Sunday, August 29, 2010

Some insightful comments

From "We Always Ignored That Rule"

I concluded that the AD&D version of the "weapon vs. AC" table was interwoven with the variable weapon damage - some weapons have apparently sub-optimal damage dice, but when used with the "vs. AC" table are a better choice for doing damage to a heavily armored character. If you don't use those tables, there's no mechanical reason to use those weapons. I don't have the tables to hand, but I recall it being an issue with piercing weapons such as war hammers, military picks, and stabby polearms. Probably crossbows, too.

FWIW, TSR fixes this ;)

Having returned to D&D after many years, I've come to realize how the rules I previously ignored changed the flavor of the game. For example, as a kids we hand-waved encumbrance, food, light source tracking, etc. It just didn't seem important or fun. Now I realize I missed a significant aspect of the game by ignoring those rules. I've come around to the opinion that it's not really D&D without the resource management.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

It's been a while.

From BigFella:

I think the trick is not having a certain "magic bullet" that's the only way to kill the monster, but rather being open to unorthodox wacko crap that desperate players come up with when their pointy sticks aren't working.

It's the players' job to be clever, the GM's job is to give them something to be clever about and to inflict the ramifications of that cleverness in an even handed manner.

Monday, June 28, 2010


"Round-by-round initiative was key to the whole combat action system though. Everyone declared their actions, THEN initiative happened. That injected a whole element of uncertainty into the game. Did you plan to boldly advance towards the altar or hang back near the door where you could restrict the enemy? If you decided to advance and the other side got the initiative you could end up in a heap of trouble, but hanging back could seriously hamper your ability to achieve some goal or other. Switches of init between the two sides also promoted the possibility of sudden reversals of fortune and gave combat an uncertain and rather chaotic caste. And of course the whole thing raised heck with magic users, especially if they were planning on using any of the longer casting time high level spells."

Monday, June 21, 2010

Tavern Rumours

From DungeonMastery:

1-10 Low Paying Job
11-20 Decent paying job
21-25 High Paying job
26-30 Con Artist (Fake Job)
31-40 Fake Leads
41-50 Folk Lore*
51-60 Minor Artifact Location
61-70 Treasure Hunt
71-75 Lead on a Villain/Friend/Etc
76-80 Major Artifact Location
81-90 Two pieces of useful information**
91-100 Someone is selling a map!***

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Thoughts on Light from KarasDjun

From dragonsfoot:

Has anyone ever gone into a dank, pitch black cave with nothing but a flashlight to guide several people along? I would imagine stairs (especially those in disrepair) would be quite treacherous and any hole would be very dark until the light came closer. Those behind the light would be in almost total darkness and easily picked off by creatures able to see well in the dark or dim light. For these reasons and more, I think continual light "flashlights" are a waste of time.

As for enchanted swords and other weapons with light/continual light cast upon them.... Take a flashlight or two in a dark setting and swing it like a sword. Now have someone without a light poke at you with a stick. I'll bet they hit quite often. I would think that multiple light sources like this would likely cause more confusion than shed illumination good enough to see by. Given the shadows cast by these weapons, whipping about at high speed, you would be virtually sickened or at least nauseous by the end of a long combat. A light spell should be cast upon a stable object (ceiling, torch sconce, etc) otherwise the constant movement would become distracting at best, sickening at worst (like watching a video where someone is running with the camera). Bullseye lanterns are sort of like flashlights (mono-directional beam) and are great for spotlighting a certain area, but I'd take a torch or hooded lantern over any of these. A linkboy serves to keep the light still while combat occurs around him. A clerical sanctuary spell or protection from evil would greatly enhance their survival. Even at higher levels, a linkboy with a magical light source can cloak it and reveal it as the party wishes and still leave them free to fight.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

From the Greyhawk Wikipedia Article

Rary was a low-level wizard created by Brian Blume and played only until he reached 3rd-level, at which point Blume retired him, having reached his objective, which was to be able to call his character "Medium Rary"

Friday, June 4, 2010

A Quote to Remember

"most of what is found herein is essential to the campaign, and those sections which are not - such as subclasses of characters, psionics, and similar material - are clearly labeled as optional for inclusion." (AD&D Players Handbook, page 6)

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

If it ain't broken...

Use of System Shock Roll = Polymorph "fixed"

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


According to Ode to Black Dougal:

"B/X doesn't have an Identify spell"

Really? Identify using my ritual rules is a great fit. Back to work on 1.75 and TSR.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

So, I've been sick.

From here:

"Look at the first edition of AD&D. It was a relatively complex game, but it has lots of causal players -- because while its rules were complex, you really did not have to know many of them to play. A lot of rules knowledge -- let alone system mastery -- wasn't needed to play. The only person who really needed a good knowledge of the complex rules of first edition AD&D was the GM."

Thursday, May 13, 2010

In Search of Awesome


Here are some things your really fucking awesome book should have:

Mouth-punching by page three
A completely baffled child
Tongue-kissing by page four
A dated hairdo
A Conan the Destroyer reference
Nice outfits
At least one robot who is both turbo hot and owns their own sexuality
A really awkward phone call

Monday, May 10, 2010

Fun with 4E

"The total of all the modifiers you add to an attack roll is your base attack bonus."

Monday, May 3, 2010

"+The gameworld is defined as the players explore it, and the idea that

+The players need information in order to make meaningful decisions about which way to go

are actually two opposing ideas."

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Thanks to Jeff and the Grand Grognard

"In future, I plan to be a lot more circumspect, perhaps even going so far as to adopt Jeff Rients's suggestion (a link to which I can no longer find) that each magic item in the D&D rulebook is unique -- if you find a sword +1, you find the sword +1 and no one else will ever possess one unless they pry it out of your cold, dead hands."

Monday, April 26, 2010

There's a reason I grabbed the 2E Monstrous Manual

"I meant OD&D where I said 0e. When they compiled the 1e Monster Manual they imported a lot of OD&D stats without increasing their power level to accomodate the increased power of PCs from "0e" to 1e. A lot of iconic d&d monsters are less powerful than they should be as a result, in my opinion. I think that 2e dragons were more in line with where they should be relative to PC power levels."

Friday, April 23, 2010

Collected AD&D 2.01 Documents

The formatting in yesterday's post was such a mess, so I've just linked to the google docs folder that will hold all the current drafts. I'd love to have these in two-column pdf format, but at the moment that means spending a whole lot more time on layout than writing and editing.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Less Random Wandering Monsters

Here's a cool post at Mule Abides discussing a sub-system for Wandering Monsters by which the character's actions generate "Friction Points" which influence the appearance and strength of wandering monsters. I like this idea a lot.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Thursday, April 1, 2010

My Visions of xD&D

As the "Usually Tuesday Night Landsquid Group" delved back into AD&D I had my usual series of system crunching modifications swirl in my mind. I wasted too much time reading "old school" blogs, cataloging old Dragon magazines, and bitching about the inconsistencies of OSRIC with my pretty AD&D books. I kept thinking about the good and bad of my brief dalliances with 3.0, 3.5, and 4th edition and the player's weekly complaints about the quirks, inconsistencies and organization of 1st edition. Oh, yeah, and why battle mats are better than beer. Here are my many plans:

A. Edited Version of 1.0 (Gygax) Dungeon Master's Guide

B. AD&D 1.75: Considering Unearthed Arcana as v1.5, this is my clean-up and streamlining of the 1st edition rules. Keep the guts, but make it a little more palatable to the unfamiliar and take advantages of word processing.

C. AD&D 2.01: What AD&D 2nd (and 3rd) edition should have been in my eyes. Keep races, classes, hit points, and d20 rolls to hit, but mess with all the details.

D. AD&D 5th Edition: 4th edition did a few things write, and on occasion I like a wargame or match of chess. If I can fix AD&D, I can fix this too.

E. Barbarians of Gygaxia: Dungeon crawling, treasure looting, and resource management - done rules-light and a little narrative. Taking the system of Barbarians of Lemuria and ideas from Houses of the Blooded.

For a peak on my progress, here's my Table of Contents for AD&D 2.01.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Truth from the DMG

"[A] challenging campaign and careful refereeing should obviate the need for immediate bestowal of levels of experience to maintain interest in the game."

Friday, March 19, 2010

About Dragons

This will see use in my sandbox.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Dangers of Old School

Two or three weeks ago, while playing in Tavis’s White Sandbox game, our gang of crafty adventurers descended into the Caverns of Thracia, where we came across a pile of trash . . . on a staircase!

This was obviously a trap, or a monster, or a trapped monster. And it took our party of eight 4th-Level adventurers at least 15 minutes to bypass it. Mainly by tentatively suggesting an outcome, and then pulling back in a panic, and then suggesting it slightly differently . . . and then not getting a confirmation of the theory, necessitating a new cycle of guessing and tentative theorizing.

  • “I poke at it with my 10′ pole . . . NO WAIT”
  • “I sprinkle holy water on the pile of trash, just one drop. Does anything happen? No? Okay, two drops. Anything happen? No, okay, three drops.”
  • “I roll to hear noises coming from the pile of trash. But not right next to it! My ear is, like, 5 feet away. But I’m listening. Unless it’s psychic.”
  • “I use ESP on the pile of trash.”

This was really funny . . . for about five minutes, and then the paranoia became aggravating. With eight players, it’s never clear when we’ve had enough and are willing to take a chance–because once one person has become satisfied, another person’s curiosity will have been piqued.

Every session we have a moment like this, where everything . . . grinds . . . to . . . a . . . halt as we debate whether to stand on this 5′ square or that 5′ square, or whether we should kill the Gnoll guards by a frontal attack, or kill them through backstabbing. It’s like the 90/10 rule: 90% of the discussion involves only 10% of the plan.

As a semi-frequent player, I can endure this. But if someone is brand-new to our campaign, and thus a little unsure of what’s socially appropriate and/or lacks the knowledge about the campaign world to contribute, I suspect this would be frustrating as hell.

Question for the audience – How do you solve the problem of allowing players maximal freedom, including the freedom to fail and the joys of sometimes pointless exploration, without it bogging down to wasting time? How do eight people come to a decision, given limited information, in something less than 20 minutes of second-guessing and third-guessing?

(As a GM, when I get bored of this stuff, I say, “Look, maybe there’s just nothing there,” but that’s only socially useful if I get bored before the players do.)

PS. It turns out there were caltrops under the trash. Thank God we finally figured it out, though I can’t remember how we did so – so that if we need to do it again, we’ll be back at square one…

Friday, March 12, 2010

I'll wait for 5th Edition.

From Lizard on

"Well, on the subject of 4e adventures, based on playing in two campaigns and running one still ongoing, I have to say 4e continues the trend I first noticed in 3.x and before that with Hero System Fourth Edition -- RPGs with detailed, tactical combat rules tend to be really two games -- generally free-form roleplaying with occasional skill rolls ("Make a bluff check." "I think that's a presence attack, roll it.") and tactical miniatures combat with occasional character moments. How much of each you have in your sessions is up to you. When I ran my Champions game, the length of combats generally necessitated I have one or two game sessions of "plot", followed by "The fight scene". An average 4e fight takes an hour, and I run three hour sessions, so I can have all plot, mostly plot, some plot, or the "fight 1, fight 2, boss fight" episode.

In terms of "How much RPing do you get?" I've found Actual Play TM with 4e is about on par with 3e. Skill Challenges can be good for some things like "We want to track down the bandits" or "We sneak into the castle", but I find they tend to be jarring and intrusive when the PCs are actively roleplaying an interrogation or bargaining session and they ask "Is this the skill challenge? Should I roll now?"."

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Wisdom from Grognardia Comments

"One key to understanding Gygax and HIS 1st Ed AD&D is that he took a phenomenological approach to DMG writing. His DMG is a collection of essays which describe game mechanics for different aspects of the game. The articles themselves are not bound under an overarching "Core Game Mechanic" of the WoTC editions. This is what makes his version of the game superior, since you can write a section of rules to describe any aspect of fantasy role plaing, and not be bound by any pre-existing game mechanic or a process."

I disagree with his further comments on Non-weapon proficiencies, but there you go.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

From a comment on Grognardia

"The Illusionist is a Controller(tm). As a rule, they don't do damage. They control the battlefield through glamours, enchantments, phantasms, and misdirection. It was this philosophy, not the metaphysics of their spells that defined that character."

Monday, March 1, 2010

Sandy Peterson on Runequest

Few RPGs permit playing a non-human with the facility of RuneQuest even today [1996!]. In fact, the trend is rather away from playing non-humans. 'Tis not necessarily a bad trend, given the rather lame interpretations of these beings that have infested the RPG market. Partly as a result of the difficulty in playing them.

You see, most games render non-humans as variations on humans. Example: "dwerlfs are like humans, but with -2 from STR and INT" or whatever. RQ nonhumans are completely independent -- you could set up a RQ game with no nonhumans at all, and never make any reference to humans, and character creation and play would be smooth. I think that the psychological aspects of this difference have had an effect on scenario designers, essayists, and gamemasters.

There is another way in which RQ affected Glorantha. By the nature of most of Greg's early stories, plus White Bear & Red Moon, Nomad Gods, etc., Glorantha seemed to be a place where titans battled far above the level of mere mortal fodder.

But RQ's combat system is anti heroic. A mighty swordmaster of 90% is comparatively easy meat for a trio of 50% mercenaries. The huge bad troll with tons of magic and a 3D6 damage bonus was killed by my stinking players on the first blow of the combat, via critical spear impale to his face. When a scrawny crossbow-armed guard gets the drop on a mighty-thewed (but unarmored) barbarian, the latter raises his hands in surrender. No matter how skilled your hero is, a single blow from a mediocre giant's cudgel breaks bones and maims.

RQ combat rewards numbers and luck (criticals & fumbles) more than PC skill. Even the infamously weak RQ magic serves as an equalizer. Facing a mean magician? -- the worst he can do is zap one of your number with his Sunspear, and a simple Demoralize settles his hash just fine.

The effect of all this was to draw Glorantha's emphasis away from the mighty heroes on the heights, and focus on the little guys on society's underside, scrabbling to maintain a meager subsistence-level ecology. RQ PCs live close to the bone.

One result is that mercantile activities hold more interest than in most RPGs. You can make money on trade expeditions, and from Joh Mith to the Desert Trackers to the redheaded Lunar caravans across Pent, merchants have become an indelible part of the Gloranthan ethos. In most games, caravans serve only as employers (PCs-as-caravan-guards being a staple of RPGs) or as targets to pillage.

A typical evening of play has maybe a single combat. Even a combat-crazed player perforce must use brains and tongue before going off half-cocked. In addition, tactical skill (as opposed to mere high percentiles) is rewarded -- those smart enough to do a Shield Bash at the right moment, or to close up on the halberdier reap the rewards. When's the last time in RQ you stepped back to permit a fallen foe to get back on his feet? We press our advantage mercilessly. This is hardly the stuff of heroic one-on-one duello, as each side rolls combat dice endlessly till one falls. Instead, cunning and strategem are rewarded to such a degree that the stereotypic "big strong dumb" PC is viewed as interesting and quirky instead of a dull norm.

A tradition has arisen of prisoner-taking and ransom-paying. In many RPGs, battles end with everyone on the losing side dead. Some games have special techniques to prevent this, or cultural niceties, but RQ does it as a matter of practicality.

Finally, RQ combat is different from most other medieval or ancient RPG. A typical fight is a running skirmish, not a set-piece battle. Arrows, javelins, and spells zip across the battlefield, as both sides use available cover, dodging from tree to tree. Hand-to-hand fighting is brief, rarely lasting more than a few rounds against equal opponents. It's not the stuff of Hollywood.

I like my Glorantha PCs the way they are -- tattoos, scars, scavenged bits of armor, bristling with eclectic weapons, painted runes, muddy boots, and mangy familiars. More like something out of Road Warrior than King Arthur.

Quote from OD&D

"Final Note: If sea monsters or monsters of the sea do not get a ship, perhaps it will sail off the edge of the world!"

Monday, February 22, 2010


"The "Less DM power " idea is an insidious reaction to bad DM's (I played with many of them) and the simple fact players buy more books."

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Brilliance from EPT

From someone's recent Empire of the Petal Throne game:

Stuff I like:
  • Marching Order rules
  • No Read Magic (I think...)
  • More Use of Saves
  • Int & Con use - I'm curious as well.
  • Fighter class skills
  • Spellcaster class skills and bonus spells
  • Critical hits
There's some more cool stuff there, but not for an D&D-based dungeon crawl game.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


"If you didn’t think of checking the tavern for one-armed men, consider it a comment on your skill as a player."