Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Bruce Galloway's Piety Points System

My earlier post about Holy Lands, the explicitly Christian fantasy rpg, had me thinking more about the 1981 Bruce Galloway game I'd also mentioned there. Though it's generally considered an abomination of a rules set, if one can manage to put that aside along with the ridiculously pretentious name, The Highest Level of All Fantasy Wargaming (here after “HLFW”), does have some interesting game mechanics. One of these involves tracking a character's favor with God or their chosen deity by utilizing “Piety Points” (PPs).

For the player, there is the choice of two pantheons or mythos in Galloway's game – either the Christian, or the Norse. Rough analogies are made between Christian saints and Norse deities for logistical purposes, and I'm sure any pantheon or one of the GM's own design could be used as well.

Beginning with a base score of zero piety points, actions which curry favor with God (or “Good” gods) or with the Devil (or evil gods) will add or subtract piety points respectively. To use an example, murder might greatly subtract from your piety points – if this put you below zero points, you’d have more favor with the devil, or would have fallen from grace. Differing amounts of piety points correspond to Piety Bands (PBs), either negative or positive: 0-9 PP = PB 1, 10-39 PP = PB 2, etc. with the width of each band increasing by 10 PP each time (meaning that the more debased or in a state or grace you are, the harder it is to rise or fall from it).

Which PB the character is in will effect their ability to call upon their deity for magical purposes of divine intervention. HLFW doesn't distinguish classes from one another – characters gain experience in the areas of Combat/Adventuring, Religion, and Magic. All characters track PP, and consequently must consider whether or not their actions might be considered sinful. Even characters who aren't actively seeking favors from their deity should be wary of committing sins that may attract the attention of demons looking to bind or possess them.

It's an interesting approach to the problems alignment can bring up. Tables are provided that list the effects various sins have on PP total. Implementing consequences for immoral/unethical behavior is built right in to the game rules, dovetailing neatly with the actual mechanics of magic in the game but also even potentially effecting the direction of the overall narrative. Imagine having your character compelled to follow through on a demon's twisted plan, having been finally bound to its service because of your foolish carousing and sinful ways!

It might be a fun exercise to see if the system could be adapted for use with the Cleric class in my Labyrinth Lord campaign. Various deities would have different types of tables to consult based on the virtue or sinfulness of one's deeds and the Gods' areas of interest and spheres of influence. Still, I think most players would shun the whole concept. Just look at the recent poll here for why: “Screw Alignment!” wins handily at 32%! The (relatively) innocuous treatment of alignment in 0E/B&X/1st Edition D&D seems already onerous and freedom constricting to many. I've never played 2nd edition, but in light of this I can see why the experience point penalties outlined in that edition's rules for changing alignment might have been met with skepticism.

I’m no fan of alignment in D&D (don’t get me started on alignment languages!) and find the even stricter moral and ethical decision tracking and punishment in HLFW to be just another impediment to actual roleplaying. But who knows? Maybe this kind of mechanic would be helpful in moving the game narrative forward in a more precise and predictable fashion - something I don't want or need but that other DMs might appreciate depending on the type of campaign they’ve devised.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Drago's Spells Not Worth Memorizing

I've really got to spend some quality time on the Quest for the Clean Office and side adventures for the next couple of days, so here's a cheap link to Drago's "Spells Not Worth Memorizing" over at Duke U.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Dungeon! Boardgame Box Bottom

I've been meaning to scan some of TSR's old Dungeon! boardgame contents and pieces lately to post here...here's the box bottom. Dad looks a little more excited than the rest of the family, but maybe it's just the coffee talkin'.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Xtian Fantasy RPG Published

Once when reminiscing about the Christian Right's hate for D&D with a friend, I remember saying that I was surprised some enterprising capitalist hadn't yet created a D&D derivative that wouldn't in any way offend the Christian community , and that would actually promote Christian ideas and conversion. It seemed to only make sense that the Christian Fundamentalists would eventually co-opt D&D for their own purposes (if you can't beat 'em, join 'em, sorta)... Well, if they hadn't already done so then, they have now. Christian Holy Lands has a FAQ which should satisfy most of your curiosity. Sample excerpts:

Q: Can You Play other Character Races in Holy Lands, such as Dwarves, Elves, etc.?

Currently, Holy Lands characters can only be of some form of the human race since PEOPLE were created in the image of
God with a soul for eternal redemption.

...Your character’s job is to protect the Church from evil demons, sorcerers, and non-Christian invaders, all while you do your best to convert unbelievers...

How's that for "Imagining the hell out of it", S&W players!

I'm a little hesitant to check this out further by signing up for the download (why can't we get the PDF without giving up our email address and name already, hmm?).

I've played Bruce Galloway's "Highest Level of all Fantasy Wargaming" which hilariously included stats for many Christian saints and also for Joseph and the Virgin Mary. I wasn't even one of the faithful and knew that book had crossed a line. I suppose it's only a matter of time until an Islamic interpretation of D&D comes out as well.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Potion of Forgetting (Magic Item)

I’ve been fixated on The Mirror of Fixation a bit and somehow that lead to thinking about magic that can cause one to forget. In a sense, the Mirror of Fixation does this, forcing you to forget everything except love of self. But there is similar magic which isn't so focused in its effect. Unlisted in Dungeons & Dragons rules until the advent of AD&D is the 2nd level magic user spell “Forget”. While it’s ironic that a magic user will forget the Forget spell after casting it per the usual D&D magic rules, it’s also ironic that it seems to be forgotten from the D20 SRD.

Fine, adapting the Forget spell from OSRIC or the 1E Player's Handbook for use with Labyrinth Lord is not a problem, but I can't find explicit references to Potions with the same effect in the old D&D rules sets (including 1E). It seems unfair to let the Harry Potter fans hoard their Potions of Forgetfulness. So like the Mirror of Fixation, not finding this previously described in our game's ancient tomes I felt obliged to "create" and document this simple item here...
Potion of Forgetting

This tasteless and colorless liquid substance will wipe all memory of recent events from the person who imbibes it. The potion's effects are permanent and will generally remove all trace of the last hour's worth of memory (save allowed vs. Spells/Spell-Like Devices), although sometimes less: experienced alchemists know that Potions of Forgetting are notorious for losing their efficacy over time. Legends tell of more powerful Potions of Forgetting which have been known to wash away memories weeks or even years old, but these are extremely rare.

Every imaginable sort of trickery and deceipt have been accomplished through the use of this item. Because of the difficulty in detecting its presence, it's often used to spike food or drink. Potent stuff, it can even be thrown into the face and eyes of an individual (saving throw made at +2). Known to be used in traps as a liquid projectile, spies and thieves are still very fond of and familiar with this potion. When else can you throw what appears to be your drink directly into the face of a bartender, resulting only in the convenient erasure of your tab?

Strangely, some folk have been known to willingly imbibe or wash their own eyes with this potion after witnessing something incredibly horrible (thanks Al!) ... As there may be a slightly addictive quality to the potion when taken repeatedly in such a manner, dungeoneers are encouraged to stick to the equally addictive but cheaper and probably safer liquids of scotch, ale, and mead when dealing with heart or sword break.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Ancient Wonders Game Store (near Portland, OR)

Lately I haven't had the time to visit the local game stores here in Eugene and find out if they knew about Free RPG Day or if they'd decided not to participate for some reason. Today though, I had to go to Portland on business, so on the way back home I hit up the only store listed on the Free RPG Day website that seemed doable to me. The list there appears to have been taken down since I last looked, but I believe Ancient Wonders in Tualitin was the only participant in the Portland area. There was also one in Salem, but unfortunately I've now forgotten its name.

Ancient Wonders is very easy to get to from I-5, it's about two minutes off the freeway. There was off street parking, and from the outside it looks very modest. I recommend the owners consider putting up a sign on the south side of the building as you have to be driving right past it to know it's the place you're looking for.

Stepping inside, I immediately liked it. It had a friendlier, older feel to it than the two game stores I've been to in Eugene. It was well stuffed with a great variety of games, all of the usual things you'd expect, as well as a lot of older used items. An employee asked if I needed any help finding something and directed me to some shelves that were stacked with 1st and 2nd edition AD&D books. They also had a large box of vertically stacked and bagged B/X and 1E AD&D modules, and some older supplements.

I asked if they'd participated in Free RPG Day and if they had any swag left and the employee said "Sure, tons!" and showed me to another large box of an assortment of goodies. It still had some items from the previous year in it too.

While I was poking around through that box and talking with a couple other patrons about early '80s D&D, the employee said, well if you're into that stuff, come check this out.

He showed me to a part of the store where hanging on the wall, within a glass frame, was a pristine copy of "The Palace of the Vampire Queen", published in 1976 by Wee Warriors. This is said to be the first ever stand alone adventure module. It had a price tag of $2500. There's a Near Mint one for sale on eBay at just over $2000 if you're looking for a bargain. Cool, a bit of gaming history I'd never seen before! Jeff has a fine article on this item over at his game blog, as does Acaeum.com.

I forgot to look and see if there was a bulletin for "game/gamers" wanted, but there was clearly an active gaming community at the store, and though the website looks a little dated, there is a calendar of events (I see Hackmaster was or still is being played on a regular basis there). The owner had never heard of Swords & Wizardry or Labyrinth Lord though.

So what free swag did I get? I wanted one of everything in that free box, but tried to limit myself to a few items that I've had the most interest in either re-acquiring or in checking out the rules systems. So, I picked: Traveller Book 0 (I had the original Traveller digest sized books and miss them), Paranoia: The Citizen's Guide to Surviving Alpha Complex, the short rules version of Tunnels & Trolls, the short rules version of Castles & Crusades, and finally a hard copy of my previously mentioned Paizo Bestiary Supplement.

Even better though, were the great deals I got on a number of old D&D items - certainly better than what I would've paid on eBay. I went a little overboard, but just couldn't walk away from that box knowing I'd regret not snagging some of its goodness while I still could. I'll be back.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Why I Use Index Cards in my VOIP Games

Need I say more? Where's Waldo fans might be able to find my mini GM screen and my PC cards in that mess. Yep, that's Lord Kilgore's site.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Gord the Rogue by Gary Gygax

I'd never read anything by Gygax other than his D&D rulebooks and supplements, and decided to pick up something cheaply so I could have a sample. I wanted to get a sense of his fiction writing and maybe get a small sense of what it would be like to have him as a DM. Obviously writing fiction and dungeon mastering are very different things, but I still thought there should be a slight flavor there to pick up. I thought about reading some reviews of his books, but didn't want to influence my own opinions and first impressions. I looked for books at the local library, but they didn't have anything in fiction by him. So having some credit at Amazon, I went there and found a used but readable book for about $6 shipped called "Gord the Rogue - Sea of Death", with pretty bad looking art. Not wanting to judge a book by its cover, and liking the price, I ordered it.

I got a couple dozen pages into it when I realized that I was still reading about a bunch of demons on the 353rd layer of the plane of Abyss, who were busy squabbling and conspiring to retrieve pieces of a magical item of tremendous power on another dimension. It was actually pretty cool.

Later on though, I was disappointed to learn that not only did Gord the thief (or rogue, in later edition D&D parlance) magically have the ability to self-resurrect nine times if need be and return to a plane ruled by a cat diety, but that he himself could polymorph at will into a black panther. Now when I was a kid in 1982, I liked the Beastmaster as much as anyone (especially the scene, well, you know what I'm talking about), but this actual changing into a cat bit is over the top for me - too much like a comic book for my taste in fantasy. Come to think of it, Cat People came out in 1982 also (another movie I loved for a number of reasons as a kid, Nastassja Kinski being among them). Frankly, Gygax seems to have missed the boat a little on this, given that the book came out five years later. Still, '82 was a peak for early D&D, and perhaps it made an impression on him. Don't get me wrong, I'm ok with a bit of farce in my fantasy, but this wasn't intended as such. He has nine lives? Don't hit us over the head with it or anything.

Gord meets up with a disguised female Drow Elf, who's actually a clone. She doesn't remember who she is due to an injury (or perhaps due to just being cloned, I forget). She's a hot number, and they hook up. Seriously pulpy stuff. Imagine this dark skinned elven beauty hanging out with her "pet" black panther Gord! Where's the Frazetta book cover of this, I ask!?

Please don't misunderstand: I'm enjoying reading this, but it's...interesting. I can't point to specific examples from memory, but there are times when Gygax seems to devote a little too much attention to things which are not really needed to further describe the setting or move the plot forward, and it almost reminds me of the same (arguable) overindulgence one finds in something like his Harlot Encounter Table of DMG fame.

I haven't finished this book yet, and there may yet be redemption for these petty grievances. I keep telling myself, it's Gygax man, Gygax! I did enjoy the Albino Ape scene quite a bit (btw - I'm familiar with these, but where is it listed? I couldn't find it in my MMI or II, nor the FF). What's not to like about a few dozen mute, white, gorillas attempting to rend and bite your flesh in a temple buried under a mountain of ash?

To be honest, I haven't read all that much fantasy. I'm interested though, it's just something I haven't read for the last twenty years or so, and I'm adding to my "to read" list as I peruse other OSR blogs when the subject comes up. I guess I'm still trying to figure out which type of sub-genre appeals most to me.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Mirror of Transfixion (Magic Item)

Arguably the most common type of magical mirror is that which traps those who behold their own image within it. There is of course the Mirror Of Life Trapping, referred to in the 1st edition of the Dungeon Master's Guide, but that's a bit more elaborate than the classic, simple, immobilizing mirror which I'm envisioning. Also within that sage tome, you'll find the Mirror of Mental Prowess and the Mirror of Opposition. So mirrors being all the rage this week (see bat's Mindseye Mirror and Lord Kilgore's Mirror of Yesterday spells), and not finding written elsewhere what I've been looking for, I thought I'd document my own modest creation here...

Mirror of Transfixion

Also known as "Mirrors of Invanity", anyone who sees their own reflection in them must make a saving throw against Paralysation. Charisma Reaction Adjustment scores are tripled and then added to (or subtracted from) the roll. For example, a 2nd level fighter with Charisma 18 should subtract 6 from their d20 roll, effectively requiring him to roll a "20" to save. Similarly but conversely, a homely 1st level dwarf with Charisma 8 adds 3 to his saving throw roll, effectively requiring only a "7" to save.

Failure to save will cause the victim to stare at their reflection in the mirror in total self-love and admiration for a full day. Attempting to break their gaze or to take the mirror from them will result in a furious attack until they are unconscious or until the mirror is returned, whereupon gazing will begin again. Breaking a mirror which has currently bewitched anyone will cause damage equal to one third the Charisma score of the victims, rounded down, +2HP per character level. Victims can be moved by being pushed and pulled about, as long as they're permitted to continue primping themselves and staring into the mirror.

Mirrors of Transfixion can come in any size, although the smallest are most desired as sources of entrapment and mischief. These pocket sized items are usually made of silver, their delicate and ornately decorated outsides being hinged, hiding and protecting the mirror surface itself until opened.

Update: I struggled a bit with determining how to calculate damage if a bewitching mirror is broken, although I'm sure I want it to be at least partially dependent on the charisma of the character - suggestions welcomed!

Image source: CC licensed photo by flikr user caryatidxx, GIMP'd by le bulette and also CC
Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic licensed :-)

Free Bestiary Supplement Tomorrow at Paizo

A free 16 page Bestiary Supplement PDF will be available at paizo.com tomorrow, part of the Free RPG Day festivities. I don't play Pathfinder (though I could probably be talked into joining a game of it), but I'm interested in this in hopes that it lives up to Paizo's usual standards of great art. And who doesn't want to add to their collection of bestiaries?

Too bad my local game stores, all three of them, aren't participating. Hmm, I've been meaning to visit and briefly review them here for some time (seeing as how populous Eugene, Oregon is, and how vast my readership! cough cough), maybe this is the chance I've been waiting for, so I can point out what an opportunity to give away product they're missing out on... :-)

Update: I either misread their original posting or they changed the terms, but their page now reads: A free PDF and a limited number of copies of the print edition of this product will be available for sale exclusively on paizo.com after Free RPG Day 2009 concludes, - Monday the 22nd

Update: Link to download page.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Labyrinth Lord Compatible Hirelings Generator and Record Sheet

I was really inspired by Lord Kilgore's draft of a "Labyrinth Minions" maker. I've been meaning to do something similar for a while, now that my campaign is well underway. So, lifting (er, heavily borrowing!) from his draft and working out my own house rules, I came up with a Hireling Generator and combined it with a Hireling Character Record Sheet. I formatted these to fit nicely on 4x6 index cards to go along with my PC/NPC cards. I'll never go back to 3x5, that was making even me blind. I suspect there's only a few who'd be interested in this since most folks use larger record sheets, but for anyone who is:

You can download it here.

(update: you can customize this with your own house rules by using the fillable version of this available here. see also the S&W version.)

A few explanations: obviously your own house rules may differ. I didn't want to necessarily guarantee the success of finding hirelings, esp. in small towns. In my setting, anyone seeking to go dungeoneering is considered seriously loco. Accompanying adventurers is generally something that's done by the desperate, crazy, and eccentric. In a village or small town, where there may be only one inn or tavern, success is not a given. In a larger town it is, but there's a limit as to how many you can find in a day. I think Lord Kilgore's 5gp per attempt seems reasonable, but decided to limit my players to one attempt per day (btw, all of these house rules are not written in stone anywhere even though they're printed on paper).

In terms of weapons and armor, I tend to agree with Robert Lionheart's "Random Hireling Generator" in Knockspell #1. Most potential hirelings are poor, and poorly trained. Thus they aren't equipped with shields, and are prone to having spears and leather armor - if serving as only porters or other non-combatants, they will be armed only with a club or dagger, and only "attack" in self-defense. One of the tables is a bit squinty (you try doing decent layout on a 4x6 index card!), but it won't be used too often.

I included an attack table and saving throws based on 0-level fighters, and tried to leave a little space for notes in case I felt like using anything from the aforementioned Lionheart article in particular. Fonts used were Calibri (Regular & Bold) and Blackmoor LET. I was going to use Blackletter instead of Blackmoor, but it seemed less readible at this size. The Blackmoor font is embedded in the PDF, but if it doesn't display the header correctly for you, you may need to install that font seperately.

Update: Having given this some thought, I changed the hit point distribution table so that hirelings are a little tougher (after all, what 1hp freak would be able to carry your treasure, let alone watch your back as a man-at-arms?). I also re-named the card as "Labyrinth Lord Compatible", which makes me more comfortable as it's certainly not anything official and I wanted to be in full compliance (the thumbnail pictures don't reflect this though). I probably should do something similar with the PC cards, but it doesn't seem as important given that there aren't any dice tables involved...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The 1981 TSR Catalog

I bought an item from eBay last week and was happily surprised to find that it came with an original TSR catalog from 1981. Being sick and not terribly inspired to write up a longer post today, I decided to scan it and upload it to my other site.

Enjoy the trip down memory lane, or else see what us older kids were drooling over in days of yore.
Wish I could still get one of those $6 t-shirts!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Medieval Demographics

In responding to a Swords & Wizardry forum post seeking input on a proposed character background profession generator, I looked around a little bit for some information on the web about medieval demographics and found two interesting sites I thought I'd share here. "Medieval Demographics Made Easy" by S. John Ross seems to be a well researched exploration of the subject, with some specific examples that nicely put things into perspective. Brandon Blackmoor took the data and put it into an interactive web page where you can easily break down your own fantasy campaign setting's numbers.

I've read some good blog posts on the subject of economics in folks' campaigns, and these new resources sync nicely with them.

What information sources or general inspiration have you used in determining your campaign's demographics?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Gauntlets of Grasping (Magic Item)

Appearing to be normal if somewhat decorative, Gauntlets of Grasping are never meant to be worn simultaneously. When only one is worn, the other's movements will mimic that of the one which is... This is usually quickly ascertained by any first time wearer - as soon as one puts on the glove and flexes their fingers/hand, the other glove will move accordingly. The effect is maintained at a distance of up to 60' from the other glove. A wearer can even move the unworn glove across the ground in a crude crawling fashion by moving his fingers appropriately.

The gloves have a small degree of sentience - they are neither Good nor Evil in nature, but are in some sense "married" to one another. If they are further away from each other than 60' and one is worn, the worn glove will become scalding hot, forcing the wearer to remove it or suffer 1hp of damage per round. If both gloves are worn simultaneously, there is a 50% chance that the gloves will attack the wearer by attempting to strangle him (treat as HD 1, AC 6, Atk 1 (1d4) Save 16). Anyone attempting to help the wearer in such an event is just as likely to be attacked themselves.

Prized by mischievous creatures as well as by men for the pranks these gauntlets make possible, they've also been known to be used in elaborate traps. A story is told of a dramatic prison escape involving this item.

I came up with this idea on a road trip with Vince a while back. Other name suggestions welcomed! Artwork is an adaptation of CC licensed photo by flikr user unforth, I used Gimp and Delineate. Artwork available under a Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

Friday, June 12, 2009

LL with Nick - Return to Hommlet

Nick's game continued tonight - he's never played the Temple of Elemental Evil, which I was shocked to find out, so I strongly impressed upon him his need to play it... at least to some extent. I'm probably going to substitute something for the Temple bit, but wanted him to at least play in Hommlet and the moathouse near to it.

As I mentioned in my last game journal post, Nick's character Agnal had been discovered to be of evil persuasion. I don't think he fully realized what spell had been cast on him at the church, but after wandering around the town for a while, he and his travelling companion Mog ended up visiting the druid Jaroo, who made courteous small talk and then suggested that they dine together at the inn. Back at the inn, Jaroo mentioned that he saw some village leaders in a private room off from the main dining hall, and that Agnal and Mog should meet them, considering the types of questions they'd been asking him and of others around town.

"After you..." he said to them, motioning them into the company of seven men seated at a long dining table. On the left, the priest they'd met earlier at the church, Calmert. Farther away on the same side was Terjon, his superior. Rufus, an imposing fighting man sat still farther away on the left - at the head of the table sat Burne, obviously a magician. On the right side of the table were three individuals who appeared to be travellers, one of whom was an elf.

Introductions were not made, only Burne announced his name and spoke to Agnal, asking his business in town. His tone became increasing aggressive, as Nick (Agnal that is) struggled to kiss ass ingratiate himself and explain (audio clip!) how his church had sent him to help. In the end, it was hopeless for Agnal - Calmert had notified Terjon of the evil nature of Agnal, who had then contacted Rufus, and Burne, who had himself contacted Jaroo to arrange a meeting. They had not expected to be able to meet with Agnal himself, but merely to discuss his detention and interrogation at some future point. Here now he'd introduced himself to them, and they confirmed Calmert's magic by using their own. Agnal confessed to nothing, but was led from the room to be shackled and questioned further to be followed by his expulsion at a great distance from the village. Mog did a good job of explaining her relationship with her church and Agnal, and once her basically good nature was confirmed, was asked to join the other three at the table.

These three were: Narmain, a fighter, Ipsil the thief, and Eluxen Dawnrazor (fancypants), an elf. These three had made it known that they were available for hire should the town need any evil exterminated, and after being interviewed by Burne and the lot, it had been agreed that they'd be told of the ruined moathouse's existence and encouraged to go there and find out whether it was being used as a hideout for bandits or any other nefarious purposes. Burne and the others were reluctant to go themselves, lest the village be attacked in their absence. The four adventurers were joined shortly thereafter by a huge fighter named Kersow Kaludh and ventured out to the moathouse.

As everyone who's ever played this module can likely guess, the party was of course promptly jumped by the giant frogs near to the ruins' entrance, and though suffering no losses, all but the elf suffered serious injuries requiring them to turn back to town without even having been able to enter.

A pretty smooth session - I appreciated both my digest sized copy of LL and my miniature DM screen for the space they saved me (my office desk is an absolute mess). The index card character sheets were perfect and allowed me to shuffle through the party during combat very quickly.

There wasn't a ton of action tonight, but we did get to some combat and managed to work out the potential stumbling block of the evil Agnal (whom we may not have seen the last of!)... From here on there will be straight up dungeoneering to be done, which should prove more fun. I was glad to hear that Nick enjoyed the session as much as I. Hopefully we can get another session in this weekend. Next weekend we might do a test of his self-made fantasy rpg instead of playing LL. Should be interesting.

Moathouse artwork by Dave Trampier, copyright TSR

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Show Your Love for OSRIC

Now that the Old School Reference and Index Compilation is finally in print, why not go all out and share your love for it with the world by accessorizing with this keychain! You smokers can also make a statement as you pretend to be that dragon on its cover...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Solitaire Adventures - DM'less Play

Yoyorobbo's "Solo Module - Conquered?" post got me thinking about the dearth of these solo modules.

I think all but one of TSR's solitaire modules were meant to be used with included magic marker pens - MV1 came with a special invisible ink viewer. Check out Yoyorobbo's other earlier post which goes into more detail and has links about some of these solo adventures. I'm digging out my old copy of Tunnels & Trolls (never played it) I picked up at a second hand store fairly recently now that I've found out from that post that there were solitaire modules made for it too. That thing looks used.

D&D solitaire play was a pretty cool idea, taking the whole "choose your own adventure" books up several notches. I'd love to see if a small company like Brave Halfling could accomplish something like this. Maybe the production costs would be prohibitive, but printing these out and then covering the to be hidden sections with sticky notes by hand might be a lo-fi way of making them (even though very time consuming). Another way it could be done would be with printed cards (it always comes back to my index cards!) - map area numbers on one side, description on the other, meant to be placed face down with the numbers on top and kept in numerical order. If that sounds crazy, look at Jim at LOTFP's labor of love and the time and effort put into his Green Devil Face.

So someone out there reading this, hop to it and make and sell one of these for all of us isolated players wanting to scratch that gaming itch between group sessions!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Fast Packs

I've talked about how character creation has slowed down my games more than once. Fast packs are a great first aid for this...A pre-made set of items to get the players into action with their characters more quickly.

I first saw them in TSR's B4 module "The Lost City" (pictured above). Al's "Starting Equipment Package" at his blog Beyond the Black Gate is the most imaginative use of fast packs I've seen, coming as they do with a proper back story/setting. Very cool! I'm not sure how the item costs correspond with LL/S&W, but Microlite20's site also has a PDF of fast packs.

I'll have to whip some of these up, with a proper back story at some point. They're just too handy and often used to not have readily available, and the possibility of a plot hook or twist is hard to pass up.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Killer Grass

Carnivorous Grass (more commonly "Killer Grass") is very rarely found near elfen and human settlements due to the ease with which it's been eradicated by local authorities - more typically it's encountered in remote and unmapped regions. It is virtually indistinguishable from common types of grass found in many areas, but it never grows more than about a foot high and is usually about 10' to 20' in diameter. The absence of any animals upon the surface of Killer Grass is probably the only way to identify it as abnormal, as they seem to instinctively know of its danger.

Killer Grass is a type of carnivorous plant. Its method of attack is to remain motionless and wait for a creature in seek of rest. When its intended prey lies down and goes to sleep, the grass blades of the creature will slowly prick the surface of the victim. A numbing poison is injected, and the blades then begin to insert themselves deeper and deeper into the exposed flesh of their prey. At a certain point, the prey becomes completely immobilized, even when it at last awakes. When the victim begins to move, the Grass releases digestive acids which counteract the original numbing poison. Due to the excruciating pain produced by any movement once this occurs, escape by attempting to rip free of the Grass becomes nearly impossible without assistance. Death by Killer Grass is particularly gruesome: victims are slowly dissolved (but sometimes expire due to exposure long before they are completely digested). Over time, the skeletons and even possessions of the victims are also dissolved, leaving no trace.

A symbiotic relationship of sorts can occur between Killer Grass and other creatures - all manner of monsters (and evil humans) have been known to protect patches of Killer Grass found around the base of shade trees and elsewhere, for the obvious benefits of easy food and looting. Because of this, calling for help if ensnared by Killer Grass often results in the appearance of nearby ogres, bugbears, etc. (increased chance of wandering monster encounters in vicinity).

Enterprising individuals of non-Lawful alignment have been known to attempt its cultivation for a number of purposes.

Stats: HD 1; AC 9; Atk 1 acid (1d4 per day once victim awakens or after 1 hour of contact); Move Neglible (apx. 1' per hour); Save 16; Special: Paralyze (via entanglement)

Cheesy GIF artwork created by R. Hewlett & released under CC Attribution License 2.0, source images were by flikr users 100kr & billolen (also CC A.L. 2.0). Tools: Delineate, GIMP, Inkscape, GIFfun

Friday, June 5, 2009

They're Starting to Breed Now

I still get a kick out of "real world" use of the six basic character attributes. There was the crass "man, she's got an 18 charisma" at lunch hour in Junior High, but even a year ago I remember talking with my friend Vince about how I might have lost a charisma point due to a new scar after a surgery. I know a few folks who lost an intelligence point or two in college...

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Labyrinth Lord - Custom Digest Size

My previously unmentioned custom "Perfect Purple Box" of Labyrinth Lord is getting closer to completion with the creation of my digest sized version of the book. Ah yes, now all these miniaturized items begin to make sense... Purely for fetishistic purposes!

Well, that's not entirely true. There is some utility to having a small screen and character cards, but the digest sized book in particular I'm very happy with - the coil bound book lies perfectly flat, is very readable, and also takes up less desk space. I've found myself struggling to locate room descriptions, shuffling maps, and having to turn large pages of the rules book too much, and this will definitely help.

I must confess to having really only visualized this particular creation. Someone else was able to implement it, namely "Evan" at the local Kinkos! The unbelievable thing is that due to a screw up, I have two copies of this beauty (although one is unbound) and was charged only $22. There is a very minor formatting screw up, which means that I can fix it and have them rebind the extra copy I have for only about $6. I think they should have charged me $32 for the one bound copy.

Pictures here: front, interior, back (textured vinyl), and clear vinyl cover protector shots. Here's another to show it how it lays on the table. Yes, I have a lot of spare time on my hands lately.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Truth Telling Pig (Magic "Item")

The Truth Telling Pig, or "Le Porc de la Vérité" is a rare magic item found only in very rural farming communities.

It is rumored that the first such "Pig of Truth" was created by a wizard in sore need of rest and recuperation, following an epic battle. Penniless, the wizard is said to have magicked a farmer's pig in trade for being allowed to stay and convalesce in the care of the farmer's wife. Ironically, some say that it was the pig that led to the wizard's demise, as the farmer was ultimately able to prove the wizard's adulterous behavior to the local village elders and militia. These pigs are highly sought after as breeding of them has proven they're able to pass their magical ability on to their litter, although this seems to be rare and possibly attributable to how well the pigs are cared for prior to their becoming pregnant.

How it works: Anyone who lays a hand on the pig and speaks can be determined to be telling the truth or to be lying based on the appearance of the pig's spots: If the person is lying, the spots on the pig will begin to coalesce and arrange themselves in such a pattern that the unmistakeable word "Liar" will be seen upon it. Similarly, truth tellers will reveal the word "True" in the spots on the pig. No saving throw is allowed for the person(s) in contact with the pig.

If more than one person touches the pig simultaneously, or if one person holds hands or otherwise touches another person who touches the pig, results will be similar (ie. "True" or "Liars" will manifest), but if one or more people tell the truth but one lies, or vice versa, no spots on the pig will rearrange, and the result will be inconclusive.

Those seeking to somehow assume the truth-telling abilities of the pigs through consumption of them take a great risk in doing so:

Roll 1d6:

1: No Effect
2. Consumer can only tell lies forever after.
3. Consumer must answer any direct questions and always truthfully.
4. Consumer alternately tells the truth and then lies, every other sentence.
5. Consumer can speak the truth, but always loudly snorts afterward.
6. Consumer gains the ability to Detect Lie (as per the spell) once per day.

(Published in Knockspell #3)

This magic item was completely inspired by Jim Woodring's "Truth Telling Pig" illustration, pictured above.

Mini Labyrinth Lord Screen

In keeping with my small index card sized character sheets, I made a small "DM" screen... I'm not concerned with hiding maps/adventure text, so I don't need a larger version, and this takes up a lot less space on my game table and also on my desk when playing via voip. Can be a bit squinty, but it's not too bad because of the cell shading.

It's not a very complicated process, but someone over at the Goblinoid Game forums asked for a how-to breakdown, so I wrote one up there.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Early Musical Influences

I was listening to a lot of Genesis as a kid when I was first playing D&D. I've no idea what effect that might have had on me as a kid, but I can't help but think that some of that 70's music was Gygaxian, or at least Tolkien inspired.

Dancing With the Moonlit Knight
... Lyrics... Interpreted

Dance on a Volcano ... Live Video and Lyrics

The Fountain of Salamacis ... Live Video and Lyrics

A Trick of the Tail ... (Lyrics)

There's a lot more from these years that's similarly themed, most of it was really led by the more talented Gabriel (vs. Collins), but I didn't give up on Genesis until after Abacab. The superb "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" album from 1974 was the band's peak, IMHO.