Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year, Peace & Good Will Toward Mankind!

I hope you have a great new year, gentle hearted readers... I have a very good feeling about 2010 indeed, although I cannot explain why! I will return now to my previously recorded "A Clockwork Orange" and see through the end of 2009 while sipping Pendleton Canadian whisky. May the Orcs, Goblins, and Kobolds steer clear of you in the New Year, and may you find your way to the treasure of the thousand dungeons you wish to explore. Peace.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

OSRIC Game Play Journal: Circling the Tower

(I’m a player in this game, not the DM.) There was a lot of mistrust in the party today, as three NPCs voted one way and the others four (PCs) in the group voted against them (with one abstention). The vote was for another split party recon of the tower. The PCs voting thought that it might be good to hypnotise the magic user NPC to see if she was legit, but in the end the cleric Ouze offered to (presumably use “Detect Evil” or “Detect Alignment”) and ask his god/goddess for guidance about her and offer advice based on this. You may recall that previously Ouze had been hypnotized himself by Dennis the Gnome Illusionist and found to be trustworthy. So they found her (through Ouze) to at least not have malevolent purposes, and the party agreed to her suggestion that she “use her magical means to attain the 2nd level of the tower” and then signal the rest of the party if it was safe to use the stairs up, once they’d entered.

The negotiations were intense leading up to this point, and the 2nd recon plan was put to the side and an actual approach and assault of the tower was to more speedily take place instead. Even still, there were a number of ruinous buildings (just rubble, really) to one side of the tower, so these were investigated first, until one was found to shelter a pit which contained a pathetic human-like creature who had been skinned, and staked to the ground through its hands and feet in a dog-like fashion. It was thought that this thing might be undead, and it was spoken to and when it didn’t respond, approached by one of the clerics to see if its flesh was warm. It was, and then there ensued a discussion as to whether the thing should be put out of its misery. The NPCs all voted against this, the PCs were split. Then Dennis Slyfoot, the Illusionist, persuaded Anrid the Fighter to release one of its bonds and see whether the thing attempted to attack him. Anrid could not remove the stake, and it was concluded that the thing was magically bound somehow, and that it was best ignored at this point. The party spent a great deal of time discussing this matter, even shooting the poor thing at one point (to no apparent effect) with a crossbow.

As is the norm now, another short session, but again with fun role-playing even if short on action this time around. Wow, we haven't played an OSRIC session since October. It felt good to get this going again...

Monday, December 28, 2009

Dungeon Chicken Now Available as Miniature

Ok ok, so maybe it's just a regular chicken. Depends on how you paint it I guess. Anyhow, I had to laugh after reading Megaminis' recent newsletter announcing their chicken minis, only two days after my recent Dungeon Chicken write up. Serendipity! Only $1, or get 16 for $8! :)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Dungeon Chicken

Armor Class: 7 [12]
Hit Dice: 1
Attacks: Beak or Claws for 1-2 hp
Saving Throw: 18
Special: Poison (see below)
Move: 6/15 (when flying short distances)
Challenge Level/XP: 1/15

Found in underground places, both genders of the Dungeon Chicken appear nearly identical to everyday roosters except that their combs and wattles are green instead of red. These are actually poison producing glands - similar glands of the same color are also located on their heels. They allow the sharp peck or claw of the Dungeon Chicken to deliver a poison whose effect is to cause fear and hysteria in the victim (treat as Fear spell: failure to Save causes character to flee in horror, with a 60% chance they will drop whatever they’re holding, effect lasts for one hour). They normally avoid conflict but will defend themselves vigorously if attacked or approached menacingly, or if they feel their offspring are in danger.

Dungeon Chickens are just as edible as their normal cousins, and while their eggs are not strictly poisonous, they can have strange magical effects. Even so, these creatures are sometimes kept as a source of food by underground dwellers such as kobolds and goblins. Their poison soon loses its efficacy after exposure to air, but some alchemists are said to have overcome this.

GIMP'd image, original here: / CC BY-SA 2.0

text of this post released under the OGL

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

S&W Game Play Journal: The Best Laid Schemes...

So we haven’t played in a long time, but the idea hatched in the last session was that the characters were going to lay a trap for local merchants by whom they’d been hired as guards (mostly to protect againt a known group of goblins). The idea was to have three party members lay in wait in darkness at a hairpin turn in the road and creek crossing - these party members would jump the merchants wagon (who couldn’t wait for a larger caravan) and an elaborate set of signals would provide communication between the two members with the merchants and the others which would culminate in the merchants being robbed but everyone remaining alive and well. It wasn’t clear at the outset if everyone actually intended for that to happen, but that was the plot they all agreed to with one another. The two characters with the merchants are Neutral in alignment btw, and the three who were to fake ambush them are all Chaotic.

Now Olav the (NPC) dwarf, an experienced (and trusted by the townspeople) caravan guard was along on the wagon. He was looking for real money here, having been talked into this scheme by Wagstaff the Thief, during a bout of heavy drinking. Since the last session (over several weeks), he’d been loaning his new comrades money to feed and shelter them. He was now half as rich as he had been since the fight with the rats, and the only reason he was entertaining Wagstaff’s idea was that the rat extermination job had earned him more in one day than a week had on the road as a guard (and they hadn’t even completed the rat job). He was also assured there would be no killing. Olav’s contribution to the scheme was to suggest the ambush location and convince the merchants when to depart in order for darkness and the rendevous point to be arranged properly. He’d heard that his proposed ambush point was also used by goblins as a location to raid traveling merchants, but he’d never had a problem in his guard duty, so he thought it very unlikely that the party would run into anything like this.

The day came for their evil scheme to take place - three had gone ahead the day before to hide at the ambush site, and Olav and Agnal rode on the wagon with the merchants - cloth merchants, as luck would have it...

(At this point I rolled to see if there was going to be any goblin activity at or near the ambush point on a roll of 1 in 6 - I rolled a one, so there were in fact goblins planning on going there near the same time.)

A couple of hours before the ambush was to take place, Snits the Elf, Berk the Fighter, and Agnal the Chaotic Cleric were hunched resting near the creek site when they heard voices coming closer. Agnal knows Goblinoid, and warned the others to get ready. They spotted four goblins approaching, hugging the road on either side of it. One was clearly slightly larger and it was he who was talking to the others, although what he was saying couldn’t be ascertained exactly at this distance.

Agnal then shouted out something to the effect of “Join us or die!”... the goblin lieutenant responded, “Why should we join or fear those that we cannot see?!?” Whereupon Agnal told the others to attack. Snits cast her Protection from Evil as Berk charged the lieutenant with his spear after missing him with a javelin. Agnal waited for the goblins to close. The goblin leader drew a short bow, and gravely injured Berk as he was charging, then slew him once he had closed and initially missed with his charge. Snits faired poorly, her attacking goblin scoring a lucky first hit. She was downed to zero one round later, her attacker running to join the attack on Agnal. Agnal had faired poorly too, and was reduced now to just one hit point. He surrendered and begged pathetically for his life just before Berk was slain by the leader.

The goblins dragged the lifeless carcass of Berk over to Agnal, as well as the unconscious and bloodied Snits to where he could see her. The goblins were obviously very pleased with their successful battle and also at having acquired the beautiful elven maiden. They applied first aid to her to keep her alive “for a few weeks” and asked Agnal why they should not kill him.

Agnal spewed a bunch of BS that even the goblins wouldn’t buy at that point. In the end they stripped him of literally everything he had on him, and told him to go back up the road to town as a mark of humiliation and as a warning or morale destroyer to the “huge party of dangerous adversaries” he’d tried to fool them into believing was coming very soon.

Shortly later, Wagstaff and Olav were surprised to see the naked and bloodied form of Agnal on the road, lumbering in their direction. Agnal’s story to the merchants was that he and his two (now dead and missing) friends had left town looking for better or more work (the merchants recognized him as someone they’d seen with Wagstaff and Olav at the local tavern) when they’d been jumped by goblins up the road. There was some discussion at that point whether they should continue and try to find a new route (and the remaining party improvise another ambush or some other trickery). The merchants, however, insisted on going back to town to join a larger caravan and to notify the militia of yet another goblin incursion.

Lesson here being, never split the party (even above ground). It’s possible an arrangement might have been reached with the goblins through another approach, but for now the party is back in town, poorer and down two of their number from where they were before. Needless to say, Olav is irate at this turn of events, especially since he will now never be repaid his loans to the former party members. Veritas only knows what the goblins are up to with Snit - one shudders to think. I suppose this is a bit of instant karma for these chaotic PCs, although it could have happened to anyone too (if only I hadn’t rolled that 1 on d6 early on). Berk chose to use the d30 on his spear charge, only to roll a 2. That could very well have killed him, although he does have a DEX -1 modifier and crappy armor already. It remains to be seen whether Olav will give up adventuring completely and turn into an honest working dwarf like his brothers, although something tells me his drinking may get the better of him again soon... As for Agnal, his self-esteem has hit a new nadir, this latest sorry event following on the heels of his public humiliation and exile from the previous settlement he'd tried to undermine. Wagstaff is happy to be alive and to have earned another gold piece for his time tonight - but money is running out quickly and desperation growing.

Monday, December 21, 2009

HP Boxes Poll Results

Re: Hit Point Check Mark Boxes in Published Modules...

Like 'em: 23%
Hate 'em: 20%
Huh? : 27%
Meh: 29%

Pretty even spread here, but I was surprised at the number of folks who've apparently no idea what I'm even talking about. Perhaps this will make it clearer:

I haven't played any Hackmaster personally but I've seen a HM module or two and these were in 'em. I think I've seen them in some non-TSR AD&D modules too, but I forget. I can't even remember where I got this example from, but I think it was from an indy module intended for OS games.

I actually like them a little bit, just for the fact that I'm lazy and it saves me a small amount of time in game play.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Artifact Deciphering in Gamma World and Elsewhere

As Chris rightly pointed out, I'd forgotten about these types of charts being used in Gygax's S3: Expedition to the Barrier Peaks. Here they are, for comparison purposes:
Though the system is largely the same, the 1980 charts have been tidied up a bit and clarified versus the Ward and Jaquet 1978 GW charts. I think it's interesting that though Metamorphosis Alpha (1976) is clearly the inspiration to both later TSR publications, the artifact deciphering system is different. MA uses a percentile system: cross referencing the Leadership Potential character ability vs. the item's complexity yields a percent chance of success.The more I think about it, the more I like the later system vs. the percentile system, for the potential additional (minor, but fun) role playing it affords, or at least seems to encourage more, even with the the speed and simplicity of the d% method. I've never played the 2nd through 6th(!) editions of Gamma World and wonder if the artifact deciphering rules were ever changed "back" to the percentile system.

Another approach are saving throws - Akrasia's excellent article "Thieves and Tasks" in Knockspell #2 discussed these as 'a kind of general task resolution system' which could easily be applied to resolving artifact deciphering. Matthew at The Wheel of Samsara proposed something like this using an INT Save with modifiers based on the item's complexity and with a short list of results to consult.

Update: Just to add for those that might play Mutant Future but who've never owned or played Gamma World: Considering MF has three levels of artifact complexity just like 1e GW, one could easily use the GW charts there if they wanted to (if this wasn't obvious). See previous post here...

Friday, December 18, 2009

Those Crazy Gamma World Charts

You know the ones I'm talking about:
These nearly amount to a game within a game. If it isn't obvious, or you don't remember or haven't seen 'em, they're the charts to consult when a player is trying to discover how to use an artifact. Basically, you'd roll on them up to a maximum of 5 times, at which point if you haven't figured it out by getting to "F" (you start at "S"), you can work at it for a straight hour (as long as you aren't interrupted) and you'll have figured it out. Die rolls take into consideration intelligence and mutations.

I haven't seen anything like this in an rpg that came before it or since. Mutant Future btw, uses a more familiar d% system, with base chances for the item's "Complexity Class", also taking into consideration INT and mutations.

Still, they make me smile.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Abandoned Water Park: Gamma World Or Mutant Future Inspiration

I would love to get a Gamma World or Mutant Future game going (although I'm having a hard enough time keeping my S&W/LL game going due to out of game demands), and when I saw this forum post of a portion of Walt Disney World abandoned in Florida, I immediately thought of how cool it would be for an adventure to take place there, or someplace inspired by it.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Free Chaosium Downloads for Call of Cthulu w/ Code

Sign up for an account with Chaosium if you don't have one already and use the code "CHAOS GOODIES " at checkout to get these two PDF downloads for free:

Christmas in Kingsport contains "...Five (mini adventure -z.b.) tales certain to scare the stockings off the mantle."

and Arkham, Now :
This is a PDF map depicting the city of Arkham, Massachusetts in the modern-day.

Update: Let me know if you have a download problem, I've tried with 2 different emails and accounts and haven't had a problem yet but YMMV. You might also try them at

Monday, December 14, 2009

Rats on a Stick, Side of Fries

Ever since I saw that old Judges Guild recipe for Rats on a Stick another OSR blogger brought to my attention (sorry, forgot who) I'd been wanting to make them for my eight year old nephew. I'm still trying to get him interested in early D&D, or keep him possibly interested (he seemed just a little young for it the last we played). He'd much rather play Zelda when he visits, but does enjoy watching the old D&D cartoons on DVD that I bought with him in mind just about every time he comes over.

I was reminded of these items again recently after my post here about rat diseases and decided I should get to it and do a trial cooking run in order to see how they come out before attempting to serve them to him.

I didn't have some of the ingredients and only had a half pound of ground beef on hand, so they were going to be slightly smallish rats... no honey, and no tails as we didn't have red food coloring for the spaghetti. I had Annie's answer to the Cheddar Goldfish crackers, "Annie's Cheese Bunnies" or something like that so I smashed those up. I had some decent southern barbecue sauce, but no honey, and only had Monterey Jack for the cheese stuffing. In terms of the amounts, I just winged it for the smaller serving size. My recommendation would be to cut the cheese not into cubes but into narrow rectangles, then skewer and mold the egg/cracker/beef mixture around these. There's definitely a trick to the moisture content - if there's too much egg it's too wet to mold properly. I think the crackers might have helped if they were ground up more than just by hand. Very hard to get the cheese coated enough with meat not to leak out with the beef deficit here too.

Ready to go in the pan
Ready to go in the oven
Out of the oven
On the plate

Went well with sweet potato french fries and mayo... Tasty too, but they really didn't much resemble what I think of when I hear about rats on sticks:

I think the only thing to do is to sculpt the little bastards with sausages of some kind. :-)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Pinball Wizard

I'm not a huge pinball fan but I'd love to buy and resell or gift this local (to me) Craigslist item if I could afford it, or raffle it off for charity, just to have an excuse to play it for a little while!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Tavern Graffiti: Morgana Le Fay's Cousin

The infamous Morgana le Fay
Had a sorceress cousin they say
who lived afar down South
and knew but Magic Mouth,
but was quite popular in her day...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Bubonic Plague, Rats

There’s nothing in the BXCMI indexes about diseases (maybe it’s in those and I just missed it), nor is there in the OSRIC index. I couldn’t find anything about them in the three OD&D books, but Supplement II (Blackmoor) has some wonderful diseases referenced, thirteen of them exactly, and AD&D (1e) has about two pages in the DMG about them.

Here I’m concerned with diseases that rats can carry. Since Wagstaff and his friends have been playing with them lately (ok, “exterminating”), and since Wagstaff was bit and contracted a disease (nice work, 5% chance), I was interested in exactly what he’d gotten from the poor beast...

Although I like the generality of the 1e DMG rules, I was looking for something a little more specific, to be able to inform the player of more exactly what he was diagnosed with (if he indeed seeks professional, ie. clerical help), if for nothing else.

Blackmoor is more specific and was what I was looking for really, being generally lazy. What, if any, diseases were listed there that could be picked up from being in direct or indirect contact with these giant rats he’d encountered?

Only one, in fact, although I’ll have to remember to roll for a 1% chance of contracting “Crud” as listed there, following each dungeon experience. Bubonic plague is listed, and the chance of contracting this would be 1% too, with a 90% chance of infecting anyone he comes in contact with in the following 1-20 days or so, depending on how you read the chart there. Exposure to fleas is required, but given the carrying of the carcasses to the flour mill owner to prove their deed for payment, I’m inclined to up that number from 1% a tad, to say 10% (more?). I mean, wouldn’t those fleas just be jumping ship as soon as their host was dead? So what we have here is a potential plague in the town, all because some uppity adventuring types thought they could fulfill a request for assistance with a little rat problem. Blackmoor states that the fatality rate is 35%. Since there were 5 party members present for the rat battle and carcass carrying (why didn’t you leave them there man?!?), that means that there’s a 50% chance someone got it. And if someone got it, there’s only a 10% chance that each of the others don’t get it! Which here amounts to a 2.5% chance that someone else in the party doesn’t get it. And if they do get it, the chances of the others not getting it get even worse! Wow. I don’t know what Arneson based those numbers on, but if they are remotely accurate, no wonder the Black Plague knocked off so many people.

On the bright side, if you get it and live you’re immune for life. Yay! Best to get this early in your dungeoneering career, I imagine. The exposure possibilities should be fairly good. Anyone working for Claude probably stands a good chance of contracting this at some point.

So the chance of dying due to bubonic plague in this instance, amounts to an average of uh, what? Gods I hate math. I mean, I love it, but I in practice I hate it. I asked a couple of folks on an IRC channel about this and either got the brush off or they were stumped. Anyone? Just curious... I mean, speaking of gambling here recently, I wonder just what the party’s odds were in accepting this business arrangement, esp. given their 100gp total pay (100/5=20gp each, eesh). Sadly, they didn’t complete the job, and were paid only 50gp total, and their odds of contracting the Black Plague were not diminished relatively.

With all that said, Wagstaff was bitten by one of the rats, not infected indirectly via fleas. So maybe that’s another post entirely.

Monday, December 7, 2009

If I Really Wanted to Combine Actual Gambling and D&D

Instead of this, I'd have done something like this:

I played the lottery once before, a few years ago...
wish us luck, I'll let you know what we when. :-P

udpate: we won $4

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Battlefield 1942, Old School FPS...(with apologies)

Heresy you say! To use the term old school in the context of discussing a computer game, shameful...

Yeah, Battlefield 1942 is not a pencil and paper game, sorry. I’ve been playing a lot of it again lately...not bad considering it came out in 2002. Anyone wanna play? Email me. You can also look for me serving up a game (rarely these days) under “Fletcher Memorial” with wildcards in the search since I’ll occasionally be running mods. Why is this game so great? Because it’s old school as far as FPSs go. And mods. Free mods. And you can pick this up for the Windows version for probably less than $20. If you do, make sure you get it brand new as opened versions might have the serial numbers registered that might prevent you from playing multiplayer online games.

Why is this an old school FPS? It’s not railroady. Most people I know play this in head to head Conquest mode, which means you just need to reduce your opponents teams tickets to zero. There’s no Call of Duty-like do this then do that story line, it’s just a matter of seizing flags and controlling zones (however you want to go about this). You can hang out and snipe if that’s your style. You can be a medic and mostly heal, or an engineer and fix things.

But the other O.S. aspect of the game are the free huge mods that you can download. The best and most played of these is probably Desert Combat (look for Desert Combat Final .8). Fan created, they are occasionally buggy, but really show the versatility of the game. There’s even a Civl War, Star Wars clone, Post-Apocalyptic, and Pirates mod which will change all of the vehicles, maps, and weapons, but otherwise be familiar to veteran players. Reminds me S&W somehow.

In addition to the mods, I occasionally run the commercial expansions Road to Rome and Secret Weapons. Mods I run...

Forgotten Hope .7
Battlegroup 42
Desert Combat Final
Rarely: Pirates, Eve of Destruction, Galactic Conquest, HomeFront, Interstate, Dead Cities, Civil War, and Silent Heroes.

I even ran a dedicated Linux server for this game for awhile. Look for “Corporal Clegg” if you’re a regular player (there are 500-1000 folks playing this at any given time).

Anyhow, I'll try to keep the computer side of gaming out of this blog, but well, that's what I've been up to lately...

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Thoughts on D&D & Online Gambling

I recently saw that WotC must have licensed the D&D trademark to Kerching Casinos for their "Dungeons & Dragons: Crystal Caverns" online gambling game. I haven't played it and don't really care to (and couldn't even if I wanted to here in the U.S.). But the very existence of this game put some things in perspective for me.

I grew up back when the when certain Christian groups were up in arms about D&D, accusing it of being a way to convert kids to Satanism, cause them to commit suicide, lose their minds, you name it. I know it sounds ridiculous now, but there really was a lot of media stir about it at the time. Fortunately that all blew over, and as everyone reading this probably knows, D&D became just a bit tamer in the aftermath. Numerous studies have been done on RPGs since, and now it's more common to read about the potential psychological benefits of them than any real or imagined negative effects.

I suppose there are a few reasons why mixing D&D's image and online gambling shouldn't cause an uproar these days - it's only available via the web and you'd need a credit card, it's not in the U.S., and there are (presumably) far less D&D players now than there were in its hey day.

But the thing that stands out for me about this development is how the game has been around so long that the earlier edition players are now definitely old enough to gamble. Since online gambling and D&D really have very little to do with one another, it comes down to a marketing gimmick - and in this case it would seem to be evidence of the nostalgia for these games that exists, one that's being cynically exploited in this case. Consider UK1: Beyond the Crystal Cave (for 1st edition AD&D), the name of the gambling game here ("Crystal Caverns"), and the fact Kerching Casinos is UK based, and there's little doubt what demographic is being most marketed to here. I see WotC's licensing for this in the same light.