Saturday, July 22, 2017

a handout for raw recruits

Running a demo game somewhere?  Luring some nice, normal people into the sordid world of elves and orcs?  In my experience, one of the hurdles newbies often face is making sense of the weirdo dice.  So I made this:

How to Dice

This document is a public domain release.  The images are already in the public domain.  So, please feel free to include this page in other stuff like demo packets and GM kits if it meets your needs.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Vaults of Vyzor session 9

Dale the Valet


Brutal Pete, dwarf (Aleksandr Revzin)
Young John (0-level hireling)
Jarrod, LotFP magic-user (Ian Reilly)
Sigismund von Flegelschnecke, gnome fighter/illusionist (Alexei McDonald)
Gary Oldman Badger (pet badger)
Barnabus Sleet, muscle wizard (Maxime Golubchik)
Dale the Valet (0-level henchman)

So the explorations of the first level of the Verdant Vault continued today.  A large metal urn full of gold and silver coins was brought out of the dungeons--as well as the Underworld Wrestling Federation championship belt--but at the cost of the life of Jarrod the Magic-User.  A lot of carousing followed, so here's the drunken, slurred gist of what happened.

The party got by the Bargain Wolves with a bag of juicy steaks.  They then proceeded through the secret door down to the room with the orcish crossbow trap on the door.  Barnabus Sleet did not expect the orcs to replace the crossbow from last time and was nearly shot for a second time by the same trap in as many visits to the Vaults.  The group then examined the small room with the strange waterfall effect (marked with a small black dot on the map), where the magic-users concluded this place was designed for meditation and rapid recharge of MU spells.

The group then mapped out several new halls and chambers that don't quite line up with previous maps.  Sometimes I make mistakes when describing areas, sometimes I miss errors in maps, and sometimes I see a 10' mistake and don't say anything.  No PC map is going to be perfect, given the conditions under which they are made.  But as a rule I never intentionally mis-describe an area.  I just don't always correct small deviations.

The first new room with anything interesting is marked on the map as "Undead Inside."  It contains a half dozen or so shriveled inhuman corpses sleeping the nightmare sleep of the undead.  The party disturbed one of the corpses, which animated.  They hustled out and spiked it shut.

Gnome-amania runs wild!
The party discovers the large balcony overlooking a huge chamber on the second level where they see Gnome Hogan about to defend the Underworld Heavyweight Championship against the Macho Gnome, in front of a group of a couple hundred hooting and hollering gnomish rasslin' fans.  Barnabus decides that he MUST own the gold championship belt and inserts himself into the match.  Between a combination of acrobatics, chicanery, lucky rolls, and a timely illusionist spell from Sigismund, they escape the crowd with the big gold belt.  The belt turns out to be the single biggest item of treasure found this delve.  Later, Barnabus borrows money from the local Thieves Guild in order to pay off the other surviving party member's share of its worth.

The room with the pentacle contains the classic demon-summoning sigil, with an orc skull sitting at four of the five points of the star.  The last point was empty.  The group decides they need a fifth orc skull.  They head over to the section of the dungeon where the orcs are known to be found and kick in a previously-unexplored door, to find 2 orcs playing orchess.  

Unfortunately for the party, these two orcs are 3 and 5 hit die badasses respectively.  Barnabus puts the sleep spell on one of them, but the party only barely defeats the other one, Gary Oldman Badger disemboweling him with a natural 20 claw attack.  This is where they find the metal urn full of treaure, but it also contains a scorpion that stings Jarrod, who writhes in agony for a few rounds as the party tries to save him, but he eventually dies.  His last words were "Put my skull on the fifth point of the pentagram."  Even in death LotFP wizards are messed up guys.

They head back over to the pentagram room and put Jarrod's decapitated head on the fifth point.  Black smoke coalesces into an orc-demon.  Imagine a naked orc that's been tarred and feathered.  Give him two stunty crow's wings on his back and hideously long talons at the end of his fingers.  That's what the guy looks like.  Once this dude realizes the fifth skull isn't an orc's skull, he goes after the nearest PC, Barnabus, and slashes four vertical claw lines neatly down his face.  The party flees, spiking the door closed with as many spikes as they can.  They get the hell out of the dungeon.

The party goes carousing and Sigismund ends up with a majestic full back tattoo of the orc-demon done in ukiyo-e style.  Demon tattoos are all the rage right now, it seems.  Brutal Pete levels up and becomes one of those crazy mohawk dwarves, thanks to this table.  So between Pete's mohawk, Sigismund's tattoo, and Barnabus Sleet's wicked facial scars, these guys look pretty badass now.

Borrowing from the Thieves Guild Rule
If you are in Vyzor, you can borrow funds from the Thieves Guild to cover local expenses of your level x 1,000gp or less.  A common usage of this is to go carousing, but you need at least 100gp in pocket money to start carousing, you can borrow any additional funds you need.  I.e. you can't tell the mob you're going to drink their gold away.  First you get drunk, then you make up a legit use for the funds.

You have until the end of your next session in Vyzor to pay back the loan shark at no penalty.  If you don't the amount owed doubles the next time you are in Vyzor.  This becomes time three the next session, times four after that, etc.  Also, mob enforcers may come after you, at the DM's discretion.  Paying at least 10% of what you owe at the beginning of the session will keep the muscle off of you that run.  You cannot borrow from the thieves guild a second time until you have paid off the old loan.


Jarrod the Magic-User (Ian Reilly)
Jonesy (0-level NPC)
Little Liam Linkboy (0-level NPC)
Limpy the Naileteer (Jeff Call)
Engsal the Enchanter (Alex Joneth)
Elfbraham Lincoln (Jeff Call)
Littlens (0-level NPC)
Biggens (0-level NPC)
Stimpy (0-level NPC)
Ren (0-level NPC)

Thursday, July 20, 2017

I'm calling it the Evans Method

So check out these sweet maps:

(click to embiggen)
These babies appeared in various D&D kiddie products.  The one on the left appears in my D&D cartoon boxed set.  I think they are pretty rad.  A bunch of these places appear in the cartoon series, but some of them do not.

So here's the thing: not everyone needs a big numbered hexmap to have a wilderness campaign.  Strange, I know, but true.  The Conan stories didn't need no stinkin' hexmaps.  One story the big Cimmerian lug is getting his sandaled feet into trouble in Aquilonia, the next he's squooshing through the muddy swamps of Pictland.

Mike Evans shows us one way to make this sort of thing work in his kick awesome campaign book Hubris: A World of Visceral Adventure.  In Hubris, each major region gets about 10 pages detailed this way:
  • A few short paragraphs giving the basics of the region.
  • A d100 "Lay of the Land" chart providing thumbnail sketches of locations in the region.
  • A d100 encounter chart for the region
  • One or more brief write-ups for special locations, with rumors/adventure hooks
  • Some extra thing unique to the region, like rules for eating the mushrooms of the Bogwood Swamp
My favorite part is the Lay of the Land charts.  You know someone is from the region in general, but where specifically?  Just roll d100.  The caravan is stopping where next?  Throw them percentiles.  Where did that jerk hide the MacGuffin?  You get the idea.  Obviously much loosey-goosier than a hexmap, but it ought to be a sufficient level of detail for some styles of play.

You could even scale the Evans Method down to a sentence or two of basic descriptions, two d6 charts, one adventure hook and one unique thing.  I bet that would even fit on a One Page type template.

Anyway, those maps above?  Prime candidates for the Evans Method.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

quick Vyzor update

The dotted line represents the unknown depth the last expedition descended via elevator.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Or get them all together

Here's a single Gdoc file with all the random advancement charts that Zak and I have done, with a bookmarked table of contents so you don't have to hunt for the one you are looking for.

UPDATE: The doc now includes Reynaldo's Paladin and Anti-Paladin charts!  Sweet!

One Size Fits Most

Catch-all Random Advancement
I normally roll with games that use the canonical seven BX classes, but FLAILSNAILS PCs are a motley lot.  This chart is designed for the nice people for whom the existing charts are a less than ideal fit.  
When your weirdo PC goes up a level, you can roll on this chart once, but you have to sacrifice something.  That would take the form of a spell slot you would otherwise gain, your new hit die, a special class ability, a boost to your saving throws or to-hits.  Note that all that stuff can be found on the chart below.  
If there is an existing random advance chart for your class, you can burn a roll on that chart to roll here.  You can only do that once per level.
By the way, many entries on this table is pretty dungeon oriented and may not be appropriate for a campaign with a different focus.
01-02  You get nothing!  Sorry, friend.
03-10  You gain +1 to-hits.
11-17  You gain +2 to-hit with a weapon of your choice, all normal unarmed attacks, or a single spell that requires a to-hit roll.  If you roll this again you must select a different attack.
18-25 +1 on all saving throws
26-34  +2 on one category of saving throw.  If you are a FLAILSNAILer, pick both an old school category like Death Ray and one of the Reflex/Endurance/Will trio.  If you end up in a single saving throw game, this only counts as +1.
35-42  Gain a bonus hit die.  If you are Name Level and no longer getting dice, you get one any way.
43  You gain +1 Constitution.  If this puts you past the max allowed in your rule set (e.g. there are no 19 stats in BX), roll again, but you are allowed to exceed AD&D1-style racial maximums.
44-52  You gain a spell slot of your highest current spell level.  Not a spell caster?  Roll d4 on this subchart:
  1. You’ve become a tree hugger.  Each day you get a random 1st level druid spell.
  2. You found religion.  Pick a faith if you don’t have one.  Each day you get a random 1st level cleric spell.
  3. Turns out you have some previously unknown sorcerer blood.  Each day you get a random 1st level magic-user spell.
  4. Find some other weirdo caster class and get a random 1st level spell of theirs each day.
If you are not a caster and end up back here, don’t roll d4.  Instead, give yourself a random 2nd level spell each day, then a random 3rd, etc. up to 6th level.  After that, reroll this result.
53-54  You gain +2 weapon damage against some monster type you fought last session.  You pick.  If can cast spells, you can choose to gain this bonus with spell attacks instead of weapons.  The bonus would apply to individual magic missiles but act as a flat +2 on a single fireball.  If you get this result again you must pick another kind of monster.
55  You gain +1 Wisdom.  If this puts you past the max allowed in your rule set (e.g. there are no 19 stats in BX), roll again, but you are allowed to exceed AD&D1-style racial maximums.
56-57  Subject to any special attacks last session?  If they were the kind that require a saving throw, you are now +4 to save against one of them (like giant spider poison), whether you saved previously or not.  If they were the kind that didn’t get a save (spectre level drain, for instance), you now get a saving throw to avoid.  Specify both the monster type and the attack when you record this bonus.  If you roll this a second time you must pick a different special attack.  If you were not subject to any special attacks last session, reroll this result.
58-60  Admirer: You have attract the attention and adoration of some 0-level numbskull.  If you can get them through 3 adventures without killing them, they become a 1st level henchweenie of your character class.
61  You gain +1 Charisma.  If this puts you past the max allowed in your rule set (e.g. there are no 19 stats in BX), roll again, but you are allowed to exceed AD&D1-style racial maximums.
62  You’re now tougher than leather.  +1 armor class.  Reroll if you get this result a second time.
63  You gain +1 Intelligence.  If this puts you past the max allowed in your rule set (e.g. there are no 19 stats in BX), roll again, but you are allowed to exceed AD&D1-style racial maximums.
64-65  You’re getting quite good with adventuring equipment.  Pick an item on the standard equipment list, something that isn’t a class-specific tool.  You are now an Expert with that kind of equipment.  There’s no mechanics attached to this, but the DM should give you some extra leeway when putting that item to use.
65  You gain the next special ability for your class early.  This is anything of the non-spell slot sort that appears in the far right column of your class progression chart, as well as things like extra attacks, scribing scrolls, reading magic, building castles, etc.  When that item comes up in its regular progression you can double down if that’s possible, otherwise roll again on this chart.
66  You gain +1 Dexterity.  If this puts you past the max allowed in your rule set (e.g. there are no 19 stats in BX), roll again, but you are allowed to exceed AD&D1-style racial maximums.
67  Your last dungeon expedition has left you irrevocably altered.  Roll on the nearest  mutation chart.
68-69  Did you have any conversations with monsters last session?  Even if they were brief or didn’t go well, you learned a valuable lesson on negotiating with them.  +1 reaction rolls with an encountered monster type.  If you roll this again, you must select a different monster or re-roll.
70  You gain +1 Charisma.  If this puts you past the max allowed in your rule set (e.g. there are no 19 stats in BX), roll again, but you are allowed to exceed AD&D1-style racial maximums.
71-73  Your dungeon skills get better.  Your choice of +1 Listen at Doors, +1 Find Secret Door, +1 Open Doors, or +1 Find Traps.  If you roll this again you must pick a different bonus.  If you get all four, reroll the fifth time you get this result.
74-75  You’ve been practicing operating in heavier armor.  You can use your class abilities with the next heavier set of armor.  For example, a thief could sneak around in studded leather or ring mail, a wizard could cast spells while holding a shield, etc.  If you are already an “any armor allowed” type, your armor always counts as one category less encumbering for all purposes (swimming, climbing, leaping, etc.) EXCEPT movement rate.
76  Torch Fighter: you are an expert fighter with a weapon in one hand and a torch in the other.  By warding off attackers you can use the torch as a shield--though it is useless against fireproof entities--or you can make a second attack each round at -4 (your primary attack takes no penalty, so why the hell not?).  The torch works as a d4 club against fireproof beings, but does d6 to all others.  Plus if you roll a 6 you set them aflame.  Sweet. Also, you knwo what you are doing sufficiently that these shenanigans will never extinguish your torch unless you do something like clobber a water weird. Reroll this result if you have already rolled it or if your character has infravision.
77  You gain +1 Strength.  If this puts you past the max allowed in your rule set (e.g. there are no 19 stats in BX), roll again, but you are allowed to exceed AD&D1-style racial maximums.
78-80  Thousand Yard Stare: You are +4 saves against fear effects and never freak out when you see gruesome violence or comrades die.  Part of you is just too dead inside to care anymore.
81-82  New weapon: Pick a weapon forbidden to your class.  You are now proficient with it.  If you already can use any weapon, work with the DM to develop some exotic new weapon your PC can use.
83-84  You know the location of a your heart's desire or simply a spot where a Type H treasure lies.  It is no more than 4 sessions away.  You must have a fair shot at it--like any other treasure, but there's no guarantee you will get it. If you don't get it by the fourth session you can keep trying or let it go and roll again on this table. However if you choose to roll again and then you do get the thing somehow anyway, you lose whatever gimmick you rolled. The DM must think up some clever reason why.
85-86  Dungeon survivor:  If you get hopelessly lost in a dungeon you can make your way out no more than d6 days later.  You emerge naked-- though you may be covered in gods know what kinds of slime, filth and blood--and exhausted, but alive.  You can only save d6 other party members.  If you don’t roll high enough to account for the whole party, you must choose who lives and who dies. You are not allowed to settle this question by die roll, drawing straws, or any other form of cop-out. The responsibility is entirely yours.  You can use this power only once, unless you roll it again.
87-89  Admit it, every adventurer is a thief of sorts.  Gain your choice of Move Silently plus Hide In Shadows (both), Find & Remove Trap, Pick Pockets, Open Locks, Climb Walls, or Back Stab at proficiency equal to your new level.  This ability does not advance unless you roll this again and pick the same thing.  Note that Move, Hide, and Climb won't work in armor heavier than studded leather. If
you already have all these skills, re-roll.
90-91  You’ve developed a seventh sense about the undead.  If the shambling corpse or spooky phantom you’ve just spotted can drain levels, you just know.  Reroll if you get this result again.
92-93  Expert Looter: In any situation where the GP value of loot is determined by die roll, you get the better of two rolls for your share only.  If you have to quickly swipe one item from a trove, you always get the item worth the most.  If you fill quickly fill your backpack, it will always end up at least 50% full with the best stuff available.  This ability has no effect on magic items.  Reroll if you get this result again.
94-95  Your getting good at rolling with the fall.  You take half damage from any fall of 30’ or less, as well as any damage from wrestling throws, trips, bucking broncos, etc.  Reroll if you get this result again.
96-97  Hardscrabble Fighter: Once per combat and before you roll to-hit in melee you can declare that you are fighting even dirtier than usual.  You get +2 to-hit and if you succeed the foe is stunned d3 rounds due to eye gouge, purple nurple, ball crush, etc. Does not work on foes with no discernible weak points.  Reroll if you get this result again.
98-99  An Item Just For You: Unless the DM has already specified the origin of an item, you may declare any found magic item of less than artifact status to be also usable by your class.  Furthermore, it has additional powers ONLY usable by members of your class.  The DM should roll on the same chart that lists the item or the nearest equivalent.  (Example: Not only is that Staff of Curing now usable by death masters, but in their grubby little hands it now also functions as a death masters-only Wand of Illusion!)  You may use this ability just once.  You may roll this result again, but if you have not used the previous roll, you lose both opportunities.
100  You’ve Seen A Lot of Crazy Shit: Once per session you can know a relevant fact about darn near anything.  The DM will make a secret Intelligence check for your character.  If it succeeds, they will be both truthful and informative.  If it fails, they can provide partially correct information, but they aren’t allowed to automatically doom you unless a 20 is rolled.  Reroll if you get this result again.


Saturday, July 15, 2017

Off topic

Howdy, friends!

I'm doing an informal research project in the lead up to teaching First Year Composition in the fall. If you do ANY sort of writing OR research as part of your profession, please consider following this link to a brief survey:

No personal info is being collected as part of this research. Thanks in advance for all your help!