Thursday, December 29, 2011

Why AD&D is Cooler.

Druids had to fight each other to advance. That's why.

More content soon.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Rescuing a Rob Conley Comment from Obscurity

Posted on Grognardia by Rob Conley:
The Chainmail tables are meant to capture the penetration difference. The assumption was if the blow manages to penetrate it is going to kill the individual. Consider each blow in chainmail to do 1 pt of damage and normal men have 1 hp.

OD&D changes this so that damage is now a 1d6 and normal men start off with 1d6 hit points. This is to represent the variability of people and the vagaries of combat.

(Waxing Gygas me thinks)

Then in Greyhawk come the realization that some weapons are better able to hurt people if they hit. The force behind the two-handed sword is way more than a one-hander. The different types of trauma, (slash, stab, blunt) are just arbitrarily factored in.

Later on as RPGs grew more complex some start making the distinction. (GURPS, Rolemaster, Harnmaster, etc).

Separate but parallel is the need to fold in all the non-armor modifiers particularly for monsters. In the beginning AC was a straight forward representation of armor types but became divorced from the under lying armor system to become a scale measuring how are things are to hit. D20 take this to it's logical conclusions' giving armor a modifier

This whole disconnect is why in AD&D the weapon vs AC says to look at what the guy is wearing not his numerical AC.

If you want to use modifiers versus AC and not violate IP what you should do is return the chainmail roots and just list the modifiers for each weapons and include any notes for particular monsters.

You can derive the values from the chainmail table. For example (note I don't have chainmail in front of me so I making stuff up)

+3 vs no armor
+2 vs leather
+1 vs chain
+0 vs plate
-2 vs Dragons
+1 vs Chimeras
+1 vs Trolls
+2 vs Purple Worms

You can get as complex or simple as you want as well as avoiding IP problems.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Motivations from OSRIC

A fundamental, driving assumption of OSRIC-compatible games is that the player characters are, at least partially, motivated by a desire (or need) for wealth. This need not necessarily be for reasons of greed; a cleric or paladin character, for example, could be driven to acquire money to donate to the poor, or to enable his or her superiors to construct a new church.
This has been expressed elsewhere (and by myself), but never as concisely!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Melee - Are we doing it wrong?

Years of video, miniature, and roleplaying games have propogated the idea that 'melee' is virtually any form of combat not using ranged/missile weapons or spells. Perhaps a better term than "hand to hand" or "close combat" is needed, but 'melee' is not it. Not to pick on 3rd and 4th edition D&D, but the carefully plotted movements on a grid only exacerbate the issue. The goals: give players choices, making decisions interesting and tactical, and encourage character teamwork. Nothing wrong there. The result: 5 foot squares, fixed targets, and relatively static positions.

Sorry for getting all wikipedia on y'all, but the term melee means "when groups become locked together in combat with no regard to group tactics or fighting as an organized unit; each participant fights as an individual." Why is the dictionary quoting important? Because it's historical accurate (for simulation fans) and it's what Gygax and company were thinking of (for you Grognards), and it's fun.

Look at a couple of cool (choreographed) movie fights:

Princesss Bride

Errol Flynn

Even when it's not planned:

Sure, duels are your typically melee, but it gives you a taste of the fluctaution of position and movement. People are moving, switching positions. Someone moves five feet, the other follow. Fixed formation fights can occur (Greek phalanxes, shield-walls, and Roman infantry techniques). They have their place and deserve their own rules. Perhaps trained fighters could use them in a dungeon corridor, but the positioning should be the exception, not the default assumption.

The idea is that melees are a mess and disorganized. The AD&D rules reflect that. Firing missile into Melee. Closing vs Charging. Spell casting during melee.

How do we reflect that?

Mosh Pits

There is a zone of melee and zones (areas) outside it. Closing and Charging (per AD&D) get you into the zone. Fleeing and falling back get you out. Smart spell casters stay out alltogether. Large areas may have more than one melee zone. Firing missile weapons? Take your chances on shooting into the melee, or try to target some outside of the zone.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Words of Wisdom on D&D Economies

A few words of wisdom while I catch up on posts:

There is no question that the prices and costs of the game are based on inflationary economy, one where a sudden influx of silver and gold has driven everything well beyond its normal value. The reasoning behind this is simple. An active campaign will most certainly bring a steady flow of wealth into a base area, as adventurers come from successful trips into dungeon and wilderness. If the economy of the area is one which more accurately reflects that of medieval England, let us say, where coppers and silver coins are usual and a gold piece remarkable, such an influx of new money, even in copper and silver, would cause an inflationary spiral. This would necessitate you adjusting costs accordingly and then upping dungeon treasures somewhat to keep pace. If a near-maximum is assumed, then the economics of the area can remain relatively constant, and the DM will have to adjust costs only for things in demand or short supply - weapons, oil, holy water, men-at-arms, whatever.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Spell Components Revisited

By my unscientific survey, most DMs think spell components are a neat idea in theory, but a pain in the ass in execution. Players like them less. They get house ruled ("spell component packs"), hand-waved, or ignored all together.

For a time in high school I ran a campaign using the Best of Dragon IV Article, "It's a material world: Scrounging up spell components", which gave guidelines on the cost, source and availability of spell components. We were using AD&D second edition, so we didn't have to worry about swallowing live goldfish or keeping crickets alive, but it still made from an experience full of resource-tracking chaos. It was part of the fun, but we spent a lot of time shopping and searching, time in-session that me and my current players don't have in our adult lives.

My current methodology is to old worry about spell components unless they are expensive (more than 10GP) or particularly rare or cumbersome (black dragon's blood, canine statues). The key one for us has been the 100gp value pearl for identify. The necessity of the Identify spells has created an interesting economy, where players inquire if gems found are pearls, whether moneychanges have any 100gp pearls, and the use of the pearls as a shared party resource.

I've wondered how to create that similar economy and interest for the players for other spells, without the issue becoming a shopping headache. Conceivably we could use small red gems of fire spells instead of bat guano (rubies being inappropriately expensive for fireball), but I fear creating a logical system that overrides the beautiful Vancian incongruency. I do something simular for my ritual system to handle the economics and search procedure, but the form of the component remains to be determined.

Next up for me is a random chart of items, cross-referenced by spell level and school. It will contain a selection of items that seem plausible for regular play - a live cricket would be interesting for a rare ritual, but nothing a character could reasonably expect to use "in the field".
What should be on the list?

Friday, October 14, 2011

The State of the Antithesis

Fear not, good readers, there is more coming. I've just returned from a well needed vacation. Sadly I could use another vacation to catch up on reading and writing. Hopefull I can squeeze more posts in between the chaos of work and a six month old daughter. On tap:

  • Continued work on my new Yrem ruined city sandbox. I'm finding this more complicated than dungeon building.
  • Work on the Tactical Simulation Ruleset, which is getting a test drive for Yrem. Leave your email in a comment if you'd like a copy of the current draft.
  • More comments on Gygaxian D&D.
  • Random brainstorming on the Ruleset variants.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A worthy quote

Since I'm busy with life:

Once you look closely, you come to understand that with all the bells and whistles intact, AD&D1e is a game of remarkable cohesion and subtlety. You can encounter some crazy things, but encounter reactions determine whether you’ll step right in to a fight. Charisma is an extraordinarily powerful ability score because it influences henchman and hireling numbers and loyalty. Weapon vs. AC adjustments justify the large weapon table. So do the special abilities of certain weapons. It’s not a perfect game, but it’s not just a bunch of crazy shit hacked together in the way even supporters claim. It sure seemed that way to me when I was a teenager, but I played it in an impatient, edited form. It looks to me that this half-game is the AD&D OSRIC emulates.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Hireling Ideas Induced by Allergy Drugs

Initial Hirelings:

The character will start out with a number of hirelings already in their employee equal to his Charisma bonus, with their first month of wages paid. Equipment must still be provided, but these hirelings are considered generally loyal and happy in their position. Future wages will be paid as normal. Characters with a negative Charisma modifier must pay d10 times their modifier in monthly wages as a signing bonus before any hireling will agree to serve such an odious employer.
Example: a hireling with a monthly wage of 3GP, must be paid a signing bonus of 6GP to be employed by a character with a Charisma of 5 (meaning a -2 modifier).

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Start of a new Sandbox: The City of Yrem

I'm starting a new sandbox game, using a draft form of the Tactical Situation Rules. The setting I'm making up as we go along. Rather than a megadungeon, the tent-pole is a ruined city, cribbed from many sources:

The city of Yrem sits on the border of the Great Northern Empire's Stillmarsh province, upon a rocky ridge amongst the swampy forest that dominates the region. Generic fantasy history, blah blah blah.

Long a favorite of scholars for it's isolation and quiet, it gradually grew as a hub for experimentation and research by the Imperial Guild of Magicians. Unbeknownst to most of the guild, a faction under the control of Xagnus the Animated had begun capturing demons in ritual vaults beneath the city. During a heated argument with his assistant Ambrosia, one of the demons was freed, who in turned freed the rest. Chaos and slaughter ensued.

As his final act at the cost of his life, Xagnus funneled his power and soul into a magical stasis field containing the demons and city within.

Last winter - 500 years after it's creation - the stasis field fell. With the spring thaw, imps and winged beasts harassed nearby villages and towns. Factions from across the provinces (and beyond) began exploration of the city's edge.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Paladin Rules

I like to keep Paladins rare, but they're virtually impossible to qualify for using any sort of "roll in order" attribute generation, which is my preferred method. In order to mitigate the problems of qualifying, I've added these two "Paladin Rules" to make it possible, but still interesting:

In order to mitigate the problems of qualifying for Paladinhood when rolling attributes "in order", the following options are available:

1. Poverty is Next to Godliness

The character spends years in a isolated monastery. Swap any attribute with CHA. Sacrifice 10% of your starting money as a tithe.

2. Judged and Found Lacking

Flaggelation, fasting and other allows the character an opportunity increase their Charisma, but the scars may persist. Roll 4d6. Take the 3 highest dice as your Charisma if it will allow you to qualify as a Paladin. If not, take the three lowest dice as your Charisma score.

As a bonus, here's a summary of the Tactical Simulation Ruleset Paladin rules:

  • Required Attributes: Strength 12, Wisdom 12, Charisma 15
  • Allowed Armor: Any
  • Allowed Weapons: Any
  • Melee Attack Bonus: Current Level
  • Ranged Attack Bonus: 1/2 Level
  • Defenses:+2 Spirit Defense
  • Initial Hit Point Roll: d10
  • Initial Combat Proficiencies: 3
  • Initial Class Skills: Diplomacy, Religion, plus an additional bonus skill
  • Hit Points Gained Levels 2-10: d10
  • Hit Points Gained Levels 11+: 3
  • Combat Proficiencies Gained: Levels 3,6,9,12,15,18
  • Attacks: L1-6 1/round, L6-12 2/round, L13 & up 3/round
  • Class Abilities: Detect Evil, Aura of Protection, Lay on Hands, Rituals, Spell Casting, Stronghold Creation: Temple

Monday, September 5, 2011

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Stay tuned!

Work, hurricanes, and infant care have delayed my posts, but I'm still here and hard at work.

Coming soon: the Barbones Edition of the Tactical Simulation Rules

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Rituals for AD&D and Tactical Simulation Ruleset


Almost any known spell can be performed in ritual form. This negates the needs for the normal method of memorization or preparation. A ritual requires three elements: time, space, and materials.

1. Time: A ritual will take 10 minutes (one turn) per level of the spell, or 6 times the normal casting length, whichever is longer. During this time the magic-user or cleric can take no other actions, just like normal spell casting.

2. Space: A ritual may require the celebrant to move in circles, make gestures, light candles, or face certain directions. 5 square feet of space per level of spell must be available and clear of obstacles or anyone not involved in the rituals. Other magic-users or clerics that know the spell may participate, but no bonus effects are granted.

3. Materials: Special materials, expended in the performance of the ritual are required. The cost of these materials is Spell Level squared x 100gp (thus 2nd level materials would cost 400 gp), and their encumbrance is equal to their cost. Ritual material have limited compatibility: they are specific to the school of magic, but can be used for rituals of a lower level. Thus a set of 3rd level Evocation ritual materials could also be used to perform 1st or 2nd level Evocation rituals, but not Necromantic rituals.

Table A1Cost MultiplierAvailable? Amount FoundTest Frequency Time to Find
Village90% 40% - 10%/level 1d4MonthlyOne hour
TownNormal55% - 5%/level1d6WeeklyOne hour/level
CityNormal100% - 5%/level 2d6WeeklyOne hour/level
Guild125%100% - 2%/level 3d6WeeklyOne hour
Wilderness10%25% - 2%/level1WeeklyOne Week

Availability of materials: Tests for the availability of materials are made on a school by school basis. You may find 2 sets of Alteration ritual materials one week, but no sets of Conjuration ritual materials. Time spent finding materials is NOT cumulative. Example: In three hours, a magic-user can make a test to find ritual materials for 3rd level spells and lower of any number of schools of magic. Acquiring materials at a Magic-User's guild requires membership in good standing. Acquiring materials in the wilderness requires an active search of a week's time.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Quick and Dirty Skills

The OSR crowd generally frowns on skill systems, with the exception of LotFP. I understand the concerns about player immersion and seek ways preserve that. Likewise, I have friends that cringe at the absence of something under the hood.

Some people will cry out "D20!", but think of these guidelines like armor classes. Filthy ascending armor classes. If your adventurous, make a chart with a repeating 20 like the AD&D attack matrices so the system scales more gracefully.

What to roll:

  • Regular Tasks: D20 + Skill bonus vs 10 (like an unarmored guy of AC10)
  • Challenging Tasks: D20 + Skill bonus vs 15
  • Hard Tasks: D20 + Skill bonus vs 20 (like hitting someone with platemail and a magic shield)
  • Impossible Tasks: D20 + Skill bonus vs 25

How do I get a skill bonus:
  • Class skills: Equal to your level. You class provides one of more class skills. You never spend points on these. The skill bonus is always equal to your level.
  • Secondary skills: Start at 3, requires a skill point to increase. These are minor skills from your past or upbringing. Roll on the DMG table, choose Education or a Tradecraft. You can only increase them by spending skill points.
  • Other skills: Start at 0, requires a skill point to increase. Everything is an "other" skill. You spend a skill point to gain a increase their bonus. The skill bonus can not be higher than your level.
You get one skill point at first level and each time you gain a level.

Here's a draft skill list:
Animal Handling - Riding, training, controller animals
Arcane Lore
Athletics - Running, swimming, jumping
Coordination - Dodge, balance, acrobatics, juggling, dance, knots, ropework
Diplomacy - Leadership, Negotation
Education- history, geography, reason, philosophy
Find Traps
Folk Lore - creature lore, regional lore, geography, superstitions, local customs
First aid
Insight - includes detect lies, estimate sums, evaluation, gauge opponent
Survival - encompasses hunting, fishing, foraging, nature lore
Tradecraft (specify type) - smithing, carpentry, jewellery making, brewing, engineering, performance

Monday, August 8, 2011

Shield Rules - Tactical Simulation Ruleset DRAFT

So saith Gary:

"Large Shields: Although a large shield such as a Norman kite shield or a large Viking round shield covers much more of the body, employing one of these shields is far more difficult, as they are cumbersome and fatiguing."

Attacks from the primary-hand flank or rear negate the benefits of a shield. Construction of the shield may contribute to encumbrance, secondary or tertiary uses (shield bashes, shining to reflect light) and cost but does not significantly impact it's use in defense.

The Shields Shall Be Splintered rules are also in effect.

Base Defense: The bonus granted in the same round while attacks or other actions are taken.
Full Defense: The bonus granted in the same round when the bearer is dedicating himself to defense, and no other actions.
Parry: The bonus granted to Parry rolls when used for such purpose.
Cover: When used in full defense as cover against normal sized missiles attacks.

Base Defense: +2 to AC
Full Defense: +2 to AC
Parry: +5 to Parry
Cover: 10% cover
Use: Can be strapped to arm - hand is free to hold torch or lantern, or operate crossbow.
Small/Normal Shield:
Base Defense: +2 to AC
Full Defense: +3 to AC
Parry: +5 to Parry
Cover: 50% cover
Use: Torch and be held, but not lantern.

Large Shield:
Base Defense: +2 to AC
Full Defense: +4 to AC
Parry: +5 to Parry
Cover: 75% cover
Use: Shield hand/arm can not be used for other purposes.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Purpose of Mapping...

The purpose of mapping is to allow the possibility of the characters getting lost. Anything else is pixel-bitching.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Random Thoughts and Links

Random Thought #1: Players of newer editions complain that the AD&D charts and THAC0 aren't intuitive. How is 3rd and 4th edition AC starting 10 intuitive? Why isn't "no armor" AC 0? I'll leave the lack of a universal mechanic in these editions for another post :)

Random Thought #2: I saw a thread somewhere worried about the impact of Border's Books closing on D&D. Sadder than that is the fretting over the "death" of the local gaming store is some mixture of stupidity and nostalgia. Gaming stores are selling you the same products you can buy online, with a higher price and less selection. If you're lucky, you'll get better service, though I suspect that's the exception rather than the norm. The only true benefit they provide is impulse buys, assuming they have the impulse item in stock.

There are some smart gaming shop owners and a lot of not-so-business-smart shop owners. In a niche market, you need to be smart. What are they selling us? The same products we can get elsewhere for a better price or something else? You've lost the player-finding, game-advertising community bulliten board to forums, blogs, and craigslist. You're offering a place to play games and hangout? Run a business designed to make money off of this, not guilt/loyalty to buy product at higher prices. Rent your tables - you're already paying by the square foot of space to your landlord. A number of places offer drinks and snacks. Take it a step further: I want a gaming bar. Give me some Irish/English pub indoor, big enough tables to play, baskets of snacks, burgers, and pizza, and pitchers of ale.

Some Links:
Tao of D&D's charts are awesome: Equipment.

A Swords & Sorcery version of Traveler.

A different sort of end game

Monday, July 18, 2011

Cantraps, not Cantrips

'Cantrap' is an accepted spelling and the form that Jack Vance used. I've decided on this form since Tactical Simulation Ruleset uses a slightly different system than AD&D. And I like taunting spell-check. These minor magical effects do not require spell learning checks, memorization, preparation, or inhabit spell books. They are the basics that each caster learns during training and apprenticeship. Purists may argue that they ease the "tough love" survival of low level magic-users, but I feel they're more in character for how a wizardly type "should act" than constant hurling of molotov cocktails. My goal is to add a little flavour to these characters and give the player an imaginative tool to use, not up the ante in the race/class arms race.

Cantraps can be used, without fatigue or ill effect, by Magic-Users and Illusionists with the following conditions:

1) No cantrap can directly interupt anothers concentration.
2) When influencing another or anothers possessions then that person is entitled to a save vs. spells.
3) Cantraps will not harm any magical item
4) No cantrap can be used more than 3 consecutive rounds in row.

I've stolen these ideas from elsewhere, with some modifications in effect and form. More of these to follow, when work interfere less with my blogging quest. Additions and ideas are welcome.

Ghostlight (Conjuration)
Level: 0 (Cantrap)
Range: 0
Duration: Concentration
Area of Effect: 1' diam. sphere
Components: V,S
Casting Time: 1 segment

This cantrap conjures a small sphere pale green light in the palm of the caster's hand. Only a wave of the hand and a command word are needed for this incantation. The light can not be see behind 50 feet, and only illuminates an area of 5' around itself. The ghostlight does not produce heat, shadow, or affects infravision.

Specter's Voice (Illusion)
Level: 0 (Cantrap)
Range: 30'
Duration: 1 segment
Components: V
Casting Time: 1 Segment

The caster creates a brief phrase, of whisper or howling volume that can be heard up to 30 feet away.

Thorn of Vril (Evocation)
Level: 0 (Cantrap)
Range: 25'
Duration: Instantaneous
Components: V,S,M
Casting Time: 1 Segment
Saving Throw: Saves negates all damage

A bolt of energy flies from caster towards a single target, hitting automatically for 1 hp of damage. The target can make a save vs spells, which completely negates damage. Note: even if damage occurs, the thorn will not disrupt the concentration of the target's spell casting.

Material Component: An item of power (a consececrated wizard's staff, for example) bound to the caster. It is not consumed by casting.

Base Dweomercraft (Alteration,Illusion)
Level: 0 (Cantrap)
Range: 10'
Casting Time: 1 Segment

This cantrap can perform a variety minor magical effects:

Create a small illusion for 5 minutes.
Clean or change the appearance of a cubic foot of material for an hour.
Extinguish or light a candle.
Change the flavour or temperature of a cubic foot of food or other item for an hour.
Write or scrawl a single letter or sign for one hour.
Create a puff of smoke.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Weapon vs Armor, Revised

[Note: My intention is to use Ascending Armor Class with Tactical Simulation Ruleset. For this post, I've used Descending AC to clarify the difference between AD&D weapon vs armor types and the method in Tactical Simulation Ruleset.]

Weapon vs Armor Class/Type modifiers are probably the most omitted section of AD&D rules. In my unscientific survey of fellow players and forum/blog discussion, most people liked the idea, but found the execution awkward or lacking. We also played a year or so of AD&D (more or less by the book), using the table with the same experience. Here are some of the common complaints:

1. The annoyance of referencing a table
2. The shield question
3. How to handle monsters
4. The modifiers are not realistic

I'm not going to touch #4. If anyone has a good source on weapon types versions mail, plate, etc, I'm happy to take a close look. For now I'll be sticking closely to the AD&D numbers.

The existing PHB tables takes up a whole page. That's largely a function of the variety of weapons, but it also makes for a wall of numbers. Character sheet layout with room for the modifiers can go along way. Let's take the next step by breaking the armors into types with similar construction. Padded armor isn't used enough to warrant it's own column. We could probably condense them further, but for now we have six types of armor and "no armor". To prevent confusion the armor types are indicated by a letter:

Armor Types:

A: Plate armor
B: Splint armor, Banded Armor
C: Mail hauberk, Elfin (chain) Mail
D: Scale Armor, Lamellar Armor
E: Ring Armor, Studded Armor
F: Leather Armor, Hide Armor, Padded Armor
G: No armor

How to handle the shield? Ignore it. Perhaps this is the wrong answer for a pure simulation, but it throws the types off, adds additional calculation, and confuses players. Xerberon the Fighter is Armor Type 'C' whether or not he uses a shield with his chainmail. On the character sheet (ignoring dexterity modifiers) his player would note "AC: 4C" if he was using chain and shield, but "AC: 5C" if he was not.

Monsters: Gygax's suggestion in the Dungeon Master's Guide should be used across the board where the foes are not wearing actual armor. This will take some work, but TSR would be modifying some monster statistics already. I would probably do this off the cuff as I use monsters or plan encounters. The AC should be recorded similarly, so a Black Dragon might be "AC: 3A" and a Red Dragon "AC: -1A".

I'll post a review armor and shield list, the weapon vs armor table, as well as some sample monsters in a forthcoming post.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Tactical Simulation Ruleset: Core Races and Classes

Fret not good reader - I have not forsaken you. Work overload and family obligations devoured my opportunity for formulate beautiful ideas for you.

Here are the core races and classes for Tactical Simulation Rules. The typical names are listed, along with the alternate names used for some of my fantasy settings. For the core classes, some details may change to fit the Tactical Simulation Ruleset difference, but they should be recognizable in spirit to players of Gary Gygax's works:

  • Dwarf (Dvegar)
  • Elf (Alfar)
  • Hobbit (Dwarrow)
  • Half-orc (Mongrel)
  • Menfolk
  • Cleric (Priest)
  • Fighter (Warrior)
  • Paladin
  • Ranger
  • Thief (Burglar)
  • Wizard (Magician)
  • Illusionist

Multi-classing: The follow multiclasses are available to Menfolk and any race that can qualify for both classes: cleric/fighter, fighter/thief, fighter/wizard, wizard/thief.

I'll reserve this feature for an additional supplement, but I also plan on including some branching of classes into sub-classes or variants, akin to The Magestics Wilderlands, the spirit (but not the execution) of the AD&D 2nd edition kits, or the multi-class feats of Wizards of the Coasts current ruleset. Not a feat system, per se, but a small add-on that allows some feature of another class.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Saving Throws: An End to the Madness

As better explained by The Man in the Funny Hat, the AD&D saving throw system may be quirky and the categories poorly explained, it is not without logic. It does the opposite of the 3rd Edition D&D system, which while elegant in organization loses something in the change-over. Should not a Magic-User, Mage, or Wizard be more resistant to magic than others? How do your reflexes help you dodge out of the center of a 30' diameter ball of flame? Still there must be something simpler than the big chart. And why are paralyzation and poison lumped together?

Much like Dave Arneson and Swords & Wizardry, I have become a fan of the single saving throw progression. People have charted the AD&D saves and there's a pattern to them that roughly goes from 15 to 7. Some classes are better, some are worse. When someone pointed out that the Rod/Staves/Wands saves for all classes is 1 better than their spells saves, it clicked. We might as well remove the column from the chart and convert it to a bonus. Why not do that with all of the saves?

Let's start at 15 for everyone at 1st level, and drop by one each level until the target is 5. I suppose there's math to make this work as an ascending bonus, but let's get the math right first. Next up, modifiers:

  • Poison: Dwarves get a bonus, perhaps based on Constitution like in AD&D. For now let's make it +3.
  • Death Magic: This includes negative energy attacks. Clerics get +3 due to their link with the higher and lower planes.
  • Petrification, Polymorph: This is pretty much the same for everyone in AD&D, so no class bonus. Perhaps Constitution as a tip of the hat to System Shock checks.
  • Rod, Staff, Wand: We'll say all magical items effects give you +1 to the save. Maybe we note this with some of the items (Wand of Fireballs), but not others (a bonus to saves versus the Staff of the Magi - I think not!)
  • Breath Weapons: Breath Weapons are nasty. In AD&D, this is the hardest save at 1st level and the hardest at 17+ for most classes. We'll include this as necessary on the specific monster. Is a hell hound attack as hard to avoid as an ancient red dragon?
  • Spells: +3 for Magic-Users, +3 for Dwarves, +2 for Hobbits... err Halflings.

Modifiers for Special Cases:
  • Charm and Illusion effects: Give the Wisdom attribute bonus (for TSR, I've standardized this like BEX D&D)
  • Dodge-able effects: This is a DM's call as to when it applies. Perhaps give Thieves a +2 on save for dodge-able effects (lightning bolts, wands, etc). Perhaps give everyone their Dexterity Adjustment. Like the Defensive Adjustment in AD&D, this works better when it's not applied across the board.

What else should be included?

Monday, June 20, 2011

My House Rules: Tactical Simulation Ruleset

As mentioned in the post, My Vision of xD&D, I have a list of rule sets I'd like to see. Sometimes I like to play by-the-book AD&D, sometimes I want to get a little weird. I'm not a fan of the WotC versions of D&D, but there are a few good ideas tucked in there. My Heartbreak/House Rules set has a little bit of everything.

I don't have any delusions that these rules will get used by anyone else. At best someone may steal a rule twist here or there for their own house rules. Existing posts and links show the general direction, but here is a general outline:

1. Class is distinct from Race (like AD&D)
2. Most, but not all, AD&D races and classes are present. "Humans" are the only race that can be all classes (like AD&D)
3. Ascending AC - mostly to stop players from whining.
4. Experience points gained through accumulation of treasure.
5. Training needed for level advancement.
6. Minimum attributes for class membership, but no bonus XP from high prime requisites.
7. Weapon vs Armor Class (in some form)
8. Modified Saving Throws - the spirit of AD&D, the form of Swords & Wizardry
9. Defenses similar to 4th Edition D&D.
10. Rolls to learn spells, and spells must be memorized/prepared in advance to be cast.
11. Ritual casting - inspired by, but different from, 4th Edition D&D.
12. Skill system - somewhere in between LotFP and 3rd Edition
13. Group Initiative
14. Changes to HP, Fatigue, and Healing
15. Some unification of Experience Point Tables

Friday, June 17, 2011

Love/Hate the Ranger

I've got a love/hate relationship with the Ranger. Not as much hate as Blackrazor, but certainly not as much love as... well, anyone talks about "dual wielding" and "strikers".

Blackrazor's got some good points. The AD&D Ranger *is* just a fighter with bling. I like using some ability score requirements to keep the class unusual and special, but making that the only disadvantage compared to a parent classe "makes the rich richer". The characters already with an advantage in better attribute get Ranger bling as well. The slower level advancement has merit, but I'm trying to avoid multiple advancement charts in the Tactical Simulation Rule set. Trying to "power up" the Fighter for balance's sake isn't the answer either. While the Fighter could use some love, I don't want the arms race of later editions.

Archetype is a messy word, but I don't think Rangers out of place in any game that involves Halflings. If you let pseudo-hobbits in, why not pseudo-Aragorn? Aragorn was clearly the model for the Stategic Review version that shows up similarly in the AD&D Player's Handbook. Like everyone, I passed through a phase where I wanted the Ranger to be Robin Hood, as a scout or hunter class. Perhaps there should be a lightly armorer archer option, but then why hold onto the name? I've gone back and forth on the quirks of the Ranger: starting hit dice, d8 Hit dice, use of spells and other powers. Nowadays I'm apt to keep them - an artifact of Gygaxian quirkiness. Perhaps the spells and magic powers are part of a class branch, like in The Magestic Wilderness or a pseudo Prestige Class (I've always throught Ranger Lord has a neat ring to it). Or they represent a secret martial order, like the Paladins of Mithras. We'll leave creation of another class to another post.

Where to go with the Ranger:
* This brilliant idea from Blood of Prokopius.
* Using armor as a mix of AD&D weapon proficiency slots with the armor categories 3rd and 4th edition. Fighters are proficient in all armor, but Rangers need to spend slots to get access.
* Starting Weapon Restrictions, a la Unearthed Arcana.
* Attribute requirements remain, but not quite as stringent: Strength 12, Wisdom 12, Constitution 12.
* Multiple attacks versus sub-1HD creatures? Followers? Creation of a keep/stronghold? Not for the Ranger.

You'll see a little of all these in the Tactical Simulation Ruleset.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Training for New Levels

[Excerpt from the Tactictal Simulation Ruleset Player's Guide - also suitable for other level based roleplaying games]

  • Upon gaining sufficient XP for a new level, the character can "immediately" roll for new hit points.
  • All other class abilities and improvements require training.
  • Training takes one week of time, regardless of level.
  • The "Trainer" must be at least one level higher than the character he/she is training.
  • Upon reaching "Name Level", the character must spend the same amount of time and money, but does not need a trainer.
  • Training costs [Current Level x 1000 GP]. Loans can be made, and *some* trainers will accept goods or services in lieu of coins.
  • Magic-users and Illusionists automatically gain one new spell upon completing training. This can be of any level they can cast, does not require a Spell Learning Test, does not require a fee to scribe into the spellbook, BUT must be from the Player's Handbook.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Notes from Aria

I pulled out one of my favourite unplayed games, Aria, for some
reading fun. Here are some notes that people may find interested or

* Traditional AD&D "leather armor" is cuirbouille, or leather boiled in oil. It shares the same etymology as the 'cuirass'.

* Aria uses an "encumbrance multiplier" to translate weight into D&D style encumbrance. The boxspring for my bed has a low weight, but high encumbrance multiplier; a sack of ball bearings is the opposite.

* Included in the armor chart for each type is it's "fit tolerance", representing how much physical variation one can have and still wear a given suit of armor. Plate has a low fit tolerance (as Sigurd knows!) and Ring Mail is among the highest. Interestingly, leather armor (cuirbouille) also has a low fit tolerance, since the boiling treatment makes it rigid. Aria, in all it's detail-loving glory, has
scores for height, frame, and physique that tie into the fit tolerance: Conan probably won't be fitting into a suit of Plate armor made for Arwen any more than Sigurd would.

* Weapons have both a reach and speed score. Gary would be proud! Each weapon type lists its attack modes: maces "crush", hand axes "chop", knives "stab" and "slash". Many weapons have multiple attack modes. Armors are rated in their defense versus each mode (crush/chop/slash/thrust, etc).

Quote from (Original) D&D

"Final Note: If sea monsters or monsters of the sea do not get a ship, perhaps it will sail off the edge of the world!"

Monday, June 13, 2011

Vecna = Vance

In games of Dying Earth, (player character)magicians must resist their Arrogance attribute in order to share spells with other magicians.

There must be a good way to work this into D&D.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

TSR/AD&D 2.1 Paladin Inspiration

Something like this.


(Moving some older posts from my shared Iron Rations blog)

"Round-by-round initiative was key to the whole combat action system though. Everyone declared their actions, THEN initiative happened. That injected a whole element of uncertainty into the game. Did you plan to boldly advance towards the altar or hang back near the door where you could restrict the enemy? If you decided to advance and the other side got the initiative you could end up in a heap of trouble, but hanging back could seriously hamper your ability to achieve some goal or other. Switches of init between the two sides also promoted the possibility of sudden reversals of fortune and gave combat an uncertain and rather chaotic caste. And of course the whole thing raised heck with magic users, especially if they were planning on using any of the longer casting time high level spells."

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Dungeon Ideas from

* Libraries
* Lunatic asylums, hospitals and sanitoria
* Prisons
* Fortresses, military installations, docks, hangars
* Places to keep very, very valuable things - Like museums
* Opera houses
* Gigantic war-machines
* A siege-world/land where vast fortifications, earthworks and trenches cover the area where an Iliad-style generational siege once took place, now abandoned and infested with fell creatures.
* City sprawl submerged in flood and fire; current city sits on top ( in places ) two to three diff levels of ancient buildings. 2,000 year old aquaducts still run, cutting and weaving through a plan centuries old. Would be very easy to envision flooded submrged aquaducts pushing out debris and dirt in such an environ, clearing out blocks of ancient ruined city through abandoned sewers. A perfect home for cultists and what ever evils they summoned, deep beneath the city above?
* Crashed/Sunked Ship
* A previous civilization's holdfast/retreats, built in anticipation of an apocalyptic invasion of monsters/demons
* The catacombs of Paris, before they were turned into giant ossuaries, were limestone quarries - the stone that was used to build parts of Paris was quarried far beneath its foundations.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Tactical Simulation Rules: Rotes

Rotes represent the tutelary incantations taught taught to Magician and other spellcasters during training sessions with their mentor and other masters. These spells and rites form the core of the magical skills during segments of the practictioners expanding knowledge and can easily be called back during times of need.

Rotes can be cast without preparation or prayer. They still expend the requisite energy of a prepared spell of the same level. If call spells of that level have been cast, the practitioner has no energy left to cast the rote. Note that rotes require the same casting time, somatic and material components, or any other requirement of a normal spell, except for the lack of preparation.

Example: Amrikol is a 3rd level magician. He therefore knows all the First and Second level rote spells. While exploring a dungeon, Amrikol and his companions run out of torches. He can cast the 1st level Rote spell "Light" by sacrificing the Sleep spell he prepared that morning. He has already cast his single prepared 2nd level spell, so he could not have cast a 2nd level Rote.

Sample 1st Level Magician Rotes: Affect Normal Fires, Detect Magic, Light, Mending, Protection from Evil, Read Magic, Shield, Ventriloquism

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Function of Saving Throws

An excellent explanaion of Saving Throws by The Man in the Funny Hat:

1E save categories are a combination of the SOURCE of the effect being saved against and the effect itself, then it looks at your class to determine what your chances to avoid/mitigate those effects are. Rate of improvement in any given category for a class tends to be a jumpy and irregular. Adjustments to saves are very few. 3E doesn't care what the source is - it looks only at the end effect, then it assigns all effects into one of three categories. There are only two rates at which those categories can then improve, good and poor. All classes have one good save, one poor save, and then one which will either be one or the other of those. At low levels your governing STAT will be the biggest factor in determining your chances of successfully saving in those three categories, and only at mid-higher levels will your class be the bigger factor. Other adjustments to saves from protective spells, items, Caster level/spell level of the source, and specific class features are numerous and outweigh both stat and general weighting due to class.

1E is actually simpler, has few adjustments (look up the number and roll), but it's also irregular in progression and generally idiosyncratic/not-very-intuitive. 3E, though it uses fewer categories and is superficially more intuitive, is actually deeply more complicated and rather strongly de-emphasizes class as the determining factor of success in favor of ability scores, items, and a wide variety of adjustments.

Key to understanding saving throws in D&D is understanding their origin of the save in wargaming. The effect being saved against is first and foremost looked upon as a foregone conclusion. Explosion goes off next to you - you're dead. Dragon breathes on you - you WILL take X damage. Spell is cast upon you - the effect WILL manifest. For spells, it doesn't even matter what the level of the caster is or what the level of the SPELL is. The chance to save is based on the victims class and the type of effect. The saving throw is then granted as a last-ditch attempt to either reduce the severity of the effect or perhaps just avoid it altogether. AD&D says, "The precise reasons why your save is set at the level it is aren't even all that important since it's all about what class your character is." 3E looked at things rather differently. The effect being saved against is NOT really a foregone conclusion. The whole process is a much more fiddly determination of success in a direct contest between caster or item and the target. Caster level/spell level sets the initial chance of success, THEN it's adjusted a zillion ways by the category of the final effect, the class of PC, his defensive spells, skills, items, circumstance bonuses, etc. etc., yada, yada, yada.