A Baldur’s Gate Trilogy

“Baldur’s Gate is a city divided by walls…walls that cut the Gate into three distinct cities: The rich live atop the bluffs protected from the bourgeoisie clinging to the slopes by barriers that literally prevent the middle class from rising above their stations, and beyond the protection of the city’s walls its many outcasts live with no law but the daggers of thieves.” – from Murder in Baldur’s Gate.

 For your gaming pleasure – three scenarios that make up an epic story-arc revolving around the famed city of Baldur’s Gate. If you have ever wanted to run a swords & sorcery themed Fate game, now’s your chance. You’ll find the scenarios at the bottom of the Dungeon Master’s Guide. There’s more than an occasional nod to French literary classics like A Tale of Two Cities or even The Three Musketeers; not to mention Fritz Leiber’s Lankhmar stories – with their colourful characters and cut-throat thieves’ guilds.

You’ll find they’re compatible with all of your 5th edition books like the Player’s Handbook or the Sword Coast Adventurer’s Guide if you play D&D. In fact, you’ll find that the 5th ed. write-ups for spells and monsters are easy to emulate using the guide-lines on this blog or those found in the Freeport Companion.

Uluvathae! (fortune bring you joy – in elvish).

Bedlam in Baldur’s Gate

I’ve posted a conversion of sorts for the Fury in Freeport scenario found towards the end of the Freeport Companion for those Dungeon Masters keen on running it using the rules on this blog. You can find it under the Dungeon Master’s Guide at the top of the screen.

As you might imagine the scenario is a natural fit when transplanted to the famed port-city of Baldur’s Gate. There are some minor exceptions, notably the fact that goblinkin and the like do not stroll openly around the Gate and the presence of hard-nosed mercenary company, the Flaming Fist mean the city is a little less raucous than Freeport. Other than that though, the adventure fits like a glove and we’ve provided lots of pointers and expanded notes to give DMs plenty of options when running the game, not to mention added read-aloud text to help bring the story to life.

If you like what you see you might want to pick up Murder in Baldur’s Gate for the excellent setting book. Failing that, Volo’s Guide to the Sword Coast comes highly recommended.  Get them at dmsguild.com

New Additions

New studies have been compiled and added to the Monstrous Manual for those Dungeon Masters among you of a particularly sadistic nature. Interested in observing adventurers dying in the most grotesque and spectacular of fashions? Well then, look no further than the flesh-devouring ghoul, the otherworldly air elemental and the legendary aratha, or “killer beetle”. Adventurers beware!

Wealth & Milestones

Looting of dungeons and forbidding tombs is such an integral part of old school swords & sorcery games that it would be remiss not to give this activity it’s proper place within Fate of the Forgotten Realms. No doubt inspired by the opportunistic tomb raiding of pulp fiction heroes like Fritz Leiber’s Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, Gary Gygax’s Dungeons & Dragons game rewarded players who discovered treasure with a mechanical reward where pieces of gold (or their equivalent in gems and curios) translated into experience points allowing player characters to level up.

Fate handles PC progress episodically so when the DM ascertains that a scenario or story arc has played out PCs are allowed to select new abilities, upgrading skills and stunts and eventually aspects to reflect important changes in that character’s life. There’s not much place there for treasure hoarding and booty. Thematically this is a problem because the realms were designed for dungeon crawling and tomb raiding. This suggests a need for treasure to represent something more than mere story padding.

What we do in FotFR is to imitate Gygax’s old school system to a degree. Instead of having a resources skill we let accumulated wealth represent experience accrued, higher standards of living equating to better care of weapons, armour and magical paraphernalia, not to mention apothecaries and healers to keep the body in fine fettle. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the PC will now be regarded as a highborn and be treated as such, that’s the preserve of the Aristocrat profession but even this score may be improved by ‘buying’ upgrades with gold. So in this case wealth is recorded in material terms, as an Extra. This may even necessitate an expanded character sheet with added sections recording coin and recovered treasure.

As Dungeon Master you will need to set a budget, determining just how many gold pieces will be required to upgrade a skill or stunt or indeed even add a new stunt. Be sensible, take a look at the equipment rosters and cost of living rules in the D&D 5th ed. Basic Rules or Player’s Handbookand use them as a guideline. These rules will invigorate any campaign featuring even the occasional dungeon crawl, instead of the DM setting the pace of change concerning PC’s abilities the players themselves may alternately advance quickly or slowly based on their own luck and daring exploration. That antique chest secluded under mouldering floorboards could see a lucky thief grab a new stunt during her first scenario. Equally a hapless party may see their abilities remain static for a number of sessions should luck prevent them from noticing any of those hidden doors.

Also consider how trinkets or even the odd ancient coin can cause a session to become truly memorable when a player character succeeds with style during some exploration based activity. A boost is not always the best reward for succeeding with style on every action and it can be a little anti-climatic to simply have that player describe themselves doing something ostentatious. Instead, keep a roster of minor valuable trinkets that players can stumble on and acquire whenever they succeed with style – so you manage to loosen those bars on that large sewer grate, getting a Great result your eye catches on a gleaming silver necklace mired in slime. Or even in combat, a thief makes a deadly attack out of the shadows, succeeding with style she also manages to filch that curious looking wristband in the process, her target being none the wiser.

Realistically players should only be able to cash in on these upgrades during appropriate periods, in a location where there are not only merchants and jewelers who will exchange coin for the adventurers’ bounty but also resources where player characters can unwind and actually benefit from the fruits of their exploration. It might be useful in an ongoing campaign to have at least a couple of supporting NPCs who deal with your PCs in this respect. With the right aspects they could become memorable characters in your story and provide the impetus for future scenarios.

Of course not every game using the rules on this site will focus on dungeon crawling so if as DM you need an equivalent to the resources skill from the core rules simply look to the Aristocrat profession. Happy adventuring!

Another Look At Racial Aspects

This is a revised and improved approach to creating characters for play in the Forgotten Realms. The information given in the racial aspects section of the Dungeon Master’s Guide is there to serve as inspiration for aspects. It should inform any player as to the possibilities they can draw on when developing their character’s aspects. Race and ethnicity is important enough in the realms to warrant special mention among your character aspects. As I’ve stated in the guide “Suffice to say that anyone not human or even halfling should probably mention it… it will likely get mentioned by others anyway.”

The core rules of Fate are clear on the need for aspects to be well defined and crucially, understood by everyone at the table. Simply taking the aspect Sun Elf  or Shield Dwarf  is too broad and open to all kinds of abuse by the player. Counting Elf  among your aspects should not give the player carte blanche to invoke on a wide range of actions from swordplay to magic or agility as is the implication in the Freeport Companion. This interpretation is closer to the kinds of class abilities found in Dungeons & Dragons. One of the dangers of opening play up to this kind of aspect or interpretation there of is that it devalues the other aspects that make each scene unique. This is true in any game of Fate, not just the swords & sorcery genre. Why bother working to take advantage of your environment or your opponent’s weaknesses if you can just fall back on that Elf  aspect to improve all manner of attack actions, including magic. If however your aspect is defined as Sun Elf Bladesinger , that tells us something, not alone that your character is a sun elf but also that they have been trained in a specialised form of swordplay that prioritises defensive posture and tactical positioning. The exact martial and magical skills of your character can be further expanded on with stunts. Indeed many of the stunts listed in the Freeport Companion could be easily reworded or even reinterpreted as aspects.

A racial aspect in Fate of the Forgotten Realms could say something about a cultural background, a training in a specific field, a real-world profession or even a problem that the character is saddled with – a Trouble aspect, e.g. “No Love for Half-Orcs” . Given that aspects are expected to be double-edged, simply attaching a racial qualification or ethnic description to an aspect is enough to suggest potential compels, e.g. “Illuskan Skald”  or “Gnome’s Nose for Potions” . Unless you’re playing a very typical heartlander, at least one of your aspects should inform us of your ethnicity.

A Dungeon Master’s Guide…

What do we need to play Fate in the Forgotten Realms? Well, firstly if you haven’t already done so familiarise yourself with the game – fate-srd.com. The Fate Core System hardback is well worth investing in, trust me and it’s a handsome little tome that will sit well on any wizard’s shelf. Much of the rules on this site are based on the Fate Freeport Companion, which is presumed essential reading for play in the realms. You can pick it up on Drive-Thru RPG. You will need some reference material for the world you are about to run. You could feasibly get by using the Forgotten Realms Wiki, a very decent online library of realmslore but you’ll be missing out if you neglect acquiring a good sourcebook.

There are currently four editions of the Forgotten Realms, by far the most focused and atmospheric are the earlier iterations. The first edition, the old grey box is cherished by many gamers, mostly for it’s conciseness but it’s light on detail compared to later texts.

The second edition, either the gold box or the revised edition expands greatly on the world, however it is a world recovering from some turbulent ‘realms shaking events’. These r.s.e.s are questionable, undeniably included to trumpet the arrival of a new edition but frustratingly they are taking something from the DM, the privilege to shake up the world as she sees fit to. It is ten years from the Time of Troubles, when avatars of the gods schemed and fought against each other on Faerûn. More on the gods later. It is perhaps the definitive vision of the realms though and I would strongly recommend you get a copy, with a little luck a .pdf might be found online.

The third edition is praised for it’s high level of detail but it also introduces a major player in the returned Netherese Archmages, transforming the great northern desert in the process where there had previously been endless sand, warring bedine tribes and mysterious ruins. That’s an impactful event and changes the whole tone of Faerûn. It wouldn’t be to my taste. If you like the idea of a desolate desert hiding ancient secrets you might want to exclude the returned archmages and everything they bring. Still, it gets high marks and can be picked up online at sites like dmsguild.com.

Finally, since our campaign is set on the swashbuckling stretch of waters known as the sword coast, the adventure module Murder in Baldur’s Gate would make an excellent resource, if only for it’s superb setting book. The city depicted here is larger and more colourful than earlier representations of Baldur’s Gate but it can be easily fitted to any 14th c. arc. In fact for any DM planning on running games in one of Faerûn’s city-states I would suggest that it’s among the best places to start. It’s big and detailed without being too big and detailed.