Saturday, 31 January 2015

Rhovanor the Survivor

  I have to say, the player of Rhovanor the Elf has been a real champ so far.
  He started off as a 'Lamentations of the Flame Princess' Elf in a solo one-on-one game where I did not pull any punches. Poor Rhovanor got cursed, mutated, had mental insanities afflicted upon him via dark magic... He has since gotten rid of the physical mutations, but he still has an unnatural taste for human flesh that he tries to fight! The character has suffered through countless indignities too. (At some point he had to drink goblin piss to survive. Long story, I'll spare you the details. Or perhaps I've already shared that story in my previous Rhovanor posts, I don't remember at the moment and I am digressing.)
  So anyway, Rhovanor started off needing 3000 XP to reach 2nd level. Then when he joined an ongoing campaign I was starting with other players, we changed to Castles & Crusades and he became a Class-and-a-Half Fighter/Wizard, needing 3300 XP to level up. I have recently decided that I'd remove the Class-and-a-Half option from the game and just leave normal Multi-Class, which means he now needs 5050 XP to level up!
  The player does make jokes, but I have to say he's been a real pro, the kind of player a DM dreams about who will understand the needs of a campaign and story consistency with a character and take one on the chin for the team.
  I joked via phone texts that it's as if he was on a boat and Level 2 is an island. Every time he begins to see land from afar, a sudden wind carries his boat away from the island. He jokingly replied that he was basically playing 'Rhovanor the Survivor'. 

Time to Get Controversial

  I'm a huge Batman fan. As such, nothing will get me angrier than when someone claims that Bob Kane created Batman without ever even mentioning Bill Finger. Everything we recognize and love about Batman came from Bill Finger. If you don't believe me, look it up.

Bill Finger

  The man never got enough credit during his lifetime and continues not to after his death. Sure, most people who are real fans are aware of him, even that he came up with most of the things we love about Batman, but somehow many of those will cover their ears and keep just saying Bob Kane's name if only out of habit from when they were younger and were not fully aware of the situation. (When I was a teenager and the internet was not as prevalent to let us know these things as much, I truly believed Bob Kane was the sole creator of Batman, and suspected even less that most of what I liked about the character was not even Kane's work!) It's like they refuse to say Bob Kane AND Bill Finger. In fact, it should be the other way around, Bill Finger and Bob Kane.

  Anyway, here's a picture of Dave Arneson. Thank you, Mr. Arneson.

Balloon Duel!

  Here's an idea for a duel: The duelists are tied to small alchemical air balloons (I added 'alchemical' instead of 'hot' so we don't have to stick to real-life science here!), which are in turn linked together by a rope so the duelists remain within striking distance of each other.
  The rules are;
1-  As soon as they are released from the ground, duelists go up in the air. (Just how fast they do so will depend on how much the balloons were filled, so DMs can decide. If duelists are in heavy armor, for example, then one imagines they'll rise slower.) Once it stops rising, it will remain at a certain level for a while. (Once again, DMs can decide how long they want this to be.) When it starts dropping, it will alchemically replicate the Feather Fall spell for a number of rounds equal to twice the number it's been rising previously.
 2- Traditionally, duelists are supposed to hear the blow of a horn from the ground before they start fighting.
3-  Ropes have 2 HP, both those holding the duelists and the one linking the balloons together. If a duelist wants to cut the linking rope he'll need to have a longsword or some similarly long weapon at the very least, a dagger won't reach. It cannot be destroyed with bashing weapons and such unless on a critical hit.
4-  If a duelist wants to strike at the rope holding the other duelist, calculate the rope's AC as two points better than the person it holds. (One imagines the character will get in the way and because of that, armor bonus is still relevant.)
5-  If a duelist wants to strike at his opponent's balloon, he needs a weapon long enough to reach it, once again a longsword will do the trick but a dagger won't. The balloon will have an AC 4 points worse than the person held to it.
6-  An alchemical air balloon will have 6 HP. (It has different compartments so a single hole will not cause all of the balloon to be emptied right away.) It cannot be damaged by bashing weapons except on a critical hit. If the balloon is damaged, it will no longer continue rising nor stay in place if it was done rising, treat it as alchemically replicating the Feather Fall spell. This effect will last the same number of rounds as it has HP left after the first hit. Any further HP damage will equally lower the amount of rounds left.
7-  If a duelist has destroyed his opponent's balloon but not the link between the balloons, it will force the remaining balloon to go lower as if it had simply spent all its time up like in rule 1.
8-  If a duelist is cut from his balloon, he can attempt to grab onto his opponent with a Saving Throw before falling to his death. The still-attached duelist can then try to push his opponent off with a contest of Strength. (Or you can apply any wrestling rules you like if you prefer.)

Additional Musings on Treasure

  Because I wasn't over-thinking treasure enough! (Maybe a side-effect of not having considered it enough before, leaving my players XP-starved.)
  While 'Lamentations of the Flame Princess' recommends spreading the treasure over a dungeon and even hiding some of it, 'Crypts & Things' recommends the opposite, placing it all in a single hoard at the very end of the dungeon so as to keep the pacing fast.
  Both have merit. I think I prefer the LotFP method though, because it encourages the players to come up with solutions and pay attention. 
  Here are two anecdotes from one dungeon; I'd placed treasure in a spot that the players had to climb to reach. They then had to deal with bringing the treasure down with them without damaging it and having it lose value. I hadn't thought of a solution myself, I just placed a problem in their way and watched them deal with it. It turns out they had looted some bed sheets earlier (Thank the Mother of All Treasure Tables for that randomness! Thinking about it now, they probably should have rotted over the years, but I digress.) and they used them to catch falling treasure undamaged!
  In another spot they could see glowing golden coins inside a small, dead-end tunnel that only the Halfling could crawl through. They decided not to send anyone in the tunnel and both magic-users simply used Mage Hand to grab a handful. They left the rest there. (Which also led to a discussion with another friend when I told her the story and we argued about whether the spell could be used like that or not.) There might have been a trap or they might have walked away from easy-to-get treasure. They didn't know for sure, but it was cool that they had to think about it and that there was uncertainty and discussions amongst them regarding that.
  None of that could have happened if the treasure was just all in one hoard at the end of the dungeon. Even pacing-wise I guess it will depend on each group. Some players will find that a variety of events will make for better pacing (fighting, looting, searching, picking up hidden treasure, moving on) than just a series of continuous fights. Other players will want to have as many fights as they can get in their gaming session. (And in the defense of 'Crypts & Things' the hoard at the end trope does fit with the style of story they are trying to emulate. I am mostly discussing personal preference here.)
  Overall I prefer the LotFP way, but I had started to think maybe it would be best if for the next two treasures, on top of adding twice what I'd normally put to make up for the previous lack of it, I could simply just have all the treasure at the end of the dungeon 'Crypts & Things'-style to make sure they'd get all of it.
  That would be one way to handle it. But then again, LotFP mentions that placing all of the treasure at the end forces the players' hands. If the treasure is at the very end, they can't just decide when to leave the dungeon if they consider they have enough treasure for now. Well they can, but then they will miss out on most of the XP and will only have that from killing monsters and avoiding traps to show for it. (Not much.)
  Someone recently commented in my 'OSR Leveling' post that OSR dungeons often have rooms with unguarded treasure. 
  I think that for the next two dungeons I'll be mixing those three ideas to make it easy for my players to catch up on the XP they should have by now. I've already mentioned that I'll be placing double the treasure in the next dungeons. Half of it (In other words, the amount I'd normally place.) will be spread along the dungeon as usual, with some of it hidden or well-guarded by monsters and/or traps. The remaining half will be split into two 'sets' of bonus treasure. One bonus set will be in empty unguarded rooms and the other will be a hoard at the end.
  If they survive, my players should be caught up by then.

Loot & Treasure Musings

Is that Magneto's helmet in the chest???

  O.k, so I've recently established that I have been too stingy with treasure in my ongoing campaign where 1 GP looted = 1 XP gained.
  I happen to like the guidelines from Lamentations of the Flame Princess when it comes to finding treasure. But then as I flip through the pages of my other OSR books I notice something about the monster stats: Treasure Type.
  'LotFP Grindhouse Edition' doesn't have a list of monsters, only a few examples of monsters. Thus, it doesn't bother with their treasure types and lets DMs define the amount of treasure according to the needs of their players and their campaign. It was the way I had decided on and intended to use the very useful book 'The Mother of All Treasure Tables'. (A book which, by the way, goes extremely well with LotFP since it has no magic treasure and some of it is not easy to carry, two things LotFP encourage. But I digress, especially since I'm not running a LotFP game but rather grabbing ideas and specific rules from it.) But yeah, I suppose using Treasure Types would be another way to do it...
  If I started mixing both, setting up a determined amount of treasure AND rolling the monsters' Treasure Types, then players would end up with way too much treasure.
  I think what I'll end up doing is using Treasure Types for random encounters and the LotFP method with prepared dungeons.

Friday, 30 January 2015

My D&D Campaign House Rules (Updated!) ERRATA

  There was one rule I forgot to include in my latest House Rules post:

- I will not be using the rule from 'Castles & Crusades' where a monster's number of HD becomes a penalty to Saving Throws. If I include a monster with an attack that players have to save against with a penalty, I will consider it a monster of higher HD than it is for the purposes of handing out XP for killing it, as per the guidelines in 'Crypts & Things'.

  (I will be editing this rule into the previous post too just so I have it all in one place.)

Thursday, 29 January 2015

OSR Leveling

  It occurs to me that I've been running my current D&D campaign for a few months and all my players are STILL Level 1!
  Our gaming sessions normally don't last more than 5 hours in the best-case scenario and we don't always manage to make it a weekly game. In practice, it's more like on average (by including the Holidays into the equation where we skipped a few weeks) we played once every two weeks or so. We started playing mid-September. That means about 10 sessions, give or take. One of my players even had a head start with a bit more XP than the others. He started playing in one-on-one games with me before the beginning of the current campaign (Rhovanor, a character mentioned in previous posts on this blog!) but since he's a multi-classed Fighter/Wizard he needs lots of XP to reach Level 2. (The character was initially an Elf from Lamentations of the Flame Princess. Switching to Castles & Crusades turned him into an Elf Fighter/Wizard to keep with the original character concept.)
  OSR leveling is slow, but it shouldn't be THAT slow, I reckon. So I take a look at why my characters still haven't reached level 2. Oh, it's my fault. Let's see why.
  I don't use the XP rules for magic items from Castles & Crusades, but my players are too low-level for that to come into play. I do use the 1 GP = 1 XP rule though. The 'Lamentations of the Flame Princess' Referee book has some excellent advice on placing treasure and estimates that until the 4th or 5th level, players should level up in average every five to ten sessions. (And by placing the correct amount of treasure you don't need to bother with giving XP for magic items, really. Unless you like doing that, then go for it! Anyway.)
  We have reached the 10th session then. (Give or take!) My characters are midway to reaching their second level. Whoops.
  And that's when I look at the characters who have survived since the first session. In my games if your character dies, your next one has half the XP your deceased one had.

  Oh, and later on they might face monsters with Level Drain, setting them back if things go wrong for them...

  So how did this happen?  I... MIGHT have been a bit stingy with treasure! If treasure is the main source of XP for players, I really should take a bit more prep time for my games and include some of it, otherwise my players will continue to be XP-starved.

   I've recently been reading Bill Webb's Book of dirty Tricks, a very entertaining read filled with interesting ideas for any GM, some of which I'll be using. In the book, he posits that slow leveling makes for more skilled players, and I agree. But I must admit, the one skill my players have probably developed the most in my campaign is patience...

My D&D Campaign House Rules (Updated!)

  I've done a similar post fairly recently, but this is my more up-to-date version!

- I use Castles & Crusades as the basis for the rules.
- All Target Numbers start at 15. No Primes and Non-Primes at 12 or 18 and levels are not added to rolls. With each level gained, the TN goes down by 1 (Replacing the 'Level as bonus' method). Modifiers to rolls and/or TN otherwise apply the same way as written. (I still have not decided at what point the TN stops dropping, probably somewhere between 4 to 2. My players are far from being there yet anyway.)
- I will not be using the rule from 'Castles & Crusades' where a monster's number of HD becomes a penalty to Saving Throws. If I include a monster with an attack that players have to save against with a penalty, I will consider it a monster of higher HD than it is for the purposes of handing out XP for killing it, as per the guidelines in 'Crypts & Things'.
- To compensate for the lack of Primes, Humans gain a +10% bonus to XP. (I grabbed the idea from Basic Fantasy Roleplaying.) Half-Elves raised by Humans gain +5% as a bonus to XP.
- I use the encumbrance rules from Lamentations of the Flame Princess.
- For the Wizards and Illusionists, I use the spellcasting rules from Lamentations of the Flame Princess (except for the time it takes to prepare spells each day) but use the spell list from Castles & Crusades as the 'default' spell list. That said, I freely grab spells from all over the OSR and OGL.
- For the Barbarian class, the version from Tales of the Grotesque and Dungeonesque is used instead.
- Experience Points: 1 GP = 1 XP if it's successfully brought back to civilization (as in LotFP), XP for Monsters from Crypts & Things (The main rule for monster XP, not the optional one I thought of using in my previous house rules post, although I am using those for a limited time during a gladiator-themed adventure. Seems appropriate.), XP for Traps as in Machinations of the Space Princess, Story and RP XP rewards from Castles & Crusades.
- Class Skills are rolled at +3 and any class can attempt any skill as in Crypts & Things. That said, I've added that skills that are not Class Skills are rolled at -3. (Ironically, we end up with a modifier difference of 6, the same difference Castles & Crusades normally has between Primes and Non-Primes! Just a fun fact.  -If you're a total geek like me.-)
- I have decided not to use Class-and-a-Half but I apply some of its rules to Multi-Classed characters:
- Wizards and Illusionists with an armor proficient class can cast in armor but their armor's AC bonus also becomes a save bonus for the target's Saving Throw. (Magical bonuses on an armor do not apply to this.)
- I use the Class-and-a-Half rule for Monks, Rangers, Rogues and Assassins aligned with armor proficient classes.

  That's all for now! I'll also use some more specific rules from a variety of sourcebooks depending on the current adventure but the above are the main ones. I'd love some feedback from fellow players and GMs to see what you guys think.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Chronicles of Death & Dungeoneering - New Blog!

  I've decided that the 'Chronicles of Death & Dungeoneering' would be better served with its very own blog instead of being part of a blog about tabletop RPGs or Geek Reviews.

From now on, you can follow the story (and VOTE on the outcomes!) HERE!!!

Monday, 12 January 2015

Chronicles of Death & Dungeoneering - Vote Results and Logo!

  The logo I ordered from Cesar Cold, whose Facebook page you can find here:

  Also, voting has ended for the first chapter and here are the results!


Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Chronicles of Death & Dungeoneering - Chapter 1


It started in a tavern, as it so often did. There was a reason adventurers liked to meet in taverns, since they were crowded places full of witnesses it made backstabbing those you made deals with much harder. But not impossible, Benedrik reminded himself as he entered the place. He shook his head a bit, getting some of the rainwater out of his dreads and drawing a few curious looks from the other patrons of the establishment. The villagers were used to seeing adventuring elves, but it was a safe bet they had never met an elf from a warmer continent with dark brown skin.
The elf looked around him, it seemed that the fishing village had its fair share of cut-throats and swords-for-hire visiting tonight. Good. He drew his cloak back from his arms and shoulders, exposing his naked arms which a human would have called athletic and an elf would have called needlessly bulky. It was then that he heard that annoying voice he was sadly so familiar with:
"HA! It seems whoever did it missed the other one! Too bad, I could have mocked you for looking human!" the voice behind Benedrik semi-shouted.
Benedrik's hand instinctively went to the ravaged thing that used to be his left ear, but was now unrecognizable as such if not for its location. He quickly caught himself as his fingers barely brushed its skin and lowered his left hand, turning to look at the one he hated so much, and yet always ended up working with for the big jobs. An elf's pragmatism, Benedrik told himself, allowed him to work with a person he personally despised if said person was the best one for the job, and thus the best one to ensure he'd come out of an adventure alive and richer than before.
"What the hell happened to it?" demanded to know Old Farron, without any tact of course. But such a trait was sadly typical of dwarves, according to any elf you could ask. Old Farron was pressing and twisting his long, dark gray beard with both meaty battle-scarred hands to get the water out of it. His shaved scalp needed no such care.
"A damn goblin ambushed me six months ago, landing on my back and gnawing at my ear."
"Guess the thing had an ugly death afterwards, uh?"
Benedrik gave Old Farron a scary smile at that moment and stated "I didn't kill the goblin."
"It escaped you???" For a moment it seemed like the dwarf was surprised enough to drop his battlehammer.
"Not at all." Benedrik loudly clapped his hands and a miserable figure even shorter than the dwarf limped in from outside, carrying a huge backpack which caused him to lean forward and big heavy sacks in each hand. The small, green-skinned humanoid shivered as he stepped out of the rain, not having the luxury of wearing a cloak like the two who had been chatting about him a moment before. The goblin's features were typical of his kind, a long nose and a huge mouth which almost went from ear to ear. As far as the ears themselves were concerned, he was missing his left one, which had been cleanly cut off in the past, no doubt Benedrik's handywork. Strangest of all, the goblin had a slightly glowing red gem which was partially sunk into his forehead.
"Benedrik," said the dwarf, "I have no love for goblins, but using magic to enslave one is... It's wrong."
"Keep your opinions to yourself, dwarf! No one mutilates an elf and gets away with it!" After an uncomfortable silence, during which the goblin just stood there with all the baggage while looking down at the floor in fear, Benedrik added "I have what is perhaps the most promising treasure map I have ever seen. Do you want to be part of its exploration and looting, or would you rather walk away over the honor of some lowlife goblin???"
Old Farron shook his head for a moment but then lifted his chin forward towards a table in the corner of the establishment. "You know I wouldn't pass on such a chance. Let's sit down and discuss this job."

The tavern owner, a fat middle-aged man behind the bar, seemed like he wanted to complain about the presence of a goblin in his tavern but couldn't muster up the courage to do so at the scary-looking adventurers. He ended up just nodding at his daughter, a well-fed girl in her early twenties. The girl went to the table, trying not to stare at the goblin who was made to sit on the floor with his bags. Before she could say anything, Benedrik had already told her "A glass of your least horrible wine and some ale for the dwarf. Go."
The girl's face flushed with anger at the elf's attitude but she said nothing and started to head back to the bar. Old Farron grabbed her arm gently to stop her and whispered "Don't worry, I will tip you well to put up with the damn elf, human child."
Benedrik let out an annoyed "Tsk!", his elf ears -as both still worked perfectly fine- had of course heard that and he knew the dwarf knew it. As the girl walked away from their table, the elf said "You were always bad at judging the age of humans. That one is already an adult, at least by the reckoning of her species."
The old dwarf said "By all the Hells, they all seem like children to me." and then he looked at the elf, perhaps remembering that despite how they looked, Benedrik was the oldest of the two.
"I want your opinion on something." said Benedrik as he extended a hand which was quickly handed a map to by the meek-looking goblin. The elf then proceeded to unroll the map carefully on the table as he talked. "This map is an incomplete version of the underground temple, not meant for its long-dead owner but probably for his servants. That means that none of its traps, magical or otherwise, are revealed in here. Ideally we'll need experts to deal with both types of traps. If none are to be found, then we'll need many hirelings who'll walk ahead to trigger said traps. If we do it like that we can expect many casualties, which should lower the amount of shares to be paid by the end of the trip into the dungeon." He was of course using the word 'dungeon' not according to its proper definition but in the way adventurers used it as slang, a term to describe any old dangerous place that might hold a treasure of some kind.
The dwarf let out an annoyed sigh at how casual the elf could be about the deaths of others.
The elf picked up on that and argued "They would be humans. Even if they didn't die then, they would still die in a laughingly short handful of decades."
Old Farron pretended to ponder the argument for a few seconds to appease the elf's ego and give him the impression that his callous words had some weight, then finally said "I believe we'd be better off and safer with experts in any case. I think it would even be worth waiting a few more days to find the right people, in fact. After all, what are a few days to us compared to humans?"
"That's the thing, in this case every minute matters!" said Benedrik. "This isn't the only map, and I believe we are not the only ones who have recently acquired a copy!"
"So, do we risk spending a day or two looking for some experts or do we simply hire as many fools as we can to help us out?"
Should Benedrik and Farron find experts at the possible cost of taking more time before they set out for the dungeon, or should they just hire many hirelings and get there as soon as possible?

Votes will end on Monday, January 12th 2014. 

Monday, 5 January 2015

Chronicles of Death & Dungeoneering - Intro

  Hey everyone! I want to stretch my writing muscles so I figured I could do a fun little project on my two blogs, HERE and HERE, and YOU can participate! (Yes, you! Don't try to walk away, I can see you there!)
  It will be a series titled 'Chronicles of Death & Dungeoneering' where I'll write the tales of adventurers going into dungeons and other unsafe places of their world. I will keep traditional Fantasy staples like Dwarves and Elves for this story, not because I can't come up with other stuff but because of the nature of the project... I'll allow people to vote for where the story will go next at the end of every chapter!
  I'm not saying the idea is new in any way, but frankly I wanted to experiment with the style. By using known Fantasy tropes, readers/voters will be able to make better informed decisions when the time comes to vote than if I was creating every single detail from scratch.
  Don't worry though, I do intend to make the story and characters as original as I can! After all, we all know the 'rules' that exist in a fictional story set in our own world, and stories without any fantastic elements can still be fresh and original. So my point is that it's not because you haven't invented the Fantastical races of a fictional world that you can't make it fun and new. Well, I'll try my best at least.
  So for the next post: Chapter One!