Thursday, April 27, 2017

OSR Musing

Robert Conley at Bat in the Attic has a good post up called "What Everyone Forgets About the OSR"

I'm not sure everyone forgets his points, but it's still a good post...

Basically, the OSR is a mess... but a glorious mess. He suggests that this might be the second Golden Age of RPGs - because even the fan of the most obscure game can probably find not only other fans online, but someone creating something new. And while some will argue about what the "True OSR" is (it's Gygax, it's Arneson, it's LBB, it's blah, blah, blah), maybe it's just the ability to continue to enjoy the game as we play it... If you have owned the original brown books since the mid 70s and that's the only D&D you want to play, there's room for that. If you love all the splatbooks of second edition, there's room for that.

What I've experienced as a common denominator in the OSR is a bent toward a certain type of play - "old school" play, which isn't narrowly defined but includes things like megadungeons, episodic play, sandbox play. It includes rules "frameworks" instead of rules "codices" (that is, general rules that can be adjudicated by the DM vs. a rule for everything). But OSR is not limited to any of these and actually can even include some "new ideas" (even if WotC came up with them in later editions).

I remember seeing THAC0 in the 1st edition DMG and figuring out what it meant - and I started using it pretty quickly as a reference, so I could just do the math in my head (THAC0 is 11, AC is 4 so you need a 7 to hit - quick and somewhat elegant). Ascending AC now makes perfect sense to me, but for years I simply couldn't wrap my head around it. Now I prefer it. Sure it's new - but anything that makes me not have to stop play and look up a chart (without changing the fundamentals of the game) is a good idea to me. Sure, some will say that it DOES change the fundamentals of the game. I disagree. There's room for that.

Play what you like. House rule as you like. When does it stop being "old school"? Either as soon as you stop using 40 year old books (or their nostalgic reprints) or as soon as you change a single rule, even if we "did that back in the day", it's still not "true" old school.. Sigh.  Whatever.

Play what you like. Call it what you like. There's no OSR police out there.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Small Projects...

...always seem to spin out of control for me.

Over on one of my other blogs, Deep Chantry, I started with a pretty simple premise: I would create some content for a smallish hexcrawl. And I got about 90% done, maybe even closer to being done, and I kept fiddling, and tweaking, adding an additional location here and a new idea there.

So I thought I'd take a break. Dyson Logos gives away maps on his blog - some are just for personal use, some are for anything you want, and I thought I'd just grab one of his maps and create a small dungeon - ten or twelve rooms - something that I could bang out in a few days. And I did.

And then...

I thought about the setting - shouldn't I have some outdoor encounters to go set this little dungeon into its context? And a couple of those "encounters" became full-blown dungeons themselves. And how do you get into this little dungeon? Oh, Logos has a tower I could use - so there's another 20 or so rooms. And on and on it goes.

The Ghost Downs was born...

What started as about 4 pages describing a dozen or so rooms is now sitting at 44 pages - and that's without the covers, the legal page or the Monster Stat Blocks.  Plus I think I have a dozen new monsters in there that I have to write up. That was what I did to "take a break from" the 100 or so page hexcrawl that I'm almost done with... But I did manage to insert this new project into the hexcrawl as an optional area...

And there's a half dozen or so other locations from the hexcrawl that need to be written up: some are little more than a name ("The Pile" for example) and some are 80% or more done.

And there's the huge project that started all of this: The Chantry of the Deepflame which needs one more section written and another couple editing passes...

And so it goes...

Saturday, January 7, 2017

What if Dispel Magic...really did?

Dispel Magic:

First Edition Dispel Magic

Dispel Magic (Abjuration)
Level: 3     Components: V, S    Range: 6"     Casting Time: 6 segments    Duration: Permanent     Saving Throw: None    Area of Effect: 3" cube
Explanation/Description: When a cleric casts this spell, it neutralizes or negates the magic it comes in contact with as follows: A Dispel Magic will not affect a specially enchanted item such as a scroll, magic ring, wand, rod, staff, miscellaneous magic item, magic weapon, magic shield, or magic armour. It will destroy magic potions (they are treated as 12th level for purposes of this spell), remove spells cast upon persons or objects, or counter the casting of spells in the area of effect. The base chance for success of a Dispel Magic spell is 50%. For every level of experience of the character casting the Dispel Magic above that of the creature whose magic is to be dispelled (or above the efficiency level of the object from which the magic is issuing), the base chance increases by 5%, so that if there are 10 levels of difference, there is a 100% chance. For every level below the experience/efficiency level of the creature/object, the base chance is reduced by 2%. Note that this spell can be very effective when used upon charmed and similarly beguiled creatures. It is automatic in negating the spell caster's own magic.

Fifth Edition Dispel Magic

Dispel Magic
3rd-level abjuration
Casting Time: 1 action
Range: 120 feet
Components: V, S
Duration: Instantaneous
Choose one creature, object, or magical effect within range. Any spell of 3rd level or lower on the target ends. For each spell of 4th level or higher on the target, make an ability check using your spellcasting ability. The DC equals 10 + the spell’s level. On a successful check, the spell ends.
At Higher Levels: When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 4th level or higher, you automatically end the effects of a spell on the target if the spell’s level is equal to or less than the level of the spell slot you used.

Okay - it's a little fiddly for me but workable in either system (and is similar in most flavors of D&D).

What if Dispel Magic was a touch spell - such that anything the magic user touches, including permanent items like rings or magic swords as well as spell effects, will be dispelled.

But that also includes any magic on the magic user's person (scrolls, wands, etc.) and any uncast spells the magic user has with a chance (somehow based on Intelligence or perhaps Wisdom) of erasing one random spell permanently.

Maybe this is too powerful for a third level spell - I'd like to make it a FIRST level spell - but the downside might be enough so that it's not cast willy nilly... I don't know. Just typing this stream-of-consciousness.

So - in combat, a magic user has to decide quickly if losing everything he or she can't drop or doesn't have time to drop is worth sacrificing to undo a spell effect from the BBEG. Non combat exploration becomes just inconvenient, perhaps, to shed all the magic stuff (I'd suggest it takes a full round - or how about a full round PLUS any Dexterity penalties the Magic User has?) but it adds to the danger if there's a wandering monster or something on the other side of that magically warded door or if Dispel Magic triggers some other magical or mechanical effect...

So... what about dispelling magical effects like Invisibility or stinking cloud or something? Well, if it's a touch spell, the Magic User has to touch the magical effect - no casting this at any range - so reaching out and touching what the MU thinks is invisible - and thus dispelling the magic of everything that being is carrying... Or touching the stinking cloud - means taking one round of damage and having nothing to protect the MU from that damage except hit points...

Frist thoughts....

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

WGR100 Map gridded

Because someone asked if it was possible: (no infringement intended...)

Here's what I did - I took a scan of the map - copied it on a much larger blank page in GIMP - before anchoring the image I rotated it -30 degrees.

I couldn't get the image to measure perfectly - and what appear to be the same size corridors can vary in width by a dozen pixels - so I just picked a measurement to be 10' and lined it up wih what corridors/rooms I could (not too many).

I used the "Filters" "Pattern" "Grid" to set up the grid. I had sized the original image to 1700 x2200 (well, 2206) pixels.  You know, 100 pixels per inch... Yeah, still didn't work that well...

I used 34 pixels for the grid layer.

Then I erased the grid that was outside the rooms.  I created a garbage matte, selected it, inverted the selection, selected the grid layer, and cut everything outside the garbage matte.  It would be nearly as easy to simply erase the lines I didn't want :)

All in all it took about 20 minutes (including some false starts...

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Because It's What I Like

So - I debated about posting this. Decided to anyway.

Last week, James over at Grognardia posted an article about "cheating-methods" for rolling up characters. It's just the kind of observation that makes Grognardia the king of the OSR blogs on the "who's got more followers than who" thing that somebody has been tracking (what does it say if your blog isn't even on the list?***). But as I read the comments (and as I just checked, people are still not done commenting on this subject) a light bulb went off in my head.

I play 1e AD&D (with smatterings of B/X and 2e, plus houserules) not because I think it's the best system for roleplaying, not because it's (almost) the original, or the codified "right way" to play D&D. I play it because it's the system I learned and so it's comfortable.

All this "the right way to roll up a character" nonsense is just navel-gazing. There is no right way to do any of this stuff. There's the way I like to do it. Period. Someone nailed it in the comments to the "cheating methods" post when they said "if it's in the rulebook, how is it cheating?" Ah...but it's not in the rulebook I prefer (LBB, Holmes, Cook/Marsh, whatever) - plus it's optional so, yeah, if you use the "alternate methods" your a low-life lying cheater. Neener-neener. Every time a rule war breaks out on forums or in blog comments I just don't care. Do it the way you like to do it. But how can anybody really be wrong? Why are there so many freaking retro-clones? Because everybody has a "way I like to do it" - you will note that there are interpretations in every single one of them - even if it's for "legal reasons" - some things are left out (that's not how I like to do it), etc.

It's the same reason that I run Windows PCs instead of Linux or (heaven forbid) a Mac. It's not the best OS, it's not even necessarily a good OS - but it's what I learned and I don't want to learn the "better, newer, shinier, whatever"... So, yeah, 1e isn't the best set of rules*****, it might not even be a good set of rules. But I know it, so I play it (somewhat modified to make it...better).

I like bits and pieces of other systems - MERP has some cool stuff, Ars Magica rocks, I like some of what I've read even in the Post 2e D&D stuff (heck, I quit buying 2e stuff when all that "options" stuff started flowing - too complicated, too much for me to have to learn to play the freaking game).

So, yeah, a bunch of what blogs post, what Dragonsfooters and Knights and Knavers and the lot post... I just don't care. If I even see BtB in a post, I quit reading.

Because I play what I play because it's what I like.

***I know there's precious little on this blog that anyone wants to read, so I don't really care - if I did this post would be called something like JAMES M AT GROGNARDIA IS COMPLETELY WRONG or whatever. Blogging is, in essence, self-gratification anyway, I'm not sure I want the whole world watching me...

***** I know - the BEST set of rules is [your favorite edition here] with, of course [your house rules here]

Monday, April 4, 2011

Grey Watchers

I posted this on Dragonsfoot a few days ago - hoping for some feedback to see if this creature works. I was needing a non-evil, non-aggressive undead creature for a crypt adventure to act as guides and potential guardians (to set the traps if the PCs don't accomplish a certain task before they wander about the tomb complex). Still looking for feedback. Does the description make sense? Am I Missing anything? So, anyway, here it is:

Grey Watchers
TYPE: Supernatural (Undead)
FREQUENCY: Very rare
MOVE: 9”
% IN LAIR: 100%
TREASURE TYPE: Nil (see below)
NO. OF ATACKS: 1 claw (as F1)
DAMAGE/ATTACK: see below
See description
SPECIAL DEFENSES: non-corporeal only hit by +1 or better weapons
LEVEL/X.P. VALUE:IV/240+4/hp

Non-corporeal, non-evil undead which have been created to accomplish specific tasks. Once the specific task is accomplished, the Grey Watchers melt into oblivion. The task can be as specific or general as the creator desires, though the Grey Watcher will only exist as long as the corporeal body is still intact (see below). For example, Grey Watchers have been set to watch for the return of the great king and announce his arrival (however, since he never returned, they have been posted for 700 years waiting). Grey Watchers are often set to act as guides or guardians for specific areas (with no end given – “guide all who enter this room to wherever they desire to go within the complex” “if anyone without the mark of the Griffon enters the room, set the traps”). Grey Watchers are very limited in the scope of their instructions (given at the most two or three general instructions), as well as the range within which they can work (limited to about a 1200 foot radius).

While Grey Watchers have no physical presence (non-corporeal) and can only be hit by +1 or better weapons,they can affect the physical world by expending their own hit points. That is, each hit point they expend gives them one point of strength, for example, or causes one point of damage if the Watcher is able to hit a target. Watchers will expend a single hit point to accomplish relatively simple tasks such as closing a door, moving a lever, pushing an object, even tapping a physical being on the shoulder. More difficult tasks require more hit points expended (moving a heavy object would be adjudicated according to the strength table – so it might require multiple Watchers to move a very heavy object). Grey Watchers regenerate hit points at a rate of one per round, even if reduced to zero (though reducing a Grey Watcher to zero hit points will cause it to return to its bodily remains and regenerate to its full hit points there, at a much slower rate - 1 hit point per day).

Grey Watchers can only be truly destroyed by destroying their physical remains completely (incineration, wish, sending the remains to another plane, etc).

In combat, Grey Watchers will attempt to hit with what amounts to a claw attack. They attack as a first level Fighter. Hit points are expended in the attempt, thus even if the attack doesn’t hit, the Grey Watcher loses the hit points. Only in extreme circumstances will a Grey Watcher attack with enough hit points to reduce itself to zero (in defense of its physical remains, for example). So, a Grey Watcher with 19 hit points attacks an intruder, attempting to hit with 14 points. The attack misses, so the Grey Watcher is reduced to 5 hit points. It might attempt to strike again the following round, though it would probably only attack with 3 or 4 hit points. Reduced to one or two hit points, Grey Watchers will typically attempt to flee and regenerate their hit points before re-engaging with an enemy. Grey Watchers will not willingly return to their corpses, hating the reminder of their cursed existence. They typically try to avoid combat and they will go to great lengths to preserve at least a few hit points.

While Grey Watchers themselves have no treasure, treasures may have been buried with their physical bodies.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Awesomeness of DL1 - Dragons of Despair

Okay - I know, I know, I know - Dragonlance killed D&D. It was that whole story drives the adventure instead of adventure creating the story thing. I get it. I know, Dragonlance is evil.

But here's the thing. I caught the ads in Dragon Magazine when they first started running them - I was a regular at the nearby Waldenbooks at the time and bought virtually every issue from issue 71 on (I couldn't afford a subscription, but I always managed to scrape together enough money to buy an issue each month - I even snagged the Archive on CD deeply discounted at Electronics Boutique years later). Anyway, I read the ad copy and imagined what a great module DL 1 would be - great cover art, a winning concept (featuring adventures against all the evil dragons) - and this mystical weapon called the Dragonlance.

Okay, so the module didn't live up to all the hype (where are the dang Dragonlances, anyway?) and it was a radically different kind of world. But once I read the adventure, I found it to be exactly the kind of adventure format I liked. Some events occurring in the background (the movement of the Dragonarmies) and some events that would just happen wherever the characters were. Things were kind of funneled toward the Swamp Dungeon - which is just as it should be, since that's the climax of the adventure and the lair of the dragon.

But it was how they did it that I liked so much. First off, the maps. From the wilderness hex map (I'll get to that in a minute) to the perspective map of Xak Tsoaroth, they were evocative just looking at them. Second - the backstory. I liked coming in In Media Res on a Dragonman Invasion. I liked the new apocalypse in this post-apocalyptic world. I hated the devaluation of gold - but I liked the lack of clerics (and the kind of quest to re-discover clerical powers).

And since I reopened this adventure because I was thinking about filling wilderness hexes, let me talk a minute about what worked the best for me in this adventure.

The Wilderness

Fully half the adventure is the possibility of wandering around the wilderness. There are 7 events and 44 encounter locations (counting Xak Tsaroth) to inflict on the PCs. Many of them are simply named:

10. Sentinel Gap Walls of granite soar on either side of the narrow canyon floor. A chilly breeze whistles and tumbles between the cliffs.

and some of the areas have more detail. The above is enough for me to get a sense of the place as the PCs visit it.

I actually liked that there were ways to get the PCs to one of the Expositors of Plot (the Pegasi will take them to the Forestmaster no matter what they want if they capture them and fly them, the Centaurs will carry them there) because the PCs would be free to NOT capture the Pegasi and, of course, they don't HAVE to go into the forest at all if they choose not to. There just enough detail in the "throwaway areas" that I could probably build adventures in every one of those locales (and might have to, since this is a true old school product with Random Encounter tables). I'm looking at DL1 as my model for hex filling - for rounding out a wilderness area with general descriptions and letting random tables to their thing for the details.

Yes, the plot following got way too heavy handed (really, if a NPC gets killed and he is needed really use the soap opera convention on him? Really?) and the need to follow these particular characters was annoying... But it started off so promising.

So, don't buy any of the rest of the line. But DL1 is, for me, a nearly perfect AD&D adventure.***

***yeah, okay, except the freaking typos and the terrible editing job...but's one of the best.