Thursday, September 21, 2023

What to relate when the thief asks for lock description


Also provides me with inspiration of how/were to place some device traps.

More tricksy boxses

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Recent History of the Ancients

[Old, old file in my pile of Gold and Glory Campaign notes]

After their final war a few Ancients scrabbled for survival in the nuclear wasteland they had created.  Over 10,000 years pre-war tech got used up/broke, mutations and radiation died down, and the former ancients had devolved into primitive tribes all but forgetting their former glory & Armageddon.  Just starting the slow crawl back to civilization. Then came strange lights from over the horizon, lifting people into the night sky. Returned some days later, deformed, mutilated or transformed.

Over next dozen generations Zamorans (Greys) genetically manipulated the former ancients eventually settling on a swine/human hybrid. Zamorans also pushed their technology development. Causing them to rapidly reach the steam age. A few hundred years into their Golden Age of Steam, after they had spread across the world and formed several constantly at war (Mord) empires Zamorans obliterated all their cites, released species specific mutagens, decimating the hybrids. Over next hundred years Zamorans deposited several hundred thousand humans they had abducted from various points in Earth's history. These humans were encouraged to kill the human/swine hybrids and take their stuff. To escape marauding humans the hybrids hid underground and in the least hospitable wildernesses. Today we call these former ancients / swine hybrids orcs.

[1 in 12 orcs have enough ancient DNA to activate ancient tech and get ancient AI's / robots to obey them. Pure Strain Ancients are not aware of what happened to their less fortunate brethren but will know they are genetic descendants after a simple medical scan.]

Posing as various human gods Zamorans conducted genetic and social experiments on and generally jacked with the human cultures they had transplanted. Created grotesque hybrids, helped one nation conquer its neighbors only to inflict famine and plague on it later, forcing the most capable humans(heroes) to participate in life or death games, survive trials, or complete bizarre "labours". Thus giving rise to the various legends of capricious and fickle gods.  Soon Trans-dimensional Beings of Pure Thought (TBPTs) decided Grey meddling had reached a point they could no longer ignore. They weakened dimensional barriers creating many connections and coexistence with a fey dimension. This brought the fey, true magic, made The Portals possible, and overtime caused the various human gods and demons to become "real".

Unfortunately, this weakening also attracted Cosmic Alien Intelligences that rival TBPTs and whose "meddling" is far worse than Zamorans.  The TBPTs also created a belt of energy around the world which causes Grey technology to fail. Several Grey star ships malfunctioned and crashed before they figured it out and kept away.  The The crash-landed Zamorans got some small revenge. Posing as Asgardians they convinced the Elves to abandon Alvar ways and take up science.  As punishment the TBPTs transmorgified these Greys into true Aesir/Vanir but left the Elves to decide their own future.  TBPTs are generally responsible for giving gods their power and they are the primary means the TBPT hope to contain Cosmic Alien Intelligences and eventually drive them away at Ragnorok.

Monday, November 8, 2021

Stars Without Number

Started weekly Roll20 Campaign of SWN a couple weeks ago. Now a few sessions in.

I present you the Petunia Ceti Star Sector. Based on my warped brain and players input of 

  • Dune
  • Akira
  • Hitchhiker's Guide to Galaxy
  • Ringworld
  • and this

Hot takes:

  • Like sector creation tools. Esp how they (and rest of book) is made and explicitly encourages "just in time" milieu creation.
  • Don't like the ship combat. Too structured/mechanical. Too much effort required by all to make it cinematic. Think it would be better face to face.
  • The system is fine. But I don't know it. Close but just different enough from OSR D&D to make harder to keep straight.
    After 35 years, I can run D&D from memory, drunk, making up entire (not half bad) adventure. Developed the instincts to know what works, decades of experience to pull encounters, monsters, items, and rulings from. D&D is so broad, common, and replayable, it's been worth mastering it.  I don't feel same for SWN. It's a one-off campaign type game. I'm not gonna run this enough to even get good with it.
Characters are currently exploring a derelict space liner, The Flotsam Paradise. Who's AI, Caravaggio, was an early prototype of Paradise's Friend Computers. Who are always right and where happiness is mandatory.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

New B/X Megadungeon Campaign

Got the itch.

Starting new OSE (B/X) campaign centered on a published megadungeon (being cagey about which cause, I don't know, surprise?).   Tired of hex crawls that either 1) never start cause I'm still "prepping", 2) that never get to one of the megadungeons as there's so much other stuff 3) that stutter and stall because players are paralyzed with choice. Even more tentpolish than tentpole campaign.

So, similar to Ford Model T color options, the players can go on any adventure as long as it's The Megadungeon . And there is nothing to do in overworld other than recover and prepare for next delve into megadungeon. This hobby started with game like that (more or less (a lot less than some would believe, but it fits my narrative, so going with the myth)) and megadungeon is large and varied enough to actually provide plenty of choice.  Probably branch out eventually. When the players are stuck, or need a break from crawling, it's good to have small palette cleanser "side quests".

The Overworld

Who can guess the megadungeon from the map clues; it is in box canyon and there is nearby swamp?

Worcestershire county of "The Kingdom". 

Overworld play is handled in abstract "downtime turns".  Nominally one week long. Travel time is subsumed in those turns. Being mounted will let you evade slower encounters, not "move" faster. Carts and wagons will let you carry more loot but unable to evade just about anything. Towns have a fixed "menu" of choices players may pick from during downtime turn. All are pretty similar; Salisbury has Wizard "patron" and Wellington has Cleric one, Hamburg is Dwarven outpost.  The City has more advanced options, magical research, sages, finding better prices for unique piece of dungeon loot, and the like. 

Wilderness encounter checks are made when travelling in the direction indicated. So, no encounter check going to The Dungeon from human towns of Salisbury or Wellington. This is because it's annoying to get all prepped and set for delve only to have random encounter wipe half party resources and require going back to town. And if you push your luck and just barely make it out of dungeon, you're risking a lot with that return encounter check. I made Hamburg the opposite to provide players choice / agency. But Hamburg is less convenient. For instance almost no hirelings are available for hire there.

Travel around the overworld, to city, going back and forth between towns, has the cost and the discouragement of wilderness counter checks. Which tend to be both deadly and non-profitable in terms of treasure.  In addition the more turns spent in overworld the more times DM rolls on dungeon restocking tables. There is no adventure in the overworld, no fun to be had It exists only to recuperate, resupply, and prepare for another delve into

The Megadungeon

Oh yeah, if you're interested in playing Fridays 6pm Central Time, email me or I might notice if you DM me on

Monday, April 12, 2021

Pimp cloak from the Renaissance

I don't know how right now, but I'm gonna figure out some reason for my next Magic-User to be pimped out with these dope threads.  The matching hat, I lack words.

Source & Info if you like, want to learn about art and history and stuff.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Gary Con Videos Online

Gary Con is an annual game convention celebrating the life and works of Gary Gygax, the Father of Role Playing Games.

They are posting videos of games and sessions on YouTube.

If you don't know what Gary Con is (I'm surprised you're reading this blog!) But here is the two minute history by Luke Gygax.

Recently watched their 50th Anniversary of Chainmail. Learned a lot of the history I did not know.

Monday, March 15, 2021

Critical Roll

Player Critical

Critical hits have one of two effects chosen by the player.
  • Inflict maximum damage (no roll).
  • Whatever they can imagine and convince the DM of happening.
The second option is wide open. Things I've seen or thought of; disarming, knocking prone, stunning, pushing over nearby cliff, causing immediate morale check, exiting from melee (without typical enemy free attack).

The main types of things I disallow are boring "dealing more damage" ones. Pick the first option to be boring. [I purposely made the damage option not super great, like 2x damage. Because I want players to pick option 2. I want them to entertain me with their creativity. I run games primarily to experience the ridiculous shenanigans players get up to.]

Magic Weapons

Magic weapons do something "special" on critical hits. [An idea from EverQuest "procing" weapon effects].  I always give magic weapons some Boogie-Woogie. Like "the dagger's blade appears to be an icicle, although steel hard and sharp. When wielded your breath appears as on a frigid morning." Or maybe just a name "Hammer of Dissolution".

I'll then use that "flavor" to enhance the critical chosen by player. Very situational, sometimes over the top [crits should be "WOW" moments]. But, scaled to the "drama of the moment".  So, a max damage crit with hammer against wandering monster, will moleculary dissolve it regardless of actual hit points remaining.  But against Lareth the Beautiful during the final struggle against Chaos a critical blow from that hammer would be epic. [Which I finding hard to "wing" an example of in the absence of actual game play. But, would probably be "stop the evil plot/win the day" type thing].

Monster Critical

Major and or interesting monsters; Orc bosses, champions and torturers, but probably not orc "fodder".  Possibly a rat swarm. Certainly all the mythical, magical beasts, and EHPs wielding spears of utter chaos. They all have a thematic "special effect" when they critically hit. I often have idea of what ahead of time but typically come up with something better during play.

Grizzly Bear gets it bear hug or maybe caves in breast plate, the wearer can no longer breath until removed.

Orc Boss savage attack inspire's his tribe they all recover some hp and immune to moral checks.

Orc Torturer whip's blister beetle ichor filled barbs rake your skin. Writhe in agony for next d6 rounds.

Basically all the stuff in books, movies and video games that isn't well represented by rolling d6 damage...

Sunday, February 21, 2021

The Extraordinary Climb Ability Visualized

I present you, a mid level thief, demonstrating her Climb Walls Extraordinary Ability. 

I rule failed climb walls as "No convenient crack, etc. was found" rather than falling.  Damage is too severe penalty for attempting something that is a big reason to even bring thief along.  I want thieves to be utilizing their abilities. I want parties to be thinking of and executing interesting solutions to obstacles using Climb Walls.

If thief gets attacked mid climb or other "bad thing" happens, I'd probably require an extra Climb Walls check to "hold on". And a Save vs Petrification (my go to "react to avoid bad thing" save based on some early published modules) for half damage.

Also why I don't make it insanely hard (as written (esp in AD&D) or interpreted by many) to set up a back stab. If thief successfully "sneaks*" prior to combat, they get back stab on first baddy passing them by.  During combat if they spend round sneaking (and are successful) the next round they get to backstab **any** enemy. Party can choose to take out leader or wizard. But, only by investing 2 rounds (with possible failure) and probably leaving thief vulnerable "behind enemy lines".  Another tool / decision point for players to exploit.  

* my house rules combines move silently / hide in shadows into one skill sneak.  Sneak is the thematic thing going on. The implementation details (hiding in shadows, using distractions, cat stepping) are beneath the abstraction level of D&D.

Original Reddit thread

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Thundarr The Barbarian Anniversary

I love, love this cartoon. I wish there was more. It was my first introduction to "weird science", fantasy and sci-fi. Many of my D&D campaign worlds have been strongly inspired by the opening narration. It has stuck with me. 

"The year, 1994. From out of space, comes a runaway planet, hurtling between the Earth and the moon, unleashing cosmic destruction. Man's civilization is cast in ruin. Two thousand years later, Earth is reborn. A strange new world rises from the old. A world of savagery, super-science, and sorcery. But one man bursts his bonds to fight for justice. With his companions, Ookla the Mok and Princess Ariel, he pits his strength, his courage, and his fabulous Sunsword, against the forces of evil. He is ..."

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