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

Thursday, June 4, 2020

The Jart

Since my game has unusual characters, I want to have unusual monsters. The Jart is just one of many strange beasts they encountered. 


NO. APPEARING : 1-1,000
MOVE: 24"/6"
HIT DICE: 1, 1 hp.
0/0 IN LIAR: 0%
SPECIAL DEFENSES: Not subject to mind control, charm, etc. 
ALIGNMENT: Chaotic evil
SIZE: Small (4" inches)
Attack/ Defense Mades: Nil

These creatures are clearly constructs resembling birds. They have one green eye which glows at night. The beak, tail and tips of the wings appear to be some sort of thin metal, while the rest of the Jart feels like paper. 

Jarts have a peculiar means of flight. They cannot fly higher than 12 feet from the ground and will not come within 5 feet of another Jart or a barrier. The ground must be rock, dirt, mud, etc. They fly between trees rather than over them. They cannot cross water deeper than 10 feet. Individuals fly very fast and are very maneuverable. A swarm of Jarts moves very slowly despite their individual maneuverability. They also avoid smoke, fire, clouds and fog. A Jart struck by any source of fire or heat will burst into flames. Jarts do not get saving throws vs. fire. Hitting an individual Jart with a missile or thrown weapon is a called shot and is done at a -4. 

All encounters start with just one Jart, unless a swarm is already in progress. Jarts always attack last in the round. The initial Jart will attempt to "taste" a target, which requires a to hit roll. This does one point of damage. Once the Jart has a sample of the target, it will leave the area as quick as possible. Sampling or tasting allows the Jart to track that creature for 2 hours without error. Withing 1d6 rounds, the Jart will return with more companions. They will attempt to taste all creatures in the area, ignoring the first creature sampled. The number appearing will be equal to the number of humanoids and animals.   

Once all targets have been sampled, they will again leave for 1d6 rounds. At the end of this period, roll a percentile die.There is a 25% chance that a swarm of Jarts numbering up to 1000 will appear. 

A Jart swarm covers an area of 36" in game scale. Jarts do not like to enter structures do to the tight spaces, but can enter open spaces like barns or other large structures. 

Characters who have been tasted or sampled inside the swarm will be attacked once per round for 1d6 points of damage. Due to their odd swarming pattern, characters may save vs. breath weapon for half damage. 

Characters who have not been sampled will be sampled by the swarm. An attempt to sample a character will only occur once per round and only at the end of the round, which causes a one round pause in attacks. Characters will note that the swarm will cease all attacks in the round after a sampling and the whole swarm will pull back for that round to communicate with itself. There is a 50% chance that the swarm will leave at this point. 

When a character uses a weapon on the swarm, any weapon including fists and missiles, it will do maximum damage every time as they are hitting more than one Jart per round. If a character is completely surrounded, all attacks are at a +4. Lit torches will do 1d6 points of damage per round and prevent the swarm from attacking the wielder. Fireball will destroy three Jarts for every point of damage rolled. A lightning bolt in the swarm will have a globe effect, like being used under water. This also does double damage to the swarm (but not to other creatures). Magic Missiles also have a curious effect on them, they do double damage and will destroy one Jart per point of damage rolled. The Magic Missile will also open a path through the swarm for one round. 

If a swarm takes more than 200 of damage, they will retreat and regroup. There is a 25% chance that they will give up pursuit. If not, they will fly away from the area for 1d6 rounds before returning. If more than 400 points of damage occur, the swarm will attempt to flee.  

Jarts must remain within 12 feet of rock or dirt to fly. However, they cannot get closer than 2 feet to any object. Jarts have no ability to crawl, swim or walk. This may create strange situations where the they cannot pursue creatures up trees or up wooden stairs, ropes or ladders, but can chase people up hills or up stone stairs. Jarts cannot cross water deeper than 10 feet. They have trouble entering windows and partially closed doors. Jarts will avoid nets, ropes, and other structures that could allow them to be captured. They can only be captured by tricky or magical means. This will never occur by accident. 

Should one be captured, it will crumble like dried paper in 24 hours. If Find Familiar is cast on it within this time period, it will fall under the control of the spell caster and will take instructions. Instructions are limited to follow, find a person, or rest. If issued the order "Find", the Jart will search a six mile radius and return, successful or not. It can then lead the caster to the target if it was found. There is a 1 in 20 chance the Jart will run afoul of something that can destroy it while searching. The magic user will be aware of this, but will not know any details of the destruction. The Jart is not actually a familiar and there is no consequence if it is destroyed. 

XP is awarded only if the swarm is driven off or destroyed. The XP value of the swarm is 400 for being driven off and 1000 if the whole swarm is destroyed. If a swarm appears, but leaves instead of attacking, the award is halved to 200. Catching one is worth 100 XP and casting find familiar on one results in 200 XP award. 

Monday, June 1, 2020

So I've Been Told: Game on Wednesday Night

It looks like we'll be playing D&D Wednesday night. Sweet! 

It isn't my Peninsula of Plenty Campaign, it's something else. None of my peeps have played before. They TOLD me what characters they are playing in their campaign. As designated DM, all I have to do is make it work. 

The ruleset is my typical smash-up of D&D and AD&D, but I'll probably be leaning heavily on the AD&D rules. At least based on the character descriptions I have been given. "Alright players, go nuts. But you have to use my character sheet." They agreed. 

You can download my sheet from DriveThruRPG for free. Technically, it's pay what you want, but we're in the middle of a pandemic+, so spend your resources wisely. 

I think the players believe they are throwing me for a loop. They are not. The opening hook wrote itself as the described their characters to me. Ready for storytime? 

Ever have one of those dreams where something is chasing you? It's dark and you don't know where you are. There is something's close behind, you're out of breath and dead tired. You can't see it directly, only hints and glimmers of whatever came out of the night. 

Maybe it's more than one thing. It feels more like a swarm of angry things. And the safety of where ever is far, far away through the night and the forested hills.

But you're not dreaming. The chase has been going on for days. The nights are the worst. The women and children from your village fled while the defenders tried to hold them back. You were fools. It didn't work and now you run, just like the elderly, the women, the children.

The only difference is, you're better supplied. 

A couple of days back, you gave away all of your food and water to some villagers. It terrified you, because they aren't your villagers. The chase is happening to everyone. Even people you don't know. From places you never heard of.

You don't know these runners, but you are getting to know them. Out of the darkness comes the now familiar silver-blue flash and the jingle of bells. The unicorn must have killed something with her horn. Again. Blue, violet and purple after-images blot out your vision. It's a good thing your eyes were closed, other wise you would have been blinded. You eaten so much radiation in the past couple days, what's a little more? 

As you stumble in the dark, the druid with the dagger and the infant steadiest you before pushing ahead. He mutters, "Mind the stream". The guy in the hoodie, armed with a metal pipe splashes into the water. Behind you the one that smells like spent gunpowder, rattles like hot brass as he or she moves in the shadows. 

And then you see it. Salvation. The hill fort. 

Friday, May 22, 2020

Never do I ever... Roll for Random Encounters at Night

There you have it. Page 47 of the Dungeon Master's Guide, Encounters. My copy is stained with the blood of a thousand characters. But hardly any of the blood came from a nighttime encounter. And certainly not a random nighttime encounter.

Back in the day... and when I say "day", I mean from time immemorial to present day... people hunker down at night. Night is not fun unless you are up to something that can only happen at night. Typically, to have a good time at night, you need a plan, not "random". A dinner party, a star watching party, New Year's Eve and so on. Many people would be hard pressed to name a "random nighttime event" that went well for them. 

The same goes for RPG's. Don't waste time on a nighttime encounter roll. It makes the players nervous and edgy, which is sometimes fun. But not once a day, every day. Night time IS fearful, but the playing field is level when everyone fears. Not much moves at night. (Vampires are a story for another time).  

Many epic things happen in the light of the moon. You can't trust your dice to tell you what that is. You make it so. And make it good. 

One of my favorite stories about night adventures isn't even mine. It's the story of the Seventh Galbiana. This was a legion that declared for Otho against Vitellius for the Purple. Otho was coming north to head off Vitellius who was racing south for Rome. Both armies turned to meet, Vitellius' forces facing west and Otho's to the east. They met at dusk at Bedriacum and the Second Battle of Bedriacum was on. It was one of the rare cases where the Romans fought through the night. The Seventh's eagle fell to the enemy in the dead of night, but was saved by one centurion who sacrificed himself for honor. The fighting was chaotic, ferocious and exhausting. 

As the Sun rose, there was a collision of happenstance. The Seventh was on the left hand of the field, facing to the west. They were under command of Antonius, who served in the Legio III Gallica in Syria. When dawn broke, the men of the Seventh Galbiana followed Antonius' lead turned their backs to the enemy and gave a mighty cheer to something in the east. The Vitellian forces, the whole army, not just the ones facing the Seventh collapsed and retreated believing that Otho's reinforcements were taking the field. 

Nothing could be further from the true. All the Seventh was doing was emulating Antonius' Syria habit of saluting the Sun.  

Such thing are random, but not the sort of random that dice generate. If you want your players to enjoy their game, give them something to think about, not something the dice tell you.

If you like such stories, you can read more about this the book 69 A.D. by Gwyn Morgan.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Episode 002 - I Chose Poorly and De Ut Des

This episode has a format change base on feedback I've received. I have a new sponsor, Anchor.FM and the format now supports the concept of sponsors. I also have some new music so let's all give thanks to Kevin MacLeod at for the following tracks:

Evening Fall (Piano) and
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License

In this episode, I reminisce about 4 games: D&D, Star Frontiers, Gemstone IV and Traveller.  I cover 35+ years of gaming experiences in one podcast. Part of the reason I have been offline for so long was a mash up of getting my lesson plans online for students, my classes at Buffalo State suddenly switching to an online format and the associate PITA from taking finals online.

I hope this format works better than Episode 001 and 000's. It was a pain to record, mostly owing to my new Podcat, Shinobu. She's cute even as she climbs the cables.

Now on to the episode!

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Encumbrance and Campaigning with ads from Gander Outdoors.

I love my characters, but a lot of times they come up with some odd choices. Backpacks are one of my favorite sources of amusement.

I haven't done an ad in a while, so I've plugged some backpacks from Gander Outdoors here. Clicking the pictures will take to their site to buy.  

On the left we have a 70 liter bag while on the right, we have about a 30 liter bag. They are very approximately in scale.

Guess which one my players think they have?  

I really don't mind overburdened players, but somethings are beyond the pale. The people walking around with stakes and hammers and a small fry pan aren't the problem.

I have a very ad hoc encumbrance rule, one which secretly hides one of those never named zeroth laws. My ad hoc encumbrance rule is armor OR a backpack plus two items in your hands means you are totally encumbered. It may or may not slow you down, but you certainly can't carry more. You can also be encumbered by having stuff (or an opponent) wrapped around your legs.

Romans would pack a lot of stuff on their soldiers. Gaius Marius demanded that the soldiers carry most of the load themselves. That earned them the nickname Marius' Mules. The Romans didn't wear backpacks, but carried a sacrina.

Not a link to Gander Outdoors

The sacrina held a cloak bag, a pot, a satchel, a Patera or mess tin, food, a waterskin and a net for loose items, all on a big forked stick. Notice the rectangular satchel on the back and the net on the front. When they dropped these, they landed on that satchel with the stick projecting upwards for easy recovery and unpacking. The bonus of the sacrina was that it made armor a benefit to carrying one as the armor distributed the weight of the stick on their shoulder. This is probably a better tool for carrying stuff than a backpack over armor or a backpack full of armor.

Here is where my zeroth law comes in. You drop your stuff and I will almost never have someone mess with it. If you leave it behind, that is one thing, but I really don't want to annoy my players with cheap shots like stealing all of their gear. Stealing money, sure. But not a backpack.

In my most recent campaign, my players have made an art of being unencumbered at all times. They have 2 wagons, oxen and a bunch of NPCs in tow. When they say they have a pack, it's pretty much a purse: a snack, some useful items and some water. I'm vaguely annoyed because they should have purchased a boat, but instead got the wagons because I left that word, "ship" out by accident.

Oh, well.

How do you handle encumbrance in your campaign? Let me know in the comments below.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

The Post About Fighters

Gurwinder as Keeper
Welcome back. I haven't posted much about D&D and AD&D lately.

Gurwinder as Warrior
Let's fix that with some thoughts on fighters. In B/X D&D fighters were characters who specialized in putting their weapon on someone and hard. Exactly what kind of guy or gal he was was totally in the theater of the mind. They could be any kind of fighting man or woman.

Not so in AD&D. Fighters gained sub-classes, the ranger and the paladin. For years, no decades, I always thought of paladins as being the guys with great armor and heavy weapons and rangers were archers due to the their outdoorsy nature and good dexterity. Plain old fighters were a mix of the two, using a short bow, sword and board. While fighters might have horses that they use and care for, the paladin has a horse built into their character but rangers often had dogs and wolves as companions. And these animals were not so friendly company.

However, the big thing that sets rangers and paladins apart from fighters is their use of magic. Paladins have spiritual magic while rangers have arcane spells.

Not Venus Genetrix,
but Venus Bellatrix. 
In the campaign I have been playing, there is a fighter, Gurwinder A’flumine. She is a small woman with a bow and knife. She wears a stola, palla and tunic at all times. She is reserved and calm, but the player has done her best to make her the leader of a band of misfit rangers, mages and daredevils. There was no declaration of intent, but she leads from the front.

While I rolled her up and foisted her off on the player, that player accepted her as she was designed, a fighter. But as she played, the character changed.

A slight change her stats to that of a paladin mechanically alters very little, except retainers. Gurwinder would have a modest boost in strength and constitution, which would not change her combat stats. Her charisma would climb by 7, which is huge but not out of character as with a 10, she was the de facto leader of this motley band. She retains no monies for herself, has not sought a horse or armor, or even better weapons. This player has redefined how I thought of fighters and their subclasses since I began playing.

What do you think? Let me know if I should offer to retroactively reclass this character as a paladin in the comment below.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Seeking Zeros (Product Plug)

I'm looking for a few zeros and not in the way you'd expect.

Today I did a review of my products on DriveThruRPG and realized I am pretty close to some thresholds I'd like to hit. Here is a list of my total downloads for all 5 of my products.

AD&D Character Sheet For Use with Unearthed Arcana - 91
Compass Rose Inn Minisetting - 135
Kobold Folly Minisetting - 122
Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners - 244
Swashbucklers Character Class - 87

What I would like to see is at least 100 for my Character Sheet and Swashbuckler Character Class. I wish I was at 250 for Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners.

Let me recap what each product is:

The Character Sheet is just a character sheet with the 7 stats from AD&D and Unearthed Arcana, 1st edition.

The Swashbuckler Character Class is a gimmick character class, someplace between thief and fighter. The Swashbuckler does little to no damage per round, attempting to set themselves for killing strike on a roll of 20 or better. They are fast and adventurous, but perhaps not the greatest warriors. Very Errol Flynn.

Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners is a framework for creating NPC characters with specific non-combat abilities which balanced for D&D and AD&D 1st Edition. The booklet can also be used to create secondary or professional skills for PCs, which don't push the limits or make them OP.

The Compass Rose Inn Minisetting and Kobold's Folly are two maps sets for a generic campaign setting and are rules agnostic. They come with maps that can be printed as 1 inch=5 feet battlemat. Character backgrounds are provided to make these locations come to life with gossip and intrigue. 

I would like to invite all of you to download these products. Each is Pay What You Want. In this time of crisis, the "Pay" and "Want" should go away. Download them at $0.00. It's cool, that's how this works. Help me reach these goals, even though they are probably silly.

I appreciate every download.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

The Skin Wolf Golem

The Skin Golem or more commonly named, "The Skin Wolf" is a unique creation of the Coven of Ash.

The witches of the Coven of Ash wear these pelts as a stole or cape, which conveys the Skin Wolf's armor class to the wearer. The Coven of Ash tends to use the largest martens as Skin Wolves, which has 9 hit points. Wolves are not common in the area. Theoretically, any fur bearing mundane animal can be used to create a Skin Wolf, such as a weasel, a bear, dog or actual wolf. The witches of the Coven of Ash have tried to make gnoll, elf and human skin golems, but it doesn't work. It also does not work on giant variants of mundane animals like Worgs, Giant Weasels or Elk. The name "Skin Wolf" is colloquial, it isn't actually description of what they are made of. The humans of Empire are aware of these creatures and are terrified by them.

If a victim survives an attack by Skin Wolves, they will notice a particular smell about them which will alert them to future attacks and foils surprise one third of the time. Note: this also applies to the witches themselves if they are wearing one. The number of Skin Wolves appearing is always equal to the number of witches. These golems are only useful to the creator, they are powerless in other people's hands. 

Frequency: Very Rare
No. Appearing: 1-3
Armor Class: 7
Move: 18"
Hit Dice: Equal the living creature's hit dice.
% in lair: 100%
Treasure Type: Nil
Number of Attacks: 3
Damage/Attack: 1d4/1d4/1d4
Special Attacks: See Below
Special Defenses: See Below
Magical Resistance: See Below
Intelligence: Non Intelligent
Alignment: Neutral
Size: Various
Psionic Ability: Nil
 Attack/Defense: Nil/Nil

Skin Golems are relatively low level golems, which require a pelt and skull, special incense and the following spells: Friends, Clairaudience, Clairvoyance, and Fly. It requires a minimum of a 6th level caster and a piece of incense valued at ten times the number of hit points the golem will have. The pelt and skull must be pristine. It requires one day to create a skin golem with the materials on hand. Hit Points are determined by the size of the animal, but the living creature must have had at least one hit die.

The creation process requires gluing the pelt to the skull which looks far from natural. Sometimes the ears and eyes don't line up between the pelt and skull. Also, the witch may choose to dye the pelt to either be stylish or fearsome. The Coven of Ash has a tendency to consume the flesh of the animal, however this is an alarming life-style choice and is not a part of the ritual of creation.

The Skin Wolf is a weapon of terror. They fly up to 30 feet from the ground and sound like a bullroarer in motion. They can strike up to 3 different targets, once each along their 24" per round flight path. They target the people closest to the witch first and work outwards. They are very maneuverable, but cannot flip end for end and require momentum to do damage. Therefore they tend to strike 3 different targets in one round, not the same person over and over again. Since they are simply flying pelts, they cannot grab, bite or otherwise manipulate objects. They can knock things over which makes noise and a mess. On a natural 20, they hit so hard that they knock the victim down rather than doing double damage.

The witch can choose to directly order the skin wolf to attack a single target, however, this limits the Skin Wolf to one attack and only allows a strike on a target the witch can actually see. It also precludes the witch from casting spells or making their own attacks. If  a witch feels like they are in control of the combat, they will make gestures like they are direct control of the Skin Wolf to terrify victims. If a witch is invisible and wearing a Skin Wolf, issuing it commands counts as an attack and ends the invisibility for both. Skin Wolves cannot be silenced or turned invisible, it defeats their terrifying purpose.

If the Skin Wolf is not engaged in combat, the witch can see and hear (not smell) what the pelt can perceive. Usually, the witch will place the Skin Wolf someplace to watch an area not command it to fly around looking for targets, however that can be done, too.

They have a special defense, bolts and arrows do only 1 point of damage per hit. Also, grenade-like weapons have a -4 to hit and they can dodge splashes. This is not true of thrown daggers, darts and other hefty weapons. They do full damage.

Holy water does 1d3 points of damage. It is often more effective to pour the holy water on one's self than try to make a grenade like attack as this damages the Skin Wolf every time it successfully lands a hit.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Legion of Assassins

Earlier this week, I posted 3 assassins, which I intend to use as Romanesque Legionaries. Why not fighters? Well, with a theoretical background as Citizen Soldiers, legionaries should have some atypical skills for a soldier because they are citizens first. Right within the AD&D description are examples of soft skills: disguise, poisoning, spying, plus a couple of others. In order to do these things, the assassin needs to have people skills. They also need to have other non-combat skills which support this.

Ideally, assassins should always have some sort of secondary professional skill. AD&D assumes that the assassin will take out the wizard, the lord or the high level cleric, but those people are surrounded by eyes. The ability to pass one's self off as a cook, a herald, a guard is paramount. It doesn't mean the assassin can actually do those tasks, they merely need to make someone else think that they can.

This is one of the reasons I wrote Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners. The players need a host of reasonable skills to get into the head of their characters so it is beneficial to have NPC's which operate in that mundane capacity. Zero to Hero gives mechanical statistics to these characters, which might not always be necessary, but can be helpful to everyone. The players are acting out the adventures of a fantastic person which is hard enough, the addition of relatively common folk gives them a scaffold to get there. Plus all of the classes in Zero to Hero have relatively few combat abilities which doesn't increase the mechanical risk to players, it levels the playing field so a small handful of heroes can deal with a huge ensemble of characters on a basic level.

Assassins aren't all about assassination. They break into the sausage factory to make extra special sausage.

This was the operational method of the Romans. They could hand anyone their butt on the battlefield, but after that, then what? Soft skills to get the defeated to continue to defeat themselves. Assassins as soldiers make a lot of sense. Someone needs to collect information and do dastardly things. If you think about it, a legionary was probably eyeing up his compatriots and leaders as much as the enemy. Sometimes, they were looking homeward for any news about family or politics which often ingratiated them to the very people they were looking to take advantage of or wipe out. Assassins make a lot of sense as fighting men.

Even if you don't want to introduce the complexity of a class of classes like Zero to Hero, I hope this changes how you consider placement of assassins in your world.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Chutzpah over Charisma

Let's face it, charisma in AD&D is a dump stat for most players. I like using ordered rolls for stats, so whatever is rolled first will be strength and the last die roll is charisma. This invariable causes me to play characters with sub-prime attributes and sometimes a character with amazing stats in the complete wrong order. A wizard with 13 intelligence and an 18 strength or constitution.

For my campaign, I ignore prime requisite scores and let people run fighters with 5 strength, a cleric with 6 wisdom and so on. I don't require it, I merely allow it for the sake of speed and fun. With my group, I have always received reciprocity from the DM where they allowed me to play such flawed characters, even if they allow for some other method of ability generation that would prevent it. It's just the way we operate.

Since I do this as a normal operating condition, I tend to see characters as problem solvers. Weak fighters develop a means to fight other than brute force. Wizards make up for a lack of spells with magic items, and so on. That's cool.

Except for Charisma. I have this mental image of a high charisma character as stylish and charming. A low charisma character, in my mind, is operating off of what they have in other stats. A low charisma doesn't force foolishness or rudeness which are the purview of intelligence and wisdom, it's merely a lack of polish. Low charisma characters are more likely to use chutzpah over an excellently described plan. They just go for it and have very little understanding as to why this shocks others.

One of these days, I'm going to pull a prank on my players. I will write down the character's stats and then pick on the guy or gal with the lowest Charisma. It will probably come up in a high pressure situation. I will ask that person to roll the dice and no matter the outcome, I will hand them a note and ask them to read it.

It will go something like this:

Mr/Ms. Charisma: Ok, the dragon is probably a sleep, so we'll kick in the door and kill it with arrows.
Me as DM: Good. You have surprise. Make your attack rolls. 
Other players: Wait! What?
Mr/Ms. Charisma: The dragon probably thought of this and hired some orcs to guard the lair. And an ogre.
Me as DM: You're right! There are actually 12 orcs and 3 ogres rushing into the room.
The other players argue while being forced to roll attack dice. For some strange reason, they always have initiative and do lots of damage from covered locations. Everything seems to be slanted to the player's benefit.
Me as DM: You have defeated the orcs and orgres, here is your experience points.
Mr/Ms. Charisma, still reading from the note: Oh, but the dragon fled to the next room. I bet he is casting a spell to turn into a giant snake!
Other players: Why the hell would a dragon turn into a giant snake?
Me as DM: You hear the swoosh of scales on rock and a titanic hissing noise. Roll for surprise!
Mr/Ms. Charisma: Oh, this doesn't look good.
Me as DM: Right! The snake swallows the paladin whole!
Paladin's player: I don't want to be eaten by a snake!
Mr/Ms. Charisma: Oh, yeah. That's bad. We can't do that...
Me as DM: Ok, everyone argues against kicking in the dragon's door. So, what is the plan?

That is pretty much how someone with low charisma operates.

I wonder how long it would take my players to figure out I actually handed out experience and didn't ask them to delete it. I think I have 7 charisma myself, so group dynamic analysis is not my strong suit. But I think they'd try to keep the points and I would let them.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

Area 12, Demented Distraction

I am still playing along with Matt Jackson and his amazing Collaboration Dungeons. In Dungeon #2, I have populated a room with an great trick Statue. Check out the full post on

12. Demented Distraction.

The long passageway is lit from above, in a soft orange light when viewed from the hallway. As the characters progress down the stairs, the light shifts to a strong blueish white. The light emanates from a long central beam in the ceiling.

The alcoves are not lit at all and have deep shadows. The characters will find searching for traps or secret doors to be very difficult without their own bright light source. Torches and lanterns are insufficient to remove the penalty, but a magical light spell or a magic weapon’s glow will help. Waiting a round for one’s eyes to adjust also is beneficial.

At the far end of the chamber is a titanic statue of a man with eight arms. Each arm holds bowl like mirror. The statue is made of steel, but show signs of distress.

When the characters step off the last stair and on to the floor of the hallway, a bolt of energy will lance out from one of the mirrors striking a finger’s breadth in front the lead character’s foot. Every time the characters step forward, the statue fires.

There is a pattern to the bolts, the top two left hands, the right bottom two hands, the upper right two hands, and then finally, the lower left hands. The statue responds instantly to any motion forwards, and can fire as often as necessary to lash out any and all members of the party. It can detect people that are astral, invisible, out of phase, etc. unerringly.

If a character contrives to place an item between their foot and the bolt, the item will be vaporized without a saving throw. The character will be blown backwards 5 feet and take 1d4 points of damage.

Likewise, firing missiles or spells at the statue causes a bolt to vaporize the missile or in the case of magic, negate the spell. There is no saving throw for this, it is automatic. Once the attack has been dealt with, the statue does not fire on the players unless they move forward again.

Characters can step into the alcoves to avoid fire, which will likely confuse the issue.

Retreating or moving left or right does not receive a response, so long as the person doesn’t advance towards the statue.

There is no way to prevent the statue from firing, no way to reflect, block or deflect the bolts or hide from them. There is no solution to this puzzle. The statue unerringly fires bolts one finger’s breadth IN FRONT an advancing person’s foot.

The statue will stop firing at a character as soon as they advance past the last alcove. Players who figure out the puzzle will find the statue to be quite inscrutable. It is resistant to all attacks of any kind, and ignores any brute force attack made on it. It will also ignore people searching or climbing on it.

However, if someone attempts to vandalize the statue, all eight mirrors will fire on them for 1d4 points each. This requires a normal attack roll and happens 8 times per round. Bolts that miss the vandal will NOT hit or injure other people. It will not stop firing on the vandal until they have been vaporized or they escape up the stairs leading to area 8 or around the corner to area 7. If the character returns, the statue will start firing again. In fact, it will fire on vandal as soon as they enter it’s line of sight.

The statue is unaware of speech and will only attack the people that attempt to harm it. If the party waits 3 rounds after the vandal leaves or dies, the statue will glow bright red for 10 rounds, after which, vandal’s handiwork will be burned away.

Behind the statue is a corpse wearing +2 chainmail, holding a wax crayon in one hand. There is also a Mace of Disruption under the corpse and in it’s Bag of Holding are three potions, to be randomly determined. If the characters are having a rough time of it, there is also map to this point showing the hidden doorways in the alcoves.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Matt Jackson's CollaboDungeon #2

Here we are, round two! I picked room 22, a forested room in a dungeon. Click here to read Matt's full post and see all three maps.

22. The Faerie Queen’s Thicket

Small animals frolic among all the trees. Under the largest tree is a white brocade blanket, upon which sits a elderly woman. On noticing the party, she sings out:

“Come out, come out,
“I am the mistress of scrying.”

As the characters approach her, she issues a warning:

“Come and sit,
“There is a place for all here,
“But don’t drink the water.”

The reference to water refers to room 15. She offers the characters food and drink. Consuming the food and drink of the Faerie Queen will restore 1d6 hit points and remove any curses or poisons. Characters may be reluctant to partake of the Faerie Queen’s provisions, but it is safe.

If asked about other rooms, the Faerie Queen will produce a crystal ball and describe them. The only limitation to scrying is if the characters have not be there, they might not understand. If characters look at the crystal ball, they see nothing but cloudiness.

The woman is reluctant to leave room 22, but the party can convince her to leave if they promise to take her out by the shortest route. If the party deviates from the shortest route, she will teleport back to her seat in room 22.

If they return to her, she will sing:

“This is my home,
“And you have been banished.”

No food or drink will be offered this time, and if the characters consume it, they will die in 24 hours. There will be no pain, only a sudden feeling of certain doom.

If any character takes the crystal ball, the Queen will vanish and that character will take her place.

The Goblin’s Henchmen’s rule is in effect, 300 words, less 1 for fun. This post draws on DMB’s song Don’t Drink the Water.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

The Best Module Ever - SES-01 - The One With The Killer Hook

Incredibly, everyone gamer in the WORLD owns the best module ever. It's called SES-01, The One With The Killer Hook. Who knows where you got it, but you have it. We all have it. Where it came from doesn't matter. 

What is SES-01?

Remember your first game session? All of the excitement and adventure, with dozens of mistakes and missteps? Yeah, of course you do. 

It's X years later. Your players have returned to the place where it all began to relive their early days, to see what has become of that place and the inhabitants. Everything is exactly as they remember it. Nothing has changed in all this time... except one thing. The denizens of where ever are somber, saddened by an incredible loss. And they need the Party to help them. 

Help them with what? 

Bury the dead. There are x numbers of caskets in need of pallbearers and escorts. There are graves to be filled and prayed over. One for each brave party member that participated in Session-01. They didn't make it. The locals are not so much holding out for heroes, but burying their past. They are honored, loved and respected, but gone. So much tragedy.  

What happened? This is all on you and your players to discover when you go back and play SES-01. 

The First Book - Zero to Hero, Uncommon Commoners

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.

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 50-50 chance of making something. Second, failure is not applicable. You aren't a bucket maker if you fail 50% of the time. Also, 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, 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.

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 even a poor meal 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.

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.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Matt Jackson's CollaboDungeon... Number 1?

Over on MeWe, Matt Jackson kicked off a Dungeon Collaboration. He posted a map over on his blog, and invited us to pick a room to describe. You can follow the conversation over on mewe with the hashtag #collabodungeon and the results on Matt's blog.

Matt declared a free for all while Goblin’s Henchman through out an idea for 300 word description limit, which I ran with.

I picked area 7. Unlucky number 7.

The 300 word description:

Location Seven. The Twins.

There are two women, twins, in the pit. They are identical in all ways save one. One women wears a lead ring. When they become aware of the characters, they will both shout out for help. When the characters look in the pit, they will hear the following orders:

Twin with the ring: "Kill her! She's a demon!"
Twin without the ring: "Kill her! She's an idiot!"

They are both at the bottom of the pit and represent no threat to the characters in this state. They are both bloodied and bruised from the fall and each has a blacken right eye.

If the party rescues them, they will find out the following information. Twin One, the one with the ring is named Meredith. She entered the dungeon with her friends in search of treasure. She found a gold ring in area 8 and after discerning no purpose to it, put it on. She was pushed by a monster into the pit.

Twin Two, without the ring, was a doppelganger hiding in area 8. To take on Meredith's form, she ambushed her by pushing her into the pit. Unfortunately for the monster, Meredith grabbed it's wrist as she fell and both ended up at the bottom. As the doppelganger took her form, Meredith shouted "Begone!" which the ring of wishes interpreted as a command against the monster. Since the doppelganger was in mid-transformation into Meredith, the ring fixed it in that form before turning to lead. The doppelganger is now an exact copy of Meredith.

The twins have found combat against each to be profoundly lethal, as they mirror each other's moves perfectly, hence the matching black eyes. They will not fight each other. They will join the party to escape the dungeon.

I'll probably make up stats for Meredith someday, but she is presented as rule set agnostic here.

No one said anything about a follow up, but I'd love to see #1, #2, #3...

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Product Updates for 2020 - Kobold's Folly and The Compass Rose Mini Setting

I have updated the files for The Compass Rose Inn and The Kobold's Folly products. These items are still pay what you want, however, in each case I have increased the suggested price to $3.99 each.

In the case of the Compass Rose Inn, the map has been reworked to be 1 inch = five feet. This now brings the page count to 63 pages. Additionally, this file has map tiles that enable you to print out additional green space for more terrain. To fill some of this space, there is now a barn map with two levels, a stable or work shed with two levels, a well and bake house map. 

In Kobold's Folly, I detail what is different between the Tribe of Minwan and other kobolds and provide images of King Minwan and his sister using the two magic items found at in the folly.

If you have already downloaded these files, my thanks. You should receive an email shortly with the new files. If you can't wait, simply check your Library tab at DriveThruRPG.

Click the images below for full resolution images from the Compass Rose Inn.

NFL Championship, Power Outages and Bolt Cutters

Between the Bills washing out of the playoffs, today's power outages, and me getting ready for school, we taking a week or more off.

I have been hanging out with the players so I do have an idea of what happens next. I'll call it "Ortaire-4-9-3". One of my players asked if there was a spell that would remove shackles. A different player inquired about bolt cutters. So the players themselves have decided to free Ortaire the Raider from being auctioned off as a slave. 4-9-3 refers to the 4 raiders, the 9 characters of the player's party and the 3 elves.

I was expecting this very type of rebellion from the players, but not right in the face of the Coven of Ash. These are a triplet of 3rd, 5th and 7th level magic users. They can totally destroy the party in a direct confrontation.

Let's restate the facts:

  • The Emperor and his council have given the players a letter which allows them to purchase or hire a ship at a price not to exceed 4,000 pounds silver. (40,000 silver at 1/10 of pound is 4,000 pounds). 
  • Anytime this letter comes into play, it's being read as a grant of power which allows the players to do whatever they like as if they have the Emperor's blessing. 
  • Roleplay is making this happen, as the players themselves don't state this and are only vaguely aware that this is happening despite a lot of hints, like the reader can't read or notes the Seal of Office on the outside.   
  • Theoretically, they could simply demand that the town officials turn over Ortaire with that letter. (I would make them lose it in this play. It's a problem.)
  • The Emperor really wants to end slavery, so the PC kind of do have his personal and private blessing. But the Emperor is unaware of the PC's outlook, so blessings would come after the fact.  
  • The Emperor is hamstrung by other forces which prevent an outright end of slavery. 
  • The Coven of Ash will kill the characters outright if they try a bold approach. The city will go into lockdown mode to avoid the wrath of the witches, which means there will be no help. 
  • Senator Vitus is willing to help the PCs free Ortaire, but he has already contacted the 3 elves to do this anyway. They don't have a plan yet. 
  • The raiders don't necessarily care if Ortaire is freed or killed. His silence is enough. 
  • The raider's plan is to hoof it to their comrade's farm far to the east of the city. They will not do this if the witches are chasing them, but think it's a good place to be in a fight with the elves or the party. 
If the characters do anything on the sly, and it looks like they will, this will not trigger the Coven to take direct action. They will make a play on the PCs through mundane means, perhaps by sowing confusion among the city guard which has lost it Praetorian leadership. 

Other points of interest, the Praetorians in this setting are 20% assassins, 70% fighters and 10% all other classes as councilors and advisers. All of the assassins were wiped out by the Coven, so the Praetorians are reeling and allowing city officials to issue orders. Nobody wants to be in charge while the witches are in Nace. 

I'm setting a goal of playing again on Feb 1st, but we might have a session before that. 

Friday, January 10, 2020

Stupid Hobby Collision D&D+Linux

I like Linux and D&D. Rarely do these hobbies collide, but sometimes I can force it. Not that I am a great Linux user. I like Linux. I like Ubuntu with XFCE. It's a great environment for my purposes. I am newbie when it comes to terminal skills. This post assumes you have zero skill.

I wanted a simple way to generate 6 D&D Character Abilities scores using Linux. There are the classic methods of using a spreadsheet, but what if I don't want numbers in a spreadsheet? What if I merely need them displayed on the screen or in a text file?

Well... terminal can do that with the shuf command. Open a terminal and try this command:

shuf -i 3-18 -n6 | paste - -s -d ' '

Breaking it down, shuf will select a seemingly random number. -i is the input of an expected range, in this case 3 to 18 or 3-18. The headcount or the number of numbers generated in this fashion is -n6. Everything after the pipe | is formating. Basically, this part will turn the typical column of numbers into a row of numbers. 

If you play D&D like me, you let players re-roll ones. In this case, your command would need to cover a range of 6 to 18. Two times three dice is 6. Try this line: 

shuf -i 6-18 -n6 | paste - -s -d ' '

Ok. That's great. You get six numbers in a row on your screen. What if you want that in a text file? For sanity, use the cd command to move from wherever you are to the Documents folder. (I lose lots of files and time by NOT doing this...)

cd Documents

Now that you are in a safe place, let's add some information to that line of commands:

shuf -i 3-18 -n6 | paste - -s -d ' ' > Stats.txt

The instruction > Stats.txt at the end will create a file called "Stats.txt" in your current directory.

Go open that file:

Great. That is one character's worth of stats. Let's make more: 

shuf -i 3-18 -n6 | paste - -s -d ' ' >> Stats.txt

Note the double >> symbols. All that does is tell terminal to append the current information to the file described. Note: I clipped my screen to show gedit and terminal in one screen shot for the next step.

Repeat the last command with a small modification, change -i 3-18 to -i 6-18. Since you didn't close gedit, you will get a new button which refreshes the file. Before you do, repeat the shuf command again. This is easily done by pressing the up arrow and then return. Do this twice.

Ok, now hit that refresh command. You have 4 sets of stats, where the first two have a range of 3 and 18 and the second is 6 and 18.

Shuf is not exactly a random number generator, but it's good enough for government work* and character stats. I THINK it is using it's the process id time and doing a computation based on that value. That means if you run a bunch of these commands in rapid succession and that interval is less than a second, then the seemingly random numbers will all be the same or very close to it. This is why I didn't make it generate 6 character at a time. You probably can't hit up arrow + return in less than half a second so the effect is not as noticeable.

Lastly, you could always run info shuf to see the full documentation of this command or to read at your convenience, try info shuf > Infoonshuf.txt

*This is joke. DON'T use this to generate random numbers for government work.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Armor in the Movies and in Games

This week, I had two ideas collide. I finally finished The Mandalorian on Disney+ and received my order of the book, What is Dungeons and Dragons?. The book takes you through the process of how to create for not just Dugeons and Dragons, but many game systems, while the TV show follows the adventures of Baby Yoda and his newly minted father figure, The Mandalorian.

One thing that stands out in the TV show is how armor should work. Mando gets blasted and knocked around, losing bits and pieces all over the place. Like the real world.

Apparently, Mandalorians are the only Star Wars characters with fully functioning armor. I'd like to bring that into my D&D campaign.

In the original Unearthed Arcana book, there are a couple of options for this. First, there is field plate, which acts like hit points and a matching Magic Armor spell which does the same. I use a fusion of B/X and AD&D so this isn't too outside the box.

What I would like to do is create a system where all armor works to reduce damage. AD&D's armor class is nicely suited for this as 10 is a person's street clothes armor class, which is not protective. It stands to reason that I could simply create a table where dividing each minus to AC by 4 reduces damage by one.

10 0/4 is nothing, so No Damage Reduction
9 is -1/4=.25 No Damage Reduction
8 is -2/4=.50 for 1 Point of  Damage Reduction
7 is -3/4=.75 for 1 Point of  Damage Reduction
6 is -4/4=1.00 for 1 Point of Damage Reduction
5 is -5/4=1.25 for 1 Point of Damage Reduction
4 is -6/4=1.50 for 2 Points of Damage Reduction
3 is -7/4=1.75 for 2 Points of Damage Reduction
2 is -8/4=2.00 for 2 Points of Damage Reduction
1 is -9/4=2.25 for 2 Points of Damage Reduction
0 is -10/4=2.50 for 3 Points of Damage Reduction

This table is nice because it naturally places armor in groups: none, minimal, medium and heavy, which is kind of what the game books do anyway. The table requires division and rounding, which is easy enough on the brain to do on the fly or I could simply make an index sized card for quick reference.

What do you think?

Now, as promised, the ads. On January 1st, I picked up some new ad sources which are very nice. Clicking a link will take you to a store based on the topics covered in this post. The first is for a set of mini-figures from The Mandalarian and the second is to Alibris, where you can get a 3/3.5 edition of Unearthed Arcana. Of course, you could click on the link on the upper right and check out one of my books from DriveThruRPG, offered at PWYW. These ads provide funds to me to keep this site going as I head back to school.

Clicking the link below will take you to the Lego store.

Clicking the link below will take you to purchase Andy Collins Unearthed Arcana @ Alibris

Saturday, January 4, 2020

What is Dungeons and Dragons? Book Review

Title: What is Dungeons and Dragons?
Author: John Butterfield, Philip Parker and David Honigmann
Year: 1982
Pages: 231
Rating: ★★★★★

Way back when, my dad took me to The Tek Pharmacy and told me flat out, "I don't have any extra money to get you anything." As he shopped I made my way to the book section and was perusing the Choose Your Own Adventure Books. I didn't want another, I felt like I had "graduated" from those, even though they were always enjoyable.

Back then, things were not like they are today. Being a small pharmacy, the books on the shelves would be by today's standard very old. The books were perhaps as old as 5 year since their publication date being sold as new. This is why I can't nail down the exact year of this visit. But in all likelihood, I probably look like either one of the kids on the right.

After Dad picked up his script or whatever he was buying, he found me looking at a book called: What is Dungeons and Dragons? by John Butterfield, Philip Parker and David Honigmann.

As I put it back on the shelf to leave, my dad said, "Oh, a book. I have money for a book. As long as you read it." I was probably 10 or 11. Now I am almost 48. And I'll tell you, I read the hell out that book. The pages were falling out, the spine was shattered and the cover had gone missing a long time ago. Finally, the book met it's end when the basement flooded. It was a sad day because this book has been out of print probably for decades.

As you will note, this is my second 5 gold star review. My first was Nate Treme's The Moldy Unicorn. If I had it do over again, I would make What is Dungeons and Dragons? the first and The Moldy Unicorn second. My Mom is a publisher, my Dad writes game books and I write, too. I don't go forking out 5 gold stars for shits and giggles. (Normally, I don't cuss either, but it is what it is.) The content has to be not just superior, it has to be memorable.

I've read both over and over again and they both evoke the same feeling of nostalgia. Each was something wildly different than what I had encountered in the past.

Within Butterfield, Parker and Honigmann's book, you get a ground up approach to game play. The first 8 chapters cover a massive amount of ground. Back in 1982, this was the closest one could get to "The Internet". Chapter 1 is an introduction to D&D. Chapters 2-5 walk the reader through character generation, dungeon design, an adventure with examples, and the role of the Dungeon Master in the game. Each of these topics are presented in a solid and memorable framework, with the section on The Adventure standing out. The sample adventure is not a classic in the sense of many great modules, but is a model of what one could realistically expected to produce on one's own. And that is great!

The next several chapters cover more advance details, such as figures, accessories, computers and even AD&D with the same solid reporting of the first 5 chapters.

The final chapter addresses other game systems, in a rather cursory fashion when compared to the information now available to us now. At 231 pages, some of which are maps, diagrams, and indices, there is no way for this book to rival information available on even a couple of web pages, but this is all I had back then.

This book is a treasure. At this point I am going to throw an ad at you. If you love the history of the game, go purchase this book. My link is to Amazon, but seriously, shop around and try to get your hands on one by any means possible.