31 December 2014

Year's End

Well, the year has ended with a sigh for Applied Phantasticality (and my other Web logs for that matter). Moving to another city, working longer hours, and actively gaming with other beings in person has resulted in a bit of neglect here. May the coming year find me far more productive in all of my writing endeavors including those that are related to gaming.

In 2015, I hope to run events at two conventions, coordinate up to four different gaming groups that will meet with varying regularity, finish work on at least three of my projects, restore my domain sites, and resume regular Web log updates.

Meanwhile, I am awaiting the arrival of three new publications: The Excellent Travelling Volume (#1), A Red & Pleasant Land, and Wonders & Wickedness. Recently, I received The Dungeon Dozen and Swords & Wizardry White Box. As you may surmise, these days I am interested in minimizing rules and maximizing whimsy.

Happy New Year to all of you, and remember to game on!

14 October 2014

Session Report 2014-08-10

SETTING: The Sundered Land Some Dread Land


Fiona, 1st level Human Fighter (Pirate) and her hen, Frederique
Volka, 1st level Halfling Fighter (Hunter) and her hawk, Artemisia
Daedriin, 1st level Halfling Thief (Specialist)
Tilly, 1st level Elf Cleric
Potato, 1st level Dwarf Magic-User

Session IV

Closing the door on the ominous starry void, Tilly invoked the sacred power to detect evil, not having heard Daedriin's opinion (colorfully expressed) that it would be nigh useless in surroundings as steeped in evil as the tower. Indeed, it revealed that the very stones of the floor, ceiling, and walls around them were soaked with evil.

Having decided to return to the doorway to what was presumably the top floor of the tower, the party headed back in the direction of the spiral staircase leading up to the ground floor. Returning to the kitchen, they realized there was a corridor to the west they hadn't explored, and thought they'd better explore it in case the ghouls Tilly had turned were lurking there. No sooner did they start toward it than Tilly sensed burning evil in the shape of a man approaching them from the dark corridor, beyond the light of Daedriin's lantern. Tilly told the rest of the party what she detected, and they prepared to meet their adversary. Soon a man in mail armor — and a surcoat matching that of the warhorse they found outside the tower — stepped into the light. His expression was that of a horror-stricken victim, but the party wasn't fooled and greeted him with harpoon, dagger, hand axe, rock, and arrow. By the time he was close enough to strike them, he was a bludgeoned, hacked pin cushion of his former former self. Tilly performed a quick ritual to put his soul to rest, and Fiona searched the corpse, finding only an empty scabbard, clothes, boots, and armor. Fiona removed her scale armor in favor of the superior mail armor (although it was a little too large for her).

Continuing down the corridor, they found that it ended in a circular room. The floor was littered with human skeletons. Tilly could sense no evil emanations from the bones themselves (surprisingly), so Daedriin inspected them more closely. They appeared to have been human... once. Every bone was strangely distorted or twisted. The skulls appeared to have been stretched and warped as if they were made of dough, but they were as solid as any normal skull. Daedriin found nothing else of interest, Tilly prayed over the remains, and the party resumed their hike to the top floor.

They made their way without incident to the floor above the ground floor, and looked in at the sitting room. Satisfied that it was safe, they looked in again at the library and the bedroom. They library was as they had left it: with a pile of crystals where the living statue had been shattered. The bedroom, too, had been undisturbed by anyone but them. They decided this might be their best and only hope for the possibility of rest in a locked, windowless tower, so they locked the door and tried to sleep, taking turns keeping watch (and using candles to measure the passage of time). As disturbed as they were by their situation, they were also exhausted, in pain, and in an amazingly comfortable bed, so they were able to get some much needed rest. After an appropriate interval, the awoke. Tilly prayed for a light healing spell, and Potato memorized the spell of magic missiles. Tilly then healed Fiona's wounds, which greatly relieved everyone in the party. Girding themselves again for whatever might lie ahead, they exited the bedroom, crossed the sitting room, and proceeded up the staircase.

At the next floor, they looked in at the chart room, entered, and opened the door to the laboratory. Finding nothing out of the ordinary (and no ghouls), they looked up at the ceiling of the chart room before they left. The ceiling dissolved and revealed a seascape of saffron-colored waves under a yellow sky with red and orange clouds. Above the sea there was a haze of glistening gold and orange particles. The party marvelled for a moment and then exited to resume their ascent up the stairs.

Standing once again before an arched doorway of impenetrable darkness, Daedriin poked his head in, but could see nothing. (Again, Potato felt that strange psychic twinge.) He held his lantern through the doorway, and the light it cast instantly changed to blue. Ahead, as before, stood the pale pillar with its steps spiraling around it. The pillar extended above and below. Apart from the pillar, he could see nothing. Turning his head to look back through the doorway, it was illuminated by the party's torchlight, and his comrades were perfectly visible, but nothing else could be seen. It appeared to be a doorway floating in a void, with no connection to any architecture. Turning his head forward, Daedriin knelt to touch what he hoped would be a floor, and felt a smooth, hard surface like obsidian. He stepped onto it, was satisfied that nothing ill befell him, and briskly made his way to the steps of the pillar. It supported him. The rest of the party quickly made their way to join him. (Potato felt a sensation like that of passing through a giant bubble.) Tilly's nostrils stung from the stench of sulphur, but the rest of the party didn't seem to notice it much. Everything around her emanated evil. Daedriin looked back at the doorway again, but it was now indiscernable from the surrounding darkness.

"Does somebody want to carry me on their back?" Potato asked.

No one volunteered.

The individual steps that wound around the pillar were unconnected to anything but the pillar itself, and there was no railing, so the ascent was precarious. The blue light from the lantern and the torch illuminated only the party and the strange staircase. The darkness felt close and oppressive. Presently, they thought they saw a deeper darkness flowing around them as if in invisible channels or tubes. Potato extended a finger and touched what appeared to be an artery floating near him. He felt a slight resistance, but his finger passed through it. His finger was coated with a black substance.

Volka: "You are not going to taste that."
Potato: "Can I lick it?"

Despite not tasting it, Potato ascertained that it was ichor, the lifeblood of supernatural beings. Excited by its potential uses, he borrowed a waterskin from Daedriin and filled it with the demonic fluid.

A few steps higher, and the party could hear a slow, rhythmic sussurus growing louder as they went. Above, they could see two enormous, sooty, blackened bags, expanding and contracting in time with the wheezing sussurus. Lungs! As if to confirm an unspoken thought that they had hoped was not true, one of the adventurers exclaimed, "We're inside a creature!" The party was not heartened by the realization. There was a discussion about whether to return to the tower proper, but Daedriin informed them that it would be impossible to find the doorway again. They decided to continue upwards.

A few steps higher still and they could hear a loud, rhythmic beat that sounded like huge stone blocks being pushed back and forth. Soon they saw its source: a titanic heart made of blocks of basalt, pulsating like a giant three-dimensional puzzle with a sound like a controlled avalanche. The party stiffened its resolve and continued upward past the thing.

They emerged at last in a spacious cavern. Daedriin touched the floor before stepping on it. It was smooth yet grainy in texture and it was as solid as rock. The party climbed into the chamber and looked around. Along half the chamber's perimeter they saw a single row of stalactites and stalagmites. "Teeth!" Daerdiin exclaimed. "We're in its mouth!" The party was eager to exit as quickly as possible, but the only other opening they found was in the ceiling away from the "teeth." Fiona held Volka's 10' pole up to the hole to let Volka and Daedriin climb up to it, and they in turn lowered a rope for Fiona, Potato, and Tilly. The five then made their way through a tortuous tunnel that twisted both horizontally and vertically until they found themselves in another cavern.

For the first time since walking through the eerie doorway, they could see light of a color other than blue. A yellowish orange radiance filled the chamber, pouring forth from two huge, almond-shaped windows in the opposite wall. Potato ran toward the windows and gazed through one of them. He saw a vast sea of fire. From time to time he could see fountains of lava spurting like blood. Red light etched the sooty black clouds that filled the sky. "We're in Hell!" Potato wailed. Daedriin approached and stuck his head through the window, looking around at the structure they were inside. They were in the body of an enormous demonic form perched on the edge of a very tall cliff overlooking the sea of fire. Part of its body appeared to be fused with the cliff. Investigating the rest of the chamber, all they found was a grayish dome protruding downward from the center of the ceiling. Its lowest point was about 15' high. Fiona poked at it with Volka's 10' pole. It seemed to have the consistency of gelatin, although it was opaque. Daedriin shot an arrow at it. It passed through easily, leaving no trace. Daedriin shot a flaming arrow through it. Again, it passed through, leaving no trace. (On each occasion, Potato felt a psychic ping.) The party briefly argued about whether they should try to retrace their steps back to the doorway or climb through the windows. Potato emphatically rejected any suggestion that they venture outside, refusing to venture into what was obviously Hell. At last they decided to continue investigating the weird reverse dome in the ceiling. Fiona, with help, held the 10' pole up and Daedriin climbed up it until he could touch the dome. He poked his finger in it and held it there. Potato could sense — almost as if he were both hearing it and feeling it — a sustained vibration like that made by a tuning fork. Daedriin withdrew his finger and the psychic tone that only Potato was aware of ended. Potato informed the party of what had just occurred, but Daedriin shrugged and poked his head through.

Daedriin could see a square room, approximately 40' by 40', constructed of stone, with a hole in its ceiling through which normal daylight shone. From his worm's eye view he could see a few stone edifices. On the walls there were charts with mystical symbols written on them. He pulled his head down to report what he had seen, then popped his head back inside and pushed his hands through. When his hands were in the room, he touched the floor. It was solid. He lifted his body inside and stood on the solid stone floor. There was no trace of the gray gelatinous substance. (What Potato experienced when Daedriin disappeared through the dome was a psychic "Pop!") The rest of the party followed him into the dome through a series of tricky maneuvers until they were all inside the room. They speculated that they were once again in the tower.

Looking around, they determined that this must be the summoning room. One of the stone edifices was a lectern, upon which lay a book. Nearby, they saw a stone pedestal upon which rested a large gem. Before the lectern, there was a stone altar with a lower trough that narrowed to a channel leading to a circle with a pentagram in the center of the room. There were candles positioned at the pentagram's points, but they were cold. Embedded in the floor within the magic circle was a strange metallic rock about the size of a melon. Fragments of stone littered the floor surrounding the rock.

Potato scurried toward the book. It was a large volume bound in scaled hide. On its cover was the image of a crocodile devouring the sun. "We found it!" Potato shouted. He wanted to open it and read it, but the book had a locked clasp, and the lock was decorated with mystical sigils. Potato knew that the power to unlock it was beyond his ken. Now that they had the book, they reasoned that they could just take it and hand it over to Tayzhen, but there was the nagging question of the scroll they were supposed to deliver to Syrifex, whom they still hadn't met. That reminded them that they hadn't determined how they would exit the summoning room, since the way they entered was apparently a one-way portal. They found the door and Daedriin checked to see if it was booby-trapped. He wasn't sure, but they opened it anyway and hoped for the best. Beyond, they saw a spiral staircase leading downward. Closing it again, they searched the room for any clues of Syrifex's whereabouts.

Fiona, however, was most interested in the rock embedded in the floor within the magic circle. Looking at it closely, it appeared to have been a molten metal that had cooled. It was covered with bubbles. It resembled iron, but it was oddly unlike iron in some undefinable way. She speculated that it was probably very valuable and that it wouldn't be right to leave it there. Tilly, despite her intolerance of coming into contact with iron, touched it. She did not suffer the pain that elves usually feel, but she experienced a kaleidoscope of rings of fire and whirling planets and stars. Frightened, she quickly stepped away from the rock and warned the others about what she had seen. Daedriin smiled and placed both hands on the rock.

Immediately Daedriin felt as if he were falling through a kaleidoscope of celestial bodies and rings of fire, until at least he stood on the edge of an enormous cliff under a coal black sky, looking through the eyes of another at an endless ocean of fire. Periodically he saw arms outstretched in anguish from the fiery waves and heard piteous moans amidst the roar of the flames, and it gladdened him greatly. He was disconcerted, however, when he felt himself being pulled away from this enjoyable scenery. He tried to resist, but the pull was strong, and the comforting warmth and glow receded, to be replaced by an increasing coldness. He hurtled through an inky void until at last a blueish green sphere appeared before him, growing larger. In a flash he found himself in an impossibly small place, cold and gray. He was confined in an invisible prison. A small being, a soul encased in mortal flesh, stood with a bloody dagger and a corpse on an altar before it. It was shouting an incantation, but before it could finish, he felt something strike the back of his head. The pain was excruciating. By the time the worst of it subsided, he was no longer confined in a circle within the room. He was the room, and the tower itself, and the rooms and passages beneath it. He could observe nearly everything at the same time, but the being that had sought to enslave him was gone.

Daedriin removed his hands from the rock. He told the party that this was apparently the brain of a demon that Syrifex had summoned, and that something had gone wrong and it was now fused with the tower. The rock was too well lodged into the stone floor to remove easily, so he tried to pry it out with Volka's pole, but he couldn't budge it. Then he remembered he had a crowbar. As soon as he started to pry it, the floor swelled beneath their feet, receding when he stopped. "Brace yourselves, everyone," Daedriin warned his comrades. They followed his advice to the best of their ability, and Daedriin tried again, giving a mighty heave-ho. The floor buckled violently beneath them, causing two of the party to be knocked off their feet, banging their heads on the floor. Daedriin dislodged the rock, and the floor receded immediately. Tilly looked around. The floors, walls, and ceiling no longer emanated evil, nor did the rock itself. She touched it. It didn't affect her. Daedriin stashed the now demon-free lump of meteoric iron in his backpack.

With that bit of drama over, Volka inspected the gem on the stone pedestal. It was an unusually large amethyst of exquisite cut, with a word she couldn't read inscribed on one facet. Potato took a look at it. It bore the word "NAZDREL." They also noticed a tiny human figure inside the amethyst. He had a short, dark beard and wore a robe and a metal skullcap. In fact, he resembled the description of Syrifex that Jilsen the Tax Collector had given them. Volka seized the amethyst and interrogated the figure within it.

"Can you hear me?"

The figure nodded.

"What is your name?"

The figure answered, but they couldn't hear him.

Volka turned to Potato, hiding her mouth and told him they needed to know whether he could hear them or was just reading their lips. She repeated the question, "Can you hear me?"

The figure did not respond.

"So, you were lying! See how you like this, little human!"

Volka shook the amethyst and the figure tumbled inside the gem. When she saw that shaking the amethyst had an effect on the figure, her eyes glowed with wicked delight.

"I have my own human now! Truly a wonderful toy!" she said triumphantly to the others.

There was a moment of awkwardness as the rest of the party looked with embarrassment at Fiona.

Volka continued her interrogation of the gem's prisoner, and whenever he was uncooperative, she shook the gem with glee. By this method, the party learned that the figure claimed to be Syrifex and he wished to be freed. Daedriin suggested crushing the gem to release him, but Syrifex made known to them in the strongest terms that he preferred them to recite the word inscribed on the gem.

The party decided they should first find their way outside the tower before freeing Syrifex (and potentially placing themselves at his mercy), so they exited the summoning room via the door to the spiral staircase, descended to the reception room, and tried the door, knowing that it demonstrated strange properties upon their entry. It opened as normal doors do. Happily, they rushed out of the tower, noticing that the octagonal patch of brittle grass surrounding the tower was now the normal yellowish brown of dead grass instead of its former purplish gray. Not stopping until they were standing on normal green grass, Tilly looked for the warhorse they had seen grazing there. It was not far off, and approached when it saw them. Now that its owner was known to be with his maker, the horse's future was discussed. It was initially dubbed Harvey, but after some consideration they decided to name him (for it was a he) Princeton. Daedriin informed the party that a warhorse typically fetches a very high price, but Princeton demonstrated an unparalleled devotion to Tilly. For the moment, Princeton would remain with the party.

Returning to the matter of Syrifex, the gem was placed on the ground, the party stood back, and the name "NAZDREL" was spoken aloud. Syrifex stood before them in a flash! He thanked the party for freeing him, and as they conversed, Volka crept with the intent of surreptitiously snatching the gem that had been his jail. Perhaps unconsciously, Syrifex stepped on the gem, foiling her plan. Seeing that Syrifex intended them no immediate harm, Potato presented the scroll Tayzhen had hired them to deliver. Syrifex accepted it and opened it curiously, wondering aloud what his former student wished to communicate, a student whose personality had changed so dramatically and who had left so abruptly. About to say more, his eyes fell on the writing and he paused. The party waited expectantly for him to continue, but he had turned pale as marble and uttered not another syllable, for he had turned to marble. The man was now a statue, and the scroll fell from his inanimate fingers.

The party was stunned by this turn of events. First things first, they decided it would be unwise to leave a petrified wizard standing in the field, so with great effort they moved him back inside the tower and closed the door, hoping they would never be connected with his fate.

Next things next, they deliberated what to do with the book they had been hired to retrieve. Potato argued that they ought to keep up their end of the bargain, give the book to Tayzhen, their employer, and accept the payment of gold that was their due. Daedriin argued that they had already accrued treasure far exceeding the value of their promised payment, and the rest of the party distrusted putting what was surely a powerful and evil book (that could apparently sway the morals of any who read it) in the hands of a treacherous sorcerer who would so callously turn his former teacher to stone. The party (despite Potato's reservations) decided that instead of taking the book to Tayzhen, they would go in the opposite direction, north towards the tower of Kal-Dokk, with the intent of preventing him from undertaking the dangerous summoning that the previously sane Syrifex had meant to warn him against.

Almost forgetting that they had promised Tilsen the Tax Collector that they would free him from his cell once they had rid the tower of undead threats and found a way out, the adventurers went back inside to retrieve him. They briefly considered going back to the cellar to liberate some of the bottles of rare wine, but had second thoughts and decided they should waste no time in returning to the village of Safe End. To their profound surprise, they found that it was active with normal village life. Villagers were tending gardens, carrying water from the well, and airing out their cottages. Down the road, they could see more villagers returning, often with livestock bearing floral wreaths indicative of prizes won.

"The villagers really had gone to a fair!" the adventurers exclaimed incredulously more than once. The kind old lady had spoken truthfully!

They visited the Trinarian church and the priest was overjoyed that they had returned safely and that the aura of evil had left the land. He also confirmed that he had seen not one, but two shooting stars fall from the sky recently, both to the north (in the direction of the towers of Syrifex and Kal-Dokk). He and the rest of the village opened their arms to the party and provided them with food, shelter, and medical aid with no thought of recompense. Tilly, however, donated the gold pieces she had found in Princeton's saddlebag to the church, for which the priest was very surprised and grateful.

Gains: Suit of mail armor, waterskin filled with ichor, lump of meteoric iron, large amethyst, book bound in crocodile hide (the Object of the Quest), a warhorse named Princeton
Kills: One ghoul (formerly a human knight).
Losses: None.

[Edit: The third from the last paragraph was revised to include a missing detail.]

[This campaign uses the silver standard. 10 c.p. = 1 s.p.; 20 s.p. = 1 g.p.]

[The system used for this session was Swords & Wizardry White Box with a helping of house rules and a dash of Lamentations of the Flame Princess.]

[The session report format is inspired by Patrick Wetmore's session recaps in Henchman Abuse.]


30 September 2014

Convention GMing Self Pep Talk

Now that I have a stable gaming group and the potential for at least one more group, I feel more comfortable jumping back into the convention gaming scene. Conventions I will likely attend in 2015 are BASHCon and Origins. Conventions I might be able to attend are Gary Con and, if I go to Portland, whatever they hold in Portland. Conventions I would like to attend, but probably can't are Dragon Con and Gen Con.

Games I want to run in the aforementioned conventions are OD&D/Swords & Wizardry White Box, Fudge, and Mazes & Minotaurs. Games I want to play are too numerous to mention (or play), but include all of the above plus Empire of the Petal Throne, Call of Cthulhu, Tunnels & Trolls, Gangbusters, and Traveller (Classic), not to mention all the board games and war games I'm itching to play.

Time to prepare some adventures...

07 August 2014

Meowing Magic-Users

I was recently reminded of my first exposure to a gamer colloquialism not used by anyone in my own gaming group.* I heard it in the 1980s when I was attending NOWSCon, a small gaming convention held by the Northern Ohio Wargaming Society. I was playing in the first round of an RPGA-sanctioned event, and the DM said something about a "mew." He mentioned it several times, which invariably left the players exchanging befuddled glances, until one of us asked, "What is a 'mew'?" He appeared to be quite shocked at the question and answered, "A mew! A magic-user of course!" At this the whole group said "Ohhh!" in unison, and I said, "Oh, you mean an 'm-u'" (which we always pronounced as two distinct letters: "M.U.") Normally, we just said "magic-user" — it never really seemed like the sort of word that needed to be abbreviated or initialized. If anything, we tended to favor longer, more flavorful descriptions. Each to his or her own, I guess.

[mew] or [myu]
A pronunciation of the abbreviation "m-u" for "magic-user" in earlier editions of Dungeons & Dragons.

* My recollection was spurred by reading something in Google+ in which a magic-user was referred to as a "MOO." This is new to me and I don't know whether it is an acronym or yet another alternative pronunciation of "m-u."

[Edited from an article originally posted here in Fudgerylog.]

06 August 2014

Back to the Module and Other Sayings

Gamers, like most hobbyists, have their own jargon. They also have their own colloquialisms. Most of the gamer colloquialisms with which I am familiar are related to Dungeons & Dragons, so instead of recording them in Creative Reckoning (where I am transferring most of my old Fudgerylog articles), I thought they would be more at home here in Applied Phantasticality.

In any event, some of the [Old School] gamer colloquialisms that spring to my mind are:

back to the module
A statement made by the DM or a player to signify an end to the players' out-of-character chit-chat and a resumption of active gaming, usually made emphatically: "Back to the module..."
In role-playing games other than Dungeons & Dragons usually rendered as back to the adventure, back to the scenario, or back to the story.
blown out of existence or B.O.E.
Eradicated beyond all hope of resurrection, as in, "Would you like to have your character blown out of existence?"; inspired by the sphere of annihilation described in the Dungeon Master's Guide of 1st edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons.

[Edited from an article originally posted here in Fudgerylog.]

31 July 2014

Session Report 2014-07-29

SETTING: The Sundered Land Some Dread Land


Potato, 1st level Dwarf Magic-User
Tilly, 1st level Elf Cleric
Daedriin, 1st level Halfling Thief (Specialist)
Volka, 1st level Halfling Fighter (Hunter) and her hawk, Artemisia
Fiona, 1st level Human Fighter (Pirate) and her hen, Frederique

Session III

The party, upon leaving the chart room, had scarcely taken a step up the spiral staircase when they heard furtive footsteps coming from below. Tilly passed the torch down the line to Potato who was in the rear. Potato and Fiona saw a young boy of about eight enter the radius of their torchlight. He was wearing a maroon tunic with astrological symbols embroidered in gold thread. It was open to his chest where they could see he was wounded. He appeared traumatized. Potato greeted him with excessive gusto, which caused the boy to retreat, so Fiona, being the only human in the party, was pushed forward to deal with the child. Fiona approached non-threateningly and lured the child back into the light, moving as if to comfort him, but as soon as she extended a hand of friendship, he seized her arm with unnatural strength and clawed viciously at it. She felt an unholy iciness from his touch, and noticed that his skin had a deathly pallor. His eyes looked crazed, and he licked his lips as his clawed hands shredded her skin. Fiona swung her hand axe and split his skull, striking him down. Tilly immediately blessed the corpse in the hope of preventing it from rising again and to give its soul peace. Fiona inspected the corpse without touching it. The tunic was its only garment. The wound in its chest was deep and probably made with a dagger. Potato ascribed no meaningful significance to the order of the symbols on the tunic, but acknowledged that they were typical decoration for the clothing of a wizard's apprentice. Volka speculated that the apprentice had been sacrificed in a ritual.

Before the party could proceed, they heard footsteps again from below. The footsteps were heavier than before, made by multiple individuals, and they were running. The party braced itself for an attack. A tall man wearing the clothes and hat of a cook burst upon them, his eyes crazed like the boy's and his clawed hands raised to rip out the nearest throat. Fiona threw her hand axe, lodging it in his skull. His body fell backwards down the stairs, just as two others squeezed past him on either side. They were men in the garb of servants, with the same look of homicidal insanity and the same deathly pallor. Fiona and Potato wounded them, but they were unfazed and clawed the pirate and the dwarf mage viciously. This time Fiona was unable to resist the icy horror that filled her veins and she stood immobilized. Potato likewise succumbed to the paralyzing terror. The ghouls did not pause to feast on their victims, but immediately marked their next targets and prepared to pounce. In the mêlée, the remaining ambulatory party members vanquished their undead foes.

Two paralyzed party members was an inconvenience, but the remaining members decided to continue up the staircase. Daedriin tied ropes to Fiona and Potato and dragged them up the staircase by means of his truly formidable strength (even by human standards). Potato feared the possibility of brain damage resulting from this mode of transportation, but was incapable of voicing a protest. The staircase ended at an arched doorway. Tilly, once again in possession of the torch, noticed that its light did not illuminate anything beyond the doorway. It was impenetrably dark. Taking a chance, she stepped halfway through the doorway with her torch raised before her. (Potato immediately recognized a familiar sensation, like a vibration on the surface of reality, but was unable to communicate this information.) The light shed by her torch was now blue rather than yellow, but it illuminated nothing in the darkness but herself. Ahead, however, she could see a peculiar glowing staircase that wound around a pale pillar. And she could smell sulphur. She reported her discovery to the rest of the party, and it was decided that they should try to find a cure for their comrades' paralysis before continuing. Recalling a door in the chart room that they hadn't bothered to investigate, and which might have something of use to them, they dragged their paralyzed friends back to the lower floor.

Returning to the chart room, Volka, Tilly, and Daedriin headed straight for the door opposite the entrance with Fiona and Potato in tow. Unbeknownst to the able-bodied adventurers, Fiona and Potato were staring at a ceiling that was more than it seemed. The strange patterns of inlaid brass seemed to change as one stared at them until they and the ceiling itself dissolved, revealing the landscape of a world not completely unlike their own, but very different. They beheld a beautiful landscape of abundant vegetation, of rolling grassy hills and forests, all of varying shades of purple. From the tips of the branches of certain trees, bubbles emerged, which floated upward, increasing in size, until they joined enormous bubbles floating high in the sky amongst the purple clouds. They gazed in wonder at this scene as Daedriin picked the door's lock, and their vision came to a rude end as their bodies were dragged into the room.

The room was obviously a laboratory. Daedriin locked the door behind them in case there were more ghouls, and they looked around. There was a long table in the center of the room and another along the far wall. Upon both tables was a wide assortment of equipment, including beakers, vials, tubes, a mortar and pestle, a measuring spoon, a jade bowl, a human skull, a balance with weights, a prism, a copper funnel, a ladle, and other sundry items. Volka promptly claimed the jade bowl. On the right wall there was a bookcase with many large volumes. On the left wall there was a desk and chair. To the left of the desk there was a small furnace, beside which was set a bellows and an iron poker. Daedriin stood Potato up facing the bookcase and the party briefly discussed how to use blinking as a method of communication in case Potato recognized something relevant. Volka was intrigued by the skull. She noticed there were lines and symbols etched into the bone, but they were incomprehensible to her. Thinking it might be capable of speech, she greeted it, but the skull did not respond. Tilly thought the poker might be useful as a weapon, but as she had an aversion to iron (as do the rest of her people), Volka took it instead. Examining the vials, they could find nothing with labels they could understand. Meanwhile, Potato twitched and regained the ability to move. No, he did not see the book they were searching for, but he did see numerous tomes on the subjects of alchemy, natural history, regional flora and fauna, and one in particular containing recipes for various poultices and potions. It was a very large book, with nary an index nor page of contents, and it would doubtless take weeks to study it properly. Potato took it. Volka noticed that the desk had two drawers without locks, one on the left and one on the right, and pondered which to pull out first. She solved her indecision by pulling out both simultaneously. From the drawer on the right came a puff of strange smoke that burned her eyes, throat, and lungs, injuring her greatly. As she staggered about the lab coughing and flailing, Tilly's attention turned to the other drawer. It contained three maps. One indicated the location of a tower, labelled as Kal-Dokk's. One was the floorplan of the first level of a subterranean laboratory, also mentioning Kal-Dokk. The third was a map of the countries of West Sundered Land and East Sundered Land, divided by the legendary city of Sundoria. The party took all three. Volka eventually recovered from her coughing fit, and she looked inside the drawer from which the smoke had come. She found a figurine of smoky quartz in the shape of a frog with an open mouth. It appeared to be partially hollow. She asked Daedriin to check if it was trapped. Daedriin detected none, but said that the figurine probably was the trap. Volka took it. Fiona, too, emerged from her immobilized state and excitedly told the party what she and Potato had seen on the ceiling of the chart room. The party decided that instead of camping in the laboratory, they would exit, look at the chart room's ceiling, head back down to the ground floor, and follow the trail of blood leading down the other spiral staircase. His ear to the door, Daedriin could hear nothing on the other side, so he unlocked it and opened it.

Entering the empty chart room, Potato indicated the strange patterns and symbols of brass inlay and said that they represented coordinates in four dimensions. As they stared at the ceiling, it dissolved, and in its place they saw a blasted, lifeless landscape with mountains of metal and a sky filled with black clouds. Fiona was distressed by this. At first she was concerned that it was the same place they saw before, but upon more careful inspection it seemed to be a different place entirely. Potato believed that the ceiling showed a different time and place depending on the date and time at which one looked at it.

The party exited the chart room and made their way to the reception room on the ground floor. It was as they had left it, with a fire burning in the fireplace. They followed the trail of blood down the spiral staircase. At its end, they found a corridor extending to the west and a passageway to the east. The blood trail led east. They followed it, finding themselves in a large kitchen. The trail led to a large table covered with fresh blood in the center of the room. To the north there was a large cooking hearth with a spit and a large iron pot suspended from a tripod. There were baskets of vegetables, but all had a sickly purplish gray color. Hanging from pegs on the walls there were various game birds, but all were of a somewhat unnatural hue. There was a corridor to the east and another to the south. Daedriin lighted his lantern, providing the party with a second light source.

They continued east, following the corridor to its end where they found two iron-banded doors, each with a small barred window. The doors faced one another, one to the north (on the party's left) and one to the south (on their right). With trepidation, they chose the left. Volka stood before the door and Potato stood on her shoulders to look through the window. Potato noticed that there were claw marks on the iron bars and on the door itself, as if something had tried to get at whatever was inside. Within, he saw a frail man of indeterminate age lying on the straw-covered floor of the cell, his back to the door.

"Hey! You there! Who are you?" Potato asked the frail human.
They heard a moan and shivered, thinking it might not be human.
"Are you Kal-Dokk? Do you know Kal-Dokk?"
The man seemed confused.
"Is this the tower of Syrifex?" Potato persisted.
At this, the man weakly exclaimed "Syrifex!" and clutched his stomach.

Realizing the man was probably starving, Potato threw a piece of bread at his head (and missed). The inmate snatched the piece of bread and devoured it. Potato asked him again, but the inmate hoarsely replied, "Water..." Daedriin handed Potato a skin of water, who tossed it toward the prisoner. After he had quenched his thirst, Potato continued the interrogation. They learned that he was Jilsen, a tax collector who had come to collect the sum that Syrifex owed, but who had been seized upon his arrival and imprisoned. He didn't know how long he had been there, as there were no windows, but he knew that something terrible had happened. He had been having recurring nightmares of Syrifex in Hell, standing upon a cliff, shouting words he could not understand, calling forth a being of darkness that enshrouded the world with its black wings. Eventually, the servants ceased to bring him food or water, and then the ghouls tried to reach him, but were unable. All of this was beyond comprehension to him, as Syrifex had always been a moderate, even-tempered man, neither generous nor cruel. Asked if he had heard anything unusual, he said that he had heard someone yell "SYRIFEX," and then heard what sounded like a storm laughing, but nothing else. Volka grew tired of the interrogation and went to the other door, leaving Potato hanging onto the bars of the window. Potato asked Jilsen how he had arrived at the tower, and Jilsen told him he had ridden his mule. Potato then told Jilsen about his beloved donkey, Julius.

As the pleasantries continued, Volka tried the other cell door and was surprised to find that it wasn't locked. It slowly swung open, creaking loudly. Within, they saw iron shackles attached to the wall, and within the shackles they saw two arms, but no body. The straw on the floor was soaked with blood. They did not venture inside.

Potato dropped down and Daedriin thanked Jilsen for the information, assuring him that they would free him as soon as they could clear the tower of ghouls. In the meantime, he would be safer where he was. They left him some rations and returned to the kitchen.

Proceeding down the corridor to the south, they found that there was a passageway to the west and a passageway to the east farther ahead. The corridor continued on beyond their light source. Nearing the first passageway, they discovered that it was actually a recessed door. Tilly kicked it in, and the noise echoed throughout the complex. A moment after the echoes died, they could hear the sound of footsteps running. Volka estimated that there were four beings of human size headed towards them from the corridor and announced this to her comrades. The party retreated to the kitchen and took strategic positions. Fiona took a stance beside the corridor entrance with her back to the wall and a hand axe raised. Volka stood upon the table with her harpoon at the ready. Tilly and Potato stood behind the table on either side of Volka with staff sling and dagger in hand respectively. Daedriin hid behind the large iron pot in the fireplace with a view of the corridor entrance, nocking an arrow. Moments later, four ghouls who had once been laborers burst into the room. After a volley of misses from Tilly, Volka, and Potato, Tilly raised the holy symbol of the Trinarian Church and bade the undead to turn away. Two of the ghouls cowered in fear and ran back down the corridor. The remaining two, oblivious to the halving of their number, attacked Volka and Potato. The ghoul that attacked Potato slipped on the blood-slick floor and fell, and Potato bent to the task of repeatedly stabbing it in the back. Having thrown her harpoon, Volka switched to her sword, but luck was not with her. Tilly and Potato each inflicted enough injuries on the ghouls to kill a normal person several times over, but it was a well-aimed throw of Fiona's hand axe that ended the misery of one ghoul, and an arrow through the skull courtesy of Daedriin that relieved another of its undead existence.

Heading back down the corridor, they saw that the door Tilly kicked in opened to a small living quarters barely large enough for a bed and a stool. Fiona searched it, finding a pouch under the mattress containing 17 copper pieces (which she took).

The passageway to the east was also a recessed door and, also like the first, was unlocked. This time they opened it cautiously and quietly. It was another living quarters, identical to the first, except that the bed was smashed, the stool was broken, and the mattress had been torn to shreds. They chose not to enter.

They continued down the corridor to its end where it branched to the east and the west. They followed the branch to the east, which led to a circular room, in the middle of which were two corpses in a pool of blood, their limbs twisted in poses of agony. Potato looked up at the ceiling. It was domed and had a design of concentric circles. Potato shrugged and the party decided not to enter the chamber.

Retracing their steps, they took the branch to the west, which turned several times to end in a nondescript L-shaped room with two doors, one to the west and one to the south. The doors were made of a fine rare wood that resembled polished bronze, and the doorknobs appeared to be made of bronze or gold. Daedriin picked the lock of the door to the west and opened it, revealing a well-stocked wine cellar. Volka made a move to take the best bottle of wine she could find, but Daedriin advised her that it might be better to wait until they had cleared the tower of threats rather than risk carrying it into a fight only to have it broken. Volka agreed and made a mental note.

They left the wine cellar after a cursory search and Daedriin picked the lock of the door to the south. The light from his lantern could not penetrate the darkness beyond the doorway. He poked his head through (and Potato felt that increasingly familiar sensation as though the fabric of reality was being stretched). Daedriin could see neither walls, nor floor, nor ceiling. There was only a white pillar hanging in the darkness, tapering to a point at its base, which hung above him. Winding around it were steps, very small near the tip, gradually increasing in size. Looking below, there was a swirl of stars that appeared to be as distant as the stars above in a night sky. Tilly poked her head in as well, and instantly wanted to drop something into the room, but there were no stones or pebbles handy.

Tilly: "Does anyone have anything I can drop down there?"
Potato: "I have an iron spike."
Tilly: "No."
Fiona: "You can have one of my apples."
Tilly: "Yes!"
Potato: "Can I have a bite of it before you drop it?"
Tilly: "No."

Tilly dropped the apple into the room and watched it fall down, down, down, ever downward. By the time they stopped watching it, it was still falling.

Tilly: "Well, I'm not going into that room!"

Daedriin pointed out that it must be connected to the room on the top floor, and that they would need to revisit it. This they all agreed to do.

"I wonder what happened to those ghouls who fled..."

Gains: One jade bowl, one iron poker, one smoky quartz frog figurine, one book of potion recipes, three maps, 17 copper pieces.
Kills: Six ghouls.
Losses: None.

[This campaign uses the silver standard. 10 c.p. = 1 s.p.; 20 s.p. = 1 g.p.]

[The system used for this session was Swords & Wizardry White Box with a helping of house rules and a dash of Lamentations of the Flame Princess.]

[The session report format is inspired by Patrick Wetmore's session recaps in Henchman Abuse.]

15 July 2014

Equal Opportunity Energy Drain

Despite the bookkeeping hassle and the strained in-game explanations, level drain has one thing in its favor: inciting terror amongst players. This is a good thing, as the undead ought to incite terror, but it has its drawbacks: namely the fact that high level characters are far less vulnerable than low level characters. Some may assert that this is justifiable for the same reason that high level characters have more hit points, and thus are more difficult to kill, but I would respond that true terror ought to transcend the relative safety of experience. In fact, that's one of its most unsettling characteristics. This is why I have decided that in my own games, energy drain refers not to levels, but to how many six-sided dice you roll to determine your reduction in strength (which, at least in the version of Dungeons & Dragons I play, is independent of character level). Most undead will cause 1d6 points of strength to be drained. More powerful undead, such as vampires, will drain 2d6 points of strength. Zero strength equals death (and probably eventual undeath). If one survives such an attack, strength is restored at the rate of 1 point per week of rest. The usual spells (i.e. restoration and wish) will fully restore lost strength. As with the traditional energy drain, there is no saving throw to avoid its effects.

08 July 2014

We Are Sorry to Interrupt This Spell

I have come to the conclusion that spell interruption makes no sense in the context of Vancian spellcasting. In the Dying Earth stories by Jack Vance, it may take hours to memorize a few spells, but once a spell is in the magician's mind, coiled like a spring, all he or she needs to do is utter a few syllables to unleash it. I imagine the effect being as immediate as the killing words in Dune. Ritual spellcasting is another matter. Spells cast ritually are not memorized (at least, not in the same manner), but the casting time is greatly extended, affording ample opportunity for interruption. Coupled with an additional cost (such as possible hit point loss or temporary attribute reduction), ritual spellcasting becomes a viable method of extending the spellcaster's usefulness without resorting to power inflation (in theory, I should add, as I am currently playtesting it with Swords & Wizardry White Box). Dispensing with the idea of spell interruption for memorized spells helps me in two other ways. First, since I am no longer using the complicated combat round sequence of post-OD&D, I no longer have to worry about requiring spellcasters to commit to a spell before initiative is rolled — they are as free to cast or not cast as anyone else who is free to use or not use a weapon. Why does this matter to me? It matters because the game flows better, and when the game flows better, my players and I enjoy it more. Second, it preserves the value of memorized spells in contrast to ritually cast spells. And since I'm using Brendan's Simplified Spell Progression (i.e. reduced spell capacity), it's all the more important that the memorized spells become the reliable ones.

(I probably ought to note here that I am not observing the variable casting times of certain editions of Dungeons & Dragons. In my campaigns, memorized spells are cast instantaneously, whereas ritually cast spells have a uniform casting time of one turn [ten minutes].)

Here, then, are my latest revised rules for ritual spellcasting...

Ritual Spellcasting Variant 3

The standard rules of normal spellcasting apply (verbal and/or somatic components only; casting time of 1 round; memorization of all spells in 1 hour after 8 hours of sleep), but spellcasters may also cast any currently unmemorized (or unprayed for) spell that they are qualified to cast (i.e. are of a high enough level to cast) with the following restrictions:

  1. Casting time is increased to 1 turn, after which the spellcaster makes a saving throw vs. magic. If failed, the caster loses 1 point of strength per level of the spell. Strength lost in this manner is fully recovered after 8 hours of sleep.
  2. The casting must be uninterrupted. If it is interrupted, the spell is disrupted, but the caster must still make a saving throw or lose strength as described above.
  3. Material components must be used. Magic-users may use either a magic circle with candles or incense, or an alchemical catalyst to be imbibed, poured, or otherwise destroyed. Clerics may use items appropriate to their religion and culture such as censors, holy water sprinklers, bells, chimes, gongs, prayer wheels, candles, bonfires, etc.
  4. For magic-users, the book containing the spell must be available to consult during the casting. For clerics, a holy symbol, holy book, or sacred object must be present.

30 June 2014

Session Report 2014-06-26

SETTING: The Sundered Land Some Dread Land


Daedriin, 1st level Halfling Thief (Specialist)
Fiona, 1st level Human Fighter (Pirate) and her hen, Frederique
Potato, 1st level Dwarf Magic-User
Tilly, 1st level Elf Cleric
Volka, 1st level Halfling Fighter (Hunter) and her hawk, Artemisia

[Potato's donkey, Julius, was left with Cousin Leonard.]

Session II

Having hidden the corpses of the three bandits in the underbrush after stripping them of their possessions and leather armor (hiding the latter under an oak tree off the path), the party continued through the forest until the sun began to set. After an argument about how far off the path they should set camp, they decided on a spot "twenty Potato bodylengths" east, where they discovered a clearing. A campfire was started, and Daedriin, having the only tent and bedroll amongst them, pitched his tent with the satisfaction that he, at least, would sleep comfortably. Volka went hunting and returned with rabbits for their dinner, whilst Fiona provided eggs courtesy of her hen, Frederique, and Potato contributed grass he found growing in the clearing. Daedriin abstained and ate his standard ration instead, which was lucky for him, because Potato's contribution caused indigestion for those who partook. Each took a turn keeping watch as the others slept. The night passed uneventfully.

The next morning they ate breakfast and set off, reaching the end of the wood by mid-day. To the north, they could see tilled fields, a river, and a village. Upon reaching the river, they found an apple orchard, so Fiona and Tilly filled their bags with apples. Tilly waded into the river, testing the depth as she crossed it, and found that it was about three to four feet deep at its deepest. Daedrinn and Volka swam across as the rest of the party waded across (although it was necessary for Potato to hold his breath at one point). Once upon the other side, Daedriin found a rock to sit on and smoked his pipe whilst the others looked at the village.

It was a small village of haphazardly scattered cottages with not a villager in sight. Beyond the cottages, on a rise, they could see a small village church constructed of stone, and a modest stone house beside it. Tilly noticed the sacred triangle atop the church's belltower and jumped for joy, recognizing the symbol of the Trinarian Church, but first she wanted to investigate the village. Fiona accompanied her in case there was trouble, and Potato reluctantly tagged along.

The windows of the cottages were shuttered, so there was nothing to be seen within. Some of the cottages had stables or pastures, but no livestock. Tilly knocked on a door. There was no answer except for a barking dog somewhere. She tried two other houses, but they seemed empty, too. The only living thing they saw was a dog that crossed their path, barked at them, and ran off. The three were unnerved by the unexplained absence of villagers, so Tilly performed a ritual to detect any presence of evil, but none was evident. Tilly decided to head to the church, but just as they passed a cottage they noticed an old woman tending her garden behind one of the cottages. Tilly asked her where all the other villagers were, and the old woman told her they were "at the fair." She was very pleasant, and very interested in dwarves and elves, apparently neither of whom she had ever seen in person before, but she seemed a wee bit out of touch with the present. The only living things they saw or heard in the village, other than the old woman and the dog, were chickens in a coop behind a house near the old woman's. They left the old woman to her gardening and approached the church and the small house.

Without knowing why, they felt a sense of forboding about the church (although Tilly detected no evil). Tilly came close to opening the door, and Potato was uncertain about whether to knock on the door of the house, but Tilly changed her mind and decided to walk to the side of the church and look northward. The rise on which the church stood fell away abruptly and revealed a landscape of moors, stretching far both east and west. Due north, they saw a tower in the distance. Calling to the rest of the party to follow, Tilly and Fiona went eastward to where the hill sloped down to meet the edge of the moors. Potato took the shorter route and simply rolled down the steep incline. Following a trail of dry ground that led to the tower, they had scarcely set off when they heard the church bell ringing. "That's weird," one of the adventurers remarked. Looking back, they saw a human figure emerge from the church, waving frantically at them. They were too far away to hear anything. Volka suggested she send her hawk to the gesticulating person and maybe the hawk could transport a message between them, but a fellow party member reminded her that the hawk would be more likely to attack the person's eyes than convey a message, being a bird of prey. Out of options, Daedriin ran back to parley with the stranger. The figure turned out to be man wearing the garb of a Trinarian priest, and he seemed very distressed.

Daedriin: "What?"
Priest: "You mustn't go to the tower!"
Daedriin: "Why?"
Priest: "Haunted! D-D-D-Demon!"
Daedriin: "Is that all?"
Priest: "You will all die! Don't go there! Y-"
Daedriin: "Goodbye."

Daedriin returned and relayed what the priest had said. There was an objection to Daedriin's lack of thoroughness in questioning the priest, but the party was anxious to reach the tower, so they pressed onward.

As they drew closer they could see that it was a square tower of at least four storeys, and windowless. There was a door on the side that faced east. Nearby, there was a well. The grass surrounding the tower to a radius of about 40 yards was of an unnatural color, somewhere between gray and purple. This was suspicious. Unfortunately, Tilly's ritual to detect evil expired moments before they were within range. Just outside the perimeter of this eerie vegetation, they saw a horse. It had a military saddle, but it was grazing untethered. Tilly approached the horse. Daedriin warned her to be careful of strange warhorses and not to startle it. The horse did seem skittish for a moment, but then it looked her in the eyes and instantly became docile. She petted the horse and looked in its saddlebags, finding a blanket, a bunch of carrots, some spare spurs, and a small pouch containing three gold pieces. Tilly's eyes glazed with greed as she fondled the gold, and fairly danced with glee, but Volka reminded her of her Lawful vows and the consequences if they should be connected with the theft. Tilly regretfully returned the gold to the saddlebag, but took a carrot to feed to the horse, which nuzzled her gratefully.

Meanwhile, Potato had made a discovery. The perimeter of the discolored grass had straight edges. In fact, it was octagonal. Potato had a bad feeling about this, and made it known to the others. Daedriin shrugged and stepped on the purplish-gray grass. It was dry and brittle, crumbling beneath his foot. He shrugged again. Potato, on the other hand, was wide-eyed and open-mouthed, for what he alone had sensed was something akin to a tap on a drum, where the drum was the tight yet elastic fabric of reality itself — or a reality — stretched thin where Daedriin had stepped. Daedriin took a few more steps toward to the tower and again Potato alone felt the vibrations and the delicate tension of the thin layer of reality that was being traversed. Panicking now, he tried to convey his impressions to the rest of the party, but they had no frame of reference as none of them were schooled in the arcane arts and sciences. One of them asked if it might be some sort of alarm, but they all shrugged. Just to be safe, they decided to cross the unearthly grass to the tower's front door one at a time. As they did so, Potato nearly doubled over with fright, experiencing something akin to a psychic drumroll in his mind, but he crossed to the door as well, attempting to convey what he had sensed by drumming his hands on his legs. As they stood before the door, Potato had a very bad feeling about this.

The stout, iron-banded door had a doorknob and a keyhole. As Daedriin reached toward it, the door yielded before him, slowly opening, halting when his hand halted. Daedriin knocked on the stone doorway, but it was solid. It was dark within, but there was a phosphorescent glow coming from somewhere in the room. Daedriin reached for the door again. Again it yielded before his touch, opening wider. Volka lit a torch and they entered. Daedriin predicted that the door would close behind them, preventing their exit. Once they were inside, the door swung shut. Daedriin tried to reach for the doorknob, but an unseen force prevented his hand from coming closer than a finger's width to its surface. Daedriin nodded knowingly.

The chamber was large, with a spiral staircase leading up on the north side of the room and a spiral staircase leading down on the south side of the room. There was a fireplace in the wall to the west, opposite the door. There was a bellpull next to the doorway where they stood. The glow came from something on the mantelpiece. Daedriin shot a flaming arrow at the logs in the fireplace, and eventually the room was illuminated by its fire, although it was still unclear what was on the mantelpiece. Daedriin took a closer look and found that the glow came from a terrarium filled with oozing phosphorescent fungi. Beside the terrarium there were four vials, one of which was filled with a phospherescent liquid. Daedriin pocketed it and poked about the terrarium with one of the empty vials. The others noticed that there was a lighter patch of wall, rectangular in shape, above the fireplace.

Volka: "Ooh! A usurpation!"

They also noticed a bloodstain near the staircase leading down. It conformed with the pattern of bloodstain one could attribute to a corpse that is dragged off. "Maybe that's what happened to the owner of that horse," one of the adventurers theorized.

There was a debate about whether they should explore or announce themselves, whether Syrifex was a victim or perpetrator of the obvious crime that had been committed, and whether this was the tower of Syrifex at all, until someone concluded the discussion by shouting, "SYRIFEX!"

What they heard in answer sounded simultaneously like distant thunder and low laughter.

This unnerved the party, but they decided to explore, beginning with the spiral staircase leading up. On the next floor they found a wide room. There were benches, couches, and chairs along the walls, and two doors in the wall to the south, opposite the stairs.

Daedriin picked the lock on the door to their left. Volka held her torch into the dark room, and they beheld a library. There were full bookshelves, a writing desk with a parchment on it, a chair, and a life-size crystal statue holding aloft a real lantern. Potato was in awe of the library and made a beeline for the books on the far bookshelf, but as he passed the statue, it swung at him. One of its arms crashed into him, wounding him greatly. As he watched the second arm bearing the lantern swing mightily towards him, he was certain he was a goner, but it missed him, and the statue struck itself, causing a web of cracks to spread from the point of impact. Potato rolled through the doorway to safety, where Tilly called upon the mercy of the Threefold Deity and healed much of his injury. Meanwhile Volka threw her harpoon, missing the statue (but impaling a book), and Fiona, standing behind her, threw a hand axe, splitting another book in twain. Daedriin shot an arrow, which found a point of weakness in the statue's structure, and it shattered into hundreds of crystal shards. The party then searched for a book bound in crocodile hide, but finding none, Potato pocketed a few choice tomes. Inspecting the writing desk, the party found that the parchment appeared to be an unfinished letter. It was addressed to one "Kal-Dokk," and implored the addressee not to engage in a particular summoning as it would result in a disaster too close to the writer's own abode. Fiona noticed that the writing desk had a drawer and opened it, finding quills and six small bottles of ink. Two appeared to be normal black ink, but the other four were iridescent colors: red, blue, purple, and green. She pocketed the latter four.

The party exited the library and considered the second door. There was something peculiar about the door's clawlike handle to Daedriin's trained eyes, and he discovered that it was trapped with a spring-loaded spike should the handle be turned the wrong way. He disabled the trap and picked the lock. Opening the door, they found a richly furnished bedroom, the walls of which were covered with tapestries. There was a luxurious canopy bed along the wall to their right, a chest at the bed's foot, a wardrobe opposite them, and a comfortable chair to their left. Potato fearlessly entered the chamber and opened the chest, but saw only blankets and pillows in it. One of his comrades urged him to dig through them, which he did, but as he bent to the task, he noticed an iron box under the bed. Volka loaned him her ten foot pole, and he tried in vain to push it from beneath the bed. Volka finally entered the chamber and pulled the iron box out. Daedriin discovered that it, too, was locked and had a wicked trap. One of the bolts was actually made of putty, concealing a pin coated with a presumably deadly poison. He disabled the trap and picked the lock, and Volka opened it with no further precautions. Within were coins of silver and gold, as well as an engraved silver scroll tube. "WE'RE RICH!" shouted Potato. The engravings on the scroll tube depicted images of men and wolves. Opening it, Potato found it contained a scroll of protection against lycanthropes. Potato jumped for joy. The party plundered the iron box and looked around to see what else they could take. Several took blankets (as they had neglected to bring any on the trip), and the wardrobe revealed fine clothes and footwear, primarily of black, red, and burgundy. Several of the adventurers declared their admiration for the clothing and their desire to take various garments, although many were too large for the littler folk. At last, Daedriin expressed his strong disapproval. It would be a fine thing to confront Syrifex wearing clothes that belonged to him. Sure, he wouldn't know that the gold and silver they were carrying was actually his, but wearing his clothes?!?

They left the bedroom and continued up the staircase, intending to follow it all the way up to the top, but they changed their minds when they reached the next floor. It was one great room, its walls covered with star charts. The ceiling was inlaid with brass in strange patterns. Mounted on pedestals were astronomical devices. Fiona recognized them as being of fine craftsmanship — the finest she had ever seen. There was a sextant, an astrolabe, a spyglass(!), and a fourth instrument that she didn't recognize. She took them all. They were a bit much to carry, but Volka offered to carry them in a box she had. The party wasn't interested enough to tarry in the chart room longer, so they returned to the spiral staircase and proceeded to ascend.

Gains: 400 silver pieces, 40 gold pieces, an engraved silver scroll tube (40 s.p.) containing a scroll of protection against lycanthropes, some books, four bottles of iridescent ink, four astronomical/navigational instruments (including a spyglass), two vials of phosphorescent goo, some blankets.
Kills: One animated crystal statue.
Losses: None.

[This campaign uses the silver standard. 10 c.p. = 1 s.p.; 20 s.p. = 1 g.p.]

[The system used for this session was Swords & Wizardry White Box with a helping of house rules and a dash of Lamentations of the Flame Princess.]

[The session report format is inspired by Patrick Wetmore's session recaps in Henchman Abuse.]

29 June 2014

Observations on My First Swords & Wizardry Session

A few days ago, I ran the second session of a new campaign, which takes place in an original setting I call "The Sundered Land" "Some Dread Land." I used Basic/Expert D&D rules with a mixture of Lamentations of the Flame Princess for our first session, but for the second session I switched to Swords & Wizardry White Box. Thankfully, my players didn't protest, and except for a few hiccups, it went smoothly. I really like the unified saving throw. It reduces unnecessary complexity, and enables a game designer to customize it as simply as adding a saving throw modifier. I like ascending armor class much more than I ever thought I would when something like it was introduced in 3e, and at least one of my players was overjoyed when I announced the change. (I should mention here that I have five players in this campaign. Two had never played a role-playing game before, two had never played an Old School game before, and one thinks she might have played 1e or 2e a long time ago, but isn't sure.) Anything that simplifies the process is good for both me and the players, as I think none of us like to get bogged down in details that distract us from the adventure at hand.

For a 1st edition AD&D and Basic/Expert D&D gamer, it was a revelation how better suited to my gaming style the Original Game and S&W White Box are. I like the absence of weapon proficiencies. That is a level of detail I never needed in my fantasy adventure game. There are no alignment languages, which is nice and sane. I like the unified weapon damage, as it requires no consultation of the rules and encourages weapon choice based on how players envision their characters. I like the unified hit dice system, as it reduces power inflation amongst player characters and monsters. I like the reduced attribute bonus range for the same reason. Most of all, I like the overall simplicity of the game and the vast blank space where I can create whatever I desire without bumping against another rule. That is what makes the Original Game so powerful. Swords & Wizardry White Box just executes it more elegantly. This is my edition of choice.

24 June 2014

Session Report 2014-06-08

SETTING: The Sundered Land Some Dread Land


Volka, 1st level Halfing Fighter (Hunter) and her hawk
Tilly, 1st level Elf Cleric
Potato, 1st level Dwarf Magic-User and his donkey
Fiona, 1st level Human Fighter (Pirate) and her chicken
Daedriin, 1st level Halfling Thief ("Specialist!")

Session I

During a night of heavy gambling and drinking at the lowliest alehouse in the town of Damford in the realm of West Sundered-Land Somedreadland, arrangements were made between five of the oddest out-of-towners to band together and seek their fortunes. Following a tip that opportunities may be found at a "higher class" tavern (relatively speaking) known as The Two Queens, the party (known as "Daedriin's Heroes" according to Daedriin) headed to a better side of town. Before long, they spotted an establishment with a sign depicting two regal women with crowns beating each other with sticks.

"That must be The Two Queens!" one of the adventurers observed.

Entering the tavern, they found it to be higher scale indeed. There was actual furniture! Looking around, they noticed a handful of patrons scattered throughout the premises. Two men dressed in the rich black finery commonly worn by members of the Goldsmith's Guild were in quiet, serious conversation at one table. The bartender, who was drawing pints from the kegs along the back wall, was a well-muscled man in his sixties with short-cropped gray hair and a possible tattoo.

"Ooh! A man with a history!" gushed Volka.

Meanwhile, a fair wench glided over and welcomed them with a warm smile.

"Dibs!" blurted Daedriin.

They ordered food and drink and inquired about unusual job opportunities. She directed them to the post just outside the tavern. Stepping outside, they saw the post, upon which were nailed various notices. A man was observed nailing such a notice to the post at that very moment. His hair was cut in the fashion of a page and he wore black hose, a yellow tabard, and a sword at his side. The party inquired if the man (who introduced himself as Kren) knew of any jobs that might require the talents of a band of fearless adventurers.

Kren: "Well, as a matter of fact, I was just posting such a notice for my employer."
Party member: "And who might that be?"
Kren: "His name is Tayzhen. Would you like me to take you to him?"

The party agreed and followed Kren to a truly better side of Damford and a richly appointed inn with a doorman. Inside, there was a banquet hall where rich merchants were drinking and conversing. A minstrel was casually plucking a lyre by the large hearth. They were escorted to a private suite on the second storey, where they were introduced to Tayzhen, a man of aristocratic poise. His red hair and beard were cut short and he wore a robe of yellow silk with ermine trim. Tayzhen politely indulged their unrefined manners, perhaps because the novelty of the party's unusual composition amused him, and told them that he did indeed have a proposition. He required someone to deliver a letter to his old mentor, a scholar, and to retrieve from the same a book he had left behind when he had been a pupil. The payment, if the book was brought back to him, would be 100 gold pieces. At this the party's eyes bulged and their jaws dropped. They were immediately suspicious, and asked him why he couldn't do it himself. He answered that he had important business to transact whilst he was in Damford and didn't have time to make the journey himself, however much he would like to see his mentor again. Potato became curious about Tayzhen's origins.

Potato: "Where are you from?"
Tayzhen: "I was born in another part of the realm, although I was educated in this region, as I said."

The party, still suspicious of their potential employer, pressed further, asking him why he would pay such a great sum merely to deliver a letter and retrieve a book. Tayzhen admitted that it was a dangerous undertaking. His mentor's residence lay a few days' travel north on the borderland, where the robbery of defenseless travellers was not unknown. Communication with his mentor was very important to him, as was the return of his book. At this, Potato unceremoniously subjected Tayzhen to a battery of questions.

Potato: "Is the book a very important book?"
Tayzhen: "It is important to me."
Potato: "Are you a wizard?"
Tayzhen (smiling): "I am a scholar, trained as was my mentor to study the heavens."
Potato: "Would you be willing to train me?"
Tayzhen: "We shall see."

Tayzhen told them to think it over and give him an answer the next morning, so they returned to The Two Queens to discuss matters. Daedriin thought he might make a few coins by entertaining the patrons with his lute-playing, but his performance was extraordinarily and uncharacteristically bad.

Wench: "We've received complaints. I fear I must ask you to stop playing."
Daedriin: "How much will you pay me to stop?"
Wench: "..."
Daedriin: "Just kidding!"

The party then deliberated where they should spend the night. The Two Queens was suggested, but Daedriin preferred the dingy alehouse where they all first met, so they returned to The Tower and Clam. Toothless Fred, the proprietor, was happy to see them again, and they soon seated themselves on crates at the barrels that substituted as tables. Fiona bought them a round, and the party set to weighing their options. It was decided that they would accept the generous offer rather than risk losing the opportunity in a search for a better job. They paid a pittance for sleeping accommodations on the floor of The Tower and Clam, and the next morning they returned to the inn.

Kren (whom Daedriin only ever addressed as "Human") answered the door and ushered them into the presence of Tayzhen, whom they found gazing through the window lost in thought. Tayzhen was delighted that the party had accepted his offer. He handed them an ivory scroll tube with a wax seal, telling them that under no circumstances should it be read by anyone but his mentor, Syrifex, and that the seal is there to ensure its confidentiality. Once the letter is read by Syrifex, the party would be able to return with the book, "bound in crocodile hide and bearing the image of a crocodile devouring the sun."

Tilly had another question.

Tilly: "Can we have an advance on our payment?"
[Dramatic pause.]
Tayzhen: "Yes. I shall give you ten gold pieces. I trust that will be sufficient?"

The party was pleasantly surprised by this response, and, after excusing themselves, promptly set about equipping themselves for the journey. It was decided they would travel on foot, with provisions, and that Potato's donkey would be left in the care of Cousin Leonard, who coincidentally lived not far from Damford in the direction they were headed. (Potato's family is a curious one, and possibly the only dwarvish family in the world that resides amongst humans — and certainly the only dwarvish family with a member trained in the magical arts.)

By late afternoon, Damford was no longer in sight to the south, but there was a wood visible to the north. Deciding to remain on the road that led through it, they noticed a trio of hooded individuals loitering on the road where it entered the wood. The party spread out, and one of the individuals saw them and stepped forward, pulling back his hood. It was a man, as were the other two. He smiled and spread his arms in welcome.

Bandit #1: "Greetings! May I deprive you of your valuables, or must I deprive you of your lives?"

Seeing that the party was hesitant to comply, the bandits decided for them, throwing a hammer, an axe, and a dagger at the party. The party responded with arrows, axes, daggers (including the one that Potato kept in his fez), and a staff sling-propelled rock, which caved in the skull of the youngest bandit. This party of mostly diminutive folk certainly surprised the bandits with their courage and martial skill, but the party was likewise surprised by the toughness of their adversaries. The two remaining bandits fought doggedly with swords until an accumulation of wounds convinced them that the party was too strong to defeat. Fleeing in opposite directions, both were pursued and killed, lest they alert possible allies.

After the fight, the party retrieved their missiles and the corpses were looted of their meager coin and their weapons. Tilly said last rites in accordance with her Trinarian faith. (Tilly's ecclesiastical status is a curious one — she is possibly the only elvish Cleric in the world that exists outside of the realm of the elves.) Tilly suggested that they cremate the remains and give the bandits a proper funeral, but Volka pointed out the challenges of creating a fire hot enough, not to mention the fact that it might draw the attention of every bandit in the vicinity, so Tilly acquiesced and the corpses were dragged into the underbrush and left to rot.

Gains: An advance of 10 gold pieces, two swords, one hand axe, one throwing hammer, two daggers, a few silver pieces.
Kills: Three bandits.
Losses: None.

[This campaign uses the silver standard. 10 c.p. = 1 s.p.; 20 s.p. = 1 g.p.]

[The system used for this session was Basic/Expert D&D and Labyrinth Lord with a dash of Lamentations of the Flame Princess.]

[The session report format is inspired by Patrick Wetmore's session recaps in Henchman Abuse.]

[Edit: Corrected a misspelling: "Daedriin," not "Daerdrinn."]

29 May 2014

Table: Suitable Hats for Wizards

Inspired by the B/X Headgear tables from B/X Blackrazor, here is my version of a random headgear generator presented in four installments (because they do not fit neatly on one page, unlike their inspiration). Each player character may roll for one item (hat, non-hat, helmet, or wizard hat), which may be worn, stored, sold, traded, donated, or discarded as desired.

Suitable Hats for Wizards

Roll 1d20

1. Adorned (roll again plus Adornment table)
2. Decorated (roll again plus Decoration table)
3. Bicorne
4. Conical, Brimmed, Floppy
5. Conical, Brimmed, Stiff
6. Conical, Brimless
7. Conical, Split
8. Cylindrical
9. Crown, Modest
10. Fez
11. Laquered Hat (roll on Laquered Hats table)
12. Mitre
13. Mushroom-Shaped Hat
14. Phrygian Cap
15. Pyramid
16. Scholar Cap
17. Skull Cap
18. Turban
19. Wedge-Shaped Hat
20. Ziggurat


Roll 1d8

1. Badge
2. Bell or Bells
3. Finned
4. Horned or Antlered
5. Jeweled
6. Plumed
7. Tasseled
8. Winged


Roll 1d12

1. Equations
2. Eyes
3. Hieroglyphs
4. Polka-Dots
5. Runes
6. Shapes
7. Spirals
8. Stars
9. Stripes
10. Symbols
11. Wavy Lines
12. Zigzag Lines

Laquered Hats

Roll 1d10

1. Clam Shell
2. Coiled Snake
3. Conch
4. Crab
5. Deep Sea Angler Fish
6. Lobster
7. Octopus
8. Oyster Shell
9. Squid
10. Turtle Shell

28 May 2014

Table: Suitable Helmets for Adventurers

Inspired by the B/X Headgear tables from B/X Blackrazor, here is my version of a random headgear generator presented in four installments (because they do not fit neatly on one page, unlike their inspiration). Each player character may roll for one item (hat, non-hat, helmet, or wizard hat), which may be worn, stored, sold, traded, donated, or discarded as desired.

Suitable Helmets for Adventurers

Roll 1d20

1. Adorned (roll again plus Adornment table)
2. Decorated (roll again plus Decoration table)
3. Armet
4. Barbute
5. Bascinet
6. Burgonet
7. Chapel de Fer
8. Classical Helm (roll on Classical table)
9. Conical Helm
10. Heaume
11. Hounskull
12. Iron-Banded Leather Helm
13. Kabuto
14. Kettle Hat
15. Masked Helm (roll on Masked table)
16. Metal Skull Cap
17. Nasal Helm
18. Sallet
19. Spangenhelm
20. Sugarloaf Helm


Roll 1d20

1. Antlers
2. Ball
3. Bat-Shaped
4. Beast (specify)
5. Crest Symbol
6. Dragon-Shaped
7. Finned
8. Holy Symbol
9. Horns
10. Horsehair Crest
11. Plant Badge (specify)
12. Plume
13. Ridge
14. Scorpion-Shaped
15. Snail Shell-Shaped
16. Spider-Shaped
17. Spike
18. Spines
19. Tusks
20. Winged


Roll 1d8

1. Engraved Afterlife Scenes
2. Engraved Flowers
3. Engraved Geometric Patterns
4. Engraved Holy Symbol
5. Engraved Knot Patterns
6. Engraved Mythic Scenes
7. Engraved Runes
8. Engraved Wavy Lines


Roll 1d10

1. Assyrian
2. Celtic
3. Egyptian
4. Han
5. Greek
6. Indian
7. Mongol
8. Norse
9. Roman
10. Samnite


Roll 1d20

1. Bear Head
2. Bird Head
3. Demonic
4. Dog Head
5. Dragon Head
6. Fish Head
7. Frog Head
8. Horse Head
9. Human, Angry
10. Human, Blank
11. Human, Happy
12. Lion Head
13. Panther Head
14. Octopus-Shaped
15. Skull
16. Spider-Shaped
17. Squid-Shaped
18. Tiger Head
19. Unicorn Head
20. Wolf Head

27 May 2014

Table: Suitable Non-Hats for Adventurers

Inspired by the B/X Headgear tables from B/X Blackrazor, here is my version of a random headgear generator presented in four installments (because they do not fit neatly on one page, unlike their inspiration). Each player character may roll for one item (hat, non-hat, helmet, or wizard hat), which may be worn, stored, sold, traded, donated, or discarded as desired.

Suitable Non-Hats for Adventurers

Roll 1d20

1. Bandana
2. Burlet and Veil
3. Chaperon
4. Circlet
5. Coif
6. Cowl
7. Cord
8. Diadem
9. Feather or Flower
10. Headband
11. Hood
12. Hood, Fur-Lined
13. Hood with Liripipe
14. Hood with Ornament or Bell
15. Hood with Tassel
16. Mask (specify or roll on Masks table)
17. Scarf
18. Wreath of Flowers
19. Wreath of Leaves
20. Wreath of Vines


Roll 1d20

1. Bandit Mask
2. Bear
3. Bird
4. Bull
5. Demonic
6. Dragon
7. Face, Angry
8. Face, Blank
9. Face, Laughing
10. Face, Leering
11. Face, Sad
12. Fish
13. Frog
14. Lion
15. Masquerade Mask
16. Punchinello
17. Scaramouche
18. Skull
19. Tiger
20. Wolf

26 May 2014

Table: Suitable Hats for Adventurers

Inspired by the B/X Headgear tables from B/X Blackrazor, here is my version of a random headgear generator presented in four installments (because they do not fit neatly on one page, unlike their inspiration). Each player character may roll for one item (hat, non-hat, helmet, or wizard hat), which may be worn, stored, sold, traded, donated, or discarded as desired.

Suitable Hats for Adventurers

Roll 1d30

1. Animal Head (roll on Animal Heads table)
2. Bag Hat
3. Beret
4. Bicorne
5. Cavalier Hat
6. Dome Cap
7. Fez
8. Flat Cap
9. Floppy Hat
10. Fur Hat (roll on Fur Hats table)
11. Glengarry
12. Jester Cap
13. Hunting Hat
14. Muffin Hat
15. Nightcap
16. Phrygian Cap
17. Pillbox Hat
18. Pleated Hat
19. Puffy Hat
20. Ridged Hat
21. Scholar Cap
22. Skull Cap
23. Slouch Cap
24. Split Brim Hat
25. Sugarloaf Hat
26. Tam-'O-Shanter
27. Toque
28. Tricorne
29. Turban
30. Wide-Brimmed Hat, Stiff

Animal Heads

Roll 1d6

1. Bear Head
2. Bull Head
3. Lion Head
4. Ram Head
5. Tiger Head
6. Wolf Head

Fur Hats

Roll 1d6

1. Bear Fur Hat
2. Deerskin Cap
3. Leopard Fur Hat
4. Mink Fur Hat
5. Rabbit Fur Hat
6. Sable Fur Hat

14 May 2014

Bloat Not Lest Ye Become Bloated

The version of Dungeons & Dragons I prefer is Basic/Expert D&D plus whatever spells, monsters, and secondary skills I wish to import from AD&D. I have no need of rules bloatation devices. The beauty of Labyrinth Lord is that it combines the Basic and Expert rules into one rulebook, and then offers the Advanced Edition Companion so you can add what you like, just as we did it in the 1980s. My only reservation about this approach is that it occasionally allows AD&Disms to creep into the game unless one is vigilant. Take, for example, the description of the iron golem from the AEC: "Only weapons at least +3 or better can damage iron golems." This is the sort of thing that leads to an excessive proliferation of magic items, which leads to a trivialization of magic, which results in a watering down of the wondrous. In short, it detracts from the fantastical in a fantasy setting. It's a mundanization of the fantasy world. (Mundanization, from the verb mundanize, or mundanisation, from the verb mundanise, depending on your spelling preference. I think I just made it up.) Why? Because players will be worried that their magic weapons are not magical enough. They will become obsessed with upgrading their arsenal of magic weapons as if they were nothing but obsolete software. "A sword +2? Bah! I need at least +3! I might need to fight an iron golem."

Perhaps it's an oversight, or maybe it's just a way to convert Labyrinth Lord into a full-scale Advanced Bloated Labyrinth Lord (Positive Material Plane help us), but I know I will be ignoring any advanced bloatery I detect and replacing it with a suitable basic/expert solution. In this case, "Only magic weapons can damage iron golems." Ah, much better.

(See also Magical Spell: Ensorcel Weapon and Clerical Spell: Sanctify Weapon for other alternatives to magic weapon bloatification.)

N.B. For those who play in my games, any creature affected only by magic weapons is affected by any magic weapon regardless of its enchantment. There are more magical properties in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are embodied by combat bonuses.

11 May 2014

Table: Charge Capacity

In Dungeons & Dragons, certain magic items have charges, which are depleted whenever their powers are activated. As I was posting my latest wand of wonder spinoff (q.v.), I had occasion to compare the rules concerning the number of charges possessed by magic items presented in Basic/Expert D&D and the 1st edition AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide.

Let's look at the Dungeon Masters Guide first. Rods, staves, and wands encountered during the course of an adventure typically have a number of charges as follows:

rods — 50 charges minus 0 to 9 (d10-1)
staves — 25 charges minus 0 to 5 (d6-1)
wands — 100 charges minus 0 to 19 (d20-1)

Basic/Expert D&D differs from this and from itself. According to the Basic rulebook, "Unless otherwise specified, a wand, staff, or rod will contain 1-10 (1d10) charges when found." Now that's a difference! In contrast, the Expert rulebook states "Unless specified otherwise, a wand has 2-20 (2d10) charges and a staff has 3-30 (3d10) charges when found, and each use of a power will use 1 charge." Either way, the difference in wand charge capacity between Basic/Expert D&D and AD&D is vast. I propose something a little different.

For each rod, staff, or wand, the charge capacity is determined randomly.* This is the maximum number of charges this particular magic item can have. Once the charge capacity is known, the exact number of charges can be generated.

Charge Capacity

Roll 1d4

1. Maximum 16 charges (roll 4d4)
2. Maximum 36 charges (roll 6d6)
3. Maximum 64 charges (roll 8d8)
4. Maximum 100 charges (roll 10d10)

Those who dislike rolling that many dice can use the following table:

1. Maximum 16 charges (roll 1d4 x 4)
2. Maximum 36 charges (roll 1d6 x 6)
3. Maximum 64 charges (roll 1d8 x 8)
4. Maximum 100 charges (roll 1d10 x 10)

The advantage, as I see it, is an increase in the middle range and an elimination of one charge wonders.

* This can vary by category (e.g. wands), type (e.g. wands of lightning), or individual item (e.g. the wand of lightning I inherited from my great grandmother) as desired.

10 May 2014

Magic Item: Wand of Annoyance

Some wands with random effects are more reliable than others. The wand of annoyance may not possess the most impressive offensive powers, but one can be reasonably sure it will inconvenience an enemy.

Targets may save vs. wand (or your edition's prevailing category) to avoid effects completely.

05 May 2014

Concise Shield Rules

These are my final rules on shields.* As usual, they are adapted from Shields Shall Be Splintered.

Normal Shields

All shields improve the wielder's armor class by 1 against attacks coming from an appropriate direction, i.e. the front or the shield flank.

Any shield may be used to absorb the damage from an attack after the damage has been rolled and announced, but the shield is thereby destroyed.

Large shields may be used to absorb the damage of spells, breath weapons, and the like in the same manner. Small shields may not.

Shields of normal construction are no defense whatsoever against ballistae, catapults, trebuchets, cannon, or firearms.

Magic Shields

Magic shields usually improve the wielder's armor class by an additional +1, +2, or +3.

Any time a magic shield is used to absorb the damage from an attack, its bonus decreases by one. Once the bonus is reduced to 0, it loses one magical ability (if any) per attack absorbed. Once it has lost all magical properties, it functions as a normal shield.

Magic shields are effective against all weapons. If used to absorb the damage from a siege weapon (including artillery), the shield is destroyed regardless of its degree of enchantment and the defender is thrown clear.

N.B. "Small shields" refers to bucklers and other small handheld shields. "Large shields" refers to heaters, kites, tower shields, round shields, etc.

* Until such time as I grow weary of them.

04 May 2014

Fixing Charts

I changed my armor class chart. Finding no evidence of studded leather armor ever having actually existed, I jettisoned it. It joins banded mail and ring mail as armor types I do not allow. Leather armor returned to its place at AC 7, and padded armor remains at AC 8. I dropped lamellar armor and laminar armor from AC 4 and included the following note below the chart instead: "Lamellar and laminar armor vary in armor class depending on the material used. If metal, the armor class is 4, otherwise it is 6." This has the nice effect of placing one standard armor type at each armor class. (For a Renaissance game, full plate is AC 2.) I omitted my new helmet rule from the chart as I haven't playtested it yet. I like it; it makes sense to me, but I don't know if it works. We shall see. After all that tinkering with shield rules, I think I'm back to the Basic/Expert standard, but I'm keeping my variant of the Shields Shall Be Splintered rule with the following proviso: it only works with large shields. Bucklers will not protect you from dragonfire! [See Concise Shield Rules.]

I also changed my weapon charts again. I upgraded the spear to 1d8 damage, the lance to 1d10 damage, and the pole arm to 1d12 damage. It makes the distribution of weapons by damage-causing capacity rather more symetrical: four 1d4 weapons, eleven 1d6 weapons, eleven 1d8 weapons, four high damage weapons (two 1d10 weapons and two 1d12 weapons). I changed "halberd" back to "pole arm." It's more versatile, like "sword," which I really like.