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Friday, April 30, 2010

Trollszine #2

Trollszine 2 is now available for public consumption!!! Woot!!!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

12 touchstones of old-school modules

Decided to reprint this cool list from ENWorld and Knights & Knaves. Enjoy!

1) environmental hazards -- slippery floors, rooms that flood, narrow ledges over steep drops, rooms that are excessively hot or cold, rooms or corridors filled with poison (or otherwise magical) gasses, etc.

2) combat encounters should generally be with baseline (or near-baseline) monsters with difficulty enhanced by the circumstances of the encounter (i.e. monsters have set up ambushes, monsters forcing the PCs to fight in unfavorable surroundings, teams of similar (or dissimilar) monster-types working together, etc.) rather than through templates or class-leveling

3) at least one encounter that if played as a straight combat will totally overmatch the party, but which can be avoided or circumvented by some clever means

4) at least one puzzle, trick, or obstacle that requires the players to figure it out, rather than being solvable by a die-roll

5) at least one item, location, or creature that causes some kind of significant permanent effect (permanently raise/lower stats or hp, permanently change race, gender, or alignment, permanently grant or take away magic items, etc.) determined by a random roll on a table -- with possibilities for both good and bad effects, depending on the roll

6) at least one item of treasure that is cursed or has other detrimental side-effects on the owner/possessor

7) some sort of "false climax" where inattentive players will think they've won the adventure and either let their guard down or go home, while clever players will realize this couldn't have really been the climax

8) at least one disorienting effect. teleporter, mirror trap, [swiveling] floor, or maze like monster. up is down too.

9) an area where resources are an issue. wet torches or wind blowing them out. oxygen low or having to hold your breath to swim [through] a tunnel.

10) an area that has items of value. but they are too large to transport. or cause someone to have his hands full at an ambush.

11) a creature that appears to be something it is not. Some examples: Lurker above, mimic, [cloaker], wolf in sheep's clothing, doppelganger, gas spore (perhaps my favorite), etc.

12. One encounter (no more, no less) that makes absolutely no logical sense, that the DM completely leaves up to the players' imagination to explain.

(1-7 are from T Foster
8-10 are from Diaglo
11 is from Xyanthon, and
12 is from rogatny,
original research-fu courtesy of piper)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

AD&D Druids 2

Telecanter asked "So, any ideas on mechanics or guidelines to emphasize this view of druids in play?" to last post, and as usual, some half and quarter -formed ideas at best. Druids and bards both have proven to be character classes I have much difficulty 'fitting in' - finding an interpretation I'm comfortable with - probably because they are the ones that imply a closer relation to earth history and culture than the others, so there's more baggage attached to them that way than I should bother thinking about...

The only tinkering I've done with the druid class was for Tunnels and Trolls, a system I have an easier time inventing with. Essentially, though, all I did was port over the 1e druid and throw a few more spells into the mix (spells to compel truth, to enforce pacts and agreements (kinda geas-light), and a couple of others that downplayed the nature side of the character type, played up their ability to act as judges)

So, ideas on playing up the traditional social roles of druids (in a totally fantastic 1e society/world anyway!)...

By the book, every druid will have a charisma of 15 or more. Perhaps the druid should start off with henchmen - traditionalists who rely on the character for guidance. At 15 charisma, maximum henchmen is 7, so maybe d4 or d6 henchies? Some players like having henchmen, some don't - and there's obviously some other issues with this, namely - that's potentially a pretty powerful gang for a 1st level character to command!

But this could be used to show from the start that druids are social, and could serve as a sort of foreshadowing to the intricacies of advancing through the ranks of the druidic 'church'.

The church? The whole hierarchy of druids thing. Without going into the difficulties involved in trying to play the 'organization' by-the-book, consider that each 12th level druid will have 'an entourage of three underlings'. The 12th level druid with the least experience points has an entourage of 3 1st level druids. I assume that as these low level druids rise in experience, they are passed to those 12th level druids with more experience than their previous supervisor. Perhaps then, the freshly rolled druid begins the game with a 12th level "patron"?

Well - for what purpose(s) does this organization exist? Are there more druids in the world than can be accounted for in the organization? Open questions. Let's assume that the answer is no for the time being, that all druids exist in underling/supervisor relations. Doing the mathematics to find out how many druids exist should be possible, but it not the kind of thing I want to go into right now (ever?) - I guess it seems more important to me to try to define the goals and purposes of those who follow The Great Druid. What druids in general strive for is spelled out somewhat (paraphrasing: " strengthen, protect, and revitalize... living, growing things."), but how specifically.

The biggest chicken-bone to me, at this point, becomes druids vs clerics. While I don't like the idea that druids are just "clerics but different", the problem that comes up is they know that the gods exist. So how do they get along with clerics? Would not (at least some of) the gods hold a druid's refusal to worship them as an affront? What has prevented wrathful, emotional gods in a pique from wiping druidism of the face of the green earth? Does the druid see a cleric's miracle cynically, or do the gods and their worshipers fit into the 'natural order of things' (as a druid sees it)?

Obviously, as much as a cleric is powered by something (gods & demons, etc) so to is the druid (nature & elements (?)), and if clerics and druids are to co-exist, the nature of their relationship, and the messy cosmological questions that arise need to be addressed.

In a way, Moorcock's multiverse seems a good place to find a 1e druid, dedicated to Balance with a capital B, pacting with Beast & Elemental Lords...

Sorry - no real suggestions worth much here, just a bunch of questions mostly. I'll have to keep working on this more...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

AD&D Druids

I don't like the idea that druids have 'patron deities' in the same way as clerics. No thanks - that's cleric stuff (and not much to my liking for them anyway). This was one of my beefs with the Greyhawk setting - though there's plenty of other things I do like about the setting.

No, druids retain the old ways - which is to say a belief system (and source of power) more cthonic, deistic... to them, the forces of the universe are not anthropomorphic - I like to consider them to be perhaps more Nietzschean (in the "beyond good and evil" sense), not seeking a balance between good/evil, law/chaos - just disregarding them as meaningful constructs whatsoever. Where druids interact with society, I like to play them as chroniclers and overseers of oaths and pacts - where they are rulers they apply reason evenly, but rarely are rulers.

In my effort to not be quite so consumed by the internet and to read physical books more regularly again, I lit upon a book called "The Druids" by Peter Berresford Ellis which was a good read, an attempt to examine the role(s) druids played in their time, while admitting the representation historically skewed by Roman conquerers and Christian converters... I thought it was an interesting read. In general it portrayed druids as taking on a number of important social roles, moreso than overtly religious duties (though reliable details of druidic cosmology/philosophy/etc are few and far between).

(I could not find much critical assessment of this book on the web, but here's a page that someone put up - a review which I find myself largely in agreement with.)

The AD&D druid has always been one of my favorite classes to play, but one I've always wanted to find a better fit for when thinking about settings and campaigns and such. Still working on it.

Friday, April 16, 2010

What would you do for your game?

From: Ugliest tattoos
Would you go this far? I would not.
When I was a youngin' I read and re-read the Lord of the Rings obsessively. Many times.
Then when I was 17 (and smoking a lot of pot) I decided I'd give myself a tattoo. Hmmm.... what to do, what to do... where to put it...

Long story short (-1 ball point pen, -some India Ink, -1 needle and a little thread) I went with Gandalf's mark on the rock near Weathertop (The Khuzdul 'G' rune with dots in the cardinal points) on the back of my left hand.

As it turns out, I did not have much native talent for tattooing. It's faded over the years and most people do not notice it (home made cheapie tattoos like this do not last well unless you go over it a few times at least).

Dedication. Jeez...

While not blogging...

I spent a lot of time poring through old messages on some of the larger, older D&D message boards. A lot of good stuff there, also a lot of drama (as per usual it seems, *ack* dragonsfoot *ack* (strictly a read-only board for me)). Anyone else do this?

For example: take one poster who has been around for a while and who you think is insightful/interesting, and then do a search for their posts. Go back to their first post, and find the thread titles that seem interesting... Obsessive? Creepy? I dunno - no harm done, and some really great ideas! I've done the same thing with some blogs too - particularly Jeff's Gameblog - go back a few years and it is still the best damm blog evah!

(also interesting in dredging through message boards is how conversation topics come up every few years)

I think I'm past the initial 'honeymoon' period of having a relatively stable internet connection - I'm maturing! It's a natural process, I am told... I think I'm past that stage where clicking links and reading everything all the time triggers that node of your brain that appreciates learning new things (often a 'false positive' on the internet...), so now... hmmm?

What to do with this internet?

BTW: does joethelawyer's wonderous imaginings crash anyone else's computer? It's strange and I cannot figure out why...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Title? OK: delicious avacado

Sometimes you just have to get away from the internet for a while - at least, sometimes I do. Otherwise I begin to get obsessive (in a less-than-optimally-healthy way) - so I've had a blog-sabbatical, and I feel refreshed. Got back to reading real books, and man did I get some good ones - Moorcock's Byzantium Endures, the first book of The Black Company, M. A. R. Barker's Man of Gold, Encounters with the Archdruid by John McPhee (who is our greatest living author if you ask me - his works, regardless of subject, have never failed me). Currently reading Moondust (talking to the astronauts who walked on the moon) and Under the Black Flag, "the romance and reality of life among the pirates". Next up is one I'm particularly excited about Ardneh's Sword by Fred Saberhagen - apparently a bridge story between Empire of the East and his Swords series... some of my favorite stuff!

Several gamish things have transpired while I've been unblogged. Acquired Rob Kuntz's Bottle City (and it is magnificent!) and the Ready Ref Sheets (finally). Thanks to a tip from Tavis I signed up for Paperbackswap a while back, and it's come through with the Rolemaster Companion II (in fantastic condition) and a late printing of the original cover AD&D Monster Manual (in bad shape, but FREE!). So at this point, I've regained all the 1st edition AD&D books that I want - Huzzah!

Started running a couple of friends through a dungeon a while back, but we haven't had time for any sessions recently. It was going well though, and hopefully we'll be able to restart in the near future. I talked them into testing out a dungeon, the kind of dungeon that is on the other side of a cursed scroll that teleports the reader and party somewhere obtuse. It's been a while since I ran AD&D, so I used the sessions to identify some of my rough spots, started to figure out how I want to handle things (initiative, higher level spells and some powerful magic items, etc... things I never really had the chance to adjudicate BITD).

Now I'm working on a small 'setting' - sort of a mini campaign area. It's been fun building things from scratch - generating a lot of information randomly and then building connections between them. The whole thing started out when I decided to generate some intelligent magic swords. I ended up with a powerful Holy Avenger that spoke several bizarre languages, and so to justify the sword's esoteric linguistic capabilities, designed its history. This established the presence of some powerful evil monsters (namely manticores and ogre magi). Anyway, I've been working on really fleshing out the populations in this area and it has been a lot of fun putting faith in the dice and establishing some story-threads afterwards.

The first Trollszine was published and proved to be a popular download. Felt great to have that come out - I have to admit that the whole Outlaw Press meltdown left me feeling very much like withdrawing from the internet gaming world - it was just such a let down and filled with personal acrimony and, frankly, that's not the kind of thing I need in the main distraction I have from real life (which all too often already has enough negativity to deal with). I got really wrapped up with that, and I think I needed to take a step back - so that's what I did.

If it wasn't for Joesky the Dungeon Brawler and Vaults of Nagoh, I don't know what I'd do!

Take care!