Magic in the Blood and Other Ruminations

The main reason I wrote Blood & Treasure was that I got tired of converting material to Swords & Wizardry, which was the first system I used in my hex crawls. I decided, rather than make a clone, I would make a rules lite version of the game that stuffed 30+ years of monsters, classes, spells, etc. into the main rules so I would spend less time converting on the fly, and so my OGL statements wouldn’t be so darn long.

To that end, I included the 3rd edition sorcerer among the classes. After all, some folks who played 3E and Pathfinder probably loved the class, and they might be looking for a rules lite game that would support it.

Now, I’m working on the 2nd edition of Blood & Treasure. The goal is still to have a rules lite game that throws everything into the pot and allows folks to pick and choose what they want to use, but I’m also trying to give the game a bit more character of its own. Part of that involves making sure the character classes have something cool about them that makes people really want to play them. These are generally things inspired by folklore or fantasy literature or movies – things that are part of fantasy, but not necessarily part of D&D. Fighters, for example, are going to get a little boost in the form of being able to subdue monsters and turn them into mounts. We see tons of fantasy art and miniatures with warriors riding all sorts of animals and monsters, and D&D had something like this in terms of subduing dragons, so I’m expanding that concept.

The sorcerer … well, the sorcerer needs some help. The entire class is really just an alternate magic system for magic-users – it has no real character of its own. To help the sorcerer stand on its own two feet, I’ve added two abilities that work well with the “magic in the blood” theme.

In my current draft of Blood & Treasure Second Edition, they have an inborn ability to pick up on “magical vibrations”, which means they know when they’re in the presence of spells, illusions and monsters, but they don’t know what is magical around them or how – kind of like Spider-Man’s spidey sense.

Sorcerers also have a way to increase their spell use through dangerous means, somewhat like the spell casting rules in Pars Fortuna. Sorcerers can attempt to cast spells they do not know, but must make a roll to do so, and if they fail may end up doing themselves irreparable harm, or being visited by powerful outsiders, who are accidentally gated in and might be angry about it, or just casting the opposite of what they meant to cast.

They also gather cult-like followers at higher levels, rather than building strongholds. Sorcerers strike me as eccentric wanderers, rather than conservative castle builders.

I’ve also written some variant bloodline sorcerers that are comparable to the variant specialist magic-users, that give them a chance to be related to some of the monsters they meet, and give them some other boosts.

Other Tropes

Sorcerers get the biggest face lift in the game, but a few other fantasy tropes have found a home with other classes.

Fighters have a way of subduing monsters and turning them into mounts (think of all those warriors riding on weird animals and monsters in fantasy art).

Paladins pick up some knightly honors as they advance in level, giving them access to noble and royal courts and improving their reaction rolls (except with chaotic evil monsters, who become more likely to attack them).

Duelists pick up a lackey to be used and abused.

Magic-users pick up odd bits of pseudo-scientific lore as they learn new spell levels – bits of alchemy, knowledge of parachutes, how to build clockworks and a few tips for slight increases in the potency of their spells.

Druids can sacrifice “despoilers of the wilderness” to pick up some extra elemental power, with the extra power depending on the means of sacrifice (blade, drowning, hanging, etc.)

Thieves at mid-level can assemble teams of lesser rogues for dungeon heists – essentially a quick way to pick up some henchmen for a job (but can they be trusted?)

Assassins can now brew some interesting poisons.

You get the idea. Hopefully, these abilities will prove fun and interesting during game play, and will give Blood & Treasure a bit more character of its own.

Lucky Bastards

There are two ways to survive as an adventurer – you can be good, or you can be lucky. The lucky bastard uses the latter approach. For him, the luck comes naturally – he’s always had it, and hope he always will.

Requirements & Restrictions
There are no ability score or alignment requirements for lucky bastards.

They are capable of wearing up to leather armor, but cannot use shields. They are limited to simple weapons like daggers, staves, spears and darts.

Special Abilities
Lucky bastards can find secret doors as an elf. Elven lucky bastards increase their chances to do this by 1 in 6.

Whenever an event in a game must target a random adventurer, a random determination of the lucky bastard is re-rolled. If the second roll targets the lucky bastard, then he is the target of the event.

Illustration by William Heath Robinson

Each game session, a lucky bastard starts with a luck score of 4. He can increase this by +1 if he holds a lucky rabbit’s foot*, by +1 if he holds a lucky horseshoe*, and by +2 if he happens upon a loose copper piece (only one) in a dungeon and repeats the magic phrase “Find a copper, pick it up, all day long you’ll have good luck”.

The luck score can be used for two things. First, it can be used as a bonus to any sort of d20 roll. Second, it can be used to negate damage. To negate damage, the lucky bastard must roll below his luck score on 1d6. If successful, hit point damage sustained from one attack form is negated. Whenever a lucky bastard uses his luck score (whether successfully or not), it is reduced by 1.

A 3rd level lucky bastard can, once per game, share his luck with another creature within 30’ of him. This means he lends his luck score to another creature for one round. When the luck score is shared and used, it is reduced by 2 points, rather than just 1 point.

A lucky bastard can re-roll one failed d20 roll per game session for every four levels he has attained (thus once at 4th level, twice at 8th level, thrice at 12th level, etc.).

A 6th level lucky bastard can steal an opponent’s luck once per day. When an opponent rolls a d20, the lucky bastard can, once he knows the result of the roll, take it for his own. The opponent must re-roll, and the lucky bastard must use his opponent’s first roll as his next d20 roll.

Lady Luck has smiled on the lucky bastard … but for how long. Every session a lucky bastard is played carries with it a cumulative 1% chance that Lady Luck turns her back on him. If this happens, the lucky bastard loses all special abilities for that session and the cumulative 1% chance resets itself for the next session.

A 9th level lucky bastard can build and operate a tavern/inn in a settlement, attracting 1d6 servers (one is an ex-thief, level 1d4), a bartender (ex-fighter, level 1d4), a groom and 1d10 regular customers (roll their identities as though they were henchmen). The tavern will, of course, be very successful. For every regular customer the lucky bastard has, he earns 1 gp per month. The tavern earns an additional 1d10 gp per month beyond the regulars. The lucky bastard can call on one favor per month from his regular customers, including using them as henchmen on his continuing adventures. If a regular customer is killed on an adventure, he is not replaced, and the lucky bastard must pay a 100 gp fee and lose all favors for 1d6 months.

* A rabbit’s foot and horseshoe are made lucky when they are blessed by a cleric (Lawful, if you use three alignments, Chaotic Good if you use nine) of at least 6th level.

The Saboteur – A New-Old Class

Circa 1984, I was in 6th grade and discovering role playing games – well, Dungeons & Dragons. I’d played a game with a friend who only knew the game based on watching his older brother play. He drew up a dungeon on graph paper, and during recess he ran me through it using a D6.

The next step was me getting Moldvay Basic from Toys ‘R’ Us, then Cook Expert, then into the AD&D line (dude – rangers are cool).

Now, I want to bring the younger readers back into these primitive times. Photocopiers existed, but they weren’t cheap. I convinced my mom to spend a decent chunk of change letting me check out copies of Dragon magazine from the library, take them to Kinkos, and copying articles at $.25 a page. Eventually she found it cheaper to get me a subscription for Christmas. Before I got to that lofty place, though, the way I copied stuff was with a typewriter. I remember borrowing module B1 – In Search of the Unknown – from a friend and typing it page by page – double column (which involved actually making a few spaces and then writing the line of text in the next column) and then tracing the pictures. Hey – it worked – got B1 for free (wish I still had that copy I typed).

Around that time, I decided to write my own game. To say it was heavily influenced by D&D rules would be an understatement, of course, but I was smart enough to know that if the game was to be original, I needed to spin things a bit. Thus, the thief became the saboteur. I don’t remember much about the old saboteur (again, wish I still had those typewritten pages somewhere), but today I got to thinking about that old game, and those old times, and figured I’d make a new saboteur class for Blood & Treasure.

THE SABOTEUR

Hit Dice: d6 per level, +2 hp per level after 10th
Attack: as thief
Save: as thief

Saboteurs must have a dexterity score of 9 or higher and an intelligence score of 12 or higher. They can wear up to leather armor and cannot use shields. Saboteurs can use daggers, flails, clubs, maces, morningstars, crossbows and firearms.

Special Abilities

Saboteurs are skilled at the following tasks: Climb walls, hide in shadows, move silently, open locks, remove traps, use and disable mechanical devices, use magic items (after 8th level) and operate siege engines. For many of these tasks, they require a set of sabotage tools.

Saboteurs are capable of concocting explosives. At 1st level, they can concoct black powder explosives that deal 1d6 points of damage per pound. They can attach fuses that take from 1 round to 1 minute to detonate. One pound of powder requires 1 day and 10 gp for the saboteur to create.

When a 3rd level saboteur strikes a foe that is wearing armor, he can forgo dealing damage and instead lower their effective Armor Class by 1 per 3 saboteur levels. The effective AC of the armor remains lowered after the combat until it is repaired by an armorer.

At 6th level, the saboteur can spend an extra day and an extra 25 gp (so 2 days, 35 gp) to make a more refined and powerful explosive that deals 1d10 points of damage per pound.

Saboteurs always deal double damage with their weapons and explosives against constructs and mechanical devices. This includes magical constructs. A 6th level saboteur can damage golems even without magic weapons, though he does not deal double damage against them. Moreover, when he successfully strikes a golem by rolling a natural ’20’, the golem loses its magic immunity for 1 round.

9th level saboteurs can damage magic items to the extent that they lose their powers for up to 1 day per the saboteur’s intelligence bonus (if she has an intelligence bonus). The saboteur must be able to handle the item, and must employ lodestones, lead wire and a silver hammer to temporarily cancel the magic item’s properties.

Saboteurs do not build strongholds, but they do gain followers. Starting at 7th level, a saboteur attracts one follower per level until they reach 11th level. Followers who die are not replaced. Roll these followers on the following chart:

1. 1d4 gnome tinkerers (0-level)
2. 1d3 rogues (0-level – see henchmen section to determine abilities)
3. 1d2 men-at-arms (leather armor, short sword, light crossbow)
4. Assassin (roll 1d2 for level)*
5. Thief (roll 1d3 for level)*
6. Saboteur apprentice (roll 1d4 for level)*

* Takes a 10% share of the saboteur’s experience points.

Laser Mage, Because Why Not?

Image found HERE

Sometimes, you need a weird class to shake things up. The laser mage is one of those classes that starts as a phrase that pops into your head, and then begins to take shape as you let your mind wander and explore. I saw a guy with a wand covered in crystals who could do interesting things with light – something like a combination of illusionist and evoker, but more focused. I pictured something of a magical duelist, a class for people who had played everything and were ready to figure out how to make something new work for them, or people who didn’t want their class abilities to lock them into a particular role.

LASER MAGE

Laser mages are arcane wash-outs. They never quite got the hang of magic in general, but showed a weird interest in, and ability with, the light spell. Light is to the laser mage what read magic is to normal magic-users – the key spell without which they cannot operate. They know it so well, they can cast it from memory.

To produce multiple effects with this single spell, the laser mage needs a light projector. The projector looks like a rod or thick wand. It is a hollow metal tube about one foot long and tipped with a faceted rock crystal. The crystal is cut by the laser mage, so as they progress in level their skill as a gem cutter increases as well. They also learn how to use other translucent gemstones, faceted or curved, to increase the effectiveness of their spell, or produce additional effects.

Requirements
Intelligence and Dexterity of 13 or higher

Armor & Weapons
As magic-user

A 1st level laser mage can cast the light spell at will. Casting this spell through his light projector is how he manifests all of his other abilities, not including his skill as a gem cutter and his ability to appraise the value and quality of precious stones.

The first thing a laser mage learns to do is project rays of light through the crystal at the end of his light projector. These rays have a range of 20’ and require a ranged attack roll to hit. The ray’s effect depends on the laser mage’s level and, of course, how intense they want it to be.

These improved rays, and the other special light effects gained by the laser mage are dependent on the laser mage improving the main gemstone in his light projector. This must be done at the following levels, with a gem of a stated value (or higher): 4th level, 100 gp, 6th level 500 gp, 8th level 1,000 gp, 10th level 2,500 gp and 12th level, 5,000 gp. The gem must be polished and cut by the laser mage himself, requiring a gem cutting task check (Reflex task, modified by dexterity, skilled).

At 3rd level, a laser mage can project a beam of light from the projector that can be used as a sword. The beam deals damage as the ray would, and requires a melee attack to hit.

By adding additional colored gemstones to the light projector, the laser mage can project 10’ cones that influence emotions (Will save to resist) as follows: Red gems cause rage or dispel fear effects, blue gems calm emotions or dispel charm effects, yellow gems cause crushing despair or grant a +1 bonus to reaction checks, and green gems cause fatigue (for 1 turn) or inspire good hope.

Finally, the 1st level laser mage can use his light projector to analyze materials, gases and liquids. A knowledge task check is required to interpret the results (Will task, modified by Wisdom, skilled), which determine the material’s content, and which can detect magic.

At 3rd, 5th, 7th, and 9th level, the laser mage can add a gemstone worth at least 50 gp to the handle of his light projector to improve the projector’s function. The laser mage determines the improvement gained at each level. Only one improvement can be applied to any given light effect. The potential improvements are: Double range, double duration, impose -2 penalty to saves against the effect and add +1 to hit on ray attacks.

Laser mage’s can create the following additional effects with their light projectors, based on their level and provided they have added the proper stone’s to their light projector:

A 9th level laser mage may open an academy. He attracts 1d6 gem cutters (0-level), 1d6 men-at-arms, 1d6 1st level laser mage students and a 3rd level laser mage to act as his lieutenant.

 

New Spell – New Monster – New Class

Just a few things that popped into my head lately …

NEW SPELL

Alter Voice
Level: Magic-user 0
Range: Personal
Duration: 1 hour

This spell permits you to alter your voice, mimicking another voice you have heard perfectly. It does not enable you to speak another language, of course. The spell also alters your inner voice, permitting you to fool creatures through the medium of telepathy.

(I’ve watch lots of old movies and TV shows, in which characters have an uncanny ability to duplicate other character’s voices, especially over the phone)

NEW MONSTER

Zoophytic Mangler

Size/Type: Medium Elemental
Hit Dice: 6
Armor Class: 17 [+1]
Attack: 2 slams (1d8)
Movement: 20
Saves: F10 R12 W12
Alignment: Neutral (N)
Intelligence: Non-
No. Appearing: 1
XP: 600 (CL 18)

A zoophytic mangler is an quasi-elemental creature raised from the sea floor by aquatic mages who have learned the spell. The creature is composed of a core of dead coral. Its exterior is covered with hundreds of beautiful, flower-like living corals. These corals exude a poisonous mist that surrounds the monster to a radius of 20′. Any creature breathing this mist must pass a Fortitude save at -2 or be affected as per Poison III. Those who do save are still sickened, and remain sickened for 1 hour after they leave the monster’s presence. This mist works in the open air and underwater.

(Just read a story about a venomous coral that has sickened quite a few folks)

NEW CLASS

Knight of Flowers

I drew this!

Knights of flowers are a variation on the paladin class. It is only open to halflings, gnomes and other small fey folk. A knight of flowers differs from the paladin as follows:

They must be good in alignment, but can be lawful good (the Rose Order), neutral good (the Lily Order) or chaotic good (the Daffodil Order).

They are skilled in nature lore and flower arranging, rather than riding

Can detect poison at will, instead of evil

Learns to turn plant creatures and evil fey, instead of undead

Instead of a gaining a special warhorse, they gain the ability to draw special abilities from wreaths of different flowers. The wreath must be woven by a maiden, dryad or nymph, and the magical potency of the flowers lasts for one adventure. The knight of flowers can only wear one wreath at a time:

+1 to hit Evil — chestnut

+1 to Charisma tasks — dahlia, daisy, dandelion, plum blossom

+1 to Fortitude saves — ivy

+1 to Intelligence tasks — cherry blossom, lilac, pansy

+1 to Strength tasks — laurel

+1 to Will saves — gladiolus

+1 to melee damage — fennel, oak leaf

+2 to save vs. disease and poison — lily

1 re-roll (d20) per day — gardenia

Animal Friendship (1/day) — magnolia

Bane (1/day) — lobelia

Calm Emotions (1/day) — bullrush, olive

Charm Monster (1/day) — orchid

Charm Person (1/day) — amaranth, carnation, jasmine, chrysanthemum, coriander, honeysuckle, tulip

Color Spray (1/day) — iris

Command (1/day) — heliotrope, thistle

Crushing Despair (1/day) — yellow rose, rue

Cure Light Wounds (1/day) — Eglantine rose, lotus

Daze (1/day) — wormwood

Detect Magic (1/day) — witch-hazel

Disrupt Undead (1/day) — cypress

Fool’s Gold (1/day) — buttercup

Good Hope (1/day) — delphinium, peony

Hold Person (1/day — mistletoe

Inflict Light Wounds (1/day) — marigold

Light (1/day) — sunflower

Magic Weapon (1/day) — red rose

Protection from Evil (1/day) — baby’s breath

Protection from Normal Missiles (1/day) — heather

Ray of Frost (1/day) — hydrangea

Silence (1/day) — white rose

Sleep (1/day) — poppy

Speak with Dead (1/day) — asphodel

Surprised on d8 — begonia

Tongues (1/day) — balm

Can neutralize poison instead of curing disease

Casts spells from the druid spell list, instead of the paladin list

Otherwise, they have the paladin’s special abilities

Dragon by Dragon – December 1979 (32)

Depending where you are when you read this, good morning, good afternoon, good evening or good night. It’s Sunday, which means it’s time to crack open the vault and review another issue of The Dragon. Technically not the last of the 1970’s (that would be December 1980), but for most folks, the end of the decade.

Let’s take a look at the Top 10 Cool Things in The Dragon #32

Side note – cover by Phil Foglio, which means his contributions to the magazine’s comics section shouldn’t be too far away. Always a highlight for me back in the day.

Yes, because of Dixie. I’m a red-blooded American male, and I make no apologies for it.

ONE | GOOD ADVICE

When question about super high level characters (as in, “no freaking way they got there fairly), ED gives the following sage advice …

“Cheating, yes, but who? If you refuse to play with these sorry individuals, they are only cheating
themselves of the feeling of accomplishment that comes from having honestly earned a level advancement. To each his own . . .”

Good advice then, and good now. Learn to enjoy losing spectacularly at games, and you will find them twice as enjoyable as you used to.

TWO | POISON

Charles Sagui has an article on “Poisons from AA to XX” that I enjoyed. I always like articles written from a position of authority concerning make-believe stuff, and this one has several firm rules for poisons that you might not have known:

1) Poison is restricted to Neutral and Evil characters when used against human or humanoid types … against dungeon monsters, anyone can use poison.

2) Alchemists alone distill and manufacture poisons – magic-users, thieves and assassins who are caught making poisons are told immediately to “cease and desist” – imagine, slapping a cease and desist order from the Alchemist’s Guild on a PC! Apparently, if the order is ignore, the PC “will receive a visitor who will see to it that he stops permanently.” – Sounds like a fun encounter to run.

3) Alchemists learn to make poison at one strength per level of experience up to the 5th, beginning with level 0, strength “AA”. At 6th, the alchemist can make strength “S” sleep poison. After 6th, he learns to make one strength per two levels, through strength “J” at 16th level. Type “X” can be made by 20th level alchemists, type “XX” by 25th level alchemists. Alchemists through 4th level make only ingested poisons. From 5th to 8th level, they make ingested plus water-soluble poisons. From 9th to 16th they learn to make contact and gaseous poisons.

4) Assassins are the main customers, and they dictate to the alchemists who can buy poison. Locksmiths are granted permission by the assassins to put poison needles and gases in locks and chests so the rich can keep their possessions safe. – This suggests that the thieves and assassins are not on the best of terms.

5) Any character is permitted to buy strength “S” sleep poison. Thieves, by paying the assassins 500 gp per level, are permitted to buy strengths “AA”, “A” and “B” poison. They may buy up to 60 vials of “AA” per year, up to 30 vials of “A” and up to 15 vials of “B”. Magic-users can pay 1,000 gp per level to get the right to coat darts and daggers with “AA” and “A” poison. The same buying restrictions for thieves apply.

6) A small vial of poison is enough to coat 6 arrowheads, 8 darts, 12 needles or 1 dagger or spear point. Two vials will coat a short sword. Three will coat a long or broadsword, four a bastard sword and five a two-handed sword. Each coating lasts for 2 successful hits, and up to 5 coats can be applied to a blade at a time. One vial is equal to one dose when swallowed.

7) Evil humanoids should never use more than “AA” poison. If they are employed by a powerful evil NPC, they may use up to “D”.

8) Poisons found in dungeons are:

0-50% – ingested
51-80% – water-soluble
81-90% – contact
91-100% – poison gas

9) Damage from poison is taken at a rate of the minimum hit point damage for the poison per melee round (which would have been a minute, back in the old days) until max damage rolled is met. So, a poison that deals 1-10 damage would do 1 point of damage per round. If you rolled “6” damage, it would deal 1 point of damage per round for 6 rounds. A poison that did 5-100 damage would deal 5 points of damage per round.

10) When you save vs. sleep poison, you act as though slowed for 3 rounds.

11) When using poison-coated weapons, each time you draw the weapon or return it to its scabbard, you have to save by rolling your Dex or less (on 1d20, I assume), minus 1 for water-soluble and -3 for contact, or you suffer max poison damage. You also have to make a Dex save every other round for water soluble and every round for contact poison that the weapon is used in combat to avoid poisoning yourself. This applies until the weapon is washed, even if the weapon does not have enough poison left to poison opponents in combat.

12) Silver weapons will not hold poison, not will magic weapons. Normal weapons that are poison-coated gives them a dark discoloration, so everyone will know the weapon is poisoned.

Lots of rules, but actually pretty useful ones. The article then goes on to detail the different poison strengths – I won’t reproduce those here.

THREE | WEAPONS OF ASIA

This is a companion article to the armor article from last issue, also by Michael Kluever. Here’s a bit on the Chu-ko-nu, or repeating crossbow.

“An interesting variation was the repeating crossbow (Chu-ko-nu). It propelled two bolts simultaneously from its wooden magazine, which held a total of 24 featherless quarrels, each approximately 8.25 inches long. The bolts were contained in a box sliding on top of the stock and moved into firing position by a lever pivoted to both. The throwing of the lever forward and back drew the bowstring, placed the bolt in position and fired the weapon. Chinese annals relate that 100 crossbowmen could project 2,000 quarrels in fifteen seconds. The repeater crossbow was used as late as the Chinese Japanese War of 1894-95.”

Apparently I need to include it in Grit & Vigor.

FOUR | SINISTER SEAWEED

You got some interesting articles back in the day. This one, by George Laking, is about aquatic megaflora, and its danger to adventurers. The info in the article was designed by the Mid-Columbia Wargaming Society of Richland, Washington. With a little searching, I found a picture of Mr. Laking and some society members from a 1978 newspaper. The internet!

So, you’re first thought it – screw seaweed, bring me dragons!

You fool!

Apparently, megaflora stands capture oxygen in vast bubble domes within their branches. Within this bubble dome, there is a bunch of dry limbs and twigs from this megaflora. The interior of the dome resembles a quiet, dry forest surrounded by thick trunks. Bubble dome heights range from 4 to 40 feet, depending on the size of the stand.

Where’s the danger. Well, the stands can capture ships for 1-12 hours, making them vulnerable to aquatic monster attacks.

The bigger danger is bubble dome “blows”! The domes are temporary structures. In some cases, the gas cannot escape and pressure builds up until it explodes, throwing dry branches and limbs 2d10 x 10 feet into the air in a huge fountain of water and foam! Ships will fall into the void left, and then be slammed by the walls of water rushing back in, possibly destroying the ship. A blown stand looks like a peaceful lagoon with walls of megaflora around it, quickly growing in to fill the clearing. This will be the lair of aquatic monsters, guarding the treasure left by ships destroyed in past blows.

A third danger is that pure oxygen is poisonous to people. Divide the height of the dome by 10 and take this as a percentage chance per hour that a character absorbs too much oxygen into her bloodstream. A character who reaches this threshold, upon leaving the dome, must make a save vs. poison or immediately die.

Also – pure oxygen is extremely flammable. Let’s say you light a torch inside the dome …

“(1) The initial explosion of gas would create a 6-20 die fireball of incandescent oxygen, depending on the size and depth of the bubble dome (depth of dome divided by ten equals hit dice). The size of the fireball would be half as large as the initial dome after the explosion of the gas. Saving throws would be applicable.

(2) Following the initial explosion, the fireball would immediately rise to the surface with a subsequent catastrophic inrush of ocean water onto the previously dry dome interior. Each character would have to undergo a check for system shock as the walls of water met with implosive fury. A character saving vs. system shock would only take 3-10 (d6) of damage. Failing to save means immediate death!

(3) Finally—should the character survive—an immediate check vs. oxygen poisoning would be necessary to determine if he/she had exceeded the critical threshold at that point. If so, that character would have to make an additional save vs. poison per oxygen poisoning (above).”

Frankly, a weird bubble dome dungeon would be awesome, and a great challenge. A ship gets stuck and attacked by aquatic ogres. Adventurers follow them down to retrieve something important, find a massive bubble dome with a dead, maze-like forest within it. They have to work fast to avoid being killed by too much oxygen, and there is a chance that it explodes and the ship is drawn down into sea and crushed.

FIVE | THE BEST LAID PLANS

From Gygax’s “Sorcerer’s Scroll”:

“In a previous column I mentioned that I would set up an adventure where the players would end up in the city streets of the 20th century. Well, I knocked together some rules, put the scenario together, stocked the place with “treasures” of a technological sort, and sprinkled some monsters (thugs, gangs, police, etc.) around.

Much to my chagrin, Ernie the Barbarian was leading the expedition. When his party emerged from the subway—and despite the general blackout in the city due to the power failure caused by their entry into this alternate world—he stopped, looked, listened and then headed back for the “safety” of the “real world!” Some people really know how to spoil a DM’s fun …”

Damn players.

SIX | SAGE ADVICE

From Jean Wells in “Sage Advice”:

“The subject is dwarven women and whether or not they have beards. Last spring when we were working on the final editing of the Dungeon Masters Guide, I tried to get Gary Gygax to change the section on dwarves so that dwarven women would not have beards. Needless to say, I was not very successful.

What I didn’t realize was that for some strange reason (completely unknown to me), I had started something. I did not understand the full impact of what I had done until I went to GenCon this year. Many people stopped me in the hall to either agree with me wholeheartedly, or disagree with me and then tell me that I was crazy. Everyone knows that dwarven women have beards, they said. It did not stop there. Oh, no! We have even been getting mail on this issue. It is not too bad, but I don’t like being accused of making an issue out of the subject.

One thing that everyone who has taken sides in this issue fails to remember is that Gary Gygax wrote the Dungeon Masters Guide and it is his book. He can say whatever he wants to. You can agree with him or side with me, but either way, the person who has final say in his or her campaign is the DM. So, for all the people who have written in to agree with me or to agree with Gary, and for those who haven’t yet but were planning to, please save your breath. Gnome women don’t have beards (this is true and I am glad). Dwarven women may indeed have beards, Gary, but not in my world.”

Yeah, there have always been gamers who A) didn’t get that it was make-believe, and there was therefore no right or wrong, and B) didn’t get that their own opinion isn’t law.

Also this question:

“Question: We are having an argument over an issue that has us divided. My friends say that with a ring of telekinesis they can make an arrow spin at the speed of light and then release it, having it do between 100 and 600 points of damage to their target. I say this is impossible! What do you think?”

God – I remember these fools.

Finally:

“Question: I am having a romance with a god, but he won’t have anything to do with me until I divorce my present husband. How do I go about divorcing my husband?”

Ye Gods!

BONUS AD!

For sale – crappy t-shirts.

Actually, I would wear one of these with a ridiculous amount of pride. I’m super tempted to lift the graphic and make one online for myself.

Looks like the Barbarian Shop was in a private residence:

SEVEN | INSECTOIDS

Len Lakofka presents in this issue his insectoids, which are just the humanoid races with insect characteristics grafted on. For example: Scorpiorcs. For Blood & Treasure, they would look like:

Scorpiorc, Medium Monstrous Humanoid: HD 2; AC 16; ATK 2 pincers (1d6) and weapon; MV 40; SV F15 R12 W13; XP 300 (CL 4); Special-Surprised on d8 (due to eye stalks), move silently (70%), back stab x2.

Scorpiorcs never use flaming swords or carry any sort of flame. They also never use armor, but may carry a shield. They speak Scorkish and broken Orcish. They can advance as fighters from a beginning “level” of 2 to a top rank of 4.

I also have to mention the “skags”, which are a blend of scorpion, kobold, ant and goblin. This is actually a sort of “monster class” – dig it:

BONUS AD

Great title. Found HERE at Boardgame Geek. Stephen Fabian did the art, so it has be worth a few bucks based on that alone.

EIGHT | TRAVELER POLITICS

I’ve never played Traveler, so I can’t comment on the utility of this article about diplomats in the Traveler Universe. I can, however, draw attention to this table, which may prove useful to people:

I’m sure somebody can adapt this to their game, when trying to figure out an NPC’s s power base in some fantasy or sci-fi city.

NINE | DRUIDS

William Fawcett has a long article on “The Druid in Fact and Fantasy”. A tough subject, because so little is known, or at this point, can be known. I’m not going to dwell on the historical bits in the article, but I did like this:

“DECLARATION OF PEACE
A new Druidic ability

Although the Druid, due to his involvement with life, is unable to turn undead, his role of the peacemaker gives him a similar ability with most humanoids. Before or during any armed combat if he has not struck any blow, a Druid has the ability to make a Declaration of Peace. This declaration has a 10% plus 5% per level (15% 1st level, 20% 2nd, etc.) chance of causing all armed combat to cease for two rounds per level of the Druid. This does not affect magical combat in any way, nor will it stop a humanoid who is in combat with any non-humanoid opponent. Once the combat is stopped, any non-combat activities may take place such as cures, running away (and chasing), blesses, magic of any form, or even trying to talk out the dispute.

After peace has been successfully Declared, combat will resume when the effect wears off (roll initiatives), or at any time earlier if anyone who is under the restraint of the Declaration is physically harmed in any way. This could be caused by an outside party or even by magic, which is not restrained by the Declaration. A fireball going off tends to destroy even a temporary mood of reconciliation. Once a Druid strikes a blow or causes direct harm in any way to a member of a party of humanoids, he permanently loses his ability to include any member of that party in a Declaration of Peace. The Declaration of Peace affects all those within the sound of the Druid’s voice, a 50’ radius which may be modified by circumstances.”

He also has quite a few magic cauldrons and some thoughts on herbs. Good read overall.

TEN | MIRTH

Well, it’s funny to DM’s

ELEVEN | THE FELL PASS

An adventure in this issue – “The Fell Pass” by Karl Merris!

Check out the map:

That hatching seems reminiscent! A also hereby challenge Dyson Logos to include more giant, disembodied hands on his very excellent maps.

The adventure takes place in geothermally heated caverns, and includes cave bears, ogres, a spidersilk snare, gray ooze, manticores, griffons, shadows, trolls, pit vipers, Vlog the Ogre …

… and Xorddanx the Beholder:

I love the heck out of that art, which is by Merris himself!

I did some searching, and I’m pretty sure I’ve found him online. He appears to be a Brony now, and might have no interest left in D&D, but if I can commission a piece of fantasy art from him, I’ll let you know …

FINAL SHOT

Bring Some Muscle Into the Dungeon

1958. Steve Reeves plays Hercules and not only is a legend born, but a new genre of action/adventure – Sword & Sandals: the heroic adventures of oiled bodybuilders strangling things with their bare hands, bending bars and lifting gates.

We have lots of interesting characters running around fantasy roleplaying games, and plenty have 18’s in Strength, but none of them are true musclemen. Until now …

Requirements & Restrictions
Strength 15+, at least 6’ tall

Musclemen wear no armor, only the hides of the animals and monsters that have slain. They can use shields

Musclemen can wield any weapon, but double-handed weapons are preferred

Hit Dice: d12

Skills: Bend Bars/Lift Gates, Climb Sheer Surfaces, Jump, Swimming

Advance As: Fighter

Special Abilities
Musclemen are capable of using their muscles to influence reactions, either through charm and awe, or sheer intimidation. Musclemen can modify reaction checks with their Strength score rather than Charisma score if the TK deems the situation appropriate.

Musclemen add 1.5 their strength bonus to attacks and damage when armed with double-handed weapons.

Musclemen treat creatures as one size category smaller for grapple and bull rush attacks.

Once per day, a muscleman can call on an adrenaline rush and either re roll a failed strength check with a +2 bonus or double their strength bonus on a single melee attack and damage. They can also make sundering attacks with their bare hands.

A muscleman spends a great deal of time in training. Every four levels, beginning with fourth level, they can deduct one point from intelligence, wisdom or charisma and add it to their strength score.

Musclemen gain additional skills as they advance in level if their strength score is high enough.

Burst Chains and Iron Bands (Level 3, Strength 16) – A muscleman can burst chains and iron bands simply by flexing their chest muscles or biceps.

Toss Dwarf (Level 5, Strength 17) – Musclemen can toss gnomes (Str 17), halflings (Str 19) and dwarfs (Str 21) at opponents. Treat this as a ranged attack with a range of 10 feet. If the muscleman misses, the tossed character gets no attack, loses their turn and suffers 1d4 points of damage. If their attack hits, the tossed character makes an attack as though charging, and the mere act of throwing them scores 1d6 points of damage for gnomes, 1d8 for halflings and 1d10 for dwarves, plus the muscleman’s strength bonus.

Hammer Nails (Level 7, Strength 18) – A muscleman’s sinews are iron hard, allowing him to hammer nails with their bare fists. Difficulties include hammering sharp items larger than nails, or hammering into materials harder than wood.

Bite Through Chains (Level 9, Strength 20) – A muscleman’s jaws are such that he can bite through metal. In addition, he can bite characters that he grapples (treat as an additional unarmed attack).

The Ur-Thief

Image by Sidney Sime, found HERE

One of the fun things about exploring old D&D is the search for the origins of its many elements. Rangers are Aragorns, rust monsters came in a pack of Japanese dinosaur toys, etc. The thief has often been linked to the Leiber’s Grey Mouser and Vance’s Cugel, but I would propose a different Ur-Thief … Thangobrind the Jeweller.

I’ve been boning up on my Dunsany lately, to help me apply the finishing touches to Bloody Basic – Weird Fantasy Edition, and last night read through the “Distressing Tale of Thangobrind the Jeweller” in his Book of Wonder. I draw your attention to the following passages, which seem very thiefy to me:

HIDE IN SHADOWS

“O, but he loved shadows! Once the moon peeping out unexpectedly from a tempest had betrayed an ordinary jeweller; not so did it undo Thangobrind: the watchman only saw a crouching shape that snarled and laughed: “‘Tis but a hyena,” they said.”

MOVE SILENTLY

“Once in the city of Ag one of the guardians seized him, but Thangobrind was oiled and slipped from his hand; you scarcely heard his bare feet patter away.”

“At night they shoot by the sound of the strangers’ feet. O, Thangobrind, Thangobrind, was ever a jeweller like you! He dragged two stones behind him by long cords, and at these the archers shot.”

FIND TRAPS

“… but Thangobrind discerned the golden cord that climbed the wall from each [of the emeralds] and the weights that would topple upon him if he touched one …”

LISTEN AT DOORS

“Though when a soft pittering as of velvet feet arose behind him he refused to acknowledge that it might be what he feared …”

Okay, not at a door, but keen listening nonetheless.

OTHER SKILLS

“… – now like a botanist, scrutinising the ground; now like a dancer, leaping from crumbling edges.”

 

“Oh, he was cunning! When the priests stole out of the darkness to lap up the honey they were stretched senseless on the temple floor, for there was a drug in the honey that was offered to Hlo-Hlo.”

Which, of course, means the Thief needs to be reintroduced as a class in its own right into the Weird Fantasy edition, sending the vagabond back to the “subclass” category. This thief will likely have a couple different skills to bring to the table, though.

Of Armsmen and Puissants

I’ve put in some yeoman’s work on the Weird Fantasy Edition of Bloody Basic, and, in the process, had some inspiration for what I think I’m calling the Sinew & Steel Edition.

Sinew & Steel is designed to be a version of Bloody Basic with no magic or supernatural elements at all. In other words, it is role-playing in the real (well, mostly real) Middle Ages, with all the filth and plague you would expect from such a thing. Naturally, Sinew & Steel only has human characters, and they may (at least for now) take levels as armsmen (with the subclasses of barbarian, cavalier and cleric), thief (with the subclasses of assassin, charlatan, hedge wizard and minstrel) and scholar (specializing as a lawyer, theologian or leech). The game will feature some simple rules for strongholds, warfare, storming castles (rather than dungeons) and sieges. When you take out spells, monsters (outside of human and animal monsters) and magical treasure, you sure make a concise game, so I’m trying to fill the pages with other useful materials.

I need to get back to work on the next issue of NOD, and I need to set up my own little playtest of GRIT & VIGOR, but I think I might be able to complete Bloody Basic – Weird Fantasy Edition and Bloody Basic – Sinew & Steel Edition by sometime around mid-summer. And, of course, “midsummer” brings up the possibility of doing a Shakespeare edition of Bloody Basic. ‘Zounds, that would be fun!

Now, the armsman … or as the class is known in the Weird Fantasy Edition, the puissant.

The armsman uses the spell casting ability of the magic-user as a basis for using combat feats. I’ve brought this idea up before, and I’m certainly not the first person to think of it, but I thought I might post the class here for your enjoyment and use.

THE ARMSMAN
The armsman is a trained warrior, a master of fence, who is designed to dominate utterly the field of battle. While any sort of historical warrior can be portrayed using the armsman class, most wear heavy armor and carry the most potent weapons they can.

REQUIREMENTS & RESTRICTIONS – Armsmen must have a Strength score of 9 or higher. They can be of any religion, and they can use any weapon and wear any armor.

SPECIAL ABILITIES – Armsmen have the ability to perform feats of combat excellence while fighting. An armsman can perform a limited number of feats per day, based on their level and the level of difficulty of the feat. Armsmen know only a limited number of feats, beginning with three first level feats at first level. An armsman learns a new feat each time they advance in level. They might also learn additional feats from other armsmen.
At sixth level, an armsman gains a retainer. The retainer is a loyal companion under the control of the armsman’s player. The retainer is rolled randomly on the retainer table at the end of this section. The TK should roll ability scores for the retainer and assign them a name and religion. The armsman must pay for his retainer’s room and board. Arsmen receive 25% of the XP earned by the armsman.

FIRST LEVEL ARMSMAN FEATS

1. ARTFUL DODGE – You avoid one enemy attack this round, provided you are capable of moving.

2. CLEAVE – If you slay an opponent this round, you get an extra attack against another opponent within reach.

3. CRITICAL HIT – One successful attack you strike this round does an extra 1d6 points of damage.

4. FAR SHOT – You double the range of a missile weapon attack.

5. FIGHT BLIND – You can make one attack while blind without suffering any penalty on the attack.

6. GUARDS & WARDS – You accept a penalty to hit, and gain a bonus equal to that penalty to your own Armor Class.

7. IRON FIST – You may deal 1d4 points of damage with an unarmed strike this round.

8. POWER ATTACK – You accept a penalty to hit, and if your attack is successful gain a bonus equal to the penalty to damage.

9. QUICK – You add +1 to your initiative roll next round.

10. SHIELD BASH – You may attack with a shield at no penalty, scoring 1d4 points of damage if successful.

11. SWORD & DAGGER – You may attack with two weapons you are holding this round. One weapon can be of medium weight, the other must be light. The light weapon attacks at a penalty of -4 to your attack roll.

12. WEAPON FOCUS – Choose one weapon. For the remainder of this combat, you gain a +1 bonus to hit with that weapon.

SECOND LEVEL ARMSMAN FEATS

1. BULL RUSH – Any opponent you successfully attack this round is also knocked out of your way (up to 5 feet).

2. DEFLECT ARROWS – For one minute you can negate hits on you from missile weapons with a successful Reflex saving throw.

3. DISARM – Any opponent you successful attack this round is also disarmed of their weapon or any other item they are holding.

4. FEINT – Any opponent you successful attack this round is fooled into moving into an awkward position, and is denied an attack on their next turn (whether this round or the next).

5. GRAPPLE – Any opponent you successfully attack with an unarmed strike this round is also held and pinned by you. This pin is maintained until they make a successful attack roll against you.

6. STUNNING FIST – Any opponent you successfully attack with your unarmed strike is dazed for 1d4 rounds. While dazed, they may not move or attack, but can defend themselves.

7. SUNDER – Any opponent you attack this round also has their weapon, shield or some other item they are holding sundered in twain. Fragile items are broken instantly. Wooden items have a 2 in 6 chance of surviving. Metal items have a 4 in 6 chance.

8. TRIP – Any opponent you successfully attack this round is also knocked prone to the ground.

THIRD LEVEL ARMSMAN FEATS

1. GREAT CLEAVE – As long as you keep slaying opponents, you keep gaining extra attacks against new opponents within reach.

2. SHOT ON THE RUN – You may make a full run and still shoot or throw missiles without any penalty to your attacks.

3. SNATCH ARROWS – As deflect arrows, but you actually catch the missiles and may immediately, out of turn, throw them back at your attackers (if they are within range).

4. SPRING ATTACK – You may make a move, attack, and then make a second move.

5. WHIRLWIND ATTACK – You make one attack against every opponent within reach of your weapon. A penalty equal to the total number of attacks you are making is applied to each and every one of these attacks. Attacking five people, therefore, results in a -5 penalty to each of those five attacks.

BARBARIAN SUBCLASS
An armsman with a Constitution of 13 or higher can opt to be a barbarian. Barbarians are wild and woolly warriors from the wilderness. They eschew the civilized ways of normal armsmen. Barbarians do not gain the feats of an armsman and they cannot use armor heavier than maille. Barbarians can go berserk in one combat per day per level. While berserk, the barbarian deducts two from her Armor Class, but scores double damage with successful melee attacks. In addition, barbarians can climb sheer surfaces and move silently as thieves (see below).

THE CAVALIER SUBCLASS
An armsmen with a Dexterity score of 13 or higher can opt to be a cavalier. Cavaliers specialize in mounted combat. They suffer no penalty for fighting on horseback, and gain three special feats not available to other armsmen.

1. RIDE-BY ATTACK – While charging on a mount, the cavalier may attack at any point during the charge – in essence, making a move, attacking, and then moving again.

2. SPIRITED CHARGE – The cavalier deals double damage with his weapon attack while charging on a mount.

3. TRAMPLE – The cavalier can trample opponents with its mount by simply riding over them. The mount gets no attacks that round other than trampling, dealing double hoof damage to all in its path unless they pass a Reflex saving throw, in which case they cut the damage in half. The cavalier may still attack with his own weapon while trampling.

THE CLERIC SUBCLASS
An armsman with a wisdom of 13 or higher can opt to become a cleric. Clerics are religious knights or fighting priests. While clerics must have a religion, the extent of their faith is up to them. One can be a fighting bishop and give only cursory lip service to their faith. Clerics can bless, as theologians (see Scholar below).

The Landsknecht

Click to make larger … you know, so you can actually read it

The landsknechts – roughly translated as lowland vassals – were the preeminent mercenaries of Europe in the 16th century, surpassing the famous Swiss pikemen when they defeated them at the Battles of Bicocca and Marignano. The landsknechts were first formed in 1487 by Maximilian I, the Holy Roman Emperor, as an imitation of the Swiss pikemen. Like the Swiss, they relied primarily on the pike with support from crossbowmen, arquebusiers, halberdiers and swordsmen. The landknechts probably reached their height during the Thirty Years War (which is why I’m featuring the class in this issue).

What roll could a landsknecht play in dungeon exploration? It is a common practice to bring retainers into a dungeon to help overpower enemies and soak up their attacks for the player characters. The landsknecht is a master of soldiers, a captain in the field. The landsknecht may not be as powerful a front-line warrior as the fighter, but he brings friends and knows how to use them.

Experience Points: As Fighter

A landsknecht is not trained to fight solo, like a fighter, but rather in a company of warriors. When he starts his career, he is a slightly less powerful fighter, though he receives a +1 bonus to hit with spears, pikes and other polearms due to long training with these weapons.

As the landsknecht advances in level, he adds men-at-arms to his company. At each level beyond 1st, the landsknecht adds a single man-at-arms to his company. The man-at-arms equipment is rolled on the table below:

D10 ROLL
1-5. Pike (or spear), leather armor, dagger
6-8. Arquebus (or heavy crossbow), leather armor, scimitar
9. Halberd, leather armor, dagger
10. Greatsword, leather armor, dagger

These men-at-arms are the landsknecht’s personal guard, and do not count as his retainers. Retainers can still be hired separately by the landsknecht, and are commanded by him, but they do not benefit from his special abilities as his personal guard does.

A 3rd level landsknecht adds a trabant to his personal guard. The trabant is a 2 HD warrior armed with a greatsword, dagger and ringmail.

A 5th level landsknecht adds a kaplan (chaplain) to his personal guard. The kaplan has the same alignment and patron deity as the landsknecht. He fights as a 2 HD warrior and casts spells as a level two adept. The kaplan is armed with a light mace, buckler and chainmail shirt.
Once per day, a 6th level landsknecht can inspire his personal guard to amazing levels of courage. As long as he is within 10 feet of them, they enjoy a +1 bonus to save vs charm and fear effects, and a +1 bonus to hit and damage for one battle.

A 7th level landsknecht adds a führer (guide) to his personal guard. The guide fights as a 2 HD warrior and has the track and survival skills as a 2nd level ranger.

Once per day, an 8th level landsknecht can inspire his personal guard to greatness. All troops within 30 feet of the landsknecht gain 1 Hit Dice, an additional +1 bonus to hit and damage, and a +1 bonus on all Fortitude saving throws for the duration of one battle.

A 9th level landsknecht adds a standard bearer (and personal standard) to his personal guard at 9th level. The standard increases the fighting ability of his special troops (trabant, kaplan, führer) by one hit dice, and grants his entire personal guard a +1 bonus to save vs. fear and magic spells. The standard bearer fights as a 3 HD warrior, using his standard as a quarterstaff. He also carries a dagger and wears a breastplate.

It is not uncommon for a landsknecht to lose troops, of course. Any troops lost from his personal guard can be purchased in a settlement (town-sized or larger) at a cost of 10 gp per soldier plus equipment costs. Special troops can be purchased for 100 gp plus equipment costs.