Monday, February 9, 2015

Cold and Raw doth the North Wind Blow...

Cold and Raw doth the North Wind Blow... -The Rhyme Winter by Mother Goose

The cosmic radiations from the Orbital God Kings are taking control of my mind...

Beaming messages from space right into my brain... making me do things... Things which are awesome.

North Wind Adventures the publisher of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea have built a new, sharp looking website. Check it out. I was in on the Kickstarter for their box set and have been quite pleased. Even though I play a more B/X-ish game than the 1e roots on which ASSH bases its rules, I keep going back to the box, mining it for ideas, using its tables, etc.

Also, check out the adventure modules that are coming down the pike from the North Wind team. I will certainly kickstart all three of the new North Wind titles. See below.

So let the Cosmic Gods take control and back these projects as soon as they become available.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Save vs. Simplicity: my conversion/ reversion to classic saving throws in D&D and a new rules set

Work commitments have combined with a few of my players moving away to put actually playing games on the back burner... again. This has given me some time to work on my game as a mechanical system rather than working on prepping for gaming sessions.

One way I have found to expand the pool from which I draw players is to include my daughter and a couple of her friends who seem to be pretty interested in dorking out with some d20s. As a DM I need to alter my game in two ways. First, toning down the content a bit while being more selective about who comes over to the house to play. The other consideration has to do with the game mechanics I use and their complexity. Though my new players are quite familiar with dragons, ogres, etc. they are not familiar with base-attack-bonuses (I use ascending AC), saving throws, etc. I need to cut out some complexity to make it easier for a party of beginners.

The first piece is easy. The second piece requires a little more work. I have been looking at the mechanics I use and have decided that they either need to be simplified, so that they do not slow down new players or that I need to be sure that the "work" is done on my side of the screen rather than on the players' side. That leads me to saving throws.

There has been a lot of chat in the OSR/ DIY D&D scene concerning saving throws (herehere, and here) and it has inspired me to take a deep look at how I approach saving throws. When I was first introduced to D&D I had no problem with the classic five-fold save system... other than knowing that every time I rolled a save I was trying to dodge a certain death. In fact the names of the saves were kind of evocative, and bizarre. When 3x hit the shelves I embraced the new universal d20 mechanic which yielded three ability score-based saves (basically three ability score checks). When I returned to D&D and discovered (or rediscovered) the OSR and old school D&D I dug around for a clone that would work for me... and found Swords & Wizardry and have adopted many hacks which have been bolted on to S&W and have created some of my own. The single save of S&W seems simple enough, And it is. But I do miss the classic saves... everybody dreads hearing their DM say, "save versus death!" The five-fold saving throw system is bizarre and even a bit cheesey (maybe), but it is D&D. After years of getting used to them and then pitching them for "modern" innovations, I am going back to the classic saves. They may seem kind of crunchy. They are not. It simply requires writing four more numbers on each character sheet.

So deciding on the classic saving throws also got me thinking about the clone I have been using. I do love S&W. I did the Kickstarter for S&W Complete and proudly show off my signed hardcopy. But S&W does not support the five-fold saving throw. Instead of just ripping them out of the Rules Cyclopedia I have decided to give Lamentations of the Flame Princess a try. It features the classic saves. LotFP is attractive to me for other reasons as well. Not the least of which is, like S&W, free PDFs are available so that my players can pick up the rules and get going with just a few clicks. The other components of LotFP which I am drawn to will be detailed in later posts.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Party Like it’s 3999: Ripping off Jeff’s Gameblog

I am trying to get my game going again. Being abroad has made it difficult to keep my group(s) together for more than a few sessions. I am trying two different approaches to getting re-started: DM-ing a home mini adventuring party (my daughter and my wife) and “…getting the band back together!” i.e. getting some old buddies to play a regularly scheduled G+ game. I am focusing on streamlining and defining my D&D Home-School as much as I can before I get going again. I hope that the holiday season will give me enough of a break from work to get some momentum going.
As I first started digging into my D&D roots a few years ago, I was lucky enough to discover Jeff’s Gameblog, even though Jeff Rients has stopped posting regularly as he is busier now than he was a few years back, his blog is a source of continuing inspiration. His body of work (hacks, play reports, and anything else Old School D&D) is vast.

One of Jeff’s rules, which I have ripped and used many times, is his carousing rule. I am just repeating his post with a few minor modifications.

Joesky’s Tax: Carousing

System: PCs, to earn extra XP, can choose to go out carousing between sessions. At the beginning of a session the PC starts off the evening by hanging out at his favorite inn with a sack full of silver pieces (sp); typically PCs may only go carousing if they ended the previous session in some sort of settlement (village, town, or city). The PC rolls some dice and earns XP based on how well he debauched (below):

Village: 1d6 x 100sp spent
Town:   1d8 x 150sp spent
City:     1d12 x 250sp spent

*Thieves may spend an extra 25sp to gain an extra pip on their roll if they are connected to any local criminal organizations (guilds, gangs, etc.)

*All PCs may spend an extra 50sp to gain an extra pip on their roll

If the die roll is equal to or less than the PCs level, the evening results in nothing more than a headache and some foggy memories of good times. But if the die roll is above the PCs level, things get out of hand and he must roll 1d20 and consult the chart below.

If a PC cannot afford to pay for his good time, he loses all of his cash but only gains XP equal to half of what was spent. Other PCs may pay a PC’s tab. Henchmen will only cover a PC’s tab after successfully passing a loyalty check and even then only to avoid imprisonment or death.

Getting Out of Hand:

1) Make a fool of yourself! Gain no XP. Roll CHA check or gain local reputation as a drunken lout.
2) Brawl! Roll STR check or start adventure 1d3 hit points short.
3) Minor Misunderstanding with the Authorities. Roll CHA check. Success indicates a fine of 2d6 x 25sp. Failure or (inability to pay fine) indicates 1d6 days in prison.
4) Romantic Entanglement. Roll WIS check to avoid nuptials. Successes roll 1d6, 1-3 scorned lover, 4-6 angered parents.
5) Gambling Losses. Roll the dice as if you caroused again to see how much cash you lose; gain no XP for the second roll.
6) You Party Machine! Unless a CHA check is failed, all future carousing in this burg costs double due to barflies and other parasites.
7) You insulted a local person of rank. A successful CHA check indicates the personage is amenable to some sort of apology and reparations.
8) It burns when you pee. Roll PPD save check to avoid venereal disease.
9) New Tattoo! Roll 1d6, 1-3 it’s actually pretty cool, 4 it’s lame, 5 it could have been badass, but something is goofed up or misspelled, 6 it says something insulting, crude or stupid in an unknown language.
10) Beaten and Robbed!  Lose all your personal effects and reduced to half hit points.
11) Gambling Binge! Lose all your cash. Roll WIS check for each magic item in your possession. Failure indicates it’s gone.
12) Hangover from the Hells. First day of adventuring is at -2 to-hit, saves, and spell-casting.
13) The target of a lewd advance turns out to be a witch. Save versus polymorph or you’re literally a swine.
14) One of us! One of us! You’re not sure how it happened, but you’ve been initiated into some sort of secret society or weird cult. Roll INT check to remember the signs and passes.
15) You invest all your spare cash in some smooth-tongued merchant’s scheme. Roll 1d6, 1-4 it’s bogus, 5 it’s bogus and the authorities think you’re in on it, 6 actual money making opportunity returns d% profits in 3d4 months.
16) You wake up stark naked in a random local temple. Roll 1d6, 1-3 the clerics are majorly pissed off, 4-6 they smile and thank you for stopping by.
17) Major Misunderstanding with the Authorities. Imprisoned until fines and bribes totaling 1d6 x 1,000sp are paid. All equipment is confiscated.
18) Despite your best efforts, you have fallen head over heels for your latest dalliance. 75% chance that your beloved is already married.
19) While in a drunken stupor you asked the gods to get you out of a stupid mess and they heard you! In payment for saving you, you’re under the effects of a quest spell.
20) The Roof! The Roof! The Roof is on Fire! You have accidentally start a conflagration. Roll 1d6 twice. 1-2 burn down your favorite inn, 3-4 some other den of ill repute is reduced to ash, 5-6 a big chunk of town goes up in smoke. 1-2 no one knows it was you, 3-4 your fellow carousers know you did it, 5 someone else knows, perhaps a blackmailer, 6 everybody knows.

First I want to say “thanks” to Jeff Rients. Second, I am going to link this post and others to a DM Tools link, which will aid in quickly jumping to posts and which might interest DMs. I want only game-able material linked there because I am going to use it to help me run my own games.

Fire in the Hole: Grenades in my D&D Home-School

My gaming tastes have changed over the years. When I was a young gamer I was compelled to create (recreate) a very Tolkien-esque gaming experience in D&D. I regularly jumped over to other games on and off to get my sci-fi fix. It was not until years later that I discovered that in its earliest days D&D was much more of a sci-fantasy game. Laser pistols and dinosaurs were not uncommon in the old days. As I have matured so have my gaming tastes and sticking to the vanilla/Hobbit canon has gone out the window.

I like guns and grenades in my games. Typically gear like this is scavenged archeo-tech from the times of the ancients. But it is out there in crumbled bunkers full of zombies, waiting to be uncovered.

I have hit on a neat, simple way to model the explosive damage grenades give off at the center of their blasts, which dissipates as the concussive waves move away from the explosions’ centers.

Joesky’s Tax: BLAST!

Explosive grenades have a simple statistical profile. They just have a damage rating which is equal to the amount and type of dice rolled when the device is used. For example a typical Frag Grenade does 4d4 damage. The amount of damage indicated is the amount of damage done to any targets within the 5-foot square in which the device lands. As the blast moves from the point of impact, its explosive power is reduced. To model the reduced damage capacity subtract one (1) die from the devices damage for each 5-foot square that the target is removed from the center of the blast until there are no dice remaining. Typically, targets do get a saving throw for half damage to indicate that they either have hit the deck or dodged behind whatever cover is available. A grenades range is usually equal to the thrower’s STR, and half that when indoors or underground because of the lower ceilings which the thrower must take in to consideration when chucking the device.

Misses (Scatter):
A missed to-hit roll requires the thrower to randomly determine the direction in which the device goes as well as determining the distance that the throw is off target. For grenades thrown outdoors, roll 1d8 to determine the distance. For grenades thrown indoors or underground, roll 1d4.

Criticals and Fumbles:
Any time a critical or fumble is rolled, roll on the table below to determine the effect. When a critical is rolled add either the thrower’s STR or DEX modifier (whichever is higher) to the result to determine the actual result. When a fumble is rolled subtract either the thrower’s STR or DEX modifier (whichever is lower) to the result to determine the actual result.

 Roll 1d10 and add/subtract STR or DEX mod
1-     Drooped at your feet… BOOM!
2      Get Down! Rolls 1d4 5-foot squares in a random direction and detonates
3      Sorry, Buddy. Hits randomly determined party member, henchman, or ally                
4      That’s not a Grenade! Other randomly determined item thrown. Scatter for a miss.
5      Forget Something? Scatter for a miss. You never armed the device. It’s lying on the floor.
6      Cough! Scatter for a miss. The blast area is filled with thick smoke (dissipates in 1d6 rounds)
7      Airburst. Detonates in the air above the target. Add one (1) 5-foot square to blast radius. Any     targets within the blast radius take 1d8 damage with no save.
8      Delay. Detonates in 1d4 rounds (DM rolls)
9      Good Toss! Target gets no save.
10+ Explosives Expert! All in area of effect get no save.

These rules are easy to implement and require, other than a little table, no extra crunch at the gaming table. Enjoy! Please send me any feedback you may have about how my take on grenades has worked in your own games. 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Zero Hit Points: Dismemberment, Dying, and Death

Christian has given me some more inspiration… His own house rules inspired this recent addition to my own S&W game. Thanks again, Christian.  

So what’s the deal with getting beat up (or down) by a gang of Bugbears?  

Bugbear Face Smash by David Trampier
When a character is reduced to zero hit points; is he really dead? Or is it just a way to beat up on him as he lingers, getting closer and closer to death’s door? If he makes it he might have some cool scars and maybe some missing body parts… And certainly a good story to tell around the camp fire. Don’t you remember the time you were tracking that Owl Bear in the Forest of Morne and you got some help tracking the beast from that Ranger who was blind in one eye and had only three fingers on his left hand? He was a real bad ass!

I want a simple but cool mechanic to use which gives characters a more longevity while also giving characters more character (i.e. missing fingers, cool scars, etc.).
I have experimented with a few different methods over the last year or so and they have always come in as being either too simple or too complicated. The method below includes enough variation without requiring too much die rolling. I want players to enjoy the misery of their characters being hacked and smashed to bits but I do not want to slow my game down too much.
Basically once a character reaches zero hit points roll 2d8 and add the absolute value of his negative hit points. e.g. A character takes six points of damage when he has only 2 hit points remaining. He now has negative four hit points. Roll 2d8 and add four. Compare the result to the chart below. The final result tells you what has happened to the character (has he taken some permanent damage or is he just knocked out after taking fatigue damage?).

Joesky’s TaxDismemberment, Dying, and Death

Roll 2d8+Negative HP
2-3 Last Stand: Gain 1d4 HP per every 2 levels in a rush of adrenaline; extra HP lost after combat and the character falls unconscious for 2d6 turns
4 Impressive Scar: +1 CHA
5-6 Ugly Scar: -1 CHA
7-8 Badly Bruised: 1d6 Fatigue.
9 Broken Ribs: 1d6 Fatigue, +1 ENC for 1d6 days
10 Bruised Joint: (knee, elbow, or shoulder) 1d6 Fatigue, +2 ENC for 1d8 days
11 1d6-1 Finger(s) or Toe(s) Lost; 1d4-1 right hand, 2 left hand, 3 right foot,  4 left foot
: 2d6 Fatigue, and DEX/STR penalties when appropriate
12 Broken/Crushed Bone: 2d6 Fatigue, limb useless, and +3 ENC for 2d10 weeks
13 Face Damaged; 1d8, 1-2 Nose (-1 CHA), 3-6 Ear (Disadvantage for Surprise) 7-8 Eye (-2 Ranged Attacks): 2d6 Fatigue
14 Severed Limb: 2d6 Fatigue and 1d4: 1 right or 2 left arm (-1d4 STR, unable to use 2 handed weapons, hook halves STR loss, and a well made prosthetic gives back all lost STR);  3 right or 4 left leg (-1d4 DEX, +4 ENC, +3 ENC with crutch, +1 ENC with peg leg, and a well made prosthetic gives back all but one lost point in DEX); some tasks pay be impossible (e.g. climbing, sneaking, picking pockets, etc.)
15 Mortally Wounded: only magical healing within 1d4 rounds can save you and 3d6 Fatigue
16+ Dead

*Many results require that a character suffer additional Fatigue damage. Use this system. Fatigue damage may still kill a character even when he survives the physical trauma of an attack.

You should really check out Christian’s blog, Wonders and Witchcraft. He has some great hacks. Considering the short amount of time that he has been blogging he has posted some pretty impressive stuff.

Friday, July 4, 2014

The Santicore Gives!

I am finally getting around to posting and sharing this great link to the Secret Santicore 2013. It's one of the best OSR/DIY products out there on the inter-tubes.
Additional Cover Art by Scrap Princess
In the great traditions of gift giving monsters throughout history the Santicore gathers the wishes of DMs in need and provides them what they need: random tables, pantheons of weird gods, info on magic swords, etc. The "work" is outsourced to other DMs who volunteer to help out. Joey did the hard work of linking the wishes to the volunteers who would fulfill the Christmas wishes then editing and compiling the document.

It's packed full of goodies. I know it's late in the year to be talking about Christmas but I just started flipping through Volume 1 to pull up some great critical hit tables contained therein in preparation for my game next week so I figured I should finally get around to thanking Joey for this great publication.

Merry Christmas and thanks, Joey.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Fatigue and S&W Home-School

Even though I have been out of the loop posting-wise lately, I have still kept up on the DIY D&D scene... blogs. I want to let all 1.7 of my readers know about the great new blog Wonders & Witchcraft. In a relatively short period of time Christian has posted some great game-able content. I have been reading his blog for a few weeks and have taken some of his posts to heart in my search for a magic system with a strong swords and sorcery feel.

In this post Christian details exhaustion as part of his magic system (which I will be ripping more from in the future). The mechanic simply turns a spell caster's constitution into a pool (kind of like hit points). As a sorcerer casts spells exhaustion starts to overcome him. When his constitution pool is reduced to zero he falls into a coma, suffers permanent constitution loss, and mutations follow.

I like Christian's idea of using a pool to meter a character's level of fatigue. And I do like having the act of spell casting tire, weaken, and even permanently injure and mutate spell casters.

I am taking Christian's simple hack and doing two things with it. First, I am going to apply it as mechanic which addresses spell casting (more to come... this will combine the ideas of many DIY bloggers); my expanded application of this system uses the same constitution based pool to reflect a character's current level of fatigue. Fatigue comes from many sources and is usually just ticked off, reducing a character's current score. As a character's current score decreases, constitution derived bonuses and penalties are effected. This will not effect the amount of hit points a character has, either currently has or at maximum. Adjusting hit point values on the fly would too crunchy for my tastes as well as being too punitive: I want players to use their constitution pool as a resource which they are willing to dip into rather than being a guarded well from which they are terrified of drawing.

As mentioned above, fatigue damage comes from many sources. The system is simple: from spell casting, characters suffer fatigue determined through casting. Other than from spell casting, characters typically suffer fatigue damage as they endure environmental conditions, such as extremes of heat and cold, starvation, drowning, etc. or from extended periods of physical stress: torture, forced marching, etc. Fatigue taken from the elements, starvation, and other sources will typically come in metered "doses". e.g. When a character is starving, every hour he must make a save or he suffers one point of fatigue.

Joesky's Tax: Fatigue

A character's fatigue pool, at maximum, is equal to his CON score. Character's take fatigue points either from spell casting or from environmental factors such as suffering from starvation or from enduring periods of extended physical stress, such as being tortured. The amount of fatigue points taken from spell casting is determined through the spell casting process. The amount of fatigue points taken from environmental factors and physical stress is typically taken in metered periods and requires a saving throw. e.g. After going two minutes without oxygen a character must make a save every round or he takes 1d10 fatigue points. A character's fatigue pool may have a negative value.

Taking Fatigue:
As a character takes points of fatigue, his effective CON score suffers. A character's effective CON is diminished as his fatigue pool is diminished. e.g. A character with a 12 CON takes 5 points of fatigue. His CON modifier is temporarily adjusted from a +1 to a -2. Use the table below to adjust a character's CON modifier. This does not effect the amount of hit points a character has, 

A character may never inflict more damage with a STR based attack than he has either hit points or fatigue points remaining.


When a character's fatigue pool reaches zero or less, he becomes comatose or worse. Roll 2d8 on the table below, add the character's negative fatigue value.

2d8+Negative Fatigue 

2-3 Second Wind: Gain 1d4 fatigue points, only fall unconscious if you have zero or fewer fatigue points.
4  Hardened by Adversity: Fall unconscious for 1d6 rounds, awaken with one fatigue point.
5-6 Exhausted: Fall unconscious for 2d6 hours, awaken with one fatigue point.
7-8 Concussed: Fall unconscious, take 1d4 hit points
9-10 Comatose: Fall unconscious, take 1d4 hit points. Make save or travel to the Dreamlands.
11-12 Brain Fever: Fall unconscious, take 2d4 hit points. Make save with -2 or travel to the Dreamlands.
13-14 Time TravelerFall unconscious. Make save with -2 or travel to the Time Piece (thanks, Venger).
15-16 Vessel of the Great God: Fall unconsciousGenerate a random godling. You are now the rock and cornerstone of its church. Lose half your levels and become the first priest of your new master.

17-18 Psychic Hemorrhaging: Fall unconsciousOnly magical healing can push you up into positive fatigue points. Make save every hour or die.
19+ Dead

Recovering Fatigue Points: 

A character typically heals only one fatigue point per day when in the field and 1d4 fatigue points per day when resting in bed at home or in an inn, etc.


This seems like a pretty good system. I have a bit of simulating to see how it "works" and I am sure it will work out well in play. Additionally I have committed myself to doing two things which I have been toying with for a while: creating my own Dreamlands table for travelling and getting lost in dreams and comas, and creating a system of randomly generating godlings for use in my game to worship.