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

Monday, March 11, 2013

Hex Stocking Density

For interest sake I pulled out one of my copies of Isle of Dread. For most, it is the benchmark for hex-crawling modules. I wanted to approximate the ratio of hexes-to-encounters. Using the methodology mentioned in my last post there is a 1-in-3 chance of a hex having a monster for a hexes-to-encounter ratio of 3:1 which gives me approximately 133 monster encounters in my 400 hexes.

Just eyeballing the number of hexes on the island, I would guesstimate that there are approximately 400 hexes (has anyone actually counted them? I am far too lazy). Using the numbered island map from the module which as 24 encounters and adding 5 for the number of locations on Taboo Island, there are a total of 29 encounters on the island. Let's round up to 30. I am assuming that all numbered encounters on the map are with monsters which may not be correct. I took a quick look and didn't see any exceptions but I could be wrong. This gives a ratio of 13 hexes to 1 encounter.

My hexes are far more densely populated with monsters than those on the iconic island.  I'm okay with this. One reason I am okay with a higher number of encounters on my map is that it is for an open, exploration focused game in the West Marches style. I want the PCs to go out into the wilderness and find stuff. Also, the there is an explicit social contract that characters will try to return to town at the end of a gaming session so the quicker implied consumption of resources that will result from more encounter will not be an issue.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Wilderness Hex Stocking

I am currently stocking a wilderness hex map. It is 20 hexes by 20 hexes numbered 0 to 19 in each direction.

I have mentioned in the past that I stock wilderness hexes in the same manner as I stock dungeon rooms. Each hex is treated as a "room" and I roll on the table in section E "Stock the Dungeon" on page B52.

Instead of rolling 400 d6's I set up a simple random number generator in each cell of a 20 by 20 cell spreadsheet in excel with a vlookup function that referred to a table that matched the one on page B52.

Below are the very high level contents of my 400 hexes:

Saturday, March 9, 2013

B/X Cover-to-Cover - pages B6 and B7

Quick thoughts while I read pages B6 & B7:

  • "To choose a class, a player should first look for his or her highest ability scores." - Moldvay was a rabid power gamer ;)  As an aside I always loved playing clumsy thieves, sickly fighters, clerics that are lacking common sense, etc. It is funny how often these "sub-par" characters can sometimes last in a campaign.
  • Strength, Intelligence, et al are called "ability" scores instead of attribute scores, stats, etc. The word "ability" is also used throughout the descriptions.
"Strength" is a measure of muscle power and the ability to use that power.
 "Intelligence" is the ability to learn and remember knowledge, and the ability to solve problems. 
  • I noticed a number of times in the descriptions terms (or closely related terms) that become "skills" in later editions - balance, endurance, intuition, knowledge, etc.
  • Ability Score Adjustments - "This adjustment shows that a character may practice hard and learn how to fight or reason well..." I always new the option for the 2-for-1 swap but I don't remember ever reading this sentence before. As such I find it somewhat perplexing that Constitution cannot be raised or lowered.
  • A very short description about Hit Points and what they are. No talk about them being part luck or divine favour such as found in the 1st edition Dungeon Masters Guide.
  • Surprise, surprise... I love the standardized -3/+3 ability score bonuses.
  • "Maximum Number of Retainers" - at one time or over the life of a character?

Thursday, February 28, 2013

B/X Cover to Cover - B5

A short post...

Thoughts while I read page B4 - How to Create a Player Character:

  • A nice clear and concise step-by-step guide to making a character.
  • I always used blank sheets instead of a Dungeons & Dragons Character Record Sheet. I do not think I ever saw that product for sale in a store back in the day.
  • "2. Roll 3d6 (for a result of 3-18) for each ability..." - it doesn't say anything about in order. I presume that someone could say prior to each roll which of the abilities that roll would be for.
  • "4. ... Magic-users and elves should choose one spell..." - the first hint of my strict reading of how magic-user and elf spell books work.
  • For years I modelled my character sheets after the one used for Borg the Fighter.
  • Not too sure why they felt the need to include an even more condensed 7 step version.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

B/X on Google+?

What are the main Google+ communities for a B/X fan such as myself?

Monday, February 25, 2013

My Underground Con proposal

The call for GM's has gone out for Underground Con. After some thought I decided to straight-up steal two ideas from Delta's D&D Hotspot. The games I have volunteered to DM are:

1. Corsairs of the Realm
The King of the Realm has quietly declared hostilities on the allied free cities of Greyhawk and Hardby, signing Letters of Course authorizing privateers to hunt and capture their shipping. The hostilities only last for a single sailing season; 16 weeks. If you set forth and capture three merchant vessels for the King of the Realm over the course of a 16-week sailing season, you will be proclaimed Barons of the Realm. However, the seas are dangerous as you must not only watch out for vessels from Greyhawk and Hardby patrolling the seas but also the legendary Kraken is rumoured to haunt the deeps…

A naval game using the 1981 Basic and Expert Dungeons & Dragons rules. It will involve three levels of action: (1) the strategic campaign level (which coast to prowl), (2) the tactical ship-to-ship level, and (3) the man-to-man combat level. Note that the names of Greyhawk and Hardby are just used for fun and do not represent the same cities portrayed in the Greyhawk Campaign Setting. 

2. The Northern Marches
The King of the Realm has declared that anyone who explores the Northern Marches and returns to the town of New Hareth with enough treasure to construct a keep (100,000 gp) to protect its inhabitants will be proclaimed new Barons of the Realm. Beware, winter is coming. Can you survive the harsh, monster haunted northern wilderlands and return to New Hareth with the treasure before winter comes?

An exploration focused old-school hex crawl using the 1981 Basic and Expert Dungeons & Dragons rules.

If one of those doesn't garner interest, I am considering swapping it out with a Battlestar Galactic game using a hack of The Mountain Witch - getting my new-school on.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Pit of Tortured Souls - Factions

I have been rereading my posts and notes regarding the Pit of Tortured Souls and thinking about next steps. It has piqued my interest again and I will likely do some more work on it.

Looking at the list of special monsters that I was planning on using got me thinking about what their relationships would be like. I think these will allow PCs to interact with various groups in different ways.


  • View themselves as the Ghoul-Queen's favorites
  • Look down upon the lowly kobolds and bestial gnolls
  • Are Sidra's hand in the wider world
  • Hate all men
  • Would love to throw off the yoke of their Gnoll overseers but know they can't stand up to one tribe of them much less two
  • Like to dominate the gnorlock slaves who are likely the only inhabitants of the Pit more lowly than themselves
  • Two tribes competing for the Ghoul-Queen's favour
  • Each wants to claim the Pit as their own territory and eliminate the other tribe
  • Pick on the weaker kobolds
  • Subjugated by the gnolls and kobolds
  • Some have escaped the slave pens and are hiding deeper in the mines. They secretly continue to contact those that are still slaves and encourage them to rise up in a likely ill-advised rebellion
  • Some that have escaped have ventured into the Cyst of the Slimes and have been charmed by the Great Grey Ooze
  • Some of the other escapees may be influenced by some of the grey ooze charmed gnorlocks
  • The gnorlocks in the mine ostracize and torment the few hobgoblin slaves
  • Eat Slug People
Slug People
  • Want to be rid of the mothmen and live in peace
  • Pathetic creatures that lurk in the shadows trying to avoid the Fleshshifters
  • Alien creatures that serve the Ghoul-Queen for some unknown reason and try to find subjects of all species for their vile experiments
Fire Salamanders
  • Hang out
Great Grey Ooze
  • Who can tell the mind of an ooze?

Thursday, February 21, 2013

B/X Cover to Cover - B2 to B4

Thoughts while I read the Forward:
  • The first and second paragraphs are the first very faint indication that maybe B/X is more "new school" than I or others may realize. Moldvay says, "Sometimes I forget that D&D [sic] is a game and not a novel I'm reading or a movie I'm watching." A novel or movie implies plot and plotting an adventure is considered not to be old-school. There are a number of instances where B/X contains "new school" characteristics such as balance, plot, and character-centric adventures that may would consider to be foreign to old-school D&D. I will try to touch on them as we go.
  • Acknowledgement that OD&D was written by gamers for gamers and was not intended to teach the game.
  • A brief mention of the goals for B/X: 1. easy to read, and 2. teach the game to individuals that have never played. I feel that B/X was a resounding success at the first goal but missed the mark by a bit on the second. I learned to play D&D with B/X but not without some stumbles.
  • "No rule is inviolate..." A key point.
  • My minor quibble about the cover comes into play again in Mr. Moldvay's story. Killing the dragon with a single blow is very unlikely in the Basic rules.
  • "dragon-tyrant" I like that moniker. I may have to use it sometime.
Thoughts while I read the Acknowledgements:
  • Lots of recognizable names. It still seems odd not to see Gary Gygax or Dave Arneson listed. I understand why Mr. Arneson isn't listed but it still seems strange.
Thoughts while I read Part 1: Introduction
  • I was incorrect, the first paragraph of the Introduction also mentions "role playing"
  • The first paragraph gives the first sense of character motivation, "fame and fortune"
  • The reward mechanic is also mentioned, "Characters gain experience by overcoming perils and recovering treasure" (emphasis mine)
  • The first reference to the Companion rules
  • Mentions that the rule book has 3 holes drilled so it can be cut apart and placed with the Expert rules in a binder. Did anyone ever do this? I know I didn't.
  • A full paragraph stresses that the rules are just guidelines.
  • I find the glossary definition of "adventure" to be interesting. Adventure = game session. Also, the adventure begins when the characters enter the dungeon and ends when they leave and split up treasure. These basic rules focus solely on adventuring in a dungeon. Based on the definition of adventure, there is no wilderness or urban adventures (contrary to B2 - The Keep on the Borderlands).
  • The Caller. We always used a caller when we were kids. It is a habit I have gotten away from.  This paragraph addresses many of the arguments that arise against using a caller. "The caller should make sure that he or she is accurately representing all the player characters' wishes. The caller is a mediator between players and the DM, and should not judge what the player characters should do." The caller does not have any authority to determine what other characters do but instead is a single voice to reduce chaos.
  • Basic is deadly. It is already hinted at in the introduction that death of a PC is no big deal since you can simply roll up a new character and continue playing.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

B/X Sword, Science & Sorcery Class: Synthetic

Modified from Goblinoid Game's Mutant Future. Completely unbalanced and not playtested!


Synthetics are highly advanced humanoids that are engineered and grown synthetically in vats. They have something resembling a vascular system that circulates a milky white fluid. From the outside they are completely indistinguishable from normal humans, and their true nature may only be revealed through advanced sensors. Injury will also reveal them for what they are. They will appear to be warm, living beings if observed with thermal vision. Synthetics have a polymer skeleton, with synthetic muscles. They are equipped with a power generation system that mimics biological digestion, allowing them to eat in order to maintain their power supplies. However, they do not heal and must be repaired. Synthetics do not have a prime requisite as they do not gain XP.

RESTRICTIONS: Synthetics begin with 4d6 +/- 1d6 per Constitution bonus or penalty (for example, a synthetic with a constitution of 16 (a +2 bonus) would begin with 4d6 + 2d6 = 6d6 hit points). Synthetics do not advance in level, therefore they do not gain additional hit points beyond what they begin with. Synthetics may use any type of armour and may use shields. They may use any type of melee or missile weapon. A synthetic character does not have any minimum ability requirements.

SPECIAL ABILITIES: For melee attacks, synthetics attack as a cleric of a level equal to the average of their Strength, Dexterity and Constitution ability scores divided by 2. The strength bonus/penalty for to-hit rolls does not impact their attack rolls but they do get the damage bonus/penalty. For missile attacks, they attack as a cleric of a level equal to the average of their Intelligence, Dexterity and Wisdom ability scores divided by 2. Their dexterity bonus or penalty for missile attacks does not impact their missile attack rolls.
Synthetics are not affected by sleep or charm spells nor any form of mind reading.

SAVING THROWS: as clerics.



Monday, February 18, 2013

B/X Arabian Nights - The Holy Slayer

I have mentioned before that I love the Sinbad movies. I have also been reading the 2nd edition AD&D Al-Qadim books. Some online investigation led me to B.J. Johnson's Saturday Night Sandbox and his Jann class to replace the elf.

Taking that inspiration and my previous hacks of B/X classes for my sword & sorcery classes gives us The Holy Slayer...

The Holy Slayer
Holy slayer is the term that these killers use to refer to themselves; those who are more critical of them call them assassins. These individuals are zealously dedicated to the service of their holy slayer fellowship, ultimately answering to the grandfather or grandmother who is in charge of that organization. Holy slayers are expected to answer the call to duty without question, even if that call should require them to sacrifice their own lives.

The prime requisites for a holy slayer are Strength and Dexterity. A holy slayer character whose Strength or Dexterity score is 13 or greater will receive a 5% bonus to earned experience. Holy slayers whose Strength and Dexterity are 13 or greater will receive a bonus of 10% to earned experience.

RESTRICTIONS: Holy slayers use six-sided dice (d6) to determine their hit points. They may use any weapon. They may wear nothing more protective than leather armour, and may not use a shield. Holy slayers must have a minimum score of 9 in both Dexterity and Constitution.

SPECIAL ABILITIES: Holy slayers have better saving throws than most other character class. They are very accurate with all missile weapons and gain a bonus of +1, in addition to Dexterity adjustments, on their "to hit" rolls when using them. When striking unnoticed from behind, a holy slayer gains a bonus of +4 on "to hit" rolls and inflicts twice the normal damage. Holy slayers are difficult to spot, having the ability to seemingly vanish. Holy slayers have only a 10% chance of being detected in woods or underbrush, and even in dungeons there is a one-third chance (a roll of 1 or 2 on 1d6) that a holy slayers will not be seen in normal light if the character finds some cover (such as shadows), and remains absolutely quiet and still.

Upon reaching 9th level (Grandfather), a holy slayer may construct a fortress. A holy slayer who has constructed a fortress will attract 2-12 1st level holy slayers who have come to learn under the grandfather. These will generally (though not always) be loyal and will not be replaced by others if they die or leave.


7.........Greater Propagandists........64,000................7d6
10........10th Level Grandfather......360,000...............9d6+2*
11........11th Level Grandfather......480,000...............9d6+4*
12........12th Level Grandfather......600,000...............9d6+6*
13........13th Level Grandfather......720,000...............9d6+8*
14........14th Level Grandfather......840,000...............9d6+10*
* constitution bonus no longer applies

This is pretty much a halfling with the AC bonus vs. giants replaced with backstab.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Basic D&D Cover to Cover - Table of Contents & B1

My thoughts while reading the Table of Contents:
  • The ToC appears to be very fulsome. There are 127 items listed in the ToC for a 64 page rulebook.
  • The optional items are listed as such.
  • Off the top of my head, there is nothing that I would expect to be in the ToC that appears to be missing.
My thoughts on reading page B1:
  • I really like the artwork by Bill Willingham. I have always though of it as a dwarf and a red dragon fighting a female elf, a fighter and a magic-user. Some people may feel it is too cartoon-y but I like it. 
  • The dragon and dwarf won initiative and the elf made a saving throw. We are now at the Magic stage of the combat sequence for the side that lost initiative and the magic-user is casting a spell (but the fighter missed the Missile stage, oops). Next up will be the elf's melee attack.
  • I always allow my players to describe what their magic missile spell looks like so I assume that this magic-user is casting that spell.
  • I like that the armour, helmets, etc are portrayed as simple and functional. The dwarf and fighter are muscular but their equipment is simple and practical.
  • The magic-user looks like a magic-user - star and moon covered robe, pointy hat, and wizened beard.
  • I think Willingham's signature is cool. 
  • Another example of the legalese on this page - more copyrights and trademarks. The C&D letters are already drafted.
  • Reference to the Holmes Basic edition is nice. Not withstanding what Holmes and Moldvay said about each others' Basic rules in Dragon Magazine.
  • A sign of D&D's popularity at that time that it was distributed by Random House?
Next: Forward, Acknowledgements and Introduction

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Basic D&D Cover to Cover

Well crap, I faded again.

The other day I did a Google search for "Ode to Black Dougal" and below the obvious result was a page on Alex Schroeder's wiki titled "Ode to Black Dougal" that amalgamated all of my B/X is My Favourite posts. It made me feel kind of homesick. The funny thing is that I am still on my blog page nearly every day but usually just to check the blog roll on the right.

The original purpose of this blog was to act as a repository of my thoughts while I got back into gaming  and finding a gaming group. Over time it morphed a bit and became more intellectual exercise than anything else. Eventually, I ran out of stuff to say.

Gaming wise, I have a great, stable (almost too stable) gaming group. We have been playing 2nd edition AD&D using Pazio adventure paths and having a great time. We recently finished the Rise of the Runelords campaign, and it was honestly one of the most successful campaigns I have DM'ed. I took great pride when, after having a chance to read the campaign post-completion, one of my players declared:
"Kudos to you, Patrick, for making it a true adventure path. If I had read these ahead of time, I would have declared it a railroad of epic proportions. However, it seems that we hit almost every single major point and I would have sworn it was all of our own free will."
Oh, the power of illusion.

However, I am finding my mind wandering to simpler rules, groups with messier dynamics, and campaigns that aren't as organized or as dramatic. This and other things have me thinking about my beloved B/X D&D: The call for DM's has gone out for Underground Con and I am contemplating what games I am going to run; I have been playing a lot of the Dungeon board game with my kids; and, K-Slacker (the player quoted above) has begun DMing a series of old-school one shots at a local game day.

There are a number of things I would love to do using B/X. For instance, my idea of a B/X-based sword, science and sorcery game never really got any legs (even though I would still love to play it) and there is still my sword & sorcery hacks I would love to try out, and I still consider a reboot of the Northern Marches. Of course, the issue is time. Given an active family and a busy career, the one gaming group is stress enough on the schedule.

For now I am going to try to content myself with rereading the B/X rules books and trying to convince my gaming group of a possible change in campaigns. As I read the rulebooks I will post some thoughts here and see how far I get.

The Cover

My thoughts:

  • The cover is a classic Erol Otus work and the same as the picture on the cover of the magenta coloured box that the rules came in;
  • When I think of D&D, this is still the image I have in my head;
  • I love the dungeon layout of the encounter. The stairs leading up to the doorway and the waterway fading into the darkness in the background just scream of exploring the unknown.
  • I love the fact that the fighter is wielding a spear instead of the expected sword.
  • There is lots of legalese on the cover - "all rights reserved", copyrights, trademarks - this is no longer a small press item done by hobbyists.
  • I believe the cover is the only place were "Role Playing" is mentioned (I will try to confirm this as we go).
  • The only quibble I have with the cover (and it's a minor one) is that the dragon-like creature is not explicitly in the rulebook. I know that I can make my own but, given this is a "basic" set, I would have expected the cover to portray an image that is easy to replicate with the given rules
Edited to add...

  • "For 3 or More Adults, Ages 10 and Up" - this is marketing genius!

Next: The table of contents