at no penalty to the AC at the cost of 100XP per level and 24 hours of uninterrupted prayer (like getting a new AC). I won't make a Druid loose a level for this, but I will let them sink below the normal minimium XP for their level. This makes loosing the AC still be tragic, but not unrecoverable for low level characters who don't have access to ressurecting magic, as well as keeping the PC from eventually wanting to dump an AC that has been greatly weakened by being ressurected too many times. It works well. They give up a tenth of a level, but don't have to retrain their AC, and get to keep the one they have all their memories with.
A second thing to consider with Lifelong Companion type players is the type of AC they want. If the player feels like a Bear would make the perfect companion, then they should not be without an AC for the first 3 levels, nor should they have to have a "holder" AC. I suggest scaling. Since animals have the weakest HD to CR ratio, ACs almost alway have more HD than their Druids. As such, with a little work, scaling high level ACs down is a rather simple affair. This will require some adjudication on you part as the DM, but it can be done, even if the Druid really wants that T-Rex from day one (though it will be a small sized creature right out of the egg at early levels). Given proper, but not obscene down time, the growth should match up with the maturation of most animals (though the highest I have done were a Brown Bear and a Lion, both 7th level companions). Also, Lifelong Companion players deserve a little more freedom when choosing an unusual AC. While Class Ability Druids should probably have access to the alternative AC lists in books like Frostburn and Sandstorm, Lifelong Companion players definately should. They might also be eligible, if it fits their Character, for certian other options, like some monstrous Vermin (spiders, scorpions, centipedes, etc) or Magical Beast (Pegasus, Giant Owl, Giant Eagle). Note that Vermin should be treated as IN 1 for tricks, and Magical Beast should be limited in tricks as if they were IN 2 for balance. As a DM, you would need to judge the validity and level penalty for alternative companions.
For Pepper, I took a "familiar" strength animal from Frostburn, and advanced it one size catagory to a Small sized creature (so that I could up its land speed from 10 to 15 feet) as well as make it a reasonable threat (also, Emperor Penguins can grow to reasonable size). I also could have made it a Dire Penguin (since Dire animals are always one size catagory larger). That, however, just seemed a little silly to me. Alo, if I told her that her penguin had horns, she would make devil jokes about it all the time.
Lifelong Companion players also should only start with their ACs if they are well substantiated in the back story. Druids who flip ACs don't need to worry about that, and should just start with an appropriate companion. With Kandi, I am having her adventure for her AC. That lets her raise as well as train her AC, and adds depth to their relationship within the game.
Handle Animal: Use this skill!!! An AC cannot read the Druid's mind to know what to do. It will act naturally (ie, the DM will determine its actions) unless the Druid uses commands to direct it properly. It is a free action with an AC, so why not use your commands?
Here are the commands listed in the PHB:
DC 15 (Good ones to train) Come - AC leaves where it is and goes to where you are. Down - AC breaks off from combat. A must have if you play to flee with a live AC. Fetch - AC goes and gets something. If trained to do so, it will make a disarm attempt, which can be great for getting sticks (wands) out of enemy hands. Heel - AC follows you closely. Perform - AC performs entertaining tricks for fun and profit. Seek - The command to have your AC scout out threats for you. Stay - Makes an AC easy to find if you can't take it with you, for example, into a city. Work - AC carries a medium of heavy load (hopefully of treasure).
DC 20 (Good ones to choose as bonus tricks) Attack - The quintisential "sick-um boy!!!"Defend - (Passive) The AC defends you or (active) someone you designate.Guard - Like the active use of defend, only it targets an area or object.Track - Animal with Scent Tracks or uses Aid Another to help another person Track.
Ones from other sources (ok, just the MotW splatbook, and some I made up). Note that these came from a 3.0 source, where all tricks where DC 15, but the AC bonus for Druids was just +2. Thus, I "updated" them here according to my own judgements (your mileage may vary) for 3.5 usage.
DC 15 Calm - Keeps the AC calm and more importantly quiet, even in unpleasant circumstances. Hunt - ACs finds and kills food for itself and brings it back to you before eating it. Can also be used to flush or find game. Home - The AC does its best to return to a predetermined location, set when this trick is learned. This trick can be taught again to reset the location somewhere different (without taking up another Trick slot).
DC 20 Armor - (Passive) AC will accept armor.Hold - AC makes a Grapple attack to hold an enemy. ACs with the Improved Grab ability do not provoke AoO when using this ability. Some ACs (constricting snakes, for example) can still attack even while maintaining a hold. Stalk - The AC moves using its Move Silent and Hide skills to the best of its abilities. New Trick - Upon completion the AC forgets this Trick and another learned Trick, opening up two new slots for new Tricks.
Those where not all of the ones in MotW, just the ones I felt worth mentioning (ie, that I myself use in campains).
I usually make Druids keep their own page for their AC, since there is an much to keep up with there as for a normal character. HD, HP, AC, BAB, Saves, Skills, Feats, Equipment (ACs tend to attract "second hand" magical items, such as outgrown Rings of Protection), Movement, Attacks, etc. They should make sure they keep a clear list of Commands that the AC knows. Once they can always hit 10 and can stop making Handle Animal checks, most Druids I have DMed enjoyed me enforcing the "tricks" as it too the AC's AI (artificial intellegence) out of my hands (where animals acted like animals, and usually ran if injured) and into theirs.
Also, tricks do one very important thing in the game: create down time. Everyone usually hates it when the Wizard has to stop for 6 days to add two spells to his spellbook. When the Druid can use that same time to teach a new trick, that is one less person complaining about the "slow as time" Wizard.
ACs do take food, water, and care. This can be especially burdensome in extreame environments, where resources are in short supply.
Note that the Share Spell ability can allow you to share spells like Endure Elements and Longstrider. Unfortunately, the AC can only benefit from effects like this with they are right next too you. Also, some spells, like CLW, can be used in concert with Share Spell to allow you to split the HP healed between you and your AC (note that this does NOT make the spell heal 2d8+2/LV, it mearly means that if you, say, heal for 8, you could heal yourself for 5 to max HP, and use the remaining 3 to heal up your AC).
Hope that helps. Until next time, here is to hopeing that my GF rolls at least a seven on her Handle Animal check (since that is what is needed to get Pepper to hatch).
Just wanted to add this thread to my watched threads. Great info and a great read. My group is all about fully developed characters, so you had me right from the start.
Here's a quick thought on fully developed NPCs:
My best friend and I used to trade off DMing, but I'm too busy to run a campaign now, and he's almost too busy to run one, so we split the difference. I love fleshing out characters, so I just crank them out, one after another after another. I hand them over to him, and as he needs a new NPC, he snags one, tweaks it, and plays it out. If your group has one of those players that wants a new character every session, put them to work on NPCs, but throw them a curve by making their good guy NPC a truly black hearted villain under the veneer of generosity. They're all the more trusting of the false image for thinking they know the NPC they wrote. It works great for us, as everyone from the barkeep to the captain of the guard to the stable boy ends up being fully developed, leaving the DM time to focus on the opposition, setting and overall plot. I know it wouldn't work for everyone, but if it sounds like something your group could use, put those players to work!