Sunday, July 30, 2017

Don't give up. Don't beg for mercy. Bargain!

Over the years almost all the explicit gaming advice I have offered here has been directed to the referees, Dungeon Masters, and Game Masters of the hobby.  After all, these deranged individuals need all the help they can get.  But today I'd like to offer some advice to the players who must put up with these sick, sad weirdos.

And here it is: bargain for your life.

Years of con sessions and tabletop campaigns and Google Plus gaming have shown me lots of players who all too readily give up at the very moment they should be marshaling their every resource.  That is the moment when their PC kicks the bucket.

Here's the thing.  The title of my current campaign handout is Jeff Rients Wants to Kill Your Fucking Character, but that title is, in fact, a lie.  I want to try to kill your character.  And I certainly will kill your character.  But what I really want to happen is for you to survive by the skin of your teeth, exiting the dungeon with the thrill of knowing you very well could have died.  Frankly, the treasure is just icing on the cake of daring to enter the dungeon and getting away with it.

It's kinda like how I teach (actually how I teach is kinda like how I DM).  At the start of the semester I tell the students what I will expect of them in terms of the reading, writing, research, and thinking.  I tell them they will be challenged.  Then I tell them that if they don't do it, they will fail the course.  Now, I don't want any of them to fail.  (In fact, I basically only give out F's for not showing up or not handing things in.)  What I want is for them to be challenged and then congratulate themselves for rising to the challenge and doing great things.  I'm rooting for my students to succeed.  Very few things in the world make me happier than to see my students learn stuff and get good grades.

But at the end of every semester I get at least one student who didn't believe me when I said I would not hesitate to fail them for Not Doing the Things.  They show up to my office and/or email me extensively, desperate to wriggle out of the bad predicament they've gotten themselves into.  They ask for extra credit.  They offer to revise and resubmit.  They outright beg.  They cajole.  Sometimes they cry.  It's an unfortunate scene and thus far it has never worked.  But I don't mind taking these meetings.  These young people are simply trying to avoid the chickens coming home to roost as best they can.  I just wish they had been as quick-thinking and resourceful earlier in the semester.

I think more players should be a little bit like those students.  Doom comes at an unknown time for the PC, not at the end of 16 weeks ill-spent.  Why accept your fate with quiet dignity?  Dig this fairly typical scene:
DM: Hendrik the Beefy rips the door off the hinges!  Unfortunately, the hobgoblins on the other side heard your argument about whether to check it for traps or not.  They have crossbows ready.  Hendrik is hit five times for 19 points total!
Player (crumples charsheet): I only had 6 hit points.  I'm dead.

Protip #1

NEVER DECLARE YOURSELF DEAD.  Let the DM do that.  I want your PC to live, but if you've given up on them, why should I care?  I can't tell you how many times I've seem something like this.  I think it stems from players a) assuming they know the rules in play and b) thinking the rules are in charge of the game.  I love my D&D rulebooks, but they aren't running this show.  I am.  Give you and your PC the breathing room to see if that fact cuts your way or not.

Protip #2

When you believe you are dead, think quickly and try to come up with a very brief retcon.  A good DM understands the fluid nature of the shared imaginative space the game inhabits and will allow reasonable and judicious editing of the last few moments of play.  Here's what could have happened:
DM: Hendrik the Beefy rips the door off the hinges!  Unfortunately, the hobgoblins on the other side heard your argument about whether to check it for traps or not.  They have crossbows ready.  Hendrik is hit five times for 19 points total!
Player: Dang, I only have 6 hit points...  Wait a second.  You said I ripped the door off the hinges, right?
DM: Yeah, I guess I did.
Player: So maybe the door gave me cover against the crossbow bolts... eh?
DM:  That makes sense, I guess.  But I've already rolled to hit and damage, so I'm not going to take back all of the hits.  Roll a d4.  That many bolts hit the door instead.
Player (rolls): A three!
DM: Okay, the first two bolts hit you but you pull the door up in time to block the rest.  You take 5 points total.
Player: Whew!  Hendrik's only got 1 hit point left, but I'm still in the game!
Looking for these sorts of environmental factors is something you can do for other players as well.

Protip #3

All your precious things are less important than your life.  That goes double for your PC and their stuff.  Trade that crap away!  Not every DM will take the bait, but some will eat up the opportunity to let you live in exchange for making your life miserable.
Player: So maybe the door gave me cover against the crossbow bolts... eh?
DM: No way, dude.  You suspected there were hostiles on the other side of that door.  We both know Hendrik would discard that thing as soon as possible to get out his axe and shield.
Player: Okay, looks like Hendrik is going down.  But maybe I can linger at negative hit points for at least a round so the cleric can heal me.
DM: Not at negative thirteen hit points.  Minus nine or less, maybe you've got a chance.
Player: Shaving off four hit points might save my bacon?  Okay, imagine that the one bolt that is worth the most damage doesn't hit my body.  Instead...
DM: I'm listening.
Player (snaps fingers): Instead it hits my magic amulet!  You know, the one that allows me to cast
I haven't seen that flick in years.
Strength on myself 3 times a day?  I wear it on a chain around my neck.  Maybe it catches the deadly shot just like the cigarette case in Johnny Dangerously!  Whaddya say?
DM: Okay, I'm sold.  Your amulet is shattered into a dozen fragments and you hit the floor.  You're at negative nine hit points and not dead.  Not this round, at least.
Many of us, myself included, get so excited about magic items that we sometimes forget that their primary purpose is to keep our PCs alive for another day.  Your magic sword might be hella sweet. but it doesn't do you any good if your PC is a lifeless corpse.  (I guess that puts me in Thulsa Doom's camp vis-a-vis the Riddle of Steel.)  Why not trade that enchanted blade for your life by offering to have it block the death blow, breaking it in the process?  Heck, I might let a regular sword do the same job.

This idea is just a less formalized version of Trollsmyth's famous Shields Shall Be Splintered! house rule, which IIRC tied with Dwimmermount's Liquid Courage for Best New House Rule of 2008.  You bet your ass you should be offering to shatter your shield to save your PC's life.  Helmets ought to work well, too.  I might even allow suits of armor to be busted up, say to the tune of d4 points of AC lost.  Sure that means the next attack will be easier to land, but when you life is in peril you worry about the next thing next, not now.

Look for other opportunities to trade mere stuff for a prolonged life.  Maybe that dragon's breath didn't incinerate you.  Maybe it set your cloak of elvenkind alight and you quickly discarded the burning garment.  Instead of falling into the pit of acid, your buddy caught you in the nick of time.  Sure, you dropped your large sack full of loot into the acid, but at least you're alive.  And coldblooded PCs should be putting their henchmen and hirelings between themselves and the grim reaper whenever possible.

Finally, consider the difference between your PC's body and their soul.  Better to lose a limb or an eye than die outright.  Next adventure you could be rocking a peg leg or a eye patch.  How cool is that?

He lost his magic sword and his fighting hand,
but he lived to level up another day.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Vaults of Vyzor, session #10


Brax of the Tallstones, savage human fighter (Brad Black)
Young John, 0-level Likely Lad (NPC hireling)
Yareh Falsong, mutant thief (Sam Mameli)
Gwalin Rustbritches, dwarf   (NPC hireling)
Merrill Meadows, fighter (Michael Julius)

Brax, Yareh, and Merrill emerge from today's expedition to the Verdant Vault dripping in orc blood from head to toe.  Even better, they bring out a treasure chest full of equal parts copper, silver, electrum, gold, and platinum coins!  Young John is only slightly splattered with orc blood, as he spent the entire session carrying the torch, avoiding combat.  Everybody doff their caps for a moment of silence, as Gwalin the Dwarf does not return from his trip below Castle Vyzor.  ("Good riddance!" mumble several dwarves nearby.  Why Gwalin was a pariah among his own kind will remain a mystery forever.)  Loaded with riches, the three heroes carouse mightily, blabbing all bout their adventure.

Using this well-known map of the first level of the Verdant Vault, they plan on making a straight push through to the stairs down near the southwest of the level as it is known.

Aside: I am loving the communal nature of the maps.  In my first Google+ campaign a fair number of people were tight-fisted with maps. There's plenty of treasure (and peril) to go around, so making maps publicly available seems like a great move to me.  It's like the adventurers are members of communal effort to plunder the Vaults.
One big, happy, larcenous family.

Anyway, I should've made a not about this next bit at the time, but I didn't.  One of the players suggested trying to recruit the Bargain Wolves to join their expedition.  Whoever said that should take a bow in the comments, because the reaction roll dice came up boxcars and the wolves helped the party out for a few encounters.

Apart from allying with the Bargain Wolves, the rest of the expedition was orcs, orcs, and more orcs.  The orc guard post was ravaged, after which the party used a secret door to launch a raid on the orc training facility.  Brax took pity on the teen-aged recruits, quaking in their boots at the sight of a flesh and blood opponent.  He ended up knocking out three of the poor kids before the majority of them ran in sheer terror.  The previously-encountered one-eyed orcish drill sergeant was brutally murdered for his trouble.

The routed recruits start pounding on a nearby door, begging for help from whoever was on the other side.  The party and the wolves split ways at this point.  The wolves stay and pick off the surviving recruits only to become embroiled in a fight with a crap-ton of veteran orc soldiers coming out of that door.  The party makes a judicious withdrawal and heads down the stairs to level 2 of the Verdant Vaults.  There they discover another big L-shaped 20' corridor similar to the one that dominated level one, though not quite as long.

In the one room they explore, past that crazy hall of oblique angles, they find five orcs who have just discovered a treasure chest concealed in a decorative pillar.  The party charges and what follows in one of the best low-level D&D fights I have seen in a long time.  Yes, there was a round or two where no one hit anybody else, but that only served to contrast the big cinematic things that happened the other rounds.  Merrill viciously critted two orcs in back-to-back rounds, spraying orc blood all over the room.  He will henceforth be known as Merill the Orcslayer.  Yareh injudiciously joined the melee at one point and was nearly slain by a mighty blow, but Brax heroically intervened, his shield splintering and his forearm taking the brunt of the blow.  Poor Gwalin fell here to a vicious orc warhammer blow to his face.  This was just one of those beautiful, chaotic fights that nicely demonstrates that you don't need a bunch of levels or feats for an encounter to be epic as shit.

Alas, our time was nearly up for the session.  I threw some rolls for wandering monsters, which came up nil.  The party caroused as mentioned.  Yareh blew her saving throw and awoke with a new tattoo on her back.  Something like this:

But with scrollwork around it labeling the piece "Brax the Bold."

The dotted line is the mysterious elevator shaft.


Gwalin Rustbritches (dwarf hireling)
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)

Rumour: A Lord and his minions intent on looting the Vaults have arrived.  They are now guests in the Azure Tower.

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Best Box of Monsters

So here's something cool I dug up a while back and meant to share with all y'all.

Back in 1982 or so tabletop fantasy gaming was so big that Grenadier Miniatures, one of the best manufacturers back in the day, started a division aimed at a more mainstream audience.  I don't think Pinnacle Products was around for long, but they did manage to release a pair of Dark Crystal figure sets and 2 Masters of the Universe boxes.  That's right, back in the day you could get Skeletor and the skeksis in 25mm.  What a time to be alive.  (Skeletor and the Skeksis would be a pretty decent band name.)

Anyway, one of Pinnacle's releases was, in my humble opinion, the single greatest boxed set of monsters in the history of the hobby.  Their humbly named Fantasy Monsters set contained eleven pieces.  One of them is one of the best sculpts of a smallish, wingless dragons I have ever seen:
Called the Vermillion Dragon, according to the box.

But what really makes Pinnacle's Fantasy Monsters stand out for me is that the other ten figures were bat-shit crazy-go-nuts.  Dig 'em:


False Phoenix!

Green Gaunt!

Ram Horn! 
Is it just me or does Ram Horn look a bit like a squished version of the monster from the second Conan flick? The face is also a little reminiscent of the Phantom Stalker in the D&D cartoon, I think.

Sand Ripper!
Of all the figures in the set, this one is the hardest one for me to get excited about.  In the few photos I've been able to find online, it doesn't really look like anything in particular.

Five Eyed Terror!  One Eyed Pit Fiend!  Tri-Ora!  Red Horned Mane!
Trust me, you'll want to click to see these bad boys close up.  Don't miss the One-Eyed Pit Fiend's troubling toes or the fact that those aren't crab claws on the Tri-Ora.  They're mouths.

Six Legged Nightmare!
I saved the Six Legged Nightmare for last because that paint job is by the one and only Erol Otus.  That shading from peachy pink to brownish purple is vintage Otus.

I can't find a scan of the cover of the boxed set online, but here's the front of the painting guide that included with the figs.

Why is this boxed set so great?  Firsta of all, any campaign should have at least one or two custom GM critters that feature prominently in play.   This box set gives you ten new freaks that you could stat up and be assured that no one has ever encountered them before.  Hell, this set is practically a taunt in 25mm lead form, "Here's a dragon kid.  I dare you to figure out what to do with the rest of these weirdos."

Second, if you're the kind of DM who uses miniatures, you should always have at least one figure that you can use as the "What the hell is that?" monster.  Ideally, you don't want to use a figure that evokes any particular hit dice or abilities or behavior.  If you use a troll, for instance, the players will tend to start thinking trollish thoughts about your decidedly non-troll weirdo monster.  A figure that is monstrous but a blank slate as far as past associations is best in these circumstances.

And there's no reason why you can't do both with these figures.  Take your favorites and turn them into regular features in your campaign and take the ones you consider duds and set them aside as fill-in-the-blank figures.

The one thing these critters don't have going for them is size.  I'm pretty sure that the dragon is the tallest figure in the bunch and I don't think it's any bigger than 2" tall.  The five eyed terror is more typical of the set, and it is about 30mm tall.  That's not very big and menacing in today's 28mm world.  Of course, nearly all the monsters in your minis universe (except orcs and skeletons and whatnot) could be much bigger is you started using Caesar 1:72 plastic Adventurers, Copplestone Castings 10mm Heroes and Halflings, or Perfect Six Scenics 6mm Adventurers.  Heck, nowadays you can even buy 10mm dungeon rooms, corridors, and furniture from Pendraken.

By they way, three of the figures in Pinnacle's Fantasy Monsters set were also sold by Grenadier in a blister.  Fantasy Lords number 147 contained the One Eyed Pit Monsters, Ram Horn, and Barracuman.  Grenadier was later bought out by the French company Mirliton, or they purchased the molds or something like that.  You can still get a lot of old Grenadier designs at, including a four pack called Horror Monsters, which contains the Five Eyed Terror, One Eyed Pit Monster, Tri-Ora, and Red Horned Mane.

Anybody have this set back in the day?  What did you do with it?

Almost forgot: much of the info and many of the images in this post come from the thoroughly excellent Lost Minis Wiki.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

What does the party look like?

I don't usually use the jump break thingy when writing a blog post, but I'm going to try it here today.  Hopefully it works.

Anyway, I'd like you to close your eyes and imagine a typical D&D party.  Once you've got that idea in your head, click the thing to load the rest of the post.

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!

here's the cleric

The following chart was designed for the vaguely Christian cleric of typical pseudo-medieval games. You'll probably need to revise this chart heavily if you've got a lot of weird gods in your campaign.
Random Cleric Advancement
Start with a normal undead-turning, no-spell-at-first-level cleric.  Advance hit points, to-hits, saves, and turn undead normally.  For each new spell slot you would normally gain, roll on the following chart instead.
01-05  You gain +1 to hit instead.
06-15  You gain +1 on all saves instead.
16-62  You gain a spell slot as normal.
63-65  Your ability to Turn Undead increases by one level.
66-68  You gain the ability to convert one memorized spell per day into healing of d6 per spell level.   If you roll this at 2nd level you can heal d6 as a daily power.
69-70  You start to hear voices.  Once per session you can ask them a question.  The DM will roll a secret reaction roll check for you.  The truthfulness of the answer will depend on the roll.  Reroll if you get this result a second time.
71-72  You start to see visions.  Once per session you can use clairvoyance, as per the 3rd level MU spell.  If you roll this a second time, you may opt to use wizard eye (MU 4) instead, on a case-by-case basis.  Reroll if you get this result a third time.
73-74  You are really getting into the smiting end of this business.   Any time you roll maximum damage with a melee weapon, your opponent must save vs. paralyzation or be stunned for d3 rounds.  Reroll if you get this result again.  
75-77 You can turn something besides undead once per day.  Roll on the chart below:
  1. Demons, devils, etc.
  2. Elementals of all sorts.
  3. Constructs and robots.
  4. Stupid mash-up monsters like owlbears and dracolisks
  5. Goblinoids
  6. Elves and fairies
  7. Lycanthropes
  8. Anything cthulhoid and tentacley
Your DM will have to decide the equivalency on their turn charts, based roughly on hit dice.  If you get this result again, roll on the above chart again.  If you get an already-obtained result, your ability to turn that kind of monster goes up to 3x per day. Reroll anything that is already 3x per day.
78-79  Fanatical Followers: Any henchmen or hirelings you obtain who do not already have a strongly documented faith gain +2 morale from your contagious religious fervor.  Reroll if you get this result again.
80-81  Create Holy Water: So long as you can cover the cost of 1gp each for the vials, you begin every new adventure with d6 holy waters.  Reroll if you get this result again.
82-84  Declare a Crusade: Pick a single species of monster or other type of foe that really cheeses you off.  All your party members are +1 to hit and damage against these creatures so long as you are standing with them.  This works up to and including massive army scales.  You do not get the bonus.  If you get this again you must declare a new crusade against someone else. The old bonus no longer applies.
85-86  Last Rites: If you spend 1 turn and sprinkle holy water on a corpse, it cannot return as undead (excepting the occasional revenant).  This has no effect on corpses that are already undead.  Reroll if you get this result again.
87  Power Marriage: You can declare any two sentient beings to be united in holy wedlock, and they will totally go for it, as if they had been in love the whole time.  You can do this exactly once.  Reroll if you get this result again and haven't already used it.
88-89  Pilgrimage: The thing you seek, the MacGuffin or whatever, is located in the tomb of a saint nor more than 4 play 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.
90-91  Some servants of the Lord have strange gifts.  Roll on the magic-user spell table equivalent to the highest level spell you can cast.  Add that spell to your own spell list.  If you don’t have any spells yet (e.g. you’re rolling for second level), gain a random 1st level MU spell as a daily power.
92  Future Saint: The site of your death becomes holy.  No undead may enter there and any of your faith who rests here regain spells in half the usual time.  Oddly, this still applies if you are resurrected or raised (don't tell the pilgrims). Reroll if you get this result again.
93-94 You gain a spell slot as usual AND a bonus slot of the level below it.  If you were rolling for a first level slot, you gain two first level slots.
95-97  You gain an acolyte (1st level cleric) as a free henchweenie.
98  Word of your holiness has spread.  When travelling through the countryside, peasants will be happy to feed and shelter  you and your friends in exchange for your divine presence.  They will also hide you from Johnny Law.  The jaded inhabitants of the city require a favorable reaction roll for you to pull this off.  Reroll if you get this result again.
99-100  When you are really in the soup you can call on an angel of the Lord (or whatever) to help you.  Throw two six siders.  Those are the levels of the wandering monster charts the DM should roll dice on.  The DM should combine the two monsters in as horrific a creation as possible (contact with the divine is often terrifying).  Additionally, the creature can fly 180’, is immune to non-magical attacks, and has one special power of the DM’s choosing.  It probably glows, too.  It will perform one service on your behalf, subject to DM interpretation, or join in a single combat.  If you are not in dire straits when you call on it, it will arrive in its vengeful form: roll a third monster to combine with it and now it wants to smite the shit out of you.  You can call on the angel but once.  Reroll if you get this result again and have not summoned the angel. (I.e. you can't bank more than one angelic bail-out.)