Friday, April 30, 2010

Why I Started This Blog...

Way back - actually when I started this blog - I have a couple posts that were a project that I was part of over at Dragonsfoot - "Mapping the Depths of the Earth." I stumbled on the workshop project when it was about two years old...I THINK two or three years ago now...and volunteered to submit an area. Then I got inspired to do a couple more - one I finished, one may have been too ambitious (or I'm just not inspired to finish it...). Anyway, the idea of the project was to take all the marked encounter areas in the D series of modules that aren't elaborated on in those three modules and, well, elaborate on them. There were some really ambitious proposals (city of the aboleth, for example, and a hidden temple to the Elder Elemental Gods...). I'm not sure how well I did at "old school" encounters (if you're interested in what I contributed, you can check it out here and here and the proposal for the third area I might someday finish here).

Here's a link to the workshop page:

And here's a link to the whole stinkin' pdf (so far):

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Found a Map...

I found this map on my backup harddrive - I thought I had lost it in one of the many moves (I thought I just had a hard copy of this - didn't think I had digitized it). It's the political boundaries of the Midlands of Daen Ral. Specifically noted is the boundary (the red) of the Hamlish Empire. I started working on a kind of Gazeteer of the Midlands - modeled on the Greyhawk Gazeteer, but I never got very far - then I moved twice in 12 months and things got pretty chaotic. But now that I located this map, I'll be putting together the gaz for it - another in an ongoing series of projects that I start and (someday) finish...

NOTE: Jacob's Well area is in the Confederation of Eltera, a region also called the Great Valley - a very fertile land that is only marginally settled.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Exploring the Shuttered Consciousness of a Mad King

I put together a high level adventure (levels 10-15, I'd guess) a couple years ago based (loosely) on the Kansas album Point of Know Return ('cause I really like Kansas). Anyway, I got it just about done - a couple of maps from finished - but I'm not happy with it.

It's basically just an extended meat-grinder. A few puzzles, some traps, some thinking (a little railroading, too, to be honest) - but really, just a high level dungeon crawl. Here's the thing. I'm now really dissatisfied with the whole thing. First off, I really want the "dungeon" setting to be completely alien - and unpredictable (I have a chart for completely random things happening, for example - like the landscape changing or it raining fish or whatever) not just to be unpredictable - but because the adventure takes place within a person's mind - or within their imagination, I guess... Anyway, the vast majority of the adventure would be trying to find the Mage (former king of the region) who has locked himself up in his own mind and to stop him from doing what he's doing. There are a bunch of set pieces - some of which I really like, and work pretty well - but I'd like to make the setting completely...unpredictable - without completely hosing the characters all the time (you know, "Oh, sorry, the ground you're standing on just became lava - save vs. dragon breath or take 4,000hp damage - of course if you make your save you only take half damage" or whatever). I re-read Tomb of Horrors, but that's certainly not what I'm looking for (it's as classic "dungeon crawl" as you can get). I really only know the TSR era stuff well (it's for another post, but basically we bought anything TSR put out and assumed it was compatible with everything else - so we were playing the '81 Basic/Expert with the Greyhawk supplement and the Fiend folio for a while...). I think I have just about everything from the LBB to the end of 2nd Edition (not quite everything 2nd ed - but a fair amount), though the later stuff I simply haven't read (I've got Dark Sun and Planescape and Birthright and...geez, I don't know what all, so I HAVE it, but I don't really know it). I also have access to a bunch of Judges Guild and Role Aids stuff (not mine, but I can read it if I want) if there's something there that might be worth checking out...

The long and the short of it is this: Is there a high level adventure (heck, okay, ANY adventure) that really takes on, say, randomness - something that might be inspiring for this "exploring the shuttered consciousness of a mad king" monster that I have sitting on the back-burner? Can anybody recommend anything? Is there an adventure somewhere that takes place inside the body of a gigantic creature? Or that takes place in a dreamworld (that might be the best analogy to what I'm looking for)? Any Edition - I'll find it if it's worthwhile. Just looking for suggestions...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

On Fighters...

Okay, so I've tweaked some of the classes a bit - I was thinking about fighters today. Characters can multiclass in fighter and get better weapons and advance in their "to hit" abilities - but only single classed fighters get multiple attacks (and other bonuses, as I think of them - and that's for another post, when I have a little more time).

What I was thinking about was that multiple attacks per round works like this - at a certain level you get 3 attacks every 2 rounds - then 2 attacks a round - then you gain automatic initiative on your first attack and then...? What? Automatic hit?

But I was also thinking that the second of any multiple attack should come at the END of the round - and if the fighter takes any damage during that round, he might lose that multiple attack. Should it be an automatic loss, or a chance to lose it?

More on Fighters soon...

Monday, April 26, 2010

Rewriting History...Sort Of...

Retooling the Realms

Over at RPG BLOG II was the post Death By Canon suggesting that it's hard to DM in the Forgotten Realms because there's frankly SO much "Canon" material out there that it's impossible to keep up - and yet, you're likely to find some player who knows more "official bits" than you do. And I get it - that's true in ANY published setting - try running MERP or Greyhawk or Star Wars or whatever, and you'll find somebody who will say, "They'd never tothat" to something you've set up, stated off the cuff, created, whatever...

So I suggested in the comments to "file the serial numbers off" - I hear this a lot on blogs and in forums, but I don't see it done in practice all that much. The simplest way to do it is to just use the map and change the names - heck, you can even keep them similar - and maybe use some of the same (though I'd avoid Waterdeep and the Dalelands and the like). Waterdeep can become Deep Port (so that I can remember what city the new name is replacing) Silverymoon can be Goldsun or something like that - Hellsgate Keep can be Watchgate Keep, etc., etc.

Gimpshop makes quick work of maps. Here's one I pulled form the 1st Ed boxed set - the Waterdeep region with quickly reworked tags. Took me about 10 minutes. Yeah, I don't know if I'd keep some of the names...

It's a pretty simple matter - go through your books and pencil in the new names (what??? deface my game books??? Bah, they're meant to be used...) and/or make a book of notes with the salient points of what Deep Port is (maybe with a note like "Deep Port is Waterdeep - see FR DM Sourcebook page XX" or whatever).

Better yet would be to do all of the above, but draw a completely new map - not HUGELY different, but different enough that players who know the Forgotten Realms inside and out from all the novels and whatever might not even guess they are in the Realms - of they might say something like, "Boy, this sure seems like Silverymoon...hmmm, Goldsun, I wonder if yon MR. DM is using Silverymoon for this town..." Or whatever. That kind of Metagaming never really bothered me - they know that it sounds like Silverymoon, but it definitely is not Silverymoon, so when the Lord Mayor (or whatever - maybe I make Goldsun a "den of scum and villainy" and it's the Pirate Lord Roberts who is running the place) says something like, "It's Thursday, strangers, and no one wears shoes on Thursday," the player can't say, "Well, that would NEVER happen in Silverymoon." Or, well, they COULD, but then you can just say, "Yes, but this isn't Silverymoon."

It's, heh, Inspired By A True Story... You know how the movies that state this have about 1% "true story" and 99% Inspired by in them. Or pick any Conan movie. Yeah, it's kind of like that. Only good - because it's yours...

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Rethinking Demihumans

So I've been rethinking the role of Elves and Dwarves in Daen Ral. I mean, I get why people want to play demihumans with the cool extra powers. And I've tried to balance the extra abilities with some restrictions - elves with an upper limit on strength and constitution, dwarves with an upper limit on dexterity and wisdom (I think, don't have my house rules draft in front of me) and halflings, I think it was strength and wisdom... Anyway - still not sure about halflings and gnomes to begin with - but Dwarves and Elves, how do you do away with them?

Actually, I don't want to "do away with them." But I want to make them more...alien. More..."not human." I really want a stark separation between humans and demihumans - that they don't mix at all. Of course there will always be exceptions - some tiny, isolated areas and individuals - but the rule is that humans and demihumans live in different worlds.

Elves are the exiled immortal one-time fallen servants of the Creator God. They remain isolated from humanity because thousands of years ago, before the Great Storm (when humanity was excised from Daen Ral), the elves were enslaved by humanity. The enslaved elves rose up and overthrew their oppressors. Not willing to suffer that injustice again, they isolate themselves from human beings to the point of killing interlopers (the irony of it is that most elves in fact have human blood in them - the full blooded Exile or Firstborn are extremely rare). So, what does that society look like?

Dwarves were staunch allies of the elves and humans before the Great Storm. When the elves "cleansed the land of the human taint", the dwarves cut off all relations with elves (finding the elven action too extreme - the oppressed had become the oppressor) and sealed themselves up in great caverns and underground cities (previously, they had been surface dwellers). When humans landed again on the shores of Daen Ral, the Dwarves welcomed them openly, but found the humans who invaded the new world to be more barbaric and warmongering than they remembered. When a plague broke out among the invaders (and the dwarves), the invaders blamed the dwarves and sought to eradicate them (the truth is, the plague was brought by the invaders themselves and spread to the dwarves, who were even more susceptible than the human invaders, nearly wiping out the dwarves - hence the number of dwarven ruins dotting the mountains of Daen Ral). So, what does this society look like?

Alien - un-human and...anti-human... But not evil (not as a whole race, that is)...

And Faerie - I'll get to that too (man, I've got a lot on the back burner here...)

Friday, April 23, 2010

Filling the Hexes

So...I really want to fill out the Jacob's Well sandbox (real life keeps getting in the way, but that's certainly true for everyone) but I'm wondering - how small is too small?

Seriously, I'm only talking about an area about 10x10 miles or so - farms, forest, foothills and just the edge of mountains, a river... How much detail? How small a hex. On the Hope Cross Outdoor Map the scale is one small hex=220 yards. What if I detailed every 22yard hex? I mean, yeah, that's ridiculous... but... every 1/2 mile? That means...about 400 hexes (as opposed to 220 yards which would be...6400 hexes). I mean, certainly there's something interesting to say about every eighth of a mile or so, isn't there? Is there?

So...what's interesting?

I walk down my road and I see all kind of unusual things. In just a mile I cross, I think, three bridges, there's a deer carcass bloated and rotting, there's the inevitable litter, an abandoned house, broken down cars and sheds and a bar (so, I live in a really small, rural, Western Pennsylvania town, okay?). Every couple hundred yards there is probably something that isnoteworthy to the observer - but not important in any way.

So, yeah, that's too much detail, right?

But...well, how do you pack the hexes? I'm going to try the 1/2 mile hexes and see what I come up with. I need to look again at some of the "hexcrawling" posts I've seen and decide how to apply them to Jacob's Well region. I'll try to get some of these ideas posted next week...

So, here's the map in question:

Thursday, April 22, 2010

New Spell Idea

Telecanter's Receding Rules blog has this post about Fairy Tale story titles making great spell names. And he's right, they're very evocative. So I thought I'd try my hand at one:

The Story of the Wind
4th Level Druid Spell
Range: 0
Duration: Instantaneous
Effect: special

This spell must be cast outdoors. When the spell is cast, the wind begins to pick up and as it does so, it begins to moan with a haunting voice. The wind can answer a single yes or no question that pertains to the natural world in the particular region the spell is cast (DM discretion as to details).

I don't know if that's any good or not - but I'm thinking about giving all the spells in the Daen Ral game new, evocative names...

Anyway, here are the other titles he posted:

  • The Palace of Revenge
  • The Prince of Leaves
  • The Fortunate Punishment
  • The Impossible Enchantment
  • The Devil with the Three Golden Hairs
  • The Bright Sun Brings It to Light
  • The Crumbs on the Table
  • The Thorny Road of Honor
  • The Last Dream of the Old Oak
  • The Story of the Wind
  • Beauty of Form and Beauty of Mind
  • The Storm Shakes the Shield
  • Go I Know Not Whither and Fetch I Know Not What

  • I really want to come up with some alternate Quest/Geas spell for that last one, but I'm at a loss for details...

    Wednesday, April 21, 2010

    A Long Prelude - and Faeries and Ars Magica

    Boy, anyone looking for a rhyme or reason in this blog is going to be sorely disappointed - I'm WAY more ADD than I thought I was (hmmm, ADD AD&D...a game where you start to save the princess and then oh, look, a butterfly...) erm, as I was saying. Not a lot of ORGANIZATION here - but that's okay with me - I'm brainstorming here as I type. Dunno how I'm supposed to organize that...maybe it comes later.

    Been reading an old Ars Magica adventure, "Midsummer Night's Dream." I bought it (wow, twenty years ago maybe? checked the copyright - probably 17 years ago, anyway...) because I thought the concept of Ars Magica and, especially, Mythic Europe (both of which I bought as well) and I was an English major at the time, so, it's like Shakespeare and stuff.... At the time I was reading Katherine Kurtz' Deryni Chronicles and appreciated the pseudo-European feel of the world and thought that Ars Magica might scratch the alternate/mythic historical game that I thought I wanted to play.

    But I never found anyone to play AM with me - and after plowing through the rules I was left a bit "meh" anyway (I think this is 3rd ed we're talking about). And the itch went away, so the books sat on a shelf, then a box which I rediscovered a couple weeks ago.

    Anyway, as I was reading the adventure it starts off a little promising - I mean, it's set during the Crusades - and there's persecution and witch burning and lots of heavy-handedness by the Church (yeah, yeah, I'm a pastor, but man the Church has done some really brutal things, historically) and the idea of trying to be a mage in that era is appealing...'s so scripted. I mean - your covenant is in its springtime when the SAGA starts and you can't have any Faerie characters and you need to make sure your covenant is in Provance and...urk...that's a lot of and's already.

    I know when I bought this I intended to play it - but reading it now - talk about railroading... I mean it's just a story - it's not even an "adventure path" - it's a pre-packaged story of the rise and...maturing?? - of a covenant of mages.

    Now - I HATE, HATE, HATE the structure of the adventure. The chapters, the way in which the SAGA has to unfold.

    But there's still some cool stealable...uh, borrowable stuff here. The Covenant of Doisstep's map and general description is usable - and there's an okay curse - a forgotten god - the faerie (shades of Shakespeare, of course - and pretty well depicted). So...I'm not sorry I purchased this thing Back-in-the-Day, 'cause I can cannibalize it for some useful stuff. In fact, that's pretty much what I do anyway.

    The point? Expect to see some stuff about Faerie coming soon (tinged by Ars Magica and Tad Williams' Shadowmarch books, which I sold to Half-Price Books when I moved last year - and regret it). I know NOTHING of the folklore of Faeries, so expect this to be some bizarre mish-mash of whatever my addled brain comes up with for "the wee folk." And that's how I want it to be.

    Tuesday, April 20, 2010

    A New Monster From My Lost City

    I was working on my expansions for B4 The Lost City last year and it's grown into this several hundred page behemoth (with not one but TWO extraplanar gates - one of which is 150 page setting in and of itself) - and I haven't detailed New Cynidecia yet or any of the cavern, really. Most of what I have done so far has been re-tooling the pyramid and adding upper ruins (in the desert) and the aforementioned extraplanar areas. Now, I'm one who draws from a lot of different sources sometimes - especially when expanding someone else's adventure to begin with. So I've used some Dungeon Magazine and White Dwarf Magazine adventures, some d20 stuff, some old Judges Guild stuff, one MERP product, some ideas from a Dragonsfoot workshop page and several one page dungeon entries - that's what I can remember off the top of my head - to fill out some of these areas. But I've created a lot of the stuff, too - some whole cloth, some inspired by other products or images found online.

    So, anyway, here's a creature that I created for the Necropolis Demiplane that is part of a large trap at the entrance of the Lich's lair (a trap that would not affect the PCs - it's part of the what keeps the power balance in the Demiplane...). So, here's a new critter for those who care about such things:

    Guardian Columns

    AC 5; MV 30’; HD 8; hp 8-64; THAC0 12; #AT 2; D 2-12/2-12; SD Edge weapons do 1 pt damage, special regeneration; SZ L; Int Non; AL N; XP 600+12/hp.

    Guardian Columns appear as 4’ diameter columns of intertwined bones (human or otherwise) and, in fact, that is what they are. The necromancer who creates these aberrations gathers thousands of bones from any type of creature (the type has no effect whatsoever on the Guardian Column) and binds them together with a minor demon’s spirit form. The resulting creatures are often used as silent guardians.

    The Guardian Column forms “legs” of sorts out of the bones and “walks” on these, rather slowly, though it can form “legs” anywhere.

    The Guardian Column attacks with two “appendages” at a time that whip out from the body of the creature from nearly any point (giving the Columns a +2 to hit). The ends of the appendages are spiked with splintered and shattered bones, which grab the victim and tear at their flesh as they are hit and removed.

    Guardian Columns take only one hp damage from edged weapons and no damage at all from arrows or spears (or other thrusting weapons), but take full damage from blunt weapons (that is, a blunt weapons does its full damage every time it hits – a mace does 6 hp damage for every hit).

    A Guardian Column with a ready supply of bones (in, say, a charnel house) can continually re-form itself with the bones, thus, effectively, “regenerating” hit points every round until the bones are exhausted (splintered by blunt weapon attacks or magic attacks).

    Like all undead, Guardian Columns are immune to mind affecting spells, cold attacks and lightning.

    So...any good?

    Monday, April 19, 2010

    On Religion

    So I only have a generic idea of religion in Daen Ral (wierd considering my profession...) but I've been giving some of the fringe elements a bit of thought lately. I mean, I did a post on Clerics last week or so (and as soon as I can figure out why IE won't let me paste a link, I'll get one in here...argh). Anway, that post was mosly crunch, not much fluff.

    Religion in general:
    There's a Creator God. There are angels. Some of those angels "fell away" - some of the fallen angels repented (and weren't granted re-entry into heaven until the consummation of history - the end of times - whatever - so they walk Daen Ral as the Firstborn, elves/exiles and gods of the world), some remained fallen (demons and devils).

    Through the turmoils of the ages, worhsip of the Creator has continued, though the religion has seen its dark eras, too. Still, when humanity was forced from the shores of Daen Ral by the Elves and the Dwarves (the Great Storm - thousands of years ago), some remnants of humanity, and worship of the Creator God, remained in hidden pockets (the Knights of the Crescent Moon, for example). When humanity re-discovered the New World (Daen Ral), they brought with them a very different religion than what developed over the eons in the secret pockets of humanity in Daen Ral. Thus, while there is officially one Church/Religion for humanity, there are multiple sects - the Way of the Master and the Church of the Path being the two major examples of worhsip of this One God. More fringe groups also exist, The Eternal Order, the Freethinkers, and others, but they give at least lipservice to one or the other heirarchies of the Church.

    But other fringe groups exist that have nothing to do with worship of the Creator God. The most sinister of these being the Churches of the Elemental Gods - Air, Earth, Fire, Water and Void/Darkness being the five points of the Elemental star - yet these themselves were born of Chaos, the Primoridal element (for out of chaos the Creator God brought all that is...). These gods are fallen angelic beings of eternal age and tremendous power. I'll be using Cthulu-esque creatures here. Then there are the other Old Gods (all the elemental gods are Old Gods, but there are others as well - like life and death and chance and...well, there are 13 total - another post for another time). Worship of the Old Gods is carried out in secret, even by members of the clergy of the Way of the Master of the Church of the Path. It is forbidden, it is heresy and it is a path to temporal power (since the "gods" are real beings who can grant real power to their worshippers, though at a cost to themselves).

    There are many Local Gods - Firstborn or Firstfallen who crawl out of their eternal slumbers and set themselves up over villages, cities, kingdoms if they can. Some choose not to reveal themselves, to work behind the throne as it were, some fabricate huge armies of mostrous creatures and threaten war.

    And other more bizarre/fringe religions sprout up as well: the Cult of the God's Eye (worshipers of the comet that circles the planet), Children of the Fire (a cult that uses fire in its worship), Watchers of the Night Sky (worship stars)...okay, not that bizarre - I'll work on it...

    Friday, April 16, 2010

    Magic Push...

    So the other day, Lord Kilgore stirred some things up for suggesting that Mages might have some kind of magical Blast power that gives Mages a bit of something to do in combat. Yeah, it's not Vancian (big deal) and, gasp, it sounds like something that comes from later editions.

    Here's my thought on the matter. How about at 1st level the mage gets some kind of a magical "push" ability (yes, I know, the spell...whatever) where the creature (or creatures, I guess) is thrown back and out of range of the mage for a round, no damage - I'm thinking of having watched Legend of the Seeker recently and Zed could send out these waves of energy that knock people over. So, what about that? Just kind of "pushing back" the foes so that the real fighters can take care of them? Maybe push back 1d4 HD per level of the mage?(so, yeah, at 10th level it's 10-40 HD - too much?) Not dealing any damage, just giving the mage a round breather from getting run-through - maybe then being able to get off a spell - or shove another opponent away...

    Or - heck, why not a simplified Magic Missile kind of ability - 1d4 damage per level of mage - or even 1d2 damage per level - but not automatic hit (have to figure out the mechanic to hit...). So, yeah, again 10th level would do 10-40 (or 10-20) hp damage - pretty significant, I guess. Maybe too much. Heck - maybe make Magic Missile (can I use this term and still be a Grognard) "At Will"? Nah, too powerful...

    I think of the two options, I prefer the Push/Shove option - it gives mages a bit more defensive capability - but not much more in their arsenal for attacking, since it does no damage whatsoever (hmmm, though shoving someone off a cliff...hmmm...of course, how often would that happen? Heck, I'd probably give a bonus to XP if a player used the ability creatively) Heh - and on a failure roll (yeah, still contemplating that one) the MAGE gets thrown back and maybe stunned for a round or something...

    Thursday, April 15, 2010

    Wyvern Lair

    Wyvern Lair

    High atop the Devil’s Finger is the Wyvern’s nest. The wyverns used to plague the region, but they stopped suddenly, years ago. The former village druid claimed that he had brought balance to the natural order of things and that the wyvern would no longer be hunting the village sheep and cattle (or the occasional villager). The truth is that the red dragon in the northern mountains awoke from a centuries-long sleep to find human beings once again on his doorstep and has been plotting to destroy them before they discover his presence. The dragon formed an uneasy truce with the wyverns (for the time being) demanding that they not raid the human settlements. The wyverns have sought food among the goblin tribes and the elk herds in the area for the past several years now. However, all that has changed. Last week the dragon sent an envoy to the wyverns and told them to stop preying on the goblins as the master had need for them. The wyverns (not the brightest of the draconic family) took the message to mean the human settlements were again available to them. So they began to steal cattle and sheep.

    As the party approaches Devil’s Finger:

    Watching from atop the peak is the male wyvern. During the day, PCs have a 9-12 chance of being spotted by this vigilant creature when they enter the hex in which Devil’s Finger is located unless some extreme measures are taken. The area 100’ around the spire is cleared of trees and underbrush, so if the party approaches this area in full daylight, there is a 100% chance of being spotted. If spotted, the male will call to his mate and they will launch from the nesting area and attack. This mated pair is fiercely loyal to one another and extremely aggressive, attacking any creature which comes near to the spire.

    The wyverns’ typical approach is to attack the target(s) from different sides, hoping that one or the other can gain the element of surprise. They have been living in this forested area for decades, so they are adept at fighting among the trees (they gain +1 for surprise when attacking PCs in forested areas).

    1. The Pit

    In the spoor around the base of the spire are ripped and broken bits of armor and destroyed weapons and many bones, primarily goblin and elk. If the party searches the waste, they can find the following (1-6 chance per turn of searching to turn up one item): 10gp in a leather pouch, a ring (gold with a pearl set, magical – ring of haste), a ruby (worth 250gp), a small pile of coins fused together (13gp, 11pp, 19sp, 4cp), a brass ring (worth 1gp). Feeding on the offal are several grey oozes. For each turn spent searching in the waste, the PCs have a 1-6 chance of encountering a grey ooze. There are 3 oozes at the base of the spire.

    The Long Climb

    Climbing the spire is easy for thieves (who gain a +25% on their climb skill) and can be accomplished by other PCs relatively easily with ropes. CLIMBING RULES?

    2. The Lower Fissure

    This area, 120’ above the base of the spire, is a crack in the rock wide enough for a normal human or smaller being to enter. The fissure runs about 25’ into the spire and closes up.

    A series of small ledges climbs from the base of the spire to this fissure.

    These ledges have eroded and are weakened. If 200 pounds is place on one of these ledges, there is a 50% chance (+5% for each 10 pounds above 200 is placed on the ledge) that the ledge will collapse. So if a fighter wearing armor and equipment totaling (with his body weight added) 230+ pounds were to try to cross a ledge there would be a 65% chance of it collapsing. The %age chance remains for any subsequent usage of the particular ledge (that is to say, if the 104 pound mage crosses after the fighter, there is still a 65% chance the ledge will collapse, since the fighter would have worked it loose with his weight). If a ledge collapses, everything (and everyone) on it falls, taking 1d6 hp damage for every 10’ fallen. PCs get a DEX check (with AC bonuses/penalties applied to the roll) to avoid falling. A falling PC hits the ledge below on a 3-6 chance for every 10’ fallen. If the falling PC hits a lower ledge, the damage for the fall is halved and the ledge is 80% likely to collapse under the weight of the falling character (and debris) from above. Falling PCs will continue to crash through ledges until either a ledge holds or they hit the ground.

    If either or both of the adult wyverns still lives when the PCs ascend the spire, they will gather the hatchlings and attack the PCs as they climb. If neither adult lives, the hatchlings remain in their nest (room 4) until the PCs enter the chamber.

    3. Galltrit Lair

    As the party passes this point, they might notice (as detect secret door) a small, well worn hole in the stone. The opening would be hardly big enough for a man to put his arm into it.

    This is a lair of four Galltrits. These tiny creatures come out primarily at night to feed on the offal and carrion around the Spire. During the day there is an 80% chance that they will be asleep, though very loud noises (like crashing ledges, for example) will certainly wake them. The Galltrits’ lair is a 9”x6” crevice that opens into a somewhat larger space in the rock (PCs can reach in and feel around, if they want). In the lair are a Gem of Seeing and a 50gp aquamarine. Also in the lair are a ten tiny splinters of wood coated with a mild poison (save vs. poison or become dizzy and pass out for 1-6 rounds). PCs groping around inside the lair make a DEX check at to see if they hit anything. If they do, roll d12 and see what they hit:

    1. Gem of Seeing

    2.-11. Poison splinter

    12. Aquamarine (worth 50gp).

    GALLTRIT (4): AC 2; MV 30'/180’; MC: B; HD ¼ ; hp 2; THAC0 20; #AT 1; D 1-2; SA Drain blood, anti-coaguant, anaesthesis; SZ S; Int Avg; AL CE; XP 32. (FF)

    4. Hatchlings’ nest.

    HATCHLING (4): AC 6; MV 40’/120’; HD 5+2; hp 12, 15, 19, 26; THACO15; #AT 2; D 1-6/1-2; SA Poison; SZ M; Int Low; AL NE; XP 575+5/hp.

    These four hatchlings are about half the size of their parents. Their sting does only 1-2 points of damage and their poison induces unconsciousness (2d4 turns) not death (though the hatchlings will begin to devour any unconscious victims, inflicting 1-6 hp/round for each hatchling feasting on a particular victim).

    In the jumble of bones, offal and various other bits of junk can be found (1-6 per turn of searching) 2 small sapphires (100gp each) and various coins (1-4 of a random type found in any given turn, 2-20 of each type available).

    5. Wyvern’s nest.

    The wyverns have built their nest here in this cave, separated from the hatchlings but able to watch over them in case of a threat. The female wyvern is here 80% of the time (always in the daytime, she hunts occasionally at night) and is asleep 50% of the time. She is guarding a clutch of eggs.

    WYVERN (2): AC 3; MV 60’/240’; MC: E; HD 7+7; hp 34 (male) 49 (female); THAC0 13; #AT 2; D 2-16/2-16; SA Poison; SZ L; Int Low; AL NE; XP 925+10/hp (MM)

    5a. Fetid pool.

    This small pool is the wyverns’ water supply. The water collects here from rain. Presently there are bits of three goblin bodies rotting in the water. PCs who drink the water must make a save vs. poison or suffer an intestinal infection. (cure disease or suffer incapacitation for 36 hours – onset in 2d10x10 minutes from first drinking the water). In the center of the pool is a ring (cursed Ring of Clumsiness.)

    5b. Trophy room.

    Wyverns are not very intelligent, but these creatures recognize that some things are more valuable than others and keep their prize possessions in this chamber. Included here are: a young red dragon skull (actually one of the offspring of the dragon to the north who attacked wyverns some time ago), a shield that has been polished to the finish of a silver mirror, a dwarven corpse in full armor (mostly skeletal remains – wearing dwarf-sized chain +1, a great helm, sturdy boots, a dagger and an axe), four long crystals (hexagonal, six-inches in diameter, 1d6+2 feet long each), a set of windchimes is also hanging from an outcropping stone.


    6. Ancient Upper Ruins.

    7. Fallen Temple of the Goblin God (not on map)


    Wednesday, April 14, 2010

    MORE, More, More on Mages

    Last week I posted some stuff about mages and Stuart from noted that maybe I've made being a mage too dangerous. I agree. I was thinking that 5% chance of something bad happening might not be that big a deal, but it IS one in 20, so I'm rethinking that post with something like:

    1% first cast, 3-5% second cast (not sure where I fall on this yet), 10% third, 20% fourth, 40% fifth, 75% sixth, 95% seventh and subsequent (or 99%) of the same spell. Note that this is not (or wasn't, but hmmm...) intended for casting spells in general. That is a Fireball and then an invisiblity and then charm person and then rope trick - all at normal chances - but then a second charm person, 3-5% chance of something really bad happening, and, of course, all that assumes casting within a certain time frame - 12 hours? 4 hours? Dunno... I don't think I mind the extra book keeping (though it's all theorhetical at the moment as I'm sans gaming group) but we'll see. So far I think I've proposed the most complications for the magic using class.

    The idea behind this is that magic is dangerous, somewhat unpredictable - yet I could see the mage saying to himself, well, I have a pretty good chance of getting this third lightning bolt off - if it'll save the party or whatever. You know, basically knowing that there could be very dire consequences for manipulating the arcane energies - yet weighing the risks with the hoped for outcome. I would think that you would have to be desperate indeed to launch that sixth fireball (giving you 75% chance of blowing yourself up - or worse...) but "desperate times call for desperate measures".

    Bear in mind, half of what this blog is all about is me brainstorming "on paper" as it were - so there's a lot of stuff here that has never been (and probably will never be) playtested - just musings for my entertainment...

    Tuesday, April 13, 2010

    Episodic Play

    So I've been watching the Legend of the Seeker on Netflix. I enjoyed the Sword of Truth novels, though I absolutely hated the series end (and the heavy-handedness on the philosphy...).

    Anyway, the complaints of obsessive fans about the TV series is that it doesn't follow the novels closely at all. But there is a very clear difference between a novel (or series of novels) and a one hour (okay, 43 minute) episode of of a TV show. I mean, there are episodic elements to novels, yes, but there's also usually an overarching, more complicated plot whose threads weave in and out of the episodes. And TV viewers, being less obsessed than the typical raving fan of a novel series who will pout about the injustices of the adaptation - and the attention span of a puppy...

    So - TV is episodic. Yes, there might be a single element of plot that weaves from one episode to the next (the boxes of orden, for example) but generally each episode has a plot of its own that has to be dealt with and resolved in 43 minutes.

    I've been reading Robert E. Howard's Conan stories - and thinking about the episodic nature of those stories - and how they are adventures very like a TV series. Short plots that come to resolution - with hints of some larger events (example - Conan becomes king - and then has to deal with civil war and assassination attempts - and Howard deals with Conan king in several stories).

    So, what all this has to do with AD&D for me is this - I really may not ever have the ability to run a complicated, plot driven campaign - but I could run episodes. There may well be some background plotting going on, but I really need each "episode" of adventure to come to some kind of resolution - maybe not an "ending" per se, but a "stopping point" since it might be a month between sessions...

    So - I'm wondering if a sandbox campaign can accomplish this? Just thinking out loud...

    Monday, April 12, 2010

    Adventure Clearinghouse

    Saw a link to Sara Darkmagic yesterday. I guess it's a blog and stuff - that's all well and good, I didn't really look at those other areas, but the link page is a clearinghouse of lots and lots of adventures available - the good old stuff, 4e stuff, and tons in between. I've only scratched the surface, but I think it's only D&D in its various forms.*** It's a great idea, one that I've been kicking around but just didn't have the desire or organizational skills to put it together (and I would have just have pulled together free stuff - this site has stuff for sale, old stuff, free stuff...)

    So I can really see the utility of this kind of thing - and, frankly, it's better for not focusing on just one edition, or just the free stuff or whatever. There's good ideas to be had in every edition, so I pull free adventures whenever I can (I think I have everything from the Wizards site - even the Ravenloft stuff that I don't think I'll ever use as is).

    I've bookmarked the site (not that big a deal, I have hundreds of disorganized bookmarks) but I think this is one I'll go back to again and again - in fact, I'm going to put it in my links section on the blog.

    ***EDIT: yep, spent an hour or so on the site - it's a beginning - but it's a 4e focused site so, while there were a few oldies that showed up (Village of Homlett and Palace of the Silver Princess & others - oddly, not everything that is available for free even from the WotC site...????) So, it's a site with potential, and I'll keep the bookmark and be cautiously optimistic that it will become a more comprehensive sites

    Friday, April 9, 2010

    Game Settings

    Andreas over at The Omnipotent Eye wrote last week:

    Good writing for a setting means sowing the seeds of change while describing how everything fits together, feels real and there being an imagine of normality.

    He's talking about Kingdoms of Kalamar setting, which I've only glanced at, but his quick post about the descriptions found therein intrigue me - I'm going to read through it today, if all goes well.

    Anyway, I cut my setting teeth on Greyhawk, like so many other people, and the Forgotten Realms, and Dragonlance, and then MERP. So what I experienced was a progression of the depth of detail that is possible in setting description - Greyhawk was just so much framework - just enough detail to start, but not so much that I'd never remember it all. The Forgotten Realms (the Grey Box - First Ed, of course) wasn't much more detailed (okay, there was a bit more in some areas - by the way, Jeff Grubb has a great remembrance of putting that together here) but then the sourcebooks started coming out - Moonsheas, Waterdeep (and the North - um, what north?), etc, etc. And I scooped them up - for a while, and then I just couldn't take it any more - how could I keep up? And then MERP - well, I really only bought the stuff that I was most interested first...Mordor, Moria, The Witchking supplement - and some of the smaller areas - Shelob's Lair, Goblin Gate - and then I've added a bunch more...but, again, at some point it becomes over burdensome - how much detail is too much?

    When official Greyhawk adventures were published, I snapped them up (and learned quickly that anything with the byline Gygax was going to have at least some Greyhawk connection) - even into Second Ed (not Third, I dropped out of RPGs when 3e came out so I have very little idea of what was published for Greyhawk since somewhere around Greyhawk Ruins/City/Falcon/Puppeteer/From the Ashes stuff came out). I thought at the time (and still do, I'm nothing if not consistent - or stubborn...heh) that Gygax did it right - give us the framework for the world, the general state and politics, and then lots of hints and bits of info in the adventures to see where HE went with the stuff, but not so much that it couldn't be tweaked just a bit to fit into my own campaign set in Greyhawk. I'm even okay with giving more details on certain areas (City of Greyhawk, Vale of the Mage - neither does it all that WELL, but I'm okay with trying...)

    Once the Forgotten Realms became this huge encyclopedia of information, I jumped ship. I just couldn't keep up - and it started to feel like there were going to be no areas left for DMs to detail on their own. Looking back now, I appreciate the effort to build a highly detailed world - and I use some of that stuff as inspiration - but I can't imagine trying to play in the Realms.

    Or Middle Earth. Or Ansalon. Or, actually, Greyhawk these days... Not because of whatever has become of Greyhawk, but because, ultimately, it's not mine. And I guess, for me, that's where it's coming to.

    I appreciate the settings - but as soon as you say Greyhawk or Realms or whatever, you've limited what you can do somehow (even in your own mind). So, I'll continue to putter away on the World of Daen Ral and detail what I care about and leave blank what I don't care about - and fill the sandboxes with lots of toys... And when I'm done, if nobody cares but me, well, that's okay.

    So, after all that, I'm going to read Kingdoms of Kalamar and maybe steal an idea or two - but I'd never consider running a campaign there...

    Wednesday, April 7, 2010

    More...More on Mages

    So, what keeps mages from taking over the world? Looking over spell lists in nearly any version of D&D, at high levels they can be walking arsenals - and pretty invulnerable to most of what the mundane world can throw at them...

    I'm thinking that magic ought to be dangerous - the more powerful, the more dangerous - so there could be very high level mages - but they might get consumed by their own power if they aren't very, very careful about how they use the magic. So, while a mage could conceivably walk around and blow fireballs at everything in sight, what if there's a cumulative danger in unleashing them? (hmmm - 5% for first 10% for second 20% for third 40%, 80%, 99%...chance of something very bad happening - but what? Summoning a hostile fire elemental? That would be in keeping with the notion of summoning a bit of the elemental plane of fire as the fireball spell - assuming that's the fundamental mechanic of a fireball spell).

    So, while there could be some generic "spell failure" tables and the like - maybe there should be some kind of specialized mechanics for overuse of magic. I've considered the mechanic of magic costing the mage Constitution points or even Hit Points (because of how I envision magic working in Daen Ral) - but I think I want something more directly applicable to the actual use of magic...

    So...maybe there's both the chance of failure (see previous post) as well as the chance of something very, very bad happening, especially as a mage uses more and more magic in a short period of time.

    That might make mages less useful in combat, of course, but perhaps they would need to be more creative - or make more use of wands and potions and scrolls and the like (which would not necessarily be under the same constraints as the mage actually wrestling with the arcane energies him/herself).

    More on Mages

    So last week I mused on mages a bit - here's another post on the class.

    So I read chainmail bikini's take on spell complexity and it rattled something in my imagination that I thought might be interesting to explore.

    The idea that magic is difficult to master is a given in my world - otherwise, everybody would be doing it (though some very low level magics are fairly common - curses, charms, even potions might be considered "low level" magic in the sense that many people can do these things...). So maybe magic is complicated enough that there's a chance for complete failure, but it's also powerful and just unpredictable enough that there's a chance for wild success.

    Chainmail Bikini goes with d12 and spell levels. Here, let me quote it:

    Spell Complexity
    When a spell is cast, there is a chance that it may fail, it may be delayed by one round, it may be cast normally, or it may be cast and remembered for re-casting.
    Roll 1d12 and consult this table:
    - if
    roll = 1, the spell fails and is exhausted from the sorcerer
    - if
    roll <= spell level, the spell will be cast the following roundand exhausted from the sorcerer
    - if
    roll > spell level, the spell is cast immediately and exhausted from the sorcerer
    - if r
    oll = 12, the spell is cast immediately and retained by the sorcerer

    However, if I'm going to go with spell levels, I'm thinking that d8 or d10 would work better since there's such a wide opportunity for success, even with very high level spells... Alternately, one could use d20 and use the caster's level instead of the spell level (thus, a roll over the caster's level indicates success...wait, that means that as the caster gains levels, he gets LESS likely to, that won't work - invert the table?)


    if roll = 1, the spell is cast immediately and retained by the caster
    if roll is <>
    if roll is > than or = to caster level, the spell is cast the following round and exhausted from the caster
    if roll is 20, the spell fails and is exhausted from the caster (alt - additional roll, if 20, critical failure of spell...heh)

    Once a mage hits 20th level, there is only a 5% chance of any spell failing. That seems reasonable to me.

    I might be inclined to use the Bikini's method, since I like the fact that higher level spells really ARE hard to cast - though, as I said, I'd probably use a d10 (1 always fails, a 10 always succeeds with the spell retention) which makes higher level spells more likely to be delayed (and thus interrupted). I think I'd add a second roll for either a 1 or a 10 for a critical failure or a dramatic success (with subsequent sub tables). I don't worry too much about complexity at this point (see my post on counter spells for some more complexity...).

    Just another idea...

    Tuesday, April 6, 2010

    Multiclassing and Level Limits

    So I'm tinkering with classes - what about multiclassing?

    Some abilities should be reserved for only the single classed character - like multiple attacks for fighters, for example. You want to be a Fighter/Magic User - you will never gain multiple attacks. You WILL advance in your ability to attack (THAC0 or whatever), but there will be some benefits to being a straight-on fighter that will be lost to you. Likewise, you will not gain all the mage abilities (maybe the ability to create magic items and create potions and/or scrolls). It's really about balance for me - not balance as it sounds like 4e has established balance - but more about balancing the desire for making every class desirable to play - not all equal, in any sense.

    So I like the idea of the single classed character, so I will choose to penalize those who want to multi-class.

    Oh - and multiclasses have to accrue the full experience points for every class to gain the next level. So, at 4,500 xp, we have a Level 2 F/MU, and at 6,250 we have a Level 2 F/C/MU/T. Meanwhile, the straight up cleric is already 4th level with this many xp (6,500). Not that big a deal, I guess (I just ported it out - just attain 5th level F/C/M/T at 63,500 xp - everybody else is only at 7th - except the Fighter who's still at 6th - which was a surprise to me...). Taking a quick look at the Thief class, for example, I shouldn't have been that surprised. Since progression is roughly constantly doubling (until high levels), the multiclass is going to lag only one or two levels behind the single class (it does break out at very high levels - 3,565,000 xp for 13th level F/C/M/T - whereas with that kind of xp total, a straight up cleric will be about 24rd level and the Fighter will be about 22nd level - so maybe it works okay - IF we ever get to high levels).

    So I'm looking at classes with an eye toward what will make sense as single class only special abilities (with a rationalization that only single classed characters have the time to develop some skills - it's thin, but that's okay with me).

    But there's also level limits.

    I don't know if I'll have some upper limit. Basic/Expert suggested that 36 would be the upper limit, though the Immortal rules pushed that boundary. In practice, I'm not sure I could enjoy a game with 20+ level characters (we had 'em, back in the day, but we were powergaming/Monty Haul-ing at the time - not sure how much I enjoyed that, even then...). So, there are practical limits - and there are mechanical limits - the practical being what I think I'm comfortable with, the mechanical being some actual ceiling I might place.

    And it's all arbitrary - so what do I want? Well, I want there to be some uber powerful magic out there - so probably some uber powerful magic using beings...but as PCs, I don't know.

    One idea I had was that ability scores could contribute to level limits in a very concrete way. Say, attribute times 2 indicates the level limit (hmmm, very nicely fitting into the 36 level mold) - or even attribute equals level limit (off the cuff, I like that better - in order to become a super high powered magic user, for example, you'd have to somehow get smarter - VERY, VERY smart, in fact...). That would mean that everybody would likely top out at 15th to 18th level.

    So, lets push this a little farther. Multiclass can only attain one-half of attribute as a maximum level - so, F/M with STR 17 and INT 15 would top out at 8 (if I'm rounding down, which I think I would) but would have to gain both F/M experience to go from 7th to 8th level, even though magic ability stops at 7th level... No, too messy. Perhaps half of the least of the attributes? Then the F/MU would be max 7th level. Or just the least attribute - 15th level in the above scenario (thus, xp progression would be the major penalty - and the special ability differences). Or something even more arbitrary like lowest prime attribute MINUS THREE or something... I'll mull this over a bit more.

    So - multiclassing doesn't really seem to slow character progression all that much, so there should be some other penalties, in my mind, for the mutliclass.