Tuesday, 15 May 2012

The Shamutanti Hills T20 conversion

Due to a change in diary priorities, I'm no long going to be attending UK Games Expo or indeed running any games there. This is a pity, but then again it saves me a slog up to Birmingham, and the desperate scramble to finish off my one-shots, which no doubt would have coincided with a large client project.

Instead I'm working on a couple of gaming projects, the first of which is The Shamutanti Hills, part of the recent Crown of Kings campaign, which has been released for Advanced Fighting Fantasy. Veteran gamers who were rolling dice when Ronald Reagan was in the White House may recall The Shamutanti Hills as the first in a quadrilogy of adventure books written by Steve Jackson, of Games Workshop and Fighting Fantasy fame. Those adventures have been adapted for multi-player use in this new campaign book.

I loved the Fighting Fantasy game books, and loved the original Shamutanti Hills even more, as it allowed the adventurer character to use spells as well as swordplay. In addition, it had a slightly more exotic feel than Warlock of Firetop Mountain or Forest of Doom, partly thanks to the evocative John Blanche artwork, much of it faithfully reproduced in the new campaign book, much to my delight.

AFF is way too simplistic for my gaming group, hence the decision to convert it to Green Ronin's True 20 system. But why T20? I've only had limited experience of this set of rules, having once played in an abortive Call of Cthulhu campaign which used them, but what I saw of the system, I liked. Certainly characters are much easier to generate than for conventional d20. One needs to be careful with these rules, mind you. My other experience with them involved a dungeon bash in Eberron which was turned on its head by a player's canny use of the available powers to detect the bulk of the threats that lay ahead - in particular the ability to detect intelligent minds.

Powers in the vanilla version of T20 can be used by the Adept class (one of three available in the core rules). What makes them a bit different from D&D spells is that they can be used at will - no daily spell slots here - and most of them are readily accessible from first level. This gives the player choosing Adept some rather funky powers from the off, equivalents of spells which would only be accessible to much higher levels in D&D. The argument here is that this actually makes spell slinging more entertaining at lower levels. We'll see how it works in practice, but I'm reserving the option to make potentially game-breaking powers Fatiguing - i.e. the would-be sorceror runs the risk of running up his Fatigue levels if he uses or maintains too many Powers in sequence.

Converting Shamutanti Hills is also a useful learning experience for me, as it raises questions about the T20 system - for example I recently had to create a monster from scratch that did not exist in the T20 bestiary or indeed in the two 3e Monster Manuals I own (hence no scope for porting it over from d20). In addition, there are some powerful monsters being added to the mix which may, on paper, be too much of a threat to a 1st level party. I say that, but my feeling is that if there is at least one Adept in the group, this may not be the case. I feel it is better to throw some hefty challenges in there and see if the PCs are up for it than let them breeze through. I've not forgotten how we blitzed the Pathfinder Kingmaker campaign!

Generating stat blocks is still time consuming in T20, especially if you're building an NPC from scratch. But for me it helps to learn the system, including the available powers and feats. I'm getting quicker at it. I will hopefully also be able to remember who has what as I've created them myself (AFF just gives NPCs a Skill and Stamina score).

I'm finding it easy to convert the campaign over to T20's abstracted Wealth mechanic, which is another big difference from D&D. And I'm not missing a big book of magic items, as the AFF magic items are largely original yet easy to convert over to T20. I guess this is one of T20's strengths - it was created to be a generic alternative to d20, and easier to manage, with less book keeping. I suspect I will still use condition markers and a battle mat for combat situations, just to keep track of who has 'put the hurt' on who.

This coming weekend we will hopefully be playing some Spycraft with Ric in the hot seat. I've not generated a PC for this, but I am intrigued, as Spycraft 1.0 was something that grabbed my interest a while back, but I was never quite able to turn into a game.

The rest of the advance for my forex trading book has arrived, and while most of that will be going to my son's school fees next term, I am hoping to spare some for West Wind Productions' new Empire of the Dead, Gothic horror skirmish wargames rules. Regular readers of this blog will recall that we've played a bit of Gothic skirmish in the Rippers world using the Savage Worlds Showdown rules, including an epic six player battle which I refereed. I'm keen to see what these new rules can offer, and whether my existing collection of Gothic horror figures (some of whom were recently drafted in as part of the population of Linden Way, to be slaughtered by orcs) will fit into the initial set of factions. More on this later.

Is that Vincent Van Gogh on the right?


  1. I loved Sorcery! back in the day, although my memories are fuzzy on specifics. I do remember that I only played Kharé: Cityport of Traps and The Crown of Kings itself, so the other two chapters will be completely new.

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