Saturday, February 28, 2009

Happy Birthday, sort of...

February the 29th marks the one year anniversary of Sham's Grog 'n Blog. I'm selecting February the 28th to observe this fact. I didn't realize until now that I started this blog on Leap Day 2008.

Most of the time I love this place. Other times I feel almost guilty when the posts are scarce. I experienced a particularly long hiatus for a stretch last Autumn, and my return to more active blogging wasn't an easy transition for me. I had managed to miss a lot of the blog-o-sphere activity during that time.

Ye Auld Grog & Blog started on a whim, really. It helped me fill in the emptiness of having no actual D&D games running at the time. It began with me explaining my pursuit of OD&D, and continued for a time with random musings and soapbox rants about old school gaming style.

Basically I was writing to myself for months. Slowly I began to receive comments. Mostly good comments, as well! Somewhere along the way, during last Summer, my ideals for this personal writing space evolved. I vowed to put away my soapbox and focus on the items which I feel had been best received during the formative months, homebrew stuff.

Every once in a while I squeak out a decent idea, so my efforts have not been fruitless. I'm enjoying immensely the undertaking of the Cover to Cover series, even though the initial fervor of re-reading the white box has lost some steam along the way. It's a project that will not only see completion soon, but will open up other efforts along the lines of an OD&D companion book...or something.

I enjoy sharing bits on The Dim Expanse, but The Dismal Depths has been my current very involved undertaking. The One-Page Dungeon template is simply perfect for sharing with other D&D players, while The Dim Expanse is somewhat clunky when I try to put it into a usable format for other referees. In that way it's almost Castle Greyhawk-esque. Far too much of the information and ideas for that megadungeon are in my head, and not actually on paper.

The change I've noticed here in my own sometimes awkward ramblings has been one of content. I'm not really one to review publications, nor comment on the state of role-playing in the modern age. Every once in a while I might spout off some ridiculous observations, normally related to music, but for the most part this blog is about sharing my ideas and enthusiasm for D&D.

I'm thrilled to see the way my one-page idea and subsequent "how-to" guides have been embraced by fellow gamers Chgowiz and Amityville Mike. This alone makes me a happy blogger.

If I've offended anyone in the past year, I'd assume that I will again at some point in Year Two. It is not my intent, but clearly some of my preferences rub folks the wrong way. So be it.

If I've convinced anyone to give OD&D a go in the past year, I hope you have embraced it as I have.

If my musings have inspired any gaming ideas in the past year, then it has all been worthwhile.

If you've actually read all of my posts, I'm not responsible for the meds you're taking now.

If I've made anyone laugh in the past year, then I'm glad I'm not the only lunatic gamer out here on the net.

All in all it's been a good but not great run. I hope to increase the reader value of this blog over the next 12 months with more ideas, examples and enthusiasm.

You have been warned!

~Sham, Quixotic Referee

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Morkevagten Dim Troldes

The notes from my hard drive which inspired the homebrew treatment of Trolls posted yesterday is copied below. As mentioned, this is a collection of ideas intended to flesh out Calithena's Dark Trolls in the FO! group megadungeon project. I renamed them from Dark Troll to Dim Trolde when I realized I had let the information get a bit out of control. Eventually this Trolde tribe will find a home in a future dungeon. As you can see, some of the planned areas for the level are in italics, such as the Endless Mines, Smelting Pits, Grand Smithy, Fungus Farms, Central Brewery, Muumilaakso, and Raptor Holes. The dungeon is half-way written just from these notes.

Morkevagten Dim Troldes

The Uklartrolde (Dim Trolde) of Ulin-Uthor are an expansive, extended subterranean tribe. Their kind clawed their way to dominance within these ancient tunnels and caves before mankind ever set foot upon the barren lands above. This tribe, called the Morkevagten, has, through the ages, developed a somewhat advanced, in underworld terms, societal structure. The Morkevagten have developed the crafts of mining and smelting, bronze working, masonry and architecture, rat and raptor husbandry, currency, fungus brewing and distilling, and, perhaps most importantly, slavery and extortion.

Most of the Morkevagten labor is performed by slaves, and much of their continued income is derived from extortion. The Dim Troldes demand gold from the various intelligent inhabitants of Ulin-Uthor, in return for protection. Those that do not pay are thrown into slavery, or eaten. The Morkevagten also have agents who perform these same duties on the surface world; rounding up potential slaves, and extorting local businesses, in exchange for various rewards. These agents range from all manner of goblin kin to evil men threatening to ‘bring down the wrath of the Troldes’ upon their intimidated victims. These are not always hollow threats, as the Dim Troldes do from time to time raid the surface to gather slaves, and pillage nearby areas. These raids are more or less a show of strength in order to maintain their stature in and around Ulin-Uthor. The Morkevagten are still, despite the civilized trappings, an evil, corrupt and selfish lot, prone to theft, betrayal and murder within their very tribe. Station in the Morkevagten is not through birthright, but through wealth and power. The Dim Troldes spend more time dealing with threats from their own kin than those from the world around them. It is hard to dispute the fact that the Morkevagten have risen to power in spite of themselves, but their kind is certainly not to be taken lightly.

Mining, Smelting and Bronze working:
Ginkul: Copper, Rikaa: Tin, Vaett: Bronze.
Chalcocite, cassiterite and native copper minerals are mined by Scourge driven Slaves, in a complex, haphazard series of vertical shafts and galleries in the Endless Mines. The shafts follow the ores far below, as deep as 75 feet in some cases. Ore crushing is performed in the galleries with heavy stones, then hauled up to storage pits before being transported to the furnaces. Raptor-stomach bellows are used to stoke the charcoal fueled, clay lined, sandstone furnaces in the Smelting Pits to allow the Slags to produce ingots of copper (ginkul) and tin (rikaa), which are then combined again to produce bronze (vaett). The bronze is poured into molds then worked with hammer, tongs and anvil by a Sapper in the Grand Smithy.

Arms and Armor:
All Trolde Arms & Armor are forged in Bronze.
Lamellar: Hauberks of interlinking bronze scales, equal to AC 5.
Plate Armor: Hammered bronze chest pieces equal to AC 3.
Embossed Morelwood Shield: Round shields with hammered bronze facing.
Weaponry: includes Daggers, Swords, Maces, Axes and Spears, the Spear being more or less a light lance used from a mounted position, never as a missile. Dim Troldes might also employ heavy weighted Throwing Nets and Bolas; both of sinew and bronze weights, serving as the only actual missile weapons of the Morkevagten.

Saard Rod (SR): Recast gold coins formed in the Smelting Pits into small rod shaped ingots. Each is worth 10 GP. Wt. ½ lb.
Ginkul Ingot (GI): Flat copper ingots from the Smelting Pits. Often used as currency, each is worth 200 CP’s or 1 GP. Wt. 10 lbs.
Rikaa Ingot (RI): Flat tin ingots from the Smelting Pits, as the Ginkul but worth 5 GP. Wt. 10 lbs.

Vast sublevel Fungus Farms are cultivated and harvested by Scourge overseen Slaves. The fungi is collected and brought to the Central Brewery for use by the Swillers in their various concoctions and compounds. Fermentation tanks, copper distilleries, morelwood casks and barrels for aging, charcoal kilns, and various fire pits are all used to produce the masterfully crafted fungus byproducts.

Fungus Byproducts:
Lichen Brew: Pungent, bitter beer. Low alcohol content. For PC’s drinking: Upchuck chance (2in6). Heals 1d6 damage if ingested.
Toadstool Tonic: Intense, aged smoky liquor. High alcohol content. For PC’s drinking: Upchuck chance (3in6). Neutralizes poison if ingested.
Moss Wine: Super dry black wine. Medium alcohol content. For PC’s drinking: Upchuck chance (1in6). Cures or halts mental or physical maladies.
Mold Mix: Mortar for masonry.
Morelwood: Unique aged stone-morel, properties of very hard wood. Primarily used to create charcoal for fueling the smelting furnaces. Burns hotter, longer and cleaner than standard wood charcoal.
Capper: Poison. Used as an ingested Sleeping Powder on Troldes. Outright kills men in 1d6 rounds of hallucination and convulsions when used as a weapon coating.
Simmer: Cauterizes flesh, bubbles and froths when used. Allows Troldes to cleanse then sever burnt or acid blasted wounds to promote regeneration again. Causes a severe open wound to men.

Rat Husbandry:
Dim Troldes have perfected the art of Rat Husbandry. A particularly delectable strain of Rats, called Muumi, has been cultivated for centuries through stockbreeding, producing a plump, round, furry white rat, with a large snout and unusually large, almost quizzical eyes. They are tended by the ratherding Sloggers, overseen by the Great Tove in the heavily guarded Muumilaakso. In addition to the Muumi, the Great Tove oversees to the tending of sundry Rat strains which are raised for the less discerning palate. To non-Troldes, it all just tastes like Rat.

Muumi: (Rat): Served Stewed, Roasted, Broiled, Baked, Fried, Minced, Blackened, Spiced, Sautéed, Poached, Boiled, Pickled, Grilled, Fricasseed, in a Ball, on a Stick or the standard Rat Tartare.
Catch of the Day: Self-explanatory.

Raptor Husbandry:
Much in the way the Morkevagten have used stockbreeding through the ages to control Rat strains, they have been perfecting the crossbreeding of various subterranean bird-like theropod dinosaurs (Dromaeosauridae). Their ultimate achievement has been the Cave Raptor, a large strain bred to serve as a fighting mount for the Dim Trolde Seekers and Sentinels. An ongoing, difficult to master project for the Swagjags has been the Feathered Raptor. The Feathered Raptor’s purpose is to guard the Raptor Holes and their priceless eggs, but the little predators are prone to roving the upper areas of the caves seeking out prey. The Feathered Raptors will not attack Troldes, nor anyone in the presence of one, but have created much havoc over the years with their relentless bloodthirsty hunting tactics. The Swagjags might never learn to control the small man-eaters, but they seem to enjoy watching the fruits of their labor pitted against one another in Pit Fights, or shredding apart an intruder. Raptor Pit Fighting is an enjoyable spectator sport and gambling event for the Morkevagten.

Cave Raptor (Utahraptor): AC: 4, Move: 12, HD: 10, Damage 2d6. 10 feet long (20 with tail), 7 feet tall, and weighing about 1,500 lbs. Covered in dark brown feathers, with massive jaws, long tails and bird-like feet topped by a single massive curved hind-claw. Cave Raptors are trained to bite rather than use their formidable dagger like claws so as to not unsaddle their riders. These huge dinosaurs can trample opponents if able to charge into melee, causing 2d6 to all in a 5’ wide by 20’ long path. Save vs. Paralyze to avoid being bowled over and spending one round gaining footing.

Feathered Raptor (Velociraptor): AC: 2/7, Move: 18, HD: 2, Damage 1d3+special. 3 feet long (7 with tail), 2 feet high at the hip, and weighing about 35 lbs. Covered in grey and black feathers, with strong razor fang filled jaws, long thin tails and bird-like feet topped with a single sharp, curved hind-claw. Feathered Raptors are the ultimate hunters; fast moving, silent, sly, cunning and always hungry. They hunt in large packs, and work in unison to flush prey into ambushes, or simply overwhelm larger, slower moving targets with their vicious bites. The sharp hind-claws are normally used to puncture a target, pinning them in place, or allowing the Raptor to cling to the target as they lock their jaws down for the kill. Once a Feathered Raptor has hit a target, it will cling to it and deal 3 damage per round thereafter. Up to four of these murderous little predators can attack a man each round. Feathered Raptors are lightning quick, as reflected in their superior AC, which is reduced to 7 after they have locked their jaw in for a kill. Slain Raptors will have to be carefully removed from their prey by prying open those deadly jaws.

Trolde Titles:
7+3 HD variety
Sapper: Bronze workers
Slag: Metallurgists
Shylock: Sharks, Extortionists
Slaver: Slave Merchants
Slogger: Ratherders
Swiller: Fungus Farmers
Sketcher: Planners

8+3 HD variety
Scourge: Taskmasters
Stomper: Muscle
Swagjag: Raptorherders

9+3 HD variety
Seeker: Rangers
Sentinel: Heavy Knights
Scaggle: Crime Bosses
Svaerost: King of the Morkevagten

Dagendreng (Agents): virtually any double-dealing, greedy, devious NPC can apply.

Feel free to borrow, copy, paste what have you. I think a damned fun dungeon level will spring forth from this information eventually.

~Sham, Quixotic Referee

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Trolde

Last year, when I was kicking around ideas for the FO! dungeon The Darkness Beneath, I began to tinker around with ideas for one of the important denizens in Calithena's megadungeon, the Dark Trolls. One thing led to another, and I ended up with a few pages of notes on these monsters and their world beneath the surface. Afterwards I decided it was time I gave the venerable Troll a treatment of homebrew, so I went back and redefined the entire species. Admittedly, there is a very strong and intentional Gygax 1st Edition flavor given to these OD&D versions, but their primary heritage is Scandinavian mythology and folklore. With the renaming of many of the standard monsters in my growing Solstice/Dismal Depths work, Trolls became Troldes. I recently edited this piece and although I have no actual home for this information at this point, I thought it might be of interest here. Essentially, these are actually Trolls, but using the alternate spelling does serve to differentiate the Trolde from the standard TSR Troll.

Tomorrow I will copy the notes which were originally intended to be the Dark Trolls, and became the Morkevagten Dim Troldes. The Morkevagten are destined to have a major chunk of real estate in Ulin-Uthor, or perhaps some areas of The Dismal Depths.


Troldes, also known as Throlls or Trolls, are repulsive abominations created from the essence of the earth by a long forgotten power of chaos and night. There are numerous types of these vile, preternatural monsters, including but not limited to the ones described here. Troldes share some common characteristics, most notably that males of their kind are best described as large, brutish, ugly humanoids with great strength, elongated ears, big noses, knuckle-dragging arms and thick earth tone hides. Amongst individual male Troldes one might find many other beastly peculiarities, including such things as tusks, scraggly or quill-like hair, cyclopic eyes, and splotchy hides with crags, bumps and warts.

Female Troldes are certainly the fairer members of the race, appearing as seductive women with normally hidden cow tails. Female Troldes come and go between the world of man and that of Troldedom. Often described as erotic seductresses, legends exist of female Troldes that have actually married men and become mortal, successfully hiding their true nature for the rest of their days. The more notorious female Troldes seduce men and take their seed back to Troldedom. Others abduct infants from mankind and likewise return them to the world of the Troldes. What becomes of these young humans is not known, but many societies of the land blame deviant behavior on Trolde upbringings. Troldespawn is an unflattering term used to describe the worst sorts of men. Female Troldes are rarely encountered alongside their male counterparts, being altogether elusive and virtually undetectable within Troldedom. Little is known of them and it is assumed that they are one with the earth, emerging only to reproduce or mingle with mankind.

Male Troldes will return to their natural state if bathed long enough in the light of day, turning to stone and losing their magical life-giving essence. The spirit of the now inanimate Trolde will return from whence it came, dead and gone forever. For this reason, male Troldes are either nocturnal or subterranean. As long as a Trolde is in contact with earth, be it soil, dirt, sand, rock or stone, its form will regenerate wounds at an astounding rate. Certain types of damage may not be thusly healed, such as wounds from acid, fire or lightning. Troldes are immune to damage from cold, whether it is natural or magical, but take extra damage from lightning. Wounds upon a Trolde dealt by stone, wood, bronze or even silver weapons will inflict reduced damage in all cases. Iron is the only metal which will cause a Trolde full damage, whether it is magical or mundane. Furthermore, Troldes despise iron, and are loathe to touch it.

Troldes have their own language, called Trolsprog, with a wide range of words which hold meaning only to their kind, owing partially to their acute olfactory senses. Trolsprog is noted for long S’s and hisses. Troldes can see naturally in the dark, and are only surprised on a roll of 1in12. Given the right circumstances, a Trolde can track down non-natives while in its own environs.

While Troldes are an unnatural union of earth, chaos and night, their kind consists of both young and old. The larger Mountain and Forest Troldes tend to be solitary, longer lived, and far less reproductive than the Mound and Dim Troldes. Mound and Dim Troldes exist in varying levels of clan based groups. Male Troldes are stooped and hunched. Their effective height is normally equal to their HD minus one in feet. A HD 7+3 Mound Trolde would be about 6 feet tall, a HD 10+3 Forest Trolde would be about 9 feet tall, both would be considerably taller if actually upright and vertical.

Haugtrolde (Mound Trolde): Chaotic, # Appearing: 3-12, AC: 6, Move: 12, HD: 6+3 to 8+3, Damage by weapon +1, Avg Int: 8. Troldes that tend to roam quite often, establishing new mound and tunnel homes, or returning to older ones as they continually expand their hunting grounds

Bjergtrolde (Mountain Trolde): Neutral, # Appearing: 1, AC: 3, Move: 9, HD: 9+3 to 11+3, Damage 2d6+2, Avg Int: 10. The largest of all Troldes, given to extended periods of hibernation in vast cavernous regions beneath and within mountains.

Skovtrolde (Forest Trolde): Neutral, # Appearing: 1, AC: 4, Move: 9, HD: 8+3 to 10+3, Damage 2d6+1, Avg Int: 9. Larger than their Mound and Dim cousins, these Troldes forge homes in deep, thick forests, and are prone to seasonal periods of hibernation

Uklartrolde (Dim Trolde): Chaotic, # Appearing: 2-12+, AC: varies, Move: 9, HD: 7+3 to 9+3, Damage by weapon +2, Avg Int: 11. Dim Troldes have a base AC 6, but most wear bronze lamellar or plate armor resulting in AC 5, 4 or even 3 if using a shield. These Troldes continually work toward carving out a permanent home deep in the underworld, to varying degrees of success.

Turn to Stone: Troldes will turn to stone and perish after 1 turn in full day light. After 5 rounds movement is reduced to one-half.
Immune to Cold: All forms cause 0 damage.
Non-iron weapons: Deal one-half damage to Troldes.
Iron weapons: Cause +1 damage when striking Troldes.
Attacks upon iron-armored targets: Troldes have a -1 penalty to hit such targets.
Lightning Damage: Causes +2 points per die against Troldes, and may not be regenerated.
Fire/Acid Damage: May not be regenerated.
Trolde Regeneration: Troldes begin to regenerate damage at a rate of 3/round at the beginning of the third round after damage has been sustained (for example, if a Trolde takes damage in round 2, it will start to regenerate as round 5 begins). Only acid, fire or lightning damage may not be regenerated. Trolde Regeneration continues unabated even if the monster is hacked to pieces. Unless the entire Trolde is burnt or exposed to acid, it will eventually rise up at full health. The various limbs and remains of a slain Trolde will either crawl back together and regenerate, or form a new body from the largest remaining piece. Severed parts seem to possess a will of their own, and will continue to grab, claw, bite or scuttle about independently during a conflict. Dim Troldes in particular are known to have devised methods for ensuring that their fallen are able to regenerate in a safe location.

Tomorrow watch for the Morkevagten Dim Troldes intended for a vast, as yet unmapped dungeon level in an upcoming adventure.

~Sham, Quixotic Referee

Whimsical Wednesday

Every Wednesday, I’ll roll on the table below, and then on the indicated Whimsey Table, and share the exact wording found in my very crude often ridiculous 25 year old handwritten notes from the early 80’s.

Random Whimsey Determination Table (2d6)

2-4 Basic Whimsey Chart (d00)
5-7 New Whimsey Chart (d00)
8-10 Nyark Ripplesnap’s Whimsey Channel (d00)
11 Gorfaxio Gondoro’s Whimsey Table #1 (d20)
12 Gorfaxio Gondoro’s Whimsey Table #2 (d20)

Today’s Roll: 7, 87.

"Roll of Godly Grant Co. Life Savers (roll d8: 1: random reincarnation, 2: all attacks are critical, 3: life saver becomes 2' diameter, 4: doubles all damage, 5: triples all damage, 6: slowed, 7: acts as normal, 8: instant death)."

Have a Whimsical Wednesday.

~Sham, Quixotic Referee

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A Quiet Month

February has turned out to be a quiet blogging month here at Ye Auld Grog & Blog. Rather than pull up the old blogger excuse list, I simply mention that my recent scant free time staring at the dim glow of the monitor has been spent catching up on posts around the D&D blog circle.

While I haven't been posting articles, I have been working on a follow-up article to Delvers Delve for Fight On!. The first article was penned back in late November and submitted in early December. Delvers Delve is hopefully going to become a series of ongoing suggestions, observations and options focusing on dungeon crawling. It evolved from my Cover to Cover series, and it became of particular note to me as many of the my ideas within the article seem to be independently shared by others. In particular James at Grognardia reached many of the same conclusions in regard to revisiting the Thief based on actually reading what was written about the class in Greyhawk, and by that other James over at LotFP when he was reading the Holmes Basic volume. It suggests that many of us do in fact think in the same manner, albeit often in different styles.

The second article, which I am currently putting together, offers up a collection of options I have dubbed "Extended Crawling". Many I have been using for years, others I just started using, and some are simply clarifications of loose ideas that have been around in my games for decades.

I prefer to not spill the beans ahead of time with articles which may find their way into print in the future, so keep an eye out for that first Delvers Delve in the upcoming issue #4 of Fight On!. Everything indicates that it should be available from Lulu very soon.

It's interesting to see how articles submitted for print differ so much from blog posts. I get immediate responses and comments here, while things printed get virtually nothing. On the other hand, much of what I post online is forgotten very quickly, the exception being the Entourage Approach which was cobbled into a submission after being tossed about at the blog here. Articles which find print are something to be proud of in that they seem to have some measure of longevity.

As long time readers know, one of my high water marks since I started this crazed collection of random thoughts (aside from the Entourage Approach and the One-Page Dungeon) was the level I put together for the ongoing Fight On! project, The Darkness Beneath. Spawning Grounds of the Crab-Men created some buzz before it was printed, but not much since. In retrospect I feel I could have done a better job with that adventure. The level was written with a definite theme in mind, which I feel was conveyed nicely, but I still must put my work under the magnifying glass and offer up a few critiques of my own. Hindsight is always 20/20, as they say. Not enough empty space. Too few traps. Not nearly enough tricks. Virtually no misdirection. The dreaded Big Bad Evil Monster cliche. I'm afraid the whole thing might seem too restrictive and lacking that quality I personally enjoy so much in other adventures, creative elbow room. Let's just say I don't feel that I "let it all hang out" with the offering. I haven't heard any feedback on the adventure, so that alone speaks volumes.

I also submitted a small game option for the first issue of Knockspell way back in mid-November which found its way into print. The Thrall is a low level option for beginning characters. I like to think of it as an Anti-Entourage Approach. Rather than one character slowly gathering a following and amassing a stable of adventurers, the player begins with a few untrained delvers and ends up with a sole surviving character to call his own. I used something very similar in the past in a more wide open version which I stripped down to a rudimentary foundation in order to align itself with the original rules.

All of this leads me back to looking for input here on some of these non-blog offerings. For that reason I will be adding the original unedited submissions I made in PDF form over at my OD&D Orbitfiles page. None of these submissions will be added there until they see print, in all fairness to the editors. I'll wait for Fight On! #4 before I add these, so I can link to Spawning Grounds, The Thrall and Delvers Delve all at once. The Bogbears and The Entourage Approach which worked their way into Fight On! started here at the blog, so there's no need to add a PDF of those.

I'll be sure to remind readers to check out the Orbitfiles page once I've added to it. And yes, the promised new One-Pagers for The Dismal Depths are still in the works, as are my various other ongoing projects. Damn this is starting to feel like a job.

A dream job, nonetheless.

~Sham, Quixotic Referee

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Whimsical Wednesday

Every Wednesday, I’ll roll on the table below, and then on the indicated Whimsey Table, and share the exact wording found in my very crude often ridiculous 25 year old handwritten notes from the early 80’s.

Random Whimsey Determination Table (2d6)

2-4 Basic Whimsey Chart (d00)
5-7 New Whimsey Chart (d00)
8-10 Nyark Ripplesnap’s Whimsey Channel (d00)
11 Gorfaxio Gondoro’s Whimsey Table #1 (d20)
12 Gorfaxio Gondoro’s Whimsey Table #2 (d20)

Today’s Roll: 7, 30.

"Target turns into a fire hydrant, and 100 poodles appear."

Have a Whimsical Wednesday.

~Sham, Quixotic Referee

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Parlez-vous vieille école

Myself, I like to. Hopefully I wrote the post title properly, because I wish I could read Francais as well. Nicolas Dessaux has finished his French language version of D&D, titled Epées & Sorcellerie, from John Adams and crew at Brave Halfling Publishing. It is available, for now according to BHP, in a print on demand format through Lulu, and as a free PDF from the same online company. I assume this means BHP will offer their own print version in the near future. Here's a link to the announcement.

Monsieur Dessaux is also known around these parts as Snorri. I have a great appreciation of some of the observations Snorri has made in regard to D&D, some of which have been shared here at Ye Auld Grog & Blog, and others you might find at the famous ODD74 forum. Nicolas also runs the Wizard in a Bottle site devoted to his publication.

Here's a quote, I've no idea exactly what it says but it looks very important.

Epées & Sorcellerie est un jeu de rôle inspiré des règles et de l’ambiance du premier jeu de rôle publié par Dave Arneson & Gary Gygax en 1974, jamais éditées en Français. Il peut s’employer comme un retour aux sources du jeu de rôle, mais a été conçu de façon à permettre de jouer dans n’importe quel univers Sword& Sorcery.
I'm going to order the Lulu PoD version just because. I can't read it, but I sure as hell think Snorri deserves a big fat clap on the back for spreading some old school love.

~Sham, Quixotic Referee

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Otherworld Miniatures/Fight On! Art Contest

Erol Otus is judging an art contest sponsored by Otherworld Miniatures and Fight On! magazine.

This contest is the same format as the previous adventure writing contest, and features great prizes from Otherworld Miniatures and the chance to see your creative efforts in print within the pages of the always awesome Fight On!

I nabbed the Pig-faced Orc Tribe Boxed Set from the first contest. I won't have a horse in this race, but I'm sure the field will yield many, many excellent entries. I look forward to seeing the fruits of this great idea in Fight On! in the near future.

Click right here to see the official announcement.

~Sham, Quixotic Referee

Whimsical Wednesday

Every Wednesday, I’ll roll on the table below, and then on the indicated Whimsey Table, and share the exact wording found in my very crude often ridiculous 25 year old handwritten notes from the early 80’s.

Random Whimsey Determination Table (2d6)

2-4 Basic Whimsey Chart (d00)
5-7 New Whimsey Chart (d00)
8-10 Nyark Ripplesnap’s Whimsey Channel (d00)
11 Gorfaxio Gondoro’s Whimsey Table #1 (d20)
12 Gorfaxio Gondoro’s Whimsey Table #2 (d20)

Today’s Roll: 11, 8.

"Target turned into a large, bright orange, easy chair (with abilities to match)."

Have a Whimsical Wednesday.

~Sham, Quixotic Referee

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Dismal Depths: Quick & Dirty

Quick and dirty. It's often how I roll. When my 14 year old says he wants to play some D&D I have a few options. Allow him to rebuild his Labyrinth Lord group which took a few delves into the Lahromil's Demise section of Ulin-Uthor last year, continue his thus far very unsuccessful, bloody runs into Spawning Grounds of the Crab-men with OD&D pre-gens, pick a module which I have not read in a long time, OR give The Dismal Depths a test drive.

Clearly I took the last option. In fact, the very notion of grabbing four sheets of one-page maps, The Dismal Depths Bestiary, Men & Magic, and a handful of dice seemed perfectly quick and dirty for on the spot gaming. I was not disappointed.

Prior to deciding to run The Dismal Depths, and thanks to Chgowiz, I was turned onto the Eposic Dice Roller. I had already created two sheets filled with what I call character stat blocks. I normally give players a collection of 10 six score strings from which to select their characters. They are awarded a new stat block of 10 six score strings when they run out of living characters. Twelve such collections of scores were on the two sheets, so I asked him to pick a number from one to twelve. For solo gaming, I simply allowed him to play six characters from the get go. I was not invoking the Entourage Approach at this point. Just allowing him to have a decent party ready to roll.

I used the AD&D Character Log in order that he had a single page to game with. Each character was given 3d6x10 gold, allowed to outfit using M&M (with the one change being Plate Armor costs 100 gold), and we were ready to game very shortly thereafter.

Our 14 year old likes Dwarves, and he learned many games ago to appreciate the flexibility of Elves. The starting party was:

Fingles, Dwarf
Meltar, Dwarf
Penwaith, Elf
Blaike, Fighting-Man
Trimble, Magic-User
Yeutz, Cleric

In order to get things going quickly, I told him that an Alchemist in town was advertising a bounty of 5 gold per Bogling head, and that Boglings were known to inhabit the Dismal Depths, a dungeon beneath some old ruins about half a day's march outside of town. There were four known entrances to the dungeon, via the Ruins, the Old Tower, the Woods or the Cave.

Yeah, I know. Remember, quick and dirty. He wanted to get to the dice rolling as soon as possible. If anything, playing with my son reminds me of the total lack of need for any real back story or plot that is forgotten by the players as soon as the first gold piece is plundered. Screw the details. The important thing is finding treasure and living to tell about it. In the quick and dirty game anyway.

As we began the actual play, I declared that we would be running this game in a manner vastly different than the sessions before. I was going to remove the screen entirely, and explain what I was doing as the referee, including exactly what all my ceaseless dice rolls were for. Why? This is on the job training for him. I want him to understand what happens behind the screen. How I keep track of time, why I sometimes roll dice for no apparent reason, that sort of thing. I explained that this would require him to play as if the characters had no idea of these small elucidations. I think it went well. In particular, he learned about Turns and Hours, Dwarves sensing traps, Elves sensing secret doors, Wandering Monsters, Morale, and the general randomness of this particular dungeon.

I treat the keyed dollar sign secret Treasure Troves as random treasure, so I was able to explain the OD&D method of determining treasure, and on return trips I showed him how the Restock rules worked, the Distribution of Monsters and Treasure OD&D method that I have distilled down to a table on the one-pagers.

Along the way he learned the rules governing opening doors, springing traps, avoiding traps, surprise, and sighting distance, along with many other dice rolling conventions that never made sense to him in the past.

As the basic goal was to locate and remove the heads of some Boglings, I did describe what they looked like, but those were the only denizens of the place with which he had prior knowledge. Another one of the features of this dungeon is the blanket of mystery. Even my hardened old Grognard crew will have no knowledge of the dangers which they are to face in these deep, dark reaches.

Locating the Boglings was perhaps a bit harder than I had envisioned. The only entrances to their particular region is through the Ruins, but there are four such entrances in the Ruins, so I determined which was found randomly. The Woods, Tower and Cave lead to other regions. Basically, he had but a 2 in 7 chance of entering The Chambers of Zod, where the Boglings reside.

Yeutz the Cleric fell into a pit and took severe damage, was extricated from the trap only to be overcome shortly thereafter by ambushing Mole-Men in the first real encounter.

Penwaith the Elf was slain by Mole-Men as he tried to save Yeutz in that same melee.

Meltar the Dwarf took some minor damage in a run-in with Mole-Men. The brave warrior was then scared into panic by the sight of the Bronze Idol of the Laughing Minotaur, fled the room and died by falling into the pit just north of the room. The same pit opened by Yeutz earlier.

A pack of wandering Dessicated chased the three remaining members out of the dungeon as they were rolled as Wandering Monsters when the trio tried to make good their retreat back to town. Trimble the Magic User was struck for 5 damage, dropped his torch, and ran past the Fighting-Men and into the daylight. Luck had allowed him to live to see another day. The surprise encounter occurred so quickly that no one in the party even turned to see what had taken them unawares, they simply ran toward the sliver of daylight!

Quite a disastrous initial foray into the Dismal Depths. 1st Level characters are so much fun!

I allowed my son to heal up and recruit replacements for the lost members. Enter Meltar II, Penwaith II and Yeutz Jr.

The return trip began with the decision to enter through the Old Tower. Into the Burial Catacombs of the Burgundy Brigade. After some snickering at my rendition of the ominous warning to tomb-robbers at the Age Old Stone Sentinels, and after avoiding damage from a pit trap, the party was knee-deep in Desiccated bent on exterminating the living.

Yeutz Jr fell first after attempting to roll on the Clerics versus Undead Monsters table, a lucky six did him in before he survived his first encounter. Although only unconscious, he was left for dead when more Desiccated arrived on the scene.

That pack of walking dead was dispatched, but within a few turns the party had become overrun with skeletal pursuers, and made a hasty retreat back to the safety of the surface world.

Two excursions, four dead.

We took a short break to run out and pick up dinner. Upon returning my son couldn't stop talking about his adventures thus far. It was agreed shortly thereafter that my wife would join the festivities. My son, thinking that his mother would muck things up, asked if we could start anew with a half dozen different characters. He is wise beyond his age, as he knows that he and I will likely return to gaming with the Fingles, Meltar, Penwaith, Blaike, Trimble, Yeutz group many more times between now and the next time my wife decides to play.

So, I repeated the character generation process, again using my stat blocks and the AD&D Character Log sheets for the two players. Adventure was quickly afoot thanks to the quick and dirty mindset we had undertaken.

I was still using the “behind the curtain” play style, in hopes that my son would gain a much better understanding of how to play and referee the game.

The Fingles Group, for lack of a better name, was put on “hold” for now, While they were resting up from their most recent excursion, the following adventurers formed a party, likewise in pursuit of Bogling heads for the Alchemist's bounty:

Glotch, Dwarf
Brick, Dwarf
Vain, Fighting-Man
Paryn, Elf (Female)
Tuddle, Magic User (Female)
Saphyn, Cleric (Female)

Bonus points to those who can identify which characters were controlled by my wife! Yes, she has a soft spot for Elves and spell-slingers. Her true adoration is with Elves using Bows. Second to that is magical types. Now, my wife is an old hand at fantasy computer games. D&D is something which, in the past, has bothered her computer gaming sensibilities. Death, downtime and other pitfalls of D&D just don't fly in her gaming ideals.

Nevertheless, she really wanted to make this a family night, and give it the old college try.

The introduction of another player lent an entirely different dynamic to the game. I truly had a lot of fun now. As the referee, I was able to sit back and enjoy the sidebars. On the one hand I had a gung-ho dice rolling hack n slash gamer, juxtaposed with a “I don't want to die” deep thinker. The end result was after three trips back to town to heal up from damage, and no character losses, the party dynamic was boiling over and on the verge of character mutiny.

I had been using one of those white erasable boards for the adventures. I told the players that if they wanted to keep a map, it was up to them, and that I would be erasing the magic marker drawings after each excursion. Well...the need for caution and returning to town clashed with the need for adventure and treasure to the point that the two players recruited our soon to be three year old.

Initially our toddler was employed strictly for rolls to hit and damage rolls, but when loggerheads between which direction to take were reached, our youngest family member was charged with walking over to the white board and pointing at the next direction.

It was a vastly entertaining evening as the entire family was involved in the game.

Due in part to the overly cautious nature of my wife, there were no casualties in the new party, and they not only delved deeper than the previous excursions, but they plundered the only treasure looted from the Dismal Depths to date: 500 Silver and 80 Gold.

The adventure night ended in high spirits, and everyone involved agreed that this is to be a weekly, or perhaps twice a week, time permitting, family event.

The only major sticking point thus far has been the entire “return to Town” thing. As I mentioned earlier, my wife is used to computer gaming. Even though she hasn't seriously played one in years, she thought the entire idea of bed rest to restore hit points a royal pain in the arse.

I explained that I had already house ruled max hits at 1st, and the old stanch wounds rule, it wasn't enough. For this reason I am considering a few new house rules that will give the illusion of not visiting town, but will provide out of combat methods for the characters to restore lost hit points.

Sometimes even an old crusty DM like me realizes it might be best to ease up on the carnage and keep the players coming back. On the other hand, I told my wife that I cannot promise that Peryn won't die the next time the party returns to the dungeon. Yes, it seems that her only concern is the well-being of the Elf, Peryn.

If it means playing D&D once or twice each week, and running some good old fashioned Dungeon Crawls, I think I can stomach a few small house rules to appease the players.

I'm going to add some house rules I will detail later, perhaps as an addition to the Dismal Depths optional rules, such as Take Five, Liquid Courage and Second Wind. The end result will be further minor hit point recovery methods that dispense with the constant need to return to town. Such minor boons won't mean much past 3rd or 4th Level, but might suck the players in to the ongoing campaign and create a permanent family activity.

~Sham, Quixotic Referee

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Knockspell #1

Knockspell #1 from Mythmere Games is now available in PDF here via Lulu. I'll personally be waiting for the print version, which should be available for order soon according to the announcement thread over at the Swords & Wizardry forum.

To quote Matt Finch of Mythmere Games in regard to the basic mission of Knockspell magazine:

"Knockspell Magazine is intended as a general gaming magazine for all out-of-print fantasy RPGs that use D&D-style systems. That includes Original D&D, Advanced D&D, OSRIC (1e), Swords & Wizardry (both Core and WhiteBox), and Goblinoid Games' Labyrinth Lord. There might also be articles about Castles & Crusades and BFRPG (Basic Fantasy Roleplaying Game). Because of licensing requirements, specific game resources will be identified by the name of the retro-clone, not the trademark: Swords & Wizardry (0e), OSRIC (1e) or Labyrinth Lord (Basic).

The magazine's goal is to re-invent a particular approach to gaming - where the gamer is respected as a hobbyist, not treated like a consumer. We're going to treat the whole batch of Gygax-type fantasy games as roughly compatible with all the rest, assuming that the reader has the intelligence to tinker and convert. And we're going to treat the rules as secondary to the fantasy. In other words, we're hoping to publish a magazine that harks back to the days in which people saw fantasy games as a wide-open horizon of possibilities instead of a particular product line with "official" rules. Because what's actually changed, folks? Nothing but attitudes, trained by an increasingly corporate approach by game publishers. The open horizon is still there, still ready to be explored, still infinite in possibilities

I've been anticipating the release of this, as have many others, for quite a while now. I'm looking forward to adding another resource of fan-created material to my repertoire.

Many of the names involved might be familiar to readers here, including: Tim Kask, Allan Grohe, Scot Hoover, James Maliszewski, James Boney, Gabor Lux, Mike Davidson, Akrasia, Robert Lionheart, Jeff Talanian, Michael Curtis, Salvatore Macri, Matt Finch, and bringing up the rear, yours truly, David Bowman.

Hats off to all involved, and especially to Pete Mullen. That cover is fantastic!

~Sham, Quixotic Referee

Friday, February 6, 2009

Friday Flashback

This one's coming to you a bit late. Something just said DEVO to me earlier today. Another band whose music was often written off due to a gimmicky approach, DEVO was truly unique in both sound and style.

The song I really wanted to post does not allow embedding, but here's the url:

Jocko Homo by DEVO

Check it out. Somewhat disturbing and altogether enthralling.

Here's another classic DEVO song, Uncontrollable Urge live from the movie Urgh! A Music War:

Have a great weekend!

~Sham, Quixotic Referee

Sand Castle What?

What constitutes a Sand Castle World?

In the comments to yesterday's Sand Castle Worlds post, a well respected reader, Dwayanu, put together a very poignant response. Dwayanu pointed out some important details which I had failed to spell out in that post. I feel the concept of a Sand Castle World does need further elucidation, and thankfully someone else with a slightly different view has been kind enough to share his thoughts and experiences.

First I'd like to define Homebrew. Like the word Campaign, Homebrew has evolved into a catchall phrase that often needs further definition. It can mean tinkering with the rules, making house rules, or creating new material for the game in the way of monsters, items, spells and classes. It is also used to describe a personalized campaign setting. People often say such things as “in my Campaign” when they want to tell you about some small bits of tinkering, house rules or creations they have Homebrewed. When they say “in my Homebrew” it means something else to me. It means they are referring to their campaign setting which is specifically a personally crafted world, not one based on a published setting at all.

The roots of these terms are of great interest to me. Campaign was clearly intended to describe a series of adventures. Settings grew from the adventures, and thus the term describing these collected adventures was also used to label these settings, as in Gary's campaign, or Dave's campaign, aka Greyhawk and Blackmoor respectively. This is an important detail in this post, that the Settings grew from a series of adventures, or Campaigns.

I not certain of the origins of Homebrew, but it is clearly NOT a term used in the original concept of the game. Why? The very act of making things up was assumed. Part of playing D&D involved a referee who made things up. The rise of the term Homebrew is a reflection of the evolution of the game itself. This harkens back to my observations on the origin of the term Megadungeon. In the original game, the description of an underworld dungeon was nearly synonymous with our modern definition of Megadungeon. It wasn't until decades later that the community felt the need to coin this term to describe something which was assumed in OD&D.

Perhaps that is why I feel there is a need to use the phrase Sand Castle World. These are not simply Settings, Campaigns or Homebrews. They are Homebrewed Campaign Settings with some other important characteristics.

Dwayanu made some excellent observations on Settings. First off that there is an implied Setting, even with OD&D. It is essentially a medieval Setting of fantasy and mythology. A few tidbits here and there hint at expanding the scope of the game, and Robots are even mentioned, but the fact is that most players assumed they were in for a generic medieval fantasy game.

D&D continued on this path for years, primarily using Gygax's Greyhawk as the assumed milieu. Not necessarily the prescribed Campaign Setting, but the assumed medieval fantasy theme for D&D in it's entirety.

With the proliferation of alternate milieus heralding the 2E era, such Settings as Planescape, Al-Qadim, Red Steel, Ravenloft, Dark Sun and Hollow World showed once more how D&D need not be driven down such a narrow path. Dwayanu states that this is possibly when the actual term Setting was coined. Before then, the Setting was medieval fantasy. Again, I'd mention that in some small way, this was the community redefining the history of the game. In OD&D, even though there was an implied Setting, there was still no published example of such. It was wide open at that time. AD&D and Greyhawk created a narrow focus, and the plethora of alternate Settings reminded everyone that it was not the only way to play.

OD&D was a concept. We are told in the original books that it “need not be restricted to the medieval”. Like many things explained, or open to interpretation in the 1974 unveiling of the game, this notion was forgotten for a time, only to be rediscovered later.

There is though a salient point in regard to the original notion of the game versus the modern way of thinking. We are shown quite clearly in The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures how to begin a game of D&D. Make a Dungeon, make a Town near the Dungeon, create a basic overland map of the Wilderness area immediately around the Dungeon. The seeds of adventure for those referees who wish to dive right in. It was the other visionaries who paid particular attention to the mention of scope, restrictions, guidelines, and robots that took things in a different direction entirely. Nevertheless, the basic format was:

Dungeon, Town and Wilderness.

Sounds like a Sandbox game to me. Sandbox is another term coined in the same manner as Homebrew, Megadungeon and Campaign. Sandbox play has always been in the original rules. The term arose from the need to differentiate that style of play from the plot-driven, adventure hook, story book style which became popular later.

Enter MAR Barker. Tekumel was not a new idea. MAR Barker had been writing about his fantasy world for decades before the notion of D&D was even formed. When the two ideas collided, the result was a Sand Castle World published in 1975 as The Empire of the Petal Throne. Clearly it was not an organically grown Setting built through extensive Sandbox play. It was a collection of ideas, stories and notes which were crafted into game form using the D&D concept.

MAR Barker took D&D into his creative sandbox and began from the granular level. The foundations of the game were molded to suit his vision. The rules were changed to such a point that, unfortunately, the game was not called D&D. It should have been called Dungeons & Dragons in The Empire of the Petal Throne. I think the hobby would have been better served. For whatever reason, it was not marketed as such, and I think it suffered due to this fact.

Shortly thereafter organically grown Settings, those which actually claimed the meager Dungeon, Town, Wilderness beginnings, began to reach published format. Many of them were also not considered D&D. In reality, they were the same concept unveiled in the original 1974 booklets with foundational rules changes, the primary difference being that they were not published by TSR. But I digress. I want to focus on D&D specifically.

When I read OD&D, it seems quite clear to me that I am being told to take creative license and craft my own rules, theme and setting. It's still D&D even if I veer away from the implied milieu. At least, in 1974, and in the mind of the authors at that time, it was still D&D. It is easy to see simply by considering the terms Campaign, Homebrew, Megadungeon, Sandbox and Setting, that D&D does mean something much more specific now.

As Dwayanu mentioned, he understands what is implied when his players say “normal D&D”. I'd contend that it is something different than using the term “normal OD&D”. There was no normal OD&D. There was an implied milieu, though. To me, “normal OD&D” would mean starting with Dungeon, Town and Wilderness in a medieval Setting.

Sand Castle Worlds therefore are not quite “normal OD&D”. These begin with Settings which might veer away from the implied milieu. Like Tekumel and others, Sand Castle Worlds also build with the notion that D&D is not limited in scope. The notion that OD&D is a concept and not a set of rules is embraced by the authors of Sand Castle Worlds. As intended by Gygax & Arneson, the message has always been that the rules are a guideline, to be altered and added to.

Whether these individual worlds are created, like Tekumel, or grown organically, like Arduin, they are clearly not quite the same as what has become known now as a Campaign, or a Homebrew. They feel and play quite differently than “normal D&D”.

Are they D&D? I think in many cases that Sand Castle Worlds are the purest form of D&D. The purest form meaning, to me, the D&D concept itself. D&D means something more specific now, so to many, they are something else.

I see this type of talk quite often in the OD&D circles. Referees speak of house rules, alternative race treatments, personal interpretations, homebrewed Thief classes, unique milieus, settings based on Howard, Burroughs, Lovecraft or any number of other authors, movies or even cartoons (Masters of the Universe!). I've even entertained the idea of a Sand Castle World based on Black Sabbath's album, Paranoid. This type of banter is welcome in OD&D circles. OD&D almost requires such foundational work. It's quite simple to take a small step back from that original edition, knock down the rudimentary foundations therein, and find oneself starting from the granular level.

Look no further than Carcosa, Xothique and World of Thool to get an idea of this type of creativity. Sand Castle Worlds need not be as narrowly focused as Tekumel, Harn or any of the above examples. They can be a kitchen sink of ideas like Arduin as well.

There are currently a vast number of Sand Castle Worlds in the works, being run, or gathering dust in someone's attic. Unfortunately there are not very many in print for us to appreciate.

~Sham, Quixotic Referee

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Sand Castle Worlds

Inspired by this post over at my favorite Homebrew D&D blog, Scott's World of Thool, I am compelled to consider the ramifications of pursuing the creative side of our hobby. In the formative days of D&D, it was accepted that each referee's world was a unique vision of the possibilities of the open-ended format of the game. Greyhawk, Blackmoor, Arduin and Tekumel come to mind. There was no actual setting introduced with original D&D. Referees were on their own.

In reading the little brown books, one is guided in very basic methods for world creation; design at least three dungeon levels, place a town near the dungeon to serve as a home base, draw a basic overland map of the regions surrounding the dungeon. That's it. This is the foundation of D&D as envisioned by Gygax & Arneson. The dungeon as the adventuring hub, with limitless possibilities beyond the dungeon waiting to be discovered by player exploration.

What draws me to D&D, and what will keep me playing it for the rest of my life in one form or another, is this creative potential. I think that many of us plunking the keys out here in this old school blogger circle appreciate the hobby for exactly this reason. Nearly every blog I can think of is written by a referee, DM or GM. It's another creative outlet for our ceaseless desire to make crap up for D&D and its derivatives.

When we're not playing, we're writing about playing or what we plan to play in the future. We review what others have done in this regard or wax philosophically about our hobby. Whatever the case, we write and we write and we write some more. The bottom line is we like to create. It's what has kept us coming back to D&D, or never leaving in many cases.

One of the draws of OD&D is the realization that there in no published campaign setting inexorably linked to that edition. I think that's the primary reason I have aligned myself with the 1974 version. I appreciate not only the creative potential in the rules themselves, another topic entirely, but the fact that OD&D does not conjure up any notions of a particular world at all. It's a sandbox for the referee as well as the players.

Given a creative sandbox in which to build, tinkering types like me tend to knock down the foundations and begin with nothing more than the sand. Over time, our ideas and designs build and build, becoming unrecognizable to others. They are clearly our own little visions of the game, our Sand Castle Worlds. There's a lot to love about this aspect of the hobby. There's also the risk that those not in tune with this level of homebrewing will look upon our creations with disdain.

From where I sit, a unique world full of mystery begging to be uncovered and defined through exploration and discovery is the ultimate game setting. Unfortunately, I believe that this appreciation of truly homebrewed worlds has gone the way of the vinyl LP. There's something new, shiny and familiar for most modern players of D&D; the published world and the exceedingly expansive accompanying rules.

Most DM's of modern D&D satisfy their creative desires by writing adventures and plots and by further defining that which they have been provided. I'm not saying that the homebrew school is more creative, I just think we are creative in different ways. We're doing the same thing in essence, it's just that when we further define that which we have been provided, we are working from more or less a blank canvas and an idea.

The main thrust of Scott's post was this concern that it has become more difficult to attract players who think in modern terms to his homebrew vision of D&D. I believe that given the chance to actually experience a unique campaign world, players will come crawling back for more, time and again. I commented in the above referenced post, but I'd like to reword what I wrote there as follows:

1. Let the weirdness unfold in layers.
2. Keep all the monsters behind a curtain.
3. Let the players discover the strange bits of the world, sandbox style.

I'm convinced that once the action begins, there will be no looking back. You can't teach an old dog new tricks, but here's to hoping that you can teach a new dog old tricks.

~Sham, Quixotic Referee

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Whimsical Wednesday

Every Wednesday, I’ll roll on the table below, and then on the indicated Whimsey Table, and share the exact wording found in my very crude often ridiculous 25 year old handwritten notes from the early 80’s.

Random Whimsey Determination Table (2d6)

2-4 Basic Whimsey Chart (d00)
5-7 New Whimsey Chart (d00)
8-10 Nyark Ripplesnap’s Whimsey Channel (d00)
11 Gorfaxio Gondoro’s Whimsey Table #1 (d20)
12 Gorfaxio Gondoro’s Whimsey Table #2 (d20)

Today’s Roll: 9, 90.

"The Periodic Tavern of Temporal Adventurers appears."

Have a Whimsical Wednesday.

~Sham, Quixotic Referee

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Dismal Depths, even more monsters

I allowed this beastiary to side track my mapping for far too long now. My original grouping of monsters levels 1 to 3 was completed in one sitting. This last grouping, which encompasses levels 7 to 9, as well as 10 plus, took quite a bit of work. Part of the problem was that between the actual periods of writing, I kept coming up with more entries that had to be added.

One of these new entries doesn't really belong on this list, but the idea tickled my fancy enough that I just couldn't leave it off.

Another issue with this final (for now) addition to the Beastiary is that by nature these higher HD monster descriptions simply have to be wordier. In the end I think this is a fine basis of over 100 monsters. The Dismal Depths will be stocked with strange monsters and plenty of nasty surprises. My only concern is that many of the monsters described here might be too unforgiving. So feel free to tinker with any of these to suit your game if these creatures find their way into your dungeons.

Dismal Depths Beastiary, The Lower Levels 7-9, The Dark Domain Level 10, and regions below

Agudath(C): AC 2 Move 15 HD 10 Eidolon. Serves Chegaralis. Cackling, melted, flayed. Floats like a ghost. Touch melts 3 dice and another 2 dice next round. Sustains minimum damage from spells or spell-like effects. Only struck by magic weapons. Immune to sleep, charm, hold. Dispel Magic or Teleport at will. Regenerates 6 hits per round.

Ashen Order(C): AC 2 Move 12 HD 7 Alien order of evil monks seeking to overthrow Law. Wield Laser Swords of limited duration (+1 to hit, deal 2 dice). Telekinetic mind power to throw targets or objects. Given one full round to concentrate, suffocate target with telekinesis, save or die.

Beyonder(C): AC 5 Move 12 HD 9 Extra-dimensional beings with inexplicable goals. 9' tall hairless men with four arms and a single glowing gold eye. Teleport at will, wield heavy tech devices; flame-throwers, sonic-boom rifles, flechette-casters. Never miss a saving throw.

Blighted(C): AC 7 Move 9 HD 7 Undead. 6th or higher level characters who perish in underworld rise in a few days as Blighted. Only struck by magic weapons, immune to fire and lightning. Attacks cause rot, another 1d6/round for the next ten, cure disease will end the rotting.

Blue Gunky(N): AC 6 Move 12 HD 12 Devious masterminds from outer space, subsist on magic energy. Impervious to the first three forms of damage inflicted each encounter. Spells heal them 1 hit/level. Attack with void energy, 3 dice to one target at 50', or 2 dice 20' around themselves.

Brain(C): AC 9 Move 0 HD 9 Massive, undulating brain being. Immobile but may teleport at will between predetermined locales. Able to overpower, enslave and control up to 200 HD worth of creatures. All become zombie-like servants. Can “see” with sixth sense in a 100' radius. May cast Charm, Hold, Confusion, Feeblemind or Telekinesis.

Chegaralis(C): AC 2 Move 12 HD 12 Eidolon. 9' tall, pale, gaunt with two heads, one laughing the other enraged. Enraged spits acid jet, laughing breathes black fire ball, both of 10d6. Gaze causes insanity. Strikes for 3 dice. Sustains minimum damage from spells or spell-like effects. Only struck by magic weapons. Immune to sleep, charm, hold. Dispel Magic or Teleport at will.

Chicken Jack(C): AC 3 Move 15 HD 7 8' tall bipedals with white feathers and bright red combs. Chicken Jacks have a high AC due to their inhuman reflexes and quickness of action. Prefer maces and clubs. Never, ever use axes, nor missiles. Fight for 1d3 extra rounds even after reduced to zero HP.

Chupacabra(N): AC 3 Move 9/24 HD 7 Nocturnal winged creature with a ravenous appetite for blood. Can completely drain a victim of all bodily fluids in a single attack, save or die. Each successful attack has a 4in6 chance of messily slaying victim in one round unless save is made.

Creeping Goop(N): AC 6 Move 6 HD 10 Clean-up crew. Dark gray often dormant masses of metal and flesh devouring jellies. Immune to fire, split into smaller goops by physical blows or lightning. Dissolve metal, ruining that which comes into contact with it. Flesh devoured at a rate of 3 dice per round.

Czareet(L): AC 5 Move 6 HD 7 Secular, territorial, warlike 5' tall penguins. Only speak Czareet. Immune to cold. Worship sleeping Y'laath gods and desire to keep their secrets hidden. Seek order, distinct stations and castes. Have a complex apocalypse calender and history of the universe.

Deep Wyrm(N): AC 2 Move 9 HD by type Wingless subterranean dragon-kin from 8'-12' in length, twice that with tail. Each is crafty and possesses a breath weapon usable thrice per day. May conform to dragon traits as referee desires. Jagged Wyrm: HD 7 Breathes Lightning Stroke. Horned Wyrm: HD 8 Breathes Acid Jet. Plumed Wyrm: HD 9 Breathes Icy Cone. Spiked Wyrm: HD 10 Breathes Gas Cloud. Barbed Wyrm: HD 11 Breathes Fiery Cone.

Doozer(N): AC 7 Move 6 HD 1 Tiny almost robot like beings with a ceaseless desire to build complicated traps and tricks in the underworld. Their mechanisms are actually edible rigid sugar complex structures. Doozers construct, rebuild, enhance and tweak their efforts in a never ending cycle for no apparent reason.

Draugr(C): AC 2 Move 12 HD 8 Undead. Hoary, withered terrors of unlife. Only struck by magic weapons. Daylight turns them to ash, their touch ages 4d6 years and regenerates the Draugr of 4 hits. Slain Draugr rise again in 1 day unless exposed to daylight, the men they kill become Draugr.

Dust Bunnies(N): AC 7 Move 12 HD 7 Clean-up crew. Created by digested Doozer mechanisms, this waste of the underworld collects into non-intelligent spools of roaming caustic refuse. Dust Bunnies survive by adding to their own mass through molecular decomposition. Any matter coming into contact sustains 2 dice per round, and all targets are treated as AC 9. Immune to all magic.

Eem-Ki Brood Queen(N): AC 2 Move 0 HD 9 The Hive Queen. Eem-Ki is a massive egg laying insectoid in command of over 1,000 Broodlings. Immune to cold and spells under 4th level. Attacks with a 20' long stinger tail, 1 die+3 and poison, save or die. Thick chitin reflects 50% of lightning or rays.

Ess-Ess(C): AC 7 Move 9 HD 8+2 Crack leaders of the Nisse bent on waking the Y'laath master race and exterminating other fae. Wield pearl handled pistols and ceremonial daggers of station. Wear black caps with silver deaths head badge. Adept at underworld negotiation, able to rally Nisse.

Flying Cow Head(C): AC 5 Move 12 HD 8 Guardian servants of Chegaralis. 8' tall incorporeal bodies wearing long ragged robes topped with huge skeletal cow's head. Float and breath fireballs out to 3” exploding in a 1” ball of fire, 6d6 damage. Immune to fire and cold, only struck by magic weapons.

Glitterglim(C): AC 7 Move 9 HD 9 Destructive, enraged twisted Hiisi with very short life spans. 7' tall and glowing with vibrant gold energy, when slain a smaller Glitterglim emerges forth from the corpse, continuing in steps of -2 HD each (7,5,3,1). Each retains the fighting capability of 9 HD.

Hasgorin(N): AC 2 Move 6 HD 12 Living statue of glittering meteorite metal. Immune to magic and weapon blows except those dealt by the artifacts Breghoneir or Crimson Hate. Attacks twice each round, Toxic Avenger poison sword save or die and Wirry Welt whip, range 20', entangles, save or turned to scarecrow. Breathe Fire Ball five times per day.

Hiisi(C): AC 7 Move 9 HD 7 Mutated Bogloids spawned from radioactive underworld pits. Evil, vile flesh-eaters ranging from a very stout 4' to a gaunt 7' tall. Hiisi become enraged in melee, dealing progressively greater damage when they strike, +1 cumulative damage with each hit to +6 max.

Hilterbot(C): AC 2 Move 6 HD 9 The long-lived unhinged oft repaired and rebuilt uber fascist fuhrer robot. Completely ego maniacal, commands the Nisse in their fae eradication efforts. Immune to fire, cold, and mind attacks. No functional melee attacks, relies on either Ess-Ess guards, extremely persuasive negotiating skills, or a poison gas attack, usable thrice daily.

Huldra(N): AC 5 Move 9/24 HD 7+1 Erotic seductresses with hidden cow tails. Ancient fae spirits of Alfheimr. Create minor matter or craft illusions, may be imprisoned in magic vessels and forced to serve. Create aura of black moss 30' radius, overcoming those under 2 HD and slowing others. If forced to fight, their deceptive strength of the forest enables a Huldra to deal 2 dice-1 damage.

Ice-Nix(C): AC 2 Move 9/24 HD 9 Spirits of freezing air created by Spriggan nightmares. Immune to cold and lightning, only struck by magic weapons. Attacks freeze victims for 1 hour if save vs paralysis missed, CON roll required. Air in 20' around spirit causes 1d6 cold damage per round.

Idetheon(C): AC 3 Move 6 HD 10 Eidolon. Serves Chegaralis. Covered in insects, staggers about in agony, incapable of melee. Breathes insect swarm each round, incapacitates while dealing 3 dice per round, lasts 2d6 rounds. Sustains minimum damage from spells or spell-like effects. Only struck by magic weapons. Immune to sleep, charm, hold. Dispel Magic or Teleport at will.

Jabberwocky(C): AC 4 Move 9 HD 8 A huge burbling monstrosity with gaping maw and gigantic claws that catch men and hold them fast on an attack roll of 18 or more. Its flaming eyes gaze at one target each round, save vs spell or become enthralled, only able to murmur rhyming gibberish for 1 turn.

Lumbering Mass(N): AC 4 Move 12 HD 9 Clean-up crew. Deceptively fast moving sentient collection of rotted waste which seeks to add to its mass. The rolling monstrosity forms a pair of psuedopods to smash twice per round, and blasts a caustic emission out to 5” which deals 3d6 in a 2” radius.

Mercurial(N): AC 8 Move 12 HD 8 Living statues of mercury created by Beyonders. Can change shape, and even seep through tiny cracks in their pursuits. Only struck by magic weapons, which deal but their plus in damage. Regenerates 3 hits per round. Immune to fire and acid. Cold deals +1 per die.

Mind Melder(N): AC 7 Move 9 HD 9 Pillars of leathery flesh with four 6' long tentacles, these atrocities bend light, and are naturally invisible. Mind Melders possess two mental spell-like attacks, Hold Person and Mind Slave, a powerful Charm. Only one slave may be controlled at a time.

Mo-Mo(N): AC 2 Move 12 HD 8 Six-legged mystical bear-like beast with scales of bronze. Its very breath causes those within 6' to save or be turned into a newt.

Nisse(C): AC 7 Move 9 HD 8 Time-locked mutant fascists, these are the goose-stepping Fae Who Wear Boots. Serve Ess-Ess masters, they are a trained and drilled iron-helmeted elite fighting force. Wield SMG's and stick grenades. Nisse despise other fae, and need never check morale against them.

Polypoid(N): AC 7 Move 6 HD 8 Giant polyp-creatures, 7' tall, cylindrical with a mass of tentacles surrounding a mouth. Spawned in a Polypoid colony, members belong to hive-mind. Incapable of speech, use Telepathy and ESP. Tentacles manipulate items, defend with mental powers of Sleep, Phantasmal Forces, Confusion and Hold. Ancient enemies of the Viscoids.

Robot(N): Similar to Living Statues but tech constructed and powered by energy rather than magic. Their statistics vary wildly, as do methods of attack, defense and mobility. Capable of variable levels of communication and reasoning. Unlike Living Statues, Robots are prone to malfunction.

Sallow Jack(C): AC 3 Move 12 HD 8 Trans-dimensional men often summoned by spell to carry out missions. Able to meld into shadows and attack with surprise or go unnoticed. Only struck by magic weapons and immune to spells under 4th level.

Shambling One(C): AC 5 Move 6 HD 10 Semi-translucent malleable blobs of alien matter. A mass of eyes, tentacles, cilia and mouthes created by the Y'laath, dungeon keepers and trap re-setters. Create enough limbs to strike all targets in range, acid dripping tentacles hit for 1 die+3 damage. Armor hit and weapons striking them must save or be ruined. Immune to lightning and cold.

Skogsra(C): AC 3 Move 9/24 HD 10 As Huldra, but from the Deep Forest of Alfheimr. Delight in leading men astray to their death. Alluring beauties that appear as hollowed tree stumps from behind. Deal 2 dice damage, create entangling barriers of vines as well as Huldra black moss. Can be imprisoned in a magic vessel like Huldras, but for no more than 3 years time.

Smart Algae(N): AC 7 Move - HD 8 Non-mobile hazard. Can be encountered in pools or very moist areas. Smart Algae uses airborne agents within a range of 100' to overpower the minds of potential victims, causing them to move, zombie-like, to the algae and remain there in order to defend the growth. The algae takes minimum damage from physical attacks. It has no attacks of its own.

Space Oddity(L): AC 2 Move 15 HD 12 Enemies of the Beyonders. Solitary deep thinkers of glowing rock-like green matter, exist in only two dimensions. May not be seen nor attacked from the side. Only hit by magic weapons, immune to lightning, fire and cold. Eye-beams melt metal and flesh for 6d6, range 90'. Summon space vacuum in an area 30' around themselves, devoid of oxygen or gravity.

Space Vapor(N): AC - Move -/3 HD 7 Faint haze of slow moving vaporous hunger from space able to envelop foes in a 20' diameter. Origin and intent unknown, Space Vapor always materializes in regions frequented by Beyonders. Unaffected by physical blows, immune to cold and lightning. Fire deals double damage and deters. It paralyzes and withers for 1d4x10 years each round.

Spriggan(C): AC 3 Move 9 HD 8 Small, grotesquely ugly earthen fae-kind created from the memories of long dead giants, swell to 9' tall. Massive mud fists strike for 2 dice. Can summon forth a Lightning Bolt of 6d6. Immune to lightning. When slain shrink to normal size.

Star Rift(N): AC 9 Move 6 HD 8 White hot, blazing “crack” of extra-dimensional energy sent to this world to destroy Beyonders. It dissipates in 1 day. Destroys all in its path. Immune to physical attacks and magic, only damaged by negative energy. It disintegrates foes by touch.

Taldos(C): AC 3 Move 9 HD 10 Eidolon. Serves Chegaralis. Massive armored half-man half-elephant. War hammer deals 3 dice and smashes target's skull on an 18 or higher. All hitting are cursed with ineptitude, -6 to hit for 1 turn. Sustains minimum damage from spells or spell-like effects. Only struck by magic weapons. Immune to sleep, charm, hold. Dispel Magic or Teleport at will.

Trickling Muck(N): AC 9 Move 3 HD 7 Clean-up crew. Slow moving pools of mud and mire. Weapons cannot harm it, nor can lightning or cold. Devours flesh and bone at 2 dice per round of contact. Super sticky prevents movement across its surface and clings, only removed by alcohol or ignited oil.

Trow(C): AC 9 Move 9 HD 7 Filthy despicable underworld fae who collect and stockpile refuse. The garbage men of the deep down, have a mental link with members of the clean-up crew and command their activities. Will negotiate for junk and waste in large amounts. Equal to Enchanters.

Tunnel Terror(N): AC 6 Move 6 HD 15 Ancient worms of the earth, their tunnels form cavernous complexes in the underworld. 30' to 40' long, 10' in diameter. Maws chew with rotating sword like fangs for 3 dice, swallow whole on a 20. Mind melt power, target save or die screaming, range 20'.

Twinkle Mold(N): AC 9 Move 0 HD 10 A non-mobile hazard immune to fire, cold and non-magic blows. Lightning deals double damage to it. Twinkle Mold hypnotizes men who view it and commands them to lay down in its mass which devours flesh at 3 dice each round.

Viscoid(N): AC 6 Move 6 HD 9 Of underworld mire, Viscoids are intelligent fluids using collected muck to form bodies. Viscoids can assume crude forms, becoming man-like in order to manipulate items. They despise Polypoids. Attack by item or fluid jet to 20'. If save is missed, fluid has entered the target, chance to drown, then permanently lose 1d6 hits per day until reduced to mud.

Void Between(N): AC 9 Move 6 HD 9 Floating globe of void energy sent by Beyonders to this world. Will vanish to whence it came after devouring a dozen mortals. Immune to non-magic blows, and takes but 1 damage per die from all spells. Those it touches are disintegrated if saving throw missed.

White Worm(C): AC 2 Move 9 HD 18 Mythological serpent, the White Worm is 50' long and 8' in diameter. Regenerates 3 hits per round, and rejoins parts after slain. Bites for 3 dice, injecting deadly poison, constricts 1 target per round, save or incapacitated, for 3 dice. Only struck by magic weapons. Immune to cold. May roll twice for all saves, taking best result.

Wriggling Slime(N): AC 8 Move 6 HD 12 Massive globs of putrid, coagulated slime, their only attack is a jet of acid to 60', dealing 8d6, save vs breath weapon for no damage, armor must save or be ruined. No obstacle stops a Wriggling Slime in its pursuit of food. Blunt weapons deal 0 damage.

Y’laath(C): The slumbering master race resting in ancient vaults beneath the Dark Domain. Their dreaming sleep is protected by the dungeons they constructed centuries ago. Perhaps one day they will awaken to see what their diabolical creations have wrought.

Disclaimer: In no way do I endorse or support racial supremist opinions. The Nazi-influenced entries of the Ess-Ess, Hilterbot and Nisse above are included in order to allow the characters to fight a vile and despised fantasy aspect of such evils.

Hopefully that's all for now in the way of Dismal Depths monsters. After I've proofread and considered the entries I will add a revised Beastiary PDF over at Orbitfiles.

~Sham, Quixotic Referee

Monday, February 2, 2009

Restocking The Dismal Depths

I really enjoy using six-siders for randomly determining monster and treasure distribution. I normally tailor the contents of major rooms, and then let Destiny by Dice determine the rest.

I have no issues sorting out the hows and whys of certain unusual combinations of the die rolls, such as why there are Morlocks in a room right next to an area with a pack of Broodlings. The results can often be thought of as a snap-shot in time. This is what is encountered when and if the party happens across the areas. Perhaps the two have not yet detected one another, perhaps the Morlocks have sensed the Broodlings and are either hiding or preparing to attack by surprise, perhaps the two groups of monsters are about to engage in melee or attempt to parley with one another. Oftimes, such closely located groups of monsters will draw one to the other if melee is undertaken by the characters. The possibilities are limited only to the referee's imagination.

The point is, there's not always a need to worry about explaining exactly why such a situation exists. Neither are located in a lair, rather being on the prowl or setting up an ambush, or taking a breather from their stalking and hunting.

I use a reworked method of the original guide from The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures for not only filling minor areas, but also as a quick restocking method. The percentages in this Restock table replicate the OD&D method, but remove one die rolling step, ending up with a single table rather than sentences of text describing these steps.

I realized I could further alter the Restock table, and I came up with a pair of options which still maintain those percent chances located in the original method.

The current Dismal Depths Restock table:

Restock (1d6)
1 - Monster
2 - Monster & Treasure
3 to 6 - Empty (1in6 chance of hidden treasure)

I realized I can replicate the 11% chance of an empty room with hidden treasure, and require a second d6 roll only 25% as often, as follows:

Restock (1d6)
1 - Monster
2 - Monster & Treasure
3 to 5 - Empty
6 - Empty (4in6 chance of hidden treasure)

As an alternative, I came up with a Restock table using 2d6 instead, thus requiring no second rolls whatsoever:

Restock (2d6)
2 to 4 - Monster & Treasure
5 - Empty with hidden treasure
6 to 9 - Empty
10 to 12 - Monster

No second rolls, but I feel it lacks the elegance of the single d6 tables.

The rounded percent chances of the four possible results are as follows:

Monster 17%
Monster & Treasure 17%
Empty 55%
Empty with hidden treasure 11%

One could easily contruct a d00 table for this, but I dig the OD&D d6 vibe.

I'll probably use the revised 1d6 Restock table. It's a simple change, but I feel it creates a nearly perfect restocking or filling method.

Another thing I have enjoyed thus far is the synergy between the Restock table and the tailor made Wandering Monsters tables. Looking at the four level one maps for The Dismal Depths, you will see that 33.2% of all monsters either encountered randomly or prefilled using the Restock table, will be the inhabitants of that particular region. It gives a nice feel to those areas, as it ensures that the natives will maintain a strong presence despite the overall random methods used to fill out the details therein. I could probably hash out a better Wandering Monsters table, and dispense with the 2in6 native check before the actual roll, now that I think about it.

A topic for another day, perhaps.

~Sham, Quixotic Referee