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Showing posts from March, 2014

The Tiniest Bit of Research Possible: Armor

On the one hand, one doesn't want to fall down the rabbit hole of historical simulationsim. On the other hand, it's nice to not be talking entirely out of one's ass. from Matthäus Schwarz's Klaidungsbüchlein   After posting some thoughts/assumptions on plate armor , I was shown this video of a guy in a swimming pool wearing plate armor . He's no porpoise, but perhaps my Kelly Gang comparisons were not as illuminating as I thought. So, a minimal bit of googling yielded this page from the Metropolitan Museum of Art: Arms and Armor—Common Misconceptions and Frequently Asked Questions . Here's a choice bit: When early scholars of armor looked at medieval artworks, they noticed what they thought to be depictions of many different forms of armor: rings, chains, bands of rings, scales, small plates, etc. With poetic license, all early armor was referred to as "mail," distinguished only by its appearance, hence the terms "ring-mail,"

B/X Character Class: The Youngest Son/Daughter

Continuing my thoughts from this post , here's a second take on Innocents Abroad . The goal is to create the sort of talented-but-inexperienced adventurer who is the protagonist of pretty much every fantasy novel and fairy tale. Several people have directed me to Zack S.'s The Alice . This is a wonderful character concept, but a little more specific than what I'm going for here. I did steal (and water-down) one of her abilities. And if you have a better idea for what to call this class, I'd be eager to hear it. Catskin by Arthur Rackham The Youngest Son/Daughter: An Untrained Adventurer Almost always the youngest of three siblings, unless they are an orphan. They might be a Princess or a Woodchopper’s Son, but they have no formal training in adventuring skills.  Requirements: CHR 9 Prime Requisite: WIS Hit Points: 1d4 Save: as Thief Weapons: Any Armor: Shields; Any armor except Plate Mail 1           Naif          

Plate for Fighters

There seemed to be some interest in my notion of restricting plate mail to Fighters . First thing: I know. I know. Plate mail is not plate armor. But danged if I don’t still picture the full suit of hinged knightwear whenever I read about plate mail, and also-danged if illustrators haven’t populated rule books with image after image of adventurers running around in plate armor. I'm not a nitty-gritty combat simulationist. I like nice, broad, simple categories of armor: Light/Flexible: Leather; Hide; Studded; or, I dunno, how thick is that wool peacoat? Medium/Semi-Rigid: Pretty much everything else. Heavy/Rigid: Plate Armor; anything that would make the Kelly Gang sit up and take notice. The Story of the Kelly Gang, 1906 (motion picture) Heavy/Rigid armor:  Requires help getting into or out of. Prevents you from doing pretty much anything except walking, sitting on a horse once you've been placed on it, and swinging weapons. Wil

B/X Not Really A Character Class: The Baseline Adventurer

In my previous post of the Innocent Abroad Character Class , I think I was trying to do a few too many things at once. I'd like to break the idea down a little further: What does the baseline human adventurer look like? What would a playable untrained adventurer class look like? What would a playable all-purpose adventurer look like? I think I'll ramble on the first point, tonight. The Baseline Human Adventurer, stripped of any class benefits, looks like this: Requirements: None Hit Die: 1d4 Save as Thief Weapons: any type Armor: Any armor, any shield Would probably level at around 800 XP, like what I had for the Innocents. Pretty simple. If well-equipped, a little better in a fight than a spell-depleted MU or a Thief caught out in the open, and much better than a Normal Human. Not very useful to play, but good for evaluating other classes. The point of interest for me is the 1d4 hit die. I tend to think of 1d6 as the default hit dice, becaus

B/X Character Class: The Innocent Abroad

The Squire from The Canterbury Tales The character who appears in every fantasy novel ever, and yet isn't modeled in B/X D&D is the wide-eyed innocent: the assistant pig-keeper who dreams of glory, or the merchant's daughter who gets swept up in adventure. Characters like this often get framed as fighters, as if fighters were just the default human adventurer. This dilutes the concept of the fighter as a trained specialist in arms and armament.  You could also play the character as level 0. This works if everyone else is also staring at level 0 and your walking into a funnel. But the level 0 characters are supposed to be what B/X calls Normal Humans. Normal Humans are explicitly not adventuring types. And the assistant pig-keepers of the world may be naive and unskilled, but they are still definitely adventurers. Let's take a look at the Normal Human. Normal Human Hit Points: 1-4 Save: Death Ray 14; Wands 15; Paralysis 16; Breath 17; Spells 1

Unsolicted Advice for Myself

You probably already know this. I probably know this. For those of us with a proclivity for the Great Clomping Foot of Nerdism, but who, in our moments of clarity recognize that over-world-building is a barrier between the GM and the players, a tenet: Don't GM like Tolkein. GM like Chandler. Raymond Chandler famously resisted plotting out his books, figuring that the only way to keep it surprising was if he himself was surprised. Instead, he concentrated on writing one 800-word segment at a time, and making sure that segment had something juicy in it. If you gave me the best plot in the world all worked out I could not write it. It would be dead for me. Of course, if you look back over Chandlers plots, they don't always make sense. But that doesn't matter much, because they were still fun to read. The ideal mystery was one you would read if the end was missing.

Crowd-sourcing: Reskinned Magic

Some assumptions: Magic systems should be fun. Magic systems should offer a lot of variety. The classic D&D spells are the lingua franca of rpg magic. It is good when magic is mysterious and wonder-producing. It is convenient and practical when magic is mechanical and predictable. Perhaps the thing to do is to use the established spell lists as a catalog of effects for the GM's benefit, not as a menu for player's to pick from.  You get the ease of established mechanics and spell effects that are compatible with other products, while keeping things murky enough that magic never loses its wonder. Talking to Spirits Here's a great magic system that does exactly this: Spirit Magic by Brett Slocum . Instead of casting spells, it is a system for negotiating with spirits, who create spell effects for you. But the players never really know what they're going to get. The results could be better, worse, or completely different from what they had in mind. And t

Loot: Blood & Treasure; Nod #1-10

I came back from vacation, and look what was waiting for me! John Stater's Blood & Treasure and the first ten issues of NOD , received in exchange for some doodles I did for Mr. Stater's forthcoming Tome of Monsters. I encountered Stater's work my first week of noodling into the OSR. The concept of the hexcrawl was kinda new to me (my formative D&D edition was Holmes Basic), and Stater has produced troves of hexcrawl resources. He stuck out particularly to my art-school eyes because of his visual sophistication ( NOD #7 has the best cover in the entire OSR). It's a massive stack of material, and I haven't had a chance to do more than skim, but man-o-pete, it is good. B&T is a wonderful system, drawing from across games and editions, and designed to be modified for your comfort, with lots of clever new considerations. I might graft race-as-class onto it and use it as my new system, or harvest huge bloody chunks of it for either B/X or Microli

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William-Adolphe Bouguereau

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Toy design by Jim Woodring


Satyr and Maenad Embrace

Setting: The Planet Orcus, part three

Significant Sites and Communities on Orcus Recordance The residence city of the Cacogen. It is headache-inducing jangle of crystalline growths, extending far above and below the surface of Orcus. The actual population of Cacogen is small, and one is more likely to encounter Ancilla going about their duties. Embassy of the Abjected, Speakers to Filth An adjunct or suburb or Recordance. This is a surprisingly beautiful structure of crystal panes and silver filigree, the size of a small Aereth city and containing a number of discrete habitats for citizens of the various worlds of the Solar System.   A small number of beings have gathered here with the goal of treating with the Cacogen. The ambassadors themselves are among the most centered, enlightened beings the Solar System has to offer. All will have WIS and CON stats of 15+1d6. They train for years at mortifying their senses in hopes of inuring themselves to the presence of Cacogen. At their prime, an ambas

Setting: The Planet Orcus, part two

GM’ing the Cacogen All attributes, stats, and descriptors can be randomly determined. A given Cacogen may be physically invulnerable or delicate as steam, and these attributes are not necessarily fixed. Communication should be a slow, tortuous affair. Cacogen have translators, and are smart and well informed about or Solar System and its inhabitants, but it is difficult to bridge such different minds. Below are some tools for simulating an alien state of mind. Consult when considering both how the Cacogen receives a communication and how they respond. If needed, run their reply through Google translation a few times. Random table of primary senses/mode of communication 1.      color 2.      light 3.      scent 4.      temperature 5.      high frequency sound (painful to anyone with better than normal Hear Noises) 6.      palpitation 7.      gesticulation 8.      equilibrium (their conversation requires a Fortitude save or fall over) 9.      magn

Setting: The Planet Orcus, part one

Orcus, Plightpost, the Filth Far removed from the civilized routes of the Solar System lies Orcus. It is a small, lightless world, shrouded in black vapors. No sun or starlight reaches the surface. Light sources only illuminate half normal distance.  Lorenzo Mattotti, Hansel and Gretel The surface is composed of a black sludge that is corrosive to metal and flesh (1 hp dmg per turn exposed). Travel time is reduced by half, and every turn there is a 1 in 8 chance of being sucked into the sludge, requiring a STR check to extricate oneself. Gravity is weak. Characters can jump 30 feet in the air, plus an additional 5 feet for each point of STR modifier. There is a 1 in 4 chance of becoming stuck in the sludge when landing from such a jump. The Broken Covenant No one remembers who—demon, god, or mortal—committed what transgression. But to ensure it never happens again, Orcus has been set aside as an observation post. This post is held by Cacogen. Born of Fi

Hey, Harpies!

Google Image search doesn't know who drew this. My best guess at the signature is "O. Hartford," but I haven't been able to find anyone that fits that name. It's a lovely piece, though. Look at the glossy highlight in that one harpy/sirens hair! If you know anything about this piece or illustrator, I'd love to hear it. Edit: We have an ID! Writer and illustrator Oliver Herford . Wikipedia claims he was called "the American Oscar Wilde," and that he's the one who first said "Only the good die young."

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Beauty in Riding Habits Samurai Warrior Mitsui Yasutaro with his steel humanoid

Maritime Career Path

Okay, first, check this out: Career Paths for 3d6 Fantasy I link to Goblin Punch a lot. Almost exclusively. You'd think it was all I read. Anyway, this is an alternative to character generation, where you create your character's history while generating stats. It's not totally elegant, but it works and it's fun. A few random numbers turn into a realized bit of fiction right in front of you. There's a lot of room for expansion, too. Here's my offering: Joseph Noel Paton, Rime of the Ancient Mariner Maritime                                              Useful: DEX, CON, CHA 1.      Helped quell a mutiny. Test STR to influence CHA. 2.      Helped start a mutiny. Test CHA to influence STR. 3.      Survived a shipwreck. Test DEX to influence CON. 4.      Swam with mermaids, once. Test DEX to Influence CHA. 5.      The bosun was a cruel taskmaster. Test CON to influence DEX. 6.      Would stay up all night, telling tall