mardi 30 avril 2013

OD&D Alignment

A classic subject, undoubtedly... 
What say the three little brown books about it? Very few things, but as always, very interesting. The authors, Gygax and Arneson, simply, as they say, provide guidelines. Cryptic guidelines that the reader must decode to soak up the spirit of the original rules. Well, some quotations now :
"Before the game begins it is not only necessary to select a role, but it is also necessary to determine what stance the character will take - Law, Netrality, or Chaos. [...] One can attempt to communicate through the common tongue, language particular to a creature class, or one of the divisional languages (law, etc.). [...] Monsters can be lured into service if they are of the same basic alignment as the player-character ..."
-Gygax & Arneson, OD&D : Men & Magic (emphasis added).
Two words stand out from the crowd : stance and divisional. A stance is "the attitude of a person or organization towards something; a standpoint" (Oxford Dictionary). So alignment is the attitude of the character/monster towards something (what ?). It's NOT a trait, a way of behaving or something like that. This is closer to a political opinion. 

"Divisional" is also very informative : a division is (inter alia) "one of the parts, sections, or groups into which something is divided", "an administrative and tactical military unit that is smaller than a corps but is self-contained and equipped for prolonged combat activity" or "a splitting into factions; disunion" (Oxford Dictionary). So, alignment (interpreted by the book) is a military division into several factions resulting from "political views" (intrinsic or not). Here we are back to the days of wargaming (Chainmail, Arneson's First Fantasy Campain and its army list depending on alignment) : races supporting militarily one of the fighting factions (men and several other peoples are divided on this). Think of a civil war or better : think of Ragnaroth.

The Threefold Apocalyptic Alignment. Choose your side : the Asgardian gods, the Great Old Ones or the Wildness ! 

Wait... you said Great Old Ones ?  
"Alignment on the planet of Carcosa is defined solely by one’s stance towards the Great Old Ones. Nothing else is considered. All behaviors, including the most noble and altruistic as well as the most vile and despicable, are found amongst all three alignments. Similarity of alignments does not necessarily indicate friendship, and opposite alignments does not necessarily indicate enmity. For example, nothing is unusual in a lawful man and a chaotic man joining forces to defeat a lawful foe."
-Geoffrey MacKinney, Supplement V : Carcosa (emphasis added).
Yes... it's a stance. Choose your side and drop these prohibitions and these forced behaviors.
Choose OD&D ! 

lundi 29 avril 2013

One Page Dungeon Contest - The Subterranean Maze of Aarthal

A while ago, I was planning to write a small dungeon for the Nicolas Dessaux (aka snorri)'s French retro-clone Epées et Sorcellerie (english version). Here it is, adapted for the contest!

The Subterranean Maze of Aarthal.  

dimanche 28 avril 2013

"Melee is fast and furious, baby !"

Swords break. Warriors roll on the floor. Some are pushed in the precipice. Weapons fall from the hands. Spell books are torn. Torches are thrown in the face. Racks of arms are overthrown on enemies.

"Melee is fast and furious, baby !" as snorri (Nicolas Dessaux) would say.  

A while ago, Ways-of-the-earth proposed an alternative to the OD&D combat tables. This house rule hits me : that's a very good improvement, but not for the reasons given by the author. 

Before anything else, a short summary of this optional rule :
d20 + 1 + Target AC >= 20 : you hit. 
Every odd HD, you have another attack.
Every hit will cause 1-6 hit points of damage (without exception).  Special attacks (as poisoning, paralysis or swallowing) are delivered only if you roll an odd number. 

Below is a clarification that I do :
Monsters and fighters fight as above, althought thieves and clerics have a -2 penalty* and magic-users a -3 penalty.  
*Yes, it's a high penalty but these classes have better advancement tables. 

Well, that's the basics. For now, the melee is fast, but not furious. So, what can we do with that mess to come up with furious melees ? We have LOTS of dices... Not to use them would be criminal !

When a PC (or NPC or intelligent monster) wants to do something cool a la Indiana Jones, (s)he must spend a number of attacks equal to the target HD. (S)he can't spend more attacks than (s)he has. (S)he normally rolls his/her attacks but do not throw the damage dices. Instead, if (s)he hit at least once (or more, according to the difficulty of the action), (s)he succeed his/her brilliant stroke. (S)he can set aside the attacks (in order to use them after) if (s)he does not have enough, but only consecutive rounds : they are lost as soon as a "standard" attack roll is done, the character breaks the fight, or change his/her target etc. 

Sounds good. 

Some examples :
  • Fafhrd (5th level fighter, 3 attacks) decides to project this bulky and massive tavern table on the mercenaries (3 first level fighters) hired by his treacherous rival, Barsoom. Fafhrd must spend 3 x 1 = 3 attacks. The DM decides, based on the Fafhrd's strength, that it's a fairly easy task which only requires one hit. *sounds of dices rolling* 1, 15 and 10. 15 is is enough to hit these scoundrels who wear leather armors. So, Fafhrd throws the table on these guys, who find themselves lying on the ground. 
  • Belkar and Black Dougal (5nd level thieves, each has 3 attacks and leather armors) are fighting the dreaded Count Dracula (a 12 HD vampire, 6 attacks, AC 2) on the edge of a cliff. The Count holds in his hand a bloody ruby that gives him magical powers. Belkar wants to wrest the gem out of the Dracula's hands. He must spend 12 attacks, and therefore he must wait four rounds (near the vampire) in order to prepare his strike. The DM decides, based on the Dracula's strength, that it's a difficult task which only requires two hits. *sounds of dices rolling* 1, 13, 14, 15, 14, 2, 11, 2, 10, 9, 1, 7. Belkar fails ! Furious, the Count tries to push Black Dougal from the top of cliff. He must spend 5 attacks (he still has an attack that he uses to scratch the face of Belkar). The DM decides, based on the Black Dougal's dexterity, that it's a difficult task which requires two hit. *sounds of dices rolling* 18, 8, 4, 8, 12 ! The Count suceed ! Black Dougal falls from the top of the cliff, and suffer 21 hit points of damage. He looks dead.                     
The last one is a high level fight, so there are lots of dice rolled
What do you think ? 

samedi 27 avril 2013

Supplement II : Blackmoor - Dinosaures

Les seuls monstres du Supplément II effectivement écrits par Dave Arneson seraient les dinosaures, créatures qu'il affectionne apparemment beaucoup. Vous avez sans doute remarqué les nombreux dinosaures présents dans OD&D et AD&D... et dans ce dernier, les fréquences de rencontre de ces créatures préhistoriques sont assez surprenantes : les dinosaures seraient, et de loin, les monstres qu'on rencontre le plus fréquemment quand on erre dans les étendues sauvages. Je subodore qu'il s'agit d'un des nombreux legs de Dave Arneson à D&D.

LARGE INSECTS OR ANIMALS: This category includes giant ants and prehistoric monsters. Armor Class can be anything from 8 to 2. Hit Dice should range from 2 to anywhere near 20, let us say, for a Tyrannasaurus Rex.
-Monsters and Treasures, D&D White Box, Gygax & Arneson.

Étudions de plus près les descriptions de ces dinosaures aquatiques. Ils semblent se démarquer des autres créatures du supplément par la concision de leur description et l'absence très remarquable de mécanismes pour gérer leurs "attaques spéciales" (comme retourner les navires). Autre chose : la mention d' "espèce en voie de disparition" (endangered species) apposée au plésiosaure. Je vais laisser cela de coté pour le moment, j'y reviendrai plus tard. Enfin, les caractéristiques de ces trois créatures sont terrifiantes (10-25 DV, et une CA entre 4 et 3, ce qui les place au rang de créatures les plus dangereuses du supplément).

Célèbre image que voilà, extraite de la First Fantasy Campain. Elle illustre l'amour de Dave pour les batailles navales, et les monstres marins qui faisaient de fréquentes apparitions dans sa campagne. Sur ce, voyons ce que nous pouvons tirer de ces éléments et des liens ci-dessous.

Quelques liens sur les dinosaures dans D&D :
Sea monsters of Blackmoor
Dungeons & Dinosaurs
Lost Land of Mêm

Idées à en tirer :
  • Les dinosaures sont très fréquents dans Blackmoor, comme nous le suggèrent leurs hautes fréquences dans AD&D. Ces créatures sont trop souvent oubliées à mon sens dans les parties de D&D (mis à part le module X1). Pourtant, difficile de trouver des monstres plus terrifiants et plus évocateurs. Les tables de rencontres dans les étendues sauvages devraient donner ces créatures comme les monstres les plus courants (et sans doute parmi les plus dangereux). On peut même imaginer une guilde de chasseurs de dinosaures (payés par tête ou encore qui revendraient des bouts de cadavres à des marchands - oh, le beau manteau en peau d'apatosaure ! et regardez donc ce collier de dents de T-Rex ! - et des composantes à des magiciens), ou des explorateurs/aventuriers qui enquêtent sur des espèces inconnues à ce jour comme dans le Lost World d'Arthur Conan Doyle.
  • Havard suggère (en s'appuyant sur la mention endangered species) que les dinosaures ont disparu originellement, mais que l'Oeuf de Coot mettrait au monde ces monstres préhistoriques à nouveau. Brr... c'est furieusement Sword n'Sorcery ! Des dinosaures qui rôdent aux frontières de la civilisation, voilà qui est impressionnant. Voire des dinosaures mutants ou des dinosaures-robots si on veut donner dans le coté gonzo et dérangeant de Carcosa.
To be continued...

vendredi 26 avril 2013

Petty Gods - Jumping Icosahedron

The last entry...

Jumping Icosahedron (Rare)
Alignment: Chaotic
Save: Magic-User 2
XP Value: 5,000

This Platonic solid looks perfectly normal at first glance. But, after proper examination, one can notice it is constituted by phosphorescent gelatinous material that radiates magic.
This small object is of course much more dangerous than it looks.
It was created by a petty gods of gambling for his followers to spread chaos and unpredictability in the world. If this object is dropped or thrown against a solid surface, it bounces with force and strikes violently everything in its path. He continues to bounce on the things with which it comes into contact, thereby changing the trajectory frequently and in so doing turning into a devastating projectile hitting everybody and everything. In a closed room, this is equivalent to a death sentence! The only three recourses against this object are its destruction, the desperate flight and the liquids in which the isocahedron flows without bouncing. The icosahedron finally stops without external intervention after two years of incessant bouncing.
In a closed room – this divine object is useless outdoors -, each character takes 1d6 points of damage per round (and fragile items are automatically broken). This damage ignore any magic resistance and the icosahedron is considered as a +2 adamantium magic weapon.

Petty Gods - Maharb'aal

Here is another entry for the Petty God project. This Lovecraftian deity was inspired by Jean Paul Sartre's Flies

The One Who Buzzles in the Dark,
The Ten Thousand Faces
Petty god of remorse
Name: Maharb'aal
Symbol: A dilated pupil.
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 120'
Armor Class:
Hit Points (Hit Dice): 100 hp (25 HD)
Attacks: Special
Save: None
Morale: 12

Far beneath the surface, in the depths of the earth, in the midst of scorching miasmic vapors, hums a huge swarm of flies. Here is the Maharb'aal's realm, The One Who Buzzles in the Dark. This semi-conscious entity is the hive mind of the insect cloud, and only pays attention in its apathy to the remorse from above. He feeds on these thoughts of harming themselves, theses thoughts of guilt which are a pleasant balm for its demented and incomprehensive mind. Unfortunately, it sometimes happens that Maharb'aal is not satiated. It then releases a pestilential breath from its underground caverns to stride the land and provide for its wicked wants. This cloud of flies haloed in an atmosphere of decay prowls in search of innocent humans. Few are those who try to worship such an abomination: these fools are in fact the first targets of the little grateful monstrosity.

The swarm attacks unfortunates who cross his path, surrounding them, as if they were swallowed by the cloud of flies. The ever-changing creature takes various forms, but all disturbing for the viewer : gaping maw, crabbed hand... Once the victim is thus surrounded (after a successful hit – one hit per opponent per round - ), he must make a saving throw every round to avoid becoming deeply melancholic and ruminating thoughts so dark that she no longer pays attention to his surroundings, allowing flies penetrate into his body through his mouth and her nose, and he slowly suffocates (death occurs three rounds later). The swarm can surround one person per ten of its remaining hit points (at the beginning, the swarm can surround ten people). Once the victim is killed, his body disintegrates into numerous flies that strengthen the ranks of the swarm. The flies of the swarm are not normal : they have the faces of the previous victims (although they retain the faceted eyes of flies).

Weapons, even magic can do nothing against the cloud of flies. Only lawful clerical spells and vade retro (treat as the god the swarm as a lich) can affect it.

Maharb'aal Reaction Table (Do not use any Modifier)
Roll (2d6)
Hostile: Attack the PCs.
Indifferent: Does not take care of the PCs, but attacks a nearby settlement
Neutral: The god is satiated, the swarm vanishes.

Random events explanation with dices ! - Part 2

Hecatomb (sacrifices) : roll 2d6.
d6 : 1-2 slaves, 3-4 monkeys, 5 jackals, 6 foreigners.
d6 : 1-2 abused, 3-4 cared, 5-6 glorified.
d20 : because of... *consult the event table*  

Declaration of war :
roll 2d6 and a d20.
d6 : against... 1 Aarthal, 2 Qroalz, 3 Zulgar, 4 Ürt, 5 Fayimza, 6 Xakh
d6 : 1-3 secret war, 4 public war, 5-6 massive war.   
d20 : because of... *consult the event table*
Attempted pronunciamiento :
roll 3d6
d6 : 1-2 rebels Jaadu gar, 3 Caustic Sorcerers, 4-6 slave lords.
d6 : supported by... 1-2 nobody, 3-4 foreign power, 5-6 a city class.
d6 : 1 overbearing coup, 2-3 powerful coup, 4-5 unpredictable coup, 6 weak coup.  

Conspiracy :  roll 2d6 and a d20.
d6 : 1 widespread, 2-3 a city class, 4-6 small circle of conjured.
d6 : supported by... 1-2 nobody, 3-4 foreign power, 5-6 a city class.
d20 : because of... *consult the event table*

Handover of power : roll a d20.

d20 : because of... *consult the event table*

Conflict between two or more important figures : roll 3d6 (and maybe 2d20).
d6 : 1-5 two factions, 6 three or more factions.
d6 : because of... 1 an insult, 2 a power struggle, 3 a misunderstanding, 4-6 an event (roll a d20 and consult the event table).
d6 : results on... 1 amicable resolution, 2 exacerbated tensions, 3-4 long term rancor, 5 open conflict, 6 an event (roll a d20 and consult the event table).   

To be continued...

[REVIEW] AA#1 - The Pod Caverns of the Sinister Shroom

This weekend, my group of players, consisting of four first-level player characters (a magic-user, two warriors and a Lawful priest) and their henchmen (a bunch of six greedy and quarrelsome  mercenaries) entered the Pod-Caverns of the Sinister Shroom. 
Yes, I know what you are thinking : this adventure is written for 6-8 adventurers of levels 2-4. But the guys in question are veterans : they played the Tomb of Horrors and emerged... almost alive.

So, let's review ! 

In my opinion, Matt Finch created a very good module. He renewed the dungeon commonplace with loads of good ideas while respecting the characteristics of the genre. It's not enough to roll over, but it's enough to enjoy an unforgettable moment. 
In addition, an adventure in which there are mushrooms and pods cannot be bad, can it ? I even think I will often use the Shrooms (I've translate the word Shroom into "Champire" for my French players) in my campaign world as large-scale villains (I must buy Demonspore)


Mark : 7/10    

NB : Seemingly, there are two sequels (Down the Shadowvein and the Mouth of the Shadowvein) but it's not the same author and these adventures reproduce so well the design of D1-D2 that it is unhealthy.

PS : The player characters succeed the adventure ; they are rich and level 3 !

jeudi 25 avril 2013

Petty Gods - Bokrug and the Beings of Ib

These days, I do not have much time to blog so here are some of the entries that I sent to Greg Gorgonmilk for his project Petty Gods.

The Great Water Lizard,
The Doom of Sarnath

Petty god of millennium revenge

Name: Bokrug
Symbol: A gibbous moon
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 60'
Armor Class:
Hit Points (Hit Dice): 120 hp (35 HD)
Attacks: 1 and special
Save: M30
Morale: 12

The general appearance of Bokrug's idols is those of very large lizards or a blue-green iguanas. But no one knows what it is like in reality. The fact that it is one of the great old ones suggests that its appearance is much more disturbing than that, to the point of maddening a mere mortal (maybe it is a terrifying octopus-headed lizard with tentacles or even worse). This god dwells in the depths of a vast still lake that is fed by no stream, and out of which no stream flows. This strange lake is opaque and green as the damnable mists that rise above it, and the water level fluctuates because of the phases of the moon, revealing sometimes sinister ruins and half-buried monoliths of antother time. Wandering through the haze can lead to a horrible death : first, there is a sea-green stone idol chiseled in the likeness of Bokrug buried in the rushes of the marsh. Woe to the man who finds it : the dreaded god will visit the fool on the next gibbous moon. Second, ghosts of the beings of Ib roams on the shores of the lake, looking for a prey to scare it to death.

Bokrug is half covered by sediments at the bottom of the lake. In a deep sleep, he will not awake until the moon is gibbous, when black clouds will descend from the inclement sky. It is only then that he is vulnerable and can hurt those who dare enter the dark waters. Its main characteristic is its almost infinite patience, especially when it comes to affronts that are done to him and his meager worship. It can wait for centuries before manifesting her divine wrath upon the unaware.

Its gaze has the same effect (at will) as the spell fear, and he has the following spells abilities : wish (every other year to punish those who offended him), confusion (2 per day), hold person (3 per day). It can use telepathy at will.

Bokrug Reaction Table (Use Opposite Charisma Modifier instead of Charisma Modifier)
Roll (d4+d8)
Antagonistic : Curse the Pcs (will use his wish to cause them trouble in the future).
Indifferent: Does not take care of the Pcs. But his gaze is still dangerous.
Neutral: If the PCs are Chaotic, he instills in their minds the desire to revere him. If they aren't, treat this result like Indifferent.
Unfriendly: He tries to drive insane the Pcs with his gaze.
Hostile: Attack the PCs.

Name: Being of Ib
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 30'
Armor Class:
Hit Dice: 4
Attacks: 1
Save: F6
Morale: 12

These elongated creatures are the minions of Bokrug, petty god of millennium revenge and Doom of Sarnath. They have bulging eyes, greenish rough skin, flabby lips, and curious ears. Voiceless, they do not seem to communicate in any way visible or audible. They seem to move while dancing in a strange way on a rhythm known to them alone.

These servants are the ghosts of the members of an extinct race. These creatures lived in the prehuman city of Ib, when the world was young, and worshipped Bokrug. But men came and slaughtered them, throwing their bodies into the vast still lake that is fed by no stream, and out of which no stream flows. Bokrug then recalled the beings of Ib so that they can wreak their vengeance as achieving the will of their inhuman deity. Since then, they haunt the banks and the depths of the lake, attentive to their master's orders that send them sometimes unleash its wrath on a sinful city or civilization. The servant's cohort is then led by the cleric-like Magisters (CA 3 ; HD 6) who brandish in their paws golden platters set with rubies and diamonds where shines the livid light of a pale will-o'-wisp* as a sinister banner. The mere sight (once a fight) of a being of Ib drains one hit dice (saving throw against death applicable) and only one hit dice: no loss of level or abilities (the hit dice cannot be recovered by rest). The chilled touch of Bokrug's minions ages of 1-10 years.

*refer to its description in the Monster Manual.

lundi 22 avril 2013

Random events explanation with dices ! - Part 1

Slave revolt : roll 3d6.
d6 : 1-3 minor revolt (part of an ethnic group), 4-5 large revolt (one ethnic group), 6 widespread uprising (several ethnic groups). Square the result and multiply by 100 and you get the number of rebels.
d6 : 1-3 no leader, 4-5 one leader, 6 multiple leaders.
d6 : multiply by 10 and you get the percentage of armed men. 

Cult relic theft : roll 3d6.
d6 : 1-2 successfully smoothered by the cult officials, 3-4 unsuccessfully smoothered by the cult officials, 5-6 large-scale manhunt.
d6 : 1 commissioned by an elder Jaadu gar, 2 commissioned by a Caustic Sorcerer, 3 commissioned by a slave lord, 4 commissioned by a powerful merchant, 5 freelancers, 6 commissioned by two sides (one or two (group of) thieve(s)) : re-roll twice. 
d6 : multiply per 1 000 and you get the value of the relic(s) stolen.

Important figure assassination : roll 3d6.
d6 : 1-3 slave lord, 4 elder Jaadu gar, 5 Caustic Sorcerer, 6 powerful merchant.
d6 : 1 poisoning, 2 death spell, 3 stabbed, 4 disappearance, 5 killed by one of the "One Hundred and Twelve Sneering Jesters", 6 ominously (hanging, slaughter...). 
d6 : 1 commissioned by an elder Jaadu gar, 2 commissioned by a Caustic Sorcerer, 3-4 commissioned by a slave lord, 5 commissioned by a foreign power (lawful cult, assassins' guild, other city, desert nomads etc.) 6 freelancers. 

New important figure rising : roll 4d6 (and a d12, a d8 or a d4).
d6 : 1-3 slave lord (roll the d12), 4 elder Jaadu gar (roll the d4), 5 Caustic Sorcerer (roll the d8), 6 powerful merchant.
d6 : 1 small, 2 tall, 3 obese, 4 long-haired, 5 strong, 6 special feature (albino, hairy, with a scar, dwarf... or roll two times)
d6 : 1 very clever, 2 restless, 3 haughty, 4 enigmatic, 5 megalomaniac, 6 cultivate.  
d6 : 1 reckless, 2 vicious, 3 spiteful, 4 aggressive, 5 capricious, 6 stylish.
d12 (symbol) : 1 pale mask, 2 cracked egg, 3 white baboon, 4 desert serpent, 5 severed head, 6 blind eye, 7 blue lizard, 8 two-headed jackal, 9 pallid crescent moon, 10 gypsum flower, 11 char galloping, 12 bloody gold dagger.
d8 (area of expertise in magic) : 1-2 demon summoning, 3 diseases spells, 4 mind-affecting spells, 5 curses, 6 magic item creation (potions...), 7 golem creation, 8 darkness spells. 
d4 (politics) : 1 allied with the Patriarch of Gandaar, 2 respectful of the ancient priests, 3 expansionist, 4 against the Patriarch of Gandaar.

Oracle of Gandaar : roll 2d6 and a d20.
d6 : 1 good oracle, 2-3 neutral, 4-5 bad oracle, 6 very bad oracle.  
d6 : 1 very surprising, 2-4 unexpected, 5-6 expected.
d20 : (un)directly, this oracle causes a... *consult the event table*

Religious feast : roll 4d6.
d6 : 1-3 everybody, 4 foreigners, 5 city inhabitants, 6 Jaadu gar.
d6 : 1-3 must, 4-6 musn't. 
d6 : 1 mate with, 2 give money to, 3 make an orgy with, 4 harm, 5 touch/see, 6 make a procession with.  
d6 : 1-2 slaves, 3 foreigners, 4-5 baboons, 6 jackals.

Nomads raiding : roll 4d6.
2d6 : multiply by 100 and you get the number of nomads riders.
d6 : They attack... 1-2 caravans, 3-4 Larhanas, 5 foreigners, 6 slaves armies.
d6 : 1-3 led by a Khan, 4-5 led by a Shaman, 6 no leader.

To be continued... 

dimanche 21 avril 2013

Adventure hooks/Random events for Taqat

Here are some ideas to make unforgettable the staying of your players in the Forbidden City of the Black Idols. I might detail more Taqat and its surrounding world (I consider the original idea quite inspiring). What do you think?

Random events/adventure hooks table (roll a d20 every other month for events).
1. Slave revolt.
2. Cult relic theft.
3. Important figure assassination.
4. New important figure rising.
5. Oracle of Gandaar. 
6. Hecatomb (sacrifices).
7. Religious feast.
8. Nomads raiding.
9. Declaration of war.  
10. Attempted pronunciamiento.
11. Conspiracy.
12. Handover of power. 
13. Conflict between two or more important figures.  
14. City under siege.
15. Black Lotus shortage.  
16. Failed ritual.
17. Other good shortage.  
18. Epidemic.  
19. Conflagration.  
20. Unnatural event.

I will post a short explanation of each entry. ;)