Tuesday, April 30, 2013

April Blogroll Additions

Sites added to my blog roll recently.

http://hereticwerks.blogspot.com/  Space Age Sorcery! and I'm a sucker for purple.

http://josephbrowning.blogspot.com/ Hello!!! Sorcery and Super Science. Like deep fried butter dipped in delicious butter sauce

http://daggerarts.blogspot.com/ Came for the S&W Appreciation Day, stayed for the victuals.

http://castledragonscar.blogspot.com/  "Simulations & Dragons (or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and do my own Fantasy Heartbreaker)" Preach it brother!

http://codexapocrypha.blogspot.com/ It's metal.

http://www.sycarion.com/ Came for S&W Appreciation Day, stayed for the alternative magic systems

http://19thlevel.blogspot.com/   Came for S&W Appreciation Day, stayed for the reviews, which I dig muchly.

http://www.dizzysdungeon.com/ Hmmmm, probationary, looks promising.

http://appliedphantasticality.blogspot.com/ Mo magic system ideas.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

25% off Swords & Wizardry

Frog God Games has discounted their entire line of Swords & Wizardry products for 1 day only in celebration of Swords & Wizardry appreciation day (April 17th 2013). The discount is good for 25% off S&W Products but you must use coupon* code SWApprDay on April 17th 2013 at check out.

*The coupon excludes items less than $1, S&W Cards, Pre-Orders, and Subscriptions

Swords and Wizardry Appreciation Day

I am running a Swords & Wizardry game this very day at my local FLGS, Whose Turn is It? Austin, TX. 

One of the attractions of Swords and Wizardry for me is its shallow power curve. Which means less math, a much broader range of levels that can adventure together and increased serendipity (with a little luck and planning a gang can defeat an opponent well beyond their level). The following house rules attempt to carry on that tradition.

Combat Effects

[Really need a better name.] 

After rolling damage an attacker may offer the defender an option to take a "Combat Effect" in place of damage.  Combat Effects are whatever the player can come up with (and referee agrees to). Some ideas; disarm, entangle, keep away, push back, knock down, block, bypass, stun, cut suspenders/belt.

I visualize this as the defender can stand their ground, fight back and suffer the consequences (damage).  Or, they can give ground, let go of weapon when pressed, etc. It nicely and naturally incorporates attack success. Score a weak 1 point of damage, defender will take that 1pt of damage rather than be knocked down. Scoring 5, a very good hit, you are more likely to impose your will on opponent.

Some targets may get save or be immune to some effects.  E.g. everything probably gets save vs "stun" and you're not gonna be "knocking down" the 30' dragon.

Example time: Borg the Barbarian hits a cultist for 4 points and wanting to get past this fodder so he can stop the EHP from sacrificing the damsel, Borg offers "Knock Down or 4 points of damage".  Referee considers morale of cultist; just a bored farm kid? a blood boiling fanatic? will 4pts kill him? Cultist decides to "fall down" and play dead.  Next round Borg charges the EHP!

This goes two ways, of course.  Referee can use for capturing, pushing around, and causing complications for players with more "color" than binary "You die or We die" that most confrontations devolve into.  Possibly neutrals who just want to force their way past party. Local crime lord's minions sent to "beat up" characters (and not earn a murder rap). Town guards trying to capture rambunctious adventurers.  Most "lawful" types should be offering disarm/knock down rather than murdering outright.

A whole range of tactics that a more structured (and restrictive) rule set would spend gobs of pages on, we've codified with a few sentences and no additional dice rolls.  It This to me is essence of "good" S&W house rule. Concise and quick (no/few dice rolls, no/few modifiers, no/few exceptions). Provides choices / trade-offs, and does not escalate power.

Critical Hits

Any damage roll that is the maximum possible for that die (e.g. '6' with a d6) is a critical. In addition a natural '20' attack roll is a critical and automatically does maximum damage.

A critical hit enables an attacker to force defender to take a "combat effect" in place of the damage.  The defender no longer has the choice.  Giving up a maximum damage is big sacrifice but sometimes is game changer (pun, ugh).

Borg the Barbarian has been swinging and occasionally hitting the EHP offering to sunder the "McGuffin of Summing Thing the Players Would Rather not have Summoned" that the EHP is holding.  But the EHP is rather determined to use said McGuffin and has plenty of hit points.  The round before summoning is complete Borg scores a critical hit, Booyah! Summing foiled, TPK avoided, EHP flees, and victory seized.

Weapon Damage

I use the above two rules in my weekly game with a slight variation on "all weapons do d6 damage".  I'm unsure how well critical hit on max damage roll would work with variable damage.  It could be easily dropped. I simply wanted "forced" Combat Effects more common.

Normal weapons roll d6 for damage.  Two-handed weapons roll 2d6 taking the highest single die for damage.  This means those big axes, long spears, and huge claymores are more likely to get a "critical" and thus be able to force a Combat Effect on defender.  Besides feeling right it gives small advantage to two-handed weapons to compensate for loosing use of shield.

Monday, April 15, 2013

NTRPG Convention Lineup

Well, last night at midnight was the mad rush of game sign up for this year's NTRPGCON.  Was fast and smooth and I got into everything I hoped for. Which included several games/referees I missed out on last year.  I'm getting excited.  Six more  weeks and then...

Four day Nerdtravaganza!

Thurs p.m. -  Steven Winter's "Where's My Water?" Gamma World
The river disappeared! It was here yesterday, and now, it's gone! From his HQ in the wondrous Radium-Powered Lab, Professor Monkey wants to know what happened to his river. As his #1 Fetch-it Squad, your job is bringing back answers. And the water. Don't forget the water!

Fri a.m. - Skeeter Green's "Rappan Athuk, level 15!" Swords & Wizardry
You've heard about the Big Fight with Orcus in Rappan Athuk, now you can be in it! No one has ever reached Level 15 in regular play, so we'll take 15 minutes to roll up 18th level characters, and slug it out with the Big Bad Guy. Professionally painted foes courtesy of Center Stage Miniatures wait to meet you in combat!

Fri p.m. - Jimm Johnson's "Outdoor Survival Hex Crawl" OD&D
This game is for anyone who ever wondered about wilderness adventuring according to the original 1974 D&D rules. Navigate the OUTDOOR SURVIVAL map, gain wealth and treasure, avoid being killed by men and monsters, or dying by thirst and starvation. Recruit an army to push back the humanoid hordes, or challenge a local lord to a joust. But be careful approaching a wizard's castle-- he might compel you to perform a dangerous quest for him.

Sat all day! - Erol Otus' "Island Town Expedition" AD&D 1e
Island Town's Expedition continues deeper into vast uncharted waters. After surviving the Limerickers, Undersucker, and Hell Shadow Rays, the mariners came upon the Idyllic Isle of the Elder Dragonne. Careful parley and giant shellfish harvesting allowed them to depart in the mighty creature's good graces. Now refreshed and confident, they are ready.

Sun a.m - David Cook's "Journey of the Search for the Lost Castle of the Savage Isle of Horror on the Borderlands" D&D B/X
Remember that thing your hero did? At the castle? On the island? With the tomb? And the secret society? Yeah -- that thing. Well this is kind of like that, as fate draws you back to the places of your adventuring youth. Be ready to hack and slash your way through the consequences of your youthful mistakes as you try to set things right, save the world (sort of), and discover that big pile o' gold that's always promised but never found.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Total Dungeon Kill

This last Sunday's Gold & Glory game at King's Hobby, the group avoided a TPK.  Instead causing a TDK, Total Dungeon Kill, or nearly so.

I've modified Dwimmermount to better fit my campaign. Still, spoilers ahoy!

The Internet has failed to provide
me a dungeon crevice picture, so
you get rainbow unicorn man instead.
On the Reliquary level of Dwimmerhold is a room.  Bisecting this room is 5-8' wide crevice. Filling this void is roiling, pinkish mist.  On the far side is what no adventure can resist, an unexplored passage.

One tossed rock and a lucky listen check later. An echoing splash reveals liquid far, far below and that a large open space lurks beyond the pink haze.  Referee "Rules a kinda hard 3d6 under Dexterity Check to leap across without incident."

Let's recap; Players know that failing means passing through weirdo mist (historically nothing good has come from weirdo). Followed by a probably fatal impact into what was fair but incorrect of them to assume is water. That they possess a Goblet of the Pegasus, a  potion of Lascivious Lift (levitate), and several Zealots who could likely call down some divine aeronautics.

Risking great peril guy with 17Dex immediately springs (roll...) successfully across and secures a rope. Referee amends ruling, "With aide of rope it is now kinda easy 2d6 under Dexterity for safe traversal" and reminds, "You have more or less fool proof ways to fly across, I advice against risking probable death, but whatever."

A volunteer is found to "pay" the goblet, which fills with his blood. Most of the party partake of this grisly libation and start flying across. But, not the Zealot of Set and his somewhat loyal Thief henchman. Hell No! They cast aside the meek fears of lessor men and toss their fates into luck's fickle embrace.  [A Referee can not expect a better, or at least more entertaining player than he, tip of the hat.] As probability dictates, the high Dex thief makes it. Probability has less to say about the 12Dex Zealot. Who rolls 1,6*, then another 6.  "Weeeee, uh ohhhhhh", Referee mimics the Doppler effect of rapidly receding sound.

Save to grab rope, side of crevice, otherwise avoid disaster. Failed. Referee rolls d100 for "Passing Through Weirdo Mist Teleports to Another Plane/Planet Check", no such fun.  Referee "Falling damage, yeah hold on, I need to find more dice...", gang hears the crash / splash of the no longer living Zealot, Set is not pleased.  [Several steps later into this hapless tale Zealot player remembers and cons Referee into letting him retcon a Feather Fall prayer. 1st time Zealot death avoided.]

The gang's token Ogre, perhaps overly enamored with his newly realized aptitude for flight, immediately plunges into mist. To rescue his comrade in arms, or perhaps just to loot his body? We will never know.  d100 Tele... nope, big guy doesn't show up in someone else's' plane :(.

This is when party, based on description, guesses that the liquid is probably Azoth (concentrated magical mojo). Also at this time they discover the huge lake (cavern walls are beyond range of Ogre's light source) was home to a "larger than is right" Arcanoplasm whose 12' pseudopod reaches up to engulf and deal a goodly amount of squeeze to the soaring Ogre.  Due to the big brute's lack of other tasty magic the Arcanoplasm "eats" remainder of his Fly. Referee now informs Zealot (floating more or less on top of the Arcanoplasm and recently "not actually deceased") his only magic item, the really neat, coveted by every other player, were-rat slaying Pantherman** Battle Axe had also been "ate". Cries of genuine dismay from around the table.

Round about now is when the Wonderbus wielding White Hand Assassin and Wand of Awesome toting Hermeticist decide to join the fray. [Sadly forgot to check if they got teleported away by pink mist.] Wand of Awesome conjures Phantasmal Monsters which no one will see due to...  Assassin unaware that is launches a Sphere of Annihilation*** loads the "Black" ammo, aims in the amoeba thing's direction, towards the huge lake of concentrated magical potential...  BOOM goes the Wonderbus, black sphere shoots forth, slowing growing to 1' diameter and "coasting" to a stop (Referee rolls...) just above surface of Azoth. Tendrils of the silvery black substance start sucking up into sphere...

Sphere of Annihilation meets Lake of Indestructible
"Oh my", Referee thinks and asks for a moment. Thinking; event horizons, black holes burst xrays when sucking in matter. So, SoA sucking Azoth will burst random magical effects, Booyah! Three per round sounds 'bout right  1) Infrared light blinds everyone in Azoth chamber 2) Target is teleported behind caster, interpreted as everything within the chamber below sphere (taking on role of caster), Azoth, Arcanoplasm, and everything above, adventurers, switch places. 3) All weapons animate and "flee" from their owners [What's better than dead characters? ones left alive to cry over their lost loot Just kidding, kind of ;)]

All of this is too much for the 1st level Mage, who expires and is forgotten.  The Ogre and Zealot remain engulfed by Arcanoplasm, are unable to fly, and fall towards cavern floor. Followed by tons of Azoth recently teleported above them.  In a fit of niceness Referee calls for only 3d6 falling/crushing damage. Guess the Arcanoplasm cushioned the blow.  Next up in the parade of "Very Bad Things", saves to avoid subsequent drowning.  Then, since they're swallowing and wallowing in "activated" Azoth they each get hmmmm, a roll on the "Heinous Blunders Table" (normally reserved for d20 natural '1' after epic casting failures, so ~0.25% of time. This is Referee's first time ever using, he does a happy dance).  Ogre starts coughing up spores containing his consciousness (which he doesn't know and better not be reading this blog, nor follow that link, grrrr!).  The Zealot gets Cronified.

Meanwhile the Sphere is sucking in Azoth, growing bigger, sucking in more Azoth.  This continues, and continues...

The Assassin, who had immediately said "I fly North" when Referee announced Azoth/everything else inversion, gets and makes a save to flee chamber before Azoth comes crashing down. Luckily there was passage to North. [Forgot he was blinded, and rightly should have flown into a wall. It was quite challenging keeping this event from bogging down. I almost always choose "Forward Action", rather than looking things up, worrying if I'm correct, etc. For instance, the building action and tension would have been lost and wasted if I looked up what the heck an Arcanoplasm was in the book. From name and statblock containing "detects casting within 100'" it became a magic sucking bloboid. But, I do always retcon or otherwise compensate for my mistakes that negatively impact players.]

The adventurers who have been watching from above in the "crevice" room, flee.

The Assassin, now beyond range of crazy magical rhumba time, guesses correctly and locates dry land before his Fly wears off.  He subsequently avoids great peril from "Triple Secret Random Dungeon Fate of Very Probable Doom Table" (Jeff Rients Cinder Miscellenum pg 24 "Dungeon escapes") and joins up with other survivors later that day.

Set I beseech thee, get me the hell outta here!
Referee (for 2nd time this campaign) reminds the Zealot "who oft faces certain doom" of the prayer that extricates one from certain doom "Take me back to Paradise City" aka Word of Recall. He amazingly gets it answered****, ethereal serpents swallow and transport Ogre and Zealot, now a Crone, to his temple, The Tower of Set in the City of Towers.  But not before a half damage squeeze by Arcanoplasm. Which "kills" Zealot for the 2nd or 3rd time. The Sorcerer Priests of Set are not amused to discover an Ogre and raggedy old, dead Crone dripping Azoth all over their serpenty sanctum.  But recognizing their Zealot's accouterments they allow Ogre to drag off his corpse. The priests plan to dig it up for animation later, after players believe he's been safely "rested".  Set remains not pleased.

Meanwhile... all of Dwimmerhold is shaking and rumbling.  The fleeing adventurers fly past various dungeon denizens who are (roll, roll, roll) too busy to cause problems.  They make it to the surface as half the hill collapses into itself*****.

Eventually the gang regroups at their current haunt, the Fun and Fancy tavern.  They agree to pay Vog Mur's exorbitant fee to grow a clone of the Zealot/Crone in his flesh vats. Thrice dead Zealot/Crone soon emerges and is free of "defects".  But, like all who dance with the darkness beyond, permanently loose one point of Constitution and +/- 4dFudge Wisdom.

Referee rules that Cronification means Zealot now has 1/2 original Strength and 1/2 original Dexterity (because the world is cruel and unfair we always round down). Also "she" has an "effective" Charisma of 3.  "Effective" being Referee-speak for "I'm not exactly sure, will figure it out later." At the very least he won't be able to "participate" in normal society and will probably get an "evil-eye" ability.

Lost: 1st level mage, Pantherman Axe, Wonderbus, Wand of Awesome, few other minor magic items, lots of weapons including expensive Blunderbus and crossbows, most all of the Azoth (this is huge, campaign altering), large portions of several levels of Dwimmerhold.

In addition, Zealot lost his average looks, youth, and gender.  Ogre is slowing exhaling his mind...

Gained: The attention of the Invincible Overlord, who is one or more of Sorcerer/Lich/Vampire/Demon, ruler of The City of Towers, and not someone you want taking an "interest" in your activities. The unending ire of the Eld.  WTFs from various Dwimmerhold factions. Chaos within Dwimmerhold that clever players would exploit...

All because one guy had the courage to dream, "I can totally make that roll." :)

After that, cause there was still an hour left, gang decides (truth be told the Referee probably overly encouraged them) to go play cards with the recently discovered skeletal dealer and its "Deck of Many Things"!!!

I feel, this.

* There is always some chance of failure when rolling Xd6 ability check. If your ability is higher than max possible roll then any '6' rolled "explodes" (i.e. 6 is added to total and die re-rolled, recursively)

** Reskinned Minotaurs from deeper within Dwimmerhold. Which the gang had previously encountered and "befriended".

*** I had thought of this Wonderbus ammo as more of a Black Hole whose "gravity" and size grows the more stuff gets sucked into it.  I expected it to be shot and left in some dungeon room, slowly sucking in air and anything fool enough to touch it. Previously decided it wouldn't grow *that* much even if shot into solid rock, maybe expanding across a couple levels. I had not considered it getting fueled by tons of Essence of Magic.

**** Zealots don't pre-memorize. They may "pray" for any spell of any level.  But to be "heard" (i.e. cast it) they must roll Xd6+Y under their Wisdom, where X is level of spell, and Y is number of spell levels they have cast previously. More or less, details in G&G PHB.

***** I considered obliterating this dungeon. I strongly support player choice/consequence and efficacy, no matter how shattering (for instance players can launch the Firelances of the Ancients nuking the planet, or loose a Great Old One which more or less same effect but with SAN loss.  If it comes down to it we can all hop a dimensional rift to Harn, Shadowrun or a zillion other worlds weighing down my bookshelves.)

But, one) I like Dwimmerhold. After heavy adaption, it connects to a lot of content, history, and other stuff I'm disinclined to reveal to my players reading this blog.

And, two) there's some top shelf sheznag up in that dungeon thar. Powers I suspect could and would stop an Azoth fueled black hole; the metal gods, prison defenses, peeps on level 9, and the Campaign's current gods (who are the "directly meddle in the affairs of mortals" type) would not let such an entertaining dungeon be so quickly lost.

So, I will stack the levels of Dwimmerhold in Blender, cut out a large sphere centered on The Reservoir, and figure out how the inhabitants deal with player caused habitat destruction.


[I had forgotten where I first sawWonderbus, from Sorcerer Skull.]

This odd, gleefully embellished blunderbus has a brass dial affixed to its side, within handy reach of a "trigger".  Something most blackpowder weapons lack and which allows the Wonderbus to be fired without a punk. This dial my be turned by action of the thumb to one of with two settings:

"Magic" which is used to expel, considerably further afield than one may throw, Boom Boom Balls (mundane black powder grenades, area effect damage, blast open doors, etc).  Or, if blessed with possession of such, to fire the scarce and extraordinary ammunition constructed particularly for this singular arm. These shells have the appearance of large, 1", marbles of varied hues and patterns. Colloquially known among baser adventures as "balls".

"More Magic" a selection, I implore, the wielder make only after rigorous deliberation with their compatriots who will likely be pressed into handling the aftermath of its emanation.  Or, alternatively, every freaking chance you get.  Numerous effects of this stupefying setting have been cataloged.  Most are jovial or amusing nature, many adversely impacting the target, only a few alarming or dangerous to oneself.  The single, reoccurring outcome is the conjuration of copious glee within the Referee.  Roll d1000 and consult your local "Chart of a 1000 Ridiculously Entertaining Magical Effects" 

Some known Wonderbus "Balls":

  Red, Fireball
  Blue, Lighting
  Green, Stinking Cloud
  White Threads, Web
  Black, Sphere of Annihilation
  Purple / Yellow Spiral, Confusion
  Translucent Whiteish, ice-storm
  Clear Hollow, Sphere of Force / Stasis (traps target)
  Multi Colored Sparkles, Chromatic Rays

More Magic effects seen in Gold & Glory campaign.

  Time Stasis everyone but wielder with in 30'. Which was all of party, but not pack of 25 or so Pygmy Lizards busily charging.
  Pack of Pygmy Lizards having irresistible urge to swim upstream and spawn.
  Fleeing doppleganger's last meal being forcefully expelled from its body, in both possible directions.  (The disgorged Pantherman parts, fortuitously tipped off party who this gang of shapchangers ate and replaced, thus avoiding souring an advantageous alliance).
  Spewing several chickens, non-blessed, at the urbane ghasts of Dwimmerhold. Who found it rather borish behavior.
  Caused several slimes to cavort merrily.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Wand of Awesome

The Wand of Awesome looks totally rad (way more rad than the image I googled in 30seconds and in egregious violation of someones copyright, posted above). Every wizard covets it. Anyone who has it, desperately craves to use it (even non casters, which it works for, that's just how awesome it is!).  In the dungeon, while visiting his lordship "The frequently Not Amused" Baron of Bogomips, on a hill, in their underpants, everywhere and anywhere.  All times are the best time to use the Wand of Awesome.

When used, roll the mini spur d4, d6, d12, d20.  d12 determines the particular spell, d4 the spell level, and d6 the spell college from G&G Grimoire of the effect that occurs, adjudicated as necessary using d20 to  interpret the Awesomistiy of any result requiring such interpretation.

Adjust as needed to fit your rule set and / or whimsy.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Goblet of the Pegasus

The Goblet of the Pegasus is one in a series of beastly cups.  Each one follows the pattern; make sacrifice (hit-points, life, etc. depending on goblet), it fills with blood, drink the blood, gain fleeting power symbolic of goblet's animal.

 As might be guessed, this particular goblet grants flight. For how long depends on how much sacrifice and how many share the sanguine drink.

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