Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Odd Men & Monsters

Odd Men & Monsters is the monsters and treasure book in for the Mythical Journeys game.  It's really early in development but the intro and "Men" sections are done.  After page 11, you will find notes and an embryonic mishmash of stuff.

You can look at it here.

Also, over there is a nice etching from the distant past.  What do you think it portrays?

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Bounders and Rangers of the North

Usually I am a consumer of gameable content, and not a producer.  I see what I like out there and use it at home.  But here are monsters you can use in your game if you like.

BOUNDERS: Hit Dice:  1. Armor Class: 7. Move:  12”. Alignment: L. Morale: 8 Number Appearing: 3d4. % In Lair: 15% Treasure: 1d6 GP. 

Description:  Bounders are Hobbits who are less civilized, and guard the boundries of the Shires.  They use Hobbit hiding abilities (hide outdoors 2-6 on 1d6) and searching abilities to track outsiders and determine whether they bode good or ill.

While you might see a Bounder in town, it is more likely you will find yourself the target of an ambush by several Bounders who believe you to be a threat.
Bounders can communicate over great distances by using the beasts of the forest as couriers. They are said to communicate with animals about as well as Men communicate with each other.
Finally, they can cast three spells per day: Magic Missile, Nimbus, and Deific Transfusion.

RANGERS OF THE NORTH: Hit Dice:  2. Armor Class: 6. Move:  15”. Alignment: L.   Number Appearing: 1 or rarely 2. % In Lair: 15% Treasure: 2d6 GP  

Description:  The Rangers of the North are a small number of Men from the northern forests, each with some Elf blood. They are excellent woodsmen and can also cast some spells. They are exceptionally tough (2HD) but wear light armor (AC6 from Dex) and count as light foot. They are Lawful but have no use for civilization themselves.
Expert with sword and bow, the Ranger always fights as an F4. While sometimes one Ranger will take as his apprentice another among their number, you will otherwise never see two of them together. Some say they quarrel, while others say they have too much forest to protect to tarry together for long.
Rangers can communicate over great distances by using the beasts of the forest as couriers. They are said to communicate with animals about as well as other Men communicate with each other.
Finally, they can cast three spells per day: Magic Missile, Nimbus, and Deific Transfusion.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Tic-Tac-Toe Style Chargen

Where did it come from?  I don't know.  It's not original to me.  But our friend, Lou Goncey, liked it & that reminded me to share it with you!

Ability Score Generation: In tabletop adventure games in general and fantasy games in particular, generating ability scores is a lot of fun.  In order to determine your ability scores, use the following method.

Draw a tic-tac-toe board.  Across the top, label the columns “Str”, “Dex”, and “Con” for Strength, Dexterity and Constitution.  Label the rows “Int”, “Wis”, and “Cha” for Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma.

Throw three six-sided dice and add the pips, and write that number in the top-left box.  Repeat this process eight more times for the other eight boxes. 

For any given number, it may be assigned to the ability of the row it’s in or column it’s in, but not both.  When you use a particular number, cross it out afterwards.  You will find that three scores are left over.  Use one for your starting gold - remember to multiply it by ten -  and discard the other two numbers.

This method generates above-average ability scores, but the moderate incidence of low scores means these characters resemble regular folks, only a little better.  These kinds of characters are quite viable but also within the normal range for Men.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Mythical Journeys Players' Guide

Here's a link to the Mythical Journeys players' guide.  It's the working document so it's got the tracked changes from the last version.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Bonuses and penalties to ability scores in Mythical Journeys

Based on mike's critique here, I did reconsider the +1 to -1 scale for bonuses and penalties. What I have decided is that the bonuses are right for now.

Bonuses and penalties to rolls of +1 to -1 works for Mythical Journeys is because a lot of checks are on 1d6. A +1 on 1d6 is equivalent to 16.67%, a little more than up to +3 on 1d20, which is up to a 15% bonus.

The main checks that are done on 1d20 are attacks, saving throws, and ability checks. Ability checks are rare because a lot of checks are subsumed by specific 1d6 checks. Only dexterity affects attack rolls, and only for missile attacks. Dexterity also affects armor class. Strength does not affect attack rolls, only damage rolls. Wisdom affects magic saving throws. Ability checks look at the whole ability score, not the bonus or penalty.

The main checks on 1d6 are surprise, sneaking, searching, and feats of strength such as bend bars/lift gates. These are checks largely important within the dungeon.

The checks on 2d6 are reaction checks. Charisma affects reaction checks. It should not overwhelm the dice though.

In my opinion, stats should matter only a little. It is just as important that they be aids to the imagination as they are game mechanics.

The Fighting-Man Class

There have been a rash of posts here and there about spicing up the Fighter.  A lot of the problem with the Fighting-Man is that he is misunderstood: A fighter is not meant to be the main damage dealer (although he does deal damage well).  He is there to suck up damage through tactical positioning and higher hits, avoid damage through higher Armor Class, and protect the squishy glass cannon Magic-User and odd Thief with a crossbow.

There ought to be a lot of Fighters, whether PCs or henchmen.  Ideally, three for every other PC.  That will spread the pain around sufficiently to keep the rest of them safe.  As a sop you can use a Cleric for the same role, but it's just barely not as good since the Cleric has on average one fewer Hit per experience level.

The hardest thing about playing a Fighter is choosing when not to attack.  Of course if there's something dreadful flailing away at you or your party, it's time to open up the can.  But when there's even a chance to avoid combat, it takes the most discipline to do so when your character sheet clearly states that you're supposed to be The Fighting Man.

In order to lure otherwise savvy players into playing a Fighting-Man (for it takes some skill to play one well), I've also added some neat static abilities to the Fighter's repertoire, but nothing that makes him fundamentally different.  The key to keeping the Fighting-Man feeling old school is that there are no choices to make, and the abilities are static.

So, here's mine:


Table 7: The Fighting-Man
Champion/Black Knight*
*Chaotic Fighting-Men have different Level titles at these Levels. 

The Fighting-Man is a human being who studies combat.  He may have been a woodsman, an infantryman, or a member of the town watch but now seeks out greatness by sword and by valor.

The Prime Requisite of the Fighting-Man is Strength.  See Table 2 for XP adjustments due to high or low Strength.

Arms & Armor: The Fighting-Man may use any armor and any shield.  He may use any weapon.

The Fighting-Man’s Class Abilities:

Weapon Specialization: The Fighting-Man always gets +1 to his damage roll when he hits his opponent.  This is in addition to any bonus due from other sources.

Mantle of Leadership:  A Fighting-Man may have one more Retainer than his CHA would normally indicate.  Any henchmen he leads into battle get a +1 on their Morale checks.

Cleave:  When fighting people or creatures with fewer Hit Dice than himself, the Fighting-Man may make one attack against each such target.  However, this attack is resolved on the Fighting-Man 1-3 line of the attack matrix rather than his normal line, if different.  Opponents of 4 Hit Dice or more are immune to this special attack. 

Based on questions from the +OSR community, I have decided to change this ability slightly.  The new version looks like this: 

Cleave:  When in melee with people or creatures with fewer Hit Dice than himself, the Fighting-Man may make one attack against each adjacent figure.  However, this attack is resolved on the Fighting-Man 1-3 line of the attack matrix rather than his normal line, if different.  Opponents of 4 Hit Dice or more are immune to this special attack.  

Heroic Smiting: If a Fighting-Man attacks a foe with an attack which is able to damage the target, and rolls a natural 20 (before any adjustments), the target is brought immediately to 0 Hit Points.  He may damage creatures with magical immunities with normal weapons when he reaches Level 4.

Battle-Honed Senses:  Beginning at Level 4, the Fighting-Man may sense invisible creatures as if they were visible.  This ability works out to 30’ and only during combat.

Great Bravery: Beginning at Level 4, Fighting-Men are immune to fear, including magical fear. 
In addition, they force an immediate Morale check by their opponents when they cross within melee range (3 scale inches) with normal-types.

Forge Lore:  At Level 6, Fighting-Men may craft weapons and armor in their strongholds using the same rules as Magic-Users do.  They may not craft other kinds of magic items.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

"Why can't Dwarves cast magic spells?"

Dwarves, Elves and Hobbits who go adventuring are very, very rare. Adventuring is a fundamentally human pursuit. 

A lot of resources must be invested for a community of Demi-Men to create even one Cleric (and/or Magic-User in the case of Dwarves and Hobbits). But they do exist. They are simply much too valuable to their communities to be allowed to "slum it" with adventurous Men. That's why you never see certain spell casters of certain races as adventurers! 

In game terms, this means only about 1/8 of all NPC adventurers are Dwarves, and the same for Elves and for Hobbits. The majority are Men. Of course that does not limit the choice of race among Player-Characters in any way: Player-Characters are special.

Random Character Class For NPC Adventurer
1-3. Fighting-Man
4. Magic-User
5. Cleric
6. Dwarf
7. Elf
8. Hobbit

If you like to play with Thieves, make it a 1d10 and 9 or 10 is a Thief guy.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

How To Referee

Being the Referee: The difference between Mythical Journeys and most table games is the Referee.  In this game, one person creates a world and the other players navigate it with their playing pieces- PCs.  So it’s important to have a handle on how to Referee well.  While no bit of writing can transform you into a great Referee, there are some basic pieces of advice to pass along.
The first thing to know is that this is a game.  You’re going to be with your friends.  It’s going to be fun! 
You can’t force them to have fun.  They have to bring the spark of imagination to the table.  No amount of great refereeing can make a good game, just like the baseball umpire can’t make a good baseball game.  It takes players to do that.  Your part of the fun is to see what’s going on, listen to the players, and make the world respond in an appropriate way.

The Rules: All the rules, including those in this book, are only here to help you do that.  You don’t need to follow all the rules- they are only guidelines.  So don’t think you have to commit everything to memory.  There’s no quiz at the end.  Again: it’s supposed to help you imagine, not make you work hard. 

How to Begin: All you really have to do at the beginning is draw a little map with two dots on it.  Label one “town” and the other “dungeon.”  Then find a module (there’s plenty of them for free) or draw a dungeon and you’re set to go.
What this means is you are preparing a simple environment for your friends to go adventuring within.  For the first game, you will want to tell them exactly what’s going on, in order to set the boundaries of the game.  Something like, “You meet in the Prancing Pony over pints.  The rain is beating down something awful.  The stranger brings you a map and tells you his son foolishly went adventuring there alone.  He wants you to find out what happened to him, and bring back his pendant.  If you go, there will be monsters and treasure.  What will you do?”
Not every adventure will start out so well defined, but it’s good to start the first one this way.

Using a Module: There are many, many adventures already written out for games like Mythical Journeys.  These adventures are called “modules.”   Some cost a little money and some are free.  You can find them on the Internet with little effort.  They will have all the elements of an adventure planned and written out for you so you don’t have to think up everything and draw it all out.  This is a good way for most Referees to start: by running an adventure that an experienced person wrote out.

Making it Up Yourself:  Along the way in this booklet, you will find advice about crafting the Underworld, generating the Wilderlands, and managing the weather and seasons. 
All fantasy adventure design is essentially the same.  You will present a scene and the players will act out their parts in it.  Each scene has some of the following elements: a reward, a mystery, an unexpected challenge, a trick, a tragic event, or the absence of these elements.
If you can string together about five of these scenes for your players to act out, you will usually have more than enough material for a night of high adventure.
The dungeon is any set of discrete areas connected in a particular arrangement.  One of the great thing about dungeons is they will give the players some choice, but not unlimited choice.  Setting up ten or so rooms near the entrance of a dungeon (or ruin, or strange castle, or other indoor space) should give you a great start.  Later you will find rules for “stocking” those rooms, in case you don’t want to think up all the rooms yourself.

How to Write a Good Adventure: There is no secret formula to writing a good adventure, but there are some elements that can go in order, like a checklist.  Those items are the Introduction, where the PCs meet up and are informed of the mission; a Puzzle or Acting Things Out Opportunity; a Dead End or Red Herring to mix things up; and a Climax or Big Battle (players generally love to fight).  If you have some or all of these elements, then your adventure will likely be better.

So writing a good adventure is simple, even if it isn’t easy.

How to Run a Good Adventure:  The writing of the adventure (or picking out a module to use) is one part of your job.  The other part is what happens at the table!
Don’t Force the Action.  You will imagine some great scene or big event, and the players will simply decide to go around it, or miss it entirely.  If it’s really good, you may be tempted to somehow get them to get to it and act it out anyway.  Don’t do it!  You can always put that scene in your back pocket and use it on another day, but you have to let the players decide what their characters are doing, even if it means messing up your plan.
Don’t Force the Players.  Players need to make their own decisions.  That’s what the game is all about.  If you are playing MONOPOLY, you can’t tell your friend to buy a property because you want him to, you can only make the suggestion.  The same goes in this kind of game.  In fact, it is better not to make a suggestion at all, but rather let the other players make the suggestion.
Don’t Play the Good Guy.  You need to let the Player-Characters be the center of attention.  Nobody came to play a game where they sit on the sideline and watch you do everything yourself!  They came to play so they could be the heroes of the story.  Don’t make up an NPC that does things better than they do, or can always force them to do things his way.
Don’t Spoil the Things they Missed:  Keep to yourself the great events they missed!  Players don’t want to feel stupid because they didn’t do what you wanted them to do.  A better way to handle it is to re-use some of the scenes on another day if that’s appropriate. 
Don’t think that the work you did was wasted.  The players just as easily could have gone the way you had planned, and your planning would have paid off immediately instead of down the road.
Do Follow the Dice.  This is not a 100% rule.  Sometimes you can go with your gut instead of rolling the dice.  Or you can use the dice to spur your own Referee imagination.  But don’t use the dice to determine the outcome and then overrule them.  Keeping PCs from getting “what they deserve” is bad.  If the players they think their characters are in no real danger because you will change the die roll result when things go bad, they will lose interest in the game.
Do Make Players Informed About Their Choices:  Make sure to describe things clearly and even two or three times if they are not clear.  At the end of any description, give examples of what their choices might be.  For instance if they are in a dungeon room, you can describe it to them, but then also reiterate where the doors are for them to leave this room.
Do Let Things Happen: Use the “Yes, and…” Rule.  This rule says when something happens you did not expect, don’t say “No!”  Say “Yes, and…” think up what comes next! 
You may be CERTAIN that a particular choice must be made.  Players have a way of coming to surprising, alternate solutions to problems.  And even if they can’t solve a problem, try to go with the flow and figure out what happens next when they can’t.  Even if the whole world goes from the frying pan into the fire, the world will seem more real and the players’ choices will have much more meaning.  When this happens, players become more invested and have more fun.
Do Be In Charge:  Don’t worry about the particular rule.  Make a ruling based on your knowledge of the rules and your common sense, and stick to it.
Don’t let players argue or browbeat you over your decisions.  Let’s go back to the baseball umpire.  The first umpire says “I calls ‘em as I sees ‘em.”  The second umpire says, “I calls ‘em as they are.”  The third umpire says, “They ain’t nothin’ ‘til I tells ‘em what to be.”  When it comes to decisions in your game world, be like that third umpire: the way you decide is correct, because it isn’t any other way!  Don’t defend or debate your prior decision. Don’t get bogged down arguing when you play.
BUT- if a player doesn’t agree with the decision, you can speak to him after the session.  Then listen carefully to what the players have to say.  It is their game too, and maybe they have suggestions about the rules that will help them have more fun.

The “Personal Problem” Problem: A lot of times, when you think you’re having a problem in the game, it’s really a problem between players at the table.  Keep a keen eye out for friction between people (especially between a friend and yourself).  When you find an element of friction, make sure to address it in a way that won’t hurt peoples’ feelings.  Usually this is away from the table.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016


I'm happy with the product.  It sure helps that a lot of the writing was done before for Treasure
Hunters.  Numbers had to be changed; specific language had to get chopped and re-done, but it was all there in zeroes and ones.

Here is your link to the finished Book One: Players' Guide

It just needs a little tidying up of the cover to erase the white backgrounds on the pictures.  I'd be happy to send it to someone if he would like to do it for gratis but a mention.

Update: Someone has indeed offered to help, and has been doing an excellent job.  Thanks, J!

Friday, August 5, 2016

Treasure Hunters Basic is now MYTHICAL JOURNEYS

I have been doing some real hard thinking about the game this week.  Here's the current release, by the way.  Here's a mockup of the cover as well.

It's just not right. It needs to be slimmer. I want to make a number of rules descriptions more economical. I want to eliminate a large amount of the rules bulk. Slim it to bare bones. Then build in a little character, but just a little. A lot of the choices I made making Treasure Hunters were the correct ones. They shouldn't be changed for the sake of change. Here are some of the specific changes I think I will make as I have time and opportunity. Please excuse the disorganized presentation; this is stream of consciousness stuff.

Everything uses a -1 to +1 modifier. Most actions solved on a d6 rather than a d20. Saves and attacks still on d20 though.

Six experience levels shown. No monsters included that are above 10 HD (which still leaves about 80 monsters, which is strangely about the same number as Holmes.)

No Thief.

Races are standard: Man, Dwarf, Elf, Hobbit. Hobbits limited to level 4.
Men can be fighters clerics or magicians.
Magicians don't wear armor or use shields. They will seem more like normal men.
Elves are like basic elves
Dwarves are like fighters.
Hobbits: You can only play a hobbit if you don't have any stat above 14. Hobbits have the usual abilities, but hide indoors 4-6 on d6 instead of 5-6.

Feats of strength on a 6 on 1d6. +1 for 15 STR, +1 for appropriate tool. Anyone can try up to three times.

Anyone can turn undead.

Fighting Men get +1 reaction rolls and +1 retainer slot
Fighting Men get a form of cleave; so do dwarves.
Dwarf and Hobbit get +4 to saves; Elves get +2 to saves.
Holy Relics are a magic item which DESTROYS undead

Armor stays simple- don't include helmets.
Arrows etc become 1d6 and you're out item
Two handed weapons do +1. Some have reach. Flails ignore shields.
Shorten up hirelings to bare bones- just retainers, henchmen.  Example specialists.

"A retainer may be of any experience level and of any class (Normal Man or any class). Retainers cannot be of a higher level than their PC. Elf and Dwarf retainers should be very rare."

Beginning players should not hire retainers until they are mostly familiar with the rules.
Retainers gain experience like PCs do, but at half the rate because they do not make their own decisions, but rather defer to their boss. They should also get a half-share of treasure.

Adventuring rules will be slimmed down considerably. Take out most corner cases.

Shorten up Chapter 3 considerably

4: Time periods. Encumbrance. Movement rate (Scale inches.) How to explore. Marching order. Turn order. Rest period. Necessity of Light sources. Doors. Sneaking. Surprise. Overland travel. Rate of travel. Overland exploration. Movement rate on land, sea and air. How to fight (attack roll and damage roll.) Round structure. Morale checks. Initiative. How to move in a fight. (Charge, Fighting withdrawal, retreat, opportunity attack.) shields shall be splintered. Jousting.

Example of play?

Referees guide

Doors. Reaction rolls. Types of light sources. Wandering monster checks. Morale for monsters.

Link to the current version in the previous post. I'll update it as I go along.