Friday, December 20, 2019

Is There a Way to Make Our Hobby Healthier?

                Last Monday while I was actually in the middle of posting my Orc race as class, I started having some chest pains. I was on break at work and was rushed by EMT to the local hospital where I had to stay for 24 hours of observation. I appears to not be related to my heart directly, in the sense that I did not have a heart attack, but I still might have some blockages, tests will tell. I also noticed lately that many of our producers of content that have passed on, on average, went before a ripe old age. The doctors spoke to me about diet and exercise and the entire realm of “lifestyle” changes. The issue that comes up though, does my hobby make me unhealthy?

Trying to protect this bad boy.

                First and foremost this is not solely pointed at roleplaying games, I also have a desk job where I sit for 8+ hours a day. I have an extremely busy life that sometimes prevents any form of exercise, and not the best eating decisions. These factors weigh in far more than anything RPGs are doing to me. That being said, sitting for prolong periods of time and eating the common fair at the usual RPG session is not doing me any favors either. This does not include the time I spend reading RPG books, watching RPG Youtube shows, and writing this blog.

                I am thus reaching out to the community, have you found a way to possible make your RPG time a healthier experience? I think the obvious is to cut the poor foods out of gaming and substitute healthier options, but that only gets you halfway there. Beyond being in a boffer LARP, can you get any form of exercise in your RPG hobby? I think this issue is important to the community as it ages and we will have more and more premature deaths happening in the community.

                This was short and to the point, but I am hoping it can spawn some decent discussion in the community.

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Monday, December 16, 2019

New Race as Class - Orc


Requirements: Minimum STR 9
Prime requisite: STR
Hit Dice: 1d8
Armor: Chain, Shield
Weapons: Any
Languages: Common, Orcish

                Orcs are a warrior culture and are bred for battle. Orcs grow up rather rapidly and are expected to help with the tribal wars efforts at a young age. Thus, Orcs are exposed to battle for most of their lives. While most Orcs lack sophisticated battle strategy, they are often tactically intelligent. At times an Orc can break from their tribe in an effort to gather enough prowess to start their own tribe. This is where adventuring can come into play. Orcs can team with open-minded adventurers and start to make a name for themselves and gather riches. Eventually once the word spreads others will flock to their banner.

Any damage that an Orc deals to a foe that is over the amount needed to kill them can be applied to a different adjacent foe. This can be applied to as many foes as the damage allows. Use the same To Hit number for additional targets, if it would miss, you cannot Cleave.

When an Orc reaches 0 hit points they can roll a saving throw vs death, if they succeed they can continue to fight for one more round. After that round, if they are not healed, they will collapse and suffer the normal effects of reaching 0 hit points. If they fail the saving throw, they suffer the normal effects of reaching 0 hit points.

Orcs have infravision to 60’.

People who know the nature of the orc’s birth are often repulsed by their existence. If known, the orc will suffer a -1 penalty on Reaction Rolls with the target.

After reaching 6th the orc will attract a tribe of orcs that will serve out of respect for their martial prowess. The orc is now an Orc Warlord. The orc will have 4d6 orc clan warriors and 1d3-1 ogre lieutenants. The tribe can be mobile or settle down in an area that provides the ability to raid neighboring settlements.

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Friday, December 13, 2019

New Race as Class - Bugbear


Requirements: Minimum STR 12
Prime requisite: STR and CON
Hit Dice: 1d8
Armor: Leather, plus Shield
Weapons: Any
Languages: Common, Goblin

       These “Goblin Giants” are often merciless and cruel and for some adventuring parties that is exactly what they are looking for in a companion. Adventuring companies that are looking to hire on muscle that can also put fear into rival parties look to Bugbears. As long as Bugbears are getting good wages, good food, and good fights they are happy with their arrangements. Bugbears make surprisingly good scouts and can plot out an ambush with lethal efficiency. While not the most adept of warriors they make up for it with brute strength and cunning.

Brutal Thug
Bugbears are immensely strong for their relative size. They receive a +1 to all damage rolls.

Bugbears are extremely resilient and receive +1 hit point per level.

Bugbears have an uncanny ability to disappear from sight:

  • In dungeons, a bugbear can hide with a 90% chance of success.
  • In woods or undergrowth, a bugbear can hide in shadows or behind other forms of cover. The chance of success is 2-in-6.
  • Hiding requires the bugbear to be motionless.

When attacking an unaware opponent from behind, a bugbear receives a +4 bonus to hit and doubles any damage dealt

Bugbears have infravision to 60’.

Extreme Scorn
People who know the nature of the bugbear’s birth are often repulsed by their existence. If known, the bugbear will suffer a -2 penalty on Reaction Rolls with the target.

After reaching 6th the bugbear will attract a gang of goblinoids that will serve out of fear. The bugbear will have 3d6 goblin thugs and 1d6-1 hobgoblins lieutenants. The bugbear gang generally roams and does not set down roots, finding an abandoned dungeon or cave to make a base.

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Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Tips on Starting an Old School Group Near You

      Since the fulfillment started of Old School Essentials I have seen quite a few people attempting to start an OSE game near them. Many are finding that it is a bit harder to do, especially since 5e is the dominant D&D on the market. I recently responded to a person looking to start a game in their area, and saying that the local game store was not helpful. I gave him some advice and I wanted to share it on my blog because I think it is relevant to the greater community at large. Before diving into the OSR scene head first, I was extremely into the Indie Games scene and tried to help their popularity spread as well. I was met with the waves of Pathfinder and D&D games, and people that were unwilling to try things that were different. I did manage to get a local, loyal 30 – 40 person group of Indie gamers into a group that met on a weekly basis. These are some of the tips that worked in my personal experience to get an “unknown” game out into the community.

High quality production values

One – Start Your Own Group

  This seems pretty self-explanatory, but plenty of people just try showing up at random game stores with no organization and expect to find games. The truth is that the big companies are HIGHLY organized. Pathfinder Society, D&D Adventure League, and the Savage Worlds Society are examples of companies that have organized their most rabid fan-base to provide them with hours of free labor. The companies in turn provided them content and better yet, a community that players are often looking for in a game. You need to form your own community. 

Looking for a group is hard work

Meetup is one of the best, but it costs money per month. This allows you to schedule regular game times, allows members to chat, and focuses your search for people in your local area. Another good option that is free is Facebook. Creating a Facebook group has most of the same features as Meetup, but it does not offer the specificity of Meetup. It is very likely people in your area will never find your Facebook group on their own. People go onto Meetup because they are looking to do a certain activity. What I ended up doing was starting the group on Meetup, once it was big enough with consistent members, I made the switch to Facebook. We did lose a few members though, because some people refuse to use Facebook. 

Once you have the group, you need to advertise the group. You can go old fashion and make flyers and hang them in libraries, game stores, and recreation centers. You can also advertise online in local forums, Facebook groups, and other forms of social media. Just know you are going to get a lot more lurkers, than actual people who will show up. My Meetup had about 200 members, but I only ever had about 40 active members. People love to sign up for things, but not actually do those things. The other thing to do is advertise by running games. Many communities have local games days and are looking for GMs, run games there. You must be totally prepared to run games for very small amounts of people, like two, and be prepared to run games for parents with their children. Many times the “hardcore” players are playing 5e and Pathfinder, and you will get what you get. Occasionally though you will get a player that really takes to the system/game and you might get them on a more permanent basis.

Two – Do Not Start With a Campaign

I often see people saying, “Hey, looking to start an OSR group for the first time, I am going to run a Barrowmaze campaign.” This will actually drive people away, or make them not want to start in the first place. Even with the most experience people, Barrowmaze would take a minimum of a year to play. People do not want to make that kind of a commitment right out of the gate. I will harken back to Pathfinder Society and D&D Adventurers League. They are successful in part because they run short adventures that have a resolution at the end. Many people starting out want that kind of an experience. Your best solution is to run a series of one-shot games. This serves two real purposes, one, it is less of a commitment from new players that might not know you or the game style. Two, it gives you time to learn to run these types of games. A campaign has a lot of moving parts, a simple adventure usually follows a solid, small structured event.

I love this short adventure.

       I have run Lamentations of the Flame Princess “A Single, Small Cut” more times than I can count. I used it to introduce the concept of OSR gaming, and it can be done in about 4 hours. There are a ton of cheap or free short adventures that can be used for this kind of an adventure. The trick is to run one game, then ask people if they would like to play again. If they show up again, run another one-shot and rinse and repeat. Eventually you will have a group of regulars that does show up and is taken with the game. You will know they are really taken with the game if they buy their own books. Once this is starting to happen you can broach the subject of starting a lengthy campaign, they might even ask for it. The trick is to not pull the trigger too early, you need to have a solid base before you move into something bigger.

Three – Be Patient

This is not a fast process. It took me at least a year to get even a small, functioning group that met on a regular basis. Even with the vast success of D&D in the world today, it is still am extremely niche market. If you are trying to promote OSR gaming, you are supporting a niche within a niche. This means that it will generally take time to have people come around. The more perseverance you have the more likely this is to happen. You must be completely prepared to run a ton of games, and never play in any games. You have to be prepared to have to organize lots of events to have half of them generate no players. You have to be willing to be the sole driving force behind a group, until it become self-sustaining (which will take a long time). 

Take a moment

It is really nice if you can find a partner that is just as passionate about these games as you. When I was running my Indie RPG group, I had a second person that could help out and I trusted to do a good job. I know this might not always be possible, but it is a great resource if you can find it. This will lighten the load a bit, and you will have someone to lean on when things go wrong, and they will.

Four – Be Prepared To Get Rejected

This is the hardest part of the process. More often than not people will not even want to give your game a shot. They want to stick with what they know or they do try it, and it is not for them. It seems hard to accept because we love the games so much, how could someone possibly not like it? You will get bumped for your tables at cons or stores in order to make room for 5e or possibly Magic The Gathering. It is hard to blame the stores, oftentimes 5e does not bring in huge amounts of money, let alone a game they do not even sell. Always try and support the store and encourage your players to do the same. I always try and buy something when I am playing in a store. Dice, miniatures, or at bare minimum buy a soda or two. This goes a long way to making good with the store.

It will happen

The roughest rejection, and it will happen, is the players who you KNOW had a great time, but happily run back to 5e or Pathfinder. They were excited at the table, making great plans, laughing with the group, they even tell you at the end how much fun they had. When push comes to shove though, if Pathfinder Society is giving away a free super weapon for each character taking place in their society night, players will go to that. I will never understand why people would rather play in a bad 5e game over a good OSE game, but it will happen if you do this long enough. This is not to say that ALL 5e games are bad, and ALL OSE are good. I am talking about specific instances where players told me how bored they were with their Adventure’s League games, but still kept going over doing something different.

Moral of the Story

It is possible to get these games up and going, but it will normally take a large amount of work. Luckily now we do have other resources if this is just not happening in your area, we have the internet. I know there is nothing like playing in a face-to-face game with people around a table, but sometimes we do not have a choice. I am lucky that I still get to play D&D with my friends that I started with in 1989, but I know that not everyone has that ability. I hope what I shared here can help you in the future.

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Tuesday, December 10, 2019

New Race as Class - Hobgoblin


Requirements: Minimum CON 9
Prime requisite: CON
Hit Dice: 1d6
Armor: Any, plus Shield
Weapons: Any
Languages: Common, Goblin, Orcish

                These humanoids are adapted to the brutal life of a military campaign. Hobgoblins are often loyal to their tribe, and more specifically their unit. Sometimes in the course of war the unit is destroyed leaving a lone, disgraced hobgoblin in need of a new unit. "Adventures" on occasion have taken in these lone warriors and are often surprised at their level of competency. Oftentimes these adopted warriors can become fiercely loyal to their new “tribe” and make excellent bodyguards. They have a natural distrust and hatred for elves, but who can blame them for that?    

Military Training
Hobgoblins are adept in the military arts and are at constant war with other races. Hobgoblins to not walk into ambushes easily. There is a -1 penalty to surprise a Hobgoblin.

Shield Wall
When a hobgoblin is standing next to an ally with a shield, they can form a shield wall. This can be done with up to two allies all facing the same direction. Each person benefits from the AC bonus of their shield and the shields of those next to them. When forming a shield wall to receive the benefit those in the shield wall cannot move more than 5’ per round.

Detect Construction Tricks
Spending large amounts of time constructing fortifications underground, hobgoblins have a 2-in-6 chance of being able to detect new construction, sliding walls, or sloping passages when searching.

Hobgoblins have infravision to 60’.

People who know the nature of the hobgoblin’s birth are often repulsed by their existence. If known, the hobgoblin will suffer a -1 penalty on Reaction Rolls with the target. This penalty is doubled when dealing with elves.

After reaching 7th level the hobgoblin can create a fortification and start to attract a tribe. Before the hobgoblins pledge loyalty the fortifications must be complete, and must have at least 4 pieces of artillery for defense. Hobgoblins typically build these underground and are referred to as a Hobgoblin Warlord.

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Monday, December 2, 2019

New Race as Class - Goblin


Requirements: Minimum DEX 9
Prime requisite: DEX
Hit Dice: 1d4
Armor: Leather, Shield
Weapons: Dagger, Short Sword, Spear, Short Bow, Crossbow, Club
Languages: Common, Goblin

                These small humanoids make terrible adventures due to their cowardly nature, lack of physical prowess, and overall lack of any skill. This however does not prevent them from trying. Many goblin adventures have been ostracized from a large tribe of goblin and have found a way to latch onto an accepting party of adventurers. Many times the goblin in the party is used as a trap detector, walking 20’ ahead of the group.  

Pack Fighter
When a goblin is attacking the same creature as an ally in melee combat they receive a +1 to hit. When a goblin attacks a creature alone they receive a -1 to hit.

Defensive Bonus
Due to their small size, goblins gain a +2 bonus to Armor Class when attacked by large opponents (greater than human -sized).

Goblins have infravision to 60’.

Goblins have an uncanny ability to disappear from sight:
  • In woods or undergrowth, a goblin can hide with a 90% chance of success.
  • In dungeons, a goblin can hide in shadows or behind other forms of cover. The chance of success is 2-in-6. Hiding requires the goblin to be motionless.

People who know the nature of the goblin’s birth are often repulsed by their existence. If known, the goblin will suffer a -1 penalty on Reaction Rolls with the target.

P.S. I was talking with John Anthony and Michael Ramondeda on the OSE Facebook Group about some possible changes to the leveling. I originally had the goblin go to level 9, because I thought the idea of a goblin achieving naming level and being a Goblin King was cool. The idea was then floated, "Why does naming level HAVE to be 9th for goblins?" I wanted the level cap to be lower, but I also wanted a Goblin King name. Here is the compromise, which I like more. 

We saw that a Goblin King is usually about 3HD and 5d4 should be about equal. Here is a variant that is a bit more goblin-y to me. 

Also add the following rule:

Goblin Town
At 5th level the goblin achieves the status of Goblin King and can establish a lair with 5d10 goblin followers. These followers are only as loyal as they are afraid. If the PC shows any signs of weakness, it is possible another goblin will betray them.

I went ahead and created a Facebook group for the blog, if you are interested the link is here.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

The Fight Over Fighters

               I was on a discussion not too long ago in a discord forum and the conversation came up that plain Fighters are often not used in B/X OSR games. The main argument is that almost any other class is better in most ways compared to the Fighter, especially the Dwarf. The critics may have a point especially at lower level. There is very little difference in a low level Fighter and a low level Cleric when it comes to combat. The Dwarf is more survivable than the plain Fighter and is at least his equal in combat. The Cleric actually levels faster than the Fighter and gains spell access and better abilities to combat undead. The Dwarf does have to get more XP than the Fighter, but it is not that much more for great saves and a whole host of abilities.

               In my most recent campaign I notices two things: One, my longstanding players always chose Dwarf over Fighter when making a martial character, and Two, players who did play Fighters often died when others did not. Is this exact science? No. This is just my limited experience with a limited amount of people. If you then use the Old School Essentials Advance Fantasy Genre Rules with Rangers, Paladins, Barbarians, etc. the Fighter really starts to lose its luster. Discussion then went on to, “How can we make the Fighter better/appealing?” I am compiling here some of the ideas tossed about in the forum, already used by other systems, or ideas that I came up with to make the Fighter a competitive choice for players.  

1 - Make the Fighter utterly dominate in fighting.

                This idea I know from Lamentations of the Flame Princess in that Fighters are the only class that gets better at fighting. This, to me, is the most extreme of the ways to make the Fighters better, but it certainly makes them distinct. Fighters are the only class that gets a to-hit bonus as they level up, this includes classes like Elf and Dwarf. At first level everyone gets a +1 to hit, and after that only the Fighter increases. You could do it the LotFP way and just give Fighters a +1 per level, or follow the standard progression chart in the OSE/BX books. This still makes every class special, because they all have their different perks, but fighting ends up being the Fighter’s perk.
                To me this works well within the LotFP ideology of play, and the fact that it focus on a lot of non-combat dangers. When combat comes, the Fighters are dominant, but combat is a bit rarer and more lethal. LotFP also tends to focus on lower level play, which I think supports this method a bit more. A 4th level Fighter with a +4 versus a 4th level Dwarf with a +1 while different, is not extremely different. A 9th level Fighter with a +9 versus a 9th level Dwarf with a +1 is a very big difference, especially when you consider the creatures you might face at that level. As mentioned above, this is a bit of an extreme method, but I promise you will get Fighters in your party if you use this system. If you are using the expanded classes from Advance Fantasy Genre Rules this becomes even more tricky, but still possible.

Devastating Opponents 

2 – Hit Die based weapon damage

                The first game I know of to use this is Dungeon World. The idea is that whatever die you use for Hit Dice is the die you use for damage regardless of weapon/attack. The rationale is that a Fighter with a dagger will likely deal more damage than a Wizard with a dagger. Different people use this rule in different ways and it is really up to the DM how they want to implement it in their game. Many people leave the idea of weapon restrictions out the door and allow Wizards and Clerics to use whatever, but the weapons do less damage. I have seen some DMs allow characters to use “oversize” weapons like polearms or two-handed swords and do one die type higher.
                This has the advantage of allowing Fighters to use flavorful weapons without losing effectiveness. This generally increases the damage that Fighters do at range with that solid D8 damage. This also increases the chance of a Fighter gaining a magical weapon. Many campaigns that I have run and played the characters get a magical weapon that is less than ideal for a Fighter. Something like a +2 dagger which in many parties would go to the Thief or Wizard, but Fighters now have a D8+2 damage dagger. That is pretty nice. The biggest issue that generally surfaces with this approach is the Thief. The Thief goes down to a D4 damage and that just does not feel right. I have heard many people homebrew further and allow the Thief to do a D6 damage while still retaining the D4 hit die. Also, this does not solve any problems realistically if you are using the Advance Fantasy Genre Rules, as Paladins, Barbarians, etc still get that D8 damage and appear more appealing than the Fighter.

Not a bad damage die.

3 - Weapon Specialization

                This is the simplest and easiest to add to the existing material by allowing the Fighter class to specialize in one weapon. This rule has various incarnations in lots of different version of (A)D&D, and I am not 100% certain where it first surfaced, possibly BECMI. I am in no way advocating an entire skill system with Weapon and Non-Weapon Proficiencies because I find that too cumbersome. A simple system though that is for Fighters, and only Fighters, can be a solid addition. This distinguishes the Fighter from the other classes, and gives it that advantage that makes them feel a bit more complete.
                This can be accomplished in several ways, the simplest I have seen is having the Fighter pick a weapon at level 1, that cannot be changed later, and get a +1/+1 non-magical modifier with that weapon. Voila, you are done. You might not think it is much, but when you have a character that already has a high STR adding an additional +1/+1 it really starts to stack. This begins to make the Fighter a combat master. Personally, I allow Fighters to specialize and get a +1/+2. It is a holdover from (A)D&D 2nd Edition which I played so much in my youth and it makes it extra tempting. For those that are feeling brave you can add something for Fighters down the line like slightly expanding Weapon Specialization. I have not tried yet giving Fighters an additional Specialization at 5th level, and then an extra attack with a Specialized weapon at 10th. The original BX books talk about giving extra attacks at some point, but it is vague as to when to do it.

Pick one!

4 – Superior Protection

                So far we have only discussed making the Fighter better at killing things, what if we focused on making them a bit tougher. I have discussed in previous articles how I like the rule “Shields Shall be Splintered” from Trollsmyth. In general, this rule allows a character with a shield to sacrifice the shield in order to take no damage from a single attack. In my games I only allow Fighters to use this option. This has come in handy on numerous occasions and sets them apart from the other martial characters. This allows them to hang out in the front of group and take a beating playing up to that tough character mantra that they are often saddled with. This also allows Fighters to exist that do not roll super well on their Hit Die. They know for a fact, they can at least take one shot before they go down.
                I do put a few restrictions on this so that it does not get silly. One, Fighters can only carry one shield at a time. They cannot spam shields though they can get other people to carry extra for them. Two, this rule is only allowed with “proper” shields. Basically the Fighter cannot do this with makeshift items like “I hold the Goblin corpse out in front of me like a shield to block the attacks.” I generally will give them the AC bonus, but they cannot use the specialized rule. They need a shield created by an expert to take advantage.

Shields often break in combat.

                Overall these are just a few ways you can make some adjustments to have people want to play Fighters in OSE/BX. I would not recommend using all of them combined together, but find what works for you and your table. The Fighter is a classic, and one of the three original classes which I think has been expanded now in 5th edition to around 13 now. We need our old friend to stand out, and be the expert martial warrior.

I went ahead and created a Facebook group for the blog, if you are interested the link is here.

Monday, November 25, 2019

What is Dead May Never Die

               This is a catch-up post because I have been out of action for a bit. I do apologize but life got the better of me for a bit. I was (and still am) working three jobs, taking some Masters level Applied Ethics classes, dealing with my son’s school issues due to his special needs, and having a minor health crisis that almost landed me in the hospital. Enough about my personal life let’s talk about my game life, which is another form of crisis. I basically due to all the stuff going on had to shelf a lot of my games. The games club that I ran at my school is limping along, and are running games amongst themselves with little assistance from me. My hope is that with the new semester coming up, a few things are happening. 1) I am not teaching next term, so that is one less job. This is good and bad, stress-wise it helps, but fiscally it hurts a bit. 2) I am taking a term off of school and focusing a bit more on health stuff. 3) I am going to start writing more again. I still have plans to produce an Old School Essentials book in some form, I just need to tackle some software and get the stuff out there, which is the scariest part.

                I want to take a moment to talk about the ever expanding OSE community which I have come to love quite a bit. If you are not a member of at least one of the major social media platforms it is active on, you are missing out. The three that are very active are the Facebook Old School Essentials Group, the MeWe Necrotic GnomeGroup, and the Necrotic Gnome Discord group. All of these channels are quite active, especially since the books have started shipping. I am still waiting on mine, hopefully this week they will be in though. I really want to be able to finger through the pages and just soak it all in as I have been an avid fan since the Kickstarter went through.

                As for the gaming front I plan to start a new campaign in the next year. I would love to do Barrowmaze because I heard it is very good. I don’t like the price though, and I have a few qualms professionally with a professor making students buy his expensive books for class and therefore profiting off students directly. I know he is not the first professor to do it, but it is not my cup of tea. I am trying to find possibly a used copy, I’d love to buy one off one of his students complaining that they have to own it. If anyone knows of someone selling a copy of the OSR version, I’d love to talk to them.
                I want to keep running WEG Star Wars too. I have a true passion for this game and I have reacquired a large portion of my old collection. I plan to do a review or two of some of the older books and let people have a glance at my growing collection. In fact I just won a SUPER cheap copy of Tramp Freighters for $17 via the Facebook group RPG Auctions. Considering they average eBay price is around $60, I was thrilled. I have managed to get many of the books for under $5 and even printed the REUP version of the rules via Lulu.

REUP Rule are amazing

                To sum up, I know it has been awhile, but I am back in the saddle and will be pushing content soon enough. One final paper and I am done with school for a while.

I went ahead and created a Facebook group for the blog, if you are interested the link is here.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

The Unknown Monster

There was a discussion on a discord channel about the "Unknown Mosnter" that has an AC -3. Someone tagged me and said I should whip up stats for it quickly as a joke, but I went ahead and did it. It was done in about 5 minutes, don't judge me too harshly.

Unknown Monster

A monster so horrible that it cannot be written about in books, and to view it is to go insane.

Armor Class​  -3 [22]
Hit Dice​ 26+*** (117 hp)
Attacks​ 2 × things 4d10
THAC0​ 5 [+14]
Movement Rate​ 120’ (40’) Flying 120’ (40’) Swimming 120’ (40’)
Saves​ D2 W2 P2 B2 S2 (M36)
Morale​ 12
Alignment​ Neutral
XP for Defeating ​8500
Number Appearing​ 1
Treasure Type​ Nil

  • Damage Immunity: Can only be harmed by +3 or better magical weapons or magical spells.
  • Regeneration: Unknown Monster regain 10 hit points a round.
  • Confusion: Looking directly at the Unknown Monster causes a save vs spell or be confused for 1d6 rounds.
Following powers may be used once per day.
  • Cast Death Spell
  • Cast Teleport
  • Destroy one non-magical item it can see.
  • Create a large unknowable cloud

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Tales from the Borderlands – Episode 6 – Tales from the Outer Rim

               As mentioned last episode our group was taking a slight detour from the Caves of Chaos to go to a galaxy far, far away. I have been running D&D for almost two years straight on a weekly basis, and for the past few months I have been running a 5e game as well. I was D&D’d out and I needed a change of pace. I decided to bust out the West End Games Star Wars D6 system for some cinematic goodness. Why WEG Star Wars? Two main reasons, it is what I know (though the last time I played it was the 90s) and it is the best Star Wars RPG. I also wanted to do something that did not resemble a dungeon crawl at all. I printed out a bunch of templates for characters and had the group pick what they wanted. We ended up with a Wookie Warrior, Brash Pilot, Outlaw, Mercenary, and a Technician. You might be asking, “What no Smuggler or Jedi, those are so classic?” I had two additional players, but they both had to leave unexpectedly due to an emergency, and they chose those templates. They left so early as to really not affect the game at all. I went ahead and ran an Instant Adventure, so it might seem familiar. 
REUP Edition

                The conceit of the game was that they were all young people looking to join the Rebellion after the success at the Battle of Yavin. They were to all make their way to a smaller core planet, to start the perilous journey to the Outer Rim to a Rebel training facility. They had never met each other before, and were now being introduced to how the Rebellion does things. As they enter the space port they are told that they will be packed into shipping containers, and smuggled into the Mid-Rim. From there, they would meet with the local Rebellion cell and they would arrange for the rest of their journey. Already the PCs are a little nervous about this plan because it seems risky. Of course it is risky, you are in an act sedition organization live a little. They all get into the different containers, but the group had not planned for a Wookie, and he was forced to crawl into an industrial cylinder and have the ends welded shut and some air holes poked in it. He instantly became a dog in a carrier, and the jokes ran rampant across the table. Also, no one in the group spoke Wookie, so there was communication issues. The transport lifted off and they heard the pilot, Garrack, tell them it would just be a few hours now.

                Smash cut to the next scene as the transport touches down and is immediately greeted by Imperial inspectors. They are requesting the cargo manifests, crew manifests, and want an inspection. Garrack attempts to comply with their demands, but is hesitant when they ask to see what is in the crates. He keeps telling them it is foodstuffs and if he breaks the seal on the containers, it could damage the cargo. The Imperials are not buying it, so Garrack knocks a warning on the side of the Brash Pilot’s container, opens the lid, and hits the Stormtrooper with the lid. I was excited, finally some action, so cinematic combat that is not in my dungeon crawls. I can hear the John Williams score kicking in, and it is about to get awesome. What does the Brash Pilot do? I hesitate to call him Brash at this moment. He stands up and puts his hands in the air to surrender. WWWHHHAAATTTTTTTT!!!!!!!!!! My jaw literally hit the floor. A scratch sound across the record and the William’s score ends. I legitimately did not know what to do. The Stormtroopers turn on Garrack and start to kick the shit out of him, and still the BRASH Pilot does nothing.

This was suppose to be an intro fight.

Finally the Outlaw decides to bang on his crate to see if he can get the attention of the Troopers, and he does as a few peel off to inspect it. As they open the crate, he shoots one in the face. This triggers the Wookie to bust out of his container like the Kool Aid Man, Oh Yeah. Each of the PCs now started popping out of the crates to blaze away at the Imperials. The Technician got stuck in his crate, and tried to burn his way out with a plasma torch, but that lasted longer than the combat. The Wookie was a beast and kept walking towards enemy fire absorbing the shots until he picked up a trooper and threw them into the others. The battle ended and Garrack chided the BRASH Pilot for being a bit cowardly, and told them they had to find “The Maze”. He warned them that more Imperials would be on their way and he had to take off.

Not knowing what “The Maze” is, the Technician used his computer to slice into the local network and figured out that it was a bar on the other end of town. While he was in there he decided to poke around and found the plans to the patrol schedule of the local Imperial outpost. They made a few Streetwise rolls to avoid any danger, and made it to The Maze. It was a dark bar with an actual maze-like structure. As they made their way through, they had several encounters. One was a small alien that the Pilot knocked over his drink. They could not understand it, but it was drawing all the wrong kind of attention. The Wookie ended up picking it up, getting kicked, HARD and the little guy scampered off. Next the Mercenary was recognized by a strange mantis-like alien as having worked a job together in the past. The Alien’s human name was Pop, and was trying to seduce the Mercenary. Pop was a little offended when his friends drew him away, and might return at a later date. At this point people are watching them and people in the corners are talking into communicators while looking at them. The Technician in a hurry runs smack dab into a female in Mandalorian Body Armor. She doesn’t say a word, but follows the entire group as they walk by. The Wookie tries to intimidate her, with no success, he also did not notice the Wookie scalps hanging off her belt.

The Maze

They make it to the back of the bar and there is a huge, green alien that is almost the size of the Wookie with a partner who looks almost feline. They pick a fight with the group and for a few round they brawl it out in the bar. Finally guns start to get leveled, and the feline drops a smoke grenade on the ground and it turns out these guys are the Rebellion contacts. They head through a secret compartment into the headquarters for the local Rebellion cell. They meet the Rebel commander, and she explains that they need the group to fly a transport and X-Wing past the Imperial blockade and get supplies to a nearby system. The transport is nearly full, and they need to go to a local port and pick up the last of the delivery, and take it to the ship and get out of here. The transport and the X-Wing are hidden out in the woods, and she give them the coordinates to find them. All their hopes lay on this group and them completing this task. This was as far as we got, we still have a bit to go and I think I want to get through all of this before I return to D&D.

I had a great time playing this side excursion and my advice to any Game Master is to take a break and do something else every now and again. Players if the GM asks to do something like this, go along with them, odds are they need a break in order to recharge their batteries. You do not want to play with a GM that is burnt out, it is not a good experience. I also found out that I really missed this game and cannot believe it has been so long since I played it. I got the REUP edition, which is out on the net, and it takes 2nd edition Revised, and updates it as far as format and adds in materials from popular supplements. It is 500+ pages long, and it is wonderful. I went ahead and had a POD copy made because I like it that much.

Missed the other Episodes? Look here to catch up.

I went ahead and created a Facebook group for the blog, if you are interested the link is here.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Tales from the Borderlands – Episode 5 – The Bitter Taste of Defeat

This week in the Old School Essentials campaign..... 

               If everything went well for the characters in episode 4, everything went wrong in episode 5. This whole time we have been playing the rolls for random encounters have gone favorably for the players, but not this game. They were relentlessly pounded by the random encounter die, and got little in return for it. We kept a large portion of the party from the previous weeks. We still have the Dwarf, the Cleric, and the Magic-User, but to that we added another Dwarf and another Cleric. To distinguish the Clerics I will refer to the older Cleric as Cleric-tough, and the newer as Cleric-weak. The reason is the newer Cleric-weak, rolled pretty bad and only had 2 HP and couldn’t afford platemail. Everyone at the table kept telling him to buy a grave early in the game, because it is coming. The new Dwarf was a beast and had great stats including a 1 AC and 10 HP, people at the table all pointed and said, “New Tank!”

                The characters headed off to the Caves of Chaos without a guide and without any henchmen. I keep trying to drill into their heads the importance of these things, but they want more money. Apparently the 30 silver a day for torchbearers is too heavy a cost for these adventurers. They do make it to the caves without incident, and immediately head into cave D where they met goblins before. They decide to go towards room 17 where they had the first ever encounter of the campaign and continue on. They discover a set of stairs, and quickly get scared and decide to go back. This whole time I am rolling random encounters. Backtracking and heading into room 19 they start to hear unusual noises. They hear goblins yelling, and general chaos. The Dwarf decides to “sneak” into the room, I advised that the stealth skills of a Dwarf in platemail might not be the best, but he goes ahead anyways. He sees a group of goblins, attacking the air, and shadows flicking around the room. I rolled a random encounter at the same time they were entering the room to I combined the encounters. Everyone in the room saw the Dwarf with his friends close behind and all the PCs heard was, “New friends!” and the beating of wings. They got flashes of images of small humanoids with insect wings moving towards them. I rolled randomly to see how many of the Pixies would stay and which would go to the PCs, all seven of them went to the PCs.  

Truly a worthy foe!

                The PCs almost break ranks immediately, they try yelling to the goblins that they will help with the Pixies. The reaction roll was crap, and the goblins begin to hurl javelins into the party at the same time as the Pixies are stabbing them. The new “tank” Dwarf laughs at the goblins and then gets hit for 6 points of damage and stops laughing. The pixies continue to try and stab the party, almost gutting the Magic-User. The Pixies keep yelling about how much “shiny-ies” the party has and trying to take their gold purses. Eventually they begin to fall back, but the Pixies give chase and are much faster than the party. The Magic-User gets the good idea to throw lots of money on the ground, and after 50 GPs of loss, they manage to stagger away. So much for that endeavor.

                They decide to brave the stairs and begin to backtrack yet again. When they get back to room 17 they run into one of the greatest threats to PCs in the Monsters Manual. It is a random encounter that I always fear to get or to give to PCs, Giant Bees. The 5e players have no idea why my players from previous games are so upset, they do not know about the poison mechanic. The Magic-User decides that now is the time, and casts Sleep. He managed to drop all 9 of the bees and the party walks away unharmed, but it could have been much worse. They then proceed to go up the flights of stairs and find themselves at a hallway with a locked door.


                The plan started out well, they knocked on the door and pretended to be goblins. The new “tank” Dwarf and Cleric-tough up by the door, the rest of the party hiding down the stairs. The Dwarf knew goblin and was confusing enough to get the Hobgoblins on the other side curious, until he blew it. They told him they were going to open the door and to step back, he then in COMMON told his party to get ready. Hearing this, the hobgoblins knew something was amiss. I described how it took a few seconds then the door came quickly open. One hobgoblin was opening the door and hiding behind it, the others had crossbows ready and fired. Once the shots went through the hobgoblin shut the door and locked it. The bolts went out, and the “tank” Dwarf was struck again he was down to 1 HP. The Cleric-tough stood by the door, as the “Tank” Dwarf crawled away. Sure enough, the door flung open and three more shots came out, this time the “tank” Dwarf dropped. He made his death savings throw, but was out. The Cleric-tough stuck his foot in the door, and ran in as the rest of the party followed.

One of my favorite monsters.

                The Magic-User gave the ‘tank” Dwarf a potion, and he got back 1 hp, but was up. There was a good pitched battle in the room, but the part managed to take out all of the Hobgoblins gaining a whopping 16 GP in the process. They looked down the next corridor and saw only a cavernous, long hallway and decided to head back to the keep, actually poorer then when they started. As they went home I had them roll to see if they got lost, and they did, because guides are there for a reason. This spawned an encounter with Fire Beetles that was not that spectacular due to Sleep. The Magic-User has rolled a minimum of 8 HD of monsters each time he casts it. Someday his luck will run out, but it was not that day.

An old friend with a new face.
               This is where we ended and we are actually taking a 1 week break from the game. I have been running D&D for nearly 2 years straight on a weekly basis. I wanted a “palate cleansing” and decided to run a one shot of WEG Star Wars. I love that game, and have not played it since it was in print. It was one of the defining games of my childhood along with D&D and Robotech. I wanted to do something more cinematic and much less dungeon grind. I will most likely be doing a write-up of Tales from the Outer Rim next week, and then back into the Caves of Chaos from there.

P.S. I almost forgot about this. I told my players that they could set up a will with the bank, and if they brought in new characters, they could have them be a relative. This was a fun little thing, that isn’t too realistic. One of my clever players knows how powerful Sleep is, and is working on copying his spellbook over so that he can will it to his next character. I know B/X does not technically allow this, but I like Magic-Users learning from found materials. They are learning certain lessons, and this is a creative use of the rules.

Missed the other Episodes? Look here to catch up.

I went ahead and created a Facebook group for the blog, if you are interested the link is here.