Freeport and Walk the Plank fan Philip Minchin from Australia has written and packaged up a free PDF, “Reading the Skull and Crossbones.” In it he presents a divination system from the City of Adventure, using the cards found in Walk the Plank.
And in case you haven’t noticed, now is the perfect time to pick up both Pirate’s Guide to Freeport and our family-friendly pirate card game Walk the Plank, since if you buy the book, you’ll get the card game too, for free! (Offer good only in our Green Ronin Online Store, until such time as the boss tells the webmaster the deal is over. Free card game presented as option during checkout if the print version of Pirate’s Guide to Freeport is present in cart.)
Also of note is our still-ongoing RPG Stimulus Package Sale, in which several Freeport books are still available at great prices.
John Baichtal of the GeekDad blog on Wired.com posted an entry today that’s all about Pirate’s Guide to Freeport. Read all about it!
The Pirate’s Guide to Freeport Takes Systemless To a New Level
The nominees in this year’s ENnie Awards have been announced, and we’re honored to have garnered several nominations:
- Pirate’s Guide to Freeport: Best Covert Art, Best Cartography, Best Setting, Product of the Year
- True20 Freeport Companion: Best d20/OGL Product
- Hero High: Best Supplement
- True20 Companion: Best Supplement
- Hobby Games: The 100 Best: Best Regalia
- True20 Narrator’s Kit: Best Aid or Accessory (Honorable Mention)
Congratulations to all the nominees!
Voting will run on enworld.org from July 21st through August 3rd.
Unless you’ve been detained illegally in a black site prison, you probably know that Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition came out this month. Many folks are giving it a try and I’ve heard a lot of GMs lament the fact that there aren’t any ready-made 4E settings available yet. Even WotC won’t have their new Forgotten Realms campaign setting book out until August. This is the beauty of the Pirate’s Guide to Freeport. It is a pure setting book that can be used with any fantasy RPG. It has no game stats at all, so you can just pick your game, add Freeport, and enjoy. If you are looking for a campaign setting for your new 4E game, you can start with Freeport right away.
The city can be used on its own or you can drop into any other campaign setting you like. You could even start a campaign in Freeport now, leave the rest of the world vague, and decide on the details of the larger campaign setting later. If you do want a full campaign setting right away, the Pirate’s Guide includes an optional chapter on the World of Freeport. This details “the Continent” in some detail and provides a ready backdrop for all kinds of adventures.
To complement the Pirate’s Guide, we have been doing a series of rules companions over the past year, which provide mechanical support for various game systems. We’ve done True20, d20, and Savage Worlds so far, with Castles & Crusades coming up next. We may do a Fourth Edition Freeport Companion if we can figure out how to do so under the terms of the new Game System License. In the interim, however, here are a few ideas on how to adapt Freeport to the 4E rules.
Levels: The Pirate’s Guide notates each NPC as being an apprentice, journeyman, or master. This translates easily into 4E, since characters now have a level range of 1-30. Apprentice characters are heroic tier (1-10), journeymen are paragon tier (11-20), and masters are epic tier (21-30). Now Freeport is a lot grittier than the new D&D, so you might consider making max level 15. In that case, apprentices would be levels 1-5, journeymen level 6-10, and masters level 11-15.
Races: Dragonborn are a new race of draconic humanoids and they have not featured in Freeport products before. However, Freeport is known as the Crossroads of the World and all sorts of strange folk make their way to there. Adding a few dragonborn to the mix is easy enough, particularly as the PHB paints them as wanderers without a home. They may even have come from another plane of existence.
Another sort of new race is the eladrin. They are basically high elves, which makes them the best match for most of the elves that appear in Freeport. The PHB’s elves would be the World of Freeport’s wood elves and they’d mostly be found in Rolland.
Freeport does have gnomes, and although they are not an option in the PHB there are rules for them in the Monster Manual. Those looking to make villains out of gnomes need look no further than the World of Freeport’s Autocracy of Iovan.
Classes: All the classes in the PHB can be found in Freeport. Pirates are best modeled by rogues, though fighters and rangers can also work pretty easily. Warlocks work well with the Lovecraftian elements of the Cit of Adventure. A warlock with a star pact with the Unspeakable One would make a quite suitable cultist.
Points of Light: WotC is pushing the idea of “points of light” campaign settings. The basic idea is similar to that of Warhammer’s Old World. There are villages, towns and cities that are pockets of civilization but between them are large areas of untamed wilderness that are by no means safe. At Green Ronin we like to offer many different models for campaign play, but if points of light is your thing the Ivory Ports is probably the best area of the World of Freeport for that. A border area of Hexworth could also work, with adventures focused in the Bone Lands.
These are just a few ideas on how to use Freeport with 4th edition. If you have more, come on over to the Campaign Settings message board on GreenRonin.com and share them with your fellow gamers.
Since we began work on the Pirate’s Guide, we’ve wanted to produce a WFRP Freeport Companion, a guidebook for running WFRP games set in the City of Adventure. While the possibility of such a book is not completely out of the question, my eagerness to explore such a marriage has gotten in the way of common sense, hence the subject of this blog entry. This document avoids lengthy rules discussion and instead explores how to adapt Freeport’s flavor to the WFRP game system.
The first thing to do when placing Freeport in the Old World is to establish how the setting conceits fit with those defined by the WFRP setting. At a glance, there seems to be little room for such figures as Yig, the Unspeakable One, and the cataclysm that brought forth the Serpent’s Teeth islands. There’s simply no place for Yig or the Unspeakable One to join the ranks of those distant and inexplicable gods, and certainly no room for another Ruinous Power (though some are bound to disagree). It doesn’t take much thought, though, to find other ways to express these powers so they can function within the Old World concepts.
Let’s start with Yig. Known as the Great Serpent, Yig is said to have shaped the world, snatching elements of other planes and fusing them into a patchwork plane that incorporates cultures, peoples, and landscapes from all over reality. While this never happened in Old World, WFRP’s ancient history is filled with the legends of the Old Ones who sailed the sea of stars to shape and fashion the world, using their ancient and lost arts to awaken the races, modify the climate, and reshape the lands. Their principal servants, the Slann, were brilliant and gifted with great power, capable of constructing gateways to bridge distant worlds, to modify and alter the world to suit their inexplicable purpose. At their height, the Slann were the laborers and creators, and through their constant service, the Old Ones modified the world to suit their purpose, raised up the primitive peoples, and were as gods.
Naturally, this era would not last forever, and the gates in the heavens collapsed, tearing holes in reality. From these rents, the raw stuff of Chaos spilled forth, hemorrhaging and infusing the world with corruption—the raw stuff of Chaos. The Old Ones were lost, the Slann trapped and driven into the remote corners of the world, while new races, elves, dwarfs, and eventually humans rose up to stanch the tide of Chaos and make their lives on this imperiled world.
None of these myths are at odds with the Freeport cosmology. In fact, Freeport’s ancient history fits well with the primordial age of the Warhammer world. Perhaps Yig was an Old One and the Valossans were in fact Slann. The corruption of the Unspeakable One that led to the collapse of the Valossan Empire might just be an embellished way of describing the calamity that befell all civilization when the gates collapsed. As a result, Yig is not so much a god, but a powerful and lost master whom some the serpent people deified.
The Unspeakable One is far easier to explain. As an agent of destruction, a force of madness, mutation, and unfathomable evil, the Unspeakable One may just be a mask for one or all of the Ruinous Powers. Perhaps instead of being an intelligent agent of destruction, the Unspeakable One may just be a name for mortal corruption, a personality and nature imposed on the raw stuff of Chaos. In this way, the various cults of the Unspeakable One might serve Slaanesh, Tzeentch, Nurgle, or Khorne, depending on their goals, motives, and behavior.
When it comes to the other gods mentioned, the Pirate’s Guide wisely avoids giving them names so that the various powers can easily correlate to whatever pantheon you choose to use. For tips, I’d suggest the following conversions.
Deity WFRP Counterpart
God of Knowledge Verena
God of Luck Ranald
God of Murder Khaine
God of Pirates Stromfels
God of the Sea Manann
God of Warriors Myrmidia
Oona, the Cannibal Spirit Khorne
Unspeakable One Nurgle
If you’re not using the Continent as described in the Pirate’s Guide, you can park the Serpent’s Teeth just about anywhere in the Old World. Any of the islands off the east coast of Lustria could work well, especially near the submerged city of Chupayotl. Alternatively, you could place the Serpent’s Teeth on the west coast of the southern continent, below Araby and the Lands of the Dead, somewhere in the Sea of Squalls. Both locations put Freeport on trade routes between the city and the Old World, while keeping it close enough to Slann civilization to allow the “serpent people” to maintain a presence in the city.
The hardest hurdle to jump is Freeport’s racial mix. Humans, Elves, Dwarfs, and Halflings can all coexist together with little trouble, but the presence of Orcs is a bit more complicated since Greenskins are notoriously unpleasant and savage, having little inclination to live alongside their longstanding enemies (and if Orcs are in fact space fungus, well that’s a whole new issue by itself). Still, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility for Greenskins to find some way into a predominantly Human city. If Freeport brought in Orc slaves to work the Docks, with them would come Goblins, Hobgoblins, and everything in between. In fact, Greenskins in Freeport would certainly make the city even more unstable and raucous causing no shortage of trouble for the city watch. The hatred of these wretched creatures would certainly spawn groups in Scurvytown and elsewhere, enough to push the Orcs back to the fringes of the most polluted and dangerous sections of the city.
Two races that simply can’t exist in the City of Adventure are half-elves and half-orcs. In the context of the Old World, pairing between Humans and other races never produce offspring for reasons of simple incompatibility in the case of the former, and biology in the latter. I’d recommend substituting Bretonnians for half-elves and Kislevites for half-orcs. For any other strange races that don’t quite fit in the Old World, simply replace them with some other cultural group—Estallians, Tilleans, and so on.
Officially, Gnomes do not exist in the Old World. That these diminutive folk were mentioned in the first edition of WFRP is irrelevant,for the shape of the Warhammer World is ever evolving and older concepts fade in favor of newer ones. Hence, Gnomes in Freeport ought to just be Halflings. Naturally, there will be those who object to the loss of this much-maligned race—indeed, it seems gnomes vanish left and right these days—and for those who would see Gnomes stay Gnomes in Freeport, you can use the following unofficial rules.
Distant kin to the Dwarfs, the Gnomes are a mean-spirited race of mountain dwelling humanoids, found in tiny settlements in the Worlds Edge Mountains. There they have managed to survive in spite of Rat-Men aggression, wars with their cousins, and the depredations of the Greenskins. Short-tempered and altogether unpleasant to be around, Gnomes are reluctant to spend much if any time with anyone outside of their families, though it bears mentioning that Gnomes have little love for their siblings and would gladly rid themselves of all such kin.
Gnomes are a people in decline, largely as a result of their selfish tendencies and general disgust for all people, even other Gnomes. In fact, Gnome families are never founded for love, but rather as payment for debts or some other obligations. The only reason why any Gnome would deign to wed is to erase a point of shame and make amends to some wrong he or she has committed, making Gnome families miserable things languishing under a cloud of loathing and resentment.
Gnomes have craggy features with bulbous noses and weather-beaten skin. They are shaggy and filthy, smelling of ham and sour milk. Their beards are tangled nests crawling with lice and the leavings of old meals. Their black eyes dart about, always looking for treachery, while their mouths seem suited for only issuing complaints and insults.
Weapon Skill (WS) 30+2d10
Ballistic Skill (BS) 20+2d10
Strength (S) 20+2d10
Toughness (T) 20+2d10
Agility (Ag) 20+2d10
Intelligence (Int) 20+2d10
Will Power (WP) 20+2d10
Fellowship (Fel) 10+2d10
Movement (M) 4
Wounds Roll 1d10: 1–3, 10; 4–6, 12; 7–9, 13; 10, 14
Fate Points Roll 1d10: 1–4, 1; 5–7, 2; 8–10, 3
A Gnome character gains the following skills and talents:
Skills: Common Knowledge (Gnomes), Speak Language (Khazalid dialect), Trade (Miner, Smith, Stoneworker)
Talents: Grudge-born Fury, Orientation, Night Vision, Sturdy, Tunnel Rat
Starting Careers: When generating a Gnome’s starting career, use the Dwarf column under Table 2–5: Starting Career. Replace any result that comes up as Runebearer or Trollslayer with Cragfighter.
Cragfighter (Basic, Gnome Only)
On the slopes of the Worlds Edge Mountain, Gnomes fight against roaming bands of Greenskins and even Dwarfs for the scarce resources of the peaks. Over the generations, the Gnomes have learned to use their environment to the best effect and when fighting against overwhelming numbers, their warriors may place themselves in tight areas to help shield themselves from attacks. Cragfighters are a surly lot, given to suspiciousness and crudity. The most unpleasant Gnomes are often encouraged to take up this profession.
WS BS S T Ag Int WP Fel
+10 — +5 — +10 — +10 —
A W SB TB M Mag IP FP
+1 +2 — — — — — —
Skills: Concealment, Dodge Blow, Perception, Secret Signs (Scout)
Talents: Close Combat Fighting†, Contortionist, Coolheaded, Dirty Tactics†, Menacing, Stout Hearted, Strike to Injure
Trappings: Hand Weapon, Crossbow with 12 bolts, Medium Armor (Mail Coat, Mail Coif), Shield, Lice
Career Entries: Agitator, Militiaman, Thief, Watchman
Career Exits: Bodyguard, Pit Fighter, Sergeant, Smuggler, Tomb Robber
Close Combat Fighting
Whenever you end your turn with a barrier or obstacle on two sides of you, you may enter the Parrying Stance as a free action.
You are an expert at using subterfuge and unfair tactics when fighting other creatures. Whenever you successfully feint in combat, you gain a +10 bonus on your next Weapon Skill Test against the target you feinted.
Denizens of Freeport
Building NPCs from the descriptions in the Pirate’s Guide using the WFRP rules is simple. The character’s level of power and experience corresponds to a number of careers. Apprentice indicates the first career, journeyman suggests second career, while master represents characters in their third or fourth career. You can give the character as many advances as you like though if you prefer a more randomized method, simply have the character be 1d5 advances into their current career. The following table includes a list of the more important characters found in Freeport and their suggested careers.
Alcindar Dwarf Artisan, ex-Tradesman
Alfhild Human Sea Captain, ex-Mate, ex-Seaman, ex-Norse Berserker
Bianka Altanish Human Journeyman Wizard, ex-Apprentice Wizard
Dirwin Arnig Gnome Guild Master, ex-Artisant, ex-Tradesman
Morgan Bauman Human Sea Captain, ex-Mate, ex-Seaman
Aporcus Beedle Human Apprentice Wizard
Cyril Berryhill Halfling Thief, ex-Rogue
Liam Blackhammer Human, Militiaman, ex-Tradesman
Andrea Blax Human Rogue, ex-Seaman
Poppy Brag Human Foreman, ex-Stevedore
Bobbin Brandydale Halfling Innkeeper, ex-Servant
Rikard Burbage Human Minstrel, ex-Entertainer
C.Q. Calame Human Demagogie, ex-Agitator
Cragwipe Orc Mercenary, ex-Thug
Countess D’Amberville Human Assassin, ex-Spy, ex-Courtier, ex-Noble
Celeste D’Arran Human Spy, ex-Courtier, ex-Noble
Dimetrios Human Fence, ex-Smuggler
Darius Dorvan Halfling Thief
Dunbar Human Veteran, ex-Mercenary
Egil Human High Priest, ex-Anointed Priest, ex-Priest, ex-Initiate
Falthar Human Master Wizard, ex-Journeyman Wizard, ex-Apprentice Wizard
Finn Halfling Crime Lord, ex-Master Thief, ex-Cat Burglar, ex-Thief
Masson Francisco Human Sea Captain, ex-Mate, ex-Seaman
Shantar Froese Elf Mate, ex-Seaman
Garek Dwarf Tradesman, ex-Shieldbreaker
Xavier Gordon Duelist, ex-Courtier, ex-Noble
Gringa Human Veteran, ex-Berserker
Nathan Grymes Human Politician, ex-Noble
Sister Gwendolyn Human Anointed Priest, ex-Priest, ex-Initiate
Dirk Haslinger Human Rogue
Enoch Holliver Human Captain, ex-Sergeant, ex-Mercenary
Admiral Hrothy Human Spy, ex-Sea Captain, ex-Mate, ex-Seaman
Fargus Ironfoot Halfling Sea Captain, ex-Mate, ex-Seaman
Eudokia Kasovar Human Master Wizard, ex-Journeyman Wizard, ex-Apprentice Wizard
Jozan Feg Human Apprentice Wizard, ex-Burgher
Gitch Goblin Shaman, ex-Apprentice Shaman
Rudimar Harrow Human Friar, ex-Initiate, ex-Soldier
Harcourt Horkel Human Charlatan, ex-Minstrel, ex-Entertainer
Janis Hawthorne Human Peasant
Torya Irontooth Human Noble
Karl the Kraken Human Bodyguard, ex-Mercenary, ex-Pit Fighter
K’Stallo Serpent Person High Priest, ex-Anointed Priest, ex-Priest, ex-Initiate
Lexi Human Apprentice Wizard, ex-Servant
Jacob Lydon Human Sea Captain, ex-Mate, ex-Seaman
Marilise Maeorgan Human Politician, ex-Courtier, ex-Noble
Mendor Maeorgan Mutant Demagogue, ex-Rogue, ex-Noble
Argyle McGill Human Fence, ex-Smuggler, ex-Seaman
Mother Mirren Human Burgher, ex-Servant
Talbous Mog Human Priest, ex-Initiate
Nevtalathien Elf Artisan, ex-Tradesman, ex-Mercenary
Omar Nkota Human Scout, ex-Hunter
Otto Parsam Human Tradesman, ex-Veteran, ex-Soldier
Patamon Human Apprentice Wizard, ex-Rogue
Prendag Mutant Veteran, ex-Pit Fighter, ex-Thug
Tench Prescott Human Sea Captain, ex-Mate, ex-Seaman
Arena Quen Human Priest, ex-Initiate
Thulmir Quent Human Agitator, ex-Burgher
Thurlow Rankin Human Sea Captain, ex-Mate, ex-Seaman
Red Alice Human Thief, ex-Rogue, ex-Entertainer
Draegar Redblade Hobgoblin Captain, ex-Sergeant, ex-Mercenary
Marcus Roberts Human Politician, ex-Courtier, ex-Noble
Nifur Roberts Human Noble
Tando Sandek Human Sergeant, ex-Militiaman, ex-Thief
Bill Sangapulatele Human Bodyguard, ex-Mercenary
Asha Sante Human Witch Hunter, ex-Judicial Champion, ex-Veteran, ex-Soldier
Scarbelly Orc Sea Captain, ex-Mate, ex-Seaman
Dreiden Simmerswell Halfling Innkeeper, ex-Servant
Angelo Stampfel Human Thief
Kyrga Stonefoot Dwarf Messenger, ex-Servant
Laria Syrtis Elf Mate, ex-Seaman, ex-Entertainer
Vikki Tarjay Human Rogue, ex-Noble
Tarmon Human Wizard Lord, ex-Master Wizard, ex-Journeyman Wizard, ex-Apprentice Wizard
Thorgrim Human Journeyman Wizard, ex-Apprentice Wizard, ex-Berserker
Timothy Human Thief
Halkos Tremiir Elf Physician, ex-Barber Surgeon
Hector Torian Human Sea Captain, ex-Mate, ex-Marine
Aleksander Tovac Human Journeyman Wizard, ex-Apprentice Wizard, ex-Militiaman
Trask Gnome Charlatan, ex-Rogue
Garth Varellion Human Politician, ex-Noble
Buster Wallace Human Agitator, ex-Noble
Petra Wallace Human Agitator, ex-Tradesman
Mister Wednesday Human Crime Lord, ex-Fence, ex-Racketeer, ex-Protagonist
Xort Mutant Friar, ex-Vagabond
Zach Human Valet
Serpent People are an insidious presence in Freeport and though they do not officially appear in the Warhammer world, it’s no stretch to think they could exist in the Old or New World, especially if you tie them to the Slann. Adult serpent people stand just over six feet tall and weigh about 150 pounds on average. Fine scales, ranging from green to brown, cover their lithe bodies, and their hands and feet end in small claws. Perhaps the most distinctive characteristic are their heads. Their heads are snake-like. Some have hoods like cobras, but most do not.
WS BS S T Ag Int WP Fel
34 26 32 (3) 38 (3) 44 41 33 36
Skills: Academic Knowledge (History) (Int), Academic Knowledge (Theology) (Int), Common Knowledge (serpent people) (Int), Concealment (Ag+10), Disguise (Fel+20), Dodge Blow (Ag), Perception (Int), Search (Int), Silent Move (Ag), Secret Language (Valossan) (Int), Speak Language (Reikspiel) (Int)
Talents: Contortionist, Keen Senses, Resistant to Poison, Unsettling
Attacks: 1; Movement: 4; Wounds (TB 3): 12
Armour (none): scales (Head 1, Arms 1, Body 1, Legs 1)
Weapons: Hand Weapon (1d10+3)
In their natural form, a serpent person wears simple robes and carries a longsword (hand weapon). When infiltrating a society, serpent people wear clothing appropriate to role they are playing and thus they may keep several disguises handy in safe places that they can easily access.
Serpent people can assume a human shape and appearance as a half action and can remain in this form until they choose a new one. A slain serpent person reverts back to its normal form. Detecting a shapeshifted serpent person requires a Very Hard (–30) Perception Test.
Degenerate Serpent People
A degenerate serpent person is a serpent person with the poisonous bite mutation. Most degenerates also have 1d5–1 additional mutations.
If there’s one thing I felt d20 Freeport was missing, it was insanity rules. With such strong cosmic horror overtones and clear connections to Lovecraftian horror, madness and insanity are two concepts conspicuously absent from the rules. Granted, the Unearthed Arcana offers the insanity system from d20 Call of Cthulhu, and while serviceable, its use feels less like an integrated part of the game and more like an add-on. Other systems, notably taint and corruption, as well as some insanity rules from other official sources might also work, but the consequences can be severe and even crippling, making their gain less fun and more like punishment. So when setting out to design madness and insanity rules for the d20 Freeport Companion, I took these factors into consideration to ensure insanity felt like a natural outgrowth of the existing system while also providing mechanisms for players to employ these rules in fun ways.
Insanity Points are the heart of Freeport’s Madness system. Whenever your character peruses a forbidden text, encounters the awful, or anything else that tests the mental faculties, the character is at risk of acquiring Insanity Points. The most common methods for accumulating Insanity Points include being the target of mind-affecting spells and effects, encountering terrifying creatures, witnessing horrific acts of violence or utterly wrong acts, and researching mind-shattering subjects.
Creatures: The first time a non-humanoid, non-animal creature is encountered, you must succeed on a Will save (DC 10 + 1/2 the creature’s HD + the creature’s Cha modifier) or gain a number of Insanity Points determined by the creature’s HD—1 point for 1–3 HD, 1d3 points for 4–6 HD, 1d4 for 7–9 HD, and so on.
Forbidden Lore: Every rank of Knowledge (Forbidden Lore) attained through researching forbidden or unnerving texts grants 1 Insanity Point.
Mind-Affecting Effects: Whenever you’re the target of a mind-affecting spell or effect and you fail the save by 5 or more, you gain a number of Insanity Points equal to the spell’s level or effect’s equivalent level.
Mind-Rending Encounters: Anytime you encounter the awful, you must succeed on a Will save or gain Insanity Points. The number of points gained and the save DC is determined by the severity of the scene. Enduring a few minutes of torture, for example, has a DC 10 and imposes 1 Insanity Point on a failed save. Being buried alive, however, is severe and imposes 1d4 Insanity Points on a failed DC 20 Will save.
Whenever you gain Insanity Points, your Wisdom score suffers. For the purpose of skill checks, ability checks, Will saves, your effective Wisdom is equal to your Wisdom score minus your Insanity Points. For spellcasting, however, your effective Wisdom equals your Insanity Points plus your Wisdom score. This system intentionally favors divine spellcasters since being a little crazy removes the barriers to divine influence. You can’t gain more Insanity Points than your Wisdom and if your Insanity Points would reduce Wisdom to 0, you stop gaining Insanity Points and henceforth behave as if under the effects of an insanity spell.
In addition to the basic effects of Insanity Points, you are also subject to fear as a result of a failed Will save. If you fail the Will save by 5, you become shaken, by 10, frightened, and by 15 or more panicked. The fear condition persists for a number of rounds equal to the Insanity Points gained.
Insanity Points stick around until you do something to remove them. The easiest way to rid yourself of Insanity Points is through magic. Lesser restoration removes 1d4 points, while restoration removes them all. Healing can also remove Insanity Points. Each week of treatment allows the healer to make a DC 25 Heal check to remove 1 Insanity Point. Finally, you can voluntarily acquire a madness to remove a number of Insanity Points equal to the severity of the madness.
Madness functions as a pressure valve for Insanity Points. It offers a way for a character to rid himself of accumulated Insanity Points at the expense of temporary or permanent erratic behavior. Short-term insanity can impose unconsciousness, inaction, fear, immobility, and so on. Long-term madness, which removes more Insanity Points lasts longer and imposes penalties on certain skill checks, imposes conditions, and other difficult effects.
The worst form of madness is indefinite madness. Each gain removes 8 Insanity Points but imposes a significant behavioral change, including Anxiety (–4 penalty on initiative checks), manic/depressive (+2 bonus or –4 penalty on all checks, equal chance of each every day), or substance abuse (addiction to a random substance).
Madness can be removed in ways similar to removing Insanity Points. A heal spell removes a madness and any remaining Insanity Points. A DC 25 Heal check made for a character after 1d6 months of confinement can produce a full recovery, though the subject is always at risk of a relapse.
The hook with this system is that it places the effects of accumulated insanity in the hands of the player. When and how the PC freaks out is up to the player. You might tough it out and absorb Insanity Points to stave off the slide into utter depravity or you might accept some short-term losses to keep your mind hale and relatively healthy.
Insanity Points, while clearly a setback, have some benefits. Divine spellcasters find their spells easier to cast and more potent, while certain feats, spells, and magic items may offer new ways to employ Insanity Points, making the descent into madness an interesting character choice rather than just another way to weaken characters. At the end of the day, the madness system in the d20 Freeport Companion is optional, but it captures the grit and flavor of the city and expands the game in exciting and harrowing ways.
Over the last year or so, we’ve talked a lot about the Pirate’s Guide to Freeport, how it is a stat-less book and useable with any game system. Rather than kicking around about the hypothetical ways you can use Freeport, I thought I’d take a few hundred words to chat about some concrete ways to use the setting, specifically the Companion books. Our plan from the very beginning was to release a series of system-tailored support books that would adapt the setting information into mechanics. We started with the True20 Freeport Companion and are now prepared to release its follow-up volume, the d20 Freeport Companion (in editing right this very minute, by the way).
With the True20 sourcebook wrapped, I was ready to turn my attention to the d20 Freeport Companion. Like most other folks in the universe, I had my suspicions that the rules for the d20 system would be getting a face-lift and while I was reluctant to commit a lot of time and resources to spinning out a big fat d20 book, we felt the d20 Freeport Companion could serve as a fitting end to our company’s involvement with the 3rd edition rules. I mean, Green Ronin did release Death in Freeport on the very same day as the 3rd Edition Player’s Handbook. So how better than to go out than with one last 3rd Edition sourcebook for Freeport?
Naturally, I thought this project would be a breeze. It was to be a collection and updating of other Freeport books, right? Wrong. Not only did iconic characters need to gain levels, but also, in many cases, many of the mechanics needed polish, in some cases a lot of polish. Since the early days of the d20 system, designers have learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t. I don’t think anyone still thinks a feat that grants a +2 bonus to two skills is a great idea and similarly no one’s going to take a feat that provides a flat bonus to some part of your character sheet, especially not when there are hundreds, if not thousands, of sourcebooks that already have plowed the same field until nothing will ever grow there again. To make matters worse, many of the feats, spells, and magic items have seen similar variations in “official” products, from the DMG to more recent magic item and spell collections sourcebooks. Why in the hell would I present a spell that grants a swim speed when I know there’s one in a D&D book? I wouldn’t because not only do you loyal readers not need that sort of thing, but you probably already have that spell twice or more times in some variation or other. The task was once again greater than the pitch and so I began the process of hammering out rules that would see use around your gaming tables.
So what’s inside the d20 Freeport Companion? Well, lot’s of stuff. More stuff than there should be in this book. You see, I have a problem with over-writing. Give me a 100,000 word sourcebook, I’ll give you 160,000 words every time. Just look at Black Industries’ Tome of Corruption if you don’t believe me. That book has more stuff in it than it ever should have. Oh well.
For today, however, let’s focus on classes. This one was a strange section of the book, largely because much of the material that went here came from the incredibly non-existent Advanced Class Codex. I had big plans for that one and that it never materialized wakes me up at night from time to time. Sorting through all of the classes that have appeared in a d20 sourcebook from Green Ronin over the last eight years revealed a great deal. We produced a lot of classes. Of course, not all of them fit the flavor of Freeport and others needed a lot of work to bring them into the dusk of 3.5, and others still just made my head split open and brain fall out on the floor. Some of these classes were in various states of development and redesign, others were on their fourth or fifth version (assassin, that’s you), while others were products of sudden inspiration. The ones we settled on were the assassin, corsair, monster hunter, noble, survivor, and cultist.
What took so long here was that when designing anything new for d20, you just can’t hold it up to the core selection of classes, nod, and be done. Once upon a time, you could say the core rulebooks were enough; if the class was on par with a fighter or wizard, life was grand. At one point, I even believed that all support mechanics should be almost as good as core mechanics, but not quite. But when warblades strolled onto the stage, when warmages could cast damage dealing spells with no save and no spell resistance, when a single 2nd-level spell could cripple the big nasty bad guy or when a psionic power could reduce all damage to the minimum values on the dice rolled for a negligible power cost, suddenly Power Attack with a two-handed weapon wasn’t so bad any more and 1d4+1 points of automatic damage was nothing more than a cute quirk of the game. New classes, then, needed balls (forgive the Colbert-ism). They needed abilities to make them interesting combatants that would offer interesting tactical choices every round, could become viable alternatives to the crusaders, warlocks, and psions, and join this elite cast in kicking sand in the face of the wretched sorcerer and sissy bard.
I’m exaggerating a little. But I’d be lying if I said there was no such thing as rules creep. I resisted the temptation to go nuts and tried to cleave true to Freeport’s tone while also offering classes that would be viable alternatives to the dozens already out there. Long digression I know: Let’s take a look at these new classes before I jump on the plane to the west coast.
The assassin base class has been part of Green Ronin’s pantheon of classes for almost the life of the 3.x rules set. Now some naysayers out there might say D&D already has an assassin in the prestige class, but the trouble is that the assassin in the DMG, as fine as it is, prevents characters less than 6th-level from filling the classic niche, and also the prestige assassin offers spells, which is something many people disagree with. Others might say that the ninja fills a similar role, and to that I agree to an extent, but its eastern flavor makes it a tough sell for western style games. The assassin in the d20 Freeport Companion embraces much of what makes the prestige assassin cool, while ensuring the class is different from the ninja counterpart.
The heart of the assassin class (if you can say it has one!) is murder. A fighter is a killer, but when an assassin strikes, it’s rarely on even footing and almost always involves some sort of trick to take out the opponent as quickly as possible. Poisons, backstabs, and the ability to vanish into the shadows makes the assassin a versatile character, useful in supporting the frontline warriors.
One thing that makes the new assassin class stand out is customizability. People tend to gravitate toward classes that give them choices in their class features. The fighter, monk, and ranger are all great examples of classes that give players the tools to individuate their character beyond the standard options of feat and skill point allocations. The assassin follows suit and starting at 3rd level gains an ability called “tools of the trade.” Each time the character gains this ability, the player can select one of several options including the mundane (Weapon Focus), the cool (Intelligence to initiative checks), to the super-specialized (ability to change a disguise rapidly). It’s true that some of these features offer small benefits, but when combined they can offer a specialized type of killer a significant advantage, allowing players to home in on their character’s schtick or to give GMs the tools they need to create powerful recurring villains bound to piss of the PCs for the life of the campaign.
The assassin appears as a special preview of the d20 Freeport Companion in issue #2 of Kobold Quarterly (http://wolfgangbaur.com/kobold_quarterly), if you want to get an early look. Tell Wolfgang I sent you.
Next up is the corsair class. Those of you who picked up the dark Crisis in Freeport already got a look at this class. Heck, some of you might be already using it. The corsair is close to the one in Crisis, but with a few added features to bring the class up to speed with some of the more notorious characters. Yes, yes, there’s the swashbuckler from the Complete Warrior, but this class is built for pirates, buccaneers, and other scum of the sea, and has a broadly different range of abilities.
The corsair’s primary game features revolve around maneuvering, finding ways over, under, and through obstacles. Corsairs are good climbers, swimmers, tumblers, and jumpers and their class features enhance these movement options. While one character might sway and pitch on a storm-tossed deck of a galleon, the corsair can zip around with little trouble.
Another important element of this class is corsair’s luck. A daily ability, the corsair can spend a use of this feature to gain a luck bonus equal to one-half his corsair levels on a single attack roll, check, or save. Naturally, you have to declare use of this ability before you roll, but it’s a damn good way to save your bacon when faced with a big nasty that clawed its way out of the abyss (that’s the James Cameron Abyss and not Demogorgon’s diaper Abyss, but both would work in this case, I suppose).
The Monster Hunter
Some of you might remember a proposed book from several ages ago. Called the Monster Hunter’s Handbook, it was to be another chapter in Green Ronin’s Master Class series. After some mishaps and scheduling issues, the book was scrapped and the concept shelved. Always intrigued by the Monster Hunter, but simultaneously dubious about how this class would be different from any other adventuring class, I wanted to take a stab at designing the class. Originally slated to appear in the ACC, it wound up in a dusty file only to be yanked out and stuffed into this book. Freeport seemed an appropriate enough place for folks who butcher monsters, so thus the class finally found a home.
So, how did I make the class distinct from the ranger? The first thing I did was take the customization method I discussed under the assassin and dialed it up to 11. The monster hunter gains a monster specialist ability at every even level. The first time, the player selects one “type” of monster gain the listed apprentice ability. When the next ability comes up, the player may improve his character’s specialization with the previously selected type or select another one. There are three degrees of specialization, so a monster hunter will eventually have to diversify.
The abilities offered are designed to combat a monster of a specific type. This said, the ability is broad enough to give the monster hunter use when fighting other critters. For example, a journeyman dragon hunter gets evasion, while an apprentice elemental hunter gains a resistance to a specific type of energy. Of course, there are some slight power differences: evasion compared to the ability to detect animals isn’t even in the same league. However, greater levels of specialization bring more powerful abilities, enabling players who make sub-optimal choices at the start to gain a boost as a reward for their commitment to their path.
Shortly after the 3.5 edition hit the shelves, Green Ronin released the Noble’s Handbook, a Master Class sourcebook that provided a comprehensive rules set for running games set among the elite society of your fantasy world. A solid class with lots of support, it was a great book that took our favorite game in a new direction. Several years later, I felt it was time to revisit this class. I wanted to remain true to Rodney Thompson’s design, but give the noble a bit of a power boost for games that don’t necessarily involve noble houses.
The noble’s primary role is to lead and to lead the noble needed a bunch of abilities that would give him minions, give him tools to boost his allies, and also represent the noble’s connections. Since the original noble class gave the character the Leadership feat, I decided to ground the noble’s abilities there. Unlike other classes, the noble picks up and can use the Leadership at 1st level. The normal limitations on the feat prevent the noble from gaining a cohort until 3rd level. As well, a noble still can’t pick up followers until his score is at least 10, so there are some barriers to power. The noble uses his Leadership score for his inspire abilities. Like the bard, inspire allows the noble to boost his allies and weaken his foes. To do so, the noble makes a Leadership check (1d20 + his leadership) score and the effects last for a number of rounds equal to one-half the noble’s class level. The noble begins with one inspire ability, but as he advances, he gains more. Options include awe, competence, courage, complacency, fear, and several others, offering ways to distinguish nobles from each other.
Fans of Thieves’ World should recognize this class. Originally conceived by Patrick O’Duffy, this class was designed to provide an alternative to the more traditional unarmed fighter—the monk. The survivor gained a number of fighting abilities that provided boosts in combat. While the class worked well for Thieves’ World, I felt it could do with a bit of adrenaline for Freeport.
A survivor looks a lot like the monk, gaining improved unarmed damage, an AC bonus, and a slew of bonus feats, but she also gets a better attack bonus, Hit Dice, and damage reduction. Survivors are faster in combat, gaining boosts to initiative to let them act first to deliver devastating damage and send their foes reeling. As one might expect, the survivor gains a range of boosts to her unarmed attacks including shattering strike, which can overcome hardness and damage reduction, sickening strike for those special hits to the most vulnerable areas, devastating strikes, and staggering strikes. In short, the survivor is a vicious brute that pounds the crap out of his foes with his bare fists and has the toughness to take punishment and keep on fighting.
Last on the list is the infamous cultist. I have mixed feeling about NPC classes. They are never a viable option for PCs (hence their names), the Challenge Ratings never quite feel right, and then there’s this weird tendency for mixing NPC classes with PC classes to create completely inexplicable combinations. For instance, why would a commoner 1/fighter 1 ever have taken that first level in commoner? The same is true for an expert 1/rogue 1. What? Sure, the expert has a broad range of skills (any skill to be precise), but most of the skills an expert would pick in the first place are offered to rogues, bards, and wizards. So it was with great reluctance that I inserted the cultist NPC class into the book.
I think it was the Lovecraftian atmosphere pervading Freeport that pushed me over the edge as well as the inappropriateness of the cleric to characters who chant Cthulhu Fhtgan in their moms’ basements. The cultist could also mask her true nature by masquerading as an expert, commoner, adept, and aristocrat, thus concealing her true motives behind an interesting façade.
The cultist class is similar to the old one, but it clarifies its abilities, reorganizes the rates in which it offers sneak attack, and grants the cultist the fanatic ability. Fanatic allows the cultist to gain a bonus on an attack, check, or save equal to his insanity points, once per encounter. (Oh, did I not mention the d20 Freeport Companion has a brand-spanking new insanity system? It does.)
Well, I think that’s enough chatter about Freeport’s rebirth in d20 for now. Next time, we’ll discuss insanity and madness, delicious topics to be sure. Until then, I’ll leave you with a bit of love from Cradle of Filth…
Spatter the stars
Douse their luminosity
With our amniotic retch
Promulgating the birth
Of another Hell on Earth
—Cthulhu Dawn, Cradle of Filth
The new Freeport books had a great debut at Gen Con. Since then the main shipments have arrived at our warehouse and we’ve sent out orders to the distributors. The Pirate’s Guide to Freeport, the True20 Freeport Companion, and Bleeding Edge Special: Dark Wings Over Freeport will all be in stores by mid-week. Freeport’s new era has begun!
The Pirate’s Guide to Freeport will be debuting at long last at Gen Con next month in Indianapolis. While we had originally hoped to get the book out sooner, it is only fitting that it come out on Freeport’s anniversary. It was 7 years ago that Death in Freeport debuted at Gen Con 2000 and the City of Adventure was unleashed on the world. We hope you’ll join us in Indianapolis to celebrate 7 years of Freeport and the beginning of the city’s new era.
But wait, there’s more good news! This week the True20 Freeport Companion and Bleeding Edge Special: Dark Wings Over Freeport are going to print. As long as there are no hiccups at the printer, both of those books should also debut at Gen Con. The True20 Freeport Companion, the first of our rules companions for the Pirate’s Guide, gives you all the mechanics support you need to run a Freeport campaign with the True20 rules. It includes stats for the major characters, new heroic roles, rules for corruption, madness, and ritual magic, an introductory adventure, and much more. Dark Wings Over Freeport is a d20 System adventure for mid-level characters that delves into the background of the city’s most notorious underworld figure, the crime lord Finn. It also includes an appendix with True20 stats, so both d20 and True20 fans can enjoy it.
If you cannot make Gen Con this year, never fear. All three Freeport books will be showing up in stores within a few weeks of the convention. This makes August Freeport’s biggest month ever and that’s as it should be. It’s been a great 7 years and it’s about to get ever better.
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