Tuesday, February 28, 2012

May Slow Down a Wee Bit..

I find blogging to be a lot of fun, but I may slow it down just a bit.  I've been averaging about 1.3 posts per day since the blog's inception.  This is actually a pretty frequent rate of posting.  It's been a lot of fun, but there are some other fun hobby-related things I want to catch up on, such as:
  • Catching up on my reading (Lovecraft, Arthurian stuff, John Carter, etc)
  • Spending some serious time on setting up a new campaign
I'm certainly not going away, but I may cut back to 3-4 posts a week to free up some time.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Any Stupid, Wacky, Monty Haul Stories to Share?

Does anyone have any goofy, fun stories from playing D&D "back in the day" as kids and/or teenagers?  Any Monty Hall treasure piles, any perversion of the rules, or ridiculously powerful or lucky PC's?  I'll share a story.

As background, Sylvaeon had a discussion over on G+ about the Arduin Grimoire series from the late 1970's.  I was reminded about how gonzo and fun that system was.  Anything seemed possible in Arduin.  I then recalled how we used to play AD&D but incorporated certain Arduin rules into our game.  One such rule was "Critical Hits."

Arduin has a crazy critical hit chart.  One particular roll on the chart equates to "Entire head pulped and splattered over a wide area.  Instant and Irrevocable death ensues."  I don't have the book in front of me, but it was very similar to that.

Anyway, here comes the stupid, crazy part.  My brother was DM'ing, I was about 11 years old, and me and my friend had a party of 1st level PC's.  We somehow ended up in Demogorgon's lair.  :)  Yeah, I shit you not!  Well... the Thief in the party managed to steal a +3 Dagger from Demogorgon's stash, snuck up on him (undetected, apparently, amongst all of Demogorgon's demon minions), and backstabbed the poor guy.  Well, somehow I miraculously rolled a "20," which allowed me to roll on the Crit chart.  Seconds later, Demogorgon was dead - his entire head pulped and splattered amongst a wide area.

Amongst his loot, OF COURSE, was a Vorpal Blade.  Our PC's got so wealthy that they were all elevated up to about 5th level each from the treasure XP.

Never mind that:
1.  How did our 1st level PC's find Demogorgon?
2.  How did we sneak around and find the +3 Dagger?
3.  How much dice fudging resulted in the instant death Crit?
4.  Where were Demogorgon's minions to protect him?
5.  What about his 2nd head?
6.  Why weren't we all slain on the way out of the joint by pissed off Demons?
7.  Why weren't we held to the rule that you can only level up 1 level at at time?

Anyway - my brother and I rotated DM'ing - and somehow the treasure just flowed and flowed.  :)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Way Back Machine - Blackmoor (Supplement II) - Part 2

My last installment of the Way Back Machine took a look at Men & Magic section of Blackmoor - Supplement II.  I will now take a look at Monsters & Treasure, as well as Underworld & Wilderness Adventures.

Section 2 - Monsters & Treasure

Like Greyhawk, Blackmoor introduces us to a fair number (43 to be exact) of new monsters.  And there is definitely an aquatic theme, as a number of these beasties are waterborne.  This goes nicely with the new water rules later in the book.

New Monster Descriptions: Following are some of my favorites from Blackmoor.
  • Giant Leech: the original Level Draining Undead!  :)  Seriously, when they bite you and attach, they drain one live level every round! 
  • Giant Beaver: they can be persuaded to build shit for you if you give them gold & jewels. 
  • Giant Wasp: love the stinger description: "a deadly sting, similar to a cast spear dipped in poison."  And their poison is so debilitating that any victim who dies from it is 30% likely to be so fucked up he can't be raised.  Oh crap.
  • Fire Beetle: This 1-1 hd creature bites for 3-24 hp of damage!  Nice way to introduce your new 1st level players to OD&D.  :)
  • Boring Beetles: they cultivate Yellow Mold, vile jellies, slimes, and other dungeon denizens.  Weird.
  • Minotaur Lizards: these 40' long lizards do a claw/claw/bite for a wicked 8-72 hp of damage per round.  And we're told they mature at 10 years old and live to 40.  Gee.  Thanks for letting us know.
  • Plesiosaurus: we're told they are an "endangered species."  I though they were extinct.  :)
  • Sharks: more likely to attack "bite-sized" creatures like Hobbits.  Poor Hobbits. Stay out of the water!
  • Dolphins: they will come to the aid of any humans being attacked by "denizens of the deep."  Cool.
  • Sahuagin: digging the MASSIVE writeup of two full pages!  I think these were meant to be a very serious and critical foe for seabound humans.  Yet I've rarely used them in a game.
  • Ixitxachitl: these are described as "Chaotic Clerical Philosophers."
And then there's a cool little section describing how to take ordinary land creatures and convert them to sea creatures!  I kind of like it.  You can use Kobolds that live in air-enclosed cave complexes connected via tunnel to surface caves.  And we learn about Lacedons (underwater ghouls), whose leader will always be a Wraith.  Gelatinous cubes are the same underwater as they are in a dungeon.  Nice to know!

New Magic Items & Treasure: Staying with the aquatic theme, all the new treasure items in Blackmoor are water-based.  Some examples include items that ALLOW PC's TO ADVENTURE UNDERWATER!  Cool.  Like the Ring of Freedom and the Ring of Movement.  Also the Manta Ray Cloak and Necklace of Water Breathing.  This is cool, because you can't very well have underwater adventures if nobody can breathe.  We are also introduced to non-magical Pearls, which are treated as gems.  But you'd be one lucky adventurer if you found a Silver Pearl.  These are worth 10,000 to 100,000 gold pieces!

Section 3 - Underworld & Wilderness Adventures

This section in Blackmoor is dominated by the Temple of the Frog adventure, which takes up 20 out of 27 pages.  I will tackle that in a seperate writeup shortly.  For today's post, I will cover the other aspects of this section - including rules for underwater adventures, sages, and disease.

Underwater Adventures: This 2-page section covers some very rudimentary suggestions, rules and encounter charts for setting up underwater adventures.  There's an opening paragraph that gives some suggestions for how PCs can breathe underwater - including spells, magic seaweed, helms of water breathing, etc (many such items are included in the new magic items of this Blackmoor supplement).  There's a nice note that the undersea is not exempt from "Tricks & Traps."  Things such as "false sea floors" and "phantasmal images of sunken ships" are encouraged.  :)

This is followed up by combat and movement rules underwater.  A PC can only swim wearing up to leather armor, and may only carry 25% of his normal weight allowance.  The only usable missile weapons are "specially prepared crossbows (at three to five times the normal price)."  Tridents are highly valuable melee weapons because they are the only ones that don't have their damage cut by 50%.  We're also warned that a Magic User casting a lighting bolt will electrocute anything in range! 

The underwater and sailing encounter charts are chock full of many of the new aquatic monsters introduced in Blackmoor.

Remaining Information: The book concludes with a 2-page writeup on Sages, followed with a 3-pager on Diseases.  These sections have some rather weird rules and unnecessary charts.  The disease section is probably more detailed than necessary and is reminiscent of AD&D.  However, there is a cool paragraph on what happens if you attack or slay a Sage.  Any PC so doing will have his alignment changed to Chaotic and will be subject to the Sage "Dying Curse."  A curse from a low level sage might cause all the PC's teeth to fall out (thus reducing CHA!), while a more powerful sage might cast a dying curse which causes a PC to fail every saving throw he ever attempts in the future.  Grim stuff. 
The next (and last) writeup on Blackmoor will cover Temple of the Frog!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Way Back Machine - Blackmoor (Supplement II) - Part 1

This is the second part of a series (The Way Back Machine) to discuss the four OD&D supplements (Greyhawk, Blackmoor, Eldritch Wizardry, and Gods, Demigods & Heroes).  I started by discussing Greyhawk and up now for discussion is Blackmoor - Supplement II.

Blackmoor is probably best known for introducing the readers to Dave Arneson's world of Blackmoor with the amazing, old-school adventure "Temple of the Frog."  This 20-page adventure gave early DM's a real idea of what an adventure "module" should look like - but it's not without its flaws!  Additionally, Blackmoor gives us new classes (Monks, Assassins), new monsters, and some cool new rules (underwater adventures, disease, sages, etc).

Overall, though, I'd say Blackmoor didn't contribute nearly as much to D&D as Greyhawk did.  The new classes it introduced were problematic at best and the proposed new "Hit Location During Melee" was a fiasco.  But at least we got "Temple" and some waterborne rules.

The Cover, Layout & Art

Blackmoor has a very evocative, almost spooky cover.  It depicts a sinister castle sitting atop a treacherous, rocky crag.  Swirling mists and a full moon are in the background.  I think this cover really creates a mood of adventure, mystery and possibly horror.  I like it.

The book is 60 pages, digest sized, and has a great deal of content.  There are 13 illustrations in the entire book plus a number of maps for Temple of the Frog.  And guess what?  Some of the art is pretty dang good because David Sutherland has joined the team!  In fact, a number of the illustrations from Blackmoor are used in the Monster Manual.  This includes some classic MM pics like the Umber Hulk, the Sahuagin, the Chimera, and the Dwarf.  Also of note: Greg Bell, in my opinion, produced substantially better art in Blackmoor than he had in the previous books; he seemed to have grown as an artist.

This supplement (as with the others) is organized in three sections - Men & Magic, then Monsters & Treasure, then finally Underworld & Wilderness Adventures. 

Section 1 - Men & Magic

New Classes: Blackmoor introduced the Monk and the Assassin to D&D.  The Monk is a subset of Cleric.  This class is extremely difficult to roll up if using the "3d6 in order" technique of attribute generation, as it needs a WIS of 15, DEX of 15, and STR of 12.  Monks are limited strictly to humans and may be of any alignment.  In Blackmoor, Monks can use no armor but ANY weapon.  And they receive level-based damage bonuses when using weapons.

In non-weapon (hand-to-hand) fighting, Monks either stun or kill their opponent if they roll 5 points above the required to hit roll.  Monks have some abilities which are similar to Thieves, such as opening locks, removing traps, being rarely surprised, listening, climbing, moving silently, and hiding in shadows.  Monks also get to speak with animals and plants, heal themselves, simulate death, and receive immunity to many mind-altering affects.

Assassins are a subset of Thieves.  The DM is advised to only allow them "under special circumstances and in large campaigns."  Oddly, Assassins can only be neutral.  They must be human.  To be an Assassin you must have a 12 or better in DEX, STR and INT (again, not all that easy with 3d6 in order).  Assassins get all the abilities of Thieves, but at 2 levels lower than their actual level (so a 5th level Assassin functions like a 3rd level Thief).  They may wear leather armor, shield and any weapon.

Assassins are masters at Disguise, Languages and Poison.  Interestingly, any opponent in melee has a 50% chance of "noticing" the poisoned weapon.  If the poison is noticed, the opponent flies into a fury, attacking the Assassin with +4 to hit and +4 damage!  Sheesh.  :)  Assassins have the "Assassination Table" to determine their success in assassinating a victim.

Hit Location During Melee: Talk about a hot mess!  Pages 7-12 of Blackmoor introduce us to Hit Location During Melee.  It's basically six pages of charts and graphs detailing what body part you will strike in melee, how many hit points each part has, and how the height of the attacker modifies this.  I've never known anyone to use these rules.  Have you?  And these charts are by type of monster, like "humanoid," "insectoid," etc.  And they are based on where you are vs. the opponent.  For example, if you are facing an "Avian" from "The Side," you will strike its wings on a 51-80.  Nice to know!  And the rules then go on to explain which areas cause mortal wounds, which ones cause movement impairment, what happens with amputations, etc.  No thanks.

Next installment will discuss the new Monsters & Treasure of Blackmoor - which you'll find to have a very nautical theme.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Love the D&D Monochrome Covers!

I love all the old monochrome covers.  Maybe it's nostalgia.  Or maybe they're just awesome.  For some reason, the cover to D1 just really brings back memories for me.  And also G2.  Really, all of them.

Which is your favorite monochrome cover?

Which is your favorite module?












Thursday, February 23, 2012

Goth Girl of the Week - Feb 23

With nurses like this, I'd be happy to come down with a fever!  Ok, stupid joke...

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Unmet Gaming Needs

Warning: lame venting session to follow.

I'm somewhat unsatisfied from a gaming standpoint.  I have a lot of unmet gaming needs (I know, this is much more important than world hunger).  Basically, the games I really want to play in I can't find anyone to run.  And the games I want to run are generally not the favorite of my players. 

First, here is a quick rundown of our gaming setup:
  • We game every Tuesday night for 3 hours.
  • We've deliberately kept the group small; there are only 3 of us in total (me, Adam, Jim); we had a 4th player but he got booted over a year ago because he didn't play well with others.
  • We are all fans of old school D&D (primarily AD&D and B/X).
  • Me and Jim rotate DM'ing duties (currently, I'm running an AD&D campaign and Jim is running a B/X campaign).
  • We rarely venture into non-D&D games (the only instances being when we played PF for a few months; and we played Jim's self-made RPG for about a month)
We all get along well and can discuss a variety of topics, gaming and non-gaming.  These are good guys that I look forward to seeing every Tuesday.

However, there is (in my mind) a bit of a tension about what to play - and who should run it.  Jim wants to run exclusively AD&D or B/X.  And he's a good DM.  And I can't force him to run something he doesn't want to run.  I firmly believe that you need to let the DM decide what to run since he will be the one expending the creative juices to make it happen.  But for me, this means that I can only play in a B/X or AD&D game.

And when I DM, I typically run AD&D - because that's the favorite system of both Jim and Adam.  And I like it too.  The only exception to this is when I ran Pathfinder for a few months.  But even that was a bit of an issue because Adam loves PF, I'm "okay" with it, and Jim doesn't like it very much.  So honestly, I don't think we'll run that again.

(Thanks for Your Patience So Far!  I'll be coming to an actual point soon.)

So essentially, we are playing AD&D or B/X the vast majority (90%) of the time.  And while those are great games, I want to play stuff besides D&D!  And I want to run stuff besides D&D!  I have a decent-sized laundry list of games I'd like to play in or run.  I want to try new systems and experiment with new things!  I considered PF an experiment since it wasn't an "old school" game.  And I feel more educated for having done so.

There are lots of games on my list.  I would like to run a Pendragon campaign.  I'd like to try out a COC one-shot.  Or some Gamma World (in all fairness, both guys have professed a willingness to play GW).  Or maybe a S&W campaign.  Or Mutant Future.  Or Mutants & Masterminds.  Or some OSR stuff like Carcosa, Weird Adventures and Dragons at Dawn.  Or Mazes & Minotaurs. 

But I'm not sure when I'll get to play or run these games.

By the way, the boys aren't jerks about it.  I doubt they would say "No!" if I asked them to play one of these other games.  But any time I test the waters with a proposal, they never seem very excited about it.  At times, I'll literally bring a hard copy of a new RPG to the gaming table - kind of a "Show and Tell."  But even that doesn't generate much interest.  So that kind of kills my enthusiasm.

I've thought about trying to supplement my gaming needs by getting into a second group, but my wife simply wouldn't tolerate me being gone two nights a week to game and I can't say that I blame her.  And I'm having fun with the guys and consider them friends, so I don't want to just disband the group.

Maybe I just need to be more forceful.  I.e., decide what I want to run, learn the rules, put together a good introductory adventure and say "Guys, this is what we're playing.  Let's roll up some PC's!"

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

New Magic Item - Dragon Scale Armor & Shield

This is my take on suits of armor and shields made from the scales of dragons.  In addition to A/C boosts, they are treated as magic armor for purposes of saving throws, even more so for their particular type of dragon.  E.g., wearing Red Dragon armor or shield grants tremendous bonuses against fire-based attacks.

I imagine this concept exists somewhere else in D&D, but I'm not aware of it.

Dragon Scale Armor & Shield (F/P/R, C): Dragon scale armor & shields are crafted out of dragon scales and powerfully enchanted to provide the highest protection.  Additionally, each type of dragon armor provides saving throw enhancement against whatever type of breath weapon is employed by the dragon.  For example, Red Dragon Scale Armor provides saving throw bonus against all fire-based attacks.  The armor class protection and saving throw bonus of dragon scale armor & shields are based on the age of the dragon according to the chart below:

AC (Armor)
AC (Shield)
Saving Throw vs. Selected Attack (fire, etc)
Armor Only: Saving Throw vs. Other Attacks
Armor XP
Shield XP
Very Young & Young
Sub-Adult & Young Adult
Adult & Old
Very Old & Ancient

Following is a list of what each dragon type provides save bonuses for:
·         Black = Acid
·         Blue = Lightning
·         Brass = Sleep & Fear
·         Bronze = Lightning
·         Copper = Acid & Slow
·         Gold = Fire & Poison
·         Green = Poison
·         Red = Fire
·         Silver = Cold & Paralysis
·         White = Cold
Note: If someone is wearing Armor & Shield of the same dragon type, the AC stacks but the saving throw bonus does not stack.  (e.g., wearing Armor & Shield of an Adult Black Dragon would provide AC -2, but only +5 save vs. acid, not +10).  Dragon scale armor (but not shield) still grants the standard saving throw enhancements like other magical armor as outlined in the DMG.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Way Back Machine - Greyhawk (Supplement I) - Part 2

This is the second installment of a series (The Way Back Machine) to discuss the four OD&D supplements (Greyhawk, Blackmoor, Eldritch Wizardry, and Gods, Demigods & Heroes).  I started by discussing the Greyhawk supplement but left off after the section on Men & Magic.  Today I continue the discussion of Greyhawk.

After "Men & Magic," Greyhawk next covers "Monsters & Treasure" and then has a short section on "The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures."  The M&T section has an extensive collection of approximately 40 new monsters and untold numbers of treasures, along with a number of clarifications on the existing monsters.  Between the Monsters and Treasure book and the Greyhawk supplement, there are now over 100 monsters for DM's to choose from!

Monsters & Treasure

Summary Table: The M&T section of Greyhawk starts off with a handy-dandy table entitled "Monster Reference Table, Hostile & Benign Creatures."  It contains key stats for all the various monsters, including AC, Move, Number Appearing, Hit Dice, % In Lair, and Treasure Type.  You'll notice that the Monster Manual has many of the same entries.  Of course, the table's not in alphabetical order!  :)

It's very odd that there is a separate table earlier in Greyhawk that lists Number of Attacks and Damage per Attack.  Couldn't these two tables have been combined somehow?  Then again, critiquing the organizational layout of OD&D is a fool's errand.

Monster Descriptions: Next up is a paragraph or two describing each type of monster.  And folks - these are fun to read.  Since the tables already contain all the statistical data, these descriptions are pure fluff, ecology and other notes.  It's in Greyhawk that we get our first description of some truly iconic D&D monsters, such as:
  • Beholders
  • Umber Hulks
  • Displacer Beasts
  • Blink Dogs
  • Hell Hounds
  • Rust Monsters
  • Stirges
  • Owl Bears
  • Carrion Crawlers
  • Gelatinous Cubes
Some of the monster descriptions are quite interesting.  I'll share a few of my favorites:

Dragons:  There is the following snippet, which sounds very 1976: "There is only one King of Lawful Dragons, just as there is only one Queen of Chaotic Dragons (Women's Lib may make whatever they wish of the foregoing."  :)

Hell Hounds: "The damage caused by their fiery breath corresponds to the number of hit dice they have; hit dice range from a low of 3 to a high of 7."  This is WAY tougher than the lame, gimped out Monster Manual  Hell Hounds which do 1 POINT of damage per hit die of the Hound.

Stirges: "Long, bird-like monsters with long dangling proboscuses, the Stirges might call to mind evil-looking feathered ant-eaters."  WTF!

Carrion Crawlers: "The Carrion Crawler is able to climb/move along walls or ceilings as readily as floors, thus allowing it to compete with Ochre Jellies, Black (or Gray) Puddings, and the like."  Aha - our first glimpse at dungeon ecology!

Magic Items: The next part of Greyhawk's M&T section is the tables for magic items.  This expands greatly upon the tables in the original Monsters & Treasure.

Swords: Swords are now powered up beyond the +3 limit in the original books, going all the way to +5.  We're first introduced to the +5 Holy Sword and *drumroll* the Vorpal Blade!

Magic Weapons & Armor: Again, these are basically powered-up options from the original list.  Instead of being capped at Armor +2 and Shield +3, you can now award your greedy PCs with +5 Armor & Shield, or even Armor of Etherealness.  The Mace of Disruption has been added.  Arrows & Axes used to only be +1, but can now go up to +3 - including the Arrow of Slaying.  And Magic Crossbows have been added, including the deadly Crossbow of Accuracy and Crossbow of Speed.

Potions: Potions didn't change much, but a couple of original potions were powered up.  The Potion of Super Heroism has eclipsed its weaker cousin "The Potion of Heroism."  And a Potion of Extra-Healing has been added.  Oil of Etherealness has been added to the stable.

Rings: Not a lot of new rings, mostly just a couple of powered up choices.  Chief among these is the Ring of Protection, which now goes all the way up to +3 instead of just +1. 

Scrolls: This seemed to be a weird omission from Greyhawk.  It's the only class of magic item which wasn't discussed.  So it would seem the original (fairly sparse) choices from the Boxed Set went unchanged.

Wands, Staffs & Rods: The key word here is "Rods," which are introduced in Greyhawk as a new type of magic item.  The original list of 12 Wands and 7 Staffs remains exactly the same, but 6 Rods have been introduced.  Chief amongst these is the Rod of Lordly Might (go, Fighting Men!) and the Rod of Resurrection.

Miscellaneous Magic: This section underwent a mind-blowing expansion - growing from 29 Miscellaneous Magic items in the Boxed Set to 130 such items in Greyhawk.  For those familiar with the Dungeon Master's Guide (a couple of you guys, at least), the Greyhawk tables look quite similar.  Too many inconic D&D magic items were added to list even a portion of them, but a couple of classics are the Deck of Many Things, the Bag of Tricks, Boots of Dancing, Cloak of Protection, Bracers of Defense, Figurines of Wondrous Power, and many, many more. 

The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures

This section is quiet inconsequential in Greyhawk.  It's only five pages in length and basically has two features.  The first, and far more fun, section is on Tricks, Traps and Monstrous Combinations.  The second section is just a new Random Encounter Chart to include the new monsters.  I'll just talk about the firs one.

Tricks, Traps & Monstrous Combinations: This little jewel is actually a lot of fun to read.  It gives early Dungeon Masters some insight into how GEG envisioned tricks, traps and wild monster combinations.  It's basically a 3-page list of random ideas.  But there are some true classics here:
  • Fire Resistant Mummies: "Many players will get used to frying these monster with oil, but watch the fun when they run into one of these critters!"
  • Skeletons who are able to hurl their finger joints as if they were magic arrows (Note: I used this two months ago in a game I ran; once the skeleton was defeated, the players were able to "harvest" any remaining finger joints - which I treated as +1 Darts.)
  • A Troll with a Magic Spear riding a Purple Worm.  :)
  • A Cloud Giant riding a Tyrannosaurus Rex.
And many of the iconic "tricks" are also captured - such as Wishing Wells, secret compartments in treasure chests, statues with missing pieces that will grant something special if the missing piece is put together, etc.

Well - that concludes Greyhawk.  Next up is Blackmoor.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

B/X - Monsters as PC's - Mind Flayers

Today's Monster as PC is the utterly alien and fantastic Mind Flayer!  This would be a perfect PC to use in an evil campaign.

A few things you should know:
  1. For Psionics, I'm suggesting the use of Geoffrey McKinney's excellent system from his Carcosa supplement; it's so straightforward and easy to use.  (If you don't have it, you could come up with a psionics system of your own)
  2. Thank you, Trey, for giving me the inspiration for doing this (through reading Weird Adventures and particularly the Brain Invader!).
  3. Mind Flayers do not exist in B/X, but that shouldn't stop you.
Mind Flayer as PC

Possible Concept
Nobody knows for sure how Mind Flayers came to exist.  Are they some form of demonic spawn, or perhaps minions of some Cthulhuoid god?  Rumors abound that they are related to Brain Invaders from outer space!  If you are playing one as a PC, your goal is likely world domination – or perhaps the less ambition Mind Flayer characters may just be looking to enslave and prey upon the local cattle (umm, villagers).
Hit Dice
Ability Scores
STR -1; CON -1; INT +6; CHA -4
Armor & Weapons
Mind Flayers have a natural AC of 7 at 1st Level due to a slick, slimy secretion.  They become even more shifty and elusive as they mature, increasing their AC as follows:
·         AC 6 at 5th Level
·         AC 5 at 9th Level
Mind Flayers can still receive DEX bonuses to AC as well as use magical means (like Rings of Protection) to improve their AC.  Mind Flayers can’t use any form of armor or shield as these devices are completely alien to them.
Mind Flayers generally only attack with Psionics or Brain Extraction (or Ray Guns, if they can find one).  If hard pressed, they can wield or throw a dagger. 
Psionics: Mind Flayers are all gifted with Psionic abilities as outlined in Geoffrey McKinney’s excellent Carcosa supplement, with the following upgrades: Mind Flayers roll a d6 (instead of d4) to determine how many powers are available each day, and Mind Flayers receive one use per day, per level – which is greater than the amounts listed on the chart on page 19; Brain Extraction: Mind Flayers can attack with their tentacles (only counts as one attack); a successful hit indicates that they have latched onto the skull of their foe and will dig in to find the brain and turn it to jello!  Upon a successful hit, their opponent takes no damage in the first round but takes 1d6 damage each subsequent round.  The brain is reached in 1d4 rounds, resulting in instant death.  For large creatures, this takes 1d6 rounds..
Hate Sunlight: Mind Flayers detest sunlight and fight and defend at -2 in such light.  Additionally, their psionic abilities are penalized at -2 in sunlight. Utterly Despised:  Mind Flayers are greatly feared due to their alien and carnivorous nature; any party with a Mind Flayer receives a -3 Reaction Roll penalty.  Evil: All Mind Flayers are Chaotic, as befitting a being whose objective is to enslave the world.
Level as Magic User (e.g., 2,500XP to hit 2nd level); no XP bonuses for ability scores; Mind Flayer maximum level is 12th  
Save and combat as Magic User.
Weapon Damage
If using class-based variable weapon damage, Mind Flayers do damage as a Magic User.
Magical Abilities
The Mind Flayer PC will really only be suitable for an evil band of adventurers making their way in the underworld – or a campaign setting that is full of mystery and darkness.  Mind Flayers have no way to mask their identity as they do not employ magic spells, so ordinary towns and cities will be off limits.  The kindly DM can introduce campaign features based around a Mind Flayer’s interests, perhaps sending the PCs to explore that weird burst of light at the Barrier Peaks or spelunking at the Mountains of Madness.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Way Back Machine - Greyhawk (Supplement I)

This is the first part of a series (The Way Back Machine) to discuss the four OD&D supplements (Greyhawk, Blackmoor, Eldritch Wizardry, and Gods, Demigods & Heroes).  I'll start with Greyhawk, of course, and go from there.

Greyhawk had a profound effect upon our D&D game when it was first published back in 1976.  As many of you know, it was a kind of precursor to the AD&D game.  It, along with the other supplements, introduced many new rules that were included in AD&D.  Players received many new choices and characters had many more powers and options, including enhanced ability bonuses for the first time.  Then again, the monsters got a bump up too.  And experience point awards were dramatically changed.

So much of what you now know about D&D was first introduced in Greyhawk!  The list goes on and on.  For the first time, we see Thieves, Half-Elves, exceptional strength, AC bonuses for DEX, Paladins, variable hit dice by class, variable weapon damage, Magic Missile, and many other such "firsts."

The Cover, Layout & Art

Wow!  What a solid cover.  For some reason, as a young gamer that was a very evocative image.  That bedraggled, almost defeated looking fighter standing over his dwindling campfire faced off against that most horrific of foes - the Beholder.  Very stark, very minimalist.  Not professional, but effective.

The book is 70 pages, digest sized, and is PACKED full of content.  Very little fluff.  There are literally only 10 illustrations in the entire book.  I must say, the art is pretty bad - like the first three LBB's.  The illustrations by Greg Bell provide powerful nostalgic value but looked at objectively aren't too good.  Of note, there is a picture of a bare-breasted woman so political correctness had not yet swept over the company.  As an 9-year old, I certainly enjoyed it!

The layout is pretty good.  This supplement (as with the others) is organized in three sections - Men & Magic, then Monsters & Treasure, then finally Underworld & Wilderness Adventures.  This is cool because those are the titles of the original three LBB's - so Greyhawk effectively updates each LBB with its own section.  Nice!

Section 1 - Men & Magic

New Classes: One of Greyhawk's crowning achievements was introducing the Thief class to D&D.  Granted, some gamers and RPG historians think that this WASN'T such a good thing since, by creating a specialist, it deprived other players of the chance to try picking a lock or opening a chest.  But it can't be denied that this had a profound effect upon the game going forward!  Additionally, the Paladin was also introduced in Greyhawk.  So a player could now choose between a Fighting Man, Paladin, Magic User, Cleric or Thief.

The Thief also gave non-human characters a second option.  In OD&D Elves, Dwarves and Halflings can only be Fighting Men.  But Greyhawk rules allow them to play Thieves and, best yet, advance to  unlimited levels.  And Halflings are much more effective as Thieves than Fighting Men.

Thieves in Greyhawk look quite similar to AD&D Thieves, including abilitiy to read magical scrolls and gain backstab damage.  Granted, they only receive a d4 for hit points.

Paladins are quite similar to AD&D Paladins, although the only requirement to become a Paladin in Greyhawk is a Charisma of 17.  Paladins can lay on hands (cure wounds), cure diseases, are immune to disease, and can both Detect and Dispel Evil as they gain in levels.  They gain +2 in all saving throws.  They also receive a highly intelligent war horse every 10 years.  A Paladin can possess no more than 4 magic items.

Racial Changes: In another AD&D precursor, Dwarves and Elves with high Strength or Intelligence abilities can now advance further in levels as a Fighting Man or Magic User.  E.g., Dwarves in OD&D can only advance to 6th level as Fighting Men.  In Greyhawk, they can advance to 7th level with a STR of 17 and 8th level with a STR on 18.

Also on the racial front, Dwarves can now multi-class as a F/Th, while Elves can even triple-class (F/Th/MU). 

Additionally, Half-Elves are introduced into D&D.  They are normally F/MU multi-classes, but those with a WIS of 13 or higher may triple-class as a F/MU/Cleric.

Ability Scores: In a major change from OD&D, certain ability scores were given significant ability bonuses.  In OD&D, no "To Hit" or "Damage" bonuses existed.  In Greyhawk, these bonuses were first introduced - but only for Fighting Men!  Starting at STR 13, Fighting Men receive significant combat bonuses.  In fact, "Exceptional Strength" was introduced in Greyhawk - all the way up to 18/00, which produced a massive +4/+6 To Hit and Damage bonus.

Another significant change is that for Fighting Men only, DEX bonuses improve Armor Class.  So a Fighting Man with a DEX of 18 gets a +4 bonus to AC.

I believe these STR and DEX bonuses seriously power up the Fighting Man, making him incredibly more effective in combat than the other classes who can't receive the bonuses.  However, one feels sorry for the poor, pathetic Thief with his d4 hit points and no DEX bonus to AC!

For Magic Users, we see the impact of Intelligence for the first time.  High Intelligence scores allow the wizard a higher chance to know spells and grant him the aptitude to learn more spells.  Finally, a high INT allows MU's to use higher level MU spells.

CON bonuses are upgraded significantly - for all classes.  A character in Greyhawk can receive up to a +3 per hit die CON bonus.  OD&D only allowed a +1 CON bonus.

Hit Point Differentiation: For the first time, we are introduced to the concept of different hit dice by class.  Fighting Men receive a d8, Clerics a d6, and Magic Users & Thieves a d4.  This, coupled with the dramatic ability bonuses for STR and DEX for Fighting Men, really held up Fighters as combat monsters.  Greyhawk admonishes us that if this system is used, all Monsters must be upgraded from d6 to d8 for hit points!

Experience Point Awards: Gygax slams the "ridiculous method" of OD&D experience point awards (100XP per hit die of defeated monster) and introduces XP charts that are quite similar to the versions you see going forward in B/X, AD&D, etc.  Personal opinion: I actually LIKE the OD&D method of 100 XP per hit die.  I think it allows for faster progression at early levels.

Variable Weapon Damage (and Weapon vs. AC): Greyhawk is to thank for variable weapon damage - and I am a huge fan.  I know it's the subject of much internet debate, but I like that a sword does more damage than a dagger.  I just like the flavor of it.

Of course, if variable weapon damage is to be used, we also need to allow monsters to do variable damage - not just the 1d6 from OD&D.  So a chart is given listing the number of attacks and pursuant damage from all the various monsters.

But Greyhawk - Shame on You!!  How could you dump this monstrosity upon us of Weapon vs. AC charts?  It really sucks and isn't well explained.  Even amongst AD&D players, I'll bet no more than 25% of players use it.  I know some people defend it, but I just don't like it.  Too cumbersome.

New Spells: Many new spells are introduced in Greyhawk - including *drumroll* the Magic Missile!  This little guy does 2-7 hit points of damage, but the rules are very unclear on whether a To-Hit roll is required.  Some other notable new spells include Web, Rope Trick, Monster Summoning, Wish, Power Word Kill, Aerial Servant, Raise Dead Fully, and countless other new spells.

I hope you've enjoyed these Cliff Notes of the Men & Magic section of Greyhawk.  Next I'll discuss Monsters & Treasure changes in Greyhawk.

Friday, February 17, 2012

What Do You Do For a Living?

I'm just curious what most gamers do as their day job (if they're not so incredibly lucky and talented that they do RPG's full time for a JOB!).  :)

In my group:
  • I'm a Controller at an energy company
  • Adam is a Child Psychologist
  • Jim is an "I.T. Guy"
  • My other gaming buddy Ken is a Pediatric Nurse
I was talking to my buddy Adam who is a gamer and also in a band.  He said that most band members he meets are more "blue collar" and most gamers he meets are more "white collar."  Of course, that is a rough generalization just based on his individual experience.  I'm sure a good deal of the younger gamers are probably college students as well.


Hirelings - Early Edition D&D (Part 2)

Recently I discussed how important hirelings and followers were to the OD&D game.  For this post, I will focus on Holmes and B/X and if/how it may have changed from the original version of the game on this topic.

Homes (1977)
Holmes is pretty similar to OD&D on this topic.  Hirelings are first discussed in the Charisma section.  The paragraph explains that Charisma is largely a leadership statistic and that "a character of charisma below 13 can not hire more than 5 followers" with a loyalty of luke-warm at best.  It elaborates that if the "fighting gets hot there is a good chance they will run away."  Conversely, anyone with a CHA of 18 can win over a large number of followers (men and monsters) who will stand by him to the death.

The section on NPCs states that most parties will want to hire into service a "band of mercenaries" to share in the profits of adventure.  Like OD&D, Holmes suggests hiring monsters, characters, and even building an army.  It goes into some detail about how to recruit low-level hirelings, suggesting a cost of 100-600 gold pieces to "advertise."  You then have to "tempt" them into service, at a suggested cost of 100gp for a human, and more so for a dwarf or a wizard.  Monsters can be "lured into service" if of the same alignment as the PC and offered a nice reward.

Many of these concepts are very similar to OD&D, except that OD&D offers more details (such as NPC "loyalty" score, a 2d6 check to lure monsters into service, and more specific ability bonuses for charisma.  Holmes is oddly vague about the specifics.

B/X (1981)
Charisma factors into the maximum Number of Retainers and Morale of Retainers.  For example, a PC with an average CHA of 10 will have a maximum of 4 retainers, and they will have a morale of 7.  On the other hand, a PC with a CHA of 18 can have 7 retainers with a morale of 10.  This is significant because it means the retainers are very unlikely to break and run!

Page B21 covers Retainers.  In B/X, Retainers are "more than just men-at-arms."  They are expected to be "lieutenants or assistants" to a PC, lend their skills and knowledge, and take "the same risks" as the PCs.  B/X sets a high bar indeed for Retainers!

It goes on to state that characters must pay advertising fees and set up "interviews" for their NPC Retainers.  The DM should roleplay the interactions for additional fun.  The PCs are expected to carefully describe the duties of the job, and then the PC and DM will negotiate fees and other conditions of hire.  Most Retainers should demand a guaranteed minimum fee and a percentage of treasure found.  PCs are expected to provide food, equipment and weapons for the Retainers as well!

B/X then has a Retainer Reaction Table.  This is cool!  When the PC makes his employment offer to the Retainer, the DM rolls 2d6 on a chart - the higher the roll, the better for the PC.  A roll of 2-5 means the offer is refused.  A roll of 9-12 means the offer is accepted.  A roll of 6-8 means a re-roll is required.  Rolling a 2 or a 12 leads to a spectacularly Bad or Good result.

In B/X (unlike the other versions), Retainers can be any level up to the level of the hiring PC.  This is potentially much better than hiring mooks every time.  Loyalty is checked during very stressful situations and/or after every adventure.  Good or poor treatment can increase or decrease loyalty, as can PC charisma.

It is recommended in B/X that beginning PCs not be allowed to use retainers as they "tend to use retainers as a crutch."  Retainers in B/X gain 50% of normal XP.

In B/X, Specialists and Mercenaries can also be hired, but these types will not generally go on dungeon delves!  Specialists are people like sages and alchemists.  Mercs are "army types," who can help with military operations but not adventuring.

In summary, Holmes is very similar (but less comprehensive) than OD&D.  B/X has a very organized, robust system for hiring and handling Retainers and allows PCs to more readily and easily hire higher level, productive NPCs.

If I feel up to it, I'll next discuss how AD&D handles this.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Goth Girl of the Week

At first I thought this one might be too "racey" until my wife pointed out that she sees more skin on Vogue and Cosmopolitan magazines.  :)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

New Magic Item - Scrolls Usable by Any Class

The following scrolls are designed to provide physical enhancements to PCs and their allies.  Got a big fight coming up?  Read one of these scrolls and give your team the winning edge.  :)

Scroll of Enhanced Fortitude (Any): This scroll is usable by any class. When read aloud it grants 3-12 additional temporary hit points to the reader of the scroll and 2-7 temporary hit points to all other beings within a 10’ radius.  The temporary hit points lasts for 2-7 turns.  XP: 500.

Scroll of Enhanced Might (Any): This scroll is usable by any class. When read aloud it grants +3 temporary “to hit” and damage bonus to the reader of the scroll and +2 temporary bonuses to all other beings within a 10’ radius.  These bonuses are in addition to any other existing “to hit” and damage bonuses.  The temporary bonuses last for 2-7 turns.  XP: 500.

Scroll of Enhanced Quickness (Any): This scroll is usable by any class. When read aloud it grants +3 temporary bonus to A/C and “to hit” with missile weapons to the reader of the scroll and +2 temporary bonuses to all other beings within a 10’ radius.  These bonuses are in addition to any other existing DEX bonuses.  The temporary bonuses last for 2-7 turns.  XP: 500.