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

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

#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 two years. 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.

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.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

B2 - The End?

Oh no! The end is nigh. 

Ok, I can be too upset, but the end came much quicker than I expected. 

My oldest just turned 18 in July and in less than a month, he will be in the Air Force Reserves. He hopes to be back by January 1st, 2021 so he can start college. We'll see how that goes. 

In light of his final weigh in and upcoming swearing in some time in October, we have placed this campaign on the back burner. 

What happened to the party? 

Glad you asked. 

In the last adventure, I decided I didn't like the treasure listed in the module for Vis and Ostro so I rolled my own. I used the table from the back of the Monster Manual and the characters scored 4 potions, 2 Invisibility, Animal Control and Heroism. They also got a bit more coin that the module provided, which I converted to gold pieces for the simplicity of tracking. 

Today, after dinner we talked about what to do with the game. 

The characters rapidly realized that they had too many coins to take back to town easily. The decided to divest themselves of everything that was unnecessary. Anything that was too hard to carry was dumped around cave B, sometimes in humorous ways. They left random stacks of lead coins in odd places, the last +1 arrow was engraved with the words: "That Guy" and other odd things. 

They traded the tiny wagons to the goblins who found them charming. They used the copper, electrum and silver to make peace with the kobolds, who were strangely coming out of the goblin's cave. The party retreated to the ogre cave for the rest of the night. At sunrise, they left the Caves of Chaos. A couple of orcish women warriors trailed them for a bit, as if to make sure they were really leaving. They used the potion of Animal Control on a mountain lion, to push it off their trail and to discourage the warrior women from following. 

We left off with them arriving at Keep and making their way into the structure. 

Since they completely bypassed the Keep at the start, they could potentially have a few more adventures in the coming month, but we can't be sure of anything. I will keep you posted. 

Thanks for following their adventures from the Caves of Chaos to the Chaos of IRL. 

I will be publishing their final character sheets at some point and may even covert them to my beloved BSOLO style sheets. You can also download my old school character sheets at DriveThruRPG. They come in two forms, a scan of the original sheets created in the mid-1980's and 2019 reprise I created last year. Both come in the same download, but to be honest, the original is better. 

Character Sheet
for AD&D

Character Sheet
Character Sheet for AD&D

Monday, September 28, 2020

Meet Vis and Ostro - Orcs of the Caves of Chaos

In our play through of Keep On the Borderlands, I've had to name the leaders of the Kobolds, the Goblins and both Orcish leaders. 

Vis is the western orc leader and Ostro is the eastern leader, just like the Goths. Vis has lost his cave system to the party. 

Ostro thought Vis would get himself killed defending his caves, but decided to use diplomacy. At first glance, Vis failed but Ostro can't turn out Vis's tribe, he'll need the manpower to stop the party. Ostro had the smaller of the two colonies so his position was initially weaker but the characters cleared the Cave B rather quickly so everyone is sweating and swearing.

If the characters had hit them and left the cave system, Vis would still be in control and Ostro could think of making a move on him. But the dastardly humans know where Ostro's den is and could take him out. Oddly, they don't know where the exterior cave mouth is, so they have not tried a direct attack. The party also lacks the manpower to defend their position in cave B while hitting the cave mouth anyway. They discovered that when they took the cave and most of the orcs simply fled to Ostro's cave C. 

Vis and Ostro are unwilling compatriots. They are currently acting as co-leaders who work as a pair, but what is really happening is each is hoping the other gets an arrow in the eye. 

The orcs are getting smarter and wiser when it comes to tactics. The orcs woefully lack missile weapons and the party showed them what a sling is. They are now trying to make their own slings, which is far easier to make than a bow or crossbow. This has put the wounded warriors in the position formerly held by women and the women in the role of warriors. 

The other thing the tricksy party did was set up triplines. But instead of using rope, they gathered up rocks from around the caves and made 6-12 inch high steps in random places. Because the orcs see by infrared, they can't see a difference between the cave floor and the low rock piles. Rocks from the same environment have the same temperature. 

My daughter thought this one up from reading Les Mis√©rables. The barricades in Paris were made in this fashion by ripping up the cobblestone streets to make a low step then placing all kinds of crap on top of it. If you managed to punch a hole in the barricade, you ended up stumbling into the muck that was under the cobbles. While revolutionaries rained gunfire and pots of boiling water down on you. 

They also put up a wicker door over the cave entrance which creates the problem where the orcs can see through it but not well enough to tell how many people are in there. Or more importantly, if the dogs are there. The party has taken to howling, which creeps out the orcs. 

The next trap they came up with was to place candles in the dark with cloaks and ropes hanging in front of them. It looks like movement, so the orcs rushed in to attack. The party hit them from behind, space that were kept dark. With missile fire. It's not very deadly, but the orcs fight their way out of a brighter area to a darker area while under fire. Usually, if they can flee, they do flee. 

The orcs are now lighting everything up in their caves because it's easier to deal with than sudden shifts in lighting. They are copying the wicker like door screens and steps to foil attackers.  

The net trap that caught Solvo was spread down the hall from room 13 at about knee level. It makes movement really difficult. They added rocks and garbage below the net to make noise and cause twisted ankles. The orcs haven't countered this as they don't have enough oil to set it on fire. But that is their plan. 

It's interesting that the kiddos are using history against me, I'm a social studies and history major. Should Vis and/or Ostro survive, they will be the trickiest villains ever. The siege of cave B is really changing the Caves in unexpected ways. 

I can't wait to see what happens next. 

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Seige - B2 Session

This map is very useful for something I put together in 2 minutes.  


Our heroes are completely under siege. The combined orc tribes have been hitting them non-stop since they took the B caves from them. 

Let's look at it from the orcish side. They have 27 male orcish warriors plus the two leaders. Some of the women have taken up arms to defend their home. I figured about half of them are available, which gives the orcs a total of 40 warriors and two leaders. 

Unfortunately, weight of numbers is not helping them "win", it's helping them not lose. 

Initially, they caught the party in a pincer move by attacking both entrances. The secret door is no longer a secret. The two times this was attempted, the party was caught in room 16 and were able to foil attack with tricks and traps near the secret door. 

From that point forward, the party left a deadfall trap in room 13, which made the orcs abandon it. The party used this area to launch a surprise attack on room 12. The orcs managed to dislodge them by attacking the mouth of the C cave. As a result, room 13 is now a no man's land,  heavily trapped with oil, pits and spikes. 

The orcs have also tried to lure the dogs out to kill them but failed. 

There have been a total of 10 attacks on the cave's mouth all of which have failed. The orcs have lost 12 warriors in all of the combined attacks. They keep losing with bad morale rolls more than actual deaths. The party is shooting them in the back, from hidden positions. They are saving those +1 arrows for the orcish leaders. Thankfully they are out of magic arrows. 

The goblins and kobolds are proven themselves to be useless to either side. The goblins utterly fail to be be helpful to the party, only attacking when the orcs rout. The kobolds are equally opportunistic, attacking the goblins once they walk by. 

The party owns the battlefield and can escape almost at anytime. They did make one miscalculation. The cleric whipped out a sling and now the orcs are busying themselves copying it. Missile fire has been the deciding factor in combat. The orc leaders have been bearing the brunt of the these attacks. 

As expected, the party has leveled up to third level, with the exception of Aleric who is stuck at first level due to his 3 classes. They have also discovered the importance of healing characters. 

This is an unusually campaign as the heroes are bent on using tactics over killing. This one session covered about 13 days. They are frustrating their opponents. However, they are slowly becoming aware of the fact that they may end up fighting 3 successive battles with the orcs, the goblins and maybe even the kobolds, all in one day. They know they can't win that war, so they are thinking of fleeing the Caves of Chaos entirely.

We will see next week. 

Monday, September 21, 2020

Chaotic Cave Combats - B2 Session 5

The party almost bit off more than they could chew, but got really lucky. 

I should talk about the horse swapping and gossip first. 

The goblins have been raiding the kobolds, trying to bottle them up in their cave. During one raid, Solvo the thief and Lauren the ranger tailed the goblins and got a good look at the entrance to the kobold's lair. There were some injured kobolds and goblins, but no deaths. 

As Solvo and Lauren made their way back they were followed by a half dozen goblins and all of the kobold warriors. The rest of the party fired a couple of arrows at the kobolds which routed them. No deaths, but it caused a meeting between the goblin warband leader, Brekan and the party. The goblins find their new neighbors to be useful for the moment. That and the leader, Brekan was impressed by the gift of a puppy the party bestowed on him. 

Next, I have named the leaders of the orc tribes. The orcs in B are lead by Ostro and the orcs in cave C are lead by Vis. Ostro's orcs were soundly beaten by the party when they raided the goblin caves. Vis and Ostro met. Ostro wanted to see if the two tribes could reach an agreement to combine forces against the party and the goblins. Vis suggested that all of the women folk come to his cave and Ostro should drop dead. Ostro attempted to press the negotiation, with a punch but Vis was unimpressed and became more hostile.  

The party delivered some instant Karma on Vis. The party is confused about where the orcs are coming from and believe that all of them are in cave C, Vis's tribal home. They are completely wrong, they fought off Ostro's orcs in the goblin caves. They don't realize there is another cave B of to the east. (Vis is the western leader and Ostro is the eastern leader, just like the Goths.) 

Anyway, the heroes gathered up their wargear and mounted an offensive on Vis's cave. They even brought the dogs. However, nothing went smoothly. 

Solvo had the net trap fall on him, but the dogs surged over the top of it. The party was surprised by crossbow fire because I decided there was an orc with a crossbow in each main room due to the heightened alert status of the tribe. The dogs and a few arrows made short work of the orcish crossbow men. What the party didn't know was the dogs only attacked active combatants, and many of the orcs hid or froze at the sight of the dogs. When the party passed, they ran from entrance C to entrance B. 

Vis and Ostro heard the commotion and jointly pushed the party back. The party got pinned between the guard in area 16 and the orcish leaders coming through the secret door. As the party took down the guard behind them, the orcish leaders sensed that the battle was going poorly and retreated. Aleric, Solvo and Helvani nearly died pursing them in Ostro's cave system (B). 

The goblins and the kobolds noticed all of the mayhem and attacked the entrance to cave B. They were easily driven off because the whole thing devolved into a 4 way battle between two different groups of orcs, the kobolds and the goblins. Again, no deaths. In case you haven't noticed, I don't roll dice for stuff the party isn't a part of. 


The party now controls all of the areas in green. They have seen areas marked in orange. Brekan and the goblins are glad to help the party move further from their home. Brekan would really like to drive out the kobolds, but believes he needs more dogs and crossbows to do it. 

The kobolds also have plans. Kregg, their leader has put his tribe to work mining out a small exit from his room. It's really close to the Orcs in area B, but he doesn't care. He plans to hoof it if they get hit again. They will probably escape into the wilds and return when things die down. 

Vis and Ostro have barricaded the eastern most secret door. 

The party engaged in healing, as per their usually lack of care. They healed the dogs first leaving everyone except Belaphon pretty banged up. They almost paid for it when Solvo investigated room 13 and found the money and the centipedes. Aleric and Vandohl heard the ruckas and saved him. 

A little while later, Vis and Ostro peeked in on the heroes and decided not to press their luck against the dogs, Vandohl and Belaphon. Being fearsome orc leaders, they sent in the cannon fodder. Belaphon popped them with a light spell and Vandohl gave out a war whoop that sent them running before the dogs could get in on the act. Those damned dogs... The orcs don't know how many there are because they've only seen them one at a time. They believe there is a pack of them and not just two. 

During the party's second night in cave C, the orcs attempted a second attack via the secret door. The party expected this. They has made a rather nasty hedgehog trap of sharp sticks in that hallway and they wove a stick door for the entrance to the cave system. The dogs roam the area freely. The orcs got nailed with a magic missile for their trouble and retreated. 

I have a score card for the orcs. 

In area B, there were 22 male orcs and 8 of them died in the attack on the goblins last session. There are also 18 females and 9 children. In area C, there were 16 male orcs and 5 were killed in the fighting with the party. The remainder escaped to area B with all 8 female orcs and the 3 children. One more died in the attack on the second night. 

The orcs collectively have suffered 35% causalities, or more. If something doesn't change, the party will annihilate them. 

That change? Some of those non-combatant females now have swords. They are going down with out a fight. 

I'll be doling out experience for the party as soon as they catalog their new findings. I expect several to level up.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

OSR OCD. Witches Brew.

Back in my campaign on the Peninsula of Plenty, I had a coven of witches. These characters were straight up magic users that operated with a pack like mentality and a specific political goal. In order to give them enough power to stand toe to toe with the party physically, they needed to be overpowered. They are 3rd, 5th and 7th level. 

Since the party was 3rd level or less, the witches operated with some serious societal restrictions. The Coven of Ash adhered to "The Old Ways", which was unrestricted authoritarian rule. Most of the Empire is not on board with this, including the Emperor. 

Their visible presence invokes terror, so they move at night or invisibly. Most of the tactics involve terrorizing people with non-attacks so as to maintain their invisibility. Say, simply surrounding a target, pinching or poking a victim is enough to scare the target into doing what they want. The Coven of Ash are not your typical witches because they're totally unbalanced. They are supporting an authoritarian regime which doesn't even exist anymore. They are basically the Sheriff of Nottingham with magic. 

It worked well enough, but now that I got my hands on Timothy S. Brannan's Witch themed books, I can see how witches can be better than mere magic users with quirks. I just have three of the books in the series: The Basic Witch: The Pumpkin Spice Witch TraditionDaughters of Darkness: The Mara Witch for Basic Era Games and Cult of Diana: The Amazon Witch for Basic Era Games

To be super honest, I was attracted to the series by the cover art of Cult of Diana and The Mara Witch but I find the one "joke" book, The Pumpkin Spice Witch to be my favorite. It's all the same author, so I don't know if it's the tone or the generic nature of the Basic Witch which appeals to me. 

I've also made the mistake of printing all three books and storing them in one binder. I find myself flipping from one to the other. I play this weirdo mashup of B/X and AD&D, so I don't really notice minor differences in purpose, which I am sure is there. 

Anyway, I am getting ready to roll up a couple of witches and introduce them into my B2 campaign. The players hopped right past the hermit and a good witch seems to a suitable, player friendly substitute.  

Friday, September 11, 2020

Summing It Up - B2 Session 4

The characters came out of session four in good order, but I am regretting a few things. So far the characters have a grand total of 2659 experience between combat, good tactics and treasure. 

In my campaigns, I generally only have silver and gold pieces. B2 assumes that all five coin types will be used which makes experience tabulation a nightmare. Annoying. 

Second, I gave the characters several hundred points of experience for good ideas and role play. The standout events were Solvo playing dead in the ogre's lair, the removal of the ogre's body to a fake campsite, the cleric praying for the ogre and the whole party using the secret door to ambush the orcs. 

In most of these cases, a single player or character came up with the idea and should have reaped the reward. The way I handle this under play conditions is to put a number on an index card and hand it to player. These points can be added to their experience immediately, unmodified by attribute bonuses OR if they wait to the end of the session, they can add in their experience modifier. This didn't happen because we've been playing outside with just the DM's Guide and Player's Handbook as a reference. 

This game isn't following my normal play style. The players are not really thinking about "leveling" or "experience" or gain more power. They are actively attempting to outsmart me by mere survival. I don't play to kill the characters, so I need to push the players into better stats because they don't care. Maybe they will after more success. 

I need to complete this campaign by October, as my son is going into the Air Force and won't be available to play. And I don't really want to play this one without him. 

Anyway, why don't you pick up either B2 Keep on the Borderlands or my character sheets on DriveThruRPG. 


Character Sheet for AD&D
Character Sheet
Character Sheet for AD&D

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Session Updates - The Characters

The Adventure continues in Borderlands. I'll be doing a real session update this weekend. This week has been hectic, with my kids going back to Virtual School and I went back to work, hopping between two really great 6-1-3 classrooms both virtually and in person. It's good to see new and old students again. 

Back to D&D. We have been playing two short sessions a week. It been a lot of fun and I have handed out a lot of experience points. I wanted to share the kids character sheets before they got too messed up. 

I have them in PDF form for download, if you need a low level character in a hurry. Just click the link for the file. 

First up is Aleric the Fighter-Cleric-Magic user. He is the only first level character, but he packs a lot of firepower. He has chain armor and a small shield plus a bow and bastard sword. 

Next is Belaphon the Mage. I use "Wizard" and "Mage" as synonyms for "Magic User". He's an Elf and usually has sleep and magic missile memorized. He's frail, but stands next to Aleric when the fighting starts. 

Helvani and Lauren are next. They are the paladin and ranger duo. Helvani, like Aleric carries a bastard sword and bow while Lauren is using a short sword and bow. Both wear chain and carry a shield. Each has a backup weapon, a hatchet and axe which double as tools. 

Solvo the thief is the idea man of the party. He has a short sword and bow. Solvo wears leather armor which is no where as a good as his Dex modifier. He's a bit too agressive for his hit points and AC, he's been knocked down to 1 HP twice. 

Vandohl is the party's cleric, armed with a mace and sling. She doesn't use a shield, so of all the fighter-types she's a bit more vulnerable. For some reason, she isn't willing to heal the party unless someone asks her. 

These character sheets date back to the 80's, when I first got my hands on a Mac 512K and Unearthed Arcana. One of the main features of this sheet is the comprehensive encumbrance tables on the backside. Back in the day, a lot of my players were in love with spy movies and woodcraft, so they all had tiny first aid kits and gizmos shoved in their pockets. That trait was extended to their characters. 

If you like these sheets, you can download them at DriveThruRPG. 


Character Sheet for AD&D
Character Sheet

Sunday, August 23, 2020

House Rules - Swords and Life Stealers - "Well, Mike. I calculated the odds and I went ahead and did it anyway..." (Part 3)

To the left is one of my favorite colognes, called Perversion. My other favorite is called Villain. However, at the game table, I hate being called either one of those words. 

I used to be afraid to use level or life draining creatures on my parties, but I got over it with a couple of house rules. By the way, you should probably pick up a copy of Ravenloft if you like sucking the life out of your players.  

The first house rule was on silvered weapons, being an equivalent to magic weapons. That goes along ways when fighting the undead horde. Players still go through that whole "I'd be a fool to walk in there..." but at least they know they'll have an effective weapon. However, sometimes that isn't enough to get them to bite. 

I have a trick to life stealing that I unload on players. Life draining creatures live between worlds, their grip on this one is temporary. If the party kills the life draining creature, they get their levels back the next day, no saving throw. This is different than 3.5+ version of saving for recovery, which happens because it's the next day.  

This one is give and take, and I love it. Imagine the look on the player's face when they expect that they're going to get those levels back and end up with this discussion:

"No, you don't."
"Oh, crap. That thing is still alive!"
"Eyup." 

That one is as stressful as fun. It can really crank up the intensity of the game because now the players have to race back to the monster's lair to kill it before it can heal up. If the creature heals back to 100%, the loss of levels is permanent. Usually, the players have the means to heal themselves up as best they can, but the time limit stops them from padding the party with extras and alts. 

In the case of characters being turned into a life stealer themselves, it gives a brief window where the effect can be broken. Healing back up to full health is necessary immediately afterwards, so while it's fun, it's also a nightmare for the player(s). They get special powers for bit, but at a cost with a threat of death. 

This idea of having a life draining creature exist between two realms also creates the expectation that anything that travels the planes is a life stealer. Devils, demons, etc. all have this power in my campaigns. Usually it's in lieu of a different attack and I use it for drama. The basic criteria in my campaign is that the plane crosser must be immortal. Life stealing githyanki would be way too much, but it does explain their fancy swords. They probably encounter this problem all the time. 

Another quirk of this system is disruption. If a player strikes the life stealer with a weapon or spell that is 100% effective, that creature cannot drain in that round. It is also weakened to the point that non-magical weapons can affect it for the rest of the round. Silver arrows are life savers in this scenario, as are spells. Tick-tick-tick, the clock is running! Make those initiative rolls or beat feet. This makes those Lost Boys style combats incredibly likely and reasonable, which is also very fun. Just make sure you have a good map for the players so they can run in and out of trouble easily. 

I have not used the gimmick from Lord of the Rings where a character is immune due to some sort of basic definition, like being a woman or a hobbit. I'd like to, but that would cause a gender-race race. As funny as that is, the gag would be all used up by the ridiculousness. Play the character you love, not the character with the most mechanical advantages.

(I have a ridiculous gender crossing story here, and let me tell you, it was far less fun to be a participant than documentarian. It was painful because everyone's assumptions made for hard feelings.)  

Since the players are generally aware that if they kill the life stealer they could get their levels back, they go at it like the heroes they are. That is a lot of fun because they walk off extremely battered, but the next day, everything resets.

A lot of this is would not be possible or practical if not for one other thing that I do at the table. I don't always hand out experience at the end of the session. If I did, there would be a problem with ending a session after draining event. The characters would accumulate experience after the drain, then lose it if they get their levels back. That wouldn't be any fun and creates book keeping nightmares. 

I hand out experience at points where there are long pauses in the action, rather than at some real life time measurement. If they characters are waiting out a snow storm, training or researching, they get their experience dump at the same time. It puts the players on an "off topic task" at the table in lieu of boredom. I can tell stories as they do paperwork. 

It also removes the whole concept of "just 10 points way from the next level" occurring via a break from the game where the player is inclined to cheat. I avoid this by throwing out a mini-event for that player or players so they don't feel like they needed to cheat. I'm not inclined to give away the milk for free, but if I can play out a special one off event, I will because that is enjoyable. 

Saturday, August 22, 2020

House Rules - Making Swords Magical (Part 2)

Magic swords and other weapons are special in my campaigns. In my last post on magic swords, I wrote about allowing silver weapons to count as magical weapons and limitations I place on true magic swords. 

One of the side effects of allowing silver weapons to count as magically, they can be used to create "character feature permanence". There are a couple of ways of doing this, if the player wants his character to be "that axe wielding fighter". To be that, they always need an axe. Do I force them to be on the look out for magical axes in the future, or do I allow the axe to progress with them?

Seeking a specific weapon is how Fritz Leiber did it with the Gray Mouser. Scalpel and Cat's Paw were merely names that the Mouser tagged various weapons with. They changed, but not really, through out his adventures. Mechanically, they did the same task as the prior weapon, but were in some way better. Or not, Leiber wasn't really clear if the Mouser was breaking or losing normal weapons, or replacing with better.

While I like this methodology, it places an onus on me as the DM to provide special things. I don't like that because it creates the impression that I am screwing a character by the omission of certain items or it seems like I am singling a character out for special rewards. In some cases, the big prize will not be desirable to the party, it's a McGuffin for something else. I can't make someone's prize sword the McGuffin because by definition, the McGuffin exists for a purpose other than what it appears to be. I could, but that's just mean. 

Since I let players use silver or silvered weapons in place of magic weapons, I have a special formula for the pricing of such things. Basically, the character needs to pay the base price of the weapon plus the volume or weight of the silver necessary to make such an item. 

"Volume? Why volume?" Good question. If the weights of items are in gold coins and the price is in the same unit, I get a nice formula for silvered weapons, which are merely plated with silver. A dagger costs 2 gps, and weighs 10 coins, so the price for a silvered dagger is 2 gps, 10 silver pieces. That is one merely covered in silver. 

If the player wants a dagger made entirely out of silver, volume changes to weight. The character pays the base price of the weapon, plus the weight in silver of the manufactured weapon. So, a silver long sword costs 15 gps plus the weight of silver put into it. It weighs the same as 60 gold pieces, so the player must provide 60 gold pieces of silver, or 1200 silver coins. 

This gives me a nice formula for improvement of weapons constructed out of silver. An item can be reforged into a higher bonus weapon by repeating the process, with the only exception being plated weapons. Improving a plated weapon results in a magical copy, leaving a memento of where one has been. 

You might want to hold on to that, in case you drop your nice sword. Just saying. 

Improving a wholly silver alloy weapon merely has a cost and a time to produce. To go from a wholly silver weapon to +1, the cost is the base price of 15 gps plus the cost of the silver needed, which is again 1200 silver coins in the case of the longsword. The extra silver doesn't end up in the weapon, it is simply materials needed for the special task. It's basically a silver drain, which creates interesting scenarios if the characters can't get their hands on silver for some reason. Like they tried to do this with a suit of armor in a small town. This process is costly, but relatively easy to do if players are selling off treasure.

By creating a standardized way of improving weapons, I create item permanency for the players and a tool for magic users to make magic weapon. This is also a coin dump to explain why experience is equal to gold. It has many features.  

(Oh, my wiley players. I will mention that I do use encumbrance for carried items and I have had players request a new weight for their for wholly silver weapons. On paper, gold is almost twice the weight of silver. Since this would be an alloy, I say the weight of the silver weapon is only 80% of a regular one for the purposes of encumbrance. I never let this reduce the cost to make a silver weapon.) 

Anyway, what do you think? 

Friday, August 21, 2020

House Rule - The Magic of Magic Swords (Part 1)

Magic swords are special in my campaigns. In the various rule sets +1 swords are denoted as special, but aren't the first magic weapon the characters get their hands on. These special weapons and tools are found right in the equipment lists. 

Silver daggers, holy water and symbols, wolvesbane and garlic are all magical weapons. So why can't a player purchase a magic sword right from the get-go? 

Because it's annoying and unbalancing for players to get a bonus right of the gate. In my campaigns, I have a system in place to limit the use of magical weapons.

Being a history buff, magical equipment in my campaigns mirrors the idea of Cursus Honorum from ancient Rome. Sulla was an exiled Roman who managed to set himself up as dictator for life. Since his ultimate plan was to step down from power, he set up the Cursus Honorum to prevent other people from making the power grab he did. Basically, he set up a system of term limits, age and rank requirements for every level government. If one wanted to be a Concul, one need to be 42 years of age and must have held the rank of praetor. Every rank on the Curus Honorum had criteria for eligibility. 

Although not intended by Sulla, the Cursus Honorum created a concept of superiority. This came about when people coming up for office were elected to that office in their very first year of eligibility. This was referred to as "in your year". A praetor who was elected in his year put on the airs of being superior by virtue of nailing his election to office the first time he was eligible. He was better than a praetor who was elected later in life. 

Anyway, back to magic swords. In pretty much all versions of D&D actually have this concept baked in. On the to hit tables, characters are sorted by levels and their relative combat effectiveness. Fighters beat clerics who are better than the lowly magic user.The tables prefer actual skill (level) over a magical weapons. Each bracket improves the to hit roll by two. So a 3rd level fighter with a +1 sword is not better than a 4th level fighter with a non-magic sword. The only negative for a higher level fighter with a non-magic sword is the ability to hit magical creatures. 

In an effort to get around this in my campaigns, I count silver weapons as magical, whether or not they impart a bonus or not. In this way, a high level character can hit magical monsters with silver, rather than a magic one. I have to do less adjustments on my monsters and encounters, because I can just follow the to hit table to determine how hard the event will be. 

An additional house rule is, one must have "ranks" necessary to hold a plussed weapon. Anyone can hold silver, but characters must be within a specific band to hold a weapon with a bonus and of a higher band to use it. Sort of like, "in your year". 

Silver  1-3 levels
+1       4-6 levels
+2       7-9 levels
+3      10-12 levels
+4      13-15 levels
+5      16+ levels

I like this schedule as a first level fighter could be given an heirloom +1 sword but can't use it. They don't need to search for a great weapon, they have it. 

At levels 1-3, they can merely carry it. At level 4, they can use it. The sword will refuse to be drawn for low level characters. If the character somehow figures out a way to draw it, it operates in reverse in the hands of the unworthy. It imparts a minus. This simulates a battle of wills between the magic of the sword and the would-be wielder. In the case of an heirloom, the character is fighting the spirit of the former owner(s) for control. It still counts as magical, even if the magic is a detriment to the player. 

This method also creates a game logic to specific tools. Characters, especially fighters, have a mechanical way to assess weapons which is linked to the settings. 

(I have all kinds of wiley player who find ways to get swords out of containers. I'm ready for them.)

Please let me know what you think of the classic +1 sword in the comments below. 

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Session Report - Keep on the Borderlands, Strange Game Play

We played outside, until the wind flipped the table and scatter our dice and sheets. 

That's ok. This second session was a building session and since I cleared up the character sheets, I can put names to stats, so to speak. 

Lauren is a human ranger, second level. 
Aleric is a half elven fighter-cleric-magic user. He is the only 1st level character. 
Vandohl or Vandal (spelled two different ways) is the dwarven cleric. 
Belaphon is an elven magic user. 
Solvo is the hobbit thief and the only character injured in the last session. He has 1 hit point left.
Helvani is a human paladin. 

There is an odd PLAYER dynamic happening, I have three players controlling two players each. Ranger is matched to thief, the cleric with the paladin, and C-F-MU with MU. Two people can heal the thief, but no one has offered and it hasn't been asked for. Not sure why. 

So, let's rewind to review session one. The characters got chased off by the kobolds after entering area A. They now know there is a pit trap and at least 8 kobold guards. They knocked two kobolds down to zero hp, but their friends dragged them into their lair. They will heal up. 

Instead of participating with all of the archery, the thief (Solvo) ran into the Ogre's lair. He was struck for 6 points of damage and played dead. The Ogre ran at the party but was driven off by missile fire and spells. When he returned to his lair, Solvo killed him with backstab in the dark. The party dragged the body to their original camp and laid him out like a sleeping camper. In the image below, the red circle is the abandoned campsite, which has the ogre's body and a fire.  


At the start of session 2, the players have posted guards at the entrance to their cave E. They are watching for monsters. They noticed movement above the tree over cave A, marked in orange. These things are too big to be kobolds. They noticed the kobolds seem to appear out the tree, apparently they sneak up there from the entrance. The yellow line is another set of creatures, they are bigger than kobolds but smaller than humans. 

In the morning the party hacked down some branches to sweep out the litter in the cave and promptly discover the treasure. The thief immediately noticed some of the gold pieces are lead. The team formulates a plan. 

Lauren, Belaphon and Helvani will return to the Keep with their found gold pieces and the party's remaining funds for more supplies. 

The according to the map, the keep is about fifty 100 yard squares away. The module says characters can cover 3 squares or 300 yards an hour. I've never bought that one. It's about 3 miles away, they have a map and a ranger. The Keep is 1 to 2 hour away from the Caves, if no mistakes are made. 

While the party is divided, Solvo, Vandal and Aleric discover the magic arrows, the potion and the scroll while cleaning. They debate over the purpose of the gold plated lead coins and count everything else. They take turns cutting firewood with the only hatchet they have.

They have three interesting sightings through out the day. Vandal heard goblin voices from the east. Instead of spotting actual goblins, he spied a mountain lion. Later in the day, Solvo notices three smaller orcs foraging for firewood. They seem to be children and the party retreats deeper into the cave.  

After dinner, the rest of the party returns. They pause at their old camp and notice that an animal has eaten part of the ogre. Mountain Lions. Ick. From there, they make a crazy slow-panicked dash to their new home, with many odd things. 

Back at the Keep, the players were determined to find several dogs. They found two full sized mastiff like dogs and a collie puppy. The mastiffs were used to tow two small wagons. These wagons are children's toys and were lashed to the dogs with two 10 foot poles each. In the wagons were a barrel of water and a large wooden chest packed full of iron rations plus a few implements like shovels, axes and brooms. Each PC was carrying 50' of rope, three wine skins and three waterskins. They have quivers of arrows and slings and an extra pair of bows lashed to their backs. They are dying from the weight. 

They also have 3 books, ink and pens which the ranger bought to write down spells. This sparked a heated conversation with the mage who knew they weren't the right materials. Before leaving, there was a second fight about bankrolling the remaining gold. The weight made the choice easy, but tempers were short.  

It took an hour to get to the keep at a jog, 3 hours to find the dogs and less than an hour to buy all of the rest of the stuff. The return trip was a 4 hour circus, because the dogs aren't draft animals and the alternative was the players leading a dog while pulling a wagon, which left the third PC to keep track of the puppy and items that were dropped. 

The characters all settled in their new hobbit hole. Half the party ate and sacked out immediately. Solvo, Vandal and Alaric straighten up a bit and drew straws for guard duty. Belaphon grumpily pitched in when not pretending to sleep. He spent some time talking about the merits of magic over prayer while examining the found scroll, which is clerical in nature. 

Three times in the night, the guard sighted orcs by the tree and heard both kobolds and goblins. Solvo could swear he heard goblins right in their cave, but could find nothing. 

The players didn't seem interested in experience points, so I didn't award any this time. I have to tabulate the pool, but I think they earned a total 600 from the treasure alone and probably an equal amount as role play and clear thinking awards. By the way, Solvo is up one hit point from natural healing. I'll allow it this time, but he needs magic or rest. 

If you like the character sheets from the image above, you can download them from DriveThruRPG. There are 2 styles, both with 7 stats for AD&D and Unearthed Arcana.  


Character Sheet for AD&D
Character Sheet
Character Sheet for AD&D

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

B2 Session - Standout Play during Keep on the Borderlands

I ran the kids through one session of Keep on the Borderlands. For fun, I let them use AD&D characters. They have a Cleric, a Thief (halfing), a Paladin, a Ranger, a Fighter-Magic User-Cleric (half elven) and a Magic User (elven). Each character is 2nd level, except the F-MU-C who is 1st level. 

They were less than impressed with the Keep itself and as soon as they got directions to the Caves of Chaos they set off. They also learned some gossip about the area, but disregarded much of it. They picked out a campsite to the east of the Caves and explored for the first day. They spent a lot of time checking the area to the west of the Cave complex, but finally mapped out the four cave entrances on the lowest level. Areas D, E, G and A, in that order. Since they didn't try to enter any of these areas, nothing happened. The thief tried to listen at each cave mouth, but heard nothing. Of course, everyone else tried to listen but didn't get that close. 

Out of an abundance of laziness, once they completed the circuit of the area, they went back to Cave Entrance A. All six of them entered the cave behind the thief who was prodding around for traps. He spotted the pit just as the 8 kobolds outside spot the characters.   

Everyone but the thief made a mad dash for the eastern mouth of the ravine, but pulled up short under the large tree. The kobolds don't have missile weapons, so they pursued on foot. At the tree, the MU wanted to get a spell ready while everyone except the Cleric got out missile weapons. In the meantime, the thief sprinted for the entrance to cave E. 

One volley of arrows sent the kobolds back to their cave. The party wanted to regroup and rethink their plan but this was disrupted by a horrible scream and thud from Cave E. The ogre clobbered the thief, who had one hit point left and played dead. The ogre saw the rest of the party and charged. Several flights of arrows and a magic missile routed him back to his cave.

The characters loosed 4 flights of arrows in two rounds as per AD&D rules, most missed but doubling up missile attacks makes AD&D missiles more deadly than D&D.  Out of a hail of 12 arrows, only 5 hit along with the magic missile but they knocked the ogre's hp to just 4. Strangely, the cleric didn't pull out a missile weapon for second time and stood off to one side with her mace.

In those 2 round of activity, the thief picked himself up and hid just inside the entrance to the cave. Shockingly, he backstabbed the ogre for a one shot kill. 

Impressive. 

Now here is where things went sideways. They moved into Cave E to camp for the night. The cleric threw out the idea of waiting until dark to move the ogre's body to their campsite to the east. They lit a nice fire for him and lay him out like a sleeping adventurer. The cleric prayed for the ogre out of respect for a fallen foe. 

Back at the cave, the characters mounted 3 watches. They are not simply guarding, they were watching for someone or something to investigate the body and the fire. 

That's a really nice plan and we ended on this high note. The next session will be a rare series of nighttime encounters. 

Experience awards were meager because the players don't know they are sitting on a pile treasure. They think the bag is a lumpy bed. They knocked 2 kobolds down to 0 hit, but their friends dragged them inside. I'm gonna count those as kills along with ogre. 

I have to give credit where credit is due. The cleric's idea to dispose of the body plus use it as a lure for other monsters was great. That is worth at least 200 experience. The thief's idea to to play dead to set up a backstab was turning lemons into lemonade. 

On paper that is 533 experience points. I'll add another 77 to make it an even 600 divided by 6. 

Since they made Cave E their base camp they will be pleasantly surprised when they investigate further. I will award another round of experience the moment they discover the treasure. 

If you don't already have this module, check it out on DriveThruRPG. 


B2 The Keep on the Borderlands
B2 The Keep on the Borderlands

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Goblin Clan Miniatures (Formerly 3DMakerWorks)

They came on Friday! 

The amount of details on these figures are incredible and because they are 3d printed, they don't have a bit of flash like metal figures. I swore one of the skeletons had a bit of something sticking off his neck at an odd angle, but when I looked closer, it was an axe lodged in his armor. That's cool! 

I was expecting some sort of lines as an artifact of printing, and it is there, but it's super fine. It looks like a pattern on the figures. It looks like a pattern on the figures. I don't see any point in trying to remove it. A bit of paint will probably completely cover it. I suspect that a simple wash would make it more evident, but we will see. 

As you can see from the photos, these figures are large. Way bigger than 28 mm. They border on being "model sized". If I was trying to make a 28 mm army, I'd object. But these are for D&D, and monsters are notoriously "not to scale". The bases are almost exactly 1", so for 1"=5 feet on a game surface, these are perfect. In the picture above, the building in the background is an in-between scale, good for 25 mm or 15 mm so I am not exacting in my scale anyway. "Looks good" is better than "in scale". 

I wouldn't call these minis "unbreakable", but they feel tough. The material does feel like you could break it with a tool, so modification would be difficult but a random drop off the table probably wouldn't hurt them. Each package of figures came with multiple poses. 

Speaking of "modification", there probably isn't any point. The 6 Archer Skeletons came in 3 poses, while the 7 Melee Skeletons have 7 different poses as did the Lizardmen. And these poses are not your typical mini "poses" with a leg or an armed moved. Each is different sculpts, but share common details so obviously they are from the same theme or group.  

All and all, I'd give these 5 of 5 stars. I can't wait to start painting.  

Remember, if you use the coupon code "TheseOldGames", you'll receive a 10% discount. Plus, they are running free shipping off of orders $35.00 or more. 

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. 

Jart

FREQUENCY: Rare  
NO. APPEARING : 1-1,000
ARMOR CLASS: 9
MOVE: 24"/6"
HIT DICE: 1, 1 hp.
0/0 IN LIAR: 0%
TREASURE TYPE : None
NO. OF ATTACKS: 1
DAMAGE ATTACK: 1 hp.
SPECIAL ATTACKS: Swarm
SPECIAL DEFENSES: Not subject to mind control, charm, etc. 
MAGIC RESISTANCE : Standard
INTELLIGENCE: Low
ALIGNMENT: Chaotic evil
SIZE: Small (4" inches)
PSIONIC ABILITY: Nil
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? 


Dream-like.
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 incompetech.com for the following tracks:

Evening Fall (Piano) and
Starry
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

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.