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

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Odds are Stacked in Favour of B/X Characters

There is a thread over at RPGnet where a DM asks for advice in helping reduce the fatality rate of the characters.

There is an excellent reply by Galadrin which focuses on the subsystems in B/X that really help improve character survival. These are things I have mentioned a number of times here but I liked the way that he put it.

PC's actually have a very high survival probability, when you think about it. Here is my argument, with page citation in bold.

1) If you think about it, by the book, every 1st level character except Magic-Users and Thieves is running around with AC 2 (Plate Mail and Shield is only 70 of the average 110 gp for starting characters, B12). Assuming the average party size of 7 (B19), that means 5 of the 7 characters are only hit 20% of the time (and with an average 5-6 hit points, thanks to the last line of B6, they need to be hit twice on average to inflict a casualty). That means a character must be attacked 10 times (on average) to kill him.

2) Combine this with the caveat that allows a Magic-User to pick his first spell (B16), very likely "Sleep", and you have a pretty tough party.

3) But who needs Sleep, when monsters only attack 28% of the time (B24)?

4) Even when a fight does break out, monsters tend to flee when they take their first casualty (B27).

5) All of these factors make it more likely that you can snag the treasure without a hard slog for it. The lair treasure of 24 Hobgoblins is already more than a quarter of a level for that group of 7, with even more for unguarded treasure, monster XP and so on.

Friday, January 22, 2010

I am a Knight of Dangerous Quests

Into the Borderlands

My 2nd edition AD&D group was suppose to meet last night but a couple of the guys were unable to make it. The others still wanted to play so they rolled up characters and made the first blood-soaked foray into the Borderlands. I will put some information on the forums at Red Box Calgary.

Expedition to the Ancient Academy

As a follow up to my post about podcasts, I have really been enjoying Expedition to the Ancient Academy which I found over at Robertson Games. I'm usually not much for listening to actual play but I am enjoying these.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A New Blog for My 2nd edition AD&D Campaign

As I mention quite often around these parts, B/X is my favourite version of D&D. However, I am really enjoying the 2nd edition AD&D campaign I am running.

In order to keep Ode to Black Dougal focused on B/X D&D and my general gaming thoughts while also allowing me to ruminate about my 2nd ed. campaign, I have set up a new blog - The Sandpoint Campaign.

I know some of you who share my love for B/X view 2nd edition as an abomination against nature. This will allow you to continue to enjoy my semi-coherent thoughts about B/X without the 2nd edition stuff polluting your reading.

I have also had some great responses from some of you about my 2nd ed. campaign. Those that enjoy reading about that campaign can still check it out at the new blog. I will work on moving the session summaries and other notes that have been posted here over to there.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The tragic tale of my son's D&D adventure

My 4-year old son asked this morning if we could play D&D before school (he attends play-school in the afternoon). I am sure my eyes lit up at the question. Actually a couple of days ago I printed rpgKids from NewbieDM's bog.

I quickly got out my figures and my combat mat. I sat down with my son and he picked four figures and named them. We had Steve (a figure with a warhammer), Sir Knight (a knight - go figure), Greenie the elf, and Miranda the Magician.

I the described to my son that the four were brave adventurers and asked him what they were going to do. He replied that they were looking for a bad guy in a forest. I am suddenly thinking that my son is DM-material.

I asked, "Why is the bad guy in the forest?"

He replied, "because he is lonely and looking for friends."

I think, "Minions!"

So the story becomes that there is a fearsome monster in the forest that captured the princess who is a friend of the party (who the monster wanted to be his friend as well). The party sets off to find the princess. They quickly meet some small monsters in the forest and battle ensues using a d6-only version of rpgKids.

That is where tragedy set in. The fight was well in hand for the party but one monster managed to hurt Miranda the Magician. My poor son became quite sad that poor Miranda would get hurt. We ended the session as tears welled in his eyes and his chin quivered.

I guess he isn't quite old enough yet.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

B/X Unarmed Combat

I have been thinking about rules for unarmed combat and grappling the last while. This is because of a post a bit ago on Wheel of Samsara "The Eternal Pain of Grappling" and discussion about 1E AD&D grappling rules on an episode of Roll for Initiative. Grappling hasn't come up in my 2E Rise of the Runelords campaign which is good because I haven't read the 2E grappling rules in years.

In the Expert rule book (page X25) it states:
Unarmed Combat
Characters who engage in combat without a weapon (for whatever reason) will do 1-2 points of damage plus and strength adjustments for a successful attack. All normal rules regarding combat apply to unarmed combat.

So that does it for punching and kicking but what about grappling where your character is trying to grab or wrestle down an opponent?

I have typically used one of the following methods:

Method 1. Opposed d6 rolls. I think this is from OD&D, maybe an issue of Strategic Review or an early Dragon. Each side rolls a number of d6s equal to the HD or level of that side. So for example, a 4th level fighter is being grappled by 5 orcs. The player rolls 4d6+strength adjustments and the DM rolls 5d6 for the orcs (there are no strength adjustments as strength is factored into HD). High side wins.

Method 2. The Ode to Black Dougal Default System. Have the player roll 2d6 with some adjustments for relative sizes, strengths, circumstances, etc.
2= it turns out REALLY bad for the player
3-5 = it turns out bad for the player
6-8 = neutral
9-11 = it turns out well for the player
12 = it turns out REALLY well for the player

Using the Fiendish Dr. Samsara's example of a Sorcerer, finding himself not too successful with spell or weapon, wants to pull a beastie off a companion before it eats her shoulder. Roll 2d6 with some adjustments you feel are appropriate:
2 = It turns out very poorly for the sorcerer - maybe he is knocked down at the feet of another beastie
3-5 = The sorcerer fails to grab the beastie
6-8 = gets his hands on the beastie but doesn't pull him off. May allow for a bonus to try again next round.
9-11 = pulls the beastie off
12 = pulls the beastie off and punches it in the face!

Method 3. Probability of Success. I have been gaining a greater appreciation for this style lately. Just determine what the probability would be for the characters to succeed and roll the d%. Using the sorcerer example again, after weighing many factors the DM decides that the sorcerer would have a 30% chance of grabbing the beastie and pulling it off his companion.

How do you do grappling in your old school game?

Saturday, January 16, 2010

2E Rise of the Runelords - Session 7

Note that there are spoilers for Paizo's Rise of the Runelord adventure path.

Session 7: Assault on Thistletop – The Fire Goblin

This adventure was played on January 15th, 2010, and featured:
- Kobb “One Tusk”, the half-orc mercenary,
- Toran Stargazer, the young thief from Magnimar, and
- Asreal Nom, the human (Shoanti) ranger.

And also included:
- Kobb’s henchman, Kurzek Irontusk, a half-orc fighter/thief, and
- Toran’s henchman, Vicoren Shieldheart, a cleric of Desna.

And introduced:
- The Wanderer, the as yet unnamed Shoanti druid,
- Roland, the paladin of Iomedae, and
- Saphara, the female, half-elven magic-user.

Summary: The party sets off for the goblin lair of Thistletop to find Shalelu the elven ranger and to deal out some punishment for the goblin raid on Sandpoint only to come limping back to town defeated and bloody.

I. A Visit from Aldern Foxglove. While the other members of the party are defeating the Imp in the catacombs below the town of Sandpoint, Asreal the Ranger recuperates in the Rusty Dragon and idly ponders where he lost a sock. While sitting in the common room of the inn, Aldern Foxglove, the noble the party saved during the goblin raid on Sandpoint, enters the inn. The nobleman is wearing his usual finery, but Asreal notices that his pants, shirt cuffs, and finger nails are all very dirty. Aldern is very happy to see Asreal and once again expresses his gratitude for saving his life. He tells Asreal that he has been overseeing carpenters that are repairing his manor to the southwest of town. He also tells Asreal that he is returning to the city of Magnimar and would be very happy to provide hospitality to the party if they find themselves in that city.

II. The Party Returns. Shortly thereafter, the rest of the party returns from their harrowing battle against the Imp (see Session 6). While recounting their tale of heroism and valor to Asreal a pair of merchants enter the inn. They appear to be battered and bruised and ask about the location of the Sheriff. They describe to the party how they were traveling to Sandpoint from the east and were a couple hours away when they were ambushed by goblins. The two merchants were quickly knocked prone and the goblins managed to steal their prize horse. They claim that it was only the trouble the goblins were having manage the magnificent horse that allowed the two merchants to escape with their lives. They offer the party a reward of 300 gp if they are able to recover the horse.

III. Father Zantus’ Plea. Toran made his way to the Cathedral to ask Father Zantus for healing aid in the morning before the party sets out for Thistletop. Father Zantus asks Toran to return Father Tobyn’s remains if he has the opportunity and to show Nualia mercy if at all possible.

IV. A Narrow Escape. Kobb and Kurzek go on their own to make some final preparations for the short journey to Thistletop. Toran, Vicoren and Asreal go to see the Mayor. On their way, they narrowly avoid Justice Ironbriar by ducking into an alleyway. They speak to the Mayor about taking over the abandoned manor-house that was being used by the Green Dagger gang. The Mayor says that she would be happy for the party to have the house and fix it up. However, given Ven Vinder’s (who is on the town counsel) attitude towards the party (due to Toran’s dalliance with his daughter) and the recent controversy about the party’s vigilante actions on the docks (see Session 4), she is very sensitive about making the transaction appear to be fair from the town’s perspective.

V. Thistletop. After a short journey the party reaches Thistletop. The party begins exploring narrow passageways among the thick briars and nettles that grow in a dense tangle. They encounter goblins and goblin dogs which are quickly dispatched and find a lookout point that shows that the thick briar is on a Cliffside that falls 80’-100’ down to the sea below. From the cliff an rope bridge extends out to an oddly-shaped island upon which rests a fort-like structure. The party continues exploring the passages through the briars in search of a way to the rope bridge.

VI. The Fire Goblin. In a thorny chamber the party is attacked by a mountain lion. As the fighters and ranger fight the large cat a goblin shaman appears from a side passage and, using a magical wand , traps the party on this side of a wall of blazing fire. As Kurzek quickly closes with the goblin, the foul creature uses the wand again, this time to cast a fireball at the party. This magical explosion kills the mountain lion, Asreal and Kobb and knocks Vicoren unconscious. Toran and Kurzek are able to wound the goblin shaman who quickly surrenders and begs for mercy that was not forthcoming.

VII. The Rusty Dragon. Kurzek, Toran and Vicoran quickly flee back to Sandpoint and recover in the Rusty Dragon. There they are introduced by the Sage, Brodert Quink, to Saphara the half-elven mage with whom he has been in correspondence with regarding his research into ancient Thassilonia. Hearing of the party’s discoveries she has come from Magnimar to investigate for herself. She is accompanied by her half-brother Roland the Paladin. They also meet the Wanderer, a Shoanti Druid who came to Sandpoint in search of his friend Asreal.

Body Count: 10 goblins, 4 goblin dogs, a mountain lion, a goblin shaman, Kobb One Tusk the 3rd level Fighter and Asreal Nom the 1st level Ranger.

Treasure: From the goblin shaman the party recovered what were Identified as a Wand of Fire and two Potions of Healing.


DM Notes:
- I continued to stress the impact of the party’s attack-first attitude with the Mayor’s reaction and Father Zantus’ plea. We will see if it sinks in following the deaths of two of the original PCs.
- The goblins were straight 2E goblins and the mountain lion was also straight from the MM. I have a feeling that much of Thistletop will be easy encounters broken up by a few hair-raising encounters.
- I spent more time making conversions of some of the classed goblins to be found in Thistletop. Using “Altering Monsters the Easy Way” from Dungeon Master Option: High Level Campaigns, I made the goblin shaman a standard goblin with +2 toughness and 4th level cleric casting ability.
Goblin Shaman (AC 4, Mv 6, HD 1+1, hp 8, Thaco 18, #AT 1 scimitar, D 1d8+2, SA cleric spells, SD nil, MR nil, ML 12) Equipment: scimitar, Wand of Fire (8 charges), 2 Potions of Healing.

Spells: 1- Darkness, Cause Light Wounds (x2); 2- Flame Blade, Speak with Animals.
The stats for the goblin shaman turned out much weaker than the 3.5E version. However, in the published 3.5 adventure he was equipped with a Wand of Produce Flame. I toughened him up considerably with a Wand of Fire (Burning Hands, Pyrotechnics, Fireball, Wall of Fire).

I gave the party some warning however. First he appeared on the edge of the battle with Flame Blade cast, then he used Fire Wall in a position to just trap the party and finally used Fireball as the heavy artillery. In that time only one character went to engage the goblin shaman.

The reward is that the party now has a Wand of Fire, albeit with only 4 remaining charges.

- Toran the thief is the only original and frequent character. Goalrath the elven cleric is also still alive but the player has been working shift work and unavailable for a while. This has brought one of the issues of an Adventure Path to the fore as some of the future plot elements somewhat rely on developed relationships with various NPCs. Its not a fatal problem but it will take some re-jigging to either redevelop these relationships with the new PCs or figure out different hooks.

- I started using Paizo's GameMastery Item Cards. When I sat down to work on converting the encounters to 2E, I went through the cards and picked out specific cards for mundane and magical items for the big encounters which I then handed out as the items were found. I liked the cards. I will have to ask the player what they thought.

- I was hoping to get further along in the adventure but we spent the last while generating the new characters and shooting the breeze so it was all good.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Rise of the Runelord - 2E Specialty Priests for Desna

The last session of our 2E Rise of the Runelords campaign saw the introduction of Toran’s henchman, Vicoren Shieldheart, who is a priest of Desna. This required me to come up with the details for a specialty priest. Desna is the goddess of dreams, stars, travellers and luck. Looking through the Complete Priest's Handbook, I found that the template of the god of luck would be a good starting place.

Goddess of dreams, stars, travellers and luck

While the other gods created the world, legend holds that Desna was busy placing stars in the heavens above, content to allow the other deities to create a place full of wonders for her and her faithful to explore. Since that day, all those who look up to the stars find themselves wandering in the endless mysteries of the sky.

Desna often appears as a comely elven woman, clad in billowing gowns with brightly colored butterfly wings on her back. Delicate clouds of butterf lies frequently accompany her image.

Wanderers at heart, the faithful of Desna travel the world in search of new experiences, while always trying to live life to its fullest. Their temples are light, open affairs, with most possessing a skylight to allow in the night sky and a significant number of astrological charts to mark important celestial events.

Minimum Ability Scores: Wisdom 12 and Charisma 12. Wisdom or Charisma 16 or great is +5% XP, Wisdom and Charisma 16 or great is +10% XP.

Races Allowed: Elves, gnomes, half-elves, halflings and humans.

Required Nonweapon Proficiencies: Astrology.

Recommended Nonweapon Proficiencies: Direction Sense, Gaming, Reading/Writing, Religion.

Weapons Permitted: Starknife (favoured, see below), club, knife, lasso, net, quarterstaff, sling, sling staff.
Note: Besides the starknife, these weapons reflect "weapons of opportunity", the sort of weapons characters can make from things found on the road. The priest doesn't have to find his weapons but these weapons are the sort that he could make from found items.

Required Weapon Proficiencies: Starknife.

Armour Permitted: None, no shields.

Spheres: Major - All, Astral, Chaos, Charm, Divination, Elemental, Healing, Protection, and Travellers. Minor - Animal, Creation, Guardian, Plant, Weather.

Additional Powers:
- Turn Undead
- Found Mark - Placing a mark, typically the goddess' symbol, in some remote, distant place (appropriateness to be determined by the DM), earns the priest the favour of Desna and will be under the effect of a Bless spell for the next 24 hours.
- 1st Level: Can cast the wizards spell Suggestion, the priest can use this spell once per day in addition to his other spells. At 4th level twice per day, 8th level three times per day, etc.
- 3rd Level: Can use Traveling Dream (see below) once per day.

Traveling Dream (Divination)
Functions as the wizard spell Wizard Eye. Upon casting the spell the priest falls asleep for its duration. If the priest is woken the spell ends.

New Spell:
Dream Speak (Divination)
4th level Priest Spell
As wizard Dream spell.

New Weapon:
Starknife cost 20 gp, weight 3, size M, type P, speed factor 2, damage 1d4(S-M) 1d6(L)

Cal-con is about two months away

Last year was my first time at a gaming convention. I both ran and played in some games.

Cal-con is at the end of March and I am starting to try to figure out what games I would like to run. Some initial possibilities include:

- OD&D Castle Zagyg or one of the old tournament modules (maybe A1) - I know that I should likely use AD&D but it has been so long since I have ran 1E AD&D that I don't think I would be comfortable doing it at a con.

- a B/X game - maybe a section of Curse of Xanathon or of Stonehell

- a Tunnels & Trolls game (any good ideas about scenarios?)

- a Thundarr inspired Mutant Future scenario

- the Burning Wheel scenario "The Gift" using RISUS

Any ideas or suggestions?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Today's Trip to the Local Gaming Store

I was having a crappy afternoon so I stopped by the Sentry Box to cheer myself up.

1. I saw the new version of Labyrinth Lord on the shelf. It was nice to see it there. I didn't buy it as I have three copies of LL in hardcover and about eight copies of both the Moldvay Basic and the Cook/Marsh expert rulebooks. I wanted to leave it for someone who might not have it yet. However, if it is still there in about a month I will be hard pressed not to pick it up.

2. They didn't have any d30's! What is up with that?

3. I was also there yesterday (I love having lots of free time) and I put up my Red Box Calgary poster that has tabs with the wiki address. So it has been up for about 24 hours and there have been three tabs already taken. Now that doesn't actually mean all that much since I have had one poster or another up at the Sentry Box for the last year and a half and I have heard from maybe 15 people due to the posting but I still find it encouraging.

4. I bought a couple of Dark Sun accessories. I already had them in pdf but, like I said, I was having a crappy day.

Roll for Initiative

I like gaming podcasts. It began while I was still working and had to commute everyday. I would download either gaming podcasts or the best of various ESPN broadcasts (I am a huge NFL fan - Go Colts!). I still listen to them now when I am doing something around the house or some running around town on errands.

Some of my favourites are Fear the Boot, The Podgecast, the Trapcast (just my kind of juvenile humour) and Bear Swarm. I could always find something interesting to take away from them. However, they would always eventually piss me off with some comment that I would take offence to as being disparaging about the "Old School" style of play.

There is now a podcast which is more focused on my style of play. Roll for Initiative is a podcast that focuses on 1st edition AD&D and other old school games. There are only 5 episodes out so far. I have listened to all of them and I have enjoyed them. The first couple were a bit rough in terms of editing but they have improved.

So if you listen to podcasts or decide that you might give them a try during a long drive I would recommend that you give them a listen.

2E Rise of the Runelords - Session 6

Note that there are spoilers for Paizo's Rise of the Runelord adventure path.

This was the latest session and brings the session summaries up to date.

Session 6: Return to the Catacombs of Wrath

This adventure was played on January 6th, 2010, and featured:
• Kobb “One Tusk”, the half-orc mercenary,
• Toran Stargazer, the young thief from Magnimar,

and introducing:
• Arug, the Alaghi pitfighter (the replacement character for the player of the now deceased Vardinil the elf)
• Kobb’s henchman, Kurzek Irontusk, a half-orc fighter/thief, and
• Toran’s henchman, Vicoren Shieldheart, a cleric of Desna.

Summary: Fearful that Nualia might emerge from the caverns below Sandpoint and seeking vengeance for the death of their fallen comrade, Vardinil the elf, the party re-enters to Catacombs of Wrath.

I. Introducing the new henchmen. During the party’s recovery in The Rusty Dragon following their last ill-fated adventure into the catacombs, the party is met by an old friend and mentor of Toran, Vicoren, who has come to Sandpoint to find the young lad and try to keep him out of trouble. Kobb is also accosted by Kurzek who is the brother of the half-orc that was slain by the party a couple of sessions ago. Kobb defeats Kurzek in battle but spares his life in return for Kurzek's service. DM Note: After the previous session we discussed having backup characters ready in the event of more character deaths. I use the house rule that replacement characters begin with 50% of the dead character's XP. I offered that the backup characters could be henchmen for the current characters and actually earn the 50% but the trade off is that the entire XP pool would have to be divided between more characters. A couple of players decided to go that route.

II. Sheriff Hemlock. As the party begins their preparations to return to the vile cathedral under the Old Light, they meet Sheriff Hemlock on the street. He is worried that Shalelu, the elven ranger, has not returned from scouting the lair of the goblins thought to have led the assault on Sandpoint. He also inquires if the party has asked Father Zantus about the Cleric of Nethys (god of magic) described in the ledgers recovered from the hideout of the Green Daggers. Finally, he warns the party to try to stay clear of Justice Ironbriar who views them as unlawful vigilantes. DM Note: I am trying to drive home the vigilante justice thing and may prove interesting later :)

III. Introducing the new PC and another hook. The party then proceeds to the Cathedral where they ask Father Zantus and Naffer Vosk about the cleric of Nethys. It turns out Naffer was accosted about a month ago by an assailant that matches the description. The ruffian demanded Naffer’s vestments, holy symbol and robes. Being a former pirate, Naffer fought the assailant off and managed to pull a stone pendant of red marble from around the neck of the would-be thief. Vicoren identifies the pendant as a “cairn charm”, a stone often hung inside ancient tombs found in the Fogscar Mountains. The party is also introduced to Arug, a hairy Alaghi, a race of shy and peaceful forest-dwellers. DM Note: This is from the Complete Humanoids Handbook. I was originally hesitant to allow the PC race but decided to focus on the "say yes" style.

IV. Other preparations. The group completes other preparations before entering the catacombs such as buying a vial containing an antitoxin and whatever silver weapons are available in Sandpoint. Toran also begins investigating Sandpoint’s marriage customs. DM Notes & a Spoiler: Man am I looking forward to how this plays out especially with the beginning of the next adventure in the path, The Skinsaw Murders.

V. Into the Catacombs. The party enters the catacombs and investigates a previously unexplored stairway where they are attacked by a hideous flying head with dark wings and crowned and bearded with writhing tentacles. Proving his worth to his new companions, Arug circles around the flying abomination and quickly slays it with a mighty strike with his polearm.

Exploring another passageway, the party enters a room occupied by a twisted, monsterous goblin wielding a sword, a handaxe and a dagger with its multiple twisted malformed limbs. The room contained eleven deep pits covered with rickety, fragile wooden covers and each containing shuffling undead. After a fierce battle, the twisted goblin was slain by Kobb. DM Note: My big regret from this session was that I didn't make the mutant goblin try to push someone into a pit. I focused too much on using the creatures "mutant" abilities to make him seem weird when pushing a PC into a pit would have made the encounter more tactically interesting and frightening.

VI. The Queen of the Catacombs. The party entered a strange spherical chamber with metal walls that rippled with silent black electricity that seemed to form incomprehensible runes and words. Levitating in the room were a number of objects and the Imp that had slain Vardinil the elf. A fierce battle ensued. Arug was poisoned by the Imp’s stinger tail but was saved by Vicoren and many other party members were grievously wounded. After all of the silver arrows were spent and the party was considering a full retreat, the Imp was final slain. DM Note: I thought I was taking it easy on the PCs by not using her "at will" Invisibility every round but I recently read in the 2E DMG that you can't use it and attack in the same round (pg 64) so I feel better now. I am still trying to get up to speed with some of the 2E rules.

Body Count: A vargouille, 11 zombies, a mutated goblin and a tough Imp.

Treasure: The party recovered:
• a longsword, handaxe and silver dagger from the twisted goblin,
• a scroll from an ancient study, and
• a bottle of wine, a scroll, a book, an iron wand, a magical dagger, a miniature tiara, and an obsidian unholy symbol of Lamashtu from the room where they fought the Imp.

DM Notes:

The battle with the Imp was a tough one as it was last time as well. For the Imp I started with the standard Imp from the MM but I gave it a +1 bonus to hit points per hit dice, AC, Damage, Thaco and saving throws and I also gave it the ability to cast Monster Summoning I as a cleric of Lamashtu, the Mother of Monsters. Given that the Imp had an AC of 2 and could only be hit by silver and magical weapons and the fact that the combat took place is a room affected by a permanent Levitate spell, the party had difficulty hitting.

Other creatures encountered were a vargouille, zombies and a mutated goblin. For the vargouille, I didn't have a 2E version so I just used a 1E version. The zombies were straight from the 2E MM but they were down in pits and quickly dispatched with oil and fire during which I rolled zero wandering monsters even with all of the smoke and stench of burning zombies. The mutated goblin was a 2 HD bodyguard with 3 attacks (lots of arms wielding a longsword, a handaxe and a dagger) and an acid breath weapon that caused 2d4 damage (save for half) that was usable three times.

The player of Arug, the Alaghi, did a great job roleplaying the character's fear of magic and unnatural things. With his ability to grapple and possibly pin the Imp he could have made the combat a rather quick affair but the character was too afraid to enter the obviously magical room and greatly limited his combat effectiveness.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I got my Whitebox. You got yours?

I have to say that I am glad that I ordered my Swords & Wizardry: WhiteBox Edition boxsets - yeah, that's right, I'm bragging a bit.

It sure didn't take long for the expanded print run to sell out again.

However, Swords & Wizardry: WhiteBox is now available as a free download.

2E Rise of the Runelords - Session 5

Note that there are spoilers for Paizo's Rise of the Runelord adventure path.

Session 5: The Catacombs of Wrath

Session 5 took place on December 10th. This was the last session we had before everyones' hectic holiday schedules interfered with the campaign. My notes for session 5 are much more sparse than the previous sessions. It was a short session with a bunch of role-playing at the start and a short but vicious battle at the end.

This session saw our brave heroes:
- Met with a local mage and head of the village school to find out which of the items they have found to this point were magical. He offered to identify the items for free if the party would keep an eye out for leads about a large book that was stolen from the school's library. There was a number of magic items including various items of protection.

- The party then went to the Cathedral. Father Zantus was not back from visiting some of the outlying farms so the party spoke with Naffer. He recounted the sad tales about the Late Unpleasantness involving Nualia and Jervis Stoot. He also told them that Daylin from the Green Daggers had died.

- After hearing Nualia's story, the party went to talk to Hannah, the midwife, but she wasn't there. A passerby mentioned that she was often in the countryside in the mornings collecting herbs.

- Visiting the locksmith, the party pressed him for more information about the key but he insisted that he had told them all he knew.

- The party then returned to the catacombs below the Old Light. Cautiously proceeding down a previously unexplored hallway they first found an ancient shrine with a roughly carved black altar with a pool of filthy water on the top.

- They then proceeded through a set of double doors into a large cathedral. There they were confronted by an Imp.

- A ferocious battle ensued during which the Imp summoned a Sinspawn from a pool of roiling liquid, summoned a group of goblins, and displayed a number of other supernatural abilities - including poisoning Asreal with its stinger tail. Asreal fell to the ground precariously close to death (instead of save-or-die, I used save-or-nearly dead. He ended up nearly dead). All of the party's attacks appear to be ineffective. Toran heroically saved Asreal from certain death. Unfortunately, Vardinil, the elven fighter/magic-user was not as lucky as he fell before the summoned goblins' onslaught.

- The remaining members of the party quickly fled back through the Glassworks back to the surface and apparent safety.

- After recuperating for a few days, Sherrif Hemlock returned to Sandpoint with six troops from Magnimar and Justice Ironbriar, who reprimanded the party for dispensing vigilante justice.


DM Notes:

Looking back there were two key points:

1. The players and characters learned that things were dangerous. The party had been in trouble a couple of times in previous sessions but they really got their you-know-whats handed to them by the Imp. I think the players were a little stunned about how badly this encounter could have gone. They were lucky to just lose one character. The lack of much magic weaponry really hurt them. In the published adventure the Imp is actually a quaist with some levels and a template. I went with an Imp though because its ability to fly is an important part of the encounter. However, I didn't use a standard Imp from the Monstrous Manual. I will post my conversion in a future post.

2. Justice Ironbriar impressed upon the party that they could not act with impunity. We will see if this has any impact on the party's actions in the future. It also sets up other interesting aspects for future encounters!

Monday, January 11, 2010

2E Rise of the Runelords - Session 4

Note that there are spoilers for Paizo's Rise of the Runelord adventure path.

Session 4 - The Missing Key

This adventure happened on November 22nd and featured:

- Kobb “One Tusk”, the half-orc mercenary,
- Toran Stargazer, the young thief from Magnimar,
- Asreal Nom, the savage human ranger, and
- Vardinil, the elven fighter/magic-user.

Summary: While making preparations to re-enter the caves under the glassworks, the party encounters a different problem and hands out some vigilante justice.

I. Getting Ready: Session 4 began with the party splitting up and heading to various places in Sandpoint to take care of a few things before returning to the caves. Kobb remained at the Rusty Dragon Inn to have breakfast, Goalrath finished his morning devotions and met Kobb at the inn, Asreal went to the apothecary to find a remedy to the bad dreams he has been having and to help him sleep, Vardinil, after memorizing his spells, went to the village's academy and met the headmaster who is a former adventurer and mage to seek help with identifying some of the items the party has found, and Toran first went to the jeweller about buying a present for Shayliss and then went to a small shrine attended by a learned monk to try to find out some information about Sandpoint's history.

II. The Break-In: On his way to meet the others, Toran saw two ragged looking thugs ransacking the locksmith's shop. He quickly retreated to a shadowed spot to keep and eye on the thugs. When the dwarf locksmith arrived, he began shouting for the town guard and the thugs fled the scene. Toran darted after them, keeping far enough away not to be spotted but close enough to tail them. After the thugs fled into a disreputable tavern, Toran went and got the rest of the party and then returned to the tavern to try to find the two thugs.

III. A Chase on the Docks: Being unsuccessful finding the two thugs in the tavern, the party went out the backdoor and out onto the docks directly behind the tavern. After a few moments of investigating, the party spooked a nearby half-orc who quickly tried to flee. Jumping from dock, to barge, to boat, the chase ended with the half-orc turning and fighting the party. After the half-orc pushed a couple of party members off of the barge they were fighting on, the party decided that trying to capture him would be too difficult so the battle ended with the half-orc dead, a few party members soaking wet, and a number of dock workings looking on.

After explaining what had happened to the town guard, the party returned to the locksmith's shop, where Volioker, the locksmith, asked for their help to recover the only thing of any importance to locksmith that was stolen - a plain copper key.

IV. The Hideout of the Green Daggers: Following a clue they recovered from the dead half-orc, the party found an abandoned manor that was now being used as a hideout for small upstart gang of thieves, the Green Daggers. Many of the thieves were dead or dying from a "blinding sickness". After defeating a number of thieves and the thief/magic-user leader, the party found a number of clues indicating that the thieves started to get sick about two weeks ago. They were recently hired by a cleric of Nethys (god of magic) to recover a copper key from the locksmith shop in return for a cure for the blinding sickness. The cleric had picked up the key that morning left a number of doses of the cure but the doses don't seem to be working. The party also discovered a ledger detailing a transaction where the gang bought a charmed giant bird and then sold it to "Aspis".

Body Count: The half-orc on the docks, a couple of Green Dagger thieves that ambushed them in the hideout, a pair of identical twin halflings that used potions of invisibility to get the jump on the party, and Cyrathas, the elven leader of the Green Daggers.

Treasure: Most of what the party recovered was the possessions of Cyrathas, the leader of the Green Daggers.


DM Notes:
This was the first major diversion from Paizo's Rise of the Runelord's AP. I have been throwing some other hooks at the party but they have been so focused on Nualia's plot that this is the first one they have taken. I used the adventure from Dungeon #114 - Mad God's Key and adapted it for Sandpoint. I think it went well. It also allowed me to throw out a hook for Asreal's player to do some stuff related to his background (the giant hawk).

Conversion of the Mad God's Key
a 3.5E adventure from Dungeon #114

I typically use a very simple conversion process for NPCs to adapt a 3.5E adventure for my 2E campaign.

At low levels I keep the hit points as given in the published adventure. I higher levels I take between 50% and 75% of the given hit points.
I determined Hit Dice by dividing the hit points by 5. I then round up or down depending on how things are going or how evil I feel.
Thaco was calculated as 20-Hit Dice
For the most part AC = 20 - 3.5E AC, however if it is important I actually calculate based on the 2E rules.
And special abilities are approximated.

For example, the final encounter we had in session 4 was against Cyrathas, an elven mulitclassed rogue 1/sorcerer 2. So I wanted him to have some thief abilities and be able to cast magic-user spells.
He had 13 hp as given in the adventure

HD = 13 / 5 rounded up = 3
Thaco = 20-3 = 17
His AC was given as 15 so I used 20-15=5

Special abilities:
I used the base thieve abilities for a 1st level thief as printed on my 2E DM screen and didn't worry about making any racial or dexterity based adjustments.

For spells, in the adventure he has Burning Hands, Shield and a bunch of 0-level spells. So I just kept both of the 1st level spells as they have 2E equivalents and used Cantrip to replace the 0-level spells.

For magic items, I used the 2E equivalents for what he had in the published adventure.

Did all of this add up to a 1st level thief / 2nd level magic-user? Not exactly but he used a magic wand (Grease) to great effect, lost his Burning Hands spell when he was hit while trying to cast it, lit a pool of lantern oil on fire by knocking over a torch using Cantrip, drank a potion of healing and generally made for a fun encounter.

If you have Dungeon #114, my quick and dirty conversions resulted in the following encounters:

Chapter 1:
The Looted Locksmith - didn't convert as the two thugs fled and were not fought.

Barge End & Wharf Chase - lots of DEX and STR checks jumping from docks, barges and boats. Irontusk (AC 6, HD 4, hp 20, club & studded leather). He was killed - lots of explaining to do to the town guard!

Chapter 2:
G2 - Stirges (from the monsterous manual)
G4 - replaced Krenshar with a guard dog that was quickly made friendly by the Ranger
G9 - the Diseased Green Dagger Junior Gang Members were not converted because they were not fought.
G10 - Daylin (Half-elf, AC 5, HD 1, hp 5, shortsword & leather armour, level 1 thief skills) - he successfully hid in shadows and hit with a sneak attack on the Elven Fighter/Magic-user.
G11 - Spiked Iron Sphere trap - save vs magic wand or take 2d6 damage - this hit the thief after he opened the door without checking for traps. Fun!
G13 - Dalta Gwyn (AC I misread it in the adventure and used an AC of 7, HD 3, hp 13, shortsword, light crossbow, leather armour) and Collapsing Stairway trap - save vs breath weapon or fall taking 2d6 damage - the trap was sprung by Kobb the half-orc and he was severely hurt. More fun!
G19 - Tisa and Risa (twin halflings, AC 4, HD 1, hp 6, shortsword & leather armour) I gave each of them a potion of invisibility that they used just before the party came into the room. After the battle, Asrael the Ranger fell down one of the pit traps (save vs breath weapon or fall down to the 1st level and take 1d6 damage).
G21 - Cyrathas (conversion above).

2E Rise of the Runelords - Session 3

Note that there are spoilers for Paizo's Rise of the Runelord adventure path.

Session 3: The Glassworks

This adventure happened in mid-November and featured:
- Kobb “One Tusk”, the half-orc mercenary,
- Toran Stargazer, the young thief from Magnimar,
- Goalrath Shadowmoon, the elven cleric of Sarenrae
- Asreal Nom, the savage human ranger, and
- Vardinil, the elven fighter/magic-user.

Summary: The party explores the glassworks, rescues Ameiko and learns a bit about what is going on.

I. Goblins in the Glassworks: Session 3 began with our heroes quickly dispatching eight goblins with the aid of a well placed sleep spell. Unfortunately, two goblins that avoided the effects of the spell fled through a nearby door. Looking around the room the players saw the body of an old man who had been killed and had molten glass poured over him.

II. Rescuing Ameiko: Continuing on the party found some stairs down into the basement where they slew Tsuto and rescued Ameiko. She told the characters that Tsuto was working for his new love Nualia and that they were going to destroy the village and slaughter the inhabitants. They found Tsuto's journal which had a number of disturbing revelations. They also discovered a passage way that led to a cave complex below the Old Light - an old ruin which looks like a huge lighthouse.

After taking Ameiko to safety, the characters returned to the cave complex where they battled a number of fearsome aberrations (Sinspawn). Kobb was seriously injured (-2 hit points, another house rule) so the party returned to the surface and found aid for him at the Cathedral.

The party then spoke with a few NPCs to try to learn as much as they could about the origins of the cave complex. The local sage, Brodert Quink, told them about his theory that the Old Light was a ruin from the ancient empire of Thassilon and that it was an enormous war machine capable of hurling fire more than a mile.

The session ends with the party making plans to return to the cave complex.

Body Count: The party killed eight goblins, Tsuto and two Sinspawn.

Treasure: Once again this session was too long ago for clear recollection but I believe that the bulk of what was recovered was Tsuto's possessions.


DM Notes:

In the published adventure Tsuto is a half-elf multiclassed as a rogue/monk in the adventure. I don't have a good 2E monk class so I re did him as a 3rd level thief with the assassin template. He was equipped with blinding powder, a shortbow with 3 arrows with type A poison and 15 normal arrows, 2 potions of healing, a ring of protection +1, and a fragile glass vial filled with type J poison. Unfortunately, I was rolling poorly so the party quickly took him out even with a couple of goblin helpers.

The other conversion was the Sinspawn - another new creature in the adventure.

No. Appearing: 2-8
AC: 7
Mv: 9
HD: 3
No. Attacks: 2 claws & 1 bite
Damage: 1-4/1-4/1-6 + wrathful bite
Special Attacks: Wrathful Bite - save vs poison or be affected as a Confusion spell for 1d6 rounds.
Special Defenses: Spell Immunity - immune to sleep, charm and hold spells. Sneaky - opponents have a -2 penalty to their surprise roll.
Magic Resistance: Nil
Size: Medium
Morale: Fearless (20)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Rise of the Runelord - 2E Specialty Priests for Sarenrae

In our 2E Rise of the Runelords campaign, we are using the deities from Paizo's Golarion and specialty priests instead of generic clerics. However, I am just making them up as required relying on the Complete Priest's Handbook (CPH) for the templates. The first specialty priest we needed was for Sarenrae as one of the beginning PCs was a priest of that deity. The goal isn't to come up with an exact mechanical conversion of the 3.5E version but instead a quick, workable 2E version with roughly the same flavour.

Goddess of the sun, redemption, honesty, and healing

Minimum Ability Scores: Wisdom 12 and Intelligence 12. Wisdom or Intelligence 16 or great is +5% XP, Wisdom and Intelligence 16 or great is +10% XP.

Races Allowed: Elves, gnomes, half-elves, halflings and humans.

Required Nonweapon Proficiencies: Healing

Recommended Nonweapon Proficiencies: Herbalism, Navigation, Reading/Writing, Religion, Spellcraft.

Weapons Permitted: Scimitar (Favoured), Bows (all), Crossbows, Dagger/Dirk, Dart, Javelin, Knife, Spear.

Required Weapon Proficiencies: Scimitar

Armour Permitted: All armours and all shields

Spheres: Major - All, Divination, Healing, Necromantic, Sun. Minor - Charm, Elemental (priests can only use spells with the words Fire, Flame, Heat or Pyrotechnics in the title), Plant, Protection.

Additional Powers:
- Detect Secret Doors as Elf.
- Infravision as Elf (if race has infravision then double range).
- Turn Undead
- Can cast Quest as a 4th level spell.
- 3rd Level: Flame Blade, the priest can use this spell once per day in addition to his other spells. At 6th level twice per day, 9th level three times per day, etc.
- 5th Level: Laying on of Hands as Paladin.
- 10th Level: Chariot of Sarenrae, same as Chariot of Sustarre. The priest can use this spell once per day in addition to his other spells.

New Spell: Shield of the Dawnflower (Elemental), 4th Level Priest Spell - As Fire Shield wizard spell.

For the most part this is the same as the the Sun Specialty Priest from the Complete Priest's Handbook. The major adjustments are:
1. allowing the scimitar,
2. Quest as a 4th level spell instead of 5th,
3. adding Flame Blade, and
4. removing the Prophesy ability.

Red Box Calgary wiki

Inspired by the New York Red Box and Red Box Vancouver groups, I have been working on a similar idea here in Calgary.

I have spent the last couple of days working on a new wiki at Red Box Calgary. I'm not going to lie - this was no small step for me as I am a bit of a dolt when it comes to computers.

Next I am going to try to spread the word. If I can get a couple of people interested I am hoping to schedule the first session in February.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

2E Rise of the Runelords - Session 2

Note that there are spoilers for Paizo's Rise of the Runelord adventure path.

Session 2: The Heroes of Sandpoint
This adventure happened in mid-November and featured:
- Kobb “One Tusk”, the half-orc mercenary,
- Toran Stargazer, the young thief from Magnimar,
- Asreal Nom, the savage human ranger, and
- Vardinil, the elven fighter/magic-user.

Summary: The party explores the village of Sandpoint, meets some residents and tries to figure out what is going on.

I. Noble Favours: The session picks up where the first session ended - battling goblins. The characters rescue a local noble, Aldern Foxglove, from a large goblin who was riding a fierce, hairless, dog-looking creature. Nobleman Foxglove subsequently rewards the party and take a particular interest in Asreal who stood toe-to-toe with the goblin and placed himself directly between the goblin and Aldern. He invites Asreal on a boar hunt and to his residence in Magnimar. Asreal gently but firmly declines.

II. Heroes Around Town: While investigating how the goblins entered to village, the party was received as heroes wherever they went. Word of their prowess at repelling the goblins had spread amongst the villagers.

While discussing the attack with Sheriff Hemlock and Father Zantus it is discovered that the grave of the former head priest, Father Tobyn, who died in the fire five years ago was dug up and the remains stolen during the attack. Next to the excavated gravesite was the grave of Nualia Tobyn and on it was fresh flowers.

III. Compromising Positions: The young rogue, Toran was approached by an attractive Shayliss Vinder, daughter of the owner of the General Store. She asked him to help her get rid of some huge rats in the basement of the store. When he went into the basement, her true motivation became apparent with a cot set up in the back corner. After a few amorous moments, Shayliss' large father came down the steps and discovered young Toran in a compromising position. A good tumbling check later, Toran was past Ven Vinder and fleeing up the stairs without his pants.

IV. The Protectors of Sandpoint: Sheriff Hemlock asked the party for a meeting at the village garrison. There he introduced them to Shalelu, an elven ranger and unofficial scout for the village. He asked the party to stay in the village and keep up a high profile while he travelled to the nearby city of Magnimar to get some troops to protect against any further goblin raids.

A few days later, a servant at the inn where most of the party was staying came and asked them for help. It seemed that the innkeeper, an exotic lady named Ameiko, had gone missing and a suspicious letter from her estranged brother, Tsuto, was found in her room. Following the lead in the note, the party searches the family's glassworks and finds the workers slaughtered and goblins frolicking amongst the gore in the workroom.

The session ended just as the party engaged the goblins in combat.

Body Count: Besides the opening combat this was a roleplaying heavy session. The party killed a Goblin Commando and a Goblin Dog. The party took no casualties.

Treasure: This session was too long ago for me to accurately recall what the party recovered. I do know they were paid a reward by Aldern Foxglove.


DM Notes: The initial encounters for Rise of the Runelords are with Goblins so the conversion has been pretty straight forward. Of course, the published adventure has a number of classed goblins and I wanted to retain some of the flavour so I have given some of the goblins special abilities. There is also a Goblin Commando riding a Goblin Dog which is a new monster in the adventure.

Goblin Warrior 1 = Normal 2E Goblins
Goblin Warchanter = Normal 2E Goblins + the ability to use the spell Taunt twice per day + armed with a whip
Goblin Commando = Goblin Leader as per 2E Goblin entry.

Goblin Dog
No. Appearing: 2-12
AC: 7
Mv: 15
HD: 1
THACO: 19 (note that for monster I use the simple formula of Thaco = 20 - HD)
No. Attacks: 1 bite
Damage: 1-6 + allergic reaction
Special Attacks: Allergic Reaction - Any non-goblinoid creature that is damaged by a goblin dog’s bite attack must make a save vs poison or break out in an itching rash. Any creature affected by this rash takes a – 2 penalty to Dexterity and Charisma for 1 day.
Special Defenses: Nil
Magic Resistance: Nil
Size: Medium
Morale: Average (10)

My 2E AD&D Rise of the Runelords Campaign

Back in November, I began a 2E AD&D campaign running Paizo's Rise of the Runelords adventure path. I have been making a few posts over at Dragonsfoot about the campaign but I have decided to make some blog posts here as well. We are now six sessions in and I am really enjoying it.

We are about 2/3rds of the way through the first instalment and the adventure is quite good. We will see how it holds up as we go as we are not far enough along to have to deal with some of the issues involved with running an adventure path.

The group is made up of two players that I have been playing with for some time now and three new players. I have to admit that I am quite happy with how the group has meshed. So far this has been the funnest group I have had in a while.

Rules, Initial Character Generation and the First Session

For rules we are using:
2E Core
+ some of the Optional rules in the PHB
+ the Complete Handbooks (all material used from these must be vetted first)
+ some house rules

The house rules are basically:
- Humans gain two additional nonweapon proficiencies
- Ambidexterity, Blind-fighting and Two-Weapon fighting (and maybe a few more) can only be taken as Weapon Proficiencies instead of Nonweapon proficiencies
- Material components for spells are abstracted. Arcane materials have been added to the equipment list. They are the catchall for material components for spells. If your wizard casts a spell that requires a 100 gp pearl, I am not going to make sure you have it on your equipment list but I do want you to make sure you have at least 100 gp of Arcane Materials on your character sheet which can be used. If no cost is given for material components the cost will be 10 times the spell level in gps.

Initial Character Generation
We used 4d6, drop lowest and each player rolled two arrays. The player then got to choose which array they wanted to use. The resulting PCs were:

- Kobb One Tusk, a half-orc fighter with the sell-sword kit and specialization with a spear.

- Goalrath Shadowmoon, an elven cleric of Sarenrae (a Sun specialty priest from Complete Priest's Handbook plus allowed to use a scimitar and a few other minor changes).

- Vardinil, an elven fighter/magic-user. I allowed him to spend a couple of weapon proficiencies to be able to cast spells while wearing chainmail. He still has to make an INT check with a penalty equal to the spell level. If he fails he loses the spell. The player has also been warned that I reserve the right to screw with his character if he rolls a "1".

- Asreal Nom, a human ranger (Shoanti for those who are familiar with Paizo's world of Golarion).

- Toran Stargazer, a human thief focused on breaking and entering instead of traps and combat.

First Session
Following character generation the players wanted to get right to the action so we began a short session.

All of the characters were in the village of Sandpoint enjoying the Swallowtail Festival. Toran and Goalrath were eagerly awaiting the dedication of the new cathedral that had been built to replace the old chapel that was destroyed by fire five year ago. Kobb was enjoying some ale. Asreal was scanning the crowd. And Vardinil was listening to the speeches.

Suddenly the festival was interrupted by goblins rampaging through the streets - setting fires, butchering dogs and terrorizing villagers. The characters quickly joined forces and battled the goblins.

The quick session ended after the characters had defeated two different groups of goblins and were about to confront a goblin riding a fierce, hairless, dog-looking creature.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Pit of Tortured Souls Housecleaning

I have updated the download links for the first two sections of the Pit of Tortured Souls which I completed a long time ago.

Level 1A: Citadel of the Amazons
Level 1B: Kobold Warrens

I have recently felt the urge to complete more of this. We will see if it lasts long enough to complete Level 2A: The Foul Fortress.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Red Box Calgary?

Belated Happy New Year.

I hope you and yours had a great holiday season. My family had a wonderful break not withstanding the stomach flu bug which swept through our household between Christmas and New Years.

During the break I had lots of opportunity to read gaming related stuff. I went back through my collection of Fight On! and Knockspell magazines. There really is a bunch of great stuff in those.

One thing I have been considering during the break is setting up some form of "Old School" group along the lines of New York Red Box and Red Box Vancouver.

I have been talking to the event coordinator at The Sentry Box here in Calgary and it seems that most Sunday afternoons are pretty open in terms of table space on the mezzanine level and Thursday evenings are open in their after hours room.

Last year I was also talking to the owner of Revolution Games and he was also very open to having games run in the store. It's not quite as convenient as Sentry Box but could provide some flexibility.

I am pretty sure I could drum up some interest from some of the old Northern Marches group. I have also been working on a poster to put up at Sentry Box and other LFGS. I will likely mention it on the forums for the local D&D Meet-up group but I don't expect a lot of interest from that front.