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

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Section D: Draw the Map of the Dungeon (Citadel of the Amazons)

License: The dungeon map is adapted from a map by Tim Hartin licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 Canada License. You can find the original map at Paratime Design Cartography (http://paratime.ca/cartography).
My map is also available HERE as a pdf. [NOTE: I took the map down now that the entire level is posted]

I redrew and made alterations by hand as I am nearly Amish when it comes to computers. As an investment banker I could make Excel and Powerpoint dance but with anything else I am hopeless. The original map from Paratime is Textured Dungeon Map 035. If I knew how to make the changes on the computer instead of by hand I would have...oh well. You get what you get. The other problem that has arisen from my 6-year old knowing as much about computers as I do is that the pdf on the orbitfiles website is 7.5 megs. If anyone knows how I can make the pdf smaller on my Macbook Pro, please let me know.

Next up: We'll start stocking this thing. As this progresses, if anyone has any suggestions or thoughts please feel free to comment.

Currently Reading: Elak of Atlantis

by Henry Kuttner.

From the Paizo website:
Explore the origins of sword and sorcery with Henry Kuttner’s Elak of Atlantis! Published in Weird Tales to satisfy fans of Conan the Barbarian in the wake of Robert E. Howard’s death, these four stories depict a brutal world of flashing swords and primal magic, touched by a hint of Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos. Never collected in a mass-market edition since their publication in the late 1930s, these exciting tales helped to establish a genre and are a critical part of any fantasy library. Also included in this collection are Kuttner’s two rare and equally groundbreaking Prince Raynor stories from 1939’s Strange Tales.

Dive into these seminal, thrilling adventure tales from one of the most important writers in science fiction and fantasy, and discover for yourself why Elak of Atlantis is renowned by scholars as a major step in the evolution of a genre.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Finishing Section C: Special Monsters

Here are the specific monsters I currently plan on using for the remaining levels...

Level 3A: Halls of the Flesh Eaters
- Trolls
- Ghouls
- Ghasts (AC 5, HD 4**, MV 90, #AT 2 claws/1 bite, D 1-6/1-6/1-8, SV F4, ML 10, AL C) Undead. Ghasts are particularly large and gruesome ghouls that can assume the guise of a hyena. Instead of paralysis, its gaze will have the effect of a sleep spell on any unsuspecting creature which fails its save vs spells.
- Cadavers (AC 7, HD 2*, MV 60, #AT 1 battle-axe, D 1-8, SV F2, ML 12, AL N) Undead. Battle-axe wielding zombies immune to all magic. I stole these from Sham.
- Plagued (AC 7, HD 1*, MV 60, #AT 2 claws, D 1-4/1-4, SV F1, ML 12, AL N) Undead. Disease-ridden zombies that are easily killed, but splattery and extremely virulent. The character landing the killing blow must save vs poison with a -2 penalty or catch a disease. Also stolen from Sham.

Level 3B: Crystal Caves of the Mothmen
- Mothmen (AC 5, HD 4*, MV 90, #AT 1 bite, D 1-6, SV F4, ML 8, AL C) Large moth-like creatures that are attracted to light. Their gossamer wings reflect torch or lantern light and when three or more mothmen are fluttering around they can cause confusion as the spell. Mothmen eat fungus and use the mines to invade the Fungal Forests.
- Crysabs (AC 2, HD 3*, MV 60, #AT 2 pinchers, D 2-12/2-12, SV F2, ML 7, AL N) Giant crystal crabs. When stationary they look like large mounds of crystals. They lie in wait to ambush prey surprising on a 1-4.
- An earth elemental (8 HD)

Level 4A: Realm of the Discarded
- Fleshshifters (AC 2, HD 3*, MV 60, #AT 1 staff, D 1-4 + special, SV F2, ML 7, AL C) Alien, white robed and hooded humanoids that serve the Ghoul-Queen. They conduct their torturous experiments in their laboratories. They have used their findings to give themselves random mutation: super-fast, super-strong, super-tough, super-accurate, etc. Fleshshifters are immune to sleep and charm spells. Wield staffs made of a silver alloy that cause a random effect on a hit (saves apply): 1) Sleep (as spell); 2) Blindness (as reverse Light spell); 3) Paralysis (as ghoul); 4) Wracked by excruciating pain (additional 1-6 damage and cannot act for 1 round); 5) Weakness (-2 penalty to attack and damage rolls); 6) Polymorph Other (1-Giant Toad, 2-Rock Baboon, 3-Kobold, 4-Gnoll, 5-Giant Rat, 6- Herd Animal (see Antelope X28), 7- White Ape, 8- Oil Beetle, 9- Boar, 10- A warped amalgamation of all of the above that quickly expires in a large puddle of blood and ooze).
- Discarded – I am going to come up with a random monster generator.

Level 4B: Cyst of the Slimes
- The Great Gray Ooze (AC 6, HD 6**, MV 30, #AT 1, D 3-18, SV F5, ML 12, AL C) A huge sentient Gray Ooze. It has the ability cast a strong charm person (-2 to saves) on anyone it touches and can communicate telepathically with those so charmed. It has enslaved some escaped Gnorlocks. The Great Gray Ooze will try to encase any humanoid creature it has killed in a cocoon of gray ooze and the creature will emerge in 1-4 days as an Ooze Zombie.
- Charmed Gnorlocks
- Ooze Zombies (AC 7, HD 2*, MV 90, #AT 1, D 2-12 + special, SV F1, ML 12, AL C) Dripping corpses of those killed by the Great Gray Ooze. Among natural stone they are difficult to see surprising on a 1-3. A successful hit from an Ooze Zombie splatters gray ooze on the target which does 2-12 damage. After the first hit, the ooze will stick to its victim, automatically destroying any normal armour in 1-4 rounds and doing an additional 2-12 damage each round. It will also dissolve and destroy magic armour in 1-4 turns. Ooze Zombies cannot be harmed by cold or fire nor are effected by sleep or charm spells.
- Gray Ooze
- Other slimes/oozes/jellies

Level 5: Lair of the Ghoul-Queen
- Sidra, The Ghoul-Queen – I am thinking about making her something like the Greyhawk Supplement Druid. She can use both magic-user and cleric spells and can shape change.
- More amazons
- Flesh Golems
- Bone Golems
- Blood Golems
- Hags
- Fleshshifters

Level 6: Fire Pits
- Fire Salamanders

For the next few steps I am going to focus on Level 1A: The Citadel of the Amazons and complete the map and stocking it before moving on to the next section. A reminder that I am going to be using something similar to the One-Page Dungeon Template.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Troll Barbarian Prince

An old post at dragonsfoot (here) talks about using the old Dwarfstar game Barbarian Prince along with Classic D&D. I found it interesting. But my thought is that it would work even better with Tunnels & Trolls. I may have to try that. Heck, it is even made for solo play - very T&T-esque.

Special Monsters Continued

The monsters used specifically for the next few levels...

Level 1B: Kobold Warrens:
- Kobolds, Kobold Bodyguards and Kobold Chieftain
- Spitting Lizards (AC 6, HD 3*, MV 120, #AT 1 bite or 1 spit, D 1-8 or spit, Save F2, ML 7, AL N) A 5ft-long lizard that kobolds use as guard dogs, make a high-pitched whistling sound when excited. Can spit (range 10/20/30) that causes painful itching.
- A few Gnoll overseers

Level 2A: The Foul Fortress;
Gnolls - lot of them. Two tribes that compete
A troll or two
A few Thouls

Level 2B: Gnorlock Mines:
- Gnorlocks Slaves and Escapees (AC 8, HD 2, MV 120, #AT 1 weapon, D by weapon, Save F2, ML 9, AL C) Gnorlocks are the degenerate remnants of the gnomes enslaved by the Ghoul-Queen long ago. Their enforced subterranean existence had given them 90' infravision but they suffer attack penalties of -1 in torch or lantern light and -2 in daylight. These pathetic creatures typically wield pickaxes.
- A few Hobgoblin slaves. The pathetic remains of a tribe that was enslaved. The biggest and strongest members of the tribe were taken away to be specimens in the vile experiments carried out in the deeper levels of the Pit.
- Gnoll, Kobold and Thoul overseers.
- a Gnorlock tomb with some creepy undead
- a few slimy things in some dark corners of the mines

Level 2C: Fungal Forest of the Slug People
- Slug People (AC 6, HD 3+1, MV 90, #AT 1 bite, D 1-6, Save F3, ML 8, AL N) Slug people are roughly humanoid shaped mollusks. They only take 1 hp of damage from a successful attack against them from bludgeoning weapons.
- Myrad (AC 5, HD 2, MV 120, #AT special, D special, Save F4, ML 6, AL C) Pallid, beautiful and corrupt fungal dryads. Myrads inhabit the darkest, dankest corners of the underworld tending their gruesomely beautiful garden of fungus and slimes. Looking at one will cause the victim to be under a very powerful charm spell unless they save vs spells and the myrad will enslave and torture the charmed victim. They can become invisible at will three times per day.
- Heklix (AC 4, HD 6, MV 60, #AT 4 tentacles, D none, SV F6, ML 8, AL N) Massive subterranean snails with gaping mouths, long hairy slimy tentacles that cause paralysis.
I think I stole the ideas for these last two from somewhere. Likely either Sham's bestiary for the Dismal Depths of some of the crazy stuff Scott has for Thool.

Levels 3 to 6 to come...

Fallen Empire of Tyros - Actual Play

I am running a C&C campaign set in the World of Broadsword. It is a sandbox game and I have been using a bunch of published modules that I have been customizing to fill out the adventures. For that campaign I have set up a private blog to pass along various pieces of information, track XP, etc. The reason it is private is that I put some information about the campaign world on it and since it is not my IP I wanted to keep it just to my group.

I decided to repost a my play reports here though because I love reading about other peoples game sessions. As I have previously mentioned (and you have likely noticed), I am a terrible writer. These play reports are not a blow-by-blow story of what happened. Instead they are a very brief recap of what happened.

Here are the initial hooks I provided to see which direction the players wanted to go with:

- Portown is a small but bustling town with a harbor that sees manymerchant ships and more than a few pirates. For some reason Portown has also always attracted adventurers. A century ago, the sorcerer, Zenopus, built a tower on the low hills overlooking the town. It now lies in ruins and rumor has it it was built in close proximity to the foundations of an older, pre-human city.

- The village of Fairhill has been having trouble with goblins. Recently the goblins attacked the village and the new cathedral was sacked and the grave of the former priest was dug up and his bones taken.

- The small town of Wolverton has always been made up of tough, independent citizens that have always had to rely on themselves to solve the town's problems. Meanwhile, the uncaring lumber barons squeeze the common folk for every last copper, deaf to their pleas. Now the hacking coughs of the sick are heard throughout the town. A plague has come to Wolverton and the town's leaders can't be bothered to stop it.

- Skelg, a Norsca warrior now living in Emesa is suffering from a terrible freezing curse. Can you discover the cause of the curse and find a way to save the old barbarian?

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

- Khemir, a noble in the southern city of Padjistan is looking to hire someone to investigate the cause of the mysterious murders plaguing the town.

- The curator of the museum in Emesa is looking to hire a brave group of adventurers to find a elderly employee who has gone missing with a book that belongs to the library.

- Prospectors in the Highwall Mountains tell of a ruined monastery in the mountains that has been defiled and tainted by chaos.

- Merchants are always looking for sturdy and brave adventurers to guard the desert caravans.

- The Southern Sea is dangerous - pirates and enormous sea monsters prey on ships traveling on the sea. Honest merchants and not so honest privateers are always looking for brave men to man the ships.

- You overheard a young man telling of an abandoned silver mine northwest of the small town of Silverton that he believes is being used as a base by bandits who have been attacking the caravans traveling south.

I was very happy when they decided to investigate the tower of Zenopus.

C. Decide on Special Monsters To Be Used

Excerpt from B51:
"The DM should decide on what special monsters (not placed by using the Wandering Monster tables) will be used. Some monsters should be placed by the DM because of the scenario chosen, and the DM may create or change some monsters to fit the dungeon"

As I was working on the cross section of the PoTS, I spent a bunch of time thinking about what monsters would occupy various regions. Some of the unique creatures such as Gnorlocks, Slug People, Mothmen and the sentient Grey Ooze have already been mentioned.

One thing that I am not terribly worried about is keeping the difficulty level of the monsters increasing in a linear or other systematic way. For example, level 1A may be suitable for level 2 and 3 characters but level 2A may be suitable for level 5 or 6 characters. As one goes deeper in the dungeon it will get more difficult, however, characters may need to adventure elsewhere before they are ready for the next level of the Pit.

Special Monsters to Be Used

Level 1A: The Citadel of the Amazons

Amazons (AC 7, HD 1+1*, MV 120, #AT 1 weapon, D by weapon, Save F1, ML 10, AL N) Amazons are female fighters that serve Sidra. When fighting male humans or human-like creatures, such as halflings, elves, dwarves, etc, they add +2 to their "to hit" rolls due to their ferocity. Amazons fight very efficiently as a group. They will attempt to take captives for ritualistic castration and sacrifice.

Tiger - See "Great Cat" on page B32. Amazons often keep tigers for pets and guards.

White Ape - See "Ape, White" on page B30. Also see my post on my favorite monsters.

I think that that the BBEG on Level 1A will be an Amazonian Clone of Sidra and her pet Sabre Tooth Tiger. The tiger will be quite a challenge by itself and I think that encountering a clone of the Ghoul-Queen here will add an interesting element to a later encounter with either another clone of Sidra herself.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

B. Decide on a Setting Continued

I have sketched a cross section for the PoTS.

This has also given me a good start to the next section which involves selecting specific monsters which will be the next post.

APPENDED: I wanted to comment a bit on the cross section but it is my little girl's 6th birthday and it has been tough to concentrate on stuff with a bunch of 5 and 6 year-olds running around.

I wanted to make sure the Pit had a couple of different entrances and a couple of different routes to get to Sidra's lair.
Stealing a bit from Section C. Choose Special Monsters, one of the things I thought about was what creatures would be found in the PoTS and give the significant ones their own area. But I also wanted to mix in some strange areas that aren't really part of Sidra's minions.

1A. The Citadel of the Amazons - Home to ferocious but comely female warriors that serve Sidra. They are the servants of the ghoul-queen that the most active in the wider world making raids, mainly looking for males to sacrifice.

1B. Kobold Warrens - Since the origin of Gnolls is part of the background of the PoTS, we need the small dog-men as well. The kobolds are bullied by their larger cousins and in turn bully the gnome-slaves. They guard the entrance to the mines.

2A. The Foul Fortress - Home to two Gnoll tribes that compete for Sidra's favour.

2B. Gnorlock Mines - The mines where the Gnorlocks toil. They are the remnants of the debased gnome slaves taken by Sidra in eons past. Some Gnorlocks have escaped into the tunnels and guard against the kobolds and gnolls that watch over the mines as well as the other denizens of the dark. There are also a few hobgoblin slaves - gotta have the thouls come from somewhere.

2C. The Fungal Forests of the Slug People - An area that was found during the digging of the mines. This is the home of the slug people that have been trying to defend their fungal home against their enemies the mothmen.

3A. Halls of the Flesh Eaters - Home to other creatures created by Sidra's depraved experimentations. Ghouls, Trolls and Thouls roam here as well as other even more foul creatures.

3B. Crystal Caves of the Mothmen - A great cavern that is the home of the mothmen - large moth-like creatures that are attracted to light. Their gossamer wings reflect torch or lantern light and their fluttering can cause confusion as the spell. Mothmen eat fungus and use the mines to invade the Fungal Forests.

4A. Realm of the Discarded - Where Sidra's Fleshshifters continue her foul experiments in the numerous breeding pits and where those considered "failures" lurk in the dark corners.

4B. Cyst of the Slimes - Home of a huge sentient Grey Ooze. It has the ability to cast charm monster and has enslaved some escaped Gnorlocks. Also, anyone killed by the Ooze is animated as an Ooze Zombie.

5. Lair of the Ghoul Queen - Sidra's domain where she is served by her hags and golems.

6. Fire Pits - magma pools... gotta have magma pools.

The next thing is to flesh out the list of specific monsters...

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Ten Favorite Monsters (B/X Only Baby!)

In no particular order...

1. White Apes (AC 6, HD 4, MV 120, #AT 2 claws, D 1-4/1-4, Save F2, ML 7, AL N) - Very S&S feel. I made sure the first dungeon encounter the characters had in my C&C campaign was with a White Ape.

2. Carrion Crawler (AC 7, HD 3+1*, MV 120, #AT 8 tentacles, D 0-Paralysis, Save F2, ML 9, AL N) - I love these. Tentacles and they can eat you when your helpless...Nice!

3. Red Dragon (AC -1, HD 10**, MV 90/240, #AT 2 claws/1 bite plus Breath Weapon, D 1-8/1-8/4-32, Save F10, ML 10, AL C) - Just gotta have them.

4. Orcs (AC 6, HD 1, MV 120, #AT 1 weapon, D by weapon, Save F1, ML 8, AL C) - the staple bad guy.

5. Thouls (AC 6, HD 3**, MV 120, #AT 2 claws or 1 weapon, D 1-3/1-3 or by weapon, Save F3, ML 10, AL C) - These things are crazy.

6. Efreeti (AC 3, HD 10*, MV 90/240, #AT 1, D 2-16, Save F15, ML 12, AL C) - My demons in B/X.

7. Bone Golem (AC 2, HD 8, MV 120, #AT 4 weapons, D by weapon, Save F4, ML 12, AL N) - what evil wizard is complete without a 4 armed golem made from the bones of dead men?

8. Giant Scorpions (AC 2, HD 4*, MV 150, #AT 2 claws/1 sting, D 1-10/1-10/1-4+poison, Save F2, ML 11, AL C) - Another great S&S feel.

9. Spectre (AC 2, HD 6**, MV 150/300, #AT 1 touch + special, D 1-8 + 2 level drain, Save F6, ML 11, AL C) - when they really were among the mightiest of the undead and that illustration is GREAT.

10. Men - can't get more evil than them.

B. Decide on a Setting

From page B51:
"It is not necessary to draw a detailed map of the dungeon first, but it is useful to have a general idea of what it will look like. When deciding on the shape of the dungeon, the DM should also outline ideas for rooms or areas in the dungeon. A few common settings include:
1. castle or tower
2. Caves or cavern
3. Abandoned mine
4. Crypt or tomb
5. Ancient temple
6. Stronghold or town"

A few thoughts about this passage:
1. It focuses strictly on the dungeon;
2. All of the examples are of limited scale;
3. Between section A. Choose a Scenario and this section (which have really outlined the where and why of the adventure), the form (to me at least) is one of a site-based adventure. Sure there is a reason to go there (the scenario) but the location is what is interacted with; and
4. Notice that in the set up of the adventure the is not a mention of "Plot".

Some of my preliminary thoughts about the setting for the Pit of Tortured Souls:
1. Size - I want the dungeon to be a fairly good size. I am thinking about maybe 6 levels with a few sub-levels thrown in. I don't know how many levels I will develop here - maybe just the first one or two or maybe all of them.
2. Location - I want to keep the broader setting very generic. I might want to use this as my "Cave of the Unknown" if I run the Keep on the Borderlands or as the Dark Pit if I run a West Marches-style version of an altered Thunder Rift.
3. I want the main geographic feature to be a large pit - big surprise - which would allow entry into a couple of different levels.

Next up - I think I will draw a cross section...

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A. Choose a Scenario

From B51: "A scenario is a background theme or idea which ties the dungeon together. A scenario will help keep a dungeon from becoming a boring repetition of "open the door, kill the monster, take the treasure. A good scenario always gives the players a reason for adventuring. The DM should also design a dungeon for the levels of characters who will be playing in it. A good scenario will also give the DM a reason for choosing specific monsters and treasures to put in the dungeon.

A scenario can be anything the DM can imagine. To help new DMs, some common scenarios are listed below and explained. The DM can fill in the details.

1. Exploring the unknown
2. Investigating a Chaotic outpost
3. Recovering lost ruins
4. Destroying an ancient evil
5. Visiting a lost shrine
6. Fulfilling a quest
7. Escaping from enemies
8. Rescuing prisoners
9. Using a magical portal
10. Finding a lost race"

My plan for the Pit of Tortured Souls is to make it similar in structure to "Keep on the Borderlands" and give a site-based adventure with some interesting stuff mixed in that a DM can use however they wish. An early hook that could be used is having to rescue some male captives from the Amazons who serve Sidra before they can castrate and sacrifice them.

The Pit of Tortured Souls - Introduction

Var-Zenoth, called by Men the Pit of Tortured Souls, was of old the province of Sidra, the Ghoul-Queen, beautiful and ghastly Harlot of Death. In millenia past, the troll hosts of dark Sidra fell upon the Gnomes of Vertaven, bearing them away to the Pit where they dwelt in servitude and dolor beneath her lash. As the years marched on, Sidra turned her will to debasing the enslaved Gnomes, causing their line to become commingled and tainted with the blood of unclean things. And so it was that the Pit of Tortured Souls -- and, with the tide of centuries, the lands of Men -- came to seeth with the Gnolls in their ravening packs. In time, the rise of the Gnolls would have terrible consequences for the Realm of Men, and the ill-bred fiends threatened to make all the world their hunting grounds. By dint of steel and blood, Man prevailed over Gnoll, and Sidra's abominable progeny were driven to the dark places of the Earth. As the years turned from hundreds to thousands, the Ghoul-Queen fell quiescent in the depths of Var-Zenoth. Notwithstanding the torpor of its monarch, however, that shunned province remains the haunt of loathsome creatures and the hateful descendents of the honorable Gnomes, irrevocably corrupted by millenia of thralldom.

- Posted with permission...I know Scott recently posted that all of his stuff is available for free use but I feel better asking first.

Scott is a much better writer than I am so I left a bunch of his prose as is. I changed the names and locations and a few very minor details.

Two more thoughts about what I am going to do:
1. I am likely going to use a bunch of maps from Paratime Design (http://paratime.ca/cartography) that are available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.5 Canada License, either straight from their website or as inspiration for some hand drawn maps.
2. I am thinking of making some posts using the process described in Part 8: Dungeon Master Information beginning on page B51 in the Moldvay Basic rulebook and using the format given "An Example of Dungeon Design: The Haunted Keep (1st Level)" on pages B55 to B57.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Pen to Paper...kinda

I do not consider myself to be very creative but I think I am imaginative. It is just the initial spark of creativity that I sometimes have to seek from external sources to get the imagination going. Also, as I pointed out in one of my early posts, my ten years of investment banking has severely eroded what writing ability I managed to develop during my history undergrad degree oh so long ago.

I have been reading with more than a little envy some of the creative contributions various bloggers have been making to the current old school gaming environment. And then a few things happened that managed to not only spark my meager imagination but also make me think that I can work around my grade 4 level writing.

On Scott's old OD&D Wilderlands blog (his current blog is the World of Thool - if you haven't read it, leave here and go there right now) he wrote a couple of posts that really interested me. Using a Frazetta print of the Ghoul Queen Scott developed an interesting idea about the origin of Gnolls. Looking at what Scott had done and the monster sections of the B/X rulebooks, I had the desire to try to make my own, if somewhat limited and derivative, contribution to old school gamers.

Another thing happened to make me think that I could actually do this - Sham on his excellent blog began the development of what became the One-Page Dungeon Template (see Chgowiz's Old Guy Blog for the template). Also see Amityville Mike's Stonehell at for another excellent example. Using the one-page template might actually play more to my current writing style - the four word, three bullet powerpoint slide.

So I am going to attempt to develop a dungeon on this blog using Scott's Xanassa as my inspiration. I am going to keep it small (at least at the start) to keep me from being overwhelmed. I am going to use various resources from around the web to lighten up the workload as well. I am under no delusion that this will be the next great thing, in fact I am planning on it being a very meat-and-potatoes dungeon - baby steps.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Get in the game

One of the things that I am hoping to do is to follow the lead of many in the Traditional RGP Blogging scene and set up an ongoing open game at a local gaming store. I am hoping to get this off the ground shortly after Cal-Con. A couple of reasons why I want to run a couple of B/X sessions at the convention is to see if there is any interest in B/X (or other traditional RPGs) at all from other people and, if so, to meet them and try to form a bit of a network to spread the word for an open game.

I also have to meet some of the people that work at the local gaming stores. One of the things about my old investment banking job was that the long hours kept most of my RPG shopping to the online-variety (mostly ebay and paizo) so most of my books were purchased without going to Sentry Box or Myth Games in Calgary. That is something I have to rectify. Of course, now that I have all the books I need or likely want and with my reduced income, I am not an ideal customer.

Sunday, February 15, 2009


It would be great if Black Dougal were to be raised as some type of undead and kill Fredrik.

Character Options

A couple of nights ago I had a discussion with the group that is taking part in the C&C campaign I am running about some of the other game systems I prefer such as B/X and S&W. One of the comments that one of the players made was that B/X or S&W do not allow for the character concepts that he prefers. He stressed how important it was to him that the mechanics of the game allow for differentiation between characters. This is a view point that I don't share and I tried to make the counterpoint to him but I think that I was unable to persuade him.

I played a one-shot a couple of weeks ago in a game that was a mash up of Basic Fantasy Roleplaying and Swords & Wizardry. Attribute generation was basically the same as in B/X - 3d6 in order and some 2-for-1 swaps between attributes. The attribute array I rolled led me to make a thief. He had low hit points and not much starting gold. I quickly decided that Kilgor the Thief was a cowardly sort who would hide when he could and flee when he couldn't. He would avoid melee combat at all costs. Nearly every gp he had went into buying a crossbow - no armour and his only melee weapon was a dagger.

Kilgor the Thief didn't live long enough for me to come up with a reason why he was a coward but he was different than any other thief I have played. And it didn't take mechanics to make him different.

Siege Saving Rolls

One of the things that struck me when I first read the Castles & Crusades rules is how similar the Siege Engine is to the venerable saving roll of Tunnels & Trolls.

Tunnels & Trolls is, if anything, even more abstract than Dungeons & Dragons. The combat round in T&T is 2 minutes which is a loooong time. Given the very abstract nature of T&T combat, I have always used saving rolls to adjudicate non-attack actions during a combat round. Section 1.8 of the 5.5 edition f the T&T rulebook says "if there is a question of whether a player is lucky enough to accomplish something the saving roll concept can be employed, whether or not actual 'escape' is involved."

I have employed the same mentality to my current Castles & Crusades campaign. I try to keep combat in C&C abstract as well. Facing for such things as flanking and back attacks, spacing in combat, movement rates, etc. is kept much more abstract than say 3.5 or 4 ed. D&D. When the question of accomplishing an action in combat comes up I ask for a siege check.

In a recent melee combat in a dungeon a few different examples came up. One was firing a missile weapon into a combat. Since I keep exact locations and facings of combatants abstract, I had the player make a siege check using his choice of Intelligence or Dexterity as the attribute for the roll to see if he could fire the missile with some sort of chance of success.

Another was a character that wanted to rush past a bunch of the opponents. Not having exact positioning or spacing, a siege check was used to see if he would succeed.

And yet another is trying to catch a fleeing foe. Since I don't really care to calculate the encumbrance, a siege check was used to determine if the characters would successfully catch the fleeing foe. A quick change to the challenge level of the check would take into consideration the relative speed of the different parties.

In another nod to T&T and to encourage my players to try crazy stuff, I also award experience points for any siege check tried in combat whether they succeed or not.

Must reads

I am not smart enough to add much here but this is a great read from the King of Cartography

which is a riff off of this from one of the focal points of the traditional gaming movement...
The comments that are with James' post are also a great read

Saturday, February 14, 2009

B/X Weapon Damage

I remember as a kid I automatically went with the variable weapon damage optional rule given in the Moldvay Basic set. I know my rational was that it "only made sense" that a sword would do more damage than a dagger.

However, as I get older I appreciate the standard rule that every weapon does 1d6 damage. When I read the OD&D 3 Little Brown Books, I began to see the fact that normal men have 1d6 hit points and every weapon does 1d6 damage as an elegantly symmetrical system. And as pointed out by Philotomy on his excellent website (http://www.philotomy.com), "This makes perfect sense given D&D's abstract system: a dagger thrust can kill you just as readily as a chop from a greataxe."

I my mind keeping with this system is a definite plus for the Swords & Wizardry Whitebox version available at: http://www.swordsandwizardry.com/whitebox.htm

In B/X the same symmetry does not exist. Normal men get 1d4 hit points (B40). So even using the standard 1d6 damage for every weapon, on average each hit will kill a normal man. However, you also have to remember that in OD&D monsters, in general, also had one attack per round which also did 1d6 damage. In B/X, many monsters get multiple attacks and do various ranges of damage. So I am wondering if by keeping with the standard weapon damage of 1d6 whether one puts the PCs at a disadvantage. My guess is that most players would also view the standard d6 damage for each weapon as "non-sensical" and would prefer the variable weapon damage.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

B/X at Cal-Con

It looks like I am going to be running two sessions of B/X at the local convention here in Calgary - Cal-Con. It is the last weekend of March. I promised one of the organizers that I would have a brief description of the scenario to him in the few days.

So now I have to figure out what scenario to run. A few ideas that come to mind are:
- Chgowiz's "Kobold Caves of Terror" http://oldguyrpg.blogspot.com/2009/02/kobold-caves-of-terror-winterwar-game.html
- Sham's "Dismal Depths" http://shamsgrog.blogspot.com/search/label/dismal%20depths
- Amityville Mike's "Stonehell" http://poleandrope.blogspot.com/search/label/Stonehell
- The Tower of Zenopus with "In Search of the Forbidden City" http://www.dragonsfoot.org/php4/archive.php?sectioninit=CD&fileid=251&watchfile=0
- "The Endless Tunnels Of Enlandin" http://www.dragonsfoot.org/php4/archive.php?sectioninit=CD&fileid=163
- "The Haunted Keep" http://www.dragonsfoot.org/php4/archive.php?sectioninit=CD&fileid=234

Any ideas?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Feel of B/X

To me the look of the Erol Otus art gives a great sense and feel of what a B/X game is like. While this actually came from Dragon Magazine below is a piece that gives the vibe I mean. Seriously... what the hell is that? And how Chaotic is the dude with the crazy hat and polka-dot shirt? The Fighter that wandered into this is totally screwed!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

B/X By the Book

An interesting post at Dragonsfoot (http://www.dragonsfoot.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=15&t=34434) asks, "This came up in a conversation at my gaming table last weekend; how would B/X play, if the only D&D products you had ever heard of or seen were the Basic and Expert rulebooks? If you had no experience of 1974 D&D, AD&D or any supplements or modules, and had to generate adventures for your players with just the red and cyan books, what would it look like?"

A few of specific characteristics that are identified in the post are:
- Alignment Languages
- The assortment of Monsters
- Power level of characters and magic
- Adventure design

I would also throw in the impact that the art has on the feel of the game.

I think that all of these characteristics lend themselves to a specific style of game play. The selection of "lost world"-type and the various "what the heck was that?" monsters, the three alignments (Law, Neutral, Chaos) and the alignment languages, the low power level of magic (primarily in restricting access to spells) and the examples given in the adventure design sections of both the Basic book and the Expert book lend themselves to a game where the forces of Chaos are pressing against the few scattered pockets of lawful civilization. Everything beyond the guarded walls are dark and mysterious.

I do actually game

I am actually currently running a Castles & Crusades campaign - the first game I have GM'ed in roughly ten years. Coming up with the group took quite a while and involved recruitment posters at a couple of local game stores and posting on Nearbygamers.com. The group is an interesting mix - another old-school minded gamer (who some might know as k-slacker), a roleplay-focused guy who usually talks in character, a story-focused 2e guy who feels that characters can only be differentiated if there are mechanical differences, and a guy from Europe who wrote for computer games. I went with C&C as I thought it would be a bridge between new-style players and old-style players like myself.

The campaign has been fun and hopefully will continue for a while. I have been going with a sandbox and, if anything, I have been giving them too many rumours and leads to follow. I think this format has required some adjustment on the part of a couple of players and the first character death was a bit of a road bump they players had to get over.

My preference would be to use a different rule-set but as I mentioned it was kind of a concession on my part to find a group. How have others put groups together? Have you found it necessary to make concessions to get a group together? What kind of learning process did your players have to go through?

Who is this guy?

I am a former investment banker turned stay-at-home dad. I realized about a year and a half ago that I no longer enjoyed my job raising equity and doing mergers and acquisitions for oil and gas companies. Thankfully, due to some conservative financial management on my part I was able to leave my job at what may be the best possible time - just before 'investment banker' became a dirty word. Years of investment banking also explain why I can't write coherently in sentences longer than four words.

While I was in a job that I disliked, I rediscovered my love of fantasy roleplaying games. I hadn't played or followed D&D since I went to grad school about 10 years ago. Finding the newest editions to not be the games I loved in my earlier years, I fell back to the older editions, the retro-clones and other old-style games.

I am going to use this blog to talk about the games I enjoy, maybe to document my search for a group to play with, and/or maybe my thoughts as I design a campaign.

B59: Sample Dungeon Expedition (Excerpt)

DM: "Black Dougal, you find out that you missed a tiny discolored needle in the latch. Roll a saving throw vs. Poison, please!"
Dougal: ***rolling*** "Missed it!"
DM: "Black Dougal gasps 'Poison!' and falls to the floor. He looks dead."
Fredrik: " I'm grabbing his pack to carry treasure in."

I love it.