25 October 2020

A Very Happy Unmodule to You!

Nowadays, it is not uncommon to hear someone refer to "sandbox," "hex crawl," or "point crawl" to refer to methods of player agency in determining where, when, and how a party adventures, but this jargon was unknown in my gaming circles in the 1980s. We didn't have terms or a precise methodology for the choices player characters were offered, but sometimes we were forced to create terms just to save the time it took to explain it. That is why I coined the term unmodule. It was inspired by that scene from Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass wherein the Mad Hatter explains to Alice the concept of the unbirthday. If an unbirthday occurs on all the days of the year that is not your birthday, an unmodule is played whenever the players gather to play without a module. (For those who are unaware, a "module" is what TSR called their published adventures, and what many gamers called their own written adventures.) Typically, if my players finished a module that did not lead immediately into another (and especially if I needed more time to read or write the next one), I would declare the next session an unmodule and the player characters could pursue their own goals, which sometimes meant getting themselves into trouble. They could shop for equipment, meet with friends or professional contacts, plot acts of revenge, make a pilgrimage, consult an expert, get something repaired or specially made, go carousing, pick some pockets, enter competitions, pursue training, embark on a hunting expedition, do some herb gathering, or even go on a side quest. Nearly anything was a possibility, and I was obligated to wing it to the best of my ability. Unmodules were fun, and it ensured that player characters had a part in steering their own destiny.

unmodule
Any role-playing activity occurring outside the bounds of a module and primarily driven by the player characters' whims.

24 October 2020

Why Another Random Generator?

This random generator asks the question,

Why another random generator?

Roll 1d6 and consult the table below.

1 = I don’t know.
2 = Because the stars are right.
3 = Because of Divine Right.
4 = Because of the will of the People.
5 = Because “Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker.”
6 = Because “I am not a number! I am a free man!”

[Originally posted in Fudgery.net/fudgerylog. I think. Re-posted here for some reason.]

04 October 2020

Random Humanoid Generator (Roll All Dice)

This Random Humanoid Generator is specifically designed for use with The Savage World of Flash Gordon for Savage Worlds, but may be used for any game system and indeed any similar setting. Use it to create the outline of a new species, refining the results and using them as inspiration. If the results don't mesh with your vision, ignore them and choose freely. It's always a good idea to have a surprise for players who think they are experts on the source material.

Random Humanoid Generator
(Roll All Dice)

Climate

Roll 1d4

1. Frozen
2. Temperate
3. Tropical
4. Desert

Disposition

Roll 1d6

1. Hostile
2. Distrustful
3. Aloof
4. Cautious
5. Curious
6. Friendly

Ruler

Roll 1d8

1. King
2. Queen
3. Prince
4. Princess
5. Council of Elders
6. Noble + Council
7. Theocrat
8. Leader

Biological Derivation

Roll 1d10

1. Amphibian
2. Arachnid
3. Avian
4. Human
5. Human
6. Insect
7. Mammalian
8. Mammalian
9. Piscine
10. Reptilian

Primary Resource

Roll 1d12

1. Cloth
2. Foodstuffs, Cultivated
3. Foodstuffs, Gathered
4. Foodstuffs, Hunted
5. Fuel
6. Gems
7. Luxury Goods
8. Manufacturing
9. Metals, Industrial
10. Metals, Precious
11. Spices
12. Timber

Combat Quirk
Members of this species...

Roll 1d20

1. Abide by a strict code of honor that enhances their skill at one weapon.
2. Are immune to a certain form of attack.
3. Are effective in a team, but hopeless without leadership.
4. Are formidable individually, but unable to coordinate in groups.
5. Are great rocketship gunners, but poor pilots.
6. Are great rocketship pilots, but poor gunners.
7. Are unnaturally quick.
8. Are unnaturally strong.
9. Eat those who fall in combat.
10. Must pray before combat.
11. Never kill opponents — only take prisoners.
12. Never take prisoners.
13. Possess an extra sense.
14. Prefer combat as entertainment.
15. Prefer duels.
16. Prefer ritual combat.
17. Ride exotic mounts.
18. Use a substance before battle that enhances their combat ability.
19. Use primitive weapons.
20. Use robots to do their fighting whenever possible.

[This article is cross-posted here in Savage Arts & Sciences.]

01 September 2020

#RPGaDay 2020

As with last year, this year's #RPGaDay consisted of single word prompts, and again, as with last year, I gave my responses to them on Twitter (this time a little more concisely). Here they are, collected in one space for your convenience.


#RPGaDay2020 1. "Beginning": An RPG that is good for beginning players is not necessarily bad for experienced players. The best RPGs put new and old players on equal footing, because they reward role-playing over rule-playing.


#RPGaDay2020 2. "Change": RPGs are more satisfying when player characters can potentially effect change in their environment. Otherwise, they’re little more than tourists in the setting.


#RPGaDay2020 3. "Thread": The common thread in most of the adventures I write or run, regardless of the game, is "help." Someone, in some way, needs help, and the player characters are in a position to offer it. In my experience, this works for any genre.

Except, perhaps, Kobolds Ate My Baby.


#RPGaDay2020 4. "Vision": Often the vision of a game designer is at odds with the vision of the creator whose work they are adapting. If you find an adaptation you like, be loyal to it, not to the latest company to snag the license.

And on that note, you can tell when a game is made with a love for, and understanding of, the source material versus the desire just to cash in on a recognized work. When you look past the graphics, is it still a good game?

You don’t even *need* the illustrations. You probably already have access to plenty of art inspired by the work or drawn from it. What you need is a well-designed game that faithfully captures the feeling of the original work.

That’s the game adaptation you support, even when it goes out of print "officially." Don’t settle for inferior games just because a new publisher now has the license. Support what you know in your heart you like best.


#RPGaDay2020 5. "Tribute": One of my works in progress is a role-playing game tribute to Jules Verne, Ray Harryhausen, and 19th century parlor games. I'd better finish it before I get stranded on a desert isle.


#RPGaDay2020 6. "Forest": Forest Encounter! Roll 1d6 and see what you encounter...

1. You encounter a wolfwere dressed like a typical grandmother. It has the power to transform into Graham Chapman.

2. You happen upon a ring of toadstools. Don't dance around it or you'll turn into a toadstool yourself. If you eat one, well, that's another random table.

3. You chance upon a house constructed entirely of candy and baked goods. If you're short enough, the resident will try to eat you when she catches you gnawing on her domicile. If you're taller, she forces you to renovate her home for 1d6 months.

4. You trip over, and enrage, a lion, which happens to have a thorn in its paw.

5. You step on a venomous snake. If you apologize quickly enough, you will be spared its scathing sarcasm and biting insults. In the best of circumstances, it's quite the amiable conversationalist.

6. You meet a werebear in mid-transformation. It's preoccupied with preventing fires.


#RPGaDay2020 7. "Couple": I like standard swashbuckling as a genre, but I also like it coupled with science fiction, fantasy, science fantasy, or mythology.


#RPGaDay2020 8. "Shade": "5 a : a disembodied spirit : GHOST" (Merriam-Webster's 11th Collegiate Dictionary) Rarely executed well in D&D. Executed very well in the #GhostbustersRPG and #Bureau13 #StalkingTheNightFantastic.


#RPGaDay2020 9. "Light": What constitutes a "rules light" RPG?
Easy rules
13.3%
Few rules
20%
A few easy rules
66.7%


#RPGaDay2020 10. "Want": I want a.) more time to game, b.) a consistent weekly gaming schedule, c.) plenty of 12mm binary dice (no one makes them to my knowledge), and c.) for my players to be familiar with more of the literature that inspired many of my favorite RPGs.


#RPGaDay2020 11. "Stack": I resemble that remark! #GhostbustersRPG

Seriously, though, I prefer my RPGs to be books or "bookshelf edition" boxed sets that I can store vertically on bookshelves. Stacking boxed sets makes me wince, probably because many of the old sets were fragile and half empty, which meant they were easily damaged.


#RPGaDay2020 12. "Message": Player handouts, used sparingly, can be beneficial to immersion in RPGs. Messages written from an NPC's point of view work better when they can be read and narrated by the players rather than the GM.


#RPGaDay2020 13. "Rest": Consider placing your katana on a rest within easy reach when you GM in case you need to behead any players who dishonor themselves.


#RPGaDay2020 14. "Banner": For my first Gen Con (in the early 1980s at Univ. of Wisconsin—Parkside), we stayed at a campground where I noticed many of the tents had banners indicating their gaming club affiliation. I envied those clubs for their size and resources.

I've had my small gaming groups, but the only gaming club I ever belonged to was my junior high school D&D club and it never went to conventions or even had a banner. I longed to found a club, name it, design its banner, and attend conventions as a group.

It was a continuation of one of the themes of my childhood: inventing and being at the center of nonexistent organizations, in search of a sense of belonging and importance.

I think I was (and am) happier just gaming with small informal groups of friends, though. I don't want to elect officers, collect dues, or conduct meetings according to Robert's Rules of Order (like some war game clubs I knew of). I game for relaxation and entertainment.


#RPGaDay2020 15. "Frame": When I GM, I try to frame situations in terms of how people — not just the PCs — are affected. Society exists. NPCs are not cardboard standees. They have lives, dependents, hopes, fears, and individual motivations. It helps the setting breathe.


#RPGaDay2020 16. "Dramatic": Dramatic is good. Comedic is better. A combination of the two is best. #RPG #TTRPG


#RPGaDay2020 17. "Comfort": I am most comfortable running games that never (or almost never) require consulting a rule book at the table. If only all games were like that...


#RPGaDay2020 18. "Meet": I like it best when it is assumed that starting characters have already met and the players spontaneously “recollect” mutual memories and past experiences with one another.

Too often first sessions feel more like one is being introduced in a therapy group or a game show than joining an adventure party. "Hello. My name is Ray Zor. I’m a thief with no living relatives. I like daggers, dark cloaks, and brooding alone in the moonlight."


#RPGaDay2020 19. "Tower": Not every wizard resides in a tower. Roll 1d8 for alternative abodes:
1. mountain cave
2. stilt hut
3. geodesic dome
4. ziggurat
5. cottage
6. bungalow
7. A-frame
8. penthouse


#RPGaDay2020 20. "Investigate": Investigation works well with nearly any (maybe even every) genre of role-playing game. Try it with your favorite fantasy, science fiction, or historical #RPG. Heck, try it with Teenagers from Outer Space. Nothing can stop you. #TFOS

Teenagers from Outer Space by R. Talsorian Games. #TFOS #TeenagersFromOuterSpace #RPG #TTRPG (I'm in a TFOS mood.)


#RPGaDay2020 21. "Push": Combat is more interesting when there are other options than causing damage. Try letting a PC who makes a successful attack push, grapple, or disarm an enemy instead.


#RPGaDay2020 22. "Rare": I do wish all role-playing games, regardless of rarity, were available at least in PDF form. It's fine for collectors to collect their collectables, but RPGs were made to be played, presumably by as many people as possible.

What is the point of an unobtainable game?


#RPGaDay2020 23. "Edge": If player characters want to strike with the pommel instead of the blade edge, I allow it, but the damage roll is reduced by one die step (in games that use polyhedral dice). In a dice pool game, I'd reduce it by one or two dice.


#RPGaDay2020 24. "Humor": I dabble in it from time to time. Table of Many Tables (Contains Tables)


#RPGaDay2020 25. "Lever": A good game system acts as a lever to facilitate role-playing. It's a tool, not the end product.


#RPGaDay2020 26. "Strange": Where there is strangeness, there is mystery; where there is mystery, there is often adventure...


#RPGaDay2020 27. "Favor": The importance of which hand a character favors is woefully underestimated by most RPG character sheets.


#RPGaDay2020 28. "Close": You are probably on the right track as a GM anytime a player says, "That was a close one!"


#RPGaDay2020 29. "Ride": A good RPG session is like a good amusement park ride — they're both exhilarating. If that feeling is missing, it might be time to investigate the reason why.


#RPGaDay2020 30. "Portal": Role-playing, like reading, can be a portal to another world, which may also contain portals to other worlds. When I read or role-play something interesting, it transports me. Apparently through portals.


#RPGaDay2020 31. "Experience": Experience rules are fine if player characters are rewarded for the right thing AND progress is not too slow AND the benefits are neither too meagre nor overpoweringly great. Otherwise, just let the GM and players decide when it's time to advance.

09 August 2020

The Best Format for Adventures

For me — and I speak only for myself — the perfect format for a physical copy of a role-playing adventure is the zine. I do not mean a standard size adventure shrunk to zine size. I mean an adventure that has been formatted specifically for print as a zine. After using such adventures at the table, I find the format far more practical and enjoyable.

There are several factors that contribute to this. First, of course, is the physical size. It takes up less room behind the GM screen, and I can hold it open comfortably in one hand if I wish to stand up and walk around. Maximum GMing convenience.

Font choice is critical. A proper zine adventure needs to be of a readable typeface and size to facilitate ease of use. I don't need anything fancy. I just want to be able to read it quickly and without squinting. This, I'm afraid, is an all too frequently undervalued aspect of adventure (and rule book) publishing. Save the ornate fonts for handouts (torn pages from tomes, letters from the regent, secret notes passed by spies, et cetera).

Each room description (or other location description) ought to start a new page — no searching the page to see where descriptions begin. The only time a page should contain more than one room description is if those rooms are empty or otherwise identical. Any space not filled with text or illustration can be used by the GM for note-taking.

Each map ought to be given its own page. Larger maps ought to be printed on a separate sheet, folded, and inserted in the centerfold. (If there is more than one map on a single page in a zine, the maps are too small.)

If you've never run an adventure in zine format, I encourage you to try it. Some things, like rules, only prove themselves through use. (I recommend "The Sanctum of the Snail" included in Crepuscular #1.)

27 July 2020

Role-Playing Online

My recent birthday weekend marks my first time role-playing via Zoom. Previously, I had tried Google Hangouts and Tabletop Simulator, but this latest experience was the most successful. Not everyone has the same needs for online gaming, but mine is simple: I want real-time audiovisual communication. That's it. Players can have their own character sheets as long as I have a copy (or at least the information they contain). Players can roll their own dice. (I trust them. If I didn't, I wouldn't invite them to my games.) If players want maps, they can make them the old-fashioned way with graph paper and a pencil using my descriptions. Yes, my role-playing is very much of the "theatre of the mind" sort, and although I occasionally make use of battlemats and miniatures (primarily to show marching order), I can easily dispense with them. I miss being able to distribute actual handouts, tokens, cards, and possibly even props, but it's a luxury I can live without as long as everyone at my virtual table can see and hear one another.

What did we play? The Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG adventure, Frozen in Time, the third adventure for Billie the Once Risen (formerly known as Billie the Squire), George the Witness, and Francis the Creep. It was a three hour session, and I think there will be one or two more before they complete it. I look forward to many more (and of other role-playing games, too).

I was apprehensive about online gaming, but now that I've found something that works for my players and me, the gaming future looks brighter.

30 June 2020

One Page Dungeon Contest 2020 Deadline Extended

The deadline for the One Page Dungeon Contest 2020 has been extended to 15 July. That's July the 15th! The Fifteenth of July! Two days before my birthday! Learn more (about the contest)!

21 May 2020

Good Gaming Advice from Goblin Punch

April was a good month for blogging partly because April puts me in a whimsical frame of mind, but equally because I was on furlough due to the pandemic. For weeks I would devote my mornings to one or more of my blogs, and it was pleasant indeed. I resumed working at my job later in the month, and alas, I'm posting less frequently. Even now, I only have time to point readers to someone else's blog. Advice for OSR DMs is a nearly perfect summary of the style of fantasy adventure gaming I prefer. It's not the only style I like, but as far as level-up role-playing games go, this is exactly how I do it. (I'm flexible on 0-level funnels, though. Sometimes they are the right way to start a campaign; sometimes they're not.) Goblin Punch has plenty of other insightful articles like this one, so plumb its depths, spelunker!

20 April 2020

Random Alignment Generator 2

In a previous article, I described the official RPGA alignment dice I purchased in 1980-something and how to replace them with the superior (and more flexible) Fudge dice normally used in Fudge and its offshoots. Whilst I continue to recommend them (they can be ordered direct from Grey Ghost Press, Inc.; or you can request your favorite local game shop to order them through Impressions Advertising), I recognize that some may need a table for use with the dice they have as they wait for their Fudge dice to arrive. So, here is the d6 version of the Fudge-powered Random Alignment Generator:

 1st d62nd d6
1-2LawfulGood
3-4NeutralNeutral
5-6ChaoticEvil

Combined, we may generate the following results:

 1-23-45-6
1-2Lawful GoodLawful NeutralLawful Evil
3-4Neutral GoodTrue NeutralNeutral Evil
5-6Chaotic GoodChaotic NeutralChaotic Evil

19 April 2020

Table: Misspells (Table of Many Tables)

Are these Mis-Spells the result of caster error, inaccurate transcription, or a combination of both? Or are they the magical norm in a parallel universe? This is but another mystery of the Table of Many Tables!

Misspells

Roll 1d30

1. Ape Change
2. Auntie Magic Shell
3. Cone of Old
4. Clown
5. Cymbal
6. Disinterest Grate
7. Firball
8. Fold Person
9. Geese
10. Glasstool
11. Glossee
12. Gourds and Words
13. Invisible Stocker
14. Lightning Belt
15. Lizard Wok
16. Meteors Warm
17. Mordenkainen's Sore
18. Moss Charm
19. Moss Invisibility
20. Move Hearth
21. Otto's Irresistible Dunce
22. Phantasmal Farce
23. Power Word, Blond
24. Remove Purse
25. Reverse Gravy
26. Shocking Grass
27. Simulacrumb
28. Tenser's Floating Disco
29. Varnish
30. Weeblemind

18 April 2020

Table: Spells (Table of Many Tables)

These spells have an instantaneous casting time and therefore cannot be interrupted, disrupted, or cancelled. So, cast with care! Table of Many Tables!

Spells

Roll 1d20

1. Alter Weather Slightly
2. Annoying Servant
3. Awkwardness 10' Radius
4. Baleful Baa
5. Call Snow
6. Color Play
7. Cone of Shame
8. Delayed Bluster
9. Eerie Glow
10. Find Friend
11. Improved Befuddlement
12. Phantom In-Law
13. Polymorph Condiment
14. Prismatic Invective
15. Ray of Deconstruction
16. Spectral Pet
17. Summon Volcano
18. Tectonic Shift
19. Wall of Mist
20. Xaxall's Extemporaneous Explosion

17 April 2020

Table: Family Heirlooms (Table of Many Tables)

You may be embarking on your first adventure, but at least you have your family heirloom to worry about. Something something Table of Many Tables.

Family Heirlooms

Roll 1d12


1. The Sacred Icon Which Speaketh (a little too loudly at tymes).
2. The Vial of Blessed Tears (miraculous and delicate).
3. The Crystal Egg (mysterious and fragile).
4. The Clarsach of Sublime Beauty (a temperamental harp).
5. The Sword of Heroism (bronze, unfashionable).
6. The Helm of the High Ruler (very tall remnant of royal parade armor).
7. The Ancestral Gourd (bulky, but amusing).
8. The Book of Memories (heavy, but useful as a footstool).
9. The Ruby of Authority (entrancing, distracting, and very coveted).
10. The Skull of the First (encrusted with jewels, cursed).
11. The Marzipan Homunculus (eerie and mostly controllable).
12. A Stradivarius.

16 April 2020

Table: Alternative Alignments (Table of Many Tables)

Perhaps you are unsatisfied with the traditional alignment system of your current role-playing game and would like to replace it or supplement it with a new one. Perhaps the Table of Many Tables can help!

Alternative Alignments

Roll 1d12

1. Moral - Amoral - Immoral
2. Heroic - Well-Intentioned - Villainous
3. Civilization - Nature - Barbarity
4. Law & Order - *shrug* - Crime & Passion
5. Good Guys - Extras - Bad Guys
6. Federation - Neutral Zone - Romulan Empire
7. Scientific Romance - Science Fiction - Scientifiction
8. Uptight - Normal - Bonkers
9. Gentle - Permanent Press - Heavy
10. Masculine - Neuter - Feminine
11. Cooked - Raw - Live
12. No Flash - Flash

15 April 2020

Table: Useless Acquaintances (Table of Many Tables)

Sometimes you know people you don't really need to know. Am I right, Table of Many Tables?

Useless Acquaintances

Roll 1d12

1. Ham Dram the Village Idiot
2. Plinky the Town Oaf
3. Gummer the Local Buffoon
4. Nedred the Aged (who never stops talking)
5. Polwin the Widow (who shows you her boils)
6. Jim Kneecap (imposing Village Idiot)
7. Pointy the Fool (professional court fool)
8. Lester the Jester (freelance talent)
9. Loaf the Laggard (half-hearted baker)
10. Minim (quizzical child)
11. Drune the Alchemist (overly excited experimenter)
12. Hewart the Touched (holy expounder)

14 April 2020

Table: Useful Contacts (Table of Many Tables)

Sometimes you need to know the right people. Have you met the Table of Many Tables?

Useful Contacts

Roll 1d12

1. Ploom the Advocate, Scholar and Practitioner of Law (and one whose services may be invaluable to "adventurers").
2. Trake Son of Trake Son of Trake, Royal Armorsmith (has a long pedigree).
3. Ghghghoff the Beggar (sees more than most).
4. Yesh the Tavernkeeper (hears everything).
5. Fleete the Messenger (knows where to find people).
6. Leot the Herald (historian and genealogist).
7. Ibb the Poisoner (knows poisons and venoms).
8. Nonc the Trader (is usually hiring).
9. Rastabol (can probably find a buyer for your goods).
10. Hayndred the Mapmaker (buys, sells, and even makes maps).
11. Sheef (is a friend of nearly every local pickpocket).
12. Kildig the Guard (is easily bribed).

13 April 2020

Table: Character Foregrounds (Table of Many Tables)

If you like a good background, you ought to see the foreground! (Table of Many Tables.)

Character Foregrounds

Roll 1d12

This character...

1. Wears spectacles without lenses.
2. Wears a towering hat.
3. Has an outrageously exaggerated limp.
4. Has mismatched footwear.
5. Speaks with an affected stammer.
6. Sings conversationally.
7. Always carries a chicken.
8. Always looks people in the neck.
9. Bears an unusually detailed (and prominently visible) birthmark.
10. Tends to faint.
11. Is wrapped in bandages from head to toe.
12. Is a reverse chameleon (maximum contrast to any surroundings).

12 April 2020

Table: Character Backgrounds (Table of Many Tables)

Roll on this table from the Table of Many Tables to generate background information for player characters, non-player characters, player non-characters, and non-player non-characters!

Character Backgrounds

Roll 1d12

This character...

1. Was chased out of a village for allegedly engaging in lycanthropic activities.
2. Was awarded a medal for rescuing the prized pet pig of a high-ranking official.
3. Was honored for meritorious conduct during The Upheaval (and the less said about that the better).
4. Joined and left a monastic order after having second thoughts.
5. Was formerly a seige engineer, but aspired to be an architect.
6. Has led a life of crime, but turned over a new leaf yesterday.
7. Comes from a long line of smiths.
8. Is a former charcoaler, but left it in favor of a less glamourous life.
9. Inherited large tracts of land, but has heretofore neglected to claim them.
10. Served as a cook in an army's baggage train, before being forcibly discharged.
11. Was raised in a haunted house.
12. Had an illustrious career under a false identity. Supposedly...

11 April 2020

Table: Furnished Dungeons (Table of Many Tables)

If you're looking for a furnished dungeon, the Table of Many Tables may be of help...

Furnished Dungeons

Roll 1d4

1. Traditional single level dungeon. 12 cells, 2 oubliettes, 26 stocks, miles of chains.
2. Perfect starter dungeon for a minor noble or abbot. 4 cells, torture chamber, spare pit, plenty of room for expansion.
3. Deluxe multi-level dungeon. 200 cells, gladitorial training center, spacious guard quarters, fully stocked armory, central air.
4. Bizarre dungeon. Unexplored levels, multiple interdimensional nexus points, haunted, well-appointed.

10 April 2020

Table: Dungeon Furnishings (Table of Many Tables)

Ah, the strange furnishings of dungeons and other subterranean complexes are a marvel to see. See them? Marvel at them! (cf. Table of Many Tables.)

Dungeon Furnishings

Roll 1d12

1. stocks
2. pillory
3. manacles
4. armoire
5. chains
6. rack
7. oubliette
8. attractive end table
9. vice
10. clamps
11. hooks
12. stylish credenza

09 April 2020

Table: Dreaded Tortures (Table of Many Tables)

These tortures are too dreadful to list any but a few, despite the invitation by the Table of Many Tables.

Dreaded Tortures

Roll 1d4

1. The Iron Cage... wherein the victim cowers from a fiendish undead creature that continually taunts, "I'm not touching you! I'm not touching you! Am I... touching you? I'm not touching you!" #LevelDrain
2. The Iron Maiden... wherein the torturer threatens to place the victim in a spike-lined sarcophagus, but doesn't.
3. The Rake... is often mistaken for The Rack, but it's really just a rake, which the victim is forced to step upon, causing the shaft to strike them on the face. Affordable, and sometimes effective.
4. The Steak... but not The Stake, if that's what you were thinking. The victim is struck on the face with a steak. Humiliating.

08 April 2020

Table: Whimsical Tricks (Table of Many Tables)

Hark! A table of whimsical tricks from the Table of Many Tables!

Whimsical Tricks

Roll 1d6

1. Pool of Fickle Outcomes. Anyone who comes into contact with its water has one random attribute increased to its maximum and another decreased to its minimum.* Duration: 24 hours.
2. Yawning Portal. Transports anyone to another world or a distant part of their own world, but induces a state of narcolepsy lasting 2-24 hours.
3. Portal of Nature. Transports anyone to another world or a distant part of their own world, sans clothing. Clothing remains on the other side.
4. Butterchurn of Woe. Has a profound aura of magical power. Churns butter, but loudly wails "Woe! WOE!! WOE!!!"
5. Bronze Colossus. Eyes emit light at irregular intervals. Occasionally makes an inexplicable chirping sound.
6. Well of Gratitude. Says "THANK YOU" whenever anything of value is thrown into it. Burps after devouring anything alive that climbs or falls into it.

* The maximum and minimum potential values possible during normal character creation.

07 April 2020

Table: Wandering Minstrels (Table of Many Tables)

Many a wandering minstrel can be met on the way to adventure, or even at the local tavern, and this is but a small sample provided by the Table of Many Tables.

Wandering Minstrels

Roll 1d12

1. Tom Tonne, heaviest minstrel in the land! Will accept food as payment.
2. Plord the Jongleur. Also juggles. At all times.
3. Whif Thin the Quiet. Sings in a voice barely above a whisper.
4. Fraye the Troubador. Quick of sword, sharp of wit, short on discretion.
5. Ouita (or Weeta). Interpretive dance a specialty.
6. Caerynne. Deceptively plain.
7. Blaise the Fiery. Entertainer. Pyromaniac.
8. Olo. Restless acrobat. Reluctant singer. Good percussionist.
9. Maycroft the Enigmatic. Where music and stage magic meet!
10. Pleedle the Minstrel. Improviser extraordinaire. Singer/musician ordinaire.
11. Balourus the Bombastic. Explosively entertaining, but volume not adjustable.
12. Felf the Whistler. Famous and infamous for whistling prowess.

06 April 2020

Table: Wandering Monsters (Table of Many Tables)

A table of wandering monsters courtesy of the Table of Many Tables.

Wandering Monsters

Roll 1d20

1. Shambling Hogweed. One of the worst, most formidable monsters you will ever encounter. Not fun. Frequency: Very rare
2. Vampire hat. Number Appearing: 1-100.
3. Ineffable Hovering Sphere of Inescapable Terror with One Big Scary Eye and Lots of Smaller Scary Eyes. Armor Class: 1 [18]; 4 [15]; 8 [11]
4. Brain-Eating Cuttlefish-Headed Psi-Tyrant. Move: Average.
5. Rockslider. Hit Dice: 9 (foreign), 12 (domestic)
6. Boulet. (Pronounced "bull-lit") Treasure Type: Y
7. Living House. % in Lair: 100%
8. Action Mold. No. of Attacks: 1 or 10
9. Pixie, Feral, Giant. Damage/Attack: 3-12
10. Lobstormer. Special Attacks: Summon a storm of lobsters 1 time/day
11. Pangolin, Giant. Special Defenses: Can roll itself into an impenetrable ball
12. Creepy Crawly, Standard. Magic Resistance: Standard
13. Giant, Quarry. Intelligence: Low
14. Hobnoblin. Alignment: Neutral evil
15. Eel Magistrate. Size: M
16. Beige Slime. Psionic Ability: Nil
17. Flying Calamari. Psionic Attack Mode: ?
18. Golem, Bread. Psionic Defense Mode: Nil
19. Cavy, Dire. Note: Rarely tamed except by ringwraiths or nightgaunts or whatnot
20. Primordial Blah. Description: Indescribable. And unknowable. And unspeakable.

05 April 2020

Table: Cursed Sale (Table of Many Tables)

According to the Table of Many Tables, even cursed items are sold (in the shadiest of locales), and sometimes they're even on sale (or so they say)...

Cursed Sale

Roll 1d12

1. Backscratcher, Cursed (Frontscratcher): Will only scratch a person's front!
2. Horn of Dismay: Causes self doubt and embarrassment to one who plays it.
3. Sword, Cursed (Unsheathable): Cannot or will not allow itself to be sheathed unless the wielder is asleep.
4. Shield of Attraction: Attracts arrows. Attracts spears. Attracts pests. Attracts unwanted attention. Makes loud noises if it isn't being noticed.
5. Crown of Epic Weight: There is no crown heavier than this. It looks impressive, though.
6. Knife, Cursed (Unthrowable): It looks like a throwing knife, but no matter how skilled the thrower, it will make the thrower look like an unskilled buffoon.
7. Spoon of Slurping: Emits a slurping sound even when not in use. Can never be silenced, but can be muffled. To an extent.
8. Fork of Possibility: Renders the user unable to do anything but stare in helpless fascination at the world of possibilities. Otherwise, it's a simple fork.
9. Spear, Cursed (Wobbly): Too wobbly to throw. Too wobbly to stick into someone. Too wobbly to hold and just stand there with any degree of dignity.
10. Throwing Axe, Cursed (Many Unhappy Returns): Returns to the thrower every time. Blade first.
11. Robe of Excessive Luxury: Is likely to smother the wearer with luxuriousness. A little too much of a good thing.
12. Millstone of Beguilement: Self-explanatory.

04 April 2020

Table: Discount Magic (Table of Many Tables)

Magic is a fickle, temperamental force, and not all magic is equal, but sometimes it is discounted, as hinted at in the Table of Many Tables.

Discount Magic

Roll 1d12

1. The Scroll of Quish! Contains three spells including Prismatic Invective, Spectral Pet, and Color Play!
2. The Scroll of Skoom! Contains two spells including Delayed Bluster and Cone of Shame.
3. The Potion of Gassiness!
4. The Potion of Modest Levitation!
5. The Ring of Moderate Power! (Side effect: only moderate unease!)
6. The Wand of Mushrooms! Point and grow mushrooms instantly! Unlimited charges!
7. The Staff of Employment! Hundreds of uses!
8. The Rod of Guilt! Transfer guilt on command!
9. The Dust of Interesting Odor! Impossible to identify!
10. The Apparatus of Splaat! Large, bulky, incomprehensible artifact. Sold as is.
11. Grab Bag! 1-4 guaranteed miscellaneous magic items. Usefulness may vary.
12. The Belt of Human Strength! Gives the wearer the strength of a human! One size fits all.

03 April 2020

Table: Pickpocket (Table of Many Tables)

You are the victim of a pickpocket or cutpurse as foretold by the Table of Many Tables. What is being stolen from your pocket or purse and by whom? Two tables will tell you...

Loot

Roll 1d12

1. 50% of your highest value coins!
2. 75% of your lowest value coins!
3. 100% of your loose gemstones!
4. 1-3 pieces of jewelry!
5. Nothing! (You were lucky!)
6. A random magic item!
7. A precious family heirloom!
8. A cursed item!
9. A map!
10. A riddle!
11. A spell!
12. Miscellaneous!

N.B. Roll again if the result is not applicable.

Perpetrator

Roll 1d20

1. A waif.
2. A ragamuffin.
3. A tatterdemalion.
4. A vagrant.
5. A fop.
6. A frump.
7. A harridan.
8. A virago.
9. A temptress.
10. A lad next door.
11. A lass next door.
12. A lout.
13. A hooligan.
14. A ruffian.
15. A rake.
16. A doddering elder.
17. A respectable tradesman.
18. A drunkard.
19. A pilgrim.
20. A magician?

N.B. The result is not necessarily who they are, but who they appear to be (perhaps).

02 April 2020

Table: Treasures (Table of Many Tables)

Behold! A table of rare and varied treasures from the Table of Many Tables, enticing you with... enticements!

Treasures

Roll 1d12

1. The Crown Jewels! Priceless symbols of power instantly marking you for capture, assassination, or theft! Congratulations, you're a target now!
2. The Sceptre of the Demon Prince of Ill Omen! Topped with a human skull! Nothing bad could happen from stealing/finding this trifle, right?
3. 1,000 copper pieces!
4. A crystal skull! Eerie. Possibly worth something. In any case: eerie.
5. The Diamond of Hope! Hope it isn't cursed.
6. The wig of Medusa! No intrinsic value, but highly sought after by collectors!
7. The Golden Fleece! The greatest healing magic ever known. Also known to start wars.
8. The Finger of Fekna! Morbidly fascinating, is it not? Maybe it's even useful in some macabre way...
9. A pair of silver slippers with untold magical powers! Coveted by wicked witches, so BEWARE.
10. A single gold coin the size of a wagon wheel! Valid only in cloud giant castles or cyclops communes.
11. A sarcophagus from the time of the Ancients! May or may not contain a mummy. Or a robot. Or a time traveler. Or a cryogenically frozen alien.
12. An ordinary brass lamp! Definitely contains a djinn. Or a djinni. Or a jinn. Or a jinni. Or a genie. Or a genius. Or a devil. Or a demon. Or a daemon. Or a daimon...

01 April 2020

Table: Fumbles (Table of Many Tables)

This table from the Table of Many Tables describes an assortment of blunders and mishaps that might arise when making the worst of all possible rolls of the die.

Fumbles

Roll 1d12

1. Slipped on a banana peel. Who's been littering?
2. Slipped on human entrails. Messy.
3. Tripped over a corpse. Sorry about that!
4. Tripped over a zombie at rest. Oh, drat! Now it's moving...
5. Dropped weapon. On foot. Roll damage.
6. Weapon flies out of hand and into surprised friend. Or foe. Or passerby.
7. Weapon flies out of hand and is caught by the chief baddie on duty.
8. Weapon develops a conscience and devotes itself to a life of nonviolence.
9. Weapon becomes possessed by an indecisive demon.
10. Armor bunches up uncomfortably, penalizing every action until adjusted.
11. Helmet or hat slips over eyes, resulting in ineffective stumbling about.
12. Distracted by a fleeting thought, lose one round of action. Did I lock the door when I left? Hm...

31 March 2020

Table: Critical Hits (Table of Many Tables)

This table from the Table of Many Tables describes a variety of critical hits emphasizing death and dismemberment by way of sharp and/or pointed weapons. This table may be used for blunt weapons by replacing "severed," "stabbed," and "cut" with "smashed," "mashed," and "crushed."

Critical Hits

Roll 1d12

1. Pop of the Tops! Head pops off and flies through the air. Death probable.
2. Costs an Arm and a Leg! Both arm and leg on one side severed. Lopsided.
3. Give 'em a Hand! Hand severed.
4. Footloose! Lose a foot.
5. A Poke in the Eye! Eye poked. Not that bad. Unless poked by something sharp.
6. A Frog in One's Throat! Actually, a stab in the throat. Potentially fatal.
7. Hear Ye! Ear cut off. Unpleasant.
8. Achoo! Nose detaches. Inconvenient.
9. Halves! Severed in half horizontally.
10. Splits! Severed in half vertically.
11. Have a Heart! Stabbed in the heart. Recovery doubtful.
12. Ouch! Purse or moneybelt lifted by weapon. No damage, but very painful.

30 March 2020

Table of Many Tables (Contains Tables)

The First of April is nigh, and if one listens carefully, one can hear the mating call of the random generator as it wanders through boxed text and battlemats. Ready thy dice and cast them to learn thy fate!

Table of Many Tables

Roll 1d20

1. Roll on the Critical Hit Table!
2. Roll on the Fumble Table!
3. Roll on the Treasure Table!
4. Roll on the Pickpocket Table!
5. Roll on the Discount Magic Table!
6. Roll on the Cursed Sale Table!
7. Roll on the Wandering Monster Table!
8. Roll on the Wandering Minstrel Table!
9. Roll on the Whimsical Trick Table!
10. Roll on the Dreaded Torture Table!
11. Roll on the Dungeon Furnishings Table!
11. Roll on the Furnished Dungeons Table!
13. Roll on the Character Background Table!
14. Roll on the Character Foreground Table!
15. Roll on the Useful Contact Table!
16. Roll on the Useless Acquaintance Table!
17. Roll on the Alternative Alignment Table!
18. Roll on the Family Heirloom Table!
19. Roll on the Spell Table!
20. Roll on the Misspell Table!

N.B. Results of the Table of Many Tables (resulting in more tables) are being added daily. [Edit: And it is now complete.]

29 February 2020

Zodiac Birth Augur

What do you do when you like the idea of a rule more than the rule itself? You modify it, of course. I like the idea of the Birth Augur and Lucky Roll of Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG (see table 1-2 in the rules), but I prefer one based on zodiacal signs rather than a hodgepodge of signs and circumstances ("the bull," "unholy house," "raised by wolves," "conceived on horseback," etc.)

Below are two alternate tables representing the most common forms of astrology in our world. Either could be modified to suit the particular requirements of a fantasy world by substituting appropriate flora, fauna, or figures of that world's mythology.

Zodiac Sign and Lucky Roll (Western Astrology)

Roll 1d12

1. Aries (Speed (each +1/-1 = +5'/-5' speed))
2. Taurus (Fortitude saving throws)
3. Gemini (Detection checks)
4. Cancer (Armor Class)
5. Leo (Melee attack rolls)
6. Virgo (Will saving throws)
7. Libra (Reflex saving throws)
8. Scorpio (Initiative)
9. Sagittarius (Missile attack rolls)
10. Capricorn (Damage rolls)
11. Aquarius (Skill checks)
12. Pisces (Spell checks)

Zodiac Sign and Lucky Roll (Chinese Astrology)

Roll 1d12

1. Rat (Armor Class)
2. Ox (Fortitude saving throws)
3. Tiger (Damage rolls)
4. Rabbit (Reflex saving throws)
5. Dragon (Hit points (applies at each level))
6. Snake (Spell checks)
7. Horse (Speed (each +1/-1 = +5'/-5' speed))
8. Goat (Initiative)
9. Monkey (Skill checks)
10. Rooster (Attack rolls)
11. Dog (Detection checks)
12. Pig (Will saving throws)

23 January 2020

B/X Rules to Lose

Basic/Expert Dungeons & Dragons is the edition that is closest to the ideal form of D&D as far as I am concerned, but it has several rules that I have always felt free to ignore in the interest of running a more enjoyable game. The following are some of the rules I have chosen to lose.

DM Rolls Damage

This rule, found in the "Combat Sequence" chart on page B24, and under "Damage" on page B25, states flatly, "DM rolls damage" and "If an attack hits, the DM must determine how much damage the attack has done." The only time I have ever witnessed this is on the television show HarmonQuest. It's fine for players who are indifferent (or opposed) to rolling dice themselves, but the players I know love to roll dice especially if it's to generate damage against an enemy. Who am I to deprive them of their fun? I would ask why the rules specify that it's the DM's responsibility to make all the damage rolls, but I suspect it's derived from someone's personal play experience rather than a reflection of any standard practice at large.

Combat Sequence

Speaking of combat sequences, the aforementioned one on page B24 is complicated at first glance and ponderous in execution. I tried to give it a chance, but it instantly bogged down the game. A tense moment packed with potential excitement was reduced to a dull, monotonous litany of sections and subsections of discrete actions, and we were bored before we had even reached C. in the first round.

The only part of this rule that I can salvage is:

A. Each side rolls for initiative (1d6).
B. The side that wins the intiative acts first (if simultaneous all actions are performed by each side at the same time).
C. The side with the second highest initiative acts second, and so on.
D. The DM handles any surrenders, retreats, etc. as they occur.

Each side decides amongst its members who acts in what order and what action is taken. As a result, the game flows better and everyone is kept engaged in the action.

No Spells for 1st Level Clerics

Wrong. In my games, 1st level clerics automatically get cure light wounds. That's just how I roll.

Thieves' Abilities

Thiefly skills in B/X D&D, as with all editions of D&D, are mostly varying levels of gross incompetence until the thief reaches dizzying levels. A 15% chance to Open Locks; a 10% chance to Find/Remove Traps or Hide in Shadows? Why even bother with odds like that? I think I'd rather use ability checks (page B60, "There's always a chance.") or substitute the thief skills from Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG.

Hit Dice

I use the AD&D class hit dice instead, but I let magic-users roll the same die as thieves (d6). In other words, fighter (d10), cleric (d8), thief (d6), magic-user (d6).

Other Rules to Lose

Other rules I'd lose or replace pertain to D&D in general such as alignment, level limits, and the overabundance of treasure and magic items. I'd also replace the level progression system with that used by DCC RPG or one of the "milestone" variants.

To reiterate, I admire the Basic/Expert rules more than any other edition of D&D, but no edition is perfect, and that's O.K. It's nothing a bit of tinkering can't fix.