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

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

BX Dungeon Generation - Improved!

I'm a big fan of generating Dungeons in the manner described in the Moldvay Basic book pages 51-52. I use it to get the DM juices flowing. After  drawing the map and rolling for each room I'll work it over, moving and changing things, adding details. It's really quick, and because the room table is simple enough I can do it without referencing the book. There's one problem though: the process screeches to a halt with Treasure generation. All of a sudden it goes from a quick and easy roll to a bunch of percentile rolls just to figure out what other rolls I need to make.  I've started experimenting instead with this system that uses just one roll of a D20 and one or two D6 rolls.

I use a Silver standard, so if your using the old gold standard multiply by 10.  In the table below D6X or D20 X means the dice is exploding, on a roll of 6 or 20 re-roll and add the result.

D20 : GP
x10 GP

2-5: -

Magic/Map/Gems (re-roll D6)
D6X Gems worth D20X x10GP

The way I use this is to roll once per level of the dungeon for all monsters and unguarded treasure. The results are swingy enough that not differentiating between one monster or the other or between guarded and unguarded treasure doesn't bother me at all. Your mileage may vary of course. Also, as I add detail the nature of the treasure is defined. Sometimes a bag of gold is just a bag of gold, but as often as not it's actually furnishings or other objects the the PCs may miss as treasure. This along with moving things around as necessary once the basics are generated makes for what feels to me like a realistic Dungeon, but with variation that I might not arrive at if I was just making things up without the random rolls.

Usually after the rooms are keyed I go back and add doors as I feel necessary, but I think door placement could also benefit from a simple random system. I'm going to try this:

Between each room roll 1D6:
1: open
2: shut
3: stuck
4: locked
5: blocked
6: secret

This, like the room table is simple enough I can remember it without the book. The results will be varied and details can be filled in making each door as unique as necessary. Generally speaking here is how I would define the results:
Open: either an open doorway, an arch, or a door that has been left ajar.
Shut: a door that is shut but not locked. Could also be a curtain or screen.
Stuck: a door that must be forced open, usually a 2/6 will do the trick.
Locked: only a trained thief will have much of a chance at opening these without force.
Blocked: there used to be a door here but it has been bricked over or the tunnel has collapsed.. It would take quite a bit of work to make this passable again.
Secret: good old secret doors. There needs to be some kind of tell to give the PCs a clue that the door is here. In some locations they may have to declare that they are carefully examining the area just to find the Tell, in others it may be out in the open.

Trapped isn't on here. When a trap is rolled for a room it may actually be on a door into the room. I have some ideas for traps tables but as far as I'm concerned the best simplest way to randomly determine traps is the Dismal Depths Traps Table.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

5e: settling for the geek ghetto when they should be owning the airwaves

Al recently posted this really fascinating list of mods to B/X D&D that Mike Mearls made to his home game in the genesis of the 5e rule set.  This got me thinking about what makes me frustrated with 5e.

Rant follows with otherwise unforgivable use of caps but I have FEELINGS:

WotC's whole marketing strategy seems to be to sell three $50 books to people who already play funny elf games.  There's no real effort to sell D&D to people who don't already have some experience with the game.  The Starter Set and the Basic Rules pdf marketed in game stores and on the internet where intended to poach players from Pathfinder, retroclones, and to pick up lapsed Gamers. You didn't get anything but a sample adventure to try out the rules and the pdf only of char gen was weird and inconvenient.  They were hoping that the geek in the game store would see the Starter set and think, "D&D, cool, I remember that.  Well I've gotten my kids into Settlers of Cataan, I bet they're old enough for this now"

And that's all great.  Invite the Pathfinder folks back into the fold.  make the OSR true believers again.  Sell to Geek Dad.  Great.  but that's not really a whole lot of folks, the roll out seemed clumsy, and what about EVERYONE else?

Oh Mearls, why didn't you throw your mods into a rewrite of Moldvay and take that 32-64 page pamphlet that has truly everything you need to play and sell it in every freaking store in America? 

If ten people buy that pamphlet for $15 that's the same as one geek who buys three books for $150.  And you know what?  go ahead and make the three $50 books.  Us geeks will buy them.  Anytime humanity is presented with a social phenomena with an inner and an outer circle there will be folks who feel they must be in the inner circle.  That's why there are hipsters.

And I mean every store in America, not just game stores and Barnes and Nobles.  Comic book stores. The magazine rack in grocery stores.  Freaking 7-11s and Circle K, heck sell to truckers at the flying J! Maybe a cardboard stand in the lobby of movie theaters.  I mean, when every movie Peter Jackson has made for the last 15 years is basically a giant ad for D&D and they've made millions and millions of dollars and Game of Thrones is as big as it is I can't help but feel like the folks at D&D headquarters are letting this cultural moment pass them by when THIS SHOULD BE THERE MOMENT.

And where are the ancilaries?  It looks like the VTT is up now, that's good.  And there is a Neverwinter MMORPG apparently to compete with WoW.  I don't know or care as much about the video game market as I do the tabletop, but it seems to me that D&D is the thing that WotC has that competes with WoW, and they might be better off making ancilary products that support it more.

 How about a web series or multiple web series? (Multiple would be great actually, to show how the game is different with different groups.  That would highlight the huge difference/advantage that tabletop has over computer games) Apparently I hit it with my Axe isn't going to be on the Escapist anymore, why not grab that up and make it official DnD?  Dead Gentlemen has made great work that is already essentially an ad for D&D.  Hire or license those guys.

Heck go all out and make a web series with Peter Dinklage, Mandy Morbid and Vin Diesel.  Put them on the cardboard stand with the Basic books in the multiplex lobby.  They'll sell like hot cakes.

Oh well, maybe for 6th edition?