Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Thoughts on Newclassical Geek Revival

Although not a consistent player thanks to my busy school schedule, I've had a great time playing in Zzarchov's Neoclassical Geek Revival G+ game over the last few months. Neoclassical Geek Revival (NGR) is Zzarchov's take on classic D&D house rules to the extent that none of the original mechanics survive.

When playing the game quite a few things stand out to me as brilliant:

Luck Points. Luck points are similar to hit points, but can be used to soak up any type of damage. Whether its physical combat damage, suspicion (stealth damage), influence (social "combat" damage), or something completely different (stun damage, for example). Since they all use the same basic pool, there are some interesting choices to be made. Do you use some luck points to avoid taking influence or wait and see if I might need them for a big combat later on? Should I let the guard find me now so I have enough luck points to fight him one-on-one?

Awesome Points. Awesome points are, well, pretty awesome. Basically, you accumulate awesome points over the course of the game by either having a manly beard, cape, 80s hair, or doing thing that involve extra risk purely for the sake of style (drinking the substance in the bubbling cauldron to see what is does instead of taking it to the local alchemist). This rewards players for taking big risks for the sake of fun and making the game more enjoyable for everyone involved. For more information, see THIS post.

Experience Point Rewards. While I'm not so keen on the game's lack of XP for gold, there I do enjoy the rest of the experience point rewards and believe they are a noteworthy edition to any D&D-esque game: Traveling great and dangerous distances, exploring places of legend (anything from El Dorado to a noble's mausoleum), defeating minions, slaying monsters, vanquishing villains (more points if captured alive), as well as puzzles, traps, and riddles. There's too much for me to say in this blog post, but I'll elaborate more if anyone is interested.

Rolling the 2d6. At the end of the game, players that accomplished impressive actions relate to their class(es), such as defeating scary monsters for fighters or winning a social combat for bards, get to roll 2 dice in order to see if their character's personal items improve. Fighters have a chance to gain trademark weaponry (or hat in my character's case) which gives them a +1 or better in combat. Bards may gain henchmen (think Star Trek redshirts). Wizards can improve their talisman for discovering new spells. Rogues get a chance for Lucky Items for completely stealth missions. Cleric have a chance of their some mundane item becoming a relic for completely tasks important to their faith (converting an faith enemy, for example). All this gives characters a good reason to get out there and adventure - it's just something a little more tangible than experience points.

Schrodinger's Character. Finally, I'd like to say something about character creation. In NGR, characters are NOT fully created at the beginning of play. Attribute scores are determined and a few statistics are worked out, but skills and the like are chosen during play as needed. This helps to both speed up character creation and ensures that characters don't pick things that won't be useful within the context of the adventure. Furthermore it help avoid the "my character was a druid and refuses to go in the city - we all need to stay in the wilderness all the time or I'll just sit here and wont have any fun" sort of thing.

All this being said, I wouldn't use NGR as a standalone game. Mana points and feet-like powers aren't really my thing, but if those don't bother you (and even if they do), I highly recommend taking to look at Zzarchov's game or stopping in some Monday on G+ to give the Neoclassical Geek Revival a shot.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Thoughts on Isle of the Unknown

I went ahead and purchased a PDF copy of Geoffrey McKinney's Isle of the Unknown from LotFP, and, honestly, I'm very impressed. As I've mentioned to a few of you, I think this work is even better than Carcosa - and I'm a big fan of McKinney's previous work. For reference, The Isle of the Unknown is basically a crazy, wacky hex map filled with unique magic-users, statues, monsters, clerics, and magical locations. There are also a few towns thrown in for good measure, but those are mostly glossed over. Anyway, I'd like to get into some of the nitty gritty things, so onward with the review.

The Good
As stated in the introduction, Isle of the Unknown makes no attempt to deal with the more mundane aspects of the island. There are no wandering monster tables and any sort of common place locations/animals/whatever are either only briefly mentioned or completely ignored. Thus the Isle of the Unknown can be adapted to a number of thematic settings to suit your own campaign - although the defalt seems to float in the Mediterranean sea off the coast of France.

One of my favorite things that I didn't see  advertised is plethora of the real world references scattered throughout the text. For example, this is a lost dialogue of Plato's hidden away in a small monastery in Hex 1109. Likewise, a few of the NPCs are specifically mentioned to be Arabic or America. Most overtly, the majority of clerics in the isle are dressed in red tunics with a white cross, indicating a reference to the Knights Hospitaller of France. I feel this really give the Isle a sense of place and context within the wider world. That being said, I can see many of these references being edited out be most potential referees.

I also greatly enjoyed the lists of legends that accompany the hex descriptions. There are 30 legends (basically TSR style rumors) in all. 19 are clues to unlocking the secrets of some of the many statues and standing pools throughout the isle or give insights pertaining to the island's inhabitants. The final 11 are left up referee to determine the legitimacy of the legend; most of these deal with the island previous history and contents within the larger world.

I must say, however, that my favorite thing is how modular the Isle is. There isn't too much detail weighing down each of the hexes, to the point where of 10 different referee deiced to run the game for the exact same group of players, their campaigns would be completely different with only small slices of similarity. While some may see this as a fault of the product not be detailed enough, I see it as Isle of the Unknown's greatest virtue.

The Bad
While I greatly enjoyed Isle of the Unknown there are still a number of elements off-putting to me. One is that the unique monsters are not really unique monsters. Most are a smattering of different aspects from real world monsters are jamming them together into a slithering ferret or the like. While I got used to them after a while, the whole idea took some getting used to.

The other thing is that the statues just get a bit old after a while. To many of them for my taste either attack the party in some way as they approach or grant the gift of magical healing. I'm not really sure how this is would to work in actual play - maybe it works great - but the statues, at least from my reading, and a bit too repetitive.

Finally, I'd like to say that I was disappointed that a new list of PC spells did not make it into the game. I had previously heard that Geoffrey was going to include an entirely new set of magic-user spells to accompany the game so that the players did not feel left out compared to the treatment of NPCs and monsters within the setting. It's not a big deals, but the idea had enough potential that now I have to go out and do all that work myself...

The Reckoning
Overall, great product that I fully intent to use as the basis for an upcoming campaign. If that doesn't speak to myt love of Isle of the Unknown, I don't know what does.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

2 ConstantCon Reports: Vats of Mazarin + Neoclassical Geek Revival

I finally got a chance to play both play in and run a ConstantCon game last night. First up was Zzarchov's Neoclassical Geek Revival game, where we explored a ancient pre-egyptian ruin somewhere in Ireland. I was a bit out of the loop as to what was going on, not having participated in the game since September, but has an enjoyable time none the less.

Highlight included Darith (my 4th level fighter) jumping into a zombie horde and having said horde almost immediately dispelled by the party's cleric, another cleric first converting to the worship of Spartacus only have be later possessed by a demonic fox spirit, said possessed cleric slipping from a rope and falling atop Darith while battling another horde or zombies, Darith and the a biritsh swashbuckler diving into a small tunnel filling with some sort of novocaine-like substance, swashbuckler slowly turning into a troll after being revived from his stupor by a mysterious potion, and burning down a demonic tree spirit with lantern oil. All in all, a fun game despite having no idea what was going on for most of it.

For Vats of Mazarin, I only had three players show up last night: Taures the chaotic clown, Abaddor the magic-user, and a newly minted cleric of a first time ConstantCon player. Rather than continuing to explore the second level, the group instead took to the abandoned temples below the barbarian in-dungeon-stronghold (previously though to contain a labyrinth of catacombs). I could tell my DMing skill were a bit rusty last night, using the word tarnish incorrectly three time during the night and cause much confusion amongst the players, not diminished by two of their deaths. This to be expected, however, and hopefully I'll be back on my game next week.

Accomplishments of the party include hiring an explosives expert, piecing together a sphinx-shaped prison of a albino worm demon, mutating a rust monsters so that it webbed itself to a dungeon wall (promptly to be burned by flaming oil), finding some sort of post-apololyptic service tunnel deep in the earth inhabited by a tribe of neanderthalish apes, the cleric being shocked by electrical wires and thus falling from a rope to his death, Abaddor once again dying (this time to the alpha-male ape lord), and the discovery of a giant glowing gem the size of a human head. The gem has yet to be recovered, instead having been left its metal base within the ape caves.

After the adventure, Abaddor was raised from the dead with adventure netting a total of 35 gold coins (after paying the High Priest of Kenith his due). On a more positive note, Taures has now reached fourth level.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thoughts on Dungeoneering and Wilderness Campaigns

Well, it looks like I have survived all of my final papers. All that's left is a history exam (Monday), my German oral final (today), and my Greek drama final (Tuesday), and those shouldn't too horrible, I'd expect. In the mean time, there's D&D to discuss!

In the end, I've decided to go with a more traditional campaign structure. While I like my Barsoomian sword and sorcerery idea, it just isn't fitting for first-time players. The real question now is whether to go the megadungeon route or something more akin to the West Marches experiment where the characters move from location to location at their own whim.

While the megadungeon would be much easier for me to set up and is much easier to run, I think I could do alright with a more wilderness oriented game. The real question is what would be more fun for everyone to play. I do have a couple different ideas for potential megadungeons, but much of it feels more like a bunch of micro-dungeons slammed together and interconnected - i.e. very easy to split up.

Whether I go OD&D or AD&D will depend very much on this choice. To me, AD&D seems to fit better with wilderness and city adventures, while OD&D makes me think more of dungeoneeriong. The AD&D class set-up just fall more in line with those types of adventures - druid & rangers for wilderness, thieves & assassins fit well in urban areas. I guess AD&D just appears more mideival and less pulpy in my imagination.

As of right now, I'm actually leaning towards the West Marches route, feeling inspired by this hex-map posted on the newly fashinoed From Beyond the Drowning Woods blog. If you haven't checked it out yet, you totally should.

Anyway, I'm rambling and should probably be getting ready for class. Hopefully I'll have something worked out by the end of the evening.

Monday, November 28, 2011

More D&D, Less Artsy Fartsy

The biggest problem I see with my previous post is the fact that I'll have to many new players. I'd almost feel bad not giving them the traditional D&D experience and instead sending them out into a unforgiving, nihilistic world. So here's some more thoughts, although in a different direction: pretty traditional, in not goofy Holmes Basic moving to AD&D.

Characters are Treasure Hunters. Greedy dwarves, elvish sprites, and cunning gnomes are in. Hobbits/halflings are out. Lighthearted, even silly tone with a focus on getting the gold/having a good time over in-character roleplaying.

AD&D Spells for MUs. The more variety here the better. Eldritch Weirdness action for NPCs.

Focus on Dungeon Delving. Roman-esque ruins and sprawling cave systems. Traps, running gags, mounds of treasure. Sacrificial chamber's leading into elegant manners, Some deep, if amusing, history. Not too much urban/wilderness action. 

Traditional D&D Monsters, but little/still no Tolkien. Kobolds, minotaurs, oozes, lizard men, bugbears are in. Orcs, treants, Tolkien stuff is out. Some Cthulhu but no robots.

Less Tolkien more Howard, Vance, Lovecraft, Burroughs (Part 2)

Rethinking my previous post, now that I have more than 15 minutes to consider what I'm doing. I'm starting to lean more towards OD&D and adding in more from the supplements as well as AD&D. In order figure out what to include and what not to include, I need to look at the sources:

  • Howard's Conan stories
  • Lovecraftian Mythos
  • Vance's Dying Earth
  • Burrough's Barsoom
Now, I don't want to bore you by dissecting these authors right here on the blog. One idea, is to go all out weird fantasy with a bit of Carcosa mixed in. Let me brain storm some ideas before moving onto studying for my German oral final.

No pseudo-medieval Europe. Honestly. I'm a little bored with setting games in a pseudo-historical world. Either I was to go with something akin to Jeff's Wessex camping or something of my own design. I'm thinking an alien world of barren deserts, icy wastes, and teeming jungles.

Character Classes:
 Magic-users, Fighters, Clerics, Thieves, Assassins, Monks are in. Druids and Paladins are out. I might retool Rangers into some sort of reptile rather than hunters, ditching the good alignment requirement.

AD&D Spells for Magic-Users. Illusionist spells also become part of the MU list.

Gods are Malfunctioning AIs and Super-Intelligent Blobs, but it's up to the players to figure this out. A hint should be the redesigned spell lists to include spells from the Book of Eldritch Weirdness in additional to the more traditional line of spells.

Carcosa-Style Rituals for clerics and magic-users any brave enough to sacrifice everything for the sake of power.

No Monsters  Tolkien or Greek/Norse/Christian Mythology. Orcs, goblins, dryads, devils, dragons are out. Eels, oozes, fungi, giant animals, psinoic monsters, anything with tentacles, robots are in.

Less Tolkien more Howard, Vance, Lovecraft

A couple days off for Thanksgiving and a week till finals. Time for blogging is sure getting short around here. Anyway, I'm thinking of ways to pulpify AD&D. More Howard, Vance, Borrows, Lovecraft and less Tolkien.

Here's what I'm have in mind so far:

- Roll 3d6 in order for abilities.
- No demihumans.
- Choose between Lawful, Neutral, or Chaotic alignments
- Ranger can be of any alignment. No order of rangers shit; they're profession giant hunters.
- Use more slimes, insects, mummies, & FF monsters and fewer orcs, goblins, werewolves.
- Gods are creepy lovecraftian blobs (chaotic) or robotic AIs (lawful).

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Treasure Containers

Treasure isn’t always hidden in chests, crates and barrels.

Treasure Containers (1d100)
1-8 Chest – pretty much the standard. Roll 1d6 for quality of the chest: 1-2) rotting or broken, 3-5)  Wooden, but in fine shape, 6) studded with jewels or otherwise a treasure in and of itself

9-10 Urn – roll 1d6 for make: 1-3) copper, 4-5) silver, 6) gold or jeweled.

11–13 Crack - 20% chance to be hidden behind some sort of tapestry/mural/fresco/piece of mundane furniture.

14-18 Compartment - 60% chance to be hidden behind some sort of tapestry/mural/fresco/piece of mundane furniture.

19-24 Ceramic Vase/Figurine – typically decorative in some way, usually related to what is within.

25-27 Tomb – 50% to awaken whatever monster/undead/elder god is within.

28-30 Statue – some statues should fight back. 50% chance to be incorporated into the statue’s design (a statue holding a magic- sword), otherwise hidden/sealed inside the statue. 20% chance to combine with statue table.

31-32 Fungus Growth – Typically the treasure is covered by the fungus. roll up one from the fungus table

33-42 Barrel/Crate – 20% of crates should be made out of precious metal and studded with jewels/engravings.

43–45 Sacrificial Alter – 10% chance of sacrifice going on. 20% chance to combine with the alter table.

46-47 Invisible – detect magic will give some idea of the treasure’s presence. More powerful/specific magics will pinpoint the location. Otherwise, the PC’s will have to stumble across it on accident.

48-49 Pool – typically resting at the bottom of pool. 30% of pools will have some sort of special magical property.

50 Magically Animated into Monster – 2HD + 1 HD for every 1000 gp the treasure is worth. Any magic items or weapons should be used by the artifice in combat.

51-53 Fountain – typically at the bottom of the fountain, but something whirling about with the water. 40% of fountains will have some sort of additional property.

54-56 Roots/Vines – hidden or guarded behind roots or vines. 50% chance to combine with some other sort of container. 50% chance to combine with roll from vines table.

57-61 Piled in Open – traps and monster guardians will typically be hiding within or beneath the pile of treasure.

62-64 Mechanical/Magical Safe – roll 1d6: opens with 1-2) correct combination, 3-4) spoken command word, 5-6) close proximity to specific item, person, or place. 80% chance to be hidden behind some other sort of dungeon feature.

65-67 Trophy/Display Case – Displayed in the open for everyone to see, typically used by cocky dungeon overlords. 20% to curse thieves if pilfered.

68-70 Buried – 60% for signs of construction. 10% of shovel in adjacent room. Requires 1-6 hours to excavate.

71-73 Under Mattress/Scattered in Nest – 50% of treasure scattered about a nest can be seen at first glance.

74 Long Serpentining Trail Through Dungeon – Left in a trail throughout dungeon. Roll 1d6: 1-2) leads to corpse, 3-4) leads to ambush, 5-6) leads to more treasure.

75-82 Built into Dungeon Feature – Statue, fountain, arch, even the dungeon walls themselves. 40% of dungeon features will have some sort of property to them.

83-84 At Feet of Throne - 50% chance the throne is occupied.

85-86 Inside Pillar – If all pillars in room smashed, there is a 1% chance a cave-in will occur. If so, those in room must save vs. paralysis or take 1d6 points of damage per dungeon level.

87-91 Carried by Monster – no roll for additional safeguards; intelligent monsters will use magical treasure against in combat.

92-95 Illusion – roll 1d6: 1-2) illusion cover treasure 3-4) treasure made to look like something else 5-6) illusion creates the appearance of certain death for anything that attempt to recover the treasure (room filled with ever-battling berserkers, for instance).

96-98 Atop Magical Glyphs – 50% chance for glyphs to be a trap, otherwise treasures are components in some sort of magical ritual.

99-100 Command Word to Summon – area in which treasure can be summoned should be indicated by some sort of ritualistic circle, runes, etc.

Safe Guards*
1-70 Unguarded – no ADDITIONAL added protection. Monsters and dungeon features may still be present.
71-78 Mechanical Trap – poisoned needles, trip wises, pressure plates, etc.
79-85 Magical Trap – glyphs, spells, triggered spells, etc.
86-95 Lock– pretty self-explanatory. 20% chance of lock being magical.
96-99 Monster Guardian – poisonous snakes, chained up ogre, animating statues, etc.
100 Multiple Safeguards – roll 1d4 2-5 times: 1) mechanical trap, 2) lock, 3) monster guardian.
* no need to roll up safeguard for dungeon features with special properties.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Seats of power deep with the depths of dungeons often undue more than a status symbol. More likely than not, it is the throne that makes the man, not the other way around as on the surface world.

1-6 Skeletal: Undead sitting upon this throne regain hit points at a rate of 1 per turn. Living creatures will instead be grabbed and bound by skeletal arms, having their life force sucked away, recharging the skeletal throne.

7-10 Fraudulent Wealth: Used by popper kings of the past, sitting upon this gold throne imbues the illusion of extreme wealth. All those who look on the user will see him as lavishly decorated with the finest clothing and jewels. The illusion lasts only 1 turn after standing from the throne.

11-17 Longevity: Nothing ages while sitting upon this throne.

18-23 Throne of the Bass: Decorated with aquatic symbols and sculptures, allows anyone sitting on the throne to breath underwater for 1-6 days. For every subsequent use, requires a save vs. spells or the throne’s effect will become permanent and user no longer able to breathe oxygen.

24-30 Diminutive: A tiny throne for a very small king. If a command word is spoken, the throne will grow to normal size. When the throne returns to normal, thing upon the thrown will shrink as well.

31-35 Clockwork: When the command word it spoken, the clockwork throne will transform into either battle robot or some sort of escape vehicle.

36-43 Demonic Summoning: Speak a minute long incantation to summon a demonic force. 50% chance the incantation is written in eldritch symbols on the arms of the chair.

44-49 Incense: Emits a slow stream of magical incense into the air when sat upon. Roll for magical incense.

50-55 Throne of a Thousand Faces: A thousand screaming faces decorate this iron throne. Sitting allows the user to see all invisible or incorporeal creatures as well as being able to speak to the spirits of fallen corpses.

56-61 Jeweled: This crystalline throne is incredibly valuable. When the user is threatened, the jeweled throne will grow to incase him, shielding the user from danger – at least temporarily. When the danger is subdued, the jeweled throne will return to normal.

62-65 Dungeon Master’s Seat: Will show the user the current state of any imagined room within the dungeon complex. 50% chance that the throne will also allow the Dungeon Master to modify the shape and properties of the dungeon from this chair.

66-70 Winter’s Grasp: Any who sit upon this throne take 2d6 points of damage, but whose touch may freeze any touched object for 1-6 turns. Deals 1d10 point of damage to touched creatures.

71-78 Transforming: Transforms the use unto a specific type of creatures (randomly determined). Unless a save vs. spells is made, the effect is permanent.

78-85 Command: Creatures must save verses spells in order to disobey a command from anyone sitting upon this throne. Requires a shared language.

86-91 Divine Light: Gives off a luminescent glow out to 30’ (color dependent on the user’s alignment). All nearby creatures of the user’s alignment act as though they are under the effect of a bless spells.

92-96 Teleporting: As per a teleportater door. 30% chance to be a chained teleporter. Functions only when command world is spoken.

97-100 Alien Intellect: Anyone sitting on this throne is able to read any language. Magic-users preparing spells on this throne do so in half the time and may memorize one additional spell of each spell level the magic-user can cast. 10% chance to drive the user insane.

Monday, November 14, 2011


Going along with JDJavris' random dungeon dressing tables (there's more, too), I present: Doorways.

Doorways (roll 1d100)
1-6 Sliding Bookshelf: Pull on specific book to open doorway. Will remain open for 1-4 turns before closing.

7-11 Stone Mouth: Enter through the month of a stone face. 2 in 6 chance the mouth will close. Characters attempting to jump back through the mouth must save vs. paralysis or take 3d6 points of damage as it closes on top of them. Mouth will reopen 1-6 days later.

12-19 Hidden by Tapestry: Usually something symbolic of what’s in the passages to come. 20% chance to combine with Murals table.

20-26 Teleporter: Leads somewhere else in the dungeon. 10% of teleporters will lead to a different plane/world/planet/elsewhere. 10% chance there is no back-teleporter on the other side.

26-29 Chained Teleporter: A teleporter with many possible exists. Most will allow the user to choose which destination based on sight. 10% will spit the user out at a random doorway.

30 False Teleporter: Doorway appears to lead to another plane/world/planet/elsewhere, but it’s just an illusion and the characters pop out in the passage on the other side.

31-39 Alarm: Will set of some sort of alarm when crossed, usually a bell, gong, or magical wiz.

40-43 False Passageway: There’s only an illusion of a passage on the other side.

44-46 Dispelling: Anything that crosses this doorway acts as if it has had dispel magical cast upon it.

47-50 Magic Veil: Appears as a shimmery black liquid surface, but it’s usually just there for style. 20% chance to combine with another result.

51-53 Huge Mouth: Leads into what looks like a wet, sticky, blubbery, airy chamber. In reality, it leads into the mouth of a huge beast. Astute characters (Wis 16+) will realize the passage is breathing.

54-59 Wardrobe: Wardrobe has no backing and leads into a passage beyond. 10% wardrobe is also a teleporter.

59-66 Selective: Only characters  of a certain 1-2) race, 3-4) class, 5-6) alignment may cross.

67-71 Reverser: While believing themselves to be moving onward, the doorway has really just leads back to itself, causing the character to unknowingly turn back the way they’re came.

72-74 Delusion: Intelligence creatures crossing this door believe themselves to be under the effects of some powerful magic. 80% magic-user spell/20% clerical.

75-79 Force Field: Can see what’s on the other side, but there’s no getting through without the use of magic.  

80 Collapsing: 2 in 6 chance to collapse when entered. Creatures must have versus paralysis or take 3d6 points of damage.

81-85 Illusory Doorway: Illusion makes this doorway appear like it’s just another part of the wall. 10% chance to combine with another result.

86-90 Chained Beast: There is some sort of beast chained to the doorway, usually slightly tougher than what is appropriate for that level of the dungeon. Make sure the party doesn’t see it coming or has some sort of missile weapon or a long tongue.

91-96 Fireplace: This fireplace has no back. Normally when the fire is out it is safe to cross through. 20% chance to combine with Fireplace table.

96-98 Magic Glow: All magic items that cross the doorway will glow a brilliant aqua with the strength of a torch. Used by dungeon dwellers to pick out choice targets – either for safety or loot.

99-100 Anti –Gravity: Creatures and objects that cross this door will feel the opposite effects from gravity until the doorways is once again crossed.

Looking at Ability Scores (Part 3)

Ok, I've been neglecting the blog. I have a legitimate exclude this time: beta testing Star Wars: The Old Republic. Well...maybe not that legitimate, but we can deal. I have a bunch of things I'd like to talk about tonight, but first allow me to begin with finishing up my set on ability scores.


  • OD&D: Cleric prime requisite; "wisdom rating will act much as done that for intelligence" (whatever that means)
  • Greyhawk: Nothing more than OD&D
  • AD&D: Bonus/Penalty to saves vs. mental-based magical attacks
  • B/X: Bonus to save versus magic


  • OD&D: +/-1 hit point; chance to "withstand adversity" (survive being paralyzed, turned to stone, etc)
  • Greyhawk: Max hit point bonus increased to +3; withstand adversity split into Resurrection Survival and chance to Survive Spells ("polymorph, stone, etc"); how many times a character can be resurrected.
  • AD&D: Similar to Greyhawk, but max hit point bonus capped at +2 for non-fighters (+4 for fighters) 
  • B/X: Bonus/penalty to hit points only


  • OD&D: +/-1 to fire missiles; "applies to both manual speed and conjuration;" "speed with actions s such as firing first, getting off a spell, etc."
  • Greyhawk: Prime requisite for thieves; penalty for opponents to hit fighters (only) with high dexterity
  • AD&D: Now modifies surprise chance and individual initiative; bonus/penalty to armor class (for all classes); bonus/penalty to thief skills
  • B/X: Modifies missile fire, AC, and individuality initiative. 


  • OD&D: Maximum number of "unusual" hirelings; hireling loyalty; "usable to decide such things as whether or not a witch capturing a player will turn him into a swine or keep him enchanted as her lover;" "will aid a character in attracting various monsters into his service"
  • Greyhawk: No chance
  • AD&D: Max number of henchmen ("does not affect the number of mercenary soldiers, men-at-arms, servitors, and similar persons in the pay of the character"); loyalty and reaction adjustment now split and uses % dice.
  • B/X: modifies # of Henchmen; reaction rolls; and determines henchmen moral. reaction rolls and henchmen moral now 2d6 based.

On more post in this set. Finally I'll to discuss where I'm going with all of this. Meanwhile, I'll be running the Vats of Mazarin session 10. Yippy!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

How to Let Characters Know About an Adventure Site

I have a hard time working new adventure sites into campaigns. In an upcoming game, I'm considering using several smaller adventure locations rather than just one large mega dungeon. In actuality, I'll probably end up having a megadungeon in addition to 4 or 5 other adventure locations. So what I need is a random table:

Roll a d6
1. Approached by wealthy patron to explore site (50% to find something specific)
2. Map or clue hidden in another dungeon
3. Strange Monster Activity (roll on sub table A)
4. Rumored Treasure (roll on sub table B)
5. Guild Interest (roll on sub table C)
6. Local  Legend (50% chance of being at least partially misleading)

Sub Table A

1. Grizzled Woodsman
2. City Watch Wanted Poster
3. Traveling Merchant
4. Crazy Beggar
5. Tattered Noble
6. Peasant Refugees

Sub Table B
1. Tavern Rumor
2. Religious Priest
3. Antiquity Dealer
4. Nearby Magic-User
5. Brigand/Street Gang
6. Local Song

Sub Table C
1. Mercenaries Guild
2. Thieves/Assassins Guild (50% each)
3. Magic-User's Guild
4. Religious Cult
5. Merchant's Guild
6. Grave Diggers Association

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Of Landed Knights and Sewer Grottos

I'll finish up my exploration of ability scores tomorrow (Strength, Intelligence). For now I'd like to talking about something new.

[Still working to get a group set up, it looks like I'll (finally) be getting a new real life campaign started up early in the new year. As of yesterday, I've got 8 interested players lined up - not bad - but we'd only be able to have 2 sessions before I'd have to break the game off for a month with half the players leaving town. Personally, I'd rather wait a bit than have a long hiatus that early in the game.

In the mean time, I'm exploring some ideas for play. With much of the first two levels of the Vats of Mazarin cleared out and relatively safe, I'm planning on placing the campaign in a different part of the world or a different setting entirely (I haven't decided).

With all of the new players (some of which have played 3.5 or 4th edition, but other are coming into this totally fresh), I'd like to use a pretty simple ruleset with brief character creation rules. AD&D is too much and I'm starting see more and more flaws in B/X, too many oversimplifications. Instead, I want something easily expandable. At first I considered LL + AEC so that any interested players could check out the rules in their free time. My girlfriend, however, has been more than remind me that I'm the only one who'll care about such things. Fine by me. But this isn't what I want to talk about...]


I've been thinking of ways to tie characters into the game world. Clerics have their god, but I'd like something for Fighters and Magic-Users as well (thieves should, of course, remain opportunistic rogues.

Magic-Users in Holmes Basic can't allowed to carry their spell book around with them. Why? I'm not sure what the Dr. meant, but to me it's because the MU doesn't have just one book of spells, but a a couple book cases of them filling a modest library. To that end, I'm thinking of giving MUs a place - some run down and crumbling tower or the like - to keep and memorize spells.

Role a d6:
1. Old crumbling tower, not too far from town (50% inharitted)
2. Sewer grotto
3. Secret room within temple of major religion
4. Rested room in the basement of Alistor's Antiquities
5. Local magic-user's apprentice (random alignment)
6. Well housed as a tutor to local lord's sons (male only)

Likewise, I'm thinking that Fighters with a 13+ Charisma will have the option of starting play as a landed knight. Each estate will grant the knight 100x1d6 gp per year and house 3d6 servants, 2d6 men at arms, and 1d6 horses.

Roll a d6:
1. Thelismare Manner
2. Riverhold
3. Lilisfold Lodge (all attendants are cultists)
4. Fort Ravenmount
5. The Oblex Spire (creepy Gothic tower, harmless)
6. The Haunted Chateau (no value or attendants until cleared)

I'd like to expand this one with a few more results, half of which should possess some sort of complication with owning said manner.

This all being said, I don't want a character's lodgings to be a major aspect of the game, just somewhere characters can retire to between adventures or may be the source of an adventure to two, clearing out the Haunted Chateau, for instance or using the MU's secret alcove as a base of operations while infiltrating a local temple.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Evolution of Ability Scores: Intelligence

Continuing with the OD&D standard arrangement of ability scores, next up is after Strength is Intelligence.

Within the context of OD&D, Intelligence had two primary uses. 1st, it was the prime requisite of Magic-Users. 2nd, intelligence was used to determine the number of languages a character knew at the beginning of play: one additional monster tongue for every point of intelligence above 10. Like the reference to traps for Strength, Intelligence "will also affect referees' decisions as to whether or not certain
action would be taken" (M&M pg. 10). Once again I'm not really sure what that means. It's almost as if the referee is allowed to take control or somehow limit a character's actions based on his/her Intelligence score.

The addition of Greyhawk brought with it a number of additional used for Intelligence concerning the knowledge of Magic-User spells. Without explaining the meaning of these three categories in much detail, Intelligence then gave a % chance know know any given spell, the min/max number spell of a certain spell level a character could know, and the highest level of spells a magic-user could ever learn ("Only magic-users above 13 intelligence are able to employ 7th level spells" - pg 8).

AD&D continued to build upon the basis of Grawhawk and OD&D. Since a minimum 9 Intelligence was required for a Magic-User character, the tables originally printed in Greyhawk were reworked to fit this new assumption. Furthermore, the number of language a character knew at the beginning of play is changed to the number of language a character could ever learn - thus requiring in game time for non-Magic-Users to make use of a high intelligence. I always though this was strange, especially combined with the fact that only an 8 intelligence was required to learn an additional language; regardless, I've never seen anyone take the time to pick one up as detailed in the Dungeon Master's Guide.

B/X removes much of the complexity of Greyhawk and AD&D, instead based the number of spells a Magic-User has in his spell book solely on the character's level. Furthermore, an Intelligence of 18 only allows a character knowledge of 3 additional languages, unlike the 8 of OD&D or 7 in AD&D. Furthermore, B/X has reading and writing restrictions for characters with a low intelligence - the first time non-Magic-User characters are penalized for a below average score. Overall, Intelligence is likely the least useful score in B/X, even to Magic-Users.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Evolution of Ability Scores: Strength

There is a great dichotomy in the treatment ability scores between the LLB, Greyhawk+Eldritch Wizardry , AD&D, and B/X. While I've always noticed the difference, actually analyzing the way abilities change over time yields some fascinating results.

Over the next couple of days, I'll be going through each ability in detail, looking at the similarities and differences between abilities as they progress through different editions of the world's most popular role playing game.

Today, I'll be looking at Strength.

In Men &Magic Strength only really directly effects the rate of advancement for Fighting-Men. There is no mention of any to bonuses to hit or melee damage or even breaking open stuck doors. On the other hand, there is a peculiar reference to traps mentioned on page 10: "Strength will also aid in opening traps and so on." I'm not exactly sure of meaning here, but it seems that, at least during the time of OD&D, mechanical traps could be broken (literally), perhaps in accords with opening stuck doors as mentioned in Underworld and Wilderness Adventures. Regardless, this mention dropped altogether in later editions of the game.

Supplement1: Greyhawk expands the use of Strength to inuring a bonus or penalty to hit, melee damage, carrying capacity, and the chance to open doors for particularly high or low scores. Most interesting, however, is that only Fighting-Men may take advantage of any bonus to hit or damage from an good score (13+), while a penalty extends to members of any class. Unlike AD&D, where only exception strength (18/XX) is limited only to Fighters. Furthermore, it does not appear that these bonuses are specifically restricted to melee, but may apply to all types of attacks.

AD&D also raises the minimum score for a positive strength adjustment to 16. I find it interesting that while most people are under the impression that AD&D has larger adjustments than previous editions of the game (which is generally true), even minimal adjustments only start to show up when a score reaches the 15/16 range (rather than 13 in both Greyhawk in B/X). Even with 18 Strength, a character still only has a +1 to hit and +2 to damage, making it less valuable than an 18 in either Greyhawk or B/X. Only with exceptional strength do the numbers start skyrocketing. Finally, AD&D gives a specific chance for those with exceptional strength to force open magically locked doors - a specification not made in previous versions.

With more unified ability score adjustments in B/X, character receive the most bang for their buck in terms of (unexceptional) strength scores. Character with only a 13+ in Strength receive a +1 to melee to hit and damage rolls as well as a bonus to open stuck doors. Furthermore, a character with 18 strength receives a +3 modifier, an increase from any previous rendition.

At least in terms of Strength, I find that roll 4d6 and dropping the lowest die does not provide any significant increase in the overall combat prowess of non-Fighters, a trend I'm interested in keeping an eye on in later posts.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Interesting Quote from Geoffrey MrKinney

I've been meaning to talk this quote by Geoffrey MrKinney for a while. It really characterizes the real appeal of Carcosa for me: low levels character can do cool things and still be low level buggers.

One of the things I wanted to do with Carcosa is make sure that the PCs don't have to wait till they achieve high levels to get the good stuff. In standard D&D, how long would it take for a magic-user to go from 1st to 18th level? Probably at least 5 years if you play every week. Probably at least 20 years if you play once a month. Some of us won't even be alive in 20 years. How sad to think that you won't get to experience a cool part of a game because you'll die of old age first.

But in Carcosa, every single ritual, every single item, and every single psionic power is usable by even 1st-level characters. The players never have to think, "Man, that's a cool ritual. Too bad I won't be able to use it until 2013 at the very earliest." Instead they can think, "I could use that ritual RIGHT NOW if I only had the necessary material components. Let's plan an expedition to get those ASAP!"

It was pretty bizarre for TSR back in 1980 to publish a 144-page book full of gods with combat stats, and then say, "But don't ever fight them." In Carcosa, everything with a stat is a totally legitimate foe. And even 1st-level PCs could conceivably take-out an Old One with the right planning, the right tools, and a good bit of luck. Conversely, even the most minor of Old Ones could eradicate a group of 20th-level PCs.

Nothing is off-limits on Carcosa. You can do low-level slogs. You can do megadungeons. You can do continent-spanning quests. You can go toe-to-toe with the Old Ones. Whatever. It is a world of dark and weird science-fantasy for you to do with as you please.

Now that's a game I want to play in and something I'd like to recreate in own games: a sense that 1st level characters can do anything - if they're clever enough about it. I don't need Cthulhu and the old ones, there's just too much baggage there I don't want to deal with, the same way I don't typically use bugbears, mind flayers, etc.

So here's what I'm thinking to twist some of these elements into a more traditional D&D game:

1. Never name the type creature your players encounter. Just describe it and let them figure out a name for it. Better yet, describe the creature in an a-typical way, too.

2. All magic items are rare with artifact-level enchantments and usually come with drawbacks. Better yet, there's no [easy] way accurately identify what magic items actually do.

3. Magic-Users can cast ANY spell they have found directly from their spell book provided they are about to acquire the correct components/have enough time/are in the correct location/etc. Memorizing such spells still remains within the realm of high level characters. Better yet, require a saving throw vs. magic or something horrible goes wrong when using spells as rituals.

4. Throw the concept of level appropriate encounters out the window. Characters encounter what they encounter when they encounter it. Dungeon level =/= character level.

5. Humans are scattered and alone. There are no vast empires, sprawling kingdoms, etc. Better yet, elves, dwarves, and other demi-humans don't exist and additional character races must be discovered during play.

There five ideas. Now it your turn. Show me what you can come up with.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

After six sessions, and the seventh coming up tomorrow, I though it might be a good idea to start fleshing out the world beyond the Vats of Mazarin. There are a few things I knew about the world from the starts. 1) the Lycenian Empire once conquored great stretched of land. 2) Perithian and the Vats were in the jungle near the boarder of the known world.

The world that I drew up turned out to be much larger than I had expected. Originally, I had conceived that Lycenia would be a month's journey to the North of the Vats. Now, not only is it about a month to the north, but two months to the East by sea over the Orinthian Ocean.

The are only two major settlements near the Lycenian colony. One is an overseas Viking settlement to the Northwest, currently unnamed, and the kingdom of Kenet to the to East. For the most part the land to the south is inhabited by scattered tribes, archeological teams, and would-be foreign princes, none of which have any real, lasting influence on the colonists besides the constant threat of invasion and the ability to trade native for foreign goods (typically steel weapons for various vanity items).

There is also a group of islands to the North East known as Telepthos, which are inhabited by pirates, natives, and enormous building-sized lizards.

As of now, here is the basic map I've created (click to enlarge):

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Vats of Mazarin - Sessions 5 & 6

In the last few week's there's been two more delves into the Vats of Mazarin. This post would be quite lengthy if I went into as much detail as I usually do, so I'll try to keep it brief.

Zak was finally able to join in with his attack poodle for both sessions and we had another new player in sessions 6, Cole, who played a Chaotic clown. Otherwise Brother Hoyle, Squallia,and Abaddor returned both nights.

By the end of session 6, the party has found just about everything of interest in the first level of the dungeon as well as the Observatory sub level. While no characters died, all of the party's henchmen and hirelings were killed, bludgeoned to death by giant crystal statues, zombie by cursed wine jugs, ripped apart by a tentacled horror that was summoned from a lower level by the magic-users in the white robes, or killed as the result of a crazy old mole man's demented wish in a magical fountain. Some of them were pretty close to meeting their ends (Blicxa being forced to cut off his hand, which was bitten by the cursed zombie).

Speaking of the magic-users in white robes. The group discovered they are part of a rival school to Mazarin's and have taken over the dungeon (or are trying to) in the hopes of stealing his secrets.

The last important thing of note is that a mirror was discovered that could be used as a gate to, what the party believes is, the red planet, blistering red sands rolling around on the other side. They recovered the mirror and set it up in their room at the in for later inspection.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Begining Characters As Blank Slates

I've been at my parents house for a few days before term starts and have been pondering a Mutant Future games.

As much as I like many of the concepts the game brings, I feel like it's just too much for me at times. The main reason is that I'm not so into non-human characters. Not sure why, but I've never really liked them. Many because me players (and myself) tend to play them as humans with funny faces and different powers, not like inhuman aliens with complete different outlooks. Mutant humans, while I like the concept, I would for prefer mutation to be gained during play instead of during character creation.

For me, newly created characters are blank slates. They don't have interesting histories and backgrounds. Maybe a couple words or a short phrase on concept, but that's all I'm really interested in. Ideally, all of the character's personality, legacy, and defining characteristics should arise out of play. Before the game begins the characters were nobodies. Background can be added during the game to explain all of the oddities generated by die rolls.

That way, the character experience the game world along with the players. I don't need to assume that the characters have certain knowledge about the game world that the character wouldn't be aware of.

I'm thinking now that a Bandits & Basilisks might just be exactly what I'm looking for. I'll give it a shot and let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

X-Plorers Psychic Characters

X-Plorers just feels like it needs an psionic class. Maybe it's just that whenever I think science fiction I think Firefly, but I feel it could just be a fun addition to  the game. Here's a rough draft of what I came up with:

Psychic (optional class)

Psychics are gifted with extremely rare cognitive abilities, the ability to see the future, move matter around with their mind, and delve in memories of other sentient creatures. The cause of which is unknown, but the result is extreme dangerous. When uncontrolled, these gifts may manifest absolute genius or insanity, often both. Psychics are often hunted down and captured by both private and government research agencies.

The psychic is an optional class in the sense that it does not universally fit into all settings. There are three basic ways to use this class: Allow Psychic characters as one would allow scientists or soldiers; remove it entirely from the game; or allow Psychic skills to be only accessed via multi-classing.

Mind Blast (Pre): A Psychic can create a surge of electrical energy in the mind of an opponent.  The damage dealt is 1d6 points plus the Psychic’s Presence bonus and temporary stuns the opponent for 1 round. Any creature brought to 0 hit points by a Mind Blast falls comatose for 1d6 hours instead of rolling on critical hit table.

Precognition (Pre): This is a Psychic’s ability to predict the future based on a specific choice, such as what would happen if the Psychic injected himself with an unknown substance or whether or not a rope bridge would snap when crossed. The precognition skill cannot discern long term long term consequences or even what would happen further than a few minutes into the future.

Telekinesis (Pre): A Psychic can move matter around with the raw mental force. The speed, mass, and distance an object can be moved is dependent on the Psychic’s level. The exact details of which are left up to the referee. A rough guideline if 20 pounds of force per level is appropriate, however. 

Telepathy (Pre): The ability to read minds, communicate through a telepathic connection, and even suggest curtain course action to another sentient creature or cause him forget vital information are all lumped under the telepathy skill. If the psychic is actually attempting to command or otherwise tamper with the memories or thoughts of another sentiment’s mind, the creature is allow a Presence saving throw to resist the Psychic’s influence.