Friday, January 31, 2014

D&D 40th Anniversary Blog Hop Challenge

Not sure what a Blog Hop Challenge is, so I'm just copying what Tales of the Rambling Bumblers did. With my own answers of course.

Bluebox Baby!
1: First person who introduced you to D&D? Which edition? Your first Character?

My dad regularly brought to the hobby shop. He went for HO scale model railroad stuff. It must of been on one of these trips that I got the Basic D&D Blue Dragon boxset. 30+ years later I fail to remember my first character.

2: First person YOU introduced to D&D? Which edition? THEIR first character?

Hm. Probably Andy, kid who lived up the street, blue box.

3: First dungeon you explored as a PC or ran as a DM.

B2 Caves of Chaos.

4: First dragon you slew (or some other powerful monster).

I probably cheated and killed some gods from DDG, who didn't? I've never really felt that slaying the big bad / "winning" is the point or fun aspect of D&D. Exploration, discovery, experiencing (or revealing if Refree) the wonder of a fantastic world. The journey and not the destination.

5: First character to go from 1st level to 20th level (or highest possible level in a given edition).

Never liked high levels, so never have done them. I like the struggle of 2nd to 5th levels or so. Haven't kept characters for very long. I have ADD.

6: First character death. How did you handle it?

Booyah! Opportunity to play something new.

7: First D&D Product you ever bought. Do you still have it?

I'll answer the first product ever bought for me. The original Rogues Gallery bought for me by my father. Despite not understanding what this D&D thing was and not very approving. He knew it made me happy and that was enough for him.

8: First set of polyhedral dice you owned. Do you still use them?

I've sold/lost/thrown away everything I've ever had several times over. The dice I had are long gone. My current dice are less than 5 years old. I'm not nostalgic for dice...

9: First campaign setting (homebrew or published) you played in.

Greyhawk. The Darlene maps thrilled my youngling imagination. I dig Mystara. But I've never really been able to "love" any setting like I do Greyhawk (pre-war). You never get over your first, eh?

10: First gaming magazine you ever bought (Dragon, Dungeon, White Dwarf, etc.).

Dragon around issue numbers 60-70. I distinctly remember the chessboard covers. Bought my own subscription with Lawn Mowing income. A big deal for a 13 year old. IRRC it came in a brown paper wrap. Highlight of the month.

11: First splatbook you begged your DM to approve.

I hate splatbooks. 2e splatageddon drove me away from D&D and the hobby for years. I don't need some publisher to tell me and limit what I can do. This is a game of imagination. Create it yourself!

12: First store where you bought your gaming supplies. Does it still exist?

Oh, no idea. Some hobby shop in or around Vienna, VA. Probably at Tyson's Corner.

13: First miniature(s) you used for D&D.

I never used them back in the day. First use was in early 2000's re-purposed MageKnights bought in bulk off Ebay for my "The Gods Themselves" 3.5 campaign.

14: Did you meet your significant other while playing D&D? Does he or she still play? (Or just post a randomly generated monster in protest of Valentine’s Day).


15: What was the first edition you didn’t enjoy. Why?

2ed, cause it sucked balls. All the modules are linear railroads authored by failed fantasy authors who wrote novellas instead of adventures. Art went from inspiring, abstract, funky cool, appx N pen and ink to high-fantasy realistic oil. Too heroic, not enough murder hobo. Splatbook hell. It was obvious TSR only cared about shipping as much crap as possible to suck the most money out of fans. Isn't this also when the changed demon and devil names cause of bad press? Fucking cowards.

In retrospect (and having run it recently for a ToEE campaign) 1st ed blows too. Too complex (without benefit) and inconsistent.

A Type II Demon sans Balls
16: Do you remember your first edition war? Did you win?

The even numbered editions (assuming 0 is not even) suck giant Type II demon balls. There are no winners only soul-crushing despair for the survivors of their evil.

17: First time you heard D&D was somehow “evil.”

Long, long after if was a fad to call it such. In one of those kick ass over the top Chick Cartoons. When I saw that Tom Hanks movie, I didn't connect game they played to D&D, cause it wasn't. (Although I tried to create illuminated kick ass magic tomes like from that movie). Nor did it make me think "play rpg" leads to going crazy and trying to fly off building. Cause duh! 3 out of 4 players didn't do that. And it is obvious crazy dude was crazy and playing RPG didn't some how make him crazy. 18: First gaming convention you ever attended.

DunDraCon in Northern California which was totally awesome and made me into a "convention goer". Never been to the big one though.

19: First gamer who just annoyed the hell out of you.

12 year girl at OwlCon who was way too fucking hyper and wouldn't ever shut up about Harry Potter. I am an acknowledged cranky, old, curmudgeon. Still, if you'd been there you would not fault me.

20: First non-D&D RPG you played.

RoleMaster! Although I had Star Frontiers and Traveler first I didn't play SF until last year, and have never played Traveler (except with myself). I've played many other systems over the years. Mostly just one-shots, it always being impossible to find players.

21: First time you sold some of your D&D books–for whatever reason.

Mid 90's I sold all of my MERP collection (and MTG cards + other stuff) to fund 9mo trip around Germany and Czech Republic. Don't regret it. Other than that I've mostly given away or lost books. I now have 4 large bookshelves filled with RPG books and boxsets. Recently bought bigger house so I don't have to get rid of any and have space to acquire mor!

22: First D&D-based novel you ever read (Dragonlance Trilogy, Realms novels, etc.)

I don't think I have ever read a D&D novel. But I played the old SSI series and the modern totally awesome despite what reviewers might say ToEE which actually brought me back into playing Pen and Paper RPGs.

23: First song that comes to mind that you associate with D&D. Why?

"How Heavy Is My Axe" cause of cause I feel same way listening to that song as I do when really in the groove playing OD&D and cause of Pornstars.

Although these days, my games have more Appx N "Fire Lances of the Hyperzephyrians" in them.

24: First movie that comes to mind that you associate with D&D. Why?

"Conan the Barbarian" only cause it's the first movie that comes to mind when I'm thinking fantasy. "Conan the Destroyer" is more D&D like (A mixed party, thrown together by DM fait, (er I mean Queen), a couple of dungeon locations, random bad guys to fight, and of course betrayal). Another totally D&D movie is "Legend".

25: Longest running campaign/gaming group you’ve been in.

Rarely lasted a year. Although I've played in a campaign that had existed for over 20years, but only for 9mo or so. That ADD again.

26: Do you still game with the people who introduced you to the hobby?

I introduced myself beyatch! Although, I still play with people I've introduced.

27: If you had to do it all over again, would you do anything different when you first started gaming?

Hell yeah, I was 12 or younger. Knowing I'd have to write this someday I would have kept notes. Kept everything (my notes, characters, maps, etc). Would have embraced DIY/OSR/Jeff Rients from the start. Flirted with girls more. Many other things.

28: What is the single most important lesson you’ve learned from playing Dungeons & Dragons?

Have fun, the rest will work itself out.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Great Kingdom D&D Documentary

Rob Cortingino alerted me to the trailer for what appears to be an interesting early days TSR Documentary. Interesting in that it seems very well put together and written to engage the non-game history nerd audience.


D&D 40th Anniversary Game with Cake!

Went to the Emerald Tavern Austin game shop / pub / cafe for 40th Anniversary celebration. Played three little brown books edition Dungeons & Dragons, drank mead, and ate red velvet cake!


I rolled up a freakin murder hobo rockstar. 3d6 in order of course. 12 Str, 15 Int, 17 Wis, 14 Dex, 9 Con, 14 Cha. Best rolls of my life and then only 2 hit points. Named him Beorn, the Chaotic Acolyte (1st level Cleric) who has pledged his black soul to the Death Metal Gods.

Early on he acquired a goblin "slave" (henchman) and claimed a ring of three wishes! I used one wish to restore life to our Elf. Beorn figured having a wizard indebted to him would be useful. This also impressed the slave and cemented Beorn's superiority over fellow party member Cuthbert, the Lawful (blek) Cleric.

Gamers in their natural habitat.
I instructed Sniglet (the goblin slave) to lead party to the most fearsome monster it knew. Which turned out to be an Ochre Jelly.  The second wish was used to slay it D.E.D, dead. I allowed the hobbit to claim it's mighty treasure, a dancing sword, as I had no use for it esp as it was Lawful (blek).

By the end of the afternoon Beorn was 2nd level (and only 150xp shy of 3rd), had 1 wish remaining, a goblin henchgoblin and enough gold to make him hungry for more!

Get it? Dungeon & Dragons

Thanks to Brandon for making me come, Jimm for running the game, Nathan for the awesome cake and speech (he got whole store to sing happy birthday) and all my fellow party members for serving Beorn and keeping him alive. My your nightmares be filled with the screams of the Metal Gods.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

D&D is 40 years old today.

According to this D&D is 40 years old today. Younger than me! I propose a toast to the ol'Dragon.


And for those disinclined to drink inebriating beverages, here's a non-alcoholic Dragon Toast.

Friday, January 24, 2014

& Magazine Free Old School Magazine

"& is published four times a year and is part of the & Publishing Group. The magazine’s tagline, “Filling in the Gaps for Old School Gamers,” summarizes the mission of the periodical: to feature fan-driven content for older editions of AD&D (primarily first edition) including fiction, editorials, and a variety of game aids such as new monsters, spells, and character classes; rules variants; adventure maps; and original adventures."

I've not had chance to read one in detail. Glancing over the 90 pages of issue 7 it looks good. Nice layout, maps, art, pics, tables, and content. Yeah!

Seven themed issues of old school goodness:
Issue #1: Low Level Adventuring
Issue #2: Undead
Issue #3: Nautical Adventures
Issue #4: Classes & Guilds
Issue #5: Magic and Magic Items
Issue #6: Wilderness Adventures
Issue #7: Inner Planes

Plus a few adventures and supplements. Check it all out on the & Download Page.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

History of Pre-D&D Video

This month is D&D's 40th Anniversary.  Jimm J. alerted me to this great video on the pre-history of D&D via 12 "treasures", artifacts from the period leading up to 1974.

For more history and artifacts from the earliest days of roleplaying, check out Playing at the World blog.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Barrowmaze Complete


Dean of the Dead, King of Chaos, Megadungeon Maestro, Greg Gillespie has created an Indiegogo for Barrowmaze Complete. Includes Barrowmaze I (awesome), Barrowmaze II (more awesome), new content (village of Helix, mo barrow mounds, and more), new art (including Erol Otus color cover), professional layout (I've had no complaints with BMI or BMII, but I always dig sidebars "commentary by me in the outside margins to help facilitate play for referees").

So, totally rad right? But wait, there's more! Custom Barrowmaze Other World Miniatures! Box set

Boxset Baby!
 2 Tomb Robbers
 2 Sapphire Skeletons
 2 Fossil Skeletons
 2 Juju Zombies
 2 Sons of Gaxx
 1 Ravenous Zombie
 1 Crypt Thing
 1 Crypt Knight
 1 Mummy Lord
 1 Barrow Harpy
 1 Barrow Guardian

With more added as stretch goals.

Barrowmaze Complete & Otherworld Miniatures

I've personally run Barrowmaze I&II as part of my Gold and Glory campaign. It is extremely cool. Full of flavor and interesting mechanics. The whole layout of mounds and "horizontal" megadungeon is refreshing and well executed. The dungeon's "story", big-bad(s) and factions are all compelling and get me excited for players to discover them. It's written for Labyrinth Lord (Basic D&D) but I had no trouble running it under Swords & Wizardry (OD&D).

If you only buy one megadungeon this spring, get Barrowmaze Complete!

I survived BM and all my Referee gave me was this +0 shield

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Fight On! #14

The start of Fight On! coincided with my discover of and excitement over old-school gaming. I have every copy sitting on my shelf. Very glad new one edition is out.  

90 pages of awesome Fight On! 14 or $5 PDF

"Bloodied and staggered on the 66th level of Maure Castle, somehow, after a 2-year hiatus, we found the will to Fight On! This issue is packed with all the magic, monsters, mayhem, and miscellany you've come to expect to take your FRPing to the next level! Dedicated to Rob Kuntz, our fantastic authors and artists include Lee Barber, Patrick Farley, Jeff Rients, Gabor Lux, Peitsa Veteli, Kevin Mayle, Douglas Cox, Chris Kutalik, Jennifer Weigel, Kelvin Green, Tom Gordon, Michael Curtis, Sniderman, Calithena, Richard Rittenhouse, Hudson Bell, Michael Mornard, Baz Blatt, Jonathan Linneman, Simon Forster, and many more! Let's face it - no matter how old we get, Fight On! still punches harder than Ivan Drago wearing a Girdle of Storm Giant Strength. Grab your copy today!"

Monday, January 20, 2014

Wasteland Skills

Blood & Bone is name I'm giving to Dark Sun like campaign I'll be running using old school rules. Equipment breakage and the environment (as challenge/enemy) are key elements of B&B. Many old school games use ability checks or saving throws rather than having skills. But I wanted something a little more defined without being rule monstrosity.  Lamentations of the Flame Princess has simple, old school feel (d6 based) skill system. Which I've purloined and added to a bit. Although the rogue is still the "specialist" skill master. I've given all classes 1 skill per even level (2nd, 4th, 6th, etc.).


All characters have a base 1 in 6 chance to perform any skill. These chances may be increased by a character's race, background, class, and other means.

A character with a 6 in 6 chance (the maximum) means a skill check only fails if a roll of 6 is followed by a roll of 4-6.


Athletics covers climbing, balancing, jumping and the like.

Failure when climbing means that the character falls from a random point in the climb.
Characters with two free hands can climb ropes and ladders with no die roll needed.

Find Traps

A successful use of Find Traps skill will let the character know that something is there and how it is triggered but not what its function is. The search takes one minute per 10’ square searched.

Trap detection may not be allowed if the trap is purely magical in nature.


Characters are fully fluent in their racial tongue and enough trade to get along. When a character comes into contact with another language, their chances of knowing that language is determined by Languages skill.A character gets one attempt to know any particular language. If that one attempt fails, the character does not know the language. Magical languages cannot be known using this method.

There is a -1 penalty if the language is not local to the culture, -2 if the language is considered exotic, and -3 if it is an ancient, dead language.

Literacy is a crime in all the City-States, only Templars are able to read and write the languages that they know.


Medicine skill allows healing disease, treating poisoning and curing other maladies. It is literally a life-saver when used to stop character from bleeding out. Successful long term care reduces time required for wounds to heal.


Many items and features of interest are hidden from open view. To find these things, characters must search for them. Under normal conditions, searching takes one minute per 10’ of area searched.

Note that finding a secret door does not grant understanding of how it works. The Referee may require additional rolls or other actions to be taken before the door can be opened.

Sleight of Hand

Picking the pockets of an unaware person, hiding a small object from a search, readying a weapon without any observers noticing, swapping out an object on a weight-sensitive plate with a similarly-weighted bag of sand, these are examples of Sleight of Hand.


Stealth allows a character to sneak around or hide. In order to use the Stealth ability, those that the character wishes to hide from or sneak past must not already be aware of the character's presence, and there must be somewhere to hide.

Stealth checks are not opposed. It either works or it doesn't.


You know your way around the urban jungle. Navigation, knowledge of black markets, who not to cross, how to find someone or something.


You know your way around the out of doors. Possessing survival skills such as navigation, water location, foraging, hunting, tracking, and the ability to craft primative weapons. Knowledge of flora and fauna.

Successful use of survival will produce materials needed for Armor and Weapon smithing.


Tinkering is the art of manipulating small mechanical objects. Often used to open locks or disable small mechanical traps. Other uses of Tinkering (setting traps, for example, or jury-rigging impromptu devices) will be adjudicated by the Referee on a case-by-case basis.

A character gets one attempt to use Tinkering on any particular object. 

Only mechanical locks where the character has access to the keyhole (or other opening mechanism) are able to be manipulated in this manner. Only traps which have been found, and which have a mechanism accessible to the character, may be disarmed. For example, a tripwire is a trap which a character may attempt to disarm, as is a lock with a poison needle. A pressure plate which, when pressed, collapses the ceiling, would be an example of a trap the character could not disarm, because the mechanism itself is behind the walls/floor/ceiling.


Trade is common name for several sub-skills each of which is learned separately:

 - Armorsmith: All types of **non-metal**, non-wood armor, helms, shields. 

 - Farming: Weather, planting, harvesting. 
 - Husbandry: Encompasses herding, training and "wrangling" domesticated creatures. 
 - Merchant: Haggling, trade goods, trade routes, who makes what and where. 
 - Stonemason: Buildings and structures. **Not** stone weapons. 
 - Weaponsmith: All types of **non-metal**, non-wood weapons. 
 - Woodwork: Buildings, structures, wood weapons, armors, helms, and shields. 

Ability in a trade skill covers performing the actual activity as well as "lore" such as identification and appraisal. Armorsmith, weaponsmith, and woodwork are how one repairs damaged gear.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Defiler Spells

Blood & Bone is name I'm giving to Dark Sun like campaign I'll be running using old school rules.

Defilers are the wizards of Blood and Bone. Their magic is fueled by "life essense". After millenea of wanton over use and abuse the world is an arid wasteland. Read more Defiler Magic Post. I've adapted (mostly just name) Swords and Wizardry, OD&D retro-clone, so spells descriptions are vague one-liners. But using any edition's Magic User's spells would work as well.

Level 1

  1. Darkest Night: Inky blackness blocks all caster’s (including darkvision) but vision in 15 foot radius for next hour.
  2. Detect Invisibility: I can see you! Lasts one hour.
  3. Detect Magic: Caster perceives magical effects, spells, items and creatures within 60 feet.
  4. Enslave: A human sized or smaller biped becomes the unwilling, if temporary, slave of the caster.
  5. Heart Seeker: 1 missile per 2 levels unerringly strike their targets for 1d4+1 points of damage each. Casting time is 1 segment per missile. Instant.
  6. Mass Coma: Places a number of creatures into a deep, deathlike sleep lasting d4 hours.
  7. Protection from Evil: Caster and all within 10 feet gain +1 AC and +1 Saves vs “evil” for an hour.
  8. Pyrotechnics: Produce fireworks, billowing smoke, and other effects from fire source.
  9. Read Languages: Makes plain to the caster all written words in one document, inscription or the like.
  10. Seal Portal: Door, box or the like is magically held shut for 2d6*10 minutes.
  11. Shield: Caster has +6AC vs ranged and +4AC vs melee attacks for 10min/level.
  12. Sunlight: Conjures 60-ft. radius of mobile, bright light for 1 hour.

Level 2

  1. Curse Water: Water in one pool, well, or set of waterskins turns to dust when it is drunk.
  2. Drake’s Eye: Caster may see clearly in complete darkness, through smoke, etc. for a day.
  3. Knock: Opens all doors and portals within 60 feet.
  4. Locate Object: For a few minutes know the exact direction to described object.
  5. Magic Face: Specify event that will trigger a magical face to appear. Caster may see, hear and speak through the face.
  6. Mirage: Conjures d4 mirages of the caster that are as likely to be targeted as the caster.
  7. Phantasmal Force: Creates an illusion that seems realistic to all who view it.
  8. Strength: Target gains 2d4 points of Strength (19 max).
  9. Tar pit: Sticky tar soaked strands criss-cross 20 ft by 20 ft area.
  10. Transparency: Target becomes invisible to sight, even darkvision. Any hostile action dispels the illusion.
  11. Wizard Lock: Permanent Seal Portal.
  12. Worm’s Breath: Caster and friends can breathe toxic gases, water, and in sand, silt or earth.

Level 3

  1. Breach Solitude : Caster is aware of all sentient creatures within 60’ and may concentrate to read a single subject’s thoughts.
  2. Caked in Dust: Opponents act and move at half speed.
  3. Dispel Magic: End magical spells and effects.
  4. Explosive Runes: Trap written words with nasty 4d6 fiery explosion.
  5. Fireball: Large sphere of burnination, 1d6/level damage.
  6. Fly: Fast and far for 10/min level.
  7. Haste: Caster and friends move and attack at double speed.
  8. Protection from Normal Missiles: Caster is immune to non-magical missiles for next two hours.
  9. Scrying: Hear and see from any known location or any spot within 60 feet, even through barriers.
  10. Seizing Sands: Targeted humanoids or animals are mentally paralyzed. Caster may select 1 target (saves at -2) or up to d4+1 targets (normal save).
  11. Storm’s Wrath: Lighting bolt! d6/level damage 10x60 feet.
  12. Summoning: Summons “monsters” who attack the caster’s enemies.

Level 4

  1. Alter Self: An illusion makes caster appear as anything he can imagine.
  2. Dimension Door: Teleport up to 360 feet. Instant.
  3. Enslave Monster: As Enslave but works on any creature!
  4. Fear: All within cone 240 feet long, 120 feet wide flee for their lives.
  5. Freezing Bulwark: Conjures a barrier of freezing cold that blocks sight and inflicts cold damage to all who approach.
  6. Haze of Confusion: Affected creatures act randomly for a couple of hours.
  7. Ill Growth: Plants in 300 square foot area grow thorns and bloated flowers dripping caustic nectar and generally render area unhealthy and impassible.
  8. Magma Tunnel: Create passage through any wall, door or other obstruction.
  9. Sand Storm: Wind whipped sand flenses flesh for 3d10 damage and causes panic in weak creatures.
  10. Shallow Grave: Buries target up to it’s neck.
  11. Wall of Fire: Conjures sheets of smoking flame which block sight and inflict fire damage to all who approach.
  12. Wizard Eye: Conjure invisible eye that flies 120 feet round, lasts 1 hour.

Level 5

  1. Animate Bones: Bones reassemble and obey casters verbal commands.
  2. Conjure Spirit: Summons angry and barely controlled Elemental Spirit.
  3. Death Cloud: Deadly green gas erupts from ground and rapidly fills area.
  4. Dripping Dissolution: Seeping water rapidly turns a large volume of stone, rock and the like into mud.
  5. Feeblemind: Target saves at -4 or becomes mental vegetable.
  6. Flaming Chariot: Conjures flying, burning chariot.
  7. Hands of the Master: The caster may lift and move objects and creatures weighing up to 20lbs/level by telekinesis.
  8. Ix Skin: Target’s skin hardens, granting armor bonus and damage reduction.
  9. Polymorph: Transmute living target into another type of creature. Their minds and body may not survive the transformation.
  10. Seize Monsters: As Seizing Sands but all types of creatures may be held.
  11. Steal Body: Caster’s conscious moves into and takes control over another’s body.
  12. Teleport: A swirl of dust and sand envelopes caster and transports them to any visualized location.

Level 6

  1. Anti-Magic Shell: Conjures spherical sphere that blocks all magic.
  2. Control Tides: Raises, lowers, or parts bodies of water or silt.
  3. Control Weather: For several miles the weather is under the complete control of the caster. It may take hours to transform clear sky into thunderous storm.
  4. Disintegrate: Beam vaporises target or large amount of inanimate material. Instant.
  5. Geas: Target is compelled to perform task.
  6. Incendiary Cloud: The very air catches fire and deals 4d6 damage/round.
  7. Invisible Stalker: Invisible assassin stalks and slays named target.
  8. Mind Blank: Foils mental detection, reading, control and psychic attacks.
  9. Petrify: Turn living creature into stone.
  10. Sand Pit: Caster can raise, lower, shift and otherwise manipulate sand, silt, soil and other loose earthen materials.
  11. Swarm of Anguish: Summons swarm of agony beetles.
  12. Whirlpool of Doom: You stir the ground into a frenetic whirlpool.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

World's Largest Cave

The other day I was pondering the in feasibility of typical huge "city" caverns depicted in Underdark or towering halls dug out by Dwarves in Moria and Erebor. Thinking that such large open spaces are structurally impossible. But, the world's largest cave is freakin huge!

Those tiny things are tents

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Preserver Spells

Blood & Bone is name I'm giving to Dark Sun like campaign I'll be running using old school rules.

Preservers are the "clerics" of Blood and Bone. Their magic is passive, protective, restorative and tinged by elemental themes. Preservers worship elemental forces, embodied by spirits who inhabit. I've adapted  Swords and Wizardry, OD&D retro-clone, so spells descriptions are vague one-liners. But using any edition's Cleric's spells would work as well, just remove or modify undead/holy related spells and remove most high impact (damage) spells.

1st Level

  1. Pact of Water: Seals a pledge between willing creatures. All parties will know if pact is broken. All preservers automatically learn Pact of Water.
  2. Curse of the Black Sands: Target leaves black, oily footprints for several hours.
  3. Detect Magic: Caster perceives all magical effects, spells, items and creatures within 60 feet.
  4. Divine Weather: Foresee weather conditions for next several days.
  5. Fire Trap: Target object deals 1d4+1/level damage when opened.
  6. Locate Animals: Divines direction and distance to nearest living specimen of the named animal.
  7. Protection from Evil: Caster and all within 10 feet gain +1 AC and +1 Saves vs “evil” for a couple hours.
  8. Purify Food and Drink: Yummy!
  9. Spirit Glimmer: Targeted objects and creatures emit a slight glow. Revealing their true shapes, exposing spiritual natures, making them easy to see and to hit in the dark.
  10. Stonelight: Small stone casts bright light in 60-ft. radius for several hours.
  11. Spirit Stones: Nature spirits imbue three stones with +1 attack and 1d6+1 damage.

2nd Level

  1. Ash Cloud: Dust billows outward from target point, obscuring normal and dark vision.
  2. Bless: One target not already in combat receives +1 to their attack rolls.
  3. Detect Traps: Perceive both magical and non-magical traps.
  4. Gecko Grip: Enables target to walk on walls and ceilings.
  5. Locate Plants: Divines direction and distance to nearest living specimen of named plant.
  6. Sandstone: Caster’s touch aggregates sand, silt, and other loose materials into stable sandstone.
  7. Seizing Sands: Targeted humanoids or animals are mentally paralyzed. Caster may select 1 target (saves at -2) or up to d4+1 targets (normal save).
  8. Silence: Suppresses all sound from 15’ radius around target.
  9. Silica Dust: Conjures a handful of sparkling dust which will temporarily blind creatures and outline invisible or hidden objects and creatures. Instant.
  10. Speak with Animal Spirits: Converse with animals. Spirits are normally amiable to questioning and discourse. Services or aid may be bargained for.

3rd Level

  1. Disrupt Magic: Dispels magical spells and effects including magical blindness or deafness, but not curses. Can be used to destroy defiler magic items.
  2. Earth’s Blood: Fountain of flammable oil gushes from the ground.
  3. Eye of the Storm: 30 ft. radius around caster is protected from wind and other storm effects.
  4. Locate Water: Divines the direction and distance to nearest source of drinkable water.
  5. Prayer: Prayer will remove a curse, cure disease, or neutralize poison. Alternatively nearby enemies suffer a -2 penalty to saves.
  6. Speak with Plant Spirits: Converse with vegetation and fungi. Spirits are normally amiable to questioning and discourse. It is also possible to bargain for metaphysical transportation from one plant to another.
  7. Spike Stones: Creatures in area take 1d8 damage and may be slowed.
  8. Worm’s Breath: Caster and friends can breathe toxic gases, water, and in sand, silt or earth.

4th Level

  1. Black Tentacles: 1d4 +1/level oily tentacles erupt from ground and grapple everything in area.
  2. Commune with Dead: Ask three questions of a corpse, bones, or similar remains.
  3. Conjure Animals: Conjures normal animals that obey caster’s verbal commands.
  4. Cure Serious Wounds: A more powerful version of 1st level Faction cure. Heals a 2d6+2 wound or automatically cures affliction.
  5. Storm Travel: Transports willing creatures via a storm or other turbulent weather.
  6. Sunstroke: Ray of searing sunlight burns target and induces sunstroke.

5th Level

  1. Insect Plague: A large horde of stinging, biting insects swarms the area limiting vision, inflicting damage, and causing weak creatures to flee.
  2. Lightning Storm: When a storm is present or imminent caster may summon bolts of lighting which inflict 8d6 damage.
  3. Rebuke: Forces non-native creatures back to their plane of origin. May force any creature to perform a quest or task on behalf of caster’s church.
  4. Sweet Water: Enhances water with life-preserving properties.

6th Level

  1. Blade Barrier: Conjures spiritual, whirling, thrusting blades which form a circular barrier that inflicts massive damage to anything passing through.
  2. Find the Path: Know the fastest way out of or through an area.
  3. Master Weather: For several miles the weather is under the complete control of the caster. It may take hours to transform clear sky into thunderous storm.
  4. Word of Recall: Caster and friends are instantly transported to a previously prepared sanctuary. Instant.

Faction Spells

By third level all preservers must join one of four factions (air, earth, fire, water). Thus gaining access to special faction spells.

Ashen Embrace Faction

1st Earth’s Balm: Pack sand, earth or ash into wound to heal d6+1. Caked over body, provides new save vs poison at +4.
1st Shining Sands: Affected sand or rock surface reflects light, blinding foes.
2nd Elemental Protection: One target/level takes 1/2 damage from energy attacks.
2nd Mountain’s Brawn: Target gains 2d4 points of Strength (19 max).
3rd Caked in Dust: Opponents act and move at half speed.
3rd Elemental Skin: Caster’s skin takes on elemental characteristics, granting +2 AC and immunity to energy damage.
4th Commune with Spirits: The local spirit of air, earth, fire or water truthfully answers three questions within their purview.
4th Sand Pit: Caster may raise, lower, and shift sand, silt, soil and other loose earthen materials.
5th Elemental Strike: Smite foe with column of element for 1d6/two levels damage.
5th Wall of Stone: Basalt columns erupt from earth, creating a permanent wall of stone.
6th Awaken Elemental Spirit: A powerful elemental being arrives to aid caster.
6th Mold Stone: Shape and sculpt large quantity of natural stone, rock and/or earth.

Burning Sun Faction

1st Purging Flame: Apply flame to wound to heal d6+1. Holding flame under victim’s feet provides new save vs compulsion or possession at +4.
1st Watch Fire: See and hear through camp and other fires within a few miles.
2nd Elemental Protection: One target/level takes 1/2 damage from energy attacks.
2nd Fire Seeds: Conjures small, red Janji berries. Which explode for d6 fire damage in 5’ radius.
3rd Elemental Skin: Caster’s skin takes on elemental characteristics, granting +2 AC and immunity to energy damage.
3rd Heat Lash: Conjures flaming whip that strikes for 1d4+1 damage, causes heat stroke, and can set objects aflame.
4th Commune with Spirits: The local spirit of air, earth, fire or water truthfully answers three questions within their purview.
4th Wall of Fire: Conjures sheets of smoking flame which block sight and inflict fire damage to all who approach.
5th Elemental Strike: Smite foe with column of element for 1d6/two levels damage.
5th Sun Flare: It blinds, it burns, it sets shit on fire and is otherwise unpleasant for all within the area.
6th Awaken Elemental Spirit: A powerful elemental being arrives to aid caster.
6th Blazing Fury: Caster transforms into elemental flames and burninates.

Ill Wind Faction

1st Feather Fall: Objects or creatures are as light as a feather falling slowly and possibly wafted on a strong wind. This spell is may be cast in but an instant.
1st Soothing Zephyr: Expose wound to breeze to heal d6+1. Alternatively, the breeze can provide a new save vs fear at +4.
2nd Cooling Canopy: Conjures clouds or similar shelter from sun and wind.
2nd Elemental Protection: One target/level takes 1/2 damage from energy attacks.
3rd Elemental Skin: Caster’s skin takes on elemental characteristics, granting +2 AC and immunity to energy damage.
3rd Soaring Spirit: Caster may fly for 10min/level.
4th Commune with Spirits: The local spirit of air, earth, fire or water truthfully answers three questions within their purview.
4th Haze of Confusion: Affected creatures act randomly.
5th Elemental Strike: Smite foe with column of element for 1d6/two levels damage.
5th Hands of the Wind: The caster may cause the slightest breeze to lift and move objects and creatures weighing up to 20lbs/level.
6th Awaken Elemental Spirit: A powerful elemental being arrives to aid caster.
6th Control Winds: Within 240 feet the winds are under caster’s control from completely still to tornado-like tumult of unbelievable ferocity.

Living Waters Faction

1st Cleansing Waters: Pour water over wound to heal d6+1. Drinking water provides new save vs disease at +4.
1st Surface Walk: Caster and friends may tread on unstable surfaces (silt, water, gravel) as if solid.
2nd Elemental Protection: One target/level takes 1/2 damage from energy attacks.
2nd Mirage: Opponents see d4 mirages of the caster and are as likely to target one of them as the caster.
3rd Elemental Skin: Caster’s skin takes on elemental characteristics, granting +2 AC and immunity to energy damage.
3rd Transparency: Target becomes invisible to sight even darkvision. Any hostile action dispels the illusion.
4th Commune with Spirits: The local spirit of air, earth, fire or water truthfully answers three questions within their purview.
4th Freezing Bulwark: Conjures a barrier of freezing cold that blocks sight and inflicts cold damage to all who approach.
5th Dripping Dissolution: Water wells up and rapidly turns a large volume of stone, rock and the like into mud.
5th Elemental Strike: Smite foe with column of element for 1d6/two levels damage.
6th Awaken Elemental Spirit: A powerful elemental being arrives to aid caster.
6th Control Tides: Raises, lowers, or parts bodies of water or silt.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Resurgence of Gonzo

First I'm not really claiming there is a resurgence of gonzo. Although, in my niche of the RPG world it seems common and I'm personally drawn to it. I'm using a fairly broad definition of gonzo. Anything anachronistic and/or mashups with primary purpose of being "different".

I wonder if the "appeal" of gonzo is because everything "normal" has already been done in RPGs, specifically in D&D's 40 year history.

More than once I've been brainstorming new campaigns only to discover my "gamma world with wizards" is darksun. Or the "fantasy pirate/merchants on steam train" is too close to Eberon Lighting rails.

Smaller scale examples; create some hillbilly dwarves everyone thinks of gully dwarves. Anything drow is dual-wielding scimitars and spiders. Describe two features of creature and two or three players name it and rattle off its attributes.

There are only so many ideas (well infinite but most the normal ones are similar enough to be same, the rest are gonzo). The large published worlds Birthright, Eberron, DL, DS, FR, Greyhawk, Mystara, Planescape, Ravenloft have done a lot of them. Even some gonzo, cough, Spelljammer, cough.

This bothers me as DM / Creator for several reasons. It channels creativity. Have to go gonzo or risk retreading common ground. Just changing things up often doesn't work because "known" elements come with preconceptions that you'll be fighting against. It destroys suspense, tension, surprise, wonder (which are about 4 out of 5 emotions I try to create as a DM (humor is the other). A key method of horror is to keep exactly what the "monster" is hidden for as long as possible. Unknown is scary. Players quickly guessing (correctly or not) the creature and all it's capabilities, is not scary.

This is worse in rules heavy games (such as Pathfinder) where there are clearly delineated abilities, powers, conditions, threat levels and pre-determined countermeasures. You can't even get very gonzo and stay within RAW. In old school games it's easy to gonzo overboard. It becomes silly and in away, also destroys suspense, tension, surprise, wonder. When every day is "sasquatch wizards riding dinosaurs with laser beams" it all becomes mundane.

In the end I'm just bemoaning the fact that I'm in a wasteful arms race of "new" with "seen it all", jaded players.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Psychic Sorcery

Blood & Bone is name I'm giving to Dark Sun like campaign I'll be running using old school rules. I'm using the great name "Psychic Sorcery" and rules from "Under the Dying Sun" by Mathew Slephin (I think).

Latent Psychics

Many people have psychic potential. While sychic Sorcerers spend years honing their psychic abilities. Other characters may spontaneously awaken a latent power. Every level (including 1st) roll 2d6 plus Intelligence, Charisma, and Wisdom modifiers and 1/2 character level. On an 11 or higher roll for a random power.

The player may select the level of the power gained. But they must have at least one power of each lower level and can only know powers with a level less than or equal to 1/2 their character level rounded up. Example; if you want a 3rd level power you must have at least one 1st and one 2nd level power and be 5th level or higher.

Manifesting Powers

To manifest a power roll 2d6 + modifiers >= 11. If snake eyes is rolled, make a saving throw or take power's level as a wound. If modified roll is less than 14, gain 1 Fatigue. After roll, may sacrifice hit points 1 for 1 to increase roll and force successful manifestation. Sacrificing HP always gains 1 fatigue

Psychic fatigue only affects manifesting powers and is eliminated after a comfortable night's rest.

========== ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== =========================
Character  Power Level
Level      1    2    3    4    5    6    Other Modifiers
========== ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== =========================
1st        0                             +3 Psychic Sorcerers
2nd        +1                            +/- Intelligence Modifier
3rd        +2   0                        +/- Wisdom Modifier
4th        +3   +1                       +/- Charisma Modifier
5th        +4   +2   0                   - Accumulated Fatigue
6th        +5   +3   +1                  - Total Wounds
7th        +6   +4   +2   0
8th        +7   +5   +3   +1
9th        +8   +6   +4   +2   0
10th       +9   +7   +5   +3   +1
11th       +9   +8   +6   +4   +2   0
12th       +9   +9   +7   +5   +3   +1
========== ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== =========================

Unless otherwise noted; powers target the manifester, have a range of sight, and allow the target a saving throw to resist or mitigate effects.

Level One Psychic Powers

  1. After Images: Briefly and subtly confuse the target’s senses. Used to distract, break concentration, etc.
  2. Body Equilibrium: Adjust body density limiting damage from falling and allowing safe travel over water, silt, etc.
  3. Detect Psychic Activity: Manifester perceives all psychic effects, powers, items and creatures within 60 feet.
  4. Dowsing: Presence and relative quantity of water, if any within 100 feet/level.
  5. Empathy: Perceive and subtly manipulate emotional state of target creature.
  6. Mind over Body: Suppress need for water, food, sleep for 1 day/level.
  7. Mind Thrust: d6 damage per two levels to one target. Save negates.
  8. Precognition: Act as if you rolled 1 for Surprise or re-roll failed “reflex” save or gain +4 AC vs one attack. Can be manifested instantly in response to “threat”.
  9. Psychokinetic Push: Shove anything within sight with force equal to Intelligence + 1/2 level “strength”.
  10. Psychometry: Sense powerful psychic “imprints” (such as death) in an item or area.
  11. Sensory Enhancement: Gain exceptional senses for 10min/level.
  12. Sensual Obscurement: Distort target’s senses for 10min/level. Sight is blurry, hearing poor.

Level Two Psychic Powers

  1. Alter Self: Cause 1 target/level to perceive you as anyone or thing of approximately the same height and shape.
  2. Cellular Adjustment: Heal single wound equal to or less than your level. Self only.
  3. Domination: Overt and total control over target’s physical actions for 1 round/level.
  4. Empty Mind: Foils all attempts at detection and thought-reading for 1 hour/level, ends if psychic power used.
  5. Hypnosis: Cause one or more sentient creatures that comprehend your language to follow suggestion.
  6. Inertial Armor: Increase your Armor Class by 4 and you are immune to normal projectiles.
  7. Levitation: Rise or lower self 10 feet per round for 1 round/level.
  8. Occultation: Remove yourself from the sensory perceptions of other creatures. You are effectively invisible, odorless and silent for 1 round/level. Overt action ends effect.
  9. Psychic Blast: Target is stunned and unable to act for d4 rounds. If saved, is -2 to all actions for same duration.
  10. Sense Life: Perceive location and “strength” of life within 100 feet/level. Can fight blind, never caught unawares. 10 min/level.
  11. Suspended Animation: Enter death like state for up to 2 days/level. Death by poison, disease, bleeding out is postponed. Food, water, and air are not required during suspension and Healing is at double rate. When Dropped may attempt to subconsciously manifest this power once.
  12. Thought Reading: “Hear” the active thoughts of one target creature at a time.

Level Three Psychic Powers

  1. Aura Alteration: Return target’s psychic aura to correct state. Removing a curse, domination, charm, feeblemind or similar effect.
  2. Body Control: Withstand pain and environmental extremes, cold, heat, etc.
  3. Clairvoyance: See from any spot, even through barriers, within 100 feet/level for 1 round/level.
  4. Emotional Aura: As Empathy but affects all targets within large area.
  5. Enervation: Slows target and reduces their Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution by 1 point per 2 levels.
  6. Hallucination: For 1 round/level target perceives whatever psychic wishes.
  7. Molecular Agitation: Causes small amount of material to rapidly heat up to extremely high temperature. No save. Heating lasts 1 round/level.
  8. Neural Erasure: Remove a memory from target’s mind.
  9. Spatial Warp: Warp space between current location and another spot within sight. For a micro-second, manifester inhabits both places before arriving at the chosen spot.
  10. Telekinesis: Lift, move, manipulate at a distance with “strength” equal to Intelligence + 1/2 level.

Level Four Psychic Powers

  1. Fear: Trigger primordial fears of all creatures in cone 240 feet long and 120 feet wide.
  2. Mass Domination: as Domination but affecting all targets within sight.
  3. Mind Bar: Blocks all mind-altering effects (charms, illusions, many powers) for 10 min/level.
  4. Mnemnonic Illusion: Alter target’s memory to implant or alter one event.
  5. Sever Mind: Target’s sentient reasoning is isolated within brain. Body is left with barest of animal instincts.
  6. Telepathy: Perfect and rapid mental communication for 1 round/level with one target.

Level Five Psychic Powers

  1. Alteration: Physically change body size, form and composition to nearly any other, garments and equipment are altered to conform to new body shape assumed.
  2. Energy Control: Immunity to all “energy” damage. With a successful save you may redirect energy to one target. Can be manifested instantly in response to attack.
  3. Group Telepathy: Perfect and rapid mental communication with all previously “attuned” targets.
  4. Mental Projection: Consciousness is freed from the body and can roam about the world at will for 1 round/level. Intangible, invisible, moves at speed of thought.
  5. Teleport: To any known location without error.
  6. Shockwave: Concussive wave emanates from you dealing d6/level damage and knocking creatures prone.

Level Six Psychic Powers

  1. Heart Stop: Suppress target’s autonomic function causing death.
  2. Mass Hallucination: As Hallucination for all targets in sight.
  3. Molecular Disintegration: Single target is vaporized.
  4. Molecular Rearrangement: Alter properties of material.
  5. Omnipresence: Perceive everything (see, hear, smell, thoughts, magic, powers, radiation, etc) within 100 feet.
  6. Telepathic Projection: Transfer your consciousness to another body. Body’s existing consciousness is suppressed.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Equipment Breakage

Blood & Bone is name I'm giving to Dark Sun like campaign I'll be running using old school rules. The burnt world is noted for a lack of metal and scarcity of wood (and other vegetation). Weapons, armor and other equipment is made from bone, chitin, ceramic, stone (flint) obsidian and other "inferior" materials. This leads to one of the key elements. Breaking Weapons and Shattering Armor!

Weapon Breakage

On a natural 1 attack roll, when dealing 8 or more points of damage, and other situations as determined by Referee weapons may break. All missile and thrown weapons automatically break. Others only break after a failed saving throw. Weapons made from inferior materials take a -2 penalty to this check. Metal weapons do not normally break.

Most broken weapons can't be repaired and are worthless. As always use common sense. A snapped bowstring can be replaced. And in desperate times, using the haft of your broken Jawbone Axe as a d4 damage club may be only means of survival.

Piecemeal Armor

Complete matching suits of armor is a impractical luxury on the burnt world. Most denizens strap on whatever they can scrounge. Armor is commonly made from the chitin, shells, and hides of various creatures. Often reinforced with ceramic or bone and embellished with blades and spikes of obsidian or horn.

Metal armor is exceedingly rare and impractical in the heat. When available, small pieces of metal are used to reinforce vulnerable spots providing +1 to overall AC.

The amount of protection armor provides is measured in AC. A character may wear from 0 to +6 AC of armor and carry a shield for another +2 AC. While armor protects it also slows you down. Worn armor's AC Bonus is added to Initiative as a penalty.

Armor AC Bonus    Armor Category
+1 or +2          light
+3 or +4          medium
+5 or +6          heavy

Armor Damage

Survival on Athaz means dealing with equipment that wears out and breaks. This is abstracted with the following rules.

When subject to a critical, when hit for 8 or more points of damage, and other situations as determined by Referee armor is subject to damage. If wielding a shield, it splinters and is destroyed. Otherwise, if a d8 roll is less than or equal to armor's AC bonus, it has been damaged and has its AC bonus reduced by 1. Armor made from inferior materials takes a -2 penalty to this check. Metal armor does not normally suffer damage.

Armor Crafting and Repair 

Working with non-metal armor requires time, materials and a successful use of the Armorsmith skill. If the skill check is successful, increase the armor's AC by 1 (or create new +1 AC armor). Regardless of success any materials used are consumed.

Sources of materials include:
 - scrounged armor (spoils of combat)
 - creatures (chitin, hide, sinew, etc.)
 - foraging (stone, wood, bones, etc.), requires Survival skill check

It takes 10 minutes to scrounge a piece of armor and it will generally provide a bonus to the armorsmith check equal to its AC bonus. Helms must be scrounged (require armorsmith check). Shields may simply be picked up. It takes hours to days to craft armor, helms, or shields from raw materials.

Working with predominantly metal armor such as chainmail or a breastplate requires specialized equipment and skills beyond the capabilities of player characters.

I'm borrowing the d6 skill system from LoTP.
I'm keen to see how these work in actual play. Breakage should be relatively common and a concern (at least until later levels when superior gear is found) but not crippling.]

Monday, January 6, 2014

Defiler Magic

Blood & Bone is name I'm giving to Dark Sun like campaign I'll be running using old school rules. A key element will be the conflict between Defiler (representing easy power, exploitation, destruction, selfishness) and Preserver (self-sacrifice, preservation, creation). I've decided to adapt the Dark/Light side mechanic from recent Star Wars RPG. Explained below. But first, fluff!

The world was once vibrantly green. Full of diverse and gentle living things. Then wizards learned how to harness this life essence into what is now called defiler magic. Wizards being greedy and selfish exploited this source of power until they sucked nearly all life out of the planet.

The people rose up against these defilers. Forming the fledgling cults that eventually grew into the preserver priesthood of today. The wizards swatted away the people and their priests like so many ineffectual pests. But, people are tenacious and they endured under the wizard's tyranny while preserving what they could.

Over millennia, the once verdant paradise was transformed into the burnt wasteland we live in. The defilers had sapped and squandered the very power they had craved. No one will ever come close to the power that the wizards of old wielded. The life to fuel that level of magic no longer exists.

The few arch-defilers surviving the last mage wars agreed (out of fear of mutual self-destruction) to, finally, limit their planet killing wizardry. We know them as the Defiler-Tyrants who each rule one of the Seven Cities. They all scheme, plot, and search for some advantage or source of power that will provide the means to subjugate or destroy the other Tyrants. Meanwhile, they've tasked their Templars with hunting down and eliminating rogue defilers. And have allowed the preservers to flourish and continue with their hopeless task of restoring the planet.

Defiler Magic

Defiler magic is easy and seductive. Anyone can tap into its raw power. And those with training can mold it into powerful Defiler Spells.

At the start of the game session the Referee will place a number of disks on the table. One side represents "Preserver", the other "Defiler". At any time a player may flip over a disk showing its Preserver side. At any time the Referee may flip over a disk showing its Defiler side. Doing so gains the flipper one of the following abilities.

 - roll d30 in place of any single dice roll (of yours). Note: in place of all dice of one roll.
 - re-roll any one die (of yours). Note: in one die, not dice roll.
 - act immediately (rather than wait for initiative)
 - automatically succeed with a skill check.
 - gain d8+level hit points (can't exceed maximum).
 - heal any one wound or affliction (disease, poison, paralization, blindness etc.)

The number of disks and initial side are based on who is playing. Templar: 2x Defiler. Preserver: 2x Preserver. Non-preserver demi-human: 1x Preserver. Others: 50% chance of either side.

Defiler Spell Casting

Anyone can learn and cast any defiler spell which is 1/2 their level or less (round up). For example a 3rd level character could learn to cast 1st and/or 2nd level Defiler spells. Talk with Referee if you are interested in pursuing this path.

Unless you have a patron channeling to you (such as Templar's Defiler-Tyrant) or if you lust for more magic than your master deigns to pass on, you must sacrifice 1 + twice the spell level in wounds. These wounds can not be healed faster than 1 per day (even with magic). Although, these wounds don't have to be yours. And why should they be? You are the one with the skill and talent. The plebeians should thank you for the opportunity to power your greatness with their ritualized death. "Hey torchbearer. Could you come back here for a minute..."

Creatures, humanoids and especially magical beasts may be sacrificed to power Defiler Spells. This is a highly evil and worse, illegal act. Sure to bring the attention of the Templars. Unless, of course, you are a Templar. Then, I'm sure you did it for the betterment of your Defiler-Tyrant, right? Each sacrifice provides a die roll worth of "wounds" to power Defiler Spells. Animals d1 (that is 0-1). Humans, demi-humans, humanoids d4. Something like a Unicorn, as if any still lived, would be d20.

Sacrifice is all or nothing, no mixing. You must take all the wounds yourself. Or, get them from near simultaneous sacrifice. No saving or storing sacrifices for use later. Powerful defilers, such as Tyrants, can just suck the life out of anything near them. Others need to use a more hands on approach. Obsidian daggers are popular.

[Note on wounds: I typically houserule hit points as luck/fate/skill and wounds as actual injury. After hit points are gone, further injury is recorded as wounds. When wounds are >= to Constitution death occurs. In pure HP system I'd replace each wound with d4 or d6 hit points. ]

Saturday, January 4, 2014

What Blood & Bone Isn't

Blood & Bone is name I'm giving to Dark Sun like campaign I'll be running using old school rules.

As important as to what is Blood & Bone is. It is also good to know what is not B&B.

As mentioned before. No player wizards/defilers, they are the enemy. No player halflings, they are they enemy. No thri-keen, they are stupid IP. Almost no metal, even less than seems to be implied by Dark Sun. No lakes or forests/jungles. No paper, cotton, hemp rope, or many other common plant products.

No Free City of Tyr. No good Defiler Tyrant. No happy place were the "good guys" have won. No powerful, influential, or widespread source of aide/good. There are tribes of escaped slaves. But they struggle for survival and are less Spartacus / more raiders from Mad Max. There are "resistance movements" but they are scattered, disconnected and weak. More likely to be in desperate need of the player characters help than in position to provide assistance.

Low magic. "Arcane" magic aka Defiling magic is rare due to requiring living sacrifices. There are almost no new magic items being created. Herbal brews, concoctions, fetishes, charms that replicate low-level spells. But real magic items are rare and most are ancient. Obviously, no mages guild, colleges or the like.

No Gods, Demons, Devils, Angles or pals in the "traditional" D&D sense. No planes, planar/astral travel. The world is cut off and abandoned by these extra planar beings. This also means the Law vs Chaos or Good vs Evil themes/conflicts do not exist. Replacing them are struggles vs environment and Preserver vs Defiler. May or may not have ethereal equivalent "The Gray" but frankly there already is enough "new" to explore don't think there will be need.

No undead. At least not the common ones. Not a "type" of monster. Some or all the Defiler Tyrants will be liches and/or vampires. And there might be the odd mummy in ancient tomb predating world getting burnt or unique "ghost" as the end boss of big dungeon. But, no skeles, zombies, wights, specters, etc. No clerical turning. No Animate Dead. Cutting out this major element emphasizes that Blood & Bone is a different world. Psychic "monsters" fill this void.

No dragons. There'll be "drakes" and "serpents" and other big dumb lizards. But not the intelligent, top-tier, uber monster role that Dragons usually perform. And the Tyrants aren't all attempting to "evolve" into dragons. Whacking this iconic element reinforces B&B is not just D&D in the desert.

Few "common" monsters. And few monsters in general. Most of the world is empty and desolate. Wilderness encounters with creatures will be rare. More environmental encounters; heatwave, sinkhole, silt storm, dried up wells, falling rocks. [Have to make these less events that happen to players and more "encounterish" that can be solved, avoided, exploited.]

No humanoid "threats" to civilization. What civilization exists would enslave humanoids. Besides the ecosystem can not support hordes of things living in the wilderness. The environment and other city-states provide all the threat that is needed for adventure seeds.

No vast subterranean underground, underdark, etc. If it did everyone would move down there as it would be less hostile than surface.

No technological ancients. No UFOs, no ray guns, no robots. This will be tough cause I really like ray guns. It's tempting to reskin all this to ancient magic from before defiling burnt the world. It fits; post apocalyptic world, mostly nonworking ancient "tech". What does work is unreproducible, hard to understand, dangerous and uber powerful. But it's too easy and same as this shouldn't be D&D in the desert, it shouldn't be Mutant Future with mages (in the desert).

No wars, not any more. Just not enough people or food to feed them to waste on that. The Defiler Tyrants are all in a sort of mutual self destruction détente. Any one of them has the magical power to wipe out several of the others. But the defiling required would suck the life out of all their lands and subjects. Leaving them without "wealth" or power and vulnerable. Raiding and skirmishes occur. Also common is influencing "adventurers" into (indirectly) harming ones enemies ;)

Friday, January 3, 2014

Realistic Falling Damage

DCC post on realistic falling damage.

First thought, realism smealism. Doing dice progression (esp in DCC with its special d5, d7 etc dice) is more FUN! Fall 10 feet d4, 20 feet d4+d5, 30 feet d4+d5+d6, ...

Second thought, realistic? Fall 20-30ft, you are incapacitated. Fall more than 40ft, you are dead. But fantasy games, even deadly gritty ones, aren't realistic. They are fun.

Third thought. For deadly, old-school games; If d6 roll is less than distance fallen divided by 10 (round up) you are dead. Otherwise make a save, success you are fine, failure you are incapacitated. Incapacitated in my book means 1hp and can't move faster than crawl.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Dark Sun

Illustration credit: Don Dixon Cosmographia

Thinking about new campaigns for the new house and new year. I'm drawn to DarkSun. A setting I've never run or played in. But, I have and/or read most the books. I started adapting Pathfinder but got quickly fed up. Now I'm working on an Old-School Burnt World I'm calling Bone & Blood.

So what is Dark Sun? Opinions vary. I've looked over web resources and severalblogs. Most the old schoolers want to ditch psionics and subsume gladiators into fighter class. Both "iconic" Dark Sun for me. Here is my seven +/- two list in no particular order.

Death is Easy and Life is Cheap

Slavery, bloodsports, sentient sacrifice, literacy is illegal, oppression by despotic tyrants. All morals are relative and situational i.e. NO alignments.

Survival is a struggle. Outside of cites and major trade routes water and food will be issues. How much one can carry and how fast they can carry it overland are issues.

Gladiators and Templars Dammit!

Gladiators are distinct from Fighter. Templars are the (anti)paladin servants of the Defiler Tyrants. Befitting a world were might makes right and were one must fight to survive there are a preponderance of martial classes. Fighter, Gladiator, Hunter(ranger), Templar. Along with Preserver(elemental cleric), Psychic Sorcerer, Rogue(thief).

Wasteland Races

Bio-engineered slave races; human-dwarve hybrids called dwim (instead of mul to keep the IP lawyers at bay) and Half-giant. Not sure if big guys should be called hulks or mesh. Raider/trader running wasteland elves, the jdar. Dwarves, just cause. Halflings are wasteland savages. They are the enemy. Probably reskin them as jawa/tusken/fremen. I always thought three-keen were stupid, powergamer munchkin bait. Might have them as the enemy, might just ignore them completely.

Defiler Magic

Magic is evil, m'kay? Wizards are the enemy. Defiler magic's easy power is seductive and is a temptation for everyone. But there are no player wizards or defilers (well maybe the templars).

Psychic Sorcery

Bitchin psionics and Psychic Sorcerer class from "Under the Dying Sun".

Burt World

The expected sand dunes, wastelands, silt sea, boulder fields. All of it is deadly. No forests, jungles, lakes or rivers. The Seven Cities ruled by evil, despotic, Defiler Tyrants. These city-states are the only "safe" places to live. Escaped slaves, isolated Dwarven mountain villages and the nomadic wasteland elves life outside of the city-states but their existence is precarious. No free Tyr! There is no hope or happy place. Trade & Commerce (mining, manufacturing). Each city-state has unique resource or "thing" they produce.

Breaking Weapons, Shattering Armor!

Lack of metal. Wood is rare and valuable. Bone, chitin, stone(flint/obsidian) common. Which are all fluff for the mechanics of armor and weapon wearing out or breaking. This ties into survival as one of the major challenges

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