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

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Another Character Class Idea - The Monomachos

(This is a bonus post, one I wrote back in September of 2022. I found it unposted while cleaning up.) 

Stephen Donaldson is known for using 10-dollar words when a single simple word would suffice. In his Mordant's Need series, the villain's right-hand man is The Monomach. He is one part warrior, one part assassin. 

Now I thought I knew what "monomach" meant, but it turns out I was totally wrong. I had thought it was related to nobility or being a monarch, making this guy "The Assassin King".  


It's Greek. "Monomachos" or "he who fights alone". A gladiator. That is not as cool as "The Assassin King" but makes so much more sense in context. I'd like to introduce one to a campaign. I posted as much a few years ago when I last read the series. I had a couple of ideas that I have refined over time. 

A Monomachos is like a fighter, but nothing like a regular Fighter, Elf, Dwarf, Cleric, Paladin, or Knight. They live for the fight, not for sustained warfare. 

In Donaldson's books, the Monomach is clearly evil because he assassinates people for the joy of it. When I first wrote about the character, I had a limited view of that type of character. If you didn't read that story, think of Darth Maul from The Phantom Menace without all the chattiness. Maul showed lust for fighting, maybe killing, but not for general mayhem.  

As a villain, a Monomachos only has one purpose... to cause death and terror before dying. But do they have to be the villain? 

Well, it certainly makes things easy if they are all villains. But they are not all villains.  

It was relatively easy to come up with superhero examples. Black Widow, Hawkeye, Daredevil, The Hulk, and so on come across as heroes who live for the thrill of the fight. To a lesser extent, you could add Tony Stark and Spider-Man to the list, but then also remove the MCU Black Widow because she was starting to believe the fight was too much of a bother. Hawkeye was also heading that way, only to be replaced by Kate Bishop which allowed him to leave the hero act behind. Baymax would be an interesting and scary addition to that list because he follows his programming as if it were a joy. 

Oddly, the Punisher is not a Monomachos as he has a different purpose for what he is doing. Fighting and aggression are not really his "thing". He is sorting criminal corpses into their proper circle of hell. It's a completely different purpose. He doesn't have to fight, just kill. 

So what about non-superheroes? 

Well, the list is short. Peter Pan, The Three Musketeers, Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica, Legolas, and Glimly. And my brain screeches to a halt there. I guess I could name more, but that is good enough. 

The surprising people from those two lists are Spider-Man and Peter Pan because they are characters who are loved by children. It doesn't mean their drives are kid-friendly. Parker is driven to take risks and engage in violence at great personal cost. Peter Pan is slightly more disturbing. He switches sides if the fight is too easy. He kills Hook and then forgets there was a Captain Hook to kill. Both do it for the same reasons, the drive to excel with their given skill set, that are in parallel with their personal goals. 

So what commonality do these people have if we take away alignment? 

Each person is an improviser. They may use traditional weapons but are fully capable of using a brick, a candlestick, and a doorknob if necessary. They are not subject to outside influences, such as social norms and certain types of magic. Being a bit of a sociopath helps. Oddly, this deviated personality may cause them to be in more control of their feelings and desires, leading them away from wasteful fights. If the fight isn't a challenge, why do it? 

Poor or malformed social skills are a hallmark of every character listed. 

None of these characters are especially good at ordinary, everyday skills. Peter Pan and Kate Bishop can't cook. Hawkeye tends to zone out at key moments and Bruce Banner retreats from the world. Stark is made of neuroses, everything from germaphobia to being a dick even when he means to help. 

In-game, what sort of traits would these characters have? 

They should be able to use any sort of weapon and armor, even if they don't personally like specific armor and weapon types. They can also use improvised weapons. It's not their first, best option but if there is a lot of rubble around, it's better than bruising your knuckles. 

Next, they should have some unique combat skills. 

The Monomachos should rarely be surprised in combat. Perhaps only a 1 in 6 chance and this is separate from the rest of the party's roll. They are itching for a fight in every situation. If the party is surprised and The Monomachos is not surprised, they move with the enemy. This could spoil their surprise round as there is one opposing person moving as they do. The enemy had to waste their surprise round to address the Monomachos. 

Their third combat ability is to refuse contact. If the Monomachos has the initiative and makes a successful attack roll, they may either proceed to the damage roll OR spoil their attacker's next roll. This also allows them to turn and face another opponent. This prevents them from being flanked, it does not permit them an extra attack. 

Fourth, they defy outside influences. They have trait that they can't utilize magic weapons to full effect. No bonuses, but the weapon still counts as magic to inflict damage. This is because they only rely on their own skills, not the assistance of a magic weapon. Of course, if the magic weapon has a secondary power or effect that is magical, like detecting evil or light, they can use that to the fullest. It's the assistive nature that they won't do. 

Armor is different, they do receive bonuses as they can't undo or refuse its basic nature to protect.  

Cursed weapons should fear the Monomachos character. These types of people aren't subject to outside influences, therefore a cursed weapon should be just as ineffective as a positive magic weapon. A cursed weapon should try to escape their clutches because the Momomachos may choose to sacrifice a weapon to win. Intelligent things fear destruction. 

I wanted something like this when I created my Swashbuckler character class but in play testing it was impractical. Based on this new character type, I will rewrite that document. 

To recap the character: 

Surprised only on a 1 in 6. They move and attack during their opponent's surprise round if not surprised themselves. 
Can use all weapons and armor, but receive no magical bonuses for weapons.
They are immune to cursed weapons.
They can also use improvised weapons if only to save their knuckles.  
Foil attacks on a hit and turn to face other opponents instead of dealing damage. 

Let me know what you think in the comments, especially if you have already purchased my Swashbuckler class. 

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Adventures in Dungeonland

It has been a while since I've posted. I have a lot going on but I would like to return to a regular posting schedule. As a head-clearing exercise, I would like to return to reviews, a process I enjoy. From the title, you know the module in question. 

Title: Dungeonland
Rule Set: AD&D 
Levels: 9-12
Year: 1983
Author: Gary Gygax
Publisher: TSR
Pages: 32 pages plus a map
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars

This is a classic module from 1983 by Gary Gygax. I recall two DMs running us through this module. One followed the note in the beginning to avoid Alice in Wonderland references while the other DM simply did exactly what he was told not to and introduced The White Rabbit as an NPC. 

It works both ways. I feel that back in the 80s, most people would have been familiar with either the Disney movie or the books but not both so it didn't instantly set off alarm bells. Back in 1983, you would have seen Alice in Wonderland in the theater or one of the smooshed-up, edited-down Disney TV shows. VHS wasn't even an option, as it didn't come out until '86. 

Gary Gygax mashes up the books by Caroll with the Disney film Alice in Wonderland to great effect. The module is short and by necessity, almost feels like a single-session series of events. Everyone I've played with has been drawn in and wants to see what comes next as quick as possible. I guess I could have called it "engrossing" and saved some words. 

Now, this module isn't for every player but I think it is well worth a run-through. You can play this one a lot of different ways, with a bunch of different party types. One thing of note is that you cannot play this in a single session. Were I run this again, I might do it as a "special event" having several sessions a week.  

The intro is quick and to the point, so a DM has very little to set up. The high-level play, 9-12 levels of experience is sort of a drag for a DM who really wants to play this module. But with a lot of prep, you can dumb it down to any level. 

The module has six sections, one of which is "a blink and you miss it" intro, with all of the others lasting for several pages. The artwork is excellent and holds up over time. But there is strangely a lot of it for a book of this time period. I am going to circle back and blame the creative art team for enjoying this book too much. 

This module has so many creative scenarios, odd monster matches, and atypical magic that it really instills a sense of wonder, a dream-like experience for the players. 

I have personally used this module 3 times, once with the exact same party that experienced it as low-level characters before reaching the 9-12 levels as suggested on the cover. The third time with some folks who experienced Dragonlance burnout.

Here is a spoiler, the module starts with falling into a dream-like world. I mention this because the experience of falling and dreaming happens to people quite often and it can become a vehicle for launching the module with zero preparation as in getting the party to you know, actually fall down a hole.  

The first time I ran this module with low-level characters, I merged it with a Fritz Leiber story called The Howling Tower to make it survivable. 
The characters found a shrine with a crystal moon on an altar. I dropped some not-so-subtle hints as to what was happening. The walls of the shrine had a club and spades motif while the crystal moon prominently featured the rabbit in the moon and various areas noted with diamonds and hearts. When the characters removed the crystal moon from the altar, they were sprayed with a contact poison which they all misinterpreted as a gas as I hoped. 

This was done to force the players to all fail their saving throws as planned. Some characters made the first save only to be forced into a second or third save by touching downed characters. It didn't take long for them all to fall into Dungeonland.

The events of the module were their final moments of death stretched out in a bizarre hallucination. Escape from Dungeonland meant survival in the real world. 

Once in Dungeonland, if a character was dropped to 3 hp or less they got another save vs. poison. If they succeeded, they vanished from Dungeonland and reawoke in the real world. They had 3 rounds to consume wine, water, and food which magically healed their delusional wounds. Feeding others in the real world also heal them, too. Perhaps they could cast a spell before sinking back into Dungeonland. 

I had planned what I thought were obvious outs in the real world, such as leaving the room, placing someone on the altar and out of the poison would prevent another save, not touching other players or the crystal moon, and so on. Cleaning things or wearing gloves would have worked too, but no one caught on to this aspect as they really wanted back into Dungeonland. 

This party's second go-around in Dungeonland was brought on by one player mentioning the adventure while holding the Crystal Moon they found. 

For my hard-luck Dragonlance players, I yanked them down the rabbit hole via a nasty cabal attack. Each section of the module was the result of an alter reality spell being cast on them. Rather than being a total screw-fest, the Dragonlance characters had abilities and magic not accounted for in Dungeonland and they prevailed handily. 

Additionally, at the end of each sequence, they physically fought the illusionist who cast the spell for that part of the module before being thrust back into Dungeonland by the next illusionist's reality warping. As a consequence, they gained treasures from the dead illusionist cabal which they could use in the world of Krynn to equally deadly effect. As a nod to my first party's run, they also obtained the Crystal Moon device, which is a crystal ball. That is amazingly useful in Krynn. 

This was a confidence builder for getting back into the Dragonlance story after a minor setback which the party took as total failure. Funny how players think. 

This is one of the most fun adventures I have ever played as a player and as a DM. I may take a stab at it using Old School Essentials. 

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Tired Thoughts on Tired OGL

I love posts that start with the Chaos Star
The OGL has attained the maximum cultural entropy. Even my wife has a passing familiarity with OGL, which is impressive as she is a nurse and doesn't do "nerd stuff". She's still pretty hot that our children's collective initials are NPC. 

Anyway, I took on this new project to write a campaign setting. And then I busted my shoulder, leaving me to do everything with one hand tied behind my back... literally. Now that I have the immobilizer off, I can start moving and thinking again. 

Here is the long and short of my thoughts on the OGL. 

I have 6 products on DriveThruRPG: 

  1. Kobold’s Folly Mini Setting
  2. Compass Rose Inn Mini Setting
  3. The Hex Pack
  4. Swashbuckler Character Class for D&D and AD&D
  5. Zero to Hero: Uncommon Heroes
  6. Character Sheet for AD&D
Three of these products have nothing to do with D&D, the OGL or SRD: Kobold’s Folly and Compass Rose Inn Mini Settings plus The Hex Pack. I can ignore these. 

The other three are directly tied to D&D. They are nothing without the original game. If push comes to they are either going to be withdrawn or go to "OGL version whatever". I have some decisions to make, I guess. The Swashbuckler Character class really needs to be burned to the ground and remade or dumped in the historical stupidity bin. I'm ok with either. I'd like to rework Zero to Hero into OSE, so I need to wait and see what Old Games Essentials does. The character sheet is a historical snapshot that assumes the use of a couple of books, I am not sure if it needs to be connected to the SDR or OGL because it is literally nothing but an image of a collection of words and numbers that are very context specific to a certain version of a D&D game.  

I have come to the conclusion that I need to abandon D&D and ignore three of my products linked to the SRD and OGL while reworking the other three into something that doesn't remotely touch the works of Wizards of the Coast. 

I have decided to come up with a completely new game system. One of my own devising. In the best case, I am the next WotC. The worst-case scenario is no one uses it. 

What I know now: 
  • I have the basic idea of a game system. 
  • Playtesting has started.
  • It will be called "Zero to Hero", which I am 99.9% is not a copyrightable name. That's cool, I'll deal with it if I can. 
    EDIT - No, No, this is no longer correct. I think I will call it "The Hearts System". 
  • My first book, "Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners" will be worked into this somehow. I don't know how. 
  • I will press on with my new campaign setting and tool it to work with "Zero to Hero". 
  • I need to come up with a better naming convention because if I find too many things referencing "Zero to Hero" I will have to change the name. 
So here we are. 

This is a cross-post with my Ko-Fi project

Saturday, January 7, 2023

#CharacterCreationChallenge - Ruleset AD&D e1 - Regulus the F/MU/T

One of the more intractable problems for an AD&D e1 DM is the addition of a multiclassed character. They cause a variety of problems. First and foremost, it creates a capability challenge for the DM to work against. Having to plan for spells and abilities is hard enough, but when you have a Magic User and a multiclassed F/MU you might forget the party can do something twice. 

This problem could be its own post, so I'll rein it and move on to the commercial. I mean the character. Or both. 

I am using my own character sheet which you can download from DriveThruRPG for Regulus, the Fighter/Magic-User/Theif. This Regulus is one variation of the same basic character I used for a friend's campaign. I was the only person who didn't know we were in Narnia and died a zillion times. It got so bad that I stopped making up new names. 

Let's start at the top. This sheet has more than your typical slots for information. Its missing a phone number and a blood type, but that is ok. 

Not bad for a sheet designed by a committee. 

Moving over to the next part, we have class and level information which also has enough space for multiclass information: 

Next up is the attribute block. At the time we made this sheet, Unearthed Arcana was new and we wanted to use everything in it. Doug, the DM at the time wanted to use Comeliness for the big villain Jadis. It made perfect sense because that is 50% of how she works. 

Beyond this one time, it was a mostly ignored stat. It's too complicated and extraordinarily dangerous for Illusions and Bards to have. 

On the far left were armor class and hit points. 

There isn't too much to comment on here, except for the Armor condition box. We had this concept that your armor could stand up to about 10 fights without repair. If you didn't maintain your armor, it stopped working. It was basically the fighter equivalent of studying. Unearthed Arcana also had field plate which acted like bonus hit points that could be tracked here. 

The box for HP was dual-purpose. First, AE had a couple of spells that would act like hit points so tracking was necessary. 

Amusingly, what really happened was you'd burn a hole in the first box erasing and rewriting, so the second box extended the amount of time you could use the same character sheet. 

Ingenious, right? 

The middle of the page was dominated by the weapons chart. 

It had the weapons adjustments, but we never used it despite dedicating so much space to it. 

While we all loved AE's new character classes and abilities, somehow we forgot to at the Acrobat's abilities to the thieves' ability chart. 

Moving to the left again, we had the other Stats and abilities block. If you were non-human, this would be your favorite place. If you were human, you'd take notes here. 

See the weaponless combat table? 

Never used. Actually, we did use it once in a Shaolin temple setting and all of the characters died from open-handed Monk attacks. 

Silly system. 

Next up was the spell table. It was functional and handy, but we didn't have enough room for actual spell names. 

Honestly, we just wrote spells on index cards and called it a day. Reg only has 5 spells per day, but if you hop back up to the stat block he actually knows 6 per level.  

One odd thing that we did was allowed all magic user types to use the clerical bonus spells from Wisdom. It seemed to make sense. 

The other trick we used was magic users always knew Read Magic, Write and Detect Magic spells. If you lost your spell book, this knowledge was necessary to make a new one.  

On the second page, and we always had a second page because we used pin-feed printers, was the weapon proficiencies. We were also using the weapon specialization rules from AE. 

The second block was for non-weapon proficiencies. This was a block insisted on by me. Even way back then, I had an embryonic idea for a set of skills based on professions. What ultimately became my book Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners started with this tiny two-inch block. 

The book has 50 NPC classes and rules for PC to have secondary abilities. You can grab it on DriveThruRPG

Three-quarters of the second page was dedicated to encumbrance. 

Remember I mentioned that Bards and Multiclass heroes are the banes of a DM's existence? Bards and Multiclass characters have a tendency of dropping into the background because the other players have surpassed them in combat and magic abilities. When things go badly, they tend to pick over dead bodies. A fine inventory sheet can solve that. 

(Unless a sneaky person has 2 or 3 bags of holding...)

Now, I've said very little of Regulus himself, but if you look at this sheet, you can see a special level of trickery going on. In the backpack is a bag of holding. Next to the bag of holding, there is a quiver, a water and wineskin, rations, and a scroll case. 

With the quiver poking out the top, my character had virtually no reason to open his backpack at any time outside of camp. 

One of our DM's named Mark was driven buggy by characters toting around 3 pouches and a backpack plus a ton of junk in each hand. He said you could have a backpack OR a large pouch and two small pouches. So this is why so many slots appear on our sheets. 

For the numerically minded, we had a section for tabulation. Note that the items worn by Reg plus the items that were in the bag of holding don't count toward encumbrance. 

Personally, I always like the idea of a smallish pack and two hip-sized pouches. 

Anyway, I hope you liked the tour around my characters sheet. 

Remember, you can always click those links and download it for yourself. It is dated but I find it charming. 

Friday, December 30, 2022

A Vance A. Study in OSE NPCs

In the last post about OSE, Vance A. commented that the Old School Essentials had character generators, specifically for NPC, Travelers, and so on. He didn't know how the distribution went, so I took a shot to figure it out. 

Before I dive into that, I would like to take a moment to thank Vance and anyone else who took the time to comment. I find that comments and shares are far better than a random like or emoji that I get elsewhere. Comments let me in on the mind of the readers and they are a report of the reception of posts I share. I love the comments, thank you very much.  

The best tool seemed to be the Retainer Generator. I set it to 0 percent chance for normal humans and asked it to generate 10d10 characters at 1st and 10d10 3rd level characters. I will repurpose them for my upcoming campaign and other projects, so I didn't burn electrons for nothing. 

I used my NPC breakdown sheet as a tally sheet. 

01-02 Acrobat (5)

03-04 Assassin (7)

05-06 Duergar (4)

06-15   Dwarf (2)

16-25    Fighter (7)

26-30 Half-Elf (3)

31-32    Half-Orc (0)

33-38 Halfling (0)

   39   Knight (7)

40-50 Theif (8)

   51      Svirfneblin (4)

52-73    Magic-User (10)

73-74    Illusionist (4)

75-80    Barbian (3)

   81      Bard (18)

82-92      Cleric (6)

   93  Drow (0)

   94         Druid (10)

95-97 Elf (0)

   98   Gnome (1)

   99   Paladin (2) 00   Ranger (10)

And you know what I discovered? Random is random. 

I generated 111 characters and this is just not enough to detect anything but the most basic trends. Certain classes and races seem more popular than others. However, judging by the 18 Bards I rolled, I could just be ascribing a personal point of view to a small series of choices. 

It was an interesting experiment in Random.

While this generator was meant for retainers, the resulting characters seem just fine for PCs. I'll be using them for that and more. You can check out all of the OSE generators at this link

Monday, December 26, 2022

Divine Donative - Bartering for Lives

For some strange reason, in all of my years of playing D&D, not one of my players has expressed a wish for the reincarnation or resurrection of a dead character. Not even the player of the deceased character. In fact, on the few times, one character has wished another character back to life, the player of the risen character has expressed some remorse at returning to the land of the living. 

I think I know why. Very often player characters in my campaigns ascend to a beloved NPC state. In other words, they retire. The story hasn't ended for them, but the adventure has. 

One idea that I am trying with my next campaign is "Divine Donative", an offering to a church, temple, or another group that ensures resurrection or reincarnation should something befall the character. Many of the rules in D&D are geared toward such a transaction such as an oath of poverty which requires donations. There is even a list price for the casting of such spells, so why not pre-payment as insurance. 

Hit x amount and you get free services. It stands to reason that if the character or party is funneling huge sums of money into an organization, there should be an immediate benefit.  At low levels, it's a bed for the night or minor healing. Later, after pounds and pounds of silver have been diverted to the organization, another life. 

We don't know what happened.
We think he liked rabbits.
Now for the fun bit. Usually, characters die from player burnout. They get bored or goofy and do something stupid to get killed. This moment of death could be an opportunity for a side mission. Everyone rolls up new characters and campaigns to recover the body. It's a nice little break and offers a chance to be something different than normal.  

Then there is the possibility that they pre-paid for services they do not want. But it's a contract that must be fulfilled. 

Off the church leaders go to save one of their most beloved patrons, and upon their return to the land of the living, this guy doesn't want to leave the temple grounds. He wants to tend a garden rather than scalp orcs. 

And if push comes to shove, maybe he or she refuses to come back as a human. All of a sudden, the party picks up a wolf or dog or cat as some sort of guardian. While the players wouldn't control such a beast, having one makes them special. 

Over time, if the characters donate enough, a willing person could be given some sort of magical jar that could be opened in a time of great need for the ultimate healing right on the field of combat. Think, a Pheonix Down from Final Fantasy. 

While I wanted to try this idea for end-of-life situations, the concept really should appear more in my campaigns. If characters are in some sort of guild or association that they support, that support should be two ways. Especially if the character is on track to be an epic hero of many storied deeds. People should be jumping out of the woodwork to support them. Even lowly fighters may belong to some sort of veterans group which could prove a small benefit if support. 

My idea isn't to just fork stuff out to the players as much build continuity with the campaign world beyond what the players are directly experiencing. If the party has a Bard or a Magic User, they probably have associations that need answers, which the PC might have. This would create a series of barter situations that the characters could grant favors and call them in later. Rather than present the party with a list of spells and costs, I should have them intervene if they can so as to curry favor with some group or another... or they could pocket the cash. 

I really like the idea of swapping this for that instead of a list of prices and services. It may take a bit to flesh the whole idea out, so I'm sure I will revisit it as time goes on.  

PS: You can pick up a copy of Old School Essentials CharactersMagicMonsters, and Treasures on DriveThruRPG. You can also try Wordlographer before you buy.  

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

Expanding the View - The Town of Manteva

I am continuing to work on this town, I think I have a name: Manteva. I am looking at some old maps of Italy and this one jumped out at me. Maybe it's misspelled, I don't know. 

We are looking at the southeastern edge of the town. I stopped the game in order to come up with some ideas for the flavor and layout of the town. I wasn't planning on a walled village, but it looks nice. 

Walls present some problems for generated maps. Computers are good at detecting collisions, but poor at the layout. Comparing this map to my last post, you'll notice some changes. First, there needs to be dead space around the walls, guard houses, and towers, otherwise, those bits don't work correctly. Providing cover to the enemy is bad, as is providing kindling for fire inside the walls. So, most of the trees have been pushed away from the structures. 

Stores, taverns, and inns should be near an entrance. Coopers and stables are good businesses to have near the gates. I like the Roman idea of bathhouses and outhouses, so this town has a couple. Furriers and smiths also appear near the gates. 

More interior to the town are market houses. These buildings have living space and shop space in the same structure. There is a public barn used for foodstuffs near the entrance. More than a few blocks contain public or private gardens. It looks like farmland, but really these would be a bit decorative and limited to herbs and small eatables like tomatoes. 

Since this is a fantasy town, the characters will find more than a couple of stationeries. Stationery shops sold books and paper. They were "stationary" because they didn't move on market day. The goods were too fragile. In addition to these types of establishments, there is also an Illuminator who would do the art for books. As a hidden feature, these shops are great for Clerics and Magic users. 

I've been labeling these so I can go back and populate each structure with a description. I can't wait to finish this town and move on to the next. 

PS: You can pick up a copy of Old School Essentials CharactersMagicMonsters, and Treasures on DriveThruRPG. You can also try Wordlographer before you buy.  

Monday, November 7, 2022

Prepping A New Project

I have a handful of ideas in mind for new projects, hopefully, to offer on DriveThruRPG. This one requires a lot of stippling and some digital magic which means I need to start practicing now. The interesting thing about prepping is the samples I produce as the practice often don't look anything like the imagined project. 

For this item for example: 

Obviously, it is a spaceship in the theme of Star Smuggler. My project requires a fairly large map of a landscape so it is a conceptual mismatch. The other item I am working on could end up as framed art. Again, it doesn't remotely look like a map.  

But there is a method to the madness. I don't want to work on landscapes or maps while practicing so I don't burn out in the middle of a large project where I need to produce a large landscape map. 

As far as digital magic goes, I started this portion last year, before this new map idea came to mind. That was a simple test of my digital abilities, removing and then adding text to a series of extant images. 

These are the tiles for Star Smuggler. The original set came with a series of tiles that required flipping one tile upside down to create a planet. I flipped the images, removed all of the text, healed the background of that text, and added new text to replace the old text. They came out pretty nice, but once I was done, I noticed that my healing of the background image looked different than the original, so I had to repeat the process to get a complete set of matching tiles. 

A lot of people have created their own world tiles for Star Smuggler, but I have never seen anyone use the original art.  You can check out some nice ones on Board Game Geek in the link. These are very slick and modern looking as opposed to the 70s or 80s look of my copies. 

(I'm sorry, but due to the distro notices on this game, I can't share my files. Mr. Sustare didn't get paid for this game but has graciously allowed the above websites to produce digital versions of the game. It seems fair enough to me. If you know Mr. Sustare... maybe you can get us in touch so I can ask permission or give him the files to post. It's not really mine so they need a good warden.) 

So, what is this project? I have a B/X/AD&D campaign world that has 40ish years of history and I would like to see it in print. The first part of the project is the map of The Peninsula of Plenty. It is a vast area that does not lend itself to hex mapping. 

In this world, there are many strange things. For example, there are magical rail lines, newspapers, and consumer-grade magic items. I have reporters, treasure hunters, and historians of great renown populating the world. Magarven is the Peninsula's most outrageous self-promoter believing himself to be all three. Take a look at his Last Polyandrion, a map of a magical edifice of unknown meaning and purpose. 

I imagine that Magarven would very much like everyone to know what a smart and well-traveled Drow he is, so I would like to publish a series of books by him. This series will have an in-universe perspective and would contain 9 or more volumes. The collection is rules agnostic as it will be a traveller's handbook to the Peninsula. 

The reader would rapidly come to the conclusion that Magarven the Mad is not all there. As The World's Most Popular Drow, one who embraces both his heritage and fame, he will do or say anything to perpetuate being a hero when he is not. He is clearly not at fault when his human fans disappear, he has no idea where they went, and tales of sacrifices to Lolth are completely out of bounds. She was never a demon queen. How unfair to speak such untruths.   

The last part of this project would be to create a series of player's or DM's handbooks to account for noticeable differences between my campaign universe and the default B/X/AD&D setting. This would be a series that would stat out major parts of the world described by Magarven's Handbooks. 

I have rambled too much. But let me throw in one last plug. The notebook imaged above is available on RedBubble if you are into such things. There is a really good sale right now, so you can score one for less than 9 bucks. 

Saturday, September 10, 2022

Hex Redux

I have less than 2 months to get ready for my next campaign. That is judging by the countdown to the upper right. I cannot wait for these OSE books to come in. I am kind of at the whim of shipping. 

Thankfully, I have a bunch of set pieces ready to go. My main issue is organization. I pulled my hex tiles from of a pair of giant cardboard boxes, set them up, and then packed them away in a handful of clear plastic totes. 

As you can see to the right, they weren't very organized. Some of the smaller parts don't lend themselves to orderly packing. I haven't solved that problem yet but I will get to that someday, hopefully soon. 

I moved an extra table to the middle of the room so we have enough space to use them. Now in this demonstration, I set up as many tiles as I wanted. It was overkill and I wouldn't actually do that for gameplay. 

I have a nice wooden table with two leaves in it. The leaves allow my players some elbow room. I will have to get more chairs and maybe a rolling storage bin to help clear the clutter. 

One of the nice things about this set of tiles is the quick set up. Each piece has a slot for a biscuit cut into the edge. When wargaming, this feature is a must. Pushing figures and rulers around invariably shifts the tiles. 

Roleplaying games, not so much. A 2x2 or 3x3 section can be set up rapidly, usually while I am talking. The rough look makes the players to visualize the scenario from a homely display, with flaws and gaps filled in with imagination. Sometimes, when the players ask about certain flaws, I will pick their brains for what it could mean. 

My intention in using this sort of setup is to facilitate play, not create a complete world or map. I use some odd bits and pieces to display data. Blue paper is water, green cotton balls are trees, rocks... well, are rocks. 

I use a cord to mark out roads and paths. I can use a different color of cord for the path the players intend to take. This makes the situation interactive as the party can all work together to create the best plan. As more features become evident, I drop colored pieces of paper with notes. I have some colored plastic bits to highlight areas of note. We have cups of colored beads and blocks so players can drop things on the play surface for their own purposes. 

And of course, I can add in figures. 

Check out these images from around the table. 

At the end of the day, pack up easy. Before I clear up, I make sure to photograph the set up for my notes. 

As you can see a ridiculous amount of tiles fit in one small area of my basement, always ready to go. 

Once I start this campaign, I will keep you guys in the loop. 

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Nostalgia '87 - The Character Sheet

Back in the day, there was no concept of "editions" for D&D. There was D&D and AD&D. The differences between Advanced and the B/X books are very noticeable. There are whole websites dedicated to the differences between these products and it is a massive rabbit-hole universe. I won't be covering that here. 

I would like to talk about a product I made and put up on DriveThruRPG. 

My friends and I had a mishmash world, where D&D and AD&D were treated as the same thing. Plus we had Unearthed Arcana in our set of shared books. Yes, we all shared books among our group of players which could number as many as 14 people on a given night. 

It wasn't easy to combine all these dissimilar products but one of the aids we had was our own computerized character sheet that we could print at will. It was created on my Mac 512 in Mac Draw. 

It was excellent (click to order).

From the title panel, you can probably guess that we had a ton of multi-classed characters and a lot of wacky rules to combine everything from D&D, AD&D, and UA. We actually learned a lot from this process of creation. 

First, no one liked Cavilliers or Theif-Acrobats. We like to use a homebrew method of character attribute generation, 4d6 with the lowest die discarded and order as you see fit. Humans received a plus one to a single stat as desired. Half-elves received either human or elf attribute bonuses. 

We tried to implement weapon adjustments, but it was very cumbersome. We did like weapon proficiencies. 

As an oddity of all of our shared worlds, no one invoked raise dead or reincarnation spells, the only thing that was used was wish or alter reality spells. And infrequently at that. 

It was often enough to cause problems in unexpected places. Encumbrance was a problem as characters willed a bunch of stuff from one to another. So our rule was all items had to fit on the character sheet, despite the actual size. A full 1/3 of our character sheet was dedicated to just equipment. 

I cannot tell you how many times one of our DMs would have to deal with "my character reaches in his pocket and pull out a ring of X", only for that player to discover that the thief now knows exactly what he stole 3 sessions ago. 


Anyway, a few years ago I found a copy of this sheet. I scanned and uploaded it to DriveThruRPG to share with others. It is one of my more popular items, probably because you can download it for free. If you really like it, you can actually pay for it. It is PWYW, but I suggest 99¢. 

In uploading this document, I realized there were flaws, such as missing all of the Theif-Acrobat skills. The layout could be improved and so on. I created a newer sheet that had some of the old-school style captured in the first. However, it is sharper and cleaner as it is a wholly digital product rather than a scan. It too comes with the original character sheet. 

Good things come in threes, so I created a third variation of a character sheet. One that no one asked for: The 20-page character sheet! It's actually a single sheet of paper folded into a flip book. I used them for a B2 campaign. My kids and their friends enjoyed them so much that they kept them. 

So if you like old school goodness, please give my 3 character sheets a try.