Saturday 26 November 2011

Pick pockets results charts!

I've been doing a spot of musing lately on what  sort of things could result when a PC thief attempts a bit of petty pocket picking on the side in between adventures. This comes up every so often, especially now we have three thieves in the party, and I'm never properly prepared for the event. Unprepared no longer!

I present my lovingly crafted pick pockets results charts! (Players in my campaign, please don't look at the charts, unless you love spoiling fun that is ;)

This is the second draft of these charts. The initial version I came up with included a lot more extreme results -- including being able to pilfer some pretty valuable items, and the accompanying possibility of severe punishment (incarceration or execution!). After some discussion with the players we decided that, while this was realistic, it wasn't much fun. So the final tables have been kind of smoothed out. Items of moderate wealth can be stolen, and moderately bad consequences of failure may occur, but nothing at either extreme.

I hope some other DM out there might also find these charts useful!

Saturday 19 November 2011

Theorems & Thaumaturgy update: writing finished (!?)

Yes, I can hardly believe it when I type it, but I think I finished the writing of Theorems & Thaumaturgy today! That means there are no more TODO notes to myself in there, all the spells are finished, and all sections finalised.

There's still some way to go, of course: proofreading and artwork. The people who kindly volunteered to do some proofreading can expect to receive an email from me rather soon now. Artwork is under way -- no illustrations done as yet, but with three artists gearing up for it.

Phew! What a project it's been, so far... I can't wait to see the end result lying on my gaming table and being consulted by a motley crew of necromancers, elementalists and fey elves! :D

One interesting thing that I noticed is that the last little bits of finishing up on the book involved quite a few decisions to remove stuff. You know, some of the TODOs had been lying around in there for months, and I got the feeling that some of them just weren't going to happen, or at least not in a way that'd really do the idea justice. So I thought it better to just remove them, rather than do a half-hearted job. I found that an interesting process.

DM info sheets: Specialists

I've recently been putting a bit of thought into the kind of specialists living in a big city which PCs might want to consult or hire. As a result of this I've knocked up some simple info sheets to print out and fill in the details of such characters, which I thought I'd share, in case they're useful for anyone else.

They contain a very small amount of mechanical information, and are otherwise just convenient tables with blanks to fill in.

So far I have: Sages, Magic-Users, Shrines and Alchemists.

Thursday 17 November 2011

New monster: Taxidermic Basilisk

Inspired by an incident in our game last night involving stuffed animals, may I present the taxidermic basilisk...

(Also added to the old-school monster wiki.)

This post is designated Open Gaming Content according to the Open Gaming License.

Basilisk, Taxidermic
No. Enc.: 1 (1)
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 90’ (30’)
Armor Class: 3
Hit Dice: 6 + 1
Attacks: 2 (bite, gaze)
Damage: 1d8 / taxidermify
Save: F6
Morale: 9
Hoard Class: XVII
XP: 570

The product of a bizarre magical warping of the average basilisk, these creatures may occasionally be found in the lairs of mad wizards and the like. Slightly smaller, more lithe and more serpentine than the normal basilisk, the taxidermic basilisk has scales of a dark green colour, with scintillating pearlescent eyes. The gaze of this creature carries a deadly curse – any who look into its eyes must save versus polymorph or be instantly transformed into a stuffed version of themselves. In combat, characters who avoid meeting the creature’s gaze attack at -4 (-1 if using a mirror). Creatures which fall victim to the taxidermic basilik’s gaze can only be returned to their normal form via obscure magic (which may be in the possession of a magic-user who would create such a creature) or powerful spells such as limited wish.

Monday 14 November 2011

What happens to a PC in a dungeon whose player is not present?

A game session is halted in the middle of a dungeon or other weird supernatural locale far from home. When the subsequent session comes around one or more of the players who were there last time are unable to attend. What happens to their PC(s)?

Some initial ideas:
  1. Disappear in some freak act of teleportation
  2. Turn to stone
  3. Miniaturized
  4. Turn into a figment – cannot interact with anything, cannot pass through solid objects
  5. Kidnapped by shadows, demons, imps, etc
  6. Absorbed into the ground
  7. Fall into a faint and cannot be roused
(All these effects are, of course, intended to be temporary. When the player returns the character will recover / reappear.)

Please provide further ideas... if we could build it up to d20, d30 or even d100 that'd be awesome!
(The concept is that the missing PCs should not be able to function as normal party members, or to help the PCs of the players who are present. The assumption is that in mythical realms like dungeons, the laws of normal reality are weakened and weirdness holds sway. So, pretty much anything goes.)

  1. Character is turned into a frog by pixies. Another character must carry them for the entire session.
  2. The character turns out to be a doppleganger. The real character is back at the tavern tied up and naked in the storeroom.
  3. The character turns out to be a doppleganger. The real character is held by monsters somewhere in the dungeon!
  4. The character was a hallucination of the other others and wasn't with them in the first place.
  5. Character and all equipment is transformed into a pink mule, complete with (empty) saddle bags.
  6. Turned into a gold coin that has fallen into the treasure when no one was looking. 
  7. Abducted by scientists, via a time travel/teleportation device and subjected to annoying, tedious and ill-informed questions about "the past," then finally returned to his own time.
  8. Kidnapped by Glasya, daughter of Asmodeus, who needed a last minute date for a swanky party in Nessus. 
  9. As above, but it's an intime soiree and the PC gets to sit at a dinner table with the Big Man himself.
  10. PC falls into a rupture in time-space and is immediately deposited at the time and place, most convenient for the DM.
  11. PC is abducted by aliens, probed, then returned. 
  12. The gods decided to put mankind on trial. Guess who got to appear and testify for the whole of humanity.
  13. PC is whisked away to a dimension where they are fed midnight tomatoes by beautiful women, lying on a chaise longue.
  14. Character transformed into an incredibly lifelike tattoo on one of the other PCs.
  15. Character disappears and is replaced by a sheet of paper covered in stats describing their abilities and equipment.

Sunday 13 November 2011

The personal diary of Weebrian Jig -- part 1

Play report after our first session of AD&D 1st edition. Written from the point of view of my character Weebrian Jig.

The personal diary of Weebrian Jig, Prestidigitator of the Illuminated Order of Mesmerists, Servant of the 7th Angle.

12. Readying 579CY.

Called as a representative of the IOM on official guild business to the Guildhall of Verbobonc. Met one Alderman Crow, the chairman of the town council, and the venerable Mellium, sage of Verbobonc. Also present were an unusual group of warriors (mostly of orcish blood, I remarked) and a druid of Gnarley. It was requested that myself, the warriors and the druid travel to the village of Hommlet, some two days' journey south of Verbobonc, to surreptitiously investigate the uprising of banditry in the area. It was suggested that we had been chosen for this task as we were relatively unknown in the region, and were to conduct our investigations under the guise of a travelling band of adventurers so as not to rouse fear in the village. It was hinted that this may have something to do with events 10 years past in the area involving a "temple of elemental evil" which was defeated. We were told that Lord Rufus and Lord Burn in the village know of our planned arrival, and may be spoken to in confidence.

After the meeting I invited my companions-to-be to the Rusty Nail, which, bearing in mind their "unusual" racial stock as well as the fact that they were outsiders to Verbobonc, I thought would be a safe place to take them in the city without risking any trouble. One of the warriors, a brutal looking chap, but who apparently had some noble heritage in addition to his orcish blood (must remember to inquire after this), initially refused to enter the tavern, deeming it in some way beneath his station. Tis indeed a homely establishment, not intended for nobility, but I make no excuses for having taken them there, as I had good (aforementioned) reason and besides know nothing of upper class establishments. In any case another of the warriors, a strikingly beautiful young lady, apparently a follower of St Cuthbert, persuaded this haughty nobleman to join us.

Unsure whether the orcish heritage of my companions bodes for ill or good.

13. Readying 579CY.

None of my travelling companions reported any unusual dreams, or any dreams whatsoever, despite my request. My own dreams were tranquil and featured (several times) the unusual image of a unicorn eating potatoes.

Was pleased to note that Wilstan, one of my warrior companions, performed an augury upon the morn of our departure, casting the entrails of a chicken upon the ground. However as I stooped to interpret the divination he thrust his boot into the guts and requested that we should all do likewise. Naturally I refused, somewhat mystified at his intent. I believe he is a follower of Rao, although I have not previously heard of such strange customs among the worshippers of the god of Reason & Serenity.

With horses provided by the city of Verbobonc, we set off upon our way, with grey clouds looming overhead. Leaving the safety of Verbobonc, I wisely clad myself in a plain black cloak, covering my IOM regalia so as to blend in with the everyday travellers of the road. Intended to reach the village of Etterboek by the afternoon and to overnight there. Along the road we encountered: Dwarvish merchants heading north to Verbobonc, a horned beast of some kind (spotted in the distance by the sharp eyes of Kazhireh, a female warrior, also of Gnarley), a thunderous rain storm, soaking us to the skin.

Stayed in the Golden Cockerel inn in Etterboek. An adequate, although expensive, establishment. No specialty desserts were offered, disappointingly.

14. Readying 579CY.

Set off early, on a clear windy morning, hoping to reach Hommlet by nightfall.

The road was not busy. The only people we encountered were two laden caravans escorted by two guards, apparently in a very great hurry. They briefly informed us that the road was safe and clear. This proved to be very much mistaken. I wonder now if they were lucky, mad, or treacherous.

I believe today I experienced my first taste of this "adventure" which my master has enthusiastically recommended to me. I remain unsure of the merits of this lifestyle, but am pleased to note that my training proved adequate to meet its challenges. Here is what came to pass.

As the road passed through a region of boggy ground, we reached a point where a huge tree had fallen across, blocking easy transit. Madrak, our half-orcish escort from the distant north, went ahead to investigate it, at which point a confusion of arrows rained down upon us. I believe Madrak was gravely hurt by this initial volley. I leapt from my horse and called Rotter to guard, and I too received a glancing blow from one of the missiles. After this initial volley, our attackers (who were quickly observed to be a band of orcs) charged at us, presumably believing us to be near finished. We were greatly outnumbered. My warrior companions fought well, obviously trained for this sort of eventuality, and the tide of the battle turned in our favour. I myself was forced to wait in hiding amongst the frightened horses, with the patterns of the chromatic orb and the spook phantasm urging to be released from my mind as I have never noticed them doing before. As the orc brigands rushed towards us my chance, and the test of my training, came. Launching Rotter to savage one of them, I focussed on another, and advanced boldly towards it uttering the syllables to conjure the nightmarish phantasm. The brute turned on his heels, fled and was soon decapitated by one of my companions. I was very pleased to observe the spell's remarkable effects in the heat of battle. A second orc proved an easy target for the chromatic orb, as he stumbled towards me. The light of the pearlescent orb hit him full in the eyes, blinding him and allowing me the opportunity to cast darts into his face, causing him to fall to the ground. I now understand why my master insisted that I spend such long hours playing the game of darts with the halfling patrons of the Rusty Nail. The practice has proved unexpectedly useful.

I am thankful for the presence of Rotter, who has proved his worth as more than just a sleepy beast of watch. I shall consider attempting to acquire further such hounds, as they prove faithful and vicious if correctly trained.

Subsequent to the battle, we gathered ourselves together and set about searching through the bodies of our fallen assailants (three of whom, unfortunately, managed to escape, despite the pursuit of Alric and Kazhireh). We discovered a total of 20gp in small coinage, a pouch containing 5 gemstones, and a sack with 8 pieces of silver jewellery decorated with gems. I am unsure what exactly we are required to do with this kind of loot, as surely it has been stolen from reputable merchants and locals to the area. I think that perhaps we should hand it in to the local constabulary, although I remember my master gleefully mentioning the riches he has gained from "adventuring", so perhaps there is some right for members of the Adventurers' Guild to keep possession of items acquired in such manner. I shall have to reread my contract of guild membership, and perhaps inquire at the guild quarters in Hommlet, if such an establishment exists.

It was also noted that the emblems on the orcs' shields identified them as members of the "vile rune" clan, a name which bears little significance to me.

Hurriedly we finished our journey to Hommlet, bearing with us a single still-living orc, whom Wilstan had wisely captured. I look forward to perhaps being able to test the worth of the hypnotism spell on the brute, if we get a chance to interrogate him. I think it may also be wise to "soften him up" first with an application of the spook phantasm. I have read that its effects can be particularly spirit-crushing if the victim believes he is unable to escape.

After several more miles of travel we reached Hommlet, and head straight to the chapel of St Cuthbert on the outskirts of the village. The resident clerics were glad to heal my companions' wounds, and Chryseïs (our St Cuthbert devotee) offered them one of the pieces of jewellery as thanks.

Saturday 12 November 2011

Theorems & Thaumaturgy update

I've been pretty quiet on the book front for a while now, but progress has been happening (slowly but surely), and the text is really very close to completion now. I just put the finishing touches on the section of magical tomes this morning, and all that remains now is to finish up a couple of appendices. Very exciting!

It's clocking in at 72 pages at the moment, and that's without any sort of artwork, so it should be a decent sized book, which I hope will sit nicely alongside Labyrinth Lord & the AEC.

One very cool thing that graces the book, which I've not mentioned before, is a complete index of all spells in the game -- including all the new spells in Theorems & Thaumaturgy in addition to the cleric, druid, illusionist and magic-user spells from the Labyrinth Lord Advanced Edition Companion. I hope this will prove useful to anyone using the book in play!

I would hazard a guess that the people who kindly offered to do some proofreading should be receiving the initial finished copy of the text some time in the next few weeks.

I'm very much looking forward to seeing the book in its finished printed form, and to get using it at the gaming table! (Especially as there are now three players in the campaign who are using new classes in the book -- we have a necromancer, an elementalist and a fey elf.)

Sunday 6 November 2011

The devil is in the details - Many Fey, Some Fey

Some time ago I created (and posted) a set of tables of random racial characteristics for Dwarrow and Ratfolk characters in my campaign. Following last week's PC massacre, there have been some new character being rolled up. Among them are two Fey (not coincidentally, as the party was decimated by ghouls, and Fey are immune to their paralysis!). So this morning I came up with similar tables for Fey (including a few entries from the original Elf "Devil is in the details" article in Fight on!).

Many Fey
  1. Have an unusual number of fingers (roll 1d6 + 2, re-rolling if you end up with four!).
  2. Have hair which animates or changes colour depending on their mood.
  3. Lie as a matter of course.
  4. Are 90% resistant to sleep and charm person.
  5. Guard their true name with their lives.
  6. Have the attention span of a gnat.
  7. Feel a great affinity to one type of animal.
  8. Love games of chance.
  9. Apparently sprang into existence fully formed, having no memory of a childhood or family.
  10. Have an irrational hatred of one specific thing (gnomes, horses, moonlight, etc), and fly into a rage when encountering it.
  11. Love all forms of art, especially pieces which other races would regard as incomprehensibly convoluted.
  12. Find humans and dwarrow endlessly boring.
  13. Are terrified of spirits and undead.
  14. Refuse to have anything to do with cosmic powers, including acceptance of cleric spells being cast upon them.
  15. Only have a 1 in 6 chance of needing to sleep each night.
  16. Carry an array of small charms to protect against all manner of things.
  17. Have a 30% chance of reflecting sleep or charm person back onto the caster.
  18. Are prone to addiction, and start play with a penchant for: 1. alil, 2. fine spirits, 3. yellow powder, 4. exotic pipe-weed.
  19. Have silver, gold, or violet hair.
  20. Suffer from fits of insanity (10% chance per day, lasting one day, roll on the table in the DMG p.83).
  21. Can detect subtle psychic impressions in objects, getting a feeling of the appearance and mood of the last person who touched the object.
  22. Actually physically disappear when they sleep, vanishing to a dream dimension.
  23. Have an imaginary friend (though of course they claim it is real) with whom they converse.
  24. Find water distasteful and will only drink wine or fruit juices.
  25. Can generate minor electrical shocks.
  26. Have eyes of an unusual colour (violet, pure white, silver, etc).
  27. Are able to cast a single 1st level spell once per day, selected from the list of fey sorcerer spells.
  28. Have a deep love and respect for the ancient line of fey nobility.
  29. Find humour in almost anything, even at totally inappropriate moments.
  30. Are deeply superstitious, having a long list of things which are supposed to bring good or bad luck.

Some Fey
  1. Have a sadistic bent.
  2. Have almost no concept of self-preservation, making them completely reckless.
  3. Speak to themselves in a private language which only they understand.
  4. Will not die from ageing.
  5. Insist on things (people, items, plans, etc) being assigned numerical values.
  6. Harbour the desire to mate with a being of another (perhaps unusual) race.
  7. Have detailed memories of a past life (possibly as another race).
  8. Are incredibly avaricious, but only seek wealth of a very particular kind (emeralds, pearls, platinum, gold rings, etc).
  9. Are completely hedonistic and do not care a whit for the future.
  10. Prefer to not enter the fey dimension, for reasons of their own.
  11. Have a habit of pronouncing personal names backwards, and will not reveal the reason for this.
  12. Both fear and desire to know the deep places below the earth.
  13. Value logic and rationality over all else.
  14. Breed new animals in pursuit of a singular vision.
  15. Can detect the influence of cosmic powers, as a cleric. If successful, become terrified, enraged or sick (equal chance).
  16. Find books and writing to be delightful curiosities.
  17. Have a twin which resulted from a spontaneous division. The two twins' personalities are usually radically at odds.
  18. Refuse to use a personal name of any kind.
  19. Shower friends with gifts.
  20. Will only dress in a specific colour.
  21. Study an ancient spiritual text which is written entirely in indecipherable code which generations of fey have failed to crack.
  22. Have star-shaped pupils. The number of points on the star is deemed auspicious.
  23. Are fascinated by light, and will spend long hours gazing into prisms or beams of sunlight.
  24. Are strange and silent.
  25. Study a complex system of astrology which can only be applied in retrospect.
  26. Are unaffected by all but the most extreme changes in temperature and weather.
  27. Trace their ancestry to another world.
  28. Are haunted by animals of a certain species, which they believe are spies.
  29. Cannot conceal their emotions.
  30. Will swiftly die if imprisoned.

Friday 4 November 2011

Slippy's adventuring log -- in memorium of a near TPK

DM's note: I've not run a session (yet) where a true TPK has occurred. I have however "participated" (shall we say) in the almost complete destruction of two parties of adventurers. Once was a group of 1st level scummers who perished battling lowly fire beetles. One character escaped with his life -- Slippy the ratman. In our game two days ago it happened again. This time with a more competent and experienced party, who met their doom at the hands of a co-ordinated attack of ghouls and gnolls. Again one character escaped with his life, and again it was Slippy the ratman.

Following are Slippy's notes on this grisly occurrence. The facts are, in places, grossly exaggerated, but as he says "a truer telling of the events that transpired there today will never be heard".

Written by Yves, Slippy's player.

Slippy didn't speak a word to the gatekeeper Olob when he returned to Lembde in the late afternoon, clad in his dented plate mail which seemed to be missing a few pieces, his trusty bowler no longer on his head at a jaunty angle. He pushed by the guards inquiring about his fellow travellers and made for the village tavern. Roughly throwing open the doors he flung some silver pieces in the direction of the bar and sat himself down at the nearest table while shouting: "Inkeeper! Ale for everyone!". He then looked around the tavern, his gaze shifting from one Red Man to the next, and then started yelling to no one in particular: "Gather round ye folk, for I have a tale of woe and sorrow to tell, a story of the bravest companions a ratman ever did lay his eyes upon." Without waiting for the Red Men to react he continued: "The story of Skarr, a finer ratwoman the sewers of S'raka haven't produced; of Blade, a fine and goodly fellow, blessed in the sight of men and gods; of Hjalhir too, a clever, scholarly man, brother to the great warrior Beomir of whose exploits even you must surely have heard; and Tal Copperhand the Dwarrow, known as Deepingdale to his friends, and to some as the drunken fool of Dreg. Employed by the Imperial Cartography Guild were we, as you well know, and for the greater glory of the Empire did we go to the cursed place known as the Chasm Deeps. We ventured far, ignoring the risk to our own lives, coming across such marvelous sights as the statue of Breets, and such bizarre spectacles as the magical mirror, undoubtedly the work of the treacherous Yellow Men, when we reached a large room, a barracks or dormitory it might have been, seeing as it were filled with bunk beds.” Here Slippy paused, for added dramatic effect as well as gulping down the pint of ale the innkeeper had put in front of him.

„It were in this very place we came upon a rough barricade, thrown up by vile Gnolls to bar our further exploration and mapping. While the warriors among us took up defensive positions, my good companion Tal the Dwarrow threw down some flaming oil, were it to frighten away the Gnolls or to deter their approach I do not known, for at that very moment much confusion arose and all hell broke loose. It was that fine fellow Blade who first spotted the roaming band of Ghouls - even more despicable since they were once Yellow Men - who caught us by surprise in the back. Blade was quickly beset by them and succumbed to the paralyzing nature of their cruel claws. At this moment yours truly nocked and loosed an arrow, but due to the shoddy craftmanship of the bow - which he purchased here in Lembde and for which he expects the bowyer will provide him full compensation, seeing as by this first event everything that followed transpired, and if the man can live with four deaths on his conscience and keep my gold then my hat is off to him, what a black soul he must have - anyhow this bow lost its string and fell to the floor. The Dwarrow rushes forward, taking no heed of the danger, to protect his scholarly fellows, while my brave halfling friend Skarr also unleashed a volley, unfortunately to little effect. Our scholar Hjalhir meanwhile kept working on his maps, because that's what he does, and nothing else, especially not accursed magicks. The fight turned sour quickly, my companions one by one succumbing to the Ghouls' crippling touch, which left your narrator on his own, warding off three Ghouls with naught but a dagger.“ Slippy continued, as he gulped down the remainder of the second flagon.

„Fortunately Blade, blessed he be, as I have mentioned earlier, by divine intervention recovered his wits and set about reviving the others of our little group, and it seemed the tide of the battle had turned in our favour. 't was around this moment however that fate spit us squarely in the face, for a group of ravenous Gnolls then entered the fray, jumping over the smoldering remains of the barricade. Your faithful Ratman took it upon himself to engage these vile curs, allowing Blade to see to the fallen. By very selflessly sacrificing a very expensive gold necklace I bought us preciously needed time. Then the story admittedly takes a slightly odd turn, as for reasons not entirely clear to myself - though I suspect the combat fatigue and large breakfast I had this morning to be the culprits - I fell soundly asleep, which my foes seemed to think was a very excellent idea because three Gnolls followed my lead.“ Slippy paused, cleared his throat and emptied the third pint before moving on.

„Next thing I remember I was being dragged away by one of the Gnolls who didn't feel quite so nappish, looking around to see, to my dismay, my companions once again struck down, being torn apart by the remaining Ghouls - at this point I should note there were probably a dozen of them, of which we killed perhaps ten, six of those I did in single-handedly - and my Gnollish captor continued to drag me off while yapping gleefully. Waiting for the most opportune moment, I then broke loose of his grasp, and, seeing that my comrades were in dire peril indeed, became so ferociously enraged that the Gnoll thought the better of it and set to running for his life. In my bloodlust the recollections have become a bit of haze, but I distinctly remember grabbing a long sword and tearing up their dung-covered lair, decapitating Gnolls left and right while I strategically beat a retreat to the exit, as to alert the rear guard which remained behind to look after our mules. According to them at least three Gnolls ran out of the cave with me in hot pursuit until I lost track of them, and collapsed quite exhausted, physically but mostly emotionally, struck by the loss of my equipment and also those guys I told you earlier about. So in short, as a truer telling of the events that transpired there today will never be heard, let it be recorded for posterity and recounted throughout the ages, the tale of brave Henry Slippums! Cheers!" And with that Slippy drank deep of his fourth pint of ale and he felt a whole lot better for it.

Tuesday 1 November 2011

My AD&D character

I got the illusionist I was dreaming of! (Not that hard with Method I -- 4d6 drop lowest arrange to taste...)

I decided to go for a human, and I have named him Weebrian Jig.

From memory, his ability scores are:
STR 13
CON 13
DEX 16
INT 16
WIS 13
CHA 14
COM 14 (yes we're using Comeliness!)

My master (randomly selected) is a gnome called Blasphemy Rumtum. He's taught his apprentice well, and I have a good selection of spells. The only thing sadly lacking is the illusionist's staple and all-round useful phantasmal force. Something to look forward to though.

Now I'm just trying to ascertain from the DM if it's possible to get a bodyguard hireling whom I could equip with a weapon and a shield. The other alternative is of course one or more war dogs, though at 25gp each they don't come cheap to a 1st level magic-user!

I'm considering using the classic prodigal sorcerer as his "character portrait", and am trying to come up with a title for him. Something suitably arcane sounding like "Weebrian Jig, Prestidigitator, servant of the 7th Angle". He's LN in alignment.

I'll continue to post news on his exploits...