Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Wages of Fame

William Tell
I've seen a few systems in games for measuring the reputation or fame of adventurers. They make sense, to some extent - folks spending their kind of money and killing monsters the way they do should be pretty well known in a campaign area. But should they? And how? And what do they get from it? And why am I asking so many questions? Huh?

Here's an idea for handling fame without adding too much in the way of rules or complications. It might suck, but here it is anyways.

Accumulating Fame

How do people become famous in a medieval milieu? For the purposes of D&D and similar games, it makes sense to tie fame to deeds. Hey, if Bob jumps over a cow at the local faire, people in the village will know that Bob is famous for jumping. They'll tell others, and maybe for several villages around Bob will be known as "the jumper". So it goes with adventurers.

Since fame is tied to deeds, it also makes sense that fame is tied to XP. XP are handed out for deeds, therefore XP equals fame.

Or does it?

In our example above, everyone saw Bob jump over the cow. If Bob had done it without witnesses, and just claimed to have jumped over a cow, he might have become known as Bob the Liar rather than Bob the Jumper. So, in this system, XP only turn into fame when the deeds that generated the XP are either witnessed by the public at large, or can be proved. If you want to use this system, you'll need to put a second XP number in parentheses after the normal XP number.

You accumulate these "fame XP" by doing things in front of people, or you need to spend or display the treasure you looted, and you need to bring back trophies (at least one really good one, the gorier the better) to show that you defeated monsters or black knights or wizards. If you do these things, you count those XP towards your fame level.

Since we have a separate "fame XP", we also have a separate "fame level". For simplicity's sake, use the Fighter's XP progression in your game as the Fame XP progression. Fame levels are as follows:


The Upside of Fame

So, what do these fame levels get you?

First level fame is worth nothing.

From 2nd level onward, they enjoy the following benefits:

1) They have a percent chance of drinking for free and picking up interesting rumors in taverns

2) They have a percent chance of getting an invite to dine with notables equal to their fame level, the chance depending on the size of the settlement

3) You can employ an extra number of henchmen equal to your fame level, and their base loyalty is increased by a number of percentage points equal to your fame level

4) You can request audiences with princes, kings, emperors, high priests, etc. You have half this chance of requesting a boon in exchange for a favor, and a percent chance equal to your fame level of requesting a boon in exchange for nothing

The Downside of Fame

Fame has a downside as well. When you enter an area, your fame might proceed you. You can cut the chances of being recognized by wearing a disguise and using a different name, but lose the benefits of fame (see above) if you do so. Here's a twist - if you are moving in a group and not everyone in the group is disguised, your chances of being noticed are increased by 5% per undisguised person.

If you are recognized, one of the following happens:

Challenges: You will be challenged to a duel (magical or martial) or test of skill by other notables in the area. This will be public. Losing these challenges actually reduces your fame XP level by as much as it would have increased if you had won.

Quests: If you are neutral or lawful (good), and there's trouble afoot, you will be asked to handle it. If people have been kidnapped or there are monster's raiding the area, you are expected to solve it. If you refuse, you lose enough XP to take you down a fame level. You suffer the same consequences if you fail at the quest.

Justice: If you are chaotic (evil), you are set upon by the authorities in the area, or bounty hunters or people you wronged in the past. In other words, being famous and evil means being hunted.

For this reason, characters might discover that fame is a double-edged sword.

Death

Nobody wants to die, but dying famous is probably better than dying unknown for an adventurer. When a character dies, the following happens:

6% chance per fame level of a folk song being composed in their honor

4% chance per fame level of a biography being written about them

2% chance per fame level of a monument being erected where they died or a civilized place nearby

For clerics, druids and paladins, there is a 1% chance of them being canonized

Now, total these honors received. This is the percent chance (thus, maximum 4%) that upon death they are received by "the gods" into their company as a quasi-deity. They can still be used as PC's, with powers deemed suitable by the DM, but only in the company of other quasi-deities or demi-deities and the like. Congratulations!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Dragon by Dragon - April 1981 (48)

Happy Mothers Day to all the moms out there in blog land - and happy April Fools Day, since this week we're looking at an April issue of Dragon - #48, from good old 1981.

Before I hit the magazine, though, I'm going to do a little advertising - NOD 29 is now out as a PDF, at Lulu.com and Rpgnow.com. This one has the second half of the Trollheim hex crawl, the third part of the d20 Mecha series featuring some mecha stats that could be useful for all sorts of sci-fi games, Aaron Siddall's very cool Hyperspace campaign notes for GRIT & VIGOR, which combines Lovecraft with good old fashioned rocket-powered sci-fi, Tony Tucker's take on the luchador class for GRIT & VIGOR, a Quick & Easy mini-game pitting luchadores vs. the Aztec Mummy, a random class generator (along with a couple random classes that came out pretty good), info on using interesting historic coins in treasure hoards, the Laser Mage class and a couple tidbits for SPACE PRINCESS. All sorts of fun for $4.99.

And now, ladies and gents, on to the magazine.

We begin with an Arms Law ad, and a few thoughts on said ad by the writer of the blog:


That first bit is the problem - death being only one blow away with Arms Law. Many would argue that it's more realistic than D&D combat ... and they're right. That's precisely the problem. We already live in the real world, where death is one blow away. That's why most of us live boring lives and indulge in fantasy for our excitement. I'm not sure injecting that kind of realism in fantasy is worth the trouble. A realistic game for the sake of the challenge, on the other hand, can be quite engaging. Just a thought.

And now, God forgive me, I'm going to show another old ad. I like the tagline - "not for everybody" - clever. Here's a post about the game.

I might have mused about this before, but is anyone out there making new retro-computer dungeon crawls? For those in the know - would it be hard? I think it might be fun to create some - relatively simple games with simple mechanics for those who want to just do some old fashioned dungeon crawling.

The theme for this issue is Underwater Adventuring. I can attest to how hard it is to write underwater adventures - or at least adventure locales for my hex crawls. So much of what we take for granted on the surface doesn't work underwater. The first article, "Watery Words to the Wise" by Jeff Swycaffer, does a nice job of hitting the highlights of what does and does not work underwater. No rules, just sound advice.

Up next is the "Dragon's Bestiary", which features the Water-Horse by Roger E. Moore, Golden Ammorite by Roger E. Moore and Sea Demon by Ernest N. Rowland Jr. Nothing earthshaking here, but solid monsters for an underwater (or close-to-water) game.

The "Bazaar of the Bizarre" is also aquatically inclined, all by Roger E. Moore.

Naturally, Dragon Magazine comes through with its annual April Fools Day supplement, this one with its own cover (for Dragon #48-1/2). Truth be told, I think I like it better than the actual cover.

This month we get a bit on the Accountant character class and a game called Real Life with a nice bit of character generation:


We also get "Saturday Morning Monsters", with stats for Bugs Bunny (CG 15th level illusionist), Daffy Duck (CN and totally nuts), Popeye (LN 9th or 18th level fighter), Rocky (LG 12th level fighter) and Bullwinkle (LG 13th level fighter) and Dudley Do-Right (LG 18th level paladin).

Back into the real magazine, Tim Lasko has a bit on fleshing out the druid called "The Druid and the DM". It's a general overview of the class as presented in AD&D, along with some suggestions for rule changes involving druid spells, many involing the use of "greater mistletoe", changing the druid's initial age and how his age works in-game (kind of weird idea - not sure why I should use it, or whether it would be worth the trouble), giving them the sage's ability to answer questions about flora and fauna (good idea, but doesn't require rules in my opinion) and a few other bits. It's a combination of unnecessary complication, rules for things that don't really require rules and ticky-tack little bonuses. Not bad, per se, but not terribly useful.

Players of Top Secret, which appears to be making a comeback these days, might enjoy "Doctor Yes", a scenario written by Merle Rasmussen and James Thompson. The scenario is set on a floating island and appears to be engaging and thorough - rules for underwater adventuring in TS, and a large complex with traps and dangers. You also get stats for such personel as Chuck Morris, Bruce Nee and "Sweetbeam" Leotard.

"Giants in the Earth" presents Ursula K. LeGuin's Sparrowhawk (N 21st level Illusionist/20th level Magic-User) and Andrew Offutt and Richard Lyon's Tiana Highrider (CG 12th level Fighter/12th level Thief).

Michael Kelly's "Instant Adventures" is a neat article with a list of adventure types, along with the materials they require and the time involved in preparation. A few examples:

Assault/Raid (Bodysnatch), requires a small military encampment and takes about 20 minutes to set up.

Feud, Inter-family, requires a brief history of the feud and the feuding families, as well as a reason for the involvement of the characters; takes a couple hours to prepare.

Smuggling, Weapons, requires a war and revolutionaries in need of weapons and supplies, as well as a source for those weapons and supplies; takes about 20 minutes to prepare.

At a minimum, it's a great source of ideas for games.

Lakofka's "Mission Control" article dovetails nicely with it, being a way of detemining how tough the bad guy faced by adventurers should be. In a nutshell, it is based on the total XP of the party, that determining the level of the big bad guy and how much treasure/magic items he should have. The article gets pretty wordy and "in the weeds", but the basic ideas are solid and useful.

And so ends Dragon #48, as usual, with a frame from Wormy ...



And now begins White Dwarf #24, the April/May 1981 issue. The issue starts off with a great cover - barbarian woman and a sort of Bronze Age warrior-type before a stepped jungle pyramid with dragons or pteranodons buzzing about. Good stuff. I've mentioned this before, but I'll say again that in my opinion the quality of layout and art in White Dwarf was superior to Dragon in this period. Dragon's layout was never inspired, but the cover art got much better as time went on. Both magazines are a pain in the butt to read for folks without premium peepers, but that's not their fault, just Father Time's.

The first highlight for me in this issue of White Dwarf is some a beautiful piece of art by the great Russ Nicholson:

It suggests a great scenario - the adventurers captured and stripped of their toys - that's hard to implement. Most players don't dig it, and there's usually an idea that if you're putting them through it they're going to live through the experience. An assumed guarantee of survival takes the fun out of the scenario. Still, if you can find the right kind of players, it makes for a great game.

I found the review for a game called Quirks - the game of unnatural selection interesting. Ian Livingstone gave it a good review and it sounds like an interesting concept, wherein players create weird plants and animals and have to adapt them to survive changing climates and challenges.

WD24 also has a detective class with some interesting abilities (10% chance of noticing disguised assassins), some sage abilities, thief abilities, spells and tracking. I think I'd enjoy playing a Halfling Shamus (4th level detective).

Mark Byng has an AD&D mini-module called "The Lair of Maldred the Mighty" which is, if I'm honest, kind of hard to read for an old fart like myself. Not his fault - a layout issue.

Monster Madness has a few "of the more eccentric monsters to have graced the White Dwarf letter box" - in this case the Bonacon by David Taylor, Llort by Andrew Key, Todal and Marcus Barbor, Tali Monster by Craig Edwards, Dungeon Master by Malory Nye. For fun, the DM is below in B&T format:

Dungeon Master, Medium Humanoid: HD as many as he likes; AC 16 (chainmail and judge's shield), ATK special, MV 30', SV varies, AL CE usually, Special: 30% chance he will follow adventurers around a dungeon telling them what they can and cannot do, rolls for wandering monsters when characters make any noise at all, reading of the rules (sleep spell), consults matrices and confuses attackers, not spell affects him unless you can persuade him otherwise, weapons do half damage, susceptible to bribes of 500 gp or more (treat as charm person).
That's that, boys and girls. Have fun, do something nice for mom and then do something nice for everyone else.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Dragon by Dragon - March 1981 (47)

It's been a little while since I had the time to review a Dragon Magazine, but today is the day!

I'm going to kick it right off with a letter to the editor ...

‘The height of absurdity’

Dear Editor:

I finished reading my December issue of DRAGON magazine in a rage. I refer to the letter from the player (“Lowly Players”) who says his DM won’t let his group subscribe to DRAGON magazine because therein are things meant only for the DM.

The height of absurdity indeed.

Aside from overwrought readers, what else does #47 offer?

Up first is the AD&D exam, which might be fun to put on Google+ for a prize ... something to think about. It looks like it's mostly True or False, which suggests starting with contestants in brackets like the NCAA basketball tournament.

A letter about the elemental planes by Steven Kienle brought up a couple neat ideas, to whit:

"Play on other planes gives the DM a chance to introduce new magic items into the campaign without “overloading” the prime material world, perhaps altering their characteristics or their effects to conform with how they would operate in the alien environment."
Nice idea - offer up some magic items to help survive on the plane, but make them useless elsewhere.
"Because of the strangeness of our appearance to natives of other planes, a character’s Charisma would be reduced by from 1-3 points in attempts to communicate or deal with the creature (but never going below 3). The amount of the reduction depends on how dissimilar the two creature types are; for instance, it might be -1 on the elemental plane of earth, because both life forms have solid bodies, but it would be greater on the elemental plane of air, where the native life form does not have a solid body."

Air elementals do not favor the "flesh time".

"Natives of the elemental planes need not be entirely alien and original; but might be adaptations of creatures found on the prime material. For example, a spider native to the plane of fire would appear as a ball of fire with eight tongues of flame sticking out of it. Most undead creatures would appear different on an elemental plane, since they would be the undead form of a creature native to that plane. For instance, a skeleton on the plane of fire would appear as a network of flames instead of a structure of bones."

Neat ideas for fire plane monsters!

The letter reminds me of the old Dragon material, where it was people throwing around clever ideas without "ruling" them to death.

It is followed by a complicated thing about using search patterns while traveling astrally, yadda yadda yadda ...

Dig this awesome art ...


It's a collection of weird planar monsters by Patrick Amory (this guy?), including the wirchler (seen above), the aruchai (blobs of flesh from Limbo), the phoenix from Elysium, the furies from Tartarus, the mapmakers from Pandemonium, the flards of Nirvana and the sugo from Acheron.

Here's a slick excerpt:

"The Wirchler originates from the plane of Gehenna, the Valley of Flame. Fire is their natural habitat, much as air is ours. They are, however, known to leave their dreadful home in groups to search for new prey. At present they pay precious Fire-gems to the Night Hags in Hades in return for Larvae to torture."

Fire-gems for night hags. Nice.

Leonard Lakofka then takes a special look at the thief. It's a nice article, covering some things he thinks players miss about playing a thief - picking more pockets, sneaking into camps to steal things or make maps, etc. He also adds a percent chance to set traps, beginning at 26% at first level and topping out at 80% at 15th level. Makes sense to me. He includes a modifier for high or low dexterity, and the following racial adjustments: Dwarves +15%, gnomes +10%, halflings +8%, half-orcs +4% and elves -5%.

Lakofka also adds this tidbit: Multiple Intelligence by 12 to discover the percentage chance that a character can read and write in a language he speaks. This would only impact characters with an intelligence of 8 or lower.

Giants in the Earth presents stats by Katharine Brahtin Kerr for P. Vergilius Maro's Camilla (a Chaotic Good 10th level fighter) and Medea, Tamer of Dragons (a Chaotic Neutral 18th level magic-user with sage abilities).

Here's a quick bit from Top Secret by Merle M. Rasmussen - determining handedness of agents:

01-89: Character is right-handed
90-99: Character is left-handed
00: Character is ambidextrous

In case you needed such a table.

Here's the good stuff - a game by David Cook called Crimefighters, for simulating the heroes of pulp fiction. I wonder if anyone has done a retro-clone of this game?

Here's the "mysterious power table" for making Shadow-esque characters:

1 - Command
2 - Confusion
3 - ESP
4 - Fear
5 - Foresight
6 - Hypnotism
7 - Invisibility
8 - Luck
9 - Shadow Control
10 - Sight

Combat is measured in seconds in a clever system that requires one to state their actions and then roll initiative. Changing one's actions mid-stream introduces a 1 second penalty.

It comes with an adventure - "The Case of the Editor's Envelope". The set up isn't unlike what I did with Mystery Men!

It looks like a very playable system, with plenty that can be used by folks playing other games.

It's times like these I wish I had the time to whip up a quick game on Google+ - would probably be a blast.

Boy, some of those alien ships in Cluster look familiar:


Also a nice little Otus sketch:


And then there's Jim Holloway's illustration for Tony Watson's review of Task Force Games' Robots!.


You can pick up a used copy at Amazon.

I leave you, as always, with a bit of Tramp


Very Disney-esque, this one.

Have fun on the internet, and don't give into rage if you discover somebody won't let their players read the Dragon.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Three Monsters Mild

I'm kinda sorta working on a little book called Monsters Mild, which will include 12 to 15 monsters that are not so much intended as foes to fight as they are to be things characters might meet and maybe even befriend. They are intended to be fantasy color. The first one showed up on Google+ a little while ago, and has been illustrated by the ever-wondrous Joel Priddy (blessed be his pen). The others will get their own illustrations somewhere along the line ...

Man-Wort

Medium Plant

Hit Dice: 3
Armor Class: 16
Attacks: Fist (1d6)
Move: 20’
Saves: F12 R14 W14
Intelligence: Average
No. Appearing: 1 usually, but 1d6 in the wilderness
Alignment: Neutral
XP: 300 (CL 4)

Resistance to weapons, immune to poison, ESP 1/day

These monsters look like roughly humanoid-shaped turnips, with bushy green stalks on their head and beady black eyes and thick fingers and toes on their hands and feet. They can summon up herbs of any kind in their hands, three times per day, including poisons, medicinal herbs and cooking ingredients. They are somewhat slow-witted, though not stupid, and often take a liking to children and the elderly. Many appear before the hovels of abandoned elders and become their servants and caretakers. Man-worts do not speak (they have no mouths). They need to root themselves in soil for at least one hour per day to survive, and need as much water as human beings. They will fight when people they love are threatened.

Granny Woman

Medium Fey

Hit Dice: 1
Armor Class: 11
Attacks: Rolling pin (2d6)
Move: 20’
Saves: F15 R13 W12
Intelligence: High
No. Appearing: 1
Alignment: Lawful (CG or NG)
XP: 100 (CL 2)

Magic resistance 25%

A granny woman is a fey creature that appears as a very old – an impossibly old – woman with large, knowing eyes and withered hands that hide a powerful grip. Granny women live in the woods, near enough to settlements to be helpful, but not so near as to be annoyed by all the nonsense and going’s on. They usually live with a familiar in the form of large, furry cat. These cats are ill-tempered to folks who deserve it, but quite charming (if not a little bossy) to the good-at-heart. Acceptance by a granny woman’s cat means acceptance by a granny woman.

Granny women can use the following spells as inborn abilities: At will-animal messenger, calm animals, detect invisibility, detect magic, discern aura, pass without trace, speak with animals, speak with plants; 3/day-goodberry (baked into tarts), magic stone, sleep; 1/day-cause fear, daze monster, geas/quest, mending, smoke image (from her own pipe only), summon nature's ally IV.

There is a 1 in 12 chance that a granny woman lives with a man-wort (q.v.), and a 1 in 6 chance they live with an orphaned child they are bringing up. If threatened, they have only to scream or whistle and one of the following creatures appears to aid them:

1. Grey Render (who likes its head to be scratched)
2. 1d4+1 brownies (who appreciate good cooking)
3. 1d6 wood elf, gnome or halfling warriors (who need their socks darned)
4. 1d4+2 cooshee (who will hang around for an ear scritch and soup bone)
5. A curtal friar (cleric or druid, 1d4+2 for level, old friend of the granny woman)
6. A ranger and 1d4 outlaws (ranger level 1d4; he and his men look after the old girl when they’re not being chased by the sheriff)

A granny woman will never turn away folk in need unless they are thoroughly wicked, and even then she will help but also place a geas on them with her touch that forces them to perform three acts of pure goodness in a fortnight.

Goop

Small Ooze

Hit Dice: 0 (1d4 hp)
Armor Class: 14
Attacks: Slam (1d3 + constrict)
Move: 20’ (Climb 20')
Saves: F17 R16 W17
Intelligence: Low
No. Appearing: 1d3
XP: 50 (CL 1)

Resistance to weapons, immune to acid, surprise (1-4 on 1d6)

Goops are small oozes with highly variable colors (and sometimes swirls of color). They lurk around corners and creep up on people, crawling onto them when they aren't looking. Goops are terribly insecure, and desire the warmth of humanoid contact. When they are clinging to people, they give off a telepathic purr that only the person they are touching can hear. The purr is calming (+1 bonus to save vs. emotional manipulation and fear).

Unfortunately, goops are extremely sticky (takes a combined strength of 28 to remove them, and there's a 50% chance anyone involved gets the goop re-stuck on them), and they can ruin armor, clothing and weapons with the mild acid they secrete when frustrated or afraid (item saving throw at +2 for metal items).

Each goop has one important, inborn piece of knowledge. In any “sticky situation” the adventurers find themselves in, there is a 1% chance that goop has the answer they are looking for, and will release it to the adventurer with which it has bonded.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Back from Vacation

After a week away from work (the real job), I'm back delving into the wonders of the Las Vegas real estate market. Over the past nine days, I managed to almost finish NOD 29 and got some heavy work done on my World War II supplement to GRIT & VIGOR. I also watched some B-movies, did some yard work, got the hard copy of MYSTERY MEN! Second Edition created and ordered a proof copy (it's going to be in color), found some cheap old AD&D artifacts at a used record store, watched my daughter in her first Shakespeare play (she played the nurse in Romeo & Juliet) and didn't shave.

I also didn't do any blog posts, though I did keep in touch with the gaming community via Google +. For those who didn't see that, I present two characters for GRIT & VIGOR, one a character from an old movie, the other an actor. For those who did, I'll throw in a third character - a dangerous lady.




Vince Kane - A Character You Probably Do Not Know

Vince Kane is the main character in an old George Raft picture called A Dangerous Profession (1949). It's not a great movie, but a movie doesn't have to be great to inspire usable game material. The beauty of B-movies and simple stories is that they're usually easier to adapt into modern game scenarios. Much of what makes a movie great - strong characterizations, interesting character relationships, etc. - does not always translate well into a game, or at least should come from the interaction of the players and game master, rather than be programmed and forced on everyone. A good game often revolves around a good plot that is not too hard to follow, since players are usually grasping around in the dark during game play. Vince Kane is also an interesting idea for an detective who isn't technically a professional detective, much in the way that Matlock and Perry Mason are detectives who are technically lawyers.

Vince Kane is an ex-cop turned bail bondsman. Things heat up when a buddy of his from the police force, Lt. Nick Ferrone (played by Jim Backus) picks up Claude Brackett, who skipped bail a few years back for an embezzlement charge. Checking Brackett’s room, Kane discovers that he’s in town with the woman who broke his heart, who turns out to now be the embezzler’s wife, Lucy Brackett. When Claude Brackett turns up murdered, Kane investigates and discovers a web of lies.

N Private Eye, LVL 8, HP 36, AC 11, MV 40, ATK +5, SV F12 R7 W9

Str 10 Int 12 Wis 15 Dex 14 Con 13 Cha 8

Special: Detect clue (2 in 6), detect lie (4 in 6), get a clue from Venture Master, back stab, note concealed items, +2 save vs. fear

Knacks: Cant*, Influence People

Skills: Cant*, Crack Code, Gather Intelligence, Hide in Shadows, Listen at Doors, Move Silently, Search, Sleight of Hand and Track (humans only)

Feats: Grappler, Iron Will, Lighting Reflexes

* Cant in this context is the tough talk of old Hollywood gangster movies

Hoot Gibson, A Man More Interesting than His Characters

Now we shift from a character to a real person who was, himself, quite a character. It’s not too often you come across an actor’s biography which is more interesting than the characters he played. Hoot Gibson is one of those fellows.

Hoot started riding horses as a boy in Nebraska, and after the family moved to California he started working on ranches. He showed a talent for it, and soon started competing in rodeos, winning several honors. It was during his rodeo days that he started acting in silent movies. After a stint as a sergeant in the Tank Corps in World War I, he went back to rodeo and movies, usually as a bit player and stunt rider. In 1922, when demand for cowboy pictures was high, he moved into starring roles and made a whole slew of pictures. Hoot also learned to fly planes, and even got injured in a crash while racing planes.

Like I said, he was an interesting fellow.

N Cowboy/Fighter, LVL 7/3, HP 39, AC 12, MV 40, ATK +4, SV F9 R8 W12, Str 13 Int 9 Wis 11 Dex 16 Con 13 Cha 13

Special: +2 save vs. trample attacks, rope (add half horse’s HD to lasso attacks), select exceptional horses, surprised 1 in 8, no penalty when grappling large animals, extra attack against opponents with fewer HD

Knacks: Don Disguise, Handle Animals, Pilot Aircraft

Skills (Cowboy): Appraise value (livestock), endure, gamble, handle animal, jump, ride mount, survive outdoors, track

Skills (Fighter): Bend bars, break down doors, endure, gunnery, jump, lift gates

Feats: Dodge, Knack, Pugilist

Weapons: Colt Single-Action Army (1d6), Winchester M1894 repeating rifle (2d4)

Ma Barker

I don't know how much cache the gangsters of the Depression have these days with the kids, but they once had a standing approaching folk heroes. Bonnie and Clyde, 'Baby Face' Nelson, John Dillinger, etc. And then there's Ma. Ma Barker. Ma Barker had four criminal sons, Herman, Lloyd, Arthur and Fred, and served as their ring leader ... or did she?

From the sound of it, Ma Barker as criminal mastermind of her sons' foul play is the bunk. One gangster, Alvin Karpis, described her as "superstitious, gullible, simple, cantankerous and, well, generally law abiding." She was clearly an accomplice in the criminal activities of the gang, helping them before and after crimes, but probably was not the gun-totin' mama of popular culture. When J. Edgar Hoover described her as "the most vicious, dangerous and resourceful criminal brain of the last decade", he was probably full of shit. I know - J. Edgar Hoover, an agent of the federal government, lying - hard to believe.

But in GRIT & VIGOR, when truth isn't stranger than fiction, we slap it around a little until it is. Our Ma Barker is the gangster of the movies, engaging in gun play and maybe even chomping on a cigar while her minions rob banks.

NE Rogue, LVL 8, HP 28, AC 10, MV 40, ATK +5, SV F12 R9 W10, Str 8 Int 15 Wis 13 Dex 11 Con 11 Cha 12

Special: Backstab for +2d6 damage, note concealed items

Knacks: Gather Intelligence*, Treat Injury

Skills : Appraise Value, Cant, Don Disguise, Gather Intelligence*, Hide in Shadows, Influence People, Listen at Doors, Move Silently

Feats: Exploit Weakness, Improvise, Iron Will, Leadership

Weapons: Thompson sub-machine gun (1d6)

Friday, April 8, 2016

Mystery Men! Let's Go!

Perhaps one of the saddest departures from television in the last few years, for me, was the Aquabat Super Show! The Aquabats are not just the greatest band to ever punch a tortilla monster in the face, they’re also bona fide superheroes, clashing with the likes of Cobra Man and Space Monster M.

In addition, they’re the perfect superheroes to stat up for Mystery Men! Second Edition, on sale now as a PDF at both Rpgnow and Lulu.com! The second edition cleans up a few errors in the first edition and streamlines the powers a bit, all while keeping character creation fun and easy, and game play just as fun and easy. It’s an old school take on superhero gaming, with a sample setting – Shore City – a sample adventure – “All Fall Down” – and skads of heroes and villains all ready to be battled. All for $6.99!

And now … the Aquabats!

M.C. Bat Commander (Super Hero)
Christian Jacobs, Lead Singer

The M.C. Bat Commander is the ever-brave, ever-pugnacious leader of the gang. While not the world’s greatest tactician, he is supremely skilled at winging it. His distinctive face decoration is designed to thwart ne’er-do-wells who would vandalize his face on posters.

Like all of the Aquabats, the Bat Commander has the following pieces of gear: An anti-negativity helmet, radioactive rash guards, and a power belt to allow him to enter “stealth mode”.
The ‘bats also have their Battle Tram, a hi-tech RV capable of flight and survival in Outer Space!

STR: 3
DEX: 3
CON: 5/+1
INT: 3
WIS: 2
CHA: 4/+1

LVL: 6
HP: 27
ATK: +5
AC: 12
XP Value: 4,850

Powers
Weapon Master (meta-, fists)

Gear
Anti-negativity helmet
Radioactive rash guard (resistance to radiation)
Power belt (invisibility, 1/day for 5 minutes)
Battle Tram (RV + rocket launcher, fly, immunity to vacuum)

Crash McLarson (Super Hero)
Chad Larson, Bass Guitar

Crash is a man-child, strong and sensitive and prone to becoming a giant when he becomes emotional. He’s the heart and soul of the Aquabats, and once met a genie that looked surprisingly like Rip Taylor.

STR: 6/+1
DEX: 2
CON: 4/+1
INT: 2
WIS: 2
CHA: 4/+1

LVL: 12
HP: 54
ATK: +9
AC: 12
XP Value: 4,075

Powers
Enlarge (cosmic; but only when emotional)
Weapon Master (meta-, fists, vs. sharks only)

Gear
Anti-negativity helmet
Radioactive rash guard (resistance to radiation)
Power belt (invisibility, 1/day for 5 minutes)

Jimmy the Robot (Super Hero)
James Briggs, Keyboard and Saxophone

The most logical and mature of the band, Jimmy the Robot was built by a farming scientist to pick apples, but instead went to the big city and joined a superhero band.

STR: 4/+1
DEX: 3
CON: 4/+1
INT: 12/+3
WIS: 4/+1
CHA: 3

LVL: 6
HP: 27
ATK: +5
AC: 14
XP Value: 5,000

Powers
Invulnerability (meta-)
Power bolt (lasers)
Sense vibrations
Super science (10,000 XP)
Super intelligence (meta-)

Gear
Anti-negativity helmet
Radioactive rash guard (resistance to radiation)
Power belt (invisibility, 1/day for 5 minutes)

Ricky Fitness (Super Hero)
Richard Falomir, Drums

Teenage heart-throb Ricky Fitness loves the ladies, but not as much as he loved fresh veggies!

STR: 3
DEX: 6/+1
CON: 3
INT: 3
WIS: 2
CHA: 5/+1

LVL: 10
HP: 35
ATK: +8
AC: 13
XP Value: 4,250

Powers
Super Speed (meta-)

Gear
Anti-negativity helmet
Radioactive rash guard (resistance to radiation)
Power belt (invisibility, 1/day for 5 minutes)
Drum-Copter (mini-helicopter with the equivalent of a non-lethal heavy machine gun)

Eagle “Bones” Falconhawk (Super Hero)
Ian Fowles, Guitar

Perhaps the most determined member of the band to right wrongs, Eagle “Bones” Falconhawk has an evil brother called Eagleclaw and enjoys a relationship with the Sun Spirit, Lou Diamond Phillips. His eagle, The Dude, is an invisible spirit eagle. So he has that going for him.

STR: 3
DEX: 5/+1
CON: 3
INT: 3
WIS: 4/+1
CHA: 4/+1

LVL: 11
HP: 39
ATK: +9
AC: 12
XP Value: 4,250

Powers
Conjuration*
Sense Vibrations

Gear
Anti-negativity helmet
Radioactive rash guard (resistance to radiation)
Power belt (invisibility, 1/day for 5 minutes)
Electric guitar (power bolt-electricity)

* Falconhawk can summon The Dude, an invisible eagle. The eagle hangs around long enough to perform one task, and he probably can’t do it more than once per game.

Side Note 1: If you have the chance to go to an Aquabats show, do it. Fun shows, chill music, crazy audiences, a fight with a man in a rubber suit on stage ... you cannot miss with these guys.

Side Note 2: How many other superhero games are there that have published stats for the Aquabats, Action League Now AND Fonzi? Go buy the game, for crying out loud!

Found HERE

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Alignment as Religion



This is something that has been kicking around in my head for a while, so read this as nothing more than me tossing around a few ideas.

When alignment first reared its soon-to-be controversial head, it was in the form of factions for war gaming. There was Law and Chaos - they opposed one another - and then Neutrality. The neutrals would fight for either side, and thus neither favored Law or Chaos. The terms "Law" and "Chaos" came from either Michael Moorcock or Poul Anderson - I've heard both get credit, and haven't researched it enough to have my own opinion on the matter. They may have already had the good vs. evil vibe, but I think the main point was in building fantasy army lists, not modeling ethics and morality in a fantasy game.

With the addition of the Lawful cleric (and later paladin), and the Chaotic anti-cleric, the alignment seemed to become a stand-in for religion. Instead of treading on the dangerous ground of Christians vs. Satan, they used Law vs. Chaos.

Eventually, alignment was expanded from the original three factions (or two factions plus neutrals) to five alignments and then nine. Once you get to nine alignments, with sometimes vague divisions between them, the alignment as religion scheme starts to fall apart. Is Chaotic Good more aligned with Chaos or Good? Is it player's choice, or does one override the other?

The Notion

What if you stick to three main religious/philosophical factions - Law, Chaos, Neutrality (or Good, Evil, Neutrality to be more precise) - and use the smaller divisions as sects within those three great factions.

For example, Lawful Good and Chaotic Good may argue and fuss with one another - they might even come to blows on rare occasions - but they're still ostensibly on the same side, and will always rally to one another when Chaos comes marching over the hill. Both are part of the Good faith, they just differ on the details.

So, how might we characterize these alignment sects?

First and foremost, let's assume that the main divide is Good vs. Evil. Why focus on the good/evil divide? Because I think it's more pronounced and contentious than the law/chaos divide. Oscar and Felix managed to live together without killing one another. Superman and Lex Luthor ... just not going to see eye to eye (you don't believe me? Click HERE. You just can't trust the guy).

I'm pretty sure they inspired Moorcock's Law vs. Chaos
Good supports virtuous action, self-discipline (i.e. telling yourself "no"), kindness, justice and law - not tyranny, but rather the idea of "natural law" or God's law - no murder, no theft, etc. The basics without which people cannot live in relative peace and tranquility.

Evil, on the other hand, scoffs at these ideas. It is interested in power for the sake of power. It might work within a system of law, but will always seek to distort and manipulate the system for its own benefit. Evil loves technicalities. Evil doesn't think of itself as "good" - it knows it is not, and it doesn't care, but it also doesn't see itself as wrong. Evil is okay, because the universe rewards it. Everyone is evil at heart. Good is naive. Good is nonsense. Good is a chicken waiting to be plucked. You good guys can deny yourselves pleasure and wealth and all the rest if you want to, but don't try to force me to deny those pleasures and power.

Simplify, man!
Neutrality is somewhere in between. Maybe pragmatic, maybe a dogmatic resistance to pick sides, maybe it just doesn't think much about it. For druids who actually need a functioning philosophy, perhaps it is something akin to taoism. We probably need to separate True Neutral (the philosophy) from Neutral (a cow chewing cud in a field). On the other hand, maybe druid's just serve the immediate, practical needs of their parishioners OR nature without worrying about whether what they do is good or evil. Perhaps they have an ideal held higher than moral and ethical concerns.

You can play with those definitions, but I think they make enough sense to inform the way a character behaves in a fantasy game environment.

Now, let's examine how the alignment sects might work.

Within the Good alignment faction, we have Lawful Good, Neutral Good and Chaotic Good. I can see Lawful Good as being something like the Catholic Church or similar religious organizations. It believes in virtue and civilization, and believes that the only way to preserve virtue and civilization is through hierarchical organizations and institutions. Its members also believe that the institutions are only legitimate, be they religious or political, if they uphold virtue. They hold their institutions to a high standard, and though they will rarely destroy an institution outright, they will work against its leadership to put a more virtuous person in charge when the institution appears to have lost its way. They believe in reformation rather than rebellion.

Chaotic Good is not so big on institutions. Human freedom and liberty are the key to maintaining virtue and civilization. Institutions are about power, and power corrupts. Give a Lawful Good institution enough time, and it will become Lawful Neutral or even Lawful Evil. The individual must not be run over by the institutions. They would probably prefer a republic over a monarchy, and would be loathe to join with others except on a temporary basis.

Neutral Good
Neutral Good can, like most neutrals, see both sides of the argument. There is value in institutions - they can do things individuals cannot, things that must be done. On the other hand, they can also lose their way, and thus must not be depended on overmuch. A thriving civilization needs institutions, but it also needs freedom and dynamism. Neutral Good also makes me think about some of the Christian sects that wanted to go back to a more "primitive" faith. They were often nudists, trying to recreate Eden, and not entirely unlike the original hippies. Neutral Good hippies could be fun in a campaign, annoying Lawful Good and Chaotic Good alike.

The divisions might be similar on the Evil side. The Lawful Evils worship the devils and imitate their evil hierarchy. The Chaotic Evils worship demons and believe that no creature in the cosmos is more important than themselves - you might call them psychopaths. Neutral Evil seeks to forward itself on the backs of Lawful and Chaotic Evil - maybe they see themselves as the true faith, the puppet masters of the other sects, using and abusing them as events merit.

Neutrality is a little tougher. I would think Lawful Neutrality is conservative, while Chaotic Neutrality is radical. Both favor a balance - either locally among personalities or cosmically between factions - but Lawful Neutral thinks that change might throw things out of balance, so one should be wary of change. Chaotic Neutrality likes change for the sake of change. It rushes here and there, always looking for something new. By spinning the top, it balances. If the top is left at rest, it does not. Neither Lawful Neutral nor Chaotic Neutral want to be enmeshed in a wider struggle between Good and Evil. One faction is too preachy, the other is too scary, and why don't they just leave us the heck alone?

Yes, Evil can work together ... for a while
To recap - Europe's Catholics and Protestants were at odds, often at war, but would have likely joined forces against the Ottoman Turks had they launched a major invasion. Likewise, the Joker, Penguin, Riddler and Catwoman hate one another, but they'll form the United Underworld if they think they can get rid of Batman and Robin.


One More Lame Alignment Idea Before I'm Done

I also thought about characterizing alignments in a string, rather than a square. One is permitted a certain number of vices at each alignment "level". The good alignments are permitted vices that hurt themselves but not others, while the other alignments permit more active vices.

The breakout could be something like:

Lawful Good: 0 vices (the toughest alignment to adhere to)
Neutral Good: 1 vice
Chaotic Good: 2 vices

Lawful Neutral: 3 vices (but only personal vices, as with the good alignments)
True Neutral: 3 vices
Chaotic Neutral: 4 vices

Lawful Evil: 5 vices
Neutral Evil: 6 vices
Chaotic Evil: 7 vices

So Chaotic Evil is permitted to glory in all seven deadly sins, while Lawful Good has to be perfect all the time. If a Lawful Good character sins, but only hurts herself, she becomes Neutral Good. If she does something sinful that hurts another, she drops all the way down to True Neutral (at best), and can feel free to dabble in a couple other sins as well. Reformation might come one level at a time, as the character swears off of different vices and proves their virtue by keeping away from that vice for some period of time set by the GM or through some other meaningful way.

This is what the planes should look like, right?

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Freeform Fantasy Races

Before I started writing this blog or publishing, I did a fair amount of writing for myself and the people with whom I gamed. I recently came across some files I'd stashed away, including the "original" NOD RPG, which was really just a mash-up of Swords & Wizardry and Castles & Crusades, with art from Wayne Reynolds, and this little ditty about racial archetypes.

The idea was to swap out the common fantasy races for these archetypes, with options chosen by the players so that they could, in essence, build their own "race" for their character. I used some of these idea later in Space Princess for those races, and a few ideas have probably filtered into Blood & Treasure, but I thought people might enjoy seeing the original, with only a little editing for spelling. Again - assume these were for some unholy mash-up of S&W, C&C and 3rd edition.

--

These rules are designed to let you model races not found in the Player’s Handbook.

Attribute Modifiers
All of the archetypes in this document except Aliens, Dynamics, and Natives are allowed one attribute modifier from the following list.

• +1 Cha, -1 Wis.
• +1 Dex, -1 Con.
• +1 Int, -1 Str.
• +1 Str, -1 Int and -1 penalty to one ability score of your choice.
• +1 Con, -1 Dex.
• +1 Wis, -1 Cha.

Dynamic Characters
Dynamics are the most common form of adventurer. They rely on training and luck to win the day, not innate powers.

Senses: Normal.

Prime Attributes: Dynamic characters may choose three prime attributes instead of the usual two.

Alien Characters
Aliens are defined by strange physical and mental powers. They are probably the most versatile type of hero, after the dynamic. Virtually any kind of “super powered” hero can be realized with the alien type.

Senses: Normal – but see below.

Powers: Aliens can choose three powers from the following list.

Mental Powers
All mental powers that are derived from Jason Vey’s psionics rules follow those rules normally. The alien should be treated as a 1st level psionicist for the purpose of using the ability. If an alien takes a psionic mental power multiple times, he increases his effective level for using that power by 1. Thus, an alien that took metabolic control three times would use the power as a 3rd level psionicist.

  • Alien Mind: Creatures that try to read or control your mind must make an Intelligence save or be confused for 1 round.
  • Clairaudience: See psionics rules.
  • Clairvoyance: See psionics rules.
  • Dual-Mind: You are capable of engaging in two mental tasks at once, making an attribute check for each at -2. You cannot cast two spells or use to psionic powers simultaneously with this power. In addition, you also get to make two saving throws against mental effects. As long as one mind makes it save, you can ignore the effect, though you suffer a -2 penalty to all actions.
  • Empathy: See psionics rules.
  • Heightened Mentality: Increase one of your mental attributes (Int, Wis, or Cha) by +1. This can be taken more than once, but no attribute can be increased beyond a score of 20.
  • Metabolic Control: See psionics rules.
  • Obfuscation: See psionics rules.
  • Psionically Gifted: You gain a +1 bonus to all psionic power checks.
  • Psychic Defense: See psionics rules.
  • Spell Resistance: You gain spell resistance 1. Each additional time you take this ability you increase your spell resistance by +1.
  • Telepathic Communication (Wisdom): See psionics rules.

Physical Powers

  • Chameleon: This is the ability to change the body’s colors (though not the color of items worn or carried) to match the environment. Generally it should give a bonus of +1 to +5 on hide checks.
  • Energy Resistance: You gain resistance to one energy type (acid, cold, electricity, fire, or sonic). This can be power can taken more than once, but it applies to a different energy form each time you take it.
  • Extra Arms: When using two-weapon fighting, you may make two off-hand attacks instead of one. Alternatively, you may wield an additional shield in combat.
  • Extra Legs: You are a quadruped – you gain a +4 bonus to avoid being knocked over. In addition, your carrying capacity is increased by 10%.
  • Heightened Physique: Increase one of your physical attributes (Str, Con, or Dex) by +1. This can be taken more than once, but no attribute can be increased beyond a score of 20.
  • Heightened Senses: You gain twilight vision, an enhanced sense of smell, and a +2 bonus to all listen checks.
  • Improved Speed: Your base land movement is increased by +5 ft. This can be taken more than once, and its benefits stack.
  • Natural Armor: You have scales, thick fur, or thick skin of some kind that give you a natural AC 12. Each additional time that you take this power you increase your natural armor by +2.
  • Natural Weapons: You either gain a bite, claw, gore, slam, slap, sting, talon, or tentacle attack that deals 1d4 damage. This attack can be used in addition to weapon attacks at no penalty. Each additional time you take this power you can either gain an additional attack form, or increase the damage of an existing attack form by one dice size.
  • Poison: You are poisonous – either through bite, skin contact, or writhing snakes on your head. Opponents who are stricken must succeed at a Constitution save or suffer 1d6 points of damage.
  • Quills/Spikes: Your outer arms, back, head, legs, etc are covered in quills or spikes. You gain a +1 bonus to AC, and can inflict 1d4 points of bonus damage when grappling or grappled. Opponents that strike you without using weapons suffer this damage automatically.
  • Regeneration: Gains fast healing 1.
  • Spider Climb: You can use spider climb, as the spell, at will.
  • Stretch: You can increase your reach by 5 ft (at the cost of 2 points of strength), and squeeze into small spaces with a dexterity check.
  • Tentacles: Tentacles emerge from some portion of your body – they may replace your arms or legs, or jut out from your chin. They grant you a slam attack that deals 1d4 damage, and grant you a +2 bonus to grappling attacks and climbing.

Sample Alien: Githyanki

The githyanki are descended from human slaves kept by the mind flayers. Ages ago they rebelled and escaped to the Astral Plane, where they now dwell. Githyankis have three mental powers: Alien mind, heightened mentality (+1 Int), and psionically gifted.

Beaste Characters
A concept drawn from folklore, beastes are shape shifting magical animals.

Senses: Twilight vision, enhanced sense of smell.

Alternate Form: Beastes can alternate their form between that of an animal, a humanoid, and a hybrid form. Changing form requires one complete round during which the character can do nothing else. Armor and equipment do not change form along with the beaste. In each form the character’s level and attribute scores are unchanged.

Animal Form: When in animal form the beaste is virtually undetectable from a normal animal. Beastes gain the ability to speak with normal animals when in their animal form. While in animal form, a beaste cannot use any weapons, armor, or equipment, nor can they cast spells. They can understand any language they know, but may not be able to reply.

Humanoid Form: When in humanoid form, beastes looks like a normal humanoid of a type chosen during character creation (i.e. elf, dwarf, human, orc, etc). Whatever their chosen humanoid guise, they always retain some distinctive feature of their beaste form. The choice is up to the player. In humanoid form, the beaste loses its twilight vision and enhanced sense of smell.

Hybrid Form: A beaste in hybrid form appears as a combination of animal and humanoid – their exact appearance is up to the player. In this form, they retain the special attacks and qualities of their animal form, but also have working humanoid hands, and can speak humanoid languages.

Speak To Animals: In all forms, a beaste can speak to animals at will.

Sample Beaste: Kitsune

Kitsune are fox beastes of Japanese folklore. They are capable of taking the form of a human, fox, or human-fox hybrid. They gain a +1 bonus to charisma and a -1 penalty to wisdom.

Elemental Characters
Elementals carry the blood of elementals in their veins. All elementals show this heritage in their physical appearance.

Senses: Twilight vision.

Energy Resistance: All elementals have 50% resistance to one energy type based on their elemental heritage:

Air 50% resistance to electricity
Earth 50% resistance to acid
Fire 50% resistance to fire
Water 50% resistance to cold

Elemental Power: Elementals have special abilities based on their elemental heritage.

Air: Reduce falling damage by 50%, double jump distance.
Earth: +2 AC vs. overbearing attacks, +1 natural AC
Fire: Deal 1 point of fire damage with all melee attacks.
Water: Breathe underwater, gain swim speed equal to land speed.

Sample Elemental: Fire Gnome
The fire gnomes are gnomes that dwell near volcanoes. They have 50% resistance to fire and can deal 1 extra point of damage with their melee attacks. In addition, they have the small subtype, giving them a +2 bonus to dexterity and a -2 penalty to strength. They have a +1 bonus to intelligence and a -1 penalty to strength (making a total -3 penalty to strength).

Macabre Characters
Macabres are either born from the undead (i.e. their parents were made undead while they were in the womb, or they were sired by a vampire, or there was a strange ritual involved), the result of botched resurrections on their pregnant mothers, or maybe they are actually sentient undead. Macabres can choose to be intangibles (like ghosts, shadows, or wraiths) or corporeals (like zombies, ghouls or vampires). They can be small, medium, or large.

Senses: Twilight vision.

Resistance: Macabres are damaged by positive energy and healed by negative energy. Thus cure light wounds will inflict 1d8 points of damage on a macabre, while inflict light wounds will cure 1d8 points of damage.

Stunning Touch: Macabres have a touch attack that stuns living creatures for 1d4 rounds if they fail a constitution saving throw. They can use this once per day.

Intangibles: Intangible macabres can use ethereal jaunt once per day.

Corporeals: Corporeal macabres have a 50% chance to ignore extra damage from sneak attacks, back attacks, and critical hits.

Sample Macabre: True Ghoul
The true ghouls are a race of undead that haunts the deepest reaches of the Underworld. Unlike normal ghouls ,they are intelligent and more-or-less civilized. A true ghoul has the normal resistance to positive and negative energy and stunning touch of a macabre. As corporeal macabres, they have a 50% chance to ignore extra damage from sneak attacks, back attacks, and critical hits. They have a +1 bonus to constitution and a -1 penalty to dexterity.

Magical Characters
Magical characters have magical power flowing through their veins. This is usually due to a fey, planar, or draconic heritage.

Senses: Twilight vision.

Resistance: Magicals can choose to have 25% resistance to any three energy types of their choice, 90% resistance to sleep and charm effects, or a flat magic resistance of 10%.

Spells: Magicals can choose four 0-level spells, two 1st level spells, or one 2nd level spell to cast as spell-like abilities once per day. The magical character has a caster level of 1 with his spell-like abilities.

The list a magical character chooses his spell-like abilities from often corresponds to his heritage: wizard for draconics, illusionist or druid for feys, and cleric for planars.

The spells chosen must be approved by the CK.

Sample Magical: Tiefling
Tieflings have fiendish blood in their veins. They have 25% resistance to cold, fire and poison damage, and can cast darkness once per day. They have a +1 bonus to dexterity and a -1 penalty to constitution.

Native Characters
The native is tied to where he has grown to adulthood, whether he is a barbarian of the forests or a city slicker.

Senses: Normal.

Native Environment: Natives must designate one “environment” as their native environment. A native can choose from the following environments: Aquatic, Arctic, Desert, Forest, Jungle, Hills, Marsh, Mountains, Plains, Underground, and Urban. Man-made dungeons do not count as an urban or underground environment.

All natives receive a +1 bonus to initiative, attribute checks that would benefit from familiarity with an area, and +10 ft to movement when in their native environment.

In addition, natives can choose to get either a +1 bonus to hit three traditional enemies of their people (chosen with CK’s approval), or a +1 bonus to hit with a traditional weapon of their people.

Finally, natives get a +2 bonus to AC when fighting large creatures native to their native environment.

Sample Native: Cimmerian
The Cimmerians of Robert E. Howard’s Hyborian tales are native to a land of steep, rugged hills. In such environments they gain a +1 bonus to initiative and attribute checks, a +10’ to their movement. Their traditional enemies are the Picts, Vanir, and Hyperboreans, against whom they are +1 to hit. Against large creatures native to Cimmeria they have a +2 bonus to AC.

Promethean Characters
Monkbot, from HERE
Note: I think I snagged this from somewhere else - maybe Jason Vey - if anyone knows, let me know

Prometheans are creatures that are manufactured by other creatures. They are sentient, and as capable of emotion as their player wishes them to be. Prometheans can be built from a variety of materials, including wood, metal, stone, clay, porcelain, or even unliving flesh.

Constructed: Prometheans are immune to any effect that requires a constitution save that doesn’t normally affect objects. They do not need to eat, sleep, or breath, although they can benefit from imbibing a magical potion.

Outer Shell: Prometheans gains special abilities based on the composition of their outer shell. Choose one.

Ceramic: +2 to charisma checks
Cloth: +2 to dexterity checks
Metal: Natural AC 12
Wax: Change self once per day, vulnerable to fire
Wood: Natural AC 11, swim speed equal to half their land speed

Innards: Prometheans gain special abilities based on their innards. Choose one.

Clockwork: +2 to grapple attacks and to disarm AC due to the ability to lock their grasp
Cotton: Cold resistance equal to 25%
Hollow: Conceal objects one size category smaller within its body
Sand: Fire resistance equal to 25%
Sawdust: Acid resistance equal to 25%
Solid: 25% chance to negate extra damage from sneak attacks, back attacks, and critical hits

Sample Promethean: Karakuri
In real life, karakuri are primitive Japanese clockwork automatons. In a fantasy game they can be prometheans of ceramic composition and clockwork innards. This gives them a +2 to charisma checks, a +2 bonus to grapple attacks, and a +2 bonus to AC vs. disarming attacks. Since they are constructs, they need not eat, sleep, or breath. They have a +1 bonus to dexterity and a -1 penalty to constitution.

Racial Subtypes
The following subtypes can be added to any racial type.

Aquatic: Aquatic creatures can breath underwater and gain a swim speed equal to their land speed. They must immerse their bodies in water at least once per day or lose 1 point of Constitution to dehydration.

Avian: Avian creatures have working wings; they gain a fly speed equal to their land speed, but suffer a -2 penalty to Constitution due to their hollow bones.

Insectoid: An insectoid’s antenna give it the ability to fight without the benefit of sight. They suffer half the normal penalty when fighting blind.

Subterranean: Subterranean creatures have darkvision to 60 feet, but are -1 to hit in bright light. Alternatively, they can have deepvision to 120 feet, but suffer a -3 penalty to hit in bright light.

Size: A creature’s size is assumed to be Medium, i.e. between 5 and 7 feet in height. Optionally, it can be Tiny, Small, or Large.

  • Tiny (1-2 ft): +4 Dex, -4 Str, 50% reduced carrying capacity
  • Small (3-4 ft): +2 Dex, -2 Str, 25% reduced carrying capacity
  • Large (8-12 ft): +2 Str, -2 Dex, 25% increased carrying capacity

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Dragon by Dragon - February 1981 (46)

Happy Easter boys and girls. I hope you have a good one - family, friends, fun and a little time for relaxation and meditation. Hopefully, you also have some time to read this review of Dragon 46 (and White Dwarf 23).

I'll level with you here. The first time I saw this cover, I didn't quite know what to make of it. There are a few other "cute" Dragon covers, but this one sorta took the cake. It's not a bad cover, though, and actually relates to a new comic in this issue - Pinsom by Steve Swenston. It's a style of fantasy I always digged, and one which I wish had had more coverage in Dragon. Check the end of the article for another glimpse of Swenston's work.

Moving on ...



First up - an advertisement (no, not for anything I did)


Yes, for those of us who lived through the transition, there was home entertainment BEFORE Dungeon!, and home entertainment AFTER Dungeon!. You young whippersnappers have no idea.

In all seriousness, if you've never played the game, I highly recommend it (at least, the old version that I used to have - I don't know if they done any crappy re-imaginings lately). It just occurred to me that it might be cool to combine Dungeon! with Talisman - at least, with the "classes" in Talisman.

The first bit of content in this issue is a short story by J. Eric Holmes, "The Sorceror's Jewel" - so always worth a read. Great art by Roslof to go with it! Here's a sample (of art and text) ...

"When Tarkan departed from The Green Dragon, only minutes later, Zereth pushed
Boinger off the end of the wooden bench on which they both sat. “Follow him,” he ordered, “and be secretive about it.” It was midnight when the little thief returned. His elven companion had left the tavern common room and gone upstairs to the rented room the two shared, but when Boinger roused him he dressed and came down. The noisy crowd at the bar and fire served their secret purpose better than whispering in their room, where ears might be pressed to the adjoining wall."

That image to the right just screams D&D to me, and the story does as well. I'll admit I'm not much of a reader of the fiction in The Dragon, which I should probably remedy at some point, given that I dig Gardner Fox, Homes and Gygax. More importantly, It would be interesting to glean some bits of useful lore from the stories that ostensibly come from actual gameplay.

Here's another Roslof from that issue:


Love the halfling.

This issue goes pretty heavy into variants on Divine Right (which I don't have) and touches on The Tribes of Crane (which I never played). I mention this in case people have do have or have played those games want to check out the issue.

The "Dragon's Bestiary" features the Gaund by Ed Greenwood. Greenwood's monsters are always well thought out, and seem to point to the direction in which games were moving at the time, which I guess you could call fantasy realism.

I'm more enthused about Roger E. Moore's "This Here's Tyrannosaurus Tex", a Boot Hill Scenario based on The Valley of the Gwangi.

For those who do not know of The Valley of the Gwangi ...



I haven't seen it in a long time - I need to put it on the list.

Among other things, the article includes a hit location chart for the t-rex ...

01-20  Tail
21-50  Rear leg
51-55  Forearm
56-75  Abdomen (1% chance of mortal wound)
76-85  Chest (5% chance of mortal wound)
86-00  Head and neck (2% chance of mortal wound)

Also this handy guide to killing a t-rex with dynamite

"For every two sticks of dynamite used against a Tyrannosaur in one attack, there is a cumulative 50% chance of stunning it for one turn (10 seconds), a 25% chance of inflicting a wound or wounds (d10: 1-2 = one wound, 3-5 = two wounds, 6-8 = three wounds, 9-0 = four wounds), and a cumulative 10% chance of killing it outright. This percentage is reduced by 20% (for stunning, wounding, and killing) for each 2” (12’) that the monster is distant from the explosion. For example, 20 sticks of dynamite exploded 4” (24’) from a Tyrannosaur has a 460% chance of stunning it (500-40=460), a 210% chance of wounding it (250-40=210) and a 60% chance of killing it (100-40=60). Treat any amount of dynamite greater than 40 sticks as 40 sticks."

Paul Montgomery Crabaugh follows up with another Boot Hill article, "How to ease the Boot Hill identity crisis". I love the first paragraph ...

"Everyone seems to have a place in Boot Hill except the player-characters, who have to be content with a place on Boot Hill. They wander in out of nowhere, invariably causing much havoc and then moving on."
I have to admit, that sounds pretty good to me - not sure I want to remedy that situation. However, if you do, you'll find a random table of identities for a Boot Hill character. I dig the fact that female characters have a 2% chance to be nuns. I'd love to play a gunslinging nun.

The feature of this issue is "The Temple of Poseidon" by Paul Reiche III. The intro has nothing to do with the adventure, but it does delve into TSR history ...

"I wrote The Temple of Poseidon early in the spring of 1980 as part of an application for employment at TSR Hobbies, Inc. Having grown tired of fourteen straight years of school, I decided to take some time off from college and work full-time for a change. The problem was where to find a job. I had already had several, all of which were boring or (as was with the case with piano moving) physically undesirable.

A year earlier, TSR had hired my good friend Erol Otus as a staff artist. After visiting Erol out in the chilly wastes of Wisconsin, and learning that—contrary to what I had heard—the men and women of TSR were not evil, hateful creatures, I decided that perhaps a job with TSR was the kind of change I was looking for. So with several years of playing experience and authorship of two fantasy roleplaying supplements under my belt (Booty and The Beasts and The Necromican co-authored with Mathias Genser and Erol Otus) I started work on the Temple of Poseidon."

He goes on to say the adventure was inspired by Lovecraft and CAS - and it's a great dungeon crawl. Well worth reading and running.

Another dandy by Roslof - casting a spell from a scroll
Here's a cool bit:

"Time and the way the party spends it plays an integral part in this adventure. Exactly 10 turns after the characters descend the spiral staircase and enter the alien base, the evil priests of Ythog Nthlei will succeed in freeing their master. The only way to prevent them from attaining their goal is to kill them before the end of 10 turns. If they succeed, Ythog Nthlei will instantly move to Room 31 with his treasure: The priests will remain in their room."

"Giants in the Earth", by Tom Moldvay, opens things up for contributions. So, no giants this time. Dang.

Time for some sage advice ...

Question: What happens when a cornered (as in a deep pit) undead creature is turned?

Answer: The act of turning undead (by a good Cleric) compels the victim to turn directly away from the Cleric and move as fast and as far away as possible for 3-12 rounds. When it is physically impossible for the creature to keep moving away, it will retreat to the most remote (from the Cleric) location in the area and continually face away from the Cleric and his/her holy symbol. — J. Ward, W. Niebling
So basically, it's like the cleric telling the undead to go stand in the corner and think about what they're done.

And now we come to the comics, and Steve Swenston's Pinsom.


Cool stuff.

And so ends the chronicle of February 1981's Dragon Magazine. But what were those knuckleheads in the UK up to?

At a minimum, the White Dwarf cover for Feb/Mar 1981 (that would be #23) was putting off a very different vibe than The Dragon. It's definitely an image with which to conjure.

This issue of WD starts a series by Lewis Pulsipher, "An Introduction to Dungeons & Dragons". Good series, and worth the read for the newcomers to the hobby - although I've always thought learning to play these games is much better done by joining an existing group and playing. In the early days of the hobby, though, this wasn't always possible and many groups were learning as they went.

Next up is an interview with Marc Miller, covering his origins and the origins of Traveller. If you're a fan, you might want to give it a look.

You might also enjoy a look at the Marc Miller of 1981 ...






The "Fiend Factory" this issue has the Flymen by Daniel Collerton, with art by Russ Nicholson - great monsters, though they're only a half-inch tall. However, with a handy shrink ray, they could give a party of adventurers plenty of trouble as they look for a way to return to normal size.


Here are the Blood & Treasure stats, first for the tiny-sized fly men in a swarm, and then for the fly men as they would appear to shrunken adventurers:

Flyman, Tiny Humanoid: HD 0 (1 hp), AC 14 (20 when flying), ATK special, MV 5' (Fly 30'), SV F16 R16 W16, AL Neutral (LN), Special-Swarm surrounds a person's head blinding them (-4 to hit, 1d4 automatic hits per round), tiny weapons are poisoned and people have a 1 in 20 chance of being allergic and suffering ill effect; roll 1d8; 1-7 renders the area stung swollen and useless, taking 1d4 turns to set in and then lasting for 1d20+24 turns. An 8 means the character falls into a coma in 1d4 rounds and dies in 1d20+24 turns unless the venom is neutralized.

Drone, "Medium" Humanoid: HD 0 (3 hp), AC 12, ATK nil, MV 20' (Fly 50'), SV F13 R16 W17, AL Neutral (LN), Special-Strength of 17, semi-intelligent, 1d10+10 appearing.

Artisan, "Medium" Humanoid: HD 1, AC 12, ATK 1 weapon, MV 20' (Fly 50'), SV F 13 R15 W15, AL Neutral (LN), Special-Usually armed with unpoisoned daggers, their skill in metalwork surpasses the dwarves.

Warrior, "Medium" Humanoid: HD 3, AC 14 (carapace, shield), ATK 1 weapon + poison, MV 20' (Fly 50'), SV F12 R14 W14, AL Neutral (LN), Special-Carry shields, carapace like studded leather, armed with short bow, short sword, dagger, poisoned weapons (save vs. poison, if save suffer 1d6+4 damage, if fail die instantly), allergic people suffer -4 penalty to save, weapons have enough venom for 5 strikes.

Flyguard, "Medium" Humanoid: HD 9, AC 16 (chain, shield), ATK 2 weapon + poison, MV 30', SV F9 R10 W11, AL Neutral (LN), Special-Carry composite bow, longsword and dagger (poisoned as above), can size-change and have size rods, ride wasps.

Flymage, "Medium" Humanoid: HD 6, AC 16, ATK 1 weapon + poison, MV 30', SV as 12th level magic-users, AL Neutral (LN), Special-Can size-change and have size rods, has innate powers (locate insects, summon insects, insect plague, creeping doom, size change to medium size for 30 rounds) and powers granted by their god, Ssrrpt'ck (must pray for 5 rounds).

There are five fly mages per hive, and each has extra powers depending on his role. There is the Master Attack, Master Defense, Master Healer, Master Knowledge, Master Worshiper.

The article also includes info on other types of flymen, the Northflies and Sandflies. Awesome stuff - seek it out and use it, for crying out loud. The flymen would make an incredible side trek in a dungeon or wilderness. In fact, the issue includes "The Hive of the Hrrr'l", also by Daniel Collerton, so you're all set.

Also: The flymen's heads can be hollowed out and used as masks.

In addition:

Size-Change
Magic-User 4, Cleric 3

Range: Touch
Duration: 30 rounds

Spell causes a creature to shrink by a factor of 144 (human down to 1/2" in height).

Spell Focus: A telescoping rod (costs 1,000 gp) that must be pushed in while the spell is being cast.

The White Dwarf isn't done yet - you also get a new class, The Elementalist by Stephen Bland, the Khazad-class Seeker Starship for Traveller by Roger E. Moore, and A Spellcaster's Guide to Arcane Power by Bill Milne. That last article involves a spell point system for spellcasting. There are also some keen magic items.

All in all, a really good issue of White Dwarf ... in fact, I give it the nod over The Dragon this time around.

Happy Easter folks!
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