Your Kung-Fu Could be Better …

When writing GRIT & VIGOR, I wanted to include some martial arts. You can’t very well have manly adventures without a few face kicks and quivering palms. To that end, there is a sub-class of fighter called the boxer which is, essentially, the monk class without the supernatural abilities.

Since the game uses feats, I decided to create several feats to simulate different styles of martial arts. All of them have prerequisites, of course, but could probably be taken by 6th level or so. Here’s a little preview of the martial arts master feats. You might find them handy in your game if it uses feats or something similar, or perhaps you could adapt them as special abilities for a martial artist class in your game.

Aikido Master

Prerequisites: Int 13+, Pugilist (or Boxer), Dodge, Expertise

An aikido master can sacrifice his own attacks against a grappled opponent to lock them into combat. Each round, the aikido master makes an attack roll, noting the total. To break the lock, the aikido master’s opponent must make an attack roll with a result higher than the aikido master’s Armor Class and higher than the aikido master’s attack roll. If he fails, he may not move or attack anyone else. If he succeeds, he may either count the attack towards the aikido master and deal damage as normal, or instead move or attack another.

Bagyazhang Master

Prerequisites: Con 13+, Pugilist (or Boxer Class), Great Fortitude, Iron Will

The baguazhang master adds his Constitution bonus to his Armor Class and to Reflex saving throws. This is in addition to his Dexterity modifier, not in place of it.

Bartitsu Master

Prerequisites: 13+, Pugilist (or Boxer), Dodge, Look Smart

When the bartitsu master gets his opponent into a grapple, the opponent must pass an Endure task check each round the grapple is maintained or succumb to pain and fall unconscious for 1d4 rounds.

Capoeira Master

Prerequisites: Dex 13+, Pugilist (or Boxer Class), Brawler, Lightning Reflexes

When fighting three or more opponents, a capoeira master may make one free trip attack per round, in addition to his normal attack, against one of those opponents.

Jujutsu Master

Prerequisites: Int 13+, Pugilist (or Boxer), Expertise, Trip

When using the throw or trip combat maneuvers, a jujutsu master adds his opponent’s strength bonus to his own strength bonus when rolling his attack roll.

Karate Master

Prerequisites: Str 13+, Pugilist (or Boxer Class), Cleave, Power Attack

Karate masters deal triple damage with critical hits when making an unarmed attack. Items rolling a saving throw to avoid being destroyed by a karate master do so at a -2 penalty.

Savate Master

Prerequisites: Str 13+, Pugilist (or Boxer Class), Brawler, Power Attack

When a savate master makes a successful unarmed attack against an opponent and rolls a critical hit, the opponent is stunned for one round or knocked prone (player’s choice) in addition to suffering damage.

Taekwondo Master

Prerequisites: Attack bonus +2 or higher, Pugilist (or Boxer Class), Flying Kick

You can make an unarmed attack against an opponent that is behind you at no penalty, or strike two flanking opponents by rolling an attack against each and splitting your attack bonus between them.

T’ai Chi Ch’uan Master

Prerequisites: Dex 13+, Pugilist (or Boxer), Dodge, Iron Will

When a t’ai chi ch’uan master is attacked in combat and missed, he may force his opponent to pass a Reflex saving throw or be grappled, or a Fortitude saving throw or be pushed back 5 feet.

Wing Chun Master

Prerequisites: Dex 13+, Pugilist (or Boxer Class), Dodge, Great Fortitude

Wing chun masters may re-roll failed saving throws made to resist combat maneuvers.

Xing Yi Quan Master

Prerequisites: Str 13+, Pugilist (or Boxer Class), Look Smart, Power Attack

When a xing yi quan master uses his power attack feat against an opponent at +3 to damage and -3 to hit and successfully attacks, he stuns his opponent for 1 round.

Grit & Vigor – Sample Characters

I’m finishing up on the final editing of Grit & Vigor this week (and maybe next), and thought folks might be interested in seeing a few randomly rolled up characters for the game.

The four characters below were created using the normal character generation rules – nothing special, no cheating – and should give you an idea of what 1st level characters might look like in the game.

For the first character, I’ll include a few notes in italics. Keep in mind I’m still editing and testing a bit, so there could be some changes between these fellows and the final product.

Emerson McLeod

Strength: 12
Dexterity: 13 (+1 bonus)
Constitution: 12
Intelligence: 12
Wisdom: 17 (+2 bonus)
Charisma: 16 (+2 bonus)

Ability scores are rolled in the “traditional way” (whichever traditional way you like). The bonuses and penalties are as in Blood & Treasure. In this case, I rolled 3d6 in order for the first two characters, and then 4d6 drop the lowest in order for the second two. Honestly – roll the dice however you want!

Alignment: Chaotic Good
Class: Rogue (Private Eye)
Level: 1
Hit Points: 5
Attack Bonus: +0
Saves: F15 R13 W14

Again, nothing too foreign here. Alignment has much less meaning in this game, since it isn’t bound up on lots of spells and special abilities. The game has four main classes – fighter, scholar, rogue and daredevil, and multiple sub-classes. Private eye is a sub-class of rogue.

Background: Won the big game at school, got chemistry set as kid, talked way out of many scrapes
Knacks: Athletics (Str), Chemistry (Int)
Skills: Cant (Cha), Crack Code (Int), Gather Intelligence (Cha), Hide in Shadows (Dex), Listen at Doors (Wis), Move Silently (Dex), Search (Wis), Sleight of Hand (Dex), Track (humans only) (Wis)
Feats: Dodge, Improvise
Weapons: Brass Knuckles, Switchblade, Pistol, Revolver
Abilities: Backstab (x2 damage), notice concealed items (1 in 6), notice clues (2 in 6), note deception (4 in 6), get a hint (Will save, mod by Int)
Drive/Hunger: Tobacco

Backgrounds are rolled randomly, usually three rolls, and replace the concept of “racial abilities”, giving starting characters bonus knacks, feats and ability score adjustments. The game uses the same task system as B&T, and feats in this one are not optional. Drives and hungers help flesh out a character – this guy has a tobacco addiction, so he’s probably a heavy smoker.

Starting Money: $80
Spent: $73.85
Gear: Revolver, 20 bullets, lock pick set, switchblade, brass knuckles, business clothes, overcoat, concealed carry holster, standard flashlight, binoculars, fake identification, camera, camera film

The money system uses dollars as a catch-all. I’m still playing with the values, but this gives an idea of a starting character’s equipment. Characters start with $5 to spend per point of Charisma (to keep it from being a dump stat).

Alvin “Doc” Bailey

Strength: 12
Dexterity: 6 (-1 penalty)
Constitution: 12
Intelligence: 14 (+1 bonus)
Wisdom: 7 (-1 penalty)
Charisma: 10

Alignment: Neutral
Class: Scholar
Level: 1
Hit Points: 5
Attack Bonus: +0
Saves: F15 R14 W13

Background: Sneaked out for beer and girls, raised in poverty, worked on a farm
Knacks: Move Silently (Dex)
Skills: Chemistry (Int), Communicate (Cha), Crack Codes (Int), Display Knowledge (Int), Electronics (Int), Mechanics (Int) and Search (Wis)
Feats: Improvise, Toughness
Weapons: Dagger, Revolver
Abilities: Special focus (engineering), jury-rig devices, maximize performance
Drives/Hungers: Danger, Superstition

Starting Money: $50.00
Spent: $41.16
Gear: Dagger, revolver, 12 bullets, smoke grenade, tear gas grenade, gelatine, acid vial, electronics kit, chemistry set, travel bag, casual clothes, hip holster

John Harrow

Strength: 12
Dexterity: 14 (+1 bonus)
Constitution: 9
Intelligence: 12
Wisdom: 10
Charisma: 14 (+1 bonus)

Alignment: Neutral Evil
Class: Fighter (Duelist)
Level: 1
Hit Points: 8
Attack Bonus: +1
Saves: F13 R14 W15

Background: Worked as prize fighter, worked summers on a boat, took fencing lessons from an old master
Knacks: Seafaring
Skills: Bend Bars & Lift Gates (Str), Break Down Doors (Str), Gymnastics (Dex), Jump (Str)
Feats: Dodge, Exploit Weakness, Two-Weapon Fighting
Weapons: Cavalry Saber, Foil, Dagger, Pistol, Rapier
Abilities: Dominate foes, specialist weapon (x2 damage with rapier)
Drive/Hunger: Superstition, Vanity, Women

Starting Money: $70
Spent: $60.65
Gear: Pistol, 50 bullets, 2 daggers, business clothes

Sally Rae Stewart

Strength: 11
Dexterity: 14 (+1 bonus)
Constitution: 9
Intelligence: 10
Wisdom: 14 (+1 bonus)
Charisma: 14 (+1 bonus)

Alignment: Chaotic Neutral
Class: Daredevil (Grease Monkey)
Level: 1
Hit Points: 7
Attack Bonus: +0
Saves: F13 R13 W14

Background: Studied physics, raised in poverty, helped out in the garage
Knacks: Mechanics
Skills: Appraise Value (Motor Vehicles) (Int), Drive Car (Dex), Mechanics (Int), Ride Bike (Dex), Search (Wis)
Feats: Improvise, Modern Archimedes, Stuntman
Weapons: Club, Dagger, Revolver
Abilities: Treat wrenches as maces, maximize performance (motorcycles, cars), increase top speed by 10%, can apply combat feats to vehicles, +1 to hit vehicles, + level in damage to vehicles
Drive/Hunger: Money, Tobacco

Starting Money: $70.00
Spent: $38.50
Equipment: Monkey wrench, revolver, 10 bullets, casual clothes, tool belt, CB radio, mechanical tool kit, duct tape (2 rolls), car opening kit, road flares (3), rope (150’)

Black Death Preview

Today, I’m talking about my next Quick & Easy (though that classification might not fit exactly) game, Black Death. Obviously, it’s a cheery game about rainbows and gumdrops.

The idea for Black Death was really just an image of a guy being molested by a skeleton. From there, it turned into a game set during the religious wars of the 16th and 17th centuries, culminating in the devastating Thirty Years War, in which all the fighting and condemnations and general hatred have allowed Hell to burst forth on Earth. Now the Catholics and Protestants also get to deal with demons, the undead and other fantasy creatures. Into this cesspool of violence, black magic and disease (lots of disease), a band of mercenaries, picaros and itinerant scholars does their best to survive and thrive.

Here are a few bits and pieces from the game as it currently stands. Right now, it’s about 80% there – written, but with lots of editing and tweaking needed, but well on its way. I’ve also got the hex map for NOD 28 done (need to start writing my buns off), and I’m doing another round of edits on GRIT & VIGOR.

Abilities: Strength, Agility, Constitution, Intelligence, Willpower, Perception and Charisma.

Allegiance: This can be to a religion, nation or other concept. Characters get to allegiances, and they get an experience bonus when they serve them (which may pit characters against one another, if their allegiance’s clash)

Classes: Hoo boy, there are a few of these. Since classes in Q&E games are just a collection of skills, it’s not too hard to build them. Each of these classes also have a special ability each. Here are a few examples:

HexenhammerHexenhammers are witch hunters, scouring the countryside for the tools of Satan (or harmless-but-scary old women, as the case may be). Hexenhammers are possessed of a frightening determination, and once they are on the scent of a witch, they do not stop their hunt until they have their quarry. Every hexenhammer carries with her a well-worn copy of the Malleus Maleficarum, a guide book for witch hunters.

Primary Skills: Fighting (Str)
Secondary Skills: Endure (Con), Intimidate (Str), Prayer (Wil)

Special Ability: After long study of the Malleus Maleficarum, hexenhammers know well their ways. They can use a Sixth Sense task check to sense the presence of witches, conjurers, heretics and tools of Satan within 60’.

The landsknechts are mercenaries, fighters-for-hire that care little about the cause, only the reward. English mercenaries might instead be called “gentleman adventurers”, Italians “condottieri” and the Swiss “reisläufer”, but they’re all just mercenaries. When a general is willing to pay them, they are happy to fight battles. When clients are in short supply, they are happy to turn to brigandage or adventuring to earn a living.

Primary Skills: Fighting (Str)
Secondary Skills: Marksmanship (Dex), Carouse (Con), Endure (Con)

Special Ability: Landsknechts are well trained in the fighting arts, and may use any armor and any melee or missile weapon, regardless of their current Fighting or Marksmanship skill values (q.v.).

Magicians practice the scholarly magic of the Renaissance. While they themselves may be benevolent, they must have truck with demons to produce their magical effects, and therefore are considered suspect by most decent folk. Magicians are usually to be found in the robes of a magic, or in the dress of a gentleman or gentlewoman with one or several grimoires on their person, heavily annotated in the margins and smelling slightly of sulfur. The most famous of their number is perhaps Doctor Faustus.

Primary Skills: Invocation (Int)
Secondary Skills: Flee (Agi), Fortune Telling (Wil), Learning (Int)

Special Ability: Conjurers receive their magical knowledge from books, and are thus always literate. When they have a grimoire in hand, they can use it to aid in their magic. For each grimoire they possess, they can add +1 to their Invocation score during a task check, but add one combat round to the time it takes them to cast the spell.

Other classes include the archer, barbarian, cleric, courtesan, doctor, flagellant, fool, gypsy, hunter, inquisitor, knight (dame), mariner, musketeer, picaro, professor, rakehell, rat-catcher, resurrectionist, robber, satanist, student prince, trader and witch.

When these classes run around killing things (or trying not to be killed), they’ll have a big list of weapons. I went a little nuts on the weapons, and each weapon is capable of a “weapon trick” in place of doing damage – things like tripping people, backing them up, disarming them, crushing armor.

There’s a section on disease – lots of opportunities to catch something nasty – and on damnation. Damnation points are collected when people do bad things – absolution by the church can remove them, as can holy quests and pilgrimages.  The more damnation points, the harder it is for holy magic to work on you, and the more likely you bear a “mark of Satan” – i.e. a mutation.

There are lots of monsters – undead and demons, but also fey creatures. The monsters are mostly from Central European myth and folklore, but some other bits and pieces as well, such as from Dante’s Inferno.

It’s still a pretty quick and easy game to play (I think), but it does look like it’s going to be about 88 pages long – about twice the size of earlier efforts. I’ll keep folks updated.

Oh, and here’s an early draft of the map, broken into regions for easy travel rules.

Grit & Vigor … Almost Reality

Over the past weekend, I finished Grit & Vigor. Okay, 99% of it. Just need to rewrite an intro and do an appendix on how it can interact with Blood & Treasure. My first round of editing is done, though, and I have to say I’m pretty jazzed. When I write these things, I often write (and re-write) them in pieces, somewhat in the way movies are filmed. Reading through it to edit it was the first time I’d really look at it from cover to cover, and overall I was happy for two reasons:

1) I kept getting ideas for adventures and characters while I was reading

2) I kept statting characters in my head, and they made sense with the rules I’d written

G&V has been a pretty long time coming. It started life as Action X, but I never really liked the name and the game, as it stood then essentially a reworking of the Modern SRD into a more rules lite vehicle, had no soul. The shift to Grit & Vigor and “manly adventure stories” helped quite a bit – gave the game some direction and made it more fun for me.

What I thought I would do with this post is give a somewhat extensive “table of contents” for the game, so people could see what it looks like currently. My comments are in brackets. Here goes …

I. Rugged Individualists: Creating Your Character

… Ability Score [the basic six – you know them]
… Character Backgrounds [this replaces “race”, and consists of random rolls on tables to determine the four big moments in your character’s young life, and the feats or knacks or ability bonuses that go along with them]
… Character Classes
… … Fighters [with sub-classes Boxer, Commando, Dragoon, Dreadnought, Duelist, Gunfighter, Man-At-Arms, Ranger, Samurai and Sapper]
… … Brain [with sub-classes Archaeologist, Gentleman Detective and Inventor]
… … Rogue [with sub-classes Assassin, Gentleman, Grifter and Gumshoe]
… … Daredevil [with sub-classes Ace Reporter, Barnstormer, Big Game Hunter, Cowboy, Gearhead, Jungle Lord, Medic, Spaceman and Vigilante]
[The sub-classes are all really just variations of the main class, so they’re pretty simple for the most part and don’t take up much room]
… Feats [more integral to G&V than B&T]
… Character Details
… … Alignment
… … Drives and Hungers
… … Personality and Description
… … Patrons

II. Tools of the Trade: Gear and Gadgets for the Adventurous Man
… [this includes weapons, protective gear, artillery, miscellaneous gear and vehicles]

III. Man Versus: Overcoming Challenges and Providing Sound Thrashings
… [the basic rules of play, including rules for intoxicants and radiation]
… Tasks
… … Charisma: Cant, Communicate, Don Disguise, Etiquette, Gather Intelligence, Handle Animal, Hypnotize, Influence People, Perform, Throw Voice
… … Constitution: Endure
… … Dexterity: Drive Car, Escape Bonds, Gymnastics, Hide in Shadows, Move Silently, Open Lock, Pilot Aircraft, Ride Bike, Ride Mount, Shoot Billiards, Ski, Sky Dive, Sleight of Hand, Surf, Woodworking
… … Intelligence: Appraise Value, Bomb Target, Chemistry, Crack Code, Demolitions, Display Knowledge, Electronics, Forge Document, Gunnery, Mechanics, Practice Vocation, Survive Outdoors, Treat Injury
… … Strength: Athletics, Bend Bars & Lift Gates, Break Down Doors, Climb Sheer Surfaces, Jump, Swim
… … Wisdom: Gamble, Listen at Doors, Prospect, Seafaring, Search, Spelunk, Track
… Combat [includes the special maneuvers Airplane Spin, Bum Rush, Dazzle, Gouge, Ranged Disarm and Ranged Sunder]
… … Zero-Gravity Combat
… Damage & Death [includes rules for “the death scene”]
… Vehicles [I think I have some very simple rules for vehicle combat and chases here – pretty happy with them]

IV. Bold Ventures: Designing Adventures and Campaigns
… Genres: Crime, Espionage, Expeditions into the Unknown, Horror, Kung-Fu, Mystery & Suspense, Siege, War
… Timeline of Adventure: this covers the decades from 1880 to 1929, with notes on the overall happenings of the decade, fashion, adventure ideas, the price of gold and silver and then a year-by-year timeline of events that lend themselves to the game (wars, robberies, expeditions, discoveries, inventions) and stats for weapons and vehicles (and other things) introduced in that year, and some NPC stats worked in (see example to left)

V. Men & Monsters: Fearsome Foes to Fight and Conquer
… [the typical monster section, with an emphasis on animals and humans, but some cryptids and science-fantasy stuff thrown in as well]

Appendix A: The Supernatural
… [the book includes mentions of the supernatural throughout, especially in the Men & Monsters section, but I decided to separate the supernatural rules from the main rules in this appendix so people would understand that they are truly optional]
… Psychic Phenomena [rules for the chances a character is psychic, and list and description of psychic powers]
… Supernatural Sub-Classes [Occultist, Psychic and Vampire Hunter – all sub-classes of the Brain]

So that’s the book, as it now stands. There’s some more layout work to do, a bit more playtesting to do, and a bit more writing to do. At the moment, it looks good for a Fall release.

Dragon by Dragon … July 1978

Dragon #16 holds great promise based on the cover alone – a bad-ass barbarian and the word “ninja” …

To begin with, a gentle commentary from Kask regarding the amount of fiction in the magazine:

“Due to the length of the conclusion of THE GREEN MAGICIAN, we found it necessary to add an additional four pages this issue. Contrary to what some Philistines might think, this is not a fiction magazine. The Philistines I refer to are the ones that don’t want to see any fiction at all in these pages. To forestall the howls, the extra four pages were added to compensate, not that the story NEEDS compensating for.”

Gerald Guinn kicks this issue off with a rebuttal to a letter criticizing The Cthulhu Mythos Revisited. An entertaining exchange one would now expect to see … well, on every message board and blog frequented by geeks.

Jerome Arkenberg brings us the Near Eastern Mythos. Like the other articles in this series, it keeps it short and sweet and covers quite a bit of ground – everyone from An(s) to Ziusudra(s). The heroes in this article would be especially useful for swords and sandals campaigns – heck, this article, a map of the Near East and a few dungeon maps would be all you need to run a great campaign. The scorpion men are worth a look …

Scorpion Man: HP 240 (holy crap!), AC 1, MV 20″, Magic as 15th level wizard, fighter ability as 15th level lord and Class I psionic ability.

Okay, gonzo stats, but a sweet piece of art. I also love the fact that the “artifacts” presented would, in modern D&D circles, be considered fairly weak magic items.

After the Near Eastern mythos, we have the big article of the issue – The Ultimate NPC: Ninja – The DM’s Hit Man by Sheldon Price. I can hear the audible gasps of the “dick DM” crowd and the clicking of their teeth. To be honest, they have a point, but I think the article also needs to be seen in the context of the time. With characters bouncing around from game to game, there was the real danger of a ridiculously powerful character (probably played by a cheater) showing up to ruin everyone’s fun.

Here’s the rundown – Ninjas are limited to 16th level and must be neutral; they cannot use psionics. Their special abilities include seeing in the dark, tracking (as ranger with 20% penalty), simulate death, poison use (lots of rules here), far travel (2nd to 5th level 50 miles a day, 6th to 9th level 75 miles per day, 10th level or higher 100 miles per day – a unique ability), they prefer no armor but will wear leather or chainmail and they have a special shield called a neru-kuwa, they attack as a fighter, can attack open-handed as a monk and use judo as a samurai (originally in … uh, some other issue), they get a save vs. all damage, save as magic-users of one level higher against spells and can attack with any weapon at a -3 penalty, save ninja weapons they have mastered and weapons associated with a disguise class they have learned. Otherwise they save as a fighter. Their disguises are learned randomly. The article goes on a bit … go read it. It’s actually not too shabby in terms of being overpowered, especially since it’s assumed that one or two ninjas will be taking on an entire party and their retinues.

James Ward does another The Adventures of Monty Haul #3. This involves Freddie and his love of the weird. A sample:

“We appeared on a frosty plain of ice and snow with four Storm Giants swinging their weapons and Monty chuckling something about “minor guards”. We heard the sound of three clubs and a magic sword going smash, smash, smash, and chop. Mike’s gargoyle was a grease smear on one of the clubs, Tom’s Monk was down to one hit point, Dave’s cleric was really hurting, and Jake’s golem had one of its arms cut off by the vorpal sword. Robert clove one in two with his sword while Ernie’s and my cold rays took care of two more (and the sword, we found out a bit later). The last one was missed by the rest of the group, but it didn’t miss me for thirty-six points of bruises and nicks. With the next round, we were able to finish the giants off before the last one did any more damage. They didn’t have a copper coin’s worth of treasure on them, and we weren’t pleased. After a bunch of cure spells and a raise dead on the gargoyle, we still hadn’t figured out what to do about the golem’s arm. We just let it go and traveled on. Tim and Brian put on some of the dead guard’s clothes (which everyone thought was a good idea) and we were on our way towards a batch of caves.”

E. Gary Gygax covers a bit of ground in the Sorcerer’s Scroll with Role-Playing: Realism vs. Game Logic; Spell Points, Vanity Press and Rip-offs.  The essence is – some people are morons when they propose fixes to D&D, and they are an irritation to Gygax not because of vanity, but because they don’t understand game logic. Two quotes:

“The uniform element amongst these individuals is a complete failure to grasp the simple fact that D&D is a game. Its rules are designed and published so as to assure a balanced and cohesive whole.”

“D&D encourages inventiveness and originality within the framework of its rules. Those who insist on altering the framework should design their own game. Who can say that such an effort might not produce a product superior to D&D? Certainly not I.”

The bit about Weapon Expertise being stupid considering that any fighting-man worth his salt would practice with all arms all the time is funny, considering he had just published the AD&D Player’s Handbook with the weapon proficiency rules.

In a Design Variant article, Charles Sagui explains Why Magic Users & Clerics Cannot Use Swords. In essence: For balance in the game, and Tolkien didn’t write D&D, so I don’t care if Gandalf could use a sword. Sagui works out a system where clerics can use edged weapons, but whatever damage they score with those weapons must be paid with by losing spells or, if they’re out of spells, losing their own hit points. Weird, but kinda fun.

A. Mark Ratner presents Metamorphosis Alpha Modifications. This one covers the lack of mutants having a leadership potential, and thus being unable to use devices and weapons they find. I’m not sure that wasn’t the intention in the rules, but Ratner proposes a mechanical aptitude ability for mutants. More importantly, he presents a great big chart of mutated animals, including pigmy elephants, so you know it’s legit.

Next up is the second part of The Green Magician by L. Sprague deCamp.

“Shea’s intention was to jerk the blade loose with a twist to one side to avoid the downcoming slash. But the point stuck between his enemy’s ribs, and, in the instant it failed to yield, Nera’s blade, weakened and wavering, came down on Shea’s left shoulder. He felt the sting of steel and in the same moment the sword came loose as Nera folded up wordlessly.”

Hard not to fall in love with Belphebe.

Wormy involves Irving the imp selling dwarf burgers to a hungry crowd that includes a wereboar. Frank the tree troll takes him out with a club. Almost forgot Dudly and Frank – excellent characters. The gaming world really lost out when Wormy ceased.

Fineous Fingers, meanwhile, turns back to help his pals against the evil knight.

We finish up with a Design Forum article by James Ward on Game Balance. This involves the rate at which magic item treasure is given out – Gygax, Kask and Kuntz all want it restricted – Ward, on the other hand, loves it. He introduces the idea of Game Equilibrium. In this concept, the DM doesn’t care how much magic the players have. He uses plenty of it in his hordes … but he lets the defenders of those hordes use the magic items. In essence, Ward embraces the DM vs. players concept wholeheartedly, like a great big game of Spy vs. Spy. Not a bad style of play, in my opinion, if everybody involved is a good sport.

Well – I got steaks to grill. Have fun on the internet folks, and make sure you buy a copy of Blood & Treasure!

Battle of Gaudin’s Ford – Final Rounds [Blood & Treasure]

You didn’t think I forgot about the battle, did you? Of course, since today is the 4th of July, I wish I’d pitted Red Coats against Yankees, but I’ll have to settle for halflings and orcs.


Click to enlarge

The halflings and orcs both find themselves in an interesting predicament with the annihilation of the billmen. The orcs should want to follow it up and charge in … but then they’re surrounded by angry halflings. Likewise, the halflings should want to plug the hole … but then a company of boyos has to take on the orc blackguards all by its lonesome. What to do?

The halflings decide to do the following … the surviving sheriff will retreat back to the safety of Halfling C. Those companies will stay put. The elves would really like to fire their bows at those orcs, but instead they’re going to wheel back a bit. The other halflings are going to hold their ground. All of the halfling’s with missile weapons, except Halfling I and Halfling G, are going to concentrate fire on Orc A. Halfling I is going to fire on Orc G and Halfling G is going to fire on Orc H.

The orcs decide, in true orky fashion, to charge. Orc A is going to charge in to Halfling D – if Halfling B gets in the way, they’ll hack down the elves first. This will, they hope, free up Orc E to slam into the side of Halfling I, along with Orc G. Orc H is going to attack Halfling G. Orc B is going to fire at Halfling F and Orc C at Halfling E.

So, how does it play out?

Missile Phase
Since the last report, I’ve modified the rules a bit to use normal side vs. side initiative which has to be re-rolled for each phase. For this missile phase, the orcs roll a ‘6’ and the halflings a ‘5’.

The orc crossbows let fly their bolts. Orc B scores no damage on Halfling F. Orc C inflicts 7 points of damage on Halfling E, whose leader, Merlyn, rolls his save and suffers no damage.

Orc A suffers 7 points of damage. Thundergut saves and suffers no damage. They’re battered, but they didn’t break! Halfling G scores 2 points of damage on Orc H, and sub-chief Nardo saves, so no damage. Halfling I is pretty ineffective against Orc G, scoring 5 points of damage. On the plus side, this is enough to force a moral check! The orcs, without their leader, fail the check and will begin moving away next round. The worg riders, who have been ordered to attack Halfling I, might be in trouble.

Movement Phase
Orcs roll “1” and Halflings roll “1” – they re-roll initiative and this time the halflings win.
The elves move back, and everyone else holds. The orcs now have two forced moves. The Orc G swims for their own side of the river, while the fleeing ogres in Orc D run off the battlefield. Orc A charges into Halfling D, Orc E wheels into the flank of Halfling I and Orc H rushes up the river bank to attack Halfling G. Plenty of melee combat this round!

Melee Phase
Orcs gain initiative this round, and they’re going to need it with three units already having fled or being in retreat.

Orc E plunges into Halfling I and scores 6 points of damage. Because they’re hitting the far flank, I’m going to rule that Father Godwin doesn’t have to save to avoid damage this round.

Orc A works their magic again … 14 points of damage on Halfling D. Finn, the leader of Halfling D, fails his save and is killed in the onslaught. The halflings now have to roll a morale check – they fail, and turn to flee. Because they’re in melee combat, they expose themselves to pursuit and an extra attack. The orcs score another hit, this one for 2 points of damage, reducing Halfling D’s hit points to 4.

Orc H, scrambling from the river fail to score any damage on Halfling G, who responds by scoring 3 points of damage on the yobbos.

Halfling I now counterattacks Orc E. They fail to score any damage.

No magic this round, so we go to …

Click to enlarge

The halflings know they have to destroy Orc A to break the orc army. To that end, Halfling C is going to wheel and attack their flank while Halfling E does the same from the other direction. Halfling B is going to wheel back and wait for an opening. Halfling H is going to join battle with Orc H. Halfling F sling their stones at Orc B. Halfling I is going to maneuver while in melee – essentially, they’re going to change formation this round into a square.

Orc B and C are not going to reload this round, but rather hustle towards the lines. The orc chief needs orcs on the line to hold the bank and claim victory. Orc E and H are going to continue to attack, and Orc A is going to wheel and hit Halfling C in its flank. Clearly, initiative will be important this round.

Missile Phase
No initiative this round, since only the halflings are shooting. Halfling F scores 5 points of damage on Orc B. Sub-chief Gruk fails his save and suffers the same – he’s a tough old bird, though, and keeps on breathing.

Movement Phase
Big initiative roll this round, and the orcs win it! Orc B and C move forward. They might end up being too late to do any good. Orc A wheels and moves into Halfling C’s flank. Orc G makes it out of the water on their way to flee the field.

Meanwhile, Halfling D continues to flee and Halfling E wheels and charges into the rear of Orc A. Halfling B wheels and moves back. Halfling H moves to attack Orc H.

Melee Phase
Orcs lose initiative this time to the halflings. The plucky Halfling C, flanked by the orcs, manages to score 2 points of damage on the blackguards. Halfling E, despite a rear attack and charge, score no damage. The orcs still have 11 hit points, so they don’t have to check morale yet. But the halfling leaders do some damage as well. Samwinn and Merlyn inflicts another 2 hit points of damage on Orc A – now they have to make a morale check and fail badly. This is probably it for the orcs. They immediately flee back for the river ford, and Halfling E pursues (C choose not to), but fails to score any more damage. Thundergut failed his save, and suffered 4 points of damage as well.

Halfling I continues to fight at a disadvantage against Orc E, and scores no damage.
Halfling G and H attack Orc H, combining for 4 points of damage (tough little buggers, those halfling slingers). Sub-chief Nardo fails his save this time, and takes a shiv to the ribs. He’s dead, but I’ve rewritten the rules so that the loss of a leader does not necessitate a morale check.

The orcs (what’s left of them) counterattack. Orc E scores 8 points of damage on Halfling I. They’re one point away from a morale check. Orc H scores 2 points of damage against Halfling G. Muriel fails her save and suffers 2 points of damage. Halfling G is down by at least 50% of their hit points, so they roll a morale check and pass. They stand and fight.

No magic again, so the end of round six!

At the end of Round Six, the battlefield is a bit chaotic, but the halflings seem to have the upper hand. Even if Thundergut rallies his blackguards, they’re going to have trouble turning the tide. We’ll give this day to the halflings. I learned quite a bit from this little demonstration, and I’m now ready to apply what I learned to the final mass combat rules in Blood & Treasure.

Blood & Treasure … I’m Kinda Done

Over the weekend I finished writing Blood & Treasure. Yippee!

Up next is the final editing, which I’m beginning now (I also have a few illustrations I’m waiting on – and thanks to Jon Kaufman and Ndege Diamond for their work in this area, and of course Tanner Yea for his editing prowess) and hope to finish in about a week. After that, I create some PDFs and begin selling them while I wait for a hard copy to review – I’m trying to use the thinnest margins possible to keep the overall page count of the books as low as possible, but if the result is hard to read/use, I’ll have to fix the layout.

Anyhow, I though that people who are interested in the project might like to the a quick and dirty version of the table of contents (note: not actual TOC – I can’t really do that until I have something physical to work out the page numbering) for this beast:

I. Getting Started

II. Characters
Ability scores
Races (human, dwarf, elf, gnome, halfling, half-elf, half-orc)
Classes (assassin, barbarian, bard, cleric, druid, duelist, fighter, magic-user, monk, paladin, ranger, sorcerer, thief)
Changing Class
Feats (optional rule)
Henchmen & Hirelings
– Adepts
Character Details
– Alignment (3-fold and 9-fold)
– Alignment languages
– Personality and description
– Selecting a domain
– Clearing a domain of monsters
– Designing a stronghold
– Establishing your rule (includes random events)

Web spell by Jon Kaufman

III. Magic
Arcane Spells
Divine Spells
Spell-Like Abilities
Arcane Magical Writings
Magical Research
Spell Descriptions (627 spells)

IV. Rules of Play
Saving Throws
– Item saving throws
– Starvation and thirst
– Light
– Falling
– Disease
– Poison
Heroic Tasks
– Bend Bars
– Break Down Doors
– Balance
– Climb Sheer Surfaces
– Decipher Codes
– Escape Bonds
– Find Secret Doors
– Find Traps
– Hide in Shadows
– Jump
– Listen at Doors
– Move Silently
– Open Locks
– Pick Pockets
– Remove Traps
– Riding
– Survival
– Swimming
– Tracking
– Trickery
– Skill Points (optional rule)
– Initiative
– Combat Actions
o Melee Attacks
o Ranged Attacks
o Hitting in Combat
o Charging
o Fighting Defensively
o Tactical Advantage
o Special Attacks
o Fighting with Two Weapons
o Running Away
o Mounted Combat
o Underwater Combat
o Turning Undead
Damage and Death
– Hit Point Damage
o Alternate Dying Rules
– Ability Score Damage & Drain
– Energy Drain
– Healing
Mass Combat
Naval Combat
Example of Play

V. Adventures
– Mapping
– Dungeon Walls
– Dungeon Floors
– Dungeon Doors
– Dungeon Rooms
– Dungeon Corridors
– Other Dungeon Features
– Cave-Ins
– Slimes, Molds & Fungi
– Traps
– Running Dungeon Adventures
– Random Dungeon Chamber Generator
– Designing a wilderness
– Wilderness encounters
– Wilderness movement
– Wilderness combat
– Wilderness dangers
– Random Wilderness Hex Generator
Civilization & Settlements
– Vistas
– To map or not to map
– Goods for sale
– Rulers
– The long arm of the law
– The dogs of war
– Notable citizens
– Random encounters
– Urban adventure hooks
– Random Settlement Generator
The Planes
– Planar traits
– Elemental and energy traits
– Alignment traits
– Magic
– How planes interact
– One possible cosmology

VI. Monsters
Monster Size
Monster Type
Monster Intelligence
Monster Organization
Other Stats
Special Attacks and Abilities
Making Monsters
– Reskinning
– Modifications
– Creating a new monster
Monster Encounters
Monsters as Characters

Xaoc by Ndege Diamond

Monster Descriptions (538 monsters)
A – Aasimar to Azer (31 monsters)
B – Baboon to Burrawog (35 monsters)
C – Cecilia, Giant to Cyclops (32 monsters)
D – Dark Creeper to Dwarf (79 monsters)
E – Eagle (Hawk) to Eye of the Deep (15 monsters)
F – Flail Snail to Frost Worm (6 monsters)
G – Gargoyle (Kapoacinth) to Grue (41 monsters)
H – Hag, Annis to Hyena (26 monsters)
I – Ice Giant to Iron Cobra (8 monsters)
J – Jackalwere to Juggernaut (3 monsters)
K – Kobold to Krenshar (2 monsters)
L – Lamia to Lynx, Giant (27 monsters)
M – Magmin to Mushroom Man (19 monsters)
N – Naga, Dark to Nymph (15 monsters)
O – Ochre Jelly to Owlbear (9 monsters)
P – Pegasus to Purple Worm (23 monsters)
R – Rakshasa to Rust Monster (16 monsters)
S – Sahuagin to Sylph (50 monsters)
T – Tarrasque to Turtle, Giant (21 monsters)
U – Udoroot to Uvuudaum (5 monsters)
V – Vampire to Violet Fungus (5 monsters)
W – Walking Slime to Wyvern (14 monsters)
X – Xaoc, Achromatic to Xorn (9 monsters)
Y – Yeth Hound to Yrthak (3 monsters)
Z – Zombie (1 monster)
Templates – Beastman template to pseudonatural template (12 templates; 40 sample monsters)

VII. TreasureCoins
Art Objects
Magic Items
– Using items
– Size and magic items
– Charges, doses and multiple uses
– Creating magic items
– Magic Armor
– Magic Weapons
– Potions and Oils
– Rings
– Rods
– Scrolls
– Staves
– Wands
– Wondrous Items
– Intelligent Items
– Cursed Items
– Artifacts

The Battle of Gaudin’s Ford – Preliminary

Among other things, Blood & Treasure includes some simple rules for mass combat to support the end game of stronghold and army building. While I’ve been playtesting the good old-fashioned dungeoneering and wilderness rules for a while now, I have yet to make sure the mass combat rules actually work. So, to correct this oversight, I’m going to test them LIVE, on this blog. Without further ado …

When spring rolls around, a young orc’s fancy turns to thoughts of plunder. And so it was that the orc chief Thundergut, rousing from a winter’s sleep, decided that it was high time to show those civilized bastards down in the valley what for. To that end, he rallied his troops (it involved lots of screaming and head kicking), convinced a few ogres to join in, and set out for Gaudin’s Ford.

Gaudin’s Ford was a ford across the River Pepp, named for a trapper who once had a trading post in the area. It provided the easiest way for many miles to cross the river and strike into the heart of the civilized area known as the Downs, an area inhabited primarily by a halfling moot called Mottlesby, with elf and human lands beyond.

As the orcs marched, they were spotted by a flock of giant eagles, who sped to the elves to warn them of the impending danger. The elves dispatched immediately a squadron of wayfarers to warn the halflings of Mottlesby and prepare a hasty defense at the ford, while the various elf princes were roused for battle and the humans were given the alarm.

And so it was that the orcs of Chief Thundergut met the halflings of Sheriff Brando at Gaudin’s Ford.

Click to Enlarge

The above is my battle map, whipped up in Excel for ease of use. On the right, you see the display of the forces involved, along with leader types. My plan is to run a few rounds each day and see how things proceed, dropping in a few points about the rules as I go along. Consider today the set-up, with the battle being joined tomorrow.

The orc plan is to push forward, using the yobbos to soak up missile damage and then get out of the way so the ogres and blackguards can attack the lines in waves. The archers will try to engage the enemy missile troops and keep them out of the battle. The worg riders are kept in reserve.

The  halfling plan is to inflict as much damage as possible with missile weapons, and then hope the billmen can whittle the orcs down enough that they won’t overwhelm the yeomen and boyos.

In general, I’m trying to keep this simple and just test the mechanics. The troop types and leaders are drawn from the monster section of B&T and things like hit points were rolled randomly.

Oh – rhe dark green bits are woodlands, the brown blob a hill and the light blue bit is the ford in the river. The rest of the river could be crossed by swimming.

More B&T Monster Previews – With Art!!!

I thought I’d show a few more of the monster stats from B&T. The project is dangerously close to being finished! It’s also a chance to show off some of the art I’ve commissioned for the project from Jon Kaufman. Check it out, ladies and gents.

Large Monstrous Humanoid, Chaotic (CE), Low Intelligence; Solitary

HD: 8
AC: 13
ATK: 2 claws (1d6), bite (2d8)
MV: 10 (Fly 50)
SV: F 10, R 9, W 10
XP: 800 (CL 9)

These creatures look like large, furry humanoids with bat wings that end in clawed hands and bat heads. They are twice the size of a man, with a 12 to 15 foot wingspan. Fearful peasants might even mistake them for small dragons when they fly by night. They can attack without penalty even when they have been blinded.

Special Qualities: Echolocation, vulnerable to sonic damage

Large Outsider, Chaotic (CE), High Intelligence; Solitary or Pair

HD: 8
AC: 24 [+2]
ATK: 6 swords (2d10), tail (4d6 + constrict)
MV: 40
SV: F 8, R 9, W 8
XP: 2,000 (CL 10)

Mariliths are six armed female demons with the lower body of a snake. In each hand they wield a longsword and they adorn themselves with jewelry. A marilith is 9 feet tall and measures 20 feet from head to tail. They weigh 2 tons.

Though mariliths thrive on the grand strategy of war, they love physical combat and never pass up an opportunity to fight. Each of a marilith’s six arms can wield a weapon. There is a 5% chance per arm that it wields a random magic sword). Mariliths seldom rush headlong into battle, preferring to hang back and size up the situation first. They always seek to gain the best possible advantage from the terrain, obstacles and any weakness in their opponents.
A marilith can attempt to summon another of its kind once per day, with a 20% chance of success.

Special Qualities: Immune to electricity and poison, magic resistance 40%

Spells: At will—blade barrier, detect invisibility, magic weapon, project image, telekinesis, teleport without error (self plus 50 lb), unholy aura

Medium Humanoid, Neutral (N), Average Intelligence; Patrol (1d20)

HD 2
AC 14
ATK Spear (1d6) or light crossbow (80 ft., 1d8)
MV 10 (Swim 60)
SV F 12, R 15, W 15
XP 100 (CL 2)

Locathah are humanoid in shape, but have the scaled skin of fish and the heads of fish. The average locathah stands 5 feet tall and weighs 175 pounds. Females and males look very much alike, although the former can be recognized by the two ochre stripes marking their egg sacs. Locathahs speak their own language. Locathahs lack teeth, claws, and other natural weapons, so they are not especially dangerous if unarmed.

Locathah gather in tribes of 1d10 x 10 warriors and non-warriors equal to 100% of the warriors. They are ruled by chiefs and sub-chiefs, and typically live a hunter-gatherer existence with supplementary kelp gardening and fish herding. For every ten warrior in a tribe, there is a 3% chance that the tribe has an adept to provide spellcasting.

Locathah units in mass combat are as likely to be defending their tribal lands as they are to be mercenary units. Locathah squadrons are led by sub-chiefs with 3 HD. Locathah tribes are led by chiefs with 1d4+6 HD. If you wish, roll d% to randomly determine the type of locathah units present. Chiefs are always accompanied by a squadron of armored crab-warriors.

01-10 Squid-Warriors: Dagger (1d4), net (entangle)
11-75 Shark-Warriors: Spear (1d6), light crossbow (1d8), 20 bolts
76-00 Crab-Warriors: Trident (1d8), shellycoat* and shield (+3 AC)

* Shellycoat armor is manufactured by several undersea folks, and consists of a hundreds of shells woven onto a backing of shagreen in the manner of scale mail. Shellycoat increases AC by 1 point.

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.

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).

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.

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.

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 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

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

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.