Saturday, May 23, 2015

Inspirational Reading

A brief list of some fictional material that inspired me to create an animal fantasy roleplaying game.  Some of these sources were, it goes without saying, bigger influences than others.  A few don't actually fall within the definition of animal fantasy that I'm using to frame the rules and settings for Great & Small, but all of them feature nonhuman animals either as the protagonists or as major supporting characters.

I'm always on the look out for more entries in the genre, so if something you like isn't here,  please let me know.

You'll note that I haven't included an entry for movies & TV shows.  That list is even bigger than this one, and will get its own post in the future.

I also plan to post reviews of many of these works, along with tips for how to use them as adventure or campaign inspiration.

Adams, Richard. Watership Down.
        The Plague Dogs
Applegate, Katherine.  The One And Only Ivan.
Bakker, Robert T. Raptor Red.
Beagle, Peter S.  The Last Unicorn.
Bell, Clare. The Books Of The Named:
        Ratha's Creature.
        Clan Ground.
        Ratha and Thistle-Chaser.
        Ratha's Challenge.
        Ratha's Courage.
Brin, David.  The Uplift Saga.
        Startide Rising.
        The Uplift War.
        Brightness Reef.
        Infinity's Shore.
        Heaven's Reach.
Burnford, Sheila. The Incredible Journey.
Clement-Davies, David.  Fire Bringer.
        The Sight.
DiCamillo, Kate.  The Tale Of Despereaux.
Grahame, Kenneth.  The Wind In The Willows.
Hearst, Dorothy.  The Wolf Chronicles.
        Promise Of The Wolves.
        Secrets Of The Wolves.
        Spirit Of The Wolves.
Holt, Christopher. The Last Dogs series.
        The Vanishing
        Dark Waters
        The Long Road
        Journey's End
Horwood, William. Duncton Wood.
Howe, James & Deborah.  Bunnicula series.
Hunter, Erin.  Warriors series.
         Seekers series.
Jacques, Brian.  Redwall series.
Kilworth, Garry Douglas.  Hunter's Moon.
King, Gabriel.  Tag, The Cat series.
        The Wild Road.
        The Golden Cat.
Kipling, Rudyard.  The Jungle Books.
Lackey, Mercedes. Valdemar novels and stories.
Lasky, Kathryn. The Guardians Of Ga'Hoole series.
Lewis, C.S. The Chronicles Of Narnia.
Lloyd, A.R. The Kine Saga
        Dragon Pond  
London, Jack.  White Fang.
Morpurgo, Michael.  War Horse.
McAllister, Margaret.  The Mistmantle Chronicles.
        Urchin Of The Riding Stars.
        Urchin And The Heartstone.
        The  Heir Of Mistmantle.
        Urchin And The  Raven  War.
        Urchin And The Rage Tide.
McCaffrey, Anne.  Dragonriders Of Pern series.
O'Brien, Robert C.  Mrs. Frisby And The Rats Of NIMH.
Oppel, Kenneth. Silverwing series
Orwell, George. Animal Farm.
Pierce, Meredith Ann.  Birth Of The Firebringer.
Salten, Felix.  Bambi.
Selden, George.  The Cricket In Times Square.
Sewell, Anna. Black Beauty.
Smith, Dodie.  The Hundred And One Dalmatians.
Smith, Wayne. Thor.
Stewart, Sharon. Raven Quest.
Tod, Michael. God's Elephants; Dolphin Song
          The Dorset Squirrels (aka The Woodstock Saga)
          -- The  Silver Tide
          -- The Second Wave
          -- The Golden Flight   
Wagner, Hillary. The Nightshade Chronicles.
        Nightshade City
        The White Assassin.
        Lords Of Trillium.
Wangerin, Walter Jr. The Book Of The Dun Cow.
Werber, Bernard.  Empire Of The Ants.
White, E.B. Charlotte's Web.
Williams, Tad. Tailchaser's Song.

Comics & Graphic Novels
Busiek, Kurt. The Autumnlands: Tooth and Claw.
Delgado, Ricardo.  Age Of Reptiles.
Dorkin, Evan (author) & Jill Thompson (artist).  Beasts Of Burden: Animal Rites.
Eliopoulos,Chris;  Ig Guara and Colleen Coover.  Lockjaw And The Pet Avengers.
Ennis, Garth.    Rover Red Charley.
Morrison, Grant.
        Dinosaurs Vs. Aliens (with Barry Sonnenfeld).
Petersen, David.  Mouse Guard.
Spiegelman, Art. Maus.
Vaughn, Brian K. (author) and Niko Henrichon (artist). Pride Of Baghdad.

Bunnies & Burrows. Fantasy Games Unlimited. 1976.  The original animal fantasy game.

Cat. By John Wick.  Housecats protect their humans from invisible monsters.

Council Of Wyrms.  TSR/Wizards Of The Coast.  A boxed set campaign setting designed for dragon player characters in the 2nd edition of the classic fantasy game.  One of the first major focuses on non-humanoid characters.

Mice & Mystics. Plaid Hat Games.  Storytelling boardgame about a group of humans magically turned into mice, trying to rescue their kingdom from an evil sorceress.  Loads of fun.

Squirrel Attack! Hinterwelt Enterprises.  Squirrels from a magical dimension raid Mr. Jones' stash of nuts.

Tales From The Wood. By Simon Washbourne & Mike George.  RPG featuring animals of the British woodlands.

The Noble Wild: An Animal Player's Handbook.  Skirmisher Publishing.  Available in OGC and Pathfinder versions; rules for playing animal PCs in the 3.5 edition of the world's first fantasy RPG. A kindred spirit, and a recent discovery!

Tooth And Claw. A short (8-page) RPG about ferrets.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Building a Featured Creature from the Basics

NOTE: These stats have been edited to conform to the rules revisions posted on 9/8/15.
From here on out, I'm going to approach the Featured Creatures with a new strategy.  I'll be going in alphabetical order through the Monsters chapter of the Rules Cyclopedia, and converting animal monster entries there into playable character species.  I've been using the B/X rules and Rules Cyclopedia as the "DNA" of Great & Small, with the obvious tweaks and homebrews of my own creation.

Anyway, the first animal we find in the RC is "Animal Herd."  It's meant to represent statistics for various types of wild ungulates, such as caribou, deer, elk, goats, moose, and wild oxen.  It then groups the animals together by Hit Dice, with the "antelope, deer, goats" category listed as 1 to 2 Hit Dice, "wild horses, zebra" listed as 2 HD, "caribou, oxen" as 3 HD, and "elk, moose, cattle" as 4 HD.

Right away, this is problematic, because from a role-playing perspective, there is a big difference between deer and cattle, for  instance, or between oxen and zebras.

Since I already have stats for horse characters and was planning to give antelope and deer their own entries, I've decided to narrow the focus of "Animal Herd" to various types of cattle and related species like bison, buffalo, musk oxen, and oxen.

I assume that the listed HD for animals applies to adult specimens, so a beginning-level character with fewer than the listed HD is going to be an adolescent.  I have replaced the term "Hit Dice" for animal player characters with "Total Levels," but they mean essentially the same thing.  In G&S game terms, this means beginning herd animal characters will have Growth Spurt at 3rd Total Level (that is, at 3 HD), representing their finally achieving full physical maturity.

Finally, I'm left with the decision of how to assign starting hit points and hit points per level.  As I noted in a previous blog entry, I give each Featured Creature maximum possible hit points at 0-level, followed by an average value of their listed Hit Die type each consecutive level thereafter.  For herd animals, I have to choose between a 1d5 (or 1d6 if using standard dice) or a 1d7 (1d8 in standard dice), since oxen & cattle are listed with different HD choices.  I'm going to use a 1d7, since it reflects roughly the same level of hardiness as horses, who occupy the same Size category.

Finally, Rules Cyclopedia animal herds have kind of a neat special ability: they can spark a mass trample attack of the whole herd against foes, for 1d20 damage.  This is described in the original rules as  panic response with a percentage chance of occurrence. However, I'd like PC herd animals to have more agency, so I'm going to convert this attack form into a high-level special ability.

The final result looks like this:
Herd Animal
There is great strength in numbers, as any herd beast can tell you.  But this does not mean that individual members of the herd are weak.  Indeed, many herd animals -- such as bison, or male cattle -- are symbols of strength and virulence among other species, and such individuals make for powerful foes on their own terms.  Nonetheless, even such great warriors would not deny that the true strength of the Hoofed Lords (as they like to call their species) lies in their vast herds: a veritable forest of sharp horns and muscled bulk waiting to gore and trample any enemy foolish enough to attack them.  For this reason, most predators prefer herd animal stragglers -- the sick, dying, or those too foolish to stay with the rest of the herd.

These stats can be used to represent characters from the species of bison, buffalo, cattle, oxen, or other Large grazing ungulates.

     AC: 7
     AT (Dam.): Head butt (1d5 [1d6])
     Beginning HP: 7 [8]
     Habitat: Any, plains
     MV: 16
     SZ: Medium

Species Traits:
  • Gore Bonus: male herd animals get a +1 bonus to attack rolls when making a Gore attack with their horns.
  • Growth Spurt: Herd animals gain a Size category at 3rd Total Levels, going from Medium to Large Size.
  • Low-Light Vision
  • Rouse The Herd: At 9th Total Level, a herd animal can release a call that sparks her entire herd into action against a single target, be it an individual or a group. This takes the form of a mass Trample attack.
  • Scent
  • +1 bonus on all Scout lore checks to hear noise or detect hidden objects
  • +2 bonus on Warrior lore checks to push, pull, drag, break, or otherwise use their raw muscle power on heavy objects.
  • Special Maneuvers: Gore, Trample
  • Suitable Niches: Healer, Runner, Scout, Seer, Warrior.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Revised Herbalism rules now available!

After too long a delay, I've finally got a Quick Start compatible version of the Herbalism rules ready for download.  You can get them on the Quick Start page, or just download them right here.

I can't thank you all enough for you patience.  After some delays induced by real life, I'm ready to pick up the pace on this project again.

These rules contain a number of herbal concoctions, most of which are converted from B/X spells.  A few are B/X monster abilities, or species traits from one of the Featured Creatures already highlighted on this blog.

In the future, I'll be posting more herbal concoctions, in addition to further Featured Creatures.