Tuesday, April 16, 2013

It's Pretty Real For A Fantasy Game

In a fantasy setting type game like AD&D 1E, there is a certain need, like in watching fantasy movies or reading fantasy books, a certain amount of "realism" that will allow the participant to suspend reality and accept the fantasy environment.

Mind you now, "realism" and "reality" are NOT the same thing.  Reality is "what is".  Realism is the information that the mind looks for to make logical connections.

There are fantasy book series that go above and beyond to provide the reader with detail information relating to everything from physics to cultural complexities that are anything but reality.  However, having that completely fictional detail provided allows the reader to replace the same information in their head that corresponds to his or her reality with details that make it possible to discard the reality and move forward with the fantasy.

AD&D 1E goes so far as to say in the Dungeon master's Guide that this is a fantasy game, not a reality simulator.  It is never the intention of the authors to make it be a game that is re-creating medieval history.  instead, this is a fantasy game that uses concepts, ideas and even names and items from what we know and inserts them into the fantasy.

For example,  I know what a longsword is in reality.  in the game, there is a longsword a well.  However, the longsword in the game, as far as I am concerned, is NOT the exact same thing as the longsword in reality.  They might share some traits but beyond that, the longsword in the game is it's own fantasy device and I do not have the expectation that it will operate or handle exactly like a "real" longsword.  New, fantasy, details have been provided for the longsword in the game in terms of how it works, how much it weighs, how it handles, what damage it does, etc..

Trying to go out and obtain all the specifications of a real longsword and use that information in the game instead is an exercise in futility in my opinion.  Now, as the DM/GM, we have every ability to revise such things as we like.  If you want to make them just like a "real" longsword, go for it.  Remember though, that it is your call as a DM to do that and it is still a fantasy game in the end.

Now me personally, when I see people arguing on behalf of reality in AD&D 1E,  I tend to step away from those discussions.  If I were to offer my opinion, it would like be taken as desultory or argumentative and really,  I personally have little respect for those with such little imagination that they have to turn this game into a reality simulator.  So,  I will leave those discussions and just let those folks argue amongst themselves.

So go ahead, sit back, relax, enjoy the pretense.  This isn't reality, it's just a fantasy game.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Can We Fit AD&D 1E Into The Death Gate Cycle?

For those who haven't read this great series of books by Margaret Weiss and Tracey Hickman, I'll give a brief overview, I'll try not to give any spoilers.

This is a world heavily laden with magic.  There are dragons, humans, elves, dwarves and even animated dead and resurrection here..

Magic is largely rune/sigil and verbally based.

Everyone is on some quest of to exercise power over others or to have some degree of control.  This all bumps together in an "end of times" direction.

Right up front, there is so much about this book series that just begs to be used as a campaign world for AD&D 1E to be dropped into.

There are three general "Classes" of magic user in this series.  Low level magic users, Sartan/Patryns and then a very high level magic user class.

They all essentially use the same magic forces but based on their level of advancement and form of practice, it is used at remarkably different effectiveness.

With some minor tweaks,  I personally think that this world could accommodate 1E just fine.  Personally,  I am inclined to stay away from the primary story line and characters.   I tend to branch away at a different point  in time and when the primary characters are no longer really able to be interacted with.

I don't think will be hard to do with this series.  One could take the stage settings but discard the storyline entirely.

I may very well try to do this in the near future.

Dealing With The Dead

This is why I love DragonsFoot Forums. so much food for thought.  Sometimes though, the discussions move on in other directions  but I want  to focus on a particular point or another direction, this is why I blog.

A recent few new discussions popped up on whether animating or raising dead is inherently evil and if those raised/animated are evil themselves inherently.  This was also related to another discussion on the whole process of turning undead.

In AD&D 1E/OSRIC, there are three basic types of "dead".  The un-dead, the animated dead and the resurrected dead. 

Animated Dead

According to the core books, animated dead are simply physical bodies that are made to get up and move around.  They have no independent thought process, they have no desire or intent.  they are no more "alive" than a broomstick.  They are classified as "Neutral" because in and of themselves, they are just there, doing what they were made to do.

The PHB lists skeletons and zombies as un-dead and thus able to be turned.  Personally, I think there is a distinction to be made in that zombies and skeletons are not un-dead but only animated dead.  Having said that,   I still include them as being able to be turned by a Cleric, if only because the magic to so falls under necromancy which is historically considered an "evil" form of magic even if it is occasionally performed by someone of good alignment accidentally, unknowingly or with good intentions.

Resurrected Dead

Now we have the resurrected dead, which is often your once slain party member and having been resurrected, are no longer dead, but are alive just as they were before.  They retain the alignment they started out with.

I wonder though, if the process of resurrection BtB isn't overlooking some fun in said resurrection?  Aside from costing a lot of gold pieces, having a powerful enough Cleric around that is willing and able to do it and the loss of a Con point (not to mention rolling against the resurrection chance) what else might happen during a resurrection? To me, there's a lot of room for "oh shit" to happen in the process that goes beyond simply being successful at the attempt.

For example, what are the odds of being resurrected possessed by a demon or some other lost soul and as the PC is being resurrected, they may or may not even realize something else is in their body with them?  Hmmmm, interesting.

What about the possibility of "waking up" and as has been touched on in several books and movies, the once deceased now is affected in a manner that they have new abilities to perceive or otherwise see or have knowledge of the dead?  This could seriously mess with a PC's sanity if they don't learn how to handle it in time.

What is the chance that said Cleric casting the spell might not "oops" slightly resulting in some change in the PC as a consequence of being resurrected.  a born again cannibal perhaps?  or causing people to die at their simple touch (save vs death) but the PC isn't aware of it right away.  Lots of fun stuff that can happen with resurrection.


The un-dead are pretty much inherently evil.  Their goal in un-life is to bring misery, woe, death and destruction to the living.  They are intelligent, self controlled creatures operating under their own willpower and intent.

The un-dead are perhaps the arch-nemesis of the Cleric.  This is what Clerics are made for, to wit, the ability to "turn un-dead" as a regular function.

Some un-dead are able to cause energy drain in a PC by some type of contact  While BtB, this contact is simple and the energy drain effects experience levels,  I think that is ridiculous and instead have a specific act or contact required for energy drain to happen and it affects Con points instead of XP/levels.

Turning Un-Dead

According to BtB, to turn un-dead, the Cleric must hold a holy symbol and focus their attention on the chant or verbal component until the un-dead in question are so "turned". 

According to the DMG, pg 65, the Cleric by default can turn un-dead with success starting with the lowest level of un-dead and if so successful, move to turn the next "level" up of un-dead until they fail at it then are unable to continue the effort after said failure.

The alternative offered is if a high level un-dead has followers along with it, then the DM can say that to turn any, the "Master" un-dead must be turned or none will.

All leading up to add that turning may occur at the same time of missile discharge, spell casting and magic weapon usage.  It doesn't say whether those are things being done by the Cleric at the same time or if the Cleric is able to turn while those things are going on, but I interpret that as the Cleric is not able to turn un-dead while doing those things.  I'll explain later.

Now I come to my questions about turning un-dead. What is really happening here is a result of "turning"?  The books indicate that un-dead that are turned essentially can't hang and are repelled from the area of the Cleric, seeking to flee elsewhere.

There is some limited usefulness to having this result, but it pretty much only delays the danger.   I have a table for turning.  for animated dead,  I have it that one of two things can happen if success is rolled for turning.  Animated dead can;

a) animation is ended, they just drop like rocks and do not rise again.

b) are "deflected" like a pinball hitting a bumper as they do not "think" in terms to consciously flee, they simply are bounced away from the Cleric to some other area.

Now, when it comes to un-dead, again,  I have customized it so that based on level of the un-dead and the level of the cleric these possibilities can happen;

a) if the Cleric is at least 2 levels above the undead, the undead are simply destroyed.

b) if the Cleric is at least 1 level above the un-dead, said un-dead are permanently repelled and will go find new haunts if able to leave at all.  Un-dead Elvis has left the building.

c) if the Cleric is at least same level of un-dead, the un-dead are simply repelled from the vicinity.

I think this way makes things more interesting when we play the turning game.

Going back to the being able to do things while turning un-dead, like firing missile weapons.   I said earlier that my interpretation is that Clerics are not doing these things themselves, only able to turn while those things are happening.  Why?  Mostly because Clerics BtB aren't able to use pointed weapons such as darts, arrows, bolts, etc.. So they can't be firing them at all, let alone while turning right? 

Well maybe.  I'm also the guy who allows Clerics to use the favored weapons of their deity.  So if Athena prefers a Bow and arrow or a crossbow (just for example) then a Cleric of Athena can use those weapons in my game.  However, because turning is also affected by initiative, it is an act in and of itself and thus again,  I see it that the Cleric is putting all their attention into turning and not on firing anything.

Anyway, that's where I am in terms of the various dead.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Henchmen and Hirelings

 Once again, due to a post in an online forum,  I want to go a little more into a topic which interests me.

This time, the discussion is on "What is the difference between a Henchman and a Hireling?"

I look at it this way. A henchman is someone I would put on my personal payroll. He's one of my "posse". There is more than just money there, there is some degree of "I got your back, you got my back" loyalty there.

A hireling is someone I hire a service out to. Like the guy who details my car. He's just a guy I pay to do a job, that's it. I may hire him on a regular basis, but there's not the same relationship as one of my "Henchmen" has with me.

I might hire a tailor to make a fitted suit for me, he is just a hireling, regardless of his skill or ability level, he'sJust a guy I pay to get something.

I wouldn't have one of my "boys" to make a suit for me. I might ask one of my boys to hang out while the tailor is working and make sure he doesn't try to cheat me with lower quality stuff once my back is turned.

Even someone I might have on my personal payroll to do specific tasks for me, like a cleaning lady.  She's not one of the people in that trusted "inner circle", she just cleans the place.  I might give her an extra tip or a gift at Christmas, but that's as far as it goes.

One of my "boys" on the other hand,  I might not even be paying him directly at all.  I might just be letting him take a cut of the profits for doing something for me.

Say I loaned some guy a thousand dollars and the fella is late and avoiding me.   I might ask one of my "boys" to go take care of the situation for me and in return, he can keep the "interest" that I charged the guy, so long as I get my money back.  That is a henchman.   I wouldn't ask a hireling to do that for me.

I might hire a courier to deliver a letter to the guys house telling me he better pay me or else.  That's just a hireling, perform a specific task, service or provide a product for me.

I find it very interesting to see some of the notions that have been discussed in the thread which seem to, in my opinion, make much more confusion of the two than needs to be.

Would  iever consider making a hireling one of my henchmen?  it's possible.

Say the guy who details my car has been doing a good job at it for awhile, he's friendly and over time, I find I can trust him.  There is potential to maybe let him be one of the "boys" and maybe let him hang around or even put him on my personal payroll as a driver and maintenance guy for all my cars.  It builds up the relationship from there.

This is where Henchmen and loyalty checks are so important where there is no loyalty check really for a hireling.  The Hireling is just there for the cash.  The Henchman, because there is more of a trust thing there, might take more guff from you if you have a bad day or something whereas the Hireling would just take a walk.

But if you get to treating the Henchman like crap, being a punk to him, being demanding and pushing him to do stuff he doesn't really want to do.   Then the loyalty check comes in.  A Henchman will put up with some crap from you.  Mostly it depends on how you've been to him.  Treat him like a punk, he will walk quicker.  Treat him like a "goodfella"  and he'll stick with you even on your bad days.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

What Counts As A "Character"

I have been participating in a discussion thread on a forum where a question was asked about how XP was divided up to include Hirelings.

Personally,  I find this a ridiculous idea and said as much in the thread.  Hirelings do not ever gain experience points or do they ever gain in levels.  Ultimately, I think the justification the OP was using to give hirelings XP was a quote from the DMG on how division of XP goes to all surviving "characters".

Here I think that OP is taking far too loose interpretation of what a "character" is in the game.  There are two types of "characters" really, a "Player Character" and a "Non-Player Character.

A "Player Character" is one that is operated and role played by the game participants, the "Player".  "Player Characters" are able to gain full shares of treasure, experience points and to gain levels of experience.

A "Non-Player Character" is a character that is operated (usually) by the DM/GM and can be a Henchman, a Hireling, a "Monster" or anything the "Player Characters" come into contact with.

Often, the DM/GM will allow the Player to operate a Non-Player character such as a henchman if they think the Player can roleplay appropriately.  It is well within the DM' s authority to operate and otherwise roleplay Henchmen and any other "Non-Player Characters".

The only "Non-Player Characters" which are able to gain XP and levels are Henchmen and they gain only half that of the Player Character they serve under.

Hirelings, even those purported to have a level such as soldier with rank, are paid labor only.  They do not ever gain experience points or gain experience levels.

When the DMG makes reference to all surviving characters, it is referring to P"layer Characters" and Henchmen.  Not anyone or anything else.  A Henchman is singular because it is noted that should a "Player Character" die in game, a Henchman can be taken over and operated by the Player as a "full" Player Character" after that.  No other "Non-Player Character" has that distinction.

"Monsters" that PC's combat or otherwise encounter, hirelings, etc.. that are operated by the DM/GM gain XP or levels.  A Dragon or Hill Giant or Umber Hulk, etc.. gains no XP and levels if they defeat PC's during a game, regardless of how temporary or enduring they are.

The party in a campaign may encounter "Rohrstagg" the Storm Giant whose cavern in the Wenstrahm is encountered multiple times over a campaign.  Every time the party is defeated and survivors, if any, are sent scrambling down the mountain, "Rohrstagg" the Storm giant gains no XP or levels.  He is every bit as much an NPC as any Hireling.

Can the DM/GM decide that a Hireling that has been lucky enough to survive and contribute to an adventure or campaign may become a Henchman at some point?  Absolutely, but they gain no XP or levels until they become a Henchman.

So there you have it, my take on why Hirelings can never, ever, as Hirelings, gain XP or levels.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Times When It's More Cool To Be A Player Instead Of The DM

I like to be DM.   I prefer it.  It really lets me stretch my imagination legs and create something that I can share with my kids.

Lately though, my kids are stretching their imagination legs in relation to the game in terms of wanting to create sub classes and such.

This combined with my own inventions and creations really makes me wish I could be a player. to take full advantage of some of these cool things.

I don't run a PC while I am DMing,  I think it's unfair to the other players.  I have been known to send an NPC along to fill out a party, but I make the character a kind of a 2 dimensional participant there to acquiesce to the group leaders (unless it's outside of alignment, etc..) which is nowhere near the same thing.

The kids, on the other hand, are just having a ball, even when their PC's get killed or really spanked bad by another party or monster.  Of course, when they can make something really cool come about with their PC's, they really get raucous and loud. 

Who knows, maybe someday I'll get a chance to join a group of 1E folks and just be a player.