Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Are you using weapon vs. AC or speed factors? That would radically affect my weapon choices.
Any weapons considered particular high or low class? E.g. would being a crossbowman preclude me from being knighted?
A first level fighter is a Veteran. Has my character been in any famous battles?
Can I play a knight or do I start out as some low class schlub with a spear?
How picky are you about encumbrance?
Do you use any crit charts or rules about attacks versus folks not wearing helmets?
Do I have any particular obligation to a military organization or feudal lord?
What sort of gods do I have to choose from?
Which gods have temples in the starting campaign area?
Do I have any particular obligation to a certain temple or high priest?
Are the gods at each other's throats, such that I would get in trouble for honoring deities besides my own?
Do I get to pick my starting spells?
Do you track material components?
Are new spells available for purchase anywhere?
Do I start out as a member of a magic-user's guild or a graduate from a mage's school?
Am I an apprentice to a higher-level MU?
Do you object to evil characters?
Am I a member of a thef's guild?
Do I start with criminal contacts for fencing goods, smuggling, obtain poisons or drugs?
Obviously some of these questions are mechanical, some are about the DM's style and some concern the campaign world. More question could easily be written for the other classes in AD&D and the various races. I'd hate to make up a perfectly decent half-elf druid only to discover after play begins that half-breeds are universally reviled in the setting and that the DM took the mistletoe rules seriously!
The point of all these questions is not to put the DM on the spot, so if you actually asked some things like the above list you'd probably do well to put it in an email before the first session. Some of these questions could end up being things the DM hasn't thought about yet for this particular campaign. That's not a bad thing. The DM is probably going to spend some time on the campaign no matter what you do, you might as well steer them towards topics you care about.
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Monday, March 29, 2010
1. Statue - see Ready Ref Sheets
2. Ravaged Ruins - see Ready Ref Sheets
3. Picturesque Scenery
4. Special Agricultural Asset (E.g. a mango grove, good fishing)
5. Entrance to Faerie Realm, an Unknown Hell or some other supernatural region
6. Tomb - see Best of Dragon, vol 1
7. Local Weather Conditions (unusually windy, foggy, etc.)
8. Frontier Fort of Kelnore
9. Disputed territory (stock with two monster rolls or look at nearby hexes for disputants)
10. Historical site (probably an old battlefield, may or may not have a marker)
11. Old Lava Flow (anything underneath it?)
12. Titan Corpse (Some of them are still laying around from the Titanomachy. They rot very slowly.)
Sunday, March 28, 2010
After looking over some alternatives, I decided to start with the random dungeon stocking chart on page B54 of Moldvay Basic D&D.
Assume "Monster" lairs include things like Old Man Jenkins, the grumpy turnip farmer, and change "Trap" to "Hazard" and you're good to go. Next steps include developing random Hazards and Special charts and automating the wilderness encounter charts in the Expert rules.
Friday, March 26, 2010
Thursday, March 25, 2010
Thought Two: What happens when someone runs out of hit points? Looking at Chainmail reminded me of D&D's wargame heritage. Wargames normally don't really care whether a chit full of troops is dead to a man. Although the term 'killed' might be bandied about, we're really talking about casualties, a concept which covers a lot of ground besides outright death. Any troop that can't fight is a casualty, whatever the circumstances. Troops too wounded to fight are casualties. As are those troops that are captured, missing, or disabled by psychological trauma. To a general mustering forces for the next battle, a deserter is a casualty. From this point of view, equating running out of hit points with pushing up the daisies over-simplifies the situation. That's one of the reasons some minis games have random die charts like the one near the end of this post to determine the fate of special figures that have been "killed". Here's a similar chart I first developed back in 2007 for when PCs and their minions hit zero HP.
Death's Door, v1.1.
PC's and important NPCs roll on this chart when their supply of hit points have been completely exhausted. First level PCs add one to their roll.
1. Dead. Only Raise Dead or Reincarnation can help now.
2. Mostly Dead, as in The Princess Bride. Character can take no actions until roused by magic. Cure Light Wounds or a healing potion each have a 50% chance of working. Each of these methods may only be tried once. Cure Serious Wounds always works. Revived characters are -4 on to-hits, saves, and damage for d12 days.
3. Major Wound. Knocked unconscious, awaken as per number 5 below. Loss of d6 stat points, each coming off a random stat. Total debilitation for d6 months, after which stat loss heals at one point per month of complete rest, except for the last point of stat loss, which is permanent. Cure Serious Wounds turns the months of recovery into weeks but otherwise provides no further assistance.
4. Unconscious and Bleeding. Must save versus Death Ray d6 rounds from now, then d6 turns later, then d6 hours. Any failed save results in death. Any cure spell or healing potion halts the bleeding, allowing the character to regain consciousness with one hit point. Someone taking 1 round for first aid and rolling Wis or lower on d20 slows the bleeding, bumping the check interval up to turns/hours/days. After such a wound hit points heal naturally at a weekly rather than daily rate until the character is fully restored. Awaken as per number 5 below.
5. Knocked out. Awaken d6 turns later with one hit point. All attacks, damage rolls, and saves are at -2 until the character gets d12 days of rest.
6+. Close call. Character still has 1 hit point. No further effect.
Maybe I should do a new revision with captured, missing, desertion and/or shell-shock as possibilities. Another way to go would be a gristly Rolemaster/Arduin Grimoire style crit shart that one rolls on anytime you get whacked down to zero HP. Most NPCs would give up or run away at that point, but the PCs could buck up and fight on. Every subsequent hit would mean additional rolls on the gruesome critical strike charts.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
'78 Basic D&D rules (Holmes)
'81 Basic D&D rules (Moldvay)
'81 Expert D&D rules
B2 Keep on the Borderlands
Best of the Dragon, vol 1
Ready Ref Sheets
The Dungeoneer: The Adventuresome Compedium of Issues 1-6
Rat on a Stick
The Unknown Gods
The Arduin Grimoire, vol 1
Okay, that's actually eleven items, but the '81 rulebooks are a single game split into two manuals. Looking at all that stuff together and I can't help but imagine it as one sweet-as-hell campaign.
I'd love to see a similar list of out-of-print items from other folks. Please share in the comments or post to your own blog!
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
- Roll 3d6 in order for six stats: Strength, Agility, Stamina, Intelligence, Personality, Luck
- Stat bonuses work as in 3.x: +1 for 12-13, +2 for 14-15, +3 for 16-17, etc.
- Strength modifies melee attacks and damage.
- Agility modifies missile attacks (and damage? I'm not sure), intiative, Armor Class and Reflex saves
- Stamina modifies hit points and Fort saves
- Intelligence modifies spell casting rolls (see Sunday's post for how that works) and Will saves
- We didn't really talk to any NPCs, so I don't know how Personality works
- Luck is weird. What it modfies is determined by a separate d8 roll. I ended up with my Luck modifying all damage rolles. Other guys got mods to saves and to-hits. Also, Goodman noted that Luck is subject to alteration much moreso than other stats.
- Most operations are d20 throws.
- AC is ascending, base 10. Scale mail is +4 AC, chain +5.
- Weapon damage seems pretty much like you'd expect. A battleaxe does d8, a spear does d6, etc.
- The chart for randomly assigning race, profession and starting equipment to zero level characters is supposed to appear in the final product.
- Not much of a skill system. Your class and/or occupation broadly cover what you can do.
- The charsheet has fields for "Actions" and "Weapon Proficiencies" but neither came up in play so I don't know what they do.
- Ninefold alignment.
- There are classes, but I couldn't really tell you what they are, since it was a zero-level game.
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Mishler got to play in an earlier DCC-rpg session with first level characters. He reported what sounds to me like a totally awesome but potentially cumbersome mechanic for spellcasting. Every spell comes with a success chart something like this:
11-13: 1 foe drowsy d6 rounds
14-16: d8 hit dice put to sleep for d6+6 turns
17-20: 2d8 hit dice put to sleep for d6+6 turns
21-25: 3d8 hit dice put to sleep for d6+6 turns
26+: 4d8 hit dice put to sleep for d6+6 days
That's not an exact duplication of the system, but it gives you the basic idea. Every time you cast a spell you roll d20 plus Int mod plus Caster level and look at the chart. You only forget a spell if you fail.
See the head of black hair bottom center? That dude and his buddy flew in from Italy specifically to attend this convention. They had taught themselves English in order to learn to play D&D. I handed him the last of the three copies of Encounter Critical I had brought along to give away. I wish I had brought my own copy to get Mr. Kask's autograph (see the inside front cover for why).
In the middle of Kask's run I look behind me for some reason and notice that if I scoot my chair back more than an inch or two I will totally bump into Frank Mentzer, who is running a game immediately behind me. Meanwhile Jeff Easley is about ten feet away the whole time, just relaxing next to some original art that's graced the cover of many old TSR products. Additional incidental name-dropping: I brought along my brother-in-law-in-law's copy of Metamorphosis Alpha to get Jim Ward's autograph in it, which he was very pleased to do. As he's signing it Tom Wham walks by and says something like "the value of that collectible just went down 10%". They both laughed heartily.
Friday, March 19, 2010
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Available in print and PDF.
One of my contributions to this issue is an interview with Mr. Otus. It was my first time interviewing anyone for anything, so it may be a little rough. Mr. Otus was a cool cat but it was still intimidating. Have I mentioned lately that I have a shrine to this guy? Intimidating as hell, my friends.
"They are expert miners and are able to find slanting passages, traps, shifting walls, and new construction one-third of the time (a roll of 1 or 2 on 1d6) when looking for them."That's from page B9, under the class description for dwarves, in the paragraph titled Special Abilities. I can see how someone might infer that these dwarven abilities only apply to stonework, but the text doesn't precisely specify that. The second parargaph of the trap rules on page B22 don't specify dwarven find traps as anything more than a superior form of the ability every character possesses:
"Any character has a 1 in 6 chance of finding a trap when searching for one in the correct area. Any dwarf has a 2 in 6 chance."The text in my LL rulebook mirrors both these passages sufficiently that I'm not going to bother to type it in.
So based upon the ambiguity in the first passage and the lack of modifying language in the second one, I rule that dwarves have a 2 in 6 chance of finding any trap that anyone else can find.
Does that help us at all with figuring out the problem of the thief Find Traps ability mentioned in yesterdays post? Here's a comment from Robert Fisher, who is a pretty smart dude and one of my go-to guys for thinking on parsing fiddly D&D rules:
Some people take the interpretation that there are two kinds of traps. Type I traps are the big things like pit traps. Type II are the small traps like a poison needle in a lock.I don't really see anything in the rules that supports the assertion that "some people" are making here. As far as I can tell the rules in question only distinguish between regular traps that anyone can find and magical traps that cannot be found (unless you've got a detect magic or something like that going). I could see some DMs allowing thieves to find magical traps, since the rules don't specifically preclude it. I'm pretty sure that would make thieves more magical than I want in my campaign, expecially given that the next logical step is allowing thieves to remove magical traps. And the step after that is letting thieves pick doors with wizard lock cast upon them. I just don't want to go there.
The 1 in 6 for everyone and 2 in 6 for dwarfs rule—in this interpretation—only applies to Type I traps. The thief F&RT skill does not. (Type I traps cannot be overcome with a remove traps roll.)
Likewise, the generic rule doesn’t apply to Type II traps; only the thief F&RT skill.
Finally, keeping both non-magical thieves and trap-finding dwarves sets up an interesting situation in that dwarves appear to be better at trap detection than low level thieves. Forget about putting the thief in front to find traps, get the dwarf out there to do it. If he finds a trap the thief can be called up to remove it. If the dwarf finds a trap the hard way he's got better hit points, better armor and better saves. That little bugger is in a much better position to survive setting off the trap. By using a little teamwork that poor d4 hit die Basic thief may actually live to second level.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
|Class||Find Secret Door||Listen at Door||Find Trap|
|Halfling||1 in 6||2 in 6||1 in 6|
|Elf||2 in 6||2 in 6||1 in 6|
|Dwarf||1 in 6||2 in 6||2 in 6|
|Fighter||1 in 6||1 in 6||1 in 6|
|Magic-User||1 in 6||1 in 6||1 in 6|
|Cleric||1 in 6||1 in 6||1 in 6|
|Thief||1 in 6||2+ in 6||14%+|
As usual, the Thief is problematic. According to page B22 everybody has a 1 in 6 chance of finding a trap, except for dwarves who get 2 in 6. Labyrinth Lord has the same language. But starting B/X thieves only have a 10% chance to find traps, with the LL version getting a mighty 14% at first level. Page 13 of my Labyrinth Lord rulebook specifies that thieves only get one chance to find any given trap. That would make them actually worse at finding traps than everyone else in the party.
You'd think that goes against the intent of the design, but it wouldn't have been hard to quash the confusion by starting Find Traps at 17% or more. What do other DMs do in this situation? I tend to allow two rolls, a d6 roll and a percentile roll, but that strikes me as an inelegant way to handle the issue.
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Along the way Doc encounters a slave girl who sees him throw down some patented Sorcerer Supreme mojo. She reaches the logical conclusion.
Doctor Strange, being a smooth operator, plays down his magical badassitude.
The line "These forces are within us all!" made an impression on me as a youth. Magic surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together. It is available to all. This simple concept haunts me to this day. Magic-users may need special educations and expensive/rare material requirements for their enchantments, but they are not the elect. They're closer to Batman than the X-Men in this regard. Anyone with sufficient desire and dedication can make magic happen; there's no special gift the lack of which prevents someone from joining the fellowship of the arcane. A wizard isn't automatically a Chosen One.
Credit: I couldn't find my copy of Doctor Strange #53 yesterday, so I swiped all the images above from Bully's treatment of this issue. My buddy Pat made sure I saw yesterday's awesome Bully post and you should check it out too.
Monday, March 15, 2010
I'm pretty sure the dude on the left was in several ads in Dragon back in the day. The lady M-U in the middle is from this set. The guy on the right must be the coach for his party, as he's obviously calling time out.
I really like the flowing beard and pointing finger on the wizard on the left. Painting his hat and staff the same color was an mistake, I think. Meanwhile, the other wizard's shoulder-mounted familiar should tell his boss he's holding the scroll backwards.
This is the sort of pose I don't see much of anymore. Everybody nowadays is either in a fighting stance or a boring generic pose with nothing in particular going on.
This poor son of a bitch has a mold line where his face should be.
Normally I'd think "crap armor + polearm = generic hireling", but that blue mask effect really makes this guy stand out.
A fully clothed fighting woman with a torch? Two thumbs up! (Not that I'm against chainmail bikinis, mind you. I just feel pervy putting tiny naked women on the table and expecting female players to actually use them.)
I swear this wizard looks like he's wearing a cowboy hat. That's rad to the max.
Saturday, March 13, 2010
Friday, March 12, 2010
Thursday, March 11, 2010
# Encountered: 1 (1d4)
Movement: 120' (40')
Attacks: 2 claws, bite
Save as: Fighter 2
Hoard Class: VI
These enchanted animals appear to be grizzly bears with a coppery metallic sheen to their fur. Contact with a rust bear has the same effect as a rust monster, but these creatures do not hunger for or consume metals. If a rust bear hits a single target with both claw attacks it automatically hugs the victim for an additional 2d8 damage and any metallic armor worn is automatically rusted, no matter how powerful the enchantment.
# Encountered: 1 (1d2)
Movement: 120' (40')
Attacks: 2 claws, bite
Save as: Fighter 4
Hoard Class: VI
Appearing as eerily translucent polar bears, all opponents of the phase bear are at -2 to hit due to its magical displacement abilities. Furthermore, the first strike against a phase bear always misses unless the attacker has access to true seeing magics. If a phase bear hits a single target with both claw attacks it automatically hugs the victim for an additional 2d8 damage, but this gives away the true position of the creature, negating the -2 to-hit penalty until the phase bear's next action.
# Encountered: 1d2 (1d2)
Movement: 120' (40')
Attacks: 2 buzzsaws, bite
Save as: Fighter 7
Hoard Class: XVIII
Servants of the sword-god Nenguzei, these bipedal demon-bears have plating similar to the bulette and giant spinning buzzsaws instead of forepaws. If a war beast hits a single target with both saw attacks it automatically hugs the victim for an additional 2d20 damage. Any creature of less than 3 hit dice must save versus fear or flee in terror from these maniacal rampaging cyber-ursines.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
- I'm slow as all heck, but all the characters from the Easy Peasy EC PC contest are finally available for viewing at scribd. Also at the official Encounter Critical yahoo group.
- Blair must've used his nefarious powers to make me ill yesterday, as I swear to Grodd I was going to write this exact post. I ended up taking a nap instead. Curse you and your sickness-inducing sorcery!
- This makes me sad. I'm still trying to figure out the implication, if any, for the wider scene. In the meantime, I'm just sad.
Monday, March 08, 2010
8 Any potion spell except delusion or poisonFirst off, the terms "potion spell", "ring spell" and "wand spell" sound like a lot of fun. Under this set-up the wand spells that can be found on scrolls are magic detection, secret door & trap detection, [cone of] fear, [cone of] cold, [cone of] paralyzation and fire ball. The 'ring spell' scrolls are invisibility, animal control, plant control, weakness, protection +1, water walking, fire resistance and contrariness. For 'potion spells' we get growth, diminution, giant strength, invisibility, gaseous form, speed, flying and healing.
9 Any ring spell except wishes or regeneration
0 Any wand spell
There's lots of juice in those 'spell' lists. Here are some random thoughts:
- Because of the four attack wands, the chance of getting a scroll you can use to zap enemies with is higher than it appears from just glancing at the random scroll chart. Ditto your chances of getting a Scroll of Invisibility, since both potions and rings come in that variety.
- A Scroll of Healing is the same as Cure Light Wounds in effectiveness. A first level magic-user with one of those babies is actually a better healer than a first level cleric, who gets no spells under the Holmes rules.
- If I was playing an M-U and I found a Scroll of Secret Door & Trap Detection I'd immediately ask the DM if I could put that spell into my spellbook. If the DM said no, I'd then ask if I could use it to make researching such a spell easier.
- On the other hand, maybe magic shops might sell scrolls that magic-users can use but they can't put the spells into their spellbook. Sounds like a good way to keep the magic shops in business. "Sorry, but that Scroll of Cold comes with DRM, so you can't put it in your spellbook."
- A Scroll of Contrariness and Scroll of Weakness look like curse scrolls, but what if you could cast those effects onto other targets? Making the evil wizard's pet minotaur Contrary seems like a cool thing to do.
- Wouldn't it be even cooler to use a Scroll of Gaseous Form on a dragon and the poor vaporous beast is forced to watch while you loot it's hoard?
Sunday, March 07, 2010
Friday, March 05, 2010
- Tuesday's picture post seemed to go over fairly well. Gameblog reader Jayson noted "Looks like a coherent campaign setting to me!" while the mysterious d said "I want to play this. All of it.NOW." Guess what, folks? As it turns out all those images were from my file folder labeled 'Encounter Critical pics'. Maybe I'll post the color pics from that folder next week.
- Basic/Expert D&D and its retro-clone Labyrinth Lord do not have stat requirements for human characters. I like that a lot. This allows one to play a puny fighter, foolish cleric, dimwitted magic-user or clumsy thief. What's weird is that you can end up playing an illiterate magic-user. Anyone ever see that in play? I'd probably run such a dude as a Hollywood-esque Rain Man style idiot-savant, capable of reading and using hypermathematical incantations but unable to read simple Common.
- I vaguely remember someone leaving a random off-topic comment on the blog asking about the Tom Moldvay game Dino-Wars! If that was you, shoot me an email at jrients to the blogspot dot com. Similarly, I promised someone a copy of a map missing from a module they bought second hand. If you're still out there, please email me again. Sorry I blew you off the first time!
Thursday, March 04, 2010
I can't help but wonder if back in the day some nascent campaign was utterly ruined because some 1st level spellcaster threw a cure light wounds or detect magic and Orcus showed up.
Things You Can Do To Keep Gygax's Memory Alive
- Play some OD&D or 1st edition AD&D, or one of the other games Gary created.
- Adapt one of his modules to whatever fantasy system you are using nowadays. B2 The Keep on the Borderlands is a particularly good choice for "serious" role-players, if you focus on all the intrigues surrounding the various factions of humanoids in the Caves of Chaos.
- Name your next pet Gary, Gygax, or Mordenkainen. (I am not taking any responsibilty if you name your next kid Gygax or Mordenkainen. You're on your own on that one.)
- Build that Dragonchess set you've been meaning to construct ever since you read about it in issue #100 of Dragon.
- Players: Specialize in an oddball polearm, swear "by Gygax's beard", play a cleric of Zagig.
- DMs: drop the Ring of Gaxx into your setting, sprinkle some scrolls of Mordenkainen-brand spells about your dungeon, use a rust monster or a bulette.
- Write that module or game or whatever that you've been meaning to get around to. Submit it for publication or publish it yourself.
- Keep a sharp eye out for the next weird little game that might become a breakout hit, spawning cartoons, films, comic books, novels and countless imitators.
- Tell the hobgoblins "It's okay, Gary sent us!"
- Crack open your 1st edition DMG and just luxuriate in the unmistakeable Gygax prose.
- Send a letter or e-mail to another game designer thanking them before it's too late.
- Introduce someone else to the fun that is this crazy little hobby.
- Game like there's no tomorrow.
Wednesday, March 03, 2010
MONSTER ACTIONS: Some monsters always act in the same manner (such as zombies, who always attack). However, the reactions of most monsters are not always the same. The DM can always choose the monster's reaction to best fit the dungeon, but if he decides not to do this, a DM may use the reaction table below to determine the monster's reactions (roll 2d6).When I don't use this chart my monsters immediately attack way more often than the 1 out of every 36 encounters suggested by the chart and they pretty much never act friendly. That's a damn shame, as it encourages the "we see it, we fight it" mentality that can really drag a good game down. And I really like the inherent instability in making friends with one of the chaotic dungeon denizens. That's a situation chock full of interesting possibilities.Monster ReactionsDice Roll/Reaction2/Immediate Attack3-5/Hostile, possible attack6-8/Uncertain, monster confused9-11/No attack, monster leaves or considers offer12/Enthusiastic friendship
It might be interesting to note that there seems to be a lot less demi-human/humanoid animosity in Moldvay Basic as opposed to AD&D. Dwarves still hate goblins and vice versa, and will usually attack each other on sight. But that's about it. A few monsters are specified as usually attacking anyone, such as minotaurs and gargoyles. But going by the monster entries in the Basic book it should be possible for any PC to befriend ghouls, gnolls, hobgoblins, lizard men, lycanthropes, orges, orcs, owlbears, shadows, skeletons, thouls or wights. Skeletons aren't noted as lacking intelligence or agency and nothing in the rules suggests that undead in general are automatically hostile to the living.