Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Make Wizards Great Again....Again

              I was discussing online wizards again with people and the discussion of optional spellcasting rules came up, specifically spell points. I thought I might give a spell point system a crack for B/X or OSE. It has been a little bit of time since I published an OSE article, I have been massively busy in life and especially at work. 
               Spell points are designed to make wizards a tad more flexible, and in that flexibility comes a bit more power. The flexibility should come at a cost though, and hopefully balance out with the rest of the game well. This is a continuation of my original Make Wizards Great Again article.

Friendly Neighborhood Necromancer 

Wizards gain a number of spell points per level that allows them to cast spells. A wizard with a high INT will get bonus spell points based on the chart below. As the wizard increases in power they will gain access to higher level spells, more spells they can memorize, and more spell points. A wizard still follows the standard array for spell level access, just because a wizard has enough spell points to cast a spell, does not mean they have access to that level. Wizards still maintain a spellbook, and the resources inside still dictate what spells they have access to as a caster.
Wizards also still memorize the same number of spells per day. These spells are the ones in the forefront of their mind, and easily accessible. A wizard can cast a spell that was not memorized for the day, but at a great cost to their power for that day, and the wizard will pay the Non-Memorized spell cost. Each time the wizard casts a Non-Memorized spell in a day, it cause serious fatigue. Each casting of a Non-Memorized spell, after the first, will cause a wizard to lose access to their highest level of spells for that day. If they continue, they will lose access to an additional level, and so on.

Wizards also have the ability to reduce the cost of a spells through various means. Ways in which a wizard can reduce spell point cost are:

1)      Up to half of the spell’s cost (round up) can be reduce by spending extra time preforming a ritual of the spell. Each full turn spent in ritual can reduce the cost by one, up to the limit.
2)      If a spell has any level variables, like Fireball, the wizard can cast it as a lower level wizard. Each level it is lowered reduces the cost by one, up to half of the spell’s cost (round up).
3)      The DM may create special components that aid in a particular spell. Having a clipping of hair from the target you intend to charm could reduce the amount of points needed to cast the spell. The point reduction is left to the DM's discretion.
4)      Wizards can make deals with creatures from beyond the veil of mortal life to fuel their spells and rituals. This can pay the entire cost of a spell, but nothing in the universe is free. The DM is strongly recommended to make these entities have an appropriate (if not extravagant) price for the action.
5)      A Wizard can “Pay the Blood Price” and sacrifice HP for spell points at a 1 to 1 ratio. This may be used to pay the entire cost of a spell, but it cannot reduce a wizard below 1 HP.

               If you are looking for some good B/X cantrip rules, please check out B/X Blackrazor’s article Magical Skills (Cantrips). It handles cantrips in a fun and useful way. Blackrazor has an idea, that I support, that cantrips should be useful, but not offensive or defensive. I was going to write my own cantrip rules, but why write something that was already done well?
              What do you think? Will these work? I am looking for any constructive feedback, from people that read the entire article. Thank you for reading and look for another post soon.

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

Monday, July 29, 2019

My $30 OSR Treasure Haul

               I got lucky….extremely lucky. I went to a school function a few months back and met a woman randomly and we started to discuss gaming. I mentioned how I ran the “D&D” club at my college and she mentioned that she had some old D&D books. I told her how the old books are great and still very usable, and she mentioned that she would like to find a good home for them. I mentioned that I’d love to give them a new home, but then the conversation drifted towards work matters and I thought nothing of it.

Three months pass……

                I am going through my Facebook messenger and I see a message from someone I did not recognize. She said, “Are you the guy who runs D&D at the college?” I completely did not remember who this was or what it could be about, also the message was from early April and it is now late August. I take a stab and answer back apologizing for not seeing the message for a quarter of a year. 
               She asks if I am still interested in the old books, I say I’d love to see them. She then sends me pictures of the four books across back of the picture. There were three 1e books that appear in great shape, and a copy of a Role-Aids book that I did not recognize. She asks if I want them, I say certainly. She says how much I would be willing to pay. I’m currently broke, so I tell her I could possibly afford $30 for the lot. I did warn her that this was not what they are worth.  She says that is fine, she really wants them to be used again and 10 minutes later she says she’ll throw in all the rest in the picture for free. That is four box sets, creature book, old adventure, and character sheets. I could not believe it.

The Treasure Haul

What did I get exactly?

                Are they all in perfect condition? No. The creature catalog someone colored a bunch of the monsters, but I kind of love it. The box sets are all in various levels of not good, but nothing some love and tape cannot help. The Character Sheets are completely used, but I have someone’s complete characters over the years and it is fascinating to look at and see. Besides names in the covers, the hardbacks are in amazing shape. Dragons and O2 are in reasonable shape, definitely usable. Overall, it is a great score, and all came from a work function.

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

Storm King's Thunder #1 - In the Beginning

               I went through the module and liked the bones of the story, and I liked a lot of the details. It can suffer from points where there is not a lot of focus. The story also is relatively linear, and as mentioned in my previous article, the sandbox pieces feel a bit stapled on. I totally dig the big personalities in the story overall, and I actually plan to play it 50/50. I want the giants to be serious, and not a joke. I will play many of the other personalities much more hammy. I hoping it will give the adventure a certain charm, but not lose the narrative.

Such cool art

                Let’s talk about my PCs, first is the “Cleric” Ionas. I put it in quotes, because I believe his intention is to take several levels of Wizard, more than Cleric. This character worships Ogma the Binder, and is the Knowledge domain. His goal is for enlightenment, as he put it, “I not only want to see the fabric of the universe, I want to see the threads that make up that fabric.” His character is trying to be an oracle/diviner, which will work out all sort of nice for me down the line due to one of the major plot threads.
                Next, I have Izumi, who is a Bard from the country of Wa. For those that are not up on their Forgotten Realms lore Wa is a stand-in for Japan. Izumi was born with the unfortunate disposition of not being able to control her emotions to the standards of Wa society. She would have the occasional outburst over the beauty of the world, or a piece of art and this was an embarrassment to her family. As a minor noble she was expected to marry for political reasons, but when she refused, she was sent on a “political” mission to the far corners on the known world. This would rid her family of her embarrassment, and pleases her because she wants to learn about other cultures.
                Lastly is Chandelier (aka Shandy). Shandy is a Warforged Fighter from Eberron. He was accidently summoned to this universe and had random memories thrown into his frame. He was discovered in Wa and eventually became the guardian of Izumi in her travels. He came to consciousness fully formed, and thus knows things without having huge context for them. He also when traveling through space/time was infused with random memories of people from the Realms. I added the last part so that on occasion I could splash a bit of plot through him if needed. His name is from the first thing he saw when he was asked who he was. He was fascinated by the lights above him that were arrayed in a beautiful pattern. He asked what it was, he was told it was a Chandelier, and decided to be called that.
                Since the adventure has been out for several years it has the benefit of resources to call upon. I have decided to use a lot of information from these two Reddit Posts, and this guide that I found on DM’s Guild by Sean McGovern. McGovern’s guide is especially helpful and to anyone planning on running SKT you should check it out. Almost every suggestion he makes, I agree with. Thus, in my reports you will see a lot of his changes. Between all three sources there are a lot of common themes in changes that should be made, and nothing convinces me like consensus among RPGers, because it happens so rarely.

This is a great resource.

Ok, enough gibber gabber, get to the fucking monkey!

                I went with the idea of doing prologues with all the characters to quickly introduce them to some of the characters of the story, and start pushing ideas that need a push. I started with Izumi, and she had been in Waterdeep for several months and often took quite boat rides to view the beauty of nature and to help her compose great works. One of these quiet days was abruptly interrupted and her boat was capsized and wrecked by a set of storm giant females. They quickly apologize and help Izumi to shore. They begin talking and both a fascinated by the other’s culture. She learns that they are Queen Neri and Princess Serrissa and both sides agree to meet again and share pleasantries. Weeks go by and they meet regularly each bringing small tokens of each other’s culture and a friendship is created. One day in the middle of this meeting, another larger storm giant emerges from the water and begins to chide the women for involving themselves with “the small folk”. Apologetically the three return to the water, never to be seen again by Izumi.
                Next was Ionas, and he was a young, Harper adventurer on a quest of exploration. His group was captured by Iymrith, the Ancient Blue Dragon, and she was turning his party members into stone statues, and later into gargoyles. She taunted and teased them a bit, and then she began the ritual on him. His hand slowly started to turn to stone, as the dragon cackled. Just when he thought all was lost a group of Harper heroes came in and start wailing on Iymrith. Primary amongst them was Artus Cimber using the Ring of Winter and screaming “Blood of the Lady” over and over. Ionas was rescued, but his hand is still made of stone.
                Shandy was a bit of an issue, because he was relatively new to the world, and was the guardian of Izumi. Trying to get a prologue with him was puzzling me, so that is when I came up with the idea that he would have some random memories from people in Forgotten Realms. One of his memories was in a very cold and icy cave. In front of him was an Ancient White Dragon who was crying and verbally attacking herself. The person whose eyes he was seeing through was hiding, and managed to see a corpse covered in snow with its hand sticking out and it was wearing a ring. The White Dragon continues to moan about how, “The Master will not be happy. I lost it.” The person tries to make a break for the entrance and is spotted, they distract the dragon by pointing out the ring, to which the dragon squeals with delight. The person manages to get away into the cold, and the vision ends.

Looks like Shandy

                All of these are being used to foreshadow events that will come down the line and tie the characters somewhat into the over plot. This makes them a bit more in the plot as opposed to outside looking in. We decided to hand wave them knowing each other, and they all decided to be members of the Harpers. I started them having a meeting with their patron in Waterdeep. To be completely honest, I wasn’t sure who I wanted the patron to be so I pulled the oldest trick in the book, the patron is a Masked Lord of Waterdeep. The identity will be determined at a later date, you know, because details.
                The patron describes to the group how the Harpers and Force Grey have been working together gathering intel about disturbances in the North. Caravans are being raided, corpse found at random, small villages being wiped from the map. They are not sure who or what are doing these acts, but they have sent their agents out to try and find out. They received a message from Hashnag that they needed to get to Nightstone as soon as possible because there was a rumor that something was going down there soon. He was too far to get there in time, and this group of Harpers was sent to find out. Short on time and details, the party is convinced to move with great haste.
                The party collected some supplies, including a few ponies and a pack mule, and set out. On the morning of the second day they ran into a woman in the road being attacked by a pack of goblins. She is injured, and trying to fend them off. Izumi decides to take off on the pony charging into combat. Shandy, who is on foot, runs after Izumi. Ionas decides to tie down the horse and mule and follow after. I declared that it would take them 2 rounds to catch up. Izumi manages to kill one of the goblins straight away, while Ionas cast Thaumaturgy and causes the ground to shake under them to frighten them. Shandt continues his long haul to the battle. Three goblins left, 2 decide to run off, one directly away, and the other towards Shandy and Ionas. As the goblin runs by Shandy misses with a glaive strike, but Ionas crossbows him for 1 point of damage. This begins the saga of Larry the Goblin. The next round Larry is able to move up next to Ionas who draws his weapon and hits the goblin for 2 points of damage. The goblin continues to run towards the mule, and is closing in. Ionas picks up the crossbow and shoots again, hits for 1 point of damage. Larry is still running. Ionas shoots 2 more times and cannot hit him, at this point the goblin has untied the mule and is preparing to run away. At this point Ionas is overly pissed and decides to use his Guiding Bolt and nukes Larry for 13 more damage. I described that the donkey looked like the back of the car in Pulp Fiction with poor Marvin.

Imagine a donkey

                Shandy mopped up the last goblin and they rescued the woman named Kella. Izumi had noticed that Kella’s wound is an electrical burn, and she claims she was with a caravan that was attacked by a dragon. They seem to assume it is a blue dragon, and they tell her to accompany them to Nightstone. As they approach something is wrong, no one is watching the walls, and the church bells are tolling non-stop. They use caution and move into the town under stealth and notice that giant boulders are like pox marks across the city. As the move from building to building they slowly take out random goblins here and there, all with a note of silence. Even when they kill the goblins ringing the bell, they continue to ring the bells in order to hide their movements. They set a careful oil trap for the Worgs, and have no problem bringing them down. They decide to go and check out the fort up on the ridge, and begin to move across the shattered bridge.
                We decided to end it here, but as you can see it was an eventful evening and I had a lot of fun. I hope you enjoyed reading about it. We play semi-monthly, so and update will be about two weeks away.

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

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Two Days, Two Games, Two Systems

               This week I had the pleasure to run two days of D&D with different people and different systems. My long time group that I play with semi-monthly just finished Tomb of Annihilation, and it is my turn at bat. I was initially going to run Dragon Heist, but after reading through it I found it a bit too linear for our group’s taste, so I went with Storm King’s Thunder. Saturday was Gary Gygax Day, and I decided to run B/X D&D at a local store The Strange Realms. I had to go with a module created by Gary, so I went with B2 Keep on the Borderlands. It was a fun couple of days, though between work and D&D my voice is shot. This article is intended to reflect on the differences between running the two systems with less than a 24 hour gap between them.

Image take from here.

                Starting with 5e and Storm King’s Thunder (SKT) and the first thing I noticed that the prep time it took for SKT was much more intense. SKT is sold as the marriage of a narrative story with a sandbox, in reality it is a narrative story with some sandbox elements stapled onto the plot. I remember seeing Chris Perkins interviewed about the writing of SKT, and he had just got done with the release of the well-received Curse of Strahd (CoS). Reports were coming in that people loved the complete sandbox experience of CoS, so he went back to SKT and added in some sandbox elements. That shows in the module. There are certainly choices that can be made, but at times they feel superficial. I will say for a narrative plot I find it superbly interesting. I will not go into excessive detail, but the King Lear-like plot drew me in, and was a big decision in wanting to play it. Also…..Giants. They are just a cool enemy to use. They are powerful, versatile, and have interesting culture. They can be negotiated with, bargained with, pleaded with, etc. Also, their reasoning in the plot makes sense.

The art for SKT is stylish.

               I’ve been playing 5e for some time now, basically since it came out. 
I was in on the open beta test and saw the system evolve over time. Funny enough, I can’t remember if I have run 5e before? I know I have never run it in a long term format. I might have run some mini-campaigns (2-3 sessions) a few years ago, but I might have just used Lamentations of the Flame Princess (LotFP). I honestly cannot remember. This was a different experience. My GM chops are still there, but I kept muddling old systems into my vocabulary. An example was that I wanted a player to make a check to see if they fell off their horse and I said, “Um…make a Riding check…like is that a thing anymore…no that’s 3rd…how about Athletics? Or maybe Animal Handling? I don’t know, pick one.” Terminology aside, I also am not a big fan of initiative, I fell into my old school mentality of asking for declared actions, then just using side initiative. I believe that is an optional rule in the DMG, but not sure? The players did not seem to mind and the combats flowed nicely. The game mechanics overall flowed smoothly, and it made my job as a GM easier. I will do a full session write-up on SKT in another post and will link it here.

                Saturday was B/X and venturing into the Caves of Chaos in B2: Keep on the Borderlands (KotB). As in comparison with SKT, this took very little time to prep. Players made two characters each, and everyone was done in about 20 minutes, and I glanced over the module in prep. There is no real plot in KotB, the assumption is that you are people that want money, and the Caves have money. Your job is to get that money. It pitched it, as many do, “You all could be farmers, but you do not want to shovel shit forever, so you think it is worth the risk to steal from monsters.” I like the idea from LotFP that ALL adventures must be a tad “off” in order to go into caves with literal monsters for profit. For those that do not know in many older editions of D&D experience was HEAVILY tied to money. You received 1 XP per gold piece you retrieved from the wild. XP for monsters is drastically reduced. This leads to a system that rewards getting money without combat. This comes even more into play, because combat is extremely lethal.

Possibly the most played module in history.

                The players in my game were confident and ventured into the caves. The first room they explored was the Ogre lair, and dispatched the Ogre with some reasonable tactics and a bit of luck. They managed to trick the goblins, steal some of their loot, negotiate with Hobgoblins, and get back to the fort. They rested for a week, stocked up on some supplies, the looked over some retrieved items, and headed back to the Caves. By this time the Goblins had betrayed the Hobgoblins to the Orcs and Orcs were raiding Hobgoblin territory. They agree to kill the Orcs for the Hobgoblin chief for money. The plan went well, till it didn’t. One player early in the adventure tasted a potion and discovered it was an invisibility potion. He found a second potion and tasted it, and died due to the poison. They pressed on and fought four Orcs, with the help of six Hobgoblins. A single Orc with 1 HP left managed to take out half the party in a few lucky rounds. There was only one PC left and they took the money and retired. We could have gone one, but our time for the game had ended, and this seemed appropriate.
                Now to my favorite part, the compare and contrast. 5e has a lot more to hang your hat on as far as mechanics go, and that has its pluses and minuses. It is nice as a GM when a rule already exists and is reasonable to use. 5e is full of these types of rules. This requires little thought on my part, and it allows me to focus on bring the plot points to the front. The issue is when you run into a situation not covered by the rules because two things tend to happen. One, someone always remembers that there was a rule for it “somewhere” then the search begins, books are opened, Googles are checked. This all takes time, and bust the flow of the game. Two, if you have to make a ruling there are plenty of moving parts in 5e to try and take account of and trying to make a decision. Is it a skill check? A stat check? A saving throw? What about special abilities? Etc. This can also slow things down, and as Dune says, “Slow is the game killer.”
                B/X in general asks the DM to make a lot of calls because the rules do not cover as many situations. There was an expectation that each game would house rule a lot and figure out how to run it in that particular game. Because the game does not have all the moving parts, making a call is generally easier. There are just less factors to take into account. DMs end up making more of these calls over the course of a game, but they take far less time to resolve generally. The DM becomes mostly a rules arbiter in the game as opposed to a storyteller. I think in 5e those roles are reversed with the story taking precedent and rules arbiter falling in at second place.
              Lastly, it cannot go without mention that the lethal nature of the B/X edition comes into decision making all the time. The party in the KotB scenario did not use bad tactics, but things can go south very fast in B/X. Life is cheap in B/X, and you have to learn to roll with the punches. When players play tactically in 5e, there is absolutely nothing that can stop them. I will go more into detail in my full SKT write-up which should come out tomorrow.

Get'em boys!

                Both of the games are excellent, and generally lend themselves to a certain style of play. I think both can also be used to recreate any style of play, but you might just have to work a bit harder to do one over another. One thing that I was considering was doing KotB in every edition of D&D and write-up how they feel. I believe KotB has been done for every edition. If this is a thing, maybe I can try this in the near future.

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

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Is there a Generation Gap in D&D?

                        The term generation gap became a buzz word in the 1960s. With the staunch differences between the WWII generation, and the new Baby Boom generation struggling with the social upheaval at the end of that decade and spilling into the next. The generation gap is a difference in outlook on the world due to a difference in age. Can we apply this sociological and psychological phenomenon to the current situation in D&D? There, at times, seems to be large amounts of misunderstanding between the modern 5e D&D surge of fans, and the older fans that tend to lean towards the OSR movement. I think some of the history of the game can explain some of this gap, and I try to explain a more personal side of the history below.
                I am not sure exactly how to tackle this subject, and I feel that I am going to get flack for it no matter what I say. I might as well just jump into then. For some in the D&D community there is a generational war, and I see it waged on a daily basis on most forms of social media. For a lot of the newer players to the game they feel assaulted by older player, or that older players are trying to gatekeep the hobby as a whole. My goal today is to talk about what it was like for me and several others I know personally growing up in an era that D&D was at best consider a hobby for the geeks and nerds (words that have lost a bit of their connotation, often considered a positive these days) and at worst evil and demonic. Some of us that lived through the Satanic Panic of the 80s and 90s have war wounds, and sometimes do feel protective of the hobby. This is not an excuse to beat up on new players, or new styles of play, but sometimes moving on is hard.

First D&D...Next Pokemon

Back in the Day

                I cannot completely sum up the entirety of the experiences of ALL gamers in ALL places throughout the earlier days of D&D. What I can do is sum up some of my experiences, and some of the experiences of people that I know. Note that not EVERY player experienced these aspects of the game, but some did.
To get a beginning grasp of what the times were like during the dark days of D&D, you should really see the 60 Minutes piece on D&D, which I will link to below. Many newer players do not realize that there was a nationwide organization, BADD (Bothered About Dungeons & Dragons), which was promoting the idea that a game was inherently evil, and caused people to kill themselves. This does not include all the local news reports that blame D&D for any form of abnormal behavior and of course, there is always Dark Dungeons.

60 Minutes D&D Episode

I vividly remember not being able to take any of my D&D books to school. There was a real threat that the books would be confiscated, even if I was reading them on my own time, and never have them returned. I have a close friend and his family confront him about him playing D&D and made him physically throw his books away in front of them. Though I cannot find direct evidence, I do remember people mentioning book burning of D&D. Whether it actually happened or not, we believed it did. Generally, these are the interactions between adults and kids, but the interactions between kids and other kids could be just as bad.

Headline says it all

Trying to find new members to play with was a challenge for me, and for the first decade of playing the game, I played with the same group from my neighborhood. Bringing up that you played could be a risk; you could labeled a “dork/geek” or a less than kind word for the homosexual community. Geek culture was not what it is today, and that was not a friendly label. It put a target on you for harassment and possibly physical abuse, both of these even more a certainty if you were labeled a homosexual. Honestly, “Thac0” became a code word. We could say it, and it meant nothing to the world outside of D&D. If the person knew it, you could feel safe to discuss the game around them. This is the reason I named the blog “Thac0” because I remember using this ploy up until about a decade ago. We often used a sports stand in to talk about D&D when non-players were around. Example: “Hey, are we playing “basketball” (D&D) tonight? Yes, please don’t forget the ball (dice) and John is team captain (DM).” It sounds like a joke but, this was actually done.

Dark Dungeons is a great game.
I was in my twenties and dating women, I had a career, and had to have a conversation when I “came out” as a gamer. There are certainly women out there that I dated that honestly never knew, I would just say that I was going to my friends to hang out. True story, I was hanging out with my wife before we started dating and 4th edition had just come out. We were at the mall, in 2009, I am 30 years old. I excuse myself to the bathroom, and secretly go to the bookstore and purchase the Player’s Handbook and secret it away in my pack. The book is 3/4th into my bag, and who comes walking into the store but my friends and my future wife. First words out of her mouth, “Hey, what’s that?” I froze in fear, because I really liked this girl and I was afraid of a reaction. I try to brush it off with a clever, “Uh, nothing.” She is not buying my clever line and pulls the Player’s Handbook out of my bag. To my surprise and shock, she did not care and just laughter (because she never giggles) that I was so secretive about it. My wife is not a RPG player, but the culture had begun to change. My public expression of D&D changed that day; I have not been one to hide it anymore.

Today’s D&D

                To me, today is the type of D&D world we always wanted, and we would have loved as kids. It is generally accepted by the masses as just a game, and not a tool of the devil. There are so many choices when it comes to the hobby that one cannot consume all the media that exists for it. There are games of every edition, run every day throughout the world. New players are pouring into the game, what more could we have wanted?

Whether you like the edition or not, it has done wonders for the community.

                It is hard for some people to accept that the game has changed though. Many of the newer players to the game do not have an Appendix N background in D&D. Many of the new players have Anime/Comics/Video Game background, and there characters and style of play are suited more towards that angle. Just like we produced characters based on the media we consumed, so do they. The new 5e ruleset are designed to give a set of rules that are more useful for those styles of story, than a tactically planned delve into a dark cavern. There is nothing wrong with either style of play, and both are valid.
                Older players need to remember there is not a conspiracy by “the youth” to ruin “your” game.  D&D is not “your” game, it is “our” game and just because we have played it longer does not mean we have some special claim to it. Younger gamers on the other hand, remember that many of the older players went through some rough years to play this game, and anything that is hard fought for is difficult to see change. Many of us have been doing this awhile and have some great advice, regardless of edition.

They aren't out to get you.

I am currently prepping to run a 5e campaign on Friday, bringing an older D&D player out of a 20-year retirement. I am also prepping for the next day, Gygax’s birthday, to run a B/X campaign for people at a local hobby shop and many of them never played back in the day. In light of this, I was chatting in a D&D forum earlier today, and a long time player mentioned his son who is eight is attending a D&D camp over summer! How amazing is that? 

                I write this while sitting in my school’s club with 12 young people playing D&D and laughing quite a bit. Overall, this what we all want, right?
               The last thing I would like to see after posting this is an edition war and flames fired by both sides. Let's try to keep it clean.

EDIT: This article proved to be very popular. I went ahead and created a Facebook group for the blog, if you are interested the link is here

Monday, July 22, 2019

A Single, Small Cut - How I Run It

               This is less of a review and more of a “How do you use that?” I have run this Lamentations ofthe Flame Princess (LotFP) A Single, Small Cut by Michael Curtis somewhere between 20 – 30 times. As I have mentioned in other articles, I run a college tabletop club, and used this adventure to introduce dozen of young people too OSR style gaming, and RPGs in general. I usually run the scenario in a very particular way, and it acts to funnel the characters to the story. I run this solely as a horror one-shot, though one game’s outcome would have been an excellent start to a campaign. I do think that this is a great scenario for the one shot, or a Con Game. This encounter is quite deadly and could completely derail a campaign, so beware on that front. The vast majority of my games running this module end with the entire party dying, which is perfect for a horror one-shot. The rest of the article assumes that you are familiar with the A Single,Small Cut adventure. If you are not, buy it for $2 because it is worth it.

Great art on the cover and throughout the book.

                The first thing that I do is use a set of pre-generated characters that I found on the internet for the background of the story. I am not sure how I found these, and they are LotFP characters, from the Witch:The Road to Lindisfarne story game. I had played Witch in the past in its regular format, and was surprised to see these characters morphed into LotFP format. Having pre-generated characters is a huge plus in running one-shots because it speeds up the game and allows people to jump right into the action.

Another great game, but very different from LotFP.

                For setting, as with typical LotFP, I set the game right after the Second Crusade. This crusade in general was a mess, and the people returning home most likely did not feel good about the endeavor. This group of characters is on their way back to Sir Hayden’s lands in the northern parts of England. Brother Armond is Sir Hayden’s family personal confessor, Ham is a guide and general servant to the group, Berrick is Sir Hayden’s young, idealistic squire, and finally “Sir” Thorne is a mercenary who is being paid to get the group back to the north. While traveling back to the north, one of the party members takes ill to the point that they need to convalesce and can no longer travel. If you are short a player, don’t allow someone to pick Sir Hayden, and make it him. If you have a full set of players, I usually make it Baron Wharton. It then become his land they are traveling towards, Brother Armond is his confessor, and Sir Hayden is his loyal knight.
                Lucky for the group, Brother Armond was a novitiate from this area of Southern England and knows of a town, with a church (St. Gothard’s) that is very close. Once they get to the small town, everyone keeps the doors locked, and the streets are empty. I usually explain this as thousands of crusaders are coming home, and some are not so gentle with the townsfolk when they come through. They now have a healthy fear of outsiders, but the church stands out in the middle of the poor village. Brother Armond knows the parish priest, I usually call him Father Andrews, who was a jolly rotund man with a large appetite. This ties Brother Armond to the church, and when “Father Clement” says that the priest is away, some suspicion can start brewing.

"Father Clement" as played by Steve Buscemi

                Speaking of “Father Clement” I trying and play him as straight as possible, but have him have a lack of language, so to speak. Instead of calling it an altar, he will refer to it as a table or other faux pas. A smart player one time started talking to the “Father” in Latin, and insulting him, the “Father” just nodded and smiled, and gave himself away. I also always have “Father Clement” demand that weapons are left in the Narthex, because “weapons do not belong in a house of God”, or something of that sort. Most D&D parties are very wary of disarming, so this is when I bring in the ill party member and have them start moaning, even coughing up blood. This puts a slight ticking clock, and pressures them to comply. Usually I end up with a few players that will disarm, and a few that will “wait outside”, which is just as good. At some point someone conversing with “Father Clement” will notice the titular Single, Small Cut and this is generally about the time that I spring their trap. “Father Clement” shows his true colors as Clement the Strangler, and the four bandits in the Choir Loft start raining crossbow shots down on the party. At this point my games have varied quite a bit depending on several factors. I often have half the party in the Nave, unarmed and the other half outside of milling around the Narthex. Most of the time, someone runs upstairs, and I have the two bandits that are reloading attempt to stop them at the door. Many times people in the Nave look for makeshift weapons and attempt to keep Clement at bay. All of this builds towards the 4th and 6th rounds.
                The 4th round comes and I interrupt the action to emphasize the men bursting from the crypts. I usually describe them as wearing the same clothes as the bandits to let them know they are not just random townsfolk. I also emphasize that they see their comrades fighting the party, and do not care they are just booking it for the door. I am telegraphing heavily that something truly awful is about to happen. The 5th round combat is still ensuing, but a do mention that an odor of rot is starting to manifest all around. The 6th round I have The Corrector of Sins not just enter the scene, but burst onto the scene. It flings the altar almost out a window, it cracks the ground as it pulls itself up, and I try and describe its elephantine-like horror.

A close approximation from the movies. 

                If the party tries to directly engage this thing, odds are that is going to be the end for the party. Their best plan is to use missile weapons. I do have a temporary truce between all parties and the crossbowmen attack the beast. For the next two rounds, they will help before running or if Clement is killed, they will run immediately. I have yet to have a party not kill the beast, but often they are beat up and most likely lost someone. I will often have the ill member of the party, be it Sir Hayden or Baron Wharton, see the beast from their stretcher, and rise up to do battle in one final glorious charge. He is usually ripped into several pieces, but this lets the party know the threat is real. Once the Corrector of Sins is dead, I have it fall into its component pieces.
                At this point they should run, but I have yet to have a party not want to go and explore the crypts below. I am often running low on time so I hand wave the tactical approach and narrate the journey down into the crypts. Once they reach the ritual room, I add all sorts of flavor for a circumstance of “You should not touch this!” I talk about how there are demonic images, the room smells of sulfur, and there is a general bad vibe in the room. I contrast that with the size, beauty, and worth of the “gem”. Eventually curiosity wins the day and someone grabs the “gem” and the clapper goes off. It is often the end of the time slot so I narrate how the bodies reform, this time even larger due to the other dead from the fight, and the Corrector of Souls starts to come back down the stairs. Then the screen fades to black. A good horror ending, if I do say so myself. I have only one time had someone cautiously pick up the “gem” with a cloth, make the saving throw, then stuff the cloth in the bell to prevent it from sounding. I was shocked, but it was great. They realized in general what this was, and decided they needed to take the bell to a major city so that church officials come examine it. Once they got back upstairs they realized that the town assumed they murdered everyone in the chapel, and began to burn the church down, another ending I was happy with at the time.

Thanks Tony

                As I said earlier, this is a great little module, and it has the perfect pacing for a singular event. I could see this as a springboard to a bigger campaign, if they live. As with the above paragraph they could try and get the bell to someone in authority, and then begin a quest to find the other items that are out there in the world. The actual background for this little module that sadly most players never get to hear, is quality material. You could add these items to any OSR game and they would fit right in. I think I have prattled on long enough, so pick this up if you haven’t and give it a go the next time you are in a lurch to run a quick game.

Friday, July 19, 2019

New Race as Class for Basic D&D - Hajanni

Requirements: Minimum STR 12
Prime requisite: STR
Hit Dice: 1d8
Armor: All
Weapons: All
Languages: Common, Genie Languages, Animals

King Suleiman decreed that man and Genie must live apart, and any time they crossed paths only disaster could follow. It became a known in both the Human-world and the Genie-world that avoidance was the best policy, and then became the law. Laws exist only to be broken, and human-genie “dalliances” have come to pass. In the case of the pure elemental Genies, these children are taken back into the Elemental Planes, because their appearance is too foreign to blend into the Human-world. In the case of the Jann, they have no plane to retreat back, and must stay on the Prime Material Plane. When the union of a human and a Jann happens, the offspring is a Hajanni. Their very existence is considered a crime in the civilized worlds. Fortunately, Hajanni can often blend in and pass for human.

A lonely life in the desert.

Hajanni appear as physically fit, almost too perfect specimens of humanity. They are often taller that the average human, and tend to be brawny. There is usually one feature about the Hajanni that can reveal their true nature. Their eyes might be an unnatural color, perhaps as dark as coal. A Hajanni’s hair might appear perfectly normal, but when touched it is like trying to grasp the wind. One’s skin might be extremely warm, almost burning to the touch. Some have fine features, but when their skin is touched it ripples like water. Once these signs are discovered, the Hajanni is often not welcome in polite society. In the worst cases, for the violations of Suleiman’s laws, they are executed. Their talents, and nomadic natures often make them good adventurers. The types who run in adventuring circles are not often concerned with one’s breeding. 

Female Hajanni

Detect Genies
The Hajanni has a 2 in 6 chance to discover hidden Genies in the area, recognize their actions/work, and know their magical effects. The will automatically identify items related to Genies, like a Ring of the Djinn.

Listening at Doors
Hajanni have a 2-in-6 chance of hearing noises.

Once per day, for a number of round equal to the Hajanni’s level they can grow to double their size. This will double the damage they inflict. If the Hajanni cannot grow to the full size, the power will not work, and is wasted.

Once per day, for a number of turns equal to the Hajanni’s level they can shrink to 6’’ high. While this size they cannot hurt any creature larger than 1’ tall, even then the damage is halved. The character has a 9 in 10 chance to not be spotted if they remain completely still.

Elemental Planes
Hajanni can survive one hour per level on any Elemental Plane before having to return to the Prime Material plain. Every hour beyond the limit, the Hajanni suffer 1d6 CON loss. If the Hajanni’s CON goes to zero or below, the Hajanni dies.

Speak with Animals
Hajanni can speak with any natural animal.

Effects that detect, bind, or harm Genies will work on a Hajanni.

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

After Reaching 9th Level

A Hajanni has the option of creating a tribe that will attract outsiders with no other place to go. The tribe will not stay in the same place, but can be called upon to aid the Hajanni when needed. The tribe will consist tribesmen warriors numbering 250 per level above 8th. The warriors are 1st level with 1/5th being cavalry, all having basic combat gear for their respective duty. The tribe can be mustered for a specific short term purpose, after that they will continue to wander. Forming the tribe for such an event will take 1 week, and the tribe will continue the respective purpose for a number of weeks equal to the Hajanni’s level.

If you are unfamiliar with Jann, please see my previous article on Genies here.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

It's Over 9,000!

               Yesterday we were barely over 9,000 total views on the website, and today we are over 11,000 views. We had a very big day and have been very successful for the limited time the blog has been around, and the limited posts we have had. I am extremely happy with the progress, and thank you to everyone that comes out and reads my rants.

More Rants to Come

I got this screen shot to post a 10,000 view update, and we blew right past it.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Old School Essentials Genre Books Preview – Part 5

            It has been a good ride, but all things must end. This is the final installment of the Old School Essentials Advance Fantasy Genre Books preview. The word from on high is that the BackerKit is closing on Friday July 26th. After that, the PDFs for the backers of the Advance Genre Books will begin distribution. I know that a lot of you are excited to see the books, and you should be excited. I think these books add a lot to the B/X world, offer options that many want yet, do not taint the original material. If you have not finalized your BackerKit, now is the time. If you want to pre-order the books, now is the time. Upon release of this article, there will be just over a week left before the orders lock down. So, for a third time, now is the time! We are going to try to do a double article this time showing one final thing from each book. 

Taste the flavor!

            Let us start with a spell from the Illusionist list. This is a 4th level spell that is especially nasty and can wreak havoc on any enemy. The Shadow Monsters spell creates “phantom” monsters to assist the Illusionist and, if the target believes in them, act in an almost identical manner to the actual monsters. The Illusionist is limited to summoning monsters up to his HD, so at a minimum it is going to be 7 HD. That could be seven 1 HD monsters, one 7 HD monster, or any combination in between. The monsters must all be the same type, so you cannot summon an orc and several goblins, it must be all orcs or all goblins. Instead of rolling d8 for HD, HD is now a d2 due to the nature of their phantom existence. The monsters also retain all their native abilities, like breath weapons or the ability to fly. More importantly, they also keep their damage/attacks. The only defense verses this spell is to make the initial save vs spell, and the creatures become inky blobs and are not nearly as effective, or fight the creatures straight up.

4th level is a good level.

                I am glad this spell made it into the book, because it has been with the Illusionist since the initial release in Strategic Review #4. Apparently, the idea for these type spells goes back even further to Chainmail when they made Phantom Units for armies. It has a lot of versatility in that there is a whole OSE book called Monsters to pick from, and as you go up in level, your choices only increase. This is what the Illusionist should be doing causing a huge amount of chaos on the battlefield and confusing the enemy.
                I did mention that this would be a double article, right? Whom could we get to cast such a lovely spell like Shadow Monsters? What kind of class, beyond the Illusionist, deserves a devious spell like this? I saved the most requested, and from what I hear, best class for last. It shares a name with the company that produces the OSE line; of course, I am talking about the Gnome!

David is ready to brawl.

                Gnomes are a fun combination of many existing classes in B/X, but the summation of the parts makes something new. We will start with the little green box in the top corner. The Gnome needs a minimum of 9 CON, but has two different Prime Requisites in INT and DEX. Being little fellas, they only get d4 hit point, but they can wear leather armor (I assume an armored pointy cap), use a shield, and use any weapon they can manage. In addition, Gnomes are quite the polyglot and have a large swath of languages at their disposal, including burrowing animals! With all this, we begin to get a picture of what the Gnome is shaping up to become.

They're quite cool.

The Gnome shares several characteristics with the Halfling, Dwarf, and Illusionist. They share with the Halfling the Defense Bonus versus creatures that are bigger than human-size and their ability to Hide. With the Dwarf they have the ability to Detect Construction Tricks, which is a nice little perk. The Gnome also benefits from the enhanced saving throws that the Dwarf and Halfling share. As with all Demi-Humans, the Gnome has Infravison, and improved hearing. Finally, the Gnome can use Arcane Magic, Illusion magic to be specific. They have a little bit of everything, but not a whole lot of anything. They have a solid balancing factor in the low HP, the higher XP cost, and the cap at level 8. From the chatter on the different forums I am on, this class is gearing up to be played quite a bit, because there are plenty of Gnome lovers out there!

"Rawr, I'm a Monster!"

                 What do you think of the new Race as Class? Are you excited to see more from the two expansion books? Make sure to comment below and share with other interested parties. Did you miss Part 1Part 2Part 3, or Part 4? Remember the window to get these products at release is shrinking, and will end on July 26th. If you are a backer go to the BackerKit here. If you are not a backer and want to pre-order go here.
          If you are looking for the creators of this great product please check out their website.
Final note: It has been my pleasure doing these previews and the response has been amazing. I will continue to cover and create new OSE material in the future. Make sure to subscribe to my blog, and search through the older content. I am extremely excited to get my hands on the physical product and the preliminary PDFs look amazing. Thanks to Gavin for this opportunity for me to connect with the OSE community.

End on a thing of beauty.
EDIT: This article proved to be very popular. I went ahead and created a Facebook group for the blog, if you are interested the link is here