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

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Monster Remixed: The Otherworldly

This is my latest in a series of posts remixing the canonical monsters from OD&D.  These remixes blend monsters within categories  established in the original game.

The otherworldly includes Elementals, Djinn, Efreet and Invisible Stalkers.  This remix was tricky, I've created and discarded several versions of these tables.  After adding lots of things that were not derived from the original monsters I eventually returned to the monster's descriptions for material.  I did have to add some things to elementals to make them interesting.  (Elementals are soooo boring)  The secret compulsion comes from the  Qareen which I found mucking about on Wikipedia looking for anything djinn related.  I left it deliberately open to interpretation what exactly would count as being exposed.  Does that mean getting touched?  successfully hit in melee?  merely seeing one?  The same goes for the "Language of Control" that Magic-Users may learn.  The idea is that those familiar with the Arcane can discern the other worldly thoughts of pure elementals and use that knowledge to command them. It doesn't say this, but that effect is supposed to last D20 days just like the Secret Compulsion.  It's also up to interpretation how an otherworldly trapped in a object might get out or how the DM is to adjudicate this.  If you're having trouble with this, read or re-read 1001 Nights.

In case this is confusing I'll give a run down of how to use this:

Roll one of each die.  You can roll more than one D20 if you have extra. To read the results start with the D12.  This'll tell you what kind of elemental you've got and whether or not it's a "pure elemental" with no extra powers or something more Djinni like with extra powers.  Next look at the D8.  This will tell you if the otherworldly creature is determined to accomplish some specific task, or if it's imprisoned in an object, or if it's goals if it even has any are alien to humankind. The D10 gives you the object or mission and the D4 is generally only used if the creature is on a mission. The D6 tells you how many powers it has, or the chance in 6 that an M-U can learn to temporarily control elementals.

Here is the download:
The Otherworldly

Now this, Slimes Molds and Jellies,  crazy fey and crazy fey beasts, and Dragons and Chimeras are done. All I have left are the undead, lycanthropes, humanoids, save or stoned and animals, oh and gargoyles.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Teenage Mutant Ninja Genius

Several weeks ago an old friend of mine was over.  He randomly suggested that we roll up TMNT characters.  As kid, I made way more characters than I ever ran in a game.  Many of those characters were  randomly generated mutant animals.  I'm going to say this, and I want you to know that I mean it: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Other Strangeness is a work of RPG genius.  If you don't know what I'm talking about then I feel sorry for you.  If your youth was spent wasted on something other than rolling up teams of feral porcupines and college educated armadillos well, again, my condolences.  Written by Eric Wujcik, the man who also brought Paranoia and Amber Diceless to the world, and built on the chassis of  Palladium, TMNT's character generation alternates between random rolls and open ended choice.  There is a lot of picayune adding up of stat bonuses, but if you started doing this when you were 10 it goes remarkably fast.

anyway long story short, my friend and my girlfriend made characters that were so awesome we decided they had to be played, so I ran a game.

  • the Hypno-Ninja-Spaniel won a breakdancing competition on the mean streets of Dubai MegaCity in the year 2049.  Everybody in Dubai in the future talked with a New York accent.  This was before Sandy.  I decided that in the 2030's there was a flood in NY and the city was ruined and The UAE gave free visas to any New Yorker who wanted them.  That never came up in the game, it was just in my head.  Really though, I just didn't want to do an Arab accent and East Coast/New Yorker was the first thing that popped into my head.
  • They fought a street gang and beheaded a store clerk.
  • They stole a dirt bike from a Canadian kid. (they started in present day Canada)
  • They made their way efficiently through a fantasy dungeon, running right past the eyeballs with magic powers floating in a lake of blood.
  • The mutant moose who pretty much looked like a regular moose and but for minor telepathy pretty much was a regular moose absolutely creamed the bad guys by ramming them with her antlers.
  • They wielded ancient ninja weapons, stolen from the future to battle a cyborg T-rex in a fantasy medieval tower.
  • Any time the pace slackened even a little the players would ad-lib in character about their body issues.
I ran the game hewing much closer to the rules as written then I think we ever did as a kids, I was surprised how well it worked.  The thing about Palladium (especially Rifts) is that everything seems like it was done to make the game world seem super realistic but the result is silly and idiosyncratic.  I Looove it.  Does it make sense that a moose can do at least 20 points of damage everytime it hits?  Does it matter?

What we talked about doing next is running TMNT characters in a fantasy game using the regular old Palladium Fantasy rules. At first I thought it would be fun to play in a world where everyone is a mutant animal but what I find really attractive about TMNT is how you are skulking about on the edge of society. I think the perfect setting would be something like New Crobizon from Mieville's Bas Lag books.  The "strange green stuff"that mutates the PCs would be alchemical toxic waste.

My next post will be more substantial... I've got another Monster Remix just about ready!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

nine copper rats with beer and pretzels

I read recently, really wish I could remember where, a blog where the writer was comparing really creative DMs campaigns to DM's that run more straight dungeon crawls, and how the straight dungeon crawls lend themselves more to Players creatively messing with stuff and generating crazy situations, while in the games with more idiosyncratic or creative DMs the players tend to sit back and let the crazy come to them.

There are a lot of variables there, like the players have to be the kind of players that will experiment and the DM has to give them something to work with, but I wonder if with a halfway decent DM and and least one or two creative and/or excitable players in the mix a good game can be had by all?  Do we put to much emphasis on creativity is really what I'm asking.

With music, there are those who strive to play something new and push boundaries and there are those who show up, play the same three or four chords that everybody has been playing forever and do it with feeling.  It seems like most of the OSR is in that second group, and I think that's OK.

Don't get me wrong, creativity is probably the major draw to DMing and playing D&D, but maybe a good dungeon or adventure only needs a few really creative bits for it to be fun, The players fight some stuff, find the moving parts, move 'em, make some jokes about it and that's a good game!

Hitchcock said something like all you really need to make a good movie are two or three really memorable scenes (something like that).  Maybe a good dungeon really just needs two or three good original monsters, two or three good traps or rooms and two or three really unique treasures.  The rest can be rats and coppers, and that leaves plenty of room for the players to do stuff the DM never imagined (and for the DM to imagine on the spot).  The rats reciting Shakespeare or the copper pieces that are evil and telepathic or whatever would fit in here quite well.

on another note:
Why aren't there more fireplaces in dungeons?  Climbing down the chimney seems like a great way to sneak into the wizard's lab/kobold's lair/dungeon mistresses bedchamber.   How bout bathrooms?  There aren't a lot of bathrooms (because they're boring)  But maybe bathrooms and their associated bodily functions can be made into great fodder for DnD, like, if a stone giant has the runs what you get is medieval concrete.


What IS this?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

More fun with Saving Throws

Hopefully this post will finally get this out of my system and I can move on other things like hirelings and dungeons and traps and whatnot.
Why isn't it more common to change the names of the categories to hew more closely to whatever genre or mood the DM and players are going for?
For example, say you are playing some brutal, dark and weird DnD, then the Saving Throws could be:
Poison and Plague   (for tests of endurance and ability to withstand physical ailments)
Sudden Death   (for situations like dragon breath, or any situation where survival means getting out of the way quick)
Mortal Terror   (fear, undead, tests of willpower)

Cosmic Doom   (used when the players are up against magic, magic devices, or things they don't understand)

or simply Plague, Death, Terror, Doom.

These are essentially the current DnD Saves: Fortitude, Reflex, Willpower plus one.

(After I wrote this I decided to google "mutant future saving throws" because I figured it would have interesting variations on saving throw categories, and I found this.   Clearly I'm on to something here - If it works in the post-apocalypse it must be good.)

I'm surprised Mr. Raggi didn't do something like this with LotFP.  But maybe you don't want to deal with each class having it's own chart (I don't).  So let's make it simpler, but still add some flavor that Fort/Ref/Will does not.

How about a Mental Save, a Physical Save and a Social Save?
At first level and every other level after each character gets +2 to a primary Save or +1 to a secondary.
Spellcaster's primary is mental and Fighter's primary is Physical.  The save is made if the PC rolls over a difficulty set by the DM just like in 3e & 4e.

Ok, maybe that works but let's make it not so boring.  Say you're playing in a Fey infused, Northern Euorpean-esque setting:

Mental:  Save vs. Faeries Glamour
Physical: Save vs. Jaws of Winter
Social: Save vs. King's Law

Or how about an Arabian Nights inspired setting:

Mental:  Save vs. Djinn
Physical: Save vs. Scorpion
Social: Save vs. Caste

But what if we like fort/ref/will? And we don't like the idea of a social save.  Fine. Keep the new school saves but call them:

Save vs. Slow Death   (fort)

Save vs. Quick Death   (ref)

Save vs. Brain Death   (will)

Save vs. Endless Enemy
Save vs. Lightning Strike
Save vs. Invisible Hand

Whatever, now I'm just dressing up the DnD barbie in different clothes.  Let's get back to using Saving Throws to change something about the game, make it feel slightly different to emphasize a certain genre or flavor:

Say in your game wizards are bad-asses and all the other classes are their hirelings.  Maybe you'd do saves like this:

Save vs. Magic
Save vs. SpikePitLawAgeTrick

Its roll-over on a D20.  Magic-Users start with 14 in both, and both go down by one each level till 11th level.  All other classes start with 16 in both, Save vs. Magic never goes down and Save vs. SPLAT goes down one each level till 9th level.

Or say you want Elves to be all Tolkienesque and otherworldly in an annoyingly superior sort of way: They have one Save for all occasions and it starts at 2. (roll-over on D20)  It goes up by one every time they fail, and when they fail the save they don't actually die or necessarily suffer the effect they were saving against.  They might get hurt or inconvenienced, but they won't die.  When they're Save gets to 20 they're out of the game, they end that adventure/session and go get on a boat to the undying lands.

Ok.  I'll be done for now, but clearly fun can be had with saving throws even if your not making them up as you go along like I described in my last post.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

People's Republic of Saving Throws II

Brendan's unrelenting tinkering is inspiring.  because of a recent post, he's got me thinking again about the Peoples Republic of Saving Throws and how to improve it. As a kid I almost never bothered to write down saving throws on my character sheet.  and we rarely looked up tables in game, so like a lot of gamers, we instead often defaulted to save vs. ability score.  But now, I like the idea of saving throws, I like how they improve with level and I especially like the old school saving throws with their evocative names... "save vs interesting way that your character might die in this game."  fort/ref/will is boring in comparison.  But I still don't want to have to write all that extra stuff down on my character sheet (that's valuable real estate that would be better used writing down all the cool loot I get or drawing a sweet character illustration) especially when the character might die in 5 minutes.

So.... Here's what I'm thinking:

All saves are made by rolling 15 or above on a D20.
When a save need to be rolled the DM presents these choices:

 1.Acquire a new Save based on the current situation, write it down on your character sheet and get a bonus to your roll.  The save is always written as save vs. ______.  It is a save against a particular kind of hazard, attack, or situation.
2. Make a saving throw with no bonuses.
3. Use a Save that you already have on your character sheet if it applies.

The bonus, if you have a Save written down, works like this:

Level Bonus
1 +4
2 +4
3 +4
4 +4
5 +5
6 +6
7 +7
8 +8
9 +9
10 +10
11 +10
12 +10

Each player can have a maximum of 5 types of Saves.  They can't be swapped, removed or changed.  Only one type of save may be gained per adventure.  Existing Saves that PCs have acquired may be used in similar situations in the same way that the by-the-book saving throws in the original game could be (or kinda had to be) for example, if a character is being attacked by entangling vines he might make a save vs. paralysis because the vines are attempting to restrict his movement.  Using this system, players could ask the DM if an existing Save that their character has could be used in other situations (that's what option 3 is above)  For example, a character who is struck by a trap that releases a cloud of poison gas acquires "save vs. poison" and makes the save.  Later, while staying at the castle of the Duke of Badlandia, and with the DM's approval the PC attempts to out drink the Duke and rolls to save vs. poison to do so.

Here's what I like about this:  I'm into the style of play where a character's story is built in game, and having the name of the save tailored to the situations that the character has survived is a nifty way to embed that character's personal story into the mechanics of the game.

So one character might have:
Save vs. Pit Traps 
Save vs. Mind Control
Save vs. Fire

and another character might have:
Save vs. Slime
Save vs. Invisibility
Save vs. Zombi Disease

This would be a good mechanic to use if you like building a character as you go and if your comfortable with the possibility of a little negotiation between the DM and Players.

This would be a bad mechanic to use if you prefer to have things clearly laid out in advance, and are less fond of making up character traits in game and justifying why they might or might not apply in a certain situation.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Now is the best time to be a gamer ever

A while back there was a thing floating around about the ten gaming books you'd most like to have if you could only have ten.  I recently did some gaming/camping (my favorite kind of camping involves gaming and my favorite kind of gaming involves camping) so I got to actually make this decision.  I didn't need ten.  We brought:

Moldvay/Cook B/X.

tucked into  Moldvay Basic was this.  It came in handy.

That's two.

We also brought:

Raggi's Random Esoteric Creature Generator.

The 1e DMG, but mostly because since we were camping I thought it might be useful to have something hard to write on.

We brought this:

Everything in this I either made or found on the internet! Here's a breakdown of the indispensable dungeon master tools in here:

Pages 1 & 2:
megadungeon missions

random swords and sorcery name generator 

movement, encumbrance, light & vision, reaction roll chart, foraging & hunting, xp

Pages 3 & 4:
the Ravaged Ruins charts from Wilderlands of High Fantasy (worth three bucks for these two pages alone)

Pages 5 & 6:

MegaDungeon Area Name Generator

MegaDungeon - Doors

Page 7 & 8:
the Dismal Depths Trap Tables

random rooms and d100 things in a pit from here

 Pages 9 & 10:

MegaDungeon: Random Trap Disarming Table

Pages e11 & 12:

Trick effects and "big ol' list of tricks from C

Pages 13 & 14:

Wilderness and dungeon wandering monster tables 

Pages 15 & 16:

Creepy combat commentary and "what are the monsters doing" from Telecanter

and a list of Shakesperian insults, just in case!

pages 17 & 18:

od&d castle inhabitants, my Treasure Map Generator, and Redbeard's Faction Connection Diagram  

Pages 19 & 20

My treasure hoards, looting and random magic item charts.

pages 21 & 22:

Talysman's 20 sided quickie tables 

 We also had my Arcane Stress and Spell Mutations (which got used by the DM, there were no M-U PCs. There was an Elf, but he got taken out by a black pudding before he got to cast any spells) and my critical injury table. 


I buy gaming books, adventures etc. but I sure don't need to.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Vault of the Romulons

Not too long ago I bought this:
Mine looks just like this, but more beat up.  It's not written all over like a lot of these old modules are though.  I've never been big on published adventures at all, but lately I''ve been wanting to try them out more, the classics like this one as well as newer ones.  It is great to have more Gygaxian prose on my shelf, and reading through it I REALLY want to use it.  So, I'm thinking of using it in the Space Mutant DnD campaign.

The thing is, I don't like the Drow at all.  But I've come up with a great solution:

In Space Mutant DnD the elves seem to be all gone, but they used to be major players a long time ago and really they were a space faring race that crash-landed on the planet and they looked like this:

They called themselves the "Volk."

The Volk, if the players ever find any maybe by reviving them from a cryonic chamber or something, will use Eladrin stats but have "nerve pinch" as an encounter power and a chance to have some psi powers instead of their teleport power.

Anyway, in this situation who are the Drow? that is who are the Anti-Elves?

The "Romulons" of course!

I'm thinking of calling the city in Vault of the Drow Romulopolis instead of Erelhei-Cinlu.  maybe the Romulons call it one but everybody else calls it another.  Or maybe Romulopolis was built on the bones of Erelhei-Cinlu... There will be much amok there for the players to run in, I shall use Vornheim.  On the way there there's a good chance they'll run into some of Peddlers of the Deep Dark. (I'll have to add tribbles to one of those tables of goods they carry)  I bet the Romulons and the Sleestaks have all kinds of high-stakes backstabby trade shenanagans going on between them too.

I can't find in the module right now exactly what the drow's spider silk cloaks do, maybe that's in one of the earlier modules?  But I would make each cloak have woven into it a "cloaking device"  which makes it so that only other people with a Romu-cloak can see you.

Ahhhhh! and the big canyon where the Kuo-toa are supposed to be is gonna be called "The Neutral Zone"

Ok, I better stop now.

Maybe if we can fund Broodmother Sky Fortress then I can have the players go back in time and run around with kaiju inspired giants that they will already know are being used by the Romulons (because they're from the future), but then the Romulons will send a Robo-Romulon back in time after them....

Monday, July 23, 2012

Sleestak Reproduction and the Grand Adventure Campaign

We ran our first game of Space Mutant DnD.  There was one more player, so in addition to the characters I listed in the last post, there was a Chaotic Good Sleestak Cleric.  Because I made Slestaks have free hirelings the party of five was actually a party of nine.
The new player, for reasons I don't think i can even begin to speculate on, drew six boobs on her character in the little "character portait" box.  This lead to a brief discusion of speculation on the anatomy and reproductive physiology and rituals between the two Sleestak players as they hashed out their respective and seemingly conflicting views on the subject.  I freaking love D&D.

The characters were in town preparing for an expedition to the bleak forest to raid the Tomb of the Elf King when the sky opened up and this fell out and landed over the next hill:

They investigated, snuck into the Star City and rescued the Lazer Dwarves from their subjugation under the evil Psi-Witches.  along the way they met the little guy in the top picture (They could talk to him because one of the players spoke Space Imp.  We  rolled a D6 and it said so)  When they where victorious the Lazer Dwarves gave them a tank.

If we keep playing it'll turn into a hex crawl via tank.  At least until they find one of these:

Also, I really really really really really hope that Jeff Rients and Vincent Baker and everybody else in the Lamentations of the Flame Princess Grand Adventure Campaign get to make awesome adventures for us to play.   These guys will each make an awesome adventure, but the fact that they are both (especially Baker) are planning something that can be used again and again is brilliant.  A kit to make random wizard towers inspired by Jack Vance, full of moving parts for PCs to mess with and back story and where did the wizard go... are you kidding?  Why is The Seclusium of Orphone not way past it's goal already?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Space Mutant DnD

I wrote up Jeff's 20 Questions and gave them to the players to introduce the campaign since I'm aiming for something other than vanilla DnD, something I'm calling:



Characters begin in Foulcrest, a dwarven factory town on bluffs overlooking mud flats At the top of an inland sea/lake.  Sleesport is on a peninsula at the south end of the lake with access to a larger sea.  Across the lake from Foulcrest is the ruined city of Xenos.  The Elf King's Tomb is in the bleak forest: a place even the elves don't go.

Character Races:
Sleestak, Dwarf, Human,  Kobold.  More playable races can be unlocked in game.

Character Classes:
all PHB classes.  Maybe more may be unlocked in game.


1.    What is the deal with my cleric's religion?
You're Cleric most likely worships the Lord of Light, the Lazer God.  He lives in the City of Angels and looks like this:

There are also rumors of cults of Warlocks in Xenos.

2.    Where can we go to buy standard equipment?
 Foulcrest for most things or Sleesport for larger sea-going ships or weirder items.

3.    Where can we go to get platemail custom fitted for this monster I just befriended?
 Pay the dwarves of Foulcrest extra and they can do it.  They are quite industrious.

4.    Who is the mightiest wizard in the land?
 Well there used to be the elves...  Maybe the Shroud of Xenos? Who knows really.

5.    Who is the greatest warrior in the land?
 The chief of the Dwarves of Foulcrest is pretty tough, otherwise maybe one of the barbarians.

6.    Who is the richest person in the land?
 One of the Dwarf or Sleestak merchant houses who run Foulcrest and Sleesport.

7.    Where can we go to get some magical healing?
 The Temple of the Lord of Light in Foulcrest.

8.    Where can we go to get cures for the following conditions: poison, disease, curse, level drain, lycanthropy, polymorph, alignment change, death, undeath?
 The Clerics of the Lord of Light in Foulcrest might have to direct you to one of their monasteries in the Blade Mountains.  You can hire a Runner to guide you.

9.    Is there a magic guild my MU belongs to or that I can join in order to get more spells?
 Nope.  Wizards are lonely weirdos.  They may find items or spells on their adventures.

10.    Where can I find an alchemist, sage or other expert NPC?
 Maybe Sleesport.

11.    Where can I hire mercenaries?
 Foulcrest is full of disgruntled workers (mostly human and dwarf) in the dwarven mills.  Offer them two weeks pay and they'll follow you, offer them 2 months pay and they'll follow you anywhere. 

12.    Is there any place on the map where swords are illegal, magic is outlawed or any other notable hassles from Johnny Law?
 Well, it's bad news to get on the wrong side of the law in any town.  The Sleestaks are known to be especially nasty.  They run Sleesport like bug-eyed, lizard-clawed Bugsy Siegels.

13.    Which way to the nearest tavern?
 Plenty in Foulcrest and more in Sleesport.

14.    What monsters are terrorizing the countryside sufficiently that if I kill them I will become famous?
Funny you should ask...

15.    Are there any wars brewing I could go fight?
Maybe later.

16.    How about gladiatorial arenas complete with hard-won glory and fabulous cash prizes?
Some say the Lord of Light has contests to determine a champion who is granted special boons, but these are usually quests, not gladiatorial fights.

17.    Are there any secret societies with sinister agendas I could join and/or fight?
Yep: The Sleestak Mafia.  The Dwarven Counter-Sleestak Insurgency.  The Cults of Xenos. Just to name a few.

18.    What is there to eat around here?
Deep fried dinosaur.  Giant Strawberries.  Dwarven Ale.  Sleestaks are vegetarians for the most part, though some say they prize certain mammals as delicacies.

19.    Any legendary lost treasures I could be looking for?
There's the Crown of the Elf King...

20.    Where is the nearest dragon or other monster with Type H treasure?
Some say there is a secret court of alien vampires in Xenos.  And there is a Chimera to the north.

Monday, June 25, 2012

digging in again

So I haven't written anything on this blog in forever. I've moved, moved again and gotten a new job.  It's been a busy few months, but that's boring stuff that doesn't have anything to do with gaming so lets change the subject.  I haven't been gaming at all, but I have done some further noodling over a 4e hack and the players have made characters, we are ready to game!

The party is:
a Dwarf Cleric, Neutral Good
a Sleestak Thief, Chaotic Good
a Dwarf Ranger, Chaotic Neutral
a Kobold Wizard, Lawful Good

I haven't been gaming, but I have found some sweet old comics drawn by a fellow named Alcatena. They're called Moving Fortress and Subterra, the pics below are mostly from Subterra.

These comics are juicy game inspiring gold- an alien oriental alternate D&D-esque world.  They make me want to play Talislanta.  It is so bad ass that all that Talislanta stuff is online for free and legal. 

Also, I picked up Carcosa from my friendly local gaming store.    This idea has likely already been tossed out into the internet, but can you imagine how great it would have been if Carcosa had been published with a one page dungeon for each hex?  

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Finally: Lazer Dwarves!

This is going to be kind of a catch all post, starting with some self interest and navel-gazing, but stick with me and there will be a sweet finish!

So here are the games I'm working on running:

#1 will get written about more here in the future I'm sure.  It will take some work to get together and then there will be players to find... this one is definitely on the back burner.

#2 will use my DMing improv tools, but also would be a good place to drop in things like Death Frost Doom or Tower of the Stargazer.

#3 is on the front burner as the players are asking "when are we gonna start?"  The system will be 4e D&D but the soul will be Encounter Critical.

#4 is just an idea and maybe won't happen but if it does it's going to draw heavily from the Black City and Land of Ice.


Ongoing things I need to write about/finish: 

Monster Remixes: these are maybe not quite half way done.  I'm still hoping that someone will be able to tell me where I found the undead remix so I don't have to do that one.  I've decided that I'm definitely going to do the mundane animals, they will be fun though not entirely mundane.

Image of the Dungeon: Will likely finish this with one post.

Castle and Dungeon Maps: that huge castle I did is still my most popular post thanks in no small part due to Paul, so I've done another castle map and plan to do more.

Orc Cult Cave and Castle Lyongast - Map-less Adventure Generators with roll mat.  These will be used in the pick-up game.

Player Handbook Giveaway for pick up game (with house rules, like Planet Eiris, but as clear and concise as possible)

DM Book (for pick up game)

I've noticed that several folks who used to have me on their blog roll no longer do.  If your reading this and you're thinking "this dude is on my blog roll for sure" maybe check and see.  I know a few times Blogger has dumped blogs off of my roll and I had to re-add them.

and now.... 

I promised lazer dwarves on my first post, here they are!  These are for the 4e-esque space-fantasy game.  I was to lazy to draw the robo-claws on the "storm trooper" (they're an air elemental inhabiting a robotified stormtrooper suit, get it?)  The face of the Psi-Witch is from Skinner.  These are half-assed but they were a lot of fun to put together.  I'll print these out to use in-game (and so I can draw on those robo-claws).

Saturday, April 7, 2012


Brendan liked the idea of re-skining Dragonborn as Sleestaks in my last post, so I'll expound on that idea a bit.  I'm sure there have been write ups of Sleestaks and a playable race but this is specifically for 4e D&D or a simplified/hacked facsimile. 


Sleestak PCs are identical to Dragonborn, but they look like the guys pictured above and they have no breath weapon power.  Instead they have one of the following powers:

"Sleestak Memories"
one in ten Sleestaks can, in brief flashes of insight, remember the ancient secrets of their ancestors.  (Roll D10 at character generation.  They have this power if a 1 is rolled.)  Once per session the Player can make up a detail about any dungeon environment the characters find themselves in, details may include secret doors, passwords, codes, the location of a pylon or how to operate a pylon.  The DM should let the player throw their idea out there in one short sentence, but then further details are for the DM to determine.  Note that ancient Sleestak technology allows for structures that are larger on the inside than the outside and other warping of time and space, so dungeon maps need not be modified except to note the location of any new Sleestak generated details.  It is of course the prerogative of the DM to declare a dungeon off limits to this power because it was not built by Sleestaks or has been otherwise untouched by their weird lizardy claws.

"Sleestaks Come in Threes"
All Sleestaks that don't have Sleestak Memories have this power.  At character generation, the PC will have 2 Sleestak companions who appear to be identical to the PC, have identical equipment, but have 10s in all stats, no powers, and only 1 HP.  These accompanying Sleestaks may be controlled by the Player.  They will not be automatically replaced, but more may be recruited if the Player wishes and the DM allows. 

These are weird and maybe overpowered compared to typical 4e powers, but I don't mind.  To put this in perspective, I played Rifts and liked it.

Here is where the PCs could start out or venture to in a campaign with Sleestak PCs:

On the bluffs overlooking a huge briny lake sits the city of Sleesport (pronounced Sleaze Port).  Founded by a bug-eyed and lizard skinned version of Bugsy Siegel and resembling both Vegas and Lankhmar, Sleesport is largely owned and operated by a criminal gang of Sleestaks.  Anything can be had in Sleesport.  Non Sleestak NPCs feel a mixture of respect, fear and loathing for the Sleestaks.  Sleestak PCs may be drawn into the machinizations of their powerful brethen, however, this will almost always prove to be more of a pain in the ass than a benefit for the PCs.  It is rumored that a lost city lies hidden beneath Sleesport.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Electro-Necro-Orchard and Flying House

It's been too long since I've posted so here are a pair of locations.  These are graphics, produced by architects I've found and annotated for gaming purposes.  The first was described as an electric power plant/necropolis/orchard which leads me to believe that they are handing out random tables from the 1e DMG to architecture students.  I decided to stick with the program and made it an electro-ghoul factory town.

 This one is the house of Pluma d'Antimore the witch.  Her house is suspended from the moon by silver chains.  She is known for her extravagant parties by the end of which several guests are likely to have been polymorphed into birds.  The wayward sons and daughters of several very powerful and influential noble families are in her flock.  Guest are transported to and from her parties by holding onto a ribbon held by one of her birds and saying a magic word which renders them weightless, allowing the bird to carry them.
   If I use these it will be in a game of 4e D&D re-skinned to look like Encounter Critical.  I know, that's basically what Gamma World is, but I don't own Gamma World. I'll have them roll up characters from the basic 4e books on character sheets that look a lot like this and then let them find laser guns and acquire mutations and such.  I'd probably end up with some of Brendan's House Rules, but Dragonborn would be called "Sleestaks" (and have no breath weapon) and Eladrin would be "Vulkins".

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Dunsany & Elfland

...and now for something completely different!

I've been reading The King of Elfland's Daughter before I go to sleep.  a week or two ago, I drifted in and out of sleep as I was reading and as I did so the inspiration for this card game came into my mind.  This is a very short game that uses your basic playing cards.  It's kind of like a cross between Poker and Magic the Gathering.

It doesn't really have anything to do with Lord Dunsany, but I decided to call the game ELFLAND because of what I was reading at the time.

Here is a pdf of the rules for the game: ELFLAND

From the introduction (by Lin Carter) to The King of Elfland's Daughter by Lord Dunsany:

  "One of the four or five genuinely great exponents of the adult fantasy was Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, the eighteenth baron of an ancient line which stretches back almost one thousand years to the Norman Conquest.
  Lord Dunsany was born in 1878 in Castle Dunsany, a 12th-century fortress which was his ancestral home, in County Meath, Ireland, among hills that were already rich in song and fable a thousand years before his Norman ancestors came a-conquering by the right hand of Duke William the Bastard.  These lands were the age-old demesne of the Ard-ri, the emperors of the ancient Celts. In Meath was Tara of the Kings, so sacred and venerable that the king who held it became High King of all Ireland.  Thus the hills and fields of Dunsany's childhood were steeped in golden legend, and some of the enchantment and music of antique Tara entered into his wonderful stories.
  Lord Dunsany was and astounding man.  A sensitive poet, an enthusiastic huntsman, and inveterate globetrotter, he was always off hunting lions on safari in Africa or teaching English literature in Athens (from which he escaped one jump ahead of the Nazis when they invaded).  Yet he found time to write over sixty books..."


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Image of the Dungeon

I want to write a bit about Dungeons/Mega-dungeons and Architecture/Urbanism.  When I started this blog I
intended to focus on architecture and design of dungeon environments, so it's about time I get around to it!  I
started this post and got sidetracked by the content of the Megadungeon Planning posts.  Now that I have that out of my system (for now) I'll return to writing about:

The Image of the City Dungeon

A while back at D and D w/ p. stars there was a fantastic post  where he sort of reverse engineer's an essay
from Rem Koolhaas' S,M,L,XL as if it were about mega-dungeons.

I want to do a similar sort of thing with this book:  (though with less theory mumbo-jumbo.  Really I just want to steal his analytical tools to give an underlying structure to megadungeons)

If you went to school to study architecture or urban planning then you probably had to read this.  If not,
you've probably never heard of it.  Kevin Lynch is a big deal when it comes to Urban Design, and I want to look at how his ideas could be used in the creation of and running of megadungeons.

One thing I want to make before we dive in is that while I'm using the term "dungeon," I really mean
megadungeon.  Something at the scale of a city rather than a single building.  The Mythic Underworld, vast and unknowable is the territory that we'll be exploring with this little forray into Lynch's book.  Of course, it's
the DM's job to know the unknowable, and the PC's job to map the unmappable!

This is how the book begins:

"Looking at cities dungeons can give a special pleasure, however commonplace the sight may be.  Like a piece of architecture, the city dungeon is a construction in space, but one of vast scale, a thing perceived only in the course of long spans of time.  City Dungeon Design is therefore a temporal art, but it can rarely use the controlled and limited sequences of other temporal arts like music.  On different occasions and for different people, the sequences are reversed, interrupted, abandoned, cut across.  It is seen in all lights and all weathers.
    At every instant, there is more than the eye can see, more than the ear can hear, an setting or a view
waiting to be explored.  Nothing is experienced by itself, but always in relation to it's surroundings, the
sequences of events leading up to it, the memory of past experiences... Every citizen  adventurer has long associations with some part of his city, and his image is soaked in memories and meanings."

That text is clear and I don't feel like I really need to unpack it too much. The important thing is that we are thinking about the way this giant place is perceived and that the way it is perceived can't be planned by the DM. (unless you're a railroader, which is fine if that's what your players are into, but you might as well stop reading this now if that's the case)  I think the bit in bold is especially applicable to Megadungeons as opposed to dungeons (which are more likely to see one use, with one group of adventurers, and be approached from one way only)

"Moving elements in a city dungeon, and in particular the people and their activities, are as important as the
stationary physical parts.  We are not simply observers of this spectacle, but are ourselves a part of it, on the stage with the other participants.  Most often, our perception of the city dungeon is not sustained, but rather partial, fragmentary, mixed with other concerns.  Nearly every sense is in operation and the image is the composite of them all."

The dungeon is effected by the Adventurers.  also by monsters and  NPCs of course, but (this obviously isn't stated by Lynch) it's the perception of the PCs that matters to us.  It's not just City=Dungeon, but also City=Dungeon=Stage.  Also, we are talking about an image, but all five senses contribute to that image.

"Not only is the city dungeon an object which is perceived (and perhaps enjoyed) by millions of people of
widely diverse class and character, (you know, like magic-users, thieves and half-elf barbarians) but it is the product of many builders who are constantly modifying the structure for reasons of their own.  While it may be stable in general outlines for some time, it is ever changing in detail.  Only partial control can be exercised over its growth and form.  There is no final result, only a continuous succession of phases.  No wonder, then, that the art of shaping cities dungeons for sensuous enjoyment is an art quite separate from architecture or music or literature.  It may learn a great deal from these other arts, but it cannot imitate them."

The dungeon changes from one adventure to the next, but also it's original form is determined randomly by Wandering Monster tables at least, maybe even by random room generators and the like.

What Lynch is aiming for is "Legibility" or "...the ease with which its parts can be recognized and can be organized into a coherent pattern."  Now, for gaming this legibility is especially important (even though it might sound kind of boring now, just wait) because there is no actual city, I mean, dungeon.  The whole thing is a construct in the minds of the players so communication about the environment and the events in that environment is critical, especially in old school games where there is less reliance on game mechanics and more reliance on description of the scene and actions.

"Although clarity or legibility is by no means the only important property of a beautiful city kick-ass megadugeon, it is of special importance when considering environments at the urban scale of size, time, and complexity.  To understand this we must consider not just the city dungeon as a thing in itself, but the city dungeon being perceived by its inhabitants (and more so the interloping adventurers)."

What really matters isn't the dungeon and all of it's special little one-of-a-kind snowflake qualities, back story etc. but how the PCs experience it.  If the Orc Chief hates the Spider God but that never comes up in play or the PCs don't pick up on it then it might as well not be true.  In their experience it isn't true.  Managing the perceptions of the PCs is how you make the dungeon awesome.

"Many kinds of cues are used: the visual sensations of color, shape, motion, or polarization of light, as well as other senses such as smell, sound, touch, kinesthesia, sense of gravity, and perhaps of electric or magnetic fields."

In an RPG it's usually one step removed: the verbal description of those senses rather than the actual senses.
Lynch talks a bit about wayfinding and how the "mental picture of the exterior physical world that is held by an individual" is how a person finds their way in a city.  This is even more so in a Dungeon, if you don't imagine it, then you're not there.

Lynch diverts a bit into the deeper meaning behind this giant structure:
"A striking landscape is the skeleton upon which many primitive races erect their socially important myths."
Right?  What was buried down there that those primitive races started mythologizing?

And he acknowledges that some chaos can be good:
"It must be granted that there is some value in mystification, labyrinth, or surprise in the environment."  Important enough that there is a 1 or 2 in 6 chance of it. (surprise that is)  And if you crawl around in a cave for long enough you are sure to get lost at some point but being completely lost the whole time isn't usually fun.

Ok, up to this point I have mostly just been cherry picking cool quotes that make it sound like Lynch is talking about dungeons, but now I'm going to wrap up and the really useful stuff will have to wait for a future post or posts.  Lynch says that an environmental image is made up of structure, identity and meaning.  of these, structure and identity are what he mostly concerns himself with in this book.  Works for me. What we are trying to do when we DM is communicate an imaginary physical world to the players, if we want to worry about the meaning behind that we can, or we can run a fun-house and retroactively rationalize it if we feel the need to, or something that makes sense/would be cool comes naturally out of play. 
I want to slide one more quote in along those lines:

"The image should preferably be open-ended, adaptable to change, allowing the individual to continue to investigate and organize reality: there should be blank spaces where he can extend the drawing for himself."

So whether you call it Legibility or Imageabilitiy or Visibility (Lynch uses all three) How the DM communicates the game world to the Players is... well that is the game or half of it anyway.  A strong Image of the Dungeon comes from: Clues to the nature of the identity and structure of the game world that keep the game moving and describing the game world in a way that helps the players to really create their own image of the game world, and contribute to it.

The next time I post about this will be about the Five Elements that Lynch uses to analyze the image of cities dungeons: Paths, Edges, Districts, Nodes and Landmarks.  I'll look at how we can use those five elements to make huge kick-ass dungeons.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Mostly Dead is Slightly Alive; Hit Points, Injury and Recovery

Fellow bloggers at Aeons and Auguries and the Fighting Fantasist have gotten me thinking about Hit Points.

I've mentioned this in passing before.

After playing D&D for a long time I've fairly recently decided to take Mr. Gygax at his word and rule that HP are abstract and not actual wounds. Here is what I've started doing:


When characters reach 0 HP they roll on this:

I was inspired by this and this. Like Aos, I wanted the table to be generic, that is I wanted it to make sense for an injury made by tooth and claw as well as blade or bazooka.  Like Trollsmyth I wanted things like knockdown and buff to be possible and I wanted helms to be important.  I also wanted the super simple hit locations to play a role.  This table's label is a bit of a misnomer, I don't use this when a Natural 20 is rolled, only when characters are dropped to zero HP.  I suppose I meant it that way when I made the chart and maybe I would use it that way if I was playing a game with high level characters.  Zero HP is the worst a PC can be, I don't track negative HP.  Depending on how they roll on the crit. chart, a PC with zero Hit Points might be walking around just fine, or they might be on the ground dying.  This could also be used in a pinch for fumbles: roll a D4 as if the D6 rolled a 2.


HD are rolled every morning.  If you've spent the night in the wilderness or in a dungeon, then your HP can go down when you make this roll.  I've thought about also making them roll an extra die and dropping the highest in wilderness/dungeons, but I haven't tried that yet.  If the character is in civilization (as in a house, castle or inn, crashing in a haystack or barn counts as camping) then if a lower number than the character's current HP is rolled it can be disregarded. 

If characters take a short rest (1 turn) then they can add 1d6 to their HP, but their HP cannot be raised over their max for the day.  They can rest as much as they like, consecutively or not, but their HP won't exceed the max for the day. If a character has been reduced to zero and is wounded or dying, then they stay at zero until fully healed, resting won't help.

I have only used this a few times and I haven't used this at all in a game with a Cleric but this is how I would deal with their healing spells: Cure Light Wounds would eliminate one Light Wound, or make a serious wound a Light wound, or make a dying character merely seriously wounded.  A character healed this way would not loose the limb, and would be only faintly scarred.  The Cure Serious Wound spell would eliminate completely a light wound or a serious wound and would make a dying character only lightly wounded.

If the Character is dead and there are no high level miracle workers around, there's only one thing you can do: go through their clothes and look for loose change.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Dragons & Chimeras

Monsters Remixed continues!

I have made one more step toward this project's foolish completion.  Here is the problem I set out to solve:
The same old monsters can get boring.  And making new monsters is great, but what if your short on time?  (I have already spent more time on this "time saver" than really makes sense, so hopefully somebody besides me can use these)  The idea was to mix up some of the characteristics of the old monsters to make new ones, and to give to the players some of the sense of surprise and discovery that made these games great in the first place, but with creatures that are still based on classic monsters.
I did this remix of Slime Molds and Jellies and then I found this fantastic post at Sham's Grog and Blog.  I had thought that the order that the monsters were presented in Monsters and Treasure was just slapdash, but of course it was Gygaxian genius at work.  There is an order.  Then I started thinking that the ordering and Shams breakdown would be a great way to give this remix treatment to every single one of the monsters presented in that Original Little Brown Book.

The names that Sham came up with for the monster categories are great.  One that grabbed me was "Fairly Tale Miscellany."  So I did the Fey Beasts (Centaurs, Unicorns, Treants, Pegasi, Hippogriffs, Rocs and Griffons) and Fey Humanoids (Pixies, Nixies, Dryads, Gnomes, Dwarves, Elves) from that category.  With those two, I played more fast and loose with the creatures than I did with the slimes.  Gnomes and Dwarves might be offended that I just called them "ugly elves" but it seemed appropriate.  My goal was to evoke the fairy tale roots of those creatures and at the same time make them... you know, weird.

I started looking at the "Monsters of Myth" (Manticoras, Hydras, Chimeras, Wyverns, Dragons, Gargoyles, Lycanthropes, Purple Worms, Sea Monsters, Minotaurs)  There are some real heavy hitters here! ahem. DRAGONS.

Here is what I've come up with:

Dragons, Dragonesques & Chimera

Gargoyles I'm saving for later, and Lycanthropes will be their own thing.  Remixed here are Manticoras, Hydras, Chimeras, Wyverns, Dragons, Purple Worms, Sea Monsters,  and Minotaurs.  Actually I didn't really do anything with Sea Monsters, but neither did the original, so if you're rolling on this and your at sea then it's a sea monster.  I couldn't just throw dragons in the hopper with the rest, especially since it's already been done so well before.  Instead I went the other way and made Dragons less random and weird, more iconic.  The rest get mixed up into various Chimerae.

So this is what I have left:

Lycanthropes: I really want to remix the Werethings but no bright idea has hit me as of yet.  They need to be in there, because you can buy a silver dagger right there at the beginning of the game.
Bad Guys: Men, Kobolds, Goblins, Orcs, Hobgoblins, Gnolls, Ogres, Trolls, Giants.
  These I will divide into two groups: Men, and the rest.  I am planning on really messing with the humanoids.
Dead Guys: Skeletons, Zombies, Ghouls, Wights, Wraiths, Mummies, Spectres, Vampires.
  Somewhere I have seen where somebody else did a random undead generator thing, which I remember thinking was pretty good, but now I can't find it.  If you know what I'm talking about please let me know who made it! 
Save or Stoned Guys: Cockatrices, Basilisks, Medusae, Gorgons.
  Gargoyles may be added back in here.
The Otherworldly: Invisible Stalkers, Elementals, Djinn, Efreet.
  These will be fun.
Monsters Mundane: Horses, Mules, Small Insects and Animals, Large Insects and Animals.
  These are so boring!  I have some ideas on how to make these interesting but if it doesn't coalesce I'll just skip em.

At the end of the monster descriptions there is this kooky and rambling listing for Other Monsters: 
Titans & Cyclops:  If I break out the Giants from the Humanoids these might get included.
Juggernauts & Living Statues: These might get a remix, especially if the Gargoyles don't fit with the Save or Stoned guys (and gals)
Salamanders: These are definitely going in with the Otherworldlies.
Gelatinous Cubes: represented in Slimes, Molds and Jellies!
Robots, Golems, Androids: Surely there is a random robot generator out there?  Golems would go great with the Living Statues.

I have no idea when I'll get to these.  I feel like I ought to be doing something more directly useful in a game, like developing one of the campaign worlds I have knocking around in my head.  We'll see!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


I haven't done a .pdf post for a while, so here you go:


It's great if you have treasure maps prepped, who doesn't like a good prop?  But, if you don't have anything prepped then you're up the creek without a... treasure map.  I think it's weird that I've never come across anything like this before. 

My goal with this was to make something that allows a DM to roll up a treasure map on the fly in-game, something easier and meatier/more evocative than the 1e DMG.  The DMG has a pretty good system for generating random treasure maps (of course, it has random charts for everything).  One divergence I made from the DMG regards clues to the nature of the treasure.  It explicitly states in bold even, that there is never any indication as to the nature of the treasure.  That seems silly to me, so I included charts to give the DM and the players (since they are learning about this together/at the same time) some indication of the Treasure and its Guardian.  It's kind of a lot of rolling, but I think you could roll things as the PCs studied the map.  I have not used this in play yet!