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[Let's Read] Spears of the Dawn

Flexi

The Solitary Knight
Validated User
This is one of the best 'Let's Read' threads that I have come across. Top stuff! I hope it results in more people checking out Kevin Crawford's work.
 

Weisenheim

Baroque Space Orc Mage
Validated User
As a fan of Mr. Crawford's work and this game in particular, I'm glad you did this thread and that people have gotten something out of it!
 

junglefowl26

Registered User
Validated User
I was curious about this product, so thank you for doing this.

Interesting to see while its DnD roots are plainly visible, there are a large number of meaningful differences in terms of mechanics and flavor, with both mechanics and flavor heavily influencing each other.

I particularly like the Nganga and their casting system, even though I am not usually very interested in the magic of the setting.
 

Libertad

Knight in tarnished armor
Validated User
Chapter Four, Part Three: The Three Lands

Nyala

The Empire's too glorious to be contained in an image, making it the only country in the book to not have one.

Nyala is an ancient country now on the decline after the Long War. Its earliest records five hundred years ago described it as a rustic pastoral nation regularly troubled by giants who lived in the Mountains of the Sun to the north. Despite them being twice as tall as the humans, Nyala's warrior fiercely fought to protect their homes, impressing the giants who offered a non-aggression pact. Over time relationships between the two peoples became peaceful, and the Nyalans learned of many advanced technologies from their taller neighbors to strengthen their nation. Silk, sculptures, metalworking, and advanced stonemasonry made the cities beautiful, its soldiers finely equipped. Flush with success the Nyalans expanded southwards, and thus began their golden age.

Four hundred years ago the giants retreated back into their palaces deep in the mountains for unknown reasons, breaking their pact and refusing to answer calls and summons. Despite their departure many Nyalans, especially the nobles, bore giantish blood, its most common manifestations brightly-colored tattoos and red, white, and yellow hair.

Nyala drove east and south, claiming the lands of Kirsi and Sokone and ruling over the people. They even claimed Meru, although the nomads moved so fast and so often the Nyalan legions could not really tax or subject them to their laws. The only kingdoms unconquered were Lokossa, whose sorcerer nobles and rainforest terrain made the country a human meatgrinder for Nyalan soldiers, and the kingdom of Deshur, whose people were forced eastward by war. Emperor Shangmay would not be content until he ruled the whole of the Three Lands, and pushed the Deshurites east across the deserts and to the point of grim desperation. The pharaoh of Deshur found secrets in the forbidden temples of the Weeping Mountains, and used it to create the first Eternal and begin the Long War.

And thus began modern history and the slow death of Nyala as an empire. Provinces were lost, Kirsi and Sokone declared autonomy, Emperor Kaday fell in battle in battle against the Eternal King (although some theorize that it was Nyalan steel that betrayed him for forsaking territory in exchange for international cooperation). Now the remnants of Nyala's nobles are either "Hollow Princes" left without territory or squabbling over the scraps of land remaining, and Kaday's son Issay abandoned the title of Emperor in exchange for King, little more than a figurehead now controlled by feuding lords and ladies who'd rather have him on the throne than an enemy clan.

Nyalans as a people are aware of rank and status. The nobility is fluid, where a family is considered such under the laws of the Mai's court, but clans unable to defend their territory or wear the trappings of wealth and luxury will result in the rejection of their peers who bar them from the court. In the old days only the Emperor could strip a family of nobility, but now this has fallen in favor of social agreement among the clans.

Nyalan commoners are largely laborers who seek to make the best lot in life amidst burdening taxes. A commoner can seek social increase by wedding a noble (if a woman), or being skilled in swordplay or artistry. Nyalans in particular have a fondness for beauty in all its forms, and talent in one of these areas can earn patronage from influential clans.

Nyalans are tall and slim, with skin the color of dark mahogany. Those with giant blood could end up with jewel-colored eyes, patterned tattoos, and bright hair colors, mostly among the nobility. Clothing for commoners consists of trousers and tunics, dyed with colorful patterns. Nobles prefer flowing robes of brocaded cloth with many gauze-light layers. Nyala is the only country with native silk, and it is improper for the affluent to wear clothes of any other material.

Most Nyalan adventurers are such out of necessity or ambition, depending on their station. "Excess" scions are expected to find their fortune in far-off lands, and griots are known to search for relics of their nation to bring back and glorify. Marabouts tend to leave the Spirit Way temples uneasy and encouraged to go elsewhere if they can't cooperate with the high priests. Ngangas are rare but mentors can be found deep in the wilderness or scholars in the great cities. Warriors are common due to Nyala's legions, although any "remarkable common folk" can display the talent of an idahun.



Sokone


The Sokone live among the valleys and bogs of the mighty Iteru River, a cosmopolitan land of traders and wealth unseen since the kingdom of Deshur or the old days of Nyala. Descendants of tribes pushed south by Nyala and refugees from Lokossa, shared hardship brought the two peoples together in mutual aid. Its merchant background is due in part to the swampy terrain: tribes lucky enough to attain some prime rice fields had to constantly guard it from hungrier neighbors, forcing the lesser clans to resort to trade in natural resources from the marsh's bounty and ingots mined bog-iron. As they needed all the armed men they could against two hostile neighbors, internal disputes between the Sokone became based on trade and negotiations.

Even then there was war within their lands. The city-state of Umthalu to the east was ruled by serpent folk wielding powerful dark magic who felt threatened by Sokone's expanding influence. They were no match for their monstrous magic, and so the merchant-princes struck a deal with Nyala to protect them from the snake-men. Between the two nations they drove the Umthalu out of their cities and slaughtered nearly to the last person. The Umthalu city of Chakari became Sokone's new capital, the strange magic glyphs covered over by new walls.

Sokone society today is a plutocracy. Every family has its enterprise or trade, whether it's growing rice, smelting, or the merchant-princes who manage half their city's financial affairs and businesses. Those who hoard their wealth and do not use it are regarded as worse than beggars, for they refuse to take advantage of the gifts provided to them and their family. As such many families are driven to destitution when they spend too much on frivolous novelties. Gift-giving carries an additional layer of complexity, for it implies a sign of obedience and acquiescence to the taker.

Where nationality and ethnicity are strongly tied together elsewhere in the Three Lands, the Sokone are a cosmopolitan people drawing upon ancestry of all the others. The physical features and traits of Nyalan nobles, Meru outcasts, escaped Lokossan slaves, and several hundred smaller tribes now long-vanished can be found. Their clothing is just as varied, a mixing of styles from robes to loincloths to tunics and wraps.

Sokone adventurers tend to be those with no interest in their clan's business or life as a merchant, instead seeking quick riches through dangerous work. Marabouts are found both among the Spirit Way and Sun Faith, its ngangas are just as likely to be cosmpolitan as rustic folk, and their griots are particularly daring when it comes to exploring dangerous places. The country does not have the famous martial traditions of Kirsi or Lokossa, but its wealth means that their warriors are well-equipped.


Thoughts so far: And thus ends Chapter Four. I don't really have much to add, other than this one as a whole is one of my favorites in the book. It's a detailed overview of the lands and their people without detailing every small settlement or lists of notable NPCs.

Next time, Chapter Five: Running a Campaign.
 

Libertad

Knight in tarnished armor
Validated User
Chapter Five: Running a Campaign


Spears of the Dawn, along with other Sine Nomine products, favors the sandbox model of gaming. Basically, this style of play places the PCs into a fictional world, the GM describes things and offers some plot hooks and suggestions, and the PCs are pretty much free to go where they want and do what they do. To use a video game example, it's a lot like The Elder Scrolls Oblivision or Skyrim in presenting a dynamic open world to explore and pursue the adventures which interest you. It is PC centric, focused on the things which are important to them. In a sandbox game there are no plot-essential NPCs, no adherence to a particular story arc or events which must happen or items which must be claimed.

Although such sessions break a lot of common assumptions and can be hard for the Game Master to plan, but the author's got you covered with some good advice and a bunch of charts and tables to generate everything, from adventure plots to locations to monsters to NPCs! Only the adventure chart's present in this chapter, the others found later in their own section.

Crawford suggests that the players have certain responsibilities in a sandbox game. Chiefly, their PCs need goals, for the entire game is predicated on the assumption that they want to achieve something substantial and not just live uneventful lives in a village. Backstories and goals have no guarantee of plot armor or resolving the way the players want; in a sandbox game, anyone can die, and the GM is under no obligation to design certain dungeons and regions in line with the average party level. Crawford insists that having certain areas be more dangerous than the others, along with the lack of "plot armor," forces the PCs to think critically instead of assuming that the GM will save their skin.

The GM has responsibilities, too. PCs need opportunities to pursue their goals, doubly so in a campaign setting which will be unfamiliar at first most players. Giving the group something to work with at the start can make the open-world Fantasy Africa seem less daunting. Secondly, the PCs' actions should be logical and consistent with the world. If the PCs choose not to deal with an evil sorcerer attacking a village known for its bountiful rice supply, then the bad guy will take control of the place and increase the prices of food in nearby provinces. If the PCs avert an assassination attempt on a Kirsi clan-lord, then they will gain the gratitude and favors of that clan.

Additionally, the GM must be ready to anticipate PC actions. If the group decides that trekking south to Lokossa for aid against an Eternal army is a better course of action than beseeching Sokone merchant-princes, then a sketch of some rainforest terrain and potential inhabitants and locations should be in order. That way you can have the necessary material for the next game session.

The golden rule of sandbox content creation is simple- if you don’t need it for the next session, or you’re not having fun creating it, then don’t bother with it. You don’t need to do it. A game that leaves you drained and exhausted is a game that’s certain to fail. Running a sandbox is meant to be fun for the GM too, and you shouldn’t force yourself to do preparation work that isn’t satisfying or entertaining for you.

Setting Up the Campaign

Before a sandbox game must start, Crawford says that you must decide on how to introduce things to the PCs. First, decide whether or not to use the Domain Rules found later in this chapter. Basically they're a mini-game simulation of major troubles in the Five Kingdoms and their reactions with each other. Secondly, find a starting point. Crawford recommends a small market town on the frontier of civilization, which are more likely to contain bandit strongholds, Eternal tombhouses, hidden cults and traditional fantasy adventuring stuff. Thirdly, a starting adventure with an obvious and compelling hook; this adventure needs something to unite the PCs together as a group and get familiar with the setting.

After that, the GM should present adventure hooks and see what elements of the setting fascinate them most. Instead of consulting the book for minor details, the GM should make something up, write it down, and make sure it stays consistent throughout the sessions. This cuts down on making sure that things are canonical and saves time on flipping through the book. Keep quick reference sheets on hand, and at the end of every game session write down a short summary of events and ask the players what they want/plan to attempt the next session. That way you not only have a good way to memorize what happened last session one or two weeks ago, you also have a platform from which to work on for future sessions.

Crawford heavily advises against detailing everything about a campaign world, in that it can lead quickly to GM burnout and most of the material won't be immediately useful in actual gameplay.


Challenges

There are common issues Crawford talks about in Spears of the Dawn, and how to handle them.

The first is combat. This RPG, along with many other OSR games, is quite lethal at low levels. A 1st-level PC can very easily fall to a well-placed blow. Players of games where combat is less lethal or they have a metagame resource to save their bacon might have trouble adopting to this. Crawford has a few suggestions. One is to have players make "back-up" PCs to enter the story shortly after a PC's death as soon as possible. Another is to grant 10 bonus hit points. That, and making sure that the group is on the same page regarding mortality.

Otherwise Crawford suggests the GM to remember the reaction and morale rules. Not all monsters or miscreants will want to fight to the death, or enter into battle unless they have a very good reason for it. Do not make combat inescapable at low levels, allow the PCs to be able to retreat from a fight.

Second is investigation and environment interaction. Whereas many OSR GMs operate on a "player skill is character skill" for non-combat stuff, Crawford takes a different approach. On the one hand, he says that players who describe PCs interacting with the environment should find hidden objects there in lieu of a perception roll. However, he mentions that PCs possess knowledge of skills and abilities the players don't have in real life, and that demonstrations of such skills should be abstracted. Just as a player doesn't need to describe how he sutures shut the wound of a companion, so does it mean that a smooth-tongued griot PC shouldn't take a penalty on social rolls because his player has a stuttering problem in real life. On the other hand, the PC's choice of approach before committing a skill roll should alter the difficulty a little in one direction or the other.

Finally, there should always be a way forward in investigation-focused encounters. Players confronted with a dead end will resort to desperate and foolish measures.

Loot and Wealth

Spears of the Dawn does not operate on a standard magic item shop economy. While spellcasters can sell minor trinkets, more powerful magic items are inhabited by great and powerful spirits (in this setting, most magic items are home to a spirit). Said spirits will take offence if they feel that their owner is devaluing their true potential, such as selling a sword wielded by the first Nyalan Emperor for 1,000 silver ingots worth of rice. Even the inviting of selling it will bring a parade of messengers to the PCs, many of them untrustworthy and eager to cheat the party out of it, where more power-hungry folk will try to force the party to part with their fabled treasure.

Powerful magic items should be the result of adventuring, rewarded as gifts for virtuous deeds, and the like. Magic item spirits have no problem being given "freely" to an owner who proved their worth.

Instead, rich PCs can spend their money on land, recruit followers, acquire goods and favors, and invest it into the community. A manor is both more useful and harder to steal than tens of thousands of trade ingots sitting in the party's wagons, and the gratitude of a community or ruler can grant a wide assortment of benefits and favors to PCs.


Setting Unfamiliarity

Most table-top gamers in the English-speaking world are most immediately familiar with European myths and folklore. We generally have a good idea of what a knight is what they usually do in stories, just like how when we hear the description of a bearded old man with a magic staff we think "wizard!" The fiction of Africa is just as rich and rife with awesome role-playing potential for games, but most of us don't even have a basic knowledge of what life in medieval Africa was like, much less their centuries' worth of cultural traditions and folklore. To deal with this unfamiliarity, Crawford offers three bits of advice: cliche, translation, and agreement.

First, cliches are ways of making sense of complex situations. Instead of getting players to understand the subtleties of the Long War or the founding of the Spears of the Dawn. All they need to know is that they belong to an elite order of wandering troubleshooters with a knack for delving into undead and monster-filled ruins and tombs and saving the common folk from bad guys. Not only is this a familiar concept to most pseudo-Europe D&D games, it's a simple way of illustrating to the players about core elements of the setting. Likewise the PCs don't need to know about how Lokossa's social system was formed as a result of constant warfare against the Night Men; all they need to know is that this nation is a tyrannical magocracy.


At this point I notice that Crawford begins repeating himself, as I see some bits of advice from earlier chapters.


Second is translation, or responding to the intent of the PCs' social interactions rather than implementation. If a PC tries to accomplish something which may seem inappropriate, adjust the outcome in line with the lifetime's worth of cultural knowledge said PC possesses. Even then, Spears are nearly expected to have a disdain for traditional customs and the niceties of society. As long as the PC isn't intentionally trying to piss off an NPC in-character, let their intent trump tactless approaches ("How's it hanging, Sorcerer-King?").

Thirdly, agreement is a task to make the players more familiar with a very foreign culture more amenable. Basically, agree with the assumptions that the players might make about the settings. Unless it's important to contradict them or will cause significant problems down the road, allow their guesses to be more or less accurate. Every time the GM pauses to say "no, that's not what the book says," or elaborates on some bit of backstory, this pushes the players farther from their comfort zones with the world, discouraging them from acting fluently within the setting. Naturally, players will players will start making comparisons of setting tropes to familiar material, or "fantasy feudal pseudo-Europe" onto the Three Lands, and that if you don't want this to happen to sketch out relationships as part of the game session before it becomes an issue.

Finally, the Three Lands are a different setting with different values than most tabletop fantasy games. Women have less rights than men, warfare is considered glorious (actually, I don't see this as that different myself than most D&D games), same-sex relations are neither totally accepted no demonized, and society's rulers are generally considered to be of more inherent worth than commoners (once again, not much different than fantasy pseudo-Europe). Players who don't like these values can change them; even in a land where one's station in life is considered the "way of things," people still want for the good things: they want peace, they want safety, they want protection from the monsters beyond the fire, and Spears who can grant them this gain the trust of a community who will be more willing to listen to their advice. Instead of the GM portraying the setting as gritty grimdark or hopelessly regressive, he should make it clear that the PCs do have the power to do something about it. It might not be easy, and it will take a lot of work, but the possibility is always there.

Overal I like the advice. I particularly enjoy his suggestions on easing the players into an unfamiliar cultural counterpart, and his compromise between "player skill" of OSR games and abstracting the results of skill rolls, where most OSR designers and products go entirely for the former.

Running the Five Kingdoms


This section's a toolbox for GMs to build a more solid foundation for campaigns which progress beyond the local level. It's part conflict resolution engine, part adventure seed generator, and part political maneuvering tracker. The tools fashion diplomatic goals and relationships between the kingdoms to create a dynamic world and adventure plots to tempt your players.

Basically, there are 3 stats to track kingdoms: Might, Troubles, and Treasure.

Might is a 1-5 scale (1 for a village, 3 for a province, 4 for a nation and 5 for vast empires) of a place to determine its ability to attack hostile outside forces, keep law and order, and its general power and resources. A Might contest is a 1d6+Might roll with the higher result winning, and a tie going to the one with the higher Might.

Trouble is a score which reflects disasters and strife afflicting a community. Each individual trouble has its own score, with higher values of greater magnitude. For example, "Popular uprising in the west" may be a 4, witchcraft activity 2 in a village might be 2, while the "Eternal of the Silent City uniting against our nation" can be a whopping 15! Each kingdom by default starts with 1d6+6 points of trouble, and PCs might be able to resolve or minimize these troubles as the result of adventuring. Each settlement can only handle a maximum Trouble value before collapsing into death or anarchy, determined by their Might. A mere Might 1 village collapses at 6 Trouble, where a Might 4 kingdoms collapses at 20 Trouble.

Treasure represents not only trade ingots but its ability to mobilize peasants, stock of natural resources, and economic power. Treasure points can be spent to add to a Might or Trouble check to represent the government investing resources in dealing with a problem. A state cannot spend more Treasure than their Might rating, however. Some actions require Treasure to undertake at all, and don't add their bonus to the roll. Generally speaking Treasure scores cannot be measure in ingot value, but PCs who donate wealth to a cause or tax their lands might need a good estimation. Generally speaking, 1 Treasure Point represents 100 silver for a Might 1 village, 1,000 for Might 2 town, 10,000 for a Might 3 province and so on.

At the start of a campaign each kingdom has a Role which determines starting values and proper actions. An Ascendant kingdom is undergoing an era of prosperity and starts with more Treasure and less trouble. A Declining kingdom starts with no Treasure and 1d6+12 Trouble. A Hostile kingdom has a bitter enmity to one of its neighbors, and will prioritize actions towards harming said neighbor even at the cost of their own well-being. A Fractured kingdom represents a full-blown civil war or rebellion on a nation-wide scale, and must roll Trouble checks before acting or else it must spend its turn dealing with their own internal conflict (which is a Trouble all its own). An Exhausted kingdom is tired of the outside world and turned in on itself, not seeking entanglements with other nation except in self-defense.

One of the Five Kingdoms is a Traitor, its leaders secretly made a deal with the Eternal in hopes of immortality and power. Their treachery is well-concealed, for it would cause the other four kingdoms to turn on them. Said kingdom has an interest in plundering Deshurite strongholds and Eternal tomb-houses to obtain the forbidden lore. If the Traitor gains 25 Treasure earned from Purify actions, then they assemble the requisite lore and can control the Eternal, which is a Might 3 ally all its own and can take its own actions every turn (although they're solely offensive) against the other kingdoms.



Every kingdom can take an action of its own during its turn. Generally they cover the likeliest actions, and if the GM needs something not covered on the list they're encouraged to use a Trouble check for internal matters and Might for external conflicts. Generally they're performed for things the PCs aren't involved in. If the PCs help restore a trade route by clearing the area of monsters, which would ordinarily be a "Trouble 3" event, then the action is automatically resolved with no Might check necessary.

I won't cover all the actions here, but they're obvious things like Attack (wage war), Expand (add new Might over a reasonable period on success, Trouble if failed), Purify (clean out Eternal strongholds, gain Treasure if successful, trouble if failed), Trade (both states roll Trouble checks to gain 2 points of Treasure each), and the like.


I feel that this mini-game would be too complicated to introduce to a first campaign, and it tends to involve things which do not directly involve the PCs. I also feel that certain kingdoms are inappropriate for Roles. I can't see the Meru turning Traitor, whereas Ascendant for Nyala would contradict the in-setting description of an Empire in decline.


We end this chapter with a table of Action and Trouble examples, which can be generated by rolling a D12, twice in the case of Troubles. They're rather open-ended and serve as good adventure fodder. For example, a result on the Purification table has dangerous books of Deshurite magic being sought out by good and evil folk, while a sample Trouble has unearthed ruins sending out awakened monsters.


Thoughts so far: Although a short chapter, this has a lot of interesting advice not ordinarily seen in most RPG books.

Next time, Chapter 6: Creating Adventures
 

junglefowl26

Registered User
Validated User
In general, the limited number of kingdoms with well establish goals and troubles seems to make such a system unnecessary. Makes me wonder if it is for DMs adding their own kingdoms? Or perhaps it can be used for smaller polities, such as the feudal holdings of Kirsi?
 

Jhilahd

Psalms 25
Validated User
Great write-up/Let's Read.

I had gotten the pdf awhile back and only recently made myself read it and in doing so fell in love with the setting/game. So much so, I had to order a hard copy. It's on my list of games to run. I don't know that I can do it justice, but it's a great setting and great game. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.
 

Libertad

Knight in tarnished armor
Validated User
Chapter Six: Creating Adventures


The following chapter is half generic advice for adventures in a sandbox environment, half randomly-generated locations and characters to create quick adventure hooks for the campaign.

The first bit of advice tells the GM to talk with his players on what kind of adventures excite them. If dungeon-delving into tomb-houses is the big draw to the game, then feature that. If they want to rebel against a tyrannical oba and be heroes of the common folk, then provide adventure hooks in line with this model. As a sandbox mode of adventure means that the players can easily go wherever and the story moves with them, the GM should also ask at the end of each session "okay, what are you planning on doing next?" As this is different than the traditional GM-led method of plot, players unused to this freedom can be eased into it by providing them with a list of adventure options at first.

The next session discusses three aspects of an adventure: the set, or location. The actors, or NPCs. And the props, or objects important to the adventure, including but not limited to treasure and magical items.

For the set, the author advises to make a rough map of the area (where hand-drawn or taking a sample from the back of the book), keying areas deemed important, and not sweat the details on empty or uninteresting areas. He suggests that no more than 25% of a dungeon be full of such rooms; everything else should have some neat feature, detail, actor, or prop. We also get a full-page spread of tables containing Features of Interest. Take for example the trap table:

1d12 The trap is...
1 Pit trap, 1d3 x 10 feet deep
2 Poisoned needles dart from a piece of furniture
3 Arrows shoot from behind an awning
4 A stone block falls from the ceiling
5 Blade drops from above or swings out from wall
6 Walls that compress the luckless intruder
7 Alarm that summons nearby foes
8 Door closes and locks 1d6 minutes after entering
9 Footsteps press down on a bellows of poison gas
10 Valuable object is the pin that sets off the trap
11 Crude tripwire that releases spiked branch
12 Magical effect triggered by simple touch


Actors are NPCs who have a motivation in the adventure more complicated than "guard treasure, kill intruders."

Actors are different. They have a motivation or goal that is likely to intersect with the players, and they aren’t simply reactive denizens that respond only after being provoked. The witch-lord of Lost Badiye doesn’t just sit on his royal stool and wait for heroes to come stab him, he’s trying to whip the unruly denizens of the ruined jungle city into a military force capable of breaking the Lokossan border guards and opening the way for his Night Man allies. He’s going to be taking actions appropriate to that goal, and if the PCs start slaughtering his potential cannon fodder, he’s going to be inclined to do something about it.
In the terms of exploration-based adventures, such actors might approach or interact with the PCs in regards to their ultimate goals. In regards to antagonists inhabiting dungeons, it's inevitable that they will not be content to wait about in Room 5 for a band of adventurers to bust in. Intrigue-based adventures are the most complication of all, and need a major source of conflict between the actors which can change and react to the PCs' interference.

Props, simply put, are objects which are important or attractive to the PCs. Traditionally they can be money and treasure earned through completing quests, but can also be a MacGuffin or sought-after relic which can only be activated after some great task. In regards to loot, the author advises that not all treasure in the dungeon be accessed through combat; if every treasure must be pried from the cold dead hands or claws of an enemy, then this will teach the PCs that the only worthwhile way to get rich is to kill people. Options to bypass combat via stealth or mobility, or finding a hidden room full of relics by solving a puzzle, add variety. On the other hand, treasure which can be useful in combat is likely to be within easy reach of the owner.

Finally, Crawford asks three questions for the adventure's final touches. Is this adventure easily accessible to the PCs? Is it a railroad? Does it take into account the PCs' prior actions? In regards to these questions, he recommends that the adventure's plot should be something the PCs would plausibly follow, that the adventure factored in the possibility of the PCs just quitting (via a backup plan like an unrelated dungeon to explore outside the adventure's location), and that adventures should have at least a callback to past acts of heroism and infamy by the PCs to make them feel that their actions have an impact on the world around them.


Awarding Experience


A picture of the Silent City, according to the TIF image's filename in the Art Pack.

Spears of the Dawn uses the traditional experience point system of old-school D&D retroclones, but it departs from it in some major ways.

All PCs use the same experience progression chart, and they gain experience at the end of every game session. Crawford has a table of suggested experience for session based upon level, which works out by RAW by 1 level every 2 game sessions from 1st to 9th level, then 4 game sessions 9th to 10th level. Killing monsters and acquiring treasure is not baked into the system; instead, PCs gain experience points for at least trying to do something risky and meaningful. Legendary heroes slaughtering petty bandits with no greater ambition will not advance.

Crawford suggests adjusting experience rewards to speed up or slow down leveling, as well as the option for quest-based experience rewards as an incentive for the PCs. He also brings up the old-school D&D model of spent money granting experience, but this will require less randomness and more micro-managing of treasure unless he's ready for the possibility of unpredictable character growth.

The second half of the chapter has 11 One-Page Templates. The Templates are a collection of related tables to generate content on short notice. They range from locations such as ruined dwellings and urban palaces (with the tables being room features, common guardians and inhabitants, types of treasure, conflicts and troubles in the area, etc) to organizations such as crime syndicates and wicked cults. The tables work really well, and a simple tossing of a few d12s can tell you a lot about the area.

Let's say the GM needs quick details of a Forgotten Shrine. He rolls 4d12, and gets a 3, a 10, a 4, and a 9.

For Shrine Guardians and Perils, we learn that a loose spirit-beast which was worshiped by the inhabitants is now prowling the ruin (3).

For Valuables, there is golden finery of the high priest's wives (10).

For Interesting Shrine Inhabitants, we have the sole survivor of a former adventuring party (4).

For Traits of the Shrine's Faith, it's the last-standing monument to a once-popular and prominent religion (9).

For organizations and people, the tables are more background and relationship-based.

Thoughts so far: The advice is rather generic, but the idea of awarding experience independent of killing monsters and talking with the group on what kind of adventures they're interested in a novel departure from many D&D tropes. It helps keep Spears of the Dawn fresh in the OSR scene, and the tables are quite useful as well.

Next time Chapter 8: A Bestiary of the Three Lands
 
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