A Costly Grace, An Artful Ward, and A Level Playing Field…

Martyr’s Shift

The others were drunk or laughing or both, a high fire popping and hissing wood while they celebrated.  The road had been long, the journey fraught with peril, and today they won through. It was dead. And the long miles and weeks of hunting it back to its manse, dispatching it’s minions–even with the losses they suffered and the friends they buried–were worth it. As Sir Broadways watched them all smiling and cheering each other through the gap in his tent, he felt the costs more than the joy. 

He took off his heavy golden armor, piece by weighty piece, and slowly–laying each down with care and respect. He took his padding off, the old quilted garment common to thick plate, and knelt in his shift.  The old blood stains–here, from that crossbow bolt last year; there, from the ax of that vile dark thing from his youth–were accented by a fresh one still red and damp and sticky. The creature had conjured some fierce and dark lance and there is where it would have pierced him had the old paladin not stopped it.

A cheer went up in the camp and the explosive and infectious laughter of Tanner.  Let them enjoy themselves, Broadways thought, I can still pay the costs…

History:  (Religion DC 15) The old orders of knights and The Faith from the long fallen Northern Empire still carry some of the artifacts of power or piety with them. Among these few and far flung pieces of careful, divine blessing are Martyr’s Shifts–seemingly normal, though well-made, cloth longshirts.  If not for the golden thread in the stitching, one would mistake them for any such shifts any armored or active individual might wear under their clothes in any part of the world.

But these were created through a slow and careful pledge to their now half-forgotten goddess that their wearer would trade his life, in what bits and pieces they must, to fight on righteously for Her glory and to protect Her people. They’re the simple clothes of a long dead pious warrior. As venerable as the bones of a Saint. One must be baptized, wearing only the shift, in natural waters (no particular faith or creed necessary, only a rebirth and personal oath to live to protect the weak) in order to attune.

System: Once attuned (see History), the shift allows the wearer to negate damage against themselves after the damage dice are rolled.  After a successful attack hits them, and after the damage dice are rolled, but before they are applied to the character, the player may use their Reaction (assuming they have it available) to remove as many of the rolled damage dice as they want.

For example, in the case of a greatsword attack against them that hits and does 3 (dice one) + 5 (dice two) +2 (strength) damage against them, they may elect to use their Reaction to activate the shift and take the 5, the 3, or both away–this has no effect on the remaining non-dice related damage.

Doing so, however, runs a 25% chance of removing 1 permanent maximum HP from the character for every dice removed.  So, in the event of removing 1 dice, roll 1d4 and on a 1 remove one permanent maximum HP from the character.  In the event of removing 2 dice, roll 2d4 and for every 1 rolled remove 1 HP from the character.  These HP removals aren’t a curse (and cannot be fixed by uncursing or restoring), they’re a cost.  They may not be wished or miracled back in any conventional magical sense as they aren’t “lost”.  They’re freely given away, divinely.

Finding and returning the shift to a priest or temple of the old Northern faiths (rare and lost to time) may restore those “paid” HP to the character at the cost of ever being able to use it again–DM’s are encouraged to make finding such people or places whole adventure arcs on their own as it has been centuries gone.

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Variant Clerics and Faiths in Kingdoms of Kalamar: Legacy

So, a big chunk of updating Kalamar is updating the information for all the gods and goddesses–and there are a ton. Kalamar is a Divine heavy game. The Variant clerics for each faith (and each faith is really fleshed out with a rank-up system independent of level that gives PC’s something work work towards from an RP standpoint) are niche and clever and detract very little from the overall game.

Most of my favorite clerics ever were Kalamar Variant clerics that players played in my game. Really giving themselves over to non-ambiguous religions expectations and duties.

Our first pass at this will be the Good gods and goddesses and faiths.  We’ve got a Google Spreadsheet that outlines the following:

  • Temple Name (name of the faith)
  • Standards (alignment, spheres of influence, favored weapons, name of holy books, etc)
  • Restrictions (because with the new 5e cleric domain mechanics, it makes the most sense to identify banned domains moreso than what is the included–a subtle clustering of clerics this way and that without needing to invent a dozen new domains to make the perfect domain).
  • Ranking and titles (and duties for those cleric ranks)
  • Variant Channel Energy (what the Variant clerics do instead of turning Undead)

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Divine Right of Kings for Kingdoms of Kalamar: Legacy

One of the clever parts of the old Kingdoms of Kalamar setting was the Divine Right of Kings mechanic which granted divine bonuses to nobility and royalty in the world passively. So, NPC kings really did have a sort of “divine right” to rule. It wasn’t that a particular God or Goddess chose them, so much as it was that because the world was very VERY friendly to divine magic (four dozen fleshed out deities and variant clerics, which we’re working on updating to 5e now) that the makers wanted to represent how that would influence the building of nations.

So, we’ve done and tested our own update for that system and simplified it. The pre-requisites are guidelines, of course–in one region a Duke may be a slightly different title or amongst one remote town, their “king” might be that in name but properly rank only a 5 on the Divine Right chart.  Flexible is the key.

The idea here, below is that PC’s have something to think about when meeting NPCs. Its one thing to RP naturally that the Duke is a powerful man, but it adds a whole new dimension when one is confronted with that same NPC having some stats and a sort of Divine Favor for their rule. At the least, it should make assassination plots harder and really emphasize why an Assassin Rogue needs all those dice to kill one simple non-PC character. Continue reading

Reanaarian Cities and Nations in Kingdoms of Kalamar: Legac

We continue the regions and states of the Kalamar Setting (with some upgrades) with the Reanaarian Bay and its squabbling and fiercely free and independent city-states  (with the one we’ve invented in the advanced timeline in Blue):

The Reanaarian Bay – Order From Chaos

“Reanaarians are excellent diplomats. They let you have your way only when they know you are wrong.” – Chelean, former pirate, smuggler, and governor of U’Rudaketa

In the far East, the Reanaarian Bay stretches from the chilly northern shores down to the much-traveled open seas in the south. Protected by a continent spanning wall of high peaks, the most common way into and out of the region is by ship and around the horn. Reanaarians remained cloistered from the imperial designs of their western neighbors and formed independent and free city states all along the western bank of the Bay that served as rich sources of trade, haven, freedom, and ambition through all of the great rises and falls of the nations of the world. Continue reading

Brandobian Nations in Kingdoms of Kalamar: Legacy

There are six major regions in the world of Kingdoms of Kalamar. Each is divided into nations, city-states, duchies, kingdoms, etc. with a real independent feel from each other. In our update and alternate timeline project updating the campaign setting to 5e rules, we’re advancing the entire world’s timeline nearly 500 years and interweaving world-changing elements from years of running the setting with love and excitement.

As we update the regions we’ll be expanding on the culture and feel of it’s constituent nations to give players and DM’s a chance to flavor their characters and NPCs even more. We’re starting small with Brandobia in the far West–and it’s five principle nations (with the one we’ve invented in the advanced timeline in Blue):

Brandobia – The Old Empire

“A true Brandobian is passionate, prideful and efficient. A more dangerous combination I do not know.” – General Alere Garnak, leader of the militocracy of Korak

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Regions of Kingdoms of Kalamar: Legacy

I used to love the old Hero Builder’s Guide in 3rd ed. and always loved random character creation tables. I liked having options and making the most of them. Even in games like Dark Heresy or A Song of Ice and Fire–the “add a new variable” part was always the most fun for me.

So, in proper tradition, by variant/alternative update to the Kingdoms of Kalamar Campaign setting includes making some adaptations of the regional feats from the old books. One of the best things about Kalamar was the feat selection really drove home how different two elves or humans could be pending where they were from.  Sometimes, the dwarf and human from one region just had more in common than the two dwarfs from two different places. The regional feats seemed to always emphasize something that’s very social or very visible. So, very few “quiet, internal” things and very many “when Appraising, this” or “is better at something clearly like this” sorts of things.

So, here’s my Variant Rules that allow for some regional diversity–using Inspiration as the core mechanic (this gives you something to spend Inspiration on other than just Advantage and it may drive players to want to earn it faster, thus driving them to their Background boons and flaws and whatnot more often).

(I’ll be posting up the Regions of Kalamar over time–because each of the major six regions breaks down into interesting nations and I want to get a fresh, timeline updated paragraph for each… which will take a while) Continue reading

Languages of Kingdoms of Kalamar: Legacy

One of the best parts of KoK was the language system. Each language was one or two skills (pending how hardcore your game was)–so you bought ranks in it like you’d buy ranks in anything else with the more ranks equaling the more “fluent”. And without a “Common” to take as an option, characters would really have to think about their language selections.  Feats were available to make it easier to pick up more skill points for the purposes of language rank buying.  Parties often spread out their proficiencies to cover more ground and Comprehend Language and Tongues were damn useful for travelling adventurers.

So, in the spirit of 5e’s push for simplicity and effect, we’ve tested out the feel of a variant rule for Languages.

That starts with the new Language Fluency Levels.

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