Friday 10 November 2023

More on Giak Army organisation - theorising more units

One of the things I keep coming back to in my fantasy gaming is my Orc and Goblin army, for Warhammer, and later Kings of War (see the 'Raising the Standard' tag to go back over me building parts of it), and now, possibly for Oathmark (for which, I will perhaps resurrect the 'Raising the Standard' tag); and one of the things that feeds into how I think about Orcs and Goblins is the Giak Army List in the Second Citadel Journal. I never had any of the Giak minis (I did have a dream recently that I was searching for some in a second-hand shop, that's how much they've infested my consciousness, even 35 or more years later), nor indeed any of the Lone Wolf gamebooks from which the Giaks come, but I really liked the idea of a huge Goblin army organised into regiments along the lines of the Giak Army List, and it's helped pattern the way I've thought about Goblins, Orcs, and indeed Orks, ever since.

The idea I was pushing towards some years ago (link) - to use build an analogue of the army using Warhammer Goblins to stand for Giaks - will not currently work. Goblins have mostly been withdrawn by GW: in the current 'Age of Sigmar' iteration of Warhammer, there are no Goblin (as opposed to Night Goblin, 'Gitz', or Orc, 'Orruk') infantry units. The only 'Goblins' are what used to be known as 'Forest Goblin Spider Riders', and some Wolf Riders (and there only seem to be 3 of these). There is a limited number of Gnoblars (grey Swamp Goblins that hang around with Ogres) from GW but there is little flexibility in what are basically single-piece sculpts (different heads is your lot here); if I do anything with Gnoblars it will probably be just bulking out other units. 

Perhaps I find a way to build the army from the current sets of Night Goblins and Orcs that GW is now selling. The Night Goblins I'm considering - there are several options in the Infantry box that might be useful. As to the 'Orruks' - nothing I've seen in the new ranges strikes me as good for the units I'm after. Maybe I can pick up enough old GW Goblins from ebay to build an army, or maybe this will forever remain in the realm of speculation. But, as I'm unlikely to often venture back into a Games Workshop premises to play, maybe the presence of non-GW models might not be a problem and I can do this using Goblins from another manufacturer. Mantic in their Kings of War range (link) and North Star in their Oathmark range (link) both have Goblin Infantry that have weapon options including bows, spears, slashing weapons and some crushing weapons, though it seems the prevalence of the latter is much less than other sorts. North Star also do some Wolf Riders that might serve, as Giaks also ride wolves (they organise their wolf riders into units of 20). These Wolf Riders seem to be compatible with the Goblin Infantry which may increase choices when it comes to weapon swaps etc. And, as I mentioned at the top of the post, I'm building units for Oathmark. A colleague mentioned it had a good campaign system at work one day (there's a very long backstory involving running a quick D&D campaign in our lunchbreaks) and I've picked it up on his recommendation, but not yet fought any battles. It could be a good reason to re-activate the building of a Goblin army anyway.

Mantic also do Wolf Riders, and is also expanding its range of Orcs, which may feed back into this if I go for a mix of 'Orc' and 'Goblin' units. The Riftforged Orcs especially seem suitable (link), as they have a range of crushing weapons and good armour. This makes them something like the militaristic Giaks - but they seem much larger, they're something like WH 'Black Orcs', even larger than the standard Mantic Orc Infantry. Depending on how I sort this, that might not be a problem.

The Giak army list entries are these:

Unit Name:                   Colour:    Symbol:                     Notes:
Gorakim                          Red           Fanged Jawbone        Gourgaz leader
('The Animals')

Konkorim                        Yellow      Bow crossed by           All armed with
('The Hunters')                                 3 arrows                        short bows

Kaggazheg                      Orange       Flaming                        Leader wears
('Fire-Dogs')                                      Dog's Head                   a Doomwolf Pelt

Moggador                      Dark           Crossed                          No Edged Weapons
('The Hammerers')      Blue            Warhammers

Nadul-Nak                     Black          Black Flag                     Dressed in Black

Lajakann                        Grey           Grey Heart &                Gourgaz leader     
('The Stonehearts')                           Scimitar

Ogshashez                      Purple        Serrated Dagger          No Blunt Weapons
('The Throat-Slitters')                                                              No Pole-arms

Nanenrakim                   Light           Black Arrows              All armed with
('The Life-stealers')       Blue                                                   short bows

Orgadak-Taagim            Dull            Human Head              All armed with
('The Humankillers')     Red             on a pole                     Pole-arms

Anyway - the Giak Army List is cool and inspiring. This is about taking that inspiration and going elsewhere with it.

I think there are similarities between the Giak Army List and the 'Clerical Quick Reference Chart' in the back of Deities & Demigods. In D&D, there is a standard progression of evil humanoids, known as 'KGOHGBO', which stands for Kobold-Goblin-Orc-Hobgoblin-Gnoll-Bugbear-Ogre, and represents humanoid tribal monsters of increasing resilience. Taking the idea of the KGOHGBO progression as being, basically, 'O&G', finding out what gods were worshipped by the various races, and basing units on that, I came up with the following notes towards a new regiments list (formatted as the Giak Army List, listed in KGOHGBO order):

Unit Name:                Colour:    Symbol:                  Notes:

Stak-Danakim              Orange     Skull                        Kobolds: Spears                                
('Orange Spears')                                                          Follow Kurtulmak

Gudjagim                     Grey-       Bloody Axe              Goblins: Axes
('Mighty Ones')            Green                                        Follow Maglubiyet

Naogjatim                    Dark        Unwinking                Orcs: Black Spears
('The Unsleeping')       Red          Eye                            Follow Gruumsh

(Hobgoblins would go here but they worship Maglubiyet along with Goblins)

Staz-Ekug                      Dirty        Triple-                     Gnolls: (no edged weapons?)
('Yellow Punishment')   Yellow      Flail                         Follow Yeenoghu

Hugzakim                    Black       Morningstar              Bugbears: No Edged Weapons
('Smashers')                                                                   Follow Hruggek

Ruzzakim                      Blood       Taloned Hand          Ogres: (edged weapons?)
('The Destroyers')         Red                                           Follow Vaprak

Italics represent my attempts at using the Project Aeon word-lists (English to GiakGiak to English) to create unit names. In the case of Ruzzakim, I'm translating directly from Vaprak's title, 'The Destroyer'. For the rest, I'm picking some aspect of the deity and running with it. For the 'Stak-Danakim' I'd have preferred some name relating to Kurtulmak's cunning, but cannot find a Giak word that equates to cunning, cleverness or trickery (traits particularly prized by the Kobolds and reflected in their God's nature).

Some classic tropes connected with 'Orc' units in Warhammer (axes and skulls for instance) are in this list connected with Maglubiyet (Goblin/Hobgoblin god) and Kurtulmak (Kobold god) respectively. On the other hand, Gruumsh, the Orcs' one-eyed spear-wielder seems (in Warhammer terms) to be more likely to be a Goblin (particularly Night Goblin) deity, given the prevalence of eye-imagery, and the use of spears, by Night Goblins.

Vaprak and Hruggek are relatively unproblematic - Hruggek smashes things and Vaprak tears them apart. I know Warhammer understands 'Ogres' differently to D&D, but to me, from a D&D perspective, they're still just the biggest sort of Orc (when they're not what Tolkien calls by the name of 'Trolls'). Anyroadup, big Goblins and their smashy god, big Orcs and their vicious rippy god called 'The Destroyer'.

Yeenoghu, the demon-prince who is the Gnolls' deity, is a problem for two reasons. Are Gnolls really bigger Orcs? Maybe. Maybe as much as Kobolds are smaller ones. For a long time I've mentally broken KGOHGBO into two parallel groups - KOGO and GHB. Gnolls are just bigger Orcs. But there aren't really any whip/flail weapons for WH Orcs, nor Goblins neither. Not enough to make units out of anyway, maybe the odd one. Perhaps just having non-edged weapons is enough, if such a thing is possible, given the general lack of crushing weapons for Goblins? Perhaps this could be a Night Goblin unit with some of the weird weapons like nets and the ball-and-chain weapons of Night Goblin fanatics? 

There are no archer-regiments in this list. That's because no KGOHGBO god has a bow as a weapon. 6 regiments mean that I can add two bow-armed units to this list (no more than 25% of Giak units can be bow-armed, at an 'Army' level of organisation at any rate, and they have to be short-bows, so no Orcs with longbows or x-bows in this list).

Giaks group their units (the basic unit, the 36-model regiment/warband, is called a 'dorgar') into divisions called 'zegorim' (which looks like a plural, and elsewhere that just seems to be another word for 'Giaks') which consist of 3 regiments. The way the 25% bows is supposed to work rather fails in the overall list at a sub-army level, however, because no matter how you slice it (9 units, 3 divisions, 1 army) you can't have a 3-unit division with a bow-armed unit in it that is not more than 25% of the total. So the 25% must only apply at army level not division level. No reason I suppose that you can't have the two archer-units in the same division, in that case. But it's not elegant, I think.

Anyway, the DDG list has got me 2/3 of the way to a 'new' 9-unit Giak army list, and two archer-regiments has got 8/9 of the way there, at least in outline. The way I think I shall divide it up is something like...

Orgar Shug-Tanzar or Army-Green-Storm - a favourite army name of mine, named after the 'Green Storm Commandos' in the Philip Reeve books... my 40K Ork army has a unit called the Grub-Dakka Orkyzag, or 'Cunning Attack Green Lightning', as that's the closest I can get in Orkish to 'Green Storm Commando'. I think it's a good name for an orcish/orkish unit. But there's no word in Giak for 'cunning' that I can find as I mentioned in discussing the 'Orange Spears' - and anyway, Giaks are supposed to be grey so maybe 'grey storm' would be more accurate. Unfortunately, there's no word for 'grey' (or gray for that matter) in the English-Giak word-list either... 'Army Green Storm' will have to do.

I'm going to apply certain rules here. The first is that I think that I should assign an independent 1-in-6 chance of a Gourgaz leader to each unit (for using these as 'real' Giaks - in the original list, some Giak units are led by Gourgaz, which are axe-wielding troglodytes); the 2/9 of the original list seem to be around that kind of chance. I found a pic of a Gourgaz, but I no longer know where.

This is an artist's impression of a Gourgaz - by the looks, it is intended as a standee

I rolled 5, 4, 1, 6, 6, 1 for the units I have, then 4, 3, 1 for the as-yet-unknown units; so the units with Gourgaz leaders will be 3 (Naogjatim,'The Unsleeping') and 6 (Ruzzakim 'The Destroyers'), then the final unknown unit, which on balance should probably be another unit with edged weapons (they're certainly easier to come by then bludgeoning/crushing weapons). 

The following assumes I'm using the current Warhammer range of figures...

Unit Name:                Colour:    Symbol:                  Notes:

Stak-Danakim              Orange     Skull                        Orange Spears                              
('Orange Spears')                                                          (Night Goblins with spears?)

Gudjagim                     Grey-       Bloody Axe              Axes
('Mighty Ones')            Green                                        (Orcs with axes?)

Naogjatim                   Dark         Unwinking               Black Spears: Gourgaz leader
('The Unsleeping')      Red           Eye                           (Night Goblins with spears?)

Staz-Ekug                    Dirty        Triple-                       No Edged Weapons
('Yellow Punishment') Yellow      Flail                          (Orcs with smashing weapons?)

Hugzakim                    Black       Morningstar              No Edged Weapons
('Smashers')                                                                   (Orcs with smashing weapons?)

Ruzzakim                     Blood       Taloned Hand           Edged weapons: Gourgaz leader
('The Destroyers')        Red                                           (Orcs with axes/swords?)

(Unknown archer unit)                                                  Shortbows
                                                                                       (Night Goblins with shortbows?)

(Unknown archer unit)                                                  Shortbows
                                                                                       (Night Goblins with shortbows?)

(Unknown unit)                                                             Edged weapons?: Gourgaz leader
                                                                                       (Orcs with swords?)

Additional considerations: as two units list 'dark red' and 'blood red' (which I guess is more vibrant) as their regimental colours, they should probably be in different divisions, as should the units using orange and 'dirty yellow', just to avoid the confusion of colours; just because it makes sense, the two spear-units should be in different divisions, and the two archer-units should also be in different divisions. That is the plan... but as I only have the sketchiest ideas yet for three of the units, maybe I can organise the six units I do have a plan for into two divisions and leave the third for now, with the two regiments of archers in that. I have in effect two spear units, two smashing units and two slashing units, and can put one of each into both divisions.

From here I think I can break the units thusly:

First Division -

Stak-Danakim - Goblins with spears (orange)

Ruzzakim Orcs with swords (blood red)

Hugzakim - Orcs with smashing weapons (black)

Second Division -

Gudjagim - Orcs with axes (grey-green)

Naogjatim - Goblins with spears (dark red)

Staz-Ekug - Orcs with smashing weapons (yellow)

Problems then come because the number of smashing weapons in the various boxes is very small. Building 2 units of 'smashers' will be tricky from any individual range. I am aiming I think for 40 Goblins per 'dorgar'; if I substitute any with Orc models, maybe 30 per regiment would do. The original Giak list has 36-model regiments (it doesn't explain what to do if the unit is led by a Gourgaz however, that's something I will have to think about later). If I'm fielding the army as a 'counts as' rather than just 'inspired by', they really should all be Goblins.

Then, of course, the problem is that any Night Goblins who are not archers will have 'Bad Moon' shields. These come integrally cast with the arms. It is of course possible to shave off the shield designs and paint them appropriately but that seems a real faff, and perhaps suggests I should look elsewhere for my models. Or, I could use the shield designs as-is, and just paint them in the requisite colours. In that case I could just do all of the units, for both armies, with the exception of the units with smashing weapons, as Night Goblins, and paint all of the shields in the required colours - so I have yellow moons, blue moons, purple moons, several colours of green moons etc. It's not an ideal solution though.

Whether any of this will ever exist in the flesh (or at least in miniature form) is unknowable. But I think the Oathmark Goblin Infantry and Wolf Riders are the front-runners for models I might actually obtain in the near future, and I can begin to grind through unit-building. I've sort of talked myself into buying a few boxes of each I think and seeing how I get on with them. Of course, I'm also trying to get this army ready for playing Oathmark anyway. That has certain limits on units - no more than 4 units of one type, as a hard maximum, so whatever army organisation I go for, I can't have more than 4 Goblin Infantry, 4 Goblin Spearmen etc, which will start to impose some further restrictions on what I can and can't field. Whether I get any of the Mantic Goblins (or Orcs), or anything from GW, I'm less sure about. Watch this space, perhaps not too intently; the Army Green Storm is rumbling its way over the horizon... maybe...

Tuesday 21 February 2023

Accidental Rohan Army

 Honestly, I'm not quite sure how it happened. I used to have some Lord of the Rings minis. I know how that happened - about, oh, 21 years or so ago, when my eldest was very small, we went to the cinema to watch the first Harry Potter film. While there, we were treated to an advert for the first of Jackson's Lord of the Rings films. Apparently, according to Mrs Orc, both me and Orc Junior sat through it all with stunned and entranced expressions.

Cut to a few weeks later: I saw that Games Workshop and De Agostini had brought out one of those 'collect a magazine every two weeks and in only 700 weeks you'll have a complete scale model of Tina Turner'-style things, but this time it was LotR. The first issue was something like £2 (a very reasonable price), and came with a sprue of Moria Goblins and some paints. Awesome, I thought, I have to get that, Orc Junior will love it.

I was right; at which point (maybe I should have kept my damn fool mouth shit) I said "if you like those, just wait until you see what's in Grandma and Grandad's loft." I knew my old Warhammer figures were up there see. So next time we were up at my parents' place, I got the box down and we had a look through. Lots of Goblins, some Dwarves and humans... not as many Elves as I remembered... but then I remembered swapping some Elves with a friend for some Goblins when I was about 14, which probably explains it. Anyway, we brought it back to the Orc cave and started playing something like Warhammer and also started getting more paints to paint them up.

And of course we started going to Games Workshop. Very quickly, Orc Junior's interest went from Elves and Goblins to Space Marines and Tyrannids. So that's how we ended up playing 40K.

It's also why I ended up buying loads of stuff over the years on ebay. I now have literally dozens of half-started armies for a whole load of games, including LotR (or Battle Games in Middle Earth or Middle Earth Strategy Battle Game or whatever it's called). But I didn't have many Rohan minis - Theoden, Gamling and Eowyn from the 'Heroes of Helm's Deep' set, and that was all, until I got a somewhat random collection of minis in a job-lot. There were half a dozen riders, including an Eomer, and three plastic footsoldiers. Not enough to do anything with, and they stayed in a box for a long time. With a lot of other LotR minis - men of Gondor, lots of Moria Goblins (including the very first ones), various Orcs, some Numenoreans and Eves of the Last Alliance. Some of them, I had an idea that I could do some kind of Game of Thrones tie-in. I have two Boromirs, and as I've mentioned before, I think there's some mileage in a Boromir/Nedd Stark crossover. I know that some people used LotR minis for GoT projects. Some of one the job-lots had had their helmets shaved down and the White Tree armorials scraped of their shields before I got them, I presume for similar purposes. But all told, I didn't have reasonable forces for anything LotR related, and I didn't have any small skirmish fantasy rulesets that I was interested in playing (I was playing Kings of War a while ago, but had built a big Goblin army for that) so they just went back in the box.

And there they stayed until very recently. But, maybe in October or thereabouts I was chatting to someone at work who is also a gamer. For him it's mostly Napoleonics, but he's not averse to pushing the odd Orc around on a table. We were talking about different games, and I was saying I liked games with a campaign-type structure, and also quite liked 'random' things happening (like, monsters that weren't part of either army turning up on the battlefield) and he said that he'd found the Oathmark system interesting for the way it provided some kind of storytelling in the background rather than just every battle existing in a kind of limbo (I paraphrase, but that was the essence of it I thought). Long and short, I decided to get hold of the Oathmark rules.

So now I have Oathmark, and was looking for factions I could apply the rules to. I can no doubt get a few units together pretty easily. I have 20-or-so Numenoreans and about the same Gondorians (with heavier-looking armour) that I could field as a couple of Human units. But I was irritated by the Rohirrim. If only I could make those into viable units - not too difficult, I had both foot and cavalry models, surely it would be easy to find some manufacturer (maybe someone making Ostrogoths or something) to add to the minis I had.

But the scale of the Rohan miniatures (especially the plastics) is on the small side, it seems. A bit of asking around over at the Lead Adventures Forum rapidly rapidly lead me to the conclusion that if I wanted to build a ... let's call it 'ersatz Volkswandrung' army on the cheap, that matched the small force I already had, probably the easiest way to do it was to get more job-lots off ebay.

So, here I am. I know have about a dozen cavalry (in various states of repair) and about 70 foot (again, some broken); this will let me field 20 with shield and hand weapon, 20 with shield and spear, and 20 with bows. These can be added to my Numenoreans and Gondorians, to produce a decent infantry force. The cavalry I'll have to fudge for a little while (maybe I'll get some more, who knows?) but should be able to field something approximating 10 horsemen pretty soon. That seems like a good beginning for a Human army in Oathmark.

But it does mean I have now, accidentally (as I've never really played BGiME) a Rohan army, of a kind. Or I will have, if I get on with the painting. So that's the point of this - another of those 'I'm building an army and going to chronicle it here' posts, and I hope, not the last ... we shall see, but soon, perhaps, there will even be photos.

Monday 12 December 2022

Megadungeon design - first principles

The Caverns of The Rift are a megadungeon. There's no real question about that as far as I can see. It would be extremely difficult to work out exactly how big it is, though Level 1 contains 12 different sublevels or zones and 443 rooms, Level 2 contains 16 sublevels and 695 rooms, Level 3 is 14 zones and 499 rooms, and Level 4 is 4 sublevels (one of them huge) with 359 rooms. All those levels have corridors that go of to areas waiting to be further expanded, if necessary. Weirdly, the PCs completely bypassed Level 4; having just about started to explore Level 3, they decided it was too dangerous and went Level 5 instead. No, I don't understand it either.

The first 4 Levels are pretty much completely fleshed out with just over 2,000 rooms (maybe 50 of these are just notes rather than full descriptions)... 5, 6 and 7 are substantially finished (maybe 75%) and Levels 8 and 9 are partially sketched out. There is a staircase - it's almost legendary, and called 'the Endless Stair' - that connects many levels directly, but the PCs haven't found it.

Level 10 is a vast subterranean world, a kind of Underdark-ish hexcrawl (more a pointcrawl really) called the 'Abyssal Realms' (there's even a blog label for that, though to be fair I haven't posted about it for a while). That is done differently; I haven't detailed individual rooms for most areas in the Realms, more like encounter areas, but it contains something like 60 unique locations. These range in size from individual small encounters to subterranean cities. Unlike the caves of the Rift, which are quite tightly-constrained in an E-W direction (the caves the PCs have gone to stretch for about a mile along the south side of the Rift), and somewhat in a N-S direction (the south wall of the Rift is the northern edge of any tunnels, and they stretch... an undetermined distance to the south), the Abyssal Realms stretch for dozens of miles under the mountains in all directions. If the PCs make it there, the campaign will have to change, with the PCs' 'hometown' changing from the above-ground Rift City to somewhere underground that they can use as a base of operations (and place to pick up new party members). There are a few contenders for a new underground base for further exploration. But as I say, the PCs didn't reach it, and may never, as the Rift City campaign has ground to a halt. 

So, what's the point of it all? Originally when I conceived of the caverns in this huge valley called 'The Rift' I had in mind something like the Caves of Chaos, but 500 times bigger. A series of caverns over many levels that were linked together, that had factions and stories and lives, in the side of a vast valley. That seemed like a cool place to go adventuring, and provided one of the necessary elements that I'd identified for the game - an adventure site that would be suitable for repeated visits from a local base. That implies a megadungeon.

Image from Dream by Wombo, using prompt 'valley with caves'

This I think is actually my fourth megadungeon. The first was something I started nearly 30 years ago and it didn't get very far - a Dwarf complex somewhat inspired by descriptions in Magician by Raymond Feist, and Song of the Dwarves by Thorarin Gunnarsen, that I was reading in the early 1990s, I think. I had a few plans but did very little work on it. That was folded into my second megadungeon, Silvergate, the abandoned Dwarven city that got somewhat further but has still stalled (or maybe been abandoned... by me rather than the Dwarves this time, though it also has a blog label). I think I'll probably go back to that and try to push it forward at some point though.

The third megadungeon I think never even made onto the blog. I don't know why to be honest, it would have been good to throw some ideas around here. As it is, it exists only on Facebook. Again it's a stalled project, an attempt to co-operatively build a megadungeon. There's been some serious work put in by one contributor - not me. It's called 'The Labyrinth of Nodnol' (link here for those on Facebook) and is based on the London Underground/Overground map.

Then came The Rift. A few of us were talking about starting a D&D campaign and I offered to DM it. I didn't really have any ideas other than that the structure needed to account for people not being able to make every session, so the idea that the dungeon needed to be near the PCs' home base came about. This would allow them to make periodic visits to the dungeon, rather than having a campaign based on travelling from one dungeon area to the next (or even, travelling overland to a series on minidungeons). Perhaps that will be the format of the next campaign; perhaps it won't. The other option of course is just a huge underground exploration, but I wanted to get round the problem players not being able to make consecutive sessions and their PCs being stuck in limbo while life went on a round them. So, I decided on a structure that says that the PCs get the hell out of the dungeon between sessions.

Constantly travelling to the same place also implies lots of entrances. The PCs discovered (I think) 16 entrances into the caves, which variously take them to Levels 1 (7 entrances), 2 (4 entrances); they also discovered one entrance each for the 3rd, 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th levels. As I say, this is from memory, there may have been more they discovered.

I used a variety of methods to generate the content. A lot of it has come from some random dungeon generators, particularly Donjon's (link) AD&D Dungeon Generator. Other Dungeon Generators are available, and some have been used, including the old WotC Generator (like much of the free content on Wizards, this seems to have been taken down sometime around May 2022) and Save versus Total Party Kill's 'Dungeon with x Rooms' (link here) - it only generates short room descriptions so I've also used maps from Dyson (link) and Paratime (link), among others, as well as creating a lot of my own. All of these sources have been smushed together to create the (approximately) 2,400 rooms so far detailed/mapped out in the Caverns of the Rift.

But, now I'm going to start a new megadungeon, though as the Rift Caverns had 2,400 rooms and were not finished, the projected new megadungeon with 365 rooms looks a bit tiny. This new megadungeon is my response to the "Dungeon23" project. This is a kind of design challenge that basically asks for a dungeon-room a day, every day through 2023. The original post is here, though I found it on a Facebook post from someone else. There is a hashtag, #dungeon23, but I don't do twitter and that probably hasn't worked anyway. In the original post, the 'rules' are pretty simple - "Megadungeon for 2023. 12 levels. 365 rooms. One room a day. Keep it in a journal."

I don't have a nice journal, but I do have a blog. I'm not promising to post every day but I will try to post much more regularly than I have been doing. This timetable does give momething to aim at.

I first read the original post today, but heard about this a couple of days ago. The original says (words to the effect of) 'generators are fine, the point is to get it done and produce something'. But, I've built a megadungeon (substantially) with generators. I want to exercise my grey matter. I *could* just go to 'Save versus Total Party Kill' and ask the dungeon-room randomator to produce a 365-room dungeon. Then all I'd have to do was map it. That would save loads of bother. Or I could get Donjon's generator to produce 12 dungeons of about the right size and tweak anything from there. Both of these would be valid ways given the original guidance to produce the required output, but I want to see if I can do this from the power of my own brain. I may well at some point fall back on the generators, but I want to resist that as long as I can, so I can get an idea of what I can do by relying as much as I can get away with on my wits.

I have an idea about the overall design and how I'm going to 'pattern' the rooms/days, and I have an idea about how I'm going to populate it wit monsters, traps and treasure (it will involve using Moldvay pretty heavily) but I have almost no ideas about what I will actually put in as content, except that room/day 1 will be an entrance. That's all I know right now, except for one thing that I will tease you with because I don't want to say just now. I have for a long time wanted to construct a certain type of dungeon and this will be that type. That's all.

Hopefully come the New Year I'll start posting more about this. In the meantime, happy dungeonering, folks!

Friday 2 December 2022

End of an Era

 Well, it looks like the Rift City campaign is no more, and 'The Wandering Monster Table', the experiment to bring open-table D&D to Leicester is over, after a little over 5 years.

Brigham's Mule Sanctuary, his retirement plan, interpreted by 'Dream by Wombo' (look it up, I've had fun playing with it) AI art generator

I've mentioned in previous postings on the blog that it has morphed into something quite different from the original conception, becoming something more like a regular gaming group, and also (primarily because of covid, but also due to to work commitments and people moving away) migrating from meatspace (and not just face-to-face but in a publicly-accessible space) to online. However, the Rift City campaign was conceived as a drop-in game and in theory at least remained so until the end. And that was the point really, to give people a regular game that didn't involve committing to be at every session.

This was why I adopted the structure I did for the campaign - adventuring in the Rift took place during the day, and at the end of the day the PCs high-tailed it back to town to lick their wounds an count their loot. Then, 'the next day', a potentially new constellation of adventurers would brave the caves and return in glory or defeat.

It's been fun (mostly), and some hard work to keep it going. But over the last couple of sessions, only two players have turned up - Brigham and Ugli, who were the players of Polly the Magic User and Gibbet the Thief in the very first session. We decided if no-one else wanted to come to the next session, we'd knock it on the head. I put out a call on Facebook (most of the players, something like 25 of them, who'd been to previous sessions are on there) but no-one committed to coming. So, I've pulled the plug.

Thanks players for turning up and running through the games I put on, I hope everyone had fun... but it's time to find other things to do every first Sunday of the month. Ciao!

Friday 5 August 2022

Rift City Campaign Session 60 - out of the Rift!

I'd like to start with an apology to anyone still reading this. It seems I've put two posts on the blog in the last year. I've been very bad at keeping it up to date. I originally started the blog to discuss fantasy gaming, mostly Warhammer and related topics, but after I did, I started playing D&D again and that became the main focus. But lately I've been posting neither D&D nor miniature-gaming content. So, I'm sorry to anyone who feels disappointed. Perhaps no-one is, in which case, that's OK, but in case anyone is, you have my apologies, and at least the expressed intention to do better.

I'm not really sure why it's tailed off. I have been continuing to run the Rift City Campaign, and messing about with a bunch of other things; I just haven't been good at talking about them. But, with the Rift City Campaign, and the 'Wandering Monster Table' project, now 5 years old (we had our first session in August 2017), it seemed like a good reason to sit down and say something about it. So I will.

First, the 'Wandering Monster Table' itself. This was originally conceived as a monthly drop-in game in a (relatively) public space. Our first six sessions were in a pub, on the second Sunday of the month; we had to move for a month when there was an event on for one month (there's a comedy festival that takes place every February in Leicester, and the pub was a regular venue); we met at the house of a couple of people from the group for one session; but after the festival, we went back to the pub for about another year.

Then, the pub we met at closed down and we had to find another venue. So, for a couple of months, we went back to the house of the players we'd been to previously; then we found a different pub, for about another six months.

After this however, I got a new job that involved travelling on Sunday evenings. This meant that we had to move the session, to Sunday afternoon, when most pubs are serving food and much less keen to let some weirdos use a couple of tables. But shortly after this, Covid happened and all the pubs were closed anyway. Also, people couldn't meet face-to-face. So, we started using Discord.

So for half of its life, the 'public drop-in game' has existed as an online game instead. It's still a drop-in game, in theory, but I don't think we've added any players online that hadn't come to face-to-face sessions. I'm not saying the project is a failure - it certainly isn't, it's the longest-running campaign I've been involved in bar none; three people came to the first session (apart from me) and two of them are still regular players; and hopefully people who've played in it have enjoyed it (I certainly have) and will continue to enjoy it; but it must be admitted that it doesn't really fulfil the original brief any more. But, that's OK; who in the balmy days of the Summer of 2017 could have predicted Covid? Not me at any rate. Maybe, at some point, we'll get back to face-to-face meetings in a public place; maybe we won't.

Anyway, that's the 'Wandering Monster Table'... what about the campaign itself?

At the previous session (in June) the PCs had decided that they need more magic items - specifically Bags of Holding, as they'd found what turned out over two sessions to be several dragons, and were trying to find ways of carrying back the piles of coinage that tend to be found in dragony hoards.

There are no 'magic shops' per se in Rift City. Not quite true; there are no general magic emporia, but there is an Alchemist who has opened a potion shop, and potions are sometimes available from some of the temples too, but the supply overall is erratic. Perhaps I've done this 'wrong'; maybe it would have been more sensible to have a magic shop in Rift City, but my thinking has been that magic should be somewhat more difficult to access than say torches or iron rations. It *should* make it more mysterious and 'special', but perhaps it's just more annoying.

However, the party knows that there is a more substantial city about four days' journey away. 'Rift City' is a somewhat rough frontier town, built on the momentary profits of exploiting the adventurers coming back from the monster-infested tunnels in the Rift - it's sort of like a gold-rush town. It hardly has much infrastructure. The 'big city' is actually a real city - much bigger than Rift City and, the PCs hope, with better amenities. 

So, I worked out how far away it was and estimated how long it would take to get there. In effect, it's four days' journey through mountainous terrain, unless something goes very wrong. I wondered about this, rolled up some encounters for different times of the days involved, and knocked together a rough-and-ready plan of action. My estimate was that we could do the journey in one session, then the PCs could have as many sessions as they liked in the city, and then come back to the Rift if they wanted to, or use the city as a basis to go off elsewhere.

Illustration I found googling 'fantasy mountains', to post on the group's Facebook page: © Wizards of the Coast by Alayna Danner

I've discussed at various times on this blog what a 'quest' campaign would look like and how it could be made to work with an open table like The Wandering Monster Table - most thoroughly in this post from March 2018. The short version is, as long as the PCs finish the session somewhere relatively 'safe', where people can chose to stay and new people can join the party, an open table should be able to accommodate a campaign involving PC travel. The trick is ending the action at a point where there can be a reasonable 'changeover'.

As I mentioned, I'd estimated that the journey from Rift City to the city called 'Selen' by the inhabitants of the Rift could be accomplished in one session. I really should remember Helmuth von Moltke's dictum 'no plan survives first contact with the enemy', and not just remember it, but also rigorously apply it to D&D as soon as I get any barmy notions like 'the PCs will probably do this, it should take that long'. No. Doesn't happen.

First, though the players were all agreed to go to Selen, there was no consensus on how they were going to go. I had assumed (me and my assumptions) that they would just set off and go along the road. But, instead, they decided to attach themselves to a caravan. That's OK, I know caravans come and go, some of the early plots and hooks around the Rift concerned the raiding of caravans by Kobolds and the theft of supplies destined for Rift City. Caravans are definitely a thing in the vicinity of Rift City.

So I rolled up a random caravan. I don't have any specific rules for creating caravans - maybe I should write some - but there are Merchants in the D&D Expert book. There caravans can be of different sizes, so I randomised creation and rolled one up. I got the largest size of caravan I could, about 20 merchants and 80 guards; but I don't see wagons making it through the mountains very easily (even with the relatively-OK roads that I assume exist... it doesn't matter why but 'OK roads' seem reasonable in context), so I decided this caravan would mostly be mules - a giant mule-train, basically. I randomly determined when this caravan would be setting off, and as luck would have it, the PCs only had to wait one more day.

Some of the PCs spent this day buying up all the gems and jewellery and platinum pieces they could get their hands on in Rift City, the idea being to take portable wealth to Selen. Other PCs, not so much. They mostly just stuffed money into sacks.

Some of the PCs decided to sign up as guards for the caravan. They negotiated a price with one of the merchants to provide two armoured humans, two armoured Dwarves and an armoured Elf. The party at this point consisted of Brigham and Halvor (Clerics around 8th Level), Heedor and Ugli (Dwarves around 8th Level) and Jade, a new PC (Elf of 7th Level). The price was lower than the player doing the negotiating had hoped for, but reflected market conditions; pay (3gp each for the humans, 5gp for the Dwarves and 6gp for the Elf) represent their cost as 'Heavy Foot' mercenaries. Only not for a month, for four days. PCs have to provide their own food rather than it being provided, and there is some danger on the way for sure; it isn't garrison duty in a sleepy backwater. So the pay is much higher than the minimum to get soldiers. But crucially, there are lots of people who could do the job in Rift City (the place is awash with 1st-Level Fighters, Elves and Dwarves) and the organisers of the caravan weren't going to pay loads for 'special' guards. So the five PCs were offered 22gp to be caravan guards.

However, others of the PCs decided it would be fun to get mules of their own; so, some of the other members of the party bought seven mules, mostly to carry large sacks of gold.

This led to some problems with the caravan. The organisers had agreed to pay for five guards; but on the morning that the caravan was due to depart, two guards and three merchants with seven mules turned up.

A quick re-negotiation with the merchants led to a revised offer; 8gp for the Elf and one of the Human (Cleric) heavy infantry; the remaining PCs paid 15gp for up to two mules to join the caravan (the PC with three mules had to pay 30gp). Also, these PCs hired a mule-handler-cum-extra guard, a Dwarf called Gami.

At last the PCs and the caravan were ready and the whole travelling roadshow set off through the mountains.

According to my rolled encounters, there was nothing in the morning. So, the morning passed uneventfully. I had rolled both an evening encounter, and a situation of some consternation at the end of the day. I'm trialling some rough wilderness creation rules for precisely this sort of situation, and my results were that there would be an encounter with snakes (Giant Rattlers, in this case) and the 'safe' area at the end of the day would be a village of ... Troglodytes. Hmm. Think my procedure needs tweaking a bit.

The snake encounter was fine; as originally I'd done the rolling up when I thought just the PCs were travelling (Helmuth von Moltke is spinning in his grave I presume) there was always the chance that the encounter I planned for them would have been triggered by some other part of the caravan. I just asked the PCs where they were in the caravan ('front, middle or back') and assigned a 2-in-6 chance that that was where the snake attack was. And, it was. Had it not been, I'd have said 'there's a kerfuffle up ahead/somewhere behind you...' but it was nearby. The party toasted the snakes - literally, as far as I remember, I think Jade used Fireball - and that was that. I think someone ate some barbecued snake but can't remember who - probably one of the Dwarves.

My assumption had been for the village at the end of that, that there was a (friendly) village, but the Trogs had overrun it. So, in the evening, as they approached the village, the caravan came across some bodies in the road. As so often happens in situations when I need 'people' quickly, I turned to Donjon's random generators - this case, the NPC generator. I must have also rolled for how many bodies there were, because there were definitely three of them. I read the first three entries, and from the descriptions gave the PCs an idea of the people they'd found - two middle-aged women and one younger woman. I also told them the dead women seemed to be fleeing the village and there was a horrible stench around. Several of the PCs have fought troglodytes before (everyone except Jade I think) so I thought it reasonable that they would recognise the lingering smell.

The PCs decided to Raise Dead on the young woman. It turned out that her name was Astal, she lived in the village with her parents who were farmers, and she had fled when the stinking lizards had attacked and had started running to the north hoping she and her companions could have made it to Rift City, but were caught and brutally attacked... Raise Dead leaves the raised one with 1hp so the PCs decided that Astal should sit on one of the mules and come back to the village.

As the caravan got there, the PCs seemed reluctant to go in (I described it as having an earth bank around it: in my imagination, it's a village inside an old disused fortification, and the road passed between the banks on either side). Some of the PCs turned themselves invisible, but they delayed going in for a while. In the meantime, some of the other caravan guards went inside. By the time the PCs had decided to follow suit, I ruled that the other guards had already dealt with the Trogs in the village so the PCs didn't get any experience for that (or the gems that made up the Trogs' treasure).

The PCs asked Astal if she wanted to go to her house, but she didn't - the potential sight of her murdered parents being too upsetting. So, instead five PCs, an NPC Dwarf caravan guard, a newly-resurrected peasant girl and seven mules all bedded down in a stable. They worked out a watch rota and settled down.

I knew there was going to be an attack of a particular kind during the night. There's a kind of monster from Deities and Demigods called an 'Astral Wolf'. It's in the 'Nehwon Mythos' section, and appears in the Wilderness Wandering Monster Tables for the campaign because, well, everything from the Nehwon Mythos section exists in my campaign. The PCs just don't know it yet because they've only seen the Rift so far. Astral Wolves attack by ambushing people in their dreams and forcing them into the Astral Plane where the wolves then attack them bodily.

To be forced into the Astral Plane, you have to fail a save versus Spells. Of course, all of the PCs made their saves, so they just had some bad dreams about zombie wolves pursuing them through a silvery realm. Gami the NPC Dwarf however, who was on watch, woke the party members to show them Astal, - a Normal Human with rubbish saves, who had therefore been transported to the Astral Realm, where she was attacked by the Astral Wolves, and, having only 1hp from her Raise Dead experience, had quickly succumbed to their attacks. So that was that (for the moment) - the Astral Wolf attack served only to give the PCs bad dreams but insta-killed the person they'd only just brought back.

The PCs went back to sleep as best they could but there were no further attacks that night. In the morning, the party rose and began prep for the next day.

And that's where we ended the session, it having taken massively longer to play that day than I expected. I thought Day 1 of the journey could be 'done' in about 45 minutes - it took nearly three hours. Proof positive that I shouldn't bother trying estimate this stuff, because the PCs will always do stuff I don't expect.

What will the next session bring? who knows? Not me. But I have an idea how the rest of the journey could proceed, if the PCs don't take things in strange and unexpected directions, which they might well; and, if and when they get there, I hope they'll find the City of Selen an interesting place to visit and to adventure in.

Thursday 9 December 2021

Rift City catchup...

Well, I'm not doing well posting updates to the Rift City Campaign. Session 49 (August, the campaign's 4th birthday!) has been and gone - as have Sessions 50 (September), 51 (October) and 52 (November). Session 53 is almost upon us...

What can I say? I write fewer notes with the discord sessions, and then it's harder to reconstruct what happened after the event. This makes it far less likely that I'll actually start writing a blog post, and then the next session comes round and I have more to do with less information (and I've already forgotten half of what happened at the session before...).

What has definitely happened is that the PCs have abandoned the tunnels under the ruins that they were previously exploring, and therefore the search for the tomb of Riha the Bejewelled, and instead started exploring down the hill where they discovered an entrance to a different part of Level 6. They fought Salamanders (the PCs got very hot, and turned one of them into a rabbit); they found some Spectres, Berg charged in and the rest of the PCs stood by watching - as Berg was zapped by six Spectres, making her very dead indeed. RIP Berg, there was many a Dwarf that night crying himself to sleep over his beer I'm sure. There were also some 'evil Dwarves' as the PCs called them (they definitely were evil, I'm not going to lie - some were Chaotic Evil, some were Neutral Evil, a few weren't technically Dwarves, but it doesn't really matter - they were for sure hostile to the party and paid the price) in one of the rooms but they were wiped out and all their stuff was liberated for the forces of Light.

Further exploration in the same area over subsequent sessions has yielded some snake-chickens (Cockatrices that is) and some strange big-cats-with-six-legs-and-shoulder-tentacles, which are of course Displacer Beasts, but because I'm using a Labyrinth Lord monster generator (link here) they come up as 'Phase Tigers', which is a very cool name I think. Certainly, if I were a Phase Tiger, I reckon I'd be very disapproving of people calling me a 'Displacer Beast'. Then of course there were a couple of packs of Hellhounds, which Halvor in particular is theologically very against (his god is a kind of version of the Viking god Tyr, and his mythology has his hand being bitten off by a giant Hellhound. The Hellhound is in turn worshipped by Goblins as a great flaming wolf-spirit of the Underworld).

Image of Tyr from Age of Kings, which I don't think is the same of Age of Empires II, but might be. Anyway, this is 'Yrt', one-handed god of Lawful Fighting.

Halvor's divine interventions have proved particularly useful. 'Sticks to Snakes' (one of the spells Halvor uses most often) has allowed the party to considerably increase their muscle-power, as well as giving them poisoned attacks. It's a powerful spell - though, I ruled (because I can't specifically find a rule for it) that they couldn't successfully attack the Spectres that killed Berg.

Web, from Inarra the MU, has also proved useful. In the last session, when the party was attacked by Hellhounds, Inarra webbed them. This led to a discussion on whether Hellhounds are immune to fire damage, and it doesn't seem they are. The reasoning is that, if the Hellhounds' breath destroys the web, it also harms the Hellhounds. Effectively, they spent two rounds fighting themselves by burning themselves out of the web before confronting the party.

What else...? I'm not sure, I can't remember at the moment. If you want some better detail, Lyracian (whose PC is Halvor) has written up some of the sessions on his blog (link).

Monday 26 July 2021

Changing the ending of the Lord of the Rings

I may have mentioned (just the odd time) that LotR is a big thing for me. I first read it more than 40 years ago and it has exerted quite a pull ever since. But actually, there are problems gaming it (see the 'Questing in Elfgames' label for some ruminations on that - I've mused about this pretty often).

One idea I've been kicking around recently is a 'what if?' pretty much directly inspired by two facebook memes and more generally by some ideas I've had for a while. I don't like the term 'synergies' but I think it is somewhat fitting in this instance. The coming-together of a bunch of fairly disparate stuff has almost tied itself into something coherent (coherent...ish).

The first meme was a pic of Cate Blanchett as Hela next to Carl Urban as Skurge, from Thor: Ragnarok, with some text along the lines of 'Did Galadriel take the Ring?'.

Didn't find the FB meme but this image illustrates the point - Karl Urban (Skurge, Eomer) and Cate Blanchett (Hela, Galadriel) - Marvel's evil versions of good LotR characters in Thor: Ragnarok?  - (c) Marvel 2017

The second meme was called 'When Elves Go Bad' and had a similar theme. There were pictures of Galadriel twinned with Hela, Thranduil paired with Ronan the Accuser from Guardians of the Galaxy, and Elrond paired with Red Skull from The Avengers.

Some random stuff from the net - originals (c) New Line Cinema 2001-2014 and (c) Marvel 2011-2019

These images (and the ideas they provoked) slotted into two bits of LotR 'alternative history' that I've been considering for a couple of years. For a little while, when Game of Thrones was becoming popular, people were using the LotR Boromir miniatures for Ned Stark, as they were famously both played by Sean Bean, cementing his reputation as the actor whose character died half-way through (sorry for the spoilers if you've not seen LotR or GoT), and prompting such famous memes as Boromir standing in the snows of Caradhras saying 'Winter is Coming', and another of Boromir at the Council of Elrond saying 'One does not simply walk into King's Landing'. I remember several GoT threads on Lead Adventures where Games Workshop's Gondor and Rohan soldiers were pressed into service in Westeros. In my own (rather small) LotR collection, there are several Gondor and Numenor soldiers who have had their distinctive winged helmets filed off and their 'White Tree' shields scraped so the design has been obliterated. These had come in an ebay job-lot I got a couple of years ago. I have a pretty strong hunch that they were originally intended for an abandoned GoT project. Not having great modelling skills myself, I put them aside, unsure as to what to do with them. Maybe I'm coming up with a plan... Anyway, the idea of 'what if Boromir survived and got married and had kids?' was something floating around in my brain for a while.

If Boromir survived... Ned and Catlyn Stark (Sean Bean and Michelle Fairly) in Game of Thrones Season 1 (c) HBO 2011

A couple of years ago, I watched a movie featuring Aaron Eckhardt (who I like) and Miranda Otto (who I really only know from the LotR films so it's difficult to have too much of an opinion on her, though I think she pulls off Eowyn perfectly well). It was called I, Frankenstein (Lionsgate, 2014) and though I don't want to give the game away too much (you never know, someone may stumble across this and decide they want to watch the movie... though I don't think it's very good, ask Rotten Tomatoes if you want a review), Miranda Otto plays Leonore, the Queen of the (Were-)Gargoyles in their war with (Were-)Demons. When I saw it originally, I thought 'hey, so this is what Eowyn gets up to when she goes to live in Emyn Arnen with Faramir'.

What Eowyn did next - Queen Leonore (Miranda Otto) in I, Frankenstein (c) Lionsgate 2014

So, already armed with mental pictures of what Eowyn did after LotR, and what Boromir might have done had he survived, and then the idea of Galadriel and Eomer as an evil double act, then corrupted versions of Elrond and Thranduil, I started to wonder how this could all be made to work.

The idea of Galadriel taking the Ring is key here. Her speech (the version in the film is slightly condensed but not, I think, significantly):

“And now at last it comes. You will give me the Ring freely! In place of the Dark Lord you will set up a Queen. And I shall not be dark, but beautiful and terrible as the Morning and the Night! Fair as the Sea and the Sun and the Snow upon the Mountain! Dreadful as the Storm and the Lightning! Stronger than the foundations of the earth. All shall love me and despair!” (Fellowship of the Ring: The Mirror of Galadriel (c) Allen & Unwin 1954)

She then pledges to resist the Ring, to diminish, go into the West, and "remain Galadriel".

But what if she didn't?

If Galadriel took the Ring from Frodo in Lorien (freely offered, not forced) then perhaps the 'Queen' she sees herself becoming would become something like Hela. Ultimately of course - it wouldn't happen immediately. The Ring would have to corrupt her more than just giving in to a momentary weakness to take power when offered it, she'd have to start to actually do bad stuff... out of a desire to good, of course, as Gandalf says.

But what would this 'beautiful and terrible' Queen do?

It seems to me that the first thing she would try to do would be to neutralise potential rivals. Of these, the most important are probably Saruman and Elrond. Gandalf is 'dead' - no-one at this point knows he's coming back; Saruman and Elrond are the main loremasters who could in theory challenge Galadriel. Thranduil, Glorfindel, Cirdan, Radagast... are any of these likely to be able to mount a serious challenge to the new Dark Queen? I'd suspect not, and I'm sure Celeborn would not go against her either. Beyond their basic raw power, Saruman and Elrond also have more Ring-lore than any outside of the immediate ambit of Mordor - Saruman because he has studied it over centuries (to the point of obsession, madness and treachery) and Elrond because he is actually the wielder of one of the Three. So, a war with Saruman looks to me like Galadriel's best bet - especially if she can convince Elrond to stay on her side. Saruman has already shown himself to be a traitor to the White Council, and Galadriel, I think can make the argument that with Gandalf's death, swift action against Saruman is vital to stop Mordor and its allies triumphing absolutely.

As the Mistress of the Ring, who also has a close connection with the last bearer of one of the Three (Elrond is of course her son-in-law) I think it might be possible to persuade Elrond of this course of action. So a direct alliance of Lorien and Rivendell against Isengard seems a possibility. Should Elrond be reluctant, perhaps Galadriel could count on the power of the One Ring to sway him, but that's not certain. The power of the One over the Three is sketchy. Certainly there is no suggestion that Sauron was ever able to influence Galadriel, Cirdan, Gil-Galad, Elrond or Gandalf. But, he was their sworn enemy; Galadriel is Elrond's friend, kinswoman and ally. It might be possible to use the Ring's influence to persuade him... for the greater good, of course.

Sauron meanwhile would be in the dark. The Ring-wraiths have been banished for the time being and the trail of the Ring-bearer was lost at the Ford of Bruinen. Sauron must suspect the Ring was taken to Rivendell but probably not more than that. Saruman is perhaps no better-informed - his agents lost the Hobbits when they left Bree, and though he may have suspected they would go to Rivendell but what else might have happened he can't know. He may wonder if perhaps the Ring would be taken to Lorien, but he cannot be at all certain of this.

Anyway - a surprise Elvish attack on Isengard is my assumption as to 'what happens next'. Lorien would provide the main component of this force, but perhaps Rivendell would provide some support. Tolkien has Elrond send Elrohir and Elladan with the Rangers of Arnor to help Aragorn and perhaps some similar (maybe even larger) force could be a component of any putative Elven attack. Whatever Rivendell's contribution I expect Lorien to be the main gainer in this adventure. Jackson has Haldir lead a collection of Elves to Helm's Deep and something like this can be envisioned as forming a significant part of the Lorien army.

The attitude of Rohan, and I think perhaps perhaps particularly Eomer, can explain the Eomer-Skurge connection. Without Gandalf, Theoden is still in Saruman's power, but if the attack from Lorien were rapid enough, Theodred might not be dead yet, and Theoden may not be utterly in despair (which was of course one of the reasons Grima and through him Saruman were able to gain power over Theoden). But whatever Theoden's attitude, Eomer is already implacably opposed to Saruman. He may think allying with the Sorceress of the Golden Wood against the White Wizard is a good bargain (all for 'the greater good' of Rohan of course), even if it means rebellion against his King... and may even make his 'becoming' Skurge more likely, as he is potentially now even more cut off from his kin - his King is of course also his uncle. Perhaps this even opens the door to a rift with his sister. All in all, it looks like the alliance between at least a faction of the Rohirrim led by Eomer and Galadriel's anti-Saruman Elf forces is a distinct possibility.

Assuming some relative success of Galadriel's assault on Isengard, she is likely to have come away with a greatly-increased armoury both in terms of materiel and knowledge, as well as magical items such as the Palantir. With a Palantir and her own Mirror (that she insists isn't 'magic' but that's  semantic quibble I think) she would be in a much more powerful position to challenge Sauron directly than any of the main actors in LotR. This of course would be her ultimate goal, though I'm sure she would rather Sauron exhaust himself on other enemies (like Gondor) rather than attacking Lorien directly.

But, Galadriel would need further allies. And then, what to do with Nenya? My supposition is that she would make a gift of it to Thranduil, one of the few of the leaders of the Elves who could make immediate trouble for her. With Elrond a potential ally, and also positioned to protect Lorien from any attack from the West (by Cirdan, Gildor or other unknown lords of Lindon who may not share her new ambitions - though, of course, she may persuade them too), Galadriel I think would want to make her north-eastern approaches secure, so a gift of one of the Great Rings to Thranduil makes perfect sense, especially if the idea of potential influence through the power of the One is accepted.

Over time, the corruption of Galadriel's purpose would be mirrored I think in those who would by now have become not just allies but accomplices - Elrond and Thranduil, completing their transformations into Red Skull and Ronan the Accuser. A lot hinges on her being able to persuade them, but hey-ho, I need some process that corrupts three Elf-lords!

Of the other characters in and around the Fellowship - well, if the party didn't sail to its breaking at Amon Hen, then Boromir doesn't need to die there and there's no reason he can't survive, marry and start a family, living something of the Ned Stark trajectory.

Eowyn can certainly survive; she could even become Queen of the Rohirrim. It's not necessary in this timeline for her to meet Faramir, but she may, in which case, perhaps depending on what happens to Aragorn, she might have some role in Gondor too.

Legolas's alternative life is a bit tricky. His transformation into a pirate I'm not so sure about. However, in LotR his journey in Gondor unlocked a 'sea-longing' in him so something similar may have happened in this alternative timeline. Orlando Bloom has been in many other things, but the recent (you know, last 10 years or so) version of The Three Musketeers he was in is even less LotR than Pirates of the Caribbean is.

Mystery female companion and Legolas Greenleaf on the shore of Elvenhome? - Elizabeth Swan and Will Turner (Keira Knightly and Orlando Bloom) in a scene from Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End - (c) Disney 2007

Not been able yet to track a post-LotR career for Gimli, but this pic may show him in a pre-LotR flashback, when it looks like he was involved in a digging project in Harad:

Gimli's early career? - John Rhys-Davies as Sallah in Raiders of the Lost Ark (c) Lucasfilm 1981

Haldir also might have a dark career in this new timeline, as Craig Parker played the villainous character Darken Rahl in Legend of the Seeker. I don't know much about this but it would perhaps be possible to fit something along the lines of Haldir becoming Galadriel's governor of some possibly southern province conquered by Lorien.

Haldir gone bad? - Darken Rahl and Kahlan Amnell (Craig Parker and Brigit Regan) from Legend of the Seeker - (c) ABC-Disney 2008

Then, there's Gandalf. Of course Sir Ian McKellern is probably as famous for playing Magneto in the X-Men films as he is for his portrayal of Gandalf. Again, he's a Ring-bearer, and if the idea of Galadriel being able to corrupt the bearers of the Three is accepted, it may be that she could do the same to Gandalf, weakened as he is after his near-death experience at the hands of the Balrog. 

Evil Gandalf? - Sir Ian McKellern as Magneto (c) Marvel 2000

I'm now trying to find other fantasy, sci-fi and superhero flicks and TV series that LotR actors were involved in to fill in some of the other possibilities. It'll be difficult for the Hobbits particularly I suppose. Even if I find some they're unlikely to be 3 feet tall. I'm not sure what Aragorn is bringing to this party as I don't know enough about Viggo Mortenson's career to find a suitable image to shoe-horn into the new timeline; equally, the further exploits of Arwen (Liv Tyler), Theoden (Bernard Hill) and Celeborn (Marton Csokas) remain to be discovered. Perhaps If I can discover suitable films I can put in some further speculations on the alternative timeline.

One other character perhaps does have at least a sketch of a further career. Talking to a work colleague recently about some of this stuff, he pointed out that Faramir also appears in Van Helsing - if you've not seen it, Wolverine and Selene from Underworld team up to fight vampires and werewolves in Transylvania, accompanied by Faramir who is a kind of Vatican monk-cum-quatermaster of bizarre equipment (a bit like Q in the Bond films). It is, I think, an enjoyable romp, but doesn't owe much to Bram Stoker's Van Helsing. It can perhaps be regarded as a prequel - Van Helsing in the film is  younger than in Dracula (the film is supposedly set around 1888, a few years earlier than the novel), so maybe it's his earlier experiences with vampires that lead to his appearance in Dracula as a seasoned vampire-hunter. Anyway, the monk character, Brother Carl, in that movie is played by David Wenham, that's the point.

David Wenham (Farimir) as Brother Carl, from Van Helsing, (c) Unviersal 2004 

Perhaps then, if Boromir doesn't die, and the Ring never comes south, and Aragorn doesn't go to Rohan, then Eowyn and Faramir never meet, and Faramir becomes something like Brother Carl, a member of a secret order of monster-hunters - presumably in Gondor - while Eowyn becomes something like Leonore? Events in Gondor presumably take a very different turn if the result of Galadriel taking the One Ring is that Boromir settles down to raise a family and Faramir becomes a monk, but maybe I need to think a lot more about how that happens!