1 × Long Bow (1d6) or
Thursday, January 5, 2023
1 × Long Bow (1d6) or
Wednesday, January 4, 2023
I'm a day behind in my #charactercreationchallenge. I'll have to catch up and skimp on my goal to have a useful image in each post.
In many of my campaigns, I use Assassins as soldiers. The reason for this is that assassins have valuable military skills for recon. While OSE doesn't specifically list spying as one of their abilities, their skill set supports it.
Meet Ormonde, a nicely named soldier-assassin.
Level 3 Assassin
Armour Class 5  (leather)
Hit Points 11
1 × crossbow (1d6)
1 x sling (1d6)
1 x short sword (1d6)
THAC0 19 
Movement Rate 90' (30')
Saves D13 W14 P13 B16 S15
STR 9 INT 13 WIS 12
DEX 17 CON 12 CHA 16
Items: Beastiary, country map, journal, papyrus, ink, 3 quills, knife, map case, lamp, oil flasks x3, sarcina, bed roll, trinket bag, 5 days of rations, 24 bolts, 2 potions of healing, 1 potion of giant strength, 2 potions of diminution, 6 potion vials of rum (non-magical), a small net bag, 100 gold pieces.
Ormonde is a veteran of many campaigns but has never progressed in the ranks. That has not held him back, he loves army life. Very often he is paired with a new lieutenant or unit of green troops. He has a special ability to teach the troops to campaign. He had a very hard time as a recruit due to his lack of strength and constitution. Often mocked, he was able to turn this around by putting his other skills to use. He was a master of collecting gossip and scuttlebutt, which he offered to his superiors and peers usually for a price but sometimes for free.
When things got rough, he can calm and soothe the troops. Many nights around the campfire, he would pen letters home for the new recruits or tell stories of fantastic (and funny) beasts. Ormonde has a funny map that doesn't seem to be useful for anything but telling tall tales. He has a trinket bag full of lucky charms, orisons of hope, and boozy potions of courage. Most of his "rations" fall under the category of welcome and surprising treats like dates and other dried fruits. Items that can be soaked in booze or poison or nothing at all.
Everything about him screams Bard, except for the whispers of things that happen in the dark. Ormonde uses his other abilities to make dangerous and foolish people disappear. He will do anything to keep his warband safe.
He is often elected or volun-told to travel with rookie troops and smooth out any mistakes or poor choices by the officers or the troops, one way or another. These special assignments require payment in gold to ensure what is desired by the officer or peer happens. Much to his credit, the vast majority of newbies return home with more skill and respect for the institution of soldiering than those who don't return. He is known and highly valued by a select number of veterans and officers in the army.
He is a savvy assassin. His sling remains hidden until needed either as intended or as a garrot. Ormonde will lend his crossbow out for hunting and take the time to teach how to ambush prey. He is a terrifyingly good shot, which is often more the point than hunting.
Ormonde is also careful to explain his potions to his peers, so as not to be mistaken for a poisoner. Many times he uses his potions on others in creative ways. Usually, the drinker is willing in the case of healing. On other occasions, he will dose someone with a potion of diminution before putting them in a net bag until they learn some important facet of soldiering or command. Other times, he will drink the potion himself to gain access to places he normally couldn't reach.
There is one famous tale about Ormonde which is usually told around the campfire. Ormonde and three young soldiers were cornered and almost captured behind enemy lines. He dressed in a dirty sack and gave his charges the Diminution potions before placing them in another dirty sack. He brazenly walked through several enemy checkpoints, offering to sell his bag of chickens to various officers and sergeants. He was kicked, knocked down, and punched so many times, it took him a month to look and walk like himself again, but he and his men escaped. Those three men are generals now, but cluck when he calls them "his chickens".
Sunday, January 1, 2023
Since I have gone all in on Old School Essentials, I decided to start with a long-time AD&D character that I converted to OSE. His name is Magarven and he is a 9th-level Drow. I think I have uploaded an image of his stats, but I have adjusted them to be more in line with my current campaign.
Long ago, The Demon Core played a part in creating the world as it is now. The Earth of Old fell, in part due to the force of and like The Demon Core.
"They brought The Demon Core, blood hexes, and shells.
“Desperation rose within us, fanned by orisons, curses, and automatic fire.
"You tell them we stood.
Lolth knew that no mortal should possess such terrible power. Magarven had already plumbed The Demon Core's power and was going to give it to her. All 23 kilotons of nuclear death so he could rise to take her place. There was a brief conflict as Lolth brought all her powers against Magarven, even going so far as to invoke the Weavers of Fate to erase Magarven from existence.
Saturday, December 31, 2022
1. Bandits, 3d4 appearing.
2. Sheep, 3d6 appearing.
3. Giant Ants, 2d6 appearing.
4. Ranger, 1 appearing.
5. Troll, 1 appearing.
6. Kobolds*, 3-6 appearing.
7. Mountain Goats, 2d4 appearing.
8. Mage*, 1 appearing.
9. Wild Horses, 1d4 appearing.
10. Wolves, 2d4 appearing.
Infi, I seem to be butting my head up against the concept of Random this week. I randomly rolled the number 3 several times too many. This is a rookie DM mistake and I shouldn't be a rookie DM 40 years in. Giant ants are far too imposing for 1st level characters to encounter.
I'm equally a willy player and a willy DM, so I tried to make it work. Time was not on the PC's side, they have limited food and no capacity to heal magically. But they had other resources.
In the first encounter, they faced 7 Giant Ants in an abandoned mansion. This played well as the party was naturally in 3 small groups with cover and the ants needed to advance on their positions. The Fighter, Halfling, and Elf all had bows while the Clerics had slings. The third group was the Magic-User and Thief with only melee weapons and spells. The MU cast light, drawing the first group of ants towards them.
|A halfling with a bow.|
This worked well except for the expenditure of arrows. This came back to hurt the party the next time.
The party realized that the Thief was a better shot than the Fighter, so the bow was handed over.
In the next combat, they encounter 4 ants in an alleyway. They downed all four ants in a hail of stones and arrows but lost one Cleric in the process. The party was also down just a handful of arrows. This is where slings shine as you can use any old rock as a missile. The party was dismayed when they returned to the mansion and the alleyway to recover arrows. They found the ones that missed their targets, but the ants carried off their dead, arrows and all.
Later, the Party got bushwacked on a city street when the ants caught them again. The Fighter went down after a quick exchange of swings with the lead ant. The Halfling, Elf, and Thief took off to get a better angle on the Ants while the Magic-User and Cleric saved the day. The MU had an oil lamp in his hands and hit an ant on the first try, setting it on fire. The Cleric tossed a flask on the ant to finish the job. By now arrows were raining down. The party managed to kill five ants between missile fire and oil, but the Elf and Halfling were horribly wounded and the Fighter was dead.
The party limped back home. The party was down by a lot: 3 characters dead, 2 injured badly.
They made one final foray, trying to make for the walls to get the heck out of this place. They were armed with torches and oil as they were out of arrows. They had one final encounter with 5 ants which was overwhelming despite the arsonist's mentality. Only the Thief and the last Cleric made it back to the fountain.
The thing I like about this scenario is the mad card-playing Game Master randomly teleporting in new characters. I think this town has hopes as a good play environment so I want to keep it going. The petty little card cheater has unloaded another batch of heroes: a Half-Elf, a Paladin, a Cleric, a Fighter, a Thief, and a Magic User. Third level this time with a bunch of magic and good gear. Of course, I used the random Character Generator (Retainers), so all I need to do is name the party members.
This post naturally leads to tomorrow's post about taking stock of my personal goals for the next year.
Sunday, December 25, 2022
And... it immediately became obvious why this was missing. The original DMG was super weird about it and since OSE has many more character types, the whole thing goes sideways quickly.
In the DMG, page 175 has a breakdown of an NPC for encounters of all dungeon levels. It lists all of the characters in almost alphabetical order and assigns a chance percentage to each. The table assigns a value of 9 for total party size and of those nine, 2-5 are classed characters. The remaining men are henchmen or men-at-arms.
I love this quick table so I want one for OSE and I guess that means making one myself. I like it.
But there is a hitch. The basic rules don't match my DMG because it has races as classes. Looking at the DMG does provide some guidance. It's ordered by class with subclasses appearing next. The table clearly shows that Fighters should be the most numerous characters in a party, followed by Magic Users, Clerics, and finally Thieves. All other classes have a tiny chance of appearing, between 1 and 3% each.
But I am working with race as a class so there are no subtypes. There are a couple of ways to get a good list. If simply ballpark the numbers, a party should look like this:
4 Fighters + 2 Magic Users + less than 2 Clerics + 1 Theif. Every other type has a tiny chance of appearing. Hmm, that is rather odd, but I can make it work.
Instead of using the named class as a grouping, I am going to use my Pure, Square, and Semi models. A pure is someone who uses only uses magic to get stuff done. A Square is just like a Pure, but they use their muscle instead of skills or magic. Semis are someplace in between, using magic to supplement their skills or strength. Restating class as type, I end up with:
5 Squares + 2 Pures + 2 Semi, all classes/races appear as one of these three classifications. This is interesting because it equates Thieves and Fighters, and separates Clerics from Magic Users from them. It is different but also allows Clerics to meet the standard of a "Fighting-man" while still being magical.
Basic OSE has Cleric, Dwarf, Elf, Fighter, Halfling, Magic-User, and Thief. I would group them like this with the following breakdown:
5 Squares: Dwarf, Fighter, Halfling, and Theif,
2 Pure: Magic-User
2 Semi: Cleric, Elf.
That looks nice. I would order my list like this:
For Advanced OSE with race as class, we end up with a different list.
5 Squares: Acrobat, Assassin, Duergar, Dwarf, Fighter, Half-Elf, Half-Orc, Halfling, Knight, Theif, and Svirfneblin.
2 Pure: Magic-User, Illusionist,
2 Semi: Barbian, Bard, Cleric, Drow, Druid, Elf, Gnome, Paladin, and Ranger.
Before assigning percentages, we'll create the same list with race as the class removed. It's easier to edit that way:
5 Squares: Acrobat, Assassin, Fighter, Knight, and Theif.
2 Pure: Magic-User, Illusionist,
2 Semi: Barbian, Bard, Cleric, Druid, Paladin, and Ranger.
This one honors the original DMG list, but weakens both races and healing magic. I really had to mess with the numbers and it needs to be adjusted to specific campaigns. In my campaign, Half-Elfs are the default race while Half-Orcs and Drow are exceedingly rare. Those last two are literally 1 in 10,000 for NPCs. So, could totally monkey with the specific percentages. It's a good starting point for random NPC but bad for pretty much every individual campaign world.
The second list breaks down a little nicer than the first:
And ultimately, I want the second list to generate some characters. So I roll a 2+1 for total of three characters. 77, 58, and 47
We'll meet these three new characters in my next post. In the meantime, I have put together a couple of downloadable. The documents contain the lists above, plus a blank duplicate so you may enter your own probabilities. The 8.5x11 and A4 are two-column layouts and the A5 is just a single column as a Google doc. If you prefer, I have them in PDF, 8.5x11, A4, and A5.
Tuesday, December 20, 2022
Saturday, December 17, 2022
I started working with Worldographer to flesh out the town the characters are exploring.
Before the town was abandoned, it was home to 2,500-3,000 people.
The characters have explored all of the buildings around the fountain and tree. The three structures along the northern east-west road are 2 homes and a tailor's shop. The tailor's shop is interesting as the owner had a setup to dye cloth.
The Party spotted horses and sheep around the barn just across the way. From the barn, they recovered a couple of large lanterns. The well in the northwest corner is in good working order and doesn't taste brackish like the fountain. The remaining buildings in this section are homes, which the Party skipped over.
To the south, the Party bypassed the mansion. Every time they enter, the ants appear. I didn't place a ruined structure on the map yet. The roof is intact and that is just one more dimension for the ants to use in an ambush. The Party briefly consider burning it down but restrain itself.
Directly across the street from the mansion is a blacksmith shop with nice a wagon out front. Inside the shop, they discover iron and silver ingots in addition to many weapons and tools. The Party returns to the general store to recover their supplies and bedding from the apartment. The blacksmith shop has an open floorplan which suits the Party's needs better than the shop. As the sun sets, the group takes some time to bring water from the well to their new indoor campsite.
I might have time to explore more tomorrow.
Thursday, December 15, 2022
3. If they need to flee, there is a hole in the fountain.
Thursday, December 8, 2022
|Facial hair is impressive, |
but does not
contribute to defenses
What I do is slightly different. I offer damage reduction based on how low the AC is, to a practical limit of AC 2 for non-magical armor.
The AC scale is 9 to 2 for damage reduction.
AC 9 - No armor, no damage reduction.
AC 8 - Only a shield, no damage reduction.
AC 7 - Leather armor, -1 to damage.
AC 6 - Leather armor + shield, -1 to damage.
AC 5 - Chainmail, -2 to damage
AC 4 - Chainmail + shield, -2 to damage
AC 3 - Plate armor, -3 to damage
AC 2 - Plate armor + shield, -3 to damage
AC 1 or lower, no further damage reduction except for magical armors which can reduce damage to -4.
The damage reduction is a property and advantage of armor over speed, toughness and/or magic properties. A wolf or dragon does not receive a damage reduction because they probably don't have armor. An orc or horse in armor or barding does receive damage reduction.
|Wearing all of the armor|
helps a lot.
There are two weapons that are unaffected by this reduction - Long Bows and Crossbows. These arrows and bolts have so much mechanical advantage they simply won't bounce. They do skip off angled bits which is represented by a poor damage roll, not the quality of armor.
There are two corollary rules to this.
Each type of armor is made up of the lesser armor types. What this means is, chainmail is made up of a layer of leather armor plus the mail. Plate armor is composed of chainmail and leather. The end result is, your character's investment in an expensive suit of armor means you also have a functional lesser suit of armor in addition to the full set. Plate armor can be worn as plate, chain, or just leather. Also, you can save time by only suiting up to your comfort level. This can also come into play for retainers and followers, giving a soldier an ability to suit up in layers quickly.
There are many stories where the hero only suits up to the first layer and fights to defend his page or squire as they suit up. This injects a bit of drama and heroism.
Harald Hardrada's troops got caught wandering without their mail shirts but were also completely surprised by a massive army bearing down on them with no warning.
Several times gladiators were pressed into service as soldiers in the Empire's legions. It could go either way. In the Year of the Four Emperors, the gladiators had the advantage of the heaviest armor but made a poor showing when thrust into traditional set-piece battles. However, in urban settings, they were dangerous in combat. Later, Marcus Aurelius pressed gladiators into the role of soldiers. The Empire was decimated by a plague so there was no lack of legionnaire standard armor for them. Or they served in a role where armor wasn't a factor.
Numerous times, the legionaries got ambushed while wearing only their tunics but were holding heavy pickaxes and turf cutters. They destroyed heavily armored enemies. If there was one thing legionaries were more practiced in than sword fighting, it was using tools to make camp.
|Even power armor has limits, |
say if your feet leave the ground
Back to the corollary rules for armor. I run with the idea that a person wearing armor is unencumbered in combat or movement until "one more thing" is added. Don't wear a backpack in armor. Don't walk in mud in armor. Don't let peasants jump on your back in armor. Don't get hit with a mancatcher or take a pilum to the shield. All of these will immediately encumber a character in armor in rather disastrous ways.
When reading through those examples of historical battles involving mismatched armors, the side that moved smartly won.
I have tried a couple of rounds of combat first level characters using the Old School Essential rules.. Damage reduction increases the loiter time of first level characters while not eliminating death. This is give combat an epic feel as one Fighter with 8 hp and plate armor can survive 1 good hit (more than 4 or 5 hp damage) or 2 average hits (3 or 4 hit points of damage) and a whole series of weak blows.
When facing heavier damage, say 2d8 hp from a serious bite, the same 8 hp Fighter (or Dwarf) in plate is more likely to survive due to damage reduction but is by no means assured of it. An average roll would be 9 hp of damage reduced by 3 leaving just 2 hp left. On the other hand, reducing 15 points of damage does nothing.
Wednesday, December 7, 2022
I'm watching Wednesday on Netflix. The second episode leads with the line:
Wednesday then shifts her opinion. To paraphrase, "if the things you know are weird, maybe you should lean into it." I like that. It comes up very often in role-playing games. Here is the odd thing, the DM or game master is trying to offer scenarios that make sense to the players, no matter who they are. Since the players don't know what the referee has in mind, things get weird.
For example, in my last post, I refused to say, "Solo Play". I know how some people will react to that phrase. When I shared the post, someone commented exactly as I expected even though I tried to avoid it. Such is the world of RPGs and social media. I tried to avoid the probable and walked right into it anyway. And this happens at the table, too.
Anyway, Wednesday is right. A game master and a player really don't know what is going to come of the words. Things are bound to get weird, so lean into it.
If you design things from the exclusively top down, you start with big topics and get smaller. The larger and more vague a topic is, the more likely that basic concepts will get skewed by the listener. My next project (recap - part 1, part 2) is being built top-down but the solo adventure I am running is in that world and is very bottom-level. Facts over concepts.
Well, let's look at the basic map in relation to what is happening. There are 3 buildings, a tree, and a fountain. Or more simply, it's a hub with spokes. The center of the hub is the fountain and stuff radiates out. The three buildings and the tree are the edges of the hub and the start of the spokes. It's designed like many cities and towns, and amusement parks. The mini-map is simple, familiar, and hard to get lost in. The reason for this is player and character comfort. They can forget mapping and wander for a bit.
The buildings are much the same way. The general store is very much like a free-standing market stall, the store in Little House on the Prarie, or any number of old buildings in a zillion cities around the world. The image makes itself, which is very player friendly. You don't have to see it to know it. The details build themselves.
Let me press on with the adventure for a moment. The players entered the shop to the east. It's a rug shop. The players checked it out and found nothing of interest. Until they tried to leave. Then a couple of them fell through the floor in front of the door. This is a subverted pit trap.
If I had real players at the table, they probably would have picked up on the slapstick amusement of slowly sinking into a carpet over a hole in the ground. It was hard to get out of but not too hard with friends to help. How many old TV shows and movies have someone sinking into quicksand or Tom Hanks getting trapped in a hole in the Money Pit.
But it isn't just for humor. The characters and the players will discover the why in a bit.
Moving on, they hazard the church or temple. Actually, the structure is neither. It's a mansion. Outside, they find a couple of decaying bodies which presents the first mystery. Entering the building, they realize that it had collapsed first and caught fire at some point, much later than the collapse.
They also solve the minor mystery of the missing tools. They were used to recover the bodies. Each body shows signs of trauma from falling or having things fall on them. They were obviously cared for after being recovered and placed in repose. Unfortunately, burial never occurred. The Clerics and the Magic-User might surmise some sort of magical protection was used on them.
As the players explore, aside from the tools, they find nothing of value except information. A lot of debris has been moved. Strangely, more than what could be done by the shovels and pickaxes they found. They also find several openings leading to a cave system. As they advance in the dark, they are ambushed by giant ants.
They fight a retreating battle in the tunnels of the anthill until they discover a soft squishy cloth covering an exit. Hum... they are back in the pit trap in the carpet shop. Fearing pursuit, they run through the fountain and back to the general store, baring the doors.
You see, these tiny details have been placed not randomly but purposefully to echo the overreaching theme of romanticism. Seeking answers in places and people long gone. The players will see that someone who cared about something lived here.
And then there is the weanie in the middle of it all. The fountain and table are what is called a weanie. It towns and cities, the center of the hub has something significant like a fountain or a town hall. Those things draw your attention, they pull you in. For Walt Disney, the weanie was the Castle. It pulls people in and pushes them out to the edges in a repeating pattern. The Castle as a hub insures that people are always pulled in no matter how many times they move out.
(Walt Disney used to have a dog that he would lead around with a hot dog, which is where the term comes from. I can't imagine he was the first to think of it, but he was known to make the comparison. There I go again, putting amusement parks in my games...)
Saturday, December 3, 2022
|Dice can be dirty.|
Since only the Thief and the Dwarf know what actually happened, the rest of the party is mystified by the fire and blood spatter caused by horses.
Saturday, September 10, 2022
Thankfully, I have a bunch of set pieces ready to go. My main issue is organization. I pulled my hex tiles from of a pair of giant cardboard boxes, set them up, and then packed them away in a handful of clear plastic totes.
As you can see to the right, they weren't very organized. Some of the smaller parts don't lend themselves to orderly packing. I haven't solved that problem yet but I will get to that someday, hopefully soon.
I moved an extra table to the middle of the room so we have enough space to use them. Now in this demonstration, I set up as many tiles as I wanted. It was overkill and I wouldn't actually do that for gameplay.