Saturday, January 7, 2023

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

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

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

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

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

Not bad for a sheet designed by a committee. 

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

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

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

On the far left were armor class and hit points. 

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

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

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

Ingenious, right? 

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

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

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

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

See the weaponless combat table? 

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

Silly system. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, January 5, 2023

The Character of Metals

I use various metals in my campaigns. I have written at length about silver for weapons, here, here, and here. The gist of all of these posts is silver is a special metal, a magical metal. In my campaign, it is a gateway metal for true magical weapons. By its very properties, it can strike targets immune to regular weapons but does not confer bonuses to hit or damage. It is the metal of choice for fey folk and elves, be it for weapons or armor. 

Iron is also a special material. Iron poisons fey folk, so they will not use it. They also look down on those that do use it. Regular weapons are usually made of some sort of steel, so the more sophisticated cultures don't carry iron weapons anymore. The fey receives 1 extra point of damage from a steel weapon, but actual iron weapons do an additional 1d4 points of damage, dissipating at a rate of 1 point per round. 

For example, if struck by a short sword made of iron, a pixie would take 1d6 from the weapon itself and 1d4 for the iron's poisoning effect. If 4 points of damage were rolled for the iron poisoning, it will dissipate over 4 rounds. 4 HP in the first round, 3 in the next, and so on. 

If crafted into armor, it will do poison damage to fey folk just like a weapon - 1d4 HP dissipating. This is per touch. Steel armor will not cause any damage as it can't penetrate the skin and get into the blood. 

Elves do not use iron for two reasons: they are too advanced for it and they respect fey folk too much. They also have mithril, which is finer than steel or silver. 

The next special metal in my campaign is Cold Iron, also known as meteoric iron. It is exceeding rare. It is always at least +2. If a creature is from a different plane, the bonus is doubled and it also causes a poisoning effect just like iron does to the fey. 

Things look grim for magical folks in my campaigns. No so. They have access to Blood Metal. Blood Metal is a dull blue color, and takes a fine edge. Blood Metal affects mammals, snakes, birds, and lizards (but not spiders, insects, or magical beings) with draining damage. Every strike causes a save vs. paralyzation. If failed the target is weakened to the point of exhaustion. This is dastardly metal when added to sling bullets or arrowheads.    

Demon's Bane is wrought iron alloyed with many different kinds of minerals and metals in a magical process. This kind of weapon has a bonus to hit but never a bonus to damage. The maximum bonus to hit is +5. Sometimes, precious metals are applied to the surface. All weapons and armor made of Demon's Bane appear to be ceremonial. Against creatures of the prime material plane, they do half the damage and never apply their bonuses to hit. 

However, when used against creatures from other planes they receive the bonus to hit and it does normal damage. People wearing Demon's Bane armor cannot be touched by creatures of other planes or those who are astral or ethereal. However, wearers can be struck with a weapon. 

When used on a Demon (not a devil) this metal shows its worth. Demon's Bane causes a Demon's blood to boil and burn. This causes an additional 1d8 points of damage dissipating over up to 8 rounds. This is in addition to the damage done by the weapon itself. Armor and holy symbols also cause the same 1d8 point burning damage on contact despite not normally being able to cut or injure a Demon like a weapon can.

Now one final point in this post. I have a schedule for when a character can draw and hold a magic weapon. For AD&D it was: 

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

For OSE and rules which do not get to such heights, every other level suffices. The reason for this rule is I could give a character a plussed weapon on day one and just not think of it again. It would work like a special survival reward for reaching x level. Usually, the pitch was this was a family weapon passed from parent to child and was only effective in the hands of the worthy. 

#CharacterCreationChallenge - Ruleset OSE - Mugwar the Ranger - For the Fame

 Ah! The Adventures I have... not known? 

Last year, I made an impulse purchase of the Dungeon Masters Adventure Log (Link to Noble Knights). I know this is an item I always wanted, but never had and when I saw it at Noble Knight Games, I had to have it. As you can see from the image above, someone wrote in it... as they should. Nowadays, I can just scan and photoshop a new book for myself but there is a lot of value to me in a pre-loved book. 

There are some initials in it (which a cropped out) and a few hints as to what was happening to these characters. It appears the party had just run S2 White Plume Mountain (Link to Noble Knights) and survived. Of course, these aren't full-character sheets, but I can guess what they might have looked like. 

Here is my rendition Mugwar the 8th-level Ranger: 

Level 8 Ranger 
Armour Class -3 (+2 elven chainmail armour + ring of protection +3)
Hit Points 54
1 × Long Bow (1d6) or 
1 × Two-Handed Sword (1d10)
1 × Dagger (1d4)
Movement Rate 90' (30')
Saves D8 W9 P10 B10 S12
Alignment Lawful
STR 12 INT 11 WIS 9
DEX 18 CON 16 CHA 10
Spells invisibility to animals [See Advanced Fantasy]
Now, the difficulty comes in matching that -3 AC. With an 18 Dex, we hop from 9 to 6. Add in chainmail and we are at 2, leaving us 5 short. Let's skip a shield and use magic to get us lower.  

There are a couple of options from here. 

I like the possibility of  +2 Elven Chain bringing us to AC 0. And a magic ring of protection to get us the rest of the way. 

 At least that is what I would want my Ranger to look like.  

Now, there is this tiny, tiny chance that the player of Mugwar is still around and playing. Perhaps some magic will happen and we will get a real answer. 

You can also use DriveThru as a source for White Plume Mountain at this link. They do not have the Dungeon Masters Adventure Log available. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2023

#CharacterCreationChallenge - Fighting Fantasy #4 - Steve Jackson's Starship Traveller

I know, I am playing fast and loose with the idea of "rules" and "characters", but this is one of my favorite gamebooks. You are the captain of the starship Traveller. You and your crew are swept into a black hole, flung across the universe. Good choices and leadership are needed to get you and the crew home. 

This book came out back in the 1980s as a part of a series. The initial offerings were fantasy based and have a different feel to this one. As the captain of the ship, you can make choices to bring particular characters along with you on this adventure. 

In case I forgot, 
It came with a special 80s sticker

This novel game takes place in a universe very much like Star Trek. Many of the plot devices feel like Trek and in a positive way. The "rules" are interesting as they are initially hidden from the reader until needed. You can melee, use phasers or engage in ship-to-ship combat. These rules are super easy to learn, but even so, they are collected together on a series of pages in the back of the book.  

I often wonder if the creators of Star Trek Voyager read this as a kid. It feels right. 

One of the other great features of this book is the plentiful and beautiful images. These are your basic black-and-white line art. I have to refrain from coloring them. They are remarkably consistent with a story which is quite the trick in a non-linearly formatted book.   

But the point of this challenge is the characters. And have to admit, the characters are needfully light as the intent is to read and work through the scenarios presented in a handful of paragraphs per entry. 

The first couple of pages of the book contains the character sheet.

We are so lucky to have pdfs, scanners, and photos nowadays. I would image that many children "ruined" this book on Christmas morning, writing in it.  

As you can see, there are 7 characters plus a sheet for the starship Traveller. As mentioned before, each character is super lite - just two statistics. For every stat, you roll usually one die and add it to a base amount to generate scores. Two statistics and a handful of rules are more than enough to immerse you in the story without drowning you with details. Due to the sparse stats, they get reused in a couple of different and ingenious ways. 

As you can see, I wrote in the stats on a copy of the pages. After I took the picture, I thought about naming each character. That is up to you, it doesn't affect anything in play. 

One great thing I notice is, these books are also available in electronic form. You can "play" them on your Android or iPhone. Several are free, but more than a few cost 2-3 bucks. The app bundles everything together so you don't end up with a mess of icons on your device. 

#CharacterCreationChallenge - OSE Rules - Ormonde the Assassin

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 [14] (leather)
Hit Points 11
1 × crossbow (1d6)
1 x sling (1d6)
1 x short sword (1d6)
THAC0 19 [0]
Movement Rate 90' (30')
Saves D13 W14 P13 B16 S15
Alignment: Neutral
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".