Friday, June 30, 2017

Trolls and Other Giant-Types

Most giant-types are like people. They look like people, they act like people (with some characteristic exaggerated), they like money, they fight and parley like us. 

But trolls are not like people. They look like giant evil broccoli. They regenerate. They don't live in (relatively) nice places like castles, they don't throw boulders. They care not for the wealth of Men. They bite and scratch and claw and smother. They are fearsome, twisted nightmares. 

Why is this? Why are most Giants like Men while trolls are so alien?

D&D-Style Troll

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Magic Item: Unguent of Gorgias

Fell-Flush the Green Mage never trusted thieves, and refused to adventure with them even when he was quite pitiful in the arcane arts. Consequently he lost a good number of otherwise useful henchmen to the ubiquitous spiked pit trap and disintegration ray, who would otherwise busy themselves carrying his wardrobe and bed through the dungeon for him or meeting the dietary requirements of monsters he encountered.

Thereupon he consulted with Gorgias, a holy man and philosopher that you may know, who showed him how to create this unguent to allow him to better see which traps to avoid, and which ones his servants should just try to blunder right through. Oh, he can see them all, but one does not waste one's spell-casting voice on every poor sod in one's employ. One understands, doesn't one?

Either a Wizard guy or a Cleric guy can make this magic item but in the case of the wizard, he needs a cleric to cast Find Traps into the goo for it to work. Unguent of Gorgias requires one day and 250 GP of materials to make. The jade-colored, gritty goop comes packed in a tiny gourd with an eye painted on the bulb. It smells of the ocean and irritates the skin ever so slightly. When smeared across the eyes and bridge of the nose in one stroke like war paint, it allows the user to Find Traps, as the spell, for one hour.  The user needs only to close his eyes for a moment to see a dim aquamarine nimbus outlining any trap nearby. That is, any trap located within a particular room or hallway or in the path of the party in the Wilderlands, but not on the other side of a door, for instance.

Unguent of Gorgias lasts one hour per use and a gourd comes with 1d6+1 uses left.

XP VALUE: none, because magic items are their own reward.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Refining the Elevator Pitch

My personal OSR odyssey has focused on determining what is good about the old game; to develop the rules that promote play focused on those good things; to automate the rules (via idiot-proof charts and worksheets); and to strip away everything else. I want a dune buggy, not a Winnebago.

So again let me take a stab at the elevator pitch for a game of OSR D.

This version of D&D is much like a board game. You draw out your own board and you design your own pawn like in other versions, but otherwise it runs a lot like a board game. There are mini games based on exploration, on resource management, on negotiation, and on combat or avoiding combat. The relative importance of the several minigames descends in that order. The object of the game is to accumulate wealth and therefore power.

Alongside this board game structure, your pawn will act like a real person in his imaginary world to the degree you wish him to do so. But there is no story reward.  In fact, there is no story presented beforehand- you, the several players must direct yourselves in search of the wealth you need to become powerful rather than being content consumers like we are when we try adventure paths and so forth. The story will be told after your men achieve fame or infamy, and the heroes of the tale will simply be those men who survive.


What do you think of that? Do you think it captures the spirit of older D? Would it interest some players from the new school? How can we make it be better?

Lost and Found

Months ago, a hard drive crash meant I lost the .doc version of Mythical Journeys. (coupled with my own lax vigilance - always back things up!) Boy that was hard to take! I gave up on working on the game.

I was looking at the title page, reading the copy at the bottom, and the light bulb came on: Ask my editor, Jeff J. aka Urieal on Dragonsfoot!  Sure enough, he had the manuscript and several other assets in a Dropbox. It felt like when Indiana Jones first came upon the golden idol in the headhunter temple! There was the treasure! Well, it felt like that without the giant rolling boulder.

It almost didn't happen. About four days beforehand he had considered cleaning out his old drop boxes. For some reason he didn't! Thank God!

Now I can clean up a few copy errors, most notably Table 4. I will also change the names of a couple spells to be easier to remember for players of other fantasy heartbreakers. Then... on to books 2 and 3?

But I still need to collect more art assets. I lost years of public domain line art files too!

Saturday, June 24, 2017

The Light Spell

"What a waste of a spell!" I can hear you say.  "Why would you take a crummy old Light spell?"  It depends on how your Ref handles it, but it can be very useful.

This guy! 
(I don't own this image but 
darned if I know who does.)
If your lead Fighting Man has a shield, cast it on the front of the shield to make it like a headlamp.  If you need to see something a long way down, cast it on the end of a rope.   A long way up?  Cast it on an arrow and fire away.

A light spell doesn't take up one hand like a lantern or torch.  It doesn't weigh anything.  It wont be extinguished by dropping it, and it won't light your robe on fire.

Finally, if you Ref it like I always have, casting it on the eyes of an enemy blinds them for an hour. In this respect, it's basically a kill spell when you need it.  It can also be used to bluff an intelligent monster or man-type into surrender.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Schrodinger's Hit Points

We all know about rolling up all the hit dice every time you level up, which is a fun lottery thing you can do. When you level up, roll all your hit dice (including pluses if that's how your progression works). If that number is higher than your current total, use the new number. Otherwise, just add one hit point to your old number. 

I had also read somewhere, I think on DF, that some people would roll up hit points every morning of the campaign. That sounds fun and risky. Not sure how it would work with hit point damage though. Maybe we would need a different philosophy about what a hit point is. 

It just came to me that you could roll hit points anew every day. BUT instead of in the morning, you would roll them when you first took damage that day. That way you really wouldn't know exactly how healthy you are until it was put to the test!

After all: creatures you never fight don't have hit points. They only have the stats that they need (usually none or just a couple.) They only get hit points if you need to fight them. Could we confer this property of hit points to the PCs and their allies as well?

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Inspirational Artwork - Defender

My goodness, what have we here...?

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Play Test?

Playing 1e/BECM at Steve's house has wet my whistle to run a game of my own. Since Mythical Journeys is essentially a house rules doc, I would use that.

But the talented pool of players around here are split between Pathfinder and 5e with an emphasis on Pathfinder. How could I even approach them with MJ in a way that makes sense? It's a totally different kind of game. The combat rules takes up eight small pages and that includes jousting!

It's not just the crunch. There's the railroad-vs-sandbox aesthetic. How do you get content tourists to embrace that?

I would love to playtest MJ to see what additional advice and guidelines need to go into Odd Men and the Ref Guide, but I really don't even know where I could find a live face to face table of not-my-family-member players to run it for. 

Special Treasures and Special Containers

What would you do if you found a set of exquisite wind chimes that detected as magical? How would you get them out of the dungeon?

Or a gigantic vase, obviously very old, intricately decorated with metal leaf of several colors?

What would you do if the magic powder was caked at the bottom of a priceless vase, it's mouth too narrow for a man's arm, but the vase too deep for a hobbit to reach bottom?

Imagine a dinner service for 16 cut from crystal. How would you move it?

Great silver serving trays, wine in wine cellars, enormous statuary. All of these treasure ideas came to me last night when I visited a magic treasure museum that you might know as... Pier 1 Imports!

The moral of the story is, if you can keep your mind open to D&D, then everywhere you go will inspire you. Even Pier 1 Imports of all places!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Game Report - Castle Caldwell Explorers Session 1

17 June 2017 6:40 - 10:00

The DM was Steve.  He hadn't DMed in a long time but he did a really good job of moving things along.

The players were

  • Ethan, Steve's 13 year old Son.  He played Ronin, a Fighting-Man.  Level 1.
  • Simone, Steve's wife.  She played Raven, a level 2 female half-elf Cleric of Men, and also ran a Hobbit thief named Gruff.
  • my daughter Julie, to turn 13 nest week, who ran Emma, a Level 2 Elf Magic User.
  • and me, I ran twin gnome brothers.  Yaspar, the Fighting-Man with 2 Hits and Vuvier, the Thief with 7 Hits.  Both Level 1.

The rule set was modified 1E.  1E, but we could only have one character class, and Magic-Users start at Level 2.  Raven the Cleric had gotten to Level 2 in a previous adventure.

PROPS: The most interesting thing that happened is that Emma drank a Potion of Polymorph Self, turned into a baby Roc, ate a poisonous giant spider, failed her saving throw, and died!  After which, she played Vuvier the Thief.

Another fun part was when Yospar ran into the courtyard, and found himself face to face with a wolf - they both failed their Surprise check and spent a round screaming at each other!

SLOPS: I can't find my Pig Farmer.  If I had found my Pig Farmer, I would have played a Fighting-Man or Ranger and used him as my mini.

We had a blast and explored about 15 rooms.  Not a ton of treasure yet, so we're going to keep going in about three weeks!  At which time my son, Nathaniel, 15, will be joining us.

OH!  Almost forgot: They all seemed unfamiliar with the habit of carrying a ten foot pole into the dungeon.  Like they'd never heard of such a thing before.

I always thought that was common practice.  Am I wrong?

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Anybody Ever Play Mouse Guard?

It looks so beautiful I want to buy it just to look at and touch all the art assets.


Here's a review from Shut Up and Sit Down.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

"A Mashup of Basic and 1e"

Steve tells me we are going to play a mashup of Basic and 1e.  Cool!  When I started playing with my friends and not just my mom, that was how we started.  Actually it was a BECM/2e mashup, but that's basically the same thing if you're not a scholar or OSR hipster.

I have this idea about having a Fighting-Man who can also cast one spell: Knock.  Why?  I don't know!  It just tickles me.  I have no idea whether Steve would make it possible.

But here's what I was thinking.

the Fighting-Man in question would go to Level 3 plus 5,000 XP.  If he lives that long and his INT is 9 or more, and he knows a friendly Wizard who has Knock, he could spend 1d6 weeks and 5,000 XP plus however much gold the Wizard might like, and he can learn it.

He wouldn't know how to read any magic or write a scroll or anything.  He could just cast Knock once per day.  I'm not sure how you would handle a spell book for such a fellow.

What do you think?  Too strict? Too lenient?  Not allowed at all?  Tell me!

Friday, June 9, 2017

Stat Checks and Saving Throws

Of course there are no skill checks in most OSR games.  So how do you decide whether your guys can do a particular hard task?

0. Easy Tasks

By golly, don't roll for easy tasks!  These guys are heroes and they shouldn't have their adventure derailed because nobody can open the jar of mayonnaise or something.

Even if it comes to a mountain climbing expedition, you probably shouldn't roll for normal conditions with the right gear.  They're adventurers, and they should be able to do adventures!

But what about for hard tasks?

1. Stat Checks

If a particular task is related to a particular ability score, then it follows that you can use a check against that ability for success.

Roll a d20 and if that result is lower than or equal to the stat in question, it's a success.  In this case, even some poor sod with a 3 still has a 15% chance of doing something hard. You could also check against 3d6 or 4d6 if you want to.  A 3d6 would make it easier than a 4d6 because you want a low number.

This is an easy way to decide whether a hard task will succeed or fail.  

Another way to do a stat check that is less dependent on the actual stat number is to roll a 1d6 and add a +1 for a high stat or a -1 for a low stat, and then see if the result is a 5 or 6.  If it is, that's a success.  You can adjust the range of success for an easier or harder task.

This is a good way to do it if you worry about the overall importance of stats. It's they way I do it in my game.

2. Saving Throws

Saving throws are not tied closely to stats; they are tied to class and level.  Therefore if you are a higher level guy, like a Hero or something, you will just be more competent than a level 1 or 2 duffer. This is they way they did it in the olden days according to some of the vets who were there.  There is evidence to support this in the Thief guy skill tables.  First, the Thief gets better as he gets higher levels, and in the case of Pick Pockets and the assassin's assassination tables, the chance of success depends on the level of the victim.  This way also favors Demi-Men because they get bonuses to their saves.

I think we will try this way and see if we like it better.

3. Hybrid Methods

You could use Method 1 for actions and Method 2 for reactions.  I think they do that in ACKs.  Or you could use Saves only but modify them with stat modifiers.  These seem unnecessarily clunky to me but maybe it's just right for you.

4. Something Else

What do you guys do when you have to check for success?

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Just the Right Investment

When you start up a new guy in modern editions, there's a lot of work to do to get him just right. Lots of choices.  It makes it so the moment you put him in the world, you already have a strong attachment to him. You've lived with him for hours and you probably also have a hand cramp from writing our the character sheet!  You don't want him to die fast, and your Ref knows it.  The game has evolved to favor those characters over the monsters and make sure they have very little chance of dying.

But here's a funny conundrum: if your guy probably won't/can't die, then where's the danger?

On the other hand an old style guy, you can roll him up in ten minutes. With some programs online, it can literally take under 1 second to make him up.  (This is my favorite one by the way, but you can find one you like best here.) So you can roll him out into the world have no idea who or what he is other than what's on the sheet- and what's on the sheet is minimal.  No investment; it matters not a lot if he lives or dies!

So there has to be a sweet spot in your emotional and time investment, but neither kind of chargen really hits it on the nose.

The solution I found, and this comes from Zenopus originally is to give your man a super-fast background.  There's 18 kinds of Men in ODD&D and Holmes, and I added two more kinds for a nice 1d20 table.

You can see the table at the end of this document and fiddle around with it on your own.  It's not perfect and it's certainly not authoritative - it's just for fun!

Backgrounds for Men and Others

Roll 1d20 to see what your character’s background is, or select it from the list.

1. Alchemist: Beginner's Alchemy (make a Healing Potion in 1 week for 50 GP.)
Equipment: 1 Healing Potion, Mortar & Pestle
Starting Money: 2d6 x 10 GP.

2. Amazon: Ability: Invoke Goddess (reroll one die roll per day, but only if wearing bronze)
Equipment: Bronze Breastplate (AC 5) & Shield, Bronze Sword (Arming or Backsword), Long Bow, 2 Flasks Military Oil
Starting Money: 1d6 x 10 GP.

3. Animal Trainer: Abilities: Animal Handling (+4 Reaction rolls for normal animals)
Equipment: Mule, Guard Dog (1+1 HD, AC 7, 1d6 bite)
Starting Money: 2d6 x 10 GP.

4. Royal Archer: Abilities: Rapid Fire (Fire arrows twice per round if not moving or in melee)
Equipment: Long Bow, Quiver, 1 bundle of arrows, 5 silver tipped arrows
Starting Money: 2d6 x 10 GP.

5. Bandit (or Brigand, if Chaotic): Abilities: Evasion (Flee melee without being hit, but only if wearing Leather Armor)
Equipment: Cloak, Leather Armor, Shield, Short Bow, Quiver, 20 arrows, Treasure Map (ruin)
Starting Money: 2d6 x 10 GP.

6. Barkeep: Abilities: Ear for Listening (Knows 1d12 local rumors, hears faint noises 1-2 on 1d6)
Equipment: Fine Spirits (50 GP value, +2 Reaction roll if a shot is offered, 10 shots total)
Starting Money: 2d6 x 10 GP.

7. Berserker: Abilities: Rage (+2 to attack & AC 7 if no body Armor in combat, will not flee/surrender), +1 hp at 1st level.
Equipment: Bearskin Cloak (AC 7), Tooth-bitten Shield
Starting Money: 1d6 x 10 GP.

8. Buccaneer (or Pirate, or Sailor): Abilities: Swimming (Only drown on 1-in-6 per Turn in rough seas), Ship-craft, Rope Use
Equipment: Cutlass (Arming sword), Spyglass, Treasure Map (island), Pet Monkey (3 hp), 50’ Rope with Grappling Hook
Starting Money: 3d6 x 10 GP.

9. Engineer: Abilities: Eye for Construction (detect dungeon traps as a Dwarf & secret doors as an Elf)
Equipment: Lantern, Steel Mirror, Chalk Stick, Level, Measuring Stick (6’, ruled)
Starting Money: 3d6 x 10GP.

10. Farmer: Abilities: Weather Sense (can tell the weather 24-48 hours in advance with his throbbing bunion).  Animal Husbandry: Can tell what illness has befallen common barnyard animals; calf the same. Equipment: Pole Arm (pitchfork), Lantern,
2 pints oil, dagger, sling, 20 sling stones, a good Tom cat.
Starting Money: 2d6 x 10 GP.

11. Flying Animal Pilot: Abilities: Aerial skirmish Training, Tumbling (-1 point per die falling damage)
Equipment: Potion of Flying, Leather Armor, 1 bundle of Javelins (1d6 damage, throw 3/6/9”)
Starting Money: 2d6 x 10 GP.

12. Gem-Cutter: Abilities: Appraise (gems & jewelry), Cut Gems (Increase value of a gem 10%, 4 in 6)
Equipment: Magnifying Lens, Diamond Dust (50 GP value, use 10GP worth to cut a gem)
Starting Money: 2d6 x 10 GP.

13. Man-At-Arms: Abilities: Years of Guard Duty (surprised only on 1 in 6; sleep standing up)
Equipment: Chain Armor, Shield, Arming Sword, Dagger, Crossbow, bundle of quarrels in case
Starting Money: 2d6 x 10 GP.

14. Merchant: Abilities: haggling (buy items for 80% cost; sell them for full price)
Equipment: Dray’s horse and cart, 1 indentured porter (human, teen-ager, serves for 1 year, you pay for food and lodging).
Starting Money: 5d6 x 10 GP.

15. Nomad (or Dervish): Abilities: Surprise Outdoors (1-4 on 1d6, if wearing only Leather), Archery (no penalty to attack roll) from horseback.
Equipment: Courser, Lance, Short Bow, Leather Armor
Starting Money: 1d6 x 10 GP

16. Orcish: Abilities: Brawling (+1 on attack rolls at night, 1d4 damage without a weapon)
Equipment: Leather Armor, Shield, Hand Axe Starting Money: 1d6 x 10 GP.

17. Pilgrim: Abilities: Traveling (Add 1 hex to daily movement); Hold Undead At-Bay (can Turn Undead as Cleric but the Undead will only stay still while he watched them, not run away, and can’t dissolve undead)
Equipment: Sturdy Staff, Holy Relic
Starting Money: 1d6 x 10 GP.

18. Sage: Abilities: Identify Magic Item (Takes 1 week and uses 100 GP of material components) Equipment: Reference Books, Blank Vellum Book, and Ink & Quill
Starting Money: 3d6 x 10 GP.

19. Smith (or Armorer): Abilities: Fire-tough (-1 point per dice fire damage), Forging (Weapons/Armor at 1/2 cost, full time)
Equipment: Chain armor, Shield, Hammer, Tongs, 12 Iron Spikes, Crowbar
Starting Money: 2d6 x 10 GP.

20. Spy: Abilities: Double Talk (+1 on all reaction rolls with non-Spies), Disguise, Languages (Double normal number)
Equipment: 2 Daggers (1 hidden in boot)
Starting Money: 4d6 x 10 GP.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Players Needn't Know the Rules?!

Fair warning: this post is kind of jumbled because I am just riffing on the necessity of rules, and what the players need to know in order for the game to work.

Excitement clearly abounds
The rules are a black box. You input the Ref stuff and the player stuff and turn the crank and "story" emerges. One of the best parts of the genre is being able to tell and retell the great deeds and hilarious blunders that your men do.

I don't think player rules mastery is critical like it is in a video game or trading card game. The important thing is the rules work so the men in their world seem real and relatable. It's helpful to have guys around the table that know the rules but the rules you use all the time are so simple you can almost put them all on one side of a paper or just tell people once or twice and they will know them.

One time I wrote out all the charts I really needed to run a game and it turned out to be like three charts! (Aha! Here it is! NB: the Morale numbers are reversed. I was trying a new notation which I have since aban

By the way, there need not be any mechanism or in-game reward for RP and the Ref doesn't have to be responsible for the story. Things just have to work in a consistent believable way to create a framework for the story the several players tell in common.

So it's the stories that matter rather than the mechanics;

but it's the mechanics that allow for the story to be meaningful!

Saturday, June 3, 2017

But... Goblins!

By DeviantArt member theKingOfEngland

Mythical Journeys

I want to make sure I have a stable link for people to get Book I of Mythical Journeys in .pdf for free. Well, mainly I want to make sure I can get it if everything else goes kablooey!  You will find that it is a different animal from Treasure Hunters and maybe you will like it enough to steal some ideas.  Like every other fantasy heartbreaker, it's all a game, we made it up, and it's just for fun.

Friday, June 2, 2017

They Were Wearing Tiny Masks

Life continues to imitate D&D as a "giant swarm of mysterious bees" shut down 5th Avenue today. It's another cool example of a mystery-exterminator quest. Where did they come from? Will there be more? How do we rid ourselves of them? Are they agents of a vengeful Druid or an angry God?

Or maybe we should just rinse our empty Coke cans a little better, I don't know.