Sunday, November 30, 2008

Ah, the benefits of an RPG education

I'm playing a game of Scrabble online with a friend via Facebook. It was my turn to go, so I logged on, looked at the board, looked at my pieces, then spelled out D-O-X-Y. My girlfriend, who was watching me do my thing, was surprised that that was a real word. I knew that I knew it from somewhere, but I couldn't quite place it...

I looked up the word: "prostitute" was given as the meaning. And then it clicked. The random Harlot Table from the 1e DMG! I grabbed the tome off the shelf, and sure enough there it was: "expensive doxy." So, thanks to Gary and his voluminous vocabulary, I just scored 30 points on a double word score. Boo-yah!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Order of the d30


"I now declare the Order of the d30. You and Zach are both authorized to go forth and be awesome in the name of the thirty sider." --Jeff Rients

Anyone else who wants to take this coat of arms and post it on their blog, by all means do so. That is the sole requirement for membership in the Order. Your sole duty? Go forth and be awesome in the name of the thirty sider.


Thursday, November 27, 2008

How I Spent My Thanksgiving

I made this:


Well, in between turkey-cooking and watching a Dance Party marathon on TV, of course...

What we have here is what I'm calling my "AD&D" folder. It's a self-contained collection of rulebooks, supplements, forms, and pretty much anything else I'll need to run D&D romps in the Wilderlands, which is my go-to choice for AD&D-flavored fantasy. (Uresia is my go-to choice for "Basic" D&D-flavored game worlds, for which I'll use Labyrinth Lord and may very well put together another, somewhat slimmer binder.)

I've been planning to do this for a while now; the motivation finally came in the form of an impending chance to run some sessions in the City State--both Alex and Des have expressed an interest in bringing in characters they've made for past D&D one-shots I've run, which delights me no end.

Here's the front-end of the binder. I like to hold on to player's character sheets, just in case. Particularly since Alex has a long and lamentable history of losing his character sheets, often many times over. First up in the binder is a print out of the Castles & Crusades Players Handbook. As I've written about previously, I've considered doing a C&C/2e hack in the past, but ultimately I decided I'd be better off with C&C plus house rules (more about that shortly). I've heard C&C called 2e the way it should have been. Although I wouldn't go that far, it definitely captures the 1e/2e feeling nicely. Plus, this way I can use James Mishler's excellent Wilderlands supplements straight from the page, as it were.


Next I have a section for campaign forms--session logs, time records, calendars, NPC forms, etc.

The next section is a bit of an "adventure cookbook" (which, ironically, does not contain the old AD&D supplement of the same name). 

A mix of both old-school and new-old-school products...

The next section is my houserules, which I'll reproduce in full below. I owe about 95% of the house rules to the bountiful wonder of the Internet; I've included bits of Hackmaster, courtesy of the CastleHack houserules; some of Jeff Rients's fantastic Cinder houserules; Trollsmyth's "Shields Shall Be Splintered," which deserve to be integrated into all future versions of D&D, if you ask me; and a few others from here and there and sundry, and maybe even one or two of my own. Also included in this section are the multiclassing and secondary skill rules from Castle Zagyg, classes and races from the famous "Colin Sez" document, and a couple Mishler Wilderlands documents.

The last two sections are collections of random encounter documents. First up, and I expect to use this section quite a bit in the upcoming City State games, is the City Encounters document from Mythmere Games, which is just absolutely chock full of heady goodness. I also printed out some CSIO "web enhancements" from the Necromancer/Judge's Guild website--generic NPC stats, a guide to coinage of the realm, and so forth.

Last but not least is Kellri's excellent "Old School Encounter Reference," which is just about the most impressive, useful, and comprehensive such document I've ever come across. (It kind of delights me that my folder contains a document by Kellri and one by JimLOTFP, two guys who don't exactly see eye to eye on the messageboards, to say the least. Seems to say something about the old school community, but I'll leave the pontificating for another day.)


And now, without further ado, my C&C Wilderlands houserules:

Generating Attributes
Attribute scores are generated by rolling 4d6 and discarding the lowest die roll. The player then orders them any way he chooses. If the player does not like the results of the die rolls, he may choose to substitute all the die rolls with a standard score package of 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, and 8, ordered as desired.

The player cannot choose to keep some rolls and discard others. Either all the rolls are accepted, or none are.

Attribute Increase

Attributes slowly increase as characters level up. Each attribute now has a % listed after it (for example, Str 14/57%). When that % reaches 100%, the attribute increases 1 point. Starting characters roll d100 for each attribute to see its starting percentage level; when characters level, this percentage increases by an amount determined by class.

 

Class

Str

Int

Wis

Dex

Con

Cha

Assassin

D4

D6

D4

D20

D4

D4

Barbarian

D12

D4

D4

D6

D12

D4

Bard

D6               

D8

D6

D8

D6

D8

Cleric

D6

D6

D12

D6

D6

D6

Druid

D6

D6

D12

D6

D8

D4

Fighter

D12

D4

D4

D8

D10

D4

Illusionist

D4

D12

D8

D10

D4

D4

Knight

D8

D6

D6

D6

D8

D8

Monk

D8

D6

D6

D8

D10

D4

Paladin

D10

D4

D10

D6

D6

D6

Ranger

D8

D6

D6

D10

D8

D4

Rogue

D6

D6

D6

D12

D6

D6

Wizard

D4

D12

D8

D8

D6

D4


Multiclassing

Use the rules from the "Castle Zagyg" supplement.


Secondary Skills

Same as above for Multiclassing.


Daily Spell Lists for Wizards and Illusionists
Each day a spellcaster prepares a list of spells for each spell level that he can cast 'spontaneously' as he chooses. For example, a second level wizard with 15 intelligence can cast 4 0-level and 4 1st-level spells per day. He would thus choose a 'list' of four cantrips and four first level spells, and could cast any combination of those four cantrips and four first level spells that day (though cantrips cannot be cast in place of first level spells, and vice versa). For example, say the wizard prepared for his first level spells burning hands, charm person, identify, and spider climb. He could then cast each of those spells once that day, cast identify four times (and not cast any of the others at all), or cast burning hands twice and spider climb twice. This option obviously makes spellcasters a bit more versatile, but is balanced by the fact that many spells will be unavailable. 

As a side effect, wizards can cast "special effects" based on spells that they've prepared. These are minor effects that do not cause damage, distraction, or otherwise impart any other significant advantage but can serve as useful utilities or simply help make the spellcaster seem a bit more mysterious or "wizardly." The special effects are left to the player's imagination, but some examples might be: being able to create small flames (equivalent to a cigarette lighter) for a wizard who has prepared fireball, or instantly chill a drink for wizard who has prepeared cone of cold.

Wizard Staffs and Illusionist Wands
Arcane spellcasters require no material components or normal 'spell books'. Instead, the wizard's focus is his staff. The wizard can choose one spell from each spell level known (i.e. one 0 level spell, one 1st level spell, etc.) that he can cast without his staff, but for all other spells he needs his staff. Moreover, all arcane magic is rune-based (so scrolls and books found typically contain runes of spells). As the wizard learns more spells, he carves these runes into his staff, so the staff serves the role of a 'spell book'. The exceptions are those spells he can cast without his staff -- those are tattooed onto the wizard himself (his hands and arms). As a consequence, the wizard is heavily dependent on his staff (this is the main constraint he faces, to balance the increased flexibility gained from the 'spell list' house rule I am using, and to keep the sorcerer more or less balanced with the wizard). The wizard's staff is considered a magical item, and has a spell resistance of 15 + the wizard's level. Spells like 'shatter' and 'warp wood' would have to overcome that resistance to work. Illusionists are like wizards, except they use multiple wands instead of a single staff (and normally try to conceal their wands 'up their sleeves' and whatnot).


Priest Spheres

Clerics and druids choose two domains associated with their deity (see attached document). The domains grant a special ability, but no additional spells. 


Clerical and Druidic Healing Spells

Both classes may trade any unused spell slot of any level to cast either Cure Light Wounds (Clerics) or Animal Friendship (Druids). Either class may trade Level 0 spells for First Aid.


Bonus 0 Level Spells

A character receives as many bonus orisons or cantrips (0 level spells) as they do bonus spells of all other levels combined. For example, a Wizard with an 18 Intelligence would, at their first character level, receive one bonus 1st level spell and one bonus cantrip. At their third character level, they would receive a bonus 2nd level spell and another cantrip (for a total of two). Upon reaching their fifth character level, they would receive a bonus 3rd level spell and another cantrip (for a total of three bonus cantrips added to the five they would normally have at that level).

Hit Point Kicker

All characters (and medium-sized monsters!) start with an additional 20 hit points. Small monsters receive +10 hit points; large receive +30 hit points. 


Serious Wounds

If a character (or NPC/monster) takes half his Hit Points damage in a single blow, he must immediately make a Con check or fall prone and be unable to act, as he is rolling around in pain and otherwise embarrassing himself. He can recover by successfully making a Con roll at the beginning of each turn.

 

Enhanced Damage

Certain dice rolls “explode.” Anytime maximum is rolled on a damage (including a critical damage die--see below), healing, or attribute advancement die (see above), the player can roll again and add, subtracting 1 from the bonus die. This continues until the player stops rolling maximum! For example, if a player armed with a battle-axe rolls 2d4 damage, and rolls a ‘3’ and a ‘4’, he’ll roll a bonus die. If it comes up as a ‘3’, he’ll do a total of 9 damage--7 for the initial roll, plus 2 (3-1) for the second. Add any bonuses from Strength, magical weapons, criticals, et cetera at the end!


Initiative Modifiers

Initiative is rolled once at the beginning of combat. The roll is modified DEX or WIS if that is the character's prime, and by the speed of the weapon or the spell being utilized that round.


Shields Shall Be Splintered!

Shields provide the usual +1 bonus to AC. However, they may also be used to "soak" damage from a single attack, thereby reducing damage to zero. Soaking damage destroys the shield.


Shields may also be used against any attack that allows a save for half damage, such as a fireball or dragon's breath. In that case, the shield is destroyed, as above, and the save is considered automatically successful, thereby guaranteeing half damage.


For magical shields, each +1 enchantment bonus gives a 10% chance of surviving a damage soak.

 

Critical Hits and Fumbles

Anytime a player rolls a natural ‘20’ on a to hit roll, it is a critical hit. Most classes do an additional d10 damage on such a hit. Rogues and assassins do d12 bonus damage, and wizards, clerics, and illusionists do only d8 bonus damage.


Likewise, if a player rolls a natural ‘1’ on a to hit roll, it is considered a fumble. Typically, this means the combatant hurts himself, drops his weapon, breaks his weapon, or just plain falls down – GM discretion.


Enhanced Primal Fury

In addition to the normal benefit, barbarians in fury critically hit on a natural roll of 19-20.


Sweep Damage

Fighters only. If you kill a monster, any leftover damage from that blow can be carried over into an adjacent monster.

 

You Shall Be Avenged!
Horus, the God of Vengeance, was slain some time after the fall of the long-gone Venuzian Empire. Yet somehow a trace of his power lives on. When a party member dies and the party causing the death is not immediately slain, a fellow party member may try to invoke the Vengeance Oath. Swearing “by the Dead God” that their friend’s death shall not go unpunished, the party member(s) roll d20. On a 1 they are filled with the Horus-Power. They are immediately under the effect of a quest spell (no save), but d6 statistics of their choice are temporarily boosted to 18 until they achieve their vengeance! Promoted sidekicks and heirs can take a Vengeance Oath, but non-heir replacement PCs cannot.

The Silver Standard

All references in the rulebook to "GP" shall be considered as "SP" instead--the silver piece is therefore standard monetary unit. References to SP become CP, and CP are read as BP--bronze farthings.


"I Spent My Reward on Ale and Whores"

Treasure grants 1 experience point per SP value, but only if spent on "wasteful" exercises like carousing, lifestyle upkeep, or expensive (masterwork) clothing, weapons, or armor. Treasure donated to an institution, treasure used to purchase useful or replacement equipment, and the treasure lost to any required training do not convertinto experience points. 

Bonus XP

Bonus XP are earned for outstanding scores in one's Prime attributes. Bonuses are based on a class's prime attribute, modified by levels in the character's other primes (one or two, depending on race).


Designate one prime as secondary, the other as tertiary. The secondary attribute is reduced on a 2:1 basis, the tertiary on a 3:1 basis, for every point above 9. These are then added to the prime requisite attribute in order to determine the XP bonus as per the chart below.


Example: Your human fighter's Prime Requisite is STR (14). You designate his DEX (12) and CON (15) as his other primes. You decide that CON is secondary, DEX is tertiary.


So, your effective STR for XP purposes is [14+(15-9/2)+(12-9/3)]=18, yielding a 15% bonus.


Prime Requisite

XP Bonus

18

15%

16-17

10%

13-15

5%

9-12

No bonus



Encumbrance    

The two-page encumbrance system in the rulebook is far too fiddly for my tastes. As such, it will be ignored and if how much a character is carrying becomes an issue, it will be dealt with intuitively.


The Big Emerald D30 Rule
Once per session each player may opt to roll the referee’s big emerald d30 in lieu of whatever die or dice the situation normally calls for. The choice to roll the big emerald D30 must be made before any roll. The d30 cannot be roll for generating character statistics or hit points.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The well-equipped PC



"This 200-year-old vampire killing kit was recently sold at an auction in Natchez, Missisippi. The winning bid? $14,850."

That's a lot of gold pieces!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Return to Uresia and Some Related Thoughts

Some of you may recall that, back when I started this blog up, I was in the midst of writing up notes on how to use S. John Ross's Uresia setting with the D&D Rules Compendium. Well, that project sort of shifted into "back burner" territory, as such projects often do. Perhaps the primary cause in this particular case was a lack of satisfaction on my part with capturing a true "classic" console RPG atmosphere.



Don't get me wrong--I don't think the setting should be run as a tabletop CRPG, nor was it designed to. Nevertheless, I want my hack to exhibit a certain tongue-in-cheek flavor that is reminiscent of some of the hoarier elements of those classic games (can I get a shout out for Phantasy Star, Miracle Warriors, and Lord of the Sword on the Sega Master System?).

After reading Alexis's post on using cards for gear, I suddenly found myself with a fresh route of inspiration on how to approach my D&D Uresia hack. If the last two editions of D&D, particularly the latest, have essentially turned the tabletop experience back into a board game, then why not re-introduce some other classic gaming props as well? Why not, I say. I think there's been a long-standing prejudice or at least mistrust, certainly in my own experience, towards RPGs that feature "props"--that Buck Rogers game that TSR put out, or the later, post-Mentzer "kiddie" editions of Basic D&D, for example. Somehow only requiring a sheet of paper, a pencil, and some dice to play made RPGs more "grown up" and/or sophisticated. But faugh! Sometimes it's just fun to have a hand of cards, some tokens, and a nifty reference card or two in front of you.



Further details will be forthcoming once I have a prototype to share, but for now I can say that I'm ditching the Rules Cyclopedia in favor of Labyrinth Lord as my system of choice. Makes things nice and "share-able" that way, and LL has all the system features (simplicity, mod-ability, classes as races, etc.) that I'm looking for anyway. I'm also actually swiping a couple ideas from 4e, and so I naturally considered simply making my hack a 4e-compatible work. I decided against it because, well, 4e is not terribly mod-able. At least not, as in my case, if you're planning on using home-brewed classes. Just like in 3e, everything is so carefully balanced against everything else, it makes it really hard to fiddle around with the system. (Plus I haven't really looked at the GSL, so I'm not entirely sure a mod would be entirely kosher.) It's a shame, because I really think 4e is pretty close to what I want to do in a lot of ways. But both the RC and LL are beautiful in their simplicity, and a house-ruler's dream, as it were. So that's where I landed, eventually.

(Another strike against 4e is that I don't see any need for a battle map or miniatures. In fact, classic console games had rather static combat sequences, where movement and positioning meant little to nothing.)

I'm hoping to have things worked out in more concrete detail soon, so stay tuned!

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