Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Every monster SHOULD be beatable

Thinking about one of my answers to Brendan's 20 questions on my DMing style.

The question of should we run, or can we defeat every monster.

I think my answer firmly puts me in the "combat as war" camp, but also perfectly shows off one of the things that I love about RPGs.  Something that keeps me coming back.

For those too lazy to follow the link, here's the question and my response:

Will we need to run from some encounters, or will we be able to kill everything?  You don't NEED to run.  But see questions 1 and 2 above if you don't when you should.  If you're clever, though, yes, you CAN kill everything.  It's up to you to figure out how in some cases.
 Questions 1 and 2 being about character generation and character death (for me, at 0 hit points, no "death and dying" rules).

Should every encounter be one where the players can just attack and expect to win?  Absolutely not.

Should there be a way that even a single level 1 PC could destroy the toughest of dragons, giants or balrogs?  Yes, there absolutely should...

...if the player is clever enough to think of one, that is. 

If I throw a super tough monster in an encounter, or a force of lesser monsters that can overwhelm the PCs, it's not the time to run in and roll initiative, roll to hit, roll damage, rinse and repeat.

Running is likely the best option (surrender is also on the table, but I don't think that's often happening in most RPGs).

But just like Spider-Man, who gets whipped up on by the Hobgoblin in the first few pages of the comic, if the players can come up with some clever stratagem to defeat the overpowered foes, there should be decent odds for it to actually work. 

Players need to realize, though, that even when they have that foolproof plan to lure the dragon into wasting its breath weapons on illusions, quaffing the potion of diminution that it thinks is a potion of invisibility, and then stuffing it into the bag of holding and tossing it into the bottomless pit, that plan might not be as foolproof as they would like.  Things may go wrong, and likely there will be a TPK or near TPK if something does go wrong. 

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Think it's not worth the risk?  Then stick to the orc warrens and sewers chock full of giant rats until you feel tough enough, by all means.

Again, I'm reminded of the bear cave in my Board Game Group sandbox game from 2 years ago.   For a party of low level characters, two bears were a dangerous encounter, but one they could have won with more luck or the right tactics.  Dave had suggested the correct tactics (going back to town for boar spears to keep the bears at bay), and if they had followed through, they could have defeated the bears without suffering the lost characters. 

The stuffing the diminutive dragon into a bag of holding was something Killing Machine came up with back when we were kids.

Next time you find yourself up against a foe that you can't defeat toe to toe, try to think of some way to flood the Augean stables, keep the trolls arguing until the sun rises, go forth and bring back a shrubbery, or take off  and nuke the entire site from orbit. 

And as old Jack Burton says, "It's all in the [mental] reflexes."

Not enough time!

John Carter opens on March 8th here in Korea.  That's just about a week away. 

I'd better find that copy I got from Project Gutenberg and finish reading it.  I read about half of A Princess of Mars about a year ago (year and a half, maybe?) and stopped not because I didn't enjoy the story, but because it was annoying reading it on a computer screen (no Kindle or similar device), and had plenty of other print books to read. 

It's not that long, so I should be able to manage.

And that brings me to this year's big fantasy/sci fi/action movies.  There are some I'm really looking forward to:

John Carter
The Avengers
The Dark Knight Rises
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Those would be the ones I consider "must watch in the theater" fare.

Some others I'll see if I've got the time (not always an option with a small child and a busy schedule), and if I miss in the theaters will try to see on VOD:

The Amazing Spider-Man
Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter
Dark Shadows
The Expendables 2
Total Recall
47 Ronin
Red Dawn

Ones that I just don't care about:

Wrath of the Titans
Men in Black III
anything old being re-done in 3D

Got your own movie picks for 2012?  Think there's something I missed that should be on one of the lists?  Think something I'm looking forward to will be crap, or vice versa?  Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Happy Trails

Yesterday was the final session of Brian's Pathfinder game.  He's leaving Korea soon, Robbie as well.  But we've really developed our gaming group in the past couple of months, with quite a few new players, and now it looks like there will be a plethora of choices for what games to play next.

I'm actually going to take a break from the Sunday games for a while.  The options tend to be more Pathfinder, 3.0, possibly a 4E game.  However, Justin started a G+ hangouts game on Saturday, running Labyrinth Lord.  He's up in Pohang, a bit far from Busan, but we're in the same time zone, unlike most of the other G+ ConstantCon games I've looked at.  In addition to it being Labyrinth Lord, it's also short duration and will allow me to have all of my Sundays free to spend with my family. 

Anyway, enough about the future plans.  This session was a lot of fun.  Robbie again couldn't make it - but he's leaving for Japan, and I'm planning a move back to Japan next year, so hopefully we'll get to game more in the future.  We'll both be in the Tokyo area.  Without Robbie we didn't have Toki the Sorcerer, but Shard was there again with Sinesret the Human Wizard (dancing lights was his specialty).  The rest of the usual crew was there as well: Oxide the Warforged Fighter (Jeremy), Red the Half-Orc Cleric (Greg), Zesser the Half-Orc Alchemist (Jesse), Brother Repose the Human Cleric (Dean), and Elwood the Human Paladin (me).

And one more time, SPOILER ALERT for the Age of Wyrms Adventure Path

We ended the last session in media res, with us exploring a narrow labyrinth and being constantly ambushed by tengu.  Aided by magical goggles that added to perception checks, Zesser was able to spot the secret doors easily (and listen better too...with magic goggles.  Um, how does that work anyway?  Never mind, we had villains to slay.)  With a bit of logical thinking about my map, we found the missing secret door to the boss area after finding a tengu spellcaster and his guards and slaughtering them quickly.

In the hidden chambers, there was an oddly shaped room with lots of pillars and strange semi-circular protrusions on the walls.  In the next chamber were what we thought was the "boss" fight.  There was a chamber with an altar to Vecna, with three hooded figures around it.  As soon as they were alerted to our presence they attacked, along with the protrusions opening into eyeballs, which summoned the remaining tengu.  The was also a fear effect upon entering the room, which caused Zesser and Brother Repose to flee, even going through a web spell that one of the acolytes cast in the entrance to escape.  The fleeing heroes encountered the tengu with the necklace of fireballs (we encountered last session, but it got away after frying us - and itself).  Brother Repose fell to negative hit points from the fireball, but Zesser came out of his panic and beat the tengu down with his mutagen-induced claws and fangs.

Meanwhile, back in the big chamber, Red and Elwood were taking on the spell-casting acolytes while the main hooded figure walked through a wall and disappeared.  Oxide got out of the webs and helped keep Sinesret alive from the tengu.  Elwood's opponent managed to quaff a potion of gaseous form and escape after getting damaged, so Elwood helped dispel the other acolyte's mirror images so Red could beat him down.  We found their sleeping quarters and a supply room, healed a bit, buffed a bit, and went into the next room where the real boss was.

The Faceless One, the high priest (or was he a mage of some sort? not sure) of Vecna was there, along with a pair of the worm-zombies (Sons of Kyuss, I think), the incorporeal undead spellcaster thing (never did figure out what exactly it was), and the acolyte that fled, in an alchemy lab with a sinister, sealed cauldron in the middle of the room.  In the battle, the priest summoned a large grick-like beast, the worm-zombies proved resilient (coming back unless destroyed with fire), and the wraith-like thing had a paralyzing touch that made everyone sickened (-2 to hit/damage/saves/skills).  Luckily for Elwood, my "mercy" power with Lay on Hands that I'd chosen was to remove the sickened condition, but I didn't have time to do more than use it on myself, as I'd declared Smite Evil on the leader, and was intent on bringing him down.  I did, with a nice critical hit (the only one I rolled the whole campaign, I think).  The grick-thing (like a grick, only bigger and tougher) was doing a number on me, though, but we managed to eliminate the zombies and everyone stayed alive until the monstrosity disappeared.  Sinesret was in bad shape, though, from the undead thing sapping his Strength (which being a Wizard he didn't have much to begin with).  But with all of the others defeated, the wraith-thing fled, never to return. 

We looted the bodies, then headed back towards the entrance.

Surprise!  At the entrance chamber, rising out of a pit of slime (which Red had thrown a statuette of Hextor the first time we came through) was an aspect of Hextor (I assume, it was a big, demonic thing with six arms).  Crap!  Luckily, I'd saved my second Smite (I came close to declaring it on the undead wraith thing), and Brother Repose had the Vecna-priest's rod of summon monster III, summoning a pair of lantern archons to help us with Aid spells.  We used what buffs we could (we'd more or less ran out), and somehow managed to dish out enough damage to kill the aspect.  If I hadn't had that smite left, we likely wouldn't have made it.  Or at least not everyone.  I was dishing out a lot of damage for once, since the smite damage bonus is doubled against evil outsiders (and undead and evil dragons).  Plus it ignored all damage reduction. 

Anyway, that was the end of the game.  Brian awarded us with an increase to 5th level, and said, "you cut open the body and find one magic item of your choice each."  I joked about finding a pair of revolvers that act as Holy Avengers (since my patron deity was a cowboy with six-gun 'wands of magic missiles'), but I'll likely take something more sane like a flail +1, holy in case I ever get a chance to use Elwood again.

And our various characters rode off into the sunset as the campaign came to an end.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

And my 20 Answers

I wonder if this meme that Brendan started, being over 24 hours old, is now too stale for the blogosphere.  We've got such short attention spans these days.  Well, here are my answers anyway.  I think I'll put them down here, then re-post them in my Facebook gaming group, just so folks can see where I stand and maybe they'll post their own there.

For reference, this pertains to my Megadungeon, if I ever start running it again.  If I get a game of Flying Swordsmen going over the summer, there will be differences.
  1. Ability scores generation method?  3d6 six times, arrange to taste, OR 4d6-L in order rolled.  Choose before rolling, of course.
  2. How are death and dying handled?  0 hit points?  See question 1.
  3. What about raising the dead?  High enough level?  Cast it.
  4. How are replacement PCs handled?  If the party is heading back to town soon, they'll pick you up there.  If that seems unlikely, I'll work the new PC in somehow (I'm not bad at improvising).
  5. Initiative: individual, group, or something else?  Group, rolled every round.  Saves me a bit of hassle.
  6. Are there critical hits and fumbles? How do they work?  None.
  7. Do I get any benefits for wearing a helmet?  Chicks dig the horns.  (I assume any suit of armor has a helmet, I don't get all Gygaxian with head injuries and ear seekers.)
  8. Can I hurt my friends if I fire into melee or do something similarly silly?  Depends on what level of the dungeon you're on ("Player shots cannot hurt other players...yet.")  Seriously, no, it's again just a hassle I don't think the game needs.
  9. Will we need to run from some encounters, or will we be able to kill everything?  You don't NEED to run.  But see questions 1 and 2 above if you don't when you should.  If you're clever, though, yes, you CAN kill everything.  It's up to you to figure out how in some cases.
  10. Level-draining monsters: yes or no?  YES!!!
  11. Are there going to be cases where a failed save results in PC death?  YES!!!
  12. How strictly are encumbrance & resources tracked?  Not very for encumbrance; resources however (torches, arrows, food, hit points, spells, etc.) I do want tracked.
  13. What's required when my PC gains a level? Training? Do I get new spells automatically? Can it happen in the middle of an adventure, or do I have to wait for down time?  No training, but I probably won't dole out XP until you haul your sorry ass back to town or camp or something.  Just as I don't require fighter types to tell me they're sharpening blades and polishing armor, your M-U is assumed to be studying spells, and gaining a level is that Eureka moment when it finally makes sense.
  14. What do I get experience for?  Gold, monsters, and clever ideas.  Make me gut laugh, and you may get a bonus as well.
  15. How are traps located? Description, dice rolling, or some combination?  Try descriptions first, and only roll dice if the description fails.  If players just stumble through one missing the clues, I'll make a roll for you behind the screen.
  16. Are retainers encouraged and how does morale work?  Retainers are not encouraged or discouraged.  Up to you.  Morale works by the book (BX/BECMI/RC style, not AD&D).
  17. How do I identify magic items?  Test them out.  I may also adapt J. Rients' idea that read magic spells can identify what exactly you've got.
  18. Can I buy magic items? Oh, come on: how about just potions?  If you find someone who's got a magic item, and make them the right offer, they may take you up on it.  That will more or less be an adventure in and of itself.  You can buy potions by the book in BX/BECMI/RC.  It's called hiring an alchemist to brew them for you.
  19. Can I create magic items? When and how?  As per Holmes, M-Us (and Elves) can create scrolls from Level 1.  It takes 100gp per spell level and 1 week of down time per scroll.  Name level spell-casters can make anything, and name level Dwarves can create weapons/armor/rings.
  20. What about splitting the party?  Feel free.  Again, I can improvise.  Plus, I get to make two (or more) wandering monster checks ever other turn!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Proud of my boy!

Last night, when I got home from work, my son said to me, "Daddy, Disney Channel!"  Meaning, of course, 'I wanna watch some cartoons.'  I asked him if he wanted to watch cartoons in English or Korean (our actual Disney Channel switched to dubbed Korean a few months back, instead of the old English with Korean subtitles that most Korean kids that age can't read).  My son opted for English cartoons last night (meaning stuff I've downloaded and put on a USB stick to slot into the DVD player). 

When I put it in, he decided he wanted to watch Dungeons & Dragons.  Yes, the old cartoon from the 80's.  He's quickly become a fan of it.  After 2 episodes, he watched some Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, and one episode of Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends.  Then it was time for bed.

Tonight, he again asked me, "Daddy, English Disney Channel!  I want to see Dungeons & Dragons!"  Boy, was I stoked!  Then he said, "No Holly."  Slight bummer.  That meant no Land of the Lost (of course the original 70's one!).  Still, while we lacked in sleestaks, we made up for it with orcs, lizard men, and Venger!  We rewatched the same episodes as yesterday (and the Spider-Man episode as well). 

And while we were eating dinner, my son came running up with a blanket over his head.  I asked if he was Sheila the Thief, and he said no, he was Flynn the Thief. 

Now I really can't wait until he's old enough to game!  Just a few more years...

Beast of the Week: Nimerigar

This week, I found another interesting American Indian monster to stat up.  They're vicious little people that have popped up in several Native American traditions, the Nimerigar.

AC: 6 (14)
HD: 1*
Move: 90 (30)
Attacks: 1 weapon
Damage: 1d4 + poison
No. Appearing: 3-12 (6-60)
Save As: Normal Man
Morale: 8
Treasure Type: A
Alignment: Chaotic
XP: 13

Nimerigar are tiny humanoids, standing 1' to 1 1/2' tall, but otherwise resembling primitive humans.  They are typically encountered in large packs, and use small poisoned arrows and spears in combat in order to more easily defeat larger creatures.   Anyone hit by a Nimerigar weapon must save vs. poison or die within 1d4 hours.  Nimerigar dislike most other humanoid races, being insular and distrustful.  They especially hate pixies, and attack them on sight.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Singer-Songwriter Uber Alles?

The year before I went to Japan, I worked in the "media" section of a big chain electronics store.  I was the guy selling the CDs, movies, and video games (and making next to no commission, but not having to be a 'hard sales guy' to compete for those commissions, something that doesn't suit my personality).  [Note - yes, this is game related, bear with me.]  One day, an older dude came in and he was pissed about something.  I talked to him a bit, and found out that the song playing on our video screens, a new pop-rock song by a cute female artist that we were promoting that week, was the cause.  Everyone was talking about how great the song was, and how great this debut artist was (she, as far as I know, became a one-hit-wonder).  And the song that was her one hit?  Was a cover by some obscure singer of which the angry gentleman was a fan.

He was pissed that people were giving all the credit to the cover artist, rather than the (superior in his opinion) singer-songwriter who originally recorded the song (and remained obscure).

There's a belief among some music fans that the singer-songwriter is always superior to the person who only, or sometimes, sings other people's stuff.  I can understand it, but I don't agree with it unconditionally.  There are some musicians who are both great at writing music/lyrics, and also great at performing that music.  And they deserve to be lauded.  But there are also musicians who are great at writing music, but not so good at performance.  There are others who couldn't write a decent song to save their life, but are masterful performers.  Most decent musicians fall somewhere in the middle, writing their own songs when they can, but also performing others' music, making it their own in the process.

Sure, the Beatles wrote their own stuff (for the most part) and it proved popular (I'll leave it to each reader to decide on the quality of that music).  Point is, they wrote and performed their own stuff and were rewarded with fans, wealth, and a deluge of imitators.

Elvis and Sinatra, conversely, performed songs that other people had written.  They were rewarded with fans, wealth, lasting fame, blah blah blah. 

Johnny Cash and Led Zeppelin sometimes wrote their own stuff, sometimes did covers.  They were rewarded with fans, wealth, and all that jazz.

Bob Dylan writes some amazing songs, but even he admitted that they sounded better when Jimi Hendrix did them. 

As an "end user" of music, does it really matter whether a musician writes and performs their own music, or just that they enjoy the song?  For some die hard fans, sure, it matters.  But to the majority, I really doubt it does. 

A week or so ago, Alexis as The Tao of D&D blog was writing about DIY and how he feels he's superior as a DM to those who only fall prey to the marketing hype of gaming companies and just run (after purchasing, of course) modules and pre-made campaign worlds.  Followed up by the idea that we need to ween the module users off the corporate tit.  Alexis is a bit of a controversial figure in the OSR, but he's smart and he's definitely earned his right to crow about how he does things in his games.  Go read his posts, if you haven't already.  They're what inspired this post of mine.

Just like with musicians, there are some DMs who write their own adventures, design their own campaign worlds, and then run them.

There are DMs who write some of their own stuff but then also sometimes use prepackaged stuff.  Maybe they make their own campaign world, but then place certain modules within that world.  Or it could be the other way around.  They use a pre-made campaign world (or licensed property RPG), but then design their own adventures within that campaign world.

Finally, there are DMs who just stick to the stuff put out by the corporation, rather than make any of it themselves.

And just like with musicians/singers/bands, some of them are great, many of them are decent, and a lot suck.  IN ALL THREE CATEGORIES. 

Alexis mentioned in his DIY post about how much time he puts into D&D every week.  It's a lot of time.  Putting in that much time is what, I believe, gives him the right to be arrogant about what he does.  The fact that he makes all his stuff himself is secondary to that.  I've only rarely used modules in my gaming history.  I enjoy making adventures, dungeons, NPCs, and all that.  Aside from my early gaming where D&D was set in the Known World by default and Star Frontiers was set in the Frontier, I've made my own campaign settings.  But I wouldn't consider myself a "great" DM.  I just don't have the time or inclination to put into D&D that someone like Alexis does.  I wish I had the time, actually.  But the reality is, even if I did have the time, I doubt I'd use it well.

I have played in some games set in a pre-packaged campaign world that were really a lot of fun, and it can be a lot of fun to play through certain modules as well (whether in a published setting or shoe-horned into the DM's home made world).  I've also played in a few home made campaign worlds, or in adventures written by a DM, that I didn't care for.  I think that good DMs tend to develop their own stuff, but it's a fallacy to equate the good DMing wholely with the fact that they made everything themselves.  A good DM might be one who's spent just as much time as Alexis has put constructing his world into studying a campaign setting or series of modules.  That DM could then "run the modules in their sleep" so to speak, and could easily change things up on the fly when players do unexpected things, add or subtract, change things up, or other things to make the game their own.

Sure, the guy who's 100% DIY would say the guy who uses modules/campaign settings is using a crutch.  But then, isn't the DIY guy getting inspiration from somewhere, too?  Books, movies, history, whatever. 

So, give props to the DIY DM, as long as that DM has also put in the time and effort to make that DIY effort effective.  But also give props to the DM who takes what's offered and makes it his own, and runs just as entertaining a game as the DIY guy. 

And remember, Justin Bieber writes some of his own music, too...

Monday, February 20, 2012

Dungeon Bashing! Penultimate Pathfinder Session

Yesterday we had another session of our Pathfinder game.  Jesse was back, Robbie couldn't make it, and we had a new member of the Busan Gamers, Shard, joining us to fill in for Robbie.

This game session's cast: Oxide, Warforged Fighter (Jeremy), Zesser, Half-Orc Alchemist (Jesse), Brother Repose, Human Cleric of Wee-Jas (Dean), "Red," Half-Orc Cleric of Olidamara (Greg), Siseret (sp?), Human Wizard (Shard), and Elwood, Human Paladin (me).  Brian of course is the DM.

Again, SPOILER ALERT for the Age of Wyrms Adventure Path modules.

We ended the last session in the middle of some caverns, and handwaved the disappearance of Toki the Sorcerer (Robbie's PC) and the arrival of Zesser with Siseret.  Brian decided that Toki the jokester was just running around behind us, completely invisible.  Zesser had stayed behind in town to brew more poisons, and came to join us with his new companion Siseret.

We continued further into the grimlock caverns, and came to yet another "pit" room, where we had to drop down a slope, then got attacked by grimlocks in a room with a cliff on the far side as well.  Weak grimlocks (maybe 1 or 2 HD) came charging down a 5' wide passage on one side, so we mostly kept them contained and whittled them down, but a big, tough grimlock attacked from the other side.  The big guy was going after anyone with light armor first, so Brother Repose was knocked from full health to negative hit points in one hit!  Zesser also took some damage from the brute after that, but a combination of attacks, including my smite evil ability, took the brute down just as the grunts managed to bull rush past Red and attack our flank.  I let the other guys finish off the grunts while I healed Brother Repose.

We looted their lairs and found a bit of good stuff, including more magical armor.  Then we continued on and the next big chamber was the "boss fight."  [Very linear dungeon design in this section, but there were some interesting, if repetitive, tactical challenges from the terrain.]  This was another large chamber with a drop from the entrance to the main floor, then another rise at the far end, where the Cleric of Erythnul, a grimlock with beholder eyes sewn over where his eyes would be if he had any, sat.  He was buffed up already and prepared for us.  With him were five grunt grimlocks and a female bruiser (maybe another barbarian?).  The grunts formed a spear-line along the ledge, threatening us with AoO if we tried to jump/climb down, but held their ground.  We spend a couple of rounds buffing and trading spells (Oxide was Held in the first round, so was out for the first five rounds, but didn't miss that much of the battle).  Then, having used alchemist's fire and bombs to break up their line, and a pair of the grimlocks backing up to throw javelins at Oxide, several of us made it down the cliff.

Zesser and Elwood took on the barbarian-hag, while Red, Oxide and Brother Repose engaged the grunts, and Siseret traded spells with the leader.  Eventually, we eliminated the "help" and Oxide lifted Elwood up to the ledge so I could smite the leader.  Shortly after that he was toast, and we looted the corpses.

We briefly debated resting up in the caves, or heading back to town.  We decided town was the better option, since it was only about an hour's walk away.  In town, we re-armed, healed up, rested, and sold/split the loot.  I decided to stock up on scrolls of Magic Weapon, and got a couple of Bull's Strength as well.  Dean suggested letting Brother Repose carry some, so that he could buff me while I meleed, or we could both cast a buff in the same round.  Sounded good go me, so I let him have a couple scrolls.  [For in character reasons, Brother Repose just donates all of his gold to his temple, and sometimes they give him a 'reward' that he can use.  He was allowed to keep his chain shirt +1, which is nice.]

We returned to the Dourstone Mines, and hit the Vecna section of the dungeon.  It was a twisty maze of 5' wide corridors, riddled with secret passages, and kenku Rogues who would slip around, use potions of invisibility, and the like to ambush us at every turn.  Zesser was really good at finding secret doors, and I suggested, after realizing that Oxide had some pitons, that we spike them shut after finding them.  Other than some of the kenku, we battled some giant weasels and I got to show off my mad mapping skills.

And we experienced an "unfun" maze.  We spent a lot of time with Brian describing the twists and turns of the passages, while I mapped them and he checked my mapping to see if it was accurate.  Several other players were bored, because a lot of the twists and turns and loops didn't really serve a purpose.

We ended the session having found a small treasure trove with three pairs of Eyes of the Eagle, which improve perception checks, which should make the rest of the maze a bit easier.

Next week we'll have our final session for this game.  Then some of the guys will be playing in Adam's Birthright 3E game.  Shard's also considering running Pathfinder if anyone wants to keep playing it, but it would be in his campaign world and would likely require starting over at level 1.  I've decided not to play in any of the Sunday face-to-face games and instead play in a G+ Labyrinth Lord game on Fridays run by Justin, a guy in Pohang.*  At least for a while, anyway.  This way I can get some gaming in and still have lots of weekend time to spend with my family.

*Apologies, Claytonian.  Sorry I couldn't get in on your online game.  Mondays don't work so well for me, but Fridays are OK.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Beast of the Week: Lady of the Lake

Re-reading Pyle's Arthur at the moment.  Haven't read this version since I was a kid.  And I'm really liking it.  Especially for its overly archaic and elaborate prose, trying to mimic the King James Bible, Malory, and an oral story-teller tradition with constant repetitions of set phrases.  "And they camest together with a crash verily as like to thunder, and their spears wast shriven to splinters, even to the truncheon thereof."  So a bit of Arthuriana for this week's Beast.

Lady of the Lake
AC: 8 (12)
HD: 3***
Move: 120 (40)
Attacks: 1 weapon or spell
Damage: by weapon
No. Appearing: 1 (1-4)
Save As: Elf 6
Morale: 6
Treasure Type: E +O (V)
Alignment: any
XP: 65

Ladies of the Lake are demi-humans related to nixies and elves.  They appear as beautiful human or elven women, clothed in the finest samite dresses.  Each makes its home within a lake, pond, river, or fountain.  These homes are typically part of the fairy realm or some other extra-dimensional space, the entrance of which is hidden in their body of water.  They avoid combat whenever possible, preferring to use their spells or to let their body guards and champions fight for them.  Ladies of the Lake use magic as an Elf of equal level, and exceptional Ladies of the Lake may have up to 10 Hit Dice and cast spells as a 10th level Elf.  They tend to have demi-human and woodland/aquatic monster guardians, and each Lady has a 50% chance to also have a knight-champion (Hero with plate & shield, lance, sword, war horse) to protect them.  Ladies of the Lake often meddle in the affairs of mortals they find interesting, and have been known to provide gifts of magic items to worthy or interesting mortals, offer information or give quests to passing adventurers, or to take steps to destroy the power of those who they find displeasing.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Oh yeah, those guys

In our Pathfinder game, we had a run-in with a Grick.  It's one of the monsters that were created for the 3E Monster Manual.  That encounter spurred this idea in me, but it's taken me a while to get around to it.

I opened up the 3.5 SRD (don't think I have the 3.0 one on my computer), and copy/pasted all the monsters that I thought were original to 3E into a document.  Now I'm going through various monster books (mostly of the 2E era, like Planescape stuff) to see which ones actually already have old school stats.

I've narrowed the list down to 26 critters.  I'll 'convert' or 'downgrade' or however you want to call it to Classic D&D.  Maybe I'll turn it into a supplement for Labyrinth Lord or something.  These guys are all in the SRD, so they're fair game.

Here's the list I've got so far.  If anyone notices a monster that was in a 2E or earlier product, let me know so I can take it off the list.

Allip (insane undead thing)
Arrowhawk (sort of a Stymphalian Bird)
Chaos Beast (Lovecraftian horror)
Chuul (lobstrosity)
Darkmantle (basically the Cloaker, but under another name)
Delver (giant acidic digger beast)
Destrachan (Gungan dino-mount sonic blaster beast)
Digester (Gungan dino-mount acid spitter beast)
Ethereal Filcher (ethereal plane thief monster)
Ethereal Marauder (ethereal plane bruiser)
Frost Worm (arctic giant serpent)
Gray Render (hulking semi-humanoid beast)
Grick (tentacled worm beast)
Howler (demonic wolf beast)
Inevitable (Lawful constructs - 3 types)
Krenshar (cat beast with reversible skin on face)
Mohrg (undead with hardened guts for tongue)
Phantom Fungus (invisible shrooms)
Phasm (another amorphous shapeshifter beast)
Shield Guardian (construct bodyguard)
Shocker Lizard (electric gecko)
Skum (aquatic degenerate humanoid)
Spider Eater (giant insect beast)
Tendriculous (vine monster)
Tojanida (aquatic turtle-ish beast)
Yrthak (flying sonic blasting beast)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

On the AD&D Reprints

I've decided not to try to pick up the AD&D reprints that WotC is going to be publishing this Spring.  There are several reasons for this:
  • I've already got the PHB and DMG, plus back when I was working in public schools in Japan I printed out the MM and MMII and have them in clear-sleeve binders.  I might have picked up just the new MM, but for the following reasons.
  • WotC are only offering the reprints through hobby stores in North America.  I'm in East Asia.  If I could have gotten one online, shipped to me, I might have bought.  Having to ask a friend to pick one up for me, sending them the money, then asking them to ship it to me is just too much of a hassle.  And if I asked my mom, who sends us semi-regular care packages anyway and could just toss it in with whatever else she's sending, she'd likely get confused and I'd end up with some 4E book.
  • There are second-hand vendors on Amazon and other places that will ship internationally.  Plus, the price for an original MM in decent condition is in the $13 to $20 range.  Add in about $10 shipping, and I'll be coming out ahead this way cost-wise.
  • I don't really play AD&D.  I run Classic D&D, but with some select bits and bobs from AD&D.  So it's not like I need extra copies to use around the table.

So, while I'm not a big fan of WotC, I've decided not to give them my money for these items, even though they are of some interest to me.  Sorry, WotC.  See if you can Wow! me with 5E (looking less and less likely the more I read of it).  Then maybe you'll get a bit more of this old schooler's cash.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Beast of the Week: Spearfinger

OK, last week's Beast of the Week was definitely not for everyone (although with a name swap it could be a nice challenging baddie for upper level characters without the silliness).  This week I go back to my mythology/legends for inspiration, and pulled up a Cherokee ogress/witch, the Spearfinger.

AC: -1 (21)
HD: 4*
Move: 120 (40)
Attacks: 1
Damage: 1d10+1
No. Appearing: 1-3 (1-4)
Save As: Fighter 4
Morale: 7
Treasure Type: B
Alignment: Chaotic
XP: 125

Spearfingers are ogre-like hags with hulking forms and scraggly, tangled black hair.  They have a long bony finger on their right hands, which stabs like a lance or spear.  They wear a dress made of stone (some say it is their skin that is stone), which renders them immune to attacks by normal weapons.  Even magical weapons have difficulty piercing their stone armor.  Spearfingers skulk around the outskirts of mountain villages or other rural communities, seeking victims - often children - to capture.  They have a great love for livers, and will often eat only the liver of a slain victim.  In order to draw unsuspecting victims into the wilds, they use ventriloquism, as the spell, at will.  In bare, rocky terrain, they blend in with the natural habitat, allowing them to surprise on a roll of 1-4 on 1d6.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Flying Swordsman Page

So, you may notice there's now a Flying Swordsmen RPG page at the top of the blog.

No, the game's not out yet, but it's coming soon.  I've just about got it formatted.  I'll print it out when the last little bits are done, and see how it looks in printed form, then if I don't find anything that needs fixing, I'll release it.

I wanted to get this page up on the blog first, for two reasons.  First, I will link to it in the game document.  Instead of having a section describing what RPGs are and how to use the dice in the rule book, I figure most people who download it will already know that.  So I'll direct new folks to the page instead.

Second, I wouldn't mind a bit of crowd sourcing help with the introduction to gaming.  I've read plenty of them over the years, and think the one I've written is passable, but if you've got any suggestions, feel free to to fire away in the comments here.  Thanks!

Monday, February 6, 2012

A bit more than a 15 minute work day.

We had another Pathfinder session yesterday.  Again, lots of fun.  Again, if you play or think you might play the Age of Wyrms adventure path, SPOILER ALERT!!!

This session, we had talked about meeting earlier.  The guys who run the used bookstore/cafe where we play had agreed to open early if we let them know what time we wanted to play.  But nobody took the initiative to contact them until Saturday, when I finally realized no one else would and did it.  But two people didn't realize we were starting early (one due to lack of internet access while traveling, the other due to hangover).  Jesse was away up in Seoul as well, so we didn't have our alchemist Zesser this session.

Eventually, we got started at about the time we normally plan to get started (before everyone got there, those of us who were decided to leave the dungeon, sell loot, rest up, and regroup).  This session, we had Toki the Human Sorcerer (Robbie) back again, Oxide the Warforged Fighter (Jeremy), "Red" the Half-Orc Cleric (Greg), Brother Repose the Human Cleric (Dean), and Elwood the Human Paladin (me). 

In town, lots of people had died and many more were leaving in the aftermath of the undead attack.  The garrison was depleted, the big mine operators Balabar and the dwarves were both holed up in their strongholds rather than helping defend the town.  And we got word that both Kullen the albino Half-Orc (whose goons we had taken out last session and who had nailed up the corpse of Ragnol the Dwarf our former companion in town) and a pasty, one-eyed dude (Filge the necromancer) had left town.

While everyone was off doing their thing (I bought some scrolls after healing up and making a donation to the garrison to rebuild), Oxide got jumped by monks and a sorceress who held him and stole the baby owlbear.  We considered going off track to get it back, but then decided not to and headed back to the evil temple complex below the dwarven mines.

We went back to the Hextor temple and finished exploring and looting it.  We ended up fighting some troglodyte zombies, a dire boar we didn't have to fight (it was locked in a dead end room), and the renegade tiefling who had run from us the first time.  Got a bit of gold, and the key to the Erythnul temple as well.

We continued on to the Erythnul temple, which was rough stone caverns rather than worked stone.  We basically ended up in a series of ambushes, one after another, by Grimlocks and a few other beasties.  We had to get creative in a few of these battles, which was a lot of fun for everyone - and ties in a bit to the recent "Combat as War" vs. "Combat as Sport" idea several bloggers were posting about yesterday.  I'll likely have more to say on this later.

Anyway, some notable events of the afternoon/evening were Brother Repose finally rolling above a 5 on an initiative roll, then having no idea what to do!  Dean's used to going last or second to last now, and having that time to consider his options!  Elwood managed to kill one of the Grimlocks with a rope and grappling hook - it was on a ledge and I was missing with my javelins, so after Toki cast Grease on their ledge, I hooked one and pulled it off, letting it drop to its death.  Most of us took more falling damage than combat damage, except for Red, who was the first one down the cliff and got ambushed by Chokers at the bottom, and Brother Repose who got beat up by a female Grimlock Barbarian.  Oxide was unusually quiet this session, because Jeremy wasn't drinking and was in a pretty bad mood due to some out of game bad luck, but he still managed to pull off some handy combat maneuvers.

It was pretty fun.  Brian thinks we'll need two sessions more to finish, so we'll meet again on the 19th and the 26th to finish up the campaign.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Beast of the Week: seriously? Yeah, I'm going there.

Inspired by this post.  Thanks for the idea, Sean!

AC: -3 (23)
HD: 12***
Move: 90 (30)
Attacks: 1 plus Gaze
Damage: 2d6/paralysis
No. Appearing: 1-4 (1-6)
Save As: Fighter 12
Morale: 8
Treasure Type: H x2
Alignment: Chaotic
XP: 3500

Saurons are 10' to 12' tall, humanoid creatures with black skin, terrible features, and piercing eyes.  They tend to wear ornate plate armor and prefer to wield large maces, flails or hammers as weapons.  Saurons also use a gaze attack.  Each round in addition to their weapon or a spell, they may focus their eyes on one character, who must Save vs. Turn to Stone or stand stunned for one round by the withering gaze.  They may also cast spells as a 12th level Cleric.  Saurons can use Polymorph Self three times per day in addition to their clerical spells.  They are only hit by magical weapons.  Saurons often command lesser creatures, such as lycanthropes and shapechangers, goblinoids and giants, or undead. 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Another Level Up!

Yesterday I passed 160 followers, making me, according to Trey's advancement table, a Pundit of the OSR.


Thanks to everyone who's joined WaHNtHaC... lately!  I've been discovering a lot of new (or sometimes older) blogs that I didn't know about, both directly by you following my blog, and by looking through your blog list.  I'm actually getting close to the 300 blog limit and should go through the list and delete the defunct blogs to make room for more.

Here are some recent followers that my older readers may or may not have found yet:

How to Succeed in RPGs or Die Trying

Underworld Cleaning Service

Save vs. Dragon

Dreams and Dragons

The OSR Companion

Really Bad Eggs

New Adventures in Fantasy Fiction

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Gaming IS my social life

Interesting post by Zak S. about how RPGs are a social activity and Forge-type games are more or less specifically designed to limit the social aspect in the name of "guaranteed fun."  I do agree with what he's saying, but while reading it, I just kept thinking about how different my situation is from the typical gamer.

I live in Korea.  I'm married (to a Korean), and have a son.  I don't go out drinking on the weekends at the foreign English teacher hangouts.  I'm not playing in any sports leagues or in a band.  After work, I go home and spend time with the family.  On weekends, we go shopping, or take our son out somewhere fun.

And I game.

Obviously, as an expat, the people I game with here in Busan are people I met here in Busan.  I've become friends with them.  When I do go out and have a few drinks or whatever, it's with my gaming buddies.

I realize I may well be an exception to the norm, but seriously, gaming is what keeps me social these days!

And yes, we've had our difficulties keeping everyone happy.  We come from varied backgrounds (gamer-wise and otherwise), and it can be hard to find a nice, even, common ground for our games.  But it does happen.  And we've yet to play one of those indy/Forge type "story now" games to do it, with the single exception of the one-page RPG All Outta Bubblegum, which I don't think actually qualifies as a "Forge/GNS" type game anyway.  I wouldn't peg it as one, at least.

Anyway, nothing really to say, no big amazing revelations or anything like that (wouldn't want to disappoint my fans by turning all serious and insightful, now, would I?).  Just my personal observation about my situation as a gamer, and how it may well be contrary to what's expected.