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

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Cal-con: My first convention

This weekend was my first gaming convention. I really enjoyed myself. Here are a couple of pictures.

This is from the Tunnels & Trolls game I played on Friday afternoon. The GM is on the left and the other four players were a family. The young lad across the way was enjoying his first ever RPG. It was a lighthearted game and a lot of fun.

This picture is the group in my OD&D game on Saturday. We played through a slightly modified version of the Haunted Keep from Dragonsfoot. The guy on the right in the blue shirt was suppose to be DMing a 3.5 game that was cancelled so I waved him over and he decided to sit in. The gentleman next to him is K-Slacker and is in my Northern Marches campaign. It was the first OD&D experienced for all of the players. The session ended with four of the players dead and one charmed with about 15 minutes left if the allotted time. Everyone seemed to have fun.

I was scheduled to run another old school game this morning but Calgary awoke to

I went over to the hotel where convention was being held and you could tell that between it being the morning of the last day and the weather it was noticeably quieter. I spoke with the guy in charge of roleplaying games and he told me that attendance during the first morning session was down over 50%. He mentioned that my table was sold out but after waiting for a half-hour past the starting time no-one had showed up.

One thing I noticed, and I might have been extra sensitive to this since I was the only guy running old D&D, most of the talk I heard at tables running 3.5 or 4E was about which square to move to.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Story Continues...

Here is the second part of the summary of the first session of the Northern Marches as written again by Jake.
Hope people enjoyed reading Carry your Own Gold here's the last part of the story which is also the end of our first session. Once again i'm sorry about any errors.

" AN ELF, A DOOR AND A POLE ARM"

characters
Ganis the Frail cleric
Belgar the Beautiful dwarf
Liam mage
Marius elf
Rinford cleric
Konrad fighter
Dotson new hireling, torchbearer, treasure carrier, cannon fodder

Well Belgar and Ganus made it back to New Hareth safe and sound selling their tapestry and splitting the fortune( 20 gp). Almost instantly these 2 seasoned veterans were approached by new people wanting to check out the ruins of castle Hareth. So i'll begin my tale of heroism and untold feats of strength at the doors to the castle.
"we have to all push together to get these doors open" Belgar growls "and there are skeletons just beyond this door". "skeletons? don't be afraid" Rinford replies.
The party already knowing whats to be expected stroll right in to the room with skeletons and arrow slits in the walls. I mean who would honestly expect anything to change. The skeletons are still there and still dead. Then suddenly the twangs of bows. "lets just run across and go into the next room".Konrad says. Thats exactly what the hereos do, getting into the next room safely. "don't go anywhere orcs, we'll be there in a hour" Belgar shouts as he runs past the arrow slits.

Now the party has a decision, do they go up the stairs or down the dark hallway. Well no one knows if it was fear or common sense but the party picks the hallway. Down the hallway they go, there are doors everywhere. Konrad kicks open a door, the room is empty. They search the room, nothing catches their eye. Next room "i kick down the door" Konrad says again. But try as he might he just can't do it. If Konrad the strongest warrior within 2 feet of himself can't open it then who can. With one mighty kick, that would make a warhorse jealous, Marius the 95 lb, skipping along, almost girlish elf kicks it down."thats how you do it" Marius whispers. The room appears to be an old barracks. There are beds and footchests everywhere. With squeels of delight the hereos begin to open the chests. They find silver, more silver than they can count. When they are eventually able to count it there is over 100 pieces. "we split it now" Belgar roars. With their new found wealth safely put away they continue down the hallway. Another door is kicked open and gold statues are found. The next door Belgar carefully listens and hears noises. "why don't you crawl under the door and see what's in there you skinny elf" Belgar says. Well time was a wasting and these hereos haven't killed a thing all day "i'm kicking the door in" Belgar declares. Well the door is kicked in and the hereos are surprised by vicious, blood thirsty, snarling giant rats. "rats phhhhhhh". Konrad says. The 6 rats attack,poor Belgar is blocking the doorway so he must bear the brunt of the attack he is wounded twice and loses his shield. Well what would any seasoned dwarf do in such a 1 sided battle?, he backs into the hallway to let the rats out so Konrad can get attacked too. "We stand side by side"Belgar and Konrad scream. Rinford and Ganus who are behind the 2 warriors start firing with thier slings. Liam begins pondering about his 1 and only spell "i wonder what the range is". he thinks aloud. " i'm gonna go get a poleaxe that we saw by the entrance" Marius whispers then goes skipping off. The 2 clerics fire their slings with accuracy easily matched by a 5 year old child. Their stones hit their marks but not doing any damage. It was a good thing their stones did no damage because they had hit both Belgar and Konrad in the back. The warriors attack killing 2 rats. The ferocious rats bite back wounding both the warriors. Slings are fired,swords are swung, the mage ponders and finally after what seemed like an eternity (30 secs) the beasts are driven off and then, and only then the elf shows up with the poleaxe. The mighty heroes decide it is late and want to head back to town. On their way out they stop and gently bash off the 2 gold statues with a mace.
Upon returning to New Hareth they sell the statues and split the money confident that they are the mightiest adventuring party in all the land. They are slayers of orcs, killers of rats and defilers of statues.

This is where i left them. I told them that they were beneath me and i did not wish to be in their presence any longer. That just the sight of them made me sick to my stomach. They begged me to stay, pleading with me, even offering me riches and weapons. I will never forget what i heard the Hereos of New Hareth say to me as i walked away " please, pleeeeease Dotson, dont leave us"

Hope everyone enjoyed this, i'm not looking for or do i want any xp for this. i enjoy reading stories like this and was laughing my ass off when i wrote this one. I just wanted people to read this and hopefully they see how much fun old D&D can be. Hopefully people outside our group can read this? Maybe then it would spark even more interest in our little group. Well, i guess that's it for me for now.

P.S. if you want to find me ny name is Belgar and i live down by the docks in New Hareth.


Great stuff!

Northern Marches - Session One - Player Summary

The following was written by Jake, as he is known in the comments to the Premier of the Northern Marches post. He is the player of Belgar the Dwarf. I have a separate blog that I use specifically for the Northern Marches campaign where this was originally posted in a series of three comments. I laughed all day as these were posted.

Played last night for the first time with all but 1 of these folks. Had a blast good bunch of guys and will play again. I aplogize now for spelling errors or any other mistakes. So here goes the story of
" CARRY YOUR OWN GOLD "

Characters
Krocker fighter
Belgar the Beautiful dwarf chr: 3
Ganus the Frail cleric Str: 5
Danan cleric
Binford cleric
Rexall mage
Shuffles hireling, torch bearer, treasure carrier, trap finder, spear chucker

The brave adventurers leave New Hareth fully equipped and ready to defeat all who stand before them. They decided to check out the haunted Castle Hareth.( how bad can it be )
They trudge up beside the river knowing they are on their way to riches and glory. They arrive at their destination with one small problem they are on the wrong side of river. " I told you we should have asked people in New Hareth questions" Rexall says. Back to New Hareth the party goes to take the ferry across the river. Having solved their first mystery the party heads to the haunted castle.

They arrive at the ruined castle walking across the bridge and up to the huge double doors. One by one each adventurer shoves and pushes at the door but it will not budge. "Does anyone have rope" "how high are the walls" the players ask. Then Rexall with a solution that is borderline genuis says "lets all push on the door together."
Into the keep they go past the double doors. They enter a room with arrow slits in the walls and skeletons laying on the ground with a set of doors opposite the entrance. Warily they search the skeletons but find nothing. "i'm opening the other doors a foot and looking inside the next room" krocker says.

Peering in they spot 6 orcs with rusty crude swords. The hereos of New Hareth charge in yelling their mighty war cry "no hitting in the face". Krocker swings his mighty two handed sword killing one and Belgar smashes his hand axe into the face of another. Binford and Danan both swing and miss. Rexall and Ganis ever viligant stay by the door while shuffles bravely holds the torch. Now the 4 vicious orcs attack, the heroes are not afraid their wearing platemail " stupid orcs". They swing missing Belgar and Krocker but hitting Binford in the throat dropping him instantly, This startles the hereos "guess we can be killed" but they continue to swing. Krocker cleaves another orc and the rest drop their weapons and beg for mercy. But no mercy is giving by these mighty warriors they slaughter 2 more but one gets away. Rexall and Ganis now stride into the room as there is no need to "gaurd the door". Ganis applies first aid to Binford saving his life and he is soon up again and ready to go ( guess we are invincible).

We'll now that the heroes have shown the D.M. that they are the chosen ones and can not be defeated they search the room. They dont find much, some old weapons but upon searching the deafeted orcs they find near to a kings treasure. Silver they scream, nervously they count the silver some 3 dozen coins. Thoughts of ale and dancing wenches fill the hereos heads. "i'll carry our treasure" Rexall offers as he grins, thoughts of his own personal tower in his mind. "yeah that's a good idea give it to the evil mage" Binford replies " we split it now and carry our own gold" Belgar growls. With much sarcasm and grumbling the party decides that Binford the ever trustworthy already died once cleric will carry the treasure. Now that the Who carries the treasure? question is sorted out the party notices 2 more doors in the room. Opening both they noticed 1 leads into a dark scary hallway and the other door has happy, well lit stairs going up. " we will always go up stairs and we will always go through double doors" decide Rexall and Binford. With out an argument the party starts up the staircase.

Getting to the top the party enters a room with 2 statues. Rexall immediately goes into the middle of the room to stand "gaurd". "i'm tipping a statue over" Krocker screams with excitement. Over the statue goes, Binford shakes his head saying" that made alot of noise". To which Krocker replies " where does the treasure come out" But there is no treasure except a picture and a tapestry. "Here Shuffles you take the picture and we will all roll the tapestry up so we can grab it when we leave." Krocker says. Although there is no treasure the party finds another happy, birds singing, well lit stiarcase going up. Up they go defiant of all common sense till they are in another room where they find and roll up another tapestry. "Where is some more stairs" Belgar yells. By now The Hereos of New Hareth are cocky. Why shouldnt they be? They have defeated hordes of orcs, found a kings treasure and solved brain destroying riddles such as how to get across the river and how do we open this door. They do not know that death awaits them up just one more happy set of stairs.

The party climbs the stairs "knowing" they cannot be defeated. They walk into a room with a huge stained glass window and large tables. Rexall deciding the middle of this room doesnt need gaurding strolls up to the stained glass window. Suddenly and with complete surprise an oozy thing comes from under the table enveloping Rexall. The room goes into complete chaos all except for Shuffles and Ganus and calmly gaurd the door. Binford kicks over the table exposing the oozy thing for what it really is.... an oozy thing. They begin to hack at the oozy thing but one by one they are enveloped until only Belgar, Shuffles and Ganus are left standing. "i have oil" the door gaurding Ganus yells. With a throw only a stone giant could match he hurls the oil. It flyes through the air end over end then smashing to the floor. 5 feet short of the oozy thing and only 10 further then Ganus. "you couldnt even hit it " screams Belgar "i'm weak its not my fault" replies Ganus. Belgar grabs another flask from Ganus and tosses it all over the oozy thing. Grabbing the torch from Shuffles he then lights it on fire. With huge smiles the remaining hereos watch the oozy thing burn. But then they notice the oozy thing getting stronger feeding off the fire. Now, Shuffles this whole adventure had bravely and without concern for his own safety held the torch. Without him the hereos would have been doomed from the beginning, stumbling around in the dark. But now he was torchless and faced with a decision. With the accuracy of an elven archer he chucked his spear severly wounding the oozy thing then calmly walked out the door. With the oozy thing slowly crawling towards them Belgar and Ganus the victorious hereos from New Hareth left the room. " see Ganus thats why you carry your own coins. Binford's got all the coins and now hes dead again and that oozy thing's got em" says Belgar. " your right Belgar lets grab a tapestry on the way out and see if we can sell it" replies Ganis " sure" Belgar agrees as they walk down the stairs.

This story was overheard at the Dancing Dragon Tavern. A man with big ears by the name of Able who had a wench on each arm and a table full of ale told the story. He was buying ale for everyone and when asked where he got so many gold coins his only reply was"I sold an ugly picture"


I think that is worth some bonus XP.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Northern Marches in 25 words or less

Max over at Malevolent & Benign has asked for descriptions of campaign worlds in 25 words or less. I am always jealous of the creativity some people have and there is a bunch of creative stuff that people have posted there.

But here is the current Northern Marches in 25 words.
22 actually:

Meat and potatoes but with the rich, thick gravy that is the players running all over it. Oh yeah and a megadungeon.

The Premier of the Northern Marches

Six players and one DM (me) sat down last night for the first session of the Northern Marches campaign. It was actually one of the largest groups I have ever run.


At the beginning there was some discussion as to which ruleset to use. I had taken along all of my copies of B/X (8 and 5, respectively), 5 copies of Holmes, 4 printed pdf copies of OD&D, and 4 copies of S&W: WB. As one would guess my preference was for B/X but, I wanted to be open to other rules if there was a clear preference. I was happy when everyone was more than happy to go with my favorite.

Character generation went smoothly, but did take a bit longer than I expected as people had to re-familiarize themselves with the old rules. When they were done the brave party consisting of Belgar the Dwarf, Rexall the Magic-user, Krocker the Fighter, Binford the Cleric, Ganus the Cleric and Danan the Cleric was ready in the town of New Hareth. The really interesting thing was all three clerics were of different alignments.

After collecting some rumours about the outlying wilderness and the reportedly haunted Castle Hareth the party went looking for retainers. Most of the residents of New Hareth thought these newcomers were crazy, but eventually Able the normal man with big ears, shuffling feet, only 1 hit point and a chaotic disposition decided that he would join them. He quickly became known as "Shuffles".

The party really surprised me by ignoring the axiom that as you go deeper in the dungeon the more difficult things get and that a tower is really just an inverted dungeon. They climbed every set of stairs they could find until all but Belgar the Dwarf, Ganus the Cleric and Shuffles perished fighting something way out of their league but from which they could have easily escaped.

Belgar and Ganus decided to recruit some new associates and head back to the ruined castle to grab some of the easier loot they left behind. Shuffles decided that he had had enough and decided to stay in town from now on. Thus Belgar and Ganus headed back to the castle with Liam the magic-user, Marius the Elf, Konrad the Fighter, and Rinford the cleric and Dotson, the thin-lipped normal man with 1 hit point who heard about the possibility of treasure.

A quick raid into the castle and back to town with some of the loot was enough to convince Dotson that adventuring wasn't his thing. That is where we left it for the evening. None of the wilderness was explored but they did do some adventuring in my megadungeon. I am hoping that one or more of the players post play reports for bonus XP. If they do I will be sure to share them here.

I had a great time. Things were fast and fun. I hope to get this group together in whole or in parts again many times in the future.

Monday, March 23, 2009

An abortive attempt to get Northern Marches going

So on a whim Saturday, I sent out an email to some of my current C&C players, some friends, and some people I have recently met due to this blog asking if anyone wanted to start a new Northern Marches campaign on Sunday. I actually had a great response given such short notice. But then things went against us. The weather in calgary went in the crapper saturday night and we received about a foot of wet, slushy, icy snow. A couple of players cancelled first thing sunday morning and then I had a family thing come up so I cancelled it. I am trying to reschedule for this Wednesday. And then I have the convention this weekend - lots of gaming this week. Boo-Yah!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Northern Marches: Creating New Hareth

One of the things I am working on for my Northern Marches campaign is the small town of New Hareth that will act as the "homebase" for the characters. I have mentioned in a previous post my self-perception of not being able to functionally referee a city-based adventure and it is my intent for Northern Marches to keep New Hareth as a safe place for the characters to do other things. So what purpose will New Hareth serve?

1. Rumours
2. Provisions
3. Temples
4. Wizards
5. Hirelings
6. Lords (Barons, High Priests, etc.)
7. Lodging

Many of these already have rules in B/X, and in serving my love of random stuff and gameism, I can make up some tables for the rest of it.

1. Rumours
Rumours lead to adventures. Sources of rumours are typically inns, taverns, Lords, priests, etc. New Hareth will also have a Bounty Post in the town square.
To begin with rumours will be about a couple of introductory adventures I have placed in the Northern Marches, mostly involving the recovery of treasure from somewhere.
Later I will use some random tables ala Barbarian Prince to generate some more rumours. These rumours will be about the basic ingredients that go into an adventure:
Goals + Location + Obstacles = Adventure.
Goals are easy. To begin with focus on the recovery of treasure and after a bit you can follow the players' lead. In a sandbox game the characters goals are determined by the players so developing rumours about their goals becomes a bit easier.
Locations are either specific based on what I as the Dm want - for example if I have placed a mysterious wizard I know the location. Or locations can be determined randomly - roll a d6 for direction and a dice for distance in number of hexes.
Obstacles can be determined with either a little imagination or by using encounter tables or the dungeon stocking tables.
The final question about rumours is if they are true. I will typically roll a d6: 1-3 rumour is true, 4 some of the elements of the rumour are true, 5 one of the elements of the rumour is true, 6 the rumour is completely false.

2. Provisions
I am going to handwave a bunch of this but a few tables will give a sense of a dynamic environment.
Is the item available? Assign a percentage chance based on the size of the town and what resources are like. For New Hareth, there is a base 65% chance that the item is available immediately; 66% to 80% that it will be available in 2d6 days; and 81% or greater that the item is unavailable (roll d6; 1-3 the materials are unavailable, 4-6 the craftsmen in unavailable).
The other question is what does it cost?
Roll d6: 1=80% of base cost, 2= 90% of base cost, 3-4=at base cost, 5=110% of base cost, 6= 120% of base cost
Of course, if the players want to haggle then we can RP it and make a reaction roll.

3. Temples
This will get into a whole other post I plan on making about the deities for the Northern Marches campaign. For now suffice it to say that the main religions of the Great Kingdom and the Barony of Hareth are the Holy Church of the Dragon (stolen from jrients) which is replacing the Old Faith of the Dodekatheon. I am pretty open to anything though based on how a player views his character - if he wants his fighter to be a viking I have no problem with him using Norse gods or anything else they may dream up.
For the most part Temples are used for such things as healing, removing curses and raising the dead. So we need to know the level of the clerics at the temples, their access to magic items and what they may want in return - tithes, favours, etc.

4. Wizards
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I LOVE the Moldvay-specific rules for magic-user spellbooks. This makes access to higher level magic-users very important. Access to NPC wizards is important to learn new spells, to pay to have spells cast by them, to identify magic items found and to possibly sell some of the magic items you find. You can try to buy a magic-item from him if you want but beware any wizard you may want to buy a magic item from is likely to want something other than gold in return.
So for New Hareth, I need to know who the NPC magic-users are? What is their level, alignment, motivations? What spells do they have in their spellbooks?

5. Hirelings
All of the usual places to find hirelings will be in New Hareth and postings can be put on the Bounty Post. All of the normal B/X rules apply.

6. Lords
Lords in new Hareth include the Baron, the High Priests and the mayors of the various villages. Gaining an audience will be difficult at low levels but not impossible. To make things interesting I always try to give each lord something they want that they can eventually get the PCs to aid them with and a secret that they do not want discovered.

7. Lodgings
Lodgings serves a few functions - a place to rest and heal, a place to find rumours and a place to find and put up hirelings (to keep their morale up).

When I know those seven things, I can draw a map for New Hareth and then it will be ready for players.

What to do today?

I seem to be able to keep my unemployed-self busy. The nice thing is that I am enjoying being with my family and taking time to myself. One of the things that is keeping me busy is a bunch of RPG stuff that I am trying to get done:
1) Prepping for the local gaming convention next weekend. I have been reworking the module 'The Haunted Keep' from Dragonsfoot, getting pre-gen characters together and trying to get some promo material together for #2.
2) Trying to get the beginnings of the Northern Marches campaign together to kickoff after the convention.
3) I haven't forgotten Level 2B: The Foul Fortress for the Pit of Tortured Souls. I have been making notes on what I want to include in the level.
4) The C&C group actually got together last thursday. It was great to get some gaming in this week.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Building a Wilderness for the Northern Marches

I have been working on the Northern Marches campaign I am hoping to start. I have worked through Wilderness Architect articles from Fight On! written by Victor Raymond. The maps have worked out wonderfully! I have placed a handful of low level and a few high level modules I want to use. I have begun establishing some details about the small town that will be the "homebase" for the characters. And I have pretty much done some random encounter/event tables for some of the nearby regions.

I have settled on a homebrew setting. As I mentioned, the homebase is a small coastal town with a very close-by ruined castle (think early-Blackmoor) and an untamed wilderness.

Now I just need players.

You must be below this line to go on this ride

In the comments of my last post about a Holmes only campaign there were two things that really got me thinking - to absolutely no conclusion. Is there a significant portion of players that prefer a grittier, low level campaign versus the super-heroics of high level play? Is there a difference in DM preferences to player preferences - do more DMs prefer a low level campaign? I have no way of answering these questions but there are a few one-off, tangental observations.

As pointed out be Herb, towards the end of the official run for 3.5 there was the emergence of E6 where character advancement was effectively halted at 6th level. I know I have seen discussions about 4E Heroic-tier only campaigns. There is a sword & sorcery supplement for BFRPG that effectively halts advancement at 6th level. The discussions on DF about a Holmes only campaign went on for 10 pages and spawned a number of follow-up threads.

And finally, and the one that matters most to me, my C&C campaign has been going for ~6 months and we have met approximately 8 times. Characters have just made it to 2nd level but even with what some might call slow advancement my players seem to love their characters and appear to be really enjoying the game.

Badmike comments, "good luck finding a handful of players willing to game for 30 or so sessions to get their characters to 3rd level!"

I appreciate the fact that the faster advancement of 3.5 and 4E gives players new doodads for their characters every session or two. As we get older, have kids, jobs, and other responsibilities it gets tougher to get in a weekly game. If you can only get together once a month, it is kind of nice to have your character advance in level every couple of months.

I don't know if I can keep my C&C campaign going for 12 to 16 months so the characters can get up to 4th and 5th level. We'll see. However, given the enjoyment of the campaign and the levels that will be covered (low levels) I don't see many issues with running a low level only - ie a Holmes-only - for a long-ish term campaign.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

My Conan is a 3rd level fighter


I am mostly a lurker at Dragonsfoot but there have been a series of posts begun by Geoffery of Carcosa fame that examine the potential of a "Holmes-only" campaign and a number of follow-up posts (Gods for a Holmes-only campaign and what the mortality rate might be) that I have been reading with great interest and have made a number of comments on.

What is meant by a "Holmes-Only" campaign? Basically, that the Holmes 46-page rulebook is the only rulebook. You therefore have to ignore all references to AD&D. What impact does this have on the rules? The major impact is that the game would be limited to 3rd level for all classes.

I think that the idea of a "Holmes-only" game has a lot of merit and I would love to try something like this. While I would encourage anyone to read the relevant posts on DF, the reasons I think this would be very interesting are (and some of these are intertwined:

1. The game would more accurately reflect the sword & sorcery literature upon which the earliest editions of D&D are based.

2. Magic-user spells would be limited - there would be very limited access to the spells that have a tendency to "break" encounters or scenarios such as fly, fireball, know alignment. They would only be available through magic items. How many Conan stories have the sorcerer flinging fireballs?

3. Fighters would also be limited in terms of ability to a degree that is gritty and in line with the source literature. No longer could a fighter easily face off against 20 city guardsmen without fear. Geoffrey gives the example of, " the beginning of "Red Nails" where Conan and the warrior-woman Valeria are charged by a "dragon", which is clearly a stegosaurus. Contrary to mistaken stereotype, Conan did not thump his chest and go toe-to-toe with it. Instead, Conan and Valeria ran away. Conan as typically presented in D&D would laugh and be eating the stegosaurus for lunch after a few short melee rounds. A 3rd-level Conan, however, would turn tail and flee, just like in the story."

4. Holmes has an excellent roster of monsters and magic items which, when combined, can make a party of 3rd level adventurers epic but keep both the monsters and adventurers relevant.

5. It focuses advancement on things other than levels but level advancement takes on an even bigger significance as there is only 3 levels. But, there are also other mechanisms for advancement or gaining new abilities - more tangible measures such as questing to find the scroll that has the unique spell you need to fulfill a specific task, finding more treasure so you can hire enough mercenaries to defeat the tribe of Orcs threatening the town, negotiating for the cooperation of a band of brigands to overcome a nearby dragon. Sure these things can be done with unlimited advancement but when the level limit is capped at 3rd level, these are the things that advance your character - their story and the impact they have on the world - instead of XP calculations.

Some problems with running a "Holmes-only" campaign are:
1. Finding players interested - there would be a whole array of existing attitudes and perceptions that would have to be overcome.
2. Demi-humans. Why play a fighter when a dwarf is available and not limited in terms of level caps. Likely have to give them XP penalties or exclude them completely to, once again, get closer to the S&S literature.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Verbosh


After I put my kids to bed lastnight, I pulled out my copy of Verbosh and read it through. It reminded me what a great accessory it is. Next to the Keep on the Borderlands, Verbosh is one of my favorite D&D items. I think Verbosh is one of the great examples for new DMs of how to develop an open-ended sandbox setting of limited scope for OD&D, B/X and/or AD&D.

The book cover states, "Approved for use with Dungeons & Dragons" and it makes use of all of the supplements.

The first section of the book has information on the "homebase" town of Verbosh giving on average about 6 lines of detail for about 55 locations for the walled city and adjacent village. Some of the details are a bit goofy or humourous which some DMs may not take to but many of the details, especially the rumours, are great for developing adventure ideas. It also includes brief encounter tables and information on the garrison.

A typical entry is:
Flying Falcon Inn - Marish the Mangy, AL LE, Fighter, Level 4; Marish has the ability to communicate with birds. A very nice place actually, prices are reasonable. One of the present visisotrs in this inn is Broar the Bear, friend, AL CG, Berzerker, Level 10; Broar is a were-bear. Rumors: 1) Fisherman claim to have seen a sunken ship off the point just down river; 2) A wererat was seen crawling out of the well. (I omitted stats because I didn't feel like typing them).

The next section is about the sewers and crypts below the city. It uses the now-common trope of were-rats under the city. It is an old-school dungeon but I think that it is lacking a bit in terms of the "Empty-Room Principal" as nearly every room has an encounter of some kind and most of them are likely to develop into combats.

The third section is a great underwater location, "The Wreck of the Iron Griffon".

The next section is the beginning of the wilderness descriptions. This has brief descriptions of a number of encounters, lairs, strongholds and settlements. A DM can look at these and pull out numerous adventure ideas but many of them will require some work on maps and numbered keys to flesh them out.

The remainder of the book covers the fortress of Warrenberg, the Tower of Balthon the Phantasamist, the Dead City of Haygaras, and the deadly Schuwang-Nau Tower. My only real complaint is the same as I made for the sewers below Verbosh in that there is a likely combat encounter in nearly every room.

I think that for what Verbosh does, it does very well. I can see in a alternate universe a scenario where an OD&D boxed set was published with Verbosh as the B/X box set was done with the Keep on the Borderlands. I am going to use Verbosh as a template for my development of my Northern Marches if I can ever get it going. I can picture a DM sitting over his copies of Monsters & Treasure and The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures and using the tables therein to develop the wilderness descriptions. It makes me want to play OD&D/Swords & Wizardry: Whitebox.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Race = Class

One of the biggest complaints I hear about B/X D&D is how race equals class for non-human PCs. The fact that race is class for demi-humans has never really been an issue to me for a few reasons:
1. In play it turns out to be identical to the earliest versions of D&D. Using the 3 Little Brown Books (LBBs), a dwarf could only be a Fighting Man so in effect Dwarf=Fighter.
2. If I met with real resistance or someone REALLY wanted to play a halfling thief it is not like it is terribly difficult to make up the combo.
3. Earlier versions of D&D (including B/X) were human-centric. There weren't suppose to be many elves or dwarfs running around exploring ancient tombs.

But likely the main reason for me not minding all dwarfs are basically fighters or all elves are a unique blend of fighters and magic-users was my earliest interpretations of these races. I began playing B/X before I read Tolkien, Moorcock or Howard. My baseline for what elves or dwarfs were from Moldvay's Basic rulebook and encyclopedias. My understanding of what an elf was therefore was basically the norse mythical version fit into the rule's description. One of the interesting things that first struck me and has always remained in the back of my head through later D&D description of elves and dwarfs is that they were related - something that I have often incorporated into my homebrew settings.

Often in my homebrew campaigns elves are a magical race of minor nature and fertility spirits, who are often pictured as youthful-seeming men and women of great grace and delicate features living in forests and underground places and caves, or in wells and springs. Being semi-divine they have no deities themselves. As such all elves are the classic D&D combo Fighter/Magic-user. Another interesting thing I sometimes incorporate is the Norse idea that famous men could be elevated to the rank of elves after death. Kill a player's famous fighter and let the party encounter an elf that is the elevated spirit of the former PC gives a real connection.

Dwarfs are the non-magic using brethren of elves (the mythological Dark Elves - this was before the Drow are mentioned in the first Monster Manual). I often make the creation of dwarfs the product of some cursed elves or some catastrophe. These non-magic using elves are outsiders to typical elves and either through self-exile or enslavement end up underground (think Morlocks). Therefore, as non-magic using cousins to elves, dwarfs cannot be magic-users and do not have deities so cannot be clerics.

Halflings are a bit different in that there isn't the same depth of mythology about them as there is for elves and dwarfs. I really just relied on the description in the rulebook but since elves and dwarfs were their own classes I never questioned it for halflings.

Only humans have the lust and greed to be thieves.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Wrath of the Serpent

Today I sat down with a deck of Dungeoneer Cards from Atlas Games and quickly developed a dungeon. I love being unemployed!
It took me about 10 minutes to layout the map cards and another 10 minutes to stock the dungeon. It is the WotS.pdf on my Orbitfiles.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

I am going to start looking for a game


In addition to my current C&C campaign I am going to start looking for a group for a B/X or S&W White Box game. Taking a queue from Chgowiz and LotFP I have put together the flyer and I am going to go around this weekend and post it at a few places. I have been talking to a few people that have contacted me after seeing this blog, I am talking to my current C&C group and I am hoping to meet a few people interested in old school games at the upcoming convention.

Get in touch with me if you are interested and in the Calgary area. p_armstrong[at]email[dot]com

Fingers Crossed!

Now Reading: City of the Beast


by Michael Moorcock

from the Paizo website:
Michael Moorcock’s Eternal Champion returns as Kane of Old Mars, a brilliant American physicist whose strange experiments in matter transmission catapult him across space and time to the Red Planet.

Kane’s is a Mars of the distant past, a place of romantic civilizations, fabulous many-spired cities, and the gorgeous princess Shizala. To win her hand and bring peace to Mars, Kane must defeat the terrible Blue Giants of the Argzoon, whose ravaging hordes threaten the whole planet!

B/X Magic-User Spellbooks

One thing (among many) that I love about B/X D&D is the way magic-users (and elves) work. B/X is the only ruleset, out of the myriad of D&D rulesets out there, where magic-users - particularly their spellbooks - works in this specific fashion. A few things that makes magic-users different in B/X:
- Their spellbooks contain a number of spells equal to the number and level of spells the caster may cast in a single day. For example, a 4th level M-U can cast two 1st level spells and two 2nd level spells so their spellbook contains two 1st level and two 2nd level spells.
- There are two ways to acquire new spells: learn them from someone else or spell research.
- Spells may not be copied from scrolls or captured spellbooks into a caster's spellbook.
- Read magic must be used to understand magic writing on items or scrolls so that the scroll may be used later.

The impact of these particularities is that you have a de facto specialist system. Each M-U is different. There may be the famed mystic who lives in a ruined tower on Stormkiller Mountain that can communicate with otherworldly beings (has Contact Higher Plane in their spellbook) or the feared Dark Mage who can raise the dead to obey his command (Animate Dead in his spellbook). Assuming there is only two or three 9th level Magic-Users in a setting, each one can be very different.

Also, it places an importance in finding someone who can teach you the spell that your M-U wants to learn. Your party has on a quest featuring Fire Giants. You think that knowing Wall of Ice might be useful. Who can teach you Wall of Ice? Well maybe the feared Ice Wizard can be talked/bribed into teaching it to you? Instant adventure.

Another important aspect is Spell Research. I don't know about you but I have never seen a M-U research a spell in 1E or 2E. Being the only other way to add a new spell to an M-U spellbook increases the importance of spell research. This is where I do make a house rule that allows a captured spellbook to halve the cost and time of researching a spell that is in the spellbook. I also have no trouble with researching an existing spell that the player doesn't know. For example, say the Ice Wizard cannot be convinced to teach the player Wall of Ice. The player can then decide to research it instead, assuming they have 4,000 gp and 8 weeks of time.

I also allow magic-users to change the spells in their spellbook according to the "Replacing Lost Spellbooks" rules on X11. If the wizard looking for the Wall of Ice spell already had all of the 4th level spells they were allowed in their spellbook, they could opt to replace a 4th level spell that is already in their spellbook. They could then replace, say, Growth of Plants with Wall of Ice once they learned it either from the Ice Wizard or through spell research. This would cost 4,000 gp and 4 weeks in addition to how much/long it took to learn the spell in the first place. This allows some flexibility for magic-users but at a cost.

4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons

I actually like a lot things about 4th edition D&D especially compared to 3.5. As I mentioned previously, I am a math and systems guy. I can appreciate the structure and math behind the game's systems.

Three things I do not like are:
- It ruins the narrative of combat for me by taking it out of the DM's and characters' hands and putting it in the rulebook;
- It requires minis - which is a deal breaker for me.
- It encourages a sense of entitlement in the players. The rulebooks say that the DM should get a list from each player of what magic items they want. You have got to be kidding me?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

What Type of Sand for My Sandbox?

If I were to get a chance to run a B/X sandbox game which setting would I use for a base? Understanding that I would change a bunch of stuff no matter what the source.

The first three that came to mind are:

1. Blackmoor - as a standalone - no Mystara or or Greyhawk or anything. I would go back to the beginning where Blackmoor is a village, the Castle is unexplored as is the surrounding wilderness also no Svenny, Blue Rider, etc. I like the fact that adventurers have the option of exploring the Castle/Dungeons or the wilderness.

2. The Elphand Lands from the Wilderlands. I would likely treat it as an 'explore the wilderness' campaign where civilization is the City-State of the World Emperor and the wilderness is everything north of the Sharryn River. Where could the adventurers' homebase be? Along the river or on the coast of Uther Pentwegern Sea?

3. Thunder Rift. I would change the scale of the map to make the rift larger. It would give me a place to put the Pit of Tortured Souls - the Dark Pit. I would also rewrite the history.

What do you think? Any other suggestions?

EDIT: As I went back through some previous posts to put tags on them, I saw my post about Barbarian Prince. I am going to take another look at that and see if that might work for a setting.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Level 1B: Kobold Warrens

Level 1B is now available HERE.

A few notes:
I stuck firmly to the process from Moldvay's Basic rulebook that I used for the Citadel of the Amazons. I am a process guy. It is likely a symptom of my years in business school and investment banking. But like I mentioned in an earlier post, I have a difficult time if I have to sit down with a blank piece of paper and come up with an adventure. I find the Moldvay process gets the ball rolling and inputs some force to the inertia of my lack of creativity.

I wanted to make sure this level was not just "slaughter the kobolds" so I tried to include the possibility of a few interesting interactions (the NPC party and the Hobgoblin Escapees).

I also wanted to include something that could be used as an interesting and somewhat different sort of hook. A different type of mcguffin (the magic fish). This also has the potential to develop into a difficult encounter.

I took a look at Keep on the Borderlands' kobold caves for some inspiration. See if you can find the areas that are lifts.

I blatantly stole a trap from Sham's Dismal Depths. I wish I had his creativity.

And finally, I wanted to include something a bit goofy but easily changed if you don't go for that sort of thing.

Once again, please comment if you have any feedback or comments.

The beginning of Level 2A: The Foul Fortress will be delayed for a while as I change my focus to prep-ing for the upcoming Cal-Con convention. Question: Should I make some flyers about the B/X game I am running at the convention to put up in stores beforehand and at the Con itself?

Monday, March 9, 2009

I don't care either

Just as I finish the first pdf for Pit of Tortured Souls, Jim over at Lamentations of the Flame Princess has put up a post the gist of which is:
If the Old School Renaissance is going to amount to little more than rules clones, limited-scope "single quest" or "dungeon bash" adventure modules, and pdf-only huge maps with scarcely any detail... what's the point?

Reading his post I agree with bits and pieces. I believe that there are two things that have to happen if the "Old-School Renaissance" is going to grow:
1. People have to play; and
2. Adventure modules have to appear on the shelves of your Friendly Local Gaming Store.

I am doing #1 and I never have a hope or any plans to ever try #2.

The Pit of Tortured Souls is an exercise that I am doing because I wanted to have some fun. And you know what? It has been fun. If someone finds the process or the actual content interesting, that is gravy. Because of this blog and PoTS I have heard from some other local gamers and will likely get to sit down and play. So it is already a bigger success than I ever imagined.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Does anyone have a mop?

This post might be a bit rambling because I have had a couple of thoughts rattling around after re-reading a few different threads on OD&D Discussion and Dragonsfoot. These thoughts have sort of gelled into a messy gooey blob.

Source #1, a thread on Dragonsfoot that I have already mentioned regarding the use of Dwarfstar’s Barbarian Prince with Moldvay.

Source #2, a thread on OD&D Discussion regarding DMing with no maps and that touches briefly on gameism in D&D.

Source #3, the wilderness exploration rules of the Cook/Marsh Expert rulebook.

Source #4, looking at a bunch of the card-based fantasy games from Warp Spawn Games and Atlas Games’ Dungeoneer card games.

These have made me realize that I like gameism in my D&D. What exactly do I mean by gameism? My D&D is one step removed from a board game. It is not a White Wolf LARP. Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t lay out the map so that the players can move a token around the Isle of Dread. However, the fact that we are playing a game about dungeons and dragons (you know – fantasy stuff) colours the feel of the game. I do not go for, nor do I want a bunch of immersive roleplaying. Anyone talking in a funny voice risks being ridiculed by the DM (usually me). Now for people that do play these types of games – more power to you. I really believe there is no wrong way to have fun with roleplaying games. But there is wrong way at my table.

Taking this realization one step further, I love the gameism and abstraction of wilderness exploration as given in Cook/Marsh. In fact, my preference is to take the abstraction one step further. I would like to adopt some of the simplified wilderness exploration mechanics from Barbarian Prince such as movement (1 hex on foot, 2 hexes if mounted and 3 hexes if on a flying mount per day).

My love of abstraction makes the reason I like Tunnels and Trolls pretty obvious. I am not a huge fan of the magic system in T&T and not just because of the names of spells (I much prefer by-the-book Moldvay but that is a future post). But the combat mechanic is a thing of beauty to me. Now for the funny circular thing about immersion… the high level of abstraction in T&T combat – and D&D combat so long as everyone realizes how abstract it is SUPPOSE TO BE (cough, cough, 3.5E and 4E I am looking at the two of you) – lends itself to a very narrative game. A few quick dice rolls and you have the results of 10 seconds (D&D), 1 minute (AD&D) or 2 minutes (T&T) of combat and now you can narrate the action until your heart’s content.

My preference for a high level of abstraction goes hand-in-hand with how much I like randomness in my games. As a DM, I would rather to go into a game with a half-dozen of tables (terrain, wandering monsters, etc) than a 20 page written adventure with boxed text. I mentioned when I began the Pit of Tortured Souls that I am not creative but I am imaginative. I struggle if I have to sit down with a blank piece of paper and have to write an adventure. But give me some random tables that give me a Hill Giant, a waterfall and a brass horn and I can get somewhere. One of the thrills that I enjoy when DMing is thinking on my feet. Random tables can give me the ingredients, the beginning spark. How I combine these random elements into an adventure, to me, is the fun part. And one thing I learned is that players don’t see random. Give a group of players three random encounters and they begin to ruminate about how they are connected. Heck, sometimes the players can develop an entire arc for me if I just sit back and listen to them talk to each other about their hypotheses about how the random stuff is connected.

Another thing about my preferred level of abstraction, it makes me struggle with cities and city-based adventures. To me a city has a handful of purposes:
- to collect rumours;
- to buy provisions;
- to find retainers and hirelings;
- to get the services of a temple (healing, remove curse, raise dead, etc);
- to find wizards (very important if using by-the-book Moldvay spellbooks);
- to utilize Jeff Rient’s Ale & Wenches house rule and use the wonderful Carousing Mishaps table;
- and finally adventures.

There are mechanics for each of these except the last one. There is no “How to build a city adventure” in B/X the same way as there is for dungeons and wilderness adventures. And since B/X has coloured the way I have looked at D&D since the beginning, I have felt like I am woefully incapable of developing a good city adventure. As a result, I have typically skipped that purpose of a city and focused on the other uses. Asking the players what is the purpose of their visit to the city, a few dice rolls, subtract some gold and we are back to the wilderness/dungeon.

One thing I have done (and have likely internalized from Barbarian Prince somewhere in the past), is use the mayor or lord as an adventure. Each mayor, lord, high priest, etc has something they want and/or a secret that they don’t want revealed. If the party is successful getting an audience with the lord and gain a favourable reaction, they may be asked to help the lord gain what it is that they want. Or through gathering clues they may learn of the lord’s secret. However, most of these adventures take part outside of the city or are at a specific site within the city. For example, Count Drokant wants to gain a Green Dragon egg and his secret is that he is actually a vampire. This gives me at least 2 easy adventure hooks: get the egg or kill the Count. The location of the egg adventure can be randomly determined on the wilderness map. The kill the Count adventure would be in his palace (a dungeon adventure in all but name).

Whew… sorry for the mess.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Level 1A: Citadel of the Amazons

Level 1A: Citadel of the Amazons is now available HERE.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I am using a layout similar to the 2-page format used by Amityville Mike for his Stonehell.

Here is what the room descriptions boiled down to. I have to say that using the One-Page Template (okay 2-page) was that after stocking the dungeon the final write up was pretty easy.

1. Entry: Two tapestries (125 gp each) showing Amazonian scenes. If they are disturbed, the statue in room 14 will call an alarm.

2. Guardroom: Spartan furnishings. 3 Amazons stand at attention. If attacked one will rush to room 4. Each has 1d6 sp.

3. The Funnel: If the Amazons know they are under a direct assault, they will trip the Crushing Wall Trap in the hallway to the northwest and mass their forces in this room. The room is empty.

4. Guardroom: Spartan furnishings. 4 Amazons stand at attention. If attacked one will rush to room 2. Each has 1d6 sp.

5. Forgotten Workshop: Cobwebbed covered masonry and carving tools. Floor littered with shattered crystals. A Living Crystal Statue has been trapped in this room for many years and is quite insane.

6. Unstable Cavern: This room is empty. The floor along the eastern wall is quite unstable. If a person walks it, there is a 2 in 6 chance (+1 for each additional person) that the floor will collapse. Fall 10’ taking 1-6 damage.

7. Gallery: The walls of this room are frescos showing various Amazonian tales. The room is empty.

8. Barracks: Tidy cots and footlockers; large table; crates of rations. 3-18 Amazons will be present along with 1-3 Young Females (HD 1/2) and there is a 2 in 6 chance of an Amazon Lieutenant, and a 2 in 6 chance of a Tiger. Each Amazon has 1d6 sp

9. Forgotten Laboratory: Eerie chanting can be heard from around the corner before the room. Inside are 3 Eldritch Zombies conducting a never-ending ritual. Smashed tables, worm-eaten books, broken glass litter the floor. If the Eldritch Zombies are disturbed, one will leave the ritual and attack while the remaining zombies continue the ritual. Among the ruined papers are a Scroll of Detect Magic and a Cursed Scroll (anyone reading the scroll will begin chanting the never-ending ritual and must do so ignoring anything that would stop them such as eating, drinking, sleeping, etc)

10. Barracks: Tidy cots and footlockers; large table; crates of rations. 3-18 Amazons will be present along with 1-3 Young Females (HD 1/2) and there is a 2 in 6 chance of an Amazon Lieutenant, and a 2 in 6 chance of a Tiger. Each Amazon has 1d6 sp and stashed away in one of the footlockers are 4 gems (100 gp each).

11. Guardroom: Spartan furnishings. 2 Amazons stand at attention. If attacked they will yell alerting those in room 10. Each has 1d6 sp.

12. Baths: 2 in 6 chance of 1-6 Amazons bathing. The waters in the bath will heal 1-6 hit points and there is a 10% chance of increasing a female’s Charisma score by 1 or decreasing a male’s Charisma score by 1 (one time only per person).

13. Storeroom: Crates, barrels, boxes of foodstuffs, textiles, tools, etc. (see contents table) In total worth 200-1200 gp.

14. Temple to Athena: 20-ft tall statue of Athena; large stone altar with iron shackles; 40-ft domed ceiling. 20% chance that a ceremony will be in progress, if so there will be 6-36 Amazons and 1-2 Tigers present (if not, the room will be empty but check for wandering monsters every turn). If there is a ceremony, there is a additional 25% chance that the Amazon Queen (see room 24) will be here along with a male prisoner who is about to have a real bad day. The statue will call an alarm if the tapestries in room 1 are disturbed. There is also a 10% chance of Athena speaking through the statue if someone calls upon the deity in this room. Any none-sanctified male (eg. the sacrifice) that touches the altar will suffer an effect (see “Altar of Athena” table). Any Amazons here will be under the effect of a Bless spell. If the Amazon Queen is present the Amazon’s morale will be 12. 14A is a balcony that is 10 ft high and overlooks the Temple below. It is accessible from the stairs to the west.

15. Battlehall: 50% chance of 2-12 Amazons practicing melee combat (surprised on a 3 in 6 due to noise), if not there will be 4 Amazons standing guard with 1 Tiger. Tattered banners on walls; weapon racks contain a number of spears.

16. Sealed Well: This well drops down to level 3A. It has a locked iron cover on it and the key is on the collar of the Amazon Queen’s pet Saber-Tooth Tiger (see room 24). The lock on the cover is trapped so that a hail of darts fire out of the NW wall doing 1-8 damage if someone tampers with it.

17. Treasure Room: The door is heavy and locked. The Amazon Queen has the key. The lock is trapped with a poison needle (save vs. poison or die). A number of chests contain treasure worth 3,000 gp in total.

18. Hall of Beauty: Walls are carved with curved female forms entwined in various activities. One the north wall is a gold-framed magical mirror. Anyone that looks in the mirror will be asked a riddle (see table). If the correct answer is not given the person’s gender will be changed and they must reroll Charisma.

19. Trophy Room: Contains battle trophies captured by the Amazons. On display are four pieces of jewelry worth 300-1800 gp each and the Sword of Hilroy (sword +1). Hilroy was a hero that appeared at a nearby town in time to defend it from an Amazon raid but was killed while driving the Amazons away. Anyone in the town has a 20% chance of recognizing the sword in which case all reaction rolls in the town get a +2 bonus.

20. Den: There will be 1-3 Tigers using this room as a den. There are a total of 5 Tigers in the Citadel. If some have been encountered elsewhere then it may be necessary to modify the number present here. Bones and straw litter the floor.

21. Prison: The door is locked. This is the prison where male captives are kept. There will be 1-6 prisoners here. They will likely be Normal Men but, maybe not.

22. Well of Songs: This well drops down to level 2A. It is the lair of 2 Harpies that have a deal with the Amazons. The room is filthy and littered with the remains of their meals. Among the debris is a tiny decorative wooden box worth 50 gp.

23. Ante Chamber: A White Ape is chained to the pillar in the center of this room. The chain has 20-ft of slack. The ape will scream and bang his chain at the approach of the party, possibly alerting the Amazon Queen in room 24.

24. Quarters of the Amazon Queen: This is the luxurious private quarters for the Amazon Queen (AC 4, HD 4+1**, MV 120, #AT 1 spear, D 4-10, Save F4, ML 10, AL C) and her pet Saber-Tooth Tiger. They will only be surprised on a 1 in 6 if the White Ape in room 23 makes a bunch of noise. The Amazon Queen has the Spear of the Amazons (spear +1) and the Corset of Athena (gives female wearer an AC of 4). She has the ability to cast Charm Person on one male once per day. There is a 10% chance that a male prisoner will be here under the effect of the Charm Person spell. She is a clone of Sidra, the Ghoul-Queen. Various furnishings are worth 300-1800 gp in total. The Amazon Queen has the key to room 17 and on the Saber-Tooth Tiger’s collar is the key to the well cover in room 16.

This will end the step-by-step posts about the Pit of Tortured Souls but, I am planning on continuing the remaining levels and posting them here. I can also see myself working through the creation of a wilderness from the Expert rulebook to go with this.

One thing about level 1A that I am not particularly happy with is the selection of monsters. It ended up being a bit more limited than I wanted. Hopefully there is enough different stuff that it won't become too dull.

Any comments? Feedback?

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Blinding Glimpse of the Obvious

I saw a great line from Stormcrow in a thread at Dragonsfoot.

In an RPG featuring mortal danger, PC death rates should be in proportion to the ease with which the system lets players make characters.


It is one of those things that one knows but I haven't heard it said so succinctly.

Section E. Stock the Dungeon

Excerpt from B52:
"To 'stock' a dungeon means to fill in the general details, such as monsters, treasure and traps. Special monsters should be first placed in the appropriate rooms along with special treasures. The remaining rooms can be stocked as the DM wishes. If there is no preference as to how certain rooms are stocked, the following system can be used..."

I am not a huge stickler for coming up with a “realistic” dungeon ecology. About all I want to accomplish is for it to make a bit of sense and give the opportunity for some interesting and fun encounters. This is likely a product of my experience with B/X D&D. So my first step in stocking the dungeon is to think of what areas and encounters I know I want to have on this dungeon level.
The map is on this post.

Some of the rooms that are needed on this dungeon level are:
• Guardrooms (I am thinking rooms 2, 4, 11 & 19)
• Barracks (room 8 & 10)
• Storerooms (room 13)
• Temple (room 14)
• Prison (room 21)
• Amazon Leader’s room (room 24)
• Treasure room (room 17)
• Tiger lair (room 18)

Other interesting things that I want to include:
• A White Ape chained outside the Amazon leader’s quarters (room 23)
• An Amazon bathing pool (room 12) (wink, wink)

With these in mind, I can set to stocking the Citadel of the Amazons using the mechanics and tables given in Moldvay’s rulebook.

Contents (d6):
1,2 = Monster (3in6 for treasure)
3 = Trap (2in6 for treasure)
4 = Special (2in6 for treasure)
5,6 = Empty (1in6 for treasure)

I also decided to roll for what Wandering Monster tables (pg B53 & B54) and Unguarded Treasure to use.
1 = Level 1
2-5 = Level 2
6 = Level 3

So….

1. I roll a 4 for contents so the room has a Special (“A Special is anything not exactly a trap, but placed for special reasons.” pg B52). Since this is the main entry-way into the Citadel, I think that some sort of guardian feature would make sense. Maybe tapestries of various Amazon scenes (battles, etc…come on let’s keep this rated PG). If any of the tapestries are disturbed a statue in the Temple (room 14) cries an alarm. Now, let’s see if the tapestries are actually worth anything. A roll of 2 says yes. Consulting the Unguarded Treasure table (using the same method to determine level as for monsters) I roll a 2nd level treasure of 500 sp and 200 gp. I combine them and say there are two tapestries worth a total of 250 gp. If the party can snatch the tapestries and run there could be a great chase scene as the Amazons quickly muster and pursue the party bearing heavy treasure.

2. I have selected this to be a guardroom. There will be 3 Amazons keeping watch. Two will stay and fight while the other races to room 4. They have no treasure.

3. I roll a 6 for contents so it is empty. A roll of 6 for treasure means there is none.

4. I selected this as another guardroom. It has 4 Amazons. Three will fight while the other races to room 2. They have no treasure.

5. I had no plans for this area when I drew it. A roll of 1 indicates there is a monster. The first set of rolls indicates Wolves. I don’t like it. A re-roll comes up with a Living Crystal Statue. That I can use. Living Statues have a treasure type of nil so I won’t roll for treasure.

6. I roll a 3 for contents. How can a trap be in this rough, secret area? I decide that the rough cavern has an unstable floor that will act like a 10’ deep hidden pit. A roll of 6 means there is no treasure.

7. A roll of 5 means this room is empty. A further roll of 4 indicates there is no treasure.

8. I selected this room as a barracks so there will be 3-18 Amazons here and a 2 in 6 chance of a lieutenant and a Tiger. There is also a 2 in 6 chance of 1-3 young females will be here. Using treasure type B, I completely strike out on the treasure rolls.

9. A roll of 1 means there is a monster in this secret room. A couple of rolls give me Medium. No thanks. Another roll give me zombies. This got me thinking… Maybe Medium Zombies? A trio of Eldritch Zombies forced in undeath to perform a never-ending magical ritual. Now I have to come up with stats for Eldritch Zombies! A roll indicates treasure. I will have to figure out the treasure type.

10. Another barracks so there will be 3-18 Amazons here and a 2 in 6 chance of a lieutenant and a Tiger. There is also a 2 in 6 chance of 1-3 young females will be here. Once again, using treasure type B gives me a result of 4 gems worth 100 gp each.

11. Guardroom – I decide that this guardroom will have only 2 Amazons as it is right next to a barracks. If attacked from the hallway they will holler for their comrades in 10.

12. A roll of 4 gives me a result of “Special”…hmmm… Actually I was going to use this for the Amazonian Baths so I will make the bath water have a 10% chance of increasing (female) or decreasing (male) charisma, save vs spells to avoid, one time/person only. A roll of 5 means no treasure. 2 in 6 chance of 1-6 bathing Amazons who keep their spears close by.

13. I decide that this is going to be a storeroom. It will be empty of monsters. The treasure will be foodstuffs, textiles, and other mundane loot from raids worth 200-1200 gp.

14. This will be the Amazon Temple to Athena. There will be a 20% chance that a ceremony will be in progress in which case there will be 6-36 Amazons, and 0-2 Tigers and an unfortunate male prisoner about to have a real bad day and a 50% chance that the Amazon Leader will also be here. The statue of Athena will call an alarm if the tapestries in 1 are disturbed. It also has a 10% chance of Athena speaking through the statue if someone calls upon the deity in this room (I loved Clash of the Titans as a kid). The Altar disintegrates any male that touches it (save vs death) or I might make a table of random effects. I will likely add some gems for treasure. 14A - Balcony 10 ft above.

15. Battlehall – 50% chance of 2-12 Amazons practicing melee combat, 50% of 4 amazons standing guard with a tiger, banners on walls, weapon racks contain various weapons.

16. This well drops down to level 3A. It has a locked cover on it and the key is on the collar of the Amazon Leader’s pet Saber-Tooth Tiger. A roll of 3 means this room has a trap. So the lock on the cover is trapped so that a hail of darts fire out of the NW wall, save vs breath weapon or take 2-8 damage.

17. This is the treasury. The door is heavy and locked. The key is with the Amazon Leader. The amazons keep most of the precious loot from their raids here. All loot belongs to the Amazon Leader but she is responsible for providing for her follower amazons. Rolling for treasure type B, it contains 1,000 sp and 3,000 gp. There will also be a trap. Likely an old-school poison needle as a tribute to Black Dougal.

18. Another roll of 4 gives another “Special”. I am going to stick with the whole gender vs gender theme and make this something that will change genders. Maybe mirror that asks a riddle and if the answer is wrong your gender changes, save vs spells negates.

19. A roll of 6 means this room is empty but I roll a 1 for treasure indicates there is an unguarded treasure. Rolling on the level 2 unguarded treasure table results in 1,000 sp, 500 gp, 3 pieces of jewelry each worth 300-1800 gp each, and a magic item! Rolling on the General Magic Items table give me a “12” and a magic sword! This is getting awesome! I pull out the Expert book for fun and roll “34” on the magic sword table resulting in a Sword +1. I roll a “1” for special purpose so I am done with the treasure. This gives me the idea that this will be the trophy room with various trophies from battles that Amazons have taken in victory. It will give me the opportunity to give the sword a history – I love magic items with context.

20. Tiger Den – There will be 1-3 Tigers using this room as their den while they are not stalking the halls. If a Tiger is encountered as a wandering monster reduce the number encountered here appropriately. I roll a 6 for treasure so it looks like the Amazons keep everything.

21. This is the prison where male captives will be kept. There will be 1-6 prisoners here.

22. A roll of 1 indicates a monster. Rolling “9” on the Level 3 Wandering Monster table gives me 2 Harpies = Awesome! A roll of 2 indicates treasure. The well in this room goes down to Level 2A and I didn’t picture a lot of traffic between the two levels so this works for me. How did Harpies get here? Not only do I not know, I don't care. Rolling for treasure type C results in a meager 100 ep.

23. I wanted a White Ape here from the beginning. He will be chained to the pillar with a 20’ chain. The ruckus he causes if he sees the PCs will result in the Amazon Leader being surprised only on a 1.

24. The Amazon Leader’s private quarters. She is a clone of Sidra. She also has her pet Saber-Tooth Tiger. She will have a +1 magic spear and the Corset of Athena – a magical corset that provides a female wearer with an AC 4.

Next steps are to turn this into short room descriptions and then I will put a slightly updated version of the map and the room descriptions into a document similar to the one used by Amityville Mike for his Stonehell.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Cal-Con Update

I am running two sessions at Cal-Con during the last weekend of March. Both sessions I will be using my favorite rules - B/X!

Here is the write-up I gave:

Hop into the way-back machine, go back to 1981 and play the Dungeons & Dragons that was the introduction to role-playing for nearly an entire generation – a Dungeons & Dragons that is fast and furious, and fun is the ultimate goal.

Recently, a tribe of goblins has been raiding the countryside. On their last raid they captured a dozen prisoners. You have banded together to rescue them. The party has tracked the goblins to the Haunted Keep – right up to the only door to the east tower.


I am going to use a modified version of Dragonfoot's The Haunted Keep.

I think that I will do up some posters to put up in some of the local stores and also at the Con itself.

Any suggestions or tips?

EDIT: I also signed up to play in a Tunnels & Trolls game which I am greatly looking forward to.