Saturday, July 31, 2010

Combat Shield!

I found a copy of the old 1984 Combat Shield (DM's screen) at the used bookstore. The adventure that originally came with it is long gone, but it got it for a song, plus it beats using the somewhat worn out B1 cover as a screen.

I also picked up a copy of the Book of Marvelous Magic.

Damn, I love that store.

D&D With Kung Fu Guys, Session 3

For some reason, it felt like a really long time since we last played, even though we only skipped one week. Our host didn't show up for training and was unreachable by phone. We decided to just play at the school. I'm going to have to procure a cheap folding card table to make game play easier.

Since we were missing two characters and had one new player, I decided to do some hippie-Forgie crap and declare that this was a prequel to the current adventure. I started them on In Search of the Unknown, declaring that this is how half the party met before deciding to strike out for the Keep.

"Wait," the new player said, "If I'm in the flashback but not in the actual adventure....does that mean I'm going to die?!"

It was kind of an unusual session, in that the first two wandering monster groups were orcs who rolled box cars for a reaction, meaning friendly and helpful. I decided that they, being former slaves of Rogahn and Zelligar, were only too happy to help the players loot their former masters' stronghold. Unfortunately, this alliance did not last long, with the orcs becoming incredibly drunk on the wine in the Room of Pools and being left there by the party. They managed to make it down to the second level, though they skipped a lot of the first level.

Our host has emailed me, indicating that he will not be available next Friday, so we have already decided to play at the school following training. We are all individually on the lookout for a cheap folding card table. I might actually have one buried somewhere in my house. I know I have some of the chairs from it... I can see one from where I am sitting now.

I actually have the sneaking feeling that I'm going to lose the host due to the typical attrition that seems to plague a lot of gaming groups. I suppose that is another subject for another post.

Now, what's really going to jack me up is if any of the characters who are in the "flashback" actually die in the hell am I going to explain that?!
Unknown is actually a fairly softball module, however, and so far the group has played in a very resourceful and tactical fashion. Shit, maybe they're ready for some James Edward Raggi IV modules... after the Keep, that is.

Friday, July 30, 2010

My lawn: get off it.

My patience with games seems to be sliding inexorably toward the Abyss.

Large page counts dampen my enthusiasm.

Any complexity north of AD&D sours me.

Games that get too meta with the narrative no longer appeal to me.

I find that, while I have a substantial collection of rpgs, my tastes continue to grow narrower. When a game doesn't fit my increasingly exacting specifications, it goes back on my shelf, or I take a scalpel to it. (As I have been doing with Dead Reign and want to do with RIFTS. gods help me.)

I want quick character generation. I want quick combat that doesn't require minis. I want task resolution to be either ad hoc or incredbilyfrigginsimple. I want books that aren't thick enough to double as anti-shiv body armor. I thought this was just a phase, but my brain and attention span continue to reject games that I even want to learn, like Shadowrun 4e and The Dresden Files RPG.

This may my brain going into survival mode, as my unlimited free time will be quite limited starting next week and progressing into next May as I edumacate them chilluns. It might also be precipitous slide towards the age of thirty (one year, one month, and four days...) It might also be one of those phases I go through.

Another pop-psychology theory is that my previous career was so mentally unengaging that I needed my hobby to step it up to keep my brain from pickling inside my skull. That subject, however, goes beyond the scope of this blog.

Save the complication for the dilemmas the PCs find themselves entangled in, I say.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Dead Reign: Cutting Through the BS

Okay, the wife's birthday game is going to be what I hereby dub "Dead Reign Lite." It will also be a template for "Lite" Palladium. A lot of the ideas here come from my issues with the system, and with earlier Palladium mechanics I liked from Mechanoid Invasion.

1. Attributes are all in the 3-18 range. No rolling extra dice for attributes of 16+.
2. All characters are 1st level Survivors with occupations selected by me.
3. You only get your OCC skills plus four slots for skills your character learned "the hard way" in the five months since the zombipocalypse. These skills will come from a list I will prepare shortly, but include combat skills, salvage/jury-rig type skills, basic first aid, wilderness survival, etc.
4. No hand to hand= 1 attack per round , Basic=2, Expert=3, Martial Arts/Commando=4.
5. No SDC for characters.
6. No Hit Points for zombies. (They only have SDC, since they aren't alive) wife is worried that this is fettering away the last of my summer vacation, and now she's wondering if she should have asked me to do a Little Fears game. I am trying to assure her that this is something I've wanted to do since the very first RIFTS session I played.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Dead Reign vs. All Flesh Must Be Eaten

I may have mentioned this, but my wife's birthday is approaching. She has asked me to run a zombie game for her and some of our friends. I have two zombie roleplaying games on my shelf: Dead Reign from Palladium (which is actually my wife's book), and All Flesh Must Be Eaten from Eden Studios.

I have run AFMBE a handful of times over the years, always as one-shots, and it has never failed to be a good time. However, my wife doesn't particularly enjoy learning systems she is not familiar with, and since it's a one shot, I'd like to keep things as simple as possible. To that end, I was considering using Dead Reign, which I have not run before. (My wife didn't buy it for the rules, by the by- she bought it because she loves all things zombie.) Palladium's rule system is a little closer to what this particular group of gamers is used to: d20 to attack (roll high), d20 saving throws (roll high), ability scores in the 3-18 range that are very similar to D&D stats. We have hit points, level, even alignment. I think it is more similar to what they know. Dead Reign also has several varieties of fully statted zombies, as opposed to the AFMBE "Zombie Buffet" creation rules.

...ah, but then there's the skill system. JB, if you are reading this, I know you're nodding your head in assent.

If I had more time to do this and less on my plate (I've also got work stuff coming up for the coming school year), I'd probably just use Fudge or Savage Worlds and be done with it. However, I like that these games have zombies all statted up and ready to go. I think if I were going to run a campaign, I'd probably go with AFMBE.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Convention Day 3

We bailed pretty early. I felt like twenty miles of rough road from two nights of little sleep and much drinking, plus gaming for something like ten straight hours, breaking only for about an hour to eat dinner. I'm glad that I seem to have sparked some new interest in Mutant Future. Blah blah growing the hobby blah blah True Believer. Whatever.

Ok, so some thoughts on the convention:

-Last year, I bitched about the awfulness of the non-convention guests. This was better this time around, except for when my wife (who does not wear nerd t-shirt, costumes, or anything else that "outs" her) was on the elevator with some hotel guests who actually expressed fear that "these people" (the convention guests) were going to "get their children." I would have been pissed to hear something like that if it weren't so pathetically absurd. Yes, some of the people at the con were weirdos, and some were quite off-putting, but these people are harmless nerds; they're more likely to bore you to death with stories of their Star Wars fanfic than they are likely to "get" your children. (Whatever the fuck that means.)

-Last year, there was a guy that I kind of wanted to strangle. He was there this year. He didn't tell me any of his awful gaming stories, but he did jump into a game that I was playing. Sometimes you hear a story about meeting someone who really rubs you the wrong way, but once you get to know them, they're not bad and you become fast friends. This is not one of those stories. That guy is still a tool. Point of gaming etiquette, friends: when a player asks the GM a question, he is asking the GM, not you. Also, you're going to raise some eyebrows when you repeat that this is the first time you've ever played this game, and then you proceed to try and wrest control from the GM at every opportunity by telling him where all the other characters are and trying to dictate facts about the game world and situation to the GM.

-I did not go to a single panel this year. I spent the majority of my time gaming and socializing.

-I had a great time, and I look forward to next year.

-Oh, and I didn't buy any gaming stuff, which I can scarcely believe. I consider this a huge personal victory, as I need another new game like I need a fourth nipple.

My campaign with the kung-fu folks (running Keep on the Borderlands) will resume this Friday. I will be returning to the RIFTS group in a few weeks, since we are installing a new GM. (Viva la revolucion!) I am running a zombie survival one shot for my wife's birthday in a few weeks, and I'm supposed to be starting a Warhammer game.

Maybe I'd better take advantage of my last week off and get my ass in gear!

Convention Day 2

I have just returned from a tour of room parties at this here convention, and I assure you, friends, I am in my cups.

I gamed all day today. I ended up play testing a Traveller module, though I didn't realize I was in a play test, even though my wife, who was not involved, knew I was play testing something Apparently my name will be in the credits. Rad.

My Mutant Future game started with only two players, but ended up with four. We didn't get to finish, but it was fun, and I seem to have interested new players in Mutant Future. Hot damn. I think I have an idea for the next installment of the Zirugar saga, provided Dan knocks out Starships & Spacemen 2nd edition before next year.

I cannot wait for NukeCon.

I might game tomorrow, though I really should go home and check on my poor cats.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Convention Day 1

I'm going to get right to the point: the gaming here was run so much better last year that it isn't even funny. Despite communication with the gaming guru, my game was not on the schedule. Ditto for several people I talked to who were interested in running games. A note: last year the game room was outsourced to the people who run the local gaming convention as opposed to a general sci-fi/geek convention, which this is. I managed to wrangle three players for B1, but we did have a hell of a good time. I would have liked more, but that's life. I did get a lot of comments from passers-by approving of my old school D&D, though none of them wanted to play.

I've got to say that the Room of Pools in B1 is possibly one of my favorite dungeon rooms in all of dungeon history.
"Oh, screw it... I stick my hand in it."


Also, in a non-gaming note: I used to like anime. I no longer understand anime or anime fandom. I'm not sure when it became a postmodern neon-colored clusterfuck mess, but count me out. Give me Macross. Give me Gundam. Give me Fist of the North Star. Give me something I can fucking summarize.

Tomorrow is my mutant future game, which will have at least three players. Once again, I had to recruit by word of mouth, because the convention lacks goddamn sign-up sheets.

There was a first class room party tonight, though... which I have left a friend at, and I should probably go and get him...

Oh, and I am the only person running tabletop role playing games at this convention, it seems... everything else seems to be a bunch of miniature skirmish games.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Getting My Con On

OSFEST, the local sci-fi convention, is in three days. This is the third year the convention is being held. I went with the missus and some of our friends last year and we had a wonderful time. (I posted a few blog posts from her laptop whilst I was there.)

Last year I ran D&D Rules Cyclopedia(my personal favorite iteration of D&D). The module was one of my own design. It was such fun I wish I had signed up for two games.

This year, I've done just that.

Friday night- B/X D&D. We're doing B1, In Search of the Unknown.

Saturday afternoon- Mutant Future, "Legacy of Zirugar," a module to the game I ran last year. Yes, the Mutant Future game is a sequel to the D&D game. Last year's game was all about cross-planar antics. This game is about the other side of that coin.

Last year I also got to play Beyond the Supernatural 2nd edition. The game softened my stance on Palladium. The GM was an absolute blast to play with, and I hope he's there this year.

Several of my friends from last year can't make it this year, but I think I've conned some new ones into going. I'm also scheduled to be my friend's nephew's very first DM, and I usually run into old friends from my college sci-fi club when I go to these things.

Should be fun. I'll post from the wife's laptop at some point, no doubt... and if you guys are really lucky, it will be after I've been to the room parties and am properly sauced.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Magic Potions

A question for my fellow DMs:

The way you do magic potions, does each type of potion have a specific appearance/flavor/etc? Are all healing potions a deep amber and burn when you drink them? Could a translucent purple potion and a milky blue potion both be potions of levitation?

On one hand, consistent potions let the players become experts on something in your world. It also saves them some time and trouble. You can also still introduce confusion... perhaps potions of healing and heroism are both red.
"Hmm....amber colored and burns going it's either a healing potion...or else it's hard liquor." (Both, I suppose, relieve pain)

With my current Cyclopedia game, I might rule that potions are consistent when made by the same magic-user. (Alternately, magic-users trained by the same mentor might brew similar potions.) Who says that every potion of healing has the same ingredients? If different mages have their own way of notating spells (thus necessitating the need for read magic in the rules as written), might they not make potions in such an individual fashion?


Saturday, July 17, 2010

Perusing the Shelves

I was at the LGS today because the missus needed to check her pull file for new comic arrivals. While I was there, I stumbled upon two things:

1. World of Darkness: Mirrors, the "toolkit" book from White Wolf. Also, according to a note from White Wolf's creative director, Mirrors is in fact the last "traditionally published" World of Darkness line book that the company intends to release. I'm guessing that holds true for the Vampire, Mage, and Changeling stuff coming out this year.

2. The Dresen Files RPG, in two hardbound volumes. The first is called "Your Story" and contains the rules, character creation stuff, and a sample city setting. It actually looks like the complete game. The second volume appears to be official stats for various characters and critters from the novel series. They are full color and very beautiful. Unfortunately, they are $50 and $40, respectively, and I can't justify shelling out that kind of cash for books right now. (I have zero chance of running a Dresden game for the foreseeable future)

Playing D&D With Kung Fu Guys, Part II

Tonight was the second session of my all kung-fu student D&D game. We played last week, but I was on vacation from blogging at the time, and most of the session was character generation, followed by a little exploration of the Keep, establishing NPCs, buying gear, and hiring a guide.

A bit about the group:

-All guys but one (and she is married to one of the guys)
-All are students of the same style of kung fu under the same sifu.
-All but one have previously played Dungeons & Dragons, though not everyone had played old school D&D before. Some of the group are old enough to have played old D&D when it wasn't "old" D&D, while others have previously played only WotC D&D. About half the group has played/plays other role-playing games.

The party consists of a healer (modified from Amityville Mike's White Box Healer), a mystic, an elf, a halfling, and a thief. The sixth player has not been able to make it yet, so he doesn't have a character. Though I have alternate class options for demihumans, both players opted to go with the baseline class. The party currently has one retainer, an NPC guide hired to get them from the Keep to the Caves. I'm treating the guide as a 1st level thief, but he will not enter the dungeon, so for now it doesn't matter.

Tonight was almost a disaster. The group ended up entering the Caves through Entrance B, and the thief ended up shining his lantern into area 7, alerting the guards. The PCs made short work of them, but they had managed to raise the alarm, girding all dozen orcs in area 10 for battle. I thought they were done for, but they exercised amazing tactics, including hiding halfling, setting weapons vs. charge, and an incredibly well-placed and well-rolled sleep spell.

The party ended up capturing two of the male orcs (and two escaped to the chief's room.) Now here's the interesting bit... they discovered that there was another orc tribe, and have offered a cease fire with the chief of the orcs in area B in exchange for him lending his aid and remaining warriors to help the PCs exterminate the other orc tribe. We had to call the session with the PCs making their offer to the orc chief, so we're on a cliffhanger.

I need to do some thinking. The reaction roll table kept yielding neutral results. On one hand, the orc chief is pretty pissed that most of his fighting males (all but four) have been slaughtered. On the other hand, he is Chaotic, and this would be an opportunity for him... the PCs have offered the orcs their run of both orc territories if he helps them. It could go either way... the module implies that there is some cooperation between the two tribes. The orc chief also has three warriors and his two mates (who fight), so they actually outnumber the intruders at the moment. Still, the orc chief could be wary, since this group has already defeated 17 of his warriors. Luckily, I have a week to mull it over, and the PCs have a week to refine their offer. They did have the healer perform first aid on one of the wounded surviving orcs. I have to say I'm surprised and intrigued. This group is not only tactically sound, but they have more interesting plans than a simple kill n' loot.

I am pleased.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Distance in Keep on the Borderlands- Scale, Movement, and WTF

Let me cut right to the chase.

From the Keep the the woods outside the Caves is about 52 spaces, or about 5200 yards, which is right about three miles.

With the rules given in the module, a party following the road (the fastest rate of travel) will take 17 hours to reach the outskirts of the wooded area I'm referring to. Given the eight hour travel days needed to prevent exhaustion, it will take the party more than two days to get where they are going.

According to the rules for outdoor travel in blue book Expert, a party with lightly encumbered members can travel 18 miles per day, meaning that the party travels 2.25 miles per hour, and should be able to reach said space in less than an hour and a half.

According to the rules in the Cyclopedia, a lightly encumbered party on a trail can actually travel 24 miles per day, meaning that they should be able to reach the area in about an hour.

...from two days to one hour... quite a disparity, isn't it?

I believe logistics and travel are an important part of old D&D, and I run my games as such. Forget to bring adequate food and water and you are in trouble. So, I need to do one of three routes:

1. I can run the module as-is, while telling my brain to stop thinking about the fact that the characters are moving fifteen feet per minute in the open wilderness; less than that if they venture into the woods or fens, or if they are actively "searching."

2. Increase the scale of the map such that the journey really will take two days, or

3. Use the more sensible travel rules and just live with the fact that the Caves of Chaos really are just a stone's throw from the Keep.

Get this: traversing the 200 yards of woods between the road and the caves will take an hour per the module, about 40 minutes using Expert or Cyclopedia sets. The disparity is much smaller even though the terrain is much more difficult. The module and the two rule sets use the same terrain modifier (2/3 normal movement) for traveling through the woods.

Anyone else ever brush up against this?

Mechanoid Invasion: A Strange Little Artifact

I was recently at the used book store where I seem to be in a perpetual state of patronage. Sights I saw included a very old-looking iteration of the DC Heroes RPG, two copies of Terra Primate that have been haunting the shelves for a few months now, and a copy of the Mechanoid Invasion Trilogy, released by Palladium in 1998. This copy was, oddly enough, signed by Kevin himself and two other guys who worked on the book. I ended up picking it up because, after skimming it, I really liked the ideas and setting.

The Mechanoid Invasion is an odd duck... released in the early eighties, each book is part of an ongoing story with the potential to play out over a long period of time and with several groups of characters. the unfolding campaign reminds me of something like Orpheus or one of the more recent iterations of Metamorphosis Alpha, where the rules and setting expand with the storyline. I was under the impression that storyline-driven games didn't come around until the 90's, but I am no scholar on the matter.

The story is nothing new to science fiction: distant human colony is attacked by mysterious cybernetic aliens and the heroes have to hold out until the fleet of the Big Ass Federation of Planets (or whatever) sends in the cavalry. In the beginning, only a few classes are available, plus an alien race that reminds me a lot of the "skinnies" from Starship Troopers (the novel, that is).

It's sort of adorable to see the things that old school game designers thought might be relevant, such as notable natural gas and fossil fuel reserves located on a planet that's about to be invaded by crazy ass aliens, and considering that only the first book really takes place on the surface of said planet. Meanwhile, when a mysterious last member of a technologically advanced ancient race shows up, he gets about half a page worth of text describing him.
Also, Kevin named a lot of the landmarks on the planet after his favorite sci-fi personalities ("Lucas Bay," for instance) and his old gaming buddies and early employees of his company.

What I find most fascinating, however, is that the first book in the trilogy contains an early version of the Palladium rule system. I once stated that I believe Palladium's Fantasy RPG (though I own only the 2nd edition) was Kev's response to AD&D. Now I am absolutely positive. One of the NPCs is even listed as having "Chaotic Neutral" as an alignment, though almost no NPCs are given an alignment thereafter, nor is alignment really explained. The character classes had set skill lists that proceeded exactly like the thief skills of yore.
As the books progress, the rules also change and morph closer and closer to the modern Palladium system that we know and lo...okay, that we know. A few interesting tidbits from the early drafts of the rules:

-Only ability scores of 17 or higher get any bonus of any sort
-Characters do not have SDC! SDC is only for armor and objects; characters have hit points only.
-While there is no Mega-Damage, many creatures and vehicles have hundreds of SDC.
-According to book 1, losing all your hit points is instant death, rather than the coma save of later version.
-All classes have pre-set skills and combat abilities that advance according to an experience level table. I actually like this part the best, because it would drastically reduce character creation time.
-No physical skills jack up stats, SDC, etc.
-Ranged weapons have a certain fixed number of attacks per melee dependent on the weapon, not the character; Gun X gets four shots per melee, Gun Y gets only two.
-Attack rolls seem to be assumed to be automatically successful. However, unless you beat the Armor Rating of a given armor, you don't damage the target at all. (Success damages the target's armor... unlike later versions of AR, there is no way to penetrate it and damage the target without blowing the armor to smithereens first.)

I think I'd actually like to run this, using the early rules system. (Of course, by book three you have all kinds of skill selection and half a dozen or so alien races and characters have physical SDC and blah blah you know the drill.) If nothing else, the story is actually pretty cool and also fairly hands-off. (The story essentially moves you from one sandbox to the other, and, surprisingly, Kev encourages the GM to really make things his own according to taste.)

A neat find, and I'm glad of it. was like nine bucks with my coupon.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A New Bag Every Time

A lot of the bloggers around this neck of the woods have long-established campaign settings. I have also met many gamers in real life who have been using the same setting and history for years or decades, be it a favorite published setting (often modified) or something entirely homebrew. I also find that those DMs who have changed the system (added classes, etc) tend to keep these same idiosyncrasies for most, if not all, of their D&D campaigns. (Or Runequest, or whatever their game is)

I find that every time I run a new campaign of Dungeons and Dragons (regardless of what edition, and I have run pretty much all the editions except for the brown books, including WotC D&D) I feel compelled to reinvent the wheel: the setting, the metaphysics of magic, the cosmology, the deities, the role of the various common races, what classes are available, etc. For me, the joy of inventing an entirely new world and all the assumptions that come with it is part of the fun of being a DM. To date, the only setting I've reused was the one I invented for my middle school AD&D 2nd edition campaign. I reused the setting for a "next generation" type campaign I ran in high school, and I used the setting one final time for a 3.5 game played with an old friend who was in town and had played in both campaigns.

As I have mentioned, I will be starting a new campaign in just a few days (actually a bit less than 48 hours.) I have decided to start my game with Keep on the Borderlands. I'm not sure if there are any variable editions of the module, but the setting around the keep is totally generic. (There is a "Realm" which the Keep is on the Border of, and that Realm is beset on all sides with Chaos, but that's about all we get.) I think I'm going to build my setting as I go along for once. Yes, there are elves, but I'm not going to worry where their homeland is or who rules it or what state it is in just yet. I'm not worried about the King or neighboring kingdoms (and in a world without mass media or widespread literacy, it is quite likely that PCs might not even know such information)

What can I say? This is an experiment, and I haven't run anything since the regrettable collapse of my campaign back in May. (Which, by the way, I am still ever so slightly bitter about)I am ready to get going again, and I'm ready to try out a lot of new things. If I enjoy this even half as much as my previous campaign, I will consider it a great success. I do have an eye on the land-owning eventualities of Cyclopedia-style D&D, as I've never actually had players settle down in a campaign before. (To that end, I have made a recent inquiry to Alexis regarding his trading/commodity system, and I feel like I at least have some idea of what direction to go.)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Why the Hell Not?

I think I'm going to start my Cyclopedia group off in the Keep.

Yeah, you know what Keep I'm talking about. It's the Keep with a capital K, surrounded on all sides by the forces of Chaos.

Monday, July 5, 2010

My Other Iron in the Fire

At my wife's request, I am preparing a Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay game. (I'll be using 2nd edition rules, with the 1st edition book as a sort of big ass supplement/sourcebook.) I have decided to set this game in Bretonnia... less halflings and guns, more knights and chivalry. (Also more corruption, oppression, etc.) The wife already rolled up a Knight Errant, though she was somewhat shocked when she found out that she had to play a male, or else a female disguised as a male.
Yes, WFRP, when it comes to Bretonnia, sticks to historical gender roles and socio-economic models. (If you are unfamiliar with Warhammer, Bretonnia is basically a mishmash of medieval France and Arthurian legend.) This is an interesting change of pace from roleplaying games like Deadlands that ignore historical race/gender/class issues entirely. Obviously, neither of these games are historical, but they are molded after historical periods. (Another tidbit about the Warhammer setting- most of the countries are real world countries with the serial numbers filed off... Germany, Italy, Spain, Russia...they're all there, just renamed*.)

As it stands, I plan to run the Kung Fu Cyclopedia game every other Friday night after our training concludes (so about 9:30 pm or so.) The Warhammer game will be on the alternate Saturday at 3 pm. I figure that the only way to make running two campaigns a sustainable thing come August is to make sure that I only have to run one per week.

*Italy isn't even renamed so much as the syllables are just rearranged; Italy becomes Tilea. Come on, now.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Some Revisions

After receiving some feedback from Gratuitous Saxon Violence and JB, as well as thinking it over some, I have made a few revisions to my house rules:

1. Elven Adventurers now fight as fighters. I changed them to fight as clerics when I was considering allowing them to reach 36th level, but since I have rescinded that decision, I beefed up their fighting skill a bit.

2. Same with Halfling Wayfarers. Since I have decided that they are basically the rough and tumble halflings, I also gave them the two starting mastery slots at level 3, though one must be spent on the sling.

3. High Mages start with four hit points, though their Hit Die for all levels thereafter is a d2.

4. A critically wounded character now survives for turns, rather than rounds.

I have updated all the posts for my own sanity.

The Morning After

I certainly did a lot of tinkering yesterday, and a lot of posting about it last night. Today I wonder if perhaps I went too far.

On the other hand, I am gradually building "my" D&D, using Cyclopedia as a baseline. This is as good a time as any to give it a test run. I was actually ready to just do BTB Cyclopedia, but a few of my potential players have indicated that they are hungry for a few more options. We'll see what happens. If it turns out to be crap, I can disavow all knowledge of the game and answer "no hablo ingles" when anyone brings it up.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Dungeons and Decisions, Part IV- Misc. Rules

Miscellaneous house rules round out my tinkering phase:

1. Alignment- This is the character's leanings toward civilization/orderly behavior and might makes right/id based behavior. Law and Chaos are not stand-ins for Good/Evil as they are typically written in basic D&D.
1.1 Alignment Tongues-Such things exist, but they are created and used by clerical orders. Clerics begin play with the alignment Tongue in addition to their starting languages. This language is used for clerical scrolls. Other characters may spend a language slot to learn alignment tongues, though this does not give them the ability to use cleric scrolls if they do not have the ability to use cleric spells.

2. Hit Dice: All characters receive max hit points at first level. Fighters, sub-classes of fighters, and Dwarf warriors can re-roll a 1 or 2 when rolling hit points for a new level.

3. Magic-
3.1 Magical Writing and Scrolls
Characters who can use magical spells do not need to use read magic; they can decipher any spell they have the ability to cast by making a roll. (I'm using the table in Majestic Wilderness) On a success, the character an copy the spell into a spell book, or, in the case of elves, begin studying it to learn permanently when they gain a level. On a failure, they cannot try again until they gain an experience level and know more about magic. A character can never decipher a spell they are not high enough level to cast. Note that the read magic spell will allow characters read a spell they failed to decipher on their own, as well as a higher level spell.
Scrolls can be automatically identified by magic-users, elves, mountebanks, and bards. (Also thieves once they reach 10th level) Thieves and bards must check for spell failure, though other characters need not do so. Spell casters can "reverse engineer" the magical shorthand of a scroll to learn the spell permanently, though doing so destroys the scroll.

Clerical spells can be read by anyone with the proper alignment tongue, or by anyone using read magic. Unless the character is capable of using clerical magic, this will do them little good besides knowing what is on the scroll.

Druidic spells are written in the secret druid language. Note that druids still retain their ability to use clerical magic, and thus clerical scrolls. A read magic spell or knowledge of the secret druid language will impart the user with what spell is on the scroll, but only a druid can actually cast the spell from the scroll.

3.2 Raise Dead
Spells that restore the dead are forbidden in the Lawful church, and frowned upon by almost any Neutral one. In most kingdoms, raising the dead is considered necromancy and is forbidden on pain of death. (Both of the newly risen and of the one who raised him) Unless one is willing to deal with the various Chaotic cults and sects, a dead companion should be considered truly dead.

4. First Aid
A character can bind a companion's wounds after battle to restore 1d4 hit points. This may only be done if the character was damaged in that combat, and only once per set of wounds. Clerics and sub-classes of cleric can re-roll a 1 on this roll, but must accept the result of the second roll.

5. Character Death
Characters who reach 0 hit points (or below) must save vs. Death Ray or die instantly. If they save, they can survive for a number of turns equal to their Constitution, plus or minus a secret variable determined by the DM. If they take damage again, they must save or die, and even if they succeed, the number of turns they will survive is reduced by 1d4.
Characters can be stabilized by a companion taking a full round to bandage/stabilize them, or by any healing potion, item, or spell.

Dungeons and Decisions, Part III

3. Skills- I decided not to implement a skill system. Characters will have skills logical to their class; a cleric will have knowledge about his own religion, and about demons and undead. A thief will know where best to gather information in a city. A druid can tell you what plants are safe to eat, etc.

4. Clerics- Clerics are the only human characters to have an Alignment tongue. These secret languages are used to inscribe cleric scrolls, write secret church documents, etc.

5. Elves- Elves have a deeper understanding of the nature of magic than humans do. As such, elves do not need to prepare/memorize spells as human magic-users do. Elves have limited number of spells known (they use the table from Rob Conley's Majestic Wilderness for Wizards), but they do not need to prepare them in advance. They are still limited to a certain number of spells per day, as the channeling of magical energy is mentally exhausting. Elves can teach spells to magic-users and learn spells from them, or from scrolls, or any other source, but they can only learn new spells when their number of spells known increases. Elves typically charge a steep price for their knowledge.

6. Thieves- Are going to stay as-is. They level obscenely fast, so their skills won't stay low for long.

Dungeons and Decisions, Part II

2. Weapon Mastery- After taking some ideas from internet forums and OD&Dities issue 7, I came up with these changes:

2.1 Starting Ability
All characters are considered to have Basic ability in all the weapons their classes can use. (Magic-users do not get the expanded weapon selections in the Cyclopedia) A character attempting to use weapons that their class cannot use does half damage. (And, in the case of some classes like cleric and druid, may suffer other ramifications as well) A character's first weapon slots let them become Skilled, and so on.
Under my new system, characters do not gain any Mastery slots at 1st level. Instead, starting at 3rd level, Fighters, Dwarf Warriors, Elf Adventurers, and Halfling Wayfarers get two slots (which must be spent on different weapons). Dwarves must use one on some type of axe or hammer, Elves must spend one on some type of bow, and Haflings must take the sling. All sub-classes of fighter get one slot. Characters must seek training as normal to spend this first slot. From then on, the classes listed above receive new slots per the the Cyclopedia.

All other classes receive their first slot at 6th level and gain them normally henceforth.

2.2 Hit bonuses- These have been halved, such that characters receive +1 at Skilled, +2 at Expert, +3P/+2S at Master, and +4P/+3S at Grand Master.

2.3 Deflect- In order to Deflect, the character must make an attack roll and beat the result of the enemy's attack roll. (Rather than make a save as described in the book) A failed roll means the attack hits normally and the Deflect is used up. Note that some very large opponents or some attacks cannot be deflected; a dragon's tail slap, for instance, cannot be deflected by any human-sized weapon.

I want to reiterate that I'm using Weapon Mastery rules because I'm running a game for a bunch of martial arts students; if I know them like I think I do, they are going to want some kind of system that reflects weapons techniques and tactical choices.

Dungeons and Decisions, Part I

After spending some time with various D&D and retroclone sources, I have hammered out my issues detailed in the previous post and have arrived at the following decisions:

The character creation date has been set for my new Cyclopedic campaign. I was thinking about some house rules or adjustments I'd like to make. Although about half this group has no experience with the older editions of the game, they're all pretty capable people, so I will implement these changes without fear. Here's what is on my mind:

1. Classes-
The following classes and sub-classes are available to humans:

*Fighter- Straight out of the Cyclopedia. Note that this includes the ability to change to a Paladin, Avenger, or Knight at Name Level.
*Ranger- The "damage bonus" ranger from the Delving Deeper downloads.
*Barbarian- Stolen from JB's blog (His B/X version)

*Thief- Straight out of the Cyclopedia, plus they can take Thieves Cant as a secret language.
*Mountebank- Taken mostly from Rob Conley's Majestic Wilderlands, but with a few changes. (Prime reqs are now Dexterity and intelligence, thief skills are Pick Pockets, Open Locks, Find Traps, Remove Traps, Move Silently

*Cleric- Straight out of the Cyclopedia
*Healer- Taken from Mike's White Box stuff from his blog, Sword+1. Modifications: Healers can only use staff, sling, and net for weapons, save as clerics, and meditate for their spells instead of keeping a spellbook.
*Druid- Straight from the Cyclopedia

*Magic-User - From the Cyclopedia, but their ability to decipher spells is based on Intelligence and spell level. (More on that later, with general house rules)
*Bard- From the Delving Deeper series. Yes, bards are a sub-class of magic-user in this campaign.

*Mystic- From the Cyclopedia. All mystics are acrobatic mystics in my game, meaning they level 20% slower.

I initially planned each class to have two sub-class options, but I think this is quite enough. Sub-classes that were left on the cutting room floor include thief (assassin), magic-user (alchemist), and the mystic sub-classes (martial artist and weapon master)

The three demi-humans appear mostly as written, though they will be using Weapon Mastery. I have also given each race an option or two when it comes to class. All these options were cooked up using OD&Dities Issue 7, from the fanzine's first incarnation. Demi-humans have the same level restrictions even if advancing as one of the alternative classes. Except where stated, these alternate classes behave like their normal demi-human counterparts.

Dwarves may be Warriors (the basic dwarf class) or thieves. Dwarf thieves are sturdier than human ones (d6 hit die, +2/level after 9th.) Dwarf thieves, however, cannot climb walls, pick pockets, or hear noise. They level as thieves, but with 10% more experience needed to level. Dwarf thieves consider themselves engineers and treasure hunters, not petty larcenists.

Elves may be Adventurers (the basic elf class), or one of two classes: Scout and High Mage.
-Scouts have d4 hit die and fight as clerics, though they gain +2 to attack rolls with all missile weapons. The can wear only leather armor. They still cast spells as a normal elf. They can Move Silently, Hear Noise, and Hide in Shadows as a thief of equal level. Their prime requisite is Dexterity.
-High Mages have focused entirely on magical training. High Mages begin the game with four hit points, though ever level thereafter they roll a d2 for hit die. They fight and save as magic-users rather than elves, and can use no weapon but a dagger or staff. They have double the spell slots of a magic-user of equal level. Their prime requisite is Intelligence.

Halflings can be Wayfarers (the basic Halfling class) or Burglars. A Burglar has all the skills of a thief. Burglars can wear only leather armor and can use only daggers, slings, and short swords for weapons. They are exceptionally cowardly and fight on the magic-user attack table. A burglar can use either his halfling woodland abilities or his thief skills to hide, whichever is more advantageous in a given situation.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Pre-campaign tinkering phase GO.

The character creation date has been set for my new Cyclopedic campaign. I was thinking about some house rules or adjustments I'd like to make. Although about half this group has no experience with the older editions of the game, they're all pretty capable people, so I will implement these changes without fear. Here's what is on my mind:

1. Classes- Mystic is in. High level class changes (Paladin, Druid, etc) are in. I am considering some sub-class action a la Majestic Wilderlands.
I might look at some of the Delving Deeper series for Labyrinth Lord, but I don't want to make things too crowded.

2. Weapon Mastery- On some forum somewhere, some guy (wow, that was helpful suggested letting fighters (and possibly dwarves and mystics) gain the increased WM damage as a function of level, and let them spend their slots to gain specific "special moves" like Stun, Delay, etc. Demi-humans are totally getting in on weapon mastery, though if I use slots, I'll probably mandate that dwarves must spend one on some kind of axe or hammer, and elves on a bow, etc.

3. Skills- I was considering something d6 and class based. (Your class determines your skill list)

4. Clerics- Lawful Clerics worship a monotheistic god reminiscent of your favorite Abrahamic religion. Neutral clerics are probably similar to Buddhists. Chaotic clerics worship a myriad of strange gods... maybe a few Cthuloids, maybe some pagan gods, maybe some demonic entities... there isn't one "central" Chaotic temple, and maybe the Neutrals have options as well. I was also thinking that magic-users tend to pay homage to pagan gods from the days of old. (To make them kind of sorcerer-ish) I might consider having several major Lawful religions that are similar, but that fight anyway. Dwarves do ancestor worship/veneration, elves scoff at the idea of serving a god. Halflings usually mumble some kind of lip service to whatever deity you're trying to push on them and then proceed to change the subject.

5. Elves- They have a different spell list, one that is a mix of magic-user and druid spells. Elves strike me as using a lot of enchantments (sleep, charm person, etc.) but not a lot of fireball or the like. I'm not sure if I'll require elves to keep a spellbook.

6. Thieves- Need a shot in the arm... maybe higher percentages on skills. Even though they level fast, their skills are absurdly low to start with.