Monthly Archives: November 2011

A Giant Among Elves… (4 Sessions so far)

And yes, Tier is – a seven foot tall, five inch (or so) tall Grey Elf.

There is a story behind that actually. Way back in Session #6 there was an Obelisk, and it ended up sending three characters off. Tier ended up in the Shadowlands, what somebody inventing the Shadowfell must have plundered from my brain while I slept – except mine is far, far cooler. In that session he gained a point of Constitution, but also four inches (taking him to a solid 6’6″) in the process.

In any case, Tier ended up captured by slavers, and after being run through his paces at the local ludus and earning the sobriquet “Cries for Blood” he was purchased by the master sh’dai swordsman known as Darkness at Noon, the Dueling Hawk of the mysterious lilim called Gyrmawlkyn, the Lord of Hali, Master of Carcosa, and Bearer of the Dread Sword of the Hyades. Taken back to Carcosa, he trained for a short period of time with both Darkness at Noon and the albino mage called Ice and after ten successive (and obviously successful) bouts was granted an audience with the odd creature who owned him.

Tier had been informed previously that the Lord of Hali had a habit of training gladiators and then sending them to the great Arena at Khazan where they would have the opportunity to fight for their freedom. His reasons for this are unknown, but it seems to play into his political machinations in the Halls of the Ebon Council and his rivalry with the dread Leo’trahh, Grand Maestra of Death, and Demi-Empress of Khazan and it’s environs. Upon his audience, Tier was granted the choice to stay in the service of the Lord of Hali or the opportunity to travel to the blood-stained city of Khazan and fight there for his freedom. Tier chose to travel to Khazan, and was told that in the event that he won his freedom he was welcome to return as he wished to take service or merely to guest for a time. Taking both his leave and a selection of advice from Darkness at Noon, Tier then traveled to Khazan and entered the Arena.

Now, understand that I have essentially a direct AD&D analog to the T&T module, rolling the same tables and having the same events and odd possibilities for non-combat resolution of various of the rolled encounters. It also gives the ability to purchase enchantments and spells for his weapons at a high cost – as well as needing to pay for healing. This certainly proved incredibly valuable for Tier, because his first two encounters were possibly the two worst in the game. All he has to do is win three battles and he’s free – and at that point gets the chance to sign up for seven more in order to try to win an audience with Leo’trahh.

The first battle was with the with a shoggoth. Yes, a Shoggoth. In T&T, this is a crazy gawd-awful creature – in AD&D it’s darn near as bad (I happen to have the good edition of Deities and Demigods) and when I combine some of the elements from Call of Cthulhu it’s certainly one of the nastiest things you can run into. But the module give the player a small chance to win the fight without even having to engage in combat, a successful Intelligence check and Luck check grant the player not only the knowledge that shoggoth’s enjoy piccolo music but the presence of a piccolo on hand! So there is one shoggoth dancing ponderously on the sands of the arena to the great amusement of the crowd – and Tier winds his first fight.

Needless to say, the odds were far against Tier this fight and he got a roll on the “Special Magical Weapon” table instead of getting a monetary award. It is worth saying that Arena of Khazan was kind of notorious for having some incredibly overpowered magical weapons as potential rewards off of this table – and when I say overpowered I mean that these would likely be considered very unbalanced artifacts in many settings. T&T was far more four-color than most games though, and I’ve always liked them. Heck, I recognize a couple of them from SD’s world – so I know how some people managed get ahold of them!

In any case, Tier was granted a “Great Kris” for his valor and luck – it is a +3 Elven Shortsword that grants the wielder immunity to 1st- through 3rd-level spells. Powerful, but not massively so compared to some of the things I could have rolled up…

So then we are on to round number two, and what does my son roll up?

A Balrog.

It’s kind of a toss-up if a shoggoth or a balrog is worse in T&T, but imagine a cross between a Type VI and a Fire Giant and you pretty much have it in a nutshell. Now, in the module, the Balrog is so sure of itself that it just stands there and lets the character strike first – actually challenges them to. Tier is no idiot, he takes his chance and runs up to the damn thing and lashes out with sword and dagger (being a two-weapon fighter). This thing has 90HP, and through a combination of pre-bought spells boosting his weapons and two fantastic rolls (I swear, his dice are blessed at times) he nails the thing for 66HP of damage – and then in the following round beat the things initiative and do the 24HP of damage needed to drop it.

If I had false teeth I would have dropped them in my lap, he’s a 4/4 Fighter/Mage with 32 HP and he just killed a roughly 20HD creature.

The crowd goes wild, and off he trots up to claim his reward – which is another roll on the Special Magic Item table. This is where I really had to sort of adapt something, so the “Bottle of Warrior Juice” (which doubles the characters Strength and Constitution in T&T) became the “Elixir of Ares” and there a 50/50 chance that it will give the player 1-3 levels in a Fighter class or grant them a +1 to Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution. Tier, of course, rolls the attribute bonus and given his already existing stats now has a Strength of 19, a Dexterity of 18, and a Constitution of 19.

But… I rule that this also increases his height by 1d12 inches – and he rolls a 11.

So now we have a 7’5″ tall elf.

I wish I could say that his third fight was as exciting. There was a beautiful elvish mage of some sort in a silver robe with a silvery-grey staff, after spurning the opportunity to either spare her or throw himself at her mercy – she let loose three salvos of five Magic Missiles apiece and Tier was done for (somebody forgot about his Great Kris)…

Luckily he had reserved some cash for this event and he was saved from being monster-chow, but having lost that fight, he still had to win one more before he was free.

It was a kobold.


So, with his hard-won equipment and prizes, plus a paltry 100sp tossed to him for winning his “fight” with the kobold, Tier has been released into freedom in the great city of Khazan, on the borders of the Shadowlands and Great Realm of the Dead. He’s not exactly sure how to get home, or what would happen to him when he managed to get there, but he has his freedom and a rather high level of notoriety!

We’ll see what he does next – this was kind of perfect set of crazy events for a 14-year old. Hopefully he can maintain his run of luck!


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And in other Gaming News…

I managed to pick up a copy of Lamentations of the Flame Princess: Grindhouse Edition and I arrived a couple of weeks ago. This has given me enough time to review it, and just generally poke at the guts a bit to see how it seems to work.

I like it.

I bought it originally because I really want to support not just the OSR, but folks who are putting out a quality product with decent design values. LOFTP meets this criteria. I also like supporting people who aren’t afraid to do things that might offend other people. LOFTP:GH certainly fits the bill in this department as well.

After now looking at all of the art and reading the game I am rolling my eyes and thinking to myself, “This is it? This is what people have been having apoplexy about?” Really!?!?” I know I am somewhat jaded, this is somewhat normal given my profession, my research interests in my profession, and the general types of literature that I like to read. But seriously, people need to relax or somehow otherwise buy a clue if they think that this game is the end of Western Civilization. Sure there are some breasts, and some graphic violence (in a very cartoonish style I have to add), but I hate to break it to all of the OSR folks out there – as I mentioned before I worked in a comic book shop in the 80’s and this is very, very tame compared to some of the independents that were published back then (let alone now). Have any of you read the original Crow for Pete’s sake? Or ever looked at any copy of Heavy Metal magazine?

Anyways, enough of that! Let’s get to the actual game.

This is a simplified and streamlined OD&D, not anything remotely resembling either B/X or AD&D. This is a fine thing in that Raggi has also made the decision to create a very specific flavor of game setting rather than try to make it generic. You could certainly use it in a world of your own unique and different design, but I think that might be missing the point somewhat. Now, it’s a combination of the artwork and the writing, but I think “Solomon Kane” when I read this, or “Bran Mak Morn” or “Conan” – I could just as easily move towards “Averoigne” (ala Clark Ashton Smith) if I wanted to, and even as exotic as Glenn Cook’s “Dread Empire” or “Black Company” novels. But in any case, we’re talking a much more low-magic setting than standard OD&D, or even Leiber’s “Fafherd and the Grey Mouser” tales. Though if you wanted to go high-magic in this setting, Moorcock’s “Elric” novels would work really nicely I think.

Ok, maybe not, but it would be an interesting experiment.

I like the encumbrance system. A lot. I’d already started to adapt it for my Home Brew system from the Free PDF available and I’ve pretty much decided to adapt it for my AD&D game. I’ll see about posting my version in a bit. Combat is nice and simple, a bit too simple for my tastes, but that’s part of why I play an AD&D mod. Magic has a great flavor, and I really love monsters as unique beings. It’s a bit further than I go in my games, but in general the major opponents in my games are humans, humanoids, and demi-humans (along with undead and lycanthropes) – you don’t run into a bunch of chimera or manticores or whatever in my campaign world unless you are going out of your way to find them. As many people have said, the spin on the thief as the “specialist” also makes a great deal of sense. Finally, while I’m not generally a fan of the “race as class” idea, it seems to work here for whatever reason.

I look forward to buying Carcosa when and if I get the chance, and I talked my spouse into contributing to the post-Kickstarter for the Adventurer Conquerer King System to get me a holiday gift when it came out – another pair of OSR offerings that I think deserve extra looks.


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Great news all around…

So, today I got my brand new copy of Arena of Khazan in the mail. According to my dear spouse I sold off my old copy about ten years ago – so I was very happy to find that Paizo Publishing had a copy. The last one evidently, because they now have it listed as unavailable…

But this puts me in a good spot with Tier and my son’s solo game.

It also put’s me in a good spot for an alternative to potential slaughter of the “main game”. I spent some time this weekend figuring out what was “missing” from the Order of Battle” of the Caves of Chaos based on the number and type of creatures there. Then I spent some time tallying up what was actually left in the caves (which is a not-so-surprisingly large amount), and now I’ve been thinking about what the heck I would do if I were them (given what “they know” and their INT). I have no clue what the heck is going to happen, the party really has some amazing luck and is pretty damn effective in the greater scheme of things.

But now they are on the Bad Guys home ground – and the Bad Guys knew that they were coming…

They’ve really managed to steamroll through the opposition to this point – and certainly to surprise and chagrin of leadership of the Bad Guys. That means that they’ve gotten to this point much stronger than anticipated and with less time for the Bad Guys to prepare. Unfortunately this also means that the Bad Guys are a likely a bit desperate and starting to realize that they need to either flee or they have to wipe this group out for fear of being discovered – the presence of the cult, the organized nature of the goblins and bandits, the presence of the Ash Goblins (plus a Barghest leader) – all of this stuff will have the “Good Guys” out in force if word gets out.

Which is why, of course, the Good Guys sent a number of Rangers out this way (from the Old Faith) plus a Cleric, Warrior-Monk, and Paladin (from the Society of Light). I’m quite certain that the divinations and whatnot of the higher level Good Guys strongly suggested that something hinky was going on – just not as hinky as what was actually going on!

So, worse comes to worst, the Bad Guys may just offer to spare the characters lives and “just” sell them into slavery – far, far away. That is certainly a better deal than either having to leave or perhaps crippling their activities – and it avoids a TPK. That said, the party could get lucky enough to not just avoid the TPK, but to also cripple the Bad Guys. It wouldn’t be unheard of, or impossible – but that would really be quite epic in effect for the group…

I’m nervous about the coming battle(s), the group has manged to get a couple of characters up to decent levels, but at the same time there is still plenty of crunch in the party (Jezabel, Taloth, Arvid, Ketzl, let alone Gregor or Greyleaf) and while I am totally willing to kill PC’s I tend to feel kind of bad when characters get in over their head.

I need to keep reminding myself that this group has been doing quite well and that a few deaths isn’t going to have people leaving in a huff…


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Two other campaigns at the moment…

My son is sick today, and he’s been asking why I’m not posting about his other character Tier – who disappeared along with Kyril and Roland after he touched the Obelisk with the Candlestaff. So while I’m not going to say much about that character at the moment, I am going to mention that I have essentially two other campaigns running in my game right now – both of them solo-games.

The first is the “Hali” game – this is the game with Tier. He ended up in the Shadowlands, a… well… I guess I need to do a post on the cosmology of my game universe. Let’s just say it is kind of the opposite of the Faerie (yeah, very 4E – and no, I didn’t steal it from there…). That has, at the moment, a single character:

Tier, NG Grey Elf, Fighter/Mage, 3/3, Minor Psychic.

Tier has been enslaved and is currently owned by the Lord of Hali, one of the many Sh’dai nobles that owe fealty to the Witch-King and sit on the Ebon Council. He’s owned by said Lord because he did really amazingly well in his gladiatorial trials and is potentially a good investment. This campaign may very add a few people as we run into days where not everyone can show up – it’s kind of easy to drop in and out of…

The other campaign is another solo campaign, this one with my spouse – and it essentially picks up where I left off with my house rules (just switched over to AD&D). This one is down south in the Heartlands, where the Blight just occurred in the middle of the Petty Kingdoms. Converting over those characters wasn’t that hard really, but also includes folks who are movers and shakers (or potential movers and shakers) in the game world. My spouse is playing one of her favorite characters (Karin has gone though a handful of incarnations) and a couple of older PC’s that she has never had a chance to play – plus a couple of henchmen she’s picked up over time.

Karin – TN Sh’dai, Duelist/Witch/Tantric-Assassin, 4/4/4, Psychic.
(H)Lise – TN Human, Tantric, 3
(H)Byrne – LE Sh’dai, Cavalier-Champion, 3, Minor Psychic
Bjarte – NG Human, Archer-Ranger, 1
Khemais – LG Human, Healer (Duelist), 1 (1)

Ash – LE N’Dai, Duelist/Diabolist/Bloodmoon Adept, 5/5/5, Psychic
Lynn – LE N’Dai, Cavalier/Diabolist/Templar, 5/5/5, Psychic
Kyril – TN Human, Mage (Witch), 4 (1), Psychic

Yes, this is where Kyril ended up just to make things interesting. I’m sure he’ll make his way back up to the Barrow-Downs campaign at some point, but at the moment he’ll provide some much-needed magical support as an actual mage for the group and give him some seasoning I suppose (if he doesn’t die). This group has been hired by the Guild of Art in Albion to try and get to Vaile, one of the bigger cities that is deeper inside the Blight to see if they can figure out what happened or if there are any survivors there that aren’t utterly crazed. This game also lets me get a nit more used to running higher level encounters again before the Barrow-Downs party gets to those levels.



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Dwarven Weapons and Equipment (1e)

So, as I talked about for the Elves I also have a collection of equipment and gear that the Dwarves produce.

The Dwarves as a race are a collection of craftsmen and artisans that take a great deal of pride in their accomplishments. Their product is invariably of sturdy construction (gaining a blanket +2 to all saves) and costs roughly five times (5x) the normal cost for an item (even if not granting any other special bonus) – though one notable by-product of the innate dwarven enchantments and forging process is that Dwarven goods don’t rust either.. Dwarven goods, mostly weapons, armour, and other pieces of metal working, are in great demand across the Mortal Realms and can be found in most Great Cities. Dwarven smiths are also one of the few places that Masterwork and even simply enchanted weapons (+1 and +2) and armour can be purchased – though often at astronomical prices.

Dwarven Battleaxe: With the Dwarven Waraxe, the Dwarven Battleaxe is perhaps the quintessential Dwarven weapons. Crafted from fine steels and sturdy wood hafts, the Dwarven Battle is also balanced for throwing (ROF: 1, Ranges: 1″/2″/3″) like those of the Northmen and has a haft usually around two-and-half to three feet long and most commonly single-bitted. Like all axes, it gets a +1 to Hit, but also has the ability to Disarm opponants on a roll to hit AC8. Damage: 2-9/2-9, 75sp

Dwarven Waraxe: A heavy two-handed axe, the Dwarven Waraxe is preminantly a weapon-of-war for the Dwarves. Most commonly double-bitted, some single-bitted “cording style” Waraxes are also found and both types are capable of Cleaving attacks. Like all axes it gets a +1 to Strike, and like all of the Two-Handed weapons it gets an additional +1 to Hit (for a total of +2) and strikes in Post-Rounds. A company of Dwarves armed with four-to-five foot long Waraxes can decimate opposing foes quickly and efficiently. Damage: 3-18/3-18, 150sp

Dwarven Hammer: Perhaps slightly more common than battleaxes for the Dwarves due to their additional utility when it comes to mining. Dwarven Hammers are beautiful and sturdy weapons about two-and-half to three feet in overall length, and are balanced for throwing when they are purpose-built as weapons (ROF1, Ranges: 1″/2″/3″). They most commonly have a single head and like all hammers get a +1 to Hit. Damage: 3-6/2-5, 15sp

Dwarven Warhammer: In the same vein as the Dwarven Waraxe, this is the matching two-handed blunt weapon with a haft length of four-to-five in length. Like all hammers it gets a +1 to Strike, and like all of the Two-Handed weapons it gets an additional +1 to Hit (for a total of +2), Cleaving, and strikes in Post-Rounds. Some examples exist that are single-headed maul styles. Damage: 3-12/4-10, 50sp

Dwarven Knight’s Mace: The idea of a “Dwarven Knights” is a bit odd to human ears, and in truth this mace is styled as such due to its popularity among human knights – though it is equally as popular among many Dwarves as well. Usually around two-and-half feet in length, the Dwarves like them for their ease of use in close quarters and have determined the most advantageous designs for both damage and ease of use. Damage: 2-8/2-7, 75sp

Dwarven Shortsword: A quite common, though not quite so romantic, weapon of the Dwarves. The Dwarven Shortsword is a broad-bladed weapon just over two feet in length that is quite effective. Damage: 1-8/1-8, 125sp

Dwarven Battlesword: Somewhat rare, but often used ceremonially by the Dwarves, the Dwarven Battlesword is a broad-bladed weapon between four-and-half and five feet in length that can only be used with two-hands. Like all Two-Handed weapons it gets a +1 to Hit and has Cleaving – it also strikes in Post-Rounds as is normal for Two-Handed weapons. Despite it’s often ceremonial role, it is a deadly weapon when wielded in combat by a skilled warrior. Damage: 3-12/2-20, 300sp

Dwimmervolk Smallsword: The Dwimmervolk eschew many of the traditional weapons of the Dwarves due to thier above-ground, urban dwelling habits. The Dwimmervolk Smallsword (sometimes called the “Citysword”) is a thin-bladed fencing weapon of great strength and flexibility matched with a light action and ease of use for the skilled duelist. It gets a +1 when used to Parry. Damage: 2-7/2-8, 250sp

Dwarven Doublemail Hauberk: The Dwarves are known not just for their weapons, but their armour as well. The 1-in-8 design of forge-welded links is amazing enough, but the metals used lighted the load more than could be imagined. Bulky, 25 lbs, 9″ Movement, AC4, 600sp

Drakehide Hauberk: A popular style of exotic armour, the Dwarves also made armour out of the hide and scales of Drakes which grants a bonus to saves (+2) against the elemental effects that the Drakes are associated with and reduces the damage taken from such effects (-2 per Die of damage). The common varieties are Fire/Heat (Fire Drakes), Electricity and Lighting (Storm Drakes), Cold and Ice (Frost Drakes), and Acid (Swamp Drakes). Fairly Bulky, 30 lbs, 9″ Movement, AC5, 3000sp.

Dwarven Plate Armour: This complicated set of full plate armour is lighter and stronger than would be expected due to a combination of both alloy and technique. Like other Full Plate, Dwarven Plate absorbs 2HP of damage from each die of damage that hits – though it absorbs 48 HP of damage before worsening to AC2. Non-Dwarven smiths requite double the time and cost to repair the armour. Fairly Bulky, 25 lbs, 9″ Movement, AC1, 20,000sp

Dwarven Waybread: A rich, earthy loaf of dense bread, Dwarven Waybread is an excellent source of nourishment in a very compact form. One loaf of bread will sustain a person for an entire day of very hard labour. 3sp per loaf.

It is also worth noting that Dwarves are often the most common users of Firearms along with Crossbows, the Dwimmervolk are common sources of Dartcasters, and the Dwarves of the Shadowlands (the Dwarrow) have their own weapons and specialties. They are also quite noted for the beers, meads, stouts, and strong spirits.

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The Party’s Magical Items so far…

Just thought I could share the way I’ve described the items for the party to this point – apart from the handful of potions and D’lanni stones. These were all pulled out of the Ogre/Ghoul lair in sessions five and six.

Arvid’s Longsword – It is a finely made though clearly old and well-maintained blade made in the style of the old Kal Astarian smiths. The hilt is bound in newer dark leather that matches the scabbard, though this is clearly not the original materials. There is a maker’s mark underneath the scales on the tang, the rune “G” with a crescent moon and three stars. When examining the blade in the moon- and starlight another series of runes are revealed along the blade spelling out “An Aghaidh” (“Opposed”). It has been revealed to be a +2 weapon.

Frater Nikolai’s Argentos – Made of fine, brightly polished sunmetal and gold, it is marked with the Enochian sigil for the Sarim, and a finely inscribed note on a verse from the Enchiridion relating the Doctrine of the Law – namely, following the Testaments, obeying the Rule, embodying the Virtures, and recognizing the Mandate of Heaven. They’ve figured out it is a Phylactery of Faithfulness.

Mika’s Fighting Knife – A simple and plain fighting knife, it’s pommel is formed as a rose bloom and the hilt has details of thorny rose vines. The blade has deep blood grooves that are sharpened themselves. The blade smells slightly of old blood or rust. The blade itself is otherwise undistinguished. It has been revealed to be a +1 Wounding weapon, that also Detects Secret Doors and Traps (in a 10′ radius).

Vesna’s Wand – Made of a bleached larch wood, the wand is simply made with cold-forged fittings fastened with ice-drake sinew and topped with what appears to be a piece of permanently frozen hail or ice. The entire wand is cool or even cold to the touch. It smells of a cold winter’s day. After long examination, an inscription can be made out from the somewhat abstract designs carved into the shaft of the wand “Ulthwe”. They have figured out that it is a Wand of Frost.

Sometimes I do a great job of describing magical items, at other times I’ve fallen prey to the “You get a +2 broadsword” – I’m trying pretty hard not to fall into the trap of telling instead of describing – and after watching the enjoyment that the players have had with the magical items that they aren’t quite sure what it is that they do and then slowing figure them out.



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“Yes, and…” instead of “No, but…”

So, when I did my House Rules when starting up with the Barrow Downs game I decided that I needed to do something with Non-Weapon Proficiences (aka Skills) – I think I made a mistake. Now I essentially liked how Oriental Adventures introduced NWP’s into the game. It really made sense given the setting, and I even looked at the additions from the Survival Guides with a certain level of good humor.

These days, and even then, it was increasingly hard to think of a game without skills of some sort – I was used to games that were heavily skill-focused (Traveller, Cyberpunk 2020 for example) and that has certainly been the increasing trend of the industry. It is certainly the direction that 3E went in…

So I went in and tweaked the heck out of the NWP lists from the existing 1E books and a couple of Dragon articles and came up with a decent list that pretty much covered all the bases. Even decided to use the multiple d6 method for doing Skill and Stat checks that someone on the Internet suggested – I honestly can’t remember who it was.

But in any case I’ve now been kind of playing with that for a couple of months now and I’m not liking it. How many years did I play AD&D with no such system in place? There really isn’t any need, I’m certainly not really using it now save in vague and awkward ways when there is some sort of weird question as to what a character should be able to do but doesn’t have the NWP for it. And there are never enough NWP’s to start off with and you never get enough fast enough.

I used to base what a character would do on a four things – First, whatever their class is. Second, whatever Secondary Skill they rolled up. Then, what social class they were, and finally whatever culture/race they were. If we look at those four (or five if you count race separately) things then you will likely have a pretty unique set of things a character can do – plus adding in whatever sort of idiosyncratic thing a player might want their character to be interested in.

And just giving characters new skills or abilities was always a nice way to reward them with something other than a +X Doo-Hickie.

Other folks have talked about how the progression of D&D has been to protect players from bad DM’s by the institution and codification of rules to cover all of the things that used to be under the aegis of the DM. The more I’ve looked at various rule sets (including things like LOTFP: WFRP – of which I now own the Grindhouse Edition and am very happy with) with both a more critical and a more reflective eye, the more I think that is correct.

Here’s the deal, I am pretty confident in saying that I am not a bad GM. At my best, I had a regular gaming group of about ten people, at my worst I have always been able to muster two or three up, and even now I have seven people showing up to my house to play and two people Skyping in – and I’m pretty confident that if I wanted a couple more players I could get them with a minimum of effort.

So why am I trying to protect my players? What am I trying to protect them from? Me?

That’s nonsense. Why run a game that cramps my style and cramps the style of my players?

There are so many things that are actually broken about the OD&D and AD&D systems (Encumbrance anyone? or Initiative? Hell, even Surprise?) that I am kind of embarrassed that I even spent the energy on this. It is certainly a viable way to work a game system – it’s not a very D&D way to run a game system. Old School was “Yes, and” – the presumption was that unless it was something that was specific to another class you had a chance to do it, “Yes, and let’s see how well you do” instead of the “No, but” version of later editions. In these rules the assumption was that if it wasn’t written on your character sheet the answer was “No, but you can learn how at a later level”.

I don’t like playing “No, but” – I like my AD&D games to be heroic and four-colour (heck, I like most of my games to be like that) and “No, but” doesn’t really allow that until high levels (if ever). I suppose that this is what 4E was designed to address from what I can glean looking it over – but it certainly doesn’t have anything to do with D&D other than the name.

So, I guess I’m dropping the idea of anything more than Secondary Skills – and that’s pretty much a Middle and Lower Class thing. Nobles get all sorts of education, they don’t a Secondary Skill as well…


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The Caves of Chaos (Section B) – Session #11

So, the last session saw some interesting progress. Everyone was able to show up except for KB (who was doing computer tear-down for a local con) and TW (who had his kids this weekend), so the group decided to leave Ketzl and Greyleaf back at the camp to burn bodies and otherwise try to make sure that they weren’t going to rise from the dead like the bandits that they had killed.

At this point I did channel TW (perfectly according to my spouse) who proceeded to “lay on hands” to all of the wounded females in the party using his psionic Cell Adjustment.

“Please, I don’t mean to be forward, but if I might, well, lay my hands upon you, I would be able to help with those grevious… wounds of yours. Please, lay down, this can be quite overwhelming and I don’t want you to feel faint and fall. Now, we must breath as one, we must be as one – well not quite like that, at least not here in front everyone, I do understand the desire to show gratitude but this isn’t really the time or place – Errr… where was I? Yes, we have to synchronize out heartbeats as well as our breathing. Pardon me, but I need to listen to heartbeat, I’ll just lay my head there on your chest. I’m sorry, could you just unlace your tunic a bit, I can’t really hear….”

You have to understand, TW once spent fifteen minutes describing how his Traveller noble put on his gloves with such comic detail he had the entire group practically crying we were laughing so hard. I channeled him to great effect, though I suspect not nearly as well as he could have done himself if had been inspired.

After that, the group moved out and quickly ran into MS’s new character – he rolled well enough to generate not only another Paladin, but when he came up with social class he rolled Middle Lower Class – meaning that he could take Thief as a dual-class. So he did, the character, Gregor, still needs a bit of fleshing out, but is quite interesting so far and has been put on mage-guarding duty. I’m not sure how Vesna feels about this, but he’s quite happy to help out Frater Nikolai however seems to make sense.

The group moved in close to the Caves of Chaos, and then decided to send the stealthy types on ahead. So Mika, Brother Illya, Gryphon, and Astrin (with Vesna’s raven familiar, Bran) were sent off to see what they discover about the caves and then report back. The raven had already reported some bodies on stakes at the valley entrance so the group wasn’t exactly sure what they would discover.

To their horror it was the bodies of the bandits they had set loose – with the one who had spoken to them still alive, impaled on a pike – but with his hands, feet, eyelids, tongue, nose, and ears cut off and healed (and gelded too for what it was worth) so that he was suffering but living there on the end of stick. One crossbow bolt from Gryphon later and the poor bandit was out of his misery – though Brother Illya suffered a little twinge of LG unease at not asking him if he wanted to be put out of his misery first…

The rest of the party moved up, and as they surveyed the valley they could see the various cave mouths open, with trails running up to them. Taking the horses away for safety they decided to enter the uppermost cave on the right side of the valley first (Section B for those of you who are following along at home). Sending Gryphon in first (Mr. Psionic Invisibility) while the rest of the party waiting to hear a ruckus, they soon went charging in as the alarm was raised by guards noticing the body of the watcher that Gryphon had slain – he was pretty much taking care of the first guard-room all himself as the party rushed in.

Quickly, the party began cutting through the bandits, who stopped them somewhat at the entrance to “Feast Hall” but the party really was overwhelming for a bunch of bandits. The leader, with a dagger to the throat of a woman, walked out and demanded that the party stop and negotiate and as Brother Illya spoke to him Astrin pulled out her Darter and Assassinated him from around the corner. As Jezabel moved to comfort the screaming, blood-covered woman she was shocked to have the woman backstab her with a poison dagger (luckily the save was made). To her dismay, Astrin put a Darter round in the lady as well – Jezebel was quite put out by this, wanting to kill the woman herself.

Searching out the Feast Hall and the Barracks revealed no more bandits, so the party moved up the sloping corridor to the north and checked out the store-room and then bandit leaders room – unfortunately discovering that the door was trapped. Mika the Thief was hit by three poisoned darts – and again made all of her saves as well. Arvid the Ranger strode confidently into the room to find out that the tapestry was Glyphed, and made his save luckily only taking 5 points of damage – while Mika discovered that his dagger, in addition to being a Wounding weapon , evidently also Detects Secret Doors and Traps, so the Secret Door was discovered!

And that is where we left it. A couple of party members are a bit wounded, but not very badly, they’ve pretty much cleaned out this area and have a Secret Door to investigate as well as the rest of the cave entrances. A little bit of magic and a fair amount of cash has been discovered, but the party has also decided after the backstabbing “hostage” (or at least Smjorr has decided) that everything in this place is hostile and deserves to be slain. I’ve already had to start to compensate for the previous action as I figure out what the responses of the inhabitants of the Caves are – and the party is likely in for quite a surprise at some point here soon.

Probably next game session as the evil cult’s response swings into motion…



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Old Home Week

Yeah, not exactly, but I certainly felt old…

I went out to my old DM’s (SD) 50th Birthday party this past Saturday with the dear spouse, the son, and KT. It was great seeing SD again, and his wife, plus his kids – some of whom I remember being born and a couple who I remember when they were knee-high to a grasshopper. SD himself and I have a fair amount in common, my BA is from the same institution that his MA is from – and we both attended the same professional schools for our PsyDs.

I also saw FK (and his lovely wife) who I never gamed with but who’s comic book shop I both worked in for a number of years through high school and in whose shop I met SD. He came down with Parkinson’s a few years ago but it seems like the meds are working pretty well for him right now and he’s stabilized. Out of the old gaming group I also say BB and TIM, yes I’m using his actual name TIM, because I have now forgotten his name the last two times I’ve seen him (I forgot it at the SD’s second oldest son’s wedding as well) – damn embarrassing, but like I said, I felt old…

I did find out that BB has been lurking here on the blog – not commenting so as to remain ninja-like in his observations. I spent many hours in the car with BB because when I first started gaming with SD and crew not only was I not able to drive (I was 15), but for even a couple of years after I was able to my parents were much more comfortable if I merely drove home from BB’s house instead of driving back and forth from Dekalb (we lived in St. Charles). SD’s gaming group were all in that same, rough age range, about eight or so years older than me – except for BB who is ancient. His wife and my mother actually worked together we discovered early on – which undoubtedly helped with the me going out to DeKalb on Thursday nights and staying till between 2200 or midnight.

Primarily we played AD&D 1E – BB had Ulmus the Dwarven Champion of Posiden (he’d picked up Wave from White Plume Mountain and converted) as well as Johnson, the Halfling Healer (the old BOD alternate character class). TIM’s most memorable character was Roderick the Archer-Ranger, who had a Heartbow ala the memorable “Escape from the Empire” TV-Pilot that never made it to show status. And BB just shook his head with I described MS’s dice like those of MA’s character Thallion (a Champion of Nuada), just without the good luck – Thallion could never roll well, except when it seemed impossible that he would.

We also played other games – Palladium RPG was a favorite, along with a horror-ish homebrew of SD’s design. I’m trying to think, I know we played other stuff, but I can’t really remember much else – those are the games that stick in my mind. I think there was some Runequest, some Stormbringer, and some Tunnels and Trolls IIRC. These days they are playing 3.5 and one of SD’s kids is running Rifts.

It was nice to see everyone again, and give my son a chance to talk with some fo the guys that I was gaming with at an age only slightly older than his own. He knows TW, who is my only other long-time friend that I still see, let alone hang out with, but this was nice.


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Elven Weaponry and Equipment (1e)

So, one of the ways that I enjoy making various races seem and feel quite different from each other is to make their equipment different and special – mundane, Masterwork, quasi-magical, as well as the “common” magical items that race creates. So, ignoring the “common magical items” for the moment, here is a listing of a few for the elves.

Now, in the case of the Elves, even their “mundane” items are significantly better than human construction – the result of time out of mind spent on minute refinements of design and technique. Each item made by elves are themselves works of art that a human artisan would weep to produce even one of during their life. In the Mortal Realms these are quite difficult to come across and often command incredible prices. One of the greatest features is that all Elven weapons are treated as if they were either silver or cold iron for the purposes of hitting certain creatures. They aren’t actually made of such materials (many elves being quite susceptible to cold iron) but the inherent enchantments that come from their construction methods and the exotic, non-rusting “Elven Steel” used.

All of these items are rarely available in the Mortal Realms and have Exotic availability. The prices listed are reflective of this and the fact that the elves themselves maintain a primarily gift economy rather than a market or barter-based system. It is also worthwhile noticing that many of those found in the Mortal Realms have been constructed in places like Mistvale or Silverveil – those items with an actual Faerie provenance can command even greater prices to collectors.

Elven Longknife: A long-bladed, single-edged blade of roughly 12″ overall length, the Elven Longknife is balanced for throwing (ROF: 2, Ranges: 1″/2″/3″) and grants an additional +1 to Parry. Due to its size, Surprise attacks can be made in melee combat if it is thrown at an opponent – very few expect such a weapon to balanced for throwing! Damage: 1d6/1d6, 20sp.

Elven Shortsword: While there are multiple styles of Elven Shortsword, they all have a number of similarities; a slightly curved blade, a chisel-point, single-edged, and roughly two-and-half feet in overall length. Their use tends to be limited to warriors and some ritual use. Damage: 1d8/1d10, 250sp.

Elven Longsword: Similar to the Elven Shortsword, there are multiple styles with the same shared profile, save that the overall length is roughly four feet. The Elven Longsword is reserved for warriors, the epitome being the “Wind Blade” of the “Wind and Fire” matched sets of Long and Short swords. Damage: 1d10/2d8, 750sp.

Elven Battlesword: The elven version of the single-edged Hand-and-a-Half Sword, it is an elegant weapon of war that has a typically Elven slightly curved and chisel-pointed blade roughly three-and-half feet in length, often around four-and-half feet on overall length. Like all Battleswords it has Cleaving and +1 to Strike when used two-handed, but due to its balance it merely incurs a -2 Initiative penalty rather than being forced to strike in Post-Rounds. In order to be used single-handed it requires a Strength of 11+ and a Dexterity of 11+. Damage: 1d12/3d6, 600sp.

Elven Greatsword: Roughly six feet in overall length, the slightly curving, single-edged four-foot blade of the Elven Greatsword is amazingly delicate for the damage it deals out. Like all Greatswords it is +1 to Strike, has Cleaving, and must be wielded with two hands. Due to its balance it merely suffers a -4 to Initiative penalty rather than being forced to strike in Post-rounds. Damage: 1d12/2d12, 1000sp.

Elven Spear: Between six and seven feet in length, the Elven Spear is made of strong, resilient silver-white wood with a broad-bladed tip. It may be thrown (ROF1, Ranges: 2″/3″/5″) with such accuracy that it seems to fly through the air, though it’s strength and keen bladed head allow it to almost be used as a polearm in melee combat. Damage: 1d8/1d10, 10sp.

Elven Longbow: Prized by archers of all sorts, the silvery-grey wood of the Elvish Longbow is distinctive from a distance – which is excellent given their increased range (ROF:2, Ranges: 9″/16″/23″). Commonly etched and carved with minute designs, the Elves name their bows and treat them with the same level of honor as Humans view their swords and Dwarves their axes and hammers. In combination with Elven Arrows these bows, and the archers that use them, are deadly. Damage: As Arrow, 600sp

Elven Greatbow: The epitome of the Elven bowers art, the Elven Greatbow is prized by their archers and reserved for the most skilled among them. Like the Elven Longbow, the range is greater than a normal (ROF:2, Ranges: 10″/16″/26″) and many are prized heirlooms of their bearers. Damage: As Arrow, 900sp

Elven Arrows: Finely made and balanced, Elven Arrows grant a +1 to Hit and are most commonly found as Standard, Bodkins, and Broadheads. Damage: +1d4/+1d4, 5sp (Any Type)

Elven Chainmail: Made of a fine mesh of strong chain links, this can be worn and hidden underneath clothing successfully. Non-Bulky, 30lbs, 12″ Move, AC5, 1500sp.

Elven Chain & Plate: Made of fine elven chain as well as delicate plates and exquisitely articulated joints and often etched and inscribed with fantastic designs, to human eyes this almost appears like costume armour. Fairly Bulky, 50lbs, 9″ Move, AC3, 5000sp.

Elven Cloak: A tightly woven, but supple and soft cloak of a neutral greyish-greenish color, the Elven Cloak provides a +2 to Surprise checks in natural surroundings. It also grants a +25% to “Hide in Shadows” attempts for Rogues in the same settings. It is amazingly strong and warm while also allowing the wearing to “breathe” quite easily – it is considered the most favorable form of clothing for either cold climates and the wearer does not suffer any penalties when wearing it in warm ones. 1000sp.

Elven Boots: Finely made and delicately embossed leather, Elven Boots and quite study despite their appearance. They are also quite comfortable and easy to move in, and due to their suppleness provide a +1 to Surprise rolls and a +25% to Move Silently for Rogues. 1000sp.

Elven Cordial: Spicy and strong, with a cleansing finish, this shimmering drink with faint silver and emerald sparkles is one of the most common of elven drinks. Elven Cordial heals 1d4, grants the ability to make an additional save vs. Poison if there is any within their system, and grants an additional save vs Disease and Parasitic Infection. It also provides the drinker halves the need for water for a 24 hour period of time. It commonly comes in leather-wrapped crystal decanters that hold five quaffs. 500sp per quaff.

Elven Waybread: Light and airy, with a honey-sweet and nutty flavour, these crisp wafers are prized by all for their taste, let aloe their nutritional properties. Carefully wrapped in leaves, an unbroken wafer provide all of the nutrition needed for a full day of hard exertion (broken wafers are only half as effective). A weeks worth fits neatly in a beltpouch – when you can find it! 10sp per wafer.

Elven Spellcrystal: While the Fae have always written in formats that humans and other races would recognize, they also record information in crystals that can be accessed by entering the proper meditative state and using the facets and the mystical qualities of the crystal as a staring pattern. When used as a spellbook, a typical spellcrystal can store significantly more information in a much smaller (and more resiliant) package. An Elven Spellcrystal can easily record 500 levels worth of spells. 10,000sp

On a more Dungeon Masterly note, this makes (along with Dwarven, Gnomish, and other racial gear) a great way to hand out quite useful items that aren’t super-magical but still have quite a bit of umami to them.

Categories: Campaign, Campaign Development, Game Design, Game Play, House Rules, Magic Item | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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