Sunday, August 28, 2011

Thanks Your Charles Stross/ If You Want Slaad You've Got It...

Slaad on the rocks
Slaad on the streets
Slaad in the sky
Slaad on the sheets
If you want Slaad
You've got it...
It looks like someone else has caught Open Content Versions of Non-OGL Classic D&D Monster fever, as Bat from Ancient Vaults & Eldritch Secrets has presented the first of the Senufio (SErial NUmbers FIled Off): The Scarlet Marauder.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

[Labyrinth Lord] Dear Lawyers: I Assure You That is Definitely NOT A Grell...

Completely unrelated to my previous discussion regarding "serial numbers filed off" versions of WOTC's precious non-open content Product Identity created by fine gentlemen such as Charles Stross, good 'ole Alan sent me his write up for an exciting new floating paralytic-tentacle monster "The Beaktopus."

The material in the quote box below is hereby designated Open Game Content via the Open Game License.
No. Enc.: 1 (1)
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: Fly - 120’ (30’)
Armor Class: 4
Hit Dice: 5
Attacks:   9 (8 tentacles, 1 beak)
Damage: (8 tentacles) 1d4 + paralysis / (1 beak) 1d6
Save:   F6
Morale:   10
Hoard Class: XIX
XP:   570

The beaktopus is a solitary underground predator which most likely originated in the fevered dreams of of a wizard with too much time and talent, though not enough common sense. Lucky adventurers who have chanced upon this fearsome creature and survived, describe it as well over 7 feet tall, with a body consisting of a central body from which eight radially symmetrical tentacles descend towards the ground. Each tentacle is covered with small, wickedly sharp hooked barbs which are used to capture and neutralize its prey. A large, sharp beak is found on the bottom of the body, sitting between all of the tentacles, and serves as the creature's digestive track entrance.

The beaktopus moves via a combination of levitation and using its tentacles to propel it, and is completely silent when it wishes to be. The source of the creature's levitation ability is a gland located in the central body, and if removed and lanced, will secrete enough liquid to act as a potion of levitation if captured and stored properly.

When a party of adventurers stumbles upon a beaktopus (for what foolish person would seek one out willingly?), the beast will focus all of its attacks on a single victim, and attack that poor sod with all eight (8) tentacles. If any tentacle his, then not only will each rake the victim's flesh with barbed hooks for 1d4 damage, but each successful attack also necessitates a single saving throw vs. paralysis, with a -1 modifier for each successful attack beyond the first.

Once the beaktopus has successfully attacked its prey and paralyzed it, it will draw the prey towards its beak and in the following turns begin devouring its helpless prey. The beaktopus may move and attack its paralyzed prey with its beak at the same time.

The following text is the property of Wizards of the Coast, Inc. and is Copyright 2000 Wizards of the Coast, Inc ("Wizards"). All Rights Reserved.
1. Definitions: (a)"Contributors" means the copyright and/or trademark owners who have contributed Open Game Content; (b)"Derivative Material" means copyrighted material including derivative works and translations (including into other computer languages), potation, modification, correction, addition, extension, upgrade, improvement, compilation, abridgment or other form in which an existing work may be recast, transformed or adapted; (c) "Distribute" means to reproduce, license, rent, lease, sell, broadcast, publicly display, transmit or otherwise distribute; (d)"Open Game Content" means the game mechanic and includes the methods, procedures, processes and routines to the extent such content does not embody the Product Identity and is an enhancement over the prior art and any additional content clearly identified as Open Game Content by the Contributor, and means any work covered by this License, including translations and derivative works under copyright law, but specifically excludes Product Identity. (e) "Product Identity" means product and product line names, logos and identifying marks including trade dress; artifacts; creatures characters; stories, storylines, plots, thematic elements, dialogue, incidents, language, artwork, symbols, designs, depictions, likenesses, formats, poses, concepts, themes and graphic, photographic and other visual or audio representations; names and descriptions of characters, spells, enchantments, personalities, teams, personas, likenesses and special abilities; places, locations, environments, creatures, equipment, magical or supernatural abilities or effects, logos, symbols, or graphic designs; and any other trademark or registered trademark clearly identified as Product identity by the owner of the Product Identity, and which specifically excludes the Open Game Content; (f) "Trademark" means the logos, names, mark, sign, motto, designs that are used by a Contributor to identify itself or its products or the associated products contributed to the Open Game License by the Contributor (g) "Use", "Used" or "Using" means to use, Distribute, copy, edit, format, modify, translate and otherwise create Derivative Material of Open Game Content. (h) "You" or "Your" means the licensee in terms of this agreement.
2. The License: This License applies to any Open Game Content that contains a notice indicating that the Open Game Content may only be Used under and in terms of this License. You must affix such a notice to any Open Game Content that you Use. No terms may be added to or subtracted from this License except as described by the License itself. No other terms or conditions may be applied to any Open Game Content distributed using this License.
3.Offer and Acceptance: By Using the Open Game Content You indicate Your acceptance of the terms of this License.
4. Grant and Consideration: In consideration for agreeing to use this License, the Contributors grant You a perpetual, worldwide, royalty-free, non-exclusive license with the exact terms of this License to Use, the Open Game Content.
5.Representation of Authority to Contribute: If You are contributing original material as Open Game Content, You represent that Your Contributions are Your original creation and/or You have sufficient rights to grant the rights conveyed by this License.
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7. Use of Product Identity: You agree not to Use any Product Identity, including as an indication as to compatibility, except as expressly licensed in another, independent Agreement with the owner of each element of that Product Identity. You agree not to indicate compatibility or co-adaptability with any Trademark or Registered Trademark in conjunction with a work containing Open Game Content except as expressly licensed in another, independent Agreement with the owner of such Trademark or Registered Trademark. The use of any Product Identity in Open Game Content does not constitute a challenge to the ownership of that Product Identity. The owner of any Product Identity used in Open Game Content shall retain all rights, title and interest in and to that Product Identity.
8. Identification: If you distribute Open Game Content You must clearly indicate which portions of the work that you are distributing are Open Game Content.
9. Updating the License: Wizards or its designated Agents may publish updated versions of this License. You may use any authorized version of this License to copy, modify and distribute any Open Game Content originally distributed under any version of this License.
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13. Termination: This License will terminate automatically if You fail to comply with all terms herein and fail to cure such breach within 30 days of becoming aware of the breach. All sublicenses shall survive the termination of this License.
14. Reformation: If any provision of this License is held to be unenforceable, such provision shall be reformed only to the extent necessary to make it enforceable.
Open Game License v 1.0a Copyright 2000, Wizards of the Coast, Inc.
System Reference Document Copyright 2000-2003, Wizards of the Coast, Inc.; Authors Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook, Skip Williams, Rich Baker, Andy Collins, David Noonan, Rich Redman, Bruce R. Cordell, John D. Rateliff, Thomas Reid, James Wyatt, based on original material by E. Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson.

Friday, August 26, 2011

For Some Reason I Find This Hilarious...

While trying to get to the bottom of whether the Slaad are open content under the 3.0 SRD I came across this tidbit:
"The following items are designated Product Identity, as defined in Section 1(e) of the Open Game License Version 1.0a, and are subject to the conditions set forth in Section 7 of the OGL, and are not Open Content: Dungeons & Dragons, ... tanar’ri, baatezu, ..."
Dear WOTC, I assure you that you really don't have to worry; this is like someone putting a high-end car alarm in a beat-to-shit, rusted-out '82 Honda civic.

Some lame duck attempt to weasel out of the 80s satanic panic spotlight is considered an "intellectual property asset?" Hohoho. Has anyone, ever, in the history of D&D actually used those terms while actually playing the game?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Players' Survival Guide - Never Be Reluctant to Skip Town

You know how in every crime/mob/gangster mvoie/TV show some poor chump totally stirs up shit and than, even though he knows he should skip town, stays in his mom's basement or visits his girfriend and gets wacked? Hell, look at what happened to Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser's girlfriends?

Don't be that guy. When you end up kicking over the hornet's nest and you know that the shithammer may very well be swinging your way, don't mess around, don't tie up loose ends, instead steal some horses or a boat that very night and get the hell out of town.

And don't shack up two villages over or anything else half-assed; beat the hoof hard and get your butts on another continent if you can. There's more of them than their are of you; and divination magic, speak with dead, etc. makes it really hard to cover your tracks in a bulletproof fashion.

"Getting out of Dodge" is a cliche for a reason...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Open Content Analogues of WOTC Non-OGL Classic D&D Monsters

When WOTC released all that OGC/OGL jazz they took care to firewall a bunch of classic D&D monsters behind a product identity clause.

With indie publishers beings the wacky scamps that they are, a bunch of them has released versions of many of prohibited pre-2E monsters with the serial numbers filed off.

I'm working on some comprehensive simulacrum D&D encounter tables and have been using these versions to fill in some gaps; so far this is what I've come up with:
Beholder - Eye of Terror from Labyrinth Lord Advanced Edition Companion
Bullywug - Batrachian from OSRIC; Thugtoad from the Swords & Wizardry Monster Book
Carrion Crawler - Carcass Scavenger from Adventurer Conquerer King Labyrinth Lord
Displacer Beast - Phase Tiger from Adventurer Conquerer King Labyrinth Lord
Githyanki - Astral Raider from Ancient Vaults and Eldritch Secrets (a pretty "loose" version compared to the ultra-detailed Fiend Folio entry but it's there)
Grell - The Beaktopus makes for a workable substitute...
Mind Flayer - Mind Eater from the Swords & Wizardry Monster Book; Lasher from Mutant Future; The Thelidu from the Swords & Wizardry Monster Book are pretty close to the Mind Flayer, but their hit dice are significantly lower
Slaad - Bat from Ancient Vaults & Eldritch Secrets has kindly assembled the Senufio; Claudio Pozas made the Ogdoad for 3E, but they're a bit far from the original for my liking.

The monsters that I'm unaware of having any OSR-ish analogues are:
Githzerai - I admit, they don't exactly set the imagination on fire
Kuo-Toa - A whole lot of fishmen & Deep Ones out there though
Umber Hulk
Yuan-Ti - A whole lot of snakemen out there as well, but I haven't come across anything that closely replicates the AD&D version

Are any of you folks aware of additional versions of the "product identity" monsters or non-open pre-2E monsters that I have missed?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Fase Stabbing!

Just huffed two beers and I'm waiting FOR HEADS TO ROLL INTO MY FUCKING PIPCORN!


Blair's GM Merit Badges

Stuart at Strange Magic created a nice set of icons that DMs can use to quantify and communicate their refereeing style; although I was dubious about "patting myself on the back" I took a gander and hey! some of these badges fit me to a T. So here's my estimation of which badges describe my DMing style:

Players characters Death is a likely event in my games
I roll Dice in the open and don't fudge the results in my games
 My games include Disturbing content
My games are Gonzo and can include a lot of strangeness
My games rely on a lot of Improvisation rather than pre scripted content
 The GM is In Charge in my games and "rule-zero" is in effect
My games focuses on Exploration & Mystery
There will be Player vs Player combat allowed in my games
Players in my game should be prepared to Run when the odds are against them

 Tactics are an important part of my games
I frequently Tinker with the rules of the game

Sunday, August 21, 2011

All Characters Die, It Is Good When They Die Well...

RIP Cragathorn "The Quick," my buddy's 6th level Eleven Thief. My evil 6th level Magic-User had adventured with him for three real life years.

They escaped slavery together; travelled to the savage frozen north; escaped death by the sweat of their balls countless times; inflicted "reverse mental torture" psychological warfare upon a band of bandits for months.

Tonight we were in Malikarr; when I was tipsy last session my sorcerer and one other PC barged into the sunken temple of a beggar cult (always bad news). My PC was Held by a priest and today Cragathorn saved his helpless ass.

We decided to beat the hoof from this island, to avoid the blowback from the beggar cult and also because we were intuiting that the Set slaver cult that we joined and subsequently ditched to escape slavery were on our trail.

After healing up in a remote fishing village we made sail for the City-State of the Invincible Overlord. We were making good time but in an egregious case of paranoia failure we sailed too close roam island.

As a player I am terrified of islands; of course a 17 foot tall cyclops swam up to our vessel and stuffed not only two crewmen but also Cragathorn into a sack while we desperately attempted to kill it before it went swimming off.

My sorcerer used his Ebony Fly to stalk the cyclops and when it made land and started a cookfire he tried to Magic Missile it but was driven away by thrown boulders.

The next morning we sent an Invisible, uninjured Fighter PC to the island on a rowboat on a suicide/recon/rescue mission.

I still don't know what happened to him.

The next morning Gorice flew out on his Ebony Fly to the island, with both his Cronenberger-steed and his self Invisible, but no trace of either PC or the cyclops could be found.

Later Cragathorn was flung out of the magic sack of man-holding and desperately tried to knife the cyclops, but had his head dashed out on a cavern wall.

Cragaorn died, but he died fighting; and he died in an awesome, lurid, pulpy fashion after blooding his foe.

Crom! Count the Dead!

Being a Better DM: Blair's Version

1) Read Jack Vance.

2) MASH - Keep the game moving; keep things fast. Make up a ruling on the spot instead of wasting everybody's time looking stuff up and heming and hawing. Get the viking hat on and steamroller the game forward. If there's a rules lawyer or whiner in your group that's cramping your style, '86 them. If a player isn't paying attention or listening and keeps holding up the game let them know that you're always right, to get their shit together, and MASH on through/over them. If someone is holding up the start of the game while fussing over naming their character or buying equipment have everybody at the table STARE at them and let them know that they're being an asshole. To quote from Savage Worlds, Fast Furious and Fun. I persecute and harass and implement punitive houserules to get the players to the sessions by a reasonable time. A guy who plays in a buddy's game keeps hinting that he'd like to play in my game; he always show's up to my buddy's game hours after everyone else, there's no way I'm going to put up with that crap! I wasn't happy to do this, but I had to ask a friend to leave my game because he couldn't keep up with the other players. It was nothing personal, but he was holding up the game and I MASH.

3) Be Unmerciful. You forgot to buy torches and you got seperated from the party? Well, I guess you're fucked. Nobody wrote down the 5,000 gp gem? Well I guess it was lost. You didn't write down your XP from last session? Well I guess you'll remember next time. The dice say your favorite PC just ate it? Well I guess this is goodbye. You rolled a crap set of ability scores? So did I for my Red Box Vancouver character, and that PC is one of my favorite characters; deal with it. The point isn't to be a dick, the point is so that people are engaged, pay attention, hustle, and have to be so in order for their PCs to survive and thrive.

Believe me, when I'm DMing I'm a combination of Nethack, Captain Bligh, Larry David and Kali. I revel in mayhem, confusion, and horrendous death. But I don't do it to be a jerk or fuck over players; I do it because I love my players and I love my game, and have too much respect for both of them to play kindergarten softball. This isn't World of Warcraft, this isn't T-ball, this isn't Chutes and Ladders; this is Dungeons and fucking Dragons, so you damn well better hustle and sweat and think and pay attention in order to keep your character's head above water blood.

And from what I gather my players quite enjoy playing in my games, and I'm also very grateful for their participation. Thanks're the best!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Converting Swords & Wizardry Challenge Level to AD&D/OSRIC Dungeon Level Table

The Why
I'm trying to hack together some Over-The-Top Encounter By Dungeon Level Tables utilizing the material from all of the OSR Monster Books I have (The Swords & Wizardry Monster Book; Monster of Myth; Malevolent and Benign; and The Tome of Horrors Complete).
However, whereas AD&D/OSRIC categorizes monsters into a scale of I through to X for "Dungeon Level", Swords & Wizardry utilizes a Challenge Level scale that is analogous to the monster's hit dice, but adjusted for special abilities, so it's a more granular and also an open-ended scale.

The How
In the 1st edition Dungeon Masters Guide, in Appendix C: Random Monster Encounters on page 174, there is a table for determining appropriate dungeon levels for random monster encounters by use of it's experience value, such as III: 51-150 X.P. and IX: 5,501-10,000 X.P.
Obviously it's easier to convert from the more granular and open-ended Challenge Level scale to the restrained and smaller AD&D scale.
Now, as previously mentioned, the Swords & Wizardry Challenge Level is determined by a monsters Hit Dice (with adjustments for special abilities), so what I did was use the Experience Points Value of Monsters table from page 85 of the Dungeon Masters Guide to determine the "Dungeon Level" of a monster of average hit points and no special abilities for Hit Dice of 1 through to 21; after 21 I had to use some fancier math to determine at what Hit Dice an unspecial monster would need to Break the Dungeon Level X threshhold (31.7524 Hit Dice).
Interestingly enough according to this scheme the only monster in the Swords & Wizardry Monster Book that qualifies for Dungeon Level X is Orcus, Demon Prince of the Undead, which is actually in line with the AD&D tables. All of the CL 32+ monsters in the Tome of Horrors Complete are pretty much in line with the over-the-top nature of Level X AD&D Dungeon Monsters as well. When comparing some S&W version of monsters and their CL to their AD&D analogues and their Dungeon Levels they either match up or are off by 1 level, so this system is close enough for me.

S&W Challenge Ratings by AD&D/OSRIC Dungeon Levels
AD&D - S&W
I - 1
II - 2
III - 3,4
IV - 5
V - 6,7
VI - 8
VII - 9-14
VIII - 15-18
IX - 19-31
X - 32+

Friday, August 19, 2011

Don't Be Cheap With the Lighting/Your Characters Should Die If They're Not Prepared...

I was DMing Red Box Vancouveron Wednesday and the party was exploring a dungeon. Getting a NPC henchman to carry a torch is a pretty wise idea; they usually have the hit points of a paper bag and all. However, having the NPC henchman being your only light source can really bite you in the ass when a monster uses a fear effect and the torch carrying NPC (who runs faster than everyone else due to wearing leather armor) splits from the party to flee the dungeon with the light source. Although the cutpurse pup was eaten, it wasn't a total debacle as the "two 18s" hobbit only ended losing some ability points from a slit throat and the 3rd level dwarf also lost some ability points and had his left arm and leg eaten by troglodytes (Death and dismemberment table house rules).

In my experiences as a DM players are notoriously cheap with their lighting situation whilst underground. They try and BS and play dumb regarding their light sources; they try tying torches to or putting candles on their helmets; even if they're in the middle of the party they'd rather give away their left kidney that use one hand to hold a torch.

Although I draw the line at nonsense like attaching torches and candles to helmets ("It will pretty much get knocked off by every doorway when you're in a hurry or fall off in every fight... do you really want me inflicting nonsense like that on your PC?"); tip regarding playing when Blair is a DM: "Aside from exceptions for magic, FTL travel, and monsters, if it wouldn't work in real life it won't work in my game and/or will totally fuck over your PC in a pivotal moment." And yeah, I'm of the opinion that you can parry with a shield in your left hand or you can hold a torch in your left hand but you can't do both at the same hand (you have to hold onto the handle of the shield with your hand, see...).

Some people would say I'm not being fun, that I don't get fantasy, that I'm being a dick DM; I say that I'm expecting the world I DM to operate according to someting vaguely like the real world while also presenting the players with tactical challenges.

Now when I'm playing I take every opportunity to spam Continual Lights on pebbles and coins ("Hey party cleric, since we're going to be holed up in this inn for seven days could you make seven continual light pebbles? Thanks!"). I will actually forgoe carrying a shield to *gasp* carry a torch AND a sword. I insist that multiple members of the party carry light sources. And under optimal conditions in dungeons I do something I call the "Road Flare System."

Torches are dirt cheap; they burn for an hour; they illuminate as well as (or in AD&D better than) a lantern; and unlike a lantern you can drop them without burning oil getting everywhere. So I use them up like candy in dungeons. I throw a lit torch into every corner of a big room if we're going to be hanging out in it. If I think we're going to have to beat a hasty retreat out of a dungeon while we're on a focused penetration I may very well leave a burning torch every 30 feet along the exit route. If my PC is part of the "reserve forces" (which every party should have!) during a fight I'll spend a couple of rounds throwing torches about so the battlefield is clearly lit and we can perhaps see if anything is sneaking up on us.

In my years of DMing and playing D&D I've said a million times that "you need to always carry food, water, a light source, a means of igniting said light source, a ranged weapon, and a dagger/knife. ALWAYS." And there's nothing more hilarious than a PC dying because they didn't have a light source or they didn't have a flint and steel to light their light source. And I've seen that happen a ton of times.

In D&D your characters should die if they're not prepared. You need to think like a Boy Scout, a Boy Scout that kills monsters undergorund for their money.

If you are an adventurer going underground to fight monsters... don't cheap out on the lighting; that's seriously amateur hour clownshoes nonsense.

Stupid Question Regarding Swords & Wizardry "CL" vs. AD&D/OSRIC "Dungeon Level"

So I'm trying to hack out some over the top OSR monster book encounter tables (utilizing the monsters from the Swords & Wizardry Monster Book AND Monsters of Myth AND Malevolent and Benign AND Tome of Horrors Complete AND the indices from the AD&D Monster Manual II), starting with the dungeons, and I have a pretty stupid question for folks that are Swords & Wizardry AND AD&D/OSRIC mavens...

For AD&D/OSRIC monsters are arranged on a "Dungeon Level" scale from 1/I to 10/X BUT Swords & Wizardry uses a Challenge Level system without a cap that extends waaay past 10/X.

Is there any quick rules of thumb regarding converting S&W CL to AD&D/OSRIC "Dungeon Level" or am I just being obtuse/overthinking this? I'm actually way stupider than usual lately so please bear with me.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

[Fairy Tale OD&D] Rumplestiltskin Dwarves RULE

"Not tolkein/modern/WOW/Games Workshop/Scottish axemasters but gnomic crooked midget worms maggots of the earth akin to Rumpelstilskin and Norse mythology."

The Dwarves of my OD&D game are not stout, doughy, ale swilling Sean Connery's in geometric Viking drag but "real-life dwarf" sized, sinewey and not stout, crooked limbed, Rumpelstiltskins. They cackle and make bargains that involve 10 years off of a person's life. I'm pretty sure they dress like Punch from Punch and Judy, wear lots of stripes and polka dots, and their beards are long, scraggly chinbeards. This is somewhat relevant and inspirational to this game's version of Dwarves. I'm pretty sure the Dwarves in my game have creepy bird-like feet as well.

When the PCs encounter Dwarves in the mountains they cackle and demand tribute instead of being gruff and stoic.

Last session Peter made a Dwarf character and it was awesome. He cackled, he gamboled, he tried to give a teenaged girl to a hag that had a crush on him that he met at the Fairy Market.

His Dwarf used a short sword (which I now imagine looking like a big butcher knife), but during combat I kept thinking he used an axe and would say "Caddo rolls out from under the huge foot and severs the giant's hamstring with his hatchet!," Pete: "ahem... as I've repeatedly said before, Caddo is using a short sword," Me: "Goddamnit!"

Even when I attempt recasting D&D Dwarfs into a different (and more mythologically accurate IMO) archetype, the goddamn Scottish axe slingers still invade my imagination!

With the Algol games one of my goals was to attempt D&D without being stifled by modern D&D cliches; you don't know how many times I had to say when someone was making a PC: "No, there are no goddamn Dwarves on Algol! (aside from humans that have dwarfism)" I'm not out to cockblock a player's fun, but I demand a certain level of playing along with a campaign's "vision," and I think that all parties involved benefit from playing D&D under a different paradigm.

I'm consistently amazed at how much people love playing stereotypical D&D Dwarves (as well as playing toddler-sized races). It's not badwrongfun, but it's certainly interesting at how much traction such concepts have in folks' imagination.

But in this current campaign I'm trying to do something different yet again, and I have to say these Rumpelstiltskin Dwarves are pretty fun; they strike some Jung-ian nerve; and I'm glad "I imagined the hell out of it!" instead of just going all Talislanta during chargen and saying "No Dwarves!"

Monday, August 15, 2011

[Fairy Tale OD&D] It's Pretty Awesome When Everything Speaks "English"

Certainly the classic D&D language minigame is a nice bit of resource managment ("Who speaks sphinx, c'mon someone?"), but for my Lyonesse-inspired OD&D game I went whole hog with "pretty much everyone speaks the same language" and is usually pretty chatty. Foreigners, Dwarves, Goblins, Giants, even Zombies ("Oy! I'm already dead mate, no point in threatenin' me!") and Chimerae.

It ties in with delight in Jack Vance's eloquent monsters ("Please quit struggling and lie down peacably so I can enjoy eating you sir...") and it also comepletely removes the character generation speed bump of languages spoken, which I've been pretty much mashing through and ignoring for years now.

The one phenomenon I've noticed with this is that sometimes a player will continue to attempt negociating with or browbeating a monster after hostilities have commenced ("Stop! Stop!","There's no talking me outta eating your man-flesh, arrgh!"), which is pretty hilarious.

The session before last a PC was transformed into a toad by hag; although a traditional interpretation of such a transformation would involve him being only able to ribbit and croak, I got my head out my ass and ruled that the toaded PC was indeed capable of speech. Unsurprisingly, much hilarity ensued and the player was able to participate in the following events, so it worked out pretty much perfectly. Plus the player attempted talking like a toad, which was a real laff riot as well.

I also quite enjoy having counterintuitively chatty monsters such as zombies and chimerae, which certainly ramps up the absurdity and the fairy tale vibes, although I haven't gone completely off the deep end and had ordinary animals speaking, now that would be just too wacky for this particular game.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

My Alternate Reality Adventure - Vornheim II: Dungeons

So yesterday I tripped on a stack of Philip K. Dick books in my office and ended up in an alternate reality; the dimensional portal remained above the books so I decided to do a little investigating before returning to this reality.

It didn't take me long to learn something awesome about this reality: PANTERA NEVER EXISTED! I went to a metal show and the crowd was practically gentlemanly, no douches in pot leaf hats backwards moshing into everyone; "metalcore" bands sounded like Rorschach and (oldschool) Corrosion of Conformity instead of Pantera; etc., it was pretty sweet!

But before attending that gig I stopped by a game store. It looks like Hasbro never bought WOTC in this reality, D&D was still third edition and they were actually putting out cool useful products like hexmap sandboxes and packs of standup cardboard miniatures. They had dungeon modules that included the dungeon tiles and cardboard standups for the adventure! I checked online and you could actually buy old OD&D, AD&D, B/X D&D, Gamma World, etc. products via a POD service!

Anyways I see some familiar style artwork on a shelf and it was a book by Zak S., "Vornhein II: Dungeons." My credit card didn't work in this alternate reality, and the store only took american money for some reason, so I wasn't able to buy it and bring it back with me, but it was pretty sweet.

It contained all of the cool dungeon generation shortcut procedures that are on the D&D With Pornstars blog, but there was a butt-load of additional content such as all of the monsters from the Fiend Folio that Zak redid, but now with statistics (including No. Appearing, Morale Scores and Treasure Types). There were more monsters than just the Fiend Folio remakes, and they were generally pretty awesome with the kind of wacked out mechanics that you'd expect. Plus Telecanter had contributed a bunch of content as well! It also contained a bunch of dungeons and lairs; it was significantly bigger than the Vornheim city kit.

Man, I hope Zak produces that book in this reality...

Friday, August 12, 2011

[Red Box Vancouver Players Stay Out] Awesome Combination of Dungeon Randomosity

If you're going to or could be playing in one of the games I'm DMing at the Grind in Vancouver on a Wednesday night, you better not be reading this!

While working on my Dungeon for the Red Box Vancouver crew an awesome piece of random stupidity emerged.

Using the Tricks, Empty Rooms, and Basic Trap Design PDF and my random table of wacked out monsters I ended up with the combination of a room that is an ampitheatre and also contains a Man of Wounds from the swell Varlets and Vermin PDF.

"Hmm" I mutter to myself, "how can I implement this combination to maximize awesomeness?"

...obviously the Man of Wounds is wearing a toga and a laurel wreath, is stuck full of gladii, and will be muttering "E tu, Brute?" at the party...

Thursday, August 11, 2011

My Attempt at Running a "Normal" Basic/Expert D&D Game...

So I volunteered to run 3 sessions for Red Box Vancouver this month, and as a change of pace from my regular DM style attempted to make a "normal" dungeon for the adventures.

First I whipped up some maps in my awesome graph paper Moleskine notebook during some lulls in a Mutant Future Game (during which Kronh the Slayer got to get down with a four-boobed mutant queen!), and roughly blocked out some areas with the awesome Tekumel underworld chart PDF (I've got to get my hands on a copy of the Pettigrew Selections ASAP!). Came up with a couple wacky things with the results, but they were well within the precedents of early TSR OD&D/AD&D output.

Next I worked on the monster lists for stocking the dungeon; somewhat unsurprisingly my attempts at normalcy went pretty much went out the window at this point and things took a pre-Wessex Rientsian turn... (I was planning on using the spiffy S&W Tome of Horrors Complete for this, but between the monsters I wanted to use and my preference for the Fiend Folio version of some monsters nope; maybe if they included Hoard Class and Morale Scores... ;) As an aside every post Fiend Folio version of the awesome Crabmen ignores two awesome things about the Fiend Folio version: A) They're nuts about silver & B) They carry off women.)

Regardless I soldiered on in my attempt to make a normal B/X D&D dungeon and stocked it using a combination of the B/X D&D dungeon stocking tables; the Appendices of the AD&D DMG; and the Awesome Tricks. Empty Rooms, & Basic Trap Design PDF by Courtney C. Campbell of the Hack & Slash blog. (I'm planning on giving the regions unexplored after tonight another go-over with the also-Awesome Old School Encounter Reference by Kellri; the Judges Guild Ready Refs' Sheets; and sundry dungeon tables by Zak S.)

I did the stocking in a two-hour period before rushing to meet the super-cool Red Box Vancouver crew at a far too crowded and loud coffee shop in a cool neighborhood (as opposed to the tumbleweed infested coffee shop we used to use...). Graham proceeded to generate a halfling hobbit with 18s in Dexterity and Constitution, and a Strength of 13-15(?) right in front of me and I swore that that sheet would end up on my DM Trophy Triumph Death Wall...

The session was pretty awesome; I failed in my quest to gut the Red Box Vancouver stable of badass PCs (for this week...) but I managed to:

A) Totally beat the living shit out of badass dwarf Gamgar with the first dungeon encounter, on the stairs leading down into the dungeon, with a very muppet-like, hunched and piteously whimpering, mother-freaking Stair Stalker! Which also totally freaked the fuck out of the players, who were also incensed and skeptical when they took the same monster's remains to a wizard to have it identified and were told that it was a monster called a Stair Stalker that rarely spontaneously generate on underworld staircases.

B) Kill one of the party's sociopathic thug retainers, Rhino Toronto of the Toronto brothers, between expeditions via random roll, when he cracked his head slipping in bloody cobblestones while bashing a farm boy's head into an alleyway curb.

C) Nailed Gamgar with a pit trap, and was a hair away from tossing him down another one a mere minute later before another player thought to check the floors.

D) Kill Merrigold Serpenthelm's two batshit-vicious rottweiler sized "war dog" pitbulls (that were always pissing everywhere and eating dungeon-dressing bones) via shambling "Blind Dead" ghouls that also spent several rounds attempting to lap up Columbo the double-18 stat hobbit's blood with their withered jerky tounges but were unable to claw through the paralyzed hobbit's plate mail. Fortunately the stupid blind dead all shambled through the magic circle hologram gate to Carcosa that the party was cowering behind.

E) Got Dino Toronto of the Toronto brothers cut in half by a dark Jedi's lighsaber when the party broke into Darth Vader's tomb.

F) Got the DM-infuriating statistically gifted hobbit Columbo's eye taken out by the same dark Jedi's lightsabre. It was awesome when Merrigold Serpenthelm tried to invisibly sneak up on the dark Jedi who was force choking a hobbit and knocking arrows out of the air, and of course the Sith dude just used the force to know where he was.

Other hijinks included:

- An inexplicably Italian accented cowardly hobbit, who had a key to the service entrance to an abandoned wizard's manor handed down to him by his great-great-great grandfather who was a cook for the aforementioned wizard.

- Dino Toronto being apprenticed to Merrigold Serpenthelm by an elderly half-deaf, senile, drunken guardsman in a powdered wig as court-appointed punishment for inflicting random ultraviolence upon farm boys instead of him being tortured by virtue of the party intervening and feeding booze and gold to the "judge".

- Merrigold being able to identify by smell a pool of dog urine in the dungeon by virtue of his batshit massive pit bulls pissing everywhere for the past week.

- The party looting Darth Vader's suit of plate mail from his sarcophagus.

- The party killing a four armed white ape and than finding magic hologram gates to Barsoon and Carcosa.

- Retainers consistantly cowering from monsters and danger.

I can't wait for next Wednesday's return to The Manor of Kalapron!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Houserule - Latecomers Shall Be Splintered

Once per session a player may, upon their character taking damage from any source or failing a saving throw, choose to transfer the damage or effect of the failed saving throw to the character of the player who was the last to show up for the session, was unreasonably late, and thereby held up the scheduled start of the game; exceptions may be made for players who responsibly inform the group that they will be late due to reasonable reasons such a work or school (but not hangovers and the like) at the DM's discretion.


Bob's Fighting-Man falls into a 30' foot deep pit; the DM informs Bob that his character takes 15 points of damage.

Bob chooses to take adavantage of "Latecomers Shall Be Splintered" and transfers the damage to Harry's Magic-User as Harry showed up an hour-and-a-half later than the other players due to being at the beach.

The DM states "As Bob's fighting man tumbles into the pit he flails his arms around trying to grab a handhold and instead grabs the robe of Harry's Magic-User pulling into the pit as well. As the two tumble down the shaft somehow Harry's Magic-User ends up beneath Bob's Fighting-Man and his body cushions the imapact upon the Fighting-Man ameliorating the damage. Also Harry's Magic-User is now dead."

See also "When You Arrive" Houserule

Monday, August 8, 2011

Blair's Lyonesse Inspired OD&D Game: The Rules

The Setting
Vaguely dark ages/Arthurian/Fairy Tale/Lyonesse-ian

The Rules
Original OD&D LBB with Gygaxian OD&D Houserules & some Greyhawk ability score modifiers (STR to hit only; CON to HP; DEX to AC for Fighters only).
Humans, Elves & Dwarves for PC Races.
Clerics are either "Druids" or "Hermits" (vanilla OD&D Clerics with campaign appropriate names & flavor; not New Age/Wiccan/Nature worship Druids but Clerics that are called Druids because that's whay they call religious functionaries in Lyonesse).
Literal interpretation of OD&D class-based weapon and armor restrictions; Clerics cannot use magic edged weapons; Magic-Users cannot use magic armor or magic weapons aside from daggers (or Arnesian "magician swords").
Hit Points are rerolled at every level a la Empire of the Petal Throne; the higher of the old or new HP is retained.

Not tolkein/modern/WOW/Games Workshop/Scottish axemasters but gnomic crooked midget worms of the earth akin to Rumpelstilskin and Norse mythology.

Not Tolken/RPG/Metrosexual/New-age Elves, but Fairies from Fairyland without a consistant appearance. Low CHA Elves are grotesque, high CHA elves are elegant.
Between sessions Elves reside in Fairyland; at the beginning of every session Elf PCs leave Fairyland and enter the mortal world at which poin they choose to function as a Fighting-man or Magic-user for that session.

Explicitally stated: There is NO way a PC can use, benefit from, powergame or exploit the transition to and from Fairyland and the Mortal World; it is an arbitrary and irrational phenomenon. YOU KNOW BETTER when I'm DMing.

OD&D LBB spells along with spells from Elritch Weirdness and selected Arduin Spells.
A saving throw is allowed vs. a Sleep spell; all Fairys & Fairy creatures possess the Elven 90% resistance to Sleep spells (and immunity to Ghoul paralyzation).

Social Class
The 3d6 roll for starting gold is recorded as "Social Class"; if a Fighting-Man has a Social Class of 11 or higher they are a Knight (a loser landless Knight if you have an 11 Social Class)
If your Social Class is 18 you are a Prince or Princess!
Don't expect in-game benefits or powergaming via Social Class
The PC with the highest Social Class is the Caller/Leader of the group; in case of a tie, the higher CHA score breaks it.

Armor & Weapons
STR and DEX weapon and armor prerequisites.
Use the AD&D weapon and armor price lists, but...
Leather and Chain armor only; Plate mail is very rare and very expensive, don't count on finding any.
No crossbows; two-handed swords are also very rare and very expensive.
All weapons inflict 1D6 damage w/o any STR modifiers but Greyhawk STR to hit modifiers for Fighting-Men.
Weapons use an amagamation of the Greyhawk and AD&D weapon vs. AC tables; this information is not provided to PCs.  Roll the dice and I'll tell you if you hit. But...
A positive modifier on the Weapon vs. AC table is negated if your opponent is wielding a weapon that is longer than yours (Ex: The generous Dagger vs. Unarmored modifier is negated if your opponent is wielding a longer weapon).
"Beat The Wretches" houserule.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Awesome Snack Stains on Character Sheet

Xyran the Strongman from my Lyonesse-inspired OD&D game; we speculate that it is some variety of meat grease...

Saturday, August 6, 2011

So if Elves are 90% Resistant to Sleep Spells...

...does that mean that Fairies are also 90% resistant to sleep spells?

This is probably a more pressing issue in my current Lyonnesse-inspired OD&D game where Elves are explicitally Fairies from Fairyland. (note: They are not the Fairies of the Victorian era and afterwards...)

Friday, August 5, 2011

Micro-Dungeon is Mega-Awesome: The Purple Worm Graveyard

I just read through The Purple Worm Graveyard by Tony Dowler of The Year of the Dungeon, and I'm throughly impressed. A fun, creepy, idiosyncratic mini-adventure that reminds me of those wacky old Judges Guild adventures.

It features a great "task resolution mechanic" cribbed from Apocalypse World that is elegant, simple and well worth using for specific adventure situations (adventure writers take note); it's short and sweet, and it's brevity is a welcome relief to the walls of text that DMs are supposed to read in many (even OSR) adventures; and it features worm hoochie-mamas with their eye-poppers hanging out in the breeze!

Plus the hardcopy is in THE KING OF FORMATS, A5 5.5"x8.5" digest sized, with a seperate cardstock cover with the map on the reverse. Oldschool and efficient!

Hopefully Tony continues releasing similar adventures; this worm is hooked!

Who Offers Freebies and Discounts to Military Personnel?

Even though I'm a no-good leftist pinko peacenik, a buddy of mine is being deployed to Afghanistan; as a serviceperson he got a free subscription to Kobold Quarterly and a special KQ patch for military folks(!).

He asked me if I knew of any other publishers that offered freebies/discounts (he's a family man and living on a soldier's wage so he's not rolling in the hobbybux), and I figured I'd hit up the blogosphere for some leads.

Thanks in advance.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Two Immediate Quibbles re. The Swords & Wizardry Tome of Horrors Complete

1) A whole lotta white space going on here; I really would not have minded a smaller page count in exchange for a tighter layout (even sans the encounters; they're cool, but man, I dunno if I'll ever use any?).

2) No monsters by terrain type?!? Ahem, from "... and plenty of charts dividing the compiled monsters by CR, type, and terrain...."; with my other monster books I use the monster by terrain listings as encounter tables (by penciling in the #s on a printout of the pdf), and I assure you, I would have gladly exchanged the encounters for some terrain tables, or especially encounter tables by terrain.

It's still a cool & bad-ass monster book, but man, I was really looking forward for there being charts by terrain type for my over the top obsessive encounter tables. ...unless I missed the terrain charts on my first breeze through the pdf?

EDIT: If you preordered it and can't find the PDF on the download site, try checking the "ezine subscriptions" section instead of PDF downloads when you log in.