Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Dungeons of Grandeur.

I'm surprised I haven't shown these before now.  They're from my mid-teen years; late 80's.  Somewhere I came across poster-board sized graph paper and about a week later this dungeon was done.  I then glued it onto an actual poster-board.  Surprisingly, 30 years on and it's still in pretty good shape.

I never wrote it up as a dungeon.  Making 169 rooms interesting is a challenge now, let alone then -- I've never been a huge fan of empty rooms.  One curious thing, you can go from room 2 all the way to room 154 and only pass through 3 other rooms.  An unplanned feature for sure.

And then of course there's this bad-lad, four times the size.  Too bad I burned out.  It's much more dense than the one above and would have clocked in at around 800 rooms.  These sheets are in surprisingly good shape too.

They're now artifacts that make me want to put aside what I'm working on and attempt to draw the largest, most complex dungeon of all time.  Probably not gonna do that.  Besides, how would you scan such a thing?

I loved the concept of the Dungeon.  Still do.  Always will.  

Just saying.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Combat Mechanics

The years I spent searching for the perfect system that doesn't exist.  And by system, I generally mean, combat system.

Only to discover the OSR and the notion that the older systems are all you really need, i.e, tweaked of course, but a solid foundation.  There's lots of cool little ideas and dice tricks in the OSR universe to spice up your games.  If you care about mechanics.  And I do.

D&D combat is illogical.  That's not exactly news.  It's always been an abstraction, one originally designed to simulate armies against armies, not necessarily man against man.

Two 1st level fighters should fight to a stand still.  Yes, maybe one's a little stronger or one's a little quicker, but they're basically evenly matched.  Their level is their fighting skill.  Two 5th level fighters should also fight to a stand still as should two 10th level fighters, and so on.  A 5th level fighter should whoop a 1st level fighter -- here the rules accurately account, if only because of hit points.

The main difference in these duels is that the 1st level fighters, though evenly matched, will see one of the fighters fall quickly do to a lack of hit points, were as the 5th & 10th level fighters toil on and on.  Two evenly matched fighters of any level should toil on and on.  So logically, should hit points change depending on your opponent?  That's not gonna happen.  If anything damage should change, which does happen somewhat.

My chances of defeating my opponent rest mainly on how good my fighting skills are compared to his.  Yes armor plays a roll, but it only delays my pummeling of a lesser opponent.  This dovetails directly into the notion of armor as damage reduction.

Armor Class.  It makes perfect sense for ranged combat.  Most people can't dodge arrows even if they know they're coming, so basically, distance and what armor your target wears are your primary obstacles to a successful hit.  Shields should factor more.  In fact, shields in general are way undervalued.  If entering combat and I had to choose sword or shield, I would strongly consider choosing shield.

One of my favorite representation of man to man combat was in the DC Heroes RPG by Mayfair Games.  A system referred to by some as, MEGS.  The system is 2d10.  On the Action table, cross reference your score vs. your opponent's score (usually Dex vs. Dex) to find the number you need to meet or beat.  If you roll doubles you get to roll another 2d10 (I would consider changing this to simply rolling another 1d10 to avoid ridiculous, if not rare, outcomes.)  Notice on the Action table that evenly matched foes of any power level have to roll an 11 to hit.

Then you cross reference your effect value (usually Strength) against your opponent's Body score (modified by armor) on the Result table, including any column shifts from your success to see the damage inflicted.  But once again, a fight between evenly matched "regular folk" won't last long because of low health values.  Still, it's elegant.  Buuutttt...CHARTS.  They slow the game down, or do they really?  We never had problems with charts when we used them. 

Charts were a thing in the 80's.  By the 90's they were pretty much obsolete.  The thing with charts though, is that they can provide fairly logical results for a system.  Marvel's FASERIP system used charts well.  The huge flaw in FASERIP though, is that your foe's fighting skill had no bearing on whether or not you could hit them.  The chart simply existed to determine how well you hit them.  Your average person, with Typical rank Fighting, has a 50% chance of hitting anyone.

Then there's Palladium.  Strike, Parry, Dodge, Roll with Punch....!  A very granular, opposed roll, chart-less system, love it or hate it.  I love it.  Ideal for one man vs. another.  Five on five?... good luck with that.  Palladium Fantasy uses the same system, but this type of combat takes far to long for a dungeon crawl (and ultimately, it's all about accommodating a dungeon crawl!)  This type of system almost requires a comic book (cinematic) style of action narration.

Notice how in comics and movies, when groups fight each other, they focus on one or two characters at a time.  You'll see a series of actions, strikes, and parries before switching to another character.  Often, the results of the first little scene will lead directly to the next, for example, the next two combatants will move into the background of someone else's scene before becoming the focus themselves.  This brings up a whole 'nother aspect -- initiative and turn order.

One of the reasons that D&D combat can be tedious and not dynamic, is that it's essentially a frame by frame narration, going from fastest to slowest.  You go first, swing and miss.  The scene immediately switches to the other side of the room where someone else acts.  Then the focus switches again.  You rarely get to see an immediate rebuttal from your foe.  Not very exciting.

What if, you focused on whoever acted first for a couple of rounds of give and take, and then switched to the next person for a couple of rounds.  Does everyone declare their intentions first and have to stick with them?  Or do you keep it fluid and let people choose their actions depending on the events of those that went before?  It gives everyone a bit of a spotlight for a few moments instead of the regular slow-motion chess game.  Of course it causes problems for spell durations and stun durations and rules-lawyers would absolutely lose their minds!  It would take a strong DM.

Another game system that had wild potential in my book is Iron Kingdoms.  Love its use of derived stats and the 2d6/3d6 resolution mechanic has all kinds of potential for cool little dice tricks.  But it's basically a glorified miniatures game, practically requires them.  I would do away with the FEAT point system entirely.  And magic would need modification as every spell is simply a different version of magic missile.  Man, this game could have been it.....

Where have I gone with this ramble???

Back to mano-a-mano and D&D.  Without rewriting the rules all together, the simplest solution for me has been to add a parry option.  An active parry option, not a +2 or +4 bonus to AC for fighting defensively -- far too passive for my taste.  You don't want to bog the game down with parries, so it's just an option.  If you haven't already acted, you can try to parry an incoming attack.  Meet or beat the attack roll with one of your own.  Perhaps a bonus if using a shield (or advantage.)  Then you can't attack that round.  If you're playing your character realistically, they would always choose to parry if they could (unless you really embrace hit points as endurance and fate, which they kind of are.)  Perhaps Barbarians (berserkers) don't ever get the option.  It slows combat down a bit because there will be successful parries, but that combat is more exciting, a touch more real.

Just some stuff I always think about.

And then there's the quest for the perfect, non-Vancian magic system...

Sunday, April 26, 2020

4th & Sewers.

So, here we have the only dungeon I ever made for 4th Edition.  It was designed for a single player running a couple of low-level characters.  Don't remember too much about it other than it involved the Shadar-Kai and sewers.  Its fairly linear in that it ultimately goes in one direction, but there are multiple choices on the way there -- wherever "there" is, as you see, I never finished it and I believe we only got as far as the second page.

Once upon a time, some friends and I explored the sewers under a Detroit suburb.  Some of the architecture I saw down there, I included on these maps (drawn some 15 years later.)*  Being the main drainage lines and the height of summer, we were basically walking through large concrete pipes with a bit of surprisingly clear water.  Summer was really the only time you could safely explore.  We never once saw, "sewage," or much debris of any kind other than the occasional planks of wood.  One night, we actually came out through a manhole cover on someone's front lawn.  Our individual exits had to be timed perfectly due to steady traffic.  We were miles away from the entrance.....and the car.  The walk back on the streets is a whole 'nother story.....

*The entrance room on page 1 has a passage that starts 12 ft. up a slippery wall.  We experienced a chamber that had something like this.  The wall was slightly sloped and slick with a trickle of water.  Our first time down, we couldn't climb it.  The next time, thanks to a home-made grappling hook, we made it up (I believe it only took us 2 throws.)   And after all that effort, that higher passage didn't amount to much (obviously we missed the secret door!)  The main double-passage that links page 1 to page 2, is modeled directly after the main double-passage we followed for about a mile before branching off and exploring miles of smaller side passages that we often had to duck-walk through.  I'm still in pretty good shape, but no way could I do that now.

We wore rubber boots & gloves.  Flashlights were essential, with spare batteries just in case.  The darkness was oppressive.  Had something happened to our light sources, we'd have been far beyond screwed.....

Been busy working on my next module, spent most of March just working on the map.  It is ....different.

Game on.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Castles & Crusades Character Sheet

First let me say, I am working on something.  Since, Sision Tower, I've had several ideas.  Drawn lots of cool pictures -- art I WANT to use, but nothing really stuck.  Until recently, that is.  I'd put up a preview, but it's too soon.   Anyhow, I paused my current project because I haven't posted in a while.  So, on to the topic at hand, a game that's been on my mind more and more lately.....

I've owned the 3 Core Rule-Books for awhile now and recently purchased 8 more.  These books are beautiful to my eyes.  I love the art -- something I always pay attention to.  For me, art is integral to gaming.  It sets the mood, it inspires and feeds the imagination (and it doesn't have to be traditional.)  The art in Castles & Crusades (mainly by Peter Bradley) screams D&D, it screams Sword & Sorcery.  It's sexy.  It's BAD-ASS!

The Siege Engine.  If you're not familiar, this is the saving throw and non-combat task resolution system that I think intimidates some people.  It's kind of like THAC0, in that you can make it sound more complicated than it actually is.  To sum it up:  Saving Throws are based on ability scores.  You will have 2 or 3 (Humans) Primary stats and the others will be Secondary stats.  Primary stat saves start at 12, Secondary stat saves start at 18.  Subtract your level.  Subtract a positive ability bonus (or a add a negative one.)  And maybe, subtract a bonus gained from your class.  That's your save.  Add the challenge level of any particular challenge to get your target number on a D20.  Challenge level is usually based on the level or hit dice of a monster, spell-caster, trap-setter, etc.

(The books go into complex examples of running Siege in a way that assumes you are hiding the challenge level from the player, kind of like hiding armor class in a THAC0 system.  I find it so much easier to have the math done on your character sheet beforehand and simply tell the players the challenge level.)

Here's an example.  A 3rd level Cleric with a 14 wisdom (which gives a +1 bonus.)  Wisdom is the primary stat for clerics, so the base number will be 12.  12 minus 3 (for 3rd level), and -1 ( for a +1 wisdom bonus) = 8.  All of this cleric's wisdom rolls are 8+, including Turn Undead (which would then be further modified by the Undead's hit dice, so turning a 5 HD undead would up this cleric's roll from 8 to 13.)  That's it, that's Siege.

Below is a sample of how to record this to speed up play.  This is a 1st level Illusionist.  Instead of just writing 12s and 18s for the saves and doing the calculations during play, I've recorded the final numbers below.  The reason for the 10/9 split for Intelligence is that Illusionists get a bonus vs. illusions that improves as they level up.  So, this Illusionist's save vs illusions is 9+.  If they were saving vs an illusion spell cast by a 4th level spell-caster, the save would jump to 13+.

It breaks down like this:

  • Str (secondary) 18 (-1 for 1st level) (+1 for a -1 Str mod) = 18
  • Dex (secondary) 18 (-1 for 1st level) (+1 for a -1 Dex mod) = 18
  • Con (secondary) 18 (-1 for 1st level) = 17
  • Int (primary) 12 (-1 for 1st level) (-1 for a +1 Int mod) = 10 (9 vs Illusions for an Illusionist)
  • Wis (primary) 12 (-1 for 1st level) (-1 for a +1 Wis mod) = 10 
  • Cha (primary) 12 (-1 for 1st level)  = 11

Those stats were rolled randomly, in order, switching Dex and Int.  Illusionists have Int as the primary stat and Humans get two more, where as the other races only get one.  I think it would be interesting if your other primary stat(s) had to be determined randomly.  Here, I chose them to be wisdom and charisma.

Anyhow, if this Illusionist was 15th level, the saves would read: 4,4,3,-4,-4,-3.  Seems crazy, but remember there will almost always be a challenge level added and a 15th level Illusionist will be dealing with 12, 15, 20+ level challenges.  So this 15th level Illusionist, with a Dex save of 4, springing a trap set by a 12th level Rogue, would have to roll 16+ (4 + 12.)

Also, Illusionists are cool in this game.  There are 13 core classes and 14 more in The Adventurers Backpack, not to mention the additional classes found in the various well researched historical Codexes.  All hack-able in true OSR fashion, in fact, some require hacking such as the Nekuomantis (Greek Necromancer) in the Codex Classicum.  A class where some class abilities are written in a mechanically vague way, encouraging you to interpret them as you will.  I know what I would do.....

The Codex Classicum also has an Oracle (Seer) class that is very heavy on the role-play side, recommending that it be played by experienced players.  It's cool, but I prefer mechanics and plan to share some ideas for a hack in the future.

Castles & Crusades also has one of the more user-friendly, yet realistic, encumbrance systems out there.

GREAT game that is capturing more and more of my attention, so naturally, here's a character sheet.  I borrowed thematically from my 5th Edition sheets and took away the Pathfinder-like math on the C&C official sheets.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Super Hero Campaigns: Patrolling The City

 As I've said before, my favorite superhero systems are Marvel FASERIP, DC Heroes (Mayfair Games), and Heroes Unlimited by Palladium Games, however, the following tables are system neutral.

What you will need for this to work are your own, ever-growing, random lists of villains and heroes (separate lists), perhaps columns of 10 each so that you can easily add future columns.  Results should include solo villains and villain groups the likes of:  Hydra, A.I.M., and The Hand, also Aliens and Monsters.  You should have stats for all results ready to go, including stats for thugs, cops, wild animals, etc.  If a villain is rolled who should be in jail, they've obviously escaped.

This is meant to emulate the classic trope of a single hero or super-team patrolling their city on the look-out for crime on any given day or night.  You do not need a city-map, but having one wouldn't hurt.  Every time you roll on these tables equals a comic book Issue (as in a 22 page monthly Issue.)  Every time you roll on these tables something will happen.  Results may need a little tweaking to make sense.  Take notes and switch between heroes and groups every so often to create your own comic book universe!

  • To simulate time passed between Issues, roll 2d6.  The result equals the number of days passed since something happened on patrol (for that Title.)  You may or may not have been patrolling during those days, either way, nothing of note occurred.

Location of Crime, d12
1.  Sewers
2.  Docks (shipping district)
3.  Mall (shopping district)
4.  Skyscraper (downtown)
5.  Warehouse District
6.  Airport
7.  Art District (museums, theaters)
8.  Slums
9.  Uptown (wealthy district)
10. College campus
11. Iconic bridge or Park (zoo, cemetery)
12. Subway system

Type of Crime or Incident, d20

1.  Kidnapping:  You witness this as it happens, someone is grabbed and thrown into a van or flown away (if a flying villain.) 1-2  child, 3-4  man, 5-6  woman.

2.  Assault:  A woman screams and is struggling with an assailant(s).

3.  Drug smuggling:  You witness a major drug transaction, 1d6+2 well-armed gangsters on both sides.

4.  Human trafficking:  2d6+10 people (usually immigrants but can be of any origin, even extra-terrestrial) being loaded onto a truck.

5.  Bank robbery:  The classic crime, you hear the alarms going off.

6.  Sniper:  Usually just a single psycho shooting from above, randomly targeting civilians.  By the time you arrive, you've heard 3d6 shots resulting in 2d6 casualties.

7.  Gang War:  2d6+6 well-armed gangsters on both sides shooting it out, why get invovled?--1d6+2 civilians are in harms way.

8.  Murder:  You heard the scream, but arrive to find the deed done with the perp(s) standing over the body.  Victim was a 1. lover, 2. rival, 3. cop, 4. thug, 5. politician, 6. john doe.

9.  Mugging:  Another classic crime, you hear the screams.

10. Arson/Vandalism:  Something is burning or being destroyed, perps are present.  

11. Hostage situation:  2d6+12 hostages are being kept inside a(n) 1. office (1d6 x 10 floors up), 2. church, 3. store, 4. school, 5. theater, 6. mansion.  They will terminate 1 hostage every hour if demands aren't met.

12. Riot, looting & destruction:  3d6 x 10 protesters/anarchists are venting, innocents are in danger, property is being destroyed.

13. Hero(s) fighting Villain(s):  You stumble across a fight between a fellow hero and a villain, or multiples 1d4 vs. 1d4.  

14. Rampage:  A monster or robot is tearing up the town.

15. Hero fighting Hero:  Fellow heroes are fighting, it's getting serious.  Why are they fighting?:  1.  lovers quarrel,  2. one is is being overly territorial,  3. one is trying to prevent the other from going bad,  4. one is being mind-controlled by a villain,  5. one is a cocky new kid on the block,  6. they are just sparring.  

16. Villain fighting Villain:  Two villains intent on ending each other.  Why are they fighting?:  1.  lovers quarrel,  2. one stole the others loot,  3. one is sick of being bad,  4. one murdered the other's friend,  5. one has a "hit" on the other,  6. they are just sparring.

17. Jail-Break:  5d6 inmates are spilling out onto the streets.  If this is a super-breakout, you're in trouble.

18. Serial-Killer strikes:  You hear screams, someone has found a body.  You need to make a difficult Intuition/Awareness/Perception check (e.g., Red result in Marvel) to catch the trail of the killer, otherwise they got away.  If this is rolled again it's the same killer if they haven't yet been caught.  Victim is: 1. a child,  2. a prostitute,  3. a hero,  4. a villain,  5. a random civilian,  6. an animal.  Victim type will be the same every time until caught.  

19. High speed car chase/shoot-out:  Multiple vehicles, could be gangsters or cops and robbers.

20. Power-outage, (riot plus 2 more rolls):  All hell has broken loose.

Criminal, d12
1.  Single thug
2.  1d4+1 thugs
3.  1d6+2 thugs  
4.  2d6+3 thugs
5.  Super Villain
6.  Super Villains, 2
7.  Super Villains: 1d4+2
8.  Super Hero gone bad (anti-hero)
9.  Super Villain with 1d4+1 thugs
10. Super Villain with 1d6+2 thugs
11. Super Villain with 1d10+3 thugs
12. Terrorists, 2d6+6

Complications, 1 in 6 chance
1.  A friend or dependent is in harms way.
2.  If you are hunted by someone, they show up.
3.  You have the flu and fight with some sort of disadvantage.
4.  A rival hero or arch-nemesis shows up.
5.  Bad weather, torrential rain or blizzard complicates rolls.
6.  Media is present and recording everything.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Esoteric Enterprises: Character Sheets

Mystic?  Mercenary?

Emmy Allen's Esoteric Enterprises arrived on my door-step about a week ago and after flipping through the book several times, I realized -- no character sheet.  I knew what I'd be doing for the next few days.

I like the cadence of Emmy's writing -- reminds me of my favorite Lamentations books.  What a cool game..... 

So, here are a few character sheets.  The first two are called Basic because they have wider lines to write on.  The Standard version has narrower information lines for smaller writing and potentially more info.  The Circuits version adds circuitry for flavor and a reminder of where certain bonuses are applied.  Each version has a sheet that uses dice pips for skills, and one that uses empty boxes.

Hopefully you find them useful as you seek black market treasures in the tunnels beneath the tunnels below.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

The Dungeoneer.

I love Class Systems and I love Race-As-Class.  But.....

For those of you out there that want a gritty, low-magic, Black Company style campaign, without having to switch to another system, try this.....

The Dungeoneer is a randomly rolled amalgamation of Fighter, Magic-User, Thief, and Cleric.  No two characters will be the same.  Some will be more fighter-like, some more thief-like.  Some will advance quicker, others will be tougher.  Each will be a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none.  All will feel like adventurers.

The Racial ability modifiers below are mere suggestions.  Feel free to differentiate the races however you like, or consider the Dungeoneer a human-only class.

The Dungeoneer

Choose or Roll 1d4 for Race, then determine your Stats...
1.  Human -- 3d6 down the line.
2.  Dwarf -- Con: 2d6+6, Randomly determine 1 other ability to be 2d6+1, the rest are 3d6.
3.  Elf -- Dex: 2d6+6, Randomly determine 1 other ability to be 2d6+1, the rest are 3d6.
4.  Halfling -- Str: 2d6+1, Randomly determine 1 other ability to be 2d6+6, the rest are 3d6.
  • For every +1 bonus you have from Intelligence, you get 1 free randomly rolled Thief skill every time you level up until your bonuses are used up.
  • For every +1 bonus from Wisdom, you get a bonus 1st-level spell any time you roll "Spell-Caster" until your bonuses are used up. 

You Make Saving Throws as a...Roll 1d4...
1.  Fighter
2.  Magic-User
3.  Cleric
4.  Thief

Your Hit Die is...Roll 1d6...(or you could just default to d6 for all Dungeoneers)
1-2.  d4
3-4.  d6
5-6.  d8

Class Abilities...Roll on this chart 4 times at 1st level and 2 times for every level gained there after (optional:  When you gain a level, you may forgo your 2 new class ability rolls to improve a class ability that you already have by 1 level)  ....Roll %
  1-25.  +1 To-Hit.
26-35.  Armor Training (everyone starts out trained in Leather armor.)  Every time you roll this you                      improve to better armor:  Scale, Chain, Banded, Plate, Full-Plate.  Anyone can use a                               shield.
36-50.  Weapon Training (everyone starts out trained in d4 & d6 weapons.)  The first time you roll                     this, you become trained in the use of d8 weapons.  The second time -- d10, the third and                       any subsequent time, you gain a +1 to damage rolls.
51-60.  Turn Undead as a 1st-level Cleric (turning level goes up by 1 every time you roll this.)
61-85.  Thief skills (Some Thief skills come in pairs.  They all start at 3rd level ability, increasing 2                      levels every time you roll them.....Roll 1d8...)
               1.  Open Locks
               2.  Find/Remove Traps
               3.  Climb Walls
               4.  Move Silently/Hide in Shadows
               5.  Pick Pockets
               6.  Hear Noise
               7.  Languages (you gain a new language, lucky you)
               8.  Back-Stab (standard Thief Back-Stab, +4 to-hit, damage of x2, multiplier or to-hit bonus                        increases by 1 every time you roll this ((multiplier can't go higher than x6.))

*For Lamentations of the Flame Princess style skills roll here.  The first time you roll a skill you have it at 2 in 6.  It increases by 1 every time you roll it....Roll 1d10...
               1.  Architecture
               2.  Bushcraft
               3.  Climb
               4.  Languages
               5.  Search
               6.  Sleight of Hand
               7.  Sneak Attack
               8.  Stealth
               9.  Tinker
             10.  Your Choice

86-95.  Spell-Caster. Use the Magic-User spell progression table.  You cast spells at 1st-level ability,                  your caster level goes up by 1 every time you roll this.  All spells must be determined                             randomly.  Roll 1d6 to see what kind of spells you gain each time you roll this, 1-3 you                             learn a Magic-User spell(s), 4-6 you learn a Cleric spell(s).  This is the only way that                               you can learn new spells.  You can also use scrolls.
96-00.  Find Secret Doors (starts as 2 in 6 when you roll this and goes up 1 every time it's rolled.)

Your XP Progression is like a...Roll 1d4...
1.  Fighter
2.  Magic-User
3.  Cleric
4.  Thief
  • If you don't like the idea of varied progression, a good default XP table for all Dungeoneers would be the Cleric. 

Starting Gold:  3d6

Thoughts and Forcasted Features of the Dungeoneer Class
  • Not all Dungeoneers are created equal.
  • Varying Hit Dice shows that Destiny has a different plan for us all.
  • Varying XP Progression shows that we don't all learn at the same rate.
  • More book-keeping -- you'll have a variety of abilities at different levels of competency. 
  • Mid-High level Undead will ALWAYS be a threat.
  • Eventually, everyone will be a minor spell-caster.
  • Mid-High level spells will be VERY RARE.
  • As written, a  group of Dungeoneers will be weaker than a normal group do to a lack of Spell Power and Armor Training.  To counter-act this, you can simply increase the number of ability rolls every level or increase the starting levels for thief skills and spell-casting. 
  • If you want "Spell-Caster" (or any other ability) to be rolled more often, simply tweak the % chances on the chart.
  • Using the Lamentations skills as opposed to the B/X skills will generally lead to more competent Dungeoneers (Climb is an obvious exception.) 
  • Don't use the Dungeoneer for NPCs, too much book-keeping.

Sample Dungeoneers
Gwyn, Human, 1st-level Dungeoneer
Str:  10
Dex:  12
Con:  10
Int:  13 (+1)
Wis:  11
Cha:  10

Hit Dice:  1d6
Hit Points:  5
Armor Class: 6 (14) Scale
Save as:  Thief
   D: 13
  W: 14
   P: 13
   B: 16
   S: 15

XP Progression as:  Cleric
Languages:  Common, Elven

  • Weapon Training: d8
  • Armor Training: Scale
  • +0 to-hit
  • Spell-Caster (1st level) spell: Resist Cold
  • Open Locks (3rd-level): 25%  (LotFP, Tinker:2 in 6)
  • Pick Pockets (3rd-level): 30% (LotFP, Sleight of Hand: 2 in 6)

Starting Gold: 140 (remaining: 11)

Scale Mail Armor
Short-Bow (+0 to-hit) 1d6, 20 arrows
Sword (+0 to-hit) 1d8
Dagger (+0 to-hit) 1d4
Iron Rations, 1 week
50' Rope with Grappling Hook

Gwyn at 5th-level 
Str:  10
Dex:  12
Con:  10
Int:  13 (+1)
Wis:  11
Cha:  10

Hit Dice:  5d6
Hit Points:  18
Armor Class: 6 (14) Scale
Save as:  Thief
   D: 11
  W: 12
   P: 11
   B: 14
   S: 13

XP Progression as:  Cleric
XP: 12,000  (6th-level: 25,000)
Languages:  Common, Elven

  • Weapon Training: d8
  • Armor Training: Scale
  • +3 to-hit
  • Spell-Caster (2nd level) spells: Resist Cold, Remove Fear
  • Open Locks (5th-level): 35%  (LotFP, Tinker:3 in 6) 
  • Pick Pockets (5th level): 40%  (LotFP, Sleight of Hand:3 in 6)
  • Back-Stab x2, +4 to-hit (total back-stab to-hit: +7)
  • Find/Remove Traps (3rd level):20%/20%  (LotFP, Tinker:2 in 6)

Starting Gold: N/A

Scale Mail Armor
Short-Bow (+3 to-hit) 1d6, 20 arrows
Sword (+3 to-hit) 1d8
Dagger (+3 to-hit) 1d4
Iron Rations, 1 week
50' Rope with Grappling Hook

Doro, Halfling, 1st-level Dungeoneer
Str:  8 (-1)
Dex:  13 (+1)
Con:  17 (+2)
Int:  13 (+1)
Wis:  14 (+1)
Cha:  13  (+1)

Hit Dice:  1d4+2
Hit Points:  4
Armor Class: 6 (14) Leather + Dex
Save as:  Fighter
   D: 12
  W: 13
   P: 14
   B: 15
   S: 16

XP Progression as:  Fighter
Languages:  Common, Goblin

  • Weapon Training: d6
  • Armor Training: Leather
  • +2 to-hit
  • Find Secret Doors (2 in 6)
  • Open Locks (3rd level): 25%  (LotFP, Tinker:2 in 6)
  • Climb Walls (3rd-level): 89%  (LotFP, Climb:2 in 6)

Starting Gold: 150 (remaining: 58)

Leather Armor
2 Daggers (+1 to-hit) 1d4-1
2 Slings (+3 to-hit) 1d4, 30 bullets
Short-Sword (+1 to-hit) 1d6-1
Iron Rations, 1 week
50' Rope with Grappling Hook

Doro at 5th-level
Str:  8 (-1)
Dex:  13 (+1)
Con:  17 (+2)
Int:  13 (+1)
Wis:  14 (+1)
Cha:  13  (+1)

Hit Dice:  5d4+10
Hit Points:  19
Armor Class: 6 (14) Leather + Dex
Save as:  Fighter
   D: 10
  W: 11
   P: 12
   B: 13
   S: 14

XP Progression as:  Fighter
XP:  16,000  (6th-level: 32,000)
Languages:  Common, Goblin

  • Weapon Training: d6
  • Armor Training: Leather
  • +6 to-hit
  • Find Secret Doors (2 in 6)
  • Open Locks (3rd level): 25%  (LotFP, Tinker:2 in 6)
  • Move Silently/Hide in Shadows (3rd-level): 30%/20%  (LotFP, Stealth:2 in 6)
  • Climb Walls (5th-level): 91%  (LotFP, Climb:3 in 6)
  • Back-Stab x2, +4 to-hit (total back-stab to-hit: +9)
  • Turn Undead (1st-level)
Starting Gold: N/A

Leather Armor
2 Daggers (+5 to-hit) 1d4-1
2 Slings (+7 to-hit) 1d4, 30 bullets
Short-Sword (+5 to-hit) 1d6-1
Iron Rations, 1 week
50' Rope with Grappling Hook
Holy Symbol

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Strange Things Happen When You Sleep In Dungeons.....

Close to death.....out of spells.....out of potions.  Three levels down and 10 hours from the front.  There's no way out tonight.  This place is alive with the dead.  Going into that crypt was a bad idea.  Should have known.....  Those that remain can rest here.  Seems safe enough......  The door bars from the inside.  It's cold and damp; a mixture of mud, blood, and stone.  We try to sleep in the darkest of darks, haunted by sounds that would chill even the gods, blinking in and out of nightmares, regretting the decision to descend.  When morning comes it is still night.....

Sleeping in dungeons would SUCK.

So let's make it suck in an interesting way.....

This is about quality of sleep.  You need to determine every PC's Sleep-Factor, which is simply the percentage of hit points they have remaining.  Example:  PC-1 has 7 hit points remaining out of 22, 7 divided by 22 equals.318, so PC-1's Sleep-Factor is 32%.  PC-1 will have to roll 32 or under on d100 in order to have a successful night's rest.  More about this in a minute.....

Sleep-Factor = percentage of hit points remaining.

Healing Rules.  I think it's safe to say that most old school games award 1 hit point per night's rest, and probably include your constitution bonus if you have one.  Some may also include the PC's level as a bonus.  Some may allow them to roll one hit die.  Healing rules probably run the gamut.

I like: (1 hit point + constitution bonus + level) and will be using this as the assumption for these rules.

Back to Sleep-Factor.  Every PC makes a Sleep-Factor roll (it is essentially your saving throw against a very bad night's sleep.)  If they succeed on their roll, they rest well and gain the normal healing benefits.  If they roll doubles on their success, they get to roll one hit die and add that to their total hit points healed (or you can simply allow them to heal double their amount.)

If they fail their Sleep-Factor roll, they were haunted by restlessness and/or something strange happens, but they still get their healing.  If they fail and roll doubles, something strange happens and they DO NOT recover any hit points.  Roll 1d20 below for Restless Sleep & Strange Events.....

Restless Sleep & Strange Events

1.  Sleep-Walker:  Whether you've ever sleep-walked before or not, doesn't matter, you did tonight.  You wake up the next morning 1d4+1 rooms away to the (1d4) 1--North, 2--South, 3--East, 4--West.  Good luck.

2.  Infection:  Some cut or wound you received earlier has become infected.  You were tossing and turning and sweating all night.  In the morning you feel like crap and suffer disadvantage on all saving throws for the next 4d6 hours.

3.  Bug In Your Ear:  Madness and pain ensue as you awaken to the thunderous sound of an insect buzzing inside your inner ear canal.  Your screams are loud.  Until the bug is removed, check for wandering monsters every 1d4 rounds.  The players will have to get creative to solve this one.....

4.  Seduced By A Succubus:  In your weakened state, you've been targeted by a Succubus, see this post.....Succubus

5.  Gremlins:  You had the strangest dream of weird little goblins crawling all over you, giggling and snorting, poking and prodding.  Soon after waking, you realize your favorite weapon (or spell-book) is gone.  Unbeknownst to the PC, the item is hidden in a tiny secret chamber in some room in the dungeon.  There is a 1 in 6 chance that any particular room is that room.  They still have to find the secret door.....

6.  Thief:  You wake to discover a prized item of yours is now in the possession of one of your companions who insists it is theirs (they must save vs. spells to willingly give it back, otherwise they protect it as if it's their prized possession, in fact, they dreamed that you were trying to steal it from them.)  If you're a Thief the situation is reversed, whether you remember it or not, you're the one who took the item.

7.  Visions Of The Reaper:  During the night you wake up to the bone-chilling vision of The Grim Reaper standing over one of your companions (roll 1d6 and count leftward to determine the PC.)  That PC now has disadvantage on their next 2d4 death-saves.

8.  Your Future Corpse:  Your future rotting corpse (or the corpse of a best friend) visits your dreams (nightmares) and warns you never to leave this room.  You are convinced this was real (and maybe it was.)  In the morning, under no circumstances will you leave this room.  You are petrified with fear and have to save vs. fear (petrification) once an hour.  You need 3 consecutive saves in order to get a hold of yourself.  Only then can you willingly leave.  If forced to leave, you will resist and scream maniacally, forcing a check for wandering monsters every time.

9.  End Of The Road:  In the morning, your companions awaken to discover your corpse with an expression of indescribable terror locked on your face. (Optional of course, you may roll again and let this be someone else's nightmare, but you have to roll twice.)

10.  Revelation:  You dream of the exact location of a marvelous treasure located somewhere in this dungeon.  The DM must let you read the entire contents listed under that room.  And you thought you were leaving.....

11.  False Revelation:  Your dreams reveal that your hearts desire is in danger 2d6 rooms from here (a room you haven't been in yet.)  Your friends may have other plans, but that's where you're going.....and nothing will stop you.  Unfortunately, the room already contains something else.....Of course, you never know, if the DM wants to make things interesting.....

12.  Sabotage:  You don't remember doing this, but you gathered up all the party's rations (including water) and smeared them all over the walls in a nihilistic fit of utter frustration.  They know it was you because you're a mess of food particles.

13.  Preternaturally Tired:  You will sleep for 1d4+1 more days after which you will rise completely refreshed of all wounds and ailments.  Until then, you sleep.  No matter what.

14.  Murderer:  If you have henchmen or NPCs with you, one the strongest of them (as in level) is found dead in the morning from stab wounds.  You killed him.  You know this.  You vaguely remember the act and the cryptic voices emanating from the walls that commanded you.  The room is indeed haunted and this will happen every night the party sleeps here.  If there are no henchmen or NPCs, another PC (randomly determined) awakens to you holding a dagger to their throat.  You have to save vs. spells to avoid trying to kill.  If you fail, roll initiative.....

15.  Careless Mistake:  You get up and unlock the door or deconstruct whatever barricades the party set up.  Roll for wandering monsters.  If one is rolled, it's gets the benefit of surprise.  If there is no encounter, the party will surely ponder why the door is wide open.

16.  Tongues:  Everyone is roused by the sound of you speaking in tongues.  You utter this strange language for 3d10 minutes before falling silent.  Magic-Users can make a language roll (or save vs spells with advantage) to recognize the language.  It turns out that you are revealing something juicy about the dungeon and the DM should reveal something useful.  However, everyone is so unnerved by this experience that they all have to save vs. paralysis or fail to recover any hit points from their night's rest.

17.  Insomnia:  You didn't sleep a wink, or so it seemed.  You're exhausted and have disadvantage on all attack rolls for the next 4d6 hours (if you're a spell-caster, your targets have advantage on their saving throws.)

18.  Rodents:  You wake up to rodents nibbling on your fingers, toes, or ears.  You kill them easy enough, but now you have to save vs. disease (poison) or you will wake up deathly ill -- so weak you're unable to move.  If infected, you're beyond useless and need to save vs. disease every day, 2 failures in a row equals death, 2 successes in a row and you recover.

19.  Out Of Body Experience:  Your soul left your body and went on a little Astral Journey through the dungeon.  The DM must hand you the complete map of the dungeon and let you view it for a number of seconds equal to 3d6 + your level.  You're exhausted and recover no hit points, but, you have a percentage chance equal to your Sleep-Factor of knowing the contents and secrets of any room before you enter it for the entire next day, beyond which, this knowledge fades.  The DM's gonna love you.....

20.  Double Nightmare:  (DM rolls some dice as if checking for wandering monsters.)  A huge, 8HD, AC: as plate, 2d6 bite/poison or die Spider, smashes into the room.  Everyone wakes up, roll initiative and play the fight out as normal.  The spider keeps targeting you and just as you roll a poison save, you wake up!  Everyone is sleeping peacefully and all is well.....until the room begins filling with black water furiously fast.  Your companions won't wake up and if you get close enough to shake them, you notice they're skeletons!.....It's morning, your companions wake you from a screaming nightmare.  You get 1 hit point for your rest.

Have the players do the rolling, but as a DM, you must keep the contents of this list secret, because spoilers.  You probably don't want to over-use this idea.  Maybe once per dungeon. And maybe only for characters whose Sleep-Factor is below 50%.

Another thing, players will usually set watches throughout the night.  For wandering monsters, taking turns on watch can help prevent a surprise attack, but for the purposes of this exercise, watch doesn't matter.  These events are mysterious and can happen quickly, in the blink of an eye.  People on watch are notorious for nodding off, if even for a moment, and they never admit it (seriously!)

"It didn't happen on my watch!"

Sunday, December 15, 2019

I Don't Miss Perception Checks.

I don't miss perception checks, or let me say, I don't miss having to roll perception checks.  They damaged to the game.  Perception became a super-skill, almost a stat unto itself, an entitlement.  This is by no means unique to D&D as many games out there are designed to accommodate a character's Awareness.

I walk in......perception check.
I search the room......perception check.
Is he hiding something?......perception check.
What do I hear?......perception check.
I approach cautiously......perception check.
I check for secret doors......perception check...............

Perception damaged the game.  As far as D&D is concerned, it evolved from "search for secret doors" and "check for traps" and became "I roll to check for anything and everything under the sun that I can think of that could possibly be hidden from me at any given moment for any given reason."  The almighty Perception Skill.  And whether it's called, Perception, Sense Motive, or Investigation, it's all the same.  We can thank 3rd Edition for this super-skill (and I'm not hating on 3rd Edition, I had my share of fun with it, I just don't recall it being a issue before then.)

No class is hurt by this super-skill more than the Thief/Rogue.  Their whole shtick is, not being perceived.  Perception steps on their toes by putting them in double-jeopardy.  Not only do they have to roll well to succeed, but their foe has to roll poorly.

Screw that.

Whether it's Move Silently or Hide in Shadows or plain old Stealth, if the old-school Thief makes her roll then she does what she wants to do, period.  It has nothing to do with her opponents "perception" but rather, her own personal skill and dice luck.

A fighter tries to hit you based on his skill alone -- one roll.  A wizard casts a spell on you based on your resistance (or lack of) still, one roll.  A thief tries to sneak past you, she rolls, you roll.  A thief tries to pick your pocket, she rolls, you roll.  Several of the modern thief's key abilities are contested.  You could argue that any class trying these actions face contested rolls, but these things used to be the SOLE domain of the thief.  (And I'm not against contested rolls at all, I love the notion of contested combat: Strike, parry, dodge.....)

Double Jeopardy for thieves isn't really a problem in old-school D&D, but there's one aspect to how early thieves are handled that I don't like, and that is, when the DM rolls secretly for the player.  It's their skill, their roll.   So how do I ref these rolls?  Not until the point of no return and not a moment sooner.  Example.....

The Thief is Hiding in Shadows in someone's room, waiting to spy or kill.  If her intention is simply to spy, she will roll shortly after her target enters the room, and just before he does anything important.  If she fails, he spots her, she learns nothing.  If she succeeds, he doesn't spot her and she gets to watch for as long as she wants.....even if someone else enters the room, she has successfully hidden, period.  Her gambit as a lone thief is one of life and death, if she makes her roll, let her enjoy it.

If she's hiding for an attempted "Back-Stab," she could lay in wait for minutes or hours, doesn't matter, the "Hide" roll doesn't occur until the point of no return.  Rolling secretly for the player creates the same level of suspense, but strips them of active involvement (imagine gambling at a casino with someone else rolling the dice for you.....)   Don't have her roll Hide in Shadows until she's ready to make her move and it's do-or-die.  If she fails, she's been spotted, roll initiative.  If she succeeds, here comes the dagger.  But, if her attack roll misses, that means her target saw her at the last moment and evaded.  Assassination is harder than spying.

K, that was a tangent.  Back to Perception, bottom line -- it kills the player's motivation to engage with the game world.  Rolling perception for everything is lazy and sterilizing. 

Something else I don't miss:  DC's.  DC:12, DC:15, DC:18, etc., etc.  Your character gets good at something, and then the goal-posts are moved, suddenly locks get tougher, traps get deadlier.  Everything around advances with you.  Why advance?  The beauty of old-school is that you actually get good at stuff and stay good at them.  You ARE a master-thief.  You can pick locks and disarm traps all day long, but, one failure can still kill you.

Not that I'm out to kill characters, anything but.  I've never rolled that way.  There is a way to give varying levels of difficulty without moving the goal-posts and that's by simply using advantage and disadvantage.  Anything can be easy/standard/hard.....advantage/normal/disadvantage.  You want a tough trap to find, link it with disadvantage.  Put it in a 1st level dungeon or a 15th level one, you're not changing the game much and you've added a hint of depth.  A master-thief will still probably succeed, but at least she'll sweat a little.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Have You Ever Subdued A Dragon?

Until recently, I forgot that subduing dragons was a thing.  Imagine fighting a gargantuan, pissed off, winged cat with a flame-thrower in it's throat, while trying not to seriously hurt it.  Good luck.  In years past, subduing dragons was largely a joke to us, but we lacked imagination.  By 3rd edition (and maybe even 2nd) this notion wasn't even a part of our lexicon.  The beauty of this thing we call the OSR lies in the rediscovery of such ideas, even if these ideas are rules that we kind of ignored in the first place.

It's much easier to subdue a dragon in AD&D than it is in BECMI.  AD&D gives you a growing percentage chance every round that the dragon is subdued.  BECMI requires that it be knocked down to zero hit points (non-lethal damage) before it capitulates.  Attacks must be made with the "flat-of-the-blade" thus no missile weapons and no spells.  Also, the subduing damage doesn't lower the damage of the dragon's breath weapon.

The results of the subduing vary.  Maybe the dragon forfeits it's treasure and tells you where to find more.  Maybe you capture it and sell it in some kind of black market (at 1,000 GP per hit point.)  Or maybe you make it serve you.  Why would a dragon serve you and not fry you to first chance it gets?  Is this an honor thing?  Is it broken will?  Where did this notion of subduing dragons actually come from?  Fiction?  Mythology?  I'm drawing a blank.  The Rules Cyclopedia states that a captured dragon will try to escape "if given a reasonable chance."  So, what's your plan for restraining this beast?  Consider this.....

Dragon-Sized Restraining Equipment

  • Iron Muzzle:  Prevents the dragon from speaking clearly, using their breath weapon, and casting spells.  Cost:  25 GP per hit point.
  • Collar and Chain:  For leading the beast around and/or anchoring it to a cell.  Cost:  35 GP per hit point.
  • Leg Irons (4 legs):  Only allows staggered movement and prevents the dragon from clawing/stomping.  Cost:  100 GP per hit point (25 GP per hit point, per leg.)
  • Wing Cuffs:  Keeps the dragon grounded.  Cost: 40 GP per hit point.
  • Tail Iron:  Prevents a tail slap as this cuff is usually attached to leg irons.  Cost:  25 GP per hit point. 

So, a large 80 hit point dragon would cost 18,000 GP to fully restrain and would sell for 80,000 GP at market, and a small 30 hit point dragon would cost 6,750 GP to fully restrain and fetch 30,000 GP at market.  Obviously these numbers can be tweaked as per your campaign.  Then you need to find a buyer if you don't already have one lined up.  Locating a black market and how such a place operates is a topic all to itself, but assuming you already know of one, how about a Black Market reaction roll to represent the bargaining process.....

Black Market Reaction Roll.....roll 2d6 +/- Charisma Bonus (only 1 roll allowed per sale.)
    2-3.   -30%   (700 GP per hit point)
    4-6.   -15%   (850 GP per hit point)
    7-9.   Standard market price (1,000 GP per hit point)
10-11.   +15%  (1,150 GP per hit point)
     12.   +30%  (1,300 GP per hit point)

It seems that dragon-slavers would target young dragons as much as possible as there's less risk involved and still plenty of profit.  Dragon-slaving would still be hella dangerous, though, as some parent dragons would show ZERO mercy to those who took their young and to those communities that harbored them, annihilation would follow.....

There's also the question of where you would hold the dragon.  You could use a cave, ruins, a keep, etc.  Regardless, you need a strong anchor for the chains, so figure that might cost an additional 15 GP per hit point.

Anyway, I love the notion.  So many possibilities here.  It's an adventure waiting to happen.  Hunt the dragon.  Capture it.  Bring it to justice.  Sell it.  Break it.  Imagine a party of Chaos trying to subdue a Gold or Silver.  I would rule that if a PC managed to single-handedly subdue a dragon, then that dragon, regardless of alignment, would serve that PC for life.  Instant dragon-rider.

Mechanically, I would add this:

  • A critical failure on an attack roll means that you cause actual damage to the beast, nullifying an amount of non-lethal damage done equal to the real damage inflicted, thus prolonging your gambit of subduing. 

So, what's your experience with this subject, have you ever subdued a dragon???

Dungeons of Grandeur.

I'm surprised I haven't shown these before now.  They're from my mid-teen years; late 80's.  Somewhere I came across poster-...