Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Reference Numbers

Zak said:

(Reference Numbers: I do this "You find a scroll of unknown origin, write #68 on your page" then when they use it I can look it up and don't have to remember from nowhere which mystery scroll Satine found at the bottom of a well a year ago based on a hasty transcription of an ad hoc description)

Thanks, Zak. I'll start using something like this immediately.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Foldable dodecahedron!

Perhaps I'm the only LaTeX junkie in the OSR. I understand that it's harder than MS Word or Pagemaker, but it's free, flexible, and beautiful. Just look at this foldable dodecahedron package! Surely we can put this to use.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Lesser Gods of Oerth and sweaty pseudopods

I never ran or played in a Greyhawk campaign, but I did get the 1983 boxed set as a kid. Reading it today for the first time in many years, this passage caught my attention:

The people of Oerth worship many gods. Only deities of the central Flanaess are detailed here, and of those, only the lesser gods (in most cases) have been detailed. In general, the greater gods are too far removed from the world to have much to do with humanity, and while they are worshiped, few people hold them as patrons.

These deities have been known to intercede directly in the affairs of men... a demi-god and a godling might well become embroiled in human affairs...

In my games, the gods—big or small—remain distant, their existence implied only by the granting of cleric spells, which is strange, since my imaginings about such things were founded on youthful readings about Homer's compulsively meddling, all too relatable pantheon. Maybe that one DM who used an uber-powerful archmage to lead our characters by their noses through his epic Lord of the Rings knock-off made me over-vigilant.

I'm changing-up to radically familiar gods in my new campaign. These minor deities have only a handful of spell-casting clerics, and they appear personally to replenish spells.

Imagine: you're a cleric, sleeping after an exciting adventure that exhausted you and all your spells. At some point in the night, your god—with his sweaty hands (or pseudopods or whatever) and coffee breath—shakes you awake and whispers divine revelations in your ear. Sort of like Santa Claus or your creepy uncle.

Well, maybe...

Friday, July 15, 2011

Origin of names in Harry Potter

I'm not a huge Harry Potter fan, but character names are something I always notice. I saw this Wordnik post about language in Harry Potter on Kottke, and though it worth reposting.

Characters’ names are often also common words. A dumbledore is a bumblebee. Snape is a ship-building term that means “to bevel the end of (a timber or plank) so that it will fit accurately upon an inclined surface.” Hagrid is the past participle of hagride, which means “to harass or torment by dread or nightmares.” Skeeter is a term for an annoying pest, and not just Rita Skeeter, blood-sucking journalist. Mundungus is “waste animal product” or “poor-quality tobacco with a foul, rancid, or putrid smell,” a good name for a sneaky thief.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Torch & Sword Beta 1

My 0e/LBB retro-clone Torch & Sword is nearly complete. Since I'll be taking a little break from it to work on my new campaign, I decided to release this beta version (PDF, LaTeX source files).

In a few months, I'll give it a final edit and add one or two bits and bobs, but it's now pretty close to a complete implementation of the original rules. I also added some art.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Castle Owners & Their Principal Retainers (d8)

As I mentioned a couple of days ago, I'll use this custom table to stock the castles in my new campaign rather than the standard table in U&WA.

  1. Amorphous Tentacled Horror
    1. Dimensional Shamblers (d8) 7 HD
    2. Hunting Horrors (d6) 8 HD CC
    3. Polypous Horrors (d10) 6 HD RCC
    4. Shoggoths (d8) 7 HD RCC
  2. Ancient Idol-God
    1. Basilisks (d6)
    2. Druids (d8) 7HD
    3. Medusae (d12)
    4. Oozing Guardians (d12) 5 HD RCC
  3. Evil Hight Priest
    1. Hell Hounds (d8) 7 HD
    2. Spectres (d10) 6 HD
    3. Vampires (d8) 7 HD
    4. White Apes (d12) 5 HD (Barsoomian)
  4. Gorilla King
    1. Gargoyles (d12)
    2. Hounds of Tindalos (d12) 5 HD RCC
    3. Robots (d8) 7 HD
    4. Weretigers (d12)
  5. Masked Humanoid Alien
    1. Reflection from Another World (d8) 7 HD
    2. Dopplegangers (d12)
    3. Serpent People (d10) 6 HD RCC
    4. Star Vampires (d8) 7 HD
  6. Patriarch
    1. Blink dogs (d20)
    2. Ents (d6)
    3. Hippogriffs ridden by Heroes (d4)
    4. Werebears (d10)
  7. Ruthless Overlord
    1. Giants (d4)
    2. Ogres (d12)
    3. Rocs ridden by Heroes (d4)
    4. Wereboars (d12)
  8. Wizard
    1. Avergnoids (d8) 7 HD
    2. Balrogs (d4)
    3. Basilisks (d6)
    4. Chimerae (d4)
    5. Dragons (d4)
    6. Manticores (d6)
    7. Robots (d8) 7 HD
    8. Wyverns (d4)

Castle owners are either hostile (1--3 on d6) or neutral (4--6 on d6) towards player characters.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Google Plus

I'm not much of a social networks guy, but as Stuart says Google Plus might be good for gaming. Comment if you need an invitation.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

OD&D-style castle occupants

Inspired by Scott's recent work on the Castles of Dwarf-land, I decided to start work on my new campaign by making a custom table to stock castles. To get a base-line for my custom table, I pulled some averages from the Type of Guards/Retainers in Castle table on p. 15 of U&WA:

                    Castle Owners
    Owner Min HD    Owner Mean HD    Owner Max HD
    ------------    -------------    ------------
         8                9               11

                  Principal Retainers
Min HD    Mean HD    Max HD    Min #    Mean #    Max #
------    -------    ------    -----    ------    -----
 3+1        6+3         9        1        4.6       20

Based on those numbers, I can pick suitable retainers and the quantities thereof:

Hit Dice456789

I plan to finish and post my custom castle occupants table later this week.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


Hit Dice: 4+1
Armor Class: 6
Move: 90'
Treasure: 2d4 x 100 gp in assorted coins & 15% chance of one non-weapon magic item
Alignment: See below
XP: 417

Like a lich, a strigoi (f. strigoaică) is a normal man transformed by magic. Unlike a lich, men can become strigoi either in death or while still living. Strigoi haunt the place they lived as men. They often try to maintain relationships they had while human—particularly romantic relationships—but their twisted efforts frighten those who knew them as men.

Lawful men transform into Neutral strigoi, while Neutral men become Chaotic strigoi.

Scholars differ regarding what causes a man to become a strigoi. These are some of the theories:

  1. A bad love affair
  2. A non-fatal bite from a strigoi
  3. Breathing bad air from graveyards or crypts
  4. Birth defect of the head or face
  5. Corpse walked-over by a cat
  6. Cursed by a witch
  7. Died unmarried
  8. Frequent (perhaps intimate) contact with goblins
  9. Infectious disease
  10. Left to sleep alone beneath the moon as an infant
  11. Met a squinting man at dawn
  12. One parent was a strigoi
  13. Possession by an evil spirit
  14. Saw a crone on New Year's morning

Any given strigoi possesses three of the following powers:

  1. Can remotely possess one person between dusk and dawn
  2. Invisibility
  3. Never ages
  4. Only harmed by fire
  5. Only killed by beheading
  6. Only killed by stake through the heart
  7. Shape-changes into a cat
  8. Shape-changes into an owl
  9. Shape-changes into a snake
  10. Shape-changes into a wolf

A strigoi suffers three of the following weaknesses:

  1. Become trapped by confusion if lured to a crossroad
  2. Can not abide the smell of burning hemp
  3. Can not abide presence of garlic
  4. Die if it holds a candle
  5. Discomfort in daylight (-2 to hit and save)
  6. Drinking alcohol causes complete amnesia
  7. May not approach within 10' of a straw broom
  8. Must drink blood from a living human weekly
  9. Paralyzed if pierced by a sowing needle
  10. Paralyzed by the cries of an infant

I, Paul Gorman, created this text about the folkloric strigoi based on material in the public domain, and in turn release this strigoi text and its presentation into the public domain. Use it as you wish.

This bugs me too.

Monday, July 4, 2011

History of Cartography free PDF's

The first two volumes of The History of Cartography are available as free downloads. I wish the images were scanned at higher resolution, but there's still lots of inspiring material.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Tithes, chaos, and soforth

This passage from page 16 of U&WA confuses me:

Clerics will require passersby to give a tithe (10%) of all their money and jewels. If there is no payment possible the Cleric will send the adventurers on some form of Lawful or Chaotic task, under Quest. Generally Evil High Priests will simple [sic] slay Lawful or Neutral passersby who fail to pay their tithes.

This passage could be read in a number of ways. I find the most likely reading is that lawful clerics assign Lawful quests to lawful or neutral indigents, while chaotic clerics (EHP's) assign Chaotic quests to chaotic passersby and kill those of other alignments.

That leaves unanswered the question of what lawful clerics do with chaotic passersby who are unable to pay. Any guesses? Or is there a better reading of the text?