Monday, February 27, 2012

Friday, February 24, 2012

20 Questions

Brendan asks 20 questions, and I answer.

1. Ability scores generation method?

Roll 3d6 in order, and hope for a good Charisma score.

2. How are death and dying handled?

Zero hit points is death, but once per session a character reduced to zero or fewer hit points can choose to roll on the Dismemberment table to survive with 1 HP.

3. What about raising the dead?

It varies by campaign. In this campaign, Raise Dead is widely available for 1000 gp per level or a Quest.

4. How are replacement PCs handled?

If the average party level is three or lower, newly rolled characters start at first level. Otherwise, new characters start at one level lower than the lowest-level party member.

5. Initiative: individual, group, or something else?

Something else. It's based on Judges Guild weapons priority. Long and short weapons switch places after the first round.

6. Are there critical hits and fumbles? How do they work?

Nope, and none of the players have mentioned missing them.

7. Do I get any benefits for wearing a helmet?

You get to roll on a fun headgear table that's pretty much like B/X Headgear.

8. Can I hurt my friends if I fire into melee or do something similarly silly?

If you miss, the missile gets a second to-hit roll against a random target (including friendlies).

9. Will we need to run from some encounters, or will we be able to kill everything?


10. Level-draining monsters: yes or no?


11. Are there going to be cases where a failed save results in PC death?


12. How strictly are encumbrance & resources tracked?

Not super strictly, but don't ignore them. If you only have one light source, you better hope you don't drop it when surprised. Time is the most important resource; if you dilly-dally, wandering monster checks start rolling. Encumbrance only gets strictly calculated when running from monsters or removing heavy treasure from the dungeon.

13. What's required when my PC gains a level? Training? Do I get new spells automatically? Can it happen in the middle of an adventure, or do I have to wait for down time?

PC's need only pay their upkeep/taxes to gain a level. Since only treasure removed from a dungeon grants XP, leveling-up happens back in town. Beyond a new PC's first three spells (two 1st level, one 2nd level spell) all spells must be found during an adventure.

14. What do I get experience for?

A pittance for killing monsters, one XP for each GP removed from the dungeon, and some for carousing.

15. How are traps located? Description, dice rolling, or some combination?

By listening, asking question, and liberal use of a 10' pole.

16. Are retainers encouraged and how does morale work?

Retainers are vital at lower levels. Combat morale only affects monsters, but a retainer who fails a loyalty check won't return to the dungeon next time.

17. How do I identify magic items?

Experimentation or consultation with a sage. Sages are your best bet.

18. Can I buy magic items? Oh, come on: how about just potions?

Nothing doin'.

19. Can I create magic items? When and how?

Magic-users of any level can create magic items or new spells by conducting research. Magical research involves time and money.

20. What about splitting the party?

Sounds like fun. [Evil laugh.]

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Is print Carcosa worth buying?

Having bought Geoffrey McKinney's original Carcosa PDF, I was on the fence about purchasing the LotFP PDF. I eventually bought it, but promised myself I would not buy the print version. Too pricey.

But then I saw unboxing photos on a blog. Damn, that's a nice looking book, I thought. More pics on another blog? Really nice. I finally broke down and bought the print edition—the third time I've paid for Carcosa. The mailman delivered it yesterday.

It's beautiful. James Raggi seems to get a better handle on the publishing business with each project, and he outdid himself by a wide margin with Carcosa. Holding Carcosa in my hands erases any qualms about the price. This is one of those books that, once it's out of print, I would have kicked myself for not buying.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Barrowmaze Initial Impressions

VERY MILD SPOILER ALERT: this review discusses the structure of the Barrowmaze dungeon in a general way.

These are my initial impressions of Greg Gillespie's new Barrowmaze megadungeon.

First, it has an awesome cover, and the interior art is good too. I'm a sucker for Stefan Poag's work.

A few minor quibbles aside, the format of the book/PDF looks fine. Barrowmaze will work well at the table.

The pregen characters—complete with character portraits—are cool, and even include a hireling. Also included are a bunch of new monsters, some new magic items, a couple of new spells, and several random tables for dressing the dungeon.

The Barrowmaze premise is rich. It's atmospheric, and makes the dungeon factions an integral part of the milieu.

Unlike Stonehell, which divides dungeon levels into quadrants and presents each quadrant in the one-page-dungeon format, Barrowmaze presents the dungeon as one large map. Whether this a good or bad thing comes down to personal preference.

The map is drawn in blue. I was concerned that a half-tone screen might make these difficult to read when output to a B&W printer, but they're perfectly legible from my laser printer.

"Although Barrowmaze is presented in the tradition of classic dungeon crawls – there are a few interesting twists. Instead of a multi-layered dungeon with levels stacked vertically, The Barrowmaze is constructed as a series of crypts, tombs, and sepulchers spread out horizontally across a vast area - what I affectionately refer to as a dungeon sprawl. As the players move across the map, the monsters increase in power and the treasures increase in value."

This structure differs considerably from the one handed down in U&WA or EPT. The traditional stratified dungeon provides two related benefits: added interest and non-linearity through vertical movement, and guidance to help the players choose their own risk level. Barrowmaze is sufficiently non-linear, especially with its multiple surface entrances, that I'm not too bothered by the former. The latter... I'm not sure about yet. I would have appreciated slightly expanded discussion about this in the design notes.

Overall, Barrowmaze makes a very positive initial impression. It looks like a ton of fun, and the price is right ($6.66!). Go buy it!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Monday, February 13, 2012

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Gather the Black Acolytes

Gather the Black Acolytes
Magic-User Spell Level 3

By the drawing of certain lines and curves, the caster slips into an extra-dimensional space, leaving a creature from another universe in his place. The caster can't know or control the type of type of creature, and the creature will vary from once casting to another. The caster appears in a special dimensional space—a space also occupied by anyone (or anything) else that cast the spell during the same time. It's a sort of meeting room. The caster may choose to return his original location after either three minutes, three hours, or three days.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Medieval occupations

The next time you're looking to fill a WFR-esque table, use this list of medieval occupations. It includes the usual coopers and reeves, but also the less familiar—egglers, knifemen, hetheleders, etc. [via kottke]

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Non-railroady investigative scenarios

Zak has some smart things to say about one possible structure for non-railroady investigative scenarios. Bookmarked for the next time I run Call of Cthulhu or whatever.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Sunday, February 5, 2012

AD&D modules

With Wizards reprinting the AD&D books, some new and old AD&D players will be looking for AD&D adventures/modules. One of our illustrious OSR bloggers assembled this AD&D module list (a Google Docs spreadsheet). It's a handy reference for anybody that needs a quick link to a level-appropriate 1e D&D adventure. Included are links to over 100 free and commercial adventure modules.

The AD&D reprints ship in April. Spread the word about this link (, so everyone will be able to find the spreadsheet in a couple of months.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Giant ant hill excavation

With fungus gardens!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Castle Ünderheap

Now that I'm near completion of my Swords & Wizardry house rules (I'll likely share PDF's at some point in the next few months), my attention has returned to preliminary work on my Castle Ünderheap campaign. I'm not in any hurry, as I probably won't run it until our current Stonehell game ends.

Ünderheap draws heavily on the rubber masks, prop rayguns, and painted backdrops of 1970's Doctor Who, with an even mix of Lovecraftian horror and gonzo silliness. The crawling tunnels of the megadungeon complex below Castle Ünderheap will be the tent pole of the campaign, but (without going into true sandbox mode) I want to give players plenty of opportunities to visit other castles in the area. I'm pleased with the names I've come up with for those castles. They strike the right tone, I think.

  • Castle Morcorant
  • Castle Ratgriped
  • Castle Feignshirk
  • Castle Arcacara
  • Castle Hunthact
  • Castle Brawler
  • Castle Thac
  • Castle El Panic
  • Castle Ogose
  • Castle Gainfulwoe
  • Castle Flicker
  • Castle Awefouling
  • Castle Dampburden
  • Castle Ripsnapped
  • Castle Chidewort