Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Tuesday Trap #2

Tuesday Trap Time, albeit late. I'm not sure if fleshed-out traps just take a lot of space to cover adequately or if I just need to work on being less verbose when describing traps. I feel like I'm writing a stat block for a rules-heavy system or something… we'll see if I can get these more succinct as I continue this series, I suppose. In the meantime, at least this trap works.

My Rolls:
2: Pit
10: Breakaway
2: 10' Deep
14: Poisoned Spike
3: Number of spikes with a chance to hit
4: THAC0 of 18
16: Average trap damage range of 6d6
5: Number of items rolled up for bottom of the trap
59: Broken wooden ladder rungs
36: Snake skeleton
78: Smashed eggs
72: Ivory scroll case
42: Brass ring

Trigger: Pressure
Save: Trap only is triggered 1/6 of the time/ Dwarf stonecraft check if your system uses them/ Optional weight minimum to trigger /Poison
Reset: Manual
Effects: Poison
Duration: Instant
Bypass: None/ Optional low weight

Description: This trap can easily be placed in three situations. The first is your standard "I/ the bad guys that live in this dungeon want to make it dangerous for strangers to traipse about this dungeon." Not as fun as the other two options, in my opinion, because it doesn't make as much sense, seeing as this is an expensive and extra-deadly trap, but it'll work.

Situation two is to place this pit trap in the obvious path to some treasure. There may or may not be an easy way to walk around it.

Situation three is that this trap is placed in an NPC's lair. If confronted and unsure of victory, the NPC will flee via an escape passage (which may or may not be hidden by a tapestry, painting, bookshelf, false wall, etc.) which is thin enough to force anyone going through it to step on the top of this pit trap. The NPC should be lighter than your average PC.

The trap is situated in a place with a floor that is made of stone. Possible options include stone tiles, solid stone and irregular chunks of stone. The chances of noticing the trap should probably be higher if the floor is solid and continuous.

The pit has a lid that is a slab of stone that has been weakened on the underside. If the general floor is continuous, the edges of the slab may be camouflaged with dust; if the floor is made up of tiles, the lid is a tile. When sufficient pressure is put on the lid, it will break apart, dropping anyone on the lid into the pit. The fragments of the lid will be quite big and will contribute to the damage suffered by anyone who falls into the pit. The pit will only be triggered on a roll of 1 on a d6. If more than one character steps on the lid at a time, roll again each time a new character steps on the lid, increasing the chance of the trap being triggered by one, cumulatively. 

That is, if Hogarth steps on the trap, roll a d6 and trigger the trap if you roll a 1. If Stella steps on the trap while Hogarth is still standing on it, roll a d6 again and trigger the trap if you roll a 1 or a 2. If Bill steps on the trap while Hogarth and Stella are both still on the trap, roll a d6 once more and trigger the trap if you roll a 1, 2 or 3 and so on.

If you keep track of your players' characters' encumbrance to the degree where you know how much your players' characters weigh, you can say that pressure below a certain weight will not trigger the trap, a certain range of weight will trigger the trap on 1/6 and pressure above a certain weight will trigger the trap on a 2/6, etc.

If you are running an NPC that uses this trap in an escape route, the NPC can automatically not trigger the trap at your option, depending on how competent your NPC is in designing and producing traps.

The trap is 10 feet/3 meters deep. A character that falls in will automatically take falling damage according to your system of choice's rules for falling damage (1d6 dmg suggested if your system doesn't include falling damage) and damage from the chunks of the lid falling on them (another 1d6 dmg).

There are spikes at the bottom of the pit with a distribution so that each character that falls in has a chance to be injured by three spikes. The spikes each hit at +2 (someone please correct me if that's an incorrect translation of a THAC0 of 18) and do 1d6 damage.

The spikes are also poisoned. Any character hurt by a spike must save against poison or take an additional 1d6 damage and begin to hallucinate. The player should not be informed that the character is hallucinating, but you should inform the player that the character is seeing strange things of your choosing at regular intervals. Ideally, these hallucinations should make safe situations seem absurdly dangerous and dangerous situations seem laughably safe. An example might be seeing a gelatinous cube slipping down a perfectly safe and empty stairway or seeing a contingent of benevolent demi-humans menacing an evil sorcerer who is in fact alone and able to devote all of her attention to fighting the PCs. These hallucinations should last for 1d4 game sessions and then go away as the poison works its way out of the character's system.

At the bottom of the pit, among the spikes, are broken wooden ladder rungs, a snake skeleton, the rotting, smeared remains of broken eggs, an ivory scroll case (covered in egg residue) and a cheap brass ring with the insignia of an ancient minor kingdom, a secret society in your setting, a favorite chariot racer, or something like that on it.

Detection/Disarming: This trap is difficult to detect, but not impossible. Ideally, the context of the trap will be the biggest clue that there may be a trap in the area; players should not expect that, for example, a treasure on conspicuous display in a room is not guarded by a trap of some sort.

Mere poking with a 10 foot pole will not reveal the presence of this trap, though a hollow sound may be produced if a 10 foot pole is thwacked against the lid instead of merely tapped. If large amounts of pressure are exerted against the lid, it will break according to the normal procedure outlined above. Other methods of detecting pit traps, like watching the behavior of liquid cast about the floor to check for the liquid dripping through seams of a lid, should generally work as makes sense to you. Reward efforts obviously meant to detect a pit trap.

The trap may also be detected passively if your particualar ruleset allows for that. This trap counts as stonework for the purpose of detection by a dwarf. At your option, you may modify the chances of detection to be poorer than normal, especially if the floor is tiled.

This trap may be disarmed by covering it with something that can support more weight than the lid can. It can also be rendered obvious by triggering it. If PCs are particularly zealous in their efforts, the trap could be filled with rubble to render it completely safe.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Sorry. No Tuesday Trap today. It's started, but not finished and I have to leave to catch a plane in the next ten minutes. I'll get it up as soon as possible, but I don't know how frequent my internet presence will be for the next two weeks.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Twenty Questions, Part 3: Taverns

Jeff's thirteenth question is "which way to the nearest tavern?" While it struck me at first as something that could be assumed, it's grown on me as a way to give your setting character.

Answer 1: You're in one right now, actually. Cliched, but effective. In a few minutes, the owner will come over and tell you about the rat problem he has in his cellar, thus starting your first adventure. You'll discover secret, long-forgotten and abandoned tunnels and chambers and exterminate all the rats. In appreciation, the tavern owner will allow you to occupy some of the chambers as a home base free of charge, thus encouraging your party to stick around this area of the map, since that's what I've put the most work into. (You can use the sample adventure at the end of the Dungeonslayers rules if you don't want to come up with your own.)

Answer 2: The last tavern you went into is actually why you're making this long, dangerous trek through the Undersky. Assuming you'll survive, it'll be a long, long time before you see a tavern again, and even longer before you can work up the courage to go into one. That's what you get for grumbling about how I started the last 7 campaigns in a tavern.

Answer 3: Every day's-journey-length or so along this road. Taverns play an important role as support and safe havens for merchants and trade caravans and are ubiquitous. As you travel from City A to City B, you can stop at a tavern each night, where you'll get the hook for the local adventure I've cooked up for tonight's session. (This would serve as a nice set-up for Raggi's Grinding Gear, by the way.)

Answer 4: Behind you. Waaaay behind you. You and your buddies are trekking into the wild to carve out some land for yourselves, or maybe you're outlaws, and you can't go back to civilization without disguises, and even then only for a short time and only to the outskirts of civilization. In the near future, you'll be seeing a tavern only when you head back to civilization for a break, meaning that you'll only see a tavern when you need more supplies, you've been really unsuccessful and need time to heal and lay low (you know you're in a bad way when the best place to lay low is where you're wanted, dead or alive) or when you've been really successful and need to stow the mountains of loot you've recently acquired in a safe place. The best stuff is several days, or even weeks, out, and traveling back into civilization is a drain on your resources, so you try to do it as little as possible (except for the fabulous success part). Once you've really made it, you'll never need to go back, since you'll have your own castles, towers and fortified monasteries with their own villages growing up around them, each with their own little tavern where you get free grog, since you own the whole village. (This is basically the setting of the West Marches campaign, possibly on steroids, depending on how seriously you take not wanting to go back to civilization.)

Answer 5: Wouldn't you like to know, you degenerate, shiftless, debauched lout?! Only a criminal knave would ask such a thing! Alcohol's been banned by the Lawful-Nosey High Cleric of Mworm, god of Progress, as one of his first acts after being put in power by the people. Other tenets of Mworm's religion of Progressivism include the direct election of Mayors (who for some inexplicable reason are now called "Senators"), letting women vote (but for what, exactly, besides mayors?) and a very meddlesome, self-righteous and idealistic shift in attitude in our foreign policy. Oh, and I hear they're going through with this whole "u-genics" thing, so you better have your babies now if you're going to have them at all, you uncivilized, undeveloped, amoral cretin!

Yeah, this one is totally satire of the Progressive movement of 100 years ago in the US, but it also serves as an example of how what you do with simple staples of vanilla FRPGs can give your setting more character. I predict a lot less Lawful Good characters in your party and a lot more PCs interested in running speakeasy taverns if you answer the question this way in your campaign. Also, lot's more regicide, and, really, who couldn't use a bit more regicide in their campaign?

Answer 6: That way, a good month's journey on. Or a day's journey back, actually, but you can't go there because They are after you, and if They find you… you're not quite sure what'll happen, but you're pretty sure They don't work for the candygram company. Your trusted friend and mentor left you and told you to meet him in the tavern a good month away. He's the only one you think could take Them. You've got a long treck ahead of you, my friend, and you better hope you find some friends and good hiding spots along the way… also, at my option, your friend won't be there and you'll have much more journeying to do before you can go to sleep without wandering if you're going to be stabbed to death by Them while you snore.

Yes, totally ripped off of the Fellowship of the Ring, but, again, an example of how the way you treat taverns characterizes your setting. Frodo & Co. couldn't stop at a safe tavern or inn every night. Instead, they had to rough it and trust both strangers and luck/fate/Iluvatar's providence/Tolkien's good graces in order to make it through the wilderness, since the area they were travelling through was wild. Also, talk about motivation when it comes to a hexcrawl!

So, what other twists on taverns that give character to your setting can you think of?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Twenty Questions, Part 2: Magic User Guilds

[I've decided to take out the "with Jeff Rients" part of this series title. I'm not sure if it was leading people here expecting something totally different and whether that was totally fair of me or not. Sorry if that bothered anyone. No one contacted me about this, but it's just been bothering me.]

So, Jeff's ninth question is: "Is there a magic guild my MU belongs to or that I can join in order to get more spells?"

Answer 1: Yes! It's called the Order of the Green Hand. You can have access to any spells that the other members have, as all newly discovered spells are copied into guild-owned spell books so other guild members can copy them. There are also some other serious perks, but be aware that membership is also costly.

Answer 2: No! Magic is a rare thing and wizards are Dying Earth style selfish, scheming connivers who won't give you a lick of help unless there's some benefit for them, and even then will be scheming to figure out some way to get out of helping you. The way they see it, magical ability is a zero-sum game, so if you're learning more, that must be bad for them unless they're learning more as well. If they learn more while you don't, they must be winning. Your best bet for finding new spells is adventuring in unexplored areas. Sorry, buddy, but dungeons are more accommodating than your fellow magic users.

Answer 3: No, but your first level magic user is almost certainly an apprentice to a higher-level magic user. Your magic user can get spells, advice and magical assistance from this master wizard, but only for as long as your magic user is acting like an apprentice. That means sharing any spells your MU finds, taking quests assigned by the master and possibly turning over at least some of the magic items that your MU finds. That's not all bad, especially since quests to find lost magic and treasure are kind of what this game is about, but eventually your MU will want to strike out on his own and make his way by himself, after which help from your master will be infrequent at best, though he might also give your MU a large and useful gift as a parting present. Oh, and I, as the ref, totally reserve the right to kill your MU's master once you're good and emotionally attached to him; it'll make you want to go after whatever NPC killed him.

Answer 4: No, but that's no biggie for your magic user. He was educated at a magic-user school, where the text was the Book of First Level Spells. When he's ready, any magic-user school library will be happy to sell him the Book of Second Level Spells, the Book of Third Level Spells and so on, at a hefty price, of course.

At the referee's option, certain spells may not be in the general corpus of knowledge, having been lost or just never getting into general circulation; these can be found through adventuring in unexplored areas and can give a magic user great power, as they can be the only ones who can cast the spell. They may contribute the spell to the magic user community, gaining prestige, undying thanks, honorary doctorates, favors and perks, or they may keep it for themselves, gaining a reputation as a magic user who practices spells inscrutable to even other magic users.

As another option, different schools of magic could be rivals with each other, each having different spells in their Book of First Level Spells, which they guard jealously from each other. In order to buy a book of spells from a school's book store, one must have graduated from that school. Selling copies of your spell books to other schools would be one of the highest acts of betrayal to your school, while stealing a copy of another school's spellbooks and turning it over to your school would be a coup that would earn you all sorts of accolades.

Answer 5: No. Why would you need a guild when you can go to the library to look this stuff up? Spells are not exactly common knowledge, but they are common enough that access to them is free. You still need expensive ink to copy them, though, and the library books aren't written/printed in magic ink/gold/giant squid ink/whatever; they just have the information you need to copy it down, so it's no use stealing them.

These five answers aren't all mutually exclusive, and could be combine with each other in various ways. For example, your setting could combine Answers 1, 2 and 3 by having the default Machiavellian magic using culture of Answer 2, but have an upstart Order of the Green Hand (Answer 1) that, firstly, greatly benefits the high-level magic users who run the guild and, secondly, is introducing a new spirit of cooperation into the magic-user culture. If an MU PC's player decides not to join the Order, the MU can be an apprentice to another magic-user (Answer 3), but the master-apprentice relationship is one fraught with both sides seeking advantage over the other and trying to help the other just enough so that the other side doesn't terminate the relationship.

Another possibility could be mixing Answers 4 and 5. Roll randomly on the first three spell levels ten times each. These spells are public knowledge and can be found in the library. For each school of magic, roll a few more times (depending on how big your spell lists are) on each spell level list and those spells are the ones that each particular school has and teaches in addition to the common knowledge spells. Once you get above third level spells, they aren't public knowledge anymore, so if your MU didn't go to school and just studied magic on his own in the library, or was an apprentice, then he's going to have to figure out some way to get his hands on fourth level and higher spells…

What's also interesting to me is how these answers, or any combination of them, immediately sets the tone for how much magic saturates your setting. Low-magic or low-magic-saturation settings have answers like 2 and 3, while high-magic-saturation settings have answers like Answer 5.

So, how do you handle this in your own campaign? What other possibile answers are there to this question? Can you think of a magic user guild that has less costs and benefits than the Order of the Green Hand, but still isn't just handing the MU PC some magical advantages without making them pay for them? Or should MUs really just be given a break and not be asked to pay much for the benefits of guild membership?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

"Who knows… what a kobold thinks?"

Growing up in Japan, I didn't watch all that much American TV. Until I was in middle school and we got satellite TV, just about the only US TV shows I can remember watching were Sesame Street, Little House on the Prairie and Full House, so most of the TV we watched was Japanese, which was great- Nintama Rantaro was definitely a favorite. (Satellite TV was also great, as I got to watch Star Trek,  Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and CHiPs reruns. I'm sure there was more, but that's honestly all I can remember watching.)

We also had some VHS tapes with some movies on them that had been recorded off of the TV. My guess is that my parents' relatives sent them over because most of them were kids' movies and none of us kids were born when my parents moved to Japan. My sister reminded me of one of them, called Heidi's Song, tonight, particularly this scene:

That's about as un-faithful to a book as you can get, my friends. It was also some of the very first seed for a love of fantasy in my young, young mind, along with the Teddy Ruxpin and He-Man and the Masters of the Universe commercials that were included on this tape. Man, 80s fantasy, at least for children, was strung out on LSD, huh?

Anyway, I thought I'd bring that in for show-and-tell today. It might serve as inspiration for a monster or two. Those big talking, bouncing rock heads are pretty cool.

Oh, and I'll be away from the internet until the end of the weekend, but I've scheduled two "20 Questions" posts for tomorrow and Saturday, so we'll see whether they go up or not. If not, I'll post them when I get back.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tuesday Trap #1

I've decided to start a new feature! Every Tuesday, for as long as I can manage it, I'll post a trap I've generated using Tricks, Empty Rooms and Basic Trap Design. Hopefully, this will turn into a good source of traps for myself and for readers. Well, here goes.

My Rolls:
16: Magical Devices
19: Visual Trigger (Magical)
17: Phantasmal Killer

Trigger: Visual (Magical)
Save: Intelligence Check
Reset: Automatic Reset
Special Effects: None
Duration: Instant/1d6+6 Rounds
Bypass: Sheath All Blades/Destroy Trigger


This trap is situated in a room that once served as the bedroom of an illusionist (or someone served by an illusionist, at your option). If you have an illusionist that fits this trap for your campaign, use that character; otherwise, you may have the illusionist be some long-forgotten anonymous NPC or you may want to fully develop the illusionist as an NPC in your game.

Whatever the case, this illusionist was afraid of assassination and set a magical eye in the wall to watch for drawn blades. When this eye sees blades of any sort, it casts Phantasmal Killer upon whichever characters are bearing drawn blades.

The spell Phantasmal Killer is found on page 112 of OSRIC. It's an illusion, but an illusion that will scare its victim to death if it's not disbelieved with an intelligence check and if it succeeds in hitting the victim. It will dissipate after as many rounds as the level the spell is cast at. If you don't know the level Phantasmal Killer is being cast at, roll 1d6+6.


Every entrance to this room is a door with carvings on it. The carvings should, in some way, with whatever level of subtlety you think is appropriate or entertaining, signal that characters should sheath their blades.

One possible carving is a simple exhortation to sheathe blades in a language that the party members may or may not know, or in magical writing, requiring an expenditure of a Read Magic spell to read.

Another possibility is a relief showing figures entering the room. In one panel the figures enter with weapons drawn and a fearsome beast attacks them, slaying them. In a second panel the figures enter without weapons drawn and they are unharmed.

The key is to have some sort of warning on the door for the players. The warning may be obvious and clear or somewhat convoluted, requiring effort, time and/or resources the players may or may not be willing to have their characters expend. It should be obvious to the players that there is media on the door; whether they choose to examine it or not is, of course, their choice.

The magic eye inside the room should also be obvious. Personally, I would have it be a stylized eye in a relief on the wall. The eye is obviously deeper than the rest of the relief and, at your option, glows. The relief should be some scene that the illusionist would find enjoyable or comforting, such as an achievement, promotion or victory of his or perhaps a central scene from his religion's teaching. Smashing the eye to pieces will disarm the trap and cause any active Phantasmal Killers to dissipate. Note that the trap only activates when the magic eye sees a blade; other weapons (such as a club to smash the eye) may be brandished with impunity. It is your option whether sharp points count as blades or not.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Twenty Questions with Jeff Rients, Part 1: Introduction

No, I haven't actually had any contact with the OSR's patron saint of gonzo, awesome, fun-maximizing gaming, but he did post this a while back. (The next time I'm in Indiana, though, I'm totally taking him up on his open invitation on the side of his blog to contact him to see if we can do some gaming. Besides enjoying myself immensely, I bet I'd learn a whole lot.) It's twenty questions to answer for yourself when you set up a setting for a campaign, because most of these twenty questions will be asked by your players, and you better have an answer for them.

Almost a year ago now, I started my Skype campaign. I had to toss most of the prep work I'd done, though, and run things on the fly because the player make-up of my game wasn't what I was expecting. I had been expecting to put together a group of friends locally that I hadn't run many games with. Instead, I ended up running my Skype campaign with friends in other time zones who I had run most of the modules I'd placed throughout my map for, so a lot of prep went out the window and one-page-dungeons saved my skin. I haven't been satisfied with much of the world outside of the adventures players go on, though. My NPCs are lame, mostly because I run them on the fly, without planning them out. My economy is ridiculous- I don't have one really good price list, though I'm familiar with several- I just haven't adopted just one, and I'm especially not sure how to present my players, who don't have many magic-using characters, with things to spend money on, seeing as they aren't into the whole carousing bit (and it's not like I've really encouraged them to carouse either). Yes, I'm hoping Adventurer Conqueror King will be especially helpful in this regard.

What I guess I'm saying, then, is that we're having a lot of fun in the dungeons they explore. We've got that part down (especially if I can get my megadungeon expanding again…), but whenever they go back to town there aren't any NPCs they care about or find interesting or really want to get revenge on or whatever, and buying things, especially with large sums of cash, tends to be a stressful event for me and a frustrating one for them.

That's where Jeff's questions come in. They give me a good start in building a world "outside the dungeon," to quote Rob Conley. I'm going to start tackling them one by one, but with a twist: I'm going to try to provide as many answers as I can that can be easily and quickly inserted into many campaigns. I'll choose one answer each time for my Skype campaign, but having other answers ready will allow me to have this part of campaign prep done whenever my next campaign rolls around. Hopefully it will also make these posts more useful for you as you read these.

One last thing: I'll be tackling these out of order, as my muse leads. We'll see how this goes!

Friday, July 15, 2011

New Players…

… are awesome.

So, I ref a weekly game over Skype. My players are two and three time zones away from me, so this is pretty much the only way to do this. It's a lot of fun.

(Today we actually tried using Google+ instead of Skype. It worked pretty well, except that there seemed to be a short delay of my audio and the video was grainier than Skype's. We spent most of the session on Google+ until one of my player's browsers crashed for some reason and then we bounced back to Skype. We'll probably continue to use Google+ in the future, though, as it has that handy feature where you get to see multiple video streams of people you're talking to.)

Some of my players recently invited two middle-school-age kids to join in. The brother played last session and the sister joined in this session too. They've had some experience with RPGs before. I'm pretty sure, from his religious consistency when it comes to "looting the bodies," that he's played some sort of computer RPG before. They've also apparently tried to create some sort of RPG together at some point, but I didn't get to hear much about that. They were new to D&D and any kind of published tabletop RPG rules, though.

Anyway, encountering creative players who aren't bound by the normal conventions of roleplaying is awesome. The sister played Bob the Faun, who wields a "bighammer." When faced with orcs coming across a bridge, though, did Bob the Faun use his bighammer? No! Instead, Bob hid behind Rakvar, my regular player's 4th level Dwarven Weaponmaster who is about as tankish as this player can make him within the limits of my homebrewed Swords and Wizardry rules. From behind Rakvar, Bob the Faun uses his 3-meter pole to push an orc over the edge of a gorge! Marvelous! Spectacular! My regular player commented that she is quite possibly the most creative RPG newbie that he's ever seen, and I would have to concur. She's also planning on running a winged unicorn next session. That's… zany, even compared to my other players, who do things like run blow-gun-specializing weaponmaster giant toads and V [for Vendetta] look-alikes as characters. My players come up with this on their own, by the way, without my encouragement. I run a pretty "straight" setting, but I figure if players want to have fun, my job is to enable them, not get in the way; when I run a less messy, hacked-together setting with some kind of unifying vision besides "have something, anything, I can run my players through", I may be a bit more strict on the zany characters.

This unicorn apparently shoots a sparkly beam from its horn that has a stunning effect. Arg- I'm not happy about that, but I'll allow it unless it starts breaking the game. This is, after all, an experimental campaign. If I get a chance, though, I'll recommend that she reads Lewis' The Last Battle to give her an idea of unicorns that's more in line with my tastes. I'm much more a fan of Lewis influencing my games, than, say, Lisa Frank. (And yes, this is probably what influenced me to actually allow this.)

The brother also ran a character last session that, upon encountering a phosphorescent pool full of inert goo, decided to climb up to the ceiling where the goo was slowly dripping from and pry and whale on it with a crowbar. He started a cave-in, he did. He's a tinkerer, and he also runs characters that don't like to share loot. I suppose this might be a problem if I, and the other players, were also 13, but I didn't really have to lift a finger to try to stop him, as my older player stepped in, in character, and made sure he shared. He also had his characters scout ahead, which I thought was interesting and wise of him to do, until I realized that he was quite likely doing that so that he could pocket loot without other characters seeing, the scoundrel! He'll make a great roleplayer as well. ^__^

Here's an interesting observation, though. Both of the females that ran characters tonight ran characters that weren't nearly as interested in treasure as the characters run by males. The girl that played for the first time tonight actually offered some money to a band of brigands that tried to rob the party! Now, one character was a Ranger, who isn't supposed to amass large amounts of treasure, and her player role-plays that pretty well, but the other characters had no real excuse. My regular male character is as gamist as they come, and the younger boy has probably had MMOs shape his paradigms, so it's quite possible that this has nothing to do with sex, and quite likely that, if sex is involved, it's not the only factor, but I found that really interesting.

Both of my new players also got to see their first trap today. Both of their characters had run ahead and tried different doors. The sister's Bob the Faun started carefully examining the hallway through the door on the right; the brother's Vorlon the Elf traipsed right into a chute trap through the door on the left. Both of my older players had encountered this trap before, but they (probably gleefully) mostly kept their mouths shut, as their characters had been left behind. The trap was non-lethal, but it took some time to rescue Vorlon, and they almost had a run-in with a 9th level wizard. (If Rakvar wasn't a dwarf, with a bonus to saves against magic, he would have been polymorphed into a rust monster by the wizard as he slipped back up the chute. Rakvar wears plate armor. That would have been so sweet…)

Anyway, this is about as rambly as anything I've seen called a play report, but I'm going to call it a play report anyway. Staples signing out!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

For All Your Steampunk Honor Defending Needs…

You have been challenged to a duel!

Monster Tables Updated

With a general lack of inspiration lately I decided now was as good a time as any to work on my monster table pages. Yesterday and today I combed through A Hamsterish Hoard of Dungeons and Dragons and put links in my tables to all the monsters that caught my fancy. (Yes, that means that a lot of oozes and jellies got added to the wandering monster tables.)

I've also moved the links to the monster tables under my Fellow Grognardlings blogroll. I think it'll be a little easier on the eyes there, though it will also be less visible, unfortunately.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Metric System for Old School D&D: Distance and Speed

Time to channel some of my Gamer ADD into actually making progress on one of my older series, in which I lay out a system to use the metric system in D&D. My reasons for doing this are multiple: my players' and my own convenience and ease, training people (especially students) to use the metric system, and how well kilograms work as a compromise in granularity between stones and pounds as a unit of weight for encumbrance.

Last time (quite a while ago), I covered weight and encumbrance; this time I'm going to cover distance and speed which, unless I'm forgetting anything, will mean that the only area left to cover after this post will be a catalog of items, including their weight in kilograms.

Wilderness distances are measured in kilometers (.621 miles). Six mile hexes can be converted into 12-kilometer hexes and the actual difference between 6 miles and 12 kilometers handwaved away. The distance from top to bottom is 12 kilometers, from corner to opposite corner is almost exactly 14 kilometers, the distance from the center of a hex to the midpoint of a side is exactly six kilometers and the distance from the center of a hex to a corner is almost exactly 7 kilometers.

The speed, in kilometers per day, of a character is calculated from the character's Base Movement Rate (discussed in the previous post on this topic). A character traveling at a "normal" pace will cover six time their BMR in kilometers in a day. This means that an unencumbered character (with BMR 4) will cover 24 kilometers in a day- almost 15 miles. If we go off the assumptions that a normal person will cover 12 miles a day at a "normal" pace, and that adventurers are in at least slightly better-than-average shape, this makes sense. It also means that an unencumbered party can cover about two hexes a day.

Characters can "forced march" and cover 12 times their BMR in kilometers a day, but their players must roll at or under their Constitution scores or they are fatigued at the end of the day. A fatigued character loses one hit point for each kilometer they travel at more than a leisurely "half" pace. Characters can recover from fatigue with a good night's sleep and a half-day's rest. An unencumbered character, then, would cover 48 kilometers- almost 30 miles- in a day if on a forced march. That's probably pretty generous, but, hey, this is D&D and I'm devising a simple system that works, not an exact simulation of overland travel.

During combat all distances are measured in meters. During outdoor combat, characters may move up to three times their BMR in meters in a combat round (one minute). During indoor combat, characters move up to their BMR in meters during a combat round.

Indoor distances are also measured in meters. A character moving at a careful pace, the only pace at which mapping is possible, may cover 10 times their BMR in meters during one turn. (A turn is ten rounds. A round is one minute, so a turn is ten minutes.) A character moving at a normal pace (perhaps in an already-mapped portion of a dungeon, or on the way out of a dungeon) may cover up to 20 times their BMR in meters during one turn. A character that is running may cover up to 40 times their BMR in meters during one turn.

An unencumbered character, then, would cover 40 meters in ten minutes at a careful pace, 80 meters in ten minutes at a normal pace and 160 meters in ten minutes while running. Keep in mind that this is all in an indoor- that is, dungeon- environment, so the running speed is for running through a poorly lit, irregularly leveled, cluttered and confusing environment, all with at least some dungeoneering gear, as opposed to running on a clear, open and level track with only runner's clothes to encumber. Perhaps "scrambling" would actually be a better term than "running."

What do you think? Is anything particularly out of whack?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Roleplaying Units outside the US

So, working on a post for tomorrow, I now have a question for my readers that run games outside the US. How do you handle units in your roleplaying?

Do you use whatever system is assumed by whatever game you are playing or do you switch over to metric units? Do you just handwave more record keeping and encumbrance than you would prefer? What do your players think about units in your games?

Come to think of it, didn't TSR have a UK branch? Did they publish D&D with metric units? What about WOTC today- are there versions of 3.x and 4e published with metric units, I wonder? I would imagine that that would be downright necessary for non-English-language versions, right?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Getting Rid of Saves?

[I'll probably write about the problems I have, and the problems I don't have, with WOTC at another time and in another post. Suffice it to say that I'd like to buy OD&D. Let's leave it at that for the purposes of this post.]

I don't usually spend much time monitoring WOTC. Usually any new developments that are of any interest to me at all are more than covered by more than one of the wonderful Old School blogs whose RSS feeds I subscribe to. (Yes, if you've been wondering why I'm not following you on blogger, it may be just because I don't follow anyone on blogger because I use an RSS reader instead.)

Lately, though, with a few posts predicting or offering advice for 5E, I thought it might be time to swing by WOTC's D&D website and see what's up. Mike Mearls column called "Legends and Lore" is interesting, mostly because I don't know of any other place on the web where someone who knows D&D history quite well messes with D&D rules from a New School perspective while still engaging older editions respectfully and seriously. That last bit, by the way, is particularly impressive to me; Mike Mearls appears to genuinely respect older editions.

Anyway, in the latest "Legends and Lore" article, Mearls argues for a streamlining of things in D&D by getting rid of separate saving throw values. He figures that we've already got six attributes, so why should we have separate save values when we can just roll attribute checks for the appropriate attribute when we need to roll a saving throw?

Wow! Mike Mearls is advocating attribute checks?! Cool! That's one of my favorite tricks I learned from the Swords and Wizardry Quickstart! Isn't that something that's really, really Old School? Please correct me if I'm wrong on this, those of you who are more familiar with 3.x and 4E than I am, but attribute checks are really rare, if ever used at all, in later editions, right? I don't remember a single attribute check in the 3.5 campaign I played in.

So Mearls' suggestion, from my perspective, has these two things going for it. One is that it is rules-lite - "minimalist" in his terminology. I'm always a fan of simplified game systems both because they are easier to quickly learn and use with players that for whatever reason don't take the time to learn the rules themselves and because simple systems are easier to homebrew, and I just enjoy homebrewing for the sake of homebrewing. On the face of it, Mearls' idea seems like an elegant way to approach saves, and even seems like it could be considered an Old School thing to do.

There are a few hitches with that, though.

One is that Mearls' suggestion is about streamlining the system down to a "core mechanic." In contrast, one of the tenants of Old School game design, from what I can tell, is modularity, that is, making sure that there is no one "core" mechanic, but that instead games are conglomerations of different mechanics that deal with resolving different things. So, for example, dealing with traps is done differently than fighting is done differently than turning undead, and so forth. This makes it so that if I don't like the way fighting is dealt with in the default rules set, I can devise my own system, pull out the combat "module" in the default rules and graft in my own system, all without worrying about messing up the non-existent core mechanic. What Mearls is suggesting, though, is to give D&D a core mechanic, revolving around the six attributes. That's interesting, and it might still be possible to preserve some modularity because it might be possible to have lots of different ways to use the six attributes to resolve any one activity, but, for my tastes anyway, I see this as getting much too close to making it so that any tinkering I do will mess up a beautifully streamlined core mechanic.

The other way that Mearls' suggestion isn't Old School is that it doesn't address the idea that saves aren't all about the performance of the character, but are instead super-abstract reductions of all that can go in the character's favor when something bad happens, ranging from, yes, some quick thinking on the character's part to some sort of fumbling on the trap designer/attacker/whatever's part to some sort of quirky biological resistance to a poison to even divine intervention. Making saving throws dependent on attribute scores would make it so that anything external to the character has no effect on the outcome of the saving throw.

I'm not an expert on saving throws. I've only ever used Swords & Wizardry's single save system, as well as 3.5's triple save system when I first started playing, though I'm growing more and more interested in switching over to the original 5 saving throw categories. I do get the impression that this last point, about saving throws including influences external to the character himself, is an important one.


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Just an idea…

How about we, as the OSR, don't feed trolls? How about we ignore them, completely, depriving them of the attention they crave so that they go elsewhere in their search for attention? Giving them any acknowledgement at all just enables them and hurts the OSR.

Man, I hate it when we lose good blogs.

I don't think this makes a "blah blah blah sound," but if anyone thinks it does, leave a comment and I'll pay my Joesky tax.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Post-Play Ramblings

Ran a solo game on Friday, since my other two players couldn't make it. That actually worked out nicely, as this player, Flynn, had a character that was about to level. This character, named Guy, has been roleplayed as a pious follower of the Gnomish mole-god of Justice that Flynn invented, named Gnomistevala (I'm never sure of the spelling), even though Guy is a fighter, so I decided that now was as good a time as any to give Guy a prestige class as a Paladin.

I took the desecrated, abandoned temple setting from Greg Gillespie of Discourse and Dragon's One Page Dungeon Contest entry. It's set up so that players can "re-boot" the worship of a forgotten god, so I decided that I would switch out the identity of the god to Gnomistevala and just have it be an ancient, abandoned temple, without the forgotten god bit. It worked well I think. Guy killed a Water Weird that was being worshiped by the boglings, rescued a kidnapped kid they were planning to eat, discovered a magic dagger (Guy used daggers to fight- it goes with his get-up, which is exactly what V wears, down to the mask- Flynn is probably the most gonzo of my players) connected with Gnomistevala and then discovered a secret door behind which there was a statue of Gnomistevala that he bowed before and was commissioned, in a trance, by Gnomistevala to become a Paladin.

I'm looking forward to what Flynn does with this.

(Also, after that spurt of work on the Scoundrel, posting will probably be lighter for a bit, both because I'm compiling everything onto one document and because I'm taking a semi-break, house-sitting two dogs, catching up on blogs, etc. I'm still here.)