28 February 2013

Random Alignment Generator

Where do Fudge and Dungeons & Dragons intersect? The answer is the random alignment generator. Back in the 1980s, I owned a pair of six-sided alignment dice that I had ordered from the RPGA (Role-Playing Gamers' Association). The dice were white and bore three words repeated twice. The first die bore the words "Lawful" in blue, "Neutral" in green, and "Chaotic" in black. The second die bore the words "Good" in blue, "Neutral" in green, and "Evil" in red. To generate a character's alignment randomly, just roll the first die for those editions of D&D that had only three alignments, or roll both dice for the two-part alignment scheme that became standard starting with Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. Alas, it did not take long for the ink on the dice to smear and fade, leaving me with [what are gradually becoming] two featureless white cubes.

The solution is Fudge dice. These six-sided three-dimensional randomizers have three symbols repeated twice and lend themselves to the random generation of alignments better than the original alignment dice themselves. [Fudge dice have six sides that are marked "+" on two sides, "-" on two sides, and left blank on two sides.] For one thing, they are not merely inked, they are incised, which means they last forever. For another thing, only a single Fudge die is necessary, since the "+" and "-" symbols can double as Lawful vs. Chaotic and Good vs. Evil.

For those who like charts, voila:

 1st dF2nd dF

Combined, we may generate the following results:

+Lawful GoodLawful NeutralLawful Evil
0Neutral GoodTrue NeutralNeutral Evil
-Chaotic GoodChaotic NeutralChaotic Evil

Incidentally, all alignment dice are Chaotic. Use them at your own risk.

[Originally posted here in Fudgerylog.]

27 February 2013

Passing Semiconscious Thought

I missed BASHCon again, but GM's Day is just around the corner (the 4th of March), so perhaps I can observe it in some way. How? I have no idea. I should be sleeping, not writing about pseudo-holidays created in gaming fora. ZZZZZZZ...

26 February 2013

Table: Transcendental Teas

Would you like a nice cuppa? Teas are well known for their healthful qualities, but not all teas are equal. Some are blended from rare and arcane ingredients by those with a knowledge that transcends the bonds of material existence and awareness. These are the transcendental teas that expand the mind and free the spirit (or in some cases cloud the mind and enslave the spirit).

To randomly generate a transcendental tea, roll once on the table below and give the tea a unique name. The tea, if properly selected, blended, and brewed, will faithfully reproduce the same transcendental effect once per day to any who drink it.

Transcendental Teas

Roll 1d20

  1. Acts as the spell astral spell.
  2. Acts as the spell augury.
  3. Acts as the spell commune.
  4. Acts as the spell commune with nature.
  5. Acts as the spell divination.
  6. Acts as the spell feign death.
  7. Acts as the spell neutralize poison.
  8. Acts as the spell remove fear.
  9. Acts as the spell sanctuary.
  10. Acts as the spell speak with animals.
  11. Acts as the spell speak with plants.
  12. Acts as the spell true sight.
  13. Imbues the drinker with constant wakefulness for 2 days and 1 night.
  14. Increases the drinker's intelligence by 1 point for 24 hours.
  15. Increases the drinker's wisdom by 1 point for 24 hours.
  16. Induces a nap lasting 20 minutes (equivalent to 8 hours of sleep).
  17. Induces a restful sleep lasting 8 hours.
  18. Subjects the drinker to charm person from the first person noticed.
  19. Subjects the drinker to hypnosis from the first person seen.
  20. Subjects the drinker to suggestion from the first voice heard.
N.B. Unless the level of the spellcaster who blended the tea is known, any spell-like effects function at the minimum level required to cast the spell +1d4-1.

25 February 2013

The Swashbuckling Advantage

Via a circuitous route (looking up the Yaquinto war game Swashbuckler on boardgamegeek.com, seeing a photograph of a diorama inspired by the game, visiting the Web site of the diorama builder, and being referred to the Web site of Eureka Miniatures), I discovered a remarkable miniature war game called ...And One for All by Greg Hallam (available here as a free download and with illustrated examples of play). Its focus is the combat of swashbuckling movies both in style and substance. By "substance" I mean the gameplay itself is as freewheeling as the swashbuckling antics the game simulates. Anything you can think of doing in terms of interacting with your environment is permissible and actually improves your odds in combat. Neither time nor movement rates are measured in this game. The more actions you take, the better you fare, but the sooner you risk losing the initiative and relinquishing your turn. It might be the best interpretation of the genre ever designed.

I can't wait to try playing the game in the way it was intended, but I would naturally like to use it for other situations: Wild West brawls, for instance. In fact, this would work well with brawls in Boot Hill, spy action in Top Secret, martial arts in your favorite martial arts game, duels on Tékumel (Empire of the Petal Throne et al), or even the rough and bloody informal conflict in Dungeons & Dragons. In fact, I'd say it's especially appropriate for D&D, where combat is far more regimented and low level player characters are scarcely able to hit anything. Even if it isn't optimal where spellcasting and ranged weapons are present, it would be a great boon for resolving mêlée combat more quickly and with more interesting results. It also emphasizes player skill, which is generally considered a desirable quality for a game to have as far as the Old School Renaissance is concerned.

One minor modification would need to be made if it were to be used in conjunction with D&D. Each character would need to be assigned a Rating from one to four. I would suggest the following change to rule 3B:

4       High level characters; high HD monsters
3       Medium level characters; medium HD monsters
2       Low level characters; low HD monsters
1       0 level characters; less than 1 HD monsters

Whether I adapt ...And One for All for use in my role-playing games or not, I intend to play it as a traditional miniature war game, too. I might also play it with LEGO Minifigures and a LEGO diorama. (Why not?)

24 February 2013

Weekly 3x5 Geomorph

After I post my next set of four 3x5 geomorphs, I might start a new weekly feature consisting of a single 3x5 geomorph. This would serve the dual purpose of a.) giving me one automatic topic per week, and b.) enabling me to work on 3x5 maps at a more leisurely pace that would increase the likelihood that I will actually draw them and post them in a timely manner. I haven't decided what day it would be. 3x5 Thursday? Geomorph Monday? I am undecided (and too sleepy to trust myself with decisions).

23 February 2013

Twelve-Sided Surprise

I am thinking about replacing the d6 skill rolls in Dungeons & Dragons, Labyrinth Lord, and especially Lamentations of the Flame Princess with the d12. As a referee, I need more wiggle room to apply the occasional bonus or penalty to a roll, and with LotFP in particular I'd like to make the rate of skill improvement slightly more gradual, but not as sluggish as the old d100 progression in D&D. In order to preserve the sense of consistency, I might switch initiative and surprise rolls to the d12 as well. Too radical?

22 February 2013

Gygax Magazine PDF

Erik Tenkar of Tenkar's Tavern reports that the first issue of Gygax, the Old School Renaissance gaming magazine inspired by Dragon, is now available as a PDF at RPGNow for $4.99. That is all.

21 February 2013

Dungeons of Catan

There seems to be some interest in random wilderness generation lately, and there is always interest in worldbuilding in general, so it occurred to me that we already have what may be the perfect participatory, evolutionary campaign world generator in the form of the board game The Settlers of Catan. I haven't tried it yet (since I just thought of it about ten minutes ago), but the idea seems too irresistible not to have been conceived before now, so I'm not claiming to be its originator. If you've already written, posted, tweeted, or talked about this before, congratulations. Great minds ratiocinate similarly.

Consider the possibilities. The geography is determined by the random placement of terrain hexes. Hexes! The settlements are established by competing cultures (the players) in logical places. Newer settlements arise as the cultures compete for resources and expand into the wilderness. Roads are built to connect the settlements. By the end of the game you have terrain, resources, towns, roads, and nations. And that's just the basic game. Expansion sets allow you to introduce things such as trade routes and city improvements. Once the board game is over, the GM has a campaign world with all these things and even a history of the interactions of the various cultures. All the GM has to do is assign names to the nations, towns, and natural features (such as mountains, rivers, forests, deserts, etc.). Further details can be determined by the GM as needed, such as town maps, names of leaders, types of government, etc. The GM can create random wilderness encounter tables for each hex or use those provided by the preferred rulebook. If the campaign grows beyond the island, play another game of The Settlers of Catan to create another island. If an island is too small, call it a continent and treat every settlement as a collection of villages and towns with a city as its nucleus. The beautiful thing about it is that the worldbuilding process becomes more of a game than a labor, everyone gets to participate in shaping the world before role-playing in it, and the world arises organically from a process of evolution rather than creation. There is nothing wrong with authorial worldbuilding, but I think there are alternative methods that can be equally rewarding. Both methods, in fact, could be employed in building the same world. Certain lands, for instance, might be more recognizable to player characters whose players participated in their creation, whereas more distant lands might appropriately seem more foreign for having been wholly conceived by the GM. In a way, the board game worldbuilding phase serves to familiarize players gradually with their characters' backgrounds on a macro level.

The placement of dungeons, catacombs, and ruins is entirely at the GM's discretion, of course. Certain settlements could be designated as ruins or as having dungeons beneath them or nearby. Many important destinations, however, will be in remote locations far from any sign of civilization. It's good to preserve the unknown even in a land the players helped create.

20 February 2013

LEGO Oubliettes

Peter Regan of Oubliette Magazine has posted an article about Lego Dungeon Geomorphs. They may not be as affordable as geomorphs made with 3x5 index cards, but if you happen to have some spare LEGOs (or LEGO Heroica sets), they lend themselves well to dungeon-building.

I have been tempted for years to build some dungeons on the LEGO Minifigure scale for role-playing and war game use, but the cost of LEGOs and the inability to purchase specific Minifigures of my choice (instead of the mystery Minifigures) have precluded such activities until I win the lottery.

(Incidentally, what is the plural of LEGO? Is it LEGOs or LEGOes? Or LEGI? Or LEGAE?)

19 February 2013

Deluxe Ark of the Covenant Features New Packaging

Once again the signal fires have been lit across the Old School Realm: Wizards of the Coast announced the upcoming release (currently scheduled for 19 November 2013) of an Original Edition Dungeons & Dragons Premium Reprint consisting of the original three volumes and four supplements of the 1974 edition of Dungeons & Dragons. According to the product description, "Each booklet features new cover art but is otherwise a faithful reproduction of the original, including original interior art." The price is $149.99.

This is great for collectors, but I hope they will eventually release the PDFs for the frugal and/or merely curious gamers out there.

Oh, and the product description mentions that it "features new packaging." There is no actual description apart from the rulebooks, but there is a mock-up depicting a wooden box, ten dice, and eight booklets.

17 February 2013

3x5 Geomorph Links

If you like the 3x5 geomorphs I have been posting recently, you might be interested to know that the originator of the idea, FrDave of Blood of Prokopius, is now gathering links to 3x5 geomorphs. If you have any 3x5 geomorphs of your own to share, just leave a comment there and include the link.

16 February 2013

Painful Experience

Role-playing games traditionally reward player characters with experience points for their successes. In Dungeons & Dragons, of course, this usually means acquiring treasure and defeating foes. If it is true, however, that we learn the most valuable lessons from our mistakes, then perhaps experience points should be awarded to player characters for their failures. That is not to say that failing should be made desirable in itself, but perhaps something good should come from the battering adventurers routinely take. It should, after all, make them tougher if they survive it. Therefore, I am proposing a new optional rule: For every hit point of damage a character sustains, he or she automatically gains 10 experience points. I doubt this would be an incentive to anyone to get intentionally injured (although I could be wrong), but it would acknowledge that one of the surest signs of experience is the battle scar.

15 February 2013

Specific 3x5 Geomorphs 1-4

Here are my first 3x5 geomorphs with labelled landmarks. The first was drawn with the usual Sharpie. The others were drawn with a fountain pen.

14 February 2013

Magical Spell: Unseen Assistant

The following spell is a more advanced version of the first level spell unseen servant.

Unseen Assistant

Spell Class: Magic-user
Spell Level: 2
Range: 60' radius
Duration: 6 turns

By means of the spell unseen assistant, the caster may create invisible forces to perform repetitive tasks such as agitating test tubes, operating bellows, sharpening blades, stirring cauldrons, chopping vegetables, or any other light task that does not require extensive training. One unseen assistant may be created for each level of the caster, but each is capable of only one type of task for the spell's duration. In all other respects an unseen assistant is identical to an unseen servant.

13 February 2013

Return to Blackmoor

Randall of RetroRoleplaying: The Blog has pointed out here that the Blackmoor module DA2 Temple of the Frog by Dave Arneson and David J. Ritchie is now available as a PDF at dndclassics.com. I remember seeing the Blackmoor modules at Hobby Center (my first FLGS, which is now nothing but a fond memory), but I never bought them. It probably had something to do with the fact they were Basic modules and I had abandoned Basic/Expert D&D for AD&D when TSR took the Erol Otus-illustrated editions off the market. I am wiser now, however, and Temple of the Frog is now near the top of my PDF wish list.

12 February 2013

Generic 3x5 Geomorphs 5-8

The following are four more generic 3x5 maps inspired by FrDave's example. Two of them are dead ends. I might need to make a few more of those.

[See also Generic 3x5 Geomorphs 1-4 and Specific 3x5 Geomorphs 1-4.]

Generic 3x5 Geomorphs 1-4

Inspired (and reminded) by FrDave's posts in Blood of Prokopius on the subject of 3x5 geomorphs, I decided to accept his challenge and make some 3x5 geomorphs of my own.

The following geomorphs answer FrDave's call for generic 3x5 maps that can potentially be used in combination with geomorphs designed by others. These lack names or identifiers in order to maximize their flexibility. FrDave's most recent call has been for 3x5 maps that do have landmarks and titles, so I shall attempt to answer that call in the next few days.

Due to the fact that I drew these with a Sharpie on index cards that are a little too porous for permanent markers — and also due to the fact that I used neither graph paper nor drafting tools — these maps are a bit rough. They may not be the most attractive maps I ever made, but I think their roughness lends them a bit of charm, almost as if they had been drawn by actual delvers. Maybe I should take it further and use a crowquill pen or even a fountain pen...

[See also Generic 3x5 Geomorphs 5-8 and Specific 3x5 Geomorphs 1-4.]

11 February 2013

Labyrinth Curiosity

I never owned nor played the Dungeons & Dragons Computer Labyrinth Game by Mattel, and I'm not sure how long it would have kept my interest (especially after discovering role-playing), but I often gazed at its photograph in the Sears Wishbook, watched the television commercial, and saw the game itself in stores. A part of me lusted for it, but another part of me was well aware that very often the advertising and the packaging promised something very different from the reality. The colorful picture of the dragon on the box was eye-catching, and although it intrigued me, experience told me that there was little chance that the game was as fascinating as its artwork (which is now the fourth work of art to be displayed on this Web log). It's just a hunch. That dragon sets a formidably high standard.

[See also this retrospective (where I happened to find the photograph).]

10 February 2013

Dungeon Artifact

The third work of art to be displayed on this Web log is the cover illustration (by Jim Roslof) of the Dungeon! board game. It isn't the first edition of the game to be published, but it was the first edition I ever played, and it remains my favorite. I remember finding it at a downtown newsstand called Morey's that sold newspapers, magazines, greeting cards, candy, tobacco, pipes, and board games. My parents bought it for me, and although I enjoyed it immensely, it was not long before I was devising house rules and adding new monsters and spells. The more I tinkered with it, the more I realized I really just wanted to play Dungeons & Dragons. I can't quite recall exactly when I first played Dungeon! in the timeline of my gaming experience, but it was certainly one of my earliest experiences with a TSR product. I know it's probably too much to hope for, but in the midst of all the TSR reprints, it would be nice if Wizards of the Coast would produce a commemorative facsimile of this edition of Dungeon! (with the exact same art, of course).

09 February 2013

Magic Item: Stone of Distraction

Not the most dramatic cursed item, but definitely one of the most frustrating...

Stone of Distraction

A stone of distraction seems to be a stone of concentration at first, encouraging one to focus one's thoughts at the task at hand the moment it is touched or seen, but soon enough it becomes apparent that instead of freeing one from distractions, it amplifies them. Every sound becomes louder and more jarring. The slightest physical contact is either ticklish or itchy. Light is too glaring. Shadows are too mysterious. Colors are too colorful. Anything and everything becomes a consideration except whatever it is one wants to do. Exposure to a stone of distraction utterly precludes the casting or memorization of spells, of course, and even light reading is impossible under its influence. The curse will operate whether the stone is seen, touched, or on one's person, and only the spell remove curse will rid one of it.

Like other magic stones, a stone of distraction has no standard size, shape, or coloration.

08 February 2013

Magic Item: Stone of Obsession

Resist the temptation to peek...

Stone of Obsession

A stone of obsession may not have any outwardly identifiable quality to distinguish it from any other stone either magical or mundane, but anyone who sees or touches it must make a saving throw vs. magic or become obsessed with it. Once perceived, the stone must be seen or in physical contact with the victim at all times or the victim will be unable to think about or do anything else except plot ways to reacquire it. Each day of separation will cause the victim's obsession to grow in intensity. Extended separation will cause the victim's health to suffer in the form of the loss of one point of constitution per week. Unless the stone is reacquired or the victim is the beneficiary of a casting of remove curse, the victim's constitution will decline until it reaches zero (and death). Contact with the stone or removal of the curse will instantly restore any loss of constitution.

07 February 2013

Magic Item: Stone of Concentration

Not the most dramatic magic item, but perhaps one of the most useful...

Stone of Concentration

A stone of concentration will enable a spellcaster — as long as it is within his or her field of vision and/or touched — to cast or memorize spells free from any distraction including injury. Only removal of the stone from the spellcaster's sight and touch will break his or her concentration. The spellcaster may willingly break concentration at any time. The stone may be used by anyone capable of perceiving it to aid in concentration.

Like other magic stones, a stone of concentration has no standard size, shape, or coloration. Unlike other magic stones, its properties can be discovered as soon as it is seen or touched by an intelligent creature.

06 February 2013

Expert Renaissance

The cover of the Dungeons & Dragons Expert Rulebook edited by David "Zeb" Cook with Steve Marsh is now the second work of art to be displayed on this Web log. Once again, the art is by Erol Otus. The version pictured here is a slightly later printing than my own copy, the only difference being the lack of a white circle over which the "2" was superimposed. Together with the Basic Rulebook edited by Tom Moldvay, it was my gateway to the hobby, and I am increasingly of the opinion that it was the best edition of D&D ever published. The PDF is now available, and it is currently ranked #12 in RPGNow's list of "Hottest Items." The Basic Rulebook remains #1. Welcome back to 1981!

[See also Basic Renaissance.]

05 February 2013

Magic Item: Stone of Relaxation

A magic item of therapeutic qualities:

Stone of Relaxation

A stone of relaxation, if kept on one's person such as in a pocket or a pouch, will keep one free of stress and anxiety, and will grant a +4 bonus to saving throws vs. fear-based attacks. If held in one's hand, it will extend the zone of peacefulness in a 4 cubit* radius. If rubbed, it will imbue one with immunity to both fear and insanity for the duration.

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

* 6 feet or 2 m.

04 February 2013

Magic Item: Stone of Heaviness

Another cursed stone:

Stone of Heaviness

A stone of heaviness, if discovered, will seem to have the same properties as another beneficial magic stone such as a stone of warmth or coldness, and will act as such, but upon the second day its weight will increase to 1 stone (14 pounds or 6.35 kg). Thereafter, its weight will increase by another stone each day. Meanwhile, the beneficial properties will cease on the eighth day, although the weight will continue to increase daily until it reaches the maximum weight capable of being lifted by its possessor. Each day, the possessor will be notified by the referee that his or her encumbrance has increased by 140 coins (or whatever number of coins equals 1 stone in the campaign). A stone of heaviness may only be discarded with the casting of remove curse.

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

03 February 2013

Table: Healing Potion Side Effects

Some healing potions, especially those of dubious manufacture, come with side effects when their directions for usage are not followed to the letter (q.v.). Some of an even more suspect nature come with side effects regardless of how they are taken. In any event, any given batch of questionable healing potions will have one or two of the following side effects in addition to the advertised benefit.

Healing Potion Side Effects

Roll 1d12

  1. Blindness lasting 24 hours.
  2. Blurry vision lasting 1d20 rounds. Penalty of -4 to all attacks.
  3. Deafness lasting 24 hours.
  4. Dizziness lasting 1d8 rounds. No combat activity possible.
  5. Hallucinations lasting 24 hours.
  6. Incapacitating headache lasting 1d12 hours. No activity of any kind possible.
  7. Nausea lasting 1d10 rounds. No movement possible.
  8. Piercing headache lasting 1d4 turns. No concentration possible.
  9. Sense of smell deadened for 24 hours.
  10. Sense of taste deadened for 24 hours.
  11. Sense of touch deadened for 24 hours. Certain thiefly skills not possible.
  12. Throbbing headache lasting 1d6 hours. No concentration possible.

02 February 2013

Magic Item: Stone of Intolerability

Not all magic stones are reliable or beneficial. Take this one, for example:

Stone of Intolerability

A stone of intolerability, if touched, will activate immediately and remain in its current mode until its possessor can be freed of it (typically by being the recipient of a casting of remove curse). The mode is determined randomly each time it is activated.

Modes of Intolerability

Roll 1d4

  1. High winds. Possessor is constantly subjected to strong winds that affect no one else. Many normal activities (e.g. starting a fire or keeping a neat appearance) are rendered impossible.
  2. Flooding. Possessor is constantly sopping wet, dripping everywhere, and unable to keep anything dry that isn't in a sealed, waterproof container.
  3. Unbearable cold. In an attempt to combat the frigidity, the possessor will resort to frequent jumping, will try to wear as many layers of clothing as possible, and may attempt to start fires with anything handy.
  4. Unbearable heat. In an attempt to combat the sweltering rise in temperature, the possessor will resort to discarding all armor and most clothing, and will be preoccupied with finding ways to cool off such as swimming or being fanned.
Like other magic stones, a stone of intolerability has no standard size, shape, or coloration.

01 February 2013

Magic Item: Stone of Coldness

Keep calm and carry one of these.

Stone of Coldness

A stone of coldness, if kept on one's person such as in a pocket or a pouch, will keep one comfortably cool even in the most sweltering heat and humidity. If held in one's hand, it will extend the zone of protective coolness in a 4 cubit* radius. If held in both hands and rubbed, it will reduce the temperature enough to freeze water rapidly at a distance of 8 cubits.** This third function will cause 1d8 hit points of damage to creatures that are especially vulnerable to low temperatures. A successful saving throw vs. magic will reduce the damage to one half.

Like other magic stones, a stone of coldness 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.