Tuesday, November 30, 2010

PC Events: Magic User

I figured I should finish these before the year is up:)

PC Events are to be rolled each month (or per period of down time in between adventures if you're a little more casual about timekeeping) to give each character a little something to do in their "real" lives. Erase each result as you use them, and replace them with others of your own creation. It should be up to the player whether to involve the other characters in his/her personal extracurricular activities or not.

PC Events: Magic User (d12)
1. Eureka! You finally discover what made the Ancient Ones so effective at sorcery. Pick your favorite destructive spell - you now get to reroll any result of "1" when rolling damage for that spell.
2. A mysterious stranger petitions you to join him and his associates to witness a rare ritual at midnight tomorrow. What's all this about?
3. For three nights straight, a great black raven has perched outside your window and peered in at you. Is it the familiar of a rival sent to spy, deliver a message, or something more sinister?
4. Accidentally mixing up some wrong spell components together has yielded unexpected results!
5. A young lady (or lad) with peculiar eyes appears one day seeking apprenticeship. You've been wanting an apprentice, but there is something not quite right with this one. Is it a sign of potential danger, or future greatness?
6. You finally break the code! In 1d6 days you can decipher the runes on the old standing stones outside of town and add one randomly determined spell of the highest level you can cast to your spell book.
7. Someone has slipped poison into your drink at your favorite tavern! Save vs. poison. If you fail you awaken 1 day later in the clutches of your kidnappers. If you pass, they advance upon you in the tavern to try and take you by more mundane means.
8. You receive an urgent summons to attend to the old master who trained you in your sorcerous ways. You haven't thought of him in years - what could be wrong?
9. You experience a mishap practicing your art! Your eyes' orbs turn permanently black with white irises.
10. You awaken one morning with a naked body next you! There is not a single mark upon her (or him). What killed her? Not you surely? You must be innocent (right?), but you can't remember a thing about last night.
11. Everywhere you go in town you hear hostile muttering and whispers in your wake. Just last week a young practitioner of the Art was hanged in the town square. Why is the local temple turning the townsfolk against magic-users? Are you safe in public anymore?
12. Out in the forest collecting herbs and components, you espy a rare pseudo-dragon perched near a spring. Is it possible you could tempt the creature to become your familiar?

Next Up: The Paladin

Last Time: The Illusionist

Monday, November 29, 2010

Campaign Concepts: Northaven

The race of Man is dying. Over a thousand years ago the last seven ships of Man fled the Apocalypse and found a safe stronghold in the Haven valley. For a long time life was good for the refugees, and a great city was built, the great valley providing plentiful resources and food farmed by the gentle, semi-sentient Behemoths. The population swelled and the troubles of the devastated outer world were forgotten.

Unfortunately, the last century has seen a sharp decline in those good fortunes. The population is dwindling, each generation smaller than the last. Most of the city of Northaven lies in ruins, the palaces, squares, and gardens empty and untended. The great villas on the outer edges of the valley are abandoned, and Mankind seems lost to ennui.

You are members of the youngest generation to reach adulthood. You hold the complacency of the elders in disgust, and play at being heroes out in the ruined villas and winding forests of the valley. You know something is not right, but the elders only make excuses and ignore your challenges.

What lies beyond the valley now, 1100 years after Apocalypse? What secrets lie behind the elders' vague platitudes and evasive answers? Is there any truth to the rumors of the normally peaceful Behemoths lashing out at their masters? What treasures or knowledge may lie in the holds of the great seven ships, still in perfect condition and abandoned on the valley's icy western shore? Why does smoke even now curl into the sky high up on the valley's eastern edge? Is it mischief in the abandoned villas wreaked by youths such as yourself, a fire caused by lightning from last night's unusually violent storm? Or has some threat from the outside world finally found its way to the last Sanctuary of Mankind?

Northaven is a campaign concept that has been slowly gelling in my idle thoughts. Imagine a fantasy setting where the world has essentially ended, and the reasons for the Apocalypse are either lost to time or closely guarded by the elders who mistakenly believe they are protecting their flock. Where Mankind has a made a valiant effort at achieving a comeback but failed, slowly descending into a long, uncaring death-spiral. Where the whole world outside this one, safe haven is shrouded in mystery, myth, and legend.

The campaign objectives would be two-fold: exploring the unknowably changed world beyond the tall gray mountains surrounding the valley; and uncovering the rot that now threatens Mankind from within.

The PCs are the restless scions of an indolent, spoiled culture, indulging in the "lost" arts of swordsmanship, magic, and exploration, and must meet their fate head-on, whether it is to be the saviors of Mankind, or to be the fools who open the doors to an Apocalypse that has long been slavering for a chance to finish the feast begun a millennium ago.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Mapping Resource Links

Dave's Dungeon Map Generator - A truly awesome old-school map generator drawn tiles made by various artists.

Graph Paper Generator - Go with the 8 squares per inch for those big Megadungeon maps.

Donjon Random Dungeon Generator - Instantly produces a vast dungeon map. Fill it yourself or go with the randomly generated (3x) descriptions.

Judges Guild Blank Hex Sheets - For mapping that sandbox, big and small styles both in one .pdf courtesy of Judges Guild!

Hexographer - Generates full-color, B/X-style campaign maps. Nice free demo or pay for the full program.

Wildgen - Randomly generates a wilderness hex-map.

Year of the Dungeon - Check out Tony's tiny but awesome dungeon maps. Your sandbox should be full of toys like these.

Adventure Generator - from Dizzy Dragon. Utilizes Dyson Logos' geomorphs :

Random Morph Map - Another Dyson Logos random combo machine.

Dyson Logos - Great geomorphs (see above), dungeon maps, and old school character sheets.

Strange Maps - A resource to explore weird maps.

Risus Monkey's Geomorphs - Good stuff.

Stonewerks - geomorphs, etc.

Post-apocalyptic City Generator - instant Dying Earth ruined cities!

Mojo's Mapping Aids - hex map .pdfs

This is going into the Beyond the Black Gate resource pages section of the blog, so please add any good links you have to the comments section below.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Starting Equipment and Megadungeon Tropes

I think a great way to set the tone of a Megadungeon campaign is to prepare some starting equipment packages ahead of time. When I run demos of the Forsaken Halls, each pregen has a carefully selected pile of goodies in his backpack. While they are neat things to have on the surface, I have ulterior motives in putting them there - hoping to inspire and/or reinforce the exploratory nature of Megadungeon play. Starting equipment is also an easy way to add a little bit of flavorful campaign setting material to your games, as with Ming's standard equipment packs back in this old post (specialized Megadungeon equipment here).

Some good equipment to provide to inexperienced Megadungeon explorers includes:

Pole, 10' - This is there for a very good reason. And I don't mean to check for pits. Its there to remind players that every character class can (and should) check for traps. 1 in 6 isn't a bad chance, and its not unusual that I bump the chance to 2 in 6 with the right equipment, or just allow detection automatically when the player describes just the right way to detect that collapsing column or trip wire. As a matter of fact, I try and work in at least one "auto-success" even if I have to fudge it a bit - it's worth it to positively reinforce descriptive play over "roll" play.

Mirror, small steel - Here's another great item. Peek around corners or under doors. Reflect torchlight into hard-to-see places. Fight medusas and basilisks. For such a simple item, it certainly inspires a lot of descriptive and creative actions.

Vial, glass, empty - Fill me! Fill me! this little item screams. Fill me with acid to throw at monsters! Fill me with holy water to throw at undead. Fill me with Green Slime to pour on trolls. Fill me with a sample of the glowing blue water from the fountain on level three to take back to town for analysis. Fill me with venom from the dead giant scorpion. Fill me with ashes from the dead vampire to sell to the rich necromancer. Fill me!!!

Manacles - I don't know why, but my players have rarely been keen on taking prisoners, thus depriving me of the chance to rp orcs, slavers, assassins, and so on. But give a player a set of manacles, and they just can't wait to take a prisoner. Its kind of weird, really.

Pot, iron - Strike another day off the rations? Or cook up some of that dried meat from the storeroom on level two with chunk of mushroom from the Fungus Forest and some herbs from the mad wizard's laboratory. Like our good friend the glass vial, the pot just screams to be filled, and gives players something to talk about during down time while you're rolling for wandering monster encounters. It will also invariably be used to conk someone on the head at that point, and the roll-to-hit will invariably be a natural 20. I don't why, it just works out that way.

Soap - Adventurers stink. This helps monsters track and hunt them. Not a bad to take a quick bath in that underground stream (nevermind the blind albino crocodiles, they'll never notice, right?) and scrub off the funk from those troglodytes. It also makes a great lubricant for those stuck doors, heavy sarcophagus lids, and stubborn turnable statue bases.

Whetstone - Throw a couple of these at the players and they'll actually use them. Weird.

Empty Sacks - Another great "Fill me!" item. Plus it helps players keep those encumbrance rules in mind. You can also stuff them with flammable stuff like flour, cotton, or owlbear feathers and make handy fire hazards to slow down pursuit.

String - Repair torn cloaks, clothes, sacks, and sundries on the spot. Tie one to a heavy stone with a candle at one end for a time-able trap. Use them to mark your way through a maze. Drop torches down pits and wells for easy retrieval. Tie a holy symbol or vial of holy water to the end of your 10' pole to fish around in tombs with.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Some follow-up on non-variable weapon damage

I used the flat d6 weapon damage in Friday's Forsaken Halls session (a report on that later), and...

No problems whatsoever.

I decided to use the 2d6-keep-the-best-d6 idea for 2handed weapons, but none of the players happened to have a 2-handed weapon, so that never got tested.

There were no complaints, and no confusion. Some quick observations:

-It seemed to bring basic combat in line with some "standard" spells like magic missile and cure light wounds, both of which use a basic d6 also (we used Labyrinth Lord for the Halls session just for fun).

-There was a magic javelin (+1) that got a lot of use. I suspect this item may have been eschewed in favor of a non-magical d8 or d10 weapon in variable-damage campaigns due to basic number crunching. Just the impression I got.

-This option may have actually sped up combat just a hair, no more hands hesitating over the dice pile ("what damage does a crossbow do again?"). Everyone pretty much kept a d20 (for attacks and saves) and a d6 (for damage, initiative, and "skills") in easy reach, and saved the other dice for special occasions.

I think a couple of more sessions with non-variable weapon damage are in order to determine if this option is actually better, but I can safely say it definitely wasn't worse, and caused no problems, in case you were thinking of trying it out yourselves.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Thoughts on non-variable weapon damage.

I'm thinking of using non-variable weapon damage for tonight's foray into the Forsaken Halls. I'm sure by now you've probably read JB's in-depth essay on the subject (and perhaps even Alexis' characteristically irascible response), but I don't really have any deep reasoning behind the decision. I just want the focus off the damage a weapon does, and more on the iconic nature of the weapon itself. I'm hoping to see this help to develop the narrative of combat a little more - every weapon is devastating in its own way. I'm hoping the players will have fun with it, if not, its easy enough to go back to the way we've been doing it all along.

My only point of difficulty is with two-handed weapons. Why sacrifice a shield bonus to AC if you're not going to do more damage? It seems like the whole reason to pick up a two-handed weapon is to be able to bring more of your natural strength to bear on the matter-at-hand. So my idea is that you get double your strength bonus (or penalty!) to damage when wielding a two-handed weapon. So the damage chart with two-handed weapons looks something like this:

3 (-6)
4-5 (-4)
6-8 (-2)
9-12 (+0)
13-15 (+2)
16-17 (+4)
18 (+6)

Or 3-8 (-2); 9-12 (+0); 13-18 (+2) with Swords & Wizardry.

So, someone with three strength is completely useless with a two-handed weapon (d6-6) and someone with 18 strength is devastating (d6+6).

Or, I could just go with a flat +1 bonus to damage with 2-handed weapons, but that seems a little off, for some reason. Alternately, I could let the player choose between a +1 to AC, or a +2 to damage, which is similar to how I use two-weapon fighting (choose +1 to AC or +1 to damage).


Friday Frazetta?

Ok, ok, its not actually Frazetta. You art detectives, you. But it is what appears to be the Mad Monk Rasputin and several Satanic Jawas facing off against Ninja Turtles, so that's got to count for something right?


To see a bigger version, as well as some more Russian Ninja Turtle craziness, head on over to Monster Brains. Ninja Turtles were a bit after my time in the Saturday Morning Cartoon arena, but had I known that in Russia they were facing off against Predators, Unicorn-Trolls, pig-faced orcs, Robot Dinosaurs with battle axes, some lost Elder Race from C.A.Smith, and the Spinning Flesh-Wheel of Death, I might have paid more attention. Or not.

Normal Frazetta transmissions to resume next week!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

More Megadungeon Thoughts

Today I'm thinking about the "funhouse" aspect of Megas.

1. Chutes, from one room to the next, or even one level to the next. Surprise chutes, or intentional chutes.

2. Slides. These are fun with a collapsing corridor, especially if they dump the payers into a pool filled with crocodiles or green slime.

3. Elevators. I penciled two of these into the dungeon, one from level 1 to 2, and one from a sublevel of level 2 down to 4. I'm going to make them rickety, deafening, terrifying contraptions, with bottoms that occasionally flip open and dump you into an abattoir or something.

4. Reverse gravity rooms and corridors. Hey look at all the cool furniture on the ceiling! Is that a bottomless pit, or a corridor with unusual gravity? And will the unusual gravity cut out halfway down and dump you the rest of the way down what has suddenly become a bottomless pit again? Maybe timed periods of opposite gravity, facilitated by dropping a valuable gem into a slot, giving you just enough time (if you're lucky) to run across the ceiling and get past that chasm with the ruined temple on the other side.

5. Stairs. Not 100' stairs from one level to another, but constant 10' and 20' flights of stairs up and down that block lines of sight, confuse mapping, and make the place seem a whole lot bigger than it really is. I put these everywhere, but have to be careful that my elevations add up properly.

6. Pits. Not 10' pits, but 100' wide, 2500' deep pits that run from level one all the way down to the balrog on level 15. Weird noises, horrid shrieks, and cold drafts waft up from below. Balconies are dimly visible at the very edge of the light cast by the torch tied to the end of that 50' of rope. Shadowy shapes cling spiderlike to the sides and scurry off when the light gets too close. Sickly, albino wyverns occasionally rise up from the lower levels to seek easy prey. And so on.

7. Stone Circles. Who knows what will happen when you step into the middle of that stonehenge-like structure on level 4? Or the one in the mushroom forest? Teleport to another level, heal all wounds, turn you into a troglodyte, teleport you to a matching stone circle outside the dungeon, drain a level to feed some forgotten god? Does it happen automatically, or must you splash blood on the hoary stones, or dance a jig, or meditate?

8. Teleportals. These are fun, but shouldn't be too plentiful. I like to put a bunch of one-way teleportals in one spot in the dungeon so adventurers keep coming back there to find out where they all lead to. Invisible teleporters at the end of a bland corridor that send you seamlessly to another bland corridor are a fun way to mess up maps and get characters lost!

9. Whirlpools. No subterranean reservoir, river, lake, or cistern is complete without a threatening whirlpool. This usually dumps adventurers (those who don't drown, always make sure at least one red-shirt drowns) out into a body of water in a different level or sublevel. I also like waterfalls, rapids, geysers, and spouts.

10. Magically Keyed Doors. These doors have distinctive, obvious "keyholes" (like a three-pronged depression in a brass circle in the middle of the door, etc), and are pretty much unlock-able and indestructible. The "keys" for these doors are located elsewhere in the dungeon, usually obvious as to their purpose, giving the characters a good reason to go back. Doors locked in this way are a good way for referees to have abit of control over how far or deep the players explore (but you never want too much control! That's no fun, and not deadly enough), or temporarily block areas you haven't fully mapped or detailed yet.

Please share some funhouse ideas of your own!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Megadungeon Thoughts

Its been a while since I took out my notes and maps on the Forsaken Halls, but that bug has bitten me yet again, so I'm thinking of introducing the players from my Omegea campaign to it. Given that the 1st level of this mega has been redone about five times, I thought I'd restructure and reorganize the map yet again ;) , and that process has brought up some interesting ideas.

Entry Points - In the past, the Forsaken Halls have had only two entry points for the first level: the obvious main gateway, and a secret passage from the one of the enormous stone faces that flank the ramp leading down to those gates (for those who don't know, the Forsaken Halls is beneath a black hill atop which squats a ruined, 100' tall hexagonal tower/fortress, roughly the width of the Pentagon, but much taller. A wide "valley" has been cut into the side of the hill, and is flanked with great stone faces of vaguely alien aspect).

As the upper levels are quite expansive, I've decided there should be many more entry points. The Forsaken Halls is an "active" adventuring site, something of a local attraction and a magnet for adventurers, as opposed to a site that has lain untouched for centuries. Due to this, it seems logical that the hungrier of the monstrous inhabitants within would have figured out where the easiest meals are coming from - in or near the main entrance - making it difficult for inexperienced characters to get their foot in the door, without having it chewed off!

Now, there have always been a couple of hidden side entrances, but they have been discoverable only from the inside. I'm going to say that by now, rumors of these secret entrances have started to make the rounds in the taverns of the nearby base-town of Tome. Hopefully, this will give players a chance to gain entry to the Halls a bit more surreptitiously and get a bit of exploring in before the powers that be take notice (yes, there is still a dragon on the first level!).

Some of these entry points include, a drainage culvert on the side of the hill not too far south of the stone faces, a tunnel from one of the six ruined guard towers that flank the bowl-shaped depression the hexagonal tower squats within (these abandoned towers themselves are intended to serve as brief adventuring locales for lower level parties), a flooded underground passage leading from the cold river that runs along the eastern side of the area, and of course, via the sealed upper levels of the great tower itself.

I also think there should be a couple of access points, from outside, directly to the lower levels of the dungeon.

Who can suggest some cool access points to implement, or things that have worked well for them in the past?

Rival Adventuring Parties - This is something i've wanted to do for awhile, but have yet to implement. There are quite a range of options here - random groups the party might encounter in the dungeon, fully detailed and fleshed out parties that act as friendly competition to the party, or groups that are downright inimical to the party, perhaps acting as agents for some dark power or looking to prey on the party when it is loaded up with treasure but weakened from the struggle of getting hold of it.

Plus I always liked the combat example in the 1E DMG between the rival groups.

Has anyone run rival/competitive parties of NPCs, and can impart some ideas or advice?

Like Megadungeons? Be sure to check out BtBG's Megadungeon Resources Page.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Playtesting the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG

I made it over to Erie, PA Saturday to roll some dice with Rob and Tim at the Erie Days of Gaming. Rob refereed a playtest of Goodman Games' forthcoming Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG. The time was slot was originally scheduled to be a playtest of a new S&W adventure from Rob, but Jason and John, the two artists for that particular module, showed up to play, so it was decided to switch places with the DCC game scheduled for later that evening (as they would obviously get few surprises from Rob's adventure!).

The System:
The DCC RPG proved to be a bare-bones d20 game (if you've played D&D 3.5 or Pathfinder, you will know all the basic elements here), with many of the usual mechanics: ascending AC, the standard d20 ability modifiers, Fort/Reflex/Will saves, DC (Difficulty Class) targets to hit with skill bonuses (though it seemed only thieves had skills), and so on.
I had hoped for a few more "old-school" idiosyncrasies, like descending AC, multiple saving throws, and percentile-based thief scores, but none of these would have done anything to actually speed up the game, so no huge complaints there. I'm sure Goodman wants this RPG to be as compatible with the existing line of d20 adventures (many of which are excellent, btw) as possible, so these are certainly reasonable design decisions.

Click to make bigger and behold the glory of Bing.

Abilities were rolled on 3d6, in order, with no shuffling, re-rolling, or point exchange. Still six abilities, though they are Strength, Agility, Stamina, Personality, Intelligence, and Luck. Luck was a "new" ability (though wisdom is absent, Luck does not appear to "replace" it) with its own affects on the game. Your Luck modifier gets applied to a different game mechanic according to a random roll about your birth. For instance, you may have been born under Lightning, and so your +1 Luck modifier applies to your Initiative Check.
I thought this was a cool mechanic, but needs a bigger selection (I think it was a d12 or so chart, d100 would have been better) to avoid too much replication in the same party (we had like three people with the lightning sign, for example).

A player could also "burn" his character's Luck points to modify a roll, like a saving throw or attack. Those points are permanently lost until the character does something to earn them back, like rescue a damsel, etc.
The class selection was decidedly old school: Fighter, Cleric, Thief, Magic User, Elf, and Dwarf (yep, race-as-class, and pretty cool to see in d20 format, kind of like seeing a classic Harley round the corner in a Science Fiction film). On top of that, classes got titles based on their level and alignment. For instance, I had a "Dwarven Dissident" and a "Burglar". Alignments seemed to have more to do with class, as there were different alignment options for each class. This was kind of weird, but was never really explained in detail, so I may just be misconstruing something. Each character also rolled for a secondary profession, 1E DMG-style.
Initiative was individual, but we quickly changed that to group initiative (nothing eats up an old-school game's table time unnecessarily like individual initiative), and Goodman would be wise to include this as an "official" option or alternative if he wants to appeal to the OSR purchasing populace. Critical hits and fumbles were somewhat confusing at first (a brief "primer" would have been helpful if included with the playtest material), but we started to enjoy it by the second half of the session once we figured what we were doing.
Incidentally, a Thief's backstab is an automatic roll on the critical hit table, which I thought was cool (my "not-a-thief" Fagin scored a nice backstab auto-kill with an awl at one point).

I didn't notice any of the d20 "attack of opportunity" nonsense. That could mean we unintentionally ignored it, or it was not included in this game. I very much hope its the latter. There was a list of combat actions, like bull rush, etc, but we ignored them, preferring to describe our own actions in combat, thank-you-very-much. I hope Goodman leaves that list out of the final version, and lets DCC RPG referees experience the old-school high of "rulings not rules", but we'll see.

The Adventure:

The adventure was fine (Rob goes into more specifics here), though we didn't get very far into it (I think). Being a group of old-school players, we took our time with every room, looking for puzzles and secrets, but we seldom found anything, so I'm guessing there was little to find except for combat. Hopefully this design ethic was a decision based on the need for a short playtest, and not an ethic for the overall line of forthcoming adventures I imagine will be released along with this RPG.
There was a bit of Jack "Vanciness" in the form of a mad sorcerer employing bizarre machines to "transmogrify" people into something horrid, though, so kudos there.

Of the 10 characters venturing into the dungeon, only three made it out alive (one being my dwarven village idiot, Bing the Witless (Int 4, Luck 6)!

Bing realizes he can be taller than Fagin if he holds his arms up really high!

Wrapping Up:

Rob let us know that Goodman's intention with this system is to give gamers a streamlined game that can be used to replicate the "Appendix N" experience. Now, Appendix N is all over the place, so I can only assume that Goodman's referring to the pulpier side of Appendix N's selections. If that is the case, there is a notable success, and a notable failure:

Magic-users - this class definitely has a pulpier feel (though the party's magic-user was killed in the opening moments of the game, there was a lot of discussion about his abilities). Every time a wizard uses his magic, there is a chance of the forces he commands corrupting his body and mind, which is cool. The Magic-user's weapon selection is the standard limited array though, and every fan of pulp fantasy knows Magic-users are just as likely as anyone else to pick up a rapier or pistol, so I'm rooting for this to be changed.

Clerics - When Rob mentioned the whole Appendix N design ethic, my eyes were immediately drawn to the cleric sheet. In my opinion, nothing says "Western European Christian Medieval" like the heal-mace-and-holy-symbol-wielding Cleric. Maybe its just me, but I'd rather see a "Priest" class, waving a curvy dagger around while summoning up the power of the Spider god to make enemies' faces melt. There was a lot of magical healing being thrown around too, which while helpful in a gamist sense, is not at all helpful evoking a pulp fantasy feel. I'd recommend toning back the magical healing a bit, and introducing a bit of OE Judges Guild style, non-magical, first aid healing.

All in all, the system was mostly fun to play, and worthy of a look when the final product comes out. Like Castles & Crusades or BFRPG, this may be a perfect "gateway RPG" to introduce players of the most current editions of D&D to the simpler joys of old-school gaming.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Empire of the Petal Megadungeon

If you haven't yet, be sure to check out the great interview over at Hill Cantons with Jeff Berry, Barker's right-hand-man, and official miniatures painter and prop designer, in the original Tekumel campaigns. Some very interesting reading material for those of you interested in all things Megadungeon, and also some nice anecdotes about a part-time Tekumel player, Dave Arneson.

Jeff has an interesting Q&A too, which I've linked to over on your right in the "Shoulders of Giants" tab.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Thursday, November 11, 2010

"Feats" for your old school game

One of the newer concepts introduced to D&D (if I may be forgiven for referring to something that's been around for 10 years as "newer") is the "Feat", basically a special ability a character selects or gains. A Feat typically bestows a bonus to character's combat ability, saving throws, hit points, chance to be surprised, and so on, customize or enhance spells, or even allow a character to do something not normally allowed by class restrictions, such as a cleric using an edged weapon.

This short download is for folks who would like to, or have thought about introducing the concept of Feats to their old-school system of choice. Many of these feats are tweaked from the SRD versions to allow for old-school systems like OD&D, OSRIC, Labyrinth Lord, etc, and there are a few all-new feats designed with those systems' concepts in mind, and a couple I just thought would be fun.

Disclosure - I have yet to play-test these (though I plan to for at least one session next week), so use with caution. I don't think there's anything here that will disturb the "old school vibe" too much, but I could be wrong, so again, please use with caution! Since most old-school campaigns top out at "name" level or so, the rate of feat gain is faster at lower levels than with the newer editions, but feel free to tweak as you see fit.

Download Old School Feats here, and please let me know what you think.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

In other Judges Guild news...!!!

Did you know there was a new Judges Guild book out? From Judges Guild itself? By Bob Bledsaw himself? I didn't, or I would have been squealing like a schoolgirl long before now!

Allow me to introduce "Lost Man's Trail". From the product page:

"Lost Man's Trail (2010) JG1290 Bob Bledsaw's final contribution to the fantasy world he created, the Wilderlands. This adventure module runs some 24 pages, with 12 maps covering the areas of encounters, in addition to detailed Campaign Maps for Wilderlands Hexes 3615, 3715, 3814 and 3914 of the Roglaroon and Gasconfold Plains Regions, between Modron and Tegel. The trail east from Modron to the Coast, known as Lost Man's Trail, has been a source of mystery for some time. Adventurers have a habit of disappearing from the trail. Are they lured away by some enticement, or waylayed by the legendary Skandic Raiders? The only safe place to stay, The Fat Deer Inn, offers good ale, soft bedding, and an assortment of characters; each having their own reason for being there. This product was written by Bob Bledsaw for use with the Judges Guild Universal System, and contains the latest version of charts to date. Happy Gaming! "

Having taken a quick look at the preview material, this appears to very similar to vintage Judges Guild books like Witches Court Marshes, which details a number of Wilderlands campaign map hexes, blown up to economy-size detail with lots of cool things to see and do in the area. And it starts off with a random table! It appears to utilize the old Universal format for monsters, and I see a gentle (and inoffensive) sprinkling of "CR"s and "DC"s here and there, so like most JG books this should be useful whatever your particular poison of "edition" might be.

Go here and get yourself a print copy (though .pdf's are available as well for you soulless spacemen out there). As Bledsaw's last work, this is, in my opinion at least, a piece of gaming history and a unique opportunity.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Whatever happened to the "new" Tegel Manor?

So whatever happened to the "new" and revised version of Tegel Manor? Let Melan tell you the whole sordid story right here; it's a fascinating read about the impact the RPG publishing industry, with its endless and seemingly arbitrary vagaries of edition, license, and personal motivations, can have on the most well-intentioned and looked-forward-to of game products, and a wonderful sneak peek at "what might have been".

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Random Table: Ruined Building Contents

Ruined cities are fun to explore! But what exactly lies within all those silent, brooding, mildew-stained buildings?

Roll on the table below to find out...

Random Table: Ruined Building Contents (d100)
1. Small family of starving squatters.
2. Random monster, wears a silver collar and stands despondently over a bleached skeleton.
3. A broken shrine to a deity of licentiousness.
4. A trio of stealthy, hallucinating bandits.
5. An immense paper nest full of (normal) wasps.
6. Walls and ceiling crawling with roaches. 2d6sp hidden beneath the nausea-inducing mass.
7. Ceiling collapsed, random flying monster has made its nest (and left three offspring) here.
8. Drunken hermit holes up here to read fine literature until death. 25% to know valuable sage-quality information.
9. Three goblin witches brew a foul-smelling concoction in a vast cauldron.
10. Two obese prostitutes ply their trade within.
11. Insane wandering knight hunts non-existent undead through many cellars.
12. Random monster guards a locked chest containing 3 purple rubies (d4 x 100gp value each).
13. False bookshelf in basement opens to reveal secret shrine of a dark deity. 25% chance of recent sacrificial activity.
14. Ghostly phantoms waltz in once-grand ballroom. Physical contact dispels them for 1d6 hours.
15. Madman lurks in the shadows, taunting explorers. He clutches an emerald tiara worth 1d6 x 100gp.
16. Small group of escaped slaves plot revenge on their cruel master.
17. Undiscovered chest full of fireworks in one spider-webbed corner of the attic.
18. Cloth-covered mirror in upstairs bedroom is portal to local megadungeon.
19. Pack of vicious feral dogs using building as lair.
20. Halfling violist virtuoso comes here to practice in solitude.
21. Strange, non-euclidian designs scrawled on basement walls bring madness (10%).
22. Flooded basement with collapsed wall gives access to network of underground canals.
23. Swarm of cunning giant rats lead explorers to ambush with shiny objects.
24. Beautiful young amnesiac huddles shivering in a closet.
25. Serial killer hides here, collecting pieces of his victim.
26. Someone has left behind several beautiful glass sculptures here (100gp each, 10% will break if moved).
27. Giant, man-eating frogs live in flooded basement.
28. One crumbling plaster wall conceals a well-crafted jade fish (d3 x 100gp).
29. Random monster lurks within, gnawing on a dragon's shinbone.
30. Exuberant gnome brewmaster tends kettles here, working on his ultimate recipe.
31. Vengeful ghost mimics female voice in distress to lure victims to unstable second floor.
32. A small table in a back room is set as if for dinner, food still steaming, but no guests arrive.
33. An elf lies dying on the stairs, a black arrow protruding from his neck.
34. Three orphans hide here, hoping for a new mother or father to take them away.
35. A greenhouse out back still has flourishing garden of psychoactive mushrooms, herbs, and flowers.
36. The leaf-strewn floor here is actually a mosaic-map revealing several unknown locations in the area.
37. A boat, too large to fit through the door, fills a downstairs bedroom.
38. Giant bees are building a great, honey-filled wax nest in the attic.
39. A bizarre collections of skeletons has been arranged in peculiar positions throughout the building.
40. A senile necromancer crafts bone puppets in a small workshop.
41. A delightful garden is found out back, obviously carefully tended by some unknown entity.
42. A band of rebels plots the overthrow of a local lord.
43. A random monster sleeps, snoring loudly, on a bed of valuable tapestries.
44. A family crypt is broken open in the basement. Undead lurk within, hungry for the taste of living flesh.
45. A strange laboratory is on the second floor, containing broken phials and jars with an assortment of colorful powders and pastes.
46. A secret cache filled with vipers contains a random magical wand.
47. The study is filled with marble pedestals, each supporting the bust of a famous wizard.
48. A painter lies long-dead of alcohol poisoning, surrounded by his final works.
49. A courtyard in the center of the building features a burbling fountain of possibly magical waters.
50. A phantom haunts the hot-baths of this building, hoping to drag unwary victims to a drowning death.
51. Someone has left a collection of pressed flowers under an upstairs bed.
52. A cobwebbed mummy lies in a flower-strewn bed clutching an old love-letter.
53. A great chandelier in the grand hall comes crashing down when someone passes beneath (3d6 dmg).
54. A dresser drawer contains several near-empty, dusty bottles of perfume.
55. A random monster claws desperately at a bare patch of basement floor.
56. Nine black robes hang from hooks beside a wood panel that leads to the sewers below.
57. An immense pipe-organ in the ballroom still works!
58. A random monster is trapped upstairs due to a collapsed stairway.
59. A small trove of garnets (d3 x 100gp each) is concealed high on a pantry shelf.
60. The entire building is a hollow shell, filled with strange-smelling sunflowers.
61. A diary filled with insane ramblings and details of how to contact an alien entity is tucked behind a sink.
62. A collection of war medals hangs from a crumbling wall.
63. A basement door leads to a dark shrine containing two blood-filled braziers and a grinning idol.
64. A random monster is trapped at the bottom of the building's cistern.
65. An exiled nobleman relaxes in the solarium, wholly inebriated.
66. A great pine grows from the basement up through the roof. Strange designs have been carved into its trunk.
67. A missing merchant is hiding out here after escaping an assassination attempt.
68. A small courtyard pond is stocked with fish. A little man sits here fishing and muttering odd incantations (listening carefully for 1 hour gives 10% chance of learning a new Magic User spell).
69. This building leans precariously to one side, and could collapse at any moment (d100gp worth of random objects inside).
70. This building contains an unusually expensive array of materials: fine marble, gold plating, crystal chandeliers. d3 x 1000gp value, d3 x 1 weeks to cart it all off.
71. Three sets of rusty blades hang from the walls here. 10% one them is +1 and just needs a little cleaning.
72. Paintings on the walls in this building seems to follow trespassers with their eyes.
73. A group of boars and sows has taken up residence in this building.
74. A wraith haunts the building's belltower.
75. Random monsters issue from a misty portal in the building's garden at noon and midnight.
76. This building is filled with swarms of black flies and an unnatural heat.
77. A fire crackles merrily in the fireplace, but no one is to be found.
78. The pantry here is filled with strange costumes.
79. A tapestry hangs in a bedroom, depicting a battle between gods and some sort of titanic reptilian creatures.
80. A random monster has two maidens cornered in the woodshed.
81. A foul odor wafts up from the cellar...
82. Strange music seems to drift from room to room just ahead of the explorers.
83. A backpack has been left in a corner, containing 4 bottles of strong liquor and a battered, iron crown (50gp).
84. A swordmaster practices alone here amidst a long chamber filled with practice dummies.
85. A random monster lurks on a balcony here, hoping for an easy meal.
86. Five hooded cultists perform a strange ritual over a glowing brazier.
87. A squat, toadlike statue sits in a corner with offerings heaped around it.
88. The floors of this building are covered in strange, black and purple toadstools and fungi.
89. The top floor features an enclosed balcony with a functioning telescope.
90. The basement here is being used as a lair by a ravenous troupe of ghouls.
91. An escaped convict hides in a pantry.
92. A gloomy poet slumps against a balustrade, muttering to himself and waving a stained piece of parchment in the air.
93. A bloated crocodile carcass has been abandoned in the main hall.
94. The walls and ceilings are decorated in mosaics depicting Armageddon.
95. A stray kitten mewls pitifully from somewhere in the building.
96. An upstairs closet contains a wardrobe that leads to a world of talking animals.
97. The entire building periodically fills with noise and sound as if it is supernaturally playing back scenes from its history.
98. A random monster has dug a great burrow in the back yard.
99. This building's garden features a fountain with healing waters guarded by a nymph.
00. The basement of this building contains three ornate coffins. The resident vampires are here only 33% of the time.


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