13 December, 2010

Happy Yuletide. I guess.

The holiday season, much like a plague from Nurgle, has hit many blogs recently. I resisted infection for a time, but I will soon be succumbing to its nefarious influence. I must remember next year to burn others old posts, rather than piling them like cordwood in the town square.

08 December, 2010

The Elven Experience

Page 5 of Supplement 1, Greyhawk, arguably changed elves in DnD forever.

Elven thieves work in all three categories at once (fighter, magic-user, and thief) unless they opt to never be anything other than in the thief category. Thus, experience is always distributed proportionately in the three categories even when the elf can no longer gain additional levels in a given category.
With the words 'work in all three categories at once' the elf no longer had to choose what class he would be during an adventure. I have to admit I sort of missed it. Not only because it kept the elf from being two characters at once, but also because it was interesting and unique. A lot of players thought it was odd or inconvenient, or simply just wanted to squeeze as much 'high performance' out of their character as they could at every turn, like it was some sort of ridiculous racing car. They liked the change.

In my Greyhawk PbP game, we've just recently added the Greyhawk supplement, including the revised elf. I miss the old elf, but I also understand it's sometimes hard for a DM to explain. The way I ran it before, the player had to choose between operating as a fighter or a magic-user at the start of an adventure, and remained as chosen until the next safe point was reached, which is also when I awarded experience. From safe point to safe point they were locked in to their choice, whether it was the next day or several days later when they made it back to town.

My question to those reading this: how would you explain it? Suggest a reason why an elf might be forced to make this choice, and then abide by it until next he found himself safe.

Wine and Wyverns

"But you are a noble lady, an Imperial Knight of Morvalia. What ill reason could you possibly bear me?"

Gren smiled slightly, her eyes dropping. "There are many who believe the wyvern a noble and thoughtful monster, when they see it sit and look skyward after it's mealed on some errant knight. Surely it ponders the life such a warrior may have led, if it's hunger he hadn't fed." She rose from the table and quaffed the last of her wine. "In truth, it waits 'til the struggles of the knight have stilled within its gut, so that it might fly more surely."

03 December, 2010

Tekumel 4

You quickly reach out and snatch away the cloth, ready for anything.
I usually won't label rolls, but I think it's interesting to do so this time :)
male/female 45
familiarity 27
helpful/hostile 79
You reveal a man whom part of you dimly recognises. This man was you, one of you still submerged below the surface of consciousness. He is pale, but the backs of his arms and legs are dark with pooled blood. His angry eyes are entirely white.

He (it?) takes a quick step toward you, lashing out with fists!
You strike him with your metal staff before he can get inside your defenses. The sensation as your attacks slam into yielding flesh and bone is disturbing, but reassuring at the same time. He's staggered momentarily, but presses on.
His punches barely connect, and you're able to put some distance between the two of you again.

Will you destroy him if you can?

02 December, 2010

The Evil That Men Don't

In some published game settings, mostly those which are relatively newer, it's been quite popular to say that not all members of the traditionally evil humanoid races are evil. In some cases, a majority are even shown to be quite the opposite. I'm generally of the opinion that such things occur for mostly two reasons. Either the author is desperate to be different, or it's a reflection of Western European apologism.

Be that as it may, I'm curious what the other DMs out there do in their own games. Are all your orcs, goblins and kobolds evil?

24 November, 2010

Tekumel 3


Though the tables and machinery pull at your curiosity, you decide your first best course is in arming yourself. Easing around the corner toward the stand of rubbish, you see into the next room. Parts of you immediately label your shadowy view as both the laboratory of a sorcerer and of a scientist. A multitude of oddities pull your eye about. The source of the buzzing is in this room, but this too must wait.

Remembering your task, you reach the corner and begin looking through the dusty items for something useful in defending yourself. You find a long metal rod, nearly as tall as yourself. It has knurled hand-size grips at shoulder width. Collars of metal flare out slightly about a foot from each end. It's solid and heavy, and for many of you this is the first time in memory when you've held a metal object. Grasping it reassuringly in both hands, you return to the body-bearing tables.

Approaching the one nearest where you woke, you search for some sort of control. A button, a lever, some moving part, but the table itself seems free of such things. The spidery machinery above yields somewhat to your touch, the whole apparatus readjusting slightly as you move one arm. You wait expectantly, looking at the cloth covered body, but nothing happens.

Returning to the metal table in which you first beheld your image, you begin gingerly fingering the gems and stones affixed to its surface. You now see them as buttons, knobs and indicators. The spidery mass which you moved moments ago begins to hum with energy above the table next to your own. A weird and otherworldly glow takes hold of the shadows above the table, seeming to fight with the air itself. It builds to a crescendo, and suddenly stops as the space above the body emanates the sound of a single deep thud, as of a mass falling on the floor, or a single great knock.

Beneath the cloth, the body begins to rise.

23 November, 2010

Gramercy Day

Status: Unexpected pre-Thanksgiving slow-down, followed by semi-expected Thanksgiving micro-hiatus. I'd rather be typing.

18 November, 2010

Tekumel 2

There is a near exit in the chamber where you stand, and a far exit. The far exit is beyond the long line of disturbingly occupied tables, all with darkly complex devices of metal and crystal above them, lurking in the shadows of the ceiling like great spiders. Through the door-less and dark archway beyond comes a hot breeze.

The near exit is another door-less archway, ornately carved and pointed. Beyond you can see only a small corner of another room, even more dimly lit than this one. The corner of this other room holds what seems to be rubbish. Long narrow pieces of wood, bits of stone and pieces of cloth. A strange buzzing noise comes from some unseen place beyond this corner.

What do you do?

17 November, 2010

Gormenghasts’s Bestiary, A Page at Random - Grue

The book is extremely thick and very large, with a cover of highly tooled and decorated, one might almost say sculpted, leather of unknown provenance. It is closed with a heavy leather hasp in the form of two paws which grasp one another when brought together. The book’s origin lies within the labyrinthine libraries of a vast and storied castle, but it has been many generations since it rested there.

Grue, Vashta Nerada, Devourer in The Dark.
Many children fear night-time and the dark spaces of the world, but most learn to dismiss this fear as they grow to adulthood. This is a potentially deadly error. When entering a place occupied by a grue, a lack of illumination spells near-certain death. All that is necessary to ensure safety, however, is to bring forth a source of visible light. It is of special note that beings with some ability to see in utter darkness are not thereby made safe. The grue will remain quite unviewable to persons of this proclivity, yet its deadly efficacy will be unabated.
None know what manner of physical form this creature possesses, for upon exposure to visible light it is instantly dismissed. Sages ponder the nature of this banishment, but most agree it has to do with the inherent shadows present within the folds of reality. Some have heard sounds of slavering and the gnashing of a great maw just before the spark of a flint lit their lantern, yet there are others who report only the clattering of an object or two before their newly lighted torch revealed a bit of gear which belonged to a now missing compatriot.

Statistics - a decidedly deadly beast to encounter, the grue has more in common with a devilish trap than a typical creature. If in an area occupied or frequented by grues, and unfortunate enough to be without a source of visible light, a character in utter darkness for more than one round must save versus paralysis or be utterly eliminated. 1d4 items carried on their person, determined randomly, may fall to the ground and remain behind. The grue will only devour one character per round, determined randomly from those present. Those devoured by a grue may be retrieved by a wish, but no other means is sufficient.

Books and Games and Games and Books

It occurs to me there is a certain odd reciprocal arrangement between the sort of fantasy books DnD players like to read. I've no idea if this is the rule or the exception, but in my experience it's almost 100% accurate.

People who like games where characters are extraordinary and pregnant with powers (4e) tend to prefer books about people who are painfully average and nearly clueless about adventuring (Jordan, Goodkind.)

People who like games where characters are average and have only the most basic abilities (ODnD) tend to prefer books about people who are extraordinary and exemplify the ideal adventurer (Howard, Eddison, Moorcock.)

In other news, I plan to update the Tekumel adventure tomorrow, and then again on the weekend. I'm considering then settling into updating it once a week on Thursday nights, in honor of Prof. Barker's Thursday night games. I'm not sure once a week will provide enough progress though..

14 November, 2010

First Tekumel Post Updated

This is just a quick note to let everyone know that I edited the introductory Tekumel post a bit, and added some needed information at the bottom about just what I have in mind here. I'm still not really happy with how it all looks - I wanted the info part to be a smaller font size, but Blogger insists its ideas about layout are superior to my own. I'll have to trust its experience.

I had originally wanted to gradually reveal an organic system of determining what the character does, but I should probably front-load some more system info. As decisions and choices become available to the character, I fully expect (and hope for) everyone to have different ideas about what they want the character to do. If more than one person wants a certain course of action, that choice will get more weight in determining what happens. There are other things that will give comments more or less weight, but I'll leave them to be discovered. After they're weighted, I'll roll some dice and see which personality was strongest and won out! Then, in the next Tekumel game post, the character will then take the actions of the dominating personality.

I'm hopeful that this 'Play-by-Blog' idea will work out in an interesting and entertaining way, and people can use it as a vehicle to both learn about Tekumel and share their knowledge and experiences of Tekumel, and at the same time develop some cool characters-within-the-character. And have fun!

13 November, 2010

Tekumel 1

image by Simon Bisley
You open your eyes.

You are in a dimly lit room, lying on your back, looking at the cracked and fissured brown stone above. As you sit up, you realise you are upon a large stone dais, shaped roughly in the form of a person, and ornately carved.

There is a man before you, lit from behind by low even light. His bald head is weighed down by a long, thin black beard, hanging determinedly from his chin. He wears shimmering robes of deep purple, embroidered with orange. His eyes wide and aglow with avarice, he speaks.

“At last.. at LAST! After so many, the elder gods have delivered eclat!” He takes a step forward and stops, an odd look of discomfiture on his face. Suddenly, he grimaces and large grey-green tentacles burst forth from the front of his robe, wrap around the extents of his body, and like so many coloured scarves through a ring, instantly pull him into nothingness.

Peering over the edge of the dais, you see no evidence of his existence.

Looking to your right, you see a long line of similar anthropomorphic stone pedestals leading off down the chamber, more than twenty in number. Each bears a shimmering cloth entirely covering the obvious outline of a human form. Some are large, some are small. Some are male, some are female.

Rising naked from the dais, you take to your feet on a cracked and dusty stone floor. You stand next to a large metal table, covered with stones and gems affixed to its surface. It is highly polished, and you can see yourself reflected upon it. For a brief, unsure moment, you see a wild succession of faces and forms, but the moment passes quickly, and you view yourself as if for the first time.

What do you see?

The idea here is a game somewhere between a Fighting Fantasy book and a Play by Post rpg. In the comments below this post, and in succeeding posts about Tekumel, you the reader take on a personality within the character introduced above, much in the same way you would take on a character in a normal rpg. Each personality sees only itself when it looks in a mirror, and this first comment gives you the opportunity to share what your personality looks like, traditionally one of the first things exposited about a typical Sword & Sorcery character. Does your personality within the character have powerful thews? Buxom charms? Wizened features? It's your choice. Tekumel has no elves, dwarves, gnomes or halflings, but if you're familiar with the other intelligent races, feel free to have your personality be one of them instead.. even a Hlüss or Ssú.

There are an unlimited possible number of personalities within the character, so the more the merrier, and hopefully more personalities will emerge over time. How did all these personalities get in there? Good question!

What is Tekumel like? We'll find out. But to start with, the first thing which comes to the surface about your personality is simply what he or she looks like. As far as whether it's a soldier, a gladiator, a wizard, a priest, or whatever else, that will all come to the fore in time.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments!

12 November, 2010

Off With Their Heads!

Firstly, you can be one of the first to sign up at the HUGE RUINED PILE fantasy fiction message board! It's only just begun, but I have the feeling it's destined to be the premier internet location for the discussion of fantasy literature.

And now, another deity.

Karth-Gohmon, God of Severed Heads: 
Two sorts pray to this god. Those wishing to sever the heads of their enemies, and those wishing to keep their heads attached to their bodies. He stiffly rebukes all who might ask for a painless beheading, as those are someone else's business.

He appears as an animate vertical stack of severed heads, all slightly larger than human-sized. The number of heads varies depending on the level of power he manifests, but is never less than 3. The heads are usually human males, but can be of any race and gender, again usually dependent on the situation. When he speaks, a few words of each sentence come from a different mouth, in succession. If making a particularly strident point, all mouths shout in unison.

Karth-Gohmon is the god of choice for penanggalans, and he is often accompanied by a retinue of prime examples (maximum variables) of this creature.

He is widely known for his blessings and curses, which include:
Blessing of Vorpality - bestowed upon an edged weapon.
The Headsman's Curse - your head leaves your body, but you don't die. Rather, you must carry your head with you, or use temporary means to affix it atop your neck, and use it to eat, breath, etc. There is no wound. Hijinx ensue.
Many other curses and blessings are possible, and the enterprising DM is encouraged to be both devious and beneficent, as appropriate.

11 November, 2010

It's Alive!

Hammer Films resurrected after three decades

This is fabulous news for all those of us who look at Christopher Lee and see Dracula instead of Saruman. In the states, the Roger Corman horror & suspense pictures with Vincent Price live in a place next door to them in our brains, but we've long ago admitted we'd never see another 'Masque of the Red Death.' This announcement holds out hope that a similar spirit, if not a similar staff, can be rekindled for our sensory inspiration.

10 November, 2010


Az-Nur, The God of Cabbages:
Blind and only semi-intelligent, it is found sometimes at the center of vast patches of wild cabbages in remote seacoast areas. Once per round it can spawn a small angry warrior infant out of the center of its folds, or from the center of surrounding cabbages. It can also blast antagonists with a wave of ignorance and apathy, with results similar to confusion. If defeated and eaten, it is rumoured that great wealth will come to those who dine on its leaves. It is not as dapper as the illustration above, having neither the limbs nor inclination to wear suits.

Cabbage-Spawn of Az-Nur: Tough, leathery skin gives them AC 7 despite being naked. Additionally, they are only 1-2 feet tall, and thus receive any armor class benefit due to size differences. Each has 4hd, much in the way cabbage flowers have 4 petals, and attack with either hands or any nearby implements. Due to looking like human babies, any lawful or good opponents must save vs. spells or suffer a -2 to hit these highly aggressive but otherwise adorable minions. When killed, they fall to the ground as a scattering of small cabbage leaves.

"Cabbage: a familiar kitchen-garden vegetable about as large and wise as a man's head."
-Ambrose Bierce

09 November, 2010

Small Doughy Gods

Ever since James at Grognardia announced his call for petty gods last week, I've been thinking about minor deities. Two things have kept me from submitting a few ideas. I've always been lazy and wafflish about putting stats on my creations, and as far as deities are concerned, I almost never applied stats to them anyway.

Much as voiced by Newt at Sorcerer Under Mountain, I never felt it was appropriate for my players to have any remote chance of actually defeating a god or demi-god in battle. I understand that's kind of the point behind James' idea, and that he tailored it specifically toward petty gods just because of that. I don't have a problem with that at all, and agree that it sounds like a good bit of fun for a high level party in the right situation. The thing is, I'm still left with my own total incompetence at applying stats to deities.

My solution is to post up some of my ideas here, with no stats. I posted some of what I'll be putting up here over the next few days over in Scott's PbP forum. Over there, I offered that others could stat these up and send them to James, and I'll say the same here. Here's the first one below.

Temulac, God of Baking:
Propitiated to ensure the successful completion of pastries, bread, pies and other baked goods. Easily enraged by throwing out leftovers or extras. Appears most commonly as a bulbous naked man covered entirely in flour, with a baker's hat. Those deemed particularly evil in their wastefulness may find themselves turned into some type of small anthropomorphic baked good, remaining sentient but immobile and unable to communicate.

05 November, 2010

Insane in the Brain

The characters in my play-by-post Eberron game have just earned their first Insanity Points! And there was much rejoicing.

They were exposed to a horrific scene and realisation, but a thoroughly mundane one, rather than supernatural or cosmic in nature. Thus, I rolled a d2, and happily doled out psychic trauma.

  • Mundane horrors - d2 to d4, based on magnitude and personal involvement. e.g. "Noooo! Soylent Green is made of people!!" = d3, while "..and that's my mother's ring in that box of it!!" = d4.
  • Supernatural horrors - d4 to d8 "..but the model was a photograph from life!!" = d4, but "..and then he knew that these ghouls and wights had surely been reading Carcosa!" = d8
  • Cosmic horrors - d8, 2d4, 2d6, a range from exposure to black gulfs and stygian realms to meeting Yog-Sothoth for tea in his drawing room.

When the total of insanity points equals the character's wisdom score, roll a save vs. spell (my usual go-to for mind effects.) Success reduces your insanity point total by 1d6 points. Failure reduces your insanity point total to zero, but inflicts a randomly selected insanity upon the character. I prefer random, because that reinforces the chaotic nature of the process, and many good random insanity tables can be found. I especially like the table in the old first edition Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, but have also used the one in the first edition Dungeon Master's Guide.

Cures for insanity are generally the usual cleric spells, such as restoration, but the victim might also benefit from lengthy rest at the proper sort of institution, if available. Unless the institution provided horrors of its own, that is :)

01 November, 2010


Not a new class, but rather another option for the method of a magic-user's madness, the Leycaster uses ley lines to power and shape his wizardry. Not only does a caster's distance from a ley line determine how strong his spells might be, they may also dictate the most efficacious type of thaumaturgy for the area. In some cases, the presence of certain types of ley lines might even provide the imaginative magic-user with the raw energy needed for the spontaneous weaving of singular sorceries.

The first thing a trained Leycaster learns is how to attune his senses to the presence and power of the lines. Not all wizarding adventurers need be skilled in this endeavor, but one who uses the ley lines will immediately sense their presence. Does this require the DM to map out a complex network overlaying his milieu? Although the option is there to place lines for specific purposes, to serve either setting or story, it's certainly not necessary. Simply roll 2 six sided dice on the following table when leycaster or DM have a need.

  • 2 - a dead zone. Powerless! Hopefully you have a dagger.
  • 3 - distant. Spells will automatically cast with minimum variables, and targets get bonuses to their saves.
  • 4,5 - far. Spell variables are rolled normally, but any result over half is reduced to half.
  • 6-8 - normal. Spells function as usual within the rules.
  • 9,10 - nearby. Spell variables are rolled normally, but any result under half is increased to half.
  • 11 - close. As nearby, but targets get penalties to their saving throws.
  • 12 - immediate. Spells will automatically cast with maximum variables, and targets get penalties to their saves.

If the result is 9 or higher, the magic-user has a chance to actually see the ley line. This can be checked either with an intelligence check, or by rolling 2 or less on one six sided die, as preferred by the DM. If the ley line is visible, and the leycaster is able to get within close range of it (usually 30 yards or so) he can try to utilise it directly to power spontaneous magic appropriate to his level, and to the nature of the ley line itself.

When a leycaster is intent on tapping a line directly, the DM can roll upon, or choose freely from the following list of line types. Indeed, the DM is encouraged to add to or subtract from this list as appropriate to his own milieu.

  1. Earth - a western and eastern element
  2. Air - a western element
  3. Fire - a western and eastern element
  4. Water - a western and eastern element
  5. Metal - an eastern element
  6. Wood - an eastern element
  7. Astral
  8. Ethereal

If close to a ley line, and so attuned to it as to be able to see it, the caster may then use its energy to create a wide variety of effects. Any magic so cast will require at least one round of effort and focus to take effect, and will directly evince the nature of the line in question. Proximity to an air line, for example, might enable levitation or even flight, as appropriate to the level of the caster. Even a first level leycasting magic-user would be able to at least levitate if standing directly under a ley line of air, though his speed and ultimate height might be severely limited.

These effects, as rare an occurrence as they might be, do not use up the resources associated with spellcasting typical to the setting, whether memorisation slots, spell points, or some other commodity. The effort can still be prohibitively tiring if overused.

The position of ley lines is often related to their nature. Thus, air lines often lie at least a dozen feet up from ground level. Earth lines lie upon the ground, and at times even travel beneath it. Water lines are often found passing through a natural spring, or along an unusually straight and fast portion of river.

The most powerful configuration of ley lines is an intersection or nexus of multiple lines. These should almost always be specifically placed by the DM. Not only do they lend themselves to the casting, creation and maintenance of unusually powerful magic, they also often mark the location of gates, portals and other cracks in the fabric of reality. Whether the foci cause the tears, or the tearing leads to the foci is a matter of long debate among the arcane-minded. Whichever is true, those who utilise these powerful locations can sometimes become the unwitting conduit of interplanar congress. Likewise, those with other motives sometimes seek them out specifically to cause such temporal disruptions. Such sites often become the grounds of arcane edifices, such as circles of standing stones or wizard towers.

29 October, 2010

Horror Movies

I don't remember when it happened, but Halloween is my favourite holiday. Through a long series of internal segues, I went from this thought, to wanting to share the various things I'd taken from horror movies to put in my game worlds. Just movies. The inclusion of books and other sources would produce far too much material.
  • The flying silver blade ball from Phantasm
  • The puzzle box from Hellraiser
  • Abbie Normal from Young Frankenstein
  • The vampire's assistant from Salem's Lot. To this day, I'm awestruck they got James Mason to do that.
  • The death-jawas from Phantasm
  • The hide-my-eyes-icky chain hooks from Hellraiser
  • The re-inspired turning attempt from Fright Night
  • Many lines, especially "That's to be expected" from The Unnameable
  • The hand-in-the-eye from The Gate
  • The killer severed hand from Evil Dead 2 (moreso this version than the Addams Family)
  • More than one undead has been heard to wax poetic with "I'll swallow your soul!!"
  • Succubi, demon-summoning, and tons of atmosphere from Spectre
  • The Thing from .. The Thing. This version specifically, due to the head-spider.
Ah, such sweet memories.

25 October, 2010


First of all, this isn't a new class. It's merely a different method of casting for a magic-user. In most of my milieu, there are dozens of different casting systems by which a worker of magic can cast their spells. Generally, characters will start out with a very basic system, much like or identical to what is detailed in the rules, and will then discover other casting systems as they travel around and experience the different cultures of the world, or worlds.

With cartomancy, the caster uses cards. For flavour's sake, they are probably larger than common modern playing cards, more like a large tarot deck. Their inherent magic is no greater than that of a spellbook, and in practice they function in much the same way. The mage may or may not have the ability to make cards themselves. Either way, to acquire a new spell, the mage must acquire a new card(s.) When casting the spell, the card is used in lieu of any material components, though it isn't 'used up.'

When the wizard has more time on his hands, he can use the cards for divining purposes. This should take about a turn (ten minutes) and should only provide answers to simple questions. One possibility would be using a short table for the result. I'll use the example of a mage doing a card reading for the question "is there a secret door in this room?"

  1. Yes or No - a clear answer, but any more specific than this shouldn't be possible, at least for a low level mage
  2. The answer is near, but you must do another reading - spend another turn laying cards and roll again
  3. The cards will not answer - for an unknown reason, the cards can never say if there is a secret door in this room or not

If the magic-user only has a handful of first level spells, you may want to say that each spell consists of multiple cards so that there are enough to do divinatory readings. Another option would be having a larger deck of cards, with only a few of which actually detail spells.

Other possible options might include limiting the number of cards one can have available at any one time, thereby limiting how many spells the cartomancer can have access to at once. This could easily be explained as conforming to any specific number of cards involved in a reading. For example, one of the standard layouts for tarot readings involves using 9 cards.

20 October, 2010

Fifteen Games

Here are my 15. Some of them I probably wouldn't even want to play again, but they are ones I won't forget, and which (for better or worse) will continue to influence me.

  1. DnD, Moldvay, AD&D 1st, AD&D 2nd
  2. Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, 1st
  3. Axis & Allies
  4. Talisman
  5. Traveller
  6. Wizardry
  7. Marvel Superheroes
  8. Guild Wars
  9. World of Warcraft
  10. Chess
  11. Call of Cthulhu
  12. Zork
  13. Clue
  14. Magic: The Gathering
  15. HeroQuest

19 October, 2010

Airships Now Arriving in Eberron

I've got classes figured out to a manageable state, so I'm going to go ahead and open my Play-by-Post Eberron Labyrinth Lord game. It will play out, surprisingly, in the 'Eberron - Labyrinth Lord' section of my message board.
This is The Place
Anyone is welcome to come by, sign up, and roll up a character. All you'll need to do is fill in the typical board registration hubbub, using the name your comments are posted under here, and I'll activate you. Instructions for making a character, which dice method to use, etc. are in this thread.

I'll be shooting for a once-a-day minimum update on my end, but it will probably be more often than that. You can check out my Eberron atmosphere post from a few days ago to get an idea what I'll be trying to do with the setting.

17 October, 2010

Spell Points

"The magic system works fine, and it's part of the 'feel' of DnD.. why mess with it?!"
I've heard this argument many times, and I totally understand it. The DnD spell memorisation system is great. For a DM who gets a lot of inspiration from literature, however, it's in some ways an odd choice. It's one of the singular systems amongst all literature, unique to its own setting. Like LeGuin's true-name system or Anthony's 'I-found-my-special-purpose' system, it's in a niche off to the side of the main body of literary wizardry. By far, the most widespread representation of wizardry in fantasy fiction is a spellcaster who knows certain spells, can cast them at will, but becomes fatigued in the process.

My answer to this, then, is to rely on the well-worn idea of spell points. In my games, these spell points definitely don't indicate some sort of mystical energy reserve, like mana (though that could be another potential niche system.) Rather, it's an abstract measure of the caster's mental wherewithal, much in the same way hit points are an abstract measure of a character's physical soundness.

Here is my posting on spell point rules from one of my online PbP games:

Spell Points

Wizard = Int + (Wis/2) + 1d6 per level

Cleric, Druid, Ranger = Wis + (Int/2) + 1d6 per level

Bard, Paladin, Sorcerer = Chr + (Wis/2) + 1d6 per level

Rather than the cast-and-forget magic system based on the books of Jack Vance, which every version of D&D uses to some extent, I found that this much more open system promoted more creative gameplay. Under a Vancian system, there are a lot of good spells that honestly just never get used since the circumstances where they might be more useful than something like a Fireball are rare enough that hardly anyone ever memorises them. I think this outweighs the 'interesting gameplay' factor of having to plan hours ahead for what spells you're likely to need for the day.

At first level, your spell point total is equal to your prime caster ability stat. In other words, Wisdom for clerics, Intelligence for mages, Charisma for a bard, etc. To that you add half your Constitution score. To that sum, you add half of your Wisdom score, unless it is your main casting stat, in which case you would add half your Intelligence.

Spell points are regained with complete rest, at the rate of 1 per hour.
Your 'main casting stat' is the one your class uses to determine whether you get bonus spells.

The ability that governs bonus spells depends on what type of spellcaster your character is: Intelligence for wizards; Wisdom for clerics, druids, and rangers; and Charisma for bards, paladins, and sorcerers.

If your bonus-spell-ability is high enough to get you bonus spells, this becomes bonus spellpoints instead.  You add the number of points it would take to cast the bonus spells allowed for your level.

How many points does it take to cast a spell?
Here's a quick list:
Level 1: 1 point
Level 2: 3 pts
Level 3: 6 pts
Level 4: 10 pts
Level 5: 15 pts
Level 6: 21 pts
Level 7: 28 pts
Level 8: 36 pts
Level 9: 45 pts

As you can see, it's the points required to cast the previous level spell, plus points equal to the current spell's level. Mathematically, it's the additive cumulative of the spell's level.

At first level, and when you gain a caster level, you gain 1d6 spell points, plus the general modifier from your main casting stat.

After using this system for many years in both low-level and mid-level games, I'm very happy with the results. High level spells are a huge deal to use. Low level spells can be tossed about fairly freely, but my caster players soon learned that it added up quicker than they expected. Wizard cantrips are 1 point each, not free. Any caster has to study their spells or pray daily, or they begin losing their detail and become dangerous to cast. Cure Light Wounds is the only real game-changer here, but in play it has never come even close to making the stylistic difference in the game engendered by healing surges.

In the end, my players still choose to play fighters, and feel satisfied in doing so. Players still end up dead, too. But the experience of magic in the game gels much more closely with what the players saw in their imagination.

I'll go on in the future to detail a lot of the other magic systems my players have run into, including what my players always enjoyed as a great take on the Dying Earth system.

15 October, 2010

Does a Shifter Weigh the Same as a Duck?

This place has been pretty quiet for a few days while I've been ruminating about Eberron. I've decided on Labyrinth Lord for the ruleset, and I'll be starting out with it totally stock, no house-rules going into it. I've also made some (fairly easy) decisions about some of the player races. They will all be available for players to choose from, just like in the standard setting material, but instead of using the Advanced LL rules (yet) I'll be casting them in the mold of other old-school demi-human classes.

As elves are to fighter/magic-user, so shall shifters be to fighter/thief. I'll be up front with people, however, that playing a shifter isn't going to go over well at all anywhere within the confines of Old Galifar. The reaction would range from 'pelted with produce' to 'public execution,' with a usual average somewhere around 'torch-wielding-mob.' They would be more characteristically realised within my version as the NPC cat-woman sorcerer of Conan's borderlands.

Warforged, if appearing as a player character, would fall into more of the dwarf class mold. They are fighters, with level limits mirroring dwarven advancement. Their immunities are more extensive, obviously, but these and their counterpart limitations are an inherent part of the setting. In my version, they were not produced in nearly as many numbers as in the official version of the setting. They just aren't that much better than human troops to justify the expense. If they didn't have free will, that'd be a different story. As it is, many see them as a novelty of the rich and a failed experiment of the military.

My main remaining decision is how to start out. Eberron provides an incredible variety of starting points for a party of adventurers, but I'd rather not start in a big city, like Sharn. Starting them as post-mourning amnesiacs injects a lot of iconic setting flavour into the campaign right from the start, but on the other hand might seem clichéd.

When trying to evoke a certain setting, I always like to include the setting's published adventures in one way or another. They often form the meat of a setting's character. However, the one first-level module I've found takes place in Sharn, which I'd like to avoid for a while.

Thus, I'm still nailing down the first adventure, but otherwise ready to go. Perhaps some of you out there have an idea of a good way to start!

08 October, 2010

My Hard Drive's Encumbrance

I've been fiddling around tons of art sites today. That's where I generally end up for inspiration for my game worlds, moreso than literature.

It looks like my upcoming Eberron play-by-post game is going to be a mixture of the following:
Warhammer FRP
Studio Ghibli (brobdingnagian airships, constructed servitors, the darker elements of Nausicaa, Castle in the Sky, and Howl)
Lovecraftian pseudomythology, and Dreamlands
Andy Brase
Chuck Lukacs
Vinod Rams
Andy Simmons
Philip Straub
Rico Holmes
American McGee's Alice
Brazil and other Gilliam works

In general, dark fantasy, both in tone and visualisation.

Airships in general are uncommon. The more sea-going ship and boat-like airships are a common example of this sort of vehicle, but definitely not the preferred type. They were the earliest sort, many of which were converted to air travel from actual maritime vessels. Much more preferred are the larger, sturdier, and fully enclosed sort typified by the works of Miyazaki, though lacking wings. This type are far louder in operation, however, due to the greater power and number of the constrained elementals, the abyssal moans and screams of whom can prove highly disquieting.

05 October, 2010

I'd Hit That

The combat rules in OD&D can be confusing. The idea presented in the 1974 Boxed Set is to use the Chainmail rules to run a typical round of fighting. This is a great indication that fighting really isn't intended to be a major integral part of DnD. As we all know though, you will end up meeting something that very much wants to kill you.

For my OD&D message board game, I wanted to distill the Chainmail combat turn down into an easily understood round of fighting for DnD, while keeping the written system. It had to be straightforward, since I'm not able to talk it over with the players in person. Here's what I came up with..

Firstly, two definitions:
Split-move & fire - Only certain units can do this, and usually only mounted units. It means being able to fire missile weapons while moving, and is simulated by moving half of one's move, firing, then moving the remainder of one's move.
Pass-through fire - This happens when someone moves into range of your missile weapons during their movement. If they are in range at the halfway point of their move, you can take a shot at them, as long as you're not moving this round.

1- Both sides roll a d6. The high roll gets to choose if they want to move first or wait to move.
2- Spellcasting begins.
3- The side moving first takes their move. If split-move&fire or pass-through applies to them, that missile fire is resolved at the halfway point of their movement.
4- The next side moves. If split-move&fire or pass-through applies to them, that missile fire is resolved at the halfway point of their movement.
5- All normal missile fire is resolved.
6- Any melee is resolved.
7- If an archer or longbowman has not moved, and isn't being meleed, they can take a 2nd shot now, unless they've already fired twice.
8- Spells go off.

- In steps 3 and 4 above, 'halfway point of their movement' does not mean half of their total possible movement rate. It means half of the distance they're actually moving. If the goblins are only 20 feet away, and headed toward you, your arrows hit them at 10 feet.
- Step 6, melee, has its own little order to follow. See below.

- In the Chainmail rules where it talks about one side being the attacker, that's going to be whichever side moved into melee. Another way of putting that is whichever side created the melee by moving into range on their movement turn. If you hold your movement, and your opponent advances into melee on you, they will be 'the attacker.'

- 1st Round: First blow is struck by
  • the attacker
  • the defender if they have a weapon two or more classes higher than the attacker (see melee notes)
  • the defender if they are physically above the attacker
- 2nd Round and afterward: First blow is struck by
  • the same side (attacker or defender) which struck first in round one, unless..
  • the opponent has a weapon which is two classes lower, or..
  • the opponent is physically above the side that struck first in round one
Melee Notes:
Here are the 'weapon classes' mentioned above.
Dagger, hand axe - 1
Mace, club - 3
Longsword - 4
Battle Axe (2 hand) - 5
Morning Star - 6
Flail - 7
Spear - 8
Pole arms - 9
Two Handed Sword - 10
Mounted Lance - 11
Pike 12

I love examples! Let's have one now!

Finnigan's red beard bristles as he locks eyes with a skeevy goblin named Gak, 30 feet away. Finnigan rolls a 5 for initiative, and Gak rolls a 2. Finnigan is standing in a doorway, though, so he stands his ground. Gak advances right at Finnigan with his mace, visions of dwarf brains dancing in his head!

When Gak is 15 feet away, Finnigan hurls his hand axe at the little rotter. Finnigan's aim isn't his strong point, and his hand axe spins over the goblin's head. Chin up Finn! The dwarf hefts his big two-handed axe.

Gak closes in and attacks, but with his smaller mace(3) he can't get past Finnigan's axe(5) before the dwarf has a chance to swing. Finnigan meets the goblin with whistling axe strokes (and rolls a 10) but only manages to score up Gak's shield a few times (abstract 1 minute rounds.)

Now Gak is inside the reach of Finnigan's big axe, and does his best to pummel the dwarf with his mace (rolling an 18 to attack and then a 3 for damage.) The goblin manages to batter Finnigan several times, wearing him down.

Ding! Round Two!

Finnigan ended up with first blow during round 1, but Gak's mace is still at least 2 sizes smaller than the battle axe, so now Gak, still inside the axe's advantage of reach, will get the first blow(s.) If Finnigan drops his axe and pulls out a longsword, he could keep his momentum and take first blow for this round as well. However, he has only his axe, and Gak gets to roll his attack.

Good luck Finnigan!

03 October, 2010

Yet Another Campaign

I'm running two play-by-post message board campaigns, and playing in two more. However, I'm still finding myself wanting more to do. Maybe.

I've got two ideas for things I'd like to explore:

  1. Eberron using OD&D or Moldvay rules (including something like Labyrinth Lord.)
  2. Tekumel using OD&D or Moldvay rules (including something like Labyrinth Lord.)

If either of these sounds like something you'd be interested in playing, please let me know in the comments. If enough would like to sign up, I already have a message board of my own set up for the purpose of PbP games. With either option, I would most likely start out with one of the in-setting starting level modules, from there spreading out into an open format.

30 September, 2010

In Reference to Torneiement

Just a quick note: You would be hard pressed to go wrong here.
Literature of the Fantastic

29 September, 2010

Uh-Ohhh, It's Ma-gic

I never assume that there's only one way to cast spells in a setting. I know it would be more convenient if I did, and allowing multiple methods of magic might conceivably unbalance or 'mess up' the campaign in some way, but in my experience it's never done that. The main thing it's done is help remove the mundane from the magical.

I firmly believe that magic in any work of fiction, including an rpg, will always suffer if it's well known and understood. Quantification is the bane of imagination. There will always be those who clamor for all the mysteries to be revealed, however. For those, I offer... midichlorians.

I think Lucas was acutely aware of what he was doing. In Star Wars IV, Luke finally went to Ben and said he was ready to start learning. The next thing we see is some unspecified time after that. A certain segment of the viewers cried out in dismay. "I want to know what they did!" "I want to see what he taught him!" "I want to be a Jedi and learn the ways of the Force!" Well.. you can't learn the ways of the Force. It doesn't really work. It's made up. And the only thing you would have gotten if we had seen what Ben showed Luke is concrete confirmation of that extremely immersion-wrecking, mystique-busting fact. The clamoring never stopped, only getting louder and more pervasive. Then, I really believe Lucas set his jaw and said "fine! You want concrete? Then let me prove my point to you! Kazaaang! Midichlorians!" And I think the quantifiers got exactly what they deserved.

So, here we have the extremely well quantified and detailed magic system of DnD, particularly in 1st edition Advanced D&D and afterward. It's quantified for a reason, since it's part of a rules system. However, contrary to the proclivities of some, this concretism isn't self-justifying. Introducing the idea to players that more than just the one magic system they already know may exist and work pulls the rug out from under familiarity and stagnation, while at the same time leaving the foundation of reliability inherent to their current, well-delineated system. It kills midichlorians!

Players in my campaigns still start with whatever basic, default magic-use system is present in the setting. After some experience, they gradually learn there are other functioning systems out there. They may have started with Vancian or an elementary spell point system, but then the wider world of possibility opens. True-name magic ala Earthsea. Lovecraftian tomes that any can attempt to use, but at a terrible price. Spellsingers. Deal-making spirit binders. Leyline weaving. Artifact channeling. Rune-casting. The only real limits are the bounds of your literacy.

The trick then, of course, is to introduce it in a subtle way. The PC's actual first exposure might be dramatic indeed, but it needs to be handled in a way which won't lead to watering it down through proliferation within the campaign. For it to mean anything, it has to stay incredibly uncommon, weird, even alien. A wizard in the party may indeed be able to learn some of the fundamentals, even mastering a spell or two. However, there are two keys to this. One: it's going to take a long time, or exact a heavy toll. It took them years to finally become a lowly first level wizard in the first place, and this certainly isn't going to come to them overnight. If time isn't an appropriate commodity, then something else will have to give. Anyone can pick up the Book of Eibon and try their best to copy the formulae, but they're certainly not going to pass through that experience unscathed. Gold doesn't count as a heavy toll, either. This is the realm of insanities and permanently lost ability score points. Two: there usually needs to be a willing teacher. The wizards on Roke Island aren't going to trust just anyone, either.

So far in my own campaigns, the far more common occurrence isn't actually learning the new system of magic itself. Rather, they have picked up a few of the side-tricks these other, strange dweomercrafters use. This includes things like how to enchant valuable gems as spell storage receptacles (an idea from Mythus.) The main upshot of all these considerations is simply this. Don't wreck your campaign, but take away a bit of the certainty and banality from something that's supposed to be 'magical.'

The Troll

28 September, 2010

You Find a Magic Compass!

Blog ideas I'm currently juggling:

  1. Keep track of the security words I enter when posting to blogs. Invent a campaign element based on each.
  2. Highlights of my long-running milieu-prime campaign.
  3. Random lists in the spirit of the tables in the back of the 1e DMG.
  4. Installments of musings over the things that evoke DnD for me, such as the film Spectre.
  5. Quirky setting ideas which could serve as experiments, but that I would actually love to do, like OD&D Eberron.
  6. House rule ideas for various games, mostly DnD.
  7. New takes on old settings, or "you got your Cthulhu in my Greyhawk!"

Sound stupid? Sound interesting? Help me juggle if you want :)

25 September, 2010

Why Can't I Get Better at That?

I think for a lot of players of the latest editions of "The World's Most Popular RolePlaying Game" (that cracks me up every time I read it) one of the big draws of the new system is skill progression. Sure, there's some sort of progression in most games of the type, regardless of edition, but this is advancement explicit to a specific, identifiable action. If all the combat tricks (for example) you try are just rolled into a big globular minute of summable action, then of course those tricks are all getting better as you go up in level. For a lot of players though, they want explicit quantification of this neat thing they can do.

Now, I have a lot of ideas about why they want that, and also about why they feel they're not getting the satisfaction they want from attempting to Do Things. For the time being, though, I'm going to wave past that. Instead, I'm going to propose what in some cases might prove to be a band-aid, or in some cases might actually end up adding a fun extra to the festivities. I think the best way to impart this might be an example:

Bernaise: Can I try to shield rush this guy in these crusty old rules from the 80s?
Troll: 70s..
Bernaise: Whatever man, I want to charge little-doghead-boy and Knock Him Down baby!
Troll: Sure, you can try practically anything. Just make a regular attack roll.
Bernaise: But what if I've practiced shield rushing things? What if I'm like.. Mr. Shield Rush?
Troll: Well, you haven't yet, so go ahead and give it a try. I think it would be stretching believability quite a bit to think medieval-style training would specialize to that fine a degree, but everything starts somewhere :)
Bernaise: If I do it all the time, is there any way I can get better at it?
Troll: A +1 bonus for anything is a pretty big deal in this game. A longsword does 1d6 damage, but that enormous zweihander does 1d6+1. And that little-doghead-boy has even less hit points than that.
Bernaise: It doesn't make any sense though, that if I'm constantly trying to trip people or shield rush them or jump over pits that I'd never get any better at it.
Troll: It does if your guy doesn't have any ability in that.. as I recall, you practiced and practiced and practiced to learn how to sing, and you still sound like sh..
Bernaise: Yeah, yeah, I know... but my character is a fighter, and this is a fighting thing.
Troll. Okay.. make your regular roll to hit. Every time you try to shield rush, whether it's a success or not, YOU make a checkmark or something, and keep track of it. Then let me know what the total is the next time you make a level.
Bernaise: Sweet!!! I'm successfully limiting my options to excel in an easily expressed specialty!! Woot!!
And there was much rejoicing. I think it can be seen to make a moderate amount of sense, and it shouldn't terribly unbalance anything. I think I'd probably do something like subtract his strength from 100 and want to see that many attempts at level-up time to give him a +1 shield rush, or some other effect, maybe a stunned opponent, a morale check or execute a 10 foot withdrawal, or various other possibilities.

Granted, I'd rather handle these things on the fly. I think they work better that way, and then both the DM and the Player can come up with something unique that really fits each specific situation. Of course, that means the DM has to take on the responsibility of making each fight or trap or parley a unique and specific situation, even just in how it's described. I think if a player is still having trouble expressing on-the-spot detail, but they do want to try, this can be a pretty harmless semi-solution. It's still completely specialised, and case-by-case, which I like.

Let me know if you can think of similar things a character might try learning, and how you might go about deciding whether they've learned it or not.

The Troll

24 September, 2010

He's Modulating! Help Him!!

The other day I mentioned my interest in exploring some of the classic old-school modules for D&D. When I first started playing, or DM'ing rather, we dove right into B2, Keep on the Borderlands. Between a myriad of activities, roleplaying and adventures at the Keep itself, plus our explorations of the Caves of Chaos, it took us a really long time to exhaust B2's possibilities. In fact, if I remember right, the group never did actually finish exploring the cave complex, instead heading off to explore other things in the world.

After we had been playing for a while, there was definitely a desire from other players to have a chance at being the DM. One of my friends picked up a copy of Palace of the Silver Princess, so our little group headed off across the map to where that was. We didn't even consider rolling up all new characters for his game, since we had characters for the game. He had asked me some advice so that he could tie back into something that had happened in the Keep, so we talked over a little connecting thread. Unfortunately, I had forgotten about it, and combined with his ingenious way of introducing it, I totally didn't see it coming. The result? I blurted out the answer as soon as I 'figured it out,' only to realise I'd just given away everything he'd asked me to keep quiet. Smooth.

When I got back into rpg's near the end of the 80s, the group I started playing with was of the decided opinion that although modules might have their place, a real DM wrote his own material. I and others ran several separate groups, all populated by the same pool of friends. For one of my groups, I pulled out my old copy of B2 again, but entirely re-designed it. Kobold tunnels criss-crossed and went up and down in levels. High tunnels ran into low tunnels, with Indy-style mining bridges spanning the gaps. Populations of monsters skyrocketed. The gradual dell now towered canyon walls over the party's heads. And, of course, they got through even less of it than my old group.

Thus, my experience with modules was severely limited. No Slavelords were brought to justice. No giant chiefs were steaded. No green demon heads were fed with hapless henchmen. And we actually felt good about it too. Pssh! Modules.. bah! Those were for DM's who couldn't come up with adventures on their own! The only thing was.. I was curious.

Sure, it had started with included modules. That couldn't be helped.. they came as part of a package. But then I started buying a few.. not many, just a couple. I just wanted to read them. Just for a few ideas, that was all. Once I started though, I couldn't get enough. Soon, I had to have them all! With no internet, it was no easy task to figure out a complete list of every TSR module, let alone 3rd party adventures. But I had to read them, from cover to cover, fondly imagining running the adventure and all the twists and turns it might take, but never daring to actually present them to my group in play. They could never understand!

-> This is the interesting part <-

So what was it about modules that held such a fascination for me? I didn't realise until years later that reading a set of rules laid out by someone doesn't give nearly the view into their imagination that playing one of their adventures does. Whether its Gygax, Moldvay, or anyone else, the rules they've written can start to show you a bit about how they think, how they organise, but only by playing the modules they've done can you really meet the writer.

In trying to get back to the old ways, this is why playing the classic modules is even more important than which set of rules one uses. It's more than just taking a further step into nostalgia (I see nothing wrong with nostalgia, by the way,) it's getting into the true essence of these writers' imaginations. The stage and the theatre can be a wonderful place, but it's the script and the performance that really make the most difference.

Now when I think about what I really want to do in my game, one of the biggest things is to experience all the old classic modules. Not only did I miss the chance to play them until now, depriving my own sense of curiosity and completeness, but I also believe that an experience with the OSR isn't really complete without them. In much the same way, I know that to really enjoy Jim Raggi or any of the other designers of the current era, I can't just use their rules system. I really need to play their adventures.

20 September, 2010

What Accession, Pandelume?

The first thing we house-ruled in our Moldvay Basic game back in 1981 was wizard magic. None of us had read Vance, and the otherwise excellent Moldvay book was singularly reticent in providing a convincing argument for use'n'lose spellcasting. Thus, our initial attempts were overwrought and forgettable. Forgettable because.. well, I can't remember what we did.

Years later, I read The Dying Earth. I finally got the magic system. Not only did I get it, it was cool. It was intriguing. I could not only see why Gary had used it, but actually agreed with him.

So why tweak it? I'm a tweaker, it's what I do. The spells used by Turjan are arguably more powerful (iirc) than those available to the players of the Moldvay game, or any version in the earlier levels. It stands to reason that more powerful spells could easily have this effect on the mind, but should they all? Light? Magic Missile? Actually, I think that can be perfectly acceptable (as long as the DM provides appropriate accompanying flavour,) but the fact remains that the beginning wizard is severely limited in his options when compared to his comrades.

Although this can often be worked round when playing in-person, it's particularly a problem when running a game over a message board. A single day, to examine just one factor, can last upwards of a month in real-world time.

Thus, on the third week of play, along with the induction of the other week-three house-rules I detailed yesterday, I put up the following:
As of today, all magic-users may employ cantrips. These are minor magical effects, usable without recording any related formulae within the spellbooks of the thaumaturge. Neither do they take up any specific space within the mind of the mage.
Cantrips are not so much specific spells, but rather a general minor magic, which effect is determined at the time of use. The effect may cause damage, but no more than 1d2. It may also cause the recipient to make an ability check or saving throw to avoid some inconvenience, such as dropping a held item or tripping. Any attempt to affect the items or clothing of a target, such as igniting a flammable material in the possession of another, will also allow the victim a saving throw vs. spell to entirely negate the effect.
In most cases, no more than 5 pounds of weight can be moved, and generally only to a maximum distance of 10 feet. It can affect a flat area of 10 square feet or less, or a volume no more than a cube 1 foot per side. Most effects will last no longer than an hour, with some lasting only 1 turn. However, extremely minor effects, such as a subtle change in colour, might last indefinitely, as would the removal of dust, grime or dirt from an object or individual.
Cantrips may be used only once per round, and then only if enacting the magic is the only action taken. Sustained effects, such as floating a small object, may be maintained as long as the magic-user can continue concentration.
The variety and nature of the effect is limited only by the imagination of the employing wizard.
We'll see in the coming weeks whether this will cause any problems, and I'm including in that any sense of an alteration in the tone I'm trying to shoot for with the game.

19 September, 2010

That 70s Game

Around the middle of August of this year, I began something that can also be seen as an experiment. I say 'also' because the main purpose isn't experimentation or simulation. It's also not just an exercise in nostalgia. The overarching purpose is simply having a good time. However, it's a wonderfully nostalgic and experimental good time that simulates the journey of Dungeon's & Dragons through the 1970s.

The basic premise was to begin playing a game using only the 3 original Little Brown Booklets first published in February of '74. The first supplement, deceptively (to later enthusiasts) entitled Greyhawk, was first published 13 months later. Therefore, the additional material from this booklet will be incorporated (perhaps not in toto) 13 weeks after the beginning of play. The remaining supplements would come in at the same rate, with weeks between adoption standing for months between publication.

However, the LBBs weren't used in a vacuum. Modification and addition were not only encouraged, but actually required to cover all the strange and unusual things players thought of doing. Improvisation during a game to deal with some unforeseen contingency led very naturally to precedents that a group would continue to site in similar situations. A lot like British Law, from what I understand, interestingly enough. To simulate the proliferation of these house rules, the plan was to begin gradually introducing accretions from Whitebox. Why not just our own house rules? It's a game run via message board on a website, so it's nice to be able to have a concrete, objective, individually accessible reference. Plus, there's information about it on the web, so it's wonderful to be able to just stick a link in a post instead of trying to refer to some past idiosyncratic ruling.

A few days ago, three weeks into the campaign, our first few accretions accrued:

  • The Whitebox attack matrices, for determining hits. (these may be identical to the LBB.. I honestly didn't look)
  • The Whitebox rules for turning undead.
  • The slightly variable damage values for different weapons.

I should say also that even before the first pixels had a chance to dry on the page, a handful of house rules popped up like mushrooms after a nice rain. I'm certain these aren't unique to our little game, but I'd never thought about them in precisely the way I did, or came up with precisely the results we did this time. This intrigues me no end, because I've been making house rules for D&D for 29 years. D&D is evidently an incredibly unique experience, which never occurs the same way twice. I've even heard it's a big-time nerd thing, but I've honestly never experienced that.. anyway...

Here are the little mushrooms that popped up. Some of them can be traced directly to Philotomy's, which I internally picture as a wonderfully ancient and dusty little bookstore, with an appropriately ancient and dusty little wizard wandering around inside.

  • Wielding a weapon in each hand gives the sole benefit of adding +1 to your attack role. Pure Philotomy's genius.
  • Helmets are conspicuous only in their absence, as per Philotomy's.
  • A wizard's first spell book has all 8 first level spells in it.
  • A pint flask of oil will burn for 6 hours in a normal lantern. Real modern lamp oil will burn for about 36 hours per pint, but it also won't make goblin flambé.
  • You have to make an attack roll to hit a prone foe.
  • You can try things like a shield rush in combat, just use a regular attack roll and we'll decide what happens based on how you describe what you try.
  • The most substantial house rule to date, the addition of wizard's cantrips.. worthy of it's own post, probably tomorrow.

It seems to be going really well so far, and my hopes are high for more unique and interesting developments. I've also incorporated my desire to (in my case) experience some of the most classic and iconic modules, but I'll discuss that in a later post.

The Troll