Sunday, March 31, 2013

Hippity-Hop Into the Dungeon - The Easter Bunny Class!

Easter bunnies are fey creatures who are the heralds and servants of Ys, the goddess of spring and fertility (substitute your own campaign’s spring goddess if you please). When not performing their Easter functions for children all over Nod, they are adventurers bold and daring.
[Okay – this was a brainstorm Easter morning, so this is a bit scanty – please forgive and, most importantly, have a Happy Easter, even if you’re not a Christian. A happy day and a chocolate bunny are fundamentally good things, regardless of your beliefs!]

Hit Dice: d6 / +2 hit points per level after 10th level

Advance as: Thief

Attack as: Thief

Save as: Bard

Armor: Padded and leather

Weapons: Any weapon that does not involve metal; they can use flint-tipped spears and arrows, which deal one dice size less damage than their metal counterparts

Skills: Find Secret Doors, Hide in Shadows, Jump, Listen at Doors, Move Silently, Trickery

Special Abilities
Easter bunnies can charge into combat with a mighty leap that carries them up to 15 feet forward.

Easter bunnies can speak with animals and plants at will. They also have “faerie fire vision”, which they can invoke for up to 2 rounds per level each day.

Easter bunnies cannot use iron or steel weapons, and in fact suffer +1 damage per hit from such weapons.

Easter bunnies can lay magic eggs. An Easter bunny can lay one egg per day, each one imbued with a magic ability of the Easter bunny’s choice as limited by their level. A first level Easter bunny starts with three magic eggs.

For a magic egg to affect a person (willingly or not), it must be cracked over them or it must strike them. To affect an area, it need only be thrown into that area. To summon nature’s ally, it is cracked and the creature sort of magically pours out of it.

Magic eggs can have the following effects – one effect per egg – based on the Easter bunny’s level:

Level 1 – bless, charm person, cure light wounds, entangle, grease, hold person, light, obscuring mist, phantasmal force, sleep, summon nature’s ally I, explosive (1d6 damage in 10’ radius)

Level 3 – animal messenger, blindness, calm emotions, cure moderate wounds, darkness, fog cloud, glitterdust, gust of wind, hypnotic pattern, improved phantasmal force, mirror image, reduce animal, silence, sound burst, summon nature’s ally II, summon swarm

Level 6 – charm monster, confusion, cure disease, cure serious wounds, daylight, deep slumber, diminish plants, dispel magic, fear, good hope, phantom steed, plant growth, remove curse, slow, spectral force, spike growth, summon nature’s ally III, wind wall

Level 9 – command plants, cure critical wounds, dimension door, dominate person, hallucinatory terrain, hold monster, rainbow pattern, spike stones, summon nature’s ally IV, zone of silence

Friday, March 29, 2013

Get Yourself Some NOD 19, Fool!

Yes, true believers (sorry Stan, needed a quick catchphrase)! NOD 19 is now available in digital form, paperback to follow when I see a review copy. What does this time hold? Dig some descriptive text:

"Spring has sprung, and so has NOD 19 (okay, that was lame, but this descriptive text gets tricky after a while). Anyhow - NOD 19 features the first half of the Virgin Woode hex crawl, a bunch of monsters, the puritan class, four new classes for Space Princess, a new race/class for Pars Fortuna and a bunch of other cool junk! 68 pages of excellence!"

There you have it, lads and lasses. Check out some NOD 19 and rock your brain-stem with fantasy goodness for $2.99 (cheap).

Check it out HERE!

And the MAP can be found HERE 

or just look below ...

So far, only the western portion is filled in - the eastern portion will be detailed in NOD 21, while NOD 20 will focus on the colonial city-state of Dweomer Baye.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Dungeon Where Apes Evolved from Men?

If one were to draw a Venn diagram of people into fantasy RPG's and people into Planet of the Apes, I think there would be a pretty good overlap. Likewise, I think there is a pretty good overlap between the Planet of the Apes concept and fantasy gaming - i.e. the ape campaign.

First, let's get our stuff straight here. Planet of the Apes, the movie franchise, and Planet of the Apes, the book, are two very different animals. There are similarities to be sure, but the differences are pretty major.

The movies were part of the bleak sci-fi period that included such gems as Omega Man, Logan's Run, Soylent Green and Herbie Goes Bananas (a controversial stand on the last one, but I'm standing behind it). Here, we have mankind destroying itself with nuclear weapons, creating what one might call a "Gamma World" to coin a phrase, this being preceded by presumably genetically-modified apes staging race riots.

The book, written by Pierre Boulle, is quite different. First - it's fairly boring. One can think of it as a book in the style of Gulliver's Travels, as it's mostly a matter of social critique. In this scenario, man grew decadent, using trained apes to do his work. As the apes learned more and more, they grew dissatisfied and eventually threw man out of his own home. Apes didn't need us anymore. And humans ... they didn't fight back. They wandered into the woods, seemingly content to live as animals. Apes just took up where we left off, the difference being that while they understood our technology, they weren't very creative.

Applying either scenario to a fantasy world - some magical apocalypse or the flow fall of man into decadence and the rise of a new order - works. You have ancient ruins (a place to adventure), some semblance of civilization (a place to rest between adventures) and, most importantly for fantasy gaming, you have multiple "races" to adventure with. Imagine porting into the world of Greyhawk to discover that Ape Law has been imposed there. Sounds pretty fun.

A few notes before I begin. I'm writing these ape "races" as though they are still physically indistinguishable from normal apes - i.e. I'm not making them people in masks as in the movie franchise. Second - apes are strong. Really strong. I'm not shying away from this, so expect high strength bonuses. If you were running nothing but apes in a game, you can adjust for this higher damage output and let them advance as far as they want in various classes. If you're running these apes with other races, you'll need to limit their class advancement to some extent. I've included these class level limits below in italics.

Gorillas are the warriors of the apes; burly and brash and easily annoyed. Gorillas add +6 to their starting strength (max. 24). They modify their starting constitution by +1 and reduce their starting intelligence by 1 (max. 18, min. 3). When not using a weapon, a gorilla can make a claw or bite attack each round, scoring 1d4 points of damage. They are capable of launching into a menacing display of power that forces creatures with 0 HD or less than half the gorilla's hit dice to pass a Will saving throw or be frightened for 1d4 rounds. Gorillas are limited to 7th level, except as fighters, at which they can advance to 9th level.

The chimps are the scholars of the ape people, always curious and often chattering. Chimps add +2 to their starting strength (max. 20). They modify their starting intelligence by +1 and reduce their starting wisdom by 1 (max. 18, min. 3). Chimps have a knack for climbing sheer surfaces. In place of a weapon attack, a chimp can make a claw or bite attack that deals 1d3 points of damage. Chimps are limited to 9th level, except as magic-users, at which they can advance to 11th level.

Orangutans are the "wise old men" of the ape community, bureaucrats, clergy and leaders. Orangutans add +4 to their starting strength (max. 22). They modify their starting wisdom by +1 and reduce their starting charisma by 1 (max. 18, min. 3) due their stodginess and superior attitudes. Orangutans have a knack for climbing sheer surfaces. In place of a weapon attack, an orangutan can make a claw or bite attack that deals 1d4 points of damage. Orangutans are limited to 8th level, except as clerics, at which they can advance to 10th level.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Dragon by Dragon - April 1979

April of 1979 - those heady days of stuff that was happening and things and stuff. Okay, I'm too lazy at the moment to look up what was happening back then, but hey - who cares, right? We know the Dragon was happening, so let's focus on that.

What did the Dragon have to offer in 1979? More importantly, can we use any of this stuff now?

Lost Civilizations (A Fantasy Supplement for Source of the Nile) by J. Eric Holmes

When you see Dr. Holmes as the author, you know you've got some quality material in your hands. Hell, I've never even played Source of the Nile and I know this article has to have something useful in it. The article is all about adding some fantasy to the more realistic game of African exploration, specifically of the sort you might get in an H. Rider Haggard or E. R. Burroughs novel.

First up, I love the list of explorer types used in Source of the Nile: Missionaries, Doctors, Zoologists, Geologists and Adventurers. If you were doing an RPG of Victorian exploration, you have your class list right there.

His idea is that when you enter a completely uninhabited hex, there is a chance of it containing a lost city (a roll of 2-3 on 2d6). If in a desert, the city is uninhabited. Otherwise, it is inhabited by survivors of lost Atlantis. The people use bronze weapons and wear ornaments of gold and gemstones, and then you roll dice to determine the city's organization. Roll 1d6; on a 1-3 the city is ruled by a warrior-king with 1d6 x 1d6 x 1d6 + 10 warriors; if the roll is 4-6 it is ruled by an evil high priest and a white goddess who command 1d6 x 1d6 x 1d6 + 5 warriors. I include this bit because it could be adapted to almost any hex exploration style fantasy game.

When exploring an uninhabited desert city for treasure, you roll 1d6: 1-2 he discovers that the ancient gods still live, his expedition is destroyed and he escapes completely mad; 3-4 traps kill half his askaris and bearers, but he escapes with a bag of diamonds and rubies worth $500 and the secret passages are closed off forever; 5-6 he loots the city for $1000 worth of gems and $200 worth of gold.

This brings to mind something I once did for a game. I was starting with characters above 1st level, and they were from various places in my campaign world (Nod - you might have heard of it). For each character, I came up with one past adventure for each level, each adventure leading them from where they were born to where the adventure was to start. In this way, I gave each player a bit of knowledge about the campaign world and some cool tidbits about their characters. Something to consider.

Keeping the Magic-User In His Place by Ronald Pehr

A classic of old Dragon (hell, a classic of modern articles as well, in as much as it addresses the idea of "balance" between characters). Ronald includes a few ideas of controlling these damn wizards so they don't mess up the game. Interesting, because it introduces the idea of forced fairness to the game - i.e. I want the game to go one way, but the rules aren't allowing that to happen. Think of the article previous - the explorer explores a lost city and you roll a dice and that determines what happens - amazing wealth or complete insanity. That's it. Why? It's a game, and those are the rules, and playing the game is more important than winning. Or, to state it another way, winning or losing should be a product of the game experience, not a preconceived idea that the game play must support. Why not have wizards who "ruin" the game with fireballs and charm spells? Let everybody have their time to shine, and play it smart. A fireball is a tricky thing, and over reliance on them might be a wizard's undoing.

Chinese Dragons by David Sweet

One day, these fine monsters will appear in the Fiend Folio, and they were always pretty cool. In fact, it might be fun to do something similar with occidental dragons, replacing the red-blue-green-etc. dragons with ones based on the famous dragons of European myth.

Another Look at LYCANTHROPY by Jon Mattson

This article throws in the idea of different types of lycanthropes that a bitten character might turn into. They are as follows (in summary):

A. Turns completely into the lycanthrope that bit him; i.e. new alignment, etc.
B. Remains in human form, but takes on the mentality of the lycanthrope.
C. Character takes lycanthrope form, but retains his own mentality.
D. As A, but only changes under a full moon or great stress.
E. As B, but only changes under a full moon or great stress.
F. As C, but only ... well, you know.
G. Under full moon or great stress, changes into a hybrid of beast and man.

Under option G, he actually writes, "This may sound something like the “Incredible Hulk,” but that is the general idea." Love it.

There is also a percentage chance for figuring out the character's new alignment. The new lycanthrope has half the character's spells and abilities while in lycanthrope form and some modifiers to his ability scores.

Another great quote:

Note: To many people it may seem strange that a wolfs constitution would be better than that of say a bear, but remember that wolves often survive through incredible hardships such as hunger and cold, and I’ve yet to see a bear do as well.

What the?

Ultimately, this is a pretty cool article as it allows the chance that a PC can remain a PC and an interesting party member even after succumbing to lycanthropy.

Roman Military Organization, A Classic Warfare Update by Gary Gygax

An interesting article on the organization of the Roman army.

A Viking Campaign in the Caspian Sea by James E. Brunner

This is a nice history of an actual (well, I assume actual) Viking foray into the Caspian Sea for plunder. A sample:

"In the tenth century the Caspian Sea lay like a great pearl in an ocean of endless steppes and towering mountains. The prows that cut its placid waters belonged to poor fishermen and merchants from every land. Unlike the Black Sea that lay to the west, no northern pirate fleets had ravaged its shores and carried off its great wealth. To the north and the east lay the powerful Khazar Khanate whose capital, Itil, on the Volga Delta, controlled the major trade route to the north. Any merchant or pirate that sought wealth in the Muslim lands to the south had first to deal with the Khazar Khan, whose greed was legendary."

Primarily interesting to me as it reminds me of Howard's Vilayet Sea and the adventures had in and around it. When you find fantasy that interests you, take the time to find the reality that underlies it. You might find it even more inspirational.

The article also includes rules for fighting the Battle of Barda'a using Classic Warfare.

The Melee in D&D by Gary Gygax

Here, Mr. Gygax offers up some thoughts on how melee combat is supposed to work in D&D, specifically it seems to answer the complaints of folks who would like more realism in the system. A few important points:

- The game is mostly about creating fantasy personas and their adventures, and that means more than just fighting

- Hack and slash shouldn't be the first resort of characters

- The system isn't too unrealistic - it's built to ensure relative speed of resolution without bogging the ref down in paperwork or creating a high probability of character death

Here's a bit I found interesting:

"Don Turnbull stated that he envisioned that three sorts of attacks were continually taking place during melee:

1) attacks which had no chance of hitting, including feints, parries, and the like;

2) attacks which had a chance of doing damage but which missed as indicated by the die roll; and

3) attacks which were telling as indicated by the dice roll and subsequent damage determination.

This is a correct summation of what the D&D melee procedure subsumes. Note that the skill factor of higher level of higher level fighters — as well as natural abilities and/or speed of some monsters — allows more than one opportunity per melee round of scoring a telling attack as they are more able to take advantage of openings left by adversaries during the course of sparring. Similarly, zero level men, and monsters under one full hit die, are considered as being less able to defend; thus, opponents of two of more levels of hit dice are able to get in one telling blow for each such level or hit die."

An article well worth the read.

DUNGEON - More Variations on the Theme by George Laking

This is a collection of extra rules for the DUNGEON game. Since it's being published again, this might be a good article for folks who love it.

Armies of the Renaissance by Nick Nascati

This is the second part of an article from last issue (I think - too lazy to look at the moment). It covers The Swiss. I've long thought the Swiss would be an excellent folk on which to model dwarf armies.

Narcisstics by Darrel Plant and Jon Pitchford

Some monster humor of the disgruntled geek variety, statting up jocks and their female groupies as monsters. I'd convert them to B&T format, but the format in the article is hard to make out, and frankly they're not just worth it.

Psionics Revisited by Ronald Pehr

This variant takes some of the random chance out of the powers psychic characters receive, tying them more closely to their professions (or so the article says). It appears to divide the powers into two categories: Cognitive Powers and Kinetic Powers, adding a few new powers to the game.

Disease by Lenny Buettuer

This is a set of tables for determining how long it takes a disease to kill a person, and what symptoms are suffered in the meantime. The fatality interval goes from immediate to 10 months, based on a percentile dice roll. Another table determines how many symptoms are suffered and a third what those symptoms are. Honestly - a great idea and one I wish I'd thought of. After all, why do I care what the disease is called? All I want to know is how long the adventurer has to live (more on this below) and what happens to him until he can receive healing.

The other thing I got from this article is the point of diseases in the game. There are many ways to die in D&D, and each should offer up different challenges to the players. Disease in this case becomes a race to be cured.

Bergenhome '77: the CAT's Test of American Armor by Stanley Schriefer

If nothing else, this article presents an interesting moment in the history of the magazine. The article is about how well American armor (as in tanks) did in a NATO competition. No stats here. None. Not tied to any game. Just military news that might be interesting to wargamers.

The Return of Conan Maol by Paul Karlsson Johnstone

Weird little article about bagpipers and such.

Choir Practice at the First Church of Lawful Evil (Orthodox): The Ramifications of Alignment by Lawrence Schick

Another interesting article about the three-tier alignment system and their relationship to gods and the powers of those gods. It also divides the three alignments into several "sects" or versions of each alignment. Lawful, for example, is divided into the following:

(A) Absolute Order (High Law)
(B) Harmony/Goodness
(C) Justice/Vengeance
(D) Knowledge
(E) Evolution (Social Darwinism )
(F) War

It then gives information on each of these versions of alignment - its tenets, its practitioners, it's prime deity. Here's one example:

Law: JUSTICE/VENGEANCE (Monks, Paladins, Assassins)

Tenets: Good (Law) must be rewarded and Evil (Chaos) must be punished. All creatures are judged impartially by weighing their “good’ and “evil” deeds. Transgressors will be punished according to the depth of their depravity. Criminals must be diligently pursued until brought to justice. (Examples of this alignment’s enforcers might include Solomon Kane, The Shadow, Mr. A., and Javert.)

Prime Deity: MARLY
AC: -4 HP: 300 MOVE:24”
MAGIC: Standard plus See Past plus Detect Truth/Lie.

Honestly - one of the most usable alignment articles I've yet read. A great take on the subject, and quite usable. Bonus: Nice piece of art!

Naming People, Places and Things in Petal Throne by G. Arthur Rahman

This article provides a random table for generating the rather non-European names common to MAR Barker's campaign world.

Monty Haul and the Best of Freddie by James M. Ward

Another adventure in the annals of Monty Haul. A sample:

"The Bronze Dragon was of tremendous size for its breed, measuring over 80 hands long and able to rear to a height of more than half that. The creature had gleaming claws as sharp and damaging as scimitars; buffed with gold dust. Its fanged jaws were kept sharp by biting heavy platemail vests that were a part of its horde. Its massive scaled body rested regally on an altar made of its own gold and silver. Chalices of platinum and coffers of gems and jewels were all about, arranged to please the delicate sensibilities of the dragon. Its giant eyes, that had been but a moment before closed in dragonslumber, opened, aware of the tread of footsteps down the echoing marble corridor, designed for just that echoing effect."

In Defense of Extraordinary Characters by Rodford E. Smith

A very quick bit about why high level characters make sense, giving as examples from literature Odysseus, Daedalus, Hercules, John Carter, Conan and "everyone's favorite Kryptonian." So there you go.

The Society for Creative Anachronism by Allen Hammack

An overview of the society and their doings. These days, this would be what we term a "web page".

And there you have the April 1979 issue of The Dragon. Not a bad issue all told, with at least two or three articles that I think most folks would find useful.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Random Classes - The Download

Image copyright WotC, used w/o permission
Hey folks - quick post today. I wanted to share the link to the groovy little Excel document that Arjen Lissenberg created based on my random class creator idea. Thanks to Arjen for the hard work!

Click HERE for the document. Assuming you have the random value generator thingy operational, you just press F9 to generate class after class (or NPC after NPC, as the case may be).

To prove its immense value, I present three unique NPC's generated with the sheet.

Sabre LeClerq
Sabre's base class is rogue. He can wear up to studded leather armor and wield a buckler, and use medium and light melee weapons, light crossbows, short bows and thrown weapons. He has decipher codes and swimming as a class skill, can cast spells as a magic-user up to 3rd level and can turn elementals as a cleric turns undead.

Jasmine X
Jasmine is a scholar who knows how to operate in armor up to a breastplate, and can use bucklers. She can use the same weapons as Sabre, can cast spells as a druid up to 3rd level, can cast spells as a sorcerer, can speak with all living creatures and she has a psychic power.

Rugor the Red
Rugor is also a rogue who can wear up to ring mail. He can use shield and buckler and fight with light melee weapons, light crossbows, short bows and thrown weapons. Rugor has the Great Fortitude feat, has escape bonds as a class skill and knows how to cast a single 1st level ranger spell each day and a single 0-level cleric spell per day.

I can imagine each of these three making for an interesting henchman for a PC.

Friday, March 22, 2013

3d6 All the Way - A New Way to Make Characters

Had a notion about character generation today. So, using the old rules, you roll 3d6 for each ability score, pick a race, pick a class, etc. Nice and simple.

Some people, however, like the idea of ditching classes. Now, I think classes (and monsters) are a brilliant short hand for referees - way easier to use 6th level fighters and owlbears than completely individual, unique enemies. Players, though, might feel constrained with classes.

Well, what's a class? Essentially a collection of bonuses and special abilities. Let's say, though, that you want to run a game without much in the way of special abilities - some pulp fantasy or swashbuckling stuff that's mostly about combat and skills.

Here's my plan. It leaves out experience points and levels, so it should work pretty well for one-shot dungeons or if you just want to assume every character is a competent adventurer and then run through all dungeons without worrying about advancement.

STEP ONE - Roll 3d6 for each ability score. Make a note of the ability bonus. Use whatever system you like, one possible system follows:

0 = -6
1 = -5
2 = -4
3 = -3
4-5 = -2
6-8 = -1
9-12 = 0
13-15 = +1
16-17 = +2
18 = +3
19 = +4
20 = +5
21 = +6

STEP TWO - Roll 3d6 for skills and combat abilities. Each skill and combat ability is tied to an ability score, and the 3d6 roll is modified by that ability's modifier. The exact skills you use are up to you - and example follows:

Strength: Melee attacks, breaking down doors, bending bars, jumping, swimming, climbing

Dexterity: Ranged attacks, reflex saving throws, acrobatics, pick pockets, open locks, hide in shadows, move silently, riding, move without leaving tracks

Constitution: Fortitude saving throws

Intelligence: Legend lore, decipher codes, find and remove traps, appraise value, cast magic-user spells (i.e. invoke)

Wisdom: Hear noises, will saving throws, tracking, avoid surprise, wilderness survival, cast cleric spells (i.e. pray), solve riddle

Charisma: Gather rumors, fascinate crowd, reaction checks, haggle over prices

Essentially, you'll keep tracks of the bonus associated with each of these scores. So, if you roll a 15 for strength (+1 bonus) and then a 16 for melee attacks, the strength modifier bounces that to a 17, giving you a +2 melee attack bonus.

STEP THREE - Roll 3d6 for hit points, modified by the constitution modifier.

Now, how do we use these bonuses? You should be able to run combat just as you always did - roll d20, modify with melee attack bonus and strength modifier, beat AC.

For skill use and saving throws, roll d20 and try to roll beneath the score itself, using whatever modifiers you think make sense. In the case of spells, you'd want to use the spell level as a modifier, probably with some sort of consequence of failing a roll (i.e. cannot attempt that spell again that day, three failures and no more spells for the day).

Here's a sample character, Rodrik the Bold

Strength 16 (+2)
  Melee attacks 10 (+0), breaking down doors 6, bending bars 16, jumping 17, swimming 16, climbing 11

Dexterity 13 (+1)
  Ranged attacks 12 (+0), reflex saving throws 12, acrobatics 16, pick pockets 10, open locks 10, hide in shadows 13, move silently 14, riding 11, move without leaving tracks 7

Constitution 6 (-1)
  Fortitude saving throws 8

Intelligence 14 (+1)
  Legend lore 8, decipher codes 8, find and remove traps 13, appraise value 15, invoke magic-user spells 13

Wisdom 10 (+0)
  Hear noises 5, will saving throws 12, tracking, avoid surprise 8, wilderness survival 10, pray for cleric spells 7, solve riddle 14

Charisma 11 (+0)
  Gather rumors 8, fascinate crowd 10, reaction checks 12, haggle over prices 10

Hit Points 12

Saturday, March 16, 2013

It Had to Happen: Random Classes

Image found here

How could a game built on a foundation of platonic solids not have random classes? It's inconceivable (and yes, the word does mean what I think it means).

Now, a completely random class is, on the face of it stupid. I know this. But, let's think about this. Some people set out in life with a goal, and they stick to it and eventually become what they set out to become. A young Merlin (well, old Merlin I guess - it's confusing with that guy) decides he wants to be a magic-user, he works hard, gets a few lucky breaks, and eventually makes it to 1st level and heads off into a dungeon.

But some folks play it by ear. They don't know where their going, and on their way to 1st level, maybe they pick up a wide array of skills. You know, somebody like ... Conan the Freaking Barbarian. How many jobs did that kid have? Started out a barbarian in Cimmeria, became a thief, then later a pirate, etc. Guy was all over the place. Thus - random classes.

Here's the way it works. First roll puts you into a broad category of fighting skills and saving throws - warrior, mage or rogue. This role impacts your additional rolls, which will determine what weapons and armor you can use, and what special abilities and/or skills you managed to pick up. Some of those special skills introduce ability score requirements. If you don't have a high enough ability score, you have to roll again.

One note: These tables assume you're using Blood & Treasure. You can probably adapt them to your favorite system.

On to the random nonsense ...


Roll D6

1-2. Warrior - advances as Fighter

3-4. Rogue - advances as Thief; rogues add +15% to all future percentile rolls.

5-6. Scholar - advances as Magic-User; scholars add +30% to all future percentile rolls.


Roll D%

01-5. All
6-10. Platemail, banded mail, splint mail, breastplate, chainmail, scale mail, chainmail shirt, studded leather, ring mail, leather armor, padded armor
11-20. Banded mail, splint mail, breastplate, chainmail, scale mail, chainmail shirt, studded leather, ring mail, leather armor, padded armor
21-30. Splint mail, breastplate, chainmail, scale mail, chainmail shirt, studded leather, ring mail, leather armor, padded armor
31-40. Breastplate, chainmail, scale mail, chainmail shirt, studded leather, ring mail, leather armor, padded armor
41-50. Chainmail, scale mail, chainmail shirt, studded leather, ring mail, leather armor, padded armor
51-60. Scale mail, chainmail shirt, studded leather, ring mail, leather armor, padded armor
61-70. Chainmail shirt, studded leather, ring mail, leather armor, padded armor
71-80. Studded leather, ring mail, leather armor, padded armor
81-90. Ring mail, leather armor, padded armor
91-100. Leather armor, padded armor
101-115. Padded armor
116-130. No armor permitted

01-30. All shields
31-50. Shield and buckler
51-80. Buckler
81-130. No shields


Roll D%

01-30. All weapons, melee and ranged
31-80. Medium and light melee weapons, light crossbows, short bows and thrown ranged weapons
81-130. Light melee weapons, light crossbows, short bows and thrown ranged weapons


Characters are permitted 1d3+2 rolls on the special abilities table. Abilities that are “as” a character class use the rules for that class’s ability and gain that ability or enhancements to that ability at the same levels as that class does.

Roll D%

1. Smite Chaos (Lawful, Wis 13+)
2. Favored enemy as ranger (Wis 13+)
3. Whirling Frenzy (Dex 13+)
4. Rage as barbarian (Con 13+)
5. Sixth sense as barbarian
6. Weapon specialization as duelist, though you may choose any weapon
7. Add Intelligence bonus to AC (Dex 13+)
8. Spring into combat as duelist (Dex 13+)
9. Riposte as duelist (Dex 13+)
10. Roll with lethal blow as duelist (Dex 13+)
11. Dominate foes as fighter
12. Multiple attacks as fighter
13. Steadfast as defender [fighter variant] (Con 9+)
14. Alertness feat as a class ability
15. Bull Rush feat as a class ability
16. Cleave feat as a class ability
17. Disarm feat as a class ability
18. Dodge feat as a class ability
19. Expertise feat as a class ability
20. Grapple feat as a class ability
21. Great Fortitude feat as a class ability
22. Iron Will feat as a class ability
23. Lightning Reflexes feat as a class ability
24. Power attack feat as a class ability
25. Sunder feat as a class ability
26. Two Weapon Defense feat as a class ability
27. Two Weapon Fighting feat as a class ability
28. Weapon Finesse feat as a class ability
29. Bend Bars as class skill
30. Break Down Doors as class skill
31. Find Secret Doors as class skill
32. Jump as class skill
33. Riding as class skill
34. Survival as class skill
35. Tracking as class skill
36. Swimming as class skill
37. Trickery as class skill
38. Balance as class skill
39. Climb Sheer Surfaces as class skill
40. Escape Bonds as class skill
41. Find Traps as class skill
42. Hide in Shadows as class skill
43. Listen at Doors as class skill
44. Move Silently as class skill
45. Open Locks as class skill
46. Pick Pockets as class skill
47. Remove Traps as class skill
48. Decipher Codes as class skill
49. Legend Lore as bard (Int or Cha 13+)
50. Haggle as a venturer (Cha 13+)
51. Add +1 to reaction rolls (Cha 13+)
52. Get 15 gp per point of Charisma at character creation instead of 10 gp per point of Charisma (Cha 13+)
53. Backstab as thief
54. Use poison as assassin
55. Concoct explosives as anarchist (Int 13+)
56. Paralyze foes as assassin (Dex 13+)
57. Improve AC as monk (Dex 13+)
58. Increased attacks as monk (Dex 13+)
59. Increased unarmed damage as monk (Wis 13+)
60. Increased speed as monk (Con 13+)
61. Deflect arrows as monk (Dex 13+)
62. Damage creatures only harmed by magic as monk (Wis 13+)
63. Slow fall as monk (Dex 13+)
64. Immune to disease (Con 13+)
65. Feign death as monk (Wis 13+)
66. Heal own wounds as monk (Con 13+)
67. Immune to poison (Con 13+)
68. Quivering palm attack as monk (Con 13+, Dex 13+, Wis 13+)
69. Speak with all creatures (Wis 13+)
70. Fascinate as bard (Cha 11+)
71. Suggestion as bard (Cha 13+)
72. Break enchantment as bard (Cha 13+)
73. Detect evil at will as paladin (Wis 13+)
74. Lay on hands as paladin (Wis 13+)
75. Immune to fear (Cha 13+)
76. Summon warhorse as paladin (Cha 13+)
77. Cure disease as paladin (Wis 13+)
78. Resistance to acid (Con 13+)
79. Resistance to cold (Con 13+)
80. Resistance to electricity (Con 13+)
81. Resistance to fire (Con 13+)
82. Resistance to sonic and +2 vs. song-based abilities (Con 11+)
83. Vampire slayer - +2 save vs. undead abilities
84. Dragon slayer - +2 save vs. dragon abilities
85. Turn or rebuke undead as cleric (Lawful or Chaotic, Wis 9+)
86. Turn elementals (Wis 9+)
87. Turn oozes (Wis 9+)
88. Turn dragons (Wis 9+)
89. Rebuke animals (Cha 13+)
90. Move through undergrowth as druid or ranger (Wis 13+)
91. Leave no trail as druid (Wis 13+)
92. +2 save vs. all energy attacks (Con 9+)
93. Change shape as druid (Con 13+, Wis 13+)
94. Protection from evil effect as paladin (Lawful, Wis 13+)
95. Darkvision to a range of 60 feet
96. Gain a psychic power as a psychic (player’s choice)
97. Cast a single 0-level spell 1/day (roll list and actual spell randomly)
98. Cast a single 0-level spell 3/day (roll list and actual spell randomly)
99. Cast a single 1st level spell 1/day (roll list and actual spell randomly)
100. Cast a single 1st level spell 3/day (roll list and actual spell randomly)
101-120. Cast spells, up to level 3*
121-125. Cast spells, up to level 6*
126. Cast spells, up to level 9*
127-129. Cast spells as sorcerer
130. Roll twice on this table, ignoring this roll

* The first time you gain spellcasting abilities, roll randomly to decide which list you use. If you gain the ability to cast higher level spells, use the same list.

1. Assassin (only up to 3rd level)
2-3. Bard (only up to 6th level)
4-9. Cleric
10-12. Druid
13-18. Magic-User
19. Paladin (only up to 3rd level)
20. Ranger (only up to 3rd level)

And there you have it. It could be a fun way to roll up NPC's - though the short hand of the existing classes is pretty convenient, or a way to throw together a really interesting party for a one night delve into a classic dungeon. Just remember to roll your dice responsibly.


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A Weapon Damage System ... Cause Everything Needs a System!

A system? For something as simple as weapon damage? Why?

Blog posts, baby. I need constant validation from you, the reader, and to get it, I have to make stuff up almost every day.

Seriously, though, when I'm writing bits and pieces for games or adventures and come across a weapon that doesn't show up in Blood & Treasure or Swords & Wizardry, I have to eyeball it. What's the weapon like - is it deadlier? Less deadly? Etc. This system works well enough - I'm never one to get hung up on the details when it comes to slaying dragons, but I have thought about doing something a bit more rational.

Weapon Damage

To start with, we need the most basic weapon known to man ... the fist. Depending on your system, a human fist usually does 1d2 or 1d3 points of damage. For our purposes, we're going to go with 1d2.

We're then going to rate each weapon on its physical characteristics, giving a weapon points based on these characteristics. Each point increases the damage of the weapon by one step. The damage steps are as follows:

Points / Damage
0 / 1d2
1 / 1d3
2 / 1d4
3 / 1d4+1
4 / 1d6
5 / 1d8 / 2d4
7 / 1d10
8 / 1d12 / 2d6

That's probably enough steps for our purposes.

Let's now take on the physical characteristics of our weapons. The characteristics we're interested in are those that make the weapon deadlier, since weapon damage really represents the chances that any given blow will result in a foe's death.

We'll start with what the material of which the weapon is made. For a weapon with a metal head and a wooden haft, we'll count the weapon as being made of metal.

Flesh and bone or leather = 0 points
Wood / stone = 1 point
Metal = 2 points

Second, we'll think about the weapon's length. The longer the weapon, the more likely it is to land the killing blow.

0 to 1 foot = 0 points
1 to 2 feet = 1 point
2 to 3 feet = 2 points
3 to 5 feet = 3 points
5+ feet = 4 points

Finally, we'll take into consideration a few miscellaneous characteristics:

Weapon is edged from tip to pommel (i.e. a blade) = 1 point
Weapon has more than one attack vector* = 1 point
Weapon launched by a short bow = 1 point
Weapon launched by a longbow or crossbow = 2 points
Weapon is especially thin or light = -1 point

* By attack vector, I mean a weapon that can be used as a piercing and slashing/chopping weapon, or maybe bludgeoning and piercing. Now, one can argue that a spear, for example, could be a bludgeoning weapon because one could strike with the haft or butt, but all we're really interested in is the ways the weapon is intended to be used.

Now, some weapons are capable of special forms of attack. For each special form of attack, you can either deduct points from the damage, or ignore this step and reward the weapon for being well designed.

Can be set against a charge = -1 pointCan be used as a shield = -1 point
Can be used as a shield and weapon simultaneously = -2 points
Can be used to disarm, entangle or trip (i.e. hooked, or chains and whips) = -1 point

One reason to do the deduction is that it might stop players from arguing that the weapon their character wields has every special ability they can think of. If they want a spear that can be set against a charge, be used as a shield and weapon simultaneously and be used to trip people, agree and reduce the its damage by 4 levels.


So, let's see how some basic weapons come out with this system. Note - I wasn't trying to create a system to duplicate a particular game system, so don't be surprised when they don't.

Clubs are wooden weapons (1 point) that are about 2 feet long (1 point). That's 2 points, which comes out to 1d4 points of damage.

Daggers are metal weapons (2 points) that are about 1 foot long (0 points) and are edged from tip to pommel (1 point). One could argue that they can be used as slashing and piercing weapons (1 point), which would give them 1d6 points of damage. If the dagger is only good for piercing, it would do 1d4+1 points of damage.

From the dagger, we can extrapolate with the other basic swords. If a dagger does 1d6 points of damage, short swords do 1d8, long swords 1d10 and greatswords 1d12.

Spears are metal weapons, at least the head is (2 points) and are about 5 to 6 feet long (4 points). Since they can be set against a charge, they lose a point, giving them 4 points and 1d8 points of damage.

A halberd is similar to a spear, but has two attack vectors (piercing and chopping), and so does 1d10 points of damage.

A rapier is a light longsword, and so would do 1d8 points of damage. If a player decides it can be used as a shield and weapon at the same time, it does 1d6 points of damage.

A flail is tougher. If it has metal heads (2 points) and is about 3 feet long from the tip of the haft, through the chain to the tip of the head (s) (2 points), then it does 1d6. If you decide it can be used to entangle, drop the damage to 1d4+1. If it is longer, increase the damage a step. If the flail has multiple heads, you might want to bump the damage one level higher.

A metal gauntlet gets 2 points, and thus does 1d4 points of damage.

A whip is made of leather (0 points). A short whip (like a riding crop) would maybe add a point and thus do 1d3 points of damage. A bullwhip might be very long (4 points) and thus do 1d6 points of damage. Since it can entangle and trip, you can knock the damage back to 1d4+1.

An arrow has a metal head (2 points) and is about 3 feet long (2 points) and is fired from a short bow (1 point), and so does 1d8 points of damage. If fired from a longbow or crossbow, it does 1d10 points of damage. If it had a stone point, reduce the damage by one level.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Fear the Forms! [New Monster]

I was perusing the Art of Manliness blog a few days ago (I highly recommend it), and they had a post about Plato's Parable of the Chariot. I'll let you do the reading yourself.

Being an RPG guy, my mind is constantly scanning for things to adapt. While reading that article, I was struck with the concept of the forms - Truth, Beauty, etc. Now, I suppose the forms would make great deities for a game, but how often do you get to play with deities in a game? I figured they might make great monsters.

The basic idea is a monster that personifies some concept, physical or mental, to a perfect degree. Today, I'm going to do two forms based on ability scores, Strength and Intelligence.

Medium Outsider, Neutral (N), Average Intelligence; Feat (1d4)

HD 7
AC 18 [+1]
ATK 2 slams (2d6 + bull rush)
MV 30
SV F10 R10 W10
XP 1,750 (CL 9)

Forms of strength look like perfect humanoid physical specimens, with perfect musculature, though lacking heads. How they see, hear, scent, etc. is unknown. They speak in a booming voice that is simply emitted from their bodies.

Targets struck by a form of strength must pass a Fortitude saving throw, modified by their strength modifier, or be knocked-back as though hit with a bull rush attack. They are capable of stomping (per the spell stomp) up to 3 times per day.

Forms of strength are capable of leaping up to 30 feet backwards, forwards, up or down (without falling damage). Likewise they are skilled at jumping, breaking down doors and bending bars. They have an effective strength score of 25.

Once per day, a form of strength can cause a creature it has struck to begin adhering to its conception of perfection. Each round, it gains 1 point of strength and loses one point of each of its mental ability scores. When the victim's mental ability scores are reduced to 6, they themselves become forms of strength; this state can only be reversed by a wish spell.

Special: Weapon resistance to bludgeoning weapons

Medium Outsider, Neutral (N), Super Intelligence; Feat (1d4)

HD 5
AC 18 [+1]
ATK 1 incorporeal touch (1d6 + stun 1 round)
MV 30 (Fly 60)
SV F11 R10 W8
XP 1,250 (CL 7)

Forms of intelligence are ephemeral, incorporeal beings. They have over-large heads with smooth pates; these heads are transparent, revealing the massive brains beneath, that spark with their unceasing pondering. Their thin, wispy bodies suggest atrophy. They generally float above the ground and usually move by flying. Forms of intelligence communicate telepathically, to a range of 200 feet or with other forms of intelligence up to any range.

A form of intelligence's touch attack ignores armor (except for magical armor) and forces those who suffer damage to pass a Will save or be stunned for 1d4 rounds.

The incredible intelligence of a form of intelligence allows it to work out the possible and likely movements of their foes to several rounds, and as such gives them the effective protection of a displacement spell (without they actually be displaced as the spell describes). They are capable, three times per day, of reciting such mind-numbing conundrums and theories that those within 10 feet must pass a Will save or be struck with confusion (per the spell) for a number of rounds equal to 5 minus their intelligence modifier.

Once per day, a form of intelligence can cause a creature it has struck to begin adhering to its conception of perfection. Each round, it gains 1 point of intelligence and loses one point of each of its physical ability scores. When the victim's physical ability scores are reduced to 6, they themselves become forms of intelligence; this state can only be reversed by a wish spell.

Spells: At will - detect thoughts (ESP); 1/day - ego whip, id insinuation, mind blank

Special: Incorporeal

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Virgin Woode Map

Almost done with the new hex crawl - I'm now finalizing the map. Take a look!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Action X - Still Ruminating on Classes

In a nutshell -With Action X, I'm trying to do with the Modern SRD what Blood & Treasure did with the fantasy SRD. The challenge - the SRD has a lot of history behind it - many editions of D&D with all the wonderful nonsense that goes along with it. The Modern SRD does not and, even worse, it's just so damn boring and mechanical. Worse yet - it keeps making my writing boring and mechanical.

So - I bring an appeal to all of the geniuses that read this blog - what are the modern archetypes you'd like to see in a fun role-playing game not set in a fantasy milieu. By "modern", I pretty much mean from Victorian times to today (or beyond into the near hard sci-fi future or even pulp sci-fi future).

I started with numerous classes, then boiled them way down and now I'm left feeling uninspired by them. Now I'm beginning to turn back to my original idea of a dozen classes that really hit the archetypes of modern action/adventure. I can't hit every archetype of course, and new classes can always be added, but I'd like to get a strong core of fun classes that will spark people's imaginations.

Some ideas (some of which are advanced classes in the Modern SRD, but which will need some TLC to make them anything more than collections of dry, boring bonuses to dice rolls) and some ideas for inspiration:

Brute (Mr. T) - hate the name; love Amazon, but that only applies to the ladies

Daredevil (Clyde Beatty, Howling Mad Murdock, Allan Quatermain)

Detective (Sherlock Holmes, Philip Marlowe, Jim Rockford, Thomas Magnum)

Gangster (Bonny & Clyde, Tony Montana)

Gunslinger (Lone Ranger, anyone from a John Woo flick)

Hacker (they abound in the news these days)

Martial Artist (Bruce Lee) - the name is so boring, though, but ninja and kung-fu master are too specific

Psion (Prof. X)

Scientist (Professor from Giligan's Island, Spock) - maybe Brainiac would be a better name

Soldier (Sgt. Rock, Captain America, Hannibal Smith)

Sorcerer (Willow, Dr. Strange)

Spy (James Bond, Mata Hari)

I've thought about throwing in some odd balls as well - Cyborg, Mutant, Vampire - stuff like that. Almost a "race as class" concept for modern gaming.

So - any additional ideas out there? Let me know in the comments. Dangit - I want to make a fun modern RPG!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

My Corner

Thought I'd share a picture of a corner of my study (no, I don't have a man-cave - I'm sick of this trend of making men appear foolish or primitive to boost the fragile egos of modern women - come on ladies, I'd like to think you're better than that).

I don't know if it's geeky enough (and I don't care - I've never been one for sub-cultures), but it's where I keep my role-playing game nonsense and a few comic book and comic strip collections I enjoy, as well as my grandfather's chair, a map of the heraldry of Scotland (Scottish, English and Welsh on my mother's side, German and English on my father's), a few prints from Jeff Dee's kickstarters (Morgan Ironwolf became the source of a husband-wife grudge match not seen since the Old Man got his major award), a globe I got for Christmas when I was a wee lad, a coonskin cap from Disneyland and an old sailing ship that used to grace the old Curtis Mathis in my childhood home.

I guess the funny thing is, I rarely work or write in my study these days, preferring to use my laptop out in the family room with, you guessed it, the family. My study is now primarily where I exercise - the treadmill is just to right of the lamp, and I have a pair of dumbbells and a kettle bell just out of sight by the chair.

Okay - back to work. I have quarterly reports to concoct, an issue of NOD to complete and a NOD Companion to work on.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Prepared Spells Without the Preparation

Demonologist by Jon Kaufman, for the NOD Companion
I just had an idea - probably not a new one - and I thought it would be worth a mention.

When I'm writing NOD or Hexcrawls, I usually do not write down the prepared spells for the various spellcasters. There are a few reasons for this, but the top two are (1) it often takes up too much room and (2) it makes some people who run games feel locked in with those spells. Tonight, while writing character stat blocks for the Virgin Woode (progress continues a bit more slowly than I'd like), a notion occurred to me for allowing on-the-fly spell preparation for game masters.

The basic idea is this: The GM picks a spell they want the caster to have. They roll 1d20. If they roll under the caster's Intelligence score (you can substitute Wisdom for clerics and druids, if you prefer), then it means the caster had the wherewithal to prepare that particular spell for that particular day. Easy as pie.

So - I have a 4th level NPC magic-user with a 14 intelligence. He gets into a scuffle with the player characters and I decide I want him to cast magic missile. I roll the d20, get a 13, and that means he prepared magic missile that day. If he wants to cast it again, I need to roll again to see if he was smart enough to prepare it twice.

Now - you might be saying, "Yes, but what if I have an evil cleric NPC and it turns out she didn't prepare a basic spell like cure light wounds or inflict light wounds. That's stupid."

To get around this, it probably makes sense to scribble down a few spells, especially low level spells, that we don't have to roll for to check, at least for clerics and druids, who have all the spells at their disposal. For magic-user, it's arguable that the only spell they certainly have in the spellbooks is read magic.

So - 3 basic spells (using spells from Blood & Treasure - your system may vary) of each of the low levels that we can assume a cleric and druid and magic-user would have prepared:

Cleric (Lawful)
1st level - bless, cure light wounds, protection from evil
2nd level - cure moderate wounds, hold person, silence
3rd level - cure serious wounds, dispel magic, prayer

Cleric (Chaotic)
1st level - cause fear, inflict light wounds, protection from good
2nd level - inflict moderate wounds, hold person, silence
3rd level - animate dead, blindness, dispel magic

1st level - cure light wounds, entangle, produce flame
2nd level - barkskin, delay poison, resist energy
3rd level - dominate animal, poison, wind wall

1st level - detect magic, read magic, sleep
2nd level - detect thoughts, levitate, web
3rd level - dispel magic, fly, suggestion

Of course, if you don't want to go through this exercise, it's always acceptable for the GM to simply decide, on the fly, that the cleric has cure light wounds prepared, and I'm not going to bother rolling for it.
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