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 too invested in AD&D. 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 2019, the list increased by 9 and later reached 61 in October of the same year. 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, which are poor cousins of real weapons. Each new "class" has its own abilities, which are flexible and sometimes overlapping. The classes feature their own levels, from 1-5 which have nothing to do with combat or treasure hunting.

These rules were meant to flesh out NPC classes and includes a table of modifiers for hiring them. But I also wanted to make rules for 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.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

52 Weeks of Magic - Week 22 - Drink me and die!

I am so glad I ran ahead a few weeks. I almost didn't make week 22 on time. This one is quick, one off potion. In my campaign, it was found in rack of potions. The rack contained one potion of The Lionheart, two potions of healing, a vial of holy water and two of these unnamed potions.

The potion is in a brown bottle, and is an obviously glowing red liquid. It has blood like consistency and will fizz when shaken or handled roughly. It seems like the cap is ready to blow off.

It contains a substance which will act as the second level stinking cloud spell. Whatever this potion was, it was changed by the ichor of the undead. If a character opens it, the stinking cloud will envelope them immediately, allowing them no saving throw. Other people are entitled to a saving throw.

Most characters will note the red glow and fizziness. They will not open the bottle. There is zero chance that a person could ingest the fluid inside, it vaporizes as soon as the cap comes off. The vial can be thrown for up to 4" like a grenade.

Unlike the spell if the vial strikes a creature directly, the effects will follow them, possibly harming others for 3-5 rounds (not turns as per the spell). Creatures of animal intelligence or higher will flee the area, searching for water to bath in. Unless there is an obvious body of water in the area, the creature will flee directly away from the thrower. Total submersion in water nullifies the effect. Intelligent creatures will drop whatever they are holding and try to strip off helmets, head gear and saturated clothing while running.

Creatures hit by the potion will be smeared with fungus orange stain until they wash with soap and water. Organic, but non-living items which fail a saving throw are permanently stained. Stains, especially on clothing or skin cause a -1 to Charisma and another -1 to reactions until removed. Intelligent creatures will not want to touch the victim, so this shift and penalty cannot start a violent encounter.

If the vial misses a target, it will still burst and envelope an area as per the spell description for third level caster.

Carrying these vials is not especially dangerous, but players should treat them like eggs or hand grenades. There is no way to get "only a drop" out of vial, opening the cap allows the entire contents to vaporize instantly. This is not a joke.

Wiley DM's can roll saving throw for the vial at random times or not inform players that targets flee.

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, May 12, 2019

Scribs – Will Two’s Story

Welcome, to the blog. I can also be found on MeWe in addition to Blogger. Back in 2015, I created a quick battle for a D&D game and ended up writing a relatively useless background piece on the scenario. Since that time, many of the details have been re-concocted for my D&D campaign and I had no idea what to do with this series of posts.

Today, I was invited in a MeWe Group called Vault of Imaginings and now I have a target audience for these three posts.

William the Scribe does not have a mysterious background like his friend William of Northmost. His family is overly large and he was apprenticed to Jordan the Money Changer in Tabletop. He was to learn math and writing.
William and Jordan hated each other. The Money Changer had foolish agreed to a 7 year contract for William’s apprenticeship thinking that the funds from his family would be worth the investment. William showed himself to be very adept at math and writing and had reached anyone’s expectations for an apprentice in just 9 months.
Some suspect that William had annoyed Jordan by second guessing him. Other guessed that Jordan was threaten by him. Both are actually true. William had noticed someone short changing the Money Changer and alerted him. It turns out that Jordan was running some sort of tax scheme and later lost his head when the Council of Tabletop found out.
By his tenth birthday, he had annoyed Jordan so much that he apprenticed him to Otto Lanskeep for a princely sum.
Otto and his wife liked William very much. He was very curious, had a great memory and wonderful wit. From the start, he was able to charm guests and anticipate their needs. Even the rough and rude hunters who frequented the Lodge.
William the Scribe was almost part of the family. He wouldn’t claim that right until he earned his nickname in The Battle of the Compass Rose.

Navigation in order: 

Post one, first meeting of these characters. 
Post two, William Scrubs.  
Post three, William Scribs. (You are here.)

The Scrub – One Will’s Story

Welcome, to the blog. I can also be found on MeWe in addition to Blogger. Back in 2015, I created a quick battle for a D&D game and ended up writing a relatively useless background piece on the scenario. Since that time, many of the details have been re-concocted for my D&D campaign and I had no idea what to do with this series of posts.

Today, I was invited in a MeWe Group called Vault of Imaginings and now I have a target audience for these three posts.

Please enjoy!

In the previous post, you met the Lanskeep family and two young men named William. When these men were younger, neither had earned a nickname and were simply differentiated by “Willy” and “William”.
William of Northmost was orphaned many years ago. His parents abandoned him with the Lanskeep’s in a very curious way. The family from Northmost arrived with the usual weekly caravan. The father pushed on to the Town of Tabletop, leaving his wife and 6 year old child behind. He needed to get a message to a ship bound for the Colonies.
It was odd, but Otto and his wife accepted it. They made the wife and her son, William at home in one of the large front rooms. The next two days were very quiet. William’s father was running late. Being Sunday, a bath was drawn for William and his mother.
Otto and his wife Hilda closed up the Inn for the evening. When all seemed well, and everyone was turned in for the night, there was a terrific series of bangs and flashes like lightning. Nothing in the Inn seemed disturbed, except William’s mother was missing.
The search lasted all night long. By morning, it was clear that there were no clues to woman’s whereabouts. The only hint that something had happened was a perplexing discovery. The tub of water in the woman’s room was completely empty, as were the three troughs for the animals. The well also seemed to be affected, having a strange salty taste, like sea water.
For many years the Lanskeep’s hoped for their return, but this did not come to pass. It was a great many years before William of Northmost learned his parent’s fate.

Update: 
Excerpt from Scubs D&D character sheet: Scrubs unknowning has a girlfriend. Her name is Delia and she is a maid/housekeeper at the Inn. William believes that she is attempting to push him out of his tiny bedroom by moving her stuff in during his absences. He couldn't be more wrong.

Navigation in order:

The Battle of the Compass Rose Inn – The Naming of Two Wills

Welcome, to the blog. I can also be found on MeWe in addition to Blogger. Back in 2015, I created a quick battle for a D&D game and ended up writing a relatively useless background piece on the scenario. Since that time, many of the details have been re-concocted for my D&D campaign and I had no idea what to do with this series of posts.

Today, I was invited in a MeWe Group called Vault of Imaginings and now I have a target audience for these three posts.

Please enjoy! 

When Willy the Scribe and William of Northmost were 12 and 16, a horrible disaster struck the Inn. A herd of boar piglets ran through the yard behind the Inn. Moments later, they were followed by a massive boar sow and a wolf, riding the sow’s back.
As the animals disappeared down the hill, the guests and family stood on the porch, shocked. The sow was cut off by a pack of wolves and ran back up the hill towards the Inn. Guests and family members took cover as best the could. Willy, Edwyna and Elma locked themselves in the barn. William dove for cover in an empty Lodge room. The rest took cover in the greatroom of the Inn.
Soon, wolves converged every point of the compass. They tore down the sow and her piglets in short order. Then they took a horse and pony. The pigs in the pen didn’t stand a chance. As the day wore on, the wolves picked the corpses clean and circled the Inn seeking more prey. Fighting among the different packs cause confusion. 
By afternoon, the children trapped in the barn grew thirsty. In the early evening, Willy decided to make a break for the Inn. The family and guests were trapped in the greatroom and couldn’t warn Willy and the girls that the wolves had penetrated the kitchen, the closest door to the barn.
When Willy and the girls opened the kitchen door, the wolves sprang. Willy shoved Edwyna out of the way and pulled Elma to safety. William of Northmost heard the ruckus and charged to their rescue with a spear and axe. The four of them fought their way to the Lodge steps and were forced up the stairs. William of Northmost was savaged at the foot of the stairs, he was left for dead in the scrub-like bushes in front of the Inn.
Willy managed to get the girls to the top of stairs where huntsmen knocked the wolves back long enough for the children to escape. Willy used his own body to protect Elma and Edwyna from serious harm. His backside and legs were horribly bitten.
By morning, the wolves were gone and William of Northmost was discovered in the shrubs. The hunters nicknamed him “Scrubs”, a name he detests as it sounded rough, rude and cowardly in his ears.
Willy was more seriously wounded and had a long period of convalescence. He spent most of his time writing. As he ran out of stories to put to paper, he took to etching stones from the garden.
In the place that Scrubs fell are three stones inscribed with the words: “Hope”, “Courage”, and “Strength”. This scratching of words on stones gain one William the nickname of “Scribs”.
If Scrubs could read, he would not be so sour about his nickname. There is a rubbing of these stones in Scrub's bedroom. It was placed there by the maid, Delia.

Navigation in order:
Post one, first meeting of these characters. (You are here.) Post two, William Scrubs. Post three, William Scribs.

Gotta love a sale! Rules Cyclopedia on DriveThru

Rules Cyclopedia is on sale at DriveThruRPG. This game was published back in 1991, long after I had abandoned my Basic D&D campaign. This set of rules brought me back to Basic.

Being a player from way back, perhaps 1977 or so, the concept of "edition" was not real clear. I had started with D&D and moved on to AD&D as it seemed like the expected direction. Transitioning from D&D to AD&D seemed expected, but felt unnatural. When second Edition appeared, I had little concept of what it was. It didn't feel like AD&D that I knew, so I did my best to ignore it.

I had difficulties ignoring 2.0 as Unearthed Arcana seemed to be the first indication that a new edition was coming. Back in the 1990s, it was possible to see all of the various sets, in pieces, on a store shelf and it was very unclear as to what was happening.

My campaign had evolved from D&D to AD&D without regard to the change in setting. Our band of adventurers absorbed new materials and tossed others aside. While I said I was playing in Greyhawk, our shared world was a mishmash of Blackmoor, Greyhawk, Mystara and Hollow World, with Mystara taking the lead place.

When I found Cyclopedia on the shelves of my local Waldenbooks, I was entranced. It expanded on classes and levels while adding a few new spells and most importantly, weapon mastery and character skills. It was exactly what I was looking for. Gone was the one paragraph explanation of skills.

I immediately incorporated it into my hodgepodge campaign with only a few tweaks to make it fit the AD&D rule set. All abilities were generated as per the AD&D methods while character classes of race could either be played as described in AD&D or per Cyclopedia's rules.

Technically, that combo of classes and races vs classes should have been very broken, but as players, we made it work. The RC Druid was a subclass of Druid from AD&D, Mystics became a subclass of Monk. The Racial Classes became the "default class" of those races, as if someone didn't pick a specific class to play.

And we loved it.

52 Weeks of Magic - Week 21 - Potion of the Lionhearted

The potion of the Lionhearted appears to be some sort of healing potion. While it can heal humans and demi-humans, this is not how it was designed to be used. If quaffed, it will heal 1d6 points of damage, sustain the drinker for 3 days without food or water and provide a +2 to saves vs. extreme (natural) temperatures. A single flask of the stuff holds 21 doses.

Should someone attempt to imbibe the whole thing, they will find that they cannot do so. The power of this fluid is so much that any creature will avoid taking more than a single sip per day. This should be a clue that this is the wrong usage. Any spell caster will realize this at a single sniff. Paladins and rangers may be able to identify the potion at a glance.

The Potion of the Lionhearted is used in times of desperation. The potion is supposed to be diluted in holy water and sprinkled on food and drink. If used correctly, once dose will be enough to cover enough food and drink for 100 men. If anyone takes a single bite or sip of food so treated, they will recover 2 hit points, be sustained for 24 hours without other food or drink and will feel refreshed. Other names for this potion are "Siegebreaker", "Ironheart" and "Hope". 

The potion can only be created by a Paladin and a Ranger working together. While it contains a number of unusual ingredients, the hardest items to obtain and process are 500 pounds of fruits, herbs and vegetables collected by a Ranger. These materials are reduced over a flame for 21 days. The Paladin must pray over this concoction and the prayer must include the words: "care", "pardon" and "rest". Obviously, these potions are prepared well in advance of the need and are often stored for emergencies. The potion never spoils or loses effectiveness.

This item is extraordinarily dangerous if consumed directly from the bottle. If more than 7 sips are taken over 21 days, the person will become addicted to it and refuse all other forms of sustenance. When the potion runs out, the victim must save vs. magic every day, for 21 days in a row. If they fail a roll, they will lose one point of Strength and Constitution. If either score goes below three, the character will fall into a coma lasting 7 days. If either of imbiber's scores falls to zero, they die. Should the person survive the experience, they will regain 1 point per ability every 7 days until they are fully restored. Drinking the potion again during this recovery period will restart the addiction. If the person consumes food or drink doused with the potion, the recover of ability scores stops until the effect wears off in a day.

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. 

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Camp Scouthaven, Freedom, New York

I have such wonderful memories of Camp Scouthaven. As a child, I didn't stay in Scouts long enough to get into camping. Boy, did I want to and really regret it.

In 2014, my son Nathan and I went camping in Freedom, New York. Scouthaven in a massive campground for Scouts. On this day, we were "up on the hill", a test skill to end a scout's time in Webelos before moving on to Boy Scouts. On the last night at Cub Scout Camp, the oldest scouts go up on the hill for a little archery.

This isn't your typical archery range, it's action archery. Some of the targets move. Some of them are everyday things you aren't allow to shoot at under normal circumstances. Others are just plain fun distance shots.

Nathan loved MOST of it. The one that got him was a series of three lines with bells, a giant truck tire and a regular bulls-eye target behind it all. On his first shot there was a "tink-tink-thunk!" as the arrow struck bells, zipped through the tire and landed in the middle of bulls-eye.

Fifteen minutes later, he was crying. The problem? He couldn't hit 3 bells, thread the tire and hit the target with one shot. The range instructor told him "The bells are set up close, medium and far. You aren't supposed to hit three of the them, just one."

Nathan replied, "Why would do that to kids. I've been hitting two bells at a time and couldn't figure out why I couldn't get all three."

The range instructor asked, "Two bells?"

Nathan fired arrow after arrow into two bells, threaded the tire and hit bulls-eyes, flawlessly. Then he switched hands and repeated the trick. The range instructor was flummoxed. The only reason he could hit two bells was because the wind was blowing them into a line. "Okay, Hawkeye. Go to another station..."

Later, there was a bonfire. There is a whole story that goes with this event. I won't ruin it for you. No spoilers, but it is amazing. If you get the chance, you must see this.

That's enough for now. I'll come back and update with more details on the pictures below.














Sunday, May 5, 2019

52 Weeks of Magic - Week 20 - Helm of Aware Airs

This weeks magic item is an unusual helm for arcane spell casters. The Helm of Aware Airs is made of tin, copper and iron. It reduces AC by 1, a magical effect. The helm has no opening at all, so the wearer is physically blinded, deafened, cannot smell or taste anything. It's purpose was to prevent the casting of spells by magic users. It will block spells cast by rangers, magic users, witches, sorcerers and illusionists. If the wearer is unrestrained, they can remove the helm easily. It was obviously meant to be used on someone who was restrained.

It does not prevent the casting of spells by clerics, bards, shamans and paladins. Some deities take considerable exception to people who place these items on their temporal proxies. The consequences of such displeasure is up to the DM in charge.

The helm has several useful side effects. First, the helmet will allow the user to see/sense every living creature within a 100 foot radius, though walls and barriers, even if the targets are hidden or invisible. Living creatures appear as glowing, ghost like shapes which become more indistinct over distance and intervening materials. Someone in the helm will sense barriers and walls a fogginess in front of living beings.

The wearer cannot be surprised by living creatures. This useful feature is mitigated by the fact that the user only has a hazy awareness of non-living objects, barriers or walls. They can sense enough to walk, hands out before them, but they have a -4 to strike or perform any task that requires the senses blocked by the helmet.  Without a living creature to orientate on, the wearer cannot sense walls and barriers. The helm does not impact the users ability to defend themselves from living things at melee ranges, the wear still receives an AC bonus for Dexterity. This does not apply when the attack comes from a non-living creature or a missile weapon.

If a potion is brought to the mouth area of the helmet, the wearer will know if the potion is magical, poisonous, or mundane and know if it is safe or unsafe to drink. The wearer will not know the purpose of the item. Alcohols register in a unique fashion due to the nature of the beverage.

The helm renders the wearer invisible to all undead but does not reveal the presence of undead. Intelligent undead can guess the wearer's presence, but have a hard time tracking the wearer if they stay motionless or move quietly.

The history of the helm is lost. The obviously usage is to force a magic user to wear the helm while restrained. The loss of sight and sound while remaining aware of living threats was probably a happy benefit when forcing confessions from witches and the like. Player characters will probably find other uses for it.

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 19 - Staff of Eyes

The Staff of Eyes grants the user infravision and ultravision when held like a torch. Additionally, the user's eyes will glow like a cat's eyes while using the staff in this fashion. The device emits no light. This effect takes some time to get used to so the wielder will be at a -2 to hit the first 3 times they experience this effect. Since the effect requires no charges, the wielder will probably do this long before going into combat. Once the user becomes used to the device, they will crave this type of vision. To stop using the effect, the wielder must save vs. magic to stop. One attempt per day can be made, usually first thing in the morning.

The wielder is able to cast a light spell at the cost of one charge, however the staff will not allow this spell to target creatures eyes. For two charges, the user can cause a flare-like missile to shoot from the staff into the sky. The effect lasts three rounds and is as bright as daylight.

The flare does no damage if it hits something or if fired inside of building, cave, etc. If fired indoors, the light bounces around in a very nonsensical way and the swaying shadows and light causes all people within the area of effect to suffer a -2 to hit with melee weapons and a -4 for missile weapons. This even affects the wielder.

The staff also has a defensive nature, it will absorb spells targeting the casters eyes, such as blindness, light, dark, power word blind, etc. This consumption of spells restores charges to the staff at a rate of one per level of the spell cast. If the staff absorbs more charges that it normally holds, the orb and the caster's eyes appear to burst into flames for one hour per charge over 50. This is uncomfortable, but not damaging to the holder.

It is not possible for the person holding the staff to recharge it by casting spells at themselves. Any attempt to do so will give the user a bad feeling and if the caster persists, the effect of the spell cast will be permanent until "remove curse" is cast on them.

This staff is rather light weight but can be used as a weapon. It is +1 and will do 1d4 +1 if held one handed and 1d6+1 if swung two handed.

The orb at the top of the staff will take on the color of the holder's eyes. The staff normally holds 50 charges. As the charges are used, the orb and the wielder's eyes become milky white which is only a cosmetic effect, it does not impact the user. The staff remains a +1 weapons without any charges, but all other effects end immediately. Once all of the charges have been used, it cannot be recharged by absorbing magic spells.

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. 

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Opening Day at Six Flags Darien Lake.


I was the fourth person in the park! There was a family of 3 in front of me and they fired off a bunch of confetti cannons to mark the new sign.

I haven't noticed too many changes from last year. Skyscreamer has replaced the Vomit Log or whatever it was called. Good. 

The Preditor was out of action, I saw some workers on the tracks making adjustments or repairs. 

I stopped at the camp store and lounge. The only change I noticed was an uptick in beer prices at the camp store, which is still cheaper than everywhere else in the park and the fact that wifi is having problems in the lounge. Not too bad for opening day under a different brand.



Corfu, NY

I find myself traveling in Genessee county all the time for camp and vacationing. On of the better stops is on Route 77 and 5. This Tim Hortons has a nicely appointed sitting area, bathrooms and free wifi. They have an outdoor sitting area and charging stations inside at the big wooden table. When I need a coffee, breakfast or just a break this is my go to place. It's about 10 minutes from Darien Lakes State Park* and Six Flags Darien Lake.

*Did you know the lake at Darien Lakes State Park is called Harlow Lake?