Saturday, October 31, 2015

Fun with Halloween Magic

Happy Halloween boys and girls. Here are a few spells inspired by the season:

JACK-O'-LANTERN

Level: Druid 4
Range: See below
Duration: See below

To cast this spell, a druid carves a jack-o'-lantern from a pumpkin or similar gourd and places a candle inside it. The light emanating from the jack-o'-lantern's face has a magical effect, as follows:

If the face is frightening, creatures caught in the light (including allies, so be careful) are subject to the effects of the cause fear spell. If the face is amusing, creatures caught in the light are subject to the calm emotions spell.

The light from the jack-o'-lantern also negates magical invisibility, and causes magic items to glow orange.

The magic lasts as long as the candle lasts (probably 1 or 2 hours), and the range is per a normal lantern.

TRANSPLANT

Level: Magic-User 6
Range: Close (30')
Duration: 1 hour (then permanent)

If during the duration of this spell the magic-user is killed, his or her head immediately teleports to and is transplanted on the nearest humanoid creature within 30 feet. The victim's head remains on the body as well.

The magic-user and his subject will be dazed for 1 minute afterwards, and the magic-user will be unable to cast spells until it takes control over the victim's body. Each day, the magic-user can attempt a contest of wills against the victim; each rolls a Will saving throw. If the magic-user succeeds at his save, and succeeds by more than the victim, he gains control of one arm. Another success wins him the other arm, and a third the legs. A failure over the same period loses him an arm or the legs. When the magic-user has control of the arms, he can cast magic spells again as normal.

(Yeah, The Thing With Two Heads was on TV this morning).

HIDEOUS CACKLE

Level: Magic-User 4
Range: Close (30')
Duration: 10 minutes

As hideous laughter, with the following differences: The victim is not completely helpless - they can move and even attack, but cannot stop cackling. Any strenuous activity causes fatigue for 10 minutes. Also, the cackling forces those who hear it to pass a Will save vs. fear or be affected as per the cause fear spell.

BONE TO STEEL

Level: Magic-User 3
Range: Close (30')
Duration: 1 hour

This spell turns bone into steel. Only dead bones (i.e. not part of a living creature) are affected. Bones like femurs are turned into the equivalent of light maces. Animated skeletons gain AC 17.

ALTER GAZE

Level: Magic-User 5
Range: Personal or 1 creature touched
Duration: 2 hours

The beneficiary of this spell does not suffer from gaze attacks as normal. If the gaze normally causes fear or blindness, it now instead reduces the victim's Wisdom by half. If the gaze normally causes petrification, it now instead reduces the victim's Dexterity by half. Other effects can be determined by the TK as necessary. The effects of the gaze attack last for 3 hours.

GRIMACE

Mr. Sardonicus
Level: Magic-User 2
Range: Touch
Duration: 24 hours

The touched victim must pass a Fortitude save or their face is twisted into a terrible grimace, reducing their Charisma score to 3 for the duration of the spell.

Have fun, folks - don't eat too much candy!

TERRIBLE OBSESSION

Level: Magic-User 2
Range: Close (30')
Duration: 10 minutes

The magic-user holds an object (any object) up and focuses on a single victim. If the victim fails a Will saving throw, they become obsessed with possessing the object for 10 minutes, to the exclusion of all other goals. When they get the object, they crouch on the floor, petting it and proclaiming it their "precious".

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Dragon by Dragon - May 1980

To be completely honest, The Dragon was not the biggest thing that happened in May 1980.



That being said, it may have been the biggest thing that happened in RPG's that month, and that's good enough for me. Let us delve into the top ten things about The Dragon #37.

#1. NEUTRAL DRAGONS

Arthur W. Collins fills in the alignment gap of dragons in this article, and introduces the gemstone dragons we have all come to know and love (well, some of us). These are dandy creatures, especially if you're into psionics. What follows are some quick stat blocks in Blood & Treasure style for the gemstone dragons (all adults, max. hit dice):

Crystal Dragon, Large Dragon: HD 6; AC 18; ATK 2 claws (1d4) and bite (2d6); MV 20' (Fly 50'); SV F9 R9 W9; AL Neutral (N); Special: Breath weapon (2/day dazzling cloud that cause blindness, 10' cone), entrance (10% cumulative per minute of talking), implant suggestion (35%), telepathic, 50% chance of psionics, 50% chance of speaking, 30% chance of magic-use, druid spells (1/1/1/1), magic-user spells (1/1/1), save aura (+4 to save against), blink 6/day

Topaz Dragon, Large Dragon: HD 7; AC 19; ATK 2 claws (1d4+1) and bite (2d8); MV 20' (Fly 50'); SV F9 R9 W9; AL Neutral (N); Special: Breath weapon (2/day dehydration gets rid of 3 cubic feet of liquid per dragon hp and deals 1d6+6 Str damage to creatures, 10' cone), entrance (10% cumulative per minute of talking), implant suggestion (40%), telepathic, 50% chance of psionics, 60% chance of speaking, 35% chance of magic-use, druid spells (2/2/2/1), magic-user spells (2/2/2), save aura (+4 to save against), blink 6/day

Emerald Dragon, Huge Dragon: HD 8; AC 20; ATK 2 claws (1d6) and bite (3d6); MV 20' (Fly 60'); SV F6 R8 W8; AL Neutral (N); Special: Breath weapon (2/day; sonic vibration knocks people unconscious for 1d6 x 10 minutes or deafens them for same if they save), entrance (10% cumulative per minute of talking), implant suggestion (50%), telepathic, 50% chance of psionics, 70% chance of speaking, 40% chance of magic-use, druid spells (2/2/2/1), magic-user spells (2/2/2/1), save aura (+4 to save against), blink 6/day

Sapphire Dragon, Huge Dragon: HD 9; AC 21; ATK 2 claws (1d6) and bite (5d4); MV 20' (Fly 60'); SV F6 R8 W6; AL Neutral (N); Special: Breath weapon (2/day, sonic vibration disintegrates a number of hit points equal to the dragon's hit points), entrance (10% cumulative per minute of talking), implant suggestion (55%), telepathic, 50% chance of psionics, 80% chance of speaking, 45% chance of magic-use, druid spells (2/2/2/2), magic-user spells (2/2/2/2), save aura (+4 to save against), blink 6/day

Amethyst Dragon, Huge Dragon: HD 10; AC 22; ATK 2 claws (1d8) and bite (5d6); MV 30' (Fly 80'); SV F5 R7 W5; AL Neutral (N); Special: Breath weapon (2/day shriek like a banshee), entrance (10% cumulative per minute of talking), implant suggestion (65%), telepathic, 50% chance of psionics, 90% chance of speaking, 50% chance of magic-use, druid spells (2/2/1/2/2/1), magic-user spells (2/1/2/2/2), save aura (+4 to save against), blink 6/day

Sardior the Ruby Dragon, Huge Dragon: HD 11; AC 23; ATK 2 claws (1d10) and bite (5d8); MV 30' (Fly 80'); SV F5 R7 W5; AL Neutral (N); Special: Breath weapon (2/day shriek like amethyst dragon or dazzling cloud like crystal dragon), entrance (10% cumulative per minute of talking), implant suggestion (75%), telepathic, 50% chance of psionics, 100% chance of speaking, 100% chance of magic-use, druid spells (3/3/3/3/3/3/3/3), magic-user spells (3/3/3/3/3/3/3/3), save aura (+4 to save against), blink 6/day

Inflict one on your players today!

Side Trek #1 - Fiends!

"On other fronts, it seems likely now that TSR and Games Workshop have reached a final agreement regarding the publication of the Fiend Folio ..."

Love the Fiend Folio. Love it.

Side Trek #2 - Calling Mr. Hall

"Question: My character is a 9th-level Druid changed to a Magic-User (he is now 10th level as a M-U). I want to be able to put my previously owned Apparatus of Kwalish inside my newly acquired Mighty Servant of Leuk-O. Then I would have the ultimate weapon ..."

#2. Happenstance

So I'm knee-deep in writing Black Death, which is set, vaguely, during the Thirty Years War and the Wars of Religion. What article do I happen to come across, but "Armies of the Renaissance by Nick Nascati Part VI - Landsknect and Reiters".

Apparently, the Landsknecht army (and my game) should include:

Infantry - pike-armed, in the style of the Swiss pikemen they were trying to counter

Light Cavalry - dressed as landsknechts, armed with arquebus or crossbow - trained as skirmishers and scouts

Ritters - armored lancers with full plate, battle lances and longswords, and plate barding for the horse

Reiters - black-armored pistoliers, they took two form - light reiters wore a shirt of mail and heavy reiters wore half-plate; both carried three wheellock or matchlock pistols and an estoc

The landsknechts were true mercenaries - a good war to them was one with lots of prisoners they could ransom!

#3. Magic-Users are Experience

T. I. Jones presents a very long article about magic research for magic-users and clerics. I think it's one of those interesting pieces that tried to deal with all that treasure that was floating around in AD&D. The idea, which I generally ascribe to, is to keep the players needing money, and that keeps them delving into dungeons. The DMG had training costs, which we never used when I was a kid and which I now understand were kind of important to the game. There was also the expense of one day setting up a stronghold. This article gives another - magic research. For example:

"Research in one’s own library will require that such a library have been acquired and built up over the course of several levels of experience. It should be not only difficult but expensive to acquire such a library—a minimum expenditure of 10,000 gold pieces per level of the spell to be researched is recommended. That is, if a Magic-User is to research a second-level spell, he should have spent at least 20,000 gold pieces on his library."

#4. Libraries

Speaking of libraries, the next article, by Colleen A. Bishop, is a random book generator. Let's build a library shelf by rolling some percentile dice:

Our shelf contains 250 scrolls (holy cow! - I'm not rolling up all of those) and five books. There's a 4% chance of a scroll being magic, so there should be 10 magic scrolls on the shelf. The books are two histories of particular castles, a book about the inferiority of kobolds to human beings, and another about how humans are better than dwarves and an alchemist's notebook in which the writing is too difficult to read.

This would be an excellent random table to automate, to produce large libraries quickly.

#5. Giant in the Earth

Lawrence Schick and Tom Moldvay present another batch of literary heroes for D&D. This time, the article does not include any character stats. Rather, it describes the rationale used by the authors for creating their stats. The article includes a great passage about doing stats for Tolkien's creations ...

"As far as writing up the characters from Tolkien’s Ring Trilogy, we would love to try our hand at them. Unfortunately, the Tolkien estate is known to be fanatically paranoid about the slightest possible infringement of rights (whether real or imagined). We were also unwilling to attempt them because 90% of the Tolkien fans would be unhappy with the results, regardless of what they were. In the end, we decided it was simply too much hassle to write up Tolkien characters."

Yeah, this would be post-lawsuit.

The article has a nice table comparing AD&D to D&D levels, which I reproduce:

AD&D 21+ = D&D 40+ / equivalent to demigods, for characters with magically extended lives or who are in close contact with the gods

AD&D 17-20 = D&D 30-30 / the max. an exceptional character would obtain in a single lifetime

AD&D 13-16 = D&D 20-29 / average for heroic characters

AD&D 9-12 = D&D 10-19 / normal minimum for any hero

AD&D 5-8 = D&D 5-9 / this line was actually missing from the article

AD&D 1-4 = D&D 1-4 / low-level cannon-fodder

#6. Urban Encounters

Here's a nice table folks should find some use for ...



#7. Nothing New Under the Sun

From the letters to the editor ...

"Unfortunately, I do not feel so good about Mr. Fawcett’s article, “Angels in Dungeons and Dragons.” Yes, I did read the article’s opening statement about the source material being both religious and fictional in nature. As a DM, I will admit that the concept of having angels for the deities of a mythos is intriguing. However, it is the source material that bothers me. Let us remember that much of the article was derived from the Holy Bible, and as far as I’m concerned that is not a book to be taken lightly! Games are games, but the Word of God is not something to be used in such a manner.

I happen to believe in the Bible. However, I also happen to believe in the Constitution, and I respect your right to print what you wish. But I think that “Angels in Dungeons and Dragons” was in extremely poor taste."

#8. Magic Items

Some goodies in the Bazaar of the Bizarre this month. Here's an inventory:

Mirror of Speed
Mirror of Confusion
Mirror of Memory
Mirror of All-Seeing
Yefar's Great Mirror (all by Gerald Strathmann)
Rod of Singing by Robert Plamondon (cursed  item)
The Discus Shield by Roger E. Moore

#9. Vulturehounds

A cool monster by Chris Chalmers and Dan Pollak. Quick stat block

Vulturehound. Small Magical Beast: HD 2; AC 15; ATK 2 claws (1d3) and bite (1d6); MV 50' (fly 30'); SV F13 R11 W18; AL Neutral (N); Special-None.

They run around in groups of 4d6, and have voracious appetites. I think they'd be a great encounter in dry hills.

Side Trek #3 - I love McLean!


Always loved the art style, and the humor

#10. The Pit of the Oracle

A module by Stephen Sullivan, with a nice cover image by Jeff Dee in which a fighter is either doing a bad-ass, casual back strike against a troglodyte, or in which a fighter is about to get his ass kicked by a couple troglodytes.

The module contains a dungeon and a town (and a Temple of Apathy), as well as some other nice art pieces by Dee, Roslof, Otus and Sutherland. You can tell the elements of D&D's most classic phase are all coming together.

The map has all sorts of notations on it, which makes me think the adventure is a bit complex ... but it also looks really cool. Hey, maybe that's just the art talking.

And that's Dragon #37 - happy Sunday folks and have a groovy week ahead.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

A Gargantuan Success

Patrice 'Kabuki Kaiser' Crespy was kind enough to send me a review copy (electronic format) of his Castle Gargantua, and may I just say - Bravo!

This is the kind of Old School product I love - innovative. It takes a difficult concept and makes it concrete and playable - something truly different for players (and referees) to experience. Hey, a good, old-fashioned dungeon is fun, and I think most of us get the urge to run or play in one every so often. But it's these innovative adventures that keep everything fresh.

Now, I'm not going to go into how it's done, because that would ruin the surprise for the players. Suffice to say - Castle Gargantua gets it done. I can affirm this because I tried to do something similar with the city of Dis in my Hell Crawl a while back, and KK does it better. Quite a bit better, in fact. Dang it.

1) You get moody, evocative art by Jeremy Hart and excellent maps by Dyson Logos

2) You get fantastic rumors to drive the adventurers on - I really enjoyed these

3) There is a random element to the dungeon, so there is the possibility of repetition. I think referees might need to veer from the script from time to time. A minor quibble, and it does not detract from the quality of the composition or execution, because ...

4) ... the random elements are awesome - super fun to read, and probably super fun for players to experience. Having written a few hex crawls, I can attest to the quality of the imagination in Castle Gargantua and the effort it must have taken to write.

Final thought ... buy the book. For $5.00, the PDF is a steal. I'm going to shuffle off and buy a hard copy myself.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Release-A-Palooza

I have three new (or recent) releases to bring to your kind attention.
Before I talk about them, though, HERE'S A LINK to those Bloody Basic printable character sheets I mentioned (including Weird Fantasy edition), with background color removed.

NOD 27

This issue of NOD features:

* Gloriana's Blessed Isle, Part 2 - The continuation of the Ulflandia hex crawl that started in NOD 26 - this one covers a little of the island, the Bragart Hills, the southern portion of the Klarkash Mountains and a wee bit of the Wyvern Coast ... a real cross roads. Features some groovy art by Denis McCarthy

* d20 Mecha I: The Classes - The first part of a three part article on adapting d20-based games for giant robot adventures - by my good friend and mecha-aficionado Luke DeGraw. Part 2 will cover equipment, and in Part 3 we're going to collaborate on simplified rules for the mecha themselves, using some of the rules I've developed for GRIT & VIGOR.

* The Nodian Bestiary - Featuring 10 new monsters

* Strength: A Primer - Exploring the strength ability score

* The Muscleman - A new class that puts strength to the test ... yeah, he can bite through chains and throw halflings ... nice art by NOD regular Jon Kaufman

* You Pull the Lever and ... - Ideas for lever-based traps and tricks ... with more from Kaufman

* Racial Variations: Earth - Elemental twists on the classic fantasy races ... and a third Kaufman piece

* Plan 9 from Outer Space: The RPG - A Quick & Easy minigame for Halloween ... I'm super excited about this silly thing

* The Grey Planet Beckons - The negative-energy planet Pluto for the Nodian cosmos

$4.99 for the e-book ... print edition coming soon 

BLOODY BASIC - WEIRD FANTASY EDITION

I know some folks have been waiting for this one. The Weird Fantasy Edition rules are inspired by the wondrous prose and poetry of Clark Ashton Smith and Lord Dunsany and the art of such luminaries as Aubrey Beardsley and Sidney Sime. It include rules for the races, classes, spells and monsters of weird fantasy tales. Ever wanted to play a grotesque puissant? Now's your chance.

This one was briefly in the Top 10 hottest titles on rpgnow ... pretty cool!

$4.99 for the e-book ... print edition coming soon

DEVIANT DECADE

Can you survive the mean streets of New York City in the 1970's? Muggers, psychos, junkies, sewer-gators, street punks, and gangsters! Oh My!

Deviant Decade is a quick and easy game to learn and play. All you need is a few friends, some pencils and paper, a few ordinary dice and this book ... leisure suits are optional.

$2.99 for the e-book (no stagflation here) ... print edition coming soon





For sale now at both Lulu and Drive Thru / Rpgnow

COMING SOON

Well, I think that's enough productivity for the moment. I'm working on Black Death (coming along nicely - and a little more meat than past Quick & Easy games - I think Swords & Sandals will need a revision next year) and NOD 28 (exploring the northern Land of Og in this one) now, and I'm determined to get GRIT & VIGOR released by the end of the year.

Then I can focus on the revisions of BLOOD & TREASURE, MYSTERY MEN!, SPACE PRINCESS and PARS FORTUNA. I've already commissioned new cover art for B&T!!! Super excited.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Bloody Basic Character Sheets

I had some time last night to make some simple, one-page character sheets for the different versions of Bloody Basic. Enjoy!


Yeah, I did it in goldenrod, just because.




Thursday, October 8, 2015

Monster Tome II - The Worm Harmonious

I don't know if the Monster Tome II will ever be a physical (or electronic) product, or if it will just be a series of blog posts. Either way, here's an entry for you ...

WORM HARMONIOUS

Size/Type: Huge Magical Beast
Hit Dice: 8
Armor Class: 17
Attack: 1 slam (1d12)
Movement: 30 (Burrow 10)
Saves: F R W
Immune: Sonic attacks, mind-effects
Alignment: NeutralIntelligence: Low
No. Appearing: 1d2
XP: 800 (CL 9)

The worm harmonious looks like a long, thick, wriggling vermin with pale pink flesh (sometimes marked with saffron streaks or speckled with deep aubergine spots) and odd markings on its "face" that approximate a mime or geisha. Extending from its head, down the sides of its body for about 10 feet are a number of long "hairs", which it can vibrate to create or negate sound. Its entire body is actually covered by these hairs, though most are much smaller and are nearly invisible.

As alluded to above, the worm harmonious can negate sound, and thus create an area of silence (as the spell) in a 100' radius by using its hairs to absorb the sound. While absorbing sound, the monster cannot move, and its attacks suffer a -3 penalty to hit. After three rounds, the monster can release this absorbed sound as a sonic blast, dealing 1d8 points of sonic damage to all creatures within 30'. Alternatively, it can give off a low, disorienting hum for 3 rounds that forces all within 30' to pass a Will save or suffer one of the following effects:

Roll d6
1-3. Dazed (-1 penalty to hit and AC)
4-5. Confused (as the spell)
6. Stunned (no actions, only reactions)

It can also use its hairs to create a horrible, piercing screeching noise approximating some of the less successful attempts at Jimmy Hendrix-style guitar riffs. While doing this, the monster attacks normally, but its foes suffer a penalty to Armor Class and attacks, combined, equal to -3. They can choose, for example, a -2 penalty to AC and a -1 penalty to hit, or no penalty to AC and a -3 penalty to hit, etc. As long as the penalties add up to -3.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Old Mage's Almanac - Spells of Voice

A few spells occurred to me recently which I thought might be especially annoying to enemy spellcasters, bards and those who are generally talkative.


Babble
Level: Bard 2, Mage 2
Range: Close (30')
Duration: 10 minutes

This spell causes people to speak unintelligibly for the duration. They understand other people perfectly well, and think they are forming normal sentences when they speak. They do not, therefore, realize that are speaking gibberish until it is pointed out to them. The afflicted may attempt a Will saving throw to negate the effect. Thereafter, he may attempt secondary Will save to make himself intelligible, with a penalty of -1 per word to be spoken. Spellcasters can make similar saving throws to utter their spells properly, with a penalty equal to the level of the spell +1. If a spell is uttered as gibberish, it is still considered "used" for that day.

Booming Voice
Level: Bard 1, Mage 2
Range: 120'
Duration: 1 hour + 1 hour per caster level

This spell affects up to 10 targets within 120 feet. The targets, if they fail a Will saving throw, cannot help but speak as loudly as possible. These booming voices have the normal chance for attracting wandering monsters, and might cause other calamities as well (per the TK's discretion).

Loose Lips
Level: Bard 2, Cleric 3, Mage 3
Range: Close (30')
Duration: 1 minute

This spell causes a single target, who can negate it with a successful Will saving throw, to divulge any secrets she is keeping for one minute. They usually start with their most pressing, timely secrets (like her plan for assassinating the king and queen with an exploding hedgehog), and work their way towards long held secrets from childhood (stole some tarts from the castle kitchen when she was 9).

Unseen Clerk
Level: Mage 0
Range: n/a
Duration: 1 hour

This spell creates something akin to an unseen servant, save it will do nothing but transcribe the activities of the spellcaster and her associates for 1 hour, including drawing a map of where they have explored in a dungeon and taking down all conversations within 60' of the unseen clerk. The spellcaster can cause the unseen clerk to strike things from the record as she desires. The spellcaster must provide a pen and paper for the unseen clerk, and they will follow her around, busily scratching things down as she goes.


Sunday, October 4, 2015

Dragon by Dragon - April 1980

There will come a day when the April edition of The Dragon will be full of jokes. Based on the cover, I'd say that day was not in April of 1980.

The aforementioned cover is by Dean Morrissey, and it is inspired by that issue's short story by Gardner Fox, "The Cube from Beyond", a Niall of the Far Travels story. Mr. Morrissey is still a working artist - you can see some of his pieces HERE.

Let's check out 10 cool things about issue #36 ...

1) NIALL OF THE FAR TRAVELS

First and foremost, I'm always a sucker for a good sword & sorcery tale by Gardner Fox. Here's a sample:

"Now Thavas Tomer was a doomed man. He had fled down the halls and corridors, seeking sanctuary—where no sanctuary was to be found. At his heels had come Niall, his great sword Blood-drinker in his hand, seeking to make an end to this magician-king who had slain and raped and robbed all those against whom he had sent his mercenaries."

If somebody could figure out a way to make a random idea generator that plucked passages from fantasy stories, I bet it would be a great way to come up with adventures or campaigns. Three different passages from the same book might inspire three very different campaigns.

2) ALIGNMENT STRUGGLES

An interesting "Up on a Soap Box" by Larry DiTillio, regarding him running an adventure he normally ran for adults for some adults and teens at a convention. Here's an excerpt:

"In the same game another incident occurred, again with that same Paladin player. This one involved a mysterious monk smoking a substance from a hookah which he offered to certain party members. My friends accepted somewhat overeagerly, while the Paladin again asked me that question. Was smoking a drug against his alignment? Now, I’m not a junkie, nor do I think drugs are of any benefit to teen-agers (no high is as good as your own natural openness to things at that age), but I have had a good deal of experience with a whole gamut of consciousness-altering substances and would be hard pressed to declare them categorically evil."
The first incident involved a dungeon room where sex could be purchased. In both cases, the paladin inquires whether these acts are against his alignment. It's a tricky question, and does get to a problem with alignment - i.e. the interpretation of what it means. No answers here, but an interesting problem, and an interesting article.

3) CONAN!

In this issue, Gygax chimes in with some stats for Conan. It's funny, but I was actually searching for this article recently, looking for inspiration for maybe making some revisions to the barbarian class in Blood & Treasure.

In doing so, I found some comments on websites that this article was a mistake, in that the weird rules changes needed to simulate Conan showed the weakness of the D&D system. I disagree - D&D is a game. Conan was a character in stories. No random rolls there, no comparisons of hit rolls and Armor Class. That a game cannot simulate something in a story is not a condemnation of the game (which, in D&D's case, was not designed specifically to simulate Conan stories in the first place).

So, how does Conan shake out? Well, which Conan. The piece actually presents Conan at different ages - 15, 20, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60 and 70. Neat idea. We also see how his fighter and thief levels change through his ages. His fighter level runs from a low of 4 at age 15 to a high of 24 at age 40 ... and then back down to 12 by the time he's 70.

How does a level drop? Well, there's really no way to do it in the game, but I thought about using a rule that each year without adventuring might result in a character losing 10% of his earned XP. If you don't stay in practice, you get rusty and, therefore, lose levels. Just a thought.

So, let's look at Conan at age 25.

Conan, Human Fighter/Thief: Level 12/8; HP 132; AC 16; ATK attacks 5 times every 2 rounds; Str 18/00, Int 15, Wis 10, Dex 20, Con 18, Cha 15; AL Chaotic Neutral (good tendencies); Psionics--Latent--animal telepathy, detect magic, precognition, mind bar.

Conan gets the following special abilities:

  • When he rolls a total of "21" to hit, he scores double damage.
  • He is 75% undetectable in underbrush and woodlands.
  • He surprises opponents 50% of the time.
  • He is only surprised on a roll of 1 on 1d20.
  • He gets a +4 bonus on all saves.
  • Poison can knock him unconscious, but never kill him.
  • He regains hit points at double the normal rate, and regains hit points at the normal rate even without resting.
  • He has 25% magic resistance if he is aware that magic is being used against him.
  • His psionics are all latent - he does not know he has them, and cannot consciously choose to use them.
  • When wielding an off-hand weapon, he can parry one attack per round with it.
  • He can move at a trot all day without tiring.
  • His trails are 75% undetectable.
  • His vision and hearing are 50% better than normal.
  • When he pummels people, his opponents are treated as slowed; his fists are treated as mailed even when bare.
  • When grappling, his effective height is 7', and his effective weight is 350 lb.
  • He gets a 15% bonus to overbearing attacks
  • He does unarmed damage as though armed with a club
4) PITY THE HALF-ORC

In "Sage Advice" by Jean Wells ...

"Question: Why can’t half-orcs be raised, especially if they are 90% human as the Players Handbook says?

Answer: The Players Handbook does not say that half-orcs are 90% human. It says that 10% of them (from which player characters are drawn) resemble humans enough to pass for one under most circumstances. Genetically, a true half-orc is always 50% human. Half-orcs cannot be raised simply because they do not have souls. I went right to the top for the answer to this one, and according to Gary Gygax himself, 'Half-orcs cannot be raised-period.'"

It occurs to me that the inability to raise demi-humans was a balancing factor in old D&D for all of their special abilities.

5) IS THAT ULTRA-POWERFUL MONSTER A DEITY?

Len Lakofka tries his hand at setting all those deity-killing PC's right by setting down some truths about the gods. How many DM's, I wonder, design their pantheon specifically for one day fighting high-level adventurers?

Here are Lakofka's definitions for deity-hood:

1. Has 180 or more hit points
2. Can cast a spell or has a power at the 20th level of ability
3. Can fight or perform acts as a 20th level Lord or 20th level Thief

Those who cannot do this are not deities. This includes Jubilex, Ki-rins and Yeenoghu. Baal, Orcus, Tiamat and Bahamut, on the other hand, are deities.

He also states that deities get their special abilities from the Outer Planes, while lesser beings get their powers from the inner planes or from deities.

Much more here, including abilities from ability scores of 19 or higher (or 25+ for strength).

It looks like the blueprint used for the later Deities & Demigods / Legends & Lore books.

AD BREAK


Now that's a great illustration for selling a monster book. You can pick up the PDF HERE.

6) APRIL FOOLS!!!

Turns out there was a prank hiding inside this issue after all - technically The Dragon #36 1/2.

We have articles about how to make the most out of your pet dragon, some new monsters (see below), keeping your players poor with the tax man, Bazaar of the Ordinary (web of cob), a random table (d30!) of things to say when you accidentally (or maybe not accidentally) summon Demogorgon, Leomund's in a Rut (expanding character footwear options), this month's module - a 10x10 room with nothing in it (map provided), and an add that includes Detailed Advanced D&D, the next step in fantasy gaming.

As for one of those new monsters:

The Keebler, Small Fey: HD 0; AC 13; ATK none; MV 40'; XP 50; AL N (good tendencies); Special-Magic resistance 60%, bake cookies (Will save at -4 or charmed); Spells-3/day-create water, purify food & drink, slow poison, create food & water, neutralize poison, locate object (edible substances) - as though by 7th level cleric.

7) The Mongols

Neat article by Michael Kluever on the history, weapons and tactics of the Mongols. Mongols done the way they were are probably pretty underused in fantasy gaming - they were a pretty fascinating group, and a campaign that includes a rapidly expanding Mongol Empire (wherein PC's leave town, adventure in a dungeon, and come back to find the town razed or absorbed into the empire) would be pretty cool, especially if that expansion ends up being crucial to the game.

How was the typical Mongol warrior equipped:

Armor ranged from none to leather to scale armor, plus conical helms (leather for light cavalry, steel for heavy cavalry) and small, circular shields made of wicker covered with leather; they also wore silk undershirts that apparently helped to minimize damage from arrows when they had to be removed from wounds

Two composite bows, one for short range, one for long range; they used armor-piercing arrows, whistling arrows to signal and incendiary arrows (tipped with small grenades - apparently the Duke boys didn't invent the idea); each warrior carried two quivers with 60 arrows in each

Heavy cavalry also carried a scimitar, battle axe OR horseman's mace, a 12' long lance with a hook for yanking warriors off their horses and a dagger

Light cavalry carried a lighter sword, two to three javelins and a dagger

8) Giants in the Earth

This edition, by Lawrence Schick and Tom Moldvay, includes:

Rafael Sabatini's Captain Blood (17th level fighter, 10th level thief, 8th level cleric)

Lovecraft's Richard Upton Pickman (King of the Ghouls, 9th level fighter)

Thomas Burnett Swann's Silverbells (forest minotaur 15th level ranger, 13th level paladin)

The last one caught my attention, since I'd never heard of the author. The idea is that the original stock of minotaurs, termed forest minotaurs here, were neutral good defenders of the woodlands and the fey creatures who lived therein. You can find his books for sale at Amazon.

9) A New Way to Track XP

Experience points, like alignment, are a perennial sub-system people are trying to improve. In this version, XP are based on actual damage inflicted (modified by the strength of the opponents), and for deeds actually done. To whit:

For non-magical monsters, you get 5 XP per point of damage done, multiplied by the difference between the monster's AC and 10

For magical monsters, 10 XP per point of damage done, same modifier.

For spellcasting in combat, 10 XP per level of spell

For spellcasting in a hostile situation, 5 XP per level of spell

Thieves get XP for gold stolen, maybe only if they grab a larger share than the other members of their party

Not a bad idea, really.

10) The Fastest Guns that Never Lived

This is a reprint, collection and expansion of articles I remember covering many reviews ago. Designed for Boot Hill, it's a pretty fun article for fans of westerns, and a great opportunity for fan debates. If you think it's bunk, you can blame Allen Hammack, Brian Blume, Gary Gygax and Tim Kask.

So, let's get to the winners in each stat:

Fastest Gun in the West: (1) Clint Eastwood, (2) Bob Steele, (3) Paladin

   Slowest: Pancho

Most Accurate Gun in the West: (1) Clint Eastwood, (2) Will Sonnet and Col. Tim McCoy, (3) Lone Ranger, The Rifleman, Paladin and Lee Van Cleef

   Least: Hoss and Little Joe Cartwright

Bravest Gun in the West: Charles Bronson

   Most Cowardly: Pancho

Strongest Gun in the West: Hoss Cartwright

   Weakest: Will Sonnet

Somebody was in love with Clint Eastwood, huh?

11) BONUS COOL - THE KROLLI

Todd Lockwood (that one?) brings us the monster of the month, a race of warm-blooded flying reptile dudes. Here are the Blood & Treasure stats.

Krolli, Large Monstrous Humanoid: HD 2 to 6; AC 17; ATK 1 bite (1d6+1), rear claw (1d8+1), hand (1d8 or by weapon +4); MV 20' (fly 40'); AL varies; XP 200 to 600; Special-High dexterity, multiple attacks, acute senses, surprised on 1 on 1d6, 25% magic resistance.

They are encountered in lairs, with 3d20 in lair, 25% females and young, with 2-3 and 1/2 HD each, and 1d8 7+2 HD chieftains. Encountered among men, they are usually mercenaries or slavers, and could be found as body guards or military officers.

They have high natural strength (20) and dexterity (23).

They may be of any class, though 95% are fighters. Of the remainder, 70% are clerics. They cannot wear armor, but often carry shields. They are almost never thieves or assassins.

Side note - I really loved Lockwood's stuff for 3rd edition D&D - a very worthy artist to carry that torch, I think.

Hope you enjoyed this review ... I leave you with Tramp


Thursday, October 1, 2015

Two Cinematic Hex Crawls

Over the last few days, I managed to watch some D&D-ish movies before work - just dumb luck, they just happened to be on.

The first involved a few PC's and their henchmen taking a dangerous cruise on a quest to break an evil magic-user's polymorph other spell on a prince, who ended up a baboon. The quest eventually takes them to the arctic and a hidden, pleasant land within the arctic. On the way, they fight monsters, counter spells and eventually break the spell. Alas - no treasure, but they'll probably be rewarded by the prince.

The second involved five people, four men and a woman, dragged from modern times into ancient Greece. The men are made galley slaves, while an evil king tries to romance the woman. The men eventually lead a slave revolt, wash up on shore, do a little hex crawling, and are made slaves again. Luckily, one of the guys ends up with an 18/00 strength (or maybe higher), and in this capacity serve a different king, and wind up fighting Hercules himself to get back to their own time period.

The first film was Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger, the second The Three Stooges Meet Hercules. Scoff if you will, but the second flick is probably close to most D&D campaigns than the first. Oh, we all dream of Lord of the Rings-caliber gaming, but bumbling insanity is often what we get.

Both films were lots of fun - I'd actually never managed to watch the Sinbad flick, despite being a fan of Harryhausen - so here are a few bits and pieces inspired by these movies:

Giant Walrus

From HERE
Size/Type: Huge Animal
Hit Dice: 11
Armor Class: 16
Attack: 1 bite (2d6)
Movement:15 (Swim 60)
Saves: F5 R8 W13
Alignment: Neutral (N)Intelligence: Animal
No. Appearing: 1
XP: 550 (CL 11)

Giant walruses are much like their smaller counterparts, though they are more aggressive.

Minoton

From HERE
Size/Type: Large Construct
Hit Dice: 6
Armor Class: 18
Attack: 1 gore (1d10) or by weapon (2d6)
Movement: 30
Saves: F11 R12 W12
Resistance: Fire, electricity
Alignment: Neutral (N)
Intelligence: Non-
No. Appearing: 1
XP: 600 (CL 7)

Minotons are bronze automatons made by magic-users for brute labor and basic fighting. Most are armed with spears. They are tireless and immune to all mind effects, and only obey the commands of their creator.

Troglodyte

From HERE
Size/Type: Large Giant
Hit Dice: 4
Armor Class: 14
Attack: 1 gore (1d6) and 1 slam (1d4) or by weapon (2d6)
Movement: 30
Saves: F10 R14 W15
Alignment: Neutral (N)Intelligence: Low to Average
No. Appearing: 1d4
XP: 200 (CL 4)

Troglodytes are large, primitive ancestors of human beings. They speak the language of simple primates, and though fearsome are not particularly aggressive. Female humanoids get a +2 reaction bonus with male troglodytes.

Eye of the Tiger

From HERE
Level: Magic-User 3
Range: Personal
Duration: 10 minutes

When this spell is cast, a magic-user's eyes become cat-like (giving them darkvision to a range of 60'). Any feline they look upon within 60' must pass a Will saving throw or the magic-user turns into a vapor and inhabits the cat's body. The magic-user retains her own intellect, and gains the fighting ability of the cat. The magic-user can leave the cat's body at any time, but if they are still inside the cat when it is killed, they die along with it.

Two-Headed Cyclops

From HERE
Size/Type: Huge Giant
Hit Dice: 16
Armor Class: 16
Attack: 2 weapons (3d6) or boulder (100'/3d6)
Movement: 40
Saves: F3 R7 W8; +2 save vs. mind effects
Alignment: Chaotic (CE)Intelligence: Low
No. Appearing: 1
XP: 800 (CL 16)

The two-headed cyclops stands about 50' tall. It is terribly bright, but it really doesn't need to be to get along.

Sleeping Pills

These magic items are akin to potions. They are made in lots of 4, and each pill packs the punch of a potion of sleep. Saves against them are saves against magic, not poison.

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