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Showing posts from 2015

Holmes/AD&D/B/X: Spells Known

I often find rules in D&D that don’t work the way I expect them to, and blame my younger self for having been too lazy to learn the rules correctly back in the day. Turns out, I’m usually just remembering Holmes Basic. This came up recently, when a campaign decided to switch from LL to AD&D, and I was ready to rock this table: My spell caster was going to get a massive upgrade to his spell book! With INT 18, he was going to go from five spells to at least 18! He had a good chance of making a clean sweep. Then someone kindly pointed out that the above percentages apply to learning spells that you find lying around amongst owlbear pellets. It takes Gygax about five paragraphs to explain this chart, and... well, let's say that clarity is not among its virtues. To summarize: If a spell caster finds a spell, they can roll their percentile chance to learn the spell. This roll can only be made once. If you fail to learn a spell, you can never learn it. Exc

Playbook-style Chargen without Playbooks

Beyond The Wall 's playbooks are a really fun part of the game, and, for awhile, I was into the idea of writing playbook variations . I found myself making them more and more open-ended until I had something that really wasn't a playbook, anymore, but a simple chargen process that can be applied to any 3d6-attribute-type game. Then I forgot about it. Then I remembered! So, here's a process for generating characters, backgrounds, and setting: 1. What part of the campaign setting is your character from? Civilization, Wilderness, Sea, Underworld, Other?  2. Roll 2d4, in order, for each attribute. This is you as a child. What sort of a child are you? What trade were you raised with? (You can google up a list of Medieval occupations for inspiration.)  3. Make up a location and an NPC for the campaign setting.  4. Roll 1d4, in order, to add to each attribute. This is you as an adolescent. How have you changed since childhood?  5. Pick a class. Who trained you? 

Extra-Planar Entity Name Generator

Inspired by +Ralph Lovegrove 's recent post on Stormbringer-style demons , here's a quick idea that really doesn't need to be a post. Roll 1d12. Blindly hit that number of keys on your keyboard. Write down a phonetic approximation of your keyboard-pecking. Edit to taste. Demons named! Demon Names Aasid G'gaitif Heek Juguntun' Visdgu' Exle Keeudwax Kryid Makojifidra Mne Pilkhivy Tyrtveehg Xerdegar Xutru

Undersea Odd

The kid woke me up this morning, saying "Let's play D&D, but let's be sea creatures." Okey-doke. Illustrations from Walt McDougall’s Good Stories for Children, 1902-05 I asked him to make up a list of sea creatures he'd like to play (having no idea if he meant natural sea fauna, or mermen and sea serpents, or what), while I did a quick re-skinning of +Chris McDowall 's   One-Page Edition of Into The Odd. Here is the result: Undersea Odd Quick and dirty, but we were playing before the cereal got soggy, and that was good. Although, I think the kid would have appreciated more fights and treasure.

Into the Odd: Campaign: UNDERGROUND

I have compiled a campaign document for 21st Century dungeon-delving using Into the Odd. In the spirit of Into the Odd, it's brief—4 pages—but contains everything a player needs to get started. UNDERGROUND (free PDF) I also redrew a map for one of  +Chris McDowall 's adventures from the Oddvent Oddpedium , SUPERCAPACITOR. Not that there was anything wrong with the original map. Just keeping my hands busy.

Review: Into the Odd

Oh my goodness.  +Chris McDowall 's Into the Odd is the business. Personal gaming context: I've been thinking up some campaign possibilities for a gaming group. One of the notions I've been playing with is a dungeoncrawl. The setting for the dungeoncrawl is the modern world. Players can equip themselves with anything you'd find on Amazon, or at Home Depot, or from some weirdo internet swordsmith. The PCs live in a city (I've been thinking I'd make up a forgotten borough of NYC). Of course, the city is sitting on top of a megadungeon. The gist: There are secret urban spelunking clubs. Most of the wealthy families in town can be traced back to an ancestor who was in a club. The Borough President is intent on stopping the clubs, and closing up any passages to the Underworld that are discovered. The Municipal Sewer Authority is rich and powerful and unruly. The deeper you go, the less technology works, and the more mythic things become. Be nice to the rats, b

Schrödinger's Backpack

Every character has a backpack or equivalent carryall. It is assumed that your pack contains: 1 week of rations water skin bedroll change of underthings Something Class-specific (equipment for maintaining weapons, spell book, holy symbol, lock picks, etc.) All other contents are uncollapsed wave functions. When you need something, roll against your WIS (or maybe LUCK, if you have a Luck stat) to see if you thought to pack it. First item: roll 1d6. (Automatic success if WIS is 6+) Second item: roll 2d6. (Automatic success if WIS is 12+) Third item: roll 3d6. (Automatic success if WIS is 18) Etc. The GM may add/subtract a die to/from the roll based on how likely they think it is to be in your pack. You may only roll once for a given item in a given adventure. Once an item is produced from the backpack, write it down. That item is now definitely in your pack until the next adventure. The quantum backpack resets at the end of each adventure. Before an adven

Grappling Rules, Compared

I've been noodling with an Ancient Greek seacrawl. And you can't have Ancient Greeks without Pankration, and you can't have Pankration without grappling rules. There isn't a standard OSR approach to grappling. Holmes and   B/X don't address it, and AD&D presents what I assume is a Gygaxian prank. So, here, I've collected and broken down into constituent parts all the grappling rules I found close to hand, with the thought of cherry-picking the best ideas. It includes two sets of houserules by Douglas Cole, who has written quite a lot about grappling . Not included here are the grappling rules he and Peter V. Dell'Orto wrote up for Tim Short's The Manor . Hurry up, postman. Nature of the Contest: How Grappling is Initiated 5e Basic: STR check vs. Target STR or DEX. This doesn't apply terribly well to OSR, since NPCs don't have attributes. AD&D: Oh, man. Oh geez. Ohohoho. Forget it. AD&D Dragon #61: Melee attack vs. AC

Alternate Character Class Round-Up

Apropos nothing, here, from the great swirling surfeit of alternate classes available on the Internet, are a few I'm especially fond of. Timothy Ide Delving Deeper: The Illusionist (free pdf) No shortage of contenders out there for the spell-casting variant, the Illusionist. This one is unique, and wonderful. Rather than a magician who specializes in a particular type of spells, this Illusionist is a straight-up fraud. But an effective fraud. Instead of spells, he prepares tricks—chemicals, gadgets, sleights of hand—to mimic the appearance of magic. F'rinstance, this first level "spell": FOG (affects: 4" diam, duration: 6 turns + 1 turn/level, range: 6") The illusionist mixes two ethers that immediately produce a thick bank of fog 4" in diameter (or any equivalent dimensions) and up to 20ft deep. It is impenetrable to sight. Some of the contrivances for the fake spells are more convincing than others, but it's not important that each s

Let's Ride!

Just had a fun evening with the kid, using  +Benjamin Baugh 's B/X supplement: At 5th Level, Everybody Rides. The idea is that, just as you get a fancy house when you enter upper-level domain-style play, you get an epic mount when you reach the point where B/X introduces wilderness exploration. And who doesn't want an epic mount? The kid had been asking if his lizardman fighter could catch a hippocampus. I pulled out Benjamin's rules, and the kid forgot entirely about any fish-tailed horses, and instead rolled: GHOSTLY, the undead coal-fired cyborg horse-fox-spider chimera! Ghostly is a walking nightmare, ridden by a lizardman with a flaming sword. My seven-year-old is metal as fuck. And so, of course, we didn't stop there: Lisa, the rabbit cleric, rides high atop a tiger-striped wooly mammoth that can sound the heavenly trumpets with his trunk. Bochen, the griffon wizard , doesn't need a mount, because he's a griffon. But he gained a companion

Thinking about Attributes

Minimalist Body Mind Heart That's about as simple as you can get with abstracted quantitative measures of pretend humans. Some might say that you don't need Heart, but they're probably not much fun to play with. Classic Strength Dexterity Constitution Intelligence Wisdom Charisma These six attributes are like a beautiful nerd haiku. They not only carry tremendous nostalgic weight, but they're pretty brilliantly flexible. This is the porridge Goldilocks ate. Extended Strength Agility Precision Endurance Reason Knowledge Intuition Awareness Presence Yech. Anytime an attribute list gets too long, I start backing away. This is a more accurate depiction of the sort of competencies I test for in my games, though. Á la Carte Expendable Additions Luck Power Sanity Will Resources Depending on the campaign, one or more of these might be helpful. These can be used as roll-under attributes, but points from them may also be expended. F'rin

Agnostic Clerics

Faith and Doubt In a supernatural environment, parsimony insists that gods exist. But that doesn’t mean that your god exists, or that it likes you, or is listening to your entreaties. So, let’s keep the efficacy of prayer mostly secret. Only do this if it’s fun, obviously. Do you and your players like the idea of praying for water, and then looting the body of a dead ogre to find a full waterskin, and not knowing if it’s coincidence or not? Here’s what your player should tell you about their religion: God/Pantheon’s Name: Domain of Influence: Cleric's Sacred Duties: Cleric's Forbidden Acts: Weapons allowed to Clerics: Opposing Force/The Enemy: They can make up lots more, but that’s what’s essential. Secret Spells The GM instructs the player that they can pray for miracles, and the god might respond. Requesting too much can anger/bore the god. And the Enemy is listening, and will tempt you into damnation if you pray for the wrong thing. That's all

Scaffolds & Dragons: Trainers

Some trainers to go with my Training Levels for the Kid's Game. I'm thinking that you need to make arrangements with a trainer every level for Levels 1-4, and every other from 5-9, and you're pretty much self-educated from there. Durgan the Bear Actually a bear. An adventurer that has retired to the woods outside of town. Will happily spar with anyone who shows up at his cave bearing good food. Results: +1 to hit and damage in melee +1d6 Hit Points +1 Save vs. Disease At Fighting Level 1: wear Medium Armor w/o penalty At Fighting Level 3: wear Heavy Armor w/o penalty Fletch the Onocentaur Archer This rough half-man half-donkey has terrible manners and little interest in taking on students, but is the best archer you've ever seen. Results: +1 to hit and damage with ranged attacks +1d6 Hit Points +1 to Save vs. Paralysis Hawkeye: +1 to checks relating to seeing things that are far away Does not count as Fighting Level for purposes of wearing armo

Bug Collectors In the Necropolis

An additional ecosystem for +Arnold K. 's  Bug Collector class . Levels 1-3 roll 1d10. Levels 4-5 roll 1d12. Levels 6-8 roll 1d14. Higher levels, you need to make something up, I guess. Ain't no sin to take off your skin and dance around in your bones. Collect the first ten and earn your Necropolis Bug Badge!  +2 Save vs. Disease. Collect all 14 for the Necropolis Master Badge! Turn Undead as a first level Cleric, advancing levels from there. Banker’s Beetle: This ravenous scarab will eat up to 1000 coins, and then kill itself pooping out a jewel of roughly equivalent value (1d6: 1. 60%; 2. 75%; 3. 80%; 4. 90%; 5. 100%; 6. 110%). Skull Maggot: Let this guy crawl around a recent corpse for about ten minutes and then eat it. You gain a vision of the exact circumstances of the deceased’s demise, and make the rest of the party think you are super-gross. Mimic Polyp: Can take on the appearance of a small valuable object for about one Turn. Useful for distracting pu

Houserule: Parley

This procedure was developed in the wake of reading the social mechanics put forward by  +Courtney Campbell  in On the Non Player Character . It is not meant as a replacement for the rich, nuanced, and highly-gameable content of that book. And I think what is presented below is mechanically distinct. But I'm not trying to steal anyone's lunch money. If Campbell has any objections, I'll yank this post down, no worries.  EDIT: Got the all-clear from Campbell! Read on with a clear conscience. Upon an Encounter When PCs encounter NPCs in a dangerous environment, such as the Underworld or Wilderness, the PCs have a number of ways they can respond, including: attack, flee, stealth, or communication. If the PCs choose to communicate, they enter Parley. Parley There are three broad outcomes possible from Parley:          1. Combat          2. Help          3. Leaving each other alone. Unless they have a specific mission relevant to encountering a bunch of adventurer

Scaffolds & Dragons: Distances and Encounter Awareness

Distances I don't use miniatures, and rarely even use maps, so I don't have much use for measuring distance in feet or inches or what-have-you. Here are the descriptive units of distance I do use instead: 1. Touch/Grapple         Combat: only small weapons are effective (dagger, fists, very small pistol)         Communication: whispers 2. Melee         Combat: standard hand-to-hand distance         Communication: low-talking 3. Near/Reach         Combat: long weapons (spears, pole arms, whips)         Communication: normal speech 4. Thrown         Combat: ranged weapons are effective; objects can be thrown (rocks, daggers, axes)         Communication: raised speech 5. Short-range         Combat: small bow, pistols, sling         Communication: shouting 6. Long-range         Combat: long bows, crossbows         Communication: loud yelling heard indistinctly. 7. Very Long-range         Combat: siege weapons, sniper rifles         Communication: horns and dr

Three Reviews: Creature Compendium, On the NPC, and Kefitzah Haderech

Inspired by a Lulu coupon, I did a little shopping. Old School Adventures™ Accessory CC1: Creature Compendium by Richard LeBlanc 92 pages, $10.96 I didn't especially feel the need for a monster manual— what's easier than making up a monster? But I wanted to have one lying around for the kid to pore over— what's more inspiring than a bunch of monsters?  This has certainly done the job. The kid has been writing up little adventures since he first saw this book. It's a beautifully organized book. There is a full page at the beginning that clearly explains every statistic and notation you'll find anywhere else, all monsters are fully stat'ed for 0e and B/X, there are complete treasure tables in the back, and an index of XP values calculated for no less than six different OSR editions. And every entry is illustrated, which, really, is the sine qua non of monster manuals. The book is presented with the assumption that you have a more standard monster man

Dice: Attribute Checks

I've been using attribute checks a lot, lately. My PbP game is  Beyond the Wall, which uses attributes and additive skill bonuses. At home, I've been playing Holmes with the kid, with straight attribute checks bolted on. Now, there is a powerful spartan appeal to the default 1d6 skill check of OD&D and B/X. And there's a curvy elegance to the 2d6 check of Traveller and *World. You can use OD&D-style attribute bonuses with 1d6, and B/X-style bonuses with 2d6 without breaking anything. But I've been using using the standard d20 vs. Attribute Score.  Largely, this is because I hate to not use the attribute scores. They are such a prominent part of the character sheet, we expend such hope and energy on rolling them up, and they are so central to how we envision our character—how could we not use them? With the kid's games, I've found this especially gratifying. The kid grasped the significance of the attributes, and how to apply them to a singl