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

Thursday, November 7, 2019

The Mac Is Not A Xerox Machine...

Back in June 2019, I released a scan of a Character Sheet I created back in the 80's.

I thought it was the best sheet I'd ever made or used. Still pretty true. You can pick up this one for yourself on DriveThruRPG. This file is pay what you want and it is strongly suggest that you use it before putting any cash down. If you like it come back and drop some change in the tip jar.

Tonight I was looking at it and wished that I still had the disc it came from so that I could have the deep black lines the originals had. Well, I don't have that no matter how much wish I did.

But I still have a Mac.

It turns out that either I have gotten much better at Mac Draw or the processing power of G4 is so much better than a 512K or Claris software has improved before its demise, that I can recreate this document. I started working on it tonight, I hope to have a new version done by Monday. Ah, Veteran's Day.

The new versions will be tacked on the old version of the file on DriveThruRPG, as a thank you to all the people who downloaded it. Many of you paid for it, and I really, really appreciate the support.

What you can expect is a faithful rendition of the old version, a new version with the classic 6 instead of 7 and a few bells and whistles add on, such as Acrobat Abilities added to the thieves table, a better encumbrance chart, AC chart, a space for mounts and pets, and a few other things.

Obviously, this will be more than one file. I might even make a faded version to match my scan of the original.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Never Surrender?

Surrender or not, that is often the end of combat in D&D for the party or their enemies.

But what does surrender mean? Death? Imprisonment?

In history, there are many cases of surrender that end in neither death nor imprisonment. At the Battle of the Caudine Forks, 324 BC, the Romans walked into a trap. The Samnites, lead by Gaius Pontius trapped the Roman Legion in the passes with barricades. The Romans quickly realized their mistake and erected a camp. However, no attack was forthcoming. Gaius Pontius meant to wait until the food and water was gone, then accept terms.

However,  Gaius Pontius was too pleasantly surprised by this victory and sent a message to his father, Herennius, asking what he should do with the Romans. He hadn't expected this outcome. Herennius replied that Gaius should let them go. Herennius was a general in his own right, and this message didn't sound right to his son. The next message was much clearer: "Kill 'em all!" But Gaius was convinced that his father was going senile and sent for him.

Herennius arrived and explained that freeing the Legion and sending them on their way would position the Samnites and Roman for eternal peace through practical magnanimity. The other option, killing them all, would result in peace for a generation as Rome rebuilt it's legion to attack the Samnities.

Gaius Pontius decided on a third path, the yoke. Each Roman would be disarmed and forced to stoop under a spear lashed across the path home. Being wildly driven by honor, the Romans did this but marched home burning with anger. Either the Senate refused the treaty terms or merely waited until an excuse for war in 316 BC is unclear.

In either case, this appears to be a retelling of a tale from either the Punic Wars or a contemporaneous account of something Alexander the Great pulled off in his many campaigns. Truth or no, it establishes many cases where one side will let the other side to walk off relatively intact. Battles to the death in ancient times had a tendency of wiping out citizen farmers, which could result in massive disruptions of the economy or society of both combatants.

So, Herennius message is valid for gamers and generals alike. In the context of lawful or good characters, an honor bound solution is within the realm of possibilities.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

52 Weeks of Magic - Item 35 - Lead of Calling

The Lead of Calling is a weak magical device used by country witches and sometimes huntsmen and trackers. The Lead of Calling will allow the user to call back a lost animal within a league of the wielder. The animal will take it's sweet time responding, often as much as 3 hours, but it will come. So long as the wielder's only intent is to collar and return the animal, the animal will behave as if it was charmed.

This Lead only works on domesticated animals, which does not include cats.

If the animal is more than 3 miles away, the Lead will indicate the direction to the animal.

There is a powerful and dangerous side effect to this magic item. If the animal is killed while on the lead, the holder will be struck down as if Mazed. They will be trapped in this maze until the animal is consumed, buried or naturally decays. The maze will continuously replay the animals last moments and the character cannot avoid this. There is no saving throw. The trapped person will also experience everything the animal's body experiences in death, from two perspectives, one of being the animal and one of being the Mazed watcher. They cannot starve, die of thirst or inclement weather in this condition. They may awake with one or more phobias or insanities from this effect.

52 Weeks of Magic - Item 34 - Aerialist's Skin

I apologize for the art-less post, but I want to catch up with 52 Weeks of Magic.

This week's magic item is the Aerialist's Skin. This item appears as a rolled runner made of some sort of soft parchment. It feels slightly tacky and can be either brightly colored or a natural tone. It can be found at magic academies as much as at traveling circuses. The runner is laid down along a course or under the trapeze in lieu of a net.

The Aerialist's Skin somehow contains a fractional dimension, meaning that it acts like a net or trampoline. It does not need to be suspended like a net, the falling victim's body penetrates into the fractional dimension of the Skin, rather than the cold, hard ground. The Skin's surface is soft, with a lot of give. It will reduce damage from speed or falling by 6d6 or the equivalent of falling from 60 feet. The tackiness of the surface is amplified by speed and impact meaning that a person falling onto it will not roll or bounce off.

The Aerialist's Skin is unlikely to find its way into a dungeon, but it is an interesting "consumer magic device" which the general public will have a small amount of experience with. Wizards use it to learn to fly. Circuses use it as a safety device for high wire acts. Creative thieves and thief acrobats may find a use for it in cat burglary.

The material is flammable, so usually it is wet down before use.

Monday, October 28, 2019

52 Weeks of Magic - Item 33 - Mortar of Pestilence

The Mortar of Pestilence is a massive variation of the Wondrous Decanter. They stand 6 feet wide and 4 feet tall. The Mortar must be mounted on some sort of pivot. They are often found on castle walls as a defense. They can disgorge 100 gallons of water, like 3 bathtubs full, in one second. This will cause 1d6 points of damage on impact and will push the victim back 1d12 feet for an addition 1d6 points of damage. If the surface struck is a slope, the victim will slide further and possibly take more damage. The target area is about 10 feet by 10 feet.

But what about the Pestilence? One of the first attempts to use the Mortar involved oil. A couple of pours of oil worked correctly, but it was found that water was far cheaper. One of the Mortars was not poured and over time, the oil went rancid. The oil was impossible to light and within minutes everyone with in 120 feet was sickened, including the defenders.

Oil will go bad within an hour when put in the Mortar. The sickness is airborne and will require a saving throw vs. Disease in the first round of pouring for everyone within 10 feet of the Mortar or within the target area at the base of the wall. A failed saving will sicken characters to the point that they will suffer -2 penalty on all ability scores and a -2 to attack. Anyone who enters the target area will need to make a save, even hours later. This effect will be washed away by the next rain or by pouring water on it. 

The mortar can be filled by bucket or by Create Water spells. Usually clerics will have to work in shifts to fill the whole vessel by magic. Buckets are easier than magic and nasty materials can be added to the vessel. Oil is most common, but so is sewage. Any organic material placed within the Mortar will rot and spoil within an hour and causes the disease effect. Aside from water, any substance placed in the Mortar will become so foul it will be unrecognizable and often does not operate as it should. For example, poison will not be a poison on decanting, oil and alcohols will not burn and milk... oh god. Milk!

Pouring acid into the Mortar of Pestilence will demagik the device and it will bubble and spatter out of the container over a period of 100 hours. Everything in the area must make a save as if they were splashed by the acid.

52 Weeks of Magic - Item 32 - Wondrous Decanter

The Wondrous Decanter is often found in churches, temples and shrines. It is a utility item for holding liquids. Occasionally, the very rich will own one for home use.

The Wondrous Decanter will be filled with water when found. It can be refilled. It does not have charges. There are three ways of filling it: the normal way, going to the well or the stream and filling it up; the second way is for a cleric to cast Create Water; or using the Decanter as a part of the create Food and Water spell casting. 

In all cases, the Decanter will accept up to 36 gallons of water. When filling from a stream or lake as opposed to magic, the Decanter will fill to the brim with clean water in one round even if the source was muddy or fouled. It is not a perfect filter, the source liquid must be mostly water. It cannot take water out of another substances. If water is not the major component of the source, the Decanter will not fill.

One of the wonders of the Decanter is, it will not spill a drop. It will dispense 1 cup of water every 3 seconds. The stopper will seal itself if left unattended. This item is a +5 item when making saving throws. It may occur to characters to use it like a water bomb. It is often too hard to break to make this effective. If broken, all 36 gallons will gush out from the fragments over a period of a minute.

The last wonder is more for the sagely, the Decanter acts like a Bag of Holding for water. It is no heavier full than empty. The water contained within also has little momentum so that all 36 gallons can't be dispensed by accident.

These Decanters come in a variety of shapes, styles, and outward sizes. 

Sunday, October 27, 2019

RedBlade Character Generator Review

RedBlade is a super fast character generator for Dungeons and Dragons 3.5. This tiny piece of software is lightning fast and full featured. Don’t let the price or size of the package fool you.
The Base screen is all business. Down the left side are buttons to guide you through the process. Select a name, class, multi-class, adjust hit points, etc.

As you select items, the graphical interface displays changes. Click the Abilities button to continue.

Rolling abilities couldn’t be easier. But what kind of player would you be if you didn’t reroll? The program orders the rolls high to low. Assign the highest first by clicking the ability button and proceed through the numbers sequentially. Should you wish to make changes ability assignment, use the arrow buttons on the right.

The Class button displays all the class skills and abilities available. Since I have selected a rather plain fighter, nothing is displayed.

Skill selection is a breeze. There is a drop down box for class and Class skills and Cross Class skills. The software tabulates points to Class and Cross Class skills. The initial selection occurs on the center screen and more ranks are added on the right with the arrow buttons.

The Feats screen is rather ingenious; not only are bonus feats displayed in their own area, feats with prerequisites are greyed out. Hovering on a feat displays a blurb about it in the bottom box.

Languages are a snap with this software. Class and race are used to create a list of languages, the number available is counted off on the top box.

Shopping for equipment is fun; this is my favorite part of character generation. RedBlade breaks equipment down in to a dozen or more types and will display standard magical versions. The only oddity of this screen is the fact that coins are optimized to the minimum quantity. Silver is automatically converted to gold while gold converts to platinum.

The software allows you to customize equipment in the form of masterwork creations or non-standard magical items. It is very comprehensive.

Through out the software, helpful pop ups will appear and describe issues. Each is very clear. To resolve the issue below, you may add more money or click the “Buy for free” check box.
Each screen feeds another, so selecting armor under shopping calculates information for both the “Equipped” screen and the actual armor class.

The Equip screen allows for multiple sets of armor and weapons. It is intelligent, allowing for two handed welt weapons. This screen will create a series of armor classes and to hit numbers on the final character sheet.

One set of equipment is labeled primary combat kit. Using the Dropbox allows for secondary kits such as bows.
The magic screen displays all things magical. Typical this is reserved for inherent abilities. Our fighter does not have any so the screen is blank.

The spells screen divides spells into level and class.  It will allow you to “cheat” and obtain more spells than normally possible. It will also calculate any bonus spells based on race, domain, class or ability points.  It will display both known spells and spells memorized. There is a row for spell DC which I find to be very handy.

The role play section is all free form. Basic information is entered on this page.

A separated area is available for history.

The last area is for goals. If an area is omitted, it does not appear on the character sheet. No need for clutter, eh?

“Finished” gives two options, character sheet and save. The sheet is saved as an HTML file and clicking the sheet button will display it in your favorite browser software.
Since RedBlade uses standard HTML portability is not a problem. Pages can be opened in Word or converted to pdf to fine tune printing.
All and all RedBlade is not the most comprehensive character generator, but if you want to quickly crank out characters, this is the tool for you.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Tales from the High-backed Booth

My wife and I were driving for the sake of getting out of the house. We were rolling through East Amherst, NY. My wife is recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery, so walking was out of the question but she had been in the house for far too long. So, a drive it was.

"Ow," she said for the hundredth time, for the hundredth pot hole on Transit Road.

"Sorry. Again," I said, "Also, for the hundredth time."

Kitty laughed a bit. "I wish it wasn't so dreary. And I wish I hadn't taken that hydrocodone."

"Well, if you hadn't taken that, I would have never gotten you out of the house," I said.

"True. But still, I wish it wasn't raining." She sighed.

"There's a Tim Hortons ahead." I've never been certain if "Tim Hortons" is grammatically correct, or if it needs an apostrophe or if it was the Buffalo "S" running amok. Verbally, you can't tell the difference, but in writing it gets flagged by the spell checker, every time.

As I pulled in for our usual Timmy run, Kitty began musing.

"I should've put something in my stomach before that pill," she said.

"A muffin? Maybe a breakfast sandwich?" I offered.

"Hey, that's weird." Her voice was dreamy, distracted. "They turned that old tavern in to a temple."


I didn't slam on the brakes, it was just the sound my brain made.

"What did you just say?" I demanded.

"That tavern, the one that looks like a barn. It's a temple, now." She pointed at a rough building across Transit Road.

The Peasant Dance by  Pieter Bruegel the Elder
It was an impressive structure, despite being so old. The roof was thatched and the second floor was made of reinforced wattle and daub, framed in dark thick timbers. The timbers were rough cut and stained, as was the central door. Around the door was more of that light colored wattle and daub and two matching holy symbols. A hex with an eye in the center and 7 lightning bolts radiating from the iris in every direction. 

What was especially odd was that the tavern's... er temple's other walls were made up of hay bales stacked up the rafters of the second floor. Someone had placed blue canvas under the bales to protect them from direct contact with the asphalt parking lot.

Kitty's eyes met mine and she sent one of those mental commands that only a spouse can do.

I swung the car around and crossed Transit Road. All six lanes, excitedly, but carefully. Equally carefully, I opened my wife's car door and helped her hobble to the entrance of the tav... temple. It was a trick getting her over the blue canvas, flapping in the wind and rain.

"Does it have a name?" Kitty asked.

"None, that I can see," I answered.

The door wasn't locked and we stumbled over the threshold; Kitty sucked air as her knee moved faster than the surgery would allow.

"Sorry," I said as I took her weight on my shoulder. Inside, by lantern light, I could see dark, rich colors and little else. There was a large rectangle, which I interpreted as a booth and table. We hobbled over and took a seat. We sat in the middle of seven high booths. For some reason, I moved to the seat across from Kitty, rather than next to her.

As I blinked in the relative darkness, I could see the booth backs were nearly six or seven feet high. We could only see a narrow slice of the room, like a hallway. Along the far wall was a high bar or a low wall. I couldn't tell which, but there was a lantern on that wooden bulk. The near wall was more interesting, it was made of hay. We both ran our hands across the prickly surface. A small tray of condiments was in the middle of the table, and inexplicably, there was a framed picture tacked to the hay bale wall. In the dark, I though perhaps the photo was of a couple or family standing around a table, but I couldn't be sure.

Kitty chuckled and said, "It's the Hydrocodone Tavern."

Unnerved by her chuckle I got up from my seat and moved next to her. A shadow loomed over us as a form blocked out the light of the lantern on the bar.

"Welcome to the Temple of the High-backed Booth." A zippo flared before my eyes. The friar lit a small candle next to the condiment tray. He was clean shaven, with ring of wild white hair around his head, but his scalp was bare, tonsured. He seemed to be wearing some sort of bearskin or perhaps a hair shirt. His boot steps were heavy thuds, even as he delicately shifted to the far side of the table to look at both of us. His look was full of judgement and appraisal.

He produced a pair of menus and two small black cups. Like the boots, they clunked solidly on the tabletop before us.

"I am Elder Bruegel, but you may know me as Peter." His voice was gravelly, like an old peasant's and his smile was slight like a wizened village elder.

"Diamonddraught from the Land, for the lady's knee. And Black Taquynian coffee imported from the Country of Torre, for the gentleman. Please consider your options carefully." He left the menus before us and faded back into the darkness.

"I'd say that was 'weird', but we're in an old bar turned Temple on Transit Road, ordering drinks," I said. "And there is a picture of the d'Amberville family standing around Stephen in a coffin."

"I don't want to know that. And I certainly don't want to drink this," Kitty indicated the cup before her.

"Yes, you do. Trust me."

She sniffed it. "It smells... powerful, clean."

I made a sound of assent.

"Trust me, it's better for you than what I have here. And this coffee is frickin' close to perfect." I fished around in the condiment tray for a half and half and raw sugar. A pair of percentile dice toppled out of the tray and there was a flare from my menu.

"What was that?" she asked.

"Something very good or very bad, I'm sure." I ignored the light from the menu and stirred up my coffee. I took a tiny sip. My whole face smiled as I remembered the last time I had this coffee.

"That good? You're face is going to stay like that if you keep smiling like that." Kitty tapped my nose and lips, smiling back at me.

"I haven't been to Elanith in forever," I said.

"Is that in Canada?" she asked.

"You need to drink, too," I said.

As I spoke she gently picked up the cup and sniffed it again.

"Trust me," I repeated.

She sipped the Diamonddraught and let out a deep, deep breath. Relief spread across her face. Although I had made her laugh and smile several times that morning, the creases of pain had let go of her forehead, dispelled by the giant's drink.

"Sir, the dice have been cast. Tell me your option." Elder Bruegel said. Funny, he had approached silently this time. It struck me as mysterious, the boots were gone, replaced by pointed shoes. A minor mystery I guess, because there was never any explanation.

I opened the menu and looked at it. It was blank but for one glowing line. I nodded at the option and it seemed fitting. Before I read it back to him, I asked a question.

"Elder Bruegel. Peter, sir. What is this place?"

"This is the Temple of The High-backed Booth. It is the place where one goes when one does not know what campaign they are on. It is the starting place of many adventures. But for people such as you, it is a resting place between adventures. As you know, at the level you two have attained, there is no magic and no miracles, but the ones you make. It is time for you to read me your selection," Elder Bruegel said.

Reassured, I read to him from the table in the menu.

"Number 67-68. Scout. The Son of the Miller," I read. I was pretty sure that if I had counted, there would be have been forty-nine blank spaces around it.

"So your adventure begins. Do you know what it means and what you must do?" Elder Bruegel asked.

I nodded.

"Do I get to roll?" Kitty asked.

"No. Any number of casts may be made in The Temple of the High-back Booth, but you are bound together in life and in this adventure," he said.

Kitty did not look happy at all. She was very disappointed not to be allow to play.

"My lady, it is very well, it more than suffices. Have faith. Take a chance today, like you did when he asked your leave, years ago," he said.

We only had a moment to hold hands and exchange nervous glances before Elder Bruegel returned with our food. He placed a covered platter before each of us and handed me a small bundle. It was made of parchment and wrapped with a wax sealed ribbon. Inside, I could feel cool metal.

"Do you know what to do?" Bruegel asked.

"Yes. I do." I answered. Before he could leave, I asked him for a blessing.

"Tireless guardian on our way,
"Thou has kept us well this day,
"While we thank thee, we request,
"Care continued, pardon, Rest."

"Thank you, Elder," I said. "That was beautiful."

Kitty smiled at him and he excused himself. That was the last we saw of him.

"Oh! It's perfect!" she exclaimed. It was a plate of strawberries, chocolate, tiny muffins and jams. "What did you get?"

"Bread. Want some?" I asked, but I already knew the answer.

She nodded and I broke it into pieces to share. She slather them with jam and we ate together, sipping our drinks. Just like we did on our honeymoon at Disney. The little jars of jam even had little Winnie the Poohs and Piglets, just like the jars in Disney did in 2001. I glanced around, half expecting a castle view out the window, but there wasn't even a window. A Disney Honeymoon is fantasy and this was real life.

"Is that the bill?" Kitty asked as she tapped the small package.

"Its... a form of payment. We paid in advance, I guess you could say." I answered as best I could. "We have to run the message to receive the reward."

As we drove home, the rain abated. Everything seems so much lighter and not just the sky. We felt lighter inside.

I gave the package to my son Paul, the scout.

Kitty asked, "What is it?"

"I don't know. Will see when it is done," answered Paul. He ran off to his bedroom with Elder Bruegel message.

Later that night, long after bedtime, Paul was done.

"I never would have gotten into models and games, if it wasn't for you dad."

I smiled. "I said the same thing to my dad. Probably more than once."

"It's a windmill," he said.

"What does it mean?" my wife asked.

"I think it is a sign. Millers used to be a place where people went to negotiate, with the actual miller-man acting as the moderator. It's a good thing to be, kind of the linchpin of society." I said.

"I don't care about that. I would like any thing you brought for me," Paul said.

"He's my boy, through and through," said Kitty as she gave him a hug.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Another Unreview - Fat Goblin Games - Gnoll Artwork

As I mentioned before, I am working a OSR/AD&D character class for Gnolls. It's still a work in progress, I am slow has hell. I've never drawn a gnoll in my life, so it was time to get some artwork from someone else.

I made a DriveThruRPG purchase of Fat Goblin Games artwork. The publisher's name is rather longer than that: "Publisher's Choice Quality Stock Art Ⓒ Rick Hershey / Fat Goblin Games".

I hope I got the artist name correct, because this is fabulous artwork.

In my discovery process for using other people's work in my products, I read through the licensing agreement, something I haven't done in a very long time. The license is excellent, probably covering any thing you might want to do with the work. There are some restrictions, which are also well thought out and completely reasonable. You get exactly what appears in the preview and cover, at a much higher resolution and in .tiff file format. So, fear not when ordering. It's all good.

In looking at it the artwork, I realized something. It doesn't fit with my style at all. My work is rather low end, and to be honest, this artwork is way too good to be paired with my works. I won't be using as a style choice. I have no idea what I will do. However, I will be framing a copy of the Gnoll for my game area. It is a very nice piece, which will be very suitable for other, professional content producers. I'm a hobbyist, not a pro.

What I am really looking at is the subscription model. For less than $100, you can get a 100 images by Mr. Hershey. To be brutally honest, I have no need of such a stockpile of work, but I want it. I want it for no other reason that it looks great. Even if I only LOVED 1 in 10 image, that's a steal for a card sized mini-posters for the game room.

Even better than 100 images for less than 100 bucks, is his Patreon account. I totally missed this aspect of Fat Goblin Games and wouldn't have known about if Merciless Merchants over on MeWe hadn't pointed it out for me. Thank you, MeWe community!

I would request a minor update from Mr. Hershey. A second file with a signature. I know Fat Goblin Games is looking at a completely different model of business, but sometimes good artwork is simply to be appreciated and needs an artist's signature.

I'm not going to do my normal stat-block for this unreview, It's great stuff. I'll close with 5 of 5.

Sunday, October 20, 2019

52 Weeks of Magic - Item 31 - The Strap of Stamina and Strength

The first character to find this magic item will probably use it wrong. It is a toggle on a leather loop or strap. The character will notice that the leather loop will grow or shrink on command. The largest and small sizes are 6 inches and 2 feet. It sort of looks like a lanyard. If worn like a lanyard, the wearer will be immediately healed at a rate of 1 hp or whatever their constitution bonus is. This can happen once per week.

Some may think that it is a key chain, a necklace, a lanyard or other common device. It is obvious not a weapon but does hold power. 

It IS activated by being placed around the neck, but all humans and demi-humans are using it wrong if they wear it.

When placed around a dog's neck, the Strap of Stamina and Strength confers the following abilities: 
  • The dog will be granted maximum hit points for it's type. 
  • They will also grow to the maximum size for it's species or bred. 
  • The animal will gain human like intelligence, to a maximum of seven (3+1d4) 
  • The dog will be able to speak common, although it will speak only when it thinks it is necessary. 
  • The dog will become territorial and defend a specific person or area of it's choosing. This maybe rather nebulous to characters, such as all children, one woman, a house, a forest, a lake, etc. 
Additionally, the dog is able to regenerate 1 hit point per round to full health, once per week. This requires sleep. 

One of the side effects of The Strap of Stamina and Strength is the animal has free will and will not necessarily follow the person putting the device on the dog. For this reason, it cannot be placed on a familiar or animal companion. They will frustrate all efforts to be collared. 

Once an animal is collared with such a device, they will attack anyone who attempts to remove it. The Strap is all but indestructible once placed on the dog. The Strap will magically free a dog if a leash or lead is attached to the collar. The Strap will phase if it becomes stuck on a natural obstruction and remain with the dog. 

52 Weeks of Magic - Item 30 - Elven Firebeads

In my very first post for this series, Magic Lamps, I introduced the idea every day problems caused by magic. A magic lamp or a light spell doesn't throw heat. Back when we all lived in caves, we probably needed light more than heat. However, knowing you can make both is great.

This magic item is very common in the elven lands in the Peninsula of Plenty campaign. The first elves in the land were unwilling to cut down trees and as a consequence, used magic for lighting. This was not helpful when they were hit by particularly cool monsoons. The Peninsula doesn't often receive snow outside of the mountains, so when it started falling right after the cold monsoon season, the elves were in trouble. If they had wanted to collect wood, it was too late to identify the best wood and proper kindling. The first attempt at a colony on the Peninsula retreated across the sea because of the lack of fire.

Thus the need for Firebeads were born. Firebeads look very much like prayer beads. To make them function, the user pulls a bead off the end, cups it in their hands like an ember and blows on it. The bead will warm, then burn like kindling for two hours. The beads have an affinity for earth and ash. They will roll up to 3 feet towards earth and ash, even up hill. A typical set of firebeads will have 52 beads with one large bead or toggle at the end to serve as a handle.
Empire to the left, Elven lands to the right.

In the elven lands, every household and every traveler will have one of these sets. In the human lands, they are highly prized treasures as they have not found a way to reproduce the magic. Creating such an item requires both a magic user and a cleric working in tandem.

Firebeads are interesting in the fact that they are a magical consumer product. They can burn homes down and they can inflict a point of damage, but only in highly contrived scenarios. For the most part, they are totally safe.

While totally common in the elven lands, they are a novel and highly prized commodity in the Empire. Most Elven-Human treaties involve the trade of Firebeads for Verbena, a powerful healing herb. These products are used to seal deals because they cannot be used as a weapon.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

52 Weeks of Magic - Item 29 - The Witch's Staff

A witch's staff is empowered by contact with owner. It is a personal magic weapon, which cannot be wielded by anyone other than the mage, while the owner lives. If the owner passes, the staff will attempt to reach their next closest family member. Failing that, it may pass into the hands of a dear friend.

The staff has several benefits. First, it improves the wizards night vision, so they may see and read more easily at night. It is more like low light vision than infra or ultravision. There must be some source of light, even if it is starlight. Second, it confers a bonus of one to the mage's Dex bonus, allowing a +1 even if they do not possess an ability score high enough for a Dex bonus. If the mage isn't entitled to use their Dex bonus, they lose this bonus, too. The witch's staff is a +1 weapon that will inflict 1d4+1 in melee or release a dart of energy up to 20 feet for 1d3 points of damage. The dart of energy is a once per round effect, they do not gain more darts per level, nor can the darts be fired as fast a mage could throw a physical dart. The mage may not swing and fire a dart in the same round. 1d4+1 and 1d3 are not typos. This is the cost of having a staff that does multiple things. If the mage is reduced to 4 hit points or less, the staff will heal them for one hit point a day, in addition to any natural healing. If the mage is tied up and is in contact with the staff, the staff will cause ALL knots within 10 to 60 feet (1d6x10) to unravel, freeing the mage and possibly others. It will do this at the time of the mage's choosing. It can and will unravel the knots on clothing, shoes, armor, nets, etc. and this function is all or nothing. It is not selective.

There are dangers to creating or owning a staff like this. If someone grabs the staff from the mage's hands, it will sting them for 1d4+1 points of damage and they will let go. The mage may swing at them in the same round. If the staff is left someplace and someone touches it, it will sting for 1d2 point damage. If the person persists in their efforts to pick up the staff, it will "bite" them for 2d4+2 points of damage. The wound will actually look like an animal bite, even though the staff has no teeth or mouth-like structure. This is normally fatal to average people and the law may take the staff owner to task over this. A person who is bit by the staff and survives will not willing enter line of sight of the staff ever again. The staff will not bite or sting animals, family members or dear friends.

The wielder of such an item cannot be multi-classed or duo classed, EVER. The witch's staff will not accept them and will not reveal any powers to such a person.

Domesticated animals, even hostile ones, cannot be harmed by the staff even if swung at them. If detected for, the staff has an alignment of true neutral. This has no bearing on the mage's alignment or their ability to use it. It's a tool.

Owning a witch's staff will reduce the wielder's hit points by one per level. A third level mage will have a max hit points of 9, plus a Constitution bonus, if any. If the staff is lost, destroyed, etc. the hp loss is permanent. Replacing the staff with second staff will drain an additional 1 hp per level from the mage. A third will do the same, leaving the mage with but 1 hp per level. Taking up a fourth staff will transform the mage into a green slime, even if they had a Constitution bonus or some other magical means of boosting their hp over 1d4 per level. They cannot be resurrected or reincarnated, as they aren't dead. Nothing short of a wish will allow them to recover. If wished back into their normal form, they will be unable to wield a Witch's Staff.

This weapon was designed for old school D&D and AD&D campaigns, but should be usable in other systems. The terms "witch" and "mage" has been used throughout so that users could be an actual witch, an illusionist or a magic user. It is not appropriate for druids and clerics.

This magic item steals heavily from R. A. MacAvoy's Damiano Series of books.

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Wednesday, October 16, 2019

AD&D Spell Magic User - Aware Air

Aware Air

Level: 3                                                                                                    Components: V, S, M
Range: 0                                                                                                   Casting time: 1 segments
Duration: 6 rounds                                                                                 Saving Throw: None
Area of Effect: 36"

Being caught in melee is an occupational hazard for magic users. Aware Air gives the spell caster a supernatural ability to track threats out to 36" (360 feet indoors, 360 yards outdoors). Casting the spell takes but a single segment, but precludes attacks and other magic for the round of casting and the next round.

Aware Air will alert the magic user to moving targets in a 360 degree sphere, regardless of line of sight or illumination. This awareness gives them a bonus of 1 to AC and also means that moving targets cannot flank or sneak up behind them, even if hiding or invisible. They can't see details of the invisible person, only the fact that something is there. The spell will give the caster a bonus of 1 against illusions as it is one more point of data to allow them to disbelieve it.

The caster is aware of trees, bushes, etc. moving in the wind but will filter them out as non-threats. If the caster is in a body of water, they can only see above the surface. Moving liquids are opaque to this spell. Casting this spell underwater is ineffective, however it will create a sphere of airy water for two rounds before dissipating, out to 36". 

The caster is NOT aware of non-moving targets. They cannot see barriers, meaning there could be a wall between them and the tracked target. In respect to flanking and backstabbing, if the enemy is already in position, within reach to attack and motionless, the mage will NOT see it coming. They do keep the bonus to AC. Likewise, the spell doesn't reveal traps because they typically don't move until sprung.

Creatures that teleport cause the caster duress, they will jumps-startle when something teleports within the sphere of the spell. This completely breaks their concentration. Blink dogs are particularly distressing. When fighting Displacer Beasts, the mage will see two copies of the creature and will be unable to detect which is real until someone either makes or fails a strike on the beast. If an Air Elemental is within the range of the spell, it will be the ONLY target tracked. Air Elementals in range of the spell can speak directly to the caster, as if they are whispering in their ear.

If the caster moves faster than a jog, they can only detect targets to their front and in their path of travel. If the caster stops running, the spell becomes a spherical effect again.

The material component is a feather plucked from a living bird. Found feathers do not count.

Never, Ever Do I Ever... Horses, Drownings and First Aid.

I never let my characters have a skill called "horsemanship", "swimming" or "first aid". Know why? Killing a player because they don't have these skills is painful. Boring. Nothing is worse than being in bored and in pain. I wrote a book just for that reason. 

If a player wants to role play that they can't ride a horse, the other players can cart him around like a bag of oats. No need for silly rolls. I'm not prepping a campaign for players where one of them wants to die of a horseshoe to the face.

How hard it is it to jump in the ocean in a full set of plate armor, shield and sword? Super easy. Why roll? It's obvious as to what happens next.

One time, I amused myself with this very scenario by having the player to roll a four to succeed. As an epic battle of life and death raged around him, he was the only person not in on the joke.

"No... you're still aliv- er, hanging in there... keep rolling..."

I have this rule that characters aren't dead until they hit -10 hp and once you hit zero or less, you lose one point per round. Anyone attending to that character stops to the hit point drop. It creates an interesting scenario where the wizard drops to -4 hp, and all the way down to -7 before the cleric hits him with a cure light wounds for 4 points leaving them at -3 until they heal naturally. It's a couple of days before the wizard wakes up.

No need to screw any of the characters by telling them the medic couldn't figure out the arrow was the problem due to a bad roll. This is realistic for some reasons and total BS for others. In the Middle Ages, if you didn't respond to treatment, they'd bleed you. Save vs. Barber? No thanks.

Why do this? Because I like to reuse bad guys. A dude with a club isn't assured of killing someone with it unless they beat that person downed and beyond. If THAT doesn't occur to the players, well, I can be lazy with their enemies and they can have endless rematches with opponents. My NPCs can have names.

Which is more legendary, beating someone to death in a dark, dank, dungeon or having a horde of people who refuse to fight you because they don't want to be whupped again, third time this month? 

In my last aborted campaign, the "heroes" hacked apart 4 raiders that wouldn't surrender and took two captive. The captives were obviously intimidated by the PC's bloodthirsty treatment of their friends. Although the campaign ended, one of the players put two and two together and realized that the prisoners were the ones responsible for most... actually all of the raiding parties kills in the village. The 4 guys killed were a patrol that didn't mix it up with anyone. They let the wrong people live.

Trust me, that would have come back to haunt the party.

The lesson is, don't give people stupid skills.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

#Inktober2019 collision - D&D meets Ink

This is an inktober2019 collision. I've been working on a map of a Roman themed city called Nace for a D&D campaign. The characters found a villa, but I really didn't have any idea of what it looked like. 

I tried a couple of sketches and mostly liked the results. I don't know why my scanner is clipping the edge. If I get time, I will update these scans.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Update for Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners!

Send out the criers and the messengers. Have the herald hoist the flag. Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners has been updated with several new classes, some campaign notes from history, and many rewritten sections for clarity.

Ever wonder what the difference was between a papermaker and a parchminer? How about a leather worker, a lorimer and a tanner? What is ostracon? What is the difference between amate and papyrus? All updated to answer your questions.

I was thinking of holding off on this until November, but had the chance to get things done this week.

Everyone who purchased the old product can download the new product from their Library on DriveThruRPG.

If you haven't looked at Zero to Hero: Uncommon Commoners, let me tell you what it is and is not. In B/X and AD&D, characters were permitted professional skills to supplement their backgrounds, with nary a word on what those skills would be or how they would work. After decades of play and having my players want to have useful and memorable NPCs or codified professional skills, I wrote a set of rules to outline many common professions in historical times.

This expands in the information from D&D and AD&D, in a way that is very different than "skills" or "feats". Each commoner class member can advance up to 5 levels, from apprentice to master with hard work. Level determines the ease of success when operating as a professional class. Each class has distinct tools and skills, and where crossover exists, I have explained how these characters would work, while leaving the rules open to interpretation so they can fit into any D&D or AD&D campaign. 

There is commentary on economies, hiring, firing and all other aspects of gaining skilled tradesmen. Make no mistake, these are not alternate adventurer classes, they supplement the player characters, not replace them. It is not a sieve or character filter. In fact, this rule set can rescue hopeless characters and save you time at character generation.

It also answers some age old dilemmas about who can do what and why.

Price at PWYW, this rule set can enhance your campaign. Go ahead, give it a try.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

AD&D to 3.5 and Beyond. What Alignment to Be When You Can't Decide?

Picking an alignment can be difficult if you game style revolves around roleplay. Many of the alignments have a certain give and take within them which causes ethical dilemmas... except one.

Neutral Evil, by the definitions in the book, doesn't really contemplate ethics. The Neutral Evil character doesn't really debate ethics, they debate outcomes. They want what they want and they know how to get it.

Neutral Evil people are evil because they are selfish and see the world as an evil place. Why not do what you like?

Most well adjusted people look at evil characters with trepidation. Evil for the sake of evil is bad. However, when it comes to party dynamics, the Neutral Evil character seems to be the most stable. They are always up to the same old crap, only the prizes changing. What is interesting about this is they want stuff for themselves, they are not necessarily there to cause problems. Especially when a problem interferes with obtaining an objective.

The classic Neutral Evil move is to cause conflict in others. "Am I really going along with this?" Why, yes. You are.  Neutral Evil characters are somewhat the core of the parties ethics. They see an objective, they get the objective. But by causing these ethical conundrums within the party, they do some arm twisting while also turning their own tactics on their head.

If a Neutral Evil character knew that they could have an amazing, priceless tool they would want to have it. If it meant donating a 100, 1,000 or even 10,000 gold pieces to a lawful good temple, they'd weigh the cost of killing everyone in their way, then fork over the money. Who cares if they just funded an orphanage, they got some great out of the bargain. Neutral Evil characters believe the world is evil, so backing a good cause is a meaningless thing to do because they believe it will end poorly. It's aligned with what they believe. They don't have to try to pay evil unto evil, because they really think everything is evil, all choices are selfish in the long run. 

Neutral Evils are sort of suckers, while they imagine that everyone else is the fool. Within the group, they have a tendency of currying favor to get what they want. They might be the person healing every day or handing out potions of healing to make sure they, themselves, don't die. They might forego some immediate benefit because it serves the cause of getting something better later. And they tend to drag the party with them.

By picking the path of Neutral Evil, you have reduced your character's complexity and dropped that dynamic in someone else's lap. The paladin, ooo, he hates you for being right so often.

Remember, people want to believe things are relative. Sometimes they are not. You don't have to be some axe-crazed killer to be evil. You can be an affable, kind person with some really bad habits and goals. This is the role of Neutral Evil. They think, plot and plan to get the most out of any situation, which is oddly exactly what the rest of the party, regardless of alignment are probably doing.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Fighter, Cleric, Monk, Swashbuckler

I wrote up a character class for D&D and AD&D for Swashbucklers. What the heck is a Swashbuckler?

They are fighting men who have come down from on high to lead the masses of little people in the trenches. They are trained in sword fighting. Swashbucklers name their swords, their daggers and their junk. They like to drink and have high society type parties, even if they are not of that social standing. They might have tattoos of Payton the Runner, Pele the Asskicker, or other famous fighters on their person. They can dance around in combat, picking and poking people left and right, without killing anything. They can't be flanked or backstabbed when dancing about like this, nor can magic users concentrate when in close quarters with them.

In fact, the only way they can kill is by rolling a natural 20, monologuing for bit and if the person doesn't run away or surrender during "The Talk", they will stab them through the heart for double damage. On the off-chance they are forced to use lethal combat, they fight like thieves and clerics, without the backstabbing, heavy armor and magic.

So how does that compare to Clerics, Fighters, and Monks? Let's join the conversation, shall we?

Fighter: All that junk you do?
Swashbuckler: Yeah, pretty great uh?
Fighter: No, it's called sparring.
Swashbuckler: Really? That sounds like fighting words.
Fighter: No. Fighting words are said at the funeral. Better if they can't talk back.
Cleric: Both of you need to come to church.
Swashbuckler: Alleluia, brother!
Cleric: I'm a woman and I follow Kos. So, no on both accounts.
Fighter: Have you ever been on campaign?
Swashbuckler: I think so, was there booze?
Fighter: No, only watery ale and roasted smeerp. The ones with the 9 tentacles, not the ones with funny ears.
Swashbuckler: Sounds dreadful.
Fighter: Have you ever eaten iron rations?
Monk: Yes. I eat food, I just don't enjoy it.
Swashbuckler: So, brutha, what do you think of my moves? Pretty great, right?
Monk: It's all kabuki.
Fighter and cleric: Snort.
Monk: See this thumb? This one, not the other one.
Swashbuckler: Yeah?
Monk: This one goes in your eye and the other goes in your bum. Then I kill you.
Swashbuckler: How uncivilized.
Cleric: It's all relative.
Swashbuckler: You get it sister, we don't draw blood until we have to.
Cleric: Have you ever seen a flail?
Fighter and Monk: Snort.
Swashbuckler: I think the important thing is, we are all different and have our places in the world.
Fighter, Monk and Cleric: Chuckle.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

AD&D Druid Spell: Arclight

In the campaign Peninsula of Plenty, the City of Nace is a fair city. As a fair city, travelers from far and wide come to purchase things that otherwise cannot be found. The main products sold are magical plants and herbs for the creation of healing and restorative potions. Some of these plants can also be used to make high quality inks for mundane and magical scrolls.

The garden where these plants grow has been magicked to allow production all year round. Since the gardens are very nearly in the center of the city and have virtually zero physical defenses, the druids, clerics and magic users who tend the garden need special eldritch defenses.

Typically, druids answer the call as frontline defenders, their magic is more subtle than magic users and clerics. However this is a general guideline, not the rule. The druids of Nace have developed a devastating area of effect spell, which does not damage the garden. They do not know the term "upward leader lightning", but they do know how to make lightning jump from the ground, through a target and into the sky. They call this Arclight.


Level: 6                                                                                                    Components: V, S, M
Range: 0                                                                                                   Casting time: 2 segments
Duration: Instant                                                                                      Saving Throw: Special
Area of Effect: 10 yards

Arclight is a powerful spell which will cause a lightning stroke to leap from the ground below a target and into the sky. This spell is an area effect spell which is targeted on the ground below the target and does not move with the target. The spell has two damaging mechanisms, both allows a saving throw.

In the first segment of casting, a powerful electric charge forms below the target. They will sense this by the heating of their body, a corona around metal objects and a crackling sound. All creatures in the area of effect are entitled to a save vs spells. If successful, the target(s) flings themselves out of the target area taking 1d3 points of damage. They are stunned for one round and are prone. If unsuccessful, the target freezes taking no damage.

In the second segment of casting, the lightning discharges. Victims in the area of effect take 6d6 points of damage. A second saving throw halves the damage. If the victim doesn't die, they are stunned for 1d6 rounds.

If a person in the target area is flying, they can escape with no damage if they make the first saving throw. If they are forced to make the second saving throw, they will also fall out of the sky due to being stunned. This is typically a graceful wallowing, not a plunge and inflicts no more damage.

Levitation provides no protection from this spell, in fact, it will disallow ALL saving throws, period.

If a target normally or magically has the ability to leap, bound or stride great distances, they are entitled to a +2 to each save. This is normally limited to haste and jump spells, boots of striding and leaping or other items available in your campaign setting.

Since the boundary of the area is not visible, mechanically speaking, someone sprinting will be unlikely to be in the area of effect, unless they are incredibly unlucky. It is very difficult to target a runner, but it is possible to cast at an empty area and hope someone will run into it. This requires great timing, there is no roll for this. The DM should give the target the benefit of the doubt, either adding a good bonus to a save or declaring that they crossed the area too fast to be caught in the spell. It is possible to measure out the movement, but really is too complex for fast play. It could be described for dramatic purposes.

If a person standing on the edge of the area attempts to push someone back into the area they are escaping, contact with the victim will cause them to suffer the same fate as the person pushed. They are not entitled to any saving throw, they take the exact same damage as the victim. This is the price of being a jerk.

This spell does not damage non-living things, however it will damage undead. It does not cause flammable items to burst into flames, unless the DM rules that it does.

Additionally, if the caster attempts put themselves in the area of effect, the caster receive no saving throws at all and the damage will be a full and flat 36 points.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

AD&D Druid Spell - Bolt from the Blue

In my campaign, the druids of the City of Nace need an offensive spell that does not damage property. Bolt from the Blue is it. The Gardens contain many magical crops used by the Empire. Due to the healing nature of these items and the unique environment required for the plants, the Empire uses them as a both a good will item and a soak for their enemies.

The Empire is often on the edge of war with both the Dwarves and Elves. These products allow the Empire to bribe off their opponents with magic or sell them at a premium to the same to divert funds away from the war machine. The Elves and Dwarves use the price of said items as a means of measuring the Empire's war drive. Low prices tend to indicate the Empire is NOT willing to be aggressive and may be facing some sort of other threat. The Dwarves have no comparable magic, while the Elves do. Cost of shipping from the Elven homeland makes the human Empire's market work.

Bolt from the Blue

Level: 5                                                                                                    Components: V, S, M
Range: 0                                                                                                   Casting time: One segment
Duration: Instant                                                                                      Saving Throw: Special
Area of Effect: One creature

Bolt from the Blue is a precision lightning spell, which only hits one target. It can only be cast outside and requires no visible storm or cloud. A bolt of lightning streaks to the target, almost horizontally from the horizon. The bolt will avoid all other objects and creatures to strike the target. It will not damage non-living items, however, it can be used on the undead.

The bolt does 2d12 and will stun, deafen and blind a creature for 1d6 rounds. If the victim makes a saving throw, they take half damage and are only stunned deafened and blinded for 1d3 rounds. Each one of these effects has a separate duration, so someone could be stunned for a round, deafened for three and blinded for 6 rounds. All durations start at the moment of the strike and run concurrently. There is a chance that someone will be stunned longer than they are blinded, rendering that status moot.

Additionally, if a saving throw is made, the target will have at least one hit point left. It is an excellent and humbling negotiation tactic.

The spell has an odd side effect on other spells and casters. The bolt causes short term memory loss. If a spell caster is struck while preparing a spell, they do not lose the spell. The caster forgets that they ever made the attempt to cast whatever spell they had in mind and can attempt to cast it again. If someone struck is subject to a charm like effect, and they survive the strike, they are immediately allowed a saving throw vs. that charm. If a character is wielding a cursed weapon is struck, there is a 50-50 chance that they will drop it and have the presence of mind NOT to pick it back up. This is a single roll, not two rolls.