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Showing posts from 2010

My cat reviews Weird Fantasy Roleplaying

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That's Oso, my 13 year-old fur ball purring machine, expressing his opinion on Lamentations of the Flame Princess - Weird Fantasy Roleplaying.

He likes it. 4 out of 4 mice.

I think it is pretty kick ass myself, but right now my gaming time needs to be spent reading A1 Slave Pits of the Undercity which I've never run or played in before. Turns out my friends conned me into DMing for the mini tournament he's running.

Rest assured, both Oso and I will express ourselves in more detail.

Puget Sound Mini-Con/Tournament Module

One of the gamers in our group is hosting a tournament at his house a drive south east of Seattle on Saturday, August 28, starting at 2:00PM

If you are in the area and read this blog - send me an email at redbeard dot seattle on gmail.

Here's the text used in the invite:
You are invited to the 2nd Annual Old school RPG/BBQ summer party! I will be providing a 1/4 barrel of micro-beer, polish dogs, chips, and some soda. We will be looking to get enough players together to play 1e AD&D , with 2 DMs, and playing a tournament style game of the TSR module A1 Slave Pits of the Undercity. Pre-gen characters will be provided. All you need to bring is your dice, imagination, and anything different or additional you want to eat or drink.

While I prefer sandbox campaigns to tournament modules, I dig getting inspired by seeing how other folks play and DM. Plus it should be an opportunity for a bit of a blow out, gaming wise. Odd things happen when game for over five hours, odd, fun things.

Universal Mechanical Precautions

There have been a number of blog posts lately on universal mechanics. If I may, I'd like to present some guidelines to follow BEFORE you tell your players to roll.

Now, I'm a fan of universal mechanics and feel they're one thing from latter permutations of DnD to import into old school play. However, a universal mechanic has some pitfalls. I say this as a DM that has played those latter permutations and is now running a game that harkens back to old school ways. I try to challenge the players, not just the characters.

As a DM, I like the convenience and freedom of deciding how difficult a task is and having a framework to place that in. The essential elements of the framework are a scale of difficulties (including opposed checks) and measurement of character ability. During play this means that I can concentrate on creating, listening and adjudicating without pausing the game to look up a rule. The players also don't need to be confused unduly and have some expect…

Elves and Men

James of Grognardia posted his campaign's take on demihumans and how they are different than humans with different stats and an ego problem.

Below is my own take that we've used in our Greyhawk/Yggsburgh/Zagyg campaign. I surrendered to how players would play elves et al as humans with different stat bonuses, but wanted a rational for why demihuman communities and npcs would be different and separate from the mostly human setting, for tension to exist between isolationist elves and expansionist human nations.

Each player with an elf or gnome would get a copy of this although it is written from the elf perspective. If I was to rewrite it I would make it more concise. If DM prepared setting material is over a page you run risks of making the campaign for the DM's self indulgence and not about the player's actions. Players won't read or remember more than a page anyway. A player's advice to me some campaigns ago: 'you've got a great campaign, but you…

Adventure Log Post from the Wychwood

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As I've posted before, I've been disappointed with how ordinary the Wychwood encounters seemed as depicted in the Yggsburgh hardback. I've tried to flavor it more with fey quality ala Midsummer Night's Dream.

For players in Yggsburgh, there is a one very big unstated spoiler from the Yggsburgh hardback. Nearly all the rest of the adventure is my own creation or my own import from other sources.

The players seemed to enjoy the puzzle solving and negotiation challenges that the evening entailed. Having had bad experiences on both sides of riddle situations, I picked a riddle that was hopefully easy to solve for the six players; the alternative would be that a party of level 2-4 would have to fight an ettin. They did have the idea from the ettin's size and description that they didn't really want to fight the ettin, but they had alternatives besides the riddle; getting the heads to argue and running away. Fighting was certainly a choice - one that surely would …

The Zobo Bird

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Another in a series of posts of monsters inspired by Amazing Monsters: Verses to Thrill and Chill a wonderful collection of whimsical monster verses. This is definitely in my Appendix N. I'd like more whimsy in the game, and I'd especially like a more different 'fey'; something more Midsummer Nights Dream or folk tale like than simply invisible pixies with darts. They'll be there too, for sure.

One of my few disappointments in the Yggsburgh hardback was the 'Wychwood' encounters which amounted to little more than wood elves, satyrs and centaurs. All of these creatures could be all too easily interpreted as bags of hit dice with no mystery whatsoever; by the book that's pretty much all they are.
I'll certainly be following Mandragora as he's already done real research into all this.

So, here it is:


The Zobo Bird

Do you think we skip,
Do you think we hop,
Do you think we flip,
Do you think we flop,
Do you think we trip
This fearful measure
And hop and h…

Proposed Caller Rules

I'm going to propose requiring a caller in our campaign. We never had a caller before, and I've never played with one. Even in a sprawling, old school sandbox with umpteen players, there were typically a max of six players in an expedition.

Having a large group of of people that all want to show up and game is one of those "good problems." Usually. From our stable of 12 regular players (all adults) and a few occasionals, we usually get 8 and sometimes ten players. Running an old school system (Castles and Crusades), we still get several combats and a lot of exploration and conversation.

10 is just too much. Even without inter-party conflicts, there are just too many inputs on the DM, the table is too large, etc. We've had a couple of sessions where both co-DMs ran sessions (of 4 and 5) in separate rooms. But we don't always have that luxury, and it makes it hard on the DM that was looking forward to taking their turn at playing.

And last week we had a …

Hex Crawl Location Inspired by History

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Off and on I've been reading “A History of the Church in the Middle Ages” by David Logan and keep finding items to blog about. I've finally decided to take notes so that I can post bits when I find time.

The first thing in particular to note is how “the hobby” relates to interest in history. It might never have come about if not for amateur historians and their war games. Later, the bits and pieces of historical reference in rules and setting inspiration from those progenitors would in turn engender historical interest in gamers. I picked this book precisely because I hoped it would bring something to the game but I found it enriching my life in other ways as well.

And bring it this book has. This blog has a limited life span, as I'll be going back to school in the fall and won't likely have time to post. But I hope to share several parts of this book with you folks – from an undead pope, musings on religious controversy in a universe with observable deities, to th…

Not +1 Swords: Spells

A consequence of limiting lower level magical items is that certain lower level monsters that require magical weapons to hit are much more dangerous. Even medium level parties still depend on a selection of +1 weapons – such as a bow – that will be more rare. This would change lycanthropes, certain undead like wights and shadows, low level beings of the lower planes such as quasits, manes demons or imps and oddities such as perytons.

Spell casting adventurers would definitely attend to this problem. 1st edition has the 4th level Magic User spell “Enchant Weapon.” That would be beyond the reach of most mid-level parties that have fewer than typical weapons. But I can't help but think this is an under-powered spell for its level. It provides no bonus to hit, compared to the 2nd level spell Strength which lasts much longer and could certainly add to your melee bonus. Other 4th level spells to compare Enchanted Weapon to include Ice Storm, Wall of Fire and Polymorph Other. T…

The Bogus Boo

The bogus boo is a creature who
comes out at night, and why?
He likes the air, he likes to scare
the nervous passer-by!

He has two wings - pathetic things -
with which he cannot fly.
His tusks are fierce, yet could not pierce
the softest butterfly.

He has two ears , but what he hears
is very faint and small.
And with his claws on his four paws
he cannot scratch at all.

He looks too wise with his owl eyes,
his aspects grim and ghoulish.
But truth to tell, he sees not well
and is distinctly foolish.

The bogus boo - what can he do,
but huffle in the dark?
So don't take fright: he has no bite,
and very little bark!

by James Reeves



Frequency: Rare
No. Appearing: 1, possibly 2 (mated pair)
Armor Class: 8 (1E) 12 (C&C)
Move: 20"
Hit Dice: 2
% in Lair: 50 %
Treasure Type: See below
No. of Attacks: 2
Damage/Attack: 1-2
Special Attacks: Surprise, Fright, Mistaken Identity
Special Defenses: Dark Vision
Magic Resistance: Standard
Intelligence: Low
Saves: P (C&C)
Alignment: Neutral
Size: L (12' long)
Type: Ma…

Not +1 Swords

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Ok, so I've noted that I don't want players to treat magical items as fungible bonuses. I'd like each item to be treated as a unique, individual item with a story. After all, it takes a spell caster of significant power an equally significant amount of resources to create permanent magic. Such items shouldn't be treated like something from the dollar store.

To help with this, I did make some tables to assist in brain-storming the story of the item. However, that's just fluff and isn't immediately useful to the players. Fine for me as the DM, but the game isn't about me and my little stories, it is about the player's actions and the story they make. My role is to give them something to work with. So I've tried to add small but interesting powers that fit with the item's context.

This post is also in response to Bat's request that I post some items with history as we discussed in his post of the spell "Decipher History."

One nice…

Not Another +1 Sword

Magical Items: Not Another +1 Sword


As campaigns advance, a common complaint is that magical items become 'less magical'. Another +1 sword would just be another item in the fighter's golf caddy. I've written before about ways to make each item unique based on its origin. I still try to use those ideas, but I think I should consider the level of the maker of the item as well. This should result in more potions and scrolls of varying types being found, and permanent magical items being rarer and more treasured.

Another aspect of single use items is that they reward smart play. A permanent magical item is always on and available regardless of whether the character is informed and aware of the challenge. But because single use items require an action to use, the characters that play D&D like it is a game of exploration instead of a series of inter-connected tactical combats will be prepared and able to make the choice to use their potions and scrolls.

In both AD&a…

Pics of "Our Gang"

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Howdy. It's been our custom for awhile to go out for dinner and drinks on birthdays. D makes a cake and we get festive (though not everyone drinks) before gaming that evening.
We really do have a large community of players, with 6-9 plus DM on any given weekend.

Here are some from my birthday. Two of the guys below are occasional posters on Dragonsfoot:





Next up is me, myself and the fried shrimp head everyone insisted I eat. My own fault, I did pick a sushi restaurant for my birthday.




The gang - most of it. All but three are current players. Two plan on returning in summer. We have a couple of others who could not make this outing.



The cake that D made for me (D is there behind.) We're just getting set up for the evening at S's new apartment. She wasn't done moving in, but decided to host anyway. This is the evening they finally defeated the Sinister Shroom! But first, CAKE!

Play Report from Pod Caverns of the Sinister Shroom

Below after my comments is a session report written by one of the players in our Castle Zagyg sandbox campaign. I placed the Matt Finch's Pod Caverns in the Little Hillwood, a side trek away from the Castle, and I've talked about how I've adapted it before in the changing sandbox world. It's acquired quite the reputation for toughness from the players. The session report and my comments contain spoilers.

They've really explored very little of the caverns, which has been personally disappointing. There's some old school goodness there that they've missed. In their first expedition they blithely found themselves on the 2nd level in the prison chamber/mulching room. After wards they took that same path - and further right to the Shroom's complex of rooms... skipping floating heads, glowing fungus and other such oddities. They may yet go back since they realize they've missed treasure.

The other entrance to the pod caverns, which they've not yet…

A family friendly hobby

In honor of the controversy and the locked threads and the moralizing, I would like to quote from the 1st Edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Dungeon Masters Guide, page 192:

Harlot encounters can be with brazen strumpets or haughty courtesans,thus making it difficult for the party to distinguish each encounter for what it is. (In fact, the encounter could be with a dancer only prostituting herself as it pleases her, an elderly madam, or even a pimp.) In addition to the offering of the usual fare, the harlot is 30% likely to know valuable information, 15% likely to make something up in order to gain a reward, and 20% likely to be, or work with, a thief. You may find it useful to use the sub-table below to see which sort of harlot encounter takes place:


01-10 Slovenly trull
11-25 Brazen strumpet
26-35 Cheap trollop
36-50 Typical streetwalker
51-65 Saucy tart
66-75 Wanton wench
76-85 Expensive doxy
86-90 Haughty courtesan
91-92 Aged madam
93-94 Wealthy procuress
95-98 Sly pimp
99-00 Rich pand…

Sandbox in Action

An Example of the Sandbox in Action

It is frequently said that there are no plots in sandbox campaigns. This is a misconception. There are no DM-imposed plots. That is true. But instead of one uber plot, there are many plots. Each and every actor/NPC/organization has their agenda; that's what makes the world feel real.

How does that square with the other sandbox rule: player freedom? The ethos of the sandbox is that the game is about the players' plots. The various NPC plots aren't going to force the players to make one choice or the other.

Simply put: many of other plots counter act each other

But that doesn't mean that the world doesn't change if the players don't act.

An example:

The characters have of late been confronting the Sinister Shroom from Matt Finch's The Pod Caverns. In our Yggsburgh/Castle of the Mad Archmage campaign, the Pod Caverns are in the Little Hillwood. After getting his Shroomy nose bloodied in raiding traffic on the Menhir Hills road (by…

Story and Drama in the Sandbox

Some of us see 'emergent story' and we look for it even while we're running sandboxes and dungeons like Castle Zagyg.

Take one of our players, C. C played a human fighter named Hengist. In true old school fashion, the low level fighter died at the hands of some orc slavers. Hengist's role in the story was now over - but wait.

The orcs were using slaves to mine. As we're playing an old school game, C is able to roll his six attributes, pick a race and class at the table. Thus Ethelred is introduced, a human ranger, joining the adventurers that freed him from a short life of slavery.

What is to become of Ethelred?

Months later, the party finds a trail of a different band of orc slavers. Instead of other options like the plant creatures that the party had set out to kill, Ethelred insists that they track the orcs back to their lair in the Menhir hills.
The random encounter of the orcs becomes a plot element that's more important to Ethelred than the original ob…

Death and an Update

We've been playing our C&C game weekly since May. Not every character makes every game, as we have a stable of 14 players and two DMs (who are sometimes players as we've divided duties geographically.) Our table limit is 8.

Recently there's been some discussion of death, the appropriateness of it and how to avoid it.

Death is at -10, but you don't start bleeding out until -6. Max hit points at 1st level. We've had 6 deaths and some characters have made it to level 4. All character deaths were melee types. Here's a review of death in our campaign:

Warf, a half-orc barbarian, died from a swarm of ghouls that also claimed the life of Robert, a hireling. The cleric was unconscious and a TPK was narrowly avoided by running! away! Shaun, a human barbarian, died from a skeleton. The party wrongly decided that we could conserve resources by taking on the skeletons at a choke point. The skeletons got lucky on initiative and hit Shaun too many times in a row. Un…