Tuesday, July 24, 2012




1st Edition (and Van Halen) are officially back.  The circle is complete.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Sweetest 20%: Candle of Swarming


The manufacture and use of these candles is a tightly kept secret of the druid circle that inhabits the Karn Slough.

Although nominally included within the boundary of the Halmon Protectorate, (ruled in all but name by the hierarchy of the Orthodox Church of Ahlmin), the peasantry in and near the Elsbec Delta have not embraced the teachings of the church enthusiastically despite waves of proselytization undertaken during the past few decades;  the spires of the Church of St. Selestine are far away, while the crop-blessings and weather-telling of the druids is near to hand.  Inevitably, as inexperienced but fervent bishops transition to positions of greater responsibility, the conversion of the area becomes prioritized.  Typically these efforts have devolved to persecutions of varying intensity.  

At such times, the druids strike against the hierarchy of the church directly but asymmetrically until brethren with a more ecumenical bent rise to leadership.  Candles of Swarming are one weapon used in such circumstances.

Candles of Swarming are similar in many ways to the Creeping Doom spell, although only wasps form the swarm it produces, which contains 40+1d6x10 wasps. The swarm forms in a single segment and attacks the nearest living thing (usually the person that lit the candle), moving in turn to other creatures within a 50' radius of the candle.  The swarm will not, however, move outside of an enclosed room smaller than its maximum area of effect even if spaces such as under doors or ajar windows exist.  Each wasp does 1hp of damage before dying; wasps that survive will feed on any carcasses and mutate into giant wasps in 24 hours.  If large amounts of paper are available, the wasps will create a nest lair which will be defended vigorously.

Such candles are often used to replace other tapers in targeted priests' personal quarters, usually near various holy books or papers which require light to read at night.  Sometimes assassins are hired to place the candles in appropriate areas, other times the druids themselves, using their shapeshifting abilities, will infiltrate church buildings directly.  

The last time the church attempted large-scale conversions in the delta, the druidic circle managed to replace several candles in the library prior to the rites of cleansing undertaken before unrolling an ancient scroll containing an original copy of the Epistle of Selestine.  The large number of resulting vacancies in the hierarchy, and incalculable loss of books and tomes that followed, resulted in the anniversary itself becoming a local day of fasting and darkness.


XP Value: 750
Gold Piece Value: 5,500

Friday, February 24, 2012

Brendan's 20 Qs

Here's my answers to the 20 questions posed by Brendan.



Ability scores generation method?


Roll 36 scores in order using 4d6, drop lowest.  Take any six consecutive scores for a S/I/W/D/C/CH array.  The end of the string wraps around to the beginning.


How are death and dying handled?


As per 1E's optional rule; death occurs at -10, bleeding out at 1hp/round or by any single wound that reduces HPs to -4 or fewer.  Scarring or other bad stuff appropriate to the type of damage happen if a character reaches -6 or below.


What about raising the dead?  


Spells or magic items; in practicality, 90% of the time it would be a raise dead spell.  PCs who patronized the church or were held in great esteem by the masses as heros will have an easier time getting the spell.  Others will pay market rates and may have to hunt longer for a caster.


How are replacement PCs handled?  


Depends upon the situation, but most of the time they just enter the party and I leave it up to the players to explain it.


Initiative: individual, group, or something else?


Group, except spell casters who are not using wands or such; if casting a 1 segment spell they go with the rest of the group.  2-segment spells would go 1 segment after the group, and so on.


Are there critical hits and fumbles? How do they work?


This is up to the players.  Monsters use the same rules.  I have had players choose no crits, max damage on 20, 2 damage dice on a 20, and charts.  The smart ones choose no crits.


Do I get any benefits for wearing a helmet?


It is assumed you are wearing a helmet if you wear armor.  If you are not, than your head is AC type 10 modified by dexterity, and will be targeted half the time by intelligent creatures.  I've never had someone buy a "great helm", but they could do so and get AC1 if they wanted to.  I would just have to roll a d6 with the d20 every time they were attacked to see if it was against the head or not.


Can I hurt my friends if I fire into melee or do something similarly silly?


Sure you could.  Smart missile use will target spell casters hanging back, or large-size creatures where it's not an issue.


Will we need to run from some encounters, or will we be able to kill everything?


Apex predators/monsters are at the top and bottom of most of my random encounter charts.  Some placed encounters will be more difficult than the average for the area.  


Level-draining monsters: yes or no?  


Yes, but if groups make it a priority to avoid level-draining monsters they can usually do so, through information gathering or paying attention to clues (corpses in an area that appear to have died in extreme fright, or appear desiccated).


Are there going to be cases where a failed save results in PC death?


Yes; this is one way the fighter is balanced against the M-U - his saves are better after 3rd level.  If you cut down on SvD, it gives an advantage to the wizard.


How strictly are encumbrance & resources tracked?  


In practicality, during a gaming session not very often.  If I think things are getting out of hand with equipment carried then I will request a re-calc.  Or, when characters are trying to figure out how much treasure they can carry out they will re-calc.  


Characters who are unencumbered for the combat and evasion advantages are kept track of more carefully, but this is easier because the limit is usually lower and they know exactly how much will push them out of a 12" movement range.


What's required when my PC gains a level? Training? Do I get new spells automatically? Can it happen in the middle of an adventure, or do I have to wait for down time?


PC M-Us get to pick any single spell they wish to learn when they gain a new spell level.  I require training, but if a character doesn't have the gold they can work off the balance through a quest of some sort that is advantageous to the trainer.  


I have allowed automatic level-ups in long adventures when I've ran them.


What do I get experience for?


Treasure, monsters, bringing the beer.


How are traps located? Description, dice rolling, or some combination?


Combination.  A thief has an advantage in that it can find something even if the player running it doesn't know where the trap is, but is simply suspicious.  Same with Dwarves and Gnomes in their abilities.  Other classes/races can use description only.


Are retainers encouraged and how does morale work?


I don't push retainers on players, but I think if used wisely they are smart options for lower-level players.  Treat and pay them well, and they'll have good morale.  If you're also charismatic they'll have great morale.  They work best as second-line polearm carriers, missilers, and spear-boys that keep the M-U out of melee, in my experience.


PCs who continue to use men-at-arms after about 3rd level will have problems keeping them alive as they fight more powerful creatures.  If, regardless of all other factors, your retainers have a high death rate their not going to stick around.


Morale is rolled as per 1E DMG.


How do I identify magic items?


With an identify spell most of the time.  I don't gimp identify by making it useless a few hours after the item is found, or require a live fish to cast it.  It pretty much works although as per its description, it may not tell you everything.  Legend Lore is useful for more powerful items.


Or, you can hire a wizard to do it for you when you get back to town; spendy though.


The time honored method of testing, trial and error can also work for those who are not afraid of cursed items or poison potions.  Sometimes in desperate situations, you just gotta take a chance on that unknown vial and see what it does.


Can I buy magic items? Oh, come on: how about just potions?


I will usually make a few potions available by local hedge wizards and healers.


Can I create magic items? When and how?


Yes, as per 1E PHB for levels and spells necessary.  The formula will vary from item to item.


What about splitting the party?


Up to the players; on a practical basis most don't want to have long periods of downtime in a session where they aren't the active group.  So I've only seen it very rarely.  But there are times where I think it's tactically appropriate to take the risk; and it is risky.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

I need a stoogie with a PHB idol on the wrapper

Thank you to PnP, Mythmere, Dan Proctor, Joe Browning, and every old school small press publisher, blogger and poster who had a hand in bringing this about.

Your efforts and time invested proved that there was gold in them thar hills everyone else said were played out.


And of course, a very big thanks to WotC as well.  It's nice to be able to type those words.


Let's make sure that print run sells out so fast, the FLGS's are pounding on their distributor's doors, asking for more, who in turn pound on WotC's door, demanding more 1E product.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Kumbayah D&D Announced

I am sure by now the blogosphere has thoroughly commentated about the largely expected, by now, confirmation of 5th edition - err, iteration.  

It will be hard for WotC to succeed with their "all things for all people" unifying game set.  It would have been much easier to follow up 3rd with such a ruleset; the drastic changes in 4th will be tougher to fold in and maintain the goal of a non-fragmented player base.  At least, if their definition of non-fragmented player base is lots of people playing essentially the same game, as opposed to lots of people playing a game with D&D on the cover.  But if they get back the majority of Pathfinder's market, and only a handful of the old-school market, I am sure it will be considered a resounding success anyway.

As much as I hate to say it, given my love for 1E, if I was a Hasbro executive I would make the original Moldavy/Cook B/X set the evergreen Wal-Mart game that is truly within the grasp of 10-12 year olds to run and create for, 3E the "advanced" game, and keep the guts of 4E as the spiritual heir to Battlesystem - something you pull out when the campaign takes a turn from dungeon combat to battlefield combat.  I wouldn't spend a lot of money on making up new editions.  Support the IP you've already paid for.  The OSR has proven that if WotC would put out good material for B/X, anyone playing a pre-3E game could spend their money on it and use it essentially as-is.  Viola, revenue from all sources.

If Wizards could ever crack the VTT combination, that gives a DM a BTB-starting point easily modified for house rules, seamlessly running the preferred edition, I think they could have a gold mine.  I would bet that many gaming groups that have been out of the hobby for 20 years are still connected due to the wonders of facebook.  Something like that could get people interested in getting the old gang together again online in a way that even Google+ doesn't currently do; and the number of lapsed gamers probably exceeds the market of current gamers by a factor of 20.  There's your gold mine.  

But me?  I've got what I want: Matt Finch; the collective authors of the Advanced Adventures line at Expeditious Retreat Press; PatW of ASE fame; and others are making what I want.  I'm not going to accept less so that I can be supporting WotC.  They have to earn money that is already considered well-spent.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Handy Game Tool: Macro-Enabled (N)PC Sheet Character Sheet

Glimcogworks, on DF, posted an Excel spreadsheet character sheet that's really handy.  Most new forum-ites open up with a post of "hey, how you doing, I'm just getting back into D&D after a 'X' year absence and I'm really glad to have found your site" or some such.  Glim just dropped this sheet off and sped away like a he was making a link-n-run. 

And it's a nifty sheet - probably near enough to the holy grail if you are a late 1E period gamer.  It automates all the calculations, and plugs in appropriate tables such as weapon vs. AC and the to-hit matrices. 

The further you get from the 1979 DMG, the percentage of a 1E hardback that will see use in my game becomes smaller, so its nice that areas of the sheet such as NWPs are optional.  All I need to know to have a complete NPC sheet are the stats, class and any weapons known.  Pretty sweet for a gift horse I wasn't expecting when I swung by to check out DF's 1E forum.

Highly recommended!  Grab it and, if you like it, say thanks to Glim for sharing his work.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Descriptions Done Right

Many people are probably already familiar with the way bat describes his new items at Ancient Vaults & Eldritch Secrets.  bat has a stable of recurring characters who use his new items in action scenes, following with game info.  For an example read this spell, which I think is pretty nifty mechanically, too.


Every once in a while you run into a method or process that works so well it subsequently seems the only right way to do something.  And yet to adopt it feels like copying something distinctive and personal, unlikely to equal the quality of the originator.   Thank you and damn you, bat. 


I'll probably just plod along with my Ed Greenwood pastiche.