Jan 23, 2015

Mysteries & Monsters T-Shirt

Fantasy adventuring with those meddling kids and their dog. An old school cartoon mashup of the Mystery Incorporated gang from Scooby Doo, and the kids from the 1980s Dungeons & Dragons cartoon show. Velma as Presto the Magic-User, Shaggy as Eric the Cavalier, Scooby as Bobby the Barbarian, Freddy as Hank the Ranger, and Daphne as Sheila the Thief. Perfect for fans of spooky investigations in fantasy roleplaying games, or RPG themed cosplay for amateur investigators!


You can now order your own copy of the Mysteries & Monsters T-Shirt :)

Jan 21, 2015

Game Prop for Tracking Torchlight

This morning there was a discussion on Google+ about how to make timekeeping in D&D easier, while not ignoring it so that things like a character's supply of torches remains relevant. Roger had the idea that you could recruit a player to do this, in the same way some groups assign a caller, and a mapper.

I thought to take this a step further and make keeping track of time something the players would be more inclined to do themselves. I've noticed that when I make props for games, they get more attention, and those rules get used more at the table. With that in mind I put together an example of a Torch card that you could give each player with a torch and they could keep on the table in front of them. As turns go by they would add tokens to the card to represent their torch burning down each turn. Everyone would be able to quickly see how much was left on each torch, as well as who was carrying the light sources.

You could make another card for a lantern which had more space on it for tokens, representing it's longer burning time on a flask of oil.


Jan 19, 2015

Monster Cards

After looking at using icons for stat blocks last week, I decided to see how they'd work with another idea I've done some experimenting with in the past: CCG style cards for monsters.

This is the Scarecrow from the AD&D Fiend Folio, converted for use with B/X D&D (my system of choice). Instead of rolling for wandering monsters you could have a deck of cards that you could draw a new monster encounter from.


The layout is based on the old White Wolf CCG RAGE! and I'm still experimenting with the best way to fit the required info into the limited space. I definitely like that most of the card is taken up with artwork.

Jan 16, 2015

Those Damned Murderhobo PCs

Recently I’ve seen a few discussions about Murderhobo players, and thought about ways to bring a bit more balance to the mayhem and encourage players to run characters a bit more in balance with regular people in the game world.

I think it’s important for players to maintain control of their characters, and you don’t want to railroad their behaviour anymore than you do the plot of an adventure. However I think there are already some rules in D&D that many of us gloss over or forget that already set the framework for character behaviour. In particular access to higher level Clerical healing and having a character Raised from the Dead is highly dependent on their alignment, and thus behaviour.

Only Lawful Clerics of 7th level and higher can cast Raise Dead, while Chaotic Clerics normally cast Finger of Death instead. It’s important to note that rules also say Clerics do not normally cast spells that would bring disfavour from their deity. Once a Chaotic Deity (Devil) has the soul of an evil mortal it seems unlikely that _either_ a Lawful or Chaotic cleric would cast Raise Dead on them.  Even if you allow Neutral Clerics of above level 6, they also seem like they’d be disinclined to get in between the “natural order” to be raising evil characters to set loose to continue adventuring.

It seems very likely that there would be expectations placed on a character raised from the dead by a Lawful cleric’s deity. A Chaotic cleric would probably only be able to raise a Chaotic character if it was some sort of Anti-Paladin, Necromancer sort of individual who would then actively work to further the goals of that deity. It’s not unreasonable to expect agents of the deity (Clerics or even more powerful creatures) could take an active interest in whether a character lives up to those expectations.

Making sure players are aware that having a character Raised from the Dead is probably not an option if they are a ruthless Murder Hobo could change how they approach the game. But it still gives them the option and doesn’t railroad their behaviour. It becomes a question of weighing the pros and cons of different approaches to the game.

And if they’re on the fence about what they want to do, it can make for some interesting roleplaying with Clerics… or perhaps a Devil that offers the players help that will steer them down the murderhobo path.

Random Encounters with High Level NPCs

Encounters in published adventures tend to be scaled to the level of the characters the adventure was created for. If it’s an adventure for levels 1-3 you would typically not expect to encounter 10th level monsters, as there is a very real possibility they will quickly overwhelm foolhardy adventures and end up killing the party (and possibly the campaign). This can work well for adventures set in specific locations - where the woods have low level monsters, the swamps have mid level monsters, and the mountains have high level monsters (as an example).

What do you do though if you want to set an entire campaign in the same location, such as a city. Do you keep the monsters and NPCs the players are interacting with scaled to their level? Do you try and keep the adventure tied to different areas of the city, where the docks are low-level, the thieves district is mid-level, and the magic district is high-level? Or do you let the players run into encounters that are far outside of what they would normally be able to handle?

Looking again at the City encounter tables in the AD&D DMG there is a wide range of things the party could meet, even taking all the supernatural creatures out of the mix. Walking through the town they could run into a handful of 0-level commoners or guards. On the other hand they could meet a group of aggressive mid-level fighters. Unlucky (and unwise) players could even find themselves on the bad side of a high level wizard!

While the idea of letting players run into this range of adversaries is appealing to me, I wonder if other people have had success with this? How did you make players aware of the risk involved in the average man they meet with a sword when they could be a 0-level person, or 10th level fighter? If they are not dressed like a Lord, do not have obvious magic items, and are hanging around in a common sort of place do you give any hints to ensure the players don't unwittingly bite off more than they can chew?

Jan 14, 2015

Streamlined Monster Entries

One of the things I like the best about OSR games is that the amount of information I need to filter through while prepping and running games is lower than in some other RPGs. While the added level of detail is often fun as a player, I find as a GM I like things a bit more streamlined.

In general I think the inline stat blocks for monsters in B/X has been one of the best ways to present monster info in the various versions of D&D. However it still pads out the info at times with redundancy, and is somewhat limited in that it was created in an era when typewriters didn't have easy access to the same specialized fonts and glyphs that we have today. As much as I like B/X I have to admit that the way many CCGs present information in a small space is much more elegant.

With that in mind I took a look at the inline stat block for a B/X goblin and tried to come up with something that gave the same amount of useful information in a way that was easier to parse through during a game. I think that unless something is unusual about a creature there's little value in restating things like #AT 1, or that it's both HD 1-1 and saves as a 1st level fighter. That's only info I'd want if it didn't behave in the standard way.

The Icon Style makes use of Font Awesome which is free to download.

What do you think the optimal amount of information to have for inline monster entries in an OSR game is? How do you feel about using glyphs or other icons to help present information?


Jan 13, 2015

Thinking about City Encounters

Continuing to look through the AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide I noticed another table I always found interesting, but never actually used in a game -- the City Encounter table on page 191.

Like many things in the DMG I felt sort of overwhelmed by the way the information was presented and saw some things that at the time I thought "didn't work" and so I rejected the entire thing outright. Since watching more TV and Films with supernatural elements and being a big fan of Hellboy, I've certainly come around to the idea of ghosts, demons and other supernatural things being in the city after dark!  Still, I thought it would be interesting to look at the list of encounters without those things included -- to get a sense for the "mundane" city.

What I really like about the list is that these are all encounters with people, which is a change of pace from the dungeon where it's mostly encounters with monsters. There's also quite a range of potential encounter levels so that the party might be able to push around a few 0-level members of the guard, but then run into a higher level wizard who they'd be best not to tangle with.

There are also a lot of shady underworld types, suggesting the city is a dangerous place at the best of times (without the supernatural element). One of the things I enjoyed about Shadowrun was the lists of contacts and factions made the setting really come alive in a way that I find doesn't happen with a lot of fantasy cities. They all seem to blur together into a same-y sort of spires and cobblestone oneness. Shadowrun's Seattle had more personality than most fantasy cities.

It makes me think about applying the Shadowrun Approach to a fantasy city and see what I come up with!  Having an encounter table that's easier to digest, and entries that are a bit more colourful (like SR) could have some good results.


Starting Character Age for OSR Games

Did anyone playing AD&D use the ability score adjustments on page 13 of the DMG for character aging? We never did, because we never really played long enough for the character to age. They also described a process where there was a lot of adding and subtracting and it just didn't seem all that straight forward. Looking at it again, if you did all the math ahead of time for each age bracket this  might be interesting options for OSR players who make 3d6 (or 4d6) in order characters. By choosing the age of your starting character you can adjust their ability scores.

There'd certainly be an incentive to play a middle-aged or older Cleric or Wizard -- which is more in keeping with certain fantasy fiction.

Feb 27, 2013

Don't Move! Surrender Rules for RPGs


In RPGs the situation that I've found the least satisfactory with any rules system I've used is where an NPC tries to stop the characters at gun point. This almost _never_ resolves in a manner that pleasingly emulates the sort of genre source material I'd like it to.

What I'm considering is the following sub-system:

* The target and adjacent allies must not have made an attack or chosen to defend the previous round (eg. Surprised, Helping injured ally etc)
* The attacker's action is to call for surrender (Freeze! etc) and can not move or make any other action including an attack
* A call for surrender can target a close group of adjacent targets (Nobody move! etc)
* IF the attacker's maximum weapon damage adjusted by Charisma bonus is higher than the target's hit points adjusted by their Wisdom bonus, the target is subdued and can take no actions as long as the attacker does not take an action other than continuing to keep them subdued.
* The attacker can make subdued targets move ahead of them at their walking speed (assuming the target can move that fast)

The only way a character can be a bad ass and try to run or grab their attacker's weapon is if they had MORE hit points + wisdom but voluntarily "surrendered".

Any comments or suggestions for things to add?

Sep 26, 2012

Bene Gesserit for B/X D&D

This is the 3rd version of a Bene Gesserit class I've posted, with each version becoming progressively more streamlined. This uses the excellent suggestion by Talysman to use the Cleric's turning mechanics for things other than turning undead. In this case we'll use it for "The Voice".

Bene Gesserit Sisterhood
Cleric Sub-Class

The Bene Gesserit are an exclusive sisterhood whose members train their bodies and minds through years of physical and mental conditioning to obtain superhuman powers and abilities that can seem magical to outsiders. Sometimes called "witches" due to their secretive nature and misunderstood powers, the Bene Gesserit are loyal only to themselves. However, to attain their goals and avoid outside interference, they often screen themselves with the illusion of being loyal to other groups or individuals.

Unarmed Attacks: d6 damage
Unarmored AC Adjustment: +3 [-3]

Cleric Spells
Can only cast spells that affect the character directly.

Cleric Turning
Affects humans instead of undead. A "T" means the character can Tell the target to perform one action. A "D" means the character Dominates the target for as long as they concentrate and take no other actions.

Special Weapon
Gom Jabbar - No Damage, Save vs Poison

Like the previous version for Swords & Wizardry you could modify how often some of the spells could be cast if you like, but I appreciate how straightforward the write-up for this version is.

Jul 29, 2012

Alternate Point Buy Chargen for B/X and OSR D&D

I've previously written about non-random character creation for OD&D / Swords & Wizardry, but lately I've been thinking about running a B/X style game again via G+ Hangouts and wanted to have an option for creating characters without needing any dice rolling.

Similar to the option for S&W this system is based on keeping track of the ability score bonuses and penalties. Each character begins with 1 point which represents a +1 bonus or *13* in an ability score. All other ability scores have no modifier and are assumed to be a score of 11. For each ability score penalty point a character takes, they may take an additional bonus point as well. So if a character had an ability at 7 (-1 penalty) they could take an additional attribute at 13 (+1 bonus) or raise their 13 to a 16 (+2 bonus).

Here are the ability scores and their bonuses or penalties when using this non-random system for creating characters:

3 * -3
5 * -2
7 * -1
11 * 0
13 * +1
16 * +2
18 * +3

An example character using this system would be:

S 18, I 7, W 11, D 13, C 11, C 5

Update: Thanks Joe, my bad math is corrected. :)

Mar 30, 2012

Split Classes in B/X D&D

If you've been following along with the recent posts I've done with new character classes for Basic/Expert D&D they were in part to fill in these gaps.
In B/X you have the Elf which is a Fighter/Magic-User, and Dwarves & Halflings which mix some Thief like abilities in with those of the Fighter. To this I've added the the Witch who is a kind of Cleric/Magic-User, and the Bard who is a mix of Magic-User and Thief. The Paladin & Anti-Paladin are Cleric/Fighters and finally the Monks & Assassins are Cleric/Thieves.

Each of the 4 main classes (Cleric, Fighter, Magic-User, Thief) can be combined with any of the other 3 by choosing one of the specialized classes.