30 June 2015

Time for Another Spellcasting House Rule

Eventually, I will decide exactly how I want to handle spells in my Swords & Wizardry White Box games. The number of spells that can be cast per day are so scanty at low levels that it's a wonder anyone ever wants to be a spellcaster, especially since magic-users in particular are ineffective at anything other than spellcasting. My last house rule has been unsatisfying (unmemorized spells can be cast, but the casting time is extended to a turn and the caster must make a saving throw or suffer a temporary loss of strength). The casting may or may not have consequences, and even if it does, the cost is negligible. For my next house rule on the subject, I think I'll let unmemorized spells be cast at a cost of 1 hit point per spell level. This is an idea inspired by Microlite20, although in those rules it's the default method for all spellcasting. In Microlite20, the hit point cost is 1 plus double the spell level, but hit points spent in this manner are recovered after eight hours of rest. In my house rule, the hit point cost is lower, but the hit points spent are actual damage and are recovered in the same manner as other wounds (1 hit point per day of rest). This makes it simpler, but it makes the consequences of casting unmemorized spells greater, thus preserving the importance of wisely choosing which spells to memorize. I'll probably also add the Holmes rule for creating spell scrolls. Will any of this work or will I be trying another house rule in the near future? We shall see...

13 May 2015

Calling It What It Is - It's Psychic

The Wild Talent Generator (q.v.) was so-named because I thought the term "Wild Talent" — borrowed from Timeship, the role-playing game by Herbie Brennan — was suitably generic for use in both science fiction and fantasy settings (unlike "psionics," which has a distinctly sci-fi origin). Alas, the term is now likelier to evoke images of superpowers thanks to games such as Godlike and, ahem, Wild Talents, so I decided to rename it for what it is, simply and practically: the Random Psychic Power Generator. Perhaps the new title will lead to more interest in it.

09 May 2015

Goblin Shrine Encounters for Swords & Wizardry White Box

My entry for the 2015 One Page Dungeon Contest was system neutral, so I created a separate page of encounters for those who want ready-made stats compatible with Swords & Wizardry White Box. I'll probably create additional encounter pages compatible with Labyrinth Lord, OSRIC, and other systems as time allows.

View, print, and/or download Encounters in the Goblin Shrine of the Spidergods for Swords & Wizardry White Box.

#1pdc #OnePageDungeonContest

04 May 2015

My One Page Dungeon Contest 2015 Entry

This year, I entered the One Page Dungeon Contest for the first time. My entry does not aim to be earth-shattering or genre-defying or anything other an introductory adventure with the potential for multiple avenues of expansion. It is designed for use with any system, although for my own purposes I would stat it for Swords & Wizardry White Box or OD&D. Eventually, I'll run it for one of my gaming groups and post a session report.

As always, comments are welcome.

View, print, and/or download Goblin Shrine of the Spidergods.

#1pdc #OnePageDungeonContest

27 April 2015

Random Psychic Power Generator Example 2

Here is another example of the Random Psychic Power Generator in action. Once again, I rolled 3d6 in order and generated another lackluster character:

Strength: 6
Intelligence: 9
Wisdom: 12
Dexterity: 9
Constitution: 11
Charisma: 13

Unlike the first example, this character actually has an above average attribute (Charisma) and only one below average attribute (Strength). The highest class-related attribute is Wisdom, so I'll make her a cleric. Of Chaos. Meet Kyraptica, Priestess of Phlaagra.

Rolling All Dice, my results were d4: 3; d6: 5; d8: 5; d10: 6; d12: 1; d20: 1.

The d4: Psychic Fuel

With a roll of 3, Kyraptica's Psychic Fuel is her Constitution, which is average. She is fortunate she does not have to draw upon her Strength to fuel her Power.

The d6: Psychic Focus

With a roll of 5, her Psychic Focus is Intelligence and Charisma. Her Intelligence is average, but her Charisma has a bonus of +1, which is added to her roll whenever she uses her Psychic Power.

The d8: Psychic Rejuvenation

With a roll of 5, Kyraptica restores her lost Constitution by merely clapping, for which she regains 1d4 points. She may do this once per day. (She can clap all day if she likes, but she will still only regain 1d4 points.)

The d10: Psychic Enhancer

With a roll of 6, her Psychic Enhancer is a gong. Kyraptica's cult makes use of the gong in ceremonies, so it's a multipurpose musical instrument. The reverberations caused by striking a gong intensify her concentration and give her a +1 bonus to Psychic Power rolls.

The d12: Psychic Failure Consequence

With a roll of 1, any failed Psychic Power roll results in psychic paralysis for 3d6 rounds, during which time she is effectively non-psychic. This may seem like a minor setback, but in the presence of another psychic it is tantamount to revealing that you are dangerous and then dropping your weapons, shield, and armor.

The d20: Psychic Power

With a roll of 17, Kyraptika's Psychic Power is Pyrokinesis, which suits her fiery temperament. This is the paranormal ability to produce and control fire with the mind. Control can be maintained as long as complete concentration is possible. Anything that interferes with concentration requires another Psychic Power roll to be made.


Kyraptica, Priestess of Phlaagra, has the gift of Pyrokinesis, which marks her as chosen by her deity to spread the message (and Chaos, which is pretty much the same thing). Her use of this gift drains her health, but she can revitalize herself by merely clapping her hands. Her control of the gift is guided by the strength of her personality and by the sounding of a sacred gong, which she carries with her. Should she stumble in the use of her Power, however, she loses that Power and all of its defenses until she can summon her resolve.

[Edit: I changed the term "Wild Talent" to "Psychic Power." 2015-05-13]

24 April 2015

Random Psychic Power Generator Example

To demonstrate how the Random Psychic Power Generator may be used, I rolled up a character and applied the results. I rolled 3d6 in order, and the Fates were not kind:

Strength: 7
Intelligence: 8
Wisdom: 8
Dexterity: 12
Constitution: 9
Charisma: 8

This poor soul qualifies as a Hopeless Character with four below average attributes and two average attributes, but such is life. The highest attribute is Dexterity, so I'll make him a thief named Shufflo. It's really a nickname because he shuffles everywhere, except when he's on a job — then he is light on his feet. No one but a fellow member of his Thieves' Guild would ever suspect him of being a burglar.

Rolling All Dice, my results were d4: 1; d6: 2; d8: 3 d10: 1; d12: 12; d20: 8.

The d4: Psychic Fuel

With a roll of 1, Shufflo's Psychic Fuel is his Strength. Each time he uses his Psychic Power, his Strength is reduced by 1 point (as if it wasn't low enough already).

The d6: Psychic Focus

With a roll of 2, his Psychic Focus is Wisdom. Unfortunately, he has little of that at hand, so his roll when using his Psychic Power will carry his Wisdom penalty of -1.

The d8: Psychic Rejuvenation

With a roll of 3, Shufflo is a bit luckier. The method by which his Psychic Fuel (Strength) is restored is simple immersion in water, which restores 1d4 points. This happens each time he immerses himself completely in water. To qualify for the rejuvenation of Strength points, he must be completely dry between immersions. He'd better not be a hydrophobe.

The d10: Psychic Enhancer

With a roll of 1, his Psychic Enhancer is crystal. Shufflo's grandmother once gave him a small crystal, telling him to rub it when he was worried about something, and it would put his mind at ease. Coincidentally, Shufflo's Psychic Power becomes easier to control when he is in the presence of crystalline structures, so every time he rubs that crystal as he uses his power, he gets a +1 to his Psychic Power roll, which negates his Wisdom penalty.

The d12: Psychic Failure Consequence

With a roll of 12, the consequences of failure to control his power result in physical injury. That's 1d6 hit points of damage each time he fails his Psychic Power roll. If he were wise (which, obviously, he isn't), he would wait to experiment with his power until he were more experienced or had an edge. Just what is that power anyway?

The d20: Psychic Power

With a roll of 8, his Psychic Power is Etherealness, the ability to become noncorporeal in the physical world, and even to travel to the Ethereal Plane of Existence. In this regard the Fates have been kind indeed, for here is a thief with the power to walk through solid walls. It may come with a risk, but here is a means for a burglar with no special talent to do the impossible.


Shufflo the Thief, a nondescript nobody who survives by stealing, has a secret talent, a Psychic Power, that enables him to walk through walls, perhaps even to pass into a higher plane of existence. He is a phantom, but his power weakens him, and he is not a strong man. Luckily, a simple plunge into ordinary water miraculously revitalizes him. He is not especially wise, but the crystal his grandmother gave him seems to help him control the power, so he is never without it. The power comes with a great risk, however, for should his control of it falter, his body may suffer grievous wounds.

[Edit: I changed the term "Wild Talent" to "Psychic Power." 2015-05-13]

17 April 2015

Random Psychic Power Generator and Psychic Combat Simulator

[This article is my contribution to Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day 2015.]

These rules are my version of psionics intended for use with Swords & Wizardry White Box, but they are compatible with any version of Swords & Wizardry (or any version of the Original Fantasy Role-Playing Game). They could also be used for any role-playing genre using Swords & Wizardry (or similar games) as a framework.

Psionics can easily unbalance a game, so I decided to design my rules in such a way that emphasizes the unpredictability and relative unreliability of psychic abilities. In some fiction (and even in some alleged nonfictional accounts), psychic powers are described as Wild Talents. Why and how they manifest is not fully understood, and they can typically only be tapped with sporadic success. Despite attempts to study these phenomena from a scientific (i.e. parapsychological) perspective, they have consistently defied, well, consistency. Apart from debunking hoaxes, the realm of the paranormal yet lies beyond our ability to scrutinize it objectively. In that spirit, I present a random generator for your psychic role-playing needs. I thought the Roll All Dice method was appropriate to the subject, but some explanations are in order.

To generate a random Psychic Power for any player character or non-player character, merely roll 1d4, 1d6, 1d8, 1d10, 1d12, and 1d20. What qualifies a player character to roll for a Psychic Power depends on the discretion of the referee, but if more than one Power is desired for a given character, it is recommended that only the d20 be rolled again for further Powers. All Powers for a given character should share the same Psychic Fuel, Psychic Focus, Psychic Rejuvenation, Psychic Enhancer, and Psychic Failure Consequence.

To use a Psychic Power, a character must make a saving throw, with a bonus or penalty applied according to his or her Psychic Focus and (if applicable) Psychic Enhancer.

Psychic Fuel is the attribute that is drained each time the character uses a Psychic Power even if the attempt fails. If the attribute falls into a bracket that would deprive the character of a bonus or impose a penalty, such is the result until the attribute is restored.

Psychic Focus is the bonus or penalty to a character's Psychic Power saving throw based on the bonuses or penalties a character gets for certain attributes.

Psychic Rejuvenation is the specific method by which a character may have his or her Psychic Fuel attribute restored (apart from the usual methods such as healing in the case of hit points or certain spells in the case of actual attributes).

Psychic Enhancer is the specific object or element that the character may use, if present, to increase his or her chances of succeeding in using a Psychic Power. This is a bonus that is added, along with the Psychic Focus bonus, to the saving throw.

Psychic Failure Consequence is what happens to the character whenever he or she fails a Psychic Power saving throw in addition to being unable to manifest the Power effectively.

Psychic Power, of course, is the psychic ability itself. They are largely self-explanatory, and referees may modify them as desired. Powers, once activated, occur immediately and remain in effect until concentration is broken. Certain effects, such as damage caused or cured, last normally. Powers that affect an unwilling target may entitle the target to its own saving throw to resist its effects. Deliberate distractions, injury, or extended periods of concentration may require additional Psychic Power saving throws to maintain concentration, each of which reduces the character's Psychic Fuel attribute.

Random Psychic Power Generator
(Roll All Dice)

Psychic Fuel
That upon which the Psychic Power draws
(Each use drains 1 point from indicated attribute.)

Roll 1d4

1. Strength
2. Dexterity
3. Constitution
4. Hit Points

Psychic Focus
That which harnesses the Psychic Power
(Apply bonus/penalty from indicated attribute/s.)

Roll 1d6

1. Intelligence
2. Wisdom
3. Charisma
4. Intelligence and Wisdom
5. Intelligence and Charisma
6. Wisdom and Charisma

Psychic Rejuvenation
That which restores the Psychic Fuel
(Attributes reduced by use of Psychic Power may be restored by indicated method.)

Roll 1d8

1. Meditation (1 point per hour)
2. Chanting (2 points per hour)
3. Complete immersion in water (1d4 points)
4. Complete immersion in mud (1d6 points)
5. Clapping (1d4 points, once per day)
6. Assumption of sacred postures (1d6 points, once per day)
7. Sleep (1d8 points per night)
8. Suspended animation (all points restored; minimum one week)

Psychic Enhancer
That which heightens control over the Psychic Power
(Apply +1 bonus when indicated Enhancer is present.)

Roll 1d10

1. Crystal
2. Fire
3. Water
4. Wind
5. Mirror
6. Gong
7. Bell
8. Chime
9. Amulet
10. Body Art

Psychic Failure Consequence
That which befalls one who fails to control the Psychic Power

Roll 1d12

1. Psychic paralysis (inability to exercise Psychic Power) for 3d6 rounds.
2. Nosebleed for 3d6 rounds.
3. Double vision for 3d6 rounds (-2 penalty to appropriate actions).
4. Mute for 3d6 rounds.
5. Unconsciousness for 3d6 rounds.
6. Dizziness for 1d4 rounds (will fall or move in random direction).
7. Stunned for 1d6 rounds.
8. Blindness for 1d8 rounds (-4 penalty to appropriate actions).
9. Deafness for 1d10 rounds.
10. Overpowering headache for 1d12 rounds (concentration impossible).
11. Nausea for 1d20 rounds (concentration impossible; vomiting probable).
12. Physical injury (1d6 hit points of damage).

Psychic Power
The nature of the Psychic Power
(All Psychic Powers manifest instantaneously and last as long as concentration is maintained.)

Roll 1d20

1. Astral Projection (as the spell Astral Spell).
2. Cellular Adjustment (as the spells Cure Light Wounds and/or Cure Disease).
3. Clairaudience (enables one to hear sounds in distant or obstructed locations).
4. Clairvoyance (enables one to see things in distant or obstructed locations).
5. Cryokinesis (enables one to mentally control coldness).
6. Density Control (enables one to float like a feather, walk on water, etc.).
7. Empathy (enables one to sense and project emotions).
8. Etherealness (enables one to assume ethereal form).
9. Hypnotic Suggestion (as the spell Suggestion).
10. Levitation (as the spells Levitate and/or Fly).
11. Mind Control (as the spells Charm Person and/or Charm Monster).
12. Mind Reading (as the spell Detect Thoughts (ESP)).
13. Mind Shield (protects one from magical scrying and psychic detection).
14. Precognition (enables one to see flashes of future events).
15. Psychic Invisibility (as the spell Invisibility).
16. Psychometry (enables one to read psychic impressions on objects and places).
17. Pyrokinesis (enables one to mentally control fire and heat).
18. Telekinesis (as the spell Telekinesis).
19. Telepathy (enables one to communicate with thought).
20. Teleportation (as the spells Dimensional Portal and/or Teleport).

Psychic Combat Simulator

Beings with Psychic Powers may engage in combat with one another or with non-psychic beings by using their Psychic Attack Bonus, which is equal to their level or, in the case of monsters, their hit dice. (Thus a 5th level magic-user — or fighter, or cleric — who happens to have a Psychic Power would have a Psychic Attack Bonus of +5.) This operates exactly like a Base Hit Bonus. To make a psychic attack, a character must roll 1d20, add the Psychic Attack Bonus, and equal or exceed the defender's Psychic Defense Rating (in the manner of Ascending Armor Class), which is equal to the defender's Wisdom. Psychic beings add their Psychic Focus and Psychic Enhancer (if applicable) to their psychic attack rolls and their Psychic Defense Rating. For monsters that lack a Wisdom attribute, the referee may roll randomly as follows: 1d6 for lower animals, 2d6 for higher animals, 3d6 for sentient species, 4d6 for superhuman/supernatural beings.

In a psychic duel, both combatants attack and defend simultaneously each round. The effects of successful hits by both are counted and inflict damage even if one of the characters is killed or defeated during the round. In a conflict between a psychic being and a non-psychic being, the latter may only defend against psychic attacks, but may engage in other actions such as physical combat, spellcasting, etc.

Psychic attacks, just like uses of a Psychic Power, reduce the attacker's Psychic Fuel attribute by 1 point.

If a psychic attack is successful, the attacker causes 1d6 points of damage to the defender's Psychic Fuel attribute, or, in the case of non-psychic beings, the defender's Wisdom. If the Psychic Fuel attribute is reduced to 0, the defender dies. If the non-psychic defender's Wisdom is reduced to 1 or 2, he or she effectively becomes a robot under the attacker's command. If the defender's Wisdom is reduced to 0, the defender dies.

Summary of Psychic Combat

  • Psychic Attack Bonus = character level or monster hit dice of psychic being.
  • Psychic Defense Rating = Wisdom.
  • To make a psychic attack against a psychic defender, roll 1d20 + Psychic Attack Bonus + Psychic Focus + Psychic Enhancer equal to or greater than defender's Psychic Defense Rating + Psychic Focus + Psychic Enhancer. A successful hit reduces defender's Psychic Fuel attribute by 1d6.
  • To make a psychic attack against a non-psychic defender, roll 1d20 + Psychic Attack Bonus + Psychic Focus + Psychic Enhancer equal to or greater than defender's Psychic Defense Rating. A successful hit reduces defender's Wisdom by 1d6.
  • Psychic attacks reduce the attacker's Psychic Fuel attribute by 1 point.
  • Psychic Fuel attribute: 0 = death.
  • Wisdom: 1 or 2 = robot.
  • Wisdom: 0 = death.
[Psychic Power Generator: example #1 and example #2]

[Edit: I changed the term "Wild Talent" to "Psychic Power." 2015-05-13]

17 March 2015

White Box and a Question of Dice

If I have one reservation about Swords & Wizardry White Box (and, by extension bare bones OD&D), it's the fact that there are fewer opportunities to use dice other than the d6 or the d20. This is a minor misgiving given that some of my favorite role-playing games use no other dice than six-siders (or in some cases percentile dice), but I have a number of players who are new to our beloved hobby, and they have an understandable urge to collect the polyhedral dice that are so intertwined with the popular concept of Dungeons & Dragons. I imagine they would like an excuse to use them for something other than stacking, but maybe I'm wrong.

So, why don't I move on from White Box and use the varied hit dice by class and varied damage dice that all other versions use? If only it were that simple. Reverting to d6 for damage and hit dice, you see, stabilizes a game that otherwise deteriorates into one of power inflation. At the moment, I am enjoying a game in which the players are motivated by what their characters want, and they are not obsessed with optimization or min-maxing like the average power gamer. They choose weapons according to what they imagine their characters would prefer, and the system doesn't penalize them for it. Varied hit dice by class has never made sense to me in a game in which monsters do not enjoy the same variety. Why should all monsters, regardless of size or ferocity, be limited to d8 hit dice? Should not monsters of a frailer, more cerebral nature be limited to d4 or d6 hit dice? Thankfully, White Box puts monsters and player characters on the same d6 playing field. Honestly, the game should go entirely one way or the other. I can imagine a workable system in which wee folk roll d4 hit dice, giants roll d12, and everything in between rolls d6, d8, or d10. In such a system, varied damage dice are completely justified. Perhaps one could even justify linking the hit die type to the damage die type for both character classes and monsters. Maybe this is a valid divergence for a possible variant of White Box (hm...), but shy of this, is there another way to bring the fun of rolling polyhedral dice back to White Box without destroying its delicate balance?

Random tables are always an option for referees, but this still leaves the question open for players (and I certainly don't want an overlay of new rules that require players to roll on lots of random tables). I am open to suggestions, but perhaps in the meantime I'll write up the variant rules and try it with a one-shot adventure.

28 February 2015

Back to the Alternate Past

Cover of Swords & Wizardry White Box.

Currently, the version of the Original Fantasy Role-Playing Game I am refereeing is Swords & Wizardry White Box, which may be obtained in PDF format (free of charge) from Mythmere Games or in hardcover or softcover from Lulu.com. So far, this is the version that most closely emulates and facilitates my preferred style of Dungeon Mastering from the beginning to the present (with the inevitable help of some house rules, of course), despite the fact that I have neither owned nor played (yet!) the White Box edition of OD&D that it models.

Spellcasting in my campaign, however, has been unsatisfying, as the magic system in every incarnation of D&D has failed to live up to my lofty expectations. Until, that is, I purchased Wonder & Wickedness by Brendan S (available in both softcover and PDF). Here is the magic system that offers the ultimate combination of elegance, exoticism, and awe inspiration in the tradition of Vancian fantasy. I may not have been lucky enough to start my current campaign using this system, but it's perhaps not yet too late for some world-shattering event to herald the dawn or rediscovery of another method of wielding mystical forces...

Cover of Wonder & Wickedness.

19 January 2015

Destination One Page Dungeon

The One Page Dungeon Contest for 2015 is on, and there will be a prize of $500 for the first place winner. The deadline is 30 April 2015. Read about the 2015 contest and don't forget to use #1pdc when discussing the topic in social media. Good luck and game on.

10 January 2015

Year's Beginning

Welcome to the year 2015, wherein I seek to fulfill my promise to update Applied Phantasticality with greater regularity. I previously alluded to several projects I would attempt to finish this year. Now I shall unveil the nature of those projects.

Project #1: My Swords & Wizardry White Box variant (the title of which will be revealed when it is ready to be released into the wild). This is simply a codification of the rules I currently prefer to use when I run anything related to Dungeons & Dragons. Whereas I used to run a hybrid of Basic/Expert D&D and 1st edition AD&D, I now prefer a system that is closer to how I have always actually run D&D, which is a lot closer to OD&D. The difference now is that I have embraced the unified saving throw and ascending armor class of Swords & Wizardry. I can't leave well enough alone, of course, which is why I need to present my version of the Original Game with all of my house rules properly integrated. This will make things easier for players and referees alike.

Project #2: Cargoes & Castaways. This is my role-playing game of 19th Century fantastic survival adventure inspired by Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, and Ray Harryhausen. I originally designed it as my entry for the Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day contest, but Blogger had trouble presenting something so large even after I broke it into chapters, so I deleted the posts with the intention of releasing it at a later date as a PDF. I still intend to do this, but the rules need to be revised, playtested, and revised again. Once I do that, I'll release it. If I can find appropriate illustrations, I might even make it available on Lulu as a print-on-demand book.

Project #3: My Empire of the Petal Throne-to-Swords & Wizardry White Box conversion. I hope to do this quickly so I can run it this year as part of the Tékumél anniversary. I'll probably release the rules before they have been playtested in order to get as wide a range of responses as possible. Meanwhile, I'm hoping to get a chance to play some games set in Tékumél at BASHCon or Origins this year. I don't even care which system is used. [Edit: Incidentally, literally none of this came to pass, and now I am relieved it didn't. (23 March 2022)]

Project #4: One Page Dungeon Contest? Maybe...

Those are my Big Four OSR projects for 2015. I have other gaming projects in the works, but they are mostly outside the scope of this Web log.