Monday, August 25, 2014


Blobogix the Invasive Alien Impostor God

Only a couple of players showed up for this Sunday's game, so we tried an idea I've been considering for a while. Each of us took a half hour to write an adventure with d6 rooms, then we ran each adventure.

In the adventure I wrote, an invasive alien displaced a local god and enslaved the priests at the shrine. This is a common problem on planet Zerapis. The players managed to free most of the priests from Blobogix's mind control (minus one or two they shot full of arrows), saved several villagers scheduled for human sacrifice, and acquired a powerful but unwieldy ray gun that freezes people by sending their minds to a barren alien world. Unfortunately, they made a dangerous enemy by letting Blobogix escape with his enormous pulsating egg.

As a player, I found that I've become more conservative and risk averse; I'll take a modest treasure and leave the dungeon without pulling the tantalizing but obviously dangerous shiny lever. Especially when the adventures are so small, I feel bad about it — like I should play with all the things.

Maybe I just need some fresh blood in my face-to-face group. It's hard to get a small set of busy adults in the same room on a regular basis.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Gruesome Chops for OD&D Fighting-Men

I haven't had a regular game in a few months, but that hasn't stopped me from tinkering with my house rules. This is an attempt to give 0e fighting-men a bit more oomph. What do you think?

Gruesome Chops

A roll of 20 to-hit or a roll of maximum damage gives the Fighting-Man the opportunity to make a Gruesome Chop. The player chooses the hit location; here are some examples:

  1. Eyeball run through. Monsters with hit dice fewer than or equal to the fighting-man must Save or be kebab'd. Monsters with more hit dice lose an eye* (-2 to hit, cyclops -4).
  2. Neck slit. Monsters with hit dice fewer than or equal to the fighting-man must Save or suffer beheading. Monsters with more hit dice loose their voices, and must Save when using a breath weapon.
  3. Limb chop. Monsters with hit dice fewer than or equal to the fighting-man must Save or be dismembered and bleed out. Monsters with more hit dice (and four or fewer legs) are reduced to zero movement.
  4. Bifurcation (horizontal or vertical). Monsters with hit dice fewer than or equal to the fighting-man must Save or be bisected.
  5. Evisceration. Monsters with hit dice fewer than or equal to the fighting-man must Save or spill their guts.
  6. Ribcage crush. Monsters with hit dice fewer than or equal to the fighting-man must Save or suffocate.
  7. Sever artery. Monsters with hit dice fewer than or equal to the fighting-man must Save or BLOOD SPRINKLER!
  8. Break the monster's sword, splinter its shield, sunder its sandals, etc.
  9. Force the monster to fall back ten or twenty feet to the spot you want them (over pit trap, under portcullis, etc.).
  10. Impale. Monsters with hit dice fewer than or equal to the fighting-man must Save or wriggle in grotesque death throes. Monsters with more hit dice are pinned (movement zero).

Any monster that survives a Gruesome Chop immediately checks morale.

N.B. — Most monsters do not make Gruesome Chops, but enemy Fighting-Men do.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Death in the Iliad

Check out this excellent group of infographics on death in the Iliad. I've long maintained that spears need a more prominent place in D&D.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Rolling vs Role Playing Discovery of Traps and Secret Doors

Someone on G+ asked: "Mechanically, why were players expected to role play 'finding traps' but the X in 6 chance to find secret/hidden doors has been there since the get go?"

We need to distinguish between finding traps and disarming/circumventing traps. The accepted practice is to role play disarming/circumventing traps, but that's not the usual case for finding traps.

Characters find pit traps, for example, by falling in them, as determined with the roll of a die. The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures says on page 9:

"Traps are usually sprung by a roll of a 1 or a 2 when any character passes over or by them. Pits will open in the same manner."

Once players know the pit is there, it's easy to avoid in the future. We might be tempted to complain that dice rolling of this sort is unfair in its arbitrariness, but consider the alternative of role playing the examination every crack, hole, and loose stone in the dungeon.

Other kinds of traps — where the presence of a trap is obvious, but the way of avoiding it is not — we resolve through role playing. "You enter a room with a rotting bisected goblin corpse in its center. A few feet from the goblin's body, an overturned bucket spills grease onto the stone floor. Above the corpse, you notice a dark slot in the ceiling from one side wall to the other, and connecting grooves running down the side walls that seem to be greased. What do you do?" No dice roll required.

What about rolling for secret doors? Here's U&WA again:

"Secret passages will be located on the roll of a 1 or a 2 (on a six-sided die) by men, dwarves or hobbits. Elves will be able to locate them on a roll of 1-4. At the referee's option, Elves may be allowed the chance to sense any secret door they pass, a 1 or a 2 indicating that they become aware that something is there."

The text uses "located" rather than "opened", and draws a distinction between actively locating known/suspected secret doors and passively spotting unknown/unsuspected ones.

That suggests a procedure where, after a secret door is located by a roll, we role play opening the door. "I'm going to try pushing each edge of the door outline, and if that doesn't work I'll fiddle with the nearby sconce."

The mechanics for traps and doors are the same (with the obvious reversal that traps are meant to be found (triggered) and secret doors are not).

How to Open the Secret Door

  1. Push door edge to pivot door.
  2. Twist wall sconce near door.
  3. Pull out jutting stone near door edge to release latch.
  4. Replace missing wall stone lying among debris on floor (falls out after door closes again).
  5. Only opens for [1-2 Magic-users 3-4 Fighting-men 5-6 Clerics].
  6. Only opens for [1-2 Monsters 3-4 Undead 5-6 Puddings, jellies, etc.].
  7. Push two stones, one on either side of the door, simultaneously.
  8. Smear you hand with blood, and touch the faint brownish handprint in the middle of the door.
  9. Step on protruding flagstone on floor.
  10. Drain water from adjoining room to relieve pressure on door.
  11. Burn away wax facade.
  12. Opens when the other door to the room is locked.
  13. Hidden door is a decoy; entire wall rotates.
  14. Insert staff or rod in small hole to lever door open.
  15. A strong magnet raises a latch internal to the door.
  16. Opens in light of the moon (may require several mirrors).
  17. Circular door. It unscrews.
  18. Prying the base of the "door" unfolds a ladder — there's a trap door in the ceiling.
  19. Pull latch inside mouth of stone devil face.
  20. Rearming nearby trap causes door to open

"Somethings" Elves Sense Besides Secret Doors

  1. An elf died on this spot centuries ago. Clerics able to cast Speak with Dead may contact this elf regardless of their level and how long ago the elf died, although the spirit mostly wants to share the morbid elven verse its been composing to while away the years.
  2. Cold iron
  3. Flowing water
  4. Dwarves
  5. Pentangles
  6. Elf needs food

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Judges Guild style numbered hex paper

I made some Judges Guild style numbered hex paper, broken up into four US letter size pages. The zip file includes editable Inkscape SVG's and PDF's.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Bookmark: A Framework for D&D Horror

John at Dreams in the Lich House nicely articulates a framework for D&D horror. It sounds like a good plan, and I look forward to hearing more details.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

B/X Combined and Expanded Index

I combined and expanded the indices for Moldvay Basic and Marsh/Cook Expert. Here's the B/X Index PDF (and the LaTeX file).