Twenty questions to sum up the Northern Shore rules
1) Ability scores generation method? I’d love to be an incredible stickler for 3d6 in order- but alas, the folly of youth- when it gets right down to it, I’m a big softy. Don’t count on it though- I’d rather soften the blow of a 3-6-5-4-8-13 by doing away with stat bonuses entirely than by letting you re-roll.
2) How are death and dying handled? Ha ha! Deadface McDeaderpants!
3) What about raising the dead? It is possible… …But the casting ritual is incredibly esoteric, not just something you get at a certain level. Esoteric rituals like that can be cast by anybody, regardless of level or even class… …if you can find anyone who’ll teach them to you.
There are a couple of Miracle Maxes around who might cast them for you… …if you can find one. It is possible to find them… …but the rituals require incredibly hard-to-get ingredients that can only be got by extensive questing.
However, you are adventurers… …more of whom are likely to be killed on the way. You get a free frogurt… …which also requires questing to retrieve.
You do get your choice of toppings… …but the toppings are on the other side of a magical river. Magical river doesn’t sound too hard to get past…
…except that the current is strong enough to turn your butt inside out, the water’s so acidic it’ll dissolve any boat you put in it, the only bridge is a trap, and the water’s brimming with electric eeeels! So, you can raise the dead, but you won’t get toppings on your frogurt.
4) How are replacement PCs handled? Back at town… “Oh look, it’s a new guy.” “Hey new guy!”
5) Initiative: individual, group, or something else? Roll d6 for each side, high roll goes first, each side goes in whatever order it wants. Re-roll every turn.
6) Are there critical hits and fumbles? How do they work? Roll a 1, automatic miss. Roll a 20, automatic hit. I won’t penalize you for the 1 unless you’re trying to do something ridiculous, like attack with flaming nunchucks, or jump kick on a log bridge.
7) Do I get any benefits for wearing a helmet? Usually the situation is that you get penalties for NOT wearing a helmet. Example: rocks fall, you save or fall unconscious.
8) Can I hurt my friends if I fire into melee or do something similarly silly? Firing into melee, not so much unless you’re in really cramped conditions. I assume that your character is competent enough for me to say, “hey, these conditions are really cramped”, and let you rethink your action before you point-blank headshot your cleric.
As for silly things, it depends how silly- If you try to get a minotaur to calm down by playing the flute (my sister actually did this, before my change to ‘tough-love’ DMing had really sunk in. Lucky she was first level), that will usually get YOU killed. Hum the ‘Mission: Impossible’ theme song while the rest of the party is trying to sneak, get everyone killed.
9) Will we need to run from some encounters, or will we be able to kill everything? Flee, weaklings! Flee, and know that you are mere mortals opposed to the Dungeon Master!
10) Level-draining monsters: yes or no? Yes. Fuck yes.
11) Are there going to be cases where a failed save results in PC death? I have something called the “Basilisks, Charm Person spells, Snakes, Spiders, Poisoned Weapons, Tainted Water, Smallpox, Death Rays, Dragon Breath, Gorgons, Catoblepas/Nekrozons, Traps, and Hypothermia Clause” (BCPSSSPWTWSDRDBGC/NTaHC), which basically says “Probably not. Let your guard down.”
12) How strictly are encumbrance & resources tracked? I’ll audit you once in a while. If your backpack doesn’t add up, I apply the appropriate penalty until the next audit, regardless of how much gear you drop before then.
13) What’s required when my PC gains a level? Training? Do I get new spells automatically? Can it happen in the middle of an adventure, or do I have to wait for down time? I give experience for treasure, mostly, which has to be retrieved to a relatively secure location before I add it to your total. Then you just level up, no fuss.
14) What do I get experience for? Treasure, spending said treasure. Don’t complain about not getting any from monsters- I don’t like the paperwork that brings.
15) How are traps located? Description, dice rolling, or some combination? Description.
16) Are retainers encouraged and how does morale work? I roll morale when the first PC dies, when the party is reduced to half of the size it had when it first set out, and whenever anything else incredibly terrifying happens. You can get retainers, and I think they’re awesome, but in all fairness- it will be hard to find someone willing to go into dungeons with you. The most likely source is making alliances with the rare ‘friendly’ ‘monsters’.
17) How do I identify magic items? Consult a sage, oracle, demon, etc. A good weaponsmith will have a few tests that can reveal the general quality of a weapon. ‘Detect Magic’ will reveal whether rings, wands, rods, staves, necklaces, and the like are magical, but it won’t reveal what they do. Most magic weapons and armor won’t even be revealed by ‘Detect Magic’, simply being
A~ extremely well made (+1 – +3),
B~ made out of some unusual material like demon’s blood, dragon scales, or tungsten carbide (+2 – +4), or
C~in some other way unique, such as having been cooled in the blood of priests/murderers/children, or ‘an old-sword of giants, with edge impenetrable’ (+2 – +5). Some of them get their powers from simple spellwork, but really, how lame would that be?
18) Can I buy magic items? Oh, come on: how about just potions? You can trade them, buy them off of giants or demons, or make your own. Sorry, even potions.
19) Can I create magic items? When and how? You want to make magic weapons? Oh, you’re a feisty one aren’t you? A real awesome force in the campaign? First you’ll need to learn how. This is the hard bit- weaponsmiths guard their secrets jealously, and you’d be lucky to forge a +1 sword even if you were trained by the greatest. Besides, if you want a great sword, you’ll need a better material than mere steel. And who’s going to teach you how to work with obsidian, diamonds, or demon’s blood? No one you can look up in the phone book. It will take a lot of work, but you can learn the skill necessary. You can just come up with the concept and get somebody else to make it, but you’ll still need at least basic weaponsmithing skill, and knowledge of theory.
Now, come up with a concept. This bit is simpler. Maybe you study ancient tomes and examine ancient weapons- in other words, the boring way. Maybe you find a master in the art beat his secrets out of him (it would be a lot nicer to pay him, you thug!)- in other words, the cheaty way. Maybe you spend a lot of time thinking about swords, doing katas with regular swords, and then smoking/snorting exotic substances (flowers, lycanthrope pelt, weeds) while meditating on the subject- in other words, the unreliable way.
Maybe the idea just falls into your lap- you break your sword on a rock, suddenly the rock gets struck by lightning, splits, and gems fall out, and you think, “I’ll just make a new sword out of these”- in other words, the lazy way. It would probably be best to combine the methods. Remember not to waste too much on-screen time on it, and remember that I won’t make ideas fall into your lap if it doesn’t look like you’re trying.
Wands, staves, rings, rods, scrolls, potions, and miscellaneous items? Boring. Just make those pretty much according to standard rules, but if you want to go the effort you can probably invent some kind of ‘anything goes’ thing.
20) What about splitting the party? Sure. I can handle it. And in a play-by-post? Anyone can handle it.