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Neon Knight
2007-08-25, 09:43 PM
So I was planning a campaign were the players start as convicts sentenced to be exiled to a penal colony, akin to Australia. The players will be ECL 3. The authorities responsible for their sentence are fairly humane, thus the bleak chance of scraping out a living in a backwoods instead of a summary execution. The question arose, however: How much resources do I give them?

If I don't give them enough, resource dependent classes like fighters will suffer to the point that they can't contribute while sorcerers have a blast. If I give them too much, I lose that pressured for resources feel that I'm looking for.

Further Scenario Info:
The actual terrain they are exiled to is an archipelago. The waters between the islands are akin to plains of sea grass that are traversable at low tides. The isles are mostly marshes and mangrove swamps. Some other convicts and exiles have managed to build sparse settlements, but the only way the PCs can acquire resources is through the death of said exiles and convicts who happen to be pretty tough buggers.

So, what amount of GP should I chuck at the PCs? Or should I carefully pick and choose their equipment for them?

RandomNPC
2007-08-25, 09:55 PM
convicts and whatnot, i'd say not much. the only problem being if a caster took eschew materials.....

i'd leave them all a simple weapon, five ammo for the ranged fighters, and one less apple then there are characters. they arent supposed to fight over who goes hungry, the drop team just ran out of apples, but they aren't supposed to know that.

horseboy
2007-08-25, 09:57 PM
Well, you could always watch an episode of Survivorman, give them what he takes.

Remember: Even spell casters can't do much without material components.

I'd say, oh, hand axe, 50' rope, dagger, tent, a week or so of rations, some bulk cloth, some seeds to grow some crops, flint & steel, uh let them have one personal item, I guess.

(Weird, axe isn't in Firefox's spell checker)

Darth Mario
2007-08-25, 10:01 PM
Take a look at D20 Apocalypse, whether or not you know jacksquat about D20 Modern. The beginning of the book has a lot of useful stuff for running games in your kind of situation, no matter what system you're using. Also, if you're up for a touch of conversion, there are rules for scavenging. I'd veer towards too little gear over too much, but remember: You're on a prison island. Spell components aren't exactly common, so (he might kill you for this, but it'll keep him from ruining the game) make the Sorcerer keep track of spell components.

If I was running this game, I'd give the best items to the other settlers, but I'd also allow them to scavenge basic gear from some "fallen civilization" that inhabited the islands before it was used for it's current perpose.

Edit: Uggg... double simu'd.

Jack_Simth
2007-08-25, 10:17 PM
Whatever you like, for the flavor.

They could be dropped off with the stuff they had (Wealth-By-Level) in a locked chest (which, after being dropped off, they could pick/bash open).

They could be dropped off in their skin, left to survive (or not).

They could be dropped off with their clothes, two days food, and some farming equipment.

They could be dropped off in their skin and immediately set upon by a similar group that has slightly more equipment than it's supposed to (and be a little lower in level).

bugsysservant
2007-08-25, 10:23 PM
Why not let the players pick? Allow them to select 2-5 GP worth of stuff each and send them off with that, the clothes on their backs, and, if you're feeling nice, a ration each.

MrNexx
2007-08-25, 10:28 PM
So I was planning a campaign were the players start as convicts sentenced to be exiled to a penal colony, akin to Australia. The players will be ECL 3. The authorities responsible for their sentence are fairly humane, thus the bleak chance of scraping out a living in a backwoods instead of a summary execution. The question arose, however: How much resources do I give them?

I'd give them a each knife, a handaxe, and a standard unit of food (i.e. not a day, but shorter than a month). To each group, I'd give rope, several jugs of water, and several yards of canvas.

This is all relatively cheap, but gives them a decent chance for survival without requiring every group to have a ranger or druid, or arming them with ranged weapons. If they work together, they can survive, but building defenses and such will not happen if they choose to kill each other off.

I would then stick an abandoned city somewhere on the island, packed with undead, who start going after them when they stumble across it.

ocato
2007-08-25, 10:32 PM
You could house-rule in new material components for certain spells. So that a Sorcerer could do okay scavenging mushrooms or something for spells, then make the good stuff significantly harder to acquire. That way you aren't making the caster a wasted choice or over powered by comparison. If his survival check or knowledge check or whatever doesn't turn up the right kind of bird egg, then he's not casting color spray today. Then make a few spells pretty easy to cast (no material or like, grass) so that his options are limited but not completely save or lose for life. It'll require some work, but it offers a new level of scrounging/balance to your unique campaign.

nolifeking
2007-08-25, 10:46 PM
If you tell your players what the campaign will be like before they make characters you might consider banning the warlock. Eventually he would be balanced, but in the beginning he would be insane.

Citizen Joe
2007-08-25, 10:48 PM
First of all, casters would not have been given the option of exile. Thus, you're looking at fighting types and skill monkeys. If someone DOES try to make a caster or have some sort of supernatural ability, let them, and then put a bullet in their head and shove their corpse into the sea. As to the rest, throw them into a life boat with a certain amount of supplies, probably a cask of ale and a sack of jerky, some rope, some cloth and a couple oars. Keep them bound while aboard the lifeboat. Make it clear that they won't last long in the open sea without a real ship. Then blow a small hole in the bottom of their lifeboat (so it starts to sink) and then fling a dagger into the deck so they can cut themselves free and row to shore before sinking. Make sure you point out the shark fins nearby and the bloodied water of the sorcerer that thought he could get away with it.

Kizara
2007-08-25, 10:56 PM
Be aware that druid is insta-win here. Monk and barbarian do well too, but druid just wins.

Let's take a really powerful class, put it squarely in its element and give everyone else a bit of a hard time.

Druid wins.

Cleric and Sorc with eschew material comes in second, with barbarian and monk a close third.

Rama_Lei
2007-08-25, 10:59 PM
A club can be fashioned from pretty much anything and that covers proficiency for most melee classes.

Neon Knight
2007-08-25, 11:07 PM
First of all, casters would not have been given the option of exile. Thus, you're looking at fighting types and skill monkeys. If someone DOES try to make a caster or have some sort of supernatural ability, let them, and then put a bullet in their head and shove their corpse into the sea. As to the rest, throw them into a life boat with a certain amount of supplies, probably a cask of ale and a sack of jerky, some rope, some cloth and a couple oars. Keep them bound while aboard the lifeboat. Make it clear that they won't last long in the open sea without a real ship. Then blow a small hole in the bottom of their lifeboat (so it starts to sink) and then fling a dagger into the deck so they can cut themselves free and row to shore before sinking. Make sure you point out the shark fins nearby and the bloodied water of the sorcerer that thought he could get away with it.

Well, thank you sir. I was afraid no one could magically read my mind and determine that I was lying when I said the judges were fair and basically humane, and in reality they are evil sons of a *****.

I was also afraid no one would dictate details of my homebrew setting to me, like whether spell casters are given the option of exile or not. I must applaud both your keen insight into my inner thoughts and your ability to see through my elaborate falsehoods.
/SARCASM, OFF.


Be aware that druid is insta-win here. Monk and barbarian do well too, but druid just wins.

Let's take a really powerful class, put it squarely in its element and give everyone else a bit of a hard time.

Druid wins.

Cleric and Sorc with eschew material comes in second, with barbarian and monk a close third.

I am aware of this. That is why I made this post, to see how much resources I should grant them so that equipment based classes did not lag behind.

Maybe I should award resources based on class and build.


A club can be fashioned from pretty much anything and that covers proficiency for most melee classes.

Who are you, and why do you have Vorpal Tribble's avatar and sig?

Jack_Simth
2007-08-25, 11:09 PM
First of all, casters would not have been given the option of exile. Thus, you're looking at fighting types and skill monkeys. If someone DOES try to make a caster or have some sort of supernatural ability, let them, and then put a bullet in their head and shove their corpse into the sea. As to the rest, throw them into a life boat with a certain amount of supplies, probably a cask of ale and a sack of jerky, some rope, some cloth and a couple oars. Keep them bound while aboard the lifeboat. Make it clear that they won't last long in the open sea without a real ship. Then blow a small hole in the bottom of their lifeboat (so it starts to sink) and then fling a dagger into the deck so they can cut themselves free and row to shore before sinking. Make sure you point out the shark fins nearby and the bloodied water of the sorcerer that thought he could get away with it.
Err.... you are planning on WARNING your players first, right? Because, well, starting out with an arbitrary death based on nothing but class choice is kinda... well... not very conducive to continued gaming?

wadledo
2007-08-25, 11:26 PM
Hmmm...
add all the skills the players can think of, in reason(no Geography checks) together then multiply by somthing mod? slight of hand + intimidate + Dip + Craft + Bluff + Forgery x cha or con or dex (whichevers better)

I'm tired but I always thought that somthing like this made more sense than per class.

Maby a bonus if they play a character with 16 or higer cha? guards are guards

Citizen Joe
2007-08-25, 11:29 PM
All I'm saying is that people that can use magic wouldn't be placed in a mundane prison. The situation described by Karskin would probably require the group to be political prisoners and the exile would be similar to that of Napolean's exile in Alba. This makes them more of an inconvenience to the existing government rather than convicts in the typical sense. In that case, all the classes are open and very little restriction would be placed on equipment, basically nothing that would let them get off the island.

The_Werebear
2007-08-25, 11:30 PM
I would let them have full equipment. Don't actually hand it to them, but shortly inland, they find a wrecked camp or an old stash with the gear they wrote down on their character sheets beforehand. Really, it is just much easier that way. If you want to make it harder on them, then have them kill some wild animals with their bare hands and minimal spell components for the gear.


All I'm saying is that people that can use magic wouldn't be placed in a mundane prison. The situation described by Karskin would probably require the group to be political prisoners and the exile would be similar to that of Napolean's exile in Alba. This makes them more of an inconvenience to the existing government rather than convicts in the typical sense. In that case, all the classes are open and very little restriction would be placed on equipment, basically nothing that would let them get off the island.

It's not a mundane prison. It is being dumped on an island chain multiple hundreds of miles from the mainland with minimal supplies and little or no knowledge of sailing, much less anything to build a boat with. While I could see stronger measures being taken for higher level characters, at level 3, they are still not going to be strong enough to just zap themselves away.

Zincorium
2007-08-25, 11:37 PM
All I'm saying is that people that can use magic wouldn't be placed in a mundane prison. The situation described by Karskin would probably require the group to be political prisoners and the exile would be similar to that of Napolean's exile in Alba. This makes them more of an inconvenience to the existing government rather than convicts in the typical sense. In that case, all the classes are open and very little restriction would be placed on equipment, basically nothing that would let them get off the island.

...

Why are you making these assumptions when they run counter to what Kasrkin has stated?



Anyway, as far as the real question goes, the locked chest full of personal gear (screened for anything that would let them escape the island) sounds perfectly reasonable and in character for the judges.

If the judges are willing to spend the resources to sail a ship specifically to an out of the way island, then adding a few crates to the cargo hold wouldn't seem to be a big deal. Attach a rope to the crate and leave the other end with the prisoners, and toss the crate off the deck as the ship is leaving and make them pull it in to shore if they want it. Prevents them from using the items on the guards.

Jack_Simth
2007-08-25, 11:50 PM
All I'm saying is that people that can use magic wouldn't be placed in a mundane prison.
At 9th (where Teleport is available), sure, can't really hold a caster effectively. At 3rd? You're not getting out of Australia with just 2nd level spells. Invisibility doesn't work very well in the water, and Fly and Water Walk are 3rd level spells (and thus, not available for a minimum of two levels more). Drop the prisoners off in a rowboat, don't let anything from shore get to the ship, and the guards are fine.

The skillmonkey who took Craft(Shipbuilding), Swim, Hide, and Move Silently has a better chance of escape, honestly.

The situation described by Karskin would probably require the group to be political prisoners and the exile would be similar to that of Napolean's exile in Alba. This makes them more of an inconvenience to the existing government rather than convicts in the typical sense. In that case, all the classes are open and very little restriction would be placed on equipment, basically nothing that would let them get off the island.
Penal colonies have happened historically. Made slave labor out of convicts and put them in extremely remote areas, basically. If they escape, they have nowhere to go. If they stay, they're useful (farming, building, whatever needs to be done). If they die, oh well. Whichever way it goes, they're not being a pain to the nobles anymore.

And as Kasrkin is citing Australia as a model, well....

Dawgas
2007-08-26, 01:57 AM
The skillmonkey who took Craft(Shipbuilding), Swim, Hide, and Move Silently has a better chance of escape, honestly.


I wouldn't know, but wouldn't some knowledge of geography (or whatever knowledge skill would help sailors) be somewhat useful? He might either want to go back and slaughter everyone regain his freedom or go to the mythical land of Somewhere Else... but if he doesn't know where he's going... he could land up in Somewhere Unplesant That Probably Has DEMONS

Jack_Simth
2007-08-26, 02:41 AM
I wouldn't know, but wouldn't some knowledge of geography (or whatever knowledge skill would help sailors) be somewhat useful? He might either want to go back and slaughter everyone regain his freedom or go to the mythical land of Somewhere Else... but if he doesn't know where he's going... he could land up in Somewhere Unplesant That Probably Has DEMONS
Well, there's a couple of ways to do it.

Craft a ship and sail away? That's one, requires basically Craft(Shipbuilding), and (depending on the DM) one or more of: Knowelege(Geography), Survival (navigational aspects), Profession(Sailor), other stuff.

Craft a ship and board an incoming prison ship? Well, all that requires is a rowboat and a way to sneak aboard (and, you know, replace the captain...). Invisibility (twice - once for the boat, once for the rower), Spiderclimb (to get up the side of the boat), and a Hat of Disguise (to BE the captain) will do the job ... although you'll need some ranks in Bluff to do it properly.

There's a handful of others, variations on the theme.

Behold_the_Void
2007-08-26, 03:42 AM
What classes are you looking at?

Ruerl
2007-08-26, 04:43 AM
Well, ask yourself what sort of game you wish to run what is the enviroment on the island and what sort of people are around on the island, where they the only ones punished in such a way? And if no, are there some sort of community down there? And if yes to that, how does the community work, wich dangers are there, are gold even worth anything? -Gold can become pretty useless when food is more important than luxury after all.

On the spellcasters: You could always if you don't want a problem with them, simply ban them and say "no such thing as mages on this island" or you could simply ban the feat eschew materials if you feel it breaks the setting for your game.

Just keep it at the bare necessities and warn the players in advance that its going to be a tough game and very unlikedly the classic D&D dungoencrawl, for one I cannot imagine the prisenors actually having any gold whatsoever same for magic items, I mean, why would the people deporting them give them any such things? It would be nice and humane, and the people deporting others to a prison island are unlikedly to be either.

FoxHush
2007-08-26, 04:59 AM
Hmmm why not put a collar on any spell based class that makes them have less spells being able to be cast or make only spell able to be fired in defence. Or any item thats just increases the DC.

Kioran
2007-08-26, 05:58 AM
I´d houserule that Fighters get more skill points and can actually be useful. In a low-ressource campaign at low levels, skillmonkeys are kings. A Ranger or Barbarian will be hugely useful, because he can make all the important skill checks (like Survival, climb for scrounging fruit or bird´s nests, swim If you´re diving for food). Having the "mundane" classes have all the power in non-combat situation goes a long way towards ensuring everybody has something to do.
Ban druids. Seriously, I don´t see how you could balance them with the rest, their simply evil. The rest of the casters might be okay if they need to keep track of components, though letting them substitute components in some cases might be wise. Eschew Material will be powerful, but they need to take it. If they don´t know what´s it going to be, odds are no one has it. And if someone has taken it, I, as a DM, would laugh heartily and let him or her reap the benefits of his non-min/max decision.
But, I seriously advise it, do not give them full equipment. 2700 GP is a lot. Again, chances are your players are optimizing/min-maxing their equipment, and are thus probably not having the right items, but you can have crazy utility at that level already - think Ring of Sustenance, the boat Feather token or similiar. Or what some potions could do.
Apart from that - equipment worth half a village on their persons kinda ruins the mood in such a campaign anyways.......
I´d give em some daggers, maybe a spear or two, two days of food and some tools and canvas to get them going. The rest is up to them. Several low-threat animal encounters to minimalize the advantage of casters going Nova, and you´re set.

beholder
2007-08-26, 06:12 AM
but why would we listen to you when you're quite clearly drunk?
put down the beer glass, mr.orc

Neon Knight
2007-08-26, 08:15 AM
Hmmm why not put a collar on any spell based class that makes them have less spells being able to be cast or make only spell able to be fired in defence. Or any item thats just increases the DC.

If I hear mention of Anti Magic Fields or magic inhibiting collars 100 years from now, it will be entirely too soon. No. Just no.


What classes are you looking at?

Well, I wasn't planning on their being many, if any at all, class restrictions. I like psionics, so I was going to allow that. I also like steam punk, so I was adding a bit of Iron Kingdoms (firearms and the gun mage class to be specific.) The only thing I was really gonna say no to was scouts, but that's because I don't like their fluff. Or the class in general. (Okay, you move.... and somehow do more damage. Despite the fact that moving decreases accuracy. Yeah. Makes perfect sense.)

Forcing the tracking of material components and adding material component requirements to every type of magic and psionics could be a way to balance it, but instead of laundry lists of random components I'd use a more generic magic resource. The idea has merit, I think.

MMad
2007-08-26, 10:03 AM
What does the authorities want and expect the PCs to do once they're released? The answer to that question should probably dictate what equipment they've left the group.

I'd say, like most others here, mostly tools and survival equipment. Rope, a tent, woodworking tools (if the PCs don't realize they ought to make clubs and spears you may have a problem..), perhaps farming tools. Decent clothes, backpacks, first aid stuff. Probably a bow and a quiver of arrows, for hunting, or a rifle if that'd fit your setting better (but probably disassembled if so, to make sure it's not a threat right away). Daggers all around. Oh, and food for at least a week or so.

No reason I can see to leave armor or larger weapons. Same for magic equipment (except possibly for cheap survival aids).

Personally I think survivalist scenarios are lots of fun to play, so I wouldn't ease up on the players too soon - having them run into a bunch of very low-level but suspiciously well-equiped bandits straight away would be pretty lame, imho. I'd make the players actually have to struggle for a while, scavange for food and make their own equipment and be seriously worried about the own survival even if unmolested by monsters or enemies - to have the enviroment itself be a potentially deadly enemy that must be mastered.

I also wouldn't worry about having some of the PCs underequiped and weak in the early stages of the campaign. It could make for interesting roleplay dynamics to have the group rely primarily on the one guy who happens to feel at home in the wilderness, and for the wizard to be pretty much useless, pathetic and depressed. Once the party manages to find/steal/trade some decent equipment, balance will be restored and the former balance of power would shift, either gradually or abruptly, which could also make for interesting group dynamics and roleplaying.

Of course, this assumes your players are somewhat mature teamplayers who can understand the concept of delayed gratification... If players whine about being unable to contribute, tell them to be creative and find new ways to make themselves useful, and also tell them that their underequipped state won't last forever, that this is just something they'll have to work their way through.

Neon Knight
2007-08-26, 10:32 AM
What does the authorities want and expect the PCs to do once they're released? The answer to that question should probably dictate what equipment they've left the group.



The authorities expect the convicts to attempt to create a primitive settlement, based mainly on hunting and gathering rather than farming. Most of the surface of these islands is either covered in trees or water; farming isn't practical. An abundance of fish and other wildlife make hunting a better proposition.

Of course, the authorities don't expect the group to actually make it; most convict groups released devolve into fighting/murder, with the inmates turning on each other and the more aggressive wildlife finishing those who remain.

Driderman
2007-08-26, 11:36 AM
Hmm. If the authorities don't expect them to necessarily survive, why give them anything at all? No point giving tools or weapons to convicted criminals after all.
I say drop 'em off with only their state-issued convict suits. That way you, as the DM, gets to decide what equipment they'll have access to.

Neon Knight
2007-08-26, 11:39 AM
Hmm. If the authorities don't expect them to necessarily survive, why give them anything at all? No point giving tools or weapons to convicted criminals after all.
I say drop 'em off with only their state-issued convict suits. That way you, as the DM, gets to decide what equipment they'll have access to.

Because the authorities are humane, and want to at least give them a chance? Seriously, its like no one is reading what I'm typing.

factotum
2007-08-26, 11:57 AM
The only problem I can see is that the authorities, if they're that humane, must know (or at least THINK) that nothing really nasty lives on these islands. Therefore you're immediately shooting yourself in the foot by saying this; there obviously isn't going to be anything dangerous on these islands, so where's the opposition for the party? Just the other criminals already living there?

That being the case, the authorities might not want to provide ANY weaponry, because the criminals might just use it to kill each other!

Driderman
2007-08-26, 11:57 AM
Because the authorities are humane, and want to at least give them a chance? Seriously, its like no one is reading what I'm typing.

You're the one asking for other peoples opinions on this... :smallconfused:
Okay, so this is the deal: The authorities are humane, want to dump prisoners on an island where they don't expect them to survive, but even though they don't expect them to survive they give them equipment?

I'm somewhat stumped here, I must admit and I'm not entirely sure I understand why these authorities are dumping prisoners on an island and equipping them? Are they intentionally trying to create a society built, managed and populated by criminals? Is there some sort of labor camp the prisoners are supposed to work which gives a valuable resource or something like that?

....

In any case, if they absolutely need to be given equipment, I suggest some dried meat and stale bread, a fishing rod, flint and steel + some blankets. That should be more than enough. Knives would be useful I suppose, but why arm convicted criminals?

lord_khaine
2007-08-26, 12:12 PM
i would follow the previous suggestion of all their own gear locket in a box, along with some standart items for hunting and fishing.
the reason being that starting the adventure seriously undergeared compared to what your class need is one of those things that tend to annoy players.

Neon Knight
2007-08-26, 12:13 PM
Look, conditions on the island are such that if the criminals stick together and work cooperatively, they will live. It is separation and non-cooperation that bring the risk of death.

The authorities want to give the criminals a chance to live on their own. The society doesn't feel like it can take lives idly; they don't have a death penalty. But they don't want to take care of these criminals long term, as they are a drain on societies resources.

But to avoid actually directly killing them, they have to give the prisoners enough so that they have a fair shot at living (providing that they aren't stabbing each other in the back.)

Its purgatory, okay? Its a shot at redemption.

factotum
2007-08-26, 12:20 PM
In that case, there must perforce be some way to get OFF the island once you are considered to be sufficiently "reformed"...how do the authorities monitor this?

wadledo
2007-08-26, 12:21 PM
I would say to give them the prison outfits, 2 yards of cloth backpack, a days food, some fresh water, shuriken esq metal for cutting vines +similar but not very damaging, and whatever they can sneak with them.
slight of hand + intimidate + Dip + Craft + Bluff + Forgery x cha (thats just a tumor, not a spool of rope) or con ( don't eat the hand ax) or dex (can look normal with 10 is pounds of stuff) then cut in two = Gp/max weight

The sneaking is expected and not paticularly punished as long as its not realy obvios (battle ax)

psychoticbarber
2007-08-26, 12:29 PM
In that case, there must perforce be some way to get OFF the island once you are considered to be sufficiently "reformed"...how do the authorities monitor this?

Why must this be true? Seriously. Governments do screwed up, internally inconsistent things all the time.

Citizen Joe
2007-08-26, 12:30 PM
I recommend seeing the movie No Escape (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0110678/) with Ray Liotta.

Soldier is exiled to an island for killing his superior that tried to order the extermination of a village. He gets set up and basically becomes politically inconvenient.

There are two factions on the island. One is basically a wolf pack. The other is more civilized. The government does supply drops on occasion.

I_Got_This_Name
2007-08-26, 12:42 PM
I can agree with giving them all of their stuff.

Possibly break it up over several caches, and have the first adventure make them go between several failed camps (meaning sites where everyone killed eachother) and get their equipment.

The locked chest of their stuff is another good idea.

Drider
2007-08-26, 01:15 PM
I remember reading a "survival" guide to dnd a while ago that had a special knife thing (I forget what it was called). It did 1d3 damage, but when used against objects did 1d6+ignored hardness, throw 1 or 2 of these in for survival. 2 coils of rope(only hemp of course), flint+steel, food for 4-7 days, Rum, tents+sleeping bag, burlap sack, spear(optional), maybe a compass, canvas, net, fish hook, bait(maybe) oil, an axe, if they're mostly human, throw some torches in, a single everlasting one.

MMad
2007-08-26, 01:17 PM
The authorities expect the convicts to attempt to create a primitive settlement, based mainly on hunting and gathering rather than farming. Most of the surface of these islands is either covered in trees or water; farming isn't practical. An abundance of fish and other wildlife make hunting a better proposition.

Perhaps a basic survival handbook of some kind could be included in their equipment? Perhaps with an introductionary statement about the hope they have that the convict will reform, become civilised and shun their unlawful ways, etc. followed by a couple of helpful tips that may not be obvious to convicts with little wilderness experience, to nudge them in the right direction towards the "right" kind of life and help them survive.

* "If you loose the fishing pole you've been given, try spear-fishing."
* "A carcass on the beach could mean there are alligators nearby; stay out of the water."
* "When you can't find dry land for your night camp, use the cloth you've been given to create a hammock between two trees."
* "Remove leeches immediately as they can spread diseases."
* "The axe you've been given allows you to craft tools and build a hut. It's your most valuable possession - don't lose it."
* "The bites of gray and black snakes are rarely lethal, but green snakes are deadly."
* "Red mushrooms are often poisonous. Brown mushrooms growing on rotten logs are usually edible. Tall, black mushrooms cause paralysis."
* "Metals rust very easily in the swamps. Take good care of all your tools, clean and polish them as often as needed."

That kind of thing. :P Could be helpful and add flavour to your players' predicament and could (most importantly) be fun to write, if you're into that kind of thing.

bingo_bob
2007-08-26, 01:48 PM
Personally, I'm in favor of the equipment-lite version. I mean, if they start out with 2700 gp worth of stuff each, that would really make me start to doubt the realism of the setting. Especially considering that most of that stuff is probably going to be combat gear. I mean, why would you give convicts armor? There isn't really a reasonable explanation.

If done well, I think that playing a sorceror that has to hunt down his spell components would be a blast. I think it'd be really cool, if, upon reaching level 5, I go on a mini-adventure to track down the cave where the island's bats live, so that I'll have the materials I need for my Fireballs, maybe fighting a dire bat or two once I'm there. After beating the bats, I'll be able to collect all the guano I need in the future (although maybe there'd be an encounter every so often, like a bat swarm.)

Suddenly, your arcane caster is choosing spells not just based on effect, but also based on whether he'll be able to find the components he need. You'll see spells that he normally wouldn't consider get used more often.

Also, it's hugely flavorful. For purposes of this campaign, what's cooler: your sorceror (wizards just wouldn't work that well, methinks) carrying around a bag that somehow has everything he needs for spellcasting in it, period, or your sorceror's hut being full of old dusty glass bottles he's found in old campsites, filled with weird ingredients he found around the island, as well as inhabited spiderwebs stretched all over the place? It may just be because of my description, but I think the latter is cooler.

Don't make him always roll checks to find components. For major spells that he's going to use a lot, (and that can reasonably be found on the island), set up locations where he'll know he'll find what he needs (such as the bat cave.).






Melee classes have a bit of a hard time here. It's harder to realistically place what they need on the island. His primary concerns are going to be weapons, and armor. Starting off, weapons are pretty easy to incorporate. Give him a handaxe to start off with. Logically, it can be used to collect firewood, if it's head is steel it can be used with flint as a firestarter, and it's also handy against rampaging animals :smallwink:.

Armor is somewhat harder. Chances are, he's not going to start out with any. He'll come across some quite quickly, maybe some chain mail, but that'll be after an encounter or two.

Magic items should be few, and far between. Make that +2 Battleaxe seem like a godsend. Be sure to adjust CR to fit, though.






Skillmonkeys will need some work ahead of time to really work well. Make sure your rogue/bard/whatever understands that Craft skills will probably be much more highly valued than lockpicking. Most of the time, at least. If he adjusts his skills for that, there shouldn't be a problem.





Psionics and Divine magic are a problem, however. They are both extremely resource-independent.




Divine magic has some spells that really dilute the spirit of the game. Create Food and Water, for example. That's a major part of survival just gone. As such, you may want to cut out spells like that (Cure Disease can be a NASTY thing to cut). Druids are even more broken in these circumstances. You may have to simply disallow them.

Make heal checks mean something. Magical healing tends to cut that out of the game, so lets find a way to put it back in. Obviously, magical healing should stay, but let's restrict it somehow. Maybe include a material component that comes in limited supply. Let's make it a plant that, while common on the mainland, is rare here. Although your arcane casters should be held only to what kinds of component they have available, make your divine casters keep track of quantity. They'll have plenty of non-component spells, but the major ones will require work. Try applying the plant component to all of their healing spells, and buff spells. Should help pretty well.

Also, make sure that your cleric does NOT get armor equal to your melee guy. Maybe have him get what the melee guy used to have, before coming on something better. Keep him a little below here. Do the same for weapons.






Psionics. I'm really not sure how to limit psionics. Hmm... they do have a heavy 'crystal' flavor running through a lot of their stuff, don't they? Let's apply this to power points. How about, in caves around the islands there are crystals that they can extract PP from. Extracting power points takes about an hour, with a couple of hours rest beforehand.

Limit these crystals so that they will very rarely be at full PP. However, let's not make them fully dependent. Let's give them some mental recharge. Say, for a night of good rest, they'll recover one, or maybe two power points per level. Maybe increase the number of points per level as they level up.

By doing this, you should be able to make them cautious with their power points. Going nova really isn't an option, unless the circumstances are really dire.





And, for general advice: Make sure to restrict spellcasting, and be very careful with equipment-independent classes. Warlocks are really not a good idea. Neither is incarnum.

Remember, this campaign should really involve resource management. It's cooler that way.

Oh, and although it's not about equipment, as time goes by, introduce new convicts to the islands. Don't make them all hostile. By now your players should be really craving NPCs to talk to. Give it to them. Also, don't give them GP. There's no point. If they do have an option of getting stuff from, say, natives, make it barter.

Kami2awa
2007-08-26, 02:08 PM
Neutralising casters is easy; invent some way to "jam" magic spells on the island. The island could be under a permanent anti-magic field; or it could be a really nasty region of Wild Magic where spells work, but do something completely different to their intended effect. ("I cast Burning Hands!" "OK, your hands are now on fire.")

If such an island existed in the campaign world, an obvious use for it would be a prison for dangerous wizards. Alternately spellcasters exiled there get locked in a magic collar that blocks their powers, or just a mundane Scold's Bridle: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scold%27s_bridle.

This makes a for a good scenario, particularly with the former choice as such an artificial field probably has a source that can be discovered and turned off.

Neon Knight
2007-08-26, 02:09 PM
bingo_bob, I like the way you think.

Clerics, Paladins, Rangers, and Druids will probably be just banned. The overtly religious dudes get a different punishment.

Citizen Joe
2007-08-26, 02:55 PM
Oh sure, I suggest banning casters and I catch flak. Bob suggests it and he gets praised...:smallwink:

Seriously magic using classes (and items) will seriously screw up the whole concept. The idea that they are convicts sent to a penal island implies that they are sent unarmed. Psionics and spontaneous casters just aren't disarmable. Wizards MIGHT be disarmable by taking their spell books. Divine casters can be hindered without their holy symbols, but jurisdiction over priests falls to the Church, not the courts.

My suggestion is to flat out tell the prospective players that:
1) They were captured
2) Convicted of a crime
3) Sent to this penal island in a manner which they are harmless

Then leave it up to the players to figure out what they were convicted of, and how they are harmless. If they don't have a good means of being harmless, don't accept them into the campaign.

As to the equipment, much can be crafted. They might be dropped off with a supply bundle from the mainland. An aggressive faction may be waiting for the dropship to leave and then rush in to claim the package. If the party succeeds in fending off the raiders, then they might have some rudimentary gear like spears and some armor off the raiders killed. Plus they have a cache of trade goods in the supply bundle. Maybe food, maybe cloth, maybe other stuff.

Occasionally, the supply ship may hit a storm and sink. Survivors might make it to the island with some better gear. Through superior numbers, these people would be overpowered and the gear goes into the local economy. Likewise, the wreck could be dived to recover other equipment.

Given time and safety, wizards can research new (old) spells. Possibly he can make scrolls and potions using crude materials on the island. Paper would be very rare, but you can still make vellum from animal skins (or human skins if you want to be gritty).

If the island contains political prisoners, then they likely include writers and dissidents. They would have the skills to make writing equipment, which would be a resource for the wizards in the party. In a colony, wizards would be an important resource. They would be granted most of their needs in order to facilitate power to be used against the enemy faction.

bingo_bob
2007-08-26, 03:06 PM
Why thank you. Though, to be honest, this sort of thing has been on my mind for a while. I'd love to hear how it works out.

And as for starting equipment (which I didn't really address), I'd say give them an axe (Battleaxe, preferably, lets your melee guy do more damage, however slightly, than a club), a knife (dagger) for each person other than the fighter, 10 square yards of canvas, a fishing net, three torches, an iron pot, two fifty-feet lenghts of rope, a bucket, say... 4 waterskins, and a whetstone. Maybe some starting rations, too, as well as a very basic guidebook.

So, what we have here is survival basics. However, we should keep in mind that this is supposed to be a penal colony, even if it's not working that way. So lets suppose that when this punishment was devised, the first couple groups had just survival supplies. After that, though, they sent the next couple of groups in with supplies for a particuar colonizing activity. So let's say that, early on, the party will find a couple of abandoned campsites, say two or three. A lot of the stuff that those groups got in their starting kits has rotted and been stolen, but some of the really helpful tools remain. Let's say that out there is a campsite that contains some mining tools (the rockier islands in the archipelago are rich in iron and copper), one with carpentry tools, and another with blacksmithing equipment. Let them stumble across one, so they know that other campsites are there, but make them search for the other two.

So, after a couple of better equipped groups, the kingdom goes back to standard equipment. It's been that way for a while now.

Do you have the islands mapped out? I'd really love to see what you have.


EDIT: And joe, the only caster I suggested banning was the Druid. All the others I actually just gave restrictions for.

And just due to the general hassle of a spellbook, I'd recommend that you use sorceror over wizard. Just because they don't research spells.

MrNexx
2007-08-26, 03:10 PM
bingo_bob, I like the way you think.

Clerics, Paladins, Rangers, and Druids will probably be just banned. The overtly religious dudes get a different punishment.

I'll repeat my suggestions for equipment: I'd give them a each knife, a handaxe, and a standard unit of food (i.e. not a day, but shorter than a month). To each group, I'd give rope, several jugs of water, and several yards of canvas.

On to classes: For clerical types, you're perfectly justified in saying that they'd get different punishments BUT you might want to reconsider on rangers. Personally, even with their divine magic, they never felt clericy to me, and I don't see them being part of an order which could protect them from civil law; especially since they're ECL 3, and therefore not casters. I wouldn't outright ban wizards, but I would tell people wanting to play them that they're not going to have a spellbook; they're going to have to find some reasonable way to create one (but, to be fair, I'd waive GP restrictions on it... if they're carving trees with spell formulae, the required climb check should be enough). Sorcerers, psions, and other people not requiring a spellbook should be just fine.

excrtd
2007-08-26, 04:15 PM
If someone really wants to play a wizard there is some stuff about variant spellbooks in complete arcane.

Machete
2007-08-26, 05:40 PM
As a survivalist, I feel a bit of expert on the situation, but taking into account that your players probably haven't thoroughly studied primitive living and don't know how to use a stump, an axe, pee, and a dead animal to make shelter, food, clothing, weapons, and containers like a primitive native does(and I myself would have a great deal of trouble doing) you should load the group a little heavy, but make em think.

For the whole group.

1x shovel, wooden handle (they can dig a home, a grave, a well, a creature's burrow, and use it for their garden(although they'd likely do better just foraging))
1x dagger, broad blade, wooden handle
1x hand axe or great axe, double sided, wooden handle (they shouldn't need to chop down live trees, Fatigue them for this for 24 hours, the average forest has plenty of deadwood lying around just fine for fires)
1x flint with no steel. meaning the shovel, dagger, or axe will need to be used
a 3 foot wide (group size x 4) foot long roll of canvas (great for making slings, a roof for an oversized "scout pit", collecting water, foot wraps because they don't have shoes(treat everything as per caltrops that deal 1 damage subdual or rarely even lethal), and themselves as an expediant shelter from the rain)
(group size x 1) rolls of twine (rig up a fishing net for use with rocks to slightly dam the water and other strategies, snares for small game, rigging together some primitive mossocins or mukluks, a tournquet(multiple), and many other uses as they come up)
1 leather wineskin full of water and
1 cracked and leaky clay jug full of water with something stuck to the bottom so the players will likely smash the pot to see what it is because it is was stuck into the clay when it was fired(maybe the flint or a steel to a flint or a copper ring from the hand of the potter or extra flints) They can make their own wooden burn bowls to boil water in with heated rocks from their fire(basalt and quartz work best but others tend to fracture and splinter making the unfiltered yet boiled water dangerous to drink). If they don't boil their water before they drink it and it isn't directly from a springs source(ie. you can see and take water from the tiny holes its coming up out of wherever, likely a hillside for them to not become a pool) have a table ready with Gairdia, tapeworms, bacteria, and other parasites to roll on and Con checks to withstand them(fairly high).
2 days trail rations for each


Clothing: Leather loincloth for everyone and a leather buttoning bra for the ladies.


Optional:
A very rough (possibly inac curate and DEFINITELY disproportioned) map of the area with yellowed edges or a hole and a dead moth in it
A wooden symbol of the main setting god
A burlap sack
3x bandages
A vial of salt
Burial custom items as per the setting (holy symbol, holy water, coin for the tongue, ect.)
Other custom cultural item(s)
Extra canvas

If there is going to be winter, you'd want to also give them a small iron shield (more useful for cooking than anything else) as well as peasant clothing for each as well as the basic clothing.


Start with the shovel, axe, and dagger being quite dull.


Shelter from the elements (pit, teepee, clothing)
Fire (heating, cooking, boiling)
Water (a source and a way to make it pure)
Food (A means to catch foods and the knowledge to forage, meat, roots, leaves, nuts, fats from aniumal fat or fish oil(because a diet without fat leads to "rabbit starvation") and the means to process otherwise poisonous things into foods like acorns)

These are the basics for survival



Having a Druid in the group would turn survival into a cakewalk with Goodberry and Create Water. I'd ban the class.

Damionte
2007-08-26, 06:52 PM
Running this campaign I would definately not tell the players what I had in mind ahead of time. I would do this like Lost. In fact i may even tell them I was plannign soemthign else, let them make thier characters and then dump them on the island at level 1 with pretty much nothing.

I wouldn't give them any equipment. Let the fend for themselves. Especially sicne it seems you already have other convicts on the island. Those convicts most likely already have a meager bit of pseudo civilisation already created. Though it may be a prison like culture.
The "fresh meat" PC's shoudl have to deal with the "locals" if they want to get ahead quickly. Or strike out on thier own and figure thigns out as they go.

Think "Escape from New York/Los Angelas." with Curt Russel.

Hmmm this isn't a bad idea. I'm tempted to pull this on my players as well. I've dropped a lot of hints on detaisl of my upcoming game. I think I'll give them a last minute option of going with the game I have been planningout, which they know a little about, or takign the same characters flip thier back stories around and picking mystery choice #2. "The Island Of The Lost"

Hmm .......

Oh and as for class balance I woudlnt' warn them. They make what they make and they're stuck with it. Someone happened to be making a druid then he got lucky, he get's to be a celebrity this game. someone was makign a cloistered cleric, well too bad sucks to be you. Better find a way to make it work, you're on the inside now boy.

Mewtarthio
2007-08-26, 07:37 PM
In that case, there must perforce be some way to get OFF the island once you are considered to be sufficiently "reformed"...how do the authorities monitor this?

Maybe they're talking about the afterlife. You may go to the island Chaotic Evil, but you've still got a chance to redeem yourself and Good.

TheLogman
2007-08-26, 07:45 PM
I recommend that you allow them to pick and choose their own stuff, hinting that food and survival stuff is important (But not giving away anything super integral to the story), but not allow for any weapon better or more sophisticated than a Long Sword, (Bows are allowed, crossbows are not). However, no magic weapons or armor, no armor better than hide, that kind of thing. This makes Magic-types, Rangers, and monks better, so after 2-3 encounters, enemies will have better equipment, or the players will find better stuff, so that soon fighters will be as good as they should be. In addition, have more encounters at night, so that spellcasters are denied uber-power for a while.

To get the weapons and supplies, put them in a box, and do that thing that other people suggested, drop the box near the beach after the boat of guards leaves to prevent guard-killing.

bingo_bob
2007-08-26, 08:20 PM
Now, although this continues to be more off-the direct-topic talking by me, I'd like to make a couple of other suggestions for the campaign.

Make mini-adventures. It wouldn't really make sense to have every major action your players take require everyone to be there.

For example: Your players just defeated a small encampment of the bandits, and in doing so, reach level 5. Having just completed a plot point set up by you, the players all go off on little adventures of their own. Your sorceror decides to search for the batcave, so that he can achieve a new level of arcane power. Your fighter, having found a map on one of the bandits, swims out to try and recover an old offshore supply drop, but he'll have to fight a sahuagin who is also trying to retrieve it. The rogue and the psion, having found a cave going straight down into the earth, decide to descend into it, hunting for power crystals and other valuables, using the ropes they started with and a pair of grappling hooks that the fighter made, and the ranger attempts to track down a constrictor snake that he's been seeing the tracks of, both to protect the party, and to eat.

You can also throw crafting time in there, so that they can expand their list of tools. The main effect of mini-adventures is to give players a sense that they're really affecting their situation on the island. Who knows, maybe they'll start creating permanent structures! As you (slowly) start introducing friendly NPCs, you may even get a small town going!

Remember, though. The goal of this campaign should not be epic-ness, in any way. However, despite the fact that it won't feel epic, they will feel as though they're having an impact, in a way that most campaigns never achieve. A really neat ending would be for the punishment to work not just as intended, but better. A great epilogue would be seeing the settlement they created grow into a thriving seaport.

I, for one, can't think of a more satisfying reward.

Neon Knight
2007-08-26, 08:58 PM
bingo_bob, I couldn't agree more.

Citizen Joe
2007-08-26, 09:20 PM
I, for one, can't think of a more satisfying reward.

I can. After making your little enclave of good, a revolt occurs back on the mainland and the people that convicted you and sent you to this island get sent to the island themselves.

Behold_the_Void
2007-08-26, 09:24 PM
A really neat ending would be for the punishment to work not just as intended, but better. A great epilogue would be seeing the settlement they created grow into a thriving seaport.

I, for one, can't think of a more satisfying reward.

Which is indeed what eventually happened to Australia.

bingo_bob
2007-08-26, 09:38 PM
I can. After making your little enclave of good, a revolt occurs back on the mainland and the people that convicted you and sent you to this island get sent to the island themselves.

Not really. To me, it wouldn't feel like I'D achieved anything. It'd feel more like the DM throwing something in. With a plausible reason, certainly, but it'd still feel like it was all the DM's work.

The town I helped create becoming hugely successful? Now THAT I contributed to. THAT happened because of me.

So, Kasrkin. Any reason that you chose a swampy environment? Every time I try to envision it, I imagine a more tropical island.

Neon Knight
2007-08-26, 09:54 PM
The Mangrove swamp environment in particular has certain symbolism.

Mangrove swamps are havens for small life. Large predators cannot enter the tangled mass of the mangrove roots, allowing small life and the immature stages of certain saltwater crocodile and sharks also shelter among the mangrove roots. I felt that this was paralleled by society casting its rebellious children (the criminals) into the mangroves to grow up.

In addition, I've always loved swamps. Dancing lights luring hapless travelers into bogs, trolls, over sized insects, the various serpentine monsters that lurk in the brackish waters, hags, witches...

The fact that one often has some body part immersed in brackish, difficult to see through water when traveling through a swamp had always struck me as nerve wracking. Never knowing what lurks in those foul pools, one is continually taking leaps of faith as they slog through the bog, trusting that some predator does not lay beneath the opaque surface.

Chronos
2007-08-26, 10:29 PM
My first inclination would be to give them very little: Basic mundane survival equipment, no weapons above a knife each and possibly an axe, no spell components, etc. Don't give them their own equipment, both because you don't want them killing the guards on the way there, and because the government would probably confiscate anything with much value. This is realistic, but it doesn't leave them completely helpless: The warriors get clubs, and the casters get whatever spells don't need any components or focus. Eventually, they'll get both equipment and components, but most party members are hampered by about the same amount. Monks won't be hurt at all, of course, but they're underpowered at low levels anyway, so it shouldn't matter much.

The problem comes when you allow psionics. A psion with no gear is very nearly as powerful as a psion with typical 3rd-level gear. So if you have any of those in the game, you have basically three choices: Give everyone the fair equipment they should have at level 3, right away (taking away a lot of the distinctiveness of the setting), hampering the psions somehow (and make sure you get the balance right), or accepting that the classes aren't going to be balanced (which may not be fun for the players).

Thrawn183
2007-08-26, 11:06 PM
I'd say drop them off with one good item each. Make npc's (who also have one good item each) available to be slaughtered mercilessly. Allow the PC's to either try and help everyone, and regain their wealth slowly.... or kill everyone and regain their wealth quickly. I'm a pro of the latter.

Make it really seem like the started with nothing and are "living off the land" by which I mean the poor sons of ***** that got there before them.

Jack_Simth
2007-08-27, 06:18 AM
My first inclination would be to give them very little: Basic mundane survival equipment, no weapons above a knife each and possibly an axe, no spell components, etc. Don't give them their own equipment, both because you don't want them killing the guards on the way there, and because the government would probably confiscate anything with much value. This is realistic, but it doesn't leave them completely helpless: The warriors get clubs, and the casters get whatever spells don't need any components or focus.
Just don't need focus or expensive components, if the caster prepared for it. The Sorcerer with Eschew Materials, for instance (and half the time, my Sorcerers take Eschew Materials just for the flavor, even for when I'm not preparing specifically for this type of campaign).

Of course, a 3rd level generalist Wizard's spellbook, assuming the Wizard started with an Intelligence score of 16, is usually worth around 3,100 gp before any scribing of scrolls (all gained free from leveling - all cantrips, 3+Int Mod 1st level spells, 2 1st level spells from 2nd level, and 2 2nd level spells from 3rd level; 100 gp per page market value).

Eventually, they'll get both equipment and components, but most party members are hampered by about the same amount. Monks won't be hurt at all, of course, but they're underpowered at low levels anyway, so it shouldn't matter much.

Monk's will be hurt too, just not quite as much - that, what, 2,700 gp worth of stuff is a cloak of Resistance +1, Bracers of Armor +1, and a few potions of Cure Light.

Meanwhile, that same 2,700 gp worth of stuff is a masterwork breastplate, a masterwork Large Steel Shield, a Cloak of Resistance +1, and a Masterwork Bastard Sword for the Fighter; he'll be hurting a little more.


The problem comes when you allow psionics. A psion with no gear is very nearly as powerful as a psion with typical 3rd-level gear. So if you have any of those in the game, you have basically three choices: Give everyone the fair equipment they should have at level 3, right away (taking away a lot of the distinctiveness of the setting), hampering the psions somehow (and make sure you get the balance right), or accepting that the classes aren't going to be balanced (which may not be fun for the players).

The Sorcerer-3 (with Eschew Materials) is nearly in the same boat as the Psion-3 (except for spells with focuses, such as Mage Armor, and the little issue that the Psion gets 2nd level powers at 3rd, while the Sorcerer needs to wait until 4th).

What you really have to watch out for is the Vow of Poverty character, who doesn't NEED equipment. I suggest banning that particular feat (while, flavor-wise, a character that was framed would work for the scenario and can still be exalted, power-wise, the feat will overwhelm the rest of the party, at least until everyone else is up to wealth by level).

Citizen Joe
2007-08-27, 08:06 AM
Give them each 3 900 gp gems and tell them that they can get gear in play. When they try to use the gems in play, laugh at them, since nobody wants the gems, they want food.

Flesh
2007-08-27, 09:02 AM
I'd give them 1 choice of any non weapon/armor they want + 2 days worth of food. Drag them to the ships stores and treat it like a last meal. That way the wizard could get a very small spell pouch and others could get useful tools (or whatever, players are very surprising about stuff like this). Just make sure anyone asking for something that goes against what you want gets screwed over a bit as you want them scraping by to be the theme.

Also make sure they almost drown to get to the beach where they are immediately jumped by a single old prisoner who if captured instead of killed can fill them in on some useful info about the island.

Neon Knight
2007-08-27, 03:31 PM
Give them each 3 900 gp gems and tell them that they can get gear in play. When they try to use the gems in play, laugh at them, since nobody wants the gems, they want food.

Citizen Joe, the majority of your suggestions seem slightly sadistic.

Chronos
2007-08-27, 06:15 PM
The Sorcerer-3 (with Eschew Materials) is nearly in the same boat as the Psion-3Personally, my answer to that would be, if any sorcerer chose Eschew Materials, I'd just tell him to pick another feat to start with. Next time he earns a feat, he can take it if he wants, but by that time they'll probably have access to materials anyway.

Wizards are a bit more tricky, since there's no way a prisoner would be allowed to keep his spellbook, and a wizard without his book is a glorified commoner who can read magic. There, I think what I'd do is let the wizard start with whatever spells he wanted prepared (after I told him the scenario), and then somehow give him a blank book and ink almost immediately once he lands on the island, so he can replicate (part of) his spellbook (you can transcribe into a new book any spell you have prepared). Fluffwise, you can say that the wizard got word that he was about to be arrested and suspected he might be sent to the island, and so prepared himself for the eventuality. This might mean that the wizard can't contribute in the first encounter, but one encounter with the party unbalanced isn't too bad.

It should be noted, by the way, that even some of the spells which do need components, they're pretty easy to come by. You can get pork rind for Grease from the first wild boar you kill, spider webs for Web are all over the place, and anyone who can't find a pinch of sand on an island for Sleep should just turn in their dice.

And I'm sure there's some good way to balance psions in this situation, too, but I'm not familiar enough with 3.x psionics to suggest anything good.

goat
2007-08-27, 07:19 PM
If there are established communities on the island, you could land them at one with a heavily armed escort. They'll be delivered with some specific items which that community needs, and a few basics (a knife, a flint, some rations, a bedroll and a bag to put them in, maybe one other item each of some rope, an axe, a pick, some carpentry tools...). They can either then stay there for a while and help that community, try to slaughter the inhabitants and claim the stuff for their own, steal from that community and run away, try and start an inter-town fued...

Vaynor
2007-08-27, 07:21 PM
Why not let the players pick? Allow them to select 2-5 GP worth of stuff each and send them off with that, the clothes on their backs, and, if you're feeling nice, a ration each.

I'd buy 25 pounds of cheese. That's 5gp..


Personally, my answer to that would be, if any sorcerer chose Eschew Materials, I'd just tell him to pick another feat to start with. Next time he earns a feat, he can take it if he wants, but by that time they'll probably have access to materials anyway.

Wizards are a bit more tricky, since there's no way a prisoner would be allowed to keep his spellbook, and a wizard without his book is a glorified commoner who can read magic. There, I think what I'd do is let the wizard start with whatever spells he wanted prepared (after I told him the scenario), and then somehow give him a blank book and ink almost immediately once he lands on the island, so he can replicate (part of) his spellbook (you can transcribe into a new book any spell you have prepared). Fluffwise, you can say that the wizard got word that he was about to be arrested and suspected he might be sent to the island, and so prepared himself for the eventuality. This might mean that the wizard can't contribute in the first encounter, but one encounter with the party unbalanced isn't too bad.

It should be noted, by the way, that even some of the spells which do need components, they're pretty easy to come by. You can get pork rind for Grease from the first wild boar you kill, spider webs for Web are all over the place, and anyone who can't find a pinch of sand on an island for Sleep should just turn in their dice.

And I'm sure there's some good way to balance psions in this situation, too, but I'm not familiar enough with 3.x psionics to suggest anything good.

Tattooed spellbook.

Jack_Simth
2007-08-27, 08:32 PM
Personally, my answer to that would be, if any sorcerer chose Eschew Materials, I'd just tell him to pick another feat to start with. Next time he earns a feat, he can take it if he wants, but by that time they'll probably have access to materials anyway.

It's not that hard to find two decent 2nd and four decent 1st level spells that don't require material/focus components that the 5th level Sorcerer will need before hitting 6th to grab eschew materials. Charm Person, Cause Fear, Ray of Enfeeblement, and Shield come to mind for 1st; Alter Self and Scorching ray for 2nd.

In the vast majority of campaigns, Eschew Materials is flavor, little else; few arcane casters have any spells with material components they'll want to cast in a grapple anyway, most the "escape" spells are V only, and there's a lot of decent spells where the game designers couldn't come up with an appropriate joke. Here, it'll be a slight advantage, but really, all the feat slot gives the caster is mildly more freedom in spell selection.

When I play a Sorcerer, I usually take Eschew Materials for the flavor - if there was an equivalent feat for focuses, I'd probably take that, too. Why in the world is every guy that learned to control their magic to keep their nightmares from bothering others going to use the same component to put people to sleep?

Besides - there aren't really any particularly grand feats for a 3rd level Sorcerer. Scribe Scroll is virtually pointless, Craft Wondrous Item isn't going to be useful until at least 6th anyway, and Metamagic isn't overly useful until you have reasonable spells to put into higher level slots. Sure, most Sorcerer-3's will take metamagic anyway, simply because it'll be useful later, but they're not going to get much use out of it.

bugsysservant
2007-08-27, 09:17 PM
I'd buy 25 pounds of cheese. That's 5gp..

Bah, you're thinking too small. The better solution would be to spend your 5 gp on 250 chickens. :smallbiggrin:

Chronos
2007-08-27, 09:35 PM
Tattooed spellbook.I like the way you think, and if I were DMing this or any other campaign, I'd allow that to a player who thought of it. But how many page-equivalents can you fit onto the visible parts of your body?

It's not that hard to find two decent 2nd and four decent 1st level spells that don't require material/focus components that the 5th level Sorcerer will need before hitting 6th to grab eschew materials.True, which is why the lack of available materials wouldn't be crippling. It would be a hindrance, though, as it should be, just as the warriors are hindered but not crippled by using clubs. Then too, in a campaign like this, it might be reasonable to not tell the players the gimmick until after they've chosen their spells known: A player might have a few days of preparation before being arrested (enough for that wizard to choose what spells to memorize), but they probably didn't know they were going to be arrested when they last leveled up. This might mean that the spellcasters have a few spells known that they'd really like to cast, but can't until they get ahold of components for it.

Jack_Simth
2007-08-27, 09:59 PM
True, which is why the lack of available materials wouldn't be crippling. It would be a hindrance, though, as it should be, just as the warriors are hindered but not crippled by using clubs. Then too, in a campaign like this, it might be reasonable to not tell the players the gimmick until after they've chosen their spells known: A player might have a few days of preparation before being arrested (enough for that wizard to choose what spells to memorize), but they probably didn't know they were going to be arrested when they last leveled up. This might mean that the spellcasters have a few spells known that they'd really like to cast, but can't until they get ahold of components for it.
I routinely take Eschew Materials when playing a Sorcerer; as soon as you tell me I can't take it, I'll know you're planning something of the sort.

If you simply let me take Eschew Materials, on the other hand, I'll blithely take Mage Armor over Shield... and it'll be useless for a time (inexpensive focus - a piece of cured leather).

Citizen Joe
2007-08-27, 10:32 PM
Wizards are a bit more tricky, since there's no way a prisoner would be allowed to keep his spellbook...

I'm not running this game, but if I were, wizards would be getting off easy. A wizard that was convicted of a crime, most likely used magic in that crime. So the punishment would be to stop him from using magic, i.e. take away his book.

Now look at the sorcerer... no book... how do you stop him from casting spells? Cut off fingers? Cut out tongue? Harsh? Yes, but you can't allow a spellcaster to keep his spells in prison.

Cleric? They fall under the authority of the Church and as such the Church would mete out the punishment.

I suppose another possibility is to blanket drug all prisoners with an INT/WIS/CHR draining poison. If those stats are knocked under 10, they can't cast spells... Once they are on the island, the effects will wear off. They could even put it in the food that gets left behind. That actually makes for an interesting element. The 'barbaric' tribe survives by raiding the supply drops and eating the 'drugged' foods, keeping them all relatively stupid and uncharismatic. Meanwhile, the civilized tribe, unable to get the food drops is forced to grow their own food, and slowly regains their senses.

EDIT: As an added bit of misdirection, give them all neck collars so they think that its some sort of magical dampening device.

Aquillion
2007-08-28, 09:25 AM
Ok. As far as spellcasters go, I would recommend against making them track spellcasting components long term (for simple bookkeeping reasons--it's stupid and not fun. It's never a good idea.)

The solution is to just make them track spellcasting components early on (when they don't have any). After they've found a reliable "source" for a component, they can assume that they always have it from then on.

Don't tell the players what you're doing in advance... but if someone happens to take Eschew Materials? Fine. This is a low-level campaign, isn't it? The spellcaster still won't be overwhelming, no more than the skill monkey (who I'll get to in a moment.)

All the other ideas recommended to limited them are simply awful. Fighters are at a disadvantage starting with limited gear, yes... but they're going to find something eventually, I assume? Unless you're telling your fighter that he's being magically stripped of his BAB and his body altered to convert his HD to d4s, there's no call to be taking away spellbooks. Really, there are no circumstances under which a DM should simply take away a spellcaster's spellbook or a cleric's holy symbol by fiat, no more than you would cut off a character's arm by fiat. Taking away class features sucks. Don't do it.

In fact, given that you said that this is a level 3 campaign... I think people are focusing on the wrong problem. Level 3 spellcasters are not overwhelming. At level 3, even if you give them spell component pouches (which I recommend), it wouldn't be a big deal--they'll still run out of spells fast if they try to do without the fighters, and the fighters are still going to be able to contribute, even with crude weapons and armor.

(Since someone mentioned it... There is no way to disarm a psion short of absurd DM fiat. Really.)

At level 3, the real issue here is the rogue. Most of their skills won't depend on equipment. Most of their damage comes from backstabs, and they'll be able to backstab even with a crude spike.

Honestly, you want my real opinion? I don't know how experienced you are at DMing, but unless you are very, very experienced I would allow the players to start with their full WBL for level 3, with all the equipment and supplies a level 3 party would normally have. Yes, I know it's not what you were originally planning, but you can still do a "wilderness adventure" with no civilization for backup... that is, by itself, going to cause problems for a party of level 3 adventurers. Running a game below WBL, to the point where you're thinking about intentionally crippling usual class features, is not something you should be doing unless you have a lot of experience as a DM. You realize that you'll no longer be able to use CR to judge the difficulty of encounters, for instance, don't you? And that even a single poorly-planned piece of treasure could drastically disrupt the game?

You can simulate the 'trapped in the wilderness' environment in other ways. Unless you're very experienced as a DM, trying to do it by directly limiting the party's effectiveness is a bad, bad idea. It will put you in a situation where you'll be nerfing the party on one hand, then trying to decide how much to nerf the monsters to match them. It'll put the party in a situation where they're going to be constantly looking at you to drop them items they desperately need, to the point where it could easily feel more like it's you playing against your monsters and not them. Things will start to feel contrived; you'll get players nudging you and hissing "Hey, we really need item X to handle this...", and it will be your fault, because you're running a game that was balanced with the assumption that items X, Y, and Z were available, then taken them away.

Again, if you're confident that you can handle this, and you know your players will trust you to have given them the resources they'll need to beat your challenges, it's not necessarily a problem. If you're not experienced enough as a DM to discard CR completely and gauge challenge based on the party, though, then you shouldn't be doing this.

Ralfarius
2007-08-28, 10:06 AM
I'd buy 25 pounds of cheese. That's 5gp..
I love cheese, a lot. But I would never consider trying to survive solely on it for any length of time. You see, I like being able to poop.

Also: This thread has really inspired me. I think I'll have to amalgamate all these brainstorms into some manner of survival campaign.

Citizen Joe
2007-08-28, 02:42 PM
All the other ideas recommended to limited them are simply awful. Fighters are at a disadvantage starting with limited gear, yes... but they're going to find something eventually, I assume? Unless you're telling your fighter that he's being magically stripped of his BAB and his body altered to convert his HD to d4s, there's no call to be taking away spellbooks. Really, there are no circumstances under which a DM should simply take away a spellcaster's spellbook or a cleric's holy symbol by fiat, no more than you would cut off a character's arm by fiat. Taking away class features sucks. Don't do it.

It isn't about being fair, its about them being prisoners and plain logic. No jailer in his right mind would allow a spell caster to remain potent in his custody. That's like sending some one to jail with their gun.

I think drugging the food is a good method of preventing spell casting. Also a magic collar that prevents the drugs from draining TOO much int/wis/chr would be a good red herring. They'll think the collars are stopping their spellcasting and try to remove them. But then they'll eat more drugged food and get dumber.

Dr. Weasel
2007-08-28, 03:33 PM
Joe's right with his first point. The goal seems to be giving a mild sense of desperation; making the party do without the resources it depends on. Removing the spellbook is fair because it would make no sense at all not to do so. Maybe the wizard will find another spellbook later on with more spells than he should at his level, maybe he'll run into a tribe of outlaws who've carved all the magics they remember into a tree somewhere, it doesn't matter.

Most players are smart enough to work around their difficulties and as long as the DM is paying attention to the situations they encounter. Forcing them to whip out the ol' neglected Craft check in order to get a proper bashing stick shouldn't be a problem.

Also, even the worthwhile low-leveled spells don't have difficult components.

Sleep-Sand
Color Spray-Colored Powder
Grease-Pork rind
Silent/Minor Image-Fleece
Mage Armor-A bit o' leather
Disguise Self-Nada
Mount-Horse Hair
Enlarge Person-Iron
Ray of Enfeeblement-Nada
Summon Swarm-Red Cloth
Glitterdust-Mica
Web-Spiderweb


At least a couple of these are sure to be available without too much difficulty.

Citizen Joe
2007-08-28, 04:42 PM
Can't you research new spells?
If you can do that, you should be able to research spells you already know.
Since you already know them, the difficulty should be much less.

THUS, recreating your spell book from scratch would be more of an inconvenience than crippling. Likewise, assuming another population on the island, and one of them being civilized, then some spells could already be ready for transcription.

lordmarcoos
2007-08-28, 10:56 PM
I don't have much to add to the debate on equipment, so I'll just throw out a few encounter ideas:

1) A lone crazy hermit wizard that uses a tree for a spellbook. Make sure he maxes his ranks in climb, and that it's a large tree so it won't burn too easily, and he can run along the treetops casting spells down on the party. If the party has a wizard, he'll be able to use the tree too, both in the initial encounter, and, provided they don't burn it down, as a great ambush point later on (the rogue or fighter or someone can lure any nearby monsters to the tree, and then the wizards can blast it)

2) A group that's gone insane; drum up the cannibalism aspects and the crazy rituals, in a lord of the flies sort of way. Put them in a location and make them very territorial, maybe centered on an ancient ruin. Have the PCs encounter a small raiding party of them, and make it a fairly tough fight; that way, when they make it to the camp and see how many of them there are, they'll know better than to jump in and fight, and they'll quickly realize these people can't be reasoned with. But also, when they get to the crazy people camp, be sure to describe the pile of magical goodies they have, so that the party can keep the place in mind for a later date, when they have the power (or numbers, if they find some friendlies) to take them down and grab some sweet WBL items.

3) One, small, camp-style settlement, perhaps with a couple mud or wood buildings that have clearly been recently made. Make it a fairly rough place, with people just trying to do what they can to survive possibly have some minor comforts. Maybe they even watch the party come ashore, and try to capture the healer, since they desperately need one (if you've watched firefly, make them like the people in the episode "safe.")

4) a native population, that's generally unhappy about the whole people getting dumped off on "their" island. Everybody should hate/fear them.

Also, I think giving lots of people PC class levels would be fun, in a Dark Sun kind of way, if you've played/seen that setting. Happy gaming!

Ralfarius
2007-08-28, 11:31 PM
One thing to consider, to make things more gritty that is, is alternative rules for armor and suffering damage, like the variants in Unearthed Arcana. People would be a lot more interested in some damage absorption if everyone is poking each other with sharp sticks / a single lucky blow could actually end them instead of just being a bigger nuisance. The massive damage variants would also make a higher constitution that much more useful, instead of just maxing out dexterity.

Giving the players some heavier choices to make will really have them thinking.

i.e. do I go for a more physically capable character (who can survive when everything starts going down the crapper), or do I lay the skills on thick?

TranquilRage
2007-08-29, 10:32 AM
The control and balancing of characters abilities needs to be considered both initially and over a longer term. Something useful is to remember that this location was chosen for a penal colony for a reason. And as such there are conditions that make it unsuitable for a normal settlement and highly suitable for a penal colony in a magical world.

Priests and Druids: Have some half buried primal temple to the Old Gods half buried up one end of the island. Where the over powered monster lives, surrounded by undead. Make the Temple interfere with Divine spell preparation and/or casting. A percentage chance of success. Over a period of time the interference with the Holy/Natural order can be filtered by the Divine Caster (once they know about it [plot hook]).

Arcane Casters: Make alternate materials available to those who need them. Once the sites have been properly explored they can be harvested X times per Y. Balance as needed. It also starts contention over resources.

Sorcerers: The poisoned food seems an excellent idea, take it a stage further. Maybe all the food in the area is tainted by something that interferes with Charisma based casting. Treat it as a spell failure chance from wearing armour. The important thing isn't banning it outright, but restricting its usage. Over time the Caster can become used to the presence of the chemical or eat foods that are less affected by it (once they know about it [plot hook]).

Wizards: Give them a book of "Approved" spells, with locally obtainable materials.

Skillmonkeys: Chance of failure based on materials provided, High Int characters may be able to find and suggest alternate, better materials.

If the some classes are under powered, up the chances of success.

You could also buff up the classes you are restricting in other ways. If a wizard/sorc borks all his spells for the day, give him extra chances to find more reliable component sites (wis checks) or to get better barter results with the friendly neighbours (cha checks). If the priest doesn't manage to prepare any spells, give him a chance to identify more useful plants and herbs for healing / buffing (int checks). If the skillfool is sucking with their skills, give him a better chance of finding / catching food (dex checks), so the smarter ones are able to spend more time finding them better materials. Note: A lot of these checks are not main stats, rewarding teamwork.

As for suggested provisions.
A sack made from several yards of canvas, filled with...
Machete (low quality, needs sharpening)
1 Kilo of assorted appropriate seeds (some medicinal, some foods, some cress, one mango seed.)
2 fishing hooks
Flint (Use the back of the machete for the steel)
Whetstone
Pouch of dried tinder (This will be hard to come by unless they prepare)
2 Oil cloths (Keeping things dry)
Waterskin
5 days Convict Rations
30' catgut (Fishing or trapping)
Book of tips (thorough reading gives skill check bonuses).
Bumper book of knock knock jokes OR Jar of Mango jam OR A rock (slipped by an amused crew members).

Citizen Joe
2007-08-29, 11:02 AM
As for suggested provisions.
A sack made from several yards of canvas, filled with...
Machete (low quality, needs sharpening)
1 Kilo of assorted appropriate seeds (some medicinal, some foods, some cress, one mango seed.)
2 fishing hooks
Flint (Use the back of the machete for the steel)
Whetstone
Pouch of dried tinder (This will be hard to come by unless they prepare)
2 Oil cloths (Keeping things dry)
Waterskin
5 days Convict Rations
30' catgut (Fishing or trapping)
Book of tips (thorough reading gives skill check bonuses).
Bumper book of knock knock jokes OR Jar of Mango jam OR A rock (slipped by an amused crew members).

Remember that this is a penal colony and the PCs aren't the only convicts. The PCs (and probably other convicts) would likely get delivered on a dock, that is accessible by sea during high tide. During low tide, the waters would recede to reveal a causeway to the rest of the islands. The supplies (for whole island) would likely be bundled in burlap and hemp ropes. Some sacks may be provided. Clothing would be provided and a small supply of boots/shoes. If there were some sort of resources on the island (like pearls) then a blackmarket/bribery thing could be happening where some of the ship's crew smuggles in some manufactured goods (probably dropped over the opposite side of the ship while docked). Literature would be religious propaganda (whatever the equivalent of the bible is). Possible some holy symbols of gods that are acceptable to the ruling government (not necessarily the PC's gods). The civilized culture may take these bibles and wash the inks off to make spell books or other appropriate paper based products. The barbaric culture would want the foodstuffs and clothes. In any case, the party (and rest of the convicts on the dock) have about an hour to root through the gear on the dock before a raiding party forms to storm across the causeway to seize the drop.

If you're looking to give the party weapons, you can include unsharpened axeheads. You won't see any martial weapons available though. You might include farm implements as well, but exclude the wooden shafts.

DeathQuaker
2007-08-29, 11:14 AM
Thoughts on What to do About Magic Users:

I think it's okay to keep in your spellcasters, and probably helpful if you want to keep a fantasy feel to your game (i.e., if they end up finding the sunken city filled with Undead Pirates or whatever). You just need to do a couple things:

1. Take away Divine Foci from Clerics and Druids. They were taken by the authorities, and there's no means to make them on the archipelago. There are spells castable without Divine Foci, but it limits what they can do -- especially for Druids. Other druid capabilities could be helpful in a party, but if you limit their spellcasting, it makes them manageable for the scenario. I personally wouldn't get rid of divine casters -- at least not if you're still planning to throw "normal" D&D like encounters at them. The possibility of magical healing should be available--just perhaps rarer.

2. Take away spellbooks from wizards. They can create new ones with improvisation (allow them a blank journal, or something along those lines).

3. Take away spell component pouches from everyone -- but, make components findable on the islands. If there's a cave full of bat guano, the fireball-casting wizard's in luck (but even then, only after the dire bats are defeated); if not, he needs to find another spell to cast. Spell components with monetary values (e.g. gems needed to cast Animate Dead, etc.) should be unavailable or findable only as treasure after a difficult quest. This can actually be a good source of adventure and teamwork for the party -- they know if they get access to x spell, everyone's chances of survival go up, so they all make an effort to help get the spellcaster what he needs.

4. Limit or remove spells like "Purify Food and Drink" and other "survival" spells. Add in material components for those spells (most of them are Verbal, Somatic only), or even just strike them off the spell list. Stuff like Tiny Hut and Mage's Magnificent Mansion should just be nonexistent.

5. If you want to limit spellcasting in a different way, throw in Wild Magic zones. No, not antimagic, Wild Magic. There are rules for them posted in various places (FRCS is one I can remember). In those zones spells can go awry -- they might fizzle, OR they might be suddenly overpowered (the fireball explodes--right in the middle of the party) or the effect might change randomly (a cloud of acid gas becomes a cloud of butterflies). The interesting thing about Wild Magic is that the result is sometimes beneficial and sometimes harmful -- it's about taking the risk. The spellcaster would have to consider just HOW IMPORTANT casting that spell is -- and also take into consideration the group's desires and needs. What will they do to him if he fails, or it blows up (perhaps literally) in their face?

Nasrudith
2007-08-29, 01:46 PM
Here's an idea for balancing the druids. They need mistletoe and holly to cast their spells, but they aren't available on the island. This reduces them to be spell less although they still do have wild related skills. If that seems too harsh you could compensate with an alternative plant. The catch is they have to go through a mini adventure to get it such as grabbing a flower from the highest point of a mountain with several angry natives/monsters. If you want some chance of spell failure maybe you say that the plant is an inferior copy and armor applies a failure chance to it hence the reason why holly and mistletoe is usually used.

Now if clerics appear too powerful for the setting you could do something similar to the druids, except they need to craft their holy symbols and obtain holy or unholy water to bless or curse it. Otherwise their inferior symbol makes their armor impose a failure chance like the druids.

Now the wizards, you could say everyone was allowed to bring a diary and pen to write of their experiences and sell them to the prison ship to get some supplies. (The society wants the stories to be a deterrent for crime.) Now the authority thinks of the book as just a book, even in the hands of a wizard and they don't notice the pages of spells hidden under the inner cover. Thus the wizard is on an equal playing field with the sorcerer in the beginning. The expensive inks you could make traded among wizards and claim that the inks are for specific purposes. (Hey I'll give you this ink for 1st level evocations if you can find me three pounds of bat guano and a week's worth food.) If the ink trading seems too contrived you can always just let the wizards research more spells per level than normal. Such as five spells per level or 2+int spells per level up.

If certain spells seem or prove unbalanced make them have an additional material component to balance it, one that is actually counted in the inventory. Create food and water is less useful when it requires a flask of holy water, which you need silver to create it, turning it into an emergency measure instead of sustainable living.

Citizen Joe
2007-08-29, 02:21 PM
I believe that holly and mistletoe are the divine focus for Druids, although I'm not finding the specific citing in the SRD. :smallmad:

I do remember something from my 1st and 2nd edition days though. Druids not only need holly and mistletoe, but it must be fresh. And its supposed to be harvested in a particular way. Lesser qualities had adverse effects on the power of their spells. They could also substitute oak leaves (or something like that) but that was even less power.

An island would more likely have palm trees and not holly, mistletoe(plant), or oak... although oak would be more common than holly. One trick would be to convince a bird to find some holly berries and poop them out on the island to grow the tree. Same with oak. Mistletoe is a bit more tricky. All of those options would take YEARS to perform.

On the plus side, not druid spells require a divine focus.

Aquillion
2007-08-29, 04:21 PM
It isn't about being fair, its about them being prisoners and plain logic. No jailer in his right mind would allow a spell caster to remain potent in his custody. That's like sending some one to jail with their gun.

I think drugging the food is a good method of preventing spell casting. Also a magic collar that prevents the drugs from draining TOO much int/wis/chr would be a good red herring. They'll think the collars are stopping their spellcasting and try to remove them. But then they'll eat more drugged food and get dumber.And leaving them their spellbooks isn't about being fair, either--it's about running a good game.

Taking away a player's spellbook, spellcasting ability, statistic or other major class feature via DM fiat, without giving the players any way to fight back or avoid it, is never a good idea. Ever. It will always cause bad feelings, always cause your players to (rightfully) start viewing you as a bad and heavy-handed DM. It is one thing to restrict options during character generation; if you don't want any spellcasters, fine, tell your players no spellcasters.

The situation doesn't matter; putting the players in a situation like that is, inherently, bad DMing, and if you find you've hit a place where it's "logical" for it to happen, you should rethink your entire scenerio.

Remember, taking away spellcasting ability is not even remotely comparable to disarming a fighter (although doing that by fiat is usually also a bad idea); it is more comparable to cutting off a fighter's hands and telling them that their BAB is now zero.

And drugging people to lower their stats? Are the other characters going to be drugged, as well, lowering their DEX, STR, and CON? It's completely and entirely logical for the people who run the colony to do that; after all, weak, feeble prisoners can't escape, while strong ones could build rafts and stage a rebellion. Really, if you're going to play the nerf-the-players game to try and get the feel you want, why leave them with any stats above 3? Just drug everything down to that level, cut off their right hands so they can't use their skills, cut out their tongues so they can't try to talk their way out, (an easy way to cripple spellcasters, too!), and cut off one foot so they can't take advantage of high movement rates or sneaky movement. Put out their eyes so they can't make spot checks. All these things are completely logical for the captors to do; in fact, many of the more brutal societies in the real world actually did these to convicted criminals.

Using DM fiat to nerf the players is always stupid; it's a hamhanded way to try and get an emotional response from the players, and, usually, the only emotional response you'll get is anger at your abilities as a DM. If you're going to do it, though, you might as well go all the way--why leave the players with any capabilities at all? Imagine how much more helpless they'd feel on the island if they only had one limb and one eye between them!

Yakk
2007-08-29, 05:00 PM
For some fluff:
Magic isn't free. The civilized worlds have set up trade with/enslavement of the elementals to generate a network of mana towers throughout the empire. This is what allows sorcerers/wizards to recover their magical energy every day.

In a wild place without these towers, magic is far harder to get ahold of.

A spell caster can generally recover a single spell level per day from ambiant magic on a caster level check against DC 15.

Blood magic, involving the sacrifice of a living animal, can generate spell levels equal to the creature's HD.

Other sources of mana exist -- natural mana nodes, crystals, pools and groves. Crystals have a fixed amount of charge in them. Nodes/pools/groves produce a certain amount of charge per day.

You still cannot recover a spell twice in one day using the above techniques.

What this does is reduce the spell casters down to melee levels. It also opens up the possibility to boost oneself up to higher power levels: find a cache of mana crystals or a mana node. Or even, eventually, making a deal with/trapping elementals to recharge your spell casting power.

This wouldn't work all that well for divine/psionic magic.

...

As mentioned, ban Divine casters. Those that follow the main god are delt with by clerical justice, and those who follow evil gods are killed.

...

The smart goal for the civilization sending the convicts to the island is to have them clear land and create settlements, instead of living off of the land. Over time, the island would move from wilderness to a place worth living, at which point they can start shipping convicts elsewhere.

Crazy_Uncle_Doug
2007-08-29, 05:08 PM
The concept of this adventure sounds a lot like one of my favorite fairly recent computer games: Avernum. It ran on a similar concept, Avernum was what the Empire called the series of large, underground caverns that were deemed too deadly for exploration. So the imperial mages built a one-way portal into the place, and the Empire proceeded to dump all criminals and undesirables into this pit. Over time, an underground society rose up. There was essentially the "greeting committee" which had a town around the portal all set up to help new-arrivals acclimatize themselves (and to warn them about making painful attempts to return the way they came). The greeting committee also supplied newcomers with bare essentials as new arrivals tended to have the rags on their backs. The first few areas were most settled, and thus least dangerous (but not perfectly safe of course). The further one went, the more dangerous life got as one was getting away from the "safe" areas of the vast cavern.

One can grab a few ideas from that game. For example, within the caverns was a colony of mages. It's likely on your colony they would be able to produce most material reagents for a spell, and lacking some of the harder-to-get items, they can suggest alternatives. As long as there's magic, as well, who says one can't have a few menageries, crystal farms, or herb gardens.

The colony may very well do the same with newcomers. Rather than dump them unceremoniously on an empty beach, there's likely a small town that boat nears, leaving the characters a lifeboat to finish the distance. The townsfolk know to be ready when they can see the ship in the distance. New arrivals should arrive with the clothes on their back, and the town will provide new comers with modest rations, simple weapons, perhaps some padded or leather armor, and some highly helpful advice. If the party is clever, they can find a quest or two in town as well.

In fact, stealing the one-way portal idea isn't a bad way to go, either. The advantage the portal has is one's mages can't easily teleport back. Always remember that even though the party members have access to magic, this doesn't mean their jailers do not. In fact, if the jailers are clever they will have planned ahead for escape attempts from experienced refugees.

Dullyanna
2007-08-29, 07:46 PM
I'm not sure if you should keep the entire thing a secret. If the players have no idea what they're getting into, then they might inadvertently gimp themselves by choosing wrong feats, skills, or spells. Remember, the main purpose of this is for the players to have fun, and be challenged without being completely ****ed over.

Citizen Joe
2007-08-29, 07:50 PM
It is one thing to restrict options during character generation; if you don't want any spellcasters, fine, tell your players no spellcasters.

Actually, my first suggestion way back on the first page was that.



Remember, taking away spellcasting ability is not even remotely comparable to disarming a fighter (although doing that by fiat is usually also a bad idea); it is more comparable to cutting off a fighter's hands and telling them that their BAB is now zero.

The stipulation was a fair trial or government or something. Personally, I'd whack any spellcasters that used their spells in a crime. But I tend to do mundane heavy, cost efficient governments. But its not my game, so all I can do is make suggestions that would make sense given the parameters stipulated.



And drugging people to lower their stats?

All prisoners need to be disarmed. In a world of magic, you need to remove the possibility of spellcasters. Thus everyone is stripped of weapons. Everyone is drained of all their spellcasting stats. Wizards are stripped of their spellbooks, spell component pouches. Divine casters are stripped of their holy symbols. Actually, everyone gets stripped of everything (which would be stored in a safebox). Then everyone gets assigned prison garb. That's just plain safe procedure for the guards.


Using DM fiat to nerf the players is always stupid;
The point is not to permanently nerf them. The point is to render them safe for travel in such a way that they can eventually get back into fighting trim. If they stop eating the drugged food, their stats will come back 1 per day. Within a week the spontaneous casters will be at the top of their game spell wise. Divine casters may luck out if they follow the same religion of the imprisoning government, but otherwise they can usually fashion a crude holy symbol. Druids are a little screwed on a tropical island, but its conceivable that they'll find a source of mistletoe. Fighters will gain at least a club early on, then likely a spear. Rogues will be in good shape as soon as they get any weapon. Monks are only slightly disadvantaged by the wisdom loss for a while, but will soon be in fighting trim. Wizards end up taking it on the nose, but they can research 'new' spells, basically reinventing the old spells they knew. It is also conceivable that some of the locals have some spells too which will speed up the process.

I think the whole point of the exercise was to stress that teamwork is needed for survival.

Citizen Joe
2007-08-29, 07:59 PM
I'm not sure if you should keep the entire thing a secret. If the players have no idea what they're getting into, then they might inadvertently gimp themselves by choosing wrong feats, skills, or spells. Remember, the main purpose of this is for the players to have fun, and be challenged without being completely ****ed over.
Actually, you could advertise the game as 'Crime of the Century'. The first session should be something along the lines of setting up some robbery with a big payoff. Maybe the Master Thief in a crime syndicate hires them on to perform some role. As they retrieve the MacGuffin, the Master Thief betrays them and they get caught, jailed, convicted and then shipped off to the island for the real adventure.

Jack_Simth
2007-08-29, 08:48 PM
Actually, my first suggestion way back on the first page was that.

Err... no, your initial suggestion was to arbitrarily kill any character that played a spellcaster, or had any sort of supernatural ability - which, as you wrote it, would include, say, a Bard (Bardic Music is Su), Paladin (Divine Grace and Lay on of Hands are both Su), or Monk (Ki Strike is Su - but that's not until 4th).

Arbitrarily killing a character at game start is not quite the same thing as saying no at character creation.


The stipulation was a fair trial or government or something. Personally, I'd whack any spellcasters that used their spells in a crime. But I tend to do mundane heavy, cost efficient governments. But its not my game, so all I can do is make suggestions that would make sense given the parameters stipulated.
Which would include capital punishment for basically all criminals, as an organized prison is more costly than simple executions; organized trials are more costly than field expedient trials. Of course, that wouldn't make for an adventure of the sort the OP is planning.


All prisoners need to be disarmed. In a world of magic, you need to remove the possibility of spellcasters. Thus everyone is stripped of weapons. Everyone is drained of all their spellcasting stats. Wizards are stripped of their spellbooks, spell component pouches. Divine casters are stripped of their holy symbols. Actually, everyone gets stripped of everything (which would be stored in a safebox). Then everyone gets assigned prison garb. That's just plain safe procedure for the guards.

A bit on the extreme side, but then, there's a limit to safe procedure in the painted scenario:

You can't cripple them; they need to be released able to fend for themselves against whatever the wilderness will throw at them - which likely includes predators. By the time they hit the beach, weapons need to be at hand. Dropping them bound and gagged, with a closed (nailed shut) sturdy wood box containing their possessions prior to capture, in a rowboat with a fixed, somewhat sharp edge (for cutting the ropes binding their hands) and oars in on the floorboards fulfills that role quite well. They'll work free in a few minutes - by which time, transport has set sail and is basically uncatchable. Land, or the open sea in a boat not fit for deep sea waves. When they hit the beach, they can bash the box open with the oars (or a rock).



The point is not to permanently nerf them. The point is to render them safe for travel in such a way that they can eventually get back into fighting trim. If they stop eating the drugged food, their stats will come back 1 per day. Within a week the spontaneous casters will be at the top of their game spell wise. Divine casters may luck out if they follow the same religion of the imprisoning government, but otherwise they can usually fashion a crude holy symbol. Druids are a little screwed on a tropical island, but its conceivable that they'll find a source of mistletoe. Fighters will gain at least a club early on, then likely a spear. Rogues will be in good shape as soon as they get any weapon. Monks are only slightly disadvantaged by the wisdom loss for a while, but will soon be in fighting trim. Wizards end up taking it on the nose, but they can research 'new' spells, basically reinventing the old spells they knew. It is also conceivable that some of the locals have some spells too which will speed up the process.

If the only point is "safe transport" you may as well toss their possessions into a crate tied to the lifeboat by way of a rope when you drop them off. Everyone's disarmed for the initial landing (might include some mind-drugs on everyone for that aspect, just to be on the safe side), and will be fine shortly after. This is also the better route for DM's that aren't good at eyeballing encounters.

Poisons are expensive, though, and 3rd level casters are pretty fully nullified by simple bind-and-gag tactics; a Wizard prepping for it has only cantrips both Silenced and Stilled, and the 1st level spells where you need only one or the other aren't particularly useful in an escape attempt. For the Sorcerer, with only 1st level spell slots, he's going nowhere (but the Sorcerer has better long-term potential in the scenario, what with the lack of a need for expensive materials for scribing).

It's the gnome with a spell-like Prestidigitation that can untie his own ropes (no components at all, can apply some force), but even that doesn't work if he's tied tightly (Prestidigitation can't do much in the way of work - one pound of stuff very slowly).


I think the whole point of the exercise was to stress that teamwork is needed for survival.
I can't comment on the point of the exercise too much - for that, you'll need to ask Kasrkin.


Actually, you could advertise the game as 'Crime of the Century'. The first session should be something along the lines of setting up some robbery with a big payoff. Maybe the Master Thief in a crime syndicate hires them on to perform some role. As they retrieve the MacGuffin, the Master Thief betrays them and they get caught, jailed, convicted and then shipped off to the island for the real adventure.

Which, curiously, in no way invalidates Dullyanna's point - the Fighter with all his feats invested into his use of the Greatsword and heavy armor is going to be gimped when you suddenly drop him on an island with no greatsword and no armor (all his feats are now useless - and his feats are his biggest class feature). The infiltration/social-focused Rogue (Gather Information, Search, Disable Device, Open Lock, et cetera), likewise. Sure, start them off committing the crime... but do let the players have a rough idea of the outcome when making their characters.

Citizen Joe
2007-08-29, 09:31 PM
What's the point of a survival game if everyone is a master survivalist? To them it would just be tuesday.

bingo_bob
2007-08-29, 10:41 PM
Well, personally, I'd rather have my third level fighter be slightly too good at survival than to find out that suddenly he was completely worthless.

You seem to be advocating a very antagonistic form of DMing, Joe. I've been getting the impression that you see this as a Players vs. DM situation, what with the gem comment, cutting out spellcasters' tongues, and not giving players any idea of what they're getting into beforehand.

Anyways, helpful comment time. I'd say that the Druid is just not possible to balance. Wild Shape just throws things completely out the window, even with limited spellcasting. Cleric is just too hard to fit in too. For healing magic/divine spellcasting, I'd recommend limiting it to the Ranger and the Bard.

I'd also say just disallow wizards, and use sorcerors instead. It makes a lot of things seem less plot-devicey. With a bit of effort, you can put in enough restrictions through material components that limits because of their spellbook (or lack thereof) isn't necessary.


I've seen some people suggesting limiting spell slots: I, personally, am against that. I think that psionics should be the system that has it's power limited in that way. Otherwise it loses it's uniqueness.

And Wild Magic zones are a good suggestion, though not for the whole island. It'd be neat for specific encounters and mini-adventures, though.

Ralfarius
2007-08-29, 10:53 PM
I don't think Joe is advocating any sort of "DM beating the players" theory. Rather, the intention here is to really play up the desperation of the being cast away on some dangerous, wild islands. Rather than making it a traditional adventure, where everyone gets to play exactly to their strengths, it would be more of a matter of characters trying to scrape by and (maybe) eventually prosper.

A survival game is much more serious if the characters are forced to teach themselves most everything from scratch. If all the characters see it coming and prepare accordingly, then the "oh man, we're in serious trouble" theme is potentially lessened. It's kind of about toning down the scale of the campaign to very small, specific goals without scaling down the difficulty or sense of accomplishment.

Personally, I'd be more proud of my tough-as-nails, street thug fighter if he went from barely knowing how to chop wood - let alone start a fire - to being king survivor-guy instead of starting out as a seasoned outdoorsman.

Zincorium
2007-08-29, 11:21 PM
A survival game is much more serious if the characters are forced to teach themselves most everything from scratch. If all the characters see it coming and prepare accordingly, then the "oh man, we're in serious trouble" theme is potentially lessened. It's kind of about toning down the scale of the campaign to very small, specific goals without scaling down the difficulty or sense of accomplishment.

Personally, I'd be more proud of my tough-as-nails, street thug fighter if he went from barely knowing how to chop wood - let alone start a fire - to being king survivor-guy instead of starting out as a seasoned outdoorsman.

Survival novels are more interesting when they're like that. There is a reason that the vast majority of out of combat situations adventurers come across are highly abstracted, they simply aren't interesting for nearly as long (if at all).

Have you actually played a game wherein your character had to gradually learn those skills, and that was it? It sounds horribly horribly dull to spend more than a half an hour on the characters learning to get by before switching the tempo to something else. It should occupy a minimum of the time if you feel it's interesting enough to be including in the first place.

That, and the threats of improper survival training are long term or extremely unheroic. Dysentery is a valid survival concern in the real world, as is hypothermia or scurvy, but they're not a real interesting thing to struggle against. If the amount of training is meaningful in game, then you will run into characters suffering pitifully from afflictions like this.


Personally, if you want to play that sort of character, then it makes sense, but the DM enforcing the same restrictions on the other players, in the complete absence of any valid reason whatsoever, is bad DMing. There is not a single reason that convicted criminals have to be unschooled in living in the wilderness.

Ralfarius
2007-08-29, 11:51 PM
I think I see your point. I suppose I was speaking from more of a personal level, rather than thinking about it more generally.

Though, I didn't mean precisely that players should be barred from allowing their characters to be prepared to survive in the wild, but rather that they shouldn't necessarily fully forewarned of the difficulties they will face. Otherwise, you might have everyone with as many ranks in survival and those skills that might reasonably go neglected by most character classes. I mean, if you're a rogue, fighter, etc, that has spent your life doing roguish/fightery things for a living and been in city most your life, there's a good chance you won't have any wild living skills.

Granted, I can see it becoming a problem if someone happens to take survival skills without being forewarned, and suddenly becomes big cheese because he knows how to whittle a fishing lure. Meanwhile, Hacks the fighter is struggling to add much to the group. However, I personally believe that most decent groups will be able to find niches and tasks, allowing for everyone to contribute.

Also, I am of the opinion that all those out of combat situations are boring because they are abstracted, rather than vice versa. When combat, dungeon crawling, and swag are the focus of a campaign, all that other stuff is glossed over.

However, a survival campaign isn't really about being heroic. It's about surviving. By making the normally glossed-over tasks important to the characters (and their players), they become more interesting.

It seems to me like it would be the ultimate progression from schlub to king, literally beginning at the bottom rung of survival and making finding food for the day priority one, to the point where the characters are established enough in their basic tasks that they can start to expand to more 'classically interesting' tasks (finding the ancient temple, securing those new spells, asserting dominance over the other convict groups).

The earlier mention of the death-islands becoming a prosperous little pseudo-Australia (thanks to the PCs) really appealed to me, and I think that sense of accomplishment would be heightened greatly if the players can think back to when they used to struggle to spear those darn fish so they could quit starving.

paddyfool
2007-08-30, 12:07 AM
I'd quite like the idea of dumping a bunch of urban-setting characters in this environment. I'd tell my PCs:

Urban background
No Druids
Barbarians have Spot rather than Survival as a class skill
Rangers use Urban Ranger variant
All other classes with Survival to be modified as appropriate
Eschew Materials is a metamagic feat that adds +1 to the level of the spell slot used

Then see how your city slickers cope with surviving in the wild on minimal equipment.

Irreverent Fool
2007-08-30, 12:14 AM
Well, thank you sir. I was afraid no one could magically read my mind and determine that I was lying when I said the judges were fair and basically humane, and in reality they are evil sons of a *****.

I was also afraid no one would dictate details of my homebrew setting to me, like whether spell casters are given the option of exile or not. I must applaud both your keen insight into my inner thoughts and your ability to see through my elaborate falsehoods.
/SARCASM, OFF.

You know, you could be nicer to people trying to help you. That having been said, I think your idea of awarding gear based on class and build is perfect.I imagine the mostly humane jailers would know a bit about their prisoners and would likely give them whatever they needed to get by based on their abilities. I highly recommend disallowing characters to start with the eschew materials feat to keep the tension and yes--force those casters to keep track of components. Perhaps you could give them enough to cast each spell once or twice.

As for the gear-based classes, bear in mind that hide armor, spears, quarterstaves, clubs, and even basic shortbows are all (relatively) easy to make. There's a reason a quarterstaff has a cost of 0 in the PHB. Heck, this would even give someone a reason to wear hide armor.

Supply them with a single hand axe, enough food for one day and perhaps some flint and tinder. The axe will provide a means to gather some wood and the rest is kind of obvious. If you're feeling particularly merciful give them some blankets. Become familiar with the unfriendly environment and fatigue rules. Don't let them know what they'll be getting into but highly suggest they take some ranks in survival and some basic crafting skills.

First task: Make some spears
Second task: Hunt down some half-way nasty animal that fights back
Third task: Skin it and make some leather supplies

Sounds like fun. I'd love to start in a game this way.

Khanderas
2007-08-30, 02:25 AM
What's the point of a survival game if everyone is a master survivalist? To them it would just be tuesday.
I agree on that.
But insofar as letting total survival newbies try and survive without the needed skills for it... Whats not to say there are other friendly prisoners (perhaps an old prisoner who wants to get off the island but lacks the power to break though the dangers himself, but survive he knows how) who are friendly. If you dont want him to hold their hand all the way he could catch a disease of some kind and die once the rudimentary skills are passed on.

EDIT: Perhaps old, perhaps crippled from a wound in a hunting gone wrong. That would explain why he got the skills, willing to teach, but still needs help.

Citizen Joe
2007-08-30, 06:13 AM
You seem to be advocating a very antagonistic form of DMing, Joe. I've been getting the impression that you see this as a Players vs. DM situation, what with the gem comment, cutting out spellcasters' tongues, and not giving players any idea of what they're getting into beforehand.

Actually, I don't recommend the scenario at all. It might be entertaining for a couple hours, but in the long run it will get dull. The prerequisites of the situation will make for a dull situation after about one level of advancement. It is an island and in all island scenarios you end up outstripping the resources quickly. If the island is safe enough that the party can survive the first landing, then by the time they re-equip themselves and advance a level, there won't really be any challenges. If there is a high level challenge then it would have wiped out everything on the island a long time ago.

Neon Knight
2007-08-30, 06:14 AM
You know, you could be nicer to people trying to help you.

He suggested that I disallow mages, and not by telling the players, "Hey guys, no magic men, okay?" but by shooting any magic character in the head at the start of the game, completely ignoring what I'd told him about the scenario.

You'll pardon me if I found this advice unsatisfactory and made my displeasure known.

Jack_Simth
2007-08-30, 06:25 AM
What's the point of a survival game if everyone is a master survivalist? To them it would just be tuesday.
Yes, because some guidance so that the characters won't be totally gimped when out of their expected allotment of equipment instantly amounts to them all having max ranks in survival and living like kings without need for a roll. Of course, how could I be so blind!

There's an easy answer to that:
You forbid ranks in Survival (cancel the skill entirely), and set up pseudo-realistic tasks for getting the job done. You don't roll Survival - you walk through the forest and roll Knoweledge(Nature) to find out which, of the plants set before you, are deadly if eaten, what's nutritious, and what will merely fill a belly to no effect. Roll Spot to find a fish hiding underwater (or a rabbit in the bushes, a bird nest with eggs in the trees, or whatever), and an attack roll to hit it (or grapple check to grab it, or Hide/Move Silently/Climb checks to get close, or...). After you've gotten two or three meals that way, it's a routine task (you know the good fishing spots). After you've made your Knoweledge(Nature) rolls for a week, you know what plants are safe (or not made your rolls - either by feeling bad after, or by getting it right, you now know what to eat and what not to eat). Of course, each island has it's own set of fishing spots, and a different set of plants, and if you just stick to the one small drop-off island, it will eventually get stripped bare (this is gradual - you let the players know that game is getting progressively harder to find, and they'll likely need to move out sometime within the next month). On the next (larger) island, let them take ranks in survival... but this one supports actual predators.

Citizen Joe
2007-08-30, 06:28 AM
... shooting any magic character in the head at the start of the game, completely ignoring what I'd told him about the scenario.

You'll pardon me if I found this advice unsatisfactory and made my displeasure known.

You DID read your own thread title right? The implication is that bullet is to kill yourself so you don't starve. It's not like you labeled it "We left him with his bag of tariff free goods and a gold mastercard, NEARLY AT ITS LIMIT!"

You threw down the gritty gauntlet. I just picked it up, dipped it in hot tar and broken glass. If you want a velvet glove for that, I can do that too.

If you want them on the island with gear, then make them the guards and shipwreck them. I hear WotC is updating Isle of Dread. If you want them to be prisoners then they simply shouldn't have any gear.

Neon Knight
2007-08-30, 06:34 AM
You DID read your own thread title right? The implication is that bullet is to kill yourself so you don't starve. It's not like you labeled it "We left him with his bag of tariff free goods and a gold mastercard, NEARLY AT ITS LIMIT!"

You threw down the gritty gauntlet. I just picked it up, dipped it in hot tar and broken glass. If you want a velvet glove for that, I can do that too.

If you want them on the island with gear, then make them the guards and shipwreck them. I hear WotC is updating Isle of Dread. If you want them to be prisoners then they simply shouldn't have any gear.

It was a joke. The thread title was a joke.

And killing a PC for selecting a certain class at the start of the game does not strike me as "gritty". It strikes me as a seriously bad idea.

Funkyodor
2007-08-30, 07:55 AM
Hmm, from the way you're sounding, you want this to be more like rehabilitation and less like prision. You committed a minor infraction, you need to learn how to cooperate with others and share. Now get on the island! Here are your armor, swords, and supplies, oh and magic doesn't work quite like it normally does and needs to be focused through components, but we're not giving you any. Oh, and if you're high enough to cast teleport then, uh, then you're just stupid for getting caught in the first place, heh, heh, heh. Now get off the island but avoid the Boogie Monsters! ("But sir, we ran out of money and coudn't afford those. We had to stock the island with other prisoners, er, individuals requiring rehabilitation, instead")

NamelessArchon
2007-08-30, 10:25 AM
A few thoughts before I dash out the door:
Oooh. I like this. I've written an adventure to start players in a goblin prison, but never imprisoned on an island penal colony. I like. Let's look at some things that you can do to make this more memorable to your players, without arbitrary total elimination of classes or abilities.

Assumptions:
1. Any ability that 'breaks the scenario' should be limited - even if only temporarily. Cleric healing and food/water creation or Druid Wild Shape are great examples, since they immediately change the scenario from "fighting to survive" to "stable, now fighting to explore". Surival skill is another one to watch out for, since Bingo_bob's example of the bat cave and fighter diving for sunken spoils are superb examples of the former and survival's catch-all nature makes it easy to quickly (and inadvertently) shift to the latter.

2. No ability should be removed on a permanant basis, and if possible, no class should be prohibited. Players like choice, and some choices might seem "powerful" but shouldn't be disallowed because of it.

3. NPCs should be included in the group originally or added quickly afterwards (on the island previously/exiled later). Some should be trustworthy, others not. Some should be helpful, others not. A high mortality rate is expected - and killing a few NPCs in various ways will help illustrate new challenges or potential threats to the players (ie: to provide them "fair warning" about the pack of velociraptors crocodiles that inhabits the volcanic crater lagoon to the north or the new disease "swamp fever"), while maintaining the gritty feel of the setting.

So, let's look at a few things we can do:
Classes:
Fighters, Rangers, Monks, Rogues and Barbarians can all be allowed "as-is". (Survival skill discussion is in the skill section.) Monks aren't much better off after the first few days of island life, as fighters can wield clubs and staves at full BAB. Clerics can be limited as bingo_bob has already suggested. Ditto for Sorcerors.

Wizards *can* be permitted. Spellbooks can be scribed on just about anything, so nothing stops a player from harvesting some birch bark for use as crude paper, harvesting hide to make vellum books, pounding reeds for papyrus, or painting berry juice (or blood) on cave walls, or using their dagger to chisel their spells into a tree's bark. You don't have to provide a spellbook to the player at the time of their exile if you feel this violates realism - just warn them of this at character creation. If you're going the "find abandoned settlements" route, an improvised spellbook might be present in the "loot", but it may not even be portable (painted on walls, chiseled into a tree, etc)!

Wizards would then "know" their spells, but would remain unable to refresh them once cast. Allow them to have spells already memorized when they're imprisoned, and thus they retain a "last gasp" of their ability before they're just another prisoner with a measly d4 hp. With the effect of INT on skill points, however, wizards can make a sort of "skill-monkey-lite" and focus on craffting and scholarly skills that will turn out to be surprisingly useful (perhaps knowledge(nature) or craft(architecture)). Familiars can be treated as animal comapnions - see comments on the druid below. New spells gained after creation are pure research - even the ones in the PHB. "Free" spells would (should) probably go bye-bye in this gritty setting.

Druids are a bit trickier, given the focus of the campaign. First, I suggest renaming the class. This will make it clear that it's not a Druid to players who might wonder. Call it the "Shaman", if you like (I will do so here). That will free you up to disallow the Survival skill if you like (or adopt one of the alternatives I mention later if your players can handle it), without providing a reason a player needs to even wonder about - they're different classes. ("Why does a druid not have Survival?!?")

Wild Spirit Shape isn't really an insurmountable problem - you can do it a few times a day, but only into small or medium animals (birds and medium-sized predators are probably the most useful in this scenario) until level 8 (at which time bears or tigers become fair game). To limit this if it is too much, require that the druid shaman have "closely studied" an animal of the type into which they change (as opposed to just being "familiar with" them). You control how fast they can do that by limiting availability. No bears, no dire wolves, no eagles, and those darned hummingbirds won't stay put to be studied! Suddenly they have an ability that can turn out to be useful for the whole party, but only if they spend some serious time roleplaying their communion with and study of (hostile or skittish!) natural animals. This makes it more like the sorceror going to hunt bat guano, and provides a method of interaction with the animal (and plant) life of the island beyond the violent application of force. If this limitation is insufficient, require them to create a classic shaman's spirit voyage brew, from rare or hard to acquire components - you can then limit how many times they can use the ability that way as well.

Animal Companions? Not to start - require the character to get one in play. Maybe theirs was killed (executed? fled?) or they didn't yet have one (newly "ordained" or they hadn't decided which one to befriend?). That lets you control which animals you see on the island, and which candidates your shaman can contact. (This might also apply to familiars!)

Divine casting usually requires a focus - and for our converted druid class, that was traditionally mistletoe, oak leaves or holly. Specially harvested dew, silver sickles, and similar focii will be hard to come by. Thus, they can be limited the same way that cleric or paladin spells are limited in this setting.

Skills:
Survival is definitely the sticky wicket, here. If your players are interested in survival as the defining aspect of the majority of this campaign, I'd suggest prohibiting them from taking the skill at creation. You might disallow it completely, if you like, perhaps substituting craft and knowledge skills to break it down more completely. eg: knowledge(nature) for edible plant identification or knowledge(tracking) for follwoing game or tracking foes, but doing this dilutes skills a bit, and some classes (eg: fighters) won't have skill points to keep up with the diversification.

DC manipulation can also be used to make survival more "dangerous". Avoiding quicksand is a DC15 check according to the SRD. If it's a 20, fewer people can do it, and trips into areas where it's known to exist will get delayed until scouts (rangers, shamans, rogues, monks, barbarians) can raise their skills enough to present a likely chance to succeed.

If you expect to allow players to learn the skill as the campaign moves away from survival and towards (leading a community/escaping the island for other locales) at some point, you could keep them from taking it at the start, then relax it a bit and limit them to cross-class ranks for a time, and consider relaxing the limits to "normal" levels once a functional society exists. That keeps the start of the campaign from dominating the whole campaign, and allows players to adopt more traditional class roles once they're out of "jail" and back on the mainland.

Foraging for food (or other survival rolls) could be much less rolling and more role-ing. Allow the skill, but always make the foraging or quicksand (or any other survival) rolls in secret, and then roleplay the opening of the scene based on success or failure. Maybe they find the quicksand (success), or maybe it finds them (failure). How will they react when the party's shaman is pulled under before they knew it was there? Maybe they find food (success), but an island predator got to it first - fight or go hungry (failure)? Will they fight the crocodile with clubs and daggers for a chance to get that fresh capybara carcass?

(Or... just roll dice behind the screen, smile to yourself, and present the scenes you want to present and ignore what the dice say!)

Feats:
Splatbook and sourcebook feats I ignore here. I don't have 'em, don't use 'em and can't alk about them fairly.

Eschew Materials should be disallowed at character creation. You might allow them to take it later, but taking it early will be imbalanced for wizards and sorcerors well before the campaign moves into the "seaport" phase where eschewing materials is not a huge bonus.

Natural Spell has always stuck in my craw. If you allow shamans, consider very carefully whether you will allow this or not. I think it's less than balanced to have a caster with the body of a dire bear and the spell abilities of a high level druid with no penalties to speak of. Hummingbirds are hard to see, but when they're calling lightning out of the sky, are you really looking for one?

Improved Familiars should be drawn from the list of animals on the island. Talk to wizard/sorceror players, find out if they're interested, and if so, figure out which animals you're willing to tolerate in your setting. Shocker lizards or stirges, for example, are probably easier to explain than imps, quasits and formians. Early struggles could well be against these animals, for example, and taming one for use as a familiar could be quite satisfying.

Setting Considerations:
Make the island BIG, so that there's always plenty more to find and explore. (Look at Australia.) Consider finding the old Expert-level "D&D" adventure "X1: Isle of Dread" to cannibalize. It might give you some ideas for "lost world" encounters and settings, but I wouldn't blow a lot of cash on it if you find it hard to come by. (It does, however, give some ideas on native villages, evil humanoid temples hidden away from the coasts, and even a few plot hooks.) Dungeon magazine #114 even had a reprint of some of the maps and setting information for an adventure, and your local library *might* have this.

Keep us posted - I'm very interested to see how you go with this.

Ralfarius
2007-08-30, 01:03 PM
There's an easy answer to that:
You forbid ranks in Survival (cancel the skill entirely), and set up pseudo-realistic tasks for getting the job done. You don't roll Survival - you walk through the forest and roll Knoweledge(Nature) to find out which, of the plants set before you, are deadly if eaten, what's nutritious, and what will merely fill a belly to no effect. Roll Spot to find a fish hiding underwater (or a rabbit in the bushes, a bird nest with eggs in the trees, or whatever), and an attack roll to hit it (or grapple check to grab it, or Hide/Move Silently/Climb checks to get close, or...). After you've gotten two or three meals that way, it's a routine task (you know the good fishing spots). After you've made your Knoweledge(Nature) rolls for a week, you know what plants are safe (or not made your rolls - either by feeling bad after, or by getting it right, you now know what to eat and what not to eat). Of course, each island has it's own set of fishing spots, and a different set of plants, and if you just stick to the one small drop-off island, it will eventually get stripped bare (this is gradual - you let the players know that game is getting progressively harder to find, and they'll likely need to move out sometime within the next month). On the next (larger) island, let them take ranks in survival... but this one supports actual predators.
This is an excellent idea. It illustrates exactly my thoughts on how to make 'mundane' tasks interesting and involved. By breaking it down into multiple, various skills, any given member of the party may have something to contribute initially.

Even that wizard with the high int, whether or not he's read a book about outdoor living, his higher skill makes him the best candidate for determining whether or not to eat the oozing berries. Either that or you can have the high-con fighter who's "eated the purple berries" and can proceed to tell the rest of the party how they are.

I really like the idea of just stripping away survival so that the players can decide on areas of expertise, instead of just plopping a few points into survival and being the go-to guy for living on the island.

Jack_Simth
2007-08-30, 04:56 PM
A few thoughts before I dash out the door:
Oooh. I like this. I've written an adventure to start players in a goblin prison, but never imprisoned on an island penal colony. I like. Let's look at some things that you can do to make this more memorable to your players, without arbitrary total elimination of classes or abilities.

Assumptions:
1. Any ability that 'breaks the scenario' should be limited - even if only temporarily. Cleric healing and food/water creation or Druid Wild Shape are great examples, since they immediately change the scenario from "fighting to survive" to "stable, now fighting to explore". Surival skill is another one to watch out for, since Bingo_bob's example of the bat cave and fighter diving for sunken spoils are superb examples of the former and survival's catch-all nature makes it easy to quickly (and inadvertently) shift to the latter.

You can simply remove the Survival skill as an option at character creation - that won't raise too many hackles, as it's normally a sub-par choice - and don't let it be used untrained. They can take it in a level or two once it makes sense for the stuff survival covers to be routine (at which point, make it a class skill for everybody, as they're kinda in a forced, constant practice scenario).

Wildshape and Clerical Food creation don't apply until 5th level (Create Food and Water is a 3rd level Cleric spell) and he's planning on starting at 3rd. It won't break the game at all; by the time they hit 5th, basics like that shouldn't be a problem anyway.

Goodberry requires you actually have the berries - *poof* - they're not in season / berries just don't grow on these islands; you don't have the targets to transmute; thus you can't use the spell to supply yourself. No change to the rules, just to the setting. While Create Water and Purify Food and Drink are still just cantrips, that's actually a somewhat good thing, as realistically there's little in the way of good water in swamps (ESPECIALLY right next to the ocean; do make sure there's a supply of good water if there's nobody in the party with Create Water - realistically, there isn't going to be one on a small island - it's why there are so many uninhabited islands in the world - unless you can capture the rain with canvas; perhaps a special plant that will do the job, like the coconuts from palms or cacti). You still gotta eat, so you need to forage.

And do note: the Cure line doesn't help against starvation damage; the Cure line of spells isn't going to break the recourse management game:

Characters might find themselves without food or water and with no means to obtain them. In normal climates, Medium characters need at least a gallon of fluids and about a pound of decent food per day to avoid starvation. (Small characters need half as much.) In very hot climates, characters need two or three times as much water to avoid dehydration.

A character can go without water for 1 day plus a number of hours equal to his Constitution score. After this time, the character must make a Constitution check each hour (DC 10, +1 for each previous check) or take 1d6 points of nonlethal damage.

A character can go without food for 3 days, in growing discomfort. After this time, the character must make a Constitution check each day (DC 10, +1 for each previous check) or take 1d6 points of nonlethal damage.

Characters who have taken nonlethal damage from lack of food or water are fatigued. Nonlethal damage from thirst or starvation cannot be recovered until the character gets food or water, as needed—not even magic that restores hit points heals this damage.(Emphasis added).


2. No ability should be removed on a permanant basis, and if possible, no class should be prohibited. Players like choice, and some choices might seem "powerful" but shouldn't be disallowed because of it.

Vanish the survival skill (as above), and at 3rd, nobody is really going to dominate the game (except, perhaps, the Rogue with maxed-out Hide, Climb, Swim, Move Silently, Search, Spot, Knoweledge(Nature), Knoweledge(Geography), and Listen... who can find basically anything findable on the island, and get close enough to do something about it).

Sure, at 5th, that becomes a different story, as the Full Casters are starting to come into their power zone ... but by then, you've gone through two levels of game play, and basic survival ought to be covered anyway. At this point, you probably want to arrange for the players to have something approaching wealth by level in useful equipment (they can't sell stuff, so they'll probably end up with more than wealth-by-level in non-useful equipment - but that's okay, as it doesn't usually affect the game), just to help with class balance and CR estimation.


3. NPCs should be included in the group originally or added quickly afterwards (on the island previously/exiled later). Some should be trustworthy, others not. Some should be helpful, others not. A high mortality rate is expected - and killing a few NPCs in various ways will help illustrate new challenges or potential threats to the players (ie: to provide them "fair warning" about the pack of velociraptors crocodiles that inhabits the volcanic crater lagoon to the north or the new disease "swamp fever"), while maintaining the gritty feel of the setting.

Would work well. Drop prisoners off when you have enough that it's worth the trip... perhaps lifeboat fulls of 8-20 (with 5-10 lifeboats sent away per prison ship). Some will group up, some will split off, some will wipe themselves out....


So, let's look at a few things we can do:
Classes:
Fighters, Rangers, Monks, Rogues and Barbarians can all be allowed "as-is". (Survival skill discussion is in the skill section.) Monks aren't much better off after the first few days of island life, as fighters can wield clubs and staves at full BAB. Clerics can be limited as bingo_bob has already suggested. Ditto for Sorcerors.

They're starting at 3rd level. Casters are still very squishy; they're not going to dominate. Sure, in two or three levels they're liable to be king of the hill... but in two or three levels, players will very likely be over all the limitations you put before them initially, one way or another, anyway. You don't actually need to limit casters overly much, except for getting them on the island initially.


Wizards *can* be permitted. Spellbooks can be scribed on just about anything, so nothing stops a player from harvesting some birch bark for use as crude paper, harvesting hide to make vellum books, pounding reeds for papyrus, or painting berry juice (or blood) on cave walls, or using their dagger to chisel their spells into a tree's bark. You don't have to provide a spellbook to the player at the time of their exile if you feel this violates realism - just warn them of this at character creation. If you're going the "find abandoned settlements" route, an improvised spellbook might be present in the "loot", but it may not even be portable (painted on walls, chiseled into a tree, etc)!

You would need to do something about scribing materials, though - what they are isn't specified in the books, just that it costs 100 gp per page to do it normally. This might be problematical for a time (until completed spellbooks are found in loot, of course).


Wizards would then "know" their spells, but would remain unable to refresh them once cast. Allow them to have spells already memorized when they're imprisoned, and thus they retain a "last gasp" of their ability before they're just another prisoner with a measly d4 hp. With the effect of INT on skill points, however, wizards can make a sort of "skill-monkey-lite" and focus on craffting and scholarly skills that will turn out to be surprisingly useful (perhaps knowledge(nature) or craft(architecture)). Familiars can be treated as animal comapnions - see comments on the druid below. New spells gained after creation are pure research - even the ones in the PHB. "Free" spells would (should) probably go bye-bye in this gritty setting.

If you find a way around the scribing issue in the first place (permitting the caster's blood to do the job on a large surface, for instance) then the level-up spells don't cause an issue. They're just doing their spell research a little differently, is all. You've got a similar problem with getting a familiar - the ritual, RAW, costs 100 gp in materials, although what they are isn't specified. The Druid can just call an Animal Companion, no costs involved.


Druids are a bit trickier, given the focus of the campaign. First, I suggest renaming the class. This will make it clear that it's not a Druid to players who might wonder. Call it the "Shaman", if you like (I will do so here). That will free you up to disallow the Survival skill if you like (or adopt one of the alternatives I mention later if your players can handle it), without providing a reason a player needs to even wonder about - they're different classes. ("Why does a druid not have Survival?!?")

Because he wasn't raised in the woods. He's a new initiate. Loves nature to death, but hasn't seen anything other than what amounts to parks until now....


Wild Spirit Shape isn't really an insurmountable problem - you can do it a few times a day, but only into small or medium animals (birds and medium-sized predators are probably the most useful in this scenario) until level 8 (at which time bears or tigers become fair game). To limit this if it is too much, require that the druid shaman have "closely studied" an animal of the type into which they change (as opposed to just being "familiar with" them). You control how fast they can do that by limiting availability. No bears, no dire wolves, no eagles, and those darned hummingbirds won't stay put to be studied! Suddenly they have an ability that can turn out to be useful for the whole party, but only if they spend some serious time roleplaying their communion with and study of (hostile or skittish!) natural animals. This makes it more like the sorceror going to hunt bat guano, and provides a method of interaction with the animal (and plant) life of the island beyond the violent application of force. If this limitation is insufficient, require them to create a classic shaman's spirit voyage brew, from rare or hard to acquire components - you can then limit how many times they can use the ability that way as well.

Again - starting at 3rd, this isn't going to pose a problem anyway (at least, no more than it normally does), unless everyone's below expected useful wealth past 5th.


Animal Companions? Not to start - require the character to get one in play. Maybe theirs was killed (executed? fled?) or they didn't yet have one (newly "ordained" or they hadn't decided which one to befriend?). That lets you control which animals you see on the island, and which candidates your shaman can contact. (This might also apply to familiars!)

Divine casting usually requires a focus - and for our converted druid class, that was traditionally mistletoe, oak leaves or holly. Specially harvested dew, silver sickles, and similar focii will be hard to come by. Thus, they can be limited the same way that cleric or paladin spells are limited in this setting.

In a polytheistic society like D&D, the holy symbol may be restricted for transport, but the divine abilities will be needed once they're on the island - let 'em have the focus; it doesn't matter overly much, and 3rd level casters don't break the game (normally).


Skills:
Survival is definitely the sticky wicket, here. If your players are interested in survival as the defining aspect of the majority of this campaign, I'd suggest prohibiting them from taking the skill at creation. You might disallow it completely, if you like, perhaps substituting craft and knowledge skills to break it down more completely. eg: knowledge(nature) for edible plant identification or knowledge(tracking) for follwoing game or tracking foes, but doing this dilutes skills a bit, and some classes (eg: fighters) won't have skill points to keep up with the diversification.

Eh, fighter can just attract a bear, shoot a bird in flight (sling and stones) or whatever. He's got the best chance (other than the Sorcerer with Magic Missile...) of downing something at a distance.


DC manipulation can also be used to make survival more "dangerous". Avoiding quicksand is a DC15 check according to the SRD. If it's a 20, fewer people can do it, and trips into areas where it's known to exist will get delayed until scouts (rangers, shamans, rogues, monks, barbarians) can raise their skills enough to present a likely chance to succeed.

Subsume into Spot (or Search, as Quicksand is very much like a trap).


If you expect to allow players to learn the skill as the campaign moves away from survival and towards (leading a community/escaping the island for other locales) at some point, you could keep them from taking it at the start, then relax it a bit and limit them to cross-class ranks for a time, and consider relaxing the limits to "normal" levels once a functional society exists. That keeps the start of the campaign from dominating the whole campaign, and allows players to adopt more traditional class roles once they're out of "jail" and back on the mainland.

Agreed.


Foraging for food (or other survival rolls) could be much less rolling and more role-ing. Allow the skill, but always make the foraging or quicksand (or any other survival) rolls in secret, and then roleplay the opening of the scene based on success or failure. Maybe they find the quicksand (success), or maybe it finds them (failure). How will they react when the party's shaman is pulled under before they knew it was there? Maybe they find food (success), but an island predator got to it first - fight or go hungry (failure)? Will they fight the crocodile with clubs and daggers for a chance to get that fresh capybara carcass?

I'm a fan of dropping the Survival skill entirely until after they spend an arbitrary period of time on the island. At some point, the stuff of survival will be fairly routine (you've already found water, food sources, edible plants, and so on) and it makes sense to treat it as a skill check


(Or... just roll dice behind the screen, smile to yourself, and present the scenes you want to present and ignore what the dice say!)

Feats:
Splatbook and sourcebook feats I ignore here. I don't have 'em, don't use 'em and can't alk about them fairly.

Plus, there's too many of them.


Eschew Materials should be disallowed at character creation. You might allow them to take it later, but taking it early will be imbalanced for wizards and sorcerors well before the campaign moves into the "seaport" phase where eschewing materials is not a huge bonus.

It doesn't unbalance the game, even in a recourse-tight area, nearly as much as you might think. A spell components pouch is a 5 gp item for a reason; when one feat replaces a 5 gp item (but only half of it - doesn't cover the focuses) it's not a strong feat. Okay, it cuts down on the roleplaying you can do for that particular character, but not by much (he doesn't need to find... ummm... sand? an eyelash? A spider web? A spider? Those shouldn't be hard to find anyway) and the type of challenges it removes are those focused on a single character anyway. You don't usually want to largish portion of a session focused on just one character, like "finding components" could very easily turn into (it's all for the Sorcerer, after all).


Natural Spell has always stuck in my craw. If you allow shamans, consider very carefully whether you will allow this or not. I think it's less than balanced to have a caster with the body of a dire bear and the spell abilities of a high level druid with no penalties to speak of. Hummingbirds are hard to see, but when they're calling lightning out of the sky, are you really looking for one?

Actually, Call Lightning can be cast beforehand, and just triggered after you wildshape. The spell lets you call lightning down, as a standard action, during the duration. The Brokening comes from short-duration personal buff spells. This is, however, a problem with the feat in general, not the specific case.


Improved Familiars should be drawn from the list of animals on the island. Talk to wizard/sorceror players, find out if they're interested, and if so, figure out which animals you're willing to tolerate in your setting. Shocker lizards or stirges, for example, are probably easier to explain than imps, quasits and formians. Early struggles could well be against these animals, for example, and taming one for use as a familiar could be quite satisfying.

Again, though, what's the ritual require? What replaces the 100 gp in components?


Setting Considerations:
Make the island BIG, so that there's always plenty more to find and explore. (Look at Australia.) Consider finding the old Expert-level "D&D" adventure "X1: Isle of Dread" to cannibalize. It might give you some ideas for "lost world" encounters and settings, but I wouldn't blow a lot of cash on it if you find it hard to come by. (It does, however, give some ideas on native villages, evil humanoid temples hidden away from the coasts, and even a few plot hooks.) Dungeon magazine #114 even had a reprint of some of the maps and setting information for an adventure, and your local library *might* have this.

Kasrkin actually seems to be looking at something more akin to an island chain - which serves the same purpose.


Keep us posted - I'm very interested to see how you go with this.
Agreed.

Chronos
2007-08-30, 10:15 PM
Again, though, what's the ritual require? What replaces the 100 gp in components?The DM actually has a great deal of freedom in this regard, since it doesn't actually say what the components are, just their price. You could, for instance, say "Oh, the materials to summon a familiar? It's a special kind of tree bark. But it grows all over the place on this island; it's just usually expensive because of the transportation costs.", and give the wizard his familiar for free. Or you could put the rare tree bark all over the place, but make him pass a Profession (herbalist) or Knowledge (nature) check to recognize it. Or you could say that whatever the materials are are found on the island, but they're just as rare as they are on the mainland, so the cost is the same (though maybe paid for in barter rather than coin). Or you could say that not only are they rare, but only one guy on the island knows where to find them, and he knows you're desparate, so they cost more. Or you could say they're not found on the island at all, so the wizard just can't call a new familiar. And the wizard may or may not still have his original familiar from before he was arrested: The authorities may consider it inhumane to kill a familiar, or it may not have been caught at all (especially if it's a bird).

And I agree that by the time they reach level 5, most of the desert-island challenges should have been overcome. There will maybe be a couple of spell components they still can't find, and the fighter might have to settle for an axe instead of a sword, but by that point the campaign will be basically back on a normal track.

Dervag
2007-08-30, 11:30 PM
I'm liking the last round of suggestions here.


What's the point of a survival game if everyone is a master survivalist? To them it would just be tuesday.Players don't have any fun playing when their characters are useless and have no applicable skills.

That's why people playing wizards don't generally use them as front-line meleers, and why people playing rogues don't enjoy a campaign of "all undead, all the time."


Hmm, from the way you're sounding, you want this to be more like rehabilitation and less like prision. You committed a minor infraction, you need to learn how to cooperate with others and share. Now get on the island!These islands are hundreds of miles from civilization, and the norm is for the prisoners to turn on each other rather than cooperate.

In essence, the goal is to leave troublesome people (not necessarily criminals, even) stranded somewhere they can't make trouble for the people who stranded them there.


Here are your armor, swords, and supplies,I don't think he said that...


Oh, and if you're high enough to cast teleport then, uh, then you're just stupid for getting caught in the first place, heh, heh, heh.A caster capable of teleportation wouldn't be stranded on this island this way; it would be stupid. These guys aren't capable of teleportation, remember? Nobody said it was the only punishment in existence.

Vilehelm
2007-08-31, 05:57 AM
I'd use the optional Training rules, especially for magic-users. For Fighters, Rogues, etc., you could rule that every skill and feat is merely an extension of their existing abilities (unless you deem a certain feat too exotic, in which case he needs to find a trainer).

In case of wizards you don't give them extra spells when they level up, they need to find spellbooks or spell scrolls. Sorcerers likewise first need to see a spell in action, or find a written description of said spell (scroll, spellbook) before they can take it at the next level.

Religious folk need to access a shrine to their deity to receive new spells. Building a shrine could be a nice long-term goal for your religious PCs, also giving them reason to establish a base in your new environment.

Making it harder to access abilities freely gives the players new incentive to develop roleplaying goals.

Jack_Simth
2007-08-31, 06:29 AM
I'd use the optional Training rules, especially for magic-users. For Fighters, Rogues, etc., you could rule that every skill and feat is merely an extension of their existing abilities (unless you deem a certain feat too exotic, in which case he needs to find a trainer).

In case of wizards you don't give them extra spells when they level up, they need to find spellbooks or spell scrolls. Sorcerers likewise first need to see a spell in action, or find a written description of said spell (scroll, spellbook) before they can take it at the next level.

Be very careful; that could turn very sour very quickly. Going from 3rd to 4th, a Sorcerer picks up a 2nd level spell and a cantrip; going from 3rd to 4th, a Wizard will usually pick up two 2nd level spells.

If you institute this, unless you run across a fair number of casters more advanced than the party, who use a very wide range of spells, the Sorcerer won't be able to choose spells; he either takes the spells you dictate, or none at all. It's very, very easy to resent this, as Sorcerers must be very careful with their spell selection; they can't change their choices very quickly at all, and they must avoid spells with overlapping functions. The Sorcerer with Detect Magic won't usually want Arcane Sight; the Sorcerer with Mirror Image won't want Blurr; and so on. In general, you're not going to be putting nearly as much thought into the Sorcerer's spell selection as a good Sorcerer player will - but if you institute this, you're basically dictating the Sorcerer's spell selection entirely. This is one of the fastest ways to gimp a Sorcerer without meaning to - and the gimping is basically permanent, too.

The Wizard is only mildly better off - in that any disagreements you have with the player over what makes a spell worthy of preparation can be corrected after the fact.


Religious folk need to access a shrine to their deity to receive new spells. Building a shrine could be a nice long-term goal for your religious PCs, also giving them reason to establish a base in your new environment.

It's not a long-term goal, it's something they'll need within the next three or four sessions. They must have it by the time they level.


Making it harder to access abilities freely gives the players new incentive to develop roleplaying goals.
Sometimes, yes.

Neon Knight
2007-08-31, 06:41 AM
Well, that's a ton of responses. I saw a lot of good suggestions. I'm going to have to go over this whole thread with a comb later on to make sure I don't miss anything.

I still haven't seen anything that really solves the primary problem, at least as I see it. It is much easier for a Sorcerer or Divine Caster to find the materials he requires to achieve his fullpower than it is for the Fighter, who needs the capacities of a smith in order to acquire metal armor.

Perhaps some salvage is in order? Maybe at one point the Fighter could find a rusted old suit of armor, and they need an NPC blacksmith and blacksmithing supplies from a failed camp in order to get the armor wearable and useful again. Or something.

Perhaps I can give them swords, but not really. A macuahuitl style weapon, a club with volcanic glass blades. The glass isn't all that sturdy, so you eventually end up with a club, but for a short while you have a potent cutting weapon.

Citizen Joe
2007-08-31, 07:26 AM
If a 'civilized' group of convicts formed their own little town, then a forge would be a possibility. But metal would be in such rare quantities that making a suit of armor is too expensive a proposition. Leather and hide armors would be available and you might be able to get or fabricate a breastplate out a a turtle shell. Laminated armors of japan are also a possibility (I think they count as banded). But on a group of islands that may flood often, metal armor is just an anchor.

Diving wrecks may yield some treasures, but keep in mind that a wreck implies sailors, and sailors implies non-metal armor lest they drown. But weapons would be available. It shouldn't be TOO difficult to pick up 3-4 points of armour. 5-6 points should be a reward for ingenuity. Simple weapons should be easy to find, martial weapons would take ingenuity as well. The exotic stuff would be pure luck.

But that isn't really the point. It isn't like they are fighting a dragon. Likely opponents will be animals an other convicts. The other convicts will drive up their CR by shear numbers, not by better equipment. Situational modifiers and ingenuity will win out against animals.

Just remember that PC's are just a bunch of stats. They are people with ideas. Anyone can think up a great new tactic to give everyone an advantage. Anyone can negotiate with opponents. Everyone can find a role and a way to help. Or they could turn on each other over that last candy bar and end the campaign in one night.

Ralfarius
2007-08-31, 12:48 PM
If you did allow druids, by the time he could cast Ironwood (http://www.systemreferencedocuments.org/35/sovelior_sage/spellsHtoL.html#ironwood), he could just whittle the warrior up some fullplate. :smallbiggrin:

Funkyodor
2007-08-31, 01:03 PM
Why would metal have to be rare? Just because mining is the most efficient way to get metal out of the earth, doesn't mean it is the only way. Players find a stream with a red tinge. Survival wouldn't help with knowing that this is an indication of iron (rust) somewhere in the stream, but someone (one of the other prisoners or the one doing the smithing) with a related Knowlege skill would know. This could help with the armor acquisition. Have it be decaying armored skeletons lining the stream bed (undead combat opportunity), natural iron ore close to the surface, or whatever...

Jayabalard
2007-08-31, 01:28 PM
Why would metal have to be rare? Just because mining is the most efficient way to get metal out of the earth, doesn't mean it is the only way. Players find a stream with a red tinge. Survival wouldn't help with knowing that this is an indication of iron (rust) somewhere in the stream, but someone (one of the other prisoners or the one doing the smithing) with a related Knowlege skill would know. This could help with the armor acquisition. Have it be decaying armored skeletons lining the stream bed (undead combat opportunity), natural iron ore close to the surface, or whatever...

Rusted and decayed armor in the stream bed; even in metal armor there are lots of small non-metal fittings (leather, padding, little buckles, rivets, etc). I'm sure something could be improvised but it's still going to be improvised armor.

as for the natural iron ore... refining metals isn't that simple of a process, nor is making steel. You can't just pick up a chunk of iron ore, heat it up in the campfire and pound it into a breastplate.

Aquillion
2007-08-31, 02:14 PM
The point is not to permanently nerf them. The point is to render them safe for travel in such a way that they can eventually get back into fighting trim.If it's just travel, and the game is starting here... why bother going into this much detail? Forcibly lowering the players stats is always bad; I don't think I should have to explain this. You should never, ever, ever just tell a player that their most important stats are dropping, not unless you want to give them at least a fair chance to fight back and recover. The 'drugged food' scenerio described above, with a trick designed to keep the players from actually getting to play the game or do anything about it, is honestly one of the worst DMing examples I've ever heard, on par with dropping in a DM PC who does all the actual heroics. It is simply no fun for anyone but the DM, and not likely to be very fun for them after the first few seconds, either.

If it's just travel, why not just open the scene on the island as the ship sails away? The players are left with a box containing all the essential things like spellbooks and so forth. A level 3 spellcaster is not an overwhelming superforce; you don't exactly need to delve into those "DM FAIT: Your stats are all 3! And also, your feet are nailed to the floor!" to explain how they can be held for long enough to deliver them to the island. If they've been bound and gagged for the trip, what can they do?

Heck, just throw a few level 5 or 6 characters on the boat to escort them, including a several primary casters. Problem solved. Or say that the boat that delivers them is, itself, the focus of some sort of anti-magic field... there are lots of ways to do it. Or, since we're opening the scene here, just inform the players that they used up all their spells when they were initially captured, and haven't had a chance to renew them yet (this won't work for sorcerers, but at level 3 they have nothing but level 1 spells--it doesn't really matter for them, does it?)

The important thing is just don't directly take away the player's abilities. Restricting them during character generation is one thing, but directly taking away the player's abilities via DM fiat without giving them a chance to fight back is always bad, no exceptions. It's one of the most classic newbie DM mistakes.

NamelessArchon
2007-08-31, 03:49 PM
I still haven't seen anything that really solves the primary problem, at least as I see it. It is much easier for a Sorcerer or Divine Caster to find the materials he requires to achieve his fullpower than it is for the Fighter, who needs the capacities of a smith in order to acquire metal armor.Hogwash. As several of us have pointed out, it's only as hard to acquire those things as you (The DM) want it to be. If you want it to be a nightmarish struggle, it can be. If you want to gloss it over, you can.

Examples for Iron Weapons and Armor:
Need a smelter and forge built? Well, one of the exiles living on the island is an architect with quite a bit of experience in civil engineering, but he went looking for some food two islands east with a hunting party, and none of them have returned yet. (Ambushed by lizardfolk and captured for food and ritual sacrifices!) When the players rescue him, he could be persuaded to aid their grand vision of a thriving colony, since they saved him...

Don't have blacksmithing skills? Well, a couple of weeks after the PCs arrive, a blacksmith gets caught padding his bills while selling to the royal armory on the mainland. He'll be along in another month or so to teach the Fighter the finer points of Profession(Blacksmithing) and Craft(Weaponsmithing) as well as Craft(Armorsmithing). He's actually a lawful evil cultist, though, so he'll eventually need to be removed, or he'll convert a segment of the populace to try and take over the blossoming seaport through a violent uprising! Power to him... er... the people!

Can't find iron ore? Well, that's up to you, DM. Maybe near that volcanic lagoon, there's a cave network, home to a tribe of kobolds (who have a cultural stigma forbidding them from visiting the surface themselves) who'd happily trade their surplus iron ore for foozles that can be had elsewhere, once the players defeat the macguffin that's made its lair/casino/congressional seat/temple there. Of course, there's a guy at the next camp to the west who would trade lessons in kobold speech for a year's supply of delectable smoked and salted rainbow newt, which a guy three islands north will trade to the PCs in exchange for a log canoe with outriggers, which a woman in their own village can make, but not without some vine rope harvested from... (This sequence can be extended as desired.)

In the meantime, until you can survive an encounter with the bears/clueless tourists/rabid congressmen/undead and negotiate with the kobolds, there are a few caches around the island with badly maintained weapons and armor (-2 AC, +2 armor check penalty) that could be refitted and refurbished (reducing penalties) as a stopgap for both your fighters or (eventually) the local militia for your new seaport!

All of these are plot hooks - and all of them are steps towards gving your fighters their iron armor. Think of each "challenge" as a Mad Lib, where the rewards are always (or nearly) thing X needed for survival or seaport enlargement, and the challenge is not always directly solvable by just picking up Thing X off the ground, and you've got adventures. Steps along the road to civilization don't even have to be radical advancements.

Improving the quality of life for your citizens by providing iron weapons from the start is fine, but finding someone to make crude copper spearheads and bronze maces for everyone will probably help more against the giant army ants the village has to fend off once a year, since it requires less startup and the ants are coming in two weeks regardless of whether the players have a seaport or not!

Bone/Stone > Bronze/Copper > Iron > Steel. That's how we advanced in the "real world" and there's no reason your convict capital needs to skip steps in the progression. (Your casters will be hindered by limited spell selection, your fighters by inferior weapons and armor, and your skill monkeys by... well... it's hard to hinder skill monkeys so easily, but remember the rules on improvised or lacking tools...) You can tolerate an artificially fast progression up the tech tree - just use your judgement. Throw more challenges when you want it to be slower, and have fortuitous circumstances when you need it to be sooner.


Perhaps I can give them swords, but not really. A macuahuitl style weapon, a club with volcanic glass blades. The glass isn't all that sturdy, so you eventually end up with a club, but for a short while you have a potent cutting weapon.Obsidian edged, or stone/bone weapons are mentioned in the DMG, I think. They'd work, but they'd usually be inferior to metal ones, by RAW. Copper or bronze might be available too - and you don't need quite as much specialized equipment to be able to hammer copper or smelt bronze as you do for iron and steel.

Neon Knight
2007-08-31, 04:36 PM
Hogwash. As several of us have pointed out, it's only as hard to acquire those things as you (The DM) want it to be. If you want it to be a nightmarish struggle, it can be. If you want to gloss it over, you can.

Examples for Iron Weapons and Armor:
Need a smelter and forge built? Well, one of the exiles living on the island is an architect with quite a bit of experience in civil engineering, but he went looking for some food two islands east with a hunting party, and none of them have returned yet. (Ambushed by lizardfolk and captured for food and ritual sacrifices!) When the players rescue him, he could be persuaded to aid their grand vision of a thriving colony, since they saved him...

Don't have blacksmithing skills? Well, a couple of weeks after the PCs arrive, a blacksmith gets caught padding his bills while selling to the royal armory on the mainland. He'll be along in another month or so to teach the Fighter the finer points of Profession(Blacksmithing) and Craft(Weaponsmithing) as well as Craft(Armorsmithing). He's actually a lawful evil cultist, though, so he'll eventually need to be removed, or he'll convert a segment of the populace to try and take over the blossoming seaport through a violent uprising! Power to him... er... the people!

Can't find iron ore? Well, that's up to you, DM. Maybe near that volcanic lagoon, there's a cave network, home to a tribe of kobolds (who have a cultural stigma forbidding them from visiting the surface themselves) who'd happily trade their surplus iron ore for foozles that can be had elsewhere, once the players defeat the macguffin that's made its lair/casino/congressional seat/temple there. Of course, there's a guy at the next camp to the west who would trade lessons in kobold speech for a year's supply of delectable smoked and salted rainbow newt, which a guy three islands north will trade to the PCs in exchange for a log canoe with outriggers, which a woman in their own village can make, but not without some vine rope harvested from... (This sequence can be extended as desired.)

In the meantime, until you can survive an encounter with the bears/clueless tourists/rabid congressmen/undead and negotiate with the kobolds, there are a few caches around the island with badly maintained weapons and armor (-2 AC, +2 armor check penalty) that could be refitted and refurbished (reducing penalties) as a stopgap for both your fighters or (eventually) the local militia for your new seaport!

All of these are plot hooks - and all of them are steps towards gving your fighters their iron armor. Think of each "challenge" as a Mad Lib, where the rewards are always (or nearly) thing X needed for survival or seaport enlargement, and the challenge is not always directly solvable by just picking up Thing X off the ground, and you've got adventures. Steps along the road to civilization don't even have to be radical advancements.

Improving the quality of life for your citizens by providing iron weapons from the start is fine, but finding someone to make crude copper spearheads and bronze maces for everyone will probably help more against the giant army ants the village has to fend off once a year, since it requires less startup and the ants are coming in two weeks regardless of whether the players have a seaport or not!

Bone/Stone > Bronze/Copper > Iron > Steel. That's how we advanced in the "real world" and there's no reason your convict capital needs to skip steps in the progression. (Your casters will be hindered by limited spell selection, your fighters by inferior weapons and armor, and your skill monkeys by... well... it's hard to hinder skill monkeys so easily, but remember the rules on improvised or lacking tools...) You can tolerate an artificially fast progression up the tech tree - just use your judgement. Throw more challenges when you want it to be slower, and have fortuitous circumstances when you need it to be sooner.

Obsidian edged, or stone/bone weapons are mentioned in the DMG, I think. They'd work, but they'd usually be inferior to metal ones, by RAW. Copper or bronze might be available too - and you don't need quite as much specialized equipment to be able to hammer copper or smelt bronze as you do for iron and steel.

You'd be mistaken there. Bronze is an alloy composed of Copper and some other metal, usually Tin. It is traditionally equal or better than iron for most purposes, but it is more difficult and expensive to produce, and steel completely outclasses it in addition to being cheaper.

Copper might be easier to forge, but it is worse than iron.

The main problem is that the terrain of these islands is dominated by swamps and marshes. You know, the Florida everglades style swamps? Not much dry ground, and little material explicitly designed to the construction of large scale buildings. An Architect wouldn't have much to work with.

Secondly, these are islands. Islands are typically not rich in ore. Of any sort. Period.

Anyway, supposedly the obsidian edged macuahuitl of the Aztecs was sharp enough to behead a man. Mechanics wise, it would function as well as steel blade, but the glass blades would break and he'd eventually be left with a club until he replaced the blades.

As to the rest...

I do NOT want my campaign to be one of those lame side quests were you must trade a series of objects through a long list of people just to get what you need.

I think I should clarify something. There are very few people on these islands. The point of the campaign is that all previous attempts to create civilization have failed because the individuals could not trust each other or cooperate. Having any pre-established civilization aside from one or two old timers who have managed to carve out a few refugees that they jealously keep from everyone else destroys the feel of what I'm going for.

The intent is that they won't run into people all that often unless they actively try to protect/incorporate NPCs into their plan. Any NPC they leave on its own will probably succumb to the swamps.

NamelessArchon
2007-08-31, 10:07 PM
You'd be mistaken (...)Usually badly, but that's never stopped me from offering ideas before. Judging by your response, perhaps it should.


The main problem is that the terrain of these islands is dominated by swamps and marshes.It's your campaign map, so take this with some salt, but "dominated by" does not instantly equate to "comprised almost solely of". If you want to prohibit iron or copper, or superconducting aluminum alloys, because they're not naturally occuring then that's solely your purview. If you were looking for ways to incorporate them in a setting that hasn't been "started" in play yet, I sought to offer some. You're not. Point taken.


Secondly, these are islands. Islands are typically not rich in ore. Of any sort. Period.A realism argument, about a setting in an RPG? I'll concede that this is probably the case, if we're talking about Earth. It's not always guaranteed to be the case if we're talking about places where people routinely tell the laws of physics to shut up and sit down.

Again - it's your world, boss.


I do NOT want my campaign to be one of those lame side quests were you must trade a series of objects through a long list of people just to get what you need.What your campaign is or is not, is your business and your decision. I'm not trying to force you to do anything, and I'm certainly not here to argue about it - I have better things to do than "win the interwebz". I'll be heading over /there/ now, particularly since I'm really not sure I have anything further that would be constructive to offer.

Neon Knight
2007-08-31, 10:15 PM
Usually badly, but that's never stopped me from offering ideas before. Judging by your response, perhaps it should.

It's your campaign map, so take this with some salt, but "dominated by" does not instantly equate to "comprised almost solely of". If you want to prohibit iron or copper, or superconducting aluminum alloys, because they're not naturally occuring then that's solely your purview. If you were looking for ways to incorporate them in a setting that hasn't been "started" in play yet, I sought to offer some. You're not. Point taken.

A realism argument, about a setting in an RPG? I'll concede that this is probably the case, if we're talking about Earth. It's not always guaranteed to be the case if we're talking about places where people routinely tell the laws of physics to shut up and sit down.

Again - it's your world, boss.

What your campaign is or is not, is your business and your decision. I'm not trying to force you to do anything, and I'm certainly not here to argue about it - I have better things to do than "win the interwebz". I'll be heading over /there/ now, particularly since I'm really not sure I have anything further that would be constructive to offer.

I was more than a bit harsh, and I'm sorry. I wish I could blame it on irritability from seasonal allergies, and although they certainly don't help, I had no cause to be so terse with you.

The you'd be wrong there was merely about the metallurgy section, and the rest of your post was perfectly relevant, well thought out, and of generally high quality. Just not what I'm looking for in this game.

NamelessArchon
2007-08-31, 10:24 PM
The you'd be wrong there was merely about the metallurgy sectionBlast it, Jinn, I'm a DM, not a metallurgist! :smallbiggrin: I knew what you meant. The point of all of that was an attempt to offer you some alternatives, nothing more. Sometimes, it's not the ideas we hear that have the most value, but the ideas we get from thinking about it after we've rejected the things we hear.


Just not what I'm looking for in this game.They used the deserted island volleyball scene in a movie, I think... :smallwink:

Tekraen
2007-08-31, 10:36 PM
Metal armor is going to be a not-so-good idea on an island like this, anyway. The seawater proximity is going to corrode it, and metal polish is going to be tough to come by unless a master armorsmith happens to come to the island.

Truth be told, I look at a situation like this as a freeform game rather than having people rely on stats, because there's going to be folks that just won't get as good a time as others. Even so, your fighter does have some advantages.

As has been said, he can go Spartan and have a spear or club. What's more, since technology on the island is going to be stagnant, a shield made from scavenged wooden slats and tied with vine is going to be a lot more effective. Tactics, movement, cover and concealment are going to be the buzzwords of the adventure. A fighter's strong arm is great for building, but it's going to be his ability to think on his feet, pull his enemy into fighting on his terms, maneuvering where certain weapons can't be used - all of this is going to be what makes a combat character shine. Work with a thief or a ranger and set traps to defend the turf you stake. Channel people into zones where they can't flank or surround. Get a couple of semidecent bark/wooden shields so they can deflect club strikes, rather than worry about iron and steel. Heck, get thick enough hide wrapped around a forearm and you can interpret it as a buckler or small shield.

Alternatively, you can have a system much like Modesitt's Recluce Saga, where they are being exiled from the homeland and taught skills that best reflect their class/personality, then sent off into the world with the equipment they managed to acquire themselves, usually through their famillies prior to the training. This would allow the scenario you still want, but give them whatever equipment you think is necessary in order for them to complete the campaign you have in mind (which I hope would be find a way off the @)(% island).

Zeful
2007-09-01, 12:05 AM
Let's see, a humane society dropping prisoners on a swamp island with some supplies... hmm... interesting.

In this situation transport is easy, two or three 6th level arcane casters with sleep/hold person/color spray/charm person and a sap to the back of the head are your way of getting them on the island.

The prisoners are dropped with a small crate of supplies that they select before being rendered unconscious/peaceful. Inside is a small book that is desribing their situation and is the wizard's spellbook, it's filled from front to back with only fifteen to twenty 'approved' spells, though you can have empty pages if you want them to find other spells. and a handfull of generic and obvious supplies and a week and a half days food for three people (regarless of party size). I would push for people not to take Eschew Materials because you can easily include most costless spell components on the island to begin with, but I wouldn't ban it.

Most of the constraints of divine casters are that they 'know' every spell they can cast, giving them a strong edge over other caster types, I don't think it'll be too much of a problem unless clerics with the travel domain show up, once they get fifth level spells, they can teleport.

As for the swampy island chain, it's kind of an oxymoron, the tides will keep anything from getting stagnant and it just doesn't have the same feel as a bog or swamp, it just a wet island.

Though in the end it's your decision.

Neon Knight
2007-09-01, 12:13 AM
As for the swampy island chain, it's kind of an oxymoron, the tides will keep anything from getting stagnant and it just doesn't have the same feel as a bog or swamp, it just a wet island.


Oh, dear. I continually hear references to coastal mangrove swamps and salt marshes. If you could point me to a solid page explaining exactly how these mangrove swamps and salt marshes form, perhaps I could come up with something more reasonable?

Dervag
2007-09-01, 01:48 AM
It's not a long-term goal, it's something they'll need within the next three or four sessions. They must have it by the time they level.Yes, and each session can cover a month or more of game time, remember?

Obviously, they can't build a shrine overnight. But all the actual challenges involved in building the shrine can be completed in a small amount of real time even if they take weeks of game time.

Many D&D campaigns seem to be fast-paced, working on the assumption that players face their four level-appropriate encounters a day on many days, so that they can advance by several levels in only a few months. It doesn't have to work that way, especially in a setting where most of the PCs' energy will be dedicated to tasks that do not produce XPs (such as avoiding starvation).


If a 'civilized' group of convicts formed their own little town, then a forge would be a possibility. But metal would be in such rare quantities that making a suit of armor is too expensive a proposition. Leather and hide armors would be available and you might be able to get or fabricate a breastplate out a a turtle shell. Laminated armors of japan are also a possibility (I think they count as banded). But on a group of islands that may flood often, metal armor is just an anchor.Well, old armor might be found on the islands- perhaps this chain was once home to a Bronze Age civilization that collapsed by ticking off the God of Volcanoes, and the occasional corroded bronze cuirass can still be found buried in the ashes.


Diving wrecks may yield some treasures, but keep in mind that a wreck implies sailors, and sailors implies non-metal armor lest they drown. But weapons would be available. It shouldn't be TOO difficult to pick up 3-4 points of armour. 5-6 points should be a reward for ingenuity. Simple weapons should be easy to find, martial weapons would take ingenuity as well. The exotic stuff would be pure luck.That sounds like a good rule.


Why would metal have to be rare? Just because mining is the most efficient way to get metal out of the earth, doesn't mean it is the only way. Players find a stream with a red tinge. Survival wouldn't help with knowing that this is an indication of iron (rust) somewhere in the stream, but someone (one of the other prisoners or the one doing the smithing) with a related Knowlege skill would know. This could help with the armor acquisition. Have it be decaying armored skeletons lining the stream bed (undead combat opportunity), natural iron ore close to the surface, or whatever...The problem is that while you can get iron out of the red-tinged earth of certain bogs and streambeds, it's really bad iron and you still need at least a crude smithy to work it. It can be done, certainly. But it isn't easy or fast.


You'd be mistaken there. Bronze is an alloy composed of Copper and some other metal, usually Tin. It is traditionally equal or better than iron for most purposes, but it is more difficult and expensive to produce, and steel completely outclasses it in addition to being cheaper.You're right, and it's even worse than that. Tin is also very hard to find in most places in the world; the odds of there being any on these islands is slim, though it is possible. Copper is much more common, and iron more common still.


The main problem is that the terrain of these islands is dominated by swamps and marshes. You know, the Florida everglades style swamps? Not much dry ground, and little material explicitly designed to the construction of large scale buildings. An Architect wouldn't have much to work with.Ah-hah! A challenge!

Seriously, there has to be some solid ground on the islands, and there are ways to build stuff in a swamp (like sinking piles into the ground). It isn't easy, and nobody would do it unless they expected to be able to profit from the effort of building it for a long time, but it could be done.


Secondly, these are islands. Islands are typically not rich in ore. Of any sort. Period.Weeelll... that depends on the islands.

Islands formed by volcanic eruption in the middle of the ocean (like the Hawaiian chain) are metal-poor. Islands formed by coral reefs building up on a submerged seamount are even poorer. But some islands do have significant metal reserves, especially of the more common metals. A lot depends on how big the islands are. Remember that 'island chain' and 'mountain range' are geologically very similar animals, the main difference being that the island chain starts below sea level.


Anyway, supposedly the obsidian edged macuahuitl of the Aztecs was sharp enough to behead a man. Mechanics wise, it would function as well as steel blade, but the glass blades would break and he'd eventually be left with a club until he replaced the blades.Try giving him a fixed number of 'thwacks' before the blades break; it'll save on dice rolling.


I do NOT want my campaign to be one of those lame side quests were you must trade a series of objects through a long list of people just to get what you need.Stout fellow! Hurrah!


I think I should clarify something. There are very few people on these islands. The point of the campaign is that all previous attempts to create civilization have failed because the individuals could not trust each other or cooperate. Having any pre-established civilization aside from one or two old timers who have managed to carve out a few refugees that they jealously keep from everyone else destroys the feel of what I'm going for.Do you mean in the recent past, or for all time? Was there ever a civilization here, or were these islands totally unknown to humankind before the current Empire discovered them (like, say, Bermuda)?

Citizen Joe
2007-09-01, 08:39 AM
Here is a link to some info on the formation of the Hawaiian Island chain (http://www.hawaii.edu/environment/ainakumuwai/html/ainakumuwaiislandformation.htm)
You should note that, except for birds and sea life, the islands are too small to support a land based natural predator. Something may have been introduced (actually people are the worst predators) but without some malicious intent, nothing larger than a house cat would have slipped onto the island.

Sea based creatures could be a viable threat, including amphibious creatures. That tends to push dwellings and encampments away from the beaches. Maybe Sahuagin raids on the full moon.

Bogs and swamps tend to be estuaries or entirely fresh (if stagnant) water. So if you have a swamp, you'll need a fresh water source uphill. A volcanic caldera with a lake is a good option. Also pay attention to the prevailing winds and how clouds can be caught and stripped of their moisture. On low islands, plants will form to collect rain water, like bromiliads.

Saltwater crocs are conceivable, but unlikely unless relatively close to the mainland. Be careful with snakes though. Snakes eat eggs, so if you have snakes you won't have nesting birds. Sea birds may still be there, but no nesting birds.

Imported animals, like pigs and other farm animals, may be likely as part of a colonization effort. But these are usually disastrous for the environment.

Anyway, my suggestion is a ring of coral based islands with a much larger volcanic island inside. The reefs prevent ships from getting to the main island so people get dropped off at the perimeter chain. During low tides, the reef can be crossed on foot. During EXTREME low tides a land bridge may be available to the main island. This lets you tailor the difficulty to the level of the party. At first, they are really just dealing with the environment. Eventually, they can get some rudimentary equipment and face off against other prisoners and other small opponents. As they advance, they can proceed to more resource intensive islands, which also have fiercer opposition (since they got there first and are defending their stuff). Eventually, drop hints/legends/rumors about devil men or beast men from the big island. This can lead to a confrontation with sahuagin or headhunters in dug out canoes from the big island. When the party is sufficiently powerful, the rare annual low tide could make a trek to the big island possible. More resources, fiercer competition, etc. Also add in some shipwrecks within the ring (like I said, reefs make it impossible to get to the big island by sea).

Neon Knight
2007-09-01, 01:12 PM
Citizen Joe: That is helpfully awesome (awesomely helpful?). You get a cookie.

Dervag: A good point about the availability of the metal on islands. I'm afraid I fell into the trap of making broad generalizations. I should have listened to Admiral Ackbar.

I think Citizen Joe's island chain fits the bill perfectly.

Citizen Joe
2007-09-01, 02:40 PM
I highly recommend some sort of heartless killing machine inside the coral ring. This isn't so much a threat against the characters as a means to isolate threats. For example, if there is a tribe of Sahuagin, they would have no problem wiping out anything on the outer ring. But if there were a creature that would attack even them, then they would be confined to a smaller territory. A kraken would be a decent threat. I'd throw in more commonly encounter giant crabs (as its main food source). Sharks would also be common both inside and outside the ring. I'd heavily populate the area with tropical fish and there should be some 'safe zones' in the water where it is shallow. Make sure the characters see shark fins in the deep water areas so they know better than to try to swim, but don't mention the Kraken. An added benefit of the kraken is that it can control weather and winds. That means you get to arbitrarily decide what the weather will be, rather than use natural weather phenomena. Likewise, it can explain any number of wrecks as it may be playing god and luring pirates in.

Regular squids are a good aquatic foe, and a giant squid would make for an excellent fake out to trick the party into thinking they killed the kraken. Octopi are more common in warm waters though.

Sharks are a good staple as well, but less likely to be encountered (you can avoid them if you have to).

Porpoise are good too, but its either porpoise or sharks, since they are mutual enemies. One side will kill off the other. Sharks tend to be in cold water while porpoise are in temperate.

Sea snakes are a more common threat, particularly in the shallow waters. But they aren't that aggressive unless you are of 'preferred prey size' which is usually a small fish.

Manta rays (even regular rays) will be common in the shallows, but not particularly aggressive.

Urchins can be a 'trap' for those crossing the tide pools. They have poisonous spines if you step on them. Could also be used as weapons.

'giant' crabs (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coconut_crab) are possible, ranging from tiny to small sized without being high fantasy.

Neon Knight
2007-09-01, 06:52 PM
Any opinions on how stays should be generated? I was thinking 28 or 30 point buy.

Machete
2007-09-01, 07:19 PM
For a game where they have minimal equipment, 30-32 maybe even more.

Citizen Joe
2007-09-01, 08:49 PM
Part of the point is to get the players to use their wits, not necessarily the characters. Thus 28-30 should be fine. Stats aren't going to save you from starvation, or keep you dry when a storm blows through.

You might start them at 28 points, then as a reward for becoming reasonably adept at surviving (good food source, fresh water, avoiding disease), give them another 4 points to represent recovery from the damage they sustained from the long trip and malnourished state. Maybe break it into two 2 point bonuses.

DeathQuaker
2007-09-02, 08:52 AM
I still haven't seen anything that really solves the primary problem, at least as I see it. It is much easier for a Sorcerer or Divine Caster to find the materials he requires to achieve his fullpower

It's as easy as you make it. Again, if you deny them Divine Foci and spell components, they have to work a lot harder to access their spell power, and how easy it is for them to find components is entirely up to you.

And again, if spellcasters still seem to have an edge, that's also why I suggested Wild Magic zones, to make spellcasting still sometimes useful, but unpredictable and possibly dangerous. (Note I don't think EVERY area should be a wild magic zone, just that they should exist through the area.)



than it is for the Fighter, who needs the capacities of a smith in order to acquire metal armor.

Metal armor isn't the be-all and end-all to a fighter's effectiveness. And in fact, a finesse-based fighter with a high dex is better off in light armors anyway. And weapons like a quarterstaff are underestimated -- it does a reliable 1d6 damage and can be TWFed.

And otherwise, think about alternative sources for armor than metal. In addition to Hide armor, which is relatively easily made -- check out some "alternative armor materials" in various sourcebooks that might be suitable for your setting. The Arms and Equipment Guide is a good place to start:

Chitin Armor -- armor made from exoskeletal creatures. The party defends their meager camp from a Giant Spider or Wasp, and the fighter fashions a breastplate from the creature's tough thorax.

Bronzewood -- A very hard wood that can be fashioned into a number of armors and weapons. the challenge for the party is, especially if they come from an urban environment, learning to recognize the plant that produces it.

Elukian Clay - A stone-like material seeped out from the Elemental Plane of water--and therefore likely to exist in a fantasy island setting; while wet and malleable it can be shaped into many armors and bludgeoning weapons (can't hold an edge), but it takes a few days to dry and harden. Again the challenge is to recognize it for what it is and learn to use it.

You could also homebrew your own.... perhaps a special kind of coral grows off the coast that would make good weapons, or a kind of tree grows massive, durable leaves that make nicely protective material, but you have to fight off the creatures that live in the tree first...

Eldritch_Ent
2007-09-02, 11:39 AM
If need be, I suppose sand could be used for Color Spray. (I mean, it IS a powder, and off-white is still a color...)


But either way I see no problem with allowing druids, monks, or warlocks into this scenario- at level 3, none of them are particularly gamebreaking even in this element, and given you'll be stripping EVERYONE at the beggining, throwing them a few bones won't hurt. (You might want to limit the Druid's shapechanging into only Native Animals that he's studied, though.) Especially since Monk and Warlock are somewhat underpowered in the long run. What's wrong with putting them in a situation where they'll actually be useful? Make the monk happy with his character choice for once!

the thing is, apparently they'll come into their own anyway after a few levels- The Wizard might fashion a crude set of spell scrolls out of willow bark or animal hides, (Which doesn't fit as much in the same space as regular paper, but page space isn't much of an issue till the later levels anyway, in which case he'll be feeling the pinch as he'll have to decide which spells to carry with him.)

the warrior might use a spear tipped with a horn or fang (keep in mind monsters with Damage Reduction also have natural weapons that are effectively what ignores that DR. It'd make hunting down harder kills actually notable- What party in this situation wouldn't want Gnollhide armor with it's +1 armor bonus?)

The party Eschew Materials feat only works for materials that are, in essence, free or otherwise common- It's mostly convenience anyway, but I agree you might not want to allow characters to take it on creation. (But I really think you should don't limit players from taking Survival or feats like that once play begins.)

for Psions and Psychic warriors, stick with the crystal motif- Make them have to harvest and find sources of crystal to restore their powers or learn new ones. (Maybe cap his PP restoration at 1 for each crystal he has in his possession- he'll be wanting them badly, but so will other spellcasters want their reagents. Make him have to find more if he wants a Capacitor, Psicrystal, or Dorjes- he'll think hard exchanging his daily PP for things like that.)

for Warlocks, they're kinda weak anyway- at best they'll be turrets, able to hold a position and scare off things, and the slow flight could be useful for getting over swamps and things. They'll be great early on, and a valuable resource worth protecting, but once established they'll start being overshadowed again.

For Priests, make them have to establish a small to their gods to gain new spells, and make them have to carve or make a symbol appropriate to their deity. Possibly forcing him to find the proper materials to do so. (It could make for a great roleplaying opportunity having him be the Chaplain for himself or trying to preach to the locals. )

The same goes for Paladins- Who might want to consider a different kind of Mount than a Horse. You can also temporarily strip them (and lawful divine casters) of their powers temporarily by their god censuring them for being judged Guilty of a Crime, thus breaking local laws. (But since it's minor, the ban lifts in a month or so.)

The Fighter can still make do with clubs and hammers and bone armor at first. Plus, he'll have the best Fort saves and STR rating out of anyone, making him priceless for hacking trees, carrying things, and even not catching Malaria. Have the party get sick, and you'll bet he'll be taking care of the others while they're having Fever comas.) The same goes for the Barbarian, though his Damage resistance will let him ignore things like Pirahnas and thorn bushes (He'll be sent in first since he doesn't take damage he won't roll for wound infe ction as much.)

Monks will even be more useful, especially given their immunity to normal diseases (Which level was that given at again?), their high land speed, and ability to speak with any living thing. The fact they get additional natural armor will make them happy campers, and their lay on hands will be really valuable. However, they're still monks- and thus don't really need the nerf bat.

Druids can be stopped by keeping their holly and such away from them. Make it only grow on a specific island a few islands away- (One they'll be able to reach in a level or two.)

The rogue is, oddly enough, the least hurt by all this, and will in fact do well since a Skillmonkey will be vital. He'll probably also use the spines or obsidian chipped daggers or something for damage.


There's my two bits. Hope it helps.

Citizen Joe
2007-09-02, 12:28 PM
Here is a list of druid spells that could be cast without the holly/mistletoe/oak Divine focus:
level 0:
* Create Water
* Cure Minor Wounds
* Detect Magic
* Detect Poison
* Flare
* Guidance
* Know Direction
* Mending
* Purify Food and Drink
* Read Magic (requires a clear crystal focus)

Level 1:
* Calm Animals
* Charm Animal
* Cure Light Wounds
* Detect Animals or Plants
* Detect Snares and Pits
* Endure Elements
* Jump (grasshopper leg, this can be tricky, crickets are more likely, but actual grasshoppers aren't too common on islands)
* Longstrider (pinch of dirt, not available on a beach but if they can find foliage, then dirt can be found)
* Obscuring Mist
* Produce Flame
* Speak with Animals

Level 2:
* Animal Messenger (morsel of food, relatively easy)
* Animal Trance
* Cat's Grace (cat fur, probably hard to find)
* Fire Trap (25 gp gold dust, hard to find and make)
* Fog Cloud
* Gust of Wind
* Hold Animal
* Reduce Animal
* Restoration, Lesser
* Spider Climb (bitumen (tar pitch possibly found in supplies or as a boat sealer) and live spiders(arbitrarily difficult to find))
* Warp Wood

Some of those spells are AWESOMELY good for survival reasons. Do not pity the druid without his mistletoe.

Neon Knight
2007-09-02, 01:19 PM
Citizen Joe, you continue to be helpful despite the fact that I insulted you. You're certainly a more awesome person than I am.

Dullyanna
2007-09-02, 01:47 PM
I hate to say this, but you might have to give the druid the ban stick. As Citizen Joe pointed out above, their spells and abilities would gimp the whole desperate survival aspect of the campaign. The ranger's not so bad, since he doesn't get any spells for a while, and he's a good asset w/o being cheap IMO.

By the way, the kraken idea sounds awesome. Maybe you could chuck some scrags at them too (Although the SRD says they prefer COLD water). This all depends on their (The PCs) level, though.

Citizen Joe
2007-09-02, 02:53 PM
Note that for the most part, clerics should be able to fashion a holy symbol out of wood. However, some snooty religions have holy symbols that are more difficult to make, like the war gods that use a weapon as their symbol. However, here is a list of non-divine focus clerical spells (not including domain spells, which are too numerous to review).
level 0:
* Create Water
* Cure Minor Wounds
* Detect Magic
* Detect Poison
* Guidance
* Inflict Minor Wounds
* Mending
* Purify Food and Drink
* Read Magic (focus clear prism, very hard to find)

Level 1:
* Bless Water (5 lbs powdered silver, 25 gp, not likely)
* Cause Fear
* Command
* Cure Light Wounds
* Curse Water (5 lbs powdered silver, 25gp, not likely)
* Deathwatch
* Endure Elements
* Entropic Shield
* Inflict Light Wounds
* Obscuring Mist
* Remove Fear
* Shield of Faith (parchment with holy writings, same deal as wizards)

Level 2:
* Augury (focus augury tokens (25gp), plus incense (25 gp), not likely)
* Cure Moderate Wounds
* Death Knell
* Enthrall
* Find Traps
* Inflict Moderate Wounds
* Make Whole
* Remove Paralysis
* Restoration, Lesser
* Shield Other (focus: Platinum rings, 50 gp each, they may not take a wedding band, so this is sort of iffy)
* Silence
* Status
* Undetectable Alignment


Noticeably less useful, but some key helpful spells.

DeathQuaker
2007-09-02, 03:38 PM
CitizenJoe, you're posting the main reasons why I also suggested something like Wild Magic Zones to shake up the spellcasting. It doesn't take it away from the players, it just makes it unpredictable.

It's also possible to demand material components for more spells that are as-written as V,S, only.

Or perhaps you can manacle the spellcasters to inhibit somatic casting. They have to earn the party rogues' trust before being able to get free of the manacles. :smallsmile:

Dullyanna
2007-09-02, 06:18 PM
Clerical domains to watch out for are Animal, Plant, Sun, Travel, and the four elemental ones. Out of those, Air, Earth, Water, and Travel have multiple spells that can make life much easier for the party (In a bad way). The not-so-bad part of this is that nearly all the applicable spells in these domains require a focus, and a few of the uglier spells (Fly and Gaseous Form) need some pretty rare components. Unfortunately, Locate Object, Shape Stone, Plant Growth, and Water Breathing don't pose any problems in terms of components.

Edit: I just realized, anyone who casts Gaseous Form on a stormy island surrounded by reefs is asking to stranded/killed. They're helpless against wind.