Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Sometimes TPKs are no fun

  At Saturday night's Midlands 2e Sandbox game, I managed to TPK the party with a trio of ghouls. The party consisted of A 2nd level mage, a 2nd level fighter, a 1st level fighter, and a hatchling copper dragon(using modified Council of Wyrms rules to allow one of the players who on average loses 1 character every session to play the dragon from an egg the party found). With many players being new to gaming, or returning from decades long hiatus, I've been trying not to be too tough on them.
  Anyway, the game started well enough, picking up from the time before where the party was attempting to rescue the mage's henchman by fixing a problem they may have caused for the locals. They easily found the ghouls, but when they moved to attack, the dice did not favor them. The Ghouls managed to murder the party in less than 5 rounds. So, less than 1/2 an hour into the session, we had a TPK.
   The group created new characters and tried again . . . for another TPK. It's a darn good thing that character creation doesn't take too much time. It soon became apparent that the players were becoming frustrated and they didn't want to admit defeat to "three lowly ghouls".
   That's when I, as DM, decided to give the players a break. I don't like doing it, but trying to create new characters for a whole party mid-session is no fun at all. It's always half-assed, and the players don't have enough time to really think about or get into the idea of the character. When you combine that with the players' desire to get vengeance for characters they actually loved, then it starts being a slog for everyone.
  Instead of all this, I decided to let the players use the characters they had started the session with, letting them use what the plan they had not considered until it was too late. The session was effectively reset, and though the encounter was dangerous, the party prevailed. We called it a night after that, and I warned the group that this was a once a campaign event. Next time, the deaths would stand for keeps.
  I'll admit, as a DM who prefers to let the corpses fall where they may(I'm not a killer DM, but given the low level nature of the campaign at the moment, I'm sure a few people might beg to differ), giving the players a "do over" makes me feel more than a little dirty, but all in all, I feel I made a good call.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Death Knight Kit

This was created in response to a post on Dragonsfoot.

Death Knight(Fighters Only)
  Becoming a death knight is first and foremost a punishment for crimes that place a powerful knight forever beyond the codes of honor he once held. The character is completely and utterly beyond any hope of redemption, having committed crimes so heinous that even the rest of the grave is denied the character.
Requirements: A Death Knight is ALWAYS of Evil Alignment. While the vast majority are of Chaotic Evil Alignment, a significant number are Neutral Evil. Because of their betrayal of their ideals, it's completely unheard of for their to be a Lawful Evil Death Knight, though that's not to say it could not occur. The character must also have a Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma score of at least 9. The original character must have also been Human, as the curse is one lain down by human gods.
Modifications: Death Knights use the Ranger/Paladin advancement table and are unable to specialize in weapons. If a character takes this kit after first level, he is reduced/raised to the minimum required XP for his current level according to his new XP table. A death knight gains no bonus hp for having a high constitution. Nor does he gain bonuses to attack rolls or AC from a high dexterity. Because of the nature of his undead state, he gains a +1 bonus to his Strength Score, to a maximum of 18/00.
Weapons and Armor: Death Knights are unusually restricted compared to other warriors. A Death Knight with Strength high enough to grant him bonuses to attack and damage only gets to apply these bonuses when using Long, Two Handed, or Short swords. Because of his magical nature, he also only benefits from the magical effects of magical swords. For Armor, a Death Knight is limited to the armor he was wearing when he was first turned. Regardless of said Armor's AC, his AC starts out as the AC of the Armor or AC 0(whichever is worse). Not even magic items may change this.
Equipment: See Weapons and Armor. Beyond this, a Death Knight may own any equipment he wishes.
Nonweapon Proficiencies: Bonus: Ancient History, Etiquette, or Heraldry. Recommended: Any General, Warrior, or Priest Proficiency.
Special Benefits: When a Death Knight is first created he becomes an undead creature. At this point, he's not much better than the standard corporeal undead save that he uses the warrior chart for Hit Dice/Points, and he has a 10% resistance to magic, with a 1% chance to cause the spell to reflect back upon the caster. Because of the nature of the curse, though a starting Death Knight can be turned, he is unable to be destroyed by turning. In addition, the character gains the following benefits as he levels:
  • +10% Magic Resistance per level(to a max of 75%), 2% chance of spell reflection per level(to a max of 11%)
  • +1(+10%) bonus to strength score at each level to a maximum of 18/00 Strength.
  • At 4th level, the character begins to command undead as a 1st level evil priest. This ability increases as he levels.
  • At 5th level, the character generates a constant fear effect in a 5' radius
  At 7th level, the Death Knight is able to either build or take over a keep of his very own in a manner similar to a fighter. Unlike that of a standard fighter, such a stronghold becomes a haven of corruption and decay, and very little is capable of surviving near such a monument to death. By gaining a Stronghold, the Death Knight gains access to the following abilities:
  • 7th level: Immunity to turning.
  • 8th level: Able to cast Detect Magic and Detect Invisibility at will. Able to cast Power Word, Blind, Dispel Magic, and Symbol of Fear once per day. All spells are at 10th level ability. These abilities show up not at level, but at each new or full moon(DM's choice) in which the Death Knight spends in his stronghold.
  • 9th level: Able to cast Detect Magic, Detect Invisibility, and Wall of Ice at will. Able to Cast Dispel Magic twice per day. Able to cast Power word: Blind, Kill, OR Stun once per day. Able to cast Symbol of Fear OR Pain once per day. Able to cast a 20-die fireball once per day. These spells replace the 8th level spell abilities. All spells are cast at 20th level ability. They show up in the same manner as the 8th level ones. 
  • 9th level: The Death Knight's Strength is now 18/00(if it wasn't already)
Additionally, a  death knight is not subject to the ravages of time. He suffers no ill effects from aging, but does gain the benefits. He also receives an additional +1 bonus to Intelligence for every 100 years of unlife(up to racial maximum).
Special Penalties: The big penalty to being a death knight is being a cursed form of the undead. Because of this, the starting death knight is Turnable by good/neutral priests, and controllable by evil ones until such time as the Death Knight gains some form of Stronghold. In addition to this, a Holy Word spell can unmake the creature entirely.This is the only way to permanently destroy a death knight.
Because of his undead state, there are two major combat flaws to being a Death Knight. The first is that the Death Knight is unable to heal naturally, and must rely on special spells or items to heal himself. The second is that, even if the death at -10 hp rule is used, being undead, the Death Knight "dies" at 0 hp. Unlike the standard undead however, the death knight doesn't stay dead forever, but will rise again in an age so distant it might as well be dead forever.
Any Death Knight with spellcasting ability must enter an inactive state(not really sleep, but it's a period where he suffers the same effects of sleep) for a period of no less than 8 hours in order to regain his spell like abilities.
In addition to those penalties already listed, each and every death knight is a unique being who came by his status via a curse. The DM should tailor the curse to each individual death knight. Some examples of additional curse effects include:
  • Being tormented nightly by the souls of those who died as a result of the Death Knight's action that caused him to become a death knight in the first place.
  • Being forced to break free from a prison of brambles/ice each time the character "awakens"
  • The character shifts every night of the full/new moon into the ethereal plane where he must fight for his own survival against a horde of ravenous undead that he is unable to control.
Death Knights who Fall after 1st level: A character who becomes a Death Knight after first level starts off with his normal abilities for his level as a standard warrior, and the abilities of a 1st level Death Knight. For each month that passes(on the night of the Full/new moon perhaps), he gains an additional level of abilities up to his current level. In the case of Fallen Paladins/Rangers, convert the character to a fighter first(standard fall from his original class) and THEN adjust as appropriate for the Death Knight Kit.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Life in Midlands, Part 2: Winter

Fog Month(28 days, 4 weeks, Similar to November, Full Moon on the 7th)
In cold years the first snows will start during this month. The colors of fall turn into the bleak grayness of winter. At this point most farmers are busy tending to their livestock, fattening them up in preparation for next month's slaughter.
  Ankhegs and Wyverns wrap up breeding season, while creatures that do hibernate begin to do so(Ankhegs, Many giant animals of the reptilian and amphibian variety). Goblinoids are finished raiding by the 7th, as the remaining tribe members focus on filling winter stores. Ogre, Troll, Lizard man, Minotaur, and most giant raids that were common during the warmer months begin to taper off as these races begin to gather in their winter grounds.

Holy Month(28 days, 4 weeks, Similar to December, Full moon on the 7th)
  By this point, livestock begins having some trouble finding enough food, so those involved with them slaughter many during this period. The colder temperatures. Salt is a very expensive commodity at this time of year as pickling and salting becomes a major industry in agrarian communities(which is basically everyone in the midlands). For the religious, this is also a time to leave offerings for the the Divinates(the Imperial religions' gods)
  Since prey is becoming scarce, Goblinoids may raid, but like the Ogres and Trolls, they too become less active during this time. What little the tribes do often involves expanding the lairs, and do not bother to send scouts outside the lair(many prefer to seal the entrances to prevent others from entering during this time).
   There are of course, a few races that become more aggressive during this time of the year. Wolf attacks tend to become more common during this time(the wolves are usually after the remaining livestock which they see as easier prey). Gnolls also become more active. Without the smaller goblinoids to raid, and with the larger races being a bit sluggish, the Gnolls' natural aggression and hunger forces them to clash with human settlements they'd normally ignore due to strong defenses.

God Festival(7 days, 1 week, Solstice/Yule/New Years/Candlemas/Einherjer, Full Moon on the 7th)
   For those who are a part of the Imperial church, this is seen as the most important festival week. It's a time to say farewell to those who died over the course of the preceding year. Candles are lit in the homes of everyone who has lost friends or family, and a small cup of alcohol is left on each mantle for each of the departed. Church services are held each day until the last, and on the day of the 7th, there's a huge party to say farewell to previous year and welcome in the new.

Ice Month(28 days, 4 weeks, Similar to January, Full Moon on the 28th)
   This is the time of year when tools and rope are made and repaired for the coming year. It's generally too cold to do much out of doors, and most people prefer not to leave their hearths. Gnolls are still a problem, as are some of the less prepared goblinoid tribes.In addition to those humanoids, settlements that were unable to stockpile enough food may turn to raiding other settlements to supplement their stores. One is generally advised not to be a traveler during this month.
   This is the month when winter is in its full power, and during the coldest winters monsters native to colder climes become an issue(Frost Giant raiders, young White Dragons, winter wolves, etc) as they sometimes stray south from the Northlands, or come down from their hidden fortresses on the highest peaks.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

In defense of character backgrounds

   A lot of bloggers have been talking trash about character backgrounds and deriding them lately. While I do agree that they are not 100% needed, they are an incredibly helpful tool for the DM of a sandbox game.
   Now, when I'm talking about backgrounds, I'm not talking about the rocks your character has tripped over as a small child, I'm talking about his relationships; his still living family, friends, mentors, and rivals from the days before when he went out to go adventuring.
  Think about all the times your players didn't all make it to the game some nights. You could of course just gloss over and pretend the player doesn't exist for the duration of the session, no harm done, or you could mention that a messenger arrived letting the character know something had happened to a family member, and he's needed at home. If your group is on a different plane from home, or too far for the character to travel reasonably within a single session, then possibly a friend or rival made it to where the players were staying and the PC decided that instead of going out adventuring.
   Background usefulness doesn't end there. A low level party looking for a henchman instead of a hireling suddenly has an entire roster of people to pick as Henchmen.Those players with living relatives and friends also have a place where they may be able to hide out(even if they have to endure listening to embarrassing stories of their childhood) to recuperate. It's a great place to store wealth in settings that don't have banks, and a useful tool for the DM to provide plot hooks that don't involve a bleedin' inn!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Life in Midlands, Part 1: Autumn

Harvest Month(28 days, 4 weeks, similar to August, Full Moon is on the 14th)
   Harvest Month is when troops return to their homes from summer campaigns to shore up defenses before the goblinoid raids make camping too dangerous. The peasant classes are now in full swing, finishing the last of the hay harvest and starting in on the harvesting of other major crops.
   Goblinoid tribes start fighting, often against other tribes or traditional enemies(Goblins vs. Orcs, Kobolds become even more belligerent against gnomes, etc) but they will not turn down easy targets of other races.
    Their raids tend to be much more reckless(+3 bonus to the morale of Orcs, Goblins, Kobolds, Hobgoblins, and Bugbears during this time), but instead of killing, they will take captives, even those of races they normally don't spare. Those captured will be tortured until the new moon just prior to the Harvest festival. The favored captives of the goblinoids are children.

Autumn Month(28 days, 4 weeks, similar to September, Full Moon is on the 14th)
  Autumn Month is when most humans(even a few nobles and most soldiers) are involved with storing and counting the harvest. Those not involved with that are making war against the humanoids to defend their settlements.
  The goblinoids have massively stepped up their raids, raiding literally anyone(+6 bonus to morale). The victims are tortured until the New Moon(the 28th) when they are all slain in a mass sacrifice dedicated to their racial gods as well as to Stalker(the goblinoid bogeyman/grim reaper). The goblinoids take the heads of these sacrifices, cover them in pitch, present them in varying manners outside their settlements(hang them from trees, impale them on spikes, leave them in piles, etc), and set them ablaze each night in an attempt to keep stalker away.
Harvest Festival(7 days, 1 week, Halloween/Oktoberfest/Thanksgiving)
  Those of strong faith in the Imperial religion spend most of the festival in prayer. For others, this is a festival of plenty, to celebrate the finish of the majority of the harvest.
  A tradition that started a few centuries ago, initially among settlers from the north(it's said there's a religious significance to the practice) has spread among the various settlements, regardless of origin. Children carve hideous faces into squashes, gourds, and pumpkins. Each night, these jack-o'-lanterns are placed around the homes and on the walls of the settlements, with candles inside them. The more jack-o'-lanterns a settlement has, the fewer goblinoid attacks the settlements seem to suffer during the nights of the festival. Many children also use this time to perform pranks(and blame them on goblins) while the adults tell scary stories of goblins, witches, and the undead.

Wine Month(28 days, 4 weeks, similar to October, Full Moon on the 7th)
   The various human settlements are involved with finishing the late plowing, and finishing the storing of the harvest. In areas with vineyards and orchards, this is when orchard crops are finished being gathered and beverages requiring year long fermentation or aging are bottled.
  Goblinoid raids continue throughout this time, as they seek more heads to burn each night. By this point the number of heads so greatly outnumbers the number of jack-o'-lanterns a community can make, that tactic no longer works for the humans, and is thus abandoned in favor of massive defenses.
   As if the goblins aren't bad enough, the people of Midlands have two more problem to deal with; the start of Wyvern breeding season. Unlike the younger wyverns that plague them during the spring, the Wyvern issue in the late fall and early winter is that fully grown male wyverns are on the move, leaving normal territories to seek mates.
   The other problem is Ankhegs. Like the Wyverns, this is their breeding season. It's also when they're seeking to eat enough food before the first winter snows. Males tend to be less aggressive until the end of breeding season(if they're unsuccessful in finding a mate), while females tend to be extremely aggressive, not only to fatten themselves up, but to create a pile of carrion for their young to feed upon over the winter.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Religion in D&D

  This is a rather touchy subject for me, and is what long ago inspired a "no real world religions" rule at my games. The reasoning is that most of the people I game with come from a wide variety of religions and beliefs, and some of these individuals take a dim view to having their gods or religions butchered in some game.
   In addition to that, I have some players who will not, under any circumstances regard certain religions positively(xtianity tends to have a pretty piss poor reputation, and tbh, that rep has been earned) and refuse to play in a game where such faiths are regarded as positive.
   What I have found that seems to be "ok" with most players is weak caricatures or facsimiles. If you make enough changes(#s of deities, names, overall belief system) you can keep political structures and 'rules' intact.
    In my current campaign, the Western Imperial church a weird amalgam of the Medieval Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches(as best as I, a modern heathen, can understand them) with multiple divinities. This seems to fit the standard cleric class just fine(and has the added benefit of not ticking anyone off). I'm not allowing the Cleric class to work with any of the other human faiths.
   Thankfully, 2nd edition has a plethora of options for building priests of other faiths. The PHB, the DMG, and the Complete Priest Handbook are all useful tools for this type of class construction. In addition, there are a ton of different priestly classes already present in the 2e library(Crusaders, Monks, many different types of Shamen, Druids, Specialty Priests, Rune Priests, and others).

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Halloween Game

Just a heads up to my readers. I plan on running a game on Halloween night. It'll be the Tomb of Horrors using the 2nd Edition AD&D rules. I'll be handing a stack of pregens to each player, and we'll play from 10 pm(Eastern US time) until people either decide to quit, or the Tomb is finally defeated(as long as I have at least the 3 players wishing to continue, the game will do so). If you have an interest in playing, please contact me at Arnkel@hotmail.com putting [Halloween Game] in the subject line.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Random Encounter Tables

I was asked recently about the random encounter tables I use. For wilderness encounters, I usually use "Miscellaneous Mishaps: The Great outdoors" from Dragon 259 and "Miscellaneous Mishaps: Roads & Rivers" from Dragon 275 both by Dawn Ibach. Both require the use of Monster tables however, and mine can be found here or in the downloads section. I did use some of the basic charts from the B/X RC, but the actual tables themselves are variants of the kind suggested in the DMG.  Currently, as my campaign is in a temperate zone without cities, deserts, or oceans, I haven't bothered creating any tables for those regions. If someone is looking for a more complete version, let me know in the comments and I'll see what I can do about posting them.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

I suck & Mass combat systems.

  Saturday night's game did not go as well as I had hoped, and I'm the only one to blame. For some reason the descriptive part of my brain just wasn't firing on all cylinders and it showed. The Death toll climbed thanks to particularly nasty random encounters(a group of four 1st level characters vs. a blind Bulette, and another encounter vs. a couple of Lizardmen).
  I know part of the issue was me not being decisive. Two people dropped out of the game due to RL issues, and another two showed up late and not bothering to tell me about until last minute. I was down 4 players out of 7 and for the first hour of the game I couldn't decide whether or not to call the game off for lack of players(heck, even they didn't know what they really wanted to do), but I really didn't feel like penalizing the people who did show up for the actions of those who didn't.
  That being said, what's done is done, and all I can do is suck it up and do everything in my power to do better at the next game in 2 weeks. 
  Thanks to the party's actions(pissing off the most powerful tribe of goblins in the local campaign area, as well as a decent sized kobold tribe, and possibly allying with a moderately influential bandit/mercenary band), I've been looking much more closely at which Mass Combat System I want to use.
  Though there are a fair number of stellar games out there, I'm going to use a modified War Machine from the Rules Cyclopedia. This is for 2 reasons, the first being that my move is going to keep me apart from the vast majority of my D&D books for a few months(and my bagspace for the plane is limited), and because I like the abstract nature of the system in general.
   For those not familiar with War Machine, you can learn more about it here. There are a few changes I want to make to the system to fit better with my interpretation of 2e, and I'll try to post them later.

Friday, September 30, 2011

2 Trap ideas

While playing in Rients' Caves of Myrddin this morning, my paranoia as a player(as a DM I'm a devious bastard, so I automatically assume that every DM I am a player under is at least as much a devious bastard as I am, if not more.) I accidentally may have inspired the DM with a trap idea. After the game finished, I thought about the trap idea myself, and managed to come up with a few new traps:

Dumb adventurer acid: You see that bright shiny treasure sitting there in a pile, or maybe in a sack, possibly even underwater. You reach down to grab it but are quickly met by the stinging sensation of acid on your bare hands! This is basically contact poison that functions more like acid flasks(damage over time starting with the affected areas and working its way over your body). The only means of stopping the damage, or neutralizing the acid is to douse the affected items/areas in oil, rendering it inert.

Greed Rust: You walk into a room and in the center is a massive glass coffer filled with gold, silver, and copper. The air of the room is choked with a strange red dust. The red dust is completely safe to breathe. It will not affect organic materials nor stone nor most metals. If gold, silver, platinum, electrum, or copper are exposed to it however, those items are instantly dissolved. The dust particles are fairly large however, so merely keeping the affected materials in a pack or sack, chest, or closed barrel will keep them safe. If the party decides to open the chest in the room, they lose all the treasure. If they remove the chest from the room, they get a glass chest full of treasure!

Thursday, September 29, 2011


  This is, by far, my favorite 2e spell. Even with all the limitations on it, it's the workhorse spell of any mage I've ever played. A lot of 2e players tend to look down on the spell however, so I'd like to discuss the spell and why it's absolutely essential for survival of a low level mage(and still useful at high levels).
  The basis of this post is the Dragon Magazine Article "Survival of the Smartest" by Lloyd Brown III from issue 229. Though I agree with him on many points, there's one point I firmly disagree with him on. The savings throw. The cantrip as written has no save, and I believe it should remain this way. As the effects of the cantrip really aren't powerful enough to warrant one.
  Take Bob the Wizard. Bob and his friends; Timmy the fighter, Jay the Thief, and George the Cleric all decide to go into a set of ruins. In one tunnel, the group of adventurers runs into a group of six goblins. The little monsters run screaming down the hall. Timmy and George stand in front while Jay guards the rear. Bob already cast cantrip about 15 minutes earlier(It has a duration of 1 hour per level, so casting it before combat even starts is a good idea).
  Bob uses his spell to pull the pants of the lead goblin down around his knees during the creature's charge in an attempt to trip him. Cantrip offers no save, but the DM rules that the poor goblin gets a dex check to avoid tripping over his own breeches(50-50 shot). The goblin fails and goes down, slowing the other goblins down as they either stop to laugh at their companion's misfortune or try to move past him. George and Timmy take the opportunity to counter charge, with George bringing his mace down on the head of the prone lead goblin. Timmy sadly misses.
  Jay then states that he wishes to try to Hide in shadows so he can attempt to sneak behind one of the goblins to take it down. Bob uses his cantrip to make the shadows twitch a bit, to help hide Jay's movements, giving the thief a +5% bonus to his Hide in Shadows roll. Timmy and George are hard pressed to defend themselves against the goblins, choosing to full defend to boost their ACs.
  The third round starts and Bob asks the DM if goblins have any hair on their heads at all. The DM thinks a moment, and responds that the Goblins do have eyebrows. Bob grins and drops his concentration on the shadows, hoping Jay is in position, and targets one of the goblins, causing the creature's eyebrows to grow to almost a foot in length, drooping down over the creature's eyes, effectively blinding him. Timmy sees this and takes advantage of the weakened creature, dropping it with a single blow. George also attempts to make an attack but misses. Jay attempts to backstab one of the little monsters but also misses, revealing himself to be behind the group of goblins. The goblins manage to do no damage against the well armored George and Timmy.
  The fourth round starts with two of the goblins breaking away from the warriors to take care of the thief. Both George and Timmy get to attack the two goblins, and one of the vermin goes down. Jay is evenly matched against his opponent. It would all come down to who manages to hit first. Sadly, Jay is a little too far away to get any aid directly from Bob, but the crafty wizard uses his cantrip to add a bit of weight to the goblin's sword, penalizing the creature's attack roll by 1. The goblin misses, and Jay hits taking the little monster down.
  Now outnumbered 2-to-1 and partially surrounded the remaining goblins are looking nervous and are about to flee. Bob knows the DM is likely to roll for Morale on the creatures. Bob states that he's going to use his cantrip to make the shadows in the tunnel twist and move like they are trying to reach out to grab the terrified creatures. The DM believes that this use of the spell would merit a 1 point penalty to the Goblins' morale check. The goblins wet themselves and run screaming down the hall, but don't get very far as George, Timmy, and Jay cut them down.
 This post is long enough, so I'll try to talk about non-combat uses a little later.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

My XP: Part 3

 Treasure XP:

Coins: For every GP worth of coins spent you gain 1 XP. This XP is only gained by spending money on certain things however, depending on your class:
  • Everyone: Buying/stocking strongholds/lairs. Money spent above and beyond the bare minimum necessary on hirelings. Commissioning works of art. Buying high quality equipment(such as fancy clothes and jewel encrusted swords forged by a master bladesmith). Note, if it's a "use" item(like spell components that get used up by the spell) it doesn't count for XP.
  • Fighters: Coins spent partying, and spending money on repairs for their own weapons and armor.
  • Mages: Spending money on research(both spell and other, as long as it's arcane or history related)
  • Clerics: Tithing beyond 10% as well as spending/donating money for religious works.
  • Thieves: Coins spent partying and on bribes, connections, information gathering, or "burn equipment"(equipment being used to pull of a single heist or assassination that will then be dumped).
Gems: You gain no XP for liquidating gems for coins. You gain XP for spending gems as money, but unlike coins, there's no limits on how to gain the XP(just use the gems as coins on whatever you'd like and instant xp). In addition, turning the gem into a part of a magic item or art object/jewelry will net double the gem's XP value.

Goods/Livestock: Food, valuable materials, and trade goods are all worth XP! Treat these as gems for how to gain XP.

Art Objects = You only get XP for art objects you keep. You DO lose XP if you liquidate Art objects for cash/gems.

Magic Items = You only gain XP for magic items if you make the magic item(though you may gain XP for overcoming and destroying cursed items). You may give away magic items for XP.

Next time: Doing Your Job(Individual Class Awards).

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

2e Sandbox Campaign Journal

 Since I know Campaign Journal posts go over like lead bricks, I'll just be posting them over to the right as PDFs for download for those handful of people who do wish to read them. Not sure if it will always be the case, but the first one does have maps and pictures.
  Yes, I've started the campaign at the Keep on the Borderlands.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

My XP, Part 2

Last time I mentioned what the categories are, but I ran out of space to go into any real detail. So here are some of the parts described in more detail.

RP Award: The RP award, at least at 1st level starts off as a flat 50 xp at 1st level. As the characters level up, I'll be increasing the amount that gets awarded. over the top, spectacular role playing above and beyond the call of the common RPer of course, will likely receive a little extra . . . provided it doesn't make me retch.

Goals/Achievements: Starting off, very few of the characters in my game last night had goals, still not sure about a few of them. We did have a couple of goals met last night by some characters. The mages managed to find a possible mentor and the Barbarian Sword woman managed to get some new trophies. As these were both relatively minor goals, I went ahead and gave 50 xp. A major achievement would have been 100 or more xp.

Exploration: Thus far I've given out 5 xp per room for dungeons, and 10 xp for major hubs/locations. Like the others, the value may increase as party levels increase.

Monsters: Thus far, I've only had to hand out xp for monsters killed. The players managed to kill 11 rot grubs, 4 stirges, and a wild boar. They only lost one mage in the attempt.

I'll discuss Treasure, MVP, and Doing your Job XP later.

Get Your 1st ed out of my 2nd ed!

Warning: Ranting ahead

  While I fully acknowledge that the modularity of 2nd edition, and the ability to import stuff from 1st edition is a positive design feature, I really wish the 1e players would go play in their own boxes. The rallying cry for the opposition seems to boil down to the idea that 2nd edition is not a real edition at all, but instead it's some sort of super-sized version of Unearthed Arcana.
  Before I get any further into this, I need to make some things clear: Dragon Magazine may have offered "legal" rulings, but they are NOT core. If it's not in the bleedin' DMG or PHB, it's only a part of the game by house ruling. On Dragonsfoot's 2e forums, one of the moderators posted this section from Dragon issue 121, Game Wizards article by David "Zeb" Cook:

"“In any case, no matter what you change in the AD&D game system, a good number of us will continue to play bards. . . . and whatever else gets axed or deleted.”" —- Steve Null
Please do. I anticipate that many out there will mix parts of First and Second Editions together to get the game they want (along with a healthy dose of DRAGON Magazine articles and other ideas). Do this! Have fun and use your own creativity. At any rate, rest assured that as far as TSR is concerned, anything you liked in First Edition is legal in Second Edition. If you liked First Edition bards, they’re legal. If you liked monks, they’re legal. Ultimately, there will be people out there who will be playing Version 1.0, Version 1.5, Version 2.0, and probably even Version 2.3 of the AD&D game. Perhaps we should figure out some type of numbering system like that used on computer programs!

The poster provided this as definitive "proof" of his position that what's "legal" in 1st edition is "legal" in 2nd edition.
  I have a few problems with this. One, this article was written in 1987, almost two whole years before 2nd edition was actually published. Not sure if my cynicism is the problem or not, but the "everything is legal" approach sounds like thinly veiled marketing. I think if Mr. Cook had actually intended for 1st edition to play such a major role in 2e mechanics by the time 2e was actually published, he would have at least mentioned it in one of the core rule books.
   The second problem I have with this idea is that in "Official Play" done by the RPGA and at various conventions, 1e characters were not "legal" as is until they were looked over and "converted" in 2e games. Monks and Assassins were not part of official 2e play to my knowledge(I never encountered any, that's for certain). If I'm wrong, PLEASE post in the comments section to tell me(My stint with the RPGA was short).
   Please understand that I'm not arguing that you can't do these things, or even that you shouldn't. What I am saying is that I for one would like it if people would recognize the fact that 2e has it's own solid, independent-from-1e system and mechanics, and that bringing 1e stuff into 2e is 100% in the realm of house ruling, not playing 2e as written/intended.

  I'll have a new post up later today that is decidedly less ranty.

Note: To the moderator who did the posting on Dragonsfoot: This is not a slam against you personally or Dragonsfoot. I didn't wish to hijack the thread and used my own judgement to determine that this subject falls under the category of "edition war" and is thus not suitable for posting on Dragonsfoot as per the ToS. If you feel somehow personally slighted, I apologize and ask that you contact me via pm on Dragonsfoot.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

FINALLY! 0-level humans!

Checking out the newest issue of Loviatar I immediately flipped through looking for the 2e stuff I knew was going to be in there. I'll admit, I was never really a fan of planescape back in the day, but it's certainly grown on me as I've gotten older(unlike Ravenloft or Spelljammer).
  Anyway, Christian, the author of the mag, gives us some interesting flavor text to describe this Outlands petitioner. The best part is, the character is 0-level. New readers are probably wondering why the heck I'm so excited about this, and if that's the case, I'll go ahead and direct you to a previous blog post from way back that you can find here.
  Not entirely certain what Christian plans on doing next for Planescape or for other 2e settings, but for those of you who haven't heard of it before, I definitely suggest checking it out. Despite the 3.5 compatible label on the front cover, the game isn't just about d20 stuff. There's been a fair amount of nWoD and even some GURPS in previous issues.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

My XP, Part I

XP systems have been a major topic of discussion in the Old School Gaming Blogosphere lately. Given that session 1 for my first online sandbox group starts Saturday night, I figure now is as great a time as any to post the XP system I plan on using.

This system is only good for 1st & possibly 2nd level. I'll worry about it more once players get close to 2nd level, but for right now, it's good enough for my game. The basic presumption is that I want characters to be able to earn roughly 400 xp each session to start. Using this number as a base, I then decided what kind of things I wanted to give XP for. The following is the list I came up with:
  • Role Playing: This one's a bit obvious.
  • Achieving Character Goals/Character Growth/Completing Plans: Since I'm running a sandbox, Story awards a bit hard to judge, but I still want players to get at least a little XP for achieving the goals of their characters. This would include things like finally managing to convince their idol to mentor them, or finally getting vengeance on the man who killed their parents. 
  • Monsters: This one is fairly standard. The one major change is that I want to offer the XP for Defeating enemies rather than just killing them. I'm on the fence about wanting to award XP for bypassing or being defeated by them.
  • Treasure: I like the idea of XP for treasure. I don't really like the way it's been implemented before. I also think that characters should get XP for certain things they buy(such as a Stronghold).
  • Exploration: Though I've posted a map or two, the sandbox setting I'm using has no up to date maps except the 4 hex maps(hexographer wouldn't let me save a PNG file of that size) on my HD and the one in my skull. Mapping and exploration should generate XP.
  • MVP award: This is one point where the players are the ones doing the awarding, not me. At the end of the session, I'll be asking for an open vote for who the MVP of the session was. That person will get an XP bonus based on the average level of the party at the start of the session. A die roll will determine the winner in case of a tied vote.
  • Characters doing their jobs: Wizards should get XP for doing research and casting spells. Warriors should get XP for defeating foes and leading allies into battle. Priests should get XP for defeating infidels and furthering the goals of their religion. Thieves should get XP for getting away with crimes or using their skills in such a way that it gives them some sort of actual gain.
 This post is long enough, so I'll go into more detail in the next one

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Wailing Blade

This long sword is an old weapon, said to have been gifted to the champion of an army of the dead. The blade itself is pitted and its edge appears to be in dire need of sharpening. The hilt is longer than normal, though little more than rotten wood. The Crossguard is made of nicked and dinged bone.
The sword, due to its poor condition suffers a -1 penalty to damage(minimum 1 damage). When the weapon strikes however, the victim must make a save vs. death magic. Those who pass the save suffer no ill effects. Those who fail the save are drained of a level or Hit die.
The wielder of the blade must drain at least 1 level/HD a day from foes with the blade or begins to hear the sword wailing in his head. The wielder is the only one who can hear the blade. The wailing causes a -3 penalty to Surprise checks as well as any check dependent on hearing. Each day that the blade wails, it drains the wielder of 1 point of both intelligence and wisdom. Undead are immune to this drain. A living creature that reaches 0 in INT or WIS dies and rises within the hour to become a Blade Slave.
Blade slaves are undead creatures with the same Hit Dice, THAC0, and Saves as the original character. The Slave however is a mindless killing machine, wandering aimlessly seeking to destroy all life. A Blade Slave who is carrying the sword, as well as any other undead using the blade may Wail as the banshee ability once per week per Hit Die.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Maggot Blade

  The Maggot Blade is a devious device used by assassins and torturers. The hilt is made of bone, with a strange light purple gem in the crossguard and a wavy snakelike blade. The metal of the blade is some form of blackened metal, the exact type is not immediately discernible. Close examination reveals that the blade's edge has a series of what appear to be tiny nicks.
  Anyone cut by the blade(or consuming meat prepared with the blade) must make a save vs. poison or become the host to  1 blade maggot egg per point of damage inflicted(or 1d6 maggots in the case of consumption). In 10+1d4 days the eggs hatch. After the eggs hatch, the blade maggots begin to devour the host in the same manner as Rot Grubs. Once the host has been slain, the maggots die within a matter of moments.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

2e Sandbox Update

 Ok, we've got the minimum number of players confirmed so I'm able to nail down a few specifics. The game will be played every other Saturday starting September 17th, 2011 at 9 pm Eastern. The game will be played primarily over Google+, though I've been told I can run Skype concurrently with very few problems.

  Though we have the minimum number of players, THERE IS STILL ROOM if anyone is still looking to join up. If there's something wrong with Saturdays for gaming, I can start a second group if interest is strong enough. The character creation information can still be found to your right in the downloads, or you can follow this link. Those looking to join up just need to send me an e-mail here: Arnkel at hotmail dot com with [2e Sandbox] in the subject line.

  To my normal readers who are getting irritated with this; hang in there, I hope to have a content post up soon.

EDIT: Group 1 is full. To R.W. Chandler, if you want to be the first guy for group 2 on a different day(or time), I don't mind starting a second group. Anyone else looking to join, just send the e-mail, same instructions as above and we'll get started building that group. :)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Call to Arms!

    I meant to post this at least a week ago, but Irene decided to pay a visit. I'm looking for 3 - 6 players for an online sandbox game. I'd prefer to do this over Windows Live or Skype, but I'm not opposed to running on Goggle+ if that's what it will take. The character creation information is in the  Downloads section(Player info for my Online Sandbox).  I'm looking to run it either Friday or Saturday night starting at 9 pm eastern(1 am Saturday or Sunday UTC) either weekly or every other week depending on player interest.
   If you're looking to bring in an outside character via the Flailsnails thing, I should mention that I don't actually recognize the conventions(but I may be willing to work with you to help convert the character). New to Gaming, New to D&D, and New to 2nd edition players are every bit as welcome as veterans.
   To sign up for this, just send me an e-mail at arnkel at hotmail dot com. Put [2e Sandbox] in the subject line. If you don't make the player limit cutoff, don't worry. I may set up a second game for a different night(or time) if I get enough responses asking for it.

Edit: I was asked Sessions will be around 3 hours in length, absolutely no longer than 4 hours. 
Edit2: We have 2 players so far, still room for more!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Bloodwood/Ravenloft Kit: Redhead

   Back when I was working on converting the Iron Heroes Bloodwood campaign setting to 2nd edition, and I was still actually using kits for it, I was 100% convinced that the setting was actually meant to be a horror setting.  So, I found a special note in the Van Richten's guide to Witches that mentioned that in some domains, redheads get mysterious druidic powers. Given the "Damn nature, you scary" tone that the setting pdf hinted at, I figured this would make a rather interesting kit.

The Redhead
   Prior to the Night of Blood, it’s said that the people of lakeshore had no redheads amongst them. After that horrible night, a handful of the women who were pregnant at the time of that terrible event gave birth to children with red hair, the trait has since occurred many other times, usually affecting children born under the full moon. It seems as if the Bloodwood itself has some sort of mystical connection to these children, and that they always feel the call of the wild.
Requirements: Available only to humans, and any class. Appropriate for anyone, especially those born near the bloodwood. Requires a minimum Wis score of 9.
Modifications: None
Weapons and Armor: Limited to the following weapons(within class restrictions): Club, Dagger/Dirk, Dart, Lasso, Sickle, Sling, and Staff. Armors are limited to(within class restrictions): Padded, Leather, Studded Leather, and Hide. Only able to use wooden shields(if class allows shield use).
Equipment: As normal
Non-weapon Proficiencies: Bonus: Survival(Forest) Recommended: Agriculture, Animal Handling, Animal Lore, Animal Training, Direction Sense, Disguise, Endurance, Fire Building, Healing, Herbalism, Hunting, Set Snares, Tracking, Weather Sense
Special Benefits: The DM determines a small handful of 1st and possibly 2nd level druid spells that the redhead gets. The redhead needs no material components of any kind to cast the spells. The redhead is able to cast these spells only once per day each. He gains a bonus casting of each spell on the night of the full moon(only while the moonlight falls upon him or when under the boughs of the bloodwood). 
Special Penalties: In addition to the weapon and armor restrictions, most superstitious peasants regard the character as a witch, and likely up to no good. As such they suffer a -4 reaction penalty when dealing with such folk.
Starting Wealth: Standard

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Lycanthrope Kit

   You survived an encounter with a Lycanthrope sometime in your past. In doing so, you contracted the dreaded curse. Now, you look with fear upon the moon, knowing when it hangs full in the sky, your human self will give way to the bloodthirsty beast that now dwells within. Note: This kit requires a copy of Van Richten's Guide to Werebeasts(or the Van Richten's Monster Hunter's Compendium Volume One), though you could play without it with a suitably creative DM.
Requirements: Any race or class is appropriate for this kit. The only exception to this is a class that has an alignment requirement. The player and DM must also choose an appropriate type of werecreature.
Modifications: None
Weapons and Armor: As appropriate for class. Expensive armors tend to be shunned as the transfiguration into man-beast form often destroys the armor that is worn.
Equipment: As normal
Non-weapon Proficiencies: Bonus: Animal Lore Recommended: As appropriate for Race and Class.
Special Benefits: Unlike many other infected Lycanthropes, you've had the curse so long that you are starting to be able to tap the beast within. As such, your character is only killed by the appropriate weapon/chemical types. If the character is taken to -10 hp via normal means, he instead remains comatose. He regains 1 hp per day. When he is again at 1 hp, he enters manbeast form thus regaining a percentage of his HP, but is automatically in a bloodlust state.
Special Penalties: The character is an Infected Lycanthrope. This means he only shifts as a result of appropriate triggers. He loses control of his character at these times. In addition, most normal domesticated animals know precisely what is wrong with him. When dealing with domesticated animals, he has a -4 penalty to reaction checks.
Starting Funds: As normal.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Winterborn Kit

  Born in the dead of winter or during unseasonable snow storms, some children seem to have the "Mark of Winter" upon them. They love the cold,  and seem to shrug off all but the most deadly of winter's chills. As a sign of Winter's favor, most winterborn have snow blond hair and icy blue eyes. Many seem to radiate a chilling aura. Their mark is also their curse however, as the Winterborn rarely show emotion, being as emotionless as the ice and snow.
Requirements: As long as the character has a suitably chilly background, they qualify. The kit is especially appropriate for Druids and Rangers.
Class Modifications: None
Weapons and Armor: As appropriate for culture and class
Non-weapon Proficiencies: Bonus: Survival(Cold); Recommended: Endurance, Fire Building, Weather Sense.
Special Benefits: +1 bonus on saves to resist any sort of cold effect(even magical) as well as to fear effects. Your character suffers no movement penalties when moving through/over snow/ice. If the Winterborn is fighting in an arctic environment or in winter weather and they are alone(or with other winterborn), they gain a +1 to attacks, and may continue fighting without penalty until they reach -10 hp.
Special Penalties: The winterborn is highly susceptible to heat and fire, taking -2 penalty on saves vs. those effects. In addition to this, most Winterborn are seen as cursed to die alone(and violently). As such, a Winterborn may never gain henchmen, and suffers a -4 penalty to reaction checks.
Starting Funds: As standard.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Response to Temple of Demogorgon

  This is in response to this and I think he was responding to this. There is one thing I've noticed that Mr. Brunomac seems to have missed. The majority of people who don't allow drinking at their games are under 33 in age(or are involved in other forms of gaming).
  It really is a bit of an age/culture war. The younger generations may be considered lazy and may have ADHD, but they're competitive when it comes time to have fun. In video games we have gamer/achievement scores, in board games and war games there are clear winners and losers, and in adventure RPGs of all types there is a competition mentality between DMs and Players. Oh sure, there are plenty of hippy storytellers all singing kumbaya around a campfire while crafting their shared narrations, but a lot of groups out there still have a competitive mindset to them.
  Where does this competitive streak come from? Partially from the rules being used. It's a "dirty" word but a lot of players realize that they have to optimize their characters. This is just as true in oldschool games as it is in new games like Pathfinder or 4e.
   Two reasons exist for this; The first is the oldschool meatgrinder. Levels 1-3 in most oldschool games are where most characters tend to die. The tendency of most players then is to make as powerful a character as possible to survive this winnowing.  The second reason is peer pressure. Most people playing in successful multiplayer games realize that the challenges they overcome as a group(be it raid group or adventuring party) is a result of each character and each player being at the top of their game, so there's a certain stigma attached to playing in a sub-optimal manner. Even if nobody enforces it, most players in these competitive games feel a certain amount of guilt if they choose to play with a less powerful character.
    So, whether you like it or not, we have a large number of highly competitive gamers out there who view the playing of games as a means of testing their own minds and "gamer skills" to the limit.  I'm fairly certain nobody can argue against the fact that after a certain point, drinking does hamper the ability to think clearly.
    It has been my experience, that those gamers under 33 years of age who choose to drink, tend to be disruptive to the game and tend to take away from everyone's fun when they're drinking openly. For whatever reason, this group of people has a tendency to not drink responsibly while gaming. This makes it fall on the host, raidleader, or DM to figure out a way to control the problem.
   The easiest way to do this is to ban drinking. Realistically, this is impossible, but doing so does seem to control the outbursts and cause the drinkers to drink in moderation because they have to keep it secret. This is generally considered the best course of action when the group is not necessarily all friends outside of the game.
   The second option, and the one I favor at face-to-face games, is host as bartender. This is harder to do as certain individuals may end up being offended when the host starts cutting people off because they're at the agreed upon limit. As such individuals rarely stay silent about their complaints, this ends up causing the game to be put on hold while the entire group ends up arguing for or against person X having another alcoholic beverage.
   So to Brunomac, it's not a matter of being prudish, it's because a large enough number of gamers are drinking to the point where it's taking the fun away from the other players, and becoming a problem that has to be dealt with. I envy the fact that you are able to allow drinking at your games, and hope to one day find a group that is able to do so without causing problems, but at this point, I think many of us have to deal with the reality that our current choice in gaming companions and styles do not mix well with the presence of alcohol.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Pictures from a Mushroom Forest

   This has been a pretty hectic week. But in what little downtime I've actually had, I've been spending time re-exploring Zangarmarsh, Deepholm's Needlerock Chasm and the Crimson Expanse, and the fungus area of Ahn'kahet.
   By and large, Zangarmarsh was the best done of the areas. The other three areas didn't seem as well put together. I was mostly looking for mushroom/plant variety as well as types of creatures living there. Ahn'kahet is excusable as it's in a "dungeon instance" while the Cataclysm areas were a fine description of how half assed the entire xpac is.
   I traveled around exploring on my main character and these are a few of the pictures I took:
Above is a picture of the smaller types of fungi commonly found in Zangarmarsh, as well as the ferns, mosses, and long grasses.
  Found these growing mostly by the various lakes in Zangarmarsh.  They seem to be like the fungal equivalent of a pitcher plant.
Glowcaps. A lot rarer than they used to be, Glowcaps are used as a currency when dealing with the fungus men of Zangarmarsh(the Sporelings).
 Found these glowing green spots near Umbrafen Village. They were also somewhat prevalent near Feralfen village. Not sure if they're supposed to be a type of glowing moss, or a sign that the Lost Ones(degenerated swamp dwelling dranei) have been farming the various fungi types.
One of the more common and colorful predators in the marsh, a Fen Stider. They are one of the different types of creatures called spore walkers.

That's all for today, as I know this post is going to take forever to load as is. Next time I'll show more pictures, or maybe offer a few descriptions for my Mushroom Forest sandbox.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

[Sandbox]Village of Kerrow

         Kerrow is a frontier community, established 20 years ago by the Old Baron Kerrow. It is located within a misty valley somewhere in the Frostfang Mountains, long regarded as an untamable and unexplored territory.
         The village was founded after scouts discovered the relatively warm and fertile lands in the area. Baron Kerrow freed the poorest of his serfs and sent them, as well as some of his older knights to found a village within the misty, mushroom filled, valley. The families owe the baron a portion of their production each year in payment for this.
          The people of Kerrow are mostly farmers, where the children work in the fields with their parents. While originally there were only ten families, many of the children born in the first couple of years have begun to build homes of their own. In addition to the farmers and aging soldiers, a small group of merchants make their homes in the village. Unlike the others, they were not ordered to come by the baron, but chose to follow the settlers in search of profit. They have sacrificed and spent sizable amounts of money to come here, and none are willing to take another loss.
          The village is defended by a militia of roughly ten men. A mix of aging knights and raw recruits, the militia has a haphazard appearance. Surrounding the village is a rotting wooden pallisade. The pallisade really is more for show than anything else. Thus far, it has deterred the village's enemies, but it's unlikely that this will continue to be the case, and the village will either have to bring in more wood from outside the valley, or figure out some other means of constructing a suitable defense.
         The persistent humidity and rains of the valley have caused the villagers to look for new sources for most of the things they need. Since no trees grow in the valley, they have had to find different building materials. At first the villagers tried to build homes from the giant mushrooms, attempting to cut the "trunks" of the giant mushrooms as if they were trees. This did not work out so well as the fibrous interior of the mushroom "logs" were not a very stable building material, often warping and crumbling. 
         The villagers eventually found a large quantity of relatively flat rocks. They ended up piling these rocks up in a circle as securely as possible. Atop these house walls, the top of one of the large mushrooms is placed, with a hole in the center to function as a chimney. For whatever reason, the mushroom tops do not tend to warp or crumble the way the trunks do. This results in all the houses in the village being circular in shape. 

More to come!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

[Sandbox] The Valley

  The Valley is believed to be the site where an ancient deity or fiend(which is a matter of some debate) is said to have fallen after being slain in some war on the outer planes. Very few settlements exist within the valley, mostly being populated by adventurers, fugitives, refugees, and other down and out sorts who prefer the isolation.
   There are many things that stand out about the valley to any visitor, but the first thing most notice is the mushrooms. There are no actual trees in the valley. Instead, massive mushrooms grow up hundreds of feet tall. In fact, mushrooms are generally considered the dominant form of "vegetation" in the valley.
   The second thing visitors notice is the fog. The valley is blessed with an overabundance of hot springs that leave the valley. These hot springs, combined with the enormous height of the valley's outer edge results in the valley having a temperate rainforest climate. With all the steam generated by the pools, combining with loose dust(and the multitude of wind-borne spores), a person on the floor of the valley never sees daylight or stars.
    That doesn't mean however that the valley is actually dark. During the day, the sun does shine, but it's the gray lighting of a rainy day(and it's almost always raining). At night, the "forests" come alive with a multitude of colors thanks to the bioluminescence of the many "plants." This light is bright enough for a human to only see a few feet ahead of himself(think very dim lighting or moderate levels of fog), but not enough to hinder creatures with light sensitivity.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Mushroom Forests

  I don't know why, but my favorite fantasy location has always been the mushroom forest. Be it the underdark cavern filled with mushrooms of various sizes or the fey/alien feeling mushroom forests of the surface world, with towering 'shrooms that blot out the sun. I can't get enough of em. Back when I was a bit more dedicated to playing World of Warcraft, my favorite zone in the game was Zangarmarsh.
My fiance thinks I'm crazy, but I really want to move here instead of a land with kangaroos
   Given that my family campaign has been put on hold since living arrangements, jobs, and other things are all in a jumble and require my showing a level of patience that would test stone, I think I'm going to start designing a small mushroom forest valley for a sandbox.

Friday, July 29, 2011

What (Tolkien)Dwarves should look like

 There's been a fair bit of fluster on the interwebs of late regarding the dwarves of the upcoming Hobbit films. The controversy is the appearance of the dwarves. It may be a tad racist/stereotypical of me, but I'm a strong believer in the idea that the kind of language you speak is a good indicator of how your culture behaves, and since I once read that Tolkien's dwarven language was at least partially based on Hebrew(and given how lawful most games regard dwarves as being), I've been picturing dwarves like this:

The question we're all dying to ask: Are Dragons Kosher?
  Just TRY telling me that there aren't some serious parallels between the common perception of Dwarves and the people of Anatevka from Fiddler on the Roof(imagining the people in that film as dwarves is the only way I can tolerate it anyway). Since I'm probably going to get flamed over this post anyway, I'd like to also point out that the Dwarves from Athas(Dark Sun) act in a manner I've always imagined as pretty similar to the Jews of the old testament. Heck, they even treat their histories in much the same way as certain branches of Judaism seem to treat their Torah.
   Certainly something for everyone to think about.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

2nd Edition: The Game you have (probably) Never Played, Part 20

     The two core books are done. The various rules gone over. I could have gone through with a fine tooth comb, but I'm not looking to turn my blog into the 2nd edition version of d20srd.org.
   By and large, there were only a few "core" rules I didn't know about. As few as they are, they would still make a big impact on the game. Regardless, I still think the core game is less complicated than most give it credit for.
   In terms of game balance, I think the class to most get the shaft power wise is the wizard because of the initiative penalty caused by casting spells. Benefiting the most would be the fighter, he may be somewhat lackluster in terms of mechanics, but being able to use any weapon the party ever comes across without penalty is certainly a pretty huge advantage.
   The big question when I started this was, without the optional rules, is 2nd edition playable? I think the answer is most emphatically a yes, and it looks like it would be a pretty fun game to try out, or even play long term. I'll certainly be removing most of the optional rules I didn't know were optional when I next play.
    In closing, I'd like to just remind anyone looking to DM any version of D&D that every rule is optional. Like the Creed from a certain series of video games about assassins the rules do "not command us to be free. They command us to be wise."

  Not sure what I'll be posting next, a lot of really interesting things came up in the blog, blogosphere, my games, and on Dragonsfoot. Also stay tuned to the downloads section as I may begin posting more things to use for your own games.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

2nd Edition: The Game you have (probably) Never Played, Part 19

DMG Appendices II & III: The Wonderful World of Magic Items
  I think even if they don't own it, most long time players are intimately familiar with the contents of these appendices. At low levels, everyone hopes for some random rolls because chances are, there will be some higher level toys generated, and at higher levels, everyone hopes the DM decides to just use a more level appropriate item instead.
    There's only one major optional rule in this section, and that governs the use of command words. Yup, what a lot of DMs irritated you with back in 2nd edition's heyday was an optional rule. Beyond this, there are a fair number of "little" rules that a lot of people overlook(and which really should have gone on a DM's screen.
   The Potion Compatibility table is just one example. Yes, sorry to tell you this, but if you chug down more than one healing potion in a single turn, by the book, there's a chance you've actually created and ingested a lethal poison.
   Next is spell scrolls. Thieves aren't the only ones who take a risk when using these things. If a wizard or cleric attempts to cast a higher level spell than what they'd normally be able to cast because they're using a scroll, then there's a chance(depending on level) as to whether the scroll will fail or backfire. Keep that in mind when you find a Scroll of Wish at 1st level!
   The last major overlooked rule is Armor sizing. Magical armor only re-sizes but so much, and comes in only a few sizes. The sizes are: Human(65%), Elven(20%), Dwarf(10%), Halfling/Gnome(5%). Elven chainmail has its own sizing chart. That means your desire to play a Hill Giant Fighter means you'll have to wait until the party Mage or Cleric is level 11+ before you get any sort of magic protections. Either that or you're going to have to go graverob a long dead giant.

Next time: Final Notes

Monday, July 25, 2011

2nd Edition: The Game You have (probably) never played, part 18

DMG Appendix I: Treasure and Gem Tables
  For some reason, when I first got my DMG, these, along with the magic item charts were my favorites in the whole book. I didn't understand how to use them(not having an MM at the time), but having seen The Goonies, I knew that treasure is something everybody wants.
  As I got older though, I liked the charts less and less. I ended up going with various other systems, only ever really returning to these when I had to roll up a dragon hoard, and even then I didn't like doing it. sometime after this series is finished, I'm hoping to offer my treasure charts either as a normal blog post or over in the downloads section.
 One can say that Appendix I is divided into 3 parts. The first part being the intelligent monster lair treasure. Treasure of these types were A through I. Most of the time when rolling, you'll generate at least one type of treasure for your lair.
   The second part of the appendix is the treasure carried with intelligent creatures or strewn about the lairs of unintelligent creatures. You don't usually roll to see if you get treasure, just how much.
   The last part of Appendix I is the Gems and Art Objects. The Gem section is decent enough, allowing DMs to roll up gems, and even offering a variation so players don't know exactly how much any particular gem is worth without some form of specialist knowledge. The Art Objects however is kinda lackluster though. It's solely a chart determining value of the object. I understand that it's impossible to cover everything but come on, maybe a small table with a few ideas? This part was certainly not beginner DM friendly.

Next time: Appendices 2 and 3 of the DMG: Magic items for everybody!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

2nd Edition: The Game You have (probably) never played, part 17

The PHB Appendices: More Spells than you can shake a stick at!

   The PHB appendices are all about spells. Appendix 1 is nothing but spells by level divided between Wizard and Priest spells. This is a fairly useful appendix, though I wish they'd made it a little more friendly by assigning the spells to a table for random spell rolls(at the very least for wizards!).
   Appendix 2 is divided into two parts. The first part is a description and explanation on how to read the standard spell format. The second part is adjucating illusions. There are actually things to point out here. Instantly fatal effects such as collapsed ceilings, inescapable pit traps, etc. don't grant a save. Instead they cause a system shock check. Failure indicates that the victim's brain kills the victim because it believes it has been killed. Those who succeed are not affected. A caster attempting to use an illusion to duplicate spell effects may only convincingly pull off spells he could cast at his own level of ability. Thus, a 3rd level caster could convincingly create an illusion of a 2 missile magic missile, but not three missiles. Additionally, nobody would believe the fireball he would attempt to duplicate. Monster special attacks(petrification, breath weapon, etc) can only be duplicated if the character has suffered those effects before from a real source. By core rules, a caster is NOT limited on how many hit dice an illusion would have(unless there's a limit in the spell description), and the illusion attacks at standard values for the creature(unless noted in spell description).
    There is no roll actually required for a PC to disbelieve(though a DM is free to call for one anyway) in 2nd edition. The only thing that has to happen is that the Player must state he is disbelieving, and give a reason for disbelief based on in-game physical clues. It should be noted that if a character chooses this route and the effect is NOT an illusion, disbelieving actually forfeits any save he might have gotten. The standard for NPCs is that they make a saving throw vs spell.
   Appendices 3 and 4 are the spell descriptions, Wizard spells in Level order in 3, Priest spells in level order in 4. Appendix 6 is spells listed by school for wizards and by sphere for priests. Appendix 7 is the spell index.

Next time: At least going to start on the DMG appendices.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

2nd Edition: The Game You have (probably) never played, part 16

The DM's Miscellany
  To be honest, this is the chapter that does make me wonder exactly what was going through the heads of the editors and game designers at TSR when they wrote 2nd edition. Most of the rules in this chapter, while all core, really belong in other chapters, or in an appendix all their own.
   First up is listening. I really believe they should have expanded the visibility chapter(or the encounter chapter) to include listening. The next thing is Secret/Concealed doors. Unless you're an elf or you're a dwarf and the door is stone, there are no actual rules for determining how to find these things. The "Official" response from TSR at the time was "If you look for the door and it's there, you find it. Others have stated that this is proof that 2nd edition is an incomplete game, and you need knowledge of 1st edition rules to play. The third option, and the option that is 100% core because it's actually printed in the book is that it's the DM's decision on how to handle this.
  Up next is Lycanthropy. To be honest, I don't even know why this is in the DMG at all. It belongs in the Monster manual in the section on Lycanthropes. To me, it feels they wasted ink here when the space could have been put to better use describing a few less specific curses and diseases, perhaps diseases of a non-magical variety and how to deal with them in the game. As it stands, all non-magical diseases seem to mimic the two used in the Cause Disease spell(level 3 priest spell, it's the reverse of Cure Disease).
  The last part of the chapter discusses the various planes of existence. I really think this would have been better as an appendix all to itself. This section does a decent job of introducing the DM to the idea of the planes used in D&D, without making it so specific that  DM can't change things(especially where the Outer planes are concerned).

  Next time: We're getting close to the end folks, now I just have to wade through the various appendices.

Friday, July 22, 2011

2nd Edition: The Game You have (probably) never played, part 15

Very sorry about the wall of text yesterday. It kinda got away from me there.

  The last two kinds of movement discussed in the PHB are swimming and climbing.  Swimming can be kinda confusion. It mentions untrained and proficient. You have to read really closely to understand that when they are saying "proficient" they are NOT necessarily talking about the optional Non-weapon proficiency system(though that can be used as a default if those rules are used).
  Climbing is pretty simple. If you understand how to use thieving skills, you already know how to use the climbing movement. This section of the PHB provides more modifications(and a base rate for non-thief characters).
   The DMG talks first about mounts. Unlike in MMOs, mounts are not living cars that you feed, water, and get from point A to point B extremely fast. The benefit of a mount is that they let you carry more stuff. Using them to get from point A to point B fast is dangerous and can kill possibly kill the mount. Most vehicles are the same way, though a chariot is actually closer to what most players are looking for.
   Like chariots, Ocean voyaging is a fairly quick means of travel, with the obvious disadvantage being that there needs to be a body of water connecting point A and point B. Each type of ship has its own stats for travel and it is modified by weather conditions.
    The last mode of movement talked about is Aerial movement. Movement is exactly like walking and overland, but generally requires the DM to describe any tactical movement as there's no core set of rules to cover it.
    The last part of this chapter consists of discussing lost characters. This core rule is actually pretty cool. Without a guide, characters run a serious risk of getting lost. Given the recent discussion in the blogosphere on making NPCs matter, use of this core rule may help.

Next time: DM's miscellany

Thursday, July 21, 2011

2nd Edition: The Game You have (probably) never played, part 14

Today we're just going to discuss time, walking, and running.
      In 2nd edition there are only two types of "game time" to worry about. This includes the 1 minute Round, and the 10 round Turn. That's it, no segments, no change in round duration for combat. Yes, this does make combat a bit wonky seeming, but you have to realize that 2nd edition combat is very abstract. Thus, if you're looking for a bit of mechanics-generated-excitement in your combats 2nd edition combat is probably not going to appeal to you.
      Unlike round length, walking comes in two types. There's the cautious "dungeon" walking and then the more casual "overland" walking. Each PC/NPC/Monster has a movement rate determined by race. For example, Sir Darien the Human Fighter has a movement rate of 12, while his friend Torgar Ironshield the Dwarf fighter has a movement rate of 6. This number doesn't tell you much by itself.
      When having a great and spiffy time traipsing through the various meadows and villages and towns in their travels, each round Sir Darien and Torgar move at their movement rate x 10 in yards. In our example Sir Darien moves 120 yards(360 feet) in his round while Torgar moves 60 yards(180 feet) in his. There is a penalty to this movement speed however. While merrily walking along at this pace they both suffer a -1 penalty to their surprise rolls(surprise is on a 3 or less on a 1d10 roll and like initiative is only rolled once for each side).
      Dungeon speed is movement rate x 10  in feet. Thus Sir Darien moves 120 feet in his round, while Torgar only moves 60 feet. This speed's only penalty is that you're moving more slowly. It represents that your character is alert and paying attention to his surroundings rather than worry about trying to get from point A to point B in a timely fashion.
     The character may choose at any time which walking speed he intends to use. As written, their are technically no core rules to cover jogging and running movement rates outside of a chase. There is an optional rule listed in the PHB, but we're talking about core here.
     Chases are handled with an initiative roll. Both the pursuing side and the fleeing side roll for initiative. The difference between the two dice x 10 is distance(in feet or yards, DMs choice) that the winning side gains on the other. For example, Sir Darien and Torgar are running from a group of fairly irate goblins after stealing the goblins' treasure. The players roll a 5 while the goblins roll an 8, thus resulting that the fleeing adventurers gain 30 feet/yards on the murderous goblins over the course of the one minute round . Initiative rolls keep being made until either the goblins catch up and force the adventurers into combat, until one side gives up, or the adventurers make their escape.
     In this regard I think it's actually a good thing that the various characters don't have a solid rate of advancement for fleeing/chasing. Most people tend not to pay very much attention to their surroundings And this allows the DM to decide where the adventurers actually end up, thus providing an interesting obstacle for parties that are normally meticulous in their mapping and record keeping.
    Another form of movement characters have is overland or cross-country movement.  Overland movement occurs over a 10 hour "marching day" while the characters could possibly march on longer than this, the game uses a 10 hour block so there's time for characters to have random encounters, as well as enough time to find, set up, and breakdown a campsite(as well as other things characters have to do while not in travel mode).
    Like walking, overland travel has two rates. The first is the more casual, and allows the characters to take frequent breaks so they don't get worn out by their travel. They gain a number of movement points equal to his movement rate x 2.
    The second, more grueling option is the forced march. The character must make savings throws/Con checks each day(with -1 cumulative penalty/day) to make multiple day forced marches.  In addition to the checks to continue doing this, for each day spent forced marching the character suffers a cumulative -1 penalty to attack rolls. These penalties only reset when the character has a 1/2 day's rest for every day of forced marching. The upside to forced marching is that you get a number of movement points equal to your movement rate x 2.5.
    Now that you have your total movement points, you need to know your terrain. This terrain is like the terrain(though not climate) parts of monster descriptions in the MM. Each mile has a point cost. When you have used up your points, you've traveled as far as you can go in the 10 hour marching day. Under core rules, Terrain effects such as darkness, and obstacles such as rivers or chasms don't effect your movement rate, but they MIGHT result in the DM treating the obstacles as an encounter.

Next time: Mounts, Vehicles, and special movement types

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

That Darn Encounter Reaction Table!

  Yesterday Sirlarkins asked me to expand on why people might hate the encounter reactions table in the DMG. Rather than letting this get buried in a rarely read comments chain, I'm going to put at least a few of the reasons in this post.
  There are two main types of individuals who hate this thing; the storytellers and those who prefer rules light gaming.
   For the storytellers, this only really effects those who didn't bother to read the last paragraph and think this roll is necessary for every encounter. I'll admit, it's a legitimate concern when people playing bards, druids, and especially paladins keep harping on the high charisma reaction modifiers and complaining that the DM is being unfair for NOT using the reaction roll to see if they can sleep with the princess. This can be especially troublesome when the DM is trying to deal with his pacing and other storytelling stuff(not exactly sure what this might be, I don't DM stories).
   The rules light gamers tend to dislike the chart for 2 big reasons. First, the PHB has the +s and -s wrong in the charisma chart. Either that or the DMG has the encounter table going the wrong way, making this just one more funny thing for a DM to have to deal with in his games. In addition, there's the obvious; it's one more roll DMs(or players in some groups) have to make.
   Mostly, it's important for everyone playing 2nd edition to remember that the rules are just a framework, and at least in 2nd edition, just about every rule is expendable and technically optional(says so right in the forwards).This isn't d20, removing/adding/replacing a rule will not hurt the overall system. It's also not previous editions, and nobody is going to roll over in their grave if you don't use every core rule or don't nitpick over what the almighty game designers/creators intended.

Monday, July 18, 2011

2nd Edition: The Game You have (probably) never played, part 13

Chapter 11: Encounters
   Nothing in this chapter is really new or optional. The DMG starts off with planned/triggered encounters, then moves into random encounters and how to set up Random Encounter Tables. There's also a nice little chart telling you when to check for a wilderness encounter.
   In both the PHB and DMG, the Encounters chapter is where surprise is covered. The DMG includes a chart of modifiers and encounter distance. In addition to this, there's the infamous Encounter Reactions table that many DMs hate.

Chapter 12: NPCs
  This chapter is just a basic description of what the different types of NPCs(hirelings and henchmen mostly) are and whats expected of both the NPCs and the PCs when using them. Despite the advice against having magic shops, this chapter also includes an NPC spell cost chart. Resurrection isn't even on the list, and Raise dead requires not only payment or service but ALSO requires the character to be raised to be of similar faith and belief.

Chapter 13: Vision and Light
  This chapter gives out a lot of fairly useful information. Where Chapter 11 may give you encounter distance, this chapter lets you know the various visibility ranges(in the PHB). It also gives a chart that gives the radius and duration of the various light sources characters have a tendency to use.
  One big note in this chapter. The fight over what Infravision IS has plagued the various editions of D&D that have used it almost from the beginning. The Core 2nd edition definition of Infravision is that it's basically d20's magical darkvision.  It's not heat vision.

Tomorrow: Time and Movement, and you thought you knew the rules for running!

2nd Edition: Part 12

Chapter 10: Treasure and Magical Items
   One of the shorter chapters in the book. In the PHB, this is a very very brief overview of treasure types and a 1 page discussion on how to Divide and store treasure. As such, this chapter is very rarely read by players and DMs alike. If you have a copy of the 2nd edition PHB, I strongly urge you to read/re-read the Dividing and Storing Treasure section if nothing else as there are many opportunities for RP situations mentioned, some of which the average player or DM often forgets or never thinks of in the first place.
    The DMG chapter can be broken down into three sections. The first forces DMs to think about what forms treasure takes, why it exists, who has it,  and where it exists. There's bits of advice such as making sure random encounter treasures are smaller than planned encounter treasures and how to deal with treasure imbalance(pauper and monty haul campaigns).
   The second section discusses magical items. It includes advice such as unintelligent monsters as random encounters should not, under normal circumstances, be carrying magic items, while intelligent creatures will actually tend to use them. It also advises AGAINST allowing magical item shops, or allowing players to sell magic items.
   The second part of this section discusses the creation, destruction, and recharging of magic items. As a reminder, A wizard may make scrolls and potions at 9th level and other magic items at 11th level. Likewise, a priest character can make scrolls at 7th level, a handful of potions at 9th level, and other items at 11th level. Beyond this, the DM has to decide what form research will take for the caster to learn how to make any given item. These are all fairly standard, and most groups that actually bother with Magic Item creation already use the rules as presented(though some groups choose to ignore the Enchant an Item and Permanency spell rules as a part of item creation).
    The last section in the chapter is about Artifacts and Relics. Interestingly, the entire section is an optional rule, and thus not actually a part of "Core rules" as is being discussed in this article series. Overall, I don't think the game really loses much by not including them, but I know many DMs and players who would disagree.