Saturday, September 1, 2018

Armor Class, Movement, and fiddling with the archetypes

Why would I buy a two-handed sword if it still just does 1d6 damage?

Because, although you cannot wield a shield with it, it acts as a shield itself.

Why would I wear anything less than full armor class 2 as a fighting-man?

Because decreasing armor class increases encumbrance and thus slows movement.

AC, Encumbrance, MV table

We use the four M's for our combat round cycle:

If your MV rate is better than that of an opponent, you might get an extra attack during the movement phase of the round.

Formula: difference greater than 3 = success. Difference 3, opposing check on 1d6, +1 to the party with the higher rate. Equal rates, opposing check on 1d6.

But I'll throw in a bonus side affect for you: you get to be a fighting-man that looks like Conan the Barbarian.

Recall that I allow both shields and helmets to decrease AC by 1. They just can't do so cumulatively such that you would go below your class limit.

I'll even throw in something extra for you: ring mail costs and functions the same as leather. So you can wear a big ring-mail shirt, a horned helmet and wield a two-handed sword and function at armor class 5. (Or look like the above picture: no helmet but shield and regular sword. Whatever. You get the point.) You get the benefit of attack during movement phase. You are welcome.

Why can't elves wear regular armor?

Recall that, because of the nails the crucified the King of Heaven, all iron is hallowed, stopping all (non-clerical) magic.

But elves can wear bronze armor, it costs and functions the same as chainmail. Most magical armor is ancient, thus already made of bronze.

Then why couldn't magic-users wear, say, at least leather armor?

Silly. Don't you remember that, in order to cast spells, magic-users must utter the words of power and engage the somatic gestures that resonate the spell across planes? Armor would weigh down and block the somatic resonance. Everybody knows that.

Fight on!

Monday, July 23, 2018


I am one of those D&D (original) players that looks askance at "new-fangled" things like "cantrips."

I was reading an excellent post on the new spells of the Greyhawk supplement by Delta and, especially his point about spells that seem to weak, I thought: maybe this is what "cantrips" could look like in original edition play.

I think it adds to the Sword and Sorcery vibe and feel. I think it sets up good role-play opportunities at low-levels. I think it solves the "my magic user can only cast one spell" whine. (I disagree with the sentiment but it is sometimes easier to throw a bone than argue a point).

I'll list the cantrips and their descriptions. Then I'll give a little commentary and ask for your thoughts.

All magic-users cast cantrips without spell books or memorization; # cantrips per day = # memorized spells capable of caster; additional cantrips cast at cost of memorized spell

Explosive runes
Runes explode; destroy parchment; 1d6 damage; Duration: caster negates at will; MU detects 1:2, negates 3:4

Invisible, immovable inter-dimensional space exact size of caster; duration: caster’s lvl + 1d6; + Prestidigitate: Hang rope in air = Rope trick

Combustion equivalent to ignited tender

Magic mouth
Up to 25 word vocal message issues from target object upon designated trigger condition

Perform any number of the following:
Catch arrow
Card trick (also: win gambling until discovered)
Cups & balls
Detach digit
Dis/reappear (small object)
Escape bonds (requires speech and sight of bonds)
Float pen (or similar object) b/w hands
Hang rope in air (+ Hidey-hole = Rope trick)
Link rings
Restore cut-rope

Charm willing subject

Alter shape and color of fire or increase and color smoke

Read person
Divine side, class, race, relative life-energy (normal/heroic/superheroic, etc.), close relations, core motive or goal of willing subject by means of one or more of cartomancy, scrying, palmistry, numerology, etc.

Agree with or to any one complete statement or command that does no obvious harm; successful save negates; Duration: 1 week

Voice issues elsewhere; Range: 6”; Duration: 2 turns

Thieves: Prestidigitate; Mesmerize; Read person; Suggest
I nerfed "explosive runes," in terms of damage, to make it fit into the "zeroth level" spell that a cantrip is supposed to be.

"Hidey-hole" lets a magic user hide for protection or snooping, but is not as powerful as invisibility as it is immovable.

"Ignite," and "Pyrotechnics," have always seemed like something all magic-users ought to have, automatically, without needing to burn a spell. Gandalf setting the pine cones on fire in the Hobbit gave me the inspiration for describing ignition as being like burning tender (so, more than just a spark, but not kindling and certainly no explosion!). And pyrotechnics in general is a Gandalf-thing.

"Magic mouth," and "Ventriloquy," and why not?

Okay, so I know what you are thinking. "Prestidigitate"? How lame? Who needs it? I see this as a part of the Sword and Sorcery feel. The new magician is invited into the court of the over-lord -- he wants some proof he has a real magician and the magic-user doesn't want to burn a memorized spell to prove himself. Some prestidigitation should do the trick. But, isn't all this just slight of hand? Is any real magic used? You decide. But I like the idea that a magic-user could join rings and use that as something really handy in a pinch! Gygax said, in the intro to D&D "and the magic is real." So there you go.

Okay, so, I know what you are thinking. "Willing subject?" Who would willingly submit themselves to a magic-user's whim with "Mesmerize" and "Read person." Well, judging from the real-world, quite a few raise their hand when the illusionist says, "can I get a volunteer." Imagine a Sword and Sorcery setting: the magician has been invited in to prove himself. He does some prestidigitation and impresses everyone in the court, even the high-lord. So, charmingly, he says, "Great Lord, would you like me to do a reading for you?" How could he refuse? He looks at the lord's palms, he lays out his tarot cards, and he finds out some choice information. That night, he reunites with the party, camping out in the woods out of sight and ear-shoot. He delivers the information they need to seal the attack. (Or did he? Well, the party will find out soon enough!)

"Suggest," allows for a kind of Obi-Wan-Kenobi "these are not the droids you are looking for" kind of effect.

Thieves, a la the Grey Mouser, can pull of some of these cantrips as well. Is his prestidigitation just a trick, while the magic-user's is real? I don't know. Why don't you ask him? I feel sure he will tell you the truth.

So, what do you think?

Fight on!

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Character Record

The search or the ever elusive character record continues. Above is my current character record. Here is some brief rationale and commentary:

I want it too look old school, like something printed back in the day. Hence the boxes and the old school fonts. (I have an even smaller version, using a font that looks like a type-writer.)

I hate it when I find someone's character sheet and there is no player name on it. So I made that the first thing. I'm always bummed when people have no idea how long they've had a character (including me), so: problem solved.

By character description I really mean epithet(s) and extraction, not some "background." Hence the brevity of space.

I want this record to be usable by folks who have never played and by folks who have. I want it to be usable by players that roll their own dice and also to work well for situations where I play it really old-school and I roll all dice, for everyone, behind the screen. I love playing this way and it frees the players up to figure things out and role-play.

Thus "title" is more important than level. Titles are fun and interesting and aid role-play. The levels can be jotted down in parentheses for those interested.

Likewise knowing who's side you are on is easier to make sense of then "alignment." Also, when law vs. chaos is not much more than just "shirts vs. skins," we can avoid the unending philosophical contemplations of the nature of the "alignment system."

I play race as class in my 0e games, so I just list them in the same box with a slash mark.

The first five boxes can be read out pretty straightforwardly: John's Character is Jack the Fat-lipped of the Sundown Marches; he is a Veteran Lawful Fighting-Man.

Ability Scores, sum of 3d6, each, straight down the line, no funny-business. I use Delta's abbreviation of Charisma, "X," from the Greek Chi, thus distinguishing it from the "C," for constitution.

What the heck is "apotropy"? Okay, so I know you are mad at me about this. But remember the principle from above that I want this for new players and for folks who aren't even going to be rolling dice. Okay, I hear you say, now you've lost me. But hold on. Let's look at the other boxes and come back to this one.

Reading Philotomy's Musings on the nature of hit points got me trying to call them something else. I started calling them "luck points," you know: "you're down on your luck, man; your luck is running out!" Etc. I explained this to a group of folks that included three Ph.D.s in psychology. One of them said, "oh, I get it, it's resilience, isn't it?" "Yes," I said, "resilience points." And it just kind of stuck. But for those who know or want to work with the mechanics, there is "HP," right there, still listed to the side.

I use Delta's Target-20 method for both attack rolls and saving throws (see my house rules summary). Most new folks -- and all folks when I do all the rolling behind the screen -- only need to know what kind of weapons they have. If they tell me what weapon they are using and what they are trying to do with it, I can take it from there. But for those who want the old mechanic or demand to "roll their own," then the mechanic is right there next to it, "(HD)."

Likewise, players who don't want to have to fiddle with mechanics do like to know if they have armor on or not, and if so, what. And as long as they can read the handwriting and tell me what they've got, then I know their armor class anyway. Again, you can write the armor class right there next to it in parenthesis, as suggested by the "(AC)" immediately to the right of "Armor."

Every old-school character record needs to have a box for "languages." That is how you figure out what is going on behind that door you are "listening at"!

Gold. Well there you have it. I used to call this box "Treasure," and then list "Purse g.p.," and "Bank g.p." But then I would say, "Hey, how much gold do you have left." And they would say, "Gold? gold? Where is that on here?" So now, although the game is about Monsters and Treasure, the character record just boils it down to what we are all looking for: Gold (piece value). Because, well, gold is experience. And experience is everything.

Gold is next to Armor, above it. Because starting armor comes from starting gold. And Gold is next to Equipment (which is next to Supplies), below it. Because you buy equipment and supplies with gold. Nice, right?

That is something else I was going for with this record. I wanted things also to have a logical coherence. It is pretty good, but not perfect. So experience affects level, and thus title, which in turn affects hit die, which in turn affects hit points and even saves. So all those mechanical things are clustered together on the right side.

But I also did that on purpose. If you go straight down the right-most column you have everything that most players need most of the time. You already know your characters name (right?). So you can glance down the right side and see your character's: Title (Lvl.), Experience (XP), Resilience (HP), Armor (AC), and (most importantly), GOLD!

The first thing I suggest under "Notes," is that "Last Will & Testament," urged by Men & Magic.

All those supplies listed do not indicate that the character actually has them, yet, without purchase. Nor does it suggest that you must purchase those and only those. The idea is to help out the new players with some key suggestions. I always recommend that they place the amount they purchases in parentheses next to the item listed, and then use tally marks to count them down so that they know when they need to supply up again. So, for example, Torches (6), followed by tallies until all 6 are gone. Then, if you make it back alive, buy some more torches. Rope? I hear you ask. Yes, rope. Hemp romp gets 5 uses and silk rope gets 25. I'm just tough that way.

So how about that apotropy? Well, I thought you'd never ask. Now that I've convinced you that I've done a (pretty) good job of rendering mechanical things into handy nomenclature (Resilience, Weaponry, Armor, etc.), I can tell you that that is what I am trying to do with Apotropy. I had been calling it "Resistance," but it sounded to much like electrical engineering (or freedom fighting, or whatever). Apotropaic magic is magic that wards off magic and other unlucky things. These are like talismans, amulets and charms. So this is a place for folks to jot down apotropaic objects and spells they may have in place, like a ring of protection, or whatever -- and then remind me they have it so I can factor it in when I roll their saves behind the screen! Those who know, or want to know, what is going on still have "ST," for Saving Throw(s), listed there in parentheses immediately to the right. I use a single save, but other's could easily list all five if they wanted to. So, anyway, you may not be thrilled by my word choice, but, hopefully, you get what I was trying to do: give new folks and non-rollers a box that makes some sense that can double as a saving throw box for those who want it.

(If you like this and think you might want to use it, the full-sized photo is available for download on my Character Record page.)

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Perilous Realms Campaign World Map

Above is my campaign-world map for the Perilous Realms medieval fantasy wargames campaign.

The Perilous Realms are my name for my own amalgamation of what I, in my limited knowledge, can amalgamate of various civilizations abstracted and anachronistically represented at their various heights but frozen somewhere between about 500 and 1,000 A.D. So, there is Aegyptus, but also the Holy Empire (Byzantium). There is Parthia (Persian), the great Central Kingdom (China), the Empire of the Sun (Japan), Shangri-La, Wudang, Old Araby, the Paladin Duchies of Westernesse, Logres, Libya, Nubia, Nod, and various wildernesses - even the Land of the Lost.

I base the map on some of the old Mappe Mundi of the ancient world, such as the following.

These were more detailed and "realistic" versions of the more abstract and theological Mappe Mundi that represented the three known continents in geometric and cosmographic relationship to each other. Note that these maps are "oriented": east is at the top of the map, as it is where the Sun rises.

Fight on!

Friday, February 2, 2018

Rolling Characters On-The-Fly

Armor, FM:

Weapons, FM: d6:
1 Magic Sword
2 Sword and Bow
3 Sword
4 Spear and Dagger
5 Club and Dagger
6 Club

Magic Sword on d6:
1 +3 Lightning
2-3 +2 Magic Missile
4-6 +1 Light

Armor, CL:

Weapons, CL:
High: mace
Low: club

CL: healing potion; turn undead (reminder)

MU d3:
1 Sleep
2 Charm
3 Light

Gold: 3d6, straight-up

Note: I used the above to roll-up the middle-schooler's characters on the fly so that I could drop them straight into play. It worked. Lots of fun.