"Black Dougal gasps 'Poison!' and falls to the floor. He looks dead."

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Another Setting

Inspired by Snorri's post "Lost Land of Mêm" on OD&D Discussion, I pulled out my Expert rulebook and some dice. I quickly rolled up 4 encounters for each major terrain type as listed on page X75 and whipped up a new campaign setting...

Encounter Table Results:
Grassland - Antelope, Lions, Hill Giants, Stirges
Woods - Black Widow Spiders, Tiger Beetles, Driver Ants, Brigands
Swamp - Adventurers, Wraiths, Ogres, Trader
Mountains - White Dragon, Troglodytes, Merchants, Trolls
Desert - Fire Giant, Giant Hawk, Small Rocs, Ghouls
City 1 - Orcs, Fighters, Traders x 2
City 2 - Acolytes, Wights, Fighters, Nobles
Ocean - Sea Dragon, Hippogriffs, Giant Hawks, Sea Hydras
Jungle - Giant Gekkos, Hippogriffs, Wyverns, Tarantella Spiders
Hills - Hydras, Wyverns, Red Dragons, Hippogriffs

The merchant city of Xulthon sits perched on the Urbe Steppes overlooking the Silver Sea to the north of the city. It is a bustling city, full of traders, merchants, mercenary companies (including some barely accepted orc mercenaries). When looking south from the city walls, the steppes fade away into the distance, the Caravan Road splitting the plain. From time to time you can see the dark shape of the antelope herds crossing the grassland. Lions also make the steppe their home prowling after the herds. As one heads farther south small stands of trees intermittently dot the vast swath of grass but beware as these are often the nesting grounds of stirges.

Passage across the Silver Sea is also dangerous as a large Sea Dragon has its lair in the murky depths. Hippogriffs and Giant Hawks hunt for tuna and small whales but they stay away from the Sea Hydras which also roam the sea.

To the east the steppes eventually begin to rise up to rugged hills. This area is home to Hill Giants who wear ratty, dirty lion pelts and hunt whoever is brave or foolhardy enough to enter their domain. But they also have to have care as the Bonehills are the home to many fearsome beasts - Hydras, Wyverns and Hippogriffs all fiercely protect their hunting grounds and often can be seen riding thermals above the plains. It is rumoured that a mated pair of Red Dragons also lair in the chalky hills but they have not been seen in many a year.

The Bonehills continue to rise up into the Guardian Peaks. Few passes split this rugged fence. The pass where the Caravan Road crosses to the allow merchants to travel to Melaphon, The Haunted City is a dangerous route. A White Dragon makes its home on a high peak above the valley and it often stops caravans seeking tribute for these merchants to cross its domain. There are also rumours of a vicious tribe of troglodytes that follow a family of trolls.

On the other end of the pass the Haunted City of Melaphon squats on the last of the rugged highlands. The area around the city quickly falls away to a dry and dusty plain called the Desert of Alf. Melaphon is a decadent city - nobles and acolytes both too busy with their depraved pursuits to worry about the plight of the slaves which they keep under their thumb with a vast number of temple guards. But don't be caught on the streets at night as the debauched forefathers still prowl the streets as wights.

The Desert of Alf is hot and dusty. The few oases that break up the barren landscape are surrounded by strange ruins through which Ghouls lurk. Careful watch must be kept along the edge of the desert where it butts against the Guardian Range as many Fire Giants reside there. Small Rocs hunt Giant Hawks through hot, wavering air.

To the west of the Urbe Steppes, the dark Creeping Wood is home to the many things from which it gets its name. The dark wood is home to Tiger Beetles, Driver Ants and Giant Black Widow Spiders. Due to its reputation, a band of brigands also make the dark forest its home from which they raid the steppes.

To the south of the forest is the fetid Blackmire. This foul marsh is home to a band of ogres. It is likely that this marsh was not always here as there are a number of sunken ruins which are rumoured to be haunted by Wraiths but to also contain vast treasures. As such there are a number of Adventurers trekking through the swamp and an enterprising Trader has set up a walled roadhouse not far from the marshes edge.

Across the Blackmire is the Emerald Jungle. Under the vast canopy lurk Giant Gekkos and Giant Tarantella Spiders and above the green roof Wyverns hunt.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Setting Riffs

Idea one is taken straight from Dwarfstar Games' Demonlord,
On Narth, once called the “continent of man”, the origins of the Demons are obscure. Some say a wizard’s summoning went out of control. Others suggest that the Demons themselves opened a magical gateway, still extent at the gate of Tor’zem, the Demonlord Capital. A few philosophers even believe that the Demons are a natural race, like humans or dwarves, except the Demons became stronger than others.

In any event, the Demons are now the power on Narth, and each Demonlord rules his own province under the Emperor. Although Demons are a tiny minority, through their great power, magic, and capacity for evil they act as captains, administrators, and governors of many lesser races such as half-men, demi-men, goblins, orcs, and other manish races of darkness.

Nisshar is a typical province in the west of the Demon domains, ruled from a capital city of the same name. But here, humans and semi-human allies resist them, banding together under the influence of Hosar, a sun-god cult. At times, they were so successful that even Nisshar came under siege. Now, the armies of the Demonlord and the Alliance of Hosar are mustering once more, for another bloody campaign.

After centuries of sleep, the Demon Empire once more sends forth its hideous armies to conquer the lands of men. Desperate fighters stand with bow and shield against the goblin hordes which blacken the fertile valleys. The wizards and priests are called together in a desperate attempt to counter the Demonlord's dark magicks. But the balance of power lies with the neutral kingdoms. Will the Dwarven King, the Cloud Prince of Lyung, and the mysterious Ancients join with the forces of light, or will they cast their lots with the dark host commanded by the shadowy presence of the DEMONLORD...

The second idea is a riff off the first, a post by Philotomy on Original D&D Discussion and the really neat idea for Project Long Stair from RPGnet. It would be set after the first idea,
Many of the Mages of Hosar retreated to their tower in the great city of Timur. It is now said that they went knowing full well their upcoming fate. These great mages wielded arcane power beyond any seen in any age since and with this vast power they were able to hurl the Demons back into the primordial chaos from which they came.

However, a devastating backlash of arcane power and the forces of chaos destroyed Timur and everything for leagues around. The Mages of Hosar were devastated. All of those that participated in the Great Sealing were lost. Only the few that were purposely kept away from the ritual survived. While the price was high, the Great Sealing forced the Demons back into the chaos and sealed the gateway to Narth. That was centuries ago. Now the seal is failing...

The idea is that the seal and gateway are part of a megadungeon that is a mythic underworld. This mythic underworld is spreading tendrils, magical portals, into other places of darkness and chaos (smaller dungeons and lairs).

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Another Quick Thought About Skype Gaming and T&T

I am starting to think that Tunnels & Trolls would be a great system for a game using skype.

It may just be a byproduct of the lack of physical cues when gaming over skype but I am finding the D&D individual attack rolls and the narrative that goes along with them to be disjointed. T&T's pooled combat rolls and single resulting narrative would likely "flow" better. I also think that the craziness that is possible using saving rolls would be great fun and keep the action moving.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Now I did it

Well, I did it. If you have checked out our Online B/X game blog or read JB's B/X Blackrazor, you will know that I killed three characters in during our last session. Alright, "I" didn't kill them - a band of a half-dozen troglodytes did but you know what I mean.

As JB says, there were a few tactical errors made and some interesting character roleplaying that I did not see coming. Who would have known that Krome and Diomedes were the heroic sort? However, it doesn't surprise me that Amsorak would go down protecting the party.

The three big tactical errors I saw were:
1. Fighting six 2 HD creatures that gave a couple of the fighters a -2 penalty to their attack rolls and each creature had 3 attacks (18 attacks in total) in the first place.

2. Charging into the middle of the room where all six could attack. The party eventually did a fighting withdrawal to a better defended position but by then some of the damage had been done.

3. Having the polearm in the front rank.

A few thoughts from my side of the virtual-table:
1. I am still getting a handle on playing without being able to pick up on physical cues from the players. Using skype I feel the same as when I am DMing a group that is just giving me blank stares - never a good thing. I am surprised about how uncertain I feel - are the players actually enjoying themselves? Am I giving the players enough descriptive details? Are they getting the point I am trying to get across? Without the physical cues I feel a little lost.

2. I seem to be quite self-conscious after the feedback I received a while ago about the Northern Marches campaign. When the first character fell in combat, I though, "oh no...". I am relieved having read the comments so far from the players. I am also somewhat comforted by the fact that K-Slacker, who has the distinction of being the only player to have participated in all of my Northern Marches games, seems to enjoy the punishment enough to be part of the online game as well.

3. My dice rolling was not in the party's favour. I use a mix of the dice roller that comes with Gametable and some actual dice when we are playing. Neither set were working for the party's benefit. The one hope the party had was the Trogs failing a morale check but it wasn't even close.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Quest for the Holy Avenger

While not in the B/X magic item list, the Holy Avenger is just such a great item for a quest. Here is a quest involving a number of dungeons to find the holy mcguffin.

Three royal princes, who were each buried in a different crypt, were each buried with a different magic item. One prince was a valiant paladin of good who protected the innocent. His brothers however were vile necromancers who plagued those unable to protect themselves. It is rumoured that the valiant paladin was buried with his holy sword, Travarlach, Bane of the Dead. Use the clues to figure out which prince was buried in which crypt, and who was buried with the holy sword.

Place one clue in each separate dungeon. When the paladin is ready they can head off to the tombs.


1) Prince Pettar was not buried with the Sphere of the Damned.
2) Prince Stepan was not buried in the Red Tomb.
3) The prince that was buried in the Golden Tomb was buried with the Sphere of the Damned.
4) Prince Taldar was buried with the Blood of Maidens.
5) The Prince who was buried with the Holy Avenger, was not buried in the White Tomb.

Prince Pettar was buried in the Red Tomb, with the Holy Avenger.
Prince Taldar was buried in the White Tomb, with the Blood of Maidens.
Prince Stepan was buried in the Golden Tomb, with the Sphere of the Damned.
The logic behind the answers:
Prince Pettar was not buried with the Sphere of the Damned (clue 1) or the Blood of Maidens (clue 4), so Prince Pettar was buried with the Holy Avenger.

Prince Pettar was not buried in the Golden Tomb (clue 3), Prince Pettar was not buried in the White Tomb (clue 5), so Prince Pettar was buried in the Red Tomb.

Prince Taldar was buried with the Blood of Maidens (clue 4), so Prince Stepan must have been buried with the Sphere of the Damned. Then Prince Stepan must be buried in the Golden Tomb (clue 3), and Prince Taldar must be buried in the White Tomb.

Five dungeons and four tombs worth of possible adventures...

I sure hope I got all that right :)


I have often heard (and have likely made the comment myself) that older versions of D&D are "grittier" than newer versions.

But what makes a game "gritty"? Is it lethality? Is it strictly atmosphere?
Some adjectives I have heard to describe a "gritty" game: realism, lethal, dark, sacrifice.

A few things that I think make B/X a gritty game:
1. The fragile nature of the characters.
2. The roster of monsters. The number of giant versions of normal animals, dinosaurs and bugs keeps things "grounded"
3. The focus on resource management - it is tough to feel really heroic when you are worried that you might run out of torches and be lost in the dark.

Is White Plume Mountain gritty? It definitely is lethal.

Is Dark Sun gritty? I would say yes.

What do you think? What is "gritty"? What makes a game gritty?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Two Dimensional Characters

In the comments to my post about B/X Ability Scores, Timeshadows mentions,
The only pisser is thinking that people are so two-dimensional so as to only ever be one thing, or in this case, Class.

I have had a number or really interesting online discussions with TS over the past month or so as she is part of the Skype B/X game and like me, she really enjoys discussing gaming.

Her comment is one I hear often in relation to the limited class selection, lack of multiclassing rules, and/or race as class in B/X and I would agree wholeheartedly with her if B/X was a simulation. However, B/X is a glorified wargame. And I revel in this fact. B/X does not try to represent any type of reality and verisimilitude is not something that is strived for.

In real life I am much more than an ex-investment banker (at least I really hope so). Just like in real life an infantry battalion is more than just a bunch of guys with guns and an armoured battalion is more than a bunch of tanks. However, in most wargames they are portrayed as singular types.

Just like different types of units in wargames, Fighters, Thieves, Clerics and Magic-users are designed to provide different tactical options. A party made up of five fighters is going to have different tactics than a party made up of two fighters, a cleric and two magic-users.

In B/X, are all fighters the same? No and Yes. Ability scores and roleplaying are the only real ways to distinguish one fighter from another. As I mentioned in an example I gave in the B/X Ability Scores post, "A DM can reasonably determine if a character can swim based on his background."

But besides these arbitrary differences, yes all fighters are the same. And they have specifically been designed as such.

Things I find interesting today

1. "Thundarr Thursdays" over at The Savage Afterworld gives us the Mok for Mutant Future. I SOOOOOO want to run a Thundarr game.

2. Mutant Future gets Runner Up for Best Free Game in the Indie RPG Awards.

3. Yesterday was the busiest day ever for my little corner of the blog-o-verse. I am not too sure why I had so many visitors here yesterday. It was even busier than when I made my post about the B/X spellbook system.

4. Grey Elf has posted his OD&D/Hyborian hack.

5. I forgot to mention it a while ago but Dyson has a great B/X character sheet.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

B/X Ability Scores

From page B6:
A couple of things that strike me:
1. They are called "Ability" scores instead of attribute scores, stats, etc. The word "ability" is also used throughout the descriptions.
"Strength" is a measure of muscle power and the ability to use that power.
"Intelligence" is the ability to learn and remember knowledge, and the ability to solve problems.

2. I noticed a number of times in the descriptions terms (or closely related terms) that become "skills" in later editions - balance, endurance, intuition, knowledge, etc.

Ability scores are more than just the raw characteristics of a character. They also reflect the ability to harness these characteristics into actual abilities. You don't need a swim skill to know if the character can swim across a raging river. A DM can reasonably determine if a character can swim based on his background. He can take a look at the character's strength and see of he has the ability to harness his strength to swim across the raging river or he can ask for a save vs strength or any other mechanic to let the dice decide.

Ability Scores + Class give all of the skills anyone could possibly use.

Open vs Closed Gaming

The last few D&D games I have been part of have all been "open" games. By open I mean that they are played with varying participants. The Northern Marches campaign was specifically designed to be open. It was created to accommodate busy adult lives and was designed so that it did not matter who showed up to play from week to week. The 4E games I am running at the local meetup are by necessity open and the skype B/X game is open in that I just made an open invitation for people and accepted a couple more than I expect to be able to make each scheduled session.

An open game contrasts with a closed game which I think of as how I have previously mostly played D&D in that I was part of a set group. Closed groups may or may not play the same game from week to week but they a fairly consistent in who shows up to play.

Whether a game is open or closed has an impact on social aspects of the game, the campaign design and the game mechanics themselves.

1. Social - a closed game has a slightly different social element than an open game. This is pretty evident since in an open game you never really know who might wind up sitting down at the table. I have found two interesting social dynamics in the open games I have run. The first is that I had the first fight between players during a Northern Marches game. The players did not know each other and it stemmed from a roleplaying incident where a character reacted to having another character accidently gunned down by friendly fire. I don't think that the reaction would have been the same if the players knew each other and had been party of a closed game. The second, an honestly one I tried to cultivate for the Northern Marches, is a bit of competitiveness between players. I wanted to try to get people to want to play frequently by giving them FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). If they new that another player's character found a magic sword during a session they were not able to atend maybe they would be more inclined to show up the next session.

2. Campaign Design - If a DM doesn't know who is going to be at his game, it makes it tough to carry on a plot. I think this leads to one of two reactions from the DM. Either they railroad the adventure to make sure that their "story" gets told or they adopt a sandbox. A sandbox doesn't have an overall plot so continuous attendance isn't required. An open game also encourages more episodic play with each session being more self contained.

3. Game mechanics - I find that closed games lead to more house rules. If you have a long standing group, everyone gets to know preferences and can take the time to learn house rules. Open games make communicating a long list of house rules more difficult.

What do you think? Are there other aspects that are impacted by open or closed games? Are there advantaged to open or closed games? Which do you prefer?

My Gaming Status Report

My current gaming status is:
1. DMing the Skype/Gametable B/X game.
2. DMing 4E at a local meetup two saturdays each month.
3. Reading gaming books.

I am surprised how much I am enjoying the skype game. It helps having such great players. When I play a face-to-face game I use a whiteboard and Gametable has served admirably in that capacity and as a dice roller. It makes communicating spacial situations a lot easier. It makes me think that I should get ahold of the old gaming crew and try to set up a game.

I am still not too sure about 4E but I remain open minded. The one thing that 4E does for me is give me the opportunity for a casual face-to-face game. With the Northern Marches on hiatus (we'll see if I can resurrect it) this has been the only opportunity to sit down and play.

This has left way too much time for me to read new and old gaming books and get new ideas. These new ideas have really fed my gaming ADD.

What I need is to get back to gaming again. When Northern Marches was going at full steam I didn't have these problems.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Things I find interesting today

1. So, I rested for a while and then I read Grognardia's latest Dwimmermount post. The masochistic urgings have passed and I now want to run an OD&D, S&W: white box or B/X campaign centered on a megadungeon. Gamer ADD what?

2. Did TARGA do anything for Gencon?

3. As EVERYONE knows by now, Dark Sun is the next setting for 4E. I like Dark Sun and I am still experimenting with 4E so I find this interesting/encouraging. Especially given the fact that WotC says that they are going to keep to the first boxed set.

4. Quite a while ago, Scott removed his World of Thool blog but his Thool wiki is still up. I was reading through it again. It is really great. If you like Scott's Thool stuff, I also encourage you to check out Savage Swords of Athanor.

5. Back when I started the Northern Marches campaign (which has been on hiatus since the beginning of summer) I put up some postings at a couple of gaming stores. Along the bottom were a dozen pulltabs with my email address. I have been around and replaced three of these postings as all of the tabs were gone. So there are at least 36 people that were interested enough to take a tab. Unfortunately, only a couple have actually joined us for a game.

Friday, August 14, 2009

It is a beautiful book

Over the past few months I sold most of my 3.5 rulebooks. They have now been replaced by this beauty. I currently don't have much interest in running it but it you never know. And have I mentioned it is a beautiful book?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

I think I should go lie down for a while

I have spent a good chunk of the last 24 hours contemplating how one would convert Paizo's Pathfinder: Rise of the Runelords to B/X.

The largest obstacle to overcome with using B/X for a published campaign such as this would be the XP pacing. But I think this could easily be overcome with re-calibrating the treasure. One of the nice things about B/X is that lots of treasure doesn't really unbalance game play.

I have never played such a campaign. I typically use published adventure modules for the larger sites in my sandboxes but running an adventure path would be quite different. So different from my regular style that I am not too sure I could pull it off. But for some masochistic reason I kinda want to try it.

I wish I was at Gencon

I really do...

Us versus Them

I have mentioned a number of times that I believe to understand OD&D and B/X it is important to remember that they are outgrowths of wargaming and carry a lot of assumptions from wargaming.

One of these assumptions from wargaming was that you knew who the enemies were. In a historical wargame they wear different uniforms and are controlled by another player; in OD&D and B/X they were labelled "Chaotic" which, by default, made it okay to kill them.

The other aspect of alignment is a mechanical one. Spells such as Protection from Evil need to know who the bad guys are.

As roleplaying matured, as a genre, the labels got stronger ("Evil") and the characters were clearly portrayed as "the good guys". The paradigm shifted towards telling a story, and with that came the assumptions appropriate to a story - i.e. that the good guys would always grow in power and triumph over adversity, and the death of a good guy would be a rare and tragic event.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What does a crossbow weigh?

I know this is going to surprise you but I think the encumbrance rules in B/X are about the best for any version of D&D.

Really B/X gives two methods for calculating the encumbrance for a character:
Method 1 - Add up all of the "coins" for all of the equipment carried. Similar to other versions of D&D. The nice thing about B/X is that they give the slush number of 80 coins for all of the miscellaneous equipment and provisions.

However, I always use method 2 as seen on the right side of the "OR" in the first column of the table - Strictly determined by what armour is worn and if they are carrying treasure. No numbers, no math - ridiculously simple. Your dwarf enters the dungeon wearing platemail - his movement rate is 60-ft. Hopefully, when he leaves the dungeon his movement rate is 30-ft because he is now wearing platemail and carrying treasure.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Things I find interesting today

1. The Positioning Roll in Agon - Maybe in reaction to all of the 5-ft squares in the 4E game from a while ago, I have been reading about abstract alternatives for battlemaps. B/X of course uses an abstract combat system and I find it really is my preference to go that route. One of the most interesting abstract systems I have seen is Positioning in Agon. You can find out more about Agon at http://www.agon-rpg.com/ and there is a preview pdf as well. The positioning roll is like initiative. Opponents jockey for position on an abstract battlefield trying to get enemies into the most effective range for their weapons (the swordsman wants to get in close, the archer wants to keep opponents away, etc). Since you can reposition yourself or anyone who rolled lower than you each round (friend or foe) you get some interesting group tactics. It scratches my abstract combat and gameist itches.

2. The plans of my players in the Skype B/X game - you can follow along at Online B/X.

3. Running a Thundarr the Barbarian game using Gamma Trollworld.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

A few thoughts about my 4E game

I was going to put together a long post about the relative aspects of 4E vs B/X and then decided that I wasn't going to use my time in that fashion. Instead here are just a few quick thoughts about the 4E game I ran a while ago:

1. It is rules-light - I don't know what proportion of page count in 4E books is rules vs powers (rules exceptions) but it is heavily, heavily, heavily skewed in the direction of the later. No DM can remember all of them. If you have a regular group then the DM can remember the 20 to 30 powers the party has. But for a walk-in game during a meet-up, you don't even know what races and/or classes will be at the table much less the powers. The players just have to tell the DM what their powers do. But the framework upon which all of these powers hang is pretty simple.

2. I tried to keep a semblance of narrative combat - and I was surprised how easy it was. Before the session began I took a look at everyones' powers - not for mechanics (see above) - but instead for the fluff. I made a note of some key points of the fluff about each power and used those to narrate the effects in combat. It was much more than "I move to here and use my Vorpal Viceration power". The player may say it that way but after the dice were rolled I gave the narrative of dodging through the combat and their shining blade slashing through sinew and tissue using some of the adjectives from the powers themselves.

3. I incorporated the "Ming Vase" - and I was very liberal with giving out bonuses and penalties for rolling 20's and 1's. Another thing I did was allow of other effects if someone rolled a 20. For example, if the character was using some power that did not include the moving of the target but rolled a 20 I figured would be fun to move him anyway.

4. I kinda like Skill Challenges - but then again I like subsystems. In a lot of ways the skill challenge is just a formulaic way of doing a reaction roll or some other roll that is already present in B/X.

5. I find the races annoying - I like the fact that B/X is humanocentric. I like the archetypes of race as class. I did not have one human character at the table and while I have read the races sections of the 4E PHBs, I still don't know what archetypes many of the races are suppose to fill.

6. I converted one of Paizo's Pathfinder Society scenarios designed for organized play and it was really easy.

7. The session went faster than I thought. I feel bad about this one. I thought I had lots of material given the feedback I have heard that combats take too long. This was only a 1st level scenario so maybe this changes.

All-in-all it was fun. My biggest complaint was the loss of the archetypes of the various races and classes but I also know that OD&D and Dr. Holmes also say that players should be able to play races other than those presented in the books so maybe I should have a more open mind.

Edit: JB just made a comment on our Online B/X game blog that made me realize the other complaint I have with 4E. In B/X part of the feel and fun is the fact that your character is an average Joe that may become a hero or maybe not. In 4E you start off as a hero and are expected to do heroic things.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Three Words For You

Savage Danger Island...

"Uh oh, Chongo!"

Why B/X Is My Favorite #22

22. The first appearance of Save vs Abilities
From page B60:
As far as I know this is the first time this mechanic appears in a D&D rulebook. I believe, however, that either this mechanic or other similar mechanics had appeared in some adventure modules prior. This adds a very simple way of handling things outside the other mechanics of the game. I use save vs. abilities rather infrequently myself preferring to use derivatives of other mechanics already in the game such as using the same idea as the open door mechanic (2 in 6 with ability modifiers) for other ability checks, the listen or spot secret door checks for other "perception"-like checks, or my favorite - the 2d6 reaction roll.

The key part of Save vs Ability is the header, "There's always a chance." As a 10-year old learning the game this was the key lesson I gained from this section. The mechanic doesn't really matter - giving the PCs a chance to succeed at whatever crazy actions they may attempt does.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Things I find interesting today

1. A little dated but, Eric Mona of Paizo made a comment on Grognardia,
And while we have not formally thrown our hats into the "old school" or rules-light field, our hearts are very sympathetic to the cause, and I wouldn't be too surprised to see something down the road.
Sincere or marketing ploy?
Edit: I hope sincere. While it may not be exactly to my exact gaming style, I buy nearly everything Paizo puts out. Their production values are extremely high and some of the set pieces are fantastic. I would run a B/X, C&C or S&W game set in Golarion in a heartbeat.

2. I have joined an online Diplomacy game. I love that game.

3. Greyelf's blog posts about OD&D in the Hyborian Age.

4. After reading JB's great play reports from X1, I took a quick reread of some of the wilderness rules in the Expert rulebook. The Evasion rules on page X23 caught my eye:

5. The recent posts by Sham (here and here) about the abstraction of time in game mechanics. Combine these with the Evasion rule and you can see how "wargamey" some elements of D&D were. A day of travel in the wilderness where an encounter was evaded with supplementary amounts of wild ass could be handled in less than 2 minutes.


I know some people run old school hex crawls by doing a day-by-day, hex-by-hex narrative but if I am DMing a game where the party goes on a long trip, I will typically roll the # of d6 equal to the days travel and narrate up to to the first encounter. So if the trip were to take 7 days, I would roll 7 d6s. If the 3rd dice indicated an encounter then I would quickly narrate the terrain and weather up to the 3rd day - thus quickly getting past the "down" time. I would also do the same with checks for getting lost.

I have also used abstract rules for escaping a dungeon. Say that the party tried to get an audience with a high priest but rolled a 2 on a reaction roll - they may be arrested and thrown into a dungeon for being heretics. Every week they have a 1 in 6 chance of escaping the dungeon with some sort of negative effect for every week spent in captivity - maybe a 1d4 loss of HPs to reflect the harsh conditions. When the party finally rolls a 1, they can take some narrative control and describe how they escape. Of course, I often feel the need to interject a few obstacles as well. Then there is typically an "Evasion" check as per the above rules to get away from their pursuers. Weeks in captivity, the escape and fleeing the pursuers can all be handled in as little as a few minutes depending on how the PCs narrate their escape.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Again Putting Pen to Paper

I have decided to begin working on a few things, in no particular order:

1. Picking up the pen again on Pit of Tortured Souls which I am considering renaming "The Pits of the Ghoul-Queen".

2. Using the two page format that I have employed with The Pits of the Ghoul-Queen, I am working on a six page pdf with two pages for a settlement/homebase, two pages for the surrounding wilderness (using the guidelines given on page X54 of the Expert Rulebook), and two pages for the nearby dungeon (think mini KotBL).

3. Using the same type of format (one page map, one page key), working on a four map hex crawl. The "theme" will be a mix of the ideas posed in a great thread at Dragonsfoot called City of the Scorpion Men about the monster that is behind the evil cult of the city and the feel of the world of Sinbad as portrayed by the Harryhausen films and the Canadian series The Adventures of Sinbad so lots of boats and islands. Subsequently, various sites (islands, cities, dungeons, etc.) may also get the one or two page treatment.

4. I am still hoping to find some guinea-pigs to run the 4E scenario as a B/X one-shot using skype.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Are You My Petri Dish?

I am thinking of conducting an experiment. I would like to rerun the scenario that I ran for yesterday's 4E game but using B/X. Is there five hearty souls out there that are willing to subject themselves to my gruesome experiment? It would be using skype and Gametable again and I would like to run it some evening this week. If you are interested please email me at p_armstrong [ at ] email [ dot ] com. It will likely only take a couple of hours. Here is the background I gave the 4E players (note: that it is taken from one of Paizo's Pathfinder Society organized play scenarios)
You are in a pub known as “The Tails”; a dingy, brine-soaked shack covered with swordfish tails located in a rundown section of town called South Reach. There, bitter longshoreman coming off the graveyard shifts pile in and slam rounds of a potent shark-fin liquor, cursing and complaining until they’re drunk enough to be carted home by noon. The disparaged scene has few prying eyes—the ideal place to pass along covert whispers.

The cloaked man across from you leans across the table and whispers with a rasped voice, “I’ve word that the accursed pirate Darsielle Du Moire has anchored his much sought ship, the Hydra’s Fang, in the harbor. Everyone’s looking for that vermin. He carries with him some ancient tablets of extreme historical value. Unknown to most, Wittlestone, the small town Du Moire razed to the ground, was also home to Myraxus Threeshadows, a noted but aging sage and mystic. Among Myraxus’s possessions he kept ancient forgeries of several tablets used in ancient arcane rites. When Darsielle destroyed the village, he slew the mystic and took the tablets, hoping to pawn them to one of his buyers here in Portown. The tablets are a priceless archeological treasure, one I greatly desire. In fact, just prior to Myraxus's death, I placed several bids to purchase the tablets and so naturally I was one of the first to realize they’d gone missing. You must race to get Du Moire and recover the stolen tablets before his pursuers find him or he flees port."

“If my sources are correct, I’ve learned that he owes a substantial amount of money to one of the Consortium’s more ambitious Enforcers, an importer named Lubor Staizkal. Likely he needs to settle with him at some point. Go to Lubor’s shop on Meldon Lane, near the docks, and see if you can pick up Du Moire’s trail from there, then do whatever you can to get those tablets. If you bring them to me you will be handsomely rewarded.”

Saturday, August 1, 2009

My 4E One-Shot

I ran the 4E one-shot at my local D&D meetup this afternoon and I had a fun time. I am going to simmer on it for a day or two and post some thoughts. But this I know - B/X is my favorite.

Just a few quick things

1. I really like the 2d6 thief as posted A Character for Every Game.

2. Jeff Rient's does it again - he always has such great ideas.

3. Geoffrey does something my wife wishes I would do.

4. In case you didn't see it on JB's or Mike D's blogs here is the blog I set up for our Skype B/X game.

5. It has been out for a while now but you should really check out the The Mythical Tunnels & Trolls Sixth Edition.