Thun’da, King of the Conga/Congo [Comic Mockery]

It’s time for another look into the wonders of old jungle comics with a Thunda story posted at The Comic Book Catacombs (for all your old jungle comic needs, one convenient location on the world wide web).

OK, first and foremost, Thun’da is a dude. Name ends with a vowel, immediately I’m thinking a jungle girl, but no, it’s a jungle boy. Naturally, he has a jungle girl (every Tarzan needs a Jane). This episode is about Jungle Killers (i.e. killers in the jungle, as opposed to people who kill jungles).

I wonder what the berber’s “% in Lare” is?

This scene, killing an elephant with one blast of a gun, does bring up a shortcoming of D&D combat, namely that for a single gun shot to take down an 11 HD elephant, it needs to do about 11 dice of damage (or maybe 6, if we’re allowing for double damage on some sort of critical hit). You could make 10d6 damage elephant guns in D&D, but if you let the monsters have them, the players are going to be pissed.

Well, maybe that last elephant just rolled shitty for hit points, because Muka is only annoyed at the little lead pellets, an annoyance he demonstrates by tossing around the Arabs.

What the heck is Pha doing in that middle panel? She’s either distressed at the sound of gunshots or swooning over that dreamy Thun’da, the Frank Sinatra of the Conga.

“Drops like a falling stone” does not really paint Thun’da’s dexterity score in the brightest light.

You know how great it would have been if they misspelled “Flee” in that last panel?

The adventures of Thun’da, Jungle Veterinarian. “That mud will draw out the pain, and introduce a host of bacteria into the wound.”

Meanwhile … Pha Pha Pha Phooom. Thun’da done alright for himself in the jungle. Ain’t it just like a female sidekick, though – you tell them to stay, and they always wander in just in time to be attacked by the one bad guy that got away from you. Sheesh.

Ooo! Ooo! Gold pieces! He said gold pieces! At least we’re dealing with an economy I can understand.

Also … SMATTT? Nice sound effect. Not exactly up to Batman quality.

Hours after days, Thun’da makes his Tracking check and finds the caravan. He then fails his Spot check and is apparently unable to see the guns they’re carrying – those same guns they were carrying on the last page (hours and days ago).

Now Thun’da goes into guerrilla mode – the picture of the impaled dude is actually pretty badass. This brings up a though … how often have your players ever used guerrilla tactics against goblin and orc tribes?

Of course, then Thun’da decides to pick on the African bearers, who are already being whipped and beaten by the Arabs and I lose all respect for the jungle douche.

Oh, I take that back. By jumping on his back from a tree, Thun’da only meant to warn him, not hurt him. It’s like the time a warned a friend about the dangers of bricks by throwing one at his head.

So he gets rid of the bearers, leaving the Arabs with useless ivory (not sure why it’s useless … they may have to carry it themselves, but it will still fetch a pretty penny … er, gold piece … in Djibouti.

Oh, and for those who don’t get the geography involved …

These knuckle heads are traveling 4,300 miles to grab ivory and slaves in the Congo (or Conga, depending on the page) and deliver them to the markets of Djibouti. No, the map’s not perfectly accurate, but close enough for government work. Given the terrain involved, this could be a 2 year trip on foot. Methinks the writer was not acquainted with the immensity of Africa.

I like the last panel. Just in case being shot in the head and tied to a post had taken Thun’da mind off the problem at hand, Pha provides some helpful exposition.

Just when things look their darkest, Thun’da remembers an old trick he learned watching Tarzan movies, and summons his faithful elephant and sabretooth tiger to kill everyone. Which, of course, begs the question … why not summon those two to begin with?

So after saving Muka from the Berbers, he sends Muka to his death against the Berbers. Nice. But it’s not a total loss, as Thun’da finds an alternate route home. You know, for when the jungle is crowded around rush hour. Interesting that the Elephant Graveyard appears to be within sight of the city of Shareen, and yet its existence was a complete surprise to the King of the Congo.

Oh – and love the look on the one guy’s face in the upper right hand panel. Looks like he has a serious noogie coming.

Time for stats!

Thun’da will use have levels in the beastmaster, a variant druid class in Blood & Treasure (yes, I’ll release it pretty soon – give me a break, one guy working on a 400 page RPG book in his spare time). The beastmaster is a druid who loses the shapechange abilities and armor use of a druid, but gains the unarmored AC bonus and speed bonus of a monk and the favored enemy and tracking ability of a ranger. I’m going to be a bit on the brutal side with this guy, given that he’s kind of an ass.

9th level Beastmaster
Neutral (cause he just ain’t that good)

STR 16 (+2 bonus)
DEX 10 (would have been higher, but the whole “fell like a stone” thing didn’t help him)
CON 16 (+2 bonus)
INT 7 (-1 bonus)
WIS 13 (+1 bonus, and only because he needs it to qualify)

Hit Points: 36 (9d6+18)
Armor Class: 14 (10 + 4 for unarmored AC bonus)
Saving Throws: Fortitude 7, Reflex 12, Will 8

Skills: Survival [8], Tracking [8]

Special Abilities: Druid spells (6/5/4/3/2/1), move through undergrowth (Lvl 2), leaves no trail (Lvl 3), +2 save vs. spells of the fey (Lvl 4), immune to poison (Lvl 9), establish stronghold (Lvl 9; we’ll say his city of Shareen is his stronghold), armor class bonus (+4 at Lvl 9), speed bonus (+20 ft. at Lvl 9), favored enemy (double damage vs. Berbers)

Gear: Short bow, 20 arrows, spear

Henchmen: Sabre (smilodon), Pha (total babe)

Introducing Grumm of Redbluff

I’m lucky enough to be playing in Solomoriah’s play-by-post Redbluff campaign right now using the Basic Fantasy RPG rules – one of my favorites, and the first retro-clone I ever owned. We’re using some of the alternate rules and currently have a party consisting of a half-orc fighter, halfling thief, dwarf cleric and elf magic-user/thief. Just for fun, you can view my character, Grumm, below. He’s currently locked in battle with some wench-stealing kobolds, and though he has taken some serious wounds he’s pressing his attack!

And if you haven’t yet discovered BFRPG, for crying out loud go check it out!

DM: Solomoriah
Player: John Stater

Character: Grumm
Race: Half-Orc
Class: Fighter
Age: 14
Height: 5’8”
Weight: 190 lb
Eyes: Yellow and beady
Hair: Black bristles

Level: 2
Experience: 3000

Strength: 17 | +2
Intelligence: 15 | +1
Wisdom: 8 | -1
Dexterity: 14 | +1
Constitution: 13 | +1
Charisma: 15 | +1

Alignment: Neutral
Languages Known: Common, Orc

Hit Points: 16
Armor Class: 16 (Chainmail, +1 Dex)
Attack Bonus: +2 (+4 melee, +3 ranged)

Death Ray or Poison: 10 (+1 vs death ray and poison)
Magic Wands: 12
Paralysis or Petrify: 14
Dragon Breath: 15
Spells: 16

Darkvision 60 ft
+1 reaction with medium humanoids

Chainmail (60 gp)
Shortbow (25 gp)
Quiver (1 gp)
… 10 arrows (1 gp)
… 1 silver arrow (2 gp)
Dagger (2 gp)
Pole Arm – Glaive (9 gp)
2 small sacks (1 gp)
Rations (dry, one week) (10 gp)
Whetstone (1 gp)
Waterskin (1 gp)
Rope (hemp, 50′) (1 gp)
12 iron spikes (1 gp)
Clothing (4 gp)

Money: 1 gp
Encumbrance: 82 lb
Movement: 20′ LL, 10′ HL
Initiative: +1

Shortbow: Range 50/100/150; 1d6 damage
Pole Arm: 1d10 damage
Dagger: 1d4 damage

On Boons and Character Customization

As I mentioned in previous entries, my most recent game began using the 3rd edition rules for D-n-D. Gradually, we switched over to Castles & Crusades, as I wanted a more simple system of rules that would allow me to spend less time calculating Difficulty Classes and more time coming up with interesting things for the players to discover. I watched with interest when Basic Fantasy Role-Playing, Labyrinth Lord and OSRIC appeared on the scene, and then really fell in love with Swords & Wizardry. The rules my group used took bits and pieces from all of these games (spell research rules from Basic Fantasy Role-Playing, saving throws from Swords & Wizardry with a nod to the prime attribute concept in Castles & Crusades, the classes from Castles & Crusades, many of the spells in OSRIC, etc). In the end, the players were using a house-ruled version of Castles & Crusades, and I was using a house-ruled version of Swords & Wizardry.

There was one thing in 3rd edition D-n-D that I did like, at least in theory, and that was feats. I thought that feats could be a very clever way for players to construct the archetype they wanted to play without the need for creating dozens of new classes. Unfortunately, feats ultimately became a revenue source for WOTC; there were too many feats, too many sub-rules concerning those feats, and too many feat chains. I think that the feat chains were especially troublesome. After all, if a player goes to the trouble of making his character the greatest acrobat he can possibly be, the Referee kinda feels guilty if he doesn’t design adventures that allow the player to show off his acrobatic skills.

Just the same, I eventually decided that I liked giving the players some tools to tweak their characters. To this end, I adapted some of the d20 feats into what I called boons. The following content is declared open game content.

As characters advance in level, they pick up specialized skills and abilities called boons. Boons are small bonuses that help to make characters unique. Players may choose a boon for their character at 3rd, 6th, 9th and 12th level. Unless otherwise noted, a boon cannot be chosen more than once. The boons a character may possess are as follows:

AGILE: You have a 2 in 6 chance to avoid falling into pits and a 2 in 6 chance to escape from simple bonds (i.e. ropes).

ATTRIBUTE BONUS: You may increase one of your attributes (i.e. Strength, Intelligence, etc) by +1. You can choose this boon and apply it to the same attribute more than once. You cannot increase an attribute beyond 18.

CLEAVE: When you drop an opponent to 0 or fewer hit points in melee combat, you may make a second attack with the same weapon at the end of the combat round against another creature within range of your weapon.

CLIMB WALLS: You can climb walls on a roll of 1 to 2 on 1d6.

DELAY POISON: You can delay (but not neutralize) poison on a roll of 1 to 2 on 1d6.

DODGE: You improve your Armor Class by 1. You lose this bonus when surprised or otherwise unable to move.

EMPOWER SPELL: You can cast one spell per day with all of its variables increased by 150%.

ENLARGE SPELL: You can double the range of one spell per day.

EXPERTISE: You can accept a -2 penalty to your attack rolls and gain a +2 bonus to your Armor Class.

EXTEND SPELL: You can cast one spell per day with a double duration.

FAST MOVEMENT: You improve your unencumbered movement rate by 3.

GREAT FORTITUDE: You gain a +1 bonus to saving throws against poison and disease.

HEAR NOISE: You can hear noises on a roll of 1 to 2 on 1d6 (or 1 to 3 on 1d6 if a nonhuman).

IMPROVED BANISHMENT: You gain a +1 bonus on rolls made to banish the undead.

IMPROVED DISARM: You gain a +1 bonus to make disarm attacks.

IMPROVED GRAPPLE: You gain a +1 bonus to make grapple attacks.

IMPROVED OVERBEARING: You gain a +1 bonus to make overbearing attacks.

IMPROVED PUMMELING: Your pummeling attacks deal 1d3 damage instead of 1d2 damage.

IMPROVED SUNDER: You gain a +1 bonus to make sundering attacks.

IRON WILL: You gain a +1 bonus to saving throws vs. magic.

LEADERSHIP: The morale of your henchmen improved by 2.

LEGENDS AND LORE: You can recall ancient legends and obscure lore on the roll of 1 on 1d6.

LIGHTNING REFLEXES: You gain a +1 bonus to saving throws against breath weapons and death rays.

MAGICAL APTITUDE: You learn to cast one first level magic-user or illusionist spell per day. Magic-users and illusionists may not choose this boon. You may choose this boon more than once, applying it to a different spell each time. To use these spells, you must keep a spellbook and memorize your spell or spells each day. Your referee may restrict which spells you can learn with this boon, and the armor class restrictions faced by magic-users and illusionists apply.

MOUNTED COMBAT: You can make attacks atop a mount without the usual penalty. When fighting atop a warhorse, you can direct the mount’s attacks and still make your own.

MOVE SILENTLY: You can move without making a sound on a roll of 1 to 2 on 1d6.

NEW SPELL: If you are a magic-user or illusionist, you can add an additional spell (of a level you can cast) to your spellbook.

PICK LOCK: You can pick locks on a roll of 1 to 2 on 1d6. You must have burglary tools to use this ability.

PICK POCKETS: You can pick pockets on a roll of 1 to 2 on 1d6.

POINT BLANK SHOT: You gain a +1 bonus to hit with missile weapons when your target is no more than 30 feet away.

POWER ATTACK: You can accept a -2 penalty to your melee attack rolls and gain a +1 bonus to melee damage.

SILENT SPELL: You can cast one spell per day without needing to vocalize it.

SKILL FOCUS: You gain a +1 bonus to saving throws when using a chosen skill associated with your class (such as thievery or woodcraft).

STILL SPELL: You can cast one spell per day without needing to move your hands.

SURVIVAL: You can hunt well enough to feed 6 people on a roll of 1 to 2 on 1d6.

TWO-WEAPON DEFENSE: When wielding two weapons you can forgo making an additional attack and instead improve your Armor Class by 1 as though you were using a shield.

TWO-WEAPON FIGHTING: Your penalties to attack with two weapons are reduced to -1 (primary) and -2 (off-hand). Normal penalties are -2 (primary) and -4 (off-hand).

TOUGHNESS: You gain 3 hit points.

WEAPON FINESSE: When wielding a dagger, hand axe, light hammer, light mace, short sword, sickle or whip you can use your dexterity bonus in place of your strength bonus when making attack rolls.

WEAPON FOCUS: You gain a +1 bonus to hit with a weapon usable by your class. Fighting-men cannot mix this boon with their weapon specialization ability.

WEAPON PROFICIENCY: You learn to use a weapon normally not usable by members of your class.

WIDEN SPELL: Once per day, you can double the coverage of a spell you cast.