Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Hit Dice, variable weapon damage, and the long sword

I'm playing in a new campaign starting this Sunday, and we've decided to use the Labyrinth Lord Advanced Edition Companion. For those of you not familiar with it, the LLAEC adds classes, spells and some other concepts from AD&D to Labyrinth Lord.  I really like this because I started with D&D B/X and then moved to AD&D, but even when we moved to AD&D we kept using a lot of the mechanics from Basic, such as the turn sequence and combat sequence, rewarding XP etc.

The LLAEC has an option to use the hit dice for character classes as they exist in AD&D .  By default they use the hit dice as described in LL and B/X. I was wondering which option we were going to use.  At first I was thinking that default option was probably best, but then I remembered why that was a bad idea. Variable weapon damage.

Even though the default rule in B/X is that all weapons do d6 damage, I always, always, always used the variable weapon damage table. I remember first getting the game and having to go sifting to the back of the book to see how much damage a particular weapon did. And I remember being so happy that the Expert rules included that chart at the beginning of the book.   But there's a problem with variable weapon damage, and it's name is the long sword. For some reason, the long sword is the one 1 handed weapon that does d8 damage. Which means that's what everyone wants to use.  It also makes clerics and halflings (which cant use it) less effective in melee, as they can no longer deal as much damage in melee as fighters.

It's a problem that I didn't think a out 30 years ago, because frankly we didn't question those sorts of rules, and it wasn't as much of an issue in AD&D because characters had larger Hit Dice. But as I think of it now, I think that if the variable weapon damage rule is used as is, the Advanced Hit Dice should also be used.  Either that or long swords do a d6.

Friday, June 28, 2013

14.3 lbs

My Reaper Miniatures Kickstarter package has shipped. FOURTEEN POINT THREE POUNDS!!!  Dear lord

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A Horde of Orcs!

That's about 150 orcs right there. Just primed them tonight. There a bunch of boar riders and a few chariots to to this too, plus a few character models. The general on a wyvern is already complete.  This will be an easy 3000 points when complete. I figured I bet get working on these things before my Reaper and Redbox miniatures Kickstarters show up. 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Reaper minis incoming!

This weekend I got email notification that my Reaper miniatures kickstarter order will be shipping soon.  It's been almost a year since that kickstarter campaign ended, but I've been looking forward to getting these things for a while. Now that they're on the way, I have to figure out what I'm going to do with them.

1.  I'm going to sort through them and just marvel at how many of them there are.   I can't remember exactly what I ordered, but I think I'm around 200 miniatures

2. Paint these suckers.  I bought storage cases as part of the kickstarter, so there's no excuse for not painting these. I'll have a good place to store them.

3. Use them in some games. Some of them will come into use for RPGs, but I'm also hoping to get some wargaming in with these.  I'll probably try to put together some games using Delta's book of war, and the excellent Fanticide rules from Alien dungeon, but I'll be looking at some more "skirmish" style wargames in the coming months.

Now I just need to get my minis from Redbox games

Friday, June 7, 2013

Starting my own Megadungeon

While I've been itching to run some classic modules and try some of the new classics that are coming out of the OSR, I've got this idea in the back of my head for writing my own MegaDungeon.  The problem is the concept.  I know I could go the easy route and use the "Mythic Underworld" concept, but I want something more detailed, more "realistic".  I've come up with a few ideas, but I think they all have drawbacks.

"The Necromancer beneath the city"  The city once had a large underground dungeon in which it held its prisoners.  Very little of it has been used since the Mad Mayor was overthrown decades ago.  In recent months, public executions and exhiles have ceased, and other prisoners are starting to disappear.  No one in the public knows exactly what has happened to these prisoners.  In truth, they have been thrown into the old Dungeon in groups on a weekly basis.  A powerful Necromancer has moved into the depths of the dungeon, and has threatened the City fathers with devestation if they do not provide him with "tribute" in the form of living bodies.  Once thrown into the dungeon, these prisoners are rounded up by the Necromancer's minions and taken to holding areas where they are later used in various experiements.   

The individuals in an adventuring party are thrown into the dungeon for whatever reason (actual crimes, politcal revenge, outlawed magic or religious practice etc), but before they can be rounded up by the Necromancer's minions, they encounter an old elf who has lived in the dungeon since the time of the Mad Mayor.  He leads the party through a hidden tunnel and provides them with some basic supplies.  From here the party can explore the dungeon, encountering the Necromancer's minions, many unusual experiments, forgotten areas from the time of the Mad Mayor, and eventually the Necromancer himself.

To extend the adventure even further, the Necromancer is taking most of the prisoners and turning them into zombies.  He is then selling these zombies to a political power in the "Underdark"  to create an army.  Either before or after defeating the Necromancer, the party can venture into the "Underdark", ala the D1-3 series.

The drawbacks here are figuring out a reasonable/realistic base of operations.  Without a way to get out of the dungeon, there's really no way to sell loot or get supplies, which creates an interesting situation. The best solution I can come up with is providing a few secret tunnels from the Dungeon into various parts of the city. Without access in and out of the dungeon, it makes for a really good campaign idea, but it doesn't lend itself to the MegaDungeon play style all that well.  In a way it reminds me a little of the situation the a party finds itself in at the start of B4-The Lost City, or A4-In the Dungeons of the Slave Lords.  

"The Endless Catacombs"  The city has buried its dead in a gigantic labyrinth of catacombs for milenia. Adventurers can enter the catacombs for various reasons including: Looting treasure, catching tomb raiders, clearing out invading mosters etc. 

Stole this idea from Glen Cook's 2nd Black Company Book, Shadows Linger.  The problem here is that if it is one gigantic catacomb, the deeper areas are actually the newest, and if they are still being used for their intended purpose, there wouldn't be much adventuring activity there.  This also tends to be heavy on the Undead.

"The Mines o' Death"  The mines are a combination of naturally occuring cave complexes and mines that have been built over the centuries.  Various powers have controlled the mines over the years, but they have been abandoned by civilized races for many centuries due to a lack of production, dangerous conditions, and climate change in the region. The mine is now inhabbited by multiple humanoid factions, as well as all sorts of strange creatures that resided here or were brought here by the creators of the mines.

This is a pretty straight forward concept but seems to have a lot of potential.  I think it has much in common with Moria, mixed in with the Caves of Chaos from B2. I envision the complex having many, many entrances spread out over a few miles, rather than the few dozen yards in caves of Chaos. The caves and mines will interconnect in various interesting ways, and provided for a huge variety of areas.  I like this better than the abandoned Dwarven city model because it allows for more variety and creativity.  One of the major drawbacks in this one is that it lies far from civilization (probably a week's journey or more to the nearest outpost) making it an unlikely location for lower level adventures.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

New Game Starting

So I'm finally getting a new game started.  I originally wanted to try out my SKaLD rules, but since I don't know any of the players, or what their tastes are, I decided to stick to something closer to published rules. I was going to use Labyrinth Lord, but decided instead to use the latest draft of the 52 pages, which I think just amazing.  It's filled with wonderful little inovations that set it apart from other rulesets.  Sure, most good retro-clones come up with some good ideas, but the 52 pages seems to have something new that just works on every single page. Some favorite ideas of mine: Separate attack modifier advancement for melee and missile attacks, the Abjure Evil mechanic in place of Turn Undead, Maximum ability scores to qualify for a class (if every score is <13, the player can be a gnome, which has inate spell abilities), the encumberance system, combat sequence (very similar to the Holmes sequence),and the death and dismemberment rules for when characters reach 0 HP or lower. The only section of the rules I'm a little hesitant about is the skills section, but we'll see how that goes.  It might work very well, but if it doesn't it's the type of system that can be easily and quickly adjusted or replaced.   The real deciding factor for this game is that the rules are very well laid out and easy to follow.  Each concept tends to be explained completely in one page, in as few words as possible.  

I've met some of the players, but I've never played tabletop games with them, so I really don't know what their experience is like or how they play.  The only hint I have is that most of them asked about bringing premade characters so that they wouldn't have to take the time to role them up at the game. They were all sceptical about my promises that character creation would only take about 10 minutes with this system.  Based on this I'm assuming that they've never played anything older than 2e.

It's been ages since I've run any "classic" modules, so I've decided to start with one I haven't used before: B1-In Search of the Unknown. The plan is to run through this adventure, and possibly some of B2, and then throw the party at Caverns of Thracia.  I originally wanted to start with CoT, but since I don't know how good my players are yet, I decided to start with something simpler. CoT can be fairly rough on inexperienced players, but once they get a few characters to 2nd or 3rd level it should provide a fair challenge. B1 seems fairly tame (though not Castle Caldwell tame) except for the one pit trap.  Dropping 40' into a pool of frigid water is bad enough, but then climbing out of the water, quite possibly in complete darkness and unarmed, to come face to stinky face with a pair of troglodytes is going to be a real challenge. 

I've been thinking of developing a whole campaign area based on the wilderness map from Keep on the Borderlands, or possibly the wilderness map from the original version of Palace of the Silver Princess, but i want to keep the focus on the dungeon, rather than wilderness and city adventures.  

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Shooting through/over friendly characters

After sifting through all manner of old rules books, I've seen nothing written about firing missile over or through friendly characters. I find this quite odd, as it's a scenario I see all the time, particularly in dungeons. As an example, a party is walking down a typical 10 ' wide hallway. The front rank is composed of fighters, probably with shields. The second rank may be composed with others with long spears or pole arms. Rules for attacking with these sorts of weapons are fairly clearly explained in most rules. However, what if the second rank is composed of archers, or  PCs wishing to throw oil or javelins?  Here the rules are unclear. In 3.5, there is a -4 penalty if you draw line of sight through an ally, but that seems quite excessive when the characters are in set ranks.

How are other DMs handling this situation?  Currently I'm not placing any penalties on characters firing from the second rank as long as their targets are not in melee.  But I have been thinking of placing a -1 or -2 penalty if the front rank is involved in melee, or if the front rank consists of characters that are taller than the second.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Character exceptionalism in AD&D

I've decided to read through the 1e Player's Handbook for the first time in decades.  Sure I've looked at it from time to time over the years, and even used the charts and tables, but it's been forever since I've read the fine details.

One of the first interesting things I noticed was this quote in the Character Abilities section.  

"The premise of the game is that each player character is above average - at least in some respects-
and  has  superior  potential.  Furthermore,  it is  usually  essential  to  the character's  survival to be exceptional  (with a rating of 15 or above)  in no fewer than two ability characteristics. "

This seems to fly in the face of how much of the OSR views character exceptionalism. Of course 1e is quite a different game from OD&D or B/X.  Still, it points out that fairly early in the development of the game, PCs were intended to be special at their creation.  

Can't wait to find more interesting stuff like this. 

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Return to the Dungeon!

Last night I got to play the game that started it all for me. Dungeon!  It was my first time playing the updated version, and though it was very familiar, there were some differences from the original classic game I last played in 1983. I really enjoy the new system of placing markers on the board after rooms have been cleared rather than the old system of placing all of the cards on the board to start.  The variety of monsters is a good improvement, but we were al surprised to see a Minotaur at level 1. My biggest gripe with the game probably holds true to the original. Levels 5 and 6 rarely get explored. We played a 4 player game, with each of taking 1 of the 4 character classes. Not once did we enter a level 5 or 6 room. .  Granted, the wizard died twice on level 4, so she was very hesitant to move on to higher levels, but I my argument is still valid. With a balanced group of 4 players, we cleared levels 1, 2, and 3 and were partially into 4 before there was a winner.

Of course this my be the fault of my personal strategy. I played the fighter, and marched through the easily accessible parts of levels 1 and 2 before cleaning out one of the level 3 areas.  This strategy delayed the less powerful characters by forcing them to travel farther to get to unexplored rooms or fight rough chambers, and denied them a good portion of the treasure in levels that were appropriate for their power level.

Still, there's a third of the board that is really only explorable by wizards, which seems to be a little out of balance unless everyone plays a wizard. I can't imagine what this gam would be like with 8 players.

I had a great time with the game and it brought back a lot of memories. I won, which was pretty cool. The downside was that the 3 other players (all adults, Old enough to drink and own houses) hadn't been born when I last played Dungeon. I'm old!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Back in the Saddle

Well, it's been forever since I've posted, mostly because I haven't had anything interesting to say. That comes from not gaming. However, this past weekend I got started in new campaign of a game I never thought I'd be playing again: Live Action Vampire the Masquerade.

I've probably mentioned that I'm an experienced Larper, but I haven't been involved in a Vampire Larp since the mid 1990's.  It took me a while to refamiliarize myself with the World of Darkness setting, and the live action rules (we are using the Laws of the Night revised). It's nice to be able to have all the rules available in PDF on my phone!  The game stood out for a number of reason: A good, interesting and complex story, great players and lots of them (40+), and the fact that got to play in nightclub.

The reason for my post is actually the rules from Mind's Eye Theatre. There's a nice system that they use that I'm guessing most OSR gamers aren't familiar with that I think would work very well with a rules light system. Characters have 3 general stat pools: Physical, Mental and Social  Instead of just assigning numbers, players pick adjectives that describe their character. For example, physical traits include quick, brawny, dexterous, fast, stalwart. Mental traits are things like knowledgeable, observant, determined etc. Social traits are things like seductive, witty and commanding. Characters can also have negative traits.  For each negative trait you can get another positive trait.

Conflict, or challenges, are resolved by each side declaring a trait that is relevant to the task, and then playing rock, paper, siscors. The winner succeeds in the task, and the loser fails and loses the use of the declared trait for the rest of the session. Ties are resolved by looking at who has the most traits in that ability pool. There are some other intricacies to the system, but it is still fairly simple.

In game systems that don't use a skill system, like most OSR games, we often default to test against one of the basic stats. I'd like to come up with a hybrid system that uses stat adjectives along with the stat check. I think it would give more life to the characters, without adding a complex skill system.

So goal for the next post; come up with a simple workable system.