Classic Dungeons and Dragons and Old School Gaming

D&D etc.

"Heir to a crumbling summit: to a sea of nettles: to an empire of rust: to rituals' footprints ankle-deep in stone."

-Mervyn Peake

"...and that, my liege, is how we know the Earth to be banana shaped."

-Sir Bedevere in Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Elf Beard

For a thoughtful discussion of elves with beards try this

Instead of a thoughtful discussion I'll give you a list of why Elves don't cut their beards off:
  1. Doing so reduces their fighting ability to that of a magic user of the same level.
  2. Doing so eliminates their ability to cast spells.
  3. Little know fact: it's actually the beard that makes them resistant to ghoul attacks.
  4. As above, but sleep and charm spells.
  5. In addition to reaching 9th level, an Elf must have a beard in order to establish a stronghold .
  6. Because they're trying to pass themselves off as dwarves.
Elf PCs roll a D6, and disregard the result if they're lady-elves.

Treasure Hoards and Magic Items

The first table allows a treasure hoard to be generated very fast.  Roll all the dice in a hoard at once and there you go.

The second set of tables for Magic Items is the same idea, but it requires a bit of interpretation on the part of the DM.  For example, what does an amulet that detects healing do?  Maybe it allows the wearer to know the HP of other characters and creatures in it's presence, or to know the location of the nearest shrine or healer, or to know the location of every shrine or healer on the continent.  how about a dagger that creates/summons undead?  That's easy, any creature killed by this dagger rises from the grave! 

What this set of tables does:
It takes the sort of familiar magic items and effects you might find in your favorite fantasy game and forces the DM to creatively remix them into unique items.

It might be better to roll on this beforehand rather than in game to give yourself time to determine the exact nature of the magic item.  Multiple magic items could be randomly generated and placed as needed.

Here is the pdf:
Treasure Hoards and Magic Items

Playing a covenant of wizards in old school D&D?

I have always been fascinated with the game Ars Magica.  (free download of 4th edition rules is available at this link) The closest I ever came to playing it was a game where we were wizards in a post-apocalyptic setting with various robot and mutant animal underlings.  For that game we created characters in at least 2 different systems (neither one was the system published in Ars Magica) and just used whichever set of rules that was apropriate for the character in question to resolve actions. 

But that's not why I wanted to post today. 

I've been thinking about running an Ars Magica style game with a D&D type system.  Other folks have written about this here and here. The thing is, is that while I love the idea that Wizards are the main characters and that clerics and fighters and merchants or whatever are just the hired help, I'm not really excited about the intricate Ars Magica game system.  So, what if you just took that concept and used, oh I don't know, B/X D&D rules as written.  (or at least started with that and made as few changes from there as necessary)

You could start with Magic-users of high level to aproximate the power of Ars Magica characters, but I think it'd be more fun to start with 1st level wizards and build a covenant from the ground up. 
PCs can hire a bunch of mercenaries and shield-bearers and head into the dungeon looking for bits of magic. 

Change I would make to RAW:
  • M-Us don't automaticaly gain spells when they gain a level, they have to find all their spells.
  • Domain building starts right away, no need to wait until "name level".  These are wizards we are talking about here.
  • Spell research and magic item creation and other non-dungeon activities including domain building can happen at the end of each session, to explain what the M-Us do in between dungeon expeditions.  I would suggest that unlike in D&D where spell scrolls are fairly common treasure, most of the time spells that are discovered in the dungeon are incomplete fragments and further research and experimentation is necessary to turn them into a spell in the wizards spell book.  This alows the DM to give the players a hint at the kind of spell they can make, but the PCs can take those fragments in whatever direction they want. 
  • I would consider making spell casting times longer, maybe one round per level of the spell.  (in Ars Magica longer casting times reinforces the need for shield grogs)  With maybe an option to burn a spell slot of one level higher to speed cast. (this wouldn't come into play until 5th level when a MU could burn their 3rd level spell slot to get off a 2nd level spell in one round, and it wouldn't be super usefull until 7th level when a MU could burn their 4th level spell slot to speed cast fireball)
  • I would also consider the option to cast an unmemorized spell, or a spell fragment or even a spontaneous spell made up on the spot like in AM,  but that's a pretty big divergence from rules as written...
  • Retainer rules wouldn't need to be changed at all.  I like LotFPs retainer rules, where the charisma limit to hirelings effects NPCs with character levels or monsters only with no limit to 0 level hirelings.  Actually LotFP would be an all around great rules set to do this with.
I think it'd be awesome.

    Monday, October 10, 2011

    Slimes Molds and Jellies!

    Even if you are not in the camp that says all monsters should be unique, it can be a challenge to find or create monsters that savvy players can't just easily metagame their way through.  To help alleviate this challenge I created this chart that allows a DM to quickly create a remixed version of the slimes molds and jellies of classic fantasy adventure gaming.  This chart can be used on the fly or when preparing a dungeon.  Personally I think it works best when used to generate an ooze or two to give various rooms or regions in a dungeon a specific flavor.

    Please download and let me know if you use it:

    Slimes, Molds & Jellies!