Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Closet of Stupid Monsters

Yes,  I have what I refer to as the Closet of Stupid Monsters.  These are monsters  listed in the MM/DMG and other sources like the MM2, Monsters of Myth, and elsewhere.

I will list the monsters I have tossed into the closet, noting what source they came from.  Some people may disagree that a particular monster belongs in the Closet of Stupid Monsters, but if you're going to try to convince me otherwise, it's not likely to happen.  Better to agree to disagree.

You will likely observe that just about any monster with psionic abilities is included in the Closet of Stupid Monsters because, well, psionics are stupid.

I will add more to the list from other books as I have access to them as I go along.

The Closet of Stupid Monsters

Beholder/MM1:  Floating gumball with magic eyes.

Boggle/MM2:  Slimy gollum-esque thing.

Bowler/MM:  A rock that rolls.
Catoblepas/MM1:  Just look at the description and picture, it screams

Cloaker/MM2:  An evil article of evening-ware.    whatever.

Drelb/MM2:  Wanna-be wraith with psionics. 
Eye of the Deep/MM1:   Underwater beholder, still a floating gumball.

Executioner's Hood/MM2:  Smaller version of a cloaker.

Froghemoth/MM2:  You really need someone to tell you why this thing is stupid?

Gibbering Mouther/MM2: 

Intellect Devourer/MM1
Lurker Above/MM1


Mind Flayer/MM1







Retch Plant/MM2
Slithering Tracker/MM1



Giant Sundew/MM2
Thought Eater/MM1


Monsters that are useful in a very few limited circumstances but are otherwise stupid get put into the Box Outside of the Stupid Monster Closet.  

Box Outside of the Closet of Stupid Monsters

Wind Walker/MM
Giant Bee/MM2

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

3d6 In Order? I Don't Think So

I know there are folks out there who think that it's so "old school" and "true" to create characters with the 3d6 in order system.  I'm not one of them.

Personally, I look at it this way...  It's a fantasy role playing games.  Where is the fun in playing a fantasy game so you can pretend to be an average Joe?  Isn't that what you are doing in real life as it is?  Aren't you trying to escape reality for the time being?  Whatever trips your trigger I guess.

I don't want to be Joe Shmoe in a fantasy game.   I want to be that one in a million person who stands out from the crowd and has got a little more going for them than most do.  Now, I'm not talking about being a "super-hero" necessarily.  That's not much fun being able to whoop everything all the time.

To me, that's what being a PC in AD&D is all about, roleplaying someone who is a little bit more than average.  When you roll 3d6 in order you know what you get?  About average, that's what you get.

In Ad&D, average people have scores around 9-ish.  Super heroes would be with most scores around 16 to 18.  I'm looking for a PC with scores around the 13 to 16 range.  I want heroes, not "super" heroes.

To accomplish getting "heroes",  I use the 4d6, remove the lowest, assign as desired.  In ad&d 1e, there are ability score minimums to play certain classes.  You want your best scores to be in those areas where a required minimum exists.

I don't think the score minimums are there to ensure scarcity of certain classes though.  I think they are there to make sure that when you want to play a certain class, that there are "trade offs" that keep the character balanced and focused.

No,  I won't knock folks that want to play low score ability characters, but I also won't be playing in those games either.   I get slugged around in real life far too often enough as it is.   I want to have a chance to win a few of those drag out, knock down rounds against the world once in awhile.   I wanna be a hero.

Monday, December 24, 2012

In Game Holidays

I have read about and talked with some folks who like to place holidays into their games.  Usually, it 's the same holidays or at least the main ones that people celebrate in real life.

Personally,  I don't see any good reason to insert a real world holiday (or any other holiday really) into a game.  I am not much of a holiday fan to begin with and it's not something I would do, is put a holiday into a game.

That isn't to say I wouldn't put any holiday into a game.  I would if it were relevant to the adventure at hand.  If it had something major to do with the goings on of the PC's/NPC's  it could be interesting.

I can see myself writing an adventure where on "Olaf's Day" the villagers every year celebrate the battle that their then Chieftan Olaf led a victory against their former lords and gained their independence.  During this years raucous celebration and using the dark of night and inebriation of people all around, someone crept into the current Chieftan's home and has slain who they thought was the Chieftan sitting in his great chair.  only i wasn't.  Now the PC's are asked to help find out who it was that slew the Chieftan's oldest son who had been the one sitting in the chair at the time.

See now, here is a useful addition of a holiday in which I can see it being involved in a game.  Of course, "Olaf's Day" is a gamed up version of Independence Day.  (Not the movie, the holiday)

Outside of being used in such a way though,  I wouldn't even think to insert a holiday into a game.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Those Cursed Crypt Things

OK, for another of my Poe based adventures  I decided to have one of the feature characters from a story be found as a Crypt Thing.

Why, because Crypt Things are not Evil but Neutral instead and they aren't there to really cause harm to the PC's but maybe answer some questions about the area and mess with their heads a bit by teleporting them somewhere else in the tomb, catacombs, etc...

I don't want this character to be Evil and necessarily be a problem child for the party.   I want it to be a way to introduce this Poe character and have the Players interact with it a bit.

However, I was asking myself the question, how is a Crypt Thing created?  While it is not "undead" like a vampire, zombie or typical skeleton, etc...  it is a shrouded skeletal figure.  Not exactly the same thing as "living" either.

So, thanks to good old Occulus(the putzbunny)Orbus, a curse would explain the "undying" nature of such a character.  I am taking "undead" to now refer to something Evil and "undying" to be something more Neutral or otherwise.

In an earlier post on this blog,  I discussed my way of dividing curses into Magical Curses or Blood Curses.  In my thinking, a curse to cause someone to become a Crypt Thing would be a Magical Curse, cast upon someone by a magic using class or a demi-god, deity, demon, devil, etc...

Why does it matter?  Well, it matters to me because I may want to use that information in another part of the adventure or  I may want to utilize it in another adventure.  Knowing how it happens helps me to add to the overall story.

Why You'll Never See Psionics in One Of My Games

Gary Gygax once posted that one of his biggest regrets was adding psionics to AD&D.  He confessed he didn't know how he allowed himself to be convinced to add them after all.

Why would the man who wrote the rules say he regrets adding them?  Because they are an unholy mess, that's why.  First of all, in terms of Players, only a rare few get the ability to have them, once they find they do have them, they are a convoluted nightmare to figure out.  It took at least one magazine article (actually more than one) to help players grasp a way of conceptualizing the use of psionics without resulting in brain aneurisms.

Now, personally, in my games, psionics just do not exist. Nope, not gonna happen.  That means no monsters will ever be written in or otherwise included in my games that have psionics.   I don't try to modify certain monsters that have them.  I just don't use them.  It's that simple for me.  I'd rather create whole new non-psionic monster types to replace the monsters of a certain plane which have psionics.

What is psionics really except non-magic magic?  I'll leave that stuff for other folks.  None of that in my games though.  Thank you very much.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Mapping by Hand

I'll say right up front.  I'm not a big fan of making maps.  Not because I don't appreciate a good map, because I do.  No, my problem with making maps is that I am no good at it.

Another reason I don't like it is because I hate the idea of making multiple pages to have a usable map of a single building.  I'm lazy that way, what can  I say?  I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in that though as to the number of mapping programs available out there.  Yes,  I got all giddy for the Hex-Gimp script for GIMP a while ago and I do like it a lot. 

On the whole though,  I find I get myself all excited about mapping out a building or location for something I created, then I remember that I can't draw,  I suck at mapping in general, so now I'm bummed again.

Having said all that.  IF I am going to map, meaning,  I have decided that like it or not,  I need a map for this creation, I prefer to draw them by hand.  I realize this makes no sense at all since I just got done saying that I can't draw and my suckitude at mapping is legendary.  It doesn't matter, I prefer my maps to be hand drawn rather than computer generated.

Yes, computer generated maps look a lot better. They are prettier and clearer.  Some even look like hand drawn maps (just clearer and prettier).  They still don't "feel" right to me.  It's difficult to quantify something "feeling right" but I think you know what I mean.

Working on the ransom dungeon generation section of the OSRIC Wiki lately really got me looking at things.  If you want to make maps by had, there are not of lot of resources in the way of symbols and legends to help the new or pitiful map maker in adding details to their dungeons and terrains.

The AD&D 1E Dungeon master Guide has a basic sample map with legend on it that gets you a start, but it is limited pretty much to doors and traps and trapped doors and trap doors.   I want to know how to draw a recognizable pit or bed or fireplace, etc.. to indicate at least to other DM's who might make use (or not) of my creations what is exactly what.

So,  I did a bit of Googling and located some decent symbols for indoor and outdoor maps to help myself and others get a headstart on our hand-made maps.  You can find them on my Wiki-Mage website (link at the top of this page).  As I find or make more,  I will add them.

Will using these make you a super duper mapper and dungeon creator?  Not a chance.  That requires actual talent, of which I have none.  They can, however, help you make a map that is usable and can be used by others (should they dare attempt to).  That's more important than anything else to me when it comes to making a map.  will I be able to know what it was i was doing when I made this thing?  Will someone else be able to figure it our without a degree in historical languages and hieroglyphics?

I'll stick to hand mapping.  I don't have the money to buy the fancy computer generators anyway.

Being out-matched and out-classed, yes, it will happen

Had a boisterous discussion with a group of fellow DM's/GM's recently about pitting PC's against foes of different levels.

Some seem to be of the opinion that pitting PC's against higher level foes is not palatable.  They indicated they not only would they not do it, they personally finds it "unfair".

I asked them if they have ever pitted lesser opponents against PC's and all agreed they had.  I thought that was unfair.  They suggested that the game should be "winnable" by the PC's and out classing them would end up in a TPK thus not "winnable".

Here's where my opinion diverges from theirs.

I don't think any adventure MUST be "winnable".   I think every adventure  MUST be playable.  Wandering around even in a fantasy world, PC's are going to encounter others around them of variable experience and abilities.  Some of them are equals, some are easily beatable and still others are going to beat the PC's down easily because they are just that bad-ass.

Players come to "play" a game.  At what point do we decide that players are inevitably going to be able to win every game?  Oh hell no!

That's the beauty of this being a "role-playing" game.  There is more to it than just hacking and slashing.  You have to try to overcome non-physical obstacles as well.  You have to think, analyze, strategize and always be prepared to retreat.  You are not always going to win every conflict and not every conflict is going to be a physical fight.

So, if a troupe of level 2 fighters, etc.. wanders into a Frost Giants lair, they better plan on how the heck they will get out alive because if they try to fight it out, they are probably going to lose.  Badly. 

Yes, I may very well have a bunch of Frost Giants in a 2nd level adventure because large icy mountain caves are likely places for Frost Giants to live.  maybe they can survive the interaction without a fight.  maybe barter something or try to talk their way out of it  Maybe just run and hide, screaming like little girls will keep them alive.  If it does, at least they stay alive to play out the rest of the adventure.  Maybe.

I give credit where it is due.  If your second level PC gets killed by Frost Giants, you should have seen it coming.  If you manage to wiggle your way out of it and stay alive, I'll give you props for pulling it off with bonus XP.  (Giving bonus XP to dead PC's makes no sense.)

That's part of the whole AD&D thing in my eyes, great reward for great risk.  To me, only encountering opponents that you know you have a good chance at beating, well,  where's the fun in that?

Saturday, December 15, 2012


It's fun to read various forums where people discuss what kind of approach they take to being a DM.  There's more variety than you may realize.

The "Conflict" DM:  These folks really get into building conflict for the PC's.  There is often a lot of roleplay involved in their games as the NPC's roleplayed by the D are not going to give just a simple reply to PC questions.  NPC will be argumentative, disagreeable, confrontational and anything else that will elicit a reaction from the PC's.  Adventuring itself may sometimes take a back seat to roleplaying with DM's like this.

The "Divine" DM:  Many times, these DM's are called "railroaders.".  The DM in this case will have the game they want to play, regardless of the Players interest or willingness.  Go left, there's the hook.  Go right, there's the hook.  Go forward, yep, same hook. 

The "Confrontational" DM:  These folks are all about pitting their adventure building skills against the players.  The old "DM vs Players" type.  It's not just wanting to see how well Players do against the adventure they made, it's personal, almost like a vendetta.    A TPK is like giving this DM a gold cup or a blue ribbon.

The "It is what it is" DM:  This DM really has no interest in personally challenging the players like above.  For them, the game is everything.  They couldn't care less if players fail or succeed in an adventure, it's more about,  "How cool was that?" for this DM.  Originality is an important thing for these people.

There are other types or maybe sub types and undoubtedly combinations of these.   I there's something to be learned from all of them and each of them can provide a good experience for the right type of Players.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Legend of Darkforth Abbey: A Tale From My World, Terra Ursa

In Tarkesville is the very first stone abbey to have been built even before the town was built. Built by monks to a strange an unknown deity, it has been uninhabited and abandoned for nearly 100 years.

The building is shunned by locals who will swear to seeing lights inside and hearing a variety of sounds, some quiet and others loud and raucous. Across from the front of the abbey is the burial ground in which several old crypts and graves lay, many unmarked. Some say that beneath the graveyard lies an underground labyrinth of tombs.

The last time anyone dared to enter the building, a small group of innocent travelers were being chased by a group of bandits. They ran to the front doors and the bandits followed them in. Within a matter of scarce minutes, horrible sounds of and screaming were heard coming from the building. The small band of travelers emerged an hour later but the bandits never came out. The story the travelers told has been shrouded in mystery and secrecy by the local authorities. Some say that the building itself seemed to come alive and quite nastily destroyed the bandits but never once harmed the travelers.

Legend has it that the monks of Darkforth Abbey, followers of a Good but grim deity, in their ferver to prove their devotion and power over evil, they captured and bound a Chaotic Evil demon to the abbey, making it protect all those of "Good" orientation and not merely barring, but utterly destroying those who are"Evil". It is said that many a heroic and good student of magic are buried within it's crypts.

Darkforth Abbey became a well known library of magic and occult, frequented by users of magic of all types as long as they were Good people. During their "heyday", the monks of Darkforth were feared and hated by evil of all shades, particularly Demons and Devils.

The monks seemingly disappeared nearly a hundred years ago to a man. Rumors still follow that a great and evil deity struck them down itself in retribution for their work against all evil.

The abbey still stands, seemingly never falling into disrepair or decay. The magic of the demon bound to the building goes on with it's task, unable to break it's bonds or imprisonment.   Who knows what really remains within it's dark and terrifying walls?

Monday, December 10, 2012

Hit Points Are More Than Physical Damage?

So yeah, the discussion about hit points in AD&D  is that hit points reflect more than just physical damage.  That's fairly obvious, Gary Gygax's own comments about Hit Points in the core books make the same points that once X number of HP have been accumulated, it gets a bit silly.

If HP is NOT all physical damage though, then where does physical damage begin and end? That is going to depend on how the DM handles Hit Points and Death.

For me,  I use negative ten (-10) as character death,  zero is "Out Cold".   I like to play averages.  if we assume playing characters to about 15th, heck, let's say 10th level, on a Fighter.

So here is a Fighter at level 10 with 93 Hit Points at the maximum.  That's if he rolled 10's every time plus the 3 after 9th level.  Say he only rolled a 5 every time instead that's still 48 Hit Points at 10th level.

At what point does he start incurring physical damage?  Maybe at 20 Hit Points?  Anything above 20 we assume it's his armor and shield and whatever absorbing the brunt of the punishment maybe.

Maybe he's just a tough, thick-skinned son-of-a-gun and just is able to take a whoopin' longer than the average Joe before it starts wearing on him?

Maybe it's a combination of both.

That's how I handle it though.  Anything above 20 Hit Points, isn't physical damage to the body in terms of cuts, bruises, abrasions, lacerations, etc...

Once a PC gets to 20 Hit Points though, they're going to likely need a medic after the fight, unless of course, they are taken to 0 HP, at which time, they are going to need hospitalization.

That leads us to the topic of the next post, how much damage can your armor take before it is FUBAR?

Giving Back a Little Bit

I just started doing a bit of work on the OSRIC Wiki in the past couple of days.  I like wiki's.  I have a few of my own plus the ones I have done for friends and clients.  (BTW,  I install and set up Wiki's for people and businesses if you know anyone needing a wiki done.)

This is kinda fun because I really like OSRIC and it fits in so well with my 1E gaming.  They make the PDF's available for free and don't make anything really off of most book sales from what I hear. 

I figure, for someone who has gotten so much from OSRIC, and I do love me a wiki, the least I can do is help get the OSRIC wiki get closer to being completed.

Thanks to Stu for setting me up to be able to work on it as I am able to and giving me the opportunity to help out a bit.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Editions and Supplements

I have never read any of the supplemental books for AD&D 1E.    I have never read any other edition after 1E.

I don't feel the need to honestly.  With all it's quirks and gygaxisms, 1E has yet to be in any way limiting to my creativity and personal expansion. 

I see 1E as "the" Homebrewers edition.  It is left to be flexible so that one table at a time, each DM is able to interpret, create and adjudicate in a way that best fits them and their players.

Now, having said that and never having read the other editions, that doesn't mean a whole lot.I've read of the others and had discussions about them with folks online,  etc...  none of which is the same as having read/played them myself.

Now, I know that some of the methods I use in my game are supposed to have come from Unearthed Arcana.  I have never read UA so I don't know that personally.  I do know that some folks have told me that what I describe doing is something in UA.

I know that I have borrowed some things from posts in online forums that I later was told have come from supplemental books like UA or MM2 or even d&DG, etc... 

Because I haven't read any of these supplemental books or other editions, I will not put them down.  I don't know enough about them to say anything about them in that manner.

OSRIC has come along and added a new dimension to the game for me.  At least in terms of creativity and sharing my creations with others.  It doesn't really change anything about 1E as a game.  What it does is allow me to post my new creations for the game online and others can use it if they like with no legal worries or hassles.

So for me, OSRIC isn't a supplement or Simulacrum as much as a new Appendix or something.  It's like a re-statement of 1E with a way to publish new creative writing for the game.

Will I ever look at newer editions of AD&D?  Probably not.  Will I ever read or intentionally use material from the supplemental books of AD&D 1E?  Perhaps eventually.

The way I see it, why fix what isn't broken.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The (Lone) Ranger

I was talking about the Ranger sub-class of Fighters in the other posting.  I want to go a little deeper though in this post.

It's not that I have anything to change about the brief bit I discussed of the Ranger. no.  I just think that there is more to this class than meets the eye.

I really do have to say that I completely disagree with the folks who think the Ranger class is completely based on Aragorn of "Lord of the Rings" fame.  To be sure, there is something of Aragorn that was included in the class, but he is not the sole sponsor.  Far from it in fact.

As I mentioned elsewhere, I see the Ranger as more of a Guerrilla fighter than anything else.  The Ranger specializes in outdoor combat and tactics.  Not to say their skills are unusable indoors, just that they are most effective outside.

In regards to spell usage however, there is a lot of confusion I hear about how it makes Rangers relate to other magic using classes.  They are able to use both Druid and MU spells at higher levels.  Though these never get to be more than 3rd level Druid spells and 2nd level MU spells.

Something that I do with my Rangers, because I see them as so compatible with Druids, is that while they are "Capable" of using Druid and MU spells at certain levels reached, that doesn't mean they will easily have access to those spells.

Because they are able to use more Druidic spells also indicates to me the similarity to Druids, it makes more sense to me that Rangers will want to freely associate with Druids more than any other magic using class.  That will make access to the Druid spells easier.  I make access to MU spells very difficult for Rangers.  Don't forget, Rangers cannot make use of scrolls, etc..., making access to MU spells even more difficult.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Knightly Knews

Let's talk about character classes some more, specifically, Knights and Fighters, Paladins and Rangers.

First off, there is no such class or sub-class called "Knight" in AD&D 1e.  It doesn't exist.

Having said that, there are two types of classes specifically referred to as Knights in their descriptions, Clerics and Paladins.  We talked about those earlier.

However, In the Class of Fighter, three types are presented, the basic Fighter, the Paladin and the Ranger.

Here's my take on those fighters, but first, a word about Knights.

A Knight is a social class identification.  It does not indicate one's profession as a warrior or soldier, etc...  The main ways one is Knighted is to come from a highborn family of Knights, to join an order that establishes Knighthood on it's members or to be a conquering hero that is Knighted by his/her liege lord for spectacular service and duty.

All of those are changes in social status.

Historically, for just a moment, many noble-born families lost their riches but kept their status.  They could hardly afford proper weapons and armor, and often did not much more than enter tournaments.  Yet these were accorded every perk of Knighthood none-the-less.

A truly skilled fighter and warrior could have struck it rich in found treasure and bought the best weapons and armor, yet still would not be recognized as a Knight if they didn't meet any of the above listed ways of gaining Knighthood.

The Fighter class is exactly that warrior or trained soldier who has spent years in training and battling, honing the one thing they do best, battle.   A  Fighter may someday, somehow be Knighted but the odds are against them and they likely prefer to be free spirits anyway, un-beholden to a liege lord.

Often times in AD&D 1e, Players hold a view that Fighters are like Conan the Barbarian.  They most certainly can be like that, but that is not necessarily what they are limited to.  Fighters have the broadest range of background and employment of their skills of all the fighting classes.  They certainly could be a Knight.   I see them as the most likely to have to earn Knighthood if that is what they seek by their valor and deeds on the battlefield.

The Paladin, as discussed earlier, is a Knighted character and is a subject to his king or liege lord.    As DM, I let Players know that Paladins as PC's must have a background story that indicates their status and how they attained their Knighthood.  Who their lord is and who their deity is.  Typically,  I see Paladins as coming from noble families that have served their King and country as nobility for many years.

Rangers are something interesting as a sub-class of Fighter.  Rangers are kind of like a Paladin for Druids.  Not quite exactly though.  Like Paladins, they do not attract men-at-arms, but at some point do get to have henchmen and hirelings.

Also, Rangers do get to employ Magic Users spells as well as the Druid spells eventually.  Rangers MUST be of a good alignment though.   I personally like to place Rangers in the company of Druids as Henchmen because they work so well together.  Rangers, like Fighters, are not required by me to provide a social class and listing like Paladin are in their background.

I see Rangers as very much in the Guerrilla warfare type.   While they can be effective indoors, it's the outdoor world in which they can do their best work.  it's where they are most at home.  I don't really see Rangers seeking Knighthood myself.  They would likely enjoy their liberty and freedom to be their own Master.

In regard to Knights, that leads me to say that Clerics are the primary ones to achieve their status through joining an order of a religious nature, like the Templar Knights.  Not to say it is limited to them in this way, but that I think they are the ones most likely to accomplish it in this manner.

Mapping Terrain Just Got Better

Oh the total Awesomeness of it all.

If you are like me and absolutely SUCK at map-making, especially terrain, then  I was just given the best thing in the world and I'm telling you about it too.

My maps suck.  I won't lie to you.  I hate mapping because I am no good at all at it.

A buddy on DF chatroom just saved my life. (Heya Lord Raffles)

Have you ever played with the GIMP?  It's an image creation/editing tool that is free/opensource.  I love it when  I can figure out how to use it.

Making hex maps for AD&D on it?  Up until now, no frickin way.

Then I was introduced to Hex-Map 1.5.  It is provided on a website called "The ISO-Mages House".  You'll see a permanent link to it on the right side of my blog here as "Hex-GIMP".

I have just started playing with it and already have made two maps that up until now I have been working on for weeks.  It's that doggone easy to use once you set it up.

I am using it on a Linux system but it also works on Windows as well.

Here's a shot at a map made using it from their website.  I will soon be adding my own in future posts.

Try it out, play with it.  May your mapping be a pleasant thing.

The Difference Between Clerics and Paladins

I have spent quite a lot of time talking about Clerics lately.  They are one of my favorite classes to play, if not my favorite.

Recently, I was talking with some folks who asked about the Paladin and if they weren't basically the same thing.

Here's my take on the situation.

Clerics, as per the Players Handbook, are essentially like the Knights Templar.  Clerics have pretty much one commander and that is their deity.  They have little to do with Kings or other forms of hierarchy.  This makes them a bit one track minded.

Paladins on the other hand, are what I liken to the Knights of the Round Table.  While they do hold their deity above all, they make room to recognize King and Country.  Because of this divided allegiance, they have less clerical ability.

As a matter of fact, Paladins, BtB are made to depend on Clerics to a certain degree.  For example, if they should ever do something out of alignment, especially something "Chaotic" (remember that Paladins can only be Lawful Good in alignment), they must seek out a Cleric to give them penance or they risk losing Paladin status.  If they knowingly, intentionally do Evil, they lose Paladin-hood for good.

They are able to perform limited Clerical spells, thus they will be required to learn from Clerics in order to train to level up.

Of special interest, and I relate this to how I use Paladins myself, is that Paladins do NOT accumulate men-at-arms as other fighters/PC's do. They can have henchmen though.  Though when I use them,  I don't give them any.  They are the henchmen in my eyes.  Though, I can see them as being sent out on a quest or mission with a select group on request (or demand) of his liege.  Especially if said liege doesn't fully trust the rest of the group to be 100% loyal to his wants.  The Paladin makes for a good agent of the liege in such a case.  Usually the Paladin in question is sent as an NPC in such a case.

I only use Paladins as Henchmen or Men-At-Arms for Clerics in games.  While the Cleric is a knight of a sort and can do battle, their focus is on leading the righteous battle and bringing the wrath of their deity down on the enemy.

As the henchman of a Cleric, a Paladin can fit in perfectly by having a Cleric to look over them, to train them and to provide them the guidance/direction as the need to confess and do penance would indicate. 

You can certainly use a Paladin on their own and in other situations but, BtB, they are very limited as to their adventuring abilities with mixed groups and such.

As for the Cleric with Paladin Men-At-Arms, talk about an awesome presence going into battle or going on a quest.  Nearly the best right hand men you can have as a Cleric plus adding in some others to round out a party.  A regular fighter, a Magic User and/or Illusionist.    An epic adventure is in the works for that group.

Medical Care in the AD&D Age

Most people assume that AD&D gaming takes place in a medieval setting.  That isn't far off I guess, though I myself think of it as an "Alternate Earth" setting which precedes the industrial revolution, if not mimicking a renaissance time.

In AD&D, healing is mostly looked at as being effected by Clerics with curing /healing magic.  The alternative described is primarily wrap it up and rest.

Without becoming too "re-enactment" level realistic though, let's think of other medical solutions.  I've been reading a book series that includes medieval medical practices like barbers and physicians as well as purveyors of herbal remedies and other healing.

As a matter of fact, the books ("The Hangman's Daughter" and "Dark Monk"  by Oliver Pötzsch) go into excellent detail of all those methods by way of storytelling. (fictional mystery based in historical 1600's Bavaria).

The Physician largely relied on the Four Humors and the balance or alignment of those.  They were surgeons and did amputations, etc... They looked upon any other kind of healing art as sacrilegious.

The Barber would do minor things, pull teeth as a dentist, cauterize wounds, handle stings and bites of insects and animals.  They would "bleed" patients as well as shaving and cutting hair.  

Below them, social ladder speaking, were the herbalists and other healers who were just a step away from being considered witches, etc.. and literally risked being burned at the stake if the wrong person decided they didn't like the results of their work.

Most towns did not have it's own physician or the physician had not been to a university and had learned their craft by associating with those who had been to university.

Most towns and villages did have at least one barber and several healers.  Chief among these were midwives and to give credit to the historical accuracy of these books, even the Hangman or executioner was skilled in everything from setting bones to making herbal remedies, anti-poisons, and more.

As a DM,  I admit to a certain level of vindictiveness.  If there is a player who is running their PC into the ground and is being generally obnoxious or pig headed, why I can see how the only healing help available to them might be the nearest town barber.  Have a bleeding and maybe some leeches.  Would you like a shave while you are becoming anemic?

I am going to have a lot of fun populating my towns, villages and cities with these types of NPC's.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Blood Curses vs Magical Curses and Healing Them

In part because of the Strigoi monster I created (Gypsy name for Vampire), and in discussion about other curses transmitted by bite, I have been chatting with some other DM's about curing survivors of such bites.

Lycanthropes, according to the Monster manual, can have an early intervention of belladonna treatment (which has a chance of killing the PC) to prevent spread of the blood curse.  As someone else once said (Hey there OO) "Lycanthropy is not an STD".  Meaning, it's not just some weird biological disease or something.

Lycanthropy is a "Blood Curse".  Mystical in origin, but not handled as a typical magical curse.  Similarly, vampirisim, by any name, is a blood curse.  Meaning, you don't just cast a spell and someone becomes a Vampire/Strigoi or Lycanthrope.

Consequently, a spell such as "Remove Curse" will not work on a person having been bitten by a Vampire/Strigoi or Lycanthrope.  A magical curse is cast "externally" so to speak and is usually a temporary condition.  "Blood Curses" are permanent and completely life changing.

In my rules regarding Strigoi,  I have it so that only a "Heal" spell by a Cleric or a "Wish" spell will "cure" a living person of a "Blood Curse".  "Heal" is more than a regular "Cure ... Wounds" spell and falls more into the "Miracle" category.  Thus able to remove any blight of the body and soul or otherwise.  It is a transformation of the person, much as a "Blood Curse" transforms a person.

Having said that, once a person has become so "Healed",  I require a System Shock roll because such a drastic level of change can kill a person.The person is being taken from a somewhat magical/mystical condition that would protect them from typical System Shock consequences to a "normal" non mystical condition, thus not protected from the changes that happen as a Strigoi or Lycanthrope.

I have a Flesh Eating Zombie in a similar condition. FEZ's are not created by typical curses or spells.  They are created by mystical disease originating with a person. (No thanks to a Demon Lord named Imdugud/Pazuzu)  Thus once started on it's way with the first person, all subsequent bite victims of FEZ's also become FEZ's and it is essentially a "Blood Curse".  If a "Heal" or "Wish" spell is used befrore the person succumbs to becoming an FEZ they can be spared the transformation.  Once changed, that's it, the best they can hope for is true death.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The poll of the week

What's a blog page without a poll.   I learned recently that I haven't had a  poll going and the blog police threatened to shut me down.  Establishment rats!

You can have multiple choices on this poll about your favorite Class to play.   I bet you can all figure out what my Choices were.

Join on in and show the world, at least my world, how you prefer to play.

Monster Tweaking & Creation

Just like many other DMs out there in the worlds,  I see some monsters in the books and don't like them.  either that or I like them partly but I don't like some key things about them which mostly ruin the whole monster for me.

At first, when it came to monsters I partly liked and partly didn't,  I would try to house-rule the monster to be different.  That just ended up confusing everyone, including myself.  Say you have three or four Players sitting there and you mention a Vampire, if they have read the MM or had any previous experience with one, they have a fixed view of the monster in mind already.  Then there  I go, trying to re-define that monster on them.  It doesn't work.

What to do?  I still don't like how the monster works per the book.  Then I decided, why not just create my own and give it a different name instead.  This way, when  I introduce the monster by the different name, there is no per-conceived idea to fight against.

One example I can offer is the Vampire, but you never saw that coming, did ya?  I hate level drain.  I think the mechanic of tying life force to experience levels is completely nonsensical.  Also,  I dislike treating the Vampire like a large rodent or snake where it will only get a single attack and it uses it's most unique attack, the blood sucking bite, every time.  These are intelligent humanoid monsters, to give them such a simple attack makes no sense.

Many of the other features and abilities of the MM Vampire I can accept.  After failing miserably with the house-ruled change I decided to make my own.   I called it a "Strigoi", the old Gypsy name for a creature like this.  It shares most of the basics of the Vampire from the book.  But, when it comes to attacks,  I gave it something different. 

First off,  I gave it 3 attacks instead d of one. Why?  Well because first of all, this kind of creature, mythologically speaking, is not going to fight like a typical human anyway.  Only after it has tried magical based or other attacks will this monster go hand to hand with an opponent.  They aren't likely to use a weapon like a sword or such. 

Only if pressed into a corner will it fight tooth and nail to get out.  So I figured IF it goes into melee combat with a "hand to hand" attack, it will attack animal like with a claw/claw/bite and the bite is just as any normal creature biting, it's not trying to do a complex blood slurping bite, it is just tearing with it's teeth.

Beyond that, I gave it a special attack as a "Draining Bite".  This attack also drains the life force from it's victim at 2 points per round if the monster can hold the attack from round to round.  There is a chance, a slight one, for a victim to break free, but at this point, the victim is in a swoon or paralyzed state and pretty much just can't resist enough to move away. (Save vs Paralyzation -4)

Instead of draining 2 levels from experience, it drains points from the victims Constitution score.  Should it drain all points, the victim is dead and will rise later as a minor Strigoi.  However, if somehow the Strigoi has drained at least half of the PC's Con points and the "Drain Bite" attack is broken, the PC will likely live but is "infected" and upon dying at a later time, will rise afterward as a minor Strigoi.

There are more specifics and details but  I gave you the gist of it.   I have what  I wanted, a vampire that makes sense to me ans is just as badass if not a tad bit moreso (in my own opinion) than the one in the book.

I've done this with a few monsters and  I don't even use the the original monsters from the books any more.   I just use my own instead.  However, if I'm running a module (which I rarely if ever do anymore) that has BtB vampire in it, and Players who are not regulars in my game, then I will usually leave it alone and play it BtB, disliking every instance of it.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Roleplaying classes a little bit differently

Let's investigate a minor phenomenon in the game of AD&D here.  I hear semi-frequently of how people approach certain character classes and I can't help but think they are doing it wrong.

Yes, yes I know.  I am one of the first who will say that it's a fantasy game, there is almost no way you can do it "wrong".   Maybe  I don't mean "wrong", maybe  I mean suffering from a lack of perspective.

For example, one of the classes I think is most often not played in the most appropriate way is the Cleric.  Clerics are far too often talked about and referred to as "magic priests".  I would like to say that they are much more than that.

The description in the Players Handbook goes to the point of referring to Clerics as being very much like the knights of holy or religious orders.  To me, the first thing that reflects that statement are the Knights Templar.  These are no parish priests or church vicars here.  These are some of the most determined and devoted warriors around.

As a matter of fact, one could say it is their "fervent" devotion to their deity that makes them all the more dangerous as warriors and knightly types.  They are not simply out to joust and fight for king, country and honor.  It's about more than just amassing treasure and riches and pretty young girls.

No no my friends, these knights and warriors have a higher purpose to them.  They have already accepted death and often look forward to it as long as it occurs while doing the work they have been sent to do.

Make no mistake, they ARE warriors.  It's almost crazy how often I see people not approach it as anything but a knight or warrior.  Then they are bummed out and say that they don't like to play clerics anymore.  Of course they don't, they robbed the Cleric of all its potential by playing it as just a priest.

Druids I think people tend to get into a little more because they are seen as more fantastical and less "real".  They have less "false" leads to follow in regard to Druids so must immerse themselves more in the fantasy of them.  But and still,  just to share, I will tell you how I view them.

The Druid is not simply a meek and mild (necessarily) plant lover. Again, the Druid is a sub-class of the Cleric.  Now we are back to people who are action oriented with a higher purpose.  The Druid may or may not be devoted to a particular deity as much as they are to the capital "N", Nature.  Nature and the ways of nature are their motivation, their purpose for living.  They see the synthetic industries of man as something that threatens the natural workings of the world.

They are part protector of natural places and creatures as well as proponents of living in accordance to Nature.  Ecological and environmental conservation and "synergy" is their passion.  Foes who threaten that are going to be dealt with in dramatic fashion.  just as the Cleric of a deity will chase down a pack of thieves who robbed a church and dispatch them with a will, so to the Druid is a warrior of the Natural world.

Monks.  Monks are yet another poorly played class.  Most folks seem to approach the Monk as the dowdy friar who wears a brown robe and cowl and makes mead or bread or something.    I would say that this is not so.  Again, the adventurer classes in AD&D are action types.  They "Do" things.  They are protagonists.  The same applies to the Monk.

The description of the Monk in the Players Handbook is more akin to a character from a movie like the character Chow Yun-Fat played in "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon".  They follow a rigorous discipline in their life and that often includes a style of self defense or other fighting.  Watch the movie, pay attention to his character of Li Mu Bai

They won't do anything the situation does not call for.  If the situation does not call for killing, they will not draw their weapon but if there is some action to be taken, they are neither shy or afraid to do what needs to be done.

I think of the Monk Class as a heroic "knight" type or warrior that is bound by honor and discipline instead of a deity or Nature.  This is not some meek or wayward zen gardener by a longshot.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Toys for Geomancers

For those unaware, a fella goes by the name of Bloated Blowfish created a new class of magic user called the Geomancer not all that long ago.

Personally, I'm a big fan of this class and have been using it.  As a matter of fact,  I have three characters that are Geomancers now.

You can download the PDF that details the Geomancer class if you like.

It's been fun playing the Geomancer, but this Christmas, I am giving Geomancers some toys, er tools they can use.

Magic items help make using a magic using class more interesting.  When the spells slots run out, you gotta have the toys for backup.  Until now, Geomancers don't have toys with them in mind.

Because Geomancers use magic in gems and stones rather than from the typical ways 1E magic users do, I've tried to be very specific to magic items that "accessorize" the Geomancer.

Geo's can only use a limited few weapons, staffs, daggers, oils and slings.  So, I've come up with some staves and a dagger that fit right into their repertoire.

I gave them some cool Boom Dust and I'm working on some new stones/gems and spells for them as well.  some of them that specifically work with these magic items.

You can see the details for all of these items on their page at my Wiki-Mage site.

To run down a list of them here though, we have:

  • Stone Dagger, a dagger that can hold a magic gem or stone in it's pommel
  • Staff of Gem Wielding, a staff that allows better control of a stones power and some bonuses.
  • A "Master" Staff of Gem Wielding that is even awesomer than a regular Staff of Gem Wielding.
  • Belt of Attunement, this gives the Geo someplace to store gems and stones as well as gives some bonuses.
  • Boom Dust, remember those 4th of July poppers that kids throw down at the sidewalk? Yeah, just bigger and badder.
 Those are just the beginning.   I am also working on adding gems and stones with powers.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Monsters of Myth, an OSRIC monster compendium

After looking through the Monsters of Myth PDF again, I had to smile a bit and even simply shook my head at some entries.

Overall, it's an interesting book.  Many of the monsters are just plain silly in my opinion.  Some stretch the imagination just a tad too far.  A few are actually pretty good.

One of the monsters I found in it that I liked a lot were the "Jotun" Giants.  I like my Norse mythology and recognized the giants of Jotunheim right away.  There's even a possibility I might find a way to use them in a future adventure or two.

All in all, I give the Monster's of Myth a C+.  There a fewer "serious" monsters in there to make it really useful in my one person's opinion.

Having said that, it is fun to look through it just to find one of the few real gems that it has to offer.  Even a bit more fun to just read some of the sillier entries.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Memorizing Magic and Clerical "Freecasting"

I was just reading an old thread on DF and found the most interesting idea.  Allowing Clerics to "freecast" instead of having to memorize their spells.

Essentially, the cleric still has only x number of spells per level as usual, but instead of choosing and memorizing them in the morning, they can cast any spell they have knowledge of on the spot.

To me, this does help alleviate Clerics being used as walking band-aids because they are not so pressured to spend all of their memorized spells on nothing but healing spells.  Also, it can allow greater choice and usage of other not-as-commonly used spells to be used as needed.

Once their number of spell slots is used up, they're back to relying on staves, wands, scrolls, etc.. if they have them.

I like this idea a lot.

It also came up questioning whether a similar change could be made to Mages without breaking them in the Btb system.

Perhaps one thing that could be done with Mages is to allow them to cast any spell in their spellbook on the spot BUT...

Using the % to know spell as per their INT score, memorized spells would have a higher percentage of success, say 85%.  All other spells cast spontaneously would cost the Mage an extra round to concentrate  or look it up and they must roll their chance to know % in order for it to be successful.

This would encourage Mages to still focus on memorizing spells yet provide them an opportunity to cast spontaneously for something that was needed on the spot.  All in all though, they are still limited by casting only as many spells as they are allotted per level.

Like the above Clerics, they would rely on staves, wands, scrolls and potions once the number of spell slots had run out.

Something else about Clerics while I'm here. I have always taken the image of the cleric as something of a fighting priest.  I have a Knight Templar type in mind here.  These aren't just churchy scholars we're talking about here.  These guys go out and kick butt in the name of their deity.

These are the guys the little churchy fellas call in when things need to be handled more aggressively than just praying over the issue holding each others hands.  (because of this,  I have never gotten the multi-class fighter/cleric.  To me, that is what the Cleric is all about.

I don't just see these guys as walking band aids to begin with.  If a Knight Templar could have magic powers to use given to him by his deity, he would be wanting the spells that let him call down the fire from the sky and drive the enemy down before him.

Once the battle was over, he might want to have some healing spells to help his comrades for fighting so bravely at his side and to aid innocent bystanders caught up in the cross-fire, so to speak.

If some of the enemy got away or there was someone who sent the ones he just whooped up on, some spells that would allow him to track down those next on the list would be of value as well.

I think I am going to try my spell use changes in a few games here to see how they work out.

Sandboxers to one-shots and everything in between

Reading forums and interacting with other rpgers is can make for great food for thought.  You don't have to agree with everyone or anyone.  You don't have to take in what others say as something you absolutely must do.  It is very thought provoking to see and hear what others are doing in their games though.

A lot, and I do mean a LOT, of people are sandboxers.  These are folks who play in ongoing games that are made to be conducted in a series of scheduled sessions and provide a general game world as the basis and the DM has a variety of options for players to follow up on.  This allows for more choice, options and randomness in general I think.

Then you have the "one-shots".  These are game sessions in which a specific adventure will be played through, generally in one or two sessions and options are limited to what has been prepared for the specific adventure.

I don't think one is better than the other or one is more right or wrong than the other.  What I do think is that the AD&D 1E core books and rules contained within them are geared more specifically to one-shot gaming.  To be able to put up a game in a relatively short time and play it thorough in one or two sessions.  This allows for "pick up" games to happen more readily, taking advantage of a few people who happen to find the time, interest and opportunity to play a game on short notice.

Having said that, one great Plus about the core books is that they include room for world creation and sandboxing.  The writer (Gary Gygax) was a sandboxer of great notoriety.  Thus, he made sure that outside of one-shots, he made sure the game could grow into something more than a published adventure module.

There is no doubt that beyond the one-shot game, the hard and fast "rules" become more akin to guidelines allowing the DM to personalize and give distinction to their gaming experience.

At home,  I practically refuse to even consider running a one-shot game.  Oh no, this is my world and I will explore every single inch of it the way my players and I best see fit.  Oh yes, there will be house rules and custom made monsters and NPC's.  There will be hand-waves of BtB specifics and whatever else it takes to bring my world to life.

On the other hand, I am considering going outside of my house to do some gaming, AD&D 1E of course.  In that situation, there is no world yet.  These are people I am only just or have yet to make their acquaintance.  Because of that, I intend to stick very close to playing BtB. 

This gives all of us new to each other a common ground to begin playing.  We will most likely play one-shots to begin with, not knowing what kind of consistency we will be able to expect from the others in the group.

I hear and read of people playing games at conventions and special events and I know that these are referred to in the books themselves.  All in all, it's the best way to get a group of strangers together to play the same game that another group of strangers is playing on the other side of the country or even in another country.

Speculating,  I can see a group of us getting more familiar with each other and deciding that as a regular group that we want to cross that line of formality and establish a game world of our own, ending up somewhere between the one-shots and a full blown sandbox.  Initially this might begin with making one house rule that we all agree on and drawing up a general gameworld and still using published modules and playing them as though they are places in our gameworld.

What a terrific, flexible and creative game AD&D is.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Cleaning House, Part Two

After camping in a cold room and burning trash and debris to stay warm, the group has finally decided to move on to exploring the rest of the structure.

They follow the twisted corridor back to the hallway that this tunnel split from and not quite remembering which direction they had come from, turned right.

They followed a series of twists and turns only to emerge in the hallway that they had originally entered the building with.  However, this time, they weren't alone.

Four large beetle looking creatures are scurrying toward the adventurers.  Each one about two and a half foot long and perhaps 2 foot high.  Antennae wavering madly and mandibles clacking in excitement over the discovery of food.  in the head of each overgrown insect were a few glowing pieces that seemed to burn like coals and give off a reddish glow from them.

Lumina, the magic user fired off a magic missile and wounded one, then turned and ran back into the tunnel the group had come out of.  The others, weapons in hand, began to attack the over-large insects.

Trying to stay out of range of the fierce looking mandibles, Calli stabbed at one of the beetles and though striking it, she hadn't apparently done much damage to it.  Thelonius the Monk whipped his quarter staff with a purpose and manged to strike a killing blow to one of the smaller creatures, leaving three.

Luna the half-elf swung with her bastard sword heavily and landed a crushing blow on another, breaking through it's carapace and killing it instantly.  Now only two of the things were left.

One of the remaining beetles managed to get too close to Thelonius though in the dark and the noise, gripping it's mandibles tightly around his upper leg.  The secretions from the beast burned into his thigh like an acid and the grip seemed to nearly crush the thigh, causing the monk to fall nearly totally unconscious.

Calli thought to try an acrobatic move and leap over a beetle and strike directly down upon it but her leap took her too far and she missed it entirely, landing roughly on the ground behind it.  The beetle turned and scurried rapidly to get to Calli but got a leg stuck in a floor crevice, halting it's movement mere inches from Calli and frantically worked to extricate itself.

The other beetle made for Luna and, combined with the slimy floor and Luna's prod with her sword, the beetle was slammed into a wall and a loud crack could be heard as well as a sort of mewling indicating the creature had been hurt somehow.

During the altercation, the Lumina crept back to rescue the the monk and bandage his wound as best she could, stopping the bleeding and potentially saving his life.

Taking advantage of the stuck leg, Calli hacked at the large bug and manged to kill it as it finally freed itself to no avail.  Luna concentrated on the beetle she had shoved into the wall, creeping up on it warily and, sidestepping a swipe of it's head with clicking mandibles, finished the beast with a mighty stroke any male would have envied.

Desirous to check their wounds and take stock of their situation, the group headed outdoors again to make a camp and plan to re-enter the building again as soon as it was feasible.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Random Treasure Hunting, Level 5 Dungeon

Another game is started with my son playing solo with:

  • Grim, a 5th level fighter as his Active PC.  
  • Grimlock the 5th level Magic User.
  • Carn who is a 4th level Illusionist who was found robbed at the roadside with nothing to his name but his limited spellbook. 
  • Xico the 4th level Cleric of Quetzalcoatl has decided to accompany the group in exchange for a chance to gain glory and treasure for his temple.
  • "Virgil", the Gnome 4th level thief.
Grim and Grimlock were following up on a rumor of an old storehouse in which a questionable treasure might have been hid.  Their previous associates from earlier adventures were in town, Virgil and Xico and decided to come along for some adventure and old times sake.

Along the way to the storehouse, they came across  a man that had been recently robbed and had everything but his Illusionists spellbook taken from him.  This is Carn and he offered to do whatever he could to aid them on their adventure if they would let him earn a share to get back on his feet again.

After arriving at the storehouse within the next few hours, the group discovered that it was empty as if it had been completely abandoned years before.  This didn't match up to the reports that people had been seen bringing cartloads of something to and from the location as recently as 4 months ago.

Toward the end of their search, a stairway was discovered that had been hidden which led to an underground pathway which they descended rapidly.

Grimlock, in his excitement, used an easy cantrip to create some light so as to see and the group followed him straight ahead to explore, planning to come back and investigate the corridor leading to the left later.

They followed the hallway about 30 feet until it stopped and turned to the right.  Following that though only led them to a dead end after about 50 foot.  They headed back to the stairway and investigated the the other hallway to the right of the stairs they came down.

The corridor led them about 40 feet in that direction, then turned suddenly to the left for another 45 feet.  A solid oaken door stood in front of them.  Grim, tested the door by pushing it to see if it would open.  It did groan a bit as it swung the little bit.

Exuberant, Grim slammed the door wide open and the Magic User Grimlock strode into he room with him as the others filed in behind them.  Quite surprised, the group found that six Troglodytes were camping in the room and had heard the first creaking of the door and were now waiting for the adventurers.

Carn the Illusionist turned around immediately being unarmed and hid behind the door.  Grimlock the Magic User realized he was unprepared by focusing on the light incantation and tried to light a torch to free himself up.

The Trogs attacked them, taking full advantage of the surprised characters, using large bones and wooden tree limbs as clubs.  The press of the Trogs was too great and Grim the Fighter was unable to move his sword enough to hit the enemy.

Finally, Carn the Illusionist came back in the room to use a Light spell, freeing the magic user's effort to light a torch. This gave the magic User a chance to prepare a Magic Missile spell and send three missiles to attack three of the six Trogs.

Xico grabbed his mace and the little gnome thief tried to take advantage of his small stature and the relative low smarts of the troglodytes to use his backstab move and end the fight for some of these things early.

Early on in the battle, Xico's grasp on his mace came loose and slipped out of his grip as he prepared a mighty blow to a Troglodyte.  unfortunately, the mace hit his ally, Virgil the thief, causing him some injury and resulting in some testy words cast his way.

Back and forth the battle raged with both Trogs and adventurers taking and giving equally well.  Soon though, the little thief was knocked unconscious by a massive blow and the poor illusionist was an easy target maintaining his Light spell and was hurt badly as well, knocked out cold.

Leaving only the Fighter, the Magic User and the Cleric, they managed to rally and make some very good, and lucky, hits on the troglodytes while taking only minimal damage from the remaining two of them.

It took only another round of battle for the adventurers to slay the last Trog and drag their comrades back into the stairwell to rest.  Taking advantage of this lull, Xico the Cleric recognized the bravery in which the Illusionist, being armed with only a few meager spells, had come back to give them what aid he could and paid the price for it.  The small gnome, though being a thief, was not a bad person as he knew from previous adventures so was willing to honor both brave souls by using a spell to heal their wounds.

The group decided to go back up to the main level and make a camp a bit away from the building to regain their strength before returning to investigate.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Questioning Percentile Dice

Two ten sided dice.  One dice is a different color from the other and equals the "tens" spot.  The other equals the "ones" place.

If we say that there is a percentage needed in order to determine if something IS going to happen, you start from the bottom up.  So, say there is a 25 percent chance you might successfully throw a rock at a fleeing orc.  roll the percentile dice and if the result is 1 to 25, you have hit that orc.  Great work.  If you roll anything 26 or more ("00" being 100), you missed.

It seems to me, that most things are written to favor the chance of it happening.  But what of an option being expressed in the negative?  For example, what if the option is giving that you have a chance to know how to read a scroll?  There is a 25% chance you will know how.  That option is expressed in the positive.  You "will" know how to do it within 25 percent.

But let's say that even if you do have a successful knowing of the spell, a followup option says that there is also a 25 percent chance the spell will be messed up , mispronounced, etc... and fail.

In both cases you could make the case that if viewed in the positive ie.  the result "will" happen in a roll of 25 or less.  You would expect to start the roll at the bottom meaning, if the roll is 1 to 25, the result occurs.   Any number rolled over the 25 is a negative or does "not" occur.

OR, I have seen it shown that having a 25% chance to know means there is a 74% chance to "not" know and the dice is then interpreted that any result of 1 to 75 indicates not knowing the spell.

Or in the case of spell failure, A 25% chance of spell failure or a 75% chance the spell will not fail and rolling a 1 to 75 indicates the spell succeeded. Anything rolled over 75 indicates spell failure.

As for me,  I don't like the wavering view.  It makes me seasick.

I have it that anything requiring a percentage roll starts from 1 to achieve it.  Regardless of positive or negative result.

So, if the roll is a 50% chance to yank a stone gargoyle off from over a doorway, then the roll will be 1 to 50 indicates pulling it off  (success) and anything 51 and over is a failure, it did not come off.

If there is a 35% chance that a PC gets bit on the butt by a flying fish while at the lakeside, then a roll of 1 to 35 indicates getting bit (success) and anything 36 and over is not bit (failure).

I think the reason some folks like to flip flop the odds is because they think they will get a better result if the result they want to have happen will happen on the low end of the roll.

Other folks obviously can and will do what they want with percentile dice, but at my table, that's how we roll.  (heh heh)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Borrowing Characters A La Carte

Sometimes we are inspired by a book or a movie with a character or a type of character we see and say, "Great Googly Moogly!  That would be awesome in my game!"

It's not always the easiest thing to do though.  You have to find a way to insert it into your world and have a way to explain it.  It gets harder if the one character is tied to others somehow.  Then you have to dis-entangle it from the other characters as much as possible or just bring the whole bunch in.

Bringing the whole bunch in can be a bit easier for you, to a degree, but then your game can start to feel like it's becoming centered around the book or movie, etc.. that you pulled those characters from.  You may not want that either.

For example,  I was recently thinking about the Uruk-Hai from the Lord of The Rings.

I wanted to bring the Uruk-Hai in to my game because  I think they were just freaking awesome in the movies and the books set them up pretty good too.

So, using some leads from the books and movies,  I snipped them out of those and pasted them into my game.

For example, the Uruk-Hai are not "Natural" creatures in LoTR, they are created by some high power  magic wielding person or maybe even demi-god.

In the case of LoTR, that would be either Saruman or Sauron.   I don't want either Saruman or Sauron in my game though.

Also in LoTR, the Uruk-Hai are related to Orcs.   I don't like that.  To me, Uruk-Hai are related to Orcs the same way a lion is related to a gazelle.  The Orcs and gazelle are something to be eaten, not much more to it.

So,  I changed the Uruk-Hai's name.  Yup, to Uruk'hai.  I know, amazingly creative of me, but in my mind at least, there is a distinction.

Uruk'hai still only exist by mystical/magical creation though.  They aren't "naturally occurring" like Orcs or humans, elves, etc...

So now I had to figure out, what whackjob of a person is going to be able to make these things?

I tossed the idea around a live chat with a fellow DM and between us, we determined that it is a cleric, an insanely evil cleric, who is capable of raising the Uruk'hai.  Yet, how does even a high level cleric able to just pop these things up.  He's gonna need some high powered help here and like I said earlier,  I don't want to bring in Saruman or Sauron.

What if, I did use Sauron as an influence?  Not create a demi-god or god named Sauron, but a nutball, power hungry demon god that was bent on world domination like the "old ones" in an H.P. Lovecraft story?  That could work.

So now,  I have a demon-god bent on world domination that will help and direct a special, nutjob evil cleric who follows him to make a bad ass race of beings that are born to be a hit squad.    What if the newly raised beings have it built into them to be followers of this demon god, whose name is Uruk-Khan and his warriors are called the Uruk'hai?  Oh yeah.   I likes this.

Uruk-Khan can give the cleric the ability to raise and control the Uruk'hai as long as they are doing a good job of destroying and dominating everything they see.  The minute that Uruk-Khan decides that the whackjob cleric isn't getting the job done or isn't playing the game his way, he will remove the ability to control the Uruk'hai from the cleric and let the Uruk'hai run free in the world.

Now we have a way to control the Uruk'hai because on their own, they aren't afraid of anything except Uruk-Khan.  Even if they confront something bigger and badder and they know it, they'll go into berserker mode and die trying to bring it down anyway.  That's what they were made to do.

Now I get to have Uruk'hai in my game and a new demon god to motivate an evil nutball cleric and I don't have to have the others dragged into my game at the same time.

Believe it or no, I already have a cleric that fits the bill in my game too. This is going to be so much fun.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Teaching Players To Role-Play

You would think that when it comes to players who are kids, say, under age 14, it should be a no-brainer for them to grasp what role play is.  They pretty much own the concept of "pretend".

I know a lot of people over age 15 who feel a bit "silly" or even embarrassed to role play, feeling that it is only a kids game of "pretend.

I've had players who are "adults" even "young adults" who couldn't role-play unless they were inebriated.  At which point, it was embarrassing for everyone else at the table.

I've seen other people try to explain role-play in relation to acting.  Certainly, we have all seen either in person or at least on a video or something the people who REALLY get into character by dressing up and speaking in medieval Olde English as though they were about to participate in a Renaissance fair.

Role-play is not acting.  Role-play is more about getting into someone else's head.  Thinking about how they think, how do they approach things.  It's about seeing things from the perspective of someone else.  It is a tool used in psychology as well as by the modern detective in crime enforcement.

In regard to AD&D though, there is a bit of fun added to it by not only thinking as the character but speaking for them too.  Interacting with other characters as though you were the character.  Could this involve a wee bit of acting?  I'd say that it definitely benefits from some creativity and a willingness to step outside yourself a bit.

I have a now 13 and 11 year old playing, soon to be 14 and 12 years old.  Up until now, they have been playing AD&D1E for about a year now.  For them, it's been more like the characters are simply avatars for their own personalities. 

To watch them try to handle multiple PC's in a game is about the same as going to a play and seeing the same two actors come onstage at various times calling each other by different names. and maybe wearing different clothes.

They weren't "seeing" the PC they were playing as something separate from themselves.  For people who still play "pretend" in some form or another,  I would have thought this would be a natural for them, yet it wasn't.

So I decided that they needed to figure out how to role-play.   I gave them a person that they knew pretty well and set up a scenario in which their sibling had done something WAY wrong and asked them what I would do (as Dad)  if I busted them.

Obviously, this led to a giggle fest and a wary first attempt at describing what I would do though they seemed more afraid to really nail me as if they might get in trouble for being too good at it.

Finally, I said "show me, don't tell me." and my son, being the younger, finally "got it", stood up and said in a voice he obviously thought sounded like mine something to his sister that made everyone in the house roar with laughter because he nailed me.  He got it perfect.

Then the other one got into it and within about 10 minutes, they had their head in my head. so to speak.

After that,  I pointed out that that is what they are supposed to be doing when they play AD&D.  Don't be themselves, be the character.  Think of what the character would do and say.

It's been a few days since and they both say they are having more fun than ever.  They don't always speak in fake voices, but they are stopping to consider the character instead of just doing or saying what they would do.  That's the whole point of role-playing.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Cleaning House. A level 1 adventure

Using a random adventure conjured from the DonJon AD&D Random Dungeon online generator, I set the stage for a new game for some new level 1 PC's for my two kids age 13 and 11.

Each player has an "Active Player Character (APC) that they are role-playing.  The 13 year old also has 2 Secondary Player Characters (SPC) that are played like a Henchman, but are equal members of the party and get equal shares and status.

I also added another SPC to the team as well, giving them a total of 5 total characters in the game.

The gameplay starts in a little nowhere barely-a-village where the 3 PC's of the 13 year old are trying to make out a "Help Wanted" poster.  These would be "Luna", a female half-elf Fighter/Druid, "Glowra", a female human thief and "Lumina", a female human Magic User.

As they stand there trying to puzzle out the wording of the poster, a half-orc female fighter named Calli steps up behind them and is able to read the poster clearly.  It is from the remnants of a formerly well to do family wanting to lay claim to the ancestral hole which just so happens to be built into a hillside.  In recent years, the immediate family had disappeared leaving the home open to all manner of creatures that would find such a place as shelter.

The extended family coming in to the area is looking for someone to "Clean House" so to speak and restore to them their ancestral home.

There is contact information and a crude map to the location on the poster.  The three "buddies" have been spoiling for a good adventure and the half orc is a fine specimen of a fighter.  A quick agreement is made of the four of them to team up and take care of the family's problem.  The home is about 10 miles out of town, directly on the South road.

The trio has 3 horses with one of the horses pulling a cart.  Luna, the half-elf, being brave and generally optimistic, offers to let the half-orc to ride on the bench of the cart with her.  Calli tosses her backpack into the rear of the cart and climbs up to the bench.

Glowra and Lumina ride their horses alongside, both of them not making too much eye contact with the half-orc but are not saying anything out loud about it either.  Calli looks as if she could mop up the floor with both of them at the same time.

Not more than a half mile out of the village, they come up behind a bald man with only a single lock of hair growing from his scalp long enough to be tied into a rather long tail.  Eventually they catch up to him and ride alongside trying to get his attention.  He seems to be meditating even as he is walking.

After a moment, He looks up at Calli, who is closest to him in the cart as she asks him where he is going.  He tells her that he is on a mission set to him by his Master and keeps walking.  She asks his name and he tells her he is known as Thelonius.  He is a monk of the Temple of Truth.  Thelonius is a very large man about 6'6" tall and about 185 pounds or so.  A very healthy looking person.

Luna suggests to Calli to ask him if he would like a ride, he can sit on the back of the cart where there is room.  He agrees to the suggestion and tosses a small rucksack as he easily slides up onto the cart.

Glowra and Lumina hang back on their horses and engage Thelonius as the group makes their way South.  They tell him of the adventure they are on if he likes, he is welcome to join them.  Thelonius smiles slightly and suggests he would be willing to help them as long as they were on the same  path he takes on his own mission.

After about 2 miles of riding at a casual pace, the cart comes to a stop and the group looks ahead at what appears to be a huge lake in the middle of the road they are traveling on.

Stepping down from the cart, Calli uses her sword at the edge of the water to test the depth an see that it is about 2 feet deep nearest to them.  Not wanting to risk driving through it for fear that it might drop off further or that they will get stuck in the mud, the group determines to ride around the water to the East.  This takes them the better part of an hour, but they finally find their way back to the main road.

As they started out a bit late in the day, the team decides to make camp for the night, still being at least 2 to 3 hours from the location and not wanting to tempt the area wildlife, take a break while still enough light to set up.

During the pitching of tents and securing the perimeter and all the activity of making camp, Glowra walks up to Luna and demands to know why "the orc" has to be a part of the team.  How can she be trusted not to slit everyone's throat in the middle of the night and take everything.

Calli overhears this and joins in, promoting things from a heated discussion to an outright argument.  Luna wants the help of the half orc but is alarmed at her friend who has never shown such hostility before.  She momentarily isn't sure what to do.

Luna spies Thelonius, the monk keeping busy setting up tents and walks over to ask him for his help while the other two are currently breaking the discussion with a staring contest.  Perhaps to make that a glaring contest.

Thelonius suggests to Luna that perhaps Glowra feels that her role in the threesome is threatened by the bigger, stronger woman and that if Luna were to establish specific roles for each team member, she would be able to tolerate Calli better.

Luna goes back to the two and tells them her plan to set roles and responsibilities for each, starting with everyone taking a shift on the night watch.  Glowra grudgingly goes along with the plan and everything seems settled.

Luna takes the first shift and Calli the second, both of which are un-eventful.  Glowra comes out without saying a word in conversation to relieve Calli at watch.  Calli goes to her tent to turn in.

After about an hour of sleep, Calli's orc sensitive hearing wakes her up just in time to roll over and see a figure lunging at her from behind.  She quickly strikes out with her fist and lands a solid blow on the attacker but feels the cut of a knife slice her at the same time.

Now fully awake and on her feet, Calli can see very well with her infra-vison that the attacker is none other than Glowra, the petty thief.  Not having much of a chance to find a weapon to defend herself, Calli strikes out with her fist again just as Glowra dives in with her knife again.  The smaller woman cuts Calli again with the knife while Calli tries to move out of the way.

For a third time, Calli tries to grapple with the thief and tries to grab the knife as Glowra comes in again right at her ribs.  The big woman is successful in her grab and twists the knife out of the thief's hand.  Finding herself suddenly un-armed, Glowra takes off out of the tent and runs right into Luna, nearly bowling her friend over as she makes to escape.

Being small and fast, Glowra is able to avoid Theolnius and Lumina as well.  AS she runs into the darkness, Calli runs up behind her and throws the dagger she took and hurls it at Glowra but misses by a mere foot.  Glowra is gone into the night.

The rest of the night is un-eventful and the thief doesn't return to camp.  Luna and Lumina worry about their friend but are also extremely puzzled over her attack on Calli.  Being short a rider, Calli announces that she wants to take Glowra's horse as she was the victor of the sneaky and underhanded attack of the thief.  The other two women seem a bit unsure but don't oppose Calli and Thelonius seems not to care.

After packing up the tent and breakfast, the group heads on along the road and not far ahead, they see the road is blocked yet again.  This time by a large herd of oxen.  Luna, being a druid, decides to cast a spell allowing her to speak with animals and proceeds to ask the lead bull o move the herd from the road.  The bull looks at her and slowly lets her know that it takes much time to move a herd and they have been here for much time already.  It will not be soon that the herd will move again.

Giving up, the group again detours out of their way, taking almost a half hour detour before getting back to the main road beyond the herd.  Once making it back to the road, it is only a few more miles to their destination.

They look upon a large hill with a double door carved into it.  They tie the horses and set the one guard dog on alert and proceed cautiously to the main door which is slightly ajar.  Calli using her excellent orc vision can see past the doors for about 60 feet into what appears to be a long hallway that continues straight for quite a distance.

Luna lights a torch for the other members of the party, though she and Calli have no real need for it.  Moving cautiously down the long hallway, with weapons drawn everyone into their assigned position, Calli leads the way down a side hall to the right with Thelonious behind her, Lumina following ready to cast a spell and Luna bringing up the rear in case of a surprise attack from that direction.

Following several twists and turns in the hallway, Luna wonders aloud what kind of "home" this could possibly be.  It looks more like the catacombs and dungeons she has heard so much about.  The halls are drafty and the walls damp.  Finally, the group comes upon a closed wooden door and Calli pulls on it with no luck.  Just as Luna suggests letting Lumina the magic user blast it with a spell, Calli chuckles and asks them to wait so she can try something.  She cautiously pushes the door this time and it opens easily, if not a bit noisier than she would have liked. 

They enter a large room that is largely devoid except for a pile of rotten meat on the floor.  They give the room a quick inspection for about ten minutes, finding an archway on the side of the room they came in and another wooden door directly across and opposite from the one they entered.  Luna decides they should check out the other wooden door first.

Calli again tries the door and regardless of pulling or pushing, she can't open it up.  It's either locked or stuck.  She thinks it feels more stuck than anything else tough.  After a few minutes of heavy pulling and pushing at the door, Calli finally gives up and pulls out her war hammer and hits it with such a wallop that it comes unstuck immediately.  Although the noise it made has likely caused every creature in the place to know they are here now.

There i  a new hallway to the left that turns out to be a dead end and going back  the opposite way, find another corridor that takes them to the left.  They have to light another torch as they have been wandering for about an hour or so now and the first one is guttering.  Following the twists and turns of this hallway, they pass another to the right but continue forward instead.  After about 15 minutes, they realize this has returned them to the hallway they first entered the building in.

Deciding to go back the way they just came, they decide to investigate the hall thhey passed before and follow it around turns and corners for about ten minutes before it leads them to another large room.  This one having a beaten up old tpaestry hanging on one wall and the walls are vey wet..  Beyond that, nothing.

This seems like a good time to take a break and grab some rest before continuing on with the exploration.

Which canon booms louder?:

You see it and hear it all the time.  What is the last word when it comes to the rules of AD&D 1E?

Many people want to say that since the Players Handbook came out before the Dungeon masters Guide that it set precedent and always look to corroborate things that are said in the DMG against it.

To me and quite a few other people I have discussed this topic with, the DMG was written to stake out for the DM, what may have only been lightly addressed nand even not addressed at all in the PHB.

I am fine with accepting the DMG as the last word on the written rules.  This goes hand in hand with the notion, as written by Gary Gygax, that the DM is the final arbiter.  Hence, the DMG would be the last word on the written rules with the DM obviously taking that as far as he/she wants it to go.

Having said that, if the DM decided they preferred to let the PHB have the say so of the written rule, that's their choice to over rule the DMG in that way.  As intended though,  I think the DMG is the "default" stop point.

Personally,  I do not accept later publications like Unearthed Arcana or magazine articles,etc.. as anything more than options that may or may not be taken up by a DM if he/she desires to add them in.

The DMG has spoken.  Long Live the DMG!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

My Crits and Craps


"Crits" are Critical Hits. Crits are what happens when a Player rolls a natural 20 on a 20 sided dice. This is as opposed to rolling a 20 that includes added bonuses for strength or such.

"Craps", well, that's what happens when you roll a natural 1 on the d20. You essentially just shot craps.

I like to do things randomly. It's a lot of fun making things up as you go along. Rolling dice helps create that random-ness.

It's not every time you roll a d20 that a 20 or a 1 shows up. That's a special event. Why not allow some extra fun for such a thing coming up?

Below are tables for when Crits and Craps are rolled on the "To Hit" roll.


Rolled on 1d6
  1. Dis-arm/stun opponent
  2. Knock out opponent
  3. Inflict double damage to opponent
  4. Inflict triple damage to opponent
  5. Severe limb of opponent
  6. Kill opponent up to same level as PC, lethally wound opponent up to 2 levels above PC (takes them down to 1d4 HP)


Rolled on 1d6
  1. Weapon stuck / snared / dropped. Requires 1d3 round to retrieve or let it go.
  2. Weapon must make a save vs. crushing blow or it is broken.
  3. Hit Ally - roll damage and deal that amount to a random ally within 10 feet; if there are no allies in that distance, ignore this result.
  4. Minor damage to self -twisted joint, pulled muscle, charlie horse, etc... lose 1 round. 1d4 damage
  5. Full damage to self - roll full damage per weapon type
  6. Lethal hit to self, drop to 0 HP, bleeding out 1 HP/round until healed, bandaged or until -10/Dead.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Game and The Story Together Make An Adventure

What is a an RPG session anyway?  It is the coming together of people to have fun and use their creativity, imagination and wits. 

The DM provides the gaming environment, the details of the adventure and even sets the atmosphere.  It is not the DM's goal to pit him/her self against the players, but to create the game as it's own thing.

After the DM has created the "game field" so to speak and the Players have their characters created and ready to enter said "game field" or as I like to refer to it, the "Arena", it is on!

The DM becomes arbiter of rules/referee and role-player of NPC's.  The GM also tracks things and does what is required to keep the game moving along.

So what is it the players are really doing then?  As someone put it in a forum post, they are the story.  The choices they make, the things they do as they play the game is the stuff of legend.  The game itself is the setting for epic tales to be told.

The Players, via their PC's, take risks, face consequences and reap great rewards or suffer dismal failures. 

The DM, in short, IS the Game.  The Players are the Story.  Together, they are a super-organism.  One cannot exist without the other.

A DM with no players is merely a dream.  A Player with no game to play is just a figment of imagination.  Put the two together however and you have something that becomes more than the sum of it's parts.

This is why a DM must work carefully to create a game to be played.  Sometimes a GM will create an elaborate, detail rich game ad ends up creating the story along with it.  Then they don't want the players to come in and "ruin" their tapestry and place so many limitations and instead of providing guides and paths and clues for the Players to follow and pick up on their own.

The DM nearly drags them through the game making the Player more of a bystander or suggestion maker than really allowing them to be a Player.  That's no fun in he long run for anyone and that's not a game so much as it is a "pick your own ending" story.

Conversely, it wouldn't be much of a game if paths weren't followed and leads not pursued.  The Players have to "buy in" and actually play the game as it is presented by the DM. 

DM's have a variety of game styles they can present.

  • The Dungeon Crawl Game.  Draw up a dungeon, roll randomly to place monsters and treasure, traps and tricks into the dungeon and let the players go in and wander around.  Your average dungeon crawl.
  • The Plot Thickens Game. Give the players a mystery to solve.  Provide them with clues and lots of places to investigate.  Throw in false leads, rumors and speculation.  Toss in some plot related encounters along the way and rescue the girl or find the treasure or get rid of the bad guy.
  • The Random Game.   I like to do this every so often.  Literally everything is completely random and you make it up as you go. You roll for just about everything.  Have a few "blank" random dungeons or adventure areas set out and as PC's find their way to and enter them, populate them as they are entered.
Then there are combinations and variations of those listed above.

It' s one thing for a Player to give a friendly reminder or to ask for a second look at a rule.  it's another thing altogether to argue, debate or challenge and become a rules lawyer while the game is on.  That's just being obnoxious and is un-called for.

For DM's, a game should be challenging, but not impossible.  Give the players a chance to play.  If there's any one thing Gary Gygax did make perfectly clear in the AD&D 1E books (and there's not many) is that the rules are rules only so long as it furthers the playability of the game.  It is your game DM.  You decide what rules need to be followed to the letter, if any, and what rules are holding the game back.

One opinion Gary Gygax expressed that I do agree with is that in the end, this is just a game.  It does not and should not mimic reality to the point it becomes a re-enactment or a combat simulation.

It' s about getting some folks together and blowing off some steam, having some fun and matching wits against imaginary adversaries.

What more could you ask for?  (if you say food and drink, that can be there too, but at my games it's potluck and/or BYO ;) )