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.