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

Monday, January 25, 2021

The Last Package Arrived Today

My last package from Amazon arrived today. Now I am almost ready to start a second series of post on modeling. I'll be working on these Bandai 1/144 scale models over the summer. You can find them at many hobby shops, but I've had the best luck on prices at Amazon.com. Ironic, because the grid of ads from Amazon is showing the most expensive things. Sigh. Ah. Checked it now, and most of the prices are reasonable. 

(Note: My Amazon Affiliate account has really taken off, I just need to figure out how to make it work better with my posts.) 

One of the snags with series posts is they start strong and either come to an early conclusion or they just peter out due to a lack of inspiration. 

I hope to change that this year by having a spring/summer series ready to go. I also have a couple of things in my back pocket. My Star Wars campaign looks good to restart and even more exciting (for me anyway) it looks like my gang is ready to go back to the Peninsula of Plenty campaign, perhaps as a hexcrawl. That's two more series to update for the Blog. 

The only problem now is time. I've had my basement flood and defy all attempts to remedy and I recently started a new job which takes up my evenings. My weekend is now Tuesday-Wednesday and I work every holiday for the foreseeable future. I'd know how things will work out, but they will. 

At this point, I am thinking of retiring the Podcast. I really can't see how I'll have the time for all of this. Time will tell. 


Saturday, January 23, 2021

Review - Children of the Gods: The Classical Witch Tradition

Title: Children of the Gods: The Classical Witch Tradition
Publisher: The Other Side Publishing
Author: Timothy S. Brannan
Year: 2019
Pages: 84 pages
Overall Rating: 5 of 5 stars
Text Only Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Of all the books Mr. Brannan has written on witches, this one is my second favorite. Were I to have it to do over again, I would have made my Coven of Ash witches in The Classical Witch Tradition instead of magic users. The power difference between a witch and a magic user is striking, the witch having the more subtle powers which I was aiming for with the Coven of Ash. 

This book largely follows the same format of The Amazon Witch Tradition, with a few twists. First, Part 1 runs down the basic description of witches of this tradition while Part 2 introduces the possibility of multiclassing. These are pairs of class, witch and one other class. They would gain experience far faster than the dreaded triple class characters. Additionally, the first part addresses what would be considered demi-human and monsters of this class, which is a great benefit to DM's desiring something completely different. In reading this work, I immediately thought to replace the Hermit from B2 Keep on the Borderland to this kind of witch. 

One small addition to this series is the use of color. The book is written for Blueholme and the blue tint on the tables is not only a nice touch, it makes everything easier to read. The artwork is also very nice. 

Part 3 describes the tradition itself and discusses how to add covens to your campaign. It gives 6 examples before giving suggestions for more coven types for your campaign. It's nice to have examples that are ready to go and the 6 provided could be plugging into many campaigns with no modification and all campaigns with a some modification. 

Part 5 explains the witches role in magic and provides 32 pages of spells. These spells are tooled specifically to this tradition of witches and includes ritual magic, a more powerful form of spells cast by several coven members. 

The book also includes 20 pages of new monsters or old friends reworked for Blueholme. Part 6 introduces some magical items and few artifacts. And the final chapter gives three examples of unique and powerful witches. This final part really reads like Deities and Demigods, but the powers are cranked back to almost-mortal levels. These are characters that you could adapt or use right of the book in your campaign for high level NPCs. 

And and not least, this book includes useful appendix of spells by level, useable by witches, clerics, magic users plus a complete alphabetical listing of spells. Those are perfect. 

This is a rock solid resources for any DM who desires a little mysterious magic at the table, something to knock the PC's clerics and magic users back a bit. Nothing is overpowered and is specifically meant to work with those classes without changing their core concepts. 

Spoiler Alert: I have four of these books and I am reviewing them in star order. This one is a solid 4.5 for the text alone and a 5 of 5 when the artwork is considered. 

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

Thursday, January 21, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

My first principal was developed from looking at the to hit and saving throw tables. Most of the time, player characters are challenged by rolls in the low teens at low levels. Well, making buckets is easier than that, so my NPCs have a better than 50-50 chance of making something. Second, failure is not applicable. You aren't 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 meat shield choice for the PCs.

Some people have asked if this is character sieve, it is very much the opposite. In fact, there is a section on how an NPC professional can transition to Player Character, saving a poorly rolled character. This method generates characters fast by allowing the DM to save those who have abysmal stats.

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

Monday, January 18, 2021

Review - Hexcrawl Basics by Todd Leback

Publisher: Old-School Essentials
Author: Todd Leback (Link to Patreon)
Artists, Interior: Bruno Balixa, Dean Spencer, Rick Hershey of Fat Goblin Games, Jack Holliday, Matt Forsyth, Matthew Richmond
Cover Art: Jen Drummond
Year: 2019
Pages: 24 pages
Rating: 5 of 5 stars


My first 3 reviews were on a single series of novels. I most recently reviewed How to Hexcrawl. I like the idea of series reviews or fits, but for awhile ill be limiting myself to pairs of related titles. These are not  comparisons, but singular reviews. 

Here is my usual warning, this book is written for OSE but it is easily adaptable and applicable to other systems with little to no modification. If you had a dungeon and you moved the characters outside, this book would be of use to you. 

This title starts with a definition of a hexcrawl, which is a very economical start. This is one of many books on the subject by the author, every concept is very tight owing to Mr. Leback's great experience on the subject. The first section covers the hex and the player's purpose in these hexes and the process to be followed. Artwork is used not only as mere art, but Worldographer maps exemplify what the author spells out. Todd Leback's use of art is excellent. 

Chapter two and three cover features and lairs found in hexes and subhexes plus random encounters. The next two sections cover procedural events, weather and getting lost, which are big part of the hexcrawl experience. 

The final chapter is an extended example of the hexcrawl process in action. It nicely loops back to the beginning of the book and marches the reader all the way to the end without missing a beat. I suppose that the book could have been written without this extended section, but would be a lesser work. The example perfects this book. 

Three caveats about this book. The artwork is very nice but does not print well on plain paper. The only way to get a nice copy of this book is to print on extreme quality on great paper. It is totally worth it, take the effort and time to do it right.  

Second, there is a small link to Mr. Leback's Patreon. Blink and you'll miss it, so I have placed it here. I normally don't do that, but the link to Populated Hex was almost too unobtrusive. (EDIT - There is also a Kickstarter coming soon. I've never gone in on a Kickstarter, but this might be the one to start with.)

I was tempted to make this a 4.5 of 5 starts but the example and the excellent artwork kicks it up one more level. Especially if you print it nicely. I was drawn to this title and series by the cover art, which I love. 

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Review - How to Hexcrawl by Joe Johnston

Publisher: Unknown
Author: Joe Johnston
Year: Unknown
Pages: 24 pages
Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Oh, the pain of being a historian and researcher. Reviews and criticism come at the drop of a hat. My third review, Raphael was an agonizing one star. I'm taking a break from novels. This series is all about the sci-fi and fantasy, so novels reside along side games. 

Let me throw a word out there: Impressum. It's a mark of ownership and pride. PRIDE! If you are offering you book on DriveThru or other publishing sites, put that in. Include your name, your website, your city, county and a date. Nothing is more frustrating than not knowing which Joe Johnston wrote an excellent book and guide for a world wide community. Which Joe Johnston is a thought leader? 

Enough whining. 

Mr. Johnston's How to He crawl is an excellent guide for players and DM's alike. My usual warning for reviews: this book is written for Labyrinth Lord but it is easily adaptable and applicable to other systems with little to no modification. 

How to Hexcrawl sets the stage with a brief introductory paragraph outlining how rewarding outdoors adventures are and plunges the sources used to create such adventures. Mr. Johnston spells out what organization he uses, why and how that will help the reader. 

The next sections detail how to begin, for both the DM and the adventures like. It is follow with the basic ideas and conventions with examples of usage. In a dungeon, the primary limitation imposed on players is the physical structure which imparts a sense of unknown. In hexcrawls, everything is wide open but perhaps only vaguely known. Mishaps such as navigation or failing to navigate rules game play. This is something well addressed by Mr. Johnston. 

Other challenges will occur along the way. Injury, weather and encounters are woven in at a very basic level. Whether a player is bit by a rattlesnake, the wagon tongue breaks or the logistic of travel are too challenging, this book provides guidance. 

Although a brief read, it is economically written, providing everything the reader needs to Hexcrawl. As a bonus, the layout is a great benefit to author and reader alike. The single column format is clean and the maps and artwork strengthens the work. For this piece breaking out the art and maps from the text is impossible. At 4.5 of five stars, it is hard to find room for improvement. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Review - Cult of Diana: The Amazon Witch Tradition

Title: Cult of Diana: The Amazon Witch Tradition
Publisher: The Other Side Publishing
Author: Timothy S. Brannan
Year: 2019 (?)
Pages: 26 pages
Overall Rating: 5 of 5 stars
Text Only Rating: 4 of 5 stars

Continuing in the vein of the occult, today's review is of the Cult of Diana. This book is a part of a series on witches by Timothy S. Brannan for the Basic era D&D game. A word of warning, I play a mashup of B/X and AD&D 1e. I may let slip some observations which reference a set of rules that is not the one intended by the author of this book. 

To start, the entire series of books has excellent cover art. These are worth printing in high quality. Personally, I like to print the covers of DriveThruRPG books on photo paper. It is totally worth the effort. 

What makes witches worth of a new class in Basic era? The ideas, mainly, but also the integration within the rule set. Cult of Diana introduces some simple but powerful ideas to the rules. Mr. Brannan made sure these are carefully balanced so as not to be game breakers. Except for outward facing abilities like spells, no mechanic introduced upsets other character classes, which is very important for consistency. 

Like all characters, witches roll for HP, require certain modest ability scores (10 for INT, 11 for WIS and CHR), gain a bonus to experience for superior ability scores, and have limited armor and weapon selections. The author has provided 8 pages of new spells available to witches, none of which are unbalancing. 

What makes these characters different is their calling. Witches are part of a coven, granting them the ability to access new spells based on a particular tradition. This religiosity allows the witch to be of any alignment so long as they follow the tenants of their tradition. In the case of the Amazonian witch, their tradition is based on several gods such as Diana and Artemis. The author provides a brief section on what these beliefs mean. 

Circling back to the idea of covens, witches have access to ritual magic which requires many casters to participate in. Again, these ritual spells are well balanced. For both "normal magic" and "ritual magic" there are 8 levels of each described in the standard format for Basic era games. 

This particular set calls out BlueHolme but readers will find that it is a nice addition to any basic era game such as Labyrinth Lord or the Red box set. With a little adaption, this book could be plugged into a great many rule sets like AD&D. 

All and all this is a rock solid addition to your table. Text only is 4 of 5 stars. 

I tend to be colored by great artwork, usually shifting my rating upwards by one. In this review, I have ignored the excellent artwork and tables so as not to damage my rating scale too much. The art is superior for a supplemental book and completely inline with the Basic Era style. Considering the layout with the artwork, this book merits 5 of 5 stars. 

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

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Latest Amazon Find - Dungeons and Dragons Adventure Begins game

I don't know why I like the easy entry tests for games. Today I found the Dungeons and Dragons Adventure Begins game. It takes the players on an adevnture in the lands of Neverwinter.

EDIT - It's on back order but I'll get mine on Jan 23th if you are looking to order. 

It's meant for 2-4 players, ages 10 an up. It was about $25, but is on sale at Amazon for less than $15.

It might be the tangables that come with these sets that gets me. The set includes: 
  • 4 mini-figures, 
  • 4 Boss tiles, 
  • 4 20-sided dice, 
  • 10-sided Dungeon Master die, 
  • damage clip, 
  • 4 health trackers, 
  • plastic deck holder, 
  • 20 character tiles, 
  • 4 dungeon boards, 
  • 24 gold, 
  • 4 adventure decks, 
  • item deck, 
  • 4 reference cards, 
  • 8 backpack cards, 
  • 12 gatekeeper cards, 
  • And rules booklet. 

This strikes me as being similar to the Invasion of Theed put out by WotC for Star Wars years ago. 


I'll probably order this one up tonight. 

Saturday, December 19, 2020

AD&D Hoodlum

In June, I typed up a character class for a Unicorn. It worked very well for this off-kilter game session. The other three characters are a Druid, a Gangbanger, and a (Space) Marine. 

Today, I would like to work on the Gangbanger character class. First, I think gangbanger should be a title of the class, so the class name will be Hoodlum. At first, I thought hoodlums would be a fighting man or thief, but after some consideration, I believe they are more like clerics than anything. They have a clan, family and they have friends that believe the same thing they do. So, they are reskinned clerics. 

Hoodlums are anachronistic to the fantasy setting, being people from the 20th century. Skaters, punks and gang members. That being said, they can't use heavy blade weapons just like clerics. They will use knives and daggers plus blunt weapons. Oh, how a good baseball bat can feel. They use slingshots over bows and regular slings, knives over darts but can use a crossbow. 

They don't use shields and generally will not dress like normal fantasy characters, so AC is difficult. The Gamma World conversion rules are a nice option, but I think I will stick to just 3 types of armor. 

A leather motorcycle jacket will count as AC 8. Adding helmets and padded will get them to AC 7. Also, they can modify any type of armor found in a fantasy setting to get to AC 6. This is the lower limit for them, as they are wearing real armor in a fantastic way, it's more for looks than function. It really doesn't matter that they pull parts off of full plate, they are wearing it wrong and can't improve their AC score below 6. Creating their own signature armor is level dependent, which grants improvements at 1st, 3th and 6th levels. 

Hoodlums have the ability to pick pockets, sneak and hide, so in respects to those three talents, they operate like thieves of like level. They do not climb, detect or disarm traps as thieves. These skills aren't in their field of practice. Plus booby traps are for losers. 

Their next ability is improvised healing. Once per day per person, they can heal 1-3 hit points. It takes an hour. This ability comes from their desire to avoid hospitals and police involvement. Normally, they patch themselves up with items on hand, such as Mr. Clean, vodka and scraps of fabric, but it also works on others. It hurts. 

Hoodlums can use any magic item without a class restriction, they may not use magical weapons, shields or armor that they can normally can't wield. 

Their last ability is very powerful - technological adaption. Their ability to use crossbows, sling shots and create custom armor are minor variants of this skill. The ability to use horses and scrolls is a major expression of this skill. 

Hoodlums are current on all technologies to support their criminal activities. They will seek out a horse by 3rd level and will gain ability to fight from horseback at that level. This is not a magical animal like the paladin's warhorse but just as treasured. At 5th level, they will be competent with driving and maintaining wagons and carts. At 7th level, they can ride war chariots. Much of their money will be directed into pimping out these vehicles and conveyances.  

Hoodlums see scrolls as codes and secrets to be deciphered. This is a two step process. They must study a spell for one hour to see if they understand it, which they have a 50-50 chance at first level. Success means they understand the spell enough to try it in combat later, which also requires a roll with the same chance of success. For every level of experience, their odds improve by 3% to a maximum of 80% at 11th level. This is a once per day skill. They can only work on one scroll, one spell at a time. The level of the spell in irrelevant. Hoodlums will not be able to activate a scroll which would cause a loss in ability points (wish and the like). They know this and will not try. 

If they decipher a scroll with hostile magic (a curse or explosive runes) they will set it off. 

In combat, reading a scroll takes one whole round. Failure during combat indicates they get tongue tied and can't activate it. They may not make a second attempt until the next day when they can take an hour to study it again (and possibly fail).  

For the purposes of the hoodlum class, each and every spell and scroll combination is unique due to the handcrafting of the scroll. Deciphering a spell on one scroll does not confer the ability to read that spell on a different scroll, unlike clerics and magic users who use a different methodology to practice magic. 

It is interesting to note that this skill is more akin to code breaking than spell casting. They do not have the ability to read magical text in any meaningful way. Clerics and magic users will be confounded by the hoodlum's attempts and will understand how risky this talent is. 

The Hoodlum receives 1d6 hp per level plus Constitution bonuses. They fight and make saves as clerics and have limited armor and weaponry. They are always human to start the campaign as they are dimensional travelers, but once a gang is established in your campaign, they could be of any race. 

I'll update once I create a pretty table like the one I used in my Unicorn post. 



Click here to download the Google File.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Let the Hexcrawl Addiction Begin

I am really intrigued by the concept of Hexcrawls. I've never done this before, but the OSR community does not disappoint. 

Within minutes, Goblin’s Henchman pointed me to their In the Heart of the Unknown - Procedural Hex Crawling Engine Product: 

In the Heart of the Unknown - Procedural Hex Crawling Engine
In the Heart of the Unknown - Procedural Hex Crawling Engine
In the Heart of the Unknown - Procedural Hex Crawling Engine

I don't know what it is about art for Hexcrawls, but I love it. Click the link and check out In the Heart of Unknown. It's very cool. 

So I took a closer look at Third Kingdom Games and found a whole series of products. Of course, being a little daunted by the whole Hexcrawl experience, I needed the basics. I downloaded Third Kingdom Games, which I mentioned in my last post.  

Hexcrawl Basics
Hexcrawl Basics
Hexcrawl Basics

They also have map packs for Hexcrawls, which gives me a point of reference to get me started on this whole new way of gaming. 
 
Lake of Abomination Map Packet
Lake of Abomination Map Packet
Lake of Abomination Map Packet

I could spend weeks pouring over the stuff produced by Third Kingdom Games and Goblin’s Henchman. And probably will. 

When I created my Map Pack, I should have known I was going down this path. This is a very boring template for hexes, with 3 different colors of hex in three styles. It's also has a commercial license. So, please grab a copy and use it for for your hexcrawl or your product. 

The Hex Pack
The Hex Pack
The Hex Pack

Since I am looking to provide tools for you, I do have a walk thru so you can create your own DriveThruRPG links with HTML which mirror a standard Amazon ad. Give that a try, if you like. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Hexcrawling

 I started a new project called Miledown, a hex crawl adventure. 


It just came to me as art, translating it to an adventure is going to be a trick. I can't think of the last time I used a hex map for my players and wonder if I have ever really ran a hexcrawl at all. When I ran the kids through B2, that map is a grid. Not a hexcrawl at all. 

That's ok. DriveThruRPG is to the rescue. Why reinvent the wheel when someone is an expert wheel maker? I picked up Todd Leback's Hexcrawl Basics. Before this project I had been eyeing the book simply for the cover art. I love it. 

I guess if I am going to use this for ideation, I had better do a review. It's all printed out and ready to read. I can't wait. 

Check back soon for that review and progress on my own hexcrawl project. 





Thursday, November 5, 2020

Chessex Dice on Amazon.com Under $10.00

I love Chessex Dice. Well, I love all dice and these 9 sets are on my Amazon wishlist. The great thing about the Amazon wishlist is the ability to price check things. This way, I don't go too nuts and buy high when I consistently sell low. 

Anyway, I have to have those Blue Weather Dice and the Tiny Pink Dice Set. Those are the best. The prices aren't bad at all and I can't wait until tomorrow when I can place an order.

Ads provided by Amazon help fund this website by remuneration. 

One of the interesting things about my site is, I run The Tek web stats every month. It is a listing of web stats and sales I do on products. Realistically, it takes very little money to keep my site going, but it's real easy to spend more than hosting and url costs if I don't watch myself. The wishlist combined with my Tek Stats keeps me honest with myself so I don't go crazy with the purchasing. 

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Pluses and Minuses, Pools and Podcast

In Star Smuggler, characters make to hit rolls. They have to roll over a certain number which is varible with 2 dice. Although the rules do not say it, the character receives one die for skill and one die for the quality of their weapon. The rules establish that if you have no skill with a weapon, you can't make a to hit roll. However, theoretically, if you ignored that rule you could have an unskilled character blasting away with a very, very low probability of hitting. 

For starship and boat weapons, the roll is different. You need to roll 1 or 2 to hit. A pair or more of ones indicates a critical. The player receives a 1d6 per roll based on the tech level of their weapon, up to a maximum of 6d6. 

In other parts of the game, there is a standard roll of 1d6 or 2d6, where the character can have pluses and minuses modify the roll. The roll is usually used to determine what of 6 or 12 things happen next not how good you are doing. The evaluation of "good" or "bad" happens as a result of reading a paragraph or two describing an event. Getting in a fight is supposed to be bad, but if you have large party of characters that idea is flipped on it's head because the player can dominate the battlefield. Getting a cool new item is supposed to be good, but if you don't have room for it, it's useless. 

The D&D player in me only noticed the standard roll of 1d6 or 2d6 with modifiers and could not conceptualize why giving modifiers to weapons fire does not work. I know, I've tried. It's because those rolls are from a dice pool, a concept that is totally foreign to me.  

This is a case of knowing your rule sets and having a great background in games, mechanics and theory helps a lot. I am all about D&D while I find Traveller to be entirely opaque. Traveller fascinates me because I can't figure out how the game master and players use the game mechanics to make great things happen. I've heard of people playing one Traveller campaign for decades, as I have been doing with Star Smuggler. The basic mechanics make that happen. 

In D&D, my campaigns fizzle after a few weeks or months because the characters reach a point where the truly fantastic has to happen over and over each session to make the game go. The rules lose their gritty danger as the characters improve. That's baked right into D&D while Traveller has a totally different mindset where it's not likely that your character will mechanically improve at all. They get better and smarter, but everyone is still one blaster shot away from death. It's the psychological threat level that changes, not the characters abilities. It's all in the scope of the story. 

This is probably the reason why I've been listening to Safco Cast so much. I am sure most listeners are looking to Jeff Koenig and Bob Loftin Traveller experiences, I am listening for their Gaming experience. It's this whole "new" world of Traveller that fascinates me not for the world itself, but the whole mechanical framework that makes the play happen. In the last episode I listened to, they spoke all about dice pools and it really sorted out some issues I had with Star Smuggler because of my person experience with D&D. Bob and Jeff are truly enlightening, because of the way they present the Traveller rules while also looking other systems like Cepheus and make great comparisons in how things are done. 

Amazing. Why don't you give them a try? 



Sunday, October 18, 2020

Making An E5 List and Checking It Twice

I haven't jumped to e5 yet, but last year I picked up a nice Humble Bundle. I can't use that content without the core books. I received a $5.00 gift card for Amazon and will probably start with the Handbook.

Of course, I'll need these the DM's Guide and the Monster Manual, too.


Is there anything else I should add to the list? Let me know in the comments below.

I could use this as an excuse to buy more dice.

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.  

Current situation: Reading The Cult of Diana

I’m on laundry duty tonight. However, I’ve got a good book to read. I have Timothy S. Brannan’s The Cult of Diana - The Amazon Witch Tradition

I’m posting from my phone, so this is painful and short. 

The book is a shockingly compact 25 pages but has no lacks. It was designed for Blueholme Prentice rules, nice set of retro clone rules. The art is very nice. Ok. I love the style, but don’t want to oversell you. (I have a tendency of doing that with artwork.) Some of the art appears between the columns like newer editions of D&D, while harkening back to the old school style of first Books. Tables are neatly shaded in white and blue for maximum readability. The spells are all new and suitably themed. I was particularly taken with the spell “Surocco”. It reminds me of the Bora, a gale force wind from the Alps, which helped Theodosius' forces defeat his enemies at The Battle of the Frigidus River. It strikes me as something very preternatural something only a witch could brew up. 




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