Mother Goose is my Dungeon Master!

I was watching Babes in Toyland the other day (like you do), mostly because the daughter and I had a hankerin’ for Laurel and Hardy, and while viewing it, a strange thought popped into my head.

“If Mother Goose wrote D&D, little pigs would be a playable race.”

Naturally, one thing led to another …

Mother Goose & Goblins

The basic rules here are B/X D&D (or Labyrinth Lord, if you please). I’m not going to repeat everything in the rules (for now …), so if I don’t mention it, it works like B/X. The concept here is “what if Gygax was inspired more by nursery rhymes and fairy tales than swords & sorcery”. The game is still meant to be about exploration, treasure hunting (with some good deeds thrown in, of course) and fighting monsters, just with a veneer of (slightly tongue-in-cheek) Mother Goose-isms.

CLASSES
MG&G has seven classes, as follows:

PRINCE
The prince works essentially like the fighter – can use any weapon or armor, d8 for hit points, etc. Princes are young, handsome men, and are always the children of one king or another (kings are as copious in fairy tales as grains of sand on a beach).

A prince with a 17 Charisma who has reached at least 4th level can elect to become a Prince Charming. A Prince Charming must serve either the King of Hearts or the King of Diamonds. His kiss can dispel any magical effect, he enjoys a +2 bonus to saving throws against evil magic, and he is bound to fight evil dragons, rescue helpless damsels and give generously to the needy.

JOAN OF ARC RULE: A female character with a Strength of 12 or higher can become a Princess (i.e. a female version of the Prince).

FAIRY GODMOTHER
Fairy Godmothers are always elderly women of an elfin demeanor. They fill the roll of the magic-user and generally follow the rules for that class, save that a fairy godmother knows all the spells (assuming you’re just using the spells in B/X) of a level she learns to cast (much as a cleric), and must possess her magic wand to cast any spell. If a knave is adventuring with a fairy godmother, the fairy godmother must adopt them as a godchild and do their best to teach and protect them.

KNAVE
Knaves are boys and girls of common ancestry (1% chance of being the child of a king and queen who was hidden away with a peasant family to avoid a terrible curse). They fill the role of the thief, with the same skills and abilities, though some skills are renamed slightly for flavor:

Ask/Solve Riddle (replaces find/remove trap)*

Climb Beanstalk (i.e. climb walls)
Hear NoiseHide in Shadows
Creep Quietly
Steal Tarts (i.e. pick pockets)

* Traps do not play a big part in fairy tales and nursery rhymes, but the idea of confusing an opponent with a riddle, or needing to solve a riddle to get past a problem does crop up now and again. Naturally, players can still have their characters look for traps, and can devise ways to get past them without rolling dice; now they can instead roll dice to get past riddles or stun a foolish opponent (for 1d6 rounds) by asking them a real puzzler (the victim gets a saving throw even if the “ask riddle” roll is successful).

Each naughty or wicked act of a knave carries with it a cumulative 1% chance that they will be given a conscience (in the form of a talking cricket or something similar) to attempt to guide them into a more law-abiding and honorable way of life.

CURTAL FRIAR

Curtal Friars are men with tonsured scalps who cultivate a healthy paunch (in order to demonstrate the great abundance of the Lord), wear simple robes (with a mail coat beneath, usually) and wield a club or mace in the name of God Almighty. They are, essentially, clerics in terms of rules, though their ability to “turn undead” works on a slightly different set of monsters (as not all of the B/X monsters appear in fairy tales or nursery rhymes).

Monster
Pixie/Leprechaun (replaces skeletons)
Revenants (i.e. zombies)
Devil (i.e. imp – replaces ghoul)
Changeling (i.e. doppelganger – replaces wight)
Ghost (i.e. wraith)
Troll (replaces mummy)

Naturally, one can play a Nun instead of a Friar, though warrior nuns are generally pretty scarce in fairy tales.

DWARF
One of a group of seven who left his brothers to see the world. Dwarfs conform to the Dwarf class in B/X D&D. Each has a particular physical or personality trait that dominates their character, and for which they are named.

LITTLE PIG
The Little Pig replaces the Halfling in MG&G. Little pigs have a +2 bonus to save vs. fear (“who’s afraid,” they inquire, “by the Big Bad Wolf?”) and a particular skill at building houses and at setting traps (for wolves or others).

FAIRY KNIGHT
The fairy knight (or fairy dame) replaces the Elf class in B/X. They are permitted to wear up to mail, and though beautiful, they have no souls and thus are not to be completely trusted.

ALIGNMENT
Whereas B/X has three alignments, Lawful, Neutral and Chaotic, MG&G has four alignment which correspond with four royal houses in fairy tale land. A character must pledge his or her troth to one of these alignment (though they need not always cleave faithfully to that faction – unless somebody is watching).

Hearts: The character is pledged to the ideal of Love. He or she gets a +1 bonus to hit when defending this ideal (i.e. defending a loved one), but must pass a save vs. magic when confronted with the temptation of Lust.

Diamonds: The character is pledged to the ideals of Truth and Beauty. He or she gets a +1 to hit when defending beauty or seeking out the truth, but must pass a save vs. magic when confronted with the temptations of Envy and Avarice.

Spades: The character is pledged to the ideal of Judgment. He or she gets a +1 bonus to hit when fighting against outlaws and other evils, but must pass a save vs. magic when confronted with the temptation of Vengeance.

Clubs: The character is pledged to the ideal of Mirth and Merriment. He or she gets a +1 bonus when fighting spoil sports and bullies, but must pass a save vs. magic when confronted with the temptation of Cruelty.

Next installment will cover Grimm Tales (i.e. monsters & treasure)

APPENDIX N (A brief version, anyways)

Snow White
Cinderella
Beauty and the Beast
Little Mermaid
Pinnochio
Three Little Pigs
Three Billy Goats Gruff
Hansel & Gretel
Red Riding Hood
Rose RedBlue Beard
Puss in Boots
Gingerbread Man
Rumpestiltskin
Jack and the Beanstalk (Jack the Giant Killer)
Humpty Dumpty
Cat and the Fiddle
Tom Thumb/Thumbellina
Princess and the Pea
Frog Prince
Little Boy Blue
Simple Simon
Pied Piper
Tom Tom the Piper’s Son
Old Woman in a Shoe
Old Mother Hubbard
Old King Cole
Little Jack Horner

Supplement I – Wonderland
Supplement II – Oz

The Caves of Llosh [Pars Fortuna]

The Caves of Llosh is a multi-part dungeon for the Pars Fortuna rules, for characters level 1-3 that I decided to publish here, piece by piece. I’m going to start doing the same for Space Princess and the Catacombs of Old Mars soon … let’s see how it goes.

[No Map Yet … Been busy but wanted to get this ball rolling, and the intro area is pretty straight-forward]

Well beyond the city of Viacrux and the Pyroxist Mountains, past the steading of the cyclopeans and to the west of the Titan’s Door, lie the Caves of Llosh, one of the many entrances to the infamous Spire that lies at the center of creation and, they say, offers one a chance to rewrite that creation if only they can climb to its pinnacle.

The caverns are accessed via a small cave in the base of a mountain shrouded in spiny ygoraa bushes that drip their maddening sap when the moon is full. The upper reaches of the mountain are stark and on the rocky ledges perch beady-eyed hraeths (giant ravens), who often attack adventurers making their way to and from the caves (3 in 6 chance, 5 in 6 if laden with treasure).

HRAETH (1d8): HD 1; AC 15; ATK 1d4 (talons); Move 3 (Fly 18); Save 17; CL/XP 1/15; Special: None.

1-1. The entry cave measures about 50 feet wide and 70 feet long, and the ground and ceiling both angle downwards from the entry. The floor and walls have been worn smooth by dozens of adventurers who have dared the caves, and bits of graffiti are to be found chiseled into the walls, including a large admonishment to “Never Bite an Oort” and a plea to “Bow to The Dam”.

There are three exits from the cavern. One is a sinkhole with glistening walls (not wet, just a characteristic of the rock). The sinkhole has an opening about 15 feet in diameter – a sort of cone – with several iron spikes driven into the rim, and usually (2 in 6) a rope tied to at least one. About 20 feet down, the air becomes foul and difficult to breath (save or suffer -1 penalty to attack and save for 2 hour; or simply cover mouth and nose with a thick cloth), and about 40 feet down you might come across additional spikes driven into the walls, where people made a perch for themselves and tied off additional ropes. In all, the sinkhole is 80 feet deep and leads to chamber 3-1.

The next exit is a rather large cave mouth at the back of cave 1-1. The air in the mouth of this cave is quite chilly, and one can even see crystals of frost on the ground leading into it. This cave leads into a tunnel about 40 feet long, that winds back and forth gently and descends at a 15-degree angle to chamber 1-2. The tunnel is guarded by four cavern crawlers with mottled, white skin that allows them to blend in with the frosty tunnel (surprise on 1-2 on 1d6).

CAVERN CRAWLER (4): HD 1d4 (4, 2, 2, 2 hp); AC 12; ATK suffocate (drop); Move 12; Save 18; CL/XP 1/15; Special: Suffocate (see monster description).

The final exit is hidden by an illusion, making it look like part of the east wall. It is a stone portal, large enough to be carved by bo’al, and bearing the tell-tale signs of their aesthetic (i.e. boring, angular, sturdy, etc.). Beyond the illusion (not the work of bo’al, but of a party of caledjula who long ago met their demise within the caves) there is a hallway about 10 feet long and an iron door (locked, trapped with an acid spray that deals 1d6 damage and has a 13% chance of ruining a thief’s lock pick). Beyond the iron door there is a spiral stair that leads down about 30 feet to chamber 2-1. This engineering feat was a result of a party of bo’al being guided by a prophetic dream, and breaching the second level of the dungeon from a pathway its inhabitants never quite expected.

Gentleman Dog [Mystery Men!]

Philo was a sophisticated man about town, a bon vivant with a mind like a steel trap. While he spent his days with the smart set, at night he often rubbed shoulders with a rougher element, aiding the New York City police when a crime proved too tough to solve. It was a day trip into Greenwich village, though, that proved his undoing.

A trip to a coffee house in Greenwich led to the discovery of a murder in the backroom, and through his investigations, Philo found himself confronting a rather powerful magician, one Hayden Olivier. Hayden murdered the woman in the coffee house accidentally, but has no intention of serving time in prison. More importantly, he has discovered in murder a powerful new form of magic, and now sets his sights on another, a sorceress of no mean ability named Leah. In the final scene of Philo’s case, he found himself caught between the two sorcerers, and though Olivier was forced to quite this plane, mortally wounded, he left behind a dead rival and a transformed detective. Philo was now a dog – a cunning, dashing little hound, of course, but a dog just the same. With her dying breath, Leah lays down a final, tender curse upon Philo – that he should live until the magic was reversed.

So it was that Philo became known as Gentleman Dog, a surprisingly cunning beast with a strange knack for making himself understood. With top hat and monocle, he lives an almost immortal existence, solving crimes and seeking out practitioners of the occult in hopes of reversing Hayden’s curse.

GENTLEMAN DOG, Adventurer 7 (Dog, Detective)
STR 1 (+0) | DEX 4 (+1) | CON 4 (+1) | INT 9 (+2) | WIL 5 (+1) | CHA 7 (+2)
HP 35 | DC 11 | ATK +6 (+6 melee, +7 ranged) | SPD 3 | XP 8,125 (start with 25,000 XP)

Ability Boosts: Charisma +4, Constitution +1, Dexterity +2, Intelligence +6

Powers: Sending (must make eye contact, humans only, short messages that come to the person as sudden realizations), Super Speed +1

Gear: Top hat, monocle, pipe

Found here … yeah, all this, because I found a picture of a dog in a top hat with a pipe and had to do something with it … I am at least proud that I managed to turn it into a half-assed mash-up of Philo Vance and Aleister Crowley. 

PS – Anyone out there want to do a comic book set in the “Mystery Men! Universe” – or maybe more properly the Shore City Universe? If so, let me know. I’d love to publish some 1 or 2 page quickie stories in Land of Nod.

Three New Undead … Just Because

These critters popped into my head a few days ago, so I decided to give them some stats. Enjoy …

Necromantic Masterpieces

Necromancers are often frustrated artists, and their desire to outdo their brethren is fierce. While the pedestrian necromancer is content with creating zombies, skeletons, ghouls and the like, the true artist labors on a unique creation and creates a manual to hide away for others to one day find.

DAME SANS MERCI
Medium Undead, Chaotic (NE), Average Intelligence; Solitary (1)

Hit Dice: 5
Armor Class: 15 [4]
Attacks: 2 flailing fists (1d6) or gaze (see below)
Move: 30
Saves: Fort 13, Ref 13, Will 11
XP: 500 (CL 6)

A dame sans merci appears as a feminine skeleton wrapped in tight, black leather (sometimes studded with spikes) that has been padded (to create the curvaceous feminine shape) with a rare form of fungus cultivated by some death cults and wicked alchemists. The skeleton has onyx eyes.

The dame sans merci can focus its withering gaze on any one target within 30 feet. They target must pass a Will saving throw (save vs. magic) or be affected per the spell ray of enfeeblement. Once per day, it can breath a cone (15-ft long and 10-ft wide) of necromantic spores that play on a person’s mind. Roll 1d4 and consult the table below:

1 = Fear
2 = Rage
3 = Confusion
4 = Despair

All within the cone must pass a Fortitude saving throw (or save vs. poison) or be affected by a random mind effect for 2d4 rounds.

AMPUTATOR
Large Undead, Chaotic (CE), Low Intelligence; Gang (1d4)

Hit Dice: 8
Armor Class: 14 [5]
Attacks: 2 pincer (2d4)
Move: 30
Saves: Fort 10, Ref 11, Will 10
XP: 800 (CL 9)

Amputators are made by removing the hands from a dead gorilla and replacing them with large, metal pincers. Most of these gorilla corpses are shaved by the necromancer and covered with tattoos of magical glyphs – needless to say, amputators are rather horrifying.

When an amputator’s pincer attack is a natural ’20’, the target suffers double damage and must pass a Fortitude saving throw (save vs. petrification) or have an arm twisted off. If the target is wearing armor, the armor first makes an item saving throw. If successful, the target’s arm remains attached to their body. If the item saving throw fails, the armor is torn off the arm and the arm is now in danger of being torn off.

FULL-THROATED SCREAMER
Small Undead, Chaotic (CE), Average Intelligence; Solitary (1)

Hit Dice: 6
Armor Class: 16 [3]
Attacks: Slam (1d4 + 1d4 cold) or scream (see below)
Move: Fly 30
Saves: Fort 13, Ref 12, Will 10
XP: 600 (CL 7)

Possibly the oddest of created undead, the full-throated screamer appears as three preserved heads encased in crystal spheres. The heads must have belonged to a fishwife, politician and braggart in life. They float within 5 feet of one another, and can slam into people or, once per day each, issue a terrible scream that affects all within 30 feet. Those within range of the scream must pass a Will saving throw (save vs. magic) or their lowest mental ability score (intelligence, wisdom or charisma) suffers 1d4 points of damage. If this score is reduced to half normal, the victim becomes either a mindless berserker (wisdom; per rage), babbling fool (intelligence; per feeblemind) or mad dancer (charisma; per irresistible dance).

Mass Combat in Blood & Treasure

I want to start this off by wishing folks a happy Memorial Day, especially those who are serving in the armed forces, have served, or lose a loved one who served. Though my family doesn’t have a massive history of military service, I can point to my father Rick, who served in the USAF and spent some time overseas in Thailand, my grandfather John (“Pa”) who was a doctor in the US Army and helped take care of folks after the bombing of Hiroshima, and several uncles.

And since I’m thinking of the military and mass combat (and need an easy blog post for the day), why not take a look at the mass combat system for Blood & Treasure. The system is easy to run and essentially works off the games normal combat rules, so don’t expect anything earth shattering. The idea behind Blood & Treasure isn’t to break new ground in gaming, but provide a platform in between the different editions. Anyhow …

When a lord or lady finds it necessary to place themselves and their followers on the field of battle against another large force, the normal rules for combat may become untenable. For this reason, you can instead use these rules for mass combat. In most respects, they use the same basic rules as normal combat, but adjust those rules to take into account the larger numbers of combatants involved.

SQUADRONS
To keep things simple, groups of combatants are divided into squadrons of 10. The squadron is the basic unit for fighting, and in mass combat a squadron attacks as though it were a single creature. Thus, a squadron of dwarves would make a single weapon attack on its turn, while a squadron of lizardmen could make a weapon and bite attack.

A squadron has as many hit points as its collective members have Hit Dice. Thus, a squadron of 10 dwarves, who have one HD each, has 10 hp. For mass combat, 0 HD troops are counted as ½ HD.

Squadrons of Large creatures (and mounted troops are considered to be the same size as their mounts) have only five members, while huge creatures and siege engines are treated as units in and of themselves.

Squadrons can be grouped into larger units, as follows: A company consists of 2 squadrons (and thus makes double the normal amount of attacks), a battalion consists of four squadrons and a regiment consists of eight squadrons.

Each squadron is assumed to form a single rank of troops on the battlefield. A squadron of men-at-arms would therefore consist of 10 men-at-arms standing in a row. A company of men-at-arms could either consist of 20 men-at-arms standing in a row or two ranks of ten. With each unit, it is necessary to note its number of ranks.

Note that only the front rank of troops can attack unless the troops are armed with pole arms or spears (in which case the second rank can attack), pikes (in which case the second and third ranks can attack), or ranged weapons (in which every rank can attack).

Typical units of soldiers might be as follows (note, the number in parentheses represents the number of squadrons and then the number of creatures):

Squadron of Ogres (1/5): Ranks 1; HD 4; hp 20; AC 16; Atk 1 greatclub (2d8) or javelins (30 ft., 1d8); Move 30; Save Fort 10, Ref 14, Will 15. Leather armor, greatclubs and javelins (1).

Company of Halberdiers (2/20): Ranks 2; HD 1; hp 20; AC 15; Atk 2 halberd (1d10); Move 30; Save Fort 13, Ref 15, Will 15. Chainmail, halberd.

Battalion of Halfling Slingers (4/40): Ranks 1; HD 0; hp 20; AC 15; Atk 4 sling (50 ft., 1d4) or 4 short sword (1d6); Move 20; Save Fort 13, Ref 16, Will 16. Padded armor, sling, short sword; halfling special abilities.

Regiment of Orcs (8/80): Ranks 4; HD 1; hp 80; AC 13; Atk 2 falchion (2d4) or 8 javelin (50 ft., 1d4); Move 30; Save Fort 13, Ref 15, Will 16. Studded leather armor, falchion, javelins (1).

ORDER OF BATTLE
Mass combat uses the following order of play:

1) Orders Phase
2) Missile Phase I
3) Movement Phase
4) Melee Phase
5) Magic Phase
6) Missile Phase II

After the second Missile Phase, play returns to the Orders Phase.

Orders Phase: In the orders phase, each unit is given its orders. Once these orders are given, they cannot be changed, though they can be disrupted by events on the battlefield. In other words, once the command has been given for a company of orcs to march up a hill, they cannot change their mind when a company of knights gets there first. Naturally, orders are given without each commander knowing what commands his opponent is giving to his soldiers.

Missile Phase: There are two missile phases during each round of mass combat. During a missile phase, groups of missile armed troops can cast their missiles if they did not move during the movement phase. The rate of fire of various ranged weapons is very important during mass combat missile phases. Some ranged weapons can attack in both missile phases, others in only one.

Blowguns, bows, javelins, darts and slings can attack in each missile phase.

Crossbows, muskets and pistols can attack in one missile phase.

Siege engines can attack in one missile phase.

Movement Phase: During this phase, units move in the direction and at the speed they have been ordered. Units within 10 yards of an enemy unit cannot move at faster than combat speed (i.e. half normal speed). Movement of troops is simultaneous.

Melee Phase: Enemy units that have come into contact (i.e. within 1 yard of one another) must participate in a round of melee combat.

Magic Phase: During this phase, spellcasters on the field of battle can discharge spells. Remember that rounds in mass combat are one minute long, so spell durations may be altered.

ATTACKS AND DAMAGE
As mentioned above, each squadron in a game can attack as though it were a single creature of the same type using the same attack rules as used in normal combat (see above). Combat rounds in mass combat are measured in minutes, rather than six second intervals. Each successful attack by a squadron, by spell or weapon, rolls normal hit point damage against its target unit.

A unit can sustain no more hit point damage than it exposes in its first rank. Thus, a unit with five normal humans (1 HD each) in its first rank can sustain no more than 5 points of damage. If that unit is being attacked by spears or pole arms, double this total. If it is being attacked by pikes, triple this total. If it is being attacked by ranged weapons, it can suffer as much damage as the attackers can dish out.

Units can also “bull rush” an opposing unit in combat, making a normal attack with a +1 bonus for every additional rank it has over the opposing unit. If successful, it pushes the opposing unit back 10 yards, but scores no damage.

MORALE CHECKS
Three events can force a unit to check morale.

1) When a unit has lost half or more of its hit points, or takes damage when at less than half its normal hit points.
2) When its commander has been killed.
3) When it is subjected to a magic fear effect.

When a unit must make a morale check, it rolls a Will saving throw using either its own Will save value or its leaders.
If a unit succeeds on this save, it keeps on fighting. Otherwise, it flees from enemy troops at running speed. If it was engaged with another unit, that unit gets a free set of attacks against it with a tactical advantage bonus.

Each round, the unit commander, if one remains, can attempt to rally the troops with a new Will saving throw modified by his or her Charisma modifier. If successful, the unit spends one minute reforming itself and can then move and attack on the next round. After two full rounds of fleeing, the unit disintegrates into its constituent parts and effectively ceases to exist.

SIEGE ENGINES
Siege engines are large weapons, temporary structures, or pieces of equipment traditionally used in besieging a castle or fortress.

Catapult, Heavy: A heavy catapult, or trebuchet, is a massive engine capable of throwing rocks or heavy objects with great force. Because the catapult throws its payload in a high arc, it can hit things out of its line of sight.

To fire a heavy catapult, the crew chief makes a ranged attack modified by Intelligence rather than Dexterity. If the attack succeeds, the catapult stone hits the place the catapult was aimed at and deals the indicated damage. Characters that succeed on a Reflex saving throw take half damage. Once a catapult stone hits, subsequent shots hit the same spot unless the catapult is re-aimed or the wind changes direction or speed.

If a catapult stone misses, roll 1d8 to determine where it lands. This determines the misdirection of the throw, with 1 being back toward the catapult and 2 through 8 counting clockwise around the target square. Then, count 3 squares away from the target square for every range increment of the attack.

Loading a catapult requires one minute to reload and another minute to re-aim (if necessary). A heavy catapult takes up a space 15 feet across. It is operated by a crew of no less than 6.

Catapult, Light: This is a smaller, lighter version of the catapult. It functions as the heavy catapult. It takes up a space 10 feet across. Some examples are the onager and mangonel. It is operated by a crew of no less than 3.

Ballista: A ballista is essentially a huge crossbow. It takes a creature smaller than large two rounds to reload the ballista after firing. A ballista takes up a space 5 feet across. It is operated by a crew of no less than 2.

Cannon: Early cannons were cast in bronze and were quite large. They throw the same kind of ammunition as catapults, but do so in the manner of a ballista. A heavy cannon takes up a space 10 feet across and has a crew of no less than 6. A light cannon takes up a space 5 feet across and has a crew of no less than 3. A natural ”1” rolled to hit with a cannon means the engine has exploded, dealing 3d6 points of damage to everyone within 10 feet.

Ram: This heavy pole is sometimes suspended from a movable scaffold that allows the crew to swing it back and forth against objects. The character closest to the front of the ram makes an attack roll against the AC of the construction. In addition to the damage given on Table: Siege Engines, up to nine other characters holding the ram can add their strength modifiers to the ram’s damage. It takes at least one huge creature, two large creatures, four medium creatures, or eight small creatures to swing a ram. Tiny creatures cannot use a ram. A ram is typically 30 feet long.

Siege Tower: This device is a massive wooden tower on wheels or rollers that can be rolled up against a wall to allow attackers to scale the tower and thus to get to the top of the wall with cover. The wooden walls are usually 1 foot thick.

A typical siege tower takes up a space 15 feet across. The creatures inside the tower push it at a speed of 10 feet. The eight creatures pushing on the ground floor have cover against missiles.

Table: Siege Engines

ITEM – COST – DAMAGE – RANGE – CREW
Catapult, heavy – 800 gp – 6d6 – 1,000 ft. (100 ft. min.) – 4
Catapult, light –  550 gp – 4d6 – 500 ft. (100 ft. min.) – 2
Ballista – 500 gp – 3d8 – 200 ft. – 1
Cannon, Light – 1,000 gp – 5d6 – 500 ft. – 3
Cannon, Heavy – 2,000 gp – 10d6 – 1,000 ft. – 5
Ram – 1,000 gp – 3d8 – — – 10
Siege tower –  2,000 gp – — – — – 20

DESTROYING WALLS
10-ft. thick stone walls have an AC of 18 and can withstand 500 points of damage on a 10-ft. x 10-ft. section before crumbling. 5-ft. thick stone walls can withstand 250 points of damage on a 10-ft. x 10-ft. section before crumbling.

[The one thing I’m thinking about changing is the whole siege engine bit. I’m thinking about something that doesn’t involve tracking the hit points of a wall section. Something like …

A wall has a damage threshold based on the material (wood, stone, etc.) and the thickness of the wall. If the siege engine damage roll (no hit roll – the damage roll is considered part of the “does it hit the right spot” thing) passes the threshold, it has a percentage chance of toppling the wall, perhaps equal to the amount the damage exceeds the threshold. Maybe there’s also a roll to determine how high up the wall is struck. The type of weapon would also determine the size of the hole created. So – no damage to track, still takes (most likely) many hits to topple a wall.

Let me think out loud for a moment. We’ll say a stone wall has a damage threshold of 20 + 5 per 10 feet of wall. A 20-ft thick stone wall, then, has a damage threshold of 30.

A ballista has no hope of getting through the wall – which is probably right.

A light catapult does 4d6 – so an average of 14, max of 24. That means a light catapult doesn’t have a chance of breaching the wall either.

A heavy catapult does 6d6 – so an average of 21, max of 36. On a max. damage roll, each heavy crossbow has a 6% chance of breaching a wall.

A light cannon does 5d6 – so an average of 18, max of 30. No chance of breaching that wall.

A heavy cannon does 10d6 – so an average of 35 (5% of wall breach), max of 60 (30% chance of wall breach). Heavy cannon are going to knock down most walls, probably in a relatively short time. That’s also pretty accurate.

In all, I think a system like this can work, but I probably need to adjust the numbers a bit.

Status update, by the way. The only things left to write for the game are some embellishments to the chapter on dungeons, wilderness and cities, and ship combat (which will be a distillation of the ship combat rules I published way back in NOD 2.) The monster chapter is being edited (thanks Tanner), so the end is nigh.

Have some new undead critters coming later today on the blog … see ya then.

Dragon by Dragon … March 1977

I dig this cover – this is what D&D games should look like!

Three months into the new year of a new game! Before I get into this issue, I’d like to direct folks over to White Dwarf Wednesdays at Tim Brannan’s blog.

What did the oldsters come up with for this issue? Let’s take a look …

A fantasy story by Gardner Fox shows up in this issue – it’s amazing how many “real authors” showed up in the pages of what was still a pretty new magazine that represented a very new hobby. Maybe these guys didn’t have many offers in the late 1970’s – the golden age of magazine stories and illustration had passed, but still, it’s pretty cool.

The big deal in this issue is the Witchcraft Supplement for Dungeons & Dragons – a title I’m sure served as ammunition for the anti-D&D crusade back in the day. What’s awesome about this article, right off the bat, is that they didn’t know who wrote it, but published it anyhow! Right under the title is a request that the real author please let them know who the heck he or she was.

The article starts off with a bit on how witches can show up on the wilderness encounter table. I always love this stuff – the idea that there is a single, unifying wilderness encounter table for all of D&D, and if we add witches to D&D we have to shoehorn them into the table. Reading these articles, you can’t help but love this weird, new world of gaming that was being grown back in the day.

The first thing you need to know about witchcraft is that witch spells do not affect djinn, efreet or clerics of any alignment. All witches have saves equal to warlocks (I love when they used level titles in place of the level number). Good (i.e. Lawful) witches can perform 7 spells per day, but there is a 4% chance that she is ancient, and is thus a Priestess who can cast 10 spells per day and 1 of her own special spells once per week. Why 4%? God only knows.

A few of the new Lawful witch spells are calm (which turned into calm emotions), summon elemental (12 HD) – which lasts while she concentrates, rejuvenation (reduces age by 5 years), dissipation (disperses elementals, clouds, mist and magic wall spells) and comfort. Priestesses get several new spells – youth, influence, banish any one creature, enchantment (produces any one magic ring, potion, misc. weapon, misc. magic item) and seek.

Black witchcraft includes pit, fire box, diminish plant/animal/men, plant entrapment, paralyzing pit (!), undead control, aging, circle of blindness, curse, poison touch and curtain wall. Many of these spells have modern versions – I don’t if they originated in this article or if it’s just a coincidence.

Now we get an explanation for the Secret Order witches … they were designed to challenge high level wizards and magic weapon-armed lords when traveling through the wilderness. Necessity is the mother of witches, apparently. They have some additional new spells and several special weapons. Lots of great material here – hornet cape, assassin’s eyes – find this issue and read away.

James M. Ward now chimes in with “Some Ideas Missed in Metamorphosis Alpha” – basically some things that should have been in the rulebook but were not. Kinda taking a mulligan here. He also adds “Tribal Society and Hierarchy on Board the Starship Warden”. Good stuff – apparently the dominant lifeforms on the Warden are the wolfoids and androids.

This issue’s Creature Feature is the ankheg. Again, the statblock is a bit chaotic. Since the ankheg is open content (and old as the hills), I’ll reproduce it below …

Number appearing: 1-6
Description: 10-20 feet long, brown chitin overall, pink underside
Armor class: 2 overall, underside class 4
Movement: 12/6 through ground
Hit die: 3-8 (8 sided die)
% in lair: 25%
Treasure: B2
Squirt acid for 1-6 die of damage according to size
Bite for 3-18 points damage
Magic resistance: none
Alignment: neutral

These babies can sure deal some damage!

Next is the letters section. My favorite bit is a guy describing his campaign world:

“Although it is not our own Earth, it is only about eleven light years from our world, and therefore most of the culture is a parallel of our ancient cultures.”

True scientific realism, indeed!

Gygax now chimes in with How Green Was My Mutant, with random tables on determining the appearance of humanoids in Metamorphosis Alpha. Naturally, I need to roll one up:

Skin/Hair Coloration: Brown
Skin Characteristic: Knobby
Color Pattern: Whorles
Head: Bulbous
Neck: Wattled
Body: Long
Facial Features: No nose
Hands and Feet: Wide
Fingers and Toes: Four of each
Arms: Normal
Legs: Thin

Damn – that’s one good looking fella! Best thing about the tables, to me, is that it’s almost impossible to roll anything like a normal looking human being, which is as it should be.

I won’t cover Fox’s tale Beyond the Wizard Fog, as Jamie Mal has done a fine job of that himself. (Google it, darlings)

Charles Preston Goforth, Jr. (fake name? has to be a fake name) provides new rules for magical research with one year of playtesting (real time) and nine years in game time!

Essentially, they give you 10 levels of spells with a percentage chance of success, time required and the gold piece investment.  The chance of success appears to always be 20% or 100%, depending on how much gold is spent. A 1st level spell, for example, costs you 2,000 gp for a 20% chance of success, or 10,000 gp for a 100% chance of success. 10th level spells (whatever the heck they are) cost 5.12 million gp for a 100% chance of success.

There are some restrictions on spells to permanently increase stats (including spell levels up to 18th). I pity the poor wizard who sunk several million gold pieces into increasing their intelligence when they could have waited a couple decades for 3rd edition and done it for free.

Armor and weapons can be enchanted up to +1 with 2 months of work and 2,000 gp. “Serious enchanting”, as he puts it, requires 10 months and 10,000 gp. I have a weird feeling this system would very quickly get out of hand!

Bill Seligman now gives us one of the classic articles of the old school – Gandalf Was Only a Fifth Level Magic-User. The best point of the article, to me, is to hopefully make people see just how incredible the average 1st level magic-user really would be in the “real world”. Still, Seligman was clearly an early model of Raggi in terms of bringing out the nerd rage.

Garrison Ernst now presents another installment of The Gnome Cache. No – I didn’t read this one either – too dang much writing to get done.

And that rounds up the first issue of 1977. The vitality in the early game, and the presence of so many gamer archetypes that linger to the modern day makes these magazines great fun to read.

Deviant Friday – Moritat Edition

It’s been a heck of a week and I’m as tired as a one-legged orc at flumph kicking contest. So, enjoy some art from Moritat, who is exceptionally skilled at drawing T&A and many other things (beautiful line work, incredible flow, great colors, etc). If T&A (Not Tunnels & Androids … oh crap, I think I have a new idea for a game) is not your thing, please ignore this post. If T&A and excellent art are your bread and butter, though, please read on!

See, I wasn’t lying.
1900-1920 is largely an undiscovered country in terms of gaming … excellent period for full-throated ADVENTURE though.
This makes me think of old Conan, who left his throne to sail across the sea to undiscovered lands (and since there were already Native American pastiches lurking in the lands he knew, what on earth did he find there – perhaps Tolkien’s elves? There’s a campaign for you – barbarian adventurers sailing into the elven lands in the mysterious West … which, if I’m honest, is my plan for the continent of Hybresail in NOD)
We’ll end this trip into DeviantArt with a jungle queen we can all get behind *ahem*

Phlegethon, The 7th Circle

And now we’re into the 7th circle of Hell, Phlegethon. Here’s a preview …

After the crowded, dangerous cityscape of Dis, it’s nice to settle back into the bleak, dangerous wilderness that dominates most of Hell.

Phlegethon is the seventh circle of Hell, wherein the violent are imprisoned for eternity. It is divided into four different landscapes – bleak highlands, the boiling river of Phlegethon, a tangled woodland of despair and a salty desert caressed by rains of fiery flakes.

The only way to enter Phlegethon is by hitching a ride on Geryon, the reigning prince of Phlegethon. The circle is ringed by 10 mile high walls of granite and quartz, at the tops of which is the vast, sprawling city of Dis.

Myriad caves open in these walls, sending the dank waters of the Styx in waterfalls to fall in the highlands, blanketing them with a red mist. The grandest cave, replete with sparkling quartzes serves as the palace of Geryon.

The reddish liquid of the Styx forms streams and rivulets that flow into the boiling Phlegethon, where shades who dedicated themselves to violence in life are anchored to a depth commensurate to the level of their sins. The craggy, damp hills are home to many oozes and fungi, not to mention the minotaurs of Baphomet, medusas of Stheno and Euryale and savage centaurs of Chiron.

The highlands end at the banks of the Phlegethon, where the centaurs patrol in armies, keeping the shades interred in their boiling punishment. Vandals (shades that escaped the Phlegethon) roam the highlands, keeping its cities and fortresses in a constant state of ruin. The highlands ever ring with the clash of sword and shield, so bring plenty of hit points if you’re planning to spend much time there.

Beyond the boiling river is a gnarled woodland of twisted, black trees with human faces. These are the shades of people who committed violence to themselves in life, their bodies twisted into the shapes of trees that moan and grasp at hair and clothing. Harpies and hell hounds pursue the Profligates through these woods.

The innermost landscape of Phlegethon is a desert of life draining salt. The salt wastes are wandered by the blasphemers and userers, who carry their heavy purses chained round their necks. The salt wastes end at miles-high cliffs that overlook the mountains and jungle valleys of Malebolge, the eighth and penultimate circle of Hell.

Dangers of Phlegethon

As with all of Hell, Phlegethon is not entirely welcoming to life. It has several specific dangers to watch for.

Dehydration: The salt wastes of Phlegethon aren’t just bone dry, they suck the moisture out of living bodies. Living creatures must double their normal water intake here or suffer 1d4 points of constitution damage per day. After two days, living creatures feel their tongues swell and lips crack, and they are unable to speak properly (i.e. no more spells boys and girls!). After three days, one’s skin is so dry that it begins to flake off. Movement is reduced to half and salt insinuates itself into open cracks in the skin, imposing a -2 penalty to all attacks and saves due to pain.

Depression: The woodlands are not just dismal, they suck at one’s will to live. Each day in the woods, one must pass a saving throw or be struck by despair (as the crushing despair or emotion spell). Those who succumb to despair become beacons for the monsters of the woods, and subsequently wandering monsters are encountered on a roll of 1-3 on 1d6.

Phelegethon: The Phlegethon is a boiling river, with flaming oil above and super-heated water below. Touching the water inflicts damage per round based upon how much of one’s body is exposed: 1d6 for a single limb or head, 3d6 for half of one’s body and 6d6 for one’s entire body.

Races of Phlegethon

Phlegethon, like most of the other circles of Hell, is not only inhabited by pitchfork-carrying devils and their victims. Four races known to people of the surface world dwell in Phlegethon, though these races have been changed in many ways by their habitation in Hell.

Centaurs: The centaurs of Phlegethon’s highlands are large creatures, wild and unruly and with blazing eyes. They are immune to fire.

CENTAUR: HD 8; AC 4 [15]; Atk 2 kicks (1d8) or longbow (1d8); Move 18; Save 8; CL/XP 9/1100; Special: Immune to fire.

Harpies: The harpies of the dismal woodlands almost have the appearance of angels – porcelain skin, icy blue eyes, white, feathered wings – but marred with a cruel visages and black talons.

HARPY: HD 6; AC 5 [14]; Atk 2 talons (1d6); Move 6 (Fly 18); Save 11; CL/XP 8/800; Special: Flight, siren-song, magic resistance (30%).

Medusas: Phlegethon’s medusas have skin as hard and green as malachite.

MEDUSA: HD 8; AC 1 [18]; Atk 2 claws (1d6) and snake bites (1d4 + poison); Move 9; Save 8; CL/XP 10/1400; Special: Gaze turns to stone, poison, half damage from non-magical weapons.

Minotaurs: The minotaurs of Phlegethon have the heads of Brahma bulls, as white as snow, and the bodies of gorillas. They are especially cunning, and are immune to mind control and illusion.

MINOTAUR: HD 8+4; AC 4 [15]; Atk Head butt (2d6), bite (1d6) and battleaxe (1d10); Move 12; Save 8; CL/XP 9/1100; Special: Never get lost in labyrinths, immune to mind control and illusion.

Lords of Phlegethon

Several archdevils and demon lords make their home in Phlegethon. The great lord of all the circle is Geryon, who dwells above the landscape of Phlegethon and rarely imposes himself on those below.

The master of the highlands is Baphomet, demon lord of minotaurs and wayward crusaders, who fights ceaseless battles against his ambitious rivals – Gorson, Caym and the sisters Stheno and Euryale.

Amduscias claims overlordship of the woodlands, but must contend with Marchosias, the chief of hell hounds, Eurynome, demon prince of ghouls and lacedons, and Ipes, the chief of the hezrou.

The desert is firmly under the control of Moloch, who savages all who would challenge his dominion. His vassals are Gremory and Uvall.

Comic Mockery – Cave Girl

Honestly, this is probably the last jungle comic I can handle. Great art by Bob Powell, written by Gardner Fox … but the comic book jungles are thick with the danger of unkind stereotypes. Still, we’ll press on through this one and see if there’s anything worth while.

As always, this one was found at the Comic Book Catacombs!

I dig the term “morass country” – I’ll have to steal that one for the Pwenet/Kush hexcrawl (coming soon!). That bit at the end is what a saving throw looks like – or maybe just a missed attack roll. The art is by Bob Powell, who was known for his “good girl” art. Good indeed. Nice action shots as well – he could draw more than just a pretty face.

“Fat One” – nice. I suppose the elephant was trying to kill them, but is it really necessary to hurt the beast’s self esteem. We’ve gone a couple pages so far and no unkind stereotypes yet, so it’s looking pretty good.

Ah, spoke too soon. Well, if Eisner’s Spirit can be forgiven, maybe Cave Girl can as well. Impressive display of super powers from the kid though (invulnerability III, perhaps).

Wild time in the old town tonight, though, isn’t it. First an explosion, then a crazy guy with a knife. One question, though – is that guy rabid, or did he just go berserk while he was shaving. Or, in the words of a half-dozen Marvel comic book covers … “Is he both?”

Wonderful stroke of luck, those two shriners with outrageous English accents showing up to help. Still, this does diffuse the stereotype problem a little.

Here, Cave Girl makes a case for being a druid (or my beastlord variation thereof) – speak with animals, calm animals, etc. The chick in the last panel looks like she’s trying to pass a brick.

Nice action here – knee to the chin ranks right up there with face kicking. And a real waaa-waaa-waaaaaaa moment at the end. The woman who brought Cave Girl into town looks like an oompa loompa at the end, which actually ties in to the whole African stereotype thing if you know the history of Willy Wonka.

I dig the art in this one, and the story isn’t any worse than was typical for the genre/time period. Cave Girl almost made the cut into the Mystery Men! rulebook, but I decided to stick with the more classic concept of superheroes. Here are some stats, though, for those who want to do a little knee-to-the-chin action themselves …

CAVE GIRL, Adventurer 14 (Jungle Girl)
STR 7 (+2) | DEX 7 (+2) | CON 7 (+2) | INT 3 (+0) | WIL 7 (+2) | CHA 7 (+2)
HP 88 | DC 16 | ATK +11 (+13 melee, +13 ranged) | SPD 2 | XP 29,500

Ability Boosts: Str +1, Dex +5, Con +5, Int +2, Wil +2, Cha +3

Powers: Calm Emotions (Animals Only), Catfall, Invulnerability I, Jump, Speak With Animals

Gear: Leopard skin, flower in hair

Maneuvers and Monsters [Blood & Treasure]

The magic section is almost completely edited, leaving just the monsters to go before this baby is (almost) ready for publishing. Last week, I finally figured out how I wanted to handle “encounter levels” – i.e. how tough is a fight? Today I thought of another way to handle special maneuvers in combat. Here’s a sample of each – let me know what you think.

[Oh, more previews from the final three circles of Hell and the B&T monster stats are on the way. As soon as I’m finished with B&T and the Rappan Athuk conversions, I’m going to get into 1800 – American Empires. I’m jonesin’ for some Napoleonic fantasy!]

Encounter Levels
First question from the Old Schoolers is, of course, why? The answer has nothing to do with balance (sorta). The real answer is “treasure”. If you’re not using something akin to “treasure types” for the monsters, and I’m not, you need a guide to how tough killing something is to determine the value of its stuff. It also helps dungeon designers, especially the new ones, to determine just how tough a given encounter is. If you’re designing a game for some 5th level characters and you overload it with impossible encounters, you’ve just designed yourself a shitty game. I know the concept of “balance” has been decried of late, and I agree with the sentiment when balance equals “make sure the players win”, but obviously the old school cared about balance as well, if not then there would be no need for racial level limits, more XP to be a magic-user and paladin or the concept of dungeons getting tougher as one descended into them.

The B&T system, in a nutshell is as follows:

A group of 3 to 5 monsters of a given “challenge level” is a challenging encounter for a party of that same average level. In other words, four ogres is a challenging encounter for a 4th level party of adventurers (assuming most parties contain 4 to 6 characters).

Two monsters of a challenge level equal to the average party level +1 is also a challenging encounter, as is one monster of a CL equal to the average party level +2.

Likewise, if you’re throwing lesser monsters at a party, you throw more at them. It goes something like this …

This, of course, begs the question: How do you calculate a monster’s Challenge Level?

I’m glad you asked. A monster with no special abilities has a CL equal to its HD. Thus, ogres, which have 4 HD and no special powers (big and ugly isn’t a power) have a CL of 4. Monsters with various minor powers (yeah, minor and major powers are defined in the rules) have a CL equal to their HD +1. Monsters with major powers have a CL equal to their HD +2. Pretty simple, and so far it has held true in the play tests.

SPECIAL MANEUVERS
I want special maneuvers in the game to be (1) easy to run and (2) worth while. All too often, I see people giving special maneuvers a try and regretting it later – while they were trying to trip the ogre, the ogre was just beating the crap out of them. As the rules usually go, it makes very little sense to do anything but attack. In reality, this is probably the case. Most of the ARMA fights I’ve seen involve wailing on your opponent with a sword rather than jumping around like a Hollywood stunt man. But B&T is, like most fantasy RPG’s, based not on the real middle ages, but rather on pulp fantasy stories and fairy tales, and Conan liked to get tricky.

The current system involved making an attack against a special AC that you had to calculate based on the maneuver. The new one doesn’t bother with that. Instead, it is modeled on the current combat system, with the two-pronged “attack” and “damage” concept. In essence, D&D combat separates combatants in two ways. You have an attack against a set AC. The attack improves as the attacker gains levels, but the AC, in general (monks don’t count here, dang them) does not, other than high level characters often have better equipment.

The “damage” side works the opposite way. The damager’s level doesn’t matter much (again, please ignore the dang monk) other than high level characters maybe having better equipment, but the hit points being damaged do scale with the defender’s level.

In other words, if you have two guys in padded armor with clubs, and one is a 1st level fighter and the other a 12th level fighter, the 12th level fighter has a much better chance of hitting his opponent, though his damage per round is about the same. He also has a much better chance of absorbing his opponent’s hits, even though his Armor Class is about the same.

So – Special Maneuvers. In essence, the attacker needs to hit a set AC based on the maneuver being attempted (i.e. the AC doesn’t improve just because the defender is higher level or has more HD). If the attacker hits, the defender rolls a saving throw to avoid the special effect of the maneuver, so the defender’s skill/power does make a difference. In addition, if the attacker’s attack would have penetrated the defender’s normal AC, he scores some damage (often unarmed attack damage).

Naturally, there are a few provisos and quid pro quos … mostly involving what weapons you can use for some of these maneuvers (that’s what those numbers in brackets in the table above refer to). Hopefully, this makes attempting a special maneuver more attractive and keeps the process pretty simple.

Oh – also – Captain Kirk!

So – special manuevers.