31 January 2013

Magic Item: Stone of Warmth

Sometimes conditions in the real world lead to solutions in the fantasy world.

Stone of Warmth

A stone of warmth, if kept on one's person such as in a pocket or a pouch, will keep one comfortably insulated from even the bitterest cold. If held in one's hand, it will extend the zone of protective warmth in a 4 cubit radius.* If held in both hands and rubbed, it will generate enough heat to melt ice rapidly at a distance of 8 cubits.** This third function will cause 1d8 hit points of damage to creatures that are especially vulnerable to heat. A successful saving throw vs. magic will reduce the damage to one half.

Like other magic stones, a stone of warmth has no standard size, shape, or coloration, and will only activate when in close proximity to a living creature.

* 6 feet or 2 m.
** 12 feet or 4 m.

30 January 2013

Basic Renaissance


For the first artwork to be displayed on this Web log (apart from the OSR logo), I have chosen the cover of the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Rulebook edited by Tom Moldvay. The art, of course, is by Erol Otus. This particular edition of D&D was my introduction to the hobby insofar as it was the first role-playing game I ever played. After all these years, it (along with the Expert Rulebook edited by Dave Cook) is my favorite edition. The PDF is once again available and it is currently the #1 item in RPGNow's list of "Hottest Items." It speaks for itself.

29 January 2013

Table: Healing Potion Directions

Drinking a healing potion is not always as simple as merely drinking it. Certain healing potions, especially those local varieties you may have heard about, have directions that must be followed to ensure their effectiveness. These directions are frequently found written on the bottle, the cork, or on a note attached to the bottle. Failure to follow the directions exactly as described may result in loss of efficacy or worse.


Healing Potion Directions

Roll 1d12

  1. Clutch a holy symbol whilst imbibing.
  2. Consume no alcohol for 24 hours.
  3. Drink half; pour half on ground.
  4. Gargle only. Do not drink.
  5. Refrain from drinking for 12 hours.
  6. Refrain from eating for 6 hours.
  7. Take before sleeping.
  8. Take only at night.
  9. Take only at twilight.
  10. Take only in daylight.
  11. Take with plenty of liquids.
  12. Take with a meal.

28 January 2013

Table: Calamitous Concoctions

One reason adventurers don't quit adventuring and just sell magic items on the black market is that those who are capable of making them cannot be compelled to do so. To quote Mr. Gygax on page 118 of the AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide:

It is absolutely necessary that you take note that any sort of charmed, magically persuaded, or otherwise enslaved magic-user will be totally unable to function in such a manner as to allow the fabrication of any sort of magic item — scroll, potion, or otherwise. The discipline and concentration demanded by such activity absolutely precludes individuals of this sort from manufacturing magic items.

Ah, but enterprising adventurers and other cunning villains will note that certain unusual concoctions such as soups of power (q.v.) are not produced by magic-users or other spellcasters (as far as anyone knows). They are reportedly concocted by ordinary folk using secret family recipes. Surely these mundane mortals can be coerced into manufacturing their legendary concoctions at daggerpoint. Alas, they can indeed be coerced, but the results may not be quite as expected (nor desired). If at any a time a person with knowledge of such a recipe is forced to cook such a concoction by means of magical or nonmagical coercion, the stressfulness of the situation may have a detrimental effect as determined by rolling on the following table:


Calamitous Concoctions

Roll 1d10

  1. Desired effect, but putrid odor (attracts wandering monsters).
  2. Desired effect, but vile flavor (causes 1d4 rounds of helpless coughing).
  3. Inert. Flavorless.
  4. Inert, but nauseating (causes 1d4 turns of vomiting).
  5. Inert, but vengeful (causes 1d4 turns of inconvenience).
  6. Reduced effect (benefit lasts no more than 1d4 rounds).
  7. Reversed effect (the exact opposite of the desired effect occurs).
  8. Toxic (save vs. poison or be incapacitated for 1d4 days).
  9. Toxic (save vs. poison or die).
  10. Unstable (explodes, causing 2d6 hit points of damage in a 6 cubit radius.)*
That's what happens when one coerces a cook, but what happens if one obtains the recipe and cooks it oneself? The problem with many secret family recipes, like guild secrets, is that they are never committed to writing. They are handed down from parent to child the way folktales are: orally. To get such a recipe, one would have to use the same methods as those used in coercing them to cook, in which case the recipe will be inaccurate and a roll on the table above will be necessary. If, however, one were to obtain a physical copy of the recipe that was not written under duress, and one were able to obtain all of the necessary ingredients (many of which have very particular requirements in the place, time, and manner of their gathering), one could then attempt to cook it, but one's lack of familiarity with the recipe would still necessitate a roll on the table above (professional cooks may roll 1d6; all others may roll 1d8).

* 9 feet or 3 m.

27 January 2013

Table: Soups of Power

Never underestimate the powers of soup. A good bowl of soup made with love (probably from a recipe that has been handed down for generations) can restore fortitude, lift the spirits, and clear the mind. Some soups can even confer benefits that may be called magical by some (or witchcraft by others). These are so-called soups of power, and their secret recipes are jealously guarded. Each soup of power, if properly prepared, bestows a particular benefit once per day to those who eat it. For example, if one were to enjoy a bowl of Khamble's chicken soup, which is famed for its healing qualities, one would automatically regain 2 lost hit points, but subsequent bowls consumed during the same day — although nutritious and delicious — will not heal more hit points. The following day, if one were to eat another bowl of Khamble's chicken soup, one would regain another 2 lost hit points.

To randomly generate a soup of power, roll once on the table below and give the soup a unique name. The soup, if the correct ingredients are used and it is properly prepared and served, will faithfully grant the same benefit once per day to any who eat it.


Soups of Power

Roll 1d20

  1. Acts as the spell cure disease.
  2. Acts as the spell dispel exhaustion.
  3. Acts as the spell neutralize poison.
  4. Acts as the spell remove fear.
  5. Acts as the spell restoration.
  6. Acts as the spell true sight.
  7. Grants +1 to the next saving throw.
  8. Grants +2 to the next saving throw.
  9. Grants +3 to the next saving throw.
  10. Grants +4 to the next saving throw.
  11. Heals 1 hit point.
  12. Heals 2 hit points.
  13. Heals 3 hit points.
  14. Heals 4 hit points.
  15. Imbues the eater with cold resistance for one hour.
  16. Imbues the eater with immunity to disease for 24 hours.
  17. Imbues the eater with immunity to poison for 24 hours.
  18. Increases the eater's dexterity by 1 point for 24 hours.
  19. Increases the eater's strength by 1 point for 24 hours.
  20. Increases the eater's strength by 1d6 points for 1d6 hours.
N.B. If the recipe is not followed precisely (e.g. if an ingredient is substituted or the cooking time altered, etc.), the special benefit may be reduced in effectiveness by lowering it a step (e.g. +1 to next saving throw instead of +2), making it more erratic (e.g. 2d12 hours instead of 24 hours), or eliminating it (e.g. cure disease becomes "no effect").

26 January 2013

Magical Spell: Bubble of Olfactory Memory

The following spell enables the caster to capture and store the scents of another time and place.

Bubble of Olfactory Memory

Spell Class: Magic-user
Spell Level: 4
Range: Special
Duration: Permanent

The casting of a bubble of olfactory memory creates a transparent sphere 1 cubit* in diameter. This sphere is invulnerable to any blunt force, but the merest pinprick or contact with an edged weapon will cause it to burst. Casting dispel magic upon one will cause it to revert to a normal bubble. The caster or any magic-user may reduce its size to that of a pearl or restore it to its normal size at will, but must touch it in order to effect such change. Wherever a bubble is cast, it will store the scents of its immediate surroundings. Thenceforth, if a flame of any size is applied to the bubble, it will release the scents to its new surroundings until the flame is removed. The scents are recreated exactly as they existed in the time and place in which they were stored. In this manner, one could recreate the scents of a flower garden, a forest, the seaside, a bakery, an incense-filled temple, a crime scene, etc. This spell does not confer or limit any olfactory capacity on the part of the smeller. Those with superior olfactory powers, especially animals such as dogs, will be able to sense far more than those of average or below average olfaction.

N.B. This spell recreates all nonmagical scents in its immediate vicinity including, if present, noxious or mind-altering gases.

* 18 inches or 0.5 m.

25 January 2013

Magical Spell: Bubble of Aural Memory

Similar to the spell clairaudience, the following spell enables the caster to hear a distant place, but isolated to a specific time. It is a mystical tape recorder, if you will.

Bubble of Aural Memory

Spell Class: Magic-user
Spell Level: 4
Range: Special
Duration: Permanent

The casting of a bubble of aural memory creates a transparent sphere 1 cubit* in diameter. This sphere is invulnerable to any blunt force, but the merest pinprick or contact with an edged weapon will cause it to burst. Casting dispel magic upon one will cause it to revert to a normal bubble. The caster or any magic-user may reduce its size to that of a pearl or restore it to its normal size at will, but must touch it in order to effect such change. Wherever a bubble is cast, it will store the sounds of its surroundings for as long as desired to a maximum of one hour per level of the caster. The caster need not concentrate on the spell nor remain in proximity once it begins. When the storage is complete, the bubble may be consulted anywhere, and anyone who holds it to his or her ear will be able to hear the sounds just as they occurred when the spell was cast. This spell does not confer or limit any aural capacity on the part of the listener. Those with superior hearing will be able to hear more than those of average or below average hearing just as if they were present when the sounds were stored. Conversely, those with inferior hearing will be able to hear only as much as they would ordinarily be capable of hearing in the same situation.

* 18 inches or 0.5 m.

24 January 2013

Magical Spell: Bubble of Visual Memory

Similar to the spell clairvoyance, the following spell enables the caster to see a distant place, but isolated to a specific time. It is a thaumaturgical camera, if you will.

Bubble of Visual Memory

Spell Class: Magic-user
Spell Level: 4
Range: Special
Duration: Permanent

When a bubble of visual memory is cast, a transparent sphere 1 cubit* in diameter is created. This sphere is invulnerable to any blunt force, but the merest pinprick or contact with an edged weapon will cause it to burst. Casting dispel magic upon one will cause it to revert to a normal bubble. The caster or any magic-user may reduce its size to that of a pearl or restore it to its normal size at will, but must touch it in order to effect such change. Wherever a bubble is cast, it will capture the visual impression of its surroundings in all directions from its vantage point. Thenceforth, the bubble may be consulted anywhere, and anyone who gazes at it may see what was visible from the bubble's point of view at the exact moment the spell was cast. The orientation remains the same, so gazing at the bubble northwards, for instance, will provide a view of the bubble's visual memory of north at the time it was cast. Likewise, gazing at it from below will provide a view of its visual memory of above, and so on. The distance that can be seen extends as far as the horizon, but anything obstructed from the bubble's original vantage point (e.g. an object behind a boulder or a geographical feature behind a mountain ridge) will remain unseen. This spell does not confer or limit any visual capability on the part of the gazer. A nearsighted gazer will still be nearsighted with regard to perceiving the view of the bubble's visual memory, but so, too, will a gazer with the eyesight of a hawk or the ability to detect invisibility retain those abilities. Similarly, the light conditions at the time it was cast may affect the gazer's capacity to see (e.g. if it was cast at night and the gazer has normal human vision).

* 18 inches or 0.5 m.

23 January 2013

Striking a Blow for Gaming History

The Dungeons & Dragons PDFs are available once again (as previously noted), and this is cause for celebration in the Old School Renaissance community, but there is something else to celebrate for those of us who care about the roots of our hobby. Not only are PDFs of products from all editions being rolled out, not only are they improved in quality and functionality according to reports, but the product descriptions of the PDFs include their product history (at least for those I've seen). Product history, in this case, means not only the publication history of the product, but its significance in the history of D&D (and consequently the history of role-playing games). These product histories were written by Shannon Appelcline, author of Designers & Dragons, and they provide invaluable insight into the story of the industry and the hobby. If they at Wizards of the Coast wanted to convince me of their sincerity, this demonstration of respect for the game's heritage has done so. Whether or not I decide to use D&D Next, I am reassured that everyone's favorite flavor of D&D will remain available so gamers can make their own choice. Will this curb my appetite for OSR products including retro-clones? No, but it does mean I can mix and match with greater ease and reconnect with the products that brought me into this hobby.

Thank you, WOTC.

[Edit: It's amazing how a typographical error consisting of a single character ("." instead of ">") can foul up an entire post. In the future I'll preview my articles before scheduling them for posting at a later date. In the words of Agent 86, "Sorry about that, chief."]

22 January 2013

Unleash the PDFs!

The town criers are crying out the news, and for the near future I expect the hubbub to drown out the discussion of other topics, but the news is big as far as the Old School Renaissance community is concerned. Yes, the rumors were true. Wizards of the Coast has made the Dungeons & Dragons PDFs available once again in their former lair at RPGNow.com as well as their own online store dedicated to D&D classics called, appropriately, dndclassics.com. The site boldly declares "EVERY EDITION AVAILABLE AGAIN," which should warm the hearts and lighten the money pouches of many members of the D&D diaspora. (I really might need to start a separate PDF wish list just to make things more manageable.) Will every grognard be appeased by this news? Well, no, of course not. We're talking about grognards. But many will be heartened, and Wizards of the Coast, many of us will agree, is doing the right thing by mending this particular palisade.

For my own part, I wish to thank Wizards of the Coast for unleashing the PDFs for the enjoyment and education of all role-playing gamers everywhere. Thank you!

[Edit: Oh, yes, I forgot to mention that B1 In Search of the Unknown, the classic Basic D&D module, is free for the opening week of dndclassics.com.]

(In case you missed it, and I'm sure you have, my regularly scheduled post is here.)

Magical Spell: Proof Against Infestation

Not all threats to a magic-user's pride and joy (i.e. library and/or laboratory) are elemental. Some come in the form of living things that destroy valued objects by infesting them. Where the threat of infestation is present, however, a spell is there to ward against it:

Proof Against Infestation

Spell Class: Magic-user
Spell Level: 3
Range: 0
Duration: 1 day per level of the caster upon exposure (also see below)

This spell provides total protection from infestation by rats, insects, and other vermin and creepy-crawlies for objects that would ordinarily be prey to such attacks, e.g. books, plants, alchemical ingredients, etc. The amount of material that may be so protected is equal in mass to one heavy book per level of the caster. This spell also provides potential protection from monstrous infestations, e.g. giant rats, green slime, etc. Any object protected by proof against infestation that is attacked by monstrous infestations is entitled to a saving throw versus poison made as if by a magic-user of the same level as the caster who originally cast the spell at the time the object received its protection. A successful save means no damage was sustained by the object and the creatures were repelled. The spell remains dormant until it is activated by contact with normal or monstrous creatures that attempt to infest the object. Once activated, the protection lasts for one day per level of the caster or until three saving throws have been rolled (whichever comes first).

21 January 2013

Magical Spell: Proof Against Acid

Almost anything a magic-user values can be destroyed by acid. The practioner of magic would therefore be wise to prepare for such exigencies. This spell, for instance, could be most efficacious:

Proof Against Acid

Spell Class: Magic-user
Spell Level: 3
Range: 0
Duration: 1 day per level of the caster upon exposure (also see below)

This spell provides total protection from normal acid for objects that would ordinarily be susceptible to damage from it. The amount of material that may be so protected is equal in mass to one heavy book per level of the caster. This spell also provides limited protection from magical acid, e.g. acid-based spells, acid-based breath weapons, etc. Any object protected by proof against acid is entitled to a +2 bonus to saving throws made versus the appropriate magical acid-based attack. Any such saving throw is made as if by a magic-user of the same level as the caster who originally cast the spell at the time the object received its protection. A successful save means no damage was sustained by the object. The spell remains dormant until it is activated by exposure to destructive acid. Once activated, the protection lasts for one day per level of the caster or until three saving throws have been rolled (whichever comes first).

20 January 2013

Magical Spell: Proof Against Cold

Magic-users depend on much more than books in their profession. Potions, concoctions, herbs, and even ink can suffer from exposure to sudden drops of temperature. Hence this spell:

Proof Against Cold

Spell Class: Magic-user
Spell Level: 3
Range: 0
Duration: 1 day per level of the caster upon exposure (also see below)

This spell provides total protection from normal cold and frost for objects that would ordinarily be susceptible to damage or alteration from ice or excessive cold, e.g. liquids, certain plants, etc. The amount of material that may be so protected is equal in mass to one heavy book per level of the caster. This spell also provides limited protection from magical frost, e.g. cone of cold, ice storm, cold-based breath weapons, etc. Any object protected by proof against cold is entitled to a +2 bonus to saving throws made versus the appropriate magical cold-based attack. Any such saving throw is made as if by a magic-user of the same level as the caster who originally cast the spell at the time the object received its protection. A successful save means no damage was sustained by the object. The spell remains dormant until it is activated by exposure to destructive cold (with or without ice). Once activated, the protection lasts for one day per level of the caster or until three saving throws have been rolled (whichever comes first).

19 January 2013

Magical Spell: Proof Against Water

Along with fire, water is a prominent and serious threat to a magic-user's precious collection of tomes, codices, enchiridia, and scrolls. Thus the following spell:

Proof Against Water

Spell Class: Magic-user
Spell Level: 3
Range: 0
Duration: 1 day per level of the caster upon exposure (also see below)

This spell provides total protection from water for objects that would ordinarily be susceptible to damage from exposure to liquids, e.g. books, scrolls, certain perishable foods, etc. The amount of material that may be so protected is equal in mass to one heavy book per level of the caster. This spell also provides limited protection from water-based attacks (such as by water elementals), immersion in enchanted water, and magical or otherwise unusual precipitation. Any object protected by proof against water is entitled to a +2 bonus to saving throws made versus the appropriate magical water-based attack or threat. Any such saving throw is made as if by a magic-user of the same level as the caster who originally cast the spell at the time the object received its protection. A successful save means no damage was sustained by the object. The spell remains dormant until it is activated by exposure to destructive moisture, water, or water-like liquids. Once activated, the protection lasts for one day per level of the caster or until three saving throws have been rolled (whichever comes first).

18 January 2013

Magical Spell: Proof Against Fire

With a magic-user's reliance on equipment that is best kept in a climate-controlled library far from danger, one would think there would be more spells for the protection of spell books, scrolls, and the like. The following spell for magic-users and elves addresses this concern.

Proof Against Fire

Spell Class: Magic-user
Spell Level: 3
Range: 0
Duration: 1 day per level of the caster upon exposure (also see below)

This spell provides total protection from normal fire for objects that would ordinarily be flammable or otherwise susceptible to damage from flames or excessive heat, e.g. paper, wood, cloth, wax, etc. The amount of material that may be so protected is equal in mass to one heavy book per level of the caster. This spell also provides limited protection from magical fire, e.g. fire balls, fire-based breath weapons, etc. Any object protected by proof against fire is entitled to a +2 bonus to saving throws made versus the appropriate magical fire-based attack. Any such saving throw is made as if by a magic-user of the same level as the caster who originally cast the spell at the time the object received its protection. A successful save means no damage was sustained by the object. The spell remains dormant until it is activated by exposure to destructive heat (with or without flames). Once activated, the protection lasts for one day per level of the caster or until three saving throws have been rolled (whichever comes first).

17 January 2013

The Lost PDFs Return Again Possibly

We interrupt Applied Phantasticality and other arcane goings on to bring you this intriguing news courtesy of Rob Conley of Bat in the Attic.

Code word: dndclassics.com

We now return you to your regularly scheduled Internet-aided procrastination.

16 January 2013

Table: Weapon Ranges

The following table can be used to determine the range (in feet) of any spell, effect, or unusual weapon in a random manner. Use it whenever you create a new spell or device and you can't decide on its range, or to replace the range of an existing spell or device in order to promote unpredictability or variety. For ray guns, spells, or spell-like effects, just use the number in boldface as the maximum range. For most ranged weapons, use the numbers given for short, medium, and long range.

[Edit: There is also an expanded table of weapon ranges.]


Weapon Range

Roll 1d10

  1. 5-10 / 11-20 / 21-30
  2. 5-20 / 21-40 / 41-60
  3. 5-30 / 31-60 / 61-90
  4. 5-40 / 41-80 / 81-120
  5. 5-50 / 51-100 / 100-150
  6. 5-60 / 61-120 / 111-180
  7. 5-70 / 71-140 / 141-210
  8. 5-80 / 81-160 / 161-240
  9. 5-90 / 91-180 / 181-270
  10. 5-100 / 101-200 / 201-300

15 January 2013

Alignment Mania

Everyone has an alignment whether they like it or not. In some games, only three alignments are used: Nice, Wicked, and Questionable. There is a never-ending struggle between the forces of Niceness and Wickedness, and if you don't pick sides, then you are regarded by everyone as Questionable. But what do all these esoteric terms mean? Well...

Nice: Those of Nice alignment are polite, generous, and generally helpful. They are the sort of people you would introduce to your parents to win their approval.

Wicked: Those of Wicked alignment are rude, selfish, and generally a nuisance. They are the sort of people you would introduce to your parents to provoke their rage.

Questionable: Those of Questionable alignment are withdrawn, noncommittal, and generally overlooked. They are the sort of people you wouldn't bother to introduce to your parents.

In some games, three different alignments are used: Awful, Psychotic, and Dubious. There is a never-ending war being waged on the cosmic stage and in your own back yard between the Awful and the Psychotic, and those who stubbornly sit on the fence are Dubious. Let's define these terms, shall we?

Awful: Those of Awful alignment epitomize... something. They are Awfully... whatever it is they are. Sometimes they are self-described as Awesome.

Psychotic: Those of Psychotic alignment are unbalanced.

Dubious: Those of Dubious alignment are suspicious.

Some games are not content to have three alignments or three other alignments, so they combine and mix and multiply them into nine alignments, because that's preferable for tournament play. Let's see what they came up with...

Awful Nice: Creatures of this alignment are really quite pleasant. Some might argue they can be too pleasant to the extent that they may even "cramp" one's "style," but they are certainly reliably pleasant.

Psychotic Nice: This alignment really is too much of a good thing. Enough is enough! Sometimes people need some space!

Dubiously Nice: Being pleasant is one thing, but constantly doing it with a self-conscious sense of irony in order to appear "cool" or "hip" is blasé and won't even endear yourself to other hipsters.

Awful Questionable: No one can be as impressively stand-offish or intriguingly misanthropic as those fascinating individuals who embody the Awful Questionable alignment. Who are they? What are they doing here? What are their motives? Nobody knows!

Psychotic Questionable: What is wrong with Psychotic Questionable folks? Damned if I know, but I certainly don't want to find out. Just move along and don't make eye contact.

Dubiously Questionable: Those of Dubiously Questionable alignment simply cannot be trusted. See the way they enjoy spending time alone? See how they won't mingle or dance at parties? Have you ever noticed them reading a book in public? Hm...

Awful Wicked: Creatures of this alignment are Wicked with style. They may be Wicked, but even Nice people have to give them some credit. They are the villains you love to hate.

Psychotic Wicked: Just steer clear of any creature exhibiting Psychotic Wicked tendencies. Paying attention to them only encourages them. If you value, well, anything, just stay the heck away.

Dubiously Wicked: Really, being Dubiously Wicked is not as impressive as you think it sounds. The alignment should be changed to Poser. You're fooling no one. Get a life.

14 January 2013

Distilling Alignment

My search for a usable alignment system that doesn't make my eye twitch continues and is quite unrelated to any discussions that are occurring on any forum. (I don't currently read any fora.) Of the published role-playing games I've read, Lamentations of the Flame Princess has the alignment system I like the best, but it only really works for a specific sort of campaign. I am seeking an alignment system with rather more universal applicability. My first attempt was unsatisfying, although it produced some thought-provoking comments. My second attempt is closer to the mark, but is just shy of the target. This third attempt brings me full circle to the origins of the alignment system as a war game rule and its early use as a role-playing game rule for governing character actions and identifying character spirituality.

The terms "Law" and "Chaos" create a great deal of confusion when applied indiscriminately. In some literature, Law means Civilization, Enlightenment, Order, or Science, whereas Chaos means Wilderness, Darkness, Disorder, or Superstition. In a role-playing game, sometimes Law is degraded to law and order and Chaos is reduced to freedom and randomness. Obviously, law and order could just as easily be good or evil, and the same holds true for freedom and randomness. Advanced Dungeons & Dragons in its first edition attempted to clarify this with the ninefold alignment system, but did so at the expense of simplicity. The following system is an attempt to distill alignment to its essence so that it functions equally well in governing actions, identifying spirituality, and encouraging appropriate alliances. In this system, the tensions between regulation and liberty exist within each alignment.

Distilled Alignment System

Law: Those of a Lawful alignment strive to do what is right. At the very least, they try to cause no suffering. Ideally, they try to alleviate and prevent suffering. Pursuing justice and protecting the weak are also Lawful agendas. Synonymous with Good.

Chaos: Those of a Chaotic alignment pursue their own ends with little or no regard for what is right or any suffering that may result. Some even go out of their way to cause suffering. Pursuing power for its own sake and preying on the weak are also Chaotic agendas. Synonymous with Evil.

Neutrality: Those of a Neutral alignment choose not to align themselves with Law or Chaos. They tend to promote a balance of the two, but often prefer an absence of both. To be neither helpful nor harmful is their creed. Thwarting the perceived excesses of Law and Chaos or voluntary removal from their influence are Neutral agendas.

Indecision: Those of an Undecided alignment are unable to choose. There is no Undecided agenda unless it is to postpone making a decision.

Alignment is n/a (not applicable) for creatures of insufficient intelligence or awareness (such as golems, most animals, etc.).

Characters may choose an alignment or elect to be Undecided. Characters may opt to change their alignment if their actions (and their referee) support the change, and this may be done without penalty unless their class has alignment requirements.

Alignment languages do not exist, but personality traits indicative of one's alignment may sometimes be revealed by facial expressions, body language, word choice, or other behavior.

Spells, magic items, artifacts, and other phenomena may exist that are attuned to specific alignments.

13 January 2013

The Good, the Bad, Etc.

Whenever I contemplate alignment rules, I become more dissatisfied with the very concept of them. There is little to justify their existence outside of settings in which a dualistic cosmic struggle is affecting the universe (or at least the campaign world). Apart from the situations presented in the worldviews of Michael Moorcock, Poul Anderson, Zarathustra, and the like, what excuse is there for forcing all beings to align with Law, Chaos, or Neutrality?

Supposedly, the earliest presentation of the alignment system was in the pages of Chainmail wherein the various fantasy units were designated as Lawful, Chaotic, or Neutral in order to guide players as to which units would be willing to fight on the same side. In other words, it all boils down to Good Guys, Bad Guys, and all the rest. Does it really really matter what a unicorn's views on the nature of Law are? Is it of any consequence what an ogre's thoughts on the nature of Chaos are and where he fits into the scheme of things? In the end, unicorns and ogres don't work well together and the ogre will try to devour you. That's all that matters.

Let's translate the essence of that functional alignment system in role-playing terms. An adventurer who willingly allies himself with ogres is probably one of the Bad Guys. An adventuress who is permitted by a unicorn to ride it is probably one of the Good Guys. Is the adventurer comfortable or uncomfortable with the laws of society (whatever laws or society they may be)? Is the adventurer more concerned with the common welfare or self interest? Is he more of a Luke Skywalker or a Han Solo? It doesn't matter! You can be on the side of Good or you can be on the side of Bad. If you have trouble deciding you are Undecided. If you decide to choose neither, then you are actively Neutral.

One may split hairs about one person's evil being another person's good, but this is not about philosophy. This proto-alignment system is purely about identifying characters in a role-playing game as either Good Guys or Bad Guys from the point of view of the players (including the referee). There are no alignment languages; there are no magic items that can only be used by characters of Bad alignment; there are no spells to detect whether someone is Good or Bad. The proto-alignment system is strictly a meta-rule designed for the convenience of the referee and the players.

Good: Those of a Good alignment generally try to do the right thing. Some even dedicate their lives to it. Pursuing justice, protecting the innocent, and seeking to alleviate the suffering of others are three examples of a Good agenda.

Bad: Those of a Bad alignment pursue their own ends with little or no regard for any suffering that may result. Some even go out of their way to cause suffering.

Undecided: Those of an Undecided alignment are unable to commit themselves to actively pursuing a Good or Bad agenda.

Neutral: Those of a Neutral alignment are unwilling to support a Good or Bad agenda and prefer to promote a balance of the two if not an absence of both.

This proto-alignment system may be the one I finally choose. Even if I use the words Law and Chaos in place of Good and Bad, these will probably be the working definitions in effect in my old school games. Just so you know.

12 January 2013

Dual Threefold Alignment System

As much as I enjoy Dungeons & Dragons in its various old school incarnations, one concept I never fully understood nor embraced was that of alignments. I understand it in terms of the fantasy novels of Poul Anderson and Michael Moorcock, wherein the struggle between the forces of Law and Chaos are an important part of the setting, but the way it was presented in D&D, as a philosophical guide to personal conduct, has always seemed to me to be a poor fit. In the absence of an overarching cosmic war in one's campaign world, concerns of Law and Chaos seem even less plausible. In other words, I always felt that alignment rules were better suited to a game with a specific setting (such as Stormbringer) rather than an all-purpose fantasy game (such as D&D), especially if the latter emphasizes materialistic rather than mythic goals.

Perhaps it would be easier for me to accept alignments in the latter case if their names were less awe-inspiring and more descriptive of actual behavior. In terms of the threefold alignment system, perhaps the following would serve better:

Law-Abiding: Those of a Law-Abiding alignment tend to obey laws and promote orderly societies. When they disagree with a law, they prefer to change it from within the system if possible, or, if impossible, choose to organize resistance or migration.

Apathetic: Those of an Apathetic alignment are unconcerned about laws or the lack thereof. If laws exist, they will abide by them as long as it is convenient to do so. If they disagree with a law, they will ignore it if they can or abide by it if they must.

Criminal: Those of a Criminal alignment tend to disobey laws and promote disorderly societies. They will actively exploit, twist, or violate any law to achieve their personal goals. They disagree with laws in principle and perceive them as obstacles to their happiness.

Note that this alignment system is likely to be less static than the traditional Law-Neutrality-Chaos model. It is not uncommon for the Law-Abiding to grow Apathetic and it is not unknown for the Criminal to reform. There are no consequences for such alignment shifts other than the way a character is perceived by others.

It is possible for both alignment systems to exist in the same setting, of course, without resorting to the ninefold system. In a dual threefold system, all characters will be Law-Abiding, Apathetic, or Criminal in a social context, but only some will have a secondary alignment of Lawful, Neutral, or Chaotic in a metaphysical context. The secondary alignment only manifests if it is inherent (in the case of certain supernatural beings, for instance), professed as a faith (or an aspect of a faith), and/or pledged as an allegiance to a being representing that alignment. Thus the alignment options would be Law-Abiding, Apathetic, Criminal, Law-Abiding/Lawful, Apathetic/Neutral, and Criminal/Chaotic. Whereas the first three alignments would be fluid depending on the desires and behavior of a character, the last three alignments are as static as the traditional threefold system. Declaring Law, Neutrality, or Chaos has deep implications, and betraying that bond may result in loss of levels, loss of class abilities, and/or other severe penalties.

I'm not sure if I'll use this system, but it certainly makes it easier for me to understand and implement alignments.

11 January 2013

To the Slave Pits of Abhoth

In the midst of all these RPG Kickstarter projects (of which I have backed a few including, most recently, this one), I would like to point out a free gaming product that deserves attention from the Old School Renaissance community: The Slave Pits of Abhoth by FrDave of Blood of Prokopius. It is a well-designed adventure for Labyrinth Lord or any other compatible role-playing game, and it is inspired by the first of the A series modules created for You Know What Fantasy Role-Playing Game. This is a re-imagining of that adventure that is far more than a mere conversion from one game system to its retro-clone. It is an original work with a unique perspective, and it embodies the best qualities of the OSR: creativity, utility, versatility, and generosity. Thank you again, FrDave, for sharing this excellent adventure.

10 January 2013

Supporting Tunnels and Trolls

I took the plunge and decided to become a backer of the Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls Kickstarter project at the "First Citizen of Khazan" level, which means I'm opting for the softcover book (as well as the PDF). I'm also paying a little extra to get the new map. I would prefer to have the hardcover book, but the price is too steep. If the Kickstarter had been scheduled to kick in after I received my tax refund, I could have afforded to be a "Noble of Khazan," but the 5 February deadline is too close to the due dates of too many upcoming bills. I can only hope that hardcover copies will still be available when I have the extra money to buy one.

At least I'll get the Early Bird Pledger magnet.

09 January 2013

Random Hit Location Generator: d6 Version

Sometimes it's useful — even in an old school role-playing game with abstract combat rules — to know exactly where a blow has fallen. Whether one needs this information for every attack (to determine armor coverage or just to know where one's battle scars are) or only for critical hits (to determine what part of the body is to be maimed, mangled, or severed), a random hit location generator is the answer. The one that follows was first posted in Fudgery.net.

08 January 2013

Tunnels and Trolls Kickstarter Makes Saving Roll

A Kickstarter project to release a new deluxe edition of Tunnels & Trolls has already achieved its initial funding goal and it's not too late to become a backer. At the moment it is within a few dollars of its first milestone goal and there are still 27 days to go until the funding deadline of 5 February 2013. The new edition will have a minimum of 200 pages and will be available in PDF, softcover, and hardcover formats. The project reunites a T&T pantheon including game designer and author Ken St. Andre; editor, developer, and illustrator Liz Danforth; graphic designer and illustrator Steve Crompton; game designer and adventure author Bear Peters; and publisher Rick Loomis; so you know it's in good hands. Pledge any reward level at $10 or more by midnight (Mountain Time) on 10 January and receive a special Early Bird Pledger magnet.

To learn more, visit the Deluxe T&T Kickstarter page.

07 January 2013

The Magical Magnitude of Enchanted Places

Just as magical devices have a default level at which spell-like functions operate, so, too, do enchanted places. For the sake of simplicity, the spell-like effects of these locales (enchanted springs, cursed wells, mystical pools, etc.) operate at the 20th level of spell use except where other parameters are specified or the referee rules otherwise. This default level may vary from campaign world to campaign world.

06 January 2013

Table: Mystical Pools

Whether found in shrines or temple courtyards, caves or hidden grottoes, the mystical pool is a source of wonder and power. It may be sacred or sorcerous, but it is most certainly ancient and beyond the ken of mortals. Unlike enchanted springs or cursed wells, the supernatural effect of a mystical pool is revealed not by drinking from it, but by either gazing upon it or wading into it (possibly even to the extent of completely submerging oneself in it). The following table may be used to generate the peculiar effects of mystical pools and whether these effects are discovered by gazing or wading:


Mystical Pools

Roll 1d20

  1. Acts as the spell bless to the wader.
  2. Acts as the spell charm person (enslaving the gazer to the first person heard).
  3. Acts as the spell clairaudience to the gazer as long as the gaze is held.
  4. Acts as the spell clairvoyance to the gazer as long as the gaze is held.
  5. Acts as the spell commune for clerics of the deity for whom it is sacred.
  6. Acts as the spell contact other plane to the gazer.
  7. Acts as the spell fear to the gazer.
  8. Acts as the spell heal to the wader.
  9. Acts as the spell hold person to the gazer until visual contact is broken.
  10. Acts as the spell prayer to the wader.
  11. Acts as the spell protection from evil to the wader.
  12. Creates a clone that attacks the gazer.
  13. Imbues the gazer with telepathy as long as the gaze is held.
  14. Imbues the wader with water breathing for a fortnight.*
  15. Increases the gazer's intelligence permanently by 1 point.**
  16. Increases the gazer's wisdom permanently by 1 point.**
  17. Polymorphs the wader into a fish.
  18. Teleports the wader to any desired location.
  19. Teleports the wader to a predetermined location.
  20. Turns the gazer to stone.
* This benefit cannot be extended by additional immersion until the initial effect wears off. ** This benefit can be used to increase the gazer's attribute once only, but can be used to restore lost attribute points multiple times. N.B. Saving throws, if any, are at the referee's discretion.

05 January 2013

Table: Cursed Wells

Some wells, it is said, are cursed, and woe unto those who would quench their thirst from them. A well may be cursed for a variety reasons: it have have been used to murder someone or dispose of a corpse; it may be located on a gravesite, burial ground, or other sacred place; it may have disrupted the energies emanating from a ley line; it may be a fairy well or a well built on fairy-touched land; it may have tapped an underground river that has contact with an unusual subterranean environment; it may be tainted by a nearby meteorite of unknown origins, etc. Whatever the source of the curse, the following table may be used to generate its unwelcome effects:


Cursed Wells

Roll 1d20

  1. Acts as the spell charm person (enslaving the drinker to the first person seen).
  2. Acts as the spell feeblemind.
  3. Causes 1d8 hit points of damage.
  4. Causes blindness.
  5. Causes deafness.
  6. Causes the drinker to age 1d8 years.
  7. Causes the drinker to rot until dead within 1d6 weeks.
  8. Causes the drinker to slip into a deep sleep lasting 48 hours.
  9. Decreases the drinker's charisma permanently by 1 point.
  10. Decreases the drinker's constitution permanently by 1 point.
  11. Deprives the drinker of the power of speech for a fortnight.
  12. Drains the drinker of 1 level.
  13. Enables the drinker to see into the Ethereal Plane (but nothing else) for 1d8 days.
  14. Erases all memories of the last 24 hours.
  15. Imposes a penalty of -4 to all future saving throws vs. magic for two days.
  16. Imposes a penalty of -4 to all future saving throws vs. poison for four days.
  17. Imposes a penalty of -2 to all future saving throws for four days.
  18. Weakens the body by subtracting 1 point of strength per day for 3d6 days.*
  19. Weakens the mind by subtracting 1 point of intelligence per day for 3d6 days.*
  20. Weakens the soul by subtracting 1 point of wisdom per day for 3d6 days.*
* Lost points are regained at the rate of 1 point per month. The spell remove curse will restore all points lost as a result of this effect. N.B. Saving throws, if any, are at the referee's discretion.

04 January 2013

Table: Enchanted Springs

Some springs are known far and wide for the miraculous effect they have on any who drink from them, and thus become popular places of pilgrimage. Some of these springs are known only to a few who jealously guard the secret. Others of a magical or holy nature may yet remain undiscovered. The following table may be used to randomly generate the unusual benefits of enchanted springs both known and unknown:


Enchanted Springs

Roll 1d20

  1. Acts as the spell cure disease.
  2. Acts as the spell regenerate.
  3. Acts as the spell remove curse.
  4. Acts as the spell restoration.
  5. Cures blindness.
  6. Cures deafness.
  7. Heals 1d4 hit points.
  8. Heals 2d4 hit points.
  9. Heals 3d4 hit points.
  10. Heals 4d4 hit points.
  11. Imbues the drinker with cold resistance for three days.*
  12. Imbues the drinker with fire resistance for three days.*
  13. Imbues the drinker with immunity to disease for a fortnight.*
  14. Imbues the drinker with immunity to poison for seven days.*
  15. Increases the drinker's charisma permanently by 1 point.**
  16. Increases the drinker's constitution permanently by 1 point.**
  17. Restores strength, agility, and mobility.
  18. Reverses the drinker's physiological age by 1d6 years.
  19. Turns the drinker blue for two days.*
  20. Turns the drinker invisible for 1d6 hours.*

* This benefit cannot be extended by additional drinking until the initial effect wears off.
** This benefit can be used to increase the drinker's attribute once only, but can be used to restore lost attribute points multiple times.

[Edit: As an option, all springs have the benefit of restoring (or temporarily granting) 1 hit point to any who drink from them in addition to their primary benefit. This emphasizes their magical nature even to those who cannot take advantage of their most noteworthy quality, e.g. a person with sight who drinks from a spring that cures blindness will still experience a magical effect. Even if the drinker has no hit points to restore, he or she will gain a temporary increase of 1 hit point. This hit point, once lost, cannot be regained through healing or any other means except drinking from the spring, and no more than 1 such hit point may be gained at a time.]

03 January 2013

On Training to Level Up

I have no hard data to support it, but I am under the impression that many referees of D&D (in its various editions and variants) employ the rule that player characters, upon earning the experience points required to gain a level, must pay to undergo some professional training in order for the new level to take effect. As a referee I have never used this rule (probably because it does not exist in the Moldvay Basic rules, which was my first exposure to D&D rules), and as a player I have never had a referee use it in a campaign. Personally, I've never seen the point of it. It unnecessarily and inconveniently interrupts the flow of play, it doesn't accurately reflect reality or fiction (except perhaps martial arts movies), and it seems like a petty tactic to deprive player characters of their hard won treasure. I'm not a Monty Haul Dungeon Master, so I don't usually face the problem of player characters with more riches than they know what to do with. Treasure is sought because it is desirable. It is desirable because it enables adventurers to do more of what they like: carousing, buying supplies, flaunting their wealth, building strongholds, etc. — things adventurers find enjoyable. It is also desirable because it enables adventurers to take care of necessary expenses: food, lodging, taxes, tithes, dues, healing potions, etc. I do not need metagame rules to create excuses for taking their treasure from them. The adventure they just survived and the experience points they earned is sufficient justification for gaining a level. They don't need a leveling up tax on top of that. Referees, if your players survived the hell you put them through and managed to get away with treasure, don't they deserve to enjoy it?

That's my view. What's yours?

02 January 2013

Random Robot Generator: d12 Version

This variation of my other random robot generator, inspired by the same post from Untimately, utilizes only the d12, but is composed of 21 tables. Are 21 tables unwieldy? Perhaps, but they afford far greater detail than the Roll All Dice method, which may be more desirable under certain circumstances. For even greater detail, consider using the random ray gun generator in place of the Ray Gun table. As usual, undesired results should be ignored or rerolled and all tables are optional.

01 January 2013

Happy Phantastical New Year

I'm too busy to post anything longer today, but I wish everyone a happy, prosperous, thoroughly phantastic New Year.

Game on!