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
   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.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

2nd Edition: Part 11

Finishing Up combat
    The rest of the combat chapter exists solely in the DMG, and consists of various special circumstances under which groups of PCs may be required to fight. It starts off with a discussion of siege weapons. These weapons aren't to be used against PCs and thus it does not give any damage codes for "giant freakin' boulder launched by a catapult," which I believe they intend to be covered by "inescapable death" or possibly with saving throws.
  The next section is Mounted combat, which covers things such as mounts panicking, fighting from horseback, and dismounting/being dismounted. Not too much unusual, thought he rules for a panicked mount rely on optional rules(and a proficiency that doesn't exist).
  You then have two versions of flying rules. BOTH are optional, and thus not core. This results in the fact that there are no actual flying rules for 2nd edition in a nothing but core game. The MM seems to assumed use of one or a combination of both rules systems.
 The last part in the discussion of combat is Underwater breathing. I know most DMs and players hated using these rules.  The most important rules for this are the vision and weapon penalties. As well as knowledge that flame spells don't work, while electrical spells all act like fireballs. So this is just one more good example of when NOT to cast Shocking Grasp.

  Up next: Chapter 10: Treasure and Magical Items! We're done with combat! Woohoo!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

100th Post!

This is my 100th published post. Taken me almost 3 years to get this far. Thanks to the bloggers who inspired me to write and my readers who guilted me into writing so they'd have something to read.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

2nd Edition: The game you (probably) have never played, part 10

Injury and Death
  Now we get to some of the more interesting rules in the game. If you've been playing D&D for any length of time, then you already know about hit points and how damage a character takes is subtracted from this total. A note on damage however. In core D&D, damage is applied as Die roll then Multiplier then modifiers. This means that if a damage code is listed as 1d6+4 with x3, it means that you roll the 1d6, multiply by 3, then add the 4. I know I certainly never played this way back in high school.
  The DMG then goes on to explain some different forms of special damage. Of these, one that requires special mention is energy drain. Energy drain is kinda funny in that it lowers your character level and can easily turn you into an NPC or a monster. Being level drained down to level 0 is only lethal if your character has no hit point when he reaches this point. If he still has hit points, he becomes a 0-level character. Magic can return the character to his adventuring status. If he's slain, chances are he's likely to become one of the undead, and possibly under the control of the beast that slew him.
   Next we get to the healing section. I've seen many different rates of healing. A character doing no strenuous activity heals 1 hp per day. A character with complete bed rest heals 3 hp per day. If the character is able to remain in a bed rest state for a week, he may add any Constitution HP modifiers he gets to the 21 hp he healed for that week.
  Following these sections is a group of rules on character death. Poisons in a character's system after death remain effective for 2d6 hours after the character snuffs it, so anyone wishing to bring back the dead needs to be aware of that. Massive damage is another rule that often gets kinda funny treatment by some DMs, so I'm going to point out here that a character suffering 50 or more points of damage from a single attack must make a save vs. death or end up dead.
  One Optional rule that is in almost every campaign I've ever played in is the "Hovering on Death's Door" rule. This rule states that a character isn't dead til he hits -10 hp. This is not core(though it became core in 3e).  When a character hits 0 hp, he's gone to the great big tavern in the sky.
   Raising the dead is the next section to be discussed. A lot of DMs treat resurrection magics as automatically working, but by the book, the player needs to make a resurrection survival roll(determined by character's current constitution score). I know a lot of people don't understand why this is necessary, but the reason I've always understood was because "some souls don't want to return" and thus a failure on this roll means the character just doesn't want to(or can't) return to his body. In effect, this can lead to an adventure in and of itself, as the deceased character's companions must head to the underworld/land of the dead to figure out just why their fallen comrade wont return!
   Additionally, when a character IS raised, a "piece of him is missing" and this is represented by having the character lose a point of constitution. When he hits 0 constitution, the character just can't come back. In effect his gods are either claiming his soul for keeps, or the character has finally reached oblivion and there wasn't enough of his personal essence to survive the final journey.

Next time: 100th post, and after that, unusual combat situations

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

2nd Edition: The game you (probably) have never played, part 9

Even More Combat
  The DMG and PHB both, for the most part, contain the charts and rules for turning. The only house rule I've ever played with that is not actually core is that clerics can't turn opposed alignment/control same alignment extra-planar creatures(fiends and celestials).
  Next comes weapon immunity. Once again, no real surprises or anything here. The only thing to note is the Monster vs. Monster Hit Die vs. Immunity chart. Given that most DMs at this point know enough not to bother playing out NPC fights, this one doesn't get much use.
  Last for today is Morale. Not every DM uses it, but some do. Don't worry, Role Playing is core and so is rolling for morale. PCs don't roll for it, but NPCs are supposed to. The times when you roll for Morale include the following:
  • When the NPC has been surprised(only the first round they get to act after being surprised)
  • Faced by a superior force
  • When an Ally is slain by magic
  • when 25% and again when 50% of their side has fallen
  • each time a companion is slain beyond 50% of their side has fallen
  • when the leader deserts or is slain
  • unable to effect enemy they can't harm
  • when ordered to undertake a heroically dangerous task/act as rear guard
  • When offered a temptation
  • when ordered to use a charge from a personal magical item
  • offered a chance to surrender(only if they have met the conditions for one other check)
  • When completely surrounded
  One thing I always screwed up with on morale is the actual rolling of Morale. I'd always used a 1d20. You're supposed to use 2d10. In the immortal words of Homer Simpson, D'oh!

  Next time: Injury, Death, and Healing

Monday, July 11, 2011

2nd Edition: The game you (probably) have never played, part 8

Combat: Special Attacks and Defenses
  This section of the DMG covers some of the more common special attacks used in AD&D 2nd edition, namely Fighting via Charmed Proxy, Gaze Attacks, Spell-like abilities, and Breath Weapons.
  The limitations to the Charmed Proxy fighting is fairly standard, no action will be performed if doing so is 100% sure to result in the charmed minion's destruction. So no walking into an inferno, but wearing dragon skin boots to a cranky dragon convention is still ok. By the book, only "characters"(as opposed to "monsters") have to verbalize(or make hand gestures) to get charmed minions to do their bidding. A vampire doesn't have to go all comic book villain and shriek out "KILL THE INTRUDERS!" to his harem of heavily armed slave girls or cadre of brutish thugs.
   The gaze attack section talks mostly about how to fight creatures with gaze attacks, though it does mention that creatures with gaze attacks may turn off their powers at will. The options for fighting a gaze attack creature include
  1. Fight Normally. This is generally a bad idea as this automatically subjects you to the effects of the gaze(save allowed)
  2. Don't look directly at the creature: Slightly better idea, results in only a 1-in-5 chance of meeting the gaze.
  3. Close your eyes: This subjects the character to the standard penalties for fighting blind. 0% chance of gaze being met unless the creature is capable of cutting off your eyelids, or tearing your eyes from your head without killing you/rendering you blind.
  4. Use a Mirror: This requires light and a highly reflective surface. The character takes a -2 penalty to attack rolls and loses shield and Dex bonuses from AC.
 Last up for special attacks is breath weapons. This is pretty much a DM's standard "Rocks fall, you all die" attack. No attack rolls, just a save to see whether or not you take a butt load of damage or a mega-butt-load of damage. I think this rule was written before they decided to update the monster compendium/manual. I think this because it mentions (dragons specifically) that a creature using a breath weapon attack does 1d8 damage per Hit Die. It also mentions that creatures are only able to use breath weapons a limited number of times per day(Dragons are only limited to once every 3 rounds[whether that means every third round, or 3 rounds between each use, I don't know).

Special Defenses
  The first part of special defenses talks about savings throws. In 2nd edition, there are 5 saving throw categories. I hear the d20-ers and 4e-ers often use this as an example for how screwed up/overly complicated 2nd edition is. It seems they've gotten it into their heads that Savings Throws represent character mettle in the same way as HP seems to represent meat points. I think the honest reason is that nobody has sat down and explained savings throws to them. I don't think I can really put it any better than the introduction to Savings Throws in the DMG, and I quote:
  "More often than not, the saving throw represents an instinctive act on the part of the character - diving to the ground just as a fireball scorches the group; blanking the mind just as a mental battle begins; blocking the worst of an acid spray with a shield. The exact action is not important - DMs and players can think of lively and colorful explanations of why a saving throw succeeded or failed. Explanations tailored to the events of the moment enhance the excitement of the game."
   I'll admit the descriptions of the individual saves don't really match up with that paragraph, but they do still fit. When you're making a save vs. poison, you're character hasn't taken the full dose of poison, he's been nicked or merely tasted the poisoned wine. A successful save means he flinched before he could be pumped full of a full dose of venom, or that he had sensitive enough taste buds to notice that the wine tasted a little funny. At some point once this article series is over, I'll post better descriptions for saves.
  Additionally the very next page describes using Ability Checks as Savings throws. Avoiding the damage, or using your ultra-manly fortitude to resist the full effects of your blunder seems to fit better here. And the best part is, in 2nd edition this stuff is core.
   the last part of special defenses is Magic Resistance. This is pretty standard, and I've never known anybody to make any house rules to this part.

  Next time: Turning Undead, Weapon Immunity, and possibly Morale.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

2nd Edition: The game you (probably) have never played, part 7

Chapter 9: Combat(continued again)
 Today is missile weapons in combat.  Missile weapons tend to involve(at least for the groups I've been in), some of the fuzzier rules in D&D. Ranged combat is one of the few times when it actually pays to be using a battle mat.
 Range, Rate of Fire, and Cover are all pretty standard. Firing into Melee has always been something I've been a little hazy on and have always hated having to deal with. I know a fair number of DMs flat out ignore this rule. By the book however, the DM has to count up the figures in the "immediate area" of the target(with a numerical system based on creature size). He then randomly determines(in theory with a die roll) who the attack roll actually counts against.
  Grenades are up next and are a bit of a mess. You have to know WHAT is being thrown at where, and then you get to roll your attack, and on a scatter diagram, and to be honest, the Area of Effect for most of the grenades listed tends to be rather pitiful if using the 5' squares on a battle map. Heck, even the older 3' squares can be a pain.
 The last part of the missile section covers boulders. To be honest, I don't recall actually seeing(let alone reading) that section ever before. Boulders are grenades without the burst, but with possible bouncy fun(you still have to roll on the scatter diagram). In effect, boulders do not just get thrown and land like that city chunk at the feet of the misshapen pink half-orc thing in LotR: Return of the King. Oh no, they bounce and roll, for 3d10 additional feet. And anyone they might hit along that line(in an open environment) gets an attack roll against them(-1 for every 5 feet of rolling). Damage is rolled normally, with a penalty to damage equal to feet rolled.
  Next time: Special Attacks and Defenses

Saturday, July 9, 2011

2nd Edition: The game you (probably) have never played, part 6

Chapter 9: Combat(Continued)
  Last time I talked about attack rolls and initiative stuff for the most part. Here's where we get into the nitty gritty stuff.
  There are a lot of little rules scattered through the combat chapter that are technically core. They include:
  • Position of Attackers. Attackers get a +2 bonus to attack rolls when attacking from behind. Additionally, the defender does not get Dex bonus to their AC. Interestingly, the shield bonus DOES still count(the frontage rule for shields is optional).
  • Called shots. +1 initiative penalty, -4 attack roll penalty. Can't be used to blind, cripple, or maim.
  • 1/2 movement in combat and still able to make a melee attack. 
  • 1/2 movement rate and 1/2 normal Rate of Fire for ranged attacks.
  • Movement increases by 50% for a charging opponent. Charging character gets a +2 bonus to Attack rolls, -2 bonus to initiative rolls. Charging characters get no bonus from Dex to AC, and suffer an additional +1 penalty to AC.
  • Retreating takes the standard 2 forms, Withdrawing(and covering), and Fleeing. Like 3rd edition, fleeing causes an Attack of Opportunity.
  • Punching and wrestling requires the use of a chart. This is the ONLY time when a natural roll of 1 can still count as a hit. Additionally, the damage caused by the punch attack is determined by the attack roll itself.
  • Punching Damage is 25% lethal, 75% non-lethal. Wrestling damage is 1 + STR bonus. The damage gets a +1 cumulative bonus each round for holds. 
  • Overbearing is used to pin opponents. a single attack roll is made, modified by sizes.
  • Some weapons(mostly slashing weapons) can be used for non-lethal combat as well.
  • Touch spells require attack rolls. They also open the caster up for a world of hurt.
Next: even MORE Combat!(Ranged, and starting the various special attacks)

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

2nd Edition: The game you (probably) have never played, part 5

Chapter 9: Combat(part 1)

The DMG first goes over the attack roll. Seems kinda weird to me, but hey, it works I guess. It gives a list of standard modifiers to the attack roll. Next, the Combat Round is described, with the combat sequence:
  • The DM decides what actions the NPCs take.
  • The players indicate what their characters will do.
  • Initiative is determined.
  • Attacks are made in order of initiative.
Pretty standard to most groups I've ever played with.
Next comes initiative. Core 2nd edition AD&D initiative is one roll made for each side in the combat. Standard(core) modifiers are:
  • Hasted/Slowed
  • On Higher Ground
  • Set to receive a charge
  • Wading/slippery footing
  • Foreign Environment
  • Hindered
  • Waiting
  • Spellcasting
  Yup, that last one surprised me too. Unlike weapon speed, casting times are not considered optional.
  Another initiative thing that most groups I ever played with seemed to ignore was the initiative order of multiple attacks with the same weapon(such as a weapon specialist/high level warrior/ranged attack with multiple attacks per round). The second attack(and beyond) occur only AFTER everyone(including the NPCs) gets their first attack/action taken care of.

Next time: More combat

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

2nd Edition: The game you (probably) have never played, part 4

Chapter 7: Magic
  The PHB contains only one single optional rule in the Magic chapter: Components. This is Vocal, Somatic, and Material. By the book, a caster could be bound, gagged, and have nothing useful on him. If he has a spell memorized, he can cast it, no matter what(barring the combat fizzles).
  In the DMG on the other hand, the optional rules consist mostly of how Wizards get their starting spells. The "core" rule for this is that the DM picks exactly what spells the player gets. In addition to this, it seems that the wizard also has to pay for his spellbook . . . by page. Now, it could be an interpretation problem on my part, but it doesn't actually say how much it costs to write a spell into a spellbook, just how much it takes to "prepare" a page.

Chapter 8: Experience
Following the core rules, a character gains experience for the following actions:
  • Being actively involved in the game
  • Making the game fun for others
  • Surviving the session(without resorting to resurrection magics)
  • When the player solves a difficult puzzles/talks his party out of hairy situation
  • Achieving Story goals
  • Defeating foes(notice this is not killing)
A character is awarded xp at the end of every session. Leveling  occurs at the same time. This can occur even in the middle of a dungeon. No training required! Additionally, no character may ever earn more xp than necessary to gain his next level during the session. All extra xp is lost.

Next time: Combat!(finally)

Monday, July 4, 2011

2nd Edition: The game you (probably) have never played, part 3

Chapter 4: Alignment
  Oddly enough, there are no optional rules in this chapter, but the alignment change section is different from other editions(I think) to the point where it needs to be mentioned: The DM determines if the change was voluntary/involuntary and whether or not the change is for the betterment of the game.
  In the case of a voluntary change for the betterment of the game: No penalty.
  In the case of a voluntary change not for the betterment of the game: Instead of losing a level, the character is required to earn twice as many experience points when qualifying to earn his next level.
  In the case of an involuntary change that the player has no intention of keeping: The PC gains NO xp until he undoes the change
  In the case of an involuntary change that the player intends to keep: The moment the character decides to take this route, it is then considered a voluntary change not for the betterment of the game.

Chapter 5: Proficiencies
  The entire chapter is one giant optional rule

Chapter 6: Equipment
  PCs roll for cash, and buy everything one piece at a time. Encumbrance is 100% optional. In the DMG it states that PCs must spend a certain amount of cash each game month to survive. I know I've never actually used these rules before as I always preferred the PCs to go ahead and spend as they had the cash/needed for 1 night at an inn here, 1 night at an inn there, and have to buy/catch/grow/find their own meals. It's also here in the equipment chapter of the DMG that weapons of quality(Masterwork weapons for those more familiar with d20) are discussed. Prices for these are not static, instead costing from x5 to x20 the base cost of the weapon. Ornamental weapons are also discussed here, and the suggested price for them is x10 the base cost of the item.
  Beyond this is the mention of item savings throws and the amount(and type) of damage needed to break certain objects(chairs, rope, wooden doors, etc)

Tomorrow we'll at least START talking about Chapter 7: Magic and possibly Chapter 8: Experience

Saturday, July 2, 2011

2nd Edition: The game you (probably) have never played, part 2

Chapter 2
  The PHB starts chapter 2: Races off talking about ability requirements, class choice, level limits, languages. Initially, no mention is made of common at all, humans start off knowing the "regional human language" which, given the implication of this, perhaps means that common is NOT the human starting language.
  It then mentions the standard races, Dwarves, Elves, Gnomes, Halflings, Half Elves, and Humans. The core rules DO actually mention different subraces of demihumans, but the only race where there's a mechanical difference between the subraces is the Halfling. It's also the only race where you're not actually allowed to pick your subrace, instead you have to roll percentile dice to make the determination.
  After this it has the demographic charts with age categories, and height/weight., though it does say in the text that use of the starting age and height and weight should just be a range that players can pick and choose from.
  The DMG chapter on race is about some pretty standard stuff. Level limits and creation of new PC races. Interestingly, a non-standard race's level limits are actually variable by their Prime Requisite ability score. In addition to this there are some fairly stringent requirements on what can and can't be played(as well as all the ability score adjustments actually required, right there in the core rules). Though there's a section on "A Non-Human World" the text makes a human-centric world the default. Compared to classes however, non-standard races are actually part of the actual core rules(arguably, but it was not in the little blue box). Later(perhaps after I finish getting through the core books), I'll post some examples of rules appropriate "monstrous races"

Chapter 3
  There are only 4 actual standard classes in 2nd edition. There's also two other "standard" character types.
  Fighters: Fighters are able to use any weapons and any armor, as well as a fair number of magic items. Beyond this they have the best Hit Dice(which are rolled at all appropriate levels, including 1st), and Thac0 progression. They are also the only class that gains multiple attacks at higher levels in addition to followers. Overall this tends to make low level fighters look somewhat lackluster compared to the cleric or thief.
  Mage: Magi are able to use only a handful of weapons, most magic items, and spells. At higher levels they even get to make magic items. Mages are also the only class, by core rules, that do not attract followers after building a stronghold at high level.
  Clerics: Clerics are, in my opinion at least, one of the most overpowered classes in the game. In essence they have the capacity to cast more spells per day than a mage, and they can do it while wearing armor. In addition to this, they also have the ability to turn undead. The only real downside is that they may only use bludgeoning weapons.
  Thief: Probably the most time consuming of the characters to build(because of point allotment). They get a fair number of special abilities and a decent array of weapons. The light armor and common man hp means they aren't likely to win any drawn out slug fests as compared to the cleric or fighter.
  Multi-classed/Dual Classed characters: Multi-classing is a strictly demi-human trait.  One of the trade-offs for lacking unlimited level advancement. It can get pretty crazy however if you decide to ignore the standard rules. Dual Classing is a human only trait. the requirements for it are pretty tough though, and rarely likely to occur in a game that uses the standard 3d6 in order.
  0 level characters: These represent the every day "non-special" humans that make up the cultures of the assumed default world. The interesting content on these guys are the hit points. The ability scores are generally regarded as unimportant. Hit points are determined by race and class. Dwarves and Gnomes, for instance are considered to have 1d8 hp, while the average joe on the street of other races generally has 1d6 hp. The most hp any one 0 level character is written as having is 1d8+1, and that's for soldiers.
   Beyond a discussion of common character types, the DMG also talks about High levels and beginning character levels. the implied core rule states that unless the character are very high level, no new character should be allowed to start off above 4th level. It also states that the DM should have an assortment of pre-gens available. These are to be used by players whose characters have died, or by guest players.

More to come tomorrow!

Friday, July 1, 2011

N/PC Friday: Kalad the Crier

Name: Kalad
Race: Human
Class: NA   Level: 0
Alignment: Neutral Evil(though pretends to be lawful good)
Age: 44     Gender: Male
Height/Weight: 5'3"/236 pounds
Hair/Eye/Skin: Dark Grey but balding/Blue/Leathery

Ability Scores:
Strength: 9
Dexterity: 10
Constitution: 12
Intelligence: 13
Wisdom: 14
Charisma: 11

Movement: 12
AC: 10
HP: 1
THAC0: 20

Savings Throws:
Poison, Paralyzation, & Death Magic: 16
Rods, Staves, & Wands: 18
Petrification and Polymorph: 17
Breath Weapon: 20
Spell: 19

Equipment: Dagger, fork, pouch with lots of money, small journal written in an indecipherable shorthand.

Languages: Common, Kalad's own cipher

  Kalad is a well known gossip and general fat bastard. He easily puts most hobbits and decadent emperors to shame with the sheer size of his appetite. Despite his immense girth(or perhaps because of it), Kalad has an immensely strong set of lungs, and has a reputation as the loudest crier in the area. Despite his often coarse interpersonal skills, if anyone needs to advertise anything and absolutely must make sure that the most people hear about it, Kalad is the man to see.
  That's the public face. What only a handful of people know is that Kalad is a also the man to see if you need information of a private nature to be passed. Kalad is especially knowledgeable of cult activity, and has often provided various cults with various human sacrifices by telling the target privately about a "special job" or that he's found someone interested in selling what the target most desires.
  Kalad is actually an adherent of the Dark Maw, the demon prince of hunger. Those few who have sought to blackmail him have been eaten. Beneath his home is a torture chamber/kitchen where he partakes of his dark appetites.