Monday, December 24, 2012

Isometric notebook map

I like this map Alex Schroeder pasted in his notebook. I'll have to print some isometric graph paper for myself...

(I believe the map is for an adventure that will appear in Fight On! number 14.)

Saturday, December 22, 2012


Thoat, Lesser
About the size of a human horse, this Barsoomian creature has eight legs with yellowish elephant-like feet, a long neck, hairless grey hide, and a wide, flat tail. Red Martians breed lesser thoats as mounts, and sometimes employ them as beasts of burden. AC 6, HD 4, Move 24"
Thoat, Greater
The greater thoat resembles its lesser cousin in form, but stands ten feet high at the shoulder. In temperament, it's more vicious and unruly. Green Martians ride greater thoats in battle. AC 6, HD 6, Move 24"

Creatures of Man size or smaller who attempt to mount a greater thoat without prior telepathic training must save versus Dragon Breath or sustain 2-12 trample damage.

There are two species of thoat on Mars: the small, comparatively docile breed used by the red Martians as saddle animals and, to a lesser extent, as beasts of burden on the farms that border the great irrigation canals; and then there are the huge, vicious, unruly beasts that the green warriors use exclusively as steeds of war.

These creatures tower fully ten feet at the shoulder. They have four legs on either side and a broad, flat tail, larger at the tip than at the root, that they hold straight out behind while running. Their gaping mouths split their heads from their snouts to their long, massive necks. Their bodies, the upper portion of which is a dark slate color and exceedingly smooth and glossy, are entirely devoid of hair. Their bellies are white, and their legs shade gradually from the slate color of their bodies to a vivid yellow at the feet, which are heavily padded and nailless.

The thoat of the green man has the most abominable disposition of any creature I have ever seen, not even the green men themselves excepted. They are constantly fighting among themselves, and woe betide the rider who loses control of his terrible mount; yet, paradoxical as it may appear, they are ridden without bridle or bit; and are controlled solely by telepathic means, which, fortunately for me, I learned many ago while I was prisoner of Lorquas Ptomel, jed of the Tharks, a green Martian horde.

The beast to whose back I had vaulted was a vicious devil, and he took violent exception to me and probably to my odor. He tried to buck me off; and, failing that, reached back with his huge, gaping jaws in an effort to seize me.*

Friday, December 14, 2012

Kickstarted for free OSR art?

Should we have free community art for old school RPG house rules?

I'm floating this idea to see if there's enough interest. I like to make semi-pro looking house rules documents for my games. One of the issues I've run into is that, as great as the Open Game License has been for old school gaming, art and illustrations are typically reserved as Product Identity. That's totally understandable, but it means I can't, for example, shove my house rules into Swords & Wizardry and distribute it, even if I'm only giving it away for free to people I play with (online or off).

What if we started some kind of kickstarter project to commission art that anyone could use and redistribute in their own non-commercial RPG projects?

Would this be useful to the community?

Is there enough interest?

How would artists feel about it?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Carcosa Wacky Races inspiration

Richard, the Bosted Globe posted a bunch of photos you may find useful for your Carcosa Wacky Races (should you wish to make them an annual event).

(Somebody make this guy a color!)

Monday, December 3, 2012

Glow-in-the-dark fungi

The National Geographic photo contest has some great entries, including this one:

Hiking in pitch darkness within the dense forest undergrowth, one might encounter one of mother nature's awesome creations. A scene which many thought only belongs to the Sci-fi Movies. Filoboletus Manipularis is a fungus which naturally produces a faint eerie glow in the night by a natural process known as bioluminescence, shown in this 3-minute long exposure of these elusive little mushrooms.

Add some giant glow-in-the-dark mushrooms to you dungeon or sandbox!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

My RPG bookshelf

James Maliszewski asks for photos of the bookshelf you most frequently use in gaming. Mine changes fairly often as books get shuffled around, but this is it at the moment:

  • Stonehell
  • Ready Ref Sheets
  • Realms of Crawling Chaos
  • AD&D Players Handbook
  • AD&D Monster Manual
  • AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide
  • Tome of Adventure Design
  • Swords & Wizardry Core
  • AD&D Fiend Folio
  • Labyrinth Lord
  • LL Advanced Edition Companion
  • Arduin Trilogy
  • Playing at the World
  • The Hobbit
  • The Lewis Chessmen (which are my reference for dwarves)
  • a few Conan collections
  • Ill Met in Lankhmar
  • The Iliad
  • The Odyssey
  • Carcosa
  • Borges Collected Fiction (I'm undecided about the new translations)
  • The Book of Imaginary Beings
  • The Arabian Nights
  • Dying Earth
  • Lem's The Cyberaid (Trurl and Klapaucius are basically Vancian wizards)
  • a Lovecraft collection
  • Vorheim
  • OD&D vI-III and Greyhawk
  • Swords & Wizardry WhiteBox
  • A Book of Surrealist Games

And, on the end, a few movies:

  • Thundarr
  • Fantastic Planet
  • La Planète Sauvage
  • Land of the Lost (complete original TV series)
  • a Ray Harryhausen collection

The shelf below this has a couple of magazine boxes full of modules and some three-ring binders, but their spines aren't particularly distinctive. The Greyhawk Folio, Holmes, Molkday, Cook, the LotFP Grindhouse box, and the Astonishing Swords & Sorcerers of Hyperborea box are down there too.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tinkering LBB d6 damage

In LBB original D&D, all weapons do d6 damage. This seems to upset a lot of players who grew up with variable weapon damage. I've been satisfied enough with the "you'll be just as dead if I slit your throat with a dagger or a long sword" rationale that I've stuck with d6 damage in my Stonehell white box game.

However, I recently got pulled into another discussion on the matter, which mentioned a couple of popular d6 damage variants. These variants concern themselves with differentiating short/light weapons (daggers, darts, slings) from normal weapons (swords, spears, maces) from long/heavy weapons (two-handed swords, polearms, lances).

The first method is to roll d6 -1 for light weapons, d6 for normal weapons, and d6 +1 for heavy weapons.

The second method is to roll 2d6 and use the lesser roll for light weapons, roll 1d6 for normal weapons, and for heavy weapons to take the higher of two d6 rolls.

I wondered what sort of damage these methods would yield, so (since I don't really understand more than the most basic dice math) I wrote a little script to do some test rolls.

The mean average is easy enough to figure out. The mean of a d6 roll is 3.5, so d6 +/-1 will give a mean of 2.5 and 4.5. No surprise there, but it's reassuring to see the results I expected (within three-hundredths of a point over 100,000 rolls).

The median is somewhat more interesting. The median of 1d6 will of course be 3 or 4. The median of 2d6-take-the-highest is 5. The median of 2d6-take-the-lowest is 2.

The mode of 1d6 can be anything. The mode of 2d6-take-the-higher is 6. The mode of 2d6-take-the-lower is 1.

If I was a fighter with a two-handed sword, I'd be lobbying for the 2d6 method. It certainly proves more differentiation between the weapons types than the +/-1 method.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Anomalous Subsurface Environment 2-3 released

Patrick Wetmore of Henchman Abuse just released levels 2-3 of his Anomalous Subsurface Environment dungeon. His delicious play reports always make me cackle with glee.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Clay Shirky links Delta

I was amused to see that Clay Shirky's recent essay about Udacity and online education as a Napster-like disruptive technology links to our very own Delta of Delta's D&D Hotspot. He should be see a big traffic jump.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Fantastic architecture of Lebbeus Woods (RIP)

A Metafilter post about recently deceased architect Lebbeus Woods provides some nice inpiration for urban adventures. His drawings remind me a bit of Zak's Vornheim.

Friday, October 26, 2012


Check out these Criterion Collection screen caps from Häxan:

Time for me to watch this again. It's available on Hulu Plus

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

How many Shire sausages are in a hobbit slam?

You will be thrilled to hear that Denny's will be introducing a Hobbit-themed menu:

Menu items include 11 breakfast, lunch and dinner items such as "Hobbit Hole Breakfast," "Frodo's Pot Roast Skillet," "Gandalf's Gobble Melt" and the "Build Your Own Hobbit Slam," which includes limited-time items such as "Shire Sausage." Fans of the Hobbit knows that hobbits eat two breakfasts, and eat about seven times per day. "We just felt with the two breakfasts that whole notion of comfort eating and comfort food" were a fit for Denny's, said Frances Allen, CMO at the restaurant chain.

Saturday, October 20, 2012 GONE!

The Gygax Memorial Fund website is down. I'm assuming this is a temporary technical glitch, but if anyone reading this knows anyone associated with the fund, please let them know. Also, tell them to point the whois technical email address record somewhere not on the same domain.

UPDATE The Gygax Memorial Fund people are aware of the problem, and they're trying to fix it.

UPDATE Five or so days later, the site is back.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Play D&D, get a job at Google

From the recent Google datacenter tour:

Denise discovered her Google job in a unique way. “It was through playing Dungeons and Dragons,” she says. While playing the game, she met a Google employee and discussed future work plans. “I had originally planned to get a degree in literature, but later changed my major to Computer Science,” she says. After graduating, she applied to our data center in The Dalles, Oregon, where she now works as part of a 150-person team.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Misc. links (megadungeons and game design)

According to naraoia at The Mule Abides, "the OSR’s love affair with the megadungeon seems to be over." Stephan Poag of Aldeboran adds: "After a brief period of recently being 'in vogue' among the cognicenti of the OSR community, it seems as though the 'megadungeon' may be once again falling out of favor."

So megadungeons aren't fun now? Hmph. Where is this discussion happening?

Daniel Cook is a video game designer. Check out his posts on building tight game systems, loops and arcs, and arrow of play.

UPDATE: Joseph Browning of Sorcergy & Super Science also posted on the megadungeon kerfuffle, which looks less like some popular turn of sentiment against megadungeons, and more like Joe The Lawyer not finding the first level of Dimmermound cinematic enough for his tastes. Ahem.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Friday, October 5, 2012

The greatest mystery of the tunnels revealed itself

The always interesting Smithsonian Past Imperfect blog offers up a nice little D&D-ish story of ancient myth and amateur archeology:

But only when the men went deeper into the hillside did the greatest mystery of the tunnels revealed itself. There, hidden at the bottom of a much steeper passage, and behind a second S-bend that prevented anyone approaching from seeing it until the final moment, ran an underground stream. A small “landing stage” projected out into the sulfurous waters, which ran from left to right across the tunnel and disappeared into the darkness. And the river itself was hot to the touch–in places it approached boiling point.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Index of Dragon articles

The Acaeum wiki has a useful listing of Dragon issues and articles. I'll probably spend a bit of time in the coming weeks with my CD-ROM collection and the Best of Dragon index.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Go First dice

Behold the Go First dice, which are fair four-way initiative dice that never result in a tie. They're 12-siders numbered:

Die 1: 1, 8, 11, 14, 19, 22, 27, 30, 35, 38, 41, 48
Die 2: 2, 7, 10, 15, 18, 23, 26, 31, 34, 39, 42, 47
Die 3: 3, 6, 12, 13, 17, 24, 25, 32, 36, 37, 43, 46
Die 4: 4, 5, 9, 16, 20, 21, 28, 29, 33, 40, 44, 45

Neat. The dice are for sale now.

It looks like the same guy has a dice die:

Monday, October 1, 2012

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Otherworld Miniatures

Otherworld Miniatures is running an Indiegogo campaign. You know you want an expedition mule mini.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Suburban prehistoric Britain

An article in the online magazine Aeon paints a picture of prehistoric Britain very much at odds with the idea of a points-of-light-style overwhelmingly wild frontier.

The beeches of the lower Chilterns were the Wild Wood into which Mole and Ratty strayed. They remind us of an older English past that has become heavily mythologised and distorted — like the knights on the Grail Quest who periodically disappeared and were lost in the trees — and yet depends on the perception that much of England was forested for the greater part of its history. A perception that is wrong.

Unfortunately, the article provides little in the way of supporting citations beyond a handwavey reference to "the work of archaeologists over the past few decades". A quick search on Google Scholar seems to support that at least some parts of prehistoric Britain were deforested by the Bronze Age or earlier, and much of that land used for agriculture. These findings seem to be based on sampling of pollen in various soil layers. It looks like the research dates back as far as the late 1940's, so this probably isn't news to anyone familiar with the topic.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Friday, September 21, 2012

Support and upkeep

I noticed today that the OD&D LBB's use the phrase "support and upkeep" in two paragraphs. The first instance is the Men-At-Arms paragraph of the Construction of Castles and Strongholds section:

"Hired fighters can be men, dwarves or elves. Chaotic characters may wish to employ Orcs; Orc support and upkeep is only half that of a man. Men-at-Arms require support and upkeep as follows..." (U&WA 23)

The second mention of "support and upkeeps" is the Player/Character Support and Upkeep paragraph:

"Player/Characters must pay Gold Pieces equal to 1% of their experience points for support and upkeep, until such time as they build a stronghold. If the stronghold is in a wilderness area all support and upkeep costs then cease, but if it is in a village or town not controlled by the player/character then support and upkeep payments must continue." (U&WA 24)

Support and upkeeps, then, appears to be a particular type of tax paid to the local ruler and earmarked for the men-at-arms who defend the local castle and surrounding countryside.

There's been some question through the years about how often characters should pay this 1% upkeep cost. Based on the fact that castle owners pay their men-at-arms on a monthly basis, I suggest the players characters should also pay their 1% upkeep monthly.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Monday, September 10, 2012

Monday, September 3, 2012

Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Princess of Mars

Anybody know who did these illustrations for an old Oxford University Press edition of A Princess of Mars? They have sort of an Erol Otus meets Boys Adventure Stories vibe.

Update: the illustrator was Gay Galsworthy. He illustrated a number of children's books in the late 60's. I couldn't find much of his work online, except for this cover of Hero Tales from the British Isles:

Monday, August 27, 2012

Friday, August 24, 2012

Ghouls in OD&D (and Chainmail)

Ambiguities in the Monsters & Treasure description of ghouls leave plenty of room for debate (1, 2, 3), but I've settled at least one point to my own satisfaction.

OD&D describes ghouls thus:

As stated in CHAINMAIL for Wights, Ghouls paralize any normal figure they touch, excluding Elves. They otherwise melee in the regular fashion and are subject to missile fire. Any man-type killed by a Ghoul becomes one.

Even if you don't usually treat OD&D's requirement of Chainmail as an absolute prescription, the explicit mention in the ghoul description is strong. The Chainmail entry for ghouls (and wights) says:

If they touch a normal figure during melee, it becomes paralyzed and remains so for one complete turn. A paralyzed figure is considered to be able to strike a blow at the Wight just prior to paralysis taking effect, so melee can occur but only one round.

Chainmail page 8 says, "one turn of play is roughly equivalent to one minute of time in battle"—the same duration as OD&D's combat round.*

It seems clear to me that the touch/hit of a ghoul leaves a character paralyzed during the following combat round, and only that one round, regardless of saving throw (if you allow one). This makes ghouls considerably less deadly than under other interpretations, even if the party doesn't include an elf.

Update: Upon further review of Chainmail turns and rounds, I realize ghoul paralysis lasts longer than one OD&D combat round. However, the ten minute "exploration" turn mentioned on page 8 of U&WA is far longer than Chainmail meant ghoul paralysis to last. The more I look at Chainmail with OD&D, the more I think combat turns should be one minute, with rounds of perhaps 6-10 seconds.

* Yes, yes. Turns and rounds are another point of contention, but regardless of specific duration the Chainmail turn round is "one exchange of attacks," as the OD&D FAQ describes combat rounds.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

OD&D treasure type observations

A (Water) 90,200 gp. Men.
All men are very lucrative, but much more so for water types. Buccaneers, pirates, and mermen are the apex monsters in terms of treasure. Interesting that the only magic item is a single treasure map, while the other A types have any three magic items. In fact, this is the only treasure type that specifies a map.

H 77,000 gp. Dragons only.
Very lucrative--the most lucrative if you only want to kill a couple of monsters rather than a couple hundred. Dragons should be the prime target of every rational party.

A (Desert) 48,800 gp. Men. Dervishes and nomads.
Pretty good for magic items.

A (Land) 42,500 gp. Men. Bandits, berserkers, brigands. Also, cavemen.
Similar to their desert neighbors, but slightly fewer gems and jewelry.

G 24,500 gp. Dwarves only.
Lucrative in total, but only about 112 gp per dwarf on average. One of the best treasure types for magic items.

I 17,300 gp. Rocs only.
Fairly lucrative, but those suckers are fast. Not great for magic items.

F 13,000 gp. Vampires, medusae, and chimeras.
Low quantities of dangerous monsters with OK treasure. Pretty good for magic items.

D 7,300 gp. A grab bag. Hordes of humanoids and handfuls of powerful monsters.
I wouldn't fight a purple worm for this kind of dough.

B 4,000 gp. Ghouls, wights, nixies, hydras.
Going after a hydras does not seem worthwhile. One of the least magical treasures.

E 3,400 gp. Fairytale and mythic creatures, except for spectres.
Mostly in small numbers, except for the 30-300 elves. Elves are dirt poor compared to Men.

C 2,500 gp. Monsters of folklore and myth.
Gnomes are too poor to bother robbing. Pixies are poorer than nixes, just as land Men are poorer than water Men. Not great for magic items.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Friday, August 10, 2012

OD&D treasure type values

I've been following a thread on the odd75 forum about OD&D treasure types, their max/average values, and their meanings in terms of contents and associated monsters. There's a little disagreement over something as basic as the relative total values of the different treasure types.

I've done some work on OD&D treasure type values before. The average and relative values should be pretty accurate, unless I've screwed up something. Download the Python script if you want a look at how I got these figures.

ODnD Treasure Type Values (All values show in gold pieces)
Type    Copper  Silver  Gold    Gems    Jewelry   Total
A Wtr   0       0       10,477  8,863   70,948    90,289
H       67      2,575   26,119  10,392  36,520    75,675
A Dsrt  9       62      1,072   5,196   42,760    49,101
A Land  17      104     2,409   4,361   34,434    41,327
G       0       0       18,688  1,145   4,697     24,531
I       0       0       0       1,816   15,531    17,348
F       0       117     3,017   1,118   8,797     13,051
D       8       101     2,092   557     4,517     7,276
B       45      90      497     365     3,035     4,034
E       5       190     1,175   261     1,840     3,473
C       27      74      0       243     2,226     2,571
(Values averaged from 6,000 rolls.)

ODnD Treasure Type Values: Minimum > 0 / Average / Maximum
A Land  20 gp  42,445 gp  163,300 gp
A Dsrt  20 gp  47,392 gp  218,970 gp
A Wtr  4,140 gp 91,305 gp  656,230 gp
B   10 gp  3,928 gp  45,500 gp
C   10 gp  2,430 gp  28,800 gp
D   10 gp  7,383 gp  112,800 gp
E   10 gp  3,259 gp  55,200 gp
F   60 gp  12,915 gp  116,200 gp
G   220 gp  24,494 gp  80,210 gp
H   10 gp  76,515 gp  213,680 gp
I   100 gp  17,109 gp  95,310 gp
(Actual values from 6,000 rolls.)

Incidentally, the average gem is worth about 419 gp. The average piece of jewelry is worth about 3410 gp.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

OD&D damage types

Delta observes that the LBB's only present four spells that deal direct damage: Fire Ball, Lightning Bolt, Wall of Fire, and Wall of Ice. That's why you get monster descriptions filled with oddly specific sounding qualifiers like "Green Slime can be killed by fire or cold, but it is not affected by lightening."

Monday, August 6, 2012

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Disguise Kit

A disguise kit costs 30 gp, and is usable by thieves of any level.

Disguise kits include items like wigs, makeup in a variety of humanoid skin tones, fake mustaches and beards, and shoe lifts.

For each turn spent in preparation, the thief has a 1 in 6 chance (up to 3 in 6) to fool others with his disguise. The thief must make this roll each turn he's in proximity to others in order to maintain his disguise.

The referee applies situational modifiers as appropriate. For example:

  • Dim lighting: +1
  • Passing at distance, or no interaction: +1
  • Merely hiding own identity by passing as anyone else: +3
  • Disguised as significantly different race or sex: -1
  • Disguised as an individual known to the others: -3

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Towers of Krshal review

Towers of Krshal is a setting from Albert Rakowski described in a couple dozen random tables.

Take the Rumors table, for example. What does it tell us about Krshal?

There's steampunky stuff around, like difference engines and railroads and gaslights. The city is huge—both wide and deep. All the cemeteries, ghouls, lunatics, wizards, and demons lend the place a Zothique feel. Krshal boasts countless towers and wells.

You get this info from little adventure seed table entries rather than a big block of expository text, which is a win in my book.

6. City is ruled by a council of necromancers. Nobles we can see are just animated corpses, used to confuse people.
7. There is psychic vampire living under the Krshal Lunatic Asylum.
8. There are over 1000 towers in the City.
9. People disappear without a trace in the Hangman Alley.
10. Huge sinkhole opened up in the Grey Stele Cemetery.
11. Tentacled horrors live in the sewers of the Tanners District.
12. There is more deranged people in the City than in any other place.
13. Dead bodies crawl from the graves in the Last Whisper Cemetery.
14. Strange, deformed corpse was found in the Chapel of the Lost. It was really huge and didn’t looked like human body.
15. Everyone on the Boggy Square saw man falling from the window in the Bat’s Tower but no corpse was found.
16. There are many mutants living in the sewers of the old military district.
17. They say that people are eaten alive in the Centaur District prison.
18. Blood-red leeches fall from trees in the Heaven’s Park.
19. Railways connecting districts of the Krshal are forming occult or even magical symbols.

Not every table ties as tightly to the milieu as the rumors table. Any world can use 50 Drunkards, Six Lethal Molds, or Ossuary Random Finds. But the strongest material links closely to Krshal.

Some of the tables evoke the world more vividly than others. The 20 Towers table is awesome, but the Names of the Citizens table does nothing for me. Although the 20 Chthonic Gods table is little more than unpronounceable names with epithets, ones like "Annra, Goddess of Empty Cradles" or "Uu'rraa'l, Trapped in the Living Crystal" are enough to start me writing adventures.

Towers of Krshal won't be all things to all people. It has no ready-to-run material, and Krshal is more of a parts bin than a toolkit. Nevertheless, I recommend Krshal as a must-buy for three reasons: it's only $3.50 for the PDF, the list items offer tons of creative kickstarters, and it succeeds as a formal experiment by making you want to try the form for a setting of your own.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Saturday, July 28, 2012

3 days left for Vancian awesomeness

There's only three days left in Raggi's ambitious Grand Adventure Campaign kickstarter. Jeff Rients' adventure has funded, but there are still some promising projects that haven't. I'd particularly like to see Vincent Baker's adventure get funded. Baker is the Forge dude who wrote Dogs in the Vinyard, the Morman gunfighter RPG with a novel poker bidding resolution mechanic. I'd love to see his take on a Vancian wizard's tower adventure, and his subsystem for tower generation.

Orphone of the Three Visions is a wizardess of restless and fitful ambition, so often seen in city market and bazaar, paced always by her velvet half-human servant and bodyguard Ioma. For decades she has kept her seclusium unassailable upon an island of three concentric gardens in the Cove of Bar's Toll, working her magics, pursuing her grandizement and mastery, forbidding all to come. Now she has ventured into the subrealm Paume, for reasons of curiosity, provocation or entrapment, and has neither returned nor left any remnant impulse of her will. Even loyal Ioma has departed for other employment.

So her seclusium stands, not vacant, but vulnerable. The wise have not yet approached it, but cast greedy and speculative looks. Who will be the first to venture an incursion? What will they find within?

The Seclusium of Orphone of the Three Visions: a system for creating an original wizard's seclusium to fit into your own game's world, campaign and level, inspired by the iconic work of Jack Vance, with notes on tone and technique, including Orphone's Seclusium itself as a complete and playable example.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Basilisk of Warsaw

Benedictus did not, however, volunteer to try out this plan himself. He did not feel quite prepared to do so, he said, owing to age and infirmity. The senate called on the burghers, the military and police but found no man of sufficient courage to seek out and destroy the basilisk within its lair. A Silesian convict named Johann Faurer, who had been sentenced to death for robbery, was at length persuaded to make the attempt, on the condition that he be given a complete pardon if he survived his encounter with the loathsome beast. Faurer was dressed in creaking black leather covered with a mass of tinkling mirrors, and his eyes were protected with large eyeglasses. Armed with a sturdy rake in his right hand and a blazing torch in his left, he must have presented a singular aspect when venturing forth into the cellar. He was cheered on by at least two thousand people who had gathered to see the basilisk being beaten to death. After searching the cellar for more than an hour, the brave Johann Faurer finally saw the basilisk, lurking in a niche of the wall. Old Dr. Benedictus shouted instructions to him: he was to seize it with his rake and carry it out into the broad daylight.

Read the whole story on the Smithsonian's Past Imperfect blog.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Draw these formations out on paper

I received my copies of the 1e AD&D reprints yesterday. The books are pretty nice: sewn signatures, gold leaf edges, quality paper, bookmark ribbon. If you've been on the fence about buying them, I'd recommend it. If nothing else, they're nice, clean reading copies.

Anyhow, I was dipping into the books at random, and found this:

Assign formations for the group — 10' corridor, 20' corridor, door opening, and any other formation which your party might commonly assume. It is always a wise idea to have the very short characters in the front rank, elves and dwarves to the flanks, and at least one sturdy fighter in the rear if the party is sufficiently large. Draw these formations out on paper (possibly your referee will require copies for reference), identifying each character carefully. The leader who is to make decisions and give directions for the party must be in the front rank, or in the second rank if he or she is tall compared to the characters before.

I like the idea of having several diagrams for common formations, rather than just one marching order list.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Raggi's crazy adventure campaign

James "Flame Princess" Raggi's crazy mass adventure kickstarting campaign has seven days left.

Before he started his campaign, I wondered if the OSR community might be on the verge of backer fatigue. Maybe, maybe not. Nineteen is a lot of adventures. I suppose even the ones that don't fund give Raggi useful market research.

Here's what I'm backing:

Monday, July 23, 2012

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

AD&D adventure modules

As I mentioned previously, new and returning DM's looking for 1e adventures should checkout this list of AD&D adventure modules (Google Docs spreadsheet). With links to over 100 free and inexpensive adventures, this will be handy for anyone fired-up by the AD&D rulebook reprints.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Monday, July 9, 2012

Friday, July 6, 2012

OD&D wilderness movement modes?

Referee's map is a wilderness map unknown to the players. It should be for the territory around the dungeon location. When players venture into this area they should have a blank hexagon map, and as they move over each hex the referee will inform them as to what kind of terrain is in that hex. This form of exploring will eventually enable players to know the lay of the land in their immediate area and thus be able to select a site upon which to build their castles. (Castle building and its attendent requirements will be covered hereafter.) Exploratory adventures are likely to be the most exciting, and their incorporation into the campaign is most desirable. Exploration by foot is at normal speed. Horsed parties will travel at the speed of a draft horse, and exploration by air will be at half normal flying speed.

Does this mean that OD&D wilderness travel has two modes: a normal traveling mode and a speed-limited exploration mode?

Monday, July 2, 2012

Thursday, June 28, 2012

OD&D Pit traps

I forgot or never noticed this passage from page 5 of Underworld & Wilderness Adventures:

Falling into the pit would typically cause damage if a 1 or a 2 were rolled. Otherwise, it would only mean about one turn of time to clamber out, providing the character had spikes or associates to pull him out, and providing the pit wasn't one with a snap-shut door and the victim was alone.

Of course, there's also a fair chance a wandering monster will show up to investigate the commotion while you're trying to haul your buddy out of that pit trap.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Treasure Stocking Part 2: OD&D Level Size

If you were to stock the first level of a dungeon using the by-the-book OD&D random stocking method, how big a dungeon level would you need to get a group of PC's to second level? We'll ignore, for this post, treasure from placed specials and monster XP.

According to U&WA's "Distribution of Monsters and Treasure" section, two in six rooms have monsters. Of those rooms with monsters, half have treasure. Further, one in six unoccupied rooms have treasure.

We must use different methods to determine the quantity of treasure for occupied and unoccupied rooms.

Rooms without monsters have d6×100sp, a 50% chance of d6×10gp, and a 5% chance of d6 gems, and a 5% chance of d6 pieces of jewelry. Even at such a low percentage, the jewelry really drives up the average treasure values. The average treasure in unoccupied rooms is worth 705 gp.

Treasure in rooms with monsters depends on the monster's treasure type. We're looking at a first level dungeon, so for the sake of simplicity we'll only use treasure types for 1 HD monsters.

This is a problematic topic, because the treasure amounts listed on the M&T "Monster Reference Table" may be for a "lair" or wilderness groups of three or four hundred individuals. For our purposes, I've made some arbitrary decisions about the number of monsters* per dungeon room, and come up with a treasure amount of 576 gp per occupied room. As with the unoccupied room average, the jewelry values pushed this number higher than I'd have guessed.

The magic number here is 1046 XP for every six dungeon rooms. The average OD&D character needs 2,000 XP to reach second level. With that, we can calculate the number of rooms required to provide that experience for parties of various sizes:

# PC'sMin. XPMin. # Rooms

If we use the number of players provided in the introduction to Men & Magic, we see some really sprawling dungeon levels:

# PC'sMin. XPMin. # Rooms

But then, when running a 50 player game, maybe you actually put 400 orcs in a room....

* Number of monsters per dungeon room:
10-100 -> 1d6 (avg 3.5)
20-200 -> 1d10 (avg 5.5)
30-300 -> 2d6 (avg 7)
40-400 -> 2d10 (avg 11)

Monday, June 25, 2012

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Monster Ecologies and Invasive Species

In Gygaxian Naturalism, monsters form an internally consistent ecosystem. When the PC's aren't there, the monsters lead rich, full lives—weaving baskets, cultivating mushrooms, raising families, etc.

Monsters of the Mythic Underworld coalesce out of darkness and nightmares. What are the goblins doing when the PC's aren't there? They're don't exist at all, or they're just sitting in the darkness waiting for a PC to open the door, or they're doing something completely alien to human experience. It doesn't matter. Monsters are just an expression of the mystical underworld's primal animosity to the player characters.

I recently articulated to myself a slightly different ecology that I favor. It's a decontextualized alien ecology. Such monsters are natural, but not naturally occurring on this world. They lead lives when the PC aren't around, but their activates are not familiar to men. These are visitors from outside—invaders, castaways, refugees, and fugitives. They're the invasive species of the dungeon.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Geomorphs Project

Richard at Save Vs. Dragon has volunteered to head a community geomorph project. I plan to submit a few pages of geomorphs.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Treasure Stocking Part 1: Stonehell

I've found Stonehell a little treasure-light. I did a quick count of gold on the first level. There's about 22,000 gp worth of treasure. Labyrinth Lord doesn't give XP for magic items. With XP for killing monsters, we'll call it around 25,000 available experience points.

(Also, treasure in Stonehell is distributed unevenly. Most treasures in a quadrant are very small, but one or two are large. Further, there's a great disparity of wealth between quadrants. The least lucrative quadrant has less than 1,800 gp. The most lucrative has 10,200+ gp. This is in line with the megadungeon design precept that well-traveled areas have already been looted, but it may not be obvious from a player's perspective.)

The average number of experience points necessary to reach second level in Labyrinth Lord is 2,234.

This will vary a bit from group to group, but figure that a quarter of first level PC's will die and the players will miss or bypass a quarter of treasures. Assuming players explore a very large chunk of Stonehell's 140+ first level rooms, there's enough experience for 5-6 characters to reach second level. And, assuming your group clears 6-8 rooms per session, it will take them about 20 weeks to get there.

Stonehell has been touted as the first published campaign megadungeon—something on a scale Gary's players might find familiar. Men & Magic says, "from four to fifty players can be handled in any single campaign, but the referee to player ratio should be about 1:20 or thereabouts." Those twenty players would find Stonehell a hardscrabble place.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Monday, June 11, 2012

Monday, June 4, 2012

Monday, May 28, 2012

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Decalcomania Carcosa

A recent odd74 thread pointed to La Planète Sauvage as inspiration for Carcosa. That reminded me of a page I recently stumbled across about Max Ernst and decalcomania. Decalcomania would be a great technique for Carcosa art.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A cursory review of Dungeon Crawl Classics

The first thing I notice upon unpacking DCC is that the book is huge and heavy—almost 500 pages of thicker-than-average paper. The second thing I notice is the extraordinary quantity and high quality of old-school art. You've probably already heard that many of your favorite old (Jeff Dee, Russ Nicholson, Erol Otus, Jim Roslof) and new (Stefan Poag, Peter Mullen) old-school artists produced illustrations for DCC, but it still takes one by surprise to find large illustrations on at least every other page.

I haven't mastered the DCC rules yet, but I see a lot I like.

The character funnel, where each player starts with several zero-level characters and sees which one survives, is something I'd like to try at the start of a campaign. I'm not sure how often I would use it for the same group of players, but the funnel is robust enough to be more than a gimmick.

The spell system is different than the one in D&D. When I hear about new magic systems, I always remember and repurpose that Churchill quotation about democracy: D&D Vancian magic is the worst magic system except for all those other magic systems that have been tried from time to time. That said, DCC's magic looks like a lot of fun, and the increased magical unpredictability fits the tone of the game well.

DCC is light on stock monsters (though not so light as Lamentations of the Flame Princess). The monster section begins with advice to the referee about customizing and creating monsters. This is only one of a number of design decisions that show DCC is intended for the kind of gamers who already have a few twenty-year-old monster collections on their shelves.

And even though I'm hardly an RPG newbie, I'm not sure I'll jump into DCC as a referee. Unlike a lot of gaming material I buy only to read, I would actually like to play DCC at some point. Unfortunately, I won't have enough time in the foreseeable future to learn the game well enough to run it myself. That, I suspect, will be the pinch for DCC: the audience is experienced gamers who have enough time to learn a new system and the inclination to do so.

It would be very cool if Goodman Games themselves or enthusiasts they recruit ran regularly scheduled games at cons and online for people looking to get a feel for the game in action.

I have one or two nitpicks with the book (the line art should probably have been reproduced at 1-bit color depth to avoid "fuzziness", it's Edgar Rice Burroughs not Edward, and where the hell is C.A. Smith?), but none that seriously affects my enjoyment of the book or its utility.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Friday, May 11, 2012

Heraldry and bogus heraldry

The International Heraldry & Heralds site is pretty interesting, particularly the bit at the end of the page about identifying bogus heraldry. Also the bit about abatements of dishonour.