Sunday, November 13, 2016

Sword 2 of the 7 Swords

The Frievald Sword

Sir Frievald, a well known vampire hunting Paladin from just over a hundred years ago, saved the life of an Elf Lord from an unusual collaboration of a powerful Necromancer and a very old and powerful vampire.  In gratitude for Sir Frievald's intervention, the Elf Lord commissioned a special sword made to aid the powerful paladin in his life's mission to fight the undead in any form but especially vampires. While no one in his family after his death can properly wield the sword as it is meant for the hands of Good aligned Paladins only, they have kept it in a treasured, special room in his honor.  The sword had been stolen by an evil Necromancer about thirty years ago.  It has never been recovered.

It communicates with the wielder using high empathy and can only be wielded by Good aligned Paladins.
  • It is a +2 sword against most foes but against the Evil aligned it is +4. 
  • It can automatically cast "Detect Evil" while worn and will inform the wielder empathically by causing the wielder to feel a heightened sense of caution. 
  • It casts Dispel Evil when the wielder holds the pommel in hand but does not need to draw it. The wielder must speak the “Command of Banishment” as appropriate to their Order. 
  • It is made of Mithril and imbued with silver and Holy Water was used in it’s forging. 
  • It’s most special ability is that it has the potential to Turn undead.  The sword “Turns” as a level 14 Cleric.

The sword can turn merely by being drawn in the presence of undead but must actually make contact with the enemy in order to have the Destruction effect.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Downfall, part 5

Abbe Micheal turned on the buckboard of the wagon to look at the troops seated in the back of the wagon as the group of holy warriors traveled closer to Aldisburgh and the depravity of the cannibalistic zombie attack that were being sent to dispatch.

The trip from New Edinburgh had been quiet for the most part.  Only the sounds of a rolling, creaking wagon, trodding horses and the shuffling of equipment was heard.  The warriors in the wagon were grim in visage and determined in countenance.  They all knew they were heading toward a new kind of threat in the form of something that had previously been relatively, in their line of work, all too common.  Now they faced a new variation that put their previous experience in question.

"Have any of you seen this image in relation to your previous dealing with zombies?" he asked them as he handed a piece of parchment back with a sketch he had hurriedly made from his brief studies of the questions his friend Jolly had originally brought to his attention when they were first introduced.

They took the picture and looked it over in turns, each reflecting a bit to try to recall if the image had any familiarity.  None of them had claimed any recognition as the image was passed back to Abbe Micheal.  "Show that to me please," Abbe Merrin Lankester said from beside him, holding the reigns of the horses as they pulled the wagon closer to their immediate destiny.

Micheal held the image up and Abbe Merrin glanced over it for a bit then shook his his slowly and took a deep breath, resulting in an even deeper sigh.  "I have seen that image before Micheal"  Abbe Micheal sat up straighter and looked perplexedly at the older abbe next to him.  "You have?" he exclaimed.  "I can find little to nothing about it in the records in the Church library."  "Where then, did you find that image if not in the Church library?"  the senior Abbe asked in return.  Micheal held up the image again, explaining, "This was a drawing made by my friend who sent me the message from Aldisburgh.  He has found this image in various places at the cemetery there and was trying to learn more about them.  When he found nothing in the library, he introduced himself to me hoping that as a member of the Order, I might shed some light on it."

Merrin hung his head low, the memories flooding back to him faster than he would have imagined.  He should have asked for the records when he volunteered to the Monsignor.  He had suspected as much on a deep inner level but at the surface hadn't been able to let it come through.  Now it was in front of him.  All of it.

"Abbe Lankester," the young abbot prodded softly.  "Do you know something of this image?'   A part of him almost hoped that the long time Exorcist and Cleric known commonly among the Order as "Yahweh's Bulldog" didn't have the information he was afraid of hearing.  "Is this something you have seen before Abbe?" he asked anyway.

"Micheal, I have seen and done a great many things in my long lifetime than most clerics have seen in two or even three lifetimes."  Merrin began.  "I began my true career in the Order as an exorcist almost by accident.  In actually, it turned out that I happened to be in the wrong place at the right time."  This conversation had caught the interest of the warriors sitting behind the two abbes.  They at quietly, paying attention to hear every word from the older cleric over the low racket of the horse hooves and wagon wheels.

"To give you the whole story, you need to understand that I am not what I seem to you.  How old do you think I am? " He asked looked up into the younger man's eyes.  "If I had to guess, I would say perhaps about fifty sir." Micheal replied.  The older man smiled, slight wrinkles around his mouth making his face lose and gain ten years simultaneously.  "I can tell you that I came to the calling late in my life Micheal.  I did not become a Cleric in the Church until I was fifty three years old."  Abbe Merrin stated.  "I am now just over one hundred and twelve years old and I expect that Yahweh intends to keep me around much longer in punishment of my good deeds.

The group sitting behind in the wagon looked back and forth between the two abbes and then from one of their own faces to another in quiet disbelief.   "How can that be Abbe?  Not that I disbelieve you but how could it be possible for a human to live so long and look so youthful as you do?"  Micheal had turned fully in the buckboard to face the abbe next to him.

When I was a younger man than I am now but twice as old as you, I was a wandering historian.  I visited the sites of ancient temples and cities long buried beneath the grasses and the sands.  I made a modest living in the trade of artifacts of lesser importance but for the most part, I was passionate for the knowing of history.  I had also become something of a travelling sage to be so bold if I may.  Many people sought me out for the information of long forgotten and archaic ruins of times long gone by.  They paid rather better than trading petty trinkets to be honest."  Merrin paused for a breath, licking his dry lips before carrying on.

"I was always an ardent follower of Yahweh, had been since childhood.  My faith had been nearly unshakable but I hadn't ever seriously considered becoming a Priest or Cleric.  Then I discovered the ruins of a long lost cathedral near a place also long gone to history called Sumeria.  The cathedral had been an incredible find.  It had been awe inspiring.  It was upon seeing it for the first time that I was so moved to even actually consider the Church as a life pursuit."

"However, when we broke through the dust and sand encrusted doors, we learned too late that we had awoken something truly wicked.  Perhaps the greatest Evil to walk this world in physical form.  As punishment for releasing this great Evil, Yahweh saw fit to curse me with long life with which to pursue the great Evil until I can banish it to it's confinement in the Abyss again.  I cannot leave this life until I rid the world of the Evil that I released."

Micheal leaned back again into the backboard, stunned.  He had heard rumors.  Outlandish fairy tales that he had assumed were the legends that naturally came from performing great deeds of heroism in the name of Yahweh.  To hear the story come so plainly, so earnestly spoken from the man himself was like being a small gong struck by a sledgehammer.  It blew him away entirely.

Abbe Merrin Lankester grabbed the flask next on the seat next to him and took a long draught.  Letting the warm liquid trickle down his dry throat before setting the flask down again to resume his tale.

"The image you carry is that of one of Yahweh's greatest foes.  A lord of demons known as the Beast of the Apocalypse.  His number is 440 and is also called the Great Dragon.  He is the lord of fever and plague.  He is known to me as Imdugud  and I shall not rest until I see him gone from this world again."

Everyone in the wagon had sat stunned by the revelation.  The wagon had come to a complete stop and realization dawned on everyone present that they were no longer dealing with something s simple as a secret necromancer amassing a horrible variant of zombies.  They were facing something much older, something much darker and more sinister.  Abbe Merrin Lankester looked around, into the of each face.  When he was sure he had all of their attention once more, he spoke again.

"We are nearly there.  The beast is there and it is waiting for us.  It will bide it's time in hiding no longer.  It has come forward to make a bold play for the very lives of our people.  If they should not be stopped here, now, then the world as we know it will end.  We are enjoined, all of us now, to stop this lord of demons and his undead minions.  It is now upon us to put an end to his evil or give our lives in the effort."  Micheal stared in awe at this now vibrant and emboldened man sitting next to him.  No longer quiet and subdued but sitting straight and with fervor, with passion as he finished his statement.

"When we enter Dem Tode Nahe, we will enter not as investigators or meek priests but as the just and and powerful right hand of Yahweh.  We will destroy the demon if we can and if not destroy the beast, we will put an end to his undead minions and send them back to the peace of their graves!?

Abbe Lankester finished this last nearly as a roar from deep in his chest.  The conviction of his will covering him like a shimmering aura.  He looked at the assembled warriors again, then back at Micheal, his new apprentice, though the young Abbe didn't know it yet. He looked forward again, lifted the reigns high and snapped them, startling the horses into a canter.  He looked directly in front of them the remainder of the ride until they stopped in front of the boarding house of Jolly the Magic User.  He had plans for this spellcaster as well.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Making the game more than the sum of it's parts

I approach AD&D 1E/OSRIC gaming from a storyboard perspective.  It's not just a game, it's a series of stories.  They are stories about villains, heroes and the wild ways of the world that ebbs and flows in between.

I like to say that there are the books and the rules that are the "straight math" of the game and I know a lot of people that play it that way.  That's fine if that's how they prefer to play it.  For me though, I find that approach terribly boring.  I like to think of myself as a fairly creative person and much appreciate the natural randomness built into the game and the many suggestions by the author throughout the books that the rules are secondary, it's the spirit of the game that is most important and the rules not only can be changed or sacrificed for the sake of the spirit of the game, it is encouraged.

I believe that by homebrewing and creating our own campaign worlds and anything else we come up with takes the game somewhere entirely new.  It allows us to make it more uniquely our own and yet be able to share it with others at the same time.

It's a great fantasy adventure of our own making.  People start playing, in my games anyway, with characters they have dreamed of and can live vicariously through.    Like I said, it's a story and these characters are something that players can become attached to.  I will bring in some Ex Deau Machina to preserve the story if need be.  I will fudge the dice to get a better, more exciting and more interesting story if the opportunity exists.

I love this game for the great escape that it is.  It's a high like no other that I have experienced (and honestly, I have experienced some dubious variety of highs over my ifetime).

It's not just guidebooks and dice and paper.  It's imagination and fantasies and dreams made real.  It's taking a game and making it more than the sum of it's parts.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

The Freedom of the Game

One of the things I love about AD&D and OSRIC in general is that it is such an open platform.  Much like the Pirates Code in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" they are more like guidelines rather than rules.

In the spirit of homebrewing and the social nature of the game, I can share how I interpret the game and customize it to work best for my own creative inklings and to put it together in a way that is a fun and rewarding experience for the players.

The next DM will see, interpret and handle things differently as to what works best for them and their game.  At the same time, there is enough common ground that it is still essentially the same game to each of us.

When I post my homebrewings here, it is only because I am excited and enthusiastic about my game and I'd like to share what I think works great and what I've done to address things I see as not working so well.  I'm not here to tell everyone else that they are "doing it wrong" or that there must be some strict uniformity that everyone must abide by.

That would totally defy the spirit of the game.

I don't argue about the game with others because on one hand, I don't really care how other people run their games.  It's their game, they can run it how they want.  I will play at their table or I won't.  Consequently I am not here to convince anyone of anything in terms of changing or adopting something different from how they already see or do things.

I'm just sharing how I see it, why I see it that way and what I do to address it.  If you like it and want to use it, cool, awesome, great.  Knock yourself out and have fun with it.

Because no matter if the DM at the next table and I agree or see eye to eye on game mechanics or issues or not, the game will go on.  The game is bigger than any one DM or group of DM's.

That my friend's is just awesome.  It's an awesome sundae covered in awesome sauce topped with an awesome cherry.  It's that awesome.

So come and read, share my enthusiasm, borrow what you will freely.  But don't come here to argue with me because I am not here to argue.  I will explain why I see it the way I do but that's more for the sake of discussion.  I don't care if you take it up, agree, ignore it or disagree.

It's a game for everyone and there's room for everyone to make it their own game.  To me, that's what makes it the best game in the world.

Spell-casting: Is it Live or is it Memorex?

I spend a lot of time thinking about spell-casting.  I'm not really the biggest fan of the Vancian magic system that is used in AD&D.  Not to say that I don't understand it's purpose, to limit spell-casters, but it seems rather unwieldy overall.  Or maybe it's not so much unwieldy as the explanation of it is dull and unimaginative.

I allow spell-casters in my games to free-cast and to use memorized spells.  Free-casting takes longer because the whole spell has to be carried out with all of it's requisite components.  Not something done in haste.  Yet by allowing free-casting, it offers the spell caster greater variety and specificity in the spells they do cast when they need or want to cast them.  That makes the game more fun.  I refer to free-casting as the "Live" part.

I also allow for preparing spells ahead of time.  This fits into the Vancian system because it can be described as memorizing spells, especially in the case of Magic Users and Illusionists.  It can also be described, at least I describe it so, as "spell-queuing".  This fits well with Clerics and Druids who don't obtain or cast spells the same way.

Spell-queuing is having the spell-caster go to their place of preparation.  This might be a portable altar, meditation area or something along those lines.  In the case of M-U's They proceed to memorize the spells they anticipate needing to use in the coming day.  For Clerics, They will perform the meditations and prayers to have their pre-selected spells Ready To Use.  I like to describe it as performing the entire prayer or incantation but leaving out the very last word or action to execute the spell out.  Then, when on the spot use is called for, they say that last word or perform that last action, etc... and the spell is executed nearly instantaneously.

If the spell-caster is about to knowingly go into a battle or enter into a building or dungeon, etc... where they think they might need to have certain spells at the ready and no time to go through the whole casting process, then the "Memorex" approach can be very very useful.  Though I will usually judge that spells which are "Memorexed" lose a bit in accuracy and other specificity.  In other words, they sacrifice fine controls for expediency.

During the battle or the exploration they can still go "Live" and carry out the desired spells with full accuracy and fine controls but it costs time in the execution.    Either way, "Live" or "Memorex", the spells count against their daily allotment.

So for Players considering this approach, I suggest you think of the situation the PC is looking forward toward.  If it's going into battle, what kinds of spells would be highly effective but usually not able to be gotten off because they take too much time to execute?  Those are the spells that you "Memorex".

Basically, casting time is a general deciding factor in which spells to "Memorex"  because if it takes more than a few segments to cast, then you aren't likely to get it off in the midst of battle or in an emergency situation.

"Cure Light Wounds" isn't worth "Memorexing", it's low level and relatively quick and easy to cast and it's usefulness in an emergency situation isn't high.  Cure Serious Wounds, Cure Disease, and the like, those are worth "Memorexing because sometimes poisons and rapidly accelerating diseases don't allow for a lot of time, maybe just a round or so, to go through the full process of casting.  Being able to whip out "Slow Poison", "Remove Curse", "Cure Critical Wounds" or spells like those is much more worthwhile.  When you have just a few segments in a matter of life or death, you don't want to have to wait longer if you don't need to.

I do pretty much waive the casting time for "Memorexed" spells because the casting was already done at the preparation.  The execution is instantaneous from the uttering of that last word or action.  Time to take effect is still subject to the spell descriptions.  For "Live" spell-casting though, I enforce casting time limits entirely.

There you have it, another peek into my weird world, deranged and out-of-whack as it may be, it sure is a lot of fun.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

To Level Drain or Not to Level Drain

Just going to come right out and say it.  I think that perhaps the single stupidest mechanic in the entirety of AD&D is Level Drain.  The very premise is absurd as the attack and the consequence are completely and entirely un-related.

A vampire attack leaves you drained of life force within you and you lose experience levels?  I'm sorry, I don't think that one was really thought out all the way and just got chumped to get the book published on time or something.

To lose experience levels, I could see it if the attack or damage was cognitive in effect.  Something stole your memories or you got amnesia or dementia or something along those lines.  Then yes, drain those experience levels and rightly so.

To lose life force though?  Here's how I homebrew it anymore.  Instead of losing an experience level, I remove Hit Points and 1 point of CON instead.  I do use Hit Dice though.  so if say a 6th level fighter were to take a life force draining attack, I will subtract on full HD of HP.  Fighters roll a d10 for HP thus I remove 10 HP for each life force level drained.  Add to that losing 1 point off of their Constitution.  Life is going to be different for that PC forever after.

Sucks to be the victim in that attack but it makes WAY more sense than to lose XL  The PC retains the XP level they have though.  So, 6th level Fighter now has 10 less HP but is still 6th level because the attack didn't suck part of his brain out with the knowledge, learned skills and experience that makes him what he is.  Losing a point of CON starts to reduce their ability to be resurrected or have Raise Dead done for them.  It also kicks them in the HP bonus adjustment as well.

I want the life force drain to be scary.  I want Players to think twice, maybe three times before tangling with something that could very well end it all for them.  So if the 6th level fighter had a max potential of 60 HP but with some lousy dice rolls only had 48 HP to start with, losing one life force level automatically knocks them down to 38 HP.   Bang!  Just like that.  Get another life force level drained?  Lose another 10 HP.

It's an easy mechanic to keep track of, it's relevant to the attack and it makes those creatures causing it something to be carefully considered.  Which is the whole point of having level/life force draining creatures to begin with.

Having said that, I always leave the door open to having HP re-gained by magical or other means as well as finding ways to get CON points back too.  It won't be easy but it is possible.  Those things are already built into the game for exactly those reasons it would seem.

Plus, the endeavoring to regain those HP and CON points can make some really nifty solo and side adventuring for those PC's as well.

DM's, Help Newbies and Help Yourself

As an incorrigible homebrewer, I have a lot on my plate as a DM.  You know, the whole, "Roleplaying NPC's, Adjudcating gameplay, Game Manager" dillema.

One thing I have learned over the years is that one of the best ways to get new Players "into" playing the game is not to toss them headfirst into everything all at once.  Let them get their feet wet with the most fun part of the game first so as to really engage them and catch their interest to keep them coming back to the table.

Consequently, I ask new people to take over the roleplaying of the already created major NPC's in the game for me.  When I create my NPC's I like to go the whole route and roll on the NPC character creation tables found on page 237 of the AD&D 1E DMG.  I will roll out their whole personality to give the newbie all the information they need to take that character on to it's fullest potential.

The newbie doesn't have to sit through the tediousness of character creation immediately, they get to play characters and really get into the spirit of things.  It helps to catch and keep their interest.  It also helps that I am a VERY roleplay oriented DM.

So hopefully, the new person or people get to have fun from the word "Go" and I get to focus on game management and adjuducation for the most part.  Lighten my load a little bit.  Of course, if it's an NPC I happen to take a particular shine to, I'll roleplay that one myself, turning over other NPC's instead to the newbies.  I LOVE to RP the especially mean and nasties.

It's just a suggestion, something that has worked in my games more often than not to get and keep Players and give myself a lighter load to bear in the process.  Of course, I had to do extra footwork up front in the NPC creation process but that's alright too because if nothing else, it gives me a mostly fleshed out character to draw on for the stories I like to write.

Clerical "Turning" of Evil

Coming to you live once again from my homebrew campaign world, I thought I'd share something of how Clerics, especially Clerics of my current favorite Order, handle "Turning" undead and Evil.

I've said several times that I model much of these Clerics activities in regard to godly abilities and working of miracles both minor and major based on the Jesuit Order.  I combine that with the active warrior activity of the Knights Templar and largly, those are my Clerics.

On the battlefield, there isn't much miracle working going on, at least from the combatants.  There's a time for getting down and dirty and there's a time for getting your magic on.  Not very often do the two actively happen at the same time from the same Cleric.

My Clerics, battlefield mindset aside, naturally are inclined to be in a support role while going through ruins and castles and woods, oh my.  When I say "support", I'm not just talking about being a walking band-aid.  Healing is a matter of necessity and direction and approval by the deity.  Just because a party companion wants to be healed doesn't mean it is a given that it will happen.

The Cleric has, in their mind, more important things to consider and use their limited resources on.  Like keeping the supernatural and Evil at bay.

One of the first things that always comes to my mind in the topic of turning is the image of Father Damien or Father Merrin squaring off against the entity and commanding them in booming, confident terms, "The power of God compels you, The power of Jesus compels you, the power of the Hosts compels you to BEGONE!"

That there is a serious and straightforward act of Turning.  Exorcism is a ritual, it takes preparation and it includes the action of Turning as a component.  However, Turning in and of itself is not a ritual, it is a specific action.  I always refer back to my assertion that a Clerics greatest weapon, that which allows them to increase levels, to gain strength and power in the working of their miracles is the combination of their Faith, Devotion and Piety (FDP).

One of my characters used in a storyline recently is of a church and order loosley based on the judeo-christian religion, with some loose license taken to make it more fantasy than realistic.  I can see him in my minds eye, entering a building in which he is confronted by four zombies and a necromancer.  The zombies approach him as his adventuring companions spread out to either side of him and assume fighting positions.

He very dramatically and emphatically makes the sign of his Holy Symbol in the air directly between himself and the zombies and declares loudly, "The might of Yahweh and the assembled Hosts commands you to Be Gone!".

The room is lit as if lightening has struck inside the area and the four zombies will not come anywhere near the Cleric or those immediately near him.  In fact, they are doing everything they can to leave the area entirely much to the dismay and consternation of tha Necromancer who seems to, at least temporarily, lost control of his monsters.

There wasn't even a chance that it would fail (he is a 4th level Cleric after all.)  Now, had they been Ghouls, there would have been a slight chance that the turning would not have worked but depending on the Cleric-in-question's FDP score, they might have not had a chance either as I give a bonus of up to the Cleric's level.  So a level 4 Cleric could have as much as a +4 bonus of effectiveness if he/she was extemely Faithful, Devout and Pious.  Only the lowest FDP score would result in no bonus at all and essentially having the lowest FDP score would practically ensure that if there were a chance of failure, it would pretty much be a given as having the lowest FDP score is like always rolling a "1" on a To Hit d20.

Hey Clerics, want to be effective at working your magic/miracles?  Then get your act together and prove yourself each and every day.  The deities don't typically much cotton to slackers.

Had the above Cleric been 6th level, then the zombies would have just decomposed and been destroyed at the action without him even breaking a sweat.  NEXT!  That Necromancer is probably having some serious second thoughts right about that time.

I have talked with a lot of people who don't really get "into" Clerics as PC's.  On paper, they seem to be rather dull and unimpressive.  I say it is because to really be effective and exciting, it is a character that needs a full-on role playing game being run and not a Hack & Slash by the numbers kind of game.It also requires a DM with some imagination and not a slave to the provided, prepared material, tables and dice.

Personally, Clerics and Druids are my absolute favorite PC's to play because of their roles of being the direct intercessors between the Material World and the world of the Evil and Supernatural.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Downfall, Part 4

Please keep in mind that the stories I post here are considered "rough drafts"  and will be different from the "finised product" but I like to post them here to share what I am working on and to show how I "interpet the AD&D 1E/OSRIC gamme world.

New Edinburgh

Abbe Micheal waited in a small room just a few meters away from the Special Forces Hall where Abbe Warren, the Abbot in charge of bringing in, training and hand selecting non-clergy adventurers for missions with Abbots headed out on missions from the Order of Hosts.  He didn't have to wait long as the team members began to arrive one by one.

Micheal looked up as the first one came in and help a scroll out to him.  Micheal accepted the scroll and invited the slender but tall man to sit across from him.  The man's name was Heinrich.  He was identified in the scroll as a being a talented soldier.  Heinrich had served in a foreign army for fifteen years before being recruited by the Order.  He had distinguished himself and earned commendations in the army for having been notable in the defeat of a Lich and a werewolf.  Not only had he kept his head together in the face of supernatural Evil, he had fought against that Evil successfully and with zeal.

He had achieved the first certification of "Veteran" then "Warrior" status while in the army and had since achieved the next level up,  "Swordman" status, since joining the Order.   It looked as though he may reach "Hero" status in relatively short time if his career continued at the pace it was going.

Michael handed the scroll back to the soldier and welcomed him to the team.  After a few more minutes, the next recruit entered and crossed to the table.  The very small man presented his scroll to Abbe Micheal and without invitation, sat down.  Rather, he hopped up onto the bench to be seated.    Micheal opened the scroll to learn about his newest team member.

Georg was "officially" noted to be a "Procurist" by the Order.  The reality was, he had been a thief when he had turned himself in to the Church the year before as a way of doing penance for a brief but active life of crime.  He hadn't wanted to become a criminal but had fallen in with the wrong crowd who had pressured him to use his natural talents for the wrong purposes.  Georg was a Halfling.  Halfings were naturally inclined in many the the skills that humans had to spend years working at to be considered good thiefs.  Originally from the Greenfeet clan, Georg realized he was in too deep with the Thieves Guild and needed help to get himself out of the pot of hot water he had found himself in.

In exchange for helping him get on a righteous path, he had pledged his services by the way of using his talents to recover stolen property and help locate and procure enchanted items and arcane objects.  He had since then also taken up the pursuit of becoming a Druid though he would likely never get far in advancement, it was something he felt called to do.

Abbe Micheal looked over the diminutive person with sandy, coarse hair on his head, his fingers as well as his feet.  He wasn't sure how this one fit into the team mission but he was confident that Abbe Warren knew what he was doing.

It was a little bit of a wait until the next person came in to the room.  When they did, he couldn't help but notice that it was another diminutive person albeit much stockier and somewhat taller than the Halfling.  The Dwarf came in carrying a burden of packs and weaponry that might have buried an average person with a buried smile on his heavily bearded face.  The battle-axe strapped to his back was nearly as big as he was.

The dwarf gave Micheal a wink as he tossed his scroll onto the table in front of him and moved around to the other side of the table but simply stood there rather that taking a seat.  He was watching Micheal with a bemused look but hadn't said a word.  As a matter of fact, none of them had so much as uttered a single syllable since presenting themselves.  He began to wonder if the Hall members had taken oaths of silence.

Erik Greystone was a notable warrior in his clan.  Not only was he distinguished as a fighter, he was a top rank blacksmith as well who made his own armor and weapons.  Being of the mountain Dwarves also gave him an aura of mystery as the mountain clans were observed to be usually quite reserved and not likely to wander into inhabited areas.    He was of a mature age, estimated at about one hundred and ten.  In terms of qualification and experience, he was noted to be a "three stone" warrior and had established quite a reputation in proficiency with axes of all types and the battle-axe in particular.

Erik had been recruited after making contact with one of the Churche's mountain top monasteries.  He had vowed to exact vengeance for the wholesale slaughter of nearly his entire clan by vampires.  The vampires had done it while he had been off hunting for a week.  The handful of survivors or others returning from being away had begged him to take on the quest while they began the task of rebuilding the clan and their inner mountain cavern home.  Erik had come to the conclusion that the best way to track down and wreak his vengeance on the evil creatures was to join with the people who actively hunted them down.  So by agreeing to abide by the rules of the Order for a period of fifty years, they agreed to help him accomplish his objective during his time with them.  Micheal nodded approvingly at Erik after putting the scroll down.  He could personally identify with wanting to see Evil hunted down after having his family attacked by it in all it's horrid-ness.

He looked up to the doorway at the sound of new footsteps.  Abbe Warren was coming in.  He stopped at the table next to Micheal and quietly began to speak.  "Abbe, the fourth member that has been selected for your team will meet you at the stables.  You will count yourself blessed with the addition of this member to the team for this project but I will leave introductions to them.  Please gather your packs and other belongings and take your team to the stables.  They will have a wagon and a team of fresh horses ready for you within the hour.  Yahweh provide you strength and wisdom in his service."  Abbe Micheal replied, "Thank you Abbe, Your swift assistance in this is greatly appreciated and we will be at the stables on time."  Abbe Warren nodded and smiled tightly then turned and made his way out of the room as directly and expediently as he had come in.

Micheal addressed his assembled team for the first time.  "I thank you all for accepting this mission and helping to rid the town of Aldisburgh of the Evil that has taken root.  Does anyone have any question as to the mission or did Abbe Warren explain it thoroughly to you?"  Erik spoke up in a deep and rumbling voice that sounded like boulders being ground together.  He had the deep brogue of the Highlands in his speech.  "The Abbe mentioned that were are to be facing zombies that were unlike the zombies that most of us might have experience with lad."  His face became curious, "What kind of zombies could be so dangerous as to worry the Hall Abbe so?"  'A fair question', Micheal thought before replying.  "The zombies indicated are described as being autonomous and predatory towards living people." Their faces reflected the surprise at hearing of predatory zombies.  "They are also described as being slow and shambling to move but have a concentrated focus when they spot prey  and they also seem to work together, attacking in larger and larger numbers as they become attracted to the growing group movement."

Erik grunted and Georg gave a low whistle.  Heinrich raised his hand, seemingly in half salute, half schoolboy manner.  "Sir, permission to speak Sir."  Micheal raised his eyebrows.  this fellow was a standards follower to the letter.  "Permission granted." He replied as he nodded in Heinrich's direction.  "Sir, Is there currently a direct plan of attack and are we going in with a plan of extraction or is it a 'Do or Die' mission Sir"  Micheal thought the best response was th emost direct.  "Heinrich, I'm not certain exactly how long you have been with the Order or how many missions you have been on but for the most part, our missions are usually carried out with the intent that we are to fight and succeed or in the effort to achieve success until our last breath."  Heinrich nodded as if in full agreement.  "Sir, yes sir.  I have been on missions which were scouting and rescue in nature for the Order Sir."  I just wanted to make sure I was properly prepared sir."  Micheal understood better now what Heinrich was looking for.  "Our mission is to investigate and collect as much information as we can, documenting nature of these unique zombies and sending the information back to the Order.  As we do that, our next priority is to rid the town of the zombies and protect the townspeople until the situation is clear or until reinforcements arrive should they be deemed necessary."  Heinrich nodded sharply.  "Sir, Thank you Sir."

Micheal looked them over and started walking toward the door, beckoning the group to follow him.  "Follow me please to the stables and we shall begin our mission without further delay."  They started grabbing their packs and gear and lining up behind him as he led the way.

Abbe Micheal and his troops sat on a bench outside the rear of the stables.  He preferred to stay in the relative quiet and out of view of the public so that he could concentrate on the task at hand while they waited for the wagon and horses to be ready.  The StableMaster, a giant of a man, being well over seven feet tall and at least three hundreds pounds if not more, had ensured the young Abbot that his wagon would indeed be ready within the hour.  They were waiting for the rest of the gear from the armory to be loaded before they hitched the horses.

They had been sitting on the bench for nearly half an hour, each tending to various minor tasks and minor preparations when an older man dressed in Order issued "Day Uniform" approached him quietly.  "Abbe Micheal, I presume?" the man stated more than asked as he made the sign of the circle with both hands cupped and facing each other, slightly overlapping, then extended his hand out in peaceful gesture to Abbe Micheal.  Micheal stood up and shook the man's proffered hand and gave a subtle deferential bow to the senior Cleric that stood before him.  The older Cleric let go his hand and continued, " My name is Abbe Merrin Lankester and I have asked to assist you on this mission to Aldisburgh."

"I am so very glad the Monsignor asked you to join us Abbe."  Micheal said, relieved to have someone who must be extremely qualified to take over as the mission lead.  "The Monsignor did not ask me nor did he order me to join you Micheal."  Abbe Lankester continued.  "I volunteered my service when I was told about the location and nature of your mission.  I believe there is something there that falls within my specialty.  However, I am not taking the mission over.  This is still your mission Abbe."  The older man smiled, almost sadly but with a bit of a twinkle in his eye.

"I am honored by and welcome your presence regardless Abbe." Micheal replied.  He was slightly awed that the Cleric in front of him was not only present but had volunteered to go along.  At the same time, given Abbe Lankester's history and reputation within the order, the situation had noticeably increased in it's danger.

Abbe Merrin Lankester had been with the Order for quite a long time.  He was most notably one of the foremost experts in demonology and exorcism.  Abbe Lankester was officially a "Curate" but was nearly a "Prefect" within the order.  He was considerably gifted and no one was regarded as being more faithful or devout.  Consequently, his strength in Clerical spellcasting was even more powerful than many Clerics who surpassed him in status.

We will have time to talk more as we are on our way to Aldisurgh." Abbe Lankester stated, setting down his black satchel and stooping to sit down on the bench next to Micheal.  "For now, I'll leave you to your planning for entering the town and locating your inside man."  They sat in silence for another twenty minutes until the StableMaster came out to inform them that they were ready to go.

All in all, it had only been eight hours since he received the message from Jolly in Aldisburgh.  It would still be at least three hours before they arrived to help.  At this rate, Abbe Micheal prayed that they would arrive in time to save Aldisburgh.  Otherwise the mission would change to avenge Aldisburgh instead.

As the team finally were in place and the soldier Heinrich had offerred to drive the wagon they were headed on the road toward Aldisburgh.  The group was qient.  Abbe Lankester seemed introspective or in meditation.  Abbe Micheal found his thoughts wandering to the Clerical Ritual of the Host that he had undergone just a few, short months ago when he had become Drei, his third such ritual as a member of the Order of Hosts in the Church of Yahweh.

Clerics within the Order of Hosts of the Church of Yahweh practice a different kind of "magic" than the magic used by Magic Users and Illusionists.  Theirs was more similar to Druidic magic in that they were able to use the gifts of their god Yahweh and those of their patron saints trough prayer and meditation.  Unlike Druids who went through a secretive procedure only known as the Druidic Ritual of Ascension to know their capabilities and directives.

For Clerics and Druids alike, they had enough capacity within them to perform "magic" (though Clerics preferred to refer to it as performing "miracles" of either Minor or Major types.)  In general, a human Cleric had the spiritual capacity to perform a given number of Miracles each day and even those were affected directly in their strength and capability  to the degree of Faith, devoutness and piety of the Cleric in question.  Essentially, the Cleric was merely the vessel or conduit through which Yahweh worked miracles in the world.Many of the Minor miracles were of low enough demand of the Clerics resources that they could perform them mostly through meditation in their own right.  The more Major the Miracle, the more it required prayer and divine bestowal.  Those Miracles that tended to range between "upper Minor" and lower Major", were often come through prayer to one's patron Saint.  Anything greater than those required prayer to Yahweh directly and there was a saying among the Order that with Yahweh's Miracles "You don't always get what you want, but you always get what you need."

There was a ritual for Clerics upon rising to higher status to gain knowledge of the types of Miracles they would be able to affect or attempt to affect at that new status.  They would still be limited by their personal strengths, skills and talents within that status as well as their faith, devoutness and piety.  The "Ritual of the Host" gave him greater insight into his role within the Order and the Church.  It also strengthened the bond between himelf, Yahweh and his patron Saint, the Arch-Angel Micheal.   The more times he underwent the ritual, the greater the bond and the greater his resolve to be faithful, devout and pious.

Between himself and Abbe Lankester, he hoped they would be enough to concquer the Evil in Aldisburgh.


Jolly was in his room at the boarding house when the pigeon arriving bearing the message that his friend Abbe Micheal in New Edinburgh was coming as quickly as possible to help him in dealing with the zombie attack.  Ever since he had sent the message to Abbe Micheal he had been combing through all of his spellbooks and scrolls and eveery book he could find related or having to do, however remotely, with zombies.

In the meantime, the attack continued unabated.  As more people were attacked, the zombie population increased.  At this rate, it would only be a matter of a few days before the entire town was dead but wandering.  When that happened, where would they go?  Would they head East toward New Edinburgh or would they head in any other direction toward living prey?  Jolly was afraid that they would't be restricted to the roads but make better time by cutting through fields and woods stright at other populated areas.  The destruction would be catastrophic.  The loss of life unfathomable.

Mr. - had gone out briefly when Jolly had returned from gathering supplies at the marketplace but had seen all he had needed to see to convince him to lock himself in his own rooms and refused to open the door to anyone.  Jolly had tried to get him to come out and talk to him so that he could find out more about the boarding house and what other access points it had.  He didn't want to be surprised by a horde of ravenous undead in the hallways of the old building.  Mr. - was having none of it though.  He tossed a keyring out through a small aperature in the door and yelled through the door that Jolly was welcome to look around for himself.  Jolly had turned back to his room, shaking his head but stooped to pick up the keyring as he left.

The front doors to the house were stout and blocked with a thick cross-beam from the inside that looked as though it would stop an elephant.  The back door was not quite as stout but was smaller and had an equally thick cross beam to block it.  All of the windows to the building were able to be shuttered and were high enough as to prevent the shambling monstrosities from just falling through them.  They might walk well enough but none had shown any ability to climb or use any other kind of stealth.

The lower level of the boarding house was one great open chamber spotted throughout by support beams holding up the upper stories of the building.  There was a double wide doorway that looked like barn doors in the back of the building.  It looked as though the building might hive been a storehouse at some point in it's history.  The double doors were also very thick and heavy.  They closed against a bisected door frame with a removable center beam that was as big as a tree.

The building could be used to shelter people from the zombies well enough.  Opening and closing the heavy doors would be the biggest problem if things were too close for comfort.  He could hear more and more people running through town screaming coming from the West end from the direction of Dem Tode Nahe.

In the hours since, he had been studying his books and scrolls and making plans to help people escape.  He had moved the supplies from the market to the lower level and painted a sing that read, "Sanctuary - In Back" on the front of the building.  In between studying he had been letting in a steady trickle of survivors and escapees that had showed up, banging and shouting at the massive back doors.  The refugees, as he thought of them, were huddled together at tables that he had moved around from a storage room he had found them in.  He currently sat at one by himself with all of his reading materials spread out so that he could cross-refernece information and keep information at hand.

Only a half hour before he went to his room to get the message pigeon, he had looked out and could now see an errant zombie shambling and stumbling between buildings only a quarter mile away.  Things were rapidly getting out of hand.  It would still be a few hours until Abbe Micheal and the rest of his team arrived.  Jolly hoped that there would still be an Aldisburgh to save by the time they arrived.

Clerical Magic

I discussed my approach to Druid spell casting in a previous post.  This time I would like to discuss how I work with Clerics using magic.  I took this from a story I wrote recently so please, don't mind the specifics relating to the deity, church affiliation, etc... as much as the points and process of spellcasting.

On "The Working Of Miracles both Minor and Major"  

(Taken from the story, "Downfall" by Tony Sandoval)

Clerics within the Order of Hosts of the Church of Yahweh practice a different kind of "magic" than the magic used by Magic Users and Illusionists.  Theirs was more similar to Druidic magic in that they were able to use the gifts of their god Yahweh and those of their patron saints through prayer and meditation.  Unlike Druids who went through a secretive procedure only known as the Druidic Ritual of Ascension to know their capabilities and directives.
For Clerics and Druids alike, they had enough capacity within them to perform "magic" (though Clerics preferred to refer to it as performing "Miracles" of either Minor or Major types.)  In general, a Cleric had the spiritual capacity to perform a given number of Miracles each day and even those were affected directly in their strength and capability and to the degree of faith, devoutness and piety of the Cleric in question.  Essentially, the Cleric was merely the vessel or conduit through which Yahweh worked miracles in the world.  Many of the Minor miracles were of low enough demand of the Clerics resources that they could perform them mostly through meditation in their own right.
The more Major the Miracle, the more it required prayer and divine bestowal.  Those Miracles that tended to range between "upper Minor" and "lower Major", were often come through prayer to one's patron Saint.  Anything greater than those required prayer to Yahweh directly and there was a saying among the Order that with Yahweh's Miracles "You don't always get what you want, but you always get what you need."
There was a ritual for Clerics upon rising to higher status to gain knowledge of the types of Miracles they would be able to affect or attempt to affect at that new status.  They would still be limited by their personal strengths, skills and talents within that status as well as their faith, devoutness and piety.

In game Application

As a DM, I ask background stories for every PC that players enter into the fray.  It helps a lot, especially when the DM is trying to determine things like how to gauge whether a Cleric has been Faithful, Devout and Pious (FDP) and the degrees of those to properly determine the outcomes of their spellcasting.

Devoutness is pretty easy to determine.  How well do they stick to the rules of their sect, order, deity, etc...The better they do at following the rules, the higher their devoutness "score".  Piety is a little more guesswork.  It is really reflected in the roleplaying and representation of the PC.  Remember, we are not talking about the modern definition of piety which looks at it as being ostentatious or "holier-than-thou".  No, we are referring to the integrity and "true-ness" to the deity(ies) and organization, if there is one, of the PC.  

Faith is perhaps the most difficult to gauge.  You can have a very devout cleric who follows all the rules but has struggles with their faith inside.  You can have someone who is pious and holds themselves true to the intent but still has little true faith.  Kind of like someone who gets into relationships because they are in love with the idea of being in love but they themselves have yet to actually experience being in love.

Basically, I use the Henchman Loyalty rules to handle a PC's Faith to their Deity.  I will roll for Faith/Loyalty to the Deity at the beginnng of the game, using the modifier's listed in the DMG (treating the Deity as a PC if they are a very involved deity or an NPC if they are not very benificent or actively involved.  I will then check that Faith/loyalty at specific times during the games based on the roleplaying of FDP and the situations the Cleric faces that may create extenuating circumstances.

Once again for devoutness and piety, I like to gauge these factors from 1 to 4.  1 being best, most or greatest and 4 being least, worst or not even trying.

Cleric PC's that are played as all ones across the board in regard to faith, devoutness and piety will have the greatest success, least negative consequences and best odds.  Those played as four's across the board will consequently will have the lowest chance of success, worst odds and worst possible results.

Also, the higher the FDP scores, the less likely they are to be punished or restricted by their deity and the more likely to be rewarded and given to rising in the ranks.  This can come in handy when it comes time to level up.  Just because they have the XP doesn't mean they have earned the right to gain the next level unless you are running basic "hack and slash" games where roleplaying isn't as important.  I have a "ritual" that must be completed sucessfully in order to gain the next level.

The first step of the ritual is to prove their worthiness.  An offerring is required in the form of something obtained during the capture or slaying of an evil enemy.  Then a test of preparedness.  This requires a display of knowledge of the types of evil monsters and sreatures of that same relative level of ability the Cleric is striving for.  What they are and what the most common or established methods of combatting them are.  The last is a Test of Faith.  The Cleric will be put into a situation in which Their PAtron saint and Yahweh will provide the solution to the problem without the prior knowledge of the intended.  It will be purely a matter of faith that the Cleric will allow the scenario to play through to it's end.  If their faith holds out, they will make it out at the next level.  If their faith does waver, they will have failed the whole ritual and even having successfully completed the other two components, will not level up.  They may also find themselves injured or negatively afflicted due to their lack of faith during the scenario.

I approach the game as collectively creating a story.  Roleplaying is one of the most important things in the games I run.  Of course, not everyone runs games the same way and roleplaying s taken into  consideration depending on the way the game is oriented.