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, December 13, 2011

Huge Castle

I haven't been posting much, but I have been gaming, and I'll likely be doing some more over the holidays.  I'm gathering resources to do a by-the-seat-of-the-pants Megadungeon.  I'm thinking about giving the Players a giant version of this map.  (can you spot the modern architecture?)

I'd say that the Castle has been ruined and shrouded in terminal mist for generations.  Perhaps the map is from one of the masons who worked on the castle before it fell to ruin. 

We'll run it in LotFP with as few house rules as I can manage to limit myself to, Likely these:
aaaand I think that's about it.
Here's a Castle Name Generator:

So now you too can find out what the Mad Lords of Castle Gorgonmaw have been up to!

Saturday, December 3, 2011


I got to play a dwarf today who's chief weapon/dungeon exploration implement was a shovel.  I really think that shovels are going to be the weapon/dungeon exploration implement of the future. 
Sooner or later I suppose the DM will get sick of it and say the shovel breaks, then I'll have to hire a shovel-bearer to carry my PCs extra shovels.  Seriously, if I were in a dungeon there are way more situations that I would want to have a shovel than a sword.

Welcome to humber-grognard, h.r., karnak, and cygnus!

Here's D4 potions:

1. Occu-tonic: 
Eyes sprout out of the palms of the imbibing character's hands.  These eyes can see invisible and have infravision.

2. Tonic of tongues:
a mouth sprouts of the palm of the imbibing character's right hand.  The character is able to comprehend languages, and the hand-mouth can speak any language.  There is a 1:6 chance that the mouth does not say exactly what the character wants to say each time it speaks.

3.Oracular Somnambulation:
The imbibing character imediately falls asleep and begins to sleep-walk.  He/she will walk in the shortest route possible to the nearest secret door and attempt to enter.  While sleep-walking the character cannot fight and will be automatically hit if attacked.  If the character crosses the threshold of a secret door he/she wakes up.

4. Basilisk Blood Brew:
The imbiber's skin turns green and scaly for the duration of the potion, and he/she is immune to turn to stone effects.  At the end of the potion's duration the clothes and/or armor of the character turn to dust.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Elves of Invisible Moons

I've had this post partially completed for a while and the discussion about elves at 9 and 30 kingdoms and Strange Magic has inspired me to kick this out:

This could be used for all elves in a campaign, or an optional variant sub-race, perhaps called "Moon Elves".


Origins: All elves descend on silver chords from one of five invisible moons.
  • Elves from the first moon do not wish to be seen and so they descend on nights when there is no light from the sixth (visible) moon, or into fog or mist.
  • Elves of the second moon descend into cities, into markets or fairs, sometimes onto balconies or minarets.
  • Elves of the third moon descend only to the highest mountain peaks, or sometimes climb as far as they can on their chords and then trick or cajole winged creatures into carrying them the rest of the way.
  • Elves of the fourth moon disguise their silver chords as lightning.
  • The fifth moon floats in the sky in the hollow center of the world. Elves of the fifth moon"descend" into caverns and caves.
Physical Characteristics:  Elf PCs roll 2D12 and use the result that is closest to 6 as their hieght in feet.  roll another D12 and add that many inches.

Alignment:  All elves are in love with the world.
Some elves are driven to jealousy  and plot against or destroy all other living creatures. (Chaotic)
Some elves love all creatures and would not knowingly destroy any creature. (Lawful)
Some elves blame one type of creature (randomly determined by DM) for all of the problems in the world and will hunt and kill that creature type.  (Neutral)

Beliefs: Elves believe that by doing one of the following they will be granted a wish once in their lifetime:
1. ringing brass bells at midnight
2. dancing nude for at least 30 minutes every day at noon.
3. weeping every evening
4. fasting every other day
5. never refusing a request for drink
6. eating wild mushrooms
7. singing before every meal
8. feeding all wild animals
9. telling strangers fortunes
10. never lying
11. talking to plants
12. fighting to the death

Elves and monsters: All ghouls were once elves. These undead come form a time when elves varied more in height than they do today, simply roll 1D12 for ghoul's height.

Elf levels: When an elf gains a level the player must roll 3D12.  At least one die must be higher than the elfs current level.  If none are higher, the elf returns to the invisible moon of his origin and is never seen in the world again.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Winged Tree Lion!

I've made a table that remixes the more monstrous creatures from the group that Sham categorizes as "Fairy Tale Miscelany": Centaurs, Pegasi, Treants, Unicorns, Hippogriffs, Rocs and Griffons.  The idea here was to do the same thing with these creatures that I did with Slimes Molds and Jellies (That's a revised S, M, J pdf there, reformatted to fit on a 8.5x11 portrait).

Remixing the above "fairy tale" creatures the way I have can lead to some weird results... such as the Winged Tree Lion! Testing this, I rolled Eagle, Tree, Lion with the Special Ability: Teleport.  So this creature has Eagle clawed hind legs, I'll say that it can fly by vibrating translucent blue-veined leaves that cover it's "trunk" and the lion head has a mane of ivy with brillain colored mushrooms hidden within it.  and the PCs just met D6 of them.  (what happens if you eat those mushrooms, hmm?)

Here's the pdf:


Also, check out the info to the right on Old School Gaming in Sacramento if your in the area.

Friday, November 18, 2011

People's Republic of Saving Throws

The base saving throw for all classes is Character's Level +5.
Roll equal or under on D20.

Before rolling, the Player describes what the character does to make the save and the DM applied bonuses (if any).

Examples of how a player might describe escaping a calamity requiring a roll:
  • A coward may flee at the first opportunity
  • A tough guy may just stand there and take it
  • wizards and clerics may make a plea to otherworldly beings or combat their fate with their own mystic prowess

At the end of each session Players & DM vote on the best, most entertaining save, and the PC with the most votes gets +1 to similar saves from then on.  They do this by each writing down a character name and a very brief description of the action on a scrap of paper, then all are read and voted on.  For example: "Oswald the Thief - runs away when scared"  Might win the vote.

Why I like this:
1. Player creativity is at it's highest when character death is on the line.
2. What the player comes up with has the potential to contribute to the depth of the character.
3. The result has the potential to be more interesting than the pass/fail of a typical saving throw.

A while back I played around a bunch with various indie games, some of the more story game variety.  I didn't ever pick up a rules system whole cloth though.  For a while we had a game that was like Savage Worlds combined with the FATE system, and we did "People's Republic of Experience Points" which I'm pretty sure I got from the game Burning Wheel.  I would find out about some rules sub-system and bolt that on to other systems and arrive at weird frankenstein games.  I'm mostly over that now...

Monday, November 14, 2011

Magic-Users Break the Universe. (maybe)

For this post, I started writing about low level M-Us, being a kid and loving the Wild Mage in the Tome of Magic, and how much fun it is to give a Player a risky but potentially powerful option and just watch them sweat, but really, "Magic-Users Break the Unverse" sums it up.   Click this link to get the Arcane Stress & Spell Mutation optional rule.

Also, Brendan suggested that I note the name of the blog on the pdfs that I put up.
I've gone back and added the blog name to:
Slimes Molds and Jellies already had it.

(Note: the arcane stress & mutation pdf is made to print onto 8.5x14 legal paper and fold like a pamphlet)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Dungeon Inspiration from ancient Greece and the Pacific Rim

This is from the wikipedia entry for Ophion:

Apollonius of Rhodes in his Argonautica (1.495f) summarizes a song of Orpheus:
He sang how the earth, the heaven and the sea, once mingled together in one form, after deadly strife were separated each from other; and how the stars and the moon and the paths of the sun ever keep their fixed place in the sky; and how the mountains rose, and how the resounding rivers with their nymphs came into being and all creeping things. And he sang how first of all Ophion and Eurynome, daughter of Oceanus, held the sway of snowy Olympus, and how through strength of arm one yielded his prerogative to Cronos and the other to Rhea, and how they fell into the waves of Oceanus; but the other two meanwhile ruled over the blessed Titan-gods, while Zeus, still a child and with the thoughts of a child, dwelt in the Dictaean cave; and the earthborn Cyclopes had not yet armed him with the bolt, with thunder and lightning; for these things give renown to Zeus.
two things that are awesome about this pasage:

1. "rivers with their nymphs came into being and all creeping things" makes me think of little elf chicks riding around on the Host.

2. A cave where a god was raised.  Put that in your dungeon!

And also a wizard's tower

Monday, November 7, 2011

Starting Equipment

Here's a way to quickly generate starting equipment (with some randomness and some player choice) for Fantasy Roleplaying.  This was inspired by The LotFP equipment generator at Hill Cantons, and I suppose DCC a bit, with those random free items at the end.  Characters made with this will tend to be kinda LoFi and broke, though occaionally you can get a high roller.  Either way this adds a bit of flavor to character generation and it's fast!

Download Here:


Lamentations of the Flame Princess Language Variant

I really like LotFP's rules on languages.  I tend to run smaller groups when I play though, and I feel like the rules as written are meant for or work much better with larger groups.  In a larger group, you are sure to have a specialist and/or a wizard or two, and odds are somebody is going to roll a 1.  In a small group though, the by the book rules can cut down on your number of social encounters, so I've come up with the following variant.  The purpose of these rules (both this variant and the rules as written, as I see it) is to randomly give a different PC the spotlight when new creatures are encountered.  This variant just increases the chance if not guarantees that someone will be able to speak to an NPC or monster.

(because I like it when the players can talk to the mud people/giant spiders/pirates from the blood sea)


 When making language rolls, every player rolls a D6.  With normal languages the low rolling PC understands the language with the number rolled being an indication of how well they speak and understand the language.  The lower the better.  Example: three PCs encounter a swamp troll who is trying to tell them that the cave to the north has a group of harpies living in it.  They roll 3, 3, and 5.  The two who rolled 3 can both understand the swamp troll, but not very well.  Maybe they get that he's warning them about the cave, but they don't understand the word for harpy.  Characters who have an INT modifier or specialists with ranks in Languages can roll an additional die for each pip or plus, and take the lowest.  Stranger languages, or languages of creatures from other planes may require two or more low rolls and a maximum roll of say, one or two.

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!

    Saturday, September 17, 2011

    DMing tricks vs. rules changes

    Sometimes I think about how to fix the D&D combat system to maintain the granularity of varying skill levels while removing the "whiff factor".  But maybe the problem isn't the system, its the DM style.  Or in other words, the abstract nature of basic D&D combat allows for/requires creativity from the DM. (duh, right?)  Here are some things that I want to try or that I have tried but that I want to consistently implement that I think will help me be a better DM: 
    1.  Keep the initiative system in place, but roll the attacks for all combatants in a melee before narrating the scene. 

    2.  Don't feel obligated to narrate an attack roll as an attack

    3.  Don't feel obligated to narrate an failed attack roll as an actual missed or parried attack.

    4.  Don't feel obligated to narrate a hit as an actual hit or physical injury.  (Given that I currently view HP as completely abstract fatigue and luck and NOT actual injury.  I use a critical/wound chart when a character get's to 0 HP.  Injury and Recovery will have to be a future post.)

    5. If two opponents facing eachother both miss, give whichever one rolls higher a slight advantage in the narration.
    Take this sample combat between a lvl 1 fighter and a giant rat:

     DM and player roll initiative.  Player wins.

    The player attacks and rolls a 7.  DM says, "that's a miss"

    DM atacks and rolls a 3.  Says, "the rat tries to bite you but misses"

    The player rolls to attack again, gets an 11.  DM says, "You just miss."

    Player says, "Dang dice!"

    DM rolls an attack gets a 13  Says, ““What's your AC again? Ok that's a miss.”
    Player rolls a 9. “Dang it!”

    DM rolls a 17. “Hit.” Rolls a d6, "it does 2 points of damage."

    Player rolls a 15. DM says, “roll damage.” Player rolls a 4. “Ok you kill it.”

    Now the same combat if I'm taking my own advice:
    DM and player roll initiative. Player wins.

    The player attacks and rolls a 7.
    DM atacks and rolls a 3.
    The DM says, "As you advance the rat runs away.  you close in further and now you have it cornered."

    The player says "ok, i'll widen my stance to keep it from getting away again and attack it." he rolls to attack again, gets an 11.
    DM rolls an attack gets a 13.
    The DM says, “just as you are about to strike the rat runs between your legs and scurries up a pile of crates against the wall.  From the top of the crates it hisses at you menacingly."
    The player says, "dang wiley rat! is it low enough that I can reach it with my sword?"
    The DM says, "yep."

    Player rolls a 9.
    DM rolls a 17.
    "You poke at it with your sword, but it squirms away and leaps at you!  you raise your shield and it bounces off.  Take off 2 HP and it's now on the ground at your feet."

    Player rolls a 15. DM says, “roll damage.” Player rolls a 4.
    The DM says “before it can get away again you run it through.  It wriggles and claws at the ground for a few minutes before finally collapsing.”

    Player: "Gross.  Now, what's in those crates..."

    Friday, September 16, 2011


    Planet Algol has just posted about one of the great old OD&D tables. I've reskinned that table for gonzo space fantasy and I thought I'd share. I don't think anybody needs me to say how many HD a laser knight has, or what the special attacks of a brain orchid are. And you probobly already know that a necroid is a zombie robot summoned from its robot grave, right?

    Thursday, September 15, 2011

    a brief introduction:

    This is my blog. On it I will discuss lazer-dwarves and wizards and were-goat barbarians and other such things.