Showing posts with label D&D. Show all posts
Showing posts with label D&D. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

The Dungeons and Dragons TV Show Review on Thac0

Ryan Marsh over on Thac0 has been posting reviews of the old Saturday Morning Cartoon, Dungeons and Dragons.

His first post details the main characters, the NPCs and then covers the ins and outs of the episode. I love reliving these cartoons. Having someone else's take on them is even better. Go check these out before Ryan runs through so many episodes, you'll have to binge read. :)

My out and out favorite character is Eric the Cavalier. According to Wikipedia, he was put in the show at the request of parent's groups, to support the idea that the group is always right and the whiner is always wrong. Yeeeesss. But...

Eric annoying yet another friend, Diana this time. 
Eric is 15 year old boy in the 80's. If you weren't to top dog in your group, you were either the distruptor or the yes man. Oddly, exactly zero of the characters are yes men, not even the girls in the series. Which was wonderfully refreshing. The character dynamics were great. They weren't your typical cookie cutter characters.

Presto can't perform unless provoked and he is never mocked by the gang (Teased, yes. Mocked, no). Billy is just a force of nature that the others try to hold in check as he flies off the handle at every opportunity. Sheila and Diana have their own, consistent and important points of views, which very often are not remotely the same. Sheila is the big sister and is protective. Diana is the mistress of personal safety, despite being very caviler when it comes to risking herself. Hank is not some dumb jock pushing people around. Five of the six are positive types of people.

What makes me favor Eric from the get go is he was so abrupt. Six steps past rude, perhaps even dangerous, when he can manage it. Someplace, way down inside, he knows that he is out of place and overwhelmed.

Clearly, if you know what you are doing, Hank has the best tool: A magic bow with not so delineated powers. It's a magic machine for the plot.

Boring.

Eric, has a shield that can encase his friends within a bubble of protection. He has to get in front. He has to be in the line of fire for it to be useful. And he is afraid of most unknowns. But he does what he has to to protect his friends.

That isn't so special, that's just like being a regular human being. Eric could be anyone, anyone could be Eric. That's why I like him so much.

Its been a while since this show has been on the air. Did you forget about? Hop on over to Thac0 and follow Ryan Marsh's reviews. Relive a bit of the magic of Saturday Mornings again.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Oh, No You Don't! Unfettered Magic

All Magic Users (and only magic users) in my campaign have the inherent talent to read and control magic for their own use. Generally, this is limited to the magic user, his own items and knowledge. However, mages also have a darker, more dangerous power which can be used with great care.




Unfettered Magic

Level: 1                                                         Components: V, S, M
Range: 3" (30 feet/30 yards) +1" per level   Casting Time: Instantaneous
Duration: Instantaneous                                Saving Throw: Special
Area of Effect: One Creature

All magic users have the ability to defend themselves from magical forces, by the nature of their studies in their profession. Unfettered Magic is a dangerous defense against hostile magic users. The danger comes in respect to the possible level disparities of the defender and attacker.

A magic user can only cast this spell when they see another magic user begin casting a spell with a Casting Time of one segment or more. It cannot be cast in preparation - I.E. before the other caster begins.

As soon as the last symbol and word for Unfettered Magic is uttered and woven, the other magic user is entitled to a saving throw. If they are successful, the caster of Unfettered Magic also makes a saving throw. What happens next, depends on these rolls.

If the defender makes their roll saving, the caster of Unfettered Magic must make a saving throw to avoid taking 2 points of damage per level of the defender's spell. If they are unsuccessful AND they do not have enough hit points to survive this damage, they are burned to ash and the extra damage explodes in a 1" (10 feet or yards). People in this area must make a save for half damage. The magic user can't be revived to a corporeal form by any means short of wish. Casting resurrection or reincarnation will summon their ghost.

If the defender loses his saving throw verse Unfettered Magic, they immediately lose the spell they are casting and the caster of Unfettered Magic gains this spell, in all ways. They can cast it before the end of the round. If they survive combat, they can scribe this spell into their spell book. If they do not transcribe the spell within 24, they forget it. The magic user is not required to cast this spell at all, they can merely release the energy.

IF both magic users make their save, no damage is taken, but the caster of Unfettered Magic has his position revealed and is now know to be a hostile spell caster. The other caster has the option of targeting them immediately with their current spell instead of casting at their previously selected target. Range and area of effect may preclude this. 

If there is a level disparity, say a 1st level magic user trying to divert a 5th level spell, the user of Unfettered magic takes one hit point of damage per level of difference. For example, a 1st level magic user gains Magic Jar, they would take 5-1 points of damage, regardless if they used the spell at all. If this reduces their hit points to zero or less, they die. In this case, they can be revived by normal means and there is no explosion as the energy was directed inwards. Note: even if the caster dies, they may direct this spell before the end of the round.

When a magic user uses the Unfettered Magic spell, there is a cool down period where they may not work other magic. The duration of this is based on the level of the spell they attempted to seize. It is one round per level of spell. Redirecting a 7th level spell will result in a 7 round period where the magic user cannot use magic at all. While magic items will continue to function if they function continuously, like a +1 dagger or ring of protection, the magic user cannot use a wand, staff, rod, potion, or cause a miscellaneous item to activate. This limitation occurs on both success and failure.

Unfettered Magic can only be used on actual spells, cast by a magic user. It does not work on clerical, druidic, or illusionist magic, nor can it be used against spell like abilities or magic items, such as a wand of missiles. Non-magic user casters accidentally targeted by this spell will immediately know the location (even if hidden) of the magic user and have a choice to redirect their current spell on to them.

Since most low level magic users have relatively no chance of forcing a higher level mage to fail a saving throw, this is a desperation move, where death is better than not trying. Oft-times, low level magic users will do this when they are within 30 feet of a higher level caster, in the hopes that the explosion will hurt them. Higher level magic users can use this spell with virtual impunity but generally don't because of the cool down.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

The First Game Session for Peninsula of Plenty - Beyond the Pale

Fits and starts. I planned this campaign in the spirit of X1 Isle of Dread. The players were gathered together, given the premise, then selected from a series of pre-generated characters (which are all available in the tab above). The goal was to travel from the Capital on the west coast, to a town on the south coast. The Emperor's Council needs intelligence, and sending a party down there was the best option. Simple.
Here is the party at the start:

Melvin the Wise - Magic User, Halfling, 1st level
Matilda the Knife - Swashbuckler, Human, 1st level
Megen the Ruffian - Swashbuckler, Human, 2nd level
Jaime the Fearsome - Fighter, Human, 2nd Level

Not a cleric to be seen. The party wasn't done provisioning themselves, they hired a cook, a hunter as a scout, and a laborer. Then we got to the part where they were to hire a ship. Or so I thought.

It turns out, that in reflecting on the Council's directions to head south, no one mentioned a ship. Not me, not the characters. So the characters used all of their Council provided funds to buy two wagons, hired some NPCs and a bunch of horses. We've gone from Isle of Dread, to Oregon Trail.

Well, I am nothing but adaptable.

The characters decided to proceed south as quick as they could. I mentioned that an inn at the edge of town would be a great place to rest up, have a few drinks and maybe try to pick up a few more party members or NPCs.

No.

Out the gate they went. 5 miles outside the palisades, they made camp. This is exactly what "beyond the pale" means.

The players are sort of wily. It turns out that the wagons have small stoves, tons of rope and wood,  bedrolls and a supply of fuel. They parked the wagons 30 feet from each other, drove in some posts and corralled the horses between them. Water bags and feed bags were hung off the side of wagons for the horses. And decided to sleep in the wagons. Efficient as heck.

Since they lost the opportunity to hire more people, I decided that two of the other candidates were making the same journey and would catch up shortly. In the morning, the party spotted them on the road, and decided to wait.

That when the evil random encounter started. Uninhabited/Wilderness Table, die roll of 02, brown bears. Two brown bears.

Game on.

Jaime and the scout were making their way back towards town to round up the stragglers, on horseback. Melvin, the cook and the laborer were in one wagon, while Matilda and Megen were harnessing the other horses to the wagons.

The bears bushedwacked the first two horses as Matilda leapt into Melvin's wagon and Megen hopped into the other wagon. Matilda stabbed one in the head. As the first bear mauled both horses to death, the second tried to get Matilda. She stabbed him again, while Melvin missed. The wizard got a good bite for his effort and collapsed, seeming dead. The cook went down, next.

Matilda and the laborer went for the other wagon as the bears milled around. For several rounds, the bears milled about deciding to eat the dead horses rather than chase the characters to the other wagon.
 
Jaime came thundering on his horse and began to accost the bears. Megen jumped on the other horse and joined him. Two rounds later, Jaime's horse was dead and he had taken a good hit. Jaime and Megen took refuge under Matilda's wagon. It was beginning to look like a total party kill was in the works.

Thankfully, Jaime's foresight saved the day. He sent the scout ahead to get the two trailing NPC's: Rona and Gurwinder. He dropped Gurwinder off some distance away and went back for Rona without provoking the bears.

Before Jim the Scout could get back with the cleric, Gurwinder and the rest of the party trapped the bears between long range missile fire and rear attacks. Since the party had the cover of the wagon, Gurwinder could shoot the bears in the back with little chance of hitting friendlies. The repeating flanking attacks melted the bears AC away and they were done in just three rounds. 

Click to enlarge. Blue crossed
swords indicate party position.  
At the end of the day, the party lost 1 laborer, 3 horses, Chef and Melvin. Melvin didn't die, he just wants to go home. His player now wants to play Gurwinder, instead.

Ok, fine by me.

Under Gurwinder's direction, the party took one wagon back to town, sold the bear and horse meat along with their pelts. They paid burial expenses for the cook and laborer. With the additional funds from the kills, they obtained two drovers to drive the wagons and care for the horses. They are a husband and wife team, Felix and Felice. They also bought 2 horses, one for Jaime and one Megen, and four oxen to pull the wagons. Matilda, Rona and Gurwinder don't ride (by choice), so Jim the Scout has the last horse.

The party has now agreed to head to the next town with the intention of picking up a healer or another cleric and missile weaponry for everyone. They also desire either a pair of ponies or smaller horses for the shorter characters (Gurwinder and Melvin), plus more oxen. The next settlement is 18-20 miles away, the next small town is a little more than 30 miles away.

Here is the party as of now:

Melvin the Wise - Magic User, Halfling, 1st level, NPC
Matilda the Knife - Swashbuckler, Human, 1st level
Megen the Ruffian - Swashbuckler, Human, 2nd level
Jaime the Fearsome - Fighter, Human, 2nd Level
Rona the wisewoman - Cleric, Human, 1st Level, NPC
Gurwinder A’flumine - Fighter, Human, 2nd Level
Jim the Scout - Human, 0 level NPC
Felix and Felice - Humans, 0 level NPC

Marching order is:

Jaime and Jim on horses, leading.
Wagon 1 with Felice driving and Melvin and Gurwinder riding.
Wagon 2 with Felix, Matilda and Rona.
Megen trailing Wagon 2.

More next week.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Campaign Kick Off

I am kicking off a new campaign on The Peninsula of Plenty. Before I detail any of the events of play, I want to cover some general background and house rules.

First, Elves, Half-Orcs, and Dwarves are not allowed as character classes at the start. Humans, Elves, Half-Orcs and Dwarves are at war and the players are starting in the Human Empire's Capital. Half-Orcs are clients of the Elves and both are aligned with the Dwarves against the Human Empire. Halflings are a problem in the human realms, as they are fleeing south, over the mountains. They are at best, politically unreliable.

Below is the racial preference table we are using, which is revised from the last posting of this chart.

Peninsula of Plenty - Racial Preference Table
Race Dwarves Elves Gnomes Gnolls Half-Elves Halfling Half-Orc Human Kobold
Dwarves Preferred Neutral Neutral Apathy Apathy Goodwill Preferred Hatred Hatred
Elves Neutral Preferred Tolerated Apathy Apathy Goodwill Preferred Apathy Apathy
Gnomes Goodwill Goodwill Preferred Tolerated Goodwill Preferred Preferred Preferred Goodwill
Gnolls Apathy Apathy Tolerated Tolerated Apathy Tolerated Goodwill Tolerated Goodwill
Half-Elves Goodwill Apathy Apathy Goodwill Preferred Goodwill Goodwill Apathy Apathy
Halfling Goodwill Preferred Goodwill Goodwill Goodwill Preferred Tolerated Hatred Apathy
Half-Orc Hatred Preferred Goodwill Apathy Apathy Goodwill Preferred Neutral Apathy
Human Apathy Hatred Goodwill Apathy Hatred Neutral Neutral Preferred Apathy
Kobold Tolerated Tolerated Goodwill Neutral Goodwill Preferred Goodwill Preferred Tolerated

As a consequence, virtually all player characters are human, although that was not the intent. I was expecting some half elves, gnomes, and kobolds. We are playing D&D, with an overlay of AD&D. It is possible to be a generic elf which is the straight D&D class, or to pick a class as per AD&D. Only one character did this, the magic user is a halfling.

Next, we are using my rules for the Swashbuckler character class and Uncommon Commoners.

I have two house rules regarding magic: Clerics get spells at 1st level and every Magic User can cast Read Magic once per day in addition to any other spells.

I have a couple house rules regarding combat: Anyone can use a shield to protect themselves, two handed. They can't cast or attack, except for a rough attempt at knocking someone back with the shield. It isn't a good idea if you are a magic user. This rule appears in Uncommon Commoners.

If a magic user or cleric is has a weapon skill due to a professional background, they can replace one weapons with that profession's weapon. For clerics who are also chefs, they can use knives, but generally don't in combat. If a magic user has a skill that allows for a different weapon, say a hammer because they are a mason, they can use that instead of a staff, dagger or dart. These rules also appear in Uncommon Commoners.

Some rule sets state that once a person has been downed, they can be revived by another player. The mechanism for this in my campaigns are either a prayer to Saint Elam or a vial of Elamium. This is a reference to anesthesiologist, James Elam, who performed experimental mouth to mouth resuscitation here in Buffalo, NY at Roswell Park. It's an anachronism owning to my hometown.

There is the expectation that a lot of combat will do subduing damage, but the players can do as they wish. If NPCs are doing this, I will not announce it, but will describe it. This circles back to the Swashbuckler class which engages in this type of combat all the time. Swashbucklers are very far from fighters or thieves. They tend to kill only by a run-through attack after offering a chance to escape. It doesn't work on animals, because they can't be disarmed. 

The first session was pretty eventful and I will detail that in another post.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

New Product Launch - Swashbuckler Character Class for D&D and AD&D

I rarely create new character classes for my campaigns, but I felt I needed a different sort of character for seaborne adventures. The Swashbuckler character class was born.

This pamphlet was intended to add flavor to any campaign without creating overpowering skills or mechanics. Very often, new classes are game breaking and I have sought to avoid this.

Initially, the plan was to create one section for Basic D&D and another for AD&D. Since the Swashbuckler does not require extraordinary abilities, nor to they have level dependent skills, I was able to combine the two.

It had occurred to me to give the Swashbuckler some of the skills of thieves, paladins, monks and acrobats but these characters are not the type to engage in professional level skills. They are more charismatic enablers, they don’t develop useful professional skills, they capitalize on other people’s skills.

I would encourage DMs and players to play towards the humorous aspects of Errol Flynn shenanigans. Many times, this style of play revolves around the needed belief in success rather than the actual outcome. Swashbuckling success features going to Plan B, then C and D and so on.

This product contains two files, the character class description suitable for D&D and AD&D, plus a set of 6 pre-generated characters. This product would work well with both my AD&D Character Sheet and the book Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners. 

Click here to purchase from DriveThruRPG, for a suggested price of $0.99 or PWYW.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Timely podcast

I love  Aaron Mahnke's Lore podcast. This week, it's about Kobolds. One part history, one part myth, Lore is a wonderful journey to the the darker things. Lore also has wonderful background music by Chad Lawson.

Funny, I just released a little map about kobolds.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Feeling X2 Ch√Ęteau d'Amberville

One of my favorite modules was X2. It was so rich in detail and called back to Poe and Clark Ashton Smith that I immediately wanted to plug it into my AD&D campaign. Well, it didn't work out so well. The theme of Castle Amber was too... "weird" for my normal campaign. It was the one time my players demanded a "redo". Their main characters had crossed the mists and as they explored the castle, they became disenchanted with this setting as their characters were way too out of place in it.

I agreed. We rolled up a new set of characters, restarted the scenario and began playing the module as if the prior events never happened. My players were so good at role playing, they willingly ignored the details they gleaned from the last adventure and let the action replay itself again for their new characters.

We were actually playing two different campaigns, alternating between them as the mood struck us. This must have been 1995 or 1996. We were still using the original AD&D books with Unearthed Arcana. When we switched from our main AD&D campaign to the world of Castle Amber, we took it to the extreme.

I allowed the use of Tome of Magic, I would quietly play Love and Rockets Body and Soul alternating with Glen Danzig's Black Aria.


Being older, I'd place a bottle of wine on the table, which few of us knew how to use properly, and old candle sticks or bottles with candles jammed in them for effect. Incense was burned and dinner or light snacks were had as we gamed. 

On top of that, I produced a set of feelies for the players. They were old maps, journals and letters based on the action of the module.


We never completed the module, because the players found the land of Averoigne to be so enchanting. If I could collect up those players again, we would totally go back to Averoigne.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Unreview - The Gardens of Ynn

When I found this title, I fell in love with the concept of a procedurally produced adventure. I meant to write a review of The Gardens, but I never could capture the core idea. What struck me most was the author's (Emmy Allen) desire to break out of her writer's block. Wow. That was an amazing idea and the end result is spectacular.

Anyway, I have collected up 3 reviews of The Gardens of Ynn and added a bit of commentary on each review.

The Gauntlet Blog, called the book "evocative" and praises the use of all five senses in the area descriptions. The Gauntlet takes the point of view of White Hack players, which is a step removed from typical D&D. This perspective enhances the review as it leaves the typical D&D archetypes out. While I don't play White Hack,  Fraser Simons' review of The Gardens makes me wonder if I should.

Bryce over at Ten Foot Pole, stress the Gothic Horror aspect while digging right into the mechanics of how to use this setting. Bryce is right that this is a setting book as opposed to an adventure, which something that the reader could over look, something that Emmy Allen took a moment to confirm in Ten Foot Pole's comment section.

d4caltrops calls The Garden "elegant". d4 praises the binary aspect of "go deeper/go back" to control where the adventurers go in The Garden. Even better, he suggests easy ways to use this book as a means of transport for your characters. Talk about taking a great idea and making it better.

I was surprised to see that no one commented on the artwork of this piece, which I totally enjoyed. Its Gothic simplicity is wonderful. I love this style of art.

You can pick up The Gardens at DriveThruRPG for just a couple of bucks. You can also go an add the three blogs above for free. Why not do both?

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Latest Update

This has been a hectic week. What should be updated hasn't. What didn't need updating was. Let me take a moment to explain what is happening. 

First and most importantly, my kids are off for the summer at the exact same time the school where I work has kicked off it's summer school program. Work-life balance is out of wack, but in an entirely pleasant and wonderful way. I work with special needs students and we kicked our program into high gear. Not only are teachers getting read to accept new students come the fall, we are doing some of the greatest outings and STEM stuff in and out of the classroom. We do it all, from building roller coasters out of tubing to taking the entire school to an amusement park. And there is even better stuff in the works. 

This is the finest "job" I've had and confirms that if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life. 

Speaking of loving what you do, all this makes my kids at home jealous as hell, so my wife and I are stepping up our game. 

To that end, I don't have time to produce new books or maintain 4 websites. From here on out, I will be focusing everything on These Old Games by pulling in everything of value from the other three sites. Much of it will be tabbed along the top of the page, so as to be unobtrusive as possible. I'm sure my readers will understand that I am both a D&D nut and amusement park fiend with a thing for technology. It weird. We're all a little weird. 

And now the third and final use of the word love. I love writing campaign setting information. So what products can you expect from These Old Games? Let's start with what's already available: 

Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners. A set of rules to create both NPC characters with professional skills which can be resused to flesh out D&D and AD&D characters with non-heroic skills. 
Character Sheet for Use with Unearthed Arcana. This is exactly as it says on the tin, its a scan of character sheet created on Mac 512K back in 1987. Why? Because I don't like hosting my own files. 
The Compass Rose Inn Minisetting. A set of maps created in Worldographer of the Compass Rose Inn, the associated shrine and premade characters. The three maps, historical description and characters are ruleset agnostic. 

Coming in the first week of August is the Expanded Compass Rose Inn Setting for D&D and AD&D. This is a set of maps for all 5 floors of the Inn, several outbuildings, and detailed sheets for every character for use in your campaign. This will retail for $4.99. 

My next goal is to release a mini map of the Lake Forge, a mysterious business venture across the lake from the Compass Rose Inn. Like the Inn, it will have multiple levels and buildings visualized in Worldographer, plus new characters and more history of the Peninsula of Plenty game setting. It will be released in the same format as the Inn, first a PWYW ruleset agnostic version with a suggested price of $1.99 and a more complete version tuned to AD&D and D&D which will have fixed price of $4.99. 

Each and every thing I have published should be small potatoes in the grand scheme of gaming, but I cannot tell you how excited I get when I see one more person has taken the time to download one of my products. I hope that they add quality and wonder to your campaigns. 

As I roll through this year, I'll be looking at added two mapsets a month. I am also investigating creating a podcasts and perhaps a Patreon account. 

Sunday, June 30, 2019

52 Weeks of Magic - Week 27 - The Arclight Bag

The Arclight Bag is a magical quiver that imparts magic to otherwise mundane arrows and bolts. The effects are based on the action of the user.

If the user is targeting a foe, firing an arrow from this quiver will cause the struck target and the firer to light up as if they were under the effect of Faerie Fire spell. Additionally, the firer is protected by a shield spell. Only the target of the arrow is entitled to a saving throw. The shooter must hit the target for the effect to start. If he or she misses, no one receives any magical effects. Any number of arrows can be empowered in this way, but striking a single target numerous times provides no additional bonuses.

The quiver will also imbue one arrow per hour with the ability to glow while in flight and "explode" like a flare when fired upwards. The flare will like the area like a Light spell for up to 3 rounds. The firer will also be surrounded with the effects of the Faerie Fire spell. This is a rescue option. In this case, the arrow is completely transformed into light at the apex of it's flight.

This usage cannot cause damage to an enemy. If this is attempted in doors, the "explosion" will light the room for 3 rounds. It does not get brighter for being inside. It cannot be used to blind characters or creatures, unless the Light spell would also cause this effect.

The arrows from the quiver do not have a bonus to hit, but the effects of Faerie Fire can modify an attack roll.

While this is described as a quiver, other objects could have this effect. For example, a Roman shield is meant to hold a handful of darts and could be a source of the Arclight effect, as could a brace of knives or a case for bolts.


Navigation
WeekItemWeekItemWeekItemWeekItem
1 2 3Emulous Cursed Sword4
5 6 7The Symbol of Sol Invictus8
9 10 11Aemilla Carna12
13 14 15Shape of Memory16
17 18 19Staff of Eyes20
21 22 23Whispering Wings24
25 25b 26Shield of Force27
The Arclight Bag



Now, the commercial. I have a little book called Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners, over at DrivethruRPG. Also on Drivethru is my custom character sheet for AD&D and Unearthed Arcana.

I am obviously thinking of writing another and Gnolls might be the subject. Please let me know what you think in the comments. 

Welcome to The Cat's Old Apartment

Many years ago, I rented an apartment in West Seneca. It was far too expensive and way too small. While it wasn't awful, it was really marginal. It had a kitchen, living room, two bedrooms, a bathroom and a sitting area in an enclosed porch. The porch looked out on to the back of another house, so I didn't use it.

It was all unremarkable until I bought a cat. I hated the place but boy did that cat love the old apartment.

The first remarkable thing that happen was the cat could walk into rooms and vanish. She was Siamese so she was pretty vocal, even when not visible. Once she vanished, I could hear her but never find her until she chose to reappear. It was baffling. After a while, I got used to it.

One day while washing dishes, I opened a cupboard. The cupboard was annoying, it was a massive wooden structure 2-3 feet deep, yet opening the doors revealed that there was only about 12 inches of space to put things. I had assumed that the pipework was taking up the rest of the space. In any event, the cat entered the bottom cupboard. I bent over to grab her and guess what?

She wasn't there. I opened all of the cupboards and drawers as if there was a chance I was mistaken about her entering the only open door. I could hear her meowing, happily, but no cat in sight.

Then I heard it. Swish, clank. Meow! Swish, swish, clank! Meow.

I almost bolted from the apartment.

Instead, I grabbed a chair, a cup of coffee and sat down. I could hear the cat moving, sometimes from within the cupboard. But other times, the sound was coming from the bathroom or the bedroom, which was on the other side of the wall. Her movements were punctuated with that odd swish-clank! noise.

Three cups of coffee later, the cat reappeared from the cupboard I saw her enter. I noticed a small hole in the back of the cupboard, just big enough for a determined cat to enter. On closer inspection, I noticed many small holes, often no more than an inch or two in diameter in the back of each cupboard. Very odd.

The next day, I armed myself with a flashlight, paper, pencil and a ruler. A map like the one below was the result. This map is not to scale, it is more a schematic and from memory.


The first thing I noticed when mapping the old apartment was that if a door could open, it would often block another doorway. Annoying. Item 2, room dimensions didn't make sense relative to the exterior size of the house. And the cupboard was disturbingly disproportional to the room and interior storage space.

There was obviously a space behind it. Looking in the various holes revealed something disquieting. There were ropes, chains and pieces of cloth.

If I was the bolting kind, I would have been gone at this point.

With a little experimentation, I was able to determine the function of this odd cupboard. It was physically dominating in the room, obviously hiding a space behind it. Aside from the small holes, no bigger than a couple of inches, there were no larger openings. Nothing on the walls behind it nor the attic above or the apartment below. Violently opening or closing the cupboard doors caused air to enter the holes and made the fabric, ropes and chains swing noisily. It was meant to distract.

But distract from what?

In my bedroom, the cat had taken a liking to the closet. It turns out there was a secret passage way from the closet of one bedroom to the closet of the other bedroom. It was about 7 feet long. In bedroom two, there was an odd grill, which looked like a heater vent. Except, there was no central heat in this apartment. I had a gas heater awkwardly placed in the kitchen, nearly blocking bedroom 2's doorway. It turns out this grate could be pushed upwards to allow access to the bathroom.

In the bathroom, across from this grate was an inset shelf, no more than 3 inches deep. Pushing it allowed access to the large space labeled with a question mark. This area was about 10 by 10 and painted jet black. Or so it seemed. I entered the area without a light and as my eyes adapted, I noticed the shapes standing along the wall. And they were looking at me.

This time I did bolt.

When I worked up the courage to reenter the apartment, the cat was happily playing in this space so I had to go back in there. With a baseball bat and a very bright flashlight.

Someone had painted the walls with odd blue, pink, purple and mauve lines. They were not even and sometimes broken lines. At about head level, there were white ovals. Only the floor and ceiling were actually black. These shapes looked like people standing against the wall. How creepy.

In this space, I noticed two ladders. One went up and one went down. One lead to the basement and another lead upwards to a crawl space. It was horribly filthy and the wooden catwalk was only about 18 inches wide. I decided not to try my luck.

Later that evening, while sitting in the living room, I took a good look at the old fireplace. It had been sealed up years ago and was now a rather small but nice bookshelf. That matched the shelf in the bathroom. I pushed it and it slid back to reveal another space.

This area was a crawlspace with a ladder to one side, again with the odd paint job, which also covered a window. When a window's glass is painted over, the creep factor climbs by 101. I climbed up the ladder and noticed the same 18" crawlway leading back to the bathroom. This was no an attic of any kind, it was a catwalk above the ceilings. I could see that the area above the cupboard was sealed up with thick wood planks. Some odd bumps might have been the chains and ropes.

I have no idea what all of this was for. Maybe someday I will tell what my landlady said about the apartment and my friend's theories. But not at night. I don't want to think about it.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

52 Weeks of Magic - Week 26 - Shield of Force

Today was the last day of school. I am on break until July 8th. In anticipation of actually having a break, I have run ahead by one week. I have also decided that the Token of Infi offered last week is only a gimmick and doesn't exactly count towards my goal of 52 items in a year. You will notice that the navigation links are labeled 25 and 25b.

On to the magic!

The Shield of Force is a six side shield. It appears magical and imparts an bonus of 1 to AC. As soon as the shield is used in combat, the wielder will become aware of a pair of secondary powers. Tapping the bottom of the shield on the ground will leave a glowing mark upon the ground, a line five feet wide. This line marks the boundary of a protection from evil and shield spell. This effect will last up to five combat rounds.

The shield may create up to 6 of these barriers per day. If a creature not subject to the effects of protection from evil attempts to cross the barrier, the barrier will lash out at them for 1d6+1 points of damage, like being hit in the face by a large tree limb. When this happens, the barrier's duration will be shortened by one round for every blocked creature. Multiple creatures can rush the barrier in one round.

If the wielder creates 3 of these barriers side by side, the barrier will be a hemisphere. All six will completely cover the wielder with a sphere of protection. When these two functions are used, the barrier is shorter and curved. It extends underground.

This protection will not stop environmental effects such as smoke, fire or water, but can provide a bonus to saving throws vs magic based on the effects of the shield spell.


Navigation
WeekItemWeekItemWeekItemWeekItem
1 2 3Emulous Cursed Sword4
5 6 7The Symbol of Sol Invictus8
9 10 11Aemilla Carna12
13 14 15Shape of Memory16
17 18 19Staff of Eyes20
21 22 23Whispering Wings24
25 25b 26Shield of Force27
Coming Soon



Now, the commercial. I have a little book called Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners, over at DrivethruRPG. Also on Drivethru is my custom character sheet for AD&D and Unearthed Arcana.

I am obviously thinking of writing another and Gnolls might be the subject. Please let me know what you think in the comments. 


Sunday, June 9, 2019

The Difference Between Zero and Hero

The difference between zero and hero is good PR and support. When most parties go looking for NPC or henchmen, they tend to pick up another sword or a healer, when what they need is a Herald or Lawyer.

Heralds are much more than criers, they announce the party with style. They are made of moxie, poise and flair. They improve the standing of a party and positively affect morale and reactions. Lawyers often do the same. Since both speak on the behalf of the party first, each can provide a "fail safe" or "cutout" should the random dice go wrong. Players can counter their pronouncements with fairness and humility, gaining another reaction or morale roll. An uppity lawyer of herald can speak quietly with the lady or master on the behalf other henchmen to prevent walkouts.

Where lawyers differ from heralds is lawyers must not tell a falsehood. They do not have to tell the thruth, but good ones are poor liars. When things go wrong, lawyers tend to go formal. They dress and speak formally, which enables a fair amount of bluffing. Lawyers are apt judges of both character and situations, which can be a second set of eyes and ears for a party adventuring in a foreign land. The can guess the underlying reasons for most traditions, laws and policies which should help the party.

Heralds tend to dress and speak as needed by the goals of the party. They can wear any armor, including none at all. They may carry any weapon, but usage is limited to the lightest arms: daggers, foils, etc. Lawyers are limited to knives and daggers, and will resist all suggestions of wearing armor. They will fall back on their official robes and poise for protection. Sometimes, that can work.

These NPC types exploit their social status, portraying themselves as sacrosanct. Enemies wishing to have good standing with the general public or to hide evil plots for the future often perpetuate this idea. However, if chaos and evil ever reign, lawyers and heralds will be the second against the wall, right after the PCs.

For most campaigns, lawyers and heralds are well versed in oration, history, and tradition besides the more expected talents for showmanship and legal proweness. Should the party become imprisioned, the captor may view locking the lawyer or herald up as bad press or form.

You can read all about these NPC character classes and more than 50 more in my book, Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners, available at DriveThruRPG.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

52 Weeks of Magic - Week 24 - Monk's Bane

This weapon is a dragonfly shaped dart made from wire and glass. When thrown at a target, it will strike once a round, every round until the target either strikes the dart with a weapon or makes a save vs. magic. No to hit roll is required as the dart can be avoided and neutralized with a saving throw. 

The dart strikes for 1 point of damage per round, but also foils one attack per round by the target. If the target strikes the dart without a weapon or tries to catch or deflect it, they suffer 3 points of damage, lose all attacks for that round, and the dart will still attack next round. This is why the dart is called Monk's Bane.

Any handheld object counts as a weapon, including gauntlets, sticks, brooms, shields, etc. 

If thrown at a magic user and the MU passes their saving throw, the dart will return to the thrower and explode for 1d6 points of damage. There is no saving throw. Illusionists who make a saving throw will take control of the dart. Again, there is no saving throw. All other character types that make a save cause the dart to return to the original thrower, where it will go inert for a day. Note: Characters have two opportunities to negate the dart; First the saving throw and second, an attempt to strike. 

Since the Bane is attempting to strike the target's face, the target suffers no penalty for striking it and can even use a shield to bat it down. However, other people suffer a -4 when striking at a dart pursuing someone else. Missile weapons are right out for this purpose (unless the archer is evil or doesn't care). 

Monk's Bane is usually found in groups of three, sometimes 6. Several of these darts can target one individual, but only the first will attempt to strike them. The rest will circle. If one is defeated, another will take its place in the next round. Most characters will need to make multiple attacks or multiple saves to escape. However magic users and illusionists require only one and this one save will either cause all of them to return home and explode or all fall under the control of the illusionist. 

When an illusionist takes control of the darts, the darts will land in his or her hand. The darts can only be thrown as fast as the character has attacks. Monk's Bane have the normal range of a dart, but once in flight can chase someone for miles. 

When a magic user repels these darts with saving throw, the darts will scream after their former owner and newest target with a vengeance and will usually strike by the end of the round, but can strike like a bolt from the blue after many days. It is a rather ignominious way to die. 

Magic users and illusionists generally understand the problems presented with these magic items and will use them with care.

Navigation
WeekItemWeekItemWeekItemWeekItem
1 2 3Emulous Cursed Sword4
5 6 7The Symbol of Sol Invictus8
9 10 11Aemilla Carna12
13 14 15Shape of Memory16
17 18 19Staff of Eyes20
21 22 23Whispering Wings24
25 25b 26Shield of Force27
Coming Soon



Now, the commercial. I have a little book called Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners, over at DrivethruRPG. Also on Drivethru is my custom character sheet for AD&D and Unearthed Arcana.

I am obviously thinking of writing another and Gnolls might be the subject. Please let me know what you think in the comments. 


52 Weeks of Magic - Week 23 - Whispering Wings

The Whispering Wings is a small amulet or brooch, useful to organized societies, such a clerical orders and thieves guilds. Typically it takes the form of a moth or butterfly, but can be any winged insect such as a scarab. The device will deliver a 15 second verbal (25-35 words) message over a distance of two miles. The travel speed is 1 mile per hour, which is why they are not used by the military.

The device is made of stone and is not subject to any weather conditions but wind. If it is too windy to fly, it will crawl.

On arrival, it will unerringly find the recipient, if within it's range. It can detect invisible and hidden creatures and will approach in a manner that will not reveal their position to others.

It's message will be delivered by whispering in the targets ear. This is difficult to hear when in combat and if it is asked to repeat the message, it will jumble the words. This scrambled message will shift the word position, but can't alter the individual words themselves. Users would be wise not to use both negative and positive intents in the same message. 

Once its mission is complete, the amulet will attach itself to the recipient on any visually appealing and convenient area, such as a collar, button hole or string. It has a limit of two uses per day; the recipient can, but doesn't have to send a return message. In order to return the device, some sort of message must be sent.

Navigation
WeekItemWeekItemWeekItemWeekItem
1 2 3Emulous Cursed Sword4
5 6 7The Symbol of Sol Invictus8
9 10 11Aemilla Carna12
13 14 15Shape of Memory16
17 18 19Staff of Eyes20
21 22 23Whispering Wings24
25 25b 26Shield of Force27
Coming Soon



Now, the commercial. I have a little book called Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners, over at DrivethruRPG. Also on Drivethru is my custom character sheet for AD&D and Unearthed Arcana.

I am obviously thinking of writing another and Gnolls might be the subject. Please let me know what you think in the comments. 


Monday, May 27, 2019

Character Buffs - Zero to Hero

D&D and AD&D had a system of allowing characters to be buffed by adding some sort of skill to one of the regular classes via professional skills. Noticeably short on details, it encouraged DMs and players to think outside of the box. AD&D had the ranger and monk classes which featured two hit dice at first level while clerics were buffed with not just first level spells, but bonus spells based on Wisdom scores.

With the release of Unearthed Arcane, players received a model for having a character start below 1st level in the form of the cavaliers. Magic users received cantrips which hinted at powers before first level. Weapon mastery made fighting classes much stronger while pushing other classes into the non-combat skills.

Obviously, the cavalier and thief acrobat were nods to the cartoon. Clearly TSR wanted to change and update their product long before 2.0.

At the time, 2.0 wasn't available to me and by the time it was, I was already so invested in AD&D and Basically, I was unwilling to change. I had a large group of players, between 5 to 12 players per session, a few of them running 2 character at the same time.

What made this possible was an embryonic idea to codify low-level, non-combat oriented characters. While much of this was roleplay for my players, a bit of it dove into the skills possessed by these secondary characters.

Fast forward 33 years to 2018. That stack of notes, rules of thumb and memories of the fun were transformed into an actual pamphlet so that others could implement these types of secondary characters into their campaigns. Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners was born.

It started with a list of 50 professions from the middle ages. In January, the list increased by 9. The professions are broken into 3 groups: Sedentary, Active and Laboring which determines their hit points. The characters are average people, so they have ability scores generated by average dice, numbers 2-5 weight towards 3 and 4 or collectively as 9 to 12. Combat skills were limited to using the tools of the trade. Each new "class" has its own abilities, which are flexible and sometimes overlapping. The classes feature their own levels, from 1-5.

These rules were meant to flesh out NPC classes and include a table of modifiers for hiring them. But I also wanted to include rules from converting a non-player character to one the main classes in D&D and AD&D.

Once a professional becomes a fully fleshed out player character, I needed to include rules for the tools of the trade. Can a mason turned magic user use a hammer? Sure, why not. Within limits. Stats for mauls, hammers, woodworking axes, zaxes and various other implements were created. These improvised or unusual weapons were define in such a way so as to delineate them from traditional weapons of war. In the right hands, they are powerful tools, in the wrong hands they are poor cousins of their martial variants.

Due to the use of average dice for these characters, a path to "rescuing" a hopeless character was created. All of these rules were designed with the existing D&D and AD&D classes in mind. While not entirely balanced, because the regular classes are not balanced, they are not overpowering. The intent was to flesh out bit part NPC and color player characters with a background.

I hope you will take the time to read Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners and incorporate it into your game. I also have a character sheet for use with characters designed with Unearthed Arcana. Both are available at DriveThruRPG at a suggest price of $0.99 or PWYW.