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

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Review - Dyson's Delves (Part 1)

Today I am taking a look at an older book called Dyson's Delves by Dyson Logos. From the moment I hit buy on DrivethruRPG, I had remorse about not ordering this title in print. It's a good thing I didn't because not many things made their saving throw. C'est la feu. 

DriveThruRPG's excellent library app saved my bacon as I wouldn't be able to keep doing these reviews with quick access to the hundreds of titles I've purchased there. 

Title: Dyson's Delves I 
Rule Set: Any OSR 
Year: 2012
Author: Dyson Logos
Pages: 153 pages
Rating: 5 (or more) of 5 stars

This is one of those titles that shatters my rating scale. I love art and this book has 60+ pages of Dyson's excellent maps, arranged into 5 delve adventures plus 44 blank maps for you to key. Each unkeyed map has a key page for you to fill out and the keys themselves are stylish and match the maps.  

The delves are prekeyed and all of the monsters are thematically grouped like the beasts in Keep on the Borderlands. Dyson doesn't spell it out in the text, but even a cursory look at the critters provides connections that the DM can weave together to fit their own campaign. If you wanted to repeat a particular delve, I suggest rekeying the dungeon using Shane Ward's 10 Monsters idea from the blog, The 3 Toadstools. These delves are cool and repeatable. 

I'm not sure what I like more, the stylish maps or the way this title was put together so that the reader can adapt the work to be their own table. Dyson gives permission to photocopy pages so you can write on them, but if I had this title in print, I would take the other path and write in the book. Yes, it destroys the ability to "start over" but with 5 complete delve adventures plus 44 single page maps, exactly when will I have the time to just "start over"? 

I'm in full-on heretical mode. The author is wrong, go ahead in write in this book. This is basically more than a year of content if you run 1 or 2 maps a week. Date each map as you run through it. When you're all done, either print a new copy from DriveThruRPG or order another book from Lulu. I get nothing for pitching a $20.00 book from Lulu, except the reward of knowing you will have a keepsake worth far more than the multiple purchases or reams of paper you burn to reprint the pdf. It's a kind of a keepsake journal.  

As I mentioned before, I have a copy from DriveThruRPG which is all fine and dandy, but as soon as my house is in order again, I will be ordering a print copy. 

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Ode-No! to the 10 Page Character Background

A picture shares 1000 words. 

Everyone has had that 10-page character background story show up at the table. I don’t mind, but there are limits. When I go into a campaign, I have less than a 10-page setting outline and there is an excellent chance that I can tag off of a player’s writings and interject some of those things into the game. 

So, I am looking at this whole process of ideation for a completely different reason. At the moment, I have limited access to rule sets and want to make sure I have everything I need to play a campaign. This is a solo venture, I have no players because I don’t know if I have items I need. 


Funny that I don’t know what items I need. 


One of my anonymous readers, whom I shall call “Blackrazor” because his mom did not name him that, gave me a boatload of stuff to get started. The Basic and Expert rule set and dice. Technically, that’s all I need. The links will take you to DriveThruRPG.


Last year, I backed Todd Leback’s Into the Wild. I really want to use that book, too. 


Just before this adventure began, I ordered a hard copy of Rules Cyclopedia, which strongly mirrors what I was trying to do with e1 back in 1980. Between the stuff from Blackrazor, my luck, and ordering habits, I think I have all I need. But I will test that by engaging in some solo play. 


I want 6 adventurers. That gives me an Elf, a Dwarf, a Magic User, a Fighter, and two Clerics. I feel pretty good with this creeping capitalization. Today is a new start, and I am not sure how I was blogging class titles before. So, caps for classes. 


Now, who is the “hero” of this story? The party, all 6 of them. So they need a reason to be together or character background. How many pages does that take? I don't know. Let us see. 


When I rolled these characters, I threw an additional 1d6 for level:


1-3 is first level, 

4-5 is second, and

6 is 3rd level. 


So I have a first-level Elf, Magic-User and Cleric. I have a 2nd level elf and fighter and a 3rd level cleric. I’ve decided that no one has magical equipment at this point, but they do have transportation, which is sometimes better than magical items. 


Why are they together and where?


Let’s start with the young Magic-User. He is really smart and very young, say 16 years old. He is the 9th child of a well-to-do stationer. 


What’s a stationer? It used to be that people came to town on market day and threw their wares out and had people buy off a blanket, wagon, cart, etc. A stationer was a person who sold goods that were not easily transportable or too fragile to handle the weather, therefore they needed an actual shop. Back in the day, the first of these were scribes, they provided goods and were “stationary” by definition. Think of them as the mall’s anchor stores. That definition solidified into the definition of their trade goods, “stationary”. 


As the 9th child of this stationer, I need to tell you a bit about this family. The Magic-User is named Charles, whom everyone calls “Chuckie”. Charles Sr. hates this and wants his son to leave home and name “Chuckie” behind to get a proper education. 


So, we have a bit of the story. Young Chuck is going places. Let’s circle back to Charles Sr. for a moment. He didn’t start out as a bookseller, he was conscripted into the army. After a single campaign, he lucked out and was granted a small but rich plot of land. He got married and had 2 boys with his first wife. His first wife died of the plague. 


When he remarried, he granted his oldest boys the farm while Dad started milling. One of the boys enjoyed farming, while the other was interested in seed stock and seedlings. They tagged off of each other’s skills to become successful. Dad was still doing good work of the land as a miller, which allows his boys to capitalize off of super cheap milling prices. 


Charles Senior’s second wife produced a trio of girls, plus one more son. The son got into cattle ranching, while 2 of the two of the girls married well and the third daughter became a priestess. 


Unfortunately, the second wife died giving birth and poor Charles senior had to remarry again. This time it worked out fine. Chuckie is the youngest of the children, he has two older sisters plus the brood of much older siblings.  


Charles Sr.'s current wife is an illuminator, an artist specializing in books. This was Charles Sr.'s final career change, to stationer. He buys skins and papyrus from his children’s farms or ranches and provides these materials to his daughter’s convent. It's a good deal for all.

Chuckie has a best friend in similar shoes. His name is Avfin, and he aspires to be a Bishop. His dad works for Charles Sr. The two young men will be traveling to a larger town for schooling. 


I am nowhere near 10 pages at this point, so let’s throw Alice into the mix. Alice is an elf who lives at the edge of town. She is friends with Avfin and Chuckie despite being wildly older than them. As if being an elf in a human town isn’t odd enough, she is a free spirit who runs wild all over the surrounding countryside, much to the consternation of her family. Think hippy-chick. 


Her parents have done backflips to make sure she gets in with Avfin and/or Chuckie in the hopes that she will learn to read and wear shoes. When they heard that Avfin and Chuckie were leaving, they encouraged Alice to tag along, as the boys will need someone with animal and wilderness knowledge with them. Hopefully, she’ll grow up on this adventure. Surprisingly, she threw herself into the adventure with gusto despite her parent’s blessing. Alice also stole her mother’s boots and sword, plus her dad’s chainmail suit. 


This is just one page, and I still have 3 more characters to describe: 

Nicholas, a 3rd level cleric,
his second-level fighter bodyguard, Gaelin, 

and a second-level dwarf named Wralin. 


Nicholas is one of Charles Sr.’s war buddies. Army life wasn’t for either of them, but Nick has made his way as a chaplain and researcher for the army. He is currently transporting religious relics and magical writings to a large monastery. Since he was passing through anyway, he agreed to keep an eye on Chuck and his friends on their journey. 


Gaelin, Nick’s bodyguard, doesn't like his job. It takes him away from the glorious, but also a non-existent battlefield. He is thankful to have Chuck, Alice, and Avfin along as the kiddos are happy to gather firewood, start fires and take care of the animals. 


Wralin the Dwarf is unusual. Like all dwarves, he has an eye for construction and mining. But he has a greater passion, horses. He can assess an equine just as well as other dwarves can spot a good diamond. Oddly, he rides a mule named Sneer instead of a horse. Sneer thinks she is a warhorse. She is very comfortable on the battlefield and when dealing with monsters.  


At this point, I have roughly covered more than a dozen different characters. Their backgrounds are pretty cool, and if I went 1 by 1, each character could have one handwritten index card of biographical information. 


So in getting these 6 characters ready, I have a lot of campaign information at my fingertips. 


The kingdom is at peace, but there was a war in the recent past. There are many villages and cities to see, some of which have schools and monasteries. A network of roads and probably caravans exists. The army is forced to do non-combat tasks because the Lord or Lady of the land is doing some sort of recon and resource exploitation. In peacetime, the leadership is getting ready to engage in warfare or negotiate a peace. Humans and demi-humans work together. We’ve mentioned that monsters roam and some characters have encountered them. 


Rather than a 10-page character background, I have a 2-page campaign primer, which includes much of the character backgrounds that I would need as a DM. The players could refine these starting points to make the characters their own. 


So much for the 10-page background. Two is more than sufficient. 

Saturday, September 4, 2021

The Hobos Have Them...

There is that classic image of hobo walking with a bag on a stick over the shoulder. 
Believe it or not, that stick has a name: a bindle. It might derive from the German word for packet. While I hate hobos as in murder hobos, we can actually steal a good idea from them, their baggage.  

The Sarcina
The Sarcina

The Romans had a version of the bundle on a stick. It was called sarcina. Because they used a forked stick or stick with an arm, it was called a furca or a fork. It's function was largely the same as the hobo's bindle, to redistribute a load to the shoulder and to allow one hand free. 

The legionary's sarcina was wildly better than an adventure's backpack. The furca carried a loculus (satchel), a cloak bag, a cooking pot, a patera (mess kit), spikes (also called wolves) and a net bag for food. On the top there was a rolled object, perhaps a bedroll which also contained several tools, an axe, a turf cutter, hammer or mattock, saw and sickle. It's unclear if each soldier carried each and every tool or if they were carrying just one of many. 

In any event, the items were tied to the furca in such away that allowed them to swing front to back but not side to side. This aids marching and prevents a staggering gate. Additionally, the swinging allow for an important secondary function a bindle doesn't have. If you dropped the sarcina, the weight forced the furca's end to point upwards. This helped with recovery, but also put a vaguely pointy stick between the carrier and an opponent. 

While one person doing this seems like a very haphazard barrier, a legion's worth of men doing it as a group made an instant wall. 

In camp, the unloaded furca would be used to mark a soldiers spot and to hold his armor and helmet off the ground. In an effort to avoid a baggage train, the Roman soldiers marched in full armor and didn't remove it until they were making camp. Their shields were carried across the back in a bag with straps, like a backpack. Which probably explains why they didn't use backpacks. 

Removing the armor at the end of the march felt good and let the soldier get to work digging a trench and creating a berm to keep people and creatures out. 

The netted bag carried 3 days of food. Romans avoided carrying more because they general moved by road, so from one home base to another destination where food was available. It also seems they carried hardtack which didn't count as food until everything else was gone. The Romans would use their sickle to harvest foods in the field before resorting to the hardtack. It was really disliked. 

You'll also notice they didn't carry shovels. Instead, they would use their pickaxe or turf cutter to remove earth and put it in a basket. When you work as a team, this is better for moving large amounts of earth. You can form a chain to quickly make berms or create ditches. 

As a DM, if a character with a backpack told me they had a pickaxe, a turf cutter, a sledgehammer, a cloak bag, iron rations, in addition to rope, armor, weapons and rations, I would call B.S. immediately. Because that isn't how backpacks don't work. If you ask a modern soldier how overloaded he or she is, you'd be shocked and not bit surprised at how fast they take chances and dump that crap to get other things done. Soldiers, time immemorial, are savvy and sneaky.  

However, a sacrina does actually allow troops to move and fight. 

The Romans made this work because they managed expectations. No shovels because they don't make sense. No ropes because they have 800+ guys who could turn net bags into rope over night. No torches because they almost never fought at night and didn't want to expose guards and scouts with flaming objects. They carried 3 days of food because they journeyed by road from one destination with supplies to another. 

Players will like it because the loculus or satchel is backpack sized container which is full of a person belongings and treasures. Everything is simply organized so as to stop the carrier from fumbling through a whole backpack deep pile of stuff to get one thing. Everything is a one container reach. It's super handy. 

DM should like it because it removes hard tracking of a crazy number of things like axes and food. Eating a meal in town reduces food consumption on the road. Assuming a party is marching as soldiers means no one asks the slow guy to run him or herself to exhaustion. Knowing that there are only 3 days of rations means the party must have a destination within 5 days to make it. 

The D&D Rules Cyclopedia equipment list gives a price of less than 40 gps for everything needed to create a sacrina. It reminds me of a cheaper version of the Standard Equipment pack from Star Frontiers Basic. It's a good option, why not let your players give it a try?

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

My D&D vs. Your D&D

I've mentioned several times that I came to gaming at a young age. My parents dragged me to conventions and encouraged my interest for as long as I remember. I came into D&D so young that I can hardly remember a time where it wasn't there.  My first set was the Chainmail rules followed by the 1981 set.  I always loved the art in this pair of books and it was always my goto version. 

D&D Basic Set Rulebook (B/X ed.) (Basic)

D&D Basic Set Rulebook (B/X ed.) (Basic)
D&D Expert Set Rulebook (B/X ed.) (Basic)
D&D Expert Set Rulebook (B/X ed.) (Basic)
D&D Expert Set Rulebook (B/X ed.) (Basic)

As I dragged my friends on the adventure they picked up sets, too. But theirs were different. They got the 1983 version.

That started an arms race. I had to pick that edition also.  

D&D Basic Set - Player's Manual (BECMI ed.) (Basic)

D&D Basic Set - Player's Manual (BECMI ed.) (Basic)
D&D Basic Set - DM's Rulebook (BECMI ed.) (Basic)
D&D Basic Set - DM's Rulebook (BECMI ed.) (Basic)
D&D Basic Set - DM's Rulebook (BECMI ed.) (Basic)
Dungeons & Dragons Expert Set Rulebook (BECMI ed.) (Basic)
Dungeons & Dragons Expert Set Rulebook (BECMI ed.) (Basic)
D&D Basic Set - DM's Rulebook (BECMI ed.) (Basic)

The big improvement in my mind was the two book set. That way the players had a reference and the DM had a reference. I was never a fan of the three column layout and the artwork was softer, grey scale instead of black and white line art. That style really didn't grow on me until Dragonlance came out. 

I wasn't the only one looking at an arms race. I recall stopping with the BECMI Expert Set. It seems like the series had no end in sight. In 1984, the Companion boxed set came out followed a year later by the Master set and by 1986, we had Immortals

Although I never purchased the last three sets in the series, I did receive them as re-gifts from friends who accidentally purchased them. In each case, it seems they believed they were getting a further refinement of the basic rules or expert rules, not a different expansion on play. I was not terribly impressed by them and never actually attempted to play them. The first two, Basic and Expert were completely sufficient for my tastes. At least my taste for b/x, I played AD&D more often than not. 

It wasn't until 1991 when the Rules Cyclopedia came out that I went back to b/x. While limited, RC was ahead of it's time. More than a decade before 3.x, it had many of the features of D&D 3.x as it introduced skills. This was something I built into my AD&D e1 campaign with my codification of skill bases for NPCs and PCs alike. In fact, what became Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners was just a series of notes and rules of thumb for nearly 3 decades. 

This is a lot longer than I meant it to be. Let's wrap it up. All of my computers have been roasted, so I've lost everything. But not really. What I intend to do is rewrite 4 of five of my offerings. I had been planning an update prior to all the changes I have experienced. Now I have good reason to get moving. There is no other path than forward. 

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Stuff to Start Again

Today I realized I didn't lose everything in fire. Up in the cloud are all the PDF I ordered from DriveThruRPG. Of course, I didn't have copies of the core books so now I am making a list of what I need to rebuild. 

First up is "my Dungeons and Dragons". The Blue Box, but not Blue Holmes set. I had a Holmes book, but it was acquired later in my gaming career. Of course, I do have a digital copy of BlueHolme which is excellent but doesn't match the memory of 11 year old me. 


D&D Basic Set Rulebook (B/X ed.) (Basic)

D&D Basic Set Rulebook (B/X ed.) (Basic)
D&D Expert Set Rulebook (B/X ed.) (Basic)
D&D Expert Set Rulebook (B/X ed.) (Basic)
D&D Expert Set Rulebook (B/X ed.) (Basic)
With these two books, a lot of gaming can be done. They run $4.99 each. Unfortunately, they do not have a print option. I'm not sure why. That would be great if they did.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Pitching Ideas - Return to the Inside Out

I just got a call from my friend Doug. He wanted some help with a project for his classroom and I did what I could do help. Then went for the important business, getting players for a new campaign. 

I did my elevator pitch, "A Druid, a Unicorn, and a Space Marine are going to save the world from technology so high, it's indistinguishable from magic, Rule set, AD&D." 

He's in. 

If that sounds a bit familiar, it was a one shot I did last year for the wife and kids. It went over like a lead fart because the setting was post-apocalyptic in the middle of a pandemic. Yeah, yeah, yeah. At least I didn't pour tons of money in the TV show based on The Stand by Stephen King. 

Every DM has ideas kicking around their brains to build a world. Most DM's I've played with will tinker with a variety of setting. I am not built like that. Every D&D campaign I run is in a post-apocalyptic. The one thing I am good at is dropping in anachronistic ideas in ways that don't disturb the players. 

My campaign settings diverge from reality in the mid-eighties with the development of fusion power. There was the Outreach, where every country in the world dumped resources into a multi-nation space program. This idea was based on "The Great Awakening(s)" that happened between the 18th and 20th centuries. Except instead of being based on spiritualism, it was based on exploration. 

There was a period of upheavals as fusion tech was deployed. This was followed by the Outreach, a world wide space program using Space Fountains to deploy probes, then ships and colonists around the solar system. This went on for a couple hundred years. It pretty much distorted all nations so they no longer existed as we know them. The goal as DM in this step was to completely divorce the setting reality by making the question "What happened in/to country x" invalid or at least unimportant.  

The next goal in the Outreach was to get to other stars. Back in the 80's, we didn't know and didn't assume most stars would have planets, so the effort to find them in this setting to centuries by sending out probes. This created a situation where the Space Fountains used to reach the solar system needed a massive upgrade. And this is where everything went wrong. 

Obviously, such a system needed to massive infrastructure built. And this was done. However, the second step was a computer based solution. They wrote a massively complex program to handle the upgrade from the first generation of Space Fountains to the truly titanic interstellar Space Fountains. It was a very rough AI. 

That AI had a glitch. It did things too efficiently. It reprogramed the Space Fountains to launch a few tentative research ships. Then instead of creating many, many waves of ships to the stars, it sacrificed everything for just one giant wave. The effort destroyed or impacted every high tech item on Earth, leaving the planet's technological systems to collapse. 

Centuries of high technological items didn't disappear in an instant, they slowly brokedown. As people tried to hold on, they used the technology to change themselves and the world around them. They were morphed into different species, elves, dwarves, goblins and so on. Some people unlocked technology so high it replicated magic. Others messed with probabilities, opening up gates to different universes where our rules didn't apply. 

The Inside Out is a defense against the AI which has collapsed to a single underground location. The locals have banded together to construct a veritable castle around the entrance. 

The creatures coming out of the facility are interpreted as undead, demons and devils who's vast technology appears as magic.  

Sunday, July 11, 2021

With a One-Two Punch

I'm working on revamping my offerings on DriverhruRPG. What I noticed is I don't list my house rules which changes a fair bit of how these products work . I also discovered I don't consistently apply my own house rules. 

One house rule I have is for unarmed attacks. A punch does 1-2 hp of damage. I hate the AD&D e1 unarmed combat system for grappling and simply don't' allow it. 

So here are my general rules for non-lethal combat for punching and kicking. Every character can throw a combo of punches, the classic one-two punch. Roll two d20 and each hit does a point of damage. If you roll at 20, your opponent makes a save vs. petrification to avoid going down for 1d4 rounds. 

If a punch downs a character by hit point damage, they get back up in 1d10 rounds. 

If a punch puts someone on the ground either by loss of hit points or a failed save, that damage is not recorded. It's a nod to not tracking too much stuff. When they get up, they simply have whatever hit points they had before being knocked down. 

Simple. 

When using B/X rules fighters, dwarves and elves can add strength bonuses to damage. No one less can. 

Thieves who meet the backstab requirements can throw a single sucker punch for 4 points of damage. There is no to hit bonus or damage bonuses. It is also a single attack roll making this all or nothing. 

When using AD&D e1 rules, not much changes. Rangers, Cavaliers, Barbarians and Paladins add their strength bonuses like fighters. Assassins can sucker punch. Monks and Mystics can retroactive decide to use these rules AFTER the attack roll. This can change a lethal hit to a non-lethal blow. 

Kicks use the exact same rules but do 2 points of damage in a single roll and no one can perform more than one per round. 

Fighters, monks, mystics and assassins can make a coup de grace strike barehanded. No one else can. If someone attempts to finish off a downed creature or character barehanded, it will take 5 rounds. Generally, these types of finishers are chaotic, evil or both which the characters are aware of before they make the attempt. 

This will help me clean up some stuff for my character classes I am writing for sale on DriveThruRPG. 

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Fifth Edition Dungeons and Dragons

Boxed sets are my gateway drug


I generally don't do 5th Edition reviews because I don't play 5th Edition much. There is a lot to like or dislike about 5th Edition. 

If you are just starting out, there are a ton of good reasons to jump into 5e. The main reason is rather simple. It's approachable and readily available to the new player. The artwork and mechanics are great and they are nice set of rules for this day and age. My son loves it and has started his gaming collection with new set of rules, which I purchased for him. 

One of my reasons for not using it is, I have collection of books going back to the Red Box set and beyond. My interest started with the Chainmail rules and expanded from there. I've filled bookshelves with games I will never play. I have an intuitive understanding of what all the major rules are in these sets. Yet another edition of games really doesn't add to what I have. 

E5, Labyrinth Lord and BECMI?
Your not kidding, eh.
The fact is, if you started at point x, you probably already an inkling of what rules x+1 would do to your gameplay. Way back in AD&D, I already had the concept of Feats and Skills as a house rule. I am not some sort of illuminary predicting the changes of the rules. Nearly everyone who played an older edition of D&D foresaw the power of the mechanics and started making changes to their gameplay as house rules. Many of these changes became standard features of the new editions. And many house rules didn't pass muster and were left behind. Here is a list of my house rules, most of which are dubious. 

As of this post, I am at 1030 post on fun and games. Lately, I've been exploring 5th Edition wondering which of any of these things will become the next generation's Red Box, Keep on the Borderlands or Isle of Dread. 

I have no idea, but I'd like to explore. And I hope you will join me. In the next series of posts, I'll be reviewing some of the 5th Edition rules. I figure this will run its course in less than 10 posts or less than 1% of everything else I've written. Because, I am that numbers guy.  

Friday, June 4, 2021

Draft Review of Into the Wild (Kickstarter Complete!)

Updated 4/29/2021. I got my digital copy and ordered my print on demand. This update changes very little, except to add the excellent artists names, page count and to provide links to DriveThruRPG. This one has also been added to my 5 of 5 star listings. Once I get my POD, it might shift to five gold stars.  

June Update - I need to re-review this based on the hardcopy I have. 

As happenstance would have it, I have been granted a couple of great opportunities this week. I have yet to back to a kickstarter and at no time in my decade or so on the web have I been able to review a product that is still in production. On Thursday morning, I got the chance to do both. God, I hope I don't screw this up. 

Let's have some transparency. Every since I was a kid, I have collected books. Not just any books, but galleys. These are preproduct books sent out to authors and editors so they may do their final proof before printing. Sometimes, they have to do this several times. This is essentially What Todd Leback has sent to me. I feel really comfortable with this format even though it is never something that you would see on a store shelf. 

Second, I have tested, playtested and been a part of study groups on a lot of consumer products. A ridiculously amount of products, everything from flossers to cameras to wargames. There is a reason why I am the way I am. :) 

And item C: I dropped a $20 on the Kickstarter. During this review, I am receiving updates from Kickstarter. I am ignoring those and focusing entirely on the presented copy for information. This will cause this review to age poorly in the next 28 days or so. Please check out Kickstarter for updates. 

Title: Into the Wild
Publisher: Old-School Essentials
Author: Todd Leback
Editor: Brian Johnson
Layout: BJ Hensley
Cartography: Todd Leback, Aaron Schmidt, Adrian Barber
Cover Art: Jen Drummond (jendart.com
Interior Art Adrian Barber, Dan Smith, Carlos Castilho
Artists: Is currently a stretch goal. TBA.
Year: 2021
Pages: 216
Rating: 5 of 5 stars. 

So, what am I reviewing: a Kickstarter or a book? Definitely, the book and only the book. Reviews, especially of unfinished products are best done by the numbers. Or the main questions: 

  • Who is the author of the book?
  • What is the idea of the book?
  • Was the idea delivered effectively?
  • What are the strengths?
  • What are weaknesses of the book?

You'll notice that none of those things have to do with stars or ratings, and unlike my other reviews I have not offered a star rating at the outset. And I might not do so by the end. I have only had 48-72 hours to review the material so I have spent most of my time digesting rather than playing or planning. 

Todd Leback is the author of a series of books on Hexcrawling. He has also written on topics such as domain building and authored a one page dungeon. He started playing with the Red Box D&D set and enjoys the OSR style of play with family. This is his second Kickstarter and he runs a great Patreon page which provides 5-8 pages of Hex based content to his patrons every 3-4 weeks. 

Previously, I reviewed Mr. Leback's Hexcrawl Basics

The premise of Into the Wild is to bring several other publications together in one book and link those concepts to kick an OSR style campaign up to the level of domain play. Into the Wild is a 200+ page book which marries hexcrawling to domain building. These ideas came from many of his previous works, but this is not simply a compilation of text. These separate works are merged together seamlessly and are amplified. While some parts of the text are recognisable as being from prior works, they have been edited in away that allows the reader to flow from one idea that was a single book to another, which is different from a compiled collection or an omnibus. 

The book is based on Old School Essentials, but that merely means a tiny bit of tweaking is needed to adapt it to other OSR rulesets. 

The intent is use hexcrawling to engage players into a more complex style of play by bringing domain building into the fold and expanding on it with additional features that would interest high level characters. Mr. Leback does this in 200+ pages with  maps created in Worldographer. While this document was offered to me "with no art", it contains over a dozen maps which are illustrative in nature. Additionally, he also includes many tables and charts to simply and clarify the ideas in each section. 

Like Mr. Leback's previous works, copious examples highlight the various details of hexcrawling, weather, domain management, wealth and character options. This is one of it's strengths. Another good point is the fact that it required a great amount of table time to develop these ideas. Into the Wild shows it's table time very well. It is the product of many years of work and playtime by both the author and his audience. He has merged player feedback with his writing style to produce tight product based on the idea of play. 

One weakness of this work is that it introduces new ways of using DM provided data, which is an inherent flaw of all hexcrawling activities. It's not something you can simply drop into a campaign mid-stream without some sort of introduction. That is not a terribly big deal because hexcrawling and domain building are now "things" that players will understand. 

You could use Into the Wild for low level characters to engage in all the guts and glory type things adventurers do while also running a domain level campaign where a handful of high level characters interact the lesser characters on a larger, more regal scope. This style of play puts the players very close to the DM when it comes to planning, while still maintaining the general mechanics of D&D. 

All and all, this is an excellent book that will only be improved by the stretching nature of a Kickstarter. I look forward to seeing the completed work. 

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Let's Run That Railroad Through the Sandbox...

I had an interesting conversation with my kids about DMing games. 

Here was the scenario: The party gets in a fight. The winner of that fight gets jumped and their cash and prizes are stolen. Then the party chases down the second group of people and gets their stuff back. 

"You planned all of that in advance. You were railroading us!" they whined. 

"No. I wasn't." I pulled out my notes and showed them. 

The Party and Group A get in a fight. Only 4 things can happen, the either the Party or Group A can win. Or they reach a stalemate and no one wins, either by flight or not starting or finishing the fight. 

Next. The first group out of the area gets jumped. Those 4 options happen again. 

And finally, when the loser or second people out of the first situation one catch up, you basically have the same 4 options. Win, lose or two different draws. 

That's not a railroad. The players have a choice at each event they are present for and the dice can change that outcome. When the party isn't present, I pick the most viable option because I'm not stopping play to fight a combat against two NPC groups against each. When the party comes back, they get another set of choices and outcomes. 

A railroad would be if I decided what was going to happen TO THE PARTY before they were granted a choice. I know where the branches are and what should happen next, but I have 4-5 different possible choices to account for in every scenario. If the party has an obvious choice of 4 items, and they come up with fifth, sixth and seventh option, I have no plan and need to fly by the seat of my pants. 

I gave the kids a good example. 

I had a party meet at a tavern. They were supposed to stop the evil lord's men from shaking down the peasants for money. The party chose not to do that. So, the peasants got shaken down. Then the party gave the peasants money to replace what was stolen. I didn't expect that outcome. 

The next session, I decided to just re-run the whole thing. Again the party didn't bite. This went on for a bit with the peasants getting shaken down and the party replacing their lost funds. 

Now the party was responsive to everything else I did in each session, but I was baffled by their lack of activity on this one point of defending the peasants. It almost rose to the level of a joke. After a few months of play, the checked back in on the peasants in the tavern. 

Since they asked, I provided. This time the lord was there to get in on the fun. And the party sat there as the peasants got beatdown and robbed again. It wasn't until the lord threaten everyone and turned to exit that the whole party opened fire with crossbows. In the dark. In the back. 

The explanation for this behavior was, everyone in the party and a few of the players were lawful evil. It was just their natural to use the peasants for bait to draw the evil lord out. 

So when planning an adventure, you should plan for the obvious. What if the party wins? What if they lose? What if they run? What if they won't or don't fight? If you have those few things down, then the adventure probably won't go off the track, but if it does, the DM is only scrambling for a few seconds and not moment to moment. Which reduces the possibility of railroading the players. 

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Review - Old-School Essentials: Basic Rules

Title: Old-School Essentials: Basic Rules
Publisher: Necrotic Gnome
Author: Gavin Norman
Artists: Mustafa Bekir, Michael Clarke, Mark Lyons, Thomas Novosel, Juan Ochoa, Stefan Poag, Matt Ray, Luka Rejec, Peter Saga, Del Teigeler, Andrew Walter
Year: 2017? 
Pages: 54 pages
Rating: ★★★★★

I'm not sure how to handle this. There is nothing better than those old rule D&D boxed sets. Nothing really compares to them. Until now. There are a lot of renaissance books out there but only handful really improve on the original. 

Old-School Essentials does that, even in the basic (and free) form. This 54 page book covers all of the basics so that you can play D&D with a single book. 

By now, I am sure you are aware that I love great artwork. In some places, I see this book as being offer as "no art". In other places I see it described as "player facing rules only". "Basic" doesn't refer to the original Basic/Expert dichotomy, but the traditional meaning of "basic" as "simple". 

Those are lies. This "artless" book has no less than 11 artists with great stuff appearing on dozens and dozens of pages. Also, the "player facing rules" include attack tables a combat section, which means this is fully playable from the get-go. I am going to take off two stars for those misrepresentations. Conveniently, this allows me to write a review that does not break my 5 star scale and award it a mere five gold star ranking. 

Nice how that worked out. 

What is missing is the ideation process for new Dungeon Masters. Ok, "basic" it is. What it adds are dozens of revisions to those old boxed sets rules which streamlines and clarifies those rules. 

Also missing are the non-human classes of Elf, Dwarf, and Halfling, however the rule book does not specifically say you can't have an Elven Fighter or a Dwarven cleric. Since the term used is "adventurer" and not "human", this could simply be ignored allowing the group to simply add a descriptor of choice. The players can role or roll as they wish. This doesn't change the game. It's not a terrible way to simplify a ruleset. 

Initiative and surprise are simple and complete. Armor class is reduced to just 5 rankings for none, leather, chain and plate with or without a shield. The attack matrix is set up as per the original rules but then as an option T.H.A.C.0 is introduced. They even touch on how his changes the probability which is very nice. 

Ability checks are clearly defined and branch from thieves abilities. For a simple or basic set of rules, this is a great improvement. Looking at Holmes and AD&D, the addition of professional skills into the game has always branched from thieves abilities and touched ability scores, but was never codified until later additions. In fact, it seemed to disappear from the B/X and other basic offerings. While this set does not go whole hog on these concepts, the tool is there for the creatively minded. 

This is a rock solid offering for anyone interested in the old school type game and a great reason to purchase the complete, "non-basic" set on DriveThruRPG

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

In Praise of the 20 Page AD&D Character Sheet

So this is how I amuse myself. I made a 20 page character sheet from one sheet of paper. 


Let me tell you what a pain in the ass that was. Everything needed to be orientated correctly and having gotten it wrong twice, I realized I had it right the second time, but folded it wrong. 

Sigh. 

As soon as I get folding instructions done, I'll add it to my character sheet download at DriveThruRPG. It will strictly be a print and write on affair. I have no patience for PDF forms where some of the data is upside down. 

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Review - The Basic Witch: The Pumpkin Spice Tradition

Title: The Basic Witch: The Pumpkin Spice Tradition
Publisher: The Other Side Publishing
Author: Timothy S. Brannan
Year: 2019
Pages: 65 pages
Rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is designed for Labyrinth Lord as part of the Back to Basic series. Originally, it started as a joke on everything Pumpkin Spice themed. It roughly follows the other books in the series, with the exception of some level limits for non-human characters. 

This is my favorite of the series. While not entirely tongue in cheek, it's a fun read. In my mind, it comes across like the film A Knight's Tale. Popular culture is mixed up and presented in a timeless way. The idea of harvest, fall and Halloween is in this products DNA, but in a way which would detract from a series Dungeons and Dragons experience. Yes, there are jokey bits, but they are well thought out so they don't break the theme of D&D. If you like Angel or Buffy, these details will be right up your alley. 

This particular set calls out Labyrinth Lord but readers will find that it is a nice addition to any basic era game such as BlueHolme or the Red box set. With a little adaption, this book could be plugged into a great many rule sets like AD&D. The author specifically mentions a desire for this title to be cross-compatible, but noted they didn't make that the focus of this work. I suspect that Mr. Brannan wanted this book to cover a far wider range of game systems than I am familiar with using. Even if it doesn't go there, it's still a rock solid offering. 

Usually when I do a review, I mention the artwork. This product is loaded with artwork. I didn't count, but it seems like every other page or every third has something. In this book, most of the artwork is quarter page and inline with the text, rather that being placed in the centerline like 3.5 books. Again, like the subject matter the book, the artwork has a gothic summer turned autumn feel. 

Somehow, this version of the witch character class feels old, but not too old. It invokes a pleasant feeling of Deja Vu of my college days, when game night also featured a movie or TV before or after. That feeling of people just out to get together and have fun. 

Reviewer's note: The date is taken from the forward, this could be the most recent update rather than the original publication date. If that is the case, my apologies but then that also means the author is providing an excellent experience by routinely updating his works. 

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Filling in the Blanks by

Todd Leback
Filing in the Blanks Filling in the Blanks

Title: Filling in the Blanks
Publisher: Old-School Essentials
Author: Todd Leback
Cover Artist: Jenna Drummond (jendart.com),
Interior Artists: Chad Dickhaut, Adrian Barber, and Dan Smith
Year: 2020
Pages: 79 pages
Rating: 5 of 5 stars

This particular book comes in two forms, the preview edition and the regular edition. I have both. The preview edition is a text only copy of the main concepts of the full book, which is more than enough to let you know if you would want or need this title. 

Starting at the beginning, let me tell you about the author. Todd Leback is the author of a series of books on Hexcrawling. He has also written on topics such as domain building, authored a one page dungeon and had two successful Kickstarters. The most recent, as mentioned before, is the book Into the Wild. This should be out in about a month or so. He started playing with the Red Box D&D set and enjoys the OSR style of play with family. He runs a great Patreon page which provides 5-8 pages of Hex based content to his patrons every 3-4 weeks. As I mentioned in my review of Hexcrawl Basics, the link to both his Patreon and Jenna Drumman's sites are too small so I have reproduced them here. 

Filling in the Blanks is all about generating hexes. He covers geologic features, habitation of a variety of sizes, resources, hazards, lairs, etc. Of course there is a bit about magic and weather. This product is totally table driven with the text providing guidance and examples for usage. Those three together are great for demonstration of how the game is supposed to work. It's also a great way to allow for adaption to specific campaigns and thematic settings. 

My personal favorite part is on graveyards, but I think most people will like the section on Inns. That one seems to be the most useful for any campaign. Maps are in color, while the art is black and white. Somehow, I suffered a printer mishap and all of the black and white art came out blue tinted. I actually like that, but is probably my own problem. 

All in all, this is a great book on the someone who is well versed in hexcrawling. The only slight weakness is the lack of links back to Hexcrawl Basics. That title makes a good primer for what this book covers. While this title is only 79 pages, it is can feel like drinking from a firehose. There is a lot of information packed into this book. 

It would make a great addition and edition for anyone desiring a full featured exploration of the concept of Hex Crawling. While written for Old School Essentials, it can be easily adapted to any rule set. I might even be using this for a continuing Star Wars campaign. 

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Gaming the Game - Stolen Ideas

Duskruin is current Gemstone IV paid adventure

When I want to play an RPG style game but don't have players, I usually log into Gemstone IV. I've been playing it for decades. It's sort of build on Rolemaster, but went through a process to unlink itself from Iron Crown Enterprise's IP. That isn't terribly important to this post, but what is important is the ideas I've stolen from Gemstone IV and by extension, probably Rolemaster. 

One of the things I never liked about AD&D and D&D is the selection of monsters used to challenge the players. It works on the supposition of monsters are a unique challenge to the players. While that starts off being true, there comes a practical point where one or many lower level monsters are not a credible threat to the players. 

D&D 3.x fixes this with challenge ratings. It works pretty well, with the exception of creatures with special powers. They don't seem to have the appropriate CR assigned to them. 

Gemstone IV has a different method of ranking for creatures. Being a MMO, your character can literally walk up an incredibly high level creature and get turned to dust. That works for an MMO where you have the concept of "extra lives" but it doesn't really work on the tabletop. 

For more evenly matched creatures against the player, there is a sliding scale. A first level character against a 1st level creature is worth 100 experience. A second level character against a 1st level creature is only going to give the PC 90 experience. By 11th level, it's kind of pointless to fight 1st level kobolds and as a consequence, they don't give any experience any more. 

I like that. It creates a coherent world. At 10th level and beyond, fighting kobolds shouldn't be the point for AD&D and D&D characters. They are so past that. Kobolds don't stop existing, they merely cease being something the player should fear. While you can ramp up the numbers and abilities of kobolds, they still aren't intellectually challenging. A zillion of them merely represents a zillion chances to roll the dice. That stops being a story real quick. 

I tend to use the formula 10 equal level encounters should equal one level. A party of 4 characters fighting 40 equal level monsters should be one level of experience for each player character. What this does is enable me, the DM the ability to pace the party. Do I want 40 monsters all at once or 10 groups of four? Probably someplace in between. 

This builds a coherent world in my mind. On day one, a nasty encounter with a kobold patrol is fine. Six sessions into the campaign, sure, my players encounter that patrol of kobolds but they are super leary of mixing it up with the players. 10 sessions later and the party may be hiring them as man-at-arms, porters, etc. The kobolds didn't disappear, their role changed because they aren't a challenge. 

I kind of like that concept and generally use it over mathematical gyrations provided in the DMG. 

As a consequence, it does break the model of gold for experience, but I never liked that anyway. Fighters don't go to fighter school to level up. As they gain experience, they gain followers who make them explore the concept of their trade as they teach others. 

Having a simple rule of thumb allows me to plan more fully. Not just what sort of monsters the players will defeat, but also what sort of resources they players will encounter. If the party plows into a patrol of monsters, chases them home and has the tribe bribe them not to attack the village, that's a win. It is total defeat for the monsters, perhaps dozens of them because they offered surrender or capituation. 

This allows me to control what resources end up in the player's hands beyond having them scoop up piles of treasure and hoping for a random roll. I know what is on the table and can use the interactions between the party and the challengers to guide the party. Gold is gold, but this method leapfrogs the concept of magic swords and other nice prizes. A tribe of kobolds might offer up a nice +1 two handed sword to escape the party's wrath because it's a six foot long weapon for 4 foot tall creatures. It's not valuable to a kobold. Plus the kobolds can hint at it's power so as not to waste the party's time trying to identify every item that comes to them. 

It's a nice feature because it establishes a history of what happened. In the above example, the kobold tribe doesn't have to be obliterated to represent victory over 40 kobolds. They can come to an agreement with the party that in exchange for the sword and a promise not to raid the town anymore, they can live in (a fragile) peace. The party know they are there and can sometimes draw resources from them. A safe place to sleep, a good gossip starter or perhaps something else. 

Stolen ideas are good. Why don't you join me in the world of Gemstone IV by clicking the link below. GSIV has a nice F2P model that will give you a taste of an expansive world of magic. 





Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Review: Dungeons and Dragons Film (2000) Review

Title: Dungeons and Dragons
Publisher: New Line Cinema
Year: 2000
Rating: 5 of 5 stars. 

Am I insane? 5 stars for the 2000 Dungeons and Dragons movie? Yes, I am but it isn't a factor here.  

We have a film starring Justin Whalin, Marlon Wayans, Thora Birch, Zoe McLellan, Kristen Wilson, Lee Arenberg, Bruce Payne and the Original GQ Smoothy Jeremy Irons. They tried to work with all kinds of Intellectual Properties from the game and it's a dud. 

Well. That has to be some sort of record. How could you fail with that much background information and those actors? Easily, apparently. 

But why would I give it 5 stars? 

It's funny really. It's like someone at New Line Cinema sat down at a table and said, "Gee, let's throw some money at a long list of actors who probably aren't filming something today and we'll see what happens. We can fix a lot of stuff with edits and in post." Looking at the list of people involved with this project, they could have picked worse people. Hell, some of them I like a lot. Actors, directors, writers and so on. When it comes to the actors, I am sure they went out of their way trying to make an excellent movie and I am positive it was perfect. 

What they missed was a quality Dungeon Master. You know, someone who could come up with an engrossing story and snappy delivery. Something that makes the players want to come back for more. 

If only that they hired an actual DM to actually, you know, produce something. Instead, what we got was Justin Whalin, Marlon Wayans, Thora Birch, Zoe McLellan, Kristen Wilson, Lee Arenberg, Bruce Payne and Jeremy Irons all in a room, picking their character sheets and paychecks off the commissary table and trying to work out their motivation in all of this over some dicey ham salad sandwiches. 

The result is laughly bad. How could they pick out 8 people with actual 18+ charisma scores and botch a movie? 

Well... they didn't. The result is exactly like if you sat down with Justin, Marlon, Thora and the gang and tried to play D&D for the first time. I can't tell you how many horrible campaigns I've put stellar players through and this movie captures this process perfectly. This film is a perfect rendition of every noob mistake made by a rookie DM. 

5 of 5 stars. 

"I know Mr. Irons. You ARE charismatic. You just rolled a one, that's all. It happens..."

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Review: Daughters of Darkness: The Mara Witch for Basic Era Games

Title: Daughters of Darkness: The Mara Witch for Basic Era Games
Publisher: The Other Side Publishing
Author: Timothy S. Brannan
Year: 2019
Pages: 79 pages
Rating: 5 of 5 stars

I gotta tell you, this is my second favorite of all of Timothy Brannan's Witch character classes for B/X era games. The Mara Witches are some of the darker characters types available to the player. In fact, I find them so dark they are actually a special type of character that should have one heavy restriction. 

In every edition of D&D, there have been a few character types that are so special that they are limited to NPC classes. The idea of a shaman character class has always been a part of D&D and only available to the DM as an non-player character. I know a thing or two about great NPCs, my children are actually named Nathan, Paul, Catherine on purpose. 

Shamistic casters open up the possibility of playing a monster across tropes. An expert may assist the party because they have a higher calling. A sage may invigorate the party with a quest. Basically these are all people who may pick the party over their clan against some greater evil or some higher cause. Someone who may save the day in a heel-face-turn. 

This one book makes the best case for making witches a PC class only. Never should a DM be granted such power. While there is the distinct possibility of a Mara witch choosing an evil or chaotic alignment the player has to totally embrace The Three-fold Law, no matter how injurious or dangerous it may be to themselves. In the hands of a player, the Mara witch can shine and become a legend. 

In the hands of the DM, the person who dictates the story and arranges the plots and creates the scenarios, the Mara witch is too powerful. If the DM is the only person who can invoke repercussions of violating the Three-fold Law, then the role of the Mara Witch loses it main strength, the role of tradition. This could and would happen because while the DM may desire a moral story where the Mara Witch falls due to their own evilness, vanity or pettiness, this class can march all over the party. 

In the hands of a player, this type of witch is very subtle and powerful. To the player, chaos and evil don't really matter much because they have to abide the fact that their magic could backlash on them. Chaos and evil can take many different forms, but this witch class requires that guiding hand of the player to be an effective character. Someone who feels they have something to win and something to lose. 

Having created a number of character classes, including a book specifically about NPCs called "Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners", I think can say this character is so different it must be left to a player to make them come to life and should never be given into the hands of DM, except for the rarest circumstance. 

This book follows the format of the other two books I have reviewed, The Amazonian Witch and The Classical Witch traditions. Like the other two books, except for outward facing abilities like spells, no mechanic system introduced upsets other character classes, which is very important for consistency. All spells are well written and does not cause a power race with the standard character classes. While specifically written for Labyrinth Lord, it could be added to a great number of rule sets with little problems. 

Like the other two books, it has great cover art, wonderful interior art and nicely formatted tables, with blue tint for easy reading. I think this series of books captures the great cover art of second edition D&D while also maintaining the rougher aspect of the B/X era D&D books. The balancing act was well done. 

A final highlight to all of these witch themed books is the idea of Tradition. Each book paints an image of the many kinds of witches that have existed in mythology. While there may be a few changes in powers and abilities, each one is similar enough to easily grasp in a readthrough. 

Unlike the other two reviews, I spent most of my time looking over the spell lists. This book has 36 pages of spells. And every time I thought to myself, "I would tweak this spell in this way..." I found a second spell that met whatever my imagined need was. Not only are the spells well balanced for this class, they support one another to create a dark mysterious vibe. Which also reinforces the idea that witches need to handled by actual players and not thrown as NPC so the DM can run over the party. 

Reviewer's note: The date is taken from the forward, this could be the most recent update rather than the original publication date. If that is the case, my apologies but then that also means the author is providing an excellent experience by routinely updating his works. 

Monday, February 8, 2021

#TBT - The First Book - Zero to Hero, Uncommon Commoners

Today's post is a #TBT. Back to my first book. I can't believe it's been over two years and 300 downloads later. Perhaps it's time for an update.
I play a fusion of B/X and AD&D. Back in the day, we had no internet, so I had no context as to which books went with which games.

I vaguely recall some sort of conversion rules to bring your Basic and Expert Characters to AD&D and vis-à-vis. I liked that idea, but then when going through the process, I said, "Screw it! There aren't enough differences between AD&D and Basic/Expert to really warrant this much effort. Elves can be Generic or classed. You can generate stats using either set, etc. We are just doing this."

After years and years of play, I know the differences between AD&D and Basic and Expert. The main twist is that AD&D characters have higher stats, higher bonuses, more of everything in AD&D from weapons to magic spells to magical item and monsters. Demi-humans advance faster with clearly defined abilities in B/X but have level limits, even with the lower levels and ability scores. For the homebrew game, the differences aren't so great. Missile fire is the great equalizer in AD&D, you get more per round which is deadly compared to B/X. 

One thing that bothered me about each set of rules was the lack of secondary skills as a fully fleshed out set of statistics. The options were always there to vaguely support NPCs, but when tacking on an professional skill to a Player Character, the DM had to do it all.

I love my NPC characters, usually they act in the supporting role. They don't cast magic, they don't own a sword. They are there to do far more that carry torches and equipment as per the rules, but not sling a sword or spells. Over the years, I developed a set of rules to accommodate these types of characters. I called it Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners. They were the type of characters populating a small town to large city.

My first principal was developed from looking at the to hit and saving throw tables. Most of the time, player characters are challenged by rolls in the low teens at low levels. Well, making buckets is easier than that, so my NPCs have a better than 50-50 chance of making something. Second, failure is not applicable. You aren't much of a bucket maker if you fail 50% of the time. Failure for NPC professionals is missing one or more of their target goals. They make 8 buckets instead of 9, they are a day late, some are wood and some are metal, etc.

Second principle is they suck as combatants, but might have some terrifying skill with a tool. Stoneworker's hammers are just brutal, scribes have razor-like knives, and roofers have their terrible zaxes. These characters have an advantage with tools as weapons, but the tools themselves are poor weapons. Also, lumping someone in the head can damage the tool and the target, limiting the user to use it as a tool again. 

Third, they have horrible hit points, attributes are rolled on average dice and saving throws are poor. They max out at 7 or so hit points, including constitution bonuses. "Luck number 7" was the guiding thought in this choice. It's luck that they have more HP than a first or second level character, but this is a poor meat shield choice for the PCs.

Some people have asked if this is character sieve, it is very much the opposite. In fact, there is a section on how an NPC professional can transition to Player Character, saving a poorly rolled character. This method generates characters fast by allowing the DM to save those who have abysmal stats. The process of generation assumes the professional character started with averaged die rolls and this can be used to "lift" someone who didn't qualify for a true PC at first. 

In Uncommon Commoners, you'll find over 50 character classes for professionals. They can be used to flesh out your towns or add a bit of flare to a PC. They are far from overpowered, but do add zest to any campaign.

Friday, February 5, 2021

Roles without rolls

On Wednesday night, I managed to get in 3 hours+ of an impromptu session of D&D. We went back to the Peninsula of Plenty, my Romanesque campaign. 

Nace is the city below the swords

Since this campaign died out over a year ago, let's have a recap. The party is in the city of Nace after turning in a couple of raiders that ambushed them. One of the raiders was shipped north for a hanging, while the second surviving raider, Ortaire was thrown in chains for a mock triumph before being sold into slavery. 

There are many groups lurking in the background. The main threat are 3 witches of the Coven of Ash. Click the link for their story and character stats. They are deeply conservative and support the Empire. The Empire is human-centric with all demi-humans being cast as evil-doers. These witches support the Empire in all ways, including slavery. They are magic users who tend to strike from the shadows and they've annihilated the upper echelons of the town's leadership. No one wants to tangle with them. Additionally, they have charmed three of the town guards to be on the look out for the Party if they try to free Ortaire. 

Ortaire has four compatriots, other raiders that are skulking around town. The players are only aware of them because the witches took a pot shot at them. The raiders plan on rescuing or killing Ortaire to make sure he doesn't blow them in. They have been presented an third choice as he will be auctioned as a slave and if that happens, no one will listen to him. They are hanging out in the square to see which of these three thing will happen. 

There is a Senator hanging out in town, his name is Vitus. He is profoundly troubled by slavery. The witches have engineered this situation so that they can kill him if he acts. He tried to reach out the party but failed. 

In Vitus's backpocket are 3 elves. They are doing recon for their Crown. They have a side goal of disrupting anything that looks untoward. They have focused on taking a shot at rescuing Ortaire. 

The party has an ace-in-the-hole, a letter from the Emperor granting them 4,000 lbs of silver. This was intended for them to purchase a boat, but they didn't do that. The letter is being waved around at any and all Imperial trouble the party encountered. The player have realized that letter is a problem in a couple of ways and mean to be rid of it. They also want to rescue Ortaire but know that this will trigger another round with the witches. They just don't buy the slavery thing. 

So, we are "now", at the being of this session. Click here for information and stats on the Party. 

The party came up with something wild. They marched into the square where the planned Mock Triumph was to be held and announced that it was illegal. Only the Emperor can declare a Triumph. Being true, the townies bought it. They also announced their intention to take Ortaire by purchasing him and now it's time to drink on it. This would be fine punishment for the raider, menial work and all that. To hype this up, they met with the town's exchequer and turned in the letter for 4,000 lbs of silver and proceeded to lubricate the disappointed townies with free beer. 

Fighting the witches
would be unfun

Vitus's slaves managed to get close to the PC with the elves and they all realized this is all a rouse to annoy the witches. By the witches' reckoning, the Party is being virtuous by hosting a bash to celebrate slavery. Buying a slave to get vengeance is excellent in their mind. On the off chance the party is planning a trick, the coven has charmed some guards ready to kill them all at the first sign of turnabout. Vitus decides to sell the Party's scheme with a bit of acting. He publicly withdrew his private invitation to the party to visit his home. He is pretending to be an angry abolitionist. This throws the witches off of him as he is not doing anything but "losing" and sulking. The Party was confused by this as in the past year, they forgot that detail. 

Everything went off without a hitch. The Party purchased Ortaire, yucked it up a bit with the celebrating citizens then left town in pursuit of the four raiders. Outside of town, they were trailed by the 3 charmed guards and the elven party. The raiders only have a vague idea of where they are going, a farmstead east of town. They don't know how far east. There ended up being a couple of encounters between the guards, the elven party and the Player's Party. The guard returned home after seeing the party go off in pursuit of the elves. They reported that the Party are clearly heroes of the Empire, which might not be entirely true. The party is now off to join the elves, catch and grill the raiders and quietly offer Ortaire his freedom for his help. 

As a surprise, there were zero combat type rolls this session.  

As a bonus, 60-90 minutes were spend discussing the Star Wars campaign I am running.