Saturday, March 16, 2019

Bingo!

Three years ago, I had to teach this summer corporate class for Samsung Electronics through my university. Pay was great, but the hours were horrible. 8~11am, then 8~11pm. And it was so far from my home that I would have wasted about 5 to 6 hours of my day commuting there twice. So I rented a room for the weeks I was there. The pay for these classes was awesome, and the room was cheap. So there was that.

Anyway, officially we were supposed to start at 8:00, which meant I had to be there by 7:45 or so. But the workers were usually just getting off their shift, and never made it to the classroom before 8:30 or so. I got a lot of reading done while waiting around in that classroom for students to show up. Played some classic Nintendo games on my phone emulator (to prevent corporate spying, there was very limited internet access), and for a few days, drawing dungeon maps on this little pocket graph paper notepad I'd found.

Quite a few of them are Asian fantasy themed, since I was working on Chanbara at the time.

I found that mini graph paper pad today, and the maps are still in it. That will save me some time while putting together my new Chanbara campaign. Just need to stock these locations and decide where they are on the area map.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Putting together a new Chanbara Campaign

This evening, I got out my Chanbara book (one of them, I have several proof copies) and flipped it open to page 41. That has the chart Well-Rounded Nobles, Daimyo, Abbots, Ministers, Clan Leaders, and other important NPCs. Yes, it's a long and convoluted, archaic name for a chart. But it's one of my favorite innovations I put into Chanbara.

I started listing possible types of organizational Lieges that characters might want (or that I'd want them to have in this campaign), and rolling dice on the chart to figure out what each organization's leaders want, what they need, and what they are trying to keep secret. I came up with 10 different organizations and their leaders on the fly.

And the dice made some interesting ideas spring forth. The very first one, the want and need have the same target, and the want makes sense considering the need. Other results later on refer back to this. And different results here and there are easily construed as entangling the various lieges. Other complications arise from outside factions not listed, which gives me ideas for factions that cannot serve as a Liege to the PCs. In other words, groups that the PCs can easily come together to fight against since it won't go against their Liege.

Now I'm thinking of a setting for this campaign. Probably a smallish island with several resources that different factions want, two or three small coastal towns, and several dungeons/ruins/mystical locations around the island that will serve as good places to adventure. The various conflicts within the notes derived from rolling dice on the table can easily play out in a small, confined setting like that.

Sorry for not posting any definite details, but some of my potential players for this game read my blog.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Old School West Marches

Today was our first session of my West Marches campaign since the switch to Classic D&D rules. And one of the two new players hurt his back yesterday and couldn't make it. The other (already my acquaintance) had told me in advance that he couldn't make this game but planned to start next session, which is in two weeks. I did lose all three players that I feared I'd lose. Which is too bad. Only one father & daughter came, playing a Gnome Thief and Fairy Princess Magic-User, both 5th level. Oh, and previously the Fairy Princess had tamed a giant boar, so it came too!

They decided, with just the two of them, to go somewhere relatively low risk - the Caves of Chaos. They hadn't been back there since they defeated Warduke long ago, but another party of adventurers (my online group) had recently been there and returned to report that the caves were once again populated. [Only the kobold caves had been cleared before, actually, and after a long absence, those that fled have returned.]

After a bit of explanation of what the new versions of the old characters can (and can't) do, they set out. They spotted kobold skirmishers above the kobold cave so avoided it, choosing the second orc lair. They got caught in the trap, but the M-U was only caught for 1 round, so when the orc guards showed up, she used phantasmal force to create a gigantic spider. One morale check later, the orcs ran away. Deciding to try another cave, they headed to the bugbear cave. The sign out front didn't fool them, they came in wary. They fought the guards, killing one and capturing the other two (morale check failure again) and got information that prisoners were east and down, treasure was up the stairs just outside the door. Going after the treasure, they ran right into the bugbear chieftain's room, but with the Fairy Princess's wand of magic missiles and the boar's tusks, they managed to take them down in two rounds of combat! They scoured the room for treasure, and high-tailed it back to town, where they found some of the treasure was magical.

Then, they did something I've been hinting is allowed but players never took advantage of it. They visited the town alchemist and had him duplicate some of their potions! I also mentioned that there are retainers/men-at-arms available to hire in town, in case they ever head out with a small party again.

Both players really enjoyed it, and for the first time ever, the player of the Fairy Princess was able to manage her own spells, and she used them to very good effect. In addition to the phantasmal force and wand of magic missiles, she protected herself with mirror image, used floating disk to safely carry the heavy statue (a bit of a stretch from rules as written, but it was clever thinking so I allowed it), and detect magic let them know that the axe was something to be identified back in town.

Even though it sucks to have lost three fun players, it was great to see that the switch did what I was hoping it would do. I'm more motivated to prep adventures, and our 9-year old is finally able to manage her own PC. Her dad also enjoyed it, although he did somewhat miss being able to do multiple things in a round the way he could in 5E. He was really happy with how smoothly combat went, and with how well his daughter was able to pay attention, though, which more than made up for any lack of tactical fiddliness that we lost.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Retainers - Overlooking a Rule Again

The other evening I rolled up a bunch of potential retainers for my old & improved West Marches campaign on 3x5 cards. And looking once more at the rules in the Mentzer Basic Set, I again noticed a rule I never used back in the day but had noted when I did my Cover to Cover series.

Once hired, a retainer will serve until their contract expires (as set when negotiating their service) OR until they gain a level.

Frank even made a note that a retainer just shy of gaining a level may ask to stay on just long enough to level up (not that anyone should know in character how far they are from gaining a level, or even that there are levels to gain for most classes, or that killing monsters and taking their stuff is the way to gain levels... so there are a few holes in the concept -- but I like it!).

I guess that's what, in AD&D terms, would separate a retainer from a henchman. The henchman is there come rain or shine, while the retainer is just there to make a buck and if possible gain a level of experience.

Recently, when I have had players with hired sellswords or porters and the like, I have the hirelings make a morale check at the end of the adventure to see if they are willing to stay on. I think I need to remember this "quit after gaining a level" rule, as it means the players will need to renegotiate their contracts if the retainer becomes more powerful/capable if the player wants to keep that retainer around.

I'm looking forward to the extra bit of characterization and complication that having retainers will bring to the game.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Captain Marvel Review -- no spoilers

I literally just got home from seeing Captain Marvel about 30 minutes ago. Lucky me, my new work schedule has me only teaching morning classes, so I caught an afternoon show. And since I just saw it, this is going to be fairly impressionistic and subject to change upon a second, closer viewing.

Captain Marvel is of course the latest of the MCU films, and has direct ties to Iron Man 1, The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, and of course Avengers: Infinity War and the soon to be released Avengers: Endgame.

Since it's set in the 1990's, it's very much a Gen X film. Lots of popular songs from the era help set the mood, along with plenty of jokes about 90's tech (dial-up internet, video rentals, slow loading CD-ROM drives). It also uses the time period to place in some familiar characters - Agent Coulson (I guess he's still alive on Agents of Shield? I haven't watched it.), Ronan the Accuser, and Korath.

It's also very much a feminist movie, but it doesn't preach a feminist message. It shows for the most part rather than tells. It blows the Bechdel Test out of the water by having a movie with a strong female lead and there is absolutely NO romantic subplot. There are relationships galore with meaning and significance, but at no time during the film does Carol Danvers consider love/romance. Maybe it's because of the advanced Kree culture she's part of, where she's treated as a sentient being rather than as a love object. :) Other than some advice to her best friend's young daughter (and I bet that character, as an adult, will be returning in future films), there's not much talk of "girl power" either. It's just a film about a human being involved in, and central to, a plot with galaxy-wide implications. I can see a certain section of the Marvel fanbase having a love-hate relationship with this movie. Or just straight up hating it.

Next, it's an origin story of sorts, but it's also not an origin story. Captain Marvel has her powers at the start, and while there are flashbacks that show her origin, and they are important to the plot, the movie isn't about that. Marvel hasn't really done that since The Hulk (Ed Norton)...well, I guess Black Panther sort of did that too. Anyway, it's refreshing not to have this be another "bitten by radioactive spider/parents gunned down in Crime Alley" type plot.

On the down side, while the action scenes were good, there's a lot of snappy dialogue, and Sam Jackson is Sam Jackson, there wasn't much that was really amazing about the movie. It does take an interesting approach to the Kree-Skrull War, and it was entertaining. In the end, though, it's probably not going to go to the top of my list of MCU films the way Thor: Ragnarok did.

What it does do well is tie together some of the loose ends of the plot leading into Avengers: Endgame. Along with the above mentioned well-done feminist action movie thing and the Gen X/90's nostalgia.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

If you build it, they will come.

Haven't seen Field of Dreams in forever, but the line is fitting today. I put up my usual "event" post on the D&D in Busan Facebook group to advertise my West Marches game next Sunday (already Sunday evening here in Busan). And in the post, I mentioned I'm switching to Classic D&D.

Soon after, I got two messages. One's from an acquaintance who games but we've never gamed together. One's from a stranger. But both want in on my old school game.

So I may lose a player or three, but it looks like there are plenty of people willing to take those spots.

Now I've got to get a bit more work done preparing to run Classic D&D again! And switching over my notes. Should be fun!

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Not a fan of "gotcha" monsters

A long time ago, I did a "beast of the week" series here on the blog, where I created new monsters for Classic D&D based on a variety of myths, legends, pop culture, and etc. references. Someone somewhere once commented that an OSR blogger had made a generic monster out of Sauron from Lord of the Rings. That was me in this series.

When I completed it, I created a bestiary document for my home games that included all of the monsters in BE plus most of CM from BECMI (left out a few I thought I didn't need) plus all of the BotW series monsters, and a few critters from the 3E SRD that weren't in AD&D (to my knowledge).

Well, with my new conversion of the 5E game to Classic, I'm now revising that document. I took out a few of the joke/gimmick monsters I'd created in BotW (Sauron's still in there though!), and I'm adding in a few more AD&D and 5E monsters that I like.

Going through the original Monster Manual, I notice there are quite a few monsters where I'm just instantly saying NO, I don't want that in my game. And for the most part, they're the "gotcha" or "fuck you" monsters. Rot grubs, ear seekers, lurkers above, trappers. I understand that they were a big part of Gary's games. Players do things like search a wall for secret doors or search a door for traps -- surprise! The wall is actually a monster that will suffocate you.

That's not the style of game I want to play, though. I've had way to many players over the years that spend way too much time paranoid that the dungeon itself is out to get them. And while a little of that can be a good thing, it's not something I want to do often.

Maybe I'll make a room in a dungeon sometime where each wall is a trapper, the ceiling is a lurker above, the treasure chest inside is a mimic (I did decide to keep that one just for fun), and every door is infested with rot grubs and ear seekers and there's a brain mole waiting inside the mimic. Maybe the floor can have a pit trap full of green slime, too! Just get them all out into one horrible encounter. Then be done with them. :D

Thursday, February 28, 2019

A Solution to my Conversion Problem?

So my last post, about how the blogosphere seems to be picking back up again, got me thinking about old posts. I've never been the most popular blogger in the OSR. Don't really care to be either. JMal dropped Grognardia because of the flack he took for being the most popular guy around. Well, that and the kickstarter fiasco. Anyway, I'm happy to keep my head down and just plug along. Which is why a post that gets more than 2~3 comments for me is a success.

Anyway, scrolling down my list of posts, I saw this one from a year and a half ago discussing the exact same topic I'm on now -- conversion of the West Marches to Classic D&D.

And it has lots of comments.

Among them, FrDave commented that he lets the players run 5E PCs but he uses Labyrinth Lord for everything on his side of the screen.

I already use a few old school systems in my game. XP for GP. 2d6 Morale checks. 2d6 Reaction Roll checks. I randomly flip between 5E and BECMI treasure tables for loot and magic items.

FrDave mentioned that he gave monsters maximum hit points. Even then, though, 5E monsters have a lot more. A max HP goblin in BECMI has 7 hit points. In 5E, that's the average, the max is 12. A BECMI gnoll has a maximum 16 hit points. In 5E, the average is 22, maximum 40. That's not so different, since I tend to use the averages instead of rolling to save time.

However, when we get to even slightly bigger monsters, it gets stranger. An ogre in BECMI has a max of 33hp, while in 5E its average is 59 and maximum is 91. A gorgon has a max of 64hp in BECMI but an average of 114hp and a max of 164hp.

And of course, it's all about the dragons, really, so let's compare.

A small white dragon (6HD) could have 48hp, but the rules say you can give plus or minus 3, so one with 3HD could only have 24hp and one with 9HD could have 72 hit points. If we use the Masters Set/RC, a huge white dragon (12HD but let's bump it up to 15) could have a max of 120. In 5E, a wyrmling white has average 32hp, maximum 50. The young white has an average of 133, and a maximum of 196. We're at the second age category and already the average hp is higher than the very tip top maximum for a white dragon in BECMI. To make a long story short, the 5E adult white has an average of 200/maximum 288hp, while the ancient white has an average of 333/maximum 504hp.

So at low levels, using 5E PCs with Classic D&D behind the screen might work out alright, it's not suitable to long-term campaigns, unless you like the high level PCs mowing their way easily through flights of dragons and squads of giants the way mid-level PCs go through orcs in older editions.

Still, there's an appeal to doing this. Let the players have their 5E PHBs with their tieflings and eldritch knights and skills and feats and more damage dealing spells than you can shake a stick at. Let me use simple, elegant rules behind the screen.

There's one more hitch, though, which I mentioned to FrDave in that thread and he gave a sort of vague answer. That's saving throws. 5E has you roll d20+ability score to roll over a target number. Old school just has you roll d20 vs a target number that changes as you level up.

So even if I use BECMI or LL behind the screen, players making saving throws are going to want to know the DC to beat. When they cast spells, they expect me to have to roll vs their character's DC. As 5E characters get higher in level, and they boost their stats and proficiency bonus, the DC monsters need to beat goes up. But in BECMI, high HD monsters' saves go down. So if the monster only needs a 5 or better to save by BECMI, but needs a 10 or better to save in 5E, it's not really fair, is it? Lots of spell effects will get saved against.

And the spell effects are different. BECMI sleep spell has no save. 5E lets you roll a save every round. A 5E fireball spell's damage is keyed to the spell slot level used to cast it. A BECMI fireball is keyed to the level/HD of the caster. A 12HD monster can cast fireball for 12d6 damage as a 3rd level spell, while a 5E wizard would need to use a 7th level spell slot to get it to do 12d6 damage (or is it 12d8 in 5E? If so, it's still a 4th level spell slot to get roughly equivalent damage instead of a 3rd).

OK, I started this post out thinking I'd found a workable solution. Now I've convinced myself it's not so workable after all. Or at least at low levels it would be workable enough, but just enough hassle that I might as well stick to the full conversion to my house-ruled Classic D&D system. 100%

That Old Timey Feeling

It's starting to feel like the good old days of 2010-11, when I was most active here on the blog. I'm posting a lot. People are commenting. We're having a discussion across two different blogs (here and BX Blackrazor) and it's interesting!

Thanks to everyone who's commented here and over at JB's blog. I'm appreciating all the input! Even from the spammer trying to say he can cure AIDS! OK, not from that guy.

I posted my homebrew "Classic" conversion of the 5E race set-up yesterday. And I sent the entire booklet (with races, classes, equipment, spells, and rules for high level strongholds/followers) to the players in my West Marches campaign. Most of them have at least seen the post. No comments yet from any of them on the actual rules.

Fingers crossed that Paddy and Ahra like the options presented and give Classic D&D a fair try. Greg, well, I knew I was 99% likely to lose him anyway if I switched. But he may surprise me. He does really enjoy the campaign, which will hopefully have the same feel but move faster since we won't be bogged down with combat...or we will, but we'll have more combats with more creatures than before.

I mean, I'm really enjoying 5E the most in play-by-post format, where I can take the time to analyze the situation, analyze my possible moves/actions/spells, and get into the tactical minutia in a format where I have all the time I need to do that. In face-to-face gaming, if everyone was VERY familiar with the rules/options, I can see it going quickly. In fact, in Dean's online video chat games, it does go fairly quickly. I usually have time to do the analysis for my character while other players are taking their turns.

In my current face-to-face group, with three kids and a few adults who aren't into studying the ins and outs of the rules options and a few who are, each player's turn DRAGS.

Switching to Classic, my hope is that each combat round goes faster, leading to less boredom from the kids, and more attention from everyone at the table. When the group gets large, it's hard to keep everyone focused. Fewer mechanical options (but still unlimited potential actions!) hopefully will help with both of these problems.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

New Title for Sale: Expert Monsters Set 3

For those who've been purchasing my full color fold-up paper minis made with public domain art for Classic D&D, I've got my newest set available. Expert Monsters 3 covers all the creatures that were in BX but left out of the Mentzer revision. The Acolyte, Medium and Veteran round out the Bandit as NPC versions of PC classes, there is a sea dragon, whales, woolly rhinoceros...plus all the cool dinosaurs and monsters from Isle of Dread!

Allosaurus (favorite dinosaur of mine!), aranea, natives with lots of leader types including the zombie master, phanaton and rakasta, etc.! The kopru is a favorite of mine in this set. It took some kit-bashing of various public domain images, and a bit of retouching, but I think it looks suitably Lovecraftian and disturbing (for a small image anyway).

If you run BX instead of BECMI, you're missing a few monsters from my previous sets. Now you can get them. And if you want to run Isle of Dread in any rule set, this has those special IoD monsters you need.

As usual, every page uses layers, so if you want to only print certain monsters, you can switch off the ones you don't want to print and save ink.

You can purchase it here for the low, low price of $3.


When I start working on the next set, I think I'm going to go with some Flying Swordsmen/Chanbara/OA type characters. I'll probably start working on the Companion Set monsters too, since quite a few in this set are in the Companion.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Treasures, Serpents, and Ruins

So I've been talking a lot about converting my West Marches campaign. And at first, I was thinking to really go Classic D&D - just the classic 7 character classes, nothing else.

But I'm sitting on a homebrew document that's been slowly evolving over the past however many years. You see, I like to run Classic D&D, but I also enjoy the class options presented in AD&D through 5E.

So I started out just by making home brew versions of the 3E and AD&D classes (VERY early on I posted a few, the Barbarian and Druid for sure, maybe the Bard and Half Orc race-as-class classes as well -- my third post ever on this blog, way back in 2009, was about it).

Most recently, I decided that again AD&D style separate race and class was desirable. Along with multiclass options for demi-humans. So I tweaked my own versions of the classic and not so classic races, adding Dragonborn and Changelings (my version of Tieflings but not quite) to the mix (half-elves, half-orcs and gnomes were already there) because my son was formerly playing a Dragonborn and at least three people have decided to play Tieflings in the West Marches. Yes, I've been thinking of this switch for a long time as well.

And I've given the most recent version of these rules the spiffy name Treasures, Serpents, and Ruins.

 I'm not planning to release it as a retro-clone, or at least not yet. I'd probably have to file off some more serial numbers to do that. But, because it's relevant, I thought I'd post an excerpt showing how I've modified the races to fit easily into Classic D&D. Here's the excerpt:

Allowed Classes by Race and Maximum Level


Acrobat
Assassin
Bard
Berserker
Cavalier
Cleric
Druid
Fighter
Illusionist
Magic-User
Ranger
Thief
Human
U
U
U
U
U
U
U
U
U
U
U
U
Dwarf
N
N
N
8
6
8
N
12
N
N
N
6
Elf
N
N
12
N
N
N
N
10
N
10
N
8
Halfling
8
N
N
N
N
N
6
8
N
N
10
12
Gnome
N
N
8
N
N
N
N
6
12
N
N
8
Half-Elf
N
6
N
N
N
6
10
8
N
8
8
10
Half-Orc
6
12
N
10
6
6
N
10
N
N
N
6
Dragonborn
N
N
N
N
N
10
N
10
N
8
N
8
Changeling
N
N
N
N
N
12
N
6
8
6
N
6

Human
Minimum Scores: None.
Allowed Classes: All.
Multiclass Combinations: None.
Survival: When rolling for hit points at levels 2 through 9, human characters may roll twice and take the better result.
Dual Class: A human can switch character classes, stopping advancement in their original class and beginning again as a 1st level character of the new class. The character must be at least 3rd level but no higher than 8th level before switching classes, must have a score of 13 or more in each prime requisite of the new class, plus meet any ability score requirements. The character retains all abilities gained in the original class, including hit points, saves and XP. The character gains a new XP score of 0, but gains no XP in the new class if the old class abilities (other than hit points) are used. Once the character gains 3rd level in the new class, all abilities of the previous class may be used without penalty.
Languages: Humans can speak Common and any one language of their choice.
Dwarf
Minimum Scores: 9 Constitution.
Allowed Classes: Berserker, Cavalier, Cleric, Fighter, Thief.
Multiclass Combinations: Cleric/Fighter, Cleric/Thief, Fighter/Thief.
Senses: Dwarves have infravision (can see heat signatures: hot is red, cold is blue) up to 60' when in darkness. Room temperature objects can be seen dimly, but reading is impossible. When listening for noises, Dwarves have a 2 in 6 chance of success.
Detection: When in buildings or underground, dwarves can attempt to detect the following features, each with a 2 in 6 chance of success (a search takes 1 Turn)
  • Sloping Passages
  • Shifting Walls
  • Architectural Traps
  • New Constructions
Toughness: Dwarves are resistant to magic and poison, gaining a +4 bonus to all saving throws.
Languages: Dwarves can speak Common, Dwarven, Gnome, Goblin, and Kobold.
Restriction: Dwarves may not use two-handed swords, pole arms, or longbows due to their size.
Elf
Minimum Scores: 9 Intelligence.
Allowed Classes: Bard, Fighter, Magic-User, Thief.
Multiclass Combinations: Bard/Fighter, Bard/Thief, Fighter/Magic-User, Fighter/Thief, Magic-User/Thief.
Senses: Elves have infravision up to 60' when in darkness. When listening for noises, Elves have a 2 in 6 chance of success.
Detection: When searching for secret doors, Elves have a 2 in 6 chance of success (a search takes 1 Turn).
Immunity: Elves are immune to the paralyzing touch of ghouls. Other forms of paralysis work normally against Elves.
Languages: Elves can speak Common, Elven, Gnoll, Hobgoblin, and Orc.
Halfling
Minimum Scores: 9 Dexterity, 9 Constitution.
Allowed Classes: Acrobat, Druid, Fighter, Ranger, Thief.
Multiclass Combinations: Acrobat/Fighter, Druid/Ranger, Fighter/Thief, Ranger/Thief.
Senses: Halfling vision is equal to a human's, but they have keen ears. When listening for noises, Halflings have a 2 in 6 chance of success.
Combat Bonuses: Due to their small size, Halflings gain a +2 bonus to AC when fighting creatures of ogre size or larger. All Halflings gain a +1 bonus to attacks with all ranged weapons, including thrown weapons.
Hiding: Halflings are adept at disappearing. When outdoors in natural surroundings, they can hide with a 9 in 10 chance of success. When indoors, they can hide with a 2 in 6 chance of success.
Luck: Halflings have incredible luck, gaining a +4 bonus to all saving throws.
Languages: Halflings can speak Common, Halfling, and any one language of their choice.
Restriction: Halflings may not use large weapons (battle axe, two-handed sword, longbow, any pole arm) except for bastard swords, which they must wield two-handed.
Gnome
Minimum Scores: 9 Constitution.
Allowed Classes: Bard, Fighter, Illusionist, Thief.
Multiclass Combinations: Bard/Thief, Fighter/Illusionist, Fighter/Thief, Illusionist/Thief.
Senses: Gnomes have infravision up to 90' when in darkness. Gnomish hearing is equivalent to that of a human.
Beast Speech: Gnomes can communicate simple messages with small birds and rodents. They have good relations with those that live near their homes, receiving warnings or sending messages to other Gnomes.
Combat Bonuses: Due to their small size, Gnomes gain a +2 bonus to AC when fighting creatures of ogre size or larger. All Gnomes gain a +1 bonus to attacks against goblins and kobolds.
Innate Magic: Gnomes have a magical connection to the earth, and gain a +2 bonus to all saving throws because of their magical nature.
Languages: Gnomes can speak Common, Gnome, Dwarf, Kobold and Goblin.
Restriction: Gnomes may not use large weapons (battle axe, two-handed sword, longbow, any pole arm) except for bastard swords, which they must wield two-handed.
Half-Elf
Minimum Scores: None.
Allowed Classes: Assassin, Cleric, Druid, Fighter, Magic-User, Ranger, Thief.
Multiclass Combinations: Cleric/Fighter, Cleric/Fighter/Magic-User, Cleric/Magic-User, Cleric/Magic-User/Thief, Cleric/Ranger, Fighter/Thief, Magic-User/Thief, Ranger/Thief.
Senses: Half-Elves have infravision up to 60' when in darkness. When listening for noises, Half-Elves have a 2 in 6 chance of success.
Versatility: A Half-elf character can choose to either have the Human Survival ability, or Elven Detection ability.
Languages: Half-Elves can speak Common, Elven, and any two languages of their choice.
Half-Orc
Minimum Scores: 9 Strength or 9 Dexterity.
Allowed Classes: Acrobat, Assassin, Berserker, Cavalier, Cleric, Fighter, Thief.
Multiclass Combinations: Acrobat/Fighter, Assassin/Cleric, Assassin/Fighter, Cleric/Fighter, Fighter/Thief.
Senses: Half-Orcs have infravision up to 60' when in darkness. Half-Orc hearing is equivalent to that of a human.
Disguise: Half-Orcs can try to pass themselves off as fully Human or fully Orc. They have a 4 in 6 chance of success when attempting to do so in the community in which they were raised, and a 2 in 6 chance in the other community.
Languages: Half-Orcs begin knowing Common, Orc, Giant, and any one language of their choice.
Dragonborn
Minimum Scores: 9 Strength, 9 Charisma.
Allowed Classes: Cleric, Fighter, Magic-User, Thief.
Multiclass Combinations: Cleric/Fighter, Cleric/Magic-User, Cleric/Thief, Fighter/Magic-User, Fighter/Thief, Magic-User/Thief.
Resistance: Dragonborn gain resistance (-1 point of damage per die, +2 to saves) against any spells or breath weapons of one type of energy depending on their draconic heritage: cold, acid, poison gas, lightning, fire.
Breath Weapon: Dragonborn have a breath weapon attack of the energy type they resist, usable once per day. The attack deals 2d4 damage. Creatures in the area may Save vs. Dragon Breath for ½ damage.
  • Cold/Fire: 15'×10' cone.
  • Acid/Lighting: 5'×25' line.
  • Poison Gas: 10'×10' cube.
Languages: Dragonborn can speak Common and Dragon.
Changeling
Minimum Scores: 9 Wisdom.
Allowed Classes: Cleric, Fighter, Illusionist, Magic-User, Thief.
Multiclass Combinations: Cleric/Fighter, Cleric/Illusionist, Cleric/Thief, Illusionist/Thief, Magic-User/Thief.
Senses: Changelings have infravision up to 60' when in darkness. Changeling hearing is equivalent to that of a human.
Heritage: A Changeling character can choose to be descended from angels, demons or faeries.
  • Angel: cast light 1/day.
  • Demon: cast darkness 1/day.
  • Faerie: cast cause fear 1/day.
Languages: Changelings can speak Common and any one language of their choice.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Answers for JB

In my previous post, I mentioned that I'm wavering in my idea of converting my West Marches campaign to Classic D&D/BX/BECMI rules because not every player is on board with the idea. JB of the BX Blackrazor blog posted a few questions to clarify my feelings on this.

Here are his questions (in bold) and my answers.

1) You say you might lose one, and possibly three players over a conversion. Have your players actually expressed disdain for the conversion and a desire to "not play?"


I started the campaign with the original West Marches idea of not having a solid play group, but just running for whoever showed up to game. Of course, over time, the core coalesced, especially since my son was one player and two other players bring their daughters. Now it's become the "family" game.




Of the current regular players, my son and one father/daughter combo are cool with the changes. The father has some trouble keeping up with all the mechanics, and his daughter is just there to have fun, meaning he has to keep up with the mechanics for two very different characters to help his daughter (who is only 8 going on 9). I think Denis (Gnome Rogue) and Renee (Fairy Princess [reskinned Tiefling Warlock]) won't mind simpler characters. Both tend to prefer narrative interaction over mechanical interaction anyway.

A regular who recently stepped away due to starting grad school says she's also fine with old school gaming when she comes back. Another guy who played early on may be enticed to come back since he prefers old school games anyway.



One player, Greg, has always been upfront about preferring new school games to old school games. We first gamed together in a Pathfinder game, and I remember him saying "Why would I want to play in another game when I have Pathfinder?" Of course, then 5E came out, and it still has enough of what he likes (character building mechanical options, the optimization metagame) to keep him happy. Most likely nothing I do will keep him around, which is too bad, because he also is one of the strongest players for getting into character and making his characters interesting. He could still do that, but seems to feel (my speculation here) that he needs mechanical effects to back up the characterization. Greg currently plays a Tiefling Sorcerer.


The other player in question is Paddy, who is the other father. He doesn't have much experience with old school gaming, if I remember right. He started at the tail end of 2nd edition AD&D and was big into 3E. He says he's not so much against playing an old school game, it's just that (his words) he's playing in two other 5E games right now, and doesn't want to have to learn a new system. But he's enjoying this game and his daughter is also enjoying it, so he is willing to give it a try, just with massive reservations. Paddy plays the Human Cleric (war domain) while his daughter Ahra plays the Elf Fighter (battlemaster archer).


So one is disdainful of old school play, one thinks it's a hassle to convert, and the third depends on the second for access to the game and I'm not sure how she'll take to losing her cool character powers.

2) Assuming they have is it based solely on their inability to continue playing the race-class combo they desire?
I guess I answered this above. For Greg, yes, but not only. It's the lack of defined skills/abilities/mechanics, the inability to craft the character mechanically to taste.

For Paddy, no, it's just the perceived unfamiliarity of the rules.

I'm not sure if Paddy has asked Ahra about it (I'll message him) but I suspect that in her case, if she is unhappy with the change, losing her "superpowers" will be why.



3) If not, is the desire to convert these strange classes ("battle archers," tieflings, etc.) simply YOU wanting to keep a certain continuity to your campaign, or are you just trying to head off anticipated problems before they arise.
Both to be honest. We've had a few character deaths, a few players deciding to try a new character concept, etc. in the campaign. Most players are attached to their PCs but willing to try something new. So while I could just tell everyone to roll up a new character using the new rules, that would probably kill the campaign, even if we started at higher levels. Maybe not, but I'm afraid it would.


Also, as you say, I have a desire to keep as much continuity in the campaign as I can. I think the transition will go more smoothly if they can keep the personalities they're playing and as close as possible the roles/skill sets they bring to the party.


Part of it, though, is that I also enjoy character customization. I've been working on a Classic D&D set of house rules that is basically BECMI but with separate race and class, and simplified versions of most of the popular AD&D and 3E/5E classes not in BECMI.


The big reason to convert, from my perspective, is to make prepping the game faster and easier, as well as running the game. I've spent I don't know how many hours converting classic modules to 5E to use in the campaign. I could save a lot of time by converting. During play, since I'm still not an expert on 5E and most encounters are based off of random encounter charts, I spend a lot of time leafing through the Monster Manual at the table. Converting to Classic would allow me to more easily keep track of monster stats, and fewer fiddly special abilities for monsters. Converting will allow me to speed up prep and play.


Using my house rules to allow the 5E races to remain, and to still have Rangers and Bards and stuff, shouldn't be a problem, since I've already done the work to streamline the classes/races for Classic play.

4) Finally, what is the current experience level of the player characters in your 5E game? That makes a difference for any conversion attempt!
All the characters are currently 5th level, I think. One may still be 4th level. My son's Half-Orc Paladin is only 150xp away from 6th level (he's the most regular attendee, obviously) -- but he's also in America for the next six months so everyone else has a chance to catch up.


I've already got a rule in place that when characters die, or if the player wants to roll up a new PC to replace the old one, they keep their level but start at the minimum for the level. I'll keep that for the conversion, so we'll need to adjust some XP totals to fit. I'll probably figure the percentage of advancement they've made to the next level and give them an equal percentage towards their new level once everyone's decided on what to play.

Regardless of the answers to these questions (and any possible follow-up on my part), one thing to consider is this: if your have experienced players...i.e. players who have experience playing early edition D&D...it may be that they WANT to play 5E, for its extra bells and whistles. They might not want to convert at all! I know DMs who prefer LL/BX but who run 5E play who simply prune the extra "dross" from their campaigns, and that might actually be an easier way to get to the simpler game you want...at least, if your players are unwilling to budge.
Again, in Greg's case, that's true. He's "moved on" from old school play and doesn't want to go back. For Paddy, it seems like he's willing to give it a shot if it's not too much of a hassle.

I've already kept this campaign fairly simple. The players are limited to the PHB only for races, classes, archetypes, and spells. And on my side, I already use a few tricks from BECMI (2d6 reaction/morale rolls for example). I could limit future PCs to the downloadable Basic Rules pdf options, but then I'd still have to deal with 5E mechanics for prep time and while running the game.

I'm not adverse to stealing some good ideas, though, like advantage/disadvantage, and I'm not adverse to grandfathering in SOME of the 5E abilities for existing characters. But for new players or replacement characters I'll make them stick to my house-rules or by the book Classic D&D/LL characters.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Second Thoughts, and Minor Perks

So the other day, I posted about converting the West Marches game to BECMI/Labyrinth Lord. And I may lose 3 players over it. Maybe only one. We'll see.

But it did get me thinking about something that might help me lure in the 5E fans to classic D&D.

First of all, when we convert the characters, I'm going to try to twist the rules as much as possible to keep the characters similar to their 5E versions by giving them some minor perks.

For example, one player not sure about the conversion is playing a Human War Cleric, and he has a flaming longsword (won from Warduke no less). As a War Cleric in 5E (for those unfamiliar), he can use any weapon, gets to make bonus attacks X times per day equal to his Wis modifier, and instead of using Turn Undead he can give himself a +10 bonus to one attack.

So first of all, ignoring the Cleric weapon restrictions for this character is easy. Just let him keep using the sword.

Second, I'm considering giving him a minor perk to go along with it, possibly in the form of a custom magic item. The minor perk would allow him to either keep the bonus attacks thing or the +10 to hit once per day thing. I'll let him decide which. Probably in the form of an enchanted holy symbol.

His daughter, who would also obviously be leaving the game if he did, is playing an Elf Fighter Battlemaster archer. I've already got a house rule for Fighters that would allow her to be a better archer if she chooses it (adding Dex bonus to damage as an 'archery style' Fighter). But I'm sure she'll miss the Battlemaster's Superiority Dice system where she can do extra damage and inflict various conditions/penalties on opponents with her strikes. So again, a minor perk for her might be that her enchanted bow allows her to replicate one of her 5E maneuvers 3 times per day or something.

Alternately, I could have her use the Elf class, and try to get her a spellbook that would somewhat replicate her maneuvers through spells (meaning cause fear, normally a Cleric spell, might be in her MU spellbook since one of her maneuvers makes opponents save or run/cower in fear). 

The third player is playing a Tiefling Sorcerer. I've again got a homebrewed "changeling" race that could be used (letting some of these converting characters have race and class separate). And instead of the Sorcerer spellcasting system, he'd need to use the Magic-User (Wizard) spellcasting system, but as a minor perk I'd let him use Prestidigitation effects and maybe a d4 damage at will magic beam attack since without that he'd just be buying and throwing daggers anyway.

We'll see if this can entice them to stick with the campaign. If it doesn't, I'm going to seriously reconsider sticking with 5E, and just starting up a new Classic D&D campaign on the side.

Friday, February 22, 2019

A new age begins

So Google+ is going away soon. It killed the blog scene, sucking the oxygen out of the OSR blogosphere. And people are wondering if the OSR will survive its nexus of interaction disappearing.

But remember, the OSR was around for years before Google+. It will be around after.

Zak S. is out. I read his stuff occasionally, and he had a lot of good ideas. But he was also pretty terrible to certain people. Yes, he was a highly visible figure in the OSR for many years. Now, he's persona non grata. I won't miss him. And the OSR will go on without him.

I'm going to be working on some academic papers over the next several months, trying to publish the one I have recently revised plus two more. But I'll also be trying to maintain the blog here more. I think if the OSR reverts to blogs and forums it will be better anyway. There were a lot of good conversations on G+, but the format is too ephemeral for my tastes (I've been saying that for years, I know). I tried MeWe, and it's got the same ephemeral nature of G+ so I doubt I'll use it much. Hell, I mostly just used G+ for promoting this blog and trying to sell my stuff anyway. MeWe will likely be the same. And if I get on Discord or any of the other places people are going to, ditto.

Now, here are my potential RPG related projects for this year:

  1. Converting my West Marches 5E game to Labyrinth Lord. Some players won't like it, but I'm ready to get back to basics. Fewer classes, fewer spells (but often more powerful in effect), and a lower power level; but hopefully more action/interaction.
  2. Starting an online Chanbara campaign. Probably with the usual Hangouts/Roll20 gang (Busan Gaming Group plus any of Dean's 5E gamers I can lure into it). If any blog readers are willing to make time on Saturday evenings East Asia/Australia time (Saturday morning North America, midday Europe/Africa), let me know.
  3. Finishing up my next set of paper minis (just need to format the book then get it online). It has the Isle of Dread module monsters plus the creatures in BX that aren't in BECMI's Basic and Expert books. 
  4. Moving on to the Mentzer Companion Set for the next set of paper minis? Or making a set for OA/Flying Swordsman/Chanbara? Or AD&D monsters? Or AD&D/later edition character types? 
  5. Releasing the dungeons/locations of the Chanbara game, plus some for more standard D&D type play, as cheap modules for sale through Hidden Treasure Books.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

A few more thoughts on retainers

Some random additional thoughts on the subject of the previous post (using retainers to help cement the different play style of Classic/AD&D compared to newer editions).

  • Make alignment matter. Retainers with the same alignment may have a morale boost. Chaotic retainers should be more likely to stab you in the back (figuratively or literally). Neutral aligned retainers may be the most in-demand.
  • Not all retainers need to be NPCs with class and level. Some may be monsters. Monster retainers should definitely have the same alignment as the boss PC.
  • Non-classed humans with interesting powers or abilities could come in handy. Gretta the Bag-Lady has a 20% chance to have any piece of normal gear in her bags (once per Turn), and a 5% chance once per day to have a potion or scroll useful for solving the current problem. But she's AC 9, HP 3, fights/saves as a Normal Man. Evelensk the Elf is merely level 1, but has learned EVERY language in his long life...but can only remember languages beyond what normal elves speak when he's drunk.
  • Could an intelligent weapon be a retainer?

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Thoughts on Retainers

I'm mulling over switching my 5E West Marches game to Classic D&D (or Labyrinth Lord...nearly the same thing). JB of BX Blackrazor had some good ideas about introducing BX (or your classic/retro-clone game of choice) to new gamers, including vets of newer editions who may be hesitant to switch to an old school edition.

Plus I've been leafing through my new print copy of Labyrinth Lord (the original rules, should get the new Advanced LL book that combines the basic rules and AEC content into one tome next).

I was looking at the chart of Charisma effects, and the number of retainers they have. I was thinking about JB's advice to start off players like mine at higher levels for a test run. I may do this. And if I do, each character will start with their maximum number of retainers based on their Charisma score.

WotC really doesn't seem to get the idea of retainers. Or they just don't like it. And lots of younger gamers don't seem to grasp the idea, or reject it for some reason. But retainers are a great addition to the game! Players control not just their character, but share control of some NPC helpers with the DM. Meat shields for magic-users, additional attacks and targets in combat, additional chances to pick the lock or cast that utility spell...

Due to my busy schedule in January and a trip back home in February, my West Marches game is on hold. When I get back to Busan at the end of February, I may just run a short campaign using Isle of Dread or another module I know I won't be borrowing from for the WM campaign for the group and see how it goes.

As JB suggests (and I've done before when starting with higher level PCs for short campaigns), I'll have a semi-randomized selection of magic items to choose from. I'll also come up with a bunch of retainers of various types (some with character classes, some without - but with useful skills/knowledge). Once the players roll their stats and select their classes, I'll let them select/distribute magic items, and then assign them their retainers (or let them negotiate over who gets which NPCs?).

The big challenge for me will be remembering to use the retainers' morale scores. Except for my son, whose 2nd character was the "knight" background and got three retainers, no one in the WM campaign has bothered trying to bring NPCs along, even when they see how useful it is for my son. One of the other kids tamed a giant badger who followed her PC for a long time, but then she got worried that it would die so now she leaves it in town. No one else has thought to go to the local inn and try to hire a few sellswords or sellspells. Maybe this would relieve them of that.