Sunday, September 27, 2009

Critical Fumble Chart

Here's our critical fumble chart. I surveyed those available online, made tweaks, and added our own thoughts. Originally, the chart used a d12 but there was some redundancy and so we edited down to a d8. Any discrepancy with the chart as it relates to gameplay is subject to the DMs discretion.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Ye Fast Pack Revised for LL

I always liked "Ye Fast Pack" from The Lost City module.

We borrowed the idea and adapted it to most of our games in some form or fashion.

In this incarnation, Packs A and B are priced almost exactly. The vial of holy water throws off the pricing a wee bit for Pack C, but that doesn't get us bent out of shape.

If you have any suggestions for revision please let me know.

Friday, September 25, 2009

First Draft: The Duchy of Mar Gazetteer

Here's my first draft of the gazetteer for the Duchy of Mar.

I've taken a minimalist approach that provides some historical and cultural context but doesn't overdue it. The emphasis is on parameters.

Although I like my D&D dark and with a serious tone, I've taken liberties with the Hamlet of Duloc. I envisage an "Against the Ogres" mid-level campaign there at some point in the future.

Preliminary material on deities and organized religion was noted in an earlier post.

I'd be happy to hear your comments to improve the flavour of the setting.

The Duchy of Mar Gazetteer

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Score! William Dear's, The Dungeon Master (1984)

I'm developing a personal library of non-academic books related to D&D.

I recently bought a copy of William Dear, The Dungeon Master: The Disappearance of James Dallas Egbert III (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1984).

The book was cheap, like 2 bucks and a couple for shipping.

The book arrived today and to my surprize included a signature by the author and a business card!

I have yet to read this book but know the story and the lore. I'm particularly interested in the moral panic surrounding D&D in the 1980s.

So three questions:

1) Have you read this book? What did you think?
2) Can you make any suggestions of published books I should add to my collection?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Organized Religion in the Duchy of Mar

We want to provide a small initial pantheon supportive of Law, Neutrality, and Chaos. We don't want to remake the wheel, and want some familiarity with past game editions. To that end, we like the idea of using gods/demi-gods from Greyhawk and the Forgotten Realms. However, the exact nature of their incarnations (symbols, structure, worship) in this realm will be subject to the local and regional character of the Duchy of Mar (as it develops) and play over time.

For fun, I generated heraldric devices for both the organized regions and the towns/cities (to follow in a subsequent post) using the Coat of Arms Visual Designer from Inkwell and some extra work in Paint.

We are leaving the door open for religions, cults, and other deities etc as the campaign progresses.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Campaign Maps: The Duchy of Mar

A revision of a campaign map for our home game. More detail to follow in the coming weeks.

Here's the distressed version:

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Academic Study of Robert E. Howard

There seems to be growing academic interest in the study of Robert E. Howard and his work.

The Southwest regional branch of the Popular Culture Association (PCA) has made room for papers devoted to Conan the Barbarian and the National Conference of the PCA has a special section devoted to Howard.

Also, a new journal has been created entitled "The Dark Man: THe Journal of Robert E. Howard Studies". You can access the some of the material here.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

After Action Report: The Burial Tomb of Ak-Owgra **WARNING: MAXIMUM CARNAGE**

After deciding on a base of house rules that suit our taste, we decided to play a short adventure of my creation. This was to have some fun but also to test the rules in actual play. We were pleased with the result.

(I'm still working on the Ruins of Mar Campaign, but with the start of the fall term I haven't had chance to get to it in detail.)

I created a short delve with the one-page dungeon sheet. I've made some changes to it, primarily swapping out the graph for a numbered photo of the dungeon (see below) using dungeon tiles. I found this cut out unnecessary steps. This adventure was designed with 4-5 hours of gaming in mind.

The adventure, entitled The Burial Tomb of Ak-Owgra (anyone know the movie reference there?), situates the adventurers as money-grubbing tomb-robbers. Here's the DMs backstory:

"Ak-Owgra, the Bandit Queen (some called the Bitch Queen) was entombed a hundred years ago. Many sought to plunder her tomb, and recently one group of brigands partially succeeded. Although they found rooms 1-4 most were killed off or fled. Rooms 5-10, including the main burial chambers, remain hidden. The defiling of her crypt has pushed Ak-Owgra and her buried minions into unlife."

What follows can be described as nothing less than maximum carnage.

The (initial) party consisted of the following first level PCs:

Rheiden the Human Male Fighter and Party Leader
Brother Banlin the Human Male Cleric (Obad-Hai)
Elwen of Riverwood, Female Elf
Talic the Human Male Magic-User

Joining the group were:

Ghiilner the Torch-Bearer (Hireling)
Grisit of Ulag (Man-at-arms)
Dros of Duloc (Man-at-arms)
Zert of Dolmvay (Man-at-arms)

All hirelings and henchmen were generated using a custom (emphasis on custom) version of the LL random hireling generator.

By the time the party arrived at the newly found tomb, the crypt door had been opened. The party lit torches and proceeded down the stairs. Here a pic:

The party proceeded into the first room and were surpised by a carrion crawler who was munching a half-eaten bandit while hanging from the ceiling. The CC paralyzed half the party before Elwen and Zert of Dolmvay managed to finish it off.

The group noticed one stone door bashed to pieces and proceeded down that hallway (without checking for secret doors). The entered a room and were attacked by giant spitting beetles. All three men-at-arms were below zero hit points and all made their saves vs death (see house rules). Sadly, Grisit was killed off by a coup-de-gras later in the battle.

The next room was filled with giant spiders and bodies of bandits in spider silk. The bit+poison or die seemed rather harsh to me and three party members died as a result. Brother Banlin (who never even had a chance to cast a spell before he died), Talic the Magic-User, and Ghiilner the Torch-Bearer all fell to spider poison.

The adventurers, now reduced by half, decided to press on rather than return to town to rest, re-arm, and recoup their loses. Instead they searched and found a secret door in the entry chamber and proceeded to a crypt room where they were attacked by lesser animated stone statues. There Dros of Duloc was killed. The only Man-at-Arms remaining was Zert of Dolmvay who had an uncanny nack for survival.

They opened one tomb and destroyed the ghoul within, found a magical longsword and some gold, and finally decided to return to town.

After spending a week in town the group added two more PCs:

Brother Percival a Human Cleric (St. Cuthbert)
Mazrik the Magician a Human Magic-User

Due to Zert unique ability to survive, he became a 1st level fighter and was hired as a henchman.

The following were also added:

Yacky the Torch-Bearer (Hireling)
Yacky had two goblin slave labourers he brought with him as part of the deal:
Yurk and Gak

Breston the Blugeoner (Man-at-arms)
Derx of Frogmorton (Man-at-arms)
Jax the Mighty (Man-at-arms)

The new (second) party:

Unfortunately things did not go well for this attempt either. In the Throne Room of Ak-Owgra the party was attacked by 7 skeletons, 2 zombies, and Ak-Owgra (Ghoul in armour with spells).


The only party members who survived were Rheiden, Mazrik, and Elwen (who I accidently killed off at one point by rolling the wrong damage die).


Total Kills to date:

PCs: 3
Hirelings: 1
Men-At-Arms: 6
Henchmen: 1

Here's the tomb overview map:

Friday, September 11, 2009

WotC's About-Face on Digital D&D

I don't know if you noticed this or not, but I did. I'm sure you've seen the 4th edition advertisement at the back of the 4E Player's Handbook depicting a laptop on a stack of D&D books with the quote, "Make your party even better with the help of another PC". There's another one at the back of the 4E DMG saying, "Sitting behind the screen is better if you are sitting in front of one too!". These were published, of course, in 2008.

The interesting part is that these advertisements work opposite to promotions used by WotC a mere year or two before, where they attempted to poke fun at MMO players. These promotions depict tired sleepy gamers sitting up late at night, alone, staring blankly at their screens. The captions position D&D in opposition to computer gaming and read "Your mighty band of heroes will never be defeated by a server crash" or "If your going to sit in your basement pretending to be an elf, you might as well have some friends over to help." Both of these end with the tag, "Get Together. Roll Some Dice. Have Fun". A final promotion reveals a windowed building with a social group of D&D gamers together and anti-social MMO players sitting in the dark playing alone.

This is a really interesting portrayal as they've taken the early D&D stereotypes of anti-social computer geeks - a stigma still attached to D&D gamers - and applied it to MMO gamers. In contrast to MMOs, these promotions suggest, D&D is a friendly (non-satanic) social game. What a scream.

These images are particularly interesting given how WotC embraced the online initiative only a year or two later in the hope of an MMO style cash grab.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Our LL-B/X (OD&D & AD&D) House Rules

Much like the D&D game, our house rules are a pastiche. We base our game on Labyrinth Lord (LL) and are excited to see what the Advanced Edition Companion (AEC) has to say in a few months.

Our primary gaming experiences are from Moldvay Basic (B/X) and Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (AD&D). Add on top of that a healthy interest in Sowrds and Wizardry (S&W) and you arrive somewhere close to our house rules. Our minis-lite approach stems from 3rd Edition and there's even one item from 4th Edition (Gads, I guess we just blew up the edition wars, ha!) Fun is always the final arbiter in our game.

We enjoy playing with minis and tiles. In our view, there's nothing wrong with a wee taste of tactical play. To that end we decided that the emphasis on rules-lite that suits our busy lifestyles does not exlcude a rule-lite approach to minis. We aren't power gamers and don't sit up at night finding new ways to bust the rules. So the below works for us:

Character Generation:

•Abilities: 4d6, [drop lowest], arrange to taste or 3d6 depending on adventure
•Hit Points: Maximum hp at 1st level
•Darkvision: Demi-human have vision in the dark instead of heat-sensing infravision


•Spontaneous Casting: Clerics can spontaneously cast any spell for a healing spell of the same level.
•Double (Spell) Dipping: Clerics may not memorize the same spell twice in one day without the use of magical items.
•Turning: For every turn attempt per day after the first the player adds +1 to the difficulty number on the Turning Undead Table.
•Bonus Spells: Clerics with Wisdom 15+ receive 1 bonus 1st level spell/day.
•Scrolls: Clerics may write their own spell scrolls at a cost of 250gp per level of the spell. The writing time is one week per spell level. Up to three spells can be written on a scroll.


•Spontaneous Casting: Magic-Users may spontaneously cast any spell for Detect Magic or Read Magic.
•Weapons: Magic-Users may use dagger, dart, quarterstaff, or sling. Human Magic-Users may use the longsword. Elven Magic-Users may use the longbow.
•Double (Spell) Dipping: Magic-Users may not memorize the same spell twice in one day without the use of magical items.
•Initial Spell Books: Magic-Users/Elves begin play with Detect Magic, Read Magic, two 1st level spells, and one 2nd level spell, of the player’s choosing.
•Scrolls: Magic-Users may write their own spell scrolls at a cost of 250gp per level of the spell. The writing time is one week per spell level. Scroll can hold a maximum of three spells.
•Bonus Spells: Magic-Users with Intelligence 15+ get 1 bonus 1st level spell/day


•Thieves use d6 for HP


•Only the human fighter may use the two-handed sword
•Excluding obvious two-handed weapons (halberd and two-handed sword), a fighter may wield any weapon on the weapon list two-handed and increase the damage die of that weapon by 1 (example: Battle Axe d8, wielded with two hands d10)


•Hit Points: Dwarves use d10 for HP
•Racial Enemy: Dwarves are +1 versus Orcs and Goblins
•Two Handed Weapons: Dwarves may use the spear and the halberd, but not the two-handed sword.
•Armour Class: Armor class (+2) improves when attacked by creatures larger than man-sized (7 feet and over)


•Armour Class: Armor class (+2) improves when attacked by creatures larger than man-sized (7 feet and over)


•Racial Weapon: Elves receive a bonus of +1 with the longbow
•Two Handed Weapons: Elves may use the halberd, but not the two-handed sword.
•Armour and Spell Casting: May only cast spells while wearing magical armour.
•Initial Spell Books: See Magic-User.
•Scrolls: See Magic-User.
•Bonus Spells: Elves with Intelligence 15+ get 1 bonus 1st level spell/day


Lawful Gods:
Torm, God of Duty
St. Cuthbert, God of Justice

Neutral Gods:
Obad-Hai, God of Nature
Mystryl, Goddess of Magic

Chaos Gods:
Tiamat, Goddess of Vengeance
Orcus, God of (Un)Death


•Ascending Armor Class
•Critical Hits: Natural ‘20′ roll DMG dice x2
•Critical Fumble: A natural ‘1′ means consult critical fumble table
•Hammer, light 1d6
•Hammer, War 1d8
•Heavy Crossbow 2d4 (Rate of fire ½)
•Mace, Heavy 1d8
•Two-Handed Sword 2d6

Mini Rules:

•To Hit Bonuses: Flank +2, Prone +4, Attack from Behind either +2 or +4 to hit circumstance bonus (DM call).
•Coup de Gras: Helpless opponent (Auto-Hit Save vs. Death + DMG or die)
•Moving: Any direction 5ft
•No Threatened Squares, No Attacks of Opportunity, No 5ft Step
•When adjacent to an opponent, movement is reduced by half
•Spears/Halberds: Have 5ft reach (1 Square); can also attack from the 2nd rank
•Missile Attack into Melee: Attack at -2, a natural low roll may hit party member (DM call).
•Missile Attacks: Must be more than 5ft (1 square) from target.
•The universal point blank range: 15ft (or 3 squares away). Any missile attack within PBR (or from either 10 or 15ft away) is +1 to hit. Any weapon listed at long range is -1 to hit (see page 54).

Combat Movement:

Human/Elf: 30 ft or 6 squares
Halfling/Dwarf: 20 ft or 4 squares

Death and Dying:

•Hit Points:
0 HPs: Unconscious for 1d6 turns then revives to 1 HP
-1 to -10 HPs: Save vs. Death, Save means 0 HPs (as above)
Below -10 HPs: Dead, No Save

•Bind Wounds: Heal 1-3 hit points after each combat if 5 minutes spent
Can bind unconscious character’s wounds to revive (with 1 hp)
•Funeral Pyres: If the body of a fallen fellow adventurer is recovered it may be burned on a funeral pyre. PCs may donate up to 100gp/level of their fallen comrade in gold, jewels, etc and earn an equivalent level of experience point bonus.

Monday, September 7, 2009

New Labyrinth Lord Website

Dan Proctor of Goblinoid Games just unveiled a spanky new website to conincide with his launch of a revised Labyrinth Lord Ruleset and the much anticipated Advanced Edition Companion later this fall. Both the website and the books highlight the new old school art of Steve Zieser. I'm excited to take a look at any rule tweaks and adjustments. I wish Dan Proctor great success.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Film Retrospective: Dungeons and Dragons: WotDG

The consensus from the internet seems to be that the second Dungeons and Dragons movie, entitled Wrath of the Dragon God (2005) (the initial title was The Elemental Might) was an improvement over the first, but still poor.

I think this perspective is a bit hasty. Those who didn't like the film compare it to LotR which is completely unfair. That's a basic apples and oranges comparison. If you consider this film against the fantasy movies created and broadcast on scifi/syfy, I think it compares very favourably. Indeed, it exceeds expectations in every way. This movie gets the most important thing right: the spirit of D&D adventure.

Although I've watched the movie many times, I've just recently acquired the DVD. The writers of the film, and one a keen D&D gamer, definitely drew on his passion for the game. He seemed responsible for making the movie a success.

Granted, the basic plot was, well, basic. But the movie had chrome in the right places by drawing on archtypes from the game, references to iconic adventures, as well as familiar magic items and monsters.

Given the rumours of a third D&D movie in the works (sorry folks but it looks like the link I read has been removed), I hope they bring some of the characters back for the next film. I'll be waiting and watching for information with interest.