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???

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