Friday 28 December 2012

Sheep Class for Labyrinth Lord

(This is my 300th post on this blog! And what better way to celebrate the anniversary than with a new class for Labyrinth Lord!)

One the PC's in my Dreamlands campaign has been blessed (via a table of random starting equipment) with the companionship of a sheep. At first the sheep was just a walking ball of wool, but inevitably questions started to be asked about its hit points, armour class, combat capabilities, etc. The sheep (named Steve) has now been elevated to the status of a henchman, and I said that the player could give a share of the PC's XP to the sheep, allowing him to advance gradually. That requires a class, thus...

The rest of this post is designated Open Gaming Content according to the Open Gaming License.

Hit Dice: d6
Maximum level: 5

Of the standard six ability scores, sheep roll 3d6 as normal for STR, DEX and CON. They roll 1d4 for WIS and INT, and have no CHA worth talking about. Comeliness (if used) may be rolled as normal -- there are some surprisingly stunning sheep out there!

Sheep use the same saving throw chart and combat matrix as fighters. Their experience advancement and level titles are as follows.

Level  XP         Title
1         0           Flockling
2         1,000    Ram
3         2,000    Stud
4         4,000    Battle Ram
5         8,000    Flock Lord

Sheep have a natural butt attack which does 1d4 damage. This damage increases to 1d6 at 2nd level, and 1d8 at 4th level. (Note that it is assumed that an adventuring sheep is male, possessing the aggressive nature and full horns of a ram.)

At 3rd level, a sheep gains the ability to charge (as per Labyrinth Lord p. 61).

At 5th level, a sheep gains the ability to rampage. When rampaging, a sheep gains +2 to hit and damage, and a -2 penalty to armour class. Once a sheep has begun rampaging, it cannot stop for 2d6 rounds, and will attack anything which moves.

It should be noted that, as adventuring companions, sheep are contrary and stubborn. They are notoriously difficult to train, and equally infamous for their wilfulness.

Thursday 27 December 2012

Overland Movement: A Small Useful Table

I've recently started running a wilderness exploration based sandbox campaign (the Dreamlands). It's actually the first time I've been dealing with overland travel as a regular part of a campaign since I was a kid and didn't care about such things as movement rates and terrain types.

Nowadays I do care about such things, and have found myself fumbling around in the Labyrinth Lord rule book, trying to work out how many miles per day a party can travel through various types of terrain. It's not that complicated, I know, but somehow it's non-trivial enough that I have to spend time each session recalculating it. So I thought I'd try to come up with an easier system. All I've done is pre-calculated all the fractions and formatted it all into a table (see above) so that only a single look-up is required. Simply cross-reference the party's movement rate (i.e. the movement rate of the slowest character in the group) with the terrain they're travelling through, and you get the number of miles they can move in one day. The percentage chance of getting lost is also listed, for convenience.

I hope someone else finds it helpful too!

Sunday 9 December 2012

Theorems & Thaumaturgy Paperback

Especially of interest to people in the UK or EU, check out these prices! (I just noticed how unbelievably cheap it is in the UK, for instance.)

Theorems & Thaumaturgy Paperback

In the UK: £2.80 (less than a magazine!)

In the EU: 5,40 € (well, that's in Germany anyway, I guess it's the same in other countries)

In the US: $8.05 (unfortunately not such a bargain... I wonder why)

(These prices are all set automatically by lulu, by the way, and I have no idea how they're calculated.)

Thursday 6 December 2012

Variant Class: Space Elf

A simple variant on the standard elf class, invented my myself and Yves for his (sadly now deceased) character in the Dreamlands campaign, Mr. Sporck. In memoriam:
  1. Space elves have no ability with magic, being unable to cast spells or use wizardly magic items. They are however masters of an ancient form of mind-over-matter. They use the psionics rules from Carcosa.
  2. Space elves have no immunity to ghoul paralysis.
  3. Space elves practice a nerve-grip combat technique. If a nerve-grip attack succeeds by 5 more than the required number to hit, the target is stunned for 1d6 rounds.

Tuesday 27 November 2012

Desktop Books Meme!

It seems I'm something of a purist compared to the other people who've posted photos in this meme. The photo to the right  is what's on my desk... very minimal. Labyrinth Lord, the Advanced Edition Companion, Mutant Future and Theorems & Thaumaturgy. Those are what I refer to 90% of the time when writing RPG stuff.

Oh, and you can also see London and its Environs 1900 in the background, which I sometimes use for my on-going Victorian era horror campaign.

And a bag of dice.

One metre to the right of the desk I have another shelf which houses my RPG library proper. I guess I don't really consider myself to be a collector particularly, so I don't think my collection is particularly extensive. Most of the core AD&D books, likewise for 2nd edition AD&D (and, thankfully, splatbookless), the complete Wizard's Spell Compendium, the B/X and Holmes basic D&D sets, a couple of Savage Worlds books, and a few miscellaneous items like Carcosa, Vornheim, Call of Cthulhu, The Dungeon Alphabet.

Wild Magic: Light!

I surmised a possible system for wild magic recently, and made up a table for odd results of casting hold portal. I've been thinking along these lines a bit more, and decided, following smiler's suggestion, to tackle light, one of the least "sexy" spells of all time.

I'm quite pleased with the resulting table.

(See the previous post on wild magic for an explanation of the rough system I have in mind.)

01 The caster's eyes are targeted by the spell.
03 - Darkness manifests instead.
05 - The caster's hair or clothing sets on fire.
07 - A raging 8HD fire elemental is summoned.
09 + Spooky shadows of hooks, clawed hands and sinister spirits flit around the edge of the light's extent. One of them is a shadow (the monster) and will attack at an inopportune moment.
11 The light produced can be perceived by everyone except the caster.
13 - The caster is affected by faerie fire.
15 A sickening strobe light manifests, causing a -1 penalty to hit within its radius.
17 - The caster's eyes emit beams with equivalent intensity to the normal result, but highly directional.
19 - The light produced by the spell's whole normal duration is gathered and emitted instantaneously. All within 60' must save versus spells or be blinded for 1d6 turns. If the save fails by more than 4 the blindness is permanent.
21 + Spooky shadows of hooks, clawed hands and sinister spirits flit around the edge of the light's extent.
23 - A floating silver lantern appears, burning with an ethereal light. The caster can move the lantern telekinetically.
25 - The caster is covered with a thin film of luminescent ectoplasm. Everything he touches gains a glowing residue. This includes his footprints as he walks around.
27 - No light is produced, but objects and creatures in shadows within 60' of the caster are annotated with neon signs denoting their identities. This effect moves with the caster.
29 - A hundred candles appear at the specified location. They burn for the normal duration, but can be blown out.
31 + The created light has an unusual additional property – it absorbs other nearby light sources. Any light source within 30' is extinguished. Each time this happens the radius of the magical light increases by 5'.
33 - The caster is transformed into a globe of light, having the normal effects of the spell.
35 + The light sends off small sparks which gradually form streams leading towards the centre. This attracts wandering monsters (chances double).
37 - A defective light manifests, which is “on” every two rounds, and produces darkness instead every other round.
39 - A brief flash is emitted and a photograph of the scene drops at the caster's feet.
41 - Sound within 60' of the caster is silenced and instead manifests as glowing shapes, colours and images. This includes the caster's own voice. Spell casting is still possible, but speech must be interpreted visually.
43 - A backwards light is produced, which reverses the apparent location of objects. Things which are behind the caster appear to be in front of him, and vice versa.
45 + The light produced is completely invisible from outside its radius.
47 - All living creatures within 60' of the caster are illuminated as if by a spotlight. The effect follows them as they move.
49 - A color spray shoots in all directions from the caster.
51 The light only illuminates the edges of things, revealing outlines without colour or texture.
53 - If underground, the caster and companions are teleported to the surface. If above ground, a meteorite (as per meteor swarm) plummets from the sky and hits a random target within 60'.
55 - The light forms a wide beam 60' long, which rotates around the subject like a lighthouse beacon.
57 The light produced is of an unusual colour such as sickly violet, gloomy red, electric blue, etc.
58 - A torch-bearer (1HD, AC9, unarmed) is summoned, complete with torch which burns magically for the normal duration.
61 + A switch appears floating in front of the caster, and following him as he moves. The switch can be used to instantaneously switch the light effect on and off.
63 The light produced can only be perceived by the caster.
65 - A swarm of fireflies is summoned. A reaction roll determines if they fly off in random direction, swarm around the caster, or obey the caster's commands. The swarm sheds light as the normal spell effect.
67 - The caster is transformed into a holographic being made of pure light. He can no longer directly interact with the physical world, and is unable to speak, but can only be harmed by magic, and can pass through tiny cracks and holes.
69 - An odd light is produced which only illuminates certain things: 1. living beings, 2. invisible things, 3. magic and enchanted items, 4. evil intent, 5. treasure, 6. undead.
71 + The light is augmented by flashing neon-style arrows and slogans of an encouraging, whimsical or helpful nature. (“This way!”, “You're doing great!”, “Look out!”, etc.)
73 - A will-o'-wisp appears.
75 + The light is centred on the caster, who is also affected by invisibility. The caster thus becomes a walking light source.
77 - The spell conjures an elegant standard lamp, with electric cable plugged in in another dimension. The caster can carry the lamp around.
79 - All creatures within range are affected by faerie fire.
81 + The light flashes briefly whenever a creature crosses its boundary.
83 Ultraviolet light only, just like at a rave. Anyone staying in the area of effect for more than an hour will get a tan.
85 + The light is also very hot, causing anyone in its area of effect to start sweating within 1 turn. Heavily armoured characters suffer -1 to hit, due to the heat.
87 - The caster gains the ability to see in darkness.
89 + The light produced has the unusual property of exerting a physical force which can push away objects and creatures. A save vs paralysis is required per round to remain within the illuminated area.
91 + Twisted images of the caster's face dance at the edge of the light's extent.
93 - All creatures within 30' gain the ability to see in darkness.
95 - A scintillating array of blue laser beams emanates from the target, illuminating the normal area. If the target is an object which the caster holds, he can command it to fire intensified beams of laser energy, causing 1d8 damage on a successful hit roll.
97 - Spell's effect replaced by continual light.
99 - The eyes of all beings within range are targeted by a normal light spell.

Sunday 25 November 2012

The Moon of the Dreamlands

Players in my dreamlands campaign, here be dragons! Look ye not further.

After my recent experiment with a google drawing, which was a lot of fun, I've just started another. This time it's something entirely fictional -- a map of the moon in the dreamlands.

I've just started running my dreamlands campaign, which is very loosely inspired by H.P. Lovecraft's concept of the world of dream (but with the usual assortment of D&D weirdness mixed in for good measure). One of my favourite parts of the Lovecraft dreamlands is the idea that it's possible to travel to the moon, and that all sorts of weird and wonderful (and horrible, of course -- this is Lovecraft) things may be encountered there. So I've had in mind that the PCs might come across means to make the lunar transit during the course of the campaign.

This google document is, then, the beginnings of a sketch of what lies on the surface of the moon.

Have a look.

It's pretty basic at the moment, but I plan to add more stuff to it as the mood takes me. Anyone else who feels inspired, also please feel free to make your own additions!

Thursday 22 November 2012

My Visual Map of D&D History

I had a chargen session last night with two players, one of whom has never played an RPG before. (Though he has played computer RPGs, which I found to be of great help, as he was already familiar with concepts such as class, level, hit points, and so on -- not something I'd ever considered before!)

I explained to the new player which game we're playing (Labyrinth Lord), and why it's a clone of another, older game. The conversation developed into a mini history of D&D and its various versions.

Afterwards I had the urge to make a diagram to show the game's history in a nicely understandable visual form. Here's what I came up with.

It's not completely comprehensive, no doubt lacking quite a few clones and sub-versions. Basically I just included stuff I know of. I think it's a fun diagram though :)

Tuesday 20 November 2012

Lulu Staple-Bound Softcovers: My New Love

After receiving a softcover version of Theorems & Thaumaturgy, and a copy of Realms of Crawling Chaos (which is, by the way, excellent), I am in love with this format! I've always been a staunch defender of hardbacks in the past, but I now realise this is purely down to my distrust of so-called "perfect" binding (where all the pages are glued to the spine... just waiting to unglue themselves in a gradual, disappointing decay).

The staple-bound books remind me of the old B/X and BECMI books from the 80s, which is great!

Now I can't stop daydreaming about a 2-book edition of Labyrinth Lord in this format -- one players' book, with all the classes, spells and the basic rules, and one DM's book, with the monsters, magic items and more advanced rules. How awesome would that be?

Saturday 17 November 2012

Wild Magic and the Humble Hold Portal

For a long time now I've been thinking about wild magic (as introduced in the Tome of Magic for AD&D 2nd Edition). I've always found the idea of it super appealing -- I love random tables and elements in RPGs, so a whole class which centres around randomness sounds like a winning idea! However I wasn't that impressed with how the concept was implemented in the Tome of Magic. Two flaws with it which stand out to me are:
  1. There's not enough randomness. When a wild mage casts a spell there's only a 5% chance of getting to roll on that awesome table of random magical happenings (which is what it's all about, as far as I'm concerned, for a player who's chosen to play a wild mage). Otherwise the only "wild" element is that the spell might manifest as if it was cast by a magic-user of a level or two higher or lower. For a lot of spells this makes no difference.
  2. It's too complicated and not fun. Who wants to spend time working out fiddly things which change due to a spell being cast as if by a 3rd level instead of a 2nd level magic-user?
Admittedly, both those complaints are from the perspective of someone who's never seen a wild mage in play. Perhaps it works out great, but I doubt it somehow. (If anyone reading has actually played a wild mage, I'd be very interested to hear how it was!)

Another aspect to consider is that if one wanted more random results more often (as I do), then a single d100 table is going to wear thin pretty soon. Of course there are huge d10,000 (I think?) tables of random magical happenings out there on the internet, which could be used instead. I've been thinking of something else, however.

What about if (a bit like in DCC RPG I suppose) each spell had its own table of results? A table with a few dozen random results for each spell would probably be enough.

So here's how I thought it could work:
  1. Wild mages can memorize twice the number of spells normally allowed. (Crazy optimisational techniques allow them to stuff extra spells into their brains, at the expense of accuracy.)
  2. Each spell has a 49% chance of working "as written", and a 50% chance of coming out warped in some way.
  3. There's also a 1% chance of something just totally weird and unrelated happening (see your handy d100 / d10,000 / whatever table of random magical happenings).
  4. So, when a wild mage casts a spell the player rolls d100. If it comes up 00 then something weird happens. All other even results mean the spell works as normal. All odd results mean that something, well, odd happens.
 Sounds like a pretty simple, fun system. (Albeit very table heavy!)

To test out this idea, to see if it feels even feasible, I thought I'd have a go at writing a table of random results for a single spell. To that end I chose one of the least "sexy" spells on the 1st level list: the humble hold portal.

(Entries marked with a - mean that the spell's normal effect does not occur, and is completely replaced by the described effect. Entries marked with a + mean that the listed effect occurs in addition to the spell's normal effect. Unless otherwise specified, the normal duration of the spell applies.)

1    - The caster's mouth is magically held shut.
3    - The caster's eyes are magically held shut.
5    - The portal is blasted by magic and destroyed.
7    - The portal is magically held open.
9    - The portal momentarily becomes a dimensional gate and releases a hostile monster of 1d8 HD.
11    - The portal is covered in cobwebs.
13    - The portal transmutes into a gelatinous cube.
15    - All portals within 30' fly open and a blasting wind and insane cackling laughter fill the area for the duration.
17    + A tiny golden key appears in a random location within 20'. It can open the portal.
19    - A wooden bar appears, nailed across the portal. It is painted with red and yellow stripes, and the phrase “ACCESS DENIED”.
21    - A face manifests on the portal and will attempt to discourage anyone from passing through.
23    + Each creature attempting to open the portal may make a save vs spells to be successful.
25    + The portal is affected by a probabilistic instability – its existence varies for each creature viewing it (50% chance of either existing or not existing). Creatures for which the portal does not exist can pass through it freely. Those for whom it exists are barred, as per the normal effects of the spell.
27    + A letterbox (marked “MAIL”) appears in the portal. It can be opened normally.
29    + Glowing writing appears on the portal, stating that only a certain type of creature may enter (1. elves, 2. goblins, 3. undead, 4. dwarves, 5. wizards, 6. lizards). This is true.
31    - The portal is locked by a mechanical lock, which appears in its construction for the duration. It can be picked normally by a thief.
33    - The portal is overgrown with thorny plants. Can be cleared in 1 turn.
35    + A face manifests on the portal and will grant access to anyone who can solve a riddle it poses.
37    + The portal belches forth a vomit of slime and debris, covering all within 20'. It then closes and is held as normal.
39    - The portal is concealed by a phantasm which makes all who see it ignore it. Any creatures which already knew of the portal's existence may save vs spells.
41    - A phantasmal door appears next to the targeted portal.
43    + A skull appears, chained onto the portal. It pronounces the doom of any who approach the portal.
45    - Two guards (1HD, AC 5, long sword) are summoned for the duration. They will attempt to prevent anyone from passing through the portal.
47    - Anyone passing through the portal is overcome with: 1. cosmic ecstasy, 2. terror, 3. sorrow, 4. existential angst, 5. carnal lust, 6. blood lust.
49    - The portal leads into an illusionary meadow.
51    + For the duration, the portal's surface changes into a mirror which reveals invisible or ethereal objects/creatures.
53    - The portal acts as a dimension door to a random location within 360'.
55    - The portal screams when opened or closed.
57    - The portal is held open, but a sheet of magical flame appears, filling its aperture. Passing through causes 1d6 damage.
58    + The portal flickers with (harmless) arcane fire of odd colours.
61    + The portal shudders and vibrates.
63    - The portal vanishes entirely and permanently. It is replaced by a section of blank wall.
65    + When the duration ends the portal acts as a dimension door to a random location within 360'. This effect lasts for 6 turns.
67    - The portal becomes a gateway to another world.
69    - The portal is concealed by an illusionary wall.
71    + The portal flickers with arcane fire of odd colours. The fire causes 1d3 damage to anyone touching it.
73    - The portal is blasted by magic and destroyed. In its place appears a wall of force.
75    + The words “TRY YOUR LUCK” appear on the portal. Anyone attempting to open it must roll 1d6: 1. the portal opens, 2. affected by sleep, 3. affected by cure light wounds, 4. affected by confusion, 5. teleport to the other side of the portal (which remains held), 6. blinded for 1d6 turns.
77    - A dimensional loop manifests, causing anything which moves through the portal to end up where it came from.
79    - The portal is consumed by a howling dimensional void, which remains for the duration. Anything put into it is irrevocably destroyed.
81    + Anyone touching the portal is electrocuted for 1d4 damage.
83    - The portal metamorphoses into a mimic.
85    - The portal is covered in sticky strands, as per the web spell.
87    + Sturdy iron bars manifest to augment the spell. The bars are permanent.
89    - The words “DEATH TO ALL WHO PASS” hang above the portal in sinister glowing script. Any who pass through must save vs death or die.
91    + All portals within 30' are held.
93    + A symbol of fear manifests on the warded portal.
95    + A monster of 1d8 HD is summoned and guards the portal.
97    - The targeted portal is affected by arcane lock.
99    - All portals within 30' vanish entirely and permanently. They are replaced by blank walls.

I conclude that it does feel like a feasible system, though would be very time-consuming to write the required tables for all 105 basic Labyrinth Lord spells! Who knows, maybe something I'll work on slowly.

Tuesday 13 November 2012

Is Writing for D&D the Ultimate in Short Story Writing?

The new campaign I've just started running (the Dreamlands campaign) is taking the form of a hex-crawl. So I have a hex map with loads of dungeons placed on it, and a list of descriptions of interesting things in some (eventually all, I hope!) of the hexes.

As I was writing a hex description last night, it occurred to me that writing for D&D is perhaps the perfect occupation for someone who loves to create sketches of scenes, locations, characters, stories; but who has no desire to flesh them out into a traditional "literature" form as full or short stories. I am such a person.

Thinking about it some more, this principle can be seen in many aspects of D&D writing: hex descriptions, dungeon room descriptions, new monsters, new spells, magic items, etc. All these things (at least in OSR circles) take the form of a sketch, with many details deliberately left vague and intriguing -- to be fleshed out during play, as needed.

Not being versed in any theories of literature, cultural studies or suchlike, these thoughts don't really lead me anywhere in particular. But I found it to be an interesting observation.

Here's the hex description which inspired these thoughts:

Players in the Dreamlands campaign, you might want to stop reading at this point!

Valley of hands -- giant stone hands lying in the forest. At the top of the valley, an ancient stair leads up to a hill where stand the remnants of a stone tower. The tower is completely overgrown, but a magically sealed trapdoor leads down to a cellar. In the cellar is: a large chest full of purple/green rugs & silks (600gp), shelves full of books -- how to animate the stone hands of the valley for one night, plus the spells command construct and inhabit figurine. A fey warlock "Malthus" trapped in a cube of green ice. He is chaotic and treacherous, hates Queen Malithandria. A PC can trade his or her soul with Malthus in return for fey powers.

Monday 12 November 2012

Within the Radiant Dome: My First Published Adventure!

Sitting proudly alongside Alex Fotinakes' Beneath the Ruins, my new adventure Within the Radiant Dome is the second module in Geoffrey McKinney's awesome PSYCHEDELIC FANTASIES line.

16 pages of weird D&D fun ready to place in any campaign. Everything in the module is a new creation -- new monsters, new magic items, new spells.

Great for a grab-the-loot one-shot, or to be explored over a longer period in a campaign.

Check it out!

Sunday 4 November 2012

First Review of Theorems & Thaumaturgy!

And it's a good one!

Brendan's review on Untimately

Snake-man Class for Basic Labyrinth Lord

As promised yesterday, my snake-man class for basic Labyrinth Lord.

The rest of this post is designated Open Gaming Content according to the Open Gaming License.

Requirements: STR 9, DEX 9
Prime Requisites: STR & INT or STR & WIS
Hit Dice: 1d6
Maximum Level: 8

Snake-men are an ancient and reviled race of semi-humanoid serpents. They have the long body and tail of a giant snake (up to 10' in length), a snake's head, and human-like arms and torso.

Snake-men are notorious among others races for their depraved religious cults, which often enslave and sacrifice intelligent beings. All snake-men adventurers are trained in both fighting and magic, though they may choose whether to use clerical or magic-user spells. Clerical snake-men have STR and WIS as prime requisites, whereas magic-user snake-men have STR and INT. Note that clerical snake-men do not have the ability to turn undead.

Snake-men may use any weapons and armour, and use the elf combat, saving throw, experience and spell progression tables.

A snake-man must have a 13 or greater in both prime requisites to gain a +5% experience bonus, and a 16 or greater in both attributes is required for the +10% bonus.

In melee, a snake-man can choose to attack with his bite instead of a weapon. The bite inflicts 1d6 hit points' damage. Furthermore, a snake-man can make a poisoned bite attack once per day. The intention must be declared before the to-hit roll is made, and the poison is wasted if the attack misses. The poisoned bite inflicts additional damage equal to the snake-man's current hit points, with a successful save indicating half damage.

Snake-men may also choose to attack with their tail in melee, attempting to coil around an opponent. Constricted opponents suffer 1d3 damage per round and -2 to-hit. A snake-man's tail also allows him to coil around pillars and such.

Due to their unusual form, snake-men cannot wear normal humanoid armour, and must pay double when purchasing armour. Magical armour designed for snake-man physiology is extremely rare.

Snake-man Backgrounds
  1. Slaver
  2. Temple guardian
  3. Magus
  4. Astrologer
  5. Tomb raider
  6. Death priest
  7. Embalmer
  8. Historian

Saturday 3 November 2012

Reptiloid Class for Basic Labyrinth Lord

I previously posted a reptiloid race for Advanced Labyrinth Lord, but I've since then decided to run basic LL instead for my next campaign (which will starting next week, hopefully!). So here's a basic style race-class conversion of the reptiloids.

The eagle-eyed may note the absence of the snakeman variant... Snakemen have become a class in their own right, which I shall post soon.

The rest of this post is designated Open Gaming Content according to the Open Gaming License.

Requirements: STR 9, DEX 9
Prime Requisites: STR, DEX
Hit Dice: 1d8
Maximum Level: 9

Reptiloids are a race of scaly lizard-like humanoids. They are typically of average human height and build, with scaly skin of varying hue (often greenish).

Reptiloids are strictly carnivorous, and have a natural bite attack which causes 1d8 damage. They have a very powerful sense of smell, which means that they are only surprised on a roll of 1.

Due to their scales, reptiloids have a natural armour class of 7. They are able to use any weapons and armour, and use the same saving throw and experience tables as dwarves. A reptiloid with a 13 in one of the two prime requisites gains a +5% XP bonus. A reptiloid with STR and DEX both above 12 gains a +10% bonus.

Reptiloid Variations
Two variant reptiloids are described below. They have weaker bite attacks, inflicting only 1d6 damage, no natural armour, and do not have the normal reptiloid's refined olfactory senses, instead having other abilities.

Gullygug: Gullygugs are a race of amphibious frog-men. When lightly encumbered they can swim at their full movement rate. They can make a hop attack, jumping up to 15' forwards and gaining +1 to-hit and +2 damage if using an impaling weapon. Gullygugs can breathe underwater for 10 minutes. In dry environments gullygugs suffer -2 to-hit unless they have a source of water available to wet their skin.

Troglodyte: A slimy subterranean race. When unclothed, their chameleon skin enables them to surprise on a 1-4. They can also choose to exude a stench which causes sickness (-2 to attack rolls) in other humanoid races within 30', unless a save versus poison is made. Note that a troglodyte's stench affects all humanoids (except other troglodytes) within range, including allies.

Reptiloid Backgrounds
  1. Slaver
  2. Hunter
  3. Spawn guardian
  4. Escaped slave
  5. Man-slayer
  6. Beast rider
  7. Cannibal
  8. Headhunter

Tuesday 30 October 2012

Theorems & Thaumaturgy: Here It Is!

Just arrived this morning -- my test printing of Theorems & Thaumaturgy!

To my relief, everything looks perfect.

Thus: GET IT HERE...

(Hardcover, softcover and free PDF options. Note: the books are being sold at-cost.)

Sunday 28 October 2012

Phase Elves for Basic Labyrinth Lord

A variant of the elf class with a nod to OD&D.

The rest of this post is designated Open Gaming Content according to the Open Gaming License.

Phase Elves
Of the many species of elves, phase elves are perhaps the oddest. They originate from an inter-dimensional space which is inaccessible to other races, and about which they never speak.

Physically they appear similar to other elves -- tall and slender, with elegant features. It is, however, always possible to identify a phase elf by his or her eyes, which are either pure black or pure white, without an iris or pupil. Their hair also tends to be of unusual hues such as violet or cyan (though this is not unknown in other species of elf).

What makes phase elves truly unusual is their double personality. Each individual has two independent but interconnected personae. The two personae usually share the same name, and have complete knowledge of the other's actions, but their personalities and goals are often at odds. The two personae are sometimes even of different alignment. On any given day, only one of the two personalities is manifest in the physical world, the other having shifted into the phase dimension.

A phase elf PC thus has two classes -- magic-user and fighter -- one for each personality. At the start of each game day the player can choose which personality manifests. The phasing of personalities typically occurs at the moment of waking in the morning. When a phase elf switches personalities, the only noticeable change is that the colour of his or her eyes invert (white becomes black, and vice versa). However at the moment of phasing the character's personality and class abilities switch.

When a phase elf's fighter persona is manifest, the character functions exactly as a fighter, losing all spell-casting ability. Likewise, when the character's magic-user persona is manifest, he or she gains the ability to memorize and cast spells, but must abide by the armour and weapon restrictions of the magic-user class.

Both personae share the same hit points (d6 Hit Dice), and use the same saving throws (the standard elf matrix). Attack rolls are made using either the fighter or magic-user matrix, dependant on the manifest persona.

Phase elves use the magic-user experience table, and can advance to a maximum of 8th level.

Saturday 27 October 2012

Gnome Class for Basic Labyrinth Lord

For my new Labyrinth Lord campaign I've decided, for simplicity and nostalgia, to use the basic rules -- so race-classes are back in fashion!

To that end I thought I'd whip up a gnome class, as I've always been fond of the oft-reviled wee folk. I've tried to give them a bit of flavour to differentiate them from dwarves, with whom they are often conflated.

The rest of this post is designated Open Gaming Content according to the Open Gaming License.


Requirements: STR 9, DEX 9
Prime Requisites: STR, DEX
Hit Dice: 1d6
Maximum Level: 8

Gnomes are a wee race of cunning burrowers. They are sometimes mistakenly regarded as relatives of dwarves or halflings – an assertion at which they take offence. In stature, gnomes reach about 3½ feet, and 60 pounds. They tend to dress in shades of brown and green, favouring soft leather and felt. The pride and joy of every gnome is his or her hat. They sport felt hats of a variety of shapes, colours and sizes – a tall red cone being the traditional choice.

Gnomes typically dwell in deep forests and secluded valleys, and have little contact with other races. They speak their own language and the common tongue. They are also privileged to know the secret language of burrowing mammals such as badgers, moles, rats, and rabbits. Such creatures, including giant varieties, are often found in the company of gnomes.

Due to their habit of living in burrows and warren complexes, gnomes can detect unsafe construction when below ground. A gnome must spend one turn searching to use this ability, and has a 2 in 6 chance of success. Gnomes can also always tell how deep underground they are, accurate to within 20', and never lose their orientation underground.

Like halflings, due to their small stature, gnomes gain a +2 bonus to armour class when fighting larger than man-size creatures. Gnomes may use any armour and any weapons except large or two-handed melee weapons, longbows and heavy crossbows.

They use the same combat, saving throw and experience tables as halflings. A gnome with at least a 13 in one prime requisite gains a +5% experience bonus. A gnome with 13 or greater in both STR and DEX gets a +10% bonus.

Gnome Backgrounds
  1. Troll hunter
  2. Brewer
  3. Badger master
  4. Tinker
  5. Burglar
  6. Outcast
  7. Hatter (optionally mad)
  8. Woodsman
See also: variant gnomes.

Thursday 25 October 2012

PDF Downloads Moved

As you might notice, I've had a wee bit of a reorganise on the old blog.

The main item of note is the new publications page, which is now home to all the PDFs I've published.

Sunday 21 October 2012

Dreamlands: Random Character Backgrounds

Following on from my recent post on B/X character backgrounds, I thought I'd share the one-page PDF I've made for players in my upcoming dreamlands campaign.

One of the concepts of the campaign is that adventurers from virtually any possible world can enter the dreamlands -- thus there is essentially no "campaign setting". The point of this is two-fold:
  1. To give players complete free reign over the character they create, with no limitations imposed by the DM's preconceived notions of a campaign world.
  2. To encourage an odd mashup of characters. Just for fun.
So, we could have a cleric of St Cuthbert, straight out of Greyhawk, teaming up with a star-faring barbarian and a clockwork dwarf from a steampunk maze-world.

To this end I thought it'd be helpful to produce some random tables for players who like random character generation to roll on. So we have tables for the following:
  • Sex
  • Sexuality
  • Skin colour
  • Cultural origin
  • Religion
These are, obviously, heavily influenced by Jeff's What Went Wrong.

Here's the PDF.

Recommended for use with JB's B/X Headgear and 100 Reasons tables.

Saturday 20 October 2012

249 new spells

249 new spells!

(Shame there wasn't one more, making it a nice round number! ;)

Accelerated Healing, Accelerated Immune System, Accelerated Metabolism, Alter Reality, Amalgam of Earth and Air, Amalgam of Fire and Water, Animate Puppet, Animate Puppet, Mass, Animate Statue, Arcane Mark, Artificial Intelligence, Ascend, Attach Rope, Banish Elemental, Banish Elementine, Bind Spirit, Bond Bane, Brimstone Monolith, Cannibalize, Channel, Charm Spell, Charm Undead, Chimera I, Chimera II, Chimera III, Choke, Command Construct, Command Dead, Command Elemental I, Command Elemental II, Command Elemental III, Command Rope, Command Spell, Command Undead, Conducting Skein, Conducting Web, Conjure Rope, Contact Elemental Spirit, Contact Other Plane, Contact Spirit, Control Ooze, Corpse Visage, Curse of Undeath, Death Geas, Death Recall, Demand, Detach / Graft, Detect Disease, Detect Poison, Detect Undead, Devolution, Dimension Door, Greater, Dimension Leap, Dimensional Simplicity, Dimensional Ward, Disappear, Divide Body, Divide Mind, Dream Travel, Dreaming, Drone, Dweomerlight, Dying Words, Edibility, Egg of Life, Elemental Cancellation, Elemental Gate, Elemental Plane Protection, Elemental Plane Protection, 10' Radius, Elemental Portal, Elemental Portal, Greater, Elemental Wrath, Explosive Growth, Exterminate, Extinction, Extraordinary Regeneration, Fastness, Figment, Firelight, Flesh Blast, Full Codex, Fungal Growth, Gaseous Form, Gelatinous Transformation, Genesis, Ghoul Touch, Glamour, Grapple, Grease, Guardian Spirit, Hapless Fool, Haunting, Hibernate, Hide, Hive Mind, Hive Sight, Illusory Abode, Immunity to Disease, Immunity to Poison, Impregnate, Incinerate / Uncinerate, Inhabit Figurine, Instant Memorization I, Instant Memorization II, Inter, Invisibility, Lesser, Invisibility, Limited, Knowledge of Life, Lasting Breath, Lend Strength or Fortitude, Lich Touch, Life Cycle, Life Energy Protection, Light Codex, Locate Remains, Lost & Found, Marionette, Mass Devolution, Mass Mutation, Meld Elemental, Memorium, Mists of Madness, Mnemonic Obfuscation, Mummy Touch, Mutate, Natural Weaponry, Natural Weaponry, Improved, Organ Transference, Organ Transference, Greater, Pact of Brass, Parasitic Implantation, Pass Undead, Pathless Land, Phantasm of Forgetting, Phantasm of the Laughing Gnome, Plant Metabolism, Plant Symbiosis, Polyvorousness, Portent of Doom, Pre-emptive Strike, Preserve Dead, Prismatic Beam, Raise Dead, Lesser, Ray of Fire / Cold, Ray of Pain, Read Magic, Read Magic, Read Magic, Read Magic, Reassemble, Regeneration, Regeneration, Greater, Regenerative Pupation, Reinstate Spirit, Relentless Binding, Replicate Lifeform, Reptilian Metabolism, Resist Turning, Revert Shapechange, Rope Like Steel, Rope Walk, Rope Ward, Rotational Acceleration, Sacrificial Resurrection, Script Codex, Seal Tomb, Seasong / Windsong / Firesong, Shadow Touch, Shapes, Skein, Skeletal Army, Skeletal Servitor, Skin Transformation, Skull Sight, Skull Speech, Slapstick Fun!, Slime Blast, Solid Fog, Sound Codex, Spectral Hand, Spell Door, Spell Reading, Sphere of Annihilation, Spider Skein, Spook, Spore Blast, Spore Cloud, Spying Sigil, Staunch Blood Flow, Steal Life Force, Steal Spell, Strengthen Rope, Summon Demon, Summon Dimensional Horror, Summon Elemental Horror, Summon Elemental I, Summon Elemental II, Summon Elemental III, Summon Elementine, Summon Familiar, Summon Fey Kin, Summon Greater Elemental Kin, Summon Greater Elementine, Summon Swarm, Summon Undead I, Summon Undead II, Summon Undead III, Summon Undead IV, Summon Undead V, Summon Undead VI, Summon Undead VII, Survival of the Fittest, Swarm Transformation, Symbiotic Familiar, Symbol, Teleport, Tessellate, Tidal Force, Time Flow, Transfer Pregnancy, Transformative Pupation, Trigger, Uncontrollable Hideous Laughter, Undead Regeneration, Undo, Unhallow, Upper Hand, Vacuum, Valiance in Death, Vampiric Enslavement, Vats of Creation, Venom, Venomous Blood, Viral Phantasm, Virus, Vitality Surge, Voodoo Doll, Wall of Gloom, Web of Arachne, Web Walk, Weird, Xenogamy, Yeast Growth, Zoetrope, Zombie Servitor, Zone of Creeping Terror, Zone of Death, Zone of Sinister Stillness, Zone of Weakness

These are the spells contained in Theorems & Thaumaturgy.

I've got my test copy on order with lulu now, so it's only a matter of a few weeks until it'll be publicly available.

(ps. if anyone wonders, the 4 times read magic is because the spell appears in the list of 4 classes in the book...)

Sunday 14 October 2012

Theorems & Thaumaturgy -- The Final Touches

It's very oh so nearly finished! I've been storming through the layout over the past couple of weeks, and have now finished all but one section of the book. That means I only have 5 pages of layout left to do -- a matter of a few hours' work at the rate I've been going.

So from there all I need to do is the back cover blurb, which I'm struggling with a bit, to be honest! I'm sure I'll work something out though.

Those last little bits completed, I'll be uploading it to lulu, and ordering a test printing for myself. Wow, I cannot wait to see it in the flesh at last! I plan to use it in my upcoming dreamlands campaign...

All going well, I anticipate that the book should be available for public consumption, as a free PDF or a not-for-profit book, within the next month. (I'm hoping for the end of October, but that somewhat depends on how quick the shipping of my test printing is...)

As a last minute bonus, I've added an extra appendix with example lists of memorized spells for each type of magic-user, for characters ranging from 1st to 10th level. Need a fully "stocked" 8th level illusionist in a pinch? Well, look no further.

Friday 12 October 2012

B/X Character Backgrounds

For my upcoming dreamlands campaign, I've been vacillating over whether to run the game using the Labyrinth Lord AEC (that is, with the full range of AD&D races, classes and combinations thereof) or whether to keep it simple and just use basic Labyrinth Lord. I'm veering now towards the latter.

What I love about the basic 4 classes (plus demi-humans) is that each class encompasses so many sub-archetypes, without getting into the arms-race of making each of them a class of its own. So, to convey this idea to potential players (many of whom are more used to AD&D or D&D3, with their respective plethora of mechanical character options) I've been working on some tables of character background ideas. The intention is that players can either roll randomly, choose one from the list, or make up something similar. None of the backgrounds in these tables grant any specific mechanical abilities or bonuses, but are intended to be used in the same way a secondary skills in AD&D are -- as an aid to situational rulings on who can do what.

Here's what I've come up with.

  1. Monster hunter
  2. Wildsman / scout
  3. Barbarian
  4. Mercenary
  5. Sailor / pirate
  6. Guard / soldier
  7. Gladiator
  8. Bandit
  1. Cultist
  2. Monk
  3. Monster hunter / inquisitor
  4. Zealot / evangelist
  5. Mendicant
  6. Templar / paladin
  7. Prophet
  8. Chosen one
  1. Tomb robber
  2. Assassin
  3. Con artist
  4. Acrobat / performer
  5. Bandit / highwayman
  6. Gambler / hedonist
  7. Burglar
  8. Spy
  1. Astrologer
  2. Alchemist
  3. Mystic
  4. Herbalist
  5. Sage
  6. Witch / hedge wizard
  7. Warlock
  8. Cultist
  1. Monster hunter
  2. Smith / mechanist
  3. Miner
  4. Guard / soldier
  5. Stone mason / gem cutter
  6. Drunkard
  7. Berserker
  8. Outcast
  1. Gourmand
  2. Scavenger
  3. Wanderer
  4. Tinker
  5. Burglar
  6. Bard
  7. Merchant
  8. Sheriff
  1. Noble
  2. Duelist
  3. Hedonist
  4. Aesthete
  5. Bard
  6. Fey warlock
  7. Fated
  8. Trickster
(Thanks to Alex for his inspirational tables!)

Wednesday 3 October 2012

Premium AD&D vs D&D3.5 Books

Amazon just kindly informed me of the release of the Premium D&D 3.5 Player's Handbook.

First thing I noticed: that's quite cheap.

Second thing I noticed: hang on, the cover's the same as the original! They (in my mind somewhat controversially) reprinted the AD&D books with new covers, so I would have assumed the 3.5 re-releases would get the same treatment. But no -- they already sport the regulation fake leather tome effect, which is apparently now a requisite feature of all D&D books. Pah.

Edit: though, thanks to Brendan, I now realise that they actually are revamped covers. They're just not as radically reworked as the AD&D reprints were.

On the topic of D&D 3*, I had a funny turn some weeks back where I thought "maybe D&D 3 (not 3.5) has some old-school charm now", haha. After 5 minutes and reading my first class description I realised that this is a fallacy.

Saturday 29 September 2012

Theorems & Thaumaturgy -- Preview Chapter!

Yes, it's still happening!

My intention now is to finish the book in the next month -- all that remains at this stage is layout, which I have begun this evening.

For your delectation, here's the first chapter which I've fully laid out: The Elementalist. Enjoy :)

Thanks to Cadanse D and Kelvin Green for the awesome illustrations!

Friday 28 September 2012

Dungeon Druids III

The rest of this post is designated Open Gaming Content according to the Open Gaming License.

Commune with Dungeon Master
Level: Druid 5
Duration: Instant
Range: See below

Upon casting this spell the druid's mind becomes one with that of the Dungeon Master, the cosmic being who rules over all subterranean realms of adventure. This communion only lasts for a very brief time, and the caster has two options during this period.

Firstly the druid can opt to gain knowledge of the dungeon level which he currently stands in. The Labyrinth Lord is then required to allow the druid's player (and only the druid's player) to look at the map for this dungeon level. This cosmic revelation should be strictly timed -- two seconds per level of the caster. The Labyrinth Lord is not obliged to offer any information about the map's orientation, or regarding the druid's current location. Such mysteries are for the player to try and piece together. While viewing the map the player may not make notes of any kind or communicate with other players. It is recommended that the viewing be conducted in the Labyrinth Lord's secret inner sanctum (a room especially designated for this purpose), where interaction with other players is impossible.

This version of the spell may only be cast by a druid once ever per level of each dungeon.

Secondly, in dungeons where a physical manifestation of the Dungeon Master exists (i.e. locations which are dominated and controlled by an explicit ruler), the druid may opt to enter into a momentary telepathic communication with said ruler. The druid can send a message consisting of one word per level of experience to the dungeon's ruler, and the ruler must send back a response of an equal number of words. The druid will instantly know if the dungeon's ruler is not currently present within its confines.

Clearly, casting this spell above ground has no effect.

Note: players who are known to have a photographic memory may be banned from casting this spell in order to look at a dungeon's map, or have their character suffer permanent insanity upon experiencing the instantaneous revelation of all dungeons in the entire universe.

Monday 24 September 2012

Spiked Armour for Labyrinth Lord

A player in a game I ran yesterday spontaneously asked if he could have spikes on his armour and shield. My response was "erm, I guess so", and that was that. He used the spikes several times during the adventure, including dealing automatic damage to opponents who were hitting him. It was all good fun, and it was only a one-shot, so I didn't feel it necessary to come up with any negatives to balance out the obvious benefits he was getting.

Having now had some time to consider it, I think something like the following might work as a set of rules for spiked armour.

Banded, splint or plate mail can be forged with integrated spikes. This increases the cost of the armour by 50%. Either small or large spikes can be chosen. Small spikes increase the weight of the armour by 5lbs and deal 1d3 damage. Large spikes weigh an additional 10lbs and deal 1d6 damage.

The character can make damaging attacks essentially unarmed, by simply throwing himself at opponents in an attempt to impale them on his spikes.

When hit by an opponent using natural weapons (claws, fists, bite, etc.) the character's spikes have a chance of inflicting damage on the attacker -- 10% per point of the attacker's AC. This chance applies per round against foes with a grappling, grabbing, swallowing or constricting attack.*

On a natural to-hit roll of 1 the character spikes himself, suffering damage from the spikes. This is in addition to the normal effects of rolling a 1.

On taking falling damage the character is also damaged by the spikes on his armour. There is also has a 10% chance per 10' of distance fallen that the spikes on the armour are destroyed.

In most civilised regions such armour is regarded as dangerous, vulgar and brutal -- a sure sign of someone who's looking to start a fight. The character may get into trouble with the law if he wears spiked armour in towns and cities.

Indulging in a nice heroic embrace with ones companions after a battle is not recommended. The spiked character may risk becoming a social outcast.

Spiked Shields
A shield covered in spikes can also be purchased, again with either small or large spikes. A shield with small spikes costs 20gp and weighs 15lbs. A shield with large spikes costs 30gp and weighs 20lbs. Spiked shields have none of the benefits or drawbacks of spiked armour, except perhaps the drawback of being regarded by law-keepers as a sign of a dangerous rogue. A spiked shield can be used to make melee attacks, dealing damage based on the size of the spikes. If an optional rule for two-weapon fighting is used, a spiked shield may be used to make an off-hand attack. When using a shield offensively it grants no AC bonus.

* Lambton worm yeah!

Sunday 16 September 2012

Dungeon Druids II

A couple more spells for dungeon-specialised druids.

The rest of this post is designated Open Gaming Content according to the Open Gaming License. 
Slime / Deslime
Level: Druid 1
Duration: Permanent
Range: 10' per level

This spell allows a dungeon druid to control the slime-bearing conditions of a subterranean area. The caster can choose to affect any or all of: dungeon floors, walls or ceilings, within range.

A thick coating of dripping, gooey slime manifests over the affected area. The slime has one of several effects (chosen when the spell is cast), depending on the druid's level.

1st level or greater: A slippery black slime. When cast upon the floor, any creature walking upon the slime must save vs paralysis or slip over.
3rd level or greater: A viciously viscous purple slime which has an unpleasant glue-like quality to it. Creatures in the affected area must save vs spells or be entangled in the goo, unable to move.
7th level or greater: An acidic yellow slime which causes 1d6 damage per round to any creature touching it.

The reversed version of this spell removes slime from the affected area. Monstrous slimes within range suffer 1d3 damage per level of the caster.

Blessing of the Omnipotent Mycelium
Level: Druid 1
Duration: Permanent
Range: Touch

Placing his hand upon a dungeon surface (i.e. the bare earth or stone of walls, floor or ceiling), the druid conjures forth an explosion of myconoid growth. The mushrooms and toadstools thus produced are of varying vibrant colours, and some of the crop will have a special useful property. Among the conjured mushrooms can be found 2d4 specimens of one of the following types (chosen at random, all specimens are of like type):

1. Healing: each mushroom cures 1d4hp when consumed.
2. Light producing: as normal torches. The light lasts for 2d6 turns.
3. Druid shriekers: these mushrooms can be harvested and subsequently placed in a new location. For the next 1d6 turns, when anyone except the caster comes within 20' of the mushrooms they will emit a shrieking sound which is tuned so as to be only audible to the caster. The shrieking can be heard up to 120' distant.
4. Shroomlings: animate semi-humanoid fungi which the caster can command. They are 2' tall, have one Hit Die, AC 8, and can attack for 1d4 damage.
5. Puffballs: these fungi can be harvested and placed in another location. When any creature except the caster passes within 20' of them, they will erupt a cloud of spores which has the same effect as a sleep spell.
6. Floaters: 2' spherical fungi filled with a buoyant gas. They can be picked and used to levitate objects and creatures. A single floater can support up to 50lbs of weight. Due to the gradual escape of the floating gas, the fungi lose their effectiveness after 2d6 turns.

Note that the caster can always correctly identify the type of mushroom produced.

Tuesday 4 September 2012

Dungeon Druids

AD&D druids. They're not that great in dungeons are they. Not many plants around. Even less fluffy animal friends. But what about if there was an alternative druid class which specialised in subterranean locales?

This is the notion I am running with here.

The rest of this post is designated Open Gaming Content according to the Open Gaming License.

Glowing Fungi of Labyrinthine Guidance
Level: Druid 1
Duration: 2 turns per level
Range: Self

Upon uttering this incantation, the druid's left hand (or a small pouch on his person) fills with a delightful collection of small glowing mushrooms. The glow of the fungi is a pale green, and is less than the light of a candle, but is enough to be able to spot them from a distance of 30'. Typically the mushrooms are dropped one by one and used to mark a path which the druid desires to later retrace. Indeed, while the spell lasts the supply of mushrooms in the druid's hand (or pouch) will continually replenish, ensuring there are always enough available for use.

The glowing mushrooms created by this spell have one further special property: they appear completely innocuous to dungeon denizens, blending into the natural environment and not causing a single monstrous eyebrow to be raised if encountered.

Eye of the Underworld
Level: Druid 1
Duration: 1 hour per level
Range: Touch

The recipient of this spell gains the ability to see in complete darkness for the duration. This is not some newfangled thermo-vision, it's the real deal -- 100% 20/20 vision in the deep darks of the underworld as if it was broad daylight.

As the druid increases in level he can bestow this optical blessing on more friends -- one target per three levels of experience.

Wednesday 29 August 2012

Mini Review: Beneath the Ruins

I just received my copy of "Beneath the Ruins", written by Alex Fotinakes, and published by Geof McKinney.

1 bright orange detachable cover with dungeon maps on the inside
3 pages intro
11 pages room descriptions
2 pages monster / treasure descriptions

Random Thoughts in No Particular Order:

This module is awesome.

It comes in a totally practical format, which I absolutely love. The tall booklet orientation works really well -- it feels great to hold and read. It really has a gorgeously usable feel to it.

The page count is also delightfully low, which is a major plus point in my mind. I can never be bothered to read and comprehend longer than about 30 pages for an adventure, so Beneath the Ruins really hits the mark.

Apart from the maps inside the cover, the module is completely free of artwork. Of course, I love cool artwork as much as anyone, but the decision to go art-free was a shrewd one, and works great. It serves, in my mind, to increase the pragmatic feel of the module, and to maximise the content within the small number of pages.

As Geof says:

"These are not works of art. They are utilitarian modules meant to be inflicted upon your players."


How about this then:

"Every monster, every magic power, and every magic spell is a unique and never-before-seen creation of the author. No orcs, fireballs, or +1 swords will be found within."

That's part of Geof's description / mission statement for his Psychedelic Fantasies line of modules, of which this is the first. A very cool sentiment indeed, and one which I find myself moving more and more towards in my own creations. With this in mind, though, one thing I couldn't help noticing was that some (well at least one) of the totally unique creations do verge on being simply renamed standards. I suppose this is extremely difficult to avoid, in the genre of D&D adventures where so much has already been done. The specific example from Beneath the Ruins which I'm thinking of is the room guarded by "cursed corpses". Yes, you can guess what those are. I suppose perhaps the intention is that the act of giving them a different name increases the likelihood of the referee improvising unique details about them, rather than just saying "6 zombies" directly to the players.

In terms of the content of the module, it's top notch dungeon weirdness. The room descriptions are short enough to be eminently readable, while really packing in interesting details.

Before buying this module, I was totally convinced by the simple, pragmatic format but high weirdness marketing on the Psychedelic Fantasies blog, and now I've actually got the thing in my hands I'm even more convinced.

An awesome D&D accessory, and one which I can't wait to use. I've already got it placed in a map for my upcoming Dreamlands campaign.

Highly recommended.

Saturday 25 August 2012

Dreamlands Session Procedures

Continuing on from the rules of reality in the Dreamlands, here's how the game sessions themselves will be structured. As you can see, I'm going for a kind of episodic West Marches feel, where a large pool of players can participate in a single campaign, with different PCs joining forces each session to form an adventuring party and continue their explorations.

1. Each session begins with the PCs drinking the Sardo brew and entering the Dreamlands. The name of a monolith may be spoken at this point, if desired. It is the players' responsibility to remember the names of any monoliths they encounter.

2. The referee shall set an alarm clock, determining the end time of the session semi-randomly. A reasonable time should be set, but with enough variance that the players can't predict when the session will stop. When the alarm goes off, that's it -- the PCs awake immediately, bringing with them any treasure on their persons.

3. Any "in town" stuff (planning, buying equipment, learning spells, etc) shall be conducted between sessions, either by each player on his or her own (using appropriate equipment lists and so on), or in consultation with the referee and/or other players via email or whatever.

4. All characters spend 10% of their total wealth between sessions (to be deducted at the end of a session, after XP has been allocated). This covers their (presumably fairly extravagant) living expenses, equipment maintenance, religious offerings, random taxation, and so on.

Friday 24 August 2012

New One Page Dungeon

Players in my games -- Nothing to see here, move along!

In the planning of my upcoming Dreamlands campaign, I'm intending each level of dream to be a wilderness area scattered with many interesting encounters and/or dungeons. The idea being that PCs can choose to dip into any of the dungeons they come across, exploring more deeply in any which take their fancy.

So, what I need is a lot of small dungeons, and a few larger ones. The larger ones I'm quite happy to take from published sources (Fight On!, for instance), and there are plenty of one page dungeons around which I could slot in as well. But of course, I want to create some small dungeons of my own to give the flavour I'm looking for.

With this in mind, I've conceived a new way of writing adventures -- speed dungeons! The concept is to map and fully key a dungeon (or as far as possible) in an hour or less. So, a single sheet of paper, with a quickly drawn map and loads of scrawled notes all over it.

For the interest of other DMs, I present the first fruits of this experiment -- The Caverns of the Silver Men -- a mini-dungeon which I created last night in about 50 minutes.

I'm not sure if it'll be particularly comprehensible to anyone else, or if you'll be able to decipher my hand-writing, but please check it out if you're interested!

Thursday 23 August 2012

The Rules of Dreamland Reality

1. Living mortals may enter the Dreamlands via the city of Darhoo, by imbibing the intoxicating brew of the sap of the Sardo tree. The secrets of this tree, its sap, and the brew which can be fermented from it have been known in Darhoo since ancient times. Only Darhoo, on the edge of the Styrgian desert, lies close enough to the dreamlands to enable transit between worlds, and only then on the night of the crossing moons.

2. The Sardo brew transports a mortal, along with their possessions, into the upper level of the Dreamlands, which is known as "the phantasmagoric glades".

3. Nine deeper levels of dream are known to exist, each with their own name and character. The deeper levels of dream are said to be more perilous to mortals, but also riper with wonder and bounty. Gateways from one level of dream to another may be found within the Dreamlands.

4. The effects of the transportative Sardo elixir do not last forever. In Darhoo-time, dreaming travellers return to the desert city after some few hours in the other realm. In Dreamlands-time the duration of the effects is variable. Dreamers have reported weeks of travel during a single jaunt. Others report mere minutes before returning to the waking world.

5. The duration of a jaunt into the somnambulistic sub-reality can in no manner be controlled. The whims of the Dreamlands are at play here, and dreamers may find themselves awakening at the most inopportune moments.

6. The Dreamlands may be disjointed, shifting and phantasmal, when compared to the waking world, but they are in fact every bit as real. Treasures found in the Dreamlands will return with a dreamer when his or her time is over. Equally, death in the Dreamlands is true death.

7. Dreamers report that a series of monoliths exist throughout the Dreamlands, each of a similar type, and inscribed with a name. Speaking the name of a monolith one has seen in dream, while drinking the Sardo juice, effects a return to that spot. A dreamer's companions may also be taken along in this manner.

Wednesday 22 August 2012

The Dreamlands Campaign

Clockwork dwarves, and psychedelic gnomes, reptiloids, gullygugs and rat-men! Gather ye souls of wandering persuasion and prepare to enter the shifting sub-reality of the Dreamlands.

Here be the known depths of dream, divided into ten levels, ripe with plunder and comedy death:
  1. The phantasmagoric glades
  2. The plain of bones & pyramids
  3. The prismatic jungle
  4. The limnal mists
  5. The labyrinth of nightmares
  6. The cloud-realm of the seven spheres
  7. The geometric wastes
  8. Wereport -- city on the sea of somnambulism
  9. The outer void
  10. The sublime paradise of eternal balance

Sunday 19 August 2012

Advanced Labyrinth Lord: Variant Dwarves, Gnomes and Half-Orcs

Some more ideas for my postulated dungeon-brawling mash-up campaign...

I like the idea of variant races, and plan to provide lots of choices for players. I've "traditionally" transplanted hobbits with rat-men, and have also thought to re-skin the race as goblins, kobolds and monkey-men. My recently posted reptiloid race also comes with a few variants. So, how about these variant gnomes, dwarves and half-orcs...

Note that the clockwork dwarf race is obviously inspired by Hill Canton's robo-dwarf class.

The rest of this post is designated Open Gaming Content according to the Open Gaming License.

Clockwork dwarf: These rare beings of obscure origin are occasionally encountered in adventuring parties or working as clock-smiths. They have all the normal faculties of a sentient being, but are made of metal (typically brass or bronze) and run on clockwork.

Clockwork dwarves cannot ingest normal food or water, and indeed react to such as poison. Instead they must consume one pint of lamp oil every other day, and often like to snack on nuts and bolts.

Additionally clockwork dwarves have the substantial advantage over their fleshy brethren that they do not need to breathe, and can thus happily exist in airless environments. It must however be noted that clockwork dwarves are damaged by water, taking 1d3hp damage per round they are submerged. This can be avoided by pre-preparing themselves by smearing 3 pints of oil over their whole body. Such protection lasts for several hours.

Clockwork dwarves have no affinity with stone, and lack all of the standard dwarfish stonework abilities. They do however have a natural armour class of 7.

Strangely, healing magic (including potions) works normally on clockwork dwarves. The reason for this is a mystery.

Stone dwarf: Some dwarven communities have retreated so deep into the mountains that they have, over many millennia, begun to meld with their stony environment, becoming beings half-flesh, half-stone. Such dwarves are as slow and determined as rock, and gain several advantages. Firstly they have a natural armour class of 5. Secondly they are completely immune to petrification magic, being already half-stone. They also have the ability to speak the language of earth elementals and their kin.

As a downside, healing magic of all kinds has only a 50% chance of taking effect on a stone dwarf.

Deep gnome (a.k.a. svirfneblin): This race dwells in deep subterranean caverns, and are sometimes encountered by dwarves as they delve for metals. Deep gnomes are an especially miserly race, giving them a -2 CHA penalty. On the positive side, they are able to identify gems and precious metals simply by smell, and at a distance of 10'.

Forest gnome: A meek and homely race, unlikely to produce much in the way of bold adventurers. They dwell in shallow burrows in sandy forest soils, and do not have the deep affinity with the subterranean world which their cousins possess – they are unable to detect their depth and orientation underground. They do however have ability to speak the languages of burrowing animals, which are often found in their company.

Psychedelic gnome: The origin of the psychedelic gnomes is something of a mystery, and the gnomes themselves refuse to provide details. Physically they are very similar to their “bog-standard” counterparts, however their behaviour and tastes are wildly different. Psychedelic gnomes, as their name implies, have an outrageous style of dress, eschewing the traditional drab earth-tones and red pointy hats in favour of clashing fluorescent colours, swirling paisley, tie-dye, and apparently religiously inspired patterns which they refer to as “fracktals”. Some sages suspect that these gnomes are from the future.

Psychedelic gnomes have no affinity with earth or stone, and lack the standard stonework abilities of their race. They are also of a less robust constitution, and gain no bonuses to saves against poison, paralysis or petrification. Instead they have an affinity with magic and illusion, which grants them alternative abilities.

Firstly, all psychedelic gnomes know how to cast a single 1st level spell once per day, chosen at random from the illusionist spell list. This spell is innate, and does not require study or a spell book.

Additionally their affinity with magic of illusion grants them a +4 bonus to saving throws versus this type of magic. On a successful save, there is a 15% chance that an illusion spell will rebound from a psychedelic gnome and affect its caster.

Half-bugbear: Hairy beast-men whose racial heritage is plain to see. Half-bugbears lack the standard half-orc's ability to find secret doors, but are instead able to move silently as a thief of equal level. Half-bugbear thieves instead gain a +10% bonus to their move silently skill.

Neanderthal: This race of brutish sub-humans are sometimes known to leave their caves and mix with other races. They have no ability at finding secret doors, but have a natural resistance to magic, gaining +2 on saving throws.

Thursday 16 August 2012

Just ordered...

James Raggi's latest. Very much looking forward to reading and running them. In fact a future campaign I'm currently contemplating sounds like it'll be the perfect setting for the Monolith.

I wish Death Frost Doom was available in print still :(

Thursday 9 August 2012

Advanced Labyrinth Lord: Equalising Humans

It's an old conundrum of AD&D: the balance of humans vs demi-humans. If you look at a mixture of 1st level characters of various race/class combinations, the demi-humans are clearly way more powerful with their infravision, huge saving throw bonuses, and the ability to potentially have the complete abilities of up to three classes. All these things give them an enormous advantage compared to their full-human brethren. In a dangerous old-school campaign, 1st level demi-humans are way more likely to make it to 2nd level -- that's the fact.

And what do humans get as a balance? No level limits.

So that's the traditional state of play. Now, in my experience this is not a balanced situation, not at all. The problem lies in the fact that no campaign I've ever played or run has reached the levels of experience where demi-human level limits kick in. And I think this is a common experience. (This is with the exception perhaps of long campaigns when I was a kid, but then we were playing BECMI, not AD&D, so it an wasn't issue.) Thus, players of demi-humans basically get all this cool stuff "for free" as it were, leaving their human comrades feeling a little under-par.

I have to say at this juncture that I don't care about balance purely for its own sake, in mechanical terms (for therein lies the road to 4e). The only reason I'm drawn to consider this is my observations of how players of "lesser races" (i.e. humans) feel overwhelmed by their "do anything, +4 on saves, see in the dark, oh and by the way I speak 7 languages" counterparts.

A novel remedy to the situation came to my mind the other day, which I shall describe.

1. Remove Limits
No level limits for demi-humans. Gone. They're rarely relevant anyway, and do nothing to create a sense of balance. Limits of class by race could also optionally be removed, if you want to go all the way.

2. Remove Some Benefits
Firstly multi-classing. As I've discussed before, that's the real killer for me, resulting in characters who can "do anything" -- honestly, who needs a thief when you have a multi-classed magic-user / thief at hand?

As a second reduction in demi-human power I'd suggest the removal of infravision from all playable races. It seems like only a minor perk on the face of it, but in practice is extremely useful (depending on how lenient the DM's interpretation of its precision is). I just find it more atmospheric when PCs are venturing into dark places with naught but a feebly flickering flame to guide them.

3. Boost Humans
In order to make humans attractive, all that remains is to give them a few perks in the same order of magnitude as the demi-human racial abilities (things like the dwarven stonework abilities, extra languages, saving throw bonuses, etc).

Here's what I thought of, though of course many other things would be possible.

  • +1 to any two attributes (player's choice).
  • No attribute limits (min 3 / max 18 for all scores).
And then, to mimic the traditional idea that humans are "more flexible" (odd that they were the ones who couldn't multi-class...), how about giving them the choice of some small bits and pieces of other class' abilities. Choose one of the following:
  • Use any weapon without penalty. (Magic-users only.)
  • Wear one better armour than usually allowed. (Thieves or magic-users only.)
  • One thief skill which advances with level. (Non-thieves only.)
  • Ability to cast one 1st level magic-user spell, chosen at random from the list in LL. (Non-magic-users only.)
  • Ability to cast one 1st level clerical spell, chosen at random from the list in LL. (Non-clerics only.)
  • Turn undead once a day as a cleric of equal level. (Non-clerics only.)
  • +4 to one saving throw (player's choice).
I reckon that should roughly equalise the field.

Sunday 29 July 2012

Reptiloid Race for Labyrinth Lord

A small idea which just came to me while musing on the possibilities of an "anything goes" mashup D&D setting. I've actually never come across a playable lizard-like race in D&D before.

The rest of this post is designated Open Gaming Content according to the Open Gaming License.

Ability Modifiers: DEX +1, INT -1
Ability Min/Max: STR 6/18, DEX 8/19, CON 8/18, INT 3/17, WIS 3/18, CHA 3/18

Reptiloids are members of various reptilian humanoid races. They are typically of average human height and build, with scaly skin of varying hue (often greenish).

Reptiloids are strictly carnivorous, and have a natural bite attack which causes 1d6 damage. They have a very powerful sense of smell, which means that they are only surprised on a roll of 1.

Reptiloids have a natural armour class of 7, due to their scales, and gain a +4 bonus to saves versus poison.

Four types of reptiloid are described below.

Gullygug: Not strictly a reptile, but close enough, gullygugs are a race of amphibious frog-men. When lightly encumbered they can swim at their full movement rate. They can make a hop attack, jumping up to 15' forwards and gaining +1 to-hit and +2 damage if using an impaling weapon. Gullygugs can breathe underwater for 10 minutes. In dry environments gullygugs suffer -2 to-hit unless they have a source of water available to wet their skin.

Lizard-man: A brutish and cruel race of scaly humanoids, with the heads and tails of lizards. Their jaws are especially strong, and inflict 1d8+1 damage.

Snake-man: An only vaguely humanoid race, with a long serpent body and tail in place of legs, a snake's head, and human-like arms. They may attack with their tail, attempting to coil around an opponent. Constricted opponents suffer 1d3 damage per round and -2 to-hit. A snake-man's tail also allows him to coil around pillars and such. Due to their unusual form, snake-men cannot wear normal humanoid armour, and must pay double when purchasing armour.

Troglodyte: A slimy subterranean race. When unclothed, their chameleon skin enables them to surprise on a 1-4. They can also choose to exude a stench which causes sickness (-2 to attack rolls) in other humanoid races within 30', unless a save versus poison is made. Note that a troglodyte's stench affects all humanoids (except other troglodytes) within range, including allies.

Tuesday 24 July 2012

D&D Inspiring Photo from My Holiday

Yes, Cornish coastal caves. I am 100% sure these must have been used for smuggling! Definitely.

Monday 9 July 2012

D&D Mine: Players' Rules Draft

Over the last month I've been posting some extracts from the custom D&D rules, based on Swords & Wizardry, which I've been tinkering around with, planned for use in a future campaign.

I've now got the document to a point where it feels more or less finished. It's still very much a draft -- I've not given much attention yet to layout, and certain sections are open to modification or expansion (for example, I want to add more alchemical and herbal items in the equipment list). The basic structure of the rules is there though.

It's intended to be printed as an A5 booklet, the second in a set of six or so short booklets describing the rules and campaign setting. The complete set is envisaged as follows:
  1. Players' setting guide: a broad map of the campaign area, and some basic information about different regions, the people and creatures which inhabit them, and some cultural / historical information.
  2. Players' rules book.
  3. Saints & Shrines: for use by players of Zealot characters. Describes a pantheon of saints, and the miraculous blessings which are purported to them. The location of the shrines of some of these saints is described; others must be discovered through play.
  4. Theorems & Thaumaturgy: details a set of magical tomes, arcane libraries and arch-mages, which provide the initial spell selection of Magus characters.
  5. Referee's setting guide: a proper hex map and descriptions of the hex contents.
  6. Monsters.
I've uploaded the rules booklet as a google doc.

Any feedback would be most appreciated!

Sunday 8 July 2012

D&D Next: Something Great!

An interesting post from Mike Mearls over at the WotC site about magic items, and the first thing I've read about D&D Next which sounds 1. really awesome, and 2. actually a refreshing and original approach to something*.

I especially like the idea of the random table of background snippets about magical artefacts. Yes, a very cool idea!

Worth reading for anyone who's interested in what they're up to...

* and not a rules changes, simply a change of perspective and emphasis.

Edit: Just to be clear on this, I'm not saying I think I'll ever buy or play D&D "Next"... I just think their emphasis on making each magic item something unique is really cool.

Saturday 7 July 2012

Carcosa + the Dying Earth

Not much content to this post, the title pretty much says it all :)

I've been preparing to run a Dying Earth-esque game tomorrow, and it occurred to me that it wouldn't be a huge stretch to do a Carcosa / Dying Earth mash-up.

A strange blighted world full of ruins and ancient artefacts... Isolated settlements with odd customs and leaders... Magicians searching for aeons lost knowledge...

Thursday 5 July 2012

D&D Mine: The Adventurer

Following the Magus, Fighter and Slayer (Zealot / Defender / Champion ... still undecided), last up in the roster of classes for my future D&D campaign is the Adventurer.

As the Adventurer class is so tied to the simple skills system of the game, I've also pasted in the section which explains how skills work. This is, of course, heavily inspired by James Raggi's Weird Fantasy RPG. As in that game, a character of any class with at least a 1 in 6 chance of success with a skill can attempt to use is. Adventurers are, however, the only characters who can actually improve their skills. Note the addition of some bardy, rangery and assassiny skills.

Also note, again, that the class gains a unique (i.e. unavailable to other classes) bonus based on its prime requisite, Dexterity in this case.

The rest of this post is designated Open Gaming Content according to the Open Gaming License.

ps. Sorry the formatting below is a bit odd. I just pasted it in from the rules document, and it's not survived the transition that well.

The Adventurer

You are a wanderer and a rogue, following wherever the road leads and the next adventure is found. Whether a dashing duellist or highwayman, a professional thief, or a wilderness ranger, you live by your sword, your wits and your manifold talents. While Fighters may exceed your ability in combat, and other characters wield power over supernatural forces, your forte is in the mastery of the skills essential to a life of adventure.
Table 3: Adventurer Advancement
d6 HD

Adventurer Class Abilities

XP Modified by Dexterity: The Dexterity Modifier applies to XP gained by this class.
Saving Throw: Adventurers get +1 on saving throws vs. traps.
Weapon/Armour Restrictions: Adventurers are able to use any type of armour and weapons. However, they favour light weapons which allow a quick and agile fighting style. Adventurers suffer a -1 penalty to hit when using two-handed melee weapons, heavy crossbows, longbows and muskets.
Agile Fighting: Adventurers tend to favour light weapons and armour, preferring to rely on swiftness of foot and blade to avoid harm in combat. When wearing leather armour or brigandine, they gain an AC bonus based on their Dexterity score.
AC Bonus
13 - 15
16 - 17

Adventuring Skills: As specialists in subterfuge, audacity and derringo-do, Adventurers are able to excel at a wide range of abilities which can aid them in their trade. An Adventurer gains four points at 1st level to add to skills of his choice, improving his chance of success. Each point spent adds a 1 in 6 chance to the skill succeeding. Adventurers receive two additional points with every level gained thereafter.

Adventuring Skills

The following skills are areas of expertise which are commonly useful in adventures.
All skills are handled with a simple d6 roll, with lower values indicating success. Some skills can be attempted by any character, and have a base 1 in 6 chance of success. Other skills require training and have a base 0 in 6 chance of success. Many skills are also modified by an ability score. In this case, a -1 penalty (a score of 8 or lower) reduces the chance of success by 1 in 6, and a +1 bonus (a score of 13 or higher) increases its chance by 1 in 6. In order to use a skill, the character must have at least a 1 in 6 chance of success.
Adventurer characters gain points at each level to improve their skills. No skill can be advanced to greater than 5 in 6.
A character's chance of success with all skills should be noted on the character sheet.
Base Chance
Modifying Attribute
1 in 6
Danger Sense
1 in 6
1 in 6
1 in 6
1 in 6
0 in 6
0 in 6
0 in 6
1 in 6
Sleight of Hand
1 in 6
1 in 6
Surprise Attack
0 in 6

Descriptions of how these skills can be used are given in the chapter on game rules.