Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Another Option for Initiative

For quite a while I have been using this simple initiative system in my Home School D&D game. The system is based on characters and monsters drawing playing cards and acting in the order of the cards they have drawn: highest to lowest.

I have started playing again! And I am super psyched about D&D. I just hope we can keep the game going. The DM is kind of new to the game. I have been helping here simplify some things to keep her game moving along. The problem is that she (and I think the other players) want initiative to be an individual event rather than just a simple die roll for the whole table. My system is not really going to go well over with her group.

A while ago I read this simple little tweet from Mike Mearls. Basically, he started using a simple die rolling initiative system in his games. I think this might be a good system for her to try in her campaign.


Based on reading Mike's post based, my recommendation to her are:

1. When attacking with melee weapons or thrown weapons, roll the damage die/dice of the weapon (or all weapons, totaled) being used to determine initiative.

2. When attacking with all other missile weapons except firearms, roll 1d4 to determine initiative.

3. When attacking with melee weapons from the second rank or with firearms, or casting a spell or using a magical device, roll 1d12 to determine initiative.

4. When moving, roll 1d6 and add it to all other rolls to determine initiative. If a character or monster is only moving, roll just 1d6 to determine initiative.

5. When stowing/exchanging/drawing gear or equipment, roll 1d8 and add it to all other rolls to determine initiative. If a character or monster is only stowing/exchanging/drawing gear or equipment, roll just 1d8 to determine initiative.

I will update this post after seeing how well this system plays in her campaign.

Up Next:

I am going to finally get around to a quick discussion re: alignment and religion in my campaign.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Some Inspiration from the Slums: Ability Score Checks

I am trying to get back on top of my blogging and fleshing out my new gaming world.

For two reasons, I have never been quite satisfied with simple (roll 1d20 under a specified ability's score) ability score checks. First, I like to stick with a general rule to keep things rolling in the right direction. Rolling higher is always better. This is a good rule to follow with newer players; it makes things a little easier for them (I also believe that higher values should be better... that's why, even though I am a BX fan I have adopted ascending AC like in Swords & Wizardry). Second, I have never liked that your ability to succeed on these checks (though not necessarily the actual scores thenselves) do not change as a character levels up. To me, in D&D a character levels up and gets better at doing stuff... even stuff that is dependent upon their ability scores. With some help from Greg Gorgonmilk and David Lewis Johnson I have devised a simple system which curbs the extreme probabilities of rolling d20s, allows me to easily make doing stuff either more or less difficult without over thinking it, and which complies with the criteria mentioned above.

Ability Score Checks:
When in doubt roll an ability score check... basically if there is not another applicable mechanic, I will have the player roll a few d6s with the target being set by checking the Action Throw Table (below) which I discovered on Greg's old blog. I am not sure if he made it himself or if he borrowed it from someone else. But in any case, thanks Greg. I like this table because it takes into account a character's level when setting the target for each ability score check.

When making ability score check a player rolls 3d6 (for a task of average difficulty) for their character with the target being set by checking the Action Throw Table. In cases where either the character has an advantage or the task is easier than average, the player rolls additional dice. In cases where either the character has a disadvantage or the task is more difficult than average, the converse applies, the player rolls fewer dice. The base concept of rolling 2d6 (and d6 dice, generally) for task resolution is rooted in the oldest editions of D&D and Chainmail. David inspired me to add and subtract dice based on the circumstances on the ground at the time of the roll.

Backgrounds (Wheelhouses):
One way to get to roll an extra d6 when making an ability score check is to have some experience in working your way through similar tasks. At creation and later in their careers (i.e. as they advance) players choose Backgrounds for their characters... they may be bundles of skills they have learned, innate abilities, etc. This is another of David's good ideas. Thanks, again. In the campaign setting from which both of David's ideas come, Gathox Vertical Slum, David calls what I call Backgrounds, Wheelhouses.

Next Up:
Within the next week I will putting up another post with a little intro to my new campaign and some basic information about alignment and religion in my game.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

DM Helper: Armor Class Conversions

I have been pretty absent from this blog. Work just takes a ton of time and energy. Something I threw together a while ago, is this little chart. It is something you/a DM can easily cut and paste into a doc or glue (with a actual paste) into a DM screen.

It is an Armor Class (AC) conversion table. It includes AC values from AD&D, B/X, Swords and Wizardry, and Lamentations of the Flame Princess. I use a house-ruled B/X (Labyrinth Lord) ruleset. One of my biggest house-rules is that I use Ascending Armor Class (AAC). Newer players to D&D find it much easier t work with. In this table, I am looking at the S&W/AAC column as the column from which I draw my outputs.

I hope this is useful.

thAC0 Attack Matrix AAC AAC
Base 10 Base 9 Base 10 Base 12
10 9 10 12
9 8 11 13
8 7 12 14
7 6 13 15
6 5 14 16
5 4 15 17
4 3 16 18
3 2 17 19
2 1 18 20
1 0 19 21
0 -1 20 22
-1 -2 21 23
-2 -3 22 24
-3 -4 23 25
-4 -5 24 26
-5 -6 25 27

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Sharing a Great Adventure: Fortress of the Fungi Chemist

Michael Raston of The Lizardman Diaries blog gas produced a dungeon level and he is willing to share... level 1 of the Fortress of the Fungi Chemist can be found here on his blog. All of his posts and hacks are straight up DIY D&D rooted in old school styles of play. I have gotten a lot of inspiration from his blog and should be posting a few things which are rooted in some of Michael's posts.

This is one of the maps from the fortress. I really dig the raw DIY look and "feel" to his work. Thanks for sharing, Machael.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Vancian Magic Supplement is Back!

Greg Gorgonmilk of Wormskin and Dolmenwood fame has brought back one of his earlier more pirate-ish supplements. His Vancian Magic supplement is available again but only for a limited time.

A magic user casts bones in order to aid his casting of Gezza's Temporal Regard. Image by Druillet.

For more Vancian goodness follow this link to Chris Pound's Dying Earth Spell Generator. It has its naming conventions grounded in Vance's Dying Earth stories but the names are evocative of the formulaic memorization based approach which magic users take when learning spells.

While checking out these links you should certainly check out Greg and Chris's other stuff. Greg has been pumping out quality OSR material for years. Chris has dozens of other name generators as well as links to many other name generators.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

More Dwarfy Abilities: Dwarf Beard Skills!

In one of my recent posts, I discussed a method of taking traditional dwarf class abilities, sensing moving stone and secret doors, and putting new spin on them. Rather than the source of their abilities being a lifetime of living in caves and mines, their abilities are magical in nature. After thousands of years and uncounted generations living within the bowels of the earth, dwarves have formed a connection with the earth. Through singing to the earth and stones, they can sense changes in the underworld environment and even manipulate stone.

This great post on Papers and Pencils, a 2015 Secret Santicore response, adds another ancient dwarfy ability: Beard Skills! Basically dwarves have learned to groom and train their beards to do some wild things. At character creations, these abilities can be selected just like any other abilities. Additionally, as a dwarf gets access to more abilities as it advances, it may choose to become skilled with its beard, but it must find a tutor from whom it can learn the new beard skill. A dwarf may only ever have one beard skill; and they cannot be changed after a dwarf has become trained in a beard skill.

Beard Skills:

1. Rope Beard: In a private ritual each nameday, the dwarf carefully trims their beard from everywhere but their chin. This hair is then treated and braided into the chin hair, lengthening it. The resulting rope is 1’ long for every 2 years of the Dwarf’s life. It is normally worn draped around the dwarf’s shoulders like a scarf. It does not count against the dwarf’s encumbrance limit.

2. Food Catching Beard: The dwarf’s whiskers cling to every crumb of bread, string of meat, and dab of sauce that doesn’t make it into the dwarf’s mouth. At the end of the day, a good shake produces a tidy little pile of edibles ready for consumption. Any rations that the the dwarf purchases will last 50% longer than they normally would.
3. Junk Beard: A messy, unkempt kind of beard often adopted by dwarfs who consistently fail to maintain a more refined style. It is used to store a variety of small, occasionally useful doo-dads. By rummaging through their beard for 1 minute, the dwarf has a 2 -in- 6 chance of producing any mundane object of small size and negligible value that they’re looking for: a pair of shears, a spool of twine, a chisel, etc.
4. Disarming Beard: A tangled mesh of wiry hair, slightly sticky to the touch, and tough as strands of steel. When the dwarf is either the target of a critical fumble or when it scores a critical hit, the fumbler must save versus Paralysis or their weapon becomes caught in the dwarf’s beard. With a practiced jerk of the head, the dwarf can easily send the captured weapon flying away, safely out of reach.
5. Grappling Beard: A soft, voluminous beard, woven into dozens of large loops. With a deft tug of the chin, the dwarf can wrap these loops around an opponent and tighten them. Such dwarfs are skilled wrestlers, using their beards to get a grip on arms or necks. The character grapples as though it is one level higher than they are. They are able to choke their opponents as though they are armed with a garrote. 
6. Climbing Beard: A tightly braided beard, wrapped around the body as a simple harness. Hooks and spikes dangle from strands of hair in easy reach of hands and feet. Dwarfs with such a beard receive either advantage when climbing or a check when no climbing check would be allowed.
7. Falling Beard: Soft hair woven into a kind of checkerboard quilt shape, adorned with bits of cloth. Often these are scraps of old clothing donated by friends and loved ones. If the dwarf ever falls from a significant height, their beard will open up like a parachute, and the fall should be treated as though it were 10’ shorter than it actually was. If for some reason the dwarf wishes to fall at full speed, they must make a conscious effort to do so by holding their beard down as they fall.
8. Bramble Beard: A massive bristly bush of hair spreading in every direction, leaving only a few facial features visible. Best suited to dwarfs who are short, even by their race’s diminutive standard. By simply squatting down and squinting their eyes, a Bramble Bearded dwarf becomes nearly indistinguishable from a common tumbleweed.
9. Beard of Lights: A curly beard, with dozens of small upturned strands treated with oil and wax. A Beard of Lights is often chosen for those whose beard grows more quickly than is easily manageable. The upturned tips can be lit, and the fully lit beard serves as a light source equivalent to a torch for up to 6 hours a day.
10. Stonesense Beard: Sometimes mistaken for magic, the Stonesense Beard requires a dwarf of extreme patience and focus to master properly. By pressing their face to a stone surface, the Dwarf can slowly wriggle their beard hairs into the imperceptible cracks and channels in the stone by precisely vibrating their body. The process takes an hour of intense concentration before the beard is fully in place. Once the process is complete, the dwarf can feel even the most minute vibrations traveling through the stone. They can describe any room adjacent to the stone surface they’re connected to, including any creatures or treasure within those chambers.
When the dwarf wishes to extract themselves, they may either spend 10 quiet minutes delicately vibrating their body in reverse, or they may simply tear themselves free of the stone, loudly crumbling it, and leaving a crater roughly 3’x3’x1’ in the surface.
11. Nesting Beard: A wispy funnel of a beard, shaped and scented to be an attractive nest for a particular animal. There are four common animals that these beards are typically made for, based on how the dwarf’s own natural musk resonates with the required scent. Roll to determine which creature nests in your beard:
i. A canary. Will usually remain quiet, but will tweet in a wild panic if there is poison gas in the room. These canaries are particularly sensitive, and can even detect poison gasses that have not yet been released into the air.
ii. A squirrel. A helpful creature that will happily retrieve any small, squirrel-sized objects the dwarf can point to within their line of sight.
iii. A carrier pigeon. Can be sent to any location the dwarf has personally visited within 1 week’s travel distance. It takes 1d8 hours for the pigeon to reach its destination, and the same amount of time to return.
iv. A beaver. Can be directed by the dwarf to gnaw small holes in wooden objects, chew through ropes, etc.
12. Smoking Beard: A wild cascade of hair, meticulously groomed to appear untamed and ferocious. The whole thing is oiled and treated with incense. When the tips of the beard are lit they produce very little light, but a great deal of black, foul-smelling smoke. The smoking beard creates a hellish image of the dwarf, and any foe fighting them takes a penalty of one on their morale checks so long as the beard is lit. There is no limit to how often or long the beard may be lit, but there are natural consequences for being the source of so much smoke.
13. Beard Sack: Easily mistaken for any common dwarf beard, the Beard Sack is a layered style, with a loose outer layer obscuring a tightly woven satchel hidden beneath, with its opening just under the dwarf’s chin. This storage space grants one additional point of encumbrance ability for the dwarf, and anything stored within is considered hidden. Only a thorough search will reveal these hidden items. Such a search would be deeply offensive to any dwarf, and in respectable communities such poor treatment by the authorities may cause civil unrest.
14. Poison Straining Beard: Thick whiskers hang down over the dwarf’s lips, treated with cleansing tinctures. The dwarf can sip any substance safely, and determine with a few smacks of their lips whether it is poison or not. If it is poison, the dwarf can describe the poison’s effects in perfect detail.
15. Bestial Kinship Beard: A layered beard, scented with a subtle, gamey musk, and curving back slightly between the knees. Animals perceive the dwarf as a powerful but temperate creature. The dwarf gains a +1 bonus to reaction rolls made with natural creatures.
16. Beard Art: Only the most malleable of beards is suited to beard art. It is a rare gift, much prized by the beardmasters. The hair is treated with gels, and the dwarf is trained in the art of grooming their beard into the most spectacular shapes and sculptures. Such a beard grants a +1 to reaction rolls with anyone who has an appreciation for the finer things.
17. Sifting Beard: A single looping braid, supporting a lattice of sifting strands. The almost impossibly intricate lattice separates objects based on weight and density. It takes 1 minute to sift through a 1’ cube of detritus. The beard will separate the stones from the metals, and the coppers from the gold pieces. The beard must be dry to function properly, and cannot sift through mud or water.
18. Sleeping Beard: The hair is conditioned for maximum softness on one side, and for insulation and water resistance on the other. It can be used as a rudimentary one-dwarf shelter in time of need.
19. Steel Wool Beard: A coarse beard, treated with polishing oils. Any metal treasure with artistic value (such as a fancy sword, jewelry, a gold watch, ancient coins, etc.) has its value increased by 10% after the masterful cleaning and polishing it receives at the hands of a dwarf with a steel wool beard.
20. Utili-Beard: The beard is knotted and tied with four small tools hanging from it. The expert tying of the beard keeps these tools always within arm’s reach, but never in the way. Any one-handed object can be hung from the utili-beard: a hammer, a hacksaw, a sword, etc. The dwarf may switch between these four objects freely, without taking any penalties that might normally be incurred for switching a new object into the character’s hand.
I have altered the text of a couple of these descriptions to make them "work" better in my games. Before I finish this post be sure to check in with Papers and Pencils. It is a great OSR style blog. I have been sifting through the play reports lately; they are pretty wild.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Nightmares Underneath, the Upside-Down, and Social Class in Labyrinth Lord

I have been wrestling with how to import the concepts of social class and background into character generation. My goal has been to have them be interesting and descriptive. I also want their implementation to be simple: only involving an extra die roll or two and taking, at most, a few extra minutes during character generation.

A few months ago I followed a few links to this page on Red Box Vancouver's Blog (a community-centric OSR blog from Vancouver). And that is where I found the basis of my new social class and background hacks... or hack, since they are united in one system.

The link to Red Box Vancouver gives a short, informative review and links to free pdf and POD versions of The Nightmares Underneath RPG. You should certainly check it out. The game is an OSR inspired/ D&D based ruleset. Nightmares author, Johnstone Metzger takes the basic D&D rules and adds to them, to make his own ruleset which he uses to describe his own unique setting. His game is set in a world under attack from a parallel dimension of nightmares. The nightmares take root in our world while we sleep, forming entry points for the nightmares to contaminate and devour our universe. Players represent the few skilled individuals who are able to enter the nightmares' realm and defeat them before they are able to enter our plane.

To me, Metzger describes the physics of the Upside Down, the home of Demogorgon in Stranger Things, better than anybody else. I have pretty much stolen this for my own game. In my game, it is not the focus of play, but now I have a "scientific" understanding of how the negative planes/ shadow realms ("Vale of Shadows" from AD&D) fits into my multiverse.

Starting on page 87, Metzger begins with a simple 3d6 roll for generating Social Class. I will have players roll this score after they have generated their six ability scores; I do not want to add a dump stat. Skipping ahead to page 102, we have a quite well developed starting equipment generation system which takes both social standing and a character's class into consideration when randomly generating results. For the first few iterations at my table, I am going to use Metzger's system "right out of the box". After I have finished descriptively fleshing out and codifying the basic races and classes available in my game, I want to take his system and link generation of backgrounds (which provide descriptive options that are based on a character's selection of race and class) with social class class generation (two die rolls rather than just one). I will also modify the equipment tables, adding equipment that is descriptive of my game's setting. I want to use the social class roll, background selection, and equipment generation processes to "teach" new players a about the campaign setting and their character's place in it... basically functioning like a mini gazetteer of the Boreal, Bohemian Borderlands.