Saturday, October 29, 2005

An example of prep for Cold Iron

This is another contribution for Martin Ralya's 31 Days of Blogging for GMs.

I had suggested to Martin that I would provide an example of prep for Cold Iron. I decided to do this as a word document, so take a moment to browse to The Dark Crypt (MS Word format) or The Dark Crypt (HTML format) so you can follow along.

If you want to read up on the rules in some detail, check out my Cold Iron page. Also, see my analysis of Cold Iron in this blog post.

A few notes on the creature stats: Pt is hit points, H is attack, D is defense (parry), Db is dodge (Dbl is dodge vs. long weapons - unarmed creatures and those attempting a grapple take penalties against swords and such [not daggers]), T is armor absorbtion, C is critical protection factor, HtH Hm is used for the tackle roll to initiate a grapple, HtH is the grapple ability, MA is movement allowance (run/normal), MP is mana points, SP is spell points (clerics use both MP and SP), the associations are like D&D domains (though the cleric gets all his spells from the associations, there are no "standard" spells, a strong association usually gives the cleric spells a level early, a weak a level late), MemP (memorization points - spells cost their level in MemP, the spells in parenthesis are known as a result of knowing a higher level spell). The spell caster also has a reference to 3/hr etc. MP in Cold Iron regenerates sort of like interest, and if you're at your max, you can use the interest to run continuing spells (one of the really neat things about the system).

I spent a couple hours searching Wizards of the Coast's site for a suitable module to use. I didn't find a module, but in the Map of the Week archives, I found this interesting map. Clearly a crypt is filled with undead, one of my favorite encounters. This module search time is actually not unusual for me, and can be one of the more time consuming parts of prep if I'm going to run a site based encounter. More often with Cold Iron, most of the time will be spent in the wilderness with wilderness encounters and I wouldn't need this prep time.

First I looked over the map to see what features it had. It appears to be underground, so I decided to ignore the shape of area 1. I decided that the crypt will be located in an old overgrown graveyard. Area 1a is enclosed by a low stone wall with a rusted iron gate.

The basic undead in Cold Iron are skeletons, zombies, ghouls, wights, and wraiths. For this module, I worked up abilities for spectres also. Wraiths in the past have been corporeal undead who are spell casters while wights are the fighters. I didn't put any skeletons or zombies in this module. Also, since I'm not really sure what level characters I might use this with, I have mostly avoided assigning the creatures specific levels. This of course lets me show off how I write up creatures with several levels. I also haven't fully populated the magic items the creatures will have. I did spend a bit of time writing up the spell caster (which of course sets his level). I also didn't figure out the creatures saves etc. (partly due to this having changed since I last really ran Cold Iron and I haven't figured out how that all really works now).

All told, I've spent quite a few hours on this, but a third of the time was looking for a module to use. Another third of the time was dealing with the fact that my flat panel display just died (fortunately I brought home my laptop from work, though I still have my 20" monitor for the desktop, but it was starting to have problems being overdriven by the video card in my new computer). Probably half of the remaining time was spent sorting through my Cold Iron stuff to find the relevant bits for creating monsters. In the end, I probably spent about 2-3 hours writing up the brief notes on the module, and creating all the opponents. These opponents are all highly re-useable (even the spell caster is likely to be re-useable since, at least in the past, I run a lot slower XP gain with Cold Iron). The spell caster also only took me about 20-30 minutes to write up, and most of that was choosing spells. If I had to write up an encounter on the spot, I might not be so complete on the spell selection (as I worked him up, I initially chose almost every spell he could memorize, but when I trimmed the list, it turned out I didn't really have to remove anything I would really be that likely to use in a combat - I have in the past done a quick selection of the key spells, which can be done in a few minutes). Note that I also didn't figure out the MA for the wights (they are going to be affected at least somewhat by encumbrance - if I was running an encounter and suddenly realized this was missing, I'd make a quick guess, probably something like 18/12 or so).

What's also interesting about the creature prep is that I haven't in the past used incorporeal creatures like this in Cold Iron. I'm not sure my quicky mechanics will really work well, but it's worth a try (in the old days, I would have used spirit combat for the spectres, but I'm not really sure I like the spirit combat rules I was using, they are completely different from Rune Quests).

This module is very representative of the size of module I would prepare for Cold Iron. Cold Iron does not do dungeon crawls very well (a good fight will leave the PCs wanting to rest right away, and since characters can only be healed their hit points once in a day, even if they can heal up pretty quickly, they still won't want to fight again). I spent a few minutes coming up with a bit of a back story (basically, necromancer moves into old crypt system and animates a few more undead, he lives there long enough to eventually die and become undead himself).

Another problem with dungeon crawls in Cold Iron is that it really is meant to be played on a hex grid. Of course rectilinear spaces don't look too good on hexes. I might be inclined in drawing out this module to make the coridors run at 60 degree angles instead of 90 degree angles just so they can always run with the hexes (a room usually isn't so much of an issue).

Perhaps at a later date I'll prep this same module for Arcana Evolved and Rune Quest.



At 7:15 AM, October 31, 2005, Blogger Martin Ralya said...

Thanks for doing such a thorough writeup, Frank -- this is really interesting to see.

I have to say that re-use of monsters notwithstanding, though, this still looks like quite a bit of prep!

At 9:13 AM, October 31, 2005, Blogger Frank said...

True, it is a sizeable prep. I wish I had actually tracked how much time I spent once I had chosen the map. There would be somewhat less prep if I used a module instead of just a map.

Those monster stats look intimidating, but they're actually really quick to spit out (I really need to write a program to generate them, that would spit them out even quicker). The trick is the formulas are simple (add STR and/or DEX bonuses to some numbers on a chart). When I'm generating a bunch, I cut and paste. The next creature usually ends up being a few points different, which is easy to edit (just arrow down a column, adding or subtracting the fixed delta from each number that's already there).

The room contents prep took me about 10-15 minutes. Of course I didn't go into a lot of detail (but then I don't tend to use too much of this type of detail). It does point out something I look for in maps though, I look for maps that convey a lot of information, and that map is an excellent example of a map that quickly inspires me (if I had actually been looking for something for a game, my search actually would have been a lot quicker, I found that map fairly early on, but I really wanted a module not just a map - so I could show how I go about converting, or being inspired by, system specific content).



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